6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

For the ten days immediately after you graduate Marine Corps boot camp, you’ll feel like the world’s biggest badass. That brief high comes to a crashing halt when you report to the School of Infantry. If you’re a poor crayon-eater who signed an infantry contract, you go to the Infantry Training Battalion. You’ll arrive thinking that becoming a Marine means you’ve been given superhuman abilities only to very quickly find your all-too-human limits.

There, you’ll be deprived of sleep (yet again) and you won’t be fed on a regular schedule. It’s not a fun experience, but you’ll come out the other side a better warrior, a lethal Marine. Still, that doesn’t mean we should ignore all the following reasons why the Infantry Training Battalion is terrible.


6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

In retrospect, boot camp isn’t so bad…

(U.S. Marine Corps)

You thought boot camp was as bad as it gets…

…and you were wrong. So, so wrong. Your Drill Instructors built you up to think that earning the title of Marine was the toughest task on Earth. You used that promise to reason with yourself — nothing else will ever be this bad, right? Then you get to the School of Infantry and realize that boot camp was only the worst time of your life up until that point.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

Spoiler alert: You’re not as tough as you think you are.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

You’ll show up cocky

There’s a level of pride that comes with becoming a Marine. Fresh out of boot camp, many of us take that pride a step too far and become just plain cocky. When you get to SOI, you learn the hard way the pride comes before the fall. You’re quickly put in place and realize you’re just a small detail in a much bigger picture. You are far from the toughest guy around.

Truth hurts.

You actually get some time off

West Coasters know what we’re talking about — you get your weekends, if you’re lucky enough to be spared the wrath of your Combat Instructors, that is. This sounds like a good thing, but it makes Sunday mornings unbearable. Dread sets in as you anticipate the return of the week… and your Combat Instructors.

You’re sleep deprived the entire time

In boot camp, Drill Instructors are required to allow you eight hours of sleep per night — with the exception of the Crucible. Maybe that’s a rule for Combat Instructors, too, but, if you’re a grunt, it sure as hell doesn’t seem like it is. You’ll find yourself standing in front of your wall locker at 2 a.m. wondering what the f*** you’re doing.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

Combat instructors are just… scary.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

The Combat Instructors are scarier

Drill Instructors are scary at first, but you get used to them. Your Combat Instructors are plain terrifying and they never stop being that way, not even after you graduate.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

You get used to them after a while.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

You eat MREs all day

Nobody likes MREs — nobody. This sucks, but it’s best to consider it training in its own right because, as a grunt, you’re going to eat a lot of them.

Still, that doesn’t make them taste any less like cardboard dog sh*t.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Japan’s submarines are getting more lethal thanks to this upgrade

With more Chinese submarines roaming the Pacific and the Trump administration pushing US-made hardware, Japan is putting into play a new piece of gear that may give its subs an edge at sea and keep its defense firms afloat.

On Oct. 4, 2018, in the city of Kobe, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries launched the Soryu-class diesel-electric attack sub Oryu, the 11th sub in the class and the first to be equipped with lithium-ion batteries.


The Oryu has a number of upgrades over previous Soryu-class boats, which are the biggest diesel-electric subs in the world, but the biggest change is the batteries.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

The JSMDF submarine Oryu at its launch on Oct. 4, 2018.

(JMSDF / Twitter)

Diesel-electric subs use power from their diesel engines to charge their batteries, which they switch to during operations or in combat situations in order to run quietly and avoid detection.

The lithium-ion batteries in the Oryu — which store about double the power of the lead-acid batteries they replace — extend the range and time the sub can spend underwater considerably.

Mitsubishi turned to Kyoto-based firm GS Yuasa to produce the new batteries.

The latter company said in February 2017 that Japan would be the first country in the world to equip diesel-electric attack subs with lithium-ion batteries, putting them on the final two boats in the Soryu class: the Oryu, designated SS 511, and its successor, designated SS 512.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

Japanese officials at the launch of the JSMDF submarine Oryu, Oct. 4, 2018.

(JMSDF / Twitter)

Previous Soryu-class subs used two Kawasaki diesel generators and two Kawasaki air-independent propulsion engines. (AIP allows nonnuclear subs to operate without access to atmospheric oxygen, replacing or augmenting diesel-electric systems.)

Both platforms have a top speed of 12 knots, or about 14 mph, on the surface and of 20 knots, or 23 mph, while submerged, according to Jane’s.

Soryu-class subs are outfitted with six tubes in their bow that can fire Japan’s Type 89 heavyweight torpedo. They can also fire UGM-84C Harpoon medium-range anti-ship missiles against targets on the surface.

Construction started on the 275-foot-long Oryu — which displaces 2,950 metric tons on the surface and 4,100 metric tons underwater — in March 2015. It’s expected to enter service with Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force in March 2020.

Under pressure

The Oryu’s launch comes as Japan’s military and defense industry face pressure from two vastly different sources.

The Trump administration has been pushing Japan to buy more US military hardware, which Trump sees as a way to cut the trade imbalance between the two countries.

Japan, which has tried hard to court Trump, has beefed up its purchases of US-made gear. Tokyo spent about .5 billion through the US’s Foreign Military Sales program in the most recent fiscal year, after never spending more than about 0 million a year through fiscal year 2011, according to Nikkei Asian Review.

Those acquisitions have helped Japan get sophisticated US hardware but have been of little benefit for Japan’s defense industry, which has struggled to export its own wares. Additional purchases from the US are likely to leave Japanese firms with fewer orders.

Facing pressure from US military imports and with Chinese and South Korean firms gaining an edge in commercial shipbuilding, subs are the only outlet left for Japanese heavy industry, which has specialized technology and strong shipbuilding infrastructure, according to Nikkei.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

A Chinese Shang-class (Type 093) nuclear-powered attack sub in the contiguous zone of the Senkaku Islands, January 2018.

(Japanese Ministry of Defense photo)

The Oryu also launches amid rising tensions in the East and South China Seas, where a number of countries have challenged Beijing’s expansive claims and aggressive behavior.

China has put “growing emphasis on the maritime domain,” the Pentagon said in 2018. Beijing can now deploy 56 subs — 47 of which are believed to be diesel or diesel-electric attack boats. That force is only expected to grow.

While those subs need to surface periodically, they can still operate quietly and strike with long-range anti-ship missiles — capabilities that likely weigh on the minds of US and Japanese policymakers.

Of particular concern for Tokyo is Chinese submarine activity in the East China Sea, around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, which Japan controls but China claims.

In January 2018, a Chinese Shang-class nuclear-powered attack sub was detected in the contiguous zone around the islands — the first confirmed identification of a Chinese sub in that area. The presence of a concealed sub was seen by Japan as a much more serious threat than the presence of surface ships, and Tokyo lodged a protest with China.

