The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it's about time - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time

He did it. He finally did it. Secretary of the Army Mark Esper has recently signed a memorandum that states the high-visibility belt, better known as the PT belt, isn’t required in the daytime. On top of this, he removed pointless PowerPoint presentations, implemented a fitness test that revolves around a soldier’s combat readiness potential, and has pushed for a return to training focused on military operations as opposed to training for training’s sake.

Madness. This is absolute madness. What’s next? Is walking on grass going to be okay? What about weekly PMCSs where soldiers kick the tires and say they’re good? Will the Army acknowledge that a leader’s evaluation report should also be created with input from randomly-selected direct subordinates to discourage asskissery and brown-nosing, providing an accurate reflection of that leader’s ability? These are indeed dark times, according to the people who say the Old Army died a few years after they ETSed.

Sarcasm aside, the Good-Idea Fairy has finally been questioned and wearing reflective belts during the daytime has been ruled officially useless.


The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time

(Department of Defense photo by Bill Orndorff)

Secretary Esper’s first official statement, issued back in November, 2017, emphasized his goals of promoting readiness, modernization, and reforming the way the Army conducts itself. This reevaluation of the effectiveness of the reflective belt is just one of the many items on the docket.

The Army is also using common sense in how it conducts inventories. As opposed to performing 100% inventories that require countless hours in the motor pool realigning conex boxes, now, if boxes are secure and there’s no evidence of tampering, it’s automatically accounted for, allowing the troops to focus efforts elsewhere.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time

Don’t be that idiot who thinks the PT belt is gone for good. You still want to be seen by cars before sunrise.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Timothy Lenzo)

Logically speaking, this makes absolute sense. The PT belt was implemented in the mid-’90s as a knee-jerk reaction to a horrific accident that killed several airmen. Several factors led to this horrible accident, including the driver driving on a designated route for PT, a lack of a traffic light at an intersection, and a lack of street lights in the area. But instead of focusing on the issues that actually led to the deaths of several airmen, reflective belts were implemented across the board.

Reflective belts will still be required in the morning, before the sun comes up, or in low-visibility conditions, like fog. A shiny thing that costs .50 at the PX can save lives, but little things, like ground-guiding a vehicle around the motor pool, don’t require a belt. Also, if soldiers are exercising on an enclosed track in the afternoon, a PT belt is not going to make a difference. Also, this entire memorandum leaves the discretion up to the commanders themselves.

The only thing that’s changing is that young soldiers won’t be getting an ass-chewing for something completely arbitrary.

Military Life

5 reasons you should have enlisted as a ‘Fister’

If you’re considering joining the Army or you’re sick of your current MOS and thinking of reclassing, there are so many options to chose from that it’s a headache to decide.


Maybe you’re picking your MOS based entirely off what you can get, maybe you’re picking it off what would be best suited for your eventual transition back to the civilian world, or maybe you’re following in the footsteps of someone you admire. For those that choose their MOS by counting “cool points,” there’s one MOS that towers them all: (13F) Fire Support Specialist, or ‘Fister.’

These are the 5 reasons why you should enlist as a Fister:

5. The name is perfectly acceptable for use in polite company.

Derived from “Fire Support Team” or FiST, this MOS’s name is the source of innumerable low-brow jokes in field artillery.

While everyone else watches their tongue, taking care not to offend, you get a free pass to say something that could be confused for a violent sex act every time you talk about work.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time
Finally! A hoodie for every occasion! (Image via CafePress)

4. It’s actually like Call of Duty, except you constantly get kill streak bonuses.

It happens at every recruitment station. There’s always that one kid who comes in thinking he’ll be living his favorite video game before he’s struck with the harsh reality that life isn’t a video game.

While other MOSs are less fun in real life — you can’t just to wait behind a rock to heal and stealing enemy weapons is generally frowned upon — fisters have it better. They don’t get told “sorry, you need to kill a few more bad guys before you can rain hell on your enemies.” They just do it. It’s their job.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time
Just like Call of Duty, kid. Don’t worry about the imminent stress of getting the exact coordinates right using a crappy laser finder that barely works. You’ll get a sixth sense for those things sooner or later. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

3. You get paid to watch things go boom from a good, safe distance.

Speaking of raining hell on your enemies, that’s what you’ll be doing.

You’ll be attached to whatever unit needs a guy to say, “that thing right there? I don’t like it. Let’s get rid of it with enough firepower to remove an entire grid-square off the map!” This means you’ll be working with damn near everyone from Armor to Aviation to Infantry to Cavalry, all while being left alone to do your badassery.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time
Safe is a relative term. (Image via Reddit)

2. All the benefits of being a grunt with less of the downsides.

There’s a constant rivalry within the Army between grunt MOSs and the soft ones. Grunts mock others for being weak and POGs mock grunts for being idiots with relatively low promotion point standards.

Some MOSs are just handed the title of “grunt” and no one will ever question it, like infantry. Some have to earn the respect of other grunts to get it, like a hard-ass commo or medic. Then there’s the fister. No one ever questions the balls it takes to be a fister.

