5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit - We Are The Mighty
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5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

The thing veterans miss most about deployment life is the camaraderie. Your brothers- and sisters-in-arms become as much a family as those related by blood. While every troops’ mission is different, ranging from the operator-AF SpecOps guy to the admin clerk who’s doing their part, there will always be beautiful moments of shared downtime where everyone just chats.


These idle hangouts happen most often in the smoke pit — even if a troop doesn’t smoke — because it’s where everyone relaxes.

There’s only so much you can talk about with your buddies. Quickly, you’ll learn where they’re from, what they’re like, and if they prefer blondes, brunettes, or redheads. Basic questions like this might sound lame, but they can actually tell you a lot about a person — and take your mind off war.

These are the ones that always seem to be brought up in the smoke pit (we apologize to our mothers):

5. What are your plans after you get out?

The answers vary depending on how far along you are in your deployment. They start out reasonable: “Oh, I’m thinking about going to work at my dad’s butcher shop.” Eventually, however, they turn into: “I’m going to start a band that will rival Five Finger Death Punch!”

The bands never work out. And for some reason, it’s never the guy who brings a guitar (and knows how to play it) who comes up with the idea.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit
They’ll talk a big game, but when they get out they don’t even use their GI Bill. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

4. Who’s your favorite pop star to sing along to?

Even the most macho gym rat gets in on this conversation — and you get some weird results. Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, or Amy Winehouse are the usual go-to choices, but every now and then a Justin Bieber gets thrown in there by a brave soul.

Funny enough, you can actually find out more about your comrade if they’re cornered into picking just one. If they deny having one, they’re lying. If they complain, “Why just one?” you really get to mock them.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

3. Marry, f*ck, kill.

For this game, you pick three celebrities and decide which one you would wed, bed, and want dead.

For some reason, troops will never pick challenging choices, like “Emma Watson, Emma Stone, or Emma Roberts” or “Chris Pratt, Chris Hemsworth, or Chris Evans.” It’ll always be obvious choices that kill the game immediately.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit
My heart kind of goes out to these three. They always get brought up in the first round of MFK. (Image via Reddit)

2. Would you rather ___ or ___?

This one also takes a turn for the weird the further into the deployment you are. Someone comes up with an unrealistic scenario and you pick between two unpleasant things (or two awesome things).

They usually start out as basic as “no internet or no sex” and eventually become, “would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or one hundred duck-sized horses?”

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit
I mean, the duck-sized horses seem like the easy option because you could just kick them aside, but they can definitely over-run you. (Image via Digital Trends)

1. “Not even for $1M?”

In this hypothetical situation, a troop is offered an absurd amount of money to perform certain “acts.” This can get very inventive and it is always deranged, but people will really commit some emotions to their answers.

It’s completely hypothetical, of course — the logistics alone wouldn’t make much sense, but it’s entertaining to make your friend squirm.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit
How much would it take for you to get to know Kim Jong-Un in the biblical sense? (Image via Flickr)

Articles

The 7 worst air forces in the world

If there’s one thing U.S. Marines and soldiers can depend on from their Air Force, it’s that the USAF isn’t just going to let them get napalmed. The idea of losing air cover never crosses our troops’ minds. The U.S. Air Force is good like that. Other countries…not so much.


Air Forces like the United States’ and Israel’s are just always going to be tops. So don’t expect we’re going to go dumping on Russia just because they have a turboprop bomber from 1956 (the American B-52 is even older).

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

We’re also not here to make fun of countries without an air force. There are 196 countries in the world (seriously — Google it.) and not all of them have air forces…or armed forces at all. Grenada hasn’t had a military since the U.S. invaded in 1983. Can you imagine a world without militaries?

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit
*Shudder*

The criteria are simple. We’re talking about the worst air forces among countries who are actually trying to have an air force and failing at it, have a definite rival to compete with and are seriously behind, or are actively fighting a conflict they can’t seem to win.

7. Canada

Oh, Canada. I hate that I have to add you to this list. I hate that you’re on this list. But Canada, you’re probably the only country on this list who’s personnel isn’t one of the primary reasons. This is all about poor decision making in Ottawa.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit
Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan meeting Jim Mattis is a start in the right direction.

Canada chose to update its fighter fleet of aging Hornets with…Super Hornets. At a time when the rest of NATO is getting their F-35 on, Canada is buying more of the same – probably for parts, so they can stop stealing parts from museums. The issue is even worse now that Super Hornet pilots know they can actually run out of air at any time.

The good news is first: Canada has room for improvement. Second, they could totally take on any other air force…on this list.

The worst part has to be Canada’s Sea King helicopter fleet and their problem with staying airborne. Just to get them in the air, they require something like 100 maintenance hours for every hour of flight time.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit
Five Second Rule! (RCAF photo by Cpl. Michael Bastien, Services d’imagerie des FMAR)

To make it all even worse, Canada is having hard time finding anyone interested in joining the RCAF.

6. The Gulf Cooperation Council

More than two full years after Houthi rebels toppled the government in Yemen, the six-state GCC coalition – consisting of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, UAE, Bahrain, and until recently, Qatar – are still unable to dislodge them. The reason why? Probably because much of the senior leadership is based on royal family lineage, not merit.

It’s a good thing their real defense is provided by the United States, because Iran would wipe the floor with these guys.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

When the Yemen conflict first broke out, the Saudis launched a 100-fighter mission called “decisive storm” in an effort to help dislodge the rebels. If by “decisive,” they meant “bombing a wedding that killed and injured almost 700 people and makes the U.S. reconsider the alliance,” then yeah. Decisive.

As of June 2017 the war is still ongoing and has killed at least 7,600 and destroyed much of the infrastructure.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit
Like this enemy mall. Nice shootin’, Tex. The clothes aren’t even off the racks.

The Royal Saudi Air Force, the largest of the GCC countries’ air forces, is upgrading their Tornado IDS and Typhoon fighters for billions of dollars, while the West sells them our old F-15s so we can all upgrade to the F-35 and they can keep hitting Womp Rats back home.

5. Sudan

Also currently involved in the useless bombing of Yemen, Sudan’s Air Force is predominantly made up of re-hashed Soviet MiG-17s and MiG-21s from the 1960s. It’s a good thing for the Sudanese that they only fight forces that can barely shoot back, because this entire air force could get annihilated by a couple of combat Cessnas.

Related: This Combat Cessna can shoot Hellfire missiles

The Sudanese Air Force is so bad, they hire retirees from the Soviet Air Force to fly in their parades, and even they get shot down by rebels.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit
Sudan’s third-hand Soviet plane from the 1960s is their biggest weapon. (The Aviationist)

The fun doesn’t stop there. Most of their cargo aircraft and and transports are also Soviets from the 1960s, which was unfortunate for half of Sudan’s senior military leadership, who died in an air force plane crash in 2001. And their most recent and advanced planes are Chinese trainer aircraft from the 1990s.

But wait, you might say that the future of combat aviation is in UAVs. Even then, Sudan’s Air Force is pretty awful. They buy old Iranian prop-driven drones, ones that can be used for reconnaissance or weaponized with a warhead. The only problem is that the drone can’t drop the warhead, it has to ram the target.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit
A time-tested tactic.

But even when they’re only used for recon, the damn things just don’t stay in the air.

