15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

Transitioning from the military is hard. Habits and disciplines established over years of service are supposed to fall away as you drive off base. Here are the biggest things you’ll have to deal with when becoming a civilian.


1. Civilians don’t have safety briefs

 

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

 

Literally none. Everyone just expects you to remember to not drink and drive, to use protection while doin’ it, and to practice weapons safety. To help ease the transition, record your last safety brief from your unit commander and set it as an alarm on your phone. Set the alarm for every Friday at 1700.

2. Learning that ten minutes early is early

Yes, your platoon sergeant has told you for years that ten minutes early is late, but it’s actually ten minutes early because that’s how words work.

Most civilians will aim to be “on time,” which is anything up to the scheduled meeting time.

3. Civilians have no idea what military time is

Speaking of 1700, after you leave the military you will notice that 1700 hours isn’t a thing. It’s called “5 p.m.” This is completely separate from 0500 which is called “5 a.m.” If you find yourself having trouble, check out this helpful book. Books are like field manuals but there are more types. They’re also similar to magazines (the paper kind).

4. Learning the language

 

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

 

Yes, “magazines” can also refer to devices that store “rounds” for your “weapons.” Your new civilian friends will call these things “clips,” “bullets,” and “guns.” They don’t care what you call them. In the civilian world, military vocabulary falls under the category of “trivia.”

5. Civilians actually have to look before they cross the street

 

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

 

In the civilian world, you will most likely run on your own without supervision or a cadence caller. You can choose to wear headphones to keep your motivation and pace up, but remember that no one will be stopping cars at intersections for you. The trick is to identify the sidewalks and run on them when possible. When you must cross a street, look left, right, and then left again. Only cross if no vehicles are approaching your route.

6. Avoiding danger without a reflective belt

Compounding this problem will be the fact that you won’t be wearing a reflective belt. In theory, you should still be fully visible, but it turns out that civilian drivers are about as stupid as military drivers. Stick to the “left, right, and then left again” thing described above. Or you could just start moving through the world in human hamster balls.

7. Defining your personal value without PT scores or military evaluation records

 

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

You will not have a records brief listing all your rewards and accolades, and you will have to determine your personal value without these aids.

If you find yourself unable to decide if you’re a good person without this help, go ahead and assume you’re not. Then, start putting any awards or certificates you earn, along with any really good drawings you do, up on your parents’ fridge. The fridge can serve as a pseudo-records brief.

8. Trading badges, ribbons, and medals for a single lapel pin

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

 

Not only will you not have a piece of paper stating your accomplishments, you won’t be able to wear them on your shirts anymore either. This is especially tough for soldiers who are used to wearing their badges and patches year round.

You can wear a lapel pin, but that’s only good for bragging about one thing at a time. If you need to brag about graduating basic while also making sure people know you were a marksman, you’ll have to put stickers on your car.

9. Figuring out who you can yell at when no one wears ranks

Like the sudden absence of awards, there will be no ranks in the civilian world. But, if you work in a company, some people are still more powerful than you.

What can you do? If just treating everyone with respect is out of the question, grab a copy of your company’s personnel list and make flash cards for yourself. The CEO is like a general, your district manager equals a battalion commander, and the head custodian is essentially your squad sergeant. You can only yell at people who don’t outrank you.

10. As a civilian, choosing your own outfits is normal

 

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

 

Notice how all those people who aren’t wearing ranks are wearing different clothes from each other? Don’t worry! You don’t have to match any of their outfits, and no platoon sergeant is about to yell at everyone.

See, in the civilian world there are no uniforms, so you pick your own clothes to wear. Cargo pants and shirts are a good starting point when you first get out. You’ll get these at stores rather than exchanges. If the first store doesn’t have anything you like, don’t worry. Where bases only have a couple of different stores with the same tired inventory, civilians live in cities with tons of different shops all selling different merchandise.

11. Speaking without acronyms

FYSA, the DoD isn’t the only AO where acronyms are prevalent, but civilians still think you’re weird when you string together a sentence of alphabet soup. Go ahead and plan on stating entire words when speaking to civilians.

If you need to, use lozenges and honey to soothe your throat during the transition.

12. Civilians speak with a whole lot less cussing

Even more important than not using acronyms is not cussing. Most people find it harsh in the civilian world, especially if you’re around children at all. Avoid other colorful language as well, such as “BLOOD! BLOOD! BLOOD MAKES THE GREEN GRASS GROW!” and “KILL!” Click here for a more complete list.

13. Pointing instead of knife-handing

 

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life
Photo: Marine Corps

Knife hands have been disappearing from the armed forces and even the Marine Corps seems to be cutting back. If that bothers you, hold on to your butts. Civilians don’t even know what the knife hand is! And using it would be a major mistake.

When you want to knife hand to point out an object, civilians use a finger instead or even a verbal description of where someone should look. Where a knife hand would be used to emphasize a point or establish displeasure, civilians rely on tone of voice or a sternly worded note.

14. First names

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

That’s right, instead of ranks or last names, civilians use first names. You’ll be expected to as well unless you’re a doctor.

But we both know you’re not.

15. What to do with all your moto

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

In the military, you could throw on a gas mask and some armor for a 10-mile run when you were over-moto, but in the civilian world that ends with you dodging Taser shots from nervous cops. You can still go running or head to the range, but you’ll probably just deaden the moto with reality T.V. like everyone else.

NOW: This Army vet uses Tumblr to show civilians the realities of war

WATCH: These veterans transitioned to unique jobs after the military

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out awesome National Guard photos on its 382nd birthday

The National Guard, a unique part of the American military, traces its origins to the birth of the first organized colonial militia regiments on December 13, 1636.

The Guard, which includes some of the oldest units in the US military, is a reserve component that can be called up on a moment’s notice to respond to domestic emergencies or participate in overseas combat missions.



Happy 382nd Birthday, National Guard!

www.facebook.com

These 11 stunning photos from the past year show the Guard in action — dealing with fires, hurricanes, volcanoes, and more.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(N.Y. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Andrew Valenza)

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

A Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS), a C-130 Hercules plane modified for fire-fighting efforts, releases fire retardant over Shasta County, California, during the Carr Fire in early August 2018.

(California National Guard)

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brittany Johnson)

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(Florida National Guard photo by David Sterphone)

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(North Carolina National Guard)

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(Florida National Guard)

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(Oregon Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Zachary Holden, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs)

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(Photo Composite by SSG Brendan Stephens, NC National Guard Public Affairs)

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(Photo courtesy of the State of Hawaii, Dept. of Defense)

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur)

11. An Idaho Army National Guard sniper, from the 116th Calvary Brigade Combat Team, practices his skills during the platoon’s two-week annual training at the Orchard Combat Training Center on June 8, 2018.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

For decades, America was convinced that the Soviet Union was going to nuke the country and possibly the world. Even though the US and Russia were allies during WWII, once the war stopped, that partnership ended. Postwar Soviet expansion and takeovers of many Eastern European countries fueled plenty of fears of communism. Americans had long been wary and concerned about Joseph Stalin’s treatment of his own country. For their part, the Russians weren’t fans of Americans either, especially since the US government was unwilling to accept the Soviet Union as a legitimate part of the international community. After the war ended, any relations Americans had with the Russians froze … but you can still visit Cold War sites in America.

