After the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 looking for nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, American troops found a lot of bizarre things – toilets and guns made of gold, a Koran written in blood and Saddam’s romance novel. While they didn’t find any weapons of mass destruction, they did manage to find some weapons. Specifically, they found aircraft buried in the sand next to a perfectly good airfield.
One day in 2003, American forces near al-Taqqadum Air Base in Iraq began pulling scores of Mig-25 Foxbat fighters and SU-25 Frog Foot fighter-bombers out of the sand. The aircraft were missing wings but, for the most part, remained fairly well-kept despite being in the sand for who-knows-how-long. If Saddam wasn’t giving inoperable planes a good burial, one wonders why he would intentionally put his planes in the ground.
The answer starts with the fact that the Iraqi Air Force sucked at defending Iraqi airspace.
But they were suuuuuuper good at bolting to other countries to escape the enemy.
In the Iran-Iraq War that lasted until the late 1980s, the Iraqi Air Force could reasonably hold its own against the superior U.S.- bought aircraft flown by the Islamic Republic of Iran at the time. But Iranian fighter pilots were very, very good and Iraqi pilots usually had to flee the skies before the onslaught of Iranian F-14 Tomcats. Against other Middle Eastern powers, however, Saddam Hussein’s air power could actually make a difference in the fighting – but that’s just against Middle Eastern countries. The United States was another matter.
Iraqi pilots were ready to go defend their homeland from the U.S.-led invasion, but the Iraqi dictator would have none of it. He knew what American technology could do to his aircraft, especially now that the U.S. was flying the F-22. They would get torn to shreds. He also remembered what his pilots did in the first Gulf War when sent to defend the homeland. They flew their fighters to the relative safety of Iran rather than face annihilation, and Iran never gave them back.
Saddam wanted his air force. So he decided to keep them all safe.
(US Air Force)
At al-Taqqadum and al-Asad air bases, the dictator ordered that his most advanced fighters be stripped and buried in the sand near the airfields. In retrospect, this was probably a good decision for the aircraft. Whatever was left unburied was quickly and forcibly dismantled by the U.S. Air Force on the ground during the invasion. In trying to fight off the Coalition of the Willing, Iraq’s air forces all but disappeared.
Saddam hoped that by saving the aircraft in the sand, he could prevent their destruction and when he was ready (because he assumed he would still be in power after all was said and done), he could unbury them and use their advanced status to terrify his enemies and neighbors.
They were one of the most powerful organizations in the world at their time, controlling wealth and military arms across the world. The Knights Templar were the first Christian religious military order, eventually growing to be one of the first international banking organizations, a massive military arm in the Holy Land, and the fodder for conspiracy theorists for literally hundreds of years.
The Knights Templar were established during the Crusades, largely because of the state of the Holy Land after the First Crusade. Military campaigns launched from 1095 to 1099 had secured small Christian kingdoms in and around Jerusalem, but these Christian enclaves didn’t have the strength of arms to properly hold their territory, let alone to protect pilgrims coming to the holy sites.
And so a small group of French knights banded together to protect pilgrims on the road. King Baldwin II of Jerusalem learned of this and offered them rooms in the royal palace, formerly the Temple of Solomon. This small group grew into the Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon.
Their duties protecting the pilgrims would become much easier, they knew if pilgrims weren’t carrying their life savings on their backs, and so the knights looked for a new method of finance.
What if, instead of having pilgrims bring all the cash and valuables they would need, pilgrims were able to deposit most of their money in Europe as they set out and then pick up a commensurate amount of money in the Holy Land after arrival. They established a program to do exactly that, turning the Knights Templar into the first international bank.
Their wealth and status grew, and they eventually received official sanction from Pope Innocent II in 1139 who not only said it was fine that a religious order had taken up military arms, but that the knights would be subject to the authority of the pope and the pope alone.
But the papal bull protecting the knights also set standards of conduct for them, requiring that they remain poor, live in dormitories, not raise children or embrace women, gamble, swear, or take part in many other activities, similar to monks. But, where monks were expected to spend much time reading and no time fighting, Templars were expected to train and fight while not being required to read.
