How China's special forces stack up against the US's special operators - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Over the last two decades, special-operations forces have become the go-to choice for policymakers and military leaders around the world.

The successes of US and coalition special-operations units in the Global War on Terror (GWOT) and in Syria against ISIS have showcased the importance and utility of small teams of highly trained troops.

While the US and its allies have been fighting in the Middle East, the Chinese military has been paying close attention, especially to US special operations. As a result, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is increasingly investing resources in its own special-operations forces.

So with everyone gearing up for great power competition, how do Chinese special operations measure up against the US’s and what are the biggest difference between the two?

US special operators

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators
US Army Special Forces members perform an airborne operation near Mont Saint Michel in France, May 18, 2019.

US special-operations units can be divided into unofficial tiers.

Delta Force and SEAL Team 6 would be at the top (Tier 1), followed by the 75th Ranger Regiment, Night Stalkers, MARSOC, and SEAL and Boat Teams (Tier 2), and then the Special Forces Groups (Tier 3). Air Commandos are harder to categorize since they most often augment other units rather than deploy as teams.

It’s important to note that these tiers have more to do with mission sets and funding than with the quality of the troops.

For example, SEAL Team 6 is part of the National Mission Force (the Pentagon’s first responders, in layman’s terms) and has far more money to spend and resources to use than a “vanilla” SEAL team, but both are manned by SEALs.

Chinese special operators

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators
China navy Jiaolong, or “Sea Dragon” commandos during an exercise.

Irregular warfare and special operations have been part of Chinese military culture since the time of Sun Tzu, whose writings highlighted the value of specialized individuals and units in warfare.

However, modern Chinese special operations are fairly new. The first unit, the Special Reconnaissance Group, was established in 1988. In the late 1990s, as part of PLA’s modernization, seven Special Operations Groups of between 1,000 to 2,000 men were created.

Now there is one special-operations brigade-size unit in each of the five theater commands, which are a rough equivalent of the US’s combatant commands.

In addition, there are numerous smaller special-operations units of varying size in the other branches. The Chinese Navy, Air Force, and Rocket Force (the branch responsible for China’s nuclear and conventional missiles) each have a dedicated special-operations unit.

The Navy’s Jiaolong (Sea Dragons) is probably the most famous Chinese special-operations unit after it successfully recaptured a ship from pirates in the Gulf of Aden and assisted the evacuation of civilians from war-torn Yemen, which became the subject of a Chinese propaganda movie.

All in all, China has between 20,000 and 40,000 special-operations troops of varying quality.

Crucially, Chinese special-operations units have more than doubled in number in the last two decades, showing that Chinese leaders are paying close attention to the high-reward, low-cost characteristics of special-operations units.

Both special but not the same

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators
Chinese Navy Special Forces, or “Jiaolong Commando,” repel onto a ship during an exercise.

Since the early 2000s, the PLA has undergone a drastic modernization and professionalization process, transitioning from a mainly conscript force to a smaller, mostly volunteer military, though conscription remains as a policy.

The new force’s main aim is to fight short wars against regional adversaries while having a technological advantage.

Chinese special-operations units, and the PLA as a whole, have gained from that modernization and learned from the example provided by Western special-operations units over the past 60 years, but Chinese forces are still untested in combat.

On the other hand, US special-operations units have amassed an astounding level of combat experience in the last two decades. It’s not uncommon to have operators with double-digit combat deployments and hundreds of real-world operations under their belts.

Chinese special-operations units are also regionally focused and lack a centralized command like the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM). This could limit their effectiveness and hurt interoperability.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators
A member of the “Jiaolong Commando.”

Moreover, Chinese special-operations units lack the dedicated aviation and maritime assets that American commandos have, namely the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Special Boat Teams, SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams, and the Air Force’s Special Operations Squadrons.

Without specialized insertion platforms, the utility of Chinese commandos is limited and their geographic scope localized. However, according to the US Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO), the PLA is establishing aviation brigades that might resolve some of these asset shortcomings.

Additionally, there is a difference in mission sets.

Chinese special-operations units focus on direct action, special reconnaissance, and counterterrorism. Unlike US commandos, they don’t conduct unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, counterinsurgency, hostage rescue, civil affairs, and psychological operations.

In a nutshell, in terms of mission sets, Chinese commandos are closer to World War II special-operations units than to modern US special operations. It’s not that they aren’t capable, but their scope is more limited, a reflection of the PLA’s strategic priorities.

People first

But perhaps the biggest and most important difference is the people.

“Humans are more important than hardware,” is one of the five US special-operations “Truths.” Western special operators take pride in their independence and out-of-the-box thinking, which is encouraged if not expected by their leaders.

Units like Delta Force, the SEAL Teams, the Special Forces Groups, and allied units like the Special Air Service (SAS) excel because of their noncommissioned officers. When planning operations, it’s these NCOs who come up with the ideas and approach. Ironically, the British SAS have titled this enlisted-driven process “the Chinese Parliament.”

Conversely, elements of Chinese military culture, in particular the use of conscripts as well as differing views on unit cohesion, pose a significant barrier to small-team independence.

