The Army is cool, as any recruiter will happily tell you while sliding a suspiciously thick stack of paperwork your way across the desk. But even the coolest jobs have downsides. The people who get to do the coolest stuff also often have to deal with the crappiest side bits.
Here are eight awesome jobs that sometimes, unexpectedly, suck:
1. Mortarmen lob bombs but carry insane weight
On the list of cool jobs, “use rifles and armor to find and fix enemy forces, then bomb them with mortar shells that you launch out of hand-held tubes,” ranks pretty highly. But being a mortarman, or “Indirect Fire Infantryman” as it’s known, has some drawbacks. The greatest of which is the sheer weight.
Mortarmen can sometimes get close to their firing points with vehicles, but that’s far from guaranteed. And planners seem to take a perverse interest in making the 60mm mortar crews march as far as possible. Those crews have to carry a mortar that weighs about 20-40 pounds in addition to mortar shells that weigh about 4 pounds each.
The weight only goes up from there with the 81mm mortar system. The 120mm mortar system obviously weighs the most, but the weapon and its ammo is typically moved by vehicle.
2. Wolfhound operators can listen in on enemy radio transmissions but are always seen as nerds
There’s a class of soldier that can detect the location of enemy transmissions and then listen in on them, translating them instantly if they’re a linguist or have one nearby. But, unless the carrier is an infantryman who can absolutely destroy on the Expert Infantry Badge course, they’re going to be derided as a nerd.
And that’s because they have to learn some nerdy stuff, especially if they’re an Electronic Warfare Specialist by MOS. Managing the device requires knowing a bit about radio frequencies and electronic devices used by the enemy, but getting a soldier who can relay the enemy’s entire plan to the platoon is worth the occasional Poindexter joke.
3. Public affairs troops get to see many angles of the Army, but are always just tourists
Want to patrol with the cavalry one day, hit buildings with infantry the next, and clear obstacles with the engineers on the third? Then public affairs is for you! Unfortunately, you will also be considered a tourist for your efforts.
That’s because public affairs rarely has the chance to really learn their unit’s job on the tactical level since, you know, that’s not their job. But they do get to learn a little about all the forces in their unit or — if they’re in a public affairs detachment or a high-level office — their entire area of operations. Kind of like how a tourist learns a little about a bunch of things in a city or country.
4. Cav scouts are human eyes and ears for units, but are heckled for their efforts
They go forward in small groups, sneaking as best they can around potentially massive enemy forces. They’re outgunned, outnumbered, and using their eyes and ears to call in bigger, badder weapon systems against enemy formations. And they’re also widely made fun of, especially by the infantry.
Cavalry scouts have a reputation for being a bit weird, and that leads to all sorts of comparisons to groups considered odd by the internet, like Bronies and Furries. It’s not fair, obviously, but the scouts seems happy as long as they still get to crawl around in the mud looking for tanks and yelling, “Scouts out!”
5. Medics are linchpins of combat units, but have to see lots of gross genitals
They’re venerated, valued, and skilled. They’re de facto members of whatever unit they’re part of, even being protected from the “POG” title if they serve with the infantry. Their skills transfer well to the civilian world — they’re actually required to maintain their EMT certification, which makes finding employment easy.
But medics are the primary source of medical advice and care in many of their companies and platoons, meaning that they see all the symptoms of disease or injury in their units first. And that includes STDs and genital trauma, which means that most medics have a mental library of nightmare material. They also have to ask things like, “can you describe the discharge for me?”
6. Tank crews roll in thick armor, but draw fire from everything that can kill them
What could be safer than a tank, with its thick, composite armor, massive gun, and multiple machine guns? Well, in force-on-force warfare, a lot of things. That’s because tanks are so powerful that any maneuver force that can take them out needs to do so as quickly as possible. And tanks aren’t invulnerable. Even powerful IEDs have destroyed them.
So, when an enemy force sees a body of Abrams tanks, they concentrate artillery and anti-tank fire on them. Now, luckily, tanks do have great defenses and both armored and standard commanders work hard to protect them. But, if you take a tank into a fight against Russia or China, be prepared for your cramped little tank to get rocked all the time.
7. Divers get to swim all day, but have some of the toughest fitness requirements
Who doesn’t love a nice day at the pool, complete with sunshine, warm water, and military salary and benefits? Well, Army divers enjoy all three of those things, but the frequent exposure to chlorine and the constant fitness requirements still make it a tough job.
During training, recruits often spend three hours a day in the pool and have to do tasks like treading water with large weights. Trainees get a few months to build up their skills before graduating, but then they have to maintain or even improve their already-high levels of physical fitness so their bodies can perform and withstand the rigors of living under the water.
8. UAS operators are commonly near the front lines despite the whole “remote” part of their job
Want the title of pilot without all the risk of flying over enemy forces? The unmanned aerial systems operator is the job for you (most people refer to them as “drone pilots)! But, before you start shopping for real estate in the American West, you should know that it’s mostly Air Force pilots who can fly drones over the Middle East from the States.
But Army drone pilots are much more likely to be enlisted and to be deployed forward with their birds. Part of their job is actually launching and recovering their aircraft. So, yeah, they’re generally within a few dozen miles of the fighting, potentially within range of enemy artillery, close air support, or even enemy drone attack.
After becoming exasperated with evidence of low discipline and sloppy appearances, a two-star general overseeing most East Coast-based ground combat Marines has fired off a policy letter mandating when troops must wake up, clean, and eat each day.
The April 16 policy letter, signed by Maj. Gen. David Furness, commanding general of 2nd Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, expresses concern that the Marines within the division have let their standards slide.
“In my travels with the Sergeant Major and Command Master Chief throughout the Division spaces, I have noticed a significant decline in the basic discipline of our warriors,” Furness wrote. “Because the 2nd Marine Division has the majority of personnel assigned to Camp Lejeune, we will take ownership of this problem and FIX IT immediately.”
