6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

We’ve heard them all a thousand times. Your roommate heard from a guy in another unit who swears up and down that when his cousin went through basic training, his roommate had been doing funny stuff with ether. Did his friend’s cousin really see the Etherbunny? It’s probably just one more military urban legend that just won’t die – along with these other myths that have been hanging around since Elvis was in the Army.


Be more skeptical, troops.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

Fred Rogers, Slayer of Bodies. Supposedly.

Your favorite old TV star was in Vietnam.

What is it about Vietnam that makes us want our favorite TV personalities from yesteryear to not only have served there, but to also be the badass, stonefaced kind of killer that would make Colonel Kurtz proud? According to military myth, Fred Rogers, of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood fame was either a Navy SEAL in Vietnam or a Marine Scout Sniper. Jerry Mathers, who played the title role on Leave It To Beaver, allegedly fought and died there.

Neither of those things happened but someone, somewhere is splicing Forrest Gump Vietnam footage into the latest Tom Hanks film about Mr. Rogers.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

Rich people aren’t allowed in the military.

“They” used to always say that a winning lottery ticket was also a one-way ticket to civilian life. And people who were millionaires weren’t allowed in the service at all. While it may seem likely that a high-net worth individual would be less likely to need his or her military career and be less prone to discipline, the opposite has often proven to be true — just look at Jimmy Stewart, Pat Tillman, and other wealthy individuals who preferred to serve. And while winning the lottery doesn’t mean you have to leave the military, winning millions will give the branches pause and you could leave if you want to. Every branch has provisions for separations when parting ways is in the military’s best interest – the way it happened to Seaman John Burdette in 2014.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

“Just making sure you reported for duty.”

Only sons are exempt from the draft.

Sorry, Private Ryan, but if World War III breaks out, there’s still a good chance you’re getting called up for the invasion of China. This is an old rumor that is based in some sort of fact. The truth is that sole surviving sons are exempt from the military draft. This is because of a couple of Private Ryan-like moments. The Sullivan Brothers, five real brothers, were killed when the USS Juneau was sunk by a Japanese torpedo in World War II. The story of Fritz Niland, whose three brothers were killed within days of each other, is the basis for Saving Private Ryan.

So if you’re the only child, I’d still register for Selective Service. If you have a few brothers, you should all hope to register.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

“But aim for their backpacks.”

The .50-cal is illegal – but here’s how to get around it.

The story goes that the Geneva Convention outlaws the use of a .50-caliber machine gun in combat, so American infantrymen are trained for “off-label uses.” The legend says that you just can’t use the weapon against people but equipment is still fair game, so the Corps/Army teaches grunts to say they were firing at belt buckles or vehicles or anything else that might be near. Another variation of this legend is that the .50-cal round can still kill people if it flies close to their bodies, so that’s the goal. Neither are true.

What weapons are actually banned by international agreements are chemical weapons, certain incendiary weapons, and cluster munitions, to name a few. The United States keeps stockpiles of all of these. Even if the M2 were illegal, do you think the U.S. would give it up, let alone train troops to use it wrong?

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

According to lore, one of these airmen is supposed to eat the bullet hidden in this flagpole.

The base flagpole is carrying some specific stuff.

According to lore, the ball at the top of the base flagpole – known as a “truck” – has very specific items in it, with very specific instructions. It is said the truck either contains a razor, a match, and a bullet or those three items plus a grain of rice and a penny. These are all to be used in case the base is overrun by the enemy.

So there are a few things wrong with this premise. The first is that a U.S. base built in the 1950s-1980s is going to be overrun. The second is that all that fits inside a truck. The third is that any American troops fighting for control of their base are going to stop, fight their way back to the flag, and go through these instructions:

After taking down the flag, troops first have to get the truck from the tops of the pole. Then, the razor will be used to strip the flag, the match will be used to give the flag a flag’s retirement, and the bullet is said to be used for either an accelerant for burning the flag or for the troop to use on him or her self. Bonus: the rice is for strength and the penny is supposed to blind the enemy. Does this sound stupid? Because it is. This sounds like gung-ho BS that someone with a fifth-grader’s imagination came up with.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

Not for oral use. Seriously.

Medics used to kick your mouth shut if you were killed in combat.

Old-timey dogtags (like the ones from World War II, pictured above) had notches on them, which of course led troops to speculate about the purpose of the notch on the tags. Like most things that came to mind for those old troops, the situation got real dark, real fast. The legend says if a soldier was killed in combat, the medic was supposed to use that notch to align the tag using the teeth in the deceased’s mouth, then kick the dead man’s mouth shut with Charlie Brown-level effort so the tag would be embedded and the dead would be identified.

That idea would have led to a lot more head trauma on World War II KIA, wouldn’t it? One would have to imagine a better way to maintain identifiers than defiling a corpse. The notch’s real purpose was much more mundane. They were used to keep the dog tag aligned on the embossing machine used to imprint the tags.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Sneak peek: Benchmade Infidel 3300BK-2001 Auto-Open Dagger

Bold, functional, and hardcore were the first words that came to mind when I unboxed the Benchmade Infidel 3300BK-2001 double-edge dagger. It feels light but still strong. Every edge and line is incredibly clean, and at a nearly $500 price point, it should be that way.

It is an incredibly comfortable blade to carry, for its size, thanks to the tip-down, deep-carry pocket clip. If you’re the kind of person who wants to carry this type of tactical blade on a MOLLE capable host, you can certainly do that — although I’m not sure that its anodized blue color makes it the best choice for that (in such a case, you might prefer Benchmade’s fixed-blade Infidel instead). That being said, my preferred method of carrying is in my pocket, so this is a great option for me. While the color isn’t my normal choice, when I consider that I’ve got a box full of black and gray tactical knives, it is actually kind of refreshing to have something that stands out a bit.


