Christmas time is synonymous with giving and receiving presents. Everyone loves to receive a gift, even it means you have to awkwardly open it front of a person who’s eagerly watching your face, waiting for a reaction. That love of receiving doesn’t begin and end on Christmas morning, though — not by a long shot.
Gift buying is an art. Picking the perfect gift can be difficult, and when you’re shopping for someone close to you, the pressure is on. Now, if one or more of those someones is a veteran, well, you’ve got some thinking to do. Veterans are a special breed. We’ve got an odd sense of humor, an irregular view of ‘normal,’ and can be plain ol’ weird. Finding the right gift for your vet will likely be a mission.
We know the Christmas season is over, but the following gifts can be enjoyed by a vet on any calendar date.
Can’t go wrong with any of these choices
9 and a half out of 10 veterans love to drink and can likely throw down with the best of them. Consider buying your vet their favorite bottle of liquor. If it’s one of those gift boxes that comes with a few, nice glasses, that’s great! If not, that’s fine; glasses are optional.
Near the top of every Marine’s gift list
Vets love clothing that makes sense. Help out your vet by getting them some clothing that can be useful. Think something somewhere between Under Armor and a ghillie suit.
Two things veterans can always use more of: travel and relaxation. The type of travel will vary from vet to vet, but we all appreciate a good vacation. It could be as simple as some alone time, a day trip, or a spa day.
It doesn’t take a lot of money to please veterans — just a little attention to detail.
Please, check on your friends this time of year
An ear and a shoulder
Transitioning back into civilian life can be a strange experience for many vets. We might move on, find a job, and start a family, but the feeling of camaraderie will never really be quite the same.
If you’ve got a vet in your life, it might not seem like a gift to you, but give them a call every now and then to check in, see how things are going. It’s a small gesture, but a worthwhile one.
The AK-47 and the AK-74 assault rifles have long been associated with the remnants of the Soviet Union. In fact, the two iconic weapons still see service within the USSR’s former satellite republics. But if all goes according to plan, Ukraine weapons will get a facelift. Once the arsenal and munitions capital of the USSR — will be swapping out its AKs for a western rifle.
Instead of fielding more modern variants of the AK platform, Ukrainian defense officials have instead opted to field test a derivative of the American M-16 family of rifles to equip their ground forces. Choosing an American weapon to become the basis of their small arms complement is just the latest in a series of moves through which the country hopes to achieve full membership with NATO.
The past decade has seen Ukraine’s relationship with Russia steadily sour, culminating in an armed conflict in 2014 that saw thousands of troops on both the Russian and Ukrainian sides perish in combat. Part of what has wedged a divide between Russia and its former puppet republic is Ukraine’s NATO aspirations.
Ukraine, like a number of other post-Soviet states, has sought membership with NATO for years, which would give the embattled country considerable military support from European nations and the United States. It would also afford the Ukrainian military the opportunity upgrade and revamp, phasing out older weapons and vehicles in favor of modern warfighting systems and gear.
Uniformity and standardization happen to be large parts of acquiring NATO membership. All member nations use similar calibers for their weaponry, integrated communications systems, etc. Moving away from primarily using gear of Russian origin would quickly allow allied troops in the region to replenish their munitions while fighting alongside personnel from other NATO states.
(USMC photo by Corporal Thomas J. Griffith)
While NATO member states use 5.56x45mm rounds for their rifles, Ukraine still utilizes the Soviet-era 5.45x39mm and 7.62x39mm rounds for their service weapons. This is partly because Ukraine is still home to munitions factories that produced these bullets in large quantities for the Soviet military and other Warsaw Pact nations during the Cold War.
A potential solution to moving the Ukrainian ground forces away from these calibers comes in the form of the WAC-47, designed and produced by Aeroscraft, an American firm. Though it looks just like the standard rifle of the US military on the surface, the WAC-47 is unlike any M-16 or M4 you’ve ever seen or used before.
