Why 'Saving Private Ryan' captured the dark side of war - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

2018 marks the 20th anniversary of Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, an iconic film that remains one of the most honest depictions of war.


“It was a mentally demoralizing experience for us,” Spielberg told film critic Roger Ebert. Nevertheless, it was important for the director “to show America the dark side of the face of war.”

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war
Director Steven Spielberg on set during the filming of ‘Saving Private Ryan.’
(Photo by DreamWorks Studios and Paramount Pictures)

Spielberg made many deliberate decisions to ensure the authenticity and the truth of war portrayed in this film, and the behind-the-scenes footage is riveting. The D-Day invasion scene took over two weeks to shoot and involved thousands of extras — including Irish Army reservists and real amputees.

Even the camera movements and lenses were all designed to follow the movement of combat and obscure the viewer’s vision, replicating the chaos and confusion of battle. Spielberg shot the film chronologically, which is an unusual choice for filmmakers.

“We shot in continuity, from beginning to end. We were all reliving the story together…but I didn’t realize how devastating that was going to be for the whole cast to actually start off with Omaha Beach and survive that as a film team, and then move into the hedgerows, move into the next town, as we all began to get whittled down by the storytelling.”

It was important for Spielberg to honor those who fought in World War II. “I think it is the key — the turning point of the entire century. World War II allowed my generation to exist.” His own father, Arnold Spielberg, enlisted in the U.S. Army after the attacks against Pearl Harbor.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war
Behind-the-scenes image of Tom Hanks in the iconic D-Day invasion scene of ‘Saving Private Ryan.’
(Photo by DreamWorks Studios and Paramount Pictures)

Saving Private Ryan perfectly balanced the inhumanity of war with the very-human warfighters, and continues to be one of the most celebrated films of all time.

To honor the 20th anniversary, the film is now available on 4K UltraHD™ as well as Blu-Ray™ and Digital. Check out the video below for a deeper look at how it was made:

MIGHTY FIT

Four simple tactics to build massive grip strength

If you struggle with exercises like pull-ups or the deadlift, chances are your legs and back aren’t to blame. It’s your weak-ass grip.

Have you ever used wrist straps while deadlifting or doing a back exercise?

If you have, then you know it’s usually much easier to go as heavy as possible. Why?


Your limiting factor isn’t that your back or legs are weak, it’s your grip.

For pull-ups, it’s more of the same story. You’ve probably noticed that doing exercises like rows and pulldowns for 10 to 15 isn’t too bad, even when the weight is more than your bodyweight. But doing the same for full range pull-ups is out of the question.

Again, it’s not your back that needs work but instead your grip strength.

If your weak grip is an issue and you want to learn some tricks for fixing it, check these suggestions out.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

Thumb-over grip is better for mobility on pull-ups but harder on your grip strength.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob Wilson

Bodyweight and weighted dead hangs

If you want a strong grip, try hanging on a bar for as long as possible. While it seems basic, chances are you can’t hang for more than a minute, at least at first.

Try jumping onto a pull-up bar with a pronated grip, where your hands are facing away from you. Allow your arms to fully extend overhead and hang unassisted for as long as possible. Then, repeat.

Once a minute is easy, start adding multiple sets.

When that gets too easy, add some extra weight with a dumbbell between your feet or thighs and repeat the process.

Not to mention that dead hangs are great for your low back pain.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

If you have access to one of these pinch grip bars give it a shot. You’ll be amazed at how much less weight you can handle than with a traditional barbell.

U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik

Dead holds

The best part about building grip strength is that the techniques to do so are simple. Just like with dead hangs, a great way to develop massive grip strength is to hold on to some heavy ass weight for as long as possible.

Similar to dead hangs, set up a barbell in a squat rack with the safety pins just above your knees. Then, work up to a weight that you would come close to maxing out on the deadlift for three reps. Hold the weight for as long as you can and work your way up to 60 seconds per set.

The only thing here is that for maximum benefit, you can’t use an alternate grip if you usually do while deadlifting. You do that because it’s easier to hold on, right?

Instead, use a pronated or double overhand grip while doing dead holds. It will be humbling at first, but over time, your grip will become unstoppable.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

Obviously, grip strength is huge if you expect to max out the deadlift on the ACFT.

U.S. Army Courtesy Photo

Plate holds

If you’ve got a weak grip, you also need to train the muscles in your hands that allow your fingers to stay firmly wrapped around the bar. One of the easiest ways to develop finger strength is the plate hold.