4. Switzerland

If you ever got annoyed with a USAF Medical Group for having Wednesday off as a training day, or you look with disdain upon the nonners who work banker’s hours, despite being in the military, consider the fact that they still work and are on call 24-7 to work, deploy, or back up Security Forces.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

Related: 32 Terms only airmen will understand

If you want to make fun of a corporate Air Force, look no further than Switzerland, who doesn’t operate during non-business hours, 0800-1800 daily. During their off-hours, Swiss airspace is defended by Italy and France.

It reached the height of ridiculousness when the Swiss wouldn’t respond to a hijacked plane in 2014 and the other countries had to scramble fighters.

3. Pakistan

Pakistan has had air superiority approximately never. In the 1965 Indo-Pakistani War, India used British-made Folland Gnat trainer aircraft that were armed for combat against U.S.-provided Pakistani Air Force F-86 Sabres. And India won. It wasn’t even close.

So for the next war, the Pakistanis called in as a ringer to train their air force.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit
He’s still proud of them.

In the 1971 war with India, India achieved immediate air superiority over Bangladesh (then called East Pakistan), which is admittedly pretty far from the bulk of Pakistan’s air space. But surprise! Pakistan was still forced to surrender some 90,000 troops and Bangladesh was created from the ashes.

Pakistan sparked another war with India in 1999 but this time, they negated the need for air superiority by fighting most of the conflict at high mountain altitudes. The altitude limited the Indian Air Force’s ability to support its ground troops.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit
Kudos on your female pilots, Pakistan. But great PR isn’t going to win wars.

These days, the PAF has no Air Superiority Fighters and no Airborne Early Warning and Control planes — India does. India’s transport and fighter fleet are also more advanced, newer, and carry better weapons.

2. Syria

Syrian airspace can belong to anyone who wants it. Anyone at all. Especially if they come at night, because the Syrian Air Force doesn’t have the ability to fly at night. By 2013 they became more effective, but the start of the Civil War, almost half of the SAF’s ground attack aircraft couldn’t even fly.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit
They also have trouble flying when it rains Tomahawks.

That’s only recently. During the 1948 Israeli War, the young Israeli Air Force was able to hit Damascus with impunity, despite being comprised of a bunch of WWII veterans who happened to have old German airplanes.

In the 1967 war with Israel (who also had to fight Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon, not to mention the money and materiel coming from every other Arab country), two-thirds of Syria’s Air Force was destroyed on the ground. On the first day. The rest of the SAF sat out that war.

In 1973, the Syrians were actually able to hit Israeli positions, but that’s only because the IDF’s air forces were busy either in Egypt or napalming entire Syrian armored columns while their air cover was away.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit
Do you want to lose the Golan Heights? Because that’s how you lose the Golan Heights.

The biggest loss against Israel came in the 1982 Lebanon War, where 150 aircraft from Syria and Israel fought for six days straight. Israel shot down 24 Syrian MiG-23s – without losing a single plane. The battle became known as the “Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot.”

1. North Korea

Big surprise here. Military experts straight up say the Korean People’s Army Air Force is the “least threatening branch” of the North Korean military.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit
Pictured here are two reasons why North Korea’s air force is awful, and neither of them are female.

That’s a big deal, considering their Navy is also a mess and that the only reason anyone fears a war with North Korea is because they have a thousand rockets and artillery shells pointed at Seoul. It says a lot about you when the only reason you haven’t been destroyed is because we care more about one city on the other side of the border than your entire shit country.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit
Marshal Kim Jong Un inspecting ground targets worth 50 points to American pilots in this undated photo. (KCNA)

Historically, the North’s airborne successes came because of their patron in the Soviet Union. That was a long time ago.

North Korean pilots get something like 20 flight hours a year. If you think about it, I almost tied them and I didn’t even train. And when they do train, fuel reserves for actual flying are so scarce that their primary simulator is their imagination.

Their aircraft are so old, a few of them could have actually fought in the Korean War. Against their main enemy (the U.S.), the best this air force could do is create a target-rich environment. Even with a fleet of 1,300 planes, the only credible air defense the North can muster is from ground-based anti-aircraft and SAM sites.

Finally, there is a lot of talk about North Korean nukes but right now, if the DPRK wanted to nuke someone in a war, they’d have to sneak the nuke in on horseback. If there’s a horse they didn’t eat already.

MIGHTY CULTURE

As Goldfein’s service as 21st Chief of Staff comes to a close, his bond to Airmen remains strong

Gen. David L. Goldfein’s four-year tenure as the 21st U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff is coming to an end. As he takes stock of a period marked by ground-breaking achievements, including birth of the U.S. Space Force, the evolution of Joint All Domain Command and Control, and unprecedented challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic, his most poignant – and treasured – memories are the bonds he forged with Airmen while engaging with them around the force over the years.


CSAF 21 Gen David L. Goldfein – The Exit Interview

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“Our Airmen are the most incredible, patriotic and disciplined,” he said in a recent interview. “This might be the next greatest generation. Every one of them joined the service while the nation was at war, and their innovative spirit, and willingness to endure hardships to serve in uniform is really inspiring.”

During his frequent travels, Goldfein gained a reputation for seeking out Airmen – often young in their service – to get a better understanding of who they are and to hear their stories. On one occasion in 2019, after meeting all day with air chiefs from more than a dozen nations about space, he struck up a conversation with a young officer. The officer mentioned that he was a second-generation Airman. Without hesitation, Goldfein asked the officer, “You got your phone? Call your dad.” The father and Goldfein had a 10-minute conversation while the startled officer watched.

“I always ask two questions: tell me your story, and what does it mean to be a part of the squadron they are in,” he said. “I’m asking them deeper questions, questions about the culture of the organization. What we want that answer to be is something along the lines of, It means I’m a valued member of this organization, it’s a high-powered team, the Airman to my right and to my left are some of the best Airmen I have ever worked with in my life, and we are doing something really important that is much bigger than myself. If we get that part right, so many other things are going to go right.”

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

Gen. David. L. Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, talks to a group of total force recruiters during the Bluegreen Vacations 500 NASCAR race in Phoenix. The general talked to the recruiters and answered any questions prior to the race. (AIR FORCE PHOTO // MASTER SGT. CHANCE BABIN)

The Air Force Chief of Staff position demands expertise in military doctrine and operations, as well as skill for developing policy, crafting priorities and helping assemble the Air Force’s budget request. It also requires acute political awareness since Goldfein represents the Air Force before Congress, influential think tanks and the public.

Goldfein, 61, is responsible for the organization, training and equipping 685,000 active-duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian personnel serving in the United States and overseas. As Chief of Staff, he also held a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As he prepares for his 37-year Air Force career to come to an end as the senior uniformed Air Force officer, Goldfein will take with him an approach to the job that was equal parts cerebral and disciplined.

“When I stepped foot on the Air Force Academy campus, only my wildest dreams would’ve ever allowed me to see myself in this seat,” he said. “It truly is the honor of the lifetime to be able to lead the service that has played such an integral part of my life.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

Cadet David L. Goldfein and Dawn Goldfein at the the Air Force Academy.

He is a command pilot with more than 4,200 flying hours including combat missions in Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, and most famously, Operation Allied Force when, in 1999, he was shot down flying a mission over Kosovo. His rescue only reinforced to him the important role – and valor – of combat search and rescue teams. It is also a reason that the naming this year of the Air Force’s newest combat rescue helicopter, the HH-60W as the “Jolly Green II,” carried special meaning.

