Here's how the term 'cannon fodder' came to be - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

Cannon fodder, it’s a term that — to be on the receiving end is insulting. No one wants to end up on the wrong side of this haphazard phrase — meaning someone who’s merely expendable in the war. To be cannon fodder is to mean those who are the target of enemy fire. AKA cannon food, as in one foddered or fed the cannon. Like livestock being fed for slaughter. Practically mean, right? 

There’s no denying the term is derogatory … what we’re wondering is where it came from. 

How did it come to use? And when did folks start using it? 

Obviously, it’s dated in today’s standards. Wars simply are not fought with cannons. (Besides when’s the last time you heard someone talking about foddering the cows? 1900?) Just mentioning a cannon shows the age of the term in and of itself. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some important history behind it.

Take a look at how this term came to be. 

The first use of cannon fodder

Civil War Reenactors using a replica of a cannon. While the Civil War seems like ancient history, the phrase “cannon fodder” dates back even further.

Referring to soldiers as food for a war is nothing new — it dates back far behind the term itself. In William Shakespeare’s play, Henry IV, Part 1, there is a quote referencing soldiers as “food for powder.” Here, key character, John Falstaff, is discussing gunpowder and the soldiers who lost their lives along the way. This takes us back as late as the 16th century. 

Then, a French version of the term was seen in a pamphlet in 1814. The anti-Napoleon text called soldiers — specifically conscripted soldiers (in the U.S. we call it the draft) “the raw material” and “cannon fodder.” The text’s main point was that inexperienced soldiers, and soldiers who did not wish to fight were essentially signing a death sentence when going to war. The scathing text created a harsh term to follow the tone of the entire piece. 

It’s worth noting that in most early cases of use, cannon fodder was used when parties believed the soldiers had little to no odds of winning their fight. Hence the use of a derogatory term that laid out the lack of odds. 

Want to be fired out of one of these? Didn’t think so.

Later, cannon fodder was seen in English when it was translated from a Flemish text. It’s likely that this mention — the Flemish and English alike — came directly from the French version, but there’s no direct proof. The term was then published in the Janesville Gazette in 1854 in Wisconsin, and in London’s The Morning Chronicle in 1861. 

During World War I (1914-1918) it became a household term. Most likely the increase in use is due to context — with a war being fought, the chance to use it in everyday text became more readily available. From then on it was a normal term associated with wars, that is, until the use of cannons dwindled. The term followed suit and is rarely seen in modern times. 

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what makes joint terminal attack controllers so deadly

Air Force joint terminal attack controllers, JTACS for short, are airmen who go forward with special operators, infantry, and other maneuver forces to call down the wrath of god on anyone with the cajones to engage American troops while they’re around.

Here’s what they do and what makes them so lethal:


Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

A Joint Terminal Attack Controller from the 116th Air Support Operations Squadron, 194th Wing, Washington Air National Guard, observes a U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning during close air support training at the Utah Test and Training Range, April 11, 2018.

(U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Jason Kriess)

JTACs are an outgrowth of the “forward air controllers” who tipped battles in World War II through Vietnam. Their job is to keep track of all aircraft available in the area they’re sent into while supporting any maneuver force to which they’re attached. If that maneuver force comes into contact with the enemy, intentionally or otherwise, the JTAC gets to work.

They can fire their personal weapons quickly and accurately if needed, but their priority is fixing the locations of all friendly forces, enemy elements, and civilians on the battlefield. Once the tactical air control party, or TACP, has a map of where he can’t shoot and where he should, he starts calling in help from planes, helicopters, and drones flying overhead.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Clayton Eckstrom, Train, Advise, and Assist Command-Air Joint Tactical Air Controller advisor, observes the target accuracy of an Afghan Air Force training strike on Forward Operating Base Hunter, Afghanistan, June 18, 2018.

(Operation Resolute Support)

With the powers of all U.S. air assets at their command, JTACs can do a lot of damage. One of the most common weapons dropped in Iraq and Afghanistan is the JDAM, an older, dumb bomb upgraded with a kit that allows it to be guided to a target. JDAMs can be a 500, 1,000, or 2,000-pound bomb.

But JTACs can also call for bunker busters against hardened targets or strafing runs against personnel and light vehicles. If they think the best way to end the threat to friendlies under their umbrella is to call for attack helicopters to lay down a cloud of rockets, then all they have to do is set it up and tell the pilot that they’re “cleared hot.”

But the Air Force puts a priority on training their JTACs to not only call in fires from the air to the surface, but also “surface-to-surface” fires, employing artillery, like howitzers and rockets. In other words, JTACs are expected to be able to call in Army, Marine Corps, and naval artillery with just as much lethality as they call down fires from the air.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

A joint terminal attack controller from the 18th Air Support Operations Group checks an M4 Carbine during an exercise aimed at pushing JTACs to their limit, Aug. 3, 2018, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Janiqua P. Robinson)

So, for those keeping score at home, TACPs can kill you with nearly any artillery that rolls on the ground as well as any bombs and bullets that can be fired from the sky. And they can also kill you with AC-130s, which are planes that fire artillery from the sky.

But, of course, these are also special operations airmen, so even if all of those weapons aren’t available, they’re also well-trained in shooting you in the face.

All of this can quickly become more complicated than it might sound, because the JTAC has to organize all of this chaos, making sure that he never requests artillery that will cross the line of flight of the helicopters and aircraft in the area, since that would end with the aircraft being shot down by friendlies.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

A Slovenian Armed Forces joint terminal attack controller moves through a building during training in Slovenia June 4, 2018.

(U.S. Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Michelle Y. Alvarez-Rea)

But the JTAC community has proven itself equal to the tasks, and often surpassed the call of duty while supporting their friends on the front lines.

For instance, Master Sgt. Thomas Case is the recipient of two Silver Stars, both awarded for actions taken as a JTAC-certified member of the TACP. The first award came for directing hundreds of strikes over a three-day battle in 2003, and the second award came for exposing himself to enemy fire while directing danger-close support from an AC-130.

And Tech Sgt. Robert Gutierrez received the Air Force Cross for directing air strikes in 2009 that saved his entire team, despite the fact that he was severely wounded with a “softball-sized” hole in his back that he didn’t expect to survive. At the time, Guteirrez was just shy of full JTAC certification, and had to get another operator to give the final OK for the mission. But it was his math and decision making, calculated while under fire and medical treatment, that saved the day.

Meanwhile, when British Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, went to war in Afghanistan, he went as a JTAC. And even he ended up deep in the fight, once manning a .50-cal. machine gun to fend off an insurgent attack alongside a bunch of British Gurkhas.

