When HMS Queen Elizabeth makes her maiden deployment in 2021, she will be operating the short take-off, vertical landing variant of the F-35 Lightning II.
There’s just one catch – the planes will not be owned by the United Kingdom.
According to a report by The Register, the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy won’t have enough Lightning IIs to fill out even a reduced air wing of 12 F-35s (about the size of a squadron). To put that into perspective, plans call for a Queen Elizabeth-class carrier to have as many as 36 of the multi-role V/STOL fighters. The Brits have stood up 809 Squadron in the Fleet Air Arm and 617 Squadron of the RAF (the famous Dambusters), plus the RAF’s 17 Squadron as an operational conversion unit.
Fortunately for the Brits, the United States Marine Corps operates a similar version of the F-35Bs, and when the Queen Elizabeth deploys, some Marines with their new jets will be deploying on board the 70,000-ton carrier alongside their British brothers.
The deployment will come after a lengthy gap, since the British retired their force of GR-7 and GR-9 Harriers in 2010.
The two planes will carry some different missiles. British Lightning IIs will carry other weapons, like the Meteor air-to-air missile and the Brimstone air-to-ground missile. British combat aircraft are also able to carry the AIM-120 AMRAAM, AIM-9 Sidewinder, and other American-made munitions.
The Marine F-35Bs that will come to the rescue might come from one of two squadrons.
The first, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-211, is the famous “Wake Island Avengers.” That unit, with five F4F Wildcats, held the line in December 1941 against long odds, and was credited with sinking a Japanese destroyer and three other vessels, as well as inflicting other losses on the enemy. Henry Elrod received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the siege.
Throughout its history VMFA-211 operated classic planes like the F4U Corsair, the A-1 Skyraider, the A-4 Skyhawk, and the AV-8B Harrier before transitioning to the F-35B.
The other unit that could deploy aboard the British carrier is Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-121, the “Green Knights,” saw action as part of the famous “Cactus Air Force” that flew from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. The squadron was credited with 208 kills, and included Medal of Honor winner (and #2 Marine ace Joe Foss) among the pilots who flew with it.
The planes this squadron flew throughout its history prior to receiving the F-35B include the FU4, the F8F Bearcat, the A-1 Skyraider, the F9F Cougar, the A-4 Skyhawk, the A-6 Intruder, and the F/A-18D Hornet.
This joint air wing for HMS Queen Elizabeth’s historic deployment will harken back to World War II history as well. The Marines will be pulling from the “Cactus Air Force,” the polyglot force that held the line on Guadalcanal that included VMFA-121. The British will recall the “Eagle Squadrons” of American pilots who fought Nazi Germany before the U.S. entered World War II.
“It is with our deepest sympathy that we tell you both service members on board the air craft are deceased, our thoughts and prayers are with their family,” CW5 Glen Webb of the Texas Army National Guard said in a statement.
The AH-64 Apache is the Army’s helicopter gunship. According to a fact sheet released by the United States Army, it entered service in 1984, and can carry AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, 70mm Hydra rockets, and is also armed with a M230 cannon holding 1,200 rounds of ammunition. The Army plans to manufacture 690 Apaches for service.
Apache crashes are not unheard of, with ArmyAirCrews.com listing 43 incidents involving 73 fatalities over the last 36 years, to include one during a test flight. The list includes seven combat losses due to enemy fire (six during Operation Iraqi Freedom, one during Operation Enduring Freedom).
The cause of the crash is under investigation, but KHOU.com reported that bystanders were taking photos of parts from the stricken attack helicopter that were lying near the crash site off the Bayport Cruise Terminal.
In retrospect, Germany’s decision to attack merchant ships and carry out unrestricted submarine warfare seems incredibly stupid. They knew – or should have known – that killing citizens of a neutral country (specifically the United States) even unintentionally was a damn good way to get America in the war on the side of the Allies.
Well, it turns out that Germany was relying on submarines to throttle British commerce. When the war started, the Germans had their submarines play by what had been the accepted rules of warfare when it came to merchant ships.
