Being in combat is one of the craziest experiences a person can have. Bullets are zipping by your melon and impacting the wall behind you, eyes wide and on the alert as the incoming rounds blanket your position. Sounds crazy. Because it is.
War is hell.
Well-trained military minds know, winning the battle is the most important aspect of winning the war. In combat, the rules are different than in any other situation you’ll probably find yourself. All available fingers need to be pulling triggers.
So if allied forces take a mass casualty, the guy who is hurt the worst isn’t necessarily the one who gets treated first.
During combat, the rules on who receives care first changes in a matter of moments. If a squad is under heavy attack and a few trigger pullers get hurt, then the unit is down a few bodies.
After the field medic takes care of their wounds, let’s say subject “A” sustained a “GSW” or gunshot wound to the chest, they are now out of the fight. If subject “B” took a bullet to their leg, they’re still considered in the fight because it’s not life-threatening.
So during wartime rules, subject “B” is supposed to be treated first to allow them the chance to get back on their weapon system and return to the fight. Hopefully subject “A” will be okay and pull through.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
A U.S. Air Force F-16 “Thunderbird” sits on the flight line during sunrise at the 177th Fighter Wing, Air National Guard Base in Atlantic City, N.J., Aug. 23, 2017. The Thunderbirds, an Aerial Demonstration Squadron, performed at the Atlantic City Air Show, Thunder over the Boardwalk, in Atlantic City, N.J., Aug. 22-23, 2017.
The propellers of a WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft spin in the center of Hurricane Harvey during a flight into the storm Aug. 24, 2017 out of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi.
U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, and Italian Army Paratroopers Folgore Brigade, descend onto Juliet Drop Zone in Pordenone, Italy, August 23, 2017. The combined exercise demonstrates the multinational capacity building of the airborne community and the airborne allied nations collectively. The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, capable of projecting ready forces anywhere in the U.S. European, Africa or Central Commands’ areas of responsibility within 18 hours.
Soldiers selected by 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment, as Soldiers of the month while deployed with the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa in Djibouti, were offered the opportunity to participate in a limited AT4 live-fire exercise at a range along the southern coast of the Gulf of Tadjoura, Aug. 22, 2017. The AT4 is a shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon which is disposable after just one use, making it a special opportunity to fire one.
USS Constitution fires off a 40 mm 200 gram round from one of her saluting batteries. Constitution fires one round from her saluting battery twice a day to signify morning and evening colors.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians, assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Five (EODMU 5), dive in Apra Harbor, Guam, Aug. 20, 2017. EODMU-5 conducts mine countermeasures, improvised explosive device operations, renders safe explosive hazards, and disarms underwater explosives such as mines.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Matthew Flanagan, a cannoneer, attached with 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, Kilo Battery, Gun 3, fires the M777A2 Howitzer at Yausubetsu Training Area, Japan, August 23, 2017. The purpose of the Northern Viper training exercise is to maintain interoperability and combat readiness within the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by MCIPAC Combat Camera Lance Cpl. André T. Peterson
Marines with 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO) rappel from a Bell UH-1 Iroquois on Camp Pendleton, Calif., August 24, 2017. 1st ANGLICO is conducting training to prepare Marines for future deployments.
An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew medevac a man experiencing symptoms of heart failure approximately 60 miles south of Grand Isle, Louisiana, August 24, 2017. The helicopter crew arrived on scene at approximately 11:30 a.m., hoisted the man and transported him to West Jefferson Medical Center in Marrero in stable condition.
Three people were rescued by a boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook near Highlands, New Jersey, on August 19, 2017. Their nine-foot John boat capsized sending them into the water.
When service members hit the gym, they burn calories, build muscle, and slim down. Pair that exercise with a healthy diet and we quickly shed unwanted pounds.
After a while, our bodies begin to adapt to these workouts and, suddenly, those pounds of fat aren’t disappearing as quickly as they once were — but why?
The answer is pretty interesting. Our bodies are well-engineered pieces of equipment, designed to protect us — even from ourselves. Service members are known for running mile after mile in a tight formation a few times per week. Running is a great, high-impact exercise that burns a sh*t-ton of calories, but, after a while, our bodies adjust.
