After over a decade as an enlisted infantry Marine, my husband jumped ship and crossed over to the dark side as an officer.
When he made the switch, two things happened: he found himself stressed studying more than ever before, and he found himself absolutely bored out of his ever-loving mind in between training classes to become a Marine pilot.
In a moment of serious desperation, he took to Facebook to plead with his veteran buddies to share their favorite hobbies for dealing with stress and boredom, and they did not disappoint.
In no particular order, here are 13 hobbies these veterans recommend for dealing with stress:
Here’s what Newt Anderson wrote: “I recommend woodworking. Start simple, carving. Otherwise you could go down the road of coloring books! You would be surprised how relaxing both can be. A good set of woodworking tools is a must though. Don’t skimp on those or the blisters you get will make you regret it.”
2. Beer Making
David Sap recommended beer making. Mr. Beer carries a pretty wide variety of starter kits for brewing your own beer, and they claim to be simple, clean, and time efficient. Which is great, because time efficient means more time to brew more beer. Where are my peanuts?
3. Quad Racing
“Quad racing. You should check out Tiny Whoop.” Lucy Goosy
Brad Etzweiler and Titus Vanguard both recommended running.
Nothing says “I’m stressed about flight school and the fact that I’m old and fat and can’t run as fast as these boots in my class anymore and I study too much and I also need a stress reliever,” like running a triathlon. Right? RIGHT??
Gilberto Burbante recommended kayaking. One summer I tried kayaking in white water. As it turns out, I cannot breathe under water and also I suck at kayaking.
6. Pole Dancing
Hales Fuller fully supports pole dancing as an extracurricular. I am immensely interested in seeing my husband do this. *runs away to install a pole*
7. RC Racing
“RC car racing. I enjoy it and still cheaper then the real thing. It gets addicting though and then you spend the money.” Jack Burton is right, though — it looks expensive.
My father-in-law, James Foley, (a retired Master Guns and Viet Nam vet) recommended my husband learn to play guitar. I have no objections.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Carrie Gatz, an instrumentalist with the 566th Air Force Band, Illinois Air National Guard, plays guitar for a hospice patient at her civilian job Sept. 11, 2013.
“Buy you a smoker — time off, smoke ribs and stuff,” wrote Ryan Clay. Bob Waldren agreed, “I second this. Go hunting and get yourself a few Florida bucks.”
10. All the water sports in Florida
Phil John wrote, “Jet ski. [You pay the] initial cost for the ski but then you’re just paying gas. We love ours! Also, spear fishing is a blast. Paddle boarding/ kayaking is great.”
11. Do you even lift, Bro?
My brother-n-law Chuck, also a Marine, recommended lifting. Get thine arse to a gym, brah.
12. Learn a new language
In addition to lifting, Chuck recommended learning a new language. Homeboy already speaks some Spanish, Farsi, and something else — Arabic maybe?
Extra credit for swear words.
13. Get your sophistication on
Aside from running, Titus Vanguard also recommended, “Books. Read books and run… you are an officer now.” Adulting is hard.
Dr. Seuss is on the Commandant’s Reading List, right?
Screw it. Where’s that beer brewing thing at?
How do you relieve stress? Leave a comment and let us know!
Create a bunch of cards that your S.O. can open throughout their tour. Include jokes and encouragement, and make sure to label the envelopes with dates to open them.
2. Downtime Activities
By The Mighty
For every moment of combat your loved one faces, they’ll have downtime as well. Make sure they’re never short on entertainment by sending their favorite card and board games, books, and movies.
3. A Journal
By The Mighty
The pen is mightier than the sword. Give your service member a journal to reflect on their experiences. This can also be passed on as a family keepsake.
4. Junk Food
By The Mighty
Sometimes the best cure for homesickness is good old-fashioned junk food. Salty or sweet, load up the service member in your life with their favorite guilty pleasures.
5. 52 Things I Love About You
By The Mighty
Use a deck of cards to show your love for your military spouse. From silly quirks to sweet anecdotes, remind your S.O. of the little things that make you miss them like crazy.
6. Home Videos
By The Mighty
Take videos of everything while your trooper’s away: baby’s first steps, family get-togethers, etc. Put these on a USB drive so they can watch these moments, big or small, as if they were there.
7. Mess Hall Survival Package
By The Mighty
Military food can get old fast, but you can help! Spice up your serviceperson’s meals by sending some of their favorite condiments in restaurant sized packets.
8. Digital Picture Frame
By The Mighty
This gift can help your service member enjoy pieces of home without worrying about damaging photos! Digital picture frames hold multiple photos on a small hard drive, and shuffle them on a digital screen.
9. Latitude Necklace
By The Mighty
Give your loved one a piece of home wherever they go by engraving your house’s coordinates on a necklace. Get one for yourself with their location too, and keep each other close despite the distance.