They’re out there kicking it with the infantry, while also having the brains to do advanced math on the fly to get the birds blowing up the right spot. Oh — and their promotion points are a lot lower, so you’ll pick up rank faster than a POG.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time
Pro: You’re a badass. Con: You have to do math. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Joseph Robinson, Company Fire Support Officer)

1. SFC Jared C. Monti and SSG Ryan M. Pitts are some Bad. Mother. F*ckers.

In Afghanistan alone, two fisters have made their brothers proud by being awarded the Medal of Honor: Sergeant First Class Monti and Staff Sergeant Pitts.

Sergeant First Class Jared C. Monti received his Medal of Honor posthumously on Sept. 17, 2009 after his patrol was ambushed by around 60 Taliban fighters. He radioed in for artillery and close air support on their position, but it would take time for the heat to arrive. In the ensuing firefight, several of his men were struck by enemy fire. He was successful in getting recovering one of his men, but was gravely wounded in the process. When the artillery finally arrived, it took out 22 insurgents and dispersed the rest.

Staff Sergeant Ryan M. Pitts received his Medal of Honor when well over 200 Taliban forces swarmed his base at the Battle of Wanat in July, 2008. Though critically wounded by shrapnel, he continued to lay down suppressive fire until a two-man reinforcement team arrived. This bought him the time he needed to crawl to a radio, with no regard for his own life, so he could describe the attack to Command and call for indirect fire.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time
Left: Paul and Janet Monti presented the Medal of Honor for their son’s, SFC Jared Monti, actions. Right: SSG Pitts is presented the Medal of Honor (Images via NPR and People)

MIGHTY TRENDING

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever

The M3 Carl Gustav is an upgraded variant of the Army’s Multi-Role Anti-Armor, Anti-Personnel Weapons System, or MAAWS – a reusable, recoilless shoulder-fired conventional munition.


It was first ordered by the Army in response to an Operational Needs Statement from Afghanistan seeking to procure a direct fire, man-portable, anti-personnel and light structure weapon able, among other things, to respond to insurgent rocket-propelled grenade, or RPG, fire.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time

The latest version, or M3E1, is not only lighter, but shorter than the existing M3 but also ergonomically designed with a longer handle and better grips. These features, as well as its ability to use multiple types of rounds for firing, has led the Army to approve a requirement for 1,111 M3E1 units, service statements said.

Responding to soldier feedback, Army and Saab engineers designed a titanium updated M3E1 that is more than six pounds lighter than the bulkier M3 version. The M3E1 is also 2.5 inches shorter and has an improved carrying handle, extra shoulder padding and an improved sighting system that can be adjusted for better comfort without sacrificing performance.

The M3E1 is part of the Product Manager Crew Served Weapons portfolio, which is processing a contract to procure 1,111 M3E1s and an Urgent Material Release to field them as soon as possible, service statements said.

The new variant is “seven pounds lighter than the M3 – it can be carried safely while loaded – it has advanced fire control – and it has an adjustable shoulder rest and front grip,” Wes Walters, Executive Vice President of Business Development for Land Domain with Saab North America, told Scout Warrior.

The M3E1 is also compatible with intelligent sighting systems for firing programmable rounds.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time
U.S. Paratroopers assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade fires the M3 Carl Gustav rocket launcher at the 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Aug. 18, 2016. The Carl Gustav is a lightweight, man-portable recoilless rifle. This weapon was used by the U.S. Army after World War II. The Army retired these weapons when the Dragon and TOW anti-tank guided missiles were fielded.(U.S. Army Photo by Visual Information Specialist Gerhard Seuffert)

The weapon includes an airburst capability with its High Explosive, or HE, round.

Army weapons developers say the airburst round is the one that is utilized most often because of its effective range. It uses a mechanical time fuse which is set prior to loading the weapon system.

Airburst rounds can be pre-programmed to explode in the air at a precise location, thereby maximizing the weapon’s effect against enemy targets hiding, for example, behind a rock, tree or building.

The weapon has been used by U.S. Army Rangers, Navy SEALs and Special Forces since the late-80s. In 1988, U.S. Special Forces identified a need for a shoulder-fired, recoilless rifle to replace the M67, and Saab Dynamics developed the M3, which was a likely candidate to address the need.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time
A coalition force member observes as a soldier shoots a Carl Gustav recoilless rifle at a range in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Aug. 16, 2013. Coalition force members train at ranges regularly to maintain weapon readiness for operations. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Justin Young)

Earlier versions of the anti-armor, anti-personnel, shoulder-fired multi-role weapon is 42-inches long weighs 21 pounds and can fire up to four rounds per minute.

MAAWS can utilize thermal sights to provide Soldiers with the ability to shoot at night and reach the proper range.

The MAAWS is able to fire anti-tank, flechette, illumination, enhanced armor, smoke and High Explosive Dual Purpose rounds, Army developers explained.

“The High Explosive Dual Purpose round gives you two different capabilities. In impact mode, the round goes off immediately as soon as it hits the target. In delay mode, the round penetrates the target and then goes off,” a service official explained.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are the funeral costs the VA will actually pay

It’s something none of us want to think about: our demise. What will happen after we’re gone? Will we have a big funeral? Will anybody show up?

