There’s a reason sit-ups top the list of exercises to get your spare tire under control. They work the major rectus abdominis muscle. They are challenging to do but elementary to understand. They involve no machines or special devices.
And yet… there’s no way around it. Sit-ups are boring. Up, down, up, down — the exercise gets really old, really fast. They are also good but not perfect: All that rounding of the spine places stress on the lower back which can cause injury over time. More over, the exercise works your abdominals in two planes of motion, but does not engage your obliques or transversus abdominus, limiting the true amount of core strength you can build.
Not to worry, flat abs were not built by sit-ups alone. There are plenty of other moves out there that can give you the muscle tone you want without the monotony you dread. Here are 10 ab exercises to try instead of sit-ups.
The cousin of full sit-ups, crunches involve lying on your back, feet either flat on the floor or elevated in the air with knees bent. Perform small contractions of your abdominal muscles to raise and lower your torso a few inches. You can do these with hands by your sides or behind your head for support. Aim for 100 crunches.
A key part of core strength is balance. In this exercise, start sitting with your knees bent, feet flat on floor. Place one hand behind each knee. Slowly lean back, lifting your feet off the floor so that the hover a few inches off the ground. When you find the sweet spot where you are balanced between your raised legs and backward-leaning torso, stop. Try to extend your legs into a straight position, so that your body forms a V shape. Hold for 10 counts.
3. Bicycle Crunches
An oldie but goodie, the bicycle move is great because it engages your oblique muscles as you twist your torso from side to side. Start by lying on your back, knees bent, feet in the air. Bend elbows and place your hands behind your head. Start circling legs in a bicycle-like motion, bringing opposite elbow to knee. Do this for one minute.
4. Inverted Hinges
Start in an extended push-up position, legs and arms straight. From here, hike your hips toward the ceiling, keeping your back flat and legs straight. Keep going until your body forms an inverted V shape, with your butt as the apex. Hold here for five counts, then slowly stretch back out in a controlled manner. Do 10 inverted hinges.
From an extended push-up position, drop down so that your weight is supported by your elbows, which should rest beneath your shoulders. Hold this position, back straight, for one minute.
(Photo by Sam Owoyemi)
6. Side Plank
From the front plank position, shift your weight so that you are resting on your right arm. Twist your entire body so that your left shoulder points toward the ceiling and your legs are stacked on one of top of the other with your left side on top. Maintain a straight line from your shoulders to your feet. Hold for one minute, then rotate to the other side and repeat.
Start sitting on the floor, knees bent, feet tucked under a sofa or chair base for support. Stretch your arms in front of you and slowly lean your torso back until your upper body creates a wide V shape with your legs. Stop in this position and begin to make small pulsations back and forward with your upper body. Do this for one minute.
Begin this move in the same wide V shape as above. Instead of pulsing up and down, swing both arms over to your right side and twist your torso to follow. Begin to “pulse” in this position, making small twists to the right and back to center (as opposed to up and down). Do 10 times, then rotate arms and torso to the left side and repeat.
9. Windshield Wipers
Start lying on your back, feet in the air, legs straight. Place arms out to either side of support. In a controlled manner, drop both legs over to the right, reaching for the floor. Keep hips still and facing up toward the ceiling. Bring legs back to the centerline, then drop them over to the left side. Repeat this side-to-side motion (like a set of windshield wipers) 10 times.
10. Leg Raises
Lie on your back, legs straight. Tuck hands under the small of your back for support. Keeping your legs straight and together, raise feet off the floor toward the ceiling. In a controlled manner, lower legs back to the floor without arching your back. Do 10 times.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The littoral combat ship was intended to replace the Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigates. However, despite a promising 2010 deployment in the Southern Command area of operations by USS Freedom (LCS 1), the littoral combat ship (LCS) has struggled, mostly due to breakdowns.
That said, one major problem with the littoral combat ship was the fact that it is arguably underarmed. Both the Freedom-class and Independence-class littoral combat ships have an armament suite that consists of a 57mm gun, a number of .50-caliber machine guns, a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, and a pair of MH-60 helicopters. While both ships have test-fired Harpoon and NSM anti-ship missiles, they haven’t been equipped with them.
USS Coronado (LCS 4) fires a RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile in the Philippine Sea.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaleb R. Staples)
Among the systems added to the guided-missile frigate version of the Independence-class would be a Mk41 vertical-launch system that would allow it to fire a wide variety of missiles, including the RIM-174 Standard SM-6 Extended Range Active Missile, the RIM-66 Standard SM-2, the BGM-109 Tomahawk, the RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROC, and the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile. Anti-ship missiles like the Harpoon and NSM could also be installed on the new frigate, along with anti-submarine torpedoes.