Staff Sgt. Christian Fuentes motivates recruits with Company F, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, as he moves down the rows during the senior drill instructor inspection at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Aug. 23, 2013.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Benjamin E. Woodle)
2nd Marine Division is one of three active-duty Marine divisions worldwide and is made up of some 20,000 troops.
The division public affairs office confirmed that a policy letter had been disseminated.
Furness wrote that he has seen Marines and sailors with 2nd Marine Division walking around with long hair, “nonexistent or poor shaves,” worn-out boots and inappropriate civilian attire.
“There are weeds growing around our buildings and work spaces and trash everywhere but the dumpsters where it belongs,” he wrote. “These are just a few examples of the lack of discipline seen across the board that will not be tolerated in this Division any longer.”
Recruits of India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, conduct pull-ups during a physical training event at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Dec. 28.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Angelica I. Annastas)
He detailed a 24-hour “basic daily routine” that he said he expects every single Marine and sailor in the division to follow, beginning with division-wide reveille every morning at 5:30 a.m.
From 5:35 to 6 a.m., troops are expected to conduct hygiene activities and room clean-up, leaving “blinds half-mast,” according to the order. Physical training and barracks common area clean-up will follow from 6 to 8 a.m. Mandatory platoon or company formations and inspections will happen from 8 to 8:15 before the workday begins. Troops are allowed an hour to eat from noon to 1 p.m. and then must wrap up the day with another formation, from 4:30 to 4:45 p.m.
Furness appealed to the troops’ identity as Marines in asking them to embrace the regimented schedule.
Marines with India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, wait to march onto Peatross Parade Deck during a graduation ceremony aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., April 13, 2012. The graduation ceremony consisted of five platoons from India Company.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Aneshea Yee)
“Part of what makes us different from our sister services and American society is the regimentation of our daily lives,” he wrote. “Adherence to orders and standards helps foster mutual trust in one another and produces the attention to detail required to be effective when called upon to fight as our nation’s 911 Force.”
First Lt. Thomas Kleiber, a division spokesman, said the letter essentially reinforces practices that are already in place.
“Obviously, the letter is an internal document and commanders reserve the right to direct their units as they see fit,” Kleiber told Military.com. “Commanders have the authority and responsibility to direct their units in the way that it feels appropriate and promotes mission accomplishment. I don’t think this order is unusual in its attempt to accomplish that.”
It’s not immediately clear how the daily routine will apply to Marines who live off-base or outside the barracks, although Furness does note that unit leaders will be able to modify the routine based on obligations. It’s also not fully clear whether the routine applies only to weekdays, although it appears to. What is clear is that there are stiff consequences for Marines who don’t fall in line.
Marines with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin form up around Brig. Gen. John Frewen, 1st Brigade commanding general and senior Australian Defence Force officer for Robertson Barracks, to listen to him speak about expectations with the rotation, April 11.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Scott Reel/Released)
“Any dissenters can answer to myself, the Division [sergeant major] or the [command master chief] and will be dealt with accordingly. Can each of you live up to the mantra of ‘If I was accused of being a Marine/Sailor today, would there be enough evidence to convict me?'” Furness wrote. “At this time across our force I believe the answer for many is no, and it needs to be corrected immediately.”
While it’s fairly uncommon for a senior military official to get involved in the minutia of troops’ daily routines, it’s not without precedent.
In 2013, Army Command Sgt. Major Dale Perez, the senior enlisted soldier at the Army National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, fired off a sharply worded Facebook post aimed at troops and family members on base, particularly those who shopped at the commissary, demanding they clean up after themselves.
“Take your garbage and shop off post if you can’t pick up after yourself,” he wrote.
Furness, who took command of 2nd Marine Division last August, is a career infantry officer who joined the Marine Corps in 1987 after graduating from the Virginia Military Institute. He has led Marines on deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and his awards include two Bronze Stars with combat distinguishing device, according to his official military biography.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with comment from 2nd Marine Division.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Even to the other branches of service, the Navy can be a deep dark mystery of rates and rankings, Captains that have a lot of authority and wearing name tapes on your pants. But it doesn’t have to be that way. And one of the biggest questions posed by vets of other branches and civilians alike is just what the heck do all those letters on these ships mean anyway?
It means you’re in for a history lesson.
Hmmm… maybe not that far back.
In 1920, the Navy was producing so many new kinds of ships, they needed a better way to keep track of them all. So, acting Navy Secretary Robert Coontz decided to standardize a numbering system that included a two-letter code that would identify the ship and its status as well as its number in the series, type, and sub-type. If the ship didn’t have a sub-type, the first letter would just be repeated
So the Battleship USS Missouri, being a battleship with no sub-type and the 63rd ship in that series was designated USS Missouri BB-63.
Easy, right? Well, Mostly.
Welcome to the military, where nothing is really that easy.
That was the early 20th Century. World War I had only just introduced a number of new technological innovations to the battlefield, and there were a lot more to come. Training ships, aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and so, so much more were still to come to the U.S. Navy, and they would need even more designation letters, ones that would describe their purpose and even their power source.
So where do aircraft carriers get the designation CVN, as in the USS Gerald Ford CVN-78? The C is for carrier, and the N means it’s a nuclear-powered ship. The V, well, that’s not that simple. According to the publication “United States Naval Aviation 1910-1995, Appendix 16: US Navy and Marine Corps Squadron Designations and Abbreviations,” the V means it carries heavier-than-air aircraft (as opposed to, say, blimps), but no one really knows for sure why the letter V was chosen, though many believe it was to represent the French vol plané, the word for “glide.”
Meanwhile Russia’s carrier just smokes and slowly retains more water, like your mom.