While it has the same features as the M-16/M4 rifles, including a charging handle above the receiver, a rail mounting system, a retractable stock, etc., it’s designed to fire both the 7.62 Soviet and 5.45mm rounds. This is made possible by an exchangeable upper receiver and barrel, allowing the user to switch between round types in a matter of minutes without the use of any tools or jigs.
But that’s hardly the best part.
The WAC-47 can later be retooled in a similar way to accept and fire 5.56 NATO rounds, helping to pave the path towards NATO commonality for Ukraine’s ground forces. This helps the Ukrainian military avoid having to go through the process of finding and buying new rifles once they phase out the older AK derivatives — the weapons will be available and ready for a simple modification.
For now, Ukraine weapons will stick to 7.62 Soviet and 5.45mm, only because of the massive stockpiles it currently possesses of these rounds. As its plans to join NATO move ahead, the Ukrainian military has already begun the process of incorporating western equipment and machinery into common use with the ground forces.
It’s unclear when exactly NATO will offer full membership to Ukraine, with some estimating the process taking as long as 20 years. When it does happen, however, it’s very likely that the former Soviet state’s military will be rolling around in western vehicles, with Ukraine weapons being western rifles like the WAC-47, having shed all remnants of its former Soviet military identity.
After much back and forth, it looks like the summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un is back on schedule. The details are starting to emerge about the quickly-approaching June 12 conference, including expected talking points, the venue, and the extensive security measures in place.
Each leader is responsible for bringing their own security detail from their own nation, but the overall security is going to be overseen by none other than the world’s most intense fighting force: the Nepalese Gurkhas.
Gurkhas have earned a reputation for being the hardest and most well-trained mercenaries in the world. They’ve formed a strong bond with the United Kingdom’s forces in East Asia and used Hong Kong as a base of operations until 1997. Today, they’re based out of the UK and are still the premier fighting force in East Asia.
(Photo by William B. King)
They maintain a relatively low profile considering their legendary status in law enforcement. Recently, they watched over a security conference between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and other East Asian ministers in Singapore.
They’ll be at it again when President Trump and Kim Jong-un meet for the first time.
Each Gurkha is rigorously trained and outfitted with some of the best armor and weaponry in the world. In addition to this high-tech armory, each Gurkha is armed with their signature khukuri knife. It’s said that this knife must draw blood each time it’s unsheathed.
“They remain very much a substantial and frontline force, and the demands of this kind of event are precisely the sort of special operation that the Gurkhas are trained to handle.”
It is unknown how many Gurkhas will be deployed for the conference but the International Institute for Strategic Studies lists the total number of Gurkhas in the Singapore police at 1,800, divided among six different paramilitary companies.
Soldiers from the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) and Republic of Korea Special Forces responded to a farming accident while conducting partnered training in the Republic of Korea on April 25, 2018, saving the civilian’s life.
Together, the U.S. and Republic of Korea Special Forces Soldiers responded to an injured, unconscious, elderly Korean farmer who fell from his tractor and lacerated his right knee. The tractor subsequently caught fire and burned the farmer’s airway. Local civilians flagged down the Soldiers, who stabilized the patient and extinguished the tractor fire, then transferred the patient to emergency medical services.
“There’s a Korean man who is alive today because of the efforts of U.S. Special Forces and Republic of Korea special operations troops who were training nearby. We are exceptionally proud of their effort as well as the training and expertise they possess that allowed them to stabilized an injured civilian, extinguish a vehicle fire, and transfer the patient to local emergency medical services personnel,” said the commander of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) Soldiers involved in the event. “This incident is indicative of the broader strength of the ROK-U.S. alliance and the things that we can accomplish together as one team.”
The farmer in his 50s was injured and unconscious after an accident with his tractor, which turned over and caught fire, in the vicinity of Yeongcheon, North Gyeongsang Province.
A Republic of Korea Special Forces general presented the American Soldiers with citations on behalf of the Republic of Korea Special Warfare Command commanding general.
“It was a great opportunity for the detachments to demonstrate the friendship and interoperability of ROK and U.S. SOF,” said the Republic of Korea Special Forces battalion commander in charge of the Korean Special Forces soldiers involved in the event. “Further, it demonstrated to the Korean people that we can be trusted as a combined force. It was truly the friendship between our forces that set the conditions for the Soldiers to help the elderly farmer, and leave a positive impression on the local community.”