Allegiance to and scrutiny by the Communist Party complicates things further and adds another level of bureaucracy.

China is used to stealing and copying military technology and concepts, which is believed to be behind Beijing’s advances in fighter jets and other weapons. But when it comes to special-operations units, these cultural aspects aren’t easy to mimic.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Army is making it rain ‘Presents from Paratroopers’ in Fayetteville

The 82nd Airborne Division is getting in the holiday spirit early this year with the annual ‘All American Presents from Paratroopers.’

“All American Presents from Paratroopers is an annual event the 82nd Airborne Division hosts in order to give back to the surrounding Fayetteville community with holiday gift donations while enhancing our Airborne capability and giving our paratroopers the opportunity to earn coveted foreign jump wings,” MSG Alex Burnett, PAO NCOIC of the 82nd Airborne, told We Are The Mighty.

The paratroopers who donated toys received a raffle ticket for a chance to earn foreign jump wings during the two-day airborne operation.

“Paratroopers from across Fort Bragg donated a present and were given a raffle ticket early Monday morning,” Burnett said. “Later in the day, the Division held a lottery and those with matching tickets were given a slot to jump on December 2nd and 3rd with a Chilean Jumpmaster.”

82nd airborne participates in presents from paratroopers

2020 marks the second year the division has hosted this event, which is open to any current paratrooper serving at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

“In years past, U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command hosted an event called Operation Toy Drop which was a similar event, but their last event was in 2018,” Burnett shared. “In the spirit of that tradition, last year the 82nd decided to create All American Presents from Paratroopers.”

This year, the event collected more than 1,500 toys, which will go to the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina, Fort Bragg USO, Armed Services YMCA, Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department and the Fayetteville Urban Ministry.

“I wanted to participate in Presents from Paratroopers, because it’s important to me that we give back to the local community and help those in need,” Staff Sgt. Alina Zamora, 82nd Airborne Division Paralegal said. “The fact that we can do that and earn a set of foreign jump wings makes the event even more special. I am glad I got to be a part of it.”

a paratrooper loads presents in a jumper's bag

The 82nd Airborne Division is an airborne infantry division of the United States Army specializing in joint forcible entry operations and the primary fighting arm of the XVIII Airborne Corps. Since its initial members in 1917 came from all forty-eight states, the unit acquired the nickname “All American,” which is the basis for its famed “AA” shoulder patch.

“The All American Division is fortunate to be a part of the Fayetteville community and we are proud to be able to give back while providing our paratroopers the opportunity to jump and earn a set of foreign jump wings,” Burnett stated.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Space Medal of Honor is the highest award for astronauts

On Oct. 1, 1978, President Jimmy Carter wrapped the Space Medal of Honor around the neck of Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on the moon. It was the first-ever of such medals awarded, even though the medal was authorized by Congress in 1969 — the year Armstrong actually landed on the moon.

Better late than never.


How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Astronaut Neil Armstrong received the first Congressional Space Medal of Honor from President Jimmy Carter, assisted by Captain Robert Peterson. Armstrong, one of six astronauts to be presented the medal, was awarded for his performance during the Gemini 8 mission and the Apollo 11 mission.

(NASA)

The list of men also receiving the Space Medal of Honor that day was a veritable “who’s who” of NASA and Space Race history: John Glenn, Alan Shepard, and — posthumously — Virgil “Gus” Grissom. They received the medal from the President of the United States, in the name of Congress, and on the recommendation of the NASA administrator.

Today, as the list of Space Medal of Honor recipients grows, it continues to have such esteemed names joining their ranks, as earning it requires an extraordinary feat of heroism or some other accomplishment in the name of space flight while under NASA’s administration. Just going to the moon doesn’t cut it anymore — Buzz Aldrin still does not have one.

Read: Watch Buzz Aldrin punch a moon landing denier in the face

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

President Clinton presented the Congressional Space Medal of Honor to Captain James Lovell for his command of the nearly disastrous Apollo 13 mission. Actor Tom Hanks portrayed Lovell in the movie Apollo 13 the same year he received the medal.

(Clinton Presidential Library)

Recipients can also receive the award for conducting scientific research or experiments that benefit all of mankind in the course of their duties. In practice, however, most of the recipients of the Space Medal of Honor died in the course of their duties. The crew of the ill-fated Challenger disaster who died during liftoff and the crew of the Columbia shuttle, who died during reentry are all recipients. To date, only 28 astronauts have earned the Space Medal of Honor, and 17 of those were awarded it posthumously.

Though the award is a civilian award, it is allowed for wear on military uniforms, but the ribbon comes after all other decorations of the U.S. Armed Forces.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 stress resources vets can use right now

As a veteran, you might experience difficult life events or challenges after leaving the military. We’re here to help no matter how big or small the problem may be. VA’s resources address the unique stressors and experiences that veterans face — and we’re just a click, call, text, or chat away.


