As the eastern seaboard prepares for Hurricane Dorian, the fourth hurricane of the 2019 season, staying prepared and having a plan is critical to surviving a potential disaster.
During the 2019 Hurricane Awareness Tour, organizations shared insights on how to prepare and stay aware of tropical weather systems that affect different areas, including those more inland.
“Ninety percent of the fatalities of tropical systems historically are from the water,” said Ken Graham, National Hurricane Center director. “In the last three years, 83 percent of fatalities from tropical systems have been inland flooding, more than half in automobiles.”
Graham also emphasized that the lower category hurricanes require just as much consideration for preparation due to their ability to cause catastrophic damage.
“In the last decade, Category 1 storms have produced 3 billion worth of damage and 175 fatalities,” Graham said.
Hurricane Dorian as seen from the ISS on Aug. 29, 2019.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration offers tips to help prepare for hurricanes.
Gather information. The NOAA emphasizes to “know if you live in an evacuation area. Assess your risks and know your home’s vulnerability to storm surge, flooding and wind. Understand National Weather Service forecast products and especially the meaning of NWS watches and warnings.”
Plan and take action. Put together a disaster supplies kit which has items including water, food, a flashlight and a first aid kit. To see the full suggested contents of the kit, visit https://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit. Planning and taking action includes having an emergency plan, guarding the community’s health, protecting the environment, following instructions from local officials for evacuation and be alert for other potential weather hazards including tornadoes brought in by the hurricane.
Recover. This highlights the need to wait for the area to be declared safe before returning home, and to remember that recovery takes time.
Resources. Know the resources offered for preparation before a hurricane occurs as well as the resources available for recovery including the NOAA, Ready.gov, and the National Weather Service.
The seventh annual Gathering of Warriors Veterans Summit hosted by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Native Wellness Institute, and VA Office of Tribal Government Relations, held July 11-12, 2019, brought together hundreds of individuals from different communities at the Uyxat Powwow Grounds in Grande Ronde, Oregon.
The event honored those who served and gave veterans, families, and community members the opportunity to connect with one another and learn about veteran-related resources and programs.
Guest speaker Johnathan Courtney, Army combat veteran, shared his story of healing and how he struggled to find himself when he came home from the Iraq War. He said that if it wasn’t for the help of his wife Emily, he wouldn’t be where he is today. With her help and support he was able to connect with caring providers within VA and a support network with community organizations.
“It starts with vets helping vets and family care,” said Courtney, now Chairman of the Health and Wellness Committee for the State of Oregon Veterans of Foreign Wars and a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. He hopes that by sharing his story of healing with fellow veterans that it will encourage them or someone they know to reach out for help if they need it and learn about resources available. “Many veterans don’t reach out for support and we are trying to change that here,” he said.
Veterans of all eras were recognized and honored for their service to the nation during the opening ceremony on July 11, 2019.
Other guest speakers, representing different tribes and organizations, shared their stories of healing over the two-day period, including Gold Star families who were given a special honor at the event. Gold Star families are relatives of service members who have fallen during a conflict.
VA staff members participated in a panel discussion to help answer questions and share information about VA services. VA Portland Health Care System panelist members included Sarah Suniga, Women Veterans Program Manager, Ph.D., and Valdez Bravo, Administrative Director for Primary Care Division. Other panelist members included Kurtis Harris, Assistant Coach Public Contact Team for the VA Portland Regional Office; Jeffrey Applegate, Assistant Director of Willamette National Cemetery; and Kelly Fitzpatrick, Oregon State Department of Veterans Affairs Director.
Additionally, VA Portland Health Care System staff from the My HealtheVet Program and Suicide Prevention team tabled at the event.
The seventh annual Gathering of Warriors Veterans Summit hosted by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Native Wellness Institute, and VA Office of Tribal Government Relations held July 11-12, 2019 brought together hundreds of individuals from different communities at the Uyxat Powwow Grounds in Grande Ronde, Oregon.
“It’s a great honor to connect with veterans in this community,” said Terry Bentley, Tribal Government Relations Specialist for VA Office of Tribal Relations and member of the Karuk Tribe of California. Bentley has participated in this event since it first started seven years ago. She said she feels privileged to partner with tribal and community organizations to make it all come together and encourages anyone who served in the military or who knows someone who served in the military to participate next year.
“This event is about helping our veterans and encouraging them to come forward to see what’s available,” said Reyn Leno, Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, member of Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and past chairman of the Oregon Department of Veteran’s Affairs Advisory Committee. “Even if we help just one veteran during this event I think that in itself is a success.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
At some time in our military careers, we come across pilots of all sorts, helicopter pilots, Air Force cargo pilots, Navy fighter pilots, etc. While the former two might allow you to refer to them as simply “pilots,” there’s a good chance the naval aviator will take the time to remind you that he or she is an “aviator,” not a pilot.
