This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

One of the joys of reading is the long-running book series. One-off stories are well and good but there is great joy in reading a multiple book series featuring the same cast of characters and watching them grow and deal with increasingly severe situations. Serialized fiction is not for everyone but if it is your jam, there are few literary joys equivalent to a good series.

One long running series is the Jonathan Grave series of books by John Gilstrap. Twelve books and counting, it is the sort of thing that can excite an appreciator of serial fiction. I conducted an interview with the author of the book so he can talk about his latest offering.


This interview has been lightly edited for formatting and presentation purposes.

Hi, John! Thanks for taking time to talk to us today. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

My name is John Gilstrap. I am a lifelong resident of Northern Virginia, as is my bride of 36 years. Since 1995, I have penned 21 thrillers and one nonfiction book. My passion has always been writing. In fact, I am one of precious few people I know who, in my sixth decade on the planet, is doing exactly what I would have told you I wanted to do when I was a teenager.

Hellfire is the latest novel in your long-running Jonathan Grave series of books. Please tell us a bit about this series and its protagonist.

Long-running indeed! Hellfire is the 12th entry in the series. I never dreamed that the series would have that kind of legs. What an honor!

Jonathan Grave and his team are freelance hostage rescue specialists. As a team, they often work outside of the law, but never on the wrong side of it. When the police run a hostage rescue operation, their primary objective is to make sure that the bad guys go to jail. When Security Solutions, Jonathan’s team, run a rescue, their sole focus is to save the good guys. What happens to the bad guys is not their concern.

Uncle Sam is aware of what the team is capable of, and it is not uncommon for the director of the FBI to engage them to do things that governments simply cannot do.

I don’t think of the Grave books as a series, though. They are standalone thrillers with recurring characters. I work hard to make sure that each book can stand on its own without confusing readers, while including treats for the benefit of fans who have come along for the whole ride.

To me, one of the interesting things about this novel is the cast of characters at Grave’s company Security Solutions and his contact at the FBI. Please tell me about them and how they have evolved as the series has progressed.

Thank you. Jonathan does not suffer fools. He surrounds himself with a team that is extraordinarily competent, and they are 100% committed to each other. Of the three main operators, Jonathan and Boxers are former Delta Force operators, and Gail Bonneville was part of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT). The fourth member of the team, Venice Alexander, is a world-class hacker who can work wonders in cyberspace.

Jonathan has a special relationship with Irene Rivers, director of the FBI. Back in the day, when Irene was still a special agent for the FBI and Jonathan was still in the Army, Jonathan and Boxers broke more than a few laws to save Irene’s young daughters from a predator. That’s their special secret and their special bond. After Irene was named FBI director, that bond took on special importance.

Jonathan’s team is the only family he has.

A lot of thriller books in this genre seem dominated by former military or law enforcement writers. But I learned in preparing the review for another of your books, Nathan’s Run, your background was as a firefighter and safety engineer. How has that informed your writing style?

Beginning when I was 23 years old, I entered the worst moments of strangers’ lives and brought order to chaos. Over the next fifteen years, over thousands of emergency responses, I delivered two babies and counseled countless grieving spouses, parents and children. I was burned, shot at, and threatened with one very large knife. Along the way, I saved far more lives than I lost and formed deep bonds with some fine public servants. And I did all of that without being paid a dime. Those experiences affect everything that I think and do. How can it not?

Professionally, my safety engineering dealt mainly with explosives and other hazardous materials. I conducted well over 1,000 accident investigations, from minor cuts to fatalities; from small fires to major explosions.

I don’t know exactly how that all informs my writing style, but I figure it must. Again, how could it not?

I was interested to learn that your one non-fiction book was about the rescue of Kurt Muse during the Panamanian Invasion. Did the people you meet researching that book help build your portrayal of Jonathan Grave?

The people I met doing the research for Six Minutes to Freedom serve as the models for both Jonathan and Boxers. The men and women of the American Special Forces are a breed unlike any other. They are dedicated not just to God and country, but also to each other and to their mission. Those are all traits and principles that drive Jonathan Grave and his team.

As with any long running series, one often wonders ‘What next?’ What is next for Grave and his company of Hostage Rescue professionals?

The 13th entry in the Grave series will be Stealth Attack. It is still too deeply in the development phase to describe it.

After the end of this book, there was a sample chapter for a new series you are writing called Crimson Phoenix. Could you take a moment to tell us about it?

The Crimson Phoenix series takes my work in an entirely new direction. In it, World War III lasts about eight hours, and when it is done, the United States is left in ruins. With all the infrastructure gone, and elected leaders unable to communicate with people outside of the bunkers that protected official Washington, it falls to individual citizens to figure out a way to continue living. It doesn’t take long for the weak to turn feral. In one corner of West Virginia, though, a single mom named Victoria Emerson turns out to be the leader that everyone’s been looking for.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today!

It’s been a real pleasure.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Why your radio guy is always up at 0430

Communications troops don’t get nearly the amount of love that they deserve. Sure, the job description is very attractive to the more nerdy troops in formation and they’re far more likely to be in supporting roles than kicking in doors with the grunts, but they’re constantly working.

In Afghanistan, while everyone else is still asleep, the S-6 shop is up at 0430 doing radio work. This is just one of the many tasks the commo world is gifted with having.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller
Being appreciated is, however, not one of them.
(U.S. Army Photo)


The reason they’re up so early is because they need to change the communications security (or COMSEC) regularly. In order to ensure that no enemy force is able to hack their way into the military’s secure radio systems, the crypto-key that is encoded onto the radio is changed out.

Those keys are changed out at exactly the same moment everywhere around the world for all active radio systems. Because it would be impractical to set the time that COMSEC changes over at, the global time for radio systems is set in Zulu time, which is the current time in London’s GMT/UTC +0 time zone.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller
This is also why the good radio operators carry two watches u2014 one in current time and another in Zulu time.

For troops stationed in Korea or Japan, this gives them a pleasant 0900 to change the COMSEC. Troops on America’s west coast have 1600 (which is great because it’s right before closeout formation.) If they’re stationed in Afghanistan however, they get the unarguably terrible time of 0430.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller
As if being a deployed radio operator wasn’t sh*tty enough.

Each and every radio system that will be used needs to be refilled by the appropriate radio operator. When this is just before a patrol, the sole radio operator with the SKL (the device used to encrypt radios) will usually be jokingly heckled to move faster. The process usually takes a few minutes per radio, which could take a while.

This is also why the radios themselves are set to Zulu time. If the radio is not programmed to Zulu time — or if it’s slightly off —it won’t read the encryption right and radio transmissions won’t be effective. This goes to the exact second.

So maybe cut your radio guy some slack. The only time they could be spending sleeping is used to program radios.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of May 31st

Former Secretary of Defense, retired general, and Patron Saint of Chaos James Mattis has announced that he will be publishing an autobiography called Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead. It’s said to cover him coming to terms with leadership learned throughout his military career starting from his days as a young Marine lieutenant to four-star general in charge of CENTCOM.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m freaking pumped. Yes, I’d love to know the nitty-gritty of commanding a quarter million troops, but I want to know about his lesser-known butter bar years leading a weapons platoon. Because let’s be honest, that’s where the seeds of his leadership style really grew.

