The U.S. Marine Corps takes their close quarters fighting seriously, even to the point of practicing with real bayonets and knives.
As the only branch of the military that trains all of its members with knives, the Marines have some tips for cutting your enemies to shreds.
Note: Don’t practice knife-fighting without a qualified trainer and only use training knives, never real blades. Seriously. Knives kill people, especially when used as described below.
1. Keep the knife “in the box.”
The box is shoulder-width from neck level down to belt level on the fighter’s own body. Keeping the knife in this “box” prevents the fighter from swinging too wide and giving his opponent the chance to block the attack. The knife should be kept forward and pointed at the aggressor.
2. Target vital areas that are unprotected.
When the opponent is in body armor, exposed vital areas include the carotid arteries in the neck, the lower abdomen and the groin. When the opponent has no armor, the aorta in the chest and abdomen can also be a good target. If none of these are available, the fighter should target key places on the extremities. These include the femoral arteries in the thighs, the brachial arteries on the insides of the arms, and the radial and ulnar nerves in the arms and wrists.
3. Move to the sides
Don’t stay head on with your enemy if you don’t have to. Move at a 45-degree angle to either side of the aggressor to avoid their strike and increase the chances of your strike landing.
4. Knife placement and grip
The knife should be worn on the fighter’s hip on the weak side with the blade down and facing forward. It should be worn far enough back that an enemy could not easily grab it but not so far back the fighter cannot reach it. When pulled for a fight, the knife should be gripped naturally. If the knife is properly placed, reaching across and grabbing it with a natural grip will result in the fighter holding the weapon in their strong hand with the knife pointed forward.
Marines knife-fight from the Basic Warrior Stance. They hold their left hand vertically as a shield to protect their ribs, head, and neck. With their right hand, they point their weapon towards the aggressor while holding it close to the body to prevent the enemy from stealing it.
A new Military Times article found that the U.S. military has a bit of a weight problem, with the Army taking the top spot as the nation’s fattest, with 10.5 percent of its soldiers being overweight. The Military Times found 7.8 of the U.S. military overall are clinically obese, according to Pentagon data.
But the military branches have some obvious choices that could help troops maintain healthier weights, making it easier to fight on future battlefields. While this article focuses on potential fixes for the Army, all the branches have similar ways to win the battle of the bulge.
1. Seriously, it’s time have to look at DFAC design
So, meats and other main plate items are rationed out by military cooks and contractors who work at dining facilities, but desserts and soda are available for troops to grab for themselves.
Surely, a military fighting a weight problem would rather its soldiers choose more lean proteins and complex carbs than sugary desserts. So why not make the healthier option the easier one? Admittedly, the proteins cost more than the desserts, but replacing a soldier who becomes too fat to serve is pretty expensive too.
2. Increase the ratio of nutrition classes to information assurance classes
Classes on not sleeping with foreign spies (SAEDA) and not downloading viruses to government computers (IA) are annual training requirements. But most service members will never receive a comprehensive class on nutrition and fitness unless they are already flagged for being overweight.
Many posts have these classes, but they’re not required and are minimally advertised, if at all. Troops who want to enroll in nutrition or weight loss classes can usually find one by checking for the nutrition clinic at their base hospital.
3. Take a hard look at the nutrition cards in the DFAC
The Army’s Go For Green® program has specific criteria for food categories. (Screenshot from quartermaster.army.mil)
The Army has a fairly comprehensive program for determining the nutritional quality of food. Dishes are categorized by color to quickly tell troops whether a certain item is dubbed a “High Performance Food,” “Moderate Performance Food,” or a “Low Performance Food.”
But, the Army’s labels can be confusing. For instance, its hamburger yakisoba contains a whopping 813 mg of sodium, a level that would — according to the Army’s charts — qualify a dish for the “Low Performance Food” category. But, it’s labeled green, just like oven-baked chicken which contains fewer calories, fat, and sodium as well as more protein and calcium.
Meanwhile, tropical baked pork chops have fewer calories, about the same amount of fat, and more protein than yakisoba while containing 79 percent less sodium. But they carry a red label.
4. Encourage self-referrals to supplemental PT sessions and nutrition classes
A soldier who voluntarily enters a substance abuse program cannot — according to Army Regulation 623-3, paragraph 3-24 — be penalized on his evaluation report for drug addiction.
But no such protection exists for soldiers who refer themselves to a physical fitness program. So soldiers who tell their command that they have a weight problem can be penalized for the weight problem that they self-identified and asked for help.