As a matter of fact, the Air Force’s JTACs have been so successful that the Marine Corps has actually adopted the term for referring to some of their forward air controllers, and has launched new efforts to recruit the best Marines into the job.

So yeah, don’t mess with the JTACs. Or do. We’re not your parents, and we’re not here to tell you how to lose your life.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 reasons you need a MilSpouse bestie

Your life as a military spouse is what you make it. There, I said it — it’s your responsibility to make yourself happy in this military life. Before you stop reading this article or leave me a nasty comment, give me a chance to explain.

I am a military spouse of twelve years and have been with my husband for fifteen years. I’ve moved eight times – from coast to coast and even to Alaska for a time. My first move with my husband was in 2006. I was only 21 years old. I left my family and all I knew, and two days after we arrived at our new duty station, my husband got underway on a boat for weeks.

I was alone, I didn’t have a job, friends, or even cable or internet!


It. Was. Horrible.

I remember feeling waves of depression and not wanting to get off the couch as I watched Grey’s Anatomy on DVD for the millionth time. I was isolating myself and never felt more alone in my life. Did you know that loneliness can literally hurt your brain?

One study found that loneliness was a risk factor of dementia later in life.

After a few days of living in this funk, I took a good hard look at myself. I saw my stained sweat pants, unwashed dishes, and wondered what I was doing. We had just PCS’d to one of the most beautiful beach towns in Florida, and here I was wasting away, getting paler by the minute. I got off that couch and set out to build a life.

I knew that I could stay in that space forever, but I was losing the opportunity of a lifetime in the process. This military life is beautiful – but it’s up to you to embrace it.

Fast forward to 2020 and I couldn’t imagine having any other life. MilSpouse life is my jam! I look forward to every PCS and see it as an adventure just waiting for me to dive into. Each new state is a new home filled with new foods to taste, cities to explore, and above all — friendships that await. Once you get off that couch and commit to building a life as a military spouse, the absolute best part of military life is waiting for you. Your future MilSpouse bestie is out there!

As military spouses, we are so lucky. We get to surround ourselves with people that we immediately have a connection with. A community that gets every annoying, frustrating and beautiful part of military life. You don’t have to say a word and these military spouse brothers and sisters see you and completely get it. There’s no fumbling about the weather or times of awkward silences – you are instantly in a circle that’s welcoming you with open arms.

So, what are you waiting for?

Here are my top seven reasons why you need to get up off your couch, change out of those sweat pants, and find your MilSpouse bestie:

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

1. They know the best hair stylist or barber

This information has been handed down like the holy grail to them and they are just waiting to share that beautiful treasure with you.

2. Got a nightmare PCS story to share? Pull up a chair. 

Your future BFF wants to hear all about it and compare notes with theirs.

3. They’ve already scoped out all of the medical doctors, dentists, and specialists

Making decisions on your healthcare is exhausting and nerve-racking. They’ll be there to help you with the feedback you need to make your choices more securely.

4. Deployment sucks

They’ll let you cry on their couch, vent out your anger or hibernate alone for a few days. At the exact time you need them to, they’ll drag you on some adventure that’ll make those deployment days fly by. Your MilSpouse bestie will save you – I know, mine saved me.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

5. Your holidays will be merry and bright

The military spouse community will fill your holidays with so much joy and laughter that you’ll be okay FaceTiming your family when you can’t go home. Friendsgiving all day every day.

6. They’ll carry you through the hard times

Whether it’s deployment, missing your family, or an unspeakable tragedy, they’ll carry you through loss that feels unbearable. I’ve held my friends through the broken space of experiencing a miscarriage, and when I went through my own years later, their strength kept me from drowning in grief. They’ve got you.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

7. Mission first? No problem

The needs of the service will always come first. The needs of the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Air Force will always come above your birthday, anniversary, or planned dates. Know it, embrace it, and have a plan B.

Your spouse is working late and missing the delicious dinner you made? No problem, call your bestie to come over and eat with you. Date canceled because of a last-minute training exercise? Totally okay because now you can go see that RomCom with your friends instead. I absolutely treasure my time with MilSpouse besties – because at this point, they are spread all over the country.

I have friends that I can call anytime, anywhere, and know that they’ll be there. It’s a beautiful life and one I choose to make wherever we are. Even with all of the hard pages of my MilSpouse story, thanks to my besties, I would go back and do it all over again.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This ‘Alien’ costume is the father-daughter pairing to beat

Some kids dress up as cute animals for Halloween, some dress up as pretty princesses… and some dress up as Ellen Ripley from the 1986 thriller Aliens. To pay homage to James Cameron’s sci-fi series — and perhaps to pass some movie wisdom onto the next generation — one dad created a costume to beat all costumes for him and his daughter.

It’s a real-life replica of the power loader that Ellen wears in the movie to destroy the Queen. And this dad definitely took the “real-life” thing to a new level when he built the highlight of the whole get-up: the fully-functioning forklift feature for his daughter to sit in, complete with retractable supports.


Unsurprisingly, Reddit, along with everyone else on the internet, is going crazy over it. And we have so many questions. What is it made of? How on earth did he manage to build this monstrosity? And isn’t it heavy?!

But how this dad created the realistic robot costume might not be all that different from how the original one came into existence. In 2016, 30 years after Aliens was made, director James Cameron revealed the process of building the power loader.

“We were literally down on the floor, cutting out big pieces of foam core,” he explained, “We hung it on a pipe frame and we had a guy stand there and put his hands down into the elbows of the arms and lift them.”

While the details of this dad’s robot suit are unclear, one thing is for sure: Any parent who not only builds a costume this cool but also carries it (and his daughter) around all night trick-or-treating deserves more than one award. And a couple pieces of her Halloween candy, too.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 very good boys and girls who are military heroes

Our military does an incredible job of protecting our global interests, but they don’t do it alone. They’ve got a bunch of very good doggies that help them out.

Case in point: President Donald Trump announced in October 2019 that a military dog named Conan played a role in the raid against ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in northwest Syria, but he’s far from the first dog to help out the military.

Dogs have been working as bomb sniffers, message carriers, and guards for US military branches since at least World War I, when a stray Boston bull terrier wandered on to an Army training field and went on to become a unit’s mascot as they traveled to Europe.


In the decades following, trained dogs traveled across the world as they worked with the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. And their natural skills and instincts are honed in training, making these dogs become the perfect working companions for the troops.

Some of the dogs even became military heroes, sniffing out the enemy, and attacking when needed.

