Humor in combat: Veterans share their funny war stories - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Humor in combat: Veterans share their funny war stories

Humor in combat is a bizarre topic — and one not many understand unless they’ve been there. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines across the world have been fighting in wars since the creation of militaries. Combat is a high-octane blend of mental and physical exhaustion. The more a soldier is in combat, the better they get at warfighting — and coping with the rigors of war creates a unique sense of humor.

Soldiers are known to engage in somewhat dark humor that is typically derived from repeated exposure to high-stress scenarios in training and in combat. These experiences can make assimilation into the civilian sector more difficult after getting out of the military. The gap between veterans and civilians is ever present, and differences in humor — along with extreme differences in life experiences — can contribute to that divide.

According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter in high-stress environments is a coping mechanism and can actually manifest helpful physical effects: “Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.” In addition, laughter can activate and then relieve your stress response as well as decrease tension.

Coffee or Die Magazine spoke with several veterans about their experiences in combat — and why they found some of it funny.

Mike Simpson ready to roll before a mission. Photo courtesy of Mike Simpson.

Mike Simpson served in the US Army for 32 years, starting out in 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, moving on to 7th Special Forces Group, and ending his career in the military as an emergency medicine physician.

On a deployment in 2013 during winter in Afghanistan, Simpson and his fellow Rangers sprinted into position after their partner force came under fire. It was a small firefight, but they spent the better part of an hour trying to locate a “squirter” that was shooting at them after running from the target building they were there to hit.

During the firefight, Simpson recalled, he “took a mental step back and actually checked my pulse. Then I said, ‘Hmmm … interesting,’ and I chuckled. The Ranger next to me gave me a funny look.”

His fellow Ranger didn’t say anything until they got back to their base. Simpson explained to him why he had checked his pulse during the firefight, and they both had another laugh.

“The first half of my career, I had always wondered how I would react on a psychological and physiological level to combat. You read all the stories and the books, but you don’t know how you will react until it happens,” Simpson said. “I was curious, as a physician, as to how I was handling the situation, so I took my own pulse.”

Steve Wickham served in an aviation unit prior to becoming a Ranger. Photo courtesy of Steve Wickham.

Steve Wickham served in the US Army for a little over 20 years and deployed a total of five times. He was on a deployment to Afghanistan while in the 563rd Aviation Support Battalion back in 2012, stationed at Kandahar Airfield. Rocket attacks were common and he was typically close to the impacts, as he was living on the airfield in a mini-compound. Eight months into his 12-month deployment, another rocket attack came in.

The incoming-ordnance sirens started going off at approximately 11 p.m. Wickham and his active duty and civilian comrades made their way to the bunker on their compound. The airfield’s Counter Rocket, Artillery, Mortar (C-RAM) defense system started firing at the incoming ordnance, but Wickham wasn’t too concerned.

“The C-Rams were going off, and per usual none of us took the attack very seriously,” Wickham said. “I believe I was sitting on top of the bunker, smoking and joking with another NCO, instead of being inside it.”

Wickham and his comrades were laughing the night away when three rockets hit just outside their aircraft hangars, approximately 60 yards from their bunker. They started running toward the impacts to render aid if needed.

One of the civilians there was Randy, a veteran and firefighter, who had let himself go after getting out of the military. During this whole deployment, Randy had been hitting the gym hard and had lost a lot of weight. Wickham made a quick quip to this civilian as they were running toward the impact site.

“Damn Randy, look at you. That gym time is paying off — you’re keeping up with us!” Appearing dumbfounded, Randy made Wickham’s joke worth it. Randy was winded, and all he could do was flip the bird at Wickham and keep running. They arrived to find that no one was injured, so they moved on to evaluate property damage.

Later on, they were all gathered in a circle and talking about the night’s events. Randy was laughing about Wickham’s ability to crack jokes while sprinting and just after multiple rockets had hit their compound.

This photo was taken shortly after Barrett Carver’s experience with the deflected ordnance; Carver is the second from the left in the top row. Photo courtesy of Barrett Carver.

Barrett Carver served in the US Army for almost seven years and deployed multiple times. He spent his time in 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and was one of the Rangers involved in the assault on Haditha Dam, a critical structure to capture during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

During the assault, Carver and his fellow Rangers were holed up inside one of the buildings on “the military side of the dam,” and they were taking indirect fire from the Iraqis. Artillery rounds were impacting close to their building for several hours with barrages of small-arms fire. Carver thought to himself, Well, it’s been a good run.

Suddenly, they all heard a loud twang, and a thick cloud of dust erupted inside the building. Carver looked up to see a horseshoe-shaped indent in the corrugated tin roof over their heads. Everyone burst into uncontrollable laughter — one of the artillery rounds had been deflected by the thin tin roof.

“Deflection is a funny thing,” Carver said. “It could have just as easily been a dud round. Either way, I take a kick where I can get it. Amazing thing is that with the amount they dropped on us, we only had two casualties. Both made it.”

Scott Ford and his ODA overseas. Photo courtesy of Scott Ford.

Scott Ford served in the US Army for 21 years and is the recipient of a Silver Star for his actions in Afghanistan on April 6, 2008, while serving as the team sergeant of Operational Detachment Alpha 3336 (ODA-3336).

Ford struck up a conversation with a fellow passenger while on his flight to a training event. She was a psychologist, and they were discussing different ways to handle heavy stress. One of her suggestions for handling stressful situations was to imagine breaking crayons. At the time, Ford didn’t realize this suggestion would pop into his head years later during a firefight in Iraq.

During a mission one night in Sadr City, Iraq, Ford and his Special Forces team were pinned down on top of a roof while supporting the main assault element.

“It was one of those little aggravating gunfights where we just can’t find the guy to kill him, and we’re trying all kinds of unique things,” Ford recalled.

It got to a point where Ford and his teammate sat down behind their cover to think through a solution to finally kill the insurgent who had them pinned down. Then a smile creeped across Ford’s face, despite the bullets impacting their cover. His teammate looked at him with bewilderment and said, “What the fuck are you thinking about right now?”

