The 3 most confusing days of any military career - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

Serving your country as part of the armed forces is easily one of the greatest accomplishments you can achieve. Simply raising your right hand, signing on the dotting line, and joining a branch is a selfless act, regardless of your actual job.

Right out of the gate, many have no idea what to expect — this is normal. There are certain days, however, that will always be shrouded in particular mystery and confusion. Just because joining the military is an admirable choice doesn’t mean it’s a path free of doubt or misunderstanding. It’s a blazed trail that many have walked before you, but every service member experiences these days that require serious adjustment.


The 3 most confusing days of any military career

Day one in service? Yea, it’s a big, fat WTF moment

(Photo by Lance Cpl. David Bessey)

Day 1

The day you begin service is a special one — and we don’t mean “special” like when the moon shines perfectly over a still, beautiful lake, as if positioned just for you. It’s the kind of special that screams directly into your face with a kind of fury you’ve never seen before.

Sure, those who join from military families may have different expectations from those who had never seen a military uniform before meeting a recruiter. But no matter what you think your first day will be like, you’re going to be wrong.

Expect the unexpected.

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

What should be a joyous day can get really weird, really quick

The day you become a supervisor

This is a day that truly changes your military career, particularly for the enlisted. On this day, you ascend from the ranks of the Junior Enlisted and make your way to the glorious land of the NCO.

The birds are singing, you’re feeling like a million f*ckin’ bucks, and all is right in the world. Then, you’re forced to exercise your rank and authority either by general necessity or constitutional requirement. Nothing’s wrong with that, really, except that when this happens early on in your life as an NCO, your actions and decisions will be highly scrutinized. You are being watched.

It’s a weird place to find yourself in. You’re expected to make decisions and have some “know better” in your system, but you aren’t initially trusted with the unquestioned support we thought would come with the post.

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

This is what it feels like to get that glorious DD 214

Photo via Parade.com

The day you get out

There is a safe, happy post-service life waiting for all of us after we get that DD214, right? Well, maybe. But also, maybe not.

Even if you’ve prepared for the day you leave service for your entire career, when that day finally comes, adjusting isn’t always easy. You’ve been living a highly structured, organized life for the last several years and now it’s time to take the reigns 100%. But don’t fret; while getting your DD214 may be one of the most confusing days, it’s also one of the sweetest.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Destroyer pierces Chinese claims in Pacific waters

In what a Chinese official deemed a “provocation,” the US sent one of its guided-missile destroyers through Chinese claimed waters on Jan. 7, 2019, as the two nations kicked off trade talks in Beijing.

Reuters reported Jan. 3, 2019, that the talks, held between trade representatives from both countries, are meant to begin “positive and constructive discussions,” ultimately aiming to ease an ongoing and increasingly devastating trade war.

But just as the talks began Jan. 7, 2019, guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell sailed by the Paracel Islands, one of several hotly contested chains in the South China Sea, according to Reuters.


The same day, Chinese media aired a clip depicting a Chinese air force pilot issuing a warning to an unidentified aircraft in the air defense zone they imposed, although it is unclear when the encounter occurred.

Both encounters took place in areas where China has made sovereignty claims that are not internationally recognized. Vietnam, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines have all made competing claims in the South China Sea; the air defense zone was claimed in 2013 in an attempt to justify China’s grasp for control of the East China Sea, which has been disputed by Japan, according to the South China Morning Post.

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

A still image from footage of a Chinese fighter jet engaging a foreign aircraft over the East China Sea.

(China Central Television/YouTube)

Lu Kang, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said Jan. 7, 2019, that China had sent warships and aircraft in response, calling the McCampbell’s transit a violation of international law.

“We urge the United States to immediately cease this kind of provocation,” he said.

In a statement emailed to Reuters, Rachel McMarr, spokeswoman for the US Pacific Fleet, said the operation was not meant as a political statement or directed at any one country, but designed to “challenge excessive maritime claims.”

Known as “freedom of navigation” operations, ships and aircraft challenging excessive claims is not a new concept, nor one exclusively practiced by the US. In August 2018, a British amphibious ship sailed close to the Paracels, sparking a confrontation by a Chinese frigate and two aircraft. That same month, the US Defense Department published a map showing instances of Chinese vessels operating in established economic zones of other countries.

While US officials said there is no connection between the transit and the trade talks, Chinese spokesman Kang took a different approach.

“Both sides have a responsibility to create the necessary positive atmosphere for this,” he told state media, according to Reuters.

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

Articles

The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

This is the first in a series about how branches of the military hate on each other. We’ll feature all branches of the U.S. military, written by veterans of that branch being brutally honest with themselves and their services.


The branches of the U.S. Military are like a very large family. They deal with one another because they have to, not because they always get along.

The differences don’t stop at uniforms. Each branch has its own goals, mission, and its own internal culture. At the upper levels of the services, they compete for funds and favor from civilians in DoD. In the lower ranks, they compete for fun and favor from civilians in bars and strip clubs (especially in North Carolina). The branches are like siblings, competing for the intangible title of who’s “the best” from no one in particular.

“The Soviets are our adversary. Our enemy is the Navy.”  – Gen. Curtis LeMay, U.S. Air Force

Of course, when it comes to joint operations downrange, a lot of that goes out the window. But when the op-tempo isn’t as hectic and frustration has time to build, the awesome Army platoon who saved your ass last month become a bunch of damn stupid grunts who steal everything you don’t lock down and leave their Gatorade piss bottles everywhere. Parsing out the best and worst of our services isn’t hard if we’re honest with ourselves.

Here’s how the other branches hate on the Air Force, how they should actually be hating on the Air Force, how the Air Force hates on the Air Force, and why to really love the Air Force.

The easiest ways make fun of the Air Force

The quickest way is to talk about how nerdy or weak airmen are. Until a few years back, Air Force basic training was only six and half weeks long. Airmen will always emphasize the six and a half. During that same time, once in the active Air Force, the physical fitness test was taken on a stationary bike which resulted in so many invalid scores, the Air Force had to replace it.

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

This is also why the Air Force keeps getting the blame for the Stress Card myth, despite having nothing to do with what really happened at all. By 2010, most airmen’s responses to the waist tape portion of the new PT test was to “hope Air Force leaders would ditch the tape test altogether” because 1/5 of the Air Force couldn’t pass the new test. Still, the main form of exercise for airmen is probably playing basketball at the base gym.

Many, many Air Force career fields are office jobs, hence the name “Chair Force.” Many, many more aren’t office jobs, which rubs aircraft maintainers and other flightline personnel the wrong way for some reason. Airmen will hate on each other for this, with those who work in shifts on the flightline calling those who don’t by the derogatory term nonners, or Non-Sortie Producing Motherf–kers (a sortie is an air mission with one take off and one landing). Nonners hate that and no one cares. One more thing to argue about.

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

The new Airman Battle Uniform (ABU) was the Air Force answer to the Marines’ MARPAT uniforms and the Army’s ACUs, without the effectiveness, purpose, or realistic uses of either. Washing ABUs with brightening detergent actually makes the uniform MORE VISIBLE, especially to night vision equipment. All the other branches ever see is green boots and the regular morale shirt Friday mantra of “Are airmen allowed to wear red shirts?”

The 3 most confusing days of any military career
We learned nothing from the red shirts.

The Air Force is also the youngest branch, formed after WWII, and with the most opposition possible. Politicians and the other branches were so dead set against an Air Force, one general was court-martialed for being a pest about it and airmen have been whiny and annoying ever since, which pretty much proved everyone right. Every other branch says the Air Force has no history and no one argues with them, because airmen don’t care to. They remember William Pitsenbarger, John Levitow, maybe Robin Olds, and WWII when WAPS testing time comes around.

Also, Air Force Band members start at E-6 and their music videos cost more than a Marine Corps barracks.

Why to actually hate the Air Force

The U.S. Air Force as an organization is a lot of things: expensive, cynical, and sociopathic. It’s more like a uniformed, evil corporation at times. The biggest concern of the Air Force is the most expensive weapons system ever conceived by man, which doesn’t work, and if it did, would only help the Air Force get more money to maintain it while it could be spending that money replacing nuclear missile launch computers made in the 1960s. Our jet costs so much, the Marines can’t get up-armored Humvees but the beds in Air Force billeting are too soft for the USAF brass to lose sleep over it. The Air Force doesn’t even know how much its new long range bomber will cost, but it promised to let us know soon.

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

Airmen can be the most condescending a–holes this side of the wild blue yonder. They will turn on each other faster than a hungry bear. If you don’t believe me, go read a forum thread where airmen are talking about Spencer Stone’s STEP promotion.

Though USAF basic training is much more difficult now and the Air Force acquired a real fitness test, it’s still not as difficult as training to join the Coast Guard but Airmen will make fun of the Coast Guard anyway. They will still talk sh-t and when you throw the Chair Force thing in their face, they immediately throw Air Force pararescue jumpers back at you, even though most of them have never even seen a PJ. Also, the Air Force has a lot of fighter pilots, but everyone talks sh-t about them behind their backs, even airmen who’ve never met any pilot ever, which is 100 percent possible.

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

The Air Force has a lot of jobs which require higher ASVAB scores and a baseline education. They will never let you forget that even though a lot of airmen are as dumb and as smart as any soldier or sailor. This is why its ICBM teams are cheating on their proficiency tests and no one noticed until they started texting each other answers.

The only regulation most Air Force people know by heart is AFI 36-2903, the dress and appearance regulation. When anyone in the Air Force wants to appear as if they have things memorized, they will “quote” from this Air Force Instruction, because they all like to pretend they know it by heart, but its the only numbered AFI most of them know, whether they’re 100 percent sure what the standard actually says or not.

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

Airmen generally deploy the least of any branch. At the height of the Global War on Terror in 2009, the Air Force Specialty Code  (AFSC — Air Force job function) with the longest average enlisted deployment was Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) at 119 days, just over 3 months. The longest officer deployment (for electronic warfare specialists) was 214 days, or 7 months, or par with the Marine Corps, but shorter than the Army. Yet, Airmen deploying to al-Udeid would complain just as much as Airmen going to Bagram.

From around the Air Force:

“Merry Christmas to all those who didn’t get axed in 2014… last year’s force shaping message initially advertising massive cuts scheduled for 2014 was made public on Christmas Eve.”

“Most of you joined the USAF because it was more laid back, had better facilities and treated people better than the USA or the USMC. Admit it. You didn’t become an Air Force pilot because the other services wouldn’t take you.”

“I absolutely hate it every time I see a MSgt lecturing a junior enlisted about how “hard” the civilian world is.. this coming from a loser lifer who joined right out of high school and decided to spend the next 20 years of his life kissing ass and dedicating his life to the Air Force (and losing a few marriages along the way usually) Dude has no idea what the civilian world is even like and clung to the one way he knew for dear life and never let go.”
“I knew I was getting out the instant I joined.”
“A friend of mine was overworked in an mxs unit after 9/11 turning jets on an insane, unhealthy schedule. He wanted to get out because he didn’t want to be a jet mechanic all his life. But he didn’t want to let his shop down. Thing is, is after he ended up leaving, they replaced him. Just like he replaced someone before him. The AF doesn’t care. They will recall you after you separate if they need you. They will RIF you if they don’t. They will reclass you if they want. The AF takes care of the AF #1.”
“My CDCs do not make me a better technician”
“Two sacred USAF rules: 1) You do not embarrass your chain of command 2) You do not ‘give a sh*t’ when it’s not your day to ‘give a sh*t’, especially about stuff way above your pay-grade… When junior officers insist on running head-first into well-marked closed doors, they will be made to disappear.”
“From a recent Commander’s Call, what many NCO’s took away from that mass discussion is learn to back stab a fellow airman to get on top.”
“Don’t rush to finish your degree either associated, bachelor, master, once you become a MSgt and above you need to have a Doctorate.”
“Take care of your people but remember when they get promoted they are going to be competing against you.”
“Make sure that you get a lot of LOA, coins and documentation for everything you do to prove that you’re a 5 or 4. Don’t just let your supervisor write your EPR, QC his/her work before they route it up the chain.”
“Having left the military with two of these [CCAF] “degrees” I can say that literally no one outside of the USAF gives two squirrel poops about it. I happened to get both in the course of completing my bachelors, so I’m not even sure what the “degree” is even for. I never went to anything other than tech school and ALS, yet somehow this counts as an associate’s degree?”
“The USAF isn’t the Third Reich, but sometimes you really just want to shout Uber Alles to these crotchedy two-faced generals.”
“Would we as individuals have been cut the same amount of slack if we spent SIX years trying to figure out force shaping initiatives? How about the idiocy with uniforms? Reflective belts? What about one of the most expensive airframes ever being grounded for five months?”
“Calling the AF corporate is a HUGE part of the problem. We don’t even call them Airmen anymore. Our newest “development” tool refers to us as “employees”. (Ref the AF Portal).”
“I’ve seen how they decide who promotes, who gets BTZ, who gets retained. I’ve seen how people climb that ladder to Chief. I’m glad I’m not a part of it any more.”
“With the help of our squadron intel officer, I presented a CONOP for improved AC-130 operations to my deployed mission commander, a USAF Lt. Col. and well-respected gunship pilot.  He tried to critique the new CONOP but quickly became frustrated with my counter-arguments and finally told me to ‘Stop worrying about the conventional guys… only the stupid ones are being killed.'”
“Honestly, what difference does it make if a Security Forces SSgt can tell you who the first pilot was? (It doesn’t.) It [the PDG] is useful as a guidebook, in case you have a quick question about discipline, uniforms, benefits. Other than that, it makes a nice paperweight.”
“Get rid of 90% of the bands the AF has. This isn’t the 40’s, I get more entertainment from my Ipod. Use that money to book a half way decent band to perform”
“When my wife had our twins…it really would have been nice if she had a little more time to get closer to being in reg. Not sure what the magic number is but it would have been nice. Her unit didn’t even say hello to her when she came off of leave, just walked her into the scale and failed her.”
“I mean the guy who was appointed as the head of the sexual assault program sexually assaulted a woman and that guy just got reassigned.”
“Apparently the USAF doesn’t trust anyone to determine on a personal basis the suitability for promotion. At least the army has boards, even if they are convoluted and focused on the wrong things.”
“the Air Force awarded a foreign military sales contract worth more than $100 million to a company that submitted a past performance record of about $150,000, doing unrelated work.”
“Current culture states petting puppies at the animal shelter, holding bake sales and holding meetings where you discuss with your peers where and when these things can be done is held in higher esteem and considered more important than doing the best you can at your job.”
“they’re bribing me to stay, because they’ve failed at replacing me.”
From a 27-year CMSgt:

“The real, honest core values, that a person needs to live by to succeed in the Air Force in 2015 are:

1. Self before Service 2. Excellence in all our PT 3. Integrity third”

“The General should be held to the same or higher standard than the A1C when it comes to punishment. They aren’t.”
“I will never forget after taking questions from a bunch of angry, know-it-all Captains for the better part of an hour, the Colonel simply told us “YOU have to allow YOUR Air Force to make mistakes.”
“Stop with the re-branding of the AF every year. I don’t feel like a “warrior” so stop trying to convince me that I am one by reciting the Airmans Creed at every event!”
“5 things I hate the most about the Air Force:

1- Closed for training on (insert day here).

2- Sexual assault training.

3- The 10 different offices that you can complain to: ig, chaplain, meo, sarc, afrc what do these people do all day?

4- The term “standby to standby”.

5- Senior Ncos, they usually have bad haircuts and no real purpose in life.”

“You seriously are telling me that people TESTED the PT uniform? With the cardboard tshirts that don’t breath and shorts that would look home in a certain brightly colored San Francisco parade? Or the ABU with it’s billion pockets and winter weight fabric (and that’s overlooking the abortion that is it’s camo pattern).
Or blues mondays? As a flier that can be tasked at any minute why am I not showing up to work prepared to fly at any minute? Oh to “support the war fighter” I am wearing the least war like uniform. That makes sense.”

Why to love the Air Force

Airmen may not be able to capture and occupy an enemy area on their own but they will make damn sure those who can will be able to do so with the least possible resistance. Nuclear arsenals aside, no one is better at killing the enemy en masse as the Air Force is and airmen will stay awake and working for days on end to make sure passengers, wounded, supplies, and bombs keep going where they need to be. For example, during Operation Desert Storm, airmen on the ground worked tens of thousands of sorties in 38 days.

Almost everything in a war zone, from water to helicopters, is shipped via USAF, loaded and flown by airmen who are running on Rip-Its and Burger King.

Airmen, despite their cynicism, can be really, really funny. They know their reputation among other branches and are usually game to play along and give all the sh-t thrown at them right back to the soldiers, sailors, and Marines giving it. Aircrews are also generous with their flight pay when buying drinks.

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

The A-10 Thunderbolt II is beloved by everyone (except Air Force generals).

The Air Force has a great quality of life. An Air Force Base makes the average Army post look like a very large homeless shelter. Most of the time in joint communities, any military member has access to Air Force Morale, Welfare, and Recreation services, which can even put similar civilian services to shame. This is especially true when deployed.

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

When you’re deploying to the Middle East, having to stop at al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar for any reason is a great day. Swimming pools, A/C, ice cream, Western restaurants and fast food joints, a legit fitness center and base exchange along with three beers a day make for a great visit before reality sets in and you have to go back to a real deployment.

Also, all that money the Air Force spends on tech really does pay off. The Air Force is developing tech to automate weapons systems, put lasers on fighter planes, and allow troops to control drones with their minds. Historically, much of the tech developed by the Air Force end up with civilian uses.

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

The flip side of the Air Force being like a corporation is airmen tend to focus on their Air Force specialty, rather than just the particulars of being in the military (like being a rifleman, for example). This means when any one from any branch has to deal with an airman, they will more often than not be meeting with someone who is confident, knowledgable, and professional in their work center. Airmen are (traditionally) so good at their jobs, Army officers who have needs they can get from the Air Force instead of the Army will go to the Air Force for those needs.

Airmen are also incredibly generous with their time and money. Aside from making volunteer work a de facto criteria for annual Enlisted Performance Reports (EPR), Airmen will volunteer their time for causes beyond what’s expected by the Air Force’s “total Airman concept” and squadron burger burns. Airmen also donate millions from their paychecks to the Combined Federal Campaign and Air Force Aid Society charities.

And yes, Pararescue Jumpers are awesome human beings.

NOW: 32 terms only Airmen will understand

OR: 17 things you didn’t know about the U.S. Air Force

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy finds smoking gun that points to Iran in latest tanker attack

The US is accusing Iran of carrying out attacks on two tankers just outside the Strait of Hormuz, a critical waterway through which more than 30% of the world’s seaborne crude oil passes, and the US Navy has reportedly discovered an unexploded mine that may very well be evidence of Iran’s culpability in June 13, 2019’s attacks.

The USS Bainbridge, a US warship deployed to the Middle East, spotted a limpet mine on the side of one of the two tankers hit on June 13, 2019, CNN reported, citing a US defense official. Another defense official confirmed the discovery to Fox News, telling reporters that “it’s highly likely Iran is responsible.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said June 13, 2019, that Iran was responsible for the attacks, an announcment that briefly spiked US West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures up to $52.88 per barrel, or 3.4% from the day’s start.


He did not provide specific evidence for the accusations but said US conclusions were “based on the level of expertise for the execution, and recent attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.”

The limpet mine spotted by the US Navy was reportedly discovered on the Kokuka Courageous, one of two tankers targeted. Twenty-one sailors rescued from the damaged ship are aboard the USS Bainbridge, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer that was operating nearby and called in to assist.

A limpet mine is an explosive with a detonator that can be attached to the hull of a ship using magnets, and Iranian forces are believed to have used these weapons in an attack on four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in May. While the US has blamed Iran for the attacks, Tehran, Iran’s capital, has repeatedly denied any involvement.

The UAE determined an unnamed “state actor” was behind the tanker attacks and concluded “it was highly likely that limpet mines were deployed.”

There has been some debate about who was behind the latest attacks, with one official telling ABC News that “we’re not pointing to Iran, but we’re not ruling anything out at this time.” Another official asked the media outlet, “Who else could it be?”

U.S. Blames Iran for Tanker Attacks in Gulf of Oman

www.youtube.com

Iran used mines heavily during the Tanker Wars in the late 1980s.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who may have been briefed on the situation, was quick to pin the blame on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, telling reporters: “I saw some press accounts today sort of saying it’s not clear who did it. Well, it wasn’t the Belgians. It wasn’t the Swiss. I mean, it was them. They’re the ones that did it. We’ve been warning about it.”

In early May 2019, the US began deploying military assets to the Middle East as a deterrence force in response to intelligence indicating that Iran was planning attacks on US interests. The US has so far sent a carrier strike group, a bomber task force, a missile-defense battery, and a number of other capabilities into the US Central Command area of responsibility.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The new ‘unlimited range’ missile just embarrassed the Russian military

A Russian cruise missile that the country touted as having “practically unlimited” range appears to be falling short, sources with knowledge of a US intelligence report told CNBC.

The cruise missile, which Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled at a Russian Federal Assembly in March 2018, only flew for around two minutes and traveled 22 miles before it lost control and crashed, CNBC reported May 21, 2018. Another missile test reportedly lasted just four seconds with a distance of five miles.


Russia tested the missile four times between November 2017, and February 2018, at the behest of senior officials, even though engineers voiced doubt over the program, according to CNBC’s sources.

Putin previously touted a new generation of weapons in a presentation that displayed missile trajectories going from Russia to the US. In addition to the cruise missile, Putin teased unmanned underwater drones purportedly capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, and a hypersonic glide vehicle.

The 3 most confusing days of any military career
graphic showingu00a0an ICBM payload in space.

“I want to tell all those who have fueled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country’s development: All what you wanted to impede with your policies have already happened,” Putin said in a speech. “You have failed to contain Russia.”

Russia’s cruise missile capabilities may have missed the mark, but sources said it succeeded in other aspects. The hypersonic glide vehicle, which is believed to be able to travel five times the speed of sound, would render US countermeasures useless and could become operational by 2020, according to CNBC.

“We don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us,” US Air Force General John Hyten, the commander of US Strategic Command, said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in March 2018.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy’s oldest nuclear-powered attack sub arrives in port one last time

The Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia (SSN 717) arrived at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton to commence the inactivation and decommissioning process on Oct. 29, 2019.

Under the command of Cmdr. Benjamin Selph, the submarine departed Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for a final homeport change.

“We are happy to bring Olympia back to Washington, so that we can continue to build and foster the relationships that have been around since her commissioning,” said Selph. “The city loves the ship and the ship loves the city, I am glad we have such amazing support as we bid this incredible submarine farewell.”

Olympia completed a seven-month around-the-world deployment, in support of operations vital to national security on Sept. 8, 2019.


The 3 most confusing days of any military career

Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Olympia returns to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, after completing its latest deployment, Nov. 9, 2017.

(US Navy Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Shaun Griffin)

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

Sailors assigned to Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Olympia load a Mark 48 torpedo from the pier in Souda Bay, Greece, July 10, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelly M. Agee)

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

Machinist’s Mate (Weapons) 3rd Class Raul E. Bonilla, assigned to fast-attack sub USS Olympia, prepares to load a Mark 48 torpedo for a sinking exercise during the Rim of the Pacific exercise, July 12, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Michael H. Lee)

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia transits the Puget Sound, arriving to Bremerton, Washington, where it’s scheduled to begin the inactivation and decommissioning process at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, October 29, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Foley)

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia transits the Puget Sound, arriving to Bremerton, Washington, where it’s scheduled to begin the inactivation and decommissioning process at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, October 29, 2019.

(US Navy photo Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Foley)

The boat’s mission is to seek out and destroy enemy ships and submarines and to protect US national interests. At 360 feet long and 6,900 tons, it can be armed with sophisticated MK48 advanced capability torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Weblo’s final flight: A special operations military working dog receives hero’s goodbye

“Our working dogs are selfless in everything they do simply to please their handlers and those who work with them,” said Sergeant Major (retired) Jeremy Knabenshue, a veteran who worked as a K9 handler in the U.S. Army. “They give everything they have — to include their lives — without question to protect their pack.”

During a recent interview with Coffee or Die, Knabenshue spoke about his relationship with Weblo, his Military Working Dog (MWD). After a stint as an MP, Knabenshue became a K9 handler for a Special Missions Unit working alongside some of the most elite operators in the world. His work there, particularly his relationship with Weblo, had a profound impact on him. He served with that unit until retirement.


“When I was first assigned Weblo, he was a beatdown dog from Holland that flinched at every sudden move,” Knabenshue said. “I spent every single day for a year going to work to spend time with him and build our relationship until we deployed.”

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)

On Knabenshue’s first deployment, Weblo was shot. They were working with a squad from 3rd Ranger Battalion, and Knabenshue credits the dog’s actions for saving his life. He treated Weblo, and “that night of saving one another’s lives solidified our bond to one another.”

“Personality-wise he was one of the guys.” Knabenshue said. “He was more than just a dog or a tool. He lived with us and was part of the team.” That relationship extended onto the battlefield as well — they had reached such a strong point of mutual understanding that few words had to be spoken. They moved together, fought together, and hit objectives together — all as one.

One night in Afghanistan, Knabenshue, Weblo, and an assault force of American operators boarded a helicopter and flew toward an enemy position. They expected to make their way to the target building when they landed, but chaos erupted as soon as the wheels touched the ground. People were running erratically, weapons were being fired, and they had to fight just to get to the objective — which should have been a simple 10 minute walk.

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)

As they made it to the target compound, they began to move along one of the exterior walls. The next step would have been to hit the front door and assault the compound as usual; Knabenshue sent Weblo up front to check for booby traps before breaching.

When Weblo turned left instead of right, Knabenshue said that his first instinct was to become frustrated — now instead of breaching, he had to grab another assaulter and go get this dog who appeared to be distracted or disobedient. However, when they discovered Weblo, his jaws were clenched on a man clutching an AK47, who was lying in wait for an unsuspecting soldier to enter the breach.

This man had not been spotted by anyone on the assault force nor by the air assets circling in the sky — but he was spotted by Weblo.

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)

This was how it went for six deployments — two to Iraq and four to Afghanistan. When they weren’t in a combat zone, training took them deep into the jungle, over rigorous mountain terrain, and helocasting into the water.

When Weblo came to the end of his military service, he went to live with Knabenshue. No longer under threat of death or permanent injury, their friendship continued to grow. And then Weblo was diagnosed with cancer.

As the dog’s health steadily declined, Knabenshue knew it was time to have him put down comfortably. He contacted a trusted veterinarian to set the date. But one day he took special notice of the airfield near his house, and an idea came to him. Knabenshue knew a truck wouldn’t suffice for Weblo’s last ride — he deserved more.

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)

On March 8, 2016, everything fell into place. When Weblo and Knabenshue stepped onto the airfield and heard the thundering of the helicopter rotors, the dog’s chest swelled. Knabenshue swears that, for a moment, Weblo once again looked like a young working dog barreling across the Afghan countryside.

Also on the helicopter was the veterinarian. As they circled in the sky, Weblo felt the wind in his fur as he had so many times before among his fellow warriors. Following a painless injection, Weblo quietly, comfortably passed on.

After they landed, Knabenshue carried Weblo back to his truck to say goodbye.

“There will never be another Weblo for me,” Knabenshue later wrote on his blog. “I miss him daily and wish that somehow he could still be here. His death hit me far harder than any of the deaths of friends I’ve lost over the years. He was more than a pet or partner, he was an extension of myself as I was a part of him. His ashes are now placed on a shelf over my bar so that he can still look over and protect us.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

3 historic wars that are still technically alive today

International diplomacy is a sort of constantly evolving, tangled mess. So much so that, in some cases, we could technically still be at war with a country that we’re now allied with. For instance, America never ratified the treaty that ended World War I, but invading Germany to finally settle the century-old grudge match would get fairly complicated since it’s now a NATO member. Here are three wars that we never bothered to wrap up on paper (but please don’t try to go fight in them):


The 3 most confusing days of any military career

U.S. Army infantrymen fight during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of World War I.

(U.S. Army)

America never agreed to the final terms of World War I

Yup, we’ll just go ahead and knock out this one that we hinted at in the intro. America signed, but never ratified, the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I.

Oddly enough, though, this wasn’t because of issues with the lay of the land in Europe as the war closed, or even land claims or military restrictions around the world. The actual issue was that American President Woodrow Wilson wanted to establish the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations, and he used the treaty to do it.

But isolationists in Congress didn’t want America to join the league, and so they shot down all attempts to ratify the treaty at home. And America only officially adopts treaties when ratified, not signed, so America never actually agreed to the final terms of World War I.

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

Gurkha troops march to escort Japanese prisoners of war at the end of World War II in 1945.

(Imperial War Museums)

Japan and China never made peace after World War II

There are a number of still-simmering tensions between combatants from World War II, including the Kuril Islands Dispute between Russia and Japan.

(This author even once made the error of saying that Russia and Japan were still at war, which is only sort of right. While the two countries never agreed to a treaty ending the conflict, they did agree to a Joint Declaration in 1956 that had a similar effect. Essentially, it said they couldn’t yet agree to a treaty, but they were no longer fighting the war.)

But there was an Allied country that never reached peace with Japan: China. And China arguably suffered the worst under Japanese aggression. But, because of the civil war in China at the time, there were two rival governments claiming to represent China, and no one could agree on which government to invite. So China didn’t take part in the peace process at all.

So China and Japan never technically ended their hostilities, and Japan’s almost-peace with Russia is not quite finished either.

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visits the Demilitarized Zone on the Korean Peninsula in 2015.

(Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

The Koreas are, famously, still at war.

The ongoing state of conflict on the Korean Peninsula is probably the most famous issue on this list. The Korean War sort of ended on July 27, 1953, when the United Nations and the Delegation of the Korean People’s Army and the Chinese People’s Volunteers signed the Korean Armistice Agreement which instituted a truce between North and South Korea.

But, importantly, no national government agreed to the armistice or the truce. The militaries involved essentially agreed to stop killing each other, but the larger governments never came together to hash out the real peace. And this is a problem since the two countries have a much more tense relationship than any other group on this list.

America and Germany are not suddenly going to revert back to 1918 and start killing each other again. But South and North Koreans at the border still sometimes shoot at one another, and people have died in border clashes.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Sparta Science has its eye on serving the military

Sparta Science is movement diagnostic software which is used to reduce injury risk and increase readiness. Although originally created with athletes in mind, the military is now on their list of clients.

Dr. Phil Wagner is the founder and CEO of Sparta Science. His personal experiences with injury and inadequate support led him to creating the company. “This whole thing really started because I played high school and college football and I kept getting injured, finally being told I couldn’t play anymore. I moved to New Zealand to play rugby and the same thing happened. I finally said this is ridiculous…so I went to medical school,” Wagner said.


After graduating with his medical degree with a focus in biomechanics, Wagner dove into how science could target injury reduction and assess risk for possible future injuries. “I said let’s build this tech company that could gather data on how people move to better address rehab, performance and pain in general,” he said. Wagner continued, “Our mission is people’s movement as a vital sign. That’s where the company and the product came out of and it’s where we see ourselves fitting into, particularly in the military with the injuries we are seeing.”

This country relies on all of its soldiers, airmen, sailors, marines and coast guardsmen to be mission ready at all times.

But they aren’t.

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

Non-combat related musculoskeletal injuries account for a high percentage of why service members are undeployable, according to a study published in the Oxford Academic. In 2018, it was revealed that around 13-14% of the total force wasn’t deployable.

Although these injuries are negatively impacting mission readiness, they are also leading to lifelong complications. Musculoskeletal injuries are leading the cause of long-term disability for service members.

The impacts of no longer being able to serve due to injuries or suffering after retirement from the service are far reaching. “Mental health, movement and pain is so connected,” Wagner shared. He started working with the military after getting a call from Navy special forces asking if they could use it for their team.

“They had massive improvements the first year they did it, then they rolled it out to the other teams. I think for us, sports were our roots but our biggest growth and revenue comes from the government. It’s really satisfying because there’s so much more of a service and sacrifice approach that exists,” Wagner explained.

Statistics on nondeployable military personal with Major General Malcolm Frost

www.youtube.com

Major General Malcom Frost (Ret) served in the United States Army for 31 years. From 2017-2019 he led the Army’s Holistic and Fitness Revolution while he was the Commanding General of Initial Training for the Army. He was also responsible for developing the Army’s new fitness test, which launched in late 2020.

“Physical fitness and readiness drive everything…We are ground soldiers who must be on terrain in combat, therefore physical fitness is a huge part of what we do,” Frost said. He continued, “I would argue that we have neglected, in many ways, the most important weapon system in the United States Army and that is the soldier.”

Frost explained that by ignoring science, having outdated fitness training facilities, lack of professional support and long waits for medical care following injury – service members are suffering. “We have really injured and hurt a lot of our soldiers,” he said. He continued, “We were spending 500 million dollars a year just in musculoskeletal injuries alone for United States Army soldiers.”

Sparta Science approached Frost not long after he retired. “They said, ‘Hey, we would like to talk to you and understand the holistic fitness system better and show you what we [Sparta Science] can do,'” he said. So, Frost took a trip to California to visit their facility.

He was amazed at what he saw.

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

“Knowing how that could fit in, especially in the objective measurements side of the military, I thought it was the perfect match. So, I have been in the background helping them facilitate and move into the military channels to get Sparta on the map with leaders… I look at myself as the bridge,” Frost explained. He continued, “For me it’s exciting. I only get involved with organizations that I want to get involved with. They have to have a mission that I can get behind and where I can provide value. Sparta meets all of those in spades.”

Currently, you can find Sparta Science being used within the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

So how does Sparta Science work exactly? According to their website, the person has to go through The Sparta Scan™ on their “force palate” machine. It will assess stability, balance and movement. Data is compiled and an individualized Movement Signature™ created. Sparta software then compares the results to the database to identify risk and pinpoint strengths. Then the system creates an individualized training plan to reduce injury risk and improve physical performance.

On July 21, 2020, the United States House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act for 2021. It includes provisions to create a commission to study the “force plate” technology and how it can increase the health and readiness of America’s military. That report will be due back to congress in September of 2021 to evaluate possibly implementing Sparta Science technology throughout all of the Department of Defense.

“Looking five years from now, I want to see the line graph [of injuries] going down on a global level,” Wagner shared. Frost agreed, “Sparta Science is a readiness multiplier”.

Sparta Science appears to have a deep commitment to bringing this technology to every branch of service to reduce injury and increase mission readiness. With the recent passage of the NDAA and their continuing education efforts, they are well on their way.

To learn more about Sparta Science, click here.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why the U.S. military uses 5.56mm ammo instead of 7.62mm

A common debate among veterans and gun enthusiasts revolves around why the United States chose to implement the 5.56mm N.A.T.O. round into service instead of the 7.62mm.


Size, versatility, lethality, and a plethora of other semantics are usually quoted in bars across the nation. The answer to this question does not lie in the science between these two instruments of warfare but in the politics of the world stage.

Behind closed doors, world leaders are not as concerned with the penetration of a round or the distance between troops and their targets, but whether they have enough weaponry in their depots, enough money in their treasuries, and the commitment of their allies to come to their aid.

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

Immediately after World War II, tensions began to rise between the east and west over liberated territories and how they would be governed. An arms race of atomic proportions had begun. War-torn Europe faced the problem of depleted weapon stores and the financial inability to repulse the expansion of Soviet Communism.

Also read: Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun

In the wake of World War II, the United States of America commanded over 30,000 overseas bases, marshaled over half of the world’s manufacturing capacity, and owned two thirds of the world’s gold stock. In 1949, the Greatest Generation proposed a strategic solution: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

N.A.T.O. was created in response to failing relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, especially in the case of the reconstruction of Germany. The countries of Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Portugal banded together with the United States as its chief architect.

Article 5 of the 14 Articles of the ‘N.A.T.O. Treaty of April 4th, 1949’ most clearly defines the intent of the Organization:

“…an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or shall be considered an attack against them all; and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each o them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.” – Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

Under the persuasive guidance of the United States, N.A.T.O. slowly standardized armaments best suited for American designs than those resembling the Soviet 7.62mm. Who else could argue the case to finance, produce, and export on a scale to rival the Russians? By the 1980s, the 5.56x45mm was adopted as the standard.

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

From the sands of the Middle East to the deep jungles of South America, the 5.56mm played an integral role in shaping modern warfare. Decades of proxy wars and economic down turn brought the Soviet Union to its knees. Mikhail Gorbachev, President and leader of the Soviet Union, resigned and declared his office extinct on Dec. 25, 1991.

America had triumphed.

Weapons & Gear: US paratroopers are testing this new tactical chest rig

The 5.56mm never got the chance to sing in the halls of the Kremlin, but it was the round that destroyed an empire.

Currently, the United States stands as one of the top weapons suppliers around the world. Its sales include, but are not limited to, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, South Korea, Australia, Taiwan, India, Singapore, Iraq, and Egypt.

Our allies could always borrow our rounds in an emergency because they already own the same model guns. That is why the U.S. uses the 5.56mm: it’s a tool to be used to enforce our political intentions — one way or another.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Air Force knowingly left F-22s in the hurricane’s path

When Hurricane Michael hit Florida as a Category 4 storm, it was a historical record — and it just happened to land a direct hit on a major U.S. Air Force base, Tyndall. Unfortunately for American warfighters and taxpayers, some of the Air Force’s most-needed and most-expensive assets were stuck in hangars damaged by the storm, leading to losses that might total hundreds of millions of dollars.

So, why did the Air Force leave these highly mobile and expensive assets in the path of a predictable, easily-tracked storm?


The 3 most confusing days of any military career

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor from the 95th Fighter Squadron retracts its landing gear during takeoff at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., June 14, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Isaiah J. Soliz)

Well, it’s not always as simple as people like to imagine — and commanders had to deal with a series of huge issues when the storm came barreling towards them. The numerous aircraft on base (including 55 F-22s) in their care was just one of many immediate problems.

F-22s are prized assets, but they can’t always fly. Pick your metaphor, whether it’s racehorses, racecars, boxers, or what-have-you, these are complex assets that require multiple maintenance hours for every single hour of flight. F-22’s have a readiness rate around 50 percent. You read it right — only about half of our F-22s can fly, fight, and win at any given moment.

So, while Tyndall hasn’t released their exact maintenance numbers at the time the storm was first projected to hit the base, it’s unlikely that even 30 of them were able to fly away at that moment. And the commanders had to look at the full picture — not just at their fifth-generation fighters.

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor from the 95th Fighter Squadron retracts its landing gear during takeoff at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., June 14, 2018.

They couldn’t know exactly how strong the storm would be when it hit them, but they could clearly see it was a hurricane — and a big one. The hangars and barracks on base simply weren’t up to the task of safely housing airmen during a category-3 or -4 hurricane. Michael hit the base as a category 4, and there wasn’t a single housing structure on base that completely survived the storm. The damage was so severe that the base might be a complete loss.

Yeah. A complete loss. As in, the Air Force might shut down the base and sell off the land, though leadership has said they’re “optimistic” that it will be worth rebuilding.

So, yes, the Air Force needed to get as many F-22s flight-worthy and out as possible, but they also needed to evacuate their airmen, protect other aircraft, and get everything secured before the storm hit. That includes the massive amounts of classified materials on a base like Tyndall.

And so they juggled — and the F-22s were only one of the balls in the air.

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

An F-22 Raptor from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., lands at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio for safe haven, Oct. 9, 2018. The F-22 is one of several planes taking safe haven at Wright-Patterson AFB as Hurricane Michael threatens their home station.

(U.S. Air Force Wesley Farnsworth)

The F-22s that were already flyaway-ready flew away, and parts were scavenged from some aircraft to get the others airborne. Anything that could be quickly bolted together was. That got somewhere between 37 and 52 of the 55 aircraft out.

That’s between 67 and 95 percent of the aircraft flown safely away — remember, the aircraft’s general readiness rate is 50 percent. That’s not failure, that’s a logistical and maintenance miracle.

But why didn’t they drive the other aircraft out? Or load them into C-5s with their wings removed?

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

U.S. Air Force maintenance Airmen from the 325th Maintenance Group prepare to marshal a 95th Fighter Squadron F-22 Raptor toward the taxiway at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., June 14, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Isaiah J. Soliz)

Well, taking the wings off of an airplane is actually a really difficult, time-consuming procedure and every minute that ticked by increased the difficulty of getting pilots and maintainers out ahead of the storm. Not to mention that removing the wings is guaranteed to damage the aircraft to some degree. Then, the plane needed to be loaded onto a C-5, risking that plane and crew should anything go wrong.

All of this would be done just to protect the aircraft from possible damages suffered in a storm. After all, it wasn’t guaranteed that Michael would break through the hangars.

But maybe you could throw a tarp over the plane, load it onto a truck, and drive it out?

Well, that would require a massive convoy with specialty trucks that would take up at least three lanes of a highway (usually four) at the exact same time that millions of people are trying to use the same roads to get to safety. F-22s are 44.5 feet wide, and most highway lanes are standardized at 12 feet wide.

That means protecting the planes would’ve risked the lives of Americans. You know, the exact same Americans that the planes are designed, purchased, maintained, and piloted to protect.

So, the commanders, likely unhappy with their options, got the remaining, unflyable weapons loaded into hangars and sent the rest of their personnel away.

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor pilot with the 95th Fighter Squadron performs a preflight inspection prior to night flying operations at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., June 11, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Isaiah J. Soliz)

Zero Tyndall personnel were killed in the storm — and only 93 had to ride out the storm on base. The bulk of the F-22s and other aircraft were saved without damage — and that’s in a storm that damaged nearly every structure on the base, completely destroying some of them. Remember, this was a storm that removed some entire towns from the earth.

As for the damaged F-22s, initial reports from the base indicate that the damage to the airframes might not be severe. The leaders “assumed risk” by trusting the hangars, and it looks like the gamble worked.

So, sure, the military should take a look at what could have been done better. Maybe F-22s in need of maintenance should be flown to other bases during hurricane season in order to prevent a rush evacuation. Maybe we can increase investment in structures to deal with strengthening storms and rising seas, an initiative for which the Navy has requested money.

But we can’t place all the onus on base and wing commanders. Their job is to retain as much of their warfighting power as possible, and weathering such a big storm with all of their personnel and the bulk of their assets isn’t failure, it’s an accomplishment.

Military Life

This is what is actually inside the top of the flag pole

Hopeful NCOs at leadership schools or promotion boards are asked a two-part question: The first part is, “how many trucks are there on the military installation?” The answer is, ‘one.’


‘Truck’ is the term for the finial — or ball — on top of the base headquarters’ flagpole. It’s kind of a trick question because every other ‘truck’ is either a military or privately-owned vehicle. The second part of the question is, “What’s inside the truck?”

The answer the Sergeant Major and First Sergeants are looking for is, “a razor, a match, and a bullet.” Occasionally, it’s also said to contain a grain of rice or penny — it depends who’s asking. The actual answer, and one they probably won’t accept, is “absolutely nothing.”

The 3 most confusing days of any military career
With all the flag poles that have been installed, not one troop has opened the truck and taken a picture. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Armando Limon)

The items that are supposedly inside the truck are to be used in the case of an enemy invasion. If the enemy overwhelms the base, it’s up to the last survivor to climb the 50-to-75-foot pole, unscrew the truck, strip the flag with the razor, give it a proper retirement with the match, eat the grain of rice for strength, and blind the enemy with the penny. The survivor then digs up the pistol buried six paces away from the base of the pole.

What the survivor is supposed to do then is up for speculation. If you don’t use the gunpowder for kindling, the most universally accepted use of it is for the survivor to turn the pistol on themselves in a last-ditch, you’ll-never-take-me-alive act.

Here’s the thing, though. The military is very particular about the order of precedence when it comes to the Stars and Stripes. No flag can fly higher than the American flag. There are two exceptions to this rule: “Death’s flag,” or the flag that is raised, in spirit, above the actual flag when it’s at half mast (but is actually nothing) and a chaplain’s pennant (which is a pennant, not a flag).

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

Placing a chaplain’s pennant higher than the American flag is to say that the only thing higher than country is God. The fact that some claim we’d put a bullet in the finial above even the chaplain’s pennant is a dead giveaway that this myth is BS.

The final nail in the coffin on this myth is the fact that there’s no regulation set by the Department of Defense, by any branch, or by any military installation. As widespread as this belief may be, there simply isn’t any written record of it in any official capacity.

Oh. Also, nicer trucks, like the ones used to decorate a military installation’s flag that is saluted twice a day, are usually made of solid metal.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What life was like for World War II prisoners

Let’s get one thing out of the way really quickly: Getting captured in full-scale warfare is nothing to be ashamed of. When tens of thousands of people are clashing in a massive battle, it’s easy to get cut off and isolated through no fault of your own, shot down over enemy territory, or any of dozens of other ways to get captured. But that means you were headed to a prisoner camp, and where you were captured and by whom mattered a lot in World War II.


What Was Life Like For Prisoners of WWII

www.youtube.com

That’s because not all of the major combatants were yet signatories to the Geneva Conventions, and life as a prisoner wasn’t great for even those who were covered by the conventions.

That’s because Geneva Convention protections are actually fairly limited, and were even more so in World War II. The broad strokes are that captors must not execute those who have surrendered or are surrendering; must give sufficient food, shelter, and medical care away from active combat; cannot torture prisoners, and must not overwork prisoners.

The U.S. fulfilled all of these requirements in their prisoner camps on the U.S. mainland, and Britain and France had similarly good records of prisoner treatment during the war. Not perfect, but good. (But it’s worth noting that the U.S. and Britain were both accused of human rights violations against their own citizens and some war crimes including the execution of Axis soldiers who were attempting to surrender.)

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

Recently liberated Allied soldiers in a prison corridor in Changi Prison, Singapore.

(State Library of Victoria Collections)

But not all prisons were run that way. German prisons were more strict, had more reports of beatings and food shortages, and some prisoners were executed for political reasons as the war drew to an end. But the worst German atrocities were those committed against suspected commandos, Jews, or people’s designated undesirable by the German state.

If a U.S. or other Allied soldier was suspected of being Jewish, gay, or of some other category that would’ve gotten a German or Polish person thrown into a concentration camp, then that soldier would likely be thrown into a concentration camp themselves. There, they would be subject to all the atrocities of the Holocaust, including summary execution as the Germans tried to hide evidence of their crimes at war’s end.

And some prisoners were subjected to the same unethical medical experiments that the Nazis famously performed on Jewish prisoners.

That may sound like the worst a World War II prisoner could suffer, but there were similar nightmares in store for certain prisoners of the Soviet Union. Food shortages for the Soviet Army led to forced labor of some prisoners. And the deep hatred of Soviet troops toward German invaders led to summary executions and torture. Food was scarce and could be made from inedible ingredients like straw or sawdust.

But arguably, the worst place to be captured was in the Pacific while fighting Japan. Japanese forces were convicted after the war of forced death marches like the five-day ordeal that many Americans and Filipinos captured on the Bataan Peninsula were forced to suffer without water or food. Other Japanese leaders were convicted of cannibalism after butchering Americans for meat used as a delicacy on officer tables. Torture, beatings, executions, and more were common in Japanese camps.