Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

The life of a Civil War re-enactor is a very dedicated one. They’re dedicated to the history, the stories, and the lives of those who fought in The War Between the States. They take care in being as accurate as possible, representing the true history of the war down to the smallest details, from the things they carried to the food they ate all the way to their personal appearance. The America of some 150 years ago was a very different place.

Nylon-cotton blend uniforms give way to wool, the “woobie” gives way to old gum blankets, and MREs become a much more complicated process, handed over to a camp’s cook. These are just a few of the details in the mind of the re-enacting foot soldier. But not everyone who carries a .58-caliber Minié ball rifle onto historical battlefields has the same dedication to accuracy.

To the truly dedicated, those people are called farbs.’


Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

Re-enactor memes are so dank.

Imagine spending all year practicing long-obsolete infantry drills with members of your unit just so you can execute them beautifully on oft-forgotten battlefields in the Spring and Summer months. Imagine the patience it takes to purchase (or, in some cases, build) infantry gear that hasn’t been necessary in over a century. Imagine the dedication required to sit in those wool uniforms in the dead of summer, swarmed by mosquitoes and plagued by the hot sun, only to have the FNG roll in, wearing sunscreen and insect repellent and playing with his iPhone.

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

Do not bring your camera, either.

The farb is someone who wants the glory of the job without putting in the work. It’s a judgmental term, one that, when used, ensures that the farb knows he’s not just factually wrong, but he’s also morally wrong. Their lame attempt (and acceptance of their subsequent failure) at authenticity is offensive. Like a civilian trying to pass themselves off as a Marine (aka “Stolen Valor”), farbs ruin the immersive experience of this kind of time travel — not just for the viewer, but for the re-enactors themselves.

It’s the worst thing you can call someone in these fields of dreams.

“That jacket is farby,” “his farbery is appalling,” and “can you believe the farbism he just dropped?” are all common lamentations of the truly dedicated.

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

Re-enacting battles of bygone eras isn’t strictly a Civil War pastime. History buffs in the north and south alike also re-enact the Revolutionary War (and, in some places, even World War I). Overseas, dedicated Europeans re-enact the Napoleonic Wars, especially the 1815 Battle of Waterloo in what is today Belgium. There is no limit to how far the dedicated will go to keep history alive — some battles date as far back as the Middle Ages, where fighting Mongols in Eastern Europe was the thing to do.

They’re keeping history alive and it’s a big job.

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

Wilson Freeman, an 18-year historical re-enactor, runs the blog “Historically Speaking: The Life and Times of a Historical Reenactor.” He says it’s not just an insult to the other re-enactors, it’s an insult to the people they’re working to portray.

There are several reasons that farbs are looked down upon in the reenacting hobby. One argument I’ve heard is that it’s an insult to the people we portray. Another is that it’s an insult to reenactors who actually take the time and effort to create a highly authentic impression. Yet another is that seeing something inauthentic on the field takes other reenactors “out of the moment” by reminding them that what they’re experiencing isn’t real.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Even before the pandemic, domestic violence was a problem in the military community

Military family members have whispered for decades about Intimate Partner Violence in our community. We’ve heard stories about friends and neighbors. We’ve been confidants for friends who needed help. Some of us have been in an abusive relationship ourselves.

“It’s really common. We’ve had multiple cases of domestic violence just in our neighborhood this year,” said the spouse of an Air Force active duty member.


According to the latest survey data release from the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN), 81% of military community survey respondents are aware of intimate partner violence in their neighborhoods and social circles, and that was before the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to quarantine together.

Intimate Partner Violence is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as …abuse or aggression that occurs in a close relationship. According to the CDC, an intimate partner can be a current and former spouse or dating partner, and Intimate Partner Violence includes four types of behavior: physical violence; sexual violence; stalking; and psychological aggression. This is the first year MFAN’s support programming survey, presented by Cerner Government Services, has explored the issue

The data is even more disturbing against the backdrop of the pandemic. Since the nation began quarantining to limit the spread of COVID-19, mental health experts nationwide have sounded the alarm that quarantining forces abused people to spend even more time with their abusers.

“Reporting the abuse jeopardizes the service member’s career, therefore jeopardizing the woman and her family’s livelihood. A difficult choice to make: report abuse knowing your husband will lose his job or suffer to keep food on the table? There is no easy solution. That is awful,” the spouse of a Navy active duty service member said.

Among other findings, MFAN’s data showed that those who sought assistance were more likely to:

  • Range in rank from E4 to E6, if they were active duty family members
  • Carry more debt
  • Be concerned with their own or a family member’s alcohol use
  • Rate as more lonely on the UCLA Loneliness scale
  • Have considered suicide in the past two years

“For years now, we have heard anecdotes from our Advisors and others in the community about Intimate Partner Violence,” said MFAN’s Executive Director Shannon Razsadin. “We felt it was critical that we collect data on this issue, so that leaders and policy makers will be able to make decisions that honor and protect the health and safety of everyone in the community.”

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

MFAN recommends that policy makers look for ways to increase communication with military and veteran families about online and virtual resources available; encourage connections with others, especially virtually, as isolation is a tactic of abusers; and reduce barriers for military spouses to seek financial or health care benefits if they or their children are experiencing abuse.

“I’m not by any means a violent person, but I have wanted to strike [my wife] after I came back from tours because I was so angry at the world,” a National Guard and Reserve member said. “I never did, but it was really disturbing how much I wanted to. That’s what made me start counseling.”


More information about MFAN’s survey methods and demographics can be found here: https://militaryfamilyadvisorynetwork.org/survey-methods/
MIGHTY CULTURE

Women in the military make us stronger, not a mockery

In 2016, women were formally allowed to serve in all career fields in the U.S. military. This opened the once closed career field of Combat Arms to women. But this regulation often is discussed or shared in a way that leads the general public to believe women were not in combat until 2016. 

The truth is, women served in combat even before the most recent conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the number of women in combat increased with the unconventional warfare in those two countries, and the military found a need for women on the front lines and in combat arms units that didn’t have the expertise needed to meet the mission. This was how I found myself an Air Force Civil Engineer attached to an infantry unit. I never expected to be riding in convoys across Afghanistan and meeting with local people.

I never even questioned if I should have been there. I vaguely knew about the combat exclusion law but I didn’t understand the details of what it meant and figured the military was sending me on this mission. Truthfully, I did not give a lot of thought on if I should be there — the mission required me to serve with an infantry unit so I did.

