During World War II, Maj. Claude Hensinger had to bail from his B-29 bomber. When he jumped out of his plane, he was packing a parachute that turned out to suit a number of purposes for a wayward pilot, not the least of all ensuring he came to Earth with a thud instead of a splat. It also turned out to be a blanket, a pillow, and a wedding ring.
Just making that jump is no small feat.
Hensinger and his crew had just successfully made a bombing run over Yowata, Japan but on the way back to base, one of their engines caught fire. Instead of heading home, everyone had to bail out over China. In 1944, survival was anything but guaranteed in that part of the world. Much of China was still occupied by the Japanese, who were always on the lookout for down Allied aviators.
As if roving Japanese troops wasn’t enough, the nights were cold, dark, and long on the ground there. He didn’t know if he was even in occupied territory. Hensinger was also injured from landing on a pile of sharp rocks and was bleeding. He kept a hold on his parachute, even after landing. It was a good thing, too. The chute kept him warm and kept his bleeding to a minimum.
Eventually, he made it to safety and then the comfort of the United States.
Hensinger and his wife, married after the war.
When the war ended, he returned to his native Pennsylvania, where he reconnected with a friend from his childhood — a girl named Ruth. The two began dating and in 1947, Hensinger wanted to propose to his lifelong friend. When he got down on one knee, he proposed to her without a ring. Instead, he held his lucky parachute in his hands. He told Ruth how it saved his life and that he wanted her to fashion a wedding dress from the dirty, blood-stained nylon.
Of course she said yes. To both questions. As she pondered how to make the paratrooper’s dream gown, she began to worry about how she could ever turn the nylon into a real wedding dress. One day, walking by a store, the inspiration came to her. She passed a frock that was itself inspired by one worn on Scarlett O’Hara in the 1939 film Gone With the Wind. She patterned the dress to match that while designing a veil and bodice to boot.
Vivian Leigh wearing the dress that inspired Ruth Hensinger’s parachute dress in “Gone With The Wind.”
While another local seamstress sewed the veil and bodice, Ruth sewed the skirt, using the parachute strings to lace the skirt higher in the back than in the front. Keeping with tradition, Hensinger didn’t get to see his wife’s parachute dress until she walked down the aisle. He was a happy man, according to Ruth.
The couple was married for 49 years before Hensinger died in 1996. In the years between, two other generations of women were married in Ruth Hensinger’s parachute dress. The dress is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History.
Most people have heard of Jet-Assisted Take-Off, also known as “JATO.” Unfortunately, it’s usually in connection with a story involving a Chevrolet Impala and a Darwin Award that may or may not have actually happened. Despite this blemish on its reputation, JATO was in use for almost a half-century before the infamous award — and is still used today.
A Lockheed P-2 Neptune is launched from the aircraft carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV 42) with the use of JATO rockets.
First of all, the “jet-assisted” part of JATO is actually a misnomer. There’s no jet involve. JATO systems actually use a rocket – or several rockets. These rockets were capable of cutting the takeoff run by almost 60 percent. That sort of advantage is huge when your airfield has been bombed and the runways have been dotted with potholes. It’s also important for taking off in a heavily loaded plane, whether it’s full of cargo or bombs.
Perhaps the most prominent use of JATO: When the Blue Angels’ C-130 Hercules takes off.
Early jet engines didn’t have good performance during takeoffs and landings. As a result, they needed long runways to safely operate. This made the early jet fighters vulnerable to propeller-driven planes. For example, P-51s would often lurk around the bases used by Me-262s and hit the Nazi jets as they took off. JATO systems were designed to get jets off the ground faster — and they help with performance.
Early jets were tricky to fly (those who flew the YP-80 reported that the engine would sometimes cut out mid-flight — not a good situation to be in). America’s ace of aces, Major Richard Bong, was killed in an accident involving a prototype P-80 Shooting Star, and the top ace of the Korean War, Joseph McConnell, was killed while test-flying the F-86H. A JATO rocket provided assistance to early-model jet engines during takeoff, allowing the plane’s ejection seat to function properly.
