The one thing that binds generations of Coast Guardsmen together is the boot camp experience at Cape May, New Jersey (and for a time, Alameda, California). Eight long weeks of physical, mental, and emotional training concludes with a pass and review – and finally – the graduation ceremony that turns recruits into seaman apprentices, fireman apprentices, seamen, and firemen.
The first promotion a recruit receives is on graduation day, making for an emotional and exhausting day. These are just a few of the thoughts I (and many other) Coasties have on their last day at Cape May.
1. “This is it. I’m a big Coastie now. I’m joining the fleet. I’m doing it.”
(As I was getting my uniform on in the morning.)
2. “This is never going to end. This is the longest hour of my life. I’m never gonna make it outside. I’m gonna die here.”
(As I was getting my uniform inspected.)
3. “I wonder if they packed the clothes I asked. I can’t wait to wear real clothes again. I miss shorts. I hope they brought snacks. I’m so hungry already.”
(As I was getting into formation to march to the parade field.)
4. “I wonder where they’re sitting. Did everyone find it okay? Did they even make it on base? I hope mom didn’t say something stupid and get denied entry.”
As I was marching to the parade field.)
5. Oh my god, I see them. Oh, my god, I’m gonna cry.
(As I was marching to the stands.)
6. “Okay I get it, you’re really proud of us. I’m proud of me, too. Can we get this over already?”
(As I was listening to the CO’s opening remarks.)
7. “Yes, you were here in my shoes forty years ago and you’ve done big things since then. You should know I wanna get out of here. Can we get this over already?”
(As I was listening to the guest speaker’s remarks.)
8.”I don’t remember what I’m supposed to do. I hope I don’t screw this up.”
(As I was standing in line to receive your certificate.)
9. “This is the happiest I’ve been ever. I finally did it and they can’t kick me out of boot camp now!”
(As I was receiving my certificate.)
10. “Can we get this over with already?”
(As I was listening to the CO’s closing remarks.)
11.”I’m free! Where’s my family? Where’s my mom? I missed you guys!I have so much to tell you
(As I’m finally released.)
12. “I cannot wait to not have the same bag as everyone else. Damn, I hate these shirt-stays. I wanna get this thing off.”
(As I was getting my stuff.)
13.”That is the most fun I never want to have again.”
(As I was sitting in the car, finally leaving Cape May after 8 long weeks.)
With sequestration and troop drawdowns forcing the military to record low levels of readiness, the requirements for joining the U.S. armed forces have become more stringent, and the pool of eligible recruits has become smaller. Out of the 34 million 17-24 year olds in the U.S. only 1 percent are both eligible and inclined to pursue military service, according to the Defense Department.
Here are the nine most common reasons civilians are disqualified from service:
Now that 2016 is coming to a close, we wanted to recap the year with the most shared articles. From the deaths of notable veterans to the weapon that shoots 1 million rounds per minute, here are the posts that flew around your social media feeds:
Raising the First Flag on Iwo Jima by SSgt. Louis R. Lowery, USMC, is the most widely circulated photograph of the first flag flown on Mt. Suribachi.Marine Corps Maj. John Keith Wells, who as a first lieutenant led the platoon that helped take Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima and which raised the first American flag from the mountain’s summit, died in February.
He was awarded the Navy Cross and the Purple Heart for his actions on Iwo Jima after he continued leading his men up the mountain despite grievous wounds.
What would happen if the militaries of the entire rest of the world attacked the U.S. all at once? Not just our enemies, but our traditional allies like France and Britain as well? We’d stomp them. Here’s how.
This weapon features rounds stacked inside dozens of barrels and electric charges can fire all the rounds stored in the weapon at once or in multiple volleys. At its maximum fire rate, this equates to 1 million rounds per minute.
Most general officers struggle with the deaths caused by their decisions in war, but all that came home like it never had before for Army Gen. Martin Dempsey when he met the then-four-year-old Lizzy Yaggy, the daughter of a Marine aviator lost in a plane crash.
The two became close friends and Dempsey even asked Yaggy to introduce him at his retirement ceremony.
As the world struggled with the rapid and surprising rise of the Islamic State, an old airplane was quietly pressed back into combat service, the OV-10 Bronco.
