The Marine Corps Hymn is a national treasure. Every Marine knows it by heart, and it makes our chest swell with pride when it comes on. It has an unorthodox history, and it is the U.S. military’s oldest official song. The Marine Corps Hymn is sung at attention to show respect. It is taken seriously by all who have worn the dress blues uniform. However, it has a not so serious origin story.
It started as a burlesque comedy opera
Titled Genevieve de Brabant, it is a comedy about a woman named Genevieve, her husband the Duke Sifroy and his frenemy Golo. Golo is next in line to become the next Duke of Brabant if Duke Sifroy cannot father a son with his wife. Comically, Golo intercepts their attempt to conceive but the Duke gets help from a pastry cook named Drogan. The pie helps motivate him to have an heir.
Golo makes a last ditch effort to accuse Genevieve of being unfaithful just when the Duke is sent off to fight in the Crusades. The Duke believes Golo and leaves him to rule in his stead and Genevieve escapes to the Ardennes Forest. While she is there gives birth and meets a comedic hermit during her exile. Her husband meets a woman named Isoline and agrees to help her find her husband, which ironically is where he just came from. When Duke Sifroy returns he rescues his innocent wife and child and reunites Isoline with her husband. Plot twist – it’s Golo.
So, the Marine Corps Hymn’s melody comes from a comedy about an innocent wife accused of adultery right before her husband ships off to the Middle East. That has to be one of the most unintentionally Marine thing about the Marine Corps.
No one knows who created the first lyrics
Fun fact: The lyrics are copyrighted by The Leatherneck Magazine were 1919 but is now public domain.
While the lyrics are said to date from the 19th century, no pre-20th century text is known. The author of the lyrics is likewise unknown. Legend has it that it was penned by a Marine on duty in Mexico. The unknown author transposed the phrases in the motto on the Colors so that the first two lines of the Hymn would read: “From the Halls of Montezuma, to the Shores of Tripoli”, favoring euphony over chronology.
Human Resources and Organizational Management, Headquarters Marine Corps
Allegedly it is believed that Colonel Henry C. Davis wrote the lyrics but another account states that it was written by a Marine on post. Chronologically, the former is unlikely because that you place the lyrics 20 years before the melody from the comedic opera was invented. Specifically, ‘From the halls of Montezuma’ was added during the Mexican-American War and ‘To the shores of Tripoli’ is dedicated to the time when the Marine Corps fought pirates of the Barbary States from 1801 to 1805. In 1942, Major General John A. Lejeune added, ‘In the air, on land, and sea’ to include the Marine Corps’ new aerial capabilities.
The Hymn is the most Marine thing ever
So, the Marine Corps Hymn has a humble past as a comedy musical with scantily clad women about infidelity, power struggles and a Middle Eastern deployment — allegedly written by a bored, motivated Marine thinking about combat and half naked ladies on post. The Marine Corps Hymn is practically a Marine itself – that’s the most patriotic thing I’ve ever heard.
Logically speaking, there’s almost always a valid explanation for those bumps in the night — but there’s a sense of adventure that comes along with investigating the unexplained. The thrill of finding an explanation for the unexplainable (even if that explanation is otherworldly) is what brings together paranormal enthusiasts in the hunt for answers.
Veterans tend to be strong-willed people who have long immersed themselves in a culture in which death is never far from the mind. From battlefields to bases, many locales in the military world are home to the world’s most ghostly tales — and if you’ve ever been on an installation at night, you know there’s something undeniably eerie at work.
These veterans banded together over their love of the paranormal and have decided to look into the many oft-ignored (and never explained) supernatural military mysteries.
Yep. Still looks exactly like pretty much every S-6 shop in the Army.
(Courtesy of Military Veterans Paranormal)
The Military Veterans Paranormal (or MVP) are based out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The group came together over a shared love for all things spooky and, today, have a legitimate operation going on. They catch word of possible paranormal activity, plan an investigation as if it were a conventional military operation, and then head out to find answers.
But to them, it’s far more than just the pursuit of ghosts — it’s also about the camaraderie that comes with operating as a unit. Founding member of the Military Veterans Paranormal, Mellanie Ramsey, told We Are The Mighty,
“We hope to show other veterans that there are other ways we can deal with PTSD and that just because you’re no longer in the military, it doesn’t mean you’re alone. Find a hobby, the more unique the better. We found a hobby that enables us to use the tools and skills we learned in the military and apply it to paranormal investigation. You can still have a mission, though it may no longer be combat related. We still matter and as long as we stick together to support one another, we can work to reduce the number of veteran suicides while still helping others and having fun. We’re proof the mission doesn’t have to be over just because you get out of service. It just changed.”
(Courtesy of Military Veterans Paranormal)
One of their recent investigations brought them to “The Birdcage” at Fort Campbell. It’s a part of the base that’s been abandoned since the Cold War — and if you believe the rumors, it’s the Army’s equivalent to Area 51. Of course, they don’t do anything without getting proper permission from the authorities and they do plenty of historical research ahead of time.
On record, The Birdcage was where the Army stored nuclear warheads — but countless paranormal sightings have been reported in the area. Everything from ghosts to aliens to magical forces have been attributed to this site. Naturally, the paranormal investigators had to check it out.
While there, they spotted a something in OD Green running. The description of their sighting exactly matches reports from a member of 5th Special Forces Group, who saw that very same something while running through the area. After a little more digging, MVP learned that a convicted soldier had died there while trying to escape the brig. During his escape, he accidentally crossed into The Birdcage, where a highly-electrified barricade ended his attempt — and his life.
Could the spirit of this convict still be roaming the area, long after his death? It’s hard to say for sure.
The group is very serious about their hobby, but they don’t pocket any of the money they raise through the investigations. To date, they’ve raised over ,000 for the Wounded Warrior Foundation.
If you’re interested in joining a paranormal investigation group — or if there’s something you think warrants checking out, visit Military Veterans Paranormal’s website.
It is time you know EO, the Army’s Equal Opportunity program. With service members hailing from every state, the Army proudly represents the diverse makeup that is America. The EO program was born out of a need to help create better and more equal opportunities as well as representation since the 1970s..
Today, the program offers two main pathways for soldiers to file reports. The program is considered to be a commander’s program as ultimately, the responsibility to cultivate a positive culture within the unit falls on them. Reporting, consequences, and outcomes ultimately depend on the severity of the offense, findings of the investigation, and decisions made by command.