10. Matching Bracelets
By The Mighty
A simpler spin on the necklace idea is a classic friendship bracelet to remind your trooper he or she is loved.
11. Snuggle Buddy
By The Mighty
Spray some of your perfume/cologne on your S.O.’s favorite sweatshirt, blanket or pillow. This way when your service member snuggles up for the night, he or she can ward off homesickness with a familiar smell.
12. Helping Hands
By The Mighty
It doesn’t get cuter than this! Kids can trace their hands on paper, cut them out, laminate them and then send them to Mom or Dad. Parents can carry the hands in their pockets while on tour.
13. Nostalgia To-Go
By The Mighty
Nothing beats the taste of home cooking. And while you can’t send your soldier a full meal, you CAN bake their favorite sweet treat in a jar for easy travel and eating!
14. Footprint Stamps
By The Mighty
Another great idea for military couples with kids – if you have a baby, put their hand/footprint on each envelope or box you mail your loved one. This way, they can watch their baby grow from afar.
15. Holiday in a Box
By The Mighty
Holidays away from home can be incredibly hard on our troops, but you can share the magic of the season by stuffing a package full of your service member’s favorite holiday music, snacks, mementos and more.
We here at WATM love putting together lists and rankings, so it makes sense for us create one for non-fiction books. We read quite often, and not surprisingly considering we’re a bunch of military veterans, those books often deal with military topics.
These are our picks for best military non-fiction books of all-time. (If you’d like to see our picks for fiction, click here.) The books below are numbered but not in rank order. All of these are great reads.
If you want to gain an understanding of America’s war with radical Islamists, look no further than “The Forever War” by journalist Dexter Filkins. As a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, Filkins begins his book as the Taliban rises to power in Afghanistan, writes of the aftermath following the Sept. 11th attacks, and then continues through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Told from ground level by the only American journalist who reported on all of these events, Filkins does not write a neat history lesson. Instead, he tells individual stories of people — from ordinary citizens to soldiers — and how they are affected by the incidents that happen around them. He does it using beautiful prose, and with little bias.
Former Air Force Col. James Burton gives the inside account of what it’s like when the Pentagon wants to develop a new weapons system. Having spent 14 years in weapons acquisition and testing, Burton details his struggle during the development of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle with those above him who were often more interested in supporting defense contractors instead of troops in the field.
Burton spends much of the book writing of the small band of military reformers who worked hard trying to fix the problems of Pentagon procurement from the 1960s to the 1980s, and he suffered professionally for “rocking the boat” as a result. For example, after suggesting that the Bradley’s armor should be tested against Soviet antitank weaponry, the Army — knowing it would never hold up — tried to get Burton transferred to Alaska. The very serious book also inspired a very funny movie made by HBO:
Most people have seen the movie, but this is one of those times when you should definitely read the book. This brilliant account by journalist Mark Bowden tells the story of the Oct. 3, 1993 battle of Mogadishu, Somalia, when hundreds of elite U.S. Army soldiers fought back against thousands of militants when a routine mission went wrong.
With remarkable access, research, and interviews, Bowden recreates the battle minute-by-minute and perfectly captures the brutality of the fight and the heroism of those who fought and died there.
This book gives an inside look at the transformation that takes place from civilian to Marine Corps officer. A classics major at Dartmouth, Fick joins the Marines in 1998 an idealistic young man and leaves a battle-hardened and skilled leader after serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
At times very personal and unpleasant, Fick’s book recounts plenty of combat experiences. But that is not the real draw. His wonderful detailing of the training, mindset, and actions of Marine officers on today’s battlefields makes this a must-read.
Historian Stephen Ambrose’s account Easy Co. in “Band of Brothers” is quite simply, an account of ordinary men doing extraordinary things. The book — which later became a 10-part miniseries on HBO — takes readers from the unit’s tough training in 1942 all the way to its liberation of Hitler’s “Eagles Nest” in 1945.
“Band of Brothers illustrates what one of Ambrose’s sources calls ‘the secret attractions of war … the delight in comradeship, the delight in destruction … war as spectacle,’ writes Tim Appelo in his review.
One of the first significant engagements between American and Vietnamese forces in 1965 was also one of the most savage. The Battle of the Ia Drang Valley is told by Lt. Col. Moore and Galloway, a reporter who was there, and it serves as both a testament to the bravery and perseverance of the 450 men who fought back after being surrounded by 2,000 enemy troops.
While the book was later made into a movie, it’s well-worth reading if only for the stories of Rick Rescorla, the platoon leader featured on the cover of the book whose nickname was “Hard Core.”
More than 2,000 years old and still relevant today, “The Art of War” is a must-read book on military theory and strategy. But its maxims can be applied by those far outside the combat arms. Tzu offers advice relevant to everyone from Army generals to CEOs.
