6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

Marines love video games. It’s no secret that games like Battlefield had an influence on many of us as we decided to sign up in the first place. Slowly, you’ll come realize that life in the military is nothing like video games 99% of the time. But that still leaves that sweet, sweet 1% — which is experienced mostly during the Integrated Training Exercise.

When you’re at ITX, your battalion is put to the test to see if they can operate in combat environments. This is the thing that makes or breaks your unit. It’s what tells the Marine Corps that you’re ready to be sent on cool, important missions during deployment.

There’s a lot at stake when your unit arrives at Camp Wilson, make no mistake about that. It’s also some of the most fun you’ll have while training for a deployment. At times, the experience can feel like you’re in a video game. The types of things you do at ITX are the very reason you joined the infantry in the first place — to shoot guns and blow stuff up. This is Battlefield live.


6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

Even some of the company assault ranges were pretty cool.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samantha Schwoch)

You go on cool missions

Conducing helicopter-supported raids and clearing through a large town populated with both enemies and civilians sound like objectives out of latest Rainbow Six. Sure, not all of the exercises are this cool, but even video games have their dull levels.

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

There’s not much to do there, either.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Natalia Cuevas)

Camp Wilson is basically the game lobby

When playing a game online, between matches, you often get sent to a “lobby,” where you wait with other players and get prepared for the next mission. This is essentially the role of Camp Wilson: it’s a place you relax and get ready for the next event.

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

You were lucky if you mostly rode in helicopters.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samantha Schwoch)

You use vehicles to attack objectives

This isn’t the case for every mission but, for the most part, you’ll be taken to and from a staging area by vehicle to get as close as possible to your objective before you get out and attack. On the large assaults, you’ll be riding in Amphibious Assault Vehicles.

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

The explosions are better in person.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samantha Schwoch)

You finally get to witness air strikes

Twentynine Palms offers a cool training experience for units undergoing ITX evaluation — you get the ability to use and witness air strikes. That’s right: We’re talking planes flying overhead and dropping bombs that you get to watch explode. And you thought calling in an airstrike in Call of Duty felt good?

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

They’re like mortars but, bigger.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo illustration by Sgt. Justin A. Bopp)

You have artillery support

In some games, you can call for artillery support. This probably wasn’t the case during a lot of your pre-deployment training cycles. You definitely get mortars, but watching a 155mm Howitzer drop warheads in the distance is amazing. Just like air strikes, these are even better in person.

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

You’ll burn through more ammo than you thought you’d ever touch.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dallas Johnson)

You fire a lot of bullets

Video games give you a lot of ammunition and so will your unit at Twentynine Palms. You’re going to get everything you need for every mission you take on, and you might get more than you know what to do with. Hopefully your trigger finger is prepared for the cramp it’s going to experience.


Articles

7 awesome things you didn’t know the Coast Guard has

The U.S. Coast Guard doesn’t always get the respect it’s due, mostly because it’s the only branch that doesn’t always fall under the Department of Defense. But that technicality doesn’t mean the Coast Guard doesn’t have some cool stuff.


1. Open ocean ships

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game
Photo: US Department of Homeland Security

Despite their nickname of “Puddle Pirates,” the Coast Guard does have ships that can operate in the open ocean. The largest and most advanced are the National Security Cutters.

The Coast Guard just accepted its sixth NSC. Each ship carries two helicopters, two boats that can be launched from the stern, and an automated weapons suite. Based out of South Carolina and California, they are used primarily in the Bering Sea, the Pacific Ocean, and the Arctic.

2. Counter-terrorism special operators

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Barry Bena

The Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Teams (MSST) and Maritime Security Response Teams (MSRT) are both anti-terrorism organizations filled with the Coast Guard’s best and are intended for use near port facilities or along coastlines.

MSSTs primarily deploy to potential targets of terrorists in order to prevent or stop an attack while MSRTs primarily deploy to terrorist attacks and hostage situations in progress. Either can be deployed anywhere in the world.

3. The only operational heavy icebreaker in the U.S. inventory

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game
Photo: US Coast Guard

The U.S. has only one heavy icebreaker in operation, the USCGC Polar Star. Polar Star was originally commissioned in 1976 and has 75,000 horsepower. The Coast Guard has another heavy icebreaker that it was forced to cannibalize for parts and an operational medium icebreaker.

President Barack Obama recently pledged to close the icebreaker gap between Russia and the United States. Russia currently has about 40 operational icebreakers including the world’s only nuclear-powered icebreakers.

4. Jets

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game
Photo: US Coast Guard

The Coast Guard currently has two jets. Both are C-37As, the Department of Defense version of the Gulfstream V. They are used to ferry senior Coast Guard officials and the Secretary of Homeland Security at speeds of up to Mach .80.

Until recently, the Coast Guard also had a small fleet of HU-25s, jet aircraft used to chase drug smugglers and scan the surface of the water during search and rescue missions. The HU-25s were replaced with turboprop aircraft that are much slower but cheaper to operate.

5. C-130s

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game
Photo: USCG Petty Officer 1st Class Kelly Parker

While most people think of the Air Force when they hear C-130, both the Coast Guard and the Marine Corps also operate the beloved airframe. The Coast Guard uses the planes for search and rescue, cargo transport, law enforcement, and international ice patrol.

6. A Medal of Honor recipient

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game
US Coast Guard

Most Coast Guard missions are ineligible for the Medal of Honor since they don’t take place “in action against an enemy of the United States.” But, Coast Guardsmen have fought in every major American war and, in World War II, one was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Signalman First Class Douglas Munro volunteered for service supporting the U.S. Navy and was a pilot of boats at Guadalcanal. A large force of Marines was attempting to evacuate a beachhead that came under a heavy Japanese counterattack. Munro led the plywood boats that rescued the Marines under fire and he placed his own boat in the hottest part of the battle to protect the Marines.