I never expected to learn the different types of Improvised Explosive Devices and how to spot them on convoys. I never expected to learn the difference between a Humvee, MRAP or MATV and ride in all three. 

I never thought I would know what it is like to have your life in danger, or what it would feel like to have people shooting at you with RPGs and small arms fire with the intention to kill you. 

I never thought I would be in the lead truck of a convoy and come upon an IED hole that went off because of the rainstorm that delayed us leaving the base until it was over. 

I never thought I would come home from a deployment and deal with PTSD for years after.

I never thought I would continually have to prove my worth as a veteran after leaving the military.

When I joined the Air Force in 2007, I swore an oath to my country to do whatever was asked of me. And when given orders to serve on a mission in a capacity that terrified me, I did not try to get out of it. I went to combat skills training to learn to fight a war. I went on each mission I was assigned. I saw combat and gained an appreciation for the people of Afghanistan. I saw poverty and the pain caused by war. My worldview changed and I would never be the same. 

And at the end of my deployment, I came home alive only carrying the mental scars of war. And within days of arriving home, I knew something was wrong and when I sought treatment for my mental health, I was told I would be fine. “Just give it time,” I was told. It took me six years before I finally went back to get help with my PTSD. I lived with trauma for years because they assumed they knew my story. 

And when people question my service over and over, I stand up and tell them my story. And I would probably have given up long ago in trying to change the stereotype but instead my path led me to share the stories of other women. And the more stories I hear, the more I realize my story isn’t one of few. Instead, even I, a woman who has served in combat and is dedicated to telling other women’s stories, do not have the full grasp of the role women have played in the military throughout history, and continue to today.

Continually having to prove my worth related to my military service is exhausting. It takes its toll. I know when people say things critical of women in military service it is not an accident. It is what they believe about women in service. 

The only solace I have in moments like this are the men who serve or have served along women and stand up for our service. But men should not have to be the voice for women to validate our service. When will the asterisk next to military service women truly go away? 

I hope one day the world will see women for the warriors that they are. Until then, I will continue to work to share our stories and hope for change. 

MIGHTY CULTURE

3 sweeping things the new NDAA passed by the House will do

The good news is that part of Congress actually did its job as the legislative branch of government. The House of Representatives passed a law, specifically, the latest National Defense Authorization Act, which specifies the budget for the Department of Defense, and allows for its expenditures. It also lays out some provisions for the Pentagon and its five branches to follow. This year’s NDAA is no different, but it has some new, noteworthy provisions.


And yes, there’s a 3.1 percent pay raise for U.S. troops. Glad we can all agree on something.

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

Artist Rendering.

The Space Force

The NDAA allowed for the creation of the U.S. Space Force and the position of the Chief of Space Operations at the level of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but reporting to the Secretary of the Air Force. The new branch’s structure will be similar to the way the U.S. Marine Corps is housed inside the department of the Navy, so expect a lot of jokes about how the Space Force is the men’s department inside the Department of the Air Force.

The Space Force will replace the current space command at the cost of .4 million.

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

Sadly, some still don’t have faces.

Paid Parental Leave for Federal Workers

The new compromise defense authorization bill will allow federal employees 12 full weeks of parental leave after having a child. The 8 billion bill allows the new provision for all 2.1 million federal workers. Starting Oct. 1, 2020, any adoption, birth, or fostering will receive the benefit. Employees must be employed for at least one year and stay for at least 12 weeks after taking the leave.

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

Don’t read the comments, it’s already been happening.

Desegregating Marine Corps Boot Camp

Women training at the Marine Corps’ Parris Island facilities will no longer be separated by gender, according to the new NDAA. The Corps is one of the last areas of gender segregation in the Armed Forces. Due to low volumes of female recruits, the Corps has already desegregated some basic training classes in South Carolina, but San Diego will remain segregated for a couple more years.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of February 1st

All across the nation everyone is dealing with the Polar Vortex. It’s colder than balls outside for everyone in the military. That is unless you’re one of the lucky bastards stationed in Hawaii.

No. I get it. “The grass is always greener” or whatever nonsense the retention NCO tried to peddle off to you before they sent you to Fort Bumpf*cknowhere. I don’t care if the cost of living is slightly higher in Hawaii.

At least the troops there aren’t dealing with hearing their salty platoon sergeant try to “well back in my day” every complaint about it being below negative twenty degrees. I’ll pay that extra dollar for a Big Mac if it gets me out of that.

Anyways, stay warm out there guys. Thankfully the Coast Guard has money to pay their heating bills.


Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

(Meme via Private News Network)

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

(Meme via Military Memes)

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

(Meme via Call for Fire)

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

(Meme via The Army’s F*ckups)

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

(Meme via Ranger Up)

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Soldiers get down and dirty in this muddy ‘playground-of-the-day’

A seven-minute drive and there it was; a training site with water pits, steep hills and lots of mud. This was the playground-of-the-day for soldiers with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, during their wheeled vehicle recovery class at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, late July 2019.

The training was designed to submerge vehicles in a controlled setting so soldiers could use the skills they’ve learned to retrieve it safely, according to Sgt. 1st Class Thomas McKenzie, an instructor with the Regional Training Site Maintenance Company, from Fort McCoy. Soldiers train in the same scenarios they may face overseas to prepare for the elements, he added.


“I have the firm belief that if you have to call one of our recovery guys, something bad has happened,” said McKenzie, whose unit goes by the motto, “You call, we haul.”

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Brett Cosaboom with the Regional Training Site Maintenance Company in Fort McCoy, Wis., prepares a truck during an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy July 20, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)

“We never go out when it’s a bright, sunny day and pretty outside,” said McKenzie. “We always go out in the worst possible conditions.”

The group huddled up for a weather briefing just as the clouds rolled in. Despite the inclement weather, they continued mission. Each soldier stood in their respective positions and waited for the next move. Torrential rains pounded down creating conditions of limited visibility, but the soldiers carried on without hesitation.

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, walk through deep water during an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 20, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)

“We don’t stop during bad weather because this is the kind of stuff these soldiers are going to have to deal with, as long as we can do it safely. I tell my soldiers all the time, the number one goal for this class is 10 fingers, 10 toes, vertical and breathing when you leave it,” said McKenzie.

Each soldier took their turn walking into the mire pits to attach massive chains to the submerged vehicles for recovery.

