Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years - We Are The Mighty
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Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years

When Gen. Stanley McChrystal began working on his memoir after retiring as a four-star general in 2010, he realized that his perception of himself as a leader was different from reality. In the past eight years, he’s had time to reflect on his career and the notion of leadership itself.

During that long career, McChrystal led America and its allies in the Afghanistan War before retiring as a four-star general in 2010. He revolutionized the Joint Special Operations Command. And he’s best known for taking out the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

He’s now the managing partner of the leadership-consulting firm the McChrystal Group, and he’s the lead author of “Leaders: Myth and Reality.”


In an interview for Business Insider’s podcast “This Is Success,” he breaks down what he learned from key points in his life, including how recently revisiting the legacy of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee helped him realize it was time to redefine leadership.

Listen to the full episode here:

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Transcript edited for clarity.

Stanley McChrystal: By the time we finished this book, we really arrived at this conclusion that leadership isn’t what we think it is, and it never has been. It’s much more complex. It’s not two-dimensional. And for me, one of the representative incidents is my relationship with Robert E. Lee. I grew up, figuratively speaking, with Robert E. Lee.

Rich Feloni: You grew up in Virginia.

McChrystal: I grew up in Northern Virginia, not far from his boyhood home, and I went to Washington-Lee High School. And when I turned 17, I went to West Point, as Robert E. Lee had done, and when you go to West Point, you don’t escape Robert E. Lee. I lived in Lee Barracks. There were paintings of Robert E. Lee. And while every other leader at West Point is famous, he’s special.

And then when I got older and I was retired and I had this picture that my wife had given me 40 years before. My wife had paid for it when I was a second lieutenant, and I hung it proudly at every set of quarters we ever had, because for me it represented “This is what I believe in.” When someone came into my quarters, they’d see, “Oh, Robert E. Lee. Those are the values that he believes in.” And I was proud of that.

Then, after Charlottesville, in late spring of 2017, my wife, Annie — we’d been married 40 years at the time — she goes, “I think you ought to get rid of that picture.” And my first response was, “You gave it to me, honey. I could never get rid of that?” And she says, “No.” And I said, “Well, why?” And she says, “I think it’s communicating something you don’t think it is.” And I said, “What do you mean? He was a general officer. He just did his thing. He was a military guy, not a politician or something.” She said, “You may think that, but people in our home may not think that, and they may think you’re trying to communicate something deeper, white supremacy and all those things. So one morning, I took it down and literally threw it away. And it was a pretty emotional moment for me.

And then as we started writing this book, and we had already begun the initial work, I realized I couldn’t write a book about leadership unless I wrote about Robert E. Lee. And I knew that was dangerous, because Robert E. Lee had become a controversial character. There’s a part of American society that is just passionate in his defense, part of it that is passionate against him, and everybody’s going to weigh in. But you know, I’d grown up with Robert E. Lee, both as a person in my mind, but also as an ideal. And just recently, I walked down, just to walk the distance between his childhood home and the slave-trading house in Alexandria, Virginia, which was the second-busiest slave-trading house in the United States. And this is where northern African-Americans were bought. Some freed men were captured, but others were bought from farms that weren’t profitable and shipped to the deep South, where cotton was so profitable. And so it was right in front of him. It was 10 blocks from his home. You don’t hide from the fact that this very ugly thing is a reality. And he spent the next four years defending it. And so there’s this contradiction. Here’s a guy who in some ways, is so admirable. His soldiers loved him

Feloni: From a military perspective.

Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years

When McChrystal attended West Point in the ’70s, Confederate general Robert E. Lee had transcended his connection to the Confederate cause, and had become a symbol of military discipline and honor.

(The Library of Congress)


McChrystal: Exactly.

Feloni: Yeah, but it would have to be removing from the context of basically a traitor to his country, ignoring that and kind of replacing it with a myth.

McChrystal: That’s right, and I couldn’t.

Feloni: And were you not aware of that link that people could make when you had that painting in your quarters?

McChrystal: Here’s the point. On one level, yes I was. On another level, what I did was I just said, “Yeah, but.” And I think a lot of people, with Robert E. Lee, go, “Yeah, but.” And the real point of the book is, everybody is a complex person like that. Every memory of every leader that we profiled and everyone we could think, may not have that clear a contradiction, but they all have them. And we as followers, we as observers, we have to make a decision on how we look at those, how we process that, because if we’re looking for the perfect person, woman or man, we can wait forever. They’re not coming.

The ‘Great Man Theory’ of leadership is a myth

Feloni: Yeah. Well, when you’re looking at that and kind of leading into your thesis here, what is the way that we define leaders and leadership, and what is wrong with that, and what were you looking to correct?

McChrystal: I wrote my memoirs starting in 2010, and I thought that it would be fairly straightforward, because I was there, so I knew what happened. And I’d be the star of the show. The spotlight would be on me. And yet, when we went to do … I had a young person helping me that was brilliant. We went to do the research. We did a whole bunch of interviews, and we went to things that I had been very much a part of and given credit for. We found that I would make a decision and issue some order and there would be an outcome. And I thought, “OK, my order produced that outcome.” And in reality, we found that there’s a myriad of actions that other people are doing, or factors impinging on it, that actually affected the outcome much more than I did.

Feloni: So you didn’t realize this until you were writing your memoirs?

McChrystal: No, I mean, you get to this point in life because you sort of believe the Great Man Theory. You sort of believe that the leader is central to everything. And then when I get this, it’s very humbling, and I realize, leaders matter, just not like we think they do. And as we put in the book, it’s also the way we study leadership. We study biographies, which puts the person at the center. And so the spotlight tends to stay on them, and everything else tends to be a bit in shadows. You very rarely see a statue of a team. You see a few, but usually there’s a person on the pedestal. But in reality, a team, and sometimes a very large team, made it happen or didn’t make it happen. And yet, it’s hard to explain that.

Feloni: In this book, you picked a very interesting collection of profiles, and you even included the al-Qaeda leader that you defeated in Iraq, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. So what can you learn about leadership from studying someone that you morally oppose, even on an extreme example. This was your enemy. What do you gain from studying that?

McChrystal: Well, we didn’t just oppose him — we killed him.

Feloni: Yeah.

Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years

As the head of Joint Special Operations Command, McChrystal hunted down and assassinated al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. McChrystal got inside Zarqawi’s head during the hunt.