Japan is using its own subs to challenge Beijing.

In September 2018, JMSDF Oyashio-class attack sub Kuroshiro joined other Japanese warships for exercises in the South China Sea — the first time a Japanese sub had done drills there, the Defense Ministry said.

The drills, done away from islands that China has built military outposts on, involved the Japanese sub trying to evade detection.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Gen. Ham discusses his military career and how to stay ready for war

Few know mission command better than retired Gen. Carter F. Ham. In the time between his enlistment as an infantryman in 1973 and his retirement as a geographic combatant commander in 2013, Ham experienced the Army from a variety of perspectives, including as the commander of U.S. Army Europe and as the director for operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

As the current president and chief executive officer of the Association of the U.S. Army, Ham continues to make a difference on behalf of the men and women who serve. Here are his insights on mission command as the Army looks to the future.


Q: After having a career that spanned four decades, what does mission command mean to you?

A: When I think of mission command, it is getting the right process by which leaders make decisions to employ their forces from the strategic to tactical levels. It is freedom to act within intent and established parameters, and it’s achieving the right blend of initiative and control.

I’ve thought about this a lot as the Army sometimes has a tendency to rebrand old ideas with new names. The term “mission command” started gaining momentum over “command and control” in the late 2000s, particularly when Gen. Martin Dempsey was at Training and Doctrine Command. A lot of talk within the profession suggested this really wasn’t anything new but, rather, what the Army had always done in terms of mission-type orders and building trust.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

General Carter F. Ham.

My sense was that it wasn’t quite the same. The cohort of senior Army officers at the time, myself included, grew up mostly in the Cold War era with very clearly defined boundaries, rear areas, adjacent units, and the like. When that era changed and the Army found itself in highly irregular warfare, leaders recognized command and control wasn’t adequate for the new environment.

The command piece was okay, but the control piece was overly regulated given the circumstances in which the Army was anticipated to operate. It was time for a change, and I think mission command was exactly the right focus. With varying degrees at varying levels, and certainly as circumstances change, we must enable leaders to operate with empowered, disciplined initiative and higher degrees of flexibility.

Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as commander of U.S. Africa Command?

A: Most Americans think of Africa as a single place; it’s not. It is huge; at the very least, Africa is 54 countries with vast geographic differences, linguistic challenges, and economic, cultural, and ethnic diversity. It’s an exceedingly complex area of operations.

When Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told me he intended to recommend the president nominate me for [commanding general of] the Africa Command, I had two feelings simultaneously. First was pure exhilaration: “Holy smokes, you’re going to be a combatant commander! You get your picture hung on the entryway of the Pentagon!”

But instantaneously, the second feeling hit: “You don’t know anything about Africa.” At the time, it was not a part of the world any of us in the military thought much about.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

Carter F. Ham as lieutenant colonel commanding U.S. forces in Camp Able Sentry, Macedonia, speaking to Admiral William Owens in 1995.

I was going from a very Europe-centric career — frankly a very comfortable setting for me because I had relationships with many of the senior leaders — to exceeding discomfort in Africa. It was intellectually stimulating, but I just didn’t have that foundational understanding of the area of operations as I did in Europe.

For me, this was mission command in practice at the upper operational and strategic levels. Despite the dispersed nature of U.S. forces, the requirement to work with host-nation forces, and the diversity of missions — ranging from very precise targeted activities and hostage rescue to maritime security, humanitarian assistance, and veterinary teams helping with herds of animals — there was still an expectation from the Secretary of Defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the other service chiefs. They were empowering me to make decisions in this vast and complex area of responsibility.

You can’t do that with a highly structured, highly controlling style of leadership. I had to catch myself sometimes, and my senior enlisted leaders would often remind me, “General, they don’t need you to tell them how many times to turn the screwdriver; they need your intent.”

If you can describe your intent, subordinate leaders will accomplish the mission.

Q: How does mission command need to evolve to maximize readiness for the future operational environment?

A: There is recognition that the Army has to refocus after 15-plus years of irregular warfare and counter-insurgency operations. Gen. [Mark] Milley has it right; we have to get back to preparing for combat operations across all domains against a very capable, state-based adversary. It’s a much more complex environment in which to operate.

The first half of my career was highly structured and very clearly focused on a state-based adversary, the Soviet Union. It was a very dangerous, but also very predictable, period. We knew their doctrine and organizational structure; they knew ours. We knew their equipment and capabilities; they knew ours. Our war plans were incredibly detailed: we knew exactly where we were going to fight and exactly where almost every soldier was going to go in the defense of Western Europe. Control was dominant.

That is not the environment in which the Army will operate in the future. We have to develop leaders who can thrive in the ambiguity that is certain to exist in future combat. Leaders must know how to exercise mission command and make proper decisions without linkages to their higher and adjacent units, or when communications are degraded. That, I think, is the great challenge the Army faces today.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

Carter F. Ham speaking to reporters during a press briefing at the Pentagon in October 2005.

Q: Can you discuss the importance of mission command for sustainment formations?

A: I’m not a logistician, but I learned the importance of sustainers early. When I was a division operations officer, I had some great mentoring from my division commander. The simple message was, “The brigades, they’re going to win the fight; you don’t need to spend time mapping things out for them. Your job is to set the conditions for those brigades to operate, and the biggest piece of that is sustainment.”

In the Cold War, sustainment was a complex operation; it’s tenfold more complex today. There are no longer safe rear areas, secure supply routes, or the ability to move “iron mountains” of supplies to the point of need at a moment’s notice.

In my era, sustainment was mostly a math problem: how do you move stuff from point A to point B? Today’s sustainment challenge is much more of an art than it is a science. How will sustainers make sure that dispersed, often separated, units have what they need to fight and win on the future battlefield?

The science is certainly still there; you still have to make sure fuel, water, chow, and ammunition are at the right place at the right time. But now, more than ever, sustainers have to be inside the heads of maneuver commanders, understanding what they want to achieve. That’s where it becomes more of an art, and I think that’s where mission command enters into the realm for sustainment leaders.

Q: How important is training?

A: I’m old enough to have been in the Army before there were combat training centers, and it’s night and day. I was an opposing force guy at the National Training Center in the mid- to late-1980s, and you could see the Army get better. Repetition matters. Complexity matters. The difficulty created in the training base matters.

We want Army leaders to be more challenged in their training than they will be in combat. That’s tough to achieve these days, particularly given multi-domain operations. How do you create that cyber, electronic warfare, or geographic complexity leaders will have to deal with? The more we invest in the rigors of our training, the better off we will be. That certainly applies to the sustainment force.