According to Army Regulation 690-12, the focus of the EO Program is, “…to prohibit discrimination in employment because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, reprisal, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, status as a parent, or other impermissible bases, and to promote the full realization of EO through a continuing diversity and inclusion program.” Equality, fairness, and justice are the flagship standards of the program with the goal that no soldier should be treated unjustly based on their race, color, creed, sexual orientation, and gender.
The EO program offers two different forms to report a complaint- formal and informal. Both processes strive to resolve the issue in a better than satisfactory manner no matter which route a soldier decides to file. As the names allude to, the degree of the complaint can be handled in an informal (less severe) or formal (more severe) manner. Ultimately, the decision of which type of complaint to file is up to the soldier filing the complaint.
This compliant process requires no paperwork and can generally, be categorized as the process for “minor” infractions which can be quickly resolved through immediate action at the company level. The company Equal Opportunity Leader (EOL) or Equal Opportunity Advisor (EOA), soldiers holding the certification from the Army’s Equal Opportunity course, will investigate the complaint to the fullest degree. This process would typically include- receiving the complaint from both parties (the accuser and the accused) as well as following up with any parties who may have been witness to the act(s) to provide insight.
Every attempt will be made to ensure that the soldier making the report is satisfied with the outcome and that the accused soldier receives just and fair punishment. The EOL will both ask and suggest a fair and swift course of action to ensure the issue is resolved and will not happen again.
If the accused soldier continues the behavior which prompted the informal complaint or the soldier making the report feels the incident is serious enough to warrant an investigation with documentation, this may begin the process of filing a formal complaint.
Master Sgt. Kenneethia Kennard, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing equal opportunity director, briefs Master Sgt. Eric Stuhan, 438 AEW first sergeant, and Master Sgt. Christine David-Wood, 504th Expeditionary Air Support Operations Group, first sergeant, during a site visit to Kabul, Afghanistan. U.S. Army photo
As the name implies, a formal complaint is not able to be handled at the lowest level and may involve Military Police, JAG, command leadership and other agencies ensuring the safety and wellbeing of soldiers.
While an informal complaint is handled verbally, a formal complaint must be documented and involves interviews of all Soldiers involved in the incident. A formal complaint must also follow a strict timeline. Soldiers have 60 days from the date of the incident to file a complaint and all soldiers involved in the reporting and decision-making process are also held to strict timelines that vary from as short as 3 days to as long as 45. Attempts made to file a formal complaint after 60 days will only be pursued if authorized by the commander. Investigations will result in either a founded or unfounded outcome which will then prompt further action.
The responsibility to protect the integrity of the force ultimately rests on each individual soldier. While issues of discrimination still exist, the organization continues to make strides to promote and encourage diversity and to empower leaders to combat inequality which has no place within the military.
Most troops and vets know very little about what the Coast Guard actually does. They’re often seen as either the “Navy National Guard” or as a bunch of puddle pirates trying to pretend like they’re one of the cool, DoD kids.
Yeah, sure; we’ll hear their name get brought up whenever a hurricane hits or they’ll be cursed at when they catch someone speeding on a private lake, but the truth is that they’ve more than earned their right to be a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.
When they aren’t out helping idiotic boaters, they’re dropping narco-terrorists just like their grunt brothers.
When it kicks off, Coasties stay busy and can probably expect six or so busts in a week after that long-ass wait.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Leake)
It all begins with actionable intelligence. Despite what you might think about gangs not snitching on each other to save their own hides — they absolutely do. Apparently, it doesn’t even take that much to get them to talk. A threat of extradition and being sent back to their home country (where they face grave, domestic threats) is usually enough to get them singing like a canary.
So, the Coast Guard goes out to the expected route of traffickers in their Cutters and they wait… and wait… and wait…
This process could take days, weeks, or even months. If it turns out that the collected information is indeed legit and they find the smugglers, then the fun begins.
First is the show of force and an appeal to try and get them to surrender peacefully. There’s literally no escape when the Coast Guard has you surrounded with much faster vessels and helicopters flying overhead. The ones who value their well-being will give themselves up.
If they don’t, warning shots will strafe the waters in front of the bow. If they still don’t get the message, snipers from inside the helicopters will disable the engines — that’s right: The Coast Guard has highly trained snipers who can hit speedboats from helicopters with surgical precision.
They should get the hint by now, but just in case they don’t, the Coast Guardsmen then board their vessel and detain the smugglers while remaining very weary of any potential threats that may appear. For a look at what that’s like, in a safe-for-television manner, check out the video below:
Ever wonder what half a billion dollars looks like? This was from just three busts.
(U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Mariana O’Leary)
The traffickers will go into custody and may be sent back to their host nation for trial (or execution, depending on the country). Then, the drugs are incinerated or destroyed by other means.
We’re not talking small amounts either. We’re talking about cartel-level quantities. Each bust account for tons of narcotics that will never make it to the streets. When they’re set ablaze, that’s millions that will never make it back to the cartels. Between 2010 and 2015, the U.S. Coast Guard took out 500 tons of cocaine — billion in street value.
The war on drugs is a constant battle, but busts like these make significant dents.
We can’t put the whole Milky Way on a scale, but astronomers have been able to come up with one of the most accurate measurements yet of our galaxy’s mass, using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite.
The Milky Way weighs in at about 1.5 trillion solar masses (one solar mass is the mass of our Sun), according to the latest measurements. Only a tiny percentage of this is attributed to the approximately 200 billion stars in the Milky Way and includes a 4-million-solar-mass supermassive black hole at the center. Most of the rest of the mass is locked up in dark matter, an invisible and mysterious substance that acts like scaffolding throughout the universe and keeps the stars in their galaxies.
Earlier research dating back several decades used a variety of observational techniques that provided estimates for our galaxy’s mass ranging between 500 billion to 3 trillion solar masses. The improved measurement is near the middle of this range.
“We want to know the mass of the Milky Way more accurately so that we can put it into a cosmological context and compare it to simulations of galaxies in the evolving universe,” said Roeland van der Marel of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland. “Not knowing the precise mass of the Milky Way presents a problem for a lot of cosmological questions.”
On the left is a Hubble Space Telescope image of a portion of the globular star cluster NGC 5466. On the right, Hubble images taken ten years apart were compared to clock the cluster’s velocity. A grid in the background helps to illustrate the stellar motion in the foreground cluster (located 52,000 light-years away). Notice that background galaxies (top right of center, bottom left of center) do not appear to move because they are so much farther away, many millions of light-years.