American leadership decided the best way to deal with the Soviets would be a strategy called containment, which meant that America’s only solution was a long term vigilance of Russian tendencies to invade countries and take over. The containment approach also provided the government with the rationale for an unprecedented arms buildup, beginning in 1950. Both Americans and the USSR had access to atomic weaponry. The ever-present threat of nuclear war had a huge impact on American domestic life. People started to build bomb shelters, drills were practiced in schools and public places, and movies showcased depictions of nuclear devastation. The government did its part too and built bunkers, reactors, and missile silos in preparation for a possible Russian invasion. 

Though the Cold War might have ended, the traces of our fear, paranoia, and preparation still exist today. Check out this list of top Cold War tourism sites to visit in America.

Greenbrier Bunker, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia 

This fallout shelter is located at Greenbrier Resort. What’s strange about it is that no one in the hotel knew it was designated as a bunker or that the government planned to house all of Congress in the event of a nuclear attack. Apparently, the government somehow convinced resort staff that it was building a conference center and that the 7,000-foot landing strip outside the building was completely necessary. The bunker was never used, and now you can take tours of it and check out the less-than-glamorous digs reserved for Congress. 

Hanford Site, Richland, Washington 

This 586 square mile site has been producing plutonium since 1943 when the War Department took it over to conduct parts of the Manhattan Project. The last reactor was shut down in 1987, and formal cleanup began two years later. 

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, Philip, South Dakota

No surprise that this place used to house missiles, but what might be surprising is how many. At its peak, the South Dakota silo field houses 150 missiles. Now it’s down to just one, the Launch Facility Delta-09. Now it’s run by the National Park Service, and there are tours available of the underground control centers. 

The Culpeper Switch, Culpeper, Virginia

In 1969, construction on a bunker that had lead-lined shutters and steel-reinforced concrete. The reason? To keep cash flowing in case a Soviet attack wiped out America’s banks. For many years, the Federal Reserve kept $4 billion in cash inside the bunker. The government moved the cash out in 1988 and gifted the site to the Library of Congress in 1992.  

Titan Missile Museum, Sahuarita, Arizona

For 24 years, the US had 54 Titan II missile sites on high alert. President Reagan ordered all Title II missiles deactivated in 1981, and most of them were completely destroyed in the process. All except for one, which is now on display at the Titan Missile Museum in Arizona. The missile was never fueled and never carried a warhead, so it’s completely safe for the public. 

X-10 Graphite Reactor, Oak Ridge, Tennessee

For two decades, the X-10, an artificial nuclear reactor, existed on a diet of uranium. It’s dormant now and has been since 1963. Located inside the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the reactor is now open to the public. 

This is just a small sampling of the Cold War sites in America, even though the Cold War has officially been over for decades.

READ MORE: GREAT FALLS NIKE FIRE CONTROL SITE W-83 PLAYED A CRITICAL ROLE IN THE CREATION OF GPS.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch Army sniper legend Ed Eaton on GunnyTime

R. Lee Ermey doesn’t need to be wearing a uniform for you to know that he’s a legend. His entire demeanor shouts Badass, from his squared shoulders to his commanding voice. There’s nothing about Gunny that’s not full-on epic.

As with all GunnyTime videos, this episode is one half fun and one half history lesson. Army sniper Ed Eaton talks with Gunny about the history of snipers in the Army, how the training has changed for the military and what kinds of weaponry today’s snipers are using.

BLUF – Gunny wants to remind us that there’s nothing better than being out on the range on a gorgeous day. He’s totally right – it doesn’t get much better than that … except when you get to talk shop with one of the most decorated Army snipers of all time.

Ed Eaton brought along his M 14 rifle and the M 21. During Vietnam, Eaton used the XM 21. It’s hard to believe, but the entire Army started out with just 55 XM 21 rifles at the beginning of the Vietnam War. What made the XM 21 stand out was in the details.

Not only was the stock coated with epoxy, but the rifle weighed about two pounds more, and the rifle featured camo. Reworking the trigger helped separate this rifle from others, too. As Gunny notes, that modification helps “take the drag out and lighten it up a little bit.”

Two scopes allowed for day and night missions to be completed.

Gunny and Eaton discussed the benefits of using the XM 21 versus the other version that the Army and Marine Corps used during the conflict. The weight difference aside, Eaton said he preferred to use the XM 21 because it was more accurate.

Eaton was one of the first 55 snipers to be trained in the Army with the 9th Infantry Division. In the early days of sniper training, soldiers had to be combat infantrymen for a specific amount of time. There was no active recruiting for snipers, making it all the more elusive of a position.

Gunny reminds us that today’s snipers are using the best weapons in the world and that their training is bar none, the best in the world. Modern era warfighting snipers are using M2010s. One major change is in the round size, which is now a .300 round.

As Gunny so eloquently puts it, that round can “really reach out and touch someone.” Well said, Gunny. Well said.  

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways to make mandatory fun days actually, you know… fun

Ahh, organizational days. On paper, it sounds like a great time. Why not have everyone in the unit come together to relieve stress for an afternoon and enjoy some quality team-cohesion time? Here’s the problem: Troops very rarely ever have a good time at what is mockingly referred to as a “mandatory fun day.”

If you’re in a leadership position and you’re honestly expecting an organizational day to raise the morale of your troops, then you’re going to need to do a few things different. Don’t worry, we’re not about to suggest major changes or anything that could jeopardize the professionalism of your unit, but you should lighten up and actually try to make sure your troops enjoy themselves if an increase in morale is your intended goal. Makes sense, right?

Try these:


15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

You can have those family fun days. Let the FRG handle that and let the troops be troops.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jason Jimenez)

No families

We’re not suggesting that families aren’t important to the troops — in fact, they’re the most important thing to the many troops who have their family stationed with them. But it’s a much different story for the troops that are stuck in the barracks. They’re not exactly lining up for the face-painting booth like the kiddies.

Plus, when there are children and spouses around, troops tend to be sanitized versions of who they really are. That’s not a bad thing by itself, but it’s also not the way to let off steam and raise morale. You need to give them a chance to be the loud, rowdy, drunk, offensive, and obnoxious war fighters that they truly are.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

You may hear them talk about wanting to drink when they’re in the smoke pit, but you’re not really going to know how much they drink unless you’re with them.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Listen to what the lower enlisted troops want

Within reason, obviously. You don’t have to take the company to the truck-stop strip club because Private Snuffy thought it’d be a great idea. But if they suggest something relatively safe, like going to a baseball game or chilling out at the installation’s bar, that may not be such a bad idea.

Nine times out of ten, if you ask the troops where they’d like to go, they’ll probably say the barracks. Perfect. Throw a party there. This also gives the command team a valuable insight into how the troops actually operate when they’re off-duty.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

A squad that trains together, fights together, and parties together stays together.

(U.S. Army photo by 2nd Lt. Kyle Hensley)

Keep the day at the platoon or squad level

This is far more important than most company commanders realize. When you’re trying to build unit cohesion, it’s best to keep any morale-boosting efforts at the level at which troops operate. For nearly all lower enlisted, that means the platoon or squad level.

Platoon sergeants generally know their troops far better than the company commander. Plus, smaller numbers also mean that it’s far cheaper and much more easily managed should things get out of hand. Most importantly, having a smaller group size on fun days means that it’s far less likely that someone will just mope in the corner and be forgotten about.

