What to do with your TSP after the military - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

What to do with your TSP after the military

Leaving the military means making a lot of decisions — big decisions — often in a short period of time. One important decision, thankfully, doesn’t have a time limit: What should you do with the balance in your Thrift Savings Plan account?

Several myths and rumors surround the answer to that question, with plenty of salesmen wanting you to believe that you should move your money out of the TSP. Five clear options exist for service members and their TSP account assets after transitioning from the military. Even though there’s no single answer for everyone, three choices are more optimal for most people, and two choices are less right for most people.


The usually-better options include:

  1. Leave the money in your TSP account.
  2. Roll your TSP account balance into an Individual Retirement Arrangement.
  3. Roll your TSP account balance into your new employer’s 401(k) plan.

The rarely-better options include:

  1. Withdraw your TSP account balance in a lump sum.
  2. Transfer your TSP account balance to a qualified annuity.

Leave the balance in your TSP account

Once you have a TSP account, you can leave your money in there until you have to take required minimum distributions. There is no requirement to move it anywhere, at any time. In fact, most military-savvy financial planners recommend that you leave your retirement funds in TSP.

“As an entering argument, we don’t advocate doing anything different with your TSP,” says Sean Gillespie of Redeployment Wealth Strategies. “Just because you can’t contribute to it any more doesn’t mean you have to move it. And with low cost being one of the leading predictors of maximizing your returns, it’s darned difficult to do better than you will with TSP.”

Pros: Leaving your money in the TSP is by far the easiest option, and it’s a good option for many situations. The TSP has very, very low fees. You can move the money elsewhere later. TSP understands tax-free contributions from a Combat Zone Tax Exclusion. You can roll new money from other qualified plans into your TSP account to take advantage of the low costs.

Cons: TSP offers limited distribution options, though they are scheduled to expand this fall. You have limited investment options in TSP. You can’t roll from Traditional TSP to Roth TSP, so if you are trying to move your Traditional money into Roth accounts, it will have to be out of TSP. You can’t take multiple partial withdrawals out of your TSP account.

Roll your TSP balance into an Individual Retirement Arrangement

Pros: You have total control of how you invest your money, and unlimited investment options. You can still roll the money into a 401 (k) in the future. You can convert money that is currently in a Traditional account into a Roth account, but it will be a taxable event. And it’s really nice to put everything in one place!

Cons: IRAs don’t have any loan options, and will probably have higher fees.

Roll your TSP balance into your new employer’s 401 (k) plan

Pros: Moving your TSP balance will streamline your accounts, and that balance will be available for borrowing with a 401 (k) loan. (But don’t do it!)

Cons: Most 401 (k) plans have higher costs than TSP. You’ll still be limited to the investment options in the new plan. There may be a waiting period to participate in your new employer’s 401 (k). Not all 401 (k) plans have a Roth option.

Forrest Baumhover, a certified financial planner with Lawrence Financial Planning, suggests caution when moving your TSP to a 401(k).

“When you leave military service, don’t be quick to jump out of TSP. It has better and lower-cost investment options than 401 (k) plans.”

Withdraw your TSP account balance in a lump sum

Pros: Cash in hand.

Cons: Withdrawing money from your TSP account may be subject to withdrawal penalties (10%) and taxes (probably in the 20% range). More importantly, you’ll lose all future earnings on that money, and you can’t replace that money into a tax-advantaged account because they have yearly contribution limits.

Transfer your TSP account balance to a qualified annuity

Pros: Predictable, guaranteed income stream for life.

Cons: It is a permanent decision. There may be high fees involved. You may not get anywhere near the full value of your contribution. If it isn’t indexed for inflation, the purchasing power of your monthly benefit will decrease each year.

This is a relatively short overview and can’t possibly cover every possible situation. As with everything, there are exceptions and nuances for many different scenarios. If you are considering moving your TSP to another investment, you may find value in consulting a financial advisor to figure out which choice is right for you and your specific situation.

Lacey Langford, AFC ®, The Military Money Expert ®, suggests several reasons why you might want to consider using a fee-only financial planner vs. the advisor offered through a bank, insurance company or investment company.

“Fee-only allows you to have a clear picture of what you’re paying for and how the advisor is being compensated for the advice and recommendations they’re giving you,” Langford added.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

How to actually use that back extension machine

It’s in a dark and wet corner of the gym. Half the gym-goers ignore it altogether. The other half use it to torture their spine as if it owes them money.

The back extension machine can be a valuable tool for your training progression. It could also be the reason you’re spending more time at the physical therapist than making gains. This article is going to set you on the path to a strong, resilient, and pain-free posterior chain.


Don’t write a check your back can’t cash…

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When you look at a back extension machine, is your first thought to lay face down/ass up, or face up/ass down? If you’re ass up, you’re working ass, and if you’re abs up, you’re working abs.

Using the back extension machine to work abs

Though the machine is intended for the back extension exercise (abs down), it is much more commonly used to train abs, and often unsafely and ineffectively.

Here’s the proper way to train your abs on the machine.

The key is to not over-extend the back when doing your “sit-ups” on the back extension machine. This probably runs counter to every single person you’ve ever seen doing this exercise, including many of the athletes at the Crossfit Games. The below video is a great example of proper form.

The GHD Sit-Up

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Using the machine for your posterior chain

When used as intended, lying belly down, the back extension machine trains your hamstrings, glutes, and low back. Back extensions are a great supplemental exercise to the squat and the deadlift for developing your posterior chain. The key to all exercises on the back extension machine is to keep a straight (neutral) spine.

Your spinal erectors–those muscles on either side of your lower spine–are designed to work mainly isometrically in these movements. That’s when a muscle contracts to maintain position, rather than to move a part of the body–think planks, not crunches.

In all of the movements that are possible on the back extension machine, the primary purpose is not to actually put the back into extension. If taken literally, the machine is poorly named.

It should be called the hip extension machine, because that’s what you are primarily doing: extending your hips.

The muscles of the back extension.

(@weighttrainingguide)

The back extension works your spinal erectors in the same way that the squat or deadlift does. You are using the spinal erectors to maintain your spinal integrity.

The way to target different levels of your posterior chain is conquered in the setup. Set yourself up for success by properly setting the machine to target the muscles you want. This is where the pad should hit your legs to properly train different muscle groups.

  • Hamstring focused: low balance point (around mid-thigh)
  • Glutes focused: middle balance point (just below hip-flexors)
  • Low back focused: high balance point (hip-flexors on the pad) (not recommended)

Let’s take a look at these three setups.

All About Back Extensions

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Hamstring-focused back extensions

In truth, the back extension is not the exercise you actually want to be doing to target your hamstrings specifically. To use the back extension machine for glutes, you want to be doing the glute ham raise. It’s a leg curl using your entire body as the counterweight rather than a machine. It has the benefit of including your glutes and back in the movement as well, which is completely neglected when doing the same movement in a leg-curl machine.

Glute-Ham Raise

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Pick your profession wisely.

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Glutes-focused back extensions

To focus your back extension on the glutes, start by finding the sweet spot on the back extension machine where:

  • Your hips aren’t too high above the pad.
  • Your hips aren’t covered by the pad (too low). This forces rounding in the back and takes the glutes out of the equation.
  • Your feet are splayed out at 45 degrees or further and separated as wide as possible (think the same stance as Parade Rest in drill).

Bret Contreras is the global authority on all things glutes. The guy literally has a Ph.D. in butts (see, kids, you really can be whatever you want to be when you grow up…even an assman.) Below, he takes you through the optimal setup and cadence for the glutes-focused back extension.

Back Extension Instructional Video

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Back-focused back extensions

As previously mentioned, the back extension machine’s name is a misnomer. You do not want to actually target your low back through repeated flexion and extension of the lumbar (low) spine.

Think of your back like a paper clip. When it is in a neutral position, it’s strong and can easily hold together the first draft of your romance mystery novel. But if you bend it back and forth repeatedly, eventually the stress will cause the paperclip to snap, and your novel will scatter to the winds.

Likewise, repeated unnecessary extension and flexion of the spine can cause similar damage.

Lift with your back.

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Before you claim fear mongering think of it like this…

Sure, we have muscles that can flex and extend the spine, but we also have complex joints like the hips, knees, and ankles that have the strongest and largest muscles of the body attached to them, that provide better range of motion and function than a bent spine ever could.

Why would you want to train a muscle group to do something it is designed to do as a fail safe (extend and flex the spine) when you could instead train the spine to isometrically hold strong while huge and powerful muscles like the glutes and hamstrings allow you to pull a truck, lift a pool table, or deadlift 400 lbs with ease.

Allow reason to prevail.

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Articles

This is everything you need to know about Army Rangers

Assuming you haven’t been living under a rock for the past year or so, you probably know that a handful of female officers made history by graduating the US Army’s prestigious Ranger School and that one female Soldier tried (and failed) to join the Ranger Regiment.


You may have also noticed that there are, all of a sudden, a lot of “internet experts” on Rangers, or anything to do with Rangers. If you actually do know a thing or two about Rangers, then you know all these so-called experts are creating mass confusion and hysteria on the interwebz. So, in an effort to set the record straight, I thought I would lay out the pertinent information that anyone needs to know about this topic.

Although I have not attended every course I am about to speak of, I served in the US Army from 2005 until my separation in 2013. Of that time, I served in 1st Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment for over four years, where I completed three deployments to Iraq and two to Afghanistan. The remainder of my time I spent in the Syracuse Recruiting Battalion, where I am proud to say that I mentored sixteen different young men who made it into the 75th Ranger Regiment. Outside of my military experience, I am also the author of Ranger Knowledge: The All Inclusive Study Guide For Rangers and Violence of Action: The Untold Stories of the 75th Ranger Regiment in the War on Terror.

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Benjamin Jebb, a 7th Infantry Division Ranger, reaches for the ranger tab to complete an obstacle during the Best Ranger Competition 2017 in Fort Benning, Ga., April 9, 2017. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos.

Ranger Training and Assessment Course (RTAC) – The RTAC course is a 16-day preparatory course for Ranger School. It is run by the Army National Guard Warrior Training Center, and primarily used by National Guard students, but open to students of any unit. It is located on Fort Benning, Georgia and is divided in to two phases: RAP phase and Patrolling phase. All National Guard soldiers who want to attend Ranger School must pass this course first. It should be noticed that many Army installations run a similar course to prepare their soldiers for Ranger School in a similar way.

US Army Ranger Course (Ranger School) – Ranger School is 62 days long with a 42% graduation rate, and is considered the Army’s toughest leadership course. Ranger School is a mentally and physically challenging course that teaches small unit infantry tactics and develops leadership skills under austere conditions meant to simulate the exhaustion of real combat operations. The course falls under the US Army Training and Doctrine Command, and is run by the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, which also runs the Army’s Airborne School, Jumpmaster School, and Pathfinder School.

The course incorporates three phases (Benning, Mountain, and Swamp), which follow the crawl, walk, run training methodology. After completion of these three phases, Ranger School graduates are considered proficient in leading squad and platoon dismounted operations in a variety of climates and terrain. Upon graduation, they are awarded and authorized the black and gold “Ranger Tab” on their left shoulder.

Second Lt. Jorge Ramirez, a member of Joint Task Force Domestic Support-Counterdrug, receives his Ranger tab after completing Ranger School July 16, 2010. USNG photo by 2nd Lt. Kara Siepmann.

After completion of the course, graduates return to their units and are expected to take leadership positions shortly after their return. Soldiers of any military occupational specialty (MOS), and any branch of service, as well as some allied nation service members can attend this course. There are no formal pre-requisite courses for attendance at Ranger School. Ranger School does not require students to be airborne qualified before attending. It should be noted that although soldiers are considered “Ranger Qualified,” graduation of this course does not qualify a service member for service in the 75th Ranger Regiment.

75th Ranger Regiment – The 75th Ranger Regiment is a special operations unit that falls under the US Army Special Operations Command, which falls under the US Special Operations Command – the parent organization of other SOF units such as Navy SEALs, Marine Raiders, and Army Special Forces “Green Berets.” The 75th Ranger Regiment’s mission is to plan and conduct special missions in support of US policy and objectives. They are considered the go-to direct action raid unit, and have killed or captured more high value targets in the War on Terror than any other unit. The Regiment is composed of four Ranger battalions: 1st Ranger Battalion on Hunter Army Airfield, GA, 2nd Ranger Battalion on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA, and 3rd Ranger Battalion and Regimental Special Troops Battalion on Fort Benning, GA. They are readily identified by their tan beret’s and red, white, and black “Ranger Scroll.” All soldiers assigned are graduates of either RASP 1 or 2.

Rangers assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment are expected to go to the US Army Ranger School before taking a leadership position, but are not required to attend before serving in the Regiment. It should be noted that Ranger School and the 75th Ranger Regiment are completely different entities under completely different commands with completely different missions, and one is not needed for the other.

Lt. Col. Dave Hodne, the commander of 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., pins an Army Commendation Medal on one of the battalion’s Soldiers. Photo from Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord, 5th Mobile Public Affiars Detachment.

Ranger Assessment and Selection Program 1 (RASP 1) – RASP 1 is an 8-week course ran by the 75th Ranger Regiment and boasts an approximate 33% graduation rate (that number can vary based on time of year as well as other factors). It selects and trains soldiers in the rank of Private through Sergeant for service in the 75th Ranger Regiment. Upon completion of this course, graduates have the basic capabilities to conduct operations as a junior member of a Ranger strike force or command element.

RASP 1 is divided into two phases. Phase 1 is the primary “weeding out” phase, as well as conducts initial standard testing, such as the timed road marches and PT and swim tests. Phase 1 also includes the notoriously brutal “Cole Range” week of training. Phase 2 focuses more on the special operations-peculiar skills needed for service in the Regiment, such as explosive breaching, advanced marksmanship, and advanced first-responder skills. Upon graduation of RASP 1, the new Rangers are awarded the Black, Red, and White “Ranger Scroll” as well as the Khaki (tan) Beret. At this point, they are considered full-fledged Rangers and are assigned to one of the four Ranger Battalions of the 75th Ranger Regiment. It should be noted that Ranger School is not required before attendance at RASP 1, but some students are Ranger School graduates already. Airborne School is a required pre-requisite though, as all soldiers need to be airborne-qualified for service in the 75thRanger Regiment.

Pvt. Howard Urban is congratulated by his father Sgt. Maj. Howard Urban, guest speaker, at the 75th Ranger Regiment RASP Class 05-15 Graduation at Fort Benning. Photo by Pfc. Eric Overfelt, 75th Ranger Regiment documentation specialist.

Ranger Assesment and Selection Program 2 (RASP 2) –RASP 2 is a 21-day course that is ran by the 75th Ranger Regiment. It is for soldiers in the rank of Staff Sergeant and above, and all officers volunteering for assignment to the 75th Ranger Regiment. This course assesses and selects mid- and senior-grade leaders for assignment to the 75th Ranger Regiment and teaches them the operational techniques and standards needed for their time in the Regiment. Upon successful completion of this course, graduates are awarded the Black, Red, and White “Ranger Scroll” as well as the Khaki (tan) Beret and are assigned to one of the four battalions in the 75th Ranger Regiment. It should be noted that Ranger School is not required before attendances at RASP 2, but most students are already Ranger School graduates.

Small Unit Ranger Tactics (SURT) – SURT, formerly known as “Pre-Ranger Course (PRC),” is a three-week program that is run by the 75th Ranger Regiment, for Rangers already in the Regiment who will be attending the US Army Ranger School. Because the 75th Ranger Regiment and the Ranger School are so different, this course is designed to prepare Rangers for the “School” way of doing things, and ensure they have the best shot at success in Ranger School.

Hopefully this short primer explains all the nuances of anything relating to the Army Rangers, and maybe even answers a few questions that are floating around in response to the pending female graduates of Ranger School. Chief among them, “Why aren’t they going to the Ranger Regiment if they passed Ranger School?” Because Ranger School has nothing to do with the 75th Ranger Regiment and is definitely not the selection course for service in the 75th.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How to fire a World War II bazooka

Infantry have long been looking for a way to deal with tanks. Today, missiles like the FGM-148 Javelin and BGM-71 Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided (TOW) can give even the lightest of infantry forces the ability to give an armored unit a bloody nose.


U.S. Marines with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment patrol the fields in Marjeh, Afghanistan on Feb. 22, 2010. Marines are securing the city of Marjeh from the Taliban. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Andres J. Lugo)

In World War II, those lethal tank-killers weren’t around, but the need for a tank-killer a grunt could carry was obvious. After all, the Nazis used the blitzkrieg tactic across Europe to great effect. The Americans had an decent anti-tank grenade, but it was so heavy that the effective range made using it like a grenade suicidal.

Then someone had the bright idea to make the grenade a rocket. The M1 bazooka entered service in 1942. According to modernfirearms.net, the M1 fired a 60mm M6 anti-tank rocket that had an effective range of about 300 yards. It could do a number on a Nazi tank – and many Nazi tank crews were unavailable for comment about the bazooka’s effectiveness.

The M1 bazooka with two rockets. (Smithsonian Institution photo)

Like the modern FGM-148 Javelin, the bazooka had a two-man crew. But while the Javelin has a range of just over one and half miles, the bazooka couldn’t even reach one-fifth of a mile. Still, though, it was a major improvement over nothing.

The crews had to be well-trained to handle this weapon. Part of the problem was that for a simple-looking weapon, the bazooka was complex. Among things crews had to be careful of were broken wires (the weapon fired electically), drained batteries (the ones shown in the film seem to be AA batteries like you’d use in a remote), or a dirty trigger mechanism.

The bazooka also proved to be very capable against machine gun nests, pillboxes, and bunkers. (U.S. Army photos)

The bazooka served in World War II and the Korean War. By the end of World War II, it had shifted from a tank-killer to being used as a light infantry support weapon, largely because tanks like the German Tiger and the Russian T-34 were shrugging off the rockets.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Surprising aircraft vying to be Army’s new bird

There’s a new company vying to build the Army’s new family of helicopters, and the gyrocopter design is at least as radical as the compound helicopters being offered by Sikorsky or the tilt-rotors that Bell is building.


Heliplane

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The company, Skyworks Global, has a history of producing gyrocopters. These look a bit like helicopters, but they’re much less complex, are often more efficient, and cost a lot less. But they have a big weakness against helicopters: they can’t traditionally take off or land vertically.

Skyworks made some progress in a 2005 DARPA program, but the program had its funding cut. Now, Skyworks has partnered with Scaled Composites, a company that rapidly develops aircraft prototypes, to make a functional version to compete in military programs.

Thanks to the lack of a rotor mast, transmission, and some other complex parts, Skyworks thinks it can make an aircraft much cheaper while still exceeding Army requirements for range and other capabilities. In fact, the firm told Flight Global that it could build a gyro for four passengers for a mere million.

That would leave a lot of upgrade money for the company to strap on sensors, a more powerful engine, and other upgrades and still stay way below the Army’s planned million per aircraft to replace the Black Hawk by 2030.

The aircraft is known as a VertiJet, and while it looks like a traditional helicopter, the physics are quite different. Basically, a traditional helicopter has a powerful engine that powers the main rotor—the spinning, horizontal blades mounted on top of the aircraft—as well as an anti-torque rotor that keeps the rest of the aircraft from spinning. The main blades produce lift and allow the helicopter to fly.

On a gyrocopter, the big blades on top of the aircraft don’t receive any engine power. Instead, power is delivered to a rotor at the front or rear of the aircraft. That sends the aircraft forward and feeds air over the blades. That air spins the blades, and that generates the lift that sends the aircraft skyward.

This has some serious advantages for the military. First, air generally flows up through a gyrocopter’s rotors instead of down, eliminating brownouts and improving pilot visibility near the ground. But there’s a severe downside, the gyrocopter has to get good forward speed before it can take off, and it can’t hover.

Skyworks turned to a 1950s experiment to fix the vertical takeoff problem. Their design feeds air up through the rotor and out of the blade tips during takeoff, causing the blades to spin like a traditional helicopter’s would during takeoff or hover. Since this is achieved with compressed air instead of engine power, they don’t need to add a transmission or masthead.

Even with Scaled Composites’ skill at rapidly developing prototypes, it’ll be pretty late to the game for the Future Armed Reconnaissance program to produce a new armed scout. But other Army programs could be a good fit, and the Marine Corps is looking for helicopters or helicopter-like aircraft that can keep up with the V-22 Osprey. Skyworks has not said what programs it will compete for with the new push.

For decades in the early 20th century, the military only flew balloons and piston-powered planes. In World War II, the first helicopters joined the war effort. Over 45 years later, the V-22 became the first tilt-rotor aircraft to enter military production. Now, there are two new aircraft designs in consideration, the compound helicopter and the gyrocopter.

The skylines over military bases are about to get a lot more interesting.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Failed test of Putin’s doomsday missile causes deadly explosion

A deadly explosion at a missile test site last week appears to have been caused by a failed test of a nuclear-powered cruise missile, although Russia has yet to say what its engineers were working on at the time of the blast.

Five Russian nuclear scientists were buried on Aug. 12, 2019, after they were killed in an explosion last week. Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corp., Russia’s state nuclear agency, said they were testing a nuclear-powered engine at the time the blast occurred, BBC reported.

“The rocket tests were carried out on the offshore platform,” Rosatom said in a statement over the weekend, according to Foreign Policy magazine. “After the tests were completed, the rocket fuel ignited, followed by detonation. After the explosion, several employees were thrown into the sea.”


Rosatom did not clarify what exactly went wrong during testing, saying only that “there was a confluence of factors, which often happens when testing new technologies,” according to Foreign Policy.

Burevestnik nuclear unit.

(YouTube)

The Russian defense ministry, by way of Russian state media, said earlier that only two people were killed when a liquid-propellant rocket engine blew up. The story has changed as the death toll has risen.

The scientists and engineers “tragically died while testing a new special device,” Alexey Likhachev, the head of Rosatom, said at the funeral on Aug. 12, 2019.

The men were buried in Sarov, a city known for nuclear research, Bloomberg reported, saying that experts suspect that what blew up might have been a compact nuclear reactor. Three other people were injured by the explosion at Russia’s Nyonoksa test range.

“The best thing for their memory will be our further work on the new weapons,” Likhachev said at Aug. 12, 2019’s funeral. “We are fulfilling the task of the motherland. Its security will be reliably ensured.”

US intelligence officials, The New York Times reported, believe that last week’s explosion involved a prototype of the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, a kind of doomsday missile that NATO refers to as SSC-X-9 Skyfall. Several experts have arrived at the same conclusion.

This video grab shows the launch of what Russian President Vladimir Putin said was Russia’s new nuclear-powered intercontinental cruise missile.

(YouTube)

Tweeting Aug. 12, 2019, President Donald Trump referred to what he called the “failed missile explosion in Russia” as the “‘Skyfall’ explosion.”

In March 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted that the missile was “invincible,” asserting that the weapon has “an unlimited range, unpredictable trajectory and ability to bypass interception.” But, so far, Russia has struggled to get the weapon to fly.

No country has ever fielded a nuclear-powered cruise missile, although the US briefly flirted with the idea decades ago.

“Was this stupid missile worth getting these young men killed?” Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program for the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, rhetorically asked Aug. 12, 2019, in a Foreign Policy article on the incident.

In the article, he concluded that the weapon tested last week was likely the Burevestnik and said that an escalating arms race between the US and Russia could lead to more nuclear accidents.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 life lessons today’s troops could learn from Vietnam vets

It’s easy to look at different eras of veterans and write them off as coming a different time, a different place, a different war. The truth is, the old Vietnam vet you met at the Legion while trying to get cheap drinks isn’t all that different from our men and women fighting today in Iraq and Afghanistan. Toss a drink or two his way and share some stories. Life sucks in the sandbox, but things in the jungle weren’t any better.


Whether you’re out to avoid the same pitfalls of their generation, find out that your struggles aren’t unique, or even joke about the military across eras — pick their brain. We could all learn a thing or two from them. Here’s what you might learn:

5. Things could always get worse.

Back in Afghanistan, I thought the worst conditions imaginable were summer heat, sandstorm season, and the wash out from the week of rain. Boy, just doing a Google search of weather conditions in Vietnam put my heart at ease.

Comparing one person’s hell to another isn’t always appropriate or beneficial, but I’ll admit full-heartedly that damn-near everything from the country to living conditions to the enemy to contacting folks back home was much, much worse for our older brothers.

Hell, even being a commo guy sucked back then. (Image via Stars and Stripes)

4. Cleanliness regardless.

If there’s one clear trait shared among nearly all Vietnam vets, it’s cleanliness. This isn’t just a “different military back then” kind of a thing. Nearly everything from the clothes they wear to the house they live in and the weapons they take to the range: Spotless.

In war, constantly changing socks and uniforms kept them healthy, living areas needed to be spotless to keep vermin out, and their trusty rifle needed to be cleaned constantly to stay trustworthy.

If you can’t clean your damn weapon, you probably don’t deserve one. (Image via Wikicommons)

3. Winning hearts and minds is tricky.

In both wars, troops are out in the middle of some foreign country, fighting an enemy they can’t easily identify. Our wars weren’t as simple as looking at an enemy dressed in a clearly distinguishable uniform fighting under a clearly identifiable flag. Winning hearts and minds isn’t so easy when you’re focusing on who’s the good guy and who’s not.

The famous counter-insurgency tactic of winning over the hearts and minds of the locals wasn’t the brainchild of modern Generals trying to get a warm and fuzzy about the war. In fact, President John. F. Kennedy started it and President Lyndon B. Johnson repeated exact phrase on record 28 times during the Vietnam War.

You know what the definition of insanity is? (Image via NATO Canada)

2. The fight against burn pits will be a rough one.

Getting recognition for health concerns over the dispersal of deadly chemicals in the air because of the negligent decisions of corner-cutting big wigs is the heart of the fight against burn pits. There’s a reason saying there is nothing wrong with burning literal trenches filled with garbage and human sh*t just feet away from the tents troops live in for twelve months is called the “Agent Orange of our generation.”

With the actual Agent Orange, it wasn’t until 1984, eleven years after the end of American involvement in the Vietnam War, that a class action lawsuit against the government for using the substance first came out. To this day, Vietnam vets are still fighting for recognition of health concerns related to Agent Orange exposure.

If we want burn pits to be taken seriously, we need to handle the napalm and Agent Orange situation first. (Image via Wikicommons)

1. Not everyone will thank you for your service.

Not to call anyone out or pass judgement, not having year-round veteran discounts isn’t the most disrespectful thing ever done to a returning veteran, so maybe don’t raise hell at some minimum-wage retail worker about it.

Our older brothers came home to a country that shifted cultures drastically after they were, in some cases, drafted into the fight. Until you’ve had a former childhood friend abandon you for serving, paying full price for a damn coffee shouldn’t even be on your radar.

Not to be THAT guy, but a flower isn’t going to stop the bullet from coming out of the barrel. Just saying. (Image via Washington Star)

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Japanese WW2 soldier fled the Allies and hid in the jungle for 27 years

Shoichi Yokoi was 26 when he was drafted into the Japanese Army in 1941.

At the time, soldiers were taught that surrender was the worst possible fate for a soldier — so when US forces invaded Japanese-occupied Guam in 1944, Yokoi fled into the jungle.

He dug a cave near a waterfall, covered it with bamboo and reeds, and survived by eating small animals. He had no idea, when he was discovered on Jan. 24, 1972, by two hunters near a river, that the war had ended decades ago.

He attacked the hunters, who were able to overpower the weakened soldier and escorted him to authorities, where he revealed his bizarre story.


Shoichi Yokoi.

Yokoi was treated at a hospital in Guam before heading home to Japan, which he had not seen since 1941.

Yokoi was sent to Guam after being drafted into the Japanese Army in 1941.

During the US invasion he and a number of other soldiers made their way into the jungle to avoid being taken as prisoners of war.

This newspaper photograph was described as Yokoi’s first haircut in 28 years.

Japanese government officials flew to the island to help repatriate the soldier, who had not seen his homeland for nearly 30 years.

During his 27 years in isolation, he survived by eating frogs, rats, and eels as well as fruits and nuts, according to his obituary in The New York Times.

He made his own shelter, using bamboo and reeds to cover a cave he dug himself. In his memoirs, he said he buried at least two of his comrades eight years before he was discovered.

In this book, Yokoi’s autobiography is supplemented by a biographical account of his later life.

Talofofo Falls Resort Park, where Shoichi Yokoi dug a cave and hid for nearly 28 years after the US invasion of Guam during World War II.

Although he was repatriated to Japan almost immediately, he reportedly flew back to Guam several times throughout the remainder of his life, including for his honeymoon.

According to his obituary, Yokoi had a hard time readjusting to life in Japan.

The entrance to Yokoi’s cave is in Talofofo Falls Resort Park in Guam.

Yokoi covered his cave with bamboo and reeds.

The soldier was a tailor before the war, skills that helped him make his shelter and clothing, according to Stars Stripes.

This diagram sketches the cave where Yokoi hid for nearly 28 years.

The cave has reportedly collapsed, but a diagram at the site shows an idea of what it looked like.

Also read: This guy kept fighting World War II for 30 years after Japan surrendered

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army developed a tactical cooler that puts your Yeti to shame

Natick – the home of the researchers who created the things you love most, like woobies, OCPs, and the chili mac MRE – came up with another creation designed to make your life in the desert a little easier. It just so happens it would make your life on the beach a lot better too: the combat cooler.


The reason for the creation of the combat cooler was not just a way for troops to have rockin’ sand and sun parties in the middle of the desert. There was actually a mission-necessary function for it. The Joint Program Office for Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicles needed a way to protect soldiers when hit by IEDs or other explosives during an ambush. It seems the bottles they carried (along with the containers for other beverages) can become dangerous projectiles in such an explosion.

So the Pentagon asked the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center if they could develop a way to mitigate that threat while making the water easy to reach and cold enough that soldiers would want to drink it. The result was the Insulated Container for Bottled Water, or ICB.

Tacticooler.

Natick’s idea also had to include a way to keep MREs from becoming the same deadly projectiles. So along with insulation to keep the inside cold, they used a zipper system to keep the bottles in at one level. But knowing that zippers will fail, they also used a webbing system to encase the bag, which also reinforces the opening, which is done through a zipper. Now your combat cooler can carry/withstand 6,000 pounds.

And even when your zipper fails, there is still a way to close the cooler.

The largest tacticooler (my title, not theirs) can carry up to 36 bottles of water or 28 MREs, that will withstand drops, fire, vibrations, and even the harshest climates. So even operating in a 120-degree combat environment, soldiers could still count on a nice cool drink when they get back to the MRAP.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The last troop killed in WWII died after the war ended

On Dec. 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan launched a brutal attack on Pearl Harbor, killing over 2,300 American military personnel and catapulting the U.S. into World War II. After nearly four years of fierce fighting, Japan agreed to the terms of surrender as laid out in the Potsdam Declaration. On August 14th, 1945, this decision was broadcast across Japan.

A few weeks later, thousands of brave men gathered on the USS Missouri to witness a historic event as Gen. Douglas MacArthur, accompanied by Adms. Chester Nimitz and William Halsey, met with the Japanese delegation. Officials signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on September 2, 1945, finally putting a stop to the war and securing victory for the Allies.

A still photo as the Japanese officially surrender.

Tragically, between the announcement of the surrender and the signing of the document, despite an active ceasefire, one last American life was lost.


During the war, Sgt. Anthony J. Marchione served as an aerial photographer with the 20th Combat Reconnaissance Squadron. On August 18, 1945, Marchione was on a mission to gather evidence that the Japanese were indeed complying with the ceasefire when the B-32 he was aboard took enemy fire.

Japanese machine guns ripped into the side of the B-32’s metal skin, creating a shower of shrapnel inside the cabin. Marchione noticed one of the crew members was gravely wounded and he rushed over. As the brave photographer helped his brother-in-arms, another barrage of enemy gunfire rained down on the American bomber.

An American B-32.

The second round of incoming fire struck Marchione. He bled to death aboard his plane in the skies over Tokyo that Saturday afternoon. Sgt. Marchione’s tragic, untimely death has the dubious distinction of being the very last of World War II.

The aerial photographer was about a month away from celebrating his 20th birthday.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How drug dealers used the US military to smuggle heroin

In the early 1970s, Harlem-based drug kingpin, Frank Lucas, was slinging his signature brand of heroin all over New York and the east coast. “Blue Magic,” as it was called, was the best-selling, closest-to-pure Asian heroin you could get.


Blue Magic envelopes. (Image from the Netflix documentary, Drug Lords)

New York City’s special narcotics prosecutor called Lucas, “one of the most outrageous international dope-smuggling gangs ever… an innovator who got his own connection outside the U.S. and then sold the stuff himself in the street.” That connection was in Vietnam, where the United States was embroiled in a years-long conflict. It presented Lucas with an easy opportunity to move his product.

No, it was not in the coffins of dead service members as Lucas originally claimed, nor was it in specially-made coffins or false-bottomed coffins. These are all claims made by Lucas, who is now 87 years old, at various times. The heroin was moved by U.S. military members on military planes, however.

Frank Lucas today.

Charles Lutz, who served in Vietnam with the 525th Military Intelligence Group and spent 32 years as a federal narcotics agent, was part of the team that toppled Frank Lucas’ Asia-based heroin supply chain. He detailed how, exactly, military investigators and drug enforcement agent cracked the scheme for History Net.

Two Army NCOs, Leslie “Ike” Atkinson and William “Jack” Jackson, met at Fort Bragg early in their careers. While in Vietnam, they made money buying Military Payment Certificates on the cheap and trading them in for cash on the border. When they got tired of that, they started smuggling heroin from a bar they purchased in Bangkok.

From the documentary Sgt. Smack.

Staff Sgt. Jasper Myrick, Atkinson, and Jackson would cheat soldiers at cards and forgive their debt if they moved a shipment of heroin in their personal luggage back to the States. Even though he was caught trying to mail heroin through false-bottomed AWOL bags and thrown in prison in 1975, he continued to move product. After all, he was Frank Lucas’ chief supplier.

Army Criminal Investigators were connected through a DEA informant in Bangkok who connected them to Atkinson’s supplier. Posing as street thugs, they set up a fake buy. After they had evidence against Atkinson’s buyer, they convinced him to come to the U.S. for some fun in Las Vegas. Not only did he come, he brought a kilo of heroin with him.

Even though he was eventually busted and sentenced to 30 years, he wouldn’t give up the former Master Sgt. Atkinson. Luckily, there were two other recently retired military members in Bangkok. One of them told the DEA and Army CID that Atkinson was moving a giant shipment to the U.S. soon.

(Al Profit | YouTube)

That’s when luck blew the case wide open.

Staff Sgt. Jasper Myrick was having his household items inspected for a coming move to Fort Benning. The Army inspector found 100 pounds of “China White” heroin hidden in Myrick’s furniture. But the DEA still needed to trace it back to Atkinson.

Thai police traced the furniture back to its manufacturer where they identified an associate of Atkinson’s, Jimmy Smedley, a retired Army NCO who also ran Atkinson’s nightclub in Bangkok. They also found orders for Myrick’s move and orders for another soldier who recently moved to Augusta, Georgia.

But that soldier’s furniture was already emptied. One of Atkinson’s known associates, an Air Force NCO named Freddie Thornton, had stayed at a motel in the area recently. Agents picked up him and everyone associated with the heroin move.

It was the largest heroin smuggling operation in American history.

Thornton turned on Atkinson and everyone involved was convicted. The heroin was never recovered and was valued at $5 million on the streets.

The film American Gangster was loosely based on Lucas’ story.

Frank Lucas, the drug dealer who took credit for smuggling heroin in the coffins of dead servicemen, was arrested before Atkinson in 1975. Originally sentenced to 70 years, he turned on everyone and got his sentence reduced significantly.

Atkinson calls his claim of using coffins “the biggest hoax ever perpetrated.”

Podcast

5 insane stories from the life of Britain’s most successful double agent

The real James Bond is finally revealed: A few years ago Larry Loftis decided to stop publishing legal articles and work full-time on researching and writing the story of Dusko Popov, the daring World War II double agent who worked tirelessly to keep the Nazis off guard about the upcoming D-Day invasions.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher | Spotify


1. Popov was captured by the Nazis before he became a spy.

Dusko Popov was a student in Germany as the Nazis took power and began to persecute the German Jews. No fan of the Nazis, Popov thumbed his nose at the thugs who came to intimidate patrons of Jewish businesses. He was quickly visited by the Gestapo, who imprisoned him and tortured him for information.

He was able to escape Germany because of his family’s connections. Hermann Göering ordered his release to Yugoslavia.

Johann-Nielsen “Johnny” Jebsen

(MI5 Archives)

2. He was recruited by his best friend.

Johann-Nielsen Jebsen – known as “Johnny” – went to school with Popov. But Jebsen is from a very wealthy European family with German roots. They met each other at the university of Freiburg but where Popov was expelled from Germany, Jebsen, as a German citizen, was forced to join the Nazi war effort. He joins the Abwehr (German military intelligence) as a spy recruiter.

His first recruit is Dusko Popov and the two both became double agents for the British.

3. He warned the U.S. about the attack on Pearl Harbor

Popov warned the FBI on Aug. 18, 1941, that the Japanese were about to attack Pearl Harbor. Popov and his MI6 supervisor met FBI officials at the Commodore Hotel and for three hours laid out the entire plan. Popov was in the country to set up a spy ring in New York and recon the defenses at Pearl Harbor.

The attack was supposed to be a repeat of the British attack on the Italian fleet at the defended port of Taranto in 1940. The Japanese wanted to know how they could be as successful as they enter the war against the Americans. The reason President Roosevelt never saw the information will enrage you.

Check out the book (or finish this podcast) to find out!

4. He was critical to the success of D-Day.

The British determined that the best way to keep the Germans off guard on D-Day was to convince them that the invasion would come at Pas-de-Calais, not Normandy. At the risk of his life, with interrogators who were convinced that Popov was compromised by the British, Popov returned to Germany.

He gave the Nazis the false information the British wanted them to believe during multiple, marathon interrogation sessions that lasted for hours at a time over a series of days. Popov was the only spy who was interrogated by the Nazis about D-Day.

Simone Simon in 1942’s “Cat People.”

5. His real-world girlfriend was a movie star.

Just like his silver screen counterpart, James Bond, Popov had a slew of women he used for various reasons as a undercover agent for two opposing countries. But his heart belonged to just one – and she was as glamorous as the rest of his World War II life: Hollywood movie star Simone Simon.

Mandatory Fun is hosted by:

Blake Stilwell: Air Force veteran and Managing Editor

Tim Kirkpatrick: Navy veteran and Editorial Coordinator

Eric Milzarski: Army veteran and Senior Contributor

Orvelin Valle (aka O.V.): Navy veteran and Podcast Producer

Catch the show on Twitter at: @MandoFun and on our Facebook group.

Larry’s next book will be The Courier: The True Story of World War II’s Most Highly Decorated Woman, about the World War II spy heroine Odette Sansom and Captain Peter Churchill. Learn more about Larry, The Courier, and Into the Lion’s Mouth at Larry Loftis’ website. You can also follow Larry Loftis on Twitter and Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Venezuela’s opposition is planning a second day of protests

Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for a second day of mass protests on May 1, 2019, to continue “Operation Freedom” — an attempt to overthrow the country’s socialist government.

He said the uprising was a “peaceful rebellion” and that President Nicolás Maduro “doesn’t have the support from the armed forces.”

On Tuesday, April 30, 2019, thousands of Guaidó’s supporters flocked to a military airbase in Caracas to help the opposition and a small group of rebellious soldiers oust Maduro.


But after a day of violent clashes, it seemed Guaidó was not able to garner support from high-ranking military officials to divide Maduro’s powerhouse army.

“We need to keep up the pressure,” Guaidó said in a video message. “We will be in the streets.”

Hoy dimos inicio a la etapa final de la #OperaciónLibertad.

www.youtube.com

The president, on the other hand, said that his troops had already successfully defeated “the coup-mongering right.” In an hour-long TV address on Tuesday evening he accused the opposition of fueling violence “so the empire could get its claws into Venezuela.” Maduro’s use of the phrase “the empire” is a reference to the US.

Maduro also ridiculed a claim by Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, that he had been planning on fleeing Venezuela for Cuba before being dissuaded by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Pompeo told CNN that the socialist leader had a plane waiting “on the tarmac” Tuesday morning, but was talked out of the escape Putin.

Nicolas Maduro on state TV.

(Screengrab/RT Youtube)

The US, one of many nations to recognize Guaidó as the rightful president of Venezuela, was quick to back the opposition in “Operation Freedom.” Several top politicians pledged their support on social media.

President Donald Trump tweeted that he was monitoring the situation. “The United States stands with the People of Venezuela and their Freedom!” he said.

John Bolton, the National Security Adviser, called out three of Maduro’s senior aides by name, reminding them that they had committed to supporting Guaidó.

But one of the named officers, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, fervently backed Maduro throughout the unrest, saying: “Loyal forever, never traitors!”

Protests on Tuesday erupted into violence. Opposition-backing soldiers exchanged live fire with Maduro’s military, Reuters reported. Shocking video also showed military vehicles ramming into anti-government protesters.

A military tank rammed into opposition protesters.

(Screengrab/CNW)

A medical center near the main protest site in Caracas said it was treating more than 50 people for injuries, many from rubber bullets, The Associated Press reported. The NGO Provea said a man was killed during an opposition rally in the city of La Victoria, about 40 miles outside the capital.

Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo reported that 25 soldiers sought asylum in the Brazilian embassy in Venezuela.

Leopoldo López, a high profile opposition leader and mentor to Guaidó, also sought refuge at the Spanish embassy, according to AP. López was previously under house arrest, but said that military members backing the opposition had freed him on Tuesday morning.

The government is planning its own rally on Wednesday, Maduro said in his address. “Those who try to take [the presidential palace] Miraflores with violence will be met with violence.”

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.