This is why the US doesn't use the metric system - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

In 1793, noted French scientist Joseph Dombey departed Le Havre, France bound for Philadelphia. His mission was to meet with Thomas Jefferson and give him two of the rarest items on Earth. Unfortunately for Dombey, fate had other intentions and storms pushed the ship he was aboard well of course. And so it was that around the time he was supposed to deliver his precious cargo to Jefferson, he found himself instead at the mercy of British pirates. Being French in this situation wasn’t exactly ideal, so at first he attempted to pass himself off as Spanish, but his accent gave him away. Dombey was eventually taken to the small Caribbean island of Montserrat where he ultimately died before he could be ransomed.

So what was the precious cargo he was to have delivered as a gift to the United States? Two small copper items (of which only six sets existed on Earth at the time) — standards representing a meter and a grave, the latter better known today as a kilogram.


At the time, the United States, having already become one of the first nations in the world to adopt a decimal, base ten system for currency was strongly considering doing the same with the system of weights and measures to get rid of the hodgepodge of British weights and measures system mixed with others also commonly used throughout the young nation. Thus, with the initial strong support of then Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, and thanks to a desire to continue to strengthen ties between France and the United States, adoption of the new French metric system seemed close at hand. Along with a trade agreement concerning grain export to France, Dombey was to deliver the meter and grave standards and attempt to argue the system’s merits to Congress who, at the time, were quite open to adopting these units of measure.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Thomas Jefferson.

(Rembrandt Peale)

Of course we all know how this turned out — Dombey never got a chance to make his arguments and thanks to concerns about whether the metric system would even stick around at all in France, combined with the fact that trade between Britain and the U.S. would be hindered by such a change, the U.S. eventually decided to abandon efforts to adopt the metric system and mostly stuck with the British system, though the U.S. Customary Units and what would become the Imperial System would soon diverge in the following decades.

But as more and more nations came to adopt this new system of weights and measures, the U.S. slowly began to follow suit. Fast-forwarding to 1866 and with the Metric Act the U.S. officially sanctioned the use of the metric system “in all contracts, dealings or court proceedings” and provided each state with standard metric weights and measures. In 1875, the United States was one of just 17 nations to sign the “Treaty of the Metre” establishing, among other things, the International Bureau of Weights and Measure to govern this system.

Fast forward a little under a century later and the full switch seemed inevitable in the United States after the 1968 Metric Study Act. This ended up being a three year study looking at the feasibility of switching the United States to the metric system. The result? a report titled A Metric America: “A Decision Whose Time Has Come”recommending the change and that it could be reasonably done in as little as 10 years.

Unfortunately, the public was largely either apathetic or strongly opposed to making the switch. (According to a Gallup poll at the time, 45% were against it.) This was nothing new, however. A huge percentage of the time a given people of a nation have been asked by their government to switch to the International System of Units, the general public of those nations were largely against it, even France itself, who went back and forth for decades on the issue, contributing to the United States’ hesitation to adopt it in the early going. Brazil actually experienced a genuine uprising when the government forced the change in the late 19th century. Over a half century later, British citizens still stubbornly cling to many of the old measurements in their day to day lives, though have otherwise adopted SI units.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

So why did all these governments frequently go against the will of their people? Arguments for the economic benefits simply won out — as in so many matters of government, what businesses want, businesses often get. So the governments ignored the will of the general public and did it anyway.

But in the U.S. the situation was different. Not having the pressure from being bordered and economically as bound to one’s neighbors as in Europe, and being one of the world’s foremost economic powerhouses itself, the immediately economic benefit didn’t seem so clear. For example, California alone — one of 50 states — if it were its own nation would have the 5th largest economy in the world. Texas and New York state aren’t far behind when compared to nation’s of the worlds economies at 10th and 13th respectively, let alone the other 47 states.

Seeing lesser readily apparent economic benefit, and not having the same geographic pressures as in Europe, in the 1970s many big businesses and unions were in strong opposition to the change, citing the cost of making the switch and, on the latter side, unions worried that such a change would make it easier to move jobs that formerly used customary units oversees, given that now such product could more easily be purchased from abroad.

Swayed, when the 1975 Metric Conversion Act was signed by President Gerald Ford, it had largely lost its teeth. While it did establish a board whose job it was to facilitate the nation’s conversion and put forth various recommendations, the act did not have an official timeline and made the switch voluntary.

Nevertheless, contrary to popular belief, in the decades since, the United States actually has largely switched to the metric system, just the general public (both domestic and international) seem largely ignorant of this. The U.S. military almost exclusively uses the metric system. Since the early 1990s, the Federal government has largely been converted, and the majority of big businesses have made the switch in one form or another wherever possible. In fact, with the passage of the Metric Conversion Act of 1988, the metric system became the “preferred system of weights and measures for United States trade and commerce”.

In the medical field and pharmaceuticals. the metric system is also used almost exclusively. In fact, since the Mendenhall Order of 1893, even the units of measure used by the layperson in the U.S., the yard, foot, inch, and pound, have all been officially defined by the meter and kilogram.

Speaking of the general public side, nobody in the U.S. blinks an eye about food labels containing both metric and customary units (required thanks to the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, with the majority of states since also allowing metric only). The gram is commonly used to measure everything from the amount of flour to add in a recipe to how much marijuana one buys from a shop or, where it’s still illegal, their local dealer. And if you were to ask someone to pick up a two liter of Dr. Pepper or how a person did running a 10K, most everyone in the United States would know exactly what you are talking about. Beyond this, you’d be hard pressed to find a ruler in the United States that doesn’t include both inches and centimeters and their common divisors.

Further, in school, both customary units and the metric system are taught. Yes, while Americans may generally have little practical need to learn a second language, most are, at least for a time, reasonably fluent in two very different systems of measurement.