Seven mental health resources veterans can use right now:

1. Just show up to any VA Medical Center.

Did you know that VA offers same day services in Primary Care and Mental Health at 172 VA Medical Centers across the country? VA Secretary Robert Wilkie has made Same-Day 24/7 access to emergency mental health care the top clinical priority for VA staff. “It’s important that all veterans, their family and friends know that help is easily available.” Now, all 172 VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) provide Same-Day Mental Health Care services. If a veteran is in crisis or has need for immediate mental health care, he or she will receive immediate attention from a health care professional. To find VA locations near you, explore the facility locator tool.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Photo by Tim Evanson)

​2. Make the Connection.

Make the Connection is an online resource designed to connect veterans, their family members, friends and other supporters with information and solutions to issues affecting their lives. On the website, visitors can watch hundreds of veterans share their stories of strength and recovery, read about a variety of life events and mental health topics, and locate nearby resources.

​3. Veterans Crisis Line.

The Veterans Crisis Line connects veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring VA responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, and text messaging service. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

4. Vet Centers​.

Vet Centers provide community-based counseling for a wide range of social and psychological services, including confidential readjustment counseling, outreach and referral to eligible veterans, active duty service members, including National Guard and Reserve components and their families. It offers individual, group, marriage and family counseling. And you can get a referral and connection to other VA or community benefits and services at no cost. Vet Center counselors and outreach staff, many of whom are veterans themselves, are experienced and prepared to discuss the tragedies of war, loss, grief and transition after trauma.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

SFC William Petit hugs his children at a deployment ceremony for the HHD 210th Military Police Battalion, Michigan Army National Guard.

( MIARNG photo by Staff Sgt Helen Miller)

5. ​Coaching Into Care.

Coaching Into Care provides guidance to veterans’ family members and friends on encouraging a veteran they care about to reach out for mental health support. Free, confidential assistance is available by calling 1-888-823-7458, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, or by emailing CoachingIntoCare@va.gov.

6. ​Veteran Training online self-help portal.

The Veteran Training online self-help portal provides tools for overcoming everyday challenges. The portal has tools to help veterans work on problem-solving skills, manage anger, develop parenting skills, and more. All tools are free. Its use is entirely anonymous, and they are based on mental health practices that have proven successful with veterans and their families.

7. AboutFace.

AboutFace features stories of veterans who have experienced PTSD, their family members, and VA clinicians. There, you can learn about PTSD, explore treatment options, and get advice from others who have been there.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Family is hunting for a tutor who will dress as Obi-Wan Kenobi

If you’re wise beyond your years, own a lightsaber, and possess Jedi mind tricks, your dream job might just be less than a galaxy away.

“Star Wars” followers who want to get paid for their passion for all things intergalactic may be able to get the chance if they’re also knowledgable English tutors.

A British family is on the hunt for a Star Wars “megafan” to help teach their dyslexic son get through his fifth grade English.

The parents say their ideal candidate must dress up as their son’s favorite character Obi-Wan Kenobi for the duration of each hourly tutoring session.


This means wearing the iconic character’s full robe set with a special request of arriving with a “realistic light saber” — all of which will be fully compensated.

Aside from dressing the part, each lesson must be “Star Wars”-inspired and as interactive as possible.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

The ideal candidate is expected to dress and play the part from the moment they arrive.

(Lucasfilm)

The parents suggest the tutor refer to their son as “Padawan” and teach nouns, adjectives and sentence structure in terms of the film’s objects and scenes.

But hopefuls will also be put through a “Star Wars” skills test before being entrusted with the role.

The parents say in order to choose the right candidate, each one will go through a trial session to “see how well they can recreate Obi Wan’s character.”

Not only will the successful candidate enjoy the perks of a free new costume, but will also be paid handsomely at £60 () an hour.

Jedi Masters are encouraged to apply on online tutoring agency website Tutor House if they wish to mentor the next generation.

Insider was unable to speak to the family to verify the request, but, if legitimate, it’s the dream job for wannabe Jedi masters.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army looks at new ways to retain these field experts

Senior warrant officers from around the Army congregated to discuss talent management on day two of the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army in Washington, D.C.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Doug Englen of the Army Talent Management Task Force served on a panel of five distinguished senior warrant officers to discuss a series of personnel reforms designed to help acquire, develop, employ, and retain the right talent among Army warrant officers. Warrant officers are subject-matter experts in their field, serving in diverse roles across the Army from flying helicopters to conducting offensive cyber operations.

Every community within the Army has its own unique talent management challenges. The warrant officer community, in particular, has struggled to retain the most experienced warrant officers.


“In 1991, we had 1,500 warrant officers with over twenty years of warrant officer experience. Today, that number is just 350, even though we still have the same number of warrant officers,” said Englen.

Since arriving to the task force over one year ago, Englen has helped the Army begin to address talent management issues specifically impacting warrant officers.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Senior warrant officers from around the Army discussed talent management at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in Washington, DC. The Army has already implemented talent management reforms within the officer corps; some of these reforms are being expanded to warrant officers and enlisted personnel. These programs are part of a comprehensive series of reforms designed to modernize the Army’s personnel system and transform it to a 21st Century talent management system.

(U.S. Army photo)

“When an active duty warrant officer retires, he or she is placed on the regular Army retired list, unlike commissioned officers, who are placed on the reserve Army list,” said Englen.

