There’s nothing more debilitating than lower back pain. The grimaces, groans, and feeble feelings one gets from back pain happen because the area is full of nerve endings that react violently to any injury inflicted on them (like a twist while carrying a particularly squirmy kid). If you’ve strained a muscle, there is no real shortcut to healing: You have to rest, ice, and wait it out as your body repairs the microtears. But often, back pain is caused not by tears but by tightness or spasms, and these issues can be addressed through stretching.
These 7 moves are designed to target your lower back. In each case, the stretch should be no deeper than a position you can comfortably hold for at least 30 seconds, and should never be so intense as to cause pain. Slowly ease into each position, and when you reach a point of manageable intensity, focus on breathing in and out deeply for 30 seconds to one minute.
Funny, isn’t it, that a likely source of your back pain is also the name of the exercise to ease it? To perform this yoga-inspired move, start on all fours. Slowly sink your hips back toward your feet, until your butt touches your heels and your chest is pressed against your quads. Extend your arms in front of you and feel the gentle stretch along your back.
2. Cradle pose
Turn over onto your back and bend your knees, feet flat on the floor. Raise your feet and bring your knees toward your chest. Wrap your arms over your shins as if you are giving them a big hug. Gently pull your knees in closer to your spine, raising your head so that your back is rounded.
3. Figure 4
Start facing a chair back, table, or sturdy towel rack. Cross your right foot over your left knee, bending your right knee out to the side so that your legs form the shape of the number “4.” Holding the support in front of you, bend your left knee, stick your butt out, and sink into the stretch, rounding your spine and pulling away from the support to deepen the stretch in your lower back. Repeat on the opposite side.
4. Cat pose
Another yoga classic, start this move on all fours. Drop your head toward the floor and round your back, imagining the center of your spine being lift by a string toward the ceiling.
5. Floor twist
Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Spread arms out to either side for support. Gently let your knees drop to the right side while you rotate your head and torso to the left. Return to center, repeat the stretch on the opposite side.
Sitting in a chair, cross your right leg over your left. Place your left hand at the outside of your right knee. Gently press against your right knee as you twist your head and torso to the right, letting your legs turn slightly to the left. Return to neutral. Repeat on the opposite side.
7. Runner’s stretch
Sometimes, a tight lower back is exacerbated by even tighter hamstrings. For this stretch, start sitting on the floor, both legs straight in front of you. Turn your right leg out and bend your right knee, sliding your right foot up so it touches the instep of your left knee. Lean forward and grab your left toes with both hands (grasp your left calf if you don’t have the flexibility to reach that far) feeling the stretch down your back. Repeat on the opposite side.
From action-packed eyewitness accounts such as Guadalcanal Diaryto devastating Holocaust memoirs like The Diary of Anne Frankand Nightto the thrilling espionage tale of Operation Mincemeat, World War II is the subject of some of the most fascinating and influential nonfiction books ever written. Every year, seemingly dozens of new titles emerge to offer fresh perspectives and uncover fascinating details about the deadliest conflict in human history. These nine classics cover the war from the Eastern Front to the South Pacific and investigate its murky origins and complex legacies. Make your next great read one of these essential World War II books.
By John Hersey
Originally published in the August 31, 1946 issue of The New Yorker, this compassionate and richly observed portrait of six survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima caused an immediate sensation. It was the first–and only–time the magazine had devoted an entire issue to a single article. Newsstands sold out within hours, and radio stations interrupted their regular programming to broadcast readings of the complete text.
More than a year after the Japanese city was destroyed, Americans were getting the first full account of the horrors of nuclear warfare. Hersey described stone facades permanently etched with the silhouettes of vaporized people and soldiers whose eyes were melted by the atomic flash. Widely recognized as one of the earliest examples of New Journalism (the style of reporting made most famous by Joan Didion), Hiroshima profoundly impacted the debate over nuclear weapons and played a key role in the healing process between America and Japan.
2. With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa
By E.B. Sledge
With brutal honesty and lucid prose, Eugene Bondurant Sledge provides a grunt’s-eye view of infantry combat in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Nicknamed “Sledgehammer” by his comrades, Sledge fought with the 1st Marine Division in the grueling battles of Peleliu and Okinawa. Using notes he secretly kept in a pocket-sized New Testament, Sledge describes the terror of life on the front lines and documents acts of savagery committed by both sides. But he also admires the courage of his fellow soldiers and pauses, when he can, to observe his natural surroundings–an interest that would lead to a later career as a biology professor. With the Old Breed was one of the main sources for Ken Burns’s documentary The Warand helped to form the basis for the HBO mini-series The Pacific.
3. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
By William Shirer
First published in 1960, this National Book Award winner and New York Times bestseller traces the rise and fall of Nazi Germany from Adolf Hitler’s birth in 1889 to the end of World War II in 1945. As a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and one of “Murrow’s Boys” at the CBS Radio Network, Shirer reported from Berlin and Vienna in the years before the war and followed the German Army during the invasion of France.
After the war, he drew on his own experiences and a wealth of newly available documents, including the diaries of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and General Franz Halder and testimony from the Nuremberg trials, to write this 1,250-page volume. The book was a huge commercial success, selling one million hardcover copies and going through twenty printings in its first year. Although its scholarly reputation is often debated, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich remains one of the most influential tomes about World War II to this day.
By Art Spiegelman
This Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel recasts the Holocaust with Nazis as cats, Jews as mice, and Poles as pigs. Originally serialized in the alternative comics magazine Raw, the story moves back and forth between present-day Rego Park, New York and Nazi-occupied Poland. In New York, cartoonist Art Spiegelman tries to mend his fractured relationship with his father, Vladek, by drawing a book-length comic based on Vladek’s wartime experiences. In Poland, Vladek and his wife, Anja, endure forced relocation to the Sosnowiec Ghetto; the death of their first son, Richieu; and imprisonment in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Hailed by The Wall Street Journal as “the most affecting and successful narrative ever done about the Holocaust,” Maus elevated the critical reputation of comics and inspired countless artists, including Chris Ware, Alison Bechdel, and Marjane Satrapi.
5. The Longest Day
By Cornelius Ryan
Based on interviews with more than 1,100 D-Day survivors, The Longest Day is the definitive account of the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Ryan experienced the battle firsthand as a 24-year-old reporter for the Daily Telegraph. When the bomber he was flying in was hit and had to return to England, he jumped into a patrol boat and returned to cover the fighting on the French beaches. Fifteen years later, Ryan set out to tell “what actually happened, rather than what generals or others thought happened.” The result is a masterpiece of military history packed with novelistic details, from the U.S. paratrooper who won $2,500 at cards on the eve of the battle but deliberately lost it all so as not to run out of luck to Field Marshal Rommel’s reason for being 600 miles away when the invasion began–he was bringing his wife her birthday present.
6. In the Garden of Beasts
By Erik Larson
This #1 New York Times bestseller is the riveting story of William E. Dodd, the American ambassador to Germany from 1933 to 1937. Dodd, a history professor, was not Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first choice for the job, and he arrived in Berlin with little appetite for the endless socializing expected of a diplomat and little sense of the dangers posed by Germany’s newly-appointed chancellor, Adolf Hitler.
While Dodd struggled to find his place, his 24-year-old daughter, Martha, took to her glamorous new life with verve. Beautiful and sexually adventurous, her high-profile paramours included Rudolph Diels, the chief of the Gestapo, and Boris Winogradov, an attache to the Soviet Embassy who recruited her as a spy. Part political thriller, part family drama, In the Garden of Beasts brings fresh perspective to the question of why it took the world so long to recognize the threat of the Third Reich.
