Being in the military is a physically demanding job. If you want to enlist, you can’t be weak, slow, or easily fatigued. There’s an enlistment age limit for that very reason; it’s safe to assume that most 60-year-olds don’t have the endurance or strength they did when they were 24. However, the times, and the people living in them, are changing.
While obesity and sedentary lifestyles are impacting American health more than ever, people today are decidedly capable of remaining strong and healthy well into middle age and beyond. Because of improvements in our understanding of nutrition, fitness, and healthcare, we can continue to physically kick butt far longer than our predecessors.
The Federal Law was recently changed to allow for older first-time soldiers to join, but some branches are tougher nuts to crack than others.
Before 2006, the maximum age for first time enlistment was 35. Then, the Army requested that Congress elevate the age limit to 44. Congress wasn’t fully convinced, so they compromised and changed the maximum enlistment age to a middle ground of 42. Each branch has the option of setting stricter standards, however, and many do.
The current age limits organized by branch are as follows:
Active Duty Army – 42
Army Reserves – 42
Army National Guard – 42
Air National Guard – 40
Active Duty Air Force – 39
Navy Reserves – 39
Coast Guard Reserves – 39
Air Force Reserve – 35
Active Duty Navy – 34
Marine Corps Reserves – 29
Active Duty Marines – 28
Active Duty Coast Guard – 27
Logically, the branches that are the most physically demanding have lower enlistment age limits.
Special Operations branches have stricter age limits for the same reason. Still, if a 38-year-old wants to give back to his country through military service, it’s now well within his reach to do so. In some cases, you can be well into your 40s and still serve- if you have what the military needs, that is. Age waivers are occasionally offered if you have critical skills or experience that’s in short supply, but the commanding officer or community manager will have to approve it. Medical and legal professionals, plus religious officials, are the most likely to get approval.
Joining, or re-joining, the military might be the best decision of your life.
When Pfc. Russell Dilling started basic training, he was about twice the age of the young men training beside him. Most of them were 21, while Dilling just met the age criteria at 42. He had always wanted to join the Army, and he finally had his chance when the age limit was raised. He quickly proved he deserved to be there as much as anyone else. Only 12 out of 60 recruits qualified for a rifle certificate on their first try, and he was one of them.
While Dilling barely met the age limit for first time enlistment, prior service members can reenlist later in life. Some do so with great enthusiasm. Staff Sgt. Monte L. Gould reenlisted in the Army Reserve after a 10-year break. After a decade devoted to raising his family, he was ready to return to service in hopes of giving back to the next generation of soldiers. The retirement eligibility didn’t hurt, either!
Gould was especially excited to show the world what “old” men are capable of. He practices jiu-jitsu and runs seven miles a week with a 50-pound rucksack; living proof that becoming weak and tired in your 50s isn’t inevitable.
While critics have suggested that more young people should be enlisting, the evolving age limit and physical requirements are evidence that the US military is keeping up with the times. To answer the question “how old is too old”; it depends on the person. Americans are living longer, healthier lives. If they’re fit and healthy, they can serve their country longer, too.
Okay everybody, calm down. Noadamus is here. I know you are scared you are gonna f^ck up and ruin your life. Well…. you probably are, but that’s no reason to get down! Mistakes are a part of life. Seems like you would have gotten used to that by now, but hey, everyone learns at their own pace. The good news is this week will provide everyone with plenty of opportunities to practice self-destructive patterns of behavior or creative innovation and radical self-discovery. The bad news is, we will all probably do both at the same time. On the other hand, there is no good or bad, there only is.
Life is a rollercoaster, a really fun rollercoaster that will eventually kill you. Hang on, have fun, and try not to f^ck up more than necessary.
P.S. Don’t be a No Go at this station.
If you find yourself in a high-stress position where success depends on your ability to perform a specific set of actions, you will come out on top this week—if you are focused on your intent and workman-like in application of said required actions that is… If not, hang on cause it’s about to get bumpy. Forget about the consequences and only see the process. In doing so, you will swim through this storm like a dolphin. Yeah, I said dolphin. You know they can kick a shark’s ass, right? No? You best write that down, then Major.
You may find yourself the only calm in the middle of spinning madness. Resist the urge to join in the fray, yeah you might have some fun, but you are on a mission, and this is a distraction. If the chaos forces you to join in, try to be calm and grounded, keep churning those wheels until the issue is in your rearview. Your finances, while slightly unstable, are improving. Keep adding to that retirement account, Gunny.
You need space and time to yourself to maintain your inner reserve of calm. This week will not provide you with much of it. If you don’t meditate, you should probably start, today. You will have the energy to handle everything you encounter this week, if you can keep your cool. Which is likely to be challenging, but doable. Stay calm, be precise, and be generous. You got this, boo. Oh yeah, whatever sort of person you enjoy is likely to find you this week, probably a few actually. Even if you are not looking for it.
This week will attempt to pin you down and restrict your movement. If you try to resist these forces pulling at you, this week will rip you apart. Instead surrender to the pull; you are going that way regardless. So go with the flow, literally. If you have to roll with a new squad during a patrol, do it and do it with precision. Use the momentum of every new event to propel you forward to the next. Just don’t go believing your own illusions, especially when it comes to relationships. But hey, you are gonna do what ever dumb stuff you were gonna do anyway, so don’t blame me. I tried to warn you.
It’s likely you will deal with numerous authority figures this week. If the stress begins to weigh you down, remember you were made to interact with authority. You have an innate understanding of what powerful people really need. So do what is asked of you, while guiding them to what they actually need. Oh yeah, and look good doing it. I mean, damn, you’re pretty/handsome/clever/emotionally mature, and I believe in you. The disruption in your home and family life need not be disastrous. It merely reveals the existence of a worn out pattern; adapt to this new reality, and it will vanish.