The U.S. Coast Guard has served in every American war since the Revolution, but there was a major shift between World War II and Korea, thanks in part to the critical peacetime role the Coast Guard had assumed in 1946: training and preparing the South Korean Navy and Coast Guard before the war.
Commander William Achurch discusses the value of training aids with a Korean naval officer and another U.S. adviser.
(U.S. Coast Guard)
See, in Korea, the Coast Guard ceased to fight as a subordinate of the Navy and started to fight as its own branch, even during war.
Even where Coast Guard officers were holding senior ranks over other Coast Guardsmen, the senior officers were still folded in with their Navy brethren. So, you could be an enlisted Coast Guardsman who was receiving orders from Coast Guard officers and Coast Guard admirals, but that admiral still fell under the fleet admirals and you were all tasked to the Navy Department.
The destruction at the South Korean capital of Seoul was extensive. The last Coast Guard officers left the city as it fell to the North Korean communists.
So, in 1950, the Communist forces in North Korea invaded South Korea. The initial invasion was wildly successful, and democratic forces were forced to consolidate and withdraw, giving up most of the country before finally holding a tiny toehold on the southern coast.
By 1950, the active duty Coast Guard had been withdrawn from Korea and a few retired officers remained, drawing paychecks from the Army. After the invasion, even these men were withdrawn. One escaped Seoul as the city was destroyed, barely passing one of the key bridges before it blew up.
A Coast Guard Martin PBM-5G commonly used in search and rescue operations.
(U.S. Coast Guard Bill Larkins)
So, as the war drug on, the Coast Guard was forced to build its own infrastructure to perform its new wartime duties. Two of the most important tasks were to provide weather observations and to conduct search and rescue missions. Both of these tasks required extensive deployment across the Pacific Ocean.
Weather operations rely on observations from a wide area, especially before the advent of satellites. And while search and rescue is typically restricted to a limited area, the Navy and Army needed search and rescue capabilities across their logistics routes from the American west coast to Korea.
So, the Coast Guard was forced to establish stations on islands across the Pacific, placing as many cutters along the routes as they could to act as radio relays and to augment search and rescue stations.
A Navy P2V-5 maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare plane like the one that was downed while spying on China in January 1953.
The Coast Guard crew managed to land in the seas and pull the seven Navy survivors aboard, but they still needed to get back out of the sea. The Coast Guardsmen placed jet-assisted take-off devices onto the plane and the pilot attempted to get airborne.
Unfortunately, the rough waves doomed the takeoff attempt, and the plane broke up as it slammed into an oncoming wave.
Five Coast Guardsmen were lost before the remaining survivors of the dual wrecks were rescued. All five were posthumously awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal.
Of course, the Coast Guard also had duties back home, guarding ports and conducting investigations to ensure that the people working at docks were loyal to the country to prevent sabotage.
The lifesaving service’s Korea performance would help lead to their role supporting Air Force combat search and rescue in Vietnam. But all of this was a massive departure from World War II where they saw extensive combat but worked almost solely as an entity folded into the U.S. Navy.
Northern Afghanistan is at risk of falling to the Islamic State. Their latest attack in Sar-e Pul Province killed 15 Taliban fighters at prayer, but it’s just the latest in a series of ongoing conflicts that have seen hundred killed on both sides. The ISIS stronghold in Nangarhar Province is pushing westward in an effort to undermine the al-Qaeda-affiliated Taliban there.
All the groups involved in the fighting, including those who support the Ghani government in Kabul, are having the same logistical and intelligence problems faced by anyone fighting in the mountainous country — fighters and civilians switch their allegiances as often as their clothes.
The two terrorist groups are vying for power in the country’s eastern and northern regions. The Taliban want to push the Islamic State out of the country before it can establish a clear footprint. In June 2018, the Taliban launched two sweeping offensives in Kunar and Laghman. ISIS, for its part, did not observe the recent three-day ceasefire for the Eid al-Fitr holiday observed by government and Taliban troops.