“We don’t know, as young leaders, especially as young officers, when a young Airman is going to risk everything to pull us out of bad guy land, or a burning truck or an aircraft….and risk everything to save us,” he said. “All we know is on that day, we better be worthy of their risk. And so it is all about character, and what the nation expects of those who were privileged to serve in uniform.”

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfien talks to Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright after touring the new HH-60W combat rescue helicopter at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 27, 2020. During the event, the HH-60W was given the name “Jolly Green II,” following the legendary tradition of the Vietnam-era HH-3E Jolly Green and HH-53 Super Jolly Green crews who pioneered the combat search and rescue mission. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // STAFF SGT. JAMES RICHARDSON)

During his four years as Chief of Staff, Goldfein led multiple initiatives to improve and update the Air Force’s warfighting capability: including enhancing the service’s multi-domain capability, pushing to increase the number of operational squadrons to 386 by 2030, and the birth of the Space Force. He played a major role in bringing the F-35s into the fleet, as well the development of the B-21 strike bomber and the T-7A Red Hawk trainer aircraft, among others. The push to 386 was necessary, he said, to build “the Air Force we need” and to reconfigure the force to address China, Russia and other near-peer nations.

He and other Air Force leaders understood that the National Defense Strategy marked the reemergence of the long-term and strategic competition with China and Russia. The Air Force’s goal is to compete, deter, and win this competition by fielding a force that is lethal, resilient, rapidly adapting and integrates seamlessly with the joint force and its allies and partners. Expanding number of squadrons laid the groundwork to enhance the forces preparedness, and in turn will increase the number of fighting units, he explained.

“Today, we are the best Air Force in the world,” he said in 2018. “Our adversaries know it. They have been studying our way of war, and investing in ways to take away those advantages. This is how we stay in front.”

With an increase in fighting units underway, Goldfein led the way on a new, more universal, approach to communicate and fight: not only across all military branches, but between aircraft, operators and commands as well. He was one of the originators of a new, linked and network-centric approach to warfighting known as Joint All Domain Command and Control in which elements from all services from air, land, sea, space and cyber are seamlessly linked to overwhelm and defeat any adversary.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

Members of the 6th Special Operations Squadron, perform a training exercise showcasing the capabilities of the Advanced Battle Management System at Duke Field, Fla., Dec. 17, 2019. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // TECH. SGT. JOSHUA J. GARCIA)

“Victory in future combat will depend less on individual capabilities and more on the integrated strengths of a connected network available for coalition leaders to employ,” he said in 2019. “What I’m talking about is a fully networked force where each platform’s sensors and operators are connected.”

In addition to spearheading the move to Joint All Domain Command and Control operations, Goldfein used his close working relationships with senior leaders, including Department of the Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett and former Secretaries Heather Wilson and Deborah Lee James, to realize some of the most sweeping changes for the Air Force in recent years.

He focused efforts on maintaining bonds with existing allies and partners while developing new global relationships. In 2019, he became the first Air Force Chief of Staff to visit Vietnam since the end of the Vietnam War.

He pushed the Air Force to embrace “agile basing” and to return to a more expeditionary mindset. Both efforts enhanced flexibility and scalability of units to address threats even in harsh, distant and contested areas. Goldfein drove this mindset by getting the wings to “train like they fight.” He also pushed units to deploy together, rather than deploying as aggregations of individuals rounded up from all over the Air Force.

“The next fight, the one we must prepare for as laid out in the National Defense Strategy, may not have fixed bases, infrastructures and established command and control, with leaders already forward, ready to receive follow-on forces,” he said in 2018. So, it’s time to return to our expeditionary roots. The expeditionary Air Force framework Secretary Peters and Gen. Ryan laid out remains valid today. But, it must be adapted and updated to support the Joint All Domain Command and Control operations of the 21st century.”

After initially being uncertain about the need for a separate Space Force, Goldfein reflected on his journey to a different understanding. He now sees himself as one of the Space Force’s strongest advocates.

Goldfein understood the need to shift the Air Force’s culture to make the service more diverse, he and former Secretary James recognized the benefits of diversity and to address problems connected to racial and criminal justice inequity in his first few years in office. This continued to be a focus when Barrett and Goldfein, for example, recently asked the Air Force Inspector General to examine the service’s promotion and military justice record so inequities can be better identified and addressed.

In early 2020 Goldfein also brought about changes to the Air Force’s official anthem to make the lyrics more inclusive. Goldfein didn’t go many places where he didn’t boast on his “best friend, Dawn” and his daughters and granddaughters. He often explained how they kept him grounded, and helped him appreciate the sacrifice our Air Force families endure. Dawn pushed to make improvements for Air Force families when she chaired the “Key Spouse Conference” and was an advocate for universal licensure. Goldfein actively embraced both.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright learn about new innovations being made at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, May 14, 2020. Airmen at Team Minot, in the midst of a global pandemic, demonstrate the ever adapting ability of the Global Strikers to CSAF General Goldfein and CMSAF Wright during their visit to Minot Air Force Base. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // AIRMAN 1ST CLASS JESSE JENNY)

Perhaps the single most influential voice over Goldfein’s four years as chief was that of Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright. The tight bond between the two men was widely understood and often on display. It also was genuine.

“They don’t come any better than Chief Wright,” Goldfein said recently. “He is one of my closest life-long friends…. He’s the guy that I lean on the most.”

Goldfein and Wright took an active approach together to address resiliency, mental health and the overall culture of the force, often appearing side-by-side with Airmen. The close partnership came into clear view recently in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the national call for racial justice. Goldfein and Wright were prominent in their public calls for reform within the Air Force.

“Something broke loose that day, and what broke loose was there shouldn’t be any resistance to making meaningful changes in our United States Air Force to make sure we celebrate all of us, that we are a force that includes and embraces all of us,” he said. “History is not on our side here. If we follow history, we will be pretty excited for a couple of months and will make some marginal changes, we will feel good about ourselves, and then other things will pop up and this will be pushed to the back burner,” he said, referring to past efforts to address racial and criminal justice inequality. “Let’s prove history wrong this time.”

With a goal of a more inclusive Air Force always in mind, Goldfein made a point to show his appreciation and kinship to the Airmen he was able to meet.

Goldfein concedes that many people and events shaped his tenure. But, aside from his wife Dawn and Wright, none was more influential than his countless interactions with Airmen of all ranks and capabilities across the Air Force. It was shaped as well by a separate and tragic moment, the death of Air Force Master Sgt. John A. Chapman in 2002, and in 2018 when Chapman was awarded the Medal of Honor.

“While I never met John, I feel like I know him because his picture hangs in my office, as it has for the past two years,” Goldfein said in 2018. “… At difficult times and when faced with hard decisions, I can look at that picture and find strength in his strength, and I’m reminded that leading and representing Airmen like John Chapman remains the honor of a lifetime.”

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Chief of Staff of the Air Force David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright present a plaque to Valerie Nessel, wife of Medal of Honor recipient Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, during the Hall of Heroes Induction Ceremony at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Va., Aug. 23, 2018. Sergeant Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions on Takur Ghar mountain in Afghanistan on March 4, 2002, an elite special operations team was ambushed by the enemy and came under heavy fire from multiple directions. Chapman immediately charged an enemy bunker through high-deep snow and killed all enemy occupants. Courageously moving from cover to assault a second machine gun bunker, he was injured by enemy fire. Despite severe wounds, he fought relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice. With his last actions he saved the lives of his teammates. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // STAFF SGT. RUSTY FRANK)

That realization, Goldfein would often say, was his North Star.