7. An Army at Dawn
By Rick Atkinson
While most American history buffs are well versed in the Allied push across Europe after the Normandy landings and the key battles for control of the Pacific, the North African campaign is a less familiar subject. Drawing on personal diaries and letters from soldiers as well as official documents kept in British, American, French, Italian, and German war archives, Rick Atkinson corrects the record in this Pulitzer Prize-winning history, the first volume in The Liberation Trilogy. From the amphibious invasion of Morocco and Algeria in November 1942 to the Allies’ watershed victory at the Second Battle of El Alamein and the US Army’s coming-of-age at the Battle of Hill 609 in Tunisia, An Army at Dawn seamlessly integrates big-picture military strategy with boots-on-the-ground perspective. Atkinson is particularly insightful on the clash of egos between the old-school British commanders and their upstart American counterparts.
8. Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943
By Anthony Beevor
With more than one million casualties, the five-month siege of Stalingrad was the bloodiest battle of World War II and a decisive turning point in the fight for Europe. Antony Beevor, a former British Army officer, brilliantly balances the huge scale of the conflict with a soldier’s-eye view of some of the most horrific conditions in the history of modern warfare.
He begins with Operation Barbarossa, the 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union that was plagued by bad weather, long supply lines, and difficult terrain, and analyzes how the Luftwaffe’s carpet bombing of Stalingrad helped to create the treacherous, rubble-strewn conditions that allowed Soviet snipers to wage a gruesome war of attrition. Most captivatingly, Atkinson portrays Stalingrad as the terrifying outcome of totalitarianism: Hitler lived in a fantasy world and refused to listen to German officers who tried to save the Sixth Army from complete destruction, while Stalin’s demands for total obeisance resulted in the executions of 13,500 Red Army soldiers.
9. Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization
By Nicholson Baker
In this highly unusual and captivating work, novelist Nicholson Baker tells the story of the buildup to World War II in vignettes. Each short piece contains a fact or a quotation drawn from primary sources including newspaper articles, radio speeches, personal diaries, and government transcripts.
Through the steady accumulation of detail, Baker suggests that Allied leaders were not as reluctant to enter the global conflict as most historians contend. He goes back to as far as 1920 to quote Winston Churchill on the proposed bombing of civilian targets in Iraq (“I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes”), then skips ahead to the prime minister’s preferred military strategy in 1941: “One of our great aims is the delivery on German towns of the largest possible quantity of bombs per night.” Turning to the American scene, Baker draws from sources suggesting that Franklin D. Roosevelt may have deliberately goaded the Japanese into bombing Pearl Harbor so the US could enter the war.
Some scholars were harsh in their judgment of Human Smoke, but by returning to the primary material, Baker rescues pacifism as an honorable concept and reminds readers that when military leaders rush to apply new technologies to warfare, it is often civilians who suffer the most.
Before any troop deploys or goes on a training mission, their chain of command will send down a list of items that they’re required to bring — or at least highly encouraged. Some things make absolute sense: Sleeping bags, changes of uniform, and a hygiene kit are all essentials.
Sometimes, however, the commander insists that the unit bring things that either nobody will use or are so worthless that they might as well be dumbbells.
Each individual unit decides what is and isn’t going to make the list, so each pack is different. What may be useful one day might not be the next, but these outliers almost always go unwanted.
I’d like to say common sense is common… but… you know…
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Nathaniel C. Cray)
Very specific hygiene items
Hygiene kits are essential. Don’t be that nasty-ass motherf*cker who makes everyone ponder the legality of throwing you out of the tent for the duration of the field exercise.
That being said, we should all be capable of exercising some common sense. Your packing list shouldn’t have to itemize little things, like nail clippers or deodorant. But at the same time, NCOs shouldn’t have to double check to see if you’re bringing the requisite number of razor heads.
Besides, you get extra “TYFYS” points if you come back home in uniform.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airmen Alexa Culbert)
Does your unit have the word “special” anywhere inside its name? No? Well, you better not unfold that pair of blue jeans while in-country because you’re never going to get a shot at wearing them.
The reason for bringing a single change of civilian clothes is for the troops to swap clothes for RR or emergency leave while on deployment, but no one ever changes into them because they need to be in uniform while in Kuwait — and they’re probably not going to bother changing out of their uniform while on the plane.
It may be a personal thing, but I toss all of my old, nasty boots the moment I get new ones. Or donate them. Just a thought.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Robert L. McIlrath)
Ounces make pounds and an extra set of boots actually weighs quite a bit, given their size. As long as you’ve got a good pair on you and you (hopefully) don’t destroy them while in the field, that extra set will probably just take up space — and make your duffel bag smell like feet.
Just use the pair that you’re currently wearing in uniform. That’ll do just fine.
All you need is a woobie and you’ll be set for life.
(U.S. Army photo)
Unworn snivel gear
If it’s summer time, you probably won’t need that set of winter thermals and the additional layers that go over it. Yeah, it might get chilly at nights, but not that chilly.
This one’s all about using your head and taking what you may realistically need, even on some off chance. Does the forecast say there’s a slight chance of rain? Take your rain gear. If it says it’ll be sunny or partly cloudy, take some of your rain gear (it’s a field op. It always rains). Is it the dead of July and there’s absolutely zero chance of snowfall? Don’t bother except with anything but the lighter stuff for nighttime.
If they do tell you to bring it… prepare for a world of suck.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Eric Unwin)
If your supervisor specifically tells you to pack your MOPP gear for a training exercise, it’s probably because there’s going to be a lesson while you’re out there. If it’s on a hold-over from a copy-and-pasted spreadsheet, it’s dead weight.
Make an educated decision here. If you’re unsure, ask your team leader if it’s really necessary.
Again, this falls under the “if your command says it’s a thing, it’s a thing” category.
(U.S. Army Reserve Photo by Spc. John Russell)
Obviously you’ll need laundry stuff for a deployment — you’re going to be gone for many months and your few changes of uniform won’t last. If it’s just for a weekend field op, however, you’re not even going to find a laundromat in the Back 40 of Fort Campbell. Sure, you might want to bring a waterproof bag to hold your smelly clothes and wet socks, but bringing laundry detergent? Not so important.
Save yourself a buck or two and think.
(Department of Defense photo by Julie Mitchell)
Most “tacticool” crap
It’s not a terrible idea to swap some of the more, uh, “lowest-bidder” stuff that the military gives you for an equivalent of better quality. If you do, though, run it by your chain of command to make sure that it’s authorized. If it’s not, you’re wasting money, space, and weight.
The two Tu-160 nuclear-capable bombers in Venezuela “conducted a flight in the airspace over the Caribbean Sea. The flight lasted for about 10 hours,” the ministry’s press service said, according to state-media outlet Tass.
“In certain parts of the route, the flight of Russian bombers was conducted together with Su-30 and F-16 fighter jets of the Venezuelan National Bolivarian Military Aviation. The pilots from the two countries practiced air cooperation when fulfilling air tasks,” it added.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It is not the first time Tu-160 supersonic bombers have been to Venezuela. They visited in 2013 and in 2008. The earlier occasion came during a period of heightened tensions stoked by Russia’s brief war with Georgia that year.
The latest trip, which comes during heightened tensions over Russia’s meddling the 2016 US election and recent clash with Ukraine, prompted sharp words from all sides.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also chastised Caracas and Moscow, saying on Dec. 10, 2018, that people in Russia and Venezuela “should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer.”