As with languages unpracticed, however, once out of school, many lose their sense of the latter from lack of use and concrete perspective. It’s one thing to know what 100 and 0 degrees Celsius refers to with respect to water, it’s a whole different matter to “get” what temperature you might want to put on a jacket for. However, students who go on to more advanced science classes quickly pick up this perspective as they become more familiar and, thus, the scientists of America aren’t at the slightest disadvantage here, also contrary to what is often stated in arguments as to why the U.S. should make the switch a bit more official than it already is. All students that go along that path become just as familiar as their European brethren, if a little later in life.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Photo by Tamarcus Brown)

This all brings us around to why the United States hasn’t made the switch to the metric system more official than it already is. Primarily three reasons — cost, human psychology, and, at least on the general public side, little readily apparent practical reason to do so.

As to cost, while there has never been a definitive study showing how much it would cost the United States to make the switch official and universal, general estimates range even upwards of a trillion dollars all things considered. Why so high?

To begin with, we’ll discuss a relatively small example in road signs. Installing street signs is an incredibly expensive affair in many places for a variety of reasons. For instance, in 2011 the Washington State Department of Transportation claimed it costs anywhere from ,000 to ,000 PER SIGN, though they later clarified those were worst case and most expensive scenarios and sometimes the signs and installation can ring in ONLY around ,000. Bronlea Mishler of the DOT explains,

Installing a sign along a highway isn’t quite as simple as pounding some posts into a ground and bolting on a sign — that’s why the cost is so variable. There are two ways to replace a sign. One way allows us to install it under old rules; the second way requires us to follow new federal standards… The old rules apply if we are just fixing something, not building something new. Installing a sign alongside the road counts as fixing something — basically, just giving drivers more information. If we install a sign on the side of the road, it would cost: ,000 to make the sign, buy the beams and rivets; ,000 for two steel posts and concrete; ,000 to clear brush and other landscape work before and after installation; ,000 for maintenance crews to set up traffic cones, work vehicles, program highway signs and spend the evening doing the work. Total: ,000…. The new rules apply if we’re doing a new construction project. Costs would be higher because we would have to bring everything up to the current highway code. These often involve putting up a sign bridge, a steel structure that spans the entire freeway to hold up multiple signs. Typical costs include: ,600 to make the sign, buy the beams and rivets because the sign must be bigger; ,000 for the sign bridge. Total: ,600.

WSDOT Deputy Regional Administrator Bill Vleck also stated, beyond many of these signs needing to be special ordered on a 1-off variety (think a highway sign with city name and distance marker) and often being much larger than most sign makers make, drastically increasing cost, some of the seemingly exorbitant costs are due to special features of the signs few know about. For instance, Vleck states, “If there’s an auto accident, if a car hits that sign post and there’s any kind of injury involved, the state is going to be liable, so we’re looking potentially at a multi-million dollar settlement in those kind of situations… [So] it would have to be a breakaway type sign post, and it has to be specially fabricated so that if a car hits that sign, it reacts appropriately and doesn’t come down and basically take out the occupants.”

For your reference here, in 1995, it was estimated that approximately 6 million signs would need changed on federal and state roads. On top of that, it was noted that approximately just shy of 3 million of the nations about 4.2 million miles (6.8 million km) of public roads are actual local, with an uncertain number of signs in those regions that would need changed.

That said, the rather obscene costs quoted by the aforementioned Washington State DOT would likely be grossly overestimated on a project such as this, with prices massively reduced if special laws were passed to remove much of the red tape, and given the extreme bulk orders that would be called for here, including for the signs themselves and contracts to dedicated crews to make this happen as fast as possible.

For example, in 1995, Alabama estimated they could swap out all the signs on federal highways for a mere per sign (0 today) on average.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Photo by Ludovic Charlet)

Perhaps a better rubric would be in looking at Canada’s switch, swapping out around a quarter of a million signs on their then 300,000 miles (482,000 km) or so of road. The total reported cost? Only a little over million (about million today) or around 4 per sign in today’s dollars.

Extrapolating that out to the minimum 6 million signs would then run approximately id=”listicle-2635564449″.5 billion + whatever additional signs need swapped out on the 3/4 of the rest of the roads not accounted for in that 6 million sign estimate. Not an insignificant sum, but also relatively trivial for the U.S. taxpayer to cover at about per person + some uncertain amount for the local road signs that need changed.

Moving on to far greater expenses — industry and wider infrastructure.

While it’s impossible to accurately estimate the cost of such a change to American businesses as a whole, we do get a small glimpse of the issue when looking at a NASA report studying the feasibility of swapping the shuttle program to full metric. They determined the price tag would be a whopping 0 million for that project alone at the time, so decided it wasn’t worth the cost for little practical benefit… Now extrapolate that out to the approximately 28 million businesses in the United States, their software, their records, their labels, machinery, employee training, etc. needing switched like some sort of Y2K event on steroids. Thus, while it’s impossible to know for sure, many posit the cost could swell into the hundreds of billions of dollars, if not even creep into the trillion territory — in theory at least.

At this point, even the most ardent supporter of the metric system in the United States may be rethinking whether it would be worth it to make the switch more official than it already is. But don’t fret metric supporters the world over!

To begin with, the raw cost of making the switch doesn’t actually tell the whole story here. In fact, it tells a false story — while the gross total of making the change would be astronomical, it turns out the net cost likely wouldn’t be much, or anything at all.

You see, beyond it noted that, for example, on average Australian businesses saw a 9-14% boost directly attributed to the switch when they made it, back in the United States when companies like IBM, GM, Ford and others spent the money to make the change, they universally found that they made a profit from doing this. This was largely from being able to reduce warehouse space, equipment needs, streamline production, lower necessary inventories, as well as taking the opportunity to, at the same time, remove inefficiencies that had crept into their respective businesses with regard to these systems. They were also able to more uniformly manage their businesses abroad and domestic to the same standards and systems. As a very small example, GM reported they were able to reduce its number of fan belts they had to manufacture and stock from about 900 sizes to 100 thanks to everything that went into the switch.

In some cases the businesses also noted new international markets opening up, both in sales and ability to more easily, and often more cheaply, acquire product abroad. All of this resulted in a net profit extremely quickly from investing the money into making the switch.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Photo by Fleur Treurniet)

As you might expect from these types of benefits, an estimated 30% of businesses in the United States have largely already switched to metric.