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, perform reconnaissance before an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 20, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)

According to Pfc. Kaleen Hansen, with the 445th Transportation Co., this type of training is an invaluable resource not only for the soldiers in the class, but also the Army Reserve as a whole. Wheeled vehicle mechanics do their job so that other soldiers can get on with theirs, she added.

Throughout the 17-day course, instructors practiced a crawl-walk-run style of learning to ensure soldiers are set up for success in the field, added McKenzie.

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Austin Smith with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, prepares a vehicle during an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 20, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)

“People think it’s just hooking up a cable or chain and moving on. It’s not. There’s a lot of math. These guys are doing a lot of complex equations to figure out what they need to do,” said McKenzie.

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

A U.S. Army Reserve Soldier with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, rinses out his uniform after getting soaked during an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 20, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)

Safety and readiness are the two main concerns when conducting this type of training, according to Spc. Austin Smith, with the 445th Transportation Co. These vehicles weigh-in at 96,000 pounds, so all safety measures are taken seriously to avoid any accidents or injury, he added.

“You take care of us, we’ll take care of you … and we’ll get it done faster than heck,” said Smith.

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

U.S. Army Reserve Pfc. Kaleen Hansen with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, prepares a vehicle during an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 20, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)

Despite tornado warnings, rain and gusting winds, soldiers of the 445th Transportation Co. weathered the storm enough to safely recover all vehicles in a training environment. After a couple more days of practical exercises, the wheeled vehicle mechanic course at Fort McCoy wrapped up July 24, 2019, ensuring, rain or shine, they will be able to support when needed.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the Marine Corps’ first female F-35B fighter pilot

Twenty-four years after the Marine Corps got its first female aviator, another woman pilot is making history.

Capt. Anneliese Satz is the Marine Corps’ first-ever female F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter jet pilot. The 29-year-old from Boise, Idaho, has spent the past four years training as a naval aviator.

Now, she’s cleared to operate the cutting-edge fifth-generation stealth, supersonic fighter aircraft in combat. She’s the first woman to complete the F-35B Basic Course, designed specifically for the Marine Corps variant of the fighter jet. The F-35B can take off and land vertically from amphibious assault ship flight decks and austere locations with little runway space.


Satz is joining the “Green Knights” with the Japan-based Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121. VMFA-121 was the first F-35B squadron to complete an operational deployment with a Marine expeditionary unit aboard a Navy ship.

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

Capt. Anneliese Satz conducts pre-flight checks prior to a training flight aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ashley Phillips)

Satz recalled the first time she took off in the Joint Strike Fighter in a Marine Corps news release announcing her career milestone.

“The first flight in an F-35 is by yourself,” she said. “… It’s an exhilarating experience.”

Satz was licensed to fly the single-engine Robinson R44 light helicopter before joining the Marine Corps. Since switching to fixed wing, she’s flown the T-6 Texan II tandem-seat, turboprop trainer and the T-45C Goshawk carrier capable jet trainer, which prepares naval aviators for tactical missions.

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

Capt. Anneliese Satz puts on her flight helmet prior to a training flight aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ashley Phillips)

She then joined Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, where she trained to fly the military’s newest fighter jet. Showing up and working hard are what allowed her to succeed, she said in the release.

Satz also credited the instructors, maintainers and other members of Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 for helping her complete the F-35B Basic Course.

“This is a phenomenal program made possible by all of their hard work,” she said in a Marine Corps news release. “I am thankful to have had the opportunity to learn from all of them. I am incredibly excited to get to VMFA-121 and look forward to the opportunity to serve in the Fleet Marine Forces.”

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

Capt. Anneliese Satz conducts pre-flight checks prior to a training flight aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ashley Phillips)

Earlier this week, another female Marine aviator made history when she became the first woman selected to fly the Corps’ other Joint Strike Fighter variant — the F-35C.

First Lt. Catherine Stark will join the Navy’s fleet replacement squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron 125, where she’ll fly the F-35 variant designed for carrier operations.

Female Marines have been able to fly only since 1993 when the service opened pilot positions to women. Then-2nd Lt. Sarah Deal, a CH-53E heavy-lift helicopter pilot, became the Marine Corps’ first female aviator in 1995. And Capt. Vernice Armour, an AH-1W Cobra pilot, became the service’s first black female pilot in 2001.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why no one really cares about the FNG’s basic training stories

Once you’ve completed your branch’s initial entry training, you’re officially entered into the ranks of one of the most prestigious fighting forces the world has ever seen. Congratulations. You’ve done something difficult that your civilian peers couldn’t even imagine. The day you graduate should be a moment of pride. You’ve earned the right to call other troops and veterans family.

With all of that being said — good job: You’ve done the exact same thing that literally every single troop has done before you. Unless you’ve got some grand story that doesn’t center around being yelled at, your story isn’t interesting to rest of us.

Why?


Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

Oh? Your DS had a wicked sense of humor? Hate to break it to you, kid, but they all need one to handle years of idiot recruits.

We’ve heard it all before

Quick: Describe your entire time at basic training using just a few words. Chances are, it sounds a lot like, “we got yelled at, told to do push-ups, and were given a brief moment of levity when the drill sergeant showed compassion for a half a second before snapping at anyone who tried to take advantage of that moment of humanity.” Sound about right?

The details may differ slightly and the set-up to a joke the drill sergeant played on a recruit may change, but that’s about it.

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

They’re more like “freedom baseballs” in the hands of grunts.

We do way more interesting things in the unit

You may have done some pretty cool sh*t back at Sand Hill. You got to go to the range and, if you’re old school, you got to toss a grenade. Out of the entire nine weeks you spent in training, there are roughly 3-ish days of cool sh*t happening.

At the unit, those kind of days are always on the training calendar and, just a heads up, no one tosses grenades like a shot put in the real world.

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

The M203 is one of the greatest things the Army ever adapted. Someone must have just been like, “I know bayonets are awesome and all, but what if we had one that shot grenades.” A true American legend.

(Meme by We Are The Mighty)

We have all of the cooler toys at the unit

Riding in the back of an LMTV with the entire platoon packed in like sardines is fun and all, but it’s nothing compared to the fun of actually driving one of those bad boys in the training area of Fort Irwin — doing doughnuts in the desert and whatnot.

Sure, grenades are always going to be cool, but hearing the PATHUNK of a M203 being fired into a plywood structure is the kind of moment that makes you question leaving the service.

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

Sure you do, buddy. Sure you do.