The Pentagon also chimed in, saying that while the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro sought visits from Russian aircraft, the US was working with “regional partners and international organizations to provide humanitarian aid to Venezuelans fleeing their crisis-racked nation.”
The Organization of American States also expressed “the greatest concern” about the visit, saying it was not authorized by Venezuela’s national assembly, as required by the constitution.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza on Dec. 11, 2018, called Pompeo’s comments “disrespectful,” and, like Peskov, described them as “cynical” in light of the US’s own military activity abroad.
Arreaza also said it was “outrageous” for the US to question Venezuela’s defense cooperation with other countries after President Donald Trump “threatened us publicly with a military intervention,” referring to Trump’s references to the possibility of military action to oust Maduro.
“One thing is to call for the devil and other is to see him coming,” Cabello said.
The Trump administration has cast Venezuela as the US’s most significant foe in the region and sought to isolate the Maduro government, largely through sanctions on Maduro and officials around him.
The US and other countries in the region have condemned Maduro for ongoing political strife and economic deterioration in his country — turmoil that has prompted some 3 million Venezuelans to flee, straining resources and prompting backlash in the neighboring countries that have received many of them.
On Dec. 11, 2018, after speaking with Russian officials, the White House said the bombers currently in Venezuela would depart on Dec. 14, 2018 and return to Russia.
Russian officials wanted to deploy “strategic aircraft” to a Venezuelan base in the Caribbean, to which Maduro not object, according to the report. They could go a base on La Orchila island, northeast of Caracas. (Russia said at the end of 2014 it would conduct long-range air patrols in the Caribbean.)
A military expert quoted by the paper said such a deployment would remove the need for those aircraft to return to Russia and for aerial refueling during “patrol missions in the Americas.” The aircraft could conduct missions in the region and be replaced on a rotating basis, the expert said.
While Venezuelan law prohibits foreign military bases, military aircraft could be hosted temporarily, the Russian newspaper said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US Army is moving forward on next-generation concealment technology to ensure that American soldiers can hide in plain sight.
Fibrotex has built an Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System that can be used to conceal soldier’s positions, vehicles, tanks and aircraft. The new “camouflage system will mask soldiers, vehicles and installations from state-of-the-art electro-optical sensors and radars,” the company said Nov. 8, 2018, in a press release sent to Business Insider.
Fibrotex has been awarded a contract to supply this advanced camouflage to conceal troops from night vision, thermal imaging, radar, and more.
Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System.
Soldiers, vehicles, and other relevant systems can just about disappear in snowy, desert, urban, and woodland environments, according to the camouflage-maker.
The new program aims to replace outdated camouflage that protects soldiers in the visible spectrum but not against more advanced, high-end sensors. ULCANS “provides more persistent [infrared], thermal counter-radar performance,” Fibrotex explained.
The Army has awarded Fibrotex a 10-year indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract valued at 0 million. Full-scale production will begin in 2019 at a manufacturing facility in McCreary County, Kentucky, where the company expects to create and secure hundreds of new jobs in the coming years.
“Today, more than ever, military forces and opposition groups are using night vision sensors and thermal devices against our troops,” Eyal Malleron, the CEO of Fibrotex USA, said in a statement.
“But, by using Fibrotex’s camouflage, concealment and deception solutions, we make them undetectable again, allowing them to continue keeping us safe.”
Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System.
Enemies can’t see in, but US soldiers can see out
The result came from roughly two years of testing at the Army’s Natick Soldier Systems Center, where new technology was tested against the Army’s most advanced sensors.
Fibrotex noted that the netting is reversible, creating the possibility for two distinctly different prints for varied environments. And while outsiders can’t see through the netting, those on the inside have an excellent view of their surroundings, as can be seen in the picture above.
The new camouflage for troops and vehicles has reportedly been tested against the best sensors in the Army, and it beat them all.
The Mobile Camouflage Solution (MCS) takes concealment to another level, as “the MCS provides concealment while the platform is moving,” the company revealed. Business Insider inquired about the secret sauce to blend in moving vehicles with changing scenery, but Fibrotex would only say that their “technology combines special materials, a unique fabric structure and a dedicated manufacturing process.”
ULCANS and its relevant variants are based on “combat-proven technologies” designed by the Israel-based Fibrotex Technologies Ltd., the parent company for Fibrotex USA, over the past two decades. The company’s products have been specifically modified to meet the needs of the Department of Defense.
“We have more than 50 years of experience, with thousands of hours in the field and a deep understanding of conventional and asymmetric warfare. The U.S. Army tested our best camouflage solutions and the camouflage repeatedly demonstrated the ability to defeat all sensors known to be operating in the battlefield and throughout the electromagnetic spectrum,” Malleron explained.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Before his flight left from Charlotte, Norvel Turner Jr. heard a fellow passenger yell for help.
After running to catch the flight heading to Columbia, South Carolina, a 59-year-old man had collapsed in the aisle a few rows behind Turner.
Not sure what had happened, Turner, a former Army Ranger instructor, watched as another passenger rushed over and started to do chest compressions.
Turner’s military training then kicked in. He went over and noticed the man, Mark Thurston, was not moving and his skin had turned purple and mouth was frozen shut.
Turner, currently the safety director at Army Central Command, grabbed a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation device from a nearby first aid kit and pried open Thurston’s mouth.
“I was able to get his mouth open, get the tube in there and then blow into his chest while the other guy did compressions,” Turner said in a recent interview.
Long before he found himself on this flight, Turner had spent over 30 years in the Army.
He retired in 2004 after serving as an 82nd Airborne Division command sergeant major in Afghanistan. He now travels throughout the Middle East to help reduce risks across ARCENT’s area of operations.
On June 27, 2019, he was flying home from a work trip in Florida where he attended safety meetings at the U.S. Central Command headquarters.
Safety has been paramount throughout Turner’s life.
Norvel Turner Jr., left, safety director for Army Central Command, poses for a photograph with Mark Thurston, the man he helped save June 27, 2019, while on a commercial jet awaiting to depart from Charlotte.
In the military, he attended several CPR and combat lifesaver courses like many other soldiers do. He was also a Ranger instructor, responsible for his students who sometimes got hurt or passed out from the grueling tasks.
“If someone goes down, you got to be able to administer basic lifesaving skills,” he said.
Turner recalled that while he and other soldiers were in Rhode Island for paratrooper training in 1980 they came across a car that had just crashed into a tree on a nearby road.
They stopped, got out and saw two teenagers pinned inside the vehicle.
Turner attended to the driver, a girl whose chest was pressed up against the steering wheel. After he pulled her out, he performed CPR on her until emergency crews arrived.
About a month later on Thanksgiving Day, Turner received a heartfelt letter in the mail.
“I received a letter from the mother thanking me for saving her daughter’s life,” he said, “and as a result of that she was able to spend Thanksgiving with her daughter.”
Flight to Columbia
After a short time performing CPR, Turner began to feel a faint pulse from Thurston.
“Every once in a while we would get a pulse, but then it would go out,” he said.
Turner continued giving lifesaving breaths to Thurston as the other passenger did the chest compressions. He also tilted Thurston’s head back to open up his airway.
About 15 minutes later, emergency medical technicians arrived and used a defibrillator to electrically shock Thurston to life. His pulse grew steady, he took breathes on his own and he was rushed to the hospital.
The diagnosis: a massive heart attack.
That hit close to home for Turner. In 2012, Turner’s wife convinced him to get a thorough physical. Once the stress test and other data came back, the doctor told him he had three blocked arteries.
