When you put a bunch of 18 year olds together in risky and high stress environments, they are going to find ways to have a good time. Even when it’s really gross or potentially dangerous. All of the things listed below were anonymously shared by those who have done it, seen it and lived it. These are their stories.
The junior ranking members are always asked to do the dirty grunt work. Deck swabbing, mess cooking and weed picking, to name a few. The other thing you can often find them doing is taking out the trash. Some guys don’t have the patience to look for other dumpsters when the ones they walked to were full, so they did what any junior enlisted member would do. They lit it on fire. Yeah, you read that right. They literally lit the inside contents of the dumpster on fire to make more room for their trash. I am sure they saved so much time and effort this way.
2. Hair exchange
When you use a razor, it takes a bit of skin with it. So, it goes without saying that each razor should stay with the person for sanitary reasons. Instead, junior members share each other’s razors. They don’t stop there – they share each other’s clippers too, sharing hair from questionable body parts with zero shame.
3. Dinner’s ready
Hunting is an admirable activity when you are feeding your family and friends. For the often broke non-rates and E3s, it’s the best way to eat. Who doesn’t love fresh meat? Young service members don’t let barracks living stop them from going on a good hunt. Instead, they just brought the deer back to the barracks, skinning and taking down the deer in the shared bathtub.
4. Doing the dip
If you thought hair exchange was gross, you haven’t seen anything yet. Below is a true accounting of “the dip” and it isn’t the 90s song either.
Soldier 1: “Hey man, what kind of flavor of dip are you chewing on right now?”
Soldier 2: “I got wintergreen, what do you got?”
Soldier 1: “Plain mint, wanna switch?”
Soldier 2: “Hell yeah man.”
5. Nice and shiny
When troops don’t like their roommates for whatever reason, they find really gross ways to demonstrate it. Like adding in certain body fluids to their roommate’s shampoo, cackling like school girls afterwards when they see their shiny hair.
6. I love her, I love her not
Plenty of young service members have gotten married before they probably should have. Loneliness and the BAH dollar signs have led so many astray. One soldier watched his buddy get divorced from one wife and marry another, all in the same week.
And finally, the award for the grossest thing that has been done by junior members:
7. Poo for everyone
Overseas, the poo gets burned. It is what it is, but that’s not the grossest part of this story. What’s downright gag inducing is the troops who use the poo burning stick to light each other’s cigarettes. It’s a miracle they didn’t die from a number of bacterial infections or burned their own faces in stupidity.
There were so many stories that didn’t make it to this countdown, as they just weren’t fit for anyone’s eyes. But, you can rest assured that there are still so many true gross and dumb stories still floating out there, just waiting for WATM to discover and share with you.
Veteran U.S. Marine Corps combat cameraman Scotty Bob loves to jump out of perfectly safe aircraft. He got his first taste of what would become his career at age 19 when his attachment to Marine Force Recon sent him to U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia.
“That’s kind of where I bit the bug,” Bob told Coffee or Die. He now lives in Southern California as a professional base jumper working with Squirrel Wingsuits. He also works with Kavu, maker of the well-known Rope Bag.
Back in the Marines, Bob didn’t get to jump very often. He deployed to Iraq twice, in 2007 and 2009, and spent most of his time with line infantry units. “Once we get deployed, we’re kind of property of the MEF (Marine Expeditionary Force),” he said. “I think I was the only combat cameraman with jump wings.”
For anyone unfamiliar with the role of a combat cameraman, Scotty said that “if you’ve ever seen the movie ‘Full Metal Jacket,’ it’s the exact same job. The guy who wrote the manuscript of that movie for Stanley Kubrick, he was my MOS (military occupational specialty).”
After his five-year stint in the Marines, Bob left in 2010 and soon realized that college was “not really my thing.” So he began his skydiving and base-jumping career in Virginia.
(Photo courtesy of Scotty Bob/Facebook.)
As with many career paths, Bob said, one starts in the skydiving industry with “entry-level jobs, and you tend to work your way up the ranks. And for me it started as a parachute packer.” He worked long hours and did not get to jump very often, but his foot was in the door.
After spending a while working in Virginia, where he grew up, Bob decided to head west. He said that once “you spend a couple years skydiving on the East Coast, you realize you need to move West. In California, we can jump year round.”
By 2013, he had earned tandem instructor certification, and Bob was well on his way to living his dream.
He has jumped everywhere from Virginia to Alaska, where he jumped out of de Havilland Beavers. He described the Alaskan experience as “just flying down mountains.” He even jumped Pioneer Peak, one of the most iconic mountains of the western Chugach range, not far from Anchorage.
(Photo courtesy of Scotty Bob/Facebook.)
In his day-to-day life, Bob tests new wingsuits for Squirrel Wingsuits and coaches people in wingsuiting.
“I do that basically seven days a week,” he said, adding that “the base-jumping community especially has a massive veteran community, it’s pretty scary. When we have events, at least in the States, you can throw a rock and hit three Marines.”