Money or assets which do not belong to you, but are your responsibility, are likely to be a problem. No, no, not problem—leadership challenge, yeah, that’s it. My advice, find said problem, fix said problem, do so quickly and quietly, and don’t become your boss’s problem. I mean, leadership challenge. Oh yeah, if you are fraternizing at work, not only will it end terribly, but everyone at work will know all the details. And I do mean all the details… Besides, can’t you just date outside of work, Tech Sergeant?
If you are attending advanced studies or training, prepare to be occupied. Not just in a bad way, just in every single way you can think of and then a few more ways on top of that. In the relationship sector, just accept people for who they are, they aren’t going to change for you anyway. A problem with your home is likely to cost you more money than it should, but again, just accept it, this week nothing will change for you just because you get mad about it. That actually never works, but this week it hurts even more than usual.
It hard to be a Libra, trust me, I know. Everyone gets so used to how flawlessly you move through life. You make one tiny little misstep, and they start pointing their fingers at you. So what? Let ’em, they’re just jealous they can’t glide through their mistakes with the kind of grace you can muster. So instead of pretending everything is perfect, allow yourself to be human. You are, after all. Besides, the chaos about to erupt in your home and family life will make your mistake vanish in the wake of required action. Stay safe, balance options, stay decisive.
You’re a little spider spinning your web of illusions and desires. It’s hot, but don’t get caught in your web. This week your relationships are a combination of authoritative diplomacy and exuberance, resulting in success. All except your romantic relationships—that’s a war zone. An incredibly fun and creative battlefield to be sure, but if you don’t see things clearly, you will not be prepared to deal with reality. Don’t live in a dream, Private, wake up. The real world is pretty awesome.
Sometimes you amaze even me, the great Noadamus. And as your legal counsel (not a legally binding agreement, btw) I must advise you to stay at work as much as possible this week. Hey, I’m not gonna tell you to go home and deal with your home and family problems, or your money and credit issues, or your shady ass internet “business,” because I know you aren’t going to. But if you are going to avoid dealing with said problems, it’s probably best if you remain out of sight as much as possible. You just work your little heart out this week and stay in your car or something. As long as it doesn’t break down from lack of maintenance or anything. All that aside, your luck just won’t quit, so you will probably win the lottery or something as equally lucky (again, this is not legally binding, unless you win; then my take is 7%). You’re welcome.
You may be beginning to feel some fatigue from your relentless pace. Your output is still high, and your creative engine is hammering, but you need to practice some self-care. The illusion you can overcome any abuse you subject yourself to, is just that, an illusion. You can’t finish your project if you break yourself. You have the energy and the mission, so grind away; just take a break and go outside once in a while, Colonel, you’re gonna get the rickets.
I want to say you are going to get away with whatever dumb ass secret caper you are about to set in motion and you might. But you probably won’t. Unless, it’s not a secret. That’s right, you do your wacky scientist stuff, or your conspiracy propagation, or internet multi-level marketing, or whatever, just do it where everyone can see it. Try complete honesty. I know it’s a radical idea, but you can pull it off. When someone asks, just as direct as possible. Unless it’s illegal, in that case, you’re f^cked. Pull out, it’s never too late… until it’s too late.
Jenny Byers, a first time mom living in San Diego at the time, laid on the hospital bed with tears streaming down her face as her son, Declan, was placed on her chest.
In what was such a joyous moment in her life, Byers wished just one thing — that her husband could be there to witness the occasion. She turned over her shoulder as a nurse nearby held up a computer with a live FaceTime call with PJ Byers, meeting his son for the first time.
Courtesy of Jenny Byers
“That’s your daddy,” she said to her newborn son experiencing skin-to-skin beneath a blanket.
PJ Byers redeployed when Declan was five months old and they met for the first time face-to-face in an emotional airport family reunion.
“At first I was scared our family was being robbed of one of the most special moments of our lives,” Jenny Byers told We Are The Mighty. “But I was wrong. That moment was still just as special, but in a way I wasn’t expecting. Thanks to modern day technology, we got to meet our son together.”
The Byers family’s story is not an outlier. Being married to someone in the military often means facing many of life’s challenges without your significant other and pregnancy is no exception.
“When my son was born we were at Fort Campbell, and my daughter was four,” said Sophie Pappas, a journalist and Army spouse. “I ended up driving myself to the hospital while my mom from Indiana stayed with my daughter. The midwife was super amazing during my second birth. She held one of my legs up with one of her hands and with her other hand she held my iPhone so my husband could FaceTime and see everything! I will always be grateful he was able to at least watch over FaceTime.”
Pappas credits the love and adrenaline running through her body for being able to deliver her baby boy without focusing on the absence of her husband.
Courtesy of Sophie Pappas
“When I was pushing, I remember laying in the hospital room at 8-centimeters dilated, totally alone,” she shared. “My water broke and I started to push right then and there with not even a nurse around. I didn’t know how to call anyone in, so I just started doing it alone. Looking back, that was one of the most amazing moments of my life. The strength that your body has to just do what it needs to do is incredible.”
While military spouses facing pregnancy alone and delivery without their spouse is not new, this is an unprecedented situation for many pregnant civilians as the coronavirus outbreak continues.
Heading to appointments without spousal support or delivering a new baby in a plan that looks different than it did six months ago is a scary realization that is top-of-mind for many moms-to-be.