There are tremendous opportunities in the Synthetic Training Environment that allow for repetition and increased difficulty without great expense. At some point you still have to put Army units in the dirt to train, but it’s the most expensive way to do so. There’s so much you can do prior to that point so that units enter that phase at a much higher level. For all of our forces, the Synthetic Training Environment will yield a stronger Army that is able to train at levels we can’t imagine today.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

General Carter F. Ham being sworn into office as the Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe by Cairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen on Aug. 28, 2008.

Q: Where does integration with our allies and coalition partners fit into mission command?

A: In our guiding documents, including the National Military Strategy and Army vision, we’ve established a recognition that the Army will always operate with allies and partners. The scale will vary from time to time, but we’re always going to do so in some form. As fast as the Army is changing, we have to be careful we don’t leave our allies and partners out of our modernization efforts.

We also have to become increasingly comfortable with the idea of U.S. maneuver forces being sustained by forces of another country and vice versa. This became almost normal for us when our force presence in Iraq and Afghanistan was very high. Now that force levels are significantly lower, junior leaders have less opportunity to interact with our allies and partners. We have to find a way to replicate those kinds of activities in the training base.

Again, I think it is more art than science. Part of the art is making sure each of the partners has responsibility for support, for sustaining, and for direction in a coalition-type operation. That doesn’t happen by accident. Through the exercise of mission command, we want to create leaders who are comfortable in multinational environments.

Q: How are we doing as an Army when it comes to soldier resilience?

A: When I came home from Iraq, I think like many soldiers, I felt incomplete. I felt I had left soldiers behind; I came home and those I had served with were still there. I came to the Pentagon, the five-sided puzzle palace, and my work just didn’t feel very fulfilling. I had this tremendous longing to go back.

As a one-star general at the time, I don’t pretend I was on patrol facing hard combat every day like a squad leader or platoon sergeant. That’s an extraordinary kind of stress I frankly didn’t see on a daily basis. I think for leaders the effect is a little different; it’s a different kind of stress. Particularly for commanders, when you lose soldiers in combat — soldiers who are wounded or killed executing orders you issued — that stays with you.

When I came home, it was my wife who said, “Hey listen, you’ve changed.” That was important. It was recognition that a normal person can’t be exposed to combat and be unchanged. A lot of soldiers go through combat and deal with it very effectively. They’re resilient, they deal with it openly and confront it, and they continue to move forward. But there’s a spectrum, and on the other end are soldiers who have post-traumatic stress or, in more severe cases, traumatic brain injury. I was one of those who needed a little bit of help; mine came from an Army chaplain.

I’ll confess I was outed publicly. It wasn’t me coming forward; it was someone else talking about it. But as a general officer, my sense was [that] many other soldiers were having the same challenges readjusting to a nondeployed environment. If coming forward publicly would encourage one other soldier to get help and to say, “I’m having a tough time,” to his or her spouse, a chaplain, a social worker, a commander, a first sergeant, to somebody — then my speaking out was worthwhile.

I think the Army is once again leading the nation in matters like this. The senior leadership — the Secretary, Chief of Staff, and Sergeant Major of the Army — are coming forward and saying, “Hey, it is strength to step forward and say I need a little bit of help.”

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

Carter F. Ham listens to a soldier’s comments during a visit to the headquarters of the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Reserve.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Mark Bell)

That’s what the Army needs. We need soldiers who can take a blow, whether physical or psychological, recover, and be stronger in continuing their mission.

There’s still a lot of work to be done; we shouldn’t kid ourselves that the stigma is gone. We have to keep it as a frontline Army effort and continue to say, “This can make you stronger; and when you’re stronger, our Army is stronger.” But I’m really proud of our efforts thus far.

Q: You’re one of only a few to rise from private to four-star general. What advice do you have for soldiers today?

A: First, recognize I didn’t go from private to four-star overnight; there were just a few intervening steps along the way. When I was enlisted, I rose to the exalted position of being our battalion command sergeant major’s driver. He was, to me, the model of the noncommissioned officer: mission-focused, hard on soldiers, and always fair. He made me a better soldier. And after all these years, it comes back to one question, “Why do you serve?”

We get so busy sometimes that we forget this. We talk a lot about what we do; we talk less about what we’re for. Whenever I have the opportunity to talk to young leaders, both enlisted and officers, I ask them to think about the oath they took. It is the bond that ties us together, the shared commitment each one of us made to serve the nation.

In my mind, it’s what makes the Army such a unique organization. I have lots of experience as a joint officer, and I truly value the other services. We have the best Marine Corps, the best Navy, and the best Air Force. But of all the services, I think the Army is uniquely of the people. We’re the biggest and most diverse. I think it’s worthwhile to sit back and say, “What is this Army for, and why is it that more than one million women and men have raised their right hand and said I’m willing to do this?”

Every now and then, take time to think about it. Don’t get consumed by it, but take pause and remember why you chose to serve this nation. I found when I did, it caused me to reflect as a professional soldier and “re-green” myself. For any Army leader — enlisted, officer, or civilian — it’s a worthy endeavor to remember why.

Arpi Dilanian is a strategic analyst in the Army G-4’s Logistics Initiatives Group. She holds a bachelor’s degree from American University and a master’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Matthew Howard is a strategic analyst in the Army G-4’s Logistics Initiatives Group. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Georgetown University.

This article was published in the January-March 2019 issue of Army Sustainment.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy SEAL to receive the Medal of Honor for heroism in Afghanistan

A Navy SEAL who led a risky assault on a mountain peak to rescue a stranded teammate in Afghanistan in 2002 will receive the Medal of Honor, according to a White House announcement.

Retired Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Britt K. Slabinski will receive the military’s highest honor May 24, 2018, according to the announcement.


According to the White House release, Slabinski is credited with leading a team back to rescue another SEAL, Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts, after he was ejected from an MH-47 Chinook crippled by enemy rocket-propelled grenade fire March 4, 2002 in eastern Afghanistan.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible
An MH-47 Chinook helicopter.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Callaway)

The operation would ultimately be known as “The Battle of Roberts Ridge” in honor of Roberts. The team had originally begun the mission the day before, tasked with establishing an outpost on the top of Takur Ghar mountain as part of Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan’s Shah-i-Kot Valley.

“Then-Senior Chief Slabinski boldly rallied his remaining team and organized supporting assets for a daring assault back to the mountain peak in an attempt to rescue their stranded teammate,” the White House announcement reads. “Later, after a second enemy-opposed insertion, then-Senior Chief Slabinski led his six-man joint team up a snow-covered hill, in a frontal assault against two bunkers under withering enemy fire from three directions.”

