American pirates? Us privateers could help win a war with China - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

American pirates? Us privateers could help win a war with China

After nearly two decades of counter-terror operations the world over, the United States military is now shifting its focus back toward great power competition with the likes of China and Russia. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the past two decades have left the U.S. military particularly well suited for the war at hand, but not very well positioned for the wars that are feasibly to come.

During this era of counter-terror operations, China has had the opportunity to seek higher degrees of technological and tactical parity, while having the benefit of not being actively engaged in expensive combat operations on the same scale. That has allowed China’s sea-faring power to grow at an exponential rate in recent years, with an active fleet of more than 770 vessels sailing under the banners of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy, their militarized Coast Guard, and a maritime miitia that takes its orders from the Chinese military as well.


Chinese Navy on parade (Chinese state television)

The addition of China’s massive ballistic missile stockpile, including hypersonic anti-ship platforms the U.S. Navy currently has no means to defend against, has further established China’s advantage in the Pacific. Even if the U.S. Navy leveraged every vessel in its 293-ship fleet, American forces would still be outnumbered by Chinese ships by more than two to one. Importantly, however, the United States likely couldn’t devote its entire fleet to any single conflict due to its global commitments to security and stability, especially regarding essential shipping lanes.

Today, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are both actively seeking ways to mitigate China’s numbers advantage, as well as the area-denial bubble created by China’s anti-ship platforms. Multiple possible solutions are being explored, ranging from hot-loading Marine Corps F-35Bs on austere airstrips on captured islands in the case of the Marines, to the Navy’s ongoing development of the MQ-25 aerial refueling drone that aims to extend the reach of America’s carrier-based fighters. Still, thus far, there has been no magic bullet. In fact, concerns about a near-peer conflict with China has even prompted several high-ranking defense officials to question the practicality of America’s fleet of super-carriers, both because of their immense cost, and because of the likelihood that they could be sunk by China’s hypersonic missiles long before they could get close enough to Chinese shores to begin launching sorties of F-35Cs and F/A-18 Super Hornets.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mohamed Labanieh/Released)

The fundamental challenges a war with China would present are clear: Finding a way to mitigate the risks posed by advanced anti-ship missiles and offsetting the significant numbers advantage Chinese forces would have within the region. In the past, we’ve discussed the possibility of arming commercial cargo ships with modular weapons systems in a “missile barge” fleet as a means to bolster American numbers and capabilities. Another feasible option that could even work in conjunction with this strategy would be issuing “letters of marque” to private operations, effectively allowing non-military forces to serve as privateers for the U.S. government.

The Capture of a French Ship by Royal Family Privateers by Charles Brooking

American Privateers or Pirates?

The concept of issuing letters of marque to American privateers was recently discussed by retired Marine Colonel Mark Cancian and Brandon Schwartz in the U.S. Naval Institute’s publication, “Proceedings.” Although the idea seems almost ridiculous in the 21st Century, the legal framework outlined by Cancian and Schwartz is sound, and one could argue that their assertions about the viability and strategic value of privateer fleets are as well.

Cancian and Schwartz argue that privateering is not piracy, as there are laws governing it and precedent for the practice established in past U.S. conflicts, including the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

“Privateering is not piracy—there are rules and commissions, called letters of marque, that governments issue to civilians, allowing them to capture or destroy enemy ships. The U.S. Constitution expressly grants Congress the power to issue them (Article I, section 8, clause 11).”
-“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings

However, despite their argument being technically right, it’s difficult to dismiss how the piracy narrative would almost certainly affect public perception of the use of privateers, and potentially even the conflict at large.

While the United States could argue that privateers operate with specifically outlined rules and commissions, even the American public would likely see American privateers as pirates. And because America has found itself trailing behind nations like China and Russia in terms of manipulating public narratives, that narrative could indeed hurt not only public support for the conflict; it could even jeopardize some international relationships.

The Pride of Baltimore, left, and the Lynx, two privateer vessels, reenact a battle of the War of 1812 in Boston Harbor during Boston Navy Week 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elisandro T. Diaz/Released)

Privateers are not pirates in the literal sense only because a government is sanctioning their piracy. In the eyes of those who don’t recognize America’s authority to grant such permissions in far-flung waterways, the two terms would be interchangeable.

Regardless of vernacular, the United States has used this approach to great success in the past. Although the last time American privateers set sale was more than 200 years ago, their approach was modern enough to set precedent for a return to the concept.

“The privateering business was thoroughly modern and capitalistic, with ownership consortiums to split investment costs and profits or losses, and a group contract to incentivize the crew, who were paid only if their ship made profits. A sophisticated set of laws ensured that the capture was ‘good prize,’ and not fraud or robbery. After the courts determined that a merchant ship was a legitimate capture, auctioneers sold off her cargo of coffee, rum, wine, food, hardware, china, or similar consumer goods, which ultimately were bought and consumed by Americans.”
-Frederick C. Leiner in “Yes, Privateers Mattered

In the event of a large-scale conflict with a nation like China, that potential narrative blowback may be a necessary evil. However, the ramifications of that evil could be mitigated through a concerted narrative effort to frame privateer actions in the minds of the populous as an essential part of a broader war effort that has the American people’s best interests in mind.

In the War of 1812, privateering saw such public support (in large part thanks to the profits it drove) that some took to calling the conflict the “War of the People.” Managing the narrative surrounding American privateers could make the concept far more palatable to the American people.

As for the legal aspects of privateering, you can read a thorough legal justification for the practice in a separate piece written by Schwartz called “U.S. Privateering is legal.”

(Italian Center for International Studies)

The role of American privateers at war

China’s massive fleet of vessels in the Pacific can be broken down into their three command groups, all of which ultimately answer to China’s People’s Liberation Army. China’s maritime militia accounts for approximately 300 vessels, the militarized Coast Guard has 135 more, and the PLA-Navy itself boasts an ever-growing roster expected to reach 450 surface vessels by the end of the decade.

In the event of a war with China, the American Navy would have more than its hands full engaging with such a massive force, limiting its ability to cut China off from one of its most significant revenue sources, overseas trade. China’s reliance on shipping products to other nations has helped its economy grow rapidly, but it also represents a strategic disadvantage, as Cancian and Schwartz point out, if America can find the means to disrupt this exchange.

“Thirty-eight percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) comes from trade, against only 9 percent of U.S. GDP. Chinese social stability is built on a trade-off: The Chinese Communist Party has told the people they will not have democratic institutions, but they will receive economic prosperity.”
-“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings

In 2018, China’s merchant fleet was already approaching 2,200 total vessels, thanks to massive external demand for inexpensive Chinese exports. America’s Navy would likely be stretched too thin to actually blockade such an expansive merchant fleet. Like with aircraft, America’s preference for large and expensive ships that are capable of fulfilling multiple roles has offered increased capability but significantly decreased numbers. At its peak during World War II, the U.S. Navy boasted more than 6,000 ships. Today, the Navy has 293 far more capable vessels, but none can be in more than one place at a time.