Granted, these are generally larger companies and various small businesses dealing mostly locally might not see such a benefit. However, with the increasing globalization of supply chains, many small businesses would likely still see some benefit.

Unfortunately, particularly when it comes to construction, that general industry has lagged well behind others in switching, and, as you might imagine, the existing infrastructure of the nation from roads to bridges to homes to drill bits to screws to the architectural plans for all of it being based on customary units would not be cheap to change and it isn’t clear here what the net cost would be. However, as in all of this, the cost could potentially be mitigated via a slow phaseout approach with grandfathering allowed, similar to what other nations did, though in most cases on a vastly smaller scale than would be seen in the United States.

All this said, we here at TodayIFoundOut would like to posit that what the international community actually finds irksome about the United States not using the metric system is not United States businesses who deal abroad or United States scientists or even the government — all of which largely use the metric system and all of which have little bearing on what Pierre sitting in his mother’s basement in France is doing at a given moment.

No, what upsets Pierre is that the U.S. general populace does not use the metric system in their day to day lives. Why is this irksome? Beyond just the human drive for uniformity amongst one’s community, in this case of the global variety, because English websites the world over, keen to get some of those sweet, sweet U.S. advertising dollars, cater to the U.S. audience and use the units that said audience is more familiar with, those not familiar are often left to Google a conversion to the units they are familiar with. The alternative is for said websites to include both, but that often makes for a break in the flow of the content, something we here at TodayIFoundOut regularly wrestle with finding a proper balance with.

This brings us around to the human side of the argument. To begin with, while the United States would unequivocally see many benefits to joining the rest of the world in some good old fashioned metric lovin’, as you might expect given the lack of immediately obvious benefit to the layperson, few among the American public see much point. After all, what does it really matter if a road sign is in kilometers or miles, or if one’s house is measured in square feet or square meters?

While some cite the benefits of ease of conversion to other units in a given system, in day to day life, this is almost never a thing that’s cumbersome in the slightest. If it was, Americans would be clamoring to make the change. The argument that ease of conversion between units should be a primary driver for the public to want the change simply doesn’t hold water in an era where, on the extremely rare occasion people actually need to make such a precise conversion in day to day life, they have little more than to say “Hey Google”. And in most cases, even that isn’t necessary when you’re reasonably familiar with a given system.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Photo by Makarios Tang)

Perhaps a poignant example of how, when you’re familiar, a non base 10 system of measure really isn’t that complicated to deal with in day to day matters, consider that the world still uses 1000 milliseconds in a second, 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, and 24 hours in a day. What few realize about this is that the original metric system actually attempted to simplify this as well, dividing the day into 10 hours, with 100 minutes in each hour, etc. Unfortunately, most people didn’t see the benefit in switching when also factoring in having to swap out their existing clocks. Nobody has much seen a need to fix the issue since, not even the most ardent champion of the metric system for its ease of conversions compared with imperial or customary units.

And while you might still be lamenting the stubbornness of Americans for not seeing the genuine benefits to themselves that would likely be realized here, we should point out that virtually every nation in the world that uses the metric system has holdover units still relatively commonly used among laypeople that aren’t metric, for simple reasons of not seeing a reason to stop, from calories to horsepower to knots to lightyears and many more. Or how about, have you ever flown on a plane almost anywhere in the world? Congratulations, you’ve in all liklehood unwittingly been supporting the use of something other than the metric system. You see, the pilots aboard, from French to American, use a feet based, Flight Level, system for their altitude, and knots to measure their speed. Just two standards that, much like the American public and their road signs, nobody has seen much practical reason to change.

Now to more concrete human psychology for not making the switch, which has gradually been converting more and more Americans from general apathy to the anti-switch crowd as the decades pass — when one group of humans tells another group what to do, occasionally using terms like “idiot units” and starting flame wars in comments of every website or video posted on the web that uses or discusses said units- you will universally get resistance if not outright hostility in response. This is not an American thing, as so often is purported- this is a human thing.

Try forcing the French government to mandate by law that French is dead and English is now to be universal spoken for the sake of better international trade, economics, and relations. You might argue that in a not insignificant percentage of the world English is already the standard in such international business dealings, but that is really little different than the current situation in business in the U.S. concerning the metric system. What we’re talking about is how the general populace of France would react if the government mandated such a change, and even more so if outside nations were pressuring it. Again, it’s not an American thing — it’s a human thing.

Beyond that, as anyone whose ever done anything online is well aware of — humans hate change. Loathe it. Make any change to, say, a format or style of video, no matter how small, and rest assured no matter if the change is unequivocally vastly superior and the audience universally comes to agree with that, a not insignificant number of one’s audience will complain, sometimes vehemently, at first. More directly we see this again and again throughout the history of various nations making the change to SI. Again, resistance of change is not an American thing — it’s a human thing.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Photo by patricia serna)

But fret not world. You see, slowly but surely the United States has been converting to metric and, for most practical purposes for those outside of the United States, other than having to see it on websites (which, again, we posit is the real driver of people’s ire the world over), the switch has already been made. So much so that at this stage while the cars made in America may say miles per hour on the speedometer, the makers of those cars are using metric to measure and build the things. The very military that defends American’s right to use “Freedom Units” has long since largely converted to the un-free variety.

In the end, money talks, and, for much the same reason other big holdouts like the UK ultimately gave in, as American businesses who have interest in dealing internationally continue to make the switch, they are seeing to it that the metric system more and more creeps into the daily lives of Americans. This will only continue until the inevitable complete adoption. Slowly but surely America is inching towards metric, largely without anyone domestic or abroad noticing.