After getting the Marines back out to sea and rescuing another boat that had run aground, Munro was shot in the head by a Japanese machine gunner. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

7. A former Nazi sailing vessel

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer Sherri Eng

The Coast Guard trains all of its academy cadets on the USCGC Eagle, a sailing vessel that was originally christened the SSS Horst Wessel by Adolf Hitler.

The Wessel was captured after the German surrender in 1945 and the British won it as a spoil of war. An American officer convinced the British to trade it to the U.S. and the ship was renamed the Eagle. She has served as a training vessel and goodwill ambassador vessel ever since.

MIGHTY SPORTS

US Army men’s rugby takes gold at Armed Forces Championship

The men’s All-Army Rugby Sevens team won their seventh straight U.S. Armed Forces Championship at RugbyTown Sevens in Glendale, Colorado, on Aug. 24, 2019, beating the Air Force 33-5.

“To win seven times in a row means everything,” said Mark Drown, the All-Army Rugby Sevens head coach. “Everything we do is about representing the Army and winning that Armed Forces championship.”

The soldier-athletes beat the Navy, the Marines, the Air Force and the Coast Guard, advancing them to the championship game where they won gold over the Air Force.


The Army outscored their opponents 198-22 in five games, similar to last year, 159-2. They also went on to earn the Plate Championship of RugbyTown Sevens over 20 national and international teams for the second year in a row.

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

Sgt. Dacoda Worth reaching for the ball during a line out while playing the Air Force at the U.S. Armed Forces Rugby Sevens tournament.

(Photo by Brittany Nelson)

After sweeping the competition, the soldier-athletes mentally prepared for the finals.

“These are good teams and these services are representing all their men and women, and you can take nothing for granted ever,” said Drown. “We wanted to spread the Air Force, expose their defensive gaps and then exploit them, and that’s exactly what our guys did.”

The team was composed of Soldiers from all over the country including soldier-athletes in the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program.

The championship team receives support from the entire Army because all soldier-athletes must have permission from their command to compete.

“The fact that we have been able to get the people out and away from their commands for seven straight years and have good enough players to win a championship has been amazing,” said Cpt. William Holder, the team’s captain since 2017. “The support we’ve received from the commands is great.”

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

Sgt. Dacoda Worth during the Army vs Coast Guard game at the U.S. Armed Forces Rugby Sevens tournament.

(Photo by Brittany Nelson)

A week prior to the tournament, the soldier-athletes meet to train at Camp Williams in Utah.

“We are able to train two-a-days with no distractions of Glendale or any other teams,” said Sgt. Dacoda Worth, an intelligence analyst at Fort Belvoir. “We get to focus on us and rugby.”

Drown, a retired colonel, uses the camp to work toward his two goals: creating a brotherhood-like culture and winning the Armed Forces Championship.

“The first step is for us to become brothers, coach really emphasizes that,” said Worth, a soldier-athlete of the team for three years. “If we can’t become brothers we aren’t going to mesh on the field. We are from all over so we don’t get to practice every day together. Building the team relationship is important.”

Once in Glendale, the team made their annual visit to Children’s Hospital Colorado to spend time with the children.

“It is an amazing experience to see the kids,” said Worth. “For us to go in and share time with them and uplift their spirits is a great time for us.”

Holder said that all of the soldier-athletes directly support Army readiness because of what they bring back to their units after the tournament.

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

The men’s All-Army Rugby Sevens team won first place at the 2019 U.S. Armed Forces tournament for the seventh time in a row.

(Photo by Brittany Nelson)

“We expect and demand so much from these soldiers,” said Holder. “We hold them to a very high standard. They are able to go back to their units and share what they have learned in the process.”

Holder mentioned that the team meets the Army’s new Chief of Staff’s priorities.

“He has three priorities: winning, which we have showed the past seven years; people, we are constantly looking for the best people; and team, we strive to have the best one,” said Holder.

Holder said the team truly believes in the priorities and appreciates that the team is able to emulate them.

“We have won the Armed Forces championship but we do not want it to stop there,” said Holder, a member of the team since its establishment in 2013. “We have shown that we can compete with the best teams in the world.”

The All-Army Sports program is a part of the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, G9, department of the Installation Management Command. The program is open to soldiers from active duty, Reserve and National Guard to compete in a variety of sports at the highest levels including Armed Forces, USA Nationals and Military World Games.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey

Tai Chi and yoga are parts of VA’s Whole Health approach to wellness.

Mental health is still a taboo subject among veterans and service members — but it doesn’t have to be, says U.S. Marine Corps veteran Bob Moran.

Moran, who went through his own journey of mental health recovery at VA New Jersey Health Care System, is sharing his experience in hopes of inspiring others to seek help.

“I think mental health is something that a lot of veterans downplay the importance of,” he says.


According to Moran, veterans often cover up mental health issues or claim they can cope with anything. “In my experience, that’s not the case.”

Moran graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1983 and served for five years. In 2015, a friend recommended that he talk to a therapist. Moran became a VA outpatient with a diagnosis of low-level depression.

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

“If it worked for Bob, it might work for me.”

That was only the beginning of his mental health journey. In June 2018, Moran called the National Veterans Crisis Line. “I went to the emergency room at East Orange,” he recalls.

Moran was admitted to the VA New Jersey inpatient mental health unit and then spent time in the facility’s residential treatment program. While there, he was introduced to the VA Whole Health curriculum, which turns traditional medical care on its head by focusing on the patient and what matters to them most rather than on a particular disease. It was a pleasant surprise.

“I took part in yoga and tai chi and also the Whole Health six-week introductory course,” Moran says. “It was very much an eastern sort of holistic way of looking at my life and myself as a person.” The new approach helped Moran become better grounded and gave him tools to use when feeling anxious or depressed.