(DoD Photo)

American Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, for instance, are too big and expensive to task with waiting out Chinese ships hiding in foreign ports, and would likely largely be assigned to Aegis missile defense operations. This is where American privateers could offer an important service.

American privateers wouldn’t be tasked with engaging the Chinese Navy or even with sinking merchant ships. Instead, they would be tasked with capturing Chinese cargo vessels, offering them a multi-million dollar bounty on each, and quickly compromising China’s ability to sustain its export sales.

“Since the goal is to capture the hulls and cargo, privateers do not want to sink the vessel, just convince the crew to surrender. How many merchant crews would be inclined to fight rather than surrender and spend the war in comfortable internment?”
-“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings

Of course, despite Cancian and Schwartz’ dismissive take on how apt Chinese crews would be to fight to maintain control of their ships, it’s important to remember that these privateers would likely be engaging in close quarters fighting with Chinese crews or security on board. As American privateers proved more costly to the Chinese government, an increased emphasis on protecting these cargo ships would almost certainly follow.

This begs an essential question: Where do you find privateer crews?

Private security contractors in Iraq (DoD photo)

Private infrastructure already exists

While the concept of American privateers seems borderline fantastical, the truth is, the United States has already leveraged the premise of using non-military personnel for security and defensive operations the world over. American security firm Blackwater (now Academi) is perhaps the highest-profile example of America’s use of private military contractors. In fact, contractors in Iraq have reached numbers as high as 160,000 at some points, nearly equaling the total number of U.S. military personnel in the region. At least 20,000 of those private contractors filled armed security roles.

So while the term “privateer” or even pirate suggests an entirely unconventional approach to modern warfare, the premise is already in play. Terminology may dictate perception to a significant degree, but in practice, privateering wouldn’t be all that different from existing relationships the United States maintains with private security outfits. Further, private security firms, including Blackwater, have already operated at sea in a similar manner to privateers, from Blackwater’s armed patrol craft policing Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa to countless armed and privately owned boats patrolling the Indian Ocean today.

In 2007, Blackwater acquired the McArther from the NOAAS. (WikiMedia Commons)

Many such organizations, with existing infrastructure and established relationships with the U.S. government, would likely seek and win contracts, or letters of marque, in the early days of a burgeoning Sino-American war, and stand up their own forces far more quickly than the United States could expand its naval force in the same volume. Rather than building ships and enlisting crews, the United States could simply authorize existing ships with existing crews to go on the offensive against China’s commercial fleets.

The American government’s experience with military contractors throughout the War on Terror means these relationships would not be as without precedent as they may seem, and the existing private military industry would make American privateers a quick and effective means to grow America’s offensive capabilities.

China claims sovereignty over much of the South China Sea (shown in red). A conflict with China would undoubtedly play out here. (WikiMedia Commons)

A complicated solution to a complex problem

Of course, there are many variables at play when discussing a future conflict with China. Incorporating privateers into such a strategy admittedly seems rather extreme from our vantage point in 2020, but it’s important to note that there is no precedent for what something like a 21st Century Sino-American war might look like. The massive sea battles of World War II may offer some sense of scale, but the rapid advancement of technology in the intervening decades creates a hypothetical war that is simply incongruous with the World War II models.

America does boast the largest and most powerful military in the world, but China’s rapidly expanding and modernizing force has not been growing in a vacuum. From space operations to warship construction, China has been developing its war-fighting apparatus with America specifically in mind. China isn’t interested in competing with the United States on its terms and instead has been focused on identifying potential American vulnerabilities and tailoring new capabilities to leverage those flaws.

China’s Type 002 Aircraft carrier (Tyg728 on WikiMedia Commons)

Large scale warfare between technological and economic giants would play out differently than any conflict we’ve ever seen. In order to emerge from such a conflict successfully, America has to do much more than win. Once the price of victory begins to compromise America’s ability to sustain its way of life thereafter, that victory becomes less pronounced.

In order to win in such a conflict, the United States will need to dig deep into its bag of tricks. On the home front, it would mean finding ways to rapidly expand America’s industrial base to replenish vehicles, supplies, and equipment as they’re expended or destroyed on the front lines. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Space Force will all be required to communicate and rely on one another in ways never before accomplished on a battlefield.

And China’s massive numbers advantage would have to be mitigated somehow. American privateers, or pirates as the press would surely call them, might just do the trick.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The mythical origin of the sniper’s ghillie suit

The two men crawl stealthily through the Panamanian jungle. Their faces are painted with hues of black, brown and green. Their bodies are covered by the burlap strands and interwoven foliage of their ghillie suits. The sniper and his spotter reach a vantage point overlooking the village and search for their target, a Panamanian rebel leader. Camouflaged against the jungle by their ghillie suits, the two men spot their target. As the rebel leader bites into his apple, a single shot pierces the stillness of the jungle and a 7.62x51mm NATO round pierces his heart.

One shot, one kill.


Alerted to the threat, the rebels frantically spray the jungle with automatic fire. Unable to see their enemy, they fire their weapons haphazardly and pray not to be the sniper’s next victim. Invisible to the rebels, the sniper ejects the spent cartridge from his M40A1 rifle and hands it to his spotter. As civilians in the village take cover, the rebels continue to pour gunfire into the jungle with no specific target. When no shots return from the trees, they cease fire. Still unseen, the sniper and his spotter melt back into the jungle and disappear. The only evidence of them having been there is the dead body of the rebel leader, a single hole through his heart.

Sniper and spotter take up an overwatch position (Credit TriStar Pictures)

The 1993 film Sniper, starring Tom Berenger as the titular and aforementioned sniper, introduced many viewers to the ghillie suit. An integral part of a sniper’s kit, the ghillie suit allows the sniper to blend in with their surroundings and evade detection. This is key to accomplishing their mission since a sniper’s primary functions on the battlefield are conducting covert reconnaissance and delivering precision fires.

A ghillie suit is typically made of a net or cloth garment and covered in burlap strips, cloth, or twine. It has an irregular shape which breaks up a sniper’s outline and makes them more difficult to spot. Additionally, snipers can weave local flora into their ghillie suit in order to better blend with their surroundings. If done properly, this additional camouflage will even sway in the wind to match the environment it is replicating. Today, ghillie suits are used by snipers all around the world in foliage, sand, and even snow. Their origin, however, can be traced back to the game attendants and folklore of the Scottish Highlands.

Scottish ghillies in Highland Perthshire. (Photo from tour-scotland-photographs.blogspot.com)

Derived from the Scottish Gaelic word “gille,” meaning lad or servant, a ghillie (the English misspelling) is a man or boy who serves as a game attendant and specializes in fishing, stalking, and hunting. In Scottish folklore, the Gille Dubh was a timid but wild male fairy who roamed the Highlands. Like the suit that bears his name, the Gille Dubh was clothed in leaves and other vegetation which allowed him to camouflage in the Highlands and evade capture.