(NASA, ESA and S.T. Sohn and J. DePasquale)
The new mass estimate puts our galaxy on the beefier side, compared to other galaxies in the universe. The lightest galaxies are around a billion solar masses, while the heaviest are 30 trillion, or 30,000 times more massive. The Milky Way’s mass of 1.5 trillion solar masses is fairly normal for a galaxy of its brightness.
Astronomers used Hubble and Gaia to measure the three-dimensional movement of globular star clusters — isolated spherical islands each containing hundreds of thousands of stars each that orbit the center of our galaxy.
Although we cannot see it, dark matter is the dominant form of matter in the universe, and it can be weighed through its influence on visible objects like the globular clusters. The more massive a galaxy, the faster its globular clusters move under the pull of gravity. Most previous measurements have been along the line of sight to globular clusters, so astronomers know the speed at which a globular cluster is approaching or receding from Earth. However, Hubble and Gaia record the sideways motion of the globular clusters, from which a more reliable speed (and therefore gravitational acceleration) can be calculated.
The Hubble and Gaia observations are complementary. Gaia was exclusively designed to create a precise three-dimensional map of astronomical objects throughout the Milky Way and track their motions. It made exacting all-sky measurements that include many globular clusters. Hubble has a smaller field of view, but it can measure fainter stars and therefore reach more distant clusters. The new study augmented Gaia measurements for 34 globular clusters out to 65,000 light-years, with Hubble measurements of 12 clusters out to 130,000 light-years that were obtained from images taken over a 10-year period.
When the Gaia and Hubble measurements are combined as anchor points, like pins on a map, astronomers can estimate the distribution of the Milky Way’s mass out to nearly 1 million light-years from Earth.
Hubblecast 117 Light: Hubble & Gaia weigh the Milky Way
“We know from cosmological simulations what the distribution of mass in the galaxies should look like, so we can calculate how accurate this extrapolation is for the Milky Way,” said Laura Watkins of the European Southern Observatory in Garching, Germany, lead author of the combined Hubble and Gaia study, to be published in The Astrophysical Journal. These calculations based on the precise measurements of globular cluster motion from Gaia and Hubble enabled the researchers to pin down the mass of the entire Milky Way.
The earliest homesteaders of the Milky Way, globular clusters contain the oldest known stars, dating back to a few hundred million years after the big bang, the event that created the universe. They formed prior to the construction of the Milky Way’s spiral disk, where our Sun and solar system reside.
“Because of their great distances, globular star clusters are some of the best tracers astronomers have to measure the mass of the vast envelope of dark matter surrounding our galaxy far beyond the spiral disk of stars,” said Tony Sohn of STScI, who led the Hubble measurements.
The international team of astronomers in this study are Laura Watkins (European Southern Observatory, Garching, Germany), Roeland van der Marel (Space Telescope Science Institute, and Johns Hopkins University Center for Astrophysical Sciences, Baltimore, Maryland), Sangmo Tony Sohn (Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland), and N. Wyn Evans (University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom).
The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington, D.C.
This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.
This can be a hard time of year. The holidays are over, and we’re ready for spring — but it’s still winter. For many people that means not leaving the house, or the couch, until the middle of March. But let’s face it, there are only so many shows you can binge watch on Netflix and Hulu. You need to get outside, breathe in the cold air, let the sun shine on your pale face, put the snow or cold earth between your fingers, and get the blood pumping through those stiff muscles.
It may seem like a chore to get up and moving, but you won’t be sorry. From exploration to exercise, a lucrative side hustle to just kicking back and relaxing with friends in a shanty, there are plenty of things to do during these final months of winter.
The author snowboarding at Monarch Mountain, Colorado.
(Photo courtesy of Michael Herne.)
1. Skiing or Snowboarding
As soon as the first snow of the year begins to fall, my mind immediately goes to the slopes. Skiing and snowboarding are two of America’s most popular winter sports, and for good reason. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie who wants to see how fast you can bomb a double black diamond or a beginner on the bunny slope, you’re going to get some great physical exercise. No slopes? No problem.
2. Cross-country Skiing
This type of skiing can be done on flat land — all you need is a set of skis and some motivation. Similar to hiking with skis on your feet, you use your own locomotion to traverse the snow-covered countryside. It requires a bit of skill and practice, but it’s a great introduction to its downhill counterpart and will get your blood pumping.
A rainbow trout caught while doing some winter fishing in Colorado.
(Photo courtesy of Michael Herne.)
Riding a snowmobile — also known as a sled or snowmachine, if you’re from Alaska — is an absolute thrill and a great way to get an adrenaline boost. Many current stock machines boast speeds of 95 to 125 mph, raw power at the squeeze of the throttle. If speed isn’t your thing, they’re also a great way to get out and tour the countryside. Many towns in the northern states have groomed trails that allow you to ride from town to town and even to restaurants and bars. Don’t have a couple grand to drop on a seasonal vehicle? Many places offer snowmobile tours and rentals. Get out and shred!
4. Hiking and Shed Hunting
No, I’m not talking about raiding your neighbor’s shed; shed hunting refers to antlers. Every year from January until about March, members of the deer family shed their antlers. Why go out in search of cast antlers in the winter? A matching pair of freshly shed antlers from a big whitetail can be sold for over 0 if you find the right buyer. Their value decreases after they’ve laid in the woods for a while and become bleached from the sun. Shed hunting also gives you a reason to get outside and hike! A great place to start when searching for these elusive bones is along fence rows, as antlers will sometimes fall off from the force of a deer jumping the fence. Make sure you have permission from landowners and check your local and state regulations.
The author’s view while searching for shed antlers in western Nebraska.
(Photo courtesy of Michael Herne.)
5. Ice Fishing
Most people think of warm, sunny days as ideal fishing weather, but ice fishing provides the perfect excuse for getting outside and relaxing with your buddies. For those who haven’t experienced it, you just need to find some safe ice — at least 4 inches — drill a hole, and drop a line with either bait or a jig on it. It can be as comfortable or as rugged as you make it. We usually take popup shelters, heaters, and a cooler full of our favorite beverages and snacks, then spend the day catching fish and bullshitting. By the time we’re done, we usually need to call someone to come get us — but that’s half the fun!