He probably made mistakes and got chewed out for it. He slipped up and got mocked by the lower enlisted. He would have had to ask for advice and eventually grow into one of the smartest minds Uncle Sam has seen in a long time. Even the Warrior Monk himself may have been that nosy LT who needed to be whipped into shape by the platoon sergeant, and that’s kind of motivating in its own way. Yeah, you may f*ck up once in a while, but not even Chaos Actual was a born leader. He had to learn it.

Just think. There’s an old salty devil dog out there somewhere who’s responsible for knife-handing the boot-tenant out of Mattis. And he’s the real hero of this story.


While we wait for the one book that will actually get Jarheads to read for fun on June 16th, here’s some memes.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

(Meme via Not CID)

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

(Meme via SFC Majestic)

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

(Meme via Broken and Unreadable)

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

(Meme via Disgruntled Decks)

Fun fact: The Department of Energy renamed natural gas “freedom gas” in a memo. You know what that means, boys… 

And no. That’s an actual thing and not from The Onion.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the pilots who fly SEALs and Delta Force to their most dangerous operations

The Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Airborne, (SOAR-A), has earned the nickname “The Night Stalkers.”

Operating under the cover of night or the shadows of dawn, these elite pilots are responsible for getting special operators into and out of some of their most secret and dangerous operations.

Night Stalker pilots go through rigorous training to become mission-ready to fly in the most challenging conditions, including bad weather and enemy fire, all while relying on infrared and night-vision equipment to navigate through the darkness.

While many of the 160th SOAR’s operations are secret, it’s widely understood that they were involved in the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Read on to learn more about the elite aviators that “would rather die than quit.”


This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

A US Army MH-60M Blackhawk from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), June 19, 2019.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

The Night Stalkers fly a few different helicopters, including the MH-60 Black Hawk.

The 160th has over 3,200 personnel and 192 aircraft.

The Night Stalkers operate different versions of the Black Hawk, outfitted for dangerous and covert operations. In fact, all the aircraft the 160th uses are “highly modified and designed to meet the unit’s unique mission requirements,” according to the Army.

All the MH-60s the Night Stalkers use have in-air refueling capability, extending the aircraft’s ability to operate over long distances.

The Night Stalkers’s MH-60 Direct Action Penetrator (DAP) is a Black Hawk specially outfitted with an M230 30 mm automatic cannon. When the aircraft is modified to the DAP, it can move only small numbers of troops, according to US Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

All of the Black Hawks the 160th flies have a cruising speed of 140 mph and a top speed of 200 mph, The Washington Post reported in 2014, when the aircraft were used in a failed attempt to rescue American civilians in Syria.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

A Navy aviation boatswain’s mate guides an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment during deck landing qualifications aboard amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu, April 28, 2014.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dustin Knight)

The Night Stalkers also fly the MH-47 Chinook.

The 160th operates two variants of the MH-47 Chinook, a special-operations variant of the Army’s CH-47 Chinook.

The MH-47E is a heavy assault helicopter with aerial refueling capability, as well as advanced integrated avionics, an external rescue hoist, and two L714 turbine engines with Full Authority Digital Electronic Control that enables the MH-47E to operate in high-altitude or very hot environments, according to SOCOM.

The Night Stalkers fly the MH-47G Chinook as well, which has a multi-mode radar to help pilots navigate challenging conditions, as well as two M-134 “minigun” machine guns and one M-60D machine gun for defensive fire.

The MH-47 is used for a variety of operations, including infiltration and exfiltration of troops, assault operations, resupply, parachuting, and combat search and rescue.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Dave Currier, left, an MH-60M Black Hawk pilot, and Spc. Joseph Turnage, a UH-60 Black Hawk crew chief, with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) in Yuma, Arizona, Sept. 23, 2017.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brennon A. Taylor)

The 160th was born out of tragedy.

The Night Stalkers were formed after the botched attempt to rescue hostages from the US embassy in Tehran in 1979, known as Operation Eagle Claw.

During that operation, eight US service members were killed, and the need for a specialized group of aviators became apparent.

The 160th was formed in 1981, composed of soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, and was officially designated the 160th Special Operations Aviation Group (Airborne) in 1986.

What we know as the modern 160th was officially activated in 1990.

The Night Stalkers have been active in every military operation since Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada in 1983. The unit lost pilot Michael Durant during the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in 1993.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

Two MH-47G Chinooks from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment prepare for aerial refueling over California, Jan. 19, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Snider)

The tempo of operations increased significantly after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001.

“At the height of Iraq, those guys were doing two to three missions a night,” a 10-year veteran of the unit with multiple tours to Afghanistan and Iraq told Insider.

“Once the mission has been accomplished, the only reward is another mission,” he said.

Once Night Stalkers are finished with a mission, “they’re not going to Disney World. They’re going back to wherever they came from. They’re going to train again.”

Night Stalker training simulates the challenging environments they’re going into, as well.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

US soldiers, assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), practice loading and unloading on a 160th SOAR MH-47 Chinook during sniper training at Ft. Carson, Colorado, June 22, 2017.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)

Women in the 160th see combat too.

“It’s just not all guys. At least the 160th has female pilots. They’re rowing the boat. They’re in the battle,” the Night Stalker veteran told Insider.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

A 10th Special Forces Group soldier and his military working dog jump off a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th SOAR during water training over the Gulf of Mexico, March 1, 2011.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)

The 160th’s motto — “Night Stalker’s Don’t Quit!” is attributed to Capt. Keith Lucas, the first Night Stalker killed in action.

“The purpose of that organization is to serve the most elite special forces in the United States,” a veteran of the unit told Insider.

“That unit’s gonna be on time, and it’s gonna fly like hell to serve the ground forces,” he said.

The Night Stalkers have a reputation of being on time within 30 seconds of every operation and say they’d rather die than quit.

The Night Stalkers’ motto — often shortened to “NSDQ!” — is vitally important to the team.

“It binds people that have been serving in that organization till now,” the veteran said. Lucas was killed in 1983, during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

The MH-6 Little Bird is a helicopter unique to special operations that was developed in close collaboration with special operators and combat developers.

MH-6 and AH-6 Little Birds are also part of the 160th’s fleet.

These aircraft are small and maneuverable — perfect for use in urban combat zones where pilots must fly low to the ground among buildings and city streets.

The MH-6M and AH-6M are both variants of the McDonnell Douglas 530 commercial helicopter.

The MH-6M is the utility version that can also be used for reconnaissance missions. The AH-6M is the attack version and is equipped with Foward Looking Infrared, or FLIR, which shows crewmembers an infrared video of the terrain and airspace.

Here’s an AH-6M training for a combat mission

Go160thSOAR USASOAC Night Stalkers AH-6

www.youtube.com

And an MH-6M extracting a soldier from the water.

Go160thSOAR USASOAC Night Stalkers MH-6 Series

www.youtube.com

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Women in the military: Making waves since WWI

The history and role of military women throughout the years is fascinating. And with March being Women’s History Month, we decided to dive in and take a look back at the role women have played in the U.S. military from WWI to the present day.