These small planes served in combat from Vietnam to Desert Storm with the U.S. Marines before they were retired in 1995. But the plane flew over 100 sorties against ISIS, including 120 combat missions.
Secrecy is one of the best currencies in war, so it’s sometimes best for commanders to keep their best assets hidden from the enemy and the public. While the military has admitted that most of the units on this list existed at some point, a lot of their missions were classified for decades before being disclosed to the public. For the units that are still operating, America still only gets glimpses into their secret activities.
1. Task Force 88/Task Force Black
They may or may not be the same group and they may or may not still be in operation. Task Force Black and Task Force 88 are names floating around the media for the unit that conducted raids against terror organizations in Iraq and Afghanistan during the height of the wars. The unit was commonly described as being a joint U.S.-U.K. force made up of the best that SEAL Team 6, Delta Force, and the British SAS had to offer. Controversy erupted when they were blamed for a cross-border raid into Syria. There is speculation that Task Force Black may be back in operation to destroy ISIS, if it ever stopped.
2. 6493rd Test Squadron/6594th Test Group
These Air Force units existed from 1958 to 1986 and were tasked with catching “falling stars.” They would fly out of Hawaii and catch film canisters falling from America’s first spy satellites. The satellites, part of the Corona program, orbited the Earth and took photos of Soviet Russia. Then, the satellites would drop their film canisters over the Pacific ocean where these Airmen would try to snatch the canisters out of the air.
The recovery process was surprisingly low-tech. A plane with a large hook beneath its tail would try to catch the canister’s parachute as it fell. When the planes failed to make the grab or the weather was too bad to attempt it, Coast Guard rescue swimmers in the unit would fish the film out of the water. The unit boasted a perfect record with more than 40,000 recoveries in 27 years. When its airmen weren’t snatching film from the air, the unit supported rescue missions near Hawaii. It was credited with 60 saves.
3. Delta Force/Combat Applications Group/Army Compartmented Elements is more well known, but still pretty secret
Like many of the units on the list, Delta has gone through a few name changes over the years. Formation of an elite counter-terrorism unit had been proposed multiple times in the 1970s and Delta Force is widely believed to have been formed in late 1977. Its operational history got off to a horrible start with the failed Operation Eagle Claw in 1980. Since then, Delta has distinguished itself in combat from the invasion of Panama to the Gulf War to hunting Osama Bin Laden in the Tora Bora Mountains. Since the unit is still operational, many of their missions remain classified.
5. 7781 Army Unit/39th Special Forces Operational Detachment
Operating in Berlin from 1956 to 1984, this team of green berets went through a few names during their history. They worked to keep West Berlin safe from communist incursions but also prepared to foment resistance if the city was taken over. Trained in classic spy craft skills, they were equipped with Bond-like gadgets such as cigarette-lighter guns and C-4 filled coal.
The Office of Strategic Services was formed in 1942 with the very broad mission of collecting and analyzing strategic information and conducting “special operations not assigned to other agencies.” Since few agencies had special operators in World War II, this gave the OSS a lot of room to run. Under Col. William “Wild Bill” Donovan, the tiny agency conducted raids, smuggled weapons and spies, supported resistance groups in Axis territory, and collected intelligence. The OSS even employed the first “sea, air, and land” commando in U.S. history.
The U.S. spends a lot of money on military research, but a lot of things civilians use everyday were designed or commissioned for military projects. Here are 13 of the best.
1. Portable fire extinguisher
The portable fire extinguisher was invented by a captain in the Cambridgeshire Militia. Capt. George W. Manby was obsessed with safety, inventing at least five safety devices. He invented the “extincteur” in 1819, a copper container filled with three gallons of pearl ash and some compressed air. Modern extinguishers are based on his design, though different metals and chemical compounds are used.
The Epipen, used to quickly administer adrenaline in patients experiencing anaphylactic shock, was invented in the 1970s by Dr. Sheldon Kaplan who based the design upon Cold War-era auto-injectors. The auto-injectors allowed troops to quickly and precisely administer antidotes if they were struck with nerve agents. Before auto-injectors, troops had to carry kits with syringes, rubber bands, and vials of medicine that could kill when used incorrectly and were tricky to administer in the field.
