Army recruiters love to talk a good game to get young adults to sign military contracts, but some people need more than just a couple motivating words to get them to join.
For the young prospects out there that need a visual, the Army filmed inspiring, yet powerful commercials to better entice you.
We’ve all seen the posters of soldiers standing tall and, yes, the idea of becoming a Green Beret is pretty badass, but it’s the epic commercials that often put the final touches on someone’s ultimate decision to make the commitment.
When the American military calls, America’s pastime answers. Here are 14 men who played on the diamond before serving on the battlefield. All of them went above and beyond in either the game or combat, and some distinguished themselves in both.
1. Yogi Berra volunteered to man a rocket boat leading the assault on Normandy.
Yogi Berra made his minor league debut with the Norfolk Tars in 1943, playing 11 games and earning an impressive .396 slugging average. But Berra’s draft card came in that year and he headed into the Navy.
After the war, Yogi Berra went on to play in the major leagues and became one of the most-feared batters in baseball. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.
2. Joe Pinder left the minor leagues and earned the Medal of Honor on Omaha Beach.
Joe Pinder spent most of his baseball time in Class D in the minors, but he rose as high as Class B for a short period. He joined the Army in January 1942 and was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, where he fought in Africa and Sicily. On D-Day, Technician 5th Grade Pinder was wounded multiple times and lost needed radio equipment during the struggle to reach the beach. He kept going back and forth in the surf, retrieving items despite sustaining more injuries.
“Almost immediately on hitting the waist-deep water, he was hit by shrapnel,” 2nd Lt. Lee Ward W. Stockwell said, according to Baseball’s Greatest Sacrifice. “He was hit several times and the worst wound was to the left side of his face, which was cut off and hanging by a piece of flesh.”
After refusing medical treatment multiple times and finally getting his radio equipment all back together, Pinder was killed by a burst of machine gun fire to the chest. His bravery and perseverance earned him the Medal of Honor.
3. Jack Lummus excelled at baseball, football, and being a Marine Corps hero.
Jack Lummus was a college football and baseball star when he signed a contract with the Army Air Corps in 1941. He then signed a contract with a minor league team and played 26 games with them while awaiting training as a pilot. Unfortunately, Lummus clipped his plane’s wing while taxiing and was discharged.
Lummus then played professional football, playing in nine of the New York Giants’ 11 games in 1941. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lummus finished the season and volunteered for the Marine Corps. He served as an enlisted military policeman for a few months before enrolling in officer training.
At the battle of Iwo Jima, he was a first lieutenant leading a rifle platoon against three concealed Japanese strongholds. Wounded twice by grenades, Lummus still singlehandedly took out all three positions and earned the Medal of Honor. He stepped on a land mine later that day and sustained mortal wounds.
4. Bob Feller left a six-figure contract to join the Navy after Pearl Harbor.
Hall of Famer Bob Feller won 76 games in three seasons before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The day after the attack, Feller walked away from a $100,000 contract and enlisted in the Navy. He was originally assigned to play baseball for troop entertainment, but enrolled in gunnery school to join the fight in the Pacific. Feller spent 26 months on the USS Alabama, seeing combat at Kwajalein, the Gilbert Islands and the Marshall Islands.
5. Ted Williams left the majors twice to fight America’s wars.
6. Warren Spahn fought in the Battle of the Bulge after his major league debut.
Warren E. Spahn pitched his first major league game in 1942, but joined the Army later that same year. He would fight as an engineer in the Battle of the Bulge, the Bridge at Remagen, and other important battles in the European theater.
Spahn is commonly credited with having earned a Bronze Star at the Bridge of Remagen due to a false, unauthorized biography. The book claimed to be his biography but was mostly fabricated. Spahn sued the writer and publisher for defamation and for violating his privacy, and he won the case in the Supreme Court. Spahn did earn a Purple Heart in the war.
7. Bernard Dolan and a teammate play, fight, and earn posthumous service crosses together.
In France on Oct. 16, 1918, Cpl. Dolan was wounded and took cover. He saw another soldier hit and rushed from his cover to assist, exposing himself to enemy fire and earning him a Distinguished Service Cross. He was hit again during the rescue attempt, leading to his death.
He became a fighter pilot and served in the Pacific in 1944 aboard the USS Enterprise, seeing combat in the Pacific multiple times, most of which was in the Philippines. He earned the Navy Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross with Gold Star as a Navy lieutenant junior grade. He was shot down over the Philippines on November 14, 1944, but his body was never recovered.