5. All PT sessions should help you prepare for combat (not just build esprit de corps)
It was basically a mantra in most physical training sessions that this writer attended that, “Unit PT builds esprit de corps and unit cohesion. It’s not designed to help you pass the PT test.”
Now most of the PT sessions did build towards military performance and test success. But, shouldn’t all, or at least nearly all, physical training sessions train the soldier’s physical body? And leaders do have top-cover for this approach.
Army Field Manual 7-22 only recommends a single PT event as being solely for esprit de corps instead of physical training, the unit formation run. In paragraph 10-34, the guide states that these runs, “should be performed no more than once per quarter due to the limited training effect offered for the entire unit.” Yeah. This former active duty soldier had to run those things weekly.
There are movies that fizzle, and then there are movies that last for generations.
At any given moment on any given ship, one of these movies is guaranteed to be on rotation. They’re not only relatable, but timeless too. For example, “Cinderella Liberty” was made in the 1970s and yet a variation of the plot still happens to sailors in today’s Navy. And, when sailors watch “Master and Commander” they realize that the Navy hasn’t changed much since the 1800s.
Then, there are movies like “Top Gun” and “Officer and a Gentleman” that motivated a generation of sailors to join the service. “Top Gun” debuted in 1986 and until this day you can hear the echoes of aviators throughout the ship referring to each other as Maverick and Goose (our resident ex-naval aviator Ward Carroll disagrees. We’re guessing he’s a huge “Behind Enemy Lines” fan instead).
Another reason for the longevity of these films is because sailors relate to different characters at different stages of their careers. Early on they see themselves as Mayo in “Officer and a Gentleman” and years later they find themselves relating to Lt. Cmdr. Ron Hunter in “Crimson Tide.”
Here’s our list of movies movies every sailor needs to watch. Got any more? Add them to the comments.
This Navy engineer is transferred to a new ship in a foreign land where tensions are high with the United States. He doesn’t get along with the shipmates or the skipper and to make matters worse, he gets implicated in an incident that could cause full out war. Every sailor will relate to Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Holman played by Steve McQueen at some point in their career.
Set during the Cold War, the USSR’s best submarine captain and crew plan to defect to the United States without triggering full out war. After watching this movie, you’ll realize that the USSR Navy isn’t very different from the U.S. Navy.
Although this film is recent compared to the others, it made our list for its timelessness. With phrases such as port side, starboard, head, and others, sailors quickly realize that if they were to be transported to the 1800s that they would still make good sailors.
The military has a lot of rules and some of them are hard to follow every day in every instance. We’re not saying that everyone should be prosecuted under any of these articles, we’re just saying that a lot of people technically break these rules.
1. DISRESPECT TOWARD SUPERIOR COMMISSIONED OFFICER (ART. 89)
“Any person subject to this chapter who behaves with disrespect toward his superior commissioned officer shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”
“Can’t spell lost without the LT!” called in cadence in the presence of an officer is technically a violation of Article 89.
Interestingly, this is one of the few times where the word, “toward,” in an article doesn’t require that the victim be present. Service members can be prosecuted under Article 89 for disrespecting an officer even if that officer didn’t hear or see anything. For the NCO equivalent listed below, the NCO or warrant officer must be present and hear or witness the disrespect.
(1) strikes or assaults a warrant officer, noncommissioned officer, or petty officer, while that officer is in the execution of his office;
(2) willfully disobeys the lawful order of a warrant officer, noncommissioned officer, or petty officer; or
(3) treats with contempt or is disrespectful in language or deportment toward a warrant officer, noncommissioned officer, or petty officer while that officer is in the execution of his office;
shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”
Anyone who has mouthed off to a superior NCO or warrant officer is guilty, provided they knew that the person was an NCO or warrant officer at the time. Talking back to a squad leader could trigger Article 91. This also covers assaulting or disobeying a lawful order from a superior NCO or warrant officer.
3. MILITARY PROPERTY OF UNITED STATES-LOSS, DAMAGE, DESTRUCTION, OR WRONGFUL DISPOSITION (ART. 108)
“Any person subject to this chapter who, without proper authority–
(1) sells or otherwise disposes of;
(2) willfully or through neglect damages, destroys, or loses; or
(3) willfully or through neglect suffers to be lost, damaged, sold, or wrongfully disposed of;
any military property of the United States, shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”
Getting the corpsman or medic to give an unnecessary I.V. or walking off with a couple of MREs falls under Article 108. Even painting hilarious graffiti on a bunker counts.