McChrystal: I stood over his body right after we killed him. So for about two and a half years, we fought a bitter fight against this guy. And Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had come from a tough town in Jordan, very little education, got involved in crime and things like that in his youth. But then what happened was he realized that if he showed self-discipline to exhibit the conviction of his Islamic beliefs, if he did that overtly, if he became a zealot other people were attracted to him. He was living up to what he said and was demanding that they do. Later, when he became the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, he led the same way; he wore all black, looked like a terrorist leader. He actually killed himself — he was the person who held the knife when they beheaded Nicholas Berg. A gruesome thing to do, but what he’s showing people is our cause is so important, I’m willing to do something that we all know is horrific. And so he would lead around the battlefield courageously. And so what he did was he was able to bring forth people to follow his very extreme part of Islam, when most of them really didn’t. The Iraqi Sunni population were not naturally adherents to al-Qaeda, but he was able to produce such a sense of leadership and zealous beliefs that they followed. He became the godfather of ISIS.

Feloni: Yeah, and so by looking at this was, are you saying that to benefit your own leadership you had to get in the mind of him and understand that?

McChrystal: Well, the first thing you have to do is understand him. Your first desire is to demonize him, but the reality is, I had to respect him. He led very effectively, very, and if you really get down and put the lens another way, he believed and he fought for what he believed in. And who’s to say we were right and he was wrong?

Feloni: And that was something that you were thinking when you were in Iraq?

McChrystal: Not initially. Initially, you just say, “We’re just gonna get this guy.” And then after a while you watch him lead and you realize not only is he a worthy opponent — he’s making me better — but you’re also going after someone who truly believes. Who do you want to hang out with, who do you want to go to dinner with? You want somebody who believes what they’re doing. Now, his techniques I didn’t agree with. In many ways he was a psychopath. But I know a lot of people for whom I have less respect than I do for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Feloni: Interesting. When you were having the collection of people in this book, what were you looking for? Because in some ways you were saying that taking a look at profiles of individuals is the opposite of what you wanted to do. Because if you elevate someone above the context that they’re in, it’s counterproductive, but you’re proving that through elevating people so how do you navigate that?

McChrystal: Yeah, that’s an absolutely great point, and we actually didn’t realize that at the beginning of the book. We started writing and we said, “Hey, we are almost running in absolutely opposite directions of what we’re proposing.” You can write a theoretical book on leadership, and there will be a small community of people who read it. We learn through stories, all of us do, and we learn through stories of people. We picked these 13 diverse people and we had these six genres, we had founders, we had geniuses, we had power brokers, we had Coco Chanel, we had Boss Tweed, we have Martin Luther, we have Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we have Harriet Tubman. We wanted something that would be universal, give us a wide look at different kinds of leaders and context. We wanted diversity in sex, we wanted diversity in nationality, we have a Chinese admiral from the 15th century. And so we thought that if you could bring it wide like that you can draw the universal lessons out, that we couldn’t do if we just took politicians or soldiers or something.

Lessons from success and failure in war

Feloni: Yeah, now I want to talk about these lessons with the lens of your career as well. You became known for the approach that you took to join Special Operations Command, re-imaging the approach to Special Operations, particularly in Iraq, which led to the death of Zarqawi. And so when you had such transformations at JSOC, what was that like coming into a role where you had to adapt on the fly but every change, every risk that you took had lives in the balance?

McChrystal: Well, it was frightening, but it was very, very important. I had grown up essentially in joint Special Operations Command and the Rangers and then on the staff. I was very familiar with this very elite counterterrorist force. And this force was, you’ve seen it in movies, bearded guys with big knuckles and fancy weapons and these surly arrogant attitudes and that’s pretty accurate but the hearts of lions. But we very insular, we were designed to do counter-hijacking, hostage rescue, precise raids, and so we were almost in an insular part of the military and no one else interacted much with us. We would be directed to do certain missions and we loved that because we didn’t have to be affected by the big military bureaucracy. And then in Iraq what happened is, starting in 2003, really after the invasion, we ran into a problem that was bigger and more complex than we’d ever faced before, and that was al-Qaeda in Iraq. And we found that very narrow insulated way of operating before, tribal way, it didn’t work because you had to have this synergy of a real team and at first we almost were in denial because we’re so good at what we do.

We said, “Well, we’ll just do what we do and everybody else will figure everything else out.” But that wasn’t going to work. Really starting in early 2004 we came to a collective understanding that we were losing, and we were likely to lose if we didn’t change. Now we had no idea how to change, there wasn’t a road map, I wasn’t the visionary leader to provide that. And so what we said was, “Well, we will do anything but this. Now we’ll change.” And because I didn’t have this vision or clear blueprint to put in front of the organization, I essentially put it out to the team. I said, “We’re going to start changing to whatever works, so what we do that works we’ll do more of, what we do that doesn’t work we’ll stop.” And that freed the organization to constantly adapt. We’re able to modify, adapt ourselves and constantly change without the limitations of a doctrine that says, “You can’t do that.”

Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years

U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal in his official portrait as head of ISAF.

Our doctrine became, “If it’s stupid and it works, it ain’t stupid and we’ll push it.” And as it came it started to change the way we thought about leadership. When I took over I was approving every mission because I’m the commander and I found there’s no way you can be fast enough, so my role changed. I went from being the micro-manager, the centralized director, to being a commander who creates this ecosystem in which this group of really talented people figure it out. And my goal was to keep the ecosystem going, grow it with new participants and keep everyone supported and inspired.

Feloni: When you’re saying that when you had to take big risks with these changes, that there was a level of fear involved. Were you mitigating that fear by learning to trust the people that you were working with?

McChrystal: Yeah, and you have to — sometimes you can’t completely mitigate it. In an organization like JSOC, when you take casualties it’s deeply emotional because it’s not like new privates coming in, you get a new private. It takes about a decade to build an operator, everybody’s the godparent of other operator’s kids, you know. And so when you lose people, you lose people who’ve been around a long time, it took a long time, so it’s very emotional. T.E. Lawrence talked about the ripples in a pond.

Feloni: That’s “Lawrence of Arabia.”

McChrystal: That’s right, “Lawrence of Arabia.” He talked about when you lost one of the better ones, it was like ripples because it went out into their families and whatnot. Every casualty was much more costly and therefore you had to try to minimize them. And so as we went into this risk period there was a lot of uncertainty and I couldn’t, I don’t have the wisdom or courage or any of that to bear all that together, so we had a team and we supported each other.

Feloni: Distribute that.

McChrystal: Yeah, exactly.

