Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective

It is my staunch belief that warriors are born and not created. In the case of either you can trace back through your past to your first ever action that made you realize — though not likely back then at the time — that you were destined to take the warrior’s or the leader’s path through life.


I came up through Army infantry at 19 years old gravely afraid of heights, a condition that kept me from becoming a paratrooper, the gateway training to the elite forces. After two years in the infantry, I was ready to jump even without a parachute if that was what it took to get me out of that horror show.

I made it into the Green Berets only to be met with great disappointment, as in those years between wars I felt we were more of an in-case-of-war-break-glass unit with peacetime ambition and an equally disappointing budget. The thought of going to war with my Green Beret A-Team scared me to the extent that I ran arms-flailing to the Delta Force, where I immediately faded into anonymity by a sea of raw talent and sheer badassery. I was home.

But even after arriving at the unit, which requires one of the toughest selections on the planet, I came to realize that the essence of my warrior spirit had been with me all along. I can finally go back to the very early days of my own basic army training and identify an event that has stayed with me for so many years. Finally, I think I understand what it meant and why the simple memory has remained close to my heart for so many decades.

Search as I have for hints of warrior potential during my coming of military status in basic training, I’m put finally in mind of a trivial incident that remains to impress me still today. I have thought of it often in attempts to make sense of it. Since it is mine, I shall own the interpretation.

It was during my own Infantry Basic Training in Sand Hill Georgia, where my platoon and I were waiting in the pine woods for a couple of hours between training events. At times like those, there was nothing to do but notice and complain about how hot it was, and it was plenty hot.

We boys huddled under the shade of an awning in our steel helmets. In that year I learned that shade was indeed only a state of mind, and had little physical impact on the Georgia swelter; where a boundary blocked the direct sun’s rays, the humidity served to usher the heat around obstacles, presenting it to who would cower. “We” huddle and bitched and complained and moaned, making it all the worse. I quickly grew annoyed with the negative attitude of the group to the extent that I, but for slight, sniped at them verbally.

The “group” — my group: the hayseed from under the Bible Belt who spoke maybe just a little too fondly of his female cousin, the guy who came in for college; he already had one semester and constantly wanted everyone to know that by saying things like: “Yeah, but that doesn’t detract from or minimize the context of what I’m saying,” the fellow who was given the choice by a judge of either the Army or jail, the black man whose dad and grandad were both in the Army before him, the white dude who felt a patriotic debt to the country but really had no clue what that meant, the Chicano who wanted something different out of life… anything other than what he was living at the time.

And then there was — OMG! — that Asian fellow who during a group debate on race and equality announced to the group: “If there is a man here who can sh*t with his pants on, let him stand now and show it!” As God as my witness, he did say that. I resigned to the notion that he was trying for something along the lines of “We all put on our trousers one leg at a time.”

I suffered too from the heat, but the urge to bellow seemed so futile, only adding to the misery. Knowing no better, I decided to remove myself from the crowd, so I stood and stepped some fifty feet away in direct view of the blazing sun. There I squatted in the muddy sand and hung my head and thought:

“The heat is bad, but it’s better than being in the shade with the pity patrol. Bad means there is a worse; there is even a worse than this… somewhere. This too is bearable. All things, no matter the intensity, are always bearable. Here, I’m setting an example for all my platoon — see me here, guys? It’s not so bad!”

Indeed remarks wafted over:

“What the hell’s the idiot doing?”

“He can’t last out there like that.”

“Someone needs to go get him; he’s delirious, he is.”

“Yeah, holy crap, man!”

You see, now no longer were they absconded in their own misery; they were submersed in mine. I had taken their suffering away, even if for this brief bout of minutes. “I complained because I had no shoes, and then I saw a man who had no feet.” Bad begets worse, and even worse is tolerable.

I think by wanting to be alone I had only drawn attention to myself… but it was done, and now I would give them a show. This is how we deal with the pain. This is how we stand up and take it… how we shake it off and defy it! This is how a much grander force within us makes a thing like the Georgia swelter such an insignificant trifle — “pour it on, Blythe! Fire your weapon!”

From the nose of my drooped head, beads of sweat were queued up and falling in serial. I decided that I would count off 100 of them before I went back to the shade. When 100 beads had fallen, I decided that I would let yet another 100 fall before I relented… then another 100, followed by another then another concatenation of 100.

After 500 had fallen, I stood and removed my helmet. I shook my face wildly, like a dog shakes off pool water upon exit. I wiped my face with my sleeves as I trudged back to the shade and the group. I remarked as I squatted back down:

“Yep… it’s a real scorcher out there today, brothers.”

And there was nothing but silence and a man who reached out his canteen my way, which I graciously declined.

Sometimes we imagine the Earth was gifted with us, to just be us, our mystical, magical, wonderful selves. Other times we might wonder if the planet might get along just swimmingly without us. Ask ten people if they “march to the beat of a different drum,” and you will get ten affirmative answers every time. Now watch when the different drumsticks start their cadence how many stand, step out, and march… and keep marching until 500 beads of their sweat have rolled from their nose and hit the ground.

As I have searched and debated over the years to answer the question are warriors born or made, I often think back to the quote from Heraclitus nearly 2,000 years ago,

“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.” (Heraclitus c. 535 – c. 475 BCE)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian-backed separatists violate truce on New Year’s

Ukraine says one of its soldiers has been killed and two others wounded in clashes in the country’s east despite a fresh cease-fire agreement between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists.