“Absorb this book, and you can throw out all those contemporary books about management leadership,” wrote Newsweek.
There have been many contemporary accounts written of World War II, but “Flyboys” manages to bring to light something that had remained hidden for nearly 60 years. James Bradley tells the story of nine Americans who were shot down in the Pacific off the island of Chichi Jima.
One of them, George H.W. Bush, was rescued. But what happened to the eight others was covered up and kept secret from their families by both the U.S. and Japanese governments. Bradley, who wrote “Flags of our Fathers,” conducted extensive research and uncovered a story that has never been told before.
Written in a compelling narrative style, David McCullough’s “1776” retells the year of America’s birth in wonderful detail. McCullough is an incredible storyteller who puts you right there, feeling as if you are marching in the Continental Army.
From the Amazon description:
In this masterful book, David McCullough tells the intensely human story of those who marched with General George Washington in the year of the Declaration of Independence—when the whole American cause was riding on their success, without which all hope for independence would have been dashed and the noble ideals of the Declaration would have amounted to little more than words on paper.
As a reporter for Rolling Stone magazine, Evan Wright rode with the Marines of 1st Recon Battalion into Iraq in 2003. Embedded among the men, Wright captures the story of that first month of American invasion along with the grunt mindset, how the Marines interact, and captures the new generation of warriors that has emerged after 9/11.
Soldiers today are “on more intimate terms with the culture of the video games, reality TV shows and Internet porn than they are with their own families,” Wright told Booklist (One 19-year-old corporal compares driving into an ambush to a Grand Theft Auto video game: “It was fucking cool.”)
A monster of a book at 704 pages, journalist Jake Tapper tells a powerful story of an Afghan outpost that was doomed to fail even before soldiers built it. Beginning with the decision to build a combat outpost in Nuristan in 2006, Tapper reveals a series of bad decisions that would ultimately lead to a battle for survival at that outpost three years later — one that would see multiple soldiers earn the Medal of Honor for their heroism.
Known as Combat Outpost Keating, the story of the base is one that is worth reading. With its bestseller status, rave reviews by critics, and most importantly, the soldiers who fought there, it’s safe to say “The Outpost” gets it right.
Found on many military reading lists, Grossman’s “On Killing” is a landmark study of how soldiers face the reality of killing other humans in combat, and how military training overcomes their aversion to such an act.
A former West Point psychology professor, Grossman delves into the psychological costs of war and presents a compelling thesis that human beings have an instinctual aversion to killing. With this, he also shows how militaries overcome this central trait through conditioning and real-world training.
This Pulitzer-Prize winning book is a masterpiece of military history. Delivering an account of the first month of World War I in 1914, Tuchman tells not just a war story, but an event that would upend the modern world.
“This was the last gasp of the Gilded Age, of Kings and Kaisers and Czars, of pointed or plumed hats, colored uniforms, and all the pomp and romance that went along with war,” reads the publisher’s description. “How quickly it all changed, and how horrible it became. Tuchman is masterful at portraying this abrupt change from 19th to 20th Century.”
Embedded among the soldiers of 2-16 Infantry as part of President Bush’s last-chance “surge” in Iraq, journalist David Finkel captures the grim reality as troops face the chaotic, and often deadly, streets of Baghdad. The book often follows the overly-optimistic Col. Ralph Kauzlarich (motto: “It’s all good”).
But Finkel excels at capturing everyone up and down the chain-of-command, and tells their stories incredibly well. His book is less about big-picture surge strategy, and more about the soldiers on the ground who fought it. That is a very good thing.
Those are our picks. Did we miss one that you loved? Leave a recommendation in the comments.
Marine infantrymen thrive on hardship. Whether it’s training and deploying to austere environments, learning to do more with less, or figuring out how to catch Z’s anywhere, grunt life in the infantry is very different from the rest of the Marine Corps.
There are also some problems specific to the infantry community. We came up with five, but if you can think of some more, leave a comment.
1. Physical training often consists of “death runs” and they feel just like it sounds.
Physical training is a part of being a Marine, but it’s much more demanding as an infantryman. Life in the grunts usually means waking up early to go on a “death run,” which isn’t that far off the mark. While the Marine physical fitness test (PFT) has a timed three-mile run, grunts can expect to go way beyond that.
On “death runs” that I’ve personally been on — also known jokingly as “fun runs” — our platoon commander or platoon sergeant would take us on runs over the seven-mile mark at an insane pace. And for extra fun, sometimes we wore gas masks. Gotta love it.
2. Your platoon commander is guaranteed to get you completely lost at some point.
When he’s not running you into the dirt, your platoon commander is supposed to be planning missions and leading. But sometimes that means leading you into who-knows-where. It’s a running joke that second lieutenants are terrible at land navigation, but it’s not that far off. He’s guaranteed to get you lost at least once. Let’s just hope it only happens in training.