Feloni: Yeah, and in terms of looking at something continuing after you leave, so you led the US-led coalition in the war in Afghanistan. That was eight years ago when you left; the war is still going. How does that look to you, because, for example, I could speak to a CEO who left a company and they can comment and be, like, “Oh, here’s what worked and what didn’t.” But as we were talking about, the stakes are just so much different in war. How do you process that?

McChrystal: You can process it in a lot of ways. You could take a strict business sense you could say, “Well, it hasn’t succeeded thus far, so it’s a bad investment.” And then I can also look and see that as of 2001 when we entered Afghanistan there were no females in school under the Taliban. There weren’t that many young males in school and now we’ve had almost 17 years of young ladies going to school, young men and so we’ve got a different young generation in Afghanistan. And 4.4 million Afghans voted this week and it wasn’t a presidential election. Is the glass half full, is it half empty, is there a hole in it? The answer is yes to all of those. There’s deep corruption, there’s huge problems inside the country, but in many ways I think that rather than say, “OK, it’s a failure,” I’d say it’s a complex problem, one of which you work on over a long period. I know I would not subscribe now to thousands of American troops or unlimited amounts of money, but I wouldn’t recommend walking away. I think our partnership with the Afghan people and the signal we send to other countries in the region is important. And if we think about the world as a completely connected place now, not just by information technology but culturally, I think the ability to have relationships, to demonstrate our willingness to be a part of things is more important than ever. It was critical really right after the Second World War, we gave both Asia through Japan and Europe enough cohesion to grow back. It doesn’t feel as easy or as good in Afghanistan but I would tell you, I look at the world through that lens is how I come at it.

Feloni: In “Leaders,” your memoir, it’s giving you a chance to be introspective of your own career. And on the nature of leaving the military when it came in this much publicized, there was a Rolling Stone article that reporter Michael Hastings portrayed you as a renegade general and that ended up leaving your position. How do you process that now, looking back at your role since it’s been eight years?

McChrystal: Yeah, I mean, there are a lot of ways that maybe I could or should. The first thing is it happened, and I didn’t think that the article was truly reflective of my team. It was about me and my team and the runaway general and that is obviously not a good title. And so on the one hand I thought that that wasn’t fair; on the other hand I’m responsible and we have this negative article about a senior general shows up on the president of the United States’ desk. And it’s my job not to put articles like that on the president’s desk, so I offered my resignation. President Obama accepted it, and I don’t have any problem with it because I’m responsible whether I did something wrong or not. I’m responsible, and as I told the president that day, “I’m happy to stay in command or resign, whatever is best for the mission.”

Now that’s phase one, and I feel very good about that decision. I’m not happy it happened, but I feel good about that. Then you have a moment when you have a failure like that in your life and you get to make a decision. You’re either going to relitigate that for the rest of your life and I could be a retired bitter general, I could be whatever, the CEO got fired or whatever or not. And my wife helped me through this more than anything, because as I tell people, “She lives like she drives, without using the rear-view mirror.” And so we made the decision, she helped me. “We’re going to focus completely on the future.” We made the decision, she helped me. “We’re going to focus completely on the future. There is no point in being bitter because nobody cares but you.” So I decided to look forward, I decided to think about, “What can I do now?” Now, that’s easier said than done. Every day there’s some hurt.

Feloni: Even now?

McChrystal: Occasionally. Not every day, but occasionally something will come up. Last week, Rolling Stone queried if I wanted to do another interview. The answer was no.

Feloni: That seems like … yeah.

McChrystal: Yeah. I kind of went, “Really?” But the reality is, it always kind of comes back up, and you have to remake that decision on a constant basis. But it gets easier over time because you start to see how healthy that is. I would argue that every one or your listeners is going to fail. They’re going to fail in a marriage, they’re going to fail in a business, they’re going to fail at something for which they are responsible. And they’ve got to make the decision, “OK, what’s the rest of your life going to be like?” Because you can’t change what’s already happened. The only thing you can change is what happens in the future. So I tell people, “For God’s sakes, don’t screw up the rest of your life because of something that happened there.” And if you make the right decision, to lean forward, I’ve been extraordinarily satisfied and happy with that.

Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years

McChrystal in Afghanistan.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Francisco V. Govea II)

Feloni: And if you were to write a biographical profile for yourself in “Leaders,” what would the theme of your leadership style be, and what would be the reality versus the myth of it?

McChrystal: It would be evolution. One of the things we see in some of these leaders is they didn’t evolve. Walt Disney was this extraordinary animator, and with a small team he was exceptional. When the team got big, he didn’t adapt well, and his brother basically had to run it, and he focused on projects. Mine was a journey … I was a very different leader as a lieutenant colonel than I was as a company commander captain. I was very centralized when I was young. I started to loosen up, by the time I was a general officer I was, I think, completely different. I was much more decentralized. So I think the theme of a profile of me would be the evolution of that.

Now, the myth is the opposite; the myth is the counterterrorist leader who killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. I went out, wrestled him to the ground, buried to the waist, and that’s total B.S. At times do I like the myth because people go, “Wow, look at him!”? Yeah, it’s kind of cool, you never want to go, “No, that’s not true.” But it’s not true. The reality is that I built a team. Ultimately I’m more proud of enabling the team that I would be of wrestling to his death. But it still feels kind of cool when people say that. [laughs]

Feloni: So it’s the evolution of you as someone who is a very centralized commander to decentralizing.

McChrystal: Yeah, and thinking about it entirely differently.

Applying these lessons to the workplace

Feloni: And we’ve been talking about leadership on a grand scale, but you’re also the head of the McChrystal Group, which works with businesses on leadership development. So after having worked with a bunch of different industries, often on much smaller scales, what would you say are some of the most common mistakes a new leader makes?

McChrystal: I think often a new leader comes in and wants to prove themselves, because they’ve been hired, typically they’ve been given a role and a fair amount of money, and so they think they’ve got to prove themselves. There’s a reticence to say, “I don’t know.” There’s a reticence to look at the team and say “What should we do?” and to have the team do it. Because you’re worried about your own credibility. I think leaders actually, if they’re willing to, I’m not saying take a subordinate role, they’re responsible, but take a much more inclusive role, a much more role in which you ask people to help lead, actually works much better. Some of the best I’ve ever seen that have particularly been in jobs awhile have reached that, and it’s magic to see.

Feloni: And on the flip side of that, should people who are followers, should they see leadership in a new light, maybe their relationship to their boss, their boss’ boss?

