There is one acronym no commander wants to hear. The very hint of this process-who-must-not-be-named drives generals, congressmen, and entire communities to the edge of panic: BRAC. One abandoned base illustrates why.
The Base Realignment and Closure process started in 1988 as a way to streamline the post-Cold War U.S. military for more efficient and cost-effective defense planning. The commission recommends moving certain military functions to other installations to clear the way to completely closing military bases worldwide. Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois was among the first to go in 1993.
Opened in Rantoul, Illinois in 1917 to train pilots flying in World War I, Chanute would become a major training center for pilots and support personnel for 75 years. Today, some of the buildings are repurposed and privately owned but many are left empty and deteriorating, untouched for decades.
Enter Walter Arnold, an North Carolina-based, self-taught fine art photographer and his project “The Art of Abandonment.” In this series, he strives to create nontraditional images and scenes in forgotten, historic places many people will never see.
“These abandoned buildings and locations speak volumes when you enter them, even in their abandoned and decaying state,” Arnold told WATM. “Every room you look into tells a story and every artifact from a bygone era holds years of meaning and lost purpose.”
While he usually gets permission to access abandoned sites, he did not get such permission to get into Chanute. With the help of his brother, he found his way onto the base, braving a rapidly decaying infrastructure, asbestos and rumors of Agent Orange contamination.
“Of all the locations that I have showcases online, Chanute has had the most response,” Arnold said. “So many people passed through those hallways and classrooms and so many have connections and memories with this location.”
“It’s my job to create evocative scenes that tell stories and stir emotions and I think these images from Chanute really do just that. There’s a melancholy aspect to my work and a lot of times the same people who see the sadness and shame in letting a building get to this state also see the beauty of what remains and the stories they still hold.”
All photos are used with permission from Walter Arnold. To see more of Chanute AFB or the Art of Abandonment, visit Arnold’s site, The Digital Mirage.
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:
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here is the best of what they shot this week:
Tech. Sgt. Timothy Cotterall, an Air National Guard emergency manager, is decontaminated following attempts to identify multiple biological contaminants in a simulated lab during a Global Dragon training event on March 18, 2015. Held at the Guardian Centers of Georgia, Global Dragon Deployment For Training provides a refresher course for Airmen, allowing them to put their skills to use to identify live chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear agents and materials.
The lights along the flightline at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, shine under the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights March 18, 2015. Eielson is home to RED FLAG-Alaska, a series of Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercises for U.S. forces, provides joint offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support, and large force employment training in a simulated combat environment.
WATERS NEAR GUAM (March 26, 2015) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), right, comes alongside the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197) for a replenishment-at-sea during Multi-Sail 2015.
WATERS NEAR GUAM (March 27, 2015) U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships are underway in formation during Multi-Sail 2015. Multi-Sail is an annual Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15 exercise designed to assess combat systems, improve teamwork and increase warfighting capabilities in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force is participating in Multi-Sail for the first time.
The sun sets on Soldiers assigned to 2d Cavalry Regiment, after conducting a tactical road march from Mihail Kogalniceanu Airbase to Smardan Training Area, Romania, March 24, 2015. The Soldiers are preparing to partner with Soldiers assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade and Romanian forces for a multinational training event in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
Paratroopers assigned to 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, conduct an after action review after completing a night live-fire, on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.during U.S. Army Alaska’s Exercise Spartan Valkyrie, March 23, 2015.
A Marine engages targets from a UH-1Y Venom with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, during Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) above San Clemente Island, California, March 20, 2015. COMPTUEX gives the Marines of VMM-161 the opportunity to practice real-world scenarios and hone their skill sets.
A Marine with Combat Logistics Battalion 2, dives underwater to perform a self-rescue drill during a swim qualification course aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, March 18, 2015. The purpose of the course was to maintain proficiency, and enhance the Marines skills in water survival techniques.
Coast Guard members from Coast Guard Sector Boston, Coast Guard Station Merrimack River and the First Coast Guard District conduct flare training on Plum Island, Mass., Dec. 15, 2014. The participants fired several different types of flares to gain familiarity with the operation and appearance for each type of flare.
