June 6, 1944, will forever be remembered as D-Day. On this day, the Allies orchestrated a massive, complex assault on German fortifications, establishing a foothold on the Nazi-held European mainland. The invasion of Normandy required coordination between units in the air, on the land, and from the sea. Paratroopers dropped into place, troops stormed the beaches, and even George S. Patton was used as a decoy.
But one unassuming piece of technology was a crucial component to Allied victory: a small boat.
Officially, the Navy called it the Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel, but everyone knew it as the Higgins boat, named after its designer, Andrew Jackson Higgins. This small craft (it displaced just nine tons total) had a top speed of 12 knots in calm waters. That doesn’t sound like much when compared to today’s Landing Craft Air Cushion that carry 36 Marines at a blazing 40 knots, but it was was the Allies needed to fight and win this decisive battle.
A Marine officer observed Japan using Daihatsu-class barges in China and wrote a report.
The Higgins boat wasn’t an American original. Believe it or not, the inspiration came from Japan’s Daihatsu-class barges, 21-ton vessels with bow ramps, which were used in the 1937 Sino-Japanese War. Marine lieutenant Victor Krulak had observed the vehicles in action, photographed them from afar, and sent his observation to his superiors.
After his report was dismissed and filed away by Navy bureaucrats, Krulak made a model of the boat and went to directly to Higgins, asking him if he could create a version for American use. Higgins proceeded to design what would become the LCVP using his own money — he even constructed three prototypes.
German troops who saw hundreds of LCVPs closing in on the Normandy beaches or ferrying troops across the Rhine – as this LCVP is doing – had no idea the idea came from observing Japanese barges in China.
With the start of World War II, the Allies needed a landing craft. Higgins was ready to produce. The LCVP allowed the use of just about any open beach as a landing point. It was first used in Operation Torch, months after the failed raid on Dieppe.
If Nazi Germany ever wondered who was to blame for the Allies getting their hands on such a boat, perfect for amphibious assaults, they’d never think to look toward their own ally, Japan.
Legendary retired Army Lt. Gen. Harold “Hal” Moore of “We Were Soldiers” fame died Feb. 10. The commander of 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment at the Battle of Ia Drang was days short of his 95th birthday.
According to a report by the Opelika-Auburn Tribune, Lt. Gen. Moore had suffered a stroke on the evening of Feb. 9 and was “hanging tough,” according to a family member.
Moore gained immortality from the book, “We Were Soldiers Once, and Young,” co-written with reporter Joe Galloway, about the battle of the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam. The book was used as the basis for the 2002 film “We Were Soldiers,” in which Academy Award-winning actor Mel Gibson portrayed Moore.
Moore served 32 years in the Army after graduating from West Point, and his decorations included the Distinguished Service Cross and four Bronze Stars.
According to an official after-action report, the three-day battle left 79 Americans killed in action, and another 121 wounded. None were left behind or missing after the battle. American forces killed 634 enemy troops, and wounded at least 1,200.
While preparing to film the epic movie — which made over $78 million at the United States box office, according to Box Office Mojo — Gibson would develop a deep friendship with Moore. This past summer, while headlines noted that Gibson and Vince Vaughn had eaten at Hamilton’s, an Auburn-area restaurant, what hadn’t been known then was that Moore’s family had recommended the eatery to the A-list superstars.
Below, here are some of the more iconic moments from “We Were Soldiers,” starring Mel Gibson as Hal Moore.
The E-6 Mercury is arguably the deadliest aircraft in the arsenal of the United States Navy. Its lethality is extreme, even though it doesn’t carry any weapons. Sounds odd? Well, when you look at what the E-6 does, then seeing it as the Navy’s deadliest plane isn’t a stretch.
According to a Navy fact sheet, the E-6 is a “communications relay and strategic airborne command post aircraft” that is tasked with providing “survivable, reliable, and endurable airborne command, control, and communications between the National Command Authority (NCA) and U.S. strategic and non-strategic forces.” The nickname they have is TACAMO – or TAke Charge And Move Out.
When the plane first entered service in 1989 as the E-6A, it was designed solely for the communications replay role. This meant it passed on messages from the President and Secretary of Defense to the force of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. The 14 Ohio-class submarines can each carry 24 UGM-133 Trident II missiles – and each of those have the ability to carry up to 14 warheads, either a 100-kiloton W76 or a 475-kiloton W88.