Veterans can use such tools to actively work through symptoms or issues before they become a crisis, says Dr. Heather Shangold, local recovery coordinator at VA New Jersey. “You can’t pick and choose your emotions. They are all useful and important, even the ones that are uncomfortable. They give us signs to help us stay healthy. Don’t ignore them, embrace them, and if it’s too hard on your own, get help.”
6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

Dr. Heather Shangold.

Unfortunately, says Shangold, the stigma associated with mental health conditions sometimes stops people from seeking treatment — which is not the case with physical illness. “In all my years of working in a hospital, I have never seen anyone reject cancer treatment because of stigma or embarrassment.”

Moran has a suggestion for veterans who are unsure whether to seek mental health treatment or think they have nothing to talk about with a counselor: talk about things you think you don’t have a problem with and have under control. “It sounds counterintuitive, but [veterans should] just talk about it and practice telling a story because it’ll help them to understand their service better and how important it is to them.”

Moran says that telling his own story has helped him. He hopes other veterans will be encouraged to embark on their own paths to wellness. “They might think that ‘if it worked for Bob, it might work for me.'”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

9 photos show why Coast Guard snipers are some of the best

Once the Coast Guard has a suspect vessel in its sights on the high seas, there’s usually nowhere for it to go, but getting it to stop isn’t always easy.

The crew of the Coast Guard cutter James returned to Florida in November 2018 with nearly 38,000 pounds of cocaine seized by it and other Coast Guard ships in the Pacific. Stacked on some of the bales of cocaine were clear signs of the Coast Guard’s precision.

“So what you see here are some engine cowlings,” said Capt. Jeffrey Randall, commander of the James, referring to the half-dozen plastic covers perched on bales of seized drugs like trophies.

“We pair up the capabilities of the ship, the sensors of the ship, with our helicopter detachment that’s back there,” he said, referring to the helicopter parked behind the crew on the James‘ aft deck.

“That helicopter has what we call an aerial-use-of-force capability. So we can shoot from the aircraft with precision marksman fire, and we direct it at the engines of the vessel to stop the vessels when they fail to heave to.”


6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

A helicopter crew from the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron Jacksonville trains over the St. Johns River on Sept. 22, 2009.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Hulme)

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Paulo Cheng, a maritime enforcement specialist and student of the Precision Marksmanship School, shoots at known distance targets with an M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System during the Precision Marksmanship Course at the Spartan Ranch Tactical Training Center in Maysville, July 26, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Nicholas Lubchenko)

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

Petty Officer 1st Class Jesse Pitrelli and Petty Officer 1st Class Peter Purcell at Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia, February 16, 2016. Pitrelli and Purcell are the first active-duty Coast Guardsmen in history to graduate from Army Sniper school.

(US Coast Guard photo)

“We conduct training on the flat range weekly, do various range and yard lines, concentrating mostly on snaps and movers,” a Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team member told Military.com, referring to targets that appear suddenly and change position. “Because that’s where your bread and butter is. I mean, shooting moving targets is it.”

“The relationship between the shooter and the spotter is extremely important. The spotter’s job is probably the hardest He’s evaluating the factors with the wind,” the MRST member said. “The spotters responsibility is to actually see what the wind is doing and give the shooter the correct information so that he can make that accurate shot.”

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

Pitrelli and Purcell participate in training during Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

(US Army photo)

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

Petty Officer 2nd Class Anthony Phillips, a precision marksman at Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, displays the weaponry used by a HITRON during missions, Feb. 23, 2010.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Bobby Nash)

Coast Guard marksmen have also shown their prowess in head-to-head competition. In 2017 and 2018, Coast Guard teams finished 3rd and 9th, respectively, in the International Sniper Competition hosted by the US Army. In both those years, the Coast Guardsmen beat out the Marines, who finished 7th in 2017 and 10th in 2018.

The 2017 and 2018 results have brought derision for Marine snipers and praise for Coast Guard marksmen.

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

A gunner in an MH-68 Stingray helicopter from the Helicopter Interdiction Squadron from Jacksonville, Florida, patrols a drug transit zone alongside the Coast Guard cutter Gallatin from Charleston, S.C.

(Photo by Chief Warrant Officer Donnie Brzuska)

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

A Coast Guard aerial marksman from Air Station San Francisco sights in on a target during counter-terrorism training, in San Pablo Bay, California, June 11, 2009.

(US Coast Guard photo)

On shared waterways of ports and rivers, the Coast Guard has to determine who is just a boater and who has malicious intent. “We have a continuum, what we call a use-of-force continuum,” Capt. Jason Tama, commander of Coast Guard sector New York, told Business Insider in October 2018. “The last thing we want to do is, certainly, use deadly force, but we’re prepared to do that if we have to.”

Coast Guard marksmen are often armed with Robar RC-50 anti-material rifles, which are designed to take out machinery and are also used by US Special Operations Command.

Coast Guard helicopters and surface vessels, like the 45-foot small boats used in the use-of-force demonstration in New York Harbor in October 2018, can be armed with mounted M240 machine guns.

“Our first move, we’ll move out to intercept them, try to determine their intent and get the vessel to stop, using lights and sirens just like you would on any street in America,” Lt. Cmdr. Devon Brennan, head of the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Team in New York, said during a use-of-force demonstration in October 2018. “If radio call-outs and communications doesn’t work, the next step will be to deploy the warning shots. … If they still don’t comply, then we escalate the steps to disable their engines.”

The Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Teams, or MSSTs, and Maritime Safety and Response Teams, or MSRTs, were set up after the September 11 to respond to terrorism and other threats to US ports and waterways.

There are now 11 MSST teams whose assignments include security for UN General Assemblies, national political conventions, hurricane-response efforts, and major sporting events.

MSRTs are a ready-alert force for the Coast Guard and Defense Department combatant commanders for both short-notice operations and planned security needs. MSRTs provide subject-matter expertise for security, training, and disaster-response events and recent operations include presidential inaugurations and NATO summits.

