The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has been guarded for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, nonstop since July 2, 1937. The Tomb Sentinels that protect the site are the best of the best the U.S. Army has to offer and nothing short of Armageddon is going to break that discipline. By the time Hurricane Sandy hit the D.C. area in 2012, it was a “superstorm,” expected to kill more people and cause more damage than any hurricane since Katrina in 2005.
That didn’t faze Sgt. Shane Vincent one bit.
“This is what we all volunteer to do,” Staff Sgt. Michael Buelna, the commander of the first relief, told ABC News. “For us we don’t really think anything of it, it’s what we do.”
When the Sentinels due to stand watch during that timeframe found out they could be without power and food for an extended period of time, they brought extra. And they also brought MREs. They were as prepared as anyone else for a hurricane. The difference was they would be standing in it for their shifts and shift changes.
Like other government sites, the cemetery was closed by order of the Federal government. There would be no visitors, no crowds, no curious onlookers to catch the changing of the guards. The Tomb Sentinels would still guard the tomb, exposed to the elements, with their M-14 rifles – the unknown soldier would not be left alone. There were only a few slight differences in their routine.
Instead of Army dress blues, the six Tomb Sentinels on duty wore wet-weather ACUs. Instead of “walking the mat” for 21 paces back and forth, they would operate from “The Box,” a small guard shack made of green cloth. They also wouldn’t have to be at attention for the duration. It was more than ceremonial guard duty, the men of the 3rd Infantry Regiment would have to stay vigilant during the storm.
For Sgt. Vincent, it presented an opportunity. He’d told his fellow Tomb Sentinels that if the time ever came, he would volunteer for a full day of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – something that had never been done before.
“I stayed out there for the entire shift,” said Vincent. “I was the one that was out there, others would come and show love and spend time with me out there.”
As for Sandy, Sgt. Vincent, he was unimpressed, saying it was a basic storm, the worst of it only came when the winds picked up and even then, he enjoyed watching the rain fall sideways. He even walked the mat a few times.
In February, 2014, Taliban insurgents released a video with what they claimed was a U.S. prisoner of war that they had captured the previous year. They called him “colonel” as they led him around by a leash and described taking him during a night raid in Afghanistan’s Laghman Province. He was a Belgian Malinois working dog – and he was about to put his captors to work.
“Colonel” was actually a dog working for the British forces under ISAF command in the country, according to BBC reporters. The dog was apparently captured in the middle of an intense firefight with coalition forces trying to drive the Taliban out of the Alingar Valley. They were tipped off about a British SAS raid on Dec. 23.
It was the first time a working dog was taken prisoner in Afghanistan.
Colonel, or dagarwal in Pashto, was a valuable asset, no matter how the Taliban chose to see him. Not only was the dog not killed, injured, or otherwise mistreated, he was an asset. They would never get a trained working dog like Colonel. They sure couldn’t train one. Even as a prisoner of war to be ransomed, he was priceless.
“It’s always possible that we could use the dog, since it has been trained,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement. “If someone offers a trade for it then we can think about that.”
A casual viewer might never know it, as videos with the Malinois show him surrounded by as many as five Taliban fighters, all heavily armed with rifles and grenades, but the dog is much more than a mutt found on the street. Colonel had needs, and he liked things a certain way. Whereas other dogs were kicked out into the streets and fed scraps, Colonel had a team of Taliban waiting on him.
“It is not like the local dogs which will eat anything and sleep anywhere,” Mujahid added. “We have to prepare him proper food and make sure he has somewhere to sleep properly.”
This means Colonel has a few Taliban fighters who were attached to him. They provided him with blankets and made human-level food for him from chicken and kebab meat. Dogs are not considered pets in Afghan culture, are widely seen as “unclean,” and the Coalition’s use of dogs has irked the Afghan President and people at times.
The Taliban also showed off weapons seized during a raid on one of their hideouts.
Sadly, it’s hard to know if Colonel was ever rescued. British special operations forces from the Who Dares Wins Regiment volunteered to go find the dog and rescue him, but the British Defence Ministry called the mission “unlikely.”
Colonel has since been nominated for the Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.
The 3-year-old daughter of Petty Officer 2nd Class Jerome Cinco, a hospital corpsman with Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, holds her father close before his departure from Marine Corps Base Hawaii on a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan. Unlike their last two deployments — supporting Task Forces Military Police in Iraq — 1/12 will revert back to its primary mission and provide artillery fire support to 2nd Marine Division (Forward) during ongoing counterinsurgency operations in the province.
On Tuesday night, the nation watched as President Trump praised a military spouse for her sacrifices and efforts, and then surprised her and her children. “I am thrilled to inform you that your husband is back from deployment. He is here with us tonight and we couldn’t keep him waiting any longer!” The woman looked genuinely surprised.
She gathered her two young children close and they watched as her husband, handsome in his dress uniform, walked down the stairs toward them, as members of Congress and millions of television viewers cheered.
But some of us in military families saw something different.
As pleased as we were for that family, and we were very pleased, we were also cringing. We knew more, much more, was happening under the surface, and would be happening for many days to come. I’ve been married to a soldier for 17 years, and he has deployed nearly every year of our marriage. I know this subject well.
Some of us call these public homecomings “reunion porn” because they’re shared for the entertainment of the spectators, not for the health of the family. Surprise public reunions are such a part of our culture now, after 18 years of war have overlapped with 15 years of YouTube, that in the later weeks of a deployment, well-meaning friends and family members will start asking us what our plans are for the reunion. They look on expectantly, hoping for details of jumbotrons — like we’re supposed to be organizing a flash mob on top of taking care of absolutely everything else. For them, these are grand milestones that should be celebrated en masse, like over-the-top engagements and increasingly complex gender reveals.
But a deployment reunion does not have the unfettered joy of an engagement or a birth announcement. It’s a complicated stew. There is joy, undoubtedly, but there is also trauma. There is survivor’s guilt, and resentment, and weeks of awful reintegration that loom, in sleepless nights after endless fights. On some level, I wish that every reunion video was paired with a deployment video, bookends of the war experience, and that you didn’t get to celebrate the hello until you had agonized through the goodbye. I wish people saw that many months before that child was surprised by a smiling, uniformed parent in an elementary school classroom, he had to be peeled and pulled off that deploying soldier by the parent who was staying home. I wish people saw that service member gulp, blink back tears, and force him or herself to turn and walk away. Not out of indifference or cruelty, but out of duty.
I wish people could hear the screams – the actual screams – military teens and tweens make when they are told their parent is deploying. Again. I wish the cheering crowds knew what it feels like to give birth alone, in a town where you know no one, and to take that baby back to an empty home without a clue of what to do, but having to do it anyway.
I wish they knew what it feels like for a service member to meet his own child on Skype, and not get to hold her in his arms until the baby is already crawling. Or to not be at the bedside when their child goes into surgery. Or to miss a graduation, and every game, recital and play.
I wish they saw me, sitting in a patio chair in the July heat, trying to hear my husband over a spotty satellite phone connection, with gunshots and mortar rounds perforating the conversation. Then hanging up and putting on a brave face to go back inside the house, because it was time to give my dad more pain medicine so that he wouldn’t feel the cancer that killed him.
I wish they heard the three volleys. I wish they watched the flag being crisply folded. I wish they hugged strangers at military funerals because it was obvious those strangers needed hugs. I wish they pushed the wheelchairs and suffered through the night terrors and witnessed the humiliation of a brain-injured warrior trying to remember his own address.
But, of course, I don’t actually wish everyone could see all of these raw moments. No one should have the worst days of their lives televised. I suppose what I really wish is that the same good-hearted, well-intentioned people who are sincerely happy to see our military families reunited would pay more attention to the war. I wish they knew where our service members were deploying to, and why.
I wish they knew our lives, even when the scenes aren’t pretty or heartwarming, so it wouldn’t feel like we were carrying these burdens alone.
Retired Air Force Colonel and NASA astronaut, Greg Johnson posted a nice, heartfelt video for the folks seeking tips about getting through this time of isolation – as he’s something of a subject matter expert from his time in space. He makes excellent points, such as have a routine, be mindful of others, and stay positive, but I’d like to throw my two cents in from what I learned in Afghanistan.
Tip one: Don’t skip out on meals. You can even hit up midnight chow if you’d like. Beach season is cancelled this year anyway.
Tip two: Take whatever breaks you feel you need. We all basically lived in the smoke pit (regardless if we were actual smokers or not) and still somehow managed to get things done. You can too. You also have the added advantage of turning your Zoom meeting off and not having to deal with your boss all day.
Tip three: Don’t feel guilty about binge watching tv or playing video games all day. A good chunk of most Post-9/11 troops’ off-duty time on deployment was spent in the MWR doing the exact same thing and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who’d say they didn’t earn it after a stressful day.
If my list somehow looks like encouragement to become a fat, lazy couch-potato… Go for it. What do I care? I’m not your NCO. Anyway, here are some memes.
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)
(Meme via Not CID)
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)
(Meme via Private News Network)
(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)
(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)
(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)
That’s why I like the film The Last Full Measure. It’s one of the only Air Force centered films that I can think of that doesn’t feature a single f*cking pilot.
No offense to pilots, but your films are always the same. “I’m a renegade despite being bound by the UCMJ and I’ll only learn the value of being a part of a team after my actions directly cause someone’s death. Now cue the flying montage!”
There are few things I love more than seeing badass women breaking barriers and proving to the world that powerful women are a force to be reckoned with. Women in the military have fought long and hard for equality, respect and recognition. While I feel like I could spend months researching and compiling lists of all of the amazing women who have served our country, I decided to start with these four, who proved that nothing is impossible.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Olivia G. Ortiz/Released)
Maj. Katie Higgins Cook
Like many service members, Maj. Cook’s calling to the military was a family affair. A third generation pilot, Cook has followed in the footsteps of both of her grandfathers, who served in both the U.S. Army Air Corps as well as the Air Force, and her father, who had a 26 year long career in the Navy. In an interview in Risen Magazine, she said of her paternal grandfather:
“He instilled in us this idea, because his parents were immigrants to this country from Sweden. The American dream in this country gave us all these opportunities and we needed to give back.”
Graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2008, she made the choice to go into the Marine Corps, after spending time training with Marines in Quantico, Virginia.
During her time in the Marine Corps, she was one of the few female pilots to fly combat missions during her deployment to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. After that, she spent time on assignment in Uganda, and had already accrued over 400 combat flight hours. It was during her time in Africa that she was approached by a Blue Angel pilot, who encouraged her to apply for the coveted flight demonstration team. Following an extensive interview process, Maj. Cook was officially the first female Blue Angel, and became the pilot of the Lockheed C–130 Hercules named “Fat Albert.”
(US Navy photo)
While Maj. Cook takes pride in her contribution to history, she stands firm on the fact that she was chosen due to her ability to perform, not because of her gender. She is also quick to remind those who praise her of all of the women who came before her, who paved the way for her and fellow female service members. Becoming a role model for young girls is something she takes great pride in, and she highlights the importance of hard work and dedication. She has garnered a respectable social media following, and has coined the hashtag “#flylikeagirl” — in order to encourage young girls to dream big.
When asked about the phrase, Cook explained, “The hashtag ‘fly like a girl’ is empowering. It’s positive. And being able to fly to the caliber of a female pilot is something to strive for. To me, it shows that the cockpit is a great equalizer. Both men and women can do equally awesome jobs, and in the end, there is no distinction between genders when it comes to performance. All of us are pilots with the same goal: get as many landings as take-offs.”
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade/Released)
Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody
Gen. Dunwoody has had a career full of firsts. While the one that sticks out the most in recent memory is her becoming the first woman to reach the rank of four-star general in the history of the U.S. military, this wasn’t the first time Dunwoody had helped pave the way.
Another service member coming from military lineage, Dunwoody’s father was a decorated Army Veteran, and much of her life was spent moving from base to base. Her own career in the Army began in the mid-70’s, and after receiving a two-year commission as a second lieutenant at Fort Sill, she fell into the groove of military life and ultimately decided to dedicate the next few decades to serving. By 1992, she had become the first female battalion commander for the 82nd Airborne Division, and in 2000, was named the first female general at Fort Bragg. Throughout her career she was also the recipient of numerous awards, including the Distinguished Service Medal and the Defense Superior Service Medal.
(DoD photo by D. Myles Cullen)
After over 30 years of service, Dunwoody made history in 2008 with her promotion to four-star general.
When speaking on her promotion, Dunwoody said “I have never considered myself anything but a Soldier. I recognize that with this selection, some will view me as a trailblazer, but it’s important that we remember the generations of women, whose dedication, commitment and quality of service helped open the doors of opportunity for us today.”
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Pankau)
Admiral Michelle Howard
Prior to beginning her own career in the military, Michelle Howard already knew the road would not be easy. Joining the service was something Howard thought about often, even as a child. Her father, an Air Force master sergeant, was largely what influenced her to embark on her own journey in the service.
Luckily for Howard, just two years prior to her being old enough to enlist, President Ford signed the Military Procurement Bill which, beginning in 1976, allowed for the admission of women into military academies. Howard was accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1978 and was one of only seven black women in her class of over 1,300. It was during her sophomore year that she first piloted a ship, and soon went on to distinguish herself as a bold and respected leader. After taking command of the USS Rushmore in 1999, Howard became the first Black woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Kristopher Wilson/Released)
Remember the 2013 movie Captain Phillips starring Tom Hanks? Howard played a huge part in the real life story. She had taken the position of commander of an anti-piracy task force in the Gulf of Aden just three days before Captain Richard Phillips was kidnapped by Somali pirates. The movie doesn’t do justice to the real world nuances and complexities of Howard’s involvement. In an interview she shared that:
“The pirates were using the fuel in the life raft to steer toward shore–and it was obvious that if they got to shore with Captain Phillips, we were probably not going to get him back.”
She was integral in the four days of hostage negotiations that led to the successful rescue.
It was in 2014 that Howard made history again, when she was promoted to the rank of four-star admiral, the first woman in the Navy to do so. That same day she was also appointed as the 38th vice-chief of naval operations, which made her the second highest ranking officer in the Navy. As if that wasn’t already impressive enough, two years later she went on to become commander of naval forces in both Europe and Africa. She concluded her career as the Commander of Allied Joint Force Naples. Following her retirement in late 2017, she went on to teach cybersecurity and international policy at George Washington University.
Lieutenant General Nina Armagno
The end of 2019 brought the announcement of the inception of the United States Space Force. Aside from appealing to virtually every sci-fi fan in the country, the Space Force also started to assemble its ranks soon after it was officially unveiled. Among them was Major General Nina Armagno. Prior to her being promoted to Lieutenant General upon her transfer in the Space Force, Armagno had just over 30 years of experience in the Air Force as well as space systems operations, specifically.
Graduating from the USAF Academy in 1988, Armagno has gone on to have an impressively full military career, as well as picking up three degrees and numerous certifications along the way (including a Bachelors in Biology and two Masters degrees, in both Education Administration and National Securities Studies). She was also the only Air Force officer to command both East and West U.S. space launch facilities. Along with the completion of over 20 assignments and almost a dozen awards and decorations, she is also the recipient of the 2010 Women of Influence Award as well as the 2014 Gen. Jerome F. O’Malley Distinguished Space Leadership Award.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)
Upon her commission in the Space Force, Armagno was promoted to three star general on August 17th, 2020. She will be serving as staff director, and overseeing Space Force headquarters daily operations. Not only does this make her the Space Forces first female general officer, she’ll also be playing an integral role during the earliest years of the history making organization. In a statement, Armagno remarked, “We’re going to be agile, we’re going to be nimble, and we’re going to bring the best of everything into the Space Force”.
The Army Career Skills Program provides soldiers transitioning out of the Army with an opportunity to participate in free or minimal-cost apprenticeships, on-the-job training, employment-skills training, and internships.
IMCOM has 200 career skills programs hosted at 32 garrisons, with more than 4,000 employers that return an impressive 93% career placement rate for soldiers. Managed by Installation Management Command, the program is open to soldiers 180 days prior to transitioning out of the military.
“Since the program’s inception in 2013, more than 17,500 soldiers have been placed directly into high-wage careers post military service, contributing to a steep decline in unemployment compensation payments for the Army,” said Christine Krieger, Indtai Inc. contractor, Army Continuing Education System assistant program manager, IMCOM.
“The Career Skills Program helps soldiers turn their military skills into post-service careers,” Krieger said.
Partner employers recognize the importance Army values and ethos bring to their companies in direct support of soldier for Life.
The Army Career Skills Program provides Soldiers transitioning out of the Army with an opportunity to participate in free or minimal-cost apprenticeships, on-the-job training, employment-skills training and internships.
(US Army photo)
The program has won several prestigious awards, including the American Business Awards Gold Stevies for Best Overall Organization of the Year (governmental) and Best Overall Customer Service Team of the Year (small, nonprofit); the Council of College and Military Educators Barry Cobb Government Organization Award; and the Federal Recognition Awards for Large Teams (second place). The program also was a finalist for the Harvard University Innovation in American Government Award in 2018.
IMCOM’s latest federal career skills program is a collaboration with the Army Civilian Human Resources Agency providing internship at soldiers’ garrisons with direct appointments to federal careers as HR classifiers and specialists.
Programs vary by Army garrison. Some of the areas covered are heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration; sprinkler fitting; forestry land management; diesel technician; welding; software and computer systems; telecommunications; air frame and power plant; and painting, drywall and glazing.
Efforts are ongoing to increase federal agency participation, expand successful programs, and serve transitioning populations in nontraditional garrison locations.
Soldiers interested in the program should visit the local installation administrator at their Education Center or Transition Office.
As states continue to reduce restrictions on cannabis use, more and more military veterans are rejecting opioids and prescription pain medications while experiencing positive results from cannabis products. CBD products are being used over prescription drugs to help treat pain and symptoms of PTSD, as well as for anxiety or sports recovery.
Combat veterans, like world-record base jumper and skydiver Andy Stumpf and Omar “Crispy” Avila, are huge proponents of CBD, specifically the hemp-derived offering available from Kill Cliff, a veteran founded/run organization that makes clean sports beverages.
I had the chance to chat with both guys and find out a little more about their military background and why they turn to CBD, as well as which strands/methods they prefer to utilize.
Former Navy SEAL Andy Stumpf set world records as a BASE jumper and skydiver.
Andy Stumpf enlisted in the U.S. Navy while he was still in high school, hell bent on becoming a Navy SEAL. While on a combat deployment, he was shot at close-range by an insurgent. Despite the severity of the injury, Stumpf continued his SEAL career by becoming a BUD/S instructor and the first E-6 selection commissioned through the Limited Duty Officer Program in the history of Naval Special Warfare. After commissioning, he joined SEAL Team Three for his final combat tour in Afghanistan. He was medically retired after seventeen years of service and hundreds of combat operations throughout the world.
In 2015 he jumped from 36,000 feet and flew over 18 miles in a wingsuit in an effort to raise one million dollars for the Navy SEAL Foundation.
“In the military, if you went to the medic with any symptoms, whether headache or bodyache, they used to give — and I’m not judging when I say this — a literal sandwich bag of 800mg Motrin, which certainly works for pain suppression but also liver liquidation and stomach upset. I could have asked for narcotics, but my body never responded well to it,” reflected Stumpf.
Now, he uses hemp-derived CBD for pain relief and the ability to sleep. He enjoys the Kill Cliff CBD drink after a two-hour training session to help “round the edges.” The 25mg CBD recovery drink gives him zero neurological suppression which is why he prefers it over something like a sublingual edible or a topical product.
“I’ve tried everything from topicals, salves, pills, and they all have a time and place. What I like about this product is that I can use it to maximize my recovery and health,” he shared.
Omar “Crispy” Avila on active duty before his life-threatening attack.
Omar “Crispy” Avila shipped out to Iraq in 2004 for what would be his first and last deployment. Near the end of his 11 months in country, his convoy was ambushed and his Humvee was struck by an IED that hit the fuel tank and exploded violently, propelling the vehicle into the air and killing one soldier instantly.
Avila climbed into the turret of his Humvee to provide cover fire for his team as flames engulfed the vehicle. He caught fire as grenades and ammunition succumbed to the heat, forcing him to jump from the roof of the burning vehicle. He broke both of his femurs and attempted to extinguish the flames.
He woke up three months later at a VA hospital in Texas. More than 75 percent of his body was covered in third and fourth degree burns and part of his right foot had been amputated.
“I weaned myself off a lot of medications and I find myself waking up every single day with a lot of pain. I’m not saying that this CBD drink is the cure for everything but at least for me, it brings the pain and anxiety down,” Avila stated.
Avila opened up about anxiety (“it creeps up on you like a mother f***er”) and said the Kill Cliff drinks help him at the end of the day or when anxiety builds but he still wants to feel productive.
Launched in June 2019, Kill Cliff CBD is the fastest growing CBD brand in the country. The bioavailability of a CBD beverage is superior to other forms of CBD. It is nano-encapsulated and easily dissolved in the stomach before going straight into the bloodstream. Kill Cliff offers three flavors: The G.O.A.T., Orange Kush and Mango Tango.
For what it’s worth, I had the chance to try out the (very delicious) Mango Tango and it launched me into a calm state of concentration. Their promise that it “won’t alter your routine” held up remarkably well.
Anyone curious about trying it out for themselves can find the CBD products and other Kill Cliff clean energy drinks online and take comfort in knowing that the company was founded and is run by former Navy SEALs as a sustainable way to give back to the special warfare community through the Navy SEAL Foundation. Since 2015, Kill Cliff has donated over one million to military charities.
If you watch a movie and see troops lighting up a cigarette, you’ll probably notice that Zippo in their hand. Search-and-destroy missions in the Vietnam War were often referred to as “Zippo missions.” There’s simply no denying the fact that American troops have long had an intimate relationship with Zippos.
Troops are always searching for reliable gear as, oftentimes, the stuff we’re issued is absolute trash. That’s where Zippos come in. They’re reliable and compact, two criteria that “military-grade” items tend not to satisfy. But it’s not just that they work well — they’ve had a long history with troops.
Zippos during WWII were primarily used to light cigarettes. Vietnam, however, was another story.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
The American Zippo Manufacturing Company was founded in the 1930s, but when World War II started, the company ceased all production for consumer markets altogether and instead manufactured lighters exclusively for troops being sent to war. Millions of them were carried by troops and, no matter what, they knew they could rely on their trusty, metal lighter to spark their cigarette during a long day of ass-kicking.
Some units who performed these Zippo missions were referred to as “Zippo Squads.”
Zippos took on a different function during the Vietnam War. Aside from reliably lighting cigarettes, they were used to light flamethrower tanks when the built-in, electrical igniter didn’t work. They were also used as mirrors to shave, to heat up popcorn, and the list goes on.
In fact, Zippos became synonymous with Vietnam War operations as troops would raze villages with lighters on seek-and-destroy missions. But Zippos weren’t just for burning things down — they actually became a kind of cultural timepiece.
Some of the best pieces of military history.
(Photo by Joe Haupt)
In Vietnam, troops began engraving designs onto the sides of the hardy, metal lighters as a way to pass the time. By looking at those engravings, we’ve been able to glean some insight into the mindset of troops from the era. It might have been just an idle habit at the time, but such historical artifacts are invaluable for future generations.
The practice of engraving Zippos is one that carries over to modern-day service members. It may not be as popular as it once was, but troops all over still use the iconic lighter to spark up cigarettes or even burn frayed paracord.
Regardless, one thing is for sure — Zippos remain one of the most iconic pieces of unofficial military gear.
The life of a Civil War re-enactor is a very dedicated one. They’re dedicated to the history, the stories, and the lives of those who fought in The War Between the States. They take care in being as accurate as possible, representing the true history of the war down to the smallest details, from the things they carried to the food they ate all the way to their personal appearance. The America of some 150 years ago was a very different place.
Nylon-cotton blend uniforms give way to wool, the “woobie” gives way to old gum blankets, and MREs become a much more complicated process, handed over to a camp’s cook. These are just a few of the details in the mind of the re-enacting foot soldier. But not everyone who carries a .58-caliber Minié ball rifle onto historical battlefields has the same dedication to accuracy.
Imagine spending all year practicing long-obsolete infantry drills with members of your unit just so you can execute them beautifully on oft-forgotten battlefields in the Spring and Summer months. Imagine the patience it takes to purchase (or, in some cases, build) infantry gear that hasn’t been necessary in over a century. Imagine the dedication required to sit in those wool uniforms in the dead of summer, swarmed by mosquitoes and plagued by the hot sun, only to have the FNG roll in, wearing sunscreen and insect repellent and playing with his iPhone.
Do not bring your camera, either.
The farb is someone who wants the glory of the job without putting in the work. It’s a judgmental term, one that, when used, ensures that the farb knows he’s not just factually wrong, but he’s also morally wrong. Their lame attempt (and acceptance of their subsequent failure) at authenticity is offensive. Like a civilian trying to pass themselves off as a Marine (aka “Stolen Valor”), farbs ruin the immersive experience of this kind of time travel — not just for the viewer, but for the re-enactors themselves.
It’s the worst thing you can call someone in these fields of dreams.
“That jacket is farby,” “his farbery is appalling,” and “can you believe the farbism he just dropped?” are all common lamentations of the truly dedicated.
Re-enacting battles of bygone eras isn’t strictly a Civil War pastime. History buffs in the north and south alike also re-enact the Revolutionary War (and, in some places, even World War I). Overseas, dedicated Europeans re-enact the Napoleonic Wars, especially the 1815 Battle of Waterloo in what is today Belgium. There is no limit to how far the dedicated will go to keep history alive — some battles date as far back as the Middle Ages, where fighting Mongols in Eastern Europe was the thing to do.
There are several reasons that farbs are looked down upon in the reenacting hobby. One argument I’ve heard is that it’s an insult to the people we portray. Another is that it’s an insult to reenactors who actually take the time and effort to create a highly authentic impression. Yet another is that seeing something inauthentic on the field takes other reenactors “out of the moment” by reminding them that what they’re experiencing isn’t real.
The US Navy’s carrier-based pilots are skilled aviators who have to be able to take off and land on a ship moving swiftly through the open ocean. Two experienced naval aviators recently talked to Insider about the thrills and the dangers of the job.
Fighters and other aircraft aboard the US Navy’s Nimitz-class aircraft carriers are launched using steam catapults. The new Ford-class carriers use the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), a more advanced catapult system.
“Taking a cat shot is the most exciting roller coaster you will ever be on in your life,” Lt. Cmdr. Matt Deppen, who has served for 11 years and trapped on every aircraft carrier in the Navy except the USS Ronald Reagan, told Insider.
“It’s zero to a buck 70 [170 mph] in two, two and a half seconds,” Capt. J.J. Cummings, commanding officer of the USS Gerald R. Ford, told Insider. “The ride, I argue, is the best part of this. The traps are great, but in my view, the catapult is a blast, literally.”
“It’s the ride of a life. It’s great,” he explained. “I think the best part of flying off the ship is the catapult shot. There’s no ride like it in the world.”
The USS Gerald R. Ford recently wrapped up its first Fleet Replacement Squadron carrier qualifications for naval aviators while operating in the Atlantic Ocean. Cummings said that activities aboard the first-in-class ship have brought back memories of his first catapult launch more than 20 years ago.
“I still remember vividly my first trap on board the USS America in a T-2 Buckeye, and I remember even more vividly my first catapult shot,” he told Insider.
“As the catapult fired, I wasn’t ready for that. Those Gs,” Cummings added, revealing that he still remembers shouting out as his aircraft shot off the carrier’s flight deck.
Landing a plane on an aircraft carrier can be exciting too, but it isn’t an easy task. It can be both difficult and dangerous, Deppen told Insider, saying, “I think the toughest thing is landing a plane onboard an aircraft carrier.”
To land on a carrier, Navy pilots have to bring their aircraft in just right. Once on deck, a tailhook on the plane will snag a collection of arresting wires, bringing the plane to a stop.
“When you roll in behind the boat, your heart is pounding,” Deppen said. “It’s the craziest 15 to 18 seconds of your life. It’s the toughest thing we do in naval aviation.”
There is a thin margin of error, he explained, adding that “it can go south really quickly and develop into a very bad situation.” He told Insider it can be “very terrifying.”
The stress of landing on a carrier gets ratcheted up even more at night, when the carrier is just a “dot of light miles out and you’re in the middle of the ocean with no land for a thousand miles away,” Deppen said.
“You’re like, well, crap, I have to land on that thing. It is not easy, and it really gets your blood flowing.”
Still, the naval aviators love to fly. “The plane handles like no other airplane I can get my hands on,” Deppen said of the F/A-18 Super Hornet, the Navy’s main carrier-based fighter. “I just think it’s awesome.”
Women are capable of incredible things, including feats of physical strength, athleticism and tremendous bravery. I have always been a strong supporter of equality for women, and women in the military are no exception. With that in mind, the playing field between men and women in the military isn’t level. Equal doesn’t mean identical.
Often, they’re unaware of these potential hardships until they experience them firsthand. Women are assets to the military without a doubt, but they also deserve to know the details before they sign up. Here’s what any prospective female recruit should consider before they enlist.
Sexual assault is a real threat.
Of all the risks to women in the military, sexual assault is the most widely publicized. While male soldiers are also at risk, women have a heightened risk in comparison. The risk is highest for those stationed on ships; at some high-risk installations studied in 2014, 10% of women were assaulted – and that’s only what was reported. At the two most dangerous, 15% of women were assaulted. The risk is much lower for most military bases, but because studies are done after the fact, it’s impossible to know which bases are the most dangerous currently.
All branches of the military have been working to improve these sobering stats, but between 2016 and 2018, the number of assaults actually increased. Some of the pinpointed factors included alcohol use and off-base parties. Victims also had certain common qualities, like joining the military at a younger age and having a prior history of sexual abuse. On average, one in 17 civilian women will be sexually assaulted in the US. For military women ages 17 to 20, the risk is one in 8, and around 25% of women report sexual harassment at some point during their time of service.
Experiences like these have an impact on mental health.
Many women choose not to report their assaults for fear that their case won’t be taken seriously, or that it will impact their career potential. Either way, victims are more likely to experience PTSD, depression and anxiety that can last for years.
More women in service will serve safely than not, but it’s important to be aware that fending off male attention can be part of the job…even though it shouldn’t be.
Women have a much higher risk of injury in certain military roles.
In close-combat positions and others that require ongoing heavy lifting and extreme physical exertion, women are more likely to experience injuries like stress fractures and torn muscles. Women are more than capable of holding their own in combat, but the particularly physical roles don’t come without risks. Pelvic floor injuries are a particular problem related to carrying heavy weights, potentially leading to urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
Irregular meals have a more pronounced effect.
Eating inconsistently impacts women more heavily than it does men. Many women experience irregular menstruation, or none at all, with potential impacts on future fertility. Since periods can be irritating to deal with when you’re taking on a role that’s heavily physical and allows very little downtime, some opt to take birth control that eliminates periods completely. The hormones they include can have substantial side effects when taken long term, including low bone density and metabolic issues.
Women are more likely to receive a physical disability discharge.
According to one study published by the Army surgeon general’s office, women are 67% more likely to leave on a physical disability discharge due to a musculoskeletal disorder. That statistic was also from 2011, before the most intense combat jobs allowed women to apply.
Side effects can take years to show up.
It’s possible that even women who leave the military feeling healthy will feel the consequences of hard, physical labor later in life. Some female veterans have reported issues like osteoporosis, muscle atrophy, low endurance and infertility, which they believe to be the result of their time in the military.
Military careers can be rewarding for women, too. As long as they know what to expect.
The point of this piece isn’t to tell women they should stay out of combat or avoid the military. That said, since there are risks unique to female members of service, it would be unfair to encourage them to enlist without offering full transparency.
Some military roles can increase the risk of pelvic floor and musculoskeletal injuries, and sexual harassment and assault is an issue that is far from solved, but many women also climb the ranks proudly without a hitch. Now you know the risks. If you still feel a combat role is where you belong, don’t let any statistic hold you back.
A Wisconsin National Guard soldier was buried in his final resting place Sept. 29, 2019, in Monona more than 75 years after his death in New Guinea during World War II.
Army Tech 5th Grade John E. Bainbridge of Sheboygan was a member of the 32nd Infantry Division’s Company C, 128th Infantry Regiment, when he was killed Dec. 2, 1942, during the Battle of Buna.
Bainbridge’s remains since 1947 rested unknown at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines. The military recently identified him and his family asked that he be buried at Monona’s Roselawn Memorial Park, where his sister is buried.
“It was like time stood still for one second as 77 years of waiting, hoping and wondering came to a glorious halt,” said Bainbridge’s niece, Nancy Cunningham, who was 2 years old at the time of his death.
Army Tech 5th Grade John E. Bainbridge of Sheboygan was laid to rest Sept. 29, 2019 in Monona after his remains were identified more than 75 years after his death during the Battle of Buna in World War II.
(Courtesy of Nancy Cunningham)
Born in 1919 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Bainbridge grew up in Sheboygan before graduating from Fond du Lac High School. He worked as a store clerk when he enlisted as a cook in the Wisconsin National Guard with Sheboygan’s Service Battery, 120th Field Artillery, 32nd Infantry Division. The unit left Sheboygan Oct. 17, 1940, for a year of training in Louisiana to increase military readiness of the U.S. Army.
Bainbridge trained with the 120th in Louisiana and was discharged in November 1941 due to family hardship. But the Army rescinded his discharge after the U.S. declared war on Japan and he rejoined the 32nd Infantry Division in time for its deployment to Australia in July 1942. He had been promoted by this time to technician 5th grade and assigned to Company C, 128th Infantry. Gen. Douglas MacArthur ordered the 32nd to the New Guinea jungle in November 1942 to halt the Japanese approach to Australia.
Natives unload new white crosses from trailer to be used in the cemetery for American Forces at New Guinea, May 11, 1943.
(Pvt. Paul Shrock)
His remains were hastily buried on the battlefield and could not be positively identified when he was reburied in early 1943 at a Buna cemetery. Bainbridge’s remains were designated “Unknown X-135” when he was reinterred in 1947 in the Philippines at the Manila American Cemetery.
Bainbridge’s remains were exhumed Feb. 22, 2017, and sent to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency for identification using mitochondrial DNA technology and other procedures. The agency sought out Cunningham and other relatives to provide DNA samples to assist the investigation.
Bainbridge’s funeral was conducted with full military honors. Brig. Gen. Joane Mathews, Wisconsin’s deputy adjutant general for Army, presented the U.S. flag to Cunningham on behalf of the entire Wisconsin National Guard.
The Dec 29, 1942 issue of the Sheboygan Press reported the death of Army Tech 5th Grade John E. Bainbridge at the Battle of Buna in New Guinea.
“Every time I present a flag, I am full of emotion, but this one seemed different not only because of the soldier’s incredible service and sacrifice but because the family had been waiting so long for positive identification,” Mathews said. “What made it even more special was that he was a Wisconsin National Guard and 32nd Division soldier.”
Bainbridge’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery along with other soldiers designated Missing in Action from WWII. A rosette will be carved next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
The 32nd “Red Arrow” Infantry Division was formed on July 18, 1917, for World War I from the Wisconsin and Michigan National Guard. The Red Arrow reorganized after the war in the National Guard of both states and entered active service in 1940 to improve national military readiness during WWII. The Battle of Buna lasted from Nov. 16, 1942, to Jan. 23, 1943, and was the 32nd’s first WWII battle. Its 654 days of combat in New Guinea and the Philippines were the most of any American division during the war.
If you’ve seen that recently-published graph that’s been floating around the internet that states Marines beat every other branch in terms of smoking, drinking, and sleeping around, you may think it’s just some Photoshopped meme or joke. It’s not. It’s actually a real thing. If you haven’t, we’re happy to show you:
(Department of Defense)
The fine folks at the RAND Corporation, the people who administered the survey on behalf of the DoD, probably had the best of intentions when they conducted it. They likely thought to themselves, “perhaps if the troops know how damaging their lifestyle is to their personal health, they’ll want to change.”
But, nah — that’s not how the military works. You put any sort of ranking on it and you’re just going to make things worse. In the immortal words of Matthew McConaughey, “you gotta pump those numbers up! Those are rookie numbers!”