9. Pitcher Stanford Wolfson was executed by the Germans after his tenth bombing mission.
Stanford Wolfson played for multiple teams in the minor leagues as a pitcher and outfielder from 1940 to 1942. On Oct. 15, 1942, he joined the Army Air Force as a bomber pilot, earning a commission as a second lieutenant. From December 1943 to November 1944, he flew nine bombing missions over Nazi Germany. On November 5, 1944, he flew a tenth and final mission and was ordered to bail out by the pilot after the plane took heavy damage from anti-aircraft fire.
In early 1945, he was training B-29 pilots. While piloting one of the B-29’s, Southworth attempted an emergency landing after an engine began smoking. he overshot the runway and crashed into the water near LaGuardia Field, New York.
An infielder and outfielder who distinguished himself in the minor leagues, Keith Bissonnette left baseball to join the Army Air Force. He earned his commission and became a fighter pilot in the 80th Fighter Group, flying missions in P-40 Warhawks and P-47 Thunderbolts between India and China from 1944 to 1945.
Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Bebas was assigned as a dive-bomber pilot aboard the USS Hornet. Bebas first saw combat on June 6, 1942 in the Battle of Midway. He pushed through extreme anti-aircraft fire to achieve a near-miss that damaged a Japanese ship, earning him a Distinguished Flying Cross. He died during a training mission in 1942.
Whether it kept them entertained in the barracks or inspired them to enlist, there are certain films that every Marine knows and loves.
Just about every Marine can quote Gunnery Sgt. Hartman from “Full Metal Jacket.” The same can be said of the intense courtroom scene in “A Few Good Men” that has Col. Jessup proclaiming, “You can’t handle the truth!”
Super quotable lines, great stories, or intense combat scenes are just some of the reasons why we picked the following nine films as “must-watch” for Marines. But whether you are in the Corps or a civilian, these movies shed some light on the U.S. military’s smallest service.
Plot: Based on real-life events, Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, a volunteer military escort officer, accompanies the body of 19-year-old Marine Chance Phelps back to his hometown of Dubois, Wyoming.
Reason to watch: While most military movies focus on battle scenes, “Taking Chance” focuses on the part often overlooked: What happens when troops lose their lives in combat. As people in the military know, the belongings are packed and shipped, the body is taken to Dover, and an escort brings them to their final resting place. Actor Kevin Bacon does a superb job of depicting the real-life story of one such escort duty, for Pfc. Chance Phelps.
Plot: Based on former Marine Anthony Swofford’s best-selling 2003 book about his pre-Desert Storm experiences in Saudi Arabia and about his experiences fighting in Kuwait.
Reason to watch: While the main character is a less-than-stellar Marine who often gets in trouble, this film shines in realistically depicting infantry life. The camaraderie, the dumb games, and the sheer boredom grunts experience when they are in a combat zone but not seeing combat is what makes this worth watching.
Plot: A dramatization of the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima.
Reason to watch: It has John Wayne. Really, that should be enough. But seriously, it’s a classic war film that shows Marines battling it out on Tarawa and Iwo Jima — site of the famous flag raising in 1945 — which also includes cameos by the three Marines who raised the flag over the island that was captured in the iconic Joe Rosenthal photo.
Plot: A pragmatic U.S. Marine observes the dehumanizing effects the U.S.-Vietnam War has on his fellow recruits from their brutal boot camp training to the bloody street fighting in Hue.
Reason to watch: “Full Metal Jacket” is really two films in one, with act one depicting a realistic look at Vietnam-era boot camp, and act two showing life for Marines in the battle of Hue City. The performance Marines love — and can perfectly quote — comes from R. Lee Ermey, who plays Drill Instructor Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, a seemingly never ending source of great zingers.
Plot: The life stories of the six men who raised the flag at The Battle of Iwo Jima, a turning point in WWII.
Reason to watch: While most people have seen the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo from the 1945 Battle of Iwo Jima, many don’t know the flag raising happened just days into the battle, when it was not yet clear when the Japanese would be defeated. Three of the six flag raisers would be killed later in the battle, while the remaining three would be brought back to the U.S. to help raise war bonds. This film, directed by Clint Eastwood, tells that story. (You should also check out Eastwood’s telling of the Japanese side, in “Letters from Iwo Jima”).