At first, Turner said he couldn’t believe it since he was an avid runner and ate healthy. He later discovered his collateral blood vessels near his arteries had grown to compensate the blood flow.
“So I had no problems,” he said, “but in order to fix it they had to go in and do a triple bypass on me.”
Thurston, now back from the hospital, called Turner and invited him to his home near Columbia on Tuesday so he could thank him in person.
“He wanted to give me a hug and sit down and talk to me,” said Turner, who considers himself a quiet professional who sought no gratitude for what he did. “At first, it was very emotional that one would do that.”
A little more than a month after his heart attack, Thurston said he is now walking, driving and expected to make a full recovery.
If it wasn’t for the quick action of Turner and the others on the plane, Thurston said it would have been a different story.
“I was told later on by the doctors that had they not started CPR when they did, that would have been it. I would not have survived,” Thurston said. “They seriously saved my life.”
Turner said he just reacted instinctively, using what he had learned as a soldier.
“All those skills and training that I had just kicked in automatically,” he said. “That was amazing to me. I never really thought about it until it was over. We were able to save this gentleman’s life and there were no previous rehearsals or anything.”
Intense humidity, leeches, and snakes were just a few of the dangers our Vietnam Veterans faced while in the jungle — besides getting shot by bad guys. In all, 2.7 million Americans suited up for The Nam, and the average age of an infantryman was just 19-years-old.
And every single one of them at one time or another claimed the title of “f*cking new guy,” or “FNG.”
Patton, Schwarzkopf, and Mattis didn’t start out on day one of their military careers by making all the right decisions, they had to learn from their mistakes time and time again, adapting to them before ultimately succeeding.
Like every story, every man whose served has a beginning — a seed.
“I didn’t know squat, I wasn’t prepared for this,” Larry “Doc” Speed, a Combat Medic from 173rd Delta Company, explains in an interview about his first few days in the bush.
Entering the grunt world as an “FNG” is a stressful time in every new infantryman’s life.
Having to prove your worth from the moment you step onto the battlefield was just as difficult as shaking off those first dramatic moments of being pinned down by accurate enemy gunfire. Until you prove yourself, you’re just another blood bag with a name stenciled on a uniform.
“It’s a different world when you’re brand new, you’re just scared,” Jesse Salcedo, an M60 machine gunner admits. “It took three or four firefights before I could function before I could see the enemy.”
Enough messing around. Dad’s got the gag gifts and the cushy hunting gear. He doesn’t need another beautiful knife or the latest gizmo for convenience in the field. No, what Dad wants is to be ready for when shit hits the fan, dammit. Time to get tactical.
That means simple, effective gear that’s built to be tough and trustworthy in the field. Finding the gear you can trust your life with is the tricky part, friends. That’s why we went to our experts: The entire team here at SOFREP put our heads together to pick our favorite tactical gear. So whether it’s a solar panel that will never fail, a contingency knife that’s always ready to go, a tactical boot that’ll help you pound ground, or the ultimate loadout box for all the important stuff you’ve already got, here’s the gear we stand by. It certainly stands by us.
1. Overland Solar Bugout Panel
When things go south, power is… well, power. Overland Solar makes the daddy of all solar chargers for a serious off-the-grid setup. It’s good for 130 watts of power in various conditions and produces seven amps an hour thanks to high solar cell efficiency. It charges in low angle light, and when it’s overcast, rainy, and even lightly snowing. Plug and play with your camper, or throw it on the roof of your micro-cabin for solid power basics.
Everything needed for a range kit, nothing more. Polycarbonate shooting glasses, soft foam earplugs, adjustable fit muffs. It’s the perfect replacement gear for the old, beat up shit you’ve had for years. The earmuffs and earplugs are good for 31 and 27 decibels, respectively. And anyway, the best gift you can receive this year is healthy eyeballs and eardrums in old age.
What’s the right level of protection for your bedside equalizer? This thing. It’s got just the right pairing of quick access and safety: open it using RFID access card or keycard or LED-backlit access code. Its Soft Stop door technology means you can open it silently, or set it to a decibel mode for family safety. Oh, and it’s heavy-duty 12-gauge steel.
Nobody in the movies ever needs to fix a jammed rifle or disassemble one for cleaning. This is not the way of the world, though. The Real Avid Armorer’s Master Wrench has everything you need for rifle housekeeping: torque wrench attachment point, armorer’s hammer, castle nut wrench, multiple hammerheads, muzzle brake wrench, and more. With it, as long as you have ammo, you’ll be fine.
Zese Germans make a sehr gut firearm. They also make a prime red dot sight for MSR platforms of all calibers. It’s waterproof, runs off one included battery for up to 20,000 hours, has 10 daytime brightness settings, and two for night vision use. At just a hair over a Benjamin, it might be the perfect tool for target acquisition at close and mid-range.
Curved handle, simple sheath, skeletonized, full-tapered tang, and a 3.5-inch blade: this knife is ready to go when it needs to be. It’s intended as an everyday carry, but you’d be forgiven for showing off its maple handle and black oxide no-glare finish 80CrV2 steel blade. Its beauty is terrible to behold, especially if the beholder is trying to fuck with you.
What does a glove buy you? Try serious hand protection in a combat situation thanks to carbon fiber knuckles, a reinforced synthetic leather palm, and rubberized grip padding. Gloves so affordable rarely come with bonus features, but these ones do: their four-way spandex helps with a comfortable fit, and each glove has two-way touchscreen-friendly fingertips. They’ve got everything you need to throw hands without hesitation.
Ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene is a hell of a material. Ask a scientist if you want the nitty-gritty, but basically, it’s got the highest impact strength of any thermoplastic humans can currently manufacture. It can stop 9mm and .44 rounds up to 1,400 fps, which means you want it in your vest. And because it’s flexible and lightweight, you won’t mind it in your carry-on luggage, or wherever else you have to take it.
SW’s Recruit Tactical Range Bag is made out of ballistic fabric, with oversized zippers and rubber foot skids for protecting your gear. Its two internal pockets are big enough for your handguns, and the main compartment has all the room you need for ammo, ear protection, and the like. External pockets include seven magazine slots, plus tons more room for all the extra crap you’re lugging around.
The best way to get serious about cleaning your gun properly is to get all the right gear. This one has everything you’ll ever need, and then some: 22 bronze bore brushes for every caliber of shotgun, rifle and pistol, cleaning patches, memory-flex cables, obstruction removal tools, precision cleaning tools, and quality solvent. It totals over 40 components and comes in a nylon case. If you don’t keep everything clean with it, well, that shit’s on you.
Viridian makes a mean laser sight. Their Tacloc holsters pull triple duty: they secure your weapon; aid in a smooth, accurate, quick draw; and activate the integrated laser sight instantly when that draw happens. The company makes them for your Beretta, Glock, MP 45, Sig Sauer, and several other guns. And, thanks to rugged Kydex construction and a seven-year warranty, it’ll last.
The perfect tactical boot is well suited to any situation. That’s what makes the Salomon Quest 4D our go-to. It’s got the support and grip of a mountain boot, thanks to a serious outsole and supportive midsole. And its uppers are built for combat: anti-reflective, with anti-debris mesh, mudguard, and waterproofed materials like Goretex. Oh, and the Ranger Green looks damn sharp, too.
Finally, a fix for the annoying, simple problem: you can’t get your brim low enough when you’re wearing your eye protection. A simple notch in this cap fixes that problem. But it’s also just a quality cap: button-less at the top, so your hearing protection fits smoothly, 98 percent breathable, stretchy cotton, moisture-wicking headband, low profile fit, hook-and-loop for your patch of choice. It might be the last ballcap you ever buy.