Side note: Some people like to claim that this article forbids troops from getting sunburn because that’s damage to “government property.” The Stars and Stripes Rumor Doctor investigated this and experts in military law told him this isn’t true for two reasons. First, service members are not military property. Second, the government has to quantify the damage done to the property which is nearly impossible when referring to a human being.
4. PROPERTY OTHER THAN MILITARY PROPERTY OF UNITED STATES – WASTE, SPOILAGE, OR DESTRUCTION (ART. 109)
“Any person subject to this chapter who willfully or recklessly wastes, spoils, or otherwise willfully and wrongfully destroys or damages any property other than military property of the United States shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”
This article is pretty broad, referring to any willful or reckless destruction of someone else’s personal property. So service members who vandalize a porta-potty rented from a vendor are technically guilty. In practice of course, the damage needs to be worth investigating and the government has to prove a certain person committed the act at a specified place and time.
5. GENERAL ARTICLE (ART. 134)
“Though not specifically mentioned in this chapter, all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty, shall be taken cognizance of by a general, special or summary court-martial, according to the nature and degree of the offense, and shall be punished at the discretion of that court.”
There are many ways to fall foul of Article 134, but the most common is probably using indecent language. Any indecent language, especially if it causes “lustful thoughts,” can trigger the article.
Life in the military is unpredictable and something new happens every single day. It can be hard to keep up but, luckily, there are plenty of talented photographers standing by, ready to capture the most poignant moments.
Here are this week’s best photos from across the military:
(U.S. Air Force photo by Naoto Anazawa)
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Carlos Howard, 18th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, and his MWD, Kitkat, rest before conducting detection training at the Kadena Teen Center April 5, 2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Howard and Kitkat trained together to strengthen their bond.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)
Staff Sgt. James Baker, left, and Master Sgt. Jeff Nieding, both 71st Rescue Squadron loadmasters, sit on the ramp in the rear of an HC-130J Combat King II, March 30, 2018, in the skies over Florida. As loadmasters, they are responsible for calculating aircraft weight and balance records, maintaining the cargo manifest, conducting cargo and personnel airdrops, and troubleshooting in-flight problems.
(U.S. Army photo by Lt. Col. John Hall)
The colors are held high as a paratrooper from the 173rd Airborne Brigade leads his company in a 2.2 mile full combat equipment run around the Del Din Base in Italy.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Tyson Friar)
The 2-501st General Support Aviation Battalion, 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation Brigade conducted a Field Training Exercise which began when a CH-47 Chinook helicopter simulating an air-assault was shot down, April 3, 2018. The pilots and flight crews spent the following two days sharpening their ‘Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape’ skills as they evade the operational forces. This realistic, readiness-building exercise prepares these Soldiers in the event they experience such a scenario in combat, where these lifesaving skills will be vital.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David A. Brandenburg/Released)
Sailors assigned to the Black Aces of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 41 conduct maintenance on an F/A-18E Super Hornet in the hangar bay aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). John C. Stennis is underway conducting training in preparation for its next scheduled deployment.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan M. Breeden/Released)
Cpl. Joaquin Barrios mans a GAU-17 mini-gun while overlooking the Essex Amphibious Ready Group during a simulated force protection exercise.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Drake Nickels)
U.S. Marines with 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Fox Battery, carryout training on the lightweight 155mm howitzer on Camp Pendleton, Calif., April 5, 2018. The Marines conducted the training to maintain proficiency and mission readiness.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin/Released)
U.S. Marines assigned to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron (MAWTS) 1 prepare for an aviation ordnance disposal and close air support exercise in support of Weapons and Tactics Instructor course 2-18 at Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, Ariz., April 3. WTI is a seven-week training event hosted by MAWTS-1 cadre, which emphasizes operational integration of the six functions of Marine Corps aviation in support of a Marine Air Ground Task Force and provides standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics.
(Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Hunter Medley)
Crewmembers from Coast Guard Cutter Hawser and Coast Guard Cutter Wire, homeported in Bayonne, NJ, take part in emergency signaling device training Tuesday, Apr. 3, 2018. Flares are lifesaving visual signaling devices that can be used day or night to alert emergency responders and fellow boaters to an emergency.
Russian military inventions tend toward the brutally practical: tanks, planes, and guns that are cheap and easy to produce. But they were also known for experimenting with wacky, expensive concepts. Here are some of their crazier inventions:
The Battle of Okinawa, known as Operation Iceberg by the Allies, eventually consisted of 306,000 service members assaulting fierce defenses manned by 130,000 Japanese troops and an unknown number of local civilians, including children, drafted into the defenses.
The island was critical for the planned invasion of Japan, but the losses were enormous.