The Defense Ministry said on Jan. 2, 2019, that separatist fighters violated a cease-fire three times on Jan. 1, 2019, by firing guns, grenade launchers, and mortars.

It said Ukrainian government forces returned fire, killing one separatist and wounding four others.


The separatists accused Kyiv’s forces of violating the truce.

Since April 2014, more than 10,300 people have been killed in fighting between Ukrainian government forces and the separatists who control parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective

A Russia-backed rebel armored fighting vehicles convoy near Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine, May 30, 2015.

Fighting persists despite cease-fire deals reached as part of the September 2014 and February 2015 Minsk accords, and implementation of other measures set out in the deals has been slow.

A new truce between Ukrainian forces and the separatists took effect at midnight on Dec. 29, 2018.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 regulations from von Steuben’s ‘Blue Book’ that troops still follow

The winter of 1777 was disastrous. The British had successfully retaken many key locations in the 13 colonies and General Washington’s men were left out in the cold of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Morale was at an all-time low and conditions were so poor, in fact, that many troops reportedly had to eat their boots just to stay alive. No aid was expected to arrive for the Americans but the British reinforcements had landed. It’s no exaggeration to say that, in that moment, one cold breeze could have blown out the flames of revolution.

Then, in February, 1778, a Prussian nobleman by the name of Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben arrived. He set aside his lavish lifestyle to stand next to his good friend, George Washington, and transform a ragtag group of farmers and hunters into the world’s premier fighting force.


With his guidance, the troops kept the gears turning. He taught them administrative techniques, like proper bookkeeping and how to maintain hygiene standards. But his lessons went far beyond logistics: von Steuben also taught the troops the proper technique for bayonet charges and how to swear in seven different languages. He was, in essence, the U.S. Army’s first drill sergeant.

The troops came out of Valley Forge far stronger and more prepared for war. Their victory at Stony Point, NY was credited almost entirely to von Steuben’s techniques. He then transcribed his teachings into a book, Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, better known as, simply, the “Blue Book.” It became the Army’s first set of regulations — and many of the guidelines therein are still upheld today.

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective

Given the hours you spend prepping your dress blues, there’s no way in hell you’d bring it to a desert — or do anything other than stand there for inspection.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel Schroeder)

Different uniforms for officer, NCOs, and troops

This was the very first regulation established by the ‘Blue Book.’ In the early days of the revolution, there was no real way to tell who outranked who at a glance. All uniforms were pieced together by volunteer patriots, so there was no way to immediately tell who was an officer, a non-commissioned officer, or solider. von Steuben’s regulations called for uniforms that were clear indicators of rank.

Troops today still follow this regulation to a T when it comes to the dress uniform — albeit without the swords.

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective

The rifle twirling is, however, entirely a recent officer thing.

(Department of Defense photo by Terrence Bell)

Marching orders

If there was one lasting mark left on the Army by von Steuben, it was the importance of drill and ceremony. Much of the Blue Book is dedicated to instructing soldiers on proper marching techniques, the proper steps that you should take, and how to present your arms to your chain of command.

Despite the protests of nearly every lower enlisted, the Army has spent days upon days practicing on the parade field since its inception — and will continue to do so well into the future.

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective

If you thought troops back then could get by without hospital corners on their bed, think again!

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Susan Krawczyk)

Cleanliness standards

One of the most important things von Steuben did while in Valley Forge was teach everyone a few extremely simple ways to prevent troops from dying very preventable, outside-of-combat deaths. A rule as simple as, “don’t dig your open-air latrine right next to where the cooks prepare meals” (p. 46) was mind-blowing to soldiers back then.

But the lessons run deeper than that. Even police calls and how to properly care for your bedding (p. 45) are directly mentioned in the book.

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective

While there arestillpunishments in place for negligencetoday, the armorer would be paying far more than for a lost rifle.

(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa)

Accountability of arms and ammo

No one likes doing paperwork in the military (or anywhere else) but it has to be done. Back then, simple accounting was paramount. As you can imagine, it was good for the chain of command to actually know how many rifles and rounds of ammunition each platoon had at their disposal.

While the book mostly focuses on how to do things, this is one of the few instances in which he specifically states that the quartermaster should be punished for not doing their job (p. 62). According to the Blue Book, punishments include confinement and forfeiture of pay and allowances until whatever is lost is recouped.

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective

Once given medical attention, a troop would be giving off-time until they’re better — just like today.

(U.S. Army photo by Robert Shields)

Sending troops to sick call

The most humane thing a leader can do is allow their troops to be nursed back to full health when they’re not at fighting strength. The logic here is pretty sound. If your troops aren’t dying, they’ll fight harder. If they fight harder, America wins. So, it’s your job, as a leader, to make sure your troops aren’t dying.

According to the Blue Book, NCOs should always check in on their sick and wounded and give a report to the commander. This is why, today, squad leaders report to the first sergeant during morning role call, giving them an idea of anyone who needs to get sent to sick call.

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective

“No one is more professional than I” still has a better ring to it, though.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Maria Mengrone)

NCOs should lead from the front

“It being on the non-commissioned officer that the discipline and order of a company in a great measure depend, they cannot be too circumspect in their behavior towards the men, by treating them with mildness, and at the same time, obliging everyone to do his duty.” (p. 77)

This was von Steuben’s way of saying that the NCOs really are the backbone of the Army.

According to von Steuben, NCOs “should teach the soldiers of their squad” (p. 78). They must know everything about what it means to be a soldier and motivate others while setting a proper, perfect example. They must care for the soldiers while still completing the duties of a soldier. They must be the lookout while constantly looking in. Today, these are the qualities exhibited by the best NCOs.