Slabinski “repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire” as he took on al-Qaida forces in the rescue attempt, according to the release.

“Proximity made air support impossible, and after several teammates became casualties, the situation became untenable,” the release said.

Moving his team into a safer position, Slabinski directed air strikes through the night and, as daylight approached, led “an arduous trek” through waist-deep snow while still under fire from the enemy. He treated casualties and continued to call in fire on the enemy for 14 hours until an extract finally came.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible
Retired Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Britt K. Slabinski will receive the military’s highest honor.

Slabinski previously received the Navy Cross for leading the rescue and directing continued fire on the enemy throughout the lengthy and brutal fight.

“During this entire sustained engagement, Senior Chief Petty Officer Slabinski exhibited classic grace under fire in steadfastly leading the intrepid rescue operation, saving the lives of his wounded men and setting the conditions for the ultimate vanquishing of the enemy and the seizing of Takur Ghar,” his medal citation reads. “By his heroic display of decisive and tenacious leadership, unyielding courage in the face of constant enemy fire, and utmost devotion to duty, Senior Chief Petty Officer Slabinski reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

Slabinski’s actions were highlighted in a moving 2016 New York Times account that emphasized the role of Air Force Tech Sgt. John Chapman,who was attached to the SEAL team and ultimately died on the mountain.

Task and Purpose reported in late April 2018, that Chapman, credited with saving the entire SEAL team he was attached to during the operation, will posthumously receive the Medal of Honor. The White House has not confirmed that.

Chapman reportedly directed air strikes from AC-130 gunships after Roberts was ejected from the MH-47. During follow-on attempts to rescue Roberts, Chapman would ultimately be wounded by enemy fire from close range.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible
A U.S. Air Force AC-130Uu00a0gunship.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

Reporting surrounding the role of Slabinski and the SEALs in recovering Chapman paints a complex picture. According to the New York Times report, Slabinski believed, and told his men, that Chapman was dead. Air Force officials, however, reportedly contest that Chapman was still alive and fought by himself for more than an hour after the SEALs moved back to a safer position. Predator drone footage reportedly supports this belief.

Slabinski himself told the publication doubt persisted in his mind.

“I’m trying to direct what everybody’s got going on, trying to see what’s going on with John; I’m already 95 percent certain in my mind that he’s been killed,” he said in an interview with the Times. “That’s why I was like, ‘O.K., we’ve got to move.'”

Slabinski would be just the second living SEAL to receive the Medal of Honor for heroism in Afghanistan. The first, Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers, received the award in February 2016 for his role in rescuing an American doctor who had been captured by the Taliban.

Slabinski will also be the 12th living service member overall to receive the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan.

According to a biography provided by the White House, Slabinski enlisted in the Navy in 1988 and graduated Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training in 1990. He completed nine overseas deployments and 15 combat deployments over the course of his career, including multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He retired as director of the Naval Special Warfare Safety Assurance and Analysis Program after more than 25 years of service, according to releases.

In addition to the Navy Cross, Slabinski’s previous awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, five Bronze Stars with combat “V” device, and two Combat Action Ribbons.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

13 rarely seen illustrations from the Revolutionary War

If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with what happened during the American Revolution. But the heroics, triumphs, and defeats of the first American citizens have inspired artists for centuries. Here are 13 illustrations of the war that are often left out of the history books and popular culture:


6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

(John Trumbull, Yale University Art Gallery)

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

(Alonzo Chappel via Good Free Photos)

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

(A.H. Ritchie via National Archives and Records Administration)

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

(M.A. Wageman via National Archives and Records Administration)

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

(Alonzo Chappel via National Archives and Records Administration)

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

(E.L. Henry via National Archives and Records Administration)

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

(James Peale via National Archives and Records Administration)

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

(Augustus G. Heaton via National Archives and Records Administration)

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

(Alonzo Chappel via National Archives and Records Administration)

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

(Ezra Winter via National Archives and Records Administration)

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

(A.I. Keller via National Archives and Records Administration)

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

(Alonzo Chappel via National Archives and Records Administration)

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

(Turgis via National Archives and Records Administration)

MIGHTY CULTURE

What it’s like at the US’s Arctic Air Base

The United States’ northernmost military base, The Thule Air Base, is located in Greenland. Established in 1941 to aid Denmark in its defense against Germany, the base is just 947 miles away from the North Pole

The US established the Thule Air Base in 1941 to help Denmark defend its colonies from increasing German aggression. Later during the Cold War, the US had planned to place hundreds of nuclear-armed ballistic missiles in tunnels under the ice, but the ice wasn’t stable enough to complete the project. 

Today, Thule Base is effectively a US space base. 

Operated jointly by the US Air Force Space Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the base has replaced underground missile plans with high-tech space surveillance sensors, delivering remarkably precise early missile warnings. It also has increasing strategic value as Russia continues its quest for military control of the Arctic.

So what’s it like to live there? 

Cold, mostly. Really freaking cold. Located about halfway between Moscow and NYC, the polar base is home to about 140 American military staff along with a few hundred Danes, 50 Greenlanders, and a handful of Canadians. The base is unlike any other, and the residents basically just learn to deal. 

The only enemy to fear at Thule Air Base is the weather.

thule air base

The Arctic temperatures are frigid, but the cold air isn’t the only risk. Destructive snow storms can come out of nowhere, trapping everyone on the base inside their dorms. Thule is virtually inaccessible most of the year, as the waters surrounding it are frozen solid. Each summer, an icebreaker ship from Canada clears the bay, allowing ships to deliver massive stocks of food and supplies. 

You’d think nature would lighten up in summer, but nope; the season usually brings massive swarms of mosquitos. Then, in October, the sun stops rising. For the rest of fall and winter, Thule is pitch black. Come February, there’s about a month of “normal” sunrises and sunsets, before the sun decides to never set instead. It’s like Vegas, minus the vacation. 

Everyone at Thule lives in dorms, both because of a lack of space and for their own protection. If anyone goes missing, finding them would be almost impossible. Polar bears also frequent the area, so going for a snowy stroll alone is ill-advised. 

When you’re surrounded by miles of inhospitable ice, you learn to have fun with what you’ve got. 

At most military bases, traveling off-base to visit local cities is pretty routine. Thule’s insanely remote location is 65 miles away from the closest town, so there’s really nowhere to go. Because of this, the Air Force takes special care to make life at Thule as comfortable and pleasant as possible. 

Personnel is supplied with UV lamps to prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder during the dark season, and everyone has free Wi-Fi. A community center provides tons of gaming consoles that you can enjoy around the clock- sometimes with complimentary pizza! There’s also a fitness center, activities center, a bowling alley, and a club that hosts seasonal parties and events.