Ford looked at him and said, “I’m like, breaking fucking crayons, bro.” They both busted out in laughter. After regaining composure, they figured out a way to take out the insurgent.

“You know, it’s just one of those moments where anybody else would look at us like, you guys are fucking weird, you know?” Ford said.

Ford believes veterans are unique because they have the ability to laugh in dire situations. Ford and his old teammates still get together from time to time, and the story about breaking crayons always comes up.

Jason Briggs, left, with a fellow Ranger overseas. Photo courtesy of Jason Briggs.

Jason Briggs served in the US Army for four years in 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment and deployed five times. Briggs’ last deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2008 involved a particularly funny experience while out on a mission.

His team didn’t have their usual pilots and were being flown by an aviation unit that they hadn’t worked with much in the past. They were loaded onto two MH-47 Chinook helicopters to infiltrate their target. High winds coming down the mountains made flying conditions difficult. When Briggs’ Chinook attempted to touch down, the pilot struggled to make a steady landing and took several tries; each failed attempt to land was followed by a rapid gain in altitude while spinning. Meanwhile, the other helicopter landed on its first attempt and offloaded its Rangers.

The guys were having a blast on his Chinook, pretending the scary helicopter ride was a roller coaster and that they were in Disney World, laughing constantly.

“You’d see the mountains under nods just whizzing by out the back out the Chinook,” Briggs said. “It took about four attempts to put her down, and when he did, we were a ways away from the other chalk. But hey, we were finally down.”

The Rangers landed and executed their mission, detaining several people from the targeted house. The call for their exfiltration was radioed into command, and eventually the same crew of Chinooks came thundering in.

When the pilot of Briggs’ Chinook made the first attempt to land, they all had to take off running with their detainees to avoid getting stomped on by the actual helicopter.

“Sure enough this guy can’t put it down again — the first attempt sends us running like mushrooms about to be stomped by Mario,” Briggs said. “Have you ever seen an exfil circle, with PUCs, pick up and run in a complete brownout as a helicopter follows them around trying to land on them? Yeah, that actually happened.”

The pilot landed after about three attempts, and the Rangers loaded up with their detainees. They had a safe flight back to base to prepare for the inevitable follow-on mission.

“Although we got to share the camaraderie together in the bird,” he said, “I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed so hard in my life as I did seeing a helicopter try to land on me in the middle of the night in Afghanistan.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘1917’ is going to be the coolest World War I movie ever

After a century, World War I is finally getting the treatment in American cinema it so richly deserves. While some of the best war movies were World War I movies, Paths of Glory, All Quiet on the Western Front, and Lawrence of Arabia, there were also many misses. What’s surprising is that there are relatively few WWI movies, when compared to those depicting other wars.

No longer. 1917 is a new movie based on the Great War, coming in December. And it looks like it could be the definitive WWI movie.


The film takes place during the Third Battle of Ypres, where a British contingent of 1,600 men is due to walk into a German trap. Two Tommies are given the assignment to proceed on foot to warn the unit about their orders – the ones that take them directly into an ambush. Their mission takes them across the Ypres battlefields and through the deadly trench warfare that is now synonymous with the Great War.

What’s more remarkable about 1917 is that it’s based on a true story, one told to director Sam Mendes by his own grandfather, Alfred. Alfred Mendes received the Military Medal for “acts of gallantry and devotion to duty under fire” during the war. The Military Medal was replaced by the Military Cross in the UK armed forces in 1993, and would be the fifth-highest medal awarded by the United Kingdom today.

Relentless rain, mud, and death marked the Battle of Ypres.

The elder Mendes ran through snipers, trenches, moving artillery barrages, and machine-gun fire to deliver messages for two full days during the Battle of Poelcappelle. Mendes’ grandfather was raised on the Caribbean island of Trinidad but left to join the fight against Germany, joining the British Army in 1916, at the age of 19. He saw action at the WWI Battles of Passchendaele (Ypres) and Poelcappelle. He was sent to go find survivors of a failed attack during Poelcappelle. It was a dangerous assignment, one his commander said he might not return from.

Despite encountering all of World War I’s signature death traps, he still managed to find survivors while surviving himself. He made it back to his company’s shell hole intact.

“In spite of the snipers, the machine-gunners and the shells, I arrived back at C Company’s shell hole without a scratch but with a series of hair-raising experiences that would keep my grand and great-grandchildren enthralled for nights on end,” he would later write in his autobiography.

1917 is based on Medes’ experiences on this mission. The film is set to release on Dec. 25, 2019.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Space Medal of Honor is the highest award for astronauts

On Oct. 1, 1978, President Jimmy Carter wrapped the Space Medal of Honor around the neck of Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on the moon. It was the first-ever of such medals awarded, even though the medal was authorized by Congress in 1969 — the year Armstrong actually landed on the moon.

Better late than never.


Astronaut Neil Armstrong received the first Congressional Space Medal of Honor from President Jimmy Carter, assisted by Captain Robert Peterson. Armstrong, one of six astronauts to be presented the medal, was awarded for his performance during the Gemini 8 mission and the Apollo 11 mission.

(NASA)

The list of men also receiving the Space Medal of Honor that day was a veritable “who’s who” of NASA and Space Race history: John Glenn, Alan Shepard, and — posthumously — Virgil “Gus” Grissom. They received the medal from the President of the United States, in the name of Congress, and on the recommendation of the NASA administrator.

Today, as the list of Space Medal of Honor recipients grows, it continues to have such esteemed names joining their ranks, as earning it requires an extraordinary feat of heroism or some other accomplishment in the name of space flight while under NASA’s administration. Just going to the moon doesn’t cut it anymore — Buzz Aldrin still does not have one.

Read: Watch Buzz Aldrin punch a moon landing denier in the face

President Clinton presented the Congressional Space Medal of Honor to Captain James Lovell for his command of the nearly disastrous Apollo 13 mission. Actor Tom Hanks portrayed Lovell in the movie Apollo 13 the same year he received the medal.