Here are some of the good dogs who have helped the US military over the years.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

Stubby the dog.

(Purple Heart Foundation)

1. Stubby, a Boston bull terrier, is the most famous US military mascot from World War I.

Before Stubby became the famed dog he is today, he was just a stray pooch who wandered his way on to an Army training center in New Haven, Connecticut.

While on the training grounds in 1917, Private First Class Robert Conroy took him in and Stubby ended up on the front lines of World War I as the mascot for the 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division of the United States Army.

According to The Purple Heart Foundation, Stubby took part in 17 battles, detected traces of gas to warn soldiers, located wounded men on battlefields, and learned drills and bugle calls, and how to decipher English from German.

Following his efforts, Stubby participated in parades, met three presidents, and received dozens of awards, including a Purple Heart.

Stubby died in 1926, and his coat is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, The Military Times reported.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

Rags with Sergeant George E. Hickman, 16th Infantry, 26th Division.

(US Army Signal Corps)

2. Rags was a message carrier for troops in Europe during World War I.

Rags, a stray terrier in Paris during World War I, became a war hero after befriending US Army Private James Donovan in 1918, according to K9 History.

The dog soon became a carrier for Donovan’s unit, carrying messages from the 26th Infantry Regiment to the supporting 7th Field Artillery Brigade.

Rags lost an eye and Donovan was injured by poisonous gas during the Meuse-Argonne Campaign, a major battle in France in 1918. Donovan later died of his injuries.

Rags, meanwhile, lived out his life in Maryland, and died in 1936.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

3. Chips is the most famous dog of World War II — and he once single-handedly attacked a hidden German gun nest.

After the US entered World War II, thousands of people donated their dogs to be trained for guard and patrol duty, and Chips was one of them.

The German shepherd-collie-husky mix took part in Allied campaigns in North Africa, Italy, France, and elsewhere in Europe, and was able to take down a hidden German gun nest during the 1943 invasion of Sicily, according to Inside Edition.

He later went on to guard a conference between British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Chips was honored with a Silver Star and was nominated for a Distinguished Service Cross and a Purple Heart, The Washington Post Reported.

He returned home a hero in 1945 and died the following year.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

4. A German Shepherd named Nemo protected his handler during the Vietnam War.

The US Air Force bought Nemo, a German Shepherd in 1964 as part of a Vietnam War guard dog program, according to Ton Son Nhut Air Base’s website.

He was put through training, partnered with Airman 2nd Class Robert Throneburg, and sent to Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon, Vietnam, to be a guard dog with the 377th Air Police Squadron.

During an attack in 1966, Tan Son Nut Air Base was hit by a mortar attack by the Viet Cong.

It was Nemo’s job to find any intruders who infiltrated the base, and, upon finding a group hiding near the perimeter, he attacked with Throneburg close behind.

Throneburg and Nemo were injured in the incident, but Nemo was credited with his handler’s survival.

Nemo was later sent home as a war hero, and he worked as a recruitment dog in his retirement.

He died in 1972.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

Dustin Lee and Lex in Iraq.

(Photo by L. Rich)

5. Lex, who served as a bomb-sniffing dog in Fallujah, Iraq, and was given an honorary Purple Heart.

Lex, a German Shepherd, was a bomb-sniffing dog in Fallujah, Iraq.

When a mortar attack hit in 2007, Lex was left injured and his handler, Marine Cpl. Dustin Jerome Lee, 20, was killed in Fallujah, Iraq.

Lex recovered from his wounds at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and was awarded an honorary Purple Heart in 2008.

Lee’s family ended up adopting Lex when he took an early retirement.

“We knew that’s what Dustin would have wanted out of this,” Jerome Lee, the slain Marine’s father, told the Associated Press at the time. “He knew that we would take care of Lex and love him, just like our own.”

Lex died in 2012.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

A United States Air Force Belgian Malinois.

6. Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, was part of the SEAL team that took down al-Qaida’s longtime leader, Osama bin Laden in 2011.

Cairo was part of the SEAL Team 6 that helped take down al-Qaida’s longtime leader, Osama bin Laden, in a 2011 raid in Pakistan.

Though there are no available photos of Cairo, his story should be known.

According to the Military Times, Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, was trained to stand guard, control crowds, sniff for bombs, and look for booby traps.

During the mission to take down bin Laden in 2011, Cairo was part of a perimeter team, according to an account of the raid from the New Yorker.

Plans reportedly called for Cairo to search for false walls and hidden doors if the al-Qaida leader couldn’t be found.

Former President Barack Obama met the dog when meeting with SEALS who were part of the mission.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

Heroic US Marine dog Lucca.

(Photo by Cpl. Jennifer Pirante)

7. Lucca completed more than 400 missions and rooted out more than three dozen explosive devices.

Lucca, a half-German shepherd, half-Belgian Malinois, helped find nearly 40 explosive devices while working as a bomb detector in Afghanistan.

Both German shepherds and Belgian Malinois are known for being extremely smart, aggressive, and loyal.

Lucca served in the military for six years, completing more than 400 missions with no human casualties, according to the Huffington Post.

She lost her leg in a roadside IED explosion in 2012 while she was off-leash, the Military Times reported.

Her handler, Cpl. Juan Rodriguez, ran past a known IED to apply a tourniquet and carry her back to safety.

Lucca then retired to California to live with Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Willingham.

“She is the only reason I made it home to my family and I am fortunate to have served with her,” Willingham said at the time. “In addition to her incredible detection capabilities, Lucca was instrumental in increasing morale for the troops we supported.”

She received a Dickin Medal in London in 2016, the highest valor award for animals in the UK.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

Wonderful dog, Conan.

(White House photo)

8. Conan was injured while taking down Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State terrorist group.

A Belgian Malinois named Conan helped take down Islamic State terrorist group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October 2019.

President Donald Trump published a photo of the Conan on Twitter, after announcing he had “declassified a picture of the wonderful dog” after the Pentagon had declined to reveal any information about the dog.

The dog’s name was unknown for days, but Trump later tweeted that the dog’s name was Conan.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said at a news conference that Conan was “slightly wounded” during the mission to take down al-Baghdadi.

Trump had said a day earlier that US forces found al-Baghdadi in Syria hiding in a tunnel with three of his children.

Trump said that while at least one military dog pursued him, al-Baghdadi activated an explosive vest, killing himself and his children.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

Fighting fire with chainsaws

The sun was already bright and warm when I pulled up at the Twin Springs Preserve in Williamson County, Texas just before 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Stepping out of my car, I shielded my eyes to take in the dense stands of ash juniper and white oak trees against the cloudless blue sky. It felt unusually spring-like for early February; I opted to shuck my jacket.

