U.S. troops obey a set of legal guidelines called the Uniform Code of Military Justice. While the UCMJ mirrors civilian law in many ways, there are some laws on the military books that are unique and somewhat bizarre.
Here’s a sampling of six of them:
Sorry, all you potential Aaron Burrs. Dueling isn’t allowed in the U.S. military. You cannot pull out your sword, pistol, or even your fists and challenge someone who has wronged you to a duel. According to the manual, “Any person subject to this chapter who fights or promotes, or is concerned in or connives at fighting a duel, or who, having knowledge of a challenge sent or about to be sent, fails to report the fact promptly to the proper authority, shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”
Maximum punishment: Dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 1 year.
2. Drinking liquor with prisoners
If you’re standing post and guarding a prisoner, you aren’t supposed to give him or her booze. We thought this one was pretty weird, but the existence of such a law makes us think that someone, somewhere, must have actually done this one. But, umm, why?
Maximum punishment: Confinement for 3 months and forfeiture of two-thirds pay per month for 3 months.
3. Indecent language
Profanity and dirty jokes are a crime, at least in the U.S. military. We’ve all heard the phrase “cuss like a sailor,” but that sailor can actually be busted for having a potty mouth. According to the manual, “‘Indecent’ language is that which is grossly offensive to modesty, decency, or propriety, or shocks the moral sense, because of its vulgar, filthy, or disgusting nature, or its tendency to incite lustful thought.”
This one probably isn’t enforced all that often, but it does carry some stiff punishments when it is.
Maximum punishment: Communicated to any child under the age of 16 years: Dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 2 years. Other cases: Bad-conduct discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 6 months.
4. Jumping from vessel into the water
If you accidentally fall off a ship, you won’t get in trouble. But if you take a plunge intentionally, there can be some consequences. If you plan on taking a dip, make sure your commander says it’s ok first.
Maximum punishment: Bad-conduct discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 6 months.
Cheating on your spouse can get you kicked out of the military altogether, among other possible punishments. While not a unique law to the military — 21 states have anti-adultery laws on the books that are rarely enforced — commanders do sometimes charge service members with this crime.
Still, adultery charges are a bit hard to stick, since they can be difficult to prove, according to About.com.
Maximum punishment: Dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 1 year.
Troops who fall behind or lose their way on marches or runs can find themselves in legal trouble. While a straggler on a hike is often just told to “hurry up” and motivated to continue by their non-commissioned officers, this offense is punishable under the UCMJ. “‘Straggle’ means to wander away, to stray, to become separated from, or to lag or linger behind,” the manual states.
Maximum punishment: Confinement for 3 months and forfeiture of two-thirds pay per month for 3 months.
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.
Julius Caesar had a pretty bad day at work on March 15, 44 BCE. The dictator of Rome was lured to a meeting and stabbed to death by his coworkers.
He would’ve done well to beware the Ides of March.
Several years earlier, the politician and general had rose to power in a civil war. His assassination sparked yet another civil war that doomed the Roman Republic. The state ended up mutating into an empire, with Caesar’s adopted heir, Octavian, at the helm.
Today, Caesar is still considered one of the greatest military commanders in history. His name is also synonymous with cults of personality and political strongmen.
So, how exactly did the one-time high priest of Jupiter accrue so much power during his lifetime?
Business Insider looked through some of his own writings — as well as the less-reliable but still interesting works of contemporary, ancient writers — to get a sense of his leadership style.
1. Presentation matters
The best leaders don’t just do amazing things — they know how to present a compelling story.
After a relatively brief war with a certain Pharnacles II of Pontus, Caesar had to sit down and write out a report to Rome detailing his conquest. According to both Greek biographer Plutarch and Roman historian Suetonius, the commander didn’t go into too much detail, writing simply: “I came, I saw, I conquered.”
The phrase proved so catchy that we still remember it, centuries later.
Caesar could have gone on and on about his military prowess (in fact, he was the author of several long military accounts). Instead, he realized that the simple note would convey the most powerful message.
In ancient Rome, crossing the Rubicon River with an army was kind of a big deal. It was tantamount to a declaration of war and could be punishable by death.
When Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his legion, he put everything on the line. In The Life of the Deified Julius, Suetonius writes that Caesar quoted an Athenian playwright as he crossed the river, declaring “the die is cast.”
He risked it all and it paid off (in the short-term, at least).
3. There’s nothing wrong with starting small
Oftentimes, you’ve got to start out as a large fish in a small pond in order to succeed as a leader.
Caesar understood this. He managed to climb back into a position of power, even after losing his inheritance in a coup as a young man.
According to the ancient Plutarch’s “Parallel Lives,” the general also made a rather curious remark while passing through a small village in the Alps: “I assure you I had rather be the first man here than the second man in Rome.”
As a general, Caesar knew that circumstances could change in an instant. According to Bill Yonne’s Julius Caesar: Lessons in Leadership from the Great Conqueror, Caesar once wrote that “in war, events of importance are the result of trivial causes.”
Resting on your laurels is never a good idea — because things can always take a turn for the worst.
5. Never kid yourself
Even if you’re a successful leader, you never want to get to the point where you start to buy your own nonsense.
In his chronicle of the Gallic Wars, Caesar concludes that: “in most cases, men willingly believe what they wish” when describing a tactical mistake on the part of his Gallic enemies.
The best leaders behave rationally and don’t allow their feelings or preconceived notions to dominate their decision-making. Gut calls and instincts are important, too, but the best leaders utilize both — not one or the other.
No matter how good things look, the best leaders never fail to anticipate the worst outcomes.