Through the Tickets for Troops Program, the Veteran Tickets Foundation (Vet Tix for short) teams up with major sports teams, leagues, promoters, organizations, and venues to provide free and discounted tickets to active duty military and veterans. Their Hero’s Wish initiative takes it even further, creating once in a lifetime experiences for wounded warriors and families of men and women killed in action.
Vet Tix recognizes that awesome events reduce stress, strengthen family bonds, and encourage community building for veterans. Helping with these kinds of experiences is their way of honoring the troops.
In addition to ticket donations, Live Nation strives to support veterans in a number of ways. Since 2017 the company has been an official partner of the veterans’ hiring organization Got Your 6, whose mission is to bridge the civilian-military divide by spreading awareness and fostering understanding about the contributions of our nation’s veterans. As a part of the partnership, Live Nation helped spearhead a fellowship program designed to help military alums build careers in the entertainment industry. Additionally, Live Nation recently launched Hero Nation, an internal program for veteran employees. This employee resource group is dedicated to fostering a supportive and progressive environment for the company’s U.S. military veteran employees and their families by focusing on education, networking, and career development opportunities.
Here’s an example of how one veteran was able to use the program to make her daughter’s birthday special:
“My sincerest thanks for the opportunity to see this concert (fallout boy) in Tucson. Being a disabled combat veteran and living on a fixed income, there is not always funds to do extra big things. My daughter celebrated her sweet 16 last week and this concert was top on her list and all she talked about for months. I was not able to gift her this on her birthday. On a whim I checked Vet Tix just 2 days ago and as a result was able to make my daughter’s birthday wish a reality!! (Along with your help of course) Thank you again!! Jennifer and Kayde, Tucson, AZ”
There are a lot of great ways America supports the troops — and this is one of them. It’s difficult to measure the hardship that military service places on veterans and their families. Frequently moving to new places and missing special occasions takes its toll on its own; factor in deployment tempos, injuries, and fatalities, and it’s easy to see why mental health is a major concern for our military.
For the patriotic civilians out there, you can also donate to Vet Tix and help veterans and their families make positive memories.
Not too often do you find something good in a pawn shop. It’s usually cheap crap that was probably stolen or someone couldn’t get out of hock. Occasionally, you find something perfect or useful. But it’s rare you’d ever expect to find a legendary sword.
Sometimes though, fate has its way of showing up. Every now and then someone finds the jackpot item — such as the legendary Mameluke sword of Lt. Gen. Homer L. Litzenberg Jr., Commander of the 7th Marine Regiment during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.
Lt. Gen. Homer L. Litzenberg Jr. led his men from the Battle of Inchon to Yalu and through 17 of the most brutal days of combat during at the “Frozen Chosin.” He led alongside Marine Corps legend Lt. Gen. “Chesty” Puller who commanded the 1st Marine Regiment.
Chris Anderson, Anne Arundel County police officer and prior service Marine, and his fellow Marines were about to celebrate the Marine Corps birthday at an Annapolis saloon. Anderson noted that they were missing the traditional Mameluke sword of a Marine Corps officer to cut the cake. He did what every Marine would do: he looked for one on eBay.
Searching for a sword on eBay
He found one but it was inscribed with the name “Homer L. Litzenberg Jr.” on the blade. He knew that this blade couldn’t go to some private collector, so he snagged the sword at $255 because of wear and tear. The authenticity hasn’t been determined yet, since the pawnshop can’t disclose prior owner information. However, the pawnshop did say that with its proximity to Aberdeen Proving Ground, it’s extremely common for them to receive military items so this might just be the legendary sword after all.
Check out this blade
Anderson has since made it his personal crusade to get the sword verified and put into the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
In just about every discussion, precise terminology matters. Take the term ‘troops,’ for example. Both Soldiers and sailors fall under the ‘troop’ category, but they’re drastically different. Even within sailors, a ‘submariner’ is very different from a ‘Seabee.’ When two types of troops have responsibilities that overlap, such as an Army combat engineer and a Navy Seabee, the preciseness of terminology is even more important to avoid confusion. Weapons also call for the same type of specific language, as there are many tools to fill similar — but not identical — roles.