As for the future, Bob says that he is happy where he is. “I’ve reached the holy grail of jobs,” he said. “It’s pretty awesome.”
Earlier this year, a French publisher had to issue an apology after a huge social media backlash emerged against their undergraduate-level history textbook which claimed that the attacks on 9/11 were “orchestrated by the CIA.” “This phrase which echoes conspiracy theories devoid of any factual basis should never have been used in this work,” the publisher said. “It doesn’t reflect the editorial position either of Ellipses publications or the author.”
Despite the incredible oversight of the publisher, it’s worth noting that the French have stood in solidarity with the United States in remembering 9/11 with a temporary memorial on its 10th anniversary. However, other nations across the free world have erected permanent memorials. After all, 9/11 began the War on Terror that freedom-loving countries have been fighting for 19 years. Here are some memorials that stand out.
(Dr. Avishai Teicher—Public Domain)
1. 9/11 Living Memorial Plaza—Jerusalem, Israel
Opened in 2009, the 9/11 Living Memorial Plaza is a cenotaph remembering and honoring the victims of the attacks. It measures 30 feet tall and is made of granite, bronze, and aluminum. A piece of melted steel from Ground Zero forms part of the base on which the monument rests. The names of all the victims, including five Israeli citizens, are embedded on metal plates and placed on the circular wall. It is also the first and only monument outside of the United States to list all the names of the nearly 3,000 victims of the attacks.
(Memoria e Luce)
2. Memory and Light—Padua, Italy
Inaugurated on the 4th anniversary of the attacks, Memoria e Luce, as it’s known in Italian, was a gift from the United States to the Italian city of Padua. It features a six meter long, twisted steel beam recovered from Ground Zero. The structure in which it is housed mimics an open book and is reminiscent of the facades of the Twin Towers. The book is also open in the direction of the Statue of Liberty, further cementing the relationship between our two nations.
(SINCE 9/11 Charity)
3. Since 9/11—London, England
Throughout the War on Terror, Britain has been one of our strongest allies in combating those who wish harm on the West and the free world. Located at the Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park, the memorial sculpture was a gift from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to the United Kingdom. It is made entirely out of steel recovered from Ground Zero. The memorial is cared for by the SINCE 9/11 charity. Founded on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, the charity’s focus is educating British students on 9/11 to “ensure that the legacy of 9/11 is one that builds hope from tragedy.”
4. Twin Towers and Lost Dogs Monument—Ontario, Canada
Located in the Beautiful Joe Heritage Society Park, this stone sculpture represents the Twin Towers. The towers rest on a pentagonal base and honors both the human and canine rescuers who took part in the search and rescue effort following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The memorial is particularly dedicated to a Yellow Labrador police canine named Sirius who died in the collapse of the South Tower. The plaque on the memorial reads, “This plaque honors the devotion and bravery shown by the many K-9 police units during the search, rescue, and recovery of victims of these attacks. Their heroic deeds will not be forgotten.”
5. Donadea 9/11 Memorial—Donadea, Ireland
Dedicated in 2003, the Donadea 9/11 Memorial was crafted by a local stonemason and sculptor. The structural representation of the Twin Towers features the names of victims inscribed on the stone. Though it serves as a memorial to all 9/11 victims, it is dedicated to Irish American firefighter Sean Tallon, whose father was born in Donadea. Tallon was a Corporal in the USMC Reserves and probationary firefighter at Ladder 10, the fire station directly across from the World Trade Center. He was one of the first people on scene when the first plane hit and was killed when the towers fell.
After 9/11, Americans swore that we would never forget. The beautiful and touching memorials listed here show that good people around the world won’t forget either.
If anyone can save the planet, it’s Rudy Reyes, a specops veteran who is changing the definition of what it means to be a warrior.
Reyes served with the Marine Corps 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in both Iraq and Afghanistan before engaging in a counter-terror contract for the Department of Defense, training African wildlife preserver rangers in anti-poaching missions, and writing the book Hero Living, which chronicles his warrior philosophy and teaches others how to follow it.
Now, as the co-founder of FORCE BLUE, Reyes and his team unite the community of Special Operations veterans with the world of marine conservation for the betterment of both.
And they’ve just completed a very critical mission: the study of juvenile green sea turtles in the Florida Keys.
It might not seem like a big deal — but it is.
According to the trailer for their new documentary Resilience, “The sea turtle tells us the health of the ocean and the ocean tells us the health of the planet.”
Check out the rest of the trailer right here:
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B1JZ1jNgtPu/ expand=1]FORCE BLUE on Instagram: “PLEASE REMEMBER to join us tomorrow night (Thursday) at 8:00 p.m. EST on Facebook for the world premiere of our short film RESILIENCE. And…”
On Aug. 15, at 8:00pm EDT, FORCE BLUE will premiere Resilience, the story of their recent mission. During the study period in June, FORCE BLUE veterans helped collect samples from 26 green turtles in the lower Florida Keys in order to improve green turtle conservation and recovery efforts.