In his Commentaries on the Gallic Wars, Caesar writes: “The immortal gods are wont to allow those persons whom they wish to punish for their guilt sometimes a greater prosperity and longer impunity, in order that they may suffer the more severely from a reverse of circumstances.”
Basically, if you’re on a winning streak, watch out. Caesar would have done well to actually follow this advice himself. Instead, he allowed a conspiracy to boil under him once he became dictator, resulting in his famous assassination.
7. Never sell yourself short
In order to lead, you need confidence in your own abilities. This is something that Caesar never seemed to lack.
This is illustrated by one notable incident in the ancient Roman’s life (involving pirates, of all things). In his account of Caesar’s life, Plutarch writes that, as a young man, Julius Caesar was abducted by the pirates.
Livius.org provides a translation of what happened next: “First, when the pirates demanded a ransom of twenty talents, Caesar burst out laughing. They did not know, he said, who it was that they had captured, and he volunteered to pay fifty.”
Caesar went on to promise the pirates that he’d personally kill them once he was free. After he was ransomed, he raised a fleet, hunted them down, and did just that.
Being forward deployed in a foreign country has many dangers. No matter how well you fortify your Forward Operating Base, it’ll never be safe — only safer.
But for months or even years, it’s home for hundreds of service members…surrounded by an enemy on all sides who want to bring harm to them on a daily basis.
One thing Marines take seriously is making sure that while their brothers and sisters rest inside the wire — they’re safe. With different security levels in place, check out six obstacles that the enemy has to breach before even getting inside.
1. Hesco barriers
One aspect of fighting in the desert is the massive amounts of sand, dirt, and rocks that are available. Filling the natural resources in the encased barriers provides excellent protection against most types of enemy fire.
Marines from 1st CEB, fill Hesco barriers at a combat outpost in Musa Qaleh, Afghanistan. (Photo via 1stMarDiv)
2. Heavy guns in the nest
Occupying the high ground gives allied forces the best vantage possible. Add in a few Marines with big guns waiting for the bad guys to feel froggy — that’s protection.
The bad guys may want to rethink how they attack with these Marines on deck. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Even if granted permission to access the FOB, entering should be difficult. Serpentine belts force incoming vehicles to slow down and maneuver through the barrier maze.
If you don’t have permission to enter, the Marines will definitely open fire. (Photo via Global Security)
4. Security rounds
Marines carry hundreds of rounds on their person at any given time. Carrying a full combat load on patrol can wear the body down. Inside a FOB, you can ease up on your personal security — a little.
Instead of carrying 210 rounds, they’ll have the 30 security rounds inserted in their magazine.
In warfare, it’s essential to have cameras positioned everywhere and that see everything.
Dear bad guys, we totally see you. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Over time, the gravel inside the Hescos will settle, causing separation between the individual barriers. When FOB security notices this interruption, they frequently place and conceal claymore mines in between the Hescos until the issue is patched up.
In today’s hi-tech age of drones and stealth and computer wizardry we might have a tendency to take military capabilities for granted. So here are nine military aviation firsts to remind us of how far we’ve come over the last 107 years or so:
1. First military flight
The Wright Brothers were contracted by the U.S. Army to conduct first-ever flight trials at Fort Meyer just outside of Washington, DC in 1908. Wilbur had a business commitment in Europe, so Orville had to do the Army flights by himself, the first time the brothers worked separately since their historic flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903.
2. First military aviation fatality
On September 17, about halfway into the Army flight program, with Army observer Lt. Thomas E. Selfridge on board, the airplane piloted by Orville Wright experienced a mechanical malfunction involving one of the propellers and crashed. Orville was severely injured and Selfridge died, making him the first military aviation fatality.
3. First aircraft carrier ops
Eugene Ely was the first pilot to launch from a stationary ship in November 1910. He took off from a structure fixed over the forecastle of the US armored cruiser USS Birmingham at Hampton Roads, Virginia and landed nearby on Willoughby Spit after some five minutes in the air. On 18 January 1911, he became the first pilot to land on a stationary ship. He took off from the Tanforan racetrack and landed on a similar temporary structure on the aft of the USS Pennsylvania anchored at the San Francisco waterfront—the improvised braking system of sandbags and ropes led directly to the arresting hook and wires. His aircraft was then turned around and he was able to take off again. (Source: Wikipedia)
4. First strike sortie
The first real world bombing mission was flown on November 1, 1911 by Sottotenente Giulio Gavotti, against Turkish troops in Libya. Gavotti was flying an early model of Etrich Taube aircraft. It’s also interesting to note that the Turks were the first to shoot down an aircraft (using rifle fire) during that same conflict.
5. First air-to-air kill
The first conventional air-to-air kill occured on October 5, 1914, during World War I, when a gunner on a French Voisin bagged a German Aviatik reconnaissance aircraft.
6. First ace
“Vut eez theez volleyball you speak uf?”
Adolphe Pégoud shot down his fifth German aircraft in April of 1915, making him the first military ace ever. On August 31 of that same year, Pégoud was shot down by one of his pre-war flight students, Unteroffizier Walter Kandulski, while intercepting a German reconnaissance aircraft. He died in the crash. Kandulski later dropped a funeral wreath over the French lines in tribute.
7. First military pilot to go supersonic
After Bell Aircraft test pilot “Slick” Goodlin demanded $150,000 ($1.6 million in 2015 dollars) to break the sound barrier, the USAAF selected Chuck Yeager to fly the rocket-powered Bell XS-1 in a NACA program to research high-speed flight. Yeager broke the sound barrier on October 14, 1947, flying the X-1 at Mach 1.07 at an altitude of 45,000 ft. over the Rogers Dry Lake in the Mojave Desert.