World War I

Many people know that women were part of WWI, but did you know about the women who worked as switchboard operators? The Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit had to be bilingual, speaking in both French and English to ensure orders were heard by everyone. Over 7,000 women applied, but only 450 were accepted and even though they wore Army Uniforms and were subject to Army Regulations they were not given honorable discharges. Grace Banker was one of these women. She led a team of 38 women and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for her service.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

World War II

During WWII, over 350,000 women served in the U.S. Armed Forces. And while many women worked as nurses, secretaries and telephone operators, there were several other jobs that women filled. The two most influential groups were the Women Armed Service Pilots (WASP) and Woman Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES)

Women Armed Service Pilots (WASP)

Women were called up to serve as pilots during World War II to allow men to serve on the front lines overseas. While these women were promised military status, they joined before the final law was passed and, in the end, served as civilians and were not given veteran status until years later. During the time of the program, WASP flew over 60 million miles, transported every type of military aircraft, towed targets for live anti-aircraft training, simulated missions and transported cargo.

Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES)

This program authorized the U.S. Navy to accept women into the Naval Reserve as commissioned officers and enlisted troops. The purpose of the legislation was to release officers and men for sea duty and replace them with women on shore establishments. The first director of the WAVES was Mildred H. McAfee. The WAVES served at 900 stations in the U.S. The WAVES peak strength was 86,291 members. Many female officers entered fields previously held by men, such as engineering and medicine. Enlisted women served in jobs from clerical to parachute riggers.

In 1948, the role and future of military women changed. The Women’s Armed Forces Integration Act of 1948 granted women permanent status in the Regular and Reserve forces of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and newly created Air Force.
This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

Korean War

The Korean War marked a turning point for women’s advancement in the armed forces. While we typically think of Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (MASH) from Vietnam, they actually got their start in Korea. The first one was led by Margaret (Zane) Fleming and 12 other Army nurses. This role put the nurses much closer to the front lines and direct combat than anyone had anticipated. On Oct 9, 1950, while moving from Inchon to Pusan they came under attack. They hid in a ditch and helped treat the wounded. Because they all survived the attack, they began calling themselves “The Lucky Thirteen.”

While over a third of women serving were in the medical career field, women served as administrative assistants, stenographers, translators and more. Additionally, the first female chaplains and civil engineers served in the Korean War.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

Vietnam War

Approximately 11,000 women served in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. Nearly 90 percent of these women were nurses. They were an all-volunteer force and arrived in Vietnam as early as 1956. Other women served as physicians, air traffic controllers, intelligence officers, clerks and more. Master Sergeant Barbara Jean Dulinsky was the first female Marine to serve in a combat zone in 1967. Five Navy nurses were awarded the Purple Heart after they were injured in a Viet Cong bombing of an officer’s billet in downtown Saigon on Christmas Eve 1964. They were the first female members to receive that award during the Vietnam War. Commander Elizabeth Barrett in November of 1972, became the first female naval line officer to hold command in a combat zone.

The first female Marine promoted to Sergeant Major was Bertha Peters Billeb. She was the first woman to become the Sergeant Major of female Marines. It was a billet similar in duties and responsibilities to the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. Six women would fill this position until it was eliminated in 1977.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

Desert Storm/Shield

In Desert Storm, the role and influence of women in the military had integrated into almost every military unit. Over 40,000 women deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm, with 15 women killed in action and two women taken prisoner by Iraqi forces. Although women were restricted from combat, a new frontier for women was established as the lines of combat began to blur. Congress began rescinding the statutory restrictions which barred women from combat aircraft and vessels. It was a key step in shaping female service in the military today.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had dramatic impacts on female military service today. The military has continued to rely on women service members as the front lines of battle have been eliminated; fighting a war that relies on Improvised Explosive Devices, and surprise attacks both on and off base. But the military has realized the value of women on the battlefield, and began creating teams that partner with military infantry units, such as Team Lioness and Provincial Reconstruction Teams, which eventually paved the way for Female Engagement Teams.

In 2016, after years of women proving their capabilities on the battlefield all jobs were opened to women. Although women have been serving on the front lines of war for decades the regulations preventing women from serving in career fields that were held historically by men were finally rescinded. Since then we have seen women sign up for and complete the rigorous training programs required to serve in some of the most elite military groups.

Women have proven their willingness to answer the nation’s call and take on new roles at each challenge. Where will they go next?

MIGHTY CULTURE

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

At the beginning of 2017, after Dutch fighter pilots deployed to Lithuania on a Baltic Air Policing rotation called home using their own phones, their families started getting sinister phone calls.

The men on the calls, made with pre-paid sim cards, spoke English with Russian accents, according to reports in Dutch media, and would ask the recipients questions like “Do you know what your partner is doing there?” and “Wouldn’t it be better if he left?”

Later that summer, after US Army Lt. Col. Christopher L’Heureux took command of a NATO base in Poland, he returned to his truck after a drill to find someone had breached his personal iPhone, turning on lost mode and trying to get around a second password using Russian IP address.


“It had a little Apple map, and in the center of the map was Moscow,” L’Heureux, who was stationed not far from a major Russian military base, told The Wall Street Journal in 2017. “It said, ‘Somebody is trying to access your iPhone.'”

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

US Army armored units in Poland.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Eaddy)

Those incidents and others like them reflect ongoing efforts by Russians to misinform and intimidate civilians and troops in Europe and abroad.

“Malign influence is of great concern, specifically in the information domain,” US Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US European Command, told reports at a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington, DC, on Tuesday.

“A comprehensive defense involves air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace, which are the five domains that we recognize in NATO,” Wolters added.

But on the fringes of those domains, he said, is hybrid activity, “and part of hybrid activity happens to be information operations … and from a malign influence standpoint we see that often from Russia.”

Learning and building resistance

Several soldiers under L’Heureux’s command had their phones or social-media accounts hacked, according to The Journal.

Wolters, who took over European Command in May 2019, said US personnel and families under his command hadn’t been targeted with that kind of harassment — spokesmen for British and French contingents deployed to the Baltics have recently said the same of their troops — but they have encountered “misinformation” put out by Russia media, including state-backed television channel RT TV.

“If … they’re part of US EUCOM, and they’re in Europe, and they happen to see RT TV, this is a classic example of misinformation,” Wolters said.

“Probably not to the severity” of those 2017 incidents, he added, “but it is another example of exposure of misinformation and from a malign influence perspective on behalf of Russia in the info ops sphere against citizens” in Europe.

Misinformation campaigns are central to Russia’s strategy on and off the battlefield as the 2016 US election interference showed, and not limited to whoever happens to be watching RT.

In Lithuania in 2017, officials warned of propaganda efforts seeking to undermine Lithuanian territorial claims and set the stage for “kinetic operations” by Moscow, a persistent concern among Russia’s smaller Baltic neighbors. Russia is also suspected of orchestrating a broader disinformation campaign to smear NATO’s reputation in Lithuania.

Farther north, Finland has dealt with Russian misinformation throughout the century since it declared independence from its larger neighbor, with which it shares a long border and a contentious history.

Helsinki launched an initiative to build media literacy and counter fake news among its citizens in 2014. The Finnish capital is also home to the European Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, set up in 2017 by a dozen members of the EU and NATO.

Former US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis praised the Hybrid CoE, as it’s known, for allowing democracies involved to research shared concerns and threats — “each of us learning from the other and building resistance to those with malign intent toward our democracies.”

