Hollywood has the ability to spark every veteran’s imagination and when the big screen explores what future militaries may become, it’s enough to make even the most content retiree dream of taking the oath all over again.
Let’s explore the fantastic armies any veteran would love to be a part of.
You are at a squadron picnic where you have just PCSed. You are slightly apprehensive because you are meeting many new people. Your spouse points out her boss and is going to introduce you.
“Paul, this is Col. William. Col. William, this is my husband, Paul.” Col. William says, “Nice to meet you Paul. Please call me Sarah.”
What do you say?
You have stopped into your spouse’s office to meet him for lunch. You see a young Airman with one stripe on his shoulder sitting at a desk. He says, “Hello, ma’am.” And then your spouse tells you that Airman’s first name.
How do you complete the introduction?
You are at a promotion ceremony and across the room you see a 4-star General whom you met when she was a Lieutenant Colonel. Back then, you called her by her first name, but now she is wearing stars on her shoulders. You turn to your spouse and ask him, “Do I call her Ma’am or by her first name?”
What is the correct answer?
You are at WalMart shopping for odds and ends when your spouse spots her Chief walking down the aisle toward you. Your spouse introduces you to Chief Barney. The Chief gives his first name.
How do you reply?
You are at a dining out. You are dressed to the nines and are feeling fine. Social hour is in full swing and as you step up to the bar to order a drink, you notice that the gentleman standing next to you is none other than the SACEUR (Supreme Allied Commander Europe). Your spouse says, “Hello Sir.” He says hello back. The SACEUR extends his hand to you and says, “Hello, I’m Philip and this is my wife, Cindy.”
How do you respond?
Answer key for all: You call the military member by their first name.
This is one of the areas of military protocol that I have a passion about.
There is nowhere that states that we have rank as military spouses. Because we don’t have rank, there is no hierarchy that we must adhere to. This means that you speak to people as if they are people, which they are.
Now that’s not saying that you can’t call someone “Chief” or “General” or even “Airman” but there is no penalty if you choose to call them by their first name. That is what their parents named them, after all.
There are a few exceptions to this “rule.”
Sometimes the service member may have a “call sign.” A call sign is a nickname given to rated officers during a naming ceremony. During that time, there is a group of people who decide on the new person’s nickname. It is usually an homage to a character trait or it coordinates with their first or last name. Once they are given their new name, they may choose to use it always.
For example, I have a friend who was named “Pumba” during his naming ceremony. He introduced himself by his call sign so I didn’t know his real first name until many years later. A reason for this may be that your significant other only knows that person by their call sign. So that is how you are introduced to them. Even today, it is funny to hear “Fuzzy’s” spouse call him “Ryan” because I can’t connect the two names to that one person. It takes a lot of mental math when speaking to family members about them.
The other exception is when a military member is attached to his rank. Sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes not. When I was first introduced to Chief Woolridge, our wing chief, he told me to call him “Avery” so I did. Most just called him “Chief.” After all, he’d earned that rank. I called him “Chief” but also by his first name because that’s who he was. He said that I was the first person in his career to call him by his name. I am still not sure if that was a good or bad thing.
But then there is the officer who give all officers a bad name. That’s the person who insists that you call them by their rank, no matter who they are talking to. I have only met one such person in our 24+ years of service. (Let’s say that we avoid that person as much as possible.) And that’s another etiquette lesson in itself.
The biggest takeaway from this is that while there are protocols in place for the military, there are no written ones for you as a civilian. Civility is your compass for all interactions. The hardest part is remembering someone’s name. And that may be where your only faux pas comes into play.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
Sparta Science is movement diagnostic software which is used to reduce injury risk and increase readiness. Although originally created with athletes in mind, the military is now on their list of clients.
Dr. Phil Wagner is the founder and CEO of Sparta Science. His personal experiences with injury and inadequate support led him to creating the company. “This whole thing really started because I played high school and college football and I kept getting injured, finally being told I couldn’t play anymore. I moved to New Zealand to play rugby and the same thing happened. I finally said this is ridiculous…so I went to medical school,” Wagner said.
After graduating with his medical degree with a focus in biomechanics, Wagner dove into how science could target injury reduction and assess risk for possible future injuries. “I said let’s build this tech company that could gather data on how people move to better address rehab, performance and pain in general,” he said. Wagner continued, “Our mission is people’s movement as a vital sign. That’s where the company and the product came out of and it’s where we see ourselves fitting into, particularly in the military with the injuries we are seeing.”
This country relies on all of its soldiers, airmen, sailors, marines and coast guardsmen to be mission ready at all times.
But they aren’t.
Non-combat related musculoskeletal injuries account for a high percentage of why service members are undeployable, according to a study published in the Oxford Academic. In 2018, it was revealed that around 13-14% of the total force wasn’t deployable.