As Goldfein’s time as Air Force Chief of staff comes to an end, he feels confident in the selection of the next Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.

“I feel closure. I didn’t get everything done, I wanted to get done, but we certainly got a lot done, and I’m feeling so good,” he said. “I’ve been watching Gen. Brown for years, I got to see his intellect, his mind and work. He’s a brilliant, operational and strategic thinker. I’ve seen him interact with Airmen, and he’s just absolutely phenomenal. So, I’m feeling great about this opportunity to hand the Air Force over to a guy that I admire, and a good friend as well.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.


MIGHTY HISTORY

This future President and First Lady fought with US troops in China

When you think of badass U.S. Presidents, you likely aren’t thinking of Herbert Hoover. In fact, he’s probably very low on your list of presidential badassery, right there with James Buchanan, Millard Fillmore, and Chester A. Arthur.


But what if you saw him and his wife fighting with the U.S. Army’s 9th Infantry, his wife brandishing a .38 Smith Wesson, to fight Chinese rebels trying to murder tons of foreigners?

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit
Better start packing heat if you want to be top FLOTUS, Melania. Lou Henry Hoover don’t play.

Before he became President of the United States, Hoover was the general manager for the Chinese Engineering and Mining Corporation. He and his wife lived in China around the turn of the 20th Century and was generally well-regarded by the Chinese for his progressive views regarding their treatment.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

But the Boxer Rebellion soon broke out in 1900, a semi-spiritual effort to rid China of foreigners, often by ridding their heads of their bodies. It spread from sporadic acts of violence against Western influence to a full-on peasant uprising. That’s when the Chinese Empress Dowager Tsu’u Hzi declared war on all foreign nations at the same time.

Good call, lady.

The powers allied against China included France, Germany, the British Empire, the United States, Russia, Italy, Austria-Hungary, and Japan, who mobilized a multi-national force (called the Eight-Nation Alliance) to protect foreign interests and recuse the besieged foreign legations and citizens around the country.

The Hoovers were in Tianjin, and they were ready for the Boxers.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit
I told you, Lou Henry Hoover does not f*ck around.

For a month, Hoover and his wife – along with the rest of the city – resisted the siege of Tianjin. Future First Lady of the United States, Lou Henry Hoover, defended herself with a Smith Wesson .38 caliber pistol while traveling from the battlefield to the hospital.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

Initially, the Hoovers enlisted the 800 other Westerners and Chinese Christians (also a target of the Boxers) to maintain a defense of the west end of Tianjin. They reinforced the area with bags of grain and sugar while arming U.S. Marines and sailors who happened to be there.

Hoover was known to have rescued Chinese children caught in the crossfire during the street-to-street fighting. Both Hoovers did duty manning the barricades. It’s not known if the Hoovers — devout pacifist Quakers — actually killed anyone, but they did keep the Boxers from doing it.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit
Scenes like this don’t happen when there are Hoovers around.

The beginning of the end came as the multinational relief column — including the U.S. Army’s 9th Infantry Regiment, to this day known as the “Manchus” — arrived in Tianjin. Hoover himself led U.S. Marines, along with columns of British, French, and Japanese troops around the city. His knowledge of the area and its terrain was critical to their success there.

Later, biographer David Bruner recalled Mrs. Hoover’s account of her time in his book, Herber Hoover: A Public LifeShe said she “had a splendid time during the Boxer Rebellion and would not have missed it for anything.”

Tianjin was the bloodiest battle of the entire Boxer Rebellion.

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 questions with former operator Kyle Lamb

Kyle Lamb has lived a life most couldn’t even dream of. He grew up in a small town in South Dakota, but by the age of 24 he had been selected into the most elite special operations unit in the military. He went on to serve in “The Unit” for the next 15 years with deployments to Somalia, Bosnia, and Iraq on multiple occasions (among many others).

Since Lamb’s retirement from the U.S. Army, he has authored two books on topics ranging from marksmanship to leadership and founded Viking Tactics, Inc., which specializes in tactical training and equipment. You may have even seen some of his articles in Guns & Ammo magazine or his face on the Outdoor Channel.


Coffee, or Die Magazine recently caught up with the retired sergeant major to talk about everything from combat in Mogadishu to his passion for history. Check it out:

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

Lamb while serving overseas.

(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb)

You spent the vast majority of your career as a member of the military’s premiere special missions unit. There’s a lot of mystique that (rightfully) surrounds that world, but what is the one thing that would surprise most people about what it’s like to live that life?

Probably how normal those guys are. Not everyone there is like that, but there are a lot of really normal husbands and dads. They go to work in street clothes, then put on their commando costume and go do crazy stuff. Everyone expects those guys to look and act a certain way, but a lot of them aren’t like that at all. Their neighbors don’t even know what they do. It’s just a different world.

Looking back, what was the scariest “oh-shit” moment in your career?

I think probably the one that stands out the most was being in Somalia in a big gun fight and thinking, We’re done, we’re not gonna make it out of this. I said a prayer and decided to just do the best I can and not be a coward. That doesn’t mean you don’t have the pucker factor though. I don’t think you ever get to the point where you know how you’re gonna act in that sort of situation.

Once you get to a certain level in your training, and once I became a troop sergeant major, my biggest scare then was when we were getting ready to go out. I didn’t want anything to happen to my guys. Not so concerned about myself — I knew I was with the best group of guys, best medics, best equipment — I just didn’t want anyone to get jacked up on the mission.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

Lamb performing shooting drills at a range.

(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb/Viking Tactics, Inc.)

What was your plan when you retired from the military?

I was scared to death but what helped me was that I had prepared myself pretty well before I got out. I already had 42 weeks of range classes booked before I got out. So I knew the first year I was gonna be working, making decent money, and I just hoped I would survive after that.

Well, the first year was difficult, but not because of work — I mean, I worked my butt off — it was because of separation anxiety and not having a mission. Luckily, I was around a lot of law enforcement and military guys though, which helped.

You seem to be a student of history. With the U.S. on its 17th straight year at war, how do you think this era will be viewed in future history books?

I’m a diehard history reader, studier, listener — whatever I can do. I haven’t always been that way though. I had a guy on my team named Earl Fillmore who died in Somalia. He would ask me questions about the Civil War, and I didn’t know the answers. He would say, “Man, you’re dumb.” So he gave me this book about Nathan Bedford Forrest. I read this book and thought, This is awesome, and it’s a true story.

So that really got me going with all history. I think being military guys, we definitely need to be students of history so we don’t repeat the same mistakes. And if you don’t like to read books, then listen to podcasts or audiobooks.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

Lamb while serving overseas.

(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb)

I think the war is one thing, but what we do at home during that war is the important thing. We’ve always had good warriors out doing good things, but now we have good warriors that are a smaller percentage of the population. And we said we’re gonna do this, and we went out and did this stuff for God and country, and I think the people who read history will say we had the greatest army in the world.