You approached them, you got them to stop, and you allowed the passengers and crew to abandon ship before you sank the ship. When it came to warfare, it was reasonably civilized, given that you were sending those people from a relatively safe merchant vessel and into open lifeboats and rafts, with only oars and the ocean current for travel and not that much in the way of supplies.
As you might imagine, the folks on those merchant ships didn’t want to go through that kind of ordeal of they could avoid it. So, the British started by arming merchant ships. Soon the submarines were being fired on as they surfaced. The invention of the Q-ship made following the rules for submarines even more hazardous – and a good way for the sub to be sunk. When subs sank, the casualty rate amongst the crew often was 100 percent.
German sub commanders didn’t want to have that sort of end-of-life experience. Nor did their crews, for that matter. So, the Germans decided to carry out unrestricted submarine warfare where they shot the merchant ships on sight. And thus began the chain of events that would bring the United States into World War I on the side of the Allies.
These items make our lives easier every day, but none of them would exist without their military beginnings.
1. Duct Tape
The miracle tool was invented in 1942 as a way to waterproof ammunition cases. Soldiers fighting World War II quickly realized the tape they used to seal their ammo had a number of other uses.
For better or for worse. And for the record, it was originally known as “duck tape,” because the tape was adhesive stuck to waterproof duck cloth. The strength and durability make it the ideal tape for hilarious pranks.
The autoinjector pen used to help fight off allergic reactions has its design roots in U.S. military Nuclear-Biological-Chemical warfare operations. The same technology which injects epinephrine into a bee-sting victim was developed to quickly give a troop a dose of something to counter a chemical nerve agent.
3. Beer Keg Tap
This one is actually kind of backwards. Richard Spikes was an inventor with a number of successful creations by the time he invented the multiple-barreled machine gun in 1940. He invented the weapon using the same principles as his first invention, the beer keg tap.
4. The Bikini
The inspiration for this one is more for the name than the item itself. In the late 1940s, a car engineer name Louis Réard developed a swimsuit he was sure would be the smallest bathing suit in the world. Expecting the spread of his design to be an explosive one, he called the suit the Bikini, after Bikini Atoll, the lonely Pacific Island where the West conducted nuclear weapons tests.
Meaning “Water Displacement, 40th Formula,” WD-40 was first developed to keep the very thin “balloon” tank of Atlas Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles from rusting and otherwise corroding. The tanks had to be inflated with nitrogen to keep them from collapsing.
WD-40 remembers its roots: last year the company led a fundraising and awareness campaign, using its can to help fight veteran unemployment through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hire Our Heroes initiative to help find meaningful employment for transitioning veterans.
The Air Force has narrowed down hundreds of airmen in the running to become enlisted drone pilots to enter the next phase of the program.
The Air Force Personnel Center on Wednesday said 305 active-duty enlisted airmen were identified for an upcoming selection board tasked with picking the next enlisted group to attend remotely piloted aircraft training.
Officials didn’t disclose how many of those airmen will then be selected for formal training, set to begin in 2017. But they’re seeing a surge of interest.
The center received more than 800 applicants during this cycle. For comparison, the program normally gets around 200 applicants. Because of the boost, the center is processing potential candidates in groups.
The Air Force last year announced it would begin training enlisted airmen to operate the unarmedRQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft. Officials in September touted that the Enlisted Pilot Initial Class, or EPIC, would begin on Oct. 12 with four of 12 total students training alongside 20 recently commissioned officers.
The formal training process spans an entire year.
“We have an incredibly talented pool of enlisted Airmen, and we’re confident that this rigorous selection process will yield excellent enlisted aircrew who will continue to provide combatant commanders with the ISR they need to win today’s fight,” Senior Master Sgt. Rebecca Guthrie, career enlisted aviator assignments manager at AFPC said in a release.