Here are 33 photos that give a look inside of one of America’s most costly battles of World War II:
1. For days before the invasion, Navy ships bombarded the island with naval artillery and rockets. This photo was taken five days before the amphibious assault.
2. A Navy Corsair fires a salvo of rockets during Operation Iceberg, the Allied effort to capture Okinawa, the largest of the Ryukyu Islands.
3. The USS Idaho shells the island of Okinawa on April 1, 1945.
4. Marines land on the beachhead already secured on the island. These infantrymen will continue pressing the attack against approximately 130,000 defenders.
5. U.S. landing ships sit beached and burning on May 4 near the mouth of the Bishi River after a Japanese air attack.
6. Famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle speaks with U.S. Marines a short time before his death on the island.
7. A long exposure photograph shows the crisscrossing lines of Marine anti-aircraft fire over the U.S. airfield established on Okinawa.
8. A May 11, 1945, morning artillery barrage kicks off an all-out offensive.
9. Japanese rockets rain down on and near U.S. positions during heavy fighting on Okinawa.
10. The infamous battleship Yamato, sent to Okinawa to attempt to beach itself and act as a shore battery until destroyed, is sank at sea on April 7 before it can reach the island.
11. Army Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr., at right, surveys fighting just a few hours before Japanese artillery killed him.
12. A Sherman tank drives past a burning home. The structure was set on fire to prevent its use by snipers.
13. Marines attempt to extinguish the flames on an overturned Sherman tank. The ammo later exploded before the Army crew could be rescued.
14. Engineers construct a causeway from the island to the sea to allow supplies to be trucked from ships to shore.
15. American service members move supplies by horse in areas where the mud was impassable for vehicles.
16. Okinawan civilians hired to carry supplies line up to receive their loads.
17. A flamethrowing tank attacks Hill 60 during the Marine assault on the mound.
18. A Japanese plane goes down in flames over the ocean.
19. The HMS Formidable of the Royal Navy burns after a May 4 Kamikaze attack. Eight crew members were lost and 55 injured, but the Formidable survived the war.
20. Marine Corps infantrymen ride a tank to the town of Ghuta on April 1 to occupy it before Japanese defenders can.
21. A Marine sprints across the “Valley of Death,” a draw covered by Japanese machine guns that caused 125 casualties in eight hours.
22. Marines explode dynamite charges to destroy a Japanese cave on the island.
23. The USS Bunker Hill burns after two Kamikaze strikes in less than a minute. At least 346 sailors were killed and 43 went missing.
24. The Bunker Hill survived and returned to the U.S. for repairs. It served as a troop transport after the war before it was sent to the fleet reserve.
25. Wounded sailors are moved from the Bunker Hill to the USS Wilkes Barre.
26. Army soldiers move forward during the 82-day battle.
27. A private cuts a sergeant’s hair in the Japanese city of Shuri on the island. A medieval castle in the city survived the battle.
28. Marines rest on the side of a hill as Japanese fire prevents their further advance.
29. A tank crewmember is relocated after suffering injuries.
30. Wounded troops await transport to a ship hospital.
31. Marine Lt. Col. R.P. Ross, Jr. places an American flag on Shuri castle on May 29, 1945. Ross was under sniper fire at the time.
32. The American flag is raised over the island June 22 in a ceremony marking the end of organized Japanese resistance.
33. A U.S. servicemember visits an American cemetery. The U.S. suffered over 12,000 killed and 50,000 wounded during the battle. Japan suffered over 150,000 soldiers and civilians killed or committed suicide.
Many Soldiers seek Air Assault School as a simple way to get a skill badge for gloating rights. It’s only two weeks of sliding down ropes — how hard could it be? Kinda difficult, actually, if you’re not prepared.
Being a dope-on-a-rope is the fun part, but cocky and unprepared soldiers will often get dropped before they reach that point. To get the opportunity to really learn what rotor wash is, you’re going to have to do a lot of work. There’s a lot more to the school than you might think. Here’s what you need to know if you want to make it through.
I honestly don’t know if that guy was planted there by the instructors, but we all got the message. There’s no messing around at this school.
(Photo by Army Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton)
If you’re at the Sabalauski Air Assault School, for the love of all that is holy, don’t sh*t-talk the 101st Airborne
If you’re stationed at Fort Campbell, home of the Sabalauski Air Assault School, you’re more than likely going to be voluntold to attend. The 101st is pretty fond of their Air Assault status and almost everyone at the school is rocking their Old Abe.