“Title 37 of the U.S. Code prevents dual compensation of retirement and reserve pay,” said Englen, “But by offering our retiring warrant officers Selective Reserve (SELRES) status, we can allow them to serve in the Reserve component following their retirement from active duty without causing them to lose their retirement pay.”

Doing so would help the Army address at least part of its manning shortfalls in the Army Reserve, which is currently short approximately 4,000 warrant officers.

The warrant officer community is also incredibly diverse. Each career field, said Englen, requires its own unique approach to talent management.

Aviators, for instance, can require over a year’s worth of training before they can be assigned to their units. Under the current system, many warrant officers are promoted to chief warrant officer two (CW2) either during or shortly after flight school. The task force is drafting a new policy to “reset” a warrant officer’s date of rank once they complete flight school, allowing time to develop them as a warrant officer (WO1) for two years before being promoted to chief warrant officer two (CW2).

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Senior warrant officers from around the Army discussed talent management at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in Washington, DC. The Army has already implemented talent management reforms within the officer corps; some of these reforms are being expanded to warrant officers and enlisted personnel. These programs are part of a comprehensive series of reforms designed to modernize the Army’s personnel system and transform it to a 21st Century talent management system.

(U.S. Army photo)

Other communities, such as Special Forces and air defense, do not require extensive warrant officer training timelines, as they draw from their respective communities.

Instead, Englen noted, these communities are working to directly commission senior non-commissioned officers in the grades of sergeant first class through first sergeant to the rank of chief warrant officer two (CW2).

The Army has already implemented talent management reforms within the officer corps. Some of these reforms are being expanded to warrant officers and enlisted personnel. These programs are part of a comprehensive series of reforms designed to modernize the Army’s personnel system and transform it to a 21st Century talent management system.

These talent management initiatives aimed at the warrant officer community are expected to begin early 2020.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This soldier might be the first female on the moon

The list of female astronauts who could potentially is a short one. Only 12 would be able to go to the moon by 2024, in line with President Trump’s direction that the Space Agency should return to the moon, according to NASA. But only one of those women is Army strong.


How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Lt. Col. Anne McClain goes by the call sign “Annimal,” a reference to her old rugby nickname. She started her career as a Kiowa Warrior pilot flying combat missions in Iraq, graduated from test pilot school, and was eventually chosen to be part of astronaut group 21, the youngest astronaut on NASA’s roster. Her Army career took her to the International Space Station in 2018, and she completed her first spacewalk in March 2019. She has since returned to Earth.

In December 2017, President Trump directed NASA to prepare to send astronauts back to the lunar surface to make way for a long-term human presence on the moon. The project, dubbed Artemis, is not just a vanity project for the 45th President. It’s an effort for NASA to prepare for an even longer trip, sending human astronauts to Mars. When deciding to return humans to the moon, NASA determined they would send a woman.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

McClain took a selfie during one of her spacewalks.

While it may seem odd to send an Army troop to the moon, one could argue there’s no better preparation for going to the moon – or even Mars – than a few years in the Army. Working in austere, desert environments with barely enough tools to complete the mission but still somehow succeeding is what the Army is all about.

For Ann McClain, she’s a decorated Army combat veteran with more than 2,000 flight hours, a West Point-educated engineer, and the perfect soldier to lead a project called Artemis, named after the twin sister of Apollo, who was the namesake of the effort to put a man on the moon.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Peace we seek, peace we keep: Naval ship named in MoH recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams’ honor

Medal of Honor recipient Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams, an infantry rifleman corporal with 3rd Marine Division, 1st Battalion, 21st Marine Regiment, Charlie Company during the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945, is having a United States naval ship commissioned in his honor on March 7, 2020 in Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia.


Williams received a Medal of Honor from President Truman for his efforts as special weapons unit in a flamethrower demolition group in advancing US forces on Feb. 23, 1945.

www.youtube.com

Williams was born in 1923 in Fairmont, West Virginia. He decided to join the Marine Corps in May 1943. During his time in the armed forces, Williams fought the Battle of Iwo Jima, one of the bloodiest battles in U.S. Marine Corps history, and Williams was a pivotal component in The United States’ victory.

“When we arrived on shore it was really chaotic because the Marines of the 4th Division had been pinned to that area for days; two days at least,” said Williams. “Many of them had been wounded and evacuated so there were packs and rifles and jeeps blowing up and tanks stuck in the sand.”

Williams shared how the Marines would “belly out” and the tracks would turn but couldn’t get any traction because the sand was so loose. He recalls how when he first arrived from the Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP), or Higgins Boat, Marines that had been killed were rolled in their ponchos.

The goal was to destroy as many of the enemy’s pill boxes, or strategic bunkers that housed weaponry and allow protection from enemy forces. Williams used a flamethrower to take down the Japanese pillboxes for hours.

Upon his return home in 1945 he received a Medal of Honor award for his bravery by President Truman.

“From that day on, I took on a new life.” said Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams, Medal of Honor Recipient and World War II Veteran. “I became a public figure that I had no plan whatsoever to be.”