And there’s a very good, non-egotistical reason for that. We promise.
Insert obligatory “Top Gun” reference here.
During your military experience, you may have noticed the Navy has an entirely different vocabulary for so many things. Floors become decks, walls become bulkheads, beds become racks, etc. But the Navy’s tradition of a maritime language exists for a reason. It turns out the world they live in predates the United States Navy, the United States, and most navies, not to mention the concept of powered flight.
The maritime world is way, way old, man. And the terms used to describe that world are too. We can’t just change them overnight. Or ever, as it turns out. So while the aviation world refers to a pilot as someone who flies an aircraft, that term has a different meaning in the maritime world.
No one aboard this ship called those boxes “toilets” but they had the same use.
For hundreds of years before navies around the world were flying jet-powered aircraft off the decks of massive floating cities, “pilots” were operating in navies long before ships had engines that weren’t powered by wind or slaves. In those terms, a pilot is specially qualified to drive a ship in and out of a specific port or a specific area. For large ships, this pilot is someone from outside, who literally comes in to your boat and drives it into the harbor because he or she knows the area better than anyone else.
The pilot will roll up next to your ship aboard a pilot boat, which carries the pilot in a boat, one marked “pilot boat.” And those poor guys have to climb up the side of your ship just to park it for you. Both naval aviators and maritime pilots have a hard job that allows for zero error – so call them whatever they want.
Look, we get it. It can be hard to write about the military. What’s the difference between soldiers, troops, and service members? Are Coast Guardsman sailors? Are they Navy personnel at all? Do those guys really prefer to be known as “seamen?”
There’s a lot of terminology to get straight, but still, it’s not that hard. And, frankly, we’re tired of seeing anything with more than 2 inches of armor being described as a “tank.” So, here’s a quick primer on America’s only current tank — and a whole bunch of armored vehicles that are not tanks:
First, the only current American military vehicle that is actually a tank: the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank. The first ones rolled out in 1976, but numerous upgrades have been made since. The modern M1A2 SEPV3 has ceramic armor made from depleted uranium and fires a 120mm cannon with everything from high explosive rounds to sabot. Sabot rounds are fast-flying darts that exit from the main gun.
Thousands of them exist in the U.S. arsenal and hundreds more are in service around the world, mostly in places like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Australia. It’s easy to pick out because of its large size, free-moving turret with a large gun, and the massive tank treads that propel it across the ground.
Next, the Paladin. This is probably the most convincing of the non-tanks out there. It’s significantly smaller than the Abrams and weighs less than half as much, but it is large, propels itself on two big tank treads, is well-armored, and has a big gun.
But it’s the gun and the mission that makes this artillery instead of a tank. The 155mm howitzer is made to primarily fire in an indirect fire mode, arcing the shells over the battlefield instead of engaging directly, like an Abrams. Its armor and speed also aren’t really up to snuff for direct combat.
You can differentiate it from a tank by focusing on the arm that supports the cannon barrel, the smaller size, and the reduced armor. Especially important is the lack of explosive reactive armor, the boxy armor panels on the skirts of Abrams tanks.
Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle
Confusing a Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle with a tank is pretty reasonable. It’s armored, propels itself on two tracks, and is often seen with the explosive reactive armor common on Abrams. It even has a free-turning turret like a tank and fights on the frontlines.
But the difference comes in the vehicles’ mission and the size of the main cannon. Bradleys have lighter armor and a much smaller gun, typically 25mm compared to the Abrams’ 120mm. They’re made to move quickly on the battlefield and carry up to 8 infantrymen into combat, though other variants drop the infantry carrying capacity to serve other missions, instead.
To differentiate it from the Abrams, focus on the size, reduced armor, and the much smaller gun.
The M113 armored personnel carrier is the predecessor the the Bradley. It, also, is not a tank. It’s smaller, has less armor, and lacks a turret.
M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicle
The M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicle is based on the M1 Abrams, so getting mixed up makes sense. But M1150s lack the 120mm main gun of an Abrams.
They boast some kind of large plow on the front instead, usually a 15-foot-wide, bulldozer-like plow, but sometimes they’re seen with other mine-clearing equipment. They’re also equipped with a mine-clearing line charge, or MICLIC, that fires from the turret.
Amphibious Assault Vehicle
These monstrosities are pretty sweet. They’re swimming armored vehicles with treads and the ability to carry up to 25 combat-equipped infantrymen (nearly always Marines).
But their primary offensive armament is a .50-cal. machine gun or a 40mm grenade launcher, a far cry from the cannons used on tanks, especially the 120mm on the Abrams. They also have armor that’s perpendicular to the ground, something that tank designers avoid in key areas since it helps the enemy round penetrate during fights.
This is another armored vehicle that swims across open ocean. Used primarily by the U.S. Marine Corps, it has a 25mm chain gun and some light armor, but it’s still underpowered and underarmored compared to main tanks.
