The horrifying way Iran cleared mines in the Iran-Iraq War - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The horrifying way Iran cleared mines in the Iran-Iraq War

The only good mines are one that are cleared — or better yet, never used in the first place. Today mines are generally seen as relics of bygone eras, deadly weapons that remain dangerous long after the war is fought. Forgotten minefields all over the world kill civilians by the score – more than 8,600 in 2016 alone. Many of these are children.

Many who join armed forces around the world do so with the idea that they can keep their children and families – along with the children and families of their fellow countrymen – safe from the imminent dangers of impending war. When faced with an existential threat, countries will go to horrifying lengths to defend themselves.

The horrifying way Iran cleared mines in the Iran-Iraq War
This isn’t World War I u2014u00a0it’s the 1980s. No one told Saddam or Khomeini.

Such was the case in the early 1980s, the nascent years of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran fought a brutal war against Iraq since 1980, when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein smelled blood in the disorganized post-Revolution Iran and attempted to seize its access to the Persian Gulf by force.

The Iran-Iraq War was particularly brutal, even as far as warfare in the Middle East is concerned. The war was defined by eight years of stalemates and failed offensives, indiscriminate ballistic missile attacks — often using chemical weapons — and insane asymmetrical warfare.

Insane symmetrical warfare is a very clean term for the tactics Iran used to level the playing field of the Western-backed, technologically superior Iraqis. Iran recently purged its professional military of those loyal to the deposed Shah and was by no means ready to fight a war with a series of Revolutionary militias. The Ayatollah Khomeini was no military commander. He saw a success in war in terms of casualties inflicted on the enemy versus the number his forces took, a World War I-era approach to warfare.

The horrifying way Iran cleared mines in the Iran-Iraq War
They also dug trenches. A lot of trenches.

To Khomeini, as long as the math worked and his fighters were sufficiently motivated by religious fanaticism and revolutionary spirit, he could push all the way to Baghdad. So he enlisted large numbers of civilians with little or no military training to execute his plans. This entrenched incompetence included the field command leadership who most often sent men to die in droves using human wave attacks, another World War I relic. The horror doesn’t stop there.

The New York Times’ Terence Smith, writing about Iran in 1984, described the use of child soldiers by Iran to clear minefields. Young boys, aged 12-17 years, wore red headbands with the words ‘Sar Allah’ in Farsi (Warriors of God) and small metal keys that the Ayatollah declared were their tickets to Paradise if they were martyred in their mission. Many were sent into battle against Iraqi tanks without any protection and bound by ropes to prevent desertion.

They were the first wave, making the way for Iranian tanks by clearing barbed wire and minefields with their bodies.

The horrifying way Iran cleared mines in the Iran-Iraq War
Iranian child soldiers marching off to fight Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War.

These children weren’t the only human wave attackers, but they certainly were the most notable – and effective. In the same interview, Smith notes the Iranian commanders are unapologetic. Iraq has many tanks and a lot of support. Iran has very few. What Iran had is exactly what the Ayatollah predicted, a large population filled with religious fervor.

The total number of casualties inflicted on Iran and Iraq throughout the war isn’t clearly known, but what is known is a number ranging anywhere between 500,000 to one million killed and wounded in the eight-year slugfest.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Soldier killed in Afghanistan helicopter crash

A US Army soldier from Skagway, Alaska, was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan Oct. 27, military officials and the man’s family said.


Chief Warrant Officer Jacob Michael Sims, 36, died in a helicopter crash in Logar Province, Afghanistan, the Department of Defense said in a statement.

Six other US crew members were injured. The cause of the crash is under investigation, according to NATO’s Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan.

A provincial governor’s spokesman told Stars and Stripes that the helicopter had “taken troops to the Kharwar district for a night raid” when it hit a tree, according to the newspaper.

The horrifying way Iran cleared mines in the Iran-Iraq War
On Camp Marmal in Afghanistan, Blackhawk crew members from the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade’s Alpha Company 5th Battalion 158th Aviation perform after-operations checks on their UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter following night-operations in RC-North. US Army Photo by Capt. Michael Barranti.

Stars and Stripes reported that the NATO coalition denied that the crash was the result of enemy action. It’s not clear whether Sims was the pilot of the helicopter that crashed.

Sims joined the Army in 1999 and trained as a combat engineer before becoming a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter pilot, according to a biographical statement from the US Army’s Special Operations Command.

Related: US military helicopter crashes off southern coast of Yemen

The Department of Defense listed his hometown as Juneau. But Sims’ sister-in-law Trisha Sims said he grew up in Skagway and graduated from school there. Sims’ parents briefly lived in Juneau around the time that he joined the military, Trisha Sims said.

Sims was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 160 Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State. The unit is known as the “Night Stalkers.”

He was a decorated veteran of numerous overseas operations in Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan, according to his biography. His awards included an Air Medal and a Joint Service Commendation Medal.

The horrifying way Iran cleared mines in the Iran-Iraq War
A crew member from the C/4-160th SOAR (Night Stalkers) collects a rappel rope used by the Airmen of the 142nd Fighter Wing, 125th Special Tactics Squadron in Alternate Insertion Extraction training from a UH-60 Blackhawk, March 19, 2017, Portland Air National Guard Base, Ore. US Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. John Hughel.

“Jacob lived by a creed that few understand and even fewer embody,” said Colonel Philip Ryan, the commander of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. “He will not be forgotten and his legacy will endure through his family, friends, and fellow Night Stalkers.”

Alaska Governor Bill Walker on Oct. 29 ordered that US and Alaska flags be lowered to half-staff in honor of Sims.