But there is now more than a century’s worth of Naval Ship Designations for you to peruse, far too many for me to list in their entirety. There are even four-letter designations now, like the SSGN (Attack Submarine, Guided Missile, Nuclear Powered).
Luckily for the curious, there’s always Wikipedia, where someone took the time to list them all, including all the historical designations, like monitors and coastal defenses. Be sure to leave a tip.
We have nothing good to say about you, 2020. So instead, let’s review with this completely spot on list of memes. Take a look below at what the best of the internet has to offer about how this year has gone so far. (And fingers crossed that it doesn’t get worse in the next month).
Jumping straight into the deep stuff.
This reminder in case you forgot:
No really … where’s the punchline?? We’re owed one after this year, right??
When you can’t even enjoy coffee.
2020 PLEASE stop ruining good things. I mean, pleaseeee!
Then there’s this totally accurate meme.
A breather would be nice.
When you hate to spread the bad news:
We just can’t deal with this right now.
Because this has been the longest year of all time.
Sums it up.
No good options ahead:
Where’s the option for “None of the above?”
But seriously, this is not your typical year.
Can we just be the House on Fire Girl meme?
The difference is slightly noticeable.
Is this our past vs. our future?
Even celebs are feeling this heat.
Can we get everyone to re-do this with the full calendar year?
Every year, thousands of motorcyclists descend on Sturgis, South Dakota for days of camaraderie, fanfare and riding. Despite COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s rally is still happening. Here are 5 wacky sights you have to see to believe.
The human bowling ball named Short Sleeve Sampson is considered by some as a rite of passage at Buffalo Chip and the Sturgis Rally. With his assistants, Lady Victoria and Summer, the midget wrestling icon lines up to be hurled down the lane at a set of bowling pins. Seeing country-music star Zac Brown partake in the action is like an odd cherry on top of a wacky sundae. That said, Zac Brown is joined on the list of midget bowlers by other famous artists like Rob Zombie, John 5 and Eric Church.
(Rapid City Journal)
2. The kangaroo at the wedding
When Lady Victoria married Marco Webber at the 2009 Sturgis Rally, she was escorted down the aisle by Jack the Kangaroo of Roo Ranch. Lady Victoria noted that her previous marriage ceremonies were very traditional and wanted to change things up. For his services, Jack received a BreathSavers mint, a favorite treat of his.
(Rapid City Journal)
3. Rhett Rotten and the Wall of Death
Sure, you could argue that it’s simple physics: counteracting gravity with sufficient velocity and centrifugal force. But, there’s just something fantastic about a man riding his motorcycle around on a wall. Did we mention that the wall is 12 feet high, 30 feet wide and 81 years old? If only Humvees were as reliable as the Wall of Death.
(Rapid City Journal)
4. Riding through a beer wall
If you’re riding, it means you’re not drinking. So what’s the next best thing? How about riding through the drink? Bursting through a wall of cold ones results in a fantastic display of foam that we can only imagine must be supremely refreshing and satisfying.
(Rapid City Journal)
5. A man in a barrel
This one is pretty self-explanatory. We’ll just leave it here for you to enjoy.
Now that Thanksgiving is over, most people are setting their sights on Christmas – and all the gifts they’ll have to buy. This holiday, consider shopping for socially responsible items – things made in the USA, gifts from small businesses, and products that give back to others, like servicemembers and veterans. Here are my top gift ideas:
Note: None of these companies paid for this post or gave free items in return for being mentioned.
This awesome bag was inspired by unique aircraft insulation surplus and is wool and leather. Sword & Plough helps support veteran jobs through positions on their team, with their contract manufacturing partners (which are veteran owned or partially staffed by veterans), through their veteran-owned fulfillment center, and through their Brand Champion program. $149.
Each Junior’s Bullet Pen is handcrafted by Gold Star Father, Major (Retired) Jeff Falkel PhD. From once-fired military brass. In honor of his son SSG Chris Falkel, US Army Special Forces, K.I.A. in Afghanistan and our service men and women. $29.95.
This shirt by the Gary Sinese Foundation features the words “Grateful” and “American” printed down the arms. The Gary Sinese Foundation is a nonprofit that offers a variety of programs, services and events for wounded veterans of the military. $30.
This is the perfect gift for military kids and can be customized to each service. Comes with uniform, a full color storybook, a sleep system including door hang, Sleeptight Oath and 5 stickers, and a gift box. Every purchase helps Sandboxx donate bears monthly to children who have lost a parent in the line of duty through our partnership with TAPS.
Find other Sandboxx gifts, including stationery sets, stamp packs, newsletter subscriptions, apparel and gift cards at https://shop.sandboxx.us/
Marc Lonergan-Hertel grew up in Massachusetts with the dream of becoming a Navy SEAL — a dream he made into a reality. But he had a long way to go before achieving such a feat. He decided he needed to toughen up first, so he joined the Marine Corps, where he eventually found himself in Force Recon.
His military career took him through some of the toughest training the military has to offer. And he wrote about it in his memoir, Sierra Two: A SEAL’s Odyssey in War and Peace.
But Lonergan-Hertel didn’t stop there. He continued a life of adventure and service after leaving the military and today, he wants to call attention to real-world heroes he met along the way. He wants his transformative journey to help inspire others — namely, our nation’s youth — so they can maximize their full potential and achieve their dreams.
He calls himself a Protector.
Lonergan-Hertel and 1st Force Recon.
(Courtesy of Marc Lonergan-Hertel)
“Those who fight monsters inevitably change,” Lonergan-Hertel says, explaining what he means by the title “Protector.” It’s from a popular saying about post-traumatic stress, written by an unknown author. The quote goes on to note that if you stay in the fighting long enough, you will eventually become the monster. The former Navy SEAL wants to keep Protectors from getting that far.
