Back in 2014, ISIS assaulted into Iraq and gained ground so fast that to this infantry officer, it made the German blitzkrieg look like amateur hour. Within a matter of months, the terrorist group took control of several key cities and began a series of massacres that even Al Qaeda deemed, “too extreme.”
As the Iraqi Army and Police fell back towards Baghdad, I received a phone call that would change my life forever.
I was on my way to class when I got a call from a man I knew as “Captain.” I could hear gunshots in the background and he was asking me, “Brother, can you help?”
Now, I’m a former Marine officer and served three combat tours in Iraq from 2006-2009. In 2014 I had moved on with life and was well on my way to growing the nasty beard and long hair of a graduate student.
But I couldn’t forget the Marine Corps motto that lived inside me: Semper Fidelis, Always Faithful. And now I had a good reason.
The Iraqi soldier we’ll call “Captain” to conceal his identity, saved my life in 2006.
I’ll never forget that as a boot platoon commander on my first deployment when the Captain shielded me from an incoming shot by pushing me down and charging a sniper. So when I got that call from Captain in 2014, I knew he was in some serious trouble, and I had to help.
That’s when I began a frantic effort to call my former commanders and write congressional leaders to do something…anything. But before Captain could get the massive airstrike that he needed to quell the ISIS assault, he received an ultimatum from the ISIS commander on the other side of the battlefield.
“We know who you are, and we’ll kill your kids if you don’t leave,” the ISIS commander told Captain.
With a credible threat against his life, the Captain and his family quickly fled to Turkey where they hoped to eventually resettle in the United States as refugees. With Captain out of Iraq and on a path to the U.S., I thought all was well.
But the Captain’s case got stuck in the backlog of millions fleeing the conflicts in Iraq and Syria. He was quickly told that his case wouldn’t be processed for years which, when you are on the run from ISIS, might as well be a death sentence.
Let me put it this way, this was a dude that had fought with us for years and now there were people who never served telling me that they couldn’t process his paperwork. I thought WTF?
So, I did the one thing Marines always do. I took action and went to Turkey myself, filming the trip along the way. My journey to help the Captain eventually was released by National Geographic as a short documentary called “The Captain’s Story.”
Nearly three years later, I continue to advocate for other refugees like the Captain as a member of Veterans For American Ideals, a non-partisan “group of veterans who share the belief that America is strongest when its policies and actions match its ideals.”
Though the work is far from over, we’re starting to make a difference in doing right by our wartime allies and bring them the protection and safety they deserve.
Chase Millsap joined the WATM team earlier this year as Director of Impact Strategy which allows him to keep fighting for veterans and our allies. We’re glad he’s on our team… just don’t piss him off.
President Donald Trump signed a bill August 18 authorizing the construction of a privately funded Global War on Terrorism Memorial in Washington, DC.
In signing the “Global War on Terrorism War Memorial Act” passed by the House and Senate, Trump did not designate a site but authorized a memorial somewhere on “federal land in the District of Columbia,” the White House said.
Trump also authorized the non-profit Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation to raise funds and oversee the project.
The bill to establish the memorial was sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, an Army veteran of the Iraq War, and Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia.
On the House side, the bill’s sponsors were Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisconsin, and Seth Moulton, D-Massachusetts; both are Marine Corps veterans of the Iraq War.
In a statement, Ernst said “I am thrilled the President has signed into law this important legislation authorizing the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation to begin creating a place of remembrance for those who served, their loved ones, and all impacted by this war.”
Manchin said “I’m proud of the work done by my colleagues in approving the first step towards building a memorial that commemorates our sons and daughters who answered the call to fight.”
Both Manchin and Ernst said the likely site for the memorial would be the National Mall. “This authorization is the first step in a process that will culminate with the design and construction of a Global War on Terror[ism] Memorial on the National Mall without using any federal funds,” they said.
The Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation has on its advisory board retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, the former commander in Iraq and Afghanistan, and retired Army Capt. Florent Groberg, a Medal of Honor recipient for valor in Afghanistan.
In a statement following Trump’s signing, the foundation said the bill exempted the memorial from the 10-year waiting period under the Commemorative Works Act of 1986, and authorized the foundation to oversee the fundraising, design, and construction of the memorial.