8. First military pilot in space
On April 12, 1961, Senior Lieutenant Yuri Gagarin launched in the the Vostok 3KA-3 spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome, which made him the first human to travel into space and the first to orbit the earth.
9. First military pilot to walk on the moon
Most people assume that Neil Armstrong was an active duty military officer at the time of the Apollo 11 mission, but he was actually a civilian, which makes Col. “Buzz” Aldrin, the second man out of the lunar module, the first military pilot to walk on the moon.
War movies wouldn’t be complete without some cinematic deaths. In some of these flicks, the troop is killed instantly by a barrage of incoming fire, but in others, the director decides to take his time with something dramatic and drawn out.
In some cases, there’s a hint of hope that the near-death character just might pull through — but that sh*t is freaking rare.
Check out these five on-screen wounds that the troop had no chance of surviving.
1. Cowboy (Full Metal Jacket)
In the film our favorite Texan takes a direct sniper round to his chest out of nowhere. F*ck! Cowboy’s Marines drag him to safety to render treatment, but there are two things working against him:
He got hit in the back and round went through his chest wall. That’s bad.
The squad’s Corpsman got killed in the previous scene. That’s double bad.
Cowboy made a boot mistake by standing in front of those two big-ass holes in the wall, giving that sniper a clear line of sight on him — just sayin’.
2. Nick (Deer Hunter)
While playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette — which we strongly recommend against — Nicky fires a round straight into his brain and falls to the floor. Michael rushes over and applies pressure to his massive, bleeding wound, but he doesn’t have a chance at saving his friend without an operating room and a skilled neurosurgeon on hand.
It’s a great movie, but why didn’t Micheal use Nicky’s red head wrap to help stop the bleeding? Just sayin’.
3. William Wallace (Braveheart)
William Wallace’s legacy is so impressive that we hate to rain on every Scotsman’s parade with this one. Toward the end of the film, Wallace is hung by the neck, his limbs are stretched apart by horses, and his entrails are pulled out his abdomen — brutal. Wallace is told throughout his execution that if he asks for mercy, they will grant it.
As they pull out his insides, he’s told one final time to ask for mercy — as if the medical technology of the time could help them properly restore those vital organs.
Plus, his diaphragm was probably ripped to hell, making it impossible for him to famously scream, “freedom!” — just sayin’.
4. Medic Wade (Saving Private Ryan)
Deep in the second act, Medic Wade takes a few rounds to his torso. Capt. Miller and the rest of the Rangers render the best treatment they can muster.
The soldiers use a lot of pressure dressings, iodized salt packets, and water to try and save their friend and only medic. Unfortunately, his wounds were far too severe. They never had a shot.
It’s a dramatic scene, but we also doubt Wade would’ve been able to speak as clearly as he was — just sayin’.
5. Elias (Platoon)
This fictional sergeant is one of the film’s most influential characters, as he brings a glimmer of humanity to an inhumane world. Once we witness (spoiler alert) Sgt. Barnes shoot Elias a few times, we figure he’s was dead. Little do we know, he’s got a lot more fight in him.
Later, we spot Elias running away from the enemy toward the helicopter and, for a split second, we think he just might make it. We’re so wrong.
It’s amazing none of those AK-47 rounds rip through the front of his chest wall like they do Cowboy’s — just sayin’.
I challenge you to count the number of times Elias gets shot. If you think you’ve got it, comment below.
There are a lot of G.I. Joes in the Joe organization. While every commando unit needs people to run the administration of the unit, not all of them need to pretend to be useful on the battlefield. We covered the least intimidating G.I. Joes so it makes sense to look at their arch-nemesis: Cobra.
Cobra is just as big as G.I. Joe, with just as many people. It’s bound to have some dead weight Cobras, or those least likely to help take over the world.
1. Sludge Viper
I can’t list all of the short-lived eco-warriors. I wish I could, because on both sides, they’re absolutely ridiculous.
The most absurd on the Cobra side is Sludge Viper, whose sludge gun (yeah, sludge gun) has unlimited ammo because it degrades whatever is around it into more sludge and shoots WEAPONS GRADE SLUDGE at high velocity. You know, laser weapons weren’t real (yet) when GI Joe was on TV, but we bought it because we all know they will be.
But no one has ever thought of weaponizing sludge. EVER.
The weapon is just as dangerous to Cobra as it is to their enemies and has the added benefit of giving off methane. So the only way to defeat Sludge Viper is to get him to shoot himself or smoke a cigarette within 50 feet of him.
2. Lt. Clay Moore
Before the new millennium, Cobra wasn’t really an organization that prided itself on diversity. As a matter of fact, Lt. Clay Moore was Cobra’s only non-Caucasian member before 2001, and even then, Cobra Commander gave the guy’s command to a GI Joe traitor, and when Moore protested, he forced the two to fight to the death. FOR A LIEUTENANT’S SLOT.
Calm down and take a long tour to Korea or something, you two. It’s not worth a death match. I get that his name is a play on on claymore mines but Lt. Moore doesn’t get a cool code name (or any code name at all) and dresses like any regular Cobra soldier. His special training includes losing at death matches. My guess is that the L-T is most likely to defect to the Joes – and for good reason.
I’m forming an army of evil super soldiers, each with special abilities that will help me take over the world. Obviously, I need an “ex-yuppie tax consultant.” Why is a terrorist army paying taxes? Who are they paying them to? Where the hell did Raptor learn to specialize in these kinds of taxes?