Like hiking, snowshoeing is a beginner-friendly sport. You already know how to walk, so there is no need to learn a new skill, just adjust your stride to accommodate the oversized snowshoes. Snowshoeing can allow you to access areas that are crowded by tourists in fair weather by allowing you to move on top of the snow. It’s also inexpensive compared to many other winter activities — all you need to be on your way down the trail are warm winter clothes, snowshoes, and poles. Though not hard to learn, snowshoeing will definitely elevate your heart rate!
There are a few hallmarks of the infantry. There’s the marksmanship, the ability to read the terrain and predict enemy movements, and the knowledge of tactics and maneuvers.
And, most importantly, there’s the ability to turn just about anything into a phallic image.
(Fair warning: In case you couldn’t tell, penis drawings are going to be involved in this post. Do not keep scrolling if you don’t want to see them. Seriously, you can’t possibly be confused as to what comes next.)
Infantrymen draw penises in port-a-potties, they draw penises in the barracks, they draw penises on each other. It’s all about the penis drawings.
Sure, infantry training, Marine and Army, lacks a portion dedicated to drawing male genitalia, but it’s still traditional. It’s an important part of infantry life.
Draw a penis from the side with really small testicles, get a penis with perfect proportions.
And that’s where Penint comes in. It’s an advanced web app that takes any and all drawings and improves them by turning them into perfectly proportioned penis drawings, just like an infantryman’s.
And, the web app works even if you accidentally draw something that isn’t a penis. Slip up and draw something weird like a flower? BAM! Penis.
Here’s a little flower, short and stout. Here are the testes, here is the spout.
Best of all, you know what happens when you try to create training documents? Maybe you draw a nice, fancy rifle so you can teach the folks in your squad where the upper and lower receivers are.
Haha, you guessed it:
This is my rifle, this is my gun, one is for shooting, 10 seconds later, it’s for fun.
It works for any drawing. It’s like a miracle Etch-a-Sketch. You just do your single-line drawing, wait a minute, and you’ve got a penis.
If a Cav scout is drawing tanks and Bradleys to help remember what they’re working with, then they get a happy surprise when they’re done: Penises.
You can’t change the background color to blue or the foreground color to white, so it’s not quite perfect for fighter pilots, but we’re sure they could make do somehow.
Might even save some careers. Remember that squadron commander who was fired for drawing penises all over his maps? Now, he has a creative outlet that won’t cost him his career. And it’s even run through his computer, just like the ones that got him in trouble.
Or how about all the Marine pilots drawing penises in the sky? At least now they can perfectly plan out their routes if they still really insist on flying these problematic paths.
It’s 7:12 p.m. You’ve got a soggy McDonalds cup sweating sweet tea in your cup holder. You’re driving home after a long day, and the sun is dropping golden light on the horizon. Your sore right foot is pinning down the gas pedal. The fuzzy country FM radio station sharpens a bit, and you hear the beginning chords of a song you know every single syllable of. Maybe it reminds you of your brother overseas. Maybe it reminds you of your spouse’s deployment. Maybe they’re with you listening to it. Maybe they’re not. Chances are, if you have any ties to military service, you’ve had one of these still car ride moments, and been caught off-guard by misty eyes and a head full of thoughts about our nation’s heroes, while a solemn guitar and Southern twang underscore your drive home.
This is about the letter many have written, and fewer have had to read. Tim McGraw sings, from the perspective of a soldier, writing a potential farewell letter. We don’t know if the soldier comes home. All we know is he wrote it to his wife. Like so many others have done, and will continue to do. It’s a testament to those who have been willing to make the sacrifice for those they love, as much as it is a testament to those loved ones who hopefully won’t have to read. “So lay me down, in that open field out on the edge of town/ And know my soul, is always where my momma always prayed that it would be.”
John Michael Montgomery – Letters from Home Official Music Video
The first time you hear this song, it catches you by the throat in the third verse. John Michael Montgomery builds us in the walls of a world that feels gritty but perseverant in the first two verses. We hear of men finding gallows humor overseas. Then comes a letter from the old man… “But no one laughs, cause there ain’t nothin funny when a soldier cries.”
Tracy Lawrence paints the picture of a soldier talking to his buddies. These aren’t necessarily family members, they feel somehow more intimate to the solider in the story. They share beer together, he jokes, and they laugh. He doesn’t ever want to get his buddies down, he wants them to raise hell and drink and remember him with love, not with sadness. We can all remember a conversation over a couple dozen beers ending with the same altruistic, tough, sentiment. Plus—high school football. “On Friday night sit on the visitor side, and cheer for the home team.”
This song was actually written and performed by Bruce Robison first. The song was then optioned and made famous by the Dixie Chicks. Although the Dixie Chicks politically polarized country music fans in 2003, the rendition of the song is unquestionably impactful. There is a vulnerable broken to its performance. The female vocals also lend another layer to the song, as the song is about a high school girl after all. “Our love will never end/ Waitin’ for the soldier to come back again.”
David Ball’s tone feels a little bit lighter than the other songs on the list in “Riding with Private Malone.” In that lightness though, there is deep feeling. The casual nature that he delivers the story of a soldier knowingly bestowing his ride to whoever picked it up next, shadows how selfless the act of service can be. It’s discreet. It’s quiet, it’s between two people. It has gas pumping through it, and life, and it is passed down from generation to generation. “Though you may take her and make your own, you’ll always be ridin’ with Private Malone.”
Lee Brice – I Drive Your Truck (Official Music Video)
Lee Brice belts onto our list with the most recent entry into tearjerking country ballads. Here we find a brother left to find meaning and reason to his life after his brother makes the ultimate sacrifice. He connects with him by tearing up fields and peeling out in his old truck, blaring the same country station he left it on, highlighting the connective power of country music in the lives of people around the military. “People got their ways of coping, Oh and I’ve got mine/ I drive your truck.”
One thing that has always struck me as disappointing in songs about soldiers is that the survivors get forgotten somewhere along the line. This ain’t the case with Toby Keith’s “American Soldier.” It captures perfectly the duty that soldiers are responsible for. It brings to mind the simple, tough, resiliency of the military life, and it exalts those who answer its call. “And I can’t call in sick on Mondays/ When the weekend’s been too strong.”
The late Merle Haggard knew his way around storytelling. A soldier telling his momma not to scold him for having shaky handwriting on a battlefield is a tragically human moment. We can guess how young the soldier is. We can guess how long he’s been overseas. We can’t guess how desperate his momma felt. It captured the feeling of an era, the generation of young boys lost in Vietnam, and the hole that was left back home in their wake. “Then the mother knelt down by her bedside/ And she prayed Lord above hear my plea/ And protect all the sons who are fighting tonight/ and Dear God, keep America free.”
