In 1942, young Norma Jean Dougherty married Jim Dougherty, a Van Nuys, Calif. factory worker. The next year, her husband enlisted in the Merchant Marine and, by 1944, was sent to the Pacific Theater of World War II. Then just 18 years old, Norma Jean moved in with his parents in Van Nuys and began working at the Radioplane Munitions Factory.
That’s where an Army Air Forces photographer captured some photos of her at work, and her life changed forever.
Norma Jean had a rough life up until that point. Her mother was mentally unstable and she was placed in and out of foster homes and orphanages until she was 16. That’s when she married Jim Dougherty in an effort to avoid being sent back to another orphanage. She became a housewife for a brief time until the Second World War forced her husband to join the Merchant Marine and she was sent to work in a factory.
Norma Jean Dougherty working on a propeller unit at the Radioplane Factory in Van Nuys, Calif., 1944.
(U.S. Army Air Forces)
The photographer, Pvt. David Conover, was sent to the factory by his commander, Capt. Ronald Reagan, who wanted photos of pretty girls hard at work on the homefront for the boys fighting overseas.
“I moved down the assembly line, taking shots of the most attractive employees,” Conover later wrote. “None was especially out of the ordinary. I came to a pretty girl putting on propellers and raised the camera to my eye. She had curly ash blond hair and her face was smudged with dirt. I snapped her picture and walked on. Then I stopped, stunned. She was beautiful. Half child, half woman, her eyes held something that touched and intrigued me.“
One of Norma Jean Dougherty’s first modeling photos.
In the end, Conover didn’t use any of Dougherty’s photos for the work he was assigned to do for the Army that day. He would end up taking leave from the Army Air Corps to spend two weeks shooting Norma Jean and teaching her how to pose for the camera. Eventually, she signed on with the Blue Book Modeling Agency in 1945, sometimes using the name Jean Norman.
The photographer was soon sent off to the Philippines and lost contact with Norma Jean. It wasn’t until 1953, when her career was taking off, that he learned his discovery was the bombshell everyone knew as Marilyn Monroe. She credited this to Conover all her life, and the two were reunited briefly on the set of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
Marilyn Monroe and Emmeline Snively on the set of ‘No Business Like Show Business.’
Her first modeling gigs were mostly advertisements and men’s magazines, as she had more of a “pin-up” figure than one of a fashion model, according to her agency. It was the Blue Book Modeling Agency’s founder, Miss Emmeline Snively, who introduced Norma Jean to the movie industry.
As an Afghan-American linguist, Sgt. Zabi Abraham strives to help the two countries he loves.
Originally from Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province near the border of Pakistan, Abraham first served as a contractor to support U.S. Special Forces units.
Before and during operations, Abraham, now 35, would translate for the soldiers and share knowledge about his country’s customs and traditions.
“They respected me a lot,” he recalled, “and also gave me the chance to explain every situation to them.”
The soldiers also taught him about America, and he became interested in the opportunities it offered.
Years later, those opportunities led him on a path to U.S. citizenship. He also had the chance to return to Afghanistan, where he now serves as an advisor for one of the U.S. Army’s newest units, the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade.
Sgt. Zabi Abraham, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, interprets a conversation between Lt. Col. Zachary Miller, right, the battalion commander, and an Afghan National Army officer during an Afghan-led operation near Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 16, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sean Kimmons)
In Afghanistan, about a quarter of the labor force is unemployed and more than half of the population lives below the national poverty line, according to the most recent data provided by The World Bank.
Determined to have a better life, Abraham’s hard work as a contractor helped him be recommended for a special immigration visa. In 2013, he was approved and moved his family to the United States to start a new journey.
His first taste of America left him amazed when he and his family first stepped foot onto U.S. soil while switching planes in Chicago.
Sgt. Zabi Abraham, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, speaks with Afghan soldiers during an Afghan-led operation near Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 16, 2018.