“These sea turtles are the oldest living creatures on the planet, yet —through no fault of their own — they’re locked in a battle just to survive. We owe them our support. The same can be said, I think, for our FORCE BLUE veterans and the warrior community they represent,” said Jim Ritterhoff, Executive Director and Co-Founder of FORCE BLUE.
That’s the genius of FORCE BLUE, a non-profit that seeks to address two seemingly unrelated problems — the rapid declining health of our planet’s marine resources and the difficultly combat veterans have in adjusting to civilian life. Consisting of a community of veterans, volunteers, and marine scientists, the organization offers veterans the power to restore lives — and the planet.
“We were all in the hunter warrior mindset yet we were hunting to protect and to study and to treat,” said Reyes. It’s not exactly what one might expect from a community known for watering the grass with “blood blood blood.”
“It almost feels like the turtles know they are going through a crisis too, just like us. And now we have a chance to do something for them. That means everything,” shares Reyes.
Reyes is a man who has emerged from the battlefield with the desire to improve the world. The first time I met him, I said I’d heard a rumor that he could kill me with his little finger. He immediately and passionately corrected me: “I could SAVE you with my little finger!”
That told me everything I needed to know about him — because both statements are true, but what Reyes chooses to do with his power is what makes him a leader within the military community and a force for good in this world.
Man, you cut yourself off from the outside world for one extended weekend and you miss everything. Apparently, lettuce is now dangerous and, supposedly, generals carrying “assault” weapons in Afghanistan are dangerous, and some tribe in the Indian Ocean that’s capable of firing a metric f*ckload of arrows into moving airplanes is dangerous, too.
So, if you’ve managed to not die from tainted lettuce or North Sentinelese archers this week, congratulations! You’ve earned yourself some memes.
00 is awarded annually for 4yrs to those awarded with this scholarship. It’s specifically for children AND grandchildren of Veterans, Active Duty members and Guard/Reserves. Students also must currently be High School seniors. The next cycle for this scholarship will start in January 2019.
This scholarship will open for applicants in January 2019. Be prepared to apply. All children of active duty, retired or reserve Chief Petty Officers are eligible rather they are natural born, adopted or step children.
Chief petty officers from Naval Air Station Jacksonville.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gulianna Mandigo)
Named after the Marine Corps’ first black officer, this NROTC scholarship is awarded to military children who plan on attending one of 17 black historical colleges. You can find the list here for more information!
The Enlisted Association Memorial Foundations Scholarship Program can be awarded to those children or grandchildren of good standing members of TREA (The Retired Enlisted Association). Applicants must submit a 300 word essay on a question posed by the organization.
Recipients of this scholarship will be rewarded with id=”listicle-2631535261″,500 bi-yearly in May and November for five years. It’s a part of their Military Education Scholarship Program. For more information call their Scholarship Director at 800-973-4954.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
According to a select few, that last notion is, apparently, not a work of fiction.
An American named Randy Cramer claims he spent 17 years deployed to Mars as part of the “Mars Defense Force” and then flew anti-gravity vehicles throughout the solar system as part of the “Earth Defense Force.” On his website, Cramer says his old command structure believes the weakening of the U.S. economy and divisive political infighting is a threat to national security, and they asked him to step forward to tell the story.
Randy Cramer lectures about anti-alien tactics.
Cramer says the Marine Corps trains certain Marines under a program called “Moon Shadow” starting at age four. Under the umbrella of what he calls the U.S. Marine Corps special section, or “USMC ss,” he says they implanted a device in his brain, and the brains of 299 others, that allows members of the special section to communicate via electronic telepathy. He would be trained for weeks at a stretch and then transported through time to when he was first taken, so it would appear to others as if no time had passed at all. At 17, he was finally sent off.
After coming of age into the secret space program in 1987, Cramer was taken to an advanced, secret base on the moon before beginning his tour on Mars. The moon base was first established as early as 1953 and this is where he signed his enlistment papers. After arriving on Mars via teleportation portal, his mission was to help defend five human settlements on the red planet, the biggest called Ares Prime.
“Eisenhower was able to avoid her recruitment and was awakened to the false matrix of reality, blinding us from seeing the truth behind the military-industrial complex’s hidden agenda.” That’s a real quote.
The existence of a secret space program is “corroborated” by Laura Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Ike’s famous “military-industrial complex” speech hit Laura harder than anyone else. She believes President Eisenhower knew about extraterrestrials on Earth and formed the last Earth-Alien treaty in 1954. She claims that, through a black-budget DARPA project, we’ve already established a human base on the red planet.
This is where she was invited to go by a man she calls “Agent X” in 2007. She also discovered how chemtrails, genetically-modified food, false flags, and the media are all controlling the population on Earth.