Candidates selected in Phase 2 “will need to get the required medical screening and commander’s recommendation and submit completed application packages to AFPC no later than Dec. 16,” the release said. If warranted, medical waivers will be due by Jan. 27, 2017.
The enlisted RPA pilot selection board will meet Feb. 6 – 9, with results expected by the end of that month, officials said.
The Empire of Japan was in dire straits by 1945. Between the terribly bloody Pacific island-hopping campaign by the United States and its allies and the firebombing against Japanese cities, Japan was looking for anything it could use to hold back the enemy tide. One plan that was almost brought into fruition was the mass use of bubonic plague against the U.S. mainland, meant to terrify the civilian population and disrupt the war effort off the West coast.
The plan was named Operation Cherry Blossoms at Night, and was the brainchild of Lt. General Shiro Ishii, the commander of Japan’s infamous biological warfare program. Unit 731, as the program was known, had been developing and testing biological weapons since 1932 under the perversely named Army Epidemic Prevention Research Laboratory.
Using special float-planes deployed from five of the huge Japanese I-400 class submarines, which had been designed to launch airstrikes against the United States West coast, the plan was to use either biological bombs or Kamikaze attacks to spread bubonic plague across San Diego. The mission was expected to be a one-way suicide mission for all pilots and submariners involved.
To develop these weapons and others, Unit 731 had been using human experimentation on a vast and horrifying scale, testing everything from germs and chemical toxins to flame throwers on live subjects. Most of the experimentation took place on civilians from occupied territories, mainly China, but some Allied prisoners of war were also included in the experiments.
But it was by far the aerial biological bombing in mainland China that took the largest toll. Unit 731 used low-flying aircraft to infect Chinese coastal cities with bubonic plague infected fleas, and also experimented with air-dropped cholera, anthrax, and tularemia. The resulting outbreaks are estimated to have killed as many as 400,000 to 600,000 Chinese, mainly civilians.
These sort of results made the weapons seem ideal for a strike on the U.S. west coast. They hoped that the resulting epidemic would spread and disrupt the huge logistical operations supplying the U.S. armies and fleets bearing down on the Japanese Home Islands.
It was not the first plan by the Japanese to attack the U.S. mainland. Several Japanese submarines had shelled targets targets on the west coast, with minimal results. Operation Fu-Go launched over 9,300 hydrogen balloons loaded with explosives into the Pacific jet stream, where they would be propelled towards North America.
The plan was that the explosives would start forest fires, burn cropland and spread fear among the civilian population. Despite Japanese propaganda that claimed American deaths in the thousands and widespread panic, the program was an almost complete failure. It was clear that something more destructive was needed for such piecemeal attacks, and biological weapons seemed a natural solution.
In the end, after a lot of careful planning, the operation never happened. Only 3 out a projected 18 I-400 submarines could built, and the Japanese high command wanted those held back to defend the Home Islands. The operation was not slated to begin until Sept. 22, 1945, and the August atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the subsequent surrender rendered the operation moot. No biological weapons were ever dropped onto to U.S. soil.
After the war, despite the horrific atrocities committed against civilians and Allied POW’s, many of the doctors of Unit 731, including Shiro Ishii, were granted immunity from war crimes prosecution in exchange for their knowledge of biological warfare and human experimentation. Part of Operation Paperclip, which also gave immunity to hundreds of German rocket scientists and other scientific personnel, the US government had decided their expertise was too valuable to lose.
It is unlikely that Operation Cherry Blossoms at Night could have had any real effect on the outcome of the war, given that victory over Japan by the U.S. in 1945 was a foregone conclusion. Japan was essentially blockaded, its remaining forces were hopelessly outgunned, and the U.S. atomic bombings and the Soviet invasion of Manchuria showed that no last ditch plan could save them.
Unit 731 was the first to use modern biological weapons on a large scale, and the terrible toll they took in China showed how ruthlessly effective such munitions could be. If the war had not ended when it did, San Diego and southern California might have faced what China had already suffered, with terrible consequences.