Minimalistic in all the ways you want, full protection where you need it. That’s the deal with this plate carrier, which is fully adjustable to fit all body types, holds a front and backplate, and is made of durable, rigid, weather-resistant 600D polyester with PVC coating. The straps are padded so you’ll stay cozy, princess.
When it comes to thinking tactically, it’s easy to forget your feet. Don’t. Darn Tough makes some of the best socks out there today. They’re built around performance merino wool with durable, breathable, comfortable design elements. They’re the perfect tool for staying light on your feet all day, no matter the terrain or operation.
Kelty’s been the name behind top U.S. forces tactical gear for decades. This one is issued to spec ops soldiers, and its features make it clear why. It’s got easy access through top and side loading panels, storage options for all your gear, and then some, and its aluminum suspension system is lightweight but durable. And 50 liters of storage is just right for most ops.
This modular vehicle rifle rack and rigid MOLLE panel will mount to any vehicle to help you haul your gun plus MOLLE pouches and extra accessories. It’s made of injection-molded glass-reinforced nylon, perfect for holding plenty of weight. The panel can be installed in under a minute with no tools thanks to mounting straps.
Our favorite cooler company already makes indestructible boxes to keep stuff cold — so the pivot to indestructible boxes for important gear is an easy one. This is our favorite gearcase around: it’s waterproof, dustproof, and stackable, and can be outfitted with dividers and caddies to organize and store your gear just the way you like.
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The call rang out in the firehouse of Rescue Company 1 reporting a jumper at the Ritz-Carlton hotel. Ed Loder, a 41-year-old firefighter with 20 years on the job, threw on his gear and pulled himself into the driver’s seat of their fire engine. The sirens wailed as they sped down the narrow city streets of Back Bay, an affluent neighborhood in Boston. Loder steered the rig in front of the hotel, jumped out, and was handed a set of binoculars from the hazmat truck.
Against the dark sky he located a distressed woman on the 16th floor, sitting with her feet dangling over the ledge of a windowsill. A negotiation team of the Boston Police Department pleaded with the woman from inside the hotel room, but she wasn’t complying. Loder soon joined the other firefighters on the roof.
“We could look over the edge of the roof and see her, but she couldn’t see us because she wasn’t looking up,” Loder told Coffee or Die Magazine in a recent interview. “She was looking in the room and talking to the cops.”
The woman had a razor in her hand. This rescue wasn’t going to be easy.
Boston firefighter Ed Loder talking to other firefighters on the ground while a building is ablaze. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.
While other firefighters searched for a viable anchor point, Loder tugged ropes through the carabiner on his bumblebee suit. The nearby ductwork was unusable, but a window through an electrical structure on the roof was perfect. Loder tied in his line.
Their plan was to have the police distract the woman long enough for Loder to complete the rescue.
“They got her attention and the minute she looked inside of the room, I went off the roof,” Loder told Coffee or Die. “When I went off the parapet I naturally swung and kicked her in the side and she went into the room.”
The police officers immediately jumped on top of her and placed handcuffs around her wrists to prevent her from harming herself or anyone else. Loder, however, was left swinging outside and hollered for one of the officers to pull him in too.
A newspaper clipping about the incident at the Ritz-Carlton, showing Boston firefighter Ed Loder after he made a daring rescue of a suicidal woman. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.
The Boston Globe would describe the heroic nighttime rescue that occurred on May 30, 1990, as “Mission Impossible.” Bill Brett, a Globe photographer, was a witness alongside 300 other spectators on the ground. “I never expected someone to come down and knock her in the window,” Brett said. “He drops down, and boom, she’s inside! Down where I was, everybody cheered; the crowd clapped and yelled; it was unbelievable, like a movie.”
For this action, the Board of Merit awarded Loder the Walter Scott Medal for Valor, the second highest in the fire service. But as he puts it, it was just another day on the job at Rescue Company 1.
The War Years
Ed Loder grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He had long admired the World War II veterans who took jobs with the fire department down the street from his home. In fact, he wanted to be them.
The Boston Fire Department is rich with tradition and history that date all the way back to 1631. America’s first publicly funded fire department saw numerous innovations over the next handful of centuries. The first leather fire hoses were imported from England in 1799; all fire engines were equipped with aerial ladders by 1876; and radios were installed in all fireboats, cars, and rescue companies by 1925.
A train collision that occurred in the Back Bay of Boston in 1990. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.
In 1970, when 21-year-old Fire Fighter Edward Loder was appointed to Ladder Company 2 in East Boston, the Boston Fire Department was in the midst of the “War Years.” Between 1963 and 1983, there was at least one major fire every 13.6 hours. On average, a fire company reacted to as many as five to 10 fires in one tour of duty. Loder joined the fire service to be in on the action, and like the majority of other sparkies rising through the ranks, that’s exactly what he got.
Over the next decade, Loder responded to a variety of emergency situations as a part of Ladder Company 2, and later Ladder Company 15 in the Back Bay. He was there for a big oil farm fire in Orient Heights and a ship fire from Bethlehem Steel, but the most memorable for him was the 1800 Club, partly owned by former Red Sox player Ken Harrelson. The entertainment complex along the waterfront burned to the ground, with an estimated loss of id=”listicle-2648495230″ million.
Even some calls he didn’t participate in had an impact. After ending his shift on the morning of June 17, 1972, Loder and his wife went out in the afternoon, only to be stopped by a familiar face.
“We ran into this cop that I knew and he said to me, ‘What are you doing here?'” Loder remembered. “He had this look on his face that I’d never seen before.”
The seven-story Hotel Vendome had caught fire and collapsed on top of Ladder Company 15’s truck. Nine firefighters were inside the hotel, and tragically, all nine lost their lives.
Boston firefighter Ed Loder, kneeling second to left from Pickles, the “Dandy Drillers” Dalmatian. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.
The following year he responded to the worst plane crash in Boston’s history. Delta Airlines Flight 723 hit a seawall while trying to land at Logan International Airport. All 89 passengers and crew were killed.
“I remember saying to myself, ‘Geez, is this what the fire service is all about?’ It didn’t bother me in a way, but it was like a shock and awe after a little bit, and you adapted to it,” Loder said. “I said, ‘I don’t think there is anything else on this job that I could come across that’s probably going to bother me.'”
The days and nights spent on the job weren’t all tragic or intense. Every October throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Boston Fire Department raised awareness through Fire Prevention Week with a squad dubbed the “Dandy Drillers” performing high-wire aerial exercises around the city.
“We took two 100-foot aerial ladders, we put them together at the tips, we tied them together up at the top, and hung a 150-foot piece of rope down the middle of it,” Loder told Coffee or Die. “I used to do the upside-down no-hands exercise. We had platforms attached to these aerial ladders probably 20 feet in the air, and we’d jump off of that into the life nets. We would also have 10 guys on each ladder that would hook into the ladder and lean out with no hands. I understand it was the only type of thing in the country.”
Boston City Hospital Rescue
After 12 or 13 years with various companies, Loder transferred to Rescue Company 1, where his reputation grew to legendary status. At one rescue, a deranged man was on the roof of Boston City Hospital. The man had hurled several brick-sized boulders at pedestrians standing on the sidewalk and at cars driving by on Massachusetts Avenue.
“If you come out, I’m gonna jump,” the man told the cops as they tried to talk him off the ledge.