Here is what military spouses who were pregnant and/or delivered alone want to share with expectant moms:
“I wish I trusted in myself a little more that I was capable and strong enough to do it alone and that it wouldn’t be forever. I also talked to my OB/GYN who knew about my experience and would let me videotape parts of the appointment such as ultrasounds. She was also really good about giving me lots of US pictures that I could send to my husband.” – Maureen Hannan Tufte
“I would tell them to be sure and ask for help when they need it. I was pretty stubborn about trying to do it all on my own, but when I did have help, I would realize how much I really needed it. Maybe find pregnancy groups (fitness or otherwise) to get involved in. Maybe they’ll find a kindred spirit who is going through the same thing? I would tell them that they can get through this.” – Julie Estrella
“I think the biggest thing with any pregnancy is that whether a national pandemic or a deployment or any event gets in the way, you’re going to have this ‘idea’ of exactly how you want things to go or you think things will go. I can 10000% guarantee that no pregnancy has ever turned out exactly like the mom and dad to be imagined, it’s just life. The sooner you adjust to the idea that things may change or unexpected events may occur, the better your anxiety and nerves will be and the less it will sting when that inevitable curveball comes your way.” – Kati Simmons
“It’s scary to be pregnant by yourself, especially during a first pregnancy. But the baby will keep growing no matter whether or not your partner is available. All you can do is take care of yourself and try not to stress out. Then be sure to Reach out to friends, call family, do what you can to find support because there are definitely people who are willing to help.” – Julie Yaste
“What brought me comfort before giving birth without my husband was hearing about other women who had labored alone before me. Knowing I wasn’t the only one to ever face this situation gave me every affirmation I needed, to know I was going to be okay.” – Jenny Byers
“I would tell someone to not get hung up on who won’t be there, think about who will. You and your baby! Embrace these moments to bond and build a connection. Dwelling on the sadness of your spouse not being there takes away from the joy.” – Kelsey Bucci
“We are capable and able to do hard things. It will be ok. Not having your spouse around for the birth is really hard. But, it will be ok. Lots of pictures and FaceTime. We are lucky to live in a land of technology.” – Alana Steppe
“Know it’s only temporary and the feeling of seeing your husband or spouse with your baby will be the most amazing feeling and make it all worth it.” – Emily Stewart
Courtesy of Kelly Callahan
“You are stronger than you know, and while the situation may not look anything like what you pictured, it is amazing what our mind and body will do (and do well) when we are faced with the challenge of bringing a new life into the world. What I realize now that we are on the other side of it, is that this situation is a small piece of our story and it’s a beautiful one. Lucy is in kindergarten now and I’ve heard her share with classmates and teachers more than once that her daddy could not be there when she was born, so she got to meet him on the computer, because he was fighting bad guys in other places. It all adds to who we are and how we are shaped. I would also add that the nurses and doctor who helped me deliver stepped up in ways I never could have imagined. They made sure the technology was just right so that my husband was included and included him in the conversations. They supported me like we had known each other for years and cried with me when she was born. The medical community is amazing and will not let anyone feel alone.” – Kelly Callahan
A spouse who wished to remain anonymous gave sage advice for expectant moms from the perspective of both a mom of six and labor and delivery nurse of ten years:
“I can confidently tell you that now, more than ever, your nurses are ready to be your doula, photographer and friend,” she shared. “You will not be left alone. You will have our entire team here to celebrate with you on your special day.”
The men and women who serve our country deserve our gratitude and our support, but historically they’ve received a whole lot less. Many veterans in recent decades have struggled to make a smooth return to civilian life, and the programs available to them were lacking. Thousands ended up on the street- a grievous injustice and betrayal to those who deserved our support the most.
The good news is, Americans wanted to do better, and we did! According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the number of homeless veterans has dropped by 43.3 percent since 2011. Those are some amazing stats, but our work still isn’t done. In 2019, over 37,000 veterans were still without roofs over their heads. The more people who are aware of the problem, the easier it is to fix it. Here’s how you and your family can help bring that number to zero!
We all love to think we’re openminded and understanding, but there’s still a strong stigma against people who have become homeless. Many people in shelters struggle with substance abuse or mental illness. If I give them money, one might think, they’ll just buy alcohol. Why should I fund that? Why should I help someone who won’t help themselves?
Before you go any further, imagine a day in their shoes. Imagine you don’t have a job, and you can’t afford a haircut or clean clothes, so no one will hire you. You might not have a degree, either. You spend most nights alone, cold and shunned from the society you swore to protect. Statistically, 90% of homeless veterans are men, and only 2% are part of a family. In other words, if you’re a homeless veteran, you probably came back from war to no job, no family and no support. Considering substance abuse is closely tied to low income and lack of emotional and social connections, is it any wonder these veterans are struggling? Then, factor in conditions like PTSD and chronic pain, and well…that would push ANYONE to the brink.
Understand that being homeless doesn’t mean a person doesn’t care about getting back on their feet. It means they need help to do it. An easy way to show your support is by offering bottled water, nutritious food or a warm coat. These are small acts of kindness, but they help.
Reach out to your local government officials to discuss what your city is doing to help reduce the number of veterans in shelters each night. Push for plans that include affordable housing for veterans, treatment programs for substance use and employment programs. If they don’t have plans in place, ask how programs like that can be launched.
If no one’s listening, make them
If there’s a marked lack of support for homeless veterans in your area, consider starting a coalition. Gather people you know who support the cause and work together to make a difference. Start a canned goods drive, a coat drive or a meal train. Plan a peaceful march to boost awareness. The more visibility your group has, the more city officials will listen.
Volunteer your services
If you happen to be a lawyer, why not use your powers for good? Visit local shelters to help veterans apply for benefits and housing programs that they may not know are available to them. Medical professionals can also help by treating minor injuries and illnesses.
Hire a veteran
If you own a business and need more employees, consider hiring a veteran! While their individual skillsets and qualifications may not match every industry, they’re likely to be hardworking, quick learners, and a great fit for most entry-level jobs.
Not everyone has time for hands-on involvement, and we get it. If that’s the case for you, just donate! Organizations like DAV, U.S. Vets and Volunteers of America are great charities to donate to at the push of a button.
And remember, if you see a veteran, whether at a family reunion or on the street…say thank you. A little appreciation goes a long way.
The author served as a Navy Corpsman with Marines in Sangin, Afghanistan.