With my back to the road and neighborhood, I could imagine this area north of Austin as the verdant forest it once was. But the human population of Williamson County has tripled over the last several decades, encroaching on the wildland. In 2009, the county bought 175 acres to create a preserve and mitigate against the destruction of natural habitat. In addition to wild turkeys, foxes, deer, and raccoons, Twin Springs is home to several threatened or endangered species, including the bone cave harvestman spider, Salido salamander, and golden-cheeked warbler.


The beauty and peacefulness of the preserve belie a hidden danger. Here, the forest floor is strewn with grasses, shrubs, and the litter of fallen leaves and branches. In hot, dry conditions, those materials become tinder. All it takes is a sustained wind and an errant spark—from a discarded cigarette, say, a car’s exhaust system, or a lightning strike—for the tinder to catch fire. Unchecked, the flames can climb to the upper canopy and then quickly spread from tree to tree.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

Cleaning up after the West Fire that hit Alpine, CA, in 2018.

Canopy fires are intense, fast-moving, and virtually unstoppable says Kyle McKnight, an Emergency Management Specialist with Williamson County. “A canopy fire could very rapidly progress to these homeowners, causing millions of dollars of losses and potentially loss of human life as well,” he said. “Look at what is happening in California. We’ve seen a huge loss of life and property.”

id=”listicle-2646945029″ OF PREVENTION VS. OF CURE

Greater Austin, which includes Williamson County, ranks fifth in the nation among metropolitan areas at risk for wildfires according to a recent report by CoreLogic, an online property data service. The only areas at greater risk are all in California.

Rather than wait to react to the inevitable wildfires, Williamson County officials put together a comprehensive plan to mitigate risk. “According to FEMA, [the Federal Emergency Management Association], on average, every id=”listicle-2646945029″ spent in mitigation results in of saved cost from fighting the fires and recovery from damage,” says McKnight. In some areas with more expensive real estate, he says, the return is as high as for every id=”listicle-2646945029″ invested in prevention.

The Williamson County mitigation plan calls for creating a 50-foot wide shaded fuel break along the perimeter of Twin Creeks Preserve, McKnight explains. The idea is to take out debris and shrubs, and remove tree limbs up to about 8 feet above ground, leaving the shaded canopy to keep the forest cooler and discourage the growth of flammable understory plants.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

Clearing a blowdown on a road after Colorado’s Spring Creek fire.

What Williamson County didn’t have, however, was the budget or manpower to carry out the work. That’s where Team Rubicon came in. For two weekends in February, teams of about 50 volunteers—known by Team Rubicon as Greyshirts—worked steadily to make the forest and surrounding neighborhoods safer by creating a shaded fuel break.

A BLUE-SKY OPERATION

The morning I arrive, the preserve is a beehive of activity. The insistent buzz of chainsaws and mechanical drone of woodchippers cut through the morning air. It smells amazing, like walking into a freshly built cedar closet.

Oscar Arauco, the Texas State Administrator for Team Rubicon, has me don a hard hat, goggles, and earplugs before we survey the worksite. As we walk, he explains that Team Rubicon coordinates “gray skies” operations to provide relief after disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, which roiled the Gulf coast in 2017, and “blue skies” prevention operations such as this that help mitigate risk. Often, Team Rubicon uses such mitigation work to further educate and train sawyers and other Greyshirts, too.

Like 70% of the people involved in Team Rubicon, Arauco is a military veteran, having served for 28 years as a U.S. Army artillery officer and chaplain. (The remaining members are affectionately known as kick-ass civilians, he explains.) Once Team Rubicon identifies a need and defines a project, a call for help goes out to members living within a 450-mile radius. With the exception of a couple of paid project managers, everyone here is a volunteer. Most have driven in for the weekend and are bunking on cots at the nearby First Baptist Church of Georgetown.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

Clearing debris for fire mitigation in the Twin Springs Preserve.

Arauco points out that the busy work site is well organized into sets of three teams, each supervised by a strike leader. People known as “sawyers” use pole saws and chainsaws to take out tree limbs and vegetation up to the 8-foot mark. “Swampers” carry the woody material to the perimeter where the “chippers” feed it into wood chippers to turn it into mulch that goes back into the preserve.

I’m struck by the diversity of Greyshirts and the lack of traditional hierarchies—a young woman is just as apt to be leading a team as an older man. That’s one of the things Arauco says he likes most about his work. “I love that Team Rubicon values service over any other factor,” he says. “There are no age- or gender-specific roles. It’s all about pulling your weight and getting the job done.”

FORMER ARMY MEDIC TURNS HER FOCUS TO HEALTHY FORESTS

M.D. Kidd, who takes a break from the chainsaw to talk, is one of the younger faces in the group. She served as a medic in the U.S. Army from 2011 to 2015 and then trained as a wildland firefighter for the Southwest Conservation Corp in Colorado. In 2017, she joined Team Rubicon and underwent training to become a regional chainsaw instructor. Now a full-time college student majoring in sociology and public health, Kidd says she would eventually like to work for the Peace Corps. For her, volunteering with Team Rubicon is the way to serve both people and the environment.

She points out that fire is a natural part of the cycle for healthy forests, but for more than a century people have focused on suppressing fires, leaving the tinder-like material to build up. “The longer we suppress fires and leave the fuel sitting there, the worse it is in the long run,” she said. “So efforts that mitigate the risk of fire are hugely important. As with medicine, I think prevention is really the way to go.”

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

To mitigate against fire, Greyshirts take tree limbs out up to the 8-foot mark.

Kidd and others say a big reason they volunteer on mitigation projects like this for Team Rubicon is the break from routine it provides, and the camaraderie. “The reason I am so passionate about this organization is that it provides a purpose for veterans,” says Patrick Smith, a 23-year U.S. Army veteran who is coordinating logistics for the operation. Smith works as a Deputy Sheriff in charge of animal cruelty for Harris County and as a physician’s assistant at Memorial Herman Hospital in Houston. “Team Rubicon takes our skills and experience and finds a place where they can be put to good use,” he says.

Greyshirt Keith Elwell, a former project engineer for the defense industry, joined in 2018 after seeing people in Houston trying to cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on the news. “Man, I’m sitting there just watching. I’m thinking ‘I’ve got some skills. I can help. I can do stuff’,” he says. He has now gained enough training and experience as a sawyer to mentor others.