(Army photo by Sean Kimmons)
“We saw everything was very nice and very fresh. We said that this is the life,” he said, smiling.
His family chose to live in Missouri and, at first, it took some time to adapt to the American way of life.
The endless choices at megastores, a variety of pay systems (Afghanistan mainly relies on cash), and the other differences in American culture presented some challenges.
“At the beginning, it was little bit hard,” he said. “Everything was very new for us.”
Abraham and his wife also wanted to be a dual-income family, so both obtained learner’s permits so they could drive themselves around.
Although it is legal for women to drive in Afghanistan, many families restrict them from doing so due to safety concerns.
Abraham and his wife studied for the driver’s test and frequently practiced behind the wheel. Once the test came, they both passed.
“It was such a big experience and a good day for us,” he said.
Joining the Army
While things went well in his new home, his heart still longed for Afghanistan and he searched how he could help rebuild the war-torn country.
In 2015, he walked into an Army recruiter’s office and told them he once served as a linguist with U.S. soldiers. Impressed, a recruiter suggested he become an active-duty interpreter.
“My main reason was to come back and use my skill,” said Abraham, who speaks Dari and Pashto, the two most widely spoken Afghan languages.
In traditional Afghan attire, Zabi Abraham, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, poses for a photo in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in 2013.
At basic training, Abraham, still an Afghan citizen, was issued sets of the Army combat uniform along with the other trainees. When the time came to wear the uniform, he could not help but share the moment with his family.
“I was very proud and took some pictures and sent them to my family,” he said. “They were proud of me, too.”
Abraham eventually earned his citizenship and was stationed at Fort Irwin, California, where he and other interpreters helped rotational units at the National Training Center prepare for deployments.
Speaking in his native tongue, Abraham and others role-played as peaceful villagers, insurgents and even detainees to gauge how soldiers responded.
News then spread across the training base about a new unit designed to bolster the train, advise and assist mission in Afghanistan.
The more he heard about the 1st SFAB and its experienced soldiers, many of whom have been deployed to Afghanistan, the more it appealed to him.
“I wanted to be involved with such professional people,” he said.
Now based at the New Kabul Compound in the middle of the country’s capital city, Abraham is one of the most impactful advisors within the brigade’s 5th Battalion.
Often, he is at the battalion commander’s side, translating conversations between him and senior Afghan leaders.
His respectful demeanor and extensive knowledge of Afghan traditions make him a popular soldier to almost every Afghan he meets.
Zabi Abraham, right, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, prepares to do the Oath of Enlistment while at a military entrance processing station.
“They see him as serving us, but also as serving them,” said Lt. Col. Zachary Miller, the 5th Battalion commander.
During important discussions, Abraham is sort of Miller’s key advisor to ensure things are not lost in translation or to pick up on cultural cues.
“It’s the word choice they are choosing. It may be the way they did or did not answer a certain question,” Miller said. “So, if you got a really quality cultural advisor and interpreter, like we do with Sgt. Abraham, he will stop you from asking a question that is not the right time to ask.”
When the time is right, Abraham will ask those sensitive questions in private to support the mission.
“Even if you get trained on the Dari language,” Miller said, “you’ll never be able to pick up on those things if you’re not a native speaker.”
Wearing the same combat gear as every American soldier over here, Abraham also surprises Afghans when he speaks in their language.
“They don’t realize because I’m in full kit, but after I speak with them they realize I am Afghan,” he said, laughing. “I tell them about the service I provided when I was a linguist with them and right now how I support both countries.
Zabi Abraham, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, poses for a photo with his wife and two children during a trip to San Diego.
“They are appreciative of my service.”
With his unit’s deployment ending this month, Abraham recently spoke of where his career may go next.
If his family approves — most importantly his wife and two young children — he would like to retire as a soldier.
“Without their support, I could not do anything and achieve my goal here in Afghanistan,” he said. “They are part of my heart.”
Another part of his heart belongs to Afghanistan.