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane approaches a suspected smuggling vessel while a helicopter crew from the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron monitors from the air on Feb. 25, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo)

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

A helicopter crew from the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron Jacksonville demonstrates warning shots fired at a non-compliant boat off the coast of Jacksonville, Sept. 24, 2009.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Hulme)

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

Intel

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

The below is an excerpt from “Breaking Cover” by Michele Rigby Assad:

In the movies, secret agents face their adversaries with guns, weapons, and flashy cars. And they’re so proficient in hand-to-hand combat that they can bring enemies to their knees with the right choke hold or take them down with a well-placed aimed shot. As much as I’d like to think I was that cool, in reality, life in the CIA is much more pedantic.


What most people don’t know is that the CIA is really a massive sorting agency. Intelligence officers must sift through mountains of data in an effort to determine what is authentic and useful, versus what should be discarded. We must consider the subtleties of language and the nuance of the nonverbal. We must unwind a complicated stream of intelligence by questioning everything. In the counterterrorism realm, this process has to be quick; we have to weed out bad information with alacrity. We can’t afford to make mistakes when it comes to the collection, processing, dissemination, and evaluation of terrorism intelligence. As we say in the CIA, “The terrorists only have to get it right once, but we have to be right every time.”

Contained in that massive flow is an incredible amount of useless, inaccurate, misleading, or fabricated information. The amount of bad reporting that is peddled, not only to the CIA but to intelligence agencies all over the world, is mind-boggling.

That’s precisely why one of the greatest challenges we faced as counterterrorism experts was figuring out who was giving us solid intelligence and who wasn’t. And when we were dealing with terrorists, getting it wrong could mean someone’s death.

In early 2007 when Iraq was awash with violence, many Iraqis who had formerly counted the United States as the Great Satan for occupying their country switched sides and were willing to work with Coalition Forces against Iraqi terrorists. Brave locals were rebelling against al-Qa’ida’s brutal tactics and were doing whatever they could to take back the streets from these thugs. This was a turning point in the war. Our counterterrorism efforts became wildly successful, fueled by accurate and highly actionable intelligence.

In one such case, we were contacted by one of our established sources, who was extremely agitated. Mahmud had come from his village claiming that he had seen something that sent chills down his spine. As Mahmud was driving not far from his home, he saw an unknown person exit a building that one of his cousins owned. The building was supposed to be empty and unoccupied. For reasons Mahmud could not explain, he thought that something bad was going on and that maybe the man he saw was a member of Al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI).

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game
(Courtesy Tyndale House Publishers)

Up until this point, Coalition Forces had found Mahmud’s information extremely reliable. Of course, they did not know his name or personal details, but they made sure we knew that his information had checked out. They contacted us on numerous occasions to praise us for the source’s reporting, explaining that it had allowed them to disarm IEDs and detain insurgents who were causing problems in his village.

Mahmud had a solid track record. But the bits he provided this time were sketchy and lacked sufficient detail. You can’t just disseminate intelligence reports saying that a location “feels wrong,” “seems wrong,” or that some random dude you just saw “looked like a bad guy.” That kind of information does not meet the threshold for dissemination by the CIA. In this case, however, the handling case officer and I went against protocol and put the report out.

Within the hour, we were contacted by one of the MNF-I (Multi-National Force-Iraq) units with responsibility for that AOR. They regularly executed counterterrorism operations in that village and wanted to know more about the sourcing. They were interested in taking a look at the abandoned building because they had been trying to locate terrorist safe houses they believed were somewhere in the vicinity of the building mentioned in our report. They had a feeling that nearby safe houses were being used to store large amounts of weaponry and a few had been turned into VBIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device) factories. But there was one big problem: Military units had acted on similar intelligence reports before, but the reports had been setups—the alleged safe houses were wired to explode when the soldiers entered.

A spate of these types of explosions had occurred east of Baghdad in Diyala Governorate, and while we had not yet seen this happen out west in al-Anbar Governorate, one could never be too careful. Basically, the military wanted to know: How good is your source? Do you trust him? Do you think he could have turned on you? Could this be a setup?

This was one of the hardest parts of my job. While I had to protect the identity of our sources when passing on intelligence, I had to balance this with the need to share pertinent details that would allow the military to do their job. It was critical to give them appropriate context on the sources, their access, and their reporting records, and to give them a sense of how good the report may or may not be. Given our positive track record with these military units, I knew that they would trust my judgment, and therefore, I needed to get it right. Lives were at stake.

My mind was spinning.

What do I think? Is this a setup? He’s usually such a good reporter, but what if someone discovered he was the mole?

Even if Mahmud was “on our side,” the insurgents could turn him against us by threatening the lives of his wife and kids. Similar things had happened before. I prayed, “Please, Lord, give me wisdom.”

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game
The author, Michele Rigby Assad, was an undercover CIA agent for 10 years.
(Courtesy Tyndale House Publishers)

The bottom line was, I didn’t know anything for sure, and I told the military commander that. But I also remembered that just the week before, Mahmud had provided a report that MNF-I units said was amazingly accurate regarding the location of an IED in his village. They found the IED and dug it up before the Coalition Humvee rolled over it. So as of then, he was definitely good, and I told the commander that as well.

The next day, the case officer came to my desk and said, “Did you hear?”

“Hear what?”

“Mahmud’s information was spot on!”

“Really?” What a relief, I thought. “What happened?”

“When the soldiers entered the abandoned building, they found seven Iraqis tied up on the floor, barely clinging to life. It was more than a safe house. It was a torture house. There were piles of dead bodies in the next room.”

Mahmud’s intuition about the stranger he saw exiting that building had been correct. Something about the unidentified man’s behavior or appearance—the look on his face, the posture of his body, the way he walked or the way he dressed—had hit Mahmud as being “off” or “wrong.” It turned out that local AQI affiliates had commandeered the building and were using it as a base to terrorize the local population.