“Chief Warrant Officer Sims and his family made the ultimate sacrifice for the rest of us,” Walker said in a statement. “Byron, Toni, Donna, and I are holding his parents, his wife, and his children in our daily prayers. While our state and our country lost a dedicated soldier, they lost their son, husband and father. Our military service members put themselves on the line in defense of the values we hold dear. We owe them a debt of gratitude.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China’s F-16 ripoff just got new stealth upgrades

China’s Chengdu J-10 multirole fighter jet may be getting an engine upgrade that will increase its maneuverability and make it harder to detect on radar.

Defense News reports that a photo of a J-10C in an unknown Chinese defense magazine features an engine that appears to be equipped with a thrust vectoring nozzle. The engine also appears to have sawtooth edges, according to Defense News, and the bottom part of the compartment that houses the fighter’s drogue parachute was removed.


The new nozzle will enable the J-10 to be capable of thrust vectoring, sometimes referred to as thrust vector control or TVC. TVC happens when the engine itself is directed in different directions, directly manipulating the thrust generated from the engine.

This gives the pilot greater control of altitude and angular velocity, and enables the aircraft to make better turns, substantially increasing maneuverability.

The new nozzle suggests that the Chinese have made gains in their attempts to add TVC technology to fighter jets.

But increased maneuverability is not the only thing that the engine provides. The sawtooth edges around the nozzle are similar to those used by other stealth aircraft like the F-35 and F-22. Russia’s Sukhoi Su-30/35 Flanker series of fighters also utilize the same edges.

The J-10C is actually an improved version of the J-10. It features enhanced 4th generation electronics, like an active electronically scanned array radar, and also has a diverterless supersonic inlet, an air intake system that diverts boundary layer airflow away from the aircraft’s engine lowering its radar cross section.

The J-10 itself is rumored to be a Chinese copy of the American F-16.

The horrifying way Iran cleared mines in the Iran-Iraq War
A 35th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off for a Beverly Bulldog 14-01 sortie Nov. 19, 2013, at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando A. Schwier-Morales)

In the 1990s, Israel was hoping to make its own domestic fighter jet that could compete on the international market. It required assistance from US companies and ended up making the IAI Lavi, a fighter that heavily resembled the F-16.

After it was discovered that up to $1.3 billion of US aid to Israel was spent on the development of the Lavi, and that the US was essentially funding a potential competitor, the project was canceled.

The plans for the fighter were then said to have been sold to China. Some US government officials even believed that Israel and China were collaborating with each other to develop the fighter. China and Israel have both denied all such claims.

China has been aggresively pursuing stealth capability for its jets. In September 2017, the government officially announced that its stealth fighter jet, the J-20, was in active service.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch crazy Australians fly a C-17 between city buildings

The Royal Australian Air Force often flies as part of the finale to the Brisbane Festival in Australia. But one of their greatest moments in their storied history was in 2018 when they set the internet on fire by piloting a C-17 just a few hundred feet above the ground of the large city, navigating between skyscrapers as excited onlookers shot footage with their smart phones.


RAAF C 17A Globemaster flypast at eye-level in Brisbane Sept 29 2018

www.youtube.com

The video starts slowly as the C-17 makes its approach. According to a statement from the RAAF, the plane flew about 330 feet above the ground at nearly 200 mph. This allowed lucky folks watching from nearby buildings to shoot photos and videos of the plane flying at eye level.

While the video may look harrowing, especially after the 1:00 mark, the plane was actually following a river for most of its route, and did have some wiggle room to shift a little left or right. And the plane conducted the flight twice, coming back around after the first pass.

The flypast wasn’t without controversy, though. The Aviationist addressed peoples’ concerns that it was a “9/11-like stunt,” pointing out that the aerial displays are an annual tradition and that the C-17 flying wasn’t even the most surprising show they’ve done there. And, what you don’t see from watching the brief clip is that it was well-rehearsed, meaning viewers had a chance to get accustomed to the stunt.

For years, F-111 Aardvarks flew through the night sky just before the fireworks with a special nozzle fitted to spew jet fuel into the air near the engines, allowing afterburners to ignite it and creating a massive, flying fireball. The supersonic bomber put on quite the display.

F-111 final night Dump & Burn

www.youtube.com

The finale of the Brisbane Festival culminates in a great aerial display most years, but it pales in comparison to some other annual events. During summits like the Farnborough International Air Show, manufacturers send top crews and test pilots to show off the capabilities of their best aircraft to drum up additional sales.

The British Ministry of Defence is kind enough to tell the public ahead of time when planes will likely be flying though the famous Mach Loop, a low-level flying training area where planes rip through valleys a scant 250 feet off the ground. Photographers line the route to capture some awesome images.

Still, the C-17 at Brisbane was quite a show.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Chinese military’s new propaganda video is epic

China’s People’s Liberation Army released a chilling video last week called “I am a Chinese Soldier,” which was first spotted in the West by the National Interest.

The 2:20 minute video, released on August 1 for China’s Army Day, emotionally underscores the sacrifices made by service members of the PLA while showing off some of the country’s latest weaponry.

At one point in the propaganda video, the narrator says “peace behind me, war in front of me,” which The National Interest said could be interpreted to mean war is “inevitable.”


The National Interest, which provided a translation of the narration, also pointed out that no female soldiers were depicted in the video — just mothers and wives sending their husbands or sons off.

