5 things service members hate on that are actually useful - We Are The Mighty
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5 things service members hate on that are actually useful

The U.S. Military is full of rules and regulations, so much so that it gives the lower enlisted plenty to complain about. But some of the things that seem like annoying POG tasks actually make a lot of sense and, in some cases, could be lifesaving.


Here are some of the tasks service members complain about doing that, realistically, make good sense.

Related: 6 ways to be successful in the Marine infantry

5. Boot blousing

This often feels like an annoying task only POGs worry about but, when you think about it, the purpose is to keep dirt and other unwanted particles from getting inside one’s boot.

It gets stupid, though, when higher-ups prefer to see them sit near or at the top of the boot, which may look good, but ultimately defeats the purpose.

Airmen don’t really have to worry about dirt getting in their boots, though. (Image via Citizen Airman Magazine)

4. Buckling the chin strap of a helmet

When troops of the modern age wear their combat gear, they like to call back to times of World War II and Vietnam, when troops would go on patrols with the chin strap of their helmets unbuckled.

But, when you look at why those troops did that, it becomes clear that, with the modern helmets and straps, it makes more sense to buckle up.

Would you rather be comfortable and lose your helmet or have something to protect your head from incoming shrapnel? (Image via Reddit user 4noteprogression)

3. Police call

This is the practice of picking up every little piece of trash in front of the battalion headquarters until it looks pretty for the base commander — what a beautiful practice. After all, who doesn’t like standing in a straight line and combing the lawn for used gum and cigarette butts? But, when you think about it, this is good practice for when you’re leaving a bivouac site or sleeping area.

You want to pick up every piece of trash — yes, even the gum and cigarette butts — to make sure there’s little to no evidence of human occupation because it makes your unit harder to track.

Remember, if you bring it in, you take it out. (Image via Duffleblog)

2. Shaving

This is a common complaint because everyone just wants to be an operator. But the truth is, having a clean shave can save your life. The requirement started during World War I to ensure a perfect seal when the gas masks go on to prevent, you know, dying from a cloud of mustard gas.

These days, having a clean shave is a part of military uniformity and discipline. It takes some discipline to wake up and shave every morning and takes no effort to just let it grow.

On the other hand, special operators are allowed to grow beards because they’re immune to chemical weapons and don’t need gas masks.

Shave your face, nasty! (Image via Reddit user SenorWorkman)

Also read: 6 easy ways for a grunt to be accepted by POGs

1. Stand-to

“Stand-to” is a command that means to stand guard or be prepared for an enemy attack. This is especially annoying since it usually happens from before until after dusk, and before until after dawn.

No one likes being woken up half an hour before the sun rises to stand guard but, realistically, these are the times where attacks have been known to happen. The enemy likes to strike when you’re either focused on going to bed or getting up.

Marines around their fighting positions as the sun rises (Image via Army Times)

Articles

This is everything you need to know about Army Rangers

Assuming you haven’t been living under a rock for the past year or so, you probably know that a handful of female officers made history by graduating the US Army’s prestigious Ranger School and that one female Soldier tried (and failed) to join the Ranger Regiment.


You may have also noticed that there are, all of a sudden, a lot of “internet experts” on Rangers, or anything to do with Rangers. If you actually do know a thing or two about Rangers, then you know all these so-called experts are creating mass confusion and hysteria on the interwebz. So, in an effort to set the record straight, I thought I would lay out the pertinent information that anyone needs to know about this topic.

Although I have not attended every course I am about to speak of, I served in the US Army from 2005 until my separation in 2013. Of that time, I served in 1st Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment for over four years, where I completed three deployments to Iraq and two to Afghanistan. The remainder of my time I spent in the Syracuse Recruiting Battalion, where I am proud to say that I mentored sixteen different young men who made it into the 75th Ranger Regiment. Outside of my military experience, I am also the author of Ranger Knowledge: The All Inclusive Study Guide For Rangers and Violence of Action: The Untold Stories of the 75th Ranger Regiment in the War on Terror.

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Benjamin Jebb, a 7th Infantry Division Ranger, reaches for the ranger tab to complete an obstacle during the Best Ranger Competition 2017 in Fort Benning, Ga., April 9, 2017. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos.

Ranger Training and Assessment Course (RTAC) – The RTAC course is a 16-day preparatory course for Ranger School. It is run by the Army National Guard Warrior Training Center, and primarily used by National Guard students, but open to students of any unit. It is located on Fort Benning, Georgia and is divided in to two phases: RAP phase and Patrolling phase. All National Guard soldiers who want to attend Ranger School must pass this course first. It should be noticed that many Army installations run a similar course to prepare their soldiers for Ranger School in a similar way.

US Army Ranger Course (Ranger School) – Ranger School is 62 days long with a 42% graduation rate, and is considered the Army’s toughest leadership course. Ranger School is a mentally and physically challenging course that teaches small unit infantry tactics and develops leadership skills under austere conditions meant to simulate the exhaustion of real combat operations. The course falls under the US Army Training and Doctrine Command, and is run by the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, which also runs the Army’s Airborne School, Jumpmaster School, and Pathfinder School.

The course incorporates three phases (Benning, Mountain, and Swamp), which follow the crawl, walk, run training methodology. After completion of these three phases, Ranger School graduates are considered proficient in leading squad and platoon dismounted operations in a variety of climates and terrain. Upon graduation, they are awarded and authorized the black and gold “Ranger Tab” on their left shoulder.

Second Lt. Jorge Ramirez, a member of Joint Task Force Domestic Support-Counterdrug, receives his Ranger tab after completing Ranger School July 16, 2010. USNG photo by 2nd Lt. Kara Siepmann.

After completion of the course, graduates return to their units and are expected to take leadership positions shortly after their return. Soldiers of any military occupational specialty (MOS), and any branch of service, as well as some allied nation service members can attend this course. There are no formal pre-requisite courses for attendance at Ranger School. Ranger School does not require students to be airborne qualified before attending. It should be noted that although soldiers are considered “Ranger Qualified,” graduation of this course does not qualify a service member for service in the 75th Ranger Regiment.

