A brief history of coffee in the US military - We Are The Mighty
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A brief history of coffee in the US military

Americans throwing tea in Boston Harbor was the start of our national movement toward the dark and bitter nectar of the gods. This is why tea time is gone and why we Americans take coffee breaks now.


Coffee houses were the center of political discussion during the American Revolution. These days, few things are as inextricably linked with the United States and its military as coffee.

A brief history of coffee in the US military
Coffee: the real Arsenal of Democracy.

In the Civil War, coffee was the only fresh food troops on the battlefield could get. It might even have been the difference maker in the outcome of the war, if morale means anything at all.

In the South , a pound of coffee could run you upwards of $1000 in today’s dollars. Confederate troops desperately used things like roasted corn, rye, okra seeds, sweet potatoes, acorns, and peanuts as substitutes. One substitute, Chicory, is still popular in New Orleans.

Still, if you’ve ever had a “coffee” made from one of these, you know it’s just not the same.

A brief history of coffee in the US military

When future-President William McKinley was 19, he served in the Civil War, hauling vats of hot coffee so front line soldiers could get a cup and soldier on. This story was retold several times during his presidential campaign and proved how everyone in the war felt about coffee.

There is even a William McKinley Coffee Break monument in Maryland.

A brief history of coffee in the US military
Hot coffee makes ration bread seem ok. That’s how amazing coffee is.

Back then, troops had to roast and grind their own beans. To make coffee easier to make, the Army introduced the first instant coffee. Called “Essence of Coffee,” it was basically a coffee reduction with sugar and milk added at the factory. All the troops had to do was pop a can open and add hot water.

Unfortunately, crooked entrepreneurs often sold the government spoiled milk, so the Essence not only tasted terrible, it caused a lot of bowel problems to boot. The government quickly switched back to the real stuff.

A brief history of coffee in the US military

Coffee even earned its nickname via the military. President Woodrow Wilson’s U.S. Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels banned alcohol on ships in the U.S. Navy from the outset of World War I.

Coffee filled the void left by the outgoing rum and wine. Sailors were not pleased with the change and referred to the replacement as a “Cup of Joseph,” which soon became a Cup o’ Joe.

A brief history of coffee in the US military
Somebody get me a coffee pot as big as a WWI field kitchen.

 

Coffee even helped win World War II. U.S. troops created one of the world’s most popular coffee beverages, the Caffé Americano, by watering down their Italian espresso shots – which was too strong for their taste palate.

A brief history of coffee in the US military
Also it comes in those tiny sissy cups.

A brief history of coffee in the US military
Marines make Coffee on Iwo Jima

A brief history of coffee in the US military
Bring back donut rations.

The Korean War saw coffee being brewed just as much as any other conflict.

A brief history of coffee in the US military

A brief history of coffee in the US military
Frontline coffee delivery. Amazing.

In Vietnam, G.I.s made coffee in the field using C-4 explosives as a heat source, as they did with all their c-ration cooking.

A brief history of coffee in the US military
Lifer juice in ‘Nam.

You might have noticed women with the Red Cross serving coffee at the front throughout the 20th century.

A brief history of coffee in the US military

These days, coffee is one of the most popular things civilians send U.S. troops deployed to war zones.

A brief history of coffee in the US military

A brief history of coffee in the US military
A brief history of coffee in the US military

If you’re the first one at your unit in the morning and you didn’t brew coffee, everyone hates you. No one wants to walk all the way to Green Beans.

U.S. troops love coffee so much, many got out and started their own coffee companies. Check out Lock ‘n Load Java, Veteran Coffee Roasters, Black Rifle Coffee Company, and Ranger Coffee.

September 29th is National Coffee Day (as if coffee only deserved one day of recognition).

Articles

US think tank says Israel planned to use a nuclear bomb in 1967

JERUSALEM (AP) — A leading Washington think tank has detailed what it says was a secret Israeli plan to detonate an atomic bomb in the event it faced defeat in the 1967 Mideast war.


The operation never took off. But details about the doomsday scenario, in which Israel planned to set off a nuclear weapon atop a remote mountain in the Sinai Peninsula, shed new light on the fearful climate at the time. It also could undermine Israel’s decades-long policy of nuclear ambiguity.

The Nuclear Proliferation International History Project of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars unveiled a website Monday devoted to “Operation Shimshon,” the codename for what it said was the hastily arranged plan.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry had no comment.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Justice Department will fight registering women for the draft

Early on in 2019, two plaintiffs representing the National Coalition for Men sued the U.S. Government in Texas on the grounds that registering only males for the draft was unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Gray Miller ruled in their favor, saying the males-only Selective Service rules should now extend to American women within 30 days of their 18th birthday.

The Trump Administration just filed an appeal to defend the all-male draft rules.


A brief history of coffee in the US military

Trump’s Justice Department called ordering women to register for Selective Service “particularly problematic,” saying it would force women to register for the draft through a judicial ruling before Congress could actually address the issue. The DoJ is essentially saying the court is legislating instead of the Congress.