Where did you grow up? This is a complicated question for children from a military family. My answer: everywhere and nowhere.
Because of this unique childhood I’ve always felt at home in the world and understood why I love to travel. Later in life, it dawned on me it also influenced how I travel.
As the daughter of a Marine, and the wife of a soldier, I’ve been exposed to a lifestyle that carries with it a certain mindset and way of moving through the world. I’ve adopted a few of these valuable tools for myself and found they inspired a sense of confidence and self-reliance. Whether I’m miles away in a foreign country or just down the road, they are always there as a reference.
In addition to a sense of humor and infinite patience, these 5 lessons have served me well on my travels.
Situational awareness. I can’t talk enough about this one. It’s first on the list because it’s so important, especially in this age of attention-detracting smartphones. In a crowd or on your own, it’s a simple concept worth practicing. Keep your eyes and ears open, pay attention to your surroundings, and trust your instincts if something feels amiss.
Find the courage
As someone who often travels solo, I get asked about fear all the time. It’s healthy to be afraid but more often than not, we imagine scenarios and dangers that will likely never happen. It helps to break the situation down into manageable pieces. Try to pinpoint exactly where the issue lies and look for ways to solve that particular problem. As the saying goes, “everything you want is on the other side of fear.”
Situation Reports (aka sit-reps) are a vital means of communication in the military. By checking in occasionally to say what you’re doing or where you are, you’re ensuring an extra level of personal safety. Hiking alone in the desert can be exhilarating but a quick message to let someone know your general direction is always a good idea.
Spontaneity is exciting, but preparation and organization leaves you with even more room to sit back and relax stress-free. At the simplest level, it could mean arriving at the airport with ample time or packing a complete carry-on for an unexpected delay. On the serious end of the scale (i.e. having emergency supplies or extra fuel in a remote area) it could be the difference between life and death.
Don’t Forget The Bennies
The scope of recreation-related benefits available to service members and their families has changed and grown tremendously. Taking advantage of these free or discounted perks can make for interesting and cost-effective travel. A simple web search will produce an exhaustive list but here are a few ways to enjoy military-friendly travel: USO airport lounges, Space-A flights, RV rentals from Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) or an Armed Forces Vacation Club membership.
WWI movies are sadly rather rare in comparison to WWII, perhaps because of America’s late entry and comparatively light casualty count. The so-called “War to end all Wars” was unable to bring an end to the violence, instead ushering in a seemingly endless variety of new weapons and tactics. Battle continues to exist, but World War I changed it forever. These movies will show you exactly how WWI changed the world, for better and worse.
This French film starring Audrey Tautou and Gaspard Ulliel follows a woman named Mathilde as she searches for her beloved fiancé who has disappeared from the trenches of the Somme during the war. Her fiancé, along with four other soldiers, was convicted of trying to escape military service, and sent to “No Man’s Land” to meet his end at the hands of the Germans. However, Matilde refuses to believe her fiancé is dead, and through her investigations and battlefield flashbacks, Matilde and viewers alike discover the brutalities and atrocities of World War I.
Joyeux Noel—written and directed by Christian Carion—is a fictionalized retelling of an actual historical event. In the December of 1914, a German opera singer travels to the front line to sing carols for the Christmas holiday. A truce from all sides commences, and the various soldiers come together to exchange gifts and stories from home. This film gives the perspective of the French, Scottish, and German men sent off to war, and details not only the disconnect of the higher ups from the sacrifices of the battlefield, but the negative fallout from a Christmas truce which celebrated humanity.
The German-British biographical film The Red Baron boasts stars Matthias Schweighöfer, Joseph Fiennes, Lena Heady, and Til Schweiger. Based on the fighter pilot Baron Manfred von Richthofen, who was one of the most acclaimed German pilots of World War I, this film follows his journey of disillusionment. While at first Richthofen regards combat as an exciting challenge, his growing feelings for the nurse Käte and the time he spends in the military hospital opens his eyes to the true extent of war’s atrocities.
This box-office hit was turned into a drama film after the original novel of the same name was published in 1982 and a subsequent stage play was adapted in 2007. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the movie stars Jeremy Irvine in his big screen debut, as well as other notable actors such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, and David Thewlis. A beloved Thoroughbred—Joey—belonging to a young English farmer is sold to the army, and over the course of four years he experiences the dark realities of war through the hands of the English, German, and French soldiers. Telling stories of desperation, loss, determination, and love, War Horse captures the scope of World War I on and off the battlefield.
Flyboys—featuring James Franco during his rise to stardom—follows a group of American men who enlist in the French Air Service in 1916. In a squadron known as the Lafayette Escadrille, volunteers including a Texan rancher, a black boxer, and a New York Dilettante undergo training which can’t even begin to compare to the rain of fire in air combat. As they face battle, some rise as heroes, while others succumb to enemy fire. Though these characters are fictional, their actions and fates were based upon real men who became the first American fighter pilots.
Three British soldiers find themselves stranded in No Man’s Land in this 2013 Australian film. Survivors of an Allied charged gone wrong, they won’t survive for long if they can’t find a way out of the muddy purgatory. German forces close in on the men, and an all-out attack from both sides could get them killed in the crossfire. With grenades exploding and time running out, will the soldiers make it through the night?
A bit of a change of pace, Oh! What A Lovely War is a British musical comedy directed by Richard Attenborough. Though the film—like its characters—starts out upbeat and optimistic, a darker perspective gradually consumes the tone. Mostly focusing on the Smith family as different members go off to war, the action also tackles infamous events that occurred during World War I, such as the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the truce during the Christmas of 1914. Keep an eye out for cameos from notable actors like Maggie Smith and Laurence Olivier.
First broadcast by the BBC as a television drama, this 1999 film is based on the non-fiction book The Vanished Battalion by Nigel McCrery. After the men of King George V’s estate joined the 1/5th Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment, they went into battle at Gallipoli under the command of the manager of the estate, Captain Frank Beck. However, no soldiers returned from that fateful battle. Rumored to have disappeared after walking into a strange mist, the Royal Family sends an investigator to discover the truth behind the odd disappearance of the soldiers.