Now used by civilians for everything from surveying fires to paintball to filming weddings, drones were originally attempted by the U.S. military in World War I as remote-controlled dive bombers — sort of like a long-range missile.
Of course, actual missiles and rockets were developed in World War II that made this unnecessary, so drones sat on a shelf until the 1980s when they began a limited surveillance role. After drone technology became cheaper and more accessible, they made the jump to the civilian world.
5. Vehicle navigation
The military famously led the way in GPS, developing positioning satellites for the U.S. Navy in 1960. The program was opened up to civilian use by President Reagan after a Korean jet was shot down by a Russian fighter when it accidentally wandered into Russian air space. Today, GPS is everywhere, especially in cars.
The first American satellite was created by scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech and included instruments designed by a professor at the State University of Iowa. But, that equipment was riding on the Jupiter-C, a missile created by the Army Ballistic Missile Agency headed by Dr. Wernher Von Braun. Von Braun also designed the V-2 which put the first manmade object in space.
In 1958, NASA was created and became the primary American body for exploring space. Now, civilian corporations like SpaceX are moving into the market as well.
7. Hemostatic bandages
Hemostatic bandages quickly control severe bleeding. They can work through a few different mechanisms depending on the hemostatic agent that is used. Some pull water from a wound and leave clotting agents behind in a higher concentration, some form a sticky substance atop a wound and reduce bleeding that way, and others are a protein-covered lattice that a clot can quickly form on.
All the major types were created for controlling extreme trauma on the battlefield. While most of the hemostatic bandages making their way to the civilian world are coming from recent breakthroughs, military doctors have been working on hemostatic bandages since 1909.
8. Duct/Duck tape
The Permacell company developed Duck Tape for the military in World War II as a way to quickly repair cracked windows, seal ammo cans and other cases, and repair trucks. When the war ended, it was quickly realized that the tap also worked well for air ducts and the tape changed from green to the iconic gray most people associate with it.
While civilian medical services have typically been wary of tourniquets, they’ve been coming back around after seeing the outstanding performance of tourniquets in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Recently, important groups of doctors have begun advocating for tourniquets as required equipment in ambulances. Predictably, the best designs have been those catered to the military needs.
Microwave ovens were a byproduct of World War II radar research. The original radars in England told the general direction enemy aircraft were coming in from, but it wasn’t detailed or mobile. Britain wanted radars that could pinpoint attackers and that could be installed on fighters. They got their wish with the invention of the cavity magnetron.
The ARPANET was created in 1969 as a decentralized communications network, meaning a bomb attack at one node would do minimal damage to the network as a while. It was formally shut down in 1989 since the growing civilian internet was already making it redundant.
So next time you’re watching that funny cat video on YouTube, be sure to go ahead and thank the troops.
The chow line is the best part of a sailor’s day. It’s the heart of their social life and where he or she learns about shipmates.
In theory, this is the time to relax with friends, joke, laugh, and talk to people from other divisions who you don’t normally see. But life on the ship is busy, and chow can often be a rushed undertaking.
Chow lines seem to be longest when time is tightest. The lines are notorious for wrapping through workspaces, berthings, and even multiple levels. This is where the expression, “hurry up and wait” was conceived.
And there’s nothing a sailor can do but wait. This is where the real conversation with your buddies takes place. This also the place to people watch, and after much observation, here are the seven personalities that stand out:
1. The sailor who can’t wait to rank up so they don’t have to wait in another long chow line.
The chow line will never go away, but chiefs and officers get to wait in shorter lines.
2. Mr. Chipper
His happiness is annoying. It seems like some sailors have a special stash of sunshine and rainbows. (Check in with him five months into the deployment, and see just how chipper he still is.)
3. The foodie
The rule on ships is that you don’t take food from the galley, but Mr. Snax and Mr.Buff always ignore it. Snax is rounder than most and Buff spends his free time in the gym. Snax eats for fun and Buff eats to make gains.
4. The grease monkey
It’s easy to identify sailors with dirty jobs (machinists, maintenance personnel, and flight deck workers) by their greasy hands and dirty uniforms.