Supposedly a photo of a Draconian on Mars. It’s a little blurry because of course it is.
Laura Eisenhower says she devotes her life to spreading the divine, feminine “Gaia-Sophia” energy to free us from the faux power structures of today.
Meanwhile, Cramer tells stories of deadly battles between Marines and native people of Mars before he was redeployed back to the moon to spend his last three years in service. Allegedly, the two main indigenous species on the planet are Reptilian and Insectoid — Cramer was told they were just dumb, savage beasts. But, of course, he soon found out they were intelligent beings who lived underground in hives and nests. The three eventually signed a peace treaty.
The treaty stipulated that Marines would not invade the sacred places of either Reptilian or Insectoids. It also committed all three sides to defending Mars from an external invasion at the hands of a species known as the Draconians. The evil Draconians were eventually defeated by this joint force and were forced to leave Mars for good.
He claims humans have been traveling to Mars for decades and he, personally, was around for two of those decades. Mars is supposedly a U.S. territory. After his service ended, he was sent to the moon to undergo a “reverse-aging process” that would return his physical body to age 17 before being re-inserted into the timeline, taking him back to 1987.
Since Cramer spoke up, at least two others have come forward to claim they were also abducted into the secret space program. One claims he worked cargo between Mars and Jupiter and another claims Lockheed-Martin is heavily involved in the program.
These days, Cramer offers consulting services to help law enforcement agencies and military units prepare for “exo-invasions” and “unnatural disasters,” complete with a tactical analysis of many different alien species. The self-proclaimed super-soldier and pilot is also developing a holographic medical bed that will regrow limbs and cure disease.
Recently, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson got a tank named after him. The actor/wrestler/producer took joy in being given the honors and posted the image onto his social media. Because you can’t go two days on the internet without some sort of backlash from people with nothing better to do than argue over some mundane thing that has absolutely no bearing on their life… people argued.
On one side, some people are upset that he felt honored for it because, you know, that has to mean he is advocating war or whatever. Counter-arguers are also quick to jump at the chance to point out that it is a high honor for such a beloved figure because he’s always been a friend and supporter to the military and veteran community.
In reality, the process of naming tanks, artillery guns, and rocket launcher systems isn’t as grandiose as the people arguing are making it out to be.
When it’s time for a crew to take command of a new vehicle, they need to give it a name.
With some exception, you name it entirely for the purpose of easily identifying it. When you’re walking through the motor pool, reading the name stenciled on the gun or rocket pod is going to be a lot easier to read from a distance than its serial number.
Unlike with Humvees or other troop carrying vehicles often forgotten until it’s time to use them, artillerymen and tankers take pride in what is theirs. The name has to be something that the crew could proudly sit in for hours until the FDC finally gets around to approving a fire mission.
The name itself is generally something that invokes strength, humor, or holds sentimental value to one member of the crew – like a loved one. The command staff usually doesn’t bother as long as it isn’t (too) profane and it typically follows the guideline of the first letter being the same as your company/battery/squadron for uniformity.
So an MLRS in Alpha Battery could be named “Alexander the Great” or “Ass Blaster.” Bravo Battery gets something along the lines of “Betty White” or “Boomstick.” Charlie gets names along the lines of “Come Get Some” or “Cat Scratch Fever.” And so on.
As for the tank named “Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson,” well, just happens to be in a Delta Squadron, the crew were probably fans of his work, and his name invokes strength. I can attest, entirely anecdotally of course, that Dwayne Johnson isn’t that uncommon of a name within Delta Batteries/Squadrons.
The crew comes up with the name, submits it to the chain of command, and if it gets approved, they spray paint the name prominently on the gun. If the commander wants it to be all people’s names, then they’re all people’s names. If they give the troops free rein, then that’s their prerogative.
It should also be noted that some commanders may forgo the entire process of naming their vehicles and guns altogether. It is what it is, but some tankers and artillerymen may see it as bad luck to not give their baby a name and troops can be particularly superstitious. That, or they may just be saying it so they can spray-paint “Ass Blaster” on their tank’s gun.
It is not uncommon to stumble upon live videos while scrolling through Facebook. And for the hundreds of people who follow Army wife Sofia de Falco — who is an adjunct professor of Italian language and literature — it is not uncommon to come across her videos where she is smiling and dancing, uplifting them with a joyful and serene expression on her face. As the hundreds of comments on her posts highlight, Sofia is a source of inspiration and a true beacon of light to many.
But in those videos, Sofia is in a hospital room, wearing a shirt that lightly uncovers the right side of her chest, revealing the central venous catheter that feeds her chemotherapy medicine directly into her bloodstream.
In February 2019, Sofia was diagnosed with lymphoma. “I found a lump in my groin,” Sofia said. “But I didn’t give it much thought because it wasn’t the first time. I always had them removed and nothing suspicious ever came of it.”