Although these injuries are negatively impacting mission readiness, they are also leading to lifelong complications. Musculoskeletal injuries are leading the cause of long-term disability for service members.
The impacts of no longer being able to serve due to injuries or suffering after retirement from the service are far reaching. “Mental health, movement and pain is so connected,” Wagner shared. He started working with the military after getting a call from Navy special forces asking if they could use it for their team.
“They had massive improvements the first year they did it, then they rolled it out to the other teams. I think for us, sports were our roots but our biggest growth and revenue comes from the government. It’s really satisfying because there’s so much more of a service and sacrifice approach that exists,” Wagner explained.
Statistics on nondeployable military personal with Major General Malcolm Frost
Major General Malcom Frost (Ret) served in the United States Army for 31 years. From 2017-2019 he led the Army’s Holistic and Fitness Revolution while he was the Commanding General of Initial Training for the Army. He was also responsible for developing the Army’s new fitness test, which launched in late 2020.
“Physical fitness and readiness drive everything…We are ground soldiers who must be on terrain in combat, therefore physical fitness is a huge part of what we do,” Frost said. He continued, “I would argue that we have neglected, in many ways, the most important weapon system in the United States Army and that is the soldier.”
Frost explained that by ignoring science, having outdated fitness training facilities, lack of professional support and long waits for medical care following injury – service members are suffering. “We have really injured and hurt a lot of our soldiers,” he said. He continued, “We were spending 500 million dollars a year just in musculoskeletal injuries alone for United States Army soldiers.”
Sparta Science approached Frost not long after he retired. “They said, ‘Hey, we would like to talk to you and understand the holistic fitness system better and show you what we [Sparta Science] can do,'” he said. So, Frost took a trip to California to visit their facility.
He was amazed at what he saw.
“Knowing how that could fit in, especially in the objective measurements side of the military, I thought it was the perfect match. So, I have been in the background helping them facilitate and move into the military channels to get Sparta on the map with leaders… I look at myself as the bridge,” Frost explained. He continued, “For me it’s exciting. I only get involved with organizations that I want to get involved with. They have to have a mission that I can get behind and where I can provide value. Sparta meets all of those in spades.”
Currently, you can find Sparta Science being used within the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.
So how does Sparta Science work exactly? According to their website, the person has to go through The Sparta Scan™ on their “force palate” machine. It will assess stability, balance and movement. Data is compiled and an individualized Movement Signature™ created. Sparta software then compares the results to the database to identify risk and pinpoint strengths. Then the system creates an individualized training plan to reduce injury risk and improve physical performance.
On July 21, 2020, the United States House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act for 2021. It includes provisions to create a commission to study the “force plate” technology and how it can increase the health and readiness of America’s military. That report will be due back to congress in September of 2021 to evaluate possibly implementing Sparta Science technology throughout all of the Department of Defense.
“Looking five years from now, I want to see the line graph [of injuries] going down on a global level,” Wagner shared. Frost agreed, “Sparta Science is a readiness multiplier”.
Sparta Science appears to have a deep commitment to bringing this technology to every branch of service to reduce injury and increase mission readiness. With the recent passage of the NDAA and their continuing education efforts, they are well on their way.
On Monday, SpaceX conducted a short test flight of a full sized prototype of the Starship they say will soon ferry Americans to Mars.
The Starship SN5 Test Vehicle flew for only about 40 seconds on Monday evening before touching back down to earth at SpaceX’s South Texas facility. Short as the Starship’s little hop may have been, it was a significant leap toward SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s goal of mounting crewed missions to Mars.
The SN5 Starship prototype isn’t the first iteration of the Starship to reach take off. Last year, a smaller prototype vehicle called the Starhopper completed a handful of short flights, reaching as high as 500 feet on one launch before returning to the ground. While these short trips may not seem significant, they actually represent two of the most challenging parts of a any space mission: the take off, and the return to earth.
The Starship mirrors the landing capability of SpaceX’s smaller and proven Falcon 9 rockets. The ability to land and re-use rocket stages has dramatically reduced the cost of orbital missions. The ship will eventually utilize an entire Falcon Heavy, the most powerful rocket in service anywhere on earth today, as it’s first stage. The Falcon Heavy utilizes 31 individual Falcon 9 rockets for propulsion and boasts similar reusability.
SpaceX Falcon Heavy during launch (SpaceX)
The SpaceX Starship prototype is powered by a single Raptor engine, but will eventually be equipped with six of the advanced rocket engines, which in conjunction with its powerful first stage, will give the ship a total crew capacity of up to 100 people.
The combination of the Falcon Heavy with the Starship will make SpaceX’s massive rocket entirely reusable, dramatically reducing the costs associated with long-duration space missions to the Moon or Mars. Importantly, the Falcon Heavy is the only rocket currently capable of making the long trip into lunar orbit with a crew onboard.