Want to make the switch take longer? Continue calling them “idiot units”, a mildly humorous statement from a certain point of view given that it takes more brainpower to use customary units than metric, making the latter far more tailored to idiots. And continue to start flame wars in comments comprising mostly of personal attacks rather than using the many and very legitimate and rational arguments that exist as to why it would be of benefit for the people of the United States to make the switch. In the end, we all know there is no better way to convince someone to do something than making the whole thing a religious war, with you on one side and they on the other…

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

Articles

This awesome sea story explains why blue falcons get absolutely no love

Blue falcons—buddy f-ckers for the uninitiated—are a permanent fixture of military life. There are usually a couple in every unit who are out for themselves while messing it up for the rest. You know who they are; they never show up to watch on time, they call you out in front of superiors to make themselves look better, and they never cut you any slack during a PT test.


Related: The 7 biggest ‘Blue Falcons’ in US Military history

While blue falcons are bent on passing the blame and taking the credit, they forget that NCOs can spot them a mile away. Case in point is this awesome sea story we found on reddit by LaserSailor760. The lesson learned: no one likes a buddy f-cker, not even superiors.

(The reddit post has been lightly edited for grammar.)

MA assigned to Harbor Patrol here. I got ratted out once for fishing from the back of the patrol boat while doing harbor checks. Got hauled in to see the Senior Chief and wouldn’t sign or make any statements implicating anyone else on my crew (I was the coxswain and POIC) so Senior decided that I needed some extra duties as punishment.

A major local holiday was coming up, celebrating the day US forces liberated the locals during WW2. We had to send a boat up to a local harbor and standby all night in order to have an escape route for the Admiral in case Osama Bin Laden showed up or some sh-t. I was kinda upset about it because it was supposed to be my weekend, but I figured I was getting off light, so whatever.

When my crew and I pulled the boat into the marina, the whole place was basically a block party. We hung out with the locals, ate a ton of awesome BBQ and they all laughed that this was our ‘punishment’.

After securing the boat and turning over the watch to the next crew at 0000, I went back to base for some sleep, because part two of my punishment started at 0700.

Part two was getting into my dress whites and marching in the Liberation Day parade. It was about a 3 mile march, which ended at an even bigger party. Having been dismissed, I hung out at the party and again chatted with locals, ate awesome BBQ, and proceeded to get completely hammered, without paying a dime.

A few weeks later Senior asked if I learned my lesson. I said yes I did and wouldn’t slack off on duty.

Senior, said “No, I mean the lesson about standing up for your guys,” winked at me and walked away.

Best Senior Chief, ever.

popular

This is why US troops in Vietnam called this gecko the ‘F*ck You Lizard’

One Vietnam veteran called the diminutive Tokay Geckos the “reception committee” for incoming American soldiers in country, “the only ones in Vietnam who were telling you the truth.”

The lizard is a true gecko, native to Southeast Asia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The animal is nocturnal, so its distinctive call is heard only at night. It was this sound that prompted U.S. troops to informally dub it the “F*ck You Lizard.”

The Tokay Gecko can get pretty big for a gecko lizard, sometimes up to more than a foot in length. They were said to come out just when the jungles got pitch dark. Said another Vietnam veteran, who was stationed near the Cambodian border:

“Just when everyone was dozing out. You’d hear ’em in your sleep all night. You’d wake up in the morning, with fuckyou fuckyou fuckyou… echoing in your head.”

Good news for those Americans itching to be introduced to the nighttime mating call: someone introduced the Tokay Gecko to Florida and Hawaii. It’s best not to approach the animals, though. Tokay geckos are described as “the meanest lizard you will ever see,” “the reptilian pit bull” that will not hesitate to bite and clamp down.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

It’s unlikely that Vietnam veterans are interested in being reunited with the sound. In the words of a Vietnam vet on Reddit, “The jungle was telling me something. F*ck me. I got it.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

Here are the best movies for the 4th of July

Fire up the BBQ, get your multi-pack of fireworks ready to light and put some beers on ice because the 4th of July is right around the corner. The 4th is an awesome holiday. No one fights over who you should thank or appreciate (clearly, the Founding Fathers…and Lin Manuel Miranda for teaching a large chunk of Americans who the founding fathers were) and the biggest disagreement is whether it should be called “Independence Day” or “4th of July.” Let’s be honest: Either one is fine and everyone wins.

In addition to the aforementioned beers and bottle rockets, the 4th of July is a fantastic time to watch some super-charged ‘Merica!” movies in appreciation for the independence we all enjoy today. But who wants to watch Yankee Doodle Dandy or 1776? Patriotic they may be, but they’re also kind of a yawn fest. So while they may be unconventional, here are the four (see what we did there?) movies you should be watching over the holiday:


This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Sometimes we need guys in a dysfunctional buddy-cop partnership to protect our FREEDOM! (Fox)

Independence Day

Well that is sort of a given, because…well…it’s named for the holiday. But great naming conventions aside, this movie has Bill Pullman being a non-nerd for once AND Will Smith beating up an alien. If you don’t shed even a tiny little tear when President Pullman makes his “this is our Independence Day!” speech before hopping in a fighter jet and trying to blow up some aliens…you are made of stone. Special bonus in the movie is the brilliant Jeff Goldblum as a perfect comic partner to Will Smith, especially when they’re trying to do something as serious as set off a nuclear bomb on an alien mothership while simultaneously piloting a spaceship neither has ever flown before. It’s good stuff, man.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system
Sometimes one man is all that stands between oppression and FREEDOM! (Fox)

Die Hard

Every holiday is a reason to watch “Die Hard.” That is all. It’s a testament to the brilliant and plucky little guy (or girl) who, with their American spirit and street smarts, take down the foreign villain who is stealing from them, oppressing them and threatening their freedom (*cough* revolutionary war undertones *cough*). See? I just made “Die Hard” into a 4th of July movie. You’re welcome.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

True FREEDOM requires that its heroes to pay attention in classes (“Top Gun”/Paramount Pictures)

Top Gun

Nothing says “celebrate American freedom” like shirtless aviators playing volleyball in the sand….oh and super cool jets, and call signs like “Iceman” and “Maverick” all fueled by a guitar-heavy Kenny Loggins soundtrack. One of the most quotable of all military movies, this one stands the test of time and revs your inner patriot as you try and figure out why all the aviators are wearing polo shirts under their flight suits. Or if cocky flybys really do earn you the honor of flying a cargo plane full of rubber dog sh*t out of Hong Kong. Goose dies, Mav reengages and the world is ultimately right again after our heroes chase off those pesky MiG-28s.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