During her Christmas vacation in Naples, Italy — where she is originally from — Sofia developed a dry and irritating cough. “I decided to go to a local doctor and see if there was anything he could do.” After the doctor dismissed her because he couldn’t find anything wrong, Sofia made a follow-up appointment with her PCM in Virginia, where she and her family are stationed.
“As I was leaving my PCM’s office,” Sofia said, “I turned around and told him about the lump in my groin, which had grown in size by then.” The doctor had Sofia lie down, checked the lump and told her to see a hematologist and a surgeon. Although he didn’t explicitly verbalize it at the time, the doctor suspected Sofia had lymphoma.
He was right. “Since February 2019, I have been going through countless tests and surgical procedures,” Sofia revealed. After being told the first round of chemotherapy — which she faced in “warrior mode,” she said — had worked and she was clear, in November 2019 Sofia’s positive attitude and bright outlook on life was put to the test again. “The cancer came back,” she said. “And this time, I have to fight even harder.” Sofia will have to undergo a stem cell transplant and several rounds of high-dose chemotherapy.
Yet, she dances. As if those tubes were not attached to her body. As if the machine next to her was not feeding her chemo medicine. As if she didn’t suffer from nausea and migraines. She dances as if she were by the beach in downtown Naples, with a bright sun glittering over the Mediterranean Sea in the background, its warm rays caressing her exposed skin.
“I dance on it,” she said. “Dancing makes me happy, so I know it’s what I’m supposed to do. My body feels so much better after I get up and start dancing, just like one, two, three, four,” she said snapping her fingers as if following the rhythm of an imaginary song.
“Dancing is a way for me to keep away the pain, the sorrow and the negative thoughts,” she admitted. “I believe that it is possible to defeat this beast because I believe in the power of hope.”
And as her hundreds of followers are inspired by her inner strength that shines through her smile, and as the stunned nurses watch her from outside her hospital room while she dances through chemo, she laughs out loud confessing, “You know, I’m actually really bad at dancing!”
In March, Wilma L. Vaught, Brigadier General, USAF (ret) is turning 90, and there is a celebration of her life and legacy at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial on March 14 from 1-4 p.m EST. She is one of the most highly decorated military women in United States history. Not only did she pioneer history for women with her many accomplishments, but she was also instrumental in the funding, building and creation of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, which tells the story of military women and keeps their stories as a record of history.
Brig. Gen. Vaught joined the military in 1957. She graduated from the University of Illinois in 1952 and began working, but saw very little chance of advancement. Having come across an Army recruiting letter that offered her an opportunity to work in a management position (officer), she started looking into joining the military. In her research, she was given the advice to see if the Air Force had a similar program and when she found out they did she decided to join the Air Force.
1957 was after the Korean War but before the Vietnam War. When Vaught went through her training, she wasn’t taught how to use a weapon, instead, she went through a course on how to put on makeup and how to get in and out of a car tastefully. When she arrived at her first assignment at Barksdale AFB, she was assigned to the Comptroller Squadron but was sent to manage all the ladies on base until another female officer arrived.
Vaught always did the best at whatever job she assigned, and worked to take care of the Airmen below her. Throughout her career, men would find out that a woman was their next commander and try to get transferred. After a few months, people would come up to her and say, “When I heard you were coming, I wanted to be reassigned because I didn’t want to work for a woman. But I just want to let you know I don’t feel that way anymore, I would work for you anyplace.”
When asked what the key to her success was, she talked about the stories of helping people. She was known for taking over commands that may have been meeting the mission, but no one was taking care of the people. She knew how important it was for people to be put in for awards and promotions and made it a point to ensure that happened while still meeting the mission. She also continually pushed those she worked with to get their education or take required courses for promotion. Story after story of people whose lives were impacted by Brig. Gen. Vaught involved her pushing them harder to be their best.
Not only did those who worked for her want to follow her wherever she went, but her leadership also didn’t want to go anywhere without her. In 1966, when her bomber unit was preparing to deploy, her wing commander asked her to deploy to Guam with bomb wing in support of the Vietnam War. She told her boss she thought she couldn’t deploy, but he found a way to make it so that she would deploy. She was the only female deployed with 3,000 men, and spent six months working for the wing commander as a management analyst. She was the first woman to deploy for Strategic Air Command, but that wasn’t her only deployment. She was also deployed to Vietnam. While she wasn’t the first to deploy to Vietnam, she was still one of very few, and she was not issued a weapon or given fatigues to wear. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t have a weapon hidden in her hotel room in case she needed it. She was assigned to the MACV headquarters.
In June of 1948, President Truman signed the Women’s Armed Service Integration Act to replace the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) that was set to expire.
In November of 1967, President Johnson signed Public Law 90-130. This law removed the promotion and retirement restrictions on women officers in the armed forces. These laws had far-reaching effects and were a tipping point in the role of women in the military.