3. I hope you’re ready for the non-grunt company First Sergeant who wants to “get back to the basics.”
Infantry Marines hold the 0300 military occupational specialty, as do their officers with 0302. But since company first sergeants perform mostly administrative duty (compared to Master Sergeants who remain in their field), they aren’t required to hold the infantry MOS. Although plenty of them do come up from the infantry ranks, some come from completely unrelated fields.
Grunt first sergeants are usually focused on the mission of the infantry (locating, closing with, and destroying the enemy), but first sergeants outside of the MOS sometimes focus on “getting back to the basics” — aka cleaning the barracks, holding uniform inspections, and marching properly. These are all good things for junior Marines to be exposed to in their careers. Just don’t expect them to like it.
4. Excuse me sir, do you have a moment to talk about prickly heat?
Training in the field can lead to some weird physical problems for grunts. In humid places, Marines can expect something called “prickly heat” — a very annoying rash that develops after sweating profusely. When you’re out in the field for days or weeks and not able to take a shower, that tends to happen quite a bit.
Then of course, there’s that terrible smell you develop. But luckily, you’re around a bunch of other people who smell terrible so you don’t even notice. Great success!
5. Range 400.
This legendary training range is a rite of passage for infantry Marines. With machine guns firing over their heads and mortars dropping down in support, grunts rush forward to attack a fortified “enemy” position in 29 Palms, California. It sounds awesome, and it is. It’s also an ass kicker.
“It’s the only range in the Marine Corps where overhead fire is authorized,” Capt. Andy S. Watson explained in a Marine Corps news release. “We are also granted a waiver to close within 250 meters of 81mm mortar fire. Normally, it is only 400 meters. Therefore, Range 400 gives Marines a realistic training experience of closing close into fires. They can’t get that anywhere else in the Marine Corps.”
During my years and years of deployments, training, and schools I learned to make due with very little and be very thankful for what little I had. I have eaten road kill unsure of what animal it was, dumpster dived, slept under tarps, taken whore baths in wells and rivers, stolen food from a VIP reception, and crapped in more holes than any man should have to in a hundred lifetimes.
When you are a soldier in the field, it’s the little things in life that bring happiness.
And when I say ‘the field,’ I don’t mean the Forward Operating Base where you have access to a hot shower, a computer, hot chow, and a PX. I mean the field, the boonies, Indian country, anything outside the wire where nothing separates you and the enemy but air and a faded, worn out, torn uniform that reeks of sweat, field nuts, and ass.
So what are some of these amenities that make us field soldiers so happy?
Here’s a list of seven things that brought me the most joy when forward deployed to whatever asscrackistan country I was in.
Anyone who has ever been to combat will tell you there are two things you must take care of: your weapon and your feet. People with bad feet typically do not make it into the Infantry and certainly don’t make it into Special Operations. Your feet get you where you are going, literally. When the rest of your body looks and smells like a bag of smashed assholes, nothing can raise your spirits like putting on a clean pair of socks.
The woobie or field blanket, also known as the poncho liner, is one of the Army’s greatest inventions. There is nothing more comforting when exhausted, soaking wet or freezing than crawling under the warmth of a woobie. I never paid much attention to the Linus character from Charlie Brown when I was growing up except to make fun of the guy for hauling around his favorite blanket. As soon as I went on my first field training exercise, I knew Linus was onto something (minus the thumb sucking). As a matter of fact, I found woobies so comfortable and comforting that I carried two in my ruck for years and even slept between the two for months after finishing Ranger school.
3. Baby wipes
These beautiful little inventions, originally meant for baby tushes, are the field soldier’s best friend. One of the most over-looked issues with being in the field is sanitation and hygiene. Nothing will knock out a soldier or an Army like disease. In many cases soldiers spend days, weeks or months in the field without showers. Baby wipes let you clean the cheese from between your toes, nut sweat, arm pits and then your hands before packing that glorious dip of snuff after a patrol.
Everyone remembers the first pair of Army boots. The kind you got in basic training. You know the ones that have been unchanged since World War 1. They were designed by some sadomasochist who gave them the comfort level of walking on plywood and ensured they did not break-in until near the end of training. Recently, the Army got a clue and started investing in good boots. I think it was because they were finally starting to see that forcing soldiers to wear 80 pounds of “lightweight” equipment was taking its toll on the force. I always deployed with four pairs of boots — yep, four. The first pair was what was issued to me and was the Army directed pair for wearing with BDU/ACU for ceremonies. The second was my favorite pair of extreme hot weather boots made by Merrell. I used them for light patrolling, going to the range and training. The third was a pair of Asolo’s for hot weather as well but for hiking and more sturdy for wearing full or assaulter’s kit. Finally, my most favorite was my winter boots made by Lowa. Putting them on was like putting on a pair of leather gloves. My feet would immediately break into a happy dance and thank me profusely.