SpaceX is currently a strong contender for America’s upcoming moon plans to place astronauts on the Lunar surface by the mid-2020s. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has already booked a flight around the moon aboard Musk’s Starship slated for 2023.
A recent Navy Times article notes that the crew of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) joined the “Order of the Blue Nose” — a distinction reserved for ships and crew that crossing the Arctic Circle.
That list includes both well-known orders and not-so-well known orders. They are for notable feats — and in some cases, dubious ones.
Perhaps the most well-known is the “Order of the Shellback,” given to those sailors who have crossed the equator. The “Crossing the Line” ceremony has been portrayed both in the PBS documentary series “Carrier,” as well as being the plot point for an episode of “JAG” in the 1990s.
But there is more than one kind of shellback.
If you cross the equator at the International Date Line (about 900 miles east of Nauru), you become a “Golden Shellback” (since those who cross the International Date Line are called Golden Dragons).
If you cross the equator at the Prime Meridian (a position about 460 miles to the west of Sao Tome and Principe), you become an “Emerald Shellback.”
Now, we can move to some lesser-known, and even dubious orders.
The “Order of the Caterpillar” is awarded to anyone who has to leave a plane on the spur of the moment due to the plane being unable to continue flying. You even get a golden caterpillar pin.
The eyes of the caterpillar will then explain the circumstances of said departure. The Naval History and Heritage Command, for instance, notes that ruby red eyes denote a midair collision.
Then, there is the becoming a member of the “Goldfish Club.” That involves spending time in a life raft. If you’re in the raft for more than 24 hours, you become a “Sea Squatter.”
Using the Panama Canal makes you a member of the “Order of the Ditch.”
Oh, and in case you are wondering, crossing the Antarctic Circle makes you a “Red Nose.”
The military isn’t all action and adventure. There are plenty of dull tasks required of service members that can send even the most motivated of troops to sleep. Whether it’s writing an after action report, studying for your promotion board, or trying to figure out the convoluted requirements to get your leave approved, here are some of the best military soundtracks to listen to and keep you on track. Note that this isn’t a list of the most epic military soundtracks, hence the omission of legendary film soundtracks like Das Boot, Black Hawk Down, and Crimson Tide.
1. Band of Brothers
If you’re like me, you’ve lost count of how many times you’ve watched Band of Brothers. From watching reruns on TV to popping in the DVD/BluRay for a mini marathon, Michael Kamen’s arrangements have graced the ears of thousands of viewers. The combination of beautiful orchestral melodies combined with the almost haunting choral work makes this soundtrack an excellent choice for some calming background music. That said, you’d be forgiven if you kept the Main Titles, Suite One, and Suite Two on repeat. After all, they are the most used songs from the legendary mini-series. Its spiritual successor, The Pacific, also has a noteworthy soundtrack. However, it’s a bit too intense with its dramatic swells and drum beats to make the list for studying and relaxing music.
2. Saving Private Ryan
It makes sense that the forerunner of the previous entry be on this list too. Band of Brothers took a lot of production cues from Saving Private Ryan including its score. Produced by the legendary John Williams, the same man that brought us the music for iconic films like Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, E.T., and Jaws, the soundtrack from Saving Private Ryan does not disappoint. The opening song, “Hymn to the Fallen”, is iconic in its own right and is often used for Veterans Day and Memorial Day events and videos. Additionally, the soundtrack itself is over an hour long, so you can get plenty of work done while it plays. If you enjoy this soundtrack, I also recommend giving the original Medal of Honor video game soundtrack a listen. The game was conceived by Spielberg after he completed Saving Private Ryan and Michael Giacchino, the game’s composer, was heavily inspired by Williams and went on to compose for eight more WWII-based video games.
Come on, this one counts as a military movie. After all, Maximus Decimus Meridius was a Roman general commanding an army in battle at the film’s opening. At any rate, composers Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard built a truly inspirational soundtrack for the film. You don’t even need to have seen Gladiator to appreciate its music as a studying or working accompaniment. Additionally, the album won the 2001 Golden Globe for Best Original Score – Motion Picture.
4. The Thin Red Line
Yes, it’s another Zimmer entry. Anyway, the 1998 film is a bit of a departure from other war films of its time like Saving Private Ryan or Platoon. At any rate, its soundtrack was nominated for Original Dramatic Score at the 71st Academy Awards. Although it didn’t win, its impact on movie music is long-felt. The film’s main theme, “Journey to the Line”, has been used in the trailers for Man of Steel, 12 Years a Slave, and X-Men: Days of Future Past. It was also used in the trailer for Pearl Harbor, the soundtrack of which was also composed by Zimmer and features heavy influence from The Thin Red Line. Pearl Harbor didn’t make this list due to its more melancholic tones.