Commanders should encourage smaller-group team building. It can only mean greater things when it comes to the unit as a whole.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

I mean, unless they’re REALLY adverse to showing up to the Organizational Day.

(Photo via US Army WTF Moments)

Attendance is incentivized, not mandatory

When you force something down someone’s throat, they’re going to hate it. By now, you’ve probably heard infantry described with the phrase, “give them a brick of gold and they’ll complain that it’s too heavy.” Well, in this case, “mandatory fun” day are the gold, and no matter how glittery and gleaming it may be, you’re still forcing it on them.

Give troops a reason to want to go to your organizational day instead of threatening them with UCMJ action. Even if it’s something as stupid-simple as giving them the choice between attending the organizational day in civilian clothes and an early release or sweeping the motor pool until 1700, you’ll see a lot more volunteers.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

Nearly every single lower enlisted troop will enjoy themselves at a barracks party over a mandatory Org Day. Why not just let them do it anyways, but with the supervision of NCOs?

(Screengrab via YouTube)

Free booze

This is as simple as it gets. There’s no real need to go in-depth about why this one would work. Transfer some of the funds that would’ve gone toward a giant bouncy house and tap open a keg for the joes instead. They’ll appreciate that much more.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Wild photos show US Marines munching on scorpions and washing them down with snake blood as they learn to survive in the jungle

US Marines are eating scorpions and drinking snake blood in the jungle, and no, it’s not because someone forgot to pack the Meals Ready to Eat.


Check out these wild photos and see how the Marines are connecting with nature in a way a lot of people would probably rather not.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e5d51bdfee23d53f36de283%3Fwidth%3D700%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=300&h=dcef8829555cc9f7dcac3b9160cb9f6a95a0898417b3738e6d3bdcfa7a66d384&size=980x&c=2727232833 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e5d51bdfee23d53f36de283%253Fwidth%253D700%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D300%26h%3Ddcef8829555cc9f7dcac3b9160cb9f6a95a0898417b3738e6d3bdcfa7a66d384%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2727232833%22%7D” expand=1]

Royal Thai Marine Petty Officer 1st Class Pairoj Prasarnsa, Chief Jungle Survival Trainer with Marine Recon Patrol holds two Cobras during jungle survival training alongside his U.S. Marine counterparts

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e5d5172fee23d536333f53a%3Fwidth%3D700%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=785&h=0896de9acd163fa00823ad2e45d7191f1231154cfa5f1c11e6724ec345bb4094&size=980x&c=333149743 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e5d5172fee23d536333f53a%253Fwidth%253D700%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D785%26h%3D0896de9acd163fa00823ad2e45d7191f1231154cfa5f1c11e6724ec345bb4094%26size%3D980x%26c%3D333149743%22%7D” expand=1]

Royal Thai Marine Petty Officer 1st Class Pairoj Prasarnsa, Chief Jungle Survival Trainer with Marine Reconnaissance Patrol, displays a spider’s fangs during jungle survival training alongside his US Marines.

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e5d5389fee23d55dc33a324%3Fwidth%3D700%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=80&h=c8c5f6aa42a6a97e661606b20b36a3ba1c94c1cb1e0ee3f9000bfc38de246218&size=980x&c=3897840285 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e5d5389fee23d55dc33a324%253Fwidth%253D700%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D80%26h%3Dc8c5f6aa42a6a97e661606b20b36a3ba1c94c1cb1e0ee3f9000bfc38de246218%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3897840285%22%7D” expand=1]

U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink water from a plant as part of jungle survival training.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e5d527bfee23d467d4423f4%3Fwidth%3D700%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=704&h=77ca5f66d4c64ed2fefde23f2dfb29516f04d7aacf76572016bb65c1552c9f07&size=980x&c=3102400500 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e5d527bfee23d467d4423f4%253Fwidth%253D700%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D704%26h%3D77ca5f66d4c64ed2fefde23f2dfb29516f04d7aacf76572016bb65c1552c9f07%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3102400500%22%7D” expand=1]

U.S. Marine Cpl. Alicia Yoo with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, eats watermelon during jungle survival training.

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e5d5107fee23d44a90a0319%3Fwidth%3D700%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=939&h=7d2d139de2ee3c29b825e931a42573c8e21c367805ef7dd449e12a623a0a13c4&size=980x&c=1654077149 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e5d5107fee23d44a90a0319%253Fwidth%253D700%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D939%26h%3D7d2d139de2ee3c29b825e931a42573c8e21c367805ef7dd449e12a623a0a13c4%26size%3D980x%26c%3D1654077149%22%7D” expand=1]

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Lance with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, eats a live scorpion as part of jungle survival training during exercise Cobra Gold 2020.

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e5d52f3fee23d5260272603%3Fwidth%3D700%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=209&h=846cd4d365adf2656fdd90921d4e5b178c63f7e5a91250e53eab311f23790c33&size=980x&c=3526968088 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e5d52f3fee23d5260272603%253Fwidth%253D700%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D209%26h%3D846cd4d365adf2656fdd90921d4e5b178c63f7e5a91250e53eab311f23790c33%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3526968088%22%7D” expand=1]

U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink the blood of a King Cobra.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall

Then, of course, there is one of the most iconic aspects of the Cobra Gold jungle survival training, and that is drinking cobra blood.

A King Cobra can grow to 13-feet-long and carries venom that attacks the central nervous system of its prey. A person bitten can die within 30 minutes.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e5d535bfee23d55c93b4c44%3Fwidth%3D700%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=330&h=437e521b05ea030e180853cf793d3da89995a44224b7b5da1331819af0dca511&size=980x&c=3052492301 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e5d535bfee23d55c93b4c44%253Fwidth%253D700%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D330%26h%3D437e521b05ea030e180853cf793d3da89995a44224b7b5da1331819af0dca511%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3052492301%22%7D” expand=1]

U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink the blood of a King Cobra.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e5d5405fee23d484046ff98%3Fwidth%3D700%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=307&h=18fd6c4663339d96a66d608b926a80d877b10e001894c6c6a87f9955777f81d2&size=980x&c=2624167661 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e5d5405fee23d484046ff98%253Fwidth%253D700%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D307%26h%3D18fd6c4663339d96a66d608b926a80d877b10e001894c6c6a87f9955777f81d2%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2624167661%22%7D” expand=1]

U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink the blood of a king cobra.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e5d523afee23d46561bcf13%3Fwidth%3D700%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=699&h=b44cd48931855ae9d2c82d601b047f63a0efb8cd94ab9964861971aede9f4dc3&size=980x&c=636995584 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e5d523afee23d46561bcf13%253Fwidth%253D700%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D699%26h%3Db44cd48931855ae9d2c82d601b047f63a0efb8cd94ab9964861971aede9f4dc3%26size%3D980x%26c%3D636995584%22%7D” expand=1]

U.S. Marine Sgt. Etrice Sawyer a native of Miami, Fla., with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, drinks the blood of a King Cobra.