The Marine Corps has ordered all non-deployed aircraft squadrons to observe a 24-hour “operational pause” after a Miramar-based squadron suffered a third F/A-18C Hornet crash in 12 months — two within the span of a week, one fatal.
Marine Corps spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Burns told Military.com there would be an operational pause for all Marine Aircraft Wings, exempting deployed units.
“This operational pause is to happen within the next seven business days,” she said in an email. “Operational pauses are routine and are a time to align, discuss best practices and look at ways to continue to improve.”
The news of this grounding throughout Marine Corps aviation was first reported by Marine Corps Times.
Burns said the timing of the pause was at the discretion of the wing commanders. Investigations into the most recent crashes are still ongoing, she said.
Pilot Maj. Richard Norton of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232 was killed July 28 when his F/A-18C Hornet went down during training near Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California.
That aircraft had been temporarily assigned to Fallon’s Strike Fighter Wing Pacific Detachment, officials said.
In October 2015, a Marine pilot also attached to VMFA-232, Maj. Taj Sareen, was killed when his Hornet crashed near Royal Air Force Airfield Lakenheath in England during a flight from Bahrain to Miramar at the completion of a six-month deployment to the Middle East.
No cause has been publicly released for any of these three crashes.
Officials said recently they have wrapped up an investigation into a deadly Navy F/A-18C crash that happened earlier this summer. Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss, a soloist with the Blue Angels demonstration team, was killed June 3 when his aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff in what was supposed to be a rehearsal flight ahead of an airshow in Smyrna, Tennessee. The results of that investigation have yet to be released.
In a discussion at a think tank in Washington, D.C., on July 29, the Marines’ head of aviation, Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, said he did not believe diminished flight hours for Hornet pilots had contributed to the tragic July 28 crash.
“I track [flight hours] each week. This particular unit was doing OK,” he said.
Davis added he did not believe that reduced flight hours, a function of limited resources and available aircraft, were making Marine Corps squadrons less safe, but added the Corps was “not as proficient as we should be.”
NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — The Marine Corps is proving the potential of its newly established rapid capabilities office with an early purchase: a tactical decision-making kit, invented by Marine grunts, that blends a range of cutting-edge technologies to allow infantry squads to compete against each other in a realistic simulated training environment.
The service inked a $6.4 million contract March 31 for enough kits to outfit 24 infantry battalions with the technology. The contract came just 51 days after Marine leaders identified the technology, invented in a Camp Lejeune barracks room, as a valuable capability for the service, said Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command.
In an interview with Military.com on Tuesday at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space conference, Walsh said leathernecks from 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, decided to turn space inside one of the battalion’s barracks facilities into a makeshift warfighting lab, combining a handful of technologies already in use by the Corps into a sophisticated mission rehearsal system.
The North Carolina-based 2/6 created what it called a tactical decision room, linking computers equipped with deployable virtual training environment simulation software already in use by the service.
The Marines used quadcopters to create a 3D map of a real training area, which was then uploaded to the simulation. They could then run and re-run the same realistic mission in the simulated environment. They added in the Corps’ Instrumented-Tactical Engagement Simulation System equipment, technology that allows tracking of battlefield movements and simulated fires using lasers, allowing for realistic training and complex after-action feedback for the warfighter.
“So now what we’re seeing these guys do is, they’re gaming in their barracks, squad-on-squad — gaming back-and-forth on decision-making,” Walsh said. “… They all get to take it 3D, plug it into what they look at virtually, figure out how they’ll attack it, then go conduct the mission.”
In an article published in the Marine Corps Gazette, four platoon leaders from 2/6, all second lieutenants, described how they saw the system they helped create fitting into infantry training.
“As infantrymen, we do not spend as much time in the field as we would like,” they wrote. “The decision room is a way to maximize our training and tactical prowess garrison … we can optimize the natural technical aptitudes of millennials while not requiring units to purchase additional materials.”