As the Templars grew, they took on larger roles as a true military force, eventually growing into a sort of police/military force with a strong command structure and outposts across the Christian kingdoms.
But, unfortunately for them, the 13th Century went badly for Christians as new Crusades failed and Christian kingdoms were retaken by the sultans. The city of Acre was the last Crusader stronghold, and it fell to Muslim armies in 1291.
They were accused of heresy, sodomy, and other crimes in the late 1200s and early 1300s, and European rulers jealous of the order’s wealth and power eventually decided to seize Templars and divvy up their assets. Much of the Templars’ massive financial assets were handed over to the Knights Hospitallers, but some was kept by rulers like French King Philip IV who used it to refresh his own coffers.
The Knights Hospitallers, a religious order focused on providing medical services, was slightly older than the Knights Templar, but the Knights Hospitallers had acquired a military mission similar to that of the Knights Templar in the 12th Century, and so it was an obvious heir to the Templar wealth.
The new US strategy in Afghanistan, by working more closely with Kabul and taking a harder line toward Pakistan, stands a better chance of working than previous plans, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Sept. 20.
Speaking at an Asia Society meeting in New York, Ghani said former President Barack Obama’s previous strategy to try to successfully conclude the 16-year war and withdraw US troops failed because Obama “did not have a partner in Afghanistan.”
Ghani did not elaborate, but his remarks implicitly criticized his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, who had a sometimes rocky relationship with Washington.
Unlike Obama, US President Donald Trump has “a team of partners in Afghanistan,” Ghani said, and Trump developed his strategy after holding “immense consultations with us.”
Ghani gave Obama credit for his decision to maintain some US forces in Afghanistan rather than following his pledge to pull them all out, saying that decision “ensured our survival” at a time when Taliban militants were strengthening in their drive to defeat and unseat the government.
Ghani, in a separate interview with National Public Radio due to air on Sept. 21, revealed some details of Trump’s Afghan strategy not previously disclosed by the White House.
He said the administration’s objective is to bring 80 percent of Afghanistan back under the government’s control in the next four years. The United States currently estimates that the government directly controls only about half the country.
Ghani told NPR that the new strategy’s goal is to double the size of the Afghan commando force and elevate it from a division to a corps command, while bolstering the Afghan military’s airpower.
All this would occur as Kabul overhauls its military leadership, he said.
“We ourselves are changing management and leadership. Our minister of defense is under 40. A new generation is taking over,” he told NPR, adding that older generals are being honorably retired.
Under the plan, Ghani told NPR that US troops will continue to advise, assist, and train Afghan forces and will not return to a combat role.
But “the advisers will be working now at the division level to make sure that the systems processes are there,” he said.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said this week that more than 3,000 additional US troops are being deployed to Afghanistan under the new strategy, raising the total number of US forces to more than 14,000. That compares with a high of more than 100,000 troops under Obama.
Part of Trump’s announced strategy is to take a tougher line toward Pakistan for allegedly providing refuge to the Afghan Taliban and other extremist groups. Pakistan denies the accusations.
Ghani told the Asia Society that by targeting Pakistan and taking a more “regional approach,” the Trump strategy provides a new opening for peace talks.
“The message to Pakistan to engage and become a responsible stakeholder in the region and in the fight against terrorism has never been clearer,” he said.
“What I am offering the Pakistan government, the Pakistan security apparatus, is the invitation to a comprehensive dialogue,” Ghani said. “If Pakistan does not take this opportunity, I think they will pay a high price.”
Ghani said Afghan forces are getting better, having gained more experience by assuming a bigger role in the fighting after the massive cuts in US forces under Obama.
He said he believes it will not take another decade to win or settle the war but rather “some limited years.”
A Chinese military analyst told the state-run China Central Television that Beijing would soon fly its new J-20 stealth fighter into Taiwan’s airspace.
“J-20s can come and go at will above Taiwan,” Wang Mingliang, a military researcher at China National Defense University, said, according to Asia Times, adding that Taiwan was worried about “precision strikes on the leadership or key targets.”
This threat was also echoed by Zhou Chenming, another Chinese military analyst, in early May 2018.
“The PLA air force jets will enter the Taiwan [air defense identification zone] sooner or later,” Chenming told the South China Morning Post.