Yet we have more problems at home than a lot of other countries. I feel like we are so separated right now. It’s gonna read one of two ways: “Wow, they had the greatest army,” or “They ruined it with social experiments.” Where are we gonna be at? I just don’t know.

Finally, if you’re an American and you don’t feel that America should be No. 1, how can you call yourself an American?

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

Lamb with an elk he felled on a hunting trip.

(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb)

Was coffee a part of your daily routine while in the military? What’s the craziest place you’ve ever enjoyed a cup?

My love of coffee comes from the Army. That’s when I really got into coffee. When I went to Bosnia, I had some really good coffee there. It was really strong, kind of jacked me up. But it was smooth, had the smell, the aftertaste. When I would deploy, I would take an espresso machine with me, a small basic one and a grinder, too. I would take whole beans with me and grind ’em up. I would brew it, and guys would look at me like a I was a weirdo. But by my fifth trip to Iraq, half my troop was bringing an espresso machine with them.

Everything’s relative though. Normal to me is strange to you. Probably the best places I like it is at a high altitude while hunting elk. Water boils at a lower temperature, which makes a difference with your coffee. I enjoy the coffee with that vantage point, that sun coming up.

BRCC Presents: Kyle Lamb

www.youtube.com

You’ve written a few books, including one on leadership. During your tenure, you led specially selected, elite humans performing at the pinnacle of their profession. Do you think your leadership philosophy is better or worse because of that?

Leading smart people is more challenging than leading stupid people. I was leading a lot of intelligent guys who were physically fit; top performers. People like that you can’t just bully them into following you.

Watching how some people lead in the civilian world, I feel bad for them. They try to bully and don’t define their mission. They are so politically correct that they’re ineffective. I want the truth, even if it hurts. Our guys were super honest because we wanted to be the best; we wanted our unit to be the best. If you have thin skin, you’ll get eaten alive. You want performers on the team, not people who believe in status or entitlement.

You need to look at all the people you are working with or for and figure out their strengths and weaknesses. Build on their weaknesses and utilize their strengths. People who aren’t out of control but are pushing the envelope.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

Lamb working with a student on a pistol range.

(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb/Viking Tactics, Inc.)

Many guys who serve in special operations and then go on to live public lives face criticism from their military peers for stepping out of the shadows of the “quiet professional.” Have you faced those criticisms, and if so, how have you dealt with it?

The difference is that I haven’t let any secrets out of the bag. The other difference is that I had my books approved by the unit. Any redactions that they asked for, I did it. I did have one TV show that I did — I never said anything about the unit, but one guy wanted to string me up for that. What that really did for me, at that point in my career as a washed-up military dude doing my thing, is upset me for a while. I was like, Why did I do that? Then I got mad. So, I called up the unit commander and said, “Hey man, what’s going on? This dude’s trying to throw me under the bus.” He said nothing’s wrong, don’t worry about it.

But here’s the deal: Eventually you’re going to get out of the military, and you’re allowed to use the term “Delta.” They tell you that when you get out, but I never used it. I’m glad that happened though because it was a real learning and growing experience. I’m just not gonna sweat it anymore, but I’ll still abide by all the rules. When you get that one dude out of a thousand who attacks you, it just shows he was never your friend to begin with.

Most guys coming out of the military are much better with a rifle than a pistol. If you had to narrow it down, what’s the one thing that will improve a pistol shot more than anything else?

You need to train. There’s not one specific little task that you can perform, it’s a total package. You gotta draw safely, present the weapon, squeeze the trigger straight to the rear, follow through on the shot, and repeat as necessary. One mag, one kill. Get out and train on your own, and once you hit that plateau, go seek professional training from someone who is a better shooter than you. Then take it to the next level. If you were in the military, you might be familiar with weapons or comfortable with them, but you may not be the best shot so get out and train. The pistol is much more difficult to shoot than the rifle for most military people.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

No-fail trial PT tests could help improve fitness scores for airmen

The top enlisted leader of the U.S. Air Force is making resiliency a top priority for the last year of his tenure, and part of his plan to promote strong and mindful airmen is to revamp how airmen approach the physical fitness assessment, commonly known as the PT test.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright is looking at new ways of approaching the PT test. One possibility under consideration is a no-fail trial PT test, that if passed, would count as the airman’s official score, Wright’s spokesman, Senior Master Sgt. Harry Kibbe, said.

“The intent is to relieve some of the anxiety, and hopefully this is one of the steps that can get [the Air Force] closer to a culture of fitness rather than a culture of fitness testing,” Kibbe told Miliary.com on Aug. 7, 2019. The news was first reported by Air Force Magazine.


Kibbe explained that, in the Air Force, an “excellent” composite score is equal to or greater than 90 points with all minimum components met. A satisfactory score is between 75 and 89.99 points. Anything below 75 is a failing score. If an airman scores 90 or above, he or she has a year before the next test. Those within the 75 to 89 category only have six months before they must take the next assessment.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

(United States Air Force)

The current Air Force fitness test is gender and age-normed and combines a 1.5-mile run time with maximum pushup and sit-up repetitions within one minute.

“In order to try to relieve some of the anxiety that airmen are having when they’re getting close to their due date, we’re going to allow them to take a ‘diagnostic test,'” he said.

It can be taken anytime in the year-long or six-month window, though not after.

“They’re going to take that diagnostic test and if they pass it, as long as they’re doing it through the official testing system … their clock would reset,” Kibbe said. “If they don’t pass it, but they’re still current, there will not be any punitive actions.”

If an airman fails the pre-test, he or she still has time to work on “what they need to work on” to improve for the next PT assessment, he said.

Kibbe said the Air Force is in the process of developing the policy, but stressed it’s still “months away” from any potential implementation.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit
A Day in the Life

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamie Pitcher)

There may also be a change to the tape test, Kibbe said. The tape test, which measures body fat based on waist circumference, has drawn criticism over the years as an ineffective way to assess body composition due to differences in body type and musculature.

Officials are “looking at incorporating an equation,” Kibbe said. “To find out your fitness index for the abdominal circumference, they’re looking at adding into an equation your waist measurement, your height and your run time to get an overall cardiovascular fitness index, or a number that more accurately represents how you’re doing.”

The waist maximums remain 39 inches for men and 35.5 inches for women.

There are outliers when it comes to waist measurement, though, including very tall men and women and those with big builds. Kibbe said the Air Force is still weighing what the cutoffs for the proposed equation method would be.

“The science is telling us that we do need to keep a measurement of the waist because [it] is an accurate predictor of health,” he said.

For any changes to PT, Kibbe said Wright is making sure the service “gets it right rather than fast.”

“He’s more than comfortable to handing this off to the next [CMSAF] knowing it has been set up for success,” Kibbe said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Strangers brave snow and ice to attend the funeral of a 91-year-old veteran

In the military community, there’s nothing more important than honoring our fallen and showing up. Earlier today, at Pikes Peak National Cemetery in Colorado Springs, CO, that’s exactly what happened.


MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Australian special forces spent 10 days in Vietnam without saying a word

Navy SEAL and Vietnam veteran Roger Hayden spent ten days with the Australian Special Air Service during a mission in Vietnam. Hayden, then with SEAL Team One, invited the Aussies to go out in their area of responsibility. They had a blast Hayden told fellow Navy SEAL vet Jocko Willink on his podcast.

But for the entire ten days, the Aussies didn’t say a word. They just used hand and arms signals.