“Today’s historic signing is dedicated to our three million brothers and sisters who have deployed in the Global War on Terror, especially to the ones we have lost, and those who face great obstacles since their return home,” said Andrew J. Brennan, a West Point graduate and Afghanistan veteran who started the foundation and serves as executive director.
“We’re looking forward to building a sacred place of healing and remembrance for our veterans and their families, and want to thank our partners and advocates who worked tirelessly on Capitol Hill to pass this bipartisan legislation,” he said.
Every day, scores of US military commands reach millions with posts aimed to inform and inspire: videos of valor, motivational photos, and, yes, puppy pics.
The military has codified the rules for managing these official accounts. But sometimes these social-media pros flub it — even the four-star command responsible for the US’s nuclear weapons.
Here’s a blooper reel of some of the military’s most embarrassing and dumb social-media mistakes since 2016.
A still image from a video posted by US Strategic Command.
(US Strategic Command)
1. ‘#Ready to drop something much, much bigger’
US Strategic Command, which oversees the US’s nuclear arsenal, ringed in 2019 with a reminder that they’re ready, at any time, to start a nuclear war.
Playing off the image of the ball dropping in New York City’s Times Square, STRATCOM’s official account posted a tweet that included a clip of a B-2 dropping bombs. The command apologized for the message.
The A-10 Thunderbolt is armed with a 30mm cannon that fires so rapidly that the crack of each bullet blends into a thundering sound.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Corey Hook)
In May 2018, the internet was debating whether the word heard on a short audio recording was “Yanny” or “Laurel.” Then the US Air Force joined the debate, referring to a recent strike on Taliban.
“The Taliban Forces in Farah city #Afghanistan would much rather have heard #Yanny or #Laurel than the deafening #BRRRT they got courtesy of our #A10,” the official US Air Force Twitter account said.
The A-10 gunship carries a fearsome 30mm cannon used to destroy buildings, shred ground vehicles, and kill insurgents. It can fire so rapidly — nearly 3,900 rounds a minute — that the sound of each bullet is indistinguishable from the previous one, blending into a thundering “BRRRT.”
The US Air Force apologized for the tweet and deleted it, acknowledging it was in “poor taste.”
Mindy Kaling’s joke briefly got some props from the US Army.
President Barack Obama will shutter an alleged Russian spy compound in Maryland Dec. 30 in retaliation for nearly a decade’s worth of cyber espionage activities.
The compound was reportedly purchased in 1972 by the then-Soviet Union as a vacation retreat. The Russian government confirmed its ownership of the compound in 1992 to The Associated Press.
Washington Life also appears to have featured some parts of the compound in a 2007 profile on one of the main houses, used by the Russian ambassador as a vacation get away.
Obama also announced he would expel 35 Russian diplomats from the U.S., mainly from Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. Another compound owned by the Russian government will also be shuttered Dec. 30.
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Developed in the late 1970s, Russia’s Kirov-class battle cruisers are the largest and heaviest surface-combat ships in the world — and they’re coming back with advanced weaponry, according to Russia’s Tass news agency.
At more than 800 feet long, with a displacement of around 25,000 tons, the Kirov dwarfs any navy ship short of an amphibious assault ship or aircraft carriers. But only one, the Pyotr Veliky, is still in service.
Russian media says that another aging Kirov-class hull, the Admiral Nakhimov, is being fitted with Russia’s newest antiship, antiair, and surface-to-surface missiles.
Russia intends to return the Admiral Nakhimov to its fleet in 2019, at which time the Pyotr Veliky will be docked to undergo the same upgrades.
These include missiles of the Kalibr variety that recently hit targets in Syria from the Caspian Sea, Zircon hypersonic missiles, which are slated to be ready by 2020, and a “navalized” version of Russia’s S-400 missile-defense system, according to Foxtrot Alpha.
To accommodate these missiles, Russia plans to overhaul the ship’s vertical-launch systems. That contract alone is worth 2.56 billion rubles, or $33.5 million, NavyRecognition.com notes.
Is Hillary Clinton that person at the bar who claims they almost joined the military?
In 1994, the then-First Lady claimed she tried to join the Marines in 1975, but the Marine recruiter in Arkansas suggested she try the Army because she was too old for the Corps. She reiterated this story in a breakfast in New Hampshire while on the 2016 campaign trail recently.