The primary mission of a U.S. Marine infantry rifle squad is to locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver or to repel the enemy’s assault by fire and close combat. This mission statement is branded into each infantryman’s brain and consistently put to practical use when the grunts are deployed to the front lines.
In the event a Marine infantry squad takes enemy contact, the squad leader will order the machine-gunners to relocate themselves to an area to return fire and win the battle for weapon superiority. The squad leader will also inform his fire team leaders of the situation and they’ll deploy their two riflemen and SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) gunner to a strategic area — getting them into the fight.
Once they have a fix on the enemies’ position, they’ll call the mortar platoon to “bring the rain.”
At literally the flip of a switch, troops go from having a cold weapon system to knocking a fully automatic weapon, bringing death to the bad guys at the pull of a trigger.
This sounds super cool, right? Well, it kind of is when you’ve experienced the situation first hand. We understand that having a fully automatic machine gun gives troops a commanding advantage, but when you look at how ground pounders are trained to fire the weapon system, the rate of fire nearly mirrors that of an M4’s after a few bursts.
They can get trigger happy
For the most part, grunts love to take contact from the enemy when they are locked and loaded. When you’ve trained for months to take the fight to the enemy, nothing feels better than getting to fire your weapon at the bad guys. However, it’s not uncommon for machine-gunners to squeeze their triggers and fire off more than the recommended four to six rounds.
We’d also like to add that the feeling of sending accurate rounds down range is fun as f*ck! Unfortunately, infantrymen often lose their bearing and keep the trigger compressed and end up wasting ammo.
Negligent discharges can be worse
Most times, a negligent discharge means you accidentally fired one round from your rifle or pistol. For a troop carrying a fully automatic weapon, the negligent discharge can be much more violent and dangerous. Instead of firing off one round accidentally, you can fire two or three.
We understand that the M16 has both semi-automatic (one round at a time) and burst (three shots at a time) firing capabilities. But it’s more unlikely you’ll ND on the burst setting than the semi-automatic one.
Remember when we said troops can get trigger happy? Hopefully, you do, because we just mentioned it a few minutes ago. When grunts do get trigger happy, their weapons systems can overheat. To combat the overheating, troops must change out their barrel in order to stay in the fight.
Which takes precious firefight time that you won’t get back.
It can lower accuracy
Machine guns are very, very powerful weapons. They can kill the enemy positioned beyond the maximum effective range of an M4 and M16. Sounds awesome, right? Well, it is.
Unfortunately, since they are very powerful, when the mobile operator fires the weapon, the recoil will bring the rifle’s barrel up and off target. This mainly happens when the ground pounder gets trigger happy. In a firefight, mistakes need to be kept to a minimum or people can die.
At the time I was taking my military parachute qualification and transferring it to a civilian skydive license at a drop zone in San Diego, California.
The skydiving community was outraged and I received hundreds of emails. “How could you say this!” “You’re ruining our industry!!!” were some of the nicer emails I received.
The truth is that a lot of drop zones — like gun ranges — are very poorly run, and the staff isn’t professional or nice. Worse yet, they sometimes overlook critical safety checks and often have lax protocols.
Most people probably didn’t watch the video all the way through. This is just more proof that people rarely read past the headline before they are ready to light the torches and start burning down the town square.
The video had millions of views and was titled something like, “A Navy SEAL tells us why he’ll never skydive again…” This, actually, isn’t true: I still enjoy skydiving and since I’m flying aerobatics in my plane I have to strap on a chute as well. Hopefully, I’ll never use it unless the wings fly off my RV8!
In the video below, I’m telling the story again but in greater detail. In addition, I give some practical advice on what to look for in a drop zone. I see so many people putting their lives in the hands of completely incompetent drop zone staff when there are some incredible professionals out there that will take care of you.
It’s so strange that something so dangerous never really gets scrutinized by the people that participate in it.
If you’re going for surgery you are probably going to do some research right? Isn’t it the same with skydiving? You’d hope so but no, most people don’t ask some basic questions.
USAA is stepping forward to honor the nation’s nearly 18 million veterans with its #HonorThroughAction challenge. Country music star Chris Young, who has close ties to the military community, is joining forces with the organization for Veterans Day.
Young has had an impressive career in country music. But despite number one hits, world tours and numerous awards, he remains a humble man, deeply appreciative of America’s service members. Early in his career he spent a lot of time playing on military bases throughout the United States and had friends who were closely connected to the military growing up. But it hits home for him, too. His grandfather served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War and then later in Young’s music career, his sister joined and served as a Marine herself.
When USAA approached him to help lead and promote its campaign, he didn’t hesitate to say yes. The goal of the campaign is to flood the internet with images of people with the letter “V” on their hands and messages of gratitude for America’s veterans. Young shared that he felt it was a visible way to truly say thank you by overflowing social media with personal messages, reaching even more veterans. “It’s an awesome way to use social media as an outreach platform to really make it a huge day of thanks for their sacrifice and service,” he explained. “I normally have my name talked about much more than my sister and this is a way for me to use all of my platforms to say thank you to her, too.”
Young has spent considerable time overseas performing for the troops, something he said he truly enjoys. He’s gone to Iraq multiple times, Kuwait and even as far as Japan. Young also shared how he once had the opportunity to go to a Forward Operating Base on the border of Iran, which was impacting in more ways than one. “Their PX was a tractor trailer… It was a small FOB. I was playing acoustic with another guitar player because that’s really all we had room for, since it was a much smaller base,” Young explained. “Everybody was very thankful and I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ because it was over the top saying thank you. But then a service member told me I was the only non-military entertainment that had ever played for them. That just blew my mind.”
This experience was pivotal for Young, he said. Although he’s spent time playing at bases throughout the world and inviting service members to shows, playing for those service members in particular was different. It cemented for him that any opportunity he has to say thank you, he’s all in. “I am very honored that USAA wanted to partner with me to not only say thank you to the 18 military US military veterans but also do something like this where people can actually take part in it too,” he explained.