Plot: A hard-nosed, hard-living Marine gunnery sergeant clashes with his superiors and his ex-wife as he takes command of a spoiled recon platoon with a bad attitude.
Reason to watch: In the main character of Gunny Highway, Marines will see the one staple of just about every unit: The crusty old-timer who doesn’t take any crap from anyone. Clint Eastwood plays Highway, delivering such classic lines as “Be advised. I’m mean, nasty and tired. I eat concertina wire and piss napalm and I can put a round in a flea’s ass at 200 meters,” and “if I were half as ugly as you, Sergeant Major, I’d be a poster boy for a prophylactic.”
Plot: An attorney defends an officer on trial for ordering his troops to fire on civilians after they stormed a U.S. embassy in a third world country.
Reason to watch: Starting in Vietnam with two Marine lieutenants — played by Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson — a firefight sets them on separate career paths that ultimately see them coming back together after an embassy evacuation in Yemen goes terribly wrong. Col. Childers (played by Jackson) gives the order to fire into the crowd — which he says is armed — and he’s later charged with murder. Besides the intense courtroom drama, the movie shows the strong brotherhood among Marines, with Jones and Jackson picking up right where they left off many years before in the jungles of Vietnam.
Plot: Major Kirby leads The Wildcats squadron into the historic WWII battle of Guadalcanal.
Reason to watch: Again, John Wayne. Another classic from the fifties, this film gives a look at Marine air power in World War II, with Wayne playing Maj. Kirby, a gruff commander who takes over a squadron of fliers before they head into combat at Guadalcanal.
Plot: Neo military lawyer Kaffee defends Marines accused of murder; they contend they were acting under orders.
Reason to watch: It’s a great courtroom drama which explores the question of what is a legal order. When two junior Marines are told to carry out a hazing ritual by their commander, should they have followed it? That’s what a court-martial is to decide, which ultimately ends in an epic shouting match between Navy Lt. Kaffee and Col. Jessup (played brilliantly by Jack Nicholson).
BONUS: Generation Kill / The Pacific
While they aren’t movies, these two HBO miniseries show Marines in combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom and the island-hopping campaigns of World War II, respectively. In “Generation Kill,” viewers follow along with the men of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion as they battle their way into Iraq in 2003, while “The Pacific” melds together narratives from Marines who took part in the Pacific campaign to tell their story.
When troops deploy overseas to places like Iraq and Afghanistan, they usually get a pay increase thanks to combat and hazardous pay bonuses. And given that they are working longer days and away from most of the comforts of home, they usually save a bunch of money in that time.
Usually returning with a large balance in their bank account, they are what some would call “post-deployment rich.”
But that wealth usually doesn’t last forever. Some troops save their money for the future, while others making big purchases soon after they are home. These are the six things they are usually buying.
1. A new car or motorcycle
The barracks parking lot is guaranteed to be filled with new cars and bikes shortly after a unit returns from deployment. The vehicular staple of the returning Marine, soldier, sailor, or airman usually spans the gamut of Ford Mustang to Jeep Wrangler.
That’s it. The barracks parking lot is just filled with Mustangs and Wranglers. That and a ton of crotch rockets.
2. Post-deployment booze
I’m not going to lie. When I came back after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan, I drank a lot. Think—drinking at a minimum a six-pack of beer every night for months—a lot. Was it healthy? No. A good idea? No. Helpful during morning PT? Oh, good lord no.
But hey, I hadn’t drank in a long time and I had to make up for lost time. At least that made sense in my then-21-year-old brain. My story is not unique, however. While the military tries to crack down on binge-drinking, for many troops, it’s still a big part of the lifestyle.
3. Epic parties in Vegas (or some other awesome place)
When you are post-deployment rich, it’s no problem picking up the tab at the bar. “Oh yeah! I got this,” the young private says. “Drinks are on me!” Come back to this same young private about two months later and he probably won’t be saying this one again.
That’s definitely true of throwing big parties. While they initially start out in the barracks and involve kegs, beer pong, and midget-tossing (no? that’s not allowed Sergeant Major?), the parties eventually head off base to a better location. Sometimes this means the strip club, but let it be known: Las Vegas is always the best option.
Just don’t buy the next item while you are drinking.