Check out the video:

The high-quality video also likely instilled a lot of pride, something which Eric Wertheim, a naval expert with the US Naval Institute, recently told Business Insider is at least in part China’s reason for building a fleet of new aircraft carriers that may soon be on par with the US’ Nimitz-class carriers.

But China’s grand ambitions for a world-class military likely goes beyond pride and domestic politics, as Beijing continues to set its sights on the East and South China Seas, Taiwan, market access overseas, and more.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The first aerial bombing run was made by the Italian Army

In November 1911, Italy was engaged in a costly war against the Ottoman Empire in what is today Libya. It worked out for the Italians in the end, easily defeating the Ottoman Empire, who was by then a shadow of its former glory. The war brought a number of new technologies onto the battlefield, most notably the airplane. Italian pilots were the first to use heavier than air aircraft for both reconnaissance and to drop bombs on enemy positions. One pilot was also the first to fly a night sortie.


For the Turks, who had no anti-air defenses, they were the first to shoot down an aircraft with small arms fire.

The horrifying way Iran cleared mines in the Iran-Iraq War

The German-built Taube monoplane like the one flown by Lt. Gavotti over Libya.

On Nov. 1, 1911, Giulio Gavotti, an Italian war pilot, climbed into the cockpit of his Etrich Taube monoplane. His mission was to fly over the Ain Zara oasis, occupied by Turkish troops. Instead of just flying over the target, he decided he would throw bombs out of the plane and into the mass of maybe 2,000 enemy soldiers below. The lieutenant would later write to his father that he was really pleased to be the first person to try. His efforts earned him the nickname “the Flying Artilleryman.”

“I notice the dark shape of the oasis. With one hand, I hold the steering wheel, with the other I take out one of the bombs and put it on my lap…. I take the bomb with my right hand, pull off the security tag and throw the bomb out, avoiding the wing. I can see it falling through the sky for couple of seconds and then it disappears. And after a little while, I can see a small dark cloud in the middle of the encampment. I am lucky. I have struck the target.”

And that’s how one pilot ushered in the Air Power age.

The horrifying way Iran cleared mines in the Iran-Iraq War

Giulio Gavotti, the first bomber pilot.

The young lieutenant had strapped a number of grapefruit-sized grenade-like bombs into a leather pouch in the cockpit. As he flew over the target, he would toss them over the side. The official history of the Italian Army in Libya says that Gavotti screwed in the detonators and flew at an altitude of just 600 feet as he made his bombing runs. He tossed three over the side at an oasis at Tagiura and then one over the Ain Zara Oasis. No one is really sure how many (if any) he actually killed on his run.

In response, the Ottoman Empire issued a formal complaint. Dropping bombs from aerial balloons was outlawed by the Hague Convention of 1899. The Italians countered that the airplanes weren’t balloons and any heavier-than-air craft was legally allowed to drop bombs as Gavotti had.

“I come back really pleased with the result,” Gavotti wrote. “I go straight to report to General Caneva. Everybody is satisfied.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the Navy doesn’t use these small boats with a big punch

Back in World War II, patrol torpedo, or PT, boats were the scourge of the Japanese Navy. These vessels were so small, they weren’t even measured in tons, but rather by feet. The Elco PT boat was 80 feet long, and the Higgins PT boat was 78.


Many were discarded after World War II, but the Soviet Union, China, and some NATO allies brought the concept back, this time equipping them with anti-ship missiles, like the MM38/MM40 Exocet, the Penguin, and the SS-N-2 Styx.

In the 1980s, the United States got into the game with the Pegasus-class hydrofoil.

The horrifying way Iran cleared mines in the Iran-Iraq War
The patrol combatant missile hydrofoils USS AQUILA (PHM 4), front, and USS GEMINI (PHM 6), center, lie tied up in port with a third PHM. The Coast Guard surface effect ship (SES) cutter USCGC SHEARWATER (WSES 3) is in the background. (US Navy photo)

The Pegasus was all of 255 tons, according to the Federation of American Scientists. It carried some serious firepower, though: A single 76mm gun, like those used on the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates (and later, the Coast Guard’s Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters) forward and eight RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles. That’s a lot more than what you see on today’s Littoral Combat Ships.

The Navy bought six of these vessels and based them at Key West, Florida. There, they helped keep an eye on Fidel Castro’s dictatorship and pitched in to fight the War on Drugs. With a top speed in excess of 45 knots, these boats could chase down just about anything on the waves, and their firepower gave them a good chance of defeating any vessel the Cuban Navy could throw at them. That said, these vessels were expensive to operate and suffered from short range.

The horrifying way Iran cleared mines in the Iran-Iraq War
USS Aries (PHM 5), the only survivor of the six missile-armed hydrofoils the Navy operated in the 1980s. (US Navy photo)

With the end of the Cold War, the PHMs were among the many assets retired. All six were retired on July 30, 1993. Four of the vessels were scrapped immediately. A fifth, USS Gemini (PHM 6), became a yacht for a brief time before she went to the scrapyard. The lone surviving vessel in this class is the former USS Aries (PHM 5), which is slated to become part of a hydrofoil museum.

MIGHTY BRANDED

Vietnam War vet and NFL great takes to the gridiron with these wounded warriors

As part of the events surrounding Super Bowl 50, the Military Benefit Association sponsored the Wounded Warrior Amputee vs. NFL Alumni Flag Football game. The game was a chance for these veterans to compete against NFL greats while raising awareness about the issues wounded veterans face.


Rocky Bleier, Pittsburgh Steeler great, Vietnam War veteran, and spokesperson for the Military Benefit Association, has been involved with the WWAFT games for the past five years.