6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

This iteration of the popular Infidel OTF (out-the-front) platform features the introduction of a bold new anodized blue handle (.59″ thickness) to a family of tactical knives that sported more traditional colors. The handle material is 6061-T6 aluminum. It looks a little blocky from certain angles, but it is very comfortable to hold and deploy. The total weight comes in at 4.90oz so it isn’t heavy enough to be noticeable while carrying. I’ve got average-sized hands and this knife feels great in every way. It wasn’t simply the handle color that got an upgrade — the blade did too.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

The 3.91″ length blade now sports a DLC (Diamond-like Carbon Coated) finish on a new CPM-S30V steel with a thickness of 0.118″ and a hardness of 58-60. When the plain double-edged blade is closed the handle length is 5″; when the blade is open the overall length is 8.91″. Deploying the blade is a clean action. There is no unnecessary play with the release button, and it doesn’t require superhuman strength. For the first few days I carried this knife I was admittedly nervous about a negligent discharge, but soon came to realize it wasn’t a valid concern due to its quality.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

The Infidel 3300BK-2001 comes with a MSRP of 5 (depending on where you look it may be slightly more or less). This Benchmade “Black Class” blade is in the company’s highest tier of quality. It is considered an “Unlimited Limited” product, meaning that it will only be available for one year. If you’re looking for a defensive blade that conceals easily in your pocket but also has a bit more character than the typical tactical knife, this is one to consider. This blade will be available for purchase on 8/20/2020.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy identifies Sailor Killed in Manbij, Syria attack

A Sailor assigned to Cryptologic Warfare Activity 66 (CWA 66), based at Ft. George G. Meade, Md., was killed while deployed in Manbij, Syria, Jan. 16, 2019.

Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent, 35, was killed while supporting Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve.


“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends, and teammates of Chief Petty Officer Kent during this extremely difficult time. She was a rockstar, an outstanding Chief Petty Officer, and leader to many in the Navy Information Warfare Community,” said Cmdr. Joseph Harrison, Commanding Officer, CWA-66.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

Personal photo provided by the family of Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent.

Kent, who hailed from upstate New York, enlisted in the Navy Dec. 11, 2003, and graduated from boot camp at Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Ill., in February 2004. Her other military assignments included Navy Information Operations Command, Fort Gordon, Ga.; Navy Special Warfare Support Activity 2, Norfolk, Va.; Personnel Resource Development Office, Washington, D.C.; Navy Information Operations Command, Fort Meade, Md.; and Cryptologic Warfare Group 6, Fort Meade, Md. Kent reported to CWA 66 after the command was established on Aug. 10, 2018.

“Chief Kent’s drive, determination and tenacity were infectious. Although she has left us way too soon, she will not be forgotten, and her legacy will live on with us,” said CWA 66 Command Senior Enlisted Leader, Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician (Collections) Denise Vola.

Kent’s awards and decorations include the Joint Service Commendation Medal (2), Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon, and Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

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7 former military jobs that we’d love to see come back

Throughout the U.S. military’s long and storied history, there have been many different military jobs that could only be completed by troops in specific, highly-trained roles. These military occupations and ratings were once critical to the fight until, eventually. they went the way of the dodo.

The military is an ever-changing beast. In one war, sending cavalrymen on horses was essential to mission success — in the next, they were useless. Once, there was a need for the Navy to have its very own rating of sailors who’d paint the sides of ships — until they figured out that all the lower enlisted could do it.

While no one is hounding for the return of horrible military jobs, like loblolly boy (an unfortunate soul who’s entire purpose was to dispose of amputated limbs) or pigeon trainer, bringing back these roles would definitely make life better.


6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

That roar? It’s the sound of freedom.

(US Army)

Motorcycle riders

Nothing screams Americana like a badass riding on a Harley on the way to go f*ck some sh*t up. In WWI, these troops were seen as the evolution of horseback cavalry, able to effectively maneuver through battlefields. They served as both scouts and deliverymen.

Motorcycle riders could easily fit into the current cavalry — if they’re willing to give up the safety of up-armored vehicles for a boost of speed.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

They’re one part door gunner, one part scout, and all parts badass.

(US Army)

Aeroscout observers

Aeroscouts did exactly what their name implies: They scouted from up in the air. They’d ride along with helicopters and get a bird’s eye view of the battlefield or enemy movements and relay it back to headquarters.

The only modern equivalent to this would be a UAV operator, but not even the best technology could replace the need for a skilled eye.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

If each musician in the band can get their own identifier, why can’t cooks?

(US Army)

Doughgirls

Back in WWI, the WAC and the Red Cross had a specific military job for women who’d make sweets and deliver them to the troops. Apparently, the sweets they made were so good that doughnuts became an American breakfast staple as a result. But they weren’t just limited to just doughnuts. They made cakes, candies, and all sorts of desserts as well.

A return of the “doughgirls” isn’t that much of a stretch. Nearly every occupation in the military is broken down by specialization and areas of expertise with an exception for cooks. Cooks, in general, know who within their ranks is best at certain tasks better. One cook might be known for serving up gourmet, single-dish items while another is lauded for their ability to feed mass amounts of troops at once — or, in this case, making desserts that boost troop morale. Why not officially specialize and let a cook play to their strengths?

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

What other MOS can claim as many celebrities as cartoonists?

(US Army)

Cartoonists

Within the public affairs corps was the once-coveted position of cartoonist. They’d work with the various news outlets within the military and draw comic strips. Many pop-culture icons that served in the military, including Theodor Seuss Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss), Bill Mauldin of Willie and Joe fame, Shel Silverstein, and Stan Lee, cut their teeth on drawing cartoons for their fellow troops.

Comics as an art form are still beloved by troops today. Troops can’t get enough of Terminal Lance, even if they’re not in the Marines. If the military gave that creative outlet back to troops, many more stories could be told through a medium that troops adore, taking minds off the stresses of war.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

How recently did Army barbers get the can? Well, Bill from 1997’s ‘King of the Hill’ was one.

(20th Century Fox)

Barbers

Many branches used to have their very own barber that would be embedded within the unit. They kept everyone up to standards and troops didn’t have to pay a dime. As with most service-industry military jobs, civilian contractors eventually took over.

Not to discredit the fine men and women currently serving their country as tailors and laundry specialists, but troops need haircuts every week. Because troops don’t exactly make a fortune, they pinch pennies. When they pinch pennies in selecting a barber, the results are sometimes tragic.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

The schoolmaster is the dude with the violin because of course he is.