As the sun sets, a crew member acts as lookout aboard Barque Eagle in the North Atlantic, April 2, 2014. Coast guard Cutter Eagle is the only active commissioned sailing vessel, and one of only two commissioned sailing vessels along with the USS Constitution, in American military service.
The Army has maintained the shells since the Navy retired the massive battleships that fired them, but these things can’t be safely stored forever and the military needs them gone.
Hiring a responsible contractor with a proven track record is the best way to do this, but WATM came up with these 5 more entertaining ideas:
1. Host history’s best Independence Day party
So, the Army is looking for solutions in October, which is exactly the right month to start planning the perfect party for July 4th. Especially if the plans involve a few thousand 16-inch artillery shells. Pretty sure those require permits or something. Be sure to tell the permit office that the fireworks will explode over the water or an open, uninhabited area. And that they’re pretty lethal loud.
2. Blowing up a mountain, like in Iron Man
Remember that scene where Tony Stark is showing off the Jericho missile and he blows up an entire mountain range? Pretty sure everyone reading this would pay at least $15 to see a mountain disappear. Call me Army. We could turn a profit on this.
3. Play a real life game of battleship
The Navy is already getting rid of some old ships, and the Army has found itself with way too many naval artillery shells, meaning this is the perfect time to hold a full-sized game of battleship. Pretty sure the TV ratings could pay for the cost of towing the ships into position.
4. Give drill sergeants really accurate artillery simulators
Right now, drill sergeants and other military trainers use little artillery simulators that make a loud whining noise and then a sharp pop to teach recruits to quickly react to incoming indirect fire. They’re great, but it really ignores that sphincter-tightening boom that comes with real incoming fire.
Now imagine that drill sergeants threw the artillery simulator and then were able to remotely detonate an actual, buried battleship shell 100 yards away. Right? No one gets hurt, but it would teach those kids to get their heads down pretty quick.
5. Create claymore mines that shoot grenades
Stick with me here. Claymore mines are brutally effective. A C-4 charge sends 700 steel balls flying in an arc at enemies. But the Army currently needs to get rid of 835 warheads that contain grenade submunitions and a whole bunch of other warheads filled with Explosive D.
So, how about we cut the grenades out of the submunition warheads, and duct tape them in rows around the Explosive D warheads? Sure, it would probably break a few treaties to use them in war, but it’s perfectly legal for a government to create an awesome piece of performance art on a military range. Probably.
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.
Considered the “grandfather of smart bombs,” the Fritz X was a 3,450-pound explosive equipped with a radio receiver and sophisticated tail controls that helped guide the bomb to its target.
According to the US Air Force, the Fritz X could penetrate 28 inches of armor and could be deployed from 20,000 feet, an altitude out of reach for antiaircraft equipment at the time.
Less than a month after it was developed, the Nazis sank Italian battleship Roma off Sardinia in September 1943. However, the Fritz X’s combat use was limited since only a few Luftwaffe aircraft were designed to carry the bomb.
The Nazis’ Goliath tracked mine was anything but Goliath-like in stature. Known as the “Doodlebug” by US troops, the mini-tank was controlled with a joystick and powered by two electric motors, later replaced by gas burners.
Goliath was designed to carry between 133 and 220 pounds of high explosives and was used to navigate minefields and deliver its explosive payload to defensive positions.
The Nazis built more than 7,000 Goliaths during the war and paved the way for radio-controlled weapons.
A rocket-powered plane that was nearly 300 mph quicker than the fastest aircraft around
By the late 1930s, the Germans were developing the Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet, a rocket-powered jet with speeds of up to 700 mph.
“During this time the vaunted American P-51 Mustang fighter, in comparison, topped out at less than 440 mph,” according to Weapons of WWII magazine.
More than 300 Komets were built and equipped with twin 30 mm cannons. The Komet’s speed was both a gift and a curse. The plane was fast enough to avoid Allied gunners but it was too fast to hit Allied aircraft.
At a cost of $70 billion a year, Russia has the world’s third-largest defense budget. For that, the state boasts 845,000 troops, 22,550 tanks and 1,399 combat aircraft.