China’s “goal is reunification with Taiwan” and “this is just one piece,” Dan Blumenthal, the director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, told Business Insider, adding that cyber, sea, and political warfare were also part of Beijing’s plan to coerce Taiwan into reunification.
(Screenshot / hindu judaic)
But Taiwan has a plan to counter China’s J-20: new mobile passive radars and new active radars for their F-16Vs, according to Taipei Times.
Taiwan will begin testing two new mobile passive radars developed by the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology in 2018, and plans to begin mass producing them by 2020.
These passive radars will work in tandem with APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radars, which Taiwan started mounting on its F-16Vs in January 2017, Asia Times reported.
The active and passive radars will be linked in a way so that they do not emit radiation, making them less susceptible to electronic jamming and anti-radiation missile attacks, Asia Times reported.
“It’s exactly what they should be doing,” Blumenthal said. “Just like any country would, they’re going to try to chase [the J-20s] away,” adding that Taiwan’s plan would be effective but that the country still wouldn’t be able to defend its airspace as well as major powers such as the US.
“Taiwan could probably use all sorts of help,” Blumenthal said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
For America’s morbidly curious, there’s no more prominent mecca than the National Museum of Health and Medicine. There’s nowhere else can someone view everything from the bullet John Wilkes Booth used to kill Abraham Lincoln to a trauma bay used in the Iraq War.
For more than 150 years, the National Museum of Health and Medicine has been preserving the artifacts and displaying the impact military medicine has had on the men and women who fight America’s wars – increasing their chances of returning home.
The museum was founded in the middle of the American Civil War in 1862 by U.S. Army Surgeon General William A. Hammond. The Army Medical Museum, as it was originally known, was intended to collect and preserve specimens and artifacts for trauma and pathology research – the two fields of medical science most applicable to the battlefield.
Over the next 150 years, the museum became a repository for everything related to medical research and the battlefields of every American war. These days, it’s also a member institution of the Defense Health Agency, a joint medical force that provides services to combat commands across military branches.
It now holds more than 25 million artifacts, even if they aren’t always on display as an exhibit for public viewing. It’s just one more way for the Department of Defense to connect with the American public. Some of the artifacts and exhibits may not be suitable for all of the general public.
Although it was closed to the public during the global COVID-19 Pandemic, the museum contains an expansive collection of artifacts surrounding the death of President Lincoln. Aside from the bullet that ended his life, viewers can also see the autopsy kit used on the president, as well as fragments of his skull and the surgeon’s blood-stained sleeves.
Though never on display, the National Museum of Health and Medicine also holds items made from human skin that were confiscated from the concentration camp at Buchenwald and used as evidence in the Nuremberg Trials. The items included a bisected human head and the three tattooed human skins.
Inside the museum, viewers can see the first instance of the United States identifying the remains of the fallen through forensic dental work, a piece that dates back to one of the iconic figures of the American Revolution, Paul Revere.
Revere was a dentist and silversmith, who created custom dental work for Maj. Gen. Joseph Warren. When Warren was killed in combat, the British buried him in a mass grave outside of Boston. Revere and others dug through the grave looking for Warren’s remains. They identified him through a gold and ivory dental work Revere created. Warren was then reinterred in his own grave.
There are also less historic but no less morbid artifacts. The museum holds a preserved, blackened smoker’s lung, the swollen leg of someone who had elephantiasis, and hairballs that formed inside a human stomach that had to be surgically removed.
The museum that was first established to preserve advances in battlefield medicine in the Civil War has come a long way since its inception so long ago. Now viewers can see for themselves how far medical technology has advances in terms of sanitation, human anatomy, virology and pathology.
Most importantly, we can all appreciate the large steps the medical community has taken in keeping wounded and sick soldiers alive throughout America’s modern military history.
All sorts of comics have entertained readers without having their protagonist wear spandex and capes. Outside of standard superhero comics, you could pick up a sub-genre called war comics. The recent announcement of Steven Spielberg directing a Blackhawk film based off the DC Comics series attests to the place of war comics in pop culture.