The black represents ISIS support as of December 2015.
(Institute for the Study of War)
It was during that holiday, the holiest of days for the world’s Muslim population, that ISIS killed 25 in a suicide car bomb attack in Nangarhar. According to The National, a newspaper based in the United Arab Emirates, ISIS sources say the recent Taliban advances were effective and that the Islamic State is experiencing “setbacks” in the rocky provinces of Kunar.
Fighters from Islamic State arrived in force in Afghanistan in 2015, just as ISIS fortunes in Iraq and Syria started to turn sour. The strength the group projected outside the country in recent years invited many defections from other terrorists groups and militias, especially from the Pakistani Taliban. The Afghan Taliban and ISIS have been butting heads ever since.
The Taliban dislikes the Islamic State’s brand of Islamic fundamentalism.
A lot. A whole lot.
ISIS hates that the Taliban draws its legitimacy through ethnic and nationalistic foundations, not Islamic jurisprudence like the kind declared by the Islamic State. To ISIS, Afghanistan is a province they call “Khorasan” and subject to the rule of their self-proclaimed caliphate. The Afghan Taliban’s alliances with Pakistan’s intelligence services and even Shia Muslims are just a few more reasons ISIS declares the Taliban to be non-Muslim nationalists.
There will be no possibility for peaceful resolution between the two.
In the early morning of Apr. 7, 1943, a Japanese attack fleet was preparing to bombard the island of Guadalcanal. That day, Swett had embarked on two standard flight patrols that resulted in nothing but clear skies.
But the third scheduled flight was about to turn very deadly. Swett received intel that 150 Japanese planes were en route to his position and he was prepared to defend it. Soon after making his very first enemy contact, Swett managed to shoot down a handful of enemy fighters.
After a several of defensive maneuvers, Swett took a few rounds to his starboard wing. Heading back to base, Swett discovered a series of enemy dive bombers headed toward him — so he engaged with short bursts, scoring additional kill shots.
Muscle soreness is a function of waste accumulating in your muscles, and does not relate to actual muscle growth directly. DOMS is often believed to be the result of lactic acid building up in the muscle, but this is not true. Lactic acid leaves the muscles within a few hours of working out and does not explain the feeling of soreness 24 to 72 hours after a workout.
Exercise that produces growth of muscles, also known as GAINZ, such as lifting, is typically associated with soreness, but aerobic endurance exercise such as running a marathon can also produce significant soreness with no gains in muscle size. Just ask any Kenyan runner what size skinny jeans they wear, and you’ll learn everything you need to know about distance running and #assgainz.
On the other hand, bodybuilders are able to increase mass in all muscles, not just muscles that are prone to DOMS. They talk about how certain muscles almost always get sore, while others nearly never do. Nevertheless, there is marked growth in all their muscles. This fact further discredits the idea that you need to be sore the day after a workout in order to have initiated growth.
Kryptonians don’t get sore. If you’re from krypton, you can stop reading now.
The pain caused by muscle soreness isn’t even the worst side effect. What happens to your follow-on workouts is. You shrivel into non-existence like Benjamin Button.
Not actually, but you will feel like your muscles are eating themselves from missed workouts.
Increased DOMS decreases the frequency of your workouts, which reduces overall total volume, which allows for less growth. In other words, when you’re sore, you want to rest, not workout.
Most normal people are averse to pain of any kind, unlike the masochists that tend to join the military. If the first workout back in the gym causes extreme soreness, the chances of getting back in the gym are slim. Not only is soreness not physically beneficial but it is also mentally detrimental.
One workout a week will make you so weak even pickles will beat you.
Let’s make the assumption you aren’t a mental midget, and a little soreness won’t keep you out of the gym. Even if you make it in the door, your ability to workout will be negatively affected by the soreness you caused yesterday. Some studies have shown that exercise form breaks down from soreness, which then leads to reduced muscle activation and fewer gains.