Since then, he says, he’s “been all over the place”—from clearing trees felled by a fierce storm in Wisconsin to tearing down homes destroyed by Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Florida to cleaning up after the Mississippi River Flooded in Vicksburg, Tennessee. “There are all different roles and no two situations are the same,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate enough to help people on the worst day of their lives.”

OVER TWO WEEKENDS, MONTHS GET WHITTLED AWAY

It’s hard to put into words how meaningful the mitigation effort is to the county officials and inhabitants of this scenic area, says Mark Pettigrew, a Trails and Preserves Steward for Williamson County. We sat down on a couple of flat rocks in front of the trailhead and he gestured to the activity around us. “I’m one of only two main employees for the Williamson County Conservation Foundation. To get all this done would have taken us months and months,” he says.

Pettigrew points to the area in front of us, where the preserve abuts a busy road and neighborhood. The teams are mostly finished here and it looks like an arboretum with a wide, mulched path shaded by a graceful canopy of trees. “The most hazardous area is along this road and we’ve got the whole place completely cleared out and ready to go,” he says. “It’s phenomenal.”

Without the help of the Team Rubicon Greyshirts, it’s not clear when—or if—fire mitigation in the preserve would get done. As the county’s Emergency Management Specialist, McKnight says he knows that there’s currently no budget for the work. Grants often require extra steps and cost matching. “It’s a creative strategy for getting projects like this done,” says McKnight. “It requires a minimal investment on our behalf—some food and porta-potties—and we’re saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor costs. It’s a win-win.”

By the time I’d wrapped up, the day had shaped up to be unseasonably warm with low humidity—pleasant, but concerning, too, given what I had learned about wildfire risk. Climate change is bringing wave after wave of record heat to the Austin area. Last September was the hottest on record, with nearly three straight weeks of triple-digit temperatures.

On the way back to my car another Team Rubicon Greyshirt, Sam Brokenshire, stopped me. He wanted me to leave with a sense of scale for just how much the group had accomplished. At the end of the two-weekend project, he says, the team will have removed about 4,000 cubic yards—about 90 dumpsters worth—of brush.

Seeing people out working for the common good means a lot, says Brokenshire. “Yesterday, a guy from the neighborhood pulled up to thank us for the work we are doing,” he says. “That makes it all worth it.”

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

Some of the Team Rubicon Greyshirts who worked on the Williamson County fire mitigation project.

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


MIGHTY CULTURE

This armed anti-poacher unit was inspired by Army Rangers

It shouldn’t be surprising that the majority of professional wildlife protectors in Africa are men, but this group of ‘Brave Ones’ are proving why women deserve a place among their ranks.

Called the Akashinga (a word that means ‘the brave ones’), this armed, all-female, anti-poacher unit has made 72 arrests since October 2017 — without firing a single shot.


Zimbabwe’s women’s anti-poaching group protecting elephants – BBC News

www.youtube.com

Damien Mander served in the Australian military as a clearance diver and special operations sniper. According to the BBC, after his military service he felt increasingly dissatisfied with his life, until “a stint in Southern Africa opened his eyes to the escalating plight of elephants and rhinos,” who were being illegally slaughtered for ivory.

Mander created the International Anti-Poaching Foundation, which brought a militarized approach to animal protection. It was successful — but it wasn’t sustainable. He realized that he needed to involve the local population. In 2015, he read about the U.S. Army Ranger School’s female graduates and was inspired. He decided to recruit women to become wildlife rangers for Africa.

According to the International Anti-Poaching Foundation, trophy hunting areas across Africa take up an expanse greater than all of France. Meanwhile, “a woman with a salary in rural Africa invests up to three times more than a male into their family.” By employing women from these communities, Akashinga created a program that affords a better financial return than what trophy hunting provided.

And it works.

Not only have the Akashinga been successfully carrying out their mission, they have also been operating without any hint of corruption. Most of the women have adopted a vegan and sober lifestyle. They educate children and invest in their community.

Last night #IAPF’s Akashinga team led to a successful raid. The result: Two men arrested and charged with illegal hunting and possession of game meat. The patrol recovered a spear and dried bush meat. Their court date is pending. Great job team! http://www.iapf.org/donate pic.twitter.com/A1C44JmM8o

twitter.com

While it’s too early to predict the long-term viability of the program, early successes are worth investing in. The International Anti-Poaching Foundation aims to recruit a total of 2000 women, protecting a network spanning 30 million acres of African wilderness by 2030, according to the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.

Featured image via the International Anti-Poaching Foundation Facebook page.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out photos of Marines practicing air assaults

Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California — In a magnificent display of combat power, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) demonstrated its ability to lift a regiment of Marines and their equipment over long distances in a very short period of time in Southern California, Dec. 10, 2019.

Muddy and exhausted with dark clouds looming, the Marines trekked across a rain-soaked field, their footprints embedding into the mud with every weighted step. They marched toward the distant sound of rotor blades.


US Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallions and MV-22B Ospreys with 3rd MAW waited on the horizon, ready to fulfill their role and extract the warriors following a training event that began with inserting Marines from 1st Marine Division.

Overhead, two UH-1Y Venoms secured an unseen 3-dimensional perimeter, ready to provide support if needed. This is what a regimental air assault looks like.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

Four US Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallions take off during exercise Steel Knight at El Centro, California, December 10, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Julian Elliott-Drouin)

“The regimental air assault is part of Steel Knight 20, which is a 1st Marine Division exercise,” explained US Marine Corps Col. William J. Bartolomea, the commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 39, 3rd MAW.

“But of course, as Marines and as Marine Pilots, we are always supporting our brothers and sisters on the ground. We’re involved because the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) is better when all of its elements are put together.”

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

Helicopter Support Team Marines prepare an M777 Howitzer for external lift during exercise Steel Knight in El Centro, California, December 10, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Julian Elliott-Drouin)

The regimental air assault used a variety of 3rd MAW Marines and machines and integrated each of their capabilities into an adaptable aviation maneuver, all working in support of the ground combat element.

“I think more than anything else, it provides versatility and flexibility,” said Bartolomea. “The air assault portion provides the ground element the ability to maneuver in three dimensions and bypass enemy strong points to get at enemy weak points. The flexibility and the range of fire power that 3rd MAW and MAG 39 brings in support of 1st Marine Division is critical to make sure they can achieve their objectives.”

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

US Marines load onto an MV-22B Osprey for a regimental air assault during exercise Steel Knight at Camp Pendleton, California, December 10, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Warrant Officer Justin M. Pack)

The regimental air assault is one of the many exercises 3rd MAW performs in order to provide realistic and relevant training in support of ground operations.

