5 ways enlisted Marines want to 'disrupt' the Corps - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

Hundreds of Marines who gathered here in July 2018 were given a risky mission: to challenge their leaders when they’re doing something that doesn’t make sense.

That will be essential as the Marine Corps prepares to take on future adversaries, Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told attendees here at the third-annual Innovation Symposium.

“We’ve got to go faster; we’ve got to be more willing to take risks,” he said. “The only thing we can’t accept is not being willing to change. We’ve got to change.”


Being innovative in an organization as steeped in tradition as the Marine Corps, which also lives by its rank structure, doesn’t come easy. Leaders might not like what their junior Marines have to say, Neller warned, but the Corps needs people willing to challenge the status quo.

Marines here spent a week doing just that, presenting their ideas in civilian clothes and without much reference to their ranks. The vibe was more TED Talks than your typical military PowerPoint briefs, and the ideas were briefed up to a team of general officers.

Here are five ways some of those rank-and-file leathernecks think they can shake up the service.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

A Marine yells orders to his squad members during an Integrated Training Exercise.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

1. Empowering the disruptors

Sgt. Ryan Reeder says it’s time for the Marine Corps to go through a culture shift. The infantry assaultman is getting ready to leave the service, and it’s not because his military occupational specialty is being phased out.

“No one incentivizes innovators,” said Reeder, an infantry assaultman who’s been studying computer science and will leave the Marine Corps in late 201 “… I can go get a six-figure job anywhere I want to. I want to stay in the Marine Corps, but innovation isn’t recognized.”

Reeder’s been serving with the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory’s noncommissioned officer fellowship program, which allows corporals and sergeants to test concepts and gear before they hit the fleet. NCOs who are willing to speak up offer some vital insight, he said, and leaders should want them to become the next staff NCOs.

“A lot of people don’t like a sergeant coming up here and talking to a star or a colonel like I do,” he said. “But … it’s all about the ideas, not the rank that you wear.”

2. Crowdsourcing ideas

Marines face plenty of problems throughout their careers, and it can be tough to know if a solution already exists. Chief Warrant Officer 4 Sean Flores, a utilities officer with III Marine Expeditionary Force, helped build Phase Zero, a platform where Marines can share their problems and solutions in real-time.

“Maybe you’re trying to deal with countering [unmanned aerial vehicles]. Somebody else might’ve already solved that problem,” Flores said. “So you source it out, and some subject-matter expert might chime in and say, ‘This is how we dealt with it’ or ‘We’re having the same problem, so let’s work on it together and collaborate.’ “

Phase Zero had its soft opening on the marines.mil website in early 2018. Now, Flores said, they’re looking for Marines willing to help edit, code and moderate the site

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

Marines with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, duck down for a deception breach during a company attack as part of Integrated Training Exercise 3-18 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, May 10, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Antonia E. Mercado)

3. “Flattening the battalion”

In order to prepare for the future, Neller said the Corps can’t just take legacy gear and make it a little bit better. “We’ve got to change the force,” he said.

Two officers with 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines — 1st Lts. Christopher Mershon and Walker Mills — have ideas about what needs to change. They call it “flattening the battalion,” and they say it will move infantry units from the 20th century into the 21st.

Infantry units are set up in a pyramid structure and built for efficiency, Mershon said. Flattening them out by eliminating non-combat command billets would instead optimize them for adaptability. By integrating logistics and intelligence officers and analysts at the company level and sharing information from across the battlespace, Mershon said, it’ll allow commanders to make decisions faster.

“We’re making the correct relationships in our battalion because those relationships with our friends close our decision-making cycle,” he added.

Mills and Mershon also propose removing Marines performing administrative functions from the battalion, such as the headquarters and service or weapons platoon commanders. Those extra personnel could be moved into a training cadre, which Mills said would help relieve some of the strain on company commanders, and provide higher-quality training across the whole unit.

4. Improving training

Over the next decade, the Marine Corps’ maintenance depots will lose about 1,000 years of experience when officers and staff NCOs assigned to them retire. Those on their way out have come up with ways to get their replacements trained up quickly.

“Is the workforce we’re going to hire going to adhere to paper manuals that stack four feet high?” asked Maj. Dan Whitt with the Marine Corps Logistics Command innovation cell. Instead, depot personnel pitched moving toward animated digital manuals that display on a pair of augmented-reality glasses.

“We have 400 pieces of equipment we work on,” Whitt said. “How great would it be to speed up our training requirements?”

Now, other commands, including Training and Education Command, want to see what they can do with augmented-reality manuals. That’s why it’s important for Marines who have innovative ideas that could revolutionize the Corps to share them so they don’t go unheard, Whitt said.

5. Finding the best approach

When Staff Sgt. Alex Long was a lance corporal, he learned about those risks the commandant mentioned about challenging your leaders. When one of Long’s NCOs asked his Marines what they thought about his plan, Long didn’t hold back when he replied that it was stupid.

“That resulted in some quick and effective counseling,” he said. When Long was asked by his sergeant during one of his counseling sessions to define “tact,” he realized his mistake. His leaders weren’t offended by his ideas, but by his approach. He decided to work on his delivery in order to make his voice heard.

“Data has no rank,” said Long, who would go on to win the Marine Corps’ 2016 Innovation Challenge for a lightweight wearable device that allows Marines to communicate and resupply quickly. “You just have to know how to present it.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This VA patient portal will save you all kinds of time

When the closest VA clinic is miles away, or you have a hard time traveling from place to place, the last thing you want to do is make a trip to the doctor’s office. We get that. Your time is valuable.

In 2005, VA created My HealtheVet next to a coffee shop inside the Portland VA Medical Center. The small kiosk (and floppy disk drives) are long gone. However, the concept remains the same. Give veterans’ the opportunity to play an active role in their health care while saving them time in the process.


Today, over 4.9 million veterans have registered online for VA’s patient portal, My HealtheVet, to refill their prescriptions, download and share their medical records, schedule and view appointments, and send secure messages to their health care teams.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

Over 140 million prescriptions refilled

Get this: My HealtheVet has refilled more than 143-million prescriptions over the last 14 years. It could take you just a couple of clicks to order your next prescription. And it will be delivered right to your doorstep.

It’s easy to sign up for an account, and it’s completely free! You can even upgrade your account the next time you’re at a VA clinic to access all of My HealtheVet’s features:

  • Refill prescriptions online
  • Schedule and view VA appointments
  • Download and share your medical records, including medical images
  • Send secure messages to your health care teams
  • Access to mental health resources
  • Gain knowledge through the Veterans Health Library

Click to learn more information about My HealtheVet and start saving time today!

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Security Airmen getting new special ops-like helmets

The Air Force has been busy this summer. From providing the latest class of recruits to Space Force to issuing better fitting body armor to women airmen, it seems like the protectors of the sky are really looking to expand and develop on its commitment to its force. This comes after the push in 2018 for Air Force defenders to get updated weapons, along with revised training and fitness standards.

Now, security airmen are next in line to receive a uniform upgrade. Soon, they’ll be issued new special ops-like helmets. This next generation of ballistic helmet is just the latest initiative that the Air Force is taking to ensure its personnel remains safe.


This new helmet is going to replace the older and far less-adaptable Advanced Combat Helmet. The ACH is what security forces currently wear, and many airmen have complained about its bulk and weight. Adding to the challenges is that the ACH is designed for ground units, so airmen have struggled with it, and in some cases, have had to outfit and modify it with bulky additions to accomplish different mission sets.

Not only will the new helmet come with better padding, built-in railings to easily attach accessories, but they’ll also be lighter and cooler. The Air Force Security Forces Center is now sending out new ballistic helmets as it phases out the ACH.

The 71st Security Forces Squadron, located at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma, was the first squadron to receive the helmet. Soon airmen everywhere will receive the upgrade.

An Air Force press release said that the initial response to the new helmet has been positive. Master Sgt. Darryl Wright, 71st SFS logistics and readiness superintendent, said that the new version is the “most agile helmet” he’s worn in 19 years.

The helmets are part of the Air Force Security Forces Control initiative to modernize not just weapon systems but also individual protective gear. Included in this refresh is contingency support equipment and deployable communications systems, both of which will be paramount to successfully defeating the enemy in future conflicts. In the future, the Air Force plans to roll out a newly revised M18 modular handgun system, M4A1 assault rifle, M110A1 semi-automatic precision engagement rifle, M320A1 grenade launcher, and modular, scalable bests.

“We’re identifying salient characteristics of the best individual equipment industry has to offer at the best value to achieve standardization across the force,” said Lt. Col. Barry Nichols, AFSFC director of Logistics. “This effort is instrumental in keeping Defenders throughout the security forces enterprise ready and lethal with procurement of the most cutting-edge and innovative equipment available in order to accomplish missions safely and effectively.”

These changes all come after the Air Force’s Year of the Defender 2019 exercises, where the service conducted a detailed and extensive review of all security forces. This review explored areas that could be improved upon, both in terms of equipment and gear to tactics, training, and general morale boosts. To date, the Air Force has successfully worked through over 900 specific items that needed to change and has spent almost 0 million to update their gear.

The Air Force currently field about 25,000 active-duty security forces airmen. There are an additional 13,000 in the Air National Guard and Reserve components. Of the forces 38,000 airmen, about 98 percent are enlisted. This aligns the entire branch of the Air Force with the Army’s lightest light infantry unit.

Brig. Gen. Andrea Tullos, career security forces officer, said that the Air Force has “expeditionary roots,” and that the branch is “a blend between light infantry and a military police company.”

Collectively, these big changes are helping the service gain air superiority over the peer adversary that could potentially pose a big threat to the military. As the Air Force continues to look toward the future and the likelihood of conflicts with either Russia or China, the Air Force needs to be able to pick up the slack safeguarding forward-deployed squadrons instead of relying on ground forces. This new helmet upgrade is yet another step to making sure that can happen.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Popeye the Sailor was based on a real person – and this is what he looked like

Cartoonist E.C. Segar created Popeye the Sailor in 1919 after taking a correspondence course on drawing from a guy in Cleveland. Segar’s hometown of Chester, Ill. was chock full of characters that Segar easily adapted to print. Dora Paskel, the owner of a local general store, was unusually tall and thin, wearing her hair in a loose bun at the nape of her neck. J. William Schuchert was the local theater owner who had a voracious appetite for hamburgers.

And Frank Fiegel was a one-eyed, pipe-smoking brawler who never turned down a fight.


5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

Frank Fiegel died in 1947 and was originally buried in an unmarked grave. Popeye fans rectified this in 1996.

Fiegel was more likely to down a few bourbons instead of a can of spinach to get his super fighting prowess, but the rest of his caricature fit the Sailor Man to a T. He had the same jutting chin, built frame, and trademark pipe as his cartoon counterpart. But kids were rather scared of Olive Oyl’s real-world inspiration, as she was more apt to stay inside her store. Wimpy’s rotund figure was based on Popeye creator E.C. Segar’s old boss at the local theater. When Segar wasn’t lighting lamps, he was sent out to pick up burgers for the owner.

Popeye’s real-life inspiration is sometimes attributed to a photo of an old sailor who really does resemble Popeye the Sailor Man, but this is just internet folklore.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

(Imperial War Museum)

The sailor in the above photo is really a sailor, but he’s a British sailor. His name is lost to history, but the Imperial War Museum lists him as “A Leading Stoker nicknamed ‘Popeye,'” with 21 years in service and fighting aboard the HMS Rodney in 1940. Fiegel would have been at least 70 years old when this photo of the battleship sailor was taken.

Frank “Rocky” Fiegel was actually a bartender and not any kind of sailor, but he did love the kids around Chester, and they used to love to play pranks on the old barfly. Fiegel would impress them with his feats of strength as well as his telltale corncob pipe – something young Segar would never forget. “Popeye” was an homage to an unforgettable man who lived to know his image was soon in 500 newspapers nationwide, the symbol of sticking up for the little guy.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

All-female Air Force team wins bomb-building competition

The first all-female team to compete in the Rapid Aircraft Generation and Employment competition at Aviano Air Base, Italy, took home the win, the Air Force announced last week. And they did it while wearing costumes that paid tribute to Rosie the Riveter.

The RAGE contest began last October to highlight several adaptive basing procedures and is being held quarterly. Last year, a team named “Wing it” won.


The Bouncing Bettys, the six-airman team that won Jan. 7, 2020, was from the 31st Munition Squadron and the 731st Munition Squadron. The team members overcame six evaluated events: a written test, stockpile practices, trailer configuration, trailer re-configuration, 463L palletization and a weapons build.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

Senior Airman Audrey M. Naputi, a munition inspector from the 731st Munition Squadron, sits and prepares for the Rapid Aircraft Generation and Employment competition to begin at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Jan. 7, 2020.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever)

One of the competitions had them conduct an inert bomb build.

Named after M16 land mines, the team was made up of two munitions inspectors, two stockpile management technicians, a munition control supervisor and a noncommissioned officer in charge of the 31st MUNS conventional munitions support.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

U.S Airmen from the 31st Munition Squadron and the 731 Munition Squadron compete at the Rapid Aircraft Generation and Employment competition at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Jan. 7, 2020.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever)

It was the idea of Air Force Staff. Sgt. Ana L. Merkel, a munitions inspector, to have the team dress as Women Ordnance Workers — the iconic image of Rosie the Riveter — and highlight the “impact females have on Sortie generations,” an Air Force news release noted.

Wearing dark blue jumpsuits, a brown belt and signature red bandanas with white polka dots, the women hoped to honor those who “paved the way” by working in manufacturing during World War I and World War II, the release said.

In honor of their win, the women will have their names etched on plaques to be displayed at the unit.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

8 things you need to know about ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’

The Force may be strong with your family, but are you ready for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker? The final installment of what is now called “the Skywalker” saga will bring a specific story of a galaxy far, far away to a close this year. Of all the new Star Wars films, this is probably the one you won’t want to miss in the theaters, simply because everyone will ruin it for you if you wait. But, what the hell is going on with this movie? Which Skywalker is rising? Why is this the “end” of Star Wars? And just how many characters are coming back to life?

Here’s your Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker cheatsheet.


5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

(Lucasfilm)

1. Rise of Skywalker is “Episode IX” which marks the end of regular Star Wars movies as we know them.

Back in the eighties, Star Wars creator George Lucas often said that the classic trilogy of films was actually just one part of a larger story consisting of a “trilogy of trilogies.” But, after Lucas created Episodes I, II and III from 1999-2005, he changed his mind and decided that Episode VI: Return of the Jedi — was a decent place to end the story. In 2004, Lucas inserted a digital Hayden Christesen as the ghost of Anakin Skywalker and called it a day. But, then, in 2012, Lucas sold his company — Lucasfilm — to Disney and the rest is history. Since 2015, there have been four new Star Wars movies; The Force Awakens, Rogue One, The Last Jedi, and Solo. But, only two these (Force Awakens and Last Jedi) have had the traditional episode numbers at the beginning. So, The Rise of Skywalker is a sequel to Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, but also the conclusion of ALL the episodes, beginning with Episode I: The Phantom Menace. After Rise of Skywalker, it seems like the will no longer be Star Wars movies with episode numbers, meaning the 2022 Star Wars movies will be organized differently.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

(Lucasfilm)

2. Okay, so I can tell my kids these were planned all along?

You can tell your children whatever you want about how Star Wars was written and created, but the fact of the matter is, literally all of Star Wars, including the original trilogy, was kind of made-up as it went along. George Lucas has gone on record saying that he wasn’t sure when Darth Vader would have been revealed as Luke’s father originally, and early drafts of the script for the Empire Strikes Back confirm this: At some point in the drafting process, screenwriter Leigh Brackett hadn’t even been told (or Lucas hadn’t decided?) if Vader was Luke’s father at all. This bit of trivia is a good microcosm for how to think about the new movies, too. Originally, J.J. Abrams was only supposed to direct The Force Awakens, but then, after Lucasfilm fired Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow from working on Episode IX, Abrams was brought back in to direct and co-write the movie. Abrams co-wrote Rise of Skywalker with a guy named Chris Terrio, whose previous credits include Justice League and Batman Vs Superman, so take that however you want.

Complicating matters further is the fact that obviously, no one at Lucasfilm knew Carrie Fisher would tragically pass away in 2016. Statements from Lucasfilm suggest the story for Episode IXwould have been very different had Fisher been alive to play Leia again. Finally, Rian Johnson certainly didn’t write The Last Jedi with the knowledge that Fisher would die or that Trevorrow would be fired, meaning, the events of The Last Jedi could be seen as slightly incongruous with whatever Abrams cooks up.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

(Lucasfilm)

3. I heard Leia is still in the movie. What’s up with that?

Carrie Fisher is appearing in The Rise of Skywalker as General Leia Organa, daughter of Anakin Skywalker, sister of Luke Skywalker, widow of Han Solo, and mother of Ben Solo AKA Kylo Ren. This is being achieved by using archival footage of Fisher from The Force Awakens. Apparently, J.J. Abrams had enough material left over to make it work. Disney, Lucasfilm, and the Fisher family have repeatedly said that Leia will not appear as a CGI recreation and that what you’ll see onscreen will actually be filmed footage of Carrie Fisher.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

(Lucasfilm)

4. Who else is coming back?

Rise of Skywalker will also feature the return of Billy Dee Willians as Lando Calrissian, Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, and, somehow, the character of Emperor Palpatine will laugh his way into the movie, too. Notably, two of these three characters are technically dead. Luke died in The Last Jedi and the Emperor was thrown down a shaft by Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi back in 1983. Mark Hamill has already said that Luke is almost certainly back as a Force ghost, kind of like what Obi-Wan did in the old movies. However, Lucasfilm and actor Ian McDiarmid (who played the Emperor in all three prequels and Return of the Jedi) have been tight-lipped about how that character will return. Bottom line: the Emperor laughs in the trailer for Rise of Skywalker, so, somehow, he’s back.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

5. What about Rey’s parents?

In The Last Jedi, it was revealed by Kylo Ren that Rey’s mysterious parents from The Force Awakens were drunk junk-dealers who sold her into a life of servitude, Oliver Twist-style. Basically, they were nobodies. If you throw a rock, you can finally find someone around you right now who has a strong opinion about this twist one way or another. So, how will The Rise of Skywalker address it; even if you don’t want it too? Well, J.J. Abrams has said “there will be more” to the story of Rey’s parents. So, get ready for that. (Hey, let’s be honest, Star Wars has never been great about showing functional families!)

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

(Lucasfilm)

6. Can I buy tickets yet?

Nope, but that may change very soon. We’ll let you know when it does.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – Teaser

www.youtube.com

7. How many trailers are there?

Right now, there’s just one trailer for The Rise of Skywalker, which debuted at Star Wars Celebration in Orlando this past spring. There might be a new one coming at the end of Augst at D23, but no one knows for sure. You can watch that trailer right here.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

(Lucasfilm)

8. When does the movie come out?

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker will be out in movie theaters around the world on Dec. 20, 2019. That’s a Friday, so, that means there will really be screenings as early as Thursday, the 19th, and reviews about a week before that. So, if you really want to save yourself from spoilers, avoid the internet, or any human interactions starting around Dec. 15, 2019.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 forgotten facts about the Forgotten War

In 1945, the unified Korean country was split along the 38th parallel, creating North Korea and South Korea. The communist north was backed by the Soviet Union and the democratic south by the United States. Though the split allowed these two countries to be formed, neither the north or south felt that the division was accurate, and each side believed the other part of Korea was rightfully theirs.

To rectify this, North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, with China’s help and the Soviet Union. This started the Korean War, though the U.S. involvement didn’t officially happen until later.


In the U.S., it’s often called the Forgotten War, since WWII and the Vietnam War largely overshadowed the conflict. As the country tried to heal from WWII, our involvement in the Korean conflict was largely ignored by the media. The U.S. involvement in Vietnam, which began in 1955, also overpowered the conflict in Korea.

What’s in a name?

North Korea calls it the Fatherland Liberation War, and South Korea calls it Six-Two-Five. This numerical reference indicates the date the war started, June 25, 1950. China calls it the War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea. Names aside, here are four more forgotten facts you need to know about the Korean War:

A Never-Ending War

Six decades later, we’re still no closer to a peaceful conclusion. The Korean Armistice Agreement put an end to the “acts of armed violence” but didn’t actually declare an end to the war. The agreement is technically just a ceasefire that was written to hold the countries over until they could come to a more lasting peaceful solution. As time went on and neither side was willing to budge on their terms, no official end was ever declared. Now, the two countries are still technically at war.

Speaking of “war”

On June 25, 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea, following approval and a pledge of support from the Soviet Union. In 1950, the US was actively pulling out of South Korea, and there were few service members left in the country. But just two days later, President Truman made the decision for air, and naval action as the North Korean Army approached Seoul.

However, the Korean War was only ever considered a “conflict,” and Congress never officially declared war. As the conflict unfolded, the United Nations publicly demanded that North Korea stop attacking South Korea and retreat back to the 38th parallel. Of course, the order was ignored, so the UN called on the rest of the world to help support South Korea. The call was answered by over 15 countries, including France, Ethiopia, Canada, and Australia.

The 38th Parallel has always been hotly debated

The idea of a North Korea and South Korea isn’t something new. In fact, in the late 1890s, Japan wanted to separate Korea and split the landmass with Russia. Japan wanted to use the 38th Parallel to slip the country, giving Russia control of the North and keeping the South for itself. The peninsula wasn’t officially split apart until 1945 after WWII.

On either side of the 38th Parallel is the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which houses meeting spaces for the two countries to meet in a neutral location for talks. The DMZ was created in 1953, and the zone is about 5 km wide. Ideally, this buffer is supposed to be the place where no military action can occur, but there have been instances of violence, directed to both the military and civilians.

The North Koreans captured an American General

A month after the war broke out, Maj. Gen. William F. Dean, commander of the 24th Infantry Division, was separated from his forces while he attempted to help wounded service members. He was out looking for water when he fell down a cliff and was knocked unconscious. During the next 26 days, Dean was isolated in the mountains and lost 80 pounds. He also suffered a broken shoulder and a head wound from the fall. Two South Koreans found him and told him they were leading him to safety. In reality, they took him to a North Korean ambush site. Dean tried to fight his captors, but couldn’t resist for long. Officially, he was taken prisoner on August 25, 1950, and remained a POW until the end of the war.

Though the Korean War might not have had much time in the media spotlight, it’s still fiercely remembered by the service members who were called to serve as well as the families who lost loved ones during the war.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 time-honored military traditions that civilians find weird

Some military traditions make sense to nearly everyone — little things that show mutual respect, like leaders serving food to their subordinates on holidays or NCOs electing to eat after their guys. Other traditions are odd at first blush, like messing with the new guy or passing through an archway after graduating a class or achieving a higher rank, but civilians can generally understand where they come from.

But then there are the ones that require a lot of explaining to your civilian family members. Every time, these story begins with a, “well, you see. It kinda goes back to…” and more often than not, the explanation just makes them tilt their head in confusion.

At one point, the following traditions may have meant something to one person or a group, but today, the original meaning is buried beneath decades of military bearing and tradition. We mostly just do them because, well, if it ain’t broke — and no one’s getting UCMJ’d for it — why bother stopping?


5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

Ever since Hostess kinda went under, the tradition changed to use red helmets instead — which is definitely cleaner.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Katrine M Brisbin)

10. Paratroopers and cherry pies

When you finish going through Army Airborne School, your head will be spinning, filled with all of the information you’ll need to not shatter every bone in your body when you make a landing. You’ll have to master the art of hooking up your static line and perform countless parachute landing falls before you’re even able to get the chance to actually jump out of a perfectly good airplane.

Finally, the moment of truth arrives — you finally get to jump with your unit in the 82nd. Your superiors will recommend that you fill your cargo pockets with Hostess Cherry Pies first. They’ll often say it’s for some reason like, “in case you get hungry when you land” or whatever. Who are you to argue?

When your big moment finally comes and you take in the sights while falling gracefully, you’ll hopefully have your PLFs burnt into the back of your mind as second nature. Everything will happen so fast that you’ll forget those cherry pies in your pants. When you land, you’ll squish all those pies and leave a nice red stain on your uniform.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

There are great call signs out there, you just need to be lucky enough to snag one.

(Fox News)

9. Actual callsigns

In pop culture, callsigns are the coolest things ever. You’ll often see some badass names, like Iceman, Maverick, or Snake used in TV and movies. They’re always just made up because they sound cool and the storytellers don’t really know how the military works.

In reality, callsigns are usually unit designations followed by a number to signify who they are in said unit. So, for example, the commander of the Alpha company “Black Sheep” would be known as “Black Sheep 6,” and the first sergeant of the same unit is “Black Sheep 7.”

If you’re looking for unique callsigns, those are in the aviation world, and they’re typically less cool and more nonsensical. For example, if you eat a Pop-Tart one time in front of another pilot, your callsign is now forever “Pop-Tart.” Good going, Pop-Tart. That’s your callsign until the end of time.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

You (and everyone else in the unit) will have to drink whatever you put in. Or do what most people do and hide in the bathroom until this bit is over.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Don Peek)

8. The grog bowl

At civilian parties, if there’s a punch bowl, it’ll be centrally placed and it may or may not have some kind of alcohol in it. Whenever the military throws a unit ball, that punch bowl will most certainly have alcohol in it… plus a whole slew of other random things that would make anyone throw up.

Most of the leadership of the unit gets a chance to add one ingredient to the grog bowl (which is a toilet bowl) and offer some kind of nonsense to explain why their chosen ingredient has some kind of significance to the unit.

You can expect classic grog bowl ingredients, like hot sauce, because of the deserts the unit deploys to, ground coffee, because of the long hours the troops works, a cup of salt, because of the sweat that troops give to the cause, and a dirty sock because… reasons?

7. Blood wings and blood stripes

When civilians get promoted or graduate some school, the accomplishment is usually met with a party or a card that’s signed by everyone in the office. That sounds pleasant. Troops, on the other hand, almost always lose a bit of blood over it.

Blood wings and blood stripes are, essentially, the same thing. You get the wings from a school and the stripes from a promotion. Then, everyone takes turn punching it in. It’s technically considered hazing, but the troop receiving the blood wings/stripes usually agrees to it. There (typically) isn’t any malice or hate involved in the ceremony and troops usually walk away with a bit more pride in whoever bled for their new badge/rank.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

“A Mickey Mouse Challenge Coin? Really?”

6. Challenge coin “duels”

There’s nothing really odd about challenge coins in general. It’s basically the same thing as collecting trading cards as a kid, but instead of aiming for a holographic Charizard, you’re aiming for the coolest-looking coin with the most badass backstory.

Usually, officers will keep the coolest coins on their desk in their office to casually gloat about and enlisted troops keep them in some drawer at home, but sh*t gets real when troops take their coins to the bars. The ensuing game basically goes like this:

Troops unsheathe their coolest coin. If you don’t have your coin on you, you buy the drinks. If everyone has a coin, whoever has the “least valuable coin” buys the drinks. Since the “value” is determined by backstory and design — both of which are subjective — this game almost always ends in a shouting match over who has to pick up the tab.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

Every airman thinks they can grow a mustache like Col. Robin Olds. The only reason his mustache is so majestic is because he literally gave zero f*cks about the rules. Rules all airmen have to follow.

(U.S. Air Force)

5. ‘Stache contests

In case you haven’t nailed down the common thread between all of these traditions, the military is engaged in a perpetual pissing contest. Troops are in constant contest to see who can do literally anything better than the next guy; to see who is the most macho of the troops. It should come as no surprise that one of the most macho things out there, facial hair, gets quantified into some sort of challenge.

The problem with this is that the military doesn’t allow most versions of facial hair — that is, with the exception of a very thin mustache. A word of warning: The first two weeks of a mustache-off makes every contestant look pathetic.

Mustache contests usually begin at the start of the deployment (presumably, when troops’ wives have less of a say in the matter) and, after a certain point, someone is declared a winner. Yet, the Air Force has unanimously decided to make March their official contest month. Whichever airman grows the best mustache by the end of March wins a high five or whatever.

4. The West Point pillow battle royale

At some point during the first years of the most intense academy for the U.S. Army’s future officers, students are offered a unique way of handling the stresses of simultaneously earning a college education while enduring four years of constant military training. These future warriors, trained in all things warfare with the intention of becoming the Army’s next generation of great leaders, settle things the exact same way as children at slumber parties — with a pillow fight.

As goofy as this sounds, things got serious. Yes. “got” — very much in the past tense, as this tradition was unceremoniously banned in 2015 in response to numerous injuries. Most cadets donned full kevlars and vests and beat the hell out of each other with pillows. More than thirty plebes that year were sent to the hospital for serious injuries, despite the strict no-hard-objects-in-the-pillows rule.

Thankfully, they had PT belts on or this could have gotten even more out of hand.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

Don’t think you can just bring a spare cap that won’t be blown up. The troops will find it and make sure it’s also blown to smithereens.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord)

3. Blasting up the lieutenant’s patrol cap

In the technical terms, a “blasting cap” is a small, sensitive primary explosive device used to detonate a larger, more powerful and less-sensitive secondary explosive. Soldiers in the artillery world take this term literally whenever they welcome a new platoon leader.

When the platoon first goes out for a live-fire exercise with a brand new lieutenant, they’ll take the officer’s patrol cap (either willingly or otherwise) and tape it to the end of the barrel or backplate of a rocket pod. Then, the first round goes off; it’ll take the cap with it. The officer is then expected to retrieve the nearly-burnt-to-a-crisp cap so they can remain in uniform after the ceremony is done.

No one really knows when or where this began, but every artillery officer since then has had to buy a new cap the following day.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

The real question is, if they’re both military, do neither of them get spanked — or both?

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

2. The sword butt tap at weddings

Most of the traditions on this list are kept within the realm of the military and don’t often affect civilians directly — with the major exception of military weddings. They are one of the most beautiful ways to introduce a new civilian spouse into our world. The troop’s comrades will attend wearing full dress uniforms, each carrying a sword to signify the protection they’ll offer the new spouse, as he or she is now kin.

The new comrades will serve as either groomsmen or bridesmaids and post guard outside of the chapel, or wherever the ceremony is held, and form a beautiful archway with their swords under which the married couple will walk.

Then, whoever is at the very end of the archway on the civilian spouse’s side will give a loving spank with their sword. Not a hard one, mind you, just a nice gentle way of letting them know that they’re now a part of the grander military family.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

Every weird little detail of the “Crossing the Line” ceremony has been replicated as far back as anyone can remember. It can’t be THAT weird if your sailor granddad was also doing it, right?

(U.S. Navy)

1. The Court of Neptune

Whenever a Navy vessel crosses a certain point on the globe, all sailors who’ve never done so get to be initiated into an unofficial fraternity of sailors who’ve been there before. The most famous example of these ceremonies is the moment a vessel crosses the Equator at any point in the world.

Officially, it’s called the “Crossing the Line” ceremony, but sailors know it as “the Court of Neptune.” The uninitiated (known as “slimy polliwogs”) must bow before King Neptune (as portrayed by the ship’s captain) and entertain his queen, Davy Jones, the Royal Baby, and his dignitaries (portrayed by other high ranking members of the crew) with a talent show.

Regardless of how the young sailors perform, they’re found guilty of being polliwogs and must answer for their crimes. They’re “punished” by eating an extremely spicy or disgusting breakfast and are forced kiss the Royal Baby’s greasy belly. Only then can they have their slimy polliwoginess washed in seawater to finally become trusty shellbacks.

Follow any of that? Neither did any of us other slimy polliwogs…

MIGHTY TRENDING

How to watch coverage of NASA’s Space Station crew launch this week

Two American astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut are set to join the crew aboard the International Space Station on Thursday, March 14, 2019. The trio’s arrival will return the orbiting laboratory’s population to six, including three NASA astronauts. This launch will also mark the fourth Expedition crew with two female astronauts. Live coverage will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch, and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos, are set to launch aboard the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft at 3:14 p.m. EDT (12:14 a.m. March 15 Kazakhstan time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on a six-hour journey to the station.


The new crew members will dock to the Rassvet module at 9:07 p.m. Expedition 59 will begin officially at the time of docking.

About two hours later, hatches between the Soyuz and the station will open and the new residents will be greeted by NASA astronaut Anne McClain, station commander Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos, and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency. The current three-person crew just welcomed the first American commercial crew vehicle as it docked to the station on March 3, 2019, amidst a busy schedule of scientific research and operations since arriving in December 2018.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

NASA astronaut Anne C. McClain.

Coverage of the Expedition 59 crew’s launch and docking activities are as follows (all times EDT):

Thursday, March 14, 2019:

  • 2 p.m. – Soyuz MS-12 launch coverage (launch at 3:14 p.m.)
  • 8:45 p.m. – Docking coverage (docking scheduled for 9:07 p.m.)
  • 10:30 p.m. – Hatch opening and welcome coverage

A full complement of video of the crew’s pre-launch activities in Baikonur will air on NASA TV in the days preceding launch.

The crew members of Expeditions 59 and 60 will continue work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science aboard the humanity’s only permanently occupied microgravity laboratory.

McClain, Saint-Jacques, Hague and Koch also are all scheduled for the first spacewalks of their careers to continue upgrades to the orbital laboratory. McClain and Hague are scheduled to begin work to upgrade the power system March 22, 2019, and McClain and Koch will complete the upgrades to two station power channels during a March 29, 2019 spacewalk. This will be the first-ever spacewalk with all-female spacewalkers. Hague and Saint-Jacques will install hardware for a future science platform during an April 8, 2019 spacewalk.

Hague and Ovchinin are completing a journey that was cut short Oct. 11, 2019, when a booster separation problem with their Soyuz rocket’s first stage triggered a launch abort two minutes into the flight. They landed safely a few minutes later, after reaching the fringes of space, and were reassigned to fly again after McClain, Kononenko and Saint-Jacques launched in early December 2018. This will be Ovchinin’s third flight into space, the second for Hague and the first for Koch. Hague, Koch, and McClain are from NASA’s 2013 astronaut class, half of which were women — the highest percentage of female astronaut candidates ever selected for a class.

Check out the full NASA TV schedule and video streaming information at: http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv

Keep up with the International Space Station, and its research and crews, at: http://www.nasa.gov/station

Get breaking news, images and features from the station on Instagram and Twitter at: http://instagram.com/iss

popular

6 misconceptions civilians have about the Army

Whenever soldiers go on leave, it always plays out exactly the same:


“O! You’re in the Army? My friend from work’s brother is in the Navy, so I know allllllll about it…”

This is followed by a in-depth one-sided discussion about what people think they know about the Army, usually followed by some uncomfortable questions.

Here’s a list of assumptions we get that leave us sitting there thinking, “No, dude. Not even close.”

6. “You’re exactly like the other branches of the Armed Forces.”

This one stings.

It’s not that it’s entirely wrong. There is plenty of overlap between soldiers and other branches. But we still have our own mission and they still have theirs. Especially the stupid Navy.

 

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

The best analogy you can use is like the relationship between EMT, nurse, and doctor. They all have a very similar purpose in life, but they each have a different part to play in the grander scheme of things.

5. “You’re all hard ass SOBs with who can ‘John Wick’ someone with a pencil.”

No matter what a soldier did while serving, when they get out they probably won’t correct someone if they hear, “You don’t want to upset him man, he was in the Army! He could snap you in half!”

Many soldiers are required to go to Combatives Level 1 and eventually Level 2 (depending on their unit.) And yes, physical training is a thing everyone does in the morning, and many soldiers also enjoy going to the gym after work ends.

But

While it’s definitely frowned upon, we still have soldiers that look like they should have cheeseburgers slapped out of their hand to make height and weight regulations. Even on the other end of the spectrum, there are also plenty of scrawny soldiers in the Army as well.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps
Will someone please give Private Rogers that dude’s cheeseburger so he stops looking like he belongs in a Sarah McLachlan commercial.

4. “You’re all wounded and fragile shells of who you once were.”

War is hell. There’s no denying that. But very rarely are soldiers as truly broken as the civilian world thinks we are.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps
I don’t know what his problem is, he’s not even looking at the war.

When civilians think about soldiers and PTSD, the worst-case-scenario comes to mind. While there are veterans who suffer from acute PTSD symptoms, most service members have the tools to treat their service-related conditions, and nearly all are still functional members of society.

3. “You’re free to make decisions like where you want to live.”

Back to the lighter and funnier side of things, it is always hilarious whenever people say things like, “Why can’t you just call in sick?” or “You’ll be able to take this day off, right?”

Sure, you have the occasional “Army of One” jerk who thinks he can get away with skating. But no. We don’t choose whether or not we want to go to work. We don’t choose days off without a long drawn-out process. And even if you reenlist for a new duty station, chances are, you won’t get to decide where you live in the world.

That’s just the way things are and soldiers get used to it.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

2. “You’re a master of foreign affairs and know what the military is doing constantly.”

Most soldiers couldn’t even tell you what their Joes are currently doing, let alone what the Special Forces are doing in [Country Redacted]. Even if you were talking with a senior advisor at the Pentagon, they still couldn’t even tell you what every little detail of the Army is up to.

The Army is just way too big and way too diverse, even within itself. When civilians start throwing our opinions into it we’ll either stare blankly or make something smart up.

Also, we don’t like talking about work during leave.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

1. “You’re all constantly training.”

Nothing blows a civilian’s mind quite like the fact that there actually is down time in the military and that we do more than just shoot weapons and practice kicking in doors.

Want to hear what 75% of a lower-enlisted’s day looks like?

Wake up to work out with the platoon at the weakest guy’s level. Pretend to check our equipment that hasn’t been touched since the last time we pretended to check on it. Quick hip-pocket training by a sergeant that was just reminded that they’re a sergeant (“How to check that equipment you just checked,” or “Why DUIs are bad”.) Then wait that for same sergeant to get out of a meeting where they’re told that nothing happened but they should watch out for their Joes getting in trouble. Finally go back to the barracks to do all the things their sergeant was warned about.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps
With a packed schedule like that, we’re way too busy to be killing babies, Grandma.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II

They were made of wood, carried no heavy guns, and would sink at the drop of a hat. But they were fast, hard to hit, and could kill nearly anything afloat. Pound for pound, the deadliest boats of World War II weren’t the carriers or the legendary battleships, they were the humble patrol torpedo boats.


Battle Stations: PT Boats (War History Documentary)

youtu.be

America invested heavily in capital ships in the inter-war years, concentrating on battleships and carriers that could project power across the deep oceans. Combined with destroyers and cruisers to protect them, this resulted in fleets that could move thousands of miles across the ocean and pummel enemy shores. It was a good, solid investment.

But these large ships were expensive and relatively slow, and building them required lots of metal and manpower. There was still an open niche for a fast attack craft like the Italian motor torpedo boats that had famously sunk the SMS Szent Istvan in World War I.

Boat builders who had made their name in racing lined up to compete for Navy contracts. They held demonstrations and sea trials in 1940 and 1941, culminating in the “Pinewood Derbies” of July 1941.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

PT-658 transits the water at the Portland Rose Festival in 2006. The boat was restored by volunteers and features its full armament and original engines.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ralph Radford)

These were essentially races between different boats with either weapons or copper weights installed to mimic combat armament, allowing the Navy to see what designs were fastest, most nimble, and could survive the quick turns with a combat load.

Not all the vessels made it through. Some experienced hull and deck failures, but others zipped through the course at up to 46 miles per hour. A few boats impressed the Navy, especially what would become the ELCO Patrol Torpedo Boat. Higgins and Hulkins also showed off impressive designs, and all three contractors were given orders for Navy boats.

The Navy standardized the overall designs and armament, though the contractors took some liberties, especially Higgins. They were all to be approximately 50 tons, made of mahogany, and carry two .50-cal. machine guns. Many got up to four torpedo tubes and a 20mm anti-aircraft gun, while a few even got mortars or rockets.

They were powered by aviation fuel and three powerful engines.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

U.S. Navy patrol boats zip through the water during exercises of the U.S. east coast on July 12, 1942.

(U.S. Navy)

All of this combined to create a light, powerful craft that was fast as hell. Two gunners on a PT boat at Pearl Harbor were credited with the first Japanese kill by the U.S. in World War II when they downed an enemy plane.

The little boats would distinguish themselves over and over again, even though there were only 29 in the Navy at the start of the war. Gen. Douglas MacArthur slipped out of the Philippines on a two-day trip through the enemy fleet with Lt. John D. Bulkeley on a PT boat. Bulkeley would earn a Medal of Honor for his actions.

The boats launched constant attacks against Japanese ships, hitting them with Mk. 8 torpedoes. The Coast Guard used 83-foot designs for their submarine hunters and patrol boats, many of which saw service at D-Day where they served as the “Matchstick Fleet” that rescued drowning soldiers.

Also at D-Day, similar landing craft made by Higgins were modified to fire rockets at the shore to suppress shore positions.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

Navy Lt. j.g. John F. Kennedy on PT-109.

(U.S. Navy)

But it was during island hopping across the Pacific where the torpedo boats really earned their fame. As Japan’s fleet took heavy losses in 1942 and 1943, it relied on its army to try and hold islands against the U.S. advance, and the Navy’s “Mosquito Fleet” was sent to prey on the ships of the “Tokyo Express.”

Japan’s destroyers and similar vessels could slaughter torpedo boats when they could hit them, but the U.S. patrols generally operated at night and would hit the larger ships with their deadly torpedoes, using their speed to escape danger. It wasn’t perfect, though, as Lt. j.g. John F. Kennedy would learn when PT-109 was rammed by a Japanese destroyer, forcing Kennedy and 11 survivors to swim through shark-infested water for hours.

The patrol boats served across the world, from the Pacific to the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, and thousands of sailors from the Coast Guard and Navy served on these small vessels, downing tens of thousands of tons of enemy shipping.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Navy almost blew up the President of the United States

If you mess up just one glorious time in the U.S. military, your friends and peers will never let you forget it. It’s always been this way, even in World War II. From November 1943 until she was lost in 1945, the destroyer USS William D. Porter was greeted by home ports and other U.S. Navy ships with: “Don’t shoot, we’re Republicans!” That’s what happens when you almost assassinate the President.


5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

Yes, that President.

In 1943, the USS Iowa was ferrying President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull, along with the top brass of the entire United States military in the middle of the biggest, most dangerous war ever. It was a very special, important mission. They were on their way to meet their Allied counterparts in Cairo and Tehran, including British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin.

The whole thing was almost derailed by one torpedo fired at the Iowa, by a destroyer in the Iowa’s own convoy, the William D. Porter. And it was a fast-running, powerful 500-pound torpedo.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

“Whoops.”

The Porter was a hard-luck ship that hadn’t even seen combat yet. As she left Norfolk, she scraped the side of her sister ship, almost tearing her apart. While on convoy duty crossing the Atlantic, one of her depth charges slipped out of its hold and detonated, sending the convoy into a tizzy. Later, a large wave washed everything on the destroyer’s deck into the ocean, including a sailor that was never found. Once things calmed down a bit, the crews settled in for some target practice as the President watched on.

The Iowa launched target balloons, which the ships fired at in turn, including the Porter. Next, the skipper of the Porter ordered torpedo practice with Iowa as the target. But when the simulated order to fire a torpedo accidentally launched an armed torpedo, the bridge understandably flipped out.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

Yes, that USS Iowa.

Under strict radio silence to avoid attracting German u-boats, the crew of the Porter began to furiously signal Iowa. Unfortunately, in their haste, they mentioned nothing about a torpedo, instead telling the battleship that the destroyer was backing up at full speed. Eventually, they radioed the Iowa anyway. After a brief disagreement about radio procedures, the huge battleship moved out of the way of the oncoming torpedo, which exploded in the wake of the battleship, with President Roosevelt aware of the torpedo and watching it come.

The guns of the battleship turned on the William D. Porter. The ship was ordered to make its way to Bermuda, its entire ship’s company under arrest. It was surrounded by U.S. Marines when it arrived in Bermuda. The crew was dismissed to landward assignments, and its skipper was sentenced to 14 years in prison – a sentence President Roosevelt commuted to no punishment because he considered it an averted accident.

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

The “WIllie Dee” sinks in the Pacific, June 1945.

The destroyer itself would go on fighting the war while continuing its hard luck, accidentally shooting down American planes and strafing her sister ship with gunfire. In June 1945, a Japanese kamikaze pilot who missed his initial target sank into the sea next to the Porter. It exploded directly underneath the ship, however, and sent her to the bottom.

MIGHTY CULTURE

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

UAP is excited to share this exclusive interview featuring GySgt Danny Draher – a seasoned former Reconnaissance Marine and current Marine Raider with more than eighteen years in the Marine Corps.

When did you join the military and why?

I joined the military right after 9/11. I was going to Borough of Manhattan Community College. Once the towers fell, that school was right there, and they used it as a triage facility. They basically gave us this opportunity to withdraw without penalty. So, I took advantage of that opportunity.

I was kind of playing with the idea of joining the military before that, but then I just figured I’d followed through with it. I signed up in December of 2001, and then I actually went to boot camp in February of 2002.

Why the Marine Corps in particular?

I have Navy in my family, my grandfather was in the Air Force, we had Army, and they all kind of thought I should go the Army route. Bu after having a conversation with my oldest brother, I have two older brothers and I respect their opinions very much, but I just happened to be having this conversation with my older brother while I was kind of playing with the idea of joining and trying to figure out what branch, because I had recruiters from all the branches calling me.

My brother is a pretty wise dude, and he’s always been like that. It’s just kind of like that stereotypical older brother where it’s just like, that’s the guy you go to when you have problems, he helps you sort things out.

And he just said, “if you’re going to jump off a cliff, why not get a running start?” So, you know, take the toughest one you can bear and, you know, make that your home. So, and it was words to that effect. He basically told me to go for the challenge, the most challenging branch, and based on all the stories I’ve ever heard, nobody denies that the Marine Corps has the hardest boot camp and, you know, even beyond that more difficult opportunities.

So that was ingrained in the back of my mind and later I started to learn more about the different jobs and opportunities. So yeah, that was why I chose the Marine Corps.

Draher (right) during a combat deployment.

Is there a particular moment or period in your military career that you’re most proud of?

I’m proud that I had a little bit of diversity in the Marine Corps. I had time in the reserves, I had time in the infantry, time in Force Recon, and Special Operations in general, but I also have a lot of diversity within Special Operations.

I’ve been in all three Marine Raider Battalions and I spent time down in Tampa at SOCOM headquarters, and it really broadened my perspective and understanding how the enterprise works. But what I’m kind of most proud of is my time as an instructor, that was the most fun that I had. The most rewarding time that I had.

It’s kind of like the typical cheesy answer, but I mean, it really is. You’re there and you’re part of this whole entire process and you’re the presentation, right? For, for a lot of guys, I was one of the first special operators that they met from any branch and with that comes a lot of responsibility. And, you know, I learned a lot about myself and I learned a lot about people having that job. It was my opportunity to essentially mold the future generation. And really the only thing that matters once you become a senior guy, once you become seasoned, is the next generation of guys.

You’re the tip of the spear of putting your hands on those guys and leaving an impression and then making them a better product at the end than when they showed up so that they’re major assets for their team.

What specifically were you responsible for teaching?

I taught close quarter battles. I taught marksmanship. I taught breaching, which deals with explosives.

Is there a particular military school that you feel was the most difficult to pass?

I went into a lot of schools with my mind made up that that’s what I was going to become. Whatever it was I was going to get out of that school. I’ve gone to a lot of academically demanding courses and a lot of physically demanding courses. I think that the most defining course was the Amphibious Reconnaissance School (ARS).

There’s no doubt about it that place is etched in history – Marine Corps history – and, you know, just to be there was an honor and a privilege. So, there was no way I was going to come back without being a Recon Marine. I just tried to have my mind made up that I was going to go to those schools, and I was going to be successful.

As a student, I wanted it to come out better than I went in. So, I can be the best Reconnaissance Marine, Raider, diver, jumper, whatever the skillset was – I wanted to add value to the team. I really wanted to go there and hone whatever those skills were just for the greater good.

ARS was a very interesting school and I mean; it was every single day you had to show up with your game-face on otherwise you would kind of get left behind and you probably weren’t gonna make it.

Were you a good swimmer from the start, or did you have to learn to be proficient in the water?

Well, coming into the Marine Corps, no. Coming into Amphibious Reconnaissance School, I was well-prepared. My RIP (Recon Indoctrination Program) instructor asked me if I’d been on a swim team, but I was never on a swim team or in the pool doing anything that was physically demanding until I learned exactly what reconnaissance was.

I got letters from my cousin in boot camp and he told me that he was a machine gunner. And as soon as he got done with the school of infantry (SOI) and got to his grunt unit, he immediately went to recon.

And then I was like, oh, so there’s something more. So, recon was, you know, playing off what my brother said about doing what was most challenging. I actually took the recon screener when I was in comm school, right after I got done with combat training, and I just showed up.

Once I learned about that unit, I was like okay I’ll just go do that. Kind of like how I just showed up to bootcamp and did that, but once they threw us in the pool, I was like, wait, I’m way out of my element. I’m from a place where it’s the four-foot pool and that’s where we go to basically hang out with the guys and look at the girls.

After I got that experience with the failed screener under my belt and figured it out, then I took, you know, I took that really hard and figured it out and learn how to swim. I learned how to swim by doing a lot of different drills and spending a lot of time speaking with guys who had been there and done that and figuring out what made them successful.

And then I really took that personally and I tried to make that part of my everyday routine. So that kind of changed the way I looked at the water and I never wanted to fail anything again after that. First thing in the morning, I would go to the pool. I would get out of work and go right to the pool. You know, when you want something bad enough, you’ll get it.

After I got that experience with the failed screener under my belt and figured it out, then I took, you know, I took that really hard and figured it out and learn how to swim. I learned how to swim by doing a lot of different drills and spending a lot of time speaking with guys who had been there and done that and figuring out what made them successful.

Draher during an underwater reenlistment ceremony.

What three personality traits are most important for someone interested in joining the special operations community?

There’s a lot of different traits that I think are good to have, but I think the top three would be discipline, perseverance, and integrity. I’d also add in a fourth, which would be that it’s hard for someone coming in to be successful if they don’t have a little bit of flexibility.

Nobody wants to get up first thing in the morning and go to the pool. And then you can get traumatized if you have a bad experience. You could be treading water with a group of guys and all of a sudden, you know, because you are in such close proximity, one person grabs you and drags you down to the bottom. And then you’re trying to swim up and getting kicked in the face by some of these other guys. It takes a lot of discipline that gets back in the pool after that.

But you know what it takes to get to where you want to be, and you have to stay after it. So that’s where discipline comes from, which also kind of leads in the perseverance.

You have to take those different challenges and you have to persevere through them no matter what the outcome could be. You have to kind of fix your mind on what you want it to be, and then persevere through all those odds and all the, you know, the cold weather and being wet and tired. Nobody really cares. You got to find a way to persevere through it. And that trait alone right there has helped me a lot in life even to this day. And I’m sure up until I’m in my death bed, that’s going to be something that I hold dear.

Integrity, I mean, a good friend of mine, he says to do the right things at the right time for the right reasons. To me, having integrity is a lot about being a trustworthy guy. And if you don’t have that integrity, it’s really hard for people to trust you to the left and the right. If you want to be a good team member and you want to be a reliable person, having that integrity is kind of where that starts from.

Flexibility is showing up somewhere and having a packing list, being ready to go and then, after I receive the first brief it turns out that I’m going to need a lot more than they told me to bring. Now I have to improvise all these things. Or I train all the time in pretty ideal conditions because we have a lot of limitations as to what we can do. We can do a lot of realistic training, but there’s always some type of limitations or some type of backstop for safety reasons. And we call this “training-isms”. You take those training-isms into a real-world environment and into combat and you’re going to be disappointed, right? Cause it’s not going to be a hundred percent what you were trying to do.

Ideally, I think, you know, you don’t want to see anything for the first time in a real-life scenario. You want to be exposed to those things in training, but you may not have that opportunity. I’ve been fortunate enough over the course of my career to have some pretty good training opportunities that have translated into a lot of things that I’ve done for real.

There’s no such thing as a two-way range in the training area. But you only find that when you go overseas and the next thing you know, you’re looking at somebody’s muzzle flashes. It’s a very different experience. There are not many ways to prepare for that outside of actually being there. So, you have to stay flexible and when you encounter something new, you have got to be a problem solver and work through it.

What advice would you give a young person that’s interested in joining the military?

You know, in all honesty, my experiences have just equated to my ability to maintain an open mind. So, coming in with an open mind. You don’t know what you don’t know and when you join, it’s like in Forrest Gump, life is like a box of chocolates and you never know what you’re gonna get.

I think guys should come in and they should look, you know, just first and foremost to serve your country, but I think they should look to professionalized themselves as much as possible. There’s a lot of benefits that the military offers. Take advantage of it.

You’re going to come in and you’re going to do what the government asked. And they’re gonna ask a lot. It’s a lot to ask a 17 or 18-year-old, or somebody fresh out of college to put their life down for somebody to their left and their right. It may be someone that they didn’t grow up with, that they’re not best friends with, or maybe even somebody that they don’t get along with. But, you know, we’re going to ask that of you when you join. And I think, you know, in return you should seek out every opportunity you can to look for things, to make yourself more marketable when you get out.

And everybody always talks about the intangibles that military members gain throughout the course of their career, whether it’s four years or whether it’s 30 years. I think education benefits is one thing. I also think that guys can take advantage of internships. While they’re in there’s certain training opportunities that they have that can bleed over into the civilian world, you know, I would say, find something that you’d love to do.

And if you don’t find something that you’d love to do, just try and seek it out the whole entire time that you’re in.

Draher (right) during a pause in jump training.

What does your typical workout routine look like?

We always refer to ourselves as a Jack of all trades, master of none. And somebody told me that all that really equates to is not being good at anything. So, I took that to heart and, you know, because I always wanted to try like a little bit of everything.

And I think it’s important to try out a little bit of everything. But the goal overall is being functionally fit. You want to be able to run long distances and be rather comfortable. You’re going to be able to run short distances with weight. You want to be able to move weight. And then you need to adjust that to your environment.

Trying a little bit of everything and finding what you like is good, but don’t stick to any one thing. Try to be well balanced and that’s not just, you know, physically, that’s how you eat. And that’s also your emotional fitness as well. And I mean, you’ve got to have to have the right mindset.

So, you know, watching videos and studying things. It’s another part of fitness that a lot of people don’t talk about. You’ve also got to be your own doctor at times in this community because you gotta be good at medicine. You gotta be a scientist because you gotta understand how to mix all these different explosives together.

You have to be a philosopher. You have to be a historian. You have to be a mathematician. Yeah, there’s a lot of formulas that we have to know when it comes to long range shooting, dealing with mortars, dealing with explosives. So, you gotta have a little bit of all of these skill sets.

Who do you look to as a role model and why?

I really look up to Major Capers. And the reason that I look up to the Major is because I sit with him and I listen to him talk. And for years I I’ve just heard over and over a lot of the same stories and they never get old because from the time he was young, he was determined to do more, and he kept seeking that out.

And that resonates with me because it’s like me telling you why I went to the Marine Corps versus the army, or why I didn’t just stay a comm guy, or why I tried to get to all these different units and why I wanted to get to Force Recon, and eventually we became Raiders – always trying to seek out more.

Not only did Major Capers have a lot of hardships during his service from being a minority – not just because of the color of his skin – but just by the virtue of his job and being the minority who also had all these great qualities just to get from the beginning of something, to the end of something, whether it’s a school, a training evolution or a deployment, but he was able to be great in the military.

And then as he got out and transitioned, he tried to become a great businessman. He tried to be the best husband he could be. He tried to be the best dad he could be. So, you know, just like fitness, right? It’s your physical, mental, emotional fitness as well. For him, he wasn’t just this great Reconnaissance Marine, this great enlisted man, this great officer. He tried to be the very best husband he could be, the very best parent that he could be.

And, you know, as a young guy, I only cared about the unit and cared about the Marine Corps, I only cared about special operations, I only cared about recon. As I grew older, I really started to understand that, you know, those things at one point will become a fraction of your life, a small fraction of your life. Those other things that you do, you have to be investing equally, if not more, and the longer you stay on, the more you should be investing in yourself and in your family, because those people go with you to the grave.

During a very kinetic period of the Marine Corps, I served. There was a long time that I didn’t think I’d make it to 30. Now I’m almost 38 years old. So, I mean, I beat that by eight years. When I sit with him and I talk to him, you know, I think I got the Marine Corps stuff – the military stuff – figured out, but what came slowly to me was understanding family and investing into that. So, I appreciate him. I look up to him. I admire him because he reminds me all the time to hug my wife, to kiss my wife, to hug my kids, to kiss my kids. And I think about that because he doesn’t have that anymore. So, when I come home first thing I do is hug and kiss my wife and I hug and kiss my kids.

When you join, you’re new to the institution, and you’re trying to find your way through, and it can be easy to get lost. But you can learn from your mistakes and you can employ those lessons learned and you can have a better life. You can create more opportunities and a better life for the people around you as well, just by being humble and being open.

Draher with his family at Christmastime.

What is something interesting about you that most people wouldn’t know about?

Well, I used to be a DJ. I started when I was eleven years old and I thought I was going to be a famous one. I actually joined as a communicator in the Marine Corps because I thought that somehow that would tie into my DJ career and help me further my DJ career.

I quickly learned that that wasn’t the case! And I got fully immersed in the whole Marine Corps thing and I kind of let go of the DJ thing.

GySgt Danny Draher was born on June 26, 1983 and raised in New York City, New York. He is married to Destiny Flynn-Draher and they have two beautiful children. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Strategic Studies and Defense Analysis from Norwich University after graduating Summa Cum Laude.

Draher has attended numerous courses including the Multi Mission Parachute Course, as well as various other parachuting courses, Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape, Marine Combatant Diver Course, Dive Supervisor, Special Operations Planners Course, The Senior Instructor Course, Fast Rope Master, Multiple Explosives and Assault Breacher Courses, Multiple Direct Action & Special Reconnaissance Packages, Advanced Special Operations, The Merlin Project, Martial Arts Instructor Course, Sergeants Course, Career Course, Advanced Course, Joint Special Operations University Joint Fundamentals, Enterprise Management, and Enhanced Digital Collection Training.

His personal decorations include the Purple Heart Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Commendation with Valor, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, and the Combat Action Ribbon with one gold star.

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