The Justice Department said it’s not for a court to decide what change in policy should be adopted without any involvement by the political branches and the military.

“If the Court’s declaratory judgment is upheld, it should be left to Congress, in consultation with the Executive Branch and military officials, to determine how to revise the registration system in response,” writes Justice Department lawyer Michael Gerardi.

A brief history of coffee in the US military

President Trump’s Selective Service Card.

The two men who filed the initial lawsuit argued that their chances of being sent to war were higher because women were exempt from the draft. The judge’s ruling means that women will either sign on for the draft or Congress may have to get rid of the draft altogether, something the Trump Administration says is not an option as it would compromise the country’s readiness and ability to respond to a military crisis.

When Selective Service was instituted in 1980, then-President Jimmy Carter wanted females to register, but Congress did not include mandatory registration for women. In the past, courts have upheld the all-male draft, arguing that since men were the only ones who were able to fill combat roles, then the draft was acceptably all-male. Since President Obama allowed women to serve in those roles, the door for changing Selective Service registration opened once more.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The oldest living Marine just turned 105

On July 31, 2020, the town of Stockton, California held a drive-by birthday celebration for a distinguished resident of The Oaks at Inglewood assisted living facility. A parade of local residents and first responders turned out to greet Marine Maj. Bill White a very happy 105 birthday.


A brief history of coffee in the US military

Maj. White in January (Pegasus Senior Living)

“Feels just as good as it did at 104,” Maj. White said.

The outpouring of fanfare and support were a testament to Maj. White’s positive spirit and service to the nation. For his family members, who haven’t been able to visit him much because of the coronavirus pandemic, the celebration was a touching display.

“It’s very heartwarming and very just—it does get to you that there are so many people that love him and appreciate him for his service,” said Maj. White’s daughter Mary Huston.

Maj. White enlisted in the Marine Corps in October 1934. Before the outbreak of WWII, he was stationed in Shanghai. During the war, he fought on Iwo Jima where he earned a Purple Heart for wounds suffered from a grenade. Maj. White continued his service after the war, spending 30 years in the Corps.

A brief history of coffee in the US military

Maj. Bill White in his Marine dress white uniform (Bill White)

Maj. White’s dedication to service continued after the military. He served as a police officer and started a family. One of his favorite hobbies is scrapbooking.

“This started way back,” Maj. White said. “My mother, parents taught me to conserve and observe memories as much as possible.”

Maj. White made headlines back in February when he put out a call asking for Valentine’s Day cards to add to his collection of memories. He launched “Operation Valentine” the month before with a goal of 100 cards. By the end, Maj. White’s call had gone viral on social media and he received more than half-a-million cards and gifts from around the world including a special note from NASA and President Trump.

Like any good Marine, Maj. White keeps his uniform in good order and likes to wear it for special occasions. Looking sharp in his dress blues, Maj. White revealed that the secret to his longevity is keeping his mind sharp by reading. “Right now I’m trying for 106,” he said. “One at a time.”


Articles

Of course, ‘Happy Hour’ started with bored sailors

Shortly before the outbreak of World War I, U.S. troops occupied the Mexican port at Veracruz. The occupation came at a cost to both sides: the Americans lost 20 sailors over the course of killing 150 Mexicans.


The violence leveled off after a few weeks, and life in the city became relatively routine. War correspondents traveling with the U.S. Atlantic Fleet became bored with the calm and started to focus on the troops’ everyday life in the hopes that that might yield something their readership would respond to. One of these headlines was “The ‘Happy Hour’ Aboard Ship Makes Tars Contented.

A brief history of coffee in the US military

According to the Early Sports Pop Culture History Blog, one well-meaning Navy officer, Lieutenant Jonas Ingram, originated the practice of “Happy Hour” aboard his ship, the USS Arkansas. Since the Arkansas was the flagship of Admiral Charles Badger, the commander of the Atlantic Fleet, officers encouraged its spread to the other ships of the fleet and into the ships of the wider U.S. Navy. The practice would carry on throughout the coming world wars.

A brief history of coffee in the US military
Admiral Badger doesn’t give a sh*t.

The Arkansas‘ Happy Hours included athletic competitions (usually boxing), dancing, and a band while at sea. The enlisted men on board couldn’t drink, as per Navy regulations since 1899 (though officers could). In port, dancing girls from local bars were the center of the fun. The sailors ashore had easy access to liquor. Navy regulations at the time only prohibited the sale or issue of booze aboard ship, not the consumption on land.

A brief history of coffee in the US military

When sailors and soldiers returned home from the Great War, they introduced the idea of “Happy Hour” into the American vernacular. The idea of “happy hour” as we know it came from the use of the term in a “Saturday Evening Post” article in 1959, entitled The Men Who Chase Missiles. The article was about U.S. Air Force airmen working at remote island outposts in the Caribbean and how they saved money by not having anywhere to spend it… unless they spent it all at the local watering hole.

“Except for those who spend too much during “happy hour” at the bar – and there are few of these – the money mounts up fast.”

The USS Arkansas, once a state-of-the-art modern battleship, found itself obsolete at the end of World War II and did its country one last service – this time in a more of an academic research role.