Depending on your grip strength, you want to start with a 10 to 45 pound weightlifting plate, like the ones you used to deadlift. Turn the plate vertical and grip the edge with your four fingers on one side and your thumb on the other.

Pick the plate up and hold for as long as possible. If you want an extra challenge, see how far your walk while holding the heaviest plate possible with your fingers.

It’s going to suck, but your grip will thank you.

Towel Pull-up Variations

www.youtube.com

Use a towel

No, seriously, using a towel to train is a lesser-known grip training tactic.

If you think doing a pull-up on a bar is challenging, try wrapping a towel around that bar and doing pull-ups while holding the towel instead.

The best thing here is that this tactic can be used with other equipment as well.

You can wrap the towel around the handle of a dumbbell or kettlebell and do curls or farmer’s walks. You can even use a towel for machines like lat pulldowns too.

Believe it or not, even repeatedly ringing out a thick towel is an effective way to build wrist and grip strength.

Just keep in mind, not all towels are created equal.

If you’re going to try and use this method for an exercise like pull-ups, place a crash pad underneath you, have a spotter or use a pull-up assist machine just in case the towel breaks.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

Don’t be a looky-loo. Go try some of this stuff and get better.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Jason Archer)

If you have a solid training program that holistically trains your entire body, then grip strength probably isn’t a concern of yours. If you’re like most people and lack that training plan then sign up for The Mighty Fit Plan… it’s free and the perfect thing to help get your grip strength up to snuff.

Don’t forget to check out the Mighty Fit FB group for more Military and Veteran training greatness.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines are now flying these new F-35 variants

This Is The First F-35C Carrier Variant Joint Strike Fighter For The U.S. Marine Corps VMFA-314.

Marines are also getting the F-35C CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Assisted Recovery) variant of the Lightning II. Here’s their first Carrier Variant Jet in VMFA-314 markings.

Along with flying the F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning II aircraft, that operates from amphibious assault ships, the U.S. Marine Corps is transitioning to the F-35C, the CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Assisted Recovery) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter (also known as CV – Carrier Variant), that can operate from U.S. Navy’s flattops (the Nimitz-class ones, until issues with the Ford-class carriers are fixed).

Indeed, the Corps plans to operate 353 F-35Bs and 67 F-35Cs to replace three types of aircraft: the F/A-18A++/C/D “Legacy” Hornet, the AV-8B Harrier II and the EA-6B Prowler.

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314, is the first Marines squadron that will replace the “Legacy” Hornet with the brand new F-35C.


Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

The first F-35C delivered to a USMC squadron, VMFA-314, at NAS Lemoore.

Photo by United States Marine Corps

At the time of writing, VMFA-314 has already started training alongside the U.S. Navy’s VFA-125, the F-35’s only Fleet Replacement Squadron, based at NAS Lemoore, California. The plan is to complete the preparation by next Spring.

By the time the Marine Aircraft Group 11 commander officer will certify the squadron as “safe for flight” and ready to operate independently of the FRS, VMFA-314 will have returned to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California.

The Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of the F-35C was declared on Feb. 28, 2019, after the first F-35C squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, conducted aircraft carrier qualifications aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) and received its Safe-For-Flight Operations Certification.

“In order to declare IOC, the first operational squadron must be properly manned, trained and equipped to conduct assigned missions in support of fleet operations. This includes having 10 Block 3F, F-35C aircraft, requisite spare parts, support equipment, tools, technical publications, training programs and a functional Autonomic Logistic Information System (ALIS). Additionally, the ship that supports the first squadron must possess the proper infrastructure, qualifications and certifications. Lastly, the Joint Program Office (JPO), industry, and Naval Aviation must demonstrate that all procedures, processes and policies are in place to sustain operations,” the Navy added in an official statement.

Also read: F-35, once beaten by F-16s, shows stunts older jets can’t touch

VFA-147 will conduct the first deployment with the F-35C integrated into the Carrier Air Wing 2, aboard the Nimitz-class USS Carl Vinson in 2021, and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314 will conduct the second F-35C carrier deployment.

Interestingly, at least one F-35C already sports full VMFA-314 markings. The first photos of CF-35/169601, modex VW-434, including those that you can find in this article, were posted three weeks ago by Col. Simon Doran, MAG 11’s commanding officer. More shots have started circulating on the Internet after the aircraft, with just a handful flying hours, made a public appearance at Tinker AFB Air Show, on Jun. 1, 2019.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what happens when astronauts see Earth from space for the first time

When astronauts first saw Earth from afar in the Apollo 8 mission in 1968 — the US’s second manned mission to the moon — they described a cognitive shift in awareness after seeing our planet “hanging in the void.”