“He looks at me and goes, ‘Um, how old are you?’ And I said, ‘Well I am 26, I will be 27,'” Clinton said. “And he goes ‘Well, that is kind of old for us.'”
“And then he says to me, and this is what gets me, ‘maybe the dogs will take you,’ meaning the Army.”
She meant “dogfaces.” In another version of the story, Clinton, then wearing thick glasses, said the recruiter included bad eyesight as a reason for being dismissed.
Maureen Dowd, a reporter for the New York Times, was as skeptical of Clinton’s claim as the world is now of Maureen Dowd. She noted Clinton’s status as an Ivy League, anti-establishment, anti-war, “up-and-coming legal star” would probably not make the Marines a real consideration for Clinton.
The Washington Post asked Marines who were Judge Advocate recruiters at the time if it would be possible the Marines would turn away a prime recruit with credentials like Hillary Rodham’s. The answer was a resounding no. Some lawyers in the Marines at the time “had coke bottle glasses” or “weighed 200 pounds.”
Clinton’s friends at the time vouch for her story, saying that she was likely to press the military to see how far women could go and what kind of career access she would have.
She could take some almost training from Donald Trump, who feels like he was in the military because he went to a military boarding school.
Clinton isn’t the only candidate with a fuzzy recollection of almost serving. GOP candidate Dr. Ben Carson recently admitted he was never offered a “full scholarship” offer to West Point. Carson was found out when the world realized scholarships to West Point don’t exist and the dinner where Gen. William Westmoreland met Carson and would initiate the offer process didn’t happen because Westmoreland could not have been in Detroit as Carson claimed.
For Veterans Day, the Call of Duty Endowment held the Race to Prestige. Five gamer personalities – GoldGloveTV, TmarTn, Jeriicho, Hutch, and VernNotice – played Call of Duty: Black Ops III for 96 hours straight in a live stream marathon. The goal? To help veterans get high quality jobs.
The Call of Duty Endowment helps veterans find high quality careers by supporting groups that prepare them for the job market and by raising awareness of the value vets ring to the workplace.
Activision matched the donations raised by gamers from all over the Internet. The event collected $450,000 for the endowment. Navy veteran and Executive Director of the Call of Duty Endowment Dan Goldenberg lauded the goal-breaking fundraising, “Our goal initially was to raise $25,000 and they blew that away in the first two hours… basically, every $600 puts a vet in a job.”
By that math, the event raised enough money to help 750 veterans find great, long-term employment.
As part of the “all options on the table” approach to North Korea often pushed by President Donald Trump and his cabinet, the U.S. has been training the first operational Marine Corps F-35 squadron to fight through nuclear war if needed.
In mid-November, U.S. Marine Corps pilots and support crew donned Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear to train for war fighting under the strain of chemical, biological, or radiological hazards.
The Marines wore MOPP gear level four, the highest grade of protective gear available to the U.S. military, while executing a “hot refueling,” or a fast-paced exercise where the pilot keeps the F-35’s engines on while it takes on more gas, so it can take off in a moment’s notice.
Hot refueling, as well as hot reloading, where F-35s take in more ordnance while the engines stay on, both represent tactics devised specifically with fighting in the Pacific in mind.
In the event of war with North Korea, Pyongyang’s opening salvo would likely include nuclear, chemical, or biological weapon attacks via ballistic missiles on U.S. bases in Japan. Although the U.S. maintains missile defenses, it’s not safe to assume the bases would make it out unscathed.
For that reason, the Marines’ F-35B, which can take off and land vertically, needs flexibility to improvise, land on makeshift runways, and turn around to keep fighting in minimal time.
Training in MOPP gear assures that the pilots and crew won’t be caught off guard when the atmosphere becomes hazardous with chemical, radioactive, or biological agents.
“It’s important to practice in MOPP gear because the Marines do”t get many opportunities to wear this on a daily basis, so in the instance where they do have to wear MOPP gear in a real-life scenario, it’s not going to be a shock or surprise to them of how they are going to operate,” Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Martin Aldrete, a maintenance controller with VMFA-121, said in a statement.