Though perhaps not considered the superpower that it once was, since President Vladimir Putin’s re-election in 2012 Russia’s armed forces have gone through a significant transformation. The army is being split into smaller, more dynamic brigades. The focus is on new technologies rather than brute manpower. (For instance, this Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft system is basically a tank with a load of extra cannons sticking out of it.)
Here’s a review of some of Russia’s more menacing military machines:
Bora-class guided missile hovercraft: This ship is actually a catamaran with a skirt that turns it into a hovercraft. Armed with 8 Mosquito missiles and 20 anti-aircraft missiles, the ships have a crew of up to 68 sailors each. It has a cruising speed of 100km an hour.
The Pantsir-S1: A combined short-to-medium range surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft missile system. The system consists of 12 surface-to-air guided missiles and two 30-mm automatic guns effective against planes, helicopters, ballistic and cruise missiles.
The Mig-35 multirole jet fighter: Effective both in air-to-air combat and precision ground strikes. Capable of reaching speeds of up to 2,400 km per hour despite being 30% larger than its predecessor, the Mig-35 is able both to dogfight and destroy sea and surface targets from long range, as well as conducting air reconnaissance missions.
The BUK-2 missile system: This is the battery that allegedly brought down that Malaysian airliner over Ukraine. Its 9M317 missiles can reach 46,000 feet at Mach 3, carrying 154-pound warheads.
The RS-24 Yars: A thermonuclear intercontinental ballistic missile system that can carry multiple independently targetable nuclear warheads with a range of 10,000 miles. Designed to replace Topol-M ballistic missiles it has been operationally deployed since 2010. Each missile has the power of 100 “Little Boys” — the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945.
“The Russian Concorde”: The Tupolev Tu-160 is the world’s largest supersonic combat aircraft. It was designed by the Soviet Union in the 1980s. It boasts the most powerful engines ever on a combat aircraft and has can hold 40,000kg of weaponry. There are currently 16 in service.
The T-90: The most advanced battle tank currently in use in the Russian armed forces. Its main weapon is a 125 mm smoothbore gun with anti-tank capabilities but it also boasts a remote-controlled anti-aircraft heavy machine gun.
At 14,700 tonnes, Borei-class nuclear ballistic missile submarines are slightly smaller than their predecessors, the massive Typhoon-class. But with a capacity of 16 Bulava ballistic missiles, each carrying 6-10 warheads with a range of 8,300km, they are still a force to be reckoned with.
The Russian Mi-28 Havoc attack helicopter: This is the go-to attack helicopter for the Russian Air Force and Army. Its basic armament is a 30mm Shipunov underslung auto-cannon and wingstubs that can carry up to four anti-tank missiles, rocket pods or gun pods.
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!”
Sure, each nation has its own style. But some militaries have introduced dress uniforms so surprising, they’d stop you in your tracks if you saw them in person.
1. French Foreign Legion Pioneers
This engineering unit works like America’s sappers, clearing the way through enemy obstacles so other forces can attack behind them. In their dress uniforms, the pioneers carry ceremonial axes and wear large, leather aprons.
2. Greek Evzones
These light infantry soldiers are a primarily ceremonial unit whose members are pulled from the standard army’s infantry, artillery, and armored corps. The uniform they wear harkens back to the klephts, anti-Ottoman insurgents who fought for Greek independence from the 1400s to 1800s.
3. India Border Security Force
Formed in response to a failure by the State Armed Police to prevent incursions by Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, this young force has grown from a few battalions to over 186 battalions in its 50 years. The headdress is surprising to many visitors to the country, but it’s a common uniform item in the Indian military. Like the U.S. military’s berets, different colors and patterns of headdress indicate different units.
4. India Border Security Force, Camel Contingent
India’s BSF is tasked with guarding a desert border with Pakistan, and so they have camel units which operate in sensitive areas. The camel contingent wears a separate uniform from the rest of the BSF and bedecks its camels in colorful harnesses.
4. Fiji’s Presidential Guard
The sulu is a skirt that is part of Fiji’s national dress, but it can still be surprising for tourists the first time they see ceremonial guards wearing it.
5. Mongolian Army
The uniforms are meant to harken back to the days of the Mongol Empire, as is the white staff with yak hair. The staffs are called tug banners and are white during times of peace, black during times of war. Large processions like this are typically done before Nadaam, the Mongolian independence celebration.