If you want to have a big funeral and a fancy tombstone in a nice cemetery, it will cost a lot. That’s OK. You’re a veteran; the Department of Veterans Affairs will pay. Right?

Well … not so fast.


The high cost of dying

Before we discuss what the VA will pay, let’s discuss the major costs associated with dying.

Funeral prices

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost of a funeral with burial in 2017 was ,755; the average cost of a funeral with cremation was ,260.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Hazard)

That’s just the cost of transporting and preparing the body, and holding a small viewing. If you want a service and a wake, expect to pay more.

Casket prices

If you want a fancy casket, expect to pay an average of ,000 for it. Amazon, Costco, and Walmart sell caskets for less than id=”listicle-2632767403″,000, but some fancy ones cost more than ,000.

If you just want to be buried in a pine box, be sure to check local laws. Some states don’t allow that.

Cemetery prices

The cemetery will cost you even more.

While some states allow you to be buried in biodegradable caskets and some even have natural burial preserves where they allow you to be buried in the woods, most don’t.

A burial plot in a public cemetery will cost between 0 and ,000. If you want to be buried in a private cemetery, that price can go up to ,000 in some places. If you’re in a city, the price can easily go up to ,000 for the gravesite alone.

If you want to be cremated and have your ashes buried, expect to pay up to ,500 for the plot.

Of course, there are additional fees. You have to pay for them to dig the hole and fill it back up; this can cost more than ,000. Just doing the paperwork (some places require a permit to be buried) can reach up to id=”listicle-2632767403″,000. Some fancy cemeteries even charge a fee for “perpetual care;” this is the cost of upkeep for the cemetery — cutting grass, planting trees etc.

If you want a tombstone, expect to pay at least 0 to ,000.

Paying the high cost of dying

Cemeteries aren’t regulated by the federal government. They don’t have to comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule, which requires an itemized bill allowing you to pick and choose which services you wish to buy. Some states have regulations, but many do not.

Don’t expect to get a line of credit from the funeral home or cemetery, either. They want payment up front. What will they do if your family doesn’t pay the bill, dig you back up?

What will the VA pay?

Since you’re reading this, you probably are a veteran. Doesn’t the VA pay for all of this?

It will pay some, but not all, of your burial costs, and probably very little of your funeral costs. Of course, all these benefits are only for veterans with at least an “other-than-dishonorable” discharge.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Todd Frantom)

Burial and plot allowance

The VA will pay a burial allowance to an eligible veteran’s family to help defray burial and funeral costs. The burial allowance is a tax-free benefit paid automatically. If you are eligible for a plot allowance the VA requires receipts to show the actual cost paid.

  • If the death occurs while hospitalized by the VA, it will pay a 0 burial allowance and 0 for a burial plot.
  • If the death is considered service-connected, the VA will pay a burial allowance of up to ,000 and may reimburse some of the costs of transporting remains.
  • If the death isn’t service-connected, the VA pays a burial allowance of 0.
  • For an indigent veteran with no next of kin, the VA will furnish either a casket or cremation urn for interment in either a national, state or tribal veterans cemetery.
  • The Social Security Administration also will pay a death benefit of 5.

These amounts usually change every year.

Cemetery

All veterans with other-than-dishonorable discharges are eligible for free burial in a national VA cemetery. Space is limited; the VA recommends you request a pre-determination of burial eligibility to avoid any delay when the time comes.

Most states have their own veterans cemeteries. Usually, the eligibility requirements are the same as for federal cemeteries.

In most cases, spouses are eligible for burial next to the veteran at little or no cost. Also, markers are provided.

Arlington National Cemetery has very limited space for burial; there is more space available for inurnment of cremated remains. Only certain veterans are eligible for burial at Arlington.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. James K. McCann)

If you wish to be buried in a civilian cemetery, the VA may pay a small fee, as described earlier, for your plot allowance. It will also provide a free headstone. Some states also help with the cost of burial and the cost of setting a headstone.

You can always choose to be buried at sea from a Navy ship.

Whatever the case, it’s a good idea to make a plan. Also, remember that the funeral director can help with a lot of this stuff. They know how to submit the paperwork to the VA, and usually how to get the most out of your state benefits as well.

Check out all our information about memorial benefits, including requesting military honors at a funeral.

Stay on top of your veteran benefits

Military benefits are always changing. Keep up with everything from pay to health care by signing up for a free Military.com membership, which will send all the latest benefits straight to your inbox while giving you access to up-to-date pay charts and more.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

French Marines ended a hostage crisis with a bayonet charge

French Marines were manning observation posts on either side of the Vrbanja Bridge. They were UN peacekeepers, the first to arrive in the decimated city of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War in May 1995. But their day was to begin in humiliation and end in bloodshed as their mission to hold the observation posts quickly escalated into the first UN combat mission of the war.


When they first began their occupation of the bridge, one side was overtaken by Bosnian Serb commandos. Dressed in French uniforms and donning French weapons, the commandos took one side of the bridge without firing a shot. They even pulled up to the post in a stolen French armored personnel carrier. For many of the Serbs, it was the last thing they would ever do.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time

A lot of them, like Serbian commander Ratko Mladic, were busy committing war crimes.