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective

They probably didn’t think we’d have radios back then…

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Thomas Duval)

The soldier’s general orders

Today, each soldier of the Army has their general orders when it comes to guard/sentinel duty. von Steuben’s rules run are almost exactly the same:

  1. Guard everything within the limits of your post and only quit your post when properly relieved? Check.
  2. Obey your special orders and perform your duties in a military manner? Check.
  3. Report all violations of your special orders, emergencies, and anything not covered in your instructions to the commander of the relief? Kinda check… the Blue Book just says to sound an alarm, but you get the gist.
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This is why Fallujah is one of the Marine Corps’ most legendary battles

On Nov. 10, 1775, a man named Samuel Nicholas went to Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, Penn. There he began a recruitment process to put sharpshooters on Naval vessels to protect them. He also wanted to create a landing force for some of the most intense battles in the Revolutionary War.


Those that signed became the very first United States Marines. Over the centuries, Marines gained status as their very own military branch and earned a reputation as one of the most hardened, violent, and distinguished fighting forces in military history.

Related video:

From here, it would be easy to go into the long and honorable history of the Marine Corps. Instead, it’s important to focus on a more recent Marine Corps birthday, one of which took place during The Battle of Fallujah. Though the Marine Corps’ birthday has landed on many the days of battles over time, Fallujah is the most recent and was called, “the biggest urban battle since the battle of Hue City in Vietnam.”

The Battle of Fallujah was the biggest battle of the Iraq War yet many don’t know about the battle itself, let alone a significant day in this battle. It marked some of the fiercest fighting the U.S. military had seen in some thirty years.

The city had been a stronghold for insurgent forces since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Different coalition forces tried to secure the city and bring order — to no avail; coalition troops backed out of the city and it quickly grew into a bastion for all enemy fighters in the area.

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective

Marines were sent to start taking over the city in early 2004, but many political problems arose and the advance was stopped. They made quite a big push, but were quickly told to pull out. November then came, and the Marines were sent in again to liberate the city and eliminate the enemy from of every inch of it.

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective

The 10th of November was three days into the second battle. By this time, the enemy inside began to mount a major defense – a complex, formidable one. I started the battle with an entire machine gun squad, until mortars rained down on a street where were pulling security. Once the smoke started to clear, only two of us were what remained of a seven-man machine gun squad.

Many Marines of 3rd battalion 1st Marines engaged in grueling house-to-house fighting. Our platoon crashed through a door of a house and engaged in one firefight after another. It seemed as if everyone was wounded from enemy small arms fire and indirect fire, like RPGs and mortars. Still, we all continued the fight, clearing houses of multiple enemy occupants. Some houses were even leveled to take out any enemy defenses and personnel who might have been hiding within. Why send in men when a single good Bangalore can do the job?

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective

But this day felt different from any other day of the battle. That’s when many of us suddenly realized was it was the Marine Corps Birthday, “OUR” birthday. Instead of getting drunk and eating lobster and steak, we were doing the one thing every Marine trains for, thinks about, and begs to do.

We were celebrating our birthday in the heat of battle.

While Marines celebrate our birthday every year with exuberance and tradition, some of us remember Fallujah, the birthday that exemplified what it means to be a United States Marine.

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-35s ready for war if Syrian tensions explode

The US has a small aircraft carrier hosting F-35B stealth fighter jets in the Middle East as Russia threatens US forces in Syria — and if fighting breaks out the US will have no choice but to send in the advanced fighters.

Russia and its ally, Syria, have launched a massive offensive against Idlib, the last rebel-held area in the country, and appeared to predict chemical weapons use in the process.

Syria’s government has been linked to 33 cases of chemical weapons use against its own people during the 7 year-long civil war, and along with Russia stands accused of war crimes such as the indiscriminate bombing of hospitals and schools.


Russian media has accused terrorists and groups with US-backing of plotting to stage, and to actually carry out, a chemical weapons attack on children and families in Idlib to justify attacking the Syrian regime.

But Russia has made these claims before, and it hasn’t stopped the US from striking Syria in the past. This time, as Syria and Russia eye a bloody victory over the last remaining rebels, Russia has telegraphed that it would counter-attack the US if US missiles hit Syrian targets over chemical weapons use.

Russia, a weakened military power that often bolsters its image with propaganda, sat idly by while the US hit Syria twice before, but the US has spelled out that this time its penalty would take a much “stronger” form.

With a small armada of Russian ships in the Mediterranean, Russia too appears to have taken measures to look more committed to its cause.

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective

F-35Bs aboard the USS Essex.

(US Navy photo)

Enter the F-35B

In the face of a massive Russian naval presence in the Mediterranean hugging Syria’s coast, the US doesn’t have a single carrier strike group anywhere near the region.

But the US does have the USS Essex, a US Navy small-deck helicopter carrier modified to carry US Marine Corps F-35B stealth fighters. The Essex and its accompanying ships across the Suez Canal from the Russian ships in the Mediterranean represents one of the greatest concentrations of naval power ever put to sea, and its main mission is simple — crisis response.

The long-awaited F-35Bs have updated software that grants them “full warfighting capability” Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Christopher Harrison told USNI News. That capability takes the F-35 beyond anything that F/A-18s, the US Navy’s standard carrier-based fighter, could do in an environment like Syria.

Syria has advanced Russian missile defenses, creating some of the world’s most challenging air spaces. Only a stealth jet with advanced sensors, like the F-35B, could safely take on the mission of fighting in the skies above Syria.