These comics were generally grounded in reality, even if they occasionally had fantastical elements. But the focus was placed on the war and the soldiers who fought in them. With that in mind, these comics would definitely grab the attention of movie-goers.
That’s a hell of a MacGuffin — and one I don’t think any film has gone after.
(Adventures in the Rifle Brigade #1 by Vertigo Comics)
Adventures in the Rifle Brigade
This 2000’s mini-series written by Garth Ennis (best known for Preacher and his work on Punisher and Judge Dredd) and art by Carlos Ezquerra was a war comedy about a British commando unit in World War II.
The titular team was an over-the-top caricature of troops in WWII. Just to set the stage for the kind of comic this was, the team’s entire goal was to steal Hitler’s missing testicle.
Why? Because why not?
(Star-Spangled War Stories Vol. 1 by DC Comics)
The War That Time Forgot
The 1924 novel The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burrough was a classic tale about the savagery of war and a soldier who must tap into his primordial rage to destroy his enemies…and who also crashed on an island full of dinosaurs.
The adapted comic overlooked all those metaphors and symbolism and nose dove directly into “soldiers fighting dinosaurs” in a goofy action series.
Frank Miller got his first break into the comic book industry with “Weird War Tales” but his comics like “300,” “Sin City,” “Dark Knight Returns,” and “Daredevil” have all been huge successes.
(Weird War Tales #64 by DC Comics)
Weird War Tales
Another way to mix war films with another genre with a supernatural horror like with Weird War Tales. Each comic was part of an anthology and each focused on one conflict — retold with zombies, vampires, robots, and other monsters. The only reoccurring character was Death, who would introduce each tale.
(Our Army At War featuring Sgt. Rock #297 by DC Comics)
Our Army at War (featuring Sgt. Rock)
Hands down the most famous of the war comics has still never been touched — even if many have tried in the past. Sgt. Rock was a realistic war story written by Army veteran Bob Kanigher. While other writers would take over Sgt. Rock, the original Kanigher run of the character is regarded as one of the best series of and pioneered the Silver Age of Comics.
Joel Silver of Dark Castle Entertainment has been trying to get a Sgt. Rock film in production for ages now with none other than Bruce Willis cast as Sgt. Rock himself. Both Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino were rumored to direct at some point. Even though it’s stuck in development hell, this is still one of the most requested war comic films.
A U.S. Army tanker who lost his arm to an IED attack in Iraq was able to manipulate a prosthetic arm for the first time since his 2007 injury.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland worked with Army Spc. Jerral Hancock to develop the Modular Prosthetic Limb, a robotic arm being built by JHU’s Applied Physics Lab. The goal of the program is to create a robotic prosthetic with all the capabilities of the human arm.
Hancock has struggled in the years since his injury to live a fully-functioning life after the attack left him paralyzed from the mid-chest down. His right arm has limited mobility, making it difficult to do even one-handed tasks.
Army Spc. Jerral Hancock and a researcher from John Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab discusses the calibration procedures for the Modular Prosthetic Limb. (Photo: YouTube/Freethink)
The MPL features hundreds of sensors that help it accurately gauge the angles, speed, and power the arm is using. Other sensors strapped to Hancock’s body read the signals being passed through his skin to his missing limb. The device’s software then tries to replicate the movements that Hancock is imagining, syncing his commands to the robotic arm.
In one heart-breaking moment, Hancock tells the researchers that he doesn’t imagine a left hand with full mobility, but one that has the same physical limitations of his injured right hand.
In the video, Hancock teaches the software his signals for opening and closing his hand and bending his elbow. Once the software is calibrated, he can then use the arm to grab a drink from the fridge and to fire a foam dart with his daughter.
See Hancock with the arm and his family in the full video below:
Hancock won’t get to use the arm just yet, but his work with researchers to refine the technology will hopefully allow people who need prosthetics to get a more functional option in the next few years. JHU currently has six MPLs that are being used for research purposes and four more in development, according to the project’s website.
In July 2019, President Trump signed into law the Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service Act – the LEGION Act. In brief, the legislation says the United States has been in a period of constant warfare since Dec. 7, 1941, the day the Japanese Empire bombed Pearl Harbor and brought the United States into World War II.