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

“We don’t do this for fun, but to survive,” a Royal Thai Marine instructor explained previously, adding, “It won’t fill you up, but it will keep you alive.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons Marine field day would make a great kid’s video game

There’s probably a grand total of five people on planet Earth who are perfectly sane and enjoy cleaning — that’s why Marines hate field day. It can take a long time to complete (depending on how bad of a day your platoon sergeant is having), it’s tedious, and it most certainly is not the coolest thing since sliced bread — but it’s an important part of the weekly routine. It’s kind of like when Mr. Miyagi is teaching Daniel-san karate in the original Karate Kid. Yeah. Sure, waxing a car might seem like a dumb task, but you actually learn a lot — and that’s why we think it would be a great video game for kids.

Kids are tough, and like new Marines, they’re blank slates and in need of lots of hand-holding and instruction, even for something for something as simple as taking trash out. This is where video games can help.

So, grab some VR goggles, put ’em on your youngster, boot up Field Day: The Game, and prepare to teach them the following lessons:


15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

Being able to be thorough means you’ll identify smaller details that others won’t see right away.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Ryan Persinger)

Attention to detail

In real-life field day, you’re taught to be extremely thorough — not just with your cleaning, but with every task you’re given. This attention to detail is the very thing that makes Marines great civilians, and it can help your kid succeed in everyday life, too.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

Being able to follow instructions contributes to the overall success of your work — no matter what it is.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

Following instruction

If your kid learns how to follow instructions early on, they’re going to be a much more successful in life. For better or worse, kinds tend to emulate things they see in media — why not give them a digital example?

Giphy

Resilience

In the Marine Corps, if you’re doing something wrong, you’re going to hear about it. Over time, you learn to take feedback, grow, and fix your mistakes instead of being hung up on them. If you sit there and brood over not getting it perfect the first time around, you’re only taking time away from yourself. Developing a resilience to feedback is a valuable skill.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

Maybe then you won’t have to argue about cleaning?

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Hinton)

The desire to clean

Your kid might get so good at the Field Day: The Game that they’ll try it out in real-life. Make sure you commend them for a job well done — who knows, maybe they’ll to want to do it more often.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

What’s better than someone volunteering to do chores?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Colton Brownlee)

Initiative

The annoying amount of cleaning you have to do on field day quickly teaches you that it’s best to do a little cleaning throughout the week. You to take action before you’re asked — this lesson is carried over into any areas of life.

MIGHTY CULTURE

NASA is helping you make your mark on Mars

Although it will be years before the first humans set foot on Mars, NASA is giving the public an opportunity to send their names — stenciled on chips — to the Red Planet with NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, which represents the initial leg of humanity’s first round trip to another planet. The rover is scheduled to launch as early as July 2020, with the spacecraft expected to touch down on Mars in February 2021.

The rover, a robotic scientist weighing more than 2,300 pounds (1,000 kilograms), will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.


“As we get ready to launch this historic Mars mission, we want everyone to share in this journey of exploration,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in Washington. “It’s an exciting time for NASA, as we embark on this voyage to answer profound questions about our neighboring planet, and even the origins of life itself.”

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

Members of the public who want to send their name to Mars on NASA’s next rover mission to the Red Planet (Mars 2020) can get a souvenir boarding pass and their names etched on microchips to be affixed to the rover.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The opportunity to send your name to Mars comes with a souvenir boarding pass and “frequent flyer” points. This is part of a public engagement campaign to highlight missions involved with NASA’s journey from the Moon to Mars. Miles (or kilometers) are awarded for each “flight,” with corresponding digital mission patches available for download. More than 2 million names flew on NASA’s InSight mission to Mars, giving each “flyer” about 300 million frequent flyer miles (nearly 500 million frequent flyer kilometers).

From now until Sept. 30, 2019, you can add your name to the list and obtain a souvenir boarding pass to Mars here.

The Microdevices Laboratory at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, will use an electron beam to stencil the submitted names onto a silicon chip with lines of text smaller than one-thousandth the width of a human hair (75 nanometers). At that size, more than a million names can be written on a single dime-size chip. The chip (or chips) will ride on the rover under a glass cover.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

True color image of Mars taken by the OSIRIS instrument on the ESA Rosetta spacecraft during its February 2007 flyby of the planet.

NASA will use Mars 2020 and other missions to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. As another step toward that goal, NASA is returning American astronauts to the Moon in 2024. Government, industry and international partners will join NASA in a global effort to build and test the systems needed for human missions to Mars and beyond.

The Mars 2020 Project at JPL manages rover development for SMD. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management. Mars 2020 will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

For more information on Mars 2020, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/mars2020

For more about NASA’s Moon to Mars plans, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/moon-to-mars

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 hot cocktails to drink this winter

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with mixing up some whiskey, lemon, cloves, honey, and cinnamon — otherwise known as the hot toddy. But hot winter cocktails are not limited to the toddy alone. If you find yourself in a mood for a fortifying warm cocktail when the mercury falls, but want a drink that’s a bit more adventurous — and perhaps the main ingredient of which is something besides whiskey — there are plenty of excellent options. (We see you, hot buttered rum and boozy hot chocolate) To venture out into different territory, and to provide you with some hot alcoholic drinks to get you through winter, we spoke to a squad of New York City bartenders and asked them to share their hottest hot cocktail recipes. From variations on the classic hot toddy and the best damn boozy hot chocolate you’ll ever try to a fancy mulled wine and rum punch that really packs a punch, here are seven warming cold weather cocktails to try.


1. The Hot Teddy

Remember when your mother told you never to play with fire? Well, you’re going to need to disregard that bit of advice in order to make this next level hot toddy. Amir Babayoff, head bartender at Ophelia in New York City, starts with the rich and layered Barrell Craft Spirits Bourbon and adds a touch of French fortified wine for added complexity. Next, some Pineau des Charentes is brought in to bring out the softer part of the drink thanks to notes of peaches, prunes, plums and toasted nuts. Next comes caffeine-free orange and ginger tea. He adds Panella (unrefined sugar cane) with a blend of five winter spices (cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom to finish it with a sweet complexity. Is it an easy cocktail to whip together? Definitely not. But the end result is very much worth the effort.

Ingredients:
1.5 oz Barrell Whiskey
0.5 oz Pineau De Charente
0.5 oz Lemon Juice
0.75 oz Island Syrup
Angostura Bitters
5 oz Hot Water
1 Ginger/Orange Spiced Tea Bag

Directions: Prepare two copper mugs with hot water. Empty one and add 5 oz Hot Water, Tea Bags, Syrup, Lemon Juice and Bitters. Add Bourbon and Brandy to Mug #2 and rinse. Light Mug #2 on fire and pour from mug to mug. Pour into a Snifter and garnish with Cinnamon Stick, Orange Peel and Star Anise.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(Photo by Eiliv-Sonas Aceron)

2. Spiked Mexican Hot Chocolate

Boozy hot chocolate is a pretty unbeatable winter drink. This version is a lighter, spicier play. “The traditional Italian hot chocolate is usually a rich and indulgent treat that’s perfect for a cold day,” says Anthony Henriquez, Beverage Director at Lumaca in New York City. “But it might not be the best before or after a meal.” This version removes the heavier ingredients and the allspice. The remaining cinnamon and chili flavors blend well with the caramel notes of tequila (they use Chamucos). Topped off with some freshly roasted marshmallows, it’s enough to make you forget about the cold for a few minutes.