He retired after twenty years in the Marine Corps Reserve and became the Commandant of the Veterans Nursing Home in Barboursville, West Virginia for almost 10 years. “It’s almost like a dream,” said Williams. “It’s something that I dreamed would never happened.”

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Williams discussed how a Marine saw a ship with a Medal of Honor recipients name on it 20 years ago and he wanted to have a ship named after Williams as well.

Williams was told that that there would be a petition to have a ship named in his honor, and for several years there were petitions and paperwork to vouch for Williams having a ship named after him. Williams did not believe that a ship could be named after a corporal, and believed that was something reserved only for presidents and generals.

“I never dreamed it would happen,” said Williams. “I never thought it was possible.”

The Department of the Navy called Williams and told him that the petition would be approved. Upon approval, Williams needed to find a sponsor for the ship.

In naval history, the sponsor is traditionally one woman, usually the wife of the person having the ship named after him. This tradition was broken because Williams did not want to choose between his two daughters, so the Navy allowed both of his daughters to be the sponsors of his ship because his wife is deceased.

After picking a sponsor, Williams was required to pick a motto for the ship. The ships motto will be: peace we seek, peace we keep.

“I fought for quite some time; I could not come up with anything,” said Williams. “One morning, at about two o’clock in the morning I woke up and there it was. I jumped up and wrote it down before I lost it.”

Williams describes how he never dreamed that the Navy would actually use those words. He concluded the interview by sharing the principles that he chooses to live by.

“Serving others gives you a satisfaction that you cannot get anywhere else.” said Williams.

This article originally appeared on All Hands Magazine. Follow @AllHandsMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans learn to see differently through the camera lens

When Army Veteran Corrin Lee Mac heard of the Lebanon VA Medical Center and Lebanon Valley College’s The Seeing Lens group, she thought the idea was “far-fetched.” The 10-week therapeutic photography group is for Veterans in recovery. However, as Mac–pictured above–went through the program, she discovered that it worked for her. “It promotes mindfulness. Looking through the lens, this second in time, you are here in the moment.”

Veterans who participate in The Seeing Lens are issued a camera and textbook for duration of the program. Each week focuses on a different aspect of recovery and ties it to a photographic technique. For example, clarity and attention are linked with the concepts of aperture and depth of field.


Members of the inaugural group had their photos displayed in an exhibit at Lebanon Valley College and the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The exhibit will return to Lebanon VAMC later this year.

Graduates gathered at the college to talk about the impact the program and the exhibit had on their lives.

“Every Veteran can experience it in their own way, but something that would be in common between Veterans was the supportive nature of it, the non-judgmental atmosphere, ” said Army Veteran Robin Ann Pottoroff.

You are more thoughtful and creative.

“It makes you slow down and look at the world in a different way,” said Navy Veteran Mike Robertson. “You are more thoughtful and creative. It calms a racing brain.”

Lebanon VAMC recreation therapist Amy Cook, a founder of the program, was struck by “really seeing what the camera can do as a recovery tool. Once the Veteran picked up the camera, it was life-changing.”

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Project alumni suggested that other Veterans in recovery give The Seeing Lens a try.

“Give it a shot. It worked for me,” said Navy Veteran Patrick Dougherty. “And I was the most negative person, a naysayer. So if it helped me, it can pretty much help anyone.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The world’s best hot dogs are made by this veteran-owned company

Almost 150 years after Charles Feltman introduced the first Frankfurter hot dog to New York, two Brooklyn brothers reintroduced it to the world in 2015. Chief Executive Officer and Army Veteran Captain Joe Quinn and his brother Michael revived Feltman’s in honor of their brother Jimmy, who lost his life in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. 

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Since 2015, the Quinn brothers worked hard to make Feltman’s one of the fastest growing natural food companies in the United States. Feltman’s of Coney Island is now a veteran-owned and operated Gold Star family business, made up of almost all Army and West Point Academy graduates. Despite the heavy ‘Go Army’ company environment, the team is stepping forward to support the Navy in a big way.

Feltman’s has made a point to give back to the military community, supporting a variety of non-profits and endeavors. In 2020, they supported the non-profit Travis Manion Foundation through sales for the Army/Navy game. Quinn explained, “As a West Point graduate that runs a company that’s heavily on the Army side, we like to talk a lot of smack when it comes to the Army/Navy rivalry, but at the end of the day we’re all on the same Team. I feel that’s captured by a West Point/Army company [Feltman’s] supporting a foundation and the memory of legendary Annapolis/Navy graduate 1stLt Travis Manion. Travis is what this game and this country is all about and we are proud to support the foundation that’s in his name…Beat Navy.”

“We all have a strong connection to the military; three of us having gone to West Point,” Quinn explained. He shared that the company remains dedicated to serving nonprofits and especially those that benefit veterans. “Travis was a Naval Academy grad and we know his sister Ryan. We’ve always wanted to partner with the Travis Manion Foundation.”