That said, in the 1990s, the DOD was dealing with a cold, hard fact: Their force of EC-135C Looking Glass airborne command posts were getting old. However, with the fall of the Soviet Union and the “peace dividend,” new airframes were out of the question.
The E-6As soon were upgraded to add the “Looking Glass” mission to their TACAMO role, and were re-designated as E-6Bs. This now made them capable of running America’s strategic nuclear deterrence in the event of Doomsday. The Navy has two squadrons with this plane VQ-3 and VQ-4, both of which are based at Tinker Air Force Base.
So that is why the E-6B Mercury, a plane with no weapons of its own, and which may never leave American airspace, is the deadliest plane in the Navy’s arsenal.
The Chrysler TV-8 was an ugly duckling that would’ve waddled its way across Cold War battlefields slaying everything in its path until it was killed or ran out of ammo. It was equipped with a nuclear-powered engine that could propel it from Paris to Moscow and back with enough fuel to stop in Odessa, Ukraine, along the way.
So, first, to address the fact that the TV-8 is the ugly elephant in the room. Yes, we know that even Bethesda would look at this design in a Fallout 76 pitch session and be like, “No, not ready for primetime. That’s ridiculous.” But Chrysler wasn’t trying to create and field the world’s most threatening tank in appearance. The company wanted to create one of the most threatening tanks in practice.
That means that every pound of fuel a nuclear tank carried would provide 108,000 times as much energy as a pound of diesel fuel. A similar design, the R32, was expected to have a 4,000-mile range.
So, yeah, the prototype TV-8 had an extreme range just thanks to the fuel it carried. That greatly limited its logistics needs. Sure, it needed ammo delivered along with water and food for the crew, but that’s it. No fuel trucks. No need for Patton to argue with Bradley about who got first dibs on petrol and diesel.
Chrysler wanted its prototype to survive nuclear bombs, so they packed everything in the teardrop-shaped, bulbous turret. The entire crew, the 90mm gun and its ammunition, and even the engine were up in the massive turret. The engine delivered electrical power to motors in the lightweight chassis underneath, that then propelled the 28-inch-wide tracks.
All of this equipment weighed only a total of 25 tons. For comparison, the M4 Sherman, a medium tank, weighed up to 42 tons, depending on the variant.
But the prototype had some serious drawbacks. First, it was actually powered by gasoline. It would get a nuclear vapor-cycle power plant if the design moved forward. But, more importantly, it was top heavy and provided little tactical improvement over conventional tanks. After all, most tanks aren’t lost in combat because of range problems. They’re killed by other tanks.
Of course, there’s also another serious and obvious drawback to nuclear-powered tanks: The loss of one in combat could easily irradiate the battlefield that the U.S. hoped to hold after the battle. Nuclear ships sunk at sea are surprisingly well contained by the water. Nuclear reactors destroyed on the surface of the earth would have no such protection, threatening recovery and maintenance crews.
So, any battle where a TV-8 was lost would create a large hazard zone for the victorious troops, but the TV-8 didn’t feature many improvements that would make it less likely to be killed in battle. It did feature a closed-circuit television to protect the crew from a nuclear flash, but that did nothing for anti-tank rounds, missiles, and RPGs.
Bob Hope’s support for our military was so prolific and enduring that he is one of only two civilians who have received honorary veteran status.
In 1997, Congress passed a measure to make Hope an honorary veteran of the U.S. military in recognition of his continued support for the troops. At the time, Hope was the only civilian to be recognized in such a way (he now shares the honor with philanthropist Zachary Fisher who, in 1999, would become the second honorary veteran).
He has so many accolades to his name that it’s nearly impossible to track, but these are some of our favorites:
1. He entertained the troops from 1941-1991
On May 6, 1941, he performed his first USO Show at March Field in Riverside, California, which was a radio show for the airmen stationed there. He went on to headline for the USO 57 times during more than 50 years of appearances, providing entertainment for the troops from World War II through the Persian Gulf War.
Letter from prisoner of war, Frederic Flom, written on back of wrapper, Feb. 24, 1973.