If you’re not in the 101st and are attending on TDY, it’s ill-advised to sport an 82nd patch or Airborne wings. You might get pestered if you do, but won’t get kicked out or anything. All of that goes out the window, however, if you mouth off about the divisional rivalry.
Just how easy is it to get kicked? Here’s a fun, true story: A guy standing next to me on Day Zero couldn’t hold his tongue. He told the instructor, who kept his composure throughout, that “if you choking chickens can do this, so can I.” The instructor just opened the fool’s canteen, poured some water out, shook it near his ear, and told the idiot that he was a no-go before he could set foot on the obstacle course.
Get as much time on obstacle courses as you can before attending
The Day-Zero obstacle course isn’t that physically demanding. Every obstacle is designed so that everyone from the biggest gym rat to the smallest dude can pass. It’s more of a thought exercise than a physical exam.
The challenge that gets the most people is the rope climb. You can climb a rope with almost no effort if you carefully use your feet to create temporary anchors as you work your way up. Check out the video below for a visual example.
The “Air Assault” that will forever play in your head will remind you why your knees are blown out at 25.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Matthew Hecht)
Get used to saying “Air Assault” at least 7000 times a day
“When that left foot hits the ground, all I want to hear is that Air Assault sound.” This literally means you’ll be saying, “Air Assault” every single time your left foot hits the ground while you’re at the school. It’s not very pleasant considering it’s a three-syllable phrase and you’ll be uttering it every other second.
The answer to every question is “Air Assault.” Every movement is “Air Assault.” You’ll probably start mumbling the phrase after a while, but don’t let the instructors catch you doing it.
Also, don’t sleep in class. That’s a shortcut to getting kicked.
(Photo by Army Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton)
There’s actually a lot of math
After you’re done with the obstacle course, the first phase is all about the helicopters. You’ll be expected to memorize every specification of every single helicopter in the Army’s roster.
And, yes, you’ll need to brush up on your basic math skills to plot out how far apart each helicopter should be given their size and area of landing. But don’t worry, you’ll get to the fun stuff soon enough.
Another heads up: That yellow stick thing is super important. You don’t want to learn the hard way why you have to poke the helicopter with it.
(Photo by Pfc. Alexes Anderson)
Expect to do more sling-load operations than fast roping
Oh, you thought Air Assault was all about jumping out of helicopters and quickly touching on what it takes to be a Pathfinder? That’s hilarious. You’re now going to be qualified for a detail that will almost always come up when you’re deployed: sling-loading gear to the bottom of helicopters.
The math skills and carrying capacities you crammed into your brain will ensure that you’re the go-to guy whenever a sling-load mission comes up. It’s only after that test that you move onto the repelling phase. This is when things gets fun.
Do units still do blood wings? Probably not. It’s not that bad, really.
(Photo by Sgt. Mickey Miller)
Make sure your 12-mile ruck march is up to speed
If you’re in a combat arms unit, making a 12-mile ruck march in under three hours isn’t asking much. That’s just one mile every fifteen minutes if you pace yourself properly. The ruck is the absolute last thing you’ll be doing at Air Assault School, just moments before graduation. And yet, people still fail.
If your unit came to cheer you on and give you your blood wings and you can’t complete the elementary ruck march at the end, you’ll never live down the fact that you failed while everyone was finding parking.
The U.S. military is awash in regulations, laws, and official traditions. How troops march and salute, what uniform to wear to what event, or what you are supposed to say when greeting a superior are all examples of “on-the-books” behaviors expected of service members.
And then there are the “off-the-books” traditions. They are the unwritten rules: traditions that go back way before the books were printed. These activities — especially the ones involving hazing — are often frowned upon, but still continue to happen, usually without any official recognition.
Here are eight examples.
1. Fighter pilots (or members of flight crew) get hosed down after their final flight.
The “fighter pilot mafia” is definitely a thing in the Air Force and Navy, which is the nickname for the pilot sub-culture within each service. Soon after aviators get to a new unit they will go through an unofficial ceremony of receiving their callsigns, and they usually are not very flattering.
On the flip side is the final flight. Much like a football coach gets a giant cooler of Gatorade dumped over their head at the end of a game, pilots sometimes will get hosed down with water by their comrades. In some cases, they’ll be doused with champagne.
In the case of Maj. Vecchione (shown below), his peers also threw string cheese, flour, and mayonnaise on him. Personally, I would’ve thrown in some ketchup and mustard, but hell, I wasn’t there.
2. At a military wedding with a sword detail, the wife gets a sword-tap to her booty to “welcome her” to the family.
Nothing like a little tradition that allows some dude to tap your brand new wife on the butt. When a service member wants to go through the pageantry of having a “military wedding” — wearing their uniform at the altar and bringing along a sword detail — they can expect that at the end of it all, some random dude will be sexually harassing his wife for the sake of tradition.