Articles

WW2 fighter pilot and founder of Enterprise Rent-A-Car dies at 94

The horrifying way Iran cleared mines in the Iran-Iraq War


Jack Taylor, the founder of Enterprise Rent-a-car who served as a fighter pilot during World War II, died last week at the age of 94 according to an announcement made by the company.

Taylor served as an F6F Hellcat pilot in the Pacific Theater during World War II, flying from the U.S.S. Essex and U.S.S. Enterprise (his company’s namesake). He was attached to Carrier Air Group 15, led by the top Navy ace of all time, Commander David McCampbell. CAG 15, which sustained more than 50 percent casualties during the war, was one of the most decorated combat units in the history of U.S. Naval Aviation. Taylor, who served as McCampbell’s wingman on several combat missions, was twice decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross. He also received the Navy Air Medal.

The horrifying way Iran cleared mines in the Iran-Iraq War
Jack Taylor.

After the war, he worked as a sales rep for a Cadillac dealership before getting into the leasing business with a fleet of 7 cars. His breakthrough idea was renting cars at places other than airports for those who needed an extra car around the neighborhood for whatever reason. His company, Executive Leasing, eventually became Enterprise. The company is among the world’s biggest rental car brands, with annual revenues at nearly $20 billion.

Taylor also a philanthropist. Since 1982, he personally donated more than $860 million to a wide variety of organizations including Washington University and the symphony orchestra in his hometown of St. Louis.

Years later, Taylor reflected back on how well his military service had prepared him for his business success, saying, “After landing a Hellcat on the pitching deck of a carrier, or watching enemy tracer bullets stream past your canopy, somehow the risk of starting up my own company didn’t seem all that big a deal.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Wild photos show US Marines munching on scorpions and washing them down with snake blood as they learn to survive in the jungle

US Marines are eating scorpions and drinking snake blood in the jungle, and no, it’s not because someone forgot to pack the Meals Ready to Eat.


Check out these wild photos and see how the Marines are connecting with nature in a way a lot of people would probably rather not.

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Royal Thai Marine Petty Officer 1st Class Pairoj Prasarnsa, Chief Jungle Survival Trainer with Marine Recon Patrol holds two Cobras during jungle survival training alongside his U.S. Marine counterparts

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

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Royal Thai Marine Petty Officer 1st Class Pairoj Prasarnsa, Chief Jungle Survival Trainer with Marine Reconnaissance Patrol, displays a spider’s fangs during jungle survival training alongside his US Marines.

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

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U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink water from a plant as part of jungle survival training.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall

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U.S. Marine Cpl. Alicia Yoo with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, eats watermelon during jungle survival training.

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

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U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Lance with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, eats a live scorpion as part of jungle survival training during exercise Cobra Gold 2020.

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

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U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink the blood of a King Cobra.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall

Then, of course, there is one of the most iconic aspects of the Cobra Gold jungle survival training, and that is drinking cobra blood.

A King Cobra can grow to 13-feet-long and carries venom that attacks the central nervous system of its prey. A person bitten can die within 30 minutes.

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U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink the blood of a King Cobra.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e5d5405fee23d484046ff98%3Fwidth%3D700%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=307&h=18fd6c4663339d96a66d608b926a80d877b10e001894c6c6a87f9955777f81d2&size=980x&c=2624167661 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e5d5405fee23d484046ff98%253Fwidth%253D700%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D307%26h%3D18fd6c4663339d96a66d608b926a80d877b10e001894c6c6a87f9955777f81d2%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2624167661%22%7D” expand=1]

U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink the blood of a king cobra.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e5d523afee23d46561bcf13%3Fwidth%3D700%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=699&h=b44cd48931855ae9d2c82d601b047f63a0efb8cd94ab9964861971aede9f4dc3&size=980x&c=636995584 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e5d523afee23d46561bcf13%253Fwidth%253D700%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D699%26h%3Db44cd48931855ae9d2c82d601b047f63a0efb8cd94ab9964861971aede9f4dc3%26size%3D980x%26c%3D636995584%22%7D” expand=1]

U.S. Marine Sgt. Etrice Sawyer a native of Miami, Fla., with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, drinks the blood of a King Cobra.

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

“We don’t do this for fun, but to survive,” a Royal Thai Marine instructor explained previously, adding, “It won’t fill you up, but it will keep you alive.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force

When August O’Niell, a member of an elite special forces group, woke up from routine surgery, it only took one look at his mother’s face to tell something went horribly wrong.


She was with the doctor. “Are you awake? Are you able to talk now?” the doctor asked. “I have woken you up halfway through the surgery. There was so much scar tissue …”

O’Niell had already endured 19 grueling surgeries in the three-and-a-half years since a rifle round mangled his leg while he was on deployment in Afghanistan. He woke up hoping this 20th surgery would finally allow him to have a functional knee. But he quickly learned his left leg would never fully function again.

The entire left side was mostly scar tissue. The skin, tendons and muscle were all adhered straight to the bone in one solid layer. Given the extent of the damage, a knee replacement was going to give him less than 14 degrees of movement.

“You will be in less pain, and I can put it in there if you tell me that’s what you want,” the doctor told him. “But I didn’t feel right putting that in there without telling you that it wasn’t going to be what we thought it was going to be at first.”

“There’s so much scar tissue in there, it’ll be impossible for you to have a functional knee.”