(US Navy)

Schoolmasters

Over a century ago, the Navy would take anyone willing to be on a ship. Whether they were smart (or even literate) wasn’t a factor. Schoolmasters had the duty of teaching adults what they would have learned in grade school, giving them a leg up on civilian peers who never had an education.

Let’s be real for a second. There are a lot of troops in the military who have a high school diploma or a GED that, despite the official paperwork, we all know are idiots. Having schoolmasters in service again would mean that command could refer these troops to night classes so they don’t get laughed at any time they need to read something out loud.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

Hopefully, one of these will become a space shuttle door gunner and live out all of our wildest dreams.

Astronauts

As much as we all go to bed dreaming about being the first in line at the Space Corps recruitment office, each branch has had their own astronauts for a while- possibly the coolest military job to date. For a time, Uncle Sam exclusively sent service members into orbit. Recently, however, only a handful of actual troops have gone up.

The Army currently only has three astronauts serving under official capacity — but they’re more like liaisons to NASA. When the time is right for the Space Corps, these three are more-than-likely to rise among the ranks — you know, since they’re actually astronauts and not just people who like Star Wars.

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This is what we know about Area 51

Area 51 is a restricted site in Nevada with an almost cult-like mythology surrounding it. Some people claim it’s a standard military operation site, but others swear that it within its gated walls exists proof about extraterrestrial life.

Before we get into public knowledge, I want to throw in my thoughts on this. I was an intelligence officer in the Air Force and I maybe shouldn’t post this on the internet but my final assignment was in a place that rhymes with Rational Maturity Agency, and while the government definitely does some cool classified work there, I can say with high confidence that no one would be able to keep aliens a secret. At least not the kinds of aliens we tell stories about. Maybe Area 51 has some petri dishes of extraterrestrial amoebas…but I really doubt it.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends


What’s more likely is that the government tests advanced technology out in the desert. The flight pattern of an aircraft like the Harrier could totally be interpreted as a UFO at night.

As the video below states, “No doubt aircraft are still being secretly built and tested there today.”

You can check declassified documents to learn about what has been tested on site in the past. In fact, because of the Freedom Of Information Act, U.S. citizens have the right to request access to federal agency records; there are limitations, of course, but it’s a fun pastime to ask the “Rational Maturity Agency” for documents concerning things like aliens or Elvis or other conspiracies.

Check out this fascinating video to get a no-nonsense re-cap of what we know about Area 51 — then let me know what you think is going on out there!

Articles

The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet

The US Marine Corps did not mince words when deploying F-35s to Japan, saying that the “arrival of the F-35B embodies our commitment to the defense of Japan and the regional-security of the Pacific.”


Tensions between the US, US allies, and China have been steadily mounting for years as China builds artificial islands and outfits them with radar outposts and missile launchers in the South China Sea, home to a shipping corridor that sees $5 trillion in trade annually.

One area where the US and China have indirectly competed has been in combat aviation.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends
China’s Chengdu J-20. | CDD

In November, China debuted the Chengdu J-20, a large, stealthy jet that some have compared to the F-22 Raptor. But, according to experts, the J-20 is not a fighter, not a dogfighter, not stealthy, and not at all like the F-22 or F-35.

Dr. Malcolm Davis, senior analyst at Australia Strategic Policy Institute, told Business Insider that the “J-20 is [a] fundamentally different sort of aircraft than the F-35.”

Davis characterized the J-20 as “high speed, long range, not quite as stealthy (as US fifth-gen aircraft), but they clearly don’t see that as important.” According to Davis, the J-20 is “not a fighter but an interceptor and a strike aircraft,” that doesn’t seek to contend with US jets in air-to-air battles.

Instead, “The Chinese are recognizing they can attack critical airborne support systems like AWACS (airborne early warning and control systems) and refueling planes so they can’t do their job,” said Davis. “If you can force the tankers back, then the F-35s and other platforms aren’t sufficient because they can’t reach their target.”

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends
Without tanker planes to refuel, US jets like the F-35 have a severely limited range. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brian Burdett

Retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula gave a similar assessment of the J-20 to Defense Aerospace Report in November.

“The J-20 in particular is different than the F-22 in the context that, if you take a look and analyze the design, it may have some significant low-observable capabilities on the front end, but not all aspects — nor is it built as a dogfighter,” said Deptula.”But quite frankly, the biggest concern is its design to carry long-range weapons.”

What the J-20 lacks in stealth and dogfighting ability, it makes up for by focusing on a single, comparatively soft type of target. Unlike the US, which has fielded extremely stealthy aircraft, China lacks the experience to create a plane that baffles radars from all angles.

Instead, the J-20’s design makes for a plane that’s somewhat stealthy from the front angle, as it uses its long range and long-range missiles to fly far out and hit tankers and radar planes that support platforms like the F-35 or F-22.

“They’re moving into an era where they’re designing aircraft not just as an evolution of what they used to have, but they’re going into a new space,” said Deptula of China’s J-20 concept.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends
A rendering of the Chengdu J-20. | Screenshot via hindu judaic/YouTube

However, the J-20 may still be a long way off.

In November, Justin Bronk, a research fellow specializing in combat airpower at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that the models displayed at Airshow China were not much more than showpieces: “It’s possible that the aircraft that were shown are still instrumented production aircraft,” or planes with “loads of sensors to monitor performance” instead of in a combat-ready formation.

Former F-35 and F-22 pilot Lt. Col. David Berke also questioned China’s progress in an interview with Business Insider, saying “it’s really, really, really hard to make an effective nose-to-tail platform in the fifth gen.”

Far from feeling threatened by the J-20, Berke seemed vindicated that the US’s potential adversaries have worked so hard to counter emerging US capabilities like the F-35.

“If the things we were doing [with the F-35, F-22] weren’t relevant, effective, the competition wouldn’t be worried about trying to match it,” said Berke.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The President joked about the US leaving NATO but no one laughed

During a private meeting with President Donald Trump in March 2018, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven explained that while his country was not a member of NATO, it regularly partnered with the defense alliance.