Ingredients:
3 cups hot milk
3 tbs cocoa powder
3 tbs granulated sugar
1/4 tbs cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3 oz Chamucos Tequila

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a snifter, garnish with two roasted marshmallows.

3. Nightcap

Now, this drink is not for novices. But for those accustomed to using a flame or amateur mixologists ready to raise their game, the Nightcap is worth the effort. Maybe keep a fire extinguisher handy. “When creating this cocktail, we knew we wanted to include absinthe but wanted to experiment with chartreuse since it’s high-proof and knew it would add a very rich, floral flavor” says NR bar owner, Shigefumi Kabashima. “We heat an iron rod over a flame to mix the cocktail with in order to cut the edge of the chartreuse and burn off some of the alcohol.” The drink also has butter, which caramelizes and adds to the cocktail’s rich flavor.

Ingredients:
1.5 oz. Green Chartruse
.5 oz. Lemon Juice
.25 oz. fresh ginger
.25 oz. honey
.5 oz. water
tsp butter
5 dashes absinthe

Directions: Combine all ingredients except for butter in a small heat-proof vessel and carefully heat iron rod over a flame for about one minute. Once the iron is heated, stir the cocktail ingredients carefully in heat proof vessel. Remove rod from and pour into heat-proof cocktail glass, and add in teaspoon of butter.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(Photo by Gaby Dyson)

4. Mulled Wine

Mulled wine is a classic winter warmer. This one is fortified with a bit of brandy for an extra kick. “I believe that the Mulled wine we make at Valerie just hits the mark for the season,” says Marshall Minaya, Beverage Director for Valerie in New York City. “With a little fresh ginger, honey bonded Apple Brandy, and the constant temperature it is what we want to serve you to warm you up.”

Ingredients:
1 (750ml) bottle Cabernet-Sauvignon
½ cup Lairds Bonded Apple Brandy
1 Orange (sliced)
6 whole Cloves
3 Cinnamon Sticks
3 Star Anise
3 Whole Allspice
¼ cup Honey Syrup
¼ cup Ginger Syrup

Directions: In a medium sauce pot, bring all ingredients to a simmer (not boil). Reduce heat and leave for 10 min. Cool, and store in Cambro. Pour 5oz from thermos into mug. Garnish with a dehydrated lemon wheel and grated cinnamon

5. Hot Fig-Rum Punch

This Hot Fig Rum Punch created by Ryan Gavin, Bar Manager, Gran Tivoli Peppi’s Cellar, has an old-school winter vibe that compliments the season. That was intentional. “I wanted to showcase the versatility of tropical flavors in how they combine well with the more traditional seasonal ingredients such as ginger and fig,” Gavin said. While he says that the punch is warming and wintry, he says the fruity notes from the rum and pineapple “evoke festivities of an exotic nature.” Damn right they do.

Ingredients:
.3 oz. Fig Vin Cotto
.5 oz. Pineapple syrup
.3 oz. Lactic Acid Solution (10%)
1.5 oz. Santa Teresa Rum
4 oz. Hot water
1 oz. Ginger turmeric teabag
Heat on steam wand

Directions: Build and server in a footed 6 oz. glass. Garnish with a quarter fig on skewer

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

6. Coffee & Cream

Spiked coffee makes a great pick-me-up for the colder months. Gavin’s Coffee Cream is a decadently delightful variation with a chilled sweet vanilla cream crown that floats on top of the drink. “We were aiming for some sort of elevated Irish coffee style of drink that would show off not just the delicious espresso but some nutty and rich notes from the brandy and Vin Santo,” Gavin says. “By adding the Mr. Black Coffee Liqueur, we were able to elevate the natural coffee flavor and bring the sweetness up to that magical point that is lip smacking, but not too syrupy.”

Ingredients:
.75 oz Brandy
.75 oz Mr Black Coffee Liqueur
.175 oz Vin Santo
1 oz Espresso
2 oz Hot Water
.75 Vanilla Cream
Glass: Footed 6 oz

Directions: Build and layer all ingredients in a footed 6 oz. glass. Garnish with cacao and bee pollen.

7. The Rum Hot Toddy

Simple and sweet, this Toddy variation is anchored with some stellar spiced rum for an added layer of warmth. “We make our Hot Toddy using Santa Teresa 1796 Rum,” says Kenneth McCoy, chief creative officer of the Rum House. “It’s rich, smooth and has hints of warming spices, that added with a hint of honey, fresh ginger and cinnamon is perfect for a winter warmer on a cold evening.”

Ingredients:
2 oz El Dorado Spiced Rum
.25 oz fresh lemon juice
.50 oz Demerara syrup
Hot water from a tea kettle
1 orange peel
1 lemon peel
Slice of fresh ginger
3-4 gloves
Cinnamon stick

Directions: Fill your Toddy glass with hot water from the kettle and cover the top with a plate to keep warm while preparing the drink. Place lemon peel, orange peel , cloves, fresh ginger and Demerara into a mixing glass use a muddler to lightly extract the juices from the zest’s and ginger. Add rum and lemon juice stir with a bar spoon. Dump water from your Toddy glass, and double strain the cocktail to remove the pulp. Add 3-4 ounces of hot water on top of liquid and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Weekend safety briefs are on the chopping block and it’s about time

Soldiers of the Army, rejoice! It has officially come down from the Secretary of the Army Mark Esper that weekend safety briefs are freakin’ stupid and should be nixed. I’m paraphrasing, obviously — but they have been put on the chopping block.

For everyone not in the know, a safety brief is held after every Friday afternoon formation (or the final formation before an extended weekend), during which the chain of command will lecture the troops on what to do and not to do over the weekend. In short, it’s just one of those boxes to check so the commander can get a warm and fuzzy before they go relax.

The problem is that simply standing in front of adults who’ve dedicated their lives to being warfighters and treating them like kids any time they’re left alone for longer than 24 hours isn’t going to decrease the frequency of legal incidents. There are countless other, more effective ways relaying lessons like, say, buzzed driving is still drunk driving, to troops without simply, bluntly, and repeatedly telling them not to do something.


15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

If you’re the type of person who can’t be dissuaded from driving drunk by being told it’s against the law and it puts the lives of countless others around you at risk, you have no honor and do not deserve to wear the uniform of America’s finest.

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Lauren M. Sprunk)

The standard safety brief always covers three things that are very serious topics:

  1. Don’t drive and drive.
  2. Don’t assault your spouse.
  3. Don’t assault your children.

These are three objectively terrible things that are unbecoming of a United States soldier. Anyone who commits any of these crimes rightfully deserves to have the hammer dropped on their pathetic ass. The problem is that three issues are addressed weekly to satisfy a requirement and they’re rarely given the gravity that they deserve.

To be completely fair to the Army, there are still safety stand-down days that do far more than a PowerPoint slide. There’s been no word as to whether those will still stay around, but those days actually give the situations proper attention and troops come away learning why it’s a bad idea to be inebriated and operate a 2-ton piece of steel at top speeds through an area with filled with innocent people.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

​As long as it’s not a theater-sized PowerPoint, it’s fine.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Timothy Moore)

There is one positive aspect of a safety brief, however, and that’s when obscure laws are brought to the forefront of peoples’ minds. For example, one of the only individual safety briefs I personally remember (one that stood out from the repeated, standard, “don’t do dumb sh*t” message delivered by a disgruntled infantry first sergeant) was when someone made the blotter (a list of all the troops in legal troubles for an installation) for having an expired fishing license. I was going fishing with some of the guys that weekend and I didn’t even know fishing licenses were a thing (I’m a city boy. Quit judging me). The odd reminders are good things, and there’s a time and place for those even still.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

The ultimate irony is when the senior NCO, who literally screamed at everyone to get a freakin’ taxi, gets arrested for DUI.