(Bob Hope Collection, Library of Congress)
2. He advocated for the release of POWs during the Vietnam War
During his 1971 Christmas tour, Hope met with a North Vietnamese official in Laos to try to secure the release of American POWs. When F-105 pilot Frederic Flom heard about this, it lifted his spirits and prompted him to write Mr. Hope a letter of thanks.
On his last day in office, President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded Bob Hope the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
The Bob Hope Veterans Support Program was launched in 2014 with a generous seed grant from The Bob Hope Legacy
3. His legacy continues to improve the lives of America’s military community
The Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program provides one-on-one employment services, as well as referrals to other resources, to meet the unique needs of military personnel and veterans transitioning out of the military into a civilian job, starting their own small business or pursuing higher education.
Since launching in 2014, the program has served nearly 1,100 veterans and families with employment support and referrals to other resources, placing more than 600 into civilian positions and 83 pursuing education degrees. Free to veterans, who do not need to have a disability to participate, the program was launched with a generous seed grant from The Bob Hope Legacy, a division of The Bob Dolores Hope Foundation, which supports organizations that bring HOPE to those in need and those who served to protect our nation consistent with the legacy of Bob Hope.
To date, The Bob Hope Legacy has donated more than million dollars in support of Easterseals’ military and veteran services.
During a week-long campaign in observation of Memorial Day this year (May 23-29), Albertsons, Vons, and Pavilions shoppers throughout Southern California can make donations in support of the program via the pin pad at registers, with 100 percent of the donations going directly to Easterseals Southern California’s Bob Hope Veterans Support Program.
US Marines from the 4th Tank Battalion withdrew tanks and weapons from caves in Norway early May, 2018, taking them east to Finland, where, for the first time, they took part in the annual mechanized exercise called Arrow 18.
The drills took place from May 7 to May 18, 2018, in southern Finland, which shares a long border with Russia and has a history of conflict with its larger neighbor. It involved about 150 armored vehicles and 300 other military vehicles. Only 30 Marines took part, but they were joined by thousands of personnel from Norway and Finland.
The live-fire event is led by the Finns, who perform the exercise with partner forces to test the fitness of their military, which is largely made up of conscripts.
“The Finnish Army’s mechanized exercise concentrates on mechanised units’ offensive and involves Army helicopter measures as well as Air Force flight activities,” the Finnish army said. “The exercise also aims at enhancing interoperability in cooperation with foreign detachments.”
Marines joined the multinational exercise for the first time “in order to increase interoperability, reassure partner nations, improve readiness and reinforce relationships,” a Corps spokesman told Marine Corps Times.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)
The Marine Corps began storing vehicles, weapons, and other supplies in caves in Norway during the Cold War in an effort to pre-position equipment in case of conflict. The gear is housed in a chain of six caves in the Trondheim region of central Norway; the exact location is not known.
Three caves have everything from rolling stock to towed artillery. The other three hold ammunition, officials told Military.com in 2017. There is enough gear and food to stock a force of 4,600 Marines for several weeks of combat with everything except aircraft and desktop computers.
“All of our major equipment was drawn from the caves in Norway,” Capt. Matthew Anderson, a tank commander who participated in the exercise, told Stars and Stripes. “This exercise would not have happened without the caves. The equipment, forward-staged, allows us to conduct these exercises. Without it, it’s a whole lot less likely that we would have been as successful as we were.”
Below, you can see what Marines faced during their first time in Finland.
Tensions between Russia and other countries in Europe have been elevated since early 2014, when Russia intervened in Ukraine and annexed Crimea.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)
In the years since, NATO has reassessed its security posture in Europe, deploying more forces to eastern Europe and seeking to streamline operations.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)
The initiative, designated Operation Atlantic Resolve, has seen multinational forces stationed in rotations in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. The US has also sought to rebuild its armored presence on the continent after withdrawing the last of its tanks in 2013.
The US Army’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, from the 1st Cavalry Division, known as the Ironhorse Brigade, recently arrived in Antwerp, Belgium, using the trip from the port to its base in Germany as a chance to practice the overland movements that a military mobilization would require.