4. Engagement rings
Spending seven to 12 months (or more) overseas can get some service members thinking about elevating their relationships to the next level of marriage. For some, that means saving up their deployment cash to buy an expensive engagement ring for their honey. Hopefully it all works out, because if it doesn’t, the post-deployment splurge may be spent on…
5. Divorce lawyers are, unfortunately, another common deployment side effect
Most service members have heard a horror story or two about a fellow soldier returning home with no greeting at the airport, a completely empty refrigerator (even sans ice cubes), and an empty bank account. The sad homecoming for some troops means one thing: Divorce.
There’s a good reason why tattoo parlors are strategically located near military bases. Troops love ink (including this writer). Whether it’s a simple U.S. Army or USMC on your arm to show pride in your service, or a listing of fallen friends, tattoos are a big part of the military culture.
Just make sure you get it spell-checked.
What did you buy right after deployment? Let us know in the comments.
For decades, the president has flown in style on a variety of different planes and under various call signs. Air Force One is one of the most famous aircrafts to ever take to the skies as it’s the to-go plane for U.S. presidents.
The plane is so popular, it was featured in the 1997 action film, Air Force One, starring Harrison Ford as he battles terrorists trying to take over his flying fortress.
You better listen! (Image via GIPHY)
Here’s what you might not know about this famous flyer.
The term was coined as a call sign for the President’s two nearly-identical planes. The planes are perfect twins except for their tail fin numbers. The two modern AF1 edition aircraft are labeled with different numbers: 28000 and 29000.
4. The original Air Force One
In the mid-1940s, planes were deemed reliable for transportation, seeing as they were successfully flying some intricate missions in World War II. The Army repurposed a C-54 Skymaster for the president’s use and dubbed the aircraft, The Sacred Cow.
3. Air Force One almost collided with a commercial flight
In 1953, President Eisenhower flew under the call sign Air Force 8610. A control tower got it confused with Eastern Airlines flight 8610 as they entered each other’s airspace. After that near accident, the call sign Air Force One was permanently used.
2. The government hired a real designer
Since Air Force One wasn’t considered a “looker,” designer Raymond Loewy came into the picture and took the plane’s aesthetic to a new level. Loewy designed the logos for IBM, Exxon, Shell, Lucky Strike, the Coast Guard, and the U.S. Postal Service.
No matter how familiar you are with the military culture, no matter how prepared you think you are to embrace it, when you say “I do” to someone who wears combat boots to work every day, there are things you will learn that may never have occurred to you. Some of us pick up on those things quickly, and some of us are still (after decades of this life) figuring things out on a daily basis. We asked a group of our incredible Military Spouse contributors to share some of the things they really wish they had known early on. We want to know, what would you add to this list?
Contributors: Stacy Huisman, MJ Boice, Erin Whitehead, Cassandra Bratcher, Morgan Slade, Kama Shockey, Ashley Frisch, Kate Dolack, Kiera Durfee, Davelda Edgington, Michelle Aikman
I wish I had known to give up on planning as soon as possible. The sooner you give in to having no set plan, the easier everything becomes.
Honestly, I wish I understood what a valuable resource military spouses can be – instead of being afraid.
I wish I had taken all those classes specifically for spouses a lot sooner.
I wish I had known it was okay to ask questions sooner. And who would have the answers! (Hint: It is not usually the service member)
I wish I had known to accept that my husband doesn’t and never will have a set schedule, so I can’t really plan much ahead of time.
I wish I knew how unbreakable military spouse bonds could be.
I wish I had immersed myself in our community sooner. I thought being a National Guard spouse meant being a loner in the military realm, but have come to find that there is a great deal of support and camaraderie.
I wish I had realized that rank shouldn’t be a factor in friendships. We are all in the same boat and anyone who ever tells you they can’t be your friend due to rank isn’t a person you want to associate with anyway.
I wish I had known that it is okay to have a life outside of the military and your military spouse friends.
I wish I had become more involved in the local community, outside of the base, sooner.
I wish I had worried less what others might think of me. If I want to wear a hundred shirts proudly displaying my spouses branch of service…then I will!
I wish I had been more of a tourist at every duty station. There are so many local things I wish I had experienced in every place we lived over the years.
I wish someone had explained what “hurry up and wait” really meant.
I wish I knew that you CAN have a successful career you can take with you everywhere.
I wish I knew we truly are like a family. We have our issues in this community, but when someone tries to attack one of us, we rise up and come to their defense…even we don’t personally know him or her.
I wish that I had known that even though the mission comes first, I don’t always come last. (Understanding THAT little nugget might have diffused an argument or two over time.)
I wish I knew that you can be eligible for unemployment when you lose your job due to transfer!