Lovat Scouts wear two variations of the ghillie suit. (Photo from the Imperial War Museum)

Scottish ghillies created the ghillie suit in the turn of the 20th century as a wearable hunting blind that would allow them to more stealthily stalk and hunt their game on the Highlands. These first ghillie suits were made primarily of burlap which were irregularly torn and cut to break up the ghillie’s silhouette. Almost immediately, the ghillie suit saw military application with the British Army during the Second Boer War (1899-1902). The Lovat Scouts, the British Army’s first sniper unit, were initially recruited from Scottish Highland estate workers. This included the ghillies who brought their burlap camouflage suits with them.

Two British snipers during a demonstration for Their Majesties in May 1944. (Photo from captainstevens.com)

The ghillie suit went to war again in WWI where other nations took notice of its effectiveness and adopted it for themselves. As a concept, the ghillie suit has remained largely unchanged since its inception. One notable upgrade came in June 2003 when the U.S. Army introduced a new ghillie suit made of a lightweight, fire-resistant, and self-extinguishing fabric instead of the heavier and flammable burlap.

A U.S. Army sniper wears the Flame Resistant Ghillie System. (U.S. Army photo/Released)

Today, snipers around the world continue to carefully craft their ghillie suits in order to camouflage themselves and evade detection by the enemy. Meanwhile, in the Scottish Highlands, professional ghillies continue to preserve their legacy as gamekeepers. They cull game herds and lead hunting expeditions, sometimes with the added camouflage of their iconic burlap suit.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Secret phone calls reveal new evidence in crash that killed 298 people

Investigators probing the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014 say they have recorded phone calls connecting pro-Russian rebels implicated in the missile strike and a senior aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The international Joint Investigation Team, based in the Netherlands, on Nov. 14, 2019, released the calls involving members of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the armed Russian separatist group that has fought against the Ukrainian government for independence in eastern Ukraine.

“Well, your plans are far-reaching. Mine are not,” Alexander Borodai, the former self-proclaimed prime minister of the DPR, said in one call. “I’m carrying out orders and protecting the interests of one and only state, the Russian Federation. That’s the bottom line.”


Members of the DPR have been found responsible for the downing of MH17. All 298 people on board were killed when the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. In June, four people were charged with murder.

(Photo by Alan Wilson)

“The indications for close ties between leaders of the DPR and Russian government officials raise questions about their possible involvement in the deployment of the BUK TELAR, which brought down flight MH17,” the investigators said, adding that the missile system that downed the aircraft originated from “a unit of the Russian armed forces from Kursk in the Russian Federation.”

The investigators said the phone calls indicated that senior members of the DPR “maintained contact with Russian government officials” — including the senior aide, Vladislav Surkov — “about Russian military support.”

According to the call logs published by the investigators, in a conversation six days before the missile strike, Borodai told Surkov he urgently needed military support from Russia, and Surkov replied that Russian “combat-ready” reinforcements would be arriving.

Other intercepted phone calls also implicate the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, and the FSB, Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, the investigators said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“It’s a week we’ve directly … [inaudible] to Moscow and we get the orders,” one rebel said during a call in July 2014.

“We get the orders from Moscow as well. It’s the same with us,” another person replied.

“But it’s FSB in your case? Right,” the first rebel asked.

“Yes,” the second person said.

“And it’s GRU in our case. That’s the only difference,” the first rebel said.

“I know about it perfectly well,” the second person replied.

Though former DPR rebels testified in the investigation that they received military help from Russia, both the rebel group and Russia have denied any involvement in the missile strike. A Kremlin spokesman said the call logs should be scrutinized, adding that they came amid a trove of “fake news” about the incident, according to Reuters.

The investigators said the FSB provided telephones that could not be wiretapped.

“How are you about those special communication telephones, you know, that we have? Those that go through the internet, do you know? Secure,” Sergey Dubinsky, a former GRU officer and a member of the DPR, said on a call on July 3, 2014.

He added: “Those are special phones, you cannot buy them. They are gotten through Moscow. Through FSB.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

This ceremony honored the special bond shared by K-9s and their handlers

Laura Miller apologized more than once for getting emotional as she spoke at the Airborne Special Operations Museum on Monday.


But after seeing battle-hardened Special Forces soldiers dissolve into tears at the loss of their dogs, she said the love these men felt for their dogs — and of the dogs for them — can lead to tears at times.

Miller, a retired veterinarian technician who served 26 years, including 10 with caring for Special Operations Forces dogs, spoke to a crowd of several hundred about the sacrifices of military dogs — and the number of military lives they have saved.

DoD Photo by Pfc. Brian Domzalski

“To see these big, strong soldiers break into tears over the loss of their dog, you realize this is a special bond,” Miller said. “There is a love that runs deeper.”

“The love for their dog and of the dog for their handler…” she paused as the emotion of the moment again caught her. “Just appreciate everything. Life is too short. The evidence of that is right here.”

She waved over to the nearby ASOM Field of honor, where more than 600 flags caught a light breeze.

DoD Photo by Airman Shawna Keyes

In addition to the ceremony, the ASOM offered a series of concerts, exhibits, and first-person displays. Military experts offered visitors hands-on experience with military equipment from World War I through the Vietnam era.

Ron Wolfe, a retired Army sergeant, let youngsters try on his flak jacket and helmet from Vietnam, laughing when they complained about their weight and heat.

“Yeah, they can get a bit heavy,” Wolfe said. “Just wait until you had to wear them all day in the summertime.”

The ASOM K-9 Memorial honors more than 60 trained dogs who have died in service to Special Forces as well as partner groups in Great Britain and Australia. It was dedicated in 2013.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This paratrooper just took his first jump in 31 years

It is uncertain what the record is for the time between Army parachute jumps, but Lt. Col. John Hall may hold it at 30 years and six months.


When Hall parachuted from a military aircraft January 2018, it was the first time he had done so in over thirty years. Hall, a 53-year-old school teacher at Kearsley High School in Flint, Michigan, is serving a one-year tour of duty in Vicenza, Italy, as the public affairs officer for the storied 173rd Airborne Brigade, the contingency response force for U.S. Army Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

I first worked with the 173rd Airborne when I was put on active duty with the Michigan National Guard in 2014 and sent to the Baltic Countries of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve and in support of Latvia, our State Partnership Nation,” Hall said. “The 173rd Airborne Public Affairs leaders and I developed a close working relationship, so last summer, when they needed an experienced public affairs officer to lead their team, I was selected and put on orders.

The 173rd Brigade commander sent word to Hall that he would be expected to jump from aircraft as a part of his duties.

“I was really excited and completely terrified at the same time. I graduated from ‘Jump School’ when I was 19 years old and last jumped when I was 22, so I knew what to do,” Hall said with a laugh.