Raptor spends most of his time – and this is not a joke, it’s on his file card – dressed like a bird and sitting in the bottom of a large cage. He is also Cobra’s falconer, because of course someone who is unnaturally obsessed with birds of prey would find the one job which demands time alone with falcons. I bet they’re super useful in laser combat with the Joes.
4. Big Boa
Big Boa is Cobra’s resident drill instructor and asshole. His bullhorn-like voice kicks open the barracks door at 0500 and forces some awful PT on Cobra recruits. He demands the most out of the trainees but dresses like he’s a member a Daft Punk/Queen Tribute Band but still demands to be taken seriously.
On top of being able to change his skin to fit in with any environment, which is great for infiltrating the enemy (I mean, probably), Zartan’s file card also lists that he’s really awesome with makeup and is a great ventriloquist.
Unfortunately, when you need a deep infiltration agent, you probably don’t want to depend on someone who dresses like Alice Cooper and is a paranoid schizophrenic suffering from multiple personality disorder. This is also the last person who should be sporting a bow and arrow.
6. Croc Master
This genius tried to popularize the use of crocodiles and alligators as home invasion deterrence and was surprised when people didn’t really go for it. If a Brinks guy came to my house and suggested I build a moat, I’d call the cops.
But of course Cobra went for the idea. This is the terror organization who once thought a telethon would be the best way to raise money to conquer the world. And now Croc Master spends his free time in the bathtub pretending to be a crocodile. Why is Cobra full of cosplayers who have creepy relationships with animals?
Speaking of cosplayers, the biggest offender of all is Serpentor, who is an all-out furry and talks like a high school drama teacher. If everyone should dress for the job they want, why is the Cobra organization trying to replace Cobra Commander with someone who dresses like he wants to be the Mascot for the Cobra Football Team?
They cloned history’s best military minds and all it can think to do is throw live snakes at people. The Simpsons has a character like this but she’s not in charge and she’s infinitely more likeable.
I can’t even imagine what this guy thinks when he puts his snake head on in the morning and looks in the mirror. “Yeah. That’s a good look. Go get ’em today Serpentor.”
8. Major Bludd
Major Bludd has all the makings of a villain’s villain. Eyepatch? Check. Snidely Whiplash mustache? Check. Villainous name? Check. Unfortunately, he has no real-world villainy skills.
His card says “Terrorist.” Well, welcome to Cobra, Bludd, WHERE EVERYONE IS A TERRORIST. His secondary specialty is “weapons and tactics.” Weapons and tactics are pretty much all Cobra is ever supposed to do. What else do you have, Major? Poetry. POETRY. HE’S A POET. AN EVIL POET.
Not even good poetry. He’s actually more of a bad rapper. Published in prison newsletters, he outs himself as Cobra’s resident Blue Falcon (a term that probably gets Raptor all hot and bothered): “My ruthless tactics keep you on your toes/’Cause I fight ’em all, whether friends or foes!”
Dishonorable Mention: Cobra Commander
Speaking of what Cobra is supposed to be doing all the time, Cobra Commander makes this list for being one of the worst possible commanders of all time. This is the guy who thought rigging a local election, destroying the Ozone Layer, trying to destroy all the plants on Earth, and starting a rock band were the ways to beat the Joes for good.
If Cobra’s mission was to annoy liberals, they can raise a big ol’ Mission Accomplished banner. No, their mission is to kill Joes and under Cobra Commander, they were never able to kill a single Joe. Not one.
The only good plan he ever had was to kill Serpentor, the only commander more worthless than he was. And guess what? He botched that too.
We all make mistakes. Sometimes we all make mistakes together. And when we all make mistakes sometimes punishing us isn’t worth the time, effort and money. Depending on the severity of the crime, it might be more efficient to just give us all a mulligan and call the whole thing off.
The U.S.Department of Defense is familiar with this sort of calculus. Between Selective Service (aka “The Draft”) with civilians and the crimes unique to military personnel, problems with the application of laws involving the military are bound to happen. Sometimes they happened en masse. In those instances, the government has decided it would be better not to prosecute or the law became unenforceable because so many people committed the crime. It’s rare, but it happened. Here are five times where we were forgiven our trespasses:
1. Adultery (by the masses)
The list of email addresses released by hacktivists The Impact Group included thousands of .mil addresses. This means military members actually used their military email accounts to sign up for Ashley Madison, a site designed to facilitate adultery, which is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), punishable by a year in confinement and a dishonorable discharge.
Among these were 250 addresses from various aircraft carriers, addresses from every destroyer and amphibious assault ship in the Navy, 1,665 navy.mil and 809 usmc.mil addresses, 54 af.mil addresses, and 46 uscg.mil addresses. The Army was the most impressive, with 6,788 army.mil addresses signed up. At first, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said DoD would investigate but the Pentagon has since decided not to, since there would be no proof of actual adultery and simply signing up for a website isn’t a crime.
After 18 years, the policy governing homosexuality in the U.S. military known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was repealed. In response to the repeal, the Army issued a statement saying simply “the law is repealed” and reminded soldiers to treat each other fairly.
The thing is being gay is not in itself a crime under the UCMJ, but the way homosexuals have sex is, under Article 125. Homosexuals were simply given an “Other than Honorable” discharge. With more than 66,000 gay and lesbian men and women in uniform, trying to control the way they have sex becomes problematic after a while. Now with the DADT repeal, former service members are allowed to reenlist, but their cases will not be given priority. Officials have so far failed to address how all of this affects Article 125 of the UCMJ.
3. Dodging the draft
On January 21, 1977, newly-elected President Jimmy Carter granted a full pardon to hundreds of thousands of American men who evaded the Vietnam War draft by fleeing the country or not registering. Carter campaigned on this promise in an effort to help heal the country from the cultural rift the war created.