Niether Finland nor Sweden are NATO members, but both countries have worked more closely with each other and the defense alliance to develop military capabilities and maintain readiness.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)
Helsinki said in early 2017 that it would increase troop numbers by 20% and add to its defense budget in response to rising tensions with Russia.
Russia singled out those moves closer to NATO by Finland and Sweden as a matter of “special concern.” Russia has also criticized neighboring Norway for allowing a US Marine rotational force to be stationed in the country — the first time a foreign force has been posted on Norwegian soil since World War II.
The Marines deployed to Finland with M1A1 tanks for the exercise, where they were joined by soldiers from the Army’s 2nd Cavalry Regiment using Stryker armored vehicles. US personnel and a Finnish mechanized infantry brigade took part in a mock battle in woods and marshland in the western part of the country.
The exercise saw Marines working with Finnish soldiers to attack the enemy, a role filled by other Finnish troops. “We would punch holes through the enemy lines and the conscripts would come in and give us support,” Anderson, the tank commander, told Stars and Stripes.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)
Finnish army cooks also supplied troops in the field with hot meals every day, sparing soldiers and Marines from having to eat Meals, Ready to Eat. “It doesn’t get any better than that,” Anderson said.
The territory presented a new challenge for the Marines.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)
“We’re used to operating in open terrain,” Anderson told Stars and Stripes. “This is very different. It is very forested, and we’ve had to adjust to the way Finnish tankers fight, more closely together.”
One of Finland’s Leopard 2 tanks got stuck in a swamp during the training, giving Marines a chance to show off. “That was a lot of fun for my crew,” Sgt. Jonathan Hess, a recovery-vehicle mechanic, told Stars and Strips. “We showed the conscripts how to do recovering with our vehicle, because they have nothing like what we have.”
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The phone call Tom Mattis got from Jim Mattis on Dec. 23, 2018 wasn’t a pleasant one, but he said his younger brother was “unruffled” by President Donald Trump’s decision to force him out early, the elder Mattis told The Seattle Times.
“He was very calm about the whole thing. Very matter of fact. No anger,” Tom Mattis told The Seattle Times. “As I have said many times in other circumstances, Jim knows who he is … many more Americans (now) know his character.”
Jim Mattis announced his resignation as defense secretary on Dec. 20, 2018, reportedly prompted in large part by Trump’s decision to withdraw the roughly 2,000 US troops deployed to Syria.
Mattis went to the White House that day in an effort to get Trump to keep US forces in the war-torn country. Mattis “was rebuffed, and told the president that he was resigning as a result,” The New York Times said at the time.
Trump initially reacted to Mattis’ resignation gracefully, tweeting that the defense chief and retired Marine general would be “retiring, with distinction, at the end of February,” echoing Mattis’ resignation letter.
But Trump reportedly bridled at coverage of Mattis and his letter, which was widely interpreted as a rebuke of Trump and of the president’s worldview.
On Dece. 23, 2018, Trump abruptly announced that Mattis would leave office two months early, sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to tell Mattis of the change. Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will take over the top civilian job at the Pentagon in an acting capacity.
Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.
Trump’s sudden move to push Mattis out was reportedly a retaliatory measure, but Mattis evinced no ire over it when he told his older brother on Dec. 23, 2018.
The Mattises are natives of Richland, Washington. Tom, who was also a Marine, still lives there, as does their 96-year-old mother, Lucille.
Tom said his brother was faithful to the Constitution and would always speak truth to power “regardless of the consequences.”
“No one should assume that his service to his country will end. And the manner of his departure is yet another service to the nation. It is the very definition of patriotism and integrity,” Tom Mattis added.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
Jim Mattis — who checks in with their mother almost daily, Tom Mattis said — had no plans to return home from Christmas, according to the elder Mattis, hoping instead to visit troops in the Middle East.
But Trump’s announcement appeared to forestall that trip.
On Dec. 19, 2018, a day before his resignation, Mattis released a holiday message to US service members, telling them “thanks for keeping the faith.”
On Dec. 24, 2018, Mattis signed an order withdrawing US troops from Syria, the Defense Department said, though a timeline and specific details are still being worked on. On Christmas Day, Mattis was reportedly in his office at the Pentagon.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Air Force Maj. Charles J. Loring Jr. was a veteran of World War II, former prisoner of war, and an accomplished fighter and bomber pilot when he took off on a mission over Korea on Nov. 22, 1952. When North Korean batteries scored hits on his plane that would normally force the pilot to abort the mission, Loring turned his dive bomber into a kamikaze plane instead.