We reach what many call a “physical plateau.” Those incredible results you saw in the first few months of working out slowly start to taper off. This is because your metabolism automatically adjusts itself to protect the body from losing mass.
It’s a fantastic defense mechanism, but it’s also a pain in the ass.
When it comes to dropping weight, many runners out there are making yet another mistake: failing to intake enough calories. When your body is running low on energy, its defenses will kick in yet again, slowing metabolism to maintain weight.
So, in short, to stop your metabolism from lowering, it’s important to listen to your body and eat enough. It may sound strange, but you need to take in calories to burn them. If you’re into intermittent fasting, make sure to take in all the necessary calories within the structured six-to-eight hour eating window.
If you’re doing mostly cardio to lose weight, it’s also highly recommended that you introduce a bit of weight training. Maintain a dynamic exercise routine and keep your body guessing — you’ll plateau much less often and see results more constantly.
After relieving the 1st Marine Division and securing the defeat of the Japanese at Guadalcanal, the 2nd Marine Division prepared for the first major assault of the Pacific island-hopping campaign. Their target was a small coral atoll called Tarawa.
The Japanese garrison on Betio, an island of the Tarawa atoll, stood in the way of communications lines between Hawaii and other objectives in the Central Pacific.
The operation, codenamed Galvanic, combined an assault by the 27th Infantry Division on Makin Island and a later landing on Apamama would clear the Gilbert Islands and, according to Admiral Nimitz, “[knock] down the front door to the Japanese defenses in the Central Pacific.”
Unfortunately for the Marines, their earlier diversionary raid against Makin Island had alerted the Japanese to the importance of the Gilbert Islands. They had fortified Betio accordingly.
The island was small, only about three miles long and no wider than 800 meters, but within that confined space the Japanese had constructed some 500 pillboxes, four eight-inch gun turrets, and numerous artillery and machine gun emplacements. A coral and log seawall ringed most of the island and 13mm dual-purpose anti-boat/antiaircraft machine guns protected the most likely approaches.
The Marines were bringing one division. Leading the way would be the 2nd Marine Regiment under Col. David Shoup. Aimed at Red Beach 1 and leading the charge for the regiment were the men of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines. To their left, hitting Red Beaches 2 and 3, were their sister battalion 2/2 Marines, and 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines.
On the morning of Nov. 20, 1943, after a scant three-hour naval bombardment, the Marines headed for shore.
Immediately issues began to develop. First, the naval gun fire ceased at approximately 0900 while the Marines in their Landing Vehicles, Tracked (LVT) were still 4,000 yards off shore. Second, an unexpected neap tide had failed to cover a reef in the lagoon. The LVTs could easily crawl over it, but the Higgins boats carrying later waves would not have sufficient depth to clear the reef.
As the Marines approached the shore, they realized the naval bombardment had been rather ineffective. They started taking heavy fire from the Japanese as they made their way across the lagoon. One Marine recalled a Japanese officer holding a pistol and defiantly waving the Americans ashore.
The Marines of the Amphibious Tractor Battalion battled back, blasting over 10,000 rounds at the Japanese from their .50 caliber machine guns. But the exposed gunners paid a heavy price.
Finally, at 0910, LVT 4-9 carried the first Marines from 3/2 onto the beaches of Betio. The driver slammed it into the seawall in hopes of scaling it but stalled out.
A Marine sergeant jumped up to lead his men into the fray and was immediately cut down by gunfire. The remaining Marines jumped out and assaulted several Japanese positions before they all became casualties.
As the successive waves of the 3rd Battalion landed they fared even worse. Fully alerted to the incoming Americans, Japanese gunners now targeted the approaching LVTs. The unarmored vehicles offered little protection and many were sunk or damaged beyond repair.
The initial assault companies, K and L, suffered over 50 percent casualties in the first two hours of the assault. The following waves were in even more trouble. Embarked in landing craft, they had no choice but to unload at the reef due to the neap tide. This meant wading ashore some 500 yards under heavy fire.