The horrifying way Iran cleared mines in the Iran-Iraq War
Staff Sgt. August O’Niell, a pararescueman in the Air Force Wounded Warrior program, waits to take-off in a UH-60 Black Hawk from the 66th Rescue Squadron Feb. 27, 2015 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. O’Neil delivered the Air Force Wounded Warrior flag to the opening ceremonies of the 2015 Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials.The 66th RQS along with the 58th Rescue Squadron assisted in the opening ceremonies of the 2015 Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials. The Air Force Trials are an adaptive sports event designed to promote the mental and physical well-being of seriously ill and injured military members and veterans. More than 105 wounded, ill or injured service men and women from around the country will compete for a spot on the 2015 U.S. Air Force Wounded Warrior Team which will represent the Air Force at adaptive sports competitions throughout the year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. DeAndre Curtiss/Released)

O’Niell was an Air Force pararescueman, a para-jumper or “PJ,” as they are known in the service. He was the elite of the elite, in charge of rescuing the most drastically injured troops, and even top special operators, in dire circumstances. He loved being a PJ, and wanted nothing more than to be back in the field, jumping out of helicopters and saving wounded comrades. The diagnosis he now faced was tough, but without missing a beat, he made up his mind.

“Don’t worry about it, I’m gonna have it amputated,” he said.

Dumbfounded, the doctor asked if he was sure. O’Niell was sure. After 20 surgeries and years of unsuccessful treatment, he was done with experiments.

He allowed himself what he called a “ten minute boo-hoo session.” It wasn’t so much about losing the leg, as it was learning this particular surgery was a fail. He had been looking forward to some relief from the constant pain of his injury.

But none of that mattered now. It was time to move on. He had seen troops with major amputations make remarkable progress on prosthetics in a little as six months while he was in rehab, and here he was after more than three years barely hopping along on crutches. He thought of the amputees he had seen running on prosthetic legs and had a moment of inspiration, and it occurred to him that if he could run again, he could be a PJ again.

That was all the motivation he needed to greenlight the removal of his leg.

A Faucet Of Blood

It happened when O’Niell was halfway through his deployment to Afghanistan on July 15, 2011. The U.S. had begun drawing down forces two days before, but the notoriously violent Sangin Valley was as deadly as ever. O’Niell and his team got a call that a group of Marines were under fire. Two were injured, one critically, after taking a shot in the chest. O’Niell’s team was headed back to base after working all day, but immediately turned around to rescue the injured Marines.

The PJs came onto the scene in two Pavehawk helicopters, one leading the other. They circled in shifts. One would provide watch and draw the enemy’s attention, while the other went into the zone to rescue the wounded.

As O’Neill’s helicopter was about to take a turn going in for the wounded, his team got word that another Marine had been hit. O’Niell was lead medic for the operation, and told his team leader to let the team in the helicopter behind them go into the zone, since it had three PJ medics on board, while they provided cover.

“So it’s better patient care, you know, one medic per patient,” O’Niell told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

O’Niell’s helicopter then flew over the zone, dropped smoke grenades and popped back up so the second helicopter knew where to land. The tactic has the dual purpose of attracting enemy fire, and was successful in doing so.

The horrifying way Iran cleared mines in the Iran-Iraq War
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. August O’Niell, Team U.S. athlete, and Airmen with the 301st Rescue Squadron, approach the landing zone in an HH-60G Pave Hawk at Discover Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports during the Invictus Games 2016 opening ceremony in Orlando, Fla., May 8, 2016. O’Niell delivered the Invictus Games flag after hoisting down from the helicopter. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Matthew J. DeVirgilio/Released)

“It works like a charm,” O’Neill said. “We came up over the smoke and popped up and we caught all that fire. They started shooting up at our bird, and one of the rounds, when they shot up, bounced off the door where I was sitting in the left door. [It] bounced off the doorway and then went through both of my legs.”

O’Niell initially he thought a flare had bounced off the door and hit his knee. He looked over the edge of the chopper, and then the pain hit him.

“Ah, they shot me!” he yelled while grabbing the top of the Pavehawk to pull himself back. He saw a hole in the side of the leg of his pants where the bullet had entered. “It just looked like someone had turned a faucet on, it was pouring blood,” he said.

His team leader instinctively jumped towards him, putting one of O’Niell’s tourniquets on his legs. He was in critical condition, forcing the helicopter to return home. Fortunately, a second PJ team was deployed with Apache helicopters in tow when O’Niell returned. They were able to extract the Marines and take out the enemy forces in the area.

O’Niell was well known to the medical staff at the base. He and his fellow PJs would often help out with the injured between shifts in order to keep their medical skills sharp. The hospital pulled a surgeon to try to save O’Neill’s leg. He was woken up after the doctors fixed an artery, and informed he would be moved to Bagram air base.

“Not until I get my re-enlisting paperwork,” O’Niell said.

“Now that’s the type of dude we need!” a nearby officer said excitedly. O’Niell was told it was an Army general. The paperwork was there waiting for him when he got to Bagram. His brother, an Air Force officer who is now also a PJ, swore him back in while he was in Landstuhl, Germany for another round of surgeries.

“The Pipeline”

O’Niell wasn’t sure what he wanted to do when he joined the Air Force in 2005, but he was certain he didn’t want to be behind a desk. The Air Force occasionally gets chided as the “Chair Force” by the other services, and O’Niell knew he wanted to be doing something active. He became interested in the pararescue and combat controller jobs. A recruiter warned him that either would be tough, but assured him he wouldn’t see much of a desk.

The medical aspect of the PJs also appealed to O’Niell. His father, a retired Air Force major, had encouraged him to stay in college and become a doctor. He figured the PJs would keep him from a desk job and make his father happy.