Abraham is in the process of completing his bachelor’s degree and raising his test scores to perhaps re-class to 35P, a cryptologic linguist. That job deals with identifying foreign communications using signals equipment.
Even if he does switch careers, Abraham aspires to be halfway across the world again helping his native country.
“My hope is that one day there is peace in this country,” he said.
Before D-Day, on June 5, 1944, some 90 teams of two to four men parachuted into Nazi-occupied France. They were members of the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessors of both the CIA and the modern-day Army Special Forces. These OSS teams were called “Jedburgh” teams and were highly skilled in European languages, parachuting, amphibious operations, skiing, mountain climbing, radio operations, Morse code, small arms, navigation, hand-to-hand combat, explosives, and espionage. They would need all of it.
The OSS teams’ job was to link up with resistance fighters in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands to coordinate Allied airdrops, conduct sabotage operations, and roll out the red carpet for the Allied advance into Germany. D-Day was to be the “Jeds'” trial by fire.
The Jedburghs preparing to jump before D-Day.
Fast forward to 75 years later: Europe is no longer a fortress and the OSS has since evolved into both the CIA and the US Army’s Special Forces. To honor that tradition, a team of Army Special Forces veterans, including SOF legend and 2017 Bull Simons Award Winner CSM Rick Lamb, are planning to recreate the Jedburghs’ famous nighttime jumps into Europe in June 2019 and those veterans just happen to be members of the ODA that rode into Afghanistan on horseback in the days following the 9/11 attacks — they are Team American Freedom.
If the name “American Freedom” sounds familiar, it’s because they’re also the founders of American Freedom Distillery, a Florida-based premium spirits brand, makers of Horse Soldier Bourbon and Rekker Rum. And it’s not only the Special Forces veterans jumping from the lead aircraft on June 5th, they’re in good company. Joining them in the jump will be retired Army Ranger Bill Dunham, who lost a leg in Panama in 1989, the Gold Star mother of another Army Ranger and some of her late son’s fellow Rangers, and a 97-year-old World War II veteran.
The American Freedom Distillery Team
“This group will represent every major known and unknown conflict for the past 30 years – every group who inserted early and fought with little recognition,” says American Freedom co-founder and Special Forces vet Scott Neill. “This is the last big World War II anniversary (other than VJ Day) that World War II vets and these generation will share. The very special part is that we will also share this with our families. Our wives who took care of the home front and our kids who watched daddy go away again and again. It’s a way to show our family why we did it.”
For the entire summer of 2019, France and England will be celebrating the D-Day landings and the start of the liberation of Europe. The D-Day airdrop is just the beginning, other events will include parades, military encampments, and showcases featuring World War II uniforms.
Good work if you can get it.
The team is set to stage out of Cherbourg, France and tour some of the areas where the most intense fighting occurred. On June 5th, they will jump out of a C-47 Skytrain, just like their forebears did 75 years ago, and hit the dropzone at around 11a.m. They won’t be coming empty-handed. They will also be dropping a barrel of their Horse Soldier Bourbon to support the festivities on the ground as 200 more jumpers hit the drop zone throughout the day.
(Image courtesy of Scott Neil, American Freedom Distillery)
If you want to support Team American Freedom as they remember the brave men who landed behind enemy lines a full day before the Allied invasion of Europe, you can help by contributing to their GoFundMe page. You will be enabling generations of special operators, CIA veterans, and Gold Star Families, many of who have lead insertions into modern day areas of operations attend this historic event.
As troops walk through the bazaars of Afghanistan, they’ll always see the same collection of things for sale. Bootleg DVDs of shows that weren’t even interesting during their time, horrible knockoffs of brand-name clothing, souvenirs with the names of neighboring countries (mostly) scraped off, and gorgeous, handcrafted rugs depicting the mujahedin fighting the Soviets.
It’s almost surreal. Among the piles of junk are these masterpieces marred with spelling errors.