5. Dunkirk (Honorable Mention)
Hear me out. This one is absolutely not a good choice to study or relax to. Its time ticking theme and anxiety-inducing builds are not the kind of sounds you want to hear if you need to slow your heart beat. However, if you’re on a time crunch, this might be just what you need to get yourself in the zone. Picture this: It’s 0400 and you’ve been up since 0300…the previous day. You’re running on pure caffeine and adrenaline and both are running dangerously low. Your task, whether its a slide deck, a new SOP, or a stack of evals, is due first thing in the morning. Some people thrive under the pressure, and if that’s you, why not add some epic background music to your sprint to the finish line? The satisfaction garnered from completing your last minute task just before its deadline will be sweetened by having the film’s “End Titles” play you through to your victory.
For combat medics, success is all about keeping up with formations and providing expert and timely medical care at the point of injury. So it makes sense that their competitions for top bragging rights include everything from administering medical aid and triage to land navigation and calling for fire.
In fact, an Army-wide Best Medic competition is held annually and has evolved out of the Best Ranger competition. This contest pits 34 two-person teams against one another in a 72-hour competition. During this three-day event, docs are challenged by events like rifle ranges, stress shoots, obstacle courses, a 12-mile ruck march, an urban assault lane, and combat medic lanes.
U.S. Army Spc. Charles Hines from Charlie Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), fires an M4 during a stress shoot at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, July 25, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)
The medics in the competition are always tested on some sort of basic soldiering skills — rifle marksmanship usually makes the list. In this photo from a competition in Alaska, we get a look at medics competing in stress shoots.
U.S. Army Pfc. Joshua Rowe from Charlie Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), jumps up from pushups during a stress shoot July 25, 2018, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)
Stress shoots are events wherein a shooter’s body is put under duress by physical exercise — in this case, push-ups — before having to fire their weapons as accurately as possible. The event tests a competitor’s ability to perform as they would in combat where moving around in armor causes accuracy-reducing fatigue.
Spc. Aaron Tolson of 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, administers an IV to a simulated casualty during a best medic competition in Fort Bragg, N.C., July 26, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. John Lytle)
Of course, Best Medic competitions still center around medical knowledge and the ability to assess, treat, and transport casualties.
Pvt. Joshua Rowe from Charlie Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), administers a nasopharyngeal airway intervention on a dummy patient July 24, 2018 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)
The simulated patients are presented with injuries and illnesses common on battlefields as well as injuries that are challenging to diagnose and treat, pushing medics’ skills to the limit.
Spc. Steven Gildersleeve from Charlie Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), pulls the quick-release cord from body armor on a simulated casualty July 24, 2018 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)
Casualties are often covered in protective gear as they would be in a real fight. This can include everything from MOPP gear, used in chemical, biological, and nuclear environments, to body armors and helmets used nearly everywhere, both in training and combat.
An Army medic from Charlie Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), decontaminates himself during a best medic competition July 26, 2018 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)
Of course, if you’re testing medics on how to treat patients in a chemical environment, you also have to test their ability to operate in a chemical environment. This means medics must not just ensuring the medic takes the right steps to protect their patient, but they must also make sure to protect themselves properly.
An Army medic from Charlie Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), configures a radio during a best medic competition July 26, 2018 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)
Other tasks that medics are tested on include radio communications. After all, their patients can’t make it off of the battlefield in a timely manner, let alone within the “Golden Hour” that’s critical to saving lives in combat, if the medics and battlefield leaders can’t get the radios up and call for medevac and fire support.
Staff Sgt. Miguel Matias assigned to 5th Squadron, 73rd Calvary Regiment, completes the monkey bars during a best medic competition at Fort Bragg, N.C., July 25, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. John Lytle)
Similarly, the medics have to prove that they can get to the fight and move around on the battlefield like the soldiers they support. To test this, medics are put through a number of obstacles.
Cpt. Brian Calandra, physical therapist with 15th Brigade Support Battalion, does the low crawl during the obstacle course portion of the 8th Army Best Medic Competition 27-29 September at Camp Casey, South Korea.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Patrick Eakin)
These obstacle courses can include everything commonly tested during basic training, airborne, and air assault schools, as well hazards from other military competitions, like Best Ranger.
Staff Sgt. Miguel Matias assigned to 5th Squadron, 73rd Calvary Regiment, climbs over an obstacle during a best medic competition at Fort Bragg, N.C., July 25, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. John Lytle)
Even better, obstacle courses can be combined with medical training to create the medical equivalent of a stress shoot. Medics capable of serving patients while under fire on the battlefield should be able to treat patients immediately after completing obstacles.
Spc. Juan Villegas, a combat medic with 1st Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, goes through the log jump portion of the obstacle course during the 8th Army Best Medic Competition 27-29 September at Camp Casey, South Korea.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Patrick Eakin)
And, of course, the photos look cool. It’s way easier to recruit prospective soldiers into the medical fields when they think they’ll look like a computer wallpaper every once in a while as they do their jobs.
