In 1955, the Army made a video about the the two most handsome military police officers in the history of the Army and their foot patrols through U.S. town, providing “moral guidance” for soldiers and interrupting all sorts of trouble before it starts.
Oddly, they don’t write a single speeding ticket, but they do snatch a staff sergeant for driving recklessly.
The military police are moving on foot through the town, learning all the local haunts off base and providing services ranging from giving bus route advice to providing first aid to injured soldiers. They interrupt fights before they happen and let troops know what areas are off limits.
A much wider portfolio than the speed traps they’re known for today.
And the video specifically highlights the “moral services” of the military police officers, which is pretty surprising information for anyone who’s partied with MPs.
The dangerous gunmen that the MPs stop from shooting up Augusta, Georgia.
But even in ’50s propaganda, the MPs get into some blue falcon shenanigans, waking up a soldier waiting on a bus to get onto him about his uniform, then detaining a soldier on pass for looking slightly shady.
They even find an idiot boot playing pool in his G.I. boots.
Their finest moment comes when they catch a wanted soldier carrying the world’s most adorable pistol while loitering near an art studio. Of course, our intrepid heroes catch the ne’er-do-well without a shot fired after drawing on him in the mean streets of Augusta, Georgia.
Actual line in this scene: “Punishment? Well, the sergeant’s company commander will take care of that.” Um, yeah, of course the commander makes the decision, because MPs have all the punitive powers of a Boy Scout.
Hint: If you want to make a group of soldiers look awesome, give them a more forgiving challenge than rolling boots in one of the safest cities in the Union. Maybe highlight their role in maneuver warfare or the way they breach buildings and fight gunmen inside.
The worst infraction the MPs find in this video, outside of the miniature gunfighter, is a stolen valor major at 25:30.
The video is almost 30 minutes long, but has plenty of unintentional humor to keep you chuckling. Check it out up top, and be sure to share it with any MP buddies who get too big for their britches.
Parachutes, manufactured and packed en masse during World War II to accompany Allied aviators on missions, had a very important job to do: open.
Lucky for me, my grandfather’s did. He was a 23-year-old US Army Air Corps pilot shot down over France a month before D-Day. He bailed out over central France, after his seven crewmates and moments before their B-24 Liberator exploded in the sky.
They all hit the ground on better terms than their plane, thanks to their parachutes (and, in a longer story, they all survived their respective journeys through occupied France, thanks largely to French patriots and resistants who helped them).
And last May, I traveled to his crash site in Mably, France, for a beautiful 75th anniversary commemoration event. A Frenchman came up to me and explained that he’d been a baby in a village near the crash site during the war, and that his mother recovered one of the airman’s parachutes and made it into a swaddle and carrier for him.
He recalled converting the material into a hammock — a swing he played in even after the war, when shortages and hardship from the devastation of the battles, air raids, and Nazi occupation persisted throughout Europe. This is one of many examples of how people made use of the life-saving silk, canvas, and nylon canopy contraptions falling from the sky during World War II everywhere from France and Yugoslavia to Japan and the Philippines.
Here are more ways parachutes’ function and form extended beyond the time they hit the ground.
Hilda Galloway and Robert Ellsworth Wickham at their wedding on October 14, 1945. Ellsworth Wickham flew 22 missions, including one bail out over France in January 1945. He gave pieces of his parachute to the doctors and nurses who helped him after he jumped.
Albert Williamson was a radio operator/gunner with the 384th BG/545th Bomb Squadron. On December 15, 1945 he married his longtime sweetheart, Ruth Glendinning, who walked down the aisle in this gown her cousin sewed using a parachute Williamson brought home.
So began a wave of wedding wear constructed from chutes brought back from war, including ones that fellow American women and men had sewn on the homefront and that had saved their and their enemies’ lives.
There was the commodity in and of itself, along with the meaning and specialness behind it. Used and surplus World War II parachutes were “a wonderful gift to pass along,” Kiser says.
If you’ve never been on a combat deployment, you’re what many troops call a “boot.” That being said, the different military branches have varying definitions of what a boot is and what it takes to shed the newbie label.
In short, the term is used mainly to describe someone who is fresh out of boot camp and hasn’t done jack sh*t in their military career.
If you’re headed off to serve in the infantry and you’re a boot, you’ll be reminded of that fact several times a day.
Like we said, you’ll be called a boot more times than you’ll care to count — it’s a birthright. However, as more time passes and you thrive in your MOS, you’ll seldom hear that famous word.
2. You’ve worn out your first uniform while “in-country”
When you deploy to a war zone, you typically don’t pack more than just one or two bags. You’re bringing the basics you need to get you through the time you’re expected to be gone.
So, when you wear out one of the uniforms you’ve been fighting in, it’s time to toss that sucker into the burn pit. By that point, chances are you’ve put in a lot of work and you’re no longer a boot.