This state of mental clarity, called the “overview effect,” occurs when you are flung so far away from Earth that you become totally overwhelmed and awed by the fragility and unity of life on our blue globe. It’s the uncanny sense of understanding the “big picture,” and of feeling connected yet bigger than the intricate processes bubbling on Earth.

In a Vimeo video by Planetary Collective called “Overview,” David Beaver, co-founder of the Overview Institute, recounts the sentiments from one of the astronauts on the Apollo mission: “When we originally went to the moon, our total focus was on the moon. We weren’t thinking about looking back at the Earth. But now that we’ve done it, that may well have been the most important reason we went.”

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war
Pacific Ocean from space (image Flickr blueforce4116)

Seeing cameras turn around in a live feed of Earth for the first time — even for viewers at home — was absolutely life-changing. The iconic “Earthrise” image was snapped by astronaut Bill Anders.

Until that point, no human eyes had ever seen our blue marble from space.

“It was quite a shock, I don’t think any of us had any expectations about how it would give us such a different perspective. I think the focus had been: we’re going to the stars, we’re going to other planets,” author and philosopher David Loy said in the Planetary Collective video. “And suddenly we look back at ourselves and it seems to imply a new kind of self-awareness.”

Read Also: 3 crew members return to earth from International Space Station

NASA astronaut Ron Garan explains this incredible feeling in his book, The Orbital Perspective. After clamping into an end of a robotic arm on the International Space Station in 2008, he flew through a “Windshield Wiper” maneuver that flung him in an arc over the space station and back:

As I approached the top of this arc, it was as if time stood still, and I was flooded with both emotion and awareness. But as I looked down at the Earth — this stunning, fragile oasis, this island that has been given to us, and that has protected all life from the harshness of space — a sadness came over me, and I was hit in the gut with an undeniable, sobering contradiction.

In spite of the overwhelming beauty of this scene, serious inequity exists on the apparent paradise we have been given. I couldn’t help thinking of the nearly one billion people who don’t have clean water to drink, the countless number who go to bed hungry every night, the social injustice, conflicts, and poverty that remain pervasive across the planet.

Seeing Earth from this vantage point gave me a unique perspective — something I’ve come to call the orbital perspective. Part of this is the realization that we are all traveling together on the planet and that if we all looked at the world from that perspective we would see that nothing is impossible.

via GIPHY

Author Frank White first coined the term, the “overview effect,” when he was flying in an airplane across the country in the 1970s. After looking out the window, he thought, “Anyone living in a space settlement … will always have an overview. They will see things that we know, but that we don’t experience, which is that the Earth is one system,” he says in the Vimeo video. “We’re all part of that system, and there is a certain unity and coherence to it all.”

He later wrote a book about it in 1998.

While this effect is usually relegated to astronauts and cosmonauts, civilians may too be able to experience this effect — that is if space tourism plans ever get off the ground.

A company called World View is slated to start floating people to stratospheric heights in a balloon in 2016. And Virgin Galactic, despite recent road blocks, may eventually zip wealthy customers 62 miles above Earth for a view of a lifetime.

To get more perspective on the overview effect from astronauts and writers, check out the full Vimeo video here:

OVERVIEW from Planetary Collective on Vimeo.
MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of August 16th

The Air Force was recently considering a new strategy to its PT tests. In a nutshell, it’s going to give any airmen who might fail a PT test a “mulligan” and list the test as a diagnostic instead of a record test. It may possibly be allowed for an airman to list a failed test as off-the-books, but that part isn’t set in stone.

The Air Force was surprisingly serious (to the other troops who use phrases like “Chair Force”) about failed PT tests and other branches also have a practice test system in place. But I can’t help but point out the bad optics on this one.

I mean, I get it. Any notion that the Air Force might someday consider being a fraction more lenient in comparison to the other branches or older vets will cause outrage. On the other hand, I know I would have killed for something like that back in my lower enlisted days…


Anyways, here are some memes while I ponder how much weight I’ve gained since getting out of the Army…

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

​(Meme via Private News Network)

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

(Meme via On The Minute Memes)

True story: I had an E-6 MP live in the apartment next to me off-base…

You know the type, the kind that called in a “noise violation” for my TV being “too loud.” Seeing him get an eviction notice was one of the happiest days of my life in the Army.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

(Meme by Call for Fire)

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

(Meme via Not CID)

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war
Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

(Meme via Victor Alpha Clothing)

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam – part two

On our first trip to Saigon we unsuccessfully searched for a villa, called House 10, that had been used during the war. It was initially a Central Intelligence Agency property that was used to support clandestine activities in Vietnam and other locations in Southeast Asia. Over a period of time, it morphed into something else and began to be used as an operations and logistics center for MACV-SOG activities.


Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

During my tours, MACV-SOG had established their headquarters on Pasteur Street and House 10 became a safe house for personnel who were assigned to one of the activities of MACV-SOG outside Saigon. We stayed at House 10 when we came to town for mission debriefings and mission prep.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

Its location on a broad, tree lined boulevard was very tranquil and quiet. At that time it was run much like a hotel – with individual rooms, laundry service, a grill (where you could get hamburgers etc.), a small bar and an activities room with a pool table. They had listings for local restaurants for various types of food – from French Cuisine to Thai and Japanese as well as local – and they knew which bars catered to US Special Forces personnel.

Before leaving Saigon I did some additional research on the location and address for House 10 – without much hope of finding it – figuring we’d give it one more try. Low and behold, we did find it! The accompanying video says volumes.

If you find yourself in Saigon, here’s the location.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

The flags that fly in front are not what they were the last time I was here, the building is apparently not in use at the moment, and they offer a different kind of ‘Tough Service’, but that’s OK. Vietnam, House 10, and all of us — we have to keep reinventing ourselves.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

It was very emotional to return to a location that I remembered so well. My thinking turned to those I knew during those times – fine men all – some who returned and some who paid the ultimate price for freedom.

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the only living African-American from WW2 to earn MoH

After enlisting in the Army in June of 1941, Vernon Baker was assigned to the 270th Regiment of the 92nd Infantry Division — the first black unit to head into combat during WWII.


After completing Officer Candidate School, Baker was commissioned to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. Soon after, he landed in Naples, Italy, and had to fight his way north through the enemies’ front to the central portion of the country.

His unit was then ordered to attack a German stronghold in the mountains of Viareggio. Several allied battalions before them were unsuccessful in taking the enemy region, but Baker was up to the task.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war
(Source: Medal of Honor Book/ Screenshot)

Related: This Vietnam War vet will receive MoH for saving 10 soldiers

The mountain-top consisted of three hills, “X, Y, and Z.” Baker and his troops began taking the heavily fortified area one hill at a time.

Facing fierce opposition, Baker often came in close enemy contact and managed to survive each deadly encounter as it presented itself.

“Somebody was sitting on my shoulder,” Baker says.

Full of adrenaline from taking the first hill, Baker was handed a submachine gun from a superior officer and instructed to proceed on to the next area.

Patroling nearly on his own, Baker spotted a small German firing position built into the side of the mountain. Armed with a few grenades, he chucked one and landed a perfect strike.

After it detonated and the smoke cleared, a German soldier stuck his head to look around. Baker quickly engaged the troop, killing him on the spot.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war
Vernon Baker sporting his rightfully earned Medal of Honor.(Source: Medal of Honor Book/ Screenshot)

Also Read: The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’

Baker continued to maneuver his way around the mountain and spotted two more firing position — tossing grenades inside each one — killing the enemy troops inside.

After learning the company commander was egressing for resupply, Baker knew he was on his own to lead his remaining troops. Carefully moving through the dangerous terrain, Baker and his men managed to secure the area after several intense firefights.

The next morning, Baker and his men moved through the dangerous terrain and secured the area after several hours of allied bombardment.

52-year later, Baker was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery and courage from former President Bill Clinton.

1st Lt. Vernon Baker became the only living African-American serviceman from WWII to receive the Medal of Honor.

Check out Medal of Honor Book’s video below to listen to Vernon extraordinary story from the legend himself.

(Medal of Honor Book, YouTube)
MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis: For the first time in 70 years, Pentagon will audit defense spending

The funding process for the U.S. military is back in a healthy place, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said on May 23, 2018, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The secretary spoke at the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation, and on May 24, 2018, he participated in the U.S. Northern Command/North American Aerospace Defense Command change-of-command ceremony at Peterson Air Force Base, also in Colorado Springs.


Mattis emphasized the ties between the National Defense Strategy and the budget process, and said the budget submission was underpinned by strategy for the first time in 10 years.

DoD funding process

He has urged congressional leaders to provide predictable funding for the department since taking office, and urged Congress to become more involved in its constitutional duty to fund the department. In nine of the last 10 years, the department spent at least some of the time under a continuing resolution.