5. Foot powder
It is not just for feet anymore. The next critical comfort item was foot powder, but not just any foot powder, Gold Bond. That stuff is divinely inspired and could turn any wet, cold, sweaty and aching feet or crotch into a place of immense happiness and joy. Combined with a clean pair of socks, and comfortable boots, we can simply label it “me time.”
There are many things in life you must become accustomed to when you are in the Infantry. Being hungry and tired are two of them. As an Infantryman you need to be alert at all times. Not much in life can help you get over being hungry or tired like tobacco. Smoking can be seen and smelled by the enemy. Is tobacco bad for you, yes; but so is getting shot or blown up. Snuff has always been my solution. I always felt the best thing about eating the putrid tasting MRE was the dip afterward. Nothing in life tastes better after a firefight than a dip of Copenhagen . . . nothing . . . except maybe beer and bourbon.
7. Toilet paper
No, I don’t mean those thin pieces of tissue someone put in the MRE’s as a joke. (Whatever bean counter that chose that cheap stuff to go in the rations should have his ass kicked.) I mean real, tickle-your-grommet-while-cleaning-all-the-shit-off-you, toilet paper – the stuff they advertise using cartoon bears on TV. There are essentially two kinds of toilet paper in this world, the good kind and the Army kind. The super cheap toilet paper the army buys is dubbed ‘John Wayne’ paper because it is tough as leather and won’t take any shit. (It can also be used as high grit sand paper.) If you’ve ever taken a shit in the field you know that things can literally be blowing up all around you, but if you have the right toilet paper when you need it all is truly right with the world.
Nine times out of 10, enlisted troops are glad that their lieutenant’s office is far, far away. However, it’s 1700 and everyone has been standing in formation for 40 minutes – where is he? What kind of boot-tenant sorcery is going on in there? Whoever gave him a map and compass needs to be hazed right now. This is what your lieutenant is really doing in his office.
1. They’re getting pranked
New lieutenants, also known as butter bars and boot-tenants, are at the bottom of the officer totem pole. They may not get hazed like enlisted do but they get messed with like they’re in a fraternity. This one time my Lt. and I were walking into his office discussing upcoming training when he suddenly stops.
This man’s whole office furniture is missing. Suddenly, a burst of laughter from down the hall and he gives chase. There’s giggling until moments later I hear Sergeant Major laying into them like they’re back at The Basic School. If your lieutenant is late and flustered, he may have been pranked.
2. They’re taking a nap
No judgement here, sneaking a little shut eye during ‘hurry up and wait’ never hurt anyone.
3. They’re stuck talking to the higher ups
When an enlisted troop avoids an officer it’s because they do not feel like giving a salute. When your lieutenant avoids officers it is because they do not want to get dragged into a long-winded conversation with the colonel. You only see the higher ups briefly; they’re stuck with them all day long. Lieutenants will try to interrupt and break contact but the salty ol’ major wants to finish his story about bass fishing first. Meanwhile, the company commander walks in and wants to share his two cents. It becomes an infinite feedback loop of small talk he cannot escape – because they’re in his office.
4. They’re texting
Yes, just like everyone else they own phones and play video games on them. That’s why your leave still isn’t approved.
5. They’re catching up on paperwork
Between getting messed with, held against their will and sitting in endless briefings they still need to do their job. The operations officer wants a roster of everybody who needs to qualify on the rifle range within the next three months, the company executive officer needs a map and five paragraph order for the upcoming field op, the S-4 needs a roster of how many MREs to order, etc. That’s why they’re a pain when it comes to turning information over to them.
6. They’re doing PT
They would rather be with the troops or go to gym but there may be time crunch. That’s why they’re always so eager to hover around the platoon, otherwise it’s burpee time.
7. They’re repacking their gear
Lieutenants have to set the example of how the gear should be packed — unless there is a company or battalion Stand Operating Procedure, guideline, on how thing should be squared away. He’ll likely be there with the platoon sergeant taping every strap, quadruple checking the packing list, and weighing the pack for good measure.
Sure, most people end up in one nice, consolidated grave. But these five generals were not “most people”:
1. Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne’s skeleton and flesh were buried 400 miles apart.
When Isaac Wayne arrived at the Army blockhouse in Erie, Pennsylvania, he expected to exhume his father’s bones and take them the 400 miles back to his hometown of Radnor, Pennsylvania for re-burial. His father was Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne, a Revolutionary War and Northwest Indian War hero.
When the remains were exhumed, the body was found to be in good condition despite 12 years having passed since Gen. Wayne’s death in 1796. Isaac’s cart was too small to move a complete body though, and so Isaac had the body dismembered and the flesh boiled off of it. Then, he took the bones the 400 miles back to Radnor. The boiled flesh and the tools used in the “operation” were reburied in Erie.
2. Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell was buried 640 miles from his leg.
A Confederate leader in the Civil War, Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell was seriously injured at the Second Battle of Manassas. His leg was amputated and buried in a local garden. Ewell returned to combat after a one-year convalescence and was taken prisoner near the end of the war.
3. Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles’ leg is in the Smithsonian.
Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles led his men to their doom at the Battle of Gettysburg when he ignored his orders and marched forward of his designated positions. Exposed, he and his men were brutally attacked and Sickles himself was wounded by a cannonball to the leg.
After his amputation, he decided against having his leg buried and instead sent it to the Army Medical Museum where Sickles visited it every year. It now resides at the Smithsonian Museum while Sickles rests in Arlington National Cemetery.
4. Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood’s leg was buried somewhere by an army private.
Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood lost his right leg after it was struck by a Minie ball during the Battle of Chickamagua in Georgia. His condition after the surgery was so bad that his physician, assuming he would die, ordered Pvt. Arthur H. Collier to take the leg to a nearby town where the general was being treated.
5. Stonewall Jackson’s left arm has a famous grave.
The grave of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s left arm is well known. Jackson was returning from a reconnaissance of Union positions in 1863 when his own soldiers mistook him for the enemy. Pickets fired on him and injured his left arm which was later amputated.
Stonewall’s chaplain buried the arm near Chancellorsville while Jackson was taken to Fairfield Plantation, Virginia. Jackson was expected to make a recovery, but he died of pneumonia eight days after his injury. He is buried in Lexington, Virginia, 44 miles from his arm.
Screwing up in the military is a given. Sometimes a person is just trying to sham, sometimes they get drunk at the wrong time, and occasionally they even make an honest mistake. Service members who have been in a while know how to avoid getting caught. New guys are making these eight mistakes.
1. Bad risk management
Leaders do composite risk management for missions. Smart shammers do CRM for everything else. Every entry on this list can be chalked up to a failure of composite risk management. Shamming during work? Plan on how to avoid snitchs’ eyes. Headed off base to get plastered? Plan for how to get to a recall formation.
2. New guys are too stupid to play dumb
Privates like to seem like they have it all together. This is huge mistake. Sergeants love taking a soldier under their wing and “teaching” them things. When they play dumb, their mistake will become a “teachable moment” instead of a counseling statement.
“Private! Why weren’t you at PT formation?”
“Sergeant, I got lost and couldn’t use my cell phone to call you because I was in uniform.”
“Couldn’t use your cell –? Oh. No. You can use it. You just can’t walk and talk, private. Here, I’ll explain …”
3. They don’t think of good cover stories
Most of the time, new guys will get through shenanigans without seeing a single senior noncommissioned officer, but too many new guys fail to prepare a cover story to throw leaders off the scent, just in case. The cover story should match the environment. For instance, smart soldiers bring plastic bags when shamming in the motor pool. If caught , they just say: “Well, my sergeant sent me to get an exhaust sample in this bag from truck ID-10-T, but I can’t find that bumper number anywhere.” Again, new guys get to play dumb.
4. They don’t get organized
The reason old hands in the barracks are more organized than new guys has nothing to do with inspections. It’s because they need their stuff handy when they screw up. If they’re getting drunk while there’s a chance first sergeant will call everyone in, they’re prepared to rapidly brush their teeth, put on a uniform, get to formation, and be dress-right-dress by the time the squad leader starts taking accountability. Less organized troops would still be hazily looking for their uniform top and boots.
5. New guys don’t work as a team
New guys try to get away with stuff by hiding all the evidence from everyone, rather than selecting members of their squad and platoon they can trust to help them in a crisis. Instead of shamming alone, smart troops designate roles to each other. For smoking in the woods while assigned to a cleanup detail, two people should be in charge of collecting cigarettes and dropping them in an energy drink can, two people should be in charge of immediately looking at the ground like they’re hunting for trash, and someone should be standing lookout.
6. Failure to stage supplies
That can in number 5 and the trash bag in number 2 don’t magically happen. They’re staged supplies. Electric razors can be placed in cars for use while driving to a recall formation, military publications can be opened to make it look like someone is studying doctrine rather than sleeping, and cans of dip are handy for bribing squad leaders.
7. They need better escape routes
Never slack off in an area with only one exit. Always be prepared to make a quick exit on an unexpected route.
7. They don’t get representation in the Terminal Lance Underground/E-4 Mafia
Different services have different versions of the junior enlisted league, but everyone should join theirs. The sergeants and petty officers of the world are working together to catch the junior enlisted, the junior enlisted must band together in defense. New guys don’t always have an advocate in one of these fine organizations to help them distract NCOs, lose files, or text them ahead of a crisis. They should get one.