Army Lt. Col. John Hall, a paratrooper and public affairs officer assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 173rd Airborne Brigade, poses for a photo in Vicenza, Italy, Jan. 31, 2018. Hall is a Michigan National Guard soldier currently on active-duty orders with the 173rd. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander C. Henninger )

The 173rd put Hall through a one-day airborne refresher course, he said. This training included parachute landing, actions in the aircraft, and emergency procedures, followed by multiple jumps from a 34-foot tower in which his technique was assessed.

The next day, Hall reported to Aviano Air Base in northern Italy, donned his parachute with a couple of hundred other Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, climbed aboard an Air Force C-17 aircraft and, when 1,200 feet over the Juliet Drop Zone, exited the door and tested his training.

Perfect landing

“The jet blast spun me in the air so when my ‘chute deployed it was pretty twisted and did not have a full canopy,” Hall said. “I was surprised that I automatically reached up, pulled the ‘risers’ apart and worked the parachute fully open. Good training takes over and we automatically do the right thing. I then checked my position in the sky and prepared to land. It was all over in less than a minute. I took up a good parachute landing fall position and the landing was perfect.”

Hall has served in the Army since graduating from LakeVille High School in the Flint area where he was an All-State wrestler, president of the school’s student council, and where he began dating his eventual wife, Laura.

“I enlisted as a combat medic when I was 19 years old and served in the 82nd Airborne Division in the mid-1980s, where we conducted frequent parachute operations as a part of our combat training,” Hall said. “After leaving the 82nd, I didn’t think I would ever jump from a military aircraft ever again.”

Also Read: That time a dangling paratrooper was rescued by open-top biplane

Since leaving active duty with the 82nd, Hall has served in the Army Reserve, the Florida and Michigan National Guard, and has been called back to active duty — to include combat duty in Iraq — on multiple occasions, but he has not been assigned to a unit with an airborne mission until now.

He was initially commissioned as a cavalry officer following officer candidate school and served as a Scout Platoon Leader in E Troop, 153rd Cavalry Regiment in Ocala, Florida. His later assignments include company commander in the 1-125th Infantry in Flint, Michigan, as well as executive officer and commander of the 126th Press Camp Headquarters at Fort Custer, Michigan. It was in the 126th PCH that Hall served a combat tour in Baghdad.

Service in Iraq

Coincidentally enough, while serving as a press officer for Multinational Forces Iraq, Hall was serving in a combat zone at the same time as his daughter, Savannah, who had recently been commissioned as an officer through the University of Michigan ROTC program.

“My daughter, Savannah, grew up around the Army and has seen me in uniform since I was in the 82nd Airborne,” Hall said. “She decided when she went to college that she wanted to enroll in ROTC, serve in the Army, and be a paratrooper. It was indeed a proud moment when I pinned her ‘Jump Wings’ on her at Fort Benning, Georgia. And now my youngest daughter, Samantha, is shipping off to Army basic training later this spring. It remains to be seen if she, too, will become a paratrooper.”

Hall has been working in Vicenza, Italy, on the senior staff of the 173rd Airborne Brigade since August 2017. In this short time, he has supported airborne combat training in Latvia, Germany, Slovenia, a historic mission to Serbia, mountaineering training with the Italian Alpini Brigade, and next week will travel to Toulouse, France, to support 173rd Airborne combined engineering operations with French paratroopers.

Hundreds of 173rd Airborne Brigade paratroopers conduct a tactical airborne insertion exercise onto Juliet Drop Zone in northern Italy, Jan. 24, 2018. (Photo Credit: Army photo by Lt. Col. John Hall )

High operational tempo

“The operational tempo here at the 173rd Airborne is intense. We continually have combat training going on with our NATO allies throughout Europe,” Hall said. “Our command philosophy is that we are always ‘preparing our soldiers for the unforgiving crucible of ground combat.'”

A significant part of this, in the 173rd Airborne Brigade, is conducting airborne operations, so Hall will complete several more jumps from military aircraft in the coming months.

As far as teaching is concerned, Hall intends to return to the classroom teaching English, history, and theater for the fall 2018 semester. It is certain that the dynamic training and real-world experiences contribute to his classes and his students’ enthusiasm.

Until then, Hall is an Army paratrooper and he said he’s proud of the Soldiers he works with.

Hall added, “It is truly an honor to be able to serve with the ‘Sky Soldiers’ of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. To be able to begin my military career with the 82nd Airborne Division and end it with the 173rd Airborne Brigade is remarkable. I am humbled every day by the discipline, determination, and dedication of these young Americans forward stationed and always prepared to defend their country.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 effective ways to deal with that Blue Falcon in your unit

There’s always at least one in every unit. That one idiot who ruins everything for the rest of us. In the military, these clowns are given the moniker of “Blue Falcon.” Essentially, it’s a more professional way of calling someone a “buddy f*cker.”

But, no matter how much of a screw-up they are, you’re going to be stuck with them until they ETS or PCS out of the unit, so it’s best if you just learn how to deal with them in one way or another.


Of course, there are varying degrees of buddy f*cking. So, think of the following guidelines as an escalation of force for handling douchebags.

Learning the art of “NMFP,” or “Not My F*cking Problem,” will take you far.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron Henson)

1. Walk away

Nine times out of ten, it’s best to just move on. It’s not worth the time nor the effort to deal with some people. That’s not to say you should quickly forgive and forget (if it was a case of accidental Blue Falconing, maybe), but, in general, you should just brush it off and carry on with your day.

There’s literally ten thousand other things to worry about in the military. Don’t worry about what some jerk is doing — let their NCO handle it.

How polite that conversation is depends on you.

(U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Virginia Lang)

2. Talk it out

Rarely do troops actually try to be a Blue Falcon. Screwing over the people who’re supposed to have your back in combat is never a good idea. If someone you’ve known for years starts dabbling in Falconry, settle it like adults. Talk to them and find out what’s really going on — and why they f*cked you over.

You’ll find that, most times, it’s unintentional and being the bigger person in the situation will help everyone move on.

Demonstrate your salt by leaving them high and dry during a working party.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexis B. Betances)

3. Shun them

This level of punishment is reserved for the perpetual Blue Falcon. The dude who has proved time and time again that they just can’t get right. The dude who’s still living the “Army of One” mentality. The dude who’s constantly complaining like it’d have any kind of effect on the level of suck that’s in store. Ignore them at every corner.

Psychologically speaking, people can’t stand being ignored and shunning them, as passive as it may seem, is actually a good way to instill social norms. When they get right, you can welcome them back into the fold. Until then, you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life or the unit.

You can enjoy it, but don’t take it too far and Blue Falcon someone else in the process.

(National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy McGuire, JTF-DC)

4. Play their game

“Two can play at that game.” If they haven’t been doing anything that is strictly forbidden by the UCMJ but is still annoying or inconvenient, give ’em a taste of their own medicine.