Most fled to Canada, where they were eventually welcomed as immigrants. Exempt from the pardon were deserters from the U.S. Army who met their obligation and then fled. 50,000 Americans became Canadian during the draft, facing prosecution if they returned home.
4. Seceding from the Union
In the most egregious example of getting away with flaunting the rules (to put it mildly), in 1872 Congress passed a bill signed by then-President Ulysses S. Grant which restored voting rights and the right to hold public office to all but 500 members of the Southern Confederacy during the Civil War.
The original act restricting the rights of former Confederates was passed in 1866. The act covered more than 150,000 former Confederate troops. The 500 who were still restricted were among the top leadership of the Confederacy.
5. Illegal Immigration
This one hasn’t happened yet but the discussion is very serious. The current version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) contains a controversial plan to allow illegal immigrants with deportation deferments to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces. U.S. military veterans currently serving in the House of Representatives offer bipartisan public support for the provision.
The NDAA as is faces significant challenges in the entire Congress. Last year, Representatives Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), a Desert Storm veteran and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), an Iraq War veteran entered a similar bill, called the ENLIST Act, which would have had the same provisions but it was quickly sidelined.
At the pointy end of the spear (and in the rear with the gear) there are official nomenclatures that you’ll find on procurement documents and supply forms and then there are the names that troops really use to identify something. Here are 37 nicknames that fleet players use to refer to the some of the stuff they use every day:
1. 100-mph tape
Basically, duct tape. Oddly enough, the tape called duck tape, duct tape, and 100-mph tape was supposedly named duck tape by American troops in WWII. When Duck Tape became a registered trademark, the military had to start using a different name for it in manuals and publications. 100-mph tape was substituted, but the actual tape is the same.
2. 30 mike-mike
The 30mm grenade launcher or the ammunition that it fires, most commonly used to refer to the cannon on an Apache helicopter or an A-10 attack plane. Another version of this is 40 mike-mike, referring to a 40mm grenade launcher, like the M320 or Mark-19, or the ammunition those weapons fire.
A large truck used to move supplies and troops. It is commonly misreported that the 5-ton (10,000 lb.) nickname comes from the weight of the truck, but it’s actually the cargo weight the vehicle is rated to carry in off-road conditions. Most of the trucks that have carried the nickname have actually weighed over 10 tons.
The large backpack troops carry in the field. Alice and Molle are both named for the acronym that described a specific generation of the equipment. ALICE stood for all-purpose, lightweight individual carrying equipment. MOLLE stands for Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment. Ruck is simply short for rucksack.
A military asset with a lot of firepower, generally referring to armored vehicles or tanks.
7. Birth control glasses (“BCGs”)
Glasses given out in basic training that were nearly impossible to look attractive in. Designated the S9, the frames were dropped in 2012 for the 5A, frames with a slimmer, more contemporary look.
A weapon, most commonly an M4 or M16. This nickname is generally used by someone trying to sound stupid for comedic effect.
Camouflage uniform for blending into the environment.
Pronounced “chew,” CHU is an acronym for containerized housing unit. CHUs are shipping containers that are built to be shipped on trains and boats like normal cargo, but can be quickly converted into living areas on arrival at a base.
A truck designed to carry at least 2.5 tons (5,000 lb.) of cargo. The first truck to carry the designation was the GMC CCKW. The current deuce-and-a-half, the M35, is being replaced by the family of medium tactical vehicles. The FMTV has different models, but only one will continue the legacy of the “deuce and a half,” all other variants will carry 5 tons or more.
12. Donkey Dick
A flexible spout that can be screwed onto a gasoline can, especially the 5-gallon jug most commonly carried by military vehicles.
A shovel. The official term for the foldable shovel troops carry is an “entrenching tool.”
14. Fart sack
For Marines and soldiers, this is most commonly used to refer to sleeping bags. The Air Force will also use this term to refer to flight suits.
15. Fast mover
A jet, especially one that is providing close air support.
16. Full battle rattle
All combat equipment assigned to a service member. When troops are told to get into full battle rattle, it typically includes body armor, helmet, knees and elbow pads, ballistic glasses, ear plugs, gloves, weapons, and load carrying equipment.
17. Green Ivan
Pop-up targets used at ranges to test marksmanship. Green Ivans are made of shaped green plastic in the rough shape of a soldier complete with helmet and rifle.
18. Hangar queen
An aircraft in the maintenance area that is being used for parts.
A shelter. While “hooch” is sometimes used to refer to a service member’s room in a building, it is most commonly used to mean a small tent, sometimes improvised from items like tarps or ponchos.
20. Hook-and-loop tape
Commonly called Velcro. Like 100-mph tape, this term is used because Velcro is trademarked. The fasteners work by pushing together two pieces of cloth or plastic tape, one covered in tiny plastic hooks and one covered in tiny loops of thread or plastic. The hooks sink into the loops and hold fast.
Most service members use JDAM to refer to a GPS-guided, large bomb dropped from a plane, but it is more accurately a kit attached to the bomb. JDAM stands for joint direct attack munition, and it is a kit that combines GPS and a inertial guidance systems. The kit is attached to bombs between 500 and 2,000 lb. that do not have built-in guidance systems. The JDAM kit can guide the bomb to within a few meters of designated GPS coordinates.
A utility and combat knife used by service members since WWII, most famously the Marine Corps. “Ka-bar” is used to refer to any knife of the correct style, but it’s most properly used to refer to the original knife made by KA-BAR, a knife company based out of Olean, New York.