8. They forget to stand at parade rest
Seriously, do it every time. Parade rest is like stealth camouflage for privates. Troops should stand at parade rest every chance they get. It makes NCOs think they’re too afraid to break the rules.
Trips to the armory are supposed to be as simple as picking up your weapon system, training with it in the field, cleaning it, and checking it back in.
However, rarely does that timeline progress as seamlessly as troops would like. For all the newbie Boots out there who’ve never stepped foot inside the secured weapons compound, know that it’s a place where you’ll encounter an interesting cast of characters, all of whom claim the occupation of armorer.
The one who can find a single speck of dirt in your rifle
Some armorers like to stick their dirty pinky fingers inside your rifle only to magically discover that your bolt assembly has a greasy smudge on it. This guy isn’t him. Instead, he sticks a clean, sterile Q-tip inside and somehow manages to find the only grain of dirt left on your rifle — and rejects you.
Son of a b*tch!
Cpl. Miguel A. Garcia works on a weapon before heading out to help teach the Ghanian Army on armory procedures and weapons maintenance.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Meghan J. Canlas)
The one who knows everything about weapons
It’s almost like they were born inside the Remington or Colt manufacturing plant because this troop is an absolute genius when it comes to firearms. Even if they’re a Boot, the senior enlisted staff respects this guy or gal.
That one sh*thead who is always cranky
We don’t know who or what puts this armorer in a lousy mood, but they seem to be in one every time you encounter them. Although you do your best to prevent angering them further, there’s no cheering them up.
It’s as if one of their general orders is to always be a d*ck to those who come within walking distance of the armory window.
They’re around… somewhere…
The one that was supposed to deploy with your unit, but now works at the armory.
Believe it or not, some troops will put in request after request to transfer to a different job to avoid deploying. Oftentimes, they get sent to work at the armory if they have a basic understanding of weaponry. One day, you’ll stroll up to the armory to check out a rifle, and there they are — it’s that guy from your unit, who’s now working window.
We all know they weaseled their way out of serving with the rest of the troops because they’re scared.
Sgt. Christopher R. Garcia explains the weapons capabilities to a group of cadets with El Camino High School’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.
(Photo by Cpl. John Robbart III)
The one who gets forced to give hip-pocket classes
It’s simple: some troops have a knack for teaching, others don’t. Typically, nobody’s paying attention to these hip-pocket classes anyway. Troops just want to go to the field and blow something up.
They may seem like they’re tying troops’ hands behind their backs — especially given that today’s wars are very different from those when the former laws of war were written — but there’s a good reason why certain rules have been imposed to protect troops in combat.
While the major laws of war are well known, there are some provisions that may surprise the average reader.
#1: Filing down your bullet. (The 1899 Hague Declaration IV,3 and Geneva Convention Protocol I Art. 35)
There is always the loophole of “military necessity” — that’s why flamethrowers are okay, because they have an actual purpose if used on foliage and clearing tunnels.
So while hollow points are legal, filing down a bullet to make in improvised dum-dum round is a no no. The purpose of doing that is to cause unnecessary harm.
So that 5.56 round some jackass took a Multi-tool to to “make it hurt more” committed a serious offense.
#2: A chaplain picking up a weapon. (Geneva Convention Art. 24)
If troops become shipwrecked or parachute out of a destroyed aircraft, they now have non-combatant status. They’re technically out of the fight.
The most protected service member in the ranks is still the chaplain, who should never enter combatant status.
Regardless of their denomination, chaplains have a duty to uphold the spiritual, moral, and religious well-being of everyone on the battlefield. They will enter combat zones, but only to provide aid. To date, 419 U.S. Chaplains have died in war and eight Medals of Honor were bestowed to chaplains.
It is a part of their duty to never lose non-combatant status to help the needs of all. Picking up a weapon immediately revokes that status. If you ever wondered why armed chaplain assistants are so valuable, that’s why.
#3: Taking war trophies. (Fourth Geneva Convention. Art. 33-34)
There’s a fine line between taking a souvenir and pillaging.
Anything you take off the battlefield is pillaging — even if it belonged to an enemy combatant. It is subject to strict regulations after it’s turned over for inspection and clearance. If it’s a weapon, it must also be made unserviceable at the expense of whomever is taking it back.
Stashing it goes against tons of laws.
#4: Putting a large Red Cross on your equipment for combat operations. (Geneva Convention Protocol I Art. 85)
The Red Cross, Red Crescent, Red Crystal, and Red Shield of David are all protected as the international symbol for medical aid. When it is painted on a vehicle or on an armband, it lets everyone know that they are only there to render aid. Like chaplains having protections, so too do medics if they are performing aid and evacuation.