Loring received his commission in the Army Air Forces in late 1942 and flew combat missions over Europe, notching up 55 combat missions and earning the Distinguished Flying Cross before he was shot down on Christmas Eve 1944 over Belgium and made a prisoner of war.
When Chinese and North Korean forces concentrated their artillery—including their anti-aircraft artillery—in two locations, Loring was called up to lead a bombing mission against them. Loring’s target featured 133 large guns and 24 rocket launchers for use against ground troops and 47 anti-aircraft weapons to keep men like Loring at bay.
Loring, newly promoted to major, was in the cockpit of an F-80 with three other jets on November 22 when he initiated the dive-bombing run against the Chinese positions.
But it all went to hell from there. The Chinese troops manning the guns were accurate, and they scored some hits when Loring lined up to dive on them. According to after-action reports and his medal citation, Loring had plenty of time to abort the drop, but he didn’t:
Major Loring aggressively continued to press the attack until his aircraft was hit. At approximately 4,000 feet, he deliberately altered his course and aimed his diving aircraft at active gun emplacements concentrated on a ridge northwest of the briefed target, turned his aircraft 45 degrees to the left, pulled up in a deliberate, controlled maneuver, and elected to sacrifice his life by diving his aircraft directly into the midst of the enemy emplacements.
Yeah, Loring turned his already stricken plane into the guns, hitting a cluster of them and burying them in the metal and burning fuel of his F-80. Of course, he lost his own life in the maneuver.
The U.S. Air Force nominated him for the Medal of Honor which he later received posthumously. He was one of only four airmen to receive the honor. When President Dwight D. Eisenhower awarded the medal to Loring’s wife, he also announced that a new Air Force base in Maine would be named in his honor.
The Iranian Navy will send warships to the Atlantic Ocean, a top commander said.
Iran is looking to increase the operating range of its naval forces in the Atlantic, close to the waters of the United States, its arch enemy.
Tehran sees the presence of U.S. aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf, along Iran’s coast, as a security concern and its navy has looked to counter that by showing its naval presence near U.S. waters.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).
(U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Kenneth Abbate)
“The Atlantic Ocean is far and the operation of the Iranian naval flotilla might take five months,” the official IRNA news agency quoted Rear-Admiral Touraj Hassani, Iran’s naval deputy commander, as saying.
Hassani said the move was intended to “thwart Iranophobia plots” and “secure shipping routes.”
He said Sahand, a newly-built destroyer, would be one of the warships deployed.
Sahand has a flight deck for helicopters and Iran says it is equipped with antiaircraft and anti-ship guns, surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles, and also has electronic warfare capabilities.
The vessels are expected to dock in a friendly South American country such as Venezuela, Iran’s Fars news agency reported.
Hassani said in December 2018 that Iran would soon send two to three vessels on a mission to Venezuela, an ally.
Iran’s navy has extended its reach in recent years, launching vessels in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden to protect Iranian ships from Somali pirates.
Once fully upgraded to the Archangel configuration, the planes are pretty awesome. A two-person crew can keep the plane in the air for 10.5 hours and can carry intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance pods or weapons on each of seven external hardpoints.
The Archangel can carry 12 Hellfire missiles, 10 GBU-58 Mk-81 bombs, six GBU-12 Mk-82 bombs, 48 laser-guided rockets, 12 UMTAS laser-guided missiles, or a mix of the above.
Basically, it can put a lot of hurt on a lot of people before the crew comes down for a quick lunch break.
And because of the Archangel’s crop duster roots, the plane can be landed and parked nearly anywhere, even grassy fields.
The company even offers upgraded armor for the cockpit and engine compartment, self-sealing fuel tanks, and an electronic warfare system for the plane.
Of course, the U.S. military isn’t looking for a low-end strike or close-air support platform, but some of its allies are. America has bought a few combat Cessnas to bolster allied air forces against ground threats, but the Cessnas can only carry two Hellfires, a far cry from the Archangel’s dozen.