 If you love to run, you can sign up for the annual Thule marathon, or visit the skeet shooting range if that’s more your thing. Supposedly, Thule’s tourism center also offers guided hikes, bike rides, kayak excursions, and visits to hot springs! Thule Air Base also celebrates Armed Forces Day each year, welcoming native Greenlanders to the base for dog sled racing and other festivities. Those who have experienced life at Thule don’t deny its challenges, but they also believe the location’s otherworldly beauty makes it worth the trouble. It may not be the easiest base to be stationed at, but it’s definitely the coolest! Pun intended. 

Articles

Your DI wasn’t lying: Blood really does make the green grass grow

There’s a common refrain heard during many basic training classes and bayonet courses:

Blood! Blood! Blood makes the green grass grow!

Well, it’s not just a macabre and motivational saying. It’s also completely true.


Blood may seem like a bad garden additive since it has plenty of salt, but its salt content is actually manageable when it is diluted into water and mixed with soil. Meanwhile, it has lots of nitrogen which is important to plants’ overall growth and color.

That’s right, blood doesn’t just make grass grow, it makes it grow green.

Another good feature of impaled enemies in terms of plant growth is their bones, which provide phosphorous, an important nutrient for healthy roots.

Both bones and blood are fully organic, though vegetarians have been known to complain about produce grown with meat products.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

Of course, while limited bayonet charges in a garden may provide plenty of fertilizer for the plants without causing too much destruction, full-scale battles do more harm than good.

Explosions and metal fragments destroyed large swaths of the European countryside in the world wars. Tanks driving over mushy fields can create long-lasting scars as the ground is torn up. Burning fuel and oil from destroyed vehicles poison the ground.

Still, it’s pretty great that the drill sergeants or instructors making recruits yell out, “Blood! Blood! Blood makes the green grass grow!” are actually teaching something.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghans brace for coronavirus as thousands return from Iran

HERAT, Afghanistan — Officials in Afghanistan’s western province of Herat are bracing for a rise in coronavirus infections, as thousands of Afghans return from neighboring Iran every day.


The provincial Public Health Department told RFE/RL on March 12 that nearly 10,000 Afghans had entered Herat from Iran the previous day alone.

That’s a twofold increase from March 9, when local officials said about 4,800 Afghans had crossed the border from Iran in one day.

Afghanistan has so far reported only seven cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

But provincial Governor Abdul Qayum Rahimi said the situation was certain to worsen soon, creating new challenges for the war-torn country. “Increasingly high numbers of people are crossing the border from Iran and we are seriously concerned that [some of them] will bring more coronavirus to Afghanistan,” Rahimi told RFE/RL on March 10.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

Map of the risk of the virus’s spread in Tehran.

Wikimedia Commons

Tehran reported more than 1,000 new cases on March 12, raising the official number of infections in Iran to more than 10,000. But many Iranians say they distrust the figures released by the authorities and believe the Iranian government is grossly underreporting the extent of the outbreak there.

Iran is home to more than 3 million Afghans — including migrant workers and refugees as well as university and religious students.

Five of Afghanistan’s confirmed COVID-19 patients are from Herat. The other two are from the northern province of Samangan. All of the confirmed cases are Afghans who had recently returned from Iran, local officials say.

Bracing For Worse

Afghanistan has deployed small teams of medics who have been screening Afghans who cross the border from Iran into Herat Province. The medics are checking temperatures of returnees and asking if they’ve had any potential COVID-19 symptoms.

They also are asking returnees whether they’ve been exposed to an infected person, said Abdul Hakim Tamanna, the head of Heart Province’s Public Health Department. Those with high fever or other symptoms are transferred to a special ward at a hospital in the provincial capital.

“We’ve allocated a special ward with 80 beds for COVID-19 patients, both for the suspected and confirmed cases in isolated sections. But this is not enough,” said Muhammad Ibrahim Basem, who oversees the special ward. “The situation is extremely fluid and requires that at least 1,000 beds are ready,” Basem told RFE/RL on March 12.

Similar concerns are being voiced in Samangan Province, where two people tested positive earlier this week. “We’ve been prepared in advance. A hospital ward with 20 beds was prepared for potential COVID-19 patients,” Abdul Khalil Musaddiq, head of Samangan Public Health Department, said on March 10.

But Musaddiq warned that Samangan Province did not have the resources to handle an outbreak beyond the hospital’s capacity.

Health officials in Herat are calling for Afghanistan’s central government to provide equipment for laboratories in provincial regions so that more people can be tested.

Afghanistan, a country of 35 million people, currently has only one laboratory that is able to test for coronavirus. Authorities outside of the Afghan capital must send samples from suspected cases to the laboratory in Kabul for testing.

The Afghan government has allocated million to combat the outbreak. Public Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz said another million “is in a state of reserve if the unwanted incidents escalate and get out of control.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

Low Public Awareness

Provincial authorities in Herat declared an emergency when the first COVID-19 case was confirmed there on February 24. Schools, restaurants, wedding halls, and public baths have been closed and large gatherings are banned.

Officials from Herat’s provincial government told RFE/RL on March 12 that the public spaces were unlikely to reopen in the foreseeable future.

Buses and minibuses that carry a large number of passengers have also been banned as part of Herat’s effort to contain the virus.

Mosques remain open. But RFE/RL’s correspondent in Herat reports that the number of the worshipers has dwindled in recent days.

The war-ravaged country’s poor health-care services, as well as low public awareness about health and hygiene, are adding to difficulties in the battle against coronavirus.

One patient last week briefly escaped from the quarantine ward of Herat hospital, sparking concerns that he could contaminate many more people. Hospital officials said the patient was apprehended and isolated. They said those who came in contact with him have been told to take tests and exercise precautions.

Authorities also have launched an extensive coronavirus-awareness campaign through media in recent weeks.

The Education Ministry, meanwhile, has set up a special working group along with public-health authorities to assess the situation in other high-risk regions and decide whether to suspend schools.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Military Life

5 reasons why going underway is the worst

Located in Southern California, Naval Base San Diego is the second largest surface ship base in the United States. Deploying on a ship with a critical mission is supposed to be one of the proudest moment for any sailor. Those aboard get a chance to serve their country by performing the righteous duties for which they’ve trained hard — in theory, anyway.

In reality, being underway means doing a ton of cleaning and other tasks that fall outside of your regular MOS.


It’s not like what you see in those cool television commercials. You won’t be working with sailors in the intel room trying to defeat an enemy force while listening to the soothing tone of Keith David’s voiceover. In fact, it’s almost the complete opposite.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

Going on watch

If you’ve ever watched paint dry, then you know exactly how it feels to be on watch — you stare at nothing, waiting for anything to happen. Watch is, by far, is the most critical responsibility on any Naval vessel, but it can also be the most painful. You’re looking out for incoming threats, but the likelihood of that happening is slim.

