Joining the military is a great opportunity for many young adults. There are countless benefits for those serve, ranging from financial security, means for obtaining a higher education, developing skills desired by future employers, and, most importantly, a way for someone to participate in something bigger than themselves.
If you want to sign your name on the dotted line in hopes of making a better life for yourself — you’re making an excellent decision.
If your sole purpose in enlisting is to collect fat paychecks… just know that literally everyone under the rank of general is still waiting for get-that-check-engine-light-looked-at kind of money. That being said, enlisting for cash is just scratching the surface of dumb, preconceived notions that troops come in with.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t meant to stop anyone from joining the military — after all, Uncle Sam needs that butt in OD Green. Just know that if you’re dead set on some of the following, it’s going to be painfully hilarious to everyone around you when the truth sets in.
The military also provides enough options to help you float until pay day, if you’d like.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Victor Mincy)
The pay is great
As mentioned above, troops don’t get paid all that well — especially when first entering the service. It’s been long joked within the military that you don’t actually break minimum wage until you reach E-3 (which usually takes a year without waiver) when you factor in work call at 0500 for PT and close out formation at 1700 — a 12-hour work day.
This number obviously doesn’t include overtime pay, 24-hour duties, weekend and holiday pay, or the fact that being in the military is a 24/7 job. If you do look at it like a 24-hour job, you’re looking more towards E-7 (at over 8 years time in service) or O-3 just to break minimum wage.
On the bright side, you’ll get two weeks of paid vacation if you use your leave days correctly!
To be honest, unless you become a drill instructor/drill sergeant, you’re not going to do much yelling for the sake of yelling.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Bryan Nygaard)
You’ll get to boss others around
If you thought that joining the military was the pathway to position where you can just yell at people and order them around, you’re absolutely wrong and would be a craptastic leader.
The only way for you to actually “yell at and boss people around” without getting some wall-to-wall counselling from your peers is to be in a position over someone — which won’t be simply handed to you. Even then, no one will respect you — your superiors, peers, and subordinates alike — if you don’t offer them that same respect.
Everyone wants to talk about the awesome moments of being in the infantry but never acknowledges all of the suck that comes with it.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)
By joining the military, you’ll be killing bad guys all the time
There’s always that one kid who played too much Call of Duty or watched too many war films and came away with the wrong idea about the military. The fact is, killing bad guys accounts for (maybe) the tiniest fraction of your time spent — even if go infantry.
Let’s overlook, just for a moment, the serious mental issue at play here and say that when this doofus says he wants to “kill all the bad guys,” he means he wants to be a grunt. First, they’d need to be part of the 20% of the military considered combat arms. Then, they’d need to be a part of the 60% of troops that actually deploy at least once. Then, they’ll have to be one of the 10% of troops who actually see combat — and this is skewed because it includes every troop that’s seen combat even just a single time, not the sustained badassery that most of these would-be killers expect. That number is astronomically low.
Then you’ll run into the old, “you’ve already got 10 years in, you might as well stay until retirement!” …And we do…
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Yasmin D. Perez)
You can simply collect the benefits and bounce
If you think you’ll just come in for the three years and get your full ride of the GI Bill, I won’t stop you. Good luck with that — the military has a way of keeping troops in.
It’s not really clear why it works so well, but the one of the most repeated lines by senior NCOs when retention numbers are low is, “you won’t find a job out there in the real world except Walmart greeter!” That one phrase has done more to keep troop numbers up than any motivational recruitment ad.
You’ll be so acquainted with the world’s deserts that you can tell exactly where someone is in the world just by the color of the dirt and sand around them…
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel Garas)
By joining the military, you’ll travel the world
Oh, you’ll travel the world alright. There’s no denying that. It’s just that none of the locations on your bucket list match up with anywhere Uncle Sam wants to send you.
Sure, there’s a possibility that you’ll get stationed in Hawaii, Europe, or East Asia. But chances are far better that you’ll get sent to the exotic Fort Sill, Oklahoma, or tropical Minot AFB, North Dakota, before going to Trashcanistan.
Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Ronald L. Green, shared his second video message to Marines as part of the Own It! campaign. In the video, he calls for Marines to “look around you and see who might be struggling and ask them, how can I help?” Own It! is a Marine Corps awareness campaign designed to provide tips to Marines on how to start tough conversations with fellow Marines.
“We all need to support each other in protecting what we’ve earned. So, if you see something, do something, and help our Marine Corps family be safe and ready for the next fight,” said Sgt. Maj. Green.
Marines and their families can join the conversation by texting OWNIT to 555-888.
By texting OWNIT, participants will receive links to resources that will guide them on how to have a tough conversation with a Marine Corps family member about difficult situations like suicide, consent, rejection, bullying, substance abuse, as well as family issues including relationship red flags, divorce, child abuse, or the unexpected death of a loved one. These tip sheets are available at www.usmc-mccs.org/ownit.
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
We have a history of showing off American military hardware, training, and photos. But we’re not always great about showing the great photographic work of our rivals. (Our “enemies” if you’re feeling aggressive or if you need to make your headline more click-baitey.)
So, we just took a quick walk through the Instagram feeds of the Chinese and Russian militaries as well as their senior leaders and found these seven epic photos that show off their hardware, troops, training, and celebrations.
Because they’re coming from Instagram and we don’t have the rights to download the images and upload them raw, you’ll also see the captions the photos were shared with. Lucky us, the Russian military includes English captions on their photos. The Russian caption comes before the English one, so just scroll until you see some familiar letters.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/Bh-VBjxn5vj/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet expand=1]Chinese Armed Forces on Instagram: “We serve China! – People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Su-30MKK – #中国 #中华人民共和国 #中国人民解放军 #中国人民解放军空军 #中国武装力量 #中华人民共和国武装力量 #plaaf…”
This Su-30MKK is an export variant of Russia’s Sukhoi Su-30. It’s flown by the China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force and is a capable fourth-generation fighter. It’s primarily used to protect from other fighters or to conduct strikes against targets on the ground like an F-15 does.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B0GHMPIAG5L/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet expand=1]Минобороны России on Instagram: “До Дня ВМФ чуть больше недели, а морпехи Тихоокеанского флота уже целый месяц репетируют эпизоды шоу, которое состоится во Владивостоке в…”
These armored personnel carriers are Russian BTR-82As. They can race along the ground at about 62 mph and have only been in service since the end of 2009. A three-person crew is needed to operate the vehicle, and seven more can ride in the back. It boasts a 30mm auto-cannon as well as a 7.62mm machine gun.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B0Akdy7ge8o/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet expand=1]Минобороны России on Instagram: “Удивительные кадры первых репетиций Главного военно-морского парада, посвященного Дню ВМФ, прошедших вчера в Санкт-Петербурге. В…”
A Russian helicopter, most likely the Mi-17, flies over St. Petersburg during rehearsals for a national holiday. Russia’s transport helicopters are some of the best in the world, and their attack helicopters have gotten better and better as well, though the most-modern Apaches and Vipers can likely still clear the sky.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BzS_LkwpVoL/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet expand=1]Instagram post by General Zhuang Dingman • Jun 29, 2019 at 2:15pm UTC
Chinese troops lift tires filled with water and dump them on themselves. The general who shared this image provided no context, but displays like this are common for Chinese troops, especially special operators, when cameras are nearby to capture the moment.
That may make it sound like these troops are just photo models, but China’s special operators have actually placed highly at recent Warrior Competitions in Jordan, taking first and third in 2017 and second in 2018.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B0gSJnOgC-y/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet expand=1]Минобороны России on Instagram: “Небо Москвы вчера озарили 2500 фейерверков в честь 75-ой годовщины освобождения Бреста от немецко-фашистских захватчиков ⠀ Брест был…”
The Russian government and its citizens celebrate the liberation of Brest, Belarus, during a party in Moscow. Brest was one of the first Russian cities lost during the German invasion in World War II but Russia re-took the city in 1944, 75 years ago.
Chinese troops prepare to erect an air defense missile. China has a wide selection of air defense missiles including S-300 and S-400 missiles imported from Russia as well as domestically built HQ-9 and HQ-22 missiles.
There’s some speculation about how much technology China might have reverse-engineered from Russia without permission, but the HQ-9, at least, was first deployed before China got access to Russian air defense missiles.
Those who aspire to one day become a U.S. Air Force aviator must first meet several requirements, including height, before they are considered for pilot training. For those who fall outside of the Air Force’s height requirements, height waivers are available.
“Don’t automatically assume you don’t qualify because of your height,” said Maj. Gen. Craig Wills, 19th Air Force commander. “We have an incredibly thorough process for determining whether you can safely operate our assigned aircraft. Don’t let a number on a website stop you from pursuing a career with the best Air Force in the world.”
The current height requirement to become an Air Force pilot is a standing height of 5 feet, 4 inches to 6 feet, 5 inches and a sitting height of 34-40 inches. These standard height requirements have been used for years to ensure candidates will safely fit into an operational aircraft and each of the prerequisite training aircraft. “We’re rewriting these rules to better capture the fact that no two people are the exact same, even if they are the same overall height,” Wills said.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Nick Harris (left) and Capt. Jessica Wallander, instructor pilots with the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base, Okla., stand side-by-side to illustrate the varying standing heights of Air Force pilots to dispel the myth that there is one height standard for all Air Force pilots.
(US Air Force photo)
“Height restrictions are an operational limitation, not a medical one, but the majority of our aircraft can accommodate pilots from across the height spectrum,” Wills said. “The bottom line is that the vast majority of the folks who are below 5 feet, 4 inches and have applied for a waiver in the past five years have been approved.”
The waiver process begins at each of the commissioning sources for pilot candidates, whether the U.S. Air Force Academy, Officer Training School or Reserve Officer Training Corps. For those who do not meet the standard height requirements, anthropometric measurements are completed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, or at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
“We have a great process in place to evaluate and accommodate those who fall outside our published standards,” Wills said. “If an applicant is over 5 feet, 2 inches tall, historically they have a greater than 95% chance of qualifying for service as a pilot. Applicants as short as 4 feet, 11 inches have received waivers in the past five years.”
Anthropometric measurements include sitting eye height, buttocks to knee length and arm span. The anthropometric device at Wright Patterson AFB is the only device accepted by the Air Force when determining waiver eligibility. A specialty team conducts the measurements at U.S. Air Force Academy.
Maj. Gen. Craig Wills, Nineteenth Air Force commander, stands side-by-side with a Nineteenth Air Force pilot to illustrate the varying standing heights of Air Force pilots to dispel the myth that there is one height standard for all Air Force pilots.
(US Air Force photo)
Waiver packages are then coordinated through a partnership between the Air Education Training Command surgeon general and Nineteenth Air Force officials, who are responsible for all of the Air Force’s initial flying training.
“As part of the waiver process, we have a team of experts who objectively determine if a candidate’s measurements are acceptable,” said Col. Gianna Zeh, AETC surgeon general. “Let us make the determination if your measures are truly an eliminating issue.”
The pilot waiver system is in place to determine whether pilot applicants of all sizes can safely operate assigned aircraft and applicants who are significantly taller or shorter than average may require special screening.
“Some people may still not qualify,” Wills said. “But, the Air Force is doing everything that we can to make a career in aviation an option for as many people as possible. The waiver process is another example of how we can expand the pool of eligible pilot candidates.”
Nothing says Thanksgiving like football in the backyard, family gathered around the table, and, of course, a nice hunk of meat. For many of us, this means turkey or chicken, but if you’re seeking a good, old-fashioned red meat this holiday season (or just looking to change things up), consider a cold-brew marinated steak.
This meal may seem jarring if you think coffee is only for drinking. But for those of us who have experimented with coffee rubs during grilling season, we know it can infuse a rich nutty flavor and make the meat super tender. This is due to the coffee’s high acidity levels, which help break down tough proteins in the meat. Allowing meat to marinate in a coffee brine for a few hours further assists the softening process, leaving the meat tender and with a smoky flavor.
This cold-brew marinated ribeye is a great way to shake things up for Thanksgiving dinner.
(Photo by Lacey Whitehouse/Coffee or Die)
We’ll be using cold-brew coffee as the base for our marinade. This is a great opportunity to finish up the last batch of concentrate you brewed — or make some fresh to use in other seasonal beverages during the holidays.
It’s important to note that cold brew is not simply iced coffee — it’s a completely different process. While iced coffee is brewed hot and brought to room temperature before being served over ice, cold brew utilizes room temperature water and coffee grounds to create a concentrate. Typically, the coffee is ground coarsely and left to brew in temperate water for six to 12 hours. The result is a smooth concentrate that is three times stronger than traditionally brewed coffee and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
(Photo by Lacey Whitehouse/Coffee or Die)
To mitigate the risk of the meat hardening, we’ll be combining the cold brew with other acid-rich ingredients to make the juiciest possible steak. For our marinade, we’ll be using cold brew, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, garlic cloves, onion powder, parsley, dried oregano, salt, and molasses. The apple cider vinegar cuts the fats and natural sweetness of the steak to help round out its overall flavor. Combined with molasses, we’ll achieve a wonderfully delicate balance between the savoriness of the meat and the tang of the marinade.
The holiday season is a time to show your love, and there’s no better way to do that than with a good cut of meat. Enjoy your steak with fries or your favorite holiday sides.
Recipe by Brittany Ramjattan/Coffee or Die.
(Photo by Lacey Whitehouse/Coffee or Die. Graphic by Erik Campbell/Coffee or Die.)
From advice to events to products and services, at Military Spouse we are all about connecting you with the things you love. MilSpouse: Life is devoted to the products and services military spouses enjoy as a part of their everyday life. We’ll take a behind the scenes look at some of the stuff we love, plus explore how these things make our lives easier.
Here’s what you told us were some of your absolutely favorite things to LOVE!
Farmgirl Flowers. Nothing pisses a military spouse off faster than receiving messed-up flowers sent by their loving spouse. Worse yet is if they spent a BUNCH of money on them and the flowers die the next day. Tell us we are not alone in feeling like a lot of places take advantage of a service member wanting to show some love. Enter the most awesome flowers we’ve ever seen in a box! Bring on Valentine’s Day!
3. Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World. Mickey ears. Matching shirts. Time together. And, yeah, big military discounts!!! We LOVE this place and so do so many of our military families. Check out these tips from our friends over at Military Disney Tips!
Honda. She’s rollin’ in her Honda Odyssey, baby! If you’ve driven through any military housing lately, you’ve probably seen at least every other driveway filled with one of these in silver or blue. Military moms love the Honda Odyssey and maybe that’s why Honda event says “it’s everyone’s happy place.” Pull out the seats, pulldown the screens, and hit the open road! (See Number 7 below).
5. Bota Box
Bota Box. Wine. Box. Deployments. Moves. Orders to the middle of nowhere. No explanation necessary.
Scentsy. Sometimes military life just stinks. Literally. And you probably have a neighbor who sells this around the corner from you. So you get a nice smelling house. They get a business. Win. Win. Now where is my Blue Grotto Scent Circle! This place stinks!
(Flickr / AllieKF)
7. Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers.
Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers. Yeah, they get stuck in the tracks of our Honda Odyssey, but these bits of cheesy (or plain or pretzel) goodness have keep military kids happy for many a road trip and move. Hey, it’s the snack that smiles back, and who doesn’t need a good smile in this crazy military life? Found on the end-cap of every single commissary in the world.
Facebook. Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg. You gave military families a way to stay connected with each other, our families across the world, and the friends we’ve made along the way. We may be a little addicted to some of the amazing military spouse groups the site also lets us create! Can anyone say, White Walls?
9. Stitch Fix
Stitch Fix. The majority of military installations are usually not known for their great proximity to, well, any place decent to shop. Enter a service that SENDS YOU great clothing. I’m looking at you Fort Irwin.
10. Amazon Prime
Amazon Prime. What did we EVER do without it? Seriously. Let’s just say you live 45 minutes from the closest sports store and your kid needs a chin strap for football like Tuesday and you have to work today, tomorrow, and the day after and, of course, your other kids have activities each night, and your spouse is deployed. Amazon. Prime. To the rescue!!! Five minutes. And the chin strap is rocketing across the country to your mailbox. And it will be here tomorrow in time for practice. Amazon Prime. You’ve got our back.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright just wanted to get airmen talking — to each other, friends, family — with the service’s one-day pause to break down unresolved feelings they may have buried deep inside.
Wright doesn’t expect commanders at each base to draft a plan of what they believe could prevent suicide, which has plagued the service’s ranks in recent months, with 78 airmen taking their own lives between Jan. 1 and July 31, 2019. But the top enlisted airman hopes the effort might help struggling airmen again feel a sense of purpose when they come into work, even if they carry baggage from their personal lives with them.
“While mental health is a part of it, I personally think a larger part of this solution is us just being good human beings,” he said during a recent interview. Military.com accompanied Wright and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein on a trip to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, last week.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright speaks to Team Travis airmen.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David W. Carbajal)
The Air Force in August 2019 ordered a one-day “tactical pause” that had commanders and airmen address a rise in suicides across the force. As of Aug. 1, 2019, the service had exceeded the number of suicides in all of 2018 by nearly 20 people.
Wright said suicide has become the leading cause of death in the Air Force despite airmen serving overseas in combat.
“If some initiatives [at bases] came out of that, then I think that’s great. But it really wasn’t designed to develop prevention initiatives,” he said Oct. 9, 2019.
“All of the airmen that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, connecting with and talking to who’ve thought about committing suicide, none of them — not one — pointed to a program or a process or mental health [initiative]. … They all pointed to the thing that kept them going, and that was another person,” Wright said, but added some have been in therapy programs to keep talking to someone they’re comfortable with.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright listens to an Airman’s question.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David W. Carbajal)
Wright said he’s heard feedback from airmen who’ve felt the most hopeless during deployments, unable to connect with someone from their unit or loved ones back home.
On those occasions, help came from a friend or teammate — sometimes even a stranger — asking the simplest questions like, “How are you? Is there anything I can do?” Wright said.
“That’s all it was — meaningful connections,” the chief said.
“It makes a big difference if you walk into a work center where you feel like, ‘Hey, I’m a valued member of his team, and my supervisor, my teammates, they care about the things that I’m going through’ versus, ‘Hey nobody cares,'” Wright said. “This is about making airmen feel valued.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Once a Warrior by Team Rubicon’s CEO Jake Wood is more than a memoir; it’s a deep look inside the heart and mind of a modern American combat veteran. It’s also an extraordinary story of courage, loss and finding a beacon of hope within purpose.
Wood’s journey to putting on a uniform and serving his country began in the most unlikely of places: Mauthausen. He was only seven years old when he toured the concentration camp in Austria responsible for murdering untold numbers of Jewish people. Wood was horrified by the evil that took place but also awed by the photos of the American soldiers responsible for liberating the prisoners. He wanted to be them. Although his father hoped there would never be anything for him to liberate when he grew up, 9/11 changed everything.
When the towers fell during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 Wood was a freshman on a football scholarship at the University of Wisconsin. He felt a sense of guilt for choosing football over exploring West Point, knowing the country would be going to war. A few years later he watched the news as they announced the death of former NFL player turned soldier Pat Tillman. It shook him. Wood knew what he had to do. After he finished his last football game during his senior year, he announced he was going to the Marine Corps.
Wood served four years as a Marine with two combat tours, one in Iraq and another in Afghanistan. His memoir will bring you in and out of his experiences at war and the life he tried to rebuild when he got home. Although he is best known now for being the CEO of Team Rubicon, the story of getting there wasn’t without hardship or loss. It was the culmination of so much that made him want to write his story. Ultimately, it was the birth of his first child that solidified his commitment to tell it.
“My daughter was born two years ago and it made me want to try to put my life in perspective. That started a soul searching journey for me. Part of it was because I knew my daughter would ask me about my time at war. I felt like I owed her a better response,” Wood explained. He began writing some of the book over 10 years ago by chronicling the events of Iraq and Afghanistan. He shared that re-reading those words over a decade later not only caused a new reflection, but it forced him to come to terms with his experiences in combat. He was ready to put it all out there.
As much as it was difficult for Wood to put his life in the pages of Once a Warrior, it was a relief at the same time. Ultimately, he hopes his story will inspire veterans to know their worth. “I think we have an entire generation of veterans who are hanging in the balance. Who they are going to become is whatever we tell them they are. If the broken veteran narrative prevails, we’ll have a generation of men and women lost to that. But if we reframe it and say, ‘You have so much more to give and you are stronger. America needs you, the battle isn’t over there it’s here,’” he explained.
The chain of events that led to him finding purpose again was remarkable in that, had they happened any differently, the Team Rubicon and Jake Wood the world knows – wouldn’t exist. “The universe has this weird way of presenting us with these moments where decisions become really consequential,” he said.
A year into building Team Rubicon, Clay Hunt – fellow Marine veteran and one of Wood’s closest friends – committed suicide. Although Hunt’s story has been told, Once a Warrior opens a curtain into the devastation and other myriad emotions Wood experienced in the days after. It’s a stark reminder of the cost of war that even having purpose couldn’t stop. “I just felt like people should hear his story. It’s played out 20 times a day in this country. I felt like if I could humanize that for people…when you hear Clay’s story, it makes it real,” he shared. Hunt wasn’t the only Marine that Wood lost. He wears the names and lives of four Marines on his wrist, a constant reminder for him to pay it forward because as he says, he survived and they didn’t.
Too many people within the American public utter, ‘Thank you for your service,’ with a sense of rote memorization – a reaction when they don’t know what else to say. Wood wants them to take it deeper. “Most veterans want to share their stories, it’s a literal moral burden and by sharing it they are sharing the weight of those actions or experiences,” he said. “It’s important for the public to hear these stories, as democracy we send our sons and daughters off to war. It’s less than 1 percent of an all volunteer force and we owe it to them to understand what that actually means when we make the decision to use force overseas.”
Once a Warrior pulls the reader in and out of the moments that changed the trajectory of Wood’s life and built the foundation of who he is today. It’s also a deep look into the raw reality of an American combat veteran’s life after war. The pages of this book offer a compelling account of courage and resiliency through devastating loss, but also…hope. Despite witnessing the horrors of war and disaster, Wood remains inherently hopeful for the future. When asked what he would say to those reading his story, he was direct. “My call to action for Americans would be… be worth fighting for. Live your life like you are worth fighting for.”
“I have no idea why I joined the Army,” said Spc. Ken Park, a soldier with the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion, based out of Southfield, Michigan. “My parents were extremely against it. I was a spoiled brat. I was fat.”
Park came from what he considered to be a privileged life. He was constantly told that he was special by his parents and his teachers. But Spc Park never really felt like that was a life for him. “Coming from that sort of privileged background, joining the Army, being told that I was the same as everyone else sort of put me in my place.”
“My recruiter even told me I couldn’t join, the first time. He said I should go to school instead, and I could join later” said Park. He was about 60 pounds overweight at the time, so he joined a gym and, through hard work and discipline, ended up losing 70 pounds. Park was, perhaps unknowingly, starting to re-program himself into the Army life even before he officially enlisted.
By being in the Army, Park said, he has learned life skills that he may not have learned otherwise. “I didn’t know how to do laundry until the first or second day of basic. Actually, my battle buddy looked at me weird. He said, ‘How do you not know how to do laundry as an 18 year old?’ I had someone do that for me my whole life” said Park. “But now I know the value of a dollar. How hard you have to work to be something. And how to do laundry,” he said with a chuckle.
Spc. Ken Parks, a soldier with the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion listens to the range safety officer issue commands targets during a qualification table at his unit’s November drill weekend at Fort Custer, Mich. on Nov. 16th, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Bob Yarbrough)
Park went on to say that his Army experience has only gotten better. “In AIT (Advanced Individual Training) I had a case of bronchitis, but I kept going. We had a PT test and I had to pass. “There was [harsh winter] weather like this. And I had to go on. The fast guys came back, because they knew I had bronchitis, but I had to pass. I made it and it was hard, but I don’t know that I would have made it without them.”
Spc. Park isn’t new to the U.S. Army Reserve, but he is new to the Civil Affairs Community, and the 414th, first drilling with the unit in September. He says his time in the 414th has been eye-opeing. “There aren’t many places you can go, in the Army or in normal life, where someone will see you struggling, and say ‘Hey, I know you’re tired, I got you’ and they take care of you so the mission still gets done.”
Park came to the 414th after being contacted by an Officer in the unit. “Cpt. Babcock actually reached out to me on LinkedIn,” said Park, “because I’m fluent in Korean and Japanese. Now I feel proud to be part of the unit, and I hope to live up to the expectations of the Commander and the First Sergeant.”
“Despite being told that I shouldn’t, and couldn’t, join the Army, I’m glad I did,” said Park. “It gave me a higher value, a better reason for doing what I do.”
Green Berets rely on their problem-solving abilities to survive in combat. Much of SF selection seeks to assess this talent. The Special Forces qualification course itself develops and improves creativity. Many times, military problems must be solved with the application of force. Green Berets are not afraid to get their hands dirty, but they understand the power of working with and through others.
There is a story that has been told in the SOF community for years. I don’t believe it is factual, but there is a lot of truth in it. The story goes like this:
The new Secretary of Defense had been confirmed and was touring the Pentagon, taking briefings on the capabilities of his forces. He had a well-deserved reputation as a no-nonsense guy. After a briefing on Special Operations Forces, he was escorted to lunch by a Green Beret officer.
The Secretary’s confused look did not bode well as they walked through the E ring. “I understand how SOF is different from conventional forces, but the Rangers and Green Berets seem just alike to me. You have a Special Forces Tab and a Ranger Tab. What’s the difference?”
“The units are very different, sir. While both units are composed of very capable soldiers, selected for intelligence and fitness, Rangers attack the enemy directly, while Special Forces work by, with, and through indigenous forces to accomplish tasks far beyond their numbers.” The Green Beret secretly hoped he would not be pulled into the eternal Ranger versus SF discussion for the 10,000th time. He prided himself in his teaching abilities, but this guy was being obtuse.
“They dress just alike, they are both ARSOF units, and they both have direct-action capabilities. How are they so different?” It seemed the Secretary was going to force this. The next four years of Special Forces missions hinged on the new Secretary’s understanding. As they walked through an area of temporary construction, the Green Beret had a flash of inspiration.
“Sir, humor me here; let’s do a little demonstration. Rangers are highly aggressive. They pride themselves on their toughness and discipline. They follow orders without question. Do you see that huge soldier with a tan beret? He is a Ranger.”
As the Ranger approached, the Green Beret called out, “Hey, Ranger! Come here.”
The Ranger moved toward them, sprang to attention, and saluted. “Rangers lead the way, sir. How may I be of assistance?”
“Can you help us here for a moment? This is the new Secretary of Defense. He wants to know more about the Rangers. Will you help me educate him?”
Pointing to a new section of hallway, the Green Beret officer said, “Ranger, I need you to break through that wall.”
“Hooah, sir. Would you like a breach or complete destruction?”
“A man-sized breach would be fine.”
With that, the Ranger removed his beret and assumed a three-point stance six feet from the wall. With a grunt, he launched himself into the wall, punching his head and shoulders right through the drywall. Hitting a 2×4 on the way through, he was a little stunned, but he continued to work, smashing a hole wide enough for a fully kitted Ranger to pass through. Staggering to his feet with a trickle of blood running down his face, he appeared a little disoriented.
“Thank you, Ranger. Great job. You are a credit to the Regiment. You need to go to the aid station and get someone to look at that cut.”
The Secretary was incredulous. He had never seen such a display of pure discipline and strength. “That was astounding. What could Special Forces possibly do to match that?”
The Green Beret was also impressed, but not surprised. “The Rangers are highly disciplined sir, but Special Forces selection and training also produce strong, disciplined soldiers. We deploy older, more mature soldiers in very small numbers. They understand that they are a valuable strategic resource, and are selected for their advanced problem-solving abilities.”
The secretary seemed displeased. “Frankly, that sounds like bullshit. It seems that these Rangers are the finest soldiers in the Army. What could Special Forces do that the Rangers cannot?”
As he spoke, a Green Beret Staff Sergeant walked by. Not as young or lean as the Ranger, he had a commanding presence and a serious look filled with confidence. The Green Beret officer called him over.
“Hey Mike, can you help us here for a moment? This is the new Secretary of Defense. He wants to know more about the Special Forces; will you help me educate him?”
The staff sergeant shook the secretary’s hand and introduced himself. “How can I help you, sir?”
Pointing to an undamaged section of the hallway, the Green Beret officer said, “Mike, I need you to break through that wall.”
“No problem. Would you like a breach or complete destruction?”
“A man-sized breach would be fine.”
The staff sergeant removed his beret and stood for a moment in silent thought six feet from the wall. He scanned the area and smiled broadly as he found the perfect tool for the job. “Hey Ranger,” he said, “Come here.”
Know your abilities, learn your environment, and use your resources deliberately. Green Berets know that finding just the right tool can be the most important part of the job. The Ranger in the story can take down a wall. The Green Beret can take out walls until he runs out of Rangers, and then one more.
As a force multiplier in the real world, the Green Berets can enlist large units with local knowledge to fight beside them. A single 12-man A-Team can train and employ a 500-man infantry battalion. That is a significant return on investment for the taxpayer.
Value yourself, and use your rapport skills to build partnerships. Many hands make light work; don’t do everything yourself. Green Berets know that there is no limit to what one can do if other people are doing the work.
No matter where you look, there’s only one thing in the news – COVID-19. And as a comedic military writer, I feel a certain sense of duty to help others by trying to put a smile on the faces of our community in these trying times.
Even as we speak, all five thousand plus service members onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt are to be tested for the Coronavirus as a precaution and won’t allow any sailors to leave while it’s docked in Guam. You read that right, folks. No one is going anywhere until the Navy gets its 5,000 seaman samples.
Stay safe out there, you dirty animals. Anyway, here’s some memes.
There exists a population within America’s bravest. A culture of warriors who heard and answered the call throughout history- American warfighters.
The military is an expansive network, full of various roles and professions. While any service is honorable, there’s no arguing that some join for the battle- to run as fast as possible toward the danger.
We call upon these warriors in times of conflict, to utilize their fighting spirit, ready to charge into any battle without hesitation. During times of peace, this subculture faces rejection when the focus shifts to training for a mission in the unknown future instead of the dependable cycle of deployments during surges. To the warrior, who gains self-worth in their ability to live through combat, the blank space where a deployment slot belongs destroys the mind and soul. War rages on within them, awaiting the time when they can again serve to their true potential.
“I don’t have an answer for why I keep going back, why ‘getting into it’ is what I feel I need to do. There’s nothing else to do with the intensity or specific skillset I’ve acquired, so I guess it’s more like- why not” explains Staff Sergeant Bradford Fong, Army Infantryman and aptly known warfighter to those who served with him.
With several combat deployments, he is among a rare breed of active-duty leaders today – those who embarked on combat deployments to remote combat outposts.
“Yes, I’m intense, but I have a good damn reason for it. Training soldiers now is frustrating, to be honest. I was ‘raised’ through a lineage of leaders who when things varied slightly from the books, you knew it was due to their fresh combat experience.” The aggravation was clear in his tone when he explained how this once invaluable knowledge has become borderline unwanted and potentially misunderstood by leadership and peers without the same background.
“The Army has this tremendously valuable crop of soldiers- as we age, we clearly aren’t the fastest, but we damn sure have a lot to offer mentally, developing other combat leaders and the kind of knowledge you won’t find in any FM guide” he states. “I wish there was a space where that’s all I could do because anything less feels a bit meaningless.”
Training those in his command specifically for combat as an Infantryman is a conversation that brought an audible smile to his face. “I’m not here to train them into textbook soldiers,” he says. The training of his men clearly means a great deal to Fong, who has no problem with discussing the blunt reality of the job.
On his second deployment to Afghanistan, Fong was one of the only members of his platoon that had seen combat before. While the other Soldiers awaited their own baptism by fire and showered him with questions about combat and how to react, Fong knew what was coming. The men around him naively prayed for a chance to prove themselves. Toward the end of their tour, they got their wish.
“I’d been there already (Afghanistan), seeing and experiencing what this new platoon had waited ten months for. After it happened, there were a lot of them who didn’t come back mentally,” said Fong while recalling his 2010-2011 deployment.
Operational tempo changes during times of drawdown or withdrawal pose a significant risk to the warrior culture. Schedules are intense but intently purposeful with a clear goal in mind- to remain a highly capable and rapidly deployable unit. The aftermath of coping with what is witnessed in war remains a struggle, one which Fong admits he’s put away, but not packed neatly enough to never surface.
“A lack of empathy is required to remain in this profession. It’s not nice to say, but it is true.” Fong explains how shutting off parts of himself for his job has become slightly problematic with the new dynamic of adding a family in the last few years.
Stories like Fong’s remind us all of the reality of what’s being asked of soldiers. We sound the horn for these men and women to rush in when we need it most. We will always need true warriors, unafraid and unapologetic of their calling. And now, during a new era, we must find an honorable space for them to thrive, for their purpose to continue to feel fulfilled within the ranks- creating the next line of warriors within.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.