This was how the men of L company under Major Mike Ryan made it ashore. Rather than leading his men directly into the carnage of Red Beach 1, Ryan followed a lone Marine he had seen breach the seawall at the edge of Red Beach 1 and Green Beach, the designated landing area that comprised the western end of the island.
Ryan’s landing point caught the eye of other Marines coming ashore who diverted towards his position.
As more Marines from successive waves and other survivors worked their way to the west end of the island Ryan took command and began to form a composite battalion from the troops he had. These men would come to be known as “Ryan’s orphans.”
Adding to the chaos for 3/2 was the fact that their commanding officer had still not landed. Seeing his assault forces shattered on the beach and following waves cut down in the water he radioed Shoup for guidance. When Shoup directed him to land at Red 2 and work west he simply replied, “We have nothing left to land.”
On the beach, the Marines of 3/2 continued to fight for their lives. After managing to wrangle two anti-tank guns onto the beach they realized they were too short to fire over the seawall. As Japanese tanks approached their positions cries went up to “lift them over!” Men raced to get the guns atop the seawall just in time for the gunners to drive off the Japanese tanks.
Meanwhile Maj. Ryan’s composite battalion of 3/2 Marines and others had acquired a pair of Sherman tanks. Learning on the fly, the Marines coordinated assaults on pillboxes with infantry and tank fire. This gave the Marines on Betio their most significant advance of the day as Ryan’s orphans were able to penetrate 500 meters inland.
3rd Battalion was badly mauled in the initial assault on Betio. Surrounded by strong Japanese fortifications the survivors on Red Beach 1 would fight for their lives for the remainder of the battle.
Ryan’s orphans made a significant contribution to the battle in opening up Green Beach so men of the 6th Marine Regiment could come ashore to reinforce the battered survivors.
Now reformed, 3/2 would take part in one of the final assaults to secure the island helping to reduce the dedicated Japanese fortification at the confluence of Red Beaches 1 and 2. The island was declared 76 hours after the first Marines had landed.
The Marines suffered over 1,000 men killed and over 2,000 wounded.
Col. David Shoup summed up the experience, “with God and the U.S. Navy in direct support of the 2d Marine Division there was never any doubt we would get Betio. For several hours, however, there was considerable haggling over the exact price we were to pay for it.”
With two 20mm cannons, a 40mm automatic grenade launcher, five .50-cal. machine guns, and two weapon pods that could carry either 70mm rocket launchers or 7.62mm miniguns, the armored ACH-47A Chinook could fly into the teeth of enemy resistance and fly back out as the only survivor.
The aircraft boasted overlapping fields of fire and 360 degree coverage.
Operating under the call sign “Guns-A-Go-Go,” these behemoths were part of an experimental program during Vietnam to create heavy aerial gunships to support ground troops. Four CH-47s were turned into ACH-47As by adding 2,681 pounds of armor and improved engines to each bird.
The first three birds arrived in Vietnam in 1966 where they engaged in six months of operational testing. They were tasked with supporting the U.S. Army’s 1st Cavalry Division as well as a Royal Australian Task Force.
The Army Pictorial Service covered an early mission flown in support of the Australians where the attack Chinooks were sent to destroy known enemy positions.
Though the gunships performed well in combat, the Army was hesitant to expand the program because of high maintenance costs. Also, conventional CH-47s were proving extremely valuable as troop transports and for moving cargo.
Of the four ACH-47s created, three were lost in Vietnam. The first collided with a standard CH-47 while taxiing on an airfield. Another had a retention pin shake loose on a 20mm cannon and was brought down when its own gun fired through the forward rotor blades. The third was grounded by enemy fire and then destroyed by an enemy mortar attack after the crew escaped.
Since the gunships were designed to work in pairs, one providing security while the other attacked, the Army ordered the fourth and final helicopter back to the states. It was used as a maintenance trainer by the Army until 1997, when it was restored. It is now on display at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.
The call sign “Guns-A-Go-Go” was recently passed off to Company A of the Army’s new 4th Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
” … We are flying near and within the weapons envelope of those that could test our dominance,” Carlisle explained in a statement.