Author’s note: There are many classifications and categories of firearms. This is only meant to be a brief intro sprinkled with a dash of comedy. In the following article, there will be things missed and things discussed that don’t have a universally accepted term — like a slug-barrelled, magazine-fed, semi-automatic shotgun which is totally not a rifle.
Anything can become a weapon in the right hands. Hell, as many of us know, a sandal is a terrifying weapon in the hands of an angry mother. This is also a perfect explanation for what constitutes an assault weapon. If your mother is wearing the sandal, it’s just footwear. If your mother saw your sh*tty report card, she’s now reaching for her “assault sandal.” ‘Assault’ is just the descriptor for a weapon being used against someone.
Now, a weapon is only considered a firearm if it uses a burning propellant to cast a bullet, missile, or shell. This is the universally accepted term for everything ranging from a Howitzer to a pistol. Then there’s the term ‘gun.’ Most people use this as the catch-all, but it’s not. A gun is a weapon with shells or rounds manually-loaded into the chamber through a breach (or muzzle for older firearms). Typically, this term is used for crew-operated cannons, like field guns and artillery.
Some long guns (like muskets or light machine guns), most shotguns (especially breach-loaded ones), and some handguns (like revolvers) can be called guns and no one will bat an eye. These fall under either small arms (single-operator firearms) or light weapons (designed and typically team-operated). “Light weapons” includes your heavy machine guns and portable rocket launchers.
Easily the largest source of confusion, however, is the small arms category. A rifle gets its name from the helical pattern cut into bore wall (the rifling) of the barrel. Back when rifling was introduced on a musket, it was known as a “rifled gun.” The rifling makes the round more accurate at further distances. It’s the same reasoning behind throwing a football in a spiral.
Rifled barrels are used in a wide assortment of firearms, from small arms to crew-serviced weapons. Handguns can have them, and so can the aforementioned slug-barrelled shotguns. But without any other distinguishers, the term ‘rifle’ covers a huge categorical umbrella. It covers anything that’s a single-user, magazine-fed firearm with a long, rifled barrel. Carbine is a fairly loose term, but it generally applies to rifles with shorter barrels.
To sum up the terminology used in today’s firing ranges as Barney-style as possible: Call the firearm what it is. In general, a rifle is a firearm that only needs one operator. A gun is intended for two operators but can be used by one.
Fun fact: The term “assault rifle” comes from the German Sturmgewehr. It was named that because Hitler wanted his new weapon to sound more intimidating, even though it was nearly identical to other selective-fire rifles of the time. So yes, It is very much fascist German propaganda to call a rifle an “assault rifle” to make it more terrifying.
Despite the creation of the United States Space Force, we’re still a long way off from building blasters like ones in the Star Wars universe and defeating our enemies with intense bolts of plasma energy. That’s right, they’re not lasers. In the Star Wars universe, ranged weapons are primarily powered by an energy-rich gas that is converted to a glowing particle beam. A far cry from jacketed lead ammunition propelled by gunpowder, or slugthrowers as they’re known in Star Wars, many of the blasters used in a galaxy far, far away are actually built from real-life firearms that are more familiar to us.
With a very tight budget of $11 million, or just under $50 million today adjusted for inflation, George Lucas and his film crew elected to modify real-life surplus weapons rather than create futuristic weapons from scratch. Weaponry and prop supplier Bapty & Co was contracted to provide Star Wars with modified surplus firearms to serve as space-age blasters. However, because of the aforementioned budget, many of the props could only be rented for the film. As a result, modifications were light and we can easily recognize the base weapons today.
The left-side magazine, large breastplate, and restricted arm movement in their armor forced Stormtrooper actors to hold their E-11s left-handed (Lucasfilm Ltd.)
1. BlasTech E-11 blaster rifle
The standard issue weapon of Imperial stormtroopers, the E-11 was a light, handy, and lethal blaster. The debate about Stormtrooper accuracy aside, the blaster was very effective on the battlefield and even featured three power settings: lethal, stun, and sting. It also came equipped with a telescopic sight and a folding three-position stock, a carryover from the real-life weapon it is based on.