“The F-35’s ability to operate in contested areas, including anti-access/area-denial environments that legacy fighters cannot penetrate, provides more lethality and flexibility to the combatant commander than any other fighter platform,” said Harrison.

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective

US Marines firing a howitzer in Syria.

(US Marine Corps photo)

Russia flirting with disaster

Russia specifically threatened US forces in southern Syria with retaliation. In the past, these US forces have come under attack from Russian-aligned forces and brutally beat them back with superior air power. But in that case, Russia held back its considerable bank of fighter jets in the region from the fight.

The F-35B has never tasted combat, but the Syrian war produced a rich list of firsts over the last seven years. Missile fires have taken down Israeli, Syrian, and Russian jets over the course of the war. Syria has seen the combat debut of Israel’s F-35I and the first US air-to-air kill between manned aircraft since 1999.

If Russia is serious about backing its ally and countering a possible US attack, it would no doubt need air power to do so. But not only does the US have stealth F-35s nearby ready to hit Russia with something it’s never seen, they have considerable air bases in the region that make Moscow’s threat appear less than serious.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Did you know a Soviet physicist is behind all of America’s stealth?

Pyotr Ufimtsev was a scientist associated with a number of prestigious universities and labs in Moscow. Listen to a few of the institutions he was at, and it becomes pretty clear what his primary interests were. He worked at the Central Research Radio Engineering Institute, the Institute of Fundamental Technical Problems, the Moscow Aviation Institute, the Institute of Radio Engineering and Electronics of Academy of Sciences, and more.


Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective
The Northrop B-2 Spirit.
(U.S. Air Force)

Notice the combination there? Aviation, radio engineering, and technical problems? That’s because he was very interested in how radio waves reflected off of objects; how radar actually worked at the most detailed and precise levels. He didn’t know it, but his work would put him at the forefront of a new American industry: stealth engineering.

Ufimtsev wrote a number of important papers as he studied exactly how radio waves bounced off of two-dimensional and three-dimensional objects. One of the most interesting things he found was that it wasn’t just the size of an object that determined how it appeared on radar; shape was actually more important.

And certain shapes were unlikely to reflect much energy back to the radar, meaning you could make a large object appear very small if you just gave it the right shape.

Much of Ufimtsev’s work was quietly translated into English where a number of American scientists read it. A 1962 paper translated as Method of Edge Waves in the Physical Theory of Diffraction was of particular interest. Many U.S. scientists simply saw the paper and incorporated it into their own research, or they rebuffed it and went about their day. But there was one team of engineers who saw the paper and saw it as potentially groundbreaking.

Lockheed engineers working in the “Skunk Works” division, the same engineers who made America’s first jet fighter during World War II, saw the chance to create something entirely new and novel. What if they could create an entire plane with the shapes and materials that sent little energy back to a radar?

Such a plane could be large, like the size of a bomber or fighter, but would show up on radar as a little bit of electromagnetic noise. It would be invisible as long as no one knew to look for it, and it would still be challenging to detect even after its existence was disclosed.

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective
(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

Best of all, the growing number of homing missiles that American pilots would face would become essentially useless. Homing missiles needed a strong radar signal to get within range of an enemy target before switching to a seeker built into the missile. This process would almost certainly not work against a stealth aircraft, making the pilots much safer.

There were plenty of possible uses for such a plane, but Lockheed started by building a ground-attack plane, though they further camouflaged the program by labeling it a fighter, the F-117 Nighthawk dubbed the “Stealth Fighter.” The same lessons were later used in the B-2 bomber and are now present—in new forms—the F-22 and F-35. And some of Ufimtsev’s work will undoubtedly be recognizable in the B-21 Raider.

Other branches have gotten in on the stealth made possible by Ufimtsev, like the Navy with its Sea Shadow project that created stealthy boats.

Ufimtsev has gotten recognition from the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation, and even the U.S. for his work. He has been named to prestigious positions at universities like UCLA in California. He is 90 years old. 

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Watch this helicopter door gunner shoot down a drone

Drones have become a security concern for the United States military. You might wonder why that is the case when the military operates a number of advanced drones like the MQ-9 Reaper and the RQ-4 Global Hawk. Well, American troops had close calls with ISIS drones, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.


Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective
ISIS is using drones more and more in their warfighting tactics.

Dealing with drones has become a way for a lot of people to come up with ideas, like jammers that can send the drone running home, lasers that can burn the drones in mid-air, or ammo that can hunt drones. But there is another way to handle a drone that is just as permanent, and which is currently available to the troops on the front lines.

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective
The seized 3DR Solo quadcopter drone, rigged with a remote-detonated improvised explosive device. (Mexican Federal Police photo)

All you need to handle the hostile is a Sikorsky H-60 airframe, and it really doesn’t matter if it’s a UH-60 Blackhawk, MH-60R/S Seahawk, or an Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk. Even a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk will do in a pinch. The real key to taking out these drones is the M240, M2, or M3 machine gun that the door gunners use.

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective
A door gunner on a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from the 244th Aviation Brigade, Oklahoma National Guard, scours the earth below during joint training at Falcon Bombing Range, Fort Sill, Okla., Mar. 22, 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Andrew M. LaMoreaux/Released)

In a sense, these door gunners are acting like the old waist gunners on B-17 Flying Fortresses. Back then, those gunners needed training films that included the voice of Bugs Bunny. Seventy-five years later, though, the gunners can actually train against a target similar to what they are shooting. And with live ammo, too.