What could be more patriotic than some of that old Razzle Dazzle? (Paramount Pictures)

Stripes

I cannot do justice to this amazing piece of American cinematic perfection so I won’t really try. I’ll just point out that it might be the greatest celebration of American ingenuity and good old-fashioned Army fun. When I retire, I’m having an EM-50 custom made so I can travel the country like a boss. The humor is timeless. Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and John Candy are a trifecta of laughs and the graduation scene alone is worth watching on an endless loop. Who among those who have served hasn’t wanted to blurt out “razzle, dazzle!” during formation? I don’t know about you, but this 4th of July will include a viewing of “Stripes” and a HulkaBurger on the grill.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

We can’t let a theoretical shark attack ruin our FREEDOM! (Universal Pictures)

BONUS MOVIE PICK: Jaws

Yes, “Jaws.” The movie is a tribute to summer, picnics, and the commercialization of the 4th of July…wait, what? Seriously, the whole movie centers on the Mayor’s reluctance to close the beach (despite body parts washing ashore and clear evidence there is a shark with a big appetite nearby) because 4th of July is a huge business weekend. Enter the hero and some friends who take matters into their own hands and save the day by doing the right thing. Kinda patriotic, don’t you think?

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This common weapon was so ‘pernicious’ that Catholicism banned it

In 1096, Pope Urban II took a good hard look at this new “crossbow” thing and gave it all of the nopes. No Christians were to use it in any battle against a fellow Christian on the punishment of excommunication and eternal damnation of the soul. But the weapon that would act as the precursor to the rifle was simply too valuable to leave on a shelf.


This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

A figure depicting a crossbowman who helped execute Saint Sebastian in the later 15th Century.

(Gun Powder Ma, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Crossbows were already an old weapon when European knights first ran into them in the 900s. Ancient Europeans had used similar weapons, but crossbow-like designs had fallen out of favor in Europe by the year 500 A.D., and few Europeans would’ve recognized them before their resurgence in the late 900s and 1000s.

But French use, as well as use by Eastern nations who had never stopped using the weapon, brought it back into the lexicon of European warfare.

And Western knights did not like it. Their armor protected them from most weapons they would face with the exception of the longbow, a weapon that took years to learn and decades to master. But crossbows could slice right through the armor at greater range than even a longbow, and shooters could be trained in hours or days.

The French were the ones who brought the crossbow back into European warfare. The English had a huge advantage when it came to bowmen, especially longbowmen, and France and England fought often. But while crossbow shooters could fire at greater ranges and with less training than soldiers equipped with a longbow, the weapon did have disadvantages.

Crossbows fire only two rounds per minute while good archers with longbows could fire 10. And crossbow units needed supporting staff and spare parts that weren’t necessary with traditional archers. They were also more susceptible to weather damage because it was harder to remove and replace their sensitive strings.

Still, the advantages outweighed the problems, and units across Europe adopted the new weapon. Mercenary units recruited and trained skilled crossbowmen and sold their services. For a few years, kings largely tried to follow the ban on using crossbows against Christian foes, and Pope Innocent II continued the ban in 1139 after ascending to the position of Pope.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Saint Sebastian was martyred by archers, reportedly at least one of which was using a crossbow.

(Hans Baldung, public domain)

But it couldn’t last. Kings used the weapons against pagans and Muslims, but then had to leave the men behind while fighting against each other in Europe. By the early 1200s, they were once again common in European combat. Crossbowmen played a crucial role for Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in 1238.

In fact, just a year later, Pope Gregory IV used mounted crossbowmen against the Lombard League, an alliance of European kingdoms that were all Christian. Yeah, the allure of crossbow power was so strong that a pope employed them against Christian forces.

Crossbows would continue to play a role in combat until after the 15th Century when advances in gunpowder slowly rendered them obsolete. First, advanced cannons were able to break up their formations from further away than even the crossbowmen could fire. And muskets and rifles eventually filled the role that crossbowmen once had.

Of course, the church didn’t love firearms either. It declared all black powder weapons to be daemonic, but armies quickly embraced them anyway.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Petition for Fort Hood ‘Hug Lady’ goes viral

For 12 years, she was there for Fort Hood, Texas, troops going to and coming from deployments to combat zones with her engaging smile, words of comfort and, always, that great big hug — maybe a half million of them.

Now, an online petition has been started requesting the Defense Department to rename the place that served as her second home — the Fort Hood Arrival/Departure Airfield Control Group terminal (A/DACG) — for Elizabeth Corrine Laird, aka the “Hug Lady.”

The petition, launched May 25, 2019, on the Change.org for-profit petition platform, had gathered more than 63,000 signatures through mid-morning May 30, 2019.


Laird, an Air Force veteran who enlisted in 1950, was a volunteer with the Salvation Army and began coming to the A/DACG in 2003 during the big deployments to Iraq. She continued until her death in 2015 at age 83, after a long battle with breast cancer.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

From left to right: Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, Elizabeth Laird, and Command Sgt. Maj. John Sampa at Fort Hood’s Robert Gray Army Airfield Sept. 13, 2015.

(36th Infantry Division photo by Maj. Randy Stillinger)

At first, she offered handshakes, but that quickly progressed to hugs from “Miss Elizabeth,” of Copperas Cove, Texas. She would also hand out cards printed with Psalm 91, which says in part: “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day.”

Christopher Peckham, of Savannah, Georgia, started the petition. He posted to the Change.org site, “I am honestly shocked that this took off so fast in the last 48 hours. I am going to do further research so we can make this happen!”

Some of those signing the petition also wrote that they had been hugged by Laird.

Jonathan Glessner of Somerset, Pennsylvania, wrote: “3 deployments from Ft. Hood and at least 6 hugs from her. My last deployment, she sat with me and some friends and told jokes and stories. She was truly a wonderful person.”