75th Ranger Regiment – The 75th Ranger Regiment is a special operations unit that falls under the US Army Special Operations Command, which falls under the US Special Operations Command – the parent organization of other SOF units such as Navy SEALs, Marine Raiders, and Army Special Forces “Green Berets.” The 75th Ranger Regiment’s mission is to plan and conduct special missions in support of US policy and objectives. They are considered the go-to direct action raid unit, and have killed or captured more high value targets in the War on Terror than any other unit. The Regiment is composed of four Ranger battalions: 1st Ranger Battalion on Hunter Army Airfield, GA, 2nd Ranger Battalion on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA, and 3rd Ranger Battalion and Regimental Special Troops Battalion on Fort Benning, GA. They are readily identified by their tan beret’s and red, white, and black “Ranger Scroll.” All soldiers assigned are graduates of either RASP 1 or 2.

Rangers assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment are expected to go to the US Army Ranger School before taking a leadership position, but are not required to attend before serving in the Regiment. It should be noted that Ranger School and the 75th Ranger Regiment are completely different entities under completely different commands with completely different missions, and one is not needed for the other.

Lt. Col. Dave Hodne, the commander of 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., pins an Army Commendation Medal on one of the battalion’s Soldiers. Photo from Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord, 5th Mobile Public Affiars Detachment.

Ranger Assessment and Selection Program 1 (RASP 1) – RASP 1 is an 8-week course ran by the 75th Ranger Regiment and boasts an approximate 33% graduation rate (that number can vary based on time of year as well as other factors). It selects and trains soldiers in the rank of Private through Sergeant for service in the 75th Ranger Regiment. Upon completion of this course, graduates have the basic capabilities to conduct operations as a junior member of a Ranger strike force or command element.

RASP 1 is divided into two phases. Phase 1 is the primary “weeding out” phase, as well as conducts initial standard testing, such as the timed road marches and PT and swim tests. Phase 1 also includes the notoriously brutal “Cole Range” week of training. Phase 2 focuses more on the special operations-peculiar skills needed for service in the Regiment, such as explosive breaching, advanced marksmanship, and advanced first-responder skills. Upon graduation of RASP 1, the new Rangers are awarded the Black, Red, and White “Ranger Scroll” as well as the Khaki (tan) Beret. At this point, they are considered full-fledged Rangers and are assigned to one of the four Ranger Battalions of the 75th Ranger Regiment. It should be noted that Ranger School is not required before attendance at RASP 1, but some students are Ranger School graduates already. Airborne School is a required pre-requisite though, as all soldiers need to be airborne-qualified for service in the 75thRanger Regiment.

Pvt. Howard Urban is congratulated by his father Sgt. Maj. Howard Urban, guest speaker, at the 75th Ranger Regiment RASP Class 05-15 Graduation at Fort Benning. Photo by Pfc. Eric Overfelt, 75th Ranger Regiment documentation specialist.

Ranger Assesment and Selection Program 2 (RASP 2) –RASP 2 is a 21-day course that is ran by the 75th Ranger Regiment. It is for soldiers in the rank of Staff Sergeant and above, and all officers volunteering for assignment to the 75th Ranger Regiment. This course assesses and selects mid- and senior-grade leaders for assignment to the 75th Ranger Regiment and teaches them the operational techniques and standards needed for their time in the Regiment. Upon successful completion of this course, graduates are awarded the Black, Red, and White “Ranger Scroll” as well as the Khaki (tan) Beret and are assigned to one of the four battalions in the 75th Ranger Regiment. It should be noted that Ranger School is not required before attendances at RASP 2, but most students are already Ranger School graduates.

Small Unit Ranger Tactics (SURT) – SURT, formerly known as “Pre-Ranger Course (PRC),” is a three-week program that is run by the 75th Ranger Regiment, for Rangers already in the Regiment who will be attending the US Army Ranger School. Because the 75th Ranger Regiment and the Ranger School are so different, this course is designed to prepare Rangers for the “School” way of doing things, and ensure they have the best shot at success in Ranger School.

Hopefully this short primer explains all the nuances of anything relating to the Army Rangers, and maybe even answers a few questions that are floating around in response to the pending female graduates of Ranger School. Chief among them, “Why aren’t they going to the Ranger Regiment if they passed Ranger School?” Because Ranger School has nothing to do with the 75th Ranger Regiment and is definitely not the selection course for service in the 75th.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are the potential new Air Force officer categories

The Air Force is inching closer to fragmenting the Line of Air Force category into six new, more specific, categories—including one apparently intended for “space operations.” The change to the Line of Air Force categories would affect an estimated 87% of its current officers.


USAF Secretary Heather Wilson

The current draft of the categorical changes was previewed by Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. Wilson emphasized that while the changes are not yet finalized, the 6 new tentative Line Air Force categories are:

  • Nuclear and missile operations
  • Air operations and special warfare
  • Information warfare
  • Combat support
  • Force modernization (including acquisition and RD)
  • Space operations
Secretary of the Air Force Confirmation Hearing

Wilson said that the decision to splinter the Line of Air Force into specific categories may only be confined to middle officer ranks.

According to Wilson, the final decision is expected to be set in stone by October.

The proposed re-haul would give a majority of officers a more specific category to adhere to. The current system in place has specified categories for chaplains, lawyers, and doctors—but officers are a part of a much more sweeping, generic category.

Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly

According to Air Force personnel chief Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, this change could disadvantage the upward mobility of some officers. Kelly referenced the need for officers to vary their skillsets so that they are competitive when job openings or promotions become available.

“But if, for example, acquisition officers had their own competitive category, they could stay longer at a base to provide more continuity within their program. Moreover, the lack of command opportunities that acquisition officers typically face would be less likely to hurt their promotion chances,” Kelly continued, “But more categories would give different career fields the opportunity to grow officers in their own unique ways, providing the best fit for them.”

This could mean big changes for officers—like those pictured here graduating from USAF OTS on Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama

(Airman First Class Matthew Markivee)

Wilson reiterated that the umbrella system of categorizing officers has led to some unequal footing in terms of experience levels in certain fields. Wilson used the example of colonels and lieutenant colonels in the Air Force, and how there is essentially a reliance on chance that a qualified candidate will fall into the position.

“And we may not have enough colonels in cyber, or lieutenant colonels in logistics, or somebody that’s coming along who eventually is being groomed to be the leader of one of our laboratories,” Wilson continued, “Not everybody’s career is going to look like everybody else’s — and it doesn’t have to.”

Wilson conceded that a change of this magnitude, like many others, will need support, “So we’re going to take it out to the force, get a lot of input, hope people post on it, blog on it, comment on it, have town hall meetings on it.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

They’re the oldest and the most recognized armored division in the Army. The first division to see combat in Germany during WWII and the first mash-up of reconnaissance and cavalry units in all of Army history. Here’s everything you thought you knew but didn’t about America’s Tank Division.