What this means for other areas of the law is up for other people to debate. What this means for veterans is that servicemen and women who were killed or wounded in previously undeclared periods of war are now eligible for expanded benefits.
The most apparent benefit of the new LEGION Act legislation is that now every veteran who served since the bombing of Pearl Harbor is eligible to join the American Legion. This will affect some 1,600 veterans who were killed or wounded during their service, which just so happened to be during a previously undeclared period of global conflict. The American Legion says this act honors their service and sacrifice.
“This new law honors the memories of those veterans while allowing other veterans from those previously undeclared eras to receive all the American Legion benefits they have earned through their service,” said American Legion National Judge Advocate Kevin Bartlett.
This also means the eligibility window will run until the U.S. is no longer at war, which – historically speaking – may never happen.
The war in Afghanistan alone has outlasted two uniform designs.
Veterans with an interest in joining the American Legion still need to meet the other requirements of membership, such as having an honorable discharge. Joining the Legion means more than finding cheap drinks at the local post. The American Legion is not only a club for veterans, it’s also a powerful lobby in Congress and offers its membership benefits like temporary financial assistance, scholarship eligibility, and even help in getting VA disability claims through the system.
By expanding its network to include thousands of new veterans, the American Legion is better able to leverage its membership with members of Congress as well as state and local elected officials and legislative bodies – after all, it was the American Legion who drafted the first GI Bill legislation and helped to create the Department of Veterans Affairs.
So feel free to stop by for more than just a cheap beer.
Known as one of the bloodiest campaigns of all of World War II, nearly one million people lost their lives during the Battle for Stalingrad.
The battle was a colossal matchup between European dictators Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. Throughout the campaign, thousands of bombs were dropped, killing innumerous innocent civilians and leaving nothing but ruins and a massive maze of defensive positions for the Soviets.
As the Germans moved forward, they came within meters of their Russian enemy and, in some cases, combat devolved into hand-to-hand combat. Meanwhile, talented snipers set themselves up in burned-out buildings and would egress out immediately after taking a single shot — discovery in such close quarters was otherwise inevitable.
Although the Germans took heavy casualties during their push into the city’s high ground, their losses couldn’t compare to the enormous dent they made in Russian personnel.
It would take nearly four weeks of intense and grueling combat for the Germans to reach the Mamayev Hill.
As the Germans continued to push forward, the Russian frontline began to rapidly collapse. Members of the Red Army began retreating from their positions en masse, some even forfeiting their weapons to nearby troops.
Many Russian troops felt the battle was unwinnable. Their iron-fisted dictator, however, refused to back down. Today, many military strategists feel that if Stalin had ordered a retreat and had given his men time to regroup, they could have successfully reestablished defenses sooner.
Although it appeared Stalingrad would soon fall, Hitler’s infantry was spreading a little too thin.
Then, the Russian’s introduced their well-engineered T-34 tank, which struck fear in the Germans. The armored vehicle was a sturdy as Stalin’s confidence. As time went on, what once felt like an easy victory for the Germans become a titanic beating.
Although the Russians were regaining ground, they continued to suffer heavy casualties throughout. For Hitler, losing a city named after his nemesis was unacceptable.
After five months of carnage, the Battle of Stalingrad finally came to a halt. It officially ended on Feb. 2, 1943, with a Soviet victory.
The Trump administration has been seeking closer ties with India and trying to further isolate Iran, but the desire to do the former may be complicated by efforts to do the latter.
The US’s latest move to increase pressure on Iran has been to ask some of the country’s biggest oil customers to cut their purchases of Tehran’s crude — including India, one of the largest importers of Iranian oil.
“Sanctions are coming (on Iran), and we’re going forward on that, and with India and the US building strong relationships we hoped that they would lessen their dependence on Iran,” US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told reporters after a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 27, 2018.
“Prime Minister Modi very much understands where we are with Iran. He didn’t question it. He didn’t criticize it,” Haley said. “He understood it, and he also understands that (India’s) relationship with the US is strong and important and needs to stay that way.”
(U.S. Mission Photo by Eric Bridiers)
The request comes after President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal, signed by the US, Iran, and five other major world powers in 2015.