“Training like this is vital to individual and unit readiness,” said Capt. Valerie Smith, a pilot with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 465, MAG-16. “Integrating aviation in the same manner that it would be used in a MAGTF gives the Marines the training they need to remain aggressive, prepared and focused on operational excellence.”

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

US Marines prepare for a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel during exercise Steel Knight in El Centro, California, December 10, 2019.

(Photo by US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Juan Anaya)

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

Four MV-22B Ospreys arrive for a regimental air assault during exercise Steel Knight on Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, California, December 10, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Warrant Officer Justin M. Pack)

“At the end of the day,” said Bartolomea, “this combined effort puts our enemies in a dilemma that gets our ground combat element to the objective they need, giving us a lethal edge on the battle field.”

The Super Stallions and Ospreys lifted off from the rain-soaked field, their precise and graceful movements a visible testament to the rigorous training required of aircrews.

The Marines, loaded in the fuselage, looked back on the landing zone as gusts from the rotors blew away all traces of them ever being there save for the muddied footprints they left behind as a reminder of their presence and the lethal capabilities of the force that moved them.

Air assaults of this magnitude are and will continue to be a vital part of the 3rd MAW’s preparation as they train and focus on naval integration and ship-to-shore transport, connecting the naval force and its warriors. The regimental air assault is but one example of how 3rd MAW supports the Navy-Marine Corps warfighting team.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How US soldier got his wife to join the Army

Staff Sgt. Joshua Mitchell is used to talking with various people about military careers and the benefits that are offered to those who choose to wear the uniform and serve their country as a soldier. As a recruiter in the Malden, Massachusetts area, he is constantly talking to strangers, even off-duty, according to his wife Eunjee.

“The first year after I moved to America, I knew I needed a car,” Eunjee said. “We went to the car dealership and he recruited the car dealer.”

The couple met in Korea while Staff Sgt. Mitchell was stationed there. Originally meeting online and then they met face-to-face for the first time on New Year’s Day. They married shortly after and Eunjee Mitchell immigrated to the U.S. where her husband became a recruiter. She often would hear the conversations her husband had about joining the military. After two years of listening to her husband, she decided enlisting was the right choice for her.


“He was interviewing other recruiters and one was Korean like me. She told me how the Army helps her a lot to speak (better) English and get her involved in the community,” said Eunjee Mitchell. “The conversation with her gave me the thought that I could try.”

She enlisted as a 92A — Automated Logistical Specialist in the Army Reserves.

“I knew hanging around with me she would be interested in the Army but I didn’t think she would (join),” said Staff Sgt. Mitchell. “I definitely wrote her contract.”

After 10-weeks of South Carolina’s famously hot summer weather, Eunjee Mitchell walked across Fort Jackson’s Hilton Field with the rest of her company as they graduate Basic Combat Training. With three bachelor degrees, she graduated with the rank of specialist.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

Staff Sgt. Joshua Mitchell, left, walks with his wife Spc. Eunjee Mitchell during the Fort Jackson Family Day on July 31, 2019.

(Photo by Alexandra Shea)

While she knew her husband would be attending her ceremony, Staff Sgt. Mitchell was able to arrive to the installation early and surprise his wife during the Family Day dress rehearsal.

“While I was waiting behind the trees, I was trying to stay calm. I was very emotional,” said Spc. Mitchell.

She instantly recognized her husband on the parade field and knew “my recruiter is here.”

“I saw him and he was in uniform so I recognized him because he’s so tall,” she said.

Standing at six-feet, five-inches, Staff Sgt. Mitchell is not easily missed. Since immigrating to a new country and culture, Spc. Mitchell has never been separated from her husband, until attending Basic Combat Training.

“I didn’t see her until she was walking out,” said Staff Sgt. Mitchell. “She’s a tough little lady. I’m crazy proud of her.”

The couple were allowed to speak for a short time before Spc. Mitchell had to return to her daily duties. The following day they were reunited for Family Day where they were able to spend an entire day together visiting various parts of the installation and get lunch together.

After the graduation ceremony, Spc. Mitchell traveled back to her home state with her husband. Once there, Spc. Mitchell will rejoin her Reserve unit and attend Advanced Individual Training in the coming months.

When asked what her future might look like now that BCT is complete, Spc. Mitchell said she is excited to begin her new career and possibly a family. She also explained how her experience on Fort Jackson has helped her to understand her husband and brings them closer as a couple.

“The first year we were married I didn’t understand the little things like why he didn’t want to take his boots off in the house,” said Spc. Mitchell. “I understand him more now.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

US snipers train with ally to sharpen shooting skills

The art of sniping is more than just proper cover, concealment and sight alignment; it demands vigilant situational awareness, flawless timing and solid arithmetic skills.

U.S. soldiers had a five-day Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) with Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers at a base outside of Amman, Jordan, in October 2019. The Military Engagement Team-Jordan (MET-J), 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard; in collaboration with Jordan Operational Engagement Program (JOEP) soldiers; 1st Squadron, 102nd Cavalry Regiment, 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 42nd Infantry Division, New Jersey National Guard.


“As a group, we [MET-J, JOEP] were able to collaborate and come up with a good exchange,” said U.S. Army Master Sgt. Johnny Vidrio, with MET-J, 158th MEB, AZANG, “The sniper field is a perishable skill so you have to use it a lot to retain it. We are working with the JAF to keep our exchanges going.”

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

A U.S. Army soldier, with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, adjusts the scope of a Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers’ rifle during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)

Snipers are known for their specialization in shooting targets from long-range distances with a modified weapon, as well as their reconnaissance abilities. Vidrio, who served as the Sniper SMEE team lead, has more than 20 years’ experience with various weapons systems through his civilian and military occupations.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

A U.S. Army Soldier, with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, discusses a mathematical equation with Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) Soldiers during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)

Vidrio explained how the MET-J shared information on how the U.S. Army executes sniper tasks and in turn, the Jordanians shared their way of doing the same task. The exchange not only reviewed basic sniper skills but incorporated different approaches to instruct the material to other soldiers. The two nations were able to work through the Jordanians’ Basic Sniper Manuel which provided a platform for the Jordanian snipers to hone their basic skills and enhance their teaching techniques.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

A rifle faces downrange during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange between Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, and the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)

“The more you teach with a group, the more comfortable you will feel teaching by yourself,” explained Vidrio, “That’s what we were doing, helping them feel comfortable about teaching.”