With Gary Cooper in the titular role, Sergeant York is based on the diary kept by the real-life Sergeant Alvin York. This film takes viewers from York’s humble beginnings as a farmer in Tennessee to his rise as one of the most celebrated American servicemen of World War I. Though York is an incredible marksman, his recent devotion to religion leaves him feeling conflicted about taking lives in war. As battle leaves no room for the indecision of men, York must kill or be killed, and rise to the occasion when the lives of his fellow soldiers are endangered.
For the viewers with a taste for the artsy out there, the 1963 recording of Benjamin Britten’s classical “War Requiem” acts as the soundtrack to this film, with no spoken dialogue to contrast the music and lyrics. As some of the lyrics of Britten’s composition are pulled from poems written by World War I veteran Wilfred Owen, the film uses Owen as the central character. Using imagery that depicts the horrors of war, the nonlinear narrative also branches out to portray other soldiers, as well as a nurse. This film stars notable actors Nathaniel Parker, Tilda Swinton, Laurence Olivier, and Sean Bean.
First filmed in 1930, the 1938 remake of The Dawn Patrol is the one best remembered by film buffs. Based on John Monk Sunders’s short story “The Flight Commander” and directed by Edmund Goulding, it stars Errol Flynn, David Niven and Basil Rathbone as pilots with the 59th Squadron, Royal Flying Corps (today’s Royal Air Force). A significant amount of footage from the 1930 original was reused to lower production costs, although that doesn’t detract from the film’s themes of death, fear and the stresses of command. It’s also known for “Stand to your glasses steady”, a wartime pilots’ song still sung today.
Though not without its historical inaccuracies, 1981’s Gallipoli is a World War 1 classic. Directed by Peter Weir and starring Mark Lee and Mel Gibson, it depicts two young Australians on their way to the disastrous Dardanelles campaign. On their journey they—like their country—come of age and lose their innocence as the Great War lingers on. Gallipoli is sometimes criticized for its anti-British bias, but the final scenes, depicting the slaughter at the Battle of the Nek on August 7, 1915, are unforgettable.
1957’s Paths of Glory is one of the all-time classic anti-war movies. Stanley Kubrick directed the adaptation of Humphrey Cobb’s novel, with Kirk Douglas starring as Colonel Dax. Dax is forced to defend his men not against the enemy, but their own troops when his superiors demand summary punishment after they fail an impossible mission. Paths of Glory examines war differently, looking at cowardice, betrayal and the disregard for ordinary soldiers by their commanders. Hailed as a classic now, it was highly controversial in its day.
The Trench is a rather overlooked gem. An independent production released in 1999, it stars a pre-Bond Daniel Craig as a battle-hardened veteran about to begin 1916’s Battle of the Somme. July 1, 1916 is believed to be the worst day in British military history, with some 57,000 men killed, wounded, missing or captured on that day alone. The Trench follows Sergeant Winter (Craig) as his platoon prepares to go over the top. Claustrophobic, grim and often depressing, it’s still a superb depiction of daily life in the trenches on the Western Front.
1930’s All Quiet on the Western Front, adapted from the 1929 novel by Erich Maria Remarque, is a classic not only within the genre, but filmmaking itself. Directed by Lewis Milestone, the film achieves (ahem) a milestone in its depiction of World War 1. From their initial patriotic, nationalistic fervor, a group of young Germans lose their innocence (and their lives) amid the carnage of the Western Front. 1979’s television adaptation, which won a Golden Globe, is also worth watching. The novel’s title came from a German Army communiqué issued near the war’s end reading “Im Westen nichts neues”, which translates most directly to “in the West, nothing new.”
The underground war fought on the Western Front and at Gallipoli has been, until recently, a rather overlooked aspect of WW1. With both sides facing stalemate, above ground tunneling and detonating vast mines beneath enemy trenches became one way to try breaking the deadlock. Both sides deployed Tunneling Companies, often composed of skilled laborers and miners drafted for their specialist skills. The underground war involved stealth, patience, nerves of steel and the constant risk of being buried alive as tunnelers tried to explode counter-mines to destroy their opponents. Beneath Hill 60 follows one of Australia’s tunneling units as they prepare to destroy German defenses at Messines Ridge, and has a truly tragic ending.
Released in 1976, Aces High is a combination of R.C. Sherriff’s Journey’s End and Sagittarius Rising, the memoir of RFC ace Cecil Lewis. Colin Firth plays rookie pilot Croft; the movie follows him over his first (and last) week as a frontline fighter pilot. Directed by Jack Gold, it also stars Malcolm McDowell as squadron commander Gresham, cracking under the constant strains of casualties and command. Christopher Plummer plays veteran pilot Uncle Sinclair, who takes Croft under his wing, all while Simon Ward’s Lieutenant Crawford is driven mad by constant fear. At this point, the average life expectancy of a rookie RFC pilot was a matter of days. Mostly around 20 years old, these rookies had two choices: Learn quickly, or die.
This 1962 epic had all the usual Hollywood trappings without the now-customary Hollywood schmaltz. The cast alone makes it worth watching. Peter O’Toole plays the legendary T.E. Lawrence, sent to assess and advise Arab forces in their campaign against the German and Turkish opposition. Instead, Lawrence turned himself into a WW1 legend—and the Arabian forces into a major threat against their opponents. Lawrence was always torn between loyalty to his country and his Arab ‘irregulars’, and O’Toole plays him masterfully. Lawrence was also right to be suspicious of British intentions in the region, especially when British officials claimed not to have any.
Released in 2008, Passchendaele focuses on the experiences of a Canadian WWI soldier, Michael Dunne. Written, directed by, and starring Paul Gross of Due South fame, Passchendaele was partly inspired by the experiences of Gross’s grandfather Michael Joseph Dunne on the Western Front. The grim opening scenes, in which Dunne bayonets a German soldier through the forehead, were taken directly from Gross’s grandfather’s experience. While the battle scenes are graphic, Passchendaele is far from a guts’n’glory epic or a voyeuristic gorefest. The effects of the war, both on those Canadians who fought and those who remained at home, are well portrayed without being unduly schmaltzy or overly worthy. Unfortunately underpromoted on its release, it’s well worth watching.
Howard Hawks, one of early Hollywood’s most celebrated directors, was obsessed with aviation. He transformed this interest into a prolific career in movies when he realized that he could film the stunts he loved so much as part of a larger narrative. Although 1930’s original The Dawn Patrol (mentioned earlier) is said to be even better than 1926’s The Road to Glory, Hawks’s earlier film is still available for viewing today and exemplifies the ways in which World War 1 was portrayed in the interwar years in the United States.