Imagine the worst happens. The person you have loved, your service member spouse, dies. Maybe you have been married for ten years. Or maybe you have been married for fifty years. But you navigated the craziness of military life together only to be told you need to forfeit your Survivor Benefit Plan, the money meant to help you survive this time. This was a part of your deceased service member’s well-planned safety net for you, and the government has yanked it away at your most fragile moment.
It’s called the Widow’s Tax. But it’s not a tax.
Learn more about it here. The date on the article: 2016. But you’ll find articles and editorials on this topic for many years. No one has solved the problem beyond slapping band-aids on it.
No one is getting rich off of the government here. We’re talking widows and widowers whose lives could be greatly impacted by losing the up-to-$15,000 a year in payments they should be (but aren’t) receiving. And the widows and widowers behind trying to correct this error, they are only asking that we change it from now forward. They are not asking to get the hundreds of thousands of dollars back that some of them are owed. You read right: widows and widowers fighting for money that is owed to them.
Why hasn’t this problem been solved?
There are about 64,000 surviving spouses who are impacted by the Widow’s Tax. It’s a relatively small group, and that makes solving the offset harder because it can be easily dismissed.
These military spouses didn’t come from a generation of hashtags. They didn’t have the Internet to organize as a group for some time. They were in a Widow’s Fog when it came to sign papers. And, when they learned about this offset, they probably thought it would be quickly remedied because: why would anyone think two programs that are entirely not related would require forfeiting monies for an annuity they paid into for years? It certainly wasn’t mentioned when their spouse paid into it.
According to the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), a strong supporter of repealing the SBP-DIC offset: No other federal surviving spouse is required to forfeit his or her federal annuity because military service caused his or her sponsor’s death. Additionally, the offset does not apply to surviving military children. Only to the spouse.
Oddly, it also does not apply to widows or widowers who remarry on or after the age of 57.
In fact, the whole situation is odd and why it hasn’t been fixed, that’s the oddest part of all.
These military spouses have been waiting long enough. Now we must all get behind them. #repealwidowstax
This is the call to action!
Call Senators and ask them to cosponsor SA2411 an amendment to the Defense Budget Bill for 2019 with language identical to S.339. This amendment has the same language as S.339. This would eliminate the Widow’s Tax, which is the only insurance one purchases and then is legally prohibited from collecting. This impacts all active duty line of duty deaths and disabled military retirees who purchased SBP, whose SBP is reduced dollar for dollar by DIC, indemnity compensation paid by the VA as a small reparation and to indemnify or hold harmless the government for causing the death.
At a young age, Carlos Norman Hathcock II would go into the woods with his dog and the Mauser his father brought back from World War II to pretend to be a soldier. Hathcock dreamed of being a Marine throughout his childhood, and on May 20, 1959, at the age of 17, he enlisted.
In 1966, Hathcock started his deployment in South Vietnam. He initially served as a military policeman and later, owing to his reputation as a skilled marksman, served as a sniper.
The Hathcock brothers and a friend, shooting as children.
During the Vietnam War, Hathcock had 93 confirmed kills of North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong personnel. However, kills had to be confirmed by an acting third party, who had to be an officer, besides the sniper’s spotter. Hathcock estimated that he actually killed between 300 and 400 enemy soldiers.
In one instance, Hathcock saw a glint reflecting off an enemy sniper’s scope. He fired at it, sending a round through the enemy’s own rifle scope, hitting him in the eye and killing him.
Hathcock’s notoriety grew among the Viet Cong and NVA, who reportedly referred to him Du kích Lông Trắng (“White Feather Sniper”) because of the white feather he kept tucked in a band on his bush hat. The enemy placed a bounty on his head. After a platoon of Vietnamese snipers tried to hunt him down, many Marines donned white feathers to deceive the enemy. Hathcock successfully fought off numerous enemy snipers during the remainder of his deployment.
Hathcock did once remove the white feather from his bush hat during a volunteer mission. The mission was so risky he was not informed of its details until he accepted it. Transported to a field by helicopter, Hathcock crawled over 1,500 yards in a span of four days and three nights, without sleep, to assassinate an NVA general. At times, Hathcock was only a few feet away from patrolling enemy soldiers. He was also nearly bitten by a snake. Once in position, Hathcock waited for the general to exit his encampment before shooting. After completing this mission, Hathcock came back to the United States in 1967. However, missing the service, he returned to Vietnam in 1969, taking command of a sniper platoon.
On September 16, 1969, an AMTRAC Hathcock was riding on struck an anti-tank mine. He pulled seven Marines from the vehicle, suffering severe burns in the process. Hathcock received the Purple Heart while he was recuperating. Nearly 30 years later, he received a Silver Star for this action.