Not only is the CEO Army, so is the rest of the executive team. Executive Chairman Nick Loudon and Chief Marketing Officer Rob Boeckmann are both West Point graduates (classes of 2004, 2012, respectively), and Chief Operating Officer Greg Syvertson is a former Army intel NCO.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators
MMMmmmmmmmm. Photo courtesy of Feltman’s

“The West Point connection in our company and brand is strong” Rob Boeckmann explained. When asked about his role, Boeckmann, who grew up in Germany, said “I never really ate hot dogs until I joined the Feltman’s Team. My first language is actually German, and being born and raised over there, I have to admit I never really liked hot dogs. But when I tried these all natural hot dogs, I knew it was a good fit because they are very good. They’re exactly what I want my friends and family to eat. Feltman’s hot dogs turned me, a non-hot dog eater, into a believer. And as a marketer, it’s great to represent and work for a brand with a story beginning with an immigrant. Charles Feltman immigrated from northern Germany, where my own family has its roots. Feltman’s in the early 20th Century was the biggest restaurant in the world, a global destination in New York City. And we are trying to bring that back. And it’s great to get to do this job with fellow academy grads and Army veterans. 

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators
Chef Rush approves!

One of the things that sets Feltman’s apart from other competitors is their commitment to all natural products that are 100 percent beef and made without nitrates. The hotdogs are uncured and Feltman’s is known for its spice and smokey blend. Add that in with their commitment to the military community and deep love of country, it’s a recipe for success – pun intended. 

To learn more about Feltman’s or to place an order for hot dogs click here. Feltman’s ships nationwide.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of October 18th

As you may have heard already, the U.S. pulled out of Syria. Catch literally any other news agency for a hot take on that one. Me? I’d just like to point out the little things that also happened with that event. Namely, Russian troops immediately seized control of the compound the U.S. troops previously occupied.

The U.S. troops must have known something was up because they took the time to clear out literally every scrap of U.S. military hardware while not giving a single sh*t about their trash in the DFAC – much to the dismay of every DFAC NCO ever. Best of all, is the board with the Russian flag dong and other obscenities, mostly in Russian, sprawled across for the Ruskies to find.


All I’m saying is that I’m proud of you motherf*ckers is all. You’re doing Uncle Sam’s work. Anyways, here are some memes you glorious bastards.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Meme via ASMDSS)

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Photo via Infantry Follow Me)

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Meme via On The Minute Memes)

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Meme via Call for Fire)

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Meme via Not CID)

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Meme via Private News Network)

Just for my own personal reasons, which post of mine was the final straw? Just curious…

Funny how “Ride or Die” just went until “we had a minor disagreement over something stupid.”

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Meme via Thank You for My Service)

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Spartan Pledge is working to prevent veteran suicide

“I will not take my own life by my own hand until I talk to my battle buddy first. My mission is to find a mission to help my warfighter family.”

These words constitute the Spartan Pledge, a solemn oath meant to reverse the disturbing trend of suicide among veterans of the U.S. military and active duty personnel.

According the 2018 Annual Suicide Report released by the U.S. Department of Defense, 541 service members died by suicide in 2018, including 325 active duty troops. The data collected for this report show the suicide rate is 24.8 per 100,000 service members, up from 21.9 in 2017 and 18.7 in 2013. These 2018 numbers represent a six-year high.


Similarly, the 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report published by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs is bleak as well: 6,139 U.S. veterans took their own lives in 2017 — 16.8 per day, up from 5.9 in 2005. This rate is one and a half times that of the general (non-veteran) population.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Boone Cutler on deployment when he was a member of the U.S. Army.

(Photo courtesy of Boone Cutler’s Facebook page.)

In 2010, retired U.S. Army paratrooper Boone Cutler decided it was time to do something about these tragic statistics. Cutler came from a family with a long-standing tradition of military service. His father served in Vietnam, his grandfather in World War II. “My grandpa was actually the longest held POW in World War II,” Cutler said. “We take a lot of pride in that and give him a lot of respect. He was captured the day after the Pearl Harbor attack and was held from December 8 until the end of the war.”

Cutler was inspired to join the Army after learning about the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989. “I remember the headline,” he said. “The 82nd Airborne Division had just jumped into Panama. I left home at 17 and joined the Army Airborne Infantry when I was 18. He later reclassed his military occupational specialty (MOS) and joined the psychological operations (PSYOP) community. Cutler deployed to Sadr City, Iraq, in 2005 as a PSYOP Team Sergeant. Serious orthopedic and traumatic brain injuries sent him to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for two years. While there, doctors told him he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a diagnosis he had no intention of accepting at the time.

The years that followed were difficult. Cutler was on several prescription drugs, and he grappled with violent outbursts and suicidal thoughts. In 2010, he was shocked to learn that he wasn’t alone. In a conversation with his closest “battle buddy” from Iraq, Cutler asked his friend if he’d ever considered suicide. “Every day,” his buddy answered.

Holy fuck, thought Cutler. How could guys be so close on active duty — literally covering each others’ backs in a kinetic environment, know everything about each other, every hiccup, every burp, every fart … literally everything … and we don’t know this about each other after we come home?