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective
A drone that was shot down by some of Nammo’s programmable ammo rounds. (Photo from Nammo)

This low-tech solution might not work in all situations, but it is good to know that the United States military does have these options in case they need them. In the video below, you can see a door gunner at the United States Navy Rotary Wing Weapons School get some very realistic training on how to deal with a hostile drone. Note the M240 that is used on this MH-60 Seahawk.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Humor in combat: Veterans share their funny war stories

Humor in combat is a bizarre topic — and one not many understand unless they’ve been there. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines across the world have been fighting in wars since the creation of militaries. Combat is a high-octane blend of mental and physical exhaustion. The more a soldier is in combat, the better they get at warfighting — and coping with the rigors of war creates a unique sense of humor.

Soldiers are known to engage in somewhat dark humor that is typically derived from repeated exposure to high-stress scenarios in training and in combat. These experiences can make assimilation into the civilian sector more difficult after getting out of the military. The gap between veterans and civilians is ever present, and differences in humor — along with extreme differences in life experiences — can contribute to that divide.

According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter in high-stress environments is a coping mechanism and can actually manifest helpful physical effects: “Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.” In addition, laughter can activate and then relieve your stress response as well as decrease tension.

Coffee or Die Magazine spoke with several veterans about their experiences in combat — and why they found some of it funny.

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective
Mike Simpson ready to roll before a mission. Photo courtesy of Mike Simpson.

Mike Simpson served in the US Army for 32 years, starting out in 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, moving on to 7th Special Forces Group, and ending his career in the military as an emergency medicine physician.

On a deployment in 2013 during winter in Afghanistan, Simpson and his fellow Rangers sprinted into position after their partner force came under fire. It was a small firefight, but they spent the better part of an hour trying to locate a “squirter” that was shooting at them after running from the target building they were there to hit.

During the firefight, Simpson recalled, he “took a mental step back and actually checked my pulse. Then I said, ‘Hmmm … interesting,’ and I chuckled. The Ranger next to me gave me a funny look.”

His fellow Ranger didn’t say anything until they got back to their base. Simpson explained to him why he had checked his pulse during the firefight, and they both had another laugh.

“The first half of my career, I had always wondered how I would react on a psychological and physiological level to combat. You read all the stories and the books, but you don’t know how you will react until it happens,” Simpson said. “I was curious, as a physician, as to how I was handling the situation, so I took my own pulse.”

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective
Steve Wickham served in an aviation unit prior to becoming a Ranger. Photo courtesy of Steve Wickham.

Steve Wickham served in the US Army for a little over 20 years and deployed a total of five times. He was on a deployment to Afghanistan while in the 563rd Aviation Support Battalion back in 2012, stationed at Kandahar Airfield. Rocket attacks were common and he was typically close to the impacts, as he was living on the airfield in a mini-compound. Eight months into his 12-month deployment, another rocket attack came in.

The incoming-ordnance sirens started going off at approximately 11 p.m. Wickham and his active duty and civilian comrades made their way to the bunker on their compound. The airfield’s Counter Rocket, Artillery, Mortar (C-RAM) defense system started firing at the incoming ordnance, but Wickham wasn’t too concerned.

“The C-Rams were going off, and per usual none of us took the attack very seriously,” Wickham said. “I believe I was sitting on top of the bunker, smoking and joking with another NCO, instead of being inside it.”

Wickham and his comrades were laughing the night away when three rockets hit just outside their aircraft hangars, approximately 60 yards from their bunker. They started running toward the impacts to render aid if needed.

One of the civilians there was Randy, a veteran and firefighter, who had let himself go after getting out of the military. During this whole deployment, Randy had been hitting the gym hard and had lost a lot of weight. Wickham made a quick quip to this civilian as they were running toward the impact site.

“Damn Randy, look at you. That gym time is paying off — you’re keeping up with us!” Appearing dumbfounded, Randy made Wickham’s joke worth it. Randy was winded, and all he could do was flip the bird at Wickham and keep running. They arrived to find that no one was injured, so they moved on to evaluate property damage.

Later on, they were all gathered in a circle and talking about the night’s events. Randy was laughing about Wickham’s ability to crack jokes while sprinting and just after multiple rockets had hit their compound.

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective
This photo was taken shortly after Barrett Carver’s experience with the deflected ordnance; Carver is the second from the left in the top row. Photo courtesy of Barrett Carver.

Barrett Carver served in the US Army for almost seven years and deployed multiple times. He spent his time in 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and was one of the Rangers involved in the assault on Haditha Dam, a critical structure to capture during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

During the assault, Carver and his fellow Rangers were holed up inside one of the buildings on “the military side of the dam,” and they were taking indirect fire from the Iraqis. Artillery rounds were impacting close to their building for several hours with barrages of small-arms fire. Carver thought to himself, Well, it’s been a good run.

Suddenly, they all heard a loud twang, and a thick cloud of dust erupted inside the building. Carver looked up to see a horseshoe-shaped indent in the corrugated tin roof over their heads. Everyone burst into uncontrollable laughter — one of the artillery rounds had been deflected by the thin tin roof.

“Deflection is a funny thing,” Carver said. “It could have just as easily been a dud round. Either way, I take a kick where I can get it. Amazing thing is that with the amount they dropped on us, we only had two casualties. Both made it.”

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective
Scott Ford and his ODA overseas. Photo courtesy of Scott Ford.