Kentucky Wonders, Fire and Brimstone or Old Ironsides?

After the division was organized in 1940, commanding general Maj. Gen. Bruce Magruder was the division’s first commander. His friend, Gen. George Patton, had just named the 2nd Armored Division “Hell on Wheels,” and Magruder didn’t want to be left behind. So, he held a contest to find an appropriate nickname for the new division.

Over two hundred names were submitted, including “Kentucky Wonders” and “Fire and Brimstone.” Gen. Magruder hated all the names submitted and decided to take the weekend to find the best one. It just so happened he’d recently purchased a painting of the USS Constitution, whose nickname was, wait for it, Old Ironsides. It’s said that Magruder was impressed by the correlation between the Navy’s unwavering spirit during the war and his new division’s. It was then that he landed on the nickname Old Ironsides, and the name’s been the same ever since.

The first enemy contact was in North Africa, and it was rough.

Contrary to what many think, the Old Ironsides didn’t engage with the Germans as their first combat experience. Instead, they traveled to North Africa and participated in Operation Torch, part of the Allied Invasion.

Operation Torch was intended to draw Axis forces away from the Eastern Front and relieve pressure on the Soviet Union. It was a compromise between the US and British planners. The mission was planned as a pincer movement with the Old Ironsides landing on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. The primary objective for the Old Ironsides was to work toward securing bridgeheads for opening a second front to the rear of German and Italian forces. Allied soldiers experienced unexpected resistance from Vichy-French units, but the Old Ironsides helped suppress all resistance and were heading toward Tunisia within three days.

The invasion of Africa helped win the war

The invasion of North Africa accomplished a great deal for the Allies since American and British forces finally had the offensive against the Germans and Italians. For the first time, US and UK directives were able to dictate the tempo of events. Forced to fight on both the western and eastern fronts, the German-Italian forces had the additional burden of having to plan and prepare for attacks in North Africa.

However, the harsh conditions of North Africa were quick teachers for the new Old Ironsides soldiers. In February 1943, the Old Ironsides met a better trained German armored force at Kasserine Pass, and the division sustained heavy losses in both service members and equipment.

The division was forced to withdraw, but the Old Ironsides used their retreat time to review the battle and prepare for the next one. After three more months of hard fighting, the Allies claimed victory in North Africa.

The Old Ironsides were recognized publicly for their efforts and then moved to Naples to support Allied forces there.

The Infamous Winter Line Attack

As part of the 5th Army, the 1st Armored Division took part in the attack on the Winter Line in November 1943. Old Ironsides flanked Axis forces in the landings at Anzio and then participated in the liberation of Rome in June. The unit continued to serve in the Italian Campaign until German forces surrendered in May 1945. One month later, Old Ironsides was moved to Germany as part of the US occupation forces stationed there.

WWII to present 

In the drawdown after WWII, the 1st Armored Division was deactivated in 1946 but was then reactivated in 1951 at Fort Hood, where it was the first Army unit to field the new M48 Patton tank. Currently, the unit home is Fort Bliss, Texas, but it previously was housed at Baumholder, Germany. With the relocation, the unit went from roughly 9,000 soldiers to more than 34,000.

In 2019, the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team turned its smaller vehicles in for Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines hold rifle and pistol competition on Okinawa

The competition allowed Marines stationed in Japan to test and enhance their shooting abilities.

“The concept of every Marine a rifleman goes back to our basics,” said Sgt. Christian Lee Burdette, an ordinance maintenance chief with Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “We learn basic infantry skills before we learn our military occupational specialty. Every Marine in general has the capabilities to engage any threat with a weapon. With this training, it provides that confidence for a Marine to engage effectively.”


The first day of the competition included a brief morning class to brush the competitors up on their marksmanship knowledge followed by competitors zeroing their rifles. Zeroing is the process of calibrating the rifle combat optic, so the weapon is accurate to where the shooter is aiming. The shooters’ zero is essential, as a faulty zero can disrupt a shooters’ ability to hit their target.

The following week allowed the shooters to practice the various courses of fire. To complete certain courses, the shooters were forced to shoot with their off-hand and eye.

U.S. Marines competing in the Far East Marksmanship Competition engage targets at Range 18 on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan Dec. 13, 2018.

(Photo by Pfc. Brennan Beauton)

“It puts you into unknown situations, instead of just shooting on a flat range and known distances,” said Sgt. Shane Holum, an emergency service crew chief with MCIPAC. “You have multiple targets and you are shooting and moving. You have to work through problems and malfunctions.”

The final week was for score. All of the shooters’ shots were marked and recorded. Marines were able to compete as an individual, a team, or both. Each shooter had to complete the standard Marine Corps rifle and pistol qualification course along with other courses. The additional courses required shooters to fire and maneuver obstacles, and switch weapons while engaging targets at different distances.

Sixteen teams competed on Dec. 13, 2018, in a rifle and pistol competition. To enter and compete as a team, each team must include four shooters. A team must have an officer and a first time shooter. The first time shooter must be at least a noncommissioned officer.

A U.S. Marine shooter and spotters assess the target in the Team Pistol Match finals at Range 1 on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan Dec. 13, 2018.

(Photo by Pfc. Brennan Beauton)

“Any command that is stationed on Okinawa or mainland Japan can come out to the competition,” said Staff Sgt. Stephen Ferguson, an instructor and competitor for the Marine Corps Shooting Team. “You can bring as large as a team as you want, or bring a single shooter. Either way, you can come out and compete.”

The Marine Corps Base Camp Butler’s team won the team rifle competition. The Communication Strategy and Operations Company on Camp Hansen won the team pistol competition, the same day the unit became officially activated. On Dec. 14, 2018, the MCB rifle team was presented with the Calvin A. Lloyd Memorial Trophy, and the CommStrat pistol team was presented with the Shively Trophy.

“Annual qualification is once a year,” said Sgt. Cameron Patrick, an instructor and competitor for the Marine Corps Shooting Team. “Shooting is a very perishable skill so we want you to not just do the qualification, but to try and get out and practice on your own time. Actually refine your skills by yourself. Don’t wait for that one year to come around.”

The top 10 percent of shooters are invited to participate in the United States Marine Corps Marksmanship Championship Competition in Quantico, Virginia, in April 2019. From there they will be evaluated to see if the individual has the qualities of becoming a member of the Marine Corps Shooting Team, according to Patrick.