If they want to rat on you for swinging by the gas station before going to motor pool, get them when they do the same. If they want to show up 10 minutes late for a working party and you have to pick up the slack, put about ten minutes of your time on their plate.

Then again, this only works if they’re actually breaking any rules.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Hughes)

5. Administrative action

Not ratting on your boys is one thing — but this dude isn’t your boy. The first handful of cases, keep it in house, but if they continually demonstrate behaviors detrimental to the unit, you could face UCMJ action for not speaking up.

Don’t get caught up in whatever sh*tstorm avalanche is about to hit them. Toss that responsibility up the chain of command at least one level to save your own skin when that moment inevitably comes.

Whether you actually get your NCO’s approval before putting that sucker in an armbar is on you…

(U.S Army photo by Sgt. Leo Jenkins)

6. Feed them their teeth

Do this in an appropriate manner, of course — it’d be irresponsible for us to advocate the ass kicking of anyone, no matter how much they deserve it. Just because someone could desperately use a swift, stern reminder of how to act, you shouldn’t face administrative actions to make it happen.

For obvious reasons, this one should be a final resort.

Convince an NCO to set up a combatives or MCMAP class for PT and take your frustrations out on that buddy f*cker. If you’re going this far, there’ll probably even be a line…

MIGHTY TRENDING

President will review murder case against green beret

U.S. President Donald Trump says he will review the case of a former U.S. Army officer charged with murder for the 2010 killing of a man he suspected of being a Taliban bomb maker in Afghanistan.

“At the request of many. I will be reviewing the case of a ‘U.S. Military hero,’ Major Matt Golsteyn, who is charged with murder,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Dec. 16, 2018.


“He could face the death penalty from our own government after he admitted to killing a Terrorist bomb maker while overseas,” the president added.

Trump’s tweet followed an interview that Golsteyn’s attorney and his wife gave to Fox News earlier in the day defending the soldier.


An Army spokesman on Dec. 13, 2018, said Golsteyn, a former Green Beret major, had been charged with murder in the death of an Afghan man during his 2010 deployment to the war-torn country.

A commander will review the warrant and decide whether the Green Beret, who was a captain at the time of the incident, will face a hearing that could lead to a court-martial.

Trump and other military and administration leaders have in the past made remarks about military criminal cases, actions that have led to legal appeals contending interference in court proceedings.

Despite the lack of legal jurisdiction in a military case, a president does have wide authority to pardon criminal defendants.

Army Colonel Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said on Dec. 16, 2018 that “the allegations against Major Matt Golsteyn are a law enforcement matter. The Department of Defense will respect the integrity of this process and provide updates when appropriate.”

An initial investigation in 2014 was closed without any charges. But the Army reopened the investigation in 2016 after Golsteyn allegedly described in an interview how he and another soldier led the detained man off base, shot him, and buried his remains.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuw4yhKZCbk
Trump says he will review case of Maj. Matthew Golsteyn, charged with murder

www.youtube.com

Golsteyn was leading a team of Army Special Forces troops at the time of the killing. He said he believed the man was a bomb maker responsible for a blast that killed two U.S. Marines.

His attorney, Phillip Stackhouse, wrote in a tweet that Golsteyn is charged with “premeditated murder, a death-penalty offense for allegedly killing a Taliban bomb-maker during combat operations in Marjah, Afghanistan.”

Stackhouse, during an interview with Fox News, denied “a narrative… put out” by military authorities that said Golsteyn “released this Taliban bomb-maker, walked him back to the house…and assassinated him in his house.”

Golsteyn’s wife Julie, also on Fox, denied that her husband had “killed someone in cold blood” and said that “there are a lot of words flying around that make this very difficult for us as a family.”

She said he is scheduled to report to Fort Bragg in North Carolina on Dec. 17, 2018.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This vet honors her grandfather’s legacy with his secret sauce recipe

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right? Well, in the case of Charlynda Scales, when life gives you a secret sauce recipe, you make sauce and build a company.

While serving in the Air Force, Charlynda’s grandfather invented a sauce that he’d use on every meal, but he never got to see it bottled and sold in stores. To honor her grandfather’s legacy, Charlynda built a business using his secret recipe — and she’s helping a lot of people in the process.


Above, Charlynda Scales in her Air Force dress blues.

(Charlynda Scales)

Born in 1981 in Cookeville, Tennessee, Charlynda lived with her family in a small home in the countryside. Her family ignited her passion for serving others and propelled her into pursuing a higher education. She holds a degree in Aerospace Science and Business Management from Clemson University, along with an MBA in Strategic Leadership. You could say that her family is the beacon that guided her down the path to the eventual creation of Mutt’s Sauce, LLC.

Charlynda joined the Air Force in 2004 as a 63A, Program Manager. She obtained the rank of Captain and switched over to the Reserves in 2015, presently still serving as an Individual Mobilization Augmentee. When she got out of active duty, she focused on growing her business.

Charlynda’s grandfather is on the label of every bottle of Mutt’s Sauce.

(Mutt’s Sauce, LLC)

Mutt’s Sauce was born out of the memory of Charlynda’s grandfather, Charlie “Mutt” Ferrell, Jr. who was also an Air Force veteran that served in Vietnam and the Korean War as a crew chief. Charlie earned the name “Mutt” because of his ability to fit in anywhere he went. Considering that Mutt’s Sauce has been dubbed “the sauce for every meal,” it’s safe to say Charlie’s reputation lives on as part of the company.

To the surprise of Charlynda, after her grandfather’s passing, she was the one in her family entrusted with the knowledge of the secret recipe. Her mother revealed the recipe to her in 2013, and Charlynda was inspired to bottle it and share his legacy with the world.

Charlynda Scales poses with Bob Evan’s after winning the 2017 Heroes to CEOs Contest.

(Bob Evans Farms)

Mutt’s Sauce has already started to carve out a name for itself by winning the Bob Evan’s Farms’ 2017 Heroes to CEOs Contest. Not only has Scales successfully bottled her Grandfather’s secret recipe, but she has memorialized his values of serving others and continues to propel forward in the business world.

In addition to building Mutt’s Sauce, LLC, from the ground up, Charlynda has also been featured on inMadameNoire.com, CBS News, Black Enterprise Magazine, Military.com, Army.mil, and Air Force Association Magazine. If that isn’t impressive enough, she was 2nd runner up for Ms. Veteran America 2016. With such a list of accomplishments, we can expect even greater things from her in the future.

To check out more about Mutt’s Sauce, LLC, or to buy a bottle visit, www.muttssauce.com.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

We’ve heard them all a thousand times. Your roommate heard from a guy in another unit who swears up and down that when his cousin went through basic training, his roommate had been doing funny stuff with ether. Did his friend’s cousin really see the Etherbunny? It’s probably just one more military urban legend that just won’t die – along with these other myths that have been hanging around since Elvis was in the Army.