“I just went with it,” O’Niell explained. “I joined it not really knowing anything about it except for we jump out of planes and do cool guy stuff.”

Most people have never heard of the PJs, even inside the special operations community. It’s a remarkably small force whose work is often overlooked.

They’re are a remarkable combination of expert shooters, skydivers and medics. A PJ can shoot with the top Marines, save lives like the best Navy medical corpsmen and jump out of planes like an Army Ranger. They even do their fair share of diving. This remarkable combination is why becoming a PJ is one of the hardest things you can do in the military.

The horrifying way Iran cleared mines in the Iran-Iraq War
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos

“You need to be able to deal with all situations between the top of Mount Everest and 130 feet below the ocean — and in all environments, all weather conditions, all light conditions,” Nic McKinley, a former PJ, told TheDCNF. “And you need to be able to deal with them in a way that mitigates risk to the extent that you will live through those missions, because, you know, there is nobody to go get the PJs if the PJ’s gonna patrol.”

Training for the group, known as “The Pipeline,” has one of the highest attrition rates of any program in the armed forces. O’Niell started training in a class of 110. Nine would make it through. For McKinley, that was a big draw factor.

“I’m a big data guy,” he told TheDCNF. “I really like the numbers and the facts, and I don’t like your opinion.”

On the basis of data, McKinley found the PJs to be the toughest. “You know, they can get into arguments about why, or any of the subjective stuff, but the objective data shows that it’s harder,” he told TheDCNF.

Special operators often debate about who is the toughest, but one thing is clear: when the SEALs, Green Berets and Marines need saving in the worst conditions, they call the PJs.

The training puts a massive strain on your mental strength.

“You can’t just have a high level physical performance and ride on that, you also have to be able to think at a high level,” McKinley said. “Pararescue teams expect you to be able to do everything, and if you can’t do it at a high level, you need to go succeed elsewhere.”

The horrifying way Iran cleared mines in the Iran-Iraq War
Emerald Warrior 2017-special-operations-rapid-deploymentA U.S. Air Force pararescueman assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron conducts a combat search and rescue training mission during Emerald Warrior 17 at Hurlburt Field, Fla., March 4, 2017. Emerald Warrior is a U.S. Special Operations Command exercise during which joint special operations forces train to respond to various threats across the spectrum of conflict. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Haley D. Phillips)

The entire process takes between two and three years. After basic training, a would-be PJ starts “The Pipeline” with an indoctrination course at Lackland Air Force Base, which consists of ten weeks of intense physical training including obstacle courses, running and swimming.

“That’s where they test your mental and physical limits … push every button they can,” O’Niell told TheDCNF.

No aspect of indoctrination training so utterly punishes the mental toughness of a PJ than “The Pool.” Technically known as “water confidence training,” the Pool is known for chewing up even the most elite athletes in the program.

Would-be PJs are expected to swim laps under water, tie complex knots at the pool bottom, bob up and down with hands and ankles tied (an exercise known as “drown proofing”) and wrestle underwater with an instructor while not being allowed to fight back, according to former PJ Matt White. His solution? Just don’t breathe.

“When your fingers go number tying a knot, you can panic,” he wrote in a piece for Task and Purpose. “Or you can relax. When an instructor pushes you to the bottom of the pool and stands on your head, what can you do? You can quit. Or you can relax.”

PJs who survive indoctrination go on to a combat diver course in Panama City, Florida for six weeks, then to survival school in Spokane, Washington. Next they pay a visit to Army Airborne School, where they learn to jump out of planes, before heading to either Army or Navy free-fall skydiving school, located in Yuma, Arizona and San Diego, California respectively.

The horrifying way Iran cleared mines in the Iran-Iraq War
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan

Once a PJ candidate is a honed warrior they attend 37 weeks of various medical courses. Trainees are expected to get their national paramedic certification within two months of medical training, a task which normally takes six months.

The Pararescue Recovery Specialist Course puts everything a PJ trainee has learned together in a 24-week course which includes shooting, jumping and full mock mission profiles. Upon completion, a PJ is given a maroon beret and assigned a team. A PJ is then expected to to do on the job training with his team to become mission qualified.

O’Niell deployed to Afghanistan with about 20 people rotating in six man teams. He recalled flying approximately eight missions per shift, all of them being worst case scenarios. He acknowledged that war is terrible, but said he loved Afghanistan because he got to do his job.

“It’s very satisfying when you have a guy [that] easily ten minutes later … would’ve been just dead, and you were able to get him, get pain meds onboard, get blood onboard, and see this guy who wasn’t even responding all of a sudden start blinking up at you and you’re like: ‘Hey man, you’re going to be good,'” said O’Niell. “And then you go and check with the hospital, they’re like ‘Yea, he’s on his way home,’ and it’s just awesome.”

When asked how many people he’s saved, O’Niell said he never kept count.

Road To Recovery

His job cost him a leg and years of pain and surgeries, but O’Niell is laser focused on returning to the fray. There was not a hint of regret or doubt in his voice when he recalled his harrowing experience to TheDCNF. He detailed his injury like the challenges presented by one of his missions, by focusing on solutions to problems.

Step one of O’Niell’s road back to the PJ teams was to get acquainted with his new prosthetic leg. Fortunately, the Center for the Intrepid fitted him with one of the most advanced models available.

“It’s an Ottobock X3, and it’s awesome,” he said.

The leg is completely waterproof, and comes with an app that lets O’Niell switch between four modes suited for various kinds of situations. He detailed it like a piece of high-tech military equipment.