The Far East Competition is held annually on Okinawa. Marines that want to participate are encouraged to sign up early as slots fill up quickly.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA and DoD Identification Card Renewal and Issuance Guidance During the Coronavirus Pandemic

VA and the Department of Defense (DoD) have taken action to minimize the number of non-essential required visits to identification (ID) card offices during the coronavirus public health emergency. If you have a VA or DoD ID card that has expired or is getting ready to expire, here are your options.


VA-issued Veteran Health Identification Cards (VHIC):

  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, Veterans enrolled in VA health care who are seeking a brand new VHIC (initial) should contact their local VA medical facility for guidance on going to facility to request a card. Once issued, cards are valid for 10 years.
  • Most Veterans will be able obtain a replacement VHIC (not initial VHIC) by contacting their local VA medical facility and making their request by phone, or they can call 877-222-8387, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET. Once their identity has been verified, a replacement card will be mailed to them.

DoD-issued ID Cards:

Detailed information concerning DoD ID Card operations during the coronavirus pandemic can be found at the DoD Response to COVID-19 – DoD ID Cards and Benefits webpage (https://www.CAC.mil/coronavirus).

For all information regarding DoD-issued ID cards, please contact the Defense Manpower Data Center Identity and ID Card Policy Team at dhracacpolicy@mail.mil. Limited information follows:

Common Access Cards (CAC) (including military and civilian personnel):

  • DoD civilian cardholders who are transferring jobs within DoD are authorized to retain their active CAC.
  • Cardholders whose DoD-issued CAC is within 30 days of expiration may update their certificates online to extend the life of the CAC through Sept. 30, 2020, without having to visit a DoD ID card office in person for reissue. Directions for this procedure may be found at https://www.CAC.mil/coronavirus under News and Updates / User Guide – Updating CAC/VoLAC Certificates.
  • Cardholders whose DoD-issued CAC has expired will have to visit a DoD ID card office in person for reissuance. Visit http://www.dmdc.osd.mil/rsl to find a DoD ID card office near you and schedule an appointment at https://rapids-appointments.dmdc.osd.mil.

DoD-issued Uniformed Services ID Cards (USID) (including Reservist, military retiree, 100% disabled Veteran, and authorized dependent ID cards):

  • Expiration dates on USID cards will be automatically extended to Sept. 30, 2020, within DEERS for cardholders whose affiliation with DoD has not changed but whose USID card has expired after Jan. 1, 2020.
  • Sponsors of USID card holders may make family member enrollment and eligibility updates remotely.
  • Initial issuance for first-time USID card-eligible individuals may be done remotely with an expiration date of one year from date of issue. The minimum age for first-time issuance for eligible family members has been temporarily increased from 10 to 14 years of age.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

As soon as Shawn Campbell saw his name on a plaque next to a statue sunken 40 feet on the seafloor, the memories of soldiers he had once served with flooded his mind.

The life-size statue, one of a dozen concrete figures that make up the nation’s only underwater veterans memorial, depicted a soldier wearing combat gear from the Iraq War — a war he had fought in three separate times.

“It really took my breath away,” said the former staff sergeant, now a master diver at a Florida dive shop. “It was a huge honor.”

His company made a donation to place his name at the base of the statue before the figures were recently installed about 10 miles off the coast of Clearwater, Florida.


The memorial, called Circle of Heroes, honors the entire military with statues portraying a variety of service members in what organizers hope will serve as a therapeutic dive for veterans and a unique diving experience for all.

Plans call for an additional 12 statues to be added to the memorial next year.

Circle of Heroes is the nation’s only memorial of its kind and will eventually have 24 life-size statues depicting troops from all services.

(Circle of Heroes)

For Campbell, who served about a decade in the Army as a combat medic, he said the memorial helped him remember those who never returned home and those who struggled once they did.

“I had a lot of friends who didn’t make it back,” he said Aug.12, 2019, a week after the memorial officially opened. “And even more who did make it back, but then couldn’t win the battle with themselves after the war.”

One such friend was Staff Sgt. Victor Cota. He and Campbell had been in the same 4th Infantry Division unit that provided security for senior leaders traveling in and around Baghdad.

On May 14, 2008, Cota’s vehicle hit a roadside bomb, killing the 33-year-old Tucson, Arizona, native.

“He was a really good friend of mine,” Campbell said. “We lost him during [my] second deployment.”

In 2013, Campbell left the Army to finish his associate’s degree and then worked as a commercial deep sea diver. He now teaches courses at a dive shop in the Tampa area, where he grew up.

Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, looks at his name on a plaque next to one of the statues at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.

(Video still by Bill Mills)

“I was like, well, if I survived the war, I’m going to start doing everything I want to do now,” he said.

Campbell said scuba diving is a relaxing activity that calms his post-traumatic stress and gives him time to analyze his thoughts in peace.

“It helps me deal with things,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to have a bad day when you’re underwater and you get to reflect upon yourself.”

Former Staff Sgt. Jace Badia, also a diving instructor, agreed, saying the sport gives him more freedom of movement.

Badia, an infantryman who lost his left leg above the knee to a roadside bomb in Iraq, said he and others who have had amputated limbs can move however they like while floating below the surface.

He even knows a blind veteran who enjoys scuba diving.

“If you don’t have the ability to run because of prosthetics, you can get in the water with a tank and you can swim as fast as you want,” he said. “Nothing is stopping you.”

Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, had a statue dedicated to him at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.

(Shawn Campbell)

Badia, who manned a boat so other wounded veterans could dive around the memorial last week, said he is looking forward to seeing it soon in an upcoming dive.

“I can’t believe that they finally made an underwater memorial for [service members],” he said. “That’s amazing, I never even thought that was possible.”

While memorials are typically above ground, this one can allow visitors to connect to it on a deeper level. There is even a nonprofit that specifically takes wounded veterans to the site as an alternative form of therapy.

“The one thing about scuba diving is when you’re down there, even if you’re in a group, you’re still by yourself,” Campbell said. “You have no choice but to reflect on what you’re looking at.

“It’s more of a serene experience that you never get an opportunity to experience above the water.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

COVID-19: Russia Reports Largest Daily Increase Of Cases; 10,000 Graves Dug In Tehran

The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 110,000 with almost 1.8 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here’s a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast regions.