At gunpoint, the 10 French marines were disarmed and taken captive, and driven to another location. The other two were to be used on the bridge as human shields. The other side of the bridge didn’t even know their comrades had been overrun and captured. When the other unit didn’t check in with headquarters, their platoon commander came to check in on the Marines – he then sounded the alarm. When their fellow marines discovered their friends had been taken captive, they decided to move quickly on the Serb commandos.

“When the Serbs took our soldiers under their control by threat, by dirty tricks, they began to act as terrorists, you cannot support this,” Said Col. Erik Sandahl, commander of the 4th French Battalion. “You must react. The moment comes when you have to stop it. Full stop. And we did.”

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time

French APCs on the ground in Bosnia, 1995.

When French President Jacques Chirac found out about the captured French marines, he went around the UN and ordered his troops to retake the bridge and find the missing men. The French sent 30 more Marines, 13 APCs, and 70 French Army soldiers to the bridge. But they couldn’t just blow up the observation post or do a regular infantry assault on the position. There were still hostages inside. They were going to have to do it the old fashioned way.

The French marines mounted their first bayonet charge since the Korean War.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time

François Lecointre, now a general and France’s Chief of the Defence Staff, led the bayonet charge.

After the bayonet charge, a 32-minute firefight ensued that saw one of the French hostages shot by a Bosnian sniper, the other hostage escaped, three Frenchmen killed in action and another ten wounded, along with four Serbs killed, three wounded and another four taken prisoner. The 10 French hostages were later released. The Serbs soldiers captured were treated as prisoners of war and held by the UN peacekeeping force.

It was the last time the French Army ever launched a bayonet charge, but for the rest of the time the French were participating as UN Peacekeepers in Bosnia, the Serbian forces kept a clear, noticeable distance from them.

Articles

Marines’ future helicopter may be optionally manned

As the Marine Corps enters the final stages of preparing to receive the CH-35K King Stallion, its new heavy-lift workhorse helicopter, aviation officials are already looking forward to the Corps’ next generation of rotorcraft.


Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, the Marine Corps’ deputy commandant of aviation, told reporters Friday at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., that the Corps had asked for optionally manned capability for the Pentagon’s future vertical lift plan, which aims to develop replacement choppers for the Army and other services.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time
Bell Helicopter V-280 Valor

“We’ve told them it’s what we want,” Davis said. “Why wouldn’t we want it?”

Davis said he envisioned a vertical lift platform that might be operated unmanned to deliver cargo and manned for more sensitive or technically complex missions.

Potentially, he said, such a platform, equipped with a sensor, could also serve as an unmanned sentry of sorts from the air in defense of a deployed ship.

Davis noted that the future vertical lift, or FVL, program is currently in the down-select phases, and acquisition was expected to take place in the 2030s.

“The future of aviation is operationally manned,” Davis said.

The Air Force and Marine Corps are both part of the FVL program, which is led by the Army.

One candidate to satisfy FVL requirements is Bell’s V-280 Valor aircraft, a next-generation tiltrotor that does feature a fly-by-wire control system. The other aircraft being evaluated in the FVL program, the medium-lift Sikorsky/Boeing SB-1 Defiant, also features fly-by-wire capabilities.

Davis said Marine officials had communicated with both contracting teams about their interest in optionally manned technology.

Meanwhile, the Marine Corps continues to evaluate concepts for a separate unmanned or optionally manned air cargo and logistics platform.

In May, two Lockheed Martin/Kaman K-MAX optionally manned rotorcraft arrived at Marine Corps’ Operational Test Evaluation Squadron 22 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, for testing and development designed to evaluate their ability to perform surveillance and reconnaissance.

The K-MAX had previously deployed to Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, where it assisted Marines in moving cargo and gear across the battlespace.

Marine logistics officials have also expressed interest in DARPA’s Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES), an unmanned vertical lift platform designed for cargo resupply, medevac and surveillance.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 things women need to know before enlisting

Women are capable of incredible things, including feats of physical strength, athleticism and tremendous bravery. I have always been a strong supporter of equality for women, and women in the military are no exception. With that in mind, the playing field between men and women in the military isn’t level. Equal doesn’t mean identical.

Often, they’re unaware of these potential hardships until they experience them firsthand. Women are assets to the military without a doubt, but they also deserve to know the details before they sign up. Here’s what any prospective female recruit should consider before they enlist.


Sexual assault is a real threat. 

Of all the risks to women in the military, sexual assault is the most widely publicized. While male soldiers are also at risk, women have a heightened risk in comparison. The risk is highest for those stationed on ships; at some high-risk installations studied in 2014, 10% of women were assaulted – and that’s only what was reported. At the two most dangerous, 15% of women were assaulted. The risk is much lower for most military bases, but because studies are done after the fact, it’s impossible to know which bases are the most dangerous currently.

All branches of the military have been working to improve these sobering stats, but between 2016 and 2018, the number of assaults actually increased. Some of the pinpointed factors included alcohol use and off-base parties. Victims also had certain common qualities, like joining the military at a younger age and having a prior history of sexual abuse. On average, one in 17 civilian women will be sexually assaulted in the US. For military women ages 17 to 20, the risk is one in 8, and around 25% of women report sexual harassment at some point during their time of service.