Trump, who has clashed with NATO leaders since taking office, responded by saying that was the kind of relationship with NATO that the US should consider, a European diplomat told Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin.


A senior administration official told Rogin that the remark was a joke, but the comment is one of many before and since that hint at disinterest, and, in some cases, hostility from the US president toward the trans-Atlantic alliance of which the US was a founder and is the largest member.

The US is the most powerful military in the 29-member alliance, and US withdrawal would dramatically reduce NATO’s power to deter potential adversaries like Russia at a time when Russian President Vladimir Putin is using cyberattacks and his military to threaten European neighbors.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends
Russian President Vladimir Putin

Trump’s criticisms have centered around financing, and he has often rebuked NATO members for falling short of the 2%-of-GDP defense-spending level to which alliance members have agreed.

He reiterated that criticism in letters sent to some of the NATO members that fell short of that spending threshold in the weeks ahead of the organization’s summit on July 11 and July 12, 2018.

The only one to be made public was sent to Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. The June 19, 2018 letter, published by Norwegian newspaper VG, said Norway was “the only NATO Ally sharing a border with Russia that lacks a credible plan to spend 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense.”

In the letter, Trump said he “understand[s] domestic political pressures,” having faced them in the US, but it would “become increasingly difficult to justify to American citizens why some countries continue to fail to meet our shared collective security commitments.”

The letter followed a general template, tailored with language specific to the recipient country, US and foreign officials told Foreign Policy. The officials said the letter sent to Germany contained some of the harshest language —Trump himself has directed some of his most withering scorn at German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Concerns about Trump’s commitment to the alliance have grown during his second year in office, especially as he continues to criticize NATO leaders and pursue rapprochement with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Many of the Trump administration officials who tried to reassure NATO allies have departed.

NATO officials are also worried by what seems to be the increasing isolation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who is regarded as one of the administration’s steadier hands and a vocal NATO proponent.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis

Julianne Smith, director of the Trans-Atlantic Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, told The New York Times that Trump questioned other leaders about their opinions of Mattis during the G7 meeting in Canada in May 2018.

Smith, who was deputy national security adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden, said the exchange was “awkward” for those leaders, who felt praise “might be the kiss of death” for Mattis. “So they said deliberately that he is being so tough on us on 2% defense spending, to try to save the guy.”

“There’s overwhelming anxiety, and it’s been punctuated with very specific concerns. That has a profound impact on what our Europeans friends think he thinks about them,” Biden told Rogin. “The consequence is disastrous for our national security and economic interests.”

The US continues to back NATO and its initiatives, particularly the alliance’s efforts to counter Russia.

The US remains an active participant in NATO military exercises, leads one of the multinational battle groups now deployed to Eastern Europe, and has volunteered to host NATO’s new Atlantic Command in Norfolk, Virginia, to oversee operations in the northern Atlantic.

The bloc also recently agreed to the NATO Readiness Initiative, a plan pushed by Mattis requiring NATO to have 30 land battalions, 30 fighter aircraft squadrons, and 30 warships ready to deploy within 30 days of being put on alert.

But continued cooperation doesn’t mean the ties established between North America and Europe since the end of World War II will endure, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in June 2018.

“It is not written in stone that the trans-Atlantic bond will survive forever,” Stoltenberg said in London. “But I believe we will preserve it.”

“We may have seen the weakening” of some of those bonds, Stoltenberg said. He added that differences had been overcome in the past and said maintaining the partnership “is in our strategic interests.”

“We must continue to protect our multilateral institutions like NATO, and we must continue to stand up for the international rules-based order,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The impressive Cheyenne attack helicopter was way ahead of its time

The Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne is one of the greatest what-ifs in helicopter history. This unique chopper was arguably decades ahead of its time, reaching an incredible top speed of 245 miles per hour. Although it never made it past the prototype stages, the Cheyenne’s potential was obvious from the beginning.


The Cheyenne was originally intended to replace the AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter, which entered service in the 1960s. Unfortunately, the project’s development was marred by multiple technical delays and a fatal crash during testing. The original planned production run was then cut from 600 to 375. Despite the fact that this futuristic helicopter packed a powerful punch — provided by a 30mm cannon and the BGM-71 TOW missile — it was cancelled.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

From behind, you can see the push-rotor that gave the Cheyenne its impressive performance.

(US Army)

But the Cheyenne didn’t just have powerful weapons. The Cheyenne was also intended to carry an array of sophisticated sensors, including a laser rangefinder, infra-red systems, and night vision capabilities. Its navigation suite was also extensive, including a terrain-following radar, Doppler radar, and an inertial navigation system. The helicopter was capable of flying at high speed at altitudes as low as fifteen feet.

In essence, the Cheyenne, which had a maximum range of 629 miles, was more than just a killer of enemy tanks, it could also fulfill reconnaissance roles deep behind enemy lines. The Cheyenne could not only attack targets itself, but could also direct attacks from other Army assets, like artillery batteries.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

The AH-56 Cheyenne had impressive performance, sensors, and firepower.

(US Army)

While the Cheyenne never saw front-line service, its cancellation did lead to the funding and production of the universally loved A-10 Thunderbolt, as well as the competition that eventually produced the AH-64 Apache. Furthermore, the push-rotor that was the signature of this advanced recon/attack helicopter made a comeback on the S-97 Raider.

Learn more about the incredible capabilities of the Cheyenne in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebH4Vz7IVB8

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY CULTURE

Amazing behind the scenes facts about Rambo – from Stallone himself

John Rambo was almost any other throwaway movie veteran. But luckily for the character – and fans of the Rambo series – the script for First Blood was in the hands of Sylvester Stallone. For Sly, something felt a little off about the story. So he asked real Vietnam veterans what was missing.

And movie history was made.


Sly gets input from veterans when it comes to writing “Rambo”

Given John Rambo’s place in the action movie pantheon, First Blood isn’t the shoot-em-up action movie someone might expect. In between the fight scenes, it’s a poignant remark on the treatment of Vietnam veterans, a wound that was still fresh when the movie was released in 1982. It started life as a book, but John Rambo’s speech at the end – the words that bring the entire story and its message together – wasn’t in the book. Stallone added it with the input from Vietnam veterans. It was a message that resonated with Vietnam vets in their own words.