My colleague pulled out copies of the military’s photographs that captured the unbelievable scene. The first images showed the battered bodies of the young men who had just been saved from certain death. According to the soldiers, when they entered the building and found the prisoners on the floor, the young men were in shock. Emaciated and trembling, they kept saying, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” They could barely stand, so the soldiers steadied them as the young men lifted up their bloodstained shirts for the camera, revealing torsos covered in welts and bruises. If that unit hadn’t shown up when they did, those men would have been dead by the next day.

I swallowed hard as I flipped through the photographs of the horrors in the next room, and my eyes welled up with tears. The terrorists had discarded the mutilated bodies of other villagers in the adjacent room, leaving them to rot in a twisted mound. I could hardly accept what I was seeing. It reminded me of Holocaust photos that were so inhumane one could not process the depth of the depravity: men and women . . . battered and bruised . . . lives stolen . . . eyes frozen open in emptiness and horror.

My stomach began to churn, but I made myself look at the pictures. I had to understand what we were fighting for, what our soldiers faced every day. As much as I wanted to dig a hole and stick my head in the sand, I needed to see what was really happening outside our cozy encampment in the Green Zone.

They say war is hell; they don’t know the half of it.

Taken from “Breaking Cover” by Michele Rigby Assad. Copyright © 2018. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

Michele Rigby Assad is a former undercover officer in the National Clandestine Service of the US Central Intelligence Agency. She served as a counterterrorism specialist for 10 years, working in Iraq and other secret Middle Eastern locations. Upon retirement from active service, Michele and her husband began leading teams to aid Christian refugees.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways the military-veteran community is changing in the coming years

At the start of the new millennium, the United States military was a very different organization. But then, so too was the United States as a country. In the past 20 years, the military has experienced an incredible shift in not only demographics, but also in the way it is formed. This trend will only continue.


A Pew Research Center study of the Department of Defense analyzed all of the data released by the U.S. military on its demographic makeup and found some key facts about how the U.S. military and the men and women who served in it has changed.

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

The Army is still the biggest, and the other branches are shrinking

In 2015, the Army was more than a third of the total active-duty force of the United States military. The Air Force and Navy were about a quarter of the force each, with the Marines and Coast Guard comprising 14 percent and 3 percent, respectively. These days, the Navy and Air Force have seen a sizable shrinkage in terms of how big they are in comparison to Big Army. The Marine Corps has also shrunk, although not to the same extent.

The Coast Guard, however, has grown.

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

The profile of the American veteran will shift significantly

Right now, 91 percent of veterans are male, but by 2045, the share of female veterans is expected to double while the actual number of female veterans will increase to more than 2.2 million. The number of male veterans is predicted to drop by half, to 9.8 million in 2045. These groups will also become more ethnically diverse as the older generations of veterans die. The share of Hispanic vets is expected to double, and the expected share of African-American veterans will increase to 16 percent.

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

Fewer Americans are veterans and that number will only drop

As of 2015, seven percent of the American population were veterans, down from 18 percent in 1980. With it came a drop in the number of active-duty military personnel, and the numbers keep on dropping. In 2045, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates the number of veterans will drop by 40 percent of its current population, as Gulf War vets become the dominant era, and Vietnam veterans start to die off.

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

More women are joining – and more are in command

The number of women in the U.S. military is rapidly changing. According to the Defense Department, women now make up 20 percent of the Air Force, 19 percent of the Navy, 15 percent of the Army, and almost 9 percent of the Marine Corps. More than one in five commissioned officers were women in 2017, a number that is projected to rise, a far cry from women being just five percent of officers in 1975.

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

The U.S. military is getting smaller – troops are seeing more action

One in five veterans today served after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. As a result of being a smaller force than the U.S. military of the Cold War Era, which includes the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and other conflicts of the time, Members of the post-9/11 military generation were more likely to have deployed and served in combat. They are also more likely to have experienced some kind of traumatic incident.

MIGHTY SPORTS

8 tips and tricks to build muscle faster

(Header image courtesy of John Fornander)

It is hard to build the kind of muscle that gets noticed on the street, in the office, or, hell, by your partner. It takes intention, planning, and hard work. The best functional strength training programs, after all, tend to not have an effect for weeks. If you’re looking for something more specific — and difficult — like getting big arms — you’re going to have to plan that much further in advance.

But what if you just need to build muscle fast? Whether it’s to look good for your college roommate’s BBQ pool party in a few weeks or just trying to jumpstart your strength training, there are a few tips and tricks to expedite the process. We’re not saying you’ll be looking super fit come next Saturday’s party or that you’ll be moving weights like your gym rats friend, but, hey, it’s a start.


1. Eat more, not less

It seems counterintuitive, but if you’re looking to build muscle, you need to slightly overfeed your body. Not only does your body need extra calories to build new muscle, but muscle burns more calories than fat so you have to reload on energy in order to support new muscle growth. Restricting calories to lose weight will backfire big time, since your body senses “starvation mode” and respond but shutting down the production of new muscle cells.

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

(Photo by Alora Griffiths)

2. Increase your volume

You’ve probably heard that the amount of weight you use is the critical component to whether or not your build muscle. But actually, increasing your number of reps is equally essential for muscle growth. Switch up your lifting routine so that you spend at least one day a week lifting 50 to 75 percent of your one rep max, for 15-20 reps per set, aiming for about 6 sets.

3. Eat more protein

Protein is the more important building block for new muscles, so make sure you’re getting enough in your diet. According to the American College for Sports Medicine, if you’re looking to build muscle mass, aim for .5 to .8 grams of protein per pound of body weight, or about 95 to 148 grams of protein daily for a 185-pound guy.