If a combat medic takes up arms, they lose their status as a non-combatant, which has been the norm in modern conflicts. If they drop their weapon to give aid, they regain that status.
But the red cross symbol doesn’t give you noncombatant status. If the symbol is on a piece of equipment, such as a first aid kit or pack, it is only signifying that the contents are for first aid.
#5: Not protecting journalists. (Geneva Convention Protocol I Art. 79)
War corespondents are just as protected as any other civilian on the battlefield. They must never pick up arms or else they losing their status. The difference between members of the press and other non-combatants is that they are required by their job to be in the middle of a firefight to report what is happening.
In the modern era, journalists have been easier and more valuable targets than ever. If one is embedded in a unit, no matter how pesky and nosy as they seem, they are valuable assets to the war effort and still must be protected.
#6: Insulting prisoners of war. (Third Geneva Convention. Arts. 13-16)
Writer’s Note: For the final point on this list, there will not be a photograph of a prisoner of war, regardless of nationality, in reference to their mistreatment.
One of the goals of the Hague and Geneva Convention was to protect the rights of prisoners of war. They must be given medical attention (Art. 15). They keep the civil capacities they had at the time of capture (Art. 14) and must always be treated humanely (Art. 13).
The definition of humane treatment covers no physical mutilation (including torture). This also means you must provide protection from acts of violence, intimidation, and verbal insults.
It doesn’t matter who the person is or what they did before they are captured, they are now a prisoner of war.
There are movies that fizzle, and then there are movies that last for generations.
At any given moment on any given ship, one of these movies is guaranteed to be on rotation. They’re not only relatable, but timeless too. For example, “Cinderella Liberty” was made in the 1970s and yet a variation of the plot still happens to sailors in today’s Navy. And, when sailors watch “Master and Commander” they realize that the Navy hasn’t changed much since the 1800s.
Then, there are movies like “Top Gun” and “Officer and a Gentleman” that motivated a generation of sailors to join the service. “Top Gun” debuted in 1986 and until this day you can hear the echoes of aviators throughout the ship referring to each other as Maverick and Goose (our resident ex-naval aviator Ward Carroll disagrees. We’re guessing he’s a huge “Behind Enemy Lines” fan instead).
Another reason for the longevity of these films is because sailors relate to different characters at different stages of their careers. Early on they see themselves as Mayo in “Officer and a Gentleman” and years later they find themselves relating to Lt. Cmdr. Ron Hunter in “Crimson Tide.”
Here’s our list of movies movies every sailor needs to watch. Got any more? Add them to the comments.
This Navy engineer is transferred to a new ship in a foreign land where tensions are high with the United States. He doesn’t get along with the shipmates or the skipper and to make matters worse, he gets implicated in an incident that could cause full out war. Every sailor will relate to Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Holman played by Steve McQueen at some point in their career.
Set during the Cold War, the USSR’s best submarine captain and crew plan to defect to the United States without triggering full out war. After watching this movie, you’ll realize that the USSR Navy isn’t very different from the U.S. Navy.
Although this film is recent compared to the others, it made our list for its timelessness. With phrases such as port side, starboard, head, and others, sailors quickly realize that if they were to be transported to the 1800s that they would still make good sailors.
Topical humor has always been a big part of Saturday Night Live history and there have been plenty of military stories in the news to inspire its writers over the last four decades. As the show celebrated its 40th anniversary with a three-hour special that aired on Sunday, February 15th, we’ve combed through the SNL archives and selected the 10 best military-themed sketches.
1. Bruce Willis wants to bring some John McClane-style Die Hard heroics to a Black Ops mission in Afghanistan.
2. General David Petraeus (Will Forte) testifies to Congress about the progress of the surge in Iraq.
3. It’s time to build a coalition to fight Iraq’s nuclear capabilities, but General Colin Powell (Kenan Thompson) seems to have turned into Fred Sanford since his retirement.
4. A TV pitchman (Harry Shearer) explains why you need to spend $50,000 on a Pentagon-approved MacDouglass Drummond wrench.
5. An Air Force fighter pilot (NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon) wins elementary school Career Day over carpet salesman Seth Meyers.
6. Weekend Update’s Seth Meyers examines the Winners Losers in the General David Petraeus/Paula Broadwell/Jill Kelley/General John Allen scandal.
7. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (Darrell Hammond) updates the media on progress after the United States invades Afghanistan.
8. Tired of the Congressional debate about whether to invade Iraq, Vice President Dick Cheney (Darrell Hammond) goes all Doctor Strangelove and rides a missile to Baghdad.
9. Test Pilot Mustang Calhoun (Dennis Quaid) is just plain crazy.
10. Two dumb Marines (Kevin Nealon and Dana Carvey) bring spies to the US Embassy in Moscow.
These just skim the surface. There are dozens of military-themed sketches from SNL. Tell us your favorites in the comments below.