The littoral combat ship PCU Omaha (LCS 12) in the Gulf of Mexico. The vessel has a light armament suite more suited for a Coast Guard cutter.
(U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Austal USA)
The Navy is planning to select one of the five designs as the basis for a 20-ship class in 2020. The ships will have the responsibility of escorting convoys and carrying out a host of other missions that the littoral combat ships lack the firepower to handle.
In the Battle of Fallujah, Marines swept in to take the city away from insurgent forces, only to have politicians pull them out — and send them right back in months later. The first and second Battles of Fallujah have entered Marine Corps lore, alongside Iwo Jima and Chapultepec.
But what many don’t know is what happened at the Battle of Najaf, which played out before the 2nd Battle of Fallujah kicked off.
An Najaf is another sacred city in Iraq. It has approximately seven square miles of cemeteries — as above, so below. Under the cemeteries are miles of catacombs, haunting places where enemy fighters could be hiding, concealed in the dark.
A major player in the battle was the insurgent leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shia cleric who brought disgruntled Iraqis together under the idea of an Islamic democracy. To enforce that idea, he created a military wing, Jaysh al-Mahdi, also known as the Mahdi Army. He suddenly turned on the coalition, demanding an immediate withdraw of all coalition forces from Iraq.
Though the mayor of An Najaf brokered a ceasefire between the coalition and the Mahdi Army in June 2004, this only lasted until the end of August. In July of that year, the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit took over operational command from Task Force Dragon. That’s when the fighting in the city started to escalate.
In August, the Mahdi Army attacked the 1st Battalion 4th Marines, starting a significant battle of the new Iraq War. The next days were long and drawn out, characterized by house-to-house fighting, open-street engagements, and fighting across open farm fields. For eight days, the battle raged through the city.
Much like what happened in Fallujah a few months earlier, Marines and soldiers were taking the fight to insurgents. American troops were surprised by incoming small arms fire and indirect fire. Though the enemy forces were not well trained, there was a lot of them, which compensated for their lack of real infantry tactics.
At one point, the battle swept over the city’s huge cemetery, which was the stage for some of the most intense fighting of the entire Iraq War. Surrounded by the resting dead, Marines fought against extreme numbers and both sides suffered heavy casualties. Fighting on the surface was so brutal that soldiers and Marines were also forced to fight in the catacombs below.
Fallujah was the biggest urban battle since Hue City and An Najaf saw the first tunnel fighting since Vietnam.
The end of the battle brought with it a final tally of dead and wounded. Twelve Americans were killed in action and 94 were wounded. Iraqi soldiers also saw significant losses. The numbers for the Mahdi Army, however, are far greater, with 1,500 killed in action and an unknown number wounded, estimated to be in the thousands.
The battle removed Al-Sadr and most of those loyal to him from the city. Marines began to secure their area of operations and returned to rebuilding Najaf and the surrounding region. However, some of the Mahdi Army’s militiamen stayed in the city, challenging the 1st battalion, 4th Marines at every opportunity.
Instead of their normal black militia uniforms, they now wore street clothing. This allowed them to blend into the local populace. Coalition troops could no longer differentiate between friend or foe when the streets turned to a battlefield.
Marines and soldiers at the Battle of Najaf should be proud of the accomplishment of securing the city. As time passes, they remain hopeful that Americans will know about the heroes that came out of the battle and the ones who fell there — that we never let this battle be lost to history.
It will be remembered, just as much as The Battles of Fallujah.
The author served as a Navy Corpsman with Marines in Sangin, Afghanistan.
The primary mission of a U.S. Marine infantry rifle squad is to locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver or to repel the enemy’s assault by fire and close combat. This mission statement is branded into each infantryman’s brain and consistently put to practical use when the grunts are deployed to the front lines.
In the event a Marine infantry squad takes enemy contact, the squad leader will order the machine-gunners to relocate themselves to an area to return fire and win the battle for weapon superiority. The squad leader will also inform his fire team leaders of the situation and they’ll deploy their two riflemen and SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) gunner to a strategic area — getting them into the fight.
Once they have a fix on the enemies’ position, they’ll call the mortar platoon to “bring the rain.”