It goes like this: On the way out right after the ceremony, the couple passes over an arch of swords on both sides. They go through, kiss, go through, kiss, then they get to the last one. Once they reach the final two and pass, one of the detail will lower their sword, tap the bride, and say “welcome to the Army [or Marine Corps, etc]!”
Here’s the Navy version:
3. When a Navy ship crosses the equator, sailors perform the “crossing the line” ceremony, which frankly, involves a lot of really weird stuff.
The Crossing the Line ceremony goes far back to the days of wooden ships. According to this Navy public affairs story, sailors were put through this hazing ritual designed to test whether they could endure their first time out at sea.
These days, sailors crossing the line for the first time — called Pollywogs or Wogs for short — can expect an initiation into the club of those who have done it before, referred to as Shellbacks. During the two-day event, the “Court of Neptune” inducts the Wogs into “the mysteries of the deep” with activities like having men dress up as women, drink stuff like a wonderful mix of hot sauce and aftershave, or make them crawl on their hands and knees in deference to King Neptune. I swear I’m not making any of this up.
In the modern military that is decidedly against hazing rituals, the events have toned down quite a bit. In 1972 a sailor may have expected to be kissing the “Royal Baby’s belly button,” which again, is totally a real thing.
Nowadays however, there’s much less of that sort of thing, and the Navy stresses that it’s all completely voluntary (ask any sailor, however, and they’ll probably tell you it’s “voluntary” with big air quotes).
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
4. Before going on deployment, Marine infantrymen who have never deployed need to shave their heads.
Don’t ask me where this unwritten rule came from or why — other than to distinguish who the total boots in the platoon were — but Marine grunts who have never done a deployment are often told to shave their heads before they move out.
Again, this is one of those “voluntary” you-don’t-have-to-do-this-if-you-don’t-want-to kind of things, but there were 3 guys in my platoon who decided to keep their hair before deploying to Okinawa in 2003. Interestingly enough, they were put on plenty of cleanup details and other not-so-fun jobs as a result.
5. When achieving the next rank or earning parachute wings or other insignia, a service member may get “blood-pinned,” though it’s rare these days.
Soldiers who get through five successful jumps at Airborne School in the past could expect to get “blood wings,” but that practice has died down in recent years as the public has learned of it. After a superior pinned their wings on, a soldier would get their new badge slammed into their chest, which often draws blood.
This kind of thing is frowned upon — and prohibited under military regulations — but it still sometimes happens. In some cases, it’s considered a rite of passage and kind of an honor. I personally endured pinning ceremonies that I volunteered for when I picked up the ranks of lance corporal and corporal.
6. Some units have mustache-growing contests in training or on deployment to see who can achieve the most terrible-looking ‘stache.
The military regulations on facial hair offer little in the way of good looking when it comes to shaves. Most men are not allowed to grow beards (except for some special operators) and although they are allowed, mustaches are generally frowned upon. Why they are frowned upon usually comes down to how terrible they often look.
Don’t expect any mustache greatness ala Rollie Fingers; troops usually have to keep the mustache neatly trimmed within the corners of their mouth. Those regulations give way to the terribleness derived from the “CAX ‘stache,” which is what Marines refer to as the weird-looking Hitler-like mustache they’ll grow out while training at 29 Palms.
These contests sometimes extend overseas, especially when junior troops are away from the watchful eyes of their senior enlisted leaders. But whenever the sergeant major is around, you might want to police that moostache.
7. First-year West Point cadets have a giant pillow fight to blow off steam after the summer is over.
Before they become the gun-toting leaders of men within the United States Army, first year cadets are beating the crap out of each with pillows in the school’s main courtyard. The annual event is organized by the students and has occurred since at least 1897, according to The New York Times.
While it’s supposed to be a light-hearted event featuring fluffy pillows filled with things that are, you know, soft, some [blue falcon] cadets have decided to turn the event bloody in recent years. One first-year cadet told The Times in September: “The goal was to have fun, and it ended up some guys just chose to hurt people.”
That quote came from a story that broke months ago after the “fun” pillow fight ended with at least 30 cadets requiring medical attention, 24 of which were concussions.
8. Naval Academy midshipmen climb a lard-covered monument for a hat.
Around the same time that first-year West Point cadets are beating each other and causing concussions, 1,000 screaming Navy midshipmen are charging toward a 21-foot monument covered in lard with a hat on top. The goal: Retrieve the first-year “plebe” hat and replace it with an upperclassmen hat, a task which signifies their transition to their next year at the Academy.