USAA’s third annual #HonorThroughAction challenge is really easy. Participants can simply draw a V on their hand – for veterans – and then add the initials of anyone in particular who has served that they want to highlight. Then simply snap a picture and share on social media along with the hashtag, #HonorThroughAction. It only takes a moment and is an actionable way to make your thank you more meaningful. The goal is to flood all social media platforms with these posts, reaching as many veterans as possible. “This might be the most important thing someone sees on their [social media] feed that they didn’t expect to,” Young explained. “I just really encourage anyone who sees my posts or reads this article to go do it.”
This Veterans Day, pause for a moment and truly breathe in the sacrifice of our country’s heroes. Let us use our collective power to ‘break’ the internet with images of gratitude for those who willingly raised their right hands to die for us. They are worth that and so much more.
It’s no secret that Hollywood has a knack for getting the military wrong in war movies. Whether it’s diverging from reality in movies that are “based on a true story” or it’s pretending grenades create massive fireballs when they explode, the movie industry will always favor drama and spectacular visuals over realism… and to be totally honest, I’m cool with that.
Over the years, I’ve devoted a great deal of my professional life to analyzing the way narratives take shape in the public consciousness. I’ve dug into how different nations leverage media to affect public perceptions (I even wrote a book about it). I’ve explored the ways cultural touchstones like exchanging engagement rings manifested inorganically in corporate board rooms. I’ve even pointed out the ways World War II propaganda still shapes our dietary choices. That’s a long-winded way of saying that my professional interests have long been tied to exploring the undercurrent in mass communications, and further analyzing the ways that undercurrent can shape our perspectives of the world.
With the understanding that I’ve devoted so much of my time to exploring the narrative behind messaging, you can probably imagine that I can be a real party pooper when it comes to watching war movies. Like most vets, I get frustrated when I see uniforms worn incorrectly or when dialogue between service members feels forced or clunky… but unlike many vets, I also can’t help but look past the surface level messaging to try to figure out what filmmakers are trying to say with their choices in presentation.
Film, like any art form, is really an exercise in evoking emotion. When we really love a movie, it’s almost always because we loved the way the movie made us feel as we watched it. Whether we were excited by incredible action sequences or we were enraptured by a budding romance, it’s the experience, our experience, that we actually cherish. Good filmmakers know that, so they often choose to place a larger emphasis on creating an experience than they do on recreating a realistic event. Good movies aren’t good because they’re real–in other words–they’re good because the feelings they create are.
When a movie sucks, however, it’s usually because the director fails to evoke real emotions in the viewer. Bad filmmaking can be just as realistic or unrealistic as good filmmaking. Warner Brother’s famously bad “Green Lantern” movie, as a good example, is often made fun of for its use of an entirely CGI costume on Ryan Reynolds. You might think that’s because CGI costumes are just too unrealistic to be taken seriously… until you realize that most of the costumes you see in the wildly successful Marvel movies are entirely CGI as well. The difference isn’t that one is realistic while the other isn’t–the difference is that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is better at making you care about its characters. Iron Man’s CGI suit simply becomes set-dressing for the character that you’re emotionally invested in.
Marvel isn’t the only studio to get the feeling right, even when it gets facts or realism wrong. In fact, there are a number of war movies that manage the same feat.
Full Metal Jacket (the first half)
Marines, in particular, tend to hold the first half of Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” in high esteem, and we tend to disregard the second half of the movie as an auteur opining about Vietnam (in a way that doesn’t leave the audience nearly as invested in the characters). Depending on who you ask, they’ll tell you that Marine recruit training is exactly like the movie or not like it at all–and that likely has a lot to do with individual experiences and feelings from one’s own time at the depots.
But whether you ever had to choke yourself with a drill instructor’s hand or not, most Marines feel a distinct kinship with J.T. “Joker” Davis’ platoon. It’s safe to say that most of us didn’t see a fellow recruit shoot our drill instructor in the bathroom (or head, as we call it), but that scene does capture something about recruit training that’s not easy to articulate. For many of us, Marine Recruit Training is the first place we’d ever been where violence is a commodity. We’re learning to fight, to kill, and when you begin broaching the subject in your mind, the experience can be jarring. I recall distinctly the first time I ever truly thought about taking another person’s life and what it would entail, and it was inside a squad bay just like the one you see in “Full Metal Jacket.”
The Hunt for Red October
If we’re grading war movies on realism, it would be tough to gloss over the fact that Sean Connery’s Marko Ramius is a Russian submarine captain that talks with a thick Scottish accent. But in terms of capturing the reality of the Cold War as a feeling, “Red October” hits the nail right on the head.
In real life, would we pull a CIA analyst out of his cubicle and drop him into the ocean to climb aboard a nuclear submarine hot on the tail of a rogue Russian captain? Probably not–but by doing so in the film, “The Hunt for Red October” effectively captured the sense of urgency, confusion, and distrust that characterized so much of the Cold War for both American and Soviet officials. Many defense initiatives in the U.S. were driven by concerns that the Soviet’s had developed a technological or strategic advantage, and in a real way, intelligent men and women like Jack Ryan devoted their entire lives to both offsetting those perceived capability gaps, and of course, to preventing nuclear war amid an international, nuclear-fueled, staring contest.
“The Hunt for Red October” may not be the most realistic exploration of Cold War tensions, but it expertly crafts the feeling that permeated the defense community throughout the conflict.
I won’t lie to you, I still take great issue with certain elements of “Jarhead” — specifically its depiction of Marines as singularly driven by the desire to take lives. However, as an exploration into the emotional ride that is Marine training and service, the desire to get a confirmed kill in “Jarhead’s” second act that I find so abrasive actually perfectly captures the feelings so many service members and veterans have about not seeing combat.