5. The snipe
Ship engineers work in the deep levels of the ship and rarely come up. Engineers work six hours on and six hours off and often lose their sense of time. To put this into context, a normal working schedule is either days or nights for 12 hours (12 on, 12 off), which allows for a regular sleeping pattern. Engineers have two days in a 24-hour period.
6. The newb
It’s easy to identify the new guy on a ship or shop. Just look for the sailor carrying all the boxed lunches for his entire shop.
7. The burglar
This sailor didn’t wait in chow line, he or she waited for an unsuspecting shipmate to set their food down – usually to grab a drink – to snatch their food tray.
Designed to be the ultimate weapon for clearing out enemy trenches, the flamethrower made its first major combat debut in the early days of WWI, unleashing terror upon British and French forces.
The flamethrower, however, dates back as far as the 5th century B.C., when elongated tubes were filled with burning coal or sulfur to create a “blowgun” that propelled flames using a warrior’s breath.
Considered one of the most devastating weapons on the battlefield, the flamethrower was often considered just as dangerous for the troop wielding it as it was for the enemy facing it.
1. The flamethrower was originally used as an intimidation weapon.
The deadly blaze projected by a flamethrower in WWI was extremely accurate at 20 to 30 feet, and the inferno reached temperatures of around 3,000 degrees. Once the enemy laid eyes on an incoming flamethrower operator, they understood exactly what kind of hell was imminent.
The device was as easy as point and shoot.
2. It proved useful for Marines in Guadalcanal.
Approximately 40 flamethrowers were used by Marine engineers as they rushed into enemy territory. At the time, the flamethrower was used only as a support weapon. This was because the operator needed to be within 20-yards of its target to be effective. It was used to extreme success by Marines on Guadalcanal.
3. It wasn’t designed to kill the enemy.
Contrary to what we’ve seen in the movies, the weapon designed to clear the enemy out hard-to-reach areas, like bunkers, caves, and tunnels. By burning up the oxygen in the area, the flamethrower quickly knocked the enemy out of the fight. It was designed primarily to incapacitate, not kill.
4. From gasoline to gel.
As the technology advanced, militarized flamethrowers went from spraying gasoline to using a flammable gel. The advantage of using gel was that the flame could reach further and would continue to burn the targets to which it stuck.
The Civil War is cemented in history as the deadliest war fought on American soil. For four years, the Unioners of the North fought the Confederates of the South, hoping to dismantle the institution of slavery. This led to the loss of over 600,000 lives and, ultimately, the assassination of President Lincoln in 1865.
Thousands of Civil War books have been written since the first shot rang out in 1861. Though no single book can attempt to cover the endless tragedies or important events that occurred over those four years, the following works add valuable new perspectives to the narrative. Between fictionalized accounts and battle retellings to soldiers’ eye-opening diaries, this list will satisfy any Civil War history buff.
1. Dee Brown on the Civil War
By Dee Brown
This trilogy focuses on the some of the Civil War’s most influential but lesser-known figures. In Grierson’s Raid, aformer music teacher leads almost 2,000 Union troopers from Tennessee to Louisiana. Their attack diverts attention from General Grant’s crossing of the Mississippi—an instrumental distraction for the subsequent Siege of Vicksburg.
The Bold Cavaliers stars Confederate General John Hunt Morgan, whose cavalrymen wreak havoc on Alabama. Meanwhile, The Galvanized Yankees tells the widely unknown story of a group of captured Confederate soldiers. Faced with the prospect of serving time in a prison camp or in the Union Army, they choose the latter. When they’re tapped to guard outposts in the Western frontier, their experiences have profound effects on their own loyalties—and make for a fascinating Civil War story.
2. Battle Cry of Freedom
By James. M. McPherson
This Pulitzer Prize-winning book charts the period between the 1846 outbreak of the Mexican-American War to Robert E. Lee’s surrender in 1865. Author James McPherson examines the economic, political, and social factors that led to the Civil War, particularly how small, violent outbursts evolved into America’s deadliest war. Both sides believed they were fighting for freedom—though their definitions of this freedom differed greatly. With in-depth analyses of nearly every major event, Battle Cry of Freedom is an indispensable addition to any history buff’s collection.