Afghanistan has a history filled with constant warfare. So, it makes sense that their cultural art reflects this. Afghan carpets have been a staple of the culture’s art for hundreds of years, but it was during the 1979 Soviet invasion that the rugs were used as a form of quiet protest.
Their AK-47s and tanks were woven into the rugs next to geometric shapes and flowers. The Baluch or Tup-e-Tung (or just “war rugs”) began appearing all over the country. The tradition continued well into America’s intervention in 2001. Contemporary war rugs now include the attack on the World Trade Center and drones.
Funnily enough, the Afghan people prefer not having a constant reminder of the warfare that has plagued their homeland for generations. However, Westerners go crazy for them. War rugs almost exclusively sold to foreigners can fetch up to $25,000 at auction — but are often bartered for much less.
While it’s true that they’re very well-crafted and are the cause for much employment in the country, it still needs to be said that the U.S. Department of Labor recognizes that some are created using child labor. The rugs sold on U.S. and NATO military bases in Afghanistan are carefully vetted to avoid the exploitation of children.
Morale patches are patches troops wear on their uniforms designed to be a funny inside joke, applicable only to their unit or military career field. They are usually worn during deployments, but the wear of morale patches is at the discretion of the unit’s commander.
The patches often (not always) make fun of a depressing, boring or otherwise specific part of the job.
These patches have been around since the military began to wear patches. They are collected and traded by people, both military and civilians, who come across them. Some are more popular than others, but they are usually a lot of fun.
The “Morale Stops Here” patch is pretty popular and is actually repeated by units the world over. It’s really funny the first time you see it.
This is an old one, a throwback to the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command days. “To forgive is not SAC policy” is widely attributed to famed SAC commander Curtis LeMay.
For the benefit of the uninitiated, CSAR stands for Combat Search And Rescue.
Having the Kool-Aid Man as your unofficial mascot is funny enough, but making his hand the lightning-shooting gauntlet in the old SAC emblem is clever.
The JSTARS (or Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System) have a descriptive patch here – as they operate out of trailers at Al-Udeid Air Base, Qatar (in the military, being deployed here is also known as “doing the Deid”).
This is a U.S. Navy patch from Vietnam. The “yacht” is a junk – a historically widespread type of ship used in China and around Southeast Asia. The Tonkin Gulf is where the Vietnam War (or more specifically, the U.S. involvement in it) really ignited.
More from Vietnam. By the end of the 1960’s, the rift between those who served in Vietnam and the perception of the war back home hit its peak.
As the Cold War intensified and the threat of nuclear war seemed more and more unavoidable, the young enlisted and officers whose role in the annihilation of Earth’s population probably felt more than a little stressed.
The tradition continued, well into Desert Storm. If you have morale patches that make others laugh or are highly prized, please post in the comments.
Not everyone joins the military right after hearing a news report about Pearl Harbor attacks, after seeing the Twin Towers fall, or after hearing a speech by President Polk talking about “American blood” shed “on American soil.” No, most troops who will join a war make the decision slowly, over time. These are the posters from World War II that might have helped your (great) grandpa or grandmother decide to contribute to the fights in Europe, the Pacific, and Asia.
(U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)
This iconic poster from 1942, “Man the Guns,” encouraged men to join the Navy and do their bit for victory on the open ocean.
(U.S. Army Military History Institute)
World War II saw the first use of paratroopers and other airborne commandos in combat. Germany kicked off airborne combat history during its invasions of Western Europe, but all of the major Allied and Axis powers fielded some sort of airborne force.
“The Marines have landed” was a World War II recruiting poster that capitalized on the expeditionary nature of the Marine Corps. It was first completed in 1941 but was aimed at 1942 recruiting goals. The Marines focused on the Pacific Theater in the war, chipping away at Japan’s control of Pacific islands until the Army Air Forces were in range of the home islands.