But the easiest way to tell the LAV-25 from a tank is that it has rubber road wheels instead of metal ones on treads. In fact. lots of armored platforms that are sometimes described as tanks are rolling on rubber road wheels, something tanks don’t do.
So, just like the LAV-25, Army Strykers are not tanks. Nor are any of the lighter vehicles, like humvees, MRAPs, or M-ATVs.
If all of this leaves you wondering what, exactly, a tank is, well, sorry — it’s changed over time. But modern tanks are typically heavily armored vehicles with large guns, rotating turrets, and treads. They’re designed to engage in direct combat with other forces, including enemy armor, by using their armor and the terrain for protection while firing their main gun as their primary offense.
When dealing with anti-tank infantry, they may rely more heavily on their machine guns, but many countries field shotgun-like ammo for their tanks for this scenario.
If it doesn’t fit all of these categories, it’s almost certainly an infantry fighting vehicle, self-propelled artillery, or a similar platform.
The footage below is taken from “Flying Clipper,” a “monumental documentary about the adventures of a Swedish sailing ship, which travels into the Mediterranean in the early 1960s.”
Filmed in 1962 with specially designed 70mm cameras, “Flying Clipper” was the first German film produced in this high-resolution large format. The documentary was recently scanned in 4K and digitally restored, so that it could be marketed as 4K UHD, Blu-Ray and DVD.
Besides the Côte d’Azur, the Greek islands and the pyramids of Egypt, “Flying Clipper” included also more than 5 minutes of footage from aboard USS Shangri-La (CVA-38), one of 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers completed during or shortly after World War II for the United States Navy.
With the CVG-10 on board, the USS Shangri-La was involved in a 6-month Mediterranean Sea cruise with the 6th Fleet Area Of Responsibility between February and August 1962. The clip shows with outstanding details the “blue waters operations” of the F4D-1 Skyray fighters with the VF-13; the A-4D Skyhawks of the VA-106 and VA-46; and the F-8U Crusaders of the VMF-251 and VFP-2.
You can also spot some AD-6 Skyraider of the VA-176 while the opening scene shows the vivid colors of one of the HUP-3 helicopter of the HU-2.
There was much less technology aboard to launch and recover aircraft, and “bolters” (when the aircraft misses the arresting cable on the flight deck) and “wave-offs” (a go around during final approach) were seemingly quite frequent.
By the way, don’t you like the high-visibility markings sported by the aircraft back then?
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Seriously, you wouldn’t think this would be that hard. But, for some reason, people keep pulling stunts or snitching on members of their own platoon and screwing the unit as a whole. So, here we are, writing a guide to teach everyone how to not Blue Falcon.
For anyone out there who doesn’t know the code, Blue Falcons are “Buddy F**kers,” folks who screw over their peers by being either overly zealous, overly lazy, or just a straight up jerk.
This photo of a dental technician is included because it frightens me — and I find that funny.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Collette Brooks)
This is likely the biggest source of inadvertent Blue Falconing, so let’s go through it. It usually starts with a unit dental screening, resulting in a few Joes and Jills getting the same appointment date — and there’s the rub. When the appointments are done, all of the troops have to decide what to do: Go back immediately or dawdle for a few hours?
Who, exactly, is the Blue Falcon here is conditional. If, and only if, the unit has vital stuff going on, everyone should go back to the unit, and anyone trying to dawdle is screwing the unit, performing Blue Falconry.
But the unit will almost certainly have nothing going on. Then, most of the guys will want to go to the barracks and one “high-speed” will want to go back to the unit and sniff the platoon sergeant’s butt. In this case, he’s the Blue Falcon. Seriously, dude/dudette, if you really have to do Army stuff right now, do some correspondence courses in your barracks while everyone else plays video games. Stop making everyone else show up to sit around the company for no reason.
Personal tents help protect your buddies from your Blue Falconry in the field, but it’s still your job to not be a dick.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck)
Living in the field
There’re all sorts of ways to screw over your buddies while living in the field. First, while preparing for the field, pack the entire packing list unless:
You’re sure leadership won’t check, and
That neither you nor your unit will need the missing item.
This means that you always bring items like ponchos, which the squad or platoon may need to protect gear from water, even if you don’t think you’ll wear it.
Also, if there’s anything in MREs or hot rats that gives you indigestion, do not eat it before everyone piles into cots or Ranger graves right next to each other. If you smoke, chew, dip, or use snuff, you bring your own. Bring your cleaning kit, bring your own hygiene items, and adjust your sleep schedule to the mission. No one wants to give up their supplies or carry your weight.