A brief history of coffee in the US military

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Marine Corps tech looks like it’s from ‘Star Wars’

The Marine Corps is integrating new technologies into an existing handheld GPS targeting system that helps Marines locate adversaries on the battlefield.

Fielded in 2017, the Common Laser Range Finder-Integrated Capability is a handheld target location system that uses an eye-safe laser range finder and algorithms to determine a target’s location. It then transmits that location to the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System or another fire support system.

Marine Corps Systems Command’s Ground Combat Element Systems began an in-production engineering change proposal — or ECP — process to integrate an enhanced digital magnetic capability into the CLRF-IC. The configuration change will reduce the amount of time and movement required by Marines when using the system.


A brief history of coffee in the US military

A U.S. Marine with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa 19.1, Marine Forces Europe and Africa, uses a Common Laser Range Finder-Integrated Capability system to locate notional targets during a close-air-support training event with the British Royal Air Force at Holbeach Range, England, Feb. 20, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Katelyn Hunter)

“Previously, the magnetic effects of an environment would cause the operator to go through a series of sitting and standing, stepping to the left and to the right in order to calibrate the system,” said Jeff Nebel, MCSC’s Fire Support Coordination team lead. “What we’re integrating is a new digital magnetic compass so the operator can calibrate the system basically the same way you do your cellphone — just rotate it left to right, and up and down a few times.”

A brief history of coffee in the US military

A U.S. Marine with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa 19.1, Marine Forces Europe and Africa, uses a Common Laser Range Finder-Integrated Capability system to locate notional targets during a close-air-support training event with the British Royal Air Force at Holbeach Range, England, Feb. 20, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Katelyn Hunter)

MCSC is also integrating a capability to export video or still-pictures from the CLRF-IC to a target handoff system, enabling Marines to transmit photographs of targets to Marine Corps headquarters, which could help identify enemies.

“We did an in-production ECP, and we’ll begin fielding the enhanced CLRF-IC system in the next couple of months,” said Nebel.

The first enhanced CLRF-IC devices are slated to field later this year, and Nebel projects the system will reach Full Operational Capability by early 2021.

“We took a short pause from our fielding so we could incorporate the in-production ECP, and that pushed back our FOC,” said Nebel. “But now we’re going to be able to get a more capable system out to Marines.”

​CLRF-IC popular among Marines

The original CLRF system fielded in 2012. Back then, the system incorporated the common laser range finder and a thermal laser spot imager. Five years later, an updated, lightweight version — the CLRF-IC — was introduced to Marines.

A brief history of coffee in the US military

U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa 19.1, Marine Forces Europe and Africa, locate simulated enemy positions during a close-air-support training event with the British Royal Air Force at Holbeach Range, England, Feb. 20, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Katelyn Hunter)

Feedback on the CLRF-IC from Marines has been positive, Nebel said.

“Most of the Marines like how light the system is,” said Nebel. “It’s significantly lighter than the previous system.”

Paul Knight, lead systems engineer for the CLRF-IC, echoed Nebel’s sentiments. A lighter system reduces the amount of weight the Marine Air-Ground Task Force must carry on the battlefield, Knight said, which allows them to haul additional gear if necessary.

“If you’re subtracting weight in one place, that means Marines can carry extra gear that previously would have overburdened them,” said Knight. “The CLRF-IC reduces that weight significantly.”

A brief history of coffee in the US military

U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa 19.1 and Marine Rotational Force-Europe 19.1, Marine Forces Europe and Africa, practice calling-for-fire during a close-air-support training event with the British Royal Air Force at Holbeach Range, England, Feb. 20, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Katelyn Hunter)

The CLRF-IC also transmits information faster than the original version, said Knight. It features day and night cameras, a rangefinder and celestial positioning precision so Marines can use the system in various weather conditions.

MCSC also created an application that contains the system’s technical and operator manuals, so joint fires observers and joint terminal attack controllers can access information electronically instead of carrying printed manuals to the field.

“Marines can use this application for troubleshooting, operator maintenance or training,” said Nebel. “We’ve done a lot of things to make the system more effective.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A submarine missing since World War II was just found off Hawaii

A wreck-hunting organization located a sunken World War II submarine off the coast of Oahu.


STEP Ventures found the USS S-28, which sunk in 1944 with 49 crew members aboard during training, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Thursday.

The sub was found in 8,700 feet (2,650 meters) of water.

The organization said the sub is “considered to be one of the most important lost ships in the central Pacific.” It was found with autonomous underwater vehicles and a remotely operated vehicle.

The sub was in service during World War II. It initially was sent to Alaska to defend the Aleutian Islands against a possible Japanese invasion.

Also Read: US Navy helps search for submarine lost for nearly a week

It sunk during training after making contact with a US Coast Guard ship. But a reason for why it sunk was never determined. Because of the depth, salvage operations were not possible, the Navy said.

“At no time during the approach or the ensuing sound search were distress signals from S-28 seen or heard, nor was any sound heard which indicated an explosion in S-28,” the Naval History and Heritage Command said.