3. The Civil War: A Narrative
By Shelby Foote
In the first book of Foote’s three-volume series, the author opens with Jefferson Davis’ resignation from the US Senate. The Democratic politician was destined for another, bigger role: the first presidency of the Confederate States. So begins an extensively researched account of the events—and war—that followed, which culminates in the Union’s victory four years later. Maps are a welcome addition to the narrative, providing useful visuals of important battle sites and travel routes.
4. Mary Chesnut’s Diary
By Mary Chesnut
A native of South Carolina, Mary Chesnut kept a detailed account of her life as an upper class woman during the Civil War. Though her husband was a senator and a Confederate officer, Mary secretly hated the institution of slavery. From her reflections on witnessing the first shots fired in Charleston to hearing parts of her husband’s meetings, Chesnut’s diary is one of the few complete firsthand accounts of the war written by a non-soldier.
5. For Cause and Comrades
By James M. McPherson
After countless bloody battles and widespread death, how did Civil War soldiers find the will to keep fighting? In For Case and Comrades, James McPherson explores what drove them—namely, their unshakeable belief in the necessity of their actions. For both sides, victory was worth everything.
McPherson analyzed over 250 diaries and 25,000 letters to truly understand the soldiers’ thought processes. He was shocked by their eloquence and honesty, and the frequency with which they wrote of their daily lives. Their writings reveal how they were not just hardened men of war—but brothers, sons, fathers, and husbands who simply wanted to go home with their dignity in tact. The result is a humanizing study of war, and of the men who fought unwaveringly for their ideals.
6. The Black Flower
By Howard Bahr
As a war veteran and novelist, Bahr was a master of well-paced, engaging Civil War fiction—and lucky for us, he wrote three books. The first installment in his Civil War trilogy is The Black Flower, a New York Times Notable Book. When a 26-year-old Confederate soldier is wounded, the bond he forms with a medic gives him hope for a brighter, post-war future.
The Year of Jubilo sees a similar hero: Gawain Harper, who only fights in the Confederate army to be with the woman he loves. His return home is not as charmed as he anticipated when he discovers the rebels’ plot to incite new warfare—which Gawain must stop.
In the final book, The Judas Field, Civil War veteran Cass accompanies a friend to Tennessee, where they’ll retrieve the bodies of her brother and father. As they pass through devastated Southern towns, Cass cannot escape his haunting memories of the battlefield. All three novels explore the violence of warfare, the endurance of hope, and the lengths to which men and women fought to return to their loved ones.
7. The North and South Trilogy
By John Jakes
In the trilogy that has sold millions of copies, John Jakes examines how war can disintegrate even the closest of bonds. While training at West Point, Southerner Orry Mains quickly befriends Northerner George Hazard. But when the Civil War places them on opposite sides of the battlefield, tensions reverberate through their relationship, their families, and the rest of Jakes’ bestselling trilogy. Part war story, part family drama, the books were adapted into a wildly popular miniseries starring Patrick Swayze and James Read.
8. Murder at Manassas
By Michael Kilian
With the Civil War still in its earliest days, Virginian Harrison Raines is torn between his abhorrence of slavery and his love for his home state. He is also in love with actress Caitlin Howard—though her affection for John Wilkes Booth (yes, that one) poses a serious threat. Raines’ personal dramas reach new heights when, after taking Caitlin to watch the Battle of Bull Run, he becomes embroiled in a murder mystery involving a wrongly-disgraced major. What ensues is a fast-paced whodunit full of rich historical detail and real-life figures like Abe Lincoln.
9. Cold Mountain
By Charles Frazier
Nothing, not even war, can prevent Inman from reaching his true love, Ada, in North Carolina. After being gravely wounded in battle, Inman deserts the Confederate army, determined to return to the woman he left behind. As he journeys across the ravaged American landscape, Ada struggles to restore her late father’s farm back to its former glory. But with only a few moments shared between them, have Inman and Ada pinned their hopes on a foolish dream?
Frazier’s National Book Award-winning novel is based on stories he heard from his great-great-grandfather as a child. Gorgeously written and unrelentingly heartbreaking, Cold Mountain is at once an unforgettable tale of war and a deeply moving love story.