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

US Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters speaks with airmen during a visit to RAF Mildenhall in England, June 22, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexandria Lee)

‘Willing to deter in all domains’

While Wolters said personnel under his command haven’t experienced the kind of electronic interference seen in 2017, it’s something they should expect and prepare for, according to Ken Giles, senior consulting fellow with the Russia and Eurasia Program at the British think tank Chatham House, who called those 2017 incidents “unprecedented in recent times.”

“NATO forces should by now be training and exercising with the assumption that they will be under not only electronic and cyberattack, but also individual and personalized information attack, including exploitation of personal data harvested from any connected device brought into an operational area,” Giles wrote in August.

Wolters said his command and its European partners are working together to prepare troops to face and thwart that kind of assault.

“To have a good, comprehensive defense you have to be willing to deter in all domains, to include the information domain, so we have ongoing activities … that involve what we do in US EUCOM with the NATO nations and what we do in US EUCOM with all the partner nations,” Wolters said Tuesday.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

Polish soldiers use an anti-aircraft cannon’s sights to simulate engaging enemy aircraft during exercise Saber Strike 18 at Bemowo Piskie Training Area in Poland, June 14, 2018.

(Michigan Army National Guard photo by Spc. Alan Prince)

At the Supreme Headquarters for Allied Powers in Europe, or SHAPE, Wolters said, “we have information operations, deterrence activities that take place with the 29 [NATO members]” and with NATO partner nations, including Finland, Ukraine, and Georgia.

Most reports of harassment and intimidation of NATO personnel date to the years immediately after the 2014 Russian incursion in Ukraine, when NATO increased activity along its eastern flank, Giles noted in an interview with Military.com in September.

That may just mean the campaign has changed form rather than stopped, Giles said, adding that such incidents could be reduced, though not prevented, by speaking more openly about the threat and by strengthening information security among NATO personnel.

Wolters said his command does have ongoing information-operations training.

“For an infantry soldier that’s part of the battalion-size battle group that’s currently operating in Poland, they receive information-ops training, and they know that that info-ops training is just as important as the training to shoot a 9 mm pistol,” he said Tuesday. “From that standpoint we ensure that we counter with the facts, and we don’t hesitate to call out when truths are not being told in public with respect to the activities that are taking place in NATO and … in Europe.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

A USAF trainee used Snapchat in basic and vets lost their minds

Air Force veterans and other military members from other branches rushed to their keyboards to inform the world of how basic training was back in their day, as a female trainee at Lackland was outed using her cell phone to post on Snapchat during training. Current and former service members were quick to criticize the unidentified young woman for her phone usage in basic training, despite the fact that nothing could be more basic than these Snaps.


This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

Other eagle-eyed former airmen, who presumably went through BMT before the widespread use of mobile phones, were quick to ask why her key is hanging on the outside of her PC uniform as other branches questioned what “PC” is and if it’s anything like PT, if BMT is like what the Air Force calls boot camp, and do all airmen trainees wear their hair down like that?

The biggest questions on everyone’s minds were how she managed to keep her phone while the others were presumably locked away and how she was able to sit on the dayroom furniture (while eating!) without moving the chairs or invoking the wrath of the dayroom crew, the dorm chief, or even the house mouse. Meanwhile, Air Force veterans at We Are The Mighty are concerned about the fate of her wingman, who was probably recycled into oblivion, only to emerge just before mandatory retirement.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

Of course, everything about the photos (posted for public consumption in the Air Force Facebook Group Air Force amn/nco/snco, who ratted her out to Air Force Basic Training’s Facebook page) is wrong; from her hair and key, to eating in the dayroom while sitting on the g*ddamn furniture. Air Force basic training is just as strict about its cell phone policy as it was in the days of payphones – airmen make three mandatory calls on their personal phones over the course of their training.

The collective selective memories of Air Force veterans from all over came down hard on the young trainee as the shade thrown at the woman was enough to blot out the sun. Of course, no one in the history of the Air Force has ever messed up as hardcore as this airman trainee, who is obviously the worst person ever and doesn’t belong in MY Air Force. #LiterallyHitler.

In all seriousness, every time I’m tempted to comment on what happened back in MY Air Force days, I’m quick to remind myself that Basic Military Training – aka BMT – in MY day was only six and a half weeks, consisted of one week of anything related to carrying a firearm in a deployed location (that was still a rubber-coated M-16, the military equivalent of pinning oven mitts on my hands), and that my first PT test in the active Air Force was on a stationary bike where push-ups and sit-ups were done, but not counted in my final score.

Lighten up, Air Force-trained killers.

As for this airman, luckily an MTI was on hand to fill the world in about current Air Force BMT phone policy. This girl probably just smuggled her phone in using the old prison-style method – and if so, let’s make sure she’s promoted ahead of peers, maybe even give her a BTZ to staff.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

FYI, MTI = USAF DI.

MIGHTY CULTURE

9 retorts that prove the Ancient Spartans were funnier than you thought

The ancient Spartans are legendary for their courage and discipline, but these warriors were also famous in their time for their dry, sarcastic humor. A “laconic phrase,” a phrase that is especially concise and blunt, is actually named after Laconia, the Greek region where Sparta was located. Some Greeks attributed the Spartan terseness to ignorance, but others thought differently. The Athenian philosopher Plato wrote, “If you talk to any ordinary Spartan, he seems to be stupid, but eventually, like an expert marksman, he shoots in some brief remark that proves you to be only a child.” Here are some of the best examples of Spartan wit.


1. King Demartus

According to the ancient Roman historian Plutarch, King Demaratus of Sparta was once being pestered by a man with endless questions, especially who was the best among the Spartans. The irritated king finally responded, “Whoever is least like you.”

2. King Pleistoanax

Plutarch also describes King Pleistoanax, who heard an Athenian orator claim that the Spartans had no education. Pleistoanax retorted, “True, we are indeed the only Greeks who have learned no evil from you.”

3. Stellos 

In Zack Snyder’s 300, after hearing from a Persian emissary that the Persian archers’ arrows would blot out the sun, the Spartan soldier Stelios jokes that the Spartans will fight in the shade. This actually comes from Herodotus’s Histories, the ancient source on the Persian War, except it is spoken by the soldier Deinekes. However, an ancient source from Plutarch does mention King Leonidas telling his men, “Eat well, for tonight we dine in Hades.”

4. Commander Pausanias

After the Spartans routed the Persian invasion at the Battle of Plataea, the Spartan commander Pausanias decided that the banquet the Persians had set out for themselves should be served to himself and his officers instead. Upon seeing the feast, Pausanias cracked that, “The Persian is an abominable glutton who, when he has such delicacies at home, comes to eat our barley-cakes.” Spartan food was notoriously disgusting. When a traveler from Sybaris visited Sparta and tasted their infamous “black broth” he exclaimed, “No wonder Spartans are the bravest of men. Anyone in their right mind would rather die a thousand times than live like this.”

5. Spartan women

It wasn’t just the Spartan men who cracked jokes. Unlike most Greek women who were expected to be subservient to their husbands, the women of Sparta held considerable political and economic power. The Spartan men were always preparing for a war or fighting one, so the women were expected to manage their households themselves. A non-Spartan woman once asked Queen Gorgo, wife of Leonidas, why the Spartan women were the only ones who could rule over men. Gorgo responded, “Because we are also the only ones who give birth to men.”