(Clinton Presidential Library)

Recipients can also receive the award for conducting scientific research or experiments that benefit all of mankind in the course of their duties. In practice, however, most of the recipients of the Space Medal of Honor died in the course of their duties. The crew of the ill-fated Challenger disaster who died during liftoff and the crew of the Columbia shuttle, who died during reentry are all recipients. To date, only 28 astronauts have earned the Space Medal of Honor, and 17 of those were awarded it posthumously.

Though the award is a civilian award, it is allowed for wear on military uniforms, but the ribbon comes after all other decorations of the U.S. Armed Forces.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Iranians, American veterans react to death of Soleimani

On Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020, a U.S. airstrike in Iraq killed Quds Force Commander and Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani and Kata-ib Hezbollah leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, sending a wave of uncertainty into an already volatile region.

According to NBC News, Soleimani was planning to attack U.S. targets in the Middle East. NBC spoke to a State Department official after the strike, who said that they had “very solid intelligence” that Soleimani would act. U.S. President Donald Trump would later call Soleimani the “No. 1” terrorist in the world.

In response to the strike, Iran‘s leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that “forceful vengeance” awaits the criminals behind the attack.


Coffee or Die spoke to two veterans of the Iraq War who have experience fighting Iran’s proxy militias, and three Iranians, two of whom currently live in Iran. The Iranians were given aliases to protect their identities.

Former U.S. Army Ranger and Green Beret Travis Osborn on deployment.

(Photo courtesy of Travis Osborn.)

Travis Osborn is a former U.S. Army Ranger and Green Beret. He spent 20 years in the Army and has experience going rifle-to-rifle with Iran’s proxy fighters.

“He caused a lot of issues in Iraq with the Badr Brigades and supporting Muqtada Al Sadr’s Madhi Army,” he said, referring to a Shi’a militia that was involved in multiple clashes with U.S. troops. “It was a target of opportunity that could not be passed up.

“Why was [Soleimani] in Iraq?” Osborn continued. “It wasn’t just for vacation. In my estimation, they were planning their first opening moves against the U.S. and Iraqi government for a takeover/overthrow of the country. We have been in the business of asking Iran to be nice for too long. It is time they were taught it is in their best interest to not sponsor terrorism and genocide.”

He also had some insights for people who may be afraid of a war with Iran: “They forget Iraq beat Iran in a war. And we ran over Iraq when it had one of the largest militaries in the world.”

Army veteran Adam Schumann agrees that the death of Soleimani was a positive action. Schumann served three combat deployments in Iraq with the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, and his struggle with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was turned into the Hollywood movie “Thank You For Your Service.”

“I’m overjoyed with the news of Soleimani’s death! I was fortunate enough to spend three years in Iraq encompassing every campaign of the war except for operation New Dawn,” he said. “In 2007, the Mahdi militia were thick in New Baghdad — and clearly backed and equipped by Iran.”

Schumann doesn’t believe that the strike indicates the start of another war. “Some are saying this is the beginning of a new conflict. I think it’s finally the beginning of the end of one we’ve been invested in for 17 years,” he said. “Too many American service members fought and died at the hands of Iran’s influence in the region. I can only hope that the commander in chief keeps his foot on the gas and further aides Iraq to a free and sovereign country.”

The Iranians we spoke to about the issue aren’t mourning the death of Soleimani, either.

“He was the head of a terrorist Shia network. He has blood on his hands, including the blood of Americans, Israelis, Iraqis, Syrians, and, of course, Iranians,” Hossein said. “It’s a great loss for the Islamic Republic, especially Ali Khamenei. They are angry, desperate, and confused. As an Iranian, I’m so happy he is dead and that it was done in such a quick, intelligent way by U.S. forces.”

Firuz said that it was the happiest news he has heard all month. “Soleimani displaced and destroyed thousands of innocent people,” he added.

“To me, he was always a terrorist,” Kaveh said. “They all are — IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) members, I mean. One day he’s the general, and the day before that he was the guy torturing political prisoners. I see him as someone responsible for the death of many Iranians and Arabs from neighboring countries. Good riddance!”

What happens next depends on if Khamenei chooses to escalate the situation. Either way, tensions between America and Iran appear to be at an all-time high.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Delta Cartoonist: Toad Jumper

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

Student: “Sergeant, how long do I have to deploy my reserve parachute if my main fails to open?”

Sergeant: “The rest of your life, son… the rest of your life.”

There is no argument that Tier-1 units routinely engage in dangerous training: climbing skyscraper structures, engaging in gunfights in close quarters and confined spaces, hunkering down nexts to explosive breaching charges that are barely an arm’s reach away as they ignite… A cringe-worthy component to that list that hooks every seasoned operator’s attention is airborne operations, because most things that go wrong during them can be fatal.

The feature image, Toad Jumper, is of course a parody of “towed jumper,” an airborne term used to describe a paratrooper whose static line, a 15-foot nylon cord that pulls open the jumper’s parachute, doesn’t separate from the aircraft. On the rare occasion that the parachute pack fails to break free from the static line anchored to the jump aircraft, the paratrooper will be towed behind the aircraft at ~120MPH spinning and slamming against the airplane. It is a horrid and deadly event.

Paras line up and hooked up. Static lines are hooked to anchor cable; they are routed correctly OVER the men’s arms. Mac’s had looped under his arm.

My best friend and renowned firearms trainer Patrick Arther “Mac”McNamara was a towed jumper on his very first training jump with the Army’s Airborne School in Ft. Benning, GA. His static line had unfortunately looped under his arm, cushioning the tug of the line and preventing it from effectively pulling his parachute loose.

Mac spun wildly and bounced off of the kin of the aircraft… then his static line fortunately was able to pull away his pack and deploy his parachute canopy correctly. The violent tug of the static line ripped his biceps muscle from his humerus bone and pulled it down to his forearm. He was in severe pain and unable to use his damaged arm.