After returning to active duty, Hathcock helped establish the Marine Corps Scout Sniper School at the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia. However, he was in near constant pain due to his injuries, and in 1975, his health began to deteriorate. After diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, he medically discharged in 1979. Feeling forced out of the Marines, Hathcock fell into a state of depression. But with the help of his wife, and his newfound hobby of shark fishing, Hathcock eventually overcame his depression. Despite being retired from the military, Hathcock continued providing sniper instruction to police departments and select military units, such as SEAL Team Six.
Navy SEAL candidates go through what’s considered the hardest military training before earning their precious Trident. That training is called the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, or BUD/S. When young men across the country join the Navy, they head down to the sandy beaches of Coronado, California to test themselves, both mentality and physicality, to see if they have what it takes to become a member of the Special Warfare community.
Since the BUD/S drop-out rate is so high (roughly 75% of candidates fail), many are left wondering what it takes to survive the rigorous program and graduate. Well, former Navy SEAL Jeff Nichols is here to break down a few of the mistakes that contribute to that high rate of failure.
Speaking with a recruiter before passing the physical screening test
According to Nichols, if you excel well beyond the required standard on physical fitness tests, you’ll have a lot more sway in getting into the Spec Ops community. Your performance speaks volume in telling recruiters that this is what you want and that you’re ready to move forward.
Not everyone is ready to take the plunge — show recruiters you have what it takes.
You train your strengths often, but ignore weaknesses
Most people train using methods that they’re accustomed to, like swimming or bodybuilding. However, according to Nichols, Special Forces training is designed to expose a candidate’s weaknesses. Locate those weaknesses and train them.
Training until failure too often
Many workout routines recommend pushing yourself until you’re too physically exhausted to continue. Nichols suggests that you add a few training days into your routine during which you focus on perfecting technique instead of exhausting yourself.
Eating healthy is a solid idea.
Nichols notes that, far too often, people either eat too little or too much of the wrong thing. To properly prepare yourself for training and recovery, you’ll need to give your body the nutritional tools it needs.
Picky eaters are in for a big surprise as the Navy isn’t know for a vast selection of cuisine.
Training to be sleep deprived
Being sleep deprived is extremely debilitating. Many of those who plan to take a shot at earning the Trident will try and train themselves to be sleep deprived. Don’t do this.
Sleep deprivation is a difficult thing to endure. The best way to get through is to make sure your body is in top physical shape — which requires that you get as much rest as possible between training sessions.
Most candidates aren’t ready to run in boots
Nichols recommends that you learn how to run in boots. Start with comfortable tennis shoes, then work your way up. This will lower your chances of developing shin splints during the real thing.
Many candidates over-train themselves, aiming to be “run-dominant” and avoiding taking on mass, thinking that hypertrophy (bodybuilding) will make them slow. You can be muscular and still maintain great run times. Remember, Usain Bolt weighs over 200 pounds.
Candidates don’t do enough fin work
You can be a solid swimmer, but once you put on those fins, the physical equation changes. Putting fins on your feet amplifies the stress your legs have to endure in the water.
So, get those fins on and start practicing.
Listening to SEALSWCC.com
We realize that telling you not to listen to the website might sound controversial, but Nichols finds a lot of the information listed there is wrong.
Naval fleets are predominantly created and organized for power projection, taking the fight to the enemy on their turf to ensure that American are safe at home. But the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps do practice defending the fleet at sea should it come under a direct attack.
Here’s how they do it:
The guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) fires its Phalanx close-in weapons system during live-fire training exercises in the Atlantic Ocean on August 31, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michael Chen)
The Navy has a number of weapons that are custom designed for protecting ships and personnel. Perhaps one of the most famous of these is the Phalanx Close-In Weapons System. This is the final, goal-line defense against anything above the waterline. Basically, it’s R2-D2 with a 20mm, multi-barrel gun.
The Phalanx is typically associated with cruise missiles, and that’s because it’s one of the few weapons that can destroy cruise missiles in their final attack. But it’s also perfectly capable of attacking other threats, especially slower-moving items in the air, like planes and helicopters.
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) travels alongside the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) during a replenishment-at-sea.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class William Rosencrans)
Of course, the Marines aren’t content to wait for threats to approach the Navy’s Phalanx, and so, on larger ships like LHAs and LHDs, the Marines can drive their vehicles onto the decks and fire the guns off the ship, striking attack boats or enemies on nearby shores with anything from the .50-cal. machine guns to 25mm Bushmaster cannons to rounds from a 120mm Abrams cannon.
All of that’s in extremis, the-enemy-is-at-the-gates kinda of defense. The next ring out is provided by cruisers and destroyers who try to keep all the threats away from the heart of the fleet.
The beefier of these two is the cruiser. For the U.S. Navy, that’s the Ticonderoga class. It has 122 vertical-launch cells that can fire a variety of missiles. Lately, the Navy has been upgrading the cruisers to primarily fire the Navy’s Standard Missile-3. This baby can hit objects in space, but is predominantly designed to hit targets in the short to intermediate ranges from the ship.