That is, unless you’re in foreign seas and Somalian pirates are feeling ballsy.

No service

Using these little computers in our pockets, making a call to anyone around the world is as easy as picking up your phone and dialing. However, being underway means you’re not going to have any cell service — much to the devastation of millennials.

The idea of not knowing what everyone’s doing back home or what’s happening in the rest of the world can be a little unsettling. After weeks of limited-to-no connectivity, that moment when you reach port and see service bars on your phone is glorious.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

Sleeping quarters

After a long day, it’s finally time to hit the sack — but you don’t get to sleep in a big bed like you did back home. You get to sleep in a rack that looks and feels like a coffin. It may be comfortable for vampires, but for everyone else, it’s anything but that.

Let’s be real, three-man bunks with a minimum of 20 to 30 roommates — does this sound like a good time to you?

Sweepers, sweepers, all hands man your stations

If you’re a sailor, you know how this feels. Once you wake up and get ready for your day, you know what’s about to happen. So, grab a broom and get to cleaning, because there’s always a petty officer around the corner reminding you to do so.

Welcome to hell.

It sounds easy at first, but after a day of working on the ship, the last thing anyone wants to do is pick up another freakin’ broom — trust us.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gabriela Hurtado)

Leaving your family

This is a topic that all veterans can relate to. Above all else, the reason we continue to fight is to protect the many families of our nation. Leaving them behind is extremely difficult. You have been their sworn protector for as long as you can remember, and now you must leave them to fulfill your obligations to our great country.

Saying goodbye to your loved ones — and not knowing exactly when you will return — is, by far, one of the hardest things about going underway.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How artillery actually kills you

Artillery fires are the kind of big, thundering fireworks shows that look awesome in movies. That being said, there’s always that crazy scene where Nicholas Cage (or some another action hero) runs through multiple explosions from mortars and artillery, remaining miraculously unscathed as every extra around them is cut down instantly.

So, which is real? Does artillery slaughter indiscriminately or can you get lucky and walk through a storm unscathed?


6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

Marines carry rounds for an M777 howitzer during an exercise in Australia on August 8, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Wetzel)

Well, the actual story is much more complicated. It is possible, even on flat, featureless ground, to survive an artillery strike with little visible injury. But it’s nearly just as possible that you’ll be killed even with an inch of steel between you and the blast when one goes off.

It actually all comes down to fairly basic physics, and the British did extensive research during World War II to figure out how this plays out on the battlefield.

There are three ways that artillery most often claims its victims. The most common is through fragmentation of the shell, when the metal casing is split into many smaller bits and hurled at high speed in all directions. The next most common cause of death and injury is the blast wave; the sudden increase in pressure can damage soft tissue and shatter buildings and vehicles if the round is close enough.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

A white phosphorous round busts far over the earth as artillerymen create a screen during an exercise at Fort Stewart, Georgia, on May 22, 2016.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Scott Linblom)

The least common cause of death and injury is the heat wave, where the sudden increase in temperature causes burns on flesh or starts fires.

Whether a given soldier will survive or not is basically a question of whether they are seriously affected by one or more of these lethal effects. So, let’s look at them one by one.

First, the fragmentation, also commonly known as shrapnel. Most artillery rounds are designed to create some kind of shrapnel when they explode. Shrapnel works kind of like a bullet. It’s a piece of metal flying at high speed through the air, hopefully catching an enemy soldier along its path.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

​An M109 Paladin fires a 155mm high-explosive round during a combined armslive fires exercise on September 9, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Keeler)

When it hits flesh, the shrapnel shreds the tissue it passes through, just like a bullet. But, also like a bullet, the biggest factor in lethality is the amount of energy imparted by the munition into the flesh.

Basically, physics tells us that no energy or mass is created or destroyed except in nuclear reactions. So, a piece of metal flying at high speeds has a lot of energy that is imparted to the flesh it passes through, causing cell death and destroying tissue in a larger area than just what the piece of metal actually touches. According to the British estimates, approximately 43 percent of the front of a human (or 36 percent of a human’s surface area in total) accounts for areas in which shrapnel is likely to cause a lethal wound.

So, if a piece of shrapnel hits any of those spots, it will likely cause cell death and then human death. But, shrapnel dispersion is its own, odd beast. When an artillery shell goes off, it’s easy to imagine that the shrapnel explodes in 360 degrees, creating a sphere of destruction.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

Lance Cpl. Miguel Rios, field artillery cannoneer with Mike Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11 Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, arms 155mm rounds for an M777 Howitzer in preparation to fire during training Aug. 9, 2018, at Mount Bundey, Northern Territory, Australia.

(U.S. Marines Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Wetzel)

But shrapnel still carries a lot of momentum from its flight. As the round explodes, the force of the explosion propels the shrapnel out, but the metal fragments still carry a lot of the momentum from when they were crashing down towards the earth.

So, if the artillery round was flying straight down, the shrapnel would hit in a near-perfect circle, as if a giant had fired directly downwards with a shotgun. But the rounds are always flying at some sort of angle, sometimes quite shallow, meaning they’re still flying across the ground as much as falling towards it.

In that case, the shrapnel takes on a “butterfly wing” pattern, where a little shrapnel lands behind the round and a little shrapnel lands ahead of the round, but the vast majority lands on the left and the right.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

A howitzer crew with 2nd Battalion, 12th Field Artillery Regiment, Alpha Battery, 2nd Platoon fires artillery in Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel, July 23 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Elliot Hughes)

The momentum of the round and the force of the explosion combine to form what’s referred to as a “butterfly wings” pattern where shrapnel is flying at high speed as it hits people and the ground. But, in a likely surprise to most people, even this most lethal area typically only injures or kills just over half the time..

That’s right, even if you’re standing under an artillery round as it goes off, you still have a chance of surviving (but we still don’t recommend it).

But what if you have a nice thick steel plate or concrete wall protecting you? Well, that’ll protect you from most of the effects of shrapnel, but an artillery round that detonates closely enough to your concrete or steel will kill you a different way: the blast wave.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

An artillery crewman from Alpha Battery, 2nd Battalion, 114th Field Artillery Regiment, 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team, Task Force Spartan, uses a tool to secure the fuse to the 155mm round during a combined arms live fire exercise on September 11, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Keeler)

See, the explosion at the heart of the an artillery round creates lots of shrapnel because of the sudden expansion of air as the explosive is consumed. But, the blast wave keeps going and can break apart other things, like the concrete or steel protecting you, or even your own body. After all, a blast wave that hits you hard enough will crush your skull much more easily than steel.