At literally the flip of a switch, troops go from having a cold weapon system to knocking a fully automatic weapon, bringing death to the bad guys at the pull of a trigger.
This sounds super cool, right? Well, it kind of is when you’ve experienced the situation first hand. We understand that having a fully automatic machine gun gives troops a commanding advantage, but when you look at how ground pounders are trained to fire the weapon system, the rate of fire nearly mirrors that of an M4’s after a few bursts.
They can get trigger happy
For the most part, grunts love to take contact from the enemy when they are locked and loaded. When you’ve trained for months to take the fight to the enemy, nothing feels better than getting to fire your weapon at the bad guys. However, it’s not uncommon for machine-gunners to squeeze their triggers and fire off more than the recommended four to six rounds.
We’d also like to add that the feeling of sending accurate rounds down range is fun as f*ck! Unfortunately, infantrymen often lose their bearing and keep the trigger compressed and end up wasting ammo.
Negligent discharges can be worse
Most times, a negligent discharge means you accidentally fired one round from your rifle or pistol. For a troop carrying a fully automatic weapon, the negligent discharge can be much more violent and dangerous. Instead of firing off one round accidentally, you can fire two or three.
We understand that the M16 has both semi-automatic (one round at a time) and burst (three shots at a time) firing capabilities. But it’s more unlikely you’ll ND on the burst setting than the semi-automatic one.
Remember when we said troops can get trigger happy? Hopefully, you do, because we just mentioned it a few minutes ago. When grunts do get trigger happy, their weapons systems can overheat. To combat the overheating, troops must change out their barrel in order to stay in the fight.
Which takes precious firefight time that you won’t get back.
It can lower accuracy
Machine guns are very, very powerful weapons. They can kill the enemy positioned beyond the maximum effective range of an M4 and M16. Sounds awesome, right? Well, it is.
Unfortunately, since they are very powerful, when the mobile operator fires the weapon, the recoil will bring the rifle’s barrel up and off target. This mainly happens when the ground pounder gets trigger happy. In a firefight, mistakes need to be kept to a minimum or people can die.
The US Air Force started the second phase of its Light Attack Experiment on May 7, 2018, putting the A-29 Super Tucano and AT-6B Wolverine aircraft through more testing at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.
Air Force officials have touted light-attack aircraft as a cheap option to address low-end threats, like ISIS or other militant groups, and free up advanced platforms, like the F-22 and F-35, to take on more complex operations.
Air Force chief of staff Gen. David Goldfein has described the light-attack aircraft as part of a networked battlefield, connecting and sharing information with partner forces in the air and on the ground.
“We’re looking at light attack through the lens of allies and partners,” Goldfein told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “A big part of the Light Attack Experiment is a common architecture and an intelligence-sharing network, so that those who would join us would be part of the campaign against violent extremism.”
Phase 2 of the experiment
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Ethan D. Wagner)
The latest phase of the Light Attack Experiment will be a three-month, live-fly experiment intended to gather more information about each aircraft’s capabilities, networking ability, and potential interoperability with partner forces, the Air Force said in a release.
The first phase of the experiment took place at Holloman in August 2017, with four aircraft. In February 2018, the Air Force announced that it had narrowed the field to the two current aircraft.
“This second phase of experimentation is about informing the rapid procurement process as we move closer to investing in light attack,” Lt. Gen. Arnie Bunch, the military deputy at the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, said in the release.
Fighter, attack, and special-operations pilots will take part in this phase of the experiment, working with test pilots and flight engineers from the Air Force, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve. They will carry out day and night missions doing air interdiction, close air support, armed overwatch, and combat search and rescue.
Addressing the Air Force’s pilot shortage
Adding light-attack aircraft to the fleet would mean more airframes on which pilots could train in order to maintain their qualifications and prepare to transition to more advanced aircraft — helping address a pilot shortage caused in part by bottlenecks in the training pipeline.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
“If we can get light attack aircraft operating in permissive combat environments, we can alleviate the demand on our 4th and 5th generation aircraft, so they can be training for the high-end fight they were made for,” Bunch said in the release.
The Air Force has not committed to pursuing a contract for a light-attack aircraft after the experiment, however. Lt. Gen. Jerry Harris, deputy chief of staff for requirements, told Flight Global that the Air Force hasn’t made a final decision, though he said service has reserved more than $2 billion over the next six years should it go forward with production.
Critics have said operating such aircraft, even in permissive environments, will expose pilots to more risk.