Recruits often miss the bigger point of training

FNGs often come out of basic with the grandiose idea that they’re now some hardened badass who can take on the world because they shot “sharpshooter” and took combatives level one. That’s cool and all, but you probably missed the things you were actually supposed to learn, like customs, courtesies, how to set up a uniform, how to march, and how chains of command work.

It’s just the way things are. Regardless of when or where you went to basic, the Army needs its soldiers to know how to properly put on their uniform and address their superiors before they can move on to being badasses.

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

If you were honestly duped into falling for the “Emotional Support Drill Sergeant” meme, I heard the training room needs you to refill out a new ID 10-Tango form.

(Meme via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Says)

Admittedly, each cycle of basic is slightly less intense than the cycle before it, but…

Don’t tell me, let me guess: Your cycle was the “last of the good ones before everything got soft.” That exact phrase has been used for as long as recruits have been graduating basic. In its own weird, paradoxical way, no one is lying but everyone is full of sh*t.

The needs of the Army shift so basic may encompass more tasks suited for a garrison lifestyle, but it should never be implied that the Army got soft. Your cycle wasn’t given stress cards, cell phones, or desserts, sure — but that’s probably because no cycle gets those, no matter how much your buddy’s friend’s cousin swore they’re real.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Get ready for the apocalypse with the Tactical Baby Gear diaper bag

Tactical Baby Gear takes a parenting essential — the diaper bag — and makes it something dads will actually want to tote around.


Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang
Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

Let’s face it: Most diaper bags are, at best, neutral and inoffensive. Very few of them make an actual statement. That’s where Tactical Baby Gear comes in. This shit is no joke. Speaking of shit, it comes with an indestructible changing pad.

You get a heavy-duty, military-grade diaper bag with pad. The bag is made from 600D tactical polyester material and heavy-duty YKK zippers, so it’s able to withstand the zombie apocalypse, should it come to pass. The diaper bag itself is totally modular, with a large main compartment and roomy inner pockets.

Naturally, there’s a padded tablet compartment and a padded, detachable shoulder strap. And when your angel is potty-trained, you can even use this thing for non-baby outings.

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

UAP recently sat down with Gunnery Sergeant Joshua Negron, an active Marine Raider and veteran of the Marine Reconnaissance community.

Negron enlisted in the Marine Corps on December 4, 2000, and his personal decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device, Joint Service Commendation Medal, U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and three Combat Action Ribbons.

Here is the exclusive interview.

What led you to join the Marine Corps and then later Recon and MARSOC?

Well, I have family members that have prior military service, but it all started with my grandfather who served and fought in WWII. Like most during that time he answered the call and joined the US Army who then deployed him to Africa. After the German forces were defeated, the Allied forces advanced, and my grandfather moved with his unit into Italy to continue fighting until their surrender in 1943. Not long afterwards, my grandfather met my grandmother in Italy. That’s how my whole story even became possible.

However, the biggest contributing factor to why I wanted to join the military is largely because of my father who joined the Marine Corps in ’57, fought in the Dominican Republic in ’65, and got out in ’68.   Shortly after, I believe, he served in the Army National Guard from ’70-’90. During that same timeframe he was a full-time police officer in California. My father was always extremely patriotic and loved serving his country. I admired my father so much growing up that I knew my calling in life would eventually guide me down a similar path.  All his police buddies had military backgrounds, predominantly from the Vietnam timeframe which resonated with me.  All this ultimately directed my path to a very early preparation to join the Marine Corps Infantry, with the ambition of pursuing a more specialized background.

But early on, I didn’t know if I was good enough to go Recon or Force Recon and MARSOC didn’t exist at the time. When you aspire for something like that, you know, sometimes the people who are in those fields almost look superhuman-like, and sometimes you wonder, “do I really have what it takes, go that route?”

My first unit I joined in the Marine Corps was LAR – a light armored mechanized infantry unit.  I learned some valuable things there and met some great Marines, but I also ran into some terrible Marines too. In my first platoon I had really bad leadership, which later on taught me a valuable lesson: Exactly how not to be like as a leader!

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang
Negron during a deployment.

And then right before I left LAR, I had excellent leadership. 1st Sergeant Loya who retired as a SgtMaj, was a big contributing factor to the reason why I got my opportunity to go over to Recon. He was a prior Force Recon Marine. The guy was built like a spark plug, and for somebody that was probably in his early 40’s, he could still practically outperform the large majority of the battalion in PT (physical training). Beyond all that, he genuinely loved the men that he led. His leadership style was more that of a father but also someone that was highly respected and that you did not want to disappoint or piss off.

He was very inspirational and helped motivate me to seek something further for myself in life – to seek out a higher challenge. So, I reset my sites back on Recon, and after making it I realized I had found my home.  Six great years and three deployments later in Recon I looked to the next progression for my career. MARSOC was already up and operating with an aggressive training cycle in preparation for the next big fight in Afghanistan.  A lot of my friends from Recon had already transferred over there.  It looked like the next best thing, a new challenge, and one I gladly accepted.

What, if anything, do you miss about being in the Recon community versus being in MARSOC at this point?

There was just an atmosphere in Recon that, for that time, I don’t think you can really replicate or replace.  There’s a real brotherhood there, and warfare bonded us closer together.  Ultimately, I just miss the camaraderie with the Recon guys. There was always just a healthy, competitive spirit that everybody had about them. You were always competing against your brother, but there wasn’t any sort of animosity. It was all in a loving way. For lack of better words, you always challenged each other, especially in training, and even in combat. Every platoon was trying to outdo the other ones but we all mutually supported one another.

Everyone worked hand-in-hand together. Our SOP’s (standard operating procedures) were practically the same, and we also worked together inside the house with (close quarters battle) tactics which was all dynamic. Even though our platoons were separated, our tactics were the same. When we operated in the house, we would often times mix teams together with other platoons just because combat could call for that very same thing.

You may have to take on a large structure or multiple structures to where one platoon isn’t enough to cover all the ground, so we would incorporate another platoon for additional support. And the more familiar you guys are with each other the better. There was just a unique, I guess, working spirit that everyone had together and really in a way embodied the term “gung-ho”, which translates to “working together in spirit” or as my father would say “working together in harmony”.  Recon Marines – and Marines in general – always look after their brothers, and you always looked after their best interests.

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang
Negron and his wife, Erika, at a birthday celebration for their wonderful little daughter.

Do you have a favorite moment from your time in uniform – something that you’re particularly proud of?