“I’ve got a boxing mode, which basically doesn’t allow the knee bend more than 14 degrees, that way I can throw a punch and don’t have to worry about the knee buckling. And I can, you know, bob and weave on it,” O’Niell said. “I’ve got a running mode, I’ve got the basic walking mode which is just the everyday mode, and I’ve got a jump mode, which keeps the knee from bending past ninety degrees while I’m jumping so that way I can fly flat dumb and happy, as we say, and not worry about backsliding.”

WATCH:

His injury was not the least bit apparent when I met him for the first time in an Air Force office in Manhattan, except for the presence of his service dog, Kai. O’Niell walked through the door and shook hands much like he probably did before the injury.

Most amputees usually require approximately six weeks of walking on their new prosthetics before they take them home. But O’Niell was taking his home in only two. He noted that’s because most amputees have trouble trusting the devices to hold their weight.

“I attribute it to the fact that I’ve trusted my life on much sketchier pieces of equipment,” O’Niell joked. Falling to his knees due to a prosthetic is nothing when you’re used to jumping from planes with parachutes made by the lowest bidder.

O’Niell’s sense of relief after the amputation and prosthetic was practically immediate. Even before the prosthetic was fitted, he recalled his fellow PJs looking at him strangely after the amputation when they found him moving around his thigh. He hadn’t been able to move the leg for years before, so this was a victory.

“The pain I was living with was awful,” he said. “I don’t take pain meds so it became a normal way of life, just living with pain all the time and it’s miserable. It’s miserable. So yeah, it was definitely awesome waking up and immediately not feeling that pain.”

The next step to getting back to the job he loved was requalification. By November 2016, O’Niell had qualified in calisthenics, swimming, parachuting, ropes, alternative insertion, diving and was close to reaching the requisite run time. He has been working on mission profiles as well, in order to learn how to adjust to his new leg.

O’Niell’s fellow PJs have been extremely supportive during his recovery. They’ve kept him up to date on any new tech or kit that has been incorporated since his injury, and asked him when he is coming back to the teams. He even had training plan offers from five or six team chiefs. He noted he’s unsure about their motivations, but nevertheless, he remains focused on his goal.

Fellow injured airmen have also been a source of strength and friendship. Thanks to the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, O’Niell has developed a close-knit group of friends who refer to themselves as “The Order of the Pineapple.” He noted the origin of the name is a long story, but that not a day goes by that they don’t talk to each other.

Additionally, his service dog Kai has served a crucial role in his recovery. K9 Soldiers in New Jersey gave him the German Shepherd on Veteran’s Day 2013, and he has relied on him ever since.

The horrifying way Iran cleared mines in the Iran-Iraq War
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. August O’Niell’s service dog, Kai, runs out to meet him during the opening ceremony of Invictus Games 2016 in Orlando, Fla. May 8, 2016. O’Niell delivered the Invictus Flag after hoisting down from a 920th Rescue Wing HH-60G Pave Hawk.(U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua L. DeMotts/Released)

“Mentally, I was in a real crappy place when I started reaching out to get him, and then after getting him, he’s just made my outlook almost one-eighty,” explained O’Niell. “I’m inherently a really happy person anyway, so when I’m depressed, I’m very depressed … because a lot of things have happened to make me very depressed.”

Kai can sense when O’Niell is depressed or angry, and will come put his head on his lap or go for a walk with him, immediately putting O’Niell in a better mood. He also helps with bracing and stability and will block people from invading his personal space. Kai also can do smaller tasks, like getting O’Niell his phone and keys when he doesn’t have the prosthetic attached.

“He’s not a retriever and he absolutely hates doing it, but he will do it,” joked O’Niell.

Kai goes to work with O’Niell, and has become a big hit with the other PJs. He inspired a team in Alaska to buy their own dog so they can keep up morale abroad. O’Niell hopes to bring Kai on his next deployment. The German Shepherd won’t be tagging along on missions, but he would be waiting for him when he gets home.

The First Of His Kind

Other special operations forces have rejoined their units after an amputation, including members of the Army Special Forces, Marine Special Operations Command and Navy SEALs. Advances in medical science and prosthetics have allowed many troops to return to duty after amputations. More than 16 percent of amputees had returned to combat in the early 2000s, up from 2.3 percent in the 1980s. But O’Niell would be a first for the PJs and the Air Force.

He has every intention of getting back in, and he doesn’t plan to leave any time soon. He reenlisted in the beginning of 2015, and plans to do at least another five years after his contract runs out.

“The majority of people who want an amputation, they aren’t very crazy like I am, so they’re just kind of like ‘Yeah, I’m done,’ and rightfully so,” he said.

The horrifying way Iran cleared mines in the Iran-Iraq War
August O’Niell 2014 Warrior Games athlete profile trading card. The Air Force designed these player cards to highlight the participants in the 2014 games. Warrior Games is a competition for wounded, injured and ill service members and veterans to create competitive sports opportunities for injured service members. The games will take place Sept. 28 – Oct. 4 utilizing venues at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. View each athlete’s full profile and other Warrior Games news on www.af.mil. (U.S. Air Force graphic/Corey Parrish)

O’Niell’s remarkable story has also come with a great deal of unexpected fame. He has competed in both the Warrior Games and Invictus Games, the latter of which earned him a profile in ESPN. He also led the Atlanta Falcons onto the field during the Super Bowl, carrying an American flag as he ran in front of thousands on his prosthetic. And Paramount Pictures bought a pitch on O’Niell’s story in March, so a feature film could be in the works.