(United States Army Air Forces)
The air forces of the world saw huge expansions in World War I and then the inter-war years. By the time World War II was in full swing, thousands of planes were clashing over places like the English Channel and the Battle of Kursk. American air forces launched from bases in the Pacific, England, Africa, and more in order to take the ultimate high ground against the Axis forces.
(U.K. National Archives)
This poster from England referenced a Winston Churchill speech in 1941 that reminded the English people of their great successes in late 1940 and early 1941. Hitler’s planned invasion of the British Isles had been prevented, and Churchill was hopeful that continued English resistance would pull America into the war. He finished the speech with this passage:
We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle, nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down. Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
American men who joined the Army started at a bare a month, equivalent to about 0 today. Joining the Airborne forces could more than double that pay, but it was still clear that fighting the Nazis or the Japanese empire had to be done for patriotism, not the insane pay.
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
Not everyone could serve on the front lines. Whether restricted because of age, health, or some other factor, people who wanted to serve their country’s defense in the states could join the U.S. Office of Civilian Defense. If it sounds like busy work to you, understand that America’s coasts were being regularly attacked by submarines while the occasional raid by planes or balloons was an ever-present threat.
(U.K. National Archives)
England took some of the worst hits from Germany in World War II, so British propagandists found it important to remind a scared English public that they’d been here before, that they’d survived before, and that Germany had been turned back before. It might have been cold comfort after France fell so quickly in World War II after holding out for all of World War I, but even cold comfort is preferable to none.
The US Air Force needs more tanker aircraft to ensure that America’s heavy hitters can take the fight to China should a conflict arise, according to the service’s senior leadership.
“The challenge in the Pacific is the tyranny of distance, and that means tanker squadrons are very important,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told Congress in October 2018, Voice of America reported, noting that the Air Force plans to increase the number of tanker squadrons from 40 to 54 by 2030.
“When we project into the 2025, 2030 timeframe, our pacing threat, we believe, is China,” Wilson further explained to Congress. The tanker plans are part of a larger initiative to boost the overall strength of the Air Force.
The Air Force secretary announced in September 2018 that the service intends to increase the total number of force operational squadrons by nearly 25%, raising the number by 74 to a total of 386 squadrons. The expansion is in service of the National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy, which point to great power competition as the greatest threat.
In response to criticism about the potential costs, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis argued, “It’s expensive. We recognize that. But it’s less expensive than fighting a war with somebody who thought that we were weak enough that they could take advantage.”
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis.
Aerial refueling aircraft play a critical role in extending the operational range of America’s fighter and bomber aircraft.
In recent months, as tensions between Washington and Beijing have soared to “dangerous” levels, the US has increasingly sent B-52H heavy long-range bombers through the East and South China Seas. There have been over half a dozen flights since August 2018, with the most recent flight taking place on Oct. 10, 2018, a spokesperson for Pacific Air Forces told Business Insider on Oct. 12, 2018.
Tankers have typically accompanied the bombers on these flights, which China has characterized as “provocative.”
While the Air Force is upping its game, China is believed to be doing the same through intense research into advanced anti-access, area-denial (A2/AD) weapons systems, including a new very long-range air-to-air missiles designed to cripple slower, more vulnerable support aircraft in the rear, such as tankers and airborne early warning aircraft.
The missile is suspected to have a range of around 186 miles, farther than US air-to-air missiles.
China does not necessarily need to defeat elite planes like the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter in battle. It only needs to keep them out of the fight. China has also invested heavily in integrated air defense systems relying on indigenous and foreign combat platforms.
Some of the weapons systems China is looking at have made appearances in military exercises, but it is unclear how close China is to actually fielding these systems.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Army Capt. Rebecca Murga had the same goals as anyone else at gear turn-in after deployment: get rid of this sh*t and get back home. But she made a rookie mistake when she left Afghanistan without double-checking her gear against her clothing list.
That’s how she ended up at the Central Issue Facility with a desperate need to go home and no Gore-Tex. And since Army property values never match civilian price points, she’s left with the option of paying hundreds of dollars or weaving a Gore-Tex from cobwebs and unicorn dreams.