In 1982, she became the first woman to reach the rank of Brig. Gen. in the comptroller career field. The second woman to reach that rank as a comptroller didn’t happen for another 22 years. When she retired in 1985, she was one of the three female Generals in the Air Force and one of the seven female Generals in the U.S. Military.
She was a woman who changed the course of history for the women who followed behind her. With her can-do attitude and perseverance to get the job done, doors opened that stayed open for the women who followed her. But one of her most lasting impacts is the Women in Military Service for America Memorial located at Arlington. As president of the Women’s Memorial Foundation board of directors, she spearheaded the campaign that raised some million dollars for the memorial that was opened in 1997. It stands today as a place of record where visitors can learn of the courage and bravery of tens of thousands of American women who have pioneered the future.
Maneuver Advisor Teams (MATs) from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) are creating their own legacy. As one of the first U.S. Army units purposefully built for advising, our MAT helped prove the advisor force structure concept. We were tasked with advising an Afghan Kandak (Battalion) during our deployment and now we are tasked with developing how best to train a team capable of advising partner nation security forces anywhere in the world. Our MAT captured our lessons learned and creatively applied them to our current training plan. Advising skills are developed and tested in the field, and here’s how they can translate into better preparation for our next employment.
SFABs were created to lessen the burden on the brigade combat teams for Security Force Assistance (SFA) missions. Small teams of advisors are not a new concept. The U.S. Army has been forming ad hoc advising elements from brigade combat teams and employing them in Iraq and Afghanistan for years. Maneuver Advisor Teams are different than the ad hoc teams. An SFAB has thirty-six MATs, specifically designed with 11 experienced non-commissioned officers with several different mission operational specialties and a post company command captain. MATs are the decisive element within an SFAB. Since the formation of SFABs, there is a new standard for how advising is conducted. With more preparation, additional resources, and a structured recruitment process, the pressure is high for the MATs to excel in advising operations.
Developing the plan
We knew we had to capitalize on our lessons from Afghanistan. Initially, our post-deployment training included similar tasks and events any regular Army unit would face after returning from a deployment. First and foremost we conducted reset of our equipment and began fielding new equipment. Much of our newly fielded communications equipment was unfamiliar.
Based on our experience in Afghanistan, we identified a requirement to maintain a focus on integrating communications training in anything we planned to do. Collectively we prioritized our training objectives and started planning our training. Following guidance from our higher headquarters, our team training objectives were to become master trainers of our warfighting functions, be capable of operating decentralized and expeditiously, and that we all must be capable of winning a fight.
Each advisor must be a master trainer of their specific skill set. To accomplish this, we began our training cycle with an emphasis on individual skill set enhancement. Individual skill set enhancement included additional schooling. For example, our infantrymen attended schools such as Pathfinder, Master Marksmanship Training Course, Infantry Mortar Leaders Course, and Heavy Weapons Leaders Course while our combat engineer attended Master Counter IED Trainer Course. We also conducted individual tasks such as weapons qualification and medical refresher training. Our individual skill set enhancement set the foundation to continue to build our team’s operating capability.
Refining technical and tactical skills provided us with individuals who were sound in their crafts, however as advisors, we needed individuals who could also teach and instruct their craft as well. All team personnel who attended a skill enhancement school were required to train the entire team in specific skills they learned. Not only did this requirement broaden the skill set across the team, it also provided our advisors with an opportunity to practice teaching their skills. As advisors, being a master of your warfighting function is good, being a master trainer of your warfighting function is required.
Decentralized and expeditiously
While advising our Afghan kandak, we identified the need to be capable of operating decentralized and expeditiously. During advising missions in Afghanistan, we found ourselves often separated from our higher headquarters and we were reliant on our mission command platforms to communicate them. The numerous types of mission command systems we owned, although overwhelming at first, became our greatest team strength. We could establish our command post and obtain communication on all of our platforms within minutes. While training, we established our command post with all of our systems during every event.
We planned, resourced, and executed an off-site training event several hundred miles away to practice our decentralized and expeditious capabilities. By taking the team to Camp Blanding, Florida for a 10-day field training exercise, we were able to conduct multiple ranges, land navigation training, and a team command post exercise utilizing our mission command systems. We successfully moved our equipment, established our systems, and communicated with our higher headquarters on multiple platforms for the duration of the training event.
Later in our training cycle, we planned, resourced, and executed a second off-site training event. We decided to treat this off-site training event less conventionally than our previous event. During this exercise we established our command post in a civilian hotel room to simulate operating out of a safe house. We conducted our movements as if we were operating out of a safe house in a foreign country. We wore civilian attire for the duration of the exercise and practiced multiple team tactics, techniques, and procedures to limit our interactions with the general public. We continued to learn from this experience and shared lessons learned with the rest of our unit. Without our persistent focus and practice with our mission command systems, we would not have gained the confidence required to operate in such a decentralized manner. Our team was confident we could operate decentralized from our higher headquarters and survive expeditiously if required.