I wish I knew not to buy expensive furniture in the first year of marriage – only to anxiously watch it moved six times in ten years. Needless to say my stuff is gently bruised, but the upside is discovering the world of IKEA!
I wish I knew I didn’t always have to have a stiff upper lip.
Actually, I didn’t know anything coming into this life and I am kind of glad that was the case! It allowed me to experience baptism by fire and I’m not sure I would have as much faith in myself as I do now if I hadn’t experienced it that way.
I wish I had known to ALWAYS purchase refundable/transferable/changeable tickets, lodging, etc.
I wish I had known how hard it can be to find a career again. I wouldn’t have worried so much and would have enjoyed the new experiences much more…instead of being on a constant job hunt.
I wish I had started planning for retirement years before it is recommended your family does so.
I wish I had taken the time to laugh more, and curse less, when Murphy came to visit. Again.
I wish I had known from the beginning that our collective voices can move mountains and create significant change!
I wish I had known moving overseas is not only harder, but exponentially so. And more complicated. And more expensive.
I wish I had known that reintegration was going to be harder than the deployment itself.~I wish I had known that it was okay to ask for help…that it is not a sign of weakness.
I wish I had known how fast it would go by!
I wish I hadn’t felt the need to spout off my resume to every spouse I met when I first married into military life. It was a sign of insecurity, walking away from my career. Little did I know many other spouses had similar feelings.
I wish I had given my friends who did not understand military life a little more of a break. I now know that you simply can’t understand if you haven’t lived it.
I wish I had learned the signs of PTSD and Combat/Operational Stress sooner…and knew how to help my spouse get the help they deserve.
I wish I knew how strong I would become.
I wish I knew that my definition of “home” and “family” would change over time.
I wish I knew that this life is like a roller coaster. We put on that harness and hang on for the ride, even if we beg for them to stop it sometimes, we barrel along a single track with no control over many parts. We may hit some walls hat are slow to come, then we barrel down. Others are abrupt, we feel our stomachs drop out at the low parts but we also get to throw our hands up in the air! We enjoy the thrill with the other riders then embrace each other when it’s over and say, “that was a wild ride, I would do it again with you guys any time.”
Summer’s officially here, the BBQ is hot, the beer is cold, and it’s time to party. Old Glory is still soaring from when we honored Memorial Day, but now we have a holiday where the only requirement is to celebrate.
It’s the 4th of July.
If you’re gonna have an epic party, you need an epic playlist. These tunes will light some fireworks in your soul. Enjoy.
9. Team America World Police — “America F*#k Yeah!”
I LOVE THIS SONG EVERY TIME I HEAR IT.
8. Tom Petty — “American Girl”
A good party playlist should rise and fall. Tom Petty and his ode to the American Girl can keep things calm for a few.
7. Bruce Springsteen — “Born in the USA”
This is a classic and cannot be omitted. Let it happen.
6. Lenny Kravitz — “American Woman”
This makes every woman, including yours truly, want to lose some layers and show off her moves. You’re welcome.
5. Iced Earth “Declaration Day”
Sometimes you just need to say it with metal: “Freedom is not free.”
4. Katy Perry — “Firework”
This song is catchy as hell and you know it.
3. Brad Paisley — “American Saturday Night”
You had me at French kissing and a cooler of cold Coronas.
Not only was Houston’s voice absolute perfection, when she recorded this song, she donated the proceeds of the single to benefit the veterans of the Persian Gulf War. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, she re-released it, this time donating her profits to the firefighters and victims of the attacks.
For those of you who are out there continuing to fight for the freedoms we cherish, you have our gratitude. Stay safe.
Christmas away from home is tough, and it doesn’t get any easier with more deployments under your belt. But getting a good card from a loved one or dear friend can help brighten the mood. Here are nine of the best:
Merry Christmas to all of our deployed forces from the entire team at We Are The Mighty.
Through the use of insults, strict discipline, sleep deprivation, and controlled explosions, Army drill sergeants turn recent high school grads and civilians looking for a new job into trained soldiers ready to serve in America’s wars. This transition is, of course, painful — by design.
Here are 11 things trainees will complain about before learning to suck it up as an Army soldier:
“I’m tired. I didn’t get enough sleep last night.”
New U.S. Army soldiers are expected to operate on little sleep. While in the barracks, recruits’ sleep is regularly interrupted by drill sergeants conducting inspections, punishing infractions, getting head counts, or waking soldiers for the heck of it. The party continues in the field where soldiers sleep in bags instead of beds.