6. South Korean Royal Guard
In 1996, the guards at the main palace of South Korea, Gyeongbokgung, reenacted the changing of the guard conducted during ancient times. The display was popular, so the guard unit protecting the palace has conducted the ceremony for tourists ever since, continuing to wear traditional clothing and carrying traditional weapons throughout the ceremony and their guard shift.
7. The Vatican Swiss Guard
The famed guards of the Vatican are partially known for their bright uniforms. Each uniform weighs 8 pounds and consists of 154 pieces before you count both the traditional and modern weaponry they carry. The uniform was redesigned in 1914, but it was created to match the uniforms the unit wore in the 1500s when they were formed.
Look, video games are awesome and military video games are doubly so. But video game companies are not even trying to capture real deployed life. As they continue bragging about their realistic sound effects and HD graphics, here are 9 features that would actually help gamers get a real combat experience.
1. Make players rehearse a mission four times and then send them on a different one.
The player is briefed on a mission to capture or kill a high-value target. They have to watch a rehearsal on a sand table, then practice in an open field, and finally they assault some fake buildings with their squad to be sure everyone is on the same page.
They climb onto the birds but halfway to the target are diverted to capture an undefended dam before terrorists can blow it up. The player’s squad defends it for three days against nothing before returning to base. A friendly engineer squad then blows up the dam.
2. All calls for fire take at least 10 minutes and miss the first three times.
Artillery units rarely hit their target on the first try in the real world and even airstrikes have trouble getting it right a lot of times. Yet video games which allow a player to call in an airstrike always show rounds cascading down on the exact spot the player asks for.
Instead, the player should have to adjust fire over three or four iterations before actually killing anything. They should also have to wait at least 10 minutes from the first call until the fire mission is fired and rounds begin falling on the target.
3. Random mistakes by other members of your team.
Every once in a while, a squad mate should get their gear stuck on a door handle, trip on their own rucksack strap, or slip on a wet spot in the ground and fall. The player has to decide whether to help their buddy or continue firing at the enemy while attempting to stifle their laughter.
4. Include a 40-lb haptic bodysuit that punches you when you’re shot.
When the player is going into battle, they’re usually wearing a hoodie, some boxers, and a fine layer of chip crumbs. But soldiers wear 40 pounds of armor plus whatever other gear they’re carrying at that moment. So, players should be given a vest that weighs as much as the armor.
As an added bonus, motors and weights could be used to punch the player where their character was just shot. And they could carry an 8-pound controller.
5. Your inventory always includes at least 3 items you’ll never use.
The player should have a limited inventory space, some of which is taken up with “just-in-case” items that never get used. It could be gas masks, backup batteries, whatever. If the player tries to throw them away, the items show up on later patrols as booby traps.
6. Weapon misfires
Anytime the player crawls through mud or sand, it should increase the chance that their weapon misfires. Every 100 rounds without a cleaning should increase the chance of a misfire as well.
7. Can only level up after passing a PT test and reciting random facts from memory
After the player completes a few missions while exhausted from the countless rehearsals in the heavy bodysuit, overcomes misfires at critical moments, and has proven their ability to carry around useless equipment, they should be given the opportunity to level up.
To get selected for the higher level, they just have to score in at least the 80th percentile on a physical training test and recite the muzzle velocities of at least three weapons. Otherwise, the player is sent back to the tent to study. It doesn’t matter what their kill-to-death ratio is. Side note: KTD ratios are not a thing either.
From homemade tanks to nuclear landmines kept warm by chickens, war brings out the engineers in people. When a weapons system works, it’s made by the thousands, and sometimes used for decades. But when it doesn’t, it’s quickly added to the dustbin of bad ideas. Many of these ridiculous, odd, and exceptionally weird weapons were developed by militaries all over the world, but either proved impractical or were canceled before production.
Everyone has heard the phrase “cash is king” but that’s not always the case when troops are deployed overseas.
When service members deploy to remote areas, they enter a barter economy where cash loses value since there is nearly nowhere to spend it. But a shortage of consumer goods drives up the value of many commodities.