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

(Photo by Jonathan Borba)

4. Provide new stimulus

Known as the progressive overload principle, the fastest way to build more muscle is to force it to adapt to a stimulus above and beyond anything you’ve yet done. That means if you had been using 25-pound dumbbells for curls, you should try doing one set with 30 pounds, then progress to 35-pound weights.

5. Get your 7 to 9

The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night for optimal health. Achieving the prescribed dose of nightly sleep plays a key role in expediting muscle development. During sleep, muscle fibers that have been mildly damaged from a tough workout (not a bad thing, that’s how growth occurs) have a chance to repair themselves, knitting back together in a tighter formation that translates to muscle strength. If you cut your zzz’s short, you’re also shortening the amount of time your muscles have to grow.

6. Slow it down

The process of building new muscle, also known as hypertrophy, benefits from placing muscles under duress for an extended period of time. For this reason, rather than pumping iron as fiercely and frantically as you can, you should do at least one set of every strength-training exercise at slo-mo speed. And, yes, it burns.

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

(Photo by Kyle Johnson)

7. Compound it

While isolation moves like biceps curls are great for honing in on one specific muscle, you’ll get the biggest bang for your strength-training buck with moves that recruit multiple muscle groups at once. That’s because the more mass you can put behind a move like squats, pullups or deadlifts, the greater the load your body can bear, and the stronger you can make your muscles.

8. Mix it up

Just like you need to test your muscles using progressive overload, you also need to surprise them by serving up new types of exercises every week. Your muscles, it turns out, are pretty smart. They very quickly adapt to whatever exercise you’re doing, so the next time you do it, it feels easier — because it is. Rather than fall into the same sequence of moves week after week, seek out new ones that are different enough that they stress slightly different parts of your body.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Did F-35 testing for extreme weather conditions fall short?

More than 400 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters are operating from 17 bases worldwide. From the near-Arctic region of Ørland, Norway, to a recent deployment in the Middle East, the fifth-generation jet is expanding its reach.

But a recent news report shows that weather conditions have some effect on the Pentagon’s stealthy fifth-gen fighter, raising concerns about its performance in extreme climate locations.

In a recent Defense News report series, the outlet obtained documents showing that cold weather triggered a battery sensor in an F-35 Lightning II in Alaska. While the battery was not affected, the weather “overwhelm[ed] the battery heater blanket” that protects it, prompting the sensor to issue a warning and causing the pilot to abort his mission and land immediately, Defense News said.


“We have already developed an update to the software and the battery’s heater control system to resolve this issue, and this updated software is available for users today to load on their aircraft in the event they will be conducting extreme cold weather operations,” Greg Ulmer, vice president of Lockheed’s F-35 aircraft production business, said in an interview with Military.com at the Paris Air Show, adding the update will be in new planes by 2021.

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II takes off during pre-Initial Operational Testing and Evaluation.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson)

The U.S. military anticipated taking the Lockheed Martin-made F-35 around the world, with partners and allies flying the plane in both hot and cold regions, including some that are changing.

“The [F-22 Raptor] and plenty of other aircraft have flown out [to Alaska] just fine for decades,” Rebecca Grant of IRIS Independent Research told Defense News. Grant is a former director of the Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies at the Air Force Association. “The F-35 should have had all that sorted out in the climatic lab.”

Ulmer, however, said all necessary steps were taken in lab testing, and the issue identified was a normal part of the design and development process.

“You do the best you can relative to the engineering, understanding of the environment, to design the part. And then you actually perform, and [you realize] your model was off a little bit, so you have to tweak the design … to account for it,” Ulmer said. An F-35A from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, was on static display here during the show.

“We’re confident in the F-35s performance in all weather conditions,” he said.

The battery issue was first discovered during extreme cold weather testing at -30 degrees and below at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, in February 2018, he added.

Ulmer explained there are various tests points done before the plane heads to the McKinley Lab at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, for robust experiments. The lab is responsible for high-range weather testing of military and commercial aircraft, munitions and weapons.

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II from Eglin Air Force Base.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Fox Echols III)

The lab’s refrigeration chamber can go as low as -70 degrees, lab chief Dwayne Bell told Military.com during a visit to the facility in 2017. He said at the time that the F-35 program had been one of the most expensive programs tested in the lab to date. There’s a wide range of testing costs, but they average roughly ,000 a day, he said.

It cost about million to test the Marine Corps’ B-model from the Patuxent River Integrated Test Force, Maryland, over a six-month period, Bell said.

The Lightning II was put through major weather testing — the lab can do everything but lightning strikes and tornadoes — such as wind, solar radiation, fog, humidity, rain intrusion/ingestion, freezing rain, icing cloud, icing build-up, vortex icing and snow. It handled temperatures ranging from 120 degrees Fahrenheit to -40 degrees, officials said in 2017.

But even testing at McKinley is limiting, Ulmer said.

“What doesn’t happen is that they don’t stay there a long time, so once we released [Block] 3F [software] capability, now the operational fleet can actually” test new extremes, he said, referring to both speed and temperature changes.

Defense News also found that supersonic speeds caused “bubbling and blistering” on the JSF’s low-observable stealth coating, and that hot environments impeded sufficient engine thrust to vertically land the Marine variant.

“So they take it” to new environments “and they expose it more than flight test exposed the airplane. I’m an old flight test guy. You expect to learn in the operational environment more than you do in the [developmental test] environment because you don’t necessarily fly the airplane [in that environment] all the time,” Ulmer said.

“So we learned a little bit, and you refine the design, and you solve it,” he said, adding that the design and maintenance tweaks are ongoing. “The probability of the issue reoccurring on aircraft in the operational fleet is very low and with minimal impact to safety of flight or operational performance.”

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

Two U.S. Navy F-35C Lightning II 5th-generation fighters sit on the flight line during pre-initial Operational Testing and Evaluation.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson)

Thirteen Category 1 deficiencies were found and reported by operators, according to the for-official-use-only documents Defense News obtained. Cat 1 is a label for problems that would directly impact safety or the mission. Those ranged from coating fixes; pressure anomalies in the cockpit that gave pilots ear and sinus pain; and washed-out imagery in the helmet-mounted display, among others.

The Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps each fly a variant of the aircraft designed for different scenarios, from landing on conventional runways on land, to catching arresting cables on aircraft carriers, to landing like a helicopter on amphibious assault ships.

Responding to the Defense News article series, Lockheed Martin said each deficiency “is well understood, already resolved or on a near-term path to resolution.”

“We’ve worked collaboratively with our customers, and we are fully confident in the F-35’s performance and the solutions in place to address each of the items identified,” the company said in a statement June 12, 2019.

Growing pains with new planes and weapons programs are common. But the F-35 program has been under scrutiny since its inception, mainly for cost-effectiveness and functionality. A new estimate suggests that operating and supporting fighters for the next 60-plus years will cost the government id=”listicle-2638937142″.196 trillion.

The older F-22 Raptor has had similar issues, especially with its stealth coating, which officials have said is more cumbersome to fix than the F-35, which was built with a more functional and durable coating in mind.

“The [low-observable] system has significantly improved on the F-35 when compared to the F-22,” Ulmer said June 18, 2019. “That’s all lessons learned from F-22, applied to F-35.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Criminal’ — The Navy really effed up its new $13 billion supercarrier

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee sharply criticized the Navy’s failures with the new USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier, saying that these missteps “ought to be criminal.”

During the confirmation hearing for Vice Adm. Michael Gilday, who is set to become the next chief of naval operations, Sen. Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, unleashed a string of criticisms about the first ship of the Navy’s Ford-class carriers.

“The ship was accepted by the Navy incomplete, nearly two years late, two and a half billion dollars over budget, and nine of eleven weapons still don’t work with costs continuing to grow,” the senator said.


The Navy still conducts burials at sea

www.youtube.com

The Navy still conducts burials at sea

“The Ford was awarded to a sole-source contractor,” which was asked to incorporate immature technologies “that had next to no testing, had never been integrated on a ship — a new radar, catapult, arresting gear, and the weapons elevators,” he continued, adding that the Navy entered into this contract “without understanding the technical risk, the cost, or the schedules.”

Read more: The Navy’s new supercarriers can’t deploy with new stealth fighters

“This ought to be criminal,” he said, further criticizing what he called the Navy’s “arrogance.”

The cost of the USS Gerald R. Ford, according to the latest report to Congress, has ballooned to just over billion, well over budget, and when the ship completes post-sea trial maintenance and is returned to the fleet in October — it was initially supposed to return in July but was delayed — it still won’t be working properly.

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer bet his job on a promise to President Trump that the advanced weapons elevators would be ready to go by the end of the current maintenance period, but the Navy has already said that is not going to happen.

Only a handful of the advanced weapons elevators, a critical internal system required to move weapons to the flight deck, increase aircraft sortie rates and increase the overall lethality of the ship will be operational when the USS Gerald R. Ford returns to the fleet this fall.

The Navy has had to call in outside experts to try to find a solution to this particular problem.

See What Life Is Like On A US Navy Carrier | Military Insider

www.youtube.com

See What Life Is Like On A US Navy Carrier

Gilday, who was asked to comment seeing that this issue “is going to be dumped in your lap,” as the senator explained, assured Inhofe that if he is confirmed as the Navy’s next top admiral, he will push the service to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not wasted.

“I share your concern,” he told the senator, explaining that the current status is unacceptable. “We need all 11 elevators working in order to give us the kind of redundancy and combat readiness that the American taxpayer has invested in this ship.”

“We’ve had 23 new technologies introduced on that ship,” he added. “Of those, four were immature when we commissioned Ford in 2017. We have seen progress in the launching system, the arresting gear and also with the dual-band radar. The reliability of those systems is trending in the right direction and actually where we want to be based on the last at-sea testing.”

Gilday characterized the elevators as the last remaining “hurdle” to getting the Ford out to sea.

He assured lawmakers that the Navy will take the lessons of the Ford and apply them to not only all future Ford-class carriers, but also the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest memes for the week of November 16th

The weeks between major four-day weekends always blow. You get into a rhythm of sitting on your ass, drinking, and playing video games for an extended period of time only to have a few days of extremely intense duty to make up for all the work you’ve been missing and will miss over the holidays.

Meanwhile, you’re getting pressure to get that damn certificate in to the training room because Uncle Sam won’t let you take block leave unless you’ve proven to them that your car isn’t sh*t and you won’t drive while tired.

But on the bright side, it’s payday week and there’re a lot of video games coming out for you to waste your paycheck on. Anyway, enjoy some memes.


6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

1. What’s worse? Dealing with 110-degree heat, the constant threat of enemy attacks, actual enemy attacks, incoming mortar fire at 0200, and being treated like absolute garbage by your unit, foreign allies, and the locals you’re defending or dealing with your civilian coworker’s bullsh*t on Monday mornings?

Tough call.

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

(Meme via Military Memes)

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

(Meme via PT Belt Nation)

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

(Meme via Private News Network)

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

(Meme via I am an American Soldier)

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

(Meme via Uniform Humor)

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Articles

This Civil War vet walked around with a bullet in his face for 31 years

Jacob Miller was shot in the head at the Battle of Chickamagua on 19 September 1863. Never heard of it? The most significant Union defeat in the Western Theater of the American Civil War, the battle resulted in the second-highest number of casualties after the Battle of Gettysburg. Everyone in Miller’s unit assumed he was one of them.


The Union soldier ended up living for another 54 years. His survival was nothing short of miraculous. Why’s that? Because he had a giant bullet hole in his forehead. Left for dead on the battle field, Miller regained consciousness hours later. His firsthand account of the battle was published by The Joliet Daily News in 1911. It’s a riveting read.