“There is a cost to being a protector. Love is the only way to heal the wounds [that change you]. Remember this: As a protector, you run toward the things that others run away from. You go out to fight what you fear. You stand between others and the monsters on the other side of the wall.”
Lonergan-Hertel in his world-record paraglider flight, 70 South Antarctica.
(Courtesy of Marc Lonergan-Hertel)
You can read about his adventures fighting monsters in his book, Sierra Two. After his time in Force Recon, he left the military and worked as a Emergency Medical Technician in Los Angeles as well as a hunting guide in Colorado. Eventually, he decided to explore the Army and join the Special Forces. Shortly after joining the California National Guard, he was able to wear a maroon beret in support of 19 Special Forces Group and prepared to try out for Delta Section. He didn’t make Delta, but it did prepare him a selection packet he could submit to the Navy. He graduated from BUD/S in 1996 and joined SEAL Team Four. He left the military in 2000, but didn’t leave behind the adventurer’s life.
“My platoon chief recommended me for an around-the-world expedition through the Cousteau Society,” Lonergan-Hertel says. “I ended up getting the position as a team member and expedition leader and scout for NatGeo and Discovery Channel programs to Antarctica the Amazon jungle, where I had experience as a SEAL.”
Lonergan-Hertel and his NatGeo Team. Lonergan-Hertel is center, in the cowboy hat.
(Courtesy of Marc Lonergan-Hertel)
During his military career and post-military adventuring, he began to question what he valued most in life. He began to look for his true purpose. As his journey sharpened his self-awareness, he was soon transformed into a new person. He became a Protector – and wanted to be the best Protector he could be. His life took him to rescue hurricane victims, assess the environment in Antarctica while diving under the ice shelves, hike up the Amazon River Basin alone and encounter endangered tribes along the way — he even lost his best friend to pirates along the same river.
“I wrote my book because I realized how much our life journey sharpens our awareness of what really matters in life,” Lonergan-Hertel says. “Real life experiences transform us as human beings and gives us an understanding of risk and sacrifice.”
He even has a line of survival gear, that includes a heat reflective thermal field blanket sleep system, called First Line Survival. Lonergan-Hertel calls it “base camp in a bag” and all the proceeds from First Line Survival benefit his Protectors tour.
But the longtime adventurer is more than just an author. He’s crossing the country with fellow Protectors to tell their stories in stage presentations, meant for school-age children but meaningful to parents as well. He wants children to grow up with the confidence to realize their abilities and potential, to see a personal path toward a positive future, and realize they have the power to do this within themselves at all times.
“I understand very clearly that the gift of life can be away very quickly,” Lonergan-Hertel says. “The best thing I can leave behind is to inspire others to have confidence in themselves and to help others who have a more difficult journey in life.”
The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation may not be as recognizable as the Wounded Warrior Project or have a famous person attached to them, but the effect it can have on a family is just as powerful – and just as immediate. Just ask the family of recently deceased Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Michael Kozloski, who no longer have to worry about their house payment every month.
Michael Kozloski and his family.
The Tunnel to Towers Foundation is named for Stephen Siller, a New York City Firefighter who was killed at Ground Zero during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center. To honor Siller and his sacrifice, the Tunnel to Towers Foundation uses its 5 million endowment to pay off the mortgages of families related to military personnel and first responders who are killed in the line of duty. Sadly, that’s how Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Michael Kozloski died.
Kozloski was killed in a crane accident in Homer, Alaska, in early 2019. The Upstate New York native joined the Coast Guard at age 18 and was 35 when he was killed. His wife and four children would be forever without his love and guidance, unsure of how they would be able to stay in their Port St. Lucie, Fla. home. That’s where the Tunnel to Towers Foundation stepped in.
Stephen Siller, an FDNY firefighter killed on 9/11, who’s memory is changing lives nationwide.
“I was left wondering how I was going to provide for our four kids and give them the life they deserve,” Brienne Kozloski, Michael’s wife, said in a statement. “The outpouring of support we received from the Coast Guard, family, friends, and many organizations that help Gold Star families was amazing. When I heard from Frank Siller that Tunnel to Towers was going to pay the mortgage on our new home, I was overwhelmed… I will forever be grateful for this.”
Kozloski’s home is the 15th home the Tunnel to Towers Foundation has purchased this season alone. From Massachusetts to Iowa and beyond the Stephen Siller Tunnels to Tower Foundation has an incredible record of supporting military, veteran, and first responder families when a loved one is killed in the line of duty. Even victims of the Parkland, Fla. School Shootings were recognized by the foundation – teachers killed while protecting their students. Chief Warrant Officer Kozloski is one more in a line of brave, hardworking public servants who lost it all while doing their every day jobs.
To learn more about the Stephen Siller Tunnels to Towers Foundation, see who the foundation has helped with its Fallen First Responders Home Program, or to donate, visit the Tunnels to Towers website.
My first impression is that Mat Best is the kind of guy you want to party with. Or at the very least take a shot with. Whether it’s bikini snaps, whiskey or coffee, you can tell within seconds of meeting Mat that he is all about living life to the fullest. For real.
The former Ranger turned contractor is the internet icon behind Article 15 clothing, Leadslingers Whiskey, and most recently Black Rifle Coffee Company. But that’s just the beginning of Mat’s second act. He’s walking into the WATM office as the author of his newly released memoir, Thank You For My Service, and he has something powerful to say to us all…(spoiler alert).
For the first time, Mat’s taken down some walls and opened himself up in his book in a way that even his business partners have never seen. He’s honest. He’s vulnerable, and even better he’s embraced the awkward. Especially when it comes to the most cliche statement in the history of veterans, “Thank you for your service.” A statement that has been awkward and fallen flat to so many veterans is now Mat’s source of strength.