When it rains it pours, and since Mac was not able to use his arm, he could not steer his parachute for a safe up-wind landing. Rather than face into the wind a parachute defaults to running down (with) the wind at higher speed. Mac braced himself, cringing before the impending impact with the ground.

Patrick McNamara frame grab from one of his training videos reveals the gnarly scar on his left biceps, a staunch reminder of being a towed (toad) jumper

He hit with great speed tumbling and flipping in excruciating pain. Landing is the most critical step in a jump that the jumper can have the most control over. The jumper must correctly assess the wind direction and turn himself to face into the wind by maneuvering the lines that suspend him from his canopy.

A paratrooper must perform a proper Parachute Landing Fall (PLF) to preclude broken bones and other injuries, and finally, a jumper must quickly securehis parachute to prevent being dragged across the ground resulting in potential death.

Now, the instructors on the Drop Zone, the Black Hats, saw Mac’s cartwheel landing and began to scream at him through electrically amplified megaphone:

“HEY LEG! WHO THE HELL TAUGHT YOU TO DO A DOWN-WIND LANDING, LEG!”

A leg was a term used to refer to a soldier who was not airborne qualified. By military doctrine, soldiers can be referred to as regular straight-leg infantry, and airborne infantry. Leg is a mildly derogatory term, yet a moniker of pride used by airborne forces.

Airborne pipe-hitters from the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) packed in their jump aircraft

Now Mac was being dragged by the wind across the ground further contributing to his anguish, as he could not release his parachute connection on his chest. That further infuriated the Black Hats:

“GODDAMNIT LEG, PULL YOUR CANOPY RELEASES, LEG… YOU STINKING LEG!!!”

A fellow student ran in front of Mac’s inflated parachute and collapsed it. Mac now had to stow all of his parachute into a kitbag and carry his gear to an assembly zone where students were gathered… all with just one good arm and the other in extreme pain.

Airborne soldier about to make contact with the ground; always a tense moment

Mac stumbled to the assembly point. His assessment of the event sums up what an amazing warrior Pat Mac is, and why I regard him such esteem to this day (words to the effect): “I didn’t really know what to think at the time; I mean, it was my first time and I really had no idea what to expect. To me, that was just what jumping was like… what every jump would be like… and I was willing to accept that.”

Pulling open his BDU shirt he saw that his biceps had been reassigned south of his shoulder to his forearm; the skin was stretched so tight that it had taken on a transparent form revealing the color of the sinew and blood vessels thereunder. He showed it to a couple of other students to see if their arms all looked the same way; none did. Only then did Mac realize his plight.

Mac had to have surgery to pull his bicep back up to his humerus to re-attach it, leaving him a gnarly scarred reminder. One of my team brothers in Delta also suffered the same fate as Mac in jump school. His static line looped under his arm. When he jumped he was momentarily towed; his biceps torn and pulled down to his forearm.

His biceps never really recovered to its original position, rather a bit low on his humerus toward his elbow. It really looked funny when he flexed his biceps, intentionally flexing it often in the gym with accompanying remarks such as: “(flexing) Just came in to pump up ol’ Betsy here… I know she looks pretty ripped now, but you should have seen how ripped she was in jump school!”

The trauma associated with a towed jumper scenario would easily be “quittin’ time” for most folks, with no fault assigned or explanation required. For Pat McNamara it was just one entry in a long line of threats that tried to beat him down and prevent him from obtaining his warrior goal. He went on to be arguably the best physically fit and top-performing Delta Operator of our era, and continues today to even exceed the standards that we maintained in the Unit.

McNamara’s personal domain

MIGHTY CULTURE

The military origin of the classic gin and tonic cocktail

Some days, you just feel like you need a drink. Other days, you can’t live without one. For hundreds — maybe thousands — of English troops, there’s one drink that literally saved their lives: the gin and tonic.


It all started when the Spanish learned that Quechua tribesmen in the 1700s (in what is now Peru) would strip the bark from cinchona trees and grind it to help stop fever-related shivering. The active ingredient in the cinchona power was a little chemical known as quinine. It didn’t take long before Spain began to use the remedy to fight malaria.

Eventually, the treatment made its way around the world, helping the British colonial government in India maintain order.

Any gin is a better complement to wood shavings than wine.

Whilethe French mixed the cinchona with wine, the British mixed theirs with gin,sugar, and,often, a bit of lemon. Later on, this mixture became even more pleasantwhen a Swiss jeweler of German descent, Johann Jakob Schweppe, created amixture of bubbly soda water, citrus, and quinine—and calledit “Schweppes Indian Tonic Water.”

By 1869, Indian companies were manufacturing their own soda water and lemon tonics. With easy access to the soda and one of Britain’s favorite spirits, the redcoats were free to continue colonizing the subcontinent unabated by pesky mosquitoes.

Too bad there wasn’t a cocktail that helped the British conquer Afghanistan.

Today’s tonic water has much less quinine in it. To prevent malaria, you’d need between 500-1,000 milligrams of quinine, but consuming an entire liter of tonic water today would only get you about 83-87 milligrams. Quinine alone isn’t even an effective treatment for the disease anymore, as malarial parasites have grown resistant to the drug. These days, a drug cocktail is more effective at malaria prevention than quinine alone.

So, bring along your Hendrick’s and Tonic, but don’t forget to bring your malaria pills, too.


MIGHTY CULTURE

US Army Green Berets trained some airmen — here’s what they put them through

Throughout the Pacific Theater, US military units must overcome jungle terrain riddled with cliffs, poisonous creatures, dense foliage yielding mere yards of visibility, and muddy slopes that threaten to launch anyone down 30-foot ravines of twisted roots and jagged rocks.

Welcome to the jungle.

US Army Green Berets from 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), invited Team Kadena airmen to train with them at the US Marine Corps Jungle Warfare Training Center (JWTC) at Camp Gonsalves, Okinawa, Japan.