23. Kevlar/Steel pot
A helmet. Both nicknames are in current circulation, but U.S. helmets have not been made of steel since the early 1980s. Kevlar fibers were originally used in the PASGT helmet and are still a major component of the current helmet, the advanced combat helmet (ACH).
Nicknames for the M2, .50-cal. machine gun. “Mah-deuce” refers to the M2 nomenclature while “fitty” is a deliberate mispronunciation of the weapons caliber.
A flashlight. This nickname is most commonly used in the Marine Corps.
Gear used to protect troops from chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks. MOPP is an acronym for mission oriented protective posture.
Night vision devices. NOD is an acronym for night optic devices. NVG is an initialism that stands for night vision goggles. The nicknames are used interchangeably by troops.
A derogatory name for flight suits due to the suits’ visual similarity to onesie pajamas. The suits are a single-piece coverall that zips up the front.
Originally referred to the M60 machine gun, a 7.62mm machine gun that served in every branch of the armed forces. It was most famously used by ground troops in Vietnam. The M60 has been replaced by the M240, but the “Pig” is a legend even among troops who have never seen one.
30. SAPI plate
The armored plates that go into modern body armor. SAPI is an acronym that stands for “small arms protective insert.” The plates can stop 7.62mm or smaller rounds but are surprisingly susceptible to damage from drops of even a few feet.
31. Snivel gear
Cold weather gear worn by service members in uniform. Snivel gear is famously issued in a variety of styles with many being banned from wear. “Poly pros” and “waffle tops” are long underwear that, along with gloves, troops are generally allowed to wear. Other items, like most outer jackets, face coverings, or hats, are issued, but troops are seldom allowed to wear them.
32. Canopy/streamer/cigarette roll
A parachute. “Canopy” refers to an open parachute. “Streamers” and “cigarette rolls” are parachutes that have malfunctioned, deploying from the pack but not inflating with air. Senior paratroopers will sometimes refer to a newer jumper’s chute as a streamer or cigarette roll in order to make the jumper nervous by implying that the chute will malfunction.
A mop. This term is most commonly used by the U.S. Navy.
The crash crane on a U.S. Navy carrier to move damaged planes on the flight deck.
35. Tootsie roll
An artillery or mortar round. These rounds are transported in black cardboard tubes that resemble massive tootsie rolls.
36. Water buffalo
A large container for water. Though it is sometimes used to refer to bladders used for water storage on forward bases, the term is most commonly used for water tanks on trailers pulled behind military trucks.
37. Willy Pete
White phosphorous, which can be used for two purposes. First, as a smoke screen to protect friendly troops from observation. Since the smoke is extremely flammable, WP’s second use is to destroy enemy equipment or kill massed troops. Multiple white phosphorous round are dropped in the target area and, once the smoke has spread, a high explosive round is dropped to detonate the white phosphorous. This tactic is referred to as “shake-and-bake” or “Willy Pete plus H.E.” It’s use is limited by international agreements.
Almost everyone gets email forwards from their family. In the days before social media, people emailed the jokes, memes, and urban legends that populate Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest today. These days, it’s mostly older people that stick to forwarding emails instead of sharing via social media.
Loved ones forward things to veterans wanting to know if something about the military or life in the military is true.
This one has been circulating around the internet for a while. Its origins are hard to trace, but the authors — whomever they may be — pinpointed some of the more bizarre aspects of military life by trying to find a civilian equivalent. It’s funny to look back at things military personnel and veterans accept as a part of life, no matter how strange it may seem from the outside looking in.
65 ways civilians can simulate military life:
1. Dig a big hole in your back yard and live in it for 30 days straight.
2. Go inside only to clean the house. On weekends, you can eat in the house, but you can’t talk.
3. Pour 10 inches of nasty, crappy water into your hole, then shovel it out, stack sandbags around it and cover it with a sheet of old plywood.
4. Fill a backpack with 50 pounds of kitty litter. Never take it off outdoors. Jog everywhere you go.
5. Every couple of weeks, dress up in your best clothes and go the scummiest part of town, find the most run down trashy bar you can, pay $10 per beer until you’re hammered, then walk home in the freezing cold.
6. Perform a weekly disassembly and inspection of your lawnmower.
7. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, turn the water pressure in your shower down to a trickle, then on Tuesdays and Thursdays, turn it up so hard it peels skin. On Saturdays and Sundays, declare to your entire family that they can’t use the shower in order to keep it clean for inspection.
8. Go inside and make your bed every morning. Have your wife tear the blankets off at random during the day. Re-make the bed each time until it is time to go back outside and sleep in your hole.
9. Have your next door neighbor come over each day at 5am, and blow a whistle so loud that Helen Keller could hear it and shout “Get up! Get up! You are moving too slow! Get down and do push-ups!”
10. Have your mother-in-law write down everything she’s going to do the following day, then have her make you stand in the back yard at 6am and read it to you.
11. Eat the raunchiest Mexican food you can find for three days straight, then lock yourself out of the bathroom for 12 hours. Hang a sign on the bathroom door that says, “Unserviceable.”
12. Submit a request form to your father-in-law, asking if it’s ok for you to leave your house before 5pm.
13. Invite 200 of your not-so-closest friends to come over. Have them all dig holes in your yard to live in. After 30 days, fill in the holes and wave at your friends and family through the front window of your home as you set out for a 25 mile walk and After-Action-Review.
14. Shower with above-mentioned friends.
15. Make your family qualify to operate all the appliances in your home (i.e. Dishwasher operator, blender technician, etc.).
16. Walk around your car for 4 hours checking the tire pressure every 15 minutes. Write down on a piece of paper everything you want the shop to fix the next time you bring the car in. Give your wife the list to throw away.