As we mic up for the interview, I am just beginning to realize that my initial impressions don’t even scratch the surface of Mat’s world. This is man and warrior who has garnered billions of views across the internet with his hilarious videos, yet, his humour is the tool that has lifted him from tragedy. This is a very different Mat than we have seen on Youtube or Instagram and for damn sure I am going to listen to what he has to say.
WATM: Can you give us a brief intro about you?
Mat Best:My name is Mat Best. I am an internet influencer. I hate that, just kidding. My name is Mat Best, and I’m the co-founder of Black Rifle Coffee.
WATM: Are you a Navy Seal?
Mat Best: I am not a Navy Seal, although I am taking tips from their hairstylists.
WATM: So if you’re not a Navy Seal, why’d you write a book?
Mat Best:I thought we have to get the message out about the amazing individuals of the 75th Ranger Regiment, which is where I came from and grew up. So that’s the story I wanted to tell.
WATM: I love it. All right, Good.
Mat Best:You were happy with that one. He was like, “I gotta hit the Navy Seal jokes.”
WATM: I didn’t even write that joke but yes, it makes me happy. Ok, let’s go back to when you’re in the Army. What kind of soldier would you say you were?
Mat Best: I would say that I was the team room jokester, but then took my job very serious, and I would like to think of myself as an absolute professional while I’m doing my job.
WATM: Is there anything you’ve learned, especially being in the Ranger Regiment, that’s helped you in business and now writing a book?
Mat Best: Absolutely. I think being in the military, specifically the Ranger Regiment, you consistently solve complex problems. It’s you and your buddies on the ground and you’re presented with all these crazy situations, and you can’t ask for help. It’s up to you and the team to execute and follow through with the mission plan. And I think that is so attributable to business, because no one tells you what to do, what the right answer is. You’re just in a gunfight, and you got to fix it. And sometimes it’s ugly. And so, all those lessons learned in the military directly apply to business. And that’s why at Black Rifle, we try to hire so many veterans, because they come from such a diverse background, that they have so many applicable skills that a lot of civilians don’t have.
WATM: What do you think makes Black Rifle Coffee Company special compared to other companies?
Mat Best:Mainly, I would say what makes Black Rifle Coffee so special is our mission statement and our values. We’re very transparent with what we put out there, and we always say, “Vote with your dollar.” And I think it’s refreshing in American culture to know who you’re supporting when you purchase a good, and not only a good, but a very high quality good. So that’s what we take pride in. When you buy Black Rifle Coffee, you know what our mission statement is, and you know what we’re going to do.
WATM: Was there anything specifically from your time in uniform that transformed you into who you are today?
Mat Best:I’ve had a few tragedies with friends while deployed, and honestly, it just really gave me this profound perspective on life. That it’s insanely short, you never know when it’s going to end, and that only supported my goal to make people laugh, humor through horror. We have one shot at this life, there’s no dress rehearsal, let’s just live it to its fullest. And it’s okay to enjoy life. Have fun, laugh. We don’t know how long we’re going to be here. And so those experiences really helped develop me to who I am today, to not really sweat the small stuff. Let’s focus on the big stuff, health, well-being, and all that.
WATM: Did you ever get an article 15?
Mat Best:No. That’s why I laugh. People will say, “You started a company called Article 15 Clothing.” I’ve got a good conduct medal, man.
WATM: What did that transition look like for you?
Mat Best:Yeah, mainly when I got off active duty, I moved here to Los Angeles, and I had absolutely no clue what I was going to do. I went through a pretty deep and heavy transition and learned a lot about myself, what I wanted to do. Kind of regaining that sense of purpose and what I wanted to devote my life to, which subsequently made me be a contractor, because I really missed the team mentality and the brotherhood. For a while, I thought I really missed war, but what I really missed was the camaraderie and the brotherhood that was enveloped in that experience. And so, once I became a contractor, that made it very clear in my mind that this is what I want to do. I want to live in this community, and I want to provide value in this community.
WATM: How did you decide to go down this route of entrepreneurship, especially on video content and being an influencer?
Mat Best: I needed an outlet creatively. So I just started making YouTube videos to make five people laugh, and five turned to a thousand, a thousand turned to 100,000 and it kind of snowballed effect. And what I realized is that there was such a want and need for that style of content that hadn’t been done before. And it’s pretty cool to see a lot of other influencers in the military making people laugh, doing callback jokes to basic training, just creating that military experience so we can not relive it, but have those fond memories of service post-service.
WATM: What do you think about the term ‘influencer?’
Mat Best:I think ‘influencer’ applies to certain people. I think influence means you have influence, you’re not just famous for posting a likable photo. And I think people are finding that out on Instagram, where they have followers, and they have certain engagement metrics, but they’re not able to influence a message or a culture or something like that. It’s a tricky term. Overused.
WATM: What do you feel when somebody says, “Hey Mat, thank you for your service?”
Mat Best: It’s a challenging question when people say, “Thank you for your service,” I think there is a sense of empathy and appreciation in the statement, but I think civilian culture has been so conditioned just to say that. Everybody wants to support veterans until it’s time to support veterans. I think a basic statement of, “Thank you for your service,” isn’t enough. Let’s go work on treatment of individuals that have moral grief and transition issues. Let’s actually impact people rather than just say that. And again, that’s my personal opinion. There are a lot of people out there that really appreciate that statement, but that’s why I named my book. “Thank You for My Service,” because I really, really appreciated being part of the community I was in special operations and doing the job. I mean, taxpayers let me go jump out of planes and fast rope out of helicopters. How cool is that?
WATM: So let’s get into the book, ‘Thank You For My Service.’ Why should we ‘thank YOU for your service?’