“The Special Forces detachment incorporated airmen from around Okinawa to attend a training exercise to bridge the gap in small unit tactics, communication techniques, and patient extraction procedures between our airmen and the Green Berets,” said US Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Triana, an independent duty medical technician paramedic (IDMT-P) from the 67th Fighter Squadron.

“Each airman is trained in a different specialty providing various perspectives to achieve the tactical objectives presented by the detachment in the jungle.”


A US Army Green Beret and Air Force Staff Sgt. Mike Triana establish a security perimeter during a small unit tactics exercise, at the Jungle Warfare Training Center, Camp Gonsalves, Japan, Aug. 21, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

The Kadena airmen’s familiarity and experience with deployments to countries such the Philippines and Thailand enabled them to withstand the Green Berets’ jungle training program. The training enabled Triana and other airmen to expand their deployment skillsets in a severely restrictive jungle environment.

“As an IDMT-P the didactic aspect of the training improved our capabilities to deliver immediate medical care at the point of injury,” said Triana. “Learning patient extraction techniques provides the capability to safely gain access to an injured patient and remove them from an adverse situation such as a cliff or ravine.”

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

This integration enabled the airmen to train in basic US Army Infantry squad and platoon tactics for the first time while simultaneously allowing the Special Forces detachment to hone its combat lethality and readiness posture for high intensity conflict against a near-peer adversary, according to a 1-1 SFG (A) command vision document.

“Small unit tactics and patient extraction training provided the skills necessary to perform the duties required in a tactical element or combat scenario,” said Triana. “This training opportunity has enhanced our readiness to respond to humanitarian relief efforts and deploy to a declared theater of armed conflict.”

Team Kadena airmen receive weapon familiarization training from a US Army Green Beret after a land-navigation course at the Jungle Warfare Training Center, Camp Gonsalves, Japan, Aug. 20, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

US Air Force Master Sgt. Thomas Donahue establishes a security perimeter during a small unit tactics exercise at the Jungle Warfare Training Center, Camp Gonsalves, Japan, Aug. 21, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

They are capable of conducting the full spectrum of special operations to identify and target threats to US national interests.

“We deploy to countries throughout the INDOPACOM area of responsibility to bilaterally train with partner nations. This partnership enhances capabilities to combat internal threats from violent extremist organizations or other hostile actors,” said a Special Forces detachment commander.

“This enables us to enhance not only our readiness and lethality to respond to a contingency or crises scenario, but also provides our foreign counterparts the skills they need to protect their sovereignty.”

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

The Special Forces detachment is optimizing the joint training opportunities present on Okinawa, Japan. Working with adjacent military units from the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Army allows the detachment to enhance its advisory capacity and maintain readiness before deploying to a foreign country.

“Training with these airmen opens different channels in terms of capabilities, resources, and training value,” said a Special Forces medical sergeant.

“For our Air Force counterparts, it provides a valuable opportunity for them to learn tactical skills they may never have been taught. For us, seeing them motivated, aggressively engaging in these drills, and advancing in their understanding of small unit tactics is valuable feedback for an instructor and adviser on our skills.”

US Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force service members conduct intravenous hydration during a multi-day training event at the Jungle Warfare Training Center, Camp Gonsalves, Japan, Aug. 22, 2019.

(US Army/1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group)

The Marine Corps JWTC further enhances the Green Berets’ mission capabilities, offering a low cost, highly versatile training platform across more than 8,700 acres of heavily vegetated, mountainous terrain, according to the JWTC cadre.

“In preparation for high-intensity conflict against a near-peer adversary, our training methodology must adapt from our experiences conducting counter terrorism and counter insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said the Special Forces detachment company commander.

“The opportunity to enhance our relationship with the Marine cadre at the JWTC has enabled my teams to train in the jungle, reinforcing the skills we require for this near-peer high intensity conflict.”

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Nathan Shelton guards his fire team’s retreat during a break-contact combat exercise as part of a multi-day training event at the Jungle Warfare Training Center at Camp Gonsalves, Japan, Aug. 22, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

A US Army Green Beret coordinates fire-team movements during a break-contact combat exercise as part of a multi-day training event at the Jungle Warfare Training Center, Camp Gonsalves, Japan, Aug. 22, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

US Army Green Berets conduct a multi-day field training event with Team Kadena airmen at the Jungle Warfare Training Center, Camp Gonsalves, Japan, Aug. 21, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

“Every country we operate in, we enhance our partnerships and alliances with our foreign counterparts,” said the SF detachment commander.

“When it comes to security, we are the preferred partner choice that shares their values and principles. The US is ready to assist them in preserving their sovereignty, and will maintain the rules-based free and open Indo-Pacific that has assured an unparalleled prosperity in the last 30 years,” the commander said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 ways troops screw themselves while in the field

Although many grunts might disagree, heading out to the field can be a productive, fruitful experience if all the training operations are well-planned and clear goals are set. During training, troops are allowed to blow sh*t up, fire their weapons at various targets, and call for mortar support should the situation require it.

In short, it can be a fun time.

Unfortunately, many newbies find ways to mess up even the simplest tasks, bringing things to a grinding halt.

Boots don’t want to get themselves into too much trouble. After all, it might get you assigned to a cleanup crew or, worse, NJP’d — but it happens. This is a list of the most common ways infantrymen screw themselves over while training in the field.


Also Read: 4 simple rules every infantryman ‘in the suck’ should obey

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“Hey guys, did it look cool?”

Not fully recovering from a good weekend

Most field ops start bright and early on Monday morning. Unfortunately, the majority of all infantrymen will have spent their duty-free weekend either at the bar or drinking in their barracks room. All the while, 99.9 percent of grunts tell themselves that they’ll be fully functional before the morning hits.

That rarely happens.

Going out to the field with a nasty hangover is a good way to screw yourself over. Infantrymen recovering from weekend of heavy drinking are much more likely to fall asleep on the job or suffer an otherwise-avoidable, nasty spill out in the rough, hilly terrain.

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Oops!

Talking sh*t over a “hot mic”

Have you ever overheard someone talking in the background during a phone conversation? Sure you have.