Sly didn’t stop there. For the sequel, where Rambo is sent to Vietnam to rescue POW/MIA still in captivity, Stallone reached out to vets at Soldier of Fortune Magazine to talk about Vietnam War prisoners that might be held over. For the third, he tapped troops with experience in Afghanistan. He did the same to learn more about the decades-long civil war in Burma.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

Stallone reprising his iconic role a John Rambo in Rambo: Last Blood.

Stallone’s favorite ‘Rambo’ weapon isn’t the trademark knife

There are a lot of now-iconic action scenes where John Rambo is using weapons to great effect. The large survival knife from First Blood is legendary, but Rambo has a whole cache of other tools. He uses the compound bow in every Rambo movie to come after, an M60E3 with one hand in First Blood Part II, and who could forget the time he uses a Browning M2 to first obliterate a Jeep driver at close range before taking out half of Burma’s army in 2008’s Rambo.

For Stallone, the latest weapon resonated most with him. Rambo is short on time in Last Blood and has to fashion a few weapons for himself. Among those is a “vicious” weapon crafted from a spring on a car for use in close combat. Stallone calls it a “war club” with the emphasis on war.

“That thing talks to me,” the actor tells We Are The Mighty.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

Imagine all the places this pitchfork is gonna go.

John Rambo enlisted in the Air Force first

Sorry, Big Army. Before Rambo joined the U.S. Army’s most elite Special Forces unit, he crossed into the blue. It wasn’t just something he did for a few minutes before realizing he wanted to be in the Army, either. John Rambo did two tours in Vietnam as a combat helicopter pilot and even received the Medal of Honor before he ever thought about being in the Army.

According to the man who plays Rambo himself (in the video above), John Rambo got into a fight in Saigon with a bunch of Special Forces guys who told him that anyone could fight in the sky. So Rambo went to Fort Bragg as soon as he could, reenlisting so he could join the Army’s Special Force. In the film, you’ll see John Rambo in Air Force blue.

Catch Rambo: Last Blood in theaters starting Friday, Sep. 20, 2019.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy is spending more time in the freezing Arctic with Russia

Some 50,000 troops and thousands of vehicles are ranging across Norway and the Norwegian and Baltic seas for NATO’s exercise Trident Juncture, which officials have said is the alliance’s largest exercise since the Cold War.

The focus for the dozens of ships and planes taking part turned in November 2018 to the naval portion of the exercise.


All 29 NATO members and Sweden and Finland are taking part in Trident Juncture, but only about 16 countries are joining the naval drills, bringing 65 ships and submarines and eight maritime-patrol aircraft.

The maritime contingent will be split — about 5,000 sailors and 30 vessels on each side — sometimes facing off against each other.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Forrest Sherman the North Sea, Oct. 23, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist Seaman Raymond Maddocks)

US Naval Forces Europe-Africa chief Adm. James Foggo, who is leading Trident Juncture, has said the exercise, which is done regularly, was scheduled for autumn in the northern latitudes for a reason: “We’re toughening everyone up.”

Harsh conditions have taken a toll. Before Trident Juncture’s official start on Oct. 25, 2018, two Navy ships carrying Marines to Iceland for pre-exercises had to take shelter at Reykjavik. (The exercise ends on Nov. 7, 2018.)

On one of them, the USS Gunston Hall, heavy seas damaged the well deck and landing craft and injured sailors. The conditions also restricted what Marines could do in Iceland.

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US Marines board a CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopter aboard USS Iwo Jima during an air-assault exercise in Iceland, Oct. 17, 2018.

“Our Marines and their amphibious ships were coming to Iceland, were going to spend some time in the port of Reykjavik, and also conduct a practice amphibious land and a practice amphibious air assault,” Foggo said on the latest episode of his podcast, “On the Horizon.”

“Because of the weather, we did not get the amphibious landing off, but that is part of the learning curve of operating at this time of year in the latitudes of the high north,” he added.

“We’ve made it quite clear that we will look for operational risk management first,” Foggo said. “This is an exercise, not a crisis, but weather can be as capable an adversary as another nation that invades your territory, and we’re finding out that there’s some very challenging conditions out there.”

‘Colder temperatures, higher winds, and unpredictable seas’

The Marines have continued on to Norway, conducting an amphibious assault and other cold-weather operations.

Thousands of sailors from NATO navies, including roughly 6,000 with the USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group, are still at sea, operating in what can be tough conditions.

After a shortened deployment around Europe this summer, the Truman left Norfolk in late August 2018 and sailed into the Arctic Circle on Oct. 19, 2018, becoming the first US aircraft carrier to do so in nearly 30 years.

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Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Michael Powell moves ordnance on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 23, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)

Since then the strike group has been in the Norwegian Sea, at times working with Norwegian navy ships inside that country’s territorial waters, Lt. Cmdr. Laura Stegherr, a spokeswoman for the Truman strike group, said in an email.

The group took several steps to prepare its ships and crews to be “confronted by the trio of colder temperatures, higher winds, and unpredictable seas operating in the Norwegian Sea and north of the Arctic Circle,” Stegherr said.

“This included ensuring all sailors exposed to the elements — such as sailors working on the flight deck, sailors conducting underway replenishments, and bridge wing lookouts — were outfitted with durable, high-quality cold-weather gear,” Stegherr added. “All equipment, from as small as a computer monitor to as large as a forklift, was secured for sea.”

Operational planners, meteorological and oceanographic experts, and navigators worked together to chart a safe course, Stegherr said.

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Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Angelina Peralez mans a sound-powered phone for an aircraft-elevator operation in hangar-bay control aboard the USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 29, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Granado)

The high flight deck on a carrier would likely be spared from the churn at sea level, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

But ocean spray can reach topside on a carrier, Clark said, and “if you get some precipitation or something, you’ve got to think about going up there and de-icing the deck, which, if you’re on a ship, that could be a huge hassle.”

Crews on aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships also have to worry about aircraft, which are vulnerable to the cold.