“The lead we have is shrinking as our near peer adversaries, and countries with which they proliferate, have developed, likely stolen, and fielded state-of-the-art systems.”
Carlisle cited numerous factors, such as limited resources, in the stagnating state of combat readiness. According to the Air Force, examples include six consecutive years of cuts that would reduce the number of F-35 combat squadrons by 50% by 2028, the divestment of 3,000 aircraft and 200,000 Airmen since Operation Desert Storm, and a reduction of $24 billion in funding for precision attack weapons — about 45% less weapons capacity.
Furthermore, Carlisle pinpointed outdated equipment, such as the AIM-120 medium-range missile, as a disturbing factor. As the Air Force’s primary air-to-air missile, it originally entered service with the F-15C in 1991. According to the official, in addition to the advancement of AIM-120 counter-measures by other nations, this outdated missile also limits the capabilities of newer aircraft, such as the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
“It also carries insufficient range versus newer long range adversary missiles and will soon require recapitalization,” Carlisle explained in a statement. “We are currently delivering 4th Gen weapons from 5th Gen platforms, and even those weapons inventories are being depleted beyond the current campaign requirements.”
Besides the threat of more budget cuts, there’s also another threat emerging from a different front — the modernization of the air forces in other countries. These threats include the development of their own 5th generation fighters, anti-space weapons, and new surface-to-air weapon systems that are claimed to possess the ability to acquire, track, and target the US’ stealth aircraft.
“It now comes as no surprise that our near peer adversaries’ capabilities have been modernized to specifically counter and negate American capabilities,” Carlisle stated. “Many other nations, Russia and China in particular, copy very well — original thought: they’re not as good.”
Though Carlisle maintains that many of these advancements were obtained through dubious means, the results are clear enough to have a reason for alarm.
The general illustrated this claim by showing how similar China’s J-31 stealth fighter was to the US’ F-35. With advanced stealth, supercruise capabilities, and innovative data-link technology, many officials are also growing concerned at how rapidly, and accurately, the Air Force’s imitators are emulating their counterparts.
“They’ve watched our success and they know how good we are … They’ll steal technology so they avoid the challenges that we faced,” he explained in the hearing.
In order to address these insufficiencies, Carlisle proposed boosting the Air Force’s air, space, and cyber capabilities — most likely through increased funding — to compete in highly contested environments.
“Although a program is not yet in place, it will be paramount to continue modernizing our fleet, and progress to the next new counter-air aircraft that is more survivable, lethal, has a longer range, and bigger payload in order to maintain a gap with our adversaries,” he concluded.
President Donald Trump’s deployed National Guard troops have already begun arriving at the US-Mexico border — and they’ll mostly be providing aerial support and helping with surveillance and infrastructure projects, the Pentagon said April 9, 2018.
But the troops are explicitly barred from helping arrest or deport immigrants, as the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 limits the military’s ability to enforce civilian law without authorization.
The troops are set to use drones and light-, medium-, and heavy-lift helicopters during their deployment, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jamie Davis told The Washington Post in a statement. They’ll also assist with surveillance systems such as cameras and blimps.
Beyond that, the troops will be doing maintenance work on roads and facilities, as well as clearing vegetation, Davis said. He did not clarify whether those infrastructure tasks would include border wall construction.
The Department of Defense confirmed in a statement that the troops won’t conduct law-enforcement activities or interact with migrants or detainees without approval from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
Davis also said the troops won’t be conducting armed patrols, and will only carry weapons in limited circumstances, depending on their mission.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)
“National Guard personnel will only be armed for their own self-protection to the extent required by the circumstances of the mission they are performing,” he said.
It’s still unclear exactly how many troops will be deployed to the border — though Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico have so far committed nearly 1,600 members altogether. Trump said April 5, 2018, he hoped the states’ governors would authorize “anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000.”
The only border state that hasn’t yet responded to the Trump administration’s request is California, whose Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has been a vehement critic of Trump and his anti-immigration agenda.