The armed forces’ Court of Inquiry said the sub lost depth control “from either a material casualty or an operating error of personnel, or both, and that depth control was never regained. The exact cause of the loss of S-28 cannot be determined.”

Data from the organization’s find will be shared with the Navy to help determine the cause of the loss.

Articles

Air Force just released new details about the B-1 strike on Libya

A brief history of coffee in the US military
A B-1B Lancer takes off from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., March 27, 2011, on a mission in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Marc I. Lane)


Five years ago, a phone rang in the 28th Bomb Wing vice commander’s office and made history.

Less than 72 hours later, on March 27, 2011, more than 1,100 maintenance personnel launched four B-1B Lancer bombers from the Ellsworth Air Force Base flightline in blizzard conditions to support Operation Odyssey Dawn. It was the first time the aircraft had ever launched from a continental U.S. location in support of combat operations.

Two B-1s and their eight-person crew would continue on and strike targets in Libya; however, the mission required communication and personnel working round-the-clock to be executed.

“I was about halfway through the planning process (of a training sortie), and rumors were making their way around about base leadership convening at the command post,” said Maj. Matthew, a weapons system officer for the operation’s lead B-1. “At about 1 p.m., I was called to the command post with a pilot in my squadron. We were both qualified mission commanders, which clued me in that whatever was going on was likely a real-world event.”

Matthew and many aviators within the 34th and 37th bomb squadrons, as well as maintenance and munitions personnel, were briefed that preparations were underway to organize a strike mission more than 6,000 miles away in Libya.

In less than 20 hours, the conventional munitions element built approximately 145 munitions, enough to load seven B-1s. On the aviation side of the base, aircrews were preparing for takeoff.

“We had the pre-brief, and flew a practice profile in the simulator as well to make sure everyone on the crew had the opportunity to practice the bomb runs,” said Maj. Christopher, co-pilot for the operation’s lead B-1. “The biggest thing going through my mind was trying to absorb every bit of information so that we didn’t mess it up.”

This specific weapons build was the first time many had ever built bombs that would leave a CONUS location to bomb targets.

“Seeing these guys doing their job for real, I was proud of them. I couldn’t have asked for a better crew at the time,” said Master Sgt. Matthew, the 28th Munitions Squadron munitions control section chief.

Maintenance personnel and aircrew were executing their duties in the worst imaginable weather. It was roughly 35 degrees outside with heavy fog and pilots on the runway could only see ahead one hash-mark.

Maj. Brian, a weapons system officer for the operation’s lead B-1, confessed to slipping multiple times on his way to transportation vehicles, while Maj. Matthew added the most memorable part of the mission was takeoff.

Brian said it was an honor to be selected as one of the crew members, and that he felt it was his duty to reward the faith previous commanders put in him by executing the mission to a weapons officer level.

B-1s arrived in the Libya area of operations 12 hours after takeoff and the crews checked in with command and control. Many aspects had changed between pre-brief and check-in, but the crews divvied up targets and went in for their first strike.

“The mission was the deepest strike made into Libya during OOD, which kept us in hostile airspace for over an hour and a half,” Maj. Matthew said. “(Previous missile strikes) alerted the enemy to our presence, and we immediately saw anti-aircraft artillery fire coming from the ground. It was the first time any of us had seen AAA.”

Poorly aimed artillery fire didn’t concern the aviators, who hit their marks and recovered at a forward operating location. Twenty-four hours later, the second launch began. Nearly 100 targets were hit during the two days.

At only 72 hours, the mission marked a significant milestone, not only for Ellsworth AFB, but also for the B-1 fleet as a whole.

Maj. Matthew added the mission solidified the B-1 and its aircrew members’ role as a flexible, rapidly-deployable strategic asset. Brian agreed that it showed the skill, dedication and professionalism of the 28th Maintenance Group.

“The fact they were able to generate five green jets, build 145 munitions, all while in the middle of a snow storm on only two days’ notice still amazes me to this day,” Brian said. “We train every day to do precisely that, but the maintainers and weapons troops can’t simulate extreme weather and harsh temperatures. They were the MVPs of Odyssey Dawn in my opinion.”

Master Sgt. Matthew, who led the munitions crew, added the lessons learned from the operation are always an example he brings up when training his fellow munitions Airmen.

“It’s hard to overstate how important the ground support teams were to our success,” Maj. Matthew said. “Without all of the support agencies, from maintenance to airfield operations, transportation, etc., we wouldn’t have been nearly as successful.”

According to mission planners, the B-1 was the only aircraft that could meet the demands of the mission, such as the timeframe and the number of weapons required to hit that many targets.

“Executing the strike proved the aircraft is capable of holding any target in the world at risk, at any time,” said Maj. Donavon, commander of the operation’s lead B-1.

Editor’s note: Last names were removed due to security concerns.

(h/t: Stephen Trimble at flightglobal.com)

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Navy SEALs’ ‘4 laws of combat’ are reshaping business

Jocko Willink and Leif Babin have proven that the leadership principles they learned as Navy SEALs are just as effective in the business world.