Some people may not be aware just how far back SEAL history goes. SEALs were first birthed during World War II, so by the time of the War in Vietnam, the use of Naval Special Operations was a lot more perfected than it was in its earliest days. The United States wasn’t the only country to have special operators in Vietnam. Many are surprised to discover the Vietnam War was fought by a handful of countries who also believed Vietnam was the front line of the ideological war pitting capitalism versus communism. One of those countries was Australia, which sent (among others) its own special operators.

For Australia, it was the largest force contribution to a foreign war in its history and for the longest time, remained its longest war. It was also just as controversial for Australian civilians at home as the war was for American citizens at home.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

Australian soldiers from 7 RAR waiting to be picked up by U.S. Army helicopters.

(Vietnam Forces National Memorial, Canberra.)

For Vietnam-era Navy SEAL Roger Hayden, the Australian SAS were some of the best he’d ever seen. He went to Army Ranger School, Raider School, and others, but he says he learned more about reconnaissance in his ten days with the Australians than he did anywhere else in the world.

“In UDT (underwater demolition teams), you just didn’t have the fieldcraft to be out in the jungle looking for people,” Hayden said of the SEALs at the time. “Their [the Australians’] fieldcraft was so good… and you gotta have your sh*t together.”

According to Hayden, they lost a lot of SEALs because of their lack of fieldcraft preparation.

Hayden and his fellow SEALs took over from those they replaced the very same day they arrived in country, with little to no preparation or turnover. They had to start completely brand new, flying into a South Vietnamese base near the U Minh Forest, today called U Minh Thượng National Park. Hayden says they were doing dartboard ops – where they would throw a dart at the map, going to wherever it hits.

“We didn’t have intel, we didn’t have sh*t,” Hayden says. “We were pretty isolated out at a Vietnamese base camp in BF-Egypt, you know what I mean?”

His time with the Australians was a rare run in the jungle, as he and fellow SEALs normally conducted riverine inserts for ambushes, intel gathering, and enemy observation.

MIGHTY FIT

5 exercises to smoke your civilian friends in PT

We all have that civilian ‘friend’ who says they would have joined the military, but they were too weak had other plans. The more you talk about your achievements and stories, the more they feel the urge to one-up you. So, why don’t you invite that Jodie-looking POS, in the most tactful way, to a light P.T. session and make him wish he was never born show him how the world works.

Once you’ve convinced the wannabe warrior to join you in PT, try employing the these, the most challenging, nausea-inducing exercises, to defend the honor of your branch and country once and for all. This list was made to slay bodies, so stay hydrated.


240 burpees Marine Corps Birthday

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Burpees

Burpees are a staff NCO favorite for a reason: they’ll smoke most people within a few sets. You could be waiting in line to do a urinalysis, and First Sergeant will still challenge you to a few just because he’s bored.

Give your victim workout partner the benefit of a brief period of instruction by nonchalantly explaining it’s just push up followed by a jump. Simple enough, right? Well, if service members find these challenging, a civilian won’t last long at all. Give ’em hell.

Top 12 Battle Rope Exercises For Fast Weight Loss

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Battle ropes

Busting out the battle ropes — though I’ve heard them called by other names — will give them the false sense of hope that you’re moving onto something easy. Do as many variations as you feel necessary and make it look effortless. Keeping your bearing here will destroy their ego much more profoundly.

Your arsenal of hate may contain:
  • Alternating waves
  • Hip tosses
  • In-and-out waves
  • Russian twists
  • Waves
  • Counterclockwise waves
  • Clockwise waves
  • Jumping jacks
  • Power slams
  • Side-to-side waves
  • Shuffles
  • Ski steps
Dumbbell Bear Crawl

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Dumbbell bear crawl

The dumbbell bear crawl is self-explanatory: it’s a bear crawl, but with weights. Travel, on all fours, across an area and back while holding a pair of dumbbells. The distance traveled should be proportionate to the length that they ran their mouth about ‘going to college instead.’

It feels even better as a veteran to counter that condescending statement with, “Funny. I did both without student loans thanks to the G.I. Bill.”

Pyramids w Mike Tyson Push Up and Jumps

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Pyramids, push-ups and jumps

Mike Tyson, in his prime, was a force to be reckoned with — in and out of the boxing ring. His training consisted of waking up at 4 am to do a 3-5 mile jog, followed by breakfast, a 10-12 round spar, and calisthenics. Then, he’d eat lunch, do six more rounds of sparring, squeeze in some bag work, slip bag, jump rope, pad work, and speed bag.

It’s not over yet. Then, Tyson would then do more calisthenics, shadow boxing, followed by even more calisthenics, a quick dinner, and some time on the exercise bike as a cool down before studying his upcoming opponents or watching training footage.

So, grab that pencil-necked Melvin you brought to the gym and make him do the following pyramid exercise, inspired by the titan himself.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

Tell me again why you could have joined but didn’t?

​U.S. National Archives

Run. Run ’til the sun gets tired

Odds are that Mr. Stolen-Valor-Waiting-to-Happen has already quit but if, by some miracle, they’re still alive, take them on a run. Not just any run, but the longest run they’ve ever done. Give them a false sense of hope whenever they ask ‘how much further?’ by saying ‘we’re almost done.’

Little do they realize you’re not running to a place, you’re running until they quit.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’

About the time this issue hits the newsstands, the U.S. Special Operations community will likely be taking a look back at one of the most high-profile operations in their history: Operation Gothic Serpent, which included the infamous Battle of the Black Sea, made famous by the book-slash-movie Black Hawk Down. That mission, which took place in October of 1993, is officially 25 years old this fall.

Several veterans of that operation are currently active in the firearms industry and have given their historical accounts of the mission to various media outlets. Instead of trying to retell someone else’s war story, we wanted to take this anniversary to examine the progress of America’s everyman rifle over the ensuing two-and-a-half decades, and perhaps reflect on just how good we have it now.


5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

Blast from the past

As the rise of the retro rifle continues to gain momentum, several companies are now producing period-themed AR-pattern rifles to commemorate past iterations of Stoner’s most famous design. Troy Industries was one of the first to offer an out-of-the-box solution to collectors and enthusiasts wanting a “period” rifle with their My Service Rifle line, commemorating famous military operations, and the associated rifles used to win the day.

Their recent release of the M16A2 SFOD-D carbine made an all-too-appropriate cornerstone for this project. This no-frills rifle was state of the art at the time it was used by small-team elements of the U.S. Army and Air Force in the late ’80s and early ’90s. It’s a 14.5-inch barrel, carbine-length gas system affair with traditional CAR handguards, iron sights, and an A2 carry handle upper. The gun ships with a length of rail mounted on both the carry handle and the 6 o’clock position at the forward end of the handguard.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

This carbine was considered state-of-the-art around the time Meatloaf topped radio charts with “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That).” If that doesn’t make you feel old …

As a preface to all of you firearm historians out there, please note that this was an “in the spirit of” build and does features accessories in the style of this period, as opposed to the actual items. Attempting to procure the actual lights, sights, and mounts from two-plus decades ago was hardly conducive to deadlines or production budgets. So, in several cases, we had to make do with “close enough.” Good enough, as the saying goes, for government work. This particular Gothic Serpent sample is outfitted with a SureFire 6P, complete with a whopping 60-lumen incandescent bulb, mounted on a single scope ring with their push-button tactical tail cap. The optic is an Aimpoint 9000, which uses the longer tube style of the older 5000 with updated electronics.