Beforehand, upperclassmen hook up the plebes with about 200 pounds of greasy lard slapped on the sides of the Herndon Monument, making their task a bit more difficult. They need to use teamwork and dedication to climb their way to the top, which can take anywhere from minutes to over four hours (Class of 1995 has the longest time 4 hours, 5 minutes).
According to the Academy’s website, the tradition is that the first guy to make it to the top will likely rise to the rank of admiral first. That is if he or she doesn’t get themselves fired first.
Though one wouldn’t expect much from an armored vehicle developed by the Food Machinery Corporation, the M113 has become ubiquitous on the battlefield. In nearly 60 years of service, the M113 has found its way into the inventories of over 20 different countries and served in war zones across the globe.
As various militaries realized the utility of the platform, they greatly modified them for their own needs. Here are 9 of the coolest examples:
1. Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicle
Early in its service in Vietnam, it became apparent that the M113 needed to be more than just a “battle taxi” — it needed to bring some guns to the fight. To remedy this, Vietnamese, and later American, units made field-expedient improvements that led to the development of the Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicle, or ACAV.
Mounting a single .50 caliber machine gun and two M60’s behind armored gun shields, the ACAV became a rolling gun platform that could deliver massive firepower.
2. M132 Armored Flamethrower
The jungles of Vietnam led to another development of the M113 — the M132 Flamethrower. Replacing the cupola with a flame turret and filling the passenger compartment with 200 gallons of flame fuel, the M132 was the mechanized equivalent of a fire-breathing dragon.
3. Missile Launcher
Numerous countries used the M113 platform to launch missiles, particularly anti-aircraft missiles. But, for the United States the M113 would join the nuclear triad when it was modified as a Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL) for the Pershing I nuclear missile system. Other modified 113’s served as support vehicles in these operations.
4. Medium Reconnaissance Vehicle
M113 Medium Reconnaissance Vehicle in the Puckapunyal Army Camp, Victoria, Australia. (Photo: Wiki user Bukvoed)
Almost as soon as the Australians received the M113’s, they began splicing them together with other components. First, they took the turrets from their retiring Saladin armored cars and mounted them on the M113 to make the Fire Support Vehicle.
This vehicle was just an interim measure, though, while the Medium Reconnaissance Vehicle was being developed. This vehicle used the newer turret from British FV101 Scorpion tanks along with upgrades to the hull.
5. Air Defense Anti-Tank System
The Air Defense Anti-Tank System, or ADATS, was a unique dual-purpose system designed to fight low flying aircraft and oncoming tanks. The Canadians mounted it on the ever-versatile M113 for mobility purposes. Armed with eight missiles and a power search radar, this created a formidable piece of defensive equipment.
6. M163 VADS
The United States used the M113 for a variety of anti-aircraft platforms, but the coolest was the M163 VADS.
VADS, or Vulcan Air Defense System, was the anti-aircraft platform for the M61 20mm Gatling Gun used in American fighter aircraft. With all systems mounted on the venerable M113, the VADS, in conjunction with short-range missile systems, provided a highly mobile and deadly effective anti-aircraft system.
In Israeli service, the VADS was credited with downing a MiG 21 while under heavy fire and transitioning from ground targets to aerial.
In the late 1990s, the Italian defense firm ARIS SpA made one of the most radical modifications to the M113 by making it fully ship-to-shore capable.
The M113 was always designed to be amphibious but the modifications made by ARIS, known as the Arisgator, put the M113 in league with the USMC’s Amtracs. Buoyancy was improved by adding a long bow section as well as two stern sections that also mounted propellers to move the 113 through the water.
8. Danish Mk I/Egyptian Infantry Fighting Vehicle
What do you get when you mount a Swiss autocannon and a German machine gun in an Italian turret and marry that to and American APC?
You get Denmark’s version of the M113, known as the Mk I. Mounting a Oerlikon-Contraves 25mm autocannon, a German MG3 coaxial 7.62mm machine gun, and an Italian Oto Melara turret with advanced optics the Danes got an IFV just to their liking.
In the same vein, but uniquely more American, the Egyptians upgraded their large fleet of 113’s with the powerful turret assembly from the M2 Bradley to create the Egyptian Infantry Fighting Vehicle.
9. Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle
The Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle, or AIFV, was initially sought by the United States Army for its own Infantry Fighting Vehicle but when the M2 Bradley was chosen instead other governments picked up the idea.