British soldiers of 2 PARA armed with Sterlings (Ministry of Defence)
The Sterling L2A3 submachine gun is a British firearm designed at the end of WWII to replace the famed Sten submachine gun. Firing the 9x19mm Parabellum round, the Sterling was a favorite of special forces units for its excellent reliability and good accuracy. The Star Wars conversions used a cut-down version of the Sterling’s stick magazine as their power cell.
2. BlasTech A280 blaster rifle
The favored small arm of the Rebel Alliance, the BlasTech A280 was highly effective at piercing armor and provided more power than other standard infantry blasters at long range. Two variants of the A280 existed. The A280C was the preferred weapon of Rebel commandos. The A280-CFE (Covert Field Edition) was a modular weapon system that could be converted from its core heavy pistol to an assault rifle or sniper rifle.
The standard A280 is an amalgamation of an AR-15 receiver with a cut-down magazine and the front of a German StG 44, again with a cut-down magazine. Original StG 44s are extremely rare and expensive, so the ones cut apart to make the A280 were rubber props previously used by Bapty Co. The A280C is based largely on the StG 44; the only notable changes being the alteration of the stock, removal of the magazine, and the addition of a scope and handguard. The A280-CFE is more akin to the base A280, featuring an AR-15 as its core heavy pistol. The assault rifle and sniper rifle conversions feature the addition of the StG 44 front end.
Did Han shoot first? (Lucasfilm Ltd.)
3. BlasTech DL-44 heavy blaster pistol
Considered one of the most powerful blaster pistols in the galaxy, the DL-44 delivers massive close-range damage at the expense of overheating quickly under sustained fire. A carbine variation with an extended barrel and an attachable stock also exists. This version was used by Tobias Beckett on Mimban before he deconstructed it and gave it Han Solo. Solo further modified the weapon to make his iconic sidearm. After all, “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side.”
The Waffen-SS soldier on the right shoulders an M712, an automatic variant of the C96 (Bundesarchiv)
The DL-44 is modified from the Mauser C96 pistol, easily identifiable by its rectangular internal magazine and broomhandle grip. Originally produced in Germany beginning in 1896, unlicensed copies were also produced in Spain and China throughout the first half of the 20th century. With the popularity of Han Solo’s DL-44, Star Wars enthusiasts have been known to purchase and modify increasingly rare original C96s to make replicas, much to the dismay of gun collectors.
Though small in stature, the Defender could still put down an Imperial trooper (Lucasfilm Ltd.)
4. DDC Defender sporting blaster pistol
On the other end of the spectrum, the Defender blaster pistol was a low-powered weapon meant for civilian defense and small-game hunting. It was also popular amongst the nobility of the Star Wars universe who used it in honor duels. The weapon was the sidearm of choice for Princess Leia Organa who wielded it against Imperial Stormtroopers during the boarding of the Tantive IV and the attack on the Endor shield generator bunker.
The Defender is based on the Margolin or MCM practice shooting pistol. The Soviet-made .22lr pistol is used primarily for competitive target shooting in the 25m Standard Pistol class. The weapon was chosen for its diminutive size to keep the prop gun from looking bulky and unwieldy in Carrie Fisher’s hands during filming.
Death troopers used vocal scramblers that could only be understood by other death troopers (Lucasfilm Ltd.)
5. BlasTech DLT-19 heavy blaster rifle
The DLT-19 was used heavily by Imperial forces as well as bounty hunters and even some Rebel heavy troopers. Although it was not a crew-served weapon, its high rate of fire meant that it could be used to suppress and cut down enemies at long range. The DLT-19D variant, which featured a scope and an under barrel glow rod (flashlight), was used by the elite Imperial death troopers. The DLT-19x targeting blaster was another variant. It featured a scope with greater magnification than the D variant and released all of its power in one shot, making it an extremely accurate and deadly long-range precision weapon.