(U.S. Army)

In the face of the Army canning safety briefs, some might expect the barracks to turn into some lawless Hellscape running rampant with drunken bastards committing all sorts of felonies. It won’t. Soldiers already know that breaking the law is a bad thing. Any good soldier will continue to stay in line and any sh*tbag soldier would’ve done it anyways — regardless of whether they’ve slept through several weeks of being told not to.

In fact, for many, safety briefs are a lower-echelon commander’s excuse to a higher-echelon commander should anything go wrong. They can turn to their superior and say, “but I told the troops not to do that! My hands are clean!” In reality, I think we all know it never played a role in keeping troops off the blotter.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

A smaller scale safety brief will probably happen, because old habits die hard. Honestly, these might be more effective.

(U.S. Army photo by SFC Lloyd Shellenberger)

The younger troops will be present at each and every safety brief — no exception. Troops of higher ranks will often find some reason to justify an early weekend and skip ’em. Put plainly, not everyone in the unit ever goes to all of them. When was the last time you saw a CW5 endure a safety brief?

And yet, if you take a look at the legal f*ck ups, the ranks of offenders span the gamut. Yes, there are lower enlisted who get locked up by the MPs — Get their asses. They knew it was wrong and did it anyways. Then there’s the senior enlisted who’ve been in for ages and have been present at literally hundreds of safety briefs. I think it’s safe to say that there’s little to no connection between committing a heinous act and the number of times a troop is told not to do such a thing. Simply being told that an obviously terrible something is against the law is not a way to prevent it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Can sommeliers actually tell the difference between expensive and cheap wines?

Alex K. asks: Is it true that sommeliers can’t tell the difference between expensive and cheap wines?

Having a seasoned tongue that can detect the subtle differences between different kinds of adult grape juice is a sure sign of class. In fact, the go-to Hollywood trope for showing that a character is refined is to give them a penchant for expensive wines. Even Hannibal Lecter, one of the most terrifying and cultured characters in film history, had a soft spot for chianti. But the question at hand today is can even the professional wine connoisseurs actually tell the difference between a Chateau Cheval Blanc 1943 and a Bota Box Chardonnay?

To begin with, it’s important to understand what a person has to go through to acquire the label of wine expert, otherwise known as a sommelier. It turns out this varies considerably from absolutely no official required training at all (the label is technically originally a job title) to an extreme amount as in the case of Master Sommeliers, of which there have been less than 300 people who have managed to achieve that certification in the little over a half a century that title has been granted, making it one of the most exclusive professional certifications in the world.


As to the former vastly more common distinction of “sommelier”, some who achieve this certification are simply wine enthusiasts wanting to take their hobby to the next level. Others are those working in the restaurant service industry who may have even got that title via working there way up from a simple waiter at a wine bar and learning on the job.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(Photo by Zachariah Hagy)

That said, as sommelier Dustin Wilson notes, “…by forcing oneself to study hard for a long period of time, certification offers young sommeliers the opportunity to gain the context they need to understand wine much faster than they would if they simply relied on the dining room floor as their classroom.”

This brings us to more formal certification. How rigorous a given course for certification is varies from institution to institution offering such, but in general sommeliers must be able to identify with reasonable accuracy random types of wine by taste, sight, and smell, answer various questions about wine making, the various regions of the world that are major wine producers, and what makes wines from them different than wines produced elsewhere. They must also have extensive knowledge of very specific food pairings, as well as demonstrate little things like the best technique for how to open a bottle of wine and pour — while simple for those working in the industry, nonetheless often trips up the hobbyist attempting to get that certification.

On that note, while actual formal training to get such a certification may only take dozens of hours, leading up to passing a given program’s tests a person generally needs extensive experience with all things wine, whether as a long time hobby or experience within the industry.

As you might have gathered from this, all sommeliers are not created equal. Some may be immensely knowledgeable and skilled at judging various wines, while others might be littler better than your wine enthusiast cousin Jill.

This brings us to the elite of the elite — Master Sommeliers. These are the Yoda’s of the wine world, and no coincidence the average salary for one eclipses that of mere mortal sommeliers. For your reference, a run of the mill lowly just starting out sommelier might make as little as in the ,000 a year range, whereas someone who has passed the tests to become an Advanced Sommelier earns around ,000 a year on average. The Master Sommeliers, on the other hand, typically make about 0,000 per year and can usually be found working at some of the world’s finest restaurants.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life
Giphy

The testing to become a Master Sommelier is vastly more rigorous, and those invited to test (and it is invite only), must have first passed the Introductory Exam, then the Certified Exam, and then the Advanced Sommelier Exam. Those who pursue this course also tend to already have extensive backgrounds in the culinary arts and typically have many years of experience working as a sommelier at some wine serving establishment.

Once they’ve distinguished themselves enough in the field, they may then be invited to takes the tests to become a Master Sommelier. From here, they are given three years to pass three tests, including a practical restaurant service section, a verbal examination covering all things wine related to incredible depth, from history to grape cultivation in various regions, to various wine making methods; finally, the most difficult test of all is the taste test. In this, they are given six random wines chosen from the thousands produced around world. In 25 minutes, they must correctly identify not just what region of the world each one came from, but also the exact year the grapes used were harvested.

Each candidate is allowed to take each test up to six times in the three year span, but even then, as you might expect from so few having ever achieved this certification, many fail despite already being considered advanced wine experts before even attempting the tests.

Now, given all this, surely the elite wine professionals must be able to tell the difference between random expensive and a random cheap wines, right? Well, yes, the elite of the elite absolutely can. But also, no, they can’t at all actually.

So what’s going on here?

There are several factors that go into this. First, there’s the business side with a variety of factors that go into what makes something an “expensive” or “cheap” wine that go far beyond taste. Making such distinctions smaller than ever, wine making has become huge business on a scale and with scientific vigor never leveled at the industry before — all in an effort to create the best wines for as cheaply as possible.

As journalist and sommelier Bianca Bosker notes, “One of the things that I did was to go into this wine conglomerate [Treasury Wine Estates] that produces millions of bottles of wine per year… People are there developing wine the way flavor scientists develop the new Oreo or Doritos flavor.”

Noteworthy here is that the scientists extensively use sommeliers to help tweak their mass produced wines to be as high quality as possible even to the experts. They further add a variety of things to the wine, not unlike adding ingredients to any beverage, to tweak just about every facet of it until they come up with an end product that they think will maximally appeal to consumers.

As a result, even disregarding business elements effecting price beyond taste, the gap between inexpensive wines and the finest has closed considerably in recent decades, and there are more variety of wines to enjoy today than there ever have been before, all making it an effort in futility for even a Master Sommelier to be able to consistently identify one wine as one that was probably ultra expensive vs. more of a middle of the road variety of the same type of wine.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(Photo by Caroline Attwood)

Partially as a result, while studies using the general public tend to show most can identify the difference between the cheapest of wines at a couple dollars a bottle and, say, a or bottle, as soon as you start to go much above that, we mere mortals tend to be able to differentiate the two with about the same accuracy you’d expect in predicting the results of a coin flip.