“This food is terrible.”
Military food is rarely praised, and basic training food is even worse. Eating periods are very short and are supervised by drill sergeants who pounce onto soldiers who reach for fattening or sugary foods.
“You mean I have to pay for this terrible haircut?”
Soldiers get their heads buzzed, run in tennis shoes, and shave every day — but what most people don’t know is the trainees foot these bills. The shoes, haircuts, toothpaste, and other gear and services are all paid for by the trainees through Eagle Cash cards, a sort of military prepaid debit card. Most of these costs are defrayed by a uniform allowance that soldiers receive once a year, but the surprise bills still create complaints.
“There’s ugly, then there’s Army Ugly. We are all Army Ugly.”
No matter how handsome you are, it’s hard to rock the haircuts, glasses, and tan lines the Army gives you. Males have to have their heads buzzed. All soldiers requiring corrective lenses are issued basic training glasses, generally referred to as “birth control glasses.” And, after months in the sun in physical training uniforms, combat uniforms, and berets, graduating soldiers have deep tan lines around their wrists and across their foreheads.
“They yell at us all day, and one keeps calling us crack pipes.”
It doesn’t matter who the recruit is, even if they’re famous or the child of a general, they’re getting yelled at in basic training. (Stephen Colbert didn’t even enlist and he caught the sharp edge of the drill sergeants.) Many recruits find themselves shocked at the sheer amount of verbal abuse as well as the language used. The language might be toned down, but the volume never will be.
“Why do we have to take the mask off? Isn’t the point to learn how to use the mask?”
Though they will brag about these experiences later, all recruits have a training event they’re dreading during basic. Maybe it’s the CS gas chamber where they’re forced to remove their gas masks and breath deeply. Some complain about the night infiltration course where they must crawl across the ground while machine guns are fired over their heads and artillery simulators are thrown nearby. Most complain about the “smokings,” physical training sessions spread throughout the day to help new soldiers quickly build strength and endurance.
“Even on overnight guard, I can’t be alone.”
They march as a group, eat as a group, sleep as a group, shower as a group. They go to the bathroom in, at a minimum, two-man teams. Recruits have no privacy for the nine weeks or more of training. Soldiers who go through one station unit training, a combined basic training and job school mostly used for combat soldiers, will endure this for even longer. This can be a source of a lot of complaints, especially if a soldier is paired with another recruit they don’t like.
“Oh, that guy’s a blue falcon. We couldn’t stand him.”
The other recruits, especially the “blue falcons,” soldiers who screw over their peers by tattling or just being a moron, can be a major source of stress for new soldiers. When one basic trainee screws up, that means the whole platoon or whole company is screwed up, and everyone suffers equally. Bad hospital corners on one bed? Grab some real estate, soldier; you’re doing pushups until sweat fogs the windows. Adding to the atmosphere is that, after the punishments, all the trainees are still stuck in the same bay together, still sleeping four feet away from each other, still crapping in battle buddy pairs. And they remember which ones ratted them out.
“We can’t walk on that grass. That grass is only for the drill sergeant.”
Recruits are issued a handbook with pages and pages of arbitrary rules during reception week, before they even make it to basic training — rules like, “All towels must be folded in thirds, not halves, and the open sides must face towards the south side of the building.”
“We had to run everywhere, even when we were early.”
Soldiers are ordered to sprint between training stations, even if they can see the long line from a hundred feet away. Trainees run to the back of the line, then wait until the line moves. The experience and frustration defines “Hurry up and wait” — a military maxim.
“I wore pants with buttons for so long, zipping my jeans felt weird.”
For nine or more weeks, they’ve worn only what they were told to wear, only sat in chairs if given express permission, ate what they were given when they were given it. After graduation, they find take out menus and weigh the merits of thai versus pizza for dinner. They debate whether to watch a DVD or play a football game after the training day ends. They get their cell phones back and wonder whether they should call their mother or their girlfriend first. (They generally call their significant other first. Sorry, mom.)
A lot of accomplishments in the military get overlooked or rewarded with a couple metal baubles to be worn on the chest.