Shortly thereafter, he called another friend who had been on his team. He discovered that teammate was struggling, too. He had been contemplating taking his own life and hadn’t left his home in two years. This was the genesis of the Spartan Pledge — a battle drill that, in Cutler’s words, helps warfighters “know what to do when they don’t know what to do.”

“We made an agreement,” Cutler said. “We knew we couldn’t actually stop each other from killing ourselves, but it was kind of a respect thing — if you’re going to do that, I can’t stop you. But don’t leave me spinning around on this planet for the rest of my life, wondering what happened and if there was something I could have done. Now [the pledge] is two sentences, but it literally started out as, ‘Motherfucker, you’d better call me.'”

Spartan Pledge FINAL CUT

www.youtube.com

Around this same time, Cutler learned about GallantFew, a then-new organization with a mission to help veterans in transition. GallantFew executive director Karl Monger soon became a close friend and mentor to Cutler. While talking on the phone, the topic of veteran suicide came up, and Cutler mentioned how he and his buddies were dealing with it. Monger stopped him mid-sentence. “Boone,” he said. “I think you’ve really got something there. This is something we should promote.” GallantFew began to introduce the pledge through its network, during one-on-one meetings with veterans in crisis. From there, it took root around the country and continued to grow organically.

A 2017 video, aptly titled “The Spartan Pledge,” featured commentary by Cutler and conversations with others who were inspired to “pay the pledge forward” in unique ways. Army veteran and Redcon-1 music artist Soldier Hard shared his idea to incorporate the pledge into his concerts. “Every warfighter knows about taking an oath,” he said. “We take oaths very seriously. Why not invite warfighters in the audience to come up on stage and take the Spartan Pledge?”

The video also featured U.S. Navy veteran and New York City firefighter Danny Prince, who told Cutler he wanted to honor the victims of 9/11 — those who died in the attacks, as well as our fallen military in the Global War on Terrorism. Prince had collected some steel from the World Trade Center wreckage. He and former U.S. Marine and commercial airline pilot Steve “Luker” Danyluk proposed to forge that steel into a commemorative sword. Two months later, the project was complete.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

U.S. Navy veteran and New York City firefighter Danny Prince used steel collected from the wreckage of the World Trade Center to forge this commemorative sword.

(Photo courtesy of Boone Cutler.)

“Every warfighter who joined in this current era is there because of what happened at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11,” Cutler said. “So we’ve come full circle now by creating a sword out of that tragic event that inspires people to live. That’s humbling. That’s something that touches your heart. When people touch that sword, it’s like connecting with all the souls that were lost.”

In 2011, Cutler launched a weekly talk radio show in the Reno, Nevada, area, called “Tipping Point with Boone Cutler,” which served as a platform for the former paratrooper’s raw, no-holds-barred style. That show aired through 2016. These days, Cutler spends his time spreading the word about the Spartan Pledge and connecting with his brothers and sisters in arms, both active duty and retired. “We’ve built a solid network from all walks of life,” he said. “We put our differences aside to save lives. It’s an amazing unifier.”

Cutler was a featured guest at the 2019 VetXpo conference in Dallas in October, which was sponsored by the GallantFew. His presentation, one of the many highlights of the weekend, was a spot-on snapshot of the state of the veteran community, the civilian world’s perception of warfighters, and why warfighters have such a challenging time with transition.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

A dog tag stamped with the Spartan Pledge.

(Photo courtesy of Boone Cutler.)

He shared his observation that, after Vietnam, Hollywood and the media habitually portrayed warfighters as “crazy vets.” As late as 2010, nearly half of all human resources managers said it was “difficult to hire” veterans due to PTSD — but they didn’t have a real understanding of PTSD. Cutler concluded that it was “PTSD phobia” that made it difficult to hire veterans, not PTSD itself. If PTSD was truly the problem, he continued, a woman who was raped or a person who lived through a natural disaster or a car wreck would also be difficult to hire. Yet, strangely, that did not seem to be the case — only veterans with PTSD posed this difficulty. Fortunately, due to advancements in mental health and organizations like GallantFew, the civilian population is beginning to understand PTSD, those affected by PTSD are talking about it more openly, and the associated phobias are fading.

As critical as he was of the civilian population, Cutler made it a point to hold his fellow warfighters accountable, too. He acknowledged that the transition to the civilian world is difficult, calling it a “different set of rules.” In the military, it is understood that everything can change and adjustments must be made. “If we’ve adjusted to those environments,” Cutler challenged the audience, “why are we so stubborn to adjust to this one?”

His answer was startlingly simple: At a time when most young people are learning to become independent — starting families, getting careers and making their own decisions — those who join the military are entering an authoritarian environment, in which they rely upon someone else, a squad leader, to tell them what to do and when to do it. The upshot? Warfighters have to develop their own “inner squad leader.”

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

Boone Cutler.

(Photo courtesy of Boone Cutler.)

“My squad leader talks to me all the time,” he admitted. “I’m gonna do some stupid shit. BAM! Squad leader talks to me: ‘Don’t do that.’ Every one of us needs to build that squad leader [into your brain] who tells you what to do. You’re not doing your PT? Squad leader ought to have a knee up your ass pretty quick!” As you can imagine, Cutler’s presentation was peppered by frequent, self-deprecating laughter.