“What that meant was, if there were evolving threat or a thing we needed to adapt to, number one, we didn’t have a strategic framework within which you’d go, for example, to the Congress and say here’s why we want additional money here,” the secretary said.

And the department couldn’t get additional monies under a continuing resolution. “Without the steady budget, we could not do new starts,” Mattis said. “So things from the Army’s modernization program, to cyber efforts, to outer space efforts were either stillborn or just put in a dormant status.”

This situation caused the American military overmatch to erode over time, and now the department must make up for lost time, the secretary said.

“We are doing that with the bipartisan support of the Congress to pass the two-year authorization bill and … the omnibus bill,” he said.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis
(Dept. of Defense Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

Mattis is pleased that Congress is no longer in a spectator role with the budget, “but actually saying where they want money put. There will be arguments … and good arguments, about where the priorities should be. And that’s up to us to make certain we can bring the analysis that we have of defining problems and what solutions we want to bring forward.”

More lethal military

Still, DOD officials must recognize that proposed changes must be tied “to make the military more lethal in outer space and cyberspace, at sea, on land, and in the air,” the secretary said. “And we want to do so as much as possible by strengthening our partners and our allies.”

Finding funding from within is also a major push, and Mattis insists DOD must be a good steward of taxpayer dollars. Congress has given the department new tools to enable the Pentagon to adopt best practices from industry and reform processes inside the department.

“Congress has actually had to step in and reorganize our acquisition, technology and logistics oversight into research and engineering for the future, and then acquisition sustainment,” he said.

Pentagon reform

After years of stops and starts, he said, the Pentagon may actually be able to deliver on sustainable reforms. “I cannot right now, look you in the eye and say that we can tell you that every penny in the past has been spent in a strategically sound and auditable manner,” he said. “And so this year, for the first time in 70 years, the Pentagon will perform an audit.

“We’ll have an audit done of itself and I look forward to every problem we find, because we’re going to fix every one of them,” he continued. “So, I can look you people in the eye and say I’m getting your money and here’s what I’m doing with it.”

New technologies and new uses for older technologies are being studied with research into artificial intelligence, hypersonics, outer space activities, and research in the cyber realm, the secretary said.

“These have all got to be looked at, because as we say in the U.S. Department of Defense, our adversaries get a vote and you have to deal with that if we’re going to keep this this experiment of America alive,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

Humor

5 things infantrymen love about the ‘woobie’

Though only a select few civilians even know of its existence, the “woobie” is cherished by all Marine and Army infantrymen, enlisted/commissioned, from Vietnam to the present.


Related video:

www.youtube.com

There are two kinds of infantry: Those who gladly pay the embarrassingly undervalued $42.95 reimbursement fee to TMO so they can keep their precious, and those who live with shame and regret for the rest of their days.

This is for the rest of you, not yet acquainted with absolute benevolence.

Related: 5 ways Marines are like ancient Spartans

5. The woobie maintains perfect homeostasis

From the frigid mountains of Afghanistan to the jungles of Vietnam, the U.S. infantry fight our country’s battles in the air, on land, and at sea, but not without that one piece of military-issued comfort: the woobie.

She keeps you warm when it’s cold out, and cool in the hot summer — we freakin’ love that.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war
For casual comfort!

4. It can conceal you while you sleep

Originally olive drab, the woobie has evolved into some of the best camouflage around for the infantry warrior. The woobie is currently sporting digital camouflage, appropriate to whichever branch it honorably serves.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war
Sleep tight, buddy.

3. It dries quickly when wet

Not everyone knows how truly miserable it is being wet for long stretches of time, but all infantrymen do. Google the term “trench foot” and you’ll quickly see that there’s nothing good about staying wet.

The woobie dries fast, and all infantry grunts praise her for it.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war
Air dry!

2. Don’t forget, it provides shelter when there is none

No shelter? No problem. If you have two packs and two poncho liners, you’re good to go. In fact, the more infantrymen, the more elaborate the structure you can construct by tieing them together. The woobie comes equipped with lashings on each corner and the sides, allowing for creative architecture.

Remember when you were a kid and blanket forts were a thing? It’s the same in the military, except with full-grown men and their arsenal huddled inside.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war
A home away from home.

Also Read: The 7 best things about Air Force bases, according to a Marine

1. Plus, it’s green!

And not just the color green, though it usually is. The original woobies were fielded by special forces in 1962, and around 1963, the second generation of woobie was created utilizing WWII duck-hunter-patterned parachute fabric. The fabric entrusted with soldiers’ lives was recycled, reshaped, and repurposed to continue its contributions to a more substantial demographic.

