Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection

When talking about the do’s and don’ts of taking on the Special Operations Assessment and Selection courses that the military has to offer, there are a ton of opinions out there, and I feel, a lot of misconceptions as well. This is particularly true when it comes to being the “Grey Man,” which is a common name people use to describe an operator who can blend seamlessly into their environment.

I’ve been asked about this countless times in emails. One of the more common questions I receive from prospective candidates is always about trying to blend in at Assessment and Selection — being the Grey Man. I spoke with someone just in the past few weeks about this very subject. 

There is no shortage of people who will tell you being the Grey Man is important, some of them will be Special Operations Selection cadre members. So, respectively, I’ll disagree. Overall, unless you’re an intelligence professional trained at blending in and being invisible, I will stick with my original advice and say in the majority of instances, it isn’t a smart thing to do. I will explain why below, but first, my caveat:

Yes, there are times when you absolutely, positively need to be the guy people standing in front of you are going to look right past while giving their “attention” to someone else.

The first one is if you are in SERE School (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape). The last thing you want at SERE is to stand out in any way. Standing out to the guard force in the POW camp usually means you’re going to withstand some “corrective measures.” 

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection
(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker)

Being the biggest member of the prisoners or the most senior guy in the SERE Class is not a good way to be the grey man. The SRO (Senior Ranking Officer) is always singled out for real or perceived rules infractions….you get the idea. Once you get through the Selection process and into the training pipeline, you’ll get to experience SERE up close and personal and all of your questions will be answered.

The second example of when it’s a good time to be a “grey man” is when you’re doing some kind of undercover intelligence work. Then you want to blend into your surroundings. If someone saw you walking down a busy street in an urban environment, you don’t want to raise an alarm among surveillance operatives watching for that type of operation. 

This has a lot to do with demeanor, dress, mannerisms, and movement. Special Forces has a training program that teaches all of this and much more. But the course and the acronym associated with it will come after your training is complete and you move on to the operational units and get some experience under your belt.

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection
(Sgt. 1st Class Jacob Connor)

So, we’re back to the 800-lb gorilla in the room, and the question is, “Why not be the grey man during Selection?” You will see blog posts from people, message boards, and social media posts all telling candidates “Be the grey man” or something remotely similar. I see it all the time. So why is it actually a bad idea? 

As a former Selection cadre member, I’ll let you in on my perceptions: Trying to be the Grey Man just may put a huge bulls-eye on your forehead.  

As I mentioned above, most people aren’t trained properly to be a grey man. And if it appears to the Selection cadre that you are trying to blend into the background, that isn’t a good thing. To the cadre members, it appears like you’re trying to “ghost” through events (as we called it during my time there). And if a guy is going to ghost during Selection, then he certainly will on a team. 

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection
If you’re “ghosting,” you aren’t carrying your weight within the team. (U.S. Army photo)

Back in the day, when I had the night duty during a course, one of the other cadre members and I would wander around the candidates’ barracks at night with no berets, just being the “grey men” of the cadre. We wanted to hear the chatter of the class and see how well or not-so-well they were holding up. 

These conversations would sometimes be quite telling, especially during team week. More than once, we heard candidates who passed their patrol (the criteria has since changed, thank you LTC Brian Decker) talk about coasting through the last few events to make it through the long-range movement. Bad idea.

Then there were the others, guys who passed their patrol and were volunteering to help out the next day’s guys who would be in the barrel and under the microscope. More than once we heard conversations similar to this:

“Hey bud, whatever happens, tomorrow, put me on lashings, I’m really good at that, and that’s one thing you won’t have to worry about.”

That’s the guy I want on my team. He’s not done yet, he’s looking out for his teammates. He’s going to get high marks on his peer reports. 

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection
(Special Forces Assessment, U.S. Army photo)

Special Operations isn’t looking for cookie-cutter robots. We understand that everyone is different and there are certainly guys who are characters. You’ll undoubtedly have some in your class. 

That’s why my advice is always, “be yourself.” When I was there, our cadre was made up of the most eclectic group of people that I’ve ever worked with. There was never a dull moment and every NCO, although vastly different, respected who each one of us was. And we all got along because we had the humility to understand that every person brings some unique element to the table.

If you’re a rah-rah type of guy, then be that guy. If you are a quiet, lead by example type of guy, that’s fine…be him. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Sometimes the characters of the class would lift everyone around him. All of the cadre members had those types of guys in their own classes, and they know how valuable they are to keeping up class morale, and for team-building. 

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection
(U.S. Army photo)

My own class in the SFQC (Special Forces Qualification Course) had a tremendous NCO who we called “CPT Camouflage” during Land Nav. He would wear some outlandish get-up; PT Shorts hiked way too high, jungle boots, with a poncho pulled over his head like a cape with eye holes cut out. He’d run through the woodline offering the craziest encouragement to “lost Land Nav Students everywhere.” As dumb as it sounds, our class loved it. And after a day or so, the cadre would ask if “Captain Camouflage” had any words for the class after we’d return from the day’s or night’s navigation practice.

I recently recorded a podcast with Mike Sarraille, a Navy SEAL officer who has written a book on Special Operations leadership and how civilian companies should incorporate the lessons of Selection and Assessment into their hiring process. 

Mike was a successful Marine NCO with Recon before becoming an officer. During BUDs training to become a SEAL, the other members of his class naturally gravitated toward Mike because of his experience, military bearing, and demeanor. That’s who he is. If he tried to blend into the background, the SEAL instructors would have seen right through that and he would have never passed or gone on to become the officer he was. 

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection
Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUDS) candidates cover themselves in sand during surf passage on Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Russell/Released)

Of course, “be yourself” has to be tempered with a bit of common sense. Don’t be overly argumentative with the cadre… even if you know that you may be right when receiving a critique. That will have the exact opposite effect of your intentions.  Don’t be a “Spotlight Ranger” either — those types never last long as they’ll get peered out quickly (failed by peer reviews). And please spare your war stories about leading an attack with the 18th Mess Kit Repair Unit in Iraq or someplace else. Nobody cares about that or is interested. 

Remember you are always being evaluated and assessed. This is a time for the cadre to see if you have the core attributes that make Special Operations troops the best in the world. Selection is the time where you begin building the reputation that will follow throughout your Special Operations career. And as big as it has grown, it is still a small community. Selection is the first step in the process of showing you belong in the Regiment. 

Trying to do so by blending in the background isn’t the way to do it. Be yourself, try to excel at everything, and remember, some of your fellow candidates may be better at some things than you are. That won’t change once you get to an operational unit. 

”Do the best you can.” (Yes you’ll hear that again.)

Photo courtesy: US Army

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

WATCH: As death toll rises, Italian Air Force delivers hope

As haunting images from Italy of overcrowded emergency rooms and horror stories of Coronavirus flood social media, the Italian Air Force flew with a message of strength for her people. It was a reminder of pride for the country, unity in the face of grave danger and a prayer of resilience for a country beleaguered by an enemy we haven’t seen before: COVID-19.

Set to the backdrop of Giacomo Puccini’s ‘Nessum Dorma,’ performed by Luciano Pavarotti, the flyover is beautiful, chilling and more than anything … full of hope. Translated to English, the last lyrics of the song are, “I will prevail. I will prevail. I will prevail.” You will, Italy. And America will, too.

Watch the flyover:


www.youtube.com


MIGHTY CULTURE

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

Founded and led by military families, The Safe House Project (SHP) is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering victims of human trafficking by providing them a place to call home.

The group is focused on the development of safe houses for survivors of sex trafficking. Its 2030 mission is to eradicate child sex trafficking in America by strengthening networks.


Human trafficking is a global issue that affects roughly 40.3 million people and roughly 300,000 American children each year. Less than 1% of those victims will be rescued. And, if they are lucky enough to be rescued, what happens to them?

Thinking big

“In 2018, there were less than 100 beds in special care homes [in the U.S.],” Brittany Dunn, a Navy spouse and co-founder of SHP, said.

Without a place to go, many victims are turned over to the foster care system, juvenile detentions or mental institutions, with some even electing to return to their captors.

According to the US Department of Justice, finding adequate and appropriate emergency, transitional, and long-term housing is often the biggest service-related challenge that [human trafficking] task forces face.

Dunn, along with SHP co-founders and fellow Navy spouses Kristi Wells and Vicki Tinnel, began researching ways they could fill the gap. Rather than start a small non-profit organization focused on helping their local community, they thought big.

SHP accelerates safe house development through providing education, resources, funding and government contacts to local nonprofits who seek to establish safe houses within their local communities. These individual safe houses provide specialized counseling and resources to help victims get out of the cycle of abuse. By adopting a business-like organizational structure, SHP partners do not have to work in isolation to solve a problem. They are part of a larger network and better able to solve big-picture problems.

“What most people see as a disadvantage, moving around constantly, we’ve been able to use that to our advantage,” Dunn said. “A majority of our volunteers across the U.S. are military families. That creates networks that most people do not have as a natural resource.”

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection

Many survivors find art therapy to be an important part of processingtheir past. Art allows them to express their pain, while also helping them find their wings.

Why is this so hard?

Like other national problems, sex trafficking issues are often complicated by the division of power between local, state and federal government. If a victim is rescued in a state that does not have an active safe house, SHP will attempt to have them transferred to a neighboring state that can provide the resources they need.

While this is the ideal model, according to Dunn, some CPS [Child Protective Services] don’t want to see their dollars flow out of state.

“That is where education and awareness come in,” she said.

Victim reintegration from a stable treatment environment back into the “real world” must be strategic. Without proper planning, victims could easily run into former “johns” and reenter the cycle of abuse. The reason safe houses are so essential is because victims have specialized needs and many shelters do not have the resources or government mandate to help them.

“There is a need domestically for improved victim services, trauma-informed support, better data on the prevalence and trends of human trafficking,” Congressman Richard Hudson, R-N.C., said at a Safe House Project’s Freedom Requires Action event held earlier this year. Hudson, a cosponsor of the 2019 Put Trafficking Victims First Act, hopes this legislation will “provide stakeholders — from law enforcement to prosecutors to service providers to government officials — with the guidance and information they need to better serve victims of trafficking.”

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection

Congressman Richard Hudson, R-N.C. was a guest speaker at the Safe House Project’s Freedom Requires Action event in January 2020 event held in the U.S. Capitol building. Hudson is also cosponsor of the 2019 Put Trafficking Victims First Act

The victims

The majority of trafficked children are not victims of a snatch and grab.

“We live under a perception that our kids are safer because they are in a first world country, but they aren’t. It is the harsh reality,” Dunn said. “It just looks different. Instead of having a red-light district in Thailand, you have kids being recruited on Fortnite or being approached peer-to-peer in schools.”

Every time a child is exposed to sexually-explicit content in conversations, on television or online, underage sex becomes normalized. For some, abusive acts do not feel like the crimes and victims do not feel like they are being victimized.

“Child sex trafficking is a difficult subject to talk about but raising awareness and talking about it is the first step in solving it,” Ria Story, Tedx speaker, author and survivor leader, said.

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection

Safe House Project and Coffee Beanery are teaming up to raise awareness in coffee shops across America. Advocates also marked their hands in red to support the #EndItMovement.

See something. Say something. Do something.

According to Dunn, “any epidemic has two sides to eradication. Prevention and treatment.” She encourages everyone to look for the problems that may lie under the surface.

In addition to providing safe houses, SHP has trained over 6,000 military personnel to recognize and report instances of sex trafficking and hope to more than double this number by the end of 2020. And for those who cannot attend an official training, SHP offers online tools (https://www.safehouseproject.org/sex-trafficking-statistics).

For more information or to donate to SHP, visit: https://www.safehouseproject.org/donate

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How many MREs it takes to get a lethal dose of Tabasco

Now, don’t panic, but there is a lethal limit of hot sauce. Well, at least there is a limit in theory. There’s no record of a person ever drinking hot sauce to death, and very few cases of lethal pepper exposure. But you’re not going to run into the limit just dashing hot sauce on your MRE, no matter how poorly spiced the components are out of the packaging.


Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection

An Army lieutenant general visits with his troops, but they can’t stop thinking about the hot sauces on their table that they’d rather be spending time with.

(U.S. Army Master Sgt. Mark Woelzlein)

The potentially dangerous chemical in Tabasco is the spice which gives it the punch: capsaicin. It’s the same stuff that’s in some pepper sprays and mace. Acute capsaicin poisoning usually comes after people handle or eat a lot of extremely hot chili peppers. There are a few cases of lethal poisoning from chili powders, but that’s extremely rare. A 1980 study estimated that you would need three pounds of an extreme chili powder to suffer a lethal dose.

Tabasco is a bit more diluted than straight peppers, and much less concentrated than the most potent chili powders. Tabasco has between 100 and 300 mg of Capaiscin per kilogram.

And researchers have estimated the lethal dose of a human at between 60 and 190mg/kg (that’s based on mouse research, though). A 180-pound Marine weighs just over 81.5 kilograms. And so he or she would need to eat just over 15.5 grams of straight capsaicin.

In a 1982 study, scientists studied the lethal dose of not just capsaicin, but Tabasco in particular. Using their estimates, half of Marines/adults weighing 150 pounds would be killed if they consumed 1,400 ml. That’s over 40 ounces of Tabasco. Yup, you would need to switch out the 40 of beer after work for one of Tabasco to get a lethal dose.

And those packets in MREs? Those are about 1/8 an ounce each, so over 320 packets all at once. And the death would not be pretty.

Rats in that 1982 study suffered hypothermia, tachypnoea, and lethargy. Capsaicin poisoning is also associated with extreme gastrointestinal distress, internal swelling, diarrhea, vomiting and more. It’s not a pretty way to go.

Articles

This commander prepped for war by organizing a beard growing contest

In May 1941, the United States was on the brink of war.


Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection
National Archives

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaimed an “unlimited national emergency” and ordered American forces to prepare “to repel any and all acts or threats of aggression directed toward any part of the Western Hemisphere.”

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection
National Archives

While the situation seemed grim, at least one commanding officer decided to lighten the mood. He allowed his men to grow their beards in what would be the most hirsute event in the U.S. military until Robin Olds headed to Vietnam.

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection
National Archives

Related: This Air Force fighter pilot is the inspiration for ‘Mustache March’

 

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection
Your winner, ladies and gentlemen. (National Archives)

Japan attacked the Philippines on December 8th, 1941. Six months later, the Philippines fell and the American troops who survived were submitted to the harshest treatment of any POWs in the Pacific War. The Allies did not retake the Philippines until October 1944.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why camouflaged troops wearing reflective belts became a thing

If there’s one accessory that’s become synonymous with the post-9/11 generation of troops, it has to be the nonsensical PT belt. It’s that bright, neon green, reflective band that you see wrapped around every troop when they go out for a jog.

Honestly, it seems like some big wig at the Pentagon must have thought it was funny in an ironic sort of way to make all troops who’re wearing camouflage fatigues put on a bright, shiny, eye-catching belt. Military doctrine isn’t made on a whim and, usually, there’s a lot more at play than meets the eye, but the actual reason behind wearing the belt is a perfect example of someone listening to the “Good Idea Fairy” instead of reason.


Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection

In all fairness to the glow belt, it does help troops be seen at night. That doesn’t mean that’s the solution to vehicular manslaughter, however.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Zachary Wolf)

Prior to the 90s, troops didn’t wear any sort of reflective clothing during morning PT. Instead, for safety, troops conducted PT on roads that were blocked off in the mornings to avoid any potential accidents with civilian drivers. Unfortunately, the scenario didn’t play out as installation commanders hoped and fatalities would happen occasionally.

The first step in preventing these unfortunate deaths was to create more reflective PT uniforms — without abandoning the military appearance, of course. A few designs were tested, but the luminescence would consistently lose its luster after a few runs through the laundry.

So, rather than holding the manufacturers accountable for making a sub-par product, the Army used reflective armbands, reflective vests, before, finally, adapting the the widespread PT belt. Initially, this was more of a Band-Aid solution to a large problem.

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ethan Morgan)

It’s funny how everyone of ranks of E-7, O-2, and below unanimously hate the belts, but as soon as you make rank, you suddenly laud their effectiveness…

Then came a horrible incident on Lackland Air Force Base in 1996 in which several airmen were struck by a moving vehicle during a morning run. Rather than installing a traffic light or determining what, exactly, was to blame, the Air Force pulled the trigger and made the new reflective belts mandatory.

The rest of the branches soon followed suit because it gave the commanders an out when creating Risk Management Assessments. Rather than taking an analytical look at serious and tragic incidents, the commanders could cut themselves out of the accountability equation by making everyone wear reflective bets.

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection
(Comic by AF Blues)

 

In short, the solution of “add a PT belt” was a lazy answer to a complicated question that resulted in horrible accidents. Vehicles hitting pedestrians in the motor pool was another problem addressed by adding a PT belt instead of figuring out why so many accidents were happeningafter all, do the belts even have any real effect in broad daylight?

This sort of irresponsible risk management solution has since become the biggest running joke in the military.

“Going into combat? Don’t forget your PT belt!” “Picking someone up from the local bars? Don’t forget your PT belt!” “Jumping out of a C-130 without a parachute? It’s fine so long as you wear your PT belt!”

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 of the biggest ways the Marines prepares you for college

College is an amazing thing. In fact, there’re few better ways to spend your time after the Marines than going to get an education in whatever way you see fit. Chances are, you got out because you were done with the military lifestyle and you were ready to move forward with your life. You were ready to find the next big challenge.

Contrary to what your chain of command told you, getting out of the military does not guarantee that you’ll spend your days living in a van down by the river. Not only did you build an arsenal of great life skills while in the service, you also earned yourself the G.I. Bill, which, in some cases, pays you to go to college.

Don’t be nervous at the prospect. The truth is, the Marines (or any other branch for that matter) has prepared you for the adventure of college in ways you might not have noticed.


Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection

Take the big tasks, break them into smaller ones.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Lucas Hopkins)

Task organization 

Organizing your college life is a lot like writing a mission order: You take the biggest task and break it into manageable chunks. Having this kind of organizational talent can make group projects easier, too — if you think you can trust the other group members to carry out their assigned tasks, anyways.

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection

Hurry up and wait will definitely apply in a lot more areas of your life.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Master Sgt. Keith A. Milks)

Time management

When you get out of the Marines, it’s going to be hard to break out of the “fifteen minutes prior” mentality. You’ll be showing up everywhere super early, even if no one is waiting to yell at you for being late. Unlike a lot of kids fresh out of high school, you’ll already know how to make the time you need to do the work that needs to be done.

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection

You know where your limits are and you’ll continue pushing them.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Benjamin E. Woodle)

Not settling for bare minimums

As Marines, we’re taught to never settle. We’re taught to push ourselves to be our absolute best — and this helps a lot in college. You might experience a little anxiety over an exam or project, but when it comes time to deliver, you’ll exceed your expectations — because that’s just who you are now.

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection

You won’t stop until the job gets done.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Discipline

This can’t be stressed enough. Marines are able to train themselves to set a goal and work toward it at any cost. Our laser focus helps us avoid distractions until the mission is not only accomplished, but done with 110% effort.

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection

Good thing you can sleep anywhere, right?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brian Slaght)

Sleep deprivation

In college, there are times where you’ll miss out on plenty of sleep because of deadlines. Luckily, you’ve spent enough time in fighting holes and on duty that you know how it feels to be truly tired, and it’ll never stop you from continuing to perform like you’ve had plenty of sleep.

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 kinds of troops during holiday block leave

The holiday block leave period is the time of year that bases empty out and most troops return home to spend time with family and friends. During the holidays, you might see more than a few service members back home. Here are 3 kinds of troops that you could see around town, and one that you won’t.

1. The war hero

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection
At least it’s more of a deployment than JRTC

“So no shit, there I was in the middle of hell. Guns firing everywhere, people shouting, my battle buddy crying next to me. That’s when he got hit. His MILES gear went off and I checked his casualty card. Lucky S.O.B. was D.O.A. He never even got reconstituted. He just sat at the rear and swiped on Tinder. Yup, JRTC at Fort Polk was one helluva deployment.” We’ve all seen it. This guy is still rocking his high and tight, a unit t-shirt, wearing his dogtags out, and probably has his jeans bloused too. Don’t bother confronting him. Just let him spin his war stories before he goes back to his squad leader who smokes him for losing his CAC on a daily basis.

2. The quiet professional

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection
Well, they’re quiet on leave anyway

This one may be tough to spot, but with a keen eye, you might see one. Is that Garmin watch for land nav or are they just an avid outdoorsman? Their hair might be a grown-out medium fade or just a regular civilian cut. They’ve got some facial hair, but maybe they’ve grown it out on leave or they’re just operator like that. They’re very well-spoken and project confidence, but it’s hard to pinpoint if they’re a service member. But then it happens. The cashier was thinking the same thing as you and asks if they’re military. They humbly admit that they are and pull out their CAC. After all, it’s hard to turn down a military discount.

3. Are you even in the military?

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection
They’re probably done taking PT tests too (Marvel Studios)

If you can spot this one you should probably apply with National Geographic. This service member is probably near the end of their contract and is ETSing within the next few months. They’re likely a Terminal Lance or maybe a member of the E-4 mafia. Long scraggly hair, a generic hoodie and sweatpants. This person has one foot out the door and is trying to pretend that they’re all the way out. It doesn’t matter what kind of discount they are offered, they are not pulling out their CAC. After leave, they might not even show up to formation.

4. Staff duty

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection

Well, someone has to do it. Whether they’re on duty as a punishment, had nothing better to do, or took a buddy’s shift in exchange for monetary compensation, this is one service member that you won’t see around town. You also won’t see the troops that decided to stay on base during the holidays and throw barracks parties. They’ll make sure that the folks on duty won’t have a silent night.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are the most freedom packed fireworks for the 4th of July

Fireworks have been an American tradition since 1777 when they first lit up the skies of Philadelphia. It is an important time of reflection of everything American with the joy of pyrotechnics. The 4th of July is a time when Ol’ Glory is on everything from beer cans to bikinis, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Patriots buy around 247,550,000 pounds of Freedom every year for this special holiday.

As long as you don’t live in Delaware and Massachusetts, the only two U.S. states that ban the sale and use of any and all consumer fireworks, you’ll be fine. Remember to check if your county has any restrictions on specific types as well.


 

First course – sparklers

A night of fireworks should be served like a five-course meal. Sparklers, the appetizer of fireworks, are safe with adult supervision and are great to get everyone in the mood to see some color. If you’re able to find the neon kind, pick those up because they’ll show up the best on phone cameras. Sparklers are great for kids or those scared of the boom-boom variety.

The advantage to these is that they’re cheap relative to the exploding kind and a few packs will entertain for a while. A sleeve will cost around .50 with 5 pieces and a box with 40 pieces should be around .

 

Second course – firecrackers

Firecrackers are a staple of every fourth of July BBQ, but there are so many brands and sizes that it’s easy to get overwhelmed deciding which kind to buy. The following video is a power test of some brands that can be purchased at fireworks tents. As always, exercise caution when using these and don’t do what this guy is doing at home.

Third course – cones

Snowcones are my personal favorite because they’re great to get people excited for the main course while getting a good amount of fire for your money. Snowcones cost $3.50, give or take, depending on taxes and availability. Some wholesalers are already sold out of these so if you see them definitely buy at least one.

 

The main course – box fireworks

Alright, time to set the little stuff aside and put some serious rounds down range. Get yourself a fireworks box, and I’m not talking about the variety pack from Walmart. I’m talking about the kind you buy from the fireworks tent from some guy named Bubba, and you’re unsure if this was smuggled into the country somehow. They run around 0 and are worth every penny. Blackcat is the most trusted brand in this category if you want to invest in quality. You’re going to want to outgun every neighbor as you all duke it out like the founding fathers wanted.

Seriously, John Adams wanted you to blow up as many fireworks as you can.

It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. – John Adams, Letter to Abigail Adams

 

Dessert – custom builds

Usually, after four courses, people are full but there is always room for dessert. In the case of fireworks, this means your custom builds, the kind that you needed to get permission from the federal government to fire off. The kind of explosions that make ISIS say “F*ck that was loud.” In all seriousness, though, don’t make custom builds unless you have the proper license and training. 5 seconds of ‘wow’ is not worth your life.

Obligatory advisory:

Consumer fireworks in the United States are limited to 500 grams of composition and firecrackers may have up to 50 milligrams of flash powder. Reloadable shells are limited to 1.75″ in diameter, and shells in pre-fused tubes are limited to 2″. Any fireworks that exceed these limits are not considered consumer fireworks and need an ATF license. – The Consumer Product Safety Commission

MIGHTY CULTURE

Female sailors will get a lot of new hairstyle options

Female sailors can soon sport several new hairstyles including locks, ponytails and options that fall below the collar in certain uniforms, according to new approved regulations announced July 10, 2018.

Lock, or loc, hairstyles and buns that span the width of the back of a female sailor’s head will now be authorized for women in all uniforms. Ponytails will be OK in service, working or physical-training uniforms — provided there’s no operational safety concern. And hairstyles that hit beneath shirt, dress or jacket collars will be approved in dinner-dress uniforms.


The changes were approved by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Bob Burke, and announced by six members of a working group during a Navy Facebook Live event.

Richardson credited the working group, which took feedback from the fleet, with coming up with and presenting the new grooming recommendations.

“We just demonstrated that a recommendation can make things happen, so I want to hear from you,” he said.

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zane Ecklund)

If a female sailor’s hair falls beneath the collar now, she’s limited to buns, braids or cornrows. Ponytails were only previously authorized in PT uniforms.

In 2017, Richardson approved a move to allow female sailors wearing ball caps to wear their bun through the hat’s opening rather than underneath it.

The Marine Corps was the first service to approve locks for women in 2015. The Army also authorized dreadlocks for women in early 2018

Some black female service members have complained that they’ve been forced to wear wigs in uniform in order for their hairstyles to meet military standards. Hairstyles like locks give those women more options for styling their natural hair.

Richardson said policies and regulations shouldn’t just make the Navy more lethal toward its adversaries, but should also make the service more inclusive.

Full details, including a timeline on the changes and implementation guideline, will be announced in an upcoming service-wide administrative message.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) – Part I

At NVI, we love to talk about “user experience” (check out any of our previous blogs here, here, or here on the topic). Part of user experience is perspective taking, or walking a mile in your user’s shoes. To that end, we’re inviting you to join us on an emotional rollercoaster full of anticipation, promise, disappointment, and resilience. Welcome to the life of one transitioning veteran.


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Part I: Getting Out

Your separation request has been approved. This is happening. It’s really happening.

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You get a date for TAP (now Transition GPS) and don your finest (OK, only) business casual duds (or, if you’re me, drop some serious coin at Ann Taylor Loft because you own no business casual attire). Turns out you clean up alright!

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Welcome to your Transition GPS. Cue three-to-five days of sipping from a proverbial firehose full of PowerPoint presentations. Job search, interviewing, benefits (oh my). Not exactly how a soon-to-be veteran spends every single day for umpteen years until this day, but onward.

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To be fair, you’re also guided through exercises like a financial wellness worksheet that alerts you that, without BAH, life’s going to be tough.

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Then, you get to the section on labor market information and find out (shock, horror) that your hometown has precisely zero jobs matched to your career field. Guess it’s time to consider your soft skills…

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At the end of the program, you’ve got a signed transition plan that says you know what you’re going to do and you’re clear on how you’re gonna do it. In reality, it’s more like this:

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Oh well. Onward to outprocessing!

For the uninitiated, this bureaucratic rite called “outprocessing” is essentially a quest for about two dozen signatures. Your mission is complicated by your signatories’ preternatural ability to have just stepped out when you show up. Challenge accepted.

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A few weeks and a couple dozen signatures later, it’s your special day. The much-fabled “final out.” If you’ve satisfactorily completed your quest, you’re outprocessed! If you bungled any of your tasks, do not pass “go” or collect 200 dollars. You’re in for a wild goose chase (and possibly a stern talking-to). Time for the most sacred of paid time off: terminal leave.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the Expert Field Medical Badge is one of the most difficult to earn

It doesn’t matter what it is, somebody wants to be the best at it. For as long as time, competition has driven people to learn new skills and improve on the ones they know in order to rise to the top of their field. This desire to be best is what has baseball players at the batting cage long after the sun has set. It’s what keeps runners sprinting down the track, shaving milliseconds off of their personal best.

This same competitiveness is what drives some medics within the United States Army. In one recent competition, 283 medics entered to see if they could earn the Expert Field Medical Badge. Only 17 — just six percent — met the requirements to be awarded the EFMB in a June 2018 test held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.


Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection

U.S. Army Spc. Austin Braussard-Rangel, a platoon medic assigned to 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, assesses and prepares a mock casualty with a neck injury to be removed from a vehicle during the Expert Field Medic Badge testing.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Gallagher)

So, what does it take to earn this badge? The requirements are many. The easy part, if you could call it that, is passing the Army Physical Fitness Test with scores of at least 60 in all three areas— earninga cumulative score of 180 or more. Of the other ten requirements, five are completed under simulated combat conditions.

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection

Communications skills are also tested among candidates trying to earn the Expert Field Medical Badge — after all, that MEDEVAC won’t call itself.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Gallagher)

Among the myriad skills tested is communication. Candidates for the EFMB must be able to prepare and transmit a MEDEVAC request correctly and be familiar with both communication procedures and the operation of field radios.

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection

U.S. Army Sgt. Alex Pickens (left), a lab technician assigned to the Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, passes a mock casualty over a barrier with his litter team during the Expert Field Medic Badge testing at the Medical Support Training Center on Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Gallagher)

During the competition, candidates must also negotiate an obstacle course while carrying a litter (under simulated combat conditions, of course) with three other candidates. There are eight obstacles to overcome, including an upstairs/uphill carry, a downhill/downstairs carry, a barbed-wire obstacle, and a trench obstacle.

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection

Handling a chemical attack is also part of the EFMB evaluation. After all, a casualty can’t wait for the poison gas to dissipate.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Gallagher)

Candidates also face a 100-question test — on which they need to get at least 75 questions right. Marksmanship (EFMB candidates much achieve the rating of Marksman or better), evacuation skills, and even cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) techniques are also tested. As many as 25 percent of candidates can pass a given course, but rates of as low as five percent are not unheard of.

The Expert Field Medical Badge is reserved for only the fiercest competitors — those who strive to be the very best at helping others in even the most dire of circumstances.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why Marines can be so arrogant, according to a Marine

Admit it, you read that headline and thought, “Yeah! Marines are super cocky!” Well, you aren’t exactly wrong. Hell, even if you are a Marine, you’ll agree with that fact. But why are we this way? What is ingrained in our DNA that makes us so damn arrogant?


Marines already know the answer. We’re reminded of it every day while we’re on active duty. Higher-ups are constantly telling us that we’re a bunch of morons with guns bad asses backed by a long and illustrious history of proof. But, if questioned by anyone outside of the Corps, we might not have an easy answer. Furthermore, service members in other branches might be supremely annoyed by the arrogance — and who could blame them?

So, if you’re wondering why this is, here’s your answer:

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection

The fighting spirit and notorious reputation we’ve gained throughout history is a huge source of arrogance for us.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

History

As mentioned above, Marines can always point to their history as proof that we really are as badass as we say. Of course, higher-ups and drill instructors might have you believe that it’s because Marines have never lost a battle or retreated but… that’s not exactly true.

Marines have definitely had to surrender, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t fight like hell beforehand. When Marines had to surrender, you can bet that they made the enemy pay for it with blood. Regardless, Marines have a history of (usually) winning battles, typically against overwhelming odds. Victory comes at a high price. The ability to do this is certainly something to be proud of.

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection

Overcoming the challenge of boot camp is just the first step.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Justin J. Shemanski)

Training

Whether Marine Corps boot camp is, in fact, the toughest basic training in the military is impossible to prove, but one thing is for sure: it sucks. And then after that, if you’re a grunt, you’ll go to the School of Infantry and, any one of us will tell you that SOI sucks way worse than boot camp ever could.

Even when you hit the fleet, you’ll still have to train for deployments, and that sucks, too. But through the experience of “The Suck,” you gain a lot of pride. You overcome these insane challenges that you never thought you could, and you understand that you did so by digging deep into your own spirit to find the motivation.

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection

Even something as simple as morning PT sucks.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Carlos Cruz Jr.)

Lifestyle

The lifestyle of a Marine is, in short, not that great — especially considering that we almost exclusively get leftovers no one else wanted. We work with trash and usually come out on top regardless. Remember the training we were talking about? It sucks worse than everyone else’s (outside of special forces) because we simply don’t have the ability to make it any easier.

But who needs easy when you’re a badass? Not Marines. If there’s anything that lends itself to the arrogance of a Marine, it’s the lifestyle. Having to live in barracks with broken air conditioning during the summer in Hawai’i or the Stumps, eating garbage mess hall food, having strict rules regarding everything, etc. These are all things that make us believe we’re better than everyone else because we know that we have it tough, but that’s what makes us so damn good.

Don’t be the ‘Grey Man.’ Be yourself at Special Forces selection

Marines can be some of the best people you’ll meet.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Ernest Scott)

Humility

No matter what you think about arrogance or Marines or the combination of the two, Marines can be some of the most compassionate, humble people you’ll ever meet, and it’s specifically because of our tough lifestyle. We don’t have the best gear to work with and our living quarters suck, but we learn to live with less and it teaches us to appreciate little things.

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