It’s also unclear what the deployments will cost and how long they’ll last, though Mattis has already authorized a payment that would cover the cost of up to 4,000 National Guard members through September 30.
Trump’s demand to have the National Guard deployed along the border came after a days-long tirade against a “caravan” of hundreds of central American migrants traveling through Mexico. Some of those migrants intended to seek asylum in the United States or enter illegally.
Though the caravan has mostly dispersed, organizers said April 9, 2018, that roughly 200 migrants still intend to claim asylum in the US.
As victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma pleaded to be rescued on popular social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the National Guard altered its response accordingly.
“It’s been a very dynamic and evolving environment,” National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Joseph Lengyel recently told Military.com. “This has certainly evolved how we do it.”
Lengyel spoke with Military.com at the annual conference of the National Guard Association of the United States in Louisville, KY.
While social media isn’t the primary communications tool between the Guard and those at risk, it’s starting to play a larger role.
The Washington Post reported that during Harvey, a Guard Humvee vanished in Katy, Texas. With no other way to reach the driver, soldiers finally were able communicate with him using SnapChat, a messaging app that can capture a photo or video, which is then relayed to the recipient briefly before it disappears.
Similar situations can happen when there is a communications capability gap in a disaster area, Lengyel said.
“Whenever you go into particular environments, communications is always difficult when you first start. Because the infrastructure [isn’t] there. It has to evolve,” he said.
For example, the Guard got the call to drive to Beaumont, Texas, before the Federal Emergency Management Agency or first responders could set up hub stations to house communications equipment.
The military has crews that monitor response efforts as they happen in real-time.
For example, its only non-offensive air operations center, known as “America’s AOC,” at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, keeps track of relief no matter where it’s needed in the US.
Military.com visited the 601st AOC in March. It evaluates domestic operations, or DomOps, for Air Forces Northern, monitoring the airwaves — and social media sites — for events with potential military ties.
Lengyel said he was impressed with efforts as ongoing training rotations across the globe have not stopped despite the massive hurricane relief effort. Part of the Texas Guard deployed to the Horn of Africa even as Harvey laid waste to the Houston area and Hurricane Irma loomed.
“Every state creates and drafts an all-hazards response plan … and a lot of it comes together from various federal agencies,” Lengyel said of the constant training and push to get ahead of the next big disaster, which could vary from an earthquake to a terrorist attack.
“Everybody has a plan. And we coordinate … and we think about it before it happens, and we’ve gotten much better about this over the years,” he said.
Special Mission Unit Milestone
This year’s relief efforts — from Harvey and Irma to wildfires in the West — created another milestone for the US military this year.
For the first time in the nearly 70-year history of the Air Force Reserve, all three special mission units — weather reconnaissance, firefighting, and aerial spray — were called to action simultaneously, the service said this week.
Air Force Reserve Command’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron — better known as the Hurricane Hunters — out of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, “have been flying weather reconnaissance missions nonstop” since Aug. 17, the Air Force said in a release.
The 302nd Airlift Wing out of Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, is assisting the National Interagency Fire Center by providing a Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System-equipped C-130H Hercules, aircraft and aircrew to support ongoing aerial firefighting efforts in the western U.S.
And the 910th Airlift Wing, out of Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, is providing its aerial spray capability to repel mosquitos and other pests in eastern Texas following Harvey.
Some military traditions make sense to nearly everyone — little things that show mutual respect, like leaders serving food to their subordinates on holidays or NCOs electing to eat after their guys. Other traditions are odd at first blush, like messing with the new guy or passing through an archway after graduating a class or achieving a higher rank, but civilians can generally understand where they come from.
But then there are the ones that require a lot of explaining to your civilian family members. Every time, these story begins with a, “well, you see. It kinda goes back to…” and more often than not, the explanation just makes them tilt their head in confusion.
At one point, the following traditions may have meant something to one person or a group, but today, the original meaning is buried beneath decades of military bearing and tradition. We mostly just do them because, well, if it ain’t broke — and no one’s getting UCMJ’d for it — why bother stopping?