6. Short but sweet

When King Philip II of Macedon (father of Alexander the Great) invaded southern Greece, he sent a message to the Spartans asking if he would be received as a friend or enemy. The Spartans’ reply was brief: “Neither.” Offended, Philip sent a threat: “You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city.” The Spartans’ reply was just as short as before: “If.”

7. Spartan response 

The Macedonians eventually did conquer Greece, and the later Macedonian king Demetrius I offended many Greeks through his extravagance and prideful attitude. He even forced the ambassadors of Athens, his favorite of the Greek cities, to wait two whole years at court before speaking to them. Sparta resented the Macedonian rule, and sent only one ambassador to the court on behalf of the city. Demetrius was infuriated and demanded to know if Sparta had really sent only one man to speak with the king; the Spartan responded, “Aye, one ambassador to one king.”

8. King Agesilaus II

King Agesilaus II of Sparta was respected for his martial virtue as well as his wit. Someone asked him what the boundaries of Sparta were, as unlike most Greek cities Sparta had no defensive walls. Agesilaus drew his spear and extended it, claiming that the borders were “as far as this can reach.” When asked why Sparta had no walls, he pointed to the armored citizens and explained that “these are the Spartans’ walls.” After Agesilaus was wounded in a battle against Thebes, the Spartan warrior Antalcidas joked that “The Thebans pay you well for having taught them to fight, which they were neither willing nor able to do before.”

For the Spartans, humor was more than just entertainment. It taught them how to think on their feet, how to conserve resources by training them to be economical with their words, and encouraged camaraderie between the citizens. All of us have something to learn from this warlike people, not just from their wisdom, but from their wisecracks.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This legendary triple ace wrote an amazing letter on modern Air Force leadership

Robin Olds was not known for obeying the spirit of Air Force regulations. From the start of his military career, he didn’t always do things by the book. He was West Point graduate whose time at the Academy was hastened so he and his class could catch the last half of World War II.


This legendary fighter pilot was actually almost a bomber pilot, told by an instructor he called “Military Bill” that he was too big for a fighter. But he flew bombers like fighters and performed illegal maneuvers whenever possible. Eventually so many reports of his ability came in that “Military Bill” was overruled and Olds was back in a fighter. Even when the Army’s top brass declared that West Pointers were to be squadron commanders only, Olds and a buddy went down to the personnel section of their outfit and asked the old, grey-haired sergeant in charge to send them to England, and it worked.

Olds’ entire career was results-oriented. Everything from planning Operation Bolo in Vietnam to being Commandant of the U.S. Air Force Academy. He turned an underperforming unit around with bold leadership and his distinctive out-of-regs mustache that he open admitted was a “middle finger I couldn’t raise in PR photographs.”

He spoke with authenticity and authority on all things military and aviation, so it makes sense that when Brig. Gen. Terryl Schwalier was a major, writing a paper for the Air Command and Staff College called “The Tactical Flight Commander — Developing Warriors,” he asked then-retired Brig. Gen. Robin Olds for his insights on the role of flight commander. In return, Schwalier received a five-page diagnosis on the institutional problems with the modern Air Force. Olds went on to describe how a commander can find fulfillment and still exemplify leadership, even in the current Air Force climate:

30 Nov 1981

Dear Major Schwalier,

Your question, or better request, is provocative, to say the least.  I have thought much since receiving your Oct 21 letter, and the more I consider your topic, the more difficult it becomes to frame a reasonable or even useful response.  I’ll try to boil down my thoughts, hoping something useful may distill.

First, let me get some negatives in perspective.  In my view, current Air Force philosophy and practice have all but eliminated any meaningful role playable by an officer placed in a so-called position of command.  Authority has evaporated, sucked up to the rarified heights of “they,” who are somehow felt to exist in the echelons above.  For your information, “they” do not exist.  Neither is there any “he” fulfilling that role.  Authority is expressed through the medium of committee consensus, leadership has become a watered down adherence to the principles of camp counsellorship, with a 90% emphasis on avoiding any action that may in any way be questioned by any one of hundreds of piss ants on the administrative ladder above.  In fact, leadership (and I use that term with contempt) has become a process of looking busy as hell while doing nothing, avoiding personal commitment, and above all, making no decision without prior approval.

Historical example: as a 22 year old Major, commanding a squadron in 1945, I was responsible for and empowered to:  pay the troops; feed them; house them; train them; clothe them; promote; demote; reward; punish; maintain their personnel files, etc.  When I retired as a BG in 1973, I possessed not one of those authorities or responsibilities.  Get the drift?

And you ask the importance of a flight commander.  I am tempted to say NONE.  But that is not true, for in spite of the system, in spite of the executive and administrative castration, a man instinctively looks to a system of military authority in a military situation or system.  If that authority is waffled or watered, he still looks to those appointed to the military echelons to do their best under the circumstances.  A man (a nation for that matter) wants, demands, leadership.  So today’s flight leader/commander leads and commands by example, by appeal to basic instinct, and by light footed avoidance of error, like walking a tightrope.  He has responsibility, for sure.  But he does not have authority, or freedom of discretion/interpretation.  Unfortunately, in some units he really isn’t given much voice.  Yet he functions, and if he is successful (perhaps a better word is “effective”) it is greatly to his credit for having done so under the prevailing circumstances.

Another thought.  All else to the contrary, two basic demands are faced by the Flight Commander.  One is PEACE, the other is WAR.  It has been my experience, in the fighter business I hasten to add, that the man who may excel under the one is not necessarily worth a damn under the other.  Many examples come to mind.  I do not (and did not) condemn one man or the other, rather I accepted the challenge of recognizing the difference and choosing accordingly.

I hope some of this makes sense.

Sincerely,

Robin Olds

P.S. For your information, there is no such thing as HQ, USAF.  The highest echelon is a faceless entity, composed of thousands of diverse individuals loosely arranged by a system of interlocking committees and headed by an individual technically labeled the “Chief of Staff.”  Note he is not called the Commander.  By law, he cannot be.  By nature he is forced to be the consummate bureaucrat, fighting for the all mighty dollar, serving as a buffer between Sec Def / Congress and the people and mission of his service – a demanding, demeaning role playable by very few.

This letter was first released on the John Q. Public blog, whose author is a former USAF officer. He noted that Olds retired in 1973 and the letter was written in 1981. He acknowledged that much of what Olds was talking about was cleared away by the time Operation Desert Storm rolled around. But protracted war in the post-Cold War, post-9/11 world has caused much of the recurring problems of “Top heaviness, micromanagement, loss of combat focus, misprioritization” to return to the Air Force. This is the age where USAF leadership testifies to Congress about morale being “pretty darn good,” while the Air Force suffers from a crushing ops tempo and mistrust of leadership (note the occasion in 2011 where the USAF invited officers to apply for voluntary separation, revoked the offer, then gave them the boot anyway… or the occasion in 2014 where the same thing happened).