Matthew McCann of Maryneal, Texas, wrote: “She was there to say goodbye and give a hug when we left. She was a welcoming sight and a hug when we got home. She was a very special lady and she is sorely missed.”

Fort Hood’s “hug lady” loses battle with breast cancer

www.youtube.com

A month before she died, Laird told Today.com about how she approached her mission.

“When they enter the room, they give me a hug, and then we talk about anything from their family to what it was like overseas or if they got a civilian job upon returning,” she said.

“My hugs tell the soldiers that I appreciate what they’re doing for us,” she added.

Her funeral in Killeen, Texas, was attended by hundreds of troops, including generals, and Cecilia Abbott, wife of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Former III Corps and Fort Hood Command Sgt. Maj. William “Joe” Gainey, who spoke at the funeral, admonished the troops in attendance, “You do not let her legacy die,” the Killeen Daily Herald reported.

Gainey said he was certain that Laird had taken her mission to another venue in heaven.

“Miss Elizabeth is there now, hugging my scouts,” he said, according to the Daily Herald.

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

Articles

20 private security contractors that hire vets with the skills

WATM recently posted an article (inspired by 13 Hours: The Secret Heroes of Benghazi) about transitioning out of the military into a career in private security contracting.  That feature generated a great deal of interest and discussion. Based on that, we did some intel and came up with this list of 20 private security firms for those interested in taking the next step:


1. GRS

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Image: YouTube

GRS is the private security contractor that employed the surviving operators who’s personal accounts are featured in 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. GRS is designed to stay in the shadow, work undercover and provide an unobtrusive layer of security for CIA officers in high-risk outposts.

2. ACADEMI

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ACADEMI operators training. (Image: ACADEMI)

ACADEMI, formerly known as “Blackwater,” was founded by former Navy SEAL Erik Prince in 1997. Prince is famous for explaining his firm’s purpose by stating: “We are trying to do for the national security apparatus what FedEx did for the Postal Service”.

3. SOC

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Image: SOC

SOC is ranked as one of the global Defense News Top 100 List of defense companies and has provided security services for over a century. It provides security, facility management and operation, engineering, explosive ordnance storage and disposal, international logistics and life support services. Customers include the U.S. Department of State, Energy, Defense and Fortune 500 companies.

4. Triple Canopy

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Image: Triple Canopy

Triple Canopy was founded by former U.S. Army Special Forces operators and today, more than 80 percent of its employees have served in the U.S. military. Most of its security specialist positions require experience in military operations, military police, security police, emergency medicine and more.

5. Aegis

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Image: Aegis

Aegis security and risk management company serves over 60 countries around the world with clients including governments, international agencies and corporations. Aegis runs a global network of offices, contracts, and associates and provide security from corporate operations to counter-terrorism.

6. Blue Hackle

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Image: Blue Hackle

Blue Hackle is a security contractor to multiple sectors including oil and gas, mining, construction, and governments. They provide stability to commercial enterprises, as well as developing governments, according to its website.

7. GardaWorld Government Services

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Image: Garda World

GWGS specializes in protecting U.S. government personnel and interests wherever they’re needed. They train in security, crisis response, risk management and close protection.

8. ICTS International N.V.

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ICTS International N.V. was founded in 1982 by security experts, former military commanding officers and veterans of government intelligence and security agencies. They set the standard for the aviation security industry.

9. AKE Group

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Image: AKE Group

AKE Group provides security and consultant services ranging from emergency evacuation and crisis response to kidnap avoidance. They provide close protection to war reporters, executives and VIPs.

10. G4S

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G4S was founded in 1901 in Denmark and today has operations around the world in over 100 countries with more than 611,000 employees. G4S goes where governments can’t—or won’t— maintain order, from oil fields in Africa to airports in Britain and nuclear facilities in the U.S., G4S fills the void. It is the world’s third largest private-sector a employer and commands a force three times the size of the British Military, according to Vanity Fair.

11. Armed Maritime

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Image: armed maritime security

Armed Maritime Security offers services to commercial and private vessels operating off the east and west coast of Africa, the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. Its board of directors consist of former diplomats, Army and Naval Officers from Britain, Finland and Sweden. Its security teams are drafted from current, serving members and former members of the Swedish, British, Finnish Elite units.

12. Control Risks

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Image: Control Risk

With operation in over 150 countries around the world, Control Risks provides security services to governments, fortune 500 companies and private citizens. It specializes in cyber, operational, maritime and travel security in hostile areas and actively hires people with experience in military, law enforcement, business consultancy, security services and intelligence.

13. Beni Tal – International Security (BTS)

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Image: BTS Security

BTS serves military and government organizations with its own private military. It has expertise in guerrilla warfare and non-conventional terrorism and provides solutions for land, air, naval and intelligence forces.

14. Blue Mountain

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Image: Blue Mountain

Blue Mountain is a UK based private security contractor that specializes in private, government and commercial protection. Its close protection operators are designed to blend seamlessly into family and professional life for true incognito security.

15. Chilport (UK) Limited

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Image: Chilport

16. Chilport specializes in Canine security and training. It supplies dogs for search and rescue (SAR), drug sniffing, bomb detection and more.

16. GK Sierra

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Image: Wikimedia

Based in Washington DC and Portland, GK Sierra gathers intelligence for the CIA. It has operators around the world specializing in corporate investigation, intelligence, digital forensics and encryption.

17. Prosegur

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Image: Prosegu

Prosegur is one of Spain’s leading security contractors with over 158,000 employees around the world. Its clients consist of entities in non-English speaking countries in Asia, Europe, Oceania and Latin America. It specializes in manned guarding, cash in transit and alarms.

18. Andrews International

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Image: Andrews International

Andrews International is a Los Angeles, CA based company with services around the world. It provides armed and unarmed security to government services and the department of defense.

19. Erinys

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Image: Erinys

Erinys provides security services to gas, oil, shipping and mining companies in Africa and the Middle East. They provide regional and country expertise by hiring and training locals.