The Office of Naval Research assisted with pulling the software components together and making them communicate as a complete system, Walsh said. Ultimately, top Marine leadership, including Commandant Gen. Robert Neller and Assistant Commandant Gen. Glenn Walters, designated the system as a candidate for investment through the Corps’ rapid capabilities office, which activated late last year.
Col. James Jenkins, director of Science and Technology for the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, said the value of the system is in the ability of squads and small units to run and re-run the same scenario with detailed after-action feedback.
“Here’s the debrief, here’s who shot who when, and here’s why, and go back and just get better every time,” he said. “It’s all about that sets and reps.”
Jenkins said the first system will be delivered early next month, with planned delivery of four tactical decision-making kits per month until all 24 battalions are equipped. Jenkins said the kits will be delivered strategically when a unit has time to learn the technology and incorporate it into training, not during pre-deployment workups or other kinetic seasons.
This summer, between June and July, the Corps plans to publicly promote the tactical decision kit within the service, describing the innovation process at 2/6 and how relatively junior-ranking grunts came up with something of value to the greater institution.
“It was truly bottom-up, how could we make this better,” Jenkins said.
Walsh said the purchase illustrates the need for the rapid capabilities office and funding for fast prototyping and development. Ideally, he said, he would like to have around $50 million available to invest in new ideas and technologies.
“Is it the 100 percent solution? Probably not. We’re going to have to keep adjusting,” he said of the 2/6 invention. “But it’s now getting every squad in the Marine Corps wargaming, experimenting and doing tactics and learning from them.”
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
An F-15E Strike Eagle sits on the flightline at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Nov. 12, 2015. Six F-15Es from the 48th Fighter Wing deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and counter-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant missions in Iraq and Syria.
Aircrew with the 20th Special Operations Squadron and combat controllers with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron execute an aerial and ground demonstration for U.S. Air Force Academy cadets Nov. 10, 2015, in Colorado Springs, Colo. The flyover and demonstration celebrated Veterans Day with future leaders of the Air Force.
An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 48th Fighter Wing at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, lands at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Nov. 12, 2015. Six F-15Es are deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and counter-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant missions in Iraq and Syria. As an air-to-air and air-to-ground fighter aircraft, the F-15E specializes in gaining and maintaining air superiority.
U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, conduct operations during Decisive Action Rotation 16-02 at the National Training Center on Fort Irwin, Calif., Nov. 12, 2015.
A Soldier, assigned to 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment-Blackhorse, fires an M240B machine gun while acting as an opposing force during Decisive Action Rotation 16-02 at the
National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., Nov. 14, 2015.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 10, 2015) – The guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) fires an SM-2 missile during a live-fire exercise. Sailors from the John C. Stennis Strike Group are participating in a sustainment training exercise (SUSTEX) to prepare for future deployments.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 16, 2015) The guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106) sits anchored off the southern coast of California.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 16, 2015) Guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) transits the Atlantic Ocean. Gonzalez is deployed with the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility.
A Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command stages on a hasty landing zone during a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel drill at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Nov. 16, 2015.
Marines with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit jump off the side of the USS Essex during a swim call. The Marines and sailors of the 15th MEU and Essex Amphibious Ready Group jumped 30-feet into the water and swam to their respective checkpoint.
Since 1998 U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City has stood the watch!
In 1984, HH-65A Dolphin helicopters were accepted into service. Today we use MH-65D Dolphin helicopters.
The Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), closed out 2018 on a high note with the acceptance of the ship’s first advanced weapons elevator (AWE), setting the tone for more positive developments in the year ahead.
AWE Upper Stage #1 was turned over to the ship on Dec. 21, 2018, following testing and certification by engineers at Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding, where the ship is currently working through its post-shakedown availability (PSA). The acceptance marks a major milestone for the ship and the Ford-class of aircraft carriers to follow.
USS Gerald R. Ford is the first Ford-class aircraft carrier and is the first new carrier design in over 40 years. Unlike Nimitz-class carrier elevators that utilize cables for movement, the Ford class elevators are commanded via electromagnetic, linear synchronous motors allowing for greater capacities and a faster movement of weapons.