Scott Ford served in the US Army for 21 years and is the recipient of a Silver Star for his actions in Afghanistan on April 6, 2008, while serving as the team sergeant of Operational Detachment Alpha 3336 (ODA-3336).

Ford struck up a conversation with a fellow passenger while on his flight to a training event. She was a psychologist, and they were discussing different ways to handle heavy stress. One of her suggestions for handling stressful situations was to imagine breaking crayons. At the time, Ford didn’t realize this suggestion would pop into his head years later during a firefight in Iraq.

During a mission one night in Sadr City, Iraq, Ford and his Special Forces team were pinned down on top of a roof while supporting the main assault element.

“It was one of those little aggravating gunfights where we just can’t find the guy to kill him, and we’re trying all kinds of unique things,” Ford recalled.

It got to a point where Ford and his teammate sat down behind their cover to think through a solution to finally kill the insurgent who had them pinned down. Then a smile creeped across Ford’s face, despite the bullets impacting their cover. His teammate looked at him with bewilderment and said, “What the fuck are you thinking about right now?”

Ford looked at him and said, “I’m like, breaking fucking crayons, bro.” They both busted out in laughter. After regaining composure, they figured out a way to take out the insurgent.

“You know, it’s just one of those moments where anybody else would look at us like, you guys are fucking weird, you know?” Ford said.

Ford believes veterans are unique because they have the ability to laugh in dire situations. Ford and his old teammates still get together from time to time, and the story about breaking crayons always comes up.

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective
Jason Briggs, left, with a fellow Ranger overseas. Photo courtesy of Jason Briggs.

Jason Briggs served in the US Army for four years in 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment and deployed five times. Briggs’ last deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2008 involved a particularly funny experience while out on a mission.

His team didn’t have their usual pilots and were being flown by an aviation unit that they hadn’t worked with much in the past. They were loaded onto two MH-47 Chinook helicopters to infiltrate their target. High winds coming down the mountains made flying conditions difficult. When Briggs’ Chinook attempted to touch down, the pilot struggled to make a steady landing and took several tries; each failed attempt to land was followed by a rapid gain in altitude while spinning. Meanwhile, the other helicopter landed on its first attempt and offloaded its Rangers.

The guys were having a blast on his Chinook, pretending the scary helicopter ride was a roller coaster and that they were in Disney World, laughing constantly.

“You’d see the mountains under nods just whizzing by out the back out the Chinook,” Briggs said. “It took about four attempts to put her down, and when he did, we were a ways away from the other chalk. But hey, we were finally down.”

The Rangers landed and executed their mission, detaining several people from the targeted house. The call for their exfiltration was radioed into command, and eventually the same crew of Chinooks came thundering in.

When the pilot of Briggs’ Chinook made the first attempt to land, they all had to take off running with their detainees to avoid getting stomped on by the actual helicopter.

“Sure enough this guy can’t put it down again — the first attempt sends us running like mushrooms about to be stomped by Mario,” Briggs said. “Have you ever seen an exfil circle, with PUCs, pick up and run in a complete brownout as a helicopter follows them around trying to land on them? Yeah, that actually happened.”

The pilot landed after about three attempts, and the Rangers loaded up with their detainees. They had a safe flight back to base to prepare for the inevitable follow-on mission.

“Although we got to share the camaraderie together in the bird,” he said, “I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed so hard in my life as I did seeing a helicopter try to land on me in the middle of the night in Afghanistan.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch Navy SEAL Jocko Willink break down combat scenes

“If your reserve parachute doesn’t work, the procedure is…basically you’re gonna hand salute the world and you’re gonna hit the dirt…because you’re gonna die,” said former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink without much to indicate whether he’s cracking a joke or not.

The retired Lieutenant Commander and recipient of the Silver Star and Bronze Star saw multiple combat deployments, including the Battle of Ramadi in Iraq. After his military career, he created a popular podcast, Jocko Podcast; co-founded Echelon Front, a premier leadership consulting company; and co-authored books like the #1 New York Times bestseller Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win.

He’s nothing if not a commanding presence, which makes his commentary on combat scenes from movies all the more entertaining. Willink doesn’t hold back.


Navy SEAL Jocko Willink Breaks Down Combat Scenes From Movies | GQ

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Willink starts by breaking down the HALO (High Altitude Low Open) jump from Navy SEALS. He goes pretty deep into the mechanics of a HALO jump and mission logistics that are worth watching in the video above, but here’s a highlight:

“In all branches of the military, you rely on each other to make sure you’re safe. The guy’s checking the other person’s pins on his rig to make sure they’re going to deploy the parachute properly…and then he’s messing with him, which is pretty normal, too. If you know someone’s scared of parachuting, then he’s gonna get messed with a little bit more. Never let anyone know you’re scared of something. Just keep it to yourself,” Willink shared — and again…if he’s amused, you’ll never know. The guy has a straight-up poker face.

He goes on to describe what happens when a parachute malfunctions.

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective

“There’s a bunch of things that can go wrong with a parachute. I had one malfunction in my career,” Willink reflected. “What do you do when your parachute doesn’t open? You follow procedures. We train really hard to know what the procedures are.”

He shared his own story of cutting away his main chute and pulling his reserve — which is also demonstrated in the Navy SEALs clip in the video above.

Willink moved on to the amphibious operations of Act of Valor.

“Just because you’re on the SEAL Teams does not mean you’re a sniper. Sniper is a specialized school that guys go to. And there’s a bunch of different schools: you could be a communication expert, you could be a medic…” Willink illustrated.

Willink had a few problems.