That said it turns out there is actually a slight and very interesting correlation. In one study with over 6,000 taste tasters, comprising about 12% sommeliers and the rest the general public, trying to determine if people like expensive wines more than cheap ones, it turned out that:

[W]e find that the correlation between price and overall rating is small and negative, suggesting that individuals on average enjoy more expensive wines slightly less. For individuals with wine training, however, we find indications of a positive relationship between price and enjoyment…. Our results indicate that both the prices of wines and wine recommendations by experts may be poor guides for non-expert wine consumers.

Thus, similar to music or really any field, those who are experts do seem to tend to enjoy the finer, more complex, versions of the craft, such as a symphony, vs the general public who prefer listening to the latest from Taylor Swift. Or as one music professor the co-author of this piece once had was fond of stating with respect to pop music vs. things like a symphony, “Cotton candy tastes great, but you can only eat so much of it before you get sick of it and start craving a high quality steak dinner.”

Now, at this point you might be thinking, “Well, sure, it’s easy to be fooled by the business side of things when talking price, but what about all those studies that show wine experts can’t even tell white wine from red in blind taste tests?”

It turns out there is a lot more going on with that than the clickbait headlines tend to indicate, and should be obvious from the fact that Master Sommeliers are able to pass the test they do in the first place, which would be impossible if their skills were really as bad as that. As Wheezy Waiter wisely points out in his aptly titled song “A Headline’s Not an Article” — a headline is not an article.

You see, as ever, our monkey brain’s are gonna monkey brain. We humans are just really, really easy to trick, especially when it comes to our senses. Ever eaten something minty and then drank a room temperature glass of water? Congratulations, you’ve just tricked your body into thinking you’re drinking ice cold water because menthol binds with cold-sensitive receptors that make these much more sensitive than normal, so they trigger more easily and you feel a cold sensation, even though everything is the same temperature as before.

So everything from what you ate or drank before to scents in the environment you’re currently in, to even your level of fatigue can influence the way you perceive the taste of something.

On top of physical things like that, there’s your expectations, which can be absurdly easily influenced, especially when it comes to taste.

So let’s now talk about wine. Contained within the grape juice are many dozens of esters and aldehydes, sugars, minerals, organic acids, etc. etc. This cocktail all derives from the grapes (whose contents are in turn effected by a variety of factors), processes of the yeast as it works its magic, and what the wine is processed and stored in during its journey from plant to your belly. This all creates the colors, smells, and taste which combined to form the flavor your perceive when you ingest the wine. To give you a small idea of the scope of things here, consider that over 400 compounds that influence the scent alone have been identified in wine.

On that note, temperature by itself can make a huge difference to taste, among other reasons, because of how this can effect the boiling point and thus smell and, in turn, taste, of some of these compounds in the wine. As wine enthusiast David Derbyshire notes, “Serve a New World chardonnay too cold and you’ll only taste the overpowering oak. Serve a red too warm and the heady boozy qualities will be overpowering.”

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(Photo by brandy turner)

As for the wine experts, while they may have honed their skills with sometimes thousands of hours of study into all things wine, they still have the same monkey brain as the rest of us. Case in point, we have wine expert and journalist Katie Kelly Bell, who was traveling with a fellow group of wine connoisseurs. While at Waters Vineyards in Washington State, the owner poured everyone two glasses of white wine and asked them to identify what type they were. Bell sums up:

We swirled, we sniffed, we wrinkled our brows in contemplation. Some of us nodding with assurance. I took notes, finding the first white to be more floral and elegant than the second. Drawing on my years and years (there have been too many) of tasting, studying and observation, I swiftly concluded that the first wine was an unoaked Chardonnay and the second was a Sauvignon Blanc, easy peasy. Much to my mortification I was dead wrong, as was everyone else in the room. The proprietor chuckled and informed his room… that the wines were actually the same wine; one was just warmer than the other. He wasn’t intentionally shaming us (not one person got it right); he was pointedly demonstrating the power of just one element in the wine tasting experience: temperature.

Now consider a test conducted at the suggestion of winery owner Robert Hodgson at the California State Fair wine competition. Essentially, the panels of 65-70 expert judges were given a huge variety of wines to rank as per usual. But what they were not told was that they were actually given each of the wines three times and from the same exact bottle.

After running this same experiment four consecutive years, what Hodgson found was that, to quote the paper published on the experiment, Only “about 10 percent of the judges were able to replicate their score within a single medal group.” In fact, he even found about 10% of the judges were so far off that they switched a Bronze rating to a Gold for the exact same wine from the exact same bottle.

In another study conducted by Hodgson, An Analysis of the Concordance Among 13 U.S. Wine Competitions, it was found that in the vast majority of cases, receiving a Gold medal at one wine competition had virtually no correlation to not just being ranked similarly at another competition, but in many cases that same wine scoring below average at other competitions.

As to what’s going on here, Hodgson sums up, “…there are individual expert tasters with exceptional abilities sitting alone who have a good sense, but when you sit 100 wines in front of them the task is beyond human ability.”

In yet another test, this one by Frenchman Frédéric Brochet in 2001, he found that simply changing the label of the same bottle of wine from an expensive well thought of type to a cheap one resulted in the 57 taste testers almost universally changed their tune on not just how they liked it, but various attributes about it.

In another experiment, Brochet also gave a similar panel a glass of white wine and a glass of red wine and gave them a list of common words used to describe white and red wines and told them to assign them appropriately to the two wines in front of them. It turns out the red wine was actually the same as the white wine except dyed red, and only a small percentage of the testers were able to accurately identify that both wines tasted the same in the descriptive words they chose to identify each wine. And, yes, contrary to what is almost universally stated, not all of the taste testers got it wrong.

Nevertheless, most did. While you may try to argue that perhaps the results ended up being different because the dye had an effect on the flavor, beyond that it was purported to be flavorless dye, we can at least be reasonably sure it didn’t drastically alter the taste to “jammy”, “spicy”, and “intense”, among other common terms wine professionals use to talk about red wines.

That said, important to note here is that while Brochet’s studies are often cited as definitively showing how bad wine experts are at judging wines, in this case that they can’t even tell the difference between red and white wines, that’s not what that study actually showed at all. Blindfold even amateur wine drinkers and legitimately give them a white and a red wine and they are going to likely do extremely well at telling the difference, as anyone whose drunk wine pretty much ever can attest. Rather, this test simply showed how easily our perception of things is influenced by suggestion.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life
Giphy

Just as importantly here, what literally every single source we could find not only leaves out when reporting this story, but in the vast majority of cases falsely states, is the actual qualifications of those being tested by Brochet. It turns out, the people he was using as taste testers were not experts at all, simply undergraduate students studying oenology (wine and wine making). While certainly probably more knowledgeable than your average person on the street, nobody would call an undergraduate mathematics major just learning the ropes a “math expert”, nor would their skills be indicative of what their professors who have vastly more experience and are actual experts are capable of doing.

Thus, how expert any of these students were at the point in their education when given these tests isn’t clear. What would be far more interesting and indicative is to give that same exact test to the world’s Master Sommeliers and see how they did. Presumably because they still have monkey brains like the rest of us, they would still perform poorly, but nobody yet has run that test that we could fine.