McChrystal: Yeah, think about it — how many times have we sat back and you’ve got either a new leader or your leader in the auditorium, in the room, and they’re saying, “OK, here’s what we’re going to do,” and you’re sitting back kind of the smart-ass, going, “This is stupid, that won’t work, boom, boom, boom.” Rear up on your hind legs and bark, and maybe we’ll think about doing it. Leaders have a role, but the followers have a huge role, huge responsibility. Huge responsibility in doing their part, but also shaping the leader. You see the leader making a mistake and you don’t say something to them? You fail in your job. And then when you see them fail and you get smug and you go, “Yeah, I thought that she was never that good, he was never that good,” shame on you. Because you own part of that, and in reality when it’s firing time they had to fire all of you.

Feloni: So not only should we not put figures of the past on pedestals. We shouldn’t do that with our own bosses.

McChrystal: Absolutely, and bosses shouldn’t put themselves on pedestals either. There are a few who keep wanting to step up there, and then … I think it’s much better for the leader to stay away from the pedestal.

Feloni: And at this point, how do you personally define success?

McChrystal: It’s the team I’m part of. I’ve got this company that’s now 100 people, it’s grown, and I’m not critical to the business, except my name’s on the door. I show up occasionally, and they’re very nice to me and whatnot, but the reality is the work gets done by the team, and I take the greatest pride in the world when I sit in one of our meetings and I’m not saying much, and it’s happening. They’re just doing things, they’re pulling, they’re saying we’re going to go in this direction, and nobody looks to me to say, “Can we go in that direction or should we?” And they’re not being discourteous. They know that that’s not the best thing to do. If they turn to me or somebody else to let the old gray beard do it, it’s too slow. It’s often not the right answer. So I am really happiest when I see that, and it gives you great pride.

Feloni: So success to you, would it be having a non-integral role among your team?

McChrystal: No — I want to be integral to it, I want to feel like a part of it, but I don’t want to feel like the critical cog. I don’t want to feel like the keystone to the arch. I want the company, the organization, to be confident in themselves. If I got hit by a car, they’d say, “We’re going to miss Stan, but guess what? In his honor, we’re going to move forward and we are going to do X, X, X.” That’s when I really feel best about things. Or they don’t even tell me about things they’re doing, and suddenly we’re doing very well on a project and I hear about it, and I go, “Wow, that’s good — when did we do that?” They say so and so, I say, “Well, why didn’t I know?” They say, “Well, you didn’t need to know. It’s not important.” And they’re right.

Feloni: Is there a piece of advice that you would give to someone who wants to have a career like yours? It doesn’t necessarily have to be military — it could be a sense of leadership.

McChrystal: When I think about the two things that I hope leaders have, first is empathy. Understanding that if you’re sitting on the other side of the table you have a different perspective, and they might be right. So just being able to put yourself in their shoes. Doesn’t mean you agree with them, doesn’t mean you approve, but being able to see it is really important. And then the second part is self-discipline. Because most of us know what we ought to do as leaders. We know what we shouldn’t do. It’s having the self-discipline to do those things, because you’re leading all the time. You’re leading by example all the time — it’s a good example or a bad example. It’s not just the leadership in your job; it’s an extraordinary responsibility. I had a battalion commander whose battalion I joined, and he had just left when I got there. But all the lieutenants are wearing their T-shirts backwards. And I’m going, “All right, what’s going on here? Did they get up after drinking all night or something?” And the battalion commander had done that because it showed less skin when you’re out there in the field and the enemy couldn’t see the white skin and shoot you. I didn’t think that was that smart an idea, but the fact that just because he wore his T-shirts backwards, his whole cohort of young lieutenants was doing it.

Feloni: He didn’t tell them to.

McChrystal: I don’t think he told them to. I got there right after he’d left, so it was kind of like this clinical thing. I got there ‘ “Why have they got their T-shirts backwards?” And this guy had done that. Just the power you find that if you are charismatic and whatnot, anything you do, how you treat people, how you think about things, the little things, you’ll start to see it mimicked by people through your organization, and there’s great power in that. And you’ve got to be careful with it.

Feloni: Thank you, general.

McChrystal: It’s been my honor. Thank you.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy’s futuristic destroyers might lose their big guns

The Zumwalt-class destroyer, the largest and most advanced surface combatant in the world, was built to be a silent killer, but the revolutionary warship has faced a string of setbacks during development — including the embarrassing problem that its supergun still does not work right.

The two 155mm guns of the Advanced Gun System on the Zumwalt, intended to strike targets farther than 80 miles away, are ridiculously expensive to fire, as a single Long Range Land Attack Projectile costs almost $1 million. Procurement was shut down two years ago, leaving the Zumwalt without any ammunition to fire.

That’s not the only problem — the gun also lacks the desired range, Breaking Defense reported Nov. 28.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Gh37B9nkaw
USS ZUMWALT in ACTION! DDG-1000 sea trials and Long Range Land Attack Projectile weapons featured.

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“We just cannot get the thing to fly as far as we want,” Vice Adm. William Merz, the deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems, told the Senate Armed Services seapower subcommittee Tuesday, explaining that the Navy may do away with the guns entirely if it can’t develop effective and cost-efficient ammunition, according to Breaking Defense.


The Navy “will be developing either the round that goes with that gun or what we are going to do with that space if we decide to remove that gun in the future,” he continued.

“The ship is doing fine, on track to be operational in 2021 in the fleet,” he said, adding that the Zumwalt-class destroyer remains a “very capable platform with or without that gun.”

This is what would happen if the USS Zumwalt fought a Russian battlecruiser

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The Zumwalt-class destroyers were expected to serve as multi-mission ships, focusing primarily on land-attack and naval gunfire support missions with secondary anti-ship and anti-aircraft mission capabilities.

The Navy saw the ship operating in coastal areas and supporting ground troops, but that mission was changed late last year, according to The Diplomat.

The destroyer will now serve as a surface strike combatant, relying on a diverse arsenal of anti-ship and anti-air missiles capable of being launched from 80 Mk 54 Vertical Launch System cells, which Merz said were larger than those of other surface ships, creating more options for armaments.

The Zumwalt, however, has fewer missile cells than the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and the Ticonderoga-class cruisers, which have 96 and 122 missile launch cells that can carry interceptors, cruise missiles, and rocket-launched torpedoes.

It appears that the Navy intends to force the Zumwalt through the development process and then sort the rest out later.