Fewer gains over time kills motivation. If your goal is to get bigger, but you still look like your little brother after months in the gym, you will be less likely to adhere to your plan and more likely to stop going altogether.
No one has gotten bigger on one workout a week. I often see people trying to get by on this model. They workout on Monday, are sore till Thursday, Friday is time to party, and the weekend is time to “rest.” Before you know it, Monday rolls around, and you’ve only trained one out of seven days.
Frequency is a major factor in getting in better shape. The minimum frequency for most people is two to three days a week. Excessive DOMS destroys this template.
Having a plan is the best way to guarantee gainz and limit soreness.
Keep a high frequency of weekly workouts, where your total weekly number of sets and reps is spread out, instead of all on one day.
Only change your exercise selection when your current exercises stop making you stronger. Forget the idea of “muscle confusion”; it’s complete BS and will make you more sore than is necessary for growth. Each week try to lift 2.5-5 more lbs than you did last week. Once you can’t do that anymore, choose new exercises.
Exercising to failure every set of every exercise will cause soreness but will not necessarily cause more growth than if you stop 1-2 reps short of failure. Lift smarter: at 80-90% of your max weight, you will get the same gains you would at 100% AND will guarantee that you can get in the gym tomorrow instead of being too sore to sh*t right.
Being in the field sucks for almost everyone involved. Lower enlisted get thrown into collective tents, leaders have to train their troops in crappy conditions, that one staff officer never shuts up about how they could “kill for a Starbucks,” and everyone has to deal with everyone else’s crap. Your experience and level of suckitude may differ.
Civilians pay money to go camping and feel “more rugged” when they wake up outdoors to the sound of birds chirping, so it can’t be all bad, right? In the famous words of nearly every old-timer who never shuts up about how much harder it was back in the day: Suck it up, buttercup. Things will be alright once you learn to look at the positives.
Unfortunately, you can’t substitute the food. Hope you enjoy your eggs with extra salt…
(U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Nancy Lugo)
Bring personal gear with you
It’s no secret that the military buys from the lowest bidder. The gear you’ve been issued has been used repeatedly by several other troops before it finally got to you. If you don’t have complete faith in the gear that was handed to you, you can always pick something up with your own cash.
Of course, you should always stay within regulations for most gear, like rucksacks and body armor, but unless you’re specifically told not to do so, you can probably get away with bringing a personal sleeping system in addition to the one your unit supplied.
You never truly know someone until you’ve played with them as your partner in Spades.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Opal Vaughn)
Bring stuff to do outside of training
There will be downtime. Exactly how much will differ between units, but you’ll at least get a moment to breathe every now and then. In those moments, you’ll need something to do other than lose your mind.
It’s the field, so it’s obviously a stupid idea to bring a TV and video games. If you do, you deserve to be mocked for it. But you can never go wrong with bringing a deck of cards and getting a game of Spades going.
With profit margins like that, you can put it on your resume when you leave the service.
(Photo via U.S. Army WTF Moments)
Sell wanted stuff to other troops
No one ever brings everything they need to last the entire time in the field. Some may load up their hygiene kit but forget razors. Your unit may be just given MREs and mermites and nobody thinks to bring a bottle of Tabasco. You’ll even find people who think a single pack of cigarettes will last them the full two weeks. You could be the guy who makes a quick buck off of the under-prepared.
Even if you don’t smoke or dip, there will be others in your unit that do. You’ll see them start to get on edge after they’ve run out by the end of the first week. At that point, no one will bat an eye if you sell them a pack for . I mean, technically, MPs might because it’s frowned upon by the court of law to sell tobacco without a license, but those profit margins are mighty fine.
No one will blame you if you take pre-CS chamber selfies. We don’t want to see your face covered in snot and tears.
(U.S. Army photo by Cpt. Gregory McElwain)
Of all the regrets veterans might have few about their time in the service, few rank higher than failing to take advantage of photo opportunities with the squad. Years down the road, when those vets are reflecting on how awesome they once were, they’ll be disappointed to find the only hard evidence is a handful of photos from promotion ceremonies and an awkward snapshot from a unit ball.