However, the humorous tone quickly turned somber when he invited Annette, a Gold Star mother, to join him at the front of the room. Cutler shared Annette’s story with the audience, recounting how her son had tragically ended his own life after transitioning out of the military. He then asked everyone to come forward, circle around, and lay hands on Annette while he led the group in the Spartan Pledge.

“I authored it,” he said later about the pledge, “but it doesn’t belong to me. It’s important to me that your readers know [the Spartan Pledge] is hallowed ground. There’s a fiefdom everywhere in our community these days, so I don’t want to attach my personality to this thing. To be clear, I legally own it, but that’s just to make sure no one pulls any bullshit.”

The Spartan Pledge has been featured on a NASCAR vehicle, inked on the bodies of warfighters, and incorporated into special ceremonies across the country. In the final minutes of Cutler’s 2017 Spartan Pledge video, he said that people frequently ask what he plans to do with it next.

“I’m just the author,” he said, laughing. “I’m not doing anything with the Spartan Pledge because it belongs to the community. The question is: What are you going to do with it?”

Buy a Bag, Give a Bag: Our first donated bags arrive to deployed troops in Iraq

www.youtube.com

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the US military needs to seriously rethink ‘recruiter goals’

Each year, the United States Armed Forces projects the amount of troops that will exit the service and how many new bodies it needs to fill the gaps in formation. This number is distributed accordingly between the branches and then broken down further for each recruiting station, depending on the location, size of the local population, and typical enlistment rates of each area.

This is, at a very basic level, how recruiter quotas work. If the country is at war, the need for more able-bodied recruits rises to meet the demand. When a war is winding down, as we’re seeing today, you would reasonably expect there to be less pressure on recruiters to send Uncle Sam troops — but there’s not. Not by a long shot.


How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

“Come show off at the pull-up bars for the low, low price of taking a business card!”

(Dept. of the Army photo by Ronald A. Reeves)

The most obvious fault with “recruiter goals,” or the quota policy, is that it makes fulfilling the quota the single most important responsibility of the recruiter. So, recruiters will go out and put their best foot forward in the name of their branch in hopes that it’ll inspire someone to enlist — despite all of the other things they need to be doing.

Recruiters generally love going to county fairs or air shows and having loads of civilians flock to their booth — otherwise, they wouldn’t be recruiters. These events give civilians, some of whom may have never interacted with a service member, a friendly one-on-one that could — maybe, just maybe — inspire them to one day serve their country.

At the end of the day, that’s all recruiters can ultimately do to bring in recruits, sow the seeds of military service. Recruiters can’t put a gun to anyone’s head to make them sign on the dotted line and they have to respect a person’s decision to turn down Uncle Sam’s offer.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

By all means, we should commend and praise the recruiters who go above and beyond — but the hammer that’s dropped is unjustly cruel.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Daniel Butterfield)

Still, recruiters are expected to enlist a certain amount of recruits into military service — despite the fact that it’s outside the scope of their responsibilities to direct herds of civilians to their offices. They still have to handle all the day-to-day operations of the recruiting station, the plethora of paperwork required by each new recruit, limiting the stress of and mentoring potential recruits, teaching delayed-entry recruits, and acting like a chauffeur between the recruiting depot and MEPS. You could be the most attentive recruiter the military has ever seen, constantly doing everything in your power to best prepare the recruit for military life, but the only metric that matters in the eyes of Big Recruiting is that one, big number.

To make matters worse, the pool of eligible recruits is dwindling as the criteria for service keeps getting stricter.

How China’s special forces stack up against the US’s special operators

My honest opinion? Scrap the negative consequences for not meeting quota but institute minor, but enjoyable benefits that would encourage recruiters to try harder — like a half a day of leave added to their LES for each recruit they bring in or whatever seems more applicable.

(Photo by Dan Desmet, New York District Public Affairs)

All this being said, the quota isn’t entirely without merit. It lets the higher-ups know, at a glance, that a recruiter is keeping their word to the Pentagon. Some might even say that it motivates recruiters to get out there and keep hustling bodies into their office. But the quota has caused much more undue stress than it should.

To put it as bluntly as possible, recruiters are killing themselves for not reaching an arbitrary number, set outside of their control. Recruiters are forced to work longer hours and weekends (up to 15 hours per day, seven days per week in some cases) when crunch time comes. Recently, recruiters were almost denied holiday time — not as in block leave, but spending Christmas morning with their families — because they didn’t meet numbers.

This is nothing new and the stress military recruiters face has been front and center of national discussion for ages now.

The fact is, there’s no simple solution because the numbers still need to be met — but just because it’s not a simple problem doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to fix it. Perhaps we should shift the focus on strengthening the recruits that willingly walk in the door, or we should bring more troops into recruiting stations to lighten the load of the already-overworked recruiters. Something, anything, needs to be done.

It is completely understandable that the military needs new recruits. Check roger. But we cannot sit idly by without addressing the major stressor that causes recruiters to commit suicide at three times the rate of the rest of the Army — which already has a suicide rating twice of the general population.

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