The military’s best planes and pilots are all training to take out North Korea
Alpert said that instead of sending 60 to 75 servicemembers into the air above North Korea aboard F-16s, F-15s, logistics, and surveillance planes, U.S. Air Force planners managed to work out a mission where just four pilots in two F-22 Raptors and two F-35s take out North Korea’s main nuclear infrastructure and leave unscathed.
Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis is a legend in the military. Revered by Marines and non-Marines alike, Mattis has taken on the persona of a modern-day Patton — having the knowledge and insight to lead his Marines through combat, while standing behind them and taking the heat if things go bad. In short, Mattis is a hell of a leader.
In 2013 while serving as commander of Central Command in Tampa, Fla., Mattis retired after four decades of service. Since then, he’s been teaching at Stanford and Dartmouth, as well as speaking across the country on leadership. He’s also working on a book with author Bing West.
We looked back at some of the best insights he offered, through a great collection of quotes. Most apply strictly to military service, but some can be just as useful in the corporate boardroom.
“You cannot allow any of your people to avoid the brutal facts. If they start living in a dream world, it’s going to be bad.”
The “dream world” Mattis is talking about is one of denial and complacency — a mood in combat that can get you killed. And in corporate America, it can get you wiped out by the competition.
“If in order to kill the enemy you have to kill an innocent, don’t take the shot. Don’t create more enemies than you take out by some immoral act.”
Mattis, who co-wrote the manual for Counterinsurgency with Gen. David Petraeus, knows well that troops cannot win over the population to their side if they are killing the wrong people. His advice here to soldiers and Marines is spot on.
“I don’t lose any sleep at night over the potential for failure. I cannot even spell the word.”
Of course he can spell it but that’s not the point. Mattis wants to impress upon his troops that failure should not be an option.
“Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”
Before his Marines deployed to Iraq in 2003, he told them this (along with many other great pieces of advice in a now-famous letter). His point here is to be a professional warfighter who can be polite with civilians, but always remember that if things go south, the dirty work needs to get done.
“The first time you blow someone away is not an insignificant event. That said, there are some sh–heads in the world that just need to be shot. There are hunters and there are victims. By your discipline, you will decide if you are a hunter or a victim.”
Recalling the mentality of the wolf, the sheep, and the sheepdog, Mattis understands that there is evil in the world. It’s important for his men to be prepared for whether they will be the hunter or the victim if they ever face it.
“There are some people who think you have to hate them in order to shoot them. I don’t think you do. It’s just business.”
One of his more controversial quotes, to be sure. But in Mattis’ view, to be a professional, you need to have a professional mindset. It’s not really necessary to get emotional about what you have to do. It just needs to get done.
“You can overcome wrong technology. Your people have the initiative, they see the problem, no big deal … you can’t overcome bad culture. You’ve gotta change whoever is in charge.”
In a talk at Stanford, Mattis was relating how toxic culture can bring down an organization that has everything else right. The culture of an organization comes from the top, and if that part is screwed up, there are going to be problems.
“The most important six inches on the battlefield is between your ears.”
Mattis doesn’t want robots just mindlessly following his orders. As a leader, he gives broad guidance and lets his men use their own brains to decide how it gets accomplished.
“Find the enemy that wants to end this experiment (in American democracy) and kill every one of them until they’re so sick of the killing that they leave us and our freedoms intact.”
“In this age, I don’t care how tactically or operationally brilliant you are, if you cannot create harmony — even vicious harmony — on the battlefield based on trust across service lines, across coalition and national lines, and across civilian/military lines, you need to go home, because your leadership is obsolete. We have got to have officers who can create harmony across all those lines.”
Mattis implores his officers to not get stuck in their own little boxes. Learning how to be brilliant on the battlefield is important, but it’s more important to be able to work with others to get the job done.
“PowerPoint makes us stupid.”
Military officers endure (and have to create) tons of PowerPoint briefings to inform their chain of command what’s going on. Mattis however, is not one of those officers. He actually banned PowerPoint since he saw it as a waste of time.
“You are part of the world’s most feared and trusted force. Engage your brain before you engage your weapon.”
Mattis wants his Marines to always be thinking before they take the shot. It’s advice that has no doubt saved lives.
“An untrained or uneducated Marine … deployed to the combat zone is a bigger threat to mission accomplishment … than the enemy.”