Willink was the head of US Navy SEAL Team 3 Task Unit Bruiser, the most highly decorated US special operations unit of the Iraq War, and Babin was one of the two platoon leaders who reported to him. After their service, Willink and Babin founded Echelon Front in 2010 as a way to bring what they learned in the military to the business world.

They’ve spent the past eight years working with more than 400 businesses and putting on conferences.


The “laws of combat” that they developed in the military and passed on to other SEALs are straightforward, but also need to be implemented carefully, Willink and Babin told Business Insider in an interview about their new book, “The Dichotomy of Leadership.”

Below, Willink introduces a concept and, in keeping with the theme of their book, Babin explains how each principle could be taken too far.

1. Cover and move

“You’ve got to look out for other people on your team and you’ve got to look out for other teams within your unit,” Willink said. It’s about not getting so focused on your own responsibilities that you forget that you are part of a team depending on you, or that your team is one of many in an organization that gives these teams a shared mission.

Taken too far: Babin added that “you could spend so much time trying to help someone else on the team that you’re stepping on their toes and they get defensive. And you’re actually creating a worse relationship with them as a result.” Mutual respect, therefore, is crucial.

2. Keep things simple

As the leader of Task Unit Bruiser, Willink learned that a plan that may look impressive to his superiors, with its detail and complexity, would be meaningless if not every member of his team could follow along. A plan must be communicated to the team so that every member knows their responsibilities.

Taken too far: That said, Babin explained, keeping things simple does not mean omitting explanations. Leaders must recognize that the “why” behind a plan is as important as the “how.”

3. Prioritize and execute

“You’re going to have multiple problems and all those problems are going to occur at the same time,” Willink said. “And when that happens, instead of trying to handle all those problems at the same time, what you have to do is pick the biggest problem that you have and focus your efforts, your personnel, and your resources on that.”

A brief history of coffee in the US military

Jocko Willink.

Taken too far: Setting clear priorities is critical, Babin said, “yet you can get target fixated, and you get so focused on the highest priority task, that you’re not able to see when a new priority emerges and you have to re-adjust.” Therefore, leaders are in charge of determining what is most important but do not become so attached to the initial plan that they cannot adjust.

4. Decentralize command

Willink and Babin said that they found some readers of their first book, “Extreme Ownership,” misinterpreted the thesis as meaning that they must micromanage their team in addition to accepting responsibility for everything good and bad that happens under their watch.

“As a leader on a team, you want everyone on your team to lead,” Willink said. “And in order to make that happen, you’ve got to release some of that authority down to the lower ranks, so that they can make quick, decisive decisions out on the battlefield.”

Taken too far: With that in mind, Babin said, there are situations “where the leader doesn’t understand what’s going on in the front lines. And they’re too detached, they’re too far back, they’re not able to lead their team, and that results in failure.”

Leaders must set the pace for their team and fully own that role, but still learn to trust each of their team members to make their own decisions when the situation calls for it.

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

Articles

‘You’re Really Pretty For Being In The Army’

A brief history of coffee in the US military


“This is great – you can help counteract the stereotype that only big bull dykes join the Army just by being there,” the recruiter said (yes, really).

That was one of my first introductions to how much my appearance would constantly be noticed – and openly discussed by others – as a female soldier. I had signed up to do Hometown Recruiting (between initial entry training and going to your first permanent duty station, you can spend a week helping local recruiters out for a few hours every day without getting charged leave, while still having your evenings free). Instead of going back to my hometown, I’d decided to visit a friend in New York City, and the station I was assigned to apparently thought my key asset was not looking the way they apparently assumed lesbians look.

Later in my military career, people regularly told me, “You’re really pretty for being in the Army.” This baffling pseudo-compliment made me uncomfortable, and I developed a joking stock response: “What, all the pretty girls join the Air Force?” … while at the same time wondering if what they meant was that as civilians go, I’m ugly. It was further confirmation that at least initially, my appearance was a key part of how people would form opinions of me as a soldier.

Recently, an internal email from the female officer heading an Army study on how to integrate women into previously closed ground combat jobs and units to the public affairs office was leaked and much of it published by Politico. In it, she urged that public affairs personnel choose photos of “average looking women” to illustrate generic stories. I’m not thrilled with all her word choices, but I’m worried that her core message has been obscured by quibbles over terminology and the relish media outlets and pundits take in trying to turn everything into a major story. If she had wrapped her message in more obfuscating language – perhaps saying women who do not seem to be trying to conform to modern beauty norms by use of appearance-enhancing efforts instead of the shorthand pretty, maybe it wouldn’t have led to the same degree of public outcry. (I also empathize with her on a personal level: I’m not careful in how I phrase messages that are not meant to be public and certainly wouldn’t want some of them leaked!)

The heart of her argument fell much farther down in the story: compared to photos where women troops are obviously wearing makeup, photos of female soldiers with mud on their faces “sends a much different message—one of women willing to do the dirty work necessary in order to get the job done.”