The AIFV uses a modified M113 platform and mounts a one-man turret with a 25mm autocannon and a 7.62mm machine gun set behind the engine on the vehicle’s right side. The crew compartment holds seven troops, facing out, with five firing ports for mounted fighting.
To observe Purple Heart Day, WATM is celebrating some of the heroes we’ve featured on the site who kept fighting after they were wounded:
1. Air Force combat controller Robert Gutierrez thought he would die within three minutes after being shot through the lung in Afghanistan, but he kept calling in air strikes, saving his element and earning himself the Air Force Cross.
2. Joe Pinder left professional baseball to volunteer for the Army in World War II. He was wounded almost immediately after leaving his boat on D-Day, but refused medical aid and searched through the surf and chaos to find missing radio equipment. He finished finding and assembling the missing equipment right before he was killed.
5. Nine Green Berets and Afghan Commandos were seriously wounded but kept fighting in the Battle of Shok Valley, including Staff Sgt. Daniel Behr who had his leg nearly amputated by enemy fire at the start of the conflict but stayed in the fight for another 6 hours.
7. The possible first casualty on D-Day was an airborne lieutenant who was mortally wounded before jumping into Normandy, meaning he could have stayed on the plane and sought medical attention. He led his paratroopers out the door anyway.
8. 2nd Lt. Daniel Inouye was shot just before he took out two German machine gun nests with grenades and a Thompson submachine gun. Then, after his arm was nearly severed by an enemy grenade, he took out a third machine gun nest.
There are things common to the military no matter what branch a service-member joins, and they often extend outside the front gate of the installation. We all have a type, right?
Whether in the Air Force or the Army, troops can count on regulations sometimes making no sense, or running into the same types of people during their daily routine. But outside of bases — which are often a major driver of the local economy — there are archetypes that exist just about everywhere. Here they are.
1. The civilian girl at the bar who knows military rank structure way too well.
You’re at the local watering hole kicking back a few beers with your friends, and you see a pretty girl at the other end of the bar. So you get up, walk over, and introduce yourself. “Oh, are you a soldier?” she asks, as if the haircut and demeanor doesn’t give it away. “What rank are you?”
Just run away. Now.
2. The retired sergeant major or chief who corrects you at the gas station.
Troops are basically free and clear of the military once they get past the gate of a base outside of a big populated area like Camp Pendleton (Orange County-San Diego, Calif.) or Fort Jackson (Columbia, S.C.), but that isn’t always the case in some other posts. At places like Camp Lejeune (Jacksonville, N.C.) or Minot Air Force Base (Minot, N.D.), the base is arguably one of the main drivers of the local economy, and many people are connected to it in some way.
And for some military retirees especially, sticking close to their old base gives them the opportunity to stay connected to their service — by telling you how terrible your haircut is at the local gas station.
3. The guy at the tattoo parlor who has put the same lame tattoo on everyone since Vietnam.
The town surrounding a military base is pretty much guaranteed to have a good assortment of tattoo parlors. But the tattoo parlors don’t really have an assortment of different designs. Marine bases can expect “USMC” in every possible font, while sailors will see plenty of anchors to choose from on the wall. And the artist has been tattoing the same designs for so long, he or she can probably do it in their sleep.
4. The shady used car dealer who thinks E-1 and up can easily afford a brand new 2015 Ford Mustang at 37% interest.
The used car dealer is guaranteed to be a stone’s throw away from the base gate, and it usually has signs that read “E-1 and Up!” along with “We Support our Troops!” Most of the time, the way they support the troops is by screwing them out of their hard-earned money with insanely lopsided deals.
“Oh hey, I’m a former Marine too, so I’ll definitely hook you up, brother,” is probably a red flag from the salesman. Another red flag is your financing statement showing an interest rate consisting of more than one number. Go somewhere else, so you don’t end up paying $100,000 over a period of six years for a Ford Taurus.
5. The guy at the Pawn Shop selling gear that suspiciously went missing from the back of your car last week. We don’t like this type.
You may have heard the phrase “gear adrift, gear a gift.” As it turns out, that gear may sometimes end up as a gift being sold at the local pawn shop. Or on eBay.
6. The police officer who used to be in the military but isn’t cutting you any slack on this speeding ticket.
You may be able to pull the military veteran card in small town U.S.A. to help you get out of a ticket, but outside of a major military installation — where the cops are pretty much pulling over troops all day long — that probably isn’t a good strategy.
Especially when you run into a cop who used to be in your shoes a couple years ago. Of course, you could always just, you know, slow down.
What other types of people or places do you always see outside the base? Leave us a comment.