Ladder Company 15, Loder’s old team, had arrived just as Rescue Company 1 pulled up to the scene. “Throw your aerial up on the side of the building,” Loder told them. “That way there if they chase him over here, he will see the aerial and he’ll go back.”
Boston firefighter Ed Loder, right, was awarded the Walter Scott Medal for Valor and four Roll of Merit awards, including one for a water rescue in the Charles River. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.
Loder took charge and ordered Ladder Company 17 to be posted on the other side to sandwich the man in between.
In the meantime, Loder went up the aerial ladder to get a better view of the rooftop and the distraught man.
“I’m gonna jump,” the man said once more.
“I looked at him and said, ‘What are you gonna do that for, you’re going to make a mess down there if you jump,'” Loder said.
The man ran to the edge only a few feet from where Loder was positioned. “We’ve been here for an hour playing with you — it’s lunch time, I’m hungry and want to go get a sandwich. How about you go inside the hospital and get something to eat?”
A screenshot from the Boston Globe newspaper showing Boston firefighter Ed Loder holding a man by his shirt with his fingertips while suspended 100 feet in the air.
“Fuck you,” the man hollered, as he climbed over the side and proceeded down a conduit pipe attached to the hospital building.
Arm by arm, the man took off his coat, threw it to the ground, and said for the final time, “I’m jumping!”
From the side of the aerial ladder, Loder reached out with both his arms and grabbed the man by his shirt. Dangling 100 feet in the air, Loder screamed at the aerial operator to lower the ladder.
“Instead of lowering the aerial, he hits the rotation on the turntable and slams me and the guy in the side of the building,” Loder said, explaining that the operator likely panicked during the split-second action. “He dropped the aerial down to maybe 10 to 15 feet off another roof that was there, and I let him go. I couldn’t hang on to him anymore.”
Paul Christian, left, Boston fire commissioner between 2001 and 2006, and Ed Loder wearing Liar’s Club golf shirts. Photo by Matt Fratus/Coffee or Die Magazine.
A row of cars with the doors ripped off and the metal frames crumpled are remnants of a previous fire academy training class. There in the parking lot sits a small and unassuming office trailer known as The Liar’s Club. Since 1968, retired Boston firefighters have been meeting here every Wednesday morning to share stories, reminisce, and — sometimes — tell a few lies.
Driving up to the Liar’s Club in Loder’s pickup, we didn’t get very far before the first young fire captain approached the driver’s-side window, wanting to shake Loder’s hand. With some 43 years on the job, Loder is the most decorated firefighter in Boston Fire’s nearly 400-year history. Not that he boasts about the glory.
Inside, beyond the coffee and donuts, an old retiree says, “You know he’s one of the most decorated in the fire service?” while Loder rolls his eyes in the background.
In the back room, nicknamed “Division 2” in homage to the two districts between which the city is split, I listen as Paul Christian, the former Boston fire commissioner, shares a story about the old days.
An infamous photograph snapped by a Boston newspaper photographer of Ed Loder wearing Sperrys on the job. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.
“Today they have to put bunker gear on, put the boots on, put the hood on, put this on, put that on, get up on the truck, put their seatbelts on,” Christian said, in reference to the new OSHA regulations. “When I came on the fire department, you had to run to the piece [fire truck] while you jumped on with your coat while you’re going down the street. You’re putting on your belt, and the best you could do was kick your shoes off and put your boots on.”
Sometimes they forgot — and a Boston news photographer was there to snap the picture to prove it. “I get a call from headquarters and they wanted to know who the guy was with the Sperrys on,” Loder said and laughed. “Of course everybody said that nobody knew nothing, but it was me.”
Loder just celebrated his 72nd birthday and continues to give back to the fire service, teaching classes to the next generation. All the medals and the accolades later, Loder maintains that he was just doing his job.
Basic trainees use airsoft M4s at Fort Jackson, SC (U.S. Army)
If you search online for airsoft guns, you’ll find a plethora of replica firearms that shoot 6mm plastic bbs. Airsoft guns can be used in a range of activities from casually plinking soda cans in the backyard to fully immersive military simulation events that can last for days. Naturally, U.S. military firearms like the venerable M4 carbine and M1911 pistol are popular choices for airsofters to carry into their bb battles. As a result, the airsoft market is awash with every conceivable variant of these, and other, real-world firearms. However, one gun has long been coveted by airsoft players for its popularity and rarity.
Used by armed forces, security agencies and police forces in at least 48 countries, Glock pistols are some of the most iconic firearms in the world. Though they are not standard issue with the U.S. military, their use in special forces units and general popularity led to a great demand for airsoft replicas. However, the Glock Company was very wary of their designs and trademark being used without their permission and aggressively combated airsoft replicas coming to the U.S. from Asia as counterfeit products.
U.S. soldiers receive instruction from their British counterparts on the Glock 17 (DVIDS)
Airsoft guns shipped from Asia bearing Glock logos were confiscated by U.S. Customs and were unable to be sold in the United States. To get around this, some retailers selling to U.S. customers would solder the trademarks off of the replica Glocks in order to get them past customs. The occasional entrepreneurial airsofter would make a trip to Japan and bring back a few airsoft Glocks declared only as “toy guns”, and sell them at an inflated price on the Glock-hungry American airsoft market.
However, despite the incredibly high demand for the airsoft version of Gaston Glock’s famous firearms, the replicas that did make it into the states were not perfect copies. Aside from the orange tips and the fact that they shot bbs rather than bullets, the airsoft Glock replicas were slightly wider than the pistols that served as their template. As a result, they did not fit in holsters designed for real Glocks.
Left: Elite Force really wants you to know that they have the Glock license (Author)
Right: If you force an Elite Force Glock into an OEM Glock holster, you’ll have a heck of a time getting it back out…trust me (Author)
In 2017, airsoft history was made when Glock finally gave out the license for Glock airsoft guns. The German manufacturer Umarex and its subsidiary, Elite Force, obtained a worldwide (except France and all French territories) exclusive license. The French company Cybergun obtained the Glock license in France and its territories. It’s a little confusing, but this detail is important.
With its parent company holding the license, Elite Force contracted Taiwan-based airsoft manufacturers Kien Well Toy Industrial Company and Vega Force Company to produce the licensed gas-powered airsoft Glocks. Both KWC and VFC had been making unlicensed airsoft Glocks and simply adjusted some of the markings on their guns to meet Elite Force and Glock’s requirements. However, even these licensed replicas suffered from the aforementioned fault of being too wide and not fitting in Glock holsters.
Credit where it’s due, the Elite Force Glock Gen 4s do have interchangeable backstraps (Author)
Enter Cybergun and its subsidiary, Spartan Military Law Enforcement. Holding licenses in France for FN Herstal, Sig Sauer, Famas, Colt, Kalashnikov, and now Glock, Spartan MLE contracts airsoft manufacturers to supply realistic training tools to military units and law enforcement agencies around the world. Since plastic bbs are extremely inexpensive compared to simunition rounds or other training solutions, many organizations have implemented airsoft as a training tool. Building their products to a high standard to simulate real firearms as closely as possible, Spartan MLE dictates precise specifications to their airsoft manufacturers.
The “Made in Taiwan” sticker rather clashes with the “Austria” marking (Author)
Though the Spartan MLE Glocks are made by VFC like the Elite Force Glocks, Spartan MLE required VFC to update their design to make the guns as close to the real thing as possible. As a result, Spartan MLE Glocks feature a more definitive trigger (Glock triggers are infamously mushy, so that says a lot about the poor triggers in the Elite Force Glocks). Though it’s unnecessary in airsoft, the slide on Spartan MLE Glocks reciprocates the same distance as real Glocks and locks back fully; Elite Force Glocks have a shorter cycle and lock a few millimeters shorter to save gas. Finally, Spartan MLE Glocks are a 1:1 scale replica of real Glocks and fit perfectly into their holsters.