“The last time the US did this in Vietnam, oh boy, it really wasn’t pleasant,” Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis for aerospace-consulting firm Teal Group, told Air Force Times in February 2018. “They took a lot of casualties, for predictable reasons. It’s low, it’s slow and vulnerable, and the air defense environment has become a lot more sophisticated.”
The A-29 Super Tucano is already in service with the Afghan air force, and Wilson said in 2017 that none of those aircraft had been shot down in 18 months of operations.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
European researchers have concluded that a radioactive cloud that drifted over Europe in 2017 likely originated in Russia, possibly from a plant that was the site of an infamous nuclear disaster.
Meteorologists and researchers detected the burst of radioactive isotopes in October 2017, and have struggled to determine its origins.
At the time, prevailing winds and other evidence pointed to Russia, but authorities denied responsibility for the release of the ruthenium-106 isotopes. The dispersed isotopes were harmless to human health, but noticeable by monitoring equipment.
Accounts in South Korean media differ over who exactly proposed the latest measure, but it came at a general-level military dialogue, which hadn’t happened for over a decade before.
The two nations, still technically at war after signing an armistice in the 1950s, met under the banner of “practically eliminate the danger of war,” as South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to do on April 27, 2018, during their historic first summit.
But the guns represent a substantial part of North Korea’s threat to Seoul, perhaps acting as the main deterrent holding off a US or South Korean invasion during the multidecade military standoff.
Precisely because the artillery is so formidable, expect to see North Korea ask for something in return. Kim could ask for a withdrawal of or a reduction in US forces in South Korea — a longstanding goal in Pyongyang. Roughly 28,000 US troops are stationed in South Korea as a deterrent.
US soldiers are patrolling Afghanistan with a new tool that lets them see the battlefield like never before — personal, pocket-sized drones.
The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division has deployed to Afghanistan with Black Hornet personal reconnaissance drones — a small, lightweight unmanned aerial vehicle produced by FLIR Systems that can be quickly and easily deployed to provide improved situational awareness on the battlefield.
A 3rd BCT paratrooper prepares to launch a Black Hornet in Kandahar, Aug. 9, 2019.
(US Army photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak)
Soldiers are taking these nano drones on patrol in combat zones.
The 3rd Brigade Combat Team deployed to Kandahar province in Afghanistan in July from Fort Bragg in North Carolina to replace the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Stars and Stripes reports.
Army paratroopers have been “routinely” using the Black Hornets, recon drones that look like tiny helicopters, for foot patrols, the Army said in a statement.
“The Black Hornet provided overhead surveillance for the patrol as it gauged security in the region and spoke to local Afghans about their concern,” a caption accompanying a handful of photos from a recent patrol in Kandahar explained.
A 3rd BCT paratrooper with a Black Hornet drone.
(US Army photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak)
These UAVs offer “immediate situational awareness of the battlefield,” the Army said previously.
The Army awarded FLIR a multimillion-dollar contract earlier this year to provide Black Hornet drones to US troops.
A little over 6 inches in length and weighing only 1.16 ounces, these drones are “small enough for a dismounted soldier to carry on a utility belt,” according to FLIR Systems.
These UAVs offer beyond-visual-line-of-sight capability during day or night out to distances of up to 1.24 miles and have a maximum speed of about 20 feet a second.
These drones, which are able to transmit high-quality images and video, can also be launched in a matter of seconds and can quietly provide covert coverage of the battlefield for around half an hour, Business Insider saw firsthand at an exclusive FLIR technology demonstration.
The Black Hornets “will give our soldiers operating at the squad level immediate situational awareness of the battlefield through its ability to gather intelligence, provide surveillance, and conduct reconnaissance,” Lt. Col. Isaac Taylor, an Army public affairs officer, previously told Business Insider.
Paratroopers on patrol in Kandahar province in Afghanistan.
(US Army photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak)
These drones have the potential to be a real “life-saver” for US troops.
Soldiers in the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division were the first troops to get their hands on the new Black Hornet drones, part of the Soldier Borne Sensor (SBS) program.
Back in the spring, soldiers trained for a week at Fort Bragg with the new drones, getting a feel for the possibilities provided by this technology.
“This kind of technology will be a life-saver for us because it takes us out of harm’s way while enhancing our ability to execute whatever combat mission we’re on,” Sgt. Ryan Subers, one of the operators, said in a statement.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As summer nears, gyms everywhere are flooded with patrons trying to push out those final reps to put the finishing touches on their excellent beach bods. Unfortunately, many gym-goers don’t see the results they desire, even after adjusting their diets and exercising regularly.