The woobie is a staple of any infantryman’s loadout, and though it may follow the poncho on gear lists, the woobie follows nothing in infantrymen’s hearts. Warriors unite over its capabilities, and we honor woobie for all that it does.

Military Life

5 reasons why going underway is the worst

Located in Southern California, Naval Base San Diego is the second largest surface ship base in the United States. Deploying on a ship with a critical mission is supposed to be one of the proudest moment for any sailor. Those aboard get a chance to serve their country by performing the righteous duties for which they’ve trained hard — in theory, anyway.

In reality, being underway means doing a ton of cleaning and other tasks that fall outside of your regular MOS.


It’s not like what you see in those cool television commercials. You won’t be working with sailors in the intel room trying to defeat an enemy force while listening to the soothing tone of Keith David’s voiceover. In fact, it’s almost the complete opposite.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

Going on watch

If you’ve ever watched paint dry, then you know exactly how it feels to be on watch — you stare at nothing, waiting for anything to happen. Watch is, by far, is the most critical responsibility on any Naval vessel, but it can also be the most painful. You’re looking out for incoming threats, but the likelihood of that happening is slim.

That is, unless you’re in foreign seas and Somalian pirates are feeling ballsy.

No service

Using these little computers in our pockets, making a call to anyone around the world is as easy as picking up your phone and dialing. However, being underway means you’re not going to have any cell service — much to the devastation of millennials.

The idea of not knowing what everyone’s doing back home or what’s happening in the rest of the world can be a little unsettling. After weeks of limited-to-no connectivity, that moment when you reach port and see service bars on your phone is glorious.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

Sleeping quarters

After a long day, it’s finally time to hit the sack — but you don’t get to sleep in a big bed like you did back home. You get to sleep in a rack that looks and feels like a coffin. It may be comfortable for vampires, but for everyone else, it’s anything but that.

Let’s be real, three-man bunks with a minimum of 20 to 30 roommates — does this sound like a good time to you?

Sweepers, sweepers, all hands man your stations

If you’re a sailor, you know how this feels. Once you wake up and get ready for your day, you know what’s about to happen. So, grab a broom and get to cleaning, because there’s always a petty officer around the corner reminding you to do so.

Welcome to hell.

It sounds easy at first, but after a day of working on the ship, the last thing anyone wants to do is pick up another freakin’ broom — trust us.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gabriela Hurtado)

Leaving your family

This is a topic that all veterans can relate to. Above all else, the reason we continue to fight is to protect the many families of our nation. Leaving them behind is extremely difficult. You have been their sworn protector for as long as you can remember, and now you must leave them to fulfill your obligations to our great country.

Saying goodbye to your loved ones — and not knowing exactly when you will return — is, by far, one of the hardest things about going underway.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Sergeant Major of the Army shares his reading list

Recently, I spoke with the Sergeant Major of the Army about COVID-19 and the challenges and opportunities we are facing right now as an Army and a Nation. He highlighted that now is the time to reassess our goals and set new ones.

One of your goals might be to read a book or two during this time. Goals are important and they are even more important now, as we all deal with the necessary restrictions to stop the spread.


We spoke again this week and he shared his reading list with me. He found that reading has helped him grow professionally and as a person. SMA Grinston also shared that reading helps him take a mental break from the day-to-day stressors of life. He even says that if he wasn’t a reader, he wouldn’t be the Sergeant Major of the Army.

You will notice that most of the books on this list aren’t about military battles or written by people in the Army for people in the Army. For the SMA, he likes to read about things outside the military to get new and fresh ideas. We both hope you find something on here that interests you.

The Reading List – in the SMA’s words:

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

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1. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard M. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

This is a controversial book –which is one of the reasons I like it. I read it when I was the FORSCOM Sergeant Major and it’s about choice architecture and how small changes to our environment can make a big difference. For example, the authors discuss an elementary school that placed food in different locations in the cafeteria to “nudge” the kids to make healthier choices…and it worked.

Since reading this book, I look at how I can make small changes to the placement of things in my personal life or in the Army to make it better.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

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2. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action by Simon Sinek

I read this book as a brigade or division sergeant major, and it reminded me that sometimes in the Army we jump to the end first. When we ask our soldiers to do something, we focus on the how or the what and forget to explain the why.