It’s nice to know it wasn’t always this way… and that it can be fixed.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 5 countries that are most impossible to conquer

Historically, all empires either fall or morph into some other empire… and then fall. While we don’t use the term “empire” to describe nation-states that much anymore, some countries are still able to project power outside their borders. they project power globally (like the United States) or regionally (like Iran). But when it comes to having to defend their home turf, some countries are just not going to roll over for any reason.

These are those countries.


1. The United States of America

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This is America.

We all saw this one coming, so let’s get it out of the way early and start with what I know many are thinking: any invader of the United States isn’t facing just the U.S. military, they’re facing all 330 million Americans. Yes, there are more weapons than people in the U.S. (and that’s just considering the guns we know about). Americans are even allowed to design and build their own weapons in many states, without ever having to register. So who knows what they’re packing. This also means every American with an arsenal can recruit and train their own band of Wolverines.

Even if an invader managed to take control of the civilian population — and that’s a big if — they’d still have to get through the best-trained, best-equipped military in the world first, all recruited from the very violently pro-America people I was just telling you about.

Then they have to hold on to that territory without getting killed and without the locals organizing against them. Too bad many major American cities are already organized. And armed. And ready to go killing again once the war dies down a bit. We call them street gangs.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller
This is just Los Angeles county.
(LAPD)

Albuquerque, Houston, Oklahoma City, Detroit, Baltimore, New York City — whether the invasion moves from east to west or west to east, there are a lot of pressure points invaders need to secure before moving on. Which brings up another point: America is huge.

Our four mainland time zones contain seven different climate regions, not to mention everything from high mountains to marshland, swamps to deserts, and in some places, a lot of flat nothing. Just going across the mighty Mississippi River without a bridge is enough to kill off a good chunk of an army while the residents of East St. Louis are using it as target practice.

When the invaders get out of the actual geographical features of the United States (where roving bands of armed American militias are waiting in ambush), the invader will enter some of the largest cities in the world, three of which are in the top 100 in terms of population, and many are full of the aforementioned gangs and violent extremist groups.

Ever look up at New York City buildings and just imagine what it would be like to have to invade, conquer, and keep a city so populous and so large in size and scale?

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Me either. But you feel free to fight the next Stalingrad if you want.

 

2. Russia

This one goes well beyond the myth of “General Winter” (although that would definitely be a factor for most invading countries). Russia projects power regionally but its armed forces (as I mentioned before in other articles) is not as great as Putin is hyping it up to be lately.

Related: 10 worst armies in the world 2018

If invaded, however, Russia doesn’t have to project anything and its legendary toughness can really bloom, even in the middle of the freezing Russian winter. Invading Russia, as any student of history knows, is a terribly difficult task. When Napoleon invaded in 1812, the Russian people took casualties, to be sure, but what really suffered was Russia’s towns, cities, farms, and other infrastructure — all of it destroyed by Russians.

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That’s right, Russians would rather destroy their own country than leave it for any invader. And if you’re thinking that was a long time ago and how modern Russians might have different sensibilities, remember they did that when the Nazis invaded in World War II. From there, the fighting only got more brutal. So any invader has to remember that they’re likely fighting every single Russian – across 11 times zones.

Did you catch that? There are 11 time zones in Russia, the largest country by land mass. If that wasn’t bad enough, Russia also contains every single climate type there is (yes, Russia has a rain forest. Look it up). If that wasn’t enough, they will likely have to fight every ex-Soviet client state around Russia’s borders, too. Many of them are still very loyal to Russia and would take up arms to fight for their Russian friends. This only extends the range and variety of people, climate, and geography to conquer. It means everything from the deserts of Kazakhstan, to the mountains and forests of the Caucasus region, and to the frozen shores of the Black and Caspian Seas.

The steppes and tundras of Central Asia are not a forgiving place and just like the Americans who would take up arms against an invader, the Russian and pro-Russian people living in these areas will too. These are hardy, gun-toting, skilled hunters who have no compulsion about killing an invader, having grown up with their parents’ and grandparents’ stories about fighting the Great Patriotic War against the Nazis.

Fighting which included the deadliest fighting in the history of human warfare (which the Russians won) at Stalingrad.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller
Which is called Volgograd now. And invaders will have to take this city, too. Good luck with that.

 

3. Afghanistan

Despite what every successive American general would have you believe for the past 17 years, victory in Afghanistan is not just around the corner.

Every invading empire who thought victory was just around the corner in Afghanistan really just helped contribute to Afghanistan’s legacy as “The Graveyard of Empires.” This includes the current sole superpower in the world, the United States, the only other superpower to ever exist, the Soviet Union, and the largest empire ever assembled by any state in the world, the British Empire at its height.

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“Come at me bro.”

What makes Afghanistan so difficult to capture and keep is first and foremost its terrain. It’s a giant bowl of desert surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the world. Any army an invader can’t destroy could just fade away into the mountains and lick their wounds until the next fighting season came. In modern times, the high peaks negate the advantage of armor and tanks, just as it negated the advantage of heavy cavalry in earlier times.

The United States is a viable fighting force in Afghanistan because of its logistical advantage. Where the U.S. can get supplies and troops in and out relatively easily, the attacking British in 1839 had a much less reliable system. That’s why only one man of 16,000 troops and camp followers returned.

That’s why it’s remembered as the “Disaster in Afghanistan.”

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller
The original Brexit.

The most important reason no one can conquer Afghanistan is because any invader has to completely subdue the population. The whole population. And these people are as diverse as it gets. Pashtun, Turkmen, Baloch, Palaw, Tajik, and Uzbek are jut a few of the ethnic groups in the country. Even after 17 years in the country, many Americans wouldn’t pick up on the fact that one of those ethnic groups I just mentioned is actually a rice dish.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller
Just Palaw me.

Put aside Taliban or Mujaheddin loyalty for a moment and imagine the life of a regular Afghan man. Their clan, their tribe, their unit, their sheikh, their ethnicity, their religion, maybe their provincial or central government? And when you do take into account their loyalties to extremist groups, you have to factor in the group, that unit, and the shadow government. That’s 12 potential loyalties right there. Imagine trying to subdue 34 million of them, because you have to if you invade Afghanistan.

Defeating those people in pitched battles didn’t work, ask the British. Massacring them also didn’t work, ask the Soviets. The American nation building strategy isn’t coming along either.

4. China

Did your invading army plan on fighting one billion people? Because that is what is likely to happen when invading China. The most populous country in the world now boasts 1.3 billion-plus people. For the uninitiated or bad at math (or both), that means they have almost the entire population of the United States plus a billion. Having written these wargaming posts for a few years now, I know that many will tell me to consider that this doesn’t mean China has a skilled or fearsome force of ground troops and that all they’ve ever tactically perfected on a modern battlefield is human wave attacks.

Imagine a billion people running at your unit.

While these one billion Chinese people likely don’t have their own arms, it wouldn’t take long for the planned central bureaucracy to start handing out weapons to form a unified front against an invader. There’s an old U.S. military saying: if it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid. So it may sound like a throwing a few million soldiers at an invader is stupid, but it’s quite the human wave and it will likely work. So even if the numbers of the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir are repeated and it takes ten Chinese divisions to repel one Marine Division, the Marines will need to send 25 divisions just to establish a beachhead.

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And China didn’t even try to equip their soldiers back then. Today, they would have rifles and shoes — and maybe food.