Winning the fight
The entire team must be capable of fighting as a small element. Engaging in direct combat while accompanying our partners was unlikely during our next deployment, however training and being prepared to fight was non-negotiable. We aggressively attacked this skill set during our collective training. We executed two team live fire exercises during our training cycle and one force-on-force simulation round exercise. Many of our advisors had limited participation in any type of live fire exercise prior to joining the 1st SFAB. However, by the end of our training cycle, our logistic advisor and mechanic advisor were capable of planning and leading a mounted react to contact under live fire conditions.
Our culminating live fire exercise consisted of a three-event exercise utilizing three non-standard tactical vehicles. The scenario included our advising team returning to base after a day of advising their partners. The team encountered a non-hostile militia checkpoint, struck an IED rendering one vehicle disabled, and lastly, encountered a complex attack triggered by a second vehicle-disabling IED blast. During the complex attack, the team was forced to abandon disabled vehicles and strongpoint hard structures adjacent to the road. The team treated their casualties, communicated with their partners for assistance, and defended in place. This training event required the entire team to be capable of conducting individual skills and collective tasks during live fire conditions.
Throughout the year of training, our team became master trainers of their warfighting functions, we became experts in our mission command systems while operating decentralized and expeditiously, and we developed the tactical skills to fight in defense of each other and our partners.
The United States Army found the right people, gave them advanced equipment, and provided the best training. Nearly three years from inception, our MAT continues to build our legacy. Using our lessons learned and applying them to our training is setting a standard that should be used as the SFABs continue to mature and are employed around the world. While our first employment was in Afghanistan, the anticipated future of the SFABs will take them to nearly every Combatant Command area of operations. As the advising force structure matures, the breadth of talent and expertise afforded by these small units will continue to act as the decisive point for the SFABs now, and into the future.
MAJ Gerard Spinney is an Infantry officer in the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade. He has multiple operational deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Inherent Resolve, and NATO’s Resolute Support Mission. The views expressed in this article do not reflect those of the US Army or the Department of Defense.
Almost everyone agrees that being preparedfor the worst while hoping for the best is the ideal way to get through life. It’s balancing optimism with action, which makes perfect sense right? On one hand, optimism without action is just being blindly oblivious to reality. On the other hand, being laser focused on inevitable trauma robs you of a fulfilling life.
In theory, we all agree on this. But where are the lines drawn? How can you tell when you’ve slipped from Boy Scout to Doomsday Prepper? How do you know if you’re teaching your kids to be thoughtful and self-reliant, or creating mini-balls of crippling neuroses?
The world – especially right now – isn’t exactly helping matters. Coronavirus is public enemy number one. But then there’s also the fact that climate change has nature erupting into fits of destructive insanity, healthcare is still a privilege rather than a right in far too many places, and school shootings are a bi-weekly occurrence. It is not a time to be even mildly anxious, so it’s understandable if the state of things has you teetering on the edge of a full-on panic room scenario.
We all want to protect our families and ourselves, so let’s try and find the happy medium that allows us to consider stepping outside once in a while.
The Healthy Way to Prepare for the Worst
“Preparedness not only makes sense from a practical standpoint, it is, I believe, a responsibility that every parent has,” says Dr. George Everly, Jr., a professor at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and author of When Disaster Strikes: Inside Disaster Psychology.
In his work, Everly often uses a different term when discussing the concept of being prepared: Resilience. Not only does this choice of word carry with it significant connotations – it makes you think of someone who is resourceful and strong, not worried – it also sits at the core of a very important psychological trait.
“Preparation does bring not only reassurance but a sense of self-efficacy,” says Everly. “Self-efficacy lies at the root of self esteem.”
“Self-efficacy,” Everly points out, was coined by Canadian-American psychologist Dr. Albert Bandura, the David Starr Jordan Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University. In the 60s and 70s, Dr. Bandura conducted a number of studies on this concept, which essentially boil down to a person’s belief in their ability to alleviate their own phobias. It’s not so much a belief that you can avoid problems by being prepared, it’s that you are confident that you can overcome them when they plop on your doorstep.
This is an important distinction. One is having an almost talisman-like belief that your emergency kit will ward off danger; the other combines action with self-reliance and a form of optimism. In a Psychology Today essay “Preparing for Bad Things,” Everly calls this “Active Optimism,” which he defines as the belief “that life events will turn out well, largely because one believes she/he possesses the ability to assist in making things turn out well.” That’s the sweet spot.
In addition to a strong sense of self-efficacy, Everly believes that confidence in previous success is vital (locking the doors and avoiding all dangers won’t actually prepare anyone for anything), as are encouragement and self-control. Learning to keep stress levels down and emotions in check can do a lot to help you overcome problems or handle unexpected emergencies. After all, panic leads to doubt and confusion and, ultimately, a much worse situation.
The Unhealthy Way to Prepare For the Worst
There’s a big difference between preparation — and Everly’s idea of Active Optimism — and pure paranoia.