Very little was changed on the MG 34 to make it into the DLT-19. Introduced in 1934, the German machine gun could be belt-fed or utilize a drum magazine; neither of which were used on the DLT-19. The MG 34 was designed under the new concept of a universal machine gun and is generally considered to be the world’s first general-purpose machine gun. It was the mainstay of German support weapons until it was replaced by the MG 42 in 1942. Even then, because the MG 34’s barrel could be changed out more easily inside of a vehicle than the MG 42, it remained the primary armored vehicle defensive weapon throughout the entirety of the war.
You can never have too much suppressive fire (Lucasfilm Ltd.)
6. BlasTech T-21 light repeating blaster
If you couldn’t tell, the nationalization of BlasTech industries meant that it was the premier military-grade arms manufacturer in the galaxy. The T-21 was a rarer sight than their more common E-11 or A280 blasters though. It was issued to more elite units like stormtroopers, magma troopers, and shadow troopers. However, its high rate of fire and long-range accuracy were limited by its power capacity of just 30 shots. To remedy this limitation, the T-21 could be hooked up to a power generator to provide sustained fire. The T-21B variant added an optic to increase its lethality at long range.
Australian soldiers drill with Lewis guns in France (Public Domain)
The Lewis light machine gun was designed in America, but built in Britain and fielded by the British Empire during WWI. It featured a distinctive barrel cooling shroud and a top-mounted pan magazine. Like the magazine of the MG 34, the Lewis gun’s magazine was omitted for its use in the Star Wars universe. It was often used as an aircraft machine gun and served to the end of the Korean War.
High-ranking officers often have monikers that accompany them for their military prowess in battle or how they conduct themselves. General “Mad Dog” Mattis was given his by the press after his “be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet” speech. Colonel “Mad Jack” Churchill got his when the British Expeditionary Force moved in on France and he became the only Brit to score a long bow kill in WWII.
Rarely will a moniker be used for more than one military leader, especially within the same time or military. Even more rare is when they two meet on opposite ends of the battlefield. This is exactly what happened when Maj. Gen. “Fighting Dick” Richardson fought Maj. Gen. “Fightin’ Dick” Anderson for the “Bloody Lane” at Antietam during the Civil War.
Israel B. Richardson was a United States Army officer who fought in the Mexican-American War and eventually promoted to Major General while serving in the Union Army during the Civil War. He was nicknamed “Fighting Dick” after his last name. He lead the 1st Division of the II Corps into the Battle of Antietam.
And in the other corner, Richard H. Anderson was a United States Army officer who fought in the Mexican-American War and was eventually promoted to Major General while serving in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He was nicknamed “Fightin’ Dick” after his first name. He lead the appropriately named “Anderson’s Division,” who were tasked with defending the Sunken Road.
On Sept. 17, 1862, 87,000 Union troops met the 38,000 Confederates near Sharpsburg, Maryland. Richardson’s men charged the road to pierce through the Confederate defenses. For nearly four hours, both sides fought until Union troops finally took the hill. However, Union troops were not able to hold the new ground and were forced back. The battle was declared tactically inconclusive but was a strategic victory for Richardson.
Both “Fighting Dicks” were critically wounded in battle; Anderson was wounded in the thigh and Richardson was struck by a shell fragment. Anderson would recover and continue on fighting into Gettysburg and Appomattox, but Richardson’s wound became infected and he passed of pneumonia nearly a month later.
On Feb. 12, 2019, the US and Thailand launched Cobra Gold, one of the largest multi-national exercises in the world.
The annual exercise brings together 29 nations as participants or observers; nine participating countries include the US and Thailand as well as Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, China, India, Indonesia, and South Korea, according to a US Army release.
The exercise, which will end on Feb. 22, 2019, includes a field training exercise, humanitarian and disaster relief components.
One of the most anticipated aspects of the exercise is jungle survival training, when Royal Thai Marines teach their US counterparts how to identify edible foods, including plants and animals.
During the training, US troops have the opportunity to eat scorpions and geckos, and drink snake blood — all skills necessary to survive if one becomes isolated from their unit.
U.S. Marines drink the blood of a king cobra during jungle survival training as part of Cobra Gold 19 at Ban Chan Krem, Kingdom of Thailand.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kenny Nunez)
1. These Marines aren’t drinking snake blood just for show.
Jungle training teaches essential skills for survival in a wild, tropical environment.
