When it comes to branch rivalries in the military, you’ll find none greater than that between the Marine Corps and the Navy. It may be because we’re technically a part of the same branch but, either way, we constantly give each other sh*t for any reason we can find. Even still, Marines and sailors get along quite well — in fact, we probably get along better than any other two branches of the armed forces.
Yes, the Marine Corps is a part of the Department of the Navy, but we’re still considered separate branches. We have different goals, but they complement each other’s. So, we work closely together. All of those hours spent cooperating means that we’ve gotten to know each other pretty damn well over the years. Even Marines or sailors who have left the service find the most common ground with their cross-branch counterparts.
Here are a few reasons why Marines and sailors so often end up as the best of friends:
Our relationship is symbiotic
Even though Marines tend to do all the heavy lifting, the Navy is usually right there with us to share the burden of being the greatest war fighting faction ever to exist. In fact, because Marines are amphibious, we need the Navy to cart us around — like our own personal taxi service.
Marines and sailors share manpower
As part of that symbiotic relationship, the manpower between the branches is often shared. The Marine Corps uses Navy Corpsman for medical needs and aviation units in either branch are often filled out with a mix of mechanics from both sides.
We can constantly joke about each other
One thing you’ll find is that Marines have plenty of jokes for Sailors and vice versa. Furthermore, you’ll find that we can both take the jokes quite well. Hell, we even share a notoriety for being a bunch of drunken bastards.
Marines and sailors have the best military uniforms
Marines have the best uniforms ever conceived by any military branch — but the Navy comes in at a (distant,) solid second place. Both of our branches have the most recognizable and aesthetically pleasing uniforms out there. Sure, we may not wear berets, but we have sexy dress blues. The best part of it all? A Navy corpsman embedded in a Marine unit, referred to as “green side,” can choose to wear the Marine dress blues.
They’re our closest sibling
Marines don’t have as much of a working relationship with other branches as they do with the Navy. Ever since the planet was blessed with United States Marines, the Navy has been right there alongside us, fighting and winning every battle we possibly can.
When Air Force veteran Jerome Hardaway left the military in 2009 after five years, he planned to transition to a civilian job after his service. However, he found that the recession’s lingering impact on the economy meant that jobs were still scarce.
“It was very painful coming back to America,” Hardaway, who’s based in Nashville, told Business Insider.
People would say, “Thank you for your service,” but not hire him, he explained. As he continued looking for jobs, he saw a commercial about a course for teaching people how to code.
While he didn’t take the class — “There were really great resources I didn’t have money for,” Hardaway said — it inspired him to get a book on databases. From there, he taught himself SQL and eventually landed a job as a database analyst for the Department of Homeland Security in 2010.
“I’m an African American male in the south trying to get into a dominant white male industry,” Hardaway said. “Before people look at my veteran status, I have that to overcome.”
In 2014, while Hardaway was working as a digital marketing assistant for a nonprofit, he connected with a family who lost their son in a police shooting and built them a website where he told the young vet’s story. Through this website, the family was able to raise $10,000, and the moving encounter spurred Hardaway to launch a new project:
Hardaway’s nonprofit, Vets Who Code, focuses on teaching veterans the programming skills they need for software engineering jobs and it’s completely free for veterans to participate. So far, the organization has helped over 250 veterans in 37 states learn how to be developers.
The nonprofit aims to reduce job anxiety for veterans and take advantage of their skills
While more than 250,000 military service members transition into the workforce each year according to Navy Federal, one of the greatest anxieties for veterans is being able to find a stable job that honors the skills and experiences they’ve gained from the military.
“The military trains you to be good at what the military needs you to be, not in regards to preparing you for the civilian sector,” Hardaway said.
While in the Air Force, Hardaway served in Iraq, Afghanistan and South Korea and had duties in security, checking airplanes, and law enforcement. However, it wasn’t easy to convey to how those skills could be useful in the larger job market.
While the military has programs that help veterans transition to going back to civilian life, Hardaway says they’re not as effective as they should be, partly because they’re run by people who have never fully transitioned to that life themselves. Unfortunately, it’s all too common for veterans to “fall into these cracks,” he said.
Because of his own experience, though, Hardaway knows that many of the skills he learned can be directly applicable to software jobs.
“It has made me more of a go-getter, take initiative, and learn on my own, and of course, more discipline,” Hardaway said. “It’s helped me focus on the things that matter: learning how to write code, focusing on the things needed to be employed, teaching the veterans the same skills in my transition.”
For example, Hardaway says the military taught him to drill and adapt to new things faster – all of which helped him when he was learning to write code. In addition, veterans are used to teamwork and over-communicating as they did in the military, and these skills come into play when they work together on a software project.
That’s why Vets Who Code puts an emphasis on coordinating group projects for its students:
“That’s the true secret, making you a good worker, not just a good programmer,” Hardaway said.
Ultimately, Hardaway said that his goal is to empower as many veterans as possible to get good jobs in tech, like he did:
“I’m hoping my sisters and brothers [in the military] don’t have to deal with the hardships I had to deal with.”
“I walked over to the NCO of my starting lane for land navigation and I asked him, ‘Hey sergeant, do you want me to line up behind you?'” said DeMarsico as he recalled the first time he participated in Expert Field Medical Badge qualification testing. “He said, ‘I need your name and roster number.’ I did not think anything of it at the time so I went out and found all four of my points. When I came back he told me I was going to be an administrative ‘no-go’ for the lane because I spoke to him.”
Recently promoted U.S. Army Spc. Thomas DeMarsico, a combat medic assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division at Fort Polk, first attempted to earn the Expert Field Medical Badge at Fort Bliss, Texas. The 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division hosted the special qualification testing in September 2019.
“I attempted to rebut the decision with the board because AR 350-10 says you cannot talk to other candidates during land nav, not the cadre,” DeMarsico said. “The board denied my rebuttal. That was it; they just dropped me. I was super crushed after that. I decided at that moment I was done with EFMB and the Army.”
Similar to the expert infantry badge, the EFMB is not an easy badge to earn. Combat medics wanting to earn the coveted badge must be physically and mentally prepared to undergo rigorous testing after being recommended by their unit commanders.
Fort Polk’s 3rd BCT, 10th Mtn Div medics on temporary duty in the Fort Bliss area were invited to participate in EFMB qualification testing. When DeMarsico found out he had the opportunity to attend the testing he immediately volunteered.
U.S. Army Pvt. 1st Class Thomas F. DeMarsico, a combat medic assigned to headquarters and headquarters company, 2nd Infantry Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Divsion at Fort Polk, Louisiana, poses with his new expert field medical badge in El Paso, Texas, Oct. 6, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Ashley Morris)
“I always take every opportunity that comes my way,” DeMarsico said. “I know that EFMB really sets you apart from your peers.”
EFMB candidates must successfully receive a “go” on all five sections of EFMB testing: The Army Physical Fitness Test, a written test, land navigation, combat testing lanes and a 12-mile forced march.
Candidates must receive a score of 80% or higher in each event of the APFT and be in compliance with Army height and weight standards. The only re-testable section is the written test in which candidates must successfully answer 60 out of 80 questions.
On the second day of testing soldiers must receive a “go” for both day and night land navigation. During the combat testing lanes medics must complete 43 tasks correctly: 10 tactical combat casualty care tasks, 10 evacuation tasks, 13 warrior skills tasks and five communication tasks.
After learning that his leadership tried to get him readmitted to the Fort Bliss qualification, DeMarsico realized that accepting defeat was not an option.
“I felt so much better knowing that they had my back,” Demarisco said. “They were willing to send us again so I was willing to try again.”
DeMarsico was afforded the opportunity to test again, this time at Fort Hood, Texas. DeMarsico, along with three other medics from 2nd Bn, 4th Inf Reg,were sent to Fort Hood to attend EFMB qualification hosted by 1st Medical Brigade. Standardization of the combat testing lanes began Sept. 23, 2019, with testing beginning Sept. 28, 2019, and ending with the forced march on Oct. 4, 2019.
One hundred and fifty-five soldiers started the event. DeMarsico was one of six medics that successfully earned the EFMB. He was the only junior enlisted to successfully complete the qualification.
DeMarsico attributed his success to lane standardization he received at Fort Bliss.
“We tried to train up for the Bliss EFMB but it was hard to tell exactly how the lanes would be run,” DeMarsico said. “After seeing the lanes at Bliss we knew how to study. I knew what I needed to work on. It helped me a lot.”
Although DeMarsico said he felt confident about the combat testing lanes, there was another area where he did not feel as confident. A self-proclaimed land navigation expert, DeMarsico admitted the night land navigation course was tough.
U.S. Army Pvt. 1st Class Thomas F. DeMarsico, a combat medic assigned to headquarters and headquarters company, 2nd Infantry Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Divsion at Fort Polk, Louisiana, checks to make sure his compass is calibrated prior to the start of land navigation testing for the expert field medical badge on Fort Bliss, Texas, Sep. 6, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Ashley Morris)
The first time DeMarsico went through EFMB testing he was only able to complete day land navigation. With limited experience in navigating in the dark and a difference in terrain, DeMarsico was only able to find three out of the four points. Even though it was not a perfect score, it was enough for him to advance to the combat testing lanes. Out of the 155 that begin EFMB testing, only 19 medics passed land navigation testing.
During the final event of EFMB, nine soldiers started the forced march but only six finished within the required three hour time limit. DeMarsico came in first place. For most soldiers, coming in first during a timed 12-mile ruck march would feel like the crowning achievement. For DeMarsico, he felt frustration.
“My time was two hours and 56 seconds!” DeMarsico said. “Me and this major were in the lead the entire time, far ahead of everyone else. At the 11th mile marker point, the private giving directions told us to go down the wrong road. The major went a mile down that road with me trailing behind him. Luckily he had a GPS watch that told him he had hit 12 miles. He turned around, grabbed me and we went back to the 11-mile point. The private could not tell us the correct way to go. I walked into traffic and flagged down a car and asked him for directions to Cooper Field. The car drove slowly in front of us with the hazard lights and we followed him. Once I saw the finish line I sprinted to the end and came in first.”
Although he was unhappy with his finish time for the 12-mile ruck march, DeMarsico said he was thankful he was able to pass all five events of EFMB testing. He said becoming a part of the 3% of medics who earn the EFMB is just the beginning. He hopes to attend Airborne and Ranger schools in the near future. Ultimately he would like to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point and become a commissioned officer.
“West Point is my main goal,” DeMarsico said. “I want to become an officer. I feel like if I can earn my EFMB then nothing is impossible. I devote my spare time to achieving my professional goals so I am always looking for ways to improve myself.”
Hungry for more training, DeMarsico is preparing to attend the advanced combat life saver course on Fort Bliss.
“You have to want it,” said DeMarsico when asked if he had any advice for soldiers attending future EFMB testing. “Many of the people that I saw did not have the drive that is required to pass. You have to be physically and mentally prepared. The EFMB website has so much information to help you study so you have to develop a way that will help you memorize information the easiest.”
DeMarsico encourages all soldiers to keep trying no matter how many times they have to retest.
“I was proud to represent the brigade, 10th Mountain, 2-4 Infantry and my recon platoon,” DeMarsico said. “I showed that it is not impossible for a junior enlisted to have a shot an EFMB. It does not matter who you are; you can do it. At the end of the day it all comes down to how hard you are willing to fight for it.”
Within the military, being airborne comes with a special brand of badassery that you won’t find within any non-airborne unit, or, as we call them, “legs.” Even more badass are the troops that have proven themselves by jumping directly into combat — like the paratroopers over D-Day or the 75th Rangers at Objective Rhino in Afghanistan.
But jumping into certain danger with nothing but your gear and a parachute isn’t something exclusive to the military. There exists a certain breed of firefighters who are so fearless that they are always on-call to jump into newly-formed wildfires.
Meet the Smokejumpers.
The relationship between the smokejumpers and Army paratroopers really does run deep.
(U.S. Forest Service photo by E.L. Perry)
Born of a need to quickly get firefighters into middle-of-nowhere locations, the first smokejump was made on July 12th, 1940, into Nez Perce National Forest by Rufus Robinson and Earl Cooley. They dropped allegedly on a dare, equipped with just enough gear to establish a fire line and hold off the flames until more help could arrive.
That first jump was so successful that smokejumping was quickly adopted throughout many major Forest Services located in rural areas susceptible to wildfires. Then-Major William C. Lee of the U.S. Army saw the smokejumpers training and adapted their methods into the Army’s newly formed airborne school at Ft. Benning — and later into the 101st Airborne Division.
The U.S. Army assigned the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, the only all-black airborne unit in U.S. military history, as smokejumpers as a precaution against potential fire balloon bombs that Japan supposedly had at the ready, poised to burn down American forests. The Japanese “Operation Firefly” never came to fruition, but the men of the 555th helped fight natural wildfires, thus further proving the need for smokejumpers
There are countless hoops a firefighter must go through before becoming a smokejumper today. Typically, they’re only selected from firefighters who’ve proven themselves capable as part of both a conventional firefighting unit and a hotshot crew, a small, elite team made up of 20 of the country’s best wildland firefighters who go into the heart of the flames. Then, they must go through a rigorous training schedule, which includes pararescue jumping — regardless of whether they’re an airborne-qualified veteran or not.
Despite the many dangers that smokejumpers face, fatalities within the ranks are infrequent because of the insane amount of planning that goes into each jump. They’ll only jump into a location that is a safe distance away from the flame itself — as the updraft from the flames could catch and incinerate any firefighter — and into areas area clear of slopes or trees. This could require the smokejumper to ruck miles out of the way while carrying up to 150lbs of gear.
When they finally arrive at the fire, they must then determine the likely route the flames with travel and keep clear the way for reinforcements.
For a more in-depth look at how smokejumpers conduct a wildfire mission, check out the video below.
World History was made yesterday at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas where the U.S. Army and NASA utilized state of the art technology to provide the most unique Oath of Enlistment ceremony for new soldiers.
“We have an incredible opportunity to experience a dream all of us grew up with – the opportunity to touch the stars… Right now… 250 miles above us… flies the International Space Station, traveling at speeds that defy imagination, circling the planet every 90 minutes. Simply amazing,” said Brigadier General Patrick Michaelis, USAREC Deputy Commanding General. “Though NASA and the U.S. Army have been working together for the past 60 years, this is the first time to host a nationwide Oath of Enlistment from space for over 1000 soldiers in 150 different locations, where they will launch; no pun intended, their careers.”
U.S. Army Recruiting Command
Twenty five recruits and their families came to celebrate the new soldiers embarking on their new careers via a live video stream from the International Space Station. Recruits got to ask questions to Army Astronaut Colonel Andrew R. Morgan, who has been in space since July 2019 and was selected as an astronaut in 2013. Morgan, a special operations physician, is the commander of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s Army Astronaut Detachment at Johnson Space Center, Texas, and the space station’s flight engineer. Morgan is part of the U.S. Army Astronaut Detachment, which supports NASA with flight crew and provides engineering expertise for human interface with space systems. Additionally, Morgan is a combat veteran with airborne and ranger tabs and has also served as a combat diver. As an astronaut, he has completed seven spacewalks and one space flight to the International Space Station.
U.S. Army Recruiting Command
The recruits tuned in from all over the United States and were able to ask Morgan questions via the video link at the Johnson Space Center. Impressively, it did not take long for the video connection to happen and it was less painful than the time it takes conference calls that occur within the domestic U.S. to get connected. There was a brief lag after each sentence, but nothing different than what a VOIP user experiences via Skype or Facetime.
Morgan welcomed everyone aboard the ISS. When asked if there was recruiting going on for new astronauts, he informed the recruits what standards are needed and shared with them that a strong STEM, science and engineering background with a Master’s Degree was necessary and that they need well-rounded individuals who have the education, but also other qualities.
Morgan opened his uniform zipper to reveal an Army Strong t-shirt, much to the cheers of the recruits. He later displayed all of the US military branch flags and allowed them to float across the screen. He also did a few somersaults.
Also joining in the celebration was the newest Army Astronaut, Lieutenant Colonel Frank Rubio. Rubio entertained live questions from the audience at the Johnson Space Center and gave them lots of advice when facing difficulties in their lives.
Aim high, recruits! Congratulations on your new careers. The sky is literally the limit.
We all know Stone Cold Steve Austin from his years when he was the face of World Wrestling Entertainment. “The Texas Rattlesnake” was one of the toughest, most badass wrestlers who left an indelible mark in the ring — both on TV and on the silver screen. Recently, we got to see Stone Cold sit down with some gentlemen who exhibited an entirely different type of toughness and heroism. By partnering up with Wargaming, the company responsible for the hit game World of Tanks, Austin recently sat down to interview three World War II tankers about their experiences. Their stories are powerful, harrowing, and heartbreaking.
The second veteran interviewed is Clarence Smoyer.
Clarence Smoyer served in the 32nd Armored Regiment of the 3rd Armored Division. Hailing from Pennsylvania, Smoyer served as a gunner during World War II. On D-Day, he landed on Omaha Beach. He recounted that, by the time he landed on the beach, things were already under control — but that control didn’t extend far inland. Moving forward, he rapidly found himself in the thick of it.
Smoyer would load his tank’s gun fast and often get blistered up badly as a result. He recalls that once, he went to medical to get the blisters treated and, on the way back, heard a mortar coming in. He ran and took cover just as it exploded nearby. A piece of shrapnel ripped his nose up, but Smoyer didn’t want to go back to medical because, “I was afraid I’d get hit by another mortar,” so he soldiered on.
Austin asks Smoyer if his tank ever got hit. Smoyer tells us that his tank got hit with an armor piercing shell and it took a chunk out of the tank. If it had been six inches over, it would have gone through his telescopic sight and he would have died. It’s a harrowing thought.
(Photo Courtesy of Clarence Smoyer)
In one of the most heart-wrenching accounts of losing a buddy, Smoyer relates a story about losing his tank commander who was also his best friend. When one of the open-top vehicles was hit, his friend ran toward them to assist — despite Smoyer’s warnings. “He always ran to help someone if they were in need.” Just before he reached the vehicle, he was killed instantly by two mortar shells as Smoyer watched in horror.
Smoyer’s stories are so powerful, in fact, that they’re the subject of a New York Times bestselling book, Spearhead, which is a great read if you’re looking for all the gritty details.
Austin asks Smoyer to recount the first time he took on a German tank. Smoyer tracked down a tank, but it backed off behind a building. Smoyer shot through the building and hit a pillar which caused the building to collapse. Smoyer learned later the building collapsed on the tank and put it out of actions. Years later, on his return to Europe, he met one of the occupants of the German tank after they fished him out from under the building’s rubble. “I hesitated, I didn’t know how he was going to feel about me. After all I dropped a building on him.” The meeting went well, and they shook hands. Smoyer told him, “The war is over now, we can be friends.”
To continue the Tank action, be sure to check out World of Tanks on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One today. Through the World of Tanks Tanker Rewards program, Wargaming offers tons of benefits and exclusive rewards both in-game and in person for all registered players. Be a part of our current WWE season and get endless opportunities to claim WWE and Tanker rewards. To learn more about the program, click here.
U.S. Army Sgt. Dustin McGraw is stationed with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the culmination of a life-long dream of being a paratrooper like the heroes of World War II movies that he watched as a child. But as he made his way up, he discovered a love of World War I that has led to him re-enacting battles in France.
His re-enactment group spends a lot of time at a park in Tennessee a few hours from Fort Campbell, allowing McGraw to indulge his passion while maintaining his active duty career. (That park is named for famed Doughboy and Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Alvin C. York, making it a pretty appropriate place to host re-enactments.)
And there is more crossover between the passion and the job than one might initially assume. While re-enactors, obviously, do not face the dangers and many of the hardships endured by soldiers in combat, they do work hard to portray their chosen period accurately. That means that they have to get uniforms, tactics, weapons, and other details right.
And it’s hard to steep yourself that deeply in military history without learning an appreciation for the discipline and perseverance that it takes to succeed in combat. As McGraw points out in the video, maintaining your cool in wool uniforms and metal helmets in the broiling sun isn’t always easy. And, practicing World War I tactics can still help reinforce an understanding of modern warfare. After all, machine guns and rifles haven’t changed all that much.
But that leads to another benefit for McGraw and other soldiers who choose to re-enact past periods of military history: They learn a deep appreciation of modern systems, from weapons to logistics to medicine to gear.
Where modern troops have GPS, Kevlar, lightweight automatic weapons, aid bags, and helicopters, World War I Doughboys had to make do with maps, cotton, rifles of wood and steel, field bandages, and horses. So, while it’s easy to complain when your helicopters are late to the LZ, most people would be more appreciative of the challenges if they spent their weekends trying to simulate logistics with horses.
I have a confession to make. I’m not a member of the Spouses’ Club, nor will I likely ever be.
While spouse clubs can certainly be wonderful sources of connection and involvement, the constant push to increase membership, extreme volunteerism, and the “social overwhelm” that tend to accompany a spouse club isn’t a fit for everyone.
However, trying to tactfully explain why my default response of, “Thanks, but no thanks,” is usually met with thin smiles and barely concealed cold stares. So here’s the blunt truth.
1. It is difficult to participate on my own terms.
I have tried several spouse clubs, I really have, but for me the end result has always been the same. Instead of being slowly introduced to the military community and offered ways to plug-in on my own terms, each spouse club seems to be one giant exercise in how to strong-arm its members into volunteering for everything under the sun.
2. Club politics and “rank wars” frankly, suck.
While the debate of whether “rank wars” actually exist is still contested, the reality of spouse club politics are alive and well. For example, I recently met the wife of my husband’s boss. When she gleefully made the connection that her spouse worked with mine, gracefully declining any events she’s prominent in became, well…dicey. Say no just one too many times, and I might give the appearance that I’m not a team player.
The added difficulty of, “Yes, I want to do this event, but not that one,” and the very real difficulty of saying no – particularly to a spouse in senior leadership is intimidating.
3. The palpable sense that I am “fresh blood” with my newcomer’s name badge, terrifies me.
When I do get the wild urge and decide to tag along with a friend to a spouses’ group meeting, I’m sorry to say – I usually walk away with the renewed conviction that it was a mistake. Strangely enough, nametags are part of the problem.
Most spouse clubs use name badges, particularly larger clubs – which is admittedly, a blessedly welcome social nicety. And while most spouse clubs issue members permanent badges, newcomers are usually afforded temp badges and a Sharpie marker. Nothing wrong with that either.
The trouble comes once members see that temp badge because the volunteer pitches start flowing like a tsunami’s first seismic tidal wave. Any offers of friendship or even mere fellowship are immediately bypassed in hopes of “securing the newbie” as a volunteer. Instead of being asked, “Hey – want to grab a coffee or lunch?” introductions conclude with, “So what event can we sign you up for today?”
Again, thanks…but no thanks. And I run for the nearest exit.
4. Honestly, it tends to come down to balancing social overwhelm with self-care.
With my INFJ (or INTJ – depending on the day) personality, I’ve finally come to understand that if I do not balance my social events carefully, I’m left with an “introvert’s hangover” that can last for days. Left exhausted, I can be of no help to anyone.
“An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows it to shine vibrantly, lighting the way for others. We cannot nurture others from a dry well.” – Project Happiness
So very often, I think the message that it is ok to participate on our own terms, whatever those terms might be, becomes lost in the military spouse community.
We are encouraged to support not only our members, but our communities. We are encouraged to be mentors. We are encouraged to volunteer for our children, our spouses, our schools.
(Photo by Giuseppe Milo)
The message that so often seems to get lost in translation, is that there are so many ways to offer support – and it is ok to be involved on your own terms! The spouse club is not the “be-all, end-all” of a military installation’s social circle existence – that in my opinion, they seem to like to pretend to be.
Personally, I love the connection of a smaller group and enjoy being a squadron Key Spouse. I know that my efforts help support our squadron’s mission, which in turn support my spouse, who supports me. I lose that connection in a big group event and that is the connection which nurtures my soul.
We are constantly urged to give back, with our time, talents, and treasure. Fundraisers, booster club events, bake sales, fun runs, race for a cure, suicide prevention walks, foster a pet (or a child), and more.
The list is daunting, and never-ending.
Our military lives are anything if not fluid and dynamic. Sometimes, that means our emotional and wellness reserves are overflowing and full, allowing us more energy and abundance to give back. But sometimes they aren’t and we need to carefully monitor that balance. Some things replenish those reserves, and some things do not.
And it’s ok to know what doesn’t replenish you…and say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
As someone who has served on active duty and in the reserves, I can confidently say that neither side of the divide fully understands the other. The Army Reserve often thinks of the active Army as drill days that come more often, and the active Army thinks of the Reserve as weekend warriors with no expertise or experience.
They’re both wrong, but reserve drill days are, to put it mildly, weird beasts.
Army reservist drives to drill. So much fun.
(YouTube/Strength Over Benches)
It starts with a long drive
Sure, some people live near their drill location, but as unit after unit after unit gets shuffled around thanks to base closings and re-alignments (plus the fact that there’s always a good chance that a slot for your military job at your current rank isn’t available), you’re going to have one hell of a drive.
If you’re particularly lucky, you’ll be driving a few hours to drill, meaning that you’ll drive up Friday night after work, using Rip-Its and a pinch of dip to stay awake like you’re driving through Ramadi instead of the Carolinas.
Every reservist approximately 20 minutes before drill.
(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Christopher Callaway)
Then you have to groom all the stuff you haven’t bothered with in four weeks
Most Reservists aren’t necessarily AR 670-1 friendly the rest of the month, so there’s a lengthy grooming process to get rid of all the hair growth and long fingernails and, in rarer circumstances, bruises, henna tattoos, and Sharpie.
Depending on your living circumstances, you might have to do this before the drive, but whatever. Just scrub until the genital drawings are all off your face.
Army Reserve Officer Training Cadets getting ready to do some physical training.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ken Scar)
Finally, throw on the uniform and stumble into PT
It’s obviously best if you’ve actually received the uniform of the day from whoever is disseminating that information (it being your first-line NCO is far from guaranteed), but you’ll be lining up in formation regardless of whether you had the right uniform ahead of time. And, since all the NCOs need to get some instruction time and there are only two PT sessions per month, there’s a good chance there’s a different instructor every time.
A different instructor who only does this once every few months, who didn’t have time to plan until the day before drill, who has to practice the conditioning drills, and who uses the same pocket physical training guide as everyone else. Be prepared for some seriously repetitive workouts, probably conducted while at least four guys who can’t pass tape wheeze behind you.
Hmmm, this computer training is probably different from the computer training she did earlier, but it’s impossible to tell after a few hours.
(U.S. Army National Guard Maj. Joseph Siemandel)
Admin, admin, admin
When you get to actual work, be prepared for all the admin requirements of active duty to be packed into two duty days. Yeah, cars need to be inspected, people need to learn not to harass each other, and someone has to click through all these anti-suicide slides (because, yeah, PowerPoint is the best way to defeat that particular scourge.)
On the off chance that there is time leftover for actual training, it’s probably going to be conducted by the guys in the unit who have similar jobs on the civilian side, because they’re the only ones with a ton of experience doing the work.
(Side note: This is one of the legitimate advantages of the reserve components. There are a ton of guys in most units who actually get day-in, day-out experience. Truck drivers aren’t sitting around in motor pools waiting for a training exercise where they’ll finally be able to get some wheel time. No, they’re on the road for 40 hours or more a week, so they have lots of experience to share.)
Alright, we finally have equipment, so let’s spend the next six months inventorying it over and over and over.
Sure, this could be bundled into admin, but units have to do their property inventories every month on the reserve side just like the active. And that means that at least a few people every month take the special time allocated for ALMS classes to follow the commander around instead.
But this is, obviously, crucial, because otherwise, the Army Reserve might lose track of the weapons that date back to Vietnam, the radios that date back to Desert Storm, or the office implements that still have Eisenhower’s fingerprints on them.
Meals are served in a half-staffed dining facility unless there are too few units at drill to justify starting up the grills. In that case, be prepared for MREs or to do some extreme budget shopping at whatever chain restaurant is so hard up for business that they’ll dive through all the hoops that the Army makes them go through to sell burnt burgers to soldiers.
Vegetarians, understand you’ll be eating the chicken caesar with no chicken. Sorry about that. Still better than a veggie omelet, though.
Army Reserve soldiers prepare to deploy.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ken Scar)
Finally, release formation
This will, just like on active duty side, run late, especially if annual training or, gods be praised, a deployment is coming up. And sorry, reserve first sergeants are just as likely to piggyback on the commander with comments about “behooving” as their active duty counterparts. The safety brief is extra laughable, though, since everyone there spends three weekends a month successfully not drinking and driving, so it makes it extra odd to get warnings after the fourth.
If you’re commuting and staying in a local hotel during drill, then hope you can make friends with someone in the unit. Because you’re going to be surrounded by them regardless of what you do.
Veterans who have been in the service a while know that the exact dates and times of the biggest operations are typically classified until just before they pop off. But the troops have found ways of knowing what’s coming because the command can’t quite keep everything to “business as usual” while also preparing for a big push.
Here are six signs that sh*t’s about to get real:
Lt. Col. Matthew Danner, battalion commander of Battalion Landing Team 3/1, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, inspects a rifle aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex during a regularly scheduled deployment of Essex Amphibious Ready Group and the 13th MEU, July 31, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Francisco J. Diaz Jr.)
The commander shows up to inspections
In theory, the commander cares about all inspections, but he or she typically leaves the actual inspecting to their noncommissioned officers and platoon leaders. After all, company commanders and above have a lot to keep track of.
But sometimes, the first sergeant and commander are involved in more inspections than normal, and are checking for more details than normal. It’s a sign that they’re worried weapons, vehicles, and troops will see combat soon, making an untreated rash or rust damage much more dangerous.
Soldiers training at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, undergo a CS gas attack simulating an attack with a worse chemical agent.
(U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Hannah Baker)
Low-level, constant exercises or operations suddenly stop
When a force is built up for a potentially big fight, the commanders have to keep everyone razor sharp and focused. If the troops aren’t in regular combat, this is typically accomplished via small exercises and large drills.
But, if the fight is about to start, the higher-ups want to ensure that everyone gets a little rest before going into the big battle. So, leaders get word from their own bosses to cease unnecessary training and operations the days immediately preceding the fight, and troops may even get official confirmation 24 hours out along with orders to rest up.
All the headquarters pukes are suddenly mum, or are talking in whispers in corners
But of course, not every low-level soldier can be kept out of the loop. Someone has to look at where the moon will be on different nights, cloud cover, whether the locals will be outside or in their homes during normal patterns of life. Someone has to move the right equipment to the right spots, and someone runs the messages between all the majors making the plans.
So, those people are all low-ranking, yes, but they’re also in the know. They’ll respond in one of a few ways, usually spilling the beans to close friends or cutting themselves off from everyone — which are dead giveaways in their own right. If the intel guy who typically wants to talk to everyone is suddenly mum or will only talk in whispers to close friends, get ready for a fight.
Marines deliver an M777 howitzer via MV-22 Osprey slingload during training in Australia in 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Wetzel)
A whole bunch of fresh supplies arrive
Here’s a little secret: For as much as all the troops complain about always having to deal with old, hand-me-down gear, the U.S. is actually one of the best-supplied militaries in the world, if not the best supplied (we’re certainly the most expensive). But all of those supplies are typically sent to top-tier units or units about to go into the fight.
So, if you’re not in a Special Forces unit but the supply guy shows up with a ton of useful, new gear — especially batteries —that your unit has been asking for — and failing to receive — then you might be going into combat. Get to know the equipment quick.
Pizza Hut shows up at the Marines’ base just before the invasion of Iraq begins in ‘Generation Kill,” a mini-series based on a journalist’s account of the invasion.
A sudden, seemingly unprompted, nice meal
As odd as it sounds, an unexpected nice meal is a dead giveaway that troops are about to experience something rough. If you’re a soldier in the middle of a huge force, it’s a good bet that the “something rough” is the planned operation.
This sometimes comes up in movies and TV, like in Generation Kill, when 20 cars showed up at the wire filled with Pizza Hut while the Marines were waiting for the invasion of Iraq to begin. Driver and comedian Ray Person immediately calls it,
“Sh*t is on. Has to be.”
Marines communicate with family and friends on new morale internet lines in 2011 in Kabul, Afghanistan.
(Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs)
Of course, the officers typically want to tell all their troops what’s going on and get them mentally prepared for the fight, but there’s a big step they need to take to make sure word doesn’t leak out: a communications blackout. Internet and phone access to the outside world is cutoff so no one can send an errant text home and let the enemy know the invasion is coming.
So, if the morale lines suddenly cut off, go ahead and report to your platoon, because word is coming down that something has happened or is about to.
On Saturday, Aug. 3, a team of over 30 Navy SEALs will swim across the Hudson River to honor military veterans and their families, as well as those who died during the 9/11 attacks and the wars that followed.
It will be the first Navy SEAL Hudson River Swim and Run — and the first ever legally sanctioned swim across the Hudson River. The event has the full support of New York City and state officials as well as the NYPD, FDNY, Port Authority of New York, New Jersey Police Department, and New Jersey State Police.
The benefit will help the GI Go Fund, which supports veterans and their families with housing, health care, employment services, and financial aid.
Swimming over two and a half miles in the currents of the Hudson is a great challenge — but that’s how the frogmen like it.
“We get nowhere in life by staying in our comfort zone. Results come when we get uncomfortable, challenge ourselves and push pass our perceived limits. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t apply that lesson, and I won’t get to where I need to be in life if that trend doesn’t continue,” shared Remi Adeleke, a SEAL embodying the idea of service after service.
“The route we chose is important,” said Kaj Larsen, one of the Navy SEAL swimmers. “We are swimming to the Statue of Liberty because it is an iconic symbol of freedom, the same thing we fought for overseas. Ellis Island represents the diversity that makes us strong as a nation. And finally the Ground Zero memorial, which has deep significance for the country, the SEAL teams, and me personally.”
Larsen and his team train beneath the Statue of Liberty.
Larsen was in First Phase of SEAL training on 9/11. His roommate LT Michael Murphy, a Medal of Honor recipient, was from New York. His father was a New York firefighter and when Murphy was killed on June 28, 2005 in Afghanistan during Operation Red Wings, he was wearing an NYFD t-shirt under his uniform.
“There is an inextricable connection between the SEAL community and New York. Our fates were intertwined on September 11, so it is an honor to come back here with my fellow SEALs and compete in this event and give back to the city,” said Larsen.
First the frogmen will swim from Liberty Park to the Statue of Liberty. From there they head to Ellis Island. Finally they swim to Battery park and run as a unit to the Freedom Tower and the site of a new memorial dedicated to Special Operations Forces.
At each stop they will perform a series of push-ups and pull-ups culminating in a ceremony at the SOF memorial.
Stats? Projections? F$%k that noise. Numbers can’t guarantee wins, but being a badass sure helps. As the 2018 NFL Season enters its second week and fantasy football fans continue to debate the stats, the veterans at We Are The Mighty are taking a different approach to finding the best players across the league.
This past week, our team of self-declared fair-weather fans scouted the NFL to find the players worthy of serving on one the military’s most elite units: the Army Special Forces — Operational Detachment Alpha, known exclusively as the “A-Team.”
A Special Forces team is full of quiet professionals, each of whom has a set of unique, special skills, ranging from demolitions to weapons to communications. Earning your place on a Special Forces team takes training, time, and a little luck, but it ultimately comes down to one simple question: Can you perform under pressure?
This results-based mentality is exactly the same approach used by NFL players across the league and, in the season’s opening week, five players have distinguished themselves worthy of making the inaugural “A Team Report.” Some earned this distinguished honor by breaking records while others made the list via sheer, viking-level badassery. Either way, all the players on this week’s A-Team Report stepped up when it mattered.
Safety Shawn Williams ejected for unnecessary roughness.
Shawn Williams — Cincinnati Bengals
There’s always one member of the team that’s willing to run into the fatal funnel without fear of the consequences. Normally, this is a job reserved for the A-Team member with too many deployments under their belt or just loves war way too much.
This craving for violence is exactly the motivation that safety Shawn Williams of the Cincinnati Bengals channeled against Andrew Luck and his Indianapolis Colts. Williams tried to take Andrew Luck’s head off in a tackle that would make even the most battle-hardened Green Berets squirm. Williams succeeded in stopping Luck, but not before he was ejected for unnecessary roughness. Williams is the first player to be ejected for a helmet-to-helmet hit this year and may be subject to a fine.
We can’t wait to see what other destruction Williams will bring once he’s allowed back on the field next week.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s beard is a weapon.
Ryan Fitzpatrick — Tampa Bay Buccaneers
As the 2018 season opened, Ryan Fitzpatrick, a backup quarterback who has been in the league for over decade (13 seasons, to be exact), was fully expected to spend this season on the sidelines. When the Buccaneers first-string quarterback was suspended, Fitzpatrick stepped up.
When Fitzpatrick comes to play, he brings with him a beard that would make even the most seasoned Delta Force operator jealous. The power of the beard is undeniable. It was solely responsible for Fitzpatrick throwing three touchdowns in the Buccaneers’ 48-40 win over the New Orleans Saints. Next week, Fitzpatrick, his beard, and the Buccs will take on the Super-Bowl Champs, the Philadelphia Eagles.
Let’s hope Fitzpatrick doesn’t do anything stupid, like shave.
Adam Vinatieri uses his old-man strength to nail a 57-yard pre-season kick.
Adam Vinatieri — Indianapolis Colts
There is something to be said about old-man strength and, at 45 years and 23 seasons deep, Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri performed like a true warrant officer in his season opener against the Bengals.
Within the Special Forces community, warrant officers are the brunt of numerous old-age jokes, but their experience is often invaluable. Simply, warrants know how to get sh*t done — and so does Vinatieri. Despite the Colt’s 23-34 loss, Vinatieri hit 3 of 4 field goal attempts.
Like all warrants, Vinatieri proved that, sometimes, you just have to shut up and kick sh*t.
Tyreek Hill’s 91 yard punt return, complete with peace offering.
Tyreek Hill — Kansas City Chiefs
While age brings experience, youth delivers speed and violence of action, which are the hallmarks of any A-Team member. This week, Kansas City Chiefs Wide Receiver/Return Specialist Tyreek Hill certainly brought the speed during a 91-yard kickoff return against the Chargers.
Hill lived up to his nickname, “Cheetah,” during the run, but just had to make sure the Chargers defense knew they’d been beat by throwing up a peace sign as he coasted into the endzone. Hill brings a speed and ego to the Chiefs that literally can’t be stopped.
What can we say? When you’re good, you’re good.
Rookie Roquan Smith sacks QB DeShone Kizer during his first play in the NFL
Roquan Smith — Chicago Bears
Rookie Linebacker Roquan Smith came to play in the Bears season opener against the Green Bay Packers, achieving something that should make any fan proud: In literally the first play of his NFL career, Smith sacked Green Bay Quarterback DeShone Kizer, proving that super bowl rings and cheese hats can’t stop a motivated linebacker.
We’re keeping our eye on Smith this season to see if his actions are a one-time fluke or if he can continue to bring the pain.
Military culture is something you definitely have to be a part of to understand. Bob from accounting trying to relate to the strictness of your Drill Sergeant dad’s rules and regulations from a civilian perspective boils your red-hot American blood faster than anything else.
Sure, growing up a military brat separates you from the rest of the world, but also gains you entrance into the greatest 1% club out there. Here are the signs you might have grown up a military brat.
You have no idea how to answer, “Where are you from?”
Well, that depends. Do you mean where I lived the longest? Where I was born? Where I spent my best years? To be perfectly honest, you have no idea, so you just throw a random state (or country) out there and hope it makes you sound as cool as you look.
You’ve visited more countries than most adults
In most cases, a 16 year old reminiscing of skiing the Alps on holiday or discussing the economic impact of buying American grocery staples abroad would sound like a big fat lie. But not for you, you cultured darling. You spent your three-day weekends on a multi-country European tour instead of grabbing burgers and a movie.
You have to explain why you were born in another country but aren’t from there
No, I wasn’t born in America. No, I’m not a foreign citizen. No, I do not have a family heritage from that country either; I was just born there. Yes, it’s very annoying to explain this to people dozens of times.
You know your Social Security Number
You don’t need to call mom to ask her your personal information, you’ve got that on lock along with your service member parent’s as well.
You can’t stand civilians freaking out over moving…down the street
You’re crying over the sentimental loss of moving two blocks down in the same neighborhood while keeping the same circle of friends, same zip code and same schools? Please, do explain to me how sympathetic I should be toward you (eye roll).
You know the metric system
Amid a long list of random knowledge nuggets that you possess, growing internationally meant exposure to a system the entire world works within…except America.
Being late is a crime you’ll never commit
If you’re early you’re on time and if you’re on time, the Captain will likely treat it as if you just committed a crime against time itself. Ten minutes early is precisely on time in your book.
Bowling is your party trick
A weird yet common pastime in military culture…bowling. Nearly every duty station had a bowling alley and you’ve likely spent an unhealthy amount of time practicing your spins.
You’ve ridden on an airplane next to a Humvee in the cargo hold
Space-A flights are something else. There are no peanuts, no TVs in the headrests and zero chance you’ll snag a window seat.
You were “hella” cool with your ID card
Don’t even try to deny it. You thought you were crazy important toting around that ID card as a kid.
Getting up early is the standard operating procedure
Sleeping until 0700 hours sounds like a vacation after growing up a military child. Your entire neighborhood believed exercise was best before the sun rose each day.
Your parents take respect to a whole new level
Preparing your less than lazy friends for a stay at your house may have required an entire operation in itself.
When you were raised among Rangers, nothing scares you
“Your parents scare me,” might be a phrase you’ve heard a time or 20. But whether you were raised by Seals, Rangers or Green Berets, 200 pounds of American fighting muscle looks like your favorite uncle, not a death sentence.