Green berets carry their weight. Blue Falcons don’t. Always go green.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)
Speaking of carrying your own weight: do it on ruck marches, you Blue Falcons. This is especially true on real patrols where the unit is likely carrying more weight than during training marches. If it’s gear that the platoon needs and you can’t carry it, fine; you can work with your buddies to redistribute the weight. But if you have 10 pounds in personal electronics and comfort items, you’re on your own.
This goes double for any support personnel who are sent to maneuver units to provide a service. You do not add to the unit’s weight. Do not bring anything you can’t carry. I mean, sure, if you’re bringing a Wolfhound with you, you might have to share some weight. But if you’re carrying an extra aid bag or a video camera, ruck up. The infantry has enough weight.
Army troops get a safety brief. It’s one of the most sensible and important formations of the week.
(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Craig Norton)
This one is simple: You go to formations at the assigned time in the assigned uniform with the assigned gear. Otherwise, your entire formation is left waiting around or getting smoked while you try to run and grab it.
And sometimes, there’s an agreed-upon piece of gear you bring even if it’s not assigned. If it’s a cold morning but the word is no pants in formation, you stow those in a car or behind the formation anyway. If first sergeant is feeling cold and offers to wear pants on the run, but you’re the only one without the whole uniform, then you deserve the heckling during the run.
Oh, and if you ask a question during a formation that doesn’t apply to the whole formation, screw you so hard with threaded objects.
Weird that this guy wore his uniform during the police chase. Looks more like a training event than anything. It’s almost like we have to illustrate this with stock photos.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chase Sousa)
And if you’re in a Saturday at 0300 formation because first sergeant suspects that the 20-ish white male leading the police on a chase with a captured panda bear is a member of your company, you keep your mouth shut or you say that you’re pretty sure Jenkins is at a video game launch party that night (assuming first sergeant doesn’t know that games release on Tuesdays).
You do not mention his panda posters, key chain, and tattoos, or the fact that he had been bragging about a new kind of spice that doesn’t show up on drug tests. If he’s not leading the police on a chase, your unnecessary snitching is screwing him. If he is, the police can catch him without your help. Develop some tactical patience.
This gear is laying out on purpose. Don’t steal his crap.
(U.S. Army Pfc. Charles Thorman)
Look, if you leave gear — personal or government-issued — laying out, you’re taking risks. But, if someone in your platoon or squad leaves stuff out, your job is to secure it and then call them an idiot later. You don’t steal from within the unit. That “gear adrift is a gift” thing is Navy shenanigans. And even then, you shouldn’t do it in your own shop or section.
But, guys, if your buddies keep having to secure your sh*t, then get a handle on your sh*t. It’s not your section’s job to keep track of your stuff. Blue Falcons leave their stuff lying around. Real adults are able to take care of their own lives.
After the horrific terror attacks at the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics ended in the death of 11 hostages, nations of the world began creating their own versions what we, in the United States, call Special Weapons and Tactics teams, or SWAT teams. Just under a year later, France established their very own elite tactical police unit called the Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale, or GIGN.
Their counter-terrorism efforts are well regarded when they operate within their homeland, but not many know that they’re also a component of the French Armed Forces, which means they’re one part elite police officers and one part special operations soldier.
They’ve quickly become the most experienced and successful counter-terrorist organization in the world, tallying up over 1,800 publicly known missions with a near-flawless track record. And each time the Gendarmerie step up against a threat, they’ll always bring a trusty six-shooter revolver as their sidearm.
If it looks stupid, but works, it ain’t stupid.
(Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale)
While the GIGN does employ a wide variety of firearms for any given mission, including the MP5 submachine gun, the Fabarm SDASS Tactical shotgun, the Hécate II sniper rifle, and, recently, the BREN 2 rifle, their sidearm of choice is almost always the Manurhin MR73 double-action revolver. It should be noted that some have been known to carry Glock 17s, but that’s more the exception than the rule.
When the testing which sidearm to field, the MR73 made the cut after the teams were able to each shoot over 150 rounds of .38 Special with their sample weapons. They didn’t need to see any other firearms — the MR73 was the first and only sidearm they wanted to test.
Each MR73 is made to be used in marksmanship competitions. Each has an adjustable trigger weight in both double-action and single-action modes so it can be made to perfectly fit its wielder.
Even when the officer is given a choice of firearms, they’ll still almost always take the revolver. Because nothing beats a classic.
(Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale)
But while the MR73 revolver is a solid, practical choice, it’s just as much a status symbol. Commissioner Robert Broussard also saw what the revolver meant to the lawmen of America. It was the weapon of choice used by police to take down both Wild West outlaws and prohibition-era gangsters. A weapon like that earned its place among his police.
Historical status aside, the Manurhin MR73 is one the last remaining high-quality French firearms. The truth is, there simply aren’t many French firearm manufacturers that strive to achieve ultimate quality. Having a highly-customizable, expertly-crafted, .38 Special-firing symbol of both France industry and Wild West lawman? It’s the perfect match for the GIGN.