Some troops — call them blue falcons or businessmen — will stockpile these commodities for a profit.
Among vets, even non-smokers stockpile cigarettes. They’re easy to trade, hold their value for weeks, and are always in demand. Plus, sellers can reap great profits after patrols. A smoker who lost their cigarettes in a river is not going to haggle the price down if they won’t reach a store for days.
Similar to cigarettes, the addictive nature of dip means it’s always in demand. Dip is slightly harder than cigarettes to trade since users can’t easily break a can into smaller units. But, since troops can’t always smoke on patrol and smoking in government buildings is prohibited, dipping is sometimes the better method of nicotine consumption.
3. Energy drinks (especially “rare” ones)
Part of the reason tobacco is so popular is that it’s a stimulant, something that is desperately needed on deployments. Energy drinks are the other main stimulant that is widely traded. They have different value tiers though.
Drinks the military provides, like Rip-Its, are worth less since they’re easy to get. Monsters are generally available for purchase on large bases. So, they’re are easy to trade but still command high value. Foreign-made drinks, which pack a great kick, can sometimes be found in the local economy and demand the greatest price.
4. Beef jerky
High in protein and salt, jerky is great for marches and patrols. It’s easy to carry and shelf-stable. Troops can trade individual pieces if they want to buy something cheap or use whole bags for large purchases.
5. “Surplus” gear
Every time a unit does inventory, someone is missing something. But, service members with lots of extra cigarettes can always buy someone’s “surplus” gear to replace what they’re missing. Prices vary, of course. Missing earplugs are cheap, but eye protection is expensive.
The only things that can’t be purchased are those tracked by serial number. Replacing something with a serial number requires help from the E-4 mafia.
6. Hard drives (the contents)
Nearly everyone deployed has a computer drive with TV episodes and movies from back home. Old movies are traded for free, but getting new stuff requires the rare dependable internet connection or a care package with DVDs. Those who have digital gold will share new shows in exchange for other items or favors.
7. Electrical outlets
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Johann H. Addicks
These work on a subscription basis. In many tents, there are only a few outlets hooked up to the generator. So, entrepreneurs snatch up real estate with an outlet, buy a power strip, and sell electrical access. The proliferation of portable solar panels is cutting down on this practice.
8. Lighters and matches
Matches are distributed in some MREs, but not as much as they used to be. Lighters are available for purchase at most bases. Still, service members at far-flung outposts are sometimes hurting for ways to light their tobacco. Smart shoppers save up their matches and buy up Bics while near base exchanges, then sell them in outlying areas.
9. Girl Scout cookies
Girl Scout cookies come in waves. Every few weeks, boxes will show up in every office on a forward operating base. Resupply convoys will grab dozens to take out to their troops in the field. But, as the days tick by, inventories will wane. This is especially true of top types like Caramel deLites and Thin Mints.
The trick is to store the boxes after the delivery comes in, and then trade them for needed items when everyone else has run dry. A box of Tagalongs can wrangle a trader two cans of dip if they time it right.
Politicians hold important positions of power, but their job looks boring as hell. Politicians and political writers like to spice up their stories by using military language like “ambush” while describing a heated discussion at the country club, or “the nuclear option” to explain a change in procedural rules in Congress.
The language definitely spices up the stories, but it sounds ridiculous to people who have actually been ambushed or had to contemplate a true nuclear option. Here are 13 terms that make politicians sound melodramatic.
An ambush is a surprise attack launched from a concealed position against an unsuspecting enemy. Some politicians have been ambushed like Julias Caesar or Charles Sumner. But this term gets used to describe things like Republicans proposing a law the Democrats don’t like. That’s not an ambush. It’s just the legislative process.
2. Bite the bullet
Associated with battlefield medicine before anesthetic, to “bite the bullet” is to face down adversity without showing fear or pain. The term is thought to come from battlefield wounded biting bullets to make it through surgery while fully awake. Obviously, politicians on a committee finally doing their jobs shouldn’t be equated with soldiers enduring traumatic medical treatment without anesthesia.
3. Boots on the ground
Boots on the ground has a relatively short history that the BBC investigated. Surprise, it’s a military term. It is used by politicians and most senior military to refer to troops specifically deployed in a ground combat role. “Boots on the ground” numbers don’t generally count Marines guarding embassies or Special Forces advising foreign governments.