Russia

Russia on April 12 reported the largest daily increase of coronavirus cases since the start of the outbreak, as the authorities announced restrictions on Easter church services in and around Moscow to contain the spread of the disease.

The Russian Orthodox Church, which will observe Easter this year on April 19, ordered churches to close their doors to large groups during the holy week leading up to the holiday.

Meanwhile, Russia’s coronavirus crisis task force reported 2,186 new coronavirus cases in the country, raising the total number to 15,770.

The number of coronavirus-related deaths rose by 24 to 130, it said.

The official tally has been doubted by critics in Russia and abroad, who suspect the number is being undercounted by health authorities.

Moscow and many other regions have been in lockdown for nearly two weeks, but Russian officials on April 11 warned of a “huge influx” of new coronavirus infections and said that hospitals in the Moscow area were quickly nearing capacity.

“We are seeing hospitals in Moscow working extremely intensely, in heroic, emergency mode,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said during a television interview.

Peskov described the situation in both Moscow and St. Petersburg as “quite tense because the number of sick people is growing.”

Bulgaria

Authorities and doctors in Bulgaria are urging citizens to stay home and pray in their homes for traditional Palm Sunday and Easter services.

Churches have remained open in Bulgaria despite the coronavirus outbreak. Services at major churches are due to be broadcast live for worshippers.

Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said on April 11 that churches will remain open, saying many people were desperate and in low spirits. He, however, urged Bulgarians to stay home.

“A difficult decision but I am ready to bear the reproaches,” Borisov told reporters.

“The bishops told me that there are many people who are in low spirits, desperate. So I just cannot issue such an order [to close churches],” he added.

Thousands attend Easter church services in the Balkan country.

Bulgaria has been in a state of emergency since March 13. Schools and most shops are closed and there are restrictions on intercity travel and access to parks. All domestic and foreign vacation trips are banned.

The country has so far reported 669 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 28 deaths.

Iran

Iran’s death toll from COVID-19 has risen by 117 in the past day to 4,474, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said on April 12.

The country has recorded 71,686 cases of the coronavirus that causes the disease, Jahanpur added. Some 1,657 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the past 24 hours, he said.

Iran has been the country hardest hit by the pandemic in the Middle East. Many Iranian and international experts think Iran’s government, which has been criticized for a slow initial response, is intentionally reducing its tally of the pandemic.

Ten thousand graves have been dug in a new section of the Behesht Zahra cemetery south of the Iranian capital to deal with coronavirus deaths, an official with Tehran’s municipality was quoted as saying by the official government news agency IRNA on April 12.

Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rohani said that restrictions on travel between cities within each province in the country have been lifted.

He said restrictions on travel between provinces will be lifted on April 20.

In the past days, Tehran has reopened some “low-risk” businesses in most parts of the country with the exception of the capital, Tehran, where they will reopen from April 18, official media have reported.

Iranian authorities have called on citizens to respect health protocols and social-distancing measures as the country struggles to curb the deadly outbreak.

The government is concerned that measures to shut down businesses and halt economic activities to contain the outbreak could wreck an already sanctions-battered economy.

The United States has offered humanitarian aid to Iran, but the country’s leaders have rejected it and demanded that sanctions be lifted.

Pakistan

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has appealed to international stakeholders for urgent debt relief for Pakistan and other developing countries to help them deal more effectively with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

In a video message released by the Foreign Ministry on April 12, Khan said that “highly indebted countries” lack “fiscal space” to spend both on the fight against the virus and on health and social support.

He said he appealed to world leaders, the heads of financial institutions, and the secretary-general of the United Nations to get together to announce a debt relief initiative for developing countries.

Pakistan has recorded 5,232 coronavirus cases, with 91 deaths.

The South Asian nation’s already struggling economy has been hit hard by nationwide lockdowns that have brought economic activity to a halt.

Pakistan is more than 0 billion in debt to foreign lenders and spends the largest chunk of its budget on servicing its debt.

Armenia

In his Easter sermon, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Garegin II, urged Armenians to display “national unity” in the face of the coronavirus crisis.

Leading the Mass at an empty St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in Yerevan on April 12, Garegin called on “the sons and daughters of our nation in the homeland and in the diaspora to give a helping hand to our government authorities in their efforts to overcome the difficult situation created by the pandemic.”

He also called for global solidarity to contain the spread of the virus and what he described as even greater “evils,” including “materialism,” poverty, and armed conflicts.

The Mass, broadcast live on national television, was attended by only two dozen clergymen and a smaller-than-usual choir.

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After the service, Garegin blessed a small group of believers who had gathered outside Armenia’s largest cathedral.

Sunday services in all churches across Armenia have been held behind closed doors since the government on March 16 declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak, which has officially infected 1,013 people in the South Caucasus country and killed 13.

The Armenian Apostolic Church has restricted church attendance on weekdays and instructed parish churches to live-stream liturgies online, when possible.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s what US Army soldiers said in a WWII uncensored survey

In September 1940, World War II was a year old. The US was still a noncombatant, but it was preparing for a fight.

That month, the US introduced the Selective Training and Service Act — the first peacetime draft in US history. Mobilizing the millions of troops was a monumental task and essential to deploying “the arsenal of democracy” that President Franklin D. Roosevelt called on Americans to provide.

Inducting millions of civilians and turning them into effective troops — and keeping them happy, healthy, supplied, and fighting — was also a daunting challenge.


In order to find the best way to do that, the War Department mounted an opinion survey, polling nearly a half-million soldiers stationed all around the world throughout the war. Their uncensored responses, given as the war was being fought, are an unprecedented window into how those troops felt about the war, the military, and their role in both.

“Entirely too much boot-licking going on,” one soldier wrote. “Some sort of a merit system should be instituted.”

“Spam, Spam, Spam. All I dream about is Spam,” wrote another.

(National Archives photo)

In an email interview, Edward Gitre, a history professor at Virginia Tech whose project, The American Soldier in World War II, has compiled tens of thousands of responses to those surveys, explained why the Army sought the unvarnished opinions of its soldiers and what those opinions revealed.

Christopher Woody: Why did the War Department conduct these surveys? What did it want to find out about US troops and how did it want to use that information?

Gitre: Henry Stimson, the aged Secretary of War, outright barred the polling of US troops when one of the nation’s leading pollsters, Elmo Roper, first pitched the idea in spring 1941. The War Department was not in the habit of soliciting the “opinions” of foot soldiers.