The blast wave is most effective at extremely close ranges, measured in feet or inches, not yards. This is what is likely to kill a tank or destroy a bunker, both of which typically require a direct hit or multiple direct hits.

The final lethal effect, the heat wave, is most effective at short ranges and against flammable materials. Think thin-skinned vehicles filled with gas or the flesh of your enemies.

So, if nearly all artillery shells kill you with the same three mechanics, why are there so many types and why are artillerymen so into things like fuses and powder?

Well, remember that quick note about “angles” when it came to shrapnel patterns? Different targets are susceptible to different artillery effects. And changing out fuses and changing the gun’s angle and number of powder bags allows an artilleryman to change how the round flies and where it explodes.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

Troopers from the Field Artillery Support Squadron “Steel,” 3d Cavalry Regiment “Brave Rifles,” support Iraqi army operations with artillery fires from their M777A2 Howitzers, Aug. 12, 2018

(U.s. Army photo by 2nd Lt. Jamie Douglas)

For vehicles, especially armored ones, the best way to kill them is to get the explosive to happen as close to the vehicle as possible, preferably while the round is touching the target. That requires an impact fuse that cases a detonation when the round reaches the target or the ground.

But, if you want to cut down hordes of infantry or shred tents and wooden buildings, you want to maximize lethal shrapnel dispersion. The British studied the problem and recommended the rounds go off at 30 feet above the surface. This was traditionally accomplished with timed rounds; the fire direction center did all the math to figure out how long it would take the round to fly and then set the times for when the rounds was near 30 feet off the ground.

But the fuses were imperfect and the math was tricky, so the U.S. eventually figured out proximity fuses, which detonated a set distance from an object or surface.

So, how do poor Joe and Josephine Snuffy try to survive the steel rain? Well, by minimizing their susceptibility to the three effects.

Even just laying down in the dirt reduces the chances that you’ll catch lethal shrapnel — face down is best. That’ll cut your chances of death or major injury down by over 60 percent. Firing from trenches or fox holes can take your chances down to under 5 percent, and lying or crouching in those same trenches or foxholes can get you into the 2-percent range.

Dig some tunnels into the mountain, and you’ll be nearly impossible to kill. That’s why so many troops were able to survive on Japanese islands despite hours or days of bombardment.

If you’re stuck on the move, opt for cover and concealment. Walking or driving through the trees can drastically increase your chances of survival since most shrapnel can make it through one inch of wood or less — but watch out for falling limbs. The blast waves and shrapnel damage can knock massive branches off of trees and drop them onto troops.

If you’re in a vehicle, reduce the amount of flammables on the outside.

This is actually why artillerymen try to hit with as many rounds as possible in the first blast, using methods like “time on target” to get all of their first wave of rounds to land at the same moment. This maximizes the amount of destruction done before the targets can rush for cover or hop into trenches.

So, you know, heads on a swivel, and all that.

MIGHTY MONEY

This scam is the number one financial fraud facing Americans

When young service members graduate from basic training or earn their commission, the biggest threat to their financial security isn’t that brand new muscle car for $0 down and a 15 percent interest rate. In fact, the biggest threat is one that targets service members across all ranks and Americans from all walks of life.

In 2019, Americans lost $1.9 billion to phishing and fraud. That year, the Federal Trade Commission received 647,000 complaints about imposter scams which topped $667 million in total losses, making them the number one type of fraud reported to the FTC Consumer Sentinel Network.


6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

*You may be asked to verify confidential information if you call your bank, but rarely the other way around (American Bankers Association)

Imposter fraud most commonly takes the form of a criminal posing as a financial institution in order to scam information from a consumer in order to access their accounts. Every day, thousands of Americans receive calls, texts, and emails from these scammers pretending to be a bank. Depending on how much information the scammers have been able to find about the consumer, they may even pose as the consumer’s actual bank. In order to gain access to your accounts, the scammers need to ascertain certain information from you. Luckily, this information is standardized across the financial industry as information that banks do not ask for.

The other most common types of fraud scams are romance and employment scams. Romance scams will have a scammer posing as a romantic interest online who eventually asks to be sent a sum of money. Employment scams can be more complex and range in form from paid job applications to startup business ventures requiring immediate payment. These types of scams have also become more common due to the fact that many people are now working from home.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

The easiest way to protect yourself from fraud scams is to recognize the signs. If you receive a call, text, or email that you believe to be fraudulent, contact your financial institution immediately. “If you even have an inkling that something doesn’t seem right, just call,” said Stacey Nash, USAA’s SVP of Fraud. “We can address the fraud before it becomes a problem.” USAA is a leader in the financial industry at detecting and combating fraud. As a digital institution, the bank has been forced to stay ahead of fraud threats in order to protect its members. “When we are alerted to fraud, USAA engages law enforcement with as much information as possible,” Nash said. “We’re committed to upholding justice.”

USAA’s 24/7 fraud prevention teams flag unusual activity and reach out to members to ensure that there is no possibility of fraud. In cases where a member is buying into a scam, USAA representatives will educate the member on the signs and dangers of fraud to help prevent them from becoming a victim.

Seventy nine percent of adults surveyed in 2019 say they were targeted by fraud over the phone. In total, it is estimated that nearly 50 percent of adults have been the target of an imposter scam at some point in their life. Aside from recognizing the signs of fraud yourself, the best way to combat the threat is to share the information. Among military ranks, it is of the utmost importance for leaders to educate their subordinates on how to protect themselves from scams like these. Though junior service members are not exclusively targeted, they can be a more vulnerable population. “Be vigilant,” Nash said. “At the end of the day, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”


MIGHTY CULTURE

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

There are a number of potential vulnerabilities in NATO territory if the Cold War ever goes live, but three countries are especially scared of an attack to close the Suwalki Gap, a spot where NATO territory is only 60 miles wide with Belarus on one side, Russia’s Kaliningrad Enclave on the other, and relatively flat ground with little forest or natural defenses in the middle.


6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

A German Army Soldier directs military vehicles onto land during one of the largest combined exercises in Lithuania, the Suwalki Gap River Crossing, as media observe the event, June 20, 2017.

(U.S. Army Sgt. Shiloh Capers)

If Russian tanks and other forces quickly span the gap and dig in, they could cut Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia off from the rest of Europe and NATO for easy digestion, leaving the rest of NATO to decide whether its worth it to risk their own troops re-securing them.

These sorts of geographic and political choke points aren’t new. Cold War weapons development was heavily influenced by the Fulda Gap, one of Soviet Russia’s most likely routes of advance if they invaded western Europe. And in World War II, France fell so quickly partially because it had counted on holding Germany at the Albert Canal and River Meuse in Belgium, but Germany had gotten Belgium to rescind its alliances with France before the invasion.