The government shutdown has been going on for well over a month now and the Coast Guard is still going without pay. My heart honestly burns for each and everyone one of those affected by the shutdown, but there’s one group of Coasties feeling it the worst: the Coast Guard recruiters.
I mean, think about it. It sucks to show up and still have to guard the coasts. Yet, they can continue their mission with a sour look on their face and abundant worries about paying rent. The recruiters? Yeah. I’m damn sure no one made their quota this month. Good luck getting anyone into the door when you can’t even promise them a steady paycheck.
Anyways, just like the Coasties working Lyft after duty, the meme train keeps on rolling.
There’s an old saying in the military: There are three people that you always want to have on your good side: the cooks, the medics, and whoever happens to be repeating this tired, old saying.
Despite the fact that it’s a cliche, there’s a nugget of truth in there. Every single troop plays an important role in this crazy mechanism we call the military — but some roles more important than others. Regardless of whether they’re cool with you, they should be doing their job. Still, there’s no denying that having a key ally within certain roles in the unit will net you certain perks.
These are the 7 guys you’ll want on your good side.
Cooks also have a mentality of not giving a f*ck about giving their buddies special treatment in line. They’ll just stare at the other guy who just got two slices of bacon and not budge.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
This one is a no-brainer. Having a buddy on the inside of the mess hall means that you won’t have to awkwardly sweet talk them to get that extra piece of bacon in the morning.
And it gets even better. At the end of their shifts, there’s almost always large-ass trays of uneaten, good food left over. The rules say that they should turn it in for compost or recycle it into a dish for the next meal, but oftentimes, the cooks just take it home — you can get in on that feast.
It’s also their job to deal with the most disgusting parts of the human body, so you know they’re a good time.
Outside of the obvious — you want these guys to have your back in combat — medics are also going to help you out stateside when you eventually get around to going to the aid station.
Now, we’re not going to pretend like this doesn’t venture into a morally gray area, but when you’re hammered drunk on the weekend and you’re partying with your medic or corpsman, they’ll have some IVs on standby in case your chain of command decides to surprise you with a 12-mile ruck march the next morning. And there’s no better hangover cure.
“Oh no, It looks like the unit only ordered 3 of these swords. Oh well.”
(U.S. Marine Corps)
One of the first and last signatures you’ll need in the unit is from supply. Just how smoothly those final moments go may just hinge on how cool you’ve been with them.
No one does “off the books” quite like supply. They’re all masters at pulling the it-must-have-fallen-off-the-truck maneuver to slide things across to their bros. This basically means that if you’re missing something from the CIF checklist, they could just “happen” to find one that “somehow” had its serial number scratched off. What luck!
The commander may be the head of the unit, but the training room is the neck, pointing them wherever they want.
Training room clerks
Most training room clerks like to tell themselves that there’s some kind of method to their madness, but there isn’t. The inbox gets shuffled around so many times at the training room’s discretion that it’s kind of a misnomer to even call it a “system.”
That paperwork usually gets done at exactly the rate and order of when the training room gets around to it. Be a dick to them and you’ll find your stuff at the bottom of the pile — constantly. Go talk to your buddy Stevenson and they’ll make sure you get the commander’s signature before lunch.
They’re also pros at finding BS justifications to send their buddies to schools their unit isn’t even authorized for.
The recommendations that determine who gets to go to which military school falls on the NCOs at the training meeting, what schools your unit is allotted, and who your commander and Schools NCO feel are the right fit to send.
The commander’s got a million and a half other things to worry outside of scrubbing through a list to determine who’s most suited for Airborne School. The commander, usually, will just nod along whomever the Schools NCO says should go. Get on their good side and they just might bring your name up.
“Oh god, your paperwork just keeps accidentally falling into the shredder. I’ll look into that.”
(U.S. Marine Corps)
Being best buddies with the finance guys isn’t really necessary because they’re not going to help give you a raise or anything since, you know, pay grades and all. They’re mostly just the last people you want to piss off.
Scoff when the POGiest finance Marine says “every Marine is a rifleman” and you’ll somehow find yourself accidentally not paid for the month. If you can’t play nice with them, just avoid them.
What are bros for, am I right?
This is basically the catch-all for all of the combat arms MOS’s out there. Sure, your standard grunt probably can’t slide you anything under the table or go to bat for you with the commander, but earning the friendship and trust of a grunt means way more than any of that.
Grunts have a mentality of brotherhood and they’ll always put their guys above themselves. You need help moving something? The grunts have got spare time for their boy. You need a couch to sleep on for the night? Take their bed, they’re cool on their own couch. Some a**hole gets a bit too close for comfort with you? They’re going to knock out that prick faster than you can blink.
If there’s one accessory that’s become synonymous with the post-9/11 generation of troops, it has to be the nonsensical PT belt. It’s that bright, neon green, reflective band that you see wrapped around every troop when they go out for a jog.