The Coast Guard’s USS Glendale served in the Pacific in World War II, and it was commanded by a reservist who earned the Bronze Star for his actions during a Japanese sneak attack on Dec. 5, 1944.
Coast Guard Reserve Lt. Cmdr. Harold J. Doebler was commanding the Glendale in a convoy of 35 Army, Navy, and merchant ships on their way to Leyte Gulf the Phillippines. The Glendale was assigned to anti-submarine and anti-air operations for the convoy.
On Dec. 5, friendly flights of C-47s began passing over the convoy. At first, this wasn’t of great concern, but Japanese pilots saw the situation and decided to exploit it. They flew their planes into the C-47 formations until they were close to the convoy, and then swooped down to attack the ships.
Doebler maneuvered the Glendale and other ships of the convoy to form a screen that attempted to pick off the Japanese attackers before they could reach the rest of the convoy. But the problems of target identification continued as gunners had to be confident that they weren’t firing at friendly planes before they pulled the trigger.
In the late afternoon, just after the Marcus Daly was hit, the convoy was joined by four new destroyers. With this greater firepower, the convoy was able to drive off the rest of the Japanese attacks and the rest of the ships were able to continue safely.
The Antone Saugrain later sank from the damage inflicted by the torpedo bombers, but the safe zone established by the destroyer and frigate screen allowed other vessels to rescue 413 crewmembers safely before the ship went down. The Marcus Daly was able to continue with the convoy despite severe damage and the loss of 72 of its crew.
There have been plenty of stories where people get stranded in the middle of nowhere and go to insane lengths to survive. Since the majority of the population doesn’t prepare for getting get stuck out in the elements, they typically don’t find themselves with extensive survival kits.
If you find yourself marooned in an area that doesn’t get good cell-phone service and you’re unable to contact a lifeline, things can start getting a little stressful. Luckily, most people can find the right material in their surroundings to at least start a fire, but may not know how to go about creating the one.
Well, we’re to teach you how to create the spark you’ll need without burning through tons of energy to achieve that warm fire. Introducing the bow-drill.
First, you need to gather a few things.
A small piece of flat wood that can fit inside the palm of your hand (the socket), a longer but thin piece of wood (the fire board), a wooden peg (spindle), a curved piece of wood, and a cord make up the bow-drill.
Fasten the ends of the cord to the tips of the curved piece of wood, then single-wrap the cord around the spindle. Place the tip of the spindle onto the fire board and start moving the bow-drill in a sawing motion while continuing to secure the spindle in your hand with the socket.
Note: all these materials need to be as dry as possible.
After easily rotating the spindle with the bow-drill, the wooden peg will create a noticeable notch in the fire board. Shortly after, friction will cause smoke to build. Once the smoke starts to billow, add some very dry tinder into the mix as well as plenty of oxygen. Once the tinder ignites, lightly blow on the flame and feed it with the additional dry brush.
Quickly feed the fire with more dry wood and secure the burning area with rocks to prepared unwanted spreading. The fire can also be seen from far away, so that will only aid in your rescue.
For most of us, we leave the military wanting desperately to escape. At some point, the majesty and nobility and glamour runs out. The pride has been spent sometime between the incompetent staff-non commissioned officer who yelled at you that last time for something stupid, or CIF giving you a hard time because there is dust on your gear, or S-1 messed up your leave, or you have just done the math and you have only woken up next to your wife 22 of the last 48 months and even more time waking up within arms reach of a rifle. For me, my last year was horrible. I had everything in that year, with some of the worst of it in the last three months.
When it was all over, Jennie and I packed up the truck and left California heading for Oklahoma. Among a sundry of other problems I had lost all love for the military and was now ready to greet the civilian life with open, while completely disenfranchised, arms.
A few months go by and then we try and start our new lives. You get a little fat and you try not to yell at random strangers for wearing flip-flops at the store or walking while holding their phones and then you realize, “Wait… they can do that. I can do that too!” So you just spend a while going full on hippy. You let it all go. Grow your hair, beard and just slum it like the civies for a while. Of course at some point, that wears off too, and you feel disgusted with yourself and find some medium that you are happy with. For me, I don’t work out that much, but I still always keep my high reg haircut.