All of my deployments with Recon were great. I mean, some of the workups weren’t necessarily fun at times and the actual deployments definitely had their own suck factor, but my overall favorite experiences of being in the military were the two times that I deployed as a Recon team leader. My first team and combat deployment was great, but as a point man I didn’t grow.  I just did what I was told to do, as by design.  Being thrown into a leadership position really forced me to take a deeper look into myself. Having seen firsthand great and terrible leaders I wanted to ensure that I did not repeat past mistakes from others as I re-evaluated my AAR (after action report) of life experiences.  At that time, it was the next door for me to walk through, and for me, this one was very personal.

One of the greatest pieces of advice that I ever received was from a father figure of mine growing up named Dave Deluca, who was a Ranger that served as a 1st Lt. with the 82nd Airborne in Vietnam. Dave was a great friend of my fathers who I went to see just before I left on my first deployment.  He said three things to me: first, “never tell your men to do something that you have never done yourself or don’t have the balls to do yourself”, “if it scares you to do something as a leader, you should not send one of your men to do it for you, do it yourself and your second in command should be ready to take over should anything happen to you”, and the last was “don’t ever think at any time point in time during combat that you’re not going to make it, no matter how bad it gets, always believe that you’ll live no matter what, even if wounded, and always take care of your men and do whatever you need to survive, nothing more”.

One of the biggest things that I wanted to do as a leader other than the obvious was to ensure that I actually listened to and mentored my men.  Evaluating them was vital and something that I was intimately involved in.  Any opportunity that presented itself turned into a quick on the spot lesson.  At the same time, I encouraged them all to be free thinkers and to partake in mission planning.  Like any leader I believe that I’m tactically sound and proficient, but I’m not the smartest, nor can I think of everything.  So, I made it clear to my men that at any point in time If I ever made a mistake or need correction, by all means do so regardless of rank but please do it professionally. I’m not above reproach and if I’m making decisions in combat that can affect whether or not we make it back alive, then everyone needs to have trust in me and my ability if I’m truly going to lead.  If I’m messed up in anyway, or if there’s a better way to get the job done, I want to know.  Their voices were equally as important as my own, as there’s always a risk when you step outside the wire and the enemy always gets to vote.  In combat, life and death is weighted and measured by seconds and inches, and anything can get you killed – including doing nothing.  My team needed to know that I would always look after them no matter what and they could approach me at any time about anything.  I did not know how to put it into words at the time, but I was encouraging and strengthening trust within my team.

You have to sharpen both sides of the sword. On one side, you learn and improve yourself. On the other, you teach your guys so that they grow in the direction that they’re supposed to.

– GySgt Joshua Negron

Aside from war, I wanted my men to grow professionally and become great leaders themselves.  By the time I was a team leader with my second team, it wasn’t uncommon for a Recon Marine to be promoted to Sergeant within his first two years. It happened very quickly and was normal.  Afterwards though, it can take four to five years to get Staff Sergeant or more (laughs).  By this time, I had eight years in as a newly promoted Staff Sergeant. My main goal was to train my men to be better by the end of that deployment, as Sergeants with three and a half years in the Marine Corps, than I was as a Sergeant when I was at my seven-year mark.

This was possible because I was giving them information willingly and freely. I wasn’t withholding anything from them, but at the same time, I’m also not fire hosing them with information.  As simple as this is, it was not very common from what I previously saw in the infantry. What I saw were a lot of keepers of the badge. At the time when I was a junior Marine there wasn’t a whole lot of mentoring going on, and if there was, it was very little. It was only,” I’m going to give you just enough information to where you learn something, but I’m also going to purposely withhold information from you because I don’t want you to grow beyond and possibly outshine me.”

You have to sharpen both sides of the sword. On one side, you learn and improve yourself. On the other, you teach your guys so that they grow in the direction that they’re supposed to.  This rarely happens as everything in the military is performance driven. The byproduct of freely teaching and giving all information by default forces that leader to take a deeper look into themselves and identify what they’re deficient in and find ways to improve. Otherwise, if this step is missed as a leader who freely mentors their personnel without withholding, eventually their men and woman are going to grow past them – resulting in promotions above them.  If I’m going to keep up with them, I’ve got to continue to look deeper into myself and see what I can make better.

This is the way of giving back to the community.

A true leader doesn’t make more subordinates, they make more leaders.  They’re humble in nature and they take responsibility over things that aren’t even their fault in regard to those within their command. They’re stern when needed but also compassionate towards those they lead.  Members of any command are not just numbers to do your bidding as a leader, they are family – the lifeline and heartbeat of the community.  If this is lost, you lose trust, and if that’s lost, you have nothing as a leader.  You will use your men and woman as tools to build and promote yourself instead of using your position and instruments to further develop, and hone those that you are blessed to lead.  This is Esprit de Corps, this is Gung Ho!

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang
Negron with his incredible wife, Erika.

What special operations skillset came most naturally to you?

The things that came most naturally to me was shooting and really just being and operating in the bush – your basic infantry concepts and tactics. And really anything related to R&S (reconnaissance and surveillance) and SR (special reconnaissance).

I kind of had a knack for it even though I have a love-hate relationship with R&S because it always involved carrying a pack that was over 100 pounds, deuce gear that was like another 50 pounds, and then my weapon. I practically carried myself in body weight every single time we stepped out (laughs). I kind of hated that aspect of it, but I loved once we got on site and we started our reporting, started collecting information on our target site. I just love that aspect of it.

At the end of the day, you’ve got to treat your training like it’s real.  You never know when it will be.  Plus, during training you’re always competing against your counterparts that are inserting into the bush as well – oftentimes with you – but they’re just taking another piece of the objective. And so, you have that friendly competition going, but at the same time, you’re both performing exceptionally well and doing a great job on target site. So, you’re adhering to the Recon creed of honoring those who came before.

Which skillset took the most work to master in spite of not being very good at it initially?

Things that I wasn’t that great at? Well, I was never really that fast in the water and I’m still not that fast in the water.

Diving (school) sucked for me, especially going into it with an injured ankle, but it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t do. I just wasn’t fast in the water. Actually, one of my good buddies that I joined Recon with – he was a big dude at 6’4, 220-240lbs – he was slow on land but fast on the water, and I was slow in the water but fast on land. So, when we were getting thrashed in pre-BRC (Basic Reconnaissance Course), I was the one smiling on the runs because he was typically the last dude coming in. Then when we got to the pool, it reversed. I was like the last guy to finish while he was one of the first ones out.  He just sat on the pool side and laughed at me.