When I came to my senses some time after I found I was in the rear of the confederate line. So not to become a prisoner I made up my mind to make an effort to get around their line and back on my own side. I got up with the help of my gun as a staff, then went back some distance, then started parallel with the line of battle. I suppose I was so covered with blood that those that I met, did not notice that I was a Yank, (at least our Major, my former captain did not recognize me when I met him after passing to our own side).

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game
The wound never really healed, but it’s pretty safe to assume it saved his life. What happened next?

I suffered for nine months then I got a furlough home to Logansport and got Drs. Fitch and Colman to operate on my wound. They took out the musket ball. After the operation a few days, I returned to the hospital at Madison and stayed there till the expiration of my enlistment, Sept. 17, 1864. Seventeen years after I was wounded a buck shot dropped out of my wound and thirty one years after two pieces of lead came out.

Let that sink in for a moment. Miller walked around with a bullet in his forehead for 31 years. Was he bitter? Hardly.

Some ask how it is I can describe so minutely my getting wounded and getting off the battle field after so many years. My answer is I have an everyday reminder of it in my wound and constant pain in the head, never free of it while not asleep. The whole scene is imprinted on my brain as with a steel engraving. I haven’t written this to complain of any one being in fault for my misfortune and suffering all these years, the government is good to me and gives me $40.00 per month pension.

Notice how he’s wearing a Medal of Honor? It has nothing to do with the hole in his head. Miller was awarded the medal in recognition of his gallantry in the charge of a “volunteer storming party” on 22 May 1863. Pretty inspiring stuff.

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

Don’t bleed around your unit cartoonist; Bill’s trick back

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.

Master Sergeant Bill — and that was his real last name — had a trick back, so he claimed. It seemed to flare up just as we were on the cusp of an unpleasant mission. My gosh, it didn’t seem to trouble him much at all during “good deal” trips, no Sir. Whether or not it was a valid ailment, that we shall never know, but the timing of the affliction sure seemed suspect over the years.

Well sure, I understood as well as the next man, that with all of the non-stop training we did to satisfy our charter to deploy in just a few hours, to deploy to the four corners of the planet and be ready to sustain combat for several days… a brother just needed a break now and then to harness and hold a semblance of sanity — “to each his own,” I often rationalized.


6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

“Woo, yeah brother… I can feel my back getting ready to go out again. Yes sirree I can feel it coming on.”

“$hit Bill, your back goes out more than a hooker on East Central… I don’t suppose your back is just feeling the freezing cold early on, is it?”

“What freezing cold?”

“Yeah, the freezing cold of our trip to Fairbanks Alaska for Arctic weather training.”

“Oh, yeah… well I guess that is coming up, isn’t it…”

“Oh, well yeah… I guess it is, Bill.”

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

(Arctic warfare training always promised deep snow and freezing temperatures)

There were a few brothers that had a perceived penchant for backing out of what we called “bad deal trips,” in favor of pursuing only the “good deal trips.” They were just slick like that. Again it was just a perception, but perception is the better part of reality in most cases.

Three of the guys earned the following monikers:

Samuel: Good deal Sam, bad deal — scram!

William: Good deal Will, bad deal — chill!

Martin: Good deal Marty, bad deal — departy!

Ah, but Sergeant Bill… now he just carried his maneuvers a smidge farther than the rest, and he didn’t deserve any finesse in his moniker:

Bill: Good deal Bill, bad deal — fake a back injury!

When I look back on some of our more gruesome training missions I am aware, ever so aware, that I do not recollect his presence there. There was the Arctic training in Alaska where we endured temperature plummets as low as -45 degree Fahrenheit while we made death marches on skis and snowshoes all night long.

No Sergeant Bill — threw his dang back out.

There was the trip to British Guyana 100 miles south of the infamous Jones Town where some 950 followers of Jim Jones’ “religion” committed suicide by poisonous Kool-aid in honor of their leader. Triple canopy jungles, All night movements again on foot and by tactical assault boats through snaking inland riverways in the sweltering heat.

No Sergeant Bill — threw his dad-blamed back out.

Hey but the desert mobility training trip where we planned extreme long range patrols… Bill was there! Oh, but his back got to acting up, and he stayed in the rear at the communications relay station — bless his lame heart. If that were not enough, then there was this thing that happened:

Long range tactical patrols meant movement all night long. Before the sun comes up, we stopped and set up camouflage nets. We then performed work priorities, set out guards, and tried to sleep in the frying pan desert as best we could.

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

(An Austrian Pinzgauer, the vehicle of choice for desert mobility movements)

We played the tactical game to the hilt because we knew there were Russian helicopters flying the desert looking for our Rally Over Day (ROD) locations at this particular state-side training venue. To be spotted was a compromise and we would have to pack up and run from them in daylight— a losing situation.

To the lonely sound of the buzzing of deer flies, punctuated by the omnipresent smacking noise of the swatting of deer flies, was the low rumble of men in fitful sleep. Very suddenly came the booming of the heavy rotor blades of a Russian Hind-D attack helicopter looming at some 75 feet of altitude… with spineless Bill leaning out of a cargo window pointing wildly to us on the ground.

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

(The very intimidating Russian attack helicopter Hind-D)

“I’m going to kill him pretty soon… I’m going to kill spineless Bill. I’m going to chop him up into pieces then burn each of the pieces to ashes. I’m going to collect up those ashes and tamp them down into the barrel of a 12-pound Napoleon cannon, and fire his ashes out of over a field full of cow sh!t; when the cows come to eat the grass I’m going to kill them too and then burn the grass… and I’m going to do it all on a piping-hot Summer’s day,” projected the oath a particularly agitated brother.

The moral of the story here could possibly be: whether your back injury is real or faked, and perception being the greater part of reality, your shenanigans will not write you a day pass from… THE UNIT CARTOONIST!

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

(12-pound Napoleon cannon)