A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC

May Day was a big deal in East Germany. As a matter of fact, it was a big deal in all of the Communist Eastern Bloc countries during the Cold War era. It was, after all, a day for celebrating workers around the world. Since Communist countries were supposed to be a worker’s paradise, it stands to reason they would take a day off from shooting dissenters and waiting in lines to watch a few parades.

And those parades were lit.

It was because everyone was preparing for May Day that Wolfgang Engels was able to escape from East Germany.


A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC

The wall began construction in 1961.

Engels was born in 1943 in Düsseldorf, Germany (what would have been West Germany just a few years later), but his Communist mother took him to East Germany after the end of World War II. As a young man, he was drafted into the Army of the new German Democratic Republic, what we know as East Germany.

The young soldier was a believer in the new ideology as a young man. He called his upbringing “thorough” and “socialist” and noted his mother even worked for the Stasi. It wasn’t until much later in his service that someone managed to convince him that things were not all they were made out to be.

But one of his first assignments as a newly-minted East German was to help build the Berlin Wall.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC

A Soviet-built East German BTR-152, like the one Wolfgang Engels drove through the Berlin Wall.

He soon felt terrible about what the wall became. Not just the barrier between the Iron Curtain and Freedom, but a symbol of the ideological struggle of the Cold War — and he was on the wrong side. The GDR was not the Germany he thought he knew.

After two years, the pressure was getting to him. Suddenly, well before his defection, he was accused of trying to cross the border illegally. He and two friends were looking for a concert in a cafe near the border wall. The group was found and unable to explain, to the guards’ satisfaction, what they were doing and so they were manhandled and mistreated. It drove the reality of East Germany home to him.

In reality, the thought of crossing the wall hadn’t occurred to him until his East German superiors put the idea in his head. But attempting to flee came with a stiff fine, two years’ jail time, and maybe even a bullet to the head. Still he remained determined — and even asked random passersby to come with him, but no one took him up on the offer.

His plan to escape was simple enough. He would steal an armored personnel carrier, drive to the most famous wall in the world (at the time at least), and then drive right through it. That’s exactly what he did, but it was nice of him to stop a couple of times and ask if anyone wanted to come.

The armored personnel carrier came from the preparations being made for the upcoming May Day parade. It was a BTR-152. A six wheeled, Soviet-built vehicle whose top could open upward, luckily for Wolfgang Engels. When the workmen went off to lunch, Engels started up his new vehicle, garnering little notice in a military-run city.

He had roughly 100 meters — the length of a football field — to gather enough velocity to crash through a single layer of cinder blocks less than ten feet high. Unfortunately, Engels’ APC didn’t fully penetrate the Berlin Wall and he was soon stuck in his vehicle — and stuck in the wall. East German border guards began to open fire on the BTR-152 and Wolfgang Engels. He decided it was time to book it.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC

He left the relative safety of the vehicle and tried to climb away. Ensnared in barbed wire, he was shot at close range while attempting to flee. Twice — once in the back and once in the hand. The second bullet tore through his body, in then out.

Luckily for him, West German police officers from a nearby watchtower fired back at the Eastern border guards, providing much-needed cover and time for Engels. But really, it was time enough for a group of revelers at a nearby bar to come out and help pull him out of the wire and into the freedom of the West. They formed a human ladder, freed him from the wire, and brought him over. They carried his unconscious body back to the bar, closing up the blinds.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC

“I came to on top of the counter,” he says. “When I turned my head and saw all the Western brands of liquor on the shelf, I knew that I had made it.”

He ordered a cognac.

Wolfgang Engels was sent by ambulance to a nearby hospital where he recovered from a collapsed lung for three weeks.

He wouldn’t see his mother again until 1990, after the fall of the wall. He learned the East Germans were planning to abduct him and charge him with desertion before the wall fell. As for the soldier who shot him, Engels is just grateful he didn’t turn his AK-47 on automatic.

Articles

MACV-SOG: The covert special operations unit you’ve never heard of

If a conflict in U.S. history ever came with baggage, it has to be the Vietnam War. Although the service and actions of the millions of Americans who fought in Southeast Asia have been slowly recognized, the unpopularity of the war at the time, and for many years after, left a scar in American society. This unpopularity also meant that extraordinary men and units, such as the Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG), have fallen through the cracks of America’s consciousness, and are only known to a few old comrades, their families, and a handful of military history enthusiasts.

The innocuous-sounding MACV-SOG is such an organization, although its obscurity also has to do with its highly secretive nature.

SOG operators pulled off some of the most impressive special operations of the entire war; including some that seemed to defy logic itself. As successive U.S. administrations claimed that no American troops were outside South Vietnam, several hundreds of special operations troops fought against all odds, and against an enemy who always enjoyed a numerical advantage that sometimes exceeded a ratio of 1:1000.  

The most secret unit you’ve never heard of

Activated in 1964, MACV-SOG was a covert joint special operations organization that conducted cross-border operations in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and North Vietnam.

Composed of Army Special Forces operators, Navy SEALs, Recon Marines, and Air Commandos, SOG also worked closely with the Intelligence Community, often running missions at the request of the CIA.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC
The unofficial logo of MACV-SOG (USASOC).

During its eight-year secret war (1964-1972), SOG conducted some of the most daring special operations in U.S. history and planted the seed for the creation of the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).

Related: ST IDAHO: THE SPECIAL FORCES TEAM THAT VANISHED IN THE JUNGLE

SOG’s main battleground and focus was the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail, a complex stretching for hundreds of miles above and below ground, from North Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia into South Vietnam, which the North Vietnamese and Vietcong used to fuel their fight in the south.

What was peculiar about SOG operations was the fact that they happened where U.S. troops weren’t supposed to be. Successive U.S. administrations had insisted that no American troops were operating outside South Vietnam.

SOG commandos, thus, wore no name tags, rank, or any other insignia that might identify them as Americans. Even their weapons had no serial numbers.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC
The Ho Chi Minh Trail slithered throughout Indochina and supplied the insurgency in South Vietnam (USASOC).

Duty in SOG was voluntary and strictly confidential. SOG troops weren’t allowed to disclose their location, missions, or any other details surrounding their covert outfit and they couldn’t take photographs—like all good commandos. However, SOG broke that rule frequently, as the numerous pictures from the time suggest. But as far as the general public was concerned, they were each just another American soldier fighting Communism in Vietnam.

SOG was commanded by an Army colonel, called “Chief SOG,” reflecting the predominance of Green Berets in the organization, and divided into three geographical sections: Command and Control North (CCN), Command and Control Central (CCC), and Command and Control South (CCS).

Service in the unit was highly selective. Not only did it recruit solely from special operations units, but the inherent risk required that everyone had to be a volunteer. Approximately 3.2 million Americans served in Vietnam. Of that number, about 20,000 were Green Berets, of those, only 2,000 served in SOG, with just 400 to 600 running recon and direct action operations.

Service at SOG came with an unspoken agreement that you’d receive either a Purple Heart or body bag. SOG had a casualty rate of 100 percent—everyone who served in SOG was either wounded, most multiple times, or killed.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC
In Laos, a MACV-SOG team reconnoiters the Ho Chi Minh Trail for installations and pipelines (Wikimedia.org).

Our “Little People

What enabled SOG operations was a steady supply of loyal and fierce local fighters who passionately hated the North Vietnamese—and sometimes each other. These local warfighters worked with the American commandos as mercenaries. The “Little People,” as the Americans affectionally called them, proved their worth on the field, against impossible odds time and again.

These local partner forces included Montagnards, South Vietnamese, and Chinese Nungs, among other tribes and ethnicities. Indeed, local mercenaries made up most of SOG recon teams and Hatchet Forces (more on them later). For example, most recon teams would run cross-border operations with between two and four Americans and four to nine local mercenaries. Locals had an uncanny ability—some SOG operators would say a sixth sense—to detect danger. This ability made them perfect point men during recon operations.  

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC
An American commando surrounded by local mercenaries (USASOC).

Usually, when launching a cross-border recon operation, SOG teams would enter a pre-mission “quarantine,” much like modern-day Army Special Forces operational detachments do before deploying. During this quarantine period, they would eat the same food as the North Vietnamese, that is mostly rice and fish, so they—and their human waste—could smell like the enemy while in the jungle.

Related: COWBOY, A LEGANDARY COMMANDO

Today, where pre-workout and energy drinks are borderline mandatory, even on active operations, such measures might sound extravagant. But in a moonless night, in the middle of the Cambodian jungle, surrounded by thousands of North Vietnamese trackers and troops, something as trivial-seeming as your smell could mean the difference between a SOG team getting wiped out or making it home.

The local troops, having a great understanding of the operational environment, were crucial in the survival of many SOG recon teams. When the war ended, some of them, such as the legendary “Cowboy,” managed to escape to the West and come to the U.S.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC
MACV-SOG Recon Team Alabama, including legendary local commando Cowboy. Notice the extended magazines for the CAR-15 rifle (Courtesy picture).

Death-defying special operations

SOG specialized mainly in strategic reconnaissance, direct-action, sabotage, and combat search-and-rescue.

Although SOG’s primary mission-set was strategic reconnaissance through its recon teams, it also specialized in direct-action operations, such as raids and ambushes. For these larger operations, there were different outfits within SOG.

The “Hatchet Forces” specialized in raids and ambushes, but also acted as a quick-reaction force for recon teams. Usually, Hatchet Forces were platoon-size and composed of five Americans and 30 indigenous troops. Sometimes, several Hatchet Forces would combine to create a company-size element, called either “Havoc” or “Hornet,” that could be very effective against known enemy logistical hubs or headquarters.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC
MACV-SOG operators Lynne Black Jr. (left) and John Stryker Meyer (left) on the range (Courtesy Picture).

In addition to the Hatchet Forces, there were also the “SLAM” companies, standing for Search, Locate, Annihilate, Monitor/Mission, which were full-sized SOG companies with a few dozen Americans in leadership roles and a few hundred indigenous mercenaries who SOG had recruited.  

The first SOG recon teams were called “Spike Teams” (ST), for example, ST Idaho, with the term “Recon Teams” (RT), for instance, RT Ohio, becoming more popular later in the war. Usually, SOG commandos named teams after U.S. States, but they also used other titles, such as “Bushmaster,” “Adder,” and “Viper.” The number of active recon teams fluctuated throughout the war, reflecting casualties and increasing demand. For example, at one point, CCC ran almost 30 recon teams.

Related: ELDON BARGEWELL, AN AMERICAN SPECIAL OPERATIONS LEGEND

Some notable SOG missions include Operation Tailwind, a Hatchet Force operation in Thailand and one of the most successful missions in SOG’s history; the Thanksgiving operation, when SOG operator John Stryker Meyer’s six-man team encountered and evaded 30,000 North Vietnamese; the Christmas mission, when Meyer’s team went into Laos to destroy a fuel pipeline but almost got burned alive by North Vietnamese trackers who lit the jungle on fire; Operation Thundercloud, in which SOG recruited and trained captured North Vietnamese troops and sent them to recon operations across the border dressed like their former comrades; and Recon Team Alabama’s October 1968 mission that accounted fora whopping 9,000 North Vietnamese killed or wounded in action.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC
MACV-SOG commandos training on the obstacle course. Fitness meant survival (USASOC).

What stands out about SOG is how much responsibility was placed on its young operators. Legendary SOG operator John Stryker Meyer, for example, was running recon as a One-Zero (team leader) at the age of 22 and just an E-4. And rules of engagement were quite different, with less bureaucracy impeding the guys on the ground.

“The Bright Light missions [combat search-and-rescue] would seldom be deployed under today’s Rules of Engagement,” Meyer told Sandboxx News.

“And, today, they call can’t believe lowly E-4s were directing air strikes, total control on the ground, and experienced troops had final say on teams, regardless of rank. Experience over rank.”

Meyer has written extensively about SOG and his hair-raising experiences in the unit.

Although techniques, tactics, and procedures were generally the same among the three SOG subcommands, SOG teams adjusted their approaches according to their geographical area. Laos, for example, has more mountains and jungle than Cambodia, which is flatter and more open.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC
A MACV-SOG Hatchet Force boards a CH-53 Sea Stallion during Operation Tailwind (Wikimedia.org).

Saviors from above: SOG’s Air Commandos

Pivotal to the success and effectiveness of MACV-SOG operations across the border were several aircraft squadrons from across the services and also South Vietnam.

The Air Force’s 20th Special Operations Squadron was dubbed the “Green Hornets.” They flew the Sikorsky CH-3C and CH-3E and Bell UH-1F/P Huey. First Lieutenant James P. Fleming, a Green Hornet pilot, earned the Medal of Honor for saving a SOG recon team from certain death in 1968.

The Green Hornets’ Hueys came packed with an assortment of weapons, including M-60 machine guns, GAU-2B/A miniguns, and 2.75-inch rocket pods. If ammo ran out, door gunners would lob grenades or shoot their individual rifles.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC
Alfonso Rivero, a Green Hornet gunner, on his work desk (Courtesy Picture).

In addition to the Green Hornets, the South Vietnamese Air Force 219th Squadron, which flew H-34 Kingbees, was a dedicated supporter of SOG operations. These South Vietnamese pilots and crews were truly fearless, always coming to the rescue of compromised recon teams regardless of the danger. Captain Nguyen Van Tuong, a legendary pilot, stands out for his coolness and steady hand under fire.

Related: THE GHOST FIGHTER ACE OF THE VIETNAM WAR

Other notable rotary-wing units that supported SOG missions were the USMC Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, which flew the AH-1 Viper attack and the UH-1 Venom transport helicopters; the 189th Assault Helicopter Company “Ghost Riders,” which flew assault and transport variants of the UH-1 Huey helicopter.  

SOG commandos on the ground could also rely on fixed-wing close air support, with the turboprop A-1 Skyraider being a favorite platform for close air support and the F-4 Phantom a good choice on any given day.

“Military politics always interfered, and our leadership had to fight from close air support assets, such as the A-1 Skyraider squadrons,” Meyer told Sandboxx News.

“For example, SOG brass had to fight to keep the 56th Special Operations Wing, operating from Location Alpha in Da Nang.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC
Captain Nguyen Van Tuong of the 219th South Vietnamese Special Operations Squadron in his H-34 Kingbee supporting MACV-SOG operations (Courtesy Picture).

“That unit’s SPADs [A-1 Skyraiders] were consistent and fearless and were considered the backbone of CAS during Operation Tailwind. On day 4, for example, the NVA were about to overrun the HF [Hatchet Force] when Tom Stump made devastating gun runs that broke the back of those frontal attacks, giving McCarley time to get them off the LZ and out of the target as weather closed in.”

Close air support was vital and probably the most important factor in the survival of numerous SOG teams. However, although SOG commandos enjoyed air superiority and North Vietnamese aircraft never posed a danger, the Air Commandos supporting SOG had to face the extremely potent anti-aircraft capabilities of the North Vietnamese, which included anything from light machine guns to heavy anti-aircraft cannons to surface-to-air missiles. Every hot extraction forced a penalty of downed helicopters and fighters/ or bombers, or at least a few riddled with bullets.

SOG commandos called in close air support themselves, usually by using a compass and smoke canisters. Forward air controllers, nicknamed “Covey,” flew overhead and assisted in coordinating with the team on the ground and controlling all air assets and close air support. In CCS, Covey usually flew solo, doing both tasks while also flying his plane. In CCN, however, Covey was a two-man affair, usually entailing an experienced SOG operator joining the pilot and helping out with his unique experience, having been on the receiving end of close air support numerous teams.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC
Some never made it back, dead or alive. MACV-SOG operator Master Sergeant Jerry “Mad dog” Shriver, still missing in action (Courtesy picture).

Years after the Vietnam War ended, it was discovered that there was a mole at the SOG headquarters in Saigon who had been passing information on team missions and locations to the enemy.

SOG operators, including special operations legends like Colonel Robert Howard and Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez, earned 12 Medals of Honor throughout the conflict.

Although service at SOG came with the unspoken agreement of a perilous life full of danger and risk, it also came with an unbreakable sense of loyalty and trust between the men who served there. A sense of loyalty and trust that time and again SOG operators proved through their commitment to leave no man behind, dead or alive. That effort, that commitment, continues to this day.


This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY MOVIES

What ‘Game of Thrones’ – and Nagasaki – taught us about war

Warning: Contains spoilers from the series finale of Game of Thrones

In the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen unleashed her weapon of mass destruction dragon on the army of her enemy — as well as thousands of civilians in King’s Landing. She deliberately and extensively burned thousands of innocent women, children, and elderly civilians alive.

In the series finale, she justified her actions by saying that Cersei Lannister had intended to use those innocent lives as a shield. Instead, Daenerys Stormborn turned that shield to ash.

And then…all was well in the realm?


A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC

A few people closest to Daenerys decided not that she must be held accountable for her actions, but that she must actually be put down for them — so Jon Snow murdered her. We could spend a lot of time discussing the merits to bringing a war criminal to trial, but let’s just accept that Jon felt the only way he could truly end Dany’s war was to literally stab her in the heart after telling her he’d be loyal and kissing her and how could you do that to Khaleesi Jon she needed a therapist.

And then…it really was done.

Everyone left standing was so weary of bloodshed that they calmly gathered together, laid down their arms, and invented a new form of government.

Which, honestly, is the only way men actually end their wars (maybe not the new government part — although…sometimes that works too — and actually while we’re here can we re-examine Plato’s philosopher king theory it could be cool maybe?).

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC

“Democracy is nothing more than mob rule.”

In war, we butcher the enemy until someone can’t take it anymore. It is unimaginable to comprehend the casualties from conflicts like the World Wars (in World War I alone, the estimate is around 40 million civilian and military personnel injured or killed — 40 million). In World War II, the estimate is double.

Millions and millions (and millions) of people were dying horrific deaths and yet the fighting continued.

The United States dropped an atomic bomb on a city of innocents and yet the fighting continued.

It wasn’t until the U.S. dropped a second bomb that Japan finally surrendered.

Also read: Was this ‘Game of Thrones’ episode a metaphor for the Iraq War?

Eventually, men do lose their taste for war, which is the only way it can truly end. Unfortunately, humanity’s collective threshold for egregious harm, torture, and suffering is so high that it takes something like two atomic bombs — or a metaphorical dragon — to put an end to it all.

Which could explain why, after 17+ years, the United States is still fiddle f***ing around in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s a mercy that no one is going nuclear in those AORs, but unfortunately, our own wheel keeps turning, delivering death by a thousand cuts.

Anyway, congratulations to Bran Stark.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

What would happen if Germany and Russia had a tank battle today

When it comes to armored warfare, Germany and Russia have been two of the foremost practitioners. They even fought the biggest tank battle of all time in 1943 at Kursk. So, what would happen if the two countries fought a tank battle today?


As was the case in World War II, it could easily be a clash between two competing philosophies. Russia has long favored quantity over quality (Stalin even remarked that quantity had a quality of its own). At Kursk, this was seen in the fact that Russia ultimately deployed over 7,000 tanks to that battle. Germany had just under 3,300.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC
T-72s roll along Red Square. (Photo: AFP)

While the T-14 Armata has generated much of the news coverage, GlobalSecurity.org notes that most of Russia’s tanks are T-80 and T-72 main battle tanks. Russia has small numbers of the T-90, but most of the tanks are not much different than the ones that did little more than bounce main gun rounds off Abrams tanks at 400 yards and lose their turrets during Desert Storm.

Germany’s best tank at present is the Leopard 2A6. This is a fine tank. Originally deployed with a 120mm main gun, Germany refitted it with a similar gun with a barrel that was 25 percent longer. It just has two problems: There are only 328 of them after major defense cuts after 2010, and Germany also refuses to use depleted uranium in its armor-piercing rounds and tank armor.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC
The prototype Leopard 2A7+. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

Germany is taking steps to design a new tank in conjunction with France. This tank, called Leopard 3, is intended to be a match for Russia’s Armata T-14. This will take time. Russia already has the Armata in prototype form, but some questions are emerging about whether or not it will make it into service.

So, which country would win a tank fight? The money has to be on the Russians, even though most of their tanks are pieces of crap that some countries have to make the best of. Russia has over 4,500 T-80s. And while the German Leopards will trash a lot of Russian tanks, there will be more behind each echelon.

Articles

Here’s the technique Navy SEALs use to swim for miles without getting tired

With the beginning of summer, pools all over the US are opening for recreational swimming — but in the Navy, recruits are getting ready for the brutal Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, or BUD/S, that will turn some of them into Navy SEALs.

In the SEALs, where recruits of the elite special operations unit are pushed to their limits, there is no room for inefficiency. So it developed a more efficient swimming stroke: the combat swimmer stroke.

The stroke combines the best elements of breaststroke and freestyle to streamline a motion that not only reduces resistance on a swimmer’s body, but makes the swimmer harder to spot underwater.

Here’s a sample of the stroke:

Unlike freestyle, the combat sidestroke calls for the swimmer to stay submerged for most of it.

To do the combat swimmer stroke, dive in or kick off as you would in freestyle, but at the end of your glide, do a large, horizontal scissor kick instead.

Now comes the unique part — as the horizontal scissor kick tilts your body so that one arm is slightly higher than the other, pull that arm back while leaving the other outstretched.

Turn your face up toward the surface as you pull that arm down, take a breath, and begin to pull down your other arm. Another scissor kick, then reset your arms. You should not switch your orientation or the order in which you pull back your arms.

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown:

MIGHTY FIT

The ACFT: The Trap Bar Deadlift

The trap bar deadlift is crushing soldiers.

It’s a completely new element of any PT test for the armed forces. Strength hasn’t been tested in a three rep max before, let alone all the other novel elements of the new ACFT.

I’m not so concerned with potential low back injuries like some other critics of the trap bar deadlift have voiced.

I’m a fan. This type of test actually tests something many soldiers do nearly every day.

Picking something heavy up off the ground.

Of course, picking things up should be tested.

Here’s the skinny on the trap bar deadlift and how you can properly train for it so that you can max out the event.


How to train for the TRAP BAR DEADLIFT

youtu.be

It’s not a true deadlift

The trap bar deadlift isn’t a true deadlift. It’s somewhere between a squat and a deadlift. As a hip hinge stickler. it’s hard to watch just about every video I’ve seen of soldiers conducting this movement. There’s too much knee flexion most of the time.

The trap bar deadlift DOES use more knee flexion than a traditional deadlift. BUT it doesn’t need all the hip flexion you guys are giving it.

The reason there’s more knee flexion is because the handles on the trap bar are closer to your center of gravity than the bar is during a conventional deadlift. This means you don’t need to hip hinge as far forward with a trap bar.

But you still need to hinge.

You should only be bending at your knees, and hips for that matter, as far as you have to in order to reach the ground. If any part of your body is moving, but the bar isn’t, you’re wrong.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC

It’s a little bit like a squat and a little bit like a deadlift.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)

It’s not a true squat

This may seem like a weird statement. It’s called a deadlift, not a squat so obviously, the trap bar deadlift isn’t a true squat. Hear me out though.

Lower body movements are generally broken into two main groups:

  • Knee dominant movements
  • Hip dominant movements

The king hip dominant movement is the deadlift. The king knee dominant movement is the squat. The trap bar deadlift isn’t wholly a hip hinge like the conventional deadlift, and it isn’t wholly knee dominant like the back squat.

It’s somewhere in between the two.

Which if we’re being honest is how you should ideally pick something up. The trap bar deadlift assumes that you’re getting the weight as close to your center of gravity as possible, and you’re recruiting the most amount of muscle as possible (quads, hamstrings, and glutes).

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC

Your hips should be lower and your knee angle should be smaller.

SO…It’s a hybrid

This is actually good. It means you can get more quad involved in the movement than a conventional deadlift. It also means you can get more hamstring involved than a traditional squat. This means you can be stronger in the trap bar deadlift…if you train for it properly with correct form.

How to ACTUALLY hinge at your hips

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Proper form: The handcuff hinge

The handcuff hinge is the go-to movement to teach a hip hinge. We are taught by people who don’t know what they’re talking about to fear lifting with our hips, often because lifting with the hips is confused with lifting with the back.

Your hips AKA your hamstrings and glutes can be the strongest muscles in your body if you train them using hip hinge movements like the deadlift or good mornings.

Use the handcuff hinge to help you commit the hip hinge pattern to your neural matrix. Check out the video above for specifics on how to perform it.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC

This is a really basic way to prep for this test.

(I made this.)

How to train: 3 MONTH PLAN

Because the trap bar deadlift is a hybrid between the squat and the deadlift, it’s super easy to train for. You should simply break up your strength days into three main lower-body movements. It can look something like this:

  • Monday: Conventional or Sumo Deadlift 3 sets of 3-10 reps at RPE 8
  • Wednesday: Back Squat 3 sets of 3-10 reps at RPE 8
  • Friday: Trap bar Deadlift 3 sets of 3-10

Your rep scheme should change every 4-6 weeks. Let’s say your ACFT is Jan. 1, I would break up your rep scheme to something like this leading up to the event.

  • Oct 7- Nov. 2: Sets of 10 reps
  • Nov. 3-30: Sets of 6 reps
  • Dec. 1-28; Sets of 3 reps

You’re busy; don’t waste your time doing Alternate Staggered Squat Jumps or Forward Lunges. They lack the ability to load heavy enough and are unilateral movements that require a balance component that’s completely irrelevant to the trap bar deadlift. If you have a plan that uses these movements, throw it in the garbage.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC

Being strong doesn’t necessarily mean you’re cool.

This article is intended to give you some basic information on the trap bar deadlift. It is by no means exhaustive. Respond in the comments of this article on Facebook or send me a direct message at michael@composurefitness.com with your sticking points, comments, or concerns on the trap bar deadlift.

I’m also making a push to keep the conversation going over at the Mighty Fit Facebook Group. If you haven’t yet joined the group, do so. It’s where I spend the most time answering questions and helping people get the most out of their training.

If you just want someone to do all the work for you so that you can just get in the gym and train. Here’s the exact plan you need to be doing to get your Trap Bar Deadlift up! It’s fully supported in the Composure Fit app. All the info you need is in that link and this link.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC
MIGHTY GAMING

10 of the best games from this year’s E3

This year, at the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, CA, game developers came out strong, teasing plenty of long-awaited games and announcing a couple of awesome surprises. We got updates on titles we’ve been waiting for, like Spider-Man, and a glimpse at a few we’ve been dreaming of, like The Elder Scrolls VI.

Here are ten games on display at E3 2018 that we can’t wait to get our hands on.


Gears 5 (Microsoft)

Gears of War has always been about pure, unadulterated violence. There was a legitimate story in the first three, but nobody could really take their eyes off of the chainsaw bayonets ripping through Locus faces.

Gears of War 4 took a step in the right direction when the protagonist role hopped from the admittedly bad-ass Marcus Fenix to his son, JD. It kept the awesome and added just the right amount of story. Gears 5 seems like it’s going to continue that trend.

Super Smash Bros Ultimate (Nintendo)

Nintendo didn’t really come out with a huge lineup of (new) games for the Switch. To be fair, the newest Smash Bros game doesn’t look like much of a departure from previous installments.

But finally being able to pit Solid Snake against Cloud against Pikachu against Ridley? Okay. We’re hooked. Just take our money already.

Jump Force (Bandai)

All those years of reading Shonen Jump back in high school are about to finally pay off. In the early trailers, we’ve already seen Goku, Naruto, Luffy, and Light make an appearance, but it’s obvious that other great Shonen Jump characters will also make an appearance. Keep an eye out for familiar faces from Bleach, Rurouni Kenshin, Fist of the North Star, Dragon Quest, and many more.

Halo Infinite (Microsoft)

Halo 5 was good, but it felt like it had strayed a bit too far from the franchise that we all know and love. Halo Infinite seems like it’s going to fix all those problems by giving us a healthy bit of nostalgia and a breathtaking new engine.

Not much is known yet about this one, but just the fact that we’re going back to the Halos (from which the series gets its name) in the helmet of Master Chief is enough to win me back over.

Kingdom Hearts 3 (Square Enix)

It’s been 13 years since Kingdom Hearts II came out and side stories just aren’t going to cut it anymore. In the time fans have waited for a resolution to the trilogy, Disney has acquired Pixar, Lucasfilms, Marvel, and (soon) Fox.

The wait may finally pay off for die-hard fans or it’ll just be another Duke Nukem Forever.

HITMAN 2

There’s just a certain level of satisfaction unique to playing a Hitman game.

Hitman games have always prided themselves on requiring an insane level of detail from players in order to successfully (and quietly) take out their target. There are so many variables on each assignment that it feels like you’ve got a one-in-a-million chance to make things line up just right. But when they do….

Fallout 76 (Bethesda)

I know we’ve been hyping up Fallout 76 pretty heavily, but who isn’t excited to get their hands on this game?

Bethesda has always delivered games built on the premise that video games should always be ridiculously fun. Dropping a nuke on your friends seems fits that bill perfectly.

Devil May Cry 5 (Capcom)

Everyone in the gaming world is running around crying about how hard Dark Souls is like they’ve never played Devil May Cry on the “Dante Must Die” setting.

We’ll admit that the last installment, DMC, wasn’t that great — but it wasn’t as awful as everyone made it out to be. That being said, the series just isn’t the same without the old Dante. Well, he’s back, and the newest game looks amazing.

Insurgency: Sandstorm (New World Interactive)

Do you know refreshing it is to finally see a true-to-life take on the Global War on Terror? No blinged-out weapons that only a third-world dictator would have. No modded-out gear that only a fobbit would buy.

This is a no-nonsense action game that originated as a realistic Half-Life 2 mod. You better believe we’re going to be following this game closely.

Cyberpunk 2077 (CD Projekt)

The best game of this year’s E3 has got to be Cyberpunk 2077. Hands down.

It just has too many perfect things going for it. The guy who made Cyberpunk 2020, Mike Pondsmith, is going to be working with the guys who made The Witcher series to create an experience that takes players into the hardcore underworld of the future. Oh, f*ck yes!

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site

Former slave and Civil War veteran Reddy Gray died on Sep. 4, 1922, when he was 79 years old. He was buried in Baltimore’s Loudon Park National Cemetery — the first VA burial site included in the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

Gray’s experience is representative of African Americans who risked travel through the Underground Railroad to find freedom, but his story is significant for the wealth of information gleaned from public records. His life is a reminder of the fight for civil rights that began in the 1860s to continues today.


A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC

Deed of Manumission and Release of Service,” 1865.

Gray went by Reddy, short for Redmond, Redman or Reverdy. Born at Loch Raven, Maryland, to John and Lydia Talbott Gray, he was enslaved by the Thomas Cradock Risteau family in Baltimore County from birth to until the middle of the Civil War. Likely a field worker or carriage driver, he resisted servitude by escaping in March 1863. It is not clear what happened, but Gray’s “Deed of Manumission and Release of Service” retroactively corresponds with his enlistment. President Abraham Lincoln had already issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and the U.S. Army was recruiting black soldiers.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC

U.S. Army, Gray Muster-Out record, 1865.

Gray enlisted in the U.S. Colored Troops at Baltimore City on March 23, 1864. His Company B, 39th U.S. Colored Infantry, fought in Virginia at the Sieges of Petersburg and Richmond, and in the expeditions and capture of Fort Fisher and Wilmington in North Carolina. Reddy mustered out in Wilmington on Dec. 4, 1865, and that record remarks, “slave when enlisted.”

His life after the Civil War shows personal accomplishment and community involvement. He learned to read and write. He returned to Baltimore and had four children, including son Redmond, with second wife Susan Gray, who worked as a laundress. In the army he suffered from rheumatism, for which he received a disability pension in 1890; however, he worked as a manual laborer doing light work like trimming lawns or gathering rags and as a carriage driver.


A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC

Reddy Gray Burial Site Certificate of Acceptance, NPS 2018.

As “Redmond” Gray, he appears in the Baltimore Sun, Sep. 15, 1894, as judge for a running race at the “Colored People’s Fair” in Timonium, Maryland; and a few years later as a member of the Colored-Odd Fellows. Reddy (also Reverdy) Gray is honored with his name on the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, D.C. Other black soldiers who found their freedom through the Underground Railroad are buried at Loudon Park National Cemetery along with Gray, but their stories are not so easily documented.

The Network to Freedom program is managed by the National Park Service, per the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Act of 1998. Loudon Park National Cemetery was one of the 14 original national cemeteries established under the National Cemetery Act of July 17, 1862; it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

This was the toughest NFL player to ever catch a football

When you think of sheer football toughness and grit, running backs like Jim Brown and Houston Texans Defensive End JJ Watt come to mind. But the record for all-time toughness has to go Hall of Famer Larry Wilson. The former St. Louis Cardinal (when St. Louis had a football team, and they were also the Cardinals), routinely makes the list of the NFL’s greatest players – and for good reason.


The Cardinals Free Safety spent his entire playing career with the Cardinals and after retiring, spent the rest of his working career with the Cardinals, even moving to Arizona from St. Louis. with the team. That wasn’t what was most remarkable about Wilson. What was most remarkable was his dedication to the game.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC

Yeah, those are casts. Over his broken hands.

Wilson was a free safety whose size and speed were previously unheard of in that position. In college he played running back, but was too small to play there for the NFL. He switched to defensive back after being drafted by the Cardinals in 1959, but he had the athleticism that allowed the defense to experiment with using him as a pass rusher – which had never been used to rush the quarterback before. The Cardinals created a new blitz play called the “Wildcat,” and that became the name Larry Wilson picked up too. That just describes his speed and athleticism, however. His toughness on the field was another matter.

Throughout his 12-year career, Wilson racked up 52 interceptions, five of them being worth six points. One of those interceptions was caught while the Wildcat was on the field with two broken hands, still playing free safety with casts over his hands.

After retiring from the NFL as a player in 1972, Wilson became a coach on the staff of the Cardinals, and later, an executive for the team. In 1978, The Wildcat was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, the first year he was eligible for induction. For 17 years, he was the General Manager of the Cardinals, and ever since he left the field, he is remembered as a part of every All-Star or All-Time team ever created by sports pundits. He is routinely labeled as one of the greatest players ever to take the field.

Not bad for a kid who was too small to play the game in the first place.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the only enlisted submariner to receive the Medal of Honor

The U.S. Navy submarine service was barely two decades old when the submarine USS O-5 began taking on water in the Panama Canal Zone in October 1923. A cargo ship slammed into the submarine without warning and the boat began taking on water. The crew began to abandon ship.

One lifelong sailor, Henry Breault, could have escaped, too, but he went down with a shipmate that couldn’t escape. The two were trapped in the sunken hull until the next day. For that heroism, President Calvin Coolidge presented Breault with the Medal of Honor.


He was the first member of the submarine service to receive the award and the only enlisted submariner to receive it for duties aboard a sub.

The USS O-5 was never a very lucky ship. Fifth in the line of 16 O-class submarines, she entered service six months too late for World War I. Before even leaving for Europe, an explosion killed her skipper and one of her officers. By Oct. 28, 1924, Breault and the USS O-5 were among a contingent of submarines moving to enter the Panama Canal. That’s when disaster struck.

Or more accurately, that’s when the United Fruit Company struck.

Either through human error or miscommunication (or likely a mix of both), the UFC’s SS Abangarez was moving to dock when it hit the USS O-5 on its starboard side, creating a 10-foot hole in its control room. The ship rolled to the left and then right before sinking bow first.

Most of the crew were rescued but five were missing, including Breault and Chief Electrician’s Mate Lawrence Brown. Breault had actually escaped the sinking boat when he realized Brown was still asleep down below. He went back into the submarine and closed the deck hatch behind him. The two ended up trapped in the torpedo room below the surface.

When divers discovered crewmen were alive inside, work began to get them out. The only way to do that was to lift the boat the full 42 feet above the waterline. Luckily for them, they happened to be in the Canal Zone, the home of some of the world’s heaviest lifting cranes. The crane barge Ajax, one of the largest in the world, made its way to the wreck as soon as possible.

After three failed attempts and a full 31 hours, the canal crews and sailors were able to lift the sub up high enough to open the torpedo room hatch and free their comrades.

Breault had been sailing since age 16 and was a sailor for the rest of his life, dying just two days before the Japanese hit Pearl Harbor on Dec. 5, 1941.

Military Life

6 ways for a POG to be accepted by grunts

The greatest divide in the U.S. Military is between grunts and the POGs. And for as long as this divide has existed, higher-ups have been trying to find ways to close this gap.


Today, we offer some advice from grunts for POGs on how they can earn respect from their infantry counterparts.

Related: The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

6. Don’t act like your job is more important

Everyone’s job plays a role in the grand scheme of things. Everyone is just one piece in the puzzle few of us get to look at.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC
Remember: Grunts get dirty so you don’t have to. (image via Terminal Lance)

5. Learn how to wear your gear properly

This is one that will undoubtedly gain some respect from grunts. One common complaint among the grunts is that POGs have no idea how to wear the gear. Magazine pouches don’t go on the back of your plate carrier, and get that first aid kit in a place where you can reach it.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC
Exhibit A: Clean gear, magazine dump pouch on the front of the plate carrier, and backwards plate carrier. This is why grunts make fun of you. (Image via United States Grunt Corps)

4. Learn basic infantry tactics

This one almost goes without saying — learn the basics of a grunt’s job and they’ll have no room to talk sh*t.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC
Be an asset, not a liability to the infantry.

3. Set yourself to grunt standards

Infantrymen have to be physically fit in order to handle carrying all their gear, and someone else if the need arises. If you can keep up with a grunt or even outperform a few, they’ll treat you like one of their own — especially if you take the advice from point #4.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC
If it helps, make faces.

2. Don’t act like your rank gives you experience

The infantry, especially the Marine Corps infantry, is full of E-3s with TONS of experience. One thing that will piss a grunt off more than anything is if an E-4 who only has 6 months to a year of time in tries to act superior to an E-3 with 2 or 3 years of experience (demotions exempt) and deployments under their belt.

If you need to correct an E-3, by all means, do it. But check that ego of yours.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC
Remember that prior service thing? (Image via reddit)

Also Read: 6 ways to make money while living in the barracks

1. Take a joke

Grunts talk trash all day, every day, and there is not a single day that goes by in the infantry where they don’t. If you can sh*t talk with a grunt (and if you can do it better) they’ll undoubtedly accept you as one of their own. But make sure you have more in your arsenal than, “Well, you’re just a dumb grunt.”

That one’s been used so many times that people with ASVAB scores of 80 and higher are joining the infantry.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC
Make jokes back.

*Bonus* Take pride in being a POG

Grunts feel that POGs often just have an inferiority complex, which results in treating grunts like low-life scum (which isn’t totally wrong). Take pride in the fact that you help grunts bring the fight to the enemy! Grunts actually love cooks and motor-T because otherwise they’re stuck with MREs and long walks.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC
Embrace your differences!

MIGHTY FIT

Meditation is like ‘Bicep Curls’ for your Brain

Your mind is a muscle. Your patience is a muscle. Your creativity is a muscle. Your muscles are muscles. Just like muscles all these other skills and organs can be trained to become better at what they do. Let’s have a look at exactly how this works for your brain and how you can train it with meditation to become more resilient, just like your biceps get from all those curls you finish every workout with.


A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC

Trying to get enlightened real fast!

(Photo by Sgt. Elizabeth White)

This is how your brain works

When you are born, your brain is like the untainted wilderness. As you grow and learn things paths are developed in your brain to those facts and actions just like footpaths are in the woods. Over time those paths become entrenched so that they are unconscious.

When was the last time you gave your full attention to tying your shoes? It’s probably been a long time, that’s because simple actions like lacing up your boots get moved into your unconscious memory. You don’t need to think about doing it. This is a way that our brains work to save space and processing power.

This is great for things like getting dressed or signing your signature, but it becomes a problem when your habits are less desirable, like smoking or not thinking before you speak when your OIC is around.

US Army Veteran, Sean Villa, on Transcendental Meditation

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Being able to break these bad habits and actively control what we remember is one of the benefits of meditation known as neuroplasticity.

That phrase: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” comes from old people being stuck in their ways, refusing to change, obviously. That’s the opposite of neuroplasticity. Meditation teaches your brain to stay young and flexible.

Literally, the same thing that happens to your body when you train happens to your brain when you meditate. It makes you more resilient to change and adversity. Whether that adversity is an alligator that needs a beat down- physical training #happygilmore, or a newly updated browser that makes it impossible to figure out how to delete your less than desirable search history #firstworldproblems- meditation.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC

Don’t forget the gym just because you are training your brain like these guys.

(Photo by Iván Tejero on Unsplash)

What meditation can do in the most extreme cases

Of the pilot studies on military members with PTSD, they all have been able to show significant results from meditation. In one study over 83% of the participants had a positive effect after just one month, some of which were even able to get off the medication they were taking to help manage their symptoms.

The practices these groups were doing did more than just manage symptoms. It allowed the service members to come to terms with what they experienced. This takes neuroplasticity to the next level.

Meditation Improves Performance at Military University

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What happens many times in those with PTSD is that their mind gets stuck on loop reliving a terrible or gruesome experience. The brain digs a path so deep that it’s like you’re stuck in the Grand Canyon of your mind with no climbing tools to get up the wall and out of that undesirable place.

The meditation practices in these studies gave the participants the tools they needed to start climbing up and making their way out to forge a new less traumatic path.

Again, this is exactly the same as if you were actually stuck at the bottom of The Grand Canyon. You need the physical strength to start making your way up, if you’ve never done a pull-up that climb is going to be impossible. You need to train and acquire the physical tools to accomplish such a feat.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC

You don’t need to be sitting crossed legged to be doing it “right”.

(Photo by Amy Velazquez on Unsplash)

How you can implement a practice

Just like in the gym you can’t expect to reap the benefits of meditation after a 10-minute session. How long did it take you to finally bench 225? How are those abs coming?

Shit takes time.

You need to start somewhere though. Here are two methods to go from zero to hero on the brain training front.

Mindfulness Meditation in Military

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Learn to be in silence: Most of us are constantly surrounded by ear clutter. And even when we finally get a chance for some silence, like in the shower, we decide to crank the Spotify Throwback Workout playlist. Many people can’t even fall asleep without some noise in the background. Start slow on your path to meditation by just picking some dedicated time where you will intentionally listen to nothing and no one. Put some earplugs in if you’re in the barracks and just learn to embrace the silence.

Use an app: What happens when you go to the gym completely unprepared with no idea what to do? Chances are you end up doing a few sets of biceps curls and waste 30 minutes on a treadmill. The equivalent can happen when meditating. Start slowly with an app like headspace or Sam Harris’ new app Waking Up. They will take you through a beginners course on meditating and help you start building that neuroplasticity toolbox.

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC
MIGHTY CULTURE

‘What do snipers think when they miss’ & other dumb military questions

“Which U.S. military branch has the nicest looking uniforms?”

This is one where we actually all came together as one. Say it with me now: Navy Marines.

We are back in another installment of “Vets Answer Dumb Military Questions” where the premise is simple: people asked dumb military questions and, well, vets answer them. I guess I didn’t need to explain that.

But apparently there is much that does need to be explained. So let’s get to it:


Do soldiers ever name their weapons? | Dumb Military Questions 106

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Do soldiers ever name their weapons? | Dumb Military Questions 106

Our cast of veterans this week includes: August Dannehl (Navy), Jennifer Brofer (Marine Corps), Rosario Eléna (Army), Mark Harper (Air Force), Graham Pulliam (Marine Corps), Donna Callaway (Marine Corps), Jennifer Campbell (Army), Tara Batesole (Air Force), Chase Millsap (Green Beret — no branch required), and of course yours truly (Air Force).

Oh! And Megan Miller, our token civilian. And Ding Dong. Can’t forget about Ding Dong.

“Why do soldiers not use suitcases with wheels for loaded marches?”

Because wheels are for…

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC

Get it?

“Who would win if the United States Navy and Marines fought a war against the United States Army and Air Force?”

Millsap made a solid argument: “It happens every year. It’s called the Army Navy Game. Navy usually wins.”

But on the other hand, Campbell has a point: “Army and Air Force. Marines are dumb and then the navies transport them. So you have dumb people transporting dumb people.” ZING.

Harper argues that no one wins. “It’s just like Aliens vs. Predator.”

But if we’re all being really honest with ourselves, Pulliam has the correct answer:

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC

“Coasties because everyone else would be f***ing dead.”

And let’s just face it: the Coast Guard really has won, right? They get to be by the water, saving lives every day, stopping drugs, hanging out with whales. My grandpa told me to join the Coast Guard and he was right.

You hear that, Gramps?? YOU WERE RIGHT.

“Are special forces-trained fighters more efficient at taking out attackers in unarmed combat than civilian martial artists?”

Guess what our answers were. Go on. Guess.

“What were the weird things you did when extremely bored while you were in the military?”

Hahaha, no one would make eye contact after reading this question.

“Do soldiers ever name their weapons and equipment? What’s the funniest or strangest you’ve heard?”

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC

“Tits McGee” courtesy of Brofer’s battle buddies.

Voltrex. Pedro? Fart sack. Fluffy. Cher. Starfish Puckerbutt (and it has a story involved).

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC

You didn’t forget about Ding Dong, did you?

“What do snipers think when they miss?”

The answers to this question are worth sticking around to the end of the video. Trust me.

Watch the video above then check out more funny videos from our military experts:

Vets answer dumb military questions – part one

Vets answer dumb military questions – part two

Vets answer EVEN MOAR dumb military questions

How to get posted at Area 51′ other dumb military questions answered

‘What happens if you refuse to shower’ other dumb questions



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