“Let me pause it right here. It’s just kind of … not realistic at all. I guess they’re trying to make it look cool. It always surprises me a little bit because … it’s the best job in the world. You don’t really need to do anything to make it look cool. It is cool,” he affirmed.

From ghillie suits to breaching operations to catching a target before he hits the water, Willink has something to say — and it’s not always a critique. He has a lot of knowledge and experience, so it’s cool to hear him break down what’s going on in the scene and why the operators are doing what they do.


Check out the video above to see Willink’s thoughts on additional films like American Sniper, Zero Dark Thirty, Captain Phillips and Lone Survivor.
MIGHTY MOVIES

Behold: ‘The Mandalorian’ Season 2 trailer just dropped

Our favorite baby daddy Mandalorian is back! Pedro Pascal’s Din Djarin stoically appears in the new trailer for season two of The Mandalorian — and he’s got his little sidekick with him. The trailer makes it clear that this next season will be taking us deeper into the Force.


The Mandalorian: Season 2 Official Trailer (2020)

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“The songs of eons past tell of battles between Mandalore The Great and an order of sorcerers called Jedi,” intones the Armorer.

“You expect me to search the galaxy and deliver this creature to a race of enemy sorcerers?” asks a dubious Djarin.

“This is the way.”

Remember, The Mandalorian takes place in the years after the events of Return of the Jedi (about thirty years after Order 66 resulted in the purge of most of the Jedi Order); and as we know from The Force Awakens, most of the galaxy thinks of the Jedi and the Force as stories or legends — if they know about them at all.

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective

Meanwhile, the Mandalorian-Jedi Wars ended thousands of years earlier. The Force is still a misunderstood phenomenon for Djarin, who understandably thinks of the Jedi as “enemy sorcerers.” It’s a clever approach to The Force, allowing the audience to delight in Djarin’s discoveries into mysteries that have dominated pop culture since 1977.

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective

I just hope they don’t still use elephants to make banthas… (Disney+)

It also makes for fun easter egg searches in every Star Wars release. Some of the highlights from the season two trailer include a Bantha-riding Tusken Raider (why is everyone obsessed with going back to Tatooine???), Rebel Alliance (slash New Republic?) X-Wings, and Sasha Banks’ rumor-stirring appearance (will the WWE star play a Jedi? A Sith? A Nightsister?).

Disney is deftly saving big cast reveals for the episodes, which means neither Rosario Dawson (who is rumored to play The Clone Wars’ Ahsoka Tano) nor Battlestar Galactica’s Katee Sackhoff were to be seen. Instead, fans wonder about who Banks will play — and is it Sabine Wren, a Mandalorian warrior and rebel combatant?

The trailer illustrates the scope of Djarin and the Yoda Baby’s travels, from Tatooine to snowy worlds, to cloud-filled skies, to a water world (is it Mon Cala??). We also get the playfulness that Star Wars fans know and love when the pair are attacked during an alien MMA match. Check out the trailer above for the full effect!

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective

Gotta love that new logo. (Disney+)

The Mandalorian returns to Disney+ on Oct. 30, 2020.

Don’t forget to check out the season one recaps to refresh your memory before you dive into season two this fall!

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MIGHTY CULTURE

Clint Eastwood’s 8 most awesome veteran characters

Few actors play a salty old veteran better than Clint Eastwood. Eastwood was drafted into the Army during the Korean War, but never quite made it over to the Korean Peninsula. He was a swimming instructor at Fort Ord and survived a plane crash where he had to swim to safety. Four years later, the onetime soldier was one the silver screen, in 1955’s Never Say Goodbye. Ever since, the veteran’s life has been a critical aspect of many of his onscreen characters, of which there have been many.


Mitchell Gant, “Firefox”

Clint Eastwood plays Gant, a Vietnam veteran and pilot who’s assigned to sneak into the Soviet Union and steal the most advanced fighter aircraft ever built. Part action-adventure, part spy thriller, Firefox may not wow you today, but the character of Mitchell Gant is a fun one. He is a former USAF prisoner of war who was held captive in Vietnam, but now, because he speaks Russian (his mother was Russian), he gets to embark on a top-secret spy mission to infiltrate the USSR.

Frank Corvin, “Space Cowboys”

Space Cowboys doesn’t just have Clint Eastwood, it has a digitally young version of Eastwood as Frank Corvin shows his disappointment with the Air Force for abandoning his crew’s mission to go into space. After 40 years and the crew much aged, Eastwood’s Corvin, along with Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner, and Donald Sutherland, get their chance to show off the right stuff. There aren’t many movies about the USAF test pilots’ glory days, and Space Cowboys is a great example.

Walt Kowalski, “Gran Torino”

Clint Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a Korean War veteran who is very content with the way things are, even as the rest of his world is crumbling around him. Kowalski is very much prejudiced against Koreans, long after the war ended. This fact is only highlighted when a Korean family moves in next door, and the youngest son attempts to steal his well-kept 1972 Gran Torino. Gran Torino features at least one of Eastwood’s most badass lines: “Ever notice how you come across somebody once in a while you shouldn’t have f**ked with? That’s me.”

Awesome.

Josey Wales, “The Outlaw Josey Wales”

Josey Wales is a farmer turned Confederate bushwhacker who ends the Civil War on the run from Union soldiers, but Josey Wales wasn’t fighting for the Confederacy, not really. He was fighting to avenge the murder of his family by pro-Union militias. With a bounty on his head, Wales is joined by a group of extraordinary adventurers who help Josey Wales on his quest to stay alive, stay free, and escape to Mexico. He gets revenge against the man responsible for his family’s death, but his escape is a lot less of a shootout than expected.