This immediately resonated with me based on my own experiences. While I was deployed to Iraq, I got a few days of RR in Qatar. While there, I went shopping, bought makeup, got a massage, and drank a few (carefully rationed!) beers. Upon my return to Mosul, Bruce Willis and his band (who knew?) came to our FOB on a USO tour. On a whim, I wore the mascara from my RR – it had been nice to feel feminine for a few days.

Guys asked me about it for weeks. All the male soldiers in my unit noticed I’d worn makeup. They commented on it. It changed how they looked at me and thought about me. And they all knew me, had known me for months or years already.

So when it comes to Infantrymen who haven’t served with women before, do I think that this picture might make them think differently about women joining the combat arms than these? Yes. Yes I do.

OK, I purposefully chose extreme examples. It’s not always that cut-and-dry. When my friends and I were discussing this story on social media, we argued about whether or not women in various photos were wearing makeup (yes, really). It isn’t always easy to tell, and for many women, makeup is a fraught issue. I know women who will never be seen without makeup. While I was in Advanced Individual Training at Goodfellow Air Force, one of my suitemates got up an hour before we had to do physical fitness training to put on full makeup. Full makeup – to go run for miles – in the heat of a Texas summer. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. (Recently reading this piece on indirect aggression among young women made me think hard about my negative reaction and wonder if I’d react the same way now that I’m a decade older…)

Part of the kerfuffle about this, to me, comes down to the problems of real versus ideal.

In my ideal world, the way I look is meaningless, whether I wear makeup doesn’t matter – I’ll be judged on how competent I am. But in the real world, I have to be aware of the fact that (in normal settings) wearing makeup “increases people’s perceptions of a woman’s likability, her competence and (provided she does not overdo it) her trustworthiness.” So I’ve worn makeup to every job interview I’ve ever gone on. Once I’ve gotten the jobs, there have days I skipped wearing makeup to the office – I can work toward making my ideal world a reality by demonstrating to my colleagues that my appearance and competence aren’t connected. But the important days, when I wanted to make a good first impression? I lived in the real world.

In my ideal world, the way people dress is unimportant. But in the real world, I wore a suit on my last job interview, too – and so did my husband, because this isn’t just about gender. (Although apparently if either of us had applied to work in the tech world, it may have benefitted us NOT to wear suits.) You meet the social norms of the world you want to inhabit, and then you can work to change it from the inside. But if you thumb your nose too heavily at the mores of the organization you want to join, you risk not getting that opportunity.

Almost all of my women veteran friends who posted about this story on social media seemed (to me) angry that the ideal world hasn’t yet materialized, pissed off that people think about women’s appearances at all, irritated that men in the military might let something as trivial as eyeliner distract from the far more important question of whether or not a woman soldier can accomplish the mission effectively. I get that.

But several of the male troops and vets that I know said they got COL Arnhart’s point and agreed with the core message on at least some level (while agreeing the wording was suboptimal). I imagine part of this is that they aren’t triggered in the same way by words like “pretty” and “ugly,” which can be tremendously emotionally charged for women – and that may give them the space to more clearly acknowledge the real world we still inhabit. (Although one of them less charitably posited, “When we see a picture featuring an attractive female soldier, it undermines the message mostly because we’re all very immature.”)

All signs currently indicate that the Army will be opening ground combat arms jobs to women (I’m not as sure about the Marines). This is a tremendous step forward for both women and the Army. COL Arnhart, who has since stepped down, was – in my take of the situation – urging a couple of colleagues to be mindful of the real world we still inhabit while setting the stage for those women, in order to slightly diminish the obstacles that will be awaiting them. Those women, by demonstrating their competence, strength, and abilities, will help accomplish the mission, regardless of how they look – and that will help drag the ideal world once step closer to reality.

Kayla Williams is an Army war vet and author of “Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the US Army.” This article originally appeared on her website.

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These daring defectors turned the Vietcong against itself

In 1966, the Marines in Vietnam found themselves with an unusual opportunity – to turn the tables on the enemy.


This came by way of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese defectors who were willing to be retrained to work and fight with American combat units. In exchange, they would receive better treatment and pay than they had at the hands of the communists.

This program dubbed “Chieu Hoi” (translated as “open arms”) offered defecting Viet Cong and North Vietnamese amnesty, healthcare, money, and employment assistance. After barely surviving under communist oppression, many were more than willing to give it up.

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Kit Carson scouts were recruited from Vietcong defectors for their knowledge of the terrain and the local population. (Photo from AirborneOCS.com)

These incentives were enough to convince thousands of Viet Cong to desert and join the Americans. Due to their inherent knowledge of the terrain and the locals, the Marines called them Kit Carson scouts after the famous American frontiersman.

To the Vietnamese they were Hoi Chanh – or “one who has returned.”

To prepare for missions with American forces, communist defectors first had to pass training to become Kit Carson scouts.

For the 3rd Marine Division, an early proponent of the Kit Carson program, this training took place at Quang Tri City. Sergeant Maj. Tran Van Tranh, a communist infiltrator who defected when he saw the good life in South Vietnam, led the school there.