So, what’s going wrong? Well, the answer may be, simply, that they’re not doing their reps properly. We’ve heard plenty of amateurs say that all they need to do is lay down on the flat bench and start pushing out sets to get the massive, trimmed chest they want. However, that’s not always the case.
Genetics play a huge role in how our muscles heal after a workout. But no matter how lucky (or unlucky) you were in the genetic lottery, we’ve got some good news for you: it all starts with hitting the bench press the right way. By following these simple rules, in just a few short weeks, you’ll begin to notice a positive change.
Make sure the straight bar is even
If you’re not working out on the Smith machine, there’s a good chance the straight bar isn’t correctly laying across the rest rods. One side could be shifted over a few inches, which makes the strain on your body asymmetric. This means that one side of your chest is handling more work, which can ultimately lead to injury — ending your workouts altogether for a while.
So, before you lift that bar, make sure everything’s squared.
Time and time again, we’ve seen people simply lay on the bench with weights tacked on the bar and start pushing out reps. The problem is, their chest isn’t warmed up, leading the patron to squeeze out just a few reps before quitting. That’s not going to cut it if you want to get that chest ripped.
Most bodybuilders will ramp up the weight, from low resistance to high, before even beginning to count their reps. This allows blood to enter your pectoral muscles, giving you that classic pump. Now you’re ready to do some massive lifts.
Among beginners, this is a huge issue. Many people who grab onto the bar don’t know exactly which muscles will be used to support the weight. Some spread their hands too fall apart and risk hurting their shoulders. In the fitness world, we use the “90-degree rule” quite often. This means we don’t bend our joints more than 90-degrees to avoid getting hurt. The same rule applies here.
When latching a solid grip onto the bar, consider where your elbows will be when forming a 90-degree angle between your biceps and your forearms. You’d be amazed at how much more weight you can push just by employing proper hand placement.
This is an example of solid foot placement.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher DeWitt)
Feet placement? What the hell does that have to do with my chest?
Proper feet placement will help your body stay balanced as you lift the heavy load using your chest. We’ve seen people place their feet on the bench as they work out — that’s honestly not the brightest thing to do.
You want to place your feet solidly on the ground, directly under your bent knees. This will give you a strong foundation and ensure that the bar doesn’t slip to one side or the other as you finish the set strong.
If you can’t control it, your ego can destroy everything in your life.
That’s according to former Navy SEAL commanders Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, who teach this fundamental lesson through their leadership consulting firm Echelon Front.
Business Insider recently sat down with Willink to discuss his new book “Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual.” We asked him for the advice he would give his 20-year-old self, and he said it taps into this idea about ego.
While it may seem obvious that you know more about the world at age 30 than age 20, Willink said it’s important to realize that you’re never old enough to outgrow your ego — and it can make you susceptible to reckless decisions.
“If I went back to my 20-year-old self what I would tell my 20-year-old self is, ‘You don’t know anything,'” Willink said. “Because everyone when they’re young, they think they know what’s going on in the world and you don’t. And when I was 25, I thought that 20-year-old didn’t know anything but I thought my 25-year-old self knew everything. He didn’t know anything either. And when I was 30, the 25-year-old didn’t know anything. And then when I was 35, the 30-year-old didn’t know anything.”
Willink reflected on this in a previous interview with Business Insider. “When I get asked, you know, what makes somebody fail as a SEAL leader, 99.9% of the time it doesn’t have anything to do with their physical skills or their mental toughness,” he said. “What it has to do with is the fact that the person’s not humble enough to accept responsibility when things go wrong, accept that there might be better ways to do things, and they just have a closed mind. They can’t change.”
He noted that being ego-driven can, at times, be constructive. You want to be competitive, you want to prove yourself, Willink explained — but you need to realize that your opinions may not be the best available.
Willink said that this really crystallized for him when he began training young SEALS and saw how some were headstrong about beliefs that his experience taught him definitively were incorrect.
“And I would do my best to help them along that road and realize, ‘You’re not quite as smart as you think you are,'” Willink said.
In September 1940, World War II was a year old. The US was still a noncombatant, but it was preparing for a fight.
That month, the US introduced the Selective Training and Service Act — the first peacetime draft in US history. Mobilizing the millions of troops was a monumental task and essential to deploying “the arsenal of democracy” that President Franklin D. Roosevelt called on Americans to provide.
Inducting millions of civilians and turning them into effective troops — and keeping them happy, healthy, supplied, and fighting — was also a daunting challenge.