Yet an old friend of the Roosevelt family, Frederick Osborn—who had already helped to institute the country’s first peacetime draft in 1940—quietly but effectively made the case.

Chiefly, he convinced Stimson and other leery officers that surveys would be for their benefit. Surveys would provide them information for planning and policymaking purposes. Allowing and encouraging GIs to openly air their “gripes” was not part of Osborn’s original pitch.

When George C. Marshall became chief of staff in 1939, he compared the US Army to that of a third-rate power.

With the passage of the draft in 1940, the War Department would face the monumental challenge of rapidly inducting hundreds of thousands, then after Pearl Harbor millions of civilians. Most lacked prior military experience. But this new crop was also better educated than previous generations of draftees, and they came with higher expectations of the organization.

The surveys, then, would help address a host of “personnel” issues, such as placement, training, furloughs, ratings, so on and so forth.

The civilian experts the Army brought in to run this novel research program were embedded in what was known as the Morale Branch. This outfit, as the name suggests, was tasked with shoring up morale. These social and behavioral scientists had to figure out, first, how to define morale, and, second, how to measure it.

Some old Army hands insisted that morale was purely a matter of command, that it was the byproduct of discipline and leadership. But reporting indicated pretty clearly that morale correlated to what soldiers were provided during off-duty hours as well, in terms of recreation and entertainment.

To address the latter, the War Department created an educational, recreational, welfare, and entertainment operation that spanned the globe. The numbers of candy bars and packages of cigarettes shipped and sold were accounted for not in the millions but billions.

If you were coordinating the monthly global placement of, say, two million books from best-sellers’ lists, wouldn’t you want to know something about soldier and sailor preferences? A whole class of survey questions were directed at marketing research.

Woody: What topics did the questions cover, and what kind of feedback and complaints did the troops give in response?

Gitre: The surveys administered by the Army’s Research Branch cover myriads of topics, from the individual food items placed in various rations, to the specific material used in seasonal uniforms, to the educational courses offered through the Armed Forces Institute.

A soldier might be asked a hundred or more multiple-choice and short-answer questions in any one survey. They would be asked to record more their behaviors, insights, and experiences related to service directly. They were asked about their civilian lives as well, including their previous occupation, family background, regional identity, religion, and education. This information could be then correlated with other military and government records to provide a more holistic picture of the average American GI.

One of this research outfit’s most reliable “clients” was the Army’s Office of Surgeon General. The quality and effectiveness of medical and psychiatric care had wide implications, not least in terms of combat readiness. The Surgeon General’s office was interested in more than the care it provided. Soldiers were asked about their most intimate of experiences—their sexual habits and hygiene among them.

Administered in August 1945, Survey #233 asked men stationed in Italy if they were having sex with Italian women, and, if so, how frequently; did they pay for sex, how did they pay, did they “shack” up, use a condom and if not why not, drink beforehand, and did they know how to identify the symptoms of an STI? The battle against venereal diseases knew no lines of propriety.

The Research Branch surveyed or interviewed a half-million service members during the war. The answers they received were as varied as one can imagine, though there were of course common “gripes,” which the old Army hands could have easily ticked off without the aid of a cross-sectional scientific survey.

Yet the scope WWII military operations and the influx of so many educated civilians did create innumerable challenges that were often novel.

But from the soldier’s perspective, it should not come as a shock that so many of them might have taken to heart the premise of the US’s involvement in the war, that the US was committed to defending democracy, and alone if necessary.

Respondent after survey respondent demanded, then, that the US military live up to the principles of democracy for which they were being called to sacrifice. And so, they savaged expressions of the old Regular Army’s hierarchical “caste” culture wherever they saw it, but especially when it frustrated their own hopes and ambitions.

They wanted, in the parlance of the day, “fair play” and a “square deal.” They wanted to be respected as a human being, and not treated like a “dog.”

Woody: The US military drew from a wide swath of the population during WWII. How do you think that affected troops’ perception of the war, of military and civilian leadership, and of what the troops themselves wanted out of their service?

Gitre: The WWII US Army is known as a “citizen soldier” army (as opposed to a professional or “standing” army). It was also at the time described as a “peacetime army.” Compulsory service was passed by Congress in September 1940, roughly 15 months prior to Pearl Harbor. Military conscription was from its inception a civil process.

Photograph taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island shortly after the beginning of the Pearl Harbor attack.

(U.S. Navy photo)

That year-plus gap had a deep and lasting impact on how the War Department approached the rapid expansion of US forces. Just the same, it also shaped the expectations of Americans who were called to serve—as well as of their family members and loved ones, and the wider public.

The success of the Selective Service System would depend on the state in which the Army returned soldiers back to civil life. They would need to feel that they had gained something from the military, in the form of skill training or more education.

“In a larger sense [compulsory military training] provides an opportunity to popularize the Army with our people which is essential for an efficient fighting force,” the secretary of war said. “Maintenance of a high military morale is one of the most important contributing factors to good public morale,” he continued.

This view filtered down into the ranks. Sailors and soldiers expected to receive useful training and additional education. They also believed the military would put the skills, experiences, and practical know-how they already possessed as civilians to good use.

Woody: Was there anything in the troops’ responses that surprised you?

Gitre: What has surprised me most, I think, are the many remarks not about command and leadership but race.

We know that leaders of and activists in the black community pressed the War Department and Roosevelt administration to confront the nation’s “original sin” and strike down legal segregation. How otherwise could the US claim to be a champion of democracy while systematically denying the rights of a population that was liable, as free white citizens were, to compulsory service?

Black leaders embraced the V-shaped hand signal that was flashed so often to signify allied Victory, and they made it their own, calling for “Double V” or double victory: that is, victory abroad, and victory at home.

Participants in the Double V campaign, 1942.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Surveys from black soldiers demonstrate in rather stark terms how pervasively this message took hold among the rank and file. African Americans were especially well attuned to and critical of the military’s caste culture and to its reinforcement of white supremacy.

It is especially jarring, then, to read commentaries from soldiers defending the continuation of white male supremacy. Not only did some of these respondents opine on the virtues of segregation and the inferiority of blacks. A whole host of them objected likewise to women in uniform.

But undoubtedly the most shocking responses are those that espouse naked anti-Semitism. These cut against the grain of our collective memory of the American GI as liberator of the German death and concentration camps. Statements of these sort are rare. Yet they exist.

Woody: What’s your biggest takeaway from these surveys about troops’ feelings about the war and their attitudes toward the military?