The guided missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) conducts a tomahawk missile flight test while underway in the western Pacific.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Devin M. Langer)
But the Ticonderogas, and their destroyer sisters, the Arleigh-Burkes, can also carry Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles, Standard Missile-2s, and Evolved SeaSparrow Missiles. Need to hit something below the waterline? Try out the ships’ Mk. 46 or Mk. 50 torpedoes. Both ship classes can fire the torpedoes via rockets, and the Ticonderoga can fire them directly from tubes.
The Tomahawk is the weapon that really increases the fleet’s range, hitting ships at ranges of almost 300 miles and land targets at over 1,000 miles. As attackers get closer, the fleet could start firing the shorter range weapons, like the anti-submarine rockets and SeaSparrows.
But there’s an overlap between the Tomahawks’ range and that of the fleet’s most powerful and longest-range protection: jets. The carrier groups and amphibious readiness groups have the ability to launch fighter and attack jets. As time marches on, these jets will be F-35Bs and Cs launching from carriers and Landing Helicopter Assault and Landing Helicopter Dock ships.
A U. S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet launches from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman in the Norwegian Sea, October 25, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adelola Tinubu)
For now, though, its mostly Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets taking off from carriers and Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers taking off from the LHAs and LHDs. The Harriers can only reach out to 230 miles without refueling, but the Hornets have a combat radius of over 1,000 miles without refueling.
And both planes can refuel in the air, usually guzzling gas from modified Super Hornets, but the Navy is working on a new, specialized drone tanker called the MQ-25 Stingray.
The Super Hornets pack 20mm cannons as well as a variety of air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles and bombs, but their greatest ability to cripple an enemy attack comes from another plane: The E-2 Hawkeye.
An E-2C Hawkeye, assigned to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron, approaches the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Roland John)
The Navy’s E-2C Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning and Control plane is unarmed and slower than most of its buddies in the sky, but it’s a key part of the Navy’s fleet defense and offense thanks to its massive radar. That radar can see out 340 miles and track over 2,000 targets. It can actively control the interception of 40 targets, helping guide friendly fighters to the enemy.
So, when the Navy’s fleets come under attack, enemies have to either catch them off guard, or fight their way through the concentric rings. Their land-based assets are susceptible to attack from over 1,000 miles from the fleet thanks to ground-attack aircraft and Tomahawks. Their ships are vulnerable at similar ranges from aircraft and 300 miles from the Tomahawks.
As they draw closer, they face SeaSparrows and Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and their fighters can come under surface-to-air missile attacks from the Standard Missile-2. If they actually draw within 20 miles, they start facing the Navy’s deck guns and torpedoes. A short time later, the Marine get in on the fight with their vehicles driven up onto decks.
A Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine participating in Exercise Keen Sword with Submarine Group 7 and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force sailors and staff.
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Electronics Technician Robert Gulini)
And all of that’s ignoring the possibility that a nuclear submarine is in the water, just waiting for a surface contact to fire their own torpedoes at.
Of course, a determined enemy could use their own large fleet to push through those defenses. Or, a crafty enemy could wait for a fleet to transit a chokepoint and then attack from the shore or with a large fleet of fast attack craft.
That’s the kind of attack the U.S. fears from Iran in the Straits of Hormuz. At it’s most narrow point, the strait is only 35 miles wide. U.S. ally Oman is on one side of the strait, but that still leaves any ships passing through within relatively easy range of Iran, even if they’re hugging the Omani shore.
The expeditionary mobile base platform ship USS Lewis B. Puller transits the Strait of Hormuz, Oct. 22, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialists 3rd Class Jonathan Clay)
And so, fast attack craft from Iran would be able to target one or two ships as they pass through the Strait, sending dozens of speedboats against the ships, preferably while those ships armed with Phalanxs and missiles are out of range or blocked by other vessels.
And that’s why the Navy makes such a big deal about chokepoints, like the Straits of Hormuz, or certain points in the South China Sea. Multi-billion dollar assets with thousands of humans aboard, normally well-protected at sea, are now within range of relatively unsophisticated attacks from American adversaries.
So, while the Navy needs to protect its fleets at sea, that’s the relatively easy part of the equation. The scarier proposition is taking an attack near hostile shores or being forced to sail into range of the enemy’s shore-based aircraft, where the fleet’s overwhelming firepower finds a strong counter that could cripple it.
In the early 1970s, Harlem-based drug kingpin, Frank Lucas, was slinging his signature brand of heroin all over New York and the east coast. “Blue Magic,” as it was called, was the best-selling, closest-to-pure Asian heroin you could get.
New York City’s special narcotics prosecutor called Lucas, “one of the most outrageous international dope-smuggling gangs ever… an innovator who got his own connection outside the U.S. and then sold the stuff himself in the street.” That connection was in Vietnam, where the United States was embroiled in a years-long conflict. It presented Lucas with an easy opportunity to move his product.