Be more skeptical, troops.

Fred Rogers, Slayer of Bodies. Supposedly.

Your favorite old TV star was in Vietnam.

What is it about Vietnam that makes us want our favorite TV personalities from yesteryear to not only have served there, but to also be the badass, stonefaced kind of killer that would make Colonel Kurtz proud? According to military myth, Fred Rogers, of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood fame was either a Navy SEAL in Vietnam or a Marine Scout Sniper. Jerry Mathers, who played the title role on Leave It To Beaver, allegedly fought and died there.

Neither of those things happened but someone, somewhere is splicing Forrest Gump Vietnam footage into the latest Tom Hanks film about Mr. Rogers.

Rich people aren’t allowed in the military.

“They” used to always say that a winning lottery ticket was also a one-way ticket to civilian life. And people who were millionaires weren’t allowed in the service at all. While it may seem likely that a high-net worth individual would be less likely to need his or her military career and be less prone to discipline, the opposite has often proven to be true — just look at Jimmy Stewart, Pat Tillman, and other wealthy individuals who preferred to serve. And while winning the lottery doesn’t mean you have to leave the military, winning millions will give the branches pause and you could leave if you want to. Every branch has provisions for separations when parting ways is in the military’s best interest – the way it happened to Seaman John Burdette in 2014.

“Just making sure you reported for duty.”

Only sons are exempt from the draft.

Sorry, Private Ryan, but if World War III breaks out, there’s still a good chance you’re getting called up for the invasion of China. This is an old rumor that is based in some sort of fact. The truth is that sole surviving sons are exempt from the military draft. This is because of a couple of Private Ryan-like moments. The Sullivan Brothers, five real brothers, were killed when the USS Juneau was sunk by a Japanese torpedo in World War II. The story of Fritz Niland, whose three brothers were killed within days of each other, is the basis for Saving Private Ryan.

So if you’re the only child, I’d still register for Selective Service. If you have a few brothers, you should all hope to register.

“But aim for their backpacks.”

The .50-cal is illegal – but here’s how to get around it.

The story goes that the Geneva Convention outlaws the use of a .50-caliber machine gun in combat, so American infantrymen are trained for “off-label uses.” The legend says that you just can’t use the weapon against people but equipment is still fair game, so the Corps/Army teaches grunts to say they were firing at belt buckles or vehicles or anything else that might be near. Another variation of this legend is that the .50-cal round can still kill people if it flies close to their bodies, so that’s the goal. Neither are true.

What weapons are actually banned by international agreements are chemical weapons, certain incendiary weapons, and cluster munitions, to name a few. The United States keeps stockpiles of all of these. Even if the M2 were illegal, do you think the U.S. would give it up, let alone train troops to use it wrong?

According to lore, one of these airmen is supposed to eat the bullet hidden in this flagpole.

The base flagpole is carrying some specific stuff.

According to lore, the ball at the top of the base flagpole – known as a “truck” – has very specific items in it, with very specific instructions. It is said the truck either contains a razor, a match, and a bullet or those three items plus a grain of rice and a penny. These are all to be used in case the base is overrun by the enemy.

So there are a few things wrong with this premise. The first is that a U.S. base built in the 1950s-1980s is going to be overrun. The second is that all that fits inside a truck. The third is that any American troops fighting for control of their base are going to stop, fight their way back to the flag, and go through these instructions:

After taking down the flag, troops first have to get the truck from the tops of the pole. Then, the razor will be used to strip the flag, the match will be used to give the flag a flag’s retirement, and the bullet is said to be used for either an accelerant for burning the flag or for the troop to use on him or her self. Bonus: the rice is for strength and the penny is supposed to blind the enemy. Does this sound stupid? Because it is. This sounds like gung-ho BS that someone with a fifth-grader’s imagination came up with.

Not for oral use. Seriously.

Medics used to kick your mouth shut if you were killed in combat.

Old-timey dogtags (like the ones from World War II, pictured above) had notches on them, which of course led troops to speculate about the purpose of the notch on the tags. Like most things that came to mind for those old troops, the situation got real dark, real fast. The legend says if a soldier was killed in combat, the medic was supposed to use that notch to align the tag using the teeth in the deceased’s mouth, then kick the dead man’s mouth shut with Charlie Brown-level effort so the tag would be embedded and the dead would be identified.

That idea would have led to a lot more head trauma on World War II KIA, wouldn’t it? One would have to imagine a better way to maintain identifiers than defiling a corpse. The notch’s real purpose was much more mundane. They were used to keep the dog tag aligned on the embossing machine used to imprint the tags.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These may be the top 6 finalists for the new Space Force logo

Anyone with a passing interest in the military, politics, or current events has probably heard by now that there’s a U.S. Space Force on the way, just as soon as Congress can shell out eight billion dollars for the effort. But lack of actual funds didn’t stop Vice President Mike Pence from making the announcement about the Space Force. Love him or hate him, you have to admit that once the President decides to do something, the Trump Administration moves quickly to do it.

The White House is already building a Space Force culture. It’s starting with a logo for the new branch and it wants a handful of special Americans to help choose the new look.


There were few reports that a political action committee related to President Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign sent out an email blast just hours after VP Pence’s announcement. The email blast from the Trump Make America Great Again Committee featured six images that looked more like NASA mission patches than military branch logos.

The email itself was signed by Brad Parscale, Campaign Manager for Donald J. Trump for President, 2020. It encouraged recipients to prepare to “buy a whole line of gear” related to the Space Force and the logo they were asked to pick. One of the logos was a direct rip of the current NASA logo, while another implied that Mars would be the eventual goal of the new Space Force.

These logo possibilities may or may not have anything to actually do with the real Space Force. But the email blast was apparently sent to members of the news media, including ABC’s Justin Fishel and CNN’s Jake Tapper, and did imply that President Trump personally wanted input on the Space Force logo.

But only Trump’s campaign donors can officially vote for a logo via the email sent directly from the Trump Make America Great Again Committee.

Meanwhile, in a less official capacity, Bloomberg asked eight leading industry designers to design Space Force logos for the military, and what they came up with was decidedly different, blending traditional military patches, corporate logos, nostalgia for pop culture, and even President Trump himself.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Team TORN gives back to the community with ‘hands-on’ charity event

We recently had the chance to attend a veterans’ charity event with a new non-profit upstart. We’ve previously covered the Team TORN training facility in Issue 37 and on RECOIL TV. Now they’ve started an organization for wounded veterans they’re calling the TORN Warriors Foundation. The owners of Team TORN are both veterans with decades of service to this country who were looking for a way to give back to their brothers and sisters in uniform.