Anyone who has dealt with DoD civilians knows that it’s a recipe for frustration, but Murga manages to smooth talk her way through the facility only to find herself faced with something worse.
See how Murga’s conscience clouds her homecoming in the No Sh*t There I Was episode embedded at the top.
No other aircraft or air defense system in the world can touch it.
Stealthy, fast, incomparably lethal, the F-22 Raptor is without a doubt the deadliest and most advanced fighter jet ever built. And the Air Force, after a lengthy congressional-backed review, will not be getting any new Raptors to supplement its undersized fleet.
The Raptor, built by Lockheed Martin, was originally created as a follow-on to the F-15 Eagle, the previous mainstay of the Air Force’s fighter fleet. Taking in the strengths of the Eagle and improving vastly with new capabilities such as thrust vectoring for supermaneuverability built into a platform optimized for stealth, the Raptor was everything fighter pilots hoped for and dreamed of.
It would be able to fly the air superiority mission like no other, while also being able to carry out air-to-ground strikes with ease.
Initially, the Air Force planned on buying over 750 units to replace its massive Eagle fleet. Over time, that number was drawn down significantly, thanks to evolving missions and changing threat scenarios. By 2009, Congress voted to cap the Raptor’s overall production run at 187, severely below the minimum figure of 381 units the Air Force projected it would need to fulfill the air superiority mission.
According to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, the sheer costs alone makes restarting the Raptor production line, defunct since 2012, completely unfeasible. Revamping manufacturing spaces in addition to rebuilding and redesigning jigs and the tooling necessary to build further Raptors would cost anywhere between $7 to $10 billion, and that’s only the tally on the infrastructure required. Estimates on each Raptor’s flyaway price rang up a whopping $200 million per unit cost, a $60 million jump over the aircraft’s unit cost when its production run ended. The study on bringing the F-22 line back to life was ordered by Congress in April 2016.
Though not wholly unexpected, the recommendation to not pursue a restart of the Raptor line will reduce the Air Force’s options in retaining dominance in its air superiority mission. Earlier this year, the service let on that the F-15C/D Eagle will more than likely face an early demise by the mid-2020s, thanks to an expensive fuselage refurbishment deemed impractical by its brass.
Eagles have long served the Air Force as its dedicated air supremacy fighter, excelling in the mission in the 1990s where it first tasted combat in the Persian Gulf, and later in the Balkans. The Eagle fleet was originally to be overhauled and kept in service until the early 2040s, when it would be replaced by a new 6th generation fighter.
Instead, the Air Force will move on with its plan to refurbish and extend the lives of its F-16 Fighting Falcons, multirole fighters which can also fly the air superiority mission with a considerable degree of success. Critics, however, argue that the F-16 is unequal to the aircraft it seeks to supplant. Smaller, shorter-range, and limited in terms of the amount of munitions it is able to carry, the Fighting Falcon has still served the Air Force and Air National Guard faithfully since the late 1970s and beyond.
A possible byproduct of this news could be the Air Force’s push to develop its 6th generation fighter on an accelerated timeline, bringing it into service earlier than expected. This would minimize the reliance the service would have to place on its aging F-16s, while bringing online a fighter built to work in tandem with incoming next-generation assets like the F-35 Lightning II. This would also potentially reduce the burden placed on the F-22 to shoulder more of the Eagle’s prior workload once it is retired, keeping the small Raptor fleet viable and in service longer.
“When our freedom was under attack one battle would turn the tide.”
The first official trailer for ‘Midway’ has been released, depicting the World War II fight in the Pacific from Pearl Harbor to Midway. Starring Luke Evans (Dracula, Fast & Furious 6), Patrick Wilson (Aquaman, Watchmen), Woody Harrelson (True Detective, everything else you’ve ever seen), and Mandy Moore (she’s missing you like candy), the film is advertised as “The story of the Battle of Midway, told by the leaders and the sailors who fought it.”