Experiences like these have an impact on mental health. 

Many women choose not to report their assaults for fear that their case won’t be taken seriously, or that it will impact their career potential. Either way, victims are more likely to experience PTSD, depression and anxiety that can last for years.

More women in service will serve safely than not, but it’s important to be aware that fending off male attention can be part of the job…even though it shouldn’t be.

Women have a much higher risk of injury in certain military roles.

In close-combat positions and others that require ongoing heavy lifting and extreme physical exertion, women are more likely to experience injuries like stress fractures and torn muscles. Women are more than capable of holding their own in combat, but the particularly physical roles don’t come without risks. Pelvic floor injuries are a particular problem related to carrying heavy weights, potentially leading to urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.

Irregular meals have a more pronounced effect.

Eating inconsistently impacts women more heavily than it does men. Many women experience irregular menstruation, or none at all, with potential impacts on future fertility. Since periods can be irritating to deal with when you’re taking on a role that’s heavily physical and allows very little downtime, some opt to take birth control that eliminates periods completely. The hormones they include can have substantial side effects when taken long term, including low bone density and metabolic issues.

Women are more likely to receive a physical disability discharge. 

According to one study published by the Army surgeon general’s office, women are 67% more likely to leave on a physical disability discharge due to a musculoskeletal disorder. That statistic was also from 2011, before the most intense combat jobs allowed women to apply.

Side effects can take years to show up. 

It’s possible that even women who leave the military feeling healthy will feel the consequences of hard, physical labor later in life. Some female veterans have reported issues like osteoporosis, muscle atrophy, low endurance and infertility, which they believe to be the result of their time in the military.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time

Military careers can be rewarding for women, too. As long as they know what to expect.

The point of this piece isn’t to tell women they should stay out of combat or avoid the military. That said, since there are risks unique to female members of service, it would be unfair to encourage them to enlist without offering full transparency.

Some military roles can increase the risk of pelvic floor and musculoskeletal injuries, and sexual harassment and assault is an issue that is far from solved, but many women also climb the ranks proudly without a hitch. Now you know the risks. If you still feel a combat role is where you belong, don’t let any statistic hold you back.

Articles

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

Berlin was a dangerous place during the Cold War. A preserved piece of the Wall containing a mural memorializing 146 Germans killed trying to escape communism stands in stark testament.



As the grand central station of East-West espionage, the city was a playground for all sorts of secret agents. And its place in the history of the 20th century far outweighs its size. Indeed, 37 percent of Americans viewed the fall of the Berlin Wall as the single most important event of the 1980s.

That Wall came down after 28 years because Americans in uniform stood as a barrier to Soviet aggression. The vast majority of those GIs were clearly visible. But a small contingent operated behind the scenes, not even acknowledged until long after the Cold War ended. Only this year were they fully and publicly recognized.

Born in the Mid-’50s

Though the Status-of-Forces Agreement signed by all four powers occupying Berlin prohibited elite forces, each country had its own prowling the city. It was 10 years after WWII ended, however, before the U.S. had such a unit formally in place there.

In August 1956, the elite 10th Special Forces Group, based in Bad Tolz, Germany, stationed the secretive 7781 Army Unit (also known as the 39th Special Forces Operational Detachment) in West Berlin. It consisted of six modified detachments that became part of the Headquarters Company of the 6th Infantry Regiment. Each team had six members.

Two years later, the unit was renamed Detachment A and assigned to the Headquarters Company of the U.S. Army Garrison, Berlin. Then in April 1962, it was attached to the Berlin Brigade. Its area of operations was primarily that city, but it could undertake missions elsewhere in Europe.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time
Top secret spy photos taken by Det-A in the early ’60s showing detail of the Berlin Wall. (Photo: Bob Charest)

“Detachment A was literally in the eye of the Cold War hurricane,” said Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, commanding general of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. As an unconventional and classified outfit of 90 men (a normal tour of duty was three years), Detachment A carried out clandestine operations.

Originally operating in small cells, by the late 1960s it expanded to 12-man “A” teams. Unit members were as unique as the U.S. Army ever recruited. Many were German or East European refugees who still had families trapped behind the Iron Curtain. In the early years, a significant number were WWII vets, too. Hence they brought much-needed skills along with knowledge of other nations and languages to the unit.

Training and tools of the trade

Physical training was wide-ranging and progressively intense. For instance, winter warfare training in Bavaria consisted of downhill and cross-country skiing equivalent to extreme skiing. Specialized demolition training was required for various targets in Berlin. Some teammates attended the CIA’s specialized demo course at Harvey Point, N.C. Scuba diving was another required skill.

Every month, members made parachute jumps staging out of Tempelhof Air Base in Berlin. Detachment A participated in NATO escape and evasion exercises. Exercises exclusive to Berlin included dead drops, live drops, primary meetings, surveillance and communications. Team members trained with the elite West German Federal Border Guard and Border Protection Group 9, British Special Air Service and special police units.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time
The Det A boys ready to go all cloak and dagger circa ’72. (Photo: Bob Charest)

But they also taught an urban course to other 10th SFG personnel, as well as SEAL Team 2 based on Crete. As masters of spy craft, team members carried items reminiscent of a James Bond movie.