Marines learn skills from identifying poisonous plants, differentiating between venomous and non-venomous snakes, and finding water sources if they get lost.
One of the instructors interviewed by Marine Staff Sgt. Matthew Bragg said that drinking animal blood is one way to stay hydrated in the absence of another water source.
US Marines cheer on comrades during the highly anticipated jungle survival training during exercise Cobra Gold.
(US Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)
A Royal Thai Marine instructor shows US Marines different types of snakes during jungle survival training.
(US Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)
U.S. Marines watch as Royal Thai Marine instructor shows off a snake during Cobra Gold 19.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)
Royal Thai Marine Corps instructor passes around freshly cooked meat during Cobra Gold 19.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)
A US Marine eats a scorpion in jungle survivor training during Cobra Gold 19.
(US Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)
U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Austin Gassaway eats a plant during jungle survival training as part of Cobra Gold 19.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kenny Nunez)
Royal Thai Marine shows US Marines what to eat in the jungle during the exercise.
(US Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)
Royal Thai and U.S. Marines learn how to make fire in the jungle during Cobra Gold 19.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)
9. Marines also learn skills like building fires and alternate ways to stay hydrated.
“I didn’t know that ants are a trace of water. Wherever they’re filing to, they know where the location of water is,” said US Army Spc. Louis Smith.
Smith said that new knowledge is something he’d take back home with him.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S. Army made a lot of training videos for World War II. Think of them as the PowerPoints of yesteryear. And when it was time to teach infantry to fight tanks, the Army hired an actor that looks suspiciously like the character Gaston and then filmed him drinking beer in a hunting lodge.
Seriously, even the lights hanging from the ceiling are similar. He’s one dentally-challenged sidekick away from being this guy…
Considering the fact that the new Beauty and the Beast revealed that Gaston was a veteran, it’s starting to look like Disney based their character on an old War Department training film.
But while Gaston is known for being an idiot, the staff sergeant in the training film knows his stuff. He’s a tanker who takes a little time out to teach infantryman how best to destroy armor.
He starts with how small arms can be used to force tankers to “button up,” diving into their hatches. Once the tanks are buttoned, they can be completely blinded by rounds hitting the view slits and periscopes:
Then, it’s time for grenadiers to try and shoot the crew through the armor with anti-tank rifle grenades:
But if the tanks make it past the grenadiers, the rest of the riflemen can throw Molotov Cocktails at the fleeing armor:
All of these were real weapons and tactics in the fight against German armor, and Gaston helped make it happen.
You can see the whole clip — and learn how to destroy Axis tanks — below:
Time and again in my line of work, people ask me, “What did you do to prepare?” I usually respond with some sort of reference to steel genitalia, eating large amounts of bacon, and shooting nails from my eyes. That usually wows people.
After the hilarity that is EVERY encounter with me, I give them an answer that always seems to underwhelm. “I try to be as strong as I can. All the time. I just want to be the strongest guy out there. That’s my number one goal. Then it’s cardio and mobility.”
Seriously, that’s it.
If you want, I can get into long physiological discussions about how stronger people are less taxed by the same effort expressed on an event by a weaker person. There are so many examples out there, I won’t even bother to ham-handedly try to quote them or paraphrase a saying they came up with.
Do you wanna geek out and banter about the Krebs Cycle? Wanna quote grip strength tests designed by dudes that don’t lift trying to extrapolate the best anaerobic exercise for slow twitch muscle fiber performance? Well, tough crap, I am not that good. The point is this — I can stomp on the ground and scream until I am blue in the face, but it doesn’t matter. I can only tell you what I have seen, and what I think works.
The fact of the matter is this: the stronger man nearly always wins. This isn’t story time, and Goliath wins in real life kids. The freakishly strong 30-year-old whips the young buck more frequently than he doesn’t. The underdog is a great story — but there is a reason why he is the underdog. It’s cause no one thinks he can win, and he most likely won’t. Think Vision Quest: could Louden Swain really beat Shute? Uh, hell no. That dude carried logs up and down steps like, all day, like a damn boss. Plus, Shute looked like he was about 195 pounds as a high school wrestler, and Matthew Modine’s character dropped to 168 pounds to fight him… sorry, I digress.