Earlier this year, President Trump awarded the Purple Heart to Marine Corps Master Sergeant Clint Trial. Clint lost both of his legs in an IED blast while serving in Afghanistan. The award ceremony went viral on social media specifically because it was all but deliberately ignored by mainstream media. Despite the ability of news moguls to pick and choose what they think is worthy of people’s attention, Clint’s family continues to persevere in the face of grave adversity. We had the chance to meet him, as well as a tight-knit group of other vets, at the event Team TORN hosted at their training facility.


The goal of TORN Warriors is to help wounded veterans recover and rehabilitate through outdoor activities to include shooting and off-road driving. Their school-house is uniquely set up to provide these opportunities in-house, and we were honored to be asked to assist with the effort.

Held over a three-day weekend, TORN Warriors’ inaugural event started on Friday night with a social call at the TORN Team House. We got the chance to speak with Team TORN owners and reps from some of the companies who pitched in to make this event possible, including gear manufacturer First Spear and Black Rifle Coffee. The mastermind of the Work Play Obsession podcast and MMA fighter Kelsey DeSantis were also present. The veterans themselves, including several combat amputees, got the chance to mingle with this network of supporters and tell their stories. We all got a brief overview of the Team TORN facility and had the chance to watch MSgt Trial take a few laps in the TORN Racing off-road rig. He will be riding shotgun in this rig for the Best In The Desert Vegas to Reno off-road race, Aug.16-18, 2019.

Saturday morning we were up bright and early for range day. We started on the flat range, running a whole slew of different pistols and carbines, allowing the vets and their supporters to run guns side-by-side. We love a good reason to shoot guns just as much as anyone, but we were also able to capture a moment that encapsulates not only the TORN Warriors mindset, but the crux of what makes the veteran community — and those who support them — so special. Watching veterans literally hold each other up so that they can succeed is what organizations like this are all about. The range session ended with a shoot-off between the wounded vets, with the winner taking home a new Springfield XDm.

After lunch, we went back out to the range. This time we were shooting longer-range targets from platforms, with combat vets both shooting and coaching to make sure everyone achieved repeat hits on steel out to nearly 500 yards. As part of the fundraising effort, TORN Warriors sold raffle tickets for a table full of prizes including everything from hoodies to custom pistols, some of which were handmade by veterans themselves. The drawing was live-streamed on the foundation’s social media, with all winning tickets being drawn straight from a prosthetic leg belonging to one of the vets on site.

Sunday morning had as back behind a long gun, running the Team TORN “Giffy Challenge” course. This rifle course is named in honor of fallen Marine Gunnery Sergeant Jonathan Gifford, who was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for actions in Afghanistan. This is a true run-and-gun course, with shooters having to navigate point-to-point across a high-altitude course of fire stretching over 7000 feet in elevation. There are no flat spots or shooting platforms. Every shot must be taken from field conditions against steel targets hidden in thick brush. While the course is often shot as a man-on-man exercise, we ran it in teams that once again paired vets with sponsors and supporters. The capstone event, after lunch, was a 20+ mile off-road ride that put us all on dirt bikes or in ATVs across open country.

All in all, this was a fantastic experience and a true grassroots effort on the part of TORN Warriors. Their entire focus is going hands-on to help those among the veteran community who need it most. But make no mistake, those who are able to donate or support the effort absolutely have a place at the table here. Whether you are a veteran or a supporter of our nation’s defenders, TORN Warriors wants to get you involved in the action. If you are interested in trying to find a way to give back, please consider the TORN Warriors Foundation as a place to start. We know there are beaucoup organizations out there with similar missions, but the level of personal attention that this charity gives to both the veterans they serve and the companies who support them makes them worth a hard look.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Truth in Fiction: A collection of must-read quotes about war

You can learn a lot about war from books.

While there are plenty of American veterans who might scoff at the idea that book learnin’ can effectively convey the experience of soldiering and combat, former US Secretary of Defense and decorated Marine Gen. Jim Mattis knows a little something about war, and this is his take on the subject:

“Reading is an honor and a gift from a warrior or historian who, a decade or a thousand decades ago, set aside time to write. He distilled a lifetime of campaigning in order to have a conversation with you. We have been fighting on this planet for 10,000 years. It would be idiotic and unethical to not take advantage of such accumulated experiences. … Any commander who claims he is too busy to read is going to fill body bags with his troops as he learns the hard way.”


I would take Mattis’ critique a step further and say that, in some instances, the novelist or fiction writer is even better equipped to capture something like a higher “Truth” about war. American fiction contains an endless repository of brilliant literary passages about soldiering and war, and we’re on a mission to share some of our favorites.

So here’s our inaugural list of some of the most profound passages about soldiering and combat in American fiction.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

How To Tell a True War Story by Tim O’Brien

As I’ve written previously, How To Tell a True War Story is one of the greatest American short stories ever written, and this succinct passage is a masterful expression of war’s infinite complexity and contradiction in the human experience. It had to top this list.

“War is hell, but that’s not the half of it, because war is also mystery and terror and adventure and courage and discovery and holiness and pity and despair and longing and love. War is nasty; war is fun. War is thrilling; war is drudgery. War makes you a man; war makes you dead.”

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield

Steven Pressfield’s novel about the battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC is a classic piece of historical fiction that contains a seemingly endless trove of truisms that speak especially to the warrior class. The novel is on the Marine Corps Commandant’s Professional Reading List and is taught at the US Military Academy at West Point and the US Naval Academy. Here are just a few of the book’s countless standout passages:

“When a warrior fights not for himself, but for his brothers, when his most passionately sought goal is neither glory nor his own life’s preservation, but to spend his substance for them, his comrades, not to abandon them, not to prove unworthy of them, then his heart truly has achieved contempt for death, and with that he transcends himself and his actions touch the sublime.”

“Here is what you do, friends. Forget country. Forget king. Forget wife and children and freedom. Forget every concept, however noble, that you imagine you fight for here today. Act for this alone: for the man who stands at your shoulder. He is everything, and everything is contained within him. That is all I know.”

“The secret shame of the warrior, the knowledge within his own heart that he could have done better, done more, done it more swiftly or with less self-preserving hesitation; this censure, always most pitiless when directed against oneself, gnawed unspoken and unrelieved at the men’s guts. No decoration or prize of valor, not victory itself, could quell it entire.”

East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Blood Meridian (or The Evening Redness in the West) by Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy is one of America’s greatest novelists. Known for his dense, lyrical prose; dark, heady themes; and disdain for commas, McCarthy is a literary powerhouse, and Blood Meridian is one of his most revered novels. The book’s primary antagonist, Judge Holden, is easily one of the creepiest, most evil villains ever conceived. Archetypically speaking, “The Judge” is literally Satan. He is a complete sociopath, but also a literal genius whose affinity for killing and war is matched by his enthusiasm for waxing philosophical. In one scene from the novel, he sits around a campfire with his band of Old West mercenaries and preaches his own gospel of war in an old-school dialectic whose efficacy is slightly unnerving.