Trump said the US would reimpose the sanctions on Iran that were suspended under that deal, and while India has said it adheres to UN sanctions rather than unilateral US sanctions, the oil ministry in New Delhi has reportedly asked refiners to prepare for a “drastic reduction or zero” imports of Iranian oil starting in November 2018.
But Haley also said the US would not try to quash India’s deal with Iran to develop the port at Chabahar, Iran’s only oceanic port and a vital point of access to Afghanistan and Central Asia.
“We know the port has to happen and the US is going to work with India to do that,” Haley said. “We know that [India’s] being a great partner with us in Afghanistan and really trying to assist the US and trying to do more. The port’s vital in trying to do that.”
“We realize we’re threading a needle when we do that,” Haley said of the effort to balance between isolating Iran and developing Chabahar.
Chabahar is strategically important for India. The port allows Indian goods to reach Afghanistan without going through Pakistan. The port also gives Afghanistan more direct access to India, opening a path for trade that could help stabilize the war-torn country and diminish the appeal of the illicit drug trade. Both India and Afghanistan have had contentious relations with Pakistan, which currently allows overland trade between the two countries to cross its territory.
Rail and road routes would allow Indian goods to travel from Chabahar further north to Central Asian markets.
The port-development project was officially launched in 2016 but has faced numerous delays. Iran agreed to lease operational control to India for 18 months in February 2018, and India hopes to have the port fully operational by 2019, but there has been little major traffic there aside from wheat donated by India. The first shipments of dried fruit from Afghanistan to India are expected in July 2018.
In the weeks since Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal, more uncertainty has piled up for the port and the countries hoping to do business there.
Haley said the impact of Iran-related sanctions on Indian companies would be discussed when the two countries’ foreign and defense ministers met in Washington. That meeting was scheduled for July 2018 but has been delayed, likely until later in the year.
US officials have said the US is unlikely to grant waivers for foreign companies doing business with Iran, complicating matters for Indian firms. And in the wake of Trump’s decision to exit the nuclear deal in May, contracts to build facilities at Chabahar were delayed as bankers sought more details from Washington.
Afghan workers and businesses hoping to do work at and through the port were also left hanging. Afghan government officials have asked for the port to exempt from looming anti-Iran sanctions.
“President Trump’s decision has brought us back to the drawing board and we will have to renegotiate terms and conditions on using Chabahar,” a senior Indian diplomat told Reuters in late May 2018. “It is a route that can change the way India-Iran-Afghanistan do business, but for now everything is in a state of uncertainty.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a low-cost unmanned air vehicle, successfully completed all test objectives during a 71-minute flight, June 11, 2019, at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona.
The test marked the second successful flight for the aircraft this year. The inaugural 72-minute flight was recorded in March 2019.
The Air Force Research Laboratory developed the low-cost unmanned air vehicle together with Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc. The joint effort falls within AFRL’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology portfolio, which has the goal to break the escalating cost trajectory of tactically relevant aircraft.
“The XQ-58A is the first Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology flight demonstrator with (unmanned aircraft systems) technology to change the way we fly and fight, and build and buy,” said Doug Szczublewski, program manager.
US Air Force Releases Video of New Combat Drone: XQ-58A Valkyrie
There are a total of five planned test flights for the XQ-58A, with objectives that include evaluating system functionality, aerodynamic performance, and launch and recovery systems.
The Air Force Research Laboratory is the primary scientific research and development center for the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development.
It’s been nearly three years since I officially ended my Active Duty service. The first six months of my transition were rough. After speaking to a lot of fellow former service members, I realize that my experience is not an outlier, but rather, it’s the norm.
Hardest part about the military… logging into sites that don’t take a CAC card.
In the Marine Corps, I was trained to deal with all sorts of tactical stresses. But civilian stresses? Not so much. When it came to work, insurance, or liberty, I could blame Uncle Sam for everything:
“Sorry, can’t make that baptism/wedding/ graduation/ (insert family event here). I have to move to Japan for work.”
“Yeah, the healthcare system is fugged; I’m on Tricare though, watch anything good on Netflix lately?”
“I put my name on a list to live off base, but if it doesn’t work out, we’ll just be put in the tower, end of story.”