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Recruiting leaflet for the Chieu Hoi program. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

At the school he lectured on mines, booby-traps, snipers, and ambushes. And how to detect and disarm each one.

In 1967, after seeing the effectiveness of the program with the Marines, U.S. commander Gen. William Westmoreland ordered all divisions to recruit and train at least 100 scouts each.

Other schools with other divisions soon followed. In the U.S. Army’s 9th Infantry Division the Hoi Chanhs became known as Tiger Scouts.

Despite their training and experience many Kit Carson Scouts lacked English language skills. This was overcome in the Marine Corps by training young Marines in the Vietnamese language prior to arriving in country. These Marines were then assigned as “handlers” to the scouts assigned to their unit.

The Kit Carson Scouts were able to perform numerous tasks that made them priceless to the American fighting men. They were able to talk to the local Vietnamese in their native language and could identify Viet Cong guerrillas in the villages.

Through their training and experience they became adept at spotting booby traps – often having laid some themselves – saving countless Americans from death and dismemberment.

Due to the nature of their work and being out in front of American forces the Kit Carson scouts often found themselves engaged in combat as well. Relying on their guerrilla instincts and proper military training from the Americans, they excelled.

Many were recommended for awards for their bravery.

The scouts proved their value early on. In a short period of time in late 1966 the few Kit Carson Scouts assigned to the Marines were credited with nearly 50 enemy kills and the detection of nearly 20 mines, booby-traps, or tunnels.

Another scout led Marines through unfamiliar territory, at night, allowing them to surprise and capture a 15-man contingent of Viet Cong.

In another instance, a scout on patrol with Recon Marines fought savagely when the unit was ambushed. His suppressive fire in the face of overwhelming odds drove the enemy back. He then located a suitable landing zone for extraction and single-handedly carried two wounded Marines there. It was only after he fell, exhausted, while working to clear the landing zone that the Marines realized he had been shot three times but had never stopped.

The usefulness of the Kit Carson Scouts did not stop on the battlefield though.

They were equally as valuable in civil affairs and psychological operations due to their understanding of the local population and the enemy. Most importantly, they could help recruit more Viet Cong to rally to the government’s cause.

In total, over 83,000 Viet Cong were convinced to defect to South Vietnam, though only a small number would become Kit Carson Scouts.

In a paper detailing his experiences as the Officer in Charge of Kit Carson Scouts for the 3rd Marine Division Capt. William Cowan explained “the methods of effective Scout employment are restricted only by the imagination…success varies proportionally with the unit’s attitude and methods of employment.”

He gives the example of a Kit Carson Scout, Nguyen Thuong, who worked with 2nd Battalion 9th Marines. This particular scout could do it all.

In one instance Thuong discovered a well-concealed trap but because of his experience he suspected an enemy observation post in the area. His keen instinct was correct and the Marines were able to sweep through and destroy it.

In a later mission, Thuong braved enemy mortars to determine their firing position and called out the coordinates, in English, to the Marines who were able to call for fire and silence the position.

Thuong also made broadcasts for the Marines psychological operations efforts and acted as a clandestine agent in the villages around the Cam Lo artillery base. His intelligence gathering was far superior to anything the Marines could hope to accomplish on their own.

The service of men like Thuong proved invaluable to the overall war effort. By wars end over 200 Kit Carson Scouts had been killed in action out of less than 3,000 who served with the Americans.

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North Korea’s ballistic missiles aren’t as scary as you might think (yet)

North Korea’s inter-continental ballistic missiles still have a lot of work to do in order to be ready for prime time, the Defense Intelligence Agency claims. North Korea in the past has had problems getting its missiles up – but that technological hitch may not last long.


According to a report by Bloomberg News, North Korea still faces a number of “important shortfalls” in its longer-range missiles like the Taepo-dong 2 and the KN-08 inter-continental ballistic missiles. Last month, North Korea saw a failure when it attempted to launch a missile during a test.

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The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. (KCNA/Handout)

That said, senior American intelligence officials note with concern that North Korea is not letting the failures prevent a push toward developing a reliable ICBM inventory.

“North Korea has also expanded the size and sophistication of its ballistic missile forces—from close-range ballistic missiles (CRBMs) to ICBMs—and continues to conduct test launches. In 2016, North Korea conducted an unprecedented number of ballistic missile tests. Pyongyang is committed to developing a long-range, nuclear-armed missile that is capable of posing a direct threat to the United States; it has publicly displayed its road-mobile ICBMs on multiple occasions. We assess that North Korea has taken steps toward fielding an ICBM but has not flight-tested it,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in a written statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee prior to a May 11, 2017 hearing.

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Hwasong missile (North Korean variant). (Photo: KCNA)

“North Korea is poised to conduct its first ICBM flight test in 2017 based on public comments that preparations to do so are almost complete and would serve as a milestone toward a more reliable threat to the US mainland,” Coats added later in the statement.

The United States has currently deployed a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense missile battery to South Korea, and also operates MIM-104 Patriot missile batteries – systems also owned by South Korea and Japan. All three countries also have Aegis warships, capable of launching SIM-66 Standard SM-2 and RIM-161 Standard SM-3 missiles.