MET-J facilitates and conducts military-to-military engagements with regional partners within the U.S. Army Central area of responsibility in order to build military partner capability and capacity, enhance interoperability and build relationships.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

A Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) sniper looks downrange through a tactical monocular during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)

Areas covered during the Sniper SMEE included setting up a comfortable firing position, weapons maintenance, correcting malfunctions, zeroing and determining wind values, to name a few. The snipers discussed how half value, full value, tail and headwinds affect the drift of a bullet. They examined techniques to find the directional movement of wind, such as observing the path of dust, smoke, trash or mirage waves, that are near an intended target. Target range estimation was calculated through a mathematical equation, but each nation used a different formula.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers practice setting up firing positions during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)

“They [JAF] have a different calculation for range estimation, this was new to American snipers,” said Vidrio “We learned a whole new way of estimating distance and ranges.”

SMEEs allow open information flow and an opportunity for coalition soldiers to work together, learn and grow from one another, which is beneficial to both counties. The United States is committed to the security of Jordan and to partnering closely with the JAF to meet common security challenges.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers hold certificates of appreciation given to them by U.S. Army Soldiers after the completion of a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)

One soldier who expressed favor in ongoing SMEEs with U.S. Army was JAF Sgt. 1st Class Ghareeb Alaomary, sniper instructor and logistics coordinator. He too specifically found value in the transfer of knowledge with the arithmetical equation calculations for target distance and range. “The mathematic equation formulas given [by the U.S.] were new information for us,” explained Alaomary, “It added to their [JAF snipers] knowledge to help make more accurate calculations.”

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers pose for a photo after the completion of a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at Joint Training Center-Jordan in October 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)

According to Alaomary, the exchange between the two countries was engaging and an abundance of wisdom was shared, which resulted in a successful exchange. They plan to take the knowledge gained through the Sniper SMEE back to their individual units to cross-train with their comrades.

“I would like to give a special thanks for the effort you [U.S. Army] have dedicated to the students and the valuable information you have provided,” said Alaomary.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

A U.S. Army Soldier, with 1st Squadron, 102nd Cavalry Regiment, 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 42nd Infantry Division, New Jersey National Guard, looks downrange through a tactical monocular during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange between the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) and Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)

The U.S. military has a long-standing relationship with Jordan to support our mutual objectives by providing military assistance to the JAF consistent with our national interests. Our people and governments have a historic, unbreakable, strategic relationship that spans decades and different administrations. Jordan is not only one of the United States’ closest allies in the region but in the world as a whole. This isn’t going to change.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why taking a swing at the drill sergeant is a horrible, stupid idea

Life in the military isn’t for everyone. It’s totally understandable if you get started, realize it’s just not the life you’ve envisioned for yourself, and seek a different path. Best of luck with that, dude. Be a productive and helpful member of society in whatever way you feel best.

Yet, for some odd reason, whenever douchebags open their mouths and offer an unnecessary excuse for not serving, they’ll offer the same tired, anti-authoritarian, pseudo-macho, bullsh*t along the lines of, “I couldn’t do it because I’d knock that drill sergeant out if he got in my face.”

Okay, tough guy. 99 percent of the time, you’ll lose that fight — no contest. That other one percent of the time, when you put up a brief fight, you’ll end up wishing a broken nose was the worst thing you had coming.


First and foremost, drill instructors, Marine combat instructors, drill sergeants, military training instructors, and recruit division commanders are highly disciplined and trained to never initiate a physical altercation. They’ll yell, they’ll get in your face, and they’ll generally treat you like the lowest form of scum on this Earth to break you down before building you up into what Uncle Sam needs. Picking a fight with you is pointless when they’ve got thousands of other tools in their repertoire.

And if they start getting physical without being provoked, the consequences are severe. It’s not completely unheard of, but reports of drill sergeants resorting to violence are few and far between — even when considering old-school drill sergeants. Of course they’re going to threaten it — stressing out and terrifying recruits is kinda their shtick— but they can’t even touch your uniform to correct a deficiency without informing you they’re going to do so, let alone take the first swing.

Now. Up until this point in the article, the disclaimer of “starting the fight” has been attached to each and every instance of hypothetical ass-beatings. What happens to the sorry sack of crap who tries to assault a non-commissioned officer in the United States Armed Forces? Well…

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

Ever wonder why they’re always in PTs?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Pedro Cardenas)

Spoiler alert: It won’t end well.

In order to reach the point where they’re screaming in your face, an instructor has undergone intensive hand-to-hand training — to later teach it to young recruits. In the Army, you can’t teach combatives unless you’ve undergone an intensive one-week course specifically on training a platoon-sized element and another two-week course on training a company-sized element. All of this is in addition to whatever personal CQC training they’ve undertaken.

And then there’s the size disparity. Drill sergeants and drill instructors are, generally, physical monsters. That “make you pass out” smoke session is a warm-up for most instructors. They PT in the morning with the troops, with them again throughout the day to prove “it’s nothing, so quit b*tching,” and then find time to hit the gym afterwards. Technically, a drill sergeant just needs to pass their PT test, but it’s rare to find one that doesn’t get a (or near to a) 300.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

And because this will get mentioned in the comments: Hell no. A drill sergeant would never lose their military bearing by recording a brawl between a troublesome recruit and another drill sergeant and uploading it to the internet.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton)

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the hyper-macho scumbag lands a good one and they aren’t given an impromptu tracheotomy via knife-hand. Before that clown can clench their other fist, each and every other instructor in the area will pounce. Drill sergeants are loyal to their own, so expect them to join in swinging — even if they clearly have the fight won.

Finally, there’re the repercussions. The fool that initiates a fight is going to jail and is getting swiftly kicked out with a dishonorable discharge — no ifs, ands, or buts. Don’t expect that court-martial to go over well when every instructor there is a credible witness and the other recruits who watched have recently been instilled with military values. No one will back up the scumbag.

Keep very much in mind — these instructors will never lose their military bearing. Dropping that bearing for even a fraction of a second could mean the loss of the campaign hat they worked so hard to earn. There’s no way in hell that one asshat will take that away from them when they know countless ways to deal with them that don’t involve realigning their teeth.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A soldier faked his way into the 82nd Airborne – and almost everything else

Jumping from a perfectly good airplane is inherently dangerous, even for qualified Army Airborne personnel. Why someone would fake their way into jumping without being certified or trained is anyone’s guess, but there was Staff Sgt. Joshua Stokes in August 2014, making the jump. Somehow, he landed like a paratrooper, and no one would figure out his entire Army life was a sham.

Not yet, anyway.