Don’t be that guy. Bring a camera or have your phone’s camera primed. If it seems like a dumb idea or if things generally sucks, take a photo. Tragedy plus time almost always equals comedy gold. You’ll thank yourself later.
Your leaders are wellsprings of information, both good and bad. It’s up to you to learn the difference.
(U.S. Army photo courtesy of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 8th Special Troops Battalion)
Actually listen to what your leader wants to teach you
There aren’t too opportunities for a leader to truly break down training and give you a hands-on experience outside of being in the field. That’s why you’re there in the first place.
They’ll have everything planned out to try and prepare you for what’s coming later. Listen to them. They’ve got much to tell you. Believe me when I say this: Your leader wants to teach you everything they know to make you better. If they don’t, they’re not a leader.
Ailani Myers wasn’t even three years old when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), an aggressive cancer of the blood. Although her battle is far from over, she and her family are focusing on something else too: saving other children.
Giggett Johnson is the sister of Ailani’s mom, Princecine Johnson, a 23-year veteran of the Navy.
“Ailani was born without complications and was healthy up until her second year, when they came to visit the family in Texas. We noticed she was acting different. She had a rash and an odd spot on her head so we rushed her to the hospital,” Johnson said.
It wasn’t long after that first hospital visit that Ailani received her diagnosis of ALL. The family quickly dove into treating her cancer and tried desperately to find a blood stem cell donor. But there wasn’t one on the registry. One barrier to finding a match that Ailani and many children like her face is being of mixed race. Her mother is black and her father white, which greatly reduced her chances of finding a transplant match.
Without a readily-available match, the family made the decision to bring Ailani to Johns Hopkins. It is one of the world’s leading experts in treating pediatric cancer and specifically doing haploidentical bone marrow transplants — a half-match transplant usually from a mother or father.In part because of her ethnicity, it was her greatest chance at a cure.
Ailani with her dad.
Ailani’s father, Kurt Myers, is an active-duty chief warrant officer in the Navy. The Navy gave the family orders to Fort Meade, Maryland, to allow the family to be close to the hospital. Ailani received a haploidentical transplant from her father in 2019 which was successful. But three days before her one-year transplant anniversary, a scheduled bone marrow biopsy indicated her leukemia had relapsed. Despite the devastating setback, she and her family remain committed to a cure.
Beth Carrion is the family’s Be The Match representative and she is imploring the public to register to be a possible donor, especially those with diverse ethnic backgrounds.
“We have to end the healthcare disparity and bridge that gap. We need help to do that,” Carrion said.
According to the Be The Match website, for over 30 years it has managed the largest and most-diverse marrow registry in the world. In the years since its founding, the nonprofit has helped lead the way for innovative advancements in transplants — and in the process, saved countless lives. But they need more people to register to donate, as there are thousands of children waiting.
Only 20% of patients will actually require a marrow transplant, with most of them being children under 10 years old. The rest desperately need parts of your blood for treatment. Unfortunately, medical television shows have dramatized the process and led potential donors away in fear. The donation is not as painful as it is portrayed in television and you are asleep while they do the procedure.
“I think when people hear the word ‘registry’ they think organ donation and that isn’t what it is. This is just a blood product and your body will replenish it,” Carrion explained.
The giving of blood and blood products is lifesaving. Ailani recently underwent a new treatment called CAR-T cell therapy where her own T-cells were filtered from her blood and re-engineered in a laboratory to target her leukemia. She then had to receive extensive chemotherapy to prepare her body to receive those re-engineered T-cells. Through it all, Ailani has remained positive – even as she continued to lose her hair yet again, something that broke her heart the first time she went through it.
If this treatment is unsuccessful, they will be going with another half-match transplant with her mother.
Although all seemed poised to be heading in the right direction, the family had another setback.
“She fell and scraped her knee and because she was immunocompromised from chemotherapy, she ended up with a fungal infection in the scrape. The fungus disseminated throughout her whole body resulting in several major complications. They had to give her white blood cell transfusions, extensive antifungals, and do surgery to clear the infection,” Carrion shared.