The new design will allow the ship to be able to move up to 24,000 pounds of ordnance at 150 feet-per-minute. This is in contrast to the 10,500 pounds at up to 100 feet-per-minute on a Nimitz-class carrier.
Chief Machinist’s Mate Franklin Pollydore, second from left, from Georgetown, Guyana, goes over safety procedures for the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator with sailors from USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) weapons department.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeff Troutman)
“This will allow us to load more aircraft faster, and in the long run, increase our overall sortie generation rates,” said Lt. Cmdr. Chabonnie Alexander, Ford’s ordnance handling officer.
But aside from the advantages of the new AWE, the new ship design also offered a chance to streamline the overall movement and assembly of weapons to allow for even greater efficiencies. Ford features three upper stage elevators that move ordnance between the main deck and flight deck, and seven lower stage elevators that move ordnance between the main deck and the lower levels of the ship. Ford also features a dedicated weapons handling area between the hangar bay and the flight deck, on the 02 level, that eliminates several horizontal and vertical movements to various staging and build-up locations. This ultimately offers a 75% reduction in distance traveled from magazine to aircraft.
An additional benefit of the ship’s design is a separate utility elevator that can serve as a dedicated elevator to move both ordnance and supplies, and also serve as a means to medically evacuate (MEDEVAC) injured personnel from the flight deck to the hangar bay. This allows the 10 main AWEs and Ford’s three aircraft elevators to be dedicated to their primary missions of ordnance and aircraft movement during real-world operations.
To keep up with the new technologies and radical changes that the AWEs offer, Ford sailors recently completed newly developed familiarization, operations and maintenance training in Newport News to become better educated on how to work with and maintain the elevators. The crew is now conducting hands-on training where they will validate technical manuals and maintenance requirements cards against the elevator’s actual operation. Their feedback and observations will ultimately inform future sailors how to properly and safely operate the elevators.
Chief Machinist’s Mate Franklin Pollydore, second from left, from Georgetown, Guyana, goes over safety procedures for the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator with sailors from USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) weapons department.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeff Troutman)
Alexander said sailors are now training with the elevator which will complement the classroom instruction they have received to this point.
“Getting this elevator turned over to the ship and allowing our sailors to get hands-on training on the elevator will help in two ways,” said Alexander. “One, it will help in the training and understanding of the system itself, and two, to work out any bugs that remain with the system during our PSA.”
Though the first elevator has been accepted, work still remains on the remaining 10. Currently, all shipboard installation and testing activities of the AWEs are due to be completed prior to the end of Ford’s PSA, scheduled for July 2019. However, some remaining certification documentation will be performed for five of the 11 elevators after PSA completion.
According to Alexander, while there was sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in having the first elevator turned over, the team working on the elevators can’t rest on this single event.
“We’re all 100 percent invested in this, but there’s still work left to do,” Alexander explained. “We’re all one big team with the same goal in mind: to get these systems operational and turned over to the ship.
“I think it was a greater sense of accomplishment to my sailors that have been working on these systems for the last 4-to-5 years,” he said. “To be able to finally push the buttons and watch it operate like it’s designed to do was a great feeling. Once these systems are proven, they are going to pay huge dividends for naval strike capability.”
Through the use of insults, strict discipline, sleep deprivation, and controlled explosions, Army drill sergeants turn recent high school grads and civilians looking for a new job into trained soldiers ready to serve in America’s wars. This transition is, of course, painful — by design.
Here are 11 things trainees will complain about before learning to suck it up as an Army soldier:
“I’m tired. I didn’t get enough sleep last night.”
New U.S. Army soldiers are expected to operate on little sleep. While in the barracks, recruits’ sleep is regularly interrupted by drill sergeants conducting inspections, punishing infractions, getting head counts, or waking soldiers for the heck of it. The party continues in the field where soldiers sleep in bags instead of beds.