In a way, it motivated us to not quit. We both suffered in silence and suffered uniquely together, and that camaraderie bonded us. We both saw each other in some of our worst moments and our best moments as we fought to solidify our place within the Recon community.

Do you have a favorite place that you’ve visited?

Deployment-wise, I would have loved to have seen more of Australia, but unfortunately didn’t get to see too much during one quick stop in Darwin.

Dubai was cool and that area was really nice.

I really like anything with history, especially anything that has long history. So, when I went to Jordan, I got an opportunity to take a trip over to Petra. If you’ve ever seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, it’s the city that’s carved into the rock. That’s Petra. The movie only shows one spot actually, but there are multiple places like that and it’s a massive city that’s carved into other rocks all around. It’s got a bunch of what seemed to me like hundreds or possibly thousands of little homes in between some of those larger dedicated sites.

What is something unique about you that most people don’t know?

As most men involved with self-defense, I was inspired by Bruce Lee.

My favorite film he did was “Enter the Dragon”. That was definitely one of the best ones for me, but I really enjoyed more of his documentaries and reading books on him – he is just very inspirational.

He obviously had this amazing physical ability that dazzled the world, but people who had the opportunity to meet him were oftentimes more impressed by his spoken words.

He wasn’t just a martial artist; he was poet, a father, a husband, who lived and embodied a warrior spirit that is very uncommon.  At the end of it all Bruce did not embrace the illusion of fame, he wanted to be remembered as a real human being who was fully alive.  In his own words, “Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang
GySgt Joshua Negron. (Photo credit: Lloyd Wainscott)
MIGHTY CULTURE

Everything you need to know about the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve

It took 104 years, but the Marine Corps Reserve has grown from just 35 personnel to more than 40,000. To celebrate the USMC Reserve’s August 28 birthday, here’s a look at Marine heritage and culture.


Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

(Wikimedia Commons)

USMC-R History and Origins

The Marines’ reserve component dates back to the Civil War when military and civilian readers recognized a need for a Naval Reserve to augment the fleet during wartime.

Leading up to WWI, individual states tried to fill the need through state-controlled naval militias, but the lack of a centralized national force limited combat effectiveness.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson recognized the need for an operational Reserve Force, and on August 29, the USMC Reserve was born. The organization grew from just 35 Marines on April 01, 1916, to 6,467 by the time Germany surrendered in November 1918.

Reserve Marines fought on the sea and land in major battles during WWI, and as the Marine Corps began expanding its horizons during WWII, the Reserve component continued to grow. The USMC Women’s Reserve was activated in July 1942, and in 1943, the USMC WR swore in its first director, Maj. Ruth Cheney Streeter.

However, by 1947, it seems like the Marine Corps and the Reserve component were going to be disbanded. Fortunately, the Armed Forces Unification Act created the Department of Defense, which helped standardize pay for Marine Corps Reserve service members, along with creating a retirement pay program.

At the end of the military draft and the transition to an all-volunteer military in the 1970s, the USMC-R would grow to be almost 40,000 members strong.

Celebrating the USMC-R Birthday

This internal observance isn’t a widely known date or public holiday, but Reservists don’t mind. To honor and celebrate the history of the USMC Reserve on its birthday, you might consider flying the Marine Corps flag alongside the American flag this week.

Consult the Marine Corps Flag Manual to learn how to properly display a USMC-R service flag alongside the national colors. Fair warning, and in true USMC nature, this flag-flying manual is no less than 50 pages long, so be prepared for a long and thorough read.

TL;DR: The flag represents a living country and is considered a living thing. The right arm is the sword arm, and so the right is the place of honor, so the edge of the flag should be toward the staff. Flags should be displayed from sunrise to sunset. If a “patriotic effect is desired for specific occasions,” the flag can be displayed for a full 24 hours if properly illuminated during hours of darkness.

Famous USMC Reservists

Like the other branches of the military, being a part of the USMC-R can significantly impact civilian careers. For Reservists, being a Marine often means being able to also continue with life’s other passions. Take a look at the most famous Marine Reservists. You might not know they were Leathernecks, but we’re pretty sure you know their work!

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

(Wikimedia Commons)

Drew Carey

After enlisting in the Reserves in 1980, Carey went on to serve a total of six years. The comedian says that he adopted his trademark crew cut and horn-rimmed glasses because of his time in service. During his time in the Reserves, Carey was always looking for new ways to make money. Someone in his unit suggested using his jokes. Of his big break in Hollywood, Carey has often remarked that he would still be serving if he hadn’t made it big.

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Cory W. Bush/Released)

Rob Riggle

Retired Lt. Col. Riggle served in the USMC Reserve as a PAO from 199-2013. He served in Kosovo, Liberia and Afghanistan. He joined the Marines after getting his pilot’s license with the intent of becoming a Naval Aviator but left flight school to pursue his comedy career. He has appeared on the Daily Show and had a running role on The Office.

Interested in joining the USMC Reserves?

The USMC-R is a critical component to being able to provide a balanced, ready force. There’s no telling that you’ll end up a famous comedian like Drew Caret or Rob Riggle, but chances are you’ll grow as a person and learn something in the process, too. Find out more here.


MIGHTY CULTURE

10 must-read books by Tier 1 operators

The world of special operations is a mystery to many. This is even more true for the elite operators at the “Tier 1” level: their units aren’t officially listed by the Department of Defense, and their personnel are carefully selected from only the best of other special operations units. Their work is often shrouded in secrecy, and the general public rarely hears about their successes. But a few have stepped out of the shadows to record inspirational stories about their time serving at the tip of the spear or to provide context to missions they were on that made international headlines.

We compiled a list of these important — and sometimes controversial — books written by the operators themselves. Whether you want a peek behind the curtain or to gain a greater understanding of what our nation’s recent military history looks like, these books will no doubt satisfy!


Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

“The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior” by Robert O’Neill

The title pretty much says it all. As a member of SEAL Team 6, O’Neill was not only on the raid that hunted down the al Qaeda leader, he placed the bullet that ended the bastard’s life. He’s gotten some blowback from the community for speaking about things that are generally kept down low, but the story was already getting out. He told the Washington Post in 2014 that he wanted to maintain some control over the narrative and that his story seemed to aid in the healing process for families of 9/11 victims.

With a movie in the works, O’Neill’s memoir spanning his childhood through his impressive 400-mission career is something to get your hands on now before Hollywood has its way with it.

