How to actually use that back extension machine - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY FIT

How to actually use that back extension machine

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

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


How to actually use that back extension machine

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

(media.giphy.com)

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

Using the back extension machine to work abs

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

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

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

The GHD Sit-Up

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Using the machine for your posterior chain

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

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

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

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

How to actually use that back extension machine

The muscles of the back extension.

(@weighttrainingguide)

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

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

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

Let’s take a look at these three setups.

All About Back Extensions

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Hamstring-focused back extensions

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

Glute-Ham Raise

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How to actually use that back extension machine

Pick your profession wisely.

(media.giphy.com)

Glutes-focused back extensions

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

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

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

Back Extension Instructional Video

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Back-focused back extensions

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

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

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

Lift with your back.

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Before you claim fear mongering think of it like this…

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

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

Allow reason to prevail.

How to actually use that back extension machine

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How to actually use that back extension machine
Articles

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

On April 6, 2008, two Special Forces operational detachments and more than 100 Afghan commandos began an air assault into a mountain fortress above the Shok Valley.


Six and a half hours later, two members of the assault were killed and nine seriously wounded, over 100 enemy fighters were dead or captured, and eleven men had earned some of the nation’s highest awards for valor. This is what happened.

Entering Shok Valley

The assault was to capture leaders in Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin, a regional insurgent group in Afghanistan. The targets were holed up in a mountain top village surrounded by farm terraces and tall cliffs, providing tough ground for an assaulting force to cover. The village itself was made of strong, multistory buildings that would provide defenders cover while allowing them to fire out.

The American and Afghan force flew to the valley in helicopters. Their initial plan called for a quick insertion close to the village so they could assault while they still had the element of surprise. Their first landing zone was no good though, and so they were dropped into a nearby river and forced to climb up from there. The delay allowed insurgent forces to set up an ambush from the high ground.

Combat breaks out

After the helicopters departed, enemy fighters directed automatic weapon and rocket fire on the American and Afghan National Army soldiers. Their interpreter was killed almost immediately and the communications sergeant, Staff Sgt. Dillon Behr, received a life-threatening wound to his leg. He continued fighting, attempting to suppress some of the incoming fire.

How to actually use that back extension machine
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eli J. Medellin

Meanwhile, the assault team had already reached the village, and so found themselves cut off when the forces behind them began taking fire. Despite the precarious position he and the lead Afghan commandos were in, Sgt. David Sanders began relaying the sources of incoming fire to the Air Force joint tactical air controller on the mission.

The mission commander, Capt. Kyle Walton, told an Army journalist later that year about the initial bombings on the target. They were all danger close, meaning friendly forces were within range of the bombs’ blast.

“I was standing next to the combat controller, and when we got to a place where we could talk, he called in close air support, and the F-15s rolled in immediately. I knew my guys were up there, and I know that when you call in danger close air, you are probably going to get injured or killed. I called back to Sanders and asked if he was too close. He said, ‘Bring it anyway.’ Bombs started exploding everywhere. When I called to see if he was still alive, all I could hear him saying was, ‘Hit them again.’ ”

The Air Force JTAC, Airman Zachary Rhyner, would go on to call over 70 danger close missions that day, using eight Air Force planes and four Army attack helicopters to achieve effects on the target.

Three-story explosion and sniper warfare

As the battle continued to rage, both sides were using controlled, focused fire to wound and kill enemies. But a massive explosion after an American bomb hit a three-story building in the village brought on a brief lull in the fighting.

“Good guy or bad guy, you’re going to stop when you see that,” Staff Sgt. Luis Morales, a Special Forces intelligence sergeant, told the Army. “It reminded me of the videos from 9/11 — everything starts flushing at you, debris starts falling — and everything gets darker.”

The Americans and Afghan commandos used this time to consolidate some of their forces.

Enemy fighters began closing on the command node, eventually drawing to within 40 feet of it. Walton had the tip of his weapon shot off and was struck twice in the helmet by enemy rounds.

Both before and after the explosion, snipers on each side were playing a key role. For the Americans, one of their top assets was Staff Sgt. Seth E. Howard, a Special Forces weapons sergeant.

Near the command node, Howard was well-positioned to see the enemy fighters draw close to Walton and the JTAC. To prevent them being killed or captured, Walton stepped away from his position and moved into the open to engage the advancing fighters. He halted their advance, allowing Rhyner to continue calling in bombs.

Rhyner’s bombs would also be instrumental in protecting the command node. He sometimes had to order bombs within 100 meters of his and Walton’s position.

How to actually use that back extension machine
Airman Zachary Rhyner in an undated Air Force photo from another operation.

Planning to leave

American forces and Afghan commandos had more problems as the day wore on. The weather at the outset of the mission had been tricky, but the team was getting reports that a dust storm was getting worse and would stop air support before nightfall. That would leave them without bombs, helicopters, or an exit strategy. Meanwhile, surveillance platforms showed another 200 enemy fighters moving to the battlefield.

Walton had requested medical evacuation multiple times, but enemy fire made it impossible. And with six seriously wounded men, a closing window to exit the battlefield, and the serious danger of being overrun, Walton began looking at pulling the team out. But there was a problem. The initial plans had called for the team to leave by descending back down the terraces, a route now closed due to intense enemy fire.

Sanders had managed to break out of his besieged position in the village when another green beret forced a route open. Now, Walton asked him to recon a route down the sheer cliffs to the north of the village.

How to actually use that back extension machine
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Betty R. Chevalier

Sanders told the commander that the route was bad and it was possible that some climbers might break their backs or necks attempting it, but they’d probably live. The situation was so dire, Walton approved it as an exit strategy.

Leaving Shok Valley under heavy fire

Team Sergeant Master Sgt. Scott Ford led the organization at the top of the cliffs. He had less wounded team members carry the more seriously wounded down. One team member made the climb while carrying his leg that had been amputated by a sniper round early in the battle. Others were nursing wounds sustained from both insurgent fire and the effects of all the “danger close” bomb drops.

Ford was defending the top of the cliff other soldiers were climbing down when he was struck in the chest plate by a sniper round. He jumped up and continued fighting, but he was struck again. This time, his left arm was nearly amputated. Ford then finally began his own climb down the mountain, continuing to lead his men as he did so.

Howard, the sniper from above, stayed until all the other Americans and the Afghan commandos had left the mountain. He defended the top of the cliffs with his last magazine before pulling out.

One Afghan commando and an interpreter died, but all of the Americans survived the battle. The Army estimated the insurgents suffered over 150 dead and an untold number of wounded, according to an Army article. Eight insurgents were captured.

After the battle

Many of the wounded members of the team returned to service, including Ford and Sgt. 1st Class John Walding, the team member who lost his leg early on and carried it down the cliffs. Walding is attempting to return to his team, an ambition he describes near the end of this Army video about the battle. He later became the first amputee to graduate the Special Forces Sniper Course.

In a ceremony on Dec. 12, 2008, 10 members of the team were awarded Silver Stars. Rhyner was awarded the Air Force Cross during a separate ceremony in 2009.

NOW: Medal of Honor: Meet the 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

OR: The definitive guide to US special ops

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China says its new nuclear bomber is ready to fly

Chinese military experts said on Oct.9, 2018, that the H-20 nuclear stealth bomber will soon make its maiden flight.

“The trial flight will come soon,” Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert, told the Global Times.

The Global Times is under the state-run People’s Daily, and has published hyperbolic articles before, according to The War Zone, but “Song does not officially speak for the Chinese government and his views are his own.”

In August 2018, China Central Television released a documentary disclosing that the H-20 is called Hong-20, meaning “bomber aircraft” in Chinese, Global Times reported.


The Hong-20 is often compared to the US’ B-2 stealth bomber, but in May 2018, China released a possible video teaser of it under a sheet, which looked eerily like a B-21 Raider.

Zhongping told the Global Times on Oct. 9, 2018, that disclosing the name meant that progress had been made on the Hong-20, and that the bomber’s avionics, hydraulic pressure and electrical supply were probably completed.

Releasing the name might also act as a possible deterrence, Zhongping said. “Usually the development of equipment and weaponry of the People’s Liberation Army is highly confidential.”

How to actually use that back extension machine

B-21 Raider artist rendering.

Indeed, the development and conception of the Hong-20 has been rather murky.

China’s Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation may have begun developing the Hong-20 in the early 2000s, but it was only confirmed by a PLA Air Force commander in 2016.

In 2017, the Pentagon further confirmed that China was “developing a strategic bomber that officials expect to have a nuclear mission,” also noting that “[past] PLA writings expressed the need to develop a ‘stealth strategic bomber,’ suggesting aspirations to field a strategic bomber with a nuclear delivery capability.”

The Hong-20’s specifications are still relatively unknown, but a researcher working with the US Air Force previously told Business Insider that the Hong-20 is a four engine stealth bomber and that the details have not been “revealed except it is to have a dual [nuclear and conventional] role.”

The Hong-20 will also probably carry CJ-10K air-launched cruise missiles, have a range of 5,000 miles and a 10 ton payload, The War Zone reported.

The Asia Times, citing a previous Global Times article, reported that Fu Qianshao, a Chinese aviation pundit, said the goal was for the Hong-20 to have about a 7,500 range and a 20 ton payload.

While the latter estimates may very well be exaggerated, The War Zone reported that a range of 5,000 miles would certainly bolster Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, and pose a threat to Taiwan and even US carriers in the Pacific.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

How a miracle on ice forever changed the USA

We have all seen upsets in sports before. We might see a number one team in college football lose to an unranked bottom feeder, a team barely making the NBA playoffs sweeping the defending champs in the first round, a boxer throwing a desperate punch and knocking out a champion. But forty years ago today, on Feb. 22, 1980, the sports world was rocked to its core. The U.S. Men’s hockey team beat the mighty Soviet Union team at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, NY.


This upset was truly a David versus Goliath upset. The Americans had no reason or chance to win… at least that is what everyone thought.

How to actually use that back extension machine

NHL.com

In the Olympics then, there were strict “amateur” rules on who was eligible. Professional athletes were not allowed to play. Hence Americans couldn’t send NBA or NHL players in the Olympics even if they wanted to. So, the USA (and most of the world) had to rely on college kids and other non-professionals. Once you were done with school, you got a job and trained on your own time. The Communist Bloc, however, found an obvious way around that. They more or less gave athletes bogus jobs and paid them to train all the time. They were essentially professionals.

The Soviets dominated the international hockey scene because of this. Prior to this game, they had won five Gold Medals and 14 World Championships. They had been playing together for years and were a well-oiled machine. In contrast, the Americans had only been together for a few months. They were college kids who usually only had one chance at the Olympic games because of the amateur rules.

In an exhibition at Madison Square Garden before the Olympics, the USA was trashed by the Soviets by a score of 10-3. The Soviets went into the Olympic games as a very confident team.

As the tournament progressed in the round-robin format, both teams played well. The Americans fought to a draw and several victories, while the Soviets steamrolled everyone they played.

People often forget, but it wasn’t the Gold Medal Game. And if you remember watching it live, you remember wrong — the game was on a tape delay by about three hours. Over 18,500 people packed the arena at Lake Placid, and there was a patriotic fervor in the air. People claim the U-S-A chant started that night.

Nowadays, we are used to the super-patriotic feelings at sporting events, but things were different back then.

America was in a bit of a rough spot.

There was still a pall hanging over the country over the lives lost in Vietnam, made worse when Saigon fell in 1975. There was inflation and gas shortages to deal with. The value of the dollar was low. There was stagnation in the economy. Urban decay and high rates of violent crime racked American cities. The Ayatollah in Iran was still holding Americans hostage after the embassy takeover.

The mood could best be described by a term that was applied to a Jimmy Carter speech – “malaise.”

Americans really needed a moment of pride. It came that night.

The USA played hard, scrappy, and didn’t back down. They went down three times and came back to tie three times. They went ahead in the third period on a Mike Eruzione goal to make it 4-3. When you look at the stats of the game, the U.S. was really outplayed in most aspects. They held off the Soviet attack 10 minutes, which probably seemed like an eternity.

As the time clicked off the clock, the crowd grew more insane, and the arena turned into a human pressure cooker ready to blow.

Al Michaels, feverishly counted down the time with one of the most iconic calls of all time.

“11 seconds, you’ve got 10 seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles? YES!”

The effect was immediate. Pandemonium reigned in the stands. Players exuberantly celebrated. The Soviets looked on in shock and awe. Coach Herb Brooks ran into the locker room and broke down in tears. When the players went in, they broke out into “God Bless America.” They then took a call from President Carter (and they still had a game to go to win Gold!).

Seriously this video will give you chills.

Sports Illustrated didn’t even have to put words on the cover. The picture alone told the story.

How to actually use that back extension machine

The country was gripped with patriotic fervor, and after what seemed like a long national nightmare, Americans felt that miracles do indeed happen, and good times were ahead.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia wanted to take on the F-22 with this unique-looking fighter

In the mid 1990s, Russia had a problem. It was a pretty important one, too, for both pilots and the grunts on the ground. It was a problem they needed to solve very quickly.


Earlier that decade, a United States F-15 Eagle had easily shot down the MiG-29 “Fulcrum,” supposedly the pinnacle of Soviet fighter technology, in combat over Iraq. Worse, the F-22 Raptor was headed into service, and as it did so, it dominated the once-dominant Eagle. Russia needed to play catch-up.

That was where Sukhoi came in. Sukhoi had designed the Su-27/30/33 Flanker family of aircraft, which did reasonably well over Eritrea, fighting the MiG-29 Fulcrum. As such, Sukhoi began to work on both an upgraded Flanker (later known as the Su-35) and on fifth-generation projects to counter the F-22 Raptor. According to MilitaryFactory.com, Sukhoi’s prototype was the S-32 Berkut. The plane first flew in 1997, and was later called the Su-37.

How to actually use that back extension machine
The X-29 technology demonstrator aircraft. (NASA Photo by Larry Sammons)

 

The Berkut looked like an ordinary Flanker, but the big difference was in the wings. The Russians went with forward-swept wings to improve the design’s agility at low speed, not to mention improved takeoff and landing performance. The big problem is that that the wings can snap if the force goes the wrong way. Russia got around that by using composites that were flexible enough to handle stresses.

This wasn’t the first time someone modified a design for forward-swept wings. Northrop used the F-5E Tiger II as the basis for the X-29, a forward-swept wing test-bed that flew in the 1980s. Nazi Germany had a forward-swept wing bomber, the Junkers Ju 287, but only one prototype was completed.

By the mid-2000s, it was obvious that the Su-37 would not be a combat airframe, and suffered the same fate as the X-29. The Russians re-designated it the Su-47, flew a number of test flights, then retired the four prototypes.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The ‘terrorist uniform’ you’ll probably wear this winter

Plaid fabric is fairly innocuous. It’s been borrowed by all sorts of groups in America, from hipsters to lumberjacks and punk rockers to professors.

But, in the 18th century, it was the semi-official uniform of Scottish rebels branded as terrorists by the Protestant King George II.


How to actually use that back extension machine

King James II and his wife, Anne, before they were violently deposed and forced to flee to France and exile.

The problems started in 1688 when Catholic King James II was overthrown by a Protestant rebellion. In his absence, who, exactly, would be the legal holder of power in England was thrown up for debate. Would the Catholic king, who had cast away the Seal of the Realm while fleeing to France, or the Protestant William III and his wife, Mary, be the true authority of England?

Different political bodies in England and in other European capitols came down on different sides of the debate, but Mary was crowned queen and her husband became king. But the descendants of James II maintained their claim to the throne in exile. In 1745, James II’s grandson, Charles, made a play for the throne.

How to actually use that back extension machine

“Bonnie Prince Charlie,” the world’s hardest pandering claimant to the English throne in 1745.

(John Pettie)

Boasting Scottish blood, Charles decided to start his campaign in Scotland in 1745. The Parliament of Scotland had initially acquiesced to the rise of Queen Mary and King William III, but the Scottish, as a whole, still supported Catholic rule. And Scotland had been angered by a series of acts by London and the Crown during the early 1700s, including the dissolution of the Parliament of Scotland.

To cement his political standing with the Scots, Charles arrived in the country in a plaid coat. Plaid patterns in Scotland are known as tartans, and they had been a popular part of Scottish identity for centuries.

The ploy worked, and many Scots, especially Highland Scots, decided to support the invasion, creating the Jacobites, as they were known. But, some Lowland Scots supported Mary and William, leading to fighting in Scotland even before Charles began his push south.

How to actually use that back extension machine

Soldiers of a Highland Regiment just before the Jacobite uprising. After the uprising, soldiers serving the British crown could continue to wear patterns like this, but it was banned for nearly all others.

The Highland Scots, often wearing their traditional garb made with tartan fabrics, delivered a number of victories to “Bonnie Prince Charlie” (Think Braveheart clothing but The Patriot weapons).

But popular support for Charles and the House of Stuart dried up the further the Jacobites marched south, and so they were soon forced to start pulling back north with his largely Scottish forces.

This led to the Battle of Culloden in April, 1746, where Charles and the Scots attempted to score a defensive victory against government forces led by the Duke of Cumberland. Both sides were bogged down in the mud, but greater numbers on the Protestant side allowed them to pin down Scottish fighters with some units while others maneuvered. Their artillery advantage played a large role, as well.

How to actually use that back extension machine

Battle of Culloden, where a Jacobite uprising supporting a Catholic claim to the British throne was ended by government forces.

(David Morier)

But the real brilliance of the Protestant attack came in how they ordered men to attack with bayonets during hand-to-hand fighting. Rather than fencing with the man directly in front of them, as was normal, the men were ordered to thrust into the exposed right side of the enemy adjacent to them.

Charles fled the country, never to return. But the Scots he left behind found themselves in the unenviable position of being stuck in the kingdom they had just rebelled against.

They were branded as terrorists and insurgents, and many of those who took part in the rebellion were hunted and executed. Meanwhile, their traditional fabric had been outlawed for general wear. Only highlanders who joined the British military were allowed to wear tartan fabrics, and usually only in Scottish units.

The ban was lifted in 1782, but by then, many of the traditional patterns had been lost and weavers had died. Still, it slowly grew in popularity once again.

Oddly enough, its popularity had greatly grown among Lowland Scots who had fought against their tartan-wearing brethren. They collected tartan patterns like souvenirs of their fathers’ victories over the Catholics.

Finally, the Protestant aristocracy embraced the pattern after King George IV visited Edinburgh and led a tartan procession of Highland chiefs through the Scottish city.

How to actually use that back extension machine

Now, of course, its popular around the world, but known as plaid in the States. Scottish clans reclaimed their historic patterns or generated new ones that would be tied to families forever. It’s no longer the fabric of a military rebellion. It’s just a cool pattern, often woven of warm cloths, like flannel.

In fact, the rebellious nature of the pattern has been so degraded that one of the most recognizable and broadly used tartan patterns is that of the the Royal House of Stewart, the royal family of England which defeated the 1745-1746 Jacobite Rebellion and then outlawed the fabric for almost 40 years. Oddly enough, it’s very similar to the “Jacobite” pattern worn by the rebels.

So, enjoy your flannel, but maybe tip a Scotch whisky over for the tartan-wearing warriors in the sky while you do so.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

The Military Assistance Command — Studies and Observations Group, now better known as SOG, was one of those true dark-arts units that hid dangerous men with dangerous jobs behind a boring name. The missions that these special operators, including a large number of U.S. Army green berets, undertook helped save the lives of infantrymen fighting across Vietnam.

Now, these warriors are telling their story.


How to actually use that back extension machine

Then-Sgt. Gary M. Rose, a member of Studies and Observations Group, is led away from a helicopter after heroic actions that would later net him a Medal of Honor.

(U.S. Army)

Warriors In Their Own Words, a podcast that captures the authentic stories of America’s veterans as they tell them, spoke with two members of the unit. You can enjoy their riveting tales in the episode embedded above — but make sure you carve out time for it. The episode is just over an hour, but once you start listening, you won’t want to stop.

J.D. Bath and Bill Deacy describe their harrowing experiences serving in Vietnam with the SOG, and they both tell amazing stories.

J.D. Bath was an early member of SOG, recruited after his entire team was killed in a helicopter crash. He tells of how his SOG team bought pipes, tobacco, and bourbon for local tribes to enlist their help. Later, he and his team came under fire from a U.S. helicopter that had no idea that Americans were so far behind enemy lines. Luckily, another U.S. aircraft threatened to shoot down the helicopter if it didn’t stop immediately.

Bill Deacy, on the other hand, survived multiple firefights and endured a bad case of malaria before ending up on the wrong part of the Ho Chi Min Trail. The Special Forces soldiers planned an ambush against a small North Vietnamese force, and Deacy had no way of warning his men when he spotted a massive column of enemy soldiers approaching just as the ambush was being sprung.

These are incredible stories coming straight from the heroes who were there. We’ll be featuring a story each week, so keep your eyes peeled. If you can’t wait, Warriors In Their Own Words has a massive archive on their website.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Portland Protests: Veterans aren’t special—the oath they swear is

The video of my Naval Academy classmate, Chris David, beaten by federal police last month in Portland, shook me. Like bad guys from a straight-to-DVD movie, cowardly officers attacked a peaceful American exercising his Constitutionally-guaranteed right to protest. David stood unyielding, bearing the blows, earning the nickname ‘Captain Portland’ for his almost superhuman resistance.

Ironically, as police obscured their identity, David wore his Naval Academy sweatshirt for ease of identification, as a veteran. As if the word ‘Navy,’ written boldly across his chest might act as a shield, like Superman’s ‘S’ or Captain America’s star. As someone who’s gotten out of countless tickets by virtue of the Marine Corps sticker on my car, I’d shared the same illusion: My veteran status somehow made me special.


David and I reported aboard the Naval Academy to become midshipmen in July, 1984. After the shearing, the uniform issue and the tearful goodbyes, we swore an Oath:

‘I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…’

By swearing allegiance to the Constitution and not an individual, such as the president, we bound ourselves only to the American people. Despite the nobility (or naivety) of David’s mission — to remind federal officers of their Oath to the Constitution, his presence at the protest came as a surprise for many Americans who’d dismissed protestors as nothing more than ‘lawless hooligans.’

Yet David, and our class, served the American people faithfully as Navy and Marine Corps officers, unhesitatingly laying our collective asses on the line. We’ve got the scars, both physical and mental—and disability ratings as proof. Because yes, we believe in America.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that David was at the protest. David, along with brother and sister veterans, were there to support not only one another, but to defend the Constitution, and by extension, the American people. It’s what we swore to do. Current leadership may possess the law, but not the will to resist an old Marine, soldier, sailor, airman or Coast Guardsman who swore that Oath. Because it’s the Oath that makes us special. Just ask ‘Captain Portland.’

Brian O’Hare is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, former Marine Corps officer and disabled combat veteran. He’s a former Editor-at-Large for ‘MovieMaker’ magazine and an award-winning documentary filmmaker. Brian’s fiction has appeared in ‘War, Literature and the Arts’, ‘Liar’s League, London’, ‘Fresh.ink‘, ‘The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature’ and the ‘Santa Fe Writers Project’. He currently lives in Los Angeles. You can follow him on Instagram/Twitter @bohare13x.

Editor’s note: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various authors on WATM do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints or official policies of WATM. To submit your own op-ed, please email Managing Editor Tessa Robinson at Tessa.Robinson@wearethemighty.com.

popular

This is why Army officers aren’t allowed to carry umbrellas

The United States Military is full of bizarre rules that, at some point, probably served some obscure purpose before being ingrained in tradition. For example, you’re not allowed to keep your hands in your pockets. It all began because, apparently, putting your hands in your pockets “detracts from military smartness.” I don’t know about you, but in my lifetime, I’ve never equated pocketed hands with being aloof — but the rules are rules. Quit asking questions. But if you’re looking for an antiquated rule that’s really nonsensical, look no further than the (now) unwritten rule that states officers of the United States Army cannot carry an umbrella. 


It might not be an official regulation anymore, but all Army officers generally adhere to the rule regardless, for tradition’s sake.

 
How to actually use that back extension machine
Soldiers on the other hand? Nah. We enjoy the rain.
(U.S. Army photo)

This was once a hard-standing regulation, put into effect under Army Regulation 670-1: Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia, Chapter 20-27: Umbrellas. The regulated stated,

“Females may carry and use an umbrella, only during inclement weather, when wearing the service (class A and B), dress, and mess uniforms. Umbrellas are not authorized in formations or when wearing field or utility uniforms.”

This rule forbade the use of umbrellas by male officers entirely, from the fresh-out-of-OCS second lieutenant all the way up to the Chief of Staff of the United States Army. As you can see, it didn’t stop female officers from carrying or using an umbrella, nor was it implemented for any other branch or applied to the Army’s enlisted. It affected male Army officers exclusively. The regulation wasn’t amended to allow for umbrellas until 2013.

It’s worth noting that the U.S. Air Force kept this regulation when it split from the Army in 1947, but in just 32 short years, they realized it was pointless and authorized their officers to carry and use umbrellas in 1979.

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I’ll give you a little hint. It has everything to do with this photograph here and who the back of that head belongs to.
(Imperial War Museum)
 

So, why was the rule put in place to begin with? It certainly wasn’t for appearances’ sake. In the rain, ribbons would sometimes start to bleed ink, which would potentially stain and ruin an officer’s otherwise pristine uniform. These stains were surely more unsightly than an officer holding an umbrella.

Furthermore, the regulation didn’t outright forbid officers from standing under an umbrella or having an enlisted soldier carry one for them – though most junior officers likely wouldn’t dare ask a salty NCO to shield them from the big, scary rain drops for fear of eternal mockery.

The regulation clearly says not to carry an umbrella, whether it was in use or not. In fact, holding a closed umbrella is what started all of this to begin with.

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Leave it to one spineless politician to forever make umbrellas uncool.

To those who don’t recognize the men in the photo above, that’s disgraced British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain shaking hands with Adolf Hitler, infamously appeasing him just before his 1938 occupation of the Sudetenland, a region of today’s Czech Republic, despite his government’s clear promise to do everything in its power to protect Poland.

Chamberlain went behind his peoples’ and parliament’s backs in a deal that gave the Nazis the power they needed to arm a full-scale invasion of Poland, thus, in a way, kicking off World War II. When it turned out that the Nazis didn’t give a sh*t about peace treaties, Chamberlain again tried to appease Hitler in 1939. The invasion of Poland followed soon after.

Though Chamberlain’s actions may have been done with the best intentions for the UK, he will forever be seen as weak and enabling for them.

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(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Henry Chan, 16th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs, 21st Theater Sustainment Command)

To this day, umbrellas are highly discouraged, but that may just be a “we’re too cool for umbrellas” kind of mentality.

All things Neville Chamberlain have been tainted by his appeasement policy – including his signature style of always carrying a black umbrella and his hat in his hand. Just as Churchill was synonymous with his cigar and Lincoln with his stove pipe hat, Chamberlain was almost always seen with his umbrella.

Before the appeasement with Hitler, the umbrella was seen by the Britons as a symbol of endurance, as it allowed people to carry on despite the crummy weather the British Isles are known for. After the deal, it became a symbol of treachery.

Immediately, most of the British Military was discouraged from using umbrellas. They never implemented it as official policy for practical reasons – it’s the British Isles, after all. But the U.S. Army made their anti-Chamberlain stance into an actual regulation.

Guess that’s what happens when you stand by and give Hitler time to start a world war.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A woman made it through SEAL officer test for the first time

The Navy marked a first earlier this year when a woman completed Navy SEAL officer assessment and selection, Military.com has learned.

At the quarterly meeting of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services in December, a Navy official disclosed that the woman had reached the end of the physically and mentally demanding two-week SOAS process in September. Ultimately, however, she was not selected for a SEAL contract, officials said.

While the military formally opened SEAL billets — and all other previously closed jobs — to women in 2016, no woman has yet made it to the infamous 24-week Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training to date. If the woman had been selected for a SEAL contract at the end of SOAS, she would have been the first to reach BUD/S.


Capt. Tamara Lawrence, a spokeswoman for Naval Special Warfare, said the candidate had not listed the SEALs as her top-choice warfighting community. She was awarded placement in her top choice, Lawrence said.

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US Navy SEAL candidates during Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

“We do not discuss details of a candidate’s non-selection so it does not interfere with their successful service in other warfighter communities,” she said.

Candidates for SOAS are taken from college Reserve Officer Training Corps programs, service academies, and the Navy’s Officer Candidate School, all prior to getting their first Navy contract. Lawrence declined to specify which pathway the recent female candidate had taken out of concern that doing so would reveal her identity.

Lt. Grace Olechowski, force integration officer with Naval Special Warfare Command, said five women had been invited to participate in SOAS since the pipeline was opened to women. Three had entered SOAS to date, but only one had completed assessment and selection.

Military.com broke the news in 2017 that a first female student had entered SOAS — an ROTC student at a U.S. college. She ultimately exited the process before reaching the selection panel, however.

Lawrence said the SEAL officer selection process is candidate-neutral, meaning the selection board does not know the gender or other personal information of the candidates.

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U.S. Navy SEAL candidates participating in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sean Furey)

“Selection is based on the candidate’s scores during the two-week SOAS assessment,” she said. “This process ensures every candidate has a fair and equal chance based on Naval Special Warfare standards.”

It’s also possible that not listing the SEALs as a primary career choice would factor against a candidate in the selection process.

The selection panel is made up of senior SEAL officers, Lawrence said, who use SOAS assessment data along with resume information to select “the most competitive candidates.”

Roughly 180 candidates are selected every year to attend SEAL officer assessment and selection, she said; on average, the top 85 candidates are chosen to continue on to SEAL training. There are four two-week SOAS blocks held every year.

While SOAS precedes the award of a final SEAL contract, it is not for the faint of heart. It was previously called “mini-BUD/S” in a nod to its grueling and rigorous nature.

“Physical stress and sleep deprivation are applied to reveal authentic character traits,” the Navy says on its official Naval Special Warfare recruiting site. “Performance and interview data on every candidate is meticulously documented and presented to the NSW Selection Panel.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force is offering a huge bonus to their ‘bomb squad’

The Air Force has been granted an exception to policy enabling it to offer Selective Retention Bonuses to a wider population of Explosive Ordnance Disposal senior noncommissioned officers, if they agree to continue serving in EOD for a minimum of three years.

The Air Force is offering this SRB instead of a Critical Skills Retention Bonus to SNCOs who have completed more than 20 but less than 25 years of active duty and who serve as EOD specialists in Air Force Specialty Code 3E8X1. The bonus amount for a three-year service agreement is $30,000. The amount for four years is $50,000 and a five-year service agreement is $75,000.


“The SRB program is a monetary incentive paid to airmen serving in certain selected critical military skills who reenlist for additional obligated service,” said Edgar Holt, Reenlistments Program Manager at the Air Force’s Personnel Center. “The bonus is intended to encourage qualified enlisted personnel to reenlist in areas where we have retention shortfalls or high training costs.”

U.S. Air Force: Explosive Ordnance Disposal

youtu.be

Under this new authority, master sergeants who accept an SRB at 20 years of Total Active Federal Military Service or more may have their high year of tenure adjusted up to 25 years. Senior master sergeants who accept an SRB at 20 years TAFMS or more may have their HYT adjusted up to 28 years.

“In order to extend and receive this SRB, airmen must have a service-directed retainability requirement such as Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer, (date estimated return from overseas) extension or permanent change of station, for example,” Holt said.

This bonus is effective Jan. 29, 2019, and retroactive payments are not authorized. For more information regarding the SRB program, visit the myPers website or contact your local Military Personnel Flight Career Development section.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 4 most insane military tactics people actually used

There’s an old military saying that goes, “if it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid.” As enlisted personnel rise through the ranks, they tend to encounter more and more questionable practices that somehow made their way into doctrine. This isn’t anything new. Most of the veterans reading this encountered at least one “WTF Moment” in their military careers. Few of these bizarre scenarios will get a troop wounded or worse.

Then there are the tactics that could mean the difference between life and death – and you have to wonder who decided to do things that way and why do they hate their junior enlisted troops so much? These are those tactics.


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“Walking Fire” with the Browning Automatic Rifle

When introduced in the closing days of World War I, the Browning Automatic Rifle – or “B-A-R” – was introduced as a means to get American troops across the large, deadly gaps called “no man’s land” between the opposing trenches. The theory was that doughboys would use the BAR in a walking fire movement, slowly walking across the ground while firing the weapon from the hip.

Anyone who’s ever used an automatic weapon has probably figured out by now that slowly sauntering across no man’s land, shooting at anything that moves will run your ammo down before you ever get close to the enemy trench. It’s probably best to stay in your own trench, which is what the Americans ended up doing anyway.

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Soviet Anti-Tank Suicide Dogs

The concept seems sound enough. In the 1930s, the USSR trained dogs to wear explosive vests and run under oncoming tanks. In combat, the dogs would then be detonated while near the tank’s soft underbelly. It seems like a good idea, right? Well, when it came time to use the dogs against Nazi tanks in World War II, the Soviets realized that training the dogs with Soviet tanks might have been a bad idea. The USSR’s tanks ran on diesel while the Wehrmacht’s ran on gasoline.

Soviet tank dogs, attracted to the smell of Soviet diesel fuel, ran under Soviet tanks instead of German tanks when unleashed, creating an explosives hazard for the Red Army tanks crews.

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Flying Aircraft Carriers

In the interwar years, the U.S. military decided that airpower was indeed the wave of the military’s future, and decided to experiment with a way to get aircraft flying as fast as possible. For this, they developed helium airships that housed hangers to hold a number of different airplanes. It seemed like a good idea in theory, but it turns out the air isn’t as hospitable a place as the seas and flying, helium-borne craft aren’t as stable as a solid, steel ship on the waves.

After the two aircraft carriers the Navy built both crashed, and 75 troops were dead, the military decided to go another way with aircraft.

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Prodders

In World War II, there wasn’t always a metal detector around. Sometimes, troops had to get down and dirty, literally. In areas where land mines were suspected, soldiers would get down on the ground, with their heads and bodies close to the ground and – without any kind of warning or hint of where mines might be, if there were any at all – poke into the ground at a 30-degree angle.

The angle helped avoid tripping the mines because the trigger mechanisms were usually located at the top of the mines. If the terrain was a bit looser, the mines could be raked up by the prodders instead.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Thief who stole from the National Archives will go to jail

French historian, Antonin DeHays, who stole almost 300 U.S. dog tags from fallen Airmen and around 134 other items, which included identification cards, a bible, and pieces of downed US aircraft, has been sentenced to 364 days in prison.

Approximately 291 Dog Tags and 134 other items were sneaked out by Antonin DeHays during his visits to the National Archives in College Park in Maryland. All of the dog tags belonged to fallen airmen who fell in Europe in 1944. Those tags bore the cruelties of war and Antonin DeHays made advantage of that when selling these items online.


“Burnt, and show some stains of fuel, blood… very powerful items that witness the violence of the crash,” DeHays told a potential buyer in a text message.

On another dog tag, he texted a potential buyer that the item was “salty” or visibly war-damaged while also marketing the “partially burned” appearance of a Red Cross identification card.

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The National Archives Building in College Park, Maryland.
(National Archives)

Not only did he sell most of the items, some of the items were used as a trade in return for rare experiences. He gave a brass dog tag to a military aviation museum in exchange for the chance to sit inside a Spitfire airplane, according to the Department of Justice.

On April 9, 2018, a federal judge in Maryland sentenced DeHays to 364 days in prison for the theft of government records, and ordered him to pay more than $43,000 in restitution to the unwitting buyers who purchased the stolen goods.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information