“We determined that the best future for that ship is to get it out there with the capability that it has and separate out the Advanced Gun System, leaving everything else in place,” Merz said, according to Breaking News.

Life Aboard US Navy Stealth Destroyer USS Zumwalt

www.youtube.com

But the gun is apparently not the only problem when it comes to the Zumwalt.

The ship has been steadily becoming less and less stealthy as the Navy settles for bolt-on components — including satellite communication antenna systems mounted on the sides and the high-frequency vertical antenna bolted on the top — amid efforts to cut costs.

The Drive spotted these problems on one of three Zumwalt-class destroyers in the works. (There were initially supposed to be more than 30.) The publication speculated that these non-low-observable features would negatively affect the stealth capabilities of the ship, which was initially built to be as stealthy as a fishing boat.

These potential detriments were not visible on earlier versions of the Zumwalt-class destroyers.

The Zumwalt-class destroyers have also experienced serious engine and electrical problems during development. Nonetheless, the ship’s twin Rolls-Royce MT30 gas turbines and advanced technological systems make it a candidate for future railgun and directed-energy weapons.

“She is going to be a candidate for any advanced weapon system that we develop,” Merz said Nov. 27, according to Breaking Defense.

The Zumwalt’s primary competitor is China’s Type 055 Renhai destroyer.

Though the Chinese warship is not as technologically advanced as the Zumwalt, which remains unmatched, the Renhai destroyers are equipped with 112 VLS cells able to fire HHQ-9 surface-to-air missiles, YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missiles, CJ-10 land-attack cruise missiles, and missile-launched anti-submarine torpedoes, according to the South China Morning Post.

The missions vary a bit, as the Type 055 is expected to serve as an air-defense and anti-submarine warship, one that could escort Chinese aircraft carriers.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to watch Army-Navy Game spirit videos from around the world

Anyone who’s followed the Army-Navy Game for the last few years knows that spirit videos have become an integral tradition in days leading up to the game. While one or two might get traction in the news media, the truth is that military members everywhere make spirit videos to support their service academy. And now there’s a go-to place to upload and watch them.


Some spirit videos are more famous than others, like Rylan Tuohey’s Pro-Navy “Helm Yeah” and “We Give A Ship” videos. Then-West Point Cadet Austin Lachance responded in time for 2017’s Army-Navy Game with the extremely well-produced spirit video masterpiece, “Lead From the Front.”

But they don’t have to be contenders for the GI Film Festival to be good. Now, thanks to DVIDS, they all have a forum.

Even if it’s just a group of First Lieutenants, Army alums all, deciding on who should get to watch the game with them or an entire Stryker Brigade Combat Team poking fun at “Helm Yeah” and getting sick of all the winning, spirit videos are now very much a part of the greater traditions surrounding the annual contest.

Army and Navy units stationed all over the world may not be able to make the big game, but they can still be a part of the fun, making and uploading videos to DVIDSHub, the military’s multimedia imagery database. It’s a collection of photos, video, and other multimedia gathered by members of the U.S. military, made available to the public on DVIDSHub.net. It’s a searchable collection of official and unofficial multimedia collected every day by military members everywhere.

Going to DVIDSHub and doing a video search of “#ArmyNavy2018” will reveal all of this year’s spirit videos so far. The collection is dominated by Army units slamming Navy Athletics over and over. Special Forces, tankers, and even doctors and nurses at Fort Irwin all have their own takes on the GO ARMY BEAT NAVY theme.

Some are modeled to be commercials for the game. Others are just showing what they do every day and announcing their support to the guys who will take the field in Philadelphia on Saturday, Dec. 8. The 3rd Cavalry Sapper Troop, currently deployed to Iraq, just showcased a cardboard Navy ship sealed with Duct Tape, rigged to explode.

Of course, you can still find fantastic videos from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard on DVIDS. The site is a public affairs site, meant to make all the imagery captured by U.S. troops in the course of their duties available to the American taxpayer. If a military event is unclassified and was captured by a military journalist, chances are good you can find it on DVIDS.

But Army-Navy Game spirit videos are a good break from the continuous mission. Show your spirit appropriately and never blow up a Navy effigy without trained Army explosives experts or artillery fire mules on site.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Fun facts about countries with biggest US military bases

Not including the Middle East, there were more than 225,000 U.S. military personnel stationed abroad last year. A military career is a great way to learn about different cultures. You’ll also learn some pretty cool (and sometimes strange) things about life in other countries. Here are some interesting facts about some of the countries with large U.S. military populations:


Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years

(Marine Corps Photo)

South Korea

Camp Humphreys is America’s largest overseas base, and it’s located in South Korea. But did you know that South Korea is also home to the world’s best airport? Incheon International Airport has consistently been ranked the best in the world. It has lush gardens, saunas, an ice skating rink, free showers and free massage chairs. It even has craft areas where you can create traditional bags and fans. It’s pretty much a tourist destination in and of itself.

Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years

(Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt McCoy)

Germany

It’s good to be a kid in Germany. In a tradition dating back to the 1800s, every first grader gets a giant cone filled with toys and candy. Today, some kids even get cell phones and video games. When you make it through school, you’ll also get an entirely free college education. But don’t count on standing out among your classmates for your unusual name; the government has a say over what parents name their children, and they reject strange names (including ones where the gender is not obvious).

Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

Japan

Japan is the vending machine capital of the world. In fact, every street in Japan has at least one vending machine (for a total of over 5 million in the country). Umbrella vending machines are helpful when it rains (versus in New York, where you’ll have to grab one from a street vendor). Forgot your tie for work? Buy one in a vending machine. You can buy every kind of food imaginable—including vegetables. There are even vending machines entirely for bananas. And here’s one Americans will love – there are toilet paper vending machines in Japan too.

Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years

(U.S. Army photo by Davide Dalla Massara)

Italy

The Italians take their ice cream (gelato) very seriously. In fact, there is an even an entire university dedicated to studying it and making it. It’s called Gelato University, near Bologna, and it attracts both Italians and non-Italians wanting to learn the secrets behind making this revered dessert.

Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years

(US Army Photo by Sgt. M Benjamin Gable)

Kuwait

Kuwait isn’t a popular tourist destination, but if you do find yourself there, look for Sadu woven textiles. This craft goes back to the country’s nomadic peoples – even though most of the country’s population today are expatriates. Symbolism in the weaving shows the desert landscape and commemorates the nomadic lifestyle.

Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Battles/Released)

Turkey

Turkey is the right place if you’ve come to shop. It has one of the world’s largest and biggest shopping centers, called the Grand Bazaar, which dates back to the 1400s. It includes over 3,000 shops taking up over 60 streets. Many of the shops sell traditional Turkish items like ceramics, lamps, spices, rugs, jewelry, and tea.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The reason why Saudi Arabia is buying so many Blackhawks

Saudi Arabia has been buying a lot of weapons in recent years. So much so that a recent purchase of 17 Sikorsky UH-60M Blackhawks went by almost unnoticed. What’s most interesting about this sale, though, is not just the fact that the Saudis have acquired some very versatile helicopters, but rather who the Blackhawks were bought for.


Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years
A Soldier is lowered from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during the Gowen Thunder open house and air show at Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho, Oct. 14, 2017. Saudi Arabia recently purchased 17 UH-60M Blackhawks for the Saudi Arabian National Guard and the Royal Saudi Land Forces Airborne Special Security Force. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur)

According to a Lockheed Martin brochure, the UH-60M has a crew of four and can hold 11 troops. It has a cruising speed of 151 knots and can haul 9,000 pounds of cargo on an external hook. Versions of the UH-60 have handled everything from packing weapons to medevac missions to firefighting.

Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years
A UH-60 Blackhawk flies overhead during an exercise at Tactical Base Gamberi. (Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Randall Pike)

The Saudi military has six armed services: The Royal Saudi Land Forces, the Royal Saudi Navi, the Royal Saudi Air Force, the Royal Saudi Air Defense, the Royal Saudi Strategic Missile Force, and the Saudi Arabia National Guard. Two of these services will split the 17 Blackhawks: The Saudi Arabia National Guard is buying eight, while the other nine will go to the Royal Saudi Land Forces Airborne Special Security Forces.

The Saudi Arabia National Guard is nothing like the U.S. National Guard. In the United States, the National Guard does everything from disaster relief to fighting in combat alongside active forces. It serves both the state and federal governments. The Saudi Arabia National Guard, conversely, is meant to protect the Saudi Royal Family from coups. It is very likely that the eight Blackhawks they’re acquiring will be used as troop transports.

Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years
A pair of U.S. Army MH-60M Blackhawks fly in formation with a U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion. There is a chance that the nine Blackhawks being purchased by the Royal Saudi Land Forces Airborne Special Security Forces could be equipped with some of the same technologies in the MH-60s used by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Allison Lotz)

The Royal Saudi Land Forces Airborne Special Security Forces, on the other hand, are elite troops with the Royal Saudi Land Forces, Saudi Arabia’s regular army. The Royal Saudi Land Forces website states that personnel who join the Airborne Special Security Forces are “qualified to carry out the most intricate and sensitive missions and complete them with highest speed, swift movement, and maximum accuracy.” The nine Blackhawks going to this elite unit are likely to be used for troop transport missions, but they could very well have modifications similar to those used by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, better known as the Nightstalkers.

A representative for Sikorsky pointed WATM to the company’s website on the UH-60 when asked for comment. Either way, the Saudis have acquired a number of highly versatile helicopters that have served a number of countries very successfully over the years. Exactly what the Saudis intend to do with these choppers remains to be seen.

popular

Beware of the 19-year-old pissed off Marine

On January 30, 1968, John Ligato and about 150 fellow Marines from Alpha Company experienced hell on Earth.


They were awakened in the middle of the night by their company commander and sent to nearby Hue City in Vietnam to help the troops of an overrun compound.

Related: 8 of the most terrifying Vietnam War booby traps

When they finally arrived, they were greeted with cheers. The troops of the MACV Compound had just repelled an enemy surge within their walls.

“They had been through hell, and they thought we were there to save the day, but little did we know the numerical numbers of NVA there,” Ligato said in the video below.

Ligato and his ill-equipped company were walking into a deathtrap against nine battalions of highly-trained North Vietamese soldiers, outnumbering each man by a few hundred.

“Most of us thought we’d never get out,” Ligato said.

The odds were against them, but miraculously, they pulled through. Ligato sums up the company’s success with this quote:

Americans Adapt. We Improvise. The most ferocious fighting machine the world has ever seen is a 19-year-old pissed off Marine. Because you’ll take that kid from Detroit or Mississippi and you’ll train him in Marine Corps boot camp, and you’ll put him in a situation that’s foreign to him, and he will adapt and improvise and become that situation and deal with it.

Watch John Ligato tell his harrowing experience in this 3-minute American Heroes Channel video:

American Heroes Channel, YouTube

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army wants a new, lightweight ghillie suit for snipers

U.S. Army uniform officials are working on a lightweight, modular ghillie suit for snipers to replace the current Flame Resistant Ghillie System, or FRGS, that’s known for being too heavy for hot environments.

Program Executive Office Soldier is developing the Improved Ghillie System, or IGS, a modular system that would be worn over the field uniform, Debbie Williams, a systems acquisition expert with Product Manager Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment, said in a recent Army press release posted on PEO Soldier’s website.


The FRGS was first fielded in 2012 at the Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia; U.S. Marine Corps Scout Sniper School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia; and the Special Operations Target Interdiction Course at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The IGS will consist of components such as sleeves, leggings, veil, and cape that can be added or taken off as needed, Williams said.

It will also do away with the ghillie suit accessory kit, which is standard with the FRGS, she said, explaining that soldiers were not using most of the items in the kit.

Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years

A 1st Battalion, 175th Infantry, soldier practices camouflage, cover and concealment with the Flame Resistant Ghillie Suit, or FRGS, during training at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., in November 2012.

(Army photo)

The Army issued a request for proposal for the IGS on Aug. 28, 2018, according to the release.

The IGS will feature a lighter, more breathable fabric than the material used in the FRGS, said Mary Armacost, a textile technologist with PM SCIE.

The material will offer some flame-resistance, but soldiers will receive most of their protection from their Flame Resistant Combat Uniform, worn underneath the IGS, Army officials said.

If all goes well, the Army plans to buy about 3,500 IGSs to outfit the approximately 3,300 snipers in the service, as well as Army snipers in U.S. Special Operations Command, the release states.

The Army intends to conduct tests that will evaluate the new IGS in both lab and field environments during day and night conditions. A limited user evaluation is being scheduled for next spring, involving instructors from the Sniper School at Fort Benning.

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

Articles

This Ranger-veteran Santa granted a dying child’s final wish

An Army Ranger veteran who plays Santa was called for an emergency visit to a dying child in Tennessee, arriving just in time to present the boy with a present and hold him as he passed away.