In order to find the best way to do that, the War Department mounted an opinion survey, polling nearly a half-million soldiers stationed all around the world throughout the war. Their uncensored responses, given as the war was being fought, are an unprecedented window into how those troops felt about the war, the military, and their role in both.
“Entirely too much boot-licking going on,” one soldier wrote. “Some sort of a merit system should be instituted.”
“Spam, Spam, Spam. All I dream about is Spam,” wrote another.
(National Archives photo)
In an email interview, Edward Gitre, a history professor at Virginia Tech whose project, The American Soldier in World War II, has compiled tens of thousands of responses to those surveys, explained why the Army sought the unvarnished opinions of its soldiers and what those opinions revealed.
Christopher Woody: Why did the War Department conduct these surveys? What did it want to find out about US troops and how did it want to use that information?
Gitre: Henry Stimson, the aged Secretary of War, outright barred the polling of US troops when one of the nation’s leading pollsters, Elmo Roper, first pitched the idea in spring 1941. The War Department was not in the habit of soliciting the “opinions” of foot soldiers.
Yet an old friend of the Roosevelt family, Frederick Osborn—who had already helped to institute the country’s first peacetime draft in 1940—quietly but effectively made the case.
Chiefly, he convinced Stimson and other leery officers that surveys would be for their benefit. Surveys would provide them information for planning and policymaking purposes. Allowing and encouraging GIs to openly air their “gripes” was not part of Osborn’s original pitch.
When George C. Marshall became chief of staff in 1939, he compared the US Army to that of a third-rate power.
With the passage of the draft in 1940, the War Department would face the monumental challenge of rapidly inducting hundreds of thousands, then after Pearl Harbor millions of civilians. Most lacked prior military experience. But this new crop was also better educated than previous generations of draftees, and they came with higher expectations of the organization.
The surveys, then, would help address a host of “personnel” issues, such as placement, training, furloughs, ratings, so on and so forth.
The civilian experts the Army brought in to run this novel research program were embedded in what was known as the Morale Branch. This outfit, as the name suggests, was tasked with shoring up morale. These social and behavioral scientists had to figure out, first, how to define morale, and, second, how to measure it.
Some old Army hands insisted that morale was purely a matter of command, that it was the byproduct of discipline and leadership. But reporting indicated pretty clearly that morale correlated to what soldiers were provided during off-duty hours as well, in terms of recreation and entertainment.
To address the latter, the War Department created an educational, recreational, welfare, and entertainment operation that spanned the globe. The numbers of candy bars and packages of cigarettes shipped and sold were accounted for not in the millions but billions.
If you were coordinating the monthly global placement of, say, two million books from best-sellers’ lists, wouldn’t you want to know something about soldier and sailor preferences? A whole class of survey questions were directed at marketing research.
Woody: What topics did the questions cover, and what kind of feedback and complaints did the troops give in response?
Gitre: The surveys administered by the Army’s Research Branch cover myriads of topics, from the individual food items placed in various rations, to the specific material used in seasonal uniforms, to the educational courses offered through the Armed Forces Institute.
A soldier might be asked a hundred or more multiple-choice and short-answer questions in any one survey. They would be asked to record more their behaviors, insights, and experiences related to service directly. They were asked about their civilian lives as well, including their previous occupation, family background, regional identity, religion, and education. This information could be then correlated with other military and government records to provide a more holistic picture of the average American GI.
One of this research outfit’s most reliable “clients” was the Army’s Office of Surgeon General. The quality and effectiveness of medical and psychiatric care had wide implications, not least in terms of combat readiness. The Surgeon General’s office was interested in more than the care it provided. Soldiers were asked about their most intimate of experiences—their sexual habits and hygiene among them.
Administered in August 1945, Survey #233 asked men stationed in Italy if they were having sex with Italian women, and, if so, how frequently; did they pay for sex, how did they pay, did they “shack” up, use a condom and if not why not, drink beforehand, and did they know how to identify the symptoms of an STI? The battle against venereal diseases knew no lines of propriety.
The Research Branch surveyed or interviewed a half-million service members during the war. The answers they received were as varied as one can imagine, though there were of course common “gripes,” which the old Army hands could have easily ticked off without the aid of a cross-sectional scientific survey.
Yet the scope WWII military operations and the influx of so many educated civilians did create innumerable challenges that were often novel.