According to Ailani’s aunt, she was terrified when she got up from falling.
“When she fell, she said ‘Uh oh, uh oh. I fell I fell.’ She knew that something devastating could come out of a fall,” she said.
But even with the additional challenges Ailani is facing on top of battling her cancer, she hasn’t lost her happy disposition and sweet personality.
“Sometimes when my sister calls me to tell me how Ailani is, I’m at a loss for words. I don’t know what to say other than we’re praying and trying to be strong for her,” Johnson said through tears.
Her family describes Ailani as a fighter, a beacon of light and good. It is their hope that by sharing their story more people will raise their hands and register for Be The Match. Registration is simple, easy and painless. For the potential children matched with prospective donors it’s a scientific miracle. It will also save their lives.
To learn more about how you can register for Be The Match and get your cheek swab, please click here or text “saveailani” to 61474.
Navy SEAL candidates go through what’s considered the hardest military training before earning their precious Trident. That training is called the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, or BUD/S. When young men across the country join the Navy, they head down to the sandy beaches of Coronado, California to test themselves, both mentality and physicality, to see if they have what it takes to become a member of the Special Warfare community.
Since the BUD/S drop-out rate is so high (roughly 75% of candidates fail), many are left wondering what it takes to survive the rigorous program and graduate. Well, former Navy SEAL Jeff Nichols is here to break down a few of the mistakes that contribute to that high rate of failure.
Speaking with a recruiter before passing the physical screening test
According to Nichols, if you excel well beyond the required standard on physical fitness tests, you’ll have a lot more sway in getting into the Spec Ops community. Your performance speaks volume in telling recruiters that this is what you want and that you’re ready to move forward.
Not everyone is ready to take the plunge — show recruiters you have what it takes.
You train your strengths often, but ignore weaknesses
Most people train using methods that they’re accustomed to, like swimming or bodybuilding. However, according to Nichols, Special Forces training is designed to expose a candidate’s weaknesses. Locate those weaknesses and train them.
Training until failure too often
Many workout routines recommend pushing yourself until you’re too physically exhausted to continue. Nichols suggests that you add a few training days into your routine during which you focus on perfecting technique instead of exhausting yourself.
Eating healthy is a solid idea.
Nichols notes that, far too often, people either eat too little or too much of the wrong thing. To properly prepare yourself for training and recovery, you’ll need to give your body the nutritional tools it needs.
Picky eaters are in for a big surprise as the Navy isn’t know for a vast selection of cuisine.
Training to be sleep deprived
Being sleep deprived is extremely debilitating. Many of those who plan to take a shot at earning the Trident will try and train themselves to be sleep deprived. Don’t do this.
Sleep deprivation is a difficult thing to endure. The best way to get through is to make sure your body is in top physical shape — which requires that you get as much rest as possible between training sessions.
Most candidates aren’t ready to run in boots
Nichols recommends that you learn how to run in boots. Start with comfortable tennis shoes, then work your way up. This will lower your chances of developing shin splints during the real thing.
Many candidates over-train themselves, aiming to be “run-dominant” and avoiding taking on mass, thinking that hypertrophy (bodybuilding) will make them slow. You can be muscular and still maintain great run times. Remember, Usain Bolt weighs over 200 pounds.
Candidates don’t do enough fin work
You can be a solid swimmer, but once you put on those fins, the physical equation changes. Putting fins on your feet amplifies the stress your legs have to endure in the water.
So, get those fins on and start practicing.
Listening to SEALSWCC.com
We realize that telling you not to listen to the website might sound controversial, but Nichols finds a lot of the information listed there is wrong.
Right now, the fastest military helicopter in the world is the U.S. Army’s Chinook, but the Army is looking at a new family of vertical lift helicopters, and both top contenders are much faster than the Chinook. But the U.S. isn’t the only major power looking for new helicopters, and Russia claims that its offering will be the fastest in the world.
Sikorsky’s X2 demonstrator flew for years, allowing company engineers to gain important experience now used on the SB-1 Defiant, a prototype for the Army, pictured above.