The biggest detriment to mission accomplishment is not from the competition, but from within. Having the right mindset and skills is what results in getting results.
“No war is over until the enemy says it’s over. We may think it over, we may declare it over, but in fact, the enemy gets a vote.”
Combat doesn’t happen in a vacuum. All the planning, meetings, and briefings on what potentially can happen in a given situation are good, but the bad guys will always react in uncertain ways. The key is to be prepared for anything.
“Be the hunter, not the hunted: Never allow your unit to be caught with its guard down.”
Just because you are at the top of your game doesn’t mean someone won’t come along to knock you down. Units (and individuals) need to be vigilant and make sure that doesn’t happen.
“Ultimately, a real understanding of history means that we face NOTHING new under the sun.”
Mattis is an avid reader. On all his deployments, the general brought along a ton of books that he thought may help him along the way. In an email that went viral (via Business Insider) on the importance of reading, Mattis wrote that it “doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.”
“You’ve been told that you’re broken. That you’re damaged goods … there is also Post-Traumatic Growth. You come back from war stronger and more sure of who you are.”
While giving a speech to veterans in San Francisco, Mattis tried to dispel the mindset that those leaving the service should be pitied. Instead, he told them, use your experiences as a positive that teaches you to be a better person.
An explosion during a training exercise injured a number of U.S. special operations forces at Fort Bragg on Thursday.
The soldiers were taken to the Army base’s Womack Army Medical Center for treatment, said Lt. Col. Rob Bockholt, a spokesman for the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Command, which is based at Fort Bragg.
Bockholt didn’t yet know the number of soldiers injured or the extent of those injuries. He also could not say what exactly caused them.
More than 50,000 active duty personnel are attached to Fort Bragg, located in Fayetteville, N.C. It is the largest Army installation by population and covers about 161,000 acres. The Special Operations Command has about 23,000 soldiers spread over several sites.
As a fifth-generation stealth fighter, the F-22 is specifically engineered for air supremacy and air dominance missions, meaning its radar-evading technology is designed to elude and destroy enemy air defenses. The aircraft is also configured to function as the world’s premier air-to-air fighter able to “dogfight” and readily destroy enemy aircraft.
“Air superiority, using stealth characteristics is our primary role. The air dominance mission is what we will always do first. Once we are comfortable operating in that battlespace, our airmen are going to find ways to contribute,” Col. Larry Broadwell, the Commander of the 1st Operations Group at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, told Scout Warrior in a special pilot interview.
The F-22’s command and control sensors and avionics help other coalition aircraft identify and destroy targets. While some of the aircraft’s technologies are not “publically discussable,” Broadwell did say that the F-22’s active and passive sensors allow it to function as an “aerial quarterback” allowing the mission to unfold.
For example, drawing upon information from a ground-based command and control center or nearby surveillance plane – such as a Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System – the F-22 can receive information or target coordinates from nearby drones, Broadwell explained.
At the moment, targeting information from drones is relayed from the ground station back up to an F-22. However, computer algorithms and technology is fast evolving such that aircraft like an F-22s will soon be able to quickly view drone video feeds in the cockpit without needing a ground station — and eventually be able to control nearby drones from the air. These developments were highlighted in a special Scout Warrior interview with Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias.
Zacharias explained that fifth generation fighters such as the F-35 and F-22 are quickly approaching an ability to command-and-control nearby drones from the air. This would allow unmanned systems to deliver payload, test enemy air defenses and potentially extend the reach of ISR misisons.
“Because of its sensors, the F-22 is uniquely able to improve the battlefield awareness – not just for airborne F-22s but the other platforms that are airborne as well,” he said. The Raptor has an F-22-specific data link to share information with other F-22s and also has the ability to use a known data link called LINK 16 which enables it to communicate with other aircraft in the coalition, Broadwell explained in an interview last year.
Newer F-22s have a technology called Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, which uses electromagnetic signals or “pings” to deliver a picture or rendering of the terrain below, allow for better target identification.
The SAR technology sends a ping to the ground and then analyzes the return signal to calculate the contours, distance and characteristics of the ground below.
“The addition of SAR mapping has certainly enhanced our air-to-ground capability. Previously, we would have to take off with pre-determined target coordinates. Now, we have an ability to more dynamically use the SAR to pinpoint a target while airborne,” Broadwell added.