Our enlisted Soldiers are smart, and when you explain the why to them, it increases their commitment to the mission. Sometimes, there isn’t enough time to explain why we are doing something, especially in the middle of a firefight, but most of the time we can. And as leaders, this is where we need to start.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

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3. The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness by Jeff Olson and John David Mann

After I was nominated Sergeant Major of the Army, people asked me for the keys to my professional success. I struggled to answer this question until the commander of the Old Guard recommended this book. Slight Edge helped me define for others how to be successful in the Army and how I got to where I’m at today.

The authors of this book look at what happens when you do something that no one else is willing to do and continue to do it over a long period of time. I’ve been in the Army for 32 years and every morning I wake up and do physical fitness. I read books for self-development. Doing those small things over time, year after year, made a difference in the long run. It’s about developing the discipline and commitment over a long period of time to achieve your goals.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

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4. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

I think I was a Platoon Sergeant or Sergeant First Class when I read this book. Malcolm Gladwell discusses how it’s not only innate abilities that make people successful, other factors play a major role too –like timing.

One of the examples he uses in the book is Bill Gates. Growing up, Bill Gates had access to a computer early in his life which afforded him the opportunity to get 10,000 hours of practice with programming. Yes, he was born in the right place at the right time, but he also took advantage of the opportunity to make himself better.

This book has helped me focus on looking at the opportunities within assignments. I remember when I was nominated to be the brigade sergeant major of an infantry brigade. That job gave me the requisite skills and opened doors that led me down a path to where I am today. We all have the opportunity to be an outlier if we have the right mindset.

5. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

Since reading Mindset, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t reference or think about it. She writes about two mindsets: Growth vs. Fixed. A growth mindset says that even though I’m not good at a certain skill, I can learn and get better over time. With a fixed mindset, we don’t even try because we think we can’t grow beyond our current skill set. This line of thinking becomes more dangerous the higher in rank and position that leaders go in the Army.

6. Becoming a Resonant Leader: Develop Your Emotional Intelligence, Renew Your Relationships, Sustain Your Effectiveness by Annie McKee

I read this one as a corps sergeant major and this is probably my all-time favorite leadership book. Have you ever worked for someone and knew they weren’t listening to anything you said? As leaders, our level of emotional intelligence has a major impact on the morale of our Soldiers. We have to listen to our people and be mindful and show empathy.

This book made me a better leader, sergeant major, and follower. I started paying more attention to my own mindfulness.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

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7. Winning by Jack Welch

I read this one around the time I was a sergeant first class or first sergeant and it taught me about the importance of managing talent. Welch writes that the top 5% of any organization needs to be identified and properly managed. He also writes that there is a large population of strong performers that will never be the top 5%, but are also important to the organization. He discusses how to identify, manage, and motivate both groups.

8. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

This is the hardest book to read on this list. It took me a while to get through but I found it beneficial to understand the psychology of decision-making. I gained a much greater understanding and appreciation for how the mind works.

It’s difficult to read, but it helps us better understand how the mind works. If you like sociology and psychology books, this is a great starting place. The higher I go in position in the Army, the more I realize how important it is to understand human behavior. I have a greater appreciation now for how logic and emotion work together in the decision-making process and I know I’m a better leader and person for it.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

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9. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein

I read this one when I was a staff sergeant. I remember my battalion commander making all the officers read it and I wanted to learn something alongside them.

This was another controversial book when it was written. Heinlein uses science fiction to talk about what it means to be a citizen; he addresses the need for corrective training and several other issues that we see playing out today. This book is a fun read and makes for a great discussion between leaders in a unit.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

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10. Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer

I read this one when I was a brigade sergeant major. It’s a thick one so if you decide to tackle it, it might take you awhile. I like Once an Eagle because it covers an entire career of an individual, his commitment to the Army, and the lessons he learns along the way. I found that when I read it, I put myself in the shoes of the main character and reflected on my own career.

Start today

During our interview, Grinston said he hopes you will want to read and take the opportunity now to start the habit of reading for professional development.

“I know life is difficult right now for a lot of people. But we will get through this.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This real soldier’s photo is still hanging at Checkpoint Charlie

It’s been almost 30 years since the infamous Checkpoint Charlie, the primary crossing post between East and West Berlin, was taken down with the fall of the Berlin Wall. The original guardhouse was little more than a temporary shack for much of its life and has since been replaced. As the area in Berlin began to grow and become a tourist attraction, more and more Cold War-era sights were added to the checkpoint.

One of those sights is a photo of a real American soldier, looking East.


These days, the area in Berlin that saw some of the most intense showdowns between East and West is full of tourists and Berlin residents who probably wish they had taken a different route to work. For three Euro, you can take a photo with one of the soldier-reenactors who dress up to man the post. If you’re hungry, there’s a McDonald’s across the street. It’s very much not the Checkpoint Charlie of old, but still worth a visit. For military veterans approaching the once-legendary area, there might be a different question – who is that guy in the photo?