Speaking over a “hot mic” means accidentally broadcasting something over a frequency — and anyone tuned into that frequency can hear it.

In the civilian world, talking sh*t over the phone comes with a certain set of consequences that you can (usually) talk your way out of. Accidentally talking sh*t about another service member to everyone listening, however, might bring about some harsh discipline.

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Damn. The little guy wasn’t expecting that.

Under-packing gear

Before a unit heads out to the field, the officer in charge will create a “gear list” that outlines everything a troop will need while training. The beloved “Wobbie,” some extra pairs of socks, and a few waterproof bags almost always make the list.

The list of required gear tends to get pretty long and, after you’ve packed it all up, it’s pretty heavy. So, some troops will cut corners and leave things behind to lighten the load, making life easier when they’re out hiking in the field.

Skimping out often comes back to bite the troop in the ass. There’ll come a time when he or she desperately needs that one piece of gear they decided to leave behind.

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Life without NVGs while in the field.

Burning out their batteries

A troop’s NVGs run off of special battery power which they can either get for free from supply or buy with their own cash at the post exchange. It’s easy to operate these specialized pieces of equipment — all it takes is a flip of a switch. Unfortunately, that’s also the equipment’s curse. As a troop packs up their equipment to head out to the field, it’s all too easy for those googles to rub up against another piece of gear and get switched on.

Before you know it, the NVGs are out of batteries. So, if the troop isn’t mindful enough, they’ll be blind once the sun sets.

MIGHTY CULTURE

2,000 Gold-Star family members go to Disney thanks to Gary Sinise

The Gary Sinise Foundation, a non-profit that focuses on veterans, first responders, and their families, has helped send almost 2,000 people from Gold Star families to Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida, as part of Snowball Express, a holiday season program that aims to help families of fallen service members.


According to an Instagram post, the foundation is tracking 1,722 participants this year, including hundreds of kids from over 650 families.

Snowball Express started in 2006 and aims to create a five-day experience for the families that is fun, inspiring, and therapeutic. In 2017, Snowball Express became an official Gary Sinise Foundation program.

The program may be young, but through the tireless work of its supporters and members, it has quickly made an impact on participants. A tweet from Fallen Patriots, a non-profit that focuses on helping Gold Star family members get to college, said that participant Dale Mundell now wants to fly for American Air, the airline sponsoring the event, in order to help other family members take part in such events in the future.


I witnessed an international airport come to a complete stop today …

facebook.com

Airports got in on the festivities as well. The Killeen Airport, a familiar location for any service members who have activated or deployed through Fort Hood, Texas, welcomed Snowball Express participants and a man in a Santa costume met with the families.

In Nashville, other travelers stopped what they were doing and held a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. U.S. troops in the terminal stood at attention and saluted as the song was performed, and you can see bystanders drying their eyes in a Facebook video of the event.

Meanwhile, airport employees seem amped about the Snowball Express as well. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association sent tote bags to participants to help them get all their goods from location to location, and the controllers themselves posted photos on social media celebrating as flights took off from airfields under their control.

And around the Disney parks, other park goers and local residents have chimed in on social media as they ran into the crowds of Gold Star family members and were affected by the experience. For some, it was simply a great experience to see all the happy families, but for others, it was also a somber reminder that service members and first responders are still in harm’s way every day.

After all, some participants are as young as 2 or 3 years old, as Snowball Express participant Ramonda Anderson pointed out in a tweet.

If you’re interested in supporting the Gary Sinise Foundation, which also builds adaptive homes for disabled veterans, hosts free theater nights for veterans, and helps pay for training and equipment for first responders, they are always accepting donations on their website and are part of the Combined Federal Campaign. Use CFC number 27963.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Former Air Force officer Carl Roberts’ courtroom tale packs drama

“The Trial of Connor Padget” is a courtroom tale by Carl Roberts, former Air Force Officer and trial attorney. It begins at breakneck pace when the title character shoots a man on live television. What follows is an at times gripping narrative that follows his old friend, attorney and ex-reconnaissance pilot Jack Carney, as he attempts to save Connor Padget from a life sentence in prison.

At the heart of “The Trial of Connor Padget” is the kidnapping and assumed molestation of a young boy, but the tale is told entirely through Carney’s point of view. His sole concern is the trial, and the emotional aftermath of such a terrifying ordeal on the parents and the boy are largely muted.

There’s much for Carney to do, however, as he commits himself to saving his friend despite considerable personal cost. Roberts, a former trial attorney, peppers the story with evocative detail and weaves in realistic examples of other trials his lawyer narrator handles and attempts to steer toward justice.

Carney is an attorney willing to go the extra mile in defense of his lifelong friend, uncovering darker secrets that just might win the day. His devotion to his friend is admirable, and his dogged pursuit of the truth leads to multiple surprises along the way.

Intertwined with the courtroom drama is the tension at home between Carney and his wife, Adrienne, who’ve grown so far apart over the years, she’s now building a separate home with her substantial inheritance. As she aspires to a grander social set than the one they’ve built the foundation of their marriage upon, their bond continues to fray.

The best part of the novel is the way it evokes life in Louisiana. Roberts graduated from Louisiana State University (LSU) prior to serving as an electronic warfare officer at Yokota Air Force Base in Japan. He returned to LSU for law school and later served as the lead trial attorney for the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office.

His background brings the setting alive in vivid detail, conjuring sunny afternoons with crisp cold beers and fresh-caught seafood served in the waterfront restaurants the novel’s narrator prefers. These details pull you into the narrative and the Louisiana humidity, rendering this lawyer’s tale true to life and bringing home the novel’s larger point that any of this could happen to any of us.

The book is the debut from Roberts, who now lives near the Florida Gulf Coast.

Kate Lewis reviews books monthly for Military Families Magazine. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and more. Find her online @katehasthoughts.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what happens when your Delta Force squadmate is also a cartoonist

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

Officer: “Guys, if this job were easy monkeys could do it.”