20. International Intelligence Limited

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Image: International Intelligence Limited

International Intelligence employs former law enforcement, military and intelligence personnel to operate in hostile environments. It offers private investigation, intelligence, surveillance and forensic services to corporations, government agencies, embassies and police forces.

The real vets turned private security operators from the 13 Hours film explain their experience during the attack on Benghazi. The part about being a private security operator starts at 01:15.

MIGHTY TRENDING

New photos illustrate the large shows of force in disputed skies

The US military put on a show of force in China’s backyard on Sept. 26, 2018, as a US B-52H Stratofortress heavy long-range bomber linked up with Japanese Air Self-Defense Force fighter jets in the contested East China Sea.

US bombers have been increasingly active in both the East and South China Sea recently following a pattern of behavior set in August 2018, when the US sent B-52 bombers through the disputed seas four times in total.

These flights come at a time of increased tension between Washington and Beijing over both economic and military matters.


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A B-52H Stratofortress bomber and two JASDF F-15 fighter jets.

(PACAF photo)

The flight through the East China Sea was flown in support of Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence, Pacific Air Forces said in a statement on Sept. 27, 2018.

Source: Pacific Air Forces

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

A B-52H Stratofortress bomber and two JASDF F-15 fighter jets.

(PACAF photo)

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

A B-52H Stratofortress bomber and two JASDF F-15 fighter jets.

(PACAF photo)

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bomber takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for a routine training mission in the vicinity of the South China Sea and Indian Ocean, Sept. 23, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Quail)

B-52 bombers flew through the South China Sea once on Sept.23, 2018, and again on Sept. 25, 2018, showing off America’s capabilities over tense tides. Beijing warned the US against “provocative” military behavior in response.

Source: Business Insider and Reuters

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

B-52H Stratofortress bomber taking off from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Quail)

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis says that these flights are only an issue because China made these seas global hot spots. “If it was 20 years ago and had they not militarized those features there it would have been just another bomber on its way to Diego Garcia or wherever,” he explained on Sept. 26, 2018.

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

Humor

10 of the funniest ‘Top Gun’ memes ever created

When Tony Scott’s Top Gun landed in cinemas, it was an instant blockbuster, pulling in over $350 million worldwide.


Filled with adrenaline-packed scenes, Top Gun made audience members of all ages want to be the next woman-chasing, hotshot pilot.

Little did everyone know, years down the line, the iconic movie would give rise to some pretty hilarious memes.

Related: 11 memes that will make any infantryman laugh for hours

1. Just when you thought you couldn’t find anyone to go to the bar and pick up chicks with, Maverick saves the day!

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However, if she turns out to be a flight instructor, you better help him sing her a song.

2. As writers, we just want to entertain our audience the best we can.

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Well, we’ll try better on the next meme.

3. When a shirtless game of volleyball gets too real

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Please, no more missiles or guns.

4. “Sky dick” jokes will never get old… at least we hope not.

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Also Read: The 13 funniest military memes for the week of March 16th

5. It’s okay when Maverick does it, but for everyone else, it’s considered a bad thing.

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6. We hope every boring training instructor reads this before heading into a class.

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Nope. The powerpoint will still be boring. F*ck… we failed at getting the word out.

7. Top Gun 2 will come out… one day.

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Tom Cruise will still want to do his own stunts.

8. See! We told you Sky Dick jokes will never die!

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It literally won’t ever get old. Our careers at WATM are counting on it.

Don’t Forget: 11 hilarious Marine memes that are freaking spot on

9. Proof Brian Williams was a veteran.

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We were way off!

10. Write this down in case you forget.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system
Did you write it down? Because we don’t think you did.

MIGHTY CULTURE

You love watching military reunions. We wish you could see the goodbyes.

On Tuesday night, the nation watched as President Trump praised a military spouse for her sacrifices and efforts, and then surprised her and her children. “I am thrilled to inform you that your husband is back from deployment. He is here with us tonight and we couldn’t keep him waiting any longer!” The woman looked genuinely surprised.

She gathered her two young children close and they watched as her husband, handsome in his dress uniform, walked down the stairs toward them, as members of Congress and millions of television viewers cheered.

But some of us in military families saw something different.


As pleased as we were for that family, and we were very pleased, we were also cringing. We knew more, much more, was happening under the surface, and would be happening for many days to come. I’ve been married to a soldier for 17 years, and he has deployed nearly every year of our marriage. I know this subject well.

Some of us call these public homecomings “reunion porn” because they’re shared for the entertainment of the spectators, not for the health of the family. Surprise public reunions are such a part of our culture now, after 18 years of war have overlapped with 15 years of YouTube, that in the later weeks of a deployment, well-meaning friends and family members will start asking us what our plans are for the reunion. They look on expectantly, hoping for details of jumbotrons — like we’re supposed to be organizing a flash mob on top of taking care of absolutely everything else. For them, these are grand milestones that should be celebrated en masse, like over-the-top engagements and increasingly complex gender reveals.

But a deployment reunion does not have the unfettered joy of an engagement or a birth announcement. It’s a complicated stew. There is joy, undoubtedly, but there is also trauma. There is survivor’s guilt, and resentment, and weeks of awful reintegration that loom, in sleepless nights after endless fights. On some level, I wish that every reunion video was paired with a deployment video, bookends of the war experience, and that you didn’t get to celebrate the hello until you had agonized through the goodbye. I wish people saw that many months before that child was surprised by a smiling, uniformed parent in an elementary school classroom, he had to be peeled and pulled off that deploying soldier by the parent who was staying home. I wish people saw that service member gulp, blink back tears, and force him or herself to turn and walk away. Not out of indifference or cruelty, but out of duty.

I wish people could hear the screams – the actual screams – military teens and tweens make when they are told their parent is deploying. Again. I wish the cheering crowds knew what it feels like to give birth alone, in a town where you know no one, and to take that baby back to an empty home without a clue of what to do, but having to do it anyway.

I wish they knew what it feels like for a service member to meet his own child on Skype, and not get to hold her in his arms until the baby is already crawling. Or to not be at the bedside when their child goes into surgery. Or to miss a graduation, and every game, recital and play.