Mat Best:We shouldn’t thank me for my service. I want to thank you for your service and my service. No, I thought it was a funny play. Some people read it immediately and go, “Whoa, that’s super douchey.” And they go, “Oh, I get it. What he’s trying to say there.” So it was a play on that whole societal thing of people don’t know if they should thank veterans for their service. And most importantly, what an amazing experience for me to grow up. I would never even be close to the man I am today if I didn’t serve in such an amazing unit, like 75th ranger regiment. So I’m just proud of it, and I want to share that experience that I’m not a victim. It made me a better individual, even with all the stuff I saw. So I want to be a good steward of that community, and hopefully influence people to serve their country, serve their communities, and know that’s a powerful thing.
WATM: So is writing a book. Congrats man, that is a huge step and powerful.
Mat Best: Thank you. And it’s not in crayon. My book’s not in crayon, guys. This is a big moment.
WATM: Obviously, you put a lot of time into doing this.
Mat Best: I don’t think I ever really set out to write a book. It was never a part of that. I had not journal entries, but I guess you could say that I documented some of the worst times in my life, because I didn’t ever want to forget how crappy it felt. And so whenever I’m feeling down, I can look back at transitioning out of the military. I can look back at losing friends and being like, “This is why I’m here. This is what’s going to motivate me. Get off your suck. Wake up, let’s go f*cking work.” And so it really just transcribed into me talking to people, having influence, and people said, “I want to know Mat’s whole story.” And really for me, the only way to tell my entire story is to put it on paper. I mean you can do videos, you can chat about it, but a lot of people just see the extension of my personality through the entertainment and the skits that I do, which I fully enjoy. But that’s a singular perspective on my personality. So, kind of wanted to put it all in there, make people laugh, write something that no one else has ever seen in their life before, because it’s a completely different book than an average military book, that’s for sure.
WATM: In the book, you talk about how you’ve used humor as a way to get through some very tough points in your life. Are there specific instances in the book that [were] very powerful for you?
Mat Best:Yeah, I think that’s a loaded question, but it’s a good one. I think there’s certain aspects and stories in the book that you’ll see where humor, I applied humor in a very dark situation, where people were just trying to kill us, and now we’re cleaning up the aftermath, and you can tell people are a little shook up and rattled. So I just used humor to kind of offset that, get their head in the game, realize we’re here for a mission. This is really messed up. Because when do you expect ever to, as an individual, to just see people blowing up and body parts flying and shooting people? No one sets you up for that experience until it happens. You’ve got to combat it with humor a little bit. Still being a professional, obviously, but easing the moment, I would say.
WATM: Was there ever a moment you looked at the book and said, “I can’t believe I’m writing this right now?”
Mat Best:There were multiple times in the book, absolutely, where it was very challenging for me to relive a few things and I got kind of caught up and almost definitely pretty much cried a few times where I’m like, “I’ll set that down.” And there was definitely other times in the book where I had to go get a shot of whiskey or a glass of wine because I’m like, “I don’t want to be that open about this, you know? And I’m like, “But that’s how I make a good book. I have to be honest and transparent and show my struggles and my successes, because that’s what’s going to influence people to live their own quality of life.” If I just write this top level crap book that’s like, “Look at me, I served the country, I’m awesome. I do business,” what value does that bring?
WATM: We don’t want to give it all away. But do you think there’s something that maybe the audience doesn’t know that they’re going to find in this book?
Mat Best:For sure. Yeah. I put a lot in this book that no one’s ever known. To quote Evan Hafer, my business partner at Black Rifle Coffee, he said, “I didn’t want to read your book. I didn’t want to read it.” And I’m like, “Well, thanks for being honest, man.” He’s like, “Well, I’ve known you for six-plus years. I know your stories.” And then when he finally read it, he went, “Dude, I couldn’t put it down. It was so interesting, and I got to a see side of my friend I didn’t even know.”
WATM: Would you say you’re fully transitioned out? Do you feel like you’re a civilian at this point, or is there always going to be a part of you that’s related to the military?
Mat Best:At least now in the workings of Black Rifle, I’ll always be part of the military for sure. To say that I don’t go look back at old photos or old experiences and miss it and for some reason still wish I was deployed fighting a war when I have a beautiful wife and a successful business, it’s still in there. So it’s always there, and I’ll always be a part of the community for sure, because I just want to see it be successful.
WATM: You offer a lot, especially to veterans out there, but not always just the veterans. Is there any advice or things that you would love your followers or people that read the book to know that you really live by?
Mat Best: Yeah, I would say as far as the transition piece, it’d be proper planning prevents piss poor performance. You have to have a mission plan going into anything. It’s just like when you’re going to the grocery store, and you have kids, all right, I need the car seat. You’re planning, you’re in that planning phase. And I think what I didn’t do when I got out, I didn’t plan for anything. I’m like, “I’ll figure it out,” in my absolute stubborn ways. And that set me up for a nosedive. And so going forward, I’ve always tried to plan, plan for the worst, expect the best, kind of thing. I know I’m just saying catchphrases, but they actually are applicable if you follow them. I mean, anybody can read a Pinterest quote, right? But if you live it, that’s a different story.
On Thursday, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island issued a press release identifying Marine Recruit Austin Farrell as the deadliest recruit ever to pass through the Corps’ infamously difficult rifle qualification course. Farrell grew up building and shooting rifles with his father, and when it came time to qualify on his M16A4 service rifle, the young recruit managed a near-perfect score of 248 out of a maximum possible 250 points on Table One.
“I grew up with a rifle in my hand; from the time I was six I was shooting and building firearms with my dad, he was the one that introduced me to shooting, and when I got to Parris Island, what he taught me was the reason I shot like I did,” said Farrell.
The Marine Corps is renown for its approach to training each and every Marine to serve as a rifleman prior to going on to attend follow-on schools for one’s intended occupational specialty. As a result, Table One of the Marine Corps’ Rifle Qualification Course is widely recognized as the most difficult basic rifle course anywhere in the America’s Armed Forces.