No, it was not in the coffins of dead service members as Lucas originally claimed, nor was it in specially-made coffins or false-bottomed coffins. These are all claims made by Lucas, who is now 87 years old, at various times. The heroin was moved by U.S. military members on military planes, however.
Two Army NCOs, Leslie “Ike” Atkinson and William “Jack” Jackson, met at Fort Bragg early in their careers. While in Vietnam, they made money buying Military Payment Certificates on the cheap and trading them in for cash on the border. When they got tired of that, they started smuggling heroin from a bar they purchased in Bangkok.
Staff Sgt. Jasper Myrick, Atkinson, and Jackson would cheat soldiers at cards and forgive their debt if they moved a shipment of heroin in their personal luggage back to the States. Even though he was caught trying to mail heroin through false-bottomed AWOL bags and thrown in prison in 1975, he continued to move product. After all, he was Frank Lucas’ chief supplier.
Army Criminal Investigators were connected through a DEA informant in Bangkok who connected them to Atkinson’s supplier. Posing as street thugs, they set up a fake buy. After they had evidence against Atkinson’s buyer, they convinced him to come to the U.S. for some fun in Las Vegas. Not only did he come, he brought a kilo of heroin with him.
Even though he was eventually busted and sentenced to 30 years, he wouldn’t give up the former Master Sgt. Atkinson. Luckily, there were two other recently retired military members in Bangkok. One of them told the DEA and Army CID that Atkinson was moving a giant shipment to the U.S. soon.
That’s when luck blew the case wide open.
Staff Sgt. Jasper Myrick was having his household items inspected for a coming move to Fort Benning. The Army inspector found 100 pounds of “China White” heroin hidden in Myrick’s furniture. But the DEA still needed to trace it back to Atkinson.
Thai police traced the furniture back to its manufacturer where they identified an associate of Atkinson’s, Jimmy Smedley, a retired Army NCO who also ran Atkinson’s nightclub in Bangkok. They also found orders for Myrick’s move and orders for another soldier who recently moved to Augusta, Georgia.
But that soldier’s furniture was already emptied. One of Atkinson’s known associates, an Air Force NCO named Freddie Thornton, had stayed at a motel in the area recently. Agents picked up him and everyone associated with the heroin move.
It was the largest heroin smuggling operation in American history.
Thornton turned on Atkinson and everyone involved was convicted. The heroin was never recovered and was valued at $5 million on the streets.
Frank Lucas, the drug dealer who took credit for smuggling heroin in the coffins of dead servicemen, was arrested before Atkinson in 1975. Originally sentenced to 70 years, he turned on everyone and got his sentence reduced significantly.
Atkinson calls his claim of using coffins “the biggest hoax ever perpetrated.”
It’s inevitable. Someone will get deployed, spot an officer, and render a proper salute as if they were back in the garrison only to be met with a look of disdain. We’ve seen it the other way around, too. A troop walks by an officer who gets offended when they aren’t given a salute.
Now, there’s no denying that it’s good military discipline to give a proper greeting to an officer whenever they cross your path — it shows respect worthy of their rank and position.
But when you’re deployed, the rules are different — and for good reason.
First of all, if you actually take the time to read the regulations on saluting, you’ll notice there’s almost always a clause that states “except under combat conditions.” The regulations are very clear about not saluting under combat conditions — but there are other exceptions not explicitly outlined in the books.
It doesn’t make sense to render a salute when you’re in formation and you’ve not been given the command, when you’re carrying things with both hands, or while eating. Saluting in these moments is a great way to turn something respectful into a sign of disrespect.
Anyway, if you’re going to salute in a combat zone, at least do it right. If you’re deployed, chances are high that you’re carrying a rifle with you at all times. Giving a proper salute while carrying a rifle is actually only done when given the command to “present, arms.” Even then, it doesn’t involve putting your right hand to your brow.
But performing that motion requires you to raise the barrel of your rifle into the air. And if there’s even the slightest chance that there’s a round in the chamber (which, especially when you’re in a combat zone, is a possibility), swinging around the rifle is just asking for a negligent discharge…
Why is all of this important to note? Because you must assume that the enemy is always watching from a distance, ready to take their shot at the highest-ranking person they can. This has been a concern since the first scope was put on a rifle.
While there are many officers who’ve lost their lives to enemy snipers, it’s unclear just how many were killed directly after some moron announced their importance to the rest of the world. What we do know, however, is that the most famous American sniper took out a high-ranking enemy with the help of a salute.
Gunnery Sgt. Hathcock made his legendary shot at an NVA general from over two miles away. He was too far away to accurately tell which enemy was the general at a glance, especially when several people walked in a group. Take a single guess at how he identified who was who.
You can still show respect to officers while deployed without doing it improperly and risking their life. A simple, “Good afternoon, sir,” is much more appreciated.
Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Erik Cardenas