“When you go up in the North Atlantic, even at lower altitudes you’re running into some temperature problems, and you’ve got much higher humidity, so icing can be a problem” on fixed-wing aircraft, Clark said.

Rotor blades on helicopters and other aircraft can accumulate ice, weighing them down.

“Also hydraulics are a problem,” especially for aircraft, Clark added. In intense cold, “the hydraulic oil starts to become too viscous, and the system is designed to operate at a certain level of viscosity, and if it starts to become too thick, the pressure goes up and you could end up blowing seals.”

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

Sailors signal an E-2D Hawkeye ready for launch on the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 27, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)

On ships with the Truman, like guided-missile destroyers USS Farragut and USS Forrest Sherman and guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy, where crews are closer to the water, harsh conditions can be felt more acutely.

“On a surface ship you’ve got parts of the ship that are not very well heated,” Clark said.

On “the bridge, for example, you have sliding doors, essentially, that go out to the bridge wings, and in the bridge wings you’re exposed. You’re out there exposed to the elements, and the bridge itself is not particularly insulated, because it’s got a bunch of windows.”

“It sort of affects people’s performance, just because you’re constantly cold,” Clark added.

On surface ships, the masts and antennas sprouting from the superstructure can gather ice, affecting the performance of that equipment and even the handling of the ship — in extreme cases, the ship’s centers of gravity and buoyancy can be affected.

De-icing solutions are available, but they aren’t always effective on every surface. “So you kind of have to constantly go up there and chip and clear ice off of the mast,” Clark said.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

Sailors on the guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut supervise the refueling probe during a replenishment-at-sea with fleet-replenishment oiler USNS Big Horn, Oct. 20, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Cameron M. Stoner)

Even below deck, the outside environment is still a factor.

“For the engineering plants, you use the seawater to cool a lot of your components,” Clark said. “In the case of a surface ship that’s got gas-turbine power plants, you use that to cool the gas-turbine power plant, depending on how old the ship is.”

Cooler water can make engines and other components more efficient, but water that’s too cold can also take a toll.

“If you’re trying to cool a gas-turbine generator … there’s kind of an ideal temperature range that you want to maintain it at,” Clark said. “So if the cooling water becomes too cold, it’s hard to keep it in that normal range. It actually gets too cold, and you start to get less efficiency out of your turbine.”

Using water that’s too cold to cool components can also lead to condensation, which in turn can cause corrosion or short-circuits in electronics, Clark added.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Christopher Carlson watches the Royal Norwegian navy frigate HNoMS Thor Heyerdahl pull alongside the USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 26, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist Seaman Joseph A.D. Phillips)

‘Rebuilding our muscle memory’

Despite the challenges of operating in northern latitudes, the Navy says its presence there will grow.

The “Truman is making the most of an operating area where carriers typically haven’t gone for a couple of decades, and in doing so, we’re kind of rebuilding our muscle memory,” Foggo said on his podcast. “It’s very important that we take those lessons back home for other future strike-group deployments … because it’s very challenging conditions up there.”

The Truman strike group returned to Norfolk in 2018 after three months deployed in the 6th Fleet area of operations, which cover the eastern Atlantic and Europe.

That was a departure from the usual six-month deployment — a change comes as a part of the “dynamic force employment” concept touted by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as a way to add unpredictability to US military operations.

The Truman’s trip to the Arctic Circle is also part of that — “showing the Russians that we’re not bound by this constant carrier presence in the Middle East, so that we can go and operate closer to Russia and into areas that Russia traditionally has operated in, like in the Cold War,” Clark said.

“The other thing is to get US naval forces more practiced operating in these environments in case they have to in the future,” Clark added. “Because in particular one of the things they’re likely doing is anti-submarine warfare.”

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

An MH-60R Seahawk helicopter lands on the USS Harry S. Truman, Nov. 5, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist Seaman Joseph A.D. Phillips)

The submarines in Russia’s Northern Fleet, which is based not far from Russia’s border with Norway, are considered highly capable, Clark said. Foggo himself has warned about Russian submarines — their land-attack cruise missiles in particular.

During its deployment earlier this year, the Truman was joined by a larger-than-usual number of destroyers, which are outfitted with sophisticated anti-submarine-warfare gear.

“That’s the primary trend up in the Northern Fleet,” Clark said. “So I imagine a lot of what the carrier strike group is doing up there is anti-submarine warfare.”

Stegherr said strike group aircraft had carried out operations at sea and over land to support Trident Juncture and that “the strike group conducted high-end air, surface and subsurface warfare operations” with partner forces, which were meant “to refine our network of capabilities able to respond rapidly and decisively to any potential situation.”

The Truman strike group’s presence in the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea, and the Arctic Circle “demonstrates to our allies and partners that we will uphold our commitments, regardless of the vastness or the unforgiving nature of the sea,” Rear Adm. Gene Black, commander of the Truman strike group, said in a statement.

“This may be the first strike group to operate for this length of time this far north in many years, but it will not be the last.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how San Francisco wound up with a self-proclaimed ’emperor’

The United States has been very proud to call itself a constitutional republic that is led by citizen-elected representatives. America is and has been, historically, very much opposed to monarchies. That is, until 1859, when a legitimately crazy guy wrote into a newspaper, proclaiming himself the “Emperor of these United States.”

Of course, he had absolutely no legal authority and no one truly believed his claim. In fact, “Emperor” Joshua Norton was actually a homeless man dressed in nice clothes. He ended up being a major tourist attraction for the city, however, so the locals just gave him a collective, “sure, buddy. Whatever you say.”

And so, an empire was born.


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That’s enough to drive anyone flippin’ crazy…

Before his nosedive straight into the deep-end of crazy town, Joshua Norton was a highly successful businessman. He bought real estate outside of goldmines just before the Gold Rush really boomed. He would sell all of his holdings to invest in rice in 1852. The Chinese rice industry had been struck with a famine that barred the export of rice, which drastically raised the price of rice in San Francisco to 25 cents per pound.