10. The Killer Angels
By Michael Shaara
Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel recreates the bloodiest battle in American history: Gettysburg. Over the four days of fighting, countless men died—men with families, men with futures, men who might have done great things for the nation. Shaara imagines who these men, whether Northern or Southern, may have been.
Told through the perspectives of multiple historical figures, the story begins with a very confident Robert E. Lee as he and his troops travel to Pennsylvania. But instead of finding the victory they envisioned, Lee and his fellow Confederates are demoralized by the battle—and many know they’re unlikely to win the war, or even see its end.
11. Cain at Gettysburg
By Ralph Peters
Another Gettysburg-centered novel, Cain at Gettysburg is a fictional retelling of what is considered “the turning point of the Civil War.” It follows a misfit group of characters—including desperate generals, a German refugee, and an Irishman who fled the famine—as they fight for their cause, unsure of their futures. Compelling and jam-packed with action, Cain at Gettysburg is a fascinating tale of battle, bravery, and brotherhood that no lover of Civil War history should miss.
12. Gone with the Wind
By Margaret Mitchell
If you ever had access to the Turner Classic Movie channel, then you’ve probably heard of the film version of Gone with the Wind. But before Vivien Leigh starred as Scarlett O’Hara, there was Margaret Mitchell’s epic book, which offers a more detailed look at Georgia during the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. At the center, of course, is Scarlett—a Southern belle and the daughter of a wealthy planter—who is forced to change her spoiled ways once war divides the country. Though her enduring relationship with Rhett Butler is considered one of the greatest love stories of all time, the novel is also one of the best portraits of the effects of war on a place and its people.
From fighting pirates in the First Barbary War of 1801 to seizing the Kandahar International Airport in 2001 and beyond, Marine Corps infantrymen have been fighting and winning our nation’s battles for more than 200 years.
Known as “grunts,” infantrymen receive specialized training in weapons, tactics, and communications that make them effective in combat. And while many things have changed for grunts over time, they continue to carry on the legacy that was forged from the “small wars” to the “Frozen Chosin” to the jungles of Vietnam.
After more than a decade of war following the 9/11 attacks, many grunts have deployed to combat …
… In Iraq, where they earned their place in history at Nasiriyah, Najaf, and Fallujah (shown here), and many others.
While others deployed to Afghanistan, into the deadly Korengal Valley …
… Or more recently to Marjah, in Helmand Province.
But before infantrymen join their units, they need to complete initial training. For enlisted Marines, that means going to the School of Infantry, either at Camp Pendleton, California or Camp Geiger, North Carolina.
For officers, their training at Infantry Officer Course in Quantico, Va. involves both tactics and weapons, along with a more intense focus on how to lead an infantry platoon.
While most enlisted grunts become 0311 riflemen, others receive more specialized training, like 0331 machine-gunners, which learn the M240 machine gun (shown here), the MK19 grenade launcher, and the M2 .50 cal.
0341 Mortarmen learn how to operate the 60 mm (shown below) and 81 mm mortar systems, which help riflemen with indirect fire support when they need a little bit more firepower.
0351 Assaultmen learn basic demolitions, breaching, and become experts in destroying bad guys with the SMAW rocket system. The Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon (SMAW) is shown below.
Packing even more punch that’s usually vehicle-mounted, 0352 Anti-tank missilemen learn their primary M41 SABER (below) heavy anti-tank weapon and the Javelin, a medium anti-tank weapon.
Some more experienced infantrymen go into specialized fields, such as Reconnaissance or snipers (below).
Always present is a focus on mission accomplishment, and to “keep their honor clean” — to preserve the legacy of the Corps …
… That grunts are proud of. Always remembering heroics from the Chosin Reservoir Marines in Korea …
… To those who fought in Vietnam jungles, or the storied battles of Hue and Khe Sanh.
Since Vietnam, grunts have been repeatedly been called upon for minor and major engagements, such as Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and Operation United Shield in Somalia in 1995 (below).
It’s always a bad idea for payday to come on a Friday. Here’s hoping that everyone makes it to Monday without any recall formations because some lance corporal stole a car and crashed it into the general’s house.
In the meantime, here are 13 funny military memes:
1. You can just hear that lead fellow yelling, “To the strip clubs!”