Eric Schmitt-Matzen is a 60-year-old engineer and the president of Packing Seals Engineering, according to Fox News. He carefully cultivates Saint Nicholas’s appearance and performs at approximately 80 events throughout each year.

Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years
Photo: Facebook/Eric Schmitt-Matzen

A nurse contacted him from a hospital near his home in Tennessee to ask that he rush over and comfort a dying child. According to the BBC, he was given a PAW Patrol toy by the child’s mother.

“She’d bought a toy from [the TV show] ‘PAW Patrol’ and wanted me to give it to him,” he told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “I sized up the situation and told everyone, ‘If you think you’re going to lose it, please leave the room. If I see you crying, I’ll break down and can’t do my job.’ ”

Schmitt-Matzen told the sick boy that he was Santa’s “Number One Elf” and that no matter where the boy went next, that title would get him in. Schmitt-Matzen gave the boy the gift and the child asked, “Santa, can you help me?”

“I wrapped my arms around him,” Schmitt-Matzen said, according to the Independent. “Before I could say anything, he died right there. I let him stay, just kept hugging and holding on to him.”

Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years
Photo: Facebook/Eric Schmitt-Matzen

The Ranger veteran left the hospital in tears that any soldier could easily understand. Rangers Lead The Way.

The first reference to this story that WATM has been able to find comes from Sam Venable at the Knoxville News Sentinel. You can learn more about Eric Schmitt-Matzen and his visits as Santa Claus there.

popular

6 reasons why veteran characters would ruin horror flicks

In order for a horror film to work, you need to have relatable characters. The more easily the audience can put themselves in the shoes of the cast, the more real the terror. That’s why, when a horror film is geared towards a younger crowd, the characters are primarily teenagers who are made to be as average and generic as possible.

Of course, while veterans come from every walk of life, one thing they all have in common is that they aren’t average. We’re generally brash, crude and perform well in environments that would freeze your average horror film character.


And to be fair, there have been horror films that feature characters with military backgrounds, like Predator. The problem here is that troops and vets would easily turn any horror film into an action film. In fact, the 2018 sequel to the Schwarzenegger classic seems to be embracing this action/horror dynamic of “vets versus monster.”

But here’s why vets wouldn’t make the best fit in most horror flicks:

We’re not easily scared

Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years

Veterans often have a desensitized “fight or flight” reflex. When vets are spooked, it’s rare for them to freeze in place or scream like children. They’re conditioned to hop right into fight mode.

If a twig snaps, vets look in that direction. When someone screams off in the distance, they’re not just going to shrug it off and continue their party in the middle of the woods.

We would organize survivors

Veterans instinctively take control of situations when everyone stands around confused. It doesn’t need to be a life-or-death situation, either. At a kid’s birthday party, for example, vets expertly knifehand their way into getting balloons inflated and cake cut.

Vets would identify who’s useful and smack some sense into the idiots that say, “let’s split up!”

We could make due with few resources

In horror films, survivors often run around looking for supplies. Most would probably settle for finding a pair of safety scissors that they would then inexplicably throw at the unkillable monster.

Meanwhile, the veteran has fashioned a ghillie suit using mud, sticks, and leaves and they’ve found the sturdiest club they could get their hands on — and set it on fire.

We’d probably be carrying

Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years

Chances are, the veteran probably doesn’t need to scavenge. The moment the idiot who went skinny-dipping starts screaming bloody murder, a veteran would chamber a round.

Unless the vet is fighting some supernatural force, the credits would start rolling shortly after the knife-wielding clown starts rushing them.

We know how to actually run and start cars

From the most macho grunt to the wimpiest supply guy, everyone has done Land Nav enough times to not trip on their own feet every ten seconds while running through the forest.

If the monster couldn’t be shot to death, the vet probably wouldn’t even bother and, instead, would leave. Especially if the monster just comes at them at a walking pace…

We’ve secretly been preparing for this forever

Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years

Ask any veteran why they stockpiled arms and supplies and they may joke that it’s for the zombie apocalypse. The moment an actual zombie apocalypse happens, that cache is definitely coming in handy.

We also have at least seven different plans on what to do in every situation. Catching us completely off-guard isn’t a realistic plot point.

*Bonus* The downside to being a veteran in a horror film

But realistically our f*ck-off attitude would get us killed. The masked killer would probably show up, covered in blood, and we’d mock them for whatever reason. That’s maybe not the best idea…

Articles

Taliban target covert US base in Afghanistan

Suspected Taliban insurgents attacked a US-operated base in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Khost April 24, officials said, but gave few immediate details of an assault that coincided with a visit to Kabul by US Secretary of Defense James Mattis.


The attackers had detonated a car bomb at an entrance to Camp Chapman, a secretive facility manned by US forces and private military contractors, said Mubarez Mohammad Zadran, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

But he had little immediate information on any damage or casualties.

“I am aware of a car bomb attack at one of the gates in the US base, but we are not allowed there to get more details,” the spokesman said.

A spokesman for the US military in Afghanistan, Capt. William Salvin, confirmed the car bomb attack. He said there appeared to be a number of Afghan casualties but none among US or coalition personnel at the base.

The attack came just three days after more than 140 Afghan soldiers were killed in an attack on their base by Taliban fighters disguised in military uniforms.

Articles

China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service

China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet has entered military service, according to multiple news reports.


Reuters late Thursday reported the development, citing a Chinese military report that didn’t offer additional details.

Related: How China’s stealthy new J-20 fighter jet compares to the US’s F-22 and F-35

The twin-engine fighter, built by Chengdu Aerospace Corp. for the People’s Liberation Army’s air force, first flew in 2011 and made its public debut in November when the PLAAF showed off two of the aircraft at an airshow over coastal city Zhuhai.

Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years
China’s J-20 | Chinese Military Review

Also in the fall, China downplayed reports that the J-20 was spotted at the Daocheng Yading Airport near Tibet or that it may be deployed near the Indian border.

With a reported top speed of 1,300 miles per hour and the ability to carry short- and long-range air-to-air missiles, the jet is often compared to the twin-engine F-22 Raptor, a fifth-generation stealth fighter made by Lockheed Martin Corp. for the U.S. Air Force.

But the J-20 is believed to be far less stealthy than the F-22.

“The forward-mounted canards, poorly shielded engines and underside vertical stabilizers all limit the amount that its radar cross section — which determines how visible the aircraft is to a radar — can be reduced,” Justin Bronk, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, has written.