After covering what I do to prepare, the conversation progresses. Next comes, “What is the typical military member/SOF Operator?” Well, I can’t tell you that. I’ve seen huge, jacked, 225-pound football players quit, cry, and fail. I have seen un-athletic, uncoordinated 155-pound 18-year-olds dig deep and carry those 225-pound guys. There is a single commonality amongst all those that make it, compared to those that don’t, strictly physically speaking. That commonality is strength.
Across the board, the men and women that pass tough selections and outperform their peers in the military are simply stronger than their peers. I did not say “bigger,” I said stronger. Stronger in all tasks, globally stronger. Can you throw on one-third of your bodyweight in armor and gear and carry your friend 400m at a dead sprint? No? Well then, Turbo, I don’t care what your marathon time is.
“Well, fine then. Describe your ideal team mate” is usually what follows next. Which is weird, that people want me to talk about my dream teammate, which is a guy.
Anyway, give me a 180-200-pound guy that can squat, deadlift, press, clean, and snatch close to the “accepted” standards for athletic performance. Add in cardio to his regimen — sprints, preferably. Every once in a while, with safety in mind, force him to work longer than 40 minutes. It should be taxing. Every single gym session works him toward a common goal — mobility, flexibility, strength, power, explosiveness, and injury prevention. If any workout doesn’t directly benefit (without excluding) those tenets, then don’t do it. Strength is priority numeral uno. Cardiovascular/cardiorespiratory conditioning is second, tied with mobility and injury prevention. Everything else — aesthetics, fad training ideas, things you read in muscle and fitness about your abs- throw them away. Let’s not get cute until we are in the top 10 percent of our weight class.
In the current fitness enthusiast world we find ourselves today, I almost always get the following retort next: “BUTBUTBUT what about functional strength? Big guys aren’t the only useful ones. Who cares how much I can lift in the gym real life is where you need it, I have mad cardio and sick abzzzz blah blah blah.”
I will put this as plainly as I can. Being globally stronger, stronger as a whole person, will translate to “functional capability”. I could not give a rat’s ass if a teammate of mine can’t do a nifty “fitness trick” like a double under, or a handstand pushup, or a muscle up. Why would I? Can you give me a real life task where a double under directly translates? Let me head you off here — we took care of “cardio” already. Double-unders are a barely useful parlor trick.
If you cannot pick me up wearing my kit and all my gear — I weigh 260 pounds loaded down — then you are useless, and you don’t get a spot. Sorry, but this is real life. You don’t get to scale real life. I don’t care if you can take half of your bodyweight and move it from ground to overhead 30 times reeeeaaaaallly fast. How fast can you lift 140 percent of your bodyweight to your shoulder and run 100 meters to cover? Oh, you can’t? Then stop with all the “functional fitness” crap to support your point as it applies to the SOF environment. Or produce the science and vetted studies to back up your point. Pro tip — those studies don’t exist.
I want to break this down to brass tacks. In my experience, both in the military and the SOF community, stronger people really are harder to kill. I can tell you from first hand experience, and from second and third hand experience. If you focus 80 percent of your energy to making yourself as strong as you can be, you will be more useful, around for longer, and more likely to be a success in this small focus group.
I liken it to fighting — good fighters want to be stronger later in the fight. Ask an experienced fighter how it is to fight someone that is truly stronger than they are. It is unnerving. Better fighters do this with strength training.
In the end, I always use this analogy: “You can always dig deep and find bigger lungs. In the fight, in the heat of the moment, a true warrior can find a couple more steps, another sprint. That’s going to be there. But strength? You can’t just find a 100-pound PR when you need it. If you can’t lift 280 pounds off the ground and you need to move 350 — well, get as amped up as you would like. Your double unders aren’t going to help you now.”
And if you train to be able to run away, to simply exist as opposed to being strong enough to finish the fight, well, then run away is all you got. And that’s not the business we are in.