But from the soldier’s perspective, it should not come as a shock that so many of them might have taken to heart the premise of the US’s involvement in the war, that the US was committed to defending democracy, and alone if necessary.
Respondent after survey respondent demanded, then, that the US military live up to the principles of democracy for which they were being called to sacrifice. And so, they savaged expressions of the old Regular Army’s hierarchical “caste” culture wherever they saw it, but especially when it frustrated their own hopes and ambitions.
They wanted, in the parlance of the day, “fair play” and a “square deal.” They wanted to be respected as a human being, and not treated like a “dog.”
Woody: The US military drew from a wide swath of the population during WWII. How do you think that affected troops’ perception of the war, of military and civilian leadership, and of what the troops themselves wanted out of their service?
Gitre: The WWII US Army is known as a “citizen soldier” army (as opposed to a professional or “standing” army). It was also at the time described as a “peacetime army.” Compulsory service was passed by Congress in September 1940, roughly 15 months prior to Pearl Harbor. Military conscription was from its inception a civil process.
Photograph taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island shortly after the beginning of the Pearl Harbor attack.
(U.S. Navy photo)
That year-plus gap had a deep and lasting impact on how the War Department approached the rapid expansion of US forces. Just the same, it also shaped the expectations of Americans who were called to serve—as well as of their family members and loved ones, and the wider public.
The success of the Selective Service System would depend on the state in which the Army returned soldiers back to civil life. They would need to feel that they had gained something from the military, in the form of skill training or more education.
“In a larger sense [compulsory military training] provides an opportunity to popularize the Army with our people which is essential for an efficient fighting force,” the secretary of war said. “Maintenance of a high military morale is one of the most important contributing factors to good public morale,” he continued.
This view filtered down into the ranks. Sailors and soldiers expected to receive useful training and additional education. They also believed the military would put the skills, experiences, and practical know-how they already possessed as civilians to good use.
Woody: Was there anything in the troops’ responses that surprised you?
Gitre: What has surprised me most, I think, are the many remarks not about command and leadership but race.
We know that leaders of and activists in the black community pressed the War Department and Roosevelt administration to confront the nation’s “original sin” and strike down legal segregation. How otherwise could the US claim to be a champion of democracy while systematically denying the rights of a population that was liable, as free white citizens were, to compulsory service?
Black leaders embraced the V-shaped hand signal that was flashed so often to signify allied Victory, and they made it their own, calling for “Double V” or double victory: that is, victory abroad, and victory at home.
Participants in the Double V campaign, 1942.
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
Surveys from black soldiers demonstrate in rather stark terms how pervasively this message took hold among the rank and file. African Americans were especially well attuned to and critical of the military’s caste culture and to its reinforcement of white supremacy.
It is especially jarring, then, to read commentaries from soldiers defending the continuation of white male supremacy. Not only did some of these respondents opine on the virtues of segregation and the inferiority of blacks. A whole host of them objected likewise to women in uniform.
But undoubtedly the most shocking responses are those that espouse naked anti-Semitism. These cut against the grain of our collective memory of the American GI as liberator of the German death and concentration camps. Statements of these sort are rare. Yet they exist.
Woody: What’s your biggest takeaway from these surveys about troops’ feelings about the war and their attitudes toward the military?
Gitre: When I first encountered these open-ended responses, I was almost immediately captivated by how similarly white and black soldiers wrote about equity in the military. These two populations sometimes used the same exact phrasing.
For so many black soldiers, military service presented itself as an opportunity to break the shackles of structural inequality. They pleaded for merit-based assignments, postings, and promotions. You can flip over to surveys written by white enlisted men and you can see them wrestling with the same involuntary constraints arising from their own submission. They vigorously protested being treated like a “dog,” or a “slave.”
The leveling effect of military service was profound — and not simply for the individual soldier, psychologically. The survey research Osborn’s team conducted on race, merit, and morale demonstrated that not only were black soldiers just as effective in combat, but that the proximity of black and white troops in combat situations improved race relations, instead of destroying morale, as had long been feared. This research fed the 1947 Executive Order 9981 desegregating the US armed forces.
That brings us back to that 1940 peacetime decision to make military service compulsory as a civic duty. You can’t overestimate its significance. This isn’t a plea for compulsory military service. Yet as I continue to read these troop surveys, I am confronted daily by the prospect that we are losing the hard-won insights and lessons of a generation that is passing into its final twilight.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Vice President Mike Pence speaks to Sailors during an all-hands call in the hangar bay aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adelola Tinubu)
George Reed, a retired Army colonel who served as director of command and leadership studies at the Army War College, said while Carter’s phrasing might not have been appropriate for a public audience, sailors likely understood his intent.