3. You survived your first real enemy contact
Like we said before, requirements for shedding the “boot” label may vary by branch, but this one is pretty standard for everyone. Once you’ve taken incoming rounds while outside of the wire and you’ve returned fired, you can confidently consider yourself a badass. Many troops freeze up on their first time taking enemy contact — it happens.
4. Someone who’s been around asks for occupational advice
This one’s not a guarantee that your boot status has been lifted, but it’s a great sign.
5. You’re placed in charge of your company’s “boot drop”
Remember when you and a bunch of your fellow troops first arrived at your first unit? That’s what we call a “boot drop.” So, if your sergeant or corporal asks you to handle the onboarding process, chances are, you’re not a boot anymore.
The Army recently demonstrated extended ranges for the guided multiple launch rocket system, and two 155mm cannon artillery precision munitions.
Aligning with the Army’s top priority — Long-Range Precision Fires — these changes support the force’s need for both close and deep-strike capabilities against a near-peer adversary.
Last fall, the Army conducted demonstrations of the new XM1113 and Excalibur M982 munitions from a prototype Extended Range Cannon Artillery, or ERCA self-propelled howitzer
The XM1113 Insensitive Munition High Explosive Rocket Assisted Projectile is slated to replace the Army’s aging M549A1 rounds. Currently, the M549 rounds can reach about 30 km.
The XM1113 reached 72 km during a demonstration, said Rich Granitzki, Long-Range Precision Fires Science and Technology Advisor for Combat Capabilities Development Command, or CCDC, at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey.
The XM1113 consists of a high fragmentation steel body with a streamlined ogive, the curved portion of a projectile between the fuze well and the bourrelet, and a high performance rocket motor. The projectile body is filled with insensitive munition high explosive and a supplementary charge. On gun launch, propellant gases initiate a delay device that will ignite the rocket motor, boosting velocity at an optimal time in the trajectory to maximize range.
(US Army photo)
Similarly, the Excalibur M982 is a Global Positioning System-guided, extended-range artillery projectile, supporting the Army’s next generation of cannon artillery.
During a limited-range test, the M982 exhibited an increase in range, going from 40 to 62 km, Granitzki added.
Moving forward, ammo modernization and improvements to cannon technologies will play a vital role in optimizing these and other armaments technologies to reach “extended ranges and to get increased rates of fire,” Granitzki said.
“We are still maturing our demonstrators, component technology and subsystems, in advance of future demonstrations to transition our systems to programs of record,” he added.
The Army has also made improvements to the XM30 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, or GMLRS, nearly doubling its range.
The current XM30 rocket is a GPS-guided high-speed rocket equipped with small wing-like controls on the nose of the projectile to enhance accuracy. The XM30 system has an advertised range of 70 km, said Mike Turner, fire support capability area lead supporting CCDC Aviation Missile Center.
To extend the XM30’s range, the Army moved the control fins to the rear of the device, Turner said. In addition to the tail controls, the Army redesigned the nose of the rocket to make it aerodynamic, equipped the device with a light-weight composite motor, and added propellant.
Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System.
(US Army photo)
In result, the new Tail Controlled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, or TC-G, reached 139 km during a demonstration at altitude.
“This takes a product that exists in the Army’s inventory and nearly doubles the range,” he said. “By moving the control surfaces to the rear, we’re giving it more control, maneuverability, and range.”
To support the new device, the Army fabricated a composite smooth-bore tube, ensuring a clean launch for the guided rocket,” said Brett Wilks, a TC-G program manager.
In theory, these tubes could be retrofitted to existing launch systems, resulting in no significant impact to current Army software or hardware, he added
CCDC completed the science and technology phase of the program in September 2018. The Army looks to transition the program to an initial operating capability in the next couple of years, Turner said.
“It is our mission at CCDC AvMC to look at future concepts and reduce risk. We showed the Army what’s capable for long-range missile systems,” he added.
There’s a subsection of YouTube dedicated to playing the same song on repeat, over and over again, for hours at a time. Parents think it’s just a part of raising children when they have to listen to the same kids’ song, over and over again, for days at a time. Both of these cases have nothing on the five months of playing the exact same polka song over 1,500 times, continuously, as the Soviets retreated from Finland during the Continuation War.
As the Finns recaptured the city of Vyborg from the Soviets, they would have to travel across land saturated with mines left behind by the Soviets. When the Finns chased out Soviet soldiers, the Soviets retreated to safety, the mines detonated and devastated the Finns. There were so many mines left that civilians, even after reclaiming the city, were still forbidden to reenter their homes.
This was until an unexploded mine and the radio equipment next to it was brought to Jouko Pohjanpalo, credited as being the “father of Finnish radio” for his work establishing the Finnish radio field. Jouko tinkered with the explosives and the associated radio device and discovered that it operated at the frequency 715 kHz. Inside the radio receiver were three tuning forks. When a certain three-note sequence was sent over the radio and all three forks vibrated — boom.