“This food is terrible.”
Military food is rarely praised, and basic training food is even worse. Eating periods are very short and are supervised by drill sergeants who pounce onto soldiers who reach for fattening or sugary foods.
“You mean I have to pay for this terrible haircut?”
Soldiers get their heads buzzed, run in tennis shoes, and shave every day — but what most people don’t know is the trainees foot these bills. The shoes, haircuts, toothpaste, and other gear and services are all paid for by the trainees through Eagle Cash cards, a sort of military prepaid debit card. Most of these costs are defrayed by a uniform allowance that soldiers receive once a year, but the surprise bills still create complaints.
“There’s ugly, then there’s Army Ugly. We are all Army Ugly.”
No matter how handsome you are, it’s hard to rock the haircuts, glasses, and tan lines the Army gives you. Males have to have their heads buzzed. All soldiers requiring corrective lenses are issued basic training glasses, generally referred to as “birth control glasses.” And, after months in the sun in physical training uniforms, combat uniforms, and berets, graduating soldiers have deep tan lines around their wrists and across their foreheads.
“They yell at us all day, and one keeps calling us crack pipes.”
It doesn’t matter who the recruit is, even if they’re famous or the child of a general, they’re getting yelled at in basic training. (Stephen Colbert didn’t even enlist and he caught the sharp edge of the drill sergeants.) Many recruits find themselves shocked at the sheer amount of verbal abuse as well as the language used. The language might be toned down, but the volume never will be.
“Why do we have to take the mask off? Isn’t the point to learn how to use the mask?”
Though they will brag about these experiences later, all recruits have a training event they’re dreading during basic. Maybe it’s the CS gas chamber where they’re forced to remove their gas masks and breath deeply. Some complain about the night infiltration course where they must crawl across the ground while machine guns are fired over their heads and artillery simulators are thrown nearby. Most complain about the “smokings,” physical training sessions spread throughout the day to help new soldiers quickly build strength and endurance.
“Even on overnight guard, I can’t be alone.”
They march as a group, eat as a group, sleep as a group, shower as a group. They go to the bathroom in, at a minimum, two-man teams. Recruits have no privacy for the nine weeks or more of training. Soldiers who go through one station unit training, a combined basic training and job school mostly used for combat soldiers, will endure this for even longer. This can be a source of a lot of complaints, especially if a soldier is paired with another recruit they don’t like.
“Oh, that guy’s a blue falcon. We couldn’t stand him.”
The other recruits, especially the “blue falcons,” soldiers who screw over their peers by tattling or just being a moron, can be a major source of stress for new soldiers. When one basic trainee screws up, that means the whole platoon or whole company is screwed up, and everyone suffers equally. Bad hospital corners on one bed? Grab some real estate, soldier; you’re doing pushups until sweat fogs the windows. Adding to the atmosphere is that, after the punishments, all the trainees are still stuck in the same bay together, still sleeping four feet away from each other, still crapping in battle buddy pairs. And they remember which ones ratted them out.
“We can’t walk on that grass. That grass is only for the drill sergeant.”
Recruits are issued a handbook with pages and pages of arbitrary rules during reception week, before they even make it to basic training — rules like, “All towels must be folded in thirds, not halves, and the open sides must face towards the south side of the building.”
“We had to run everywhere, even when we were early.”
Soldiers are ordered to sprint between training stations, even if they can see the long line from a hundred feet away. Trainees run to the back of the line, then wait until the line moves. The experience and frustration defines “Hurry up and wait” — a military maxim.
“I wore pants with buttons for so long, zipping my jeans felt weird.”
For nine or more weeks, they’ve worn only what they were told to wear, only sat in chairs if given express permission, ate what they were given when they were given it. After graduation, they find take out menus and weigh the merits of thai versus pizza for dinner. They debate whether to watch a DVD or play a football game after the training day ends. They get their cell phones back and wonder whether they should call their mother or their girlfriend first. (They generally call their significant other first. Sorry, mom.)