“I PCS in June. I’ll either go to Camp LeJeune or get sucked into the vortex that is the Pentagon. Not much I can do.”
In the military, every moment of my life was planned out for me, until suddenly… it wasn’t. When I “got out,” all I had was choice, and I didn’t always make the right ones. In fact, it sometimes seemed like there were no right choices–just varying degrees of wrong.
There wasn’t a big picture for me anymore.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Robert Knapp/Released)
I lost my sense of purpose.
I was actually embarrassed about these realizations for a long time. I was a Marine Corps Officer. I did alpha stuff for a living. There are literally thousands of movies made about my old job.
How could I fess up to being lost and stressed? It felt like I would be admitting defeat to an enemy that hundreds of millions of Americans deal with every single day. That’s not very alpha.
On top of the stress and state of general lostness, my sense of purpose was gone. I felt that my time in uniform had been helping the greater cause. I was helping people. At the very least, I was impacting my Marines’ lives and helping them become better every day.
It’s a lot harder to become excited about sending emails and filing TPS reports in the civilian world when it seems that the only people that are being helped are the company owners or stockholders. That’s not really a mission statement I can get behind.
I had spent the most testosterone-packed years of my life under the government’s thumb. I signed up at 17. For a decade, I was expected to be: sober, on time, awake at 0600, on-call 24/7, and never take more than 96 hours of liberty/leave.
As soon as I was let off the leash, I had some catching up to do. I slept when the sun was up and spent all night howling at the moon for months. It took a toll on my body; I gained weight, I lost energy, and I got sick a lot.
My cornerstone was gone.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels)
Worst of all, I stopped training.
Staying up late and spending all day stressing about “coulda, shoulda, wouldas” made me lose sight of the one thing I actually had control over. Me. More specifically, my training and diet.
This was the hardest-hitting of all my issues because it made everything else worse. It’s a lot harder to stay healthy if all you’re putting into your body is junk food and not moving.
Exercise is a natural stress reliever. Without it, I was living in a state of chronic stress.
I had the all too common reaction to physical training that I’ve seen dozens of times first hand. No more PFT…no more PT for me. The overwhelming majority of us do it. It’s like the military induces some traumatic memory of what exercise is supposed to make us feel like as well as how much we should hate ourselves for not working out.
It becomes a physical punishment when we train and a mental punishment when we don’t train.
Recognizing that it doesn’t have to be either one of those punishments was the key to me getting back in the gym.
I knew I had to make changes. I wasn’t in the position to come up with some grand overarching ethos that would cure all my woes. I needed something simple.
I started by making my training mandatory. I knew it made me feel better. Having stress hormones pumping through my veins 24/7 was the literal reason I felt like I was failing. Training hard helps relieve some of that cortisol and frees up the body to actually repair itself. That was the state I needed to get into regularly if I ever wanted to think clearly enough to actually turn my business into a success.
I started losing some of the extra fat I had put on, I got stronger, my performance increased, but the most important benefit of training hard was that I didn’t hate myself anymore.
My military service was a high-point in my life, but it isn’t the summit I need to plant my flag on. That’s much higher, and I have a lot more work to do. I was great then, but I’m greater every day that I decide to train and sink my teeth into another bite-sized piece of life.
The Marine Corps made it easy to feel like I was part of something bigger and helping people. Military service isn’t the only option in life to help other people though. By taking care of myself first, getting my training in line, and staying healthy, I’m able to take all the skills and discipline I gained from my service and directly apply them to my current mission.
I know that objectively my life looked fine, but internally, I felt like I was crumbling. Plenty of us live our whole lives with that feeling. I’m lucky that I managed to shift my perception after only six months of the vicious cycle.
Maybe it took you years.
Maybe you’re still in it.
Maybe you never served in the military, but you experienced a different transition that made you feel helpless, alone, and chronically stressed.
It doesn’t matter. Our perception is our reality. If your reality isn’t great, the only thing you can do is change your perception.
The best perception shifter I know of is…training hard.
If you aren’t training, start training.
If this resonates with you at all, I’d love to hear your story no matter what stage of the process you’re currently in. This link will take you to a survey that will allow you to do just that.