“Of course, you want sailors to give a good reception to the vice president, no matter your party preference,” Reed said.
If the command master chief’s comments were more partisan in nature, though, that’s cause for concern.
“There was a time when the mere act of voting was considered by many officers to be too partisan,” he said. “The shift to a period where military [leaders] feel comfortable sporting bumper stickers and yard signs favoring their party or favored candidate reflects cultural change that might not be in the best interest of the armed forces or the nation.”
Vice President Mike Pence delivers a speech to the crew during an all-hands call in the hangar bay aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adelola Tinubu)
This isn’t the first time a Trump administration event involving troops has made headlines.
Last March, when Trump pointed to reporters during a speech to Marines at a California air station and called them “fake news,” the leathernecks cheered.
And in December, when Trump visited troops in Iraq, some had him sign their “Make America Great Again” caps. Since it’s the commander in chief’s political campaign slogan, some said it was inappropriate for them to ask for signatures while in uniform.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Many myths and legends surround the Vikings. Known for being fierce raiders, courageous explorers, and competent traders, the Viking Age lasted from roughly 793 AD until 1066 AD. It should be noted, however, that much of their history wasn’t written from their perspective and is therefore skewed. Only two literary works, the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda, and some sagas were known to have survived the ages. Historians are now looking at Vikings in a different light because of recent evidence surfacing that disproves many of the myths about the “heathen savages” to the North.
Modern historians characterize Vikings more as fur traders than the bloodthirsty savages they’re often depicted as. The most barbaric and over-the-top of these Viking stories were of the Viking berserker. Berserkers were said to have been lone Viking warriors who donned nothing but a bearskin (or a “bear coat,” which, in Old Norse, is pronounced, “bjorn-serkr” — sound familiar?), took psychedelic drugs to block out pain, and destroyed anyone foolish enough to stand in the way of their ax. Though not entirely wrong, these are definitely exaggerations.
Verdict is still out on if they fought dragons or wrote books on how to train them. (Bethesda Studios’ Elder Scrolls IV: Skyrim)
First of all, there were three different warrior cults who were often bunched into the same category. They are the well-known Berserkers (whose bear coats are often attributed to the worship of Thor, Tyr, or Odin), the Ulfhednar (who wore wolf coats for Odin), and the Svinflylking (who wore boar coats for Freya). Each devotedly fought for a different Norse god and each took on the aspect of the animal whose pelt they wore.
These tribal groupings contradict the “lone savage” stereotype. All berserkers — especially the wolf coats — were used in combat as a complement to other Vikings. Scandinavian kings would use the berserkers as shock troops to augment their forces. The pelt they wore was similar in function to modern-day unit insignias. You could tell who was a berserker on the battlefield because their “battle cry” was to bite down on their shield.
Secondly, their defining pelt wasn’t the only thing they wore, either. As intimidating as it would be to see a burly Viking wearing nothing but a bear coat, war paint, and the blood of their enemies, this kind of garb was nowhere near as common as the myth would have you believe. The Volsung Saga corroborates the idea of a frenzied, mostly naked warrior, but logically speaking, the frozen tundras of Scandinavia would be too damn cold to spend weeks displaying what Odin gave them to their enemies. They may not have worn chainmail — which was very uncommon among Vikings since coastal raiding would rust the iron — but wood carvings showed them as at least wearing pants.
Who knows? Maybe a few berserks did leave this world the same way they came in, you know, naked and covered in someone else’s blood. (Woodcarving via Antiqvitets Akademien)
Finally, we arrive at the myth about the hallucinogens. The first accounts of Vikings “going berserk” because they ate magic mushrooms was hypothesized in 1784 by a Christian priest named Odmann. He came to a conclusion that connected the berserkers to the fly agaric mushroom because he read that Siberian shamans did the same when they were healing. There are two problems with this theory. First, the mushrooms are extremely toxic and would leave any warrior in no shape to fight. Second, these mushrooms were never mentioned anywhere until 1784 — long after the Viking age.
Now, that’s not to say that they didn’t take something for the pain in battle. Stinking Nightshade was discovered in a berserker grave in 1977. Mostly used as medicine, the plant was also used in war paint. If the nightshade were crushed down and made into a paste, it could be applied to a warrior to slightly dull their senses.
The effects would be similar to someone running into battle after popping a bunch of Motrin.