Stokes was on his way to a staff position at his battalion headquarters when his company’s Air NCO noticed something was off about his Airborne Graduation Certificate. His was the only one in the entire 82d whose name wasn’t printed in all caps. It was just the first in a long line of falsified documents that Stokes had in his service record. The Air NCO wasn’t going to let it go. When Stokes wouldn’t produce the paperwork for his parachutist badge, he called Fort Benning’s Airborne School.

That’s when the 82d Airborne discovered Staff Sgt. Joshua Stokes had never attended Airborne School. And the long effort to unravel all of Stokes’ false records began. It wasn’t only that he wasn’t jump qualified. There was much, much more, according to an Army Times story from 2018.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

A U.S. Soldier jumpmaster, assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division instructs Paratroopers from various units during pre-jump training at Pope Army Airfield, N.C., Aug. 7, 2019. Paratroopers perform routine airborne proficiency training to maintain their skills and keep readiness alive.

(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Gin-Sophie De Bellotte)

An Army investigation discovered the soldier had been sending false documents to the Electronic Military Personnel Office for almost as long as he’d been in the military. Some falsehoods were small, like claiming to have attended Sniper School and even being an instructor there for three years. Others were egregious, like claiming to have received the Purple Heart and Good Conduct Medal – for a time period before he was ever in the Army.

Stokes’ graduation certificate was dated for a Sunday, not a Friday as per Airborne tradition. HIs jump log lists dates of jumps he made when he was actually stationed with the 10th Mountain Division. He had never attended Sniper School, let alone work as an instructor. Stokes claimed to have finished Jump School, but he had never received jump pay. For all his denials, there are photos of Stokes wearing the Purple Heart in his dress uniform. Stokes’ Good Conduct Medal dates back to January 1992, when he was still in high school. He not only faked his way into the famed unit, he had faked his way through almost his entire Army career.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be

U.S. Army Paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division go through pre-jump safety procedures, Aug. 7, 2019, at Pope Army Airfield, N.C. During this procedure strong emphasis is placed on the way troops exit the Paratroop door to maximize their safety during the operation.

(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Gin-Sophie De Bellotte)

The real Stokes entered the military in the California National Guard with the name Asche before changing his name to Stokes. As Stokes, he entered active duty in May 2003. His first assignment was at Fort Drum with the 10th Mountain Division. His record shows he was a sniper then, but the Army’s Sniper School has no record of that. Army investigators found that at least ten false documents had been added on a single day in 2007.

Army Times found Stokes on Facebook and reached out for comment, but none was forthcoming. The Army confirmed with Army Times that Stokes was administratively separated from the Army sometime between the start of the investigation and the writing of the Army Times story, but could not explain why, as those records are protected by privacy laws. One thing is for certain, the Army believes Stokes falsified all the questionable documents and added them to his record on his own.

And he almost got away with it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the military goes out of its way for certain animals

Troops lose their mind when they have to go to either Fort Irwin or Twentynine Palms. They’re both in insanely hot climates, offer very little to do outside of training, and the living conditions are far worse than what POGs are accustomed to. Despite all that, everything comes to a standstill when a single desert tortoise shows up.

The same thing happens when a red-cockaded woodpecker appears at Fort Benning, Indiana bats at Fort Knox, and piping plovers at RTC Great Lakes. These are all objectively unpleasant military installations that have endemic species of animals that put a stop to training just by showing up.

This causes a headache for many troops in leadership positions and is the butt of many jokes among the junior enlisted. It stops becoming funny, however, when leadership tells their troops that they can’t leave behind even a single breadcrumb that could attract the predators of said animals.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be
The world’s premiere fighting force is brought to a stand-still because of one, adorable little turtle.
(Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)

This is all because the animals listed above are endangered and their safest habitats are on military installations.


Back in 1973, the Endangered Species Act was passed, stating that the government will do its part to protect its endangered animals and prosecute anyone who bring them harm. While it’s easy to issue out fines to anyone who accidentally kills a desert tortoise, it’s even easier (and you know, better) to take preventive measures and keep them alive.

The military does its part in a large way — far larger than most organizations dedicated to saving these species. In 2011 alone, the U.S. military spent $7.6 million on keeping desert tortoises safe — a grand total of over $100.9 million since 1993. That money has gone a long way in keeping these at-risk animals alive for many generations.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be
In the case of some tortoises, it’s many generations. You know, because they live longer than humans.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Williams)

“But these are just some dumb turtles!” someone in the back of the formation may yell. That class clown might be right — these tortoises could be dumb, indeed — but it doesn’t matter. If you allow one invasive fish, for example, to fade away because of the enormous amount of money required to protect it, then there’s a justification allowing any species to die out, putting the animal kingdom right back where it was in 1972.

Potential dumbness aside, every animal must be treated with the same delicate gloves or we risk losing them all.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be
And if you’re stationed anywhere in Hawaii, that means hundreds of different species.
(U.S. Army)

The next “good idea fairy” solution is to just move them away from military installations. It should be fairly obvious why taking slow-moving prey away from a habitat where they’re cared for and are kept safe from predators and tossing them into a new, unfamiliar landscape devoid of such protections is a bad idea. If you’re having trouble seeing why that’s a problem, we’ve got an example for you:

They tried this once with the desert tortoises at Fort Irwin in 2008. The logic behind it was that the tortoises would be far safer somewhere where they wouldn’t be accidentally blown to bits by troops in training. The relocation effort cost $50 million and, within a year, about 30% of all the tortoises (who have an average life-span of over 100 years) died before the program was scrapped.

There were many factors that contributed to the dying off of thousands of tortoises. First, being put in an unknown environment meant that they had no idea where the food or water was. This was made worse when packs of predators discovered an enormous buffet of food that couldn’t run or hide.

Here’s how the term ‘cannon fodder’ came to be
Turns out suffering theu00a0occasional mortar death is better than being gobbled up by a pack of coyotes.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)

There are over 400 species of endangered animals on military grounds and, even with human intervention, these are the best habitats for them. Each of the species that are protected by the U.S. Armed Forces are all carefully monitored to make sure that no harm comes to them.

It’s not uncommon for troops to incorporate their nesting grounds into their training. While preparing for a mission, their nests are treated in the same way as schools or hospitals in the battlefield. Troops just avoid them at all costs.

The good news is that this ongoing effort to protect them has yielded some very visible results. While there are outliers in the desert tortoise populations (California droughts are partially to blame), animal populations at other installations have all boomed in recent years. Simply adjusting fire from one part of the range to another at Joint Base Lewis-McChord has helped the streaked horned lark population almost quadruple in less than a decade.

Protecting these species requires a little effort and a creates bit of inconvenience, but it’s been proven that the military installations these animals call home are truly the best places for these species to thrive.

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