Now all they needed to do was send out a signal to jam the sequence. They needed something fast with a lot of chords that wouldn’t also set off the mines. So, they played Säkkijärven Polkka by Viljo “Vili” Vesterinen. It was an immensely popular song at the time and many Finns associated it with great national pride, similar to how Americans feel today hearing America, F*ck Yeah!
And so began Operation: Säkkijärvi Polkka. The Finns blasted the song at 715 kHz so the mines wouldn’t explode and they continued to fight. The Soviets learned what was going on and changed the radio frequency for their mines. Because the Soviets didn’t change the mines, just the frequency, the Finns played the song on repeat on every frequency the mines could possibly operate on. Out of the one thousand or so mines in the city, only 12 went off.
In a press interview years later, Jouko told them,
In the crowds and the homeland, the operation received a legendary reputation because of its mystery. Säkkijärvi’s polka went together about 1,500 times. All kinds of rumors circulated about somebody crazy enough to have emitted it on every radio station.
To hear the majestic polka song that helped win a war, check out the video below.
With those words, Air Force veteran Nadine Stanford became the first Community Living Center resident at VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System to complete a battlefield acupuncture (BFA) treatment.
Not more than 15 minutes before treatment, Stanford told VA Pittsburgh acupuncturist Amanda Federovich that the pain in her buttocks was a ten on the zero-to-10 pain scale. Ten reflects the worst pain Stanford could imagine.
Stanford had previously tried narcotic painkillers, analgesics, benzodiazepines, kinesthesia and music therapy. Nothing really worked for her pain until Federovich gently inserted five tiny needles into each of Stanford’s ears.
Five points on the ear correspond to specific areas of the body, explained Federovich. Point by point, the acupuncturist places needles in one ear and then the other until the patient says they feel better. By confining treatment to the ears, battlefield acupuncture practitioners can give care on the battlefield or whenever a service member’s entire body is not available for treatment.
“I have no pain,” said Nadine Stanford after treatment.
Each time Federovich placed a pair of needles, she asked Stanford to move her arms and hands. With every placement, Stanford found it easier to move. Every time Federovich asked Stanford if she wanted the treatment to continue, she responded with an enthusiastic “Oh yeah” or “Yes ma’am!”
“I was elated that Nadine was pain-free by the end of the session,” Federovich said. “Her daily life is a struggle due to pain from her contractures, spasms, and wounds. It is very overwhelming to see her that happy and relaxed.”
Federovich cautioned that battlefield acupuncture doesn’t always work so quickly and dramatically. “The average response to BFA is a 2.2-point reduction in pain [on the zero-to-10 scale] from pre- to post-session. Some veterans have a more significant pain reduction response than others. Having total pain relief is the best-case scenario.”
Federovich said that battlefield acupuncture, along with standard acupuncture, is a key component of the Whole Health movement. Whole Health focuses on outcomes the veteran wants for their life, as opposed to diseases or injuries they may have. It also arranges care to meet those outcomes.
“We’re empowering our veterans to be an active participant in their health care,” she said. “Things like chronic pain, anxiety, PTSD, these are things that battlefield acupuncture can address so the veterans are not dependent on meds.”
Federovich is the first advanced practice nurse at VA Pittsburgh to be certified in battlefield acupuncture. As a result, she is ready to train other health care practitioners. “I am eager to roll BFA out to the rest of the facility. I am hopeful that other veterans will have similar responses and improve their quality of life.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Beijing has carried out anti-aircraft drills with missiles fired against drone targets over the South China Sea after the US challenged it by flying B-52 bombers across the region.
China’s drills were intended to simulate fending off an aerial attack on unspecified islands within the waterway. Beijing lays unilateral claim to almost all of the South China Sea, a passage that sees trillions in annual shipping.
Chinese missiles, deployed to the South China Sea despite previous promises from Beijing not to militarize the islands, fired at drones flying overhead to simulate combat, the South China Morning Post reported.
Typically, the US carries out its challenges by sailing warships, usually guided missile destroyers, near the shores of its islands in a signal that the US does not recognize China’s claims. China always reacts harshly, accusing the US of challenging its sovereignty, but the US challenged the excessive maritime claims of 22 nations in 2016.
Afghan officials said unknown aircraft hit Taliban forces in a province along the border with Tajikistan, killing eight militants, a day after a shooting that left at least two Tajiks killed.
The origin of the aircraft was unclear. Tajik officials denied its warplanes or helicopters were involved, as did Russia, which has a sizable military contingent in Tajikistan.