But the Suwalki Gap is a particularly vulnerable and important point. Kaliningrad is a Russian enclave that borders the Baltic Sea, and Belarus is a historic ally of Russia. Russia could easily muster troops in both areas for a mad dash across the line, and it could do so quickly and with little warning.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

Battle Group Poland U.S. Soldiers locate their sector of fire for their weapons as part of the Bull Run training exercise near Suwalki, Poland, July 16, 2017.

(U.S. Army Spc. Kevin Wang)

On paper, NATO would be required to respond, but NATO’s joint defense clause has only been invoked one time, and that was when America was attacked on September 11, 2001. That’s part of why deploying to Afghanistan usually results in a service member receiving a NATO medal. The whole alliance was party to the invasion because one member of the alliance had been attacked.

But that was NATO allies backing up their most powerful member while invading a relatively weak, authoritarian state. The Taliban had little air force or proper army assets, and it quickly fell. Getting NATO allies to muster in Poland for an attack into Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia would be much more challenging, especially since many countries would be interested in holding back at least some of their military forces to defend their own borders as the situation developed.

Poland might be especially reluctant. The gap shares its name with a Polish city and a Polish County, and Poland shares a much larger border with Kaliningrad and with Belarus. It might legitimately need its troops to hold the line against further Russian attacks.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

The Iskander-M is likely a violation of the INF Treaty, and it gives Russia the ability to cover the entire Suwalki Gap and most of Eastern Europe with a few missile launchers

(Boevaya mashina, CC BY-SA4.0)

Meanwhile, remember how Russia is under a lot of pressure to get back in line with that INF Treaty that bans missiles of certain ranges, especially ones that can carry nuclear warheads? Well, a lot of the Iskander and Iskander-M systems that are likely in violation of that treaty are kept in Kaliningrad, where they could threaten U.S. and NATO ships in the Baltic Sea and army formations approaching Suwalki from the south.

An Iskander launcher could likely cover the entire Suwalki Gap from any point in Kaliningrad. Multiple launchers could take turns shooting and then scooting before they could be hunted down. Meanwhile, Russia’s invasion force would be north of the gap, conquering the NATO countries and setting up defenses ahead of the NATO counterattack.

The Suwalki Gap is something Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges talked about when he was the commanding general of NATO, saying that an invasion of NATO countries wouldn’t make any sense to him, but then neither had the seizure of Crimea or the Russian deployment to Syria.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

Battle Group Poland tested its readiness and interoperability as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence during Bull Run, a simulated training exercise, July 16, 2017, near Suwalki, Poland.

(U.S. Army)

For comparison, while the Suwalki Gap is 60 miles long, the annexation of Crimea created an approximately 85-mile-long front between Russia and Ukraine, though NATO wasn’t obligated to take part in that fight and much of that border is covered in water, making a Ukrainian counterattack much more risky and challenging.

Of course, all of this only matters if Putin is ready to do something even crazier than kidnapping an Estonian intelligence officer, annexing Crimea, or invading Georgia or the Donbas. While all of those actions were baffling for international observers, the annexed territory, at least, did have populations sympathetic to Russian rule.

While Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania do have some Russian-speaking populations, the countries as a whole strongly support NATO membership and have even inked agreements to move more U.S. and other NATO troops into the countries or allow more forces to transit through them. So, Russia would likely find it challenging to actually hold the countries permanently.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways to water your own military marriage lawn

We see you. Peering through the windows of your government-issued duplex at the neighbor’s waving flag, sizzling grill and luscious green patch of America. No amount of rent-controlled water allowance has produced grass so green on your side of things, despite the best of efforts. How is it that lawncare has suddenly become a relevant metaphor for marriage? Happily ever military didn’t tell you about the unspoken vow we all recite, to endure. To preserve during droughts, rebuild after landslides, and endure no matter where we’re planted.


Military marriage is about watering the lawn you have today, and sometimes, calling it for what it is and putting down a patch of turf to get by. Here to help is advice from spouses in it for the long haul.

We all pick fights when the schedule goes completely nuts.

“I’m guilty of misdirecting my anger at my husband, when really it’s the late nights and last-minute changes that I’m angry at,” says Kayla Narramore, United States Marine Corps spouse.

A good marriage requires balance, but all too often, everything you had planned gets scratched at the last minute. Remembering that unlike conventional jobs, when they’re coming home, what happens next, and how long they’ll be gone can all change at any given time. Analyze what, not who you’re frustrated with instead.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

Relying on friends is how we all get by

Your service member is your life partner, but your military friends are who you can depend on. Scheduling a kid-free hair appointment, catching the flu, or even a night out are all normal tasks spouses rely on each other to tackle, but all run the risk of being canceled without much notice. Try penciling in your spouse as the back-up, with a non-active duty person as the primary. Always hope that they can step up, but this insulated plan keeps a fight or feelings of being let down out of the equation.

Counseling is not only for quitters

Between deployments, training, and schools that last for months, it’s no wonder why the common state of marriage in the military a bit is out of whack. Cohabitating is hard for anyone. Yearly marital checkups should be as commonplace as yearly physicals. Sometimes a nasty cold needs to run its course and sometimes may require treatment. There’s no body or no marriage that lives its life with a completely clean slate.

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

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We don’t love putting ourselves on hold either

“I’d love to open a bakery, but we move so often that’s nearly impossible,” explains Tiana Nomo, Army spouse when discussing her stress points. Coming to grips with what’s feasible versus possible is where spouses reframe their world in a positive light. While no one would blame you for feeling envious of their consistent career, remembering the bigger picture is helpful in eliminating circular arguments. Rehash the five-year goals often, to be a truer reflection of both parties’ interests.

We don’t always find fitting in easy 

“I had gone from working multiple fulfilling jobs to being alone, as a stay at home mom while my husband was deployed. My walls were up, to say the least,” says Anna Perez, Army spouse about her time at their first duty station. Military spouses may have one large common denominator but come together from opposite ends of all spectrums in career, life, expectations, and culture. The same can be said for the service member, however, with most of their days and time welded together, bonding appears to come more naturally than for the spouse. Without a secure network, it becomes easy for spouses to begin isolating themselves, even within their marriages. “I reached outside of the post, and into the local town where I found friendships and mentors who changed my outlook and career path,” says Perez who has her sights on becoming a lawyer.

Picking up on a theme? So much of military life is unpredictable, taking marital expectations through drastic ups and downs. Learning to love through potential decades of military service requires a strong tolerance for upheaval and a willingness to hang on, even if by one rooted strand.