The vast majority of people in the military never take that “kill shot” “Jarhead’s” Anthony Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) is so focused on, and to be honest, lots of service members wouldn’t want to–but therein lies the point. “Jarhead” is a war movie that tells the story of training extensively for a job that you never get to do, and then returning to a world full of other people’s expectations that you know, inside your head, you’ll never amount to.
Lots of veterans find that they don’t feel “veteran enough” after their time in uniform is up. Maybe they didn’t see combat, or they didn’t see as much combat as others. Maybe their job had them mopping floors in Japan instead of kicking in doors in Iraq, or maybe they never left the wire during their time in the sandbox. Whatever the reason, many veterans (and even active service members) carry a chip on their shoulder created by society’s expectation that we all return home like John Rambo. The truth is, every veteran is veteran enough–but “Jarhead” does an excellent job of sharing that insecurity on film.
Tears of the Sun
This nearly forgotten 2003 action drama starred Bruce Willis as Lieutenant Waters, a U.S. Navy SEAL charged with leading his team into Nigeria to evacuate a U.S. citizen and medical doctor amid a bloody coup d’etat. When Waters and his SEAL team arrive, however, the doctor refuses to leave without the rest of the members of her small community who will likely be wiped out by rebel soldiers in the area.
What follows is a fairly unrealistic depiction of how military operations are carried out, complete with bloody last stand on the nation’s border in which many of the SEALs ultimately give their lives to protect the fleeing civilians. The movie is, to be honest, some pretty heavy handed American military propaganda (honestly, some of the best war movies are), but it’s precisely because of that arguably jingoistic idealism that this movie so effectively captures the feeling that drives so many of us to sign our enlistment papers.
Most folks in the military chose to join because of a combination of personal interest and idealism. We could use a good job, some help with college, and benefits for our families–but we also want to make a difference in the world. We want to help protect not just our nation’s people, but the ideals our nation represents. “Tears of the Sun” is a story about American service members giving up their lives to do what’s right, and because of that, it strikes the patriotic chord in many of us in a way that resonates deeply, even if the movie itself isn’t a masterclass in filmmaking.
The United States and the Republic of Korea have a history of conducting bilateral military exercises where we team up and plan to take on an objective together to strengthen our relationship and coordination. One of these annual exercises is called Ssang Yong, and it’s a part of Foal Eagle, which typically takes place in the early spring. This training exercise between Marines and South Koreans is one of the largest military exercises in the world and, historically, it’s made North Korea really angry.
As part of Ssang Yong 2014, Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment was attached to a ROK Marine company and together, they boarded three ships. When first platoon boarded the ROKS Dokdo, the Marines had no idea they were in for a full seven days of suffering and pain.
The experiences were life-changing and here’s why.
You could barely even stand between the racks of the berthing.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Brien Aho)
South Korean ships are crammed
The ROKS Dokdo is a very small ship. The berthing areas were so tiny that they were only used for sleep. If you wanted to hang out in the berthing, you might as well just climb in your bed and stay there — or else you’re just occupying otherwise valuable space.
Cash made things at least a little easier.
(U.S. Navy photo by Culinary Specialist Petty Officer 3rd Class Cedric Ceballos)
The debit/credit card machine was down
You know how ships have a store on them from which you can buy snacks so you aren’t starving between meals? Well, typically, items there can be purchased with a special card that only works on the ship. The only problem is that no one told us that, and no one gave us any. So, our only option was to pay with cash.
Some of us, however, didn’t get a chance to withdraw cash prior to departing, which put a serious damper on snack time.
Most of us mainly ate rice and seaweed paper.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Immanuel Johnson)
The South Korean food portions were terrible
South Koreans don’t eat nearly as much as Americans. We eat like it’s going out of style and that’s especially true if you’re an infantry Marine. The ship was stocked with enough food to support ROK Sailors and maybe a handful of Marines — but they were in no way prepared to handle a platoon and a half of us.
Not only were we starving between meals, the meals didn’t do too much for us, either.
The Korean cigarettes aren’t bad, trust us.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Logan Kyle)
There were only South Korean tobacco products
The ship only carried (go figure) Korean tobacco products, specifically cigarettes. If you didn’t bring some extra American cigs, you’d have to settle for the Korean stuff. Admittedly, these aren’t bad at all, but it felt wrong.
When I was a young, motivated recruit at Parris Island, my drill instructor stood behind a stack of foot lockers assembled into a podium. “This is the most important period of instruction of your life,” he said with a thousand-yard stare. What were we talking about?
For an unknown amount of time, we sat there, listening to passionate warnings from our most-feared mentor. He recited romantic tragedies that gave Greek myths a run for their money. Afterwards, he gave the obligatory lesson on the administrative process of enrolling your new family for benefits.
Today, I pass those words of traumatic wisdom onto you, the young, love-struck recruit.
1. Deployments don’t get easier, you get tougher
Marines are tough — and they need an equally tough spouse to weather the storm of deployments. We’re the tip of the spear, and you need to make sure that’s what your spouse bargained for.
Some deployments are shorter than others and they involve varying degrees of danger — but they don’t easier. You need someone that, when the going gets tough, they get tougher. But it’ll always suck.
2. You’re not getting out of work, you’re doing different work
Some troops use their marriage as a way to get out of work, and there’s nothing single troops can do but watch them put on those already-sharp skates and get out of dodge — but it’s not all free time and rainbows on the other side.
I had a master gunnery sergeant who referred to his wife as the ‘sergeant major’ of the house. When you’re single, can you just pack your stuff in your car and hit the road. Married Marines, however, have much more red tape to navigate.
3. You’ll miss being a degenerate
Gone are the days of actionable intel from the Lance Corporal Underground, last-minute trips to a bar crawl, and the spontaneous brawls between Alpha company and Charlie company.
Sure, you might not miss the part where the Big Green Weenie conducts acts of terror. You won’t miss random formations, the duty needing something or drunk people breaking your stuff, but you will miss time with the boys.