The author of this article is an active duty special operator. We are protecting his identity by only using his first name. This article first appeared in The Havok Journal on 26MAR14.
China’s first indigenous aircraft carriers are currently undergoing sea trials and are getting a good amount of international buzz. There is one crucial thing to remember about these large, powerful vessels, however. Their primary weapon, for both offensive and defensive operations, is the aircraft they carry on board. Building the carriers is just half of the answer to the question of naval dominance.
And while things might be going well at sea, according to a report by the South China Morning Post, the Chinese are having a problem — or, more accurately, a lot of problems — in the sky, specifically with the Shenyang J-15 Flanker. This aircraft isn’t quite original, it’s a copy of the Su-33, a plane that Russia is currently phasing out in favor of a modified MiG-29.
So far, there have been four crashes involving the J-15. At least two pilots have been killed trying to save planes that have suffered serious mechanical failures in flight. A third pilot was badly injured, taking over a year to recover.
The J-15 is a Chinese copy of the Su-33 Flanker.
(Photo by Dimitri Tarakhov)
So, what’s China to do? Currently, there are plans to replace the J-15 with a version of the J-31, a Chinese fifth-generation fighter that’s currently in development. The J-31 made its first flight in 2012. The US struggled to get a true fifth-generation fighter in the air — there was more than a decade-long gap between the F-35’s first flight and introduction to service. While there’s no guarantee than the Chinese will run into the same delays the US, it does look as though they’re at risk of fielding aircraft carriers well before their primary armaments are ready.
A model of the J-15.
(Photo by Nacht Eule)
Communist China currently has one carrier, the Liaoning, a Russian Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier (and we know the track record of the Kuznetsov), in service. A refined copy of that carrier, known as the Type 001A, is China’s first home-built carrier. Meanwhile, the Chinese are also developing two new carrier classes, the Type 002 and Type 003. The former is said to be a conventionally-powered design in the 85,000-ton range while the latter is reported to be a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
The Chinese are turning to the J-31 to replace the J-15.
(Photo by wc)
Of course, the effectiveness of these carriers will depend on whether the Chinese Communists can get workable planes. Otherwise, the carriers will be practically useless.
In October of 1944, a shortage of planes led Japan to use their carriers as decoys at Leyte Gulf. Unless the Chinese get to manufacturing solid aircraft for their carriers, they might find themselves in the same boat.
A former first lieutenant with the 221st Signal Company in Vietnam, Paul Berkowitz, created a website to help former unit members connect. And one day, he was surprised to receive an audio tape from former member Rick Ekstrand. It was the audio portion of film shot on Hill 724 in Vietnam where a pitched battle followed a highly successful Vietnam ambush in November 1967.
During the Battle of Dak To, U.S. troops maneuvered against a series of hills covered with thick jungle vegetation, including Hill 724. In this footage from Nov. 7, two American companies attempted to maneuver on the hill and were ambushed by a North Vietnamese Army Regiment.
Alpha Company, the lead regiment, was pinned down and the two companies were outnumbered 10 to 1. Rockets, mortars, artillery, and machine gun fire rained down on the men as the camera operator narrated and filmed. Check out the amazing footage below from the American Heroes Channel:
In the spring of 1970, U.S. forces attempted to fracture an NVA supply line in the Vietnam jungle, as 79 soldiers from Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry came under a vicious attack and became trapped in a heavily bunkered NVA fortification — unable to escape.
With nowhere to run, the troops began taking heavy casualties.
The hellish area was covered in thick towering trees which ruled out any possibility of dropping off extra supplies or evacuating the wounded. The only way to get to the ambushed men was from the ground.
If these ground troops were to lose this area to the enemy, the hope of an offensive victory would have died. The men at the point of attack managed to pull their wounded brothers out of harm’s way and quickly render care. The American forces formed a secure perimeter with the men they had left.
“Human instinct tells you to stay on that ground don’t move, return fire, don’t move,” Ken Woodard of Charlie Company explains during an interview. “You can get killed.”
The men did just that, without being ordered.
They were then able to create a base of fire putting rounds down range — buying time.