The fun doesn’t stop just because the invader made it ashore. China is as massive as the United States with a diverse climate and diverse geographical features. It’s surrounded by extreme weather and oceans on all sides, so invaders will have to be prepared for the impassable Gobi Desert and the jungles of Southeast Asia, not to mention the mountainous, snowy Himalayan regions which will make air support difficult.

If invading troops aren’t massacred along the way by bands of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, then they still get to contend with a variety of tropical diseases along with the diseases that come from overpopulation and pollution.

This is just in fighting a conventional war. The Chinese are the masters of ripping off foreign technology, so an invading army would have to assume that the country they’re invading will also have all the technological prowess of the United States – and with its 750-million-plus person manpower (assuming they didn’t die in a human wave) and strong economy, they’re ready to grind on for a long time.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller
Enjoy that iPhone.

5. India

This is probably the only entry on the list many readers didn’t predict. But on its own, India is a formidable place to invade.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller
Ask Pakistan.

To the north and east lay harsh Himalayan mountain passes and arid deserts makes up roughly half of India’s northwest regions. In the southwest, India is wet and tropical, limiting the best places to land an ocean-born invasion force.

That is, if you ever get to land an invasion force on the subcontinent. Part of India’s major naval strategy is to flood her territorial waters with enough submarines to sink both enemy warships and enemy landing craft while strangling sea lanes of enemy shipping. This tactic has been in place for a long time, since before China’s foreign policy went from one of “peaceful rise” to “crouching tiger.”

Since the British left India in 1947, they’ve had to deal with Pakistan on a few occasions and even went to war with China once. Ever since, China and Pakistan have only grown closer so India’s entire defense strategy has to be predicated on the idea of fighting a war on two fronts — and they’re ready for it.

Fighting in India is not a small matter as any Indian general will probably tell you. The height of the Himalayan mountains makes air support very difficult, even impossible at times. India can’t rely exclusively on one benefactor, meaning it can’t just choose to be closer to the USA or Russia. India cares about Pakistan and China and will accept any tech or gear that helps them win that war. As such, their near-limitless manpower, religious fervor, and billion-plus population would make them a formidable opponent on any front.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller
And Gurkhas. They have Gurkhas.

 

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

13 memes that tell you all you need to know about POGs

These are memes. They’re about POGs. It’s not that complicated.

If you need a primer: POGs are “persons other than grunts,” meaning anyone but infantry. POGs do all sorts of crucial jobs, like scouting, setting up communications, maintaining vehicles and aircraft, logistics, providing medical attention, etc. In this context, “etc.” means pretty much anything besides shooting rounds at the enemy.


But they’re also super annoying, constantly comparing themselves to infantry and saying things like, “we’re all infantry.”

Here are 13 memes that will prime you on the controversy:

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Lets be honest: Supply almost never makes bullets fly. They make them ride on trucks and float on boats. It’s the infantry that makes them fly at muzzle velocity out of their weapons and into the enemy’s brain case. For all of you fellows who have, “bullets don’t fly without supply” tattoos, sorry.

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I mean, yeah, sure, POGs do some of the fighting. But the infantry exists to fight the enemy — and they do it. A lot. For some of them, “a lot” means multiple times per day.

POGs, well, POGs fight less.

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Of course, infantry wants respect simply for not being POGs, which isn’t so much an accomplishment as it is a lack thereof.

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Haha, but really, some POGs are babies.

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Most POG thing a POG can say is that they’re “almost infantry.” Oh, all you lack is infantry basic and school, huh? So, you’re as “almost infantry” as an average high schooler. Congratulations.

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See, even the president says you’re an idiot.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

But enjoy those fat stacks of cash from bonuses and equal pay while the infantry enjoys their special blue ropes and “03” occupation codes. You can dry your tears with your pleasant sheets and woobies in a real bed while they hurl insults from the dust-covered cots of an outpost.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

And uh, news flash, the big technological skills that make the U.S. so lethal, everything from aerial reconnaissance to awesome rocket artillery to selectively jamming communications lines, are the skills of the POGs. I mean, sure, the infantry brings some advanced missiles to the fight, but they’re counting on supply to get the missiles to them and intel to let them know where to hunt.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

And besides, POGs get to face danger from time to time. There’s all those menacing strangers they have to confront on CQ duty. And, uh, convoys.

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And, deep down, the infantry knows they need you. They just also want to mock you. That’s not evil, it’s just light ribbing.

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And they kind of need to rib you, because you keep saying stupid stuff like this.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

Seriously, embracing the POG-life is the best thing you can do to stop being such a POG. You signed your contract, you’re serving your country, just get over the job title.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

And for god’s sake, stop doing stuff like this. No wonder the infantry makes fun of us.

Logan Nye was an Airborne POG on active duty for five years. He lives with two dogs and has never said that he’s “basically infantry,” because, seriously, he only got to shoot his rifle two times a year. Can you really do that and claim that “You’re a rifleman, too!?” No. You can’t, fellow POG.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Third time’s a charm: Twin brothers deploy together again

From working at McDonalds, to attending Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), to serving more than 18 years each in the U.S. Army Reserve — identical twin master sergeants are mobilized together for the third time.

Master Sgt. Bryant Howard and his identical twin brother, Master Sgt. Joseph Howard, motor transport operators, 450th Movement Control Battalion (MCB), are currently deployed together to Kuwait — marking the third time they have deployed together.

Bryant decided to join first.


“I was in high school, (and) I was also working at McDonalds, and my mom called me lazy.” he said. “I figured I wasn’t, so I was going to get her mad and join the Army.”

For Joseph, the decision to join the Army was much easier after he found out that his brother was joining.

“I tried joining the National Guard. The recruiter didn’t take me seriously.” Joseph said. “I was going to back out, then I found out my brother was joining the Reserve, so I went ahead and joined too.”

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From left to right — Master Sgt. Joseph Howard, S-3 (operations) noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC), 450th Movement Control Battalion (MCB), and Master Sgt. Bryant Howard, Trans-Arabian Network (TAN) NCOIC, 450th MCB, stand back to back at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Oct. 24, 2019.

(Photo by Spc. Dakota Vanidestine)

Once their decision to join was finalized, Bryant and Joseph needed to pass through Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) before leaving for basic training.

“We were still in high school, just turned 18. We were trying to get on the battle buddy system, but something happened at MEPS and Bryant wasn’t able to join the same time I did.” Joseph said. “He had to go back four months later. Because of that, they couldn’t get us to Basic (Training) together, even though we went at the same time. I went to Fort Jackson; he went to Fort Sill.”

Although the buddy system was not possible for Basic Training, the brothers were reunited at Advanced Individual Training (AIT).

“We did go to AIT together at Fort Leonard Wood though. It took the drill sergeants a month to realize there was twins in the unit. They threw a fit because they thought we were just one super high-speed person” Joseph said.

Confusion on the brothers’ identities, like at AIT, has allowed them to play pranks all of their life.

“Our last day of high school, we switched classes.” Bryant said. “We had a different style uniforms in school — I had a pullover, and he had a button up shirt. Joseph’s teacher could tell us apart, even though she didn’t know me — but my teacher didn’t recognize him.”

After high school, the military was not the only time that Bryant and Joseph’s paths have crossed.