The “soldiers” holding the U.S. flag and posing for tourists were never troops, that’s just fun for the onlookers. But staring at the photo of the American soldier posted at the guardhouse, it’s clear that he’s wearing a real U.S. Army uniform.

His name is Jeff Harper.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the checkpoint’s rise as a prime tourist attraction in the German capital, the photos of Sgt. Harper and his Soviet counterpart on the other side have become as synonymous with the checkpoint as anything else in Cold War lore. But Harper wasn’t exactly the stereotypical Cold Warrior. He was a U.S. Army tuba player with the 298th Army Band in Berlin from 89-94 and never pulled guard duty at the checkpoint. He was just 22 when the photo was taken.

In an interview with the German publication Der Tronkland, Harper said he almost dropped his coffee when he first saw his face up on the sign. That was 1999.

“I am very proud to have become part of the story to this extent and still be part of what is happening in Berlin today,” Harper said. “I can hardly imagine in how many photo albums I have been immortalized.”

Harper has since retired from the Army, but he was still in Berlin for the fall of the wall.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

Jeff Harper after his retirement in 2010.

The most important thing to know about the photos is that they’re not part of any authentic recreation of the site. They’re an art exhibit, called Ohne Titel – or “Light Boxes.” The photo was taken by Berlin photographer Frank Thiel in 1994, as an attempt to capture photos of the last Allied soldiers in the city. The young Russian troop isn’t wearing a Soviet military uniform, he’s wearing a 1994 uniform of the Russian Federation.

“… These portraits translate the omnipresent sector signs of the past – “You are leaving the American/British/French sector” – into picture form. They are likewise a reference to the historical moment when Soviet and American tanks faced off against each other right here,” said Thiel. “By using two portraits to symbolize almost 50 years of history, I am suggesting that these two faces are representative.”

These days, Harper is enjoying the retired life driving his motorcycle around the highways of the American West. He says the highlight of his career in Berlin was being able to play in the band for President Bill Clinton. As for the Russian soldier on the opposite side, no one really knows who he is or where he ended up.

Lists

3 key differences between Recon Marines and Marine Raiders

Marines from the special operations community have been kicking ass and taking names for years. From hunting down Taliban fighters for questioning to tracking the highest value targets — they’re on the job.


While people know that the Marines have two different special forces units, most don’t understand the differences between them.

Both Marine Recon and Marine Raiders go through a similar training pipeline, but their differences may surprise you.

Related: 5 key differences between Army medics and Navy corpsmen

In many ways, these badasses are similar, but here are three key differences between the two elite units.

3. Their MOSs are different — but not by much.

Every job in the military has a different MOS, or military occupation specialty, designation. Marine Raiders have use MOS 0372 while Recon uses the designation of 0321.

You might’ve noticed that the first two numbers of these designations are same. If you have the numbers “03” at the beginning of your MOS designation, that means you’re a part of the Marine Infantry — and not a POG.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war
These Recon Marine conduct target practice and immediate action drill while on stationed on the MEU.

2. Their proud history is different.

The Marine Raiders were established during World War II for special operations, but were disbanded after the war came to a close. Soon after, the Korean War kicked off and decision-makers said  “oh sh*t” to themselves as realized they needed to create another elite unit to continue kicking ass.

So, in March 1951, the Amphibious Reconnaissance Platoon was formed and, just two years later, was later expanded into a company, made up of several divisions. The company conducted highly successful missions throughout the Korean War, eventually becoming what’s known today as United States Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance.

In 1987, United States Special Operations Command was formed, composed of Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and Detachment One — which was made up of some of the best Marines, including some Force Reconnaissance, and would eventually become the Marine Raider Regiment. In 2006, MARSOC was formed as part of SOCOM.

At this time, Force Reconnaissance is still fully operational, but many were chosen to become MARSOC.

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war
These Marine Raiders take time out for a quick photo op during operations in World War 2. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

1. Their missions are different

Marine Recon conduct amphibious assaults, deep recon and surveillance, and battlespace shaping in support of the Marine Expeditionary Force.

Marine Raiders support their governments’ internal security, counter subversion, and reduce violent risks from internal and external threats against the U.S.

Also Read: 5 key differences between Delta Force and SEAL Team 6

Check out Nick Koumalatsos‘ video below for a detailed summary of these key differences.

(Nick Koumalatsos| YouTube)