Notable quote: “‘Once we go on this mission, we aren’t going to see our kids again or kiss our wives. We’ll never eat another steak or smoke another cigar.’ We were trying to get down to the truth about why we were still willing to do this when we pretty much knew we were going to die. What we came up with was that we were doing it for the single mom who dropped her kids off at school and went to work on a Tuesday morning, and then an hour later decided to jump out of a skyscraper because it was better than burning alive. A woman whose last gesture of human decency was holding down her skirt on the long way to the pavement so no one could see her underwear. That’s why we were going. She was just trying to get through a workday, live a life.”

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

“Inside Delta Force: The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit” by Eric Haney

Haney, a founding member of the supersecret and elite unit, details the early years of 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta. Released in 2002, it’s not a hot-off-the-presses memoir, but it’s a must-read for anyone who wants to get to know Delta Force. This is the book that inspired the popular network TV show “The Unit,” on which Haney also served as a producer.

Notable quote: “From the vantage point of my warm, comfortable spot on mother earth, I could see off into infinite space and the eternity of time. In just a few hours, I thought, some of us are going to make that leap into eternity. And I will be one of the instruments of that voyage. I may also be one of the travelers … . It’s going to happen sooner or later. But if today is my day—I’m going to have a cup of coffee first.”

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

“Leadership in the Shadows: Special Operations Soldier” by SGM Kyle Lamb

Whether military or civilian, the goal of any team is to accomplish the mission. With more than 20 years of experience in leadership positions within the U.S. Army’s special operations community, Lamb is uniquely qualified to get you there. If you need to instill confidence and encourage teamwork, you’ll find the tools in this book.

Notable quote: “You are not born with credibility. You must earn and build your credibility by becoming accountable, listening to your people, and, most importantly, performing on a daily basis. That credibility will be earned through performance and life leadership experiences.”

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

“The Mission, The Men, and Me: Lessons From a Former Delta Force Commander” by Pete Blaber

The former Delta Force commander distills his experience in the elite strike force into applicable leadership and life lessons for soldiers and civilians alike. And while he’s dropping all this knowledge, Blaber also shares stories about his time in combat and provides insight into the bureaucratic workings of the U.S. government — for better or worse.

Notable quote: “The question that high-ranking leaders always seemed to inject in any risk-averse-oriented discussion was, “Is it worth getting a man killed for?” Forty thousand people die on our highways each year, but when you get into your car each morning, do you ask yourself if driving to work is worth getting killed for?”

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

“Kill Bin Laden: A Delta Force Commander’s Account of the Hunt for the World’s Most Wanted Man” by Dalton Fury

This New York Times bestseller details how close Delta Force came to killing Usama bin Laden in the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan mere months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Met with acclaim and criticism, Fury (a pen name for Thomas Greer, who died in 2016) went on to write a series of books, including fiction, under the pseudonym.

Notable quote: “Many times we had to think and act instantly, with no guidance at all, but that is why Delta picks the kind of operators that it does. They have to be able to think as well as fight. The muhj allies turned their guns on our boys to stop an advance. Rival warlords weighed their military decisions according to personal agendas. When we arrived in Afghanistan in December 2001, the United States was pulling troops out of the area in a weird ploy to trick Usama bin Laden while stripping us of a quick-reaction force. The muhj that were supposed to be doing the bulk of the fighting, and we sucking up the glory, routinely left the battlefield when it got dark, at times abandoning our small teams in the mountains. Some people within the U.S. command system were extremely reluctant to commit highly trained forces because they might get hurt. Some of the highest-ranking people in the Pentagon had no idea of what Delta was trained to do. The CIA bought loyalty out of duffel bags filled with American cash only to learn later that money does not buy everything in Afghanistan. Some of this might have been funny had it not been so serious.”

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

“Delta Force: A Memoir by the Founder of the U.S. Military’s Most Secretive Special-Operations Unit” by Charlie A. Beckwith

The first commanding officer of Delta Force probably has a pretty impressive story to tell — Beckwith doesn’t disappoint. Originally published in 1983, you won’t find the juicy details about what it takes to be an elite warrior in what is considered by many to be the most effective fighting unit in the world, but you’ll find a detailed history — complete with war stories and the challenges he faced from a project management perspective to get the unit running and gunning.

Notable quote: “Then I remembered something I’d read that Teddy Roosevelt had said: “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…who strives…who spends himself…and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

“No Easy Day: The Autobiography of a Navy SEAL: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden” by Mark Owen

Before O’Neill started talking, Mark Owen got the conversation (and controversy) started with “No Easy Day.” While it’s been praised for being well-written and providing fascinating insight into the dynamics of SEAL Team 6, Owen has also come under fire from the Naval Special Warfare Command and surrounding community for speaking out about secret missions for what appears to be personal recognition and accolades.

Notable quote: “[to Navy SEALs] Quite frankly, I didn’t even want to use you guys, with your dip and velcro and all your gear bullshit. I wanted to drop a bomb. But people didn’t believe in this lead enough to drop a bomb. So they’re using you guys as canaries. And, in theory, if bin Laden isn’t there, you can sneak away and no one will be the wiser. But bin Laden is there. And you’re going to kill him for me.”

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

“American Badass: The True Story of a Modern Day Spartan” by Dale Comstock

If you’re in need of some inspiration to get up and be the best American you can be, you’ve found it. Comstock chronicles the successes and failures in his life, offering a glimpse into America’s current warrior mentality. A quick and entertaining read.

Notable quote: “An American Badass doesn’t start fights, but knows if he must fight, he can with courage and conviction. An American Badass doesn’t steal, lie, or subvert the society that he lives in. He lives by a code of unwavering morality, and ethics that are tempered with honor, honesty, integrity, leadership, and loyalty to family, friends, and America.”

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

“My Share of the Task: A Memoir” by Gen. Stanley McChrystal

One of the most respected leaders of the GWOT, McChrystal served as the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan before retiring in 2010. In his 2014 New York Times bestselling memoir, he lays out the major aspects of his career and his path to becoming a four-star general. A leadership handbook wrapped in a personal narrative, “My Share of the Task” is both informative and entertaining.

Notable quote: “As the demands of the positions differed, and as I grew in age and experience, I found that I had changed as a leader. I learned to ask myself two questions: First, what must the organization I command do and be? And second, how can I best command to achieve that?”