The trailer opens with the attack at Pearl Harbor, showing the devastation up close. “Pearl Harbor is the greatest intelligence failure in American history,” a voice insists. Hindsight proves how true this statement was. In fact, an American admiral planned the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1932, nine years before the Japanese carried it out, but the military failed to heed the admiral’s cautions, and the men and women there that day paid the price.
The trailer follows the war in the Pacific to Midway, a battle that would change the conflict.
Six months after the Dec. 7, 1941 attacks, the Japanese fleet commander, Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku, devised a strategy to destroy the American aircraft carriers that had escaped Pearl Harbor. Instead, United States code-breakers allowed Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Chester W. Nimitz to launch a counterattack, ambushing the Japanese fleet at Midway.
Midway dealt a decisive blow to the Japanese and allowed American forces to deploy throughout the Pacific, edging close and closer to Japan. World War II battles really depict the raw, close-range danger that service members were in. Pilots were dog-fighting in vulnerable aircraft and facing off against the heavy firepower of naval ships, who, meanwhile, were turning cannons on each other that threatened to pull sailors with them to a watery grave.
It’s almost incomprehensible now, but films like Midway won’t let us forget:
“You’re gonna remember this moment for the rest of your life.”
“There’s a very unique bond between infantry soldiers not found in any other [career] in the Army,” Staff. Sgt. Leonard Markley, a recruiter in Toledo, Ohio, whose primary career field is infantry, said in a recent service news release. “It’s us against the world, and we as infantrymen all know about the hardships that come with this [career]: walking countless miles, sleep deprivation and rationed meals.
“Even when I see another infantryman walking by, I have respect for him and have his back, because we are brothers through all our hardships,” he added.
To qualify for the infantry, applicants must score a minimum of 87 on the combat line score of the Armed Forces Qualification Test and pass the Occupational Physical Assessment Test at the heavy level, according to the release.
Recruits attend a 22-week Infantry One Station Unit Training at Fort Benning, Georgia. During training, they will list their specific infantry job preferences, although assignments are determined by the needs of the Army. Upon graduation, soldiers are assigned as either an infantryman (11B) or an indirect fire infantryman (11C), the release states.
“The Infantry has instilled a work ethic in me that is noticeably different than my peers,” Markley said. “This work ethic and discipline will set me apart wherever I go after the military. It is the premier career for leadership and management development skills. I can go anywhere and be a successful manager in any civilian field.”
Until recently, Army recruiters were offering bonuses of up to ,000 for a six-year enlistment in the infantry. The Army began paying out hefty bonuses for infantry recruits in May 2019 to meet a shortfall of about 3,300 infantry training seats by the end of fiscal 2019. It was part of a sweeping new recruiting strategy launched at the beginning of fiscal 2019, after the service missed its fiscal 2018 goal.
Over the last month, the United States (and parts of the world) erupted in protests after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmuad Abery. While their deaths drew the ire of many Americans, they set off an angry and passionate reaction to the bigger problem of police brutality and systemic racism.
Unfortunately, protests can be marred by people taking advantage and the marches that have occurred in all 50 states have seen some people take to rioting and looting. While the vast majority of protests have been peaceful, the magnitude of people on the street and looting caused some states to activate their respective National Guard units.
Director and Army Veteran Robert Ham was able to link up with National Guard Chaplain Major Nathan Graeser who was part of a California National Guard Unit that was assigned to downtown Los Angeles. With the noise of protestors in the background demanding reform of police and the end of the systemic racism that plagues this country, Graeser talked about why the National Guard was there and the mood of the troops. When asked about the atmosphere in the area Graeser said, “Seeing this today, I kept thinking to myself… this is what makes America great.”