Released the year after The Road to Glory, Wings is not only a great WWI film—it was also the first movie to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. The film stars silent film starlet Clara Bow as Mary Preston a girl wildly in love with her neighbor, Jack Powell (Charles Rogers). When Powell is sent off to France, Mary follows as an ambulance driver. This war-romance drama, which was also one of the first to show nudity, remains relevant and utterly watchable to this day.
If you’re looking for a WWI movie to watch alongside a more sentimental viewer (perhaps your mother), you can’t go wrong with Testament of Youth. This film, based on Vera Brittain’s memoir, focuses on how women (particularly the middle class) were impacted by World War 1. Although Brittain tried first to write a novel based on her experiences, she soon realized that the grief and pain she felt made it impossible for her to write about anything but her personal feelings and choices. Alicia Vikander’s turn as Brittain may wring a tear from even the most cynical viewer.
The military needs innovative ideas from small businesses and entrepreneurs now more than ever, said Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy.
McCarthy spoke Feb. 21, 2019, at Muster DC, an event in the nation’s capital for military veterans aspiring to be entrepreneurs.
“If you look at the history of the Department of Defense, we were at our best when entrepreneurs were doing business with us,” he said.
As an example, he cited that the first jeeps for World War II were actually designed and built by a small motor company called American Bantam in Butler, Pennsylvania. Later, the design was shared with Willys-Overland and Ford to produce the jeeps on a larger scale.
1941 American Bantam Jeep Prototype.
DOD was at its best when small businesses brought their ideas and “partnered with big corporations to scale out those ideas,” McCarthy said.
“We got away from that for the last several decades,” he said, adding the Army’s practice has been to put out 1,000-page requests for proposals, or RFPs, specifying the exact size and weight of each component of a system.
Businesses maybe had a better solution, he said, but they would never share it, because that’s not what they were incentivized to do.
That culture needs to change, McCarthy said, and that’s one reason the Army Futures Command was organized. It’s why soldiers have been placed alongside tech innovators at an “accelerator hub” in Austin, Texas.
The purpose of Futures Command is to drive innovation, he said, “so that we can do business faster. So small businesses don’t get their cash flow crushed waiting years for us to make a decision.”
Out of more than 800 programs that the Army oversees, eight have been granted a special “transactional authority” to do business differently, he said.
The Futures Command has eight cross-functional teams: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, Army network, air and missile defense, soldier lethality, synthetic training environment; and assured positioning, navigation and timing.
A soldier with the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade loads a Stinger onto an Avenger Air Defense System during a live fire training exercise at Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands, July 24, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat)
The Army needs a “quick win” in these eight programs, McCarthy said, in order to change the acquisition culture and to keep ahead of near-peer adversaries. The U.S. military has enjoyed a vast technological advantage for years, he said, but competitors are quickly catching up.
McCarthy said he’d like to see soldiers in accelerator hubs across the country so entrepreneurs will have easy access to pitch their ideas.
Entrepreneurs who are military veterans have an advantage, he said, because they are resilient and can deal with stress. They know how to organize and plan.
When getting ready to leave the Army, where he served as a Ranger, McCarthy said at his first interview in Manhattan, he was asked what he knew about finance.
“I said, ‘Nothing. But I know how to plan and I know how to organize and there would be nothing you can put me through that I hadn’t been through already in the form of stress and pressure,'” he said.
After the interviewer stopped laughing, McCarthy said he took a chance and hired him. The company even held the job open for a year, because soon afterward, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks occurred and McCarthy agreed to stay in the Army for a deployment before going to work in New York.
Veterans are not afraid to engage, he said, and have commitment. “Nobody wants to follow a leader that hedges,” he said. “They want somebody that’s playing ‘double-in’ every day.”
Veterans have some of the key attributes business leaders need to have, he said, “especially if they’re going to start their own business.”
Other talents the Army needs most right now include systems engineering and software coding, McCarthy said.
Weapons systems are sophisticated and have millions of lines of coding, he said.
Most failures of weapons systems in the past came from not having the right systems architecture, he said, which resulted in weapons not being able to communicate with other platforms.
Well guys, the Army’s slogan of “Army Strong” has officially been put on the chopping block. It had a solid run between 2006 and now, but it’s time to close that chapter and move on to the next slogan.
“One of the major responses we get when we survey folks who don’t have experience with military service is strength, so we know the ‘Army Strong’ resonates… but I don’t think it tells the story, the full story of being a soldier,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Dan Dailey told defense reporters.
(DoD Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann)
The U.S. Army has had a mixed bag of slogans, from the out-freaking-standing, like “Be All You Can Be” and “I Want You,” to that awkward, blue falcon-inspired “Army of One.” Using those guidelines and past experiences, let’s focus in on what makes a good recruiting slogan. For all practical purposes, the slogan should be on par with a commercial product’s brand — after all, both try to entice the public and leave a lasting impression.
First thing to look for is how well it will stick in someone’s head. The idea of any slogan, for recruitment or otherwise, is to build brand recognition. The Navy ran an ill-fated “A Global Force for Good” slogan back in 2009. It sounds polite and it puts the Navy in a positive light, but it’s not turning any heads — it’s simply literal.
Just hearing that, even in context, doesn’t make any random person think, “Oh! I should join the Navy!” Their response to selling America’s Navy better in the eyes of younger potential sailors? Simply, “America’s Navy.” That lasted a whole two years before going to the objectively better “Forged by the Sea.” The Army needs a slogan that is uniquely Army.
(Meme via Dysfunctional Veterans)
Audiences have been quick to ask, “why not go back to ‘Be All You Can Be?'” The fact is, there’s no way of knowing whether young adults today will share the same connection with it as older Army vets once did. Put bluntly, the new slogan isn’t meant to reenlist retirees, but those who lived by the words should still be proud to say them. So, the goal is to make the slogan resonate with today’s young adults without making something embarrassing years down the line.
Brevity is also the key to a great slogan. The Army isn’t looking for some tired, furniture-salesman jingle. Something short, sweet, and to the point. “Army Strong” was good for this — keeping a two-to-four-word limit is a must. These slogans are easier for audiences to remember. After all, leaving a lasting, positive image of the Army is the goal. Many of the greatest ad campaigns in history have all been short and direct.