4. Everyone knows your secrets
Your spouse needs friends. Naturally, the spouses of your friends are the first round draft picks. They can keep each other informed on what your unit is doing, important dates and if you’re being delayed.
In a way, it’s convenient. Even if you haven’t had the opportunity to speak with your loved one, he or she knows why, and won’t worry. However, that’s not the only thing they’ll talk about. Assume nothing is sacred. Susie and Kelly know your secrets in and out of the bedroom. OPSEC or the whole unit will know your search history, too.
5. Contract marriages are, uh… flimsy
A contract marriage is when two people fall in love — for money. The Big Green Weenie and the law’s blue version will hold hands while they unceremoniously wreck your life. Not only is it illegal to marry someone for the increased pay and benefits, but your spouse will inevitably betray you.
Before your first deployment is over, your house will be sold, your truck will be gone, and they’ll upload a video wearing your favorite shirt that can’t be shown on YouTube.
#WWIII, #NoWarWithIran, and other trending Twitter hashtags from the past week reveal the anxiety people across the globe are feeling amid near-boiling-point tensions between the US and Iran.
The US is sending 3,500 Army paratroopers to the Middle East, reports Tuesday revealed, adding more uncertainty — especially for military families.
To add to that distress, those being deployed have been told to leave their cellphones at home.
Eighteen-year old Melissa Morales is one of those family members caught off guard. Her twin sister, Cristina, is scheduled to leave Wednesday, she said in an interview with CNN.
“As her twin sister, it kind of hurts. It stings,” she told the outlet.
Research shows deployment can have a very real psychological impact on family members, particularly military spouses and children.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Sean Mathis)
Among a range of feelings, studies have shown that families of deployed military personnel experience a range of challenging emotions.
Learning of a spouse’s deployment can mean “emotional chaos.”
A qualitative study of 11 women married to deployed Army Reserve military members had a heart-wrenching finding.
Nearly all of the women described the moment they learned their husband would have to deploy fell into a category researchers call “emotional chaos,” or experiencing a range of emotions — like stress, disbelief, and sadness — all at once.
Partners of those deployed report higher levels of anxiety and stress.
One study of 130 US military spouses (68 spouses of non-deployed servicemen and 62 spouses of servicemen deployed to a combat zone) took a close look at stress.
Spouses of deployed servicemen had markedly higher stress scores than spouses of non-deployed service members, the study found. Additionally, anxiety levels were “significantly higher in spouses of deployed versus non deployed servicemen,” the researchers found.
Spouses are at an increased risk for substance abuse.
UK-based King’s Centre for Military Health Research collected data from 405 women in military families with at least one child.
Shared routines, rituals and set rules help keep members feeling stable and grounded.
These women reported higher rates of binge drinking than women in the general population, 9.7% compared to 8.9%, respectively. They also reported higher rates of depression, 7% compared to 3%.
For parents, there’s often no room for self-care.
When spouses deploy, many partners are left to take care of their families by themselves.
One 2018 study found that spouses report not having enough time to take care of themselves. As one participant said, when it comes to taking care of themselves, “Everything else comes first.” Time to go to the gym and money to buy healthy food is nonexistent, they said.
Children are at a higher risk for depression and other psychosocial issues.
Kids with a deployed parent show higher incidents of lashing out, sadness, worry, and depression, a meta analysis of several studies shows.
Toddlers of deployed parents can experience confusion and separation anxiety.
The American Academy of Pediatrics writes on its blog that toddlers “may not understand why mom or dad isn’t there for bedtime” and that school-aged children “may worry mom or dad will be hurt.”
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brad Mincey
A 2014 research analysis supports this finding, with author Dr. Suzannah Creech, a research psychologist with Veterans Affairs and a professor at Brown University writing, “For children, deployment-separation can bring a sense of fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and absence.”
Trouble sleeping and poor academic performance can weigh on kids.
A 2009 study that looked at children ages 5-12 with a deployed parent found that 56% had trouble sleeping and 14% had school-related issues.
Social support and therapy are proven to help spouses and children.
While these findings paint a grim picture, there is help out there for military families.
Within military families individually, maintaining shared routines, rituals and set rules help keep members feeling stable and grounded. And regular family meetings before, during, and after deployment can be helpful, researchers report.
Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is struggling, please call the US National Suicide Prevention Helpline anytime at 1-800-273-8255.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
White phosphorous, often known by the nickname “Willie Pete,” is possibly one of the oddest and most controversial weapons on military frontlines, including in American units. Its use as a chemical weapon is banned, but its use as an incendiary weapon is simply limited, and use as a signaling device is fine.
U.S. Air Force drops a white phosphorous bomb on a Viet Cong position in 1966.
(U.S. Air Force)
First, let’s look at why some weapons are illegal, especially chemical weapons. Chemical weapons work by interrupting human processes, some via very gruesome means. Mustard gas causes extreme respiratory irritation, sometimes to the point that those hit by it will develop fatal lung infections. Sarin gas can cause muscle convulsions, paralysis, and respiratory arrest. Both can permanently disfigure people.
In other words, gruesome ways to be wounded or killed.
As a chemical weapon, phosphorous can be released as a gas that is breathed in by the enemy, burning the insides of their lungs and killing them by cooking them from the inside out. Or, it can be introduced into enemy water supplies to poison them. It’s illegal to use phosphorous in either of these ways.
But phosphorous is a peculiar beast because, while there are no legally accepted military uses for sarin or mustard gas, there are accepted uses of white phosphorous, because it can also burn people externally or its white smoke can be used to screen troop movements or mark battlefield locations.
The chemical burns at about 86 degrees Fahrenheit. And, when burning, phosphorous emits 5,000 degrees of heat. So, it can spontaneously combust on a warm day, and it can easily sustain its own reaction once it gets going. If it’s cold outside, then even a small charge in an artillery shell can ignite the reaction.