Coal filled with C-4 explosives was used to potentially sabotage the rail ring surrounding Berlin. Oneshot cigarette-lighter guns, vials filled with metal shavings for destruction of turbines and noise-suppressed weapons for eliminating targets were all part of the arsenal. The German Walther MPK 9mm SMG that fit in a briefcase was the weapon of choice.

All scuba gear was German-made, including the one-man portable decompression chamber. Every member spoke fluent German and dressed mostly in authentic German civilian clothes. They sometimes carried non-American flash documentation and identification. Dual passports, or dual nationalities, were part of the deception.

Adversaries in this potentially deadly game of cat and mouse included the notorious East German Secret Police (Stasi), Soviet KGB (Committee for State Security) and even Spetsnaz (Russian Special Purpose Forces). Being vigilant of Soviet surveillance was a given. The KGB had members under constant watch and possessed dossiers on everyone in Detachment A. Yet the Green Berets always deceived their adversaries into believing they were an exponentially larger force than they really were.

Mission

During the mid-1970s, the unit’s mission began to evolve. Though the classic Cold War enemy always remained, a new one reared its ugly head in the form of terrorism. The lethal Red Army Faction —a rabid Marxist group targeting the U.S. military starting in 1972—came into play, killing six GIs in all. That meant being prepared to take on terrorists with snipers and SWAT tactics.

“They were very brave men and took on some tough missions,” recalled Sidney Shachnow, who led Detachment A from 1970 to 1974. Still, the Soviet threat hovered over the divided city. In 1978, the unit was tasked by the CIA with digging up several mission sites positioned throughout Berlin for stay-behind operations. Also, to maintain the equipment in them— weapons and demolitions, for example.

In April of 1980 Detachment ‘A’ participated in “Operation Eagle Claw,” the attempt to end the Iran hostage crisis by rescuing 52 diplomats held captive at the United States Embassy and the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran, Iran. Det-A’s portion of the mission was code-named “Storm Cloud.”

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time
Patch for Operation Storm Cloud. (Courtesy: Bob Charest)

Detachment ‘A’ was responsible for the pre-mission reconnaissance of the targets by successfully infiltrating a team into Tehran on several occasions and contributed an element to rescue three hostages held in the MFA.

When the first mission was aborted because of a crash involving a C-130 and a CH-53 in the middle of the Iranian desert, a second attempt was planned for later that year. That was cancelled when negotiations proved successful.

Four years later the mission of this unique outfit was deemed unnecessary even though the Cold War was far from over. At the end of 1984, Detachment A was disbanded.

“I knew when I closed the door,” said Eugene Piasecki, the detachment’s last commander, “I would no longer serve in a unit like that.”

Bob Charest, a retired Army master sergeant, served with Detachment A from 1969 to 1972 and 1973 to 1978.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The difference between the two Swiss Army Knife brands

Certain brand names become synonymous with their primary product, despite other companies making similar products. ArmaLite with AR-15 style rifles, Kleenex with facial tissues, Sharpie with permanent marker, etc. When it comes to the famous Swiss Army Knife, Victorinox is the brand that most people think of. However, it wasn’t the only brand.

The classic Victorinox knife (Victorinox)

Victorinox was founded in Switzerland in 1884. Later in the 19th century, the company began supplying knives to the Swiss Army. In 1897, the company patented its knife design which was later marketed as the Original Swiss Army Knife. Twelve years later, Victorinox adopted the Swiss coat of arms as its logo which it still uses today. However, between 1908 and 2005, there was one other supplier of knives to the Swiss Army.

Wenger was founded in Switzerland after Victorinox in 1893. Originally a manufacturer of utensils, the company expanded from spoons and forks and into knives to meet a contract for the Swiss Army. The contract was split 50/50 between Wenger and Victornix. Interestingly, the split contract also represented the two sides of Switzerland itself. Wenger was located in a French-speaking area of the country whereas Victorinox was located in a German-speaking area.

A Wenger knife. Note the slightly different logo that still features the Swiss cross (Wenger)

With both companies vying for their share of the civilian market, a compromise was reached between the Swiss Army Knife manufacturers. Victorinox marketed itself as Original Swiss Army Knifes while Wenger marketed itself as Genuine Swiss Army Knives. Though both claims were true, the two slogans led to some confusion between the two red pocket knives for the average consumer.

Following the events of 9/11, these types of knives suffered in the market. Increased security regulations prevented the carrying of pocket knives and eliminated a huge portion of sales through duty-free airport shops. On April 26, 2005, Victornix bought out Wenger and eliminated their competition. The Wenger brand was kept intact until 2013 when it was completely merged into Victorinox.

The Victorinox Wenger pays tribute to the bygone brand (Victorinox)

Today, the last remnant of the separate Wenger brand is the Victorinox Wenger knife. It features Wenger’s original logo and classic 7 functions. Still, original Wenger products can be found on the used market for the discerning enthusiast who appreciates a quality Swiss product from the past.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

If you look at the enlisted ranking system put in place by every branch of the United States Armed Forces, everything makes a good deal of sense. You start at the bottom — generally at E-1, but there are ways to get in at a higher pay grade — and work your way up to a certain point where you become an NCO. Officers have their own linear path, starting at O-1, and warrant officers are half way between the two.