Khalil Asir, spokesman for police in Afghanistan’s Takhar province, said the aircraft struck early on Aug. 27, 2018, in the Darqad district near the border area. In addition to the dead, six other militants were wounded, he said.
Cross-border clashes are rare along Afghanistan’s 1,400-kilometer border with Tajikistan. However, security in some border provinces, including Takhar, has deteriorated over the past few months and regular clashes have broken out between Afghan security forces and militant groups, including the Taliban.
Spokesman Khalil Asir says eight Taliban militants were killed in the attack.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, confirmed the attack, saying it broke out between drug smugglers and Tajik border guards. Mujahid said the aircraft bombed a forested area used by smugglers.
Mohammad Jawid Hejri, the provincial governor’s spokesman, also said the clash had occurred between drug smugglers in Afghanistan and Tajik border guards. He said the area is under Taliban control.
Asked by RFE/RL’s Tajik Service about the reported airstrike, border guard spokesman Muhammadjon Ulughkhojaev said he could not confirm it.
“An operation to search for and detain armed individuals is ongoing” in a neighboring region, he said. “But the Border Guards Service didn’t use helicopters there.”
Other Tajik security agencies did not immediately respond to queries about other aircraft in the area.
The incident came one day after two Tajik foresters were killed in a shooting incident along the border. A Tajik security official, who asked not to be named, told RFE/RL’s Tajik Service that the shooting — either gunfire or mortars — came from the Afghan side of the border.
A third Tajik forester was also wounded in the Aug. 26, 2018 shooting, according to Sulton Valizoda, the head of the Farkhor district.
“Foresters, along with an employee of a livestock farm, were out gathering hay. They had official permission,” Valizoda told RFE/RL’s Tajik Service. “But they were attacked, and two were killed. The case is being investigated.”
The Tajik Border Guard Service said in a statement on Aug. 26, 2018 that the three were all forest rangers.
There are things common to the military no matter what branch a service-member joins, and they often extend outside the front gate of the installation. We all have a type, right?
Whether in the Air Force or the Army, troops can count on regulations sometimes making no sense, or running into the same types of people during their daily routine. But outside of bases — which are often a major driver of the local economy — there are archetypes that exist just about everywhere. Here they are.
1. The civilian girl at the bar who knows military rank structure way too well.
You’re at the local watering hole kicking back a few beers with your friends, and you see a pretty girl at the other end of the bar. So you get up, walk over, and introduce yourself. “Oh, are you a soldier?” she asks, as if the haircut and demeanor doesn’t give it away. “What rank are you?”
Just run away. Now.
2. The retired sergeant major or chief who corrects you at the gas station.
Troops are basically free and clear of the military once they get past the gate of a base outside of a big populated area like Camp Pendleton (Orange County-San Diego, Calif.) or Fort Jackson (Columbia, S.C.), but that isn’t always the case in some other posts. At places like Camp Lejeune (Jacksonville, N.C.) or Minot Air Force Base (Minot, N.D.), the base is arguably one of the main drivers of the local economy, and many people are connected to it in some way.
And for some military retirees especially, sticking close to their old base gives them the opportunity to stay connected to their service — by telling you how terrible your haircut is at the local gas station.
3. The guy at the tattoo parlor who has put the same lame tattoo on everyone since Vietnam.
The town surrounding a military base is pretty much guaranteed to have a good assortment of tattoo parlors. But the tattoo parlors don’t really have an assortment of different designs. Marine bases can expect “USMC” in every possible font, while sailors will see plenty of anchors to choose from on the wall. And the artist has been tattoing the same designs for so long, he or she can probably do it in their sleep.
4. The shady used car dealer who thinks E-1 and up can easily afford a brand new 2015 Ford Mustang at 37% interest.
The used car dealer is guaranteed to be a stone’s throw away from the base gate, and it usually has signs that read “E-1 and Up!” along with “We Support our Troops!” Most of the time, the way they support the troops is by screwing them out of their hard-earned money with insanely lopsided deals.
“Oh hey, I’m a former Marine too, so I’ll definitely hook you up, brother,” is probably a red flag from the salesman. Another red flag is your financing statement showing an interest rate consisting of more than one number. Go somewhere else, so you don’t end up paying $100,000 over a period of six years for a Ford Taurus.
5. The guy at the Pawn Shop selling gear that suspiciously went missing from the back of your car last week. We don’t like this type.
You may have heard the phrase “gear adrift, gear a gift.” As it turns out, that gear may sometimes end up as a gift being sold at the local pawn shop. Or on eBay.
6. The police officer who used to be in the military but isn’t cutting you any slack on this speeding ticket.
You may be able to pull the military veteran card in small town U.S.A. to help you get out of a ticket, but outside of a major military installation — where the cops are pretty much pulling over troops all day long — that probably isn’t a good strategy.
Especially when you run into a cop who used to be in your shoes a couple years ago. Of course, you could always just, you know, slow down.
What other types of people or places do you always see outside the base? Leave us a comment.
In terms of technological advancement on the battlefield, World War II oversaw a complete transition from the fighting of the 19th century to the advanced mechanized warfare of the future. By the end of the war, the world would reach the atomic age. At the war’s start, however, the armies of Europe and Asia were still using cavalry and horses.
That doesn’t mean the horse-mounted units weren’t effective. The opposite is actually true, and the most efficient uses of cavalry came on World War II’s Eastern Front, in Poland and later the Soviet Union.
After launching Operation Barabarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, the Germans made sweeping advances into Soviet territory, inflicting havey damage on the Red Army and capturing hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops.
Then, the German soldiers brutalized those prisoners of war. The advance also took a heavy toll on Soviet civilians. When the Germans were defeated at Stalingrad in 1943 and forced to fall back, the Red Army made sure the German soldiers paid a heavy price for all of their transgressions.
A trademark of the German invasion was the constant encirclement, capture or defeat of entire Soviet divisions. When it came time to make an envelopment of their own, the communist troops would give Hitler’s soldiers a taste of their own medicine.
By Fall 1943, the German Army was pushed all the way back to what is today Ukraine, after coming within 100 miles of taking the Soviet capital of Moscow. German Field Marshal Erich von Manstein’s Army Group South fell back to the Dnieper River, where the Germans were supposed to have constructed a series of fortifications in case the invasion failed.
These fortifications were supposed to have been built for the situation they now found themselves in. Except the fortifications had never been built. The Germans were forced back further and the Soviets were coming right for them.
The German 8th Army reformed a 62-mile front, with the town of Korsun in its center. The Germans were low on supplies, ammunition, and pretty much anything else needed to fight a war. The Russians, on the other hand, were flush with fresh troops and American-made equipment and vehicles.
By early February, Russian Field Marshal Georgy Zhukov decided he would use the same tactic he used to crush the German 6th Army at Stalingrad, a double envelopment. Just four days after the attack began, the envelopment of the German 8th began to form around Korsun. The move was much worse than the Germans originally thought – the Red Army had formed a double envelopment, the Korsun Pocket.
Relief to the pocket was hampered by both the weather and by German dictator Adolf HItler. Hitler ordered German forces outside the pocket to try to encircle the Red Army instead of helping the pocket simply break out. Then the weather turned unseasonably warm, turning the roads from frozen dirt to mud.
The Germans were barely able to move and the Korsun Pocket was soon whittled down to just seven square miles. The Wehrmacht had to break out or be destroyed and without orders from Hitler, made the attempt on Feb. 16, three weeks into the battle.
But the Soviets were ready for the attempt, and brought every tank and gun they could to stem the German breakout. As the Germans advanced, the Soviet brought T-34 tanks into their formation, driving over hundreds of infantrymen. Then, the Cossacks attacked.
Horse-mounted cavalry armed with sabers poured into the German defenders, and as they broke and ran for the safety of nearby hills and streams, they were literally cut down by the Cossack cavalry. Those who tried to surrender with their hands raised in the air found their hands lopped off.
For three hours, the heavy horsemen hunted the Germans. 20,000 were killed in the Korsun Pocket fighting and 8,000 were eventually taken prisoner.
The US and Japan have been conducting a tireless, around-the-clock search for a missing F-35 for a week, but so far, they have yet to recover the downed fighter or its pilot. A life is on the line, and the “secrets” of the most expensive weapon in the world are lost somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.
A Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter flown by 41-year-old Maj. Akinori Hosomi disappeared from radar on April 9, 2019. No distress signal was sent out as the aircraft vanished roughly 85 miles east of Misawa Air Base.
The disappearance is the first crash of the F-35A and the first time a third-party user has lost an F-35, making this a uniquely troubling situation for everyone involved. (A US Marine Corps F-35B crashed in South Carolina in September 2018; the pilot was able to eject safely).
Japan determined that the aircraft most likely crashed after pieces of the missing fifth-generation stealth fighter were discovered at sea last week. The US and Japan have since been searching non-stop for the plane believed to be lying vulnerable on the ocean floor at a depth of 5,000 feet.
A US Indo-Pacific Command spokeswoman told Business Insider that finding the pilot remains the priority.
A Pentagon spokesman previously told BI that the US “stands ready to support the partner nation in recovery” in the event that a fighter goes missing. He pointed to the spat with Turkey to emphasize how serious the US is about ensuring that the advanced technology doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
A United States Air Force F-35A Lightning II.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander Cook)
Japan, which has grounded the rest of its F-35s, recognizes the seriousness of the situation as well.
“The F-35A is an airplane that contains a significant amount of secrets that need to be protected,” Japan’s defense minister, Takeshi Iwaya, told reporters, according to The Japan Times.
While there are concerns that a third country, namely Russia or China, might attempt to find and grab the missing fighter, the Japanese defense ministry has not detected any unusual activity around the crash site.
Were Russia or China to recover the downed F-35, it could be a major intelligence windfall, especially given the fact that both countries have their own fifth-generation fighter programs dedicated to rivaling the US fighter.
The plane is suspected to have crashed within Japan’s exclusive economic zone, which would legally limit third party activity, but as Tom Moore, a former senior professional staff member with the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tweeted recently, “There is no price too high in this world for China and Russia to pay to get Japan’s missing F-35.”
The US dispatched the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem, P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft, and a U-2 reconnaissance plane to assist Japanese submarine rescue ships, coast guard vessels, and rotary aircraft in their search for the missing fighter and its pilot.
In December 2018, the US searched the seas for the crew of a KC-130J that collided with a fighter jet. The search concluded after five days. The current search has been ongoing for a week. It is unclear if or at what point the US and Japan would call off the search for the Japanese pilot and his downed fighter.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Some military traditions make sense to nearly everyone — little things that show mutual respect, like leaders serving food to their subordinates on holidays or NCOs electing to eat after their guys. Other traditions are odd at first blush, like messing with the new guy or passing through an archway after graduating a class or achieving a higher rank, but civilians can generally understand where they come from.
But then there are the ones that require a lot of explaining to your civilian family members. Every time, these story begins with a, “well, you see. It kinda goes back to…” and more often than not, the explanation just makes them tilt their head in confusion.
At one point, the following traditions may have meant something to one person or a group, but today, the original meaning is buried beneath decades of military bearing and tradition. We mostly just do them because, well, if it ain’t broke — and no one’s getting UCMJ’d for it — why bother stopping?
10. Paratroopers and cherry pies
When you finish going through Army Airborne School, your head will be spinning, filled with all of the information you’ll need to not shatter every bone in your body when you make a landing. You’ll have to master the art of hooking up your static line and perform countless parachute landing falls before you’re even able to get the chance to actually jump out of a perfectly good airplane.
Finally, the moment of truth arrives — you finally get to jump with your unit in the 82nd. Your superiors will recommend that you fill your cargo pockets with Hostess Cherry Pies first. They’ll often say it’s for some reason like, “in case you get hungry when you land” or whatever. Who are you to argue?
When your big moment finally comes and you take in the sights while falling gracefully, you’ll hopefully have your PLFs burnt into the back of your mind as second nature. Everything will happen so fast that you’ll forget those cherry pies in your pants. When you land, you’ll squish all those pies and leave a nice red stain on your uniform.
9. Actual callsigns
In pop culture, callsigns are the coolest things ever. You’ll often see some badass names, like Iceman, Maverick, or Snake used in TV and movies. They’re always just made up because they sound cool and the storytellers don’t really know how the military works.
In reality, callsigns are usually unit designations followed by a number to signify who they are in said unit. So, for example, the commander of the Alpha company “Black Sheep” would be known as “Black Sheep 6,” and the first sergeant of the same unit is “Black Sheep 7.”
If you’re looking for unique callsigns, those are in the aviation world, and they’re typically less cool and more nonsensical. For example, if you eat a Pop-Tart one time in front of another pilot, your callsign is now forever “Pop-Tart.” Good going, Pop-Tart. That’s your callsign until the end of time.
8. The grog bowl
At civilian parties, if there’s a punch bowl, it’ll be centrally placed and it may or may not have some kind of alcohol in it. Whenever the military throws a unit ball, that punch bowl will most certainly have alcohol in it… plus a whole slew of other random things that would make anyone throw up.
Most of the leadership of the unit gets a chance to add one ingredient to the grog bowl (which is a toilet bowl) and offer some kind of nonsense to explain why their chosen ingredient has some kind of significance to the unit.
You can expect classic grog bowl ingredients, like hot sauce, because of the deserts the unit deploys to, ground coffee, because of the long hours the troops works, a cup of salt, because of the sweat that troops give to the cause, and a dirty sock because… reasons?
7. Blood wings and blood stripes
When civilians get promoted or graduate some school, the accomplishment is usually met with a party or a card that’s signed by everyone in the office. That sounds pleasant. Troops, on the other hand, almost always lose a bit of blood over it.
Blood wings and blood stripes are, essentially, the same thing. You get the wings from a school and the stripes from a promotion. Then, everyone takes turn punching it in. It’s technically considered hazing, but the troop receiving the blood wings/stripes usually agrees to it. There (typically) isn’t any malice or hate involved in the ceremony and troops usually walk away with a bit more pride in whoever bled for their new badge/rank.
6. Challenge coin “duels”
There’s nothing really odd about challenge coins in general. It’s basically the same thing as collecting trading cards as a kid, but instead of aiming for a holographic Charizard, you’re aiming for the coolest-looking coin with the most badass backstory.
Usually, officers will keep the coolest coins on their desk in their office to casually gloat about and enlisted troops keep them in some drawer at home, but sh*t gets real when troops take their coins to the bars. The ensuing game basically goes like this:
Troops unsheathe their coolest coin. If you don’t have your coin on you, you buy the drinks. If everyone has a coin, whoever has the “least valuable coin” buys the drinks. Since the “value” is determined by backstory and design — both of which are subjective — this game almost always ends in a shouting match over who has to pick up the tab.
5. ‘Stache contests
In case you haven’t nailed down the common thread between all of these traditions, the military is engaged in a perpetual pissing contest. Troops are in constant contest to see who can do literally anything better than the next guy; to see who is the most macho of the troops. It should come as no surprise that one of the most macho things out there, facial hair, gets quantified into some sort of challenge.
The problem with this is that the military doesn’t allow most versions of facial hair — that is, with the exception of a very thin mustache. A word of warning: The first two weeks of a mustache-off makes every contestant look pathetic.
Mustache contests usually begin at the start of the deployment (presumably, when troops’ wives have less of a say in the matter) and, after a certain point, someone is declared a winner. Yet, the Air Force has unanimously decided to make March their official contest month. Whichever airman grows the best mustache by the end of March wins a high five or whatever.
4. The West Point pillow battle royale
At some point during the first years of the most intense academy for the U.S. Army’s future officers, students are offered a unique way of handling the stresses of simultaneously earning a college education while enduring four years of constant military training. These future warriors, trained in all things warfare with the intention of becoming the Army’s next generation of great leaders, settle things the exact same way as children at slumber parties — with a pillow fight.
As goofy as this sounds, things got serious. Yes. “got” — very much in the past tense, as this tradition was unceremoniously banned in 2015 in response to numerous injuries. Most cadets donned full kevlars and vests and beat the hell out of each other with pillows. More than thirty plebes that year were sent to the hospital for serious injuries, despite the strict no-hard-objects-in-the-pillows rule.
Thankfully, they had PT belts on or this could have gotten even more out of hand.
3. Blasting up the lieutenant’s patrol cap
In the technical terms, a “blasting cap” is a small, sensitive primary explosive device used to detonate a larger, more powerful and less-sensitive secondary explosive. Soldiers in the artillery world take this term literally whenever they welcome a new platoon leader.
When the platoon first goes out for a live-fire exercise with a brand new lieutenant, they’ll take the officer’s patrol cap (either willingly or otherwise) and tape it to the end of the barrel or backplate of a rocket pod. Then, the first round goes off; it’ll take the cap with it. The officer is then expected to retrieve the nearly-burnt-to-a-crisp cap so they can remain in uniform after the ceremony is done.
No one really knows when or where this began, but every artillery officer since then has had to buy a new cap the following day.
2. The sword butt tap at weddings
Most of the traditions on this list are kept within the realm of the military and don’t often affect civilians directly — with the major exception of military weddings. They are one of the most beautiful ways to introduce a new civilian spouse into our world. The troop’s comrades will attend wearing full dress uniforms, each carrying a sword to signify the protection they’ll offer the new spouse, as he or she is now kin.
The new comrades will serve as either groomsmen or bridesmaids and post guard outside of the chapel, or wherever the ceremony is held, and form a beautiful archway with their swords under which the married couple will walk.
Then, whoever is at the very end of the archway on the civilian spouse’s side will give a loving spank with their sword. Not a hard one, mind you, just a nice gentle way of letting them know that they’re now a part of the grander military family.
1. The Court of Neptune
Whenever a Navy vessel crosses a certain point on the globe, all sailors who’ve never done so get to be initiated into an unofficial fraternity of sailors who’ve been there before. The most famous example of these ceremonies is the moment a vessel crosses the Equator at any point in the world.
Officially, it’s called the “Crossing the Line” ceremony, but sailors know it as “the Court of Neptune.” The uninitiated (known as “slimy polliwogs”) must bow before King Neptune (as portrayed by the ship’s captain) and entertain his queen, Davy Jones, the Royal Baby, and his dignitaries (portrayed by other high ranking members of the crew) with a talent show.
Regardless of how the young sailors perform, they’re found guilty of being polliwogs and must answer for their crimes. They’re “punished” by eating an extremely spicy or disgusting breakfast and are forced kiss the Royal Baby’s greasy belly. Only then can they have their slimy polliwoginess washed in seawater to finally become trusty shellbacks.
Follow any of that? Neither did any of us other slimy polliwogs…
As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to get caught up in what we see as the success of others, but if social media has taught us anything, it’s that perception and reality are often quite different. Air Force veteran and founder, Charlynda Scales, wants more entrepreneurs to realize this.
From Scales’ experience, when we see someone achieve what appears to be significantly more than what we’ve accomplished, it sometimes makes us think we must be doing something wrong. Or maybe we aren’t smart enough or working hard enough. But more often than not, it’s none of that. It’s simply the fact that we’re only seeing the carefully crafted picture that person wanted you to see.
She says that despite her success, the reality of her situation behind the scenes was often far different than what other people assumed. They would see her activity on social channels, speaking at events and being featured by the media, and assume that her company was larger and generating significantly more revenue than it was.
She recalls a particular situation that exemplified this when she was asked to participate in an event hosted by Hill Vets. She had just left an unhealthy relationship taking only her clothes with her, was sleeping on a cot in an unfurnished apartment, and got a free makeover at the makeup counter in the mall before the event. She even wore a dress that she bought for $700, carefully tucking the tag away so that she could later return it after the event.
Seasoned entrepreneurs can relate to this experience, but many new founders don’t yet understand that the reality of entrepreneurship is often nothing like the glossy image we see on the surface.
There’s a lot of hard work, failure, challenges and disappointment behind the scenes. In many ways, it’s a lot like the military in that you need to be there for the right reasons. You need a powerful “why” to drive you through the hard times.
“You don’t have to feel qualified to be qualified to accomplish a goal or carry out a mission.”
Scales’ path was no surprise to anyone who knew her—after ROTC at Clemson University, she commissioned in the Air Force and became the fourth generation of veterans in her family. In fact, her company was named in honor of her grandfather, Charlie “Mutt” Ferrell Jr., who was also an Air Force veteran and served in Vietnam and Korea.
Scales then started Mutt’s Sauce while stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, with the only remaining copy of a recipe that had been handed down by her grandfather.
Her business grew rapidly from there, but her journey also included a number of challenges along the way.
Initially, she started by working with the local Amish community to handle contract manufacturing for her products in batches of 700-1000 bottles at a time, which she would then pick up and deliver herself. She quickly outgrew their capabilities and began seeking manufacturers who could handle a larger volume. Since then, she’s had to switch manufacturers three times to handle her consistently growing volume.
She sold just 18,000 bottles in 2018, followed by 36,000 in 2019, and then like most of us, was blindsided in 2020 by COVID. While she was already working on building a stronger online presence, this global event forced her to make a massive and immediate pivot, going all-in on e-commerce. Today, her products can be found on her own website and in several retail stores.
But Scales doesn’t attribute her success only to herself—she says she had a lot of help along the way, and she’s a huge believer in collaboration and mentorship because she’s experienced the leverage they create first-hand.
Unsurprising to most veterans, upwards of 90% of her collaboration comes from fellow veterans, many of whom she met through the Military Influencer Conference. But she has also collaborated with and received mentoring from industry titans like Daymond John, who was so impressed with what she had accomplished that he made her a Rise and Grind ambassador and included her in his latest book, Powershift.
In 2017, she learned about another opportunity for collaboration—the Heroes to CEOs grant, run by Bob Evans Farms. Candidates had to submit a video telling a compelling story about their business’s veteran backstory for a chance to win a $25,000 grant.
Mike Townsley, CEO of Bob Evans Farms, explained that the program is their way to carry on the spirit of Bob Evans, the company’s late founder. “He had a soft spot for the military and veterans because he served in the Army,” Townsley said.
For the second annual Heroes to CEOs contest, in addition to the grant, three finalists won a trip to New York City where they also received mentoring from Bob Evans Farms executives and a half-day coaching session with Shark Tank judge Daymond John. “He’s equipped to teach them ways to gain momentum that are unique to an entrepreneur,” Townsley said. “It’s so much more different starting a small business wearing many hats, versus a large corporation that I run.”
Scales, who was an Air Force Reservist at the time, was one of the finalists.
“I answered a call from an unknown number,” she said, “and it was Daymond John telling me I won the contest. I just lost it. I cried.”
But she’s most passionate about collaborating with fellow veterans.
One of those veterans was Molly Mae Potter, who won Ms. Veteran America in 2016, a contest where Scales was 2nd Runner Up. Potter and Scales attended the Military Influencer Conference together and served as ambassadors for Final Salute, an organization that helps house homeless female veterans.
“My grandfather taught me humility will take you further than money,” Scales said.
With her tenacity, collaboration with fellow veterans, mentorship from entrepreneurs like Daymond John and grant money from Bob Evans Farms, Charlynda managed to scale her company from a meager $30,000 its first year to almost $80,000 in 2019.
“I do it because my grandfather sacrificed so much for his family — because I’m fourth-generation military, and that means something. Because my mother gave up everything so I could get an education. Because everything is connected and things happen for a reason. I tell people all the time they need to spend some time understanding that reason – to harness their why – so that they can walk in their purpose.”