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

BONUS: “Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team SIX Operator Adam Brown” by Eric Blehm

Even though it wasn’t written by a Tier 1 operator, it’s such an inspiring story about one that we had to include it here. After struggling with addiction and a stint in jail, Adam Brown used his faith to propel him to the highest level of elite warrior — SEAL Team 6. This New York Times bestseller chronicles his life, his struggles, and, ultimately, his ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan.

Notable quote: “Modest, conventional expectations weren’t enough to lure Adam Brown away from the power of drug addiction that ensnared him. Instead, the college dropout already in his mid-twenties found only the big, near-impossible dream of being a Navy SEAL captivating enough to consistently draw him to different choices.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs

The CFT has nothing to do with combat, Kuwait isn’t a real deployment, not every Marine is a rifleman, stop piggybacking off the XO—every service member has thought these things in some form at one point or another. You may have even said it aloud to a buddy. Putting a military spin on Dude With a Sign, Veteran With A Sign takes these thoughts that we have all had and actually says them.


VWAS is an Instagram page that started in March 2020 as a writing project by a f̶o̶r̶m̶e̶r̶ Marine named Zach. He served two tours in Afghanistan as an infantryman and held every position in a Marine infantry squad up to squad leader. “GWOT was hot and COIN was cool,” Zach said as he recalled the intensity of combat operations over a decade ago. After separating from the Marine Corps, Zach continued to support his brothers and sisters in arms working for Centerstone, a nonprofit national network that offers essential behavioral healthcare to veterans. Like most veterans, Zach started following military memes as a way to connect with the community. However, he found that most of the memes were the same; heavy handed, punching down, and generally negative in nature. He decided to try something different.

As quarantines went into place across the country and people went internal both literally and on the internet, Zach saw an opportunity to test out his idea and seized it. His first sign read, “Take motrin Drink water Change your socks.” This military cure-all was followed by other popular sayings like “Hurry up and wait” and “Standby to standby.” VWAS’s posts are meant to help veterans with a type of humor that serves as a common language across the services. “Everything’s with a wink and a smile,” Zach said. However, the community was slow to catch on. The number of followers was low and Zach found that people just weren’t getting the joke. “It was annoying,” he recalled. By May, he wondered if he shouldn’t just shut the whole thing down. However, seemingly overnight, the community got the joke.

Early on, Zach began consulting with his Marine Corps buddy Jay. The two served together in Afghanistan with Zach becoming Jay’s squad leader on their last deployment. “We stayed in touch after the Marines,” Jay said, “but we went from good friends to best friends with VWAS.” While working toward a business degree, Jay helped to direct the social media strategy of the page and grow its followership by tagging friends, sharing posts, and trying to line up just the right hashtag. When Zach considered shutting it down, the page was hovering around 600-800 followers. The next day, it had jumped to 1,200. In a week, it more than doubled to 2,500. After a week and a half, VWAS had over 10,000 followers. “We found a common unified voice for the page,” Jay said.

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

Zach (left) and Jay (right) hold signs written by the other (veteranwithasign)

As the page grew, so did its message. Zach and Jay realized the social responsibility that had been placed on them and crafted their posts accordingly. While they still made humorous signs like “Mortarmen Are Infantry That Can Do Math”, they also used their platform to bring attention to serious topics with signs like “Text Your Buddies…It Could Save A Life” and “Where Is Vanessa Guillén??” The two also carefully crafted the identity of the page with the character of the Warfighter. Wearing OD green skivvies, black sunglasses, and a hat, the Warfighter persona aims to focus attention on the message of the sign while also representing all types of veterans. “Anyone who puts on the uniform is fighting the war,” Jay said. From S1 and supply to mechanics and logisticians, “everybody is the warfighter in their own way.” Zach says that the concept was inspired by the 2006 film V for Vendetta, in which a masked man fights against a fascist tyrannical government. V’s face, hidden by a Guy Fawkes mask, is never seen in the film and the mask becomes a symbol of freedom and rebellion against the oppressive regime. Jay reinforced this idea when he talked about donning the skivvies, hat, and shades to hold up a sign. “In that moment, I’m the Warfighter.”

Expanding the VWAS community, Zach and Jay started taking suggestions from followers who had a message that they wanted to share. Working with Zach and Jay to craft and home the message, the follower would then don the Warfighter outfit, assume the identity, and hold up their sign for the world to read. One such collaboration was with a veteran and former law enforcement officer who goes by the Instagram name donutoperator—the sign read, “Military Experience Doesn’t Equal Law Enforcement Experience.” Another major expansion for VWAS came when Tim Kennedy shared a post in which Zach held up a sign reading, “No One Hates Successful Veterans Like Veterans” while his friend held one reading, “He Sucks”.

Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

“Wives aren’t the only ones wanting to be called by rank” (veteranwithasign)

“There’s a current cultural problem with the veteran community. It feels as if we eat our own,” Kennedy said in his sharing of the post. “We need to be supporting each other. We need to back each other.” While Zach and Jay hope to continue to grow the page as a forum of free speech, there’s no room on VWAS for negativity. The page receives dozens of DMs and comments on a daily basis, and while Zach and Jay like to respond to all of them, they simply ignore the constant suggestions to do signs bashing on veteran-owned apparel or coffee companies.

“That’s just being a bully,” Jay said, “and no one likes a bully.”

On the other hand, many DMs to the page come from concerned friends looking for resources to provide to battle buddies who they think might be suicide risks. Zach and Jay take the time to identify the most appropriate and effective resources and pass the information on with best wishes. “That’s what this is all about,” Zach said, “helping veterans laugh more and hurt themselves less.” While veteran suicides have gone up since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, VWAS wants to do more than just acknowledge the problem or point fingers at the VA. “That doesn’t solve anything,” Zach said. “Instead, I look at it like, ‘They’re doing what they can do and we’re doing what we can do.'”

Doing 22 push-ups for 30 days on Facebook can be a good way to bring awareness to the problem of veteran suicide, but there is a simpler course of action that addresses the problem directly. Call your buddies. Take the time to talk, catch up, and ask how they’re doing. Let them know that you care about them and are always there for them. The feeling of loneliness and hopelessness that tragically brings so many veterans to take their own lives can be combated with a phone call from a friend.

Be that friend.

Here are some resources designed to prevent veteran suicide:

Veterans Crisis Line—1-800-273-8255 and press 1

Veterans Crisis Line for deaf or hard of hearing—1-800-799-4889

Veterans Crisis Text—838255

Veterans Crisis Online Chat— https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/chat

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