Way before that, though, Josey Wales wipes out a whole unit with a Gatling gun.

Pvt. Kelly, “Kelly’s Heroes”

In the closing days of World War II, Private Kelly – once a Lieutenant Kelly, who ended up court-martialed for a failed infantry attack – gets wind of million in gold bars hiding just behind enemy lines. While his unit is halted near the town of Nancy, Kelly enlists some of his men to go AWOL and make a dash for the gold. They fight their way to the gold against overwhelming odds. When they can’t fight anymore, they offer the Germans a cut of the action.

Luther Whitney, “Absolute Power”

Luther Whitney is a Korean War veteran who left the military and became one of the world’s best and most formidable cat burglars. While robbing the home of a wealthy industrialist, he witnesses the President of the United States attempt to sexually assault the rich man’s wife. She fights him off until she’s killed by the Secret Service, who attempt to cover up the episode. After being framed for the killing, Luther decides to use his skills, along with evidence he took from the crime scene to re-frame the President.

With Ed Harris, Gene Hackman, Scott Glenn, and Dennis Haysbert, there’s so much testosterone in this movie, it might as well be a war film.

Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Highway, “Heartbreak Ridge”

When Gunny Highway stands up to his Major and says “with all due respect, sir, you’re beginning to bore the hell out of me” while smoking a cigar, it was the one time I wanted to join the Marine Corps.

Harry Callahan,  “Dirty Harry”

All badass characters who came before and after are all trying to live up to one character: “Dirty” Harry Callahan. A hard-boiled cop who operates using his own set of rules, Harry Callahan remains cool under fire but gets heated when the bad guys win. Not much is known about Dirty Harry, and you pretty much have to watch the whole series to get a picture of the character. We don’t even find out he was a Marine until the second Dirty Harry movie, Magnum Force, when we learn Harry didn’t finish his 20 years. In the final film, The Dead Pool, Harry drinks from a Marine Corps mug.

He had to learn to stay frosty somewhere.

popular

5 ways troops go to the bathroom while in field

Everyone has to hit the head (bathroom) at least a few times a day (if you don’t, you should probably consult with a doctor ASAP). For troops in the field, using the restroom might not always be as easy as just visiting the nearest toilet.

In fact, some forward-deployed troops don’t even have access to running water, so flushing their waste away through a series of pipes would simply be impractical.


So, how do troops make a number one or two while in the field? Well, keep reading and be slightly amazed!

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective

“Piss pipes”

This might sound like some new way to smoke tobacco, but it’s far, far from it. These public urinals are constructed from large pipes that are halfway buried. This way, all the human pee collects several feet underground instead of pooling on the surface.

Cat holes

You know how cats sometimes burr small holes in the kitty litter before dropping the payload? Well, the military adapted that idea when it comes to human waste disposal and created what are known, aptly, as “cat holes.”

According to field manuals, proper cat holes are 12-inches long, 12-inches wide, and 12-inches deep. This method of waste disposal is meant to be temporary and quickly covered up if a squad needs to get on the move.

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective

WAG Bags

Have you ever made brown in a Ziploc bag? Well, if you have, that’s exactly what it’s like taking a dump in a WAG bag — except this one has a bunch of biodegradable odor neutralizers inside.

Since holding a WAG bag open while taking care of business isn’t easy, use some sort of container (like a bucket) to keep the bag open.

Straddle trenches

Remember the cat hole we talked about earlier, and how they’re made for temporary use? Well, the straddle trenches are like that — only permanent. To properly use the straddle trench, squat over the rectangular hole and release.

According to Army regulations, the trenches are supposed to be 1-foot wide, 2 1/2-feet deep, and 4-feet long.

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective
U.S. Army

Porta-Johns

Yes, we have “Porta-sh*tters” located on the frontlines. For the most part, they’re located on the larger FOBs. To keep these maintained, allied forces pay local employees who live nearby to pump the human discharge out of the poop reservoirs.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Curtez Riggs – Army veteran, entrepreneur

School. Streets. Military. In 1996, Curtez Riggs graduated high school and those were his options in Flint, Michigan. By that time, the auto industry that built “Buick City” had moved away. As a kid, Curtez picked up bottles, turned in cans and always had a side gig to bring in extra money. When it came time to make the decision, Curtez figured the Army was the best way to start his future.


His entrepreneurship did not stop when he joined the Army. Curtez continuously started businesses outside of his day job as a career recruiter. In this episode, you will hear how Curtez prepared for his military transition – years before he ended his active service.

Flint MI Then and Now

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Currently, Curtez is the CEO of the Military Influencer Conference (MIC). Started in 2016, the conference is a community of entrepreneurs, influencers, creatives, executives, and leaders who are connected to the military community. Curtez said he sees the conference as a mentorship and connection hub for future and current military veterans looking to make the military transition with an entrepreneurial mindset. This year’s conference is in Washington, D.C., Sept. 8-10, 2019. Starting in 2020, the conference will be placed in a different region each year.

The conference has certain tracks attendees can follow:

  • “Going Live” – Podcasters and Video
  • Real Estate
  • Founders and Innovators
  • Social Impact
  • Content Creators
  • Empower – Milspouse Track
  • Workshops
  • Mighty Talks

#BtBattle Veteran of the Week: Air Force and Army veteran Erin McLyman.

    Enjoy the episode.

    This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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