Like a glove (Author)
Unfortunately for many American airsofters, the Spartan MLE Glocks can only be sold to military and law enforcement personnel. In fact, when Spartan MLE first sold the airsoft Glocks in the states, the guns had to be purchased in bulk by military units or police departments. Today, individual military and law enforcement personnel can submit their identification to airsoft retailers and purchase the airsoft Glocks for personal use.
Whether you want to train at home for your duty weapon or just have the most exclusive gun on the airsoft field, the Spartan MLE Glocks offer service members and law enforcement personnel the best replica on the market today.
An Air Force Special Operator fires a Glock 19 (U.S. Air Force)
Bitcoin, gaming and dating apps are now officially banned from government-issued Marine Corps phones. The ruling came down in mid-August that Marines are now no longer allowed to use gambling and dating apps, along with cryptocurrency applications or anything that attempts to override and bypass tools or download rules.
One of the reasons for the ban is because, like all things tech-related, the possibility of these phones become targets is very real. Smartphones are part of most Marines’ professional life, which means they’re full of compromising information. In turn, that makes them a very real target.
This order extends beyond unit issued phones to include personal cell phones. Marines are cautioned not to use any apps that the government has already deemed a risk, like TikTok and WeChat, which has already been banned by the Pentagon.
TikTok and WeChat
TikTok is a popular social media platform that allows users to upload short videos. Pentagon officials worry that the app could be used to spread misinformation and propaganda. The moderators of the platform are censoring content to appease the app’s owners in China.
TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is based in China. There are fears that the company might share user data with the Chinese government, either intentionally through data requests or unintentionally through surveillance software.
Like TikTok, WeChat is a Chinese owned company that’s considered a ‘super-app’ because it combines the functions of financial services, travel, food delivery, ride-sharing, social media, messaging, and more. Its popularity is due in part to the fact that the Chinese government shuts out other foreign tech companies and penalizes people who try to override the laws. WeChat is known to censor and surveil their users on behalf of the government and turn over the government’s information when “sensitive information” is discovered.
This concern over American military members using Chinese-owned apps is nothing new. In fact, concerns about these two applications have been brewing for over a year. Both Microsoft and Twitter are currently in talks to acquire TikTok, but a sale could be far off and incredibly messy. Microsoft wants to buy TikTok in the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, but so far in the history of social media, no company has ever split up a social network along regional lines.
Mobile apps like WeChat, which have so obviously been created to be the third arm of government surveillance, pose immediate risks to military members. OPSEC becomes harder and harder to control and maintain in the digital world, and users can inadvertently give away too much information.
A Lance Corporal Learns the Ultimate Lesson
Last year, during a mock training exercise in California, a Maine lance corporal took a selfie that gave up his location, which resulted in his entire artillery unit being taken out by the mock enemy force. More than ten thousand Marines were at Twentynine Palms for an air-ground combat training mission, which was the biggest training event of its kind in decades. IN addition to Marines being present, sailors and NATO forces participated in the event.
The selfie allowed the mock enemy to geo-locate the lance corporal and his unit, which resulted in his ‘death’ and the ‘death’ of the rest of his unit. While the lance corporal learned this lesson without loss of life, others might not be so fortunate, which is one of the many reasons military leaders consistently stress the need for digital OPSEC.
The Marine Corps won’t issue numbers that show just how many Marines have tried to put dating apps, games and cryptocurrency apps on their government phones. Now, any app that can be classified into these categories is blocked from the Apple Store and Google Play. The only applications Marines can access are those that the Marine Corps has determined necessary to conduct authorized activities.
As with other branches of the military, the Marine Corps has the final say in which apps can be installed on official mobile devices.
Yeah, yeah, yeah… Enemy artillery and bayonet duels and concentrated machine gun fire are all terrifying and all, but those are to be expected, and most people can develop fears of those things after watching a few movies about Vietnam. But actual service members have a lot of fears that aren’t exactly intuitive.
These are the little things that make their lives crappy, and usually for dumb reasons.
Believe it or not, getting smaller, more efficient, and easier-to-handle batteries is actually a big deal for soldiers. We know it sounds boring.
(USARDEC Tom Faulkner)
Changing batteries can be the end
It’s one of those things that’s hard to explain to civilians, or really even to explain to troops that have never relied on radios in the field. For all of you, here’s the footnotes version: SINCGARS is a radio system in wide use with the U.S. military that relies on a bunch of information that has to be uploaded from another device. But if you take too long to change batteries in combat, it will drop all that information and it will need to be re-uploaded.
Re-uploaded from a device you probably don’t have in the field. This can make a low battery embarrassing in exercises, but terrifying in combat. You’re essentially faced with, “Hey, if you screw up this battery swap, you will spend the rest of this battle cut off from the comms network, incapable of receiving timely orders and warnings or calling for help. Good luck.”
Radio operators have to practice this skill like the world’s highest-stakes game of Operation.
Aw, crap, did someone leave the tent poles off of packing list v9.3?
(U.S. Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Gregory Camacho)
Is this version of the packing list really the final one?
No matter how many times you check whether something is on the final packing list, it’s virtually guaranteed that you’re going to end up in the field at some point and be asked for a piece of equipment only to find it missing. That’s because you had packing list v7.2 but the final one was v8.3, but your platoon went with v6.4 because the company XO said you have special needs.
If you’ve been around a while, you know the real essentials to bring, so whatever you don’t have will probably result in a slap on the wrist and won’t affect the mission. But new soldiers are always sweating that something they didn’t know to bring will be essential. Forgot your protractor, huh? Well, you’re now nearly useless for land nav. Good work.
There’s a 20 percent chance this heartwarming moment will be broken up when a junior airman gets his junk stuck in the wall of a local bar because he thought it was a glory hole.
(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson)
This is a good weekend. Someone is definitely going to ruin it.
Even when you’re relaxing on the weekends or holidays, there’s always a serious risk that everything is about to go sideways with one phone call. Someone gets too drunk and fights a cop? You’re getting recalled into formation. Too many cigarette butts outside the barracks? Come on in. Someone isn’t answering their phone because they’re worried about all the recall formations? Guess what company is being called back in?
Seriously, this whole deal is like the monster from It Follows, except you can’t even delay it with sex.
This is a photo of an airborne operation briefing that we swapped in because, legally, we can’t risk showing you pictures as boring as SAEDA briefings when some of you might be operating heavy machinery.
(U.S. Army Spc. Henry Villarama)
Surprise formation? Crap, here’s a new training requirement.
The worst nightmare comes when you’re just minding your own business, carving phallic symbols into old equipment behind the company headquarters. That’s when you’ll get the mass text that you have to report to the chapel/base theater.
And if you’re not due for training on the Sexual Harassment Assault Response Program, Suicide Awareness, Subversion and Espionage Directed Against the US Army, Anti-Terrorism Level 1, or Citibank Annual Training for Cardholders, then you probably have a new annual training requirement you have to show up for (By the way, every one of those is real.)
Good luck in Magnetic North Pole Drift Awareness Training. Be sure to sign the attendance roster.
Yay, getting to stand around in squares in a different country! So exciting!