NCO: “Yeah, and if monkeys could do it… then we wouldn’t need officers.”


When I was stationed with Special Forces Dive Academy in Key West Florida as an instructor, I took to immortalizing events as I witnessed them in person: the good, the bad, the smart, the stupid, and always the funny. Heck, as a cartoonist I could always make events funny even if they weren’t; that’s just what a cartoonist does.

The beauty of being the cartoonist is that I got to choose the events that were going to get the attention. Sure, guys could come up and present their ideas to me and plead their case, but if I didn’t like it I simply could… ignore it! It was easy to become intoxicated with power.

I carried the tradition with me to the Delta Force. I anonymously hung my first cartoon in the day room to test the waters. The sterling response from the pipe-hitters meant I could claim my work, and I kept a working log of my cartoons in a binder on the bar in our squadron lounge titled: A-Squadron Tymz.

Most of the guys loved being featured in the Squadron Tymz and roared with laughter at their plight or praise. Others lamented their incidental turn to be in the book. I consoled them in all seriousness:

“Brother, you’re looking at this all wrong… you WANT to be in the book; everyone should WANT to be in it because you are then immortalized for all time!” They thought that the book was a record of their mistakes but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

I really am quite certain that piece of cheerleading in earnest gifted them peace of mind, and none of the features I added to the book were ever in poor taste. Brothers from the other squadrons tended to mosey over to our break room to have a casual gander at the latest cartoons and beg the backstory from any standers-by. Other squadrons even began to keep their own versions of my Squadron Tymz.

As for the back story of the featured cartoon, there are two parts depicting events that both happened on the same assault on a complex target objective. My assault team was designated to move in behind an initial ground floor clearing team. Once they cleared that ground floor of threats using assault weapons and flash-bang grenades, my team was to flow through quickly to the stairs and gain access to the top floor.

All went particularly well, if I may brag; assault rifles belched smoke, fire, lead, and hate as bangers thundered smashing out glass in the window pains and tearing holes through gypsum wall boarding. Calls rang out:

“CLEAR,” “CLEAR HERE,” “ALL CLEAR,”!!

The condemned and abandoned target subject (left side)

Each of the guys on my team peered out and down the hall where our bro Guido had just swaggered out of a room and stood in the middle of the hall where you weren’t ever supposed to stop and stand. It was time for Guido-style post-assault levity as we had become accustomed to it. He stood with his rifle on his hip like a duck hunter, other hand on hip, head cocked to the side and stated in his best cool-guy voice.

“I think there’s something you guys don’t realized but need to know right now, and that is that this top floor is now officially… CLEAR!”

With that, the floor under his feet creaked and sagged, and Guido went instantly crashing through the floor of the old condemned building. His body fell roughly to its waist then jammed in the hole. On the floor below, startled men cursed as a half-dozen little red dots from visible lasers danced across his kicking legs.

We dashed to extract him. He cried out as we tugged and pulled him finally through the hole in the floor. Once out we headed back downstairs, Guido limping heavily. He had tweaked his hip in the fall, an injury we all insisted for days was actually his ass, a notion that he strenuously objected too at every opportunity.

Outside a car sped away with three more assaulters who had blocked the road leading to the target during the assault. Once we reported the objective secured, the men intended to push out farther away from the target to provide more advance notice to the assault force of approaching vehicles.

The vehicle they were in was purchased by the Unit from a local car dealer, and in need of repair, and fixed up by our crack mechanic shop. It was known by us all to have mushy breaks. As the driver, Jester, came up fast on the second security position in the dark he chose to right-leg break the car to a definitive stop, but didn’t have time to warn his riders.

As the car screeched to a halt, passenger Chainsaw came flying off his vinyl seat and slammed his head into and shattered the windshield. Poor Chainsaw… as Jester describes: “The brother is an accident magnet,” and indeed that may well be, as Chainsaw wrecked a motorcycle his first week in squadron plunging the kickstand through one of his calves.

The accident magnet Chainsaw in this exaggerated version is launched through the windshield as the Jester laments: “What have I done” in German.

Later he was blown up by the premature detonation of an explosive breaching charge. He is famous in the Unit for taking a .45 caliber ACP bullet to the forehead and surviving. The bullet struck his head at a shallow angle and bounced off just above his hairline. It snapped his neck back injuring it, but otherwise, he was ok. Only in the shower when his hair was wet could you see the .45 bullet-shaped scar on his scalp.

Sadly, Chainsaw was hit again in the head by an HK G3 rifle at the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan. This time he was gravely injured and still suffers to this day from that head wound. We two remain friends on Facebook, catching up and busting chops just like in the day.

7.62 x 51 (NATO) Heckler and Koch (HK) G3 rifle

“How’s your ass, Guido?”

“I told you guys it’s my hip… my hip is what is injured; not my ass!”

“Ok, whatever you say, Guido… you take care of that ass, ya hear?”

“I TOLD you it’s not my ASS!”

“Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha… sure thing, Guido.” And so it went.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways marksmanship simulations can improve your fire teams

The fire team is the most important unit of the Marine Corps’ infantry. The Corps is always looking for new ways to make its fire teams more effective on the battlefield. From equipment upgrades to weapon replacements, there’s always room for improvement. But one thing they have yet to figure out is what Marines at the lowest levels can do during their free time. Well, why not reserve some time at the Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer?

At the bottom of the Marine Corps task organization is the four-person fire team and they are, by far, the most critical asset in the entire hierarchy. The more lethal each individual team, the more lethal the unit as a whole and the ISMIT gives troops the opportunity to practice their shooting skills without firing real bullets on a live range. It’s like playing Nintendo Duck Hunt with military guns and honestly, it puts a lot of current virtual reality gaming to shame with its fun factor.

But beneath that, there’s a deeper level of training value that can make a unit much more effective and especially more lethal, given the right prompt and simulation.