All Marines, regardless of ultimate occupation, must master engaging targets from the standing, kneeling, and prone positions at ranges extending as far as 500 yards. In recent years, the Corps has shifted to utilizing RCOs, or Rifle Combat Optics, which aid in accuracy, but still require a firm grasp of marksmanship fundamentals in order to pass.
While no other military branch expects all of its members to be deadly at such long distances, for Farrell, 500 yards wasn’t all that far at all. While new to the Corps, this young shooter is no stranger to long-distance shooting.
“I would go out to a family friend’s range five days a week and practice shooting from distances of up to a mile, it’s a great pastime and teaches you lessons that stay with you past the range.”
Recruit Austin Ferrell with Kilo Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion fires his M16A4 Service Rifle during the Table One course of fire on Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island S.C. July 30, 2020. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shane Manson)
As all recruits come to learn, being a good shooter isn’t just about nailing the physical aspects of stabilizing yourself, acquiring good sight picture, and practicing trigger control along with your breathing. Being a good shooter is as much a mental activity as it is a physical one. As Farrell points out, being accurate at a distance is about getting your head in the right the place. Of course, getting relaxed and staying relaxed is one thing… doing it during Recruit Training is another.
“Practice before I got here was definitely a big part of it, but getting into a relaxed state of mind is what helped me shoot… after I shot a 248 everyone was congratulating me, but when I got back to the squad bay my drill instructors gave me a hard time for dropping those two points,” Farell laughed.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shane Manson)
The young recruit is expected to graduate from Recruit Training on September 4, 2020 and while it’s safe to say most parents are proud to see their sons and daughters earn the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, Farrell’s father George is already celebrating his son’s success.
“I’m so proud of him, no matter what I’m proud of him but this is above what I expected,” said George. “I always told him to strive to be number one, and the fact that he was able to accomplish that is just a testament to his hard work.”
The U.S. Air Force for months has been working to redesign gear and flight suits used by female pilots after many years of ill-fitting equipment.
But why stop there? It’s also updating current flight suit and gear designs to improve comfort and ease of wear, according to officials working on the project. At the same time, officials want to streamline and expedite the process of shipping these uniforms and support gear anywhere across the world to meet a unit’s requirement.
Since his tenure in the Air Force, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has called for improved, better-fitting uniforms — not only for comfort, but also for safety.
“We have women performing in every combat mission, and we owe it to them to have gear that fits, is suited for a woman’s frame and can be [worn] for hours on end,” Goldfein told reporters at a Defense Writers Group in Washington, D.C. last year.
Capt. Lauren Kram, assigned to the 13th Bomb Squadron, poses for a portrait on Feb. 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)
Officials have been eager to create and field uniforms and flight equipment with better fit and performance, and make them more readily available for female aircrew, said Maj. Saily Rodriguez, the female fitment program manager for the human systems program office.
The problem for decades has been limited sizes, which has resulted in female airmen tailoring their own flight suits, or just wearing a suit too tight or too loose.
Rodriguez and her team have been tasked to “specifically … look at how the female body is shaped,” with a goal of “tailoring that flight suit to be able to accommodate the female shape,” she said in an interview with Military.com Thursday.
The project was launched within the Air Force Lifecycle Management Center, with Rodriguez focused on the female perspective for better-fitted uniforms and gear.
“Everything that touches an aircrew member’s body, we manage in the program office,” she said. That includes everything from flight vests; G-suits, which prevents the loss of consciousness during high levels of acceleration or gravity pressure; helmets; boots; and intricate gear such as bladder relief apparatus.
Participants of the Female Flight Equipment Workshop demonstrate the issues women face with the current survival vests at AFWERX Vegas, Las Vegas, Jan. 30, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)
Beyond female flight equipment, the office is gearing up for improved uniforms and devices for all.
“We’re going to be adding on what’s called the ‘combat-ready airman,'” Rodriguez said, “which is going to look at more roles than just aircrew members to ensure that those airmen, men and women, are being outfitted in standardized uniforms as well, that suit their need to be able to properly do their duties they’re assigned.”
Officials are still defining what a ‘combat-ready airman’ is, but the term eventually will “encompass the larger Air Force” beyond aviators, she said. As an example, work has begun on better-fitting vests for female security forces airmen.
“It all comes down to making sure that airmen have gear that they can use and … perform their missions,” Rodriguez said.
Getting uniforms Amazon-quick
On the shipment management side, leaders are using the Battlefield Airmen Rapid Resource Replenishment System, or BARS, a central equipment hub that sorts various gear and can ship the clothing directly to airmen across the globe.
An HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter, assigned to the 66th Rescue Squadron, flies during training on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Feb. 22, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Kevin Tanenbaum)
“BARS is a cloud-based software program … with [an additional] inventory control,” Depoy told Military.com. The program has been around a little over a year, he added.
The internal system, created and hosted by Amazon, gives individuals the authority to head to a computer and mark what they need and have it shipped over — with the proper military approvals, Depoy said.
“There is a checkpoint, but if they need something, they can go in and order it, and those items are on the shelf,” he said.
The items are stored and managed by the Air Force at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana.
Unlike in years past where it could take months to get gear overseas, it now takes between a few days and a few weeks, depending on the location, Depoy said.
The goal now is to speed up the existing process for men’s gear, and implement a similar one for female flight suits.
“BARS is an existing system, but I’m currently adding our ACC female aviators into the system,” said Shaunn Hummel, the aircrew flight equipment program analyst at Air Combat Command’s A3TO training and operations office.
Lately, Hummel has been working to add female flight suits, jackets, boots and glove to the list of available gear in the system. His job is to work with the Defense Logistics Agency to appropriately stock facilities so airmen can access items via BARS.
In September 2018, ACC made a bulk buy of roughly id=”listicle-2635292502″ million worth of these items, Hummel said.