A great slogan subconsciously tells people of the benefits of their brand. In the Army’s case, it’s the benefit of being a soldier. At their cores, that’s why “Be All You Can Be” and “Army Strong” worked. They tell potential recruits that enlisting will improve their lives — and just as importantly, that they’re missing out on something if they don’t enlist.
Finally, the slogan should tell the truth of what it means to serve and should apply to all soldiers, from the beastly Special Forces operator to a regular training room clerk in the National Guard. Slogans like, “Be a Bad Mother F*cker” may grab eyeballs, but it isn’t exactly applicable.
Following all of these guidelines, the best slogan for convincing young adults who are thinking of enlisting is something along the lines of, “Become greater than yourself.” Simple, effective, true, and it’s a feeling that all soldiers feel when they serve — regardless of generation.
Only time will tell when the Army will adopt a new slogan. I wouldn’t be worried though. The bar is set at pretty low — just do better than “Army of One.”
SOFREP recently published an exclusive piece covering the journey of the first female candidate set to graduate the Special Forces Qualification Course and earn her coveted green beret — an amazing achievement. Similarly, recent years have seen the services open their previously male-exclusive roles, including the opportunity to attend Ranger School and others, to women as well.
Women absolutely belong in Special Operations, and it would be narrow-minded to limit their opportunities to serve in special operations roles due to gender stereotypes: In SOF, this primarily refers to the different physical capacities between men and women, and the rigorous physical standards that must be met to serve in a special operations role.
It is the author’s opinion that there is a significant net benefit gained by reasonably adjusting female physical standards in a manner that accounts for the natural biological differences between men and women. What women physically lack in relative strength, vis à vis their male counterparts, they far compensate for in other unique qualities that SOF desperately requires.
For historical reference of the unique value proposition women offer, one only need to study the various exploits conducted by women such as Virginia Hall, a World War II-era Special Operations Executive (SOE) and Office of Strategic Services (OSS) operative, who conducted clandestine special operations for the Allies in Nazi-occupied France. Often disguised as a peasant woman, Ms. Hall skillfully employed her feminine prowess against the Nazis, resulting in unfettered freedom of movement throughout the French countryside.
Other special operations units have long relied on the value of women to conduct operations, noting that the coupling of male and female operatives during missions greatly reduced scrutiny from security services during the conduct of sensitive activities abroad.
SOF assessment and selection processes must evolve to reflect this. While traditional physical standards certainly have their place in special operations, the opportunity cost of not adjusting physical standards is too significant for the SOF community to bear. Does this mean standards are removed, curtailed, or made “easy?” Certainly not. It simply implies a measured and scientifically relevant culture shift that better enables women to succeed in special operations, beginning with physical standards.
It is important in this discussion to also frame the understanding of the largest limiting factor in SOF “production” — time. The oft-quoted SOF truths identify that SOF cannot be mass-produced and that humans are more important than hardware. The reason SOF cannot be mass-produced is due to the specific, rigorous, and just plainly lengthy screening and RAST (recruitment, assessment, selection, and training) processes required to produce a special operations professional.
That said, the notion of gender should have little to no discriminatory role in special operations manning. There simply is not the manpower to exclude a large population that offers unique value to special operations missions. Countless units experience significant manpower shortages and are being asked to “do more with less” because their RAST process cannot keep up with demand and attrition. This leads to burnout, which perpetuates the increased demands and greater stress on an already taxed force. This ultimately leads to greater attrition.
In the author’s experience, it took a grand total of about three years to transition from conventional operations to special operations, not counting the years of personal preparation beforehand. That process included an extensive remote screening; chain of command vetting and recommendations; an invitation to attend a lengthy assessment and selection course; an extensive security screening; completion of inter-service manning adjudication at the service component level; assignment to the unit; completion of an almost year-long training course; and additional follow-on qualification training to reach “fully mission capable” (aka mission-ready/deployable) status.
If that sounds like a lot, that is because it certainly was. And it is critical that women have equal opportunity to attempt such journeys alongside their male counterparts. The crossroads at which equal opportunity and SOF production meet are the reasonable adjustments of physical standards for women.
Much of traditional SOF processes focused on largely physical and mental capacities. Long rucks, hours wearing kit, and the ability to manipulate one’s body over, through, and around tricky terrain were paramount. The Army appears to have a penchant for long, solo rucks through tough terrain; the Air Force limits your ability to breathe through liberal use of “water confidence training” (aka supervised drowning); and the Marines like to ingest large quantities of drawing implements (particularly crayons).
Joking aside, however, it is the author’s opinion that these physical standards do not need to be exactly the same for men and women. Indeed, while recognizing the intrinsic differences between men and women, standards should rather reflect the reasonable demands of the special operations role future SOF professionals are expected to fill. Furthermore, a greater emphasis on personality traits and attributes is required. We are reminded of the wisdom, “the final weapon is the brain, all else is supplemental.”
As was recently identified (comically so) in the differences between Rangers and Green Berets, there are different folks needed for different strokes in special operations. If there ever was a “traditional” GWOT-era SOF image, it would probably include a tattoo-sleeved, Taliban-style beard-wearing Freedom Fighter wearing Oakleys, early-gen multi-cams, and riding a horse. Yet, that image is outdated and demonstrates but a snapshot in time. The error we now risk making is to project this archetype onto current and future conflicts.
The GWOT, while still ongoing in the form of counter-VEO missions across the globe, must also make room for Great Power competition. In this space, SOF are not calling for fire against insurgent positions in the mountains of Afghanistan. Rather, they are conducting sensitive, “low-visibility” operations across multiple domains and in low-intensity conflict regions that manifest themselves through multiple mechanisms of state power projection.
What does this mean?
Operating environments are evolving, and SOF must evolve along with these changes. This should include the evolution of certain norms and standards of what traditionally comprises a SOF professional. The target dictates the weapon, and the weapon dictates the tactics. Start with your desired end state and work from there.
In the realm of Great Power competition, it is less critical that an individual can carry a 65-pound rucksack through the West Virginia mountains at night using a map and compass: Rather, it is more critical that they be able to rapidly process vast quantities of complex datasets while performing real-time analysis of the ground truth before them.
Do those traditional methods have their place? Most certainly. The author would not significantly change them given the value of such experience. But do those methods need to be reasonably adjusted in order to increase opportunities for women to fill SOF positions and thereby add unique value to the SOF enterprise? Yes: We cannot afford inaction.