What’s surprising is that, though the term is used so narrowly when referring to military operations, it’s used so broadly when referring to political volunteers. Any group of college students knocking on doors or putting up pamphlets can be called “boots-on-the-ground,” even if the volunteers are all wearing tennis shoes and flip-flops.
Not every “D-Day” for the military is the Normandy landings of 1944, but D-Day is still a big deal. It’s the day an operation will kick off, when after months of planning some troops will assault an enemy village or begin a bombing campaign of hostile military bases. In politics, the terms is used to describe election day. This is weird to vets for two reasons. First, D-Day is the first day of an operation, while election day is the final day of an election campaign. But worse, D-Day is when friendly and enemy troops will meet in combat, killing each other. For politicians, it’s when they get a new job or find out they better update their resume.
5. Front lines
The forward most units of a military force, pressed as close to the enemy’s army as the commander will allow, form the frontline. This is typically a physically dangerous place to be, since that means they’re generally within enemy rifle and artillery range. Contrast that with politicians “on the front lines,” who may sit next to their “enemy” and exchange nothing more lethal than passive-aggressive banter.
6. In the crosshairs
Obvious to anyone who has used a rifle scope or watched a sniper movie, someone who is in the crosshairs is in peril of being shot very soon. Political parties who are sparring in the media do not typically find their leaders, “in the enemy’s crosshairs,” as Sarah Palin wrote in a Facebook post according to the Associated Press. Political parties generally fight through press releases and tweets, significantly less dangerous than using rifles.
7. In the trenches
Politicians love to describe themselves as veterans who have spent years in the trenches. Trenches aren’t used much in modern warfare, mostly because of just how horrible trenches are even for a winning army. Trenches fill with water, bugs, and rats. They’re claustrophobic and are easily targeted by enemy artillery and bombers, so they’re a dangerous defense to stay in. Politicians spend very little time in these. When politicians say they were “in the trenches,” they’re generally referring to fundraisers at local restaurants. Oh, the horror.
8. Line of fire
The Guardian once published an article titled “General in the line of fire,” which sounds bloody and dangerous, but is actually about a bunch of attorney generals experiencing harsh criticism, not incoming rounds. The line of fire is the area where all the bullets are flying as enemies try to kill someone. Political lines of fire are just where reporters are asking a lot of hard questions.
9. Nuclear option
Putin has a nuclear option. The U.S. Senate has some control over a nuclear option. However, when Congress changed the rules for a fillibuster, that wasn’t the nuclear option. That was a change in procedural bylaws. It’s easy to tell the difference. One destroys entire cities in moments. The other makes it harder to block a presidential nominee for office.
A scorched-earth political campaign is when a politician is willing to break alliances to win. True scorched earth though, comes when an army breaches the enemy border and starts destroying everything in their path. Atlanta suffered real scorched earth when Maj. Gen. William Sherman burnt the city nearly to the ground while destroying railroads on his way to Savannah.
11. Shock and awe
Like “blitzkrieg” and “all-out war” before it, “shock and awe” is now a popular phrase for describing a political struggle where one side has engaged every asset at their disposal. However, when political fights actually reach the level of blitzkriegs or Operation Shock and Awe, that’s called a civil war. When a politician is spending a bunch of money or smearing an opponent, that’s called campaigning. Completely different things.
12. Take no prisoners
Combat soldiers frequently have to decide whether to try and take prisoners or kill anyone who doesn’t immediately surrender. Politicians, however, should never be in a situation where they decide to take no prisoners. They have an office job. They should only be deciding whether to take a phone call, or whether to take a dump.
13. The War Room/The Situation Room
James Carville and George Stephanopoulos ran President Bill Clinton’s “War Room” for the 1992 elections while Wolf Blitzer anchors the news for CNN from The Situation Room, which CNN describes as “The command center for breaking news.” First, while Clinton’s 1992 run was tumultuous, nothing going into the War Room was on par with combat operations. Second, Wolf Blitzer is not the commander of anything. He’s a photogenic TV personality. Carville was in a political strategy room. Blitzer works in a newsroom.