In addition to being an Army Chaplain in the California National Guard, Nathan is also a social worker. He is an expert on programs and policies that support service members transitioning out of the military. Nathan is an advocate for veterans and leads multiple veteran initiatives in Los Angeles. He has spent thousands of hours counseling veterans and their families to deal with the challenges of service and returning home.
Graeser talks about the disconnections we have with one another, exacerbated by COVID-19 and how those disconnections flared up in the wake of these deaths. He knows, because he sees the same disconnection with his soldiers and with veterans as they themselves struggle to connect to the community they took an oath to serve.
But, Graeser said he sees the similarities between the young soldiers and young protesters, “These 19 year olds,” referring to the guardsmen, he said, “They are thoughtful, they are kind, even their interaction with the looters is as gentle as can possibly be.”
While the riots have been waning, the cries for action have not. What does the future hold for the rest of 2020 and beyond? We can only guess at this time.
But there is hope in what Graeser sees.
“We are out here to see what the next chapter is,” he shared. “One thing I know is wherever we go, we are going to need everybody.”
There aren’t any real ways to describe what Afghanistan was like to civilians. Life on deployment is just so bizarre that the only thing you can do is compare it to something else.
You could say that it’s a blisteringly hot desert with creepy-ass bugs that’s peppered with some assholes who want us dead, but a more telling analogy would be to compare it to Star Wars‘ desert planet of Tatooine.
But you might find something that someone else might find interesting. Won’t be you though.
(Photo by photo by Senior Airman Jessica Lockoski)
Constantly looking around for nothing
There are moments on deployment when things get intense. That’s not up for debate. But there is a significant difference between the number of troops who’ve been deployed and the number of troops who’ve seen actual combat. For the most part, patrols come back having received nothing more than a few glares from the locals.
You might have one of the few grunts who was constantly on-mission for duration of your deployment, but for the other 99.99 percent of us, there’s a lot of nothing going around.
…during which, you guessed it, nothing will happen again.
(Photo by Sgt. Steven Quinata)
Nothing to do if you’re on an outlaying FOB
Even when troops get back to the FOB — surprise! — there’s still nothing going on.
The two-thirds of the “Fobbits” who didn’t join you have nothing interesting to talk about and you’re just twiddling your thumbs waiting until the next time you can go out on patrol.
Chances are, you’re not going to find a droid with an encoded message from a princess, so just enjoy your recording of a movie that came out three years ago.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. David Carbajal)
The locals sell old hand-me-downs
Despite popular civilian belief, you actually can snag some solid quality-of-life things from the local bazaars.
But it’s never anything actually useful — unless you’re interested in a collection of ripped DVDs of some 90s sitcom. It’s like the old hunk-of-junk droids that Luke buys. I mean, yeah, they kick off the Hero’s Journey for Luke, but everyone else who buys that crap is probably going to hawk it off to the next guy.
Definitely smells about the same…
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka)
The main airfields were just weird
At first glance, Kandahar Airfield sounds like a Mos Eisley-esque, wretched hive of scum and villainy. Many years ago, that may have been true, but now it’s just… odd.
Everyone from all the NATO nations are headquartered there and with that diversity comes an odd mixture of cultural identities. Everyone seems so happy for no reason, despite there being a literal pond full of sh*t just downwind.
Both aren’t known for their spectacular aim, either.
The terrorists are basically the Tusken Raiders
Terrorists are aggressive and attack when you least expect them to. Once, there was a time when they were feared for their ability in battle.
Truth is, they’re garbage and get wasted pretty fast whenever they show their faces.
It’s hard to differentiate the two sometimes. They’re usually the only fat people people in a war-torn and impoverished nation, but no one ever says anything about it…
(Photo by Sgt. Tracy Smith)
The warlords are basically Jabba the Hutt
The Afghan leadership thinks they have control over the warlords, but they really don’t. No one wants to call them out for their criminal enterprises; it’s not a fight anyone is willing to take.
Accepting that you have to pay off the Hutts to get things done is the norm on Tatooine. It’s basically the same in Afghanistan.