But the Army has its very own conundrum with the E-4 ranks. Years ago, the hierarchy of ranks looked a little different: it went private first class, then corporal, then sergeant. Today, both specialist (the highest junior enlisted rank) and corporal (the lowest NCO rank) share the same pay grade. This means that, in a sense, being a specialist is just like being a corporal — only without the NCO benefits.

To understand the specialist rank we know it today, you’ll have to look back at the Army’s long-gone specialist ranks.


The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time

The same insignia that would later be used for private first class.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Felicia Jagdatt)

In 1920, there was a consolidation that distilled 128 different rank insignia and titles into just seven. The results of this consolidation left us with something similar to what we use today — with a few key differences.

Since warfare involves much more than just general “infantrymen,” there was a need to identify the support soldiers, those who were specialists in their given field of expertise. Back then, it was assumed that all 5th-grade soldiers (corporals) fully understood what their job entails, but there needed to be a way to offer a little incentive to a privates to become known as a “private/specialist,” which was the name of the MOS at the time. That incentive came in the form of bonus pay — despite being paid more, a private/specialist was still officially of lower rank than a private first class.

The insignia of the private/specialist was a single chevron with a single rocker.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time

Think of the difference like today’s version of a master sergeant and a first sergeant. Same pay grade, same respect, but two very different positions and mentalities.

(U.S. Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

The next major overhaul came in 1942 when a need arose to differentiate between those who earned their rank because of how good they were at their job and those who earned it because of leadership abilities. And so the “technician” ranks were created, ranging from technician fifth grade (or “tech/5”) up to technician third grade (or “tech/3”).

They were distinguished from their peers by placing a ‘T’ under their chevrons. For all practical purposes, a technician third grade and a staff sergeant were on equal footing — same pay and same respect — but the staff sergeant was in a leadership position while the tech/3 was more of an instructor.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time

The joke used back then was “the NCOs may have been the backbone of the Army, but the specialists were the brains.”

(National Archives)

The final shakeup came in 1955 when these two previous iterations of separating specialists in their given field from general leadership culminated an entirely new ranking system — the specialists. This took the original insignia of the 1920s private/specialist, inverted it, and added the Army Eagle to it. Promotions within the specialists meant adding another rocker to the top instead of a chevron.

A young private could prove themselves ready to enter the non-commissioned officers as a corporal — or they could focus on their MOS as a specialist. Between the years 1959 and 1968, it was entirely possible to make it all the way to E-9 as a specialist. Throughout the years, the highest achievable rank dwindled down and down until 1985, when only the Spec/4 remained.

Since all other grades of specialists were obsolete, the rank is now just called “specialist.” In essence, the rank holds the same meaning as it did in the 1920s — except now it’s more of a holdover rank before most E-4s make sergeant.

MIGHTY FIT

Processed foods aren’t evil, your brain is just dumb

Everyone other than the likes of the Nabisco executive board agrees that processed foods are bad for you. But why exactly are they pinned as the food version of Lucifer by modern popular health gurus?

Do they cause disease?

Do they have mind control chemicals in them?

Or,

Are they simply a misunderstood solution to a problem we no longer have as a society?


The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time

Yes MREs are processed… Did I even need to point that out?

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Erick Requadt)

Why are our brains dumb?

We are mentally weak when it comes to unnaturally delicious foods.

Think about it in this context:

In Ye Olde Cave Man Days, food tasted terrible.

Fruit and veggies were fibrous and bitter, and animals were fast and difficult to catch.

Whenever they were caught, they were lean and not that delicious; they were, after all, eating the same fibrous foods as our ancestors.

If a food was delicious, it was a sign that it was calorie-dense, because it was loaded with either lots of fat or sugar. That food was devoured quickly, because it would provide much more energy than the foods on the typical menu.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time

If you’re gonna eat it, at least get it in your mouth!

(Photo by Luísa Schetinger on Unsplash)

Processed food isn’t the devil. Eating too much is.

Some research suggests that processed foods cause obesity, hypertension, high blood pressure, and cancer. But the poison probably isn’t the food itself. It’s the dose.

Too many processed foods lead to the above issues because it’s so easy to overeat them.

For instance: in order to get the same number of calories as a 16 ounce package of Oreos, you would need to eat roughly 250 ounces of broccoli. That’s over 15 pounds of broccoli! I’m pretty sure that’s physically impossible.

We usually only fill our gas tanks to the amount they can hold. What if instead of stopping there, I popped the hood of my car and sprayed gas all over the engine and other vehicular unmentionables? What if I then opened the driver’s side door and shot some gas into the passenger compartment of the car?

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time

She is not going to have a happy tummy after that meal.

(Photo by frankie cordoba on Unsplash)

Do you think that there may be some negative side effects of over-fueling my vehicle in this way? Might my car develop type 2 car diabetes?

This is exactly what we do to our cells when we over-eat consistently. Our mitochondria (cellular engines) can no longer hold all of the energy inputs from the food we eat, just like the gas tank couldn’t hold any more fuel. Our mitochondria overflow and fuel spills out everywhere.