“The F-35 is needed because it is to global precision attack what the F-22 is to air superiority,” he added. “These two aircrafts were built to work together in concert. It is unfortunate that we have so few F-22s. We are going to ask the F-35 to contribute to the air superiority mission,” he said.
Overall, the Air Force operates somewhere between 80 and 100 F-22s. Dave Majumdar of The National Interest writes that many would like to see more F-22s added to the Air Force arsenal. For instance, some members of Congress, such as Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., have requested that more F-22s be built, given its technological superiority.
Citing budget concerns, Air Force officials have said it is unlikely the service will want to build new F-22s, however an incoming Trump administration could possibly want to change that.
The F-22 is known for a range of technologies including an ability called “super cruise” which enables the fighter to reach speeds of Mach 1.5 without needing to turn on its after burners.
“The F-22 engines produce more thrust than any current fighter engine. The combination of sleek aerodynamic design and increased thrust allows the F-22 to cruise at supersonic airspeeds. Super Cruise greatly expands the F-22’s operating envelope in both speed and range over current fighters, which must use fuel-consuming afterburner to operate at supersonic speeds,” Broadwell explained.
The fighter jet fires a 20mm cannon and has the ability to carry and fire all the air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons including precision-guided ground bombs, such Joint Direct Attack Munitions called the GBU 32 and GBU 39, Broadwell explained. In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders, he added.
“The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected. Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot’s situational awareness,” he said.
It also uses what’s called a radar-warning receiver – a technology which uses an updateable data base called “mission data files” to recognize a wide-range of enemy fighters, Broadwell said.
Made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the F-22 uses two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners and two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles, an Air Force statement said. It is 16-feet tall, 62-feet long and weighs 43,340 pounds. Its maximum take-off weight is 83,500.
The aircraft was first introduced in December of 2005, and each plane costs $143 million, Air Force statements say.
“Its greatest asset is the ability to target attack and kill an enemy without the enemy ever being aware they are there,” Broadwell added.
The Air Force’s stealthy F-22 Raptor fighter jet delivered some of the first strikes in the U.S.-led attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, when aerial bombing began in 2014, service officials told Scout Warrior.
After delivering some of the first strikes in the U.S. Coalition-led military action against ISIS, the F-22 began to shift its focus from an air-dominance mission to one more focused on supporting attacks on the ground.
“An F-22 squadron led the first strike in OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve). The aircraft made historic contributions in the air-to-ground regime,”
Even though ISIS does not have sophisticated air defenses or fighter jets of their own to challenge the F-22, there are still impactful ways in which the F-22 continues to greatly help the ongoing attacks, Broadwell said.
“There are no issues with the air superiority mission. That is the first thing they focus on. After that, they can transition to what they have been doing over the last several months and that has been figuring out innovative ways to contribute in the air-to-ground regime to support the coalition,” Broadwell said.
If you’re familiar with the phrase “rock or something,” then you’ve probably used a Flameless Ration Heater to warm up a Meal, Ready-to-Eat.
To this day, the phrase remains part of a pictogram on the package of the heater, known as the FRH, which was developed at Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate and is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2013. It refers to directions that advise warfighters to place the FRH at an angle when heating up a Meal, Ready-to-Eat, commonly known as an MRE.
“The term ‘rock or something’ has now reached cult status,” said Lauren Oleksyk, team leader of the Food Processing, Engineering and Technology Team at Combat Feeding. “It’s just taken on a life of its own.”
Oleksyk was there at the beginning with colleagues Bob Trottier and now-retired Don Pickard when the FRH and that memorable phrase were born in 1993.
“We were designing the FRH directions and wanted to show an object to rest the heater on,” Oleksyk recalled. “(Don) said, ‘I don’t know. Let’s make it a rock or something. So we wrote ‘rock or something’ on the object, kind of as a joke.”
The joke has legs. As Oleksyk pointed out, there now are T-shirts and other items for sale that bear those words. “Rock or something” even has its own Facebook page.
Introduced to the heater years ago, famed chef Julia Child insisted on following the package directions and activating it by herself. With no rock handy, she decided to employ a wine glass stem.