Honestly, it seems like some big wig at the Pentagon must have thought it was funny in an ironic sort of way to make all troops who’re wearing camouflage fatigues put on a bright, shiny, eye-catching belt. Military doctrine isn’t made on a whim and, usually, there’s a lot more at play than meets the eye, but the actual reason behind wearing the belt is a perfect example of someone listening to the “Good Idea Fairy” instead of reason.
In all fairness to the glow belt, it does help troops be seen at night. That doesn’t mean that’s the solution to vehicular manslaughter, however.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Zachary Wolf)
Prior to the 90s, troops didn’t wear any sort of reflective clothing during morning PT. Instead, for safety, troops conducted PT on roads that were blocked off in the mornings to avoid any potential accidents with civilian drivers. Unfortunately, the scenario didn’t play out as installation commanders hoped and fatalities would happen occasionally.
The first step in preventing these unfortunate deaths was to create more reflective PT uniforms — without abandoning the military appearance, of course. A few designs were tested, but the luminescence would consistently lose its luster after a few runs through the laundry.
So, rather than holding the manufacturers accountable for making a sub-par product, the Army used reflective armbands, reflective vests, before, finally, adapting the the widespread PT belt. Initially, this was more of a Band-Aid solution to a large problem.
It’s funny how everyone of ranks of E-7, O-2, and below unanimously hate the belts, but as soon as you make rank, you suddenly laud their effectiveness…
Then came a horrible incident on Lackland Air Force Base in 1996 in which several airmen were struck by a moving vehicle during a morning run. Rather than installing a traffic light or determining what, exactly, was to blame, the Air Force pulled the trigger and made the new reflective belts mandatory.
The rest of the branches soon followed suit because it gave the commanders an out when creating Risk Management Assessments. Rather than taking an analytical look at serious and tragic incidents, the commanders could cut themselves out of the accountability equation by making everyone wear reflective bets.
In short, the solution of “add a PT belt” was a lazy answer to a complicated question that resulted in horrible accidents. Vehicles hitting pedestrians in the motor pool was another problem addressed by adding a PT belt instead of figuring out why so many accidents were happening — after all, do the belts even have any real effect in broad daylight?
“Going into combat? Don’t forget your PT belt!” “Picking someone up from the local bars? Don’t forget your PT belt!” “Jumping out of a C-130 without a parachute? It’s fine so long as you wear your PT belt!”
Over the last month, the United States (and parts of the world) erupted in protests after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmuad Abery. While their deaths drew the ire of many Americans, they set off an angry and passionate reaction to the bigger problem of police brutality and systemic racism.
Unfortunately, protests can be marred by people taking advantage and the marches that have occurred in all 50 states have seen some people take to rioting and looting. While the vast majority of protests have been peaceful, the magnitude of people on the street and looting caused some states to activate their respective National Guard units.
Director and Army Veteran Robert Ham was able to link up with National Guard Chaplain Major Nathan Graeser who was part of a California National Guard Unit that was assigned to downtown Los Angeles. With the noise of protestors in the background demanding reform of police and the end of the systemic racism that plagues this country, Graeser talked about why the National Guard was there and the mood of the troops. When asked about the atmosphere in the area Graeser said, “Seeing this today, I kept thinking to myself… this is what makes America great.”
In addition to being an Army Chaplain in the California National Guard, Nathan is also a social worker. He is an expert on programs and policies that support service members transitioning out of the military. Nathan is an advocate for veterans and leads multiple veteran initiatives in Los Angeles. He has spent thousands of hours counseling veterans and their families to deal with the challenges of service and returning home.
Graeser talks about the disconnections we have with one another, exacerbated by COVID-19 and how those disconnections flared up in the wake of these deaths. He knows, because he sees the same disconnection with his soldiers and with veterans as they themselves struggle to connect to the community they took an oath to serve.
But, Graeser said he sees the similarities between the young soldiers and young protesters, “These 19 year olds,” referring to the guardsmen, he said, “They are thoughtful, they are kind, even their interaction with the looters is as gentle as can possibly be.”
While the riots have been waning, the cries for action have not. What does the future hold for the rest of 2020 and beyond? We can only guess at this time.
But there is hope in what Graeser sees.
“We are out here to see what the next chapter is,” he shared. “One thing I know is wherever we go, we are going to need everybody.”
Special operations forces are the most highly disciplined, mission-capable, and formidable units in the world. They go through rigorous selection processes and training in order to conduct unconventional warfare tasks that are beyond the means of standard military forces.
The truth is, the world may never know exactly what these teams have accomplished, but their public records contain enough to earn global respect. In no particular order, these are ten lethal special operations units from around the world.