Norton, being the savvy businessman that he was, found a source for Peruvian rice, which was being sold for 12 cents per pound. His idea was to spend all of his money on rice from Peru and resell it in the U.S. at the swelled rate of Chinese rice. As soon as the sale was finalized, however, the per-pound price of Peruvian rice dropped to 3 cents and would be sold at near cost. In short, Norton blew everything he had on rice he couldn’t sell.

By 1858, the once-powerful businessman was bankrupt, penniless, forced into a boarding home, and forgotten by his elite former peers.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

He would also declare himself a pope, but that was more or less for the funeral for a stray dog.

Not much is known about his downward spiral into insanity but it was during that transition that he decided he couldn’t have been the son of regular English parents, but was rather a child of the House of Bourbon (despite the beheading of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette twenty five years before he was born.) This was confirmed in his mind by the fact that his first name was ‘Joshua’ — his logic was that his parents gave him a common name to hide his royal lineage.

He took his ramblings to the San Francisco Bulletin on September 18th, 1859. It’s remains unclear why the newspaper allowed it to run, but the audiences found it hilarious. In his editorial, he declared himself Emperor of these United States, decreed that Congress be abolished, and called for his “subjects” to gather at the city’s Musical Hall the following February 1st.

Congress was not abolished due to the whims of some random homeless guy — obviously. He ordered General Winfield Scott, Commander of the Union Armies, to clear the halls, but didn’t — obviously. Readers of the Bulletin did gather in droves at his call — likely because they figured it’d be funny. The doors were locked, but the crowds embraced the joke nonetheless.

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He even printed out worthless “Norton-bucks” that San Franciscans embraced and used because that’s exactly how fiat money works.

By 1861, the legend of “Emperor” Norton I had spread around the country and was fully embraced by San Franciscans. Among his many decrees, he demanded that…

  • …the unpopular California State Supreme Court would be abolished.
  • …anyone using the word ‘Frisco’ in reference to San Francisco would be exiled.
  • …a bridge be built between Oakland and San Francisco (which was impossible at the time).
  • …and that Governor Henry Wise of Virginia be fired for hanging the abolitionist John Brown of Harper’s Ferry fame.

These were all things locals agreed with before the Civil War.

“Emperor” Norton I became so popular that even politicians and business owners would placate him in order to not upset the townsfolk. Officers at the U.S. Army post at the Presidio of San Francisco offered him an elaborate blue uniform with gold epaulets to keep the joke going, because you know, it was still kind of funny.

In 1876, the actual Emperor of Brazil, Don Pedro II, would visit San Francisco on an official trip — only to be greeted by Norton I. They met for an hour at the Palace Hotel and enjoyed what we can only assumed was an awkward conversation.

“Emperor” Norton I passed on January 8th, 1880. His funeral saw the attendance of 10,000 people who mourned their local celebrity. Many years after his death, the Oakland-San Francisco Bridge was completed and many called for it to be renamed “The Emperor’s Bridge” in honor of the goofy homeless guy who jokingly became an emperor.

Remember, if you fall on hard times and feel your sanity start slipping… lean hard into that crazy and you could just wind up becoming a legend.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Get a taste of freedom with SIG Sauer’s latest AR

The AR-15 is one of the most multi-faceted guns of our time. Whether you’re a competition shooter, a hunter, an avid self-defense proponent, or you just love to customize, this highly versatile rifle is one of the most popular among gun owners today. SIG Sauer recently unleashed their newest model of the AR-15, calling the M400 Tread “the new face of freedom.”

Whatever your reason for owning an AR-15, one thing everyone appreciates about the firearm is its modularity. These rifles are among the easiest to customize and tailor-fit to your personal needs and preferences. The struggle most face is cost — the firearm itself is a large investment, making aftermarket customizing more of a wish-list than a reality. SIG Sauer took notice of this and acted.


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(Photo courtesy of SIG Sauer)

“SIG Sauer has created a premium rifle, at a moderate price point, that is packed with innovation and flexibility, and does not sacrifice the quality that our consumers demand from SIG,” Tom Taylor, the company’s chief marketing officer and executive vice president, said in a press release.

Out of the box, the M400 Tread is impressive. This budget-friendly rifle comes ready with features that typically cost extra and are considered upgrades. The Tread features a 16-inch stainless steel barrel with a free-floating M-LOK handguard; a single-stage, polished/hardcoat trigger; ambidextrous controls; a mid-length gas system; a Magpul MOE SL-K six-position telescoping stock; and is available in 5.56 NATO. Again, this is out of the box with an affordable MSRP of 1 — and we all know you’ll pay less at the gun counter. Suddenly, customization has gone from “wish list” to reality.

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The author appreciated the total package provided by the SIG Sauer Tread, including the Romeo5 red dot optic.

(Photo by Karen Hunter/Coffee of Die Magazine)

But how does it run? SIG cut zero corners in quality with the Tread. I spent a great deal of time running this “new face of freedom” and found that it holds its own among its costlier counterparts. I used a variety of ammunition, from inexpensive to higher quality, and the Tread never wavered. I even tried non-SIG magazines to see if that would induce seating or feeding issues. Intermixing various Elite Tactical Systems (ETS) magazines with the SIG magazines did not make a difference. So, to all you clear magazine junkies, fear not — the Tread can handle them.

Staying true to the tagline “the new face of freedom,” SIG wanted Tread owners to be able to freely and affordably customize their rifle. With the launch of the Tread, they created a full line of Tread-branded accessories. One I fell in love with was the Romeo5 optic. The Romeo5 is a 2-MOA red dot sight with 10 illumination settings. It is Picatinny rail compatible, waterproof up to three feet, fog proof, motion activated, has a 40,000-hour battery life, and comes with a low mount riser and co-witness riser mount — the latter meaning you can see your iron sights through the optic.

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tested these features at a Close Quarter Combat (CQB) training course with Alliance Police Training in Alliance, Ohio. This was a 36-hour course running drills, including low light/no light inside their shoot house. The Romeo5 was phenomenal! The Ohio weather was rainy and cold — with the shoot house having no ceiling, we were exposed to the weather, but the optic served me well. Never once did I have to deal with fog or a blurred view. I zeroed the optic before the course, and it never lost its zero. The accuracy was spot on, and I was able to attain quick sight alignment while taking headshots on each target.