10. Paratroopers and cherry pies
When you finish going through Army Airborne School, your head will be spinning, filled with all of the information you’ll need to not shatter every bone in your body when you make a landing. You’ll have to master the art of hooking up your static line and perform countless parachute landing falls before you’re even able to get the chance to actually jump out of a perfectly good airplane.
Finally, the moment of truth arrives — you finally get to jump with your unit in the 82nd. Your superiors will recommend that you fill your cargo pockets with Hostess Cherry Pies first. They’ll often say it’s for some reason like, “in case you get hungry when you land” or whatever. Who are you to argue?
When your big moment finally comes and you take in the sights while falling gracefully, you’ll hopefully have your PLFs burnt into the back of your mind as second nature. Everything will happen so fast that you’ll forget those cherry pies in your pants. When you land, you’ll squish all those pies and leave a nice red stain on your uniform.
9. Actual callsigns
In pop culture, callsigns are the coolest things ever. You’ll often see some badass names, like Iceman, Maverick, or Snake used in TV and movies. They’re always just made up because they sound cool and the storytellers don’t really know how the military works.
In reality, callsigns are usually unit designations followed by a number to signify who they are in said unit. So, for example, the commander of the Alpha company “Black Sheep” would be known as “Black Sheep 6,” and the first sergeant of the same unit is “Black Sheep 7.”
If you’re looking for unique callsigns, those are in the aviation world, and they’re typically less cool and more nonsensical. For example, if you eat a Pop-Tart one time in front of another pilot, your callsign is now forever “Pop-Tart.” Good going, Pop-Tart. That’s your callsign until the end of time.
8. The grog bowl
At civilian parties, if there’s a punch bowl, it’ll be centrally placed and it may or may not have some kind of alcohol in it. Whenever the military throws a unit ball, that punch bowl will most certainly have alcohol in it… plus a whole slew of other random things that would make anyone throw up.
Most of the leadership of the unit gets a chance to add one ingredient to the grog bowl (which is a toilet bowl) and offer some kind of nonsense to explain why their chosen ingredient has some kind of significance to the unit.
You can expect classic grog bowl ingredients, like hot sauce, because of the deserts the unit deploys to, ground coffee, because of the long hours the troops works, a cup of salt, because of the sweat that troops give to the cause, and a dirty sock because… reasons?
7. Blood wings and blood stripes
When civilians get promoted or graduate some school, the accomplishment is usually met with a party or a card that’s signed by everyone in the office. That sounds pleasant. Troops, on the other hand, almost always lose a bit of blood over it.
Blood wings and blood stripes are, essentially, the same thing. You get the wings from a school and the stripes from a promotion. Then, everyone takes turn punching it in. It’s technically considered hazing, but the troop receiving the blood wings/stripes usually agrees to it. There (typically) isn’t any malice or hate involved in the ceremony and troops usually walk away with a bit more pride in whoever bled for their new badge/rank.
6. Challenge coin “duels”
There’s nothing really odd about challenge coins in general. It’s basically the same thing as collecting trading cards as a kid, but instead of aiming for a holographic Charizard, you’re aiming for the coolest-looking coin with the most badass backstory.
Usually, officers will keep the coolest coins on their desk in their office to casually gloat about and enlisted troops keep them in some drawer at home, but sh*t gets real when troops take their coins to the bars. The ensuing game basically goes like this:
Troops unsheathe their coolest coin. If you don’t have your coin on you, you buy the drinks. If everyone has a coin, whoever has the “least valuable coin” buys the drinks. Since the “value” is determined by backstory and design — both of which are subjective — this game almost always ends in a shouting match over who has to pick up the tab.
5. ‘Stache contests
In case you haven’t nailed down the common thread between all of these traditions, the military is engaged in a perpetual pissing contest. Troops are in constant contest to see who can do literally anything better than the next guy; to see who is the most macho of the troops. It should come as no surprise that one of the most macho things out there, facial hair, gets quantified into some sort of challenge.
The problem with this is that the military doesn’t allow most versions of facial hair — that is, with the exception of a very thin mustache. A word of warning: The first two weeks of a mustache-off makes every contestant look pathetic.