This is how we get fat and sick. This is also how you cause irreparable damage to the interior of your car.

Certain foods may be more prone to this phenomenon, like ultra-processed hyper-palatable foods. It is, in theory, possible with any food though.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time

There were no trees growing donuts 15,000 years ago…

(Photo by Lidya Nada on Unsplash)

Food doesn’t just taste better now, it’s prettier too

Some reports say up to 60% of national caloric intake is ultra-processed.

It’s a no brainer as to why we are the fattest humans to ever inhabit planet earth.

Most ultra-processed foods are designed to taste amazing so that we want more of them.

Fat + Sugar + Salt + Attractive Colors + The Perfect Shape = Hyper-palatable Impossible To Resist Foods.

That math adds up to constant overeating which has led to the multiple health epidemics we are experiencing today.

In the wake of food industrialization after WWII, we realized that we can make more food, faster, and better tasting than ever before. Who would say no to that?

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time

Don’t do it! You have so much to live for!

(Photo by Ethan Sexton on Unsplash)

Blinded by dollar signs, food companies raced to make the best tasting foods they could, profiting off of its addictiveness. In fact, it has similar effects on our gray matter as opioids.

Here we are more than 60 years after this process started trying to clean up the mess. We easily overeat hyper-palatable foods, and our bodies try to hide the extra energy, but there is nowhere reasonable for it to go in a timely manner. This causes our health to take a dive.

What initially started as a way to ensure people never starve like they did during the Great Depression turned out to be profitable. So profitable that the health of the nation became a secondary concern of food companies. They became slaves to the bottom line.

Food companies became so good at convincing our dumb caveman brains to buy their products that we are now experiencing a great depression of a whole different degree. A great Individual depression when we look at our naked bodies in the mirror.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why you don’t want to see a howitzer barrel lowered all the way

At one point, as the soldiers above were showing me around the massive M777 howitzer, they lowered it all the way down so that it was parallel to the ground.


Given that the howitzer is meant for support, I was asked why and in what situation they would need to lower it that far down.

Also read: New Army Howitzer models designed to outgun Russian weapons

Sgt. Shaw, who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, told me the only time it’s lowered all the way is when the enemy is close — not a good position to be in, given that the cannon is meant for support.

Shaw said his crew once took contact when he was in Afghanistan, but he understandably didn’t want to go into detail.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time
(Photo by US Army Cpt. Angela Chipman)

“If you’re receiving contact on this howitzer, that means all your front lines are not there anymore, or they’ve been able to flank the infantry,” he said.

Operated by a crew of eight to 10, the Triple 7 howitzer fires 155mm precision and non-precision munitions.

Related: These Marines fought so fiercely, they burned out two Howitzers

The non-precision guided munitions have a maximum range of 18.6 miles, while the Excalibur precision-guided rounds have a maximum range of 25 miles and are accurate to within 30 feet.

The howitzer can also fire up to five rounds per minute, or two rounds per minute sustained.

During one deployment to Afghanistan, Shaw said his crew fired the howitzer while lowered at the enemy eight to 10 miles away.

So, even when completely lowered, the Triple 7 still has range.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Top 4, veteran-approved, year-round gift ideas

Christmas time is synonymous with giving and receiving presents. Everyone loves to receive a gift, even it means you have to awkwardly open it front of a person who’s eagerly watching your face, waiting for a reaction. That love of receiving doesn’t begin and end on Christmas morning, though — not by a long shot.

Gift buying is an art. Picking the perfect gift can be difficult, and when you’re shopping for someone close to you, the pressure is on. Now, if one or more of those someones is a veteran, well, you’ve got some thinking to do. Veterans are a special breed. We’ve got an odd sense of humor, an irregular view of ‘normal,’ and can be plain ol’ weird. Finding the right gift for your vet will likely be a mission.


We know the Christmas season is over, but the following gifts can be enjoyed by a vet on any calendar date.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time

Can’t go wrong with any of these choices

(Gadgets Magazine)

Liquor 

9 and a half out of 10 veterans love to drink and can likely throw down with the best of them. Consider buying your vet their favorite bottle of liquor. If it’s one of those gift boxes that comes with a few, nice glasses, that’s great! If not, that’s fine; glasses are optional.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time

Near the top of every Marine’s gift list

(Opting Out)

Functional clothing

Vets love clothing that makes sense. Help out your vet by getting them some clothing that can be useful. Think something somewhere between Under Armor and a ghillie suit.

5.11 Tactical is a good place to start.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time

Just what the doctor ordered… and the vet wanted.

(TheAdventurerr.com)

Trips

Two things veterans can always use more of: travel and relaxation. The type of travel will vary from vet to vet, but we all appreciate a good vacation. It could be as simple as some alone time, a day trip, or a spa day.

It doesn’t take a lot of money to please veterans — just a little attention to detail.

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time

Please, check on your friends this time of year

An ear and a shoulder

Transitioning back into civilian life can be a strange experience for many vets. We might move on, find a job, and start a family, but the feeling of camaraderie will never really be quite the same.

If you’ve got a vet in your life, it might not seem like a gift to you, but give them a call every now and then to check in, see how things are going. It’s a small gesture, but a worthwhile one.

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