This was my first time in this type of training environment, and the targets can be tricky. The goal is to eliminate the threat, and the best way for me to achieve said goal was headshots. We were allowed two shots per threat. Most of my shots landed right between the eyes with a grouping of less than an inch and half; some of the rounds were even going through the same hole. I was totally enamored with this optic and very thankful to put it through its paces in such an environment.

The other accessories included in the Tread-branded line include: an M-LOK handguard with lightening cuts to reduce weight, available in 13- and 15-inch lengths; a three-chamber compensator; an ambidextrous charging handle made of aircraft aluminum and a dual roll pin design; adjustable flip-up front and rear iron sights; an M-LOK front sight adapter with co-witness height made of lightweight aluminum; multiple configurations of M-LOK grip kits; factory upgraded flat blade and single-stage triggers.

“The new face of freedom” is here. With the M400 Tread, having an AR-15 that is tailored to your desires and needs is not only affordable, but also comes with the quality and precision that we have come to expect from SIG Sauer.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

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

Jobs

This is how military linguists get fluent in just 64 weeks

The job title “military linguist” sounds pretty impressive, right? It should, since linguists work around the world to translate highly classified documents and connect with troops and allied forces.

You don’t have to know anything but English to go into that career, either. That’s where the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center comes in. It’s one of the world’s foremost language schools that can make you fluent quickly, whether you’re learning Arabic, Farsi, Pashto or Mandarin Chinese.


The DLIFLC teaches 17 foreign languages in Monterey, California. Most enlisted students take its immersion courses to go into military intelligence jobs, while federal employees from other agencies, such as the FBI and National Security Agency, also go there.

It’s no cake walk

The courses are intense. They’re six to seven hours a day (NOT including homework), five days a week, and they last for 64 weeks over three semesters.

“Usually starting from the second month of their study, the teachers – we already use almost all of the target language in the classroom,” said Zhenshuai Liu, one of the DLI’s many native Chinese-language instructors.

Utah Army National Guard Pfc. Logan Jensen and Air Force Airman 1st Class Joseph Rutledge are two of the school’s current students. Both loved language and culture going into it, but neither knew a word of Mandarin. Rutledge said he was nearly panicked when his class began having days without using any English.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends
A student works with a teacher at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center Asian School on calligraphy of Chinese letters as part of activities to celebrate the Chinese New Year, Feb. 15, 2018.
(Army photo by Patrick Bray)

“You definitely realize how much you do and don’t know all at the same time,” he said. “They do it in such a way that it’s manageable … but you’re definitely out of your comfort zone.”

Air Force Tech Sgt. Benjamin Walton, the school’s chief military language instructor, knows all about that. Walton was a DLI student a decade ago. He was trained in Chinese, too.

“It kicked my butt, but I was able to survive it,” he said. “None of the students are prepared for the amounts of information and the pace of the course and what they’re going to have to go through when they come here.”

That’s not a knock on the students, though, who are very bright.

“Students who coasted through high school and those who even may have coasted through college – they really didn’t have to study much,” Walton said. “They all come here … and think they’re going to jump into this and ace it, despite our repeated warnings.”

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends
Students at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center play Chinese games as they immerse themselves in the culture during the Chinese New Year, Feb. 15, 2018.
(Army photo by Patrick Bray)

But they’re still fast learners. Liu said DLI students only need about one week to learn basic syllables and phonetic sequences to the level of greeting people.

“In a civilian school, this can usually take one semester,” Liu said.

Jensen and Rutledge were about a third of the way through the course when we spoke, and they were learning 25-30 words a day, as well as how to distinguish them – an often confusing task.

“A lot of them sound alike. So, you could say one thing, and depending on the context or tone you say it in, it could have up to five different meanings,” said Jensen, who spent the first few months drinking a lot of coffee and doing pushups to stay awake. “You’re spending so much brain power just trying to understand what you need to do.”

The keys to learning

Liu said the key is to link your interests with the language so you can stay motivated and keep up with the pace. The school incorporates extracurricular activities such as cooking days, storytelling of legendary warriors and heroes, and there are immersion trips to places like a local Chinese market to get the students to appreciate the culture.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends
A Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center instructors shows Chinese language students a tea-tasking ceremony as a way to immerse them in the culture.
(Army photo by Patrick Bray)

“You have to be interested in it in order for it to be successful,” Rutledge said.

And that’s not guaranteed. In general, the success rate for students at DLI is 75 percent. Some can’t keep up academically, while others fail out due to disciplinary reasons. Walton said the students who make it to the end of the Chinese course have one of the highest passing rates – 95 percent – which makes students’ “ah-ha moments” so satisfying.

“To actually be able to get through to somebody – that’s the reason why we [instructors] came back here … to try to impart our wisdom to the students now,” Walton said.

Most of the students who do succeed reach the college level of understanding within a year and a half, which requires a lot of studying. Some students listen to the language in the shower, while others review flashcards whenever they have the chance. Liu calls them “super students.”

“They don’t only take care of their study, they actually have military duty after class hours. They have to go to training and pass all the tests,” he said.

If the students do well, they get the chance to go to Taiwan or mainland China to do a month of immersive language study.

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends
A student at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center Asian School practices calligraphy of Chinese letters as part of activities to celebrate the Chinese New Year, Feb. 15, 2018.
(Army photo by Patrick Bray)

Jensen and Rutledge still have a way to go before they finish the course. But they’re getting there.

“In some ways, the grammar is similar, even sometimes easier,” Rutledge said. “Sometimes you can express rather complex ideas in very few words or written characters.”

One thing’s for sure: it takes a lot of focus, especially as a military student.

“If you slip up on a test or opt to go out and have drinks with friends instead of study, that can really come back to bite you,” Rutledge said, who will be a cryptologic language analyst when he’s finished at DLI. He isn’t sure if he’ll stay in the military long term, but either way, he’d like to be a translator or do international business, both of which will make the course worth it.

The DLI’s headquarters is in California, but it has the ability to instruct another 65 languages through its Washington, D.C., branch. There are also several language training detachments at sites in the U.S., Europe, Hawaii and Korea.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

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