Even so, the apparent arrival of an operational J-20 highlights China’s growing role as a military power.

The country, the second-largest spender on defense after the U.S., is also developing with private funding the Shenyang FC-31, a twin-engine multi-role fighter that resembles Lockheed’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. A production variant of the FC-31 may fly in 2019.

U.S. lawmakers have in the past questioned Pentagon officials why the government hasn’t retaliated against China for copying the designs of its most advanced fighter jets.

Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years
A rendering of the Chengdu J-20. | Screenshot via hindu judaic/YouTube

“What they’ve been able to do in such a rapid period of time without any RD … I understand there might be some differences as far as in the software and the weaponry and this and that,” Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, asked during a hearing in 2015. “But they’re making leaps, which are uncommon, at the behest of us, and we know this, I understand, but we’re not taking any actions against them.”

Robert Work, deputy defense secretary, at the time acknowledged that the Chinese “have stolen information from our defense contractors and it has helped them develop systems,” but he added, “we have hardened our systems.”

Humor

5 military myths that Hollywood has taught us to believe

We love movies! That’s why producers spend millions of dollars making them. Sometimes the films we watch are so compelling, audience members believe every moment that is spoon fed to them is the truth.


We’re all guilty of falling for it. Many movie goers get sold on the narrative as the story unfolds across the big screen — even to the point where the performances feel true to life — and the delicate line between truth and fiction becomes too thin.

Related: 7 life lessons we learned from watching ‘Full Metal Jacket’

So check out these military myths that Hollywood puts in their movies and want us to think actually happen — but don’t fall for it.

1. Vietnam veterans are crazy

Movies and TV shows love to feature characters that had tough military careers and reverted to drinking to suppress the memories. This does happen in real life from time-to-time, but not to everyone.

Most who served during that era use their military experience to propel themselves and inspire others.

2. You throw your clean cover after a military graduation

It’s a lot of work to not only find the cover you just flung into the air but clean the grass stains off too.

Does anyone have a tide pen? (Paramount)

3. Cinematic deaths

They just don’t exist — but we tip our hats to filmmaker Oliver Stone (an Army veteran) for capturing this epic movie moment in 1986s Platoon.

How many rounds do you think he took? (Orion Pictures)

4. That one guy who can save the day

In the military, you train as a team and you fight as one, as well.

The debate isn’t if one single person can save another’s ass during battle — that frequently happens.

What we call bullsh*t on is when that single motivator springs into action and becomes the final denominator and leads them to victory as the rest of his team remains pinned down and losing the fight.

They have the need for speed (Paramount)

5. No one gets concussions…ever

We’ve seen countless movies where people get blown up by various sources of explosive ordnance and seem to recover right away (just watch any 80s movie). Since we want to believe the good guys are as tough as nails, they will just brush off the injury and carry on.

It rarely happens like that.

In fact, the traumatic brain injury has been called the signature wound of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Hearing a phone or bells ringing is one of the first signs of concussion (Sony)

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the military

The military isn’t the only one with special-operations units.

Numerous US government agencies and departments have specially selected, manned, and trained units with some unique mission sets. Because of the Posse Comitatus Act, which makes it almost impossible to use the active-duty military in a domestic scenario, some of these units are the last line of defense in their respective jurisdictions.

Here are the top 5:

Hostage Rescue Team (FBI)

Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years
HRT operators conducting close-quarters battle training. FBI

The HRT specializes on domestic counterterrorism and hostage rescue. It’s the law-enforcement equivalent of Delta Force and SEAL Team 6 and frequently trains with both units.

To apply for HRT, an FBI special agent must have served two to three years in a field office. To become an operator, he or she then must pass a grueling two-week selection and then a 32-week operator training course similar to Delta Force’s.

The HRT recruits heavily from the special-operations community. Former Navy SEALs, Delta Force operators, Rangers, and Pararescuemen are some of those recruited by the Bureau. Tom Norris, a Navy SEAL who won the Medal of Honor in Vietnam, was one of the first HRT operators despite missing an eye.

The unit is composed of about 100 operators and is split into two teams (Gold and Blue) that contain assault and sniper teams.

Aside from armored vehicles, the unit has its own helicopters and boats and frequently trains with the top military units, such as the Night Stalkers. HRT operators train in a variety of environments, including arctic, urban, and maritime and learn several infiltration methods such as free-fall parachuting and close-circuit diving.

HRT operators have deployed to the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan alongside Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) forces.

The HRT conducted successful hostage rescues in Alabama in 2013 and Atlanta in 2014. It also participated in the hunt for the Boston marathon bomber in 2013.

Maritime Security Response Teams (Coast Guard)

Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years
MSRT operators honing their marksmanship skills while underway. US Coast Guard

The MSRTs are Coast Guard’s elite. They specialize in maritime counterterrorism and high-risk maritime law enforcement. Like Navy SEALs, they also excel at Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) operations and often deploy outside the US.

The MSRT pipeline is almost 18 months and encompasses a variety of skills, including close-quarters battle, mission planning, fast-roping, and water survival.

Operators can then specialize in additional skills such as sniping, dog handling, and Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, High Yield Explosive (CBRNE) detection.

There are two teams, MSRT-West in California and MSRT-East in Virginia, totaling 300 operators.

The Coast Guard can be put under the control of the Department of the Navy during wartime, but in peacetime it is part of the Department of Homeland Security.

But MSRTs often deploy on and use Navy ships as platforms for their operations. If they have to do an interdiction in US waters, the Navy crew must raise the Coast Guard’s ensign, putting the ship under Coast Guard control for the duration of the operation in order to comply with the Posse Comitatus Act.

In the last six years, the MSRTs have deployed domestically and overseas in support of the military close to 200 times.

Special Response Teams (DEA)

Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years
DEA agents burning hashish seized in Operation Albatross, a joint Afghan, NATO, and DEA operation, in 2008. DEA

The SRTs are DEA’s dedicated teams to execute high-risk searches and arrest warrants.

DEA special agents who wish to join the SRTs have to pass a two-week training course that covers tactical entries, vehicle interdiction, emergency medical care, advanced weapons, defensive tactics, mission planning, and mechanical breaching.

Special agents on SRTs serve part-time while also fulfilling their normal duties. There are 20 SRTs across the US.

The unit has only been operational since January 2020, but it can trace its lineage to the Foreign-Deployed Advisory and Support Teams (FAST) that were deactivated a few years ago.

DEA special agents assigned to FAST teams deployