A US troop helped an East German escape the Iron Curtain - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

A US troop helped an East German escape the Iron Curtain

There were only a few places around the world more tense than in the Cold War showdown between East and West that occurred every day in divided Berlin. In the West, American and NATO guards stared down the barrels of the Soviet-backed East German border guards from the other side of the Berlin Wall. These guards were known to shoot down any East German civilian trying to cross the wall, sometimes leaving their mangled corpse in the barbed wire.

One American decided he was going to do what he could to help.


An East German border guard leaps over barbed wire and away from the East German “utopia.”

It’s a well-known fact by now that life behind the Iron Curtain wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Few places in the Eastern Bloc were more repressive than in East Germany, and East Berlin in particular. East Berlin’s proximity to the freedom enjoyed by West Germany and greater Western Europe forced the Communist regimes to be more harsh to those attempting to escape to freedom. Still, many East Germans made the attempt. Scores of people died trying to cross the Berlin Wall. Untold numbers more likely made the escape.

One of those successful escapees was Hans-Peter Spitzner and his daughter Peggy. Spitzner lived more than 100 miles from East Berlin, but when the Stasi – the East German secret police – came knocking on his door and arrested him in the middle of the night for not voting the Communist Party line, he was done. He resolved to get out of East Germany. When Spitzner’s wife was suddenly able to travel to the West for a family birthday, he decided to make his move.

Spitzner with his wife and daughter.

Spitzner read in a Communist newspaper about how American and other troops were stripping East German stores of their stocks using favorable currency conversion rates. Under the post-World War II agreements, Western allies had free and open access to East Berlin and could come and go as they pleased. The author of the article even mentioned that Western soldiers’ cars weren’t searched. Spitzner rationalized that he and his daughter could hide in one of those cars and escape to freedom.

So the man drove 120 miles to East Berlin, just to hang out at the bus stops frequented by Western troops. All day long, he asked if anyone would be willing to smuggle him and his daughter out. Eventually, a young U.S. Army troop named Eric Yaw was walking up to his black Toyota.

He agreed to smuggle Spitzner and his daughter out of East Germany.

Eric Yaw’s Toyota Corolla.

There was just one hitch: the heat sensors at Checkpoint Charlie. As soon as the family was in Yaw’s trunk, Spitzner was certain they were doomed. If they were caught, they’d be imprisoned. If they ran, they’d be shot. But as luck would have it, that day was particularly warm, and Yaw’s black Toyota retained enough heat to hide Spitzner and his daughter from the border guards. In just a few minutes, Yaw opened the trunk and informed the two they were free.

Spitzner phoned his wife on vacation in Austria and told her the news. Yaw was disciplined by the Army for smuggling the two East Germans, but repeatedly said he would do the same thing again. Today, Yaw is out of the Army but is still a family friend. The Spitzners have returned to their hometown in what used to be East Germany.

No one regrets a thing.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why North Korea might build a US burger franchise

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is not planning on giving up his nuclear weapons any time soon but is open to the idea of opening a Western hamburger franchise, according to US officials familiar with a CIA intelligence report.

“Everybody knows they are not going to denuclearize,” one intelligence official told NBC News.


Recently, a special adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in floated examples of Kim wanting to modernize his economy through international investment, such as a McDonald’s and a Trump Tower. The report said the north could open a burger joint as a show of goodwill to Trump.

“They want to be a normal country, a normal state to be recognized by the United States,” Professor Moon Chung-in said during a CNN International interview.

“They want American investment coming to North Korea,” he said. “They welcome American sponsors and multilateral consortiums coming into North Korea.”

The CIA analysis, which was circulated in early May 2018, comes amid President Donald Trump’s upcoming summit with Kim in Singapore on June 12, 2018. The meeting, if it happens, would mark the first time a sitting US president meets with a North Korean leader.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F9%2F8682%2F30124698995_d8241104ec_b.jpg&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fc1.staticflickr.com&s=73&h=4e61b84fede18ca2d2bcdc26e8a51b7464a3094a7fbaaf384e78528bed5c4a52&size=980x&c=2349758428 image-library=”0″ pin_description=”” caption=”President Donald Trump” photo_credit_src=”https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8682/30124698995_d8241104ec_b.jpg” crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F9%252F8682%252F30124698995_d8241104ec_b.jpg%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fc1.staticflickr.com%26s%3D73%26h%3D4e61b84fede18ca2d2bcdc26e8a51b7464a3094a7fbaaf384e78528bed5c4a52%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2349758428%22%7D” expand=1 photo_credit=”(Photo by Gage Skidmore)”]

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

A growing consensus of foreign-policy experts have echoed the CIA’s assessment that Pyongyang is not planning on relinquishing its nuclear arms — a talking point the White House has stressed to North Korea as a precondition to easing its “maximum pressure” campaign.

Despite doubts of a denuclearized North Korea, Trump expressed optimism during the ongoing negotiations ahead of the summit.

“We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea,” Trump said in a tweet. “Meetings are currently taking place concerning Summit, and more.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

3 questions of unconventional warfare according to a top officer

Unconventional warfare is necessarily a messy business. It entails finding the enemies of our enemies and convincing them to fight our mutual foes, even if we’re not necessarily friends. It reduces America’s risk in blood, but it also means our national security rests on the shoulders of foreign fighters. In the confusing situations this creates, one top officer in the Afghanistan invasion had three simple questions to cut through the chaos.


U.S. special operators pose with Hamid Karzai during the invasion of Afghanistan. Karzai would go on to be president of Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army)

During the invasion, then-Lt. Col. Mark Rosengard was in command of Task Force Dagger, and he had to greatly expand the unconventional warfare program in the country. So he couldn’t spend days or weeks of time and reams of paper figuring out whether he would trust one potential guerrilla leader or another.

So, according to reporter Sean Naylor in his book Not a Good Day to Die, Rosengard just asked three questions.

First, “Do we have a common goal today, recognizing tomorrow may be different?” Basically, do the militiamen or guerillas want the same outcome as the American forces? Including, do they want to see the same people die?

Next, “Do you have a secure backyard?” Simply, do the local forces have somewhere safe-ish to train? If the forces have to constantly quit training in order to fight off attacks, then they won’t be able to actually train. But if there’s any sort of safe compound in which to get to work, then it’s time to ask the third question.

“Are you willing to kill people?”

Yeah, that’s not a very complicated one.

Taken together, these three questions would let Rosengard know whether he could get to work with a new commander. Of course, there were additional concerns that he had to keep track of.

Afghan forces in a discussion with a senior weapons sergeant of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces.

(U.S. Army)

For instance, on the first question, you would need to keep track of whether the militias might really turn on you tomorrow. It’s a bad idea to spend too much time training foreign fighters who only have a few days or weeks of loyalty to America left.

But, overall, these three questions match up with American choices in other wars.

Gen. John “BlackJack” Pershing made alliances with Moro tribesmen in the Philippines and hired them as law enforcement officers even though he knew their long-term goals would be different. And President Franklin D. Roosevelt allied America with Russia to destroy Germany, adding the Soviet Union to the Lend-Lease Act of 1941 despite it being clear that the U.S. and Soviet Union would eventually be at loggerheads.

Rosengard’s gambles in Afghanistan largely worked out for the invasion, and U.S. special operators and unconventional forces took large sections of the country in the Winter of 2001, a period in which they had planned to take just a small foothold in the north. The operators and their guerrilla allies also were able to bring Hamid Karzai back to the country to take power, helping cement American control of the country.

But, of course, the issues with Afghan forces in the invasion were quickly felt. Pashtun tribesmen were extremely helpful in taking the country from the Taliban, but their half-hearted attacks at Tora Bora are thought to have been a major contributor to Osama Bin Laden’s escape from that mountain stronghold into Pakistan where he would successfully hide until his death in 2011.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why ‘Crayon-Eater’ is actually just a bad joke

The rivalry between branches can best be described as a sibling rivalry. We’re always making fun of each other whenever we can, calling the Air Force the Chair Force, the Coast Guard a bunch of puddle pirates — the list goes on. One thing that branches can’t seem to figure out, though, is a good, slightly insulting nickname for Marines.

It seems like the other branches tried to find some kind of insult for Marines but, instead, we’ve turned those monikers into sources of pride. We like being called names like Jarhead. It’s kind of cool, really. You’re saying our hair regulations are so disciplined it’s stupid? Maybe it’s your attitude toward discipline that has us always on the delivery side of insults. Think about it.

But one thing that’s sorta caught on and is becoming popular is calling Marines, “Crayon-Eaters.”

Well, here’s why that nickname just won’t hold water:


Snipers know why there’s some truth there…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Krista James)

1. First off, it’s just kind of… weak

Maybe we’re just too dumb to understand the insult here but, quite frankly, it sucks. It’s lame.

If you were to call your friend a “Crayon-Eater” in any other situation, they’d just shrug and say, “okay,” with a condescending tone. It’s no better than a Kindergarten insult. You might as well say, “you poop your pants!” At least then there’s some truth for some Marines.

“You think crayon-eater is funny?!”

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Aaron Bolser)

2. It’s ironic

The whole point of the joke is to say that Marines are stupid. Got it. But you know what’s stupid? The joke itself. It’s ironic how dumb the joke is. Instead of making Marines look dumb, you actually just display the inability to create a layered, intelligent insult. “Crayon-eater” is so bland and overplayed that it loses any impact it might have.

We’re not afraid to take shots at each other because it’s all part of the brotherhood.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anthony Guas)

3. Marines have better insults for each other

The things Marines say to one another on a daily basis are way worse — it’s stuff so bad that we can’t even mention it on this website. They’re things that would make your average civilian’s stomach turn and cause airmen everywhere to puke all over their computer desks.

The worst part is that the joke isn’t even close to being offensive. Of course, some of you may read this and say, “this guy is just offended,” and the answer is no — and that’s the problem. You think something as lame as “crayon-eater” is going to offend a member of a tribe whose trainees are taught to yell, “kill!” during training?

Didn’t think so.

They’re laughing at you, not with you.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos)

If you want to keep using the joke, go right ahead. Just remember, when a Marine laughs in your face because your joke isn’t doing what you thought it would — we tried to warn you.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 easy-to-miss things your spouse needs to do before deployment

Hey, I get it: When you’re preparing for deployment, the last thing you want is a honey-do list from your spouse. You have your own gear to take care of, paperwork to complete, and stuff to pack. Your spouse, on the other hand, will be at home during the months that you’re away. Can’t some of their to-do list wait until you’re gone? After all, they’ll have the whole deployment to take care of it. What’s the rush, right?

Here’s the deal: Just as you must prepare your gear and put your things in order to prepare for your deployment, your spouse has to get the house and the family ready for their own “mission.” It’s pretty much guaranteed that as soon as you walk out the door, something’s going to go wrong: the car will break down, appliances will leak, or the dog will get sick. If you don’t help your spouse prepare for those emergencies, then they won’t be fully equipped to handle their mission. You wouldn’t send troops off to train without first arranging logistics and ammo. In the same way, you have to take care of some logistical details at home before you deploy and leave your spouse as the only adult responsible for the entire household. There are several things you can review with your spouse to make everyone’s deployment go more smoothly.

Don’t skip these mission-essential pre-deployment tasks with your spouse.


(U.S. Air Force photo by Gina Randall)

1. Paperwork

There’s a reason your CO keeps hounding you to complete your Power of Attorney, Will, and other documents — they’re actually really important! Without a Power of Attorney, your spouse will basically be treated like a second-class citizen on base. They won’t be able to renew or replace an ID card if they lose it while you’re away. They can’t change the lease, buy or sell a vehicle, or handle any banking problems that might arise. If you have children, it’s important that your spouse completes a Family Care Plan so that someone is designated to take care of the kids if your spouse ends up in the hospital from a car accident. Take the time to discuss this paperwork with your spouse so they won’t struggle during unexpected deployment situations.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. April Davis)

2. Comm check

You may not know exactly what communication options you’ll have during deployment, but discuss your expectations with your spouse so you can both get on the same page. How will you handle the time difference? Will you try to call when early in the morning or in the evening? How often will you try to call, message, or video? What’s the protocol if one of you misses a call or doesn’t answer in time? Finally, make sure your spouse knows how to send a Red Cross message. If there’s a family emergency, the Red Cross can contact you even when you don’t have internet access. If your spouse knows how to get to the Red Cross website, it will take the weight off their shoulders during a major emergency.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Leanna Litsch)

3. Discuss car maintenance

Have you ever returned from deployment only to discover that your car has a dead battery and flat tires? Save yourselves the cost and trouble with some simple preventative maintenance. If you’re typically the one responsible for vehicle maintenance, remind your spouse when to do an oil change and how often to get the tires rotated. If your vehicle will sit unused during the deployment, ask your spouse to start the engine and let it idle at least once a week. This will prevent the battery from dying. If they occasionally drive it around the block and park it in a different position, that’ll help prevent flat tires.

4. Review home maintenance

If you’re renting or living on base, just make sure your spouse knows how to contact maintenance or the landlord. If you own your home, things get more complicated. Walk through the house together and discuss areas of regular or seasonal maintenance. Air filters should get changed monthly. Gutters should be cleaned in Fall. Discuss outdoor chores, like lawn maintenance and snow removal. Your spouse should know the location of the breaker box and water shut-off valves, in case the dreaded “Deployment Curse” visits your house.

5. Adjust the household budget

You and your spouse both need to understand how the deployment will affect your family’s income, and then adjust accordingly. If you are making more money during deployment, how will you save or spend the extra? Will it go toward paying down debts? Or will you save up for a post-deployment vacation? Sometimes, deployments reduce the household budget. You might have to pay for food and Internet at your deployed location. Your spouse may decrease their work hours or register for a class. They may have additional costs for childcare or lawn maintenance. It’s better to discuss these changes and your intended budget before deployment so you aren’t both accusing each other of mismanaging money!

6. Write down your passwords

You wouldn’t send your team on a mission without clear instructions and the best equipment, right? Then don’t expect your spouse to manage the bills and your account memberships without passwords! Log into any banking or bill payment website you use, and write down your login name and password. Do the same for your gaming accounts, renewable memberships, etc. It’s likely that something will need to be suspended, renewed, or canceled during your deployment. Writing down the passwords will make it possible for your spouse to do that for you.

Having these pre-deployment conversations now may not be easy or fun, but it’s definitely important to help your spouse feel squared away before deployment. This will reduce deployment stress for both of you, help your deployment communication go smoothly, and get you both prepared for your respective, upcoming missions.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

A deployed carrier has a coronavirus outbreak. Her husband is on board.

Imagine your spouse or family member is deployed on a carrier. Now, imagine it’s during a global pandemic, which has notoriously infiltrated cruise ships, rendering hundreds of passengers ill. Finally, imagine you learn that your loved one’s ship is impacted by scrolling through Facebook and reading a headline.


Unfortunately, this imagined scenario is one military spouse’s reality.

Elizabeth (whose last name we won’t use for personal security reasons) was looking at Facebook, taking a much-needed break from quarantine with her four kids, when she saw a friend (whose husband is deployed with hers) had posted an article by Business Insider that immediately stopped her scroll: “There has been a coronavirus outbreak aboard a deployed US Navy aircraft carrier.” The article states that there have been three confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the USS Theodore Roosevelt – Elizabeth’s husband’s ship.

Her heart sank. “We haven’t heard from them in awhile,” she said in an interview with WATM. “Anytime anything noteworthy happens, communication goes down whether on purpose or by coincidence,” she shared. She immediately got on the phone with other spouses to see if anyone had heard through official or personal channels what was going on.

Communication varied. One spouse got a voicemail from her sailor that he was fine. Another received a quick email saying there were only two cases on the ship, while one other had heard 15 sailors had it. This rumor mill is exactly why comms are shut down, to prevent misinformation for families desperate for an update.

When asked if she was upset she hadn’t heard from her husband, Elizabeth laughed. “Oh, I’m not surprised,” she said. “He’s a team player. I know he would make sure all of his people had a chance to use the phone or email if there was an opportunity to do so before he did. He’s been in for 14 years and he’s been deployed a lot — he’s had almost six years of sea time. Really, this is not even the worst communication he’s had on a deployment. I’ve gotten used to that — nobody has all of the information; you just hope for the best and wait for your family member to contact you.”

But in the meantime, Elizabeth feels the weight of the gravity of the situation.

“I’m trying not to go into panic mode yet,” she said. “It’s the military, you just don’t know, but I hope if my husband was sick, someone would tell me.” Elizabeth also wants to know what protective and preventive measures are being taken. “It sounds like from the article that the sick sailors were medevaced and now it’s just business as usual. But in my mind, the likelihood of it being isolated is very small. They’re on top of each other in close quarters and there are 5,000 of them. They use the same phones, touch the same doors, eat together, share work space. It’s a floating petri dish. I want to know what they’re doing to sanitize. How closely they’re monitoring things. Is someone asking them every day? Are they taking temperatures? Are they really doing everything they can to keep our sailors safe?”

While Elizabeth is worried about her husband, she also has a healthy dose of perspective and a great sense of humor. She’s thankful to be surrounded by family and a community that continues to support her. “I don’t know what I’d do without them,” she said. Elizabeth and her husband have a five year old, three year old and twins who are just one and a half. “We had a lot of time on shore duty,” she laughed. “We got cocky thinking we would have one more and then boom: twins.”

When asked how she’s really coping with four kids in quarantine and a spouse deployed on a “floating petri dish,” Elizabeth took a long sigh but said, “Honestly, I feel like military spouses are better prepared for this than anyone. With military life, we spend a decent amount of time figuring it out on our own. I wouldn’t say this is even the most isolated I’ve ever been. The ‘not knowing what’s going to happen,’ not knowing what the schedule is going to be in a few weeks or months, it’s par for the course for us. I’ve been through the ringer enough times with the Navy, but for a lot of our friends, this is their first deployment. Mostly my heart has been with the ones who haven’t been through this before because I remember how it felt when all of this was new.”

Elizabeth shared the importance of reaching out. “Military community is so, so important. I love that the word encourage literally means to impart courage … that’s who the military spouse community is for me — it’s courage by proxy. The news is full of stories of women who are worrying they might be forced to give birth alone due to coronavirus restrictions, but military spouses have been giving birth to babies without family or husbands there, often overseas, for as long as time. They’ve moved alone, pursued careers alone, overcome all of these obstacles. One of the things you deal with is that feeling of isolation, which is so perfectly themed for where we are in the world right now. But you’re never really alone.”

Elizabeth continued, “It was so hard to hear the news of coronavirus on the ship, but it was so great to be surrounded by so many people who exactly know what we’re going through. There is strength in numbers. We’re not the only family going through this. We’ll be okay.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

How an Iraqi translator risked his life to reunite with American flag

How far would you go to reunite with a symbol you love?

For one Iraqi man, it took 13 years, 7,474 miles, help from a family member, a trip to an isolated field, and a rusty can to reclaim a treasured part of his life — an American flag.

Staff Sgt. Ahmed* shared how reuniting with the America flag changed the course of his life as he spoke to the Iron Soldiers of 1st Battalion “Bandits,” 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division Sept. 11, on East Fort Bliss.

More than 200 soldiers listened intently as Ahmed gave tribute to the Bandits he served and fought with during the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


Remembering the Bandit legacy

In 2003, Ahmed was serving as the official military translator for the Iron Soldiers of the 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT. His assignment was to translate for the unit’s command team during meetings with local dignitaries and special missions. After a few months, however, the Iraqi native began to work heavily with infantry troops and accompanied them on raids, night missions and surveillances through downtown Baghdad.

The now 37-year-old vividly described the core of his job as working with U.S. soldiers, becoming part of their team and sharing in their comradery.

Staff Sgt. Ahmed speaks to Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division during a ceremony held at the 1-37 AR motor pool Sept. 11, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Michael West)

“I wanted to help these U.S. soldiers,” he said. “I wanted to be a part of rebuilding the Iraqi police and the Iraqi Army. When I got the chance to become a linguist for the Bandits, I witnessed, learned and experienced many things.”

Ahmed recounted images filled with watching local streets in Iraq swarmed with Bradley Fighting Vehicles, tanks, convoys and barbed-wire fences. He said that even at a young age, he had a drive to bring change into his country. He added that although his own family was proud, and they respected his decision to help U.S. troops, he had to remain cautious, as the war-torn county remained in turmoil.

Loyality

Ahmed continued his work with the American soldiers, who believed in him enough to invite him into their inner circle of trust during his time with the 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT. They continued working together on missions and conducting local surveillances. During this time, he began to appreciate the strength and core values of the U.S. Army and its soldiers.

“I began to see the Army as a melting pot,” he said. “There was so much diversity and different nationalities, and yet they fought together, they served together and they mourned together. Although I was from a different culture, they trained me and respected my background and ethnicity. As my role as their translator increased, so did our brotherhood.”

Ahmed said the Bandits’ last ambush toward Fallujah was a memory that will always stay with him. It was an intense mission and not every soldier survived.

“You are never prepared to lose a comrade,” he said. “On that mission, I lost my best friend, Sgt. Scott Larson. It was hard to believe. These soldiers were the same age as me and we all bonded; we formed a team.”

When the Bandits’ deployment was extended and assigned to a different area of operation, the soldiers presented Ahmed with an American flag. Each of the soldiers signed the flag to solidify their loyalty and friendship. He recalled how proud and honored he felt to receive it.

“It meant so much to me to become a part of the team with these great soldiers,” he said. “I saw their discipline and integrity every day, and I was honored that they gave this U.S. flag to me.”

Courage

Ahmed continued his work with the American soldiers. In 2005, two years after his time with the Bandits, he decided to take the flag to his home in Baghdad; he wanted to hang it in his room. He protected the flag with two heavy-duty plastic bags and then hid it inside a gym bag. But, while traveling home, his bus driver received a call that there was an anti-American checkpoint ahead.

Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division with Staff Sgt. Ahmed pose after a ceremony held at the 1-37 motor pool Sept. 11, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Michael West)

Ahmed knew he could lose his life if he was caught with an American flag. In a panic, he decided to descend the bus and walk off the freeway. He continued walking until he got to a residential neighborhood. He then quickly buried the bag using and old-rusty tin can as a shovel.

Why I serve

Ahmed moved to the United States in 2008. Inspired by his time with the Bandits and seeing their dedication for upholding the Army values, he took the oath of enlistment to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and become a U.S. soldier. He now lives in California and serves as a staff sergeant in the Active Guard Reserve.

In 2016 Ahmed’s parents made a special trip from Iraq to visit him and celebrate his accomplishments. But before his parents departed the country, Ahmed called his father with one special request – locate the buried flag and bring it with him to the United States.

“Even though more than a decade had passed since I buried the flag in Iraq, I knew exactly where it was buried, and I instructed my father to please bring it to the U.S.,” said Ahmed. “When my father told me he had located the flag, a part of me was alive again.”

The proud father and husband said his dream came true when he arrived at Fort Bliss Sept. 11 carrying the framed flag and sharing its legacy with a new era of Bandits.

“The flag finally made it home,” said Ahmed. “I think of these soldiers every day when I put on my Army uniform and display the flag on my shoulder. Today, I did not see faces and ranks, but as I looked around, I saw the Old Ironsides patch and friendships that will last a lifetime. Larson did not live to see his flag again, but these soldiers did.”

For Cpl. James Klingel, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT, seeing and hearing Ahmed was inspirational.

“I was shocked that the flag was buried for so long, had traveled so far, and still looks amazing,” he said. “It showed us that it doesn’t matter how much time passes by. We still have the same Army traditions and the same Army values that should always be upheld, and deeply respected.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

How food can make or break Army Combat Fitness Test scores

In addition to physical exercise, proper nutrition plays a major role in overall health, fitness, and training for the Army Combat Fitness Test, says Maj. Brenda Bustillos, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command dietitian.

“It’s important for soldiers to recognize the impact proper nutrition has on them,” said Maj. Bustillos. “From how they get up and feel in the morning, how they recover from an exercise, how they utilize energy, and whether or not they have energy at the end of the day — proper nutrition is powerful, and stretches far beyond what we were taught as kids.”

Dietary decisions affect every soldier’s individual physical performance differently, too, she said, and has the power to impact careers “whether that be good or bad.”


Bustillos, a clinician who’s seen patients for the last 15 years of her career, believes the ground rules for healthy eating are only that — ground rules. “Every patient I’ve met with is different, and their needs are all different, too.”

Soldiers weave through an obstacle course.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Travis Zielinski)

“Nutrition and dietary patterns are not one size fits all,” she said. “A registered dietitian understands this, and understands the biomechanics of each individual, along with the unique metabolic concerns they may have.”

She added, “How someone eats can be what makes or breaks them during big events, such as the ACFT. That’s why it’s important for soldiers to take advantage of resources available to them, and meet with a dietitian about what works for them while training for the test.”

Army combat fitness test

The ACFT is a six-event, age- and gender-neutral, fitness assessment set to replace the Army’s current physical fitness test by October 2020. It’s the largest physical training overhaul in nearly four decades, and is currently in its second phase of implementation, with every soldier slated to take the test as a diagnostic at least once this year.

The test is designed to link soldiers’ physical fitness with their combat readiness. Each event is taken immediately following the next, and aims to be an endurance-based, cardio-intensive assessment of overall physical fitness.

“The ACFT will require soldiers to properly fuel their bodies to be fully ready to perform,” she said. “The six events require many different muscle movements, with both aerobic and anaerobic capacities, making the fueling piece of fitness incredibly important — as important as physically training.”

Nutrition has often been attributed as “fuel for the body,” she said. For example, proteins repair you, and give the body the building blocks it needs for everyday activities, carbohydrates give the body energy, vitamins strengthens the bones, minerals help regulate the body’s processes, and water is essential for being alive.

But, nutrition also plays a role “in terms of preparation and recovery,” she said. It doesn’t matter if someone is training for a marathon or the ACFT, how they eat, or what they drink makes a world of difference.

U.S. Army soldiers participate in a 2.35-mile run.

(U.S. Army photo by Senior Airman Rylan Albright)

For example, if a soldier wakes up early on an empty stomach when scheduled to take the ACFT, that soldier will lack the glucose needed for a good performance. This can make the short-term decisions as critical as the lifestyle choices made in the months prior to testing, she said.

“Consider an individual like an automobile,” Bustillos said. “If an automobile starts running out of gas, it will begin running on fumes, and then be completely empty. That’s how an individual [regardless of training leading up to the test] will perform, especially if they don’t properly fuel their body before an ACFT.”

Bustillos urges soldiers to always “train to fight,” meaning all their nutritional decisions, at all times, should holistically enhance their physical fitness, mental alertness, and overall health.

“If a soldier only eats right the night before, or morning of an ACFT — but not during the months of training leading up to it, they won’t do as well on the fitness test [regardless of physical activity],” she said.

The best course of action, according to Bustillos, is eating right “day in and day out” while training. “Muscles are hungry, and they need fuel, so if you implement a healthy dietary lifestyle while training, then your body performs much better while performing.”

Soldiers should consume a variety of healthy nutrients in their diet, she said. For example, carbohydrates, fats, dietary fiber, minerals, proteins, vitamins, and water should be taken in.

(U.S. Army photo by Jorge Gomez)

When a soldier doesn’t eat properly in both short- and long-term capacities, muscles will break down because the body is continually searching for the fuel it needs to perform, she said.

“The night before an ACFT, a soldier should take in some proteins and carbohydrates,” she said, adding that carbohydrates are the No. 1 source of fuel for the brain and body.

Examples include moderately-sized, protein and carbohydrate-rich meals, such as a grilled chicken breast and brown rice, followed by a light breakfast the next morning, ideally two hours prior to taking the ACFT, she said. However, the possibilities for what foods to eat are seemingly endless, as long as they fall in the food healthy groups.

“I understand not everyone wants to wake up two hours before a performance test just to eat,” she said. “So, a light snack in the morning is also good. It can be a performance bar, a whole-grain English muffin, a banana, or just half of a muffin with smear of peanut butter — something to not disrupt the stomach while providing a fuel source for the body.”

With the ACFT around the corner, or if you have questions on how nutrition can enhance your lifestyle based on body type, Bustillos recommends you seek answers from a registered dietitian nearby.

“It’s important to remember there’s no such thing as bad foods, just bad dietary patterns,” she said. “As long as we’re eating well, taking good care of our bodies, and putting good things in it — it’s okay to have the scoop of ice cream, or sharing a tub of buttered popcorn with friends at the movies, those are certainly things that make life more enjoyable.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Their first battle: Patton leads America’s first car attack

The man who would construct American armored units in France in World War I and lead combined arms units, with armor at the forefront, in World War II got his start leading cavalrymen and cars in Mexico. In fact, he probably led the first American motor-vehicle attack.


Pancho Villa, 5, Gen. John J. Pershing, 7, and Lt. George S. Patton Jr., 8, at a border conference in Texas in 1914.

(Public domain)

The boy who would be Gen. George S. Patton Jr. was born into wealth and privilege in California, but he was a rough-and-ready youth who wanted to be like his grandfather and great-uncle who had fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War.

He attended West Point, became an Army officer, designed a saber for enlisted cavalrymen, and pursued battlefield command. When Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing was sent to Mexico to capture raiders under Pancho Villa, Patton came along.

Patton was on staff, so his chances of frontline service were a bit limited in the short term. But he made his own opportunities. And in Mexico, he did so in May 1916.

U.S. Army soldiers on the Punitive Expedition in 1916.

(U.S. Department of Defense)

Patton led a foraging expedition of about a dozen men in three Dodge Touring Cars. Their job was just to buy food for the American soldiers, but one of the interpreters, himself a former bandit, recognized a man at one of the stops. Patton knew that a senior member of Villa’s gang was supposed to be hiding nearby, and so he began a search of nearby farms.

At San Miguelito, the men noticed someone running inside a home and Patton ordered six to cover the front of the house and sent two against the southern wall. Three riders tried to escape, and they rode right at Patton who shot two of their horses as the third attempted to flee. Several soldiers took shots at him and managed to knock him off his horse.

That third rider was Julio Gardenas, a senior leader of Pancho Villa’s gang. The first two riders were dead, and Gardenas was killed when he feigned surrender and then reached for his pistol. Patton ordered a withdrawal when the Americans spotted a large group of riders headed to the farm. They strapped the bodies to the hoods of the cars and went back to camp.

An Associated Press report from the 1916 engagement. Historians are fairly certain that this initial report got the date and total number of U.S. participants wrong, believing the engagement actually took place on May 14 and involved 10 Americans.

(Newspapers.com, public domain)

It was a small, short engagement, but it boded well for the young cavalry officer. He had made a name for himself with Pershing, America’s greatest military mind at the time. He had also gotten into newspapers across the U.S. He was his typical, brash self when he wrote to his wife about the incident:

You are probably wondering if my conscience hurts me for killing a man [at home in front of his family]. It does not.

Patton’s bold leadership in Mexico set the stage for even greater responsibility a few short years later.

Lt. col. George S. Patton Jr., standing in front of a French Renault tank in the summer of 1918, just two years after he led a motor-vehicle charge in Mexico against bandits.

(U.S. Army Signal Corps)

When America joined World War I, Pershing was placed in command of the American Expeditionary Force.

Patton, interested in France and Britain’s new tanks, wrote a letter to Pershing asking to have his name considered for a slot if America stood up its own tank corps. He pointed out that he had cavalry experience, experience leading machine gunners, and, you know, was the only American officer known to have led a motorized car attack.

Pershing agreed, and on Nov. 10, 1917, Patton became the first American soldier assigned to tank warfare. He stood up the light tank school for the AEF and eventually led America’s first tank units into combat.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why sailors have 13 buttons on their trousers

An old sailor’s tale is that the buttons represent the 13 original colonies.

In the early 1800s, the iconic trouser’s front flap (crotch area) or “broadfall” had 15 buttons before it was modified 90-years later to have just seven, allowing the manufacturer to reduce the amount of material.


At least, that’s what Navy recruits tell each other during basic training — but that wasn’t the real intention.

In the early 1800s, the iconic trouser’s front flap (crotch area) or “broadfall” had 15 buttons before it was modified 90-years later to have just seven, allowing the manufacturer to reduce the amount of material.

Reportedly years later, the broadfall was enlarged for various reasons including that many sailors didn’t have enough room down there, so the Navy listened and added the extra material and six buttons.

Pro tip: Many sailors have their trousers tailored to remove all the buttons and replace them with Velcro strips to grant easier access to the goods. They then resew the buttons to the outside flap, with uniform inspectors being none-the-wiser.

MIGHTY GAMING

6 games to get you prepared for the Space Force

The Space Force is all but certain now and countless veterans want to “re-up” just so they could go into space. Shy of the 536 people who have completed a sub-orbital flight, no one really knows what it’s like. That’s where pop culture and video games come in.

Okay. At the current time, we probably won’t be encountering any alien lifeforms in our lifetime. Chances are highly likely that just because you joined the Space Force doesn’t mean that you’ll go into space. I can almost say for certain that most of the Space Force would just be sitting at a desk and watching satellites in orbit.

These games offer some of the more realistic looks at a potential Space Force — even if it’s just because the aspects of the game are so great.


The aliens you bring into your crew are basically contractors anyways.

(Bioware)

Mass Effect

The most critically-acclaimed game on this list has got to be Mass Effect and the original trilogy. Mass Effect is a sci-fi shooter RPG where the player explores the Milky Way Galaxy as the first human Spectre (essentially Special Ops of the galactic council.)

Aside from all space monster fighting and sleeping around with blue-skinned aliens, the game does give a good look at how the military would be structured in space. The humans made their presence known on a galactic scale and it mirrors how the modern Navy operates today.

It could also simulate the stakes involved since you’ll lose months of game play if your ship is destroyed.

(CCP Games)

EVE Online

There’s only been one MMO to stand against WoW’s domination of the genre and that’s the space-based EVE Online. Its focus is much more on the player interactions than a spoon-fed experience from the game developers. If players want to organize a massive 7,548 player battle that took 21 hours to play and an estimated real-world value of 0,000, they can.

The take away that potential Space cadets could learn is how troops would interact in the vast nothingness of space.

If you thought sweeping the dirt in Iraq was bad, just wait until you’re in space!

(Keen Software House)

Space Engineers

Onto the more grounded games on this list. Space Engineers is a sandbox simulator set in space. Think Roller Coaster Tycoon with astronauts. The focus of the game is to set up mines and science labs on asteroids and distant planets. To its credit, it takes in a lot of physical limitations into account.

This game is a fantastic look at what Space Force troops would be doing until it’s time to fight on the moon.

God speed, you magnificent bastard.

(Squad Games)

Kerbal Space Program

Kerbal is a deceptively deep game. You just create rockets and launch them into space. It seems goofy at first until you realize they got the physics of getting into space down so accurately that it’s grabbed the interest of NASA and SpaceX.

For the 90% of the Space Force troops who are stuck on this boring blue marble, this game will probably be true to your inevitable supporting role for actual astronauts.

Real pilots practice on simulators. You could too!

(Martin Schweiger)

Orbiter

If flight simulators are more of your thing, the Orbiter is for you. You pilot real-life space shuttles in a completely true-to-life simulator. About the only real effect not taken into account in this game is time dilation because, you know, it’s just a game and you’re still on Earth.

This simulator was created at the University College London for astrophysicists. It could also be used and played by the general public for free. To download the game, click this link here.

I mean, if you played this game on the Atari, get ready to play this in real life.

(Atari Inc.)

Missile Command

Let’s be real though. Everyone is losing their minds about the potential to go into space and to live out all of their childhood dreams. But the purpose of the United States Space Force is to protect America and her interests in space. The most realistic threat that the Space Force would face is an ICBM from enemy nations.

Shooting down missiles is about the most exciting thing Space Force troops will deal with.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 types of people you should avoid at your first civilian job

Your crusty ol’ Sergeant Major was partially right when he said that you’ll have a hard time out in the civilian world. Sure, it’s amazing to forget what 0500 is after setting your alarm clock to “8 am” and the overtime pay is nice, but everything would be a lot better if you didn’t have to deal with so many civilians.

Not all of them are bad, though. There are plenty of civilians who could have fit right into any squad if their career had taken a different turn, but there are plenty others that will always irk veterans.

If they were troops, you could yell at them until you’re blue in the face or make them do push-ups until you get tired, but, sadly, that kind of behavior only nets you weird looks. So, we think it’s best just to avoid interacting with the following low-lives.


If only civilians wet themselves at the sight of a knife-hand. Then things would get moving again.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ken Scar)

The slackers

The biggest hurdle you’ll face is the utter lack of f*cks given about professionalism and the need to get things done right the first time. Your “until mission complete” mentality is entirely at odds with the folks who get paid by the hour regardless.

In some civilian jobs, there isn’t any real incentive to go that extra mile. Those who slack off still get paid on time. If you try to cover for their laziness, you’ll end up doing double work for none of the extra pay. It’s a trap.

The “relax, it was just a joke” doesn’t seem to fly with civilian bosses.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

The jokers that can’t take a joke

Troops and veterans have a wicked sense of humor. In one moment, we’re prim and proper — professional enough to show off to your grandmother. In the next, we open our mouths and tell rotten jokes that’d make grandma blush.

That’s entirely how we show our love for one another — by belittling every bit of someone and expecting them to do the same in return. But civilians can’t throw shade like veterans can. You make a tiny, seemingly innocent remark, like how their hairline is so jacked up that they should just cut their loses and shave it bald and suddenly, you find yourself dealing with HR.

“Oh, you went on a camping trip and didn’t have electricity for a night? That’s cute.”

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erin Piazza)

The one-uppers

Being in the military, you know exactly where you stack up against another person professionally. Your rank is right there on your chest, collar, or sleeve. If it’s the same, you go to time in grade or service. If those are similar, you move to your medals, awards, and so on. Respect is earned and rewarded accordingly.

Most people in the civilian world are so caught up with trying to make themselves look better that they’ll confuse what they’ve done with where they stand comparatively. The fact that some dude’s dad just bought a new yacht doesn’t mean jack sh*t if you’re both sitting in same-sized cubicles. Nothing outside of work should matter during work but, apparently, the one-upper thinks it does.

Back in the day, you’d learn real quick why that’s a dumb idea. Ask anyone who’s ever been the reason for a 4-day weekend recall formation.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson)

The glory seeker

“One team, one fight” is the mantra of the military. If one person fails, everyone fails. If one person succeeds, everyone succeeds. We’re all in the same foxhole, wearing the same shade of green, fighting for the same flag. Being a team player isn’t something that comes naturally for some folks.

The drive for personal success outweighs the need to get things done for these guys. They’ll beg, borrow, steal, or lie to anyone if it means they can get that raise and they’ll never look down to see every shoulder they’re standing on. To make things worse, they’re also the same type that believes that the world revolves around them and they’re owed the right to do whatever misdeeds they commit onto others.

Just smile, nod, and mess with them.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Pfc. Heather Atherton)

The armchair political commentator

Troops come from all backgrounds and make up a fairly balanced slice of the American population. Personal identity, race, religion, sex, orientation, political affiliation, and whatever else — none of that matters while you’re on duty and trying to complete the mission. Those kind of talks are best kept for when you’re out of uniform and can realistically not have duty on your mind.

Yet, in the minds of these civilians, veterans are often seen as some sort of subject matter expert for all things military. I couldn’t tell you what the other company in my battalion was doing while I was still in the Army and yet people will press you on whether it was a just idea to implement sanctions on wherever.

These are probably the same guys to say to you because you’re a vet “I would have joined, but…”

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Bryan Nygaard)

The “excuses, excuses, excuses” guy

If you mess up in the military, you take it on the chin like an adult and you drive on. You’re late? Own up to your mistake or be honest about why you’re late. You may get reprimanded, but no one really cares after that. Just get back to the mission.

There is no magical excuse that will immediately absolve anyone of any of their shortcomings — but goddamn will these as*holes try to find it. Problem with me? It was the other guy. Problem with my performance? Must have been a computer problem. You get the point. These types will always let you down and never seek to improve themselves because they’ll honestly believe their own BS.


This article is heavily inspired by the work of Brittany Wong at the Huffington Post with their article, 6 types of toxic people you should never befriend at work. Check it out, it’s a fantastic read.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Remembering Elvis Presley’s service on his 85th birthday

As young America faces a draft panic, let us consider the example of Elvis Presley. At the height of his run as the King of Rock and Roll, the world’s biggest pop star received his induction notice from Uncle Sam and did a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, beginning in 1958.

Not only did he leave millions of dollars on the table during his two-year stint, he turned down sweet offers from both the Army and the Navy that would’ve allowed him to serve as an entertainer instead of a grunt.


If Elvis hadn’t embraced a fried-food-and-pharmaceuticals diet in the ’70s, he might have lived long enough to celebrate his 85th birthday on Jan. 8, 2020. Instead, he died on the toilet on Aug. 16, 1977, at the age of 42. It’s true, Elvis fans: The King has now been gone longer than he was with us here on Earth.

King Creole – Trailer

www.youtube.com

Elvis asked for (and got) an extension so he could make “King Creole” before induction. Since this is arguably Presley’s best movie, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the Memphis Draft Board for allowing him to finish it before reporting to boot camp at Fort Hood, Texas.

Presley was assigned to the 3rd Armored Division at Freidberg, Germany. Over the next 16 months, he was allowed to live off base with his recently widowed father but otherwise enjoyed a standard-issue service. He was promoted to sergeant in January 1960.

While in Germany, Elvis picked up three habits that would define the rest of his life and career: pills, Priscilla and karate. Pvt. Presley first took amphetamines while on maneuvers and was a fervent evangelist on the subject for the rest of his life. Fourteen-year-old milkid Priscilla Beaulieu turned out to be the love of his life. He later moved her family to Memphis and eventually married the girl he called “Satnin” when she turned 21. While the King never mastered the martial art, he continued to study it, and his future live shows were peppered with random karate kicks onstage.

Presley was discharged in March 1960 and returned to show biz with the movie “G.I. Blues.” Fans were excited to see Elvis in uniform on-screen but, unfortunately, the movie set the tone for the turkeys that were to dominate the rest of his movie career.

G.I. Blues – Trailer

www.youtube.com

Elvis did occasionally manage to get his mojo back after military service. Check out the ’68 Comeback TV special or the records he made in Memphis in 1969 with producer Chips Moman.

Most of today’s biggest pop stars already have too much ink to be eligible to serve, but the ghost of Elvis will be eager to see which teen idols step up to serve if things escalate this week in the Middle East.

Happy birthday to the King.

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