Formerly known as the Snow Wolf Commando Unit, named for the tenacity of arctic wolves and their ability to survive in harsh conditions, this is a specops unit of the People’s Republic of China. At their inception, they spent five years training in secret to conduct counter-terrorism, riot control, anti-hijacking, and bomb disposal for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
They’ve trained alongside Russian special task force units during joint anti-terror exercises with the primary mission of maintaining peace and stability.
The unit prides itself on the speed and accuracy of their marksmanship, their strength and stamina, and their spirit of self-sacrifice. Each recruit must serve in the People’s Armed Police for 1-2 years before undergoing physical and psychological tests. Perhaps where they excel the most is in martial arts and close quarter battles, but their sniper squadron shouldn’t be discounted.
The SBS is the UK’s equivalent of the US Navy SEALs. The selection process for the elite team has a 90% failure rate and includes a grueling 4-week endurance test that grows increasingly more challenging and concludes with a 40 kilometer march — that’s 24.8 miles for my fellow Yankees — which must be completed in under 20 hours.
Graduates will master weapons handling, jungle training, complex fighting, and combat survival before they are officially inducted into the elite unit.
Born out of World War II, today, the SBS remains one of the most well-respected units in the world. Since 9/11, the Special Boat Service has been deployed against Al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban, as well as on rescue missions around the globe, including in Sierra Leone and Libya.
Soldier in the Polish Naval Special Forces Unit GROM during NATO exercise Trident Juncture 15.
GROM is an acronym that loosely translates to the Group for Operational Maneuvering Response.
More poignantly, however, grom means “thunder” in Polish. It’s a unit that can trace its lineage to the exiled Polish paratroopers of World War II known as “the Silent Unseen.” 315 men — and one woman — trained for months in Great Britain before jumping into occupied Poland to oppose the Nazi hold there.
In 1990, the GROM unit was organized after Operation Bridge, a mission to help Soviet Jews enter Israel. Intelligence reports indicated a significant Hezbollah threat in the area of operations, so the elite counter-terrorist force was approved. It remained a secret from the public until 1994, when they deployed to Haiti for Operation Restore Democracy.
GROM performs rescue operations, including hostage recovery, as well as counter-insurgency missions. They have extensive weapons and medical expertise and have mastered a variety of military disciplines, including parachuting, amphibious insertion, diving, pyrotechnics, and vehicle handling.
Whether fighting terrorists or war criminals, GROM more than lives up to its name.
Business Insider reported that training for the Pakistani Special Services Group requires a 36-mile march done in 12 hours and a five-mile run in full kit in 20 minutes — if that’s true… then holy s***.
Created to combat terrorism, extremism, and separatism, SSG training consists of grueling physical conditioning, airborne school, a 25-week commando course, and hand-to-hand combat training. Reportedly, only 5% of recruits complete the rigorous training.
Due to their location, they are kept actively engaged in counter-terror missions. From hotspots along the India-Pakistan border to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan to Operation Zarb-e-Azb, a joint military offensive targeting terrorist organizations, the SSG goes where the fire is hot.
Delta Force and soldiers pictured deep behind Iraqi lines during the 1991 Gulf War
6. Delta Force
Delta Force is the U.S. Army’s elite counter-terrorism unit, with Army Rangers and Green Berets among its numbers, but it also has operators from the Navy and Air Force. It’s been called many things — Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, the Combat Applications Group, and now the Army Compartmented Elements, but throughout its short history, it has maintained its superior ability to capture or kill high value targets, dismantle terrorist cells, and conduct covert missions in any area of operations.
Most of the missions executed by Delta Force remain classified — and it’s rare to find an official document that even acknowledges the unit — but one of its most notable accomplishments includes Operation Red Dawn, the capture of Saddam Hussein.
A leaked recruiting video gave a glimpse at different training methods for Delta Force, including tactical driving, vehicle takedowns, and assaulter team tactics. A testament to their precision, one of their final exams includes breaching operations with fellow team members playing the hostage as his brothers live fire against targets nearby. The operation builds trust within the team and provides the shooter a sober reminder not to hit the hostage.
Their training program is notoriously brutal and lasts fourteen months — if recruits can make it that long. One documentary team followed a group of potential recruits and saw 120 of them whittled down to 18 in two weeks. It includes one of the best marksmanship schools in the world, weapons handling, airborne courses including HALO jumps, hand-to-hand combat, diving, survival training, and explosive ordnance disposal.
These guys are lethal, but they value fire discipline. Rumor has it that they’re just issued a 6-shot .357 revolver as their official sidearm — with only 6 rounds, you bet they’re going to make each one count.
Also known as “Unit 269,” Israel’s Sayeret Matkal is a highly secretive special-operations brigade with almost legendary status. Since its inception in 1957, Sayeret Matkal has gained a reputation for its deep reconnaissance capabilities and counter-terrorism and hostage recovery missions.
They rely on secrecy, attacking in small numbers and in disguise, then fading away before the enemy realizes what happened.