Here are some ways the ISMIT can improve your unit at the fire team level:


Unit cohesion will keep your troops motivated.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Takoune H. Norasingh)

Build unit cohesion

The best thing you can get out of going to the ISMIT is bringing your troops closer together. You can start with some simple, basic simulations and move on to having full blown shooting competitions where the winners are rewarded. It really gives your team a chance to put their money where their mouth is.

Meanwhile, everyone is growing closer as they talk more sh*t.

You want your team to have deadly precision.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Yamil Casarreal)

Train accuracy

The air rifles you get to use at the ISMIT aren’t going to be adjusted for you so their shots will be all over the place. This helps you refine your ability to adjust your aim based on shot impact since you’re going to spend the first few rounds figuring out where your shots are hitting.

The more you train these positions, the better you’ll become.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jamean Berry)

Practice solid shooting positions

This is key for basic marksmanship and you can practice this without having to shoot but it’s extremely helpful for a shooter to learn how their position affects their accuracy and the ISMIT does just that.

Instead of the laughing dog, you get actual people who will make fun of you after the game is over.

Giphy

Practice on moving targets

There are simulations that take you into a city or a desert where you get to shoot at enemies. Whether it’s zombies or insurgents, you get a feel for having a target that’s maneuvering and you can practice using a bullet as a stop sign.

You want to be able to retain as much ammo as possible without sacrificing your aggression.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Taylor W. Cooper)

Practice ammo conservation

One competition you can have with your fire teams is seeing who can get the highest number of hits with the lowest amount of shots. This really puts you to the test and makes you focus on taking your time with each shot to ensure a solid hit. This becomes a valuable lesson because your team will be able to save ammo they might need for follow-up missions.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Unit cartoonist’s perspective: Accessorizing the M4 carbine

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

The M4 carbine completely slicked down is already a mighty-fine assault weapon, but nothing is above improvement. With the rise of a hypersensitive world, where one picture can change the game, the great members and I of the unit put out a request for some serious target acquisition and fire control hardware. What we didn’t expect was the flood of equipment some good… some less than helpful.


I’ve seen how the evolution of weapons and kit works among pipe-hitters. It roughly follows this sequence: the newest brothers readily slap every new gadget onto their ARs and love and swear by them all. Soon their ARs become an unruly sort of Rube Goldberg contraption that resembles a deep space cruiser out of Star Wars. Inevitably SHOOTING… becomes a secondary or tertiary function of the… the thing!

There finally comes the time when the brother is tired of weeds, branches, socks, and whatever snagged up and caught on his “weapon,” and the fact that he can no longer fire it from the prone or even hold it up steady firing off-hand… he starts to get wiser about his configuration; he resolutely removes from his M4 Carbine:

• the Hubble star finder scope he thought would be great for navigation
• the AM radio receiver dialed into the 24-hour continuous weather variables reporting station he thought would be great for fine aiming adjustments
• the Enterprise Photon Torpedo launch tube and rails are the next to go
• the 22 LR rim-fire spotting sub-rifle comes off; he would just have to learn to zero better
• (approximately) 19 linear feet of Picatinny rail segments
• (finally) the coffee press

But there are some pieces of gear that actually do make the M4 much more lethal than what those Neanderthal iron blade and peep sights have to offer. A red-dot scope will replace those nicely, perhaps even one with a couple of times (X) magnification power thrown in.

(An example red dot stop superimposes an adjustable red dot where your bullet will

impact)

A forward pistol grip is always a plus, lending stability to the weapon when firing, as it assists with recoil management and site-picture recovery. In the struggle between ‘yes’ forward pistol grip and ‘no’ forward pistol grip, a folding or collapsible pistol grip feature could quell the struggle.

(A decent representative folding forward pistol grip)

Chamfered, flared, or beveled magazine wells are a real plus for combat shooters who require speed during reloads as well as accuracy. The simple fact is trying to align a rectangular-shaped magazine into a rectangular-shaped magazine well quickly requires a relatively precision alignment, one that takes a split-second more time than you might have.

The flared magazine well attachment provides a gentle sloping angle to the bottom of the well to allow for subtle errors in alignment of the magazine to be accepted foregoing the loss of time due to poor alignment. This feature is just as effective for pistols as well as rifle combat shooters.

(An after-market flared magazine well attachment. Note the extended bolt release that allows the shooter to seat the magazine and release the bolt in almost the same movement)

Perhaps you may feel the need for a LASER aim point for your AR. That can be a visible red dot that is aligned with your rifle sight and allows you to hit whatever the light dot is on. It allows you to hit a target even without a sight picture such as firing from the hip. This advantage comes heavily into play when the shooter is restricted from his sight picture by the requirement to wear a protective (gas) mask. Carrying out the tactical scenario even farther, you may want your light dot to be infrared and only visible by Night Observation Devices (NODs).

(An odd off-brand, small and very inexpensive visible red dot LASER mounted to a 2.5″ Picatinny segment. A device such as this costs less than .00 w/o rail segment.)

We still need illumination. A strong white light source can always be capped by a snap-on/snap-off filter that renders the light to the Infrared spectrum, so no need for two separate devices. Technology affords us the luxury of going from attaching clumsy flashlights to ARs with pipe clamps, to small LED light devices of very high lumens and elegant mountings.

Subject to the accessories dance is the “need” to not only have all of these target acquisition and fire and control devices, but to also have them located in such a configuration that you can activate them all quickly while firing your weapon. After a while, it might seem like trying to play a piano concerto with one hand. Perhaps some of us would be better off playing the one-handed concerto…

(Not the lowest profile solution today, but a workable illumination choice nonetheless. This lamp uses a high-lumen Halogen bulb for a flood)

It is an observation of mine that the older guys on the assault team seemed to have the slickest ARs; that is, the ones with the fewest gadgets on them. The reason for that is readily debatable, lending itself never to be fully defined. I think my own Delta Team leader summed it up the best I ever heard during yet another “kit argument.” When he was asked to inject his two cents into the debate, he replied, “Let me tell you something, homes… 50 years ago the American Army assaulted Omaha Beach wearing f*cking WOOL!”