Whoever wins will be well positioned to sell their hardware to allied militaries, including those countries that fall into both countries’ spheres of influence, like India or the Philippines.
America’s top contenders are the SB-1 Defiant from Sikorsky and the V-280 Valor. The SB-1 Defiant is part of a fairly new breed; the compound helicopter, which features a pusher propeller at the back of the bird instead of a normal tail rotor. The V-280 Valor, while impressive and capable of extreme speed (about 70 percent faster than a Chinook), is actually a tiltrotor, so we’re going to largely ignore it for the rest of this discussion.
So, on the U.S. side, that leaves the SB-1 Defiant and its projected speed of 287 mph, about 50 percent faster than the Chinook. To achieve this high rate, the Defiant will send up to 90 percent of its engine power to that pusher propeller at the back of the aircraft. Most helicopters generate forward movement by tilting their main rotor blades, requiring a lot of fuel and power for relatively little forward flight power. The Defiant would give buyers a huge advantage in speed and range.
But Russia, through the state-owned Rostec company, wants in on the action, too, but their program is nowhere near as far along as Sikorsky. They announced in February, 2018, that they would be creating an experimental helicopter that is supposed to debut in and conduct its first flight in 2019.
They have not released a name or design, but there are some recent hints as to how they might create a helicopter that could fly over 200 mph, enough to beat the Chinook.
But Rostec found another way to potentially increase the available power and longevity of engines. UEC says their new granular nickel alloy, VV725, represents a shift in materials science. Currently, most aircraft use 0.04 percent carbon or less because lots of carbon in the alloy makes it strong, but brittle.
A Ka-52, a derivative of the Ka-50 attack helicopter, flies at Torzhok Air Base in Russia. The helicopter has stacked rotor blades like the Sikorsky SB-1 Defiant, but no pusher propeller like the one that makes the Sikorsky Raider so fast.
(Airliners.net, Alex Beltyukov, CC BY-SA 3.0)
And, with the ability to increase engine strength while also reducing weight, they might have a chance at reaching 250 mph or faster. The Ka-50 has a maximum speed in level flight of 196 mph, and it has a similar main rotor blade to the SB-1 Defiant but no pusher propeller. Add the propeller with the upgraded engine, and that thing might outrun the Chinook.
But the SB-1 Defiant is scheduled to fly within weeks or months and could be adopted in the 2030s. Typically, it takes around 15 years from first flight to an aircraft entering service, military helicopters included. Russia’s Ka-50 first flew in 1982 but didn’t reach combat units until 1995. But the design of the Ka-50 began in early 1977. So, 18 years from original design work to the finished product.
That means that Russia’s offering will likely reach the market well after the SB-1 Defiant, so it needs to be able to outrun the Defiant — not the Chinook — to take the crown as the world’s fastest military helicopter. The Defiant is expected to hit 287 mph, largely thanks to Sikorsky’s more than 10 years of experience with the X2 Demonstrator, a push propeller aircraft that first flew in 2008.
A Russian Mil Mi-35M, the country’s fastest military helicopter.
(Anna Zvereva, CC BY-SA 2.0)
An important note is that the Mi-35M was originally created by the company Mil, the firm which made nearly all Soviet-era Russian helicopters. Not all of that company’s expertise survived its acquisition by Rostec.
So, it’s not impossible. Russia has built great helicopters in the past. But Russia is suffering from serious funding problems. And their most recent weapons acquisition programs were unimpressive. The much-hyped Su-57 created buyer’s remorse in India, and that country bailed on buying the jet, mostly because it was underpowered.
And Russia’s premier new tank, the T-14 Armata, might or might not be as capable as advertised, but Russia won’t buy it right now because they can’t afford it.
So, a new, revolutionary helicopter will be a big stretch, but not impossible. And with the high speed of the Ka-50, it’s easy to imagine Russia ripping off the SB-1 Defiant’s push propeller, provided they can keep their airframe stable with all that extra propulsion from the rear. The final outcome in the race will likely be apparent by the end of 2019 or 2020, but neither helicopter will be fielded by a military until 2030, if ever. So, you know, stay tuned.