Once it’s burning, phosphorous emits clouds of thick smoke. For infantry and other maneuver troops attacking an enemy position, that means phosphorous smoke can block the view of defenders trying to kill them. This use of phosphorous is completely legal. It can also be used to mark enemy positions which, again, is completely legal.
Shells from M777A2 155mm Howitzer cannons rain white phosphorous on a target during a four-day, live-fire exercise following the conclusion of Talisman Saber 13 in Australia on Aug 3, 2013.
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Paul Robbins Jr.)
But if you release still-burning phosphorous into the air and get that onto people, then it’s extremely dangerous. Phosphorous, again, will continue burning as long as it’s exposed to oxygen and above 86 degrees. So, if a chunk lands on a person’s shoulder, it will stay above 86 degrees and will keep releasing 5,000 degrees of heat until it runs out of fuel or is drowned in water or mud.
But even drowning phosphorous won’t work long-term in human skin, because it will re-ignite from the body heat the moment the water stops flowing. So, in Vietnam, American troops learned to cut the chunks of phosphorous out with knives if any friendlies were hit.
This use of phosphorous is legal, as long as the shooter takes “care” to prevent exposing civilians to the weapon.
And this is the thing that some groups will point to as insane. If it’s illegal to use it as a chemical weapon, how can you use the chemical as a weapon without it being a chemical weapon?
Well, first, everything is a chemical, and pretty much all weapons that aren’t iron or stone rely on chemical reactions of some kind. Bombs are explosive chemical reactions. Napalm and other incendiary weapons rely on chemical reactions that release a lot of heat, burning the flesh of enemy troops. It’s not a chemical reaction that is banned, or the release of heat. Chemical weapon laws really only apply to those weapons which directly interact with the target’s cells.
But heating the cells up, as you would with napalm, is legal.
And that’s how white phosphorous, as an incendiary weapon, works. It’s stored safely encased, then fired against an enemy, exposing it to the air and igniting it in the process. Once the burning phosphorous hits enemy troops, it sears them. A World War II test of phosphorous smoke screens found that, when fired against mock German defenders, the smoke screen would kill or seriously wound 40 percent of the defenders before the U.S. infantry arrived to fight them.
War Dept Film Bulletin 55 White Phosphorus VS High Explosive 1943 (full)
War Dept Film Bulletin 55 White Phosphorus VS High Explosive 1943 (full)
And that’s why, as long as the weapon is legal in any context, there will be an incentive for commanders to use it. Without overhead cover, 40 percent of the defenders could be knocked out by the smoke screen. By the smoke screen. High explosive mortar rounds used in the same World War II test generated only 24 percent casualties.
Remember, the point of war is to force an enemy into submission to achieve some political goal. It’s gruesome, but it always includes humans killing humans, and explosions and burning are accepted methods of killing each other in war.
And so, the question that will confront investigators looking into Israel’s actions will be, “How was the weapon used? And did it cause undue damage to civilians?” Those are the same questions they would have to look at if a bomb was dropped on a church or hospital.
Was this a valid military act, or maybe a valid act that went awry? Or was a commander deliberately harming civilians?
It has to be a little difficult to be a living legend in the Royal Navy while at the same time being subordinate to someone who is known as a “capable administrator,” but still outranks you. This is the situation British Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson found himself in at the 1801 Battle of Copenhagen.
At Copenhagen, the British fleet was under the command of Admiral Sir Hyde Parker. During the Battle, the Admiral ordered the brilliant seaman Nelson to do something that was counter to Nelson’s instincts, so Nelson instead used his physical advantage to follow those instincts.
The British Fleet was in Copenhagen to enforce its blockade of Revolutionary France. Denmark was not allied with France, but instead bound to Tsarist Russia and other Nordic countries to assert their neutrality, to continue trading with whomever they pleased despite the British embargo. They were willing to fight to maintain the freedom of the seas, and their trade obligations.
Though outgunned by the Danish fortifications on shore, the British had superior firepower aboard its ships. Parker would stay outside of the harbor while Nelson led 12 Ships of the Line to engage the Danish ships inside the harbor. Nelson’s plan was to engage the weaker ships piecemeal and place troops ashore to take the fortifications.
Nelson, by this time, was already a legend in the minds of the British people and Royal Navy seamen. His victory against the French at the Battle of the Nile propelled him to near-celebrity status. All the more amazing a feat, since Nelson only had one eye – he lost sight in his right eye at the 1794 Battle of Calvi in Corsica.
Parker was a high ranking naval officer who had commanded ships since 1762, received a knighthood for his service, and had served in the American Revolutionary War and in engagements in the Pacific and the Caribbean. At the Battle of Copenhagen, Parker was the overall commander of the Baltic Sea Fleet.
At Copenhagen, Parker saw little action because he was left in command of ships who were too heavy to traverse the channels into the harbor, which is why he passed off command of a detachment to Nelson.
The fight didn’t start well for the British ships. Three ships of the line immediately ran aground in the shallows of the harbor. Then, the shore based gun batteries unleashed a heavier barrage than British planners had anticipated. Watching from the rest of the British fleet, Parker signalled Nelson to withdraw the assault and leave the harbor.
When informed of the command signal, Nelson told his signal lieutenant that his job was to watch the Danish fleet for their surrender signal, not to watch the British ships. Then he told his flag captain, “You know, I have only one eye. I have a right to be blind sometimes.”
Nelson then put his telescope up to his right eye and told his men, he didn’t see Parker’s signal to withdraw. After three hours of implementing his plan, both the British and the Danes were bloodied and beaten, but it was the Danish who signaled an end to the fighting first.
Though he disobeyed Parker’s orders, Parker didn’t seek any redress for Nelson’s actions. The next day, Nelson was allowed to lead the negotiations for Denmark’s capitulation to the British and later given a Baron’s title. Parker was recalled to London and Nelson was made commander of the Baltic Fleet.