The disguised task force was airlifted in with Land Rovers and a Mercedes-Benz. They managed to infiltrate the local army, kill the terrorists, and rescue all but four of the hostages. Only one Israeli soldier was killed in the attack.
That’s the thing with Sayeret Matkal — once you know it’s there, you’re already out of time.
Spanish Special Operations Forces (SOF) soldiers partner with a U.S. Marine during a mock non-compliant boarding as part of exercise Sea Saber 2004.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Jeffrey Lehrberg)
3. Spain’s Special Naval Warfare Force
Spain’s Special Naval Warfare Force was created in 2009 when the country merged different units of the Spanish Navy into one combatastic entity. The “Fuerza” is comprised of the Special Combat Divers Unit, Special Explosive Diffusers Unit, and the Special Operations Unit — its main tactical predecessor.
The Special Operations Unit was responsible for maritime counter-terrorism, combat diving, air and amphibious insertion, combat search and rescue, and ship-boarding — today’s elite unit carries on the fight.
They have a strong history of utilizing those tactics in hostage rescue and pirate confrontation. In 2002, the hombres rana supported Operation Enduring Freedom in the Indian Ocean when they stormed a North Korean vessel transporting SCUD missiles to Yemen. Then, in 2011, they rescued a French hostage from Somali pirates.
And that’s just what’s known to the public — like the other elite units on this list, most of their missions remain classified.
Russia’s badass Spetsnaz is shrouded in mystery, but it dates back to the Red Bolshevik Guard, a paramilitary force organized during the height of the Russian Revolution in the early 20th century. Most of its members are comparable to U.S. Army Rangers, but an elite few train like Delta Force.
Recently, Russia has been increasingly modeling its Spetsnaz off American counterparts.
To a casual observer, they can appear difficult to distinguish from one another, but at the end of the day, there’s a reason Russia is trying to keep up with the United States.
Members of U.S. Navy Seal Team One move down the Bassac River in a SEAL Team Assault Boat (STAB) during operations along the river south of Saigon. November 1967.
1. U.S. Navy SEALs
I lied. I saved this one for last. Because, come on.
United States Navy SEALs are perhaps the finest special operations forces in the world. The competitive standard to even be considered for BUD/S training is to swim 500 yards in 10:30, 79 push-ups, 79 sit-ups, 11 pull-ups, and a 10:20 1.5 mile run. That’s just to get in.
Preparation to become a SEAL consists of Basic Underwater Demolition, Parachute Jump school, and SEAL Qualification Training — which have all been described lightly as “brutal” — then they do another 18 months of pre-deployment training.
SEALs deliver highly specialized, intensely challenging tactical capabilities including direct action warfare, special reconnaissance, counterterrorism, and foreign internal defense.
From the Korean War and the Vietnam War to Somalia to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, to Operation Inherent Resolve, and, of course, the death of international terrorist Osama bin Laden, Navy SEALs have made their mark.
Photographer Michael Stokes has taken the internet by storm with his powerful, provocative photo endeavor “Always Loyal,” a coffee table book featuring amputee veterans of all branches.
Rather than minimize his models’ wounds, Stokes boldly showcases their prosthetics (or lack thereof) in a series of semi-nude, erotic photographs.
Most of the featured male subjects lost limbs to IED attacks, and Stokes uses powerful poses to highlight the bravery and beauty of his models — shattering the stigma that wounded warriors can only be depicted in somber, “respectful” situations.
“Why can’t an amputee be shot with glamour?” Stokes told People in a recent interview. “These veterans were making themselves vulnerable and deserved to be treated like any other model. If they can handle it, why not?”
To fans who praise him for making his models “feel like men again,” Stokes strongly disagrees.
“I’m not giving them their confidence back,” he told MTV. “They already have it.”
The project first began more than two years ago when Stokes met then-aspiring fitness model and amputee vet Alex Minsky. Stokes had been shooting fitness models for some time, but the encounter with Minsky motivated him to capture veteran subjects with just as much sex appeal as a “typical” model.
He had no idea what an impact his photos would have on the veteran community, or the models themselves.
“I’ll never forget the second soldier I shot,” Stokes told MTV, recalling that the soldier told him, “‘This photo shoot was the best day of my life. I could never imagine doing something like this. Being naked in front of somebody for so long — it’s an incredible experience.'”
Stokes added: “And he hadn’t even seen the photos yet!”
The book showcases 14 veterans of the Gulf War, Iraq War, and the War in Afghanistan. The photos vary in tone: some models playfully show off some “leg” while others smolder at the camera. One thing is clear in every photo, however: these guys are hot, and they know it.
So does Stokes’ growing fan base. His Kickstarter campaign for art books “Exhibition and “Always Loyal” reached its $48,250 goal in just over an hour, and has now earned a whopping $321,694 with five days still left on the campaign.