Mustache contests usually begin at the start of the deployment (presumably, when troops’ wives have less of a say in the matter) and, after a certain point, someone is declared a winner. Yet, the Air Force has unanimously decided to make March their official contest month. Whichever airman grows the best mustache by the end of March wins a high five or whatever.
4. The West Point pillow battle royale
At some point during the first years of the most intense academy for the U.S. Army’s future officers, students are offered a unique way of handling the stresses of simultaneously earning a college education while enduring four years of constant military training. These future warriors, trained in all things warfare with the intention of becoming the Army’s next generation of great leaders, settle things the exact same way as children at slumber parties — with a pillow fight.
As goofy as this sounds, things got serious. Yes. “got” — very much in the past tense, as this tradition was unceremoniously banned in 2015 in response to numerous injuries. Most cadets donned full kevlars and vests and beat the hell out of each other with pillows. More than thirty plebes that year were sent to the hospital for serious injuries, despite the strict no-hard-objects-in-the-pillows rule.
Thankfully, they had PT belts on or this could have gotten even more out of hand.
3. Blasting up the lieutenant’s patrol cap
In the technical terms, a “blasting cap” is a small, sensitive primary explosive device used to detonate a larger, more powerful and less-sensitive secondary explosive. Soldiers in the artillery world take this term literally whenever they welcome a new platoon leader.
When the platoon first goes out for a live-fire exercise with a brand new lieutenant, they’ll take the officer’s patrol cap (either willingly or otherwise) and tape it to the end of the barrel or backplate of a rocket pod. Then, the first round goes off; it’ll take the cap with it. The officer is then expected to retrieve the nearly-burnt-to-a-crisp cap so they can remain in uniform after the ceremony is done.
No one really knows when or where this began, but every artillery officer since then has had to buy a new cap the following day.
2. The sword butt tap at weddings
Most of the traditions on this list are kept within the realm of the military and don’t often affect civilians directly — with the major exception of military weddings. They are one of the most beautiful ways to introduce a new civilian spouse into our world. The troop’s comrades will attend wearing full dress uniforms, each carrying a sword to signify the protection they’ll offer the new spouse, as he or she is now kin.
The new comrades will serve as either groomsmen or bridesmaids and post guard outside of the chapel, or wherever the ceremony is held, and form a beautiful archway with their swords under which the married couple will walk.
Then, whoever is at the very end of the archway on the civilian spouse’s side will give a loving spank with their sword. Not a hard one, mind you, just a nice gentle way of letting them know that they’re now a part of the grander military family.
1. The Court of Neptune
Whenever a Navy vessel crosses a certain point on the globe, all sailors who’ve never done so get to be initiated into an unofficial fraternity of sailors who’ve been there before. The most famous example of these ceremonies is the moment a vessel crosses the Equator at any point in the world.
Officially, it’s called the “Crossing the Line” ceremony, but sailors know it as “the Court of Neptune.” The uninitiated (known as “slimy polliwogs”) must bow before King Neptune (as portrayed by the ship’s captain) and entertain his queen, Davy Jones, the Royal Baby, and his dignitaries (portrayed by other high ranking members of the crew) with a talent show.
Regardless of how the young sailors perform, they’re found guilty of being polliwogs and must answer for their crimes. They’re “punished” by eating an extremely spicy or disgusting breakfast and are forced kiss the Royal Baby’s greasy belly. Only then can they have their slimy polliwoginess washed in seawater to finally become trusty shellbacks.
Follow any of that? Neither did any of us other slimy polliwogs…
When a customer walks into the health and wellness section of the PX, it’s likely that a salesperson will try to sell them the most expensive brand of supplements on the shelf. You know, that name-brand stuff that’s covered in photos of some ripped fitness celebrity that’s fresh off a set of push-ups and covered in baby oil?
It’s a solid sales tactic. One that typically convinces the customer that, if they take these high-priced supplements, they, too, can get buff in no time.
There’s a long-standing debate over the benefits of drinking your proteins versus consuming enough in your daily meal intake. However, in reality, most service members drink protein shakes because it’s a fast, easy option for getting that much-needed nutrition after a workout when you can’t make it to the chow hall for a meal.