I wish they saw me, sitting in a patio chair in the July heat, trying to hear my husband over a spotty satellite phone connection, with gunshots and mortar rounds perforating the conversation. Then hanging up and putting on a brave face to go back inside the house, because it was time to give my dad more pain medicine so that he wouldn’t feel the cancer that killed him.

I wish they heard the three volleys. I wish they watched the flag being crisply folded. I wish they hugged strangers at military funerals because it was obvious those strangers needed hugs. I wish they pushed the wheelchairs and suffered through the night terrors and witnessed the humiliation of a brain-injured warrior trying to remember his own address.

But, of course, I don’t actually wish everyone could see all of these raw moments. No one should have the worst days of their lives televised. I suppose what I really wish is that the same good-hearted, well-intentioned people who are sincerely happy to see our military families reunited would pay more attention to the war. I wish they knew where our service members were deploying to, and why.

I wish they knew our lives, even when the scenes aren’t pretty or heartwarming, so it wouldn’t feel like we were carrying these burdens alone.

Military Life

How your gym selfie can help give back to the USO

The USO is bringing back its viral social media challenge again this year with 2018’s #Flex4Forces campaign. Running from now until Independence Day, using the hashtag #Flex4Forces will help bring awareness to the USO and its continued contributions to the troops.


The challenge is simple: Snap a photo or video of yourself flexing, post it on any social media platform, and be sure to caption it with #Flex4Forces. Next, tag four of your friends (or celebrities) to flex next and keep the challenge going. Finally, you can donate $4 at USO.org/Flex.

The USO debuted the challenge last year to overwhelming success. Troops, veterans, civilians, companies, communities, sports teams, and more joined in on the fun. Chris Pratt, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Tim McGraw, and many more celebrities also helped spread the challenge.

USO CEO and President J.D. Crouch II said,

“At the USO, we believe service members should feel connected and supported, no matter where they serve, and Flex4Forces encourages Americans to recognize the service of the one percent who protect and defend our nation. This campaign is a simple way to bring the American people closer to service members and to show them our strong support.”

It’s all in good fun and it’s the perfect way to mix both the military’s love of the USO and love of showing off that deployment body. Even if you’re not as jacked as Dwayne Johnson, you can still join in. At the end of the day, it’s not really about gloating — it’s about sharing the goodwill that the USO has shown to our troops over the decades.

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MIGHTY HISTORY

WATCH: Billy Mitchell proves planes could sink battleships

After World War I, there was a consensus that the airplane had a place in warfare, but the different missions they would be used for was still a matter of debate. Colonel Billy Mitchell, a World War I air commander, believed that control of the air would matter a lot in future warfare.


According to a biography at the website of the National Museum of the Air Force, Mitchell spent time after the war arguing his case – often alienating many senior officers in the process. So, despite the fact that Mitchell had led over 1,400 planes during the Battle of St. Mihiel, won control of the air, and devastated German forces, not many people were willing to listen to the air warrior.

 

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Billy Mitchell as a brigadier general. (US Army photo)

In one case, Mitchell considered the effect air power could have on the huge, lumbering ships of enemy navies. Many higher ups blocked his proposed tests to prove his theory but he got the chance to show what air power could do to ships partially due to the Washington Naval Treaty of 1921, which called for the United States to scrap or otherwise dispose of large portions of the United States Navy.

The Navy had tried to block Mitchell with a rigged test involving the old battleship USS Indiana (BB 1), but Congress found out about the way the Navy rigged it, and ordered new tests.

So the Navy agreed to let planes drop bombs on the obsolete battleships USS Virginia (BB 13), USS New Jersey (BB 16), USS Alabama (BB 8), and Ostfriesland.

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The first of these ships to face Mitchell’s bombers was the Ostfriesland on July 20, 1921. According to an official U.S. Navy history, Mitchell’s planes dropped a number of smaller bombs – scoring some hits. The real damage was being done by near-misses, which started flooding. The next day, further attacks were made with bigger bombs, and the Osfriesland sank after a number of near-misses.

The next attack was on the old battleship USS Alabama on September 25, 1921. A series of bombs scored hits, but while one 1,000 pound bomb and one 2,000 pound bomb did a lot of damage, the real killing effect came from five near-misses, which caused Alabama to sink. On Sept. 5, 1923, Mitchell’s bombers would sink the battleships USS Virginia and USS New Jersey.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system
A 2,000-pound bomb scores a near miss on the Ostfriesland. (US Navy photo)

The results, though, didn’t completely sway high-ranking officials. When Mitchell made intemperate remarks after the loss of the Navy dirigible Shenandoah, he was court-martialed and dismissed from the Army. He would die in 1936, five years before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Below is video from Mitchell’s 1921 and 1923 tests. Take a look and see a preview of what planes would do to ships in World War II.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Eighth U.S. service member killed in Afghanistan this year

A US service member was killed in action on Oct. 4, 2018, Operation Resolute Support said in a statement.

The incident is under investigation, officials said.

“We mourn and honor the sacrifice of our service member,” Gen. Scott Miller, the commander of US and Resolute Support forces in Afghanistan, said. “We remain committed.”

The person’s name is being withheld pending notification of the person’s family.


Oct. 4, 2018’s death is believed to mark the eighth this year for US troops in Afghanistan.

In early September 2018, a US service member was killed in a noncombat incident, and one day prior another died in an insider attack. Another apparent insider attack in July 2018 claimed the life of a 20-year-old Army soldier.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(DoD photo by Cherie A. Thurlby)

Casualties among Afghan forces are on the rise. About 500 Afghan troops were reportedly killed in September 2018.

The latest American death comes just ahead of the 17th anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan, which began October 7, 2001, in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Children born after the deadly attacks are now old enough to enlist to fight in the war, a bloody stalemate with no clear end in sight.

Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of US Central Command, told reporters that the Taliban could seize the initiative in short campaigns but couldn’t sufficiently hold territory to secure victory.

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

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