Gitre: When I first encountered these open-ended responses, I was almost immediately captivated by how similarly white and black soldiers wrote about equity in the military. These two populations sometimes used the same exact phrasing.

For so many black soldiers, military service presented itself as an opportunity to break the shackles of structural inequality. They pleaded for merit-based assignments, postings, and promotions. You can flip over to surveys written by white enlisted men and you can see them wrestling with the same involuntary constraints arising from their own submission. They vigorously protested being treated like a “dog,” or a “slave.”

The leveling effect of military service was profound — and not simply for the individual soldier, psychologically. The survey research Osborn’s team conducted on race, merit, and morale demonstrated that not only were black soldiers just as effective in combat, but that the proximity of black and white troops in combat situations improved race relations, instead of destroying morale, as had long been feared. This research fed the 1947 Executive Order 9981 desegregating the US armed forces.

That brings us back to that 1940 peacetime decision to make military service compulsory as a civic duty. You can’t overestimate its significance. This isn’t a plea for compulsory military service. Yet as I continue to read these troop surveys, I am confronted daily by the prospect that we are losing the hard-won insights and lessons of a generation that is passing into its final twilight.

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

Humor

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of Dec. 15

It’s been only seven days since our last meme call, and…where do we even begin?


Army beats Navy. Trans troops get the green light. We have a new NDAA for 2018 — no one cares about any of that. The real Star Wars Day is today.

Celebrate with memes. These memes.

1. He can’t name drop PJs and JTACs like the rest of the Air Force does when Marines make fun.

Let’s be honest, he looks Air Force.

2. But suffering leads to a lobbying job. (via Coast Guard Memes)

This is how icebreakers get made.

3. “Look at how shiny those floors are.”

Also, how do you pee in that armor?

4. I didn’t know Meth came from fabric softener.

Ewoks should use Snuggle on their fur instead of drinking it.

5. New Yorkers aren’t like the rest of us.

Terrorism fail.

6. Basic training is the hydroelectric dam.

Who needs fusion when you have every day life?

7. “Things you’ll never actually say to an E-7” for $100.

There’s a reason dude got choked out.

8. It’s not the worst grouping. (via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said)

But you’d still be dead. Or unqualified.

9. No passes in the Army-Navy Game, just like in real life. (via Decelerate Your Life)

To be fair it’s usually the Coast Guard chasing little white lines.

10. I was more of a Han Solo fan until this.

Majestic reveal.

11. Your girl knows.

You know he has one.

12. It doesn’t show the NCO school on Dagobah.

Life is pain.

13. Who’s in the Christmas spirit?

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Teddy Roosevelt’s gun was as awesome as he was

In April 1990, the FBI was called to Teddy Roosevelt’s house. No one would dare steal from TR while he was alive, but since he had been dead for 70-plus years and his house was long ago turned into a museum, the thief was able to rob the place and make off with an important piece of Americana: Teddy Roosevelt’s piece. They stole the pistol he used at the Battle of San Juan Hill.

To this day, no one knows who took it, and only the FBI knows who turned it in, but now it’s back where it belongs. Its history is America’s history, and the history of Teddy Roosevelt’s sidearm matches the legacy of the man who wielded it. It started with a sinking ship.


In 1976, the Navy discovered the USS Maine was actually sunk by a fire that hit its ammunition stores, but let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good story.

In 1898, the USS Maine exploded in Havana harbor, a port owned by Spain at the time. Since anti-Spanish sentiment and pro-Cuban Independence was at a fever pitch among Americans at the time, the incident was blamed on a Spanish mine. Even an official Navy inquiry supported the mine theory. With more than 250 American sailors dead, the United States had to respond, and they did so by declaring war on Spain.

Teddy Roosevelt was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy at the time. Incensed by the Spanish provocation, it wasn’t enough for TR to just dispatch American warships to distant Spanish colonies. The man felt he had to go kill some Spaniards personally – and he did. He helped raise the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry and deployed to Spain with an insane, ragtag group of cowboys, journalists, and athletes, the likes of which the world will never see again.

Also: 7 cool facts about the Battle of San Juan Hill

Someone should have told Spain that white was a bad choice of uniform color.

Roosevelt earned a Medal of Honor for leading what was supposed to be an overmatched support column on a daring charge up the hill that totally routed the defending Spanish, and he did it wielding a Colt Model 1892 Army and Navy double-action, six-shot revolver, one special to Roosevelt for many reasons.

First and foremost (maybe?), it was a gift to him from his brother-in-law, U.S. Navy Capt. William Sheffield Cowles. Where Cowles acquired it makes it really special: the weapon was salvaged from the wreckage of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor just a few months prior to the battle.

You can’t spell “counterattack” without the letters ‘T’ and ‘R.’

The weapon is valued at over id=”listicle-2628915902″ million and has an inscription above the grips: “From the sunken battle ship Maine” and “July 1st, 1898. San Juan. Carried and used by Col. Theodore Roosevelt.”

The April 1990 theft was actually the second time the pistol had been taken from Sagamore Hill. The first time was in 1936 when it was removed from the case, but the thief panicked and threw the weapon into the woods nearby. Roosevelt’s sidearm and 1st Volunteers uniform are considered the most priceless artifacts on display at the museum.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What Gen. McChrystal learned from his forced resignation

The day Rolling Stone published the late journalist Michael Hastings’ profile on four-star Gen. Stanley McChrystal in June 2010, McChrystal called Vice President Joe Biden from Afghanistan.

Biden received the call aboard Air Force Two. The general told him that a magazine profile would be coming out that included derisive remarks about him, and he was sorry for it.

Biden told McChrystal he felt like it would be fine, The Washington Post reported, and called President Barack Obama to tell him about the call. Obama’s aides had been analyzing the article for hours already, according to The Post, and after Obama read it, he was angry. He requested McChrystal fly to Washington.


McChrystal was leading the American-led coalition forces in the War in Afghanistan, and Hastings’ article, “The Runaway General,” characterized McChrystal as a recalcitrant general and a team that cracked jokes about Biden and other White House officials.

“And so on the one hand I thought that that wasn’t fair; on the other hand I’m responsible, and we have this negative article about a senior general show up on the president of the United States’ desk,” McChrystal said in an episode of Business Insider’s podcast “This Is Success.”

“And it’s my job not to put articles like that on the president’s desk, so I offered my resignation.”

President Barack Obama meets with Army Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, in the Oval Office at the White House, May 19, 2009.