“We both worked at one time at Direct TV” Joseph said. “Also, we both had some sort of experience in law enforcement. I became a police officer, he worked in a jail — he was a corrections officer. The weird part about that was if I dropped somebody off at jail, they might run into him and think he was me. We don’t necessarily try to follow each other – that’s just the way things happen. It really is a small world.”

Even today their civilian careers have brought them not only to the same state, but the same location.

“Now were both mill-techs. Joseph works in the RPAC (Reserve Personnel Action Center) and I work for a unit” Bryant said.

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From left to right, Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Howard, Sgt. Michael Howard, motor transport operators, 498th Transportation Company, and Sgt. 1st Class Bryant Howard, motor transport operator, 850th Transportation Company, pose for a photo as Bryant prepares to redeploy back to the U.S. at Kandahar Airfield, April. 28, 2014.

“We actually work in the same building — two different units. I work for the 88th Readiness Division, he works for the 383rd Military Intelligence Battalion” Joseph added.

When Bryant and Joseph heard about an opportunity to deploy together with the 450th MCB, they took full advantage.

“We deployed together in 2003 and 2009 to Iraq” Bryant said.

“He deployed to Afghanistan at the end of 2013, and I deployed there in the beginning of 2014 — so we were actually at the same place” Joseph added. “Our older brother actually deployed with me.”

Currently, Bryant is the Trans Arabian Network Noncommissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC).

“I am the NCOIC over all the movement within Kuwait, Jordan, Oman, and the surrounding locations.” Bryant said.

While Joseph serves as the S-3 (operations) NCOIC by taking care of “the personnel, administrative, and operational aspects.”

Once this deployment is complete, the brothers may finally part ways. Joseph is considering retirement from the Reserve.

“I do want to hit my 20 year mark.” Joseph said. “It’s really hard to keep up with the changing Army — the trends and everything. Depending on what happens when I get to the States, I may stick it out longer, or I may get out.”

“I’m just going to stay in until I can’t stand it anymore” Bryant added.

Together, Bryant and Joseph have dedicated over 37 years of service to the U.S. Army Reserve — both wearing the rank of master sergeant and have seven combined deployments to show for it.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

A number of U.S. troops with unexplained symptoms such as impaired concentration, anger, irritability and impulsivity, as well as physical problems such as high blood pressure, peripheral neuropathy and low sex drive, have chronic lead poisoning, according to a report Wednesday in The New York Times Magazine’s At War Blog.

Thirty-eight troops — mostly from Special Forces units — have gone to Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York for a special test that measures the level of lead in one’s tibia bone. Of those, a dozen registered bone lead levels higher than normal, with four having roughly twice the expected amount.


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Two-ton “Super sacks” like this one contain lead bullets removed during a reclamation project at a former firing range at Camp Withycombe, Ore. Approximately 300,000 thousand pounds of bullets were removed from the soil in an effort to return the land to its original condition.

Dozens of other service members sought treatment at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine for lead and other metal poisoning, including those tested at Mount Sinai.

While the numbers are small compared with the 1.3 million active-duty personnel currently serving, the diagnosis is significant for these troops, who have wrestled for years with symptoms that mimic traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but who also have physical manifestations.

One of the those diagnosed, Steve Hopkins, a former Special Forces major who is now retired, called receiving the test results “a big deal.” After bouncing from doctor to doctor and being told by Army physicians that he likely had depression or PTSD — or was malingering — Hopkins was grateful to put a name to his debilitating illness.

“It was a big weight off my shoulders and off my family,” he said. “I mean, we were in crisis.”

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Soldiers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, demonstrate how to operate a M-4 carbine during a training exercise with troops from the 341st Romanian Infantry battalion during a cross-training event at the Bardia Firing Range near COB Adder, Iraq.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Terence Ewings)

Hopkins was diagnosed in 2012 after falling severely ill and traveling to Walter Reed National Naval Medical Center, Maryland, where he was seen by NavyCapt. Kevin Dorrance, also now retired. Like Hopkins’ physicians at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Dorrance originally thought Hopkins’ issues were mental health-related. But he noticed that one medical test, an erythrocyte porphyrin test, consistently came back as elevated.

He consulted with a colleague at the Uniformed Services University for the Health Sciences who, according to Dorrance, immediately suspected lead exposure. Dorrance then sent Hopkins to Mount Sinai for the K X-ray fluorescence, or KXRF, test to measure his bone lead levels.

Hopkins, then 42, had levels two-and-a-half times what is typical in a man his age.

This author channeled his emergency-response experience in the newest Graves thriller

Spc. Justin Dreyer from the Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, is instructed how to fire a rocket-propelled grenade launcher by a Soldier in the 341st Romanian Infantry Battalion at the Bardia Firing Range near COB Adder, Iraq.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Terence Ewings)

Other service members followed Hopkins to Mount Sinai, including Master Sgt. Geoff Dardia, a Special Forces training instructor who has deployed to combat zones seven times. Dardia’s results were 30 percent higher than normal.

Lead exposure in the U.S. military can occur on firing ranges, during military operations and while working and living in environments where lead is common — on military bases in cases of lead abatement and repair work and in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, which continue to use leaded gasoline.

Troops can inhale lead or ingest it by firing weapons or eating, drinking, smoking or chewing tobacco on ranges. If lead is absorbed, it is present in the bloodstream for up to a month, where it can be detected by a blood test, and it remains in soft tissue for up to 90 days.

It is then absorbed into the bones, where levels can increase with additional exposure. But the medical community and government agencies that study environmental exposures say once it is in the bone, it leaches back into the bloodstream only under certain medical conditions, such as a broken bone, pregnancy, osteoporosis or kidney disease.

Affected veterans, along with Dorrance and Dr. Mark Hyman, director of the Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, say this isn’t correct — and they’d like to see more physicians considering the possibility of chronic lead exposure in cases of unexplained symptoms in troops, rather than dismissing their patients as mental health cases.

“The fact that we have a lack of intellectual curiosity about a condition that likely is pervasive in the U.S. military is criminal,” Hopkins said.

“Here you are dealing with a group of men, highly trained, highly skilled, emotionally stable individuals who want to work. These are not wackadoodles,” Hyman said.

Dorrance, Hopkins and others want to call attention to the issue of lead poisoning in the U.S. military and have pressed the Defense Department for broader testing and treatment — for acute and long-term exposure. They want the Pentagon to purchase a KXRF machine and conduct mandatory baseline screening and ongoing testing for troops who work in environments where they face chronic exposure.

They also would like to see more acceptance in the medical community for diagnosing and treating lead in bones. Chelation is an FDA-approved outpatient treatment for acute lead exposure, but both Hopkins, who took an oral chelation medication, and Dardia, who used both oral and intravenous chelation agents, say it worked in their cases.

They say troops deserve to have the general medical community understand what a handful of physicians — those who treat civilian workers often exposed to lead in jobs such as smelting, soldering, bridge repair, and foundry work — understand. That chronic lead exposure can make a person sick.

“The fact that we have a lack of intellectual curiosity about a condition that likely is pervasive in the U.S. military is criminal,” Hopkins said.

“The reason it’s being sidelined is it’s not understood,” added Dorrance. “There’s this discomfort with not knowing that’s the problem with doctors.”

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

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