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USS Hopper (DDG 70) fires a RIM-161 SM-3 missile in 2009. (US Navy photo)

The United States has deployed a carrier strike group to the area around North Korea as tensions have increased.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 reasons why Vikings were just like our Marines, long before Tun Tavern

Troops today love to liken themselves to the warfighters of old — Spartans, crusaders, knights, pirates, or whatever else. It helps our troops buy into the classic warrior mentality and it makes us feel more badass. When it comes to U.S. Marines, there’s really one comparison that stands out above the rest as apt: the Vikings of the middle-ages.


I’m not going to sit here and tell you, young Marine, which historical badass you should try to emulate — you do you. But if you’re looking for some inspiration from history’s toughest customers; if you’re looking for some sea-faring, slightly-degenerate tough guys that howl for a fight, you’d do well to start your search with the Vikings.

Here’s where Vikings and modern Marines overlap:

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1. Both were masters at disembarking amphibious landing ships to fight on land

First and foremost, there are no two groups in history more feared for their ability to storm beaches and absolutely destroy everything within range than Vikings and U.S. Marines. The Vikings are famous for their sieges on Northumbria while the Marines are known for successes during the South Pacific campaign of WWII. For both groups, their presence alone is often enough to force a surrender.

But their skills on the coastline don’t discredit their ability to fight inland. Vikings, accustomed to the frigid north, fared extremely well when fighting in the Holy Lands — not too far from there was where the Marines fought in the Second Battle of Fallujah.

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Hell, one of the stories of Thor is about him basically trying to drink an entire ocean made of booze.

2. Both are known for intense post-combat partying

Another key trait of the Viking lifestyle that isn’t too far off from what happens in the average lower-enlisted barracks of any Marine Corps installation: consuming volumes of alcohol that would incapacitate mere mortals is just the pregame for Vikings and lance corporals.

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​I’m highly confident that a Jomsviking leaderwould have been completely cool with wall-to-wall counselling to solve any issues.

3. Both share a deep brotherhood with their fellow fighters

Most troops, regardless of era, become friends with the guys to their left and right, but Marines and Vikings are known for taking that brotherhood to a new level.

The Viking mercenaries, known as the Jomsvikings, followed a strict code that revolved around brotherhood among their ranks and their motto is roughly translated as, “one shield, one brotherhood.” This way of live was written into their 11 codes of conduct. It doesn’t matter who you were before you became a Jomsviking, but so as long as you’re a brother, you will not fight with each other and you will avenge another should they fall in combat. And if there was infighting, the dispute was mediated by the leadership (or chain of command).

All of these things are essentially within the UCMJ.

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Or the story of Harald “Bluetooth”… because he ate a blueberry that one time.. Yep, Vikings were creative like that.

4. Both had a penchant for giving each other nicknames

Giving someone a terrible nickname after they made a silly mistake is one of the more bizarre tidbits of Viking lore — but it is exactly what Marines still do to one another today. The platoon idiot is “boot,” the big guy in the unit is “Pvt Pyle,” and you know damn well that certain guy they call “Mad Dog” did something to earn that name.

History speaks of the famed viking warrior named Kolbeinn Butter Penis (named after his sexual exploits) and Eystein Foul-Fart (named for the noxious small that came from his ass). Hell, even Erik the Red got his name because he was a ginger — or because he was a violent sociopath at the age of ten… nobody can say for certain there.

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On the topic of Valhalla, Marines hold Tun Tavern with about the same level of respect.

5. Both believe that the older the fighter, the more terrifying the man

There’s an old, anonymous saying that’s often attributed to Viking culture:

Beware of an old man in a profession where men usually die young.

The only thing more terrifying than a 47-year-old Master Gunnery Sergeant who’s fueled entirely by alcohol, tobacco, and hatred was a 47-year-old, bearded-out berserker who’s lived in the woods for the better part of twenty years.

Unlike their contemporaries, Vikings had a special place in their groups for the older warrior men and treated their cumulative knowledge as sacred. Younger Vikings would pick their brains, trying to learn their tactics. And, at the end of the day, the old viking were said to fight even more ferociously in battle, knowing that their time was short. After all, dying sick in bed won’t get the Valkyries’ attention — only through glorious combat could they earn entry into the hall of Valhalla.

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Ah, vikings. You unruly, blood-thirsty a**holes. Some things never change.

6. Both enjoyed fighting more than anything else

The most glaringly obvious similarity between these two groups of warriors is how sacredly they hold the concept of fighting. Much like a Marine being told their deployment got pushed back a few months, Vikings would complain if they weren’t given their time on the battlefield.

Vikings’ culture wasn’t based entirely on fighting, but man, were they good at it. That’s probably why nobody ever talks about the Vikings’ expansive trading network. There’s also a reason why people never really talk about a Water Dog’s “water purification skills.”

H/T: to Ruddy Cano, U.S. Marine Corps veteran and fellow We Are The Mighty contributor, for helping with this article.

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