However they would do in such a scenario, what is undeniable is that study after study shows that our perception and expectation vastly influences our experiences, not just in wine tasting, but pretty much every facet of life.

As the Master Sommeliers demonstrate by passing the taste test they are subjected to in the first place, with enough time and study, there are actually people who are exceptionally good at identifying and judging attributes of wines in the right circumstances. But overwhelm there sense with 100 wines or change their expectations about what they are tasting and their perceptions will change significantly, seemingly, making them little better than a random person off the street at telling anything definitive about the wine.

And then when adding not just telling attributes about the wine, but also whether it is inexpensive to purchase or expensive, the whole thing is an effort in futility.

In the end, a hand crafted table might cost a lot more than one that is mass produced. But if they are made from more or less the same materials and the company mass producing them hasn’t chosen to cut any corners, the mass produced and often vastly cheaper table will in a lot of cases actually be objectively better, and certainly more consistently so, thanks to machined and automated precision. But that doesn’t stop people from appreciating and enjoying their hand crafted table more than the same basic table purchased from Ikea.

As with everything, you like what you like. Wine tasting is subjective and what about a given type appeals to you is really all that matters. If knowing you paid 0 for that glass enhances your experience, then great. For others buying several bottles of Two-Buck Chuck so they can enjoy many glasses with a large group of friends at a party may make that one all the more enjoyable. For others, the experience of attending wine events where various fancy wines are sampled and discussed more than makes them worth the extra cost and the trip. For yet others, even when sipping alone at home, the cheap wine that has had sugars added to make it a little sweeter might be their preferred cup of tea. As the old adage goes, “The only thing that matters with regard to a wine is whether or not you like it.”

Whatever your preferences, just don’t be a snob about it. Whether a wine connoisseur or not, I think we can all agree wine snobs are right up there with Grammar Nazis in two groups nobody at any expertise level likes, probably not even themselves.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy:

MIGHTY CULTURE

1917 is a war film crafted with military precision

World War I, The Seminal Catastrophe of the 20th Century, hasn’t spawned nearly as many films as did the Second World War that was to follow only 20 years later. For every Warhorse, Lawrence of Arabia, and All Quiet on the Western Front, there are troves of iconic films like Schindler’s List, Dunkirk, Thin Red Line, Saving Private Ryan, Sands of Iwo Jima, The Longest Day, etc…


Perhaps this is related to the good versus evil rationale on which WWII was fought, whereas WWI had a much more nuanced and convoluted reason for its existence, i.e. a series of binding treaties that exploded into a global war.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

In the newest WWI film, 1917, the overarching causes behind why the soldiers are in trenches become irrelevant thanks to an expertly-crafted, human story that envelops the viewer with a common principle found in all wars and in the films that depict it; you fight for the soldiers next to you. Along with sharp performances and thoughtful writing, the filmmakers enlist a technique as difficult to achieve as it is powerful in its reception; a simulated single camera shot following the action from mission-start to mission-finish.

The film’s use of one continuous shot (or perhaps a few hundred stitched-together shots) is designed for one specific reason; to put the audience in the shoes of two young British soldiers, tasked with carrying an urgent message of life or death to the frontlines. Effectively nullifying the safety blanket of the traditional editor where multiple shots can be combined into a film, 1917’s continuous shot leaves very little room for error with the director, cinematographer, and other crew on set. In military terms, to make this film a blockbuster, Director Sam Mendez took a chance with a 0 million sniper shot, and he nailed it.

When Mendez and cinematographer Roger Deakins (both Oscar winners) decided to craft 1917 using only one shot and rely on the edit only to mask or stitch the various sequences together, they set out to bring the audience into the world of frontline war-fighting. There are no breaks. There are no pauses between frames or shots or scenes to give your brain time to catch up. The viewer is embedded with these men from mission-start to mission-finish and thus given a proximity not often afforded to audiences. The result is a visceral and captivating glimpse into the heartbreakingly painful agonies of war; especially a war as devastating as WWI. Yet, in doing so, it also provides the audience with a heightened sense of triumph as the young soldiers conquer insurmountable odds.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

Whereas the creative choice of using one shot adds elemental gravitas and depth to 1917, it’s execution also proves the filmmakers’ dedication to this story. Due to the complexity and continuous nature of the one-shot format, the planning of every shot, performance, movement, light, wardrobe detail, effect, etc. called for the utmost military precision.

Employing the preparation, foresight, ingenuity, and assiduousness needed to lead an army into battle, Mendez and his lieutenants triumphed.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why ‘grunt graffiti’ should be considered an art movement

Art comes in all forms. You can look at a Rembrandt painting and say his mastery of shadows was the antithesis of the Baroque movement that characterized much of 17th-century Europe. You might scoff at a contemporary art piece that, to you, looks like a coffee spill on some printer paper but, according to the artist, “like, totally captures the spirit of America and stuff.”

While we can all objectively say that the coffee-stained paper isn’t going to be studied by scholars hundreds of years from now, both of these examples are, technically, art. That’s because art isn’t defined by its quality but rather by the expression of the artist. To quote the American poet Muriel Rukeyser,

“a work of art is one through which the consciousness of the artist is able to give its emotion to anyone who is prepared to receive them. There is no such thing as bad art.”

In some senses, Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomically correct Vitruvian Man and that giant wang that some infantryman drew in the porta-john in Iraq are more similar than you realize. Not only is a penis central to content of both works — both also fall in line with a given art movement.


15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life
Although grunt graffiti wouldn’t ever be as influential as works from the Renaissance.
(Leonardo da Vinci, ‘L’Uomo Vitruviano,’ drawing, 1490)

Art movements generally follow a few guidelines — and “grunt graffiti” fits within those. The artists (troops) share a similar ideal (discontent with a deployed environment) and employ the same style (crude and hastily drawn) with the same technical approach (permanent markers on walls) to create art within the same time frame in a similar location (Global War on Terrorism).

The general public mislabels the simplicity and minimalism of grunt graffiti as being “unengaging.” But Pablo Picasso is also often placed in this category, too, despite his skill. In December 1945, he created a series of 11 lithographs that began with several masterful sketches of a bull. The lithographs, in sequence, became increasingly abstract while still preserving the “spirit” of the bull — a slap in the face to those who confuse proficiency and artistry.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life
At the end, he was able to break its form down to seven lines and two circles.
(Pablo Picasso, ‘The Bull’, lithographs, 1945)

Grunt graffiti is so entwined with military culture that you can find it in almost any stall. Some are elaborately crafted and some are simple doodles. Some are drawn out of boredom and some are made to tell the unit how that troop feels.

Granted, “grunt graffiti” is, more often than not, some kinda crudely drawn dick. Now, we know that nobody is actually going to examine these porta-john decorations closely (unless it’s to punish the artist for vandalism), but we maintain that if a canvas painted white (known to some as “monochromatic art“) can sell for $20 million at auction, then recreating the frescos that adorn the Sistine Chapel (with all prominent themes replaced, primarily, with dicks) should at least get a little respect.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life
(Maximilian Uriate, ‘Sh*tter Graffiti is an Art… of Dicks III’, Comic, 2014)

Do Not Sell My Personal Information