(U.S. Army Spc. Gage Hull)
Any acronym that ends in X probably sucks (Cs aren’t great either)
CSTX, MRX, CPX, they all suck. ENDEX is cool. But if you get called into SIFOREXs or NATEXs, forget about it. There goes weeks or even months of your life. SINKEXs will monopolize your time, but at least there’s usually a nice, big explosion you get to see.
Oh, quick translations — those are Combat Support Training Exercise, Mission Readiness Exercise, End of Exercise, Silent Force Exercise, National Terrorism Exercise, and Sink Exercise. Basically, if you hear an acronym with an X in it that you’ve never heard before, there’s a good chance you’re going to spend a few weeks in the field practicing something you know how to do.
This message was brought to you by the letter ‘C.’ ‘C’ is just glad that you hate it a little less next to ‘X,’ because ‘C’ usually gets the blame thanks to things like JRTC, NTC, and JMRC (the Joint Readiness Training Center, National Training Center, and Joint Multinational Readiness Center, respectfully).
On Sept. 11, 2019, the Global War on Terrorism turned 18. The GWOT is by far the longest military conflict in U.S. history, eclipsing the previous contender (the Vietnam War) by at least eight years. In 2014, a group of like-minded individuals — veterans, spouses of veterans, and civilians — felt it was time to pay formal tribute to those who have served, and continue to serve, in the GWOT. These patriots formed the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation, which officially became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization on May 15, 2015.
The foundation’s mission is to become the Congressionally designated entity authorized to build a permanent GWOT memorial in Washington. According to the GWOT Memorial Foundation website, the memorial will “… honor the members of the Armed Forces who served in support of our nation’s longest war, especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice … as well as their families and friends.”
Signing of HR873.
(Photo courtesy of GWOT Memorial Foundation.)
Unfortunately, the effort encountered an obstacle right out of the chute. The Commemorative Works Act of 1986 imposed a 10-year waiting period after the end of a conflict before it could be memorialized in our nation’s capital. Therefore, one of the first tasks was to lobby Congress for an exemption. In early 2017, two GWOT veterans, U.S. Representative Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., and Seth Moulton, D-Mass., led the effort to do just that. They introduced HR 873, the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Act, which proposed the GWOT memorial as a commemorative work on federally owned land in the District of Columbia and exempted the project from the 10-year moratorium. Furthermore, the act authorized the GWOT Memorial Foundation as the organization with exclusive rights to commission the work.
In just six months’ time, despite a polarized political climate dominated by gridlock, the legislation swept through Congress with unanimous support — a testament to the project’s worthy goal. It was signed into law by President Donald Trump in August of the same year. GWOT Memorial Foundation president and CEO Michael “Rod” Rodriguez said he and his leadership were certainly pleased with HR 873’s speedy trip through Congress, but they weren’t surprised.
“[The fast turnaround] just speaks to the broad support that exists,” he said. “This really is a nonpartisan issue. We introduced the legislation shortly after President Trump’s inauguration — we weren’t really worried about it because there are no politics behind what we’re trying to do.”
(Photo courtesy of the GWOT Memorial Foundation.)
Rodriguez, who took the reins in 2018, shortly after the bill was passed, refers to himself as the man who has the “undeserved honor” of leading the project. However, he is immensely qualified to do so. The 21-year U.S. Army veteran is a former Green Beret with multiple post-9/11 deployments under his belt. Rod retired in 2013 as a result of injuries sustained in combat.
In addition to being the longest war in U.S. history, the GWOT also represents the first multi-generational conflict — which means we are now seeing soldiers who are the children of veterans who deployed early in the conflict. Rodriguez’ wife is also a 21-year Army veteran, and their son is an infantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division and recently returned from a deployment in Afghanistan. The three have 16 deployments between them.
“My son patrolled the same areas of Afghanistan in the Helmand province that my wife and I did,” Rod said. “I was there in 2005, she was there in 2006, and our son was there in 2017.”
Looking ahead to the completion of the memorial project, the foundation has narrowed down the location to three pre-established sites in the “reserve” — an area of the National Mall that stretches north/south from the White House to the Jefferson Memorial and east/west from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol building. The construction of anything within the reserve requires Congressional approval.
GWOT Memorial Foundation president and CEO Michael “Rod” Rodriguez with President George W. Bush, who is the honorary chairman of the project.
(Photo courtesy of the GWOT Memorial Foundation.)
The reserve is a logical choice for the GWOT Memorial because it’s home to many of the existing war memorials in Washington. However, the foundation still did a great deal of research before settling on that location.
“This memorial does not belong to any one individual,” Rodriguez explained. “It’s to all those who served. So, in 2018, along with our architectural firm, we began conducting discussion groups across the country … to determine what the American people wanted. We talked to hundreds of people, [including] Blue Star families — families of those who are actively serving — and Gold Star families, obviously families who lost a loved one to the Global War on Terrorism. We spoke with veterans from all our country’s wars since World War II. We spent three days on Fort Bragg, sponsored by FORSCOM, talking to peer groups. We spoke to faith leaders to get their thoughts. And we also spoke to the greater part of our population — those who never wore the uniform.”
(Photo courtesy of the GWOT Memorial Foundation.)
Rod and his team took great care to educate the groups, explaining the GWOT Memorial project and showing the location and topography of the National Mall and its surrounding area. These groups were asked to complete surveys, not only to gather input on site selection but also ideas about the physical design of the memorial itself — hard structures, water features, shrubbery and other vegetation, etc. After synthesizing the qualitative and quantitative data collected in the surveys, the foundation confirmed that America overwhelmingly supported a plan to select a site within the reserve.
Rodriguez said that respondents were aware that Congressional approval would be required to build within the reserve. “I told them not to worry about the extra work,” he said. “It was the foundation’s responsibility to carry out the wishes of the American people.”
To obtain the required approval, the GWOT Memorial Foundation partnered with For Country Caucus, a bipartisan alliance of 19 veterans dedicated to finding areas of compromise to move the country forward. With a mantra of “policy over politics,” the caucus was an ideal group to champion the cause. On Nov. 12, 2019, the day after Veterans Day, House Representatives Jason Crow, D-Colo., and Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., introduced the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Location Act, seeking permission to commission the GWOT Memorial on one of three sites near the Korean, Vietnam, and World War II memorials.
Proposed GWOT Memorial locations in the National Mall in Washington.
(Graphic by Tim Cooper/Coffee or Die.)
Fundraising is ongoing, with a present goal of million. This is a modest number considering that the World War II Memorial cost more than 0 million and the final tab for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was approximately 0 million. The actual design process for the GWOT Memorial has not yet begun, but Rodriguez and the foundation established the million goal as a starting point. Once the site is selected, he acknowledged that the price tag could potentially increase. Assuming Congress passes a GWOT Memorial Location Act bill quickly, the foundation hopes to dedicate the memorial by 2024.
Some critics might point out that the U.S. has never built a national memorial for an active war — so why start now?
“The Global War on Terrorism is old enough to vote, and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere anytime soon,” said Gallagher. “Honoring the service, as well as the sacrifices of all those who have served in the Global War on Terrorism, is overdue.”
“Just like this war has no precedence, this memorial has no precedence either,” Rodriguez added. “We really want to avoid what happened to the Greatest Generation. [Many of those veterans] never saw the World War II Memorial. They passed before it was completed. Furthermore, parents of fallen GWOT service members are in their 60s, 70s, and even older. If we don’t do this now, when is the right time? We share a sacred duty to honor all those who have selflessly served in our nation’s longest war. This is a charge [the foundation] does not take lightly — a charge we will remain loyal to and a charge we intend to keep.”
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