(Photo by David Kamm)
“Which is so classic Julia,” Oleksyk said, laughing. “So there have been many things other than the rock or something that have been used. There are many, many Soldiers over the years that have their own personal joke about what they might use in place of a rock.”
The FRH is no joke, however. Adding an ounce and a half of water to the magnesium-iron alloy and sodium in the heater will raise the temperature of an eight-ounce MRE entrée by 100 degrees in about 10 minutes.
“Some of the challenges were keeping it lightweight and low volume, and not requiring a lot to activate it,” Oleksyk said.
The heater’s arrival gave warfighters the option of a hot meal wherever they went and whenever they wanted.
“I’ve heard more feedback on this item than any other item I’ve ever worked on in my career here,” said Oleksyk, who has been at Natick nearly 30 years. “They’re so grateful to have this heater in the MRE. It’s almost always used whenever they have 10 minutes to sit down for lunch.”
Prior to the FRH, warfighters used Trioxane fuel bars with canteen cups and cup stands to heat their MRE entrees. As Oleksyk pointed out, the fuel bars couldn’t be packed alongside food in the MRE package.
“So if the fuel bar and the MRE didn’t marry up in the field,” said Oleksyk, “they really had no way to have a hot meal.”
The FRH has remained essentially the same over the past two decades because, as Oleksyk put it, “it’s tough to find a better chemistry that’s lighter in weight, lower in volume and that heats as well.” A larger version has been developed, however.
“We’ve expanded it to a group ration,” Oleksyk said. “So now we have a larger heater that is used to heat the Unitized Group Ration-Express. We call that ration a ‘kitchen in a carton.’ It serves 18 Soldiers.”
The next-generation MRE heater is being tested now, and it will eliminate the need to use one of the most precious commodities in the field.
“The next version of this is a waterless version,” Oleksyk said. “It’s an air-activated heater, so you wouldn’t have to add any water to activate it at all, but that’s still in development and will have to perform better than the FRH overall if it’s ever to replace it.”
Oleksyk remembered sitting on a mountain summit one time during a weekend hike with friends. Suddenly, she heard laughter behind her.
“I hear a guy — sure enough, he says, ‘Yeah, I need a rock or something,'” said Oleksyk, who turned to see him wearing fatigues, holding a Flameless Ration Heater, and telling his buddies how great it was.
“So it’s far reaching,” Oleksyk said. “It really had an impact on the warfighter.”
Last August, two amateur treasure hunters said they had “irrefutable proof” of the existence of a World War II-era Nazi train, rumored to be filled with stolen gold.
Andreas Richter and Piotr Koper claimed they used ground-penetrating radar to locate the train, which is somewhere alongside a railway between the towns of Wroclaw and Walbrzych in southwestern Poland.
“The train isn’t a needle in a haystack,” Andrzej Gaik, a retired teacher and spokesman for the renewed effort to search for the train, told Agence France-Presse.
“If it’s there, we’ll find it,” Gaik said.
‘There may be a tunnel. There is no train.’
In December, after analyzing mining data, Polish experts said there was no evidence of the buried train.
Janusz Madej, from Krakow’s Academy of Mining, said the geological survey of the site showed that there was no evidence of a train after using magnetic and gravitation methods.
“There may be a tunnel. There is no train,” Madej said at a news conference in Walbrzych, according to the BBC.
Koper insists that “there is a tunnel and there is a train,” and that the results are skewed because of different technology used, The Telegraph reports.
According to a local myth, the train is believed to have vanished in 1945 with stolen gold, gems, and weapons when the Nazis retreated from the Russia.
During the war, the Germans were building headquarters for Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in Walbrzych’s medieval Ksiaz Castle, then called the Furstenstein Castle.
Below the castle, the Germans built a system of secret tunnels and bunkers, called “Project Riese.”
The train is in one of these hidden passages, says Tadeusz Slowikowski, the main living source of the train legend. Slowikowski, a retired miner who searched for the train in 2001, believes the Nazis blew up the entrance to the train’s tunnel.
“I have lived with this mystery for 40 years, but each time I went to the authorities they always silenced it,” Slowikowski told The Associated Press. “For so many years. Unbelievable!”
Slowikowski believes it is near the 65th kilometer of railway tracks from Wroclaw to Walbrzych.