After this is either college or work. For me, it was college. I would like to share this with you so that you can kind of grasp how we feel.
You have to understand. You are four years older than almost anyone around you. That doesn’t mean much when you’re 30 and they are 26, but it means a lot when you are 22 and they are 18. It especially means a lot to you when have been a Sergeant in charge of a mid sized team of military professionals in combat operations and that other person is just a high school graduate with a newly found sense of unqualified empowerment because he is now an “adult”, which he probably only discovered because his parents told him to get a job and move out of the house. You now question the meaning and subtlities of the word “equality” when your new peers continue to believe their opinions have as much intrinsic value as yours on the now questionable premise of equality. You feel an intense obligation to excel and show up on time. You are appalled by the people who are still mentally in high school who can’t stop acting like children. Worse is that they are all stupid. Perhaps stupid is a strong word… but yeah, I am going to go with it. Stupid.
It isn’t that they are actually intellectually deficient, but they don’t have any sort of world view based on anything more than peace, love, rainbows, hugs and unicorns and the other humanitarian world views propogated by those who have never truly suffered real indignity or desperation. Their opinions lack any sort of wisdom or experience. They have never experienced something like living in a country where there are people quite literally planning your death. How could you blame them?
Also, because of our experiences, people find it very difficult to communicate with us, due perhaps to our brazen animosity and extreme arrogance. In college we also experience a good amount of push back. You need to understand that most young people understand nothing about the wars other than “the evil Bush administration” and “all the stupid soldiers are idiots for being brainwashed into going”. Someone actually said that in a class one day. The professor was kind and asked “What does anyone else think about that?” and he didn’t even interrupt a massive two minute rant where I tore that kid a new one in front of the rest of the class.
That will last for a few years as they mellow out and try to adjust to acting the way that everyone else does. The training and lifestyle they live is hard to get rid of and will always be a part of them. Then there is the job search.
Now what I think was interesting was that as I was looking for a job I faced two different serious issues:
I faced some people who saw my military experience as a problem. I might be too aggressive to work with customers, I have never had a real job, I might have PTSD. Really? These are real discriminations I faced with no actual basis to support them.
Then the others thought I would be a real hard charger, a real go getter. In the worst case, obedient, you know the good little soldier who never questions and will march happily to your every whim. I had a boss like that for a minute. You shouldn’t treat employees like they are just stupid little troops in your service, especially not actual vets, and especially not ones who graduated with honors in business management.
Eventually though I did find work that fit. People still are surprised if you have any intelligence in you at all, in spite of the degree hanging behind your desk, because they will still only hire your military experience. Now I am in a place where my organizational ability and leadership are coming into play, and for many this is exactly the type of role they try and fill. We do have a type of responsibility factor that doesn’t appear except in about 60% of the civilians I deal with and it doesn’t really frighten us to get in someone’s face when they don’t cut it. Of course that isn’t all we do, we did get out after all.
Then there is a point that you get to and you realize that you don’t hate the military anymore. You are just proud. Maybe it is when the people you work with hear you were a Marine and are like “Whoa! Um…Well… OK.” Maybe it is after you get a few handshakes from the old Marines (who had it harder than you, just ask them). Maybe it is in knowing that you are different in a good way than many of the others around you. You have these powerful, sometimes very difficult experiences, that have built in you a character that others respect.
I looked back at my time in and realized eventually that there were parts I really missed. The Marine Corps has a saying that it is a perfect organization made of imperfect people. I definitely didn’t miss some of the people, but there was something important about what we were doing. We also recite this one often.
“Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference. The Marines don’t have that problem.”
PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN, 1985
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to go back. I love waking up next to Jennie every morning. I don’t like the panic that comes with not knowing where your weapon is, because you forgot the deployment is over. I don’t want to worry anymore if that car is going to explode, or if someone I know is going to be hurt or killed. But I definitely have learned to appreciate and love what I was a part of. From time to time I still bad mouth the little things, but now the Corps is like family. I can say whatever I want about it, but you don’t get to. You haven’t earned the right to disrespect her. You don’t question or assume or anything. You don’t muddle my heritage or dishonor the sacrifice of my friends. You respect what we stood for.
And once you reach that point you realize…
You are never going to be able to transition from military to civilian life.