“It makes no difference what men think of war. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other way … [War] endures because young men love it and old men love it in them. Those that fought, those that did not … War is the truest form of divination. It is the testing of one’s will and the will of another within that larger will which because it binds them is therefore forced to select. War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god.”

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

East of Eden is — in my not-so-humble opinion — one of the greatest novels ever written. Steinbeck considered it his greatest work, and it’s hands-down my favorite book. It’s a truly transcendent work of fiction.

While it’s not necessarily a war novel, East of Eden does deal with the topics of military service, war, and its aftermath, and Steinbeck’s prose shines in those sections. In one early scene, Cyrus Trask tells his son Adam what to expect before he ships off to the Army:

“I’ll have you know that a soldier is the most holy of all humans because he is the most tested — most tested of all. I’ll try to tell you. Look now — in all of history men have been taught that killing of men is an evil thing not to be countenanced. Any man who kills must be destroyed because this is a great sin, maybe the worst sin we know. And then we take a soldier and put murder in his hands, and we say to him, ‘Use it well, use it wisely.’ We put no checks on him. Go out and kill as many of a certain kind or classification of your brothers as you can. And we will reward you for it because it is a violation of your early training.”

Steinbeck has a great deal more to say about soldiering, and all of it is incredibly poignant and “True,” but if you want more literary awesomeness, you’ll have to go read (or reread) the novel. Same goes for the others. They are all worth the time.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

What I wish I knew before marrying my military spouse

Getting married can be one of the most exciting times in one’s life, and marrying someone who serves is no different. That said, marrying into the military lifestyle can often come with an adjustment period. Ten military spouses agreed to speak candidly about aspects of military life – from moving to education – that they wish they would have known before marrying their spouse.


Friendship

“I wish I knew that friendship would be so, so hard. And that the people I truly view as friends are never close because we move away. Yes, I knew we’d move. But after restarting my life four times now, I am really struggling to make friends and have my own tribe because it’s so much effort. And at some duty stations, it’s great. Others are terrible and you just never really connect with anyone the entire time (or you do and they of course move one second later). I feel like a lot of people won’t be my friend, because they know I will leave too. I also wish I knew that most of the country does not understand our lifestyle, like, at all.”
– Melissa Sheridan, Air Force spouse

“Be diligent in finding your people – however many that may be for you – and you’ll thrive. Above all else, you will experience the best and worst in the world, but your mindset is everything.”
– Missy Moore, Army spouse

Lifestyle

“Life can be a real adventure if you stay open minded and flexible to new people, places and cultures! In my wildest dreams I would have never imagined where this path has led my husband and I. From meeting in Honduras while stationed there, getting stationed in an amazing area of Texas to living in a tropical paradise in Hawaii – just bizarre in all the most amazing ways!”
– Katie Whitehurst, Air Force reservist and Army spouse

“I’ve never felt more supported than in this community, but I’ve also never felt so alone. Sometimes you can’t wait for that PCS to roll around and others you absolutely dread leaving a place that feels more like home than anywhere else. I wish I’d known that grief can include the giant loss you feel when you are forced to leave a place and people you love. I wish I’d known the guilt I would feel for not giving my children roots.”
– Chelsea Coulston, Navy spouse

“It’s OK to find a new home and you are going to find friendships that are more meaningful than any in your life prior.”
– Jaci Greggs, Army spouse

“Accept that nearly nothing will go according to plan. Write plans down in pencil and buy the refundable tickets! Dates, missions, locations, etc., change often and with little notice.”
– Alex Fernandez Rubio, Army spouse

“I didn’t expect that we would have a bunch of curtains that will never fit in the next house! I also didn’t expect to love the adventure so much. Military life truly is that. It’s hard, yes, but it’s also allowed me to see the world from a different perspective. Having a baby abroad was an unexpected surprise blessing that we really enjoyed! I also didn’t expect how intense the stress levels would be. Stress that isn’t what the average person experiences—like traffic—stress that not only cripples the military member, but cripples the entire family both physically and emotionally.”
– Caroline Potter, Navy spouse

Education

“I appreciate the college opportunity offered to me as a spouse of an enlisted soldier and I wish more spouses knew about and took advantage of the MyCAA program.”
– Jenn Richardson, Army spouse

Career

“I got married at 25. I had no idea at that point how important having a career would be to me, and that maintaining a career would be nearly impossible as a military spouse. We end up taking a backseat to our spouse’s career. It’s hard personally, professionally, and frankly, financially. The military does not prioritize helping spouses [who have] careers maintain them.”
– Julie Yaste, Navy spouse

Wellness

“I wish I would have known how little the military actually cared about the physical and mental health of my spouse. After 15 years, we have realized that it’s all a numbers game and about how much they can get out of their members without much regard for the life they have to live after service. I don’t think it would have changed my husband’s mind regarding his career but I would have approached a lot of things within his job differently regarding health.”
– Kylie Martin, Navy spouse

“I wish I had known that my husband would be treated like [a] machine whose mental and physical health doesn’t matter. I wish I had known that the military doesn’t care about individuals, just the overall result and the ability to get results as quickly as possible.”
– Hannah O’Melia Sherriff, Navy spouse

Your Advice for New Military Spouses Facing Their First Deployment

We asked our audience what advice they had for new military spouses facing their first deployment. With hundreds of responses from military spouses from all walks of military life, there is no shortage of support out there for you! Here are some of our favorite responses.

  • Power of Attorney and do NOT listen to all of the freaking horror stories some of the other spouses may impart. Your spouse is not their spouse or their friend’s best friend’s spouse. Have faith in your spouse instead of the b.s. stories. Brush off the gossip and its mouthpiece. Most of all, take time out for you… mind body and soul. You’re strong and you’ve got this. – Holly M.
  • An amazing spouse told me, “Count paychecks. Because 2 a month is way better than trying to count down 180+ days.” Definitely helped! – Caitlin M.
  • Have a candid discussion with both sides of the family about what to expect/not to expect as well as what is helpful/hurtful. Examples: best ways to stay in touch, care package ideas, why he/she can’t just come home for special occasions, whether or not RR is allowed and the process, things always change, etc. – Jane T.
  • Make goals, start a hobby, go back to school. Take care of yourself. Make time for self care. Talk about your spouse being gone, especially with your kids. Routine, routine (whether you have kiddos or not). Think out of the box for friends, we are a diverse community. Remember to send boxes and little things (I am horrible at this and after four deployments I slack) but I know how much my spouse appreciates a piece of home. It will feel like autopilot sometimes and that’s okay. Being sad is okay. Check with all your on post services! I was so young the first time I had no idea all the things I could use like MYCAA scholarships, and spouse get togethers (for parents and child free spouses!) just know you’re not alone. It never gets easier and every tour will have its struggles but you have tools at your disposal; learn to use them, and yes have a POA. – Andrea R.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.