“President Obama accepted it, and I don’t have any problem with it because I’m responsible whether I did something wrong or not,” McChrystal said. “I’m responsible, and as I told the president that day, ‘I’m happy to stay in command or resign, whatever is best for the mission.'”

McChrystal said that he was comfortable with that decision, but that there’s still “some hurt” that comes up. That said, he also explained that it taught him a lesson about failure that others can learn from.

“I would argue that every one of your listeners is going to fail,” he said. “They’re going to fail in a marriage, they’re going to fail in a business, they’re going to fail at something for which they are responsible. And they’ve got to make the decision: ‘OK, what’s the rest of your life going to be like?'”

McChrystal retired from the Army on July 23, 2010. Though he did not complete the requirement of three years as a four-star general to retain his rank in retirement, the White House made an exception. The Army’s chief of staff awarded him the Distinguished Service Medal and the secretary of defense awarded him the Defense Distinguished Service Medal.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

McChrystal said that after that, it would have been easy to relitigate what transpired for the rest of his life and become “a bitter retired general.”

“And my wife helped me through this more than anything, because as I tell people, ‘She lives like she drives, without using the rear-view mirror,'” he said.

In his retirement, McChrystal has become a professor at Yale, the head of a leadership consulting firm, and an author.

McChrystal told us that “you can’t change what’s already happened. The only thing you can change is what happens in the future. So I tell people, ‘For God’s sake, don’t screw up the rest of your life because of something that happened there.'” He said that he chose “to lean forward.”

“I’ve been extraordinarily satisfied and happy with that,” he said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 unexpected downsides to deploying to a combat zone

Deploying is just one of those things every troop knows will happen eventually. There are two ways troops look at this: Either they’re gung-ho about getting into what they’ve been training to do for years or they’re scared that they’ll have to do what they’ve been training years to do for years. No judgement either way, but it’s bound to happen.

The truth is, combat only makes up a fraction of a fraction of what troops do while deployed. There are some troops who take on an unequal share of that burden when compared to the next, but everyone shares some of the same downsides of deployment.

Today’s troops have it nicer than those that came before them and some units may inherently have an easier time of things. Still, everyone has to deal with the same smell of the “open air sanitation pits” that are lovingly called “sh*t ponds.”


Yep. And the VA is still debating whether this is unhealthy or not.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka)

Sanitation

Speaking of open pits of disposed human filth that are totally not going to cause health problems down the road, the rest of your deployment won’t be much cleaner.

Sand will get everywhere no matter how many times you sweep. Black mold will always creep into your living areas and cause everyone to go to sick call. That’s normal.

What’s not normal is the amount of lazy, disgusting Blue Falcons that decide that using Gatorade bottles as piss pots is more convenient than walking their ass to a proper latrine but get embarrassed by their disgusting lifestyle so they horde that sh*t under their bunk in some sick, twisted collection. True story.

That is, if you can get to an uncrowded USO tent to actually talk to your folks back home.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jonathan Carmichael)

OPSEC

Everyone knows they’re going to have to be away from their family, but no one really prepares you for the moments when you’re going to have to tell them you can’t talk a few days because something happened — “Comms Blackouts.” They’re totally normal and it freaks out everyone back home. it’s up to the troops to explain the situation without providing any info that would incur the wrath of the chain of command.

We’ve all heard the constant, nebulous threats. “The enemy is always listening!” “All it takes is one puzzle piece to lose the war!” Such concerns aren’t unfounded — and it leaves troops clammed up, essentially without anything interesting to talk about while deployed.

I’m just saying, we’re doing you a favor by not saluting you where there could be snipers…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena)

Other units’ officers

Every unit falls under the same overarching rules as set forth by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So, if someone’s doing something that breaks said code, any troop can (and should) step in to defuse the situation. That being said, every unit functions on their own SOPs while downrange and there’s always going to be a smart-ass butterbar who raises hell about not being saluted in a combat zone.

Don’t worry, though. This guy will probably have a a “totally legitimate” copy of all the seasons of ‘Game of Thrones’ on DVD.

(Official Marine Corps Photo by Eric S. Wilterdink)

Everything you’re going to miss out on

Being deployed is kind of like being put in a time capsule when it comes to pop culture. Any movie or television show that you would normally be catching the night of the release is going to end up on a long checklist of things to catch up on later.

To make matters worse, troops today still have an internet connection — just not a very good one. So, if some big thing happened on that show you watch, it’s going to get spoiled eventually because people assume that, after a few weeks, it’s all fair game to discuss. Meanwhile, you’re still 36 weeks away from seeing it yourself.

You’d think this isn’t comfy. But it is.

(U.S. Army)

Sleep (or lack thereof)

Some doctors say that seven to nine hours of sleep are required for the human body to function. You will soon laugh in the face of said doctors. You’ll be at your physical peak and do just fine on five hours of constantly interrupted sleep.

War is very loud and missions occur at all hours of the day. What this means is just as soon as you get tucked in for the night, you’re going to hear a chopper buzz your tent while a barely-working generator keeps turning over which is then drowned out by the sounds of artillery going off. Needless to say, when the eventual IDF siren goes off, you’ll legitimately debate whether you should get out of bed or sleep through it.

Ever wonder why so many troops make stupid films while in the sandbox? Because we’re bored out of our freakin’ minds!

Boredom

The fact that you’re actually working 12-hour days won’t bother you. The fact that you’re going to get an average of five hours of sleep won’t bother you. Those remaining seven hours of your day are what will drive you insane.

You could go to the gym and get to looking good for your eventual return stateside. You could pick up a hobby, like learning to play the guitar, but you’d only be kidding yourself. 75 percent of your time will be spent in the smoke pit (regardless if you smoke or not) and the other trying to watch whatever show is on at the DFAC.

“Oh, look! It seems like everyone came back from deployment!”

(U.S. Army)

All that money (and nothing to spend it on)

Think of that episode of The Twilight Zone where the world’s end comes and that one dude just wants to read his books. He finally finds a library but — plot twist — he breaks his glasses and learns that life is unfair. That’s basically how it feels when troops finally get deployment money. It’ll be a lot more than usual, since combat pay and all those other incentives are awesome, but it’s not like you can really spend any of it while in Afghanistan.

If you’re married, that money you’re be making is going to be used to take care of your family. Single troops will just keep seeing their bank accounts rise until they blow it all in one weekend upon returning.