While the idea of mounting a light to a weapon isn’t exactly new, the technology to do so in a manner that’s both convenient and ergonomic is a relatively recent development. As late as the early years of Operation Iraqi Freedom, line units were using duct tape and hose clamps to hold D-cell mag lights onto their rifles. The SOF community, having a larger budget and more time dedicated to RD, found that you could use weaver scope rings to mount the then-new smaller lights made by SureFire onto their guns. Certainly better than the methods used by conventional units even a decade later, this small measure of convenience came with two primary pitfalls — actuating the light and lumens.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

Though night vision, and the earlier starlight technology, dates back to Vietnam and somewhat before, dedicated night-fighting gear isn’t a catchall for “intermediate” lighting situations. Think about entering a dark room in the middle of a bright desert afternoon in Africa. You need some kind of artificial light to see your target, but early night vision goggles — prone to washout or permanent damage from ambient light through a window or hole in the ceiling — were the wrong answer. So weapon lights became the best compromise.

Even though any advantage is better than no advantage, less than 100 lumens doesn’t buy you much reaction time. As your eyes are rapidly adjusting from bright light, to no light, to a little bit of light the “increased” ability to identify friend from foe is marginal at best. Tape switches were available at the time, but far from universal and far from reliable. They had to be taped on and, if you’ve ever had a piece of tape peel off something in the heat, you know that taping things together isn’t the most ironclad attachment method.

Once you get the light mounted, you have to be able to actually turn it on. With the light at the bottom of the handguard, thumb activation is out of the question. To make this placement work, we had to shift our support handgrip to just past the magwell and use the index knuckle of that hand to trip the light. It works, but not well. While firing, we had trouble keeping enough pressure on the switch to keep it on. The other option is to twist the tailcap for constant-on, but then you run into the fairly obvious issues of battery life, and of giving away your position between engagements.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

Synergistic advances in handguards, lights, and forward grips provide a support-hand hold that’s more ergonomic and offers better control over the weapon.

Once you can see your target, you gotta hit it. The early electro-optical sights, also of Vietnam vintage, were a huge boon for rapid shots under tight constraints. The optics themselves, to include the Aimpoint 3000s and 5000s of the Black Hawk Down era, didn’t have the kind of battery life or reliability that we now expect from any red dot worth its salt. But mounting them on an A2-style receiver created an additional issue: height over bore.

For the uninitiated, height over bore is exactly what it sounds like. Mounting your scope several inches above your barrel creates the need for both mechanical offset when you zero as well as for manual holdover when trying to make precise shots — like headshots, which are a common point of training for hostage rescue units. Furthermore, these high-mounted optics require a “chin weld” on the stock, which is unnatural, uncomfortable, and offers a floating sight picture at best, particularly while shooting on the move.

Latest and greatest

As a demonstration of the technical progress that’s been made in configuring the AR or M4-style rifle, we contrast Troy’s My Service Rifle SFOD-D gun to their own cutting-edge carbine, the SOC-C. The SOCC (Special Operations Compatible Carbine) also sports a 14.5-inch barrel chambered in 5.56mm — which is squarely where the similarities end. The SOC-C features a mid-length gas system. Recent testing by USSOCOM has proven what the commercial market has known for years —that the longer gas tube makes for a cleaner and softer shooting weapon.

The SOCC covers that gas tube with a 12-inch M-LOK handguard. This single feature offers the warfighter a level of modularity that hasn’t been known since the M16’s introduction six decades ago. Now you can mount your lights and any other accessory wherever you want. In our case, we used SureFire’s new 600DF weaponlight attached to the rifle by way of an Arisaka Defense inline mount. The 600DF produces 1,500 lumens, which not only restores small rooms to broad daylight conditions at the push of a button, but can probably be used to signal low-flying aircraft or heat up your MRE.

When Super 6-4 went down near the Bakara Market in Mogadishu, soldiers had to mount a rail to the handguard, a scope ring to the rail, and the light into the scope ring. This system creates poor ergonomics and multiple points of failure for your light to shoot loose or fall off completely. With the 600DF/Arisaka combo, the mount is screwed directly into the body of the flashlight, and then attached directly to the handguard. Not only is this a simpler system less prone to mechanical failure, but the advent of modular handguards provides adjustability in where the light is placed, both lengthwise along the fore-end and around its circumference. The biggest single benefit to come from this advancement is that, now, you can configure the gun around the operator’s natural stance and hand placement instead of changing how you fight just to accommodate a flashlight.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

Things like lower height-over-bore and shorter overall length give the SOCC carbine a distinct edge over its partner. Internals and fire controls are also highly improved over Mil-spec.

Optics have gotten smaller, smarter, tougher, and more diverse in the last 25 years. Our SOCC sports an Aimpoint Comp M5. It’s their smallest and most efficient rifle-mounted red dot. With battery life measured in years and a slew of brightness settings that include night vision compatibility. The move from carry-handle upper receivers to full-length top rails provide a laundry list of benefits on a fighting rifle. The aforementioned height-over-bore issue all but disappears. This simplifies zero. It also simplifies unconventional shooting positions like shooting over or under a barricade and allows a proper cheek weld. Additionally, the full-length top rail allows end users to utilize different types of optics. The vast increase in mounting space means that force multipliers like variable-power glass and clip-on thermal or night-vision units can be mounted quickly and securely with no tools, as the mission changes.

All the small things

While lights and sights were our two most obvious observations, there are other less prominent improvements that are equally important. One is the advent of ambidextrous controls. While, statistically, the number of left-handed shooters is pretty low throughout the ranks, if you happen to have one on your team you want them to reap all the same benefits everyone else in the stack does. Ambi selector levers, charging handles, and mag and bolt releases all create a perfectly mirrored manual of arms, regardless of which hand is pressing the trigger. But it’s not only southpaws who get something out of it.

The advent of urban warfare has forced U.S. soldiers to enter a battle space full of walls, windows, and hard angles. Being able to transition your carbine from strong side to support side as you adapt to available cover offers a very real increase in soldier survivability. Ambidextrous buttons and switches allow all shooters to switch-hit off of barriers without having to change anything about how they drive their gun.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

Things like lower height-over-bore and shorter overall length give the SOCC carbine a distinct edge over its partner. Internals and fire controls are also highly improved over Mil-spec.

The last, but perhaps most critical upgrades we’ll discuss come in the form of the almighty bang switch. After executing proper stance/grip/sight alignment/sight picture, trigger press is the shooter’s last physical input into the weapon before that round leaves the barrel. Sloppy or harsh trigger press can throw a shot even if you do everything else right. This becomes a literal matter of life and death for units that fight in very close quarters where hostages and innocents are all in play.

The M16A2 SFOD-D sports a standard Mil-spec trigger that was delightfully rocky and inconsistent. By comparison, the SOCC comes out of the box with a Geissele G2S trigger. While not marketed as a match trigger per se, it offers a gliding smooth take-up with a consistent break that snaps like a carrot each and every time. It’s this consistency and predictability that gives a shooter an opportunity to improve their marksmanship more quickly, as well as imparting a confidence that the trigger will do exactly what you want it to every single time — a not insignificant comfort when entering situations measured in tenths of a second.