But sometimes, a man leads a couple of invasions and gets to keep his callsign for the rest of his life as a nickname, or someone leaves their job as a respected religious leader to become a major general known as “The Fighting Bishop.” Here are nine awesome nicknames bestowed on military badasses:
1. Gen. Jim “Chaos” Mattis
While many more people know retired Marine Corps general and current U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis as “Mad Dog,” that nickname was actually foisted upon him by the press, and he apparently doesn’t like it.
Navy Adm. Arleigh Burke — yeah, the guy those destroyers are named after — was ordered to shut down a major Japanese troop transfer near the end of the Solomon Islands Campaign. But Burke’s ships were in need of repair and the convoy couldn’t attempt to move at its top speed, 38 knots.
So Burke’s commander sent him orders that began, “THIRTY-ONE KNOT BURKE GET …” and Burke readily agreed, pushing his convoy task force to 31 knots and getting to the Japanese evacuation just in time to launch a skilled attack on Thanksgiving morning that sank three of the five Japanese ships.
3. Maj. Gen. Leonidas “The Fighting Bishop” Polk
The story of Leonidas Polk’s nickname is pretty simple. He attended West Point, left the military for religious life, became a bishop, and then returned to the military as a Confederate general in the Civil War.
He was a bishop who fought in a war, and his men started calling him “The Fighting Bishop.”
British Pvt. Edwin Hughes had a pretty unfortunate nickname. He was one of the cavalrymen who took part in the ill-fated Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854. That famous charge took place in the Battle of Balaclava, and Hughes’ “friends” apparently thought he would want a constant reminder of the day that all of his friends died, because they gave him the nickname “Balaclava Ned.”
8. Sir Douglas “Butcher of the Somme” Haig
Sir Douglas Haig was the British Field Marshal in World War I, commanding the entire British Expeditionary Force. He was well-regarded by the British public immediately after the war, but there were lingering questions about whether his offensive tactics led to too many British casualties.
Joe Stilwell was one of America’s greatest generals in the 20th Century, rated higher than famous names like Patton and Bradley in a pre-war survey of military leadership. And Stilwell had a reputation for a mouth that would’ve made Patton blush, lots of curse words and colorful insults. That led to his nickname, “Vinegar Joe,” referring to how caustic his tongue was.
When a commander designates you and your squad to be OPFOR (Opposing Force), what they’re doing is giving you an opportunity at the most fun you can have in training — playing bad guy.
This is a way for you to use all the knowledge and dirty tricks you’ve ever learned to put other troops in your unit through the ringer.
The purpose of this is to give realistic training to test the unit’s knowledge and metal so your commanders can figure out where the faults are and how to fix them. While being OPFOR is still training to a degree, it’s a great way to skate in the field and get the hell away from your platoon for a couple hours.
Your goal as OPFOR is to ultimately “die.” The unit you’re fighting against will have a mission and a plan, which typically end in their victory. Don’t let that get you down — you still need to put up a good fight. Don’t just hand them an easy victory. The point is to give them some good training; so put them through hell so they can learn something.
2. Be deceptive
Deception is key in any form of a defense. Your goal is to fake out the enemy to make it easier for you to wipe them out. If you’re unpredictable, the enemy’s life will be much harder when they come after you. In the case of OPFOR, you’ll already know what you’re defending so make sure to lead your “enemy” through a big maze.
3. Use their tactics against them
They’re your unit, so you understand their tactics and standard operating procedures, which gives you an edge that a real enemy won’t have. You know what they’re going to do in any given situation so you can provide a perfect countermeasure. When evaluating your unit’s SOPs, be sadistic in your planning to give the ultimate defense.
4. Use your environment
Urban areas are filled with tons and tons of props. Training sites will likely imitate this and place old furniture all over the place, and if you’re training in an abandoned housing area, the chances of this will be much higher. If there are doors around, set up barriers or obstacles. Make your enemy work for their victory.
5. Use every weapon or tool you have
If you’ve got para-cord/550 cord with you, use it. Set-up as many booby traps and trip-wires as you possibly can to increase the level of difficulty for the guys trying to get to their objectives and accomplish their mission. If you have smoke grenades, oil, and/or trip flares, use those to the most frustrating extent possible.
The use of unconventional tactics dominates on the modern battlefield; when you’re OPFOR, it’s a great opportunity to toss out the rule book and mix your conventional knowledge with unconventional tactics to kick some serious ass.
Fight aggressive, fight dirty, and be deceptive. Fight to win and give the guys in your unit a real challenge to test their steel. If you manage to beat the hell out of them, it only increases the amount of fun you’re already bound to have playing bad guy.