O’Niell told TheDCNF he’s “excited” for the press coverage to end, but he’s also pleased his story brings attention to PJs. “I don’t mind doing this type of stuff because it highlights the career field and that’s awesome,” he said.

For now, he is continuing strength training and Pararescue qualification training at Hurlburt Field Air Force Base in Florida, where he is expected to join a team sometime next year if all goes well.

has been sent to begin requalifications so he can join a team at Hurlburt Field AFB, hopefully sometime next year. Assessments with the teams have been positive, and aside from some issues with stress fractures, he has no complaints.

O’Niell hopes to be back to jumping out of planes and saving lives as early as the end of 2017.

MIGHTY HISTORY

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.

Many of us will collectively roll our eyes as we scroll our social media in January. Between the “New Year, New Me” posts and detailed resolutions our friends and family will be sharing, you may be over it. But rather than approaching your feed with a pessimistic and hardened heart, maybe a little bit of history will help you understand why people flock to do this every year.

New Year’s resolutions have been around a long time. Research has shown that the first resolutions can be traced 4,000 years past, to the ancient Babylonians. Back then they were said to have 12-day celebrations in honor of the new year, making promises to the gods in hopes that they would grant them favor throughout that year. These promises were serious too! The Babylonians felt that if they didn’t keep their promises and pay debts, they could fall out of favor. Much more serious than our failed commitments to going to the gym more often.

Julius Caesar was known for a lot of things but you may not be aware that it was he who constructed our traditionally recognized calendar, making January 1 the first day of the new year. He did this around 43 B.C. and felt like it made sense, with the word January coming from Janus, a two-faced God. The Romans believed that Janus looked backwards to the previous year and forward for the new. The Romans also began celebrating the New Year with promises to the gods along with some questionable sacrifices. Thankfully that practice went away, to the excitement of livestock everywhere.

Fast forward to 1740, the new year began to have some implications for Christians. The beginning of the year began to evolve into a way to think about ones past mistakes and resolving to do better in the future. There was even a special ceremony or service for this practice, something that many modern churches still do.

Although the root making resolutions have a strong religious foundation, it is definitely something now practiced widely by everyone in modern society. Around 45 percent of Americans make resolutions but only around 8 percent will actually follow through with them. Don’t let those odds discourage you, however. After the year-which-shall-not-be-named we all just experienced, a little hope and positivity is absolutely needed. Here are three simple ideas for obtainable resolutions to aspire to reach in 2021.

Give more grace

Do this not only for others but for yourself as well. The stressors of life and the ongoing pandemic didn’t go away with the flip of the calendar month, but how you approach them can. Instead of striving for perfection or certain hard-line expectations, look for ways to give grace when you or others come up short instead. We all deserve it.

Increase your generosity

This doesn’t mean to open your wallet – it refers to opening your heart instead. Look for ways to be kind or give your time to those in need. It will create moments of joy in your life and has been proven to support better overall health and well-being.

Don’t make crazy health resolutions

Add two more glasses of water to your day and resolve to spend 15 minutes outside moving in some way. If you decide to take this resolution further, that’s great! But if this is all you do – it’s huge. As a society we are notorious for too many lattes and not enough water, this is an obtainable goal to improve your health. Being outside and moving is attacking your physical and mental health at the same time. Doable!

History has taught us so many things. Although we no longer make resolutions to ensure our crops are successful, the intent and hope behind the New Year resolution hasn’t changed. Even when you see cringe-worthy resolutions on your social media feed, hope is still at the root. As we approach 2021 with the knowledge of that “other year” burned in our brains, let us do it with nothing but good vibes. We’ve had enough bad ones to last a lifetime.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why North Korea just fired its missiles into the sea

The South Korean military is reporting that North Korea launched several weapons into the sea, perhaps a sign that North Korea’s patience with Washington is growing thin.

North Korea launched a barrage of unidentified short-range projectiles early May 4, 2019, local time, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a press release, according to the semi-official Yonhap News Agency. The weapons, which were initially identified as missiles, reportedly flew out to ranges of roughly 70 to 200 kilometers (43 to 124 miles).

At this time, it is unclear what North Korea has launched. The mysterious projectiles were fired from the east coast town of Wonsan.


North Korea’s last missile test was conducted in November 2017, when the country launched a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile — the Hwasong-15.

As an apparent good-faith gesture to facilitate bilateral dialogue, Pyongyang proposed a self-imposed long-range missile and nuclear testing moratorium while in talks with the US. Round after round of failed negotiations, which included two leadership summits attended by President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un, have left both sides feeling frustrated.

The horrifying way Iran cleared mines in the Iran-Iraq War

The Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile.

(KCNA)

In November 2018, after an abrupt cancellation of a meeting between the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart, the North tested a so-called “ultramodern tactical weapon,” apparently an artillery piece.

In April 2019, North Korea tested a “new tactical guided weapon,” reportedly components for a new anti-tank weapon.

A missile launch, while potentially intended to signal a desire for movement on bilateral issues, would not only undermine the president’s claims of progress with North Korea, but it would also risk bringing Pyongyang and Washington back to the exchanges of heated rhetoric and shows of force that had many wondering if nuclear war was just over the horizon in 2017.

The latest weapons launch comes on the heels of a meeting between Kim and the Russian President Vladimir Putin, the specific details of which remain murky.

Trump was reportedly “fully briefed” on North Korea’s actions by White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, who has been decidedly pessimistic in his view of negotiations with Pyongyang. Bolton has, in the past, argued in favor of using military force.

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