Newer shooters, and older ones who have embraced progress, get quickly adjusted to the ease with which a modern, properly configured rifle can be run hard under demanding conditions. While the events of Operation Gothic Serpent can be labeled as both tragic and heroic, the lessons learned from those units and their experience cobbling together a “best possible” solution with the parts they had set in motion a ripple effect that helped birth the cutting-edge carbines we now use to defend our country and our homes.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

C-17 crew manages stunning evacuation in tough weather

As if by fate, a weather delay in Germany allowed a group of reservists to embark on a challenging 22-and-a-half-hour mission to help save a fellow service member.

When severe weather delayed a C-17 aircrew from the 315th Airlift Wing heading home to Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina was delayed in Germany Nov. 3, 2018, the crew was asked to take on an emergency mission transporting a burn patient to Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas.


“When our mission was delayed, everyone was a little frustrated because they had to get back to their civilian jobs,” said Capt. Dennis Conner, the mission’s aircraft commander from the 701st Airlift Squadron. “Then I get a call asking if we would stay out and take a medical evacuation mission because there was a Soldier who was pretty badly burned. There was not one hesitation, the entire crew stepped up. They put their civilian lives on hold to do this; they missed work and school to get him home.”

The soldier was transported from Hungary to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, by an Air Force aeromedical evacuation team and was destined for the U.S. Army Institute for Surgical Research Burn Center at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

C-17 Globemaster IIIs from Joint Base Charleston, S.C., return home after supporting a large formation exercise May 25, 2017.

According to the Daily News Hungary, “an American soldier was electrocuted at the Ferencváros railway station when he climbed up to a cargo train transporting combat vehicles.” The article states there was an electrical line carrying 25,000 volts above the train’s cargo, potentially causing the incident. The Hungarian National Health Service also gave details of the incident, “40 percent of the man’s body suffered second and third degree burns. What is more, he seemed to have broken his femur,” said Pál Győrfy, spokesperson for the organization.

“It was an unbelievable effort. No other country in the world would go to the extent we did to help one of our warfighters,” said Capt. Bryan Chianella, one of the 701 AS pilots on the mission. “We do what we can to take care of our own.”

During the flight, the C-17 was scheduled to do an aerial refueling so it could continue to San Antonio without stopping, said Conner.

“It was chaos,” he said. “Ten minutes before our AR, the tanker lost one of their engines and had to turn around. We did a lot of planning for this mission… We had several backup plans in place. We could only land in Boston or (Joint Base Andrews, Maryland) because if our jet broke down, he needed to be close to a burn center. Since we had strong headwinds, we didn’t have enough gas to get us to Andrews; we had to try to make it to Boston.”


“It was pretty stressful,” said Chianella. “They only had enough pain meds for our original flight time plus two hours and we landed in Boston with our emergency fuel.”

With the quick stop in Boston for fuel, the crew took off for San Antonio and landed at Lackland AFB, Texas then returned to home to Charleston with no further incidents.

“This was one of those missions where you make a difference helping a brother in arms,” said Master Sgt. Glenn Walker, the flying crew chief on the mission from the 315th Maintenance Squadron. “We all came together as a team and worked like a flawless Swiss watch,” he said.

Both Conner and Chianella also credited the crew’s teamwork in making the mission a success.

“I was very proud of the entire crew. I didn’t do anything special, the crew just did what they do and made this mission happen,” explained Connor.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Here’s footage of John Wayne visiting troops in Vietnam

Hollywood legend John Wayne never served in World War II, partially due to the machinations of Republic Pictures. He tried, though. He put in an application to work with the Office of Strategic Services. Although he was accepted, the letter notifying him so was sent to his estranged wife and never reached him. According to one biography, Wayne’s failure to serve in one of history’s most important wars stung him for the rest of his life.


Wayne did, however, visit troops during World War II and The Vietnam War. One such visit was in 1966 to the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. He wasn’t simply there fulfilling an obligation, either. In addition to being a legendary figure in war movies and westerns, John Wayne was known for being a staunch anti-communist, so much so that Josef Stalin ordered his assassination.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

John Wayne starred in many war movies, like Warner Brothers’ ‘Operation Pacific,’ but missed World War II, much to his chagrin.

(Warner Brothers)

Wayne’s visit came after elements of the 101st Airborne had taken part in Operation Hawthorne with elements of the 1st Cavalry Division. The troops’ objective was to relieve the Army of the Republic of Vietnam’s 42nd Regiment, which had been under siege by North Vietnamese Army forces.

www.youtube.com

During that operation, Capt. Bill Carpenter, who commanded a company of the 101st that was nearly overrun, called in a napalm strike on his own position. He survived and earned the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions. The Air Force eventually sent B-52s to carpet bomb the suspected North Vietnamese positions.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

U.S. Army troops assault a North Vietnamese position during Operation Hawthorne.

(U.S. Army)

The Screaming Eagles suffered 48 dead and 239 wounded during the three-week operation. The South Vietnamese unit was rescued after suffering the loss of 10 and another 42 wounded. The Americans and South Vietnamese, though, killed at least 688 of the enemy and captured another 21.

Watch the video below to see Hollywood legend John Wayne sign autographs for the Screaming Eagles after their costly mission. As a bonus, you’ll get to see The Duke heft an M60 machine gun!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2QfMuGwuKU

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

B-52 bomber takes flight with hypersonic weapon for the first time

America’s longest-serving bomber just took flight with a new air-launched hypersonic weapon for the first time, the US Air Force announced on June 13, 2019.

A B-52 Stratofortress heavy long-range bomber took to the skies over Edwards Air Force Base in California on June 12, 2019, with an inactive, sensor-only prototype of the new AGM-183A Air Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), one of a handful of hypersonic weapons the Air Force is developing for the B-52s.

Hypersonic weapons are a key research and development area in the ongoing arms race between the great-power rivals Russia, China, and the US. Hypersonics are particularly deadly because of their high speeds, in excess of Mach 5, and their maneuverability, which gives them the ability to evade enemy air-and-missile defense systems.


The hypersonic weapon carried by the B-52 on June 12, 2019, did not contain explosives and was not released during testing, the Air Force said, explaining that the focus of the test was to gather data on drag and vibration effects on the weapon, as well as evaluate the external carriage equipment.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

A US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress.

(US Air Force photo)

For the B-52, a nonstealth bomber that might struggle to skirt enemy air defenses, the standoff capability provided by a weapon like the ARRW helps keep the decades-old aircraft relevant even as the US prepares to fight wars against high-end opponents.

Standoff is one area the US military has been looking closely at as it upgrades its B-52s to extend their service life.

The Air Force, much like the Army and Navy, is pursuing hypersonic weapons technology as quickly as possible.

“We’re using the rapid prototyping authorities provided by Congress to quickly bring hypersonic weapon capabilities to the warfighter,” Will Roper, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, said in a release.

5 conversations troops always have in a deployed smoke pit

A B-52H Stratofortress.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Greg Steele)

The Air Force’s ARRW is expected to achieve operational capability by fiscal year 2022.

“This type of speed in our acquisition system is essential — it allows us to field capabilities rapidly to compete against the threats we face,” Roper said, apparently referencing the challenges posed by near-peer competitors.

Russia, for instance, has developed the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal, a nuclear-capable air-launched ballistic missile that can be carried by both bombers and interceptor aircraft.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.