“Can one worry and prepare to an excessive degree? Of course, as one can eat too much chocolate cake or exercise too much or even drink too much water,” says Everly. “The bottom line, I believe, is prepare as best one can for the highest probability ‘worst case scenarios’ then leave it alone. Move on.”
However, Everly is more concerned about the other end of the spectrum, where parents lean too much into optimism to the point where they seem to actively deny the existence of real world concerns.
“Repression and denial can be effective ego defense mechanisms and are certainly the prerogative of any given individual,” he says. “But I believe that prerogative must yield to a higher responsibility one has to one’s children.”
To Everly’s early point about action being a necessary component of preparedness and resilience, Dr. Clifford Lazarus offers a succinct distillation of the idea in his essay “Why Optimism Can Be Bad For Your Mental Health.” In it, Dr. Lazarus explains the difference between types of optimism that echo Everly’s beliefs.
“The difference between false optimism and rational optimism can be captured by two different statements,” he writes. “‘There’s nothing to be concerned about, everything will be just grand.’ That’s false optimism. The second statement reflects realistic optimism: ‘We’ve got a real mess on our hands, things don’t look too good, but if we tackle it step by step, we can probably do something about it’.”
While both Everly and Lazarus preach the perfectly reasonable idea of action along with resilience and optimism, even those concepts can go too far. All you have to do is see the deeply unnerving lack of Purell at the store in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak, or the mad, panicky rush to stock up on water and essentials when a severe storm is on the horizon. This is action, for sure, but it is action robbed of realistic optimism and, in many cases, credible information.
A lot of the psychological problems that fester alongside attempts to prepare for disaster come from a lack of information mixed with speculation, imagination, and outright lies. Being able to sift through the social media Chicken Littles who declare the end of the world with every sneeze is vital for not only true preparedness, but for passing on a sense of resilience and emotional strength to your children. A constant barrage of misinformation can make any form of action seem pointless, which is counterproductive.
“People who exhibit pessimism with limited self-efficacy may perceive psychosocial stressors as unmanageable,” says Everly. “And are more likely to dwell on perceived deficiencies, which generates increased stress and diminishes potential problem-solving energy, lowers aspirations, weakens commitments, and lowers resilience.”
So where does that leave us?
There’s the simple truth that we’re never going to be prepared for everything. The world is a Whack-a-Mole game of problems and tragedies, and something will catch you off-guard at some point. Locking yourself in a well-stocked bunker also isn’t a viable option for anything remotely resembling a life. What is, is to cultivate a sense of self-efficacy in yourself and your children. The optimism of “I didn’t see this coming, but I can overcome it.” So, prepare. Have contingency plans in place. Be ready for the worst. Practice resilience. And help yourself — and your family — understand that things will be under control. And maybe buy a 30-pack of batteries.
The U.S. Air Force is hopeful it could have its first female battlefield airman spring 2019.
In written testimony before the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on personnel, Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, said one woman is making her way through the grueling challenges of Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) training.
“Currently, we have one female in Tactical Air Control Party training with a potential graduation date later this spring,” he said.
“To date, 10 female airmen have entered into special warfare training, but none have yet to qualify and graduate,” Kelly added.
Attrition is high in this elite training pipeline, ranging between 40 and 90 percent across the specialties.
“Consequently, we do not foresee large numbers of females in operational units in the near term,” Kelly said.
Since the Defense Department opened combat career fields to women in December 2015, few female airmen have qualified for Air Force special warfare training. Some have self-eliminated or sustained an injury; others have not met the standards of a particular program.
A Tactical Air Control Party Airman with the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 227th Air Support Operations Squadron scans the training area for targets on Warren Grove Range, N.J., Jan. 31, 2019.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Matt Hecht)
Recently, a female candidate entered the pararescue (PJ) training pipeline, but was injured during the first week of training and had to drop out, Air Education and Training Command (AETC) officials told Military.com in January 2019.
The woman is expected “to return at a later date to try again,” AETC spokeswoman Jennifer Gonzalez said January 2019.
“We are fully committed to the integration of women into combat positions, [and] have increased targeted marketing to further attract female recruits,” Kelly said.
The service has placed a female cadre within these training units, he added.
The Air Force has had a tough time attracting candidates for special operations, particularly in the explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE) pipelines. Kelly said the service missed its recruiting goals for these specialties in three of the last four months.
While the service missed those goals, Kelly said special warfare overall has seen early successes through its new recruiting squadron. The service established its first Special Operations Recruiting Squadron in 2018 to find next-generation combat airmen.
“This past year, we established a new training group and new recruiting squadrons focused on critical warfighting career fields, such as special warfare airmen,” Kelly said.
Recruiters and mentors train the candidates in a step-by-step, streamlined program to get a better sense of what type of airmen are needed for the next dynamic conflict.
“The Air Force is committed to improving how we recruit and prepare airmen to succeed,” Kelly said.
This story will be updated.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.