So, what’s so important about the type of protein you ingest post-workout? How does one type of powder compare to other, pricier options? We’re not here to do some product placement, we’re here to tell you that the difference in protein type is more important than selection any single brand.
By drinking a post-workout shake, you’ll cause a spike in insulin production within the body. This is because whey is filled with highly insulinogenic proteins. Insulin helps bring essential nutrients the muscles, making it very important to achieving a productive recovery.
Look for a grass-fed whey protein isolate the next time you’re in the market searching for a new supplement. Since we get whey protein from cow’s milk, going for the grass-fed option means the cattle were given exclusively grain-free food. To add to that, the “isolate” option is highly essential. This means that casein and the lactose portions of the protein were removed, leaving the purest form possible.
For all of our vegan fitness fanatics out there, look for a pea protein option. However, many military installations don’t have a fully stocked nutrition aisle, so plant protein options might be limited.
The Iron Soldiers assigned to the 1st Squadron 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Division named one of their tanks after Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and to be honest, we don’t blame them.
Johnson’s response was exactly what you’d expect from the proven supporter of the troops:
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/therock/p/BvDYWe5hkIN/ expand=1]@therock on Instagram: “I’m sending a salute of respect & gratitude to the Blackhawk Squadron ?? 1st Armored Division for the honor of naming their tank (the most…”
“I’m sending a salute of respect gratitude to the Blackhawk Squadron 1st Armored Division for the honor of naming their tank (the most advanced in the world) Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Heavy duty, bad ass, sexy AF, and built to take care of business.”
“But most importantly, thank you all for your service. Grateful to the bone,” he shared on Instagram.
The post received more than 2 million likes in the first few days.
The 1st Armored Division tweeted a picture of the tank, complete with Johnson’s famous moniker stamped in black along the gun, which is currently at Fort Bliss, Texas.
“If you smell what America’s Tank Division is cooking!”
Shoutout to the #IronSoldiers assigned to the @Blackhawk_SQDN for naming one of their tanks in homage to the @TheRock.
Hopefully the “People’s Champ” will see it and give you guys a shoutout and a retweet!
According to Stripes, naming tanks is a “heated process.” The crews offer suggestions but the leadership has to approve. Some units have traditions around the namings (Company B, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment chooses names that begin with the letter “B”).
Kudos to the Iron Soldiers. If I were going into battle, I’d want those guns riding with me, too.
The U.S. Army has been defending our nation for nearly two-and-a-half centuries. Here are 7 quotes that capture the soldier’s spirit:
1. “The soldier is the Army. No army is better than its soldiers. The soldier is also a citizen. In fact, the highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one’s country.” – Gen. George S. Patton Jr.
The Army, the soldiers, and the citizens are all inextricably linked. The U.S. Army is a reflection of the best that American citizens have to offer.
2. “They’ve got us surrounded again, the poor bastards.” – Gen. Creighton Abrams
America’s enemies shouldn’t count the battle won just because they’ve gained the good ground. Gen. Creighton Abrams said this quote while surrounded by Nazis at the Battle of the Bulge. He and his men didn’t die, but many of the German soldiers surrounding them did.
3. “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” – Richard Grenier while discussing the works of George Orwell
This quote is often misattributed to George Orwell, but it’s actually a summary written by Richard Grenier of key points made in Orwell’s writings. It is loved by soldiers for how it describes their chosen profession.
4. “Nuts.” – Gen. Anthony MacAuliffe, said while replying to a request for his surrender
U.S. Army commanders aren’t always great orators, but they get their point across quickly.
5. “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country.” – Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.
Dying for your country is noble, but America would much rather let you be noble while its soldiers concentrate on being victorious.
6. “There were only a handful of Americans there but they fought like wildmen.” Antone Fuhrmann of Mayschoss while discussing Americans in World War I
When U.S. soldiers arrive, they do so violently.
7. Front toward enemy
(Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger)
Look, sometimes soldiers need a little help knowing which end of a weapon is the deadly part. Our mines carry instructions that reflect this reality.