17. Sit in your car and let it run for 4 hours with the windows down before going anywhere. Tune the radio to static and monitor it while letting the car run. If it is cold outside, don’t run the heat. Sleep on the hood or roof of your car.
18. Empty all the garbage bins in your house, and sweep your driveway 3 times a day, whether they need it or not.
19. Repaint your entire house once a month. Paint white rings around all the trees in your neighborhood. Paint all curbs yellow. Paint all rocks red.
20. Cook all of your food blindfolded, groping for any spice and seasoning you can get your hands on.
21. Use eighteen scoops of budget coffee grounds per pot, and allow each pot to sit 5 hours before drinking.
22. Have your neighbor collect all your mail for a month, read your magazines, and randomly lose every 5th item.
23. Spend $20,000 on a satellite system for your TV, but only watch CNN and the Weather Channel when you are inside to eat. Tune the tint on the TV to green.
24. Avoid watching your green tinted TV with the exception of movies which are played in the middle of the night. Have the family vote on which movie to watch and then show a different one.
25. Have your 5-year-old cousin give you a haircut with goat shears.
26. Sew big pockets to the legs of your pants. Don’t use them.
27. Spend 2 weeks sleeping in holes in your neighbor’s lawns and call it a deployment.
28. Spend a year sleeping in holes in your local area and call it world travel.
29. Attempt to spend 5 years working at McDonald’s and NOT get promoted.
30. Ensure that any promotions you do get are from stepping on the dead bodies of your co-workers.
31. Blast heavy metal music on your stereo and conduct Ranger PT, grass drills, and sprints on your front lawn after your neighbors have gone to bed.
32. When your children are in bed, run into their room with a megaphone and shout at the top of your lungs that your home is under attack, and order them to man their fighting positions. Don’t let them eat or sleep again for two days.
33. Make your family menu a week ahead of time and do so without checking the pantry and refrigerator.
34. Post a menu on the refrigerator door informing your family that you are having steak for dinner. Then make them wait in line for at least an hour. When they finally get to the kitchen, tell them that you are out of steak, but you have dried ham or hot dogs. Repeat daily until they don’t pay attention to the menu anymore so they just ask for hot dogs.
35. When baking a cake, prop up one side of the pan while it is in the oven. Spread icing on real thick to level it off.
36. In the middle of January, place a gate at the end of your street. Have your family stand watches at the gate, rotating at 4-hour intervals.
37. Make your family live with you in your hole for 6 weeks. Then tell them that at the end of the 6th week you’re going to take them to Disneyland for “block leave.” When the end of the 6th week rolls around, inform them that Disneyland has been canceled due to the fact that they need to get ready for Individual Skill Certification, and that it will be another week before they can go back into the house.
38. In your hole (refer to #1), with 200 of your not-so-closest friends (see para. 13), get the flu.
39. Sleep in a thicket of blackberries or rose bushes. Tie a string to your foot that runs to the house. Have your wife yank on the string about 3 hours after you go to sleep. Crawl out of the bushes and go to the house to see what she wants. She should then shine a flashlight in your eyes and mumble, “Just making sure you’re okay.”
40. Do not sleep from 1:00 a.m. Monday mornings until 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoons. Tie a branch around your neck and chew on sand to stay awake.
41. When there is a thunderstorm in your area, dig a trench into your hole so that it fills up with water. During the worst part of the storm, get out of your hole and go for a 12 mile walk.
42. Don’t change your socks for a week. After they disintegrate off with pieces of your feet, put on an unbroken pair of new boots and go for a 12-mile walk.
43. For mechanized infantry or armor types: leave the lawn mower running next to your hole 24 hours a day. When you get an opportunity to sleep in your house, put lube oil in your humidifier and set it on high.
44. Have the paperboy give you a haircut.
45. Set up a port-a-potty in the corner of your yard. Once a week, have the service truck back into your yard and pump it out. Make sure the wind carries the smell into your neighbor’s house. Ignore his complaints.
46. Every other month pull every single possession you own out of your house and line everything up on your lawn from smallest to largest, front to back. Count everything and write it down to file with your insurance company. Give your wife the list to throw away.
47. Lock wire the lug nuts on your car.
48. Buy a trash can, but don’t use it. Store the garbage in your hole.
49. Get up every night around midnight and stroll around your yard to “check the perimeter.”
50. Run the garden hose to your hole and turn it on. Set your alarm clock to go off at random during the night. Jump up and get dressed as fast as you can. Run out into the backyard and get in your hole.
51. Once a month, take apart every major appliance in your home and put them back together again.
52. Build a scale model of your yard. Make your children draw sketches of it including little arrows indicating what they are going to do when they go out to play. Post these sketches on a bulletin board for reference.
53. Remove the insulation and widen the frames of your front and back doors so that no matter how tight you shut the door, the weather will still get inside.
54. Every so often, throw the cat in front of your hole and shout “Enemy in the wire! Fire Claymores!” Then run into the house cut off the circuit breaker. Yell at the wife and kids for violating security and not maintaining good noise and light discipline.
55. Put on the headphones from your stereo set, but don’t plug them in. Hang a paper cup around your neck with string. Go sit in your car. Say to no one in particular “Lost-One, this is Lost-Three, are you lost too, over?” Sit there for three or four hours with the engine running. Say again to no one in particular “Negative contact, Lost-Three out.” Roll up your headphones and paper cup and place them in a box.
56. Cook a gourmet meal then eat it in the middle of a McDonald’s play place.
57. Receive 500 gallons of purified water. Only eat snow.
58. Find out your house was built on an erosion point. Burn your house down. Build new one 3 feet away.
59. Buy 10 pairs of sunglasses for your neighbors to steal.
60. When you catch above mentioned neighbors, only blame the neighbors that just moved in.
61. Dig a new hole in your front yard for a bathroom next to your original hole. Only piss in Powerade bottles.
62. When above-mentioned hole is washed away, dig a new bathroom hole 6 inches from your fresh water supply.
63. Every 2 or 3 days take your closest not-so-close friends camping across the street.
64. Shower semi-annually.
65. Have your parents take away your allowance on weekends that were a part of your vacation.
Anastacia Marx de Salcedo’s new book Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat explores how many of the processed foods we buy at the supermarket are prepared using technology and techniques invented by the military to preserve and transport food for troops in battle. To celebrate its release, the author gives us a glimpse into the book’s subject with a list that highlights just a few ways military research affects our daily diet.
Marx de Salcedo’s book dives deep into the subject: she gains access to the DoD’s Combat Feeding Directorate at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center. She explores the research and reflects on the role of processed food in the civilian diet and wonders about its long-term effects on health. It’s an ambitious book: she weaves military history into a discussion of the food industry and modern health policy, all filtered through her own family’s experiences.
Nooo! Your favorite cyclical McDonald’s treat, the brainchild of the U.S. Army? That’s right. Restructured meat, of which the McRib is an early example, was an outgrowth of a Natick Center program to lower the meat bill by gluing together cheap cuts to look like more expensive ones. The army’s veal, pork, lamb, and beef entrées hit the field in 1976 and were soon served to troops in the new MREs. McDonald’s first used the technology in 1981, but turned it into a tempting baby back shape and amped up the flavor with spices and sauce.
2. Supermarket Bread
Natural bread goes stale. Supermarket bread doesn’t. What’s the difference? Starch-snacking bacterial enzymes, discovered under a Quartermaster Corps contract with Kansas State College, now University, in the 1950s. The enzymes, like their bacterial host, tolerate the heat of baking, and keep on working for weeks, keeping bread soft and fresh.
Who put the cheese in cheesy snack foods? Until the U.S. military invented full-fat dehydrated cheese during World War II, as part of an effort to reduce weight and volume of food shipments abroad, the nation forlornly munched naked corn chips. After D Day, the cheese dehydrators needed new customers, pronto. They found them in the emerging snack and convenience food manufacturers. Today the tangy orange powder is everywhere—especially your fingers!
4. Energy Bars
Energy bars are the result of an almost a century-long quest for an emergency ration that was light, compact, and nutritious. They began as a nasty meltless chocolate bar, which became the D ration, produced by Hershey in the 1940s. They then took a detour through freeze-drying, being served in cubes during the 1960s space flights; astronauts claimed they cause nausea and weight loss. Finally, in the mid-1960s, the Natick Soldier Systems Center got inspired—by the Gaines-Burger dog food patty, the first intermediate-moisture food, which meant it stayed soft even when stored at room temperature for months. The first modern energy bar was one of these—although apricot, not hamburger, flavored—and was munched by David Scott on the Apollo 15 flight.
5. TV Dinners
The first TV dinners weren’t for dining by the flickering blue light of the boob tube but for bomber crews on long overseas flights during World War II. They were invented by an armed forces contractor, which froze meat, vegetables, and potatoes in a tray. (The microwave, also a military invention, came later to heat these up quickly.)
6. Cling/Saran Wrap
Cellophane, the only food film available during World War II, allowed moisture in, so edibles got soggy. So the Quartermaster Corps added food packaging to its wish list of everyday items to be replaced with plastics ones from a classified research program at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn. Saran film was developed in collaboration with Dow Chemical,which brought it to consumers as soon as it possibly could, filing a patent for the invention just days after Hitler’s death. The first cling wrap appeared in stores in the 1950s and quickly became a kitchen staple.
7. Refrigerated Guacamole
It might not look it, but that creamy, green dip from the supermarket refrigerator case has been crushed by the equivalent of a stack of twenty minivans. High-pressure processing was developed by the Natick Center with a consortium of university and industry contractors in the 1990s. It’s now not only used for rations and your guac, but for fresh-squeezed juices, sauces, preservative-free deli meats and heat-and-serve entrees.
8. Room-temperature Sof Tortillas
Seem odd that that package of soft tortillas can be left indefinitely in the cupboard? Thanks to hurdle technology, a discovery by a scientist working for the German army, room temperature foods can be preserved with a number of mild barriers to microbial growth instead of a single large dose of chemicals. The Natick Center quickly adapted the technique, first using in its famous poundcake and then moving onto more complex items, such as the three-year, shelf-stable sandwich. Coming up next: pizza!
Consumers never cottoned up to the army’s largest, longest-running, and most expensive food research program, radiation sterilization. After hundreds of employees, four decades, and $80 million, the only items in our supermarkets routinely zapped with ionizing radiation are herbs and spices, which can harbor deadly pathogens, especially when imported from abroad.
10. Plastic Coolers
Your beach brews are kept icy cold by a 1950’s Natick Center project to develop cellular polymers, foamed plastics, as building materials. The rigid, strong, and lightweight stuff was quickly incorporated into other uses, including refrigerated containers and insulated food coolers.
Anastacia Marx de Salcedois a food writer whose work has appeared in Salon, Slate, the Boston Globe, and Gourmet magazine and on PBS and NPR blogs. She’s worked as a public health consultant, news magazine publisher, and public policy researcher. She lives in Boston, MA. Visit AnastaciaMarxdeSalcedo.com.