Capt. Christine Durham (left), Pilot Training Next instructor pilot, gives a briefing to her students prior to a training mission at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Austin, Texas, Feb. 5, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)
“We’re working with DLA to try and decrease the lead time and increase productivity for the manufacturing of these suits,” Hummel said April 16, 2019. Female flight suits “are not manufactured all the time until there is a consistent demand of them.”
Hummel explained there are 110 different flight suits — between the “women” category, for curvier women, and the “misses” category, for those with slimmer builds — and they also have different zipper configurations.
Zippers have been a problem for men as well as women. Very tall or very short airmen may find their zippers ill-placed to relieve themselves conveniently, the service said in a recent release.
“We’re making sure we’re using data … to assess what are the sizes we need to get women outfitted” by cross-referencing stockpiles through the various offices, Rodriguez added.
Right now, the teams are working together to get more feedback on how the programs are working, and what else could be done to improve standard gear to keep pilots and aircrew safe in flight.
The service has held several collaborative “Female Flight Equipment Workshops,” the release said.
Rodriguez said it wants more airmen speaking up.
“We have an effort underway looking at how we can streamline feedback from the user … so that we can use it when we’re looking for improvements in the future,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
According to Marine Corps Veteran and avionics technician Monica Patrow, there is more to female veterans than meets the eye. “My Marine Corps uniform will forever be the most prideful thing I will ever wear. But with the uniform comes uniformity. And being a female, you can lose your feminine touches. Being a pin-up is an honor and a privilege, just like my five years spent in the Marine Corps.”
The award-winning non-profit organization Pin-Ups for Vets just announced the pre-sales for their 2021 fundraising calendar. While founder Gina Elise may have 15 years of experience producing the iconic pin-up images, this year she had a little obstacle: the COVID-19 global pandemic.Female Veterans Become Pin-Ups For 2021 Calendar: PART 1
The Pin-Ups for Vets calendar has helped contribute to over ,000 for military hospitals to purchase new therapy equipment and to provide financial assistance for veterans’ healthcare programs across the United States.
(Pin Up for Vets)
Not only that, the calendar has a special meaning for the veteran ambassadors featured in its pages. “In addition to helping these female veterans embrace their femininity again, many of the ladies have said that being involved with our organization has given them a renewed sense of purpose after transitioning out of the military. It has given them a community again — and a mission to give back,” Elise reflected.
She knew she didn’t want to cancel the 2021 calendar — but safety was her chief concern and sacrifices had to be made.
In previous years, she was able to invite veterans from across the country to participate, but this year she limited her search to veterans within driving distance. In the past, her breathtaking locations have ranged from The Queen Mary to airfields and hangars. This year, she managed her calendar shoot at one outdoor location, Hartley Botanica, with military precision and carefully coordinated timetables to limit personal exposure and contact.
The result is exceptional.
U.S. Marine Ahmika Richards described what makes Pin-Ups for Vets so unique. “It is special to be involved with Pin-Ups for Vets because of the amazing work they do. They are an organization that gives back to a vulnerable part of our community — and that alone is invaluable. Their work is a great support to us veterans and I am so grateful that I was able to contribute to their organization through the 2021 calendar, which was an absolutely beautiful and wonderful experience.”
Coast Guard veteran and machinery technician Sarah Weber, currently working towards her doctorate in Psychology echoed Richards’ sentiments. “The best part of being involved with Pin-Ups For vets is the camaraderie. I work a lot with veterans in transition these days, on campus and clinically, and it is clear to me how much benefit there is in maintaining connection to a community of former or current service members. However, in most traditional organizations meant for those purposes, it is difficult to find many women veterans. This is not the case with Pin-Ups For Vets. I meet so many amazing, talented, big-hearted women through being involved with this organization. We can talk about the women-specific aspects of service, and it has been such a relief. This, on top of the fun of dressing up, volunteering and helping raise money for the cause of other veterans makes this the perfect way of staying involved in a community which I care so deeply about.”
While the organization’s 50-state VA hospital tour has been interrupted due to the pandemic, Pin-Ups For Vets is now shipping out care packages enclosed with gifts of appreciation to hospitalized veterans around the country. The organization also continues to ship care packages to deployed U.S. troops around the globe.
U.S. Army Sgt. Dustin McGraw is stationed with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the culmination of a life-long dream of being a paratrooper like the heroes of World War II movies that he watched as a child. But as he made his way up, he discovered a love of World War I that has led to him re-enacting battles in France.
His re-enactment group spends a lot of time at a park in Tennessee a few hours from Fort Campbell, allowing McGraw to indulge his passion while maintaining his active duty career. (That park is named for famed Doughboy and Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Alvin C. York, making it a pretty appropriate place to host re-enactments.)
And there is more crossover between the passion and the job than one might initially assume. While re-enactors, obviously, do not face the dangers and many of the hardships endured by soldiers in combat, they do work hard to portray their chosen period accurately. That means that they have to get uniforms, tactics, weapons, and other details right.
And it’s hard to steep yourself that deeply in military history without learning an appreciation for the discipline and perseverance that it takes to succeed in combat. As McGraw points out in the video, maintaining your cool in wool uniforms and metal helmets in the broiling sun isn’t always easy. And, practicing World War I tactics can still help reinforce an understanding of modern warfare. After all, machine guns and rifles haven’t changed all that much.
But that leads to another benefit for McGraw and other soldiers who choose to re-enact past periods of military history: They learn a deep appreciation of modern systems, from weapons to logistics to medicine to gear.
Where modern troops have GPS, Kevlar, lightweight automatic weapons, aid bags, and helicopters, World War I Doughboys had to make do with maps, cotton, rifles of wood and steel, field bandages, and horses. So, while it’s easy to complain when your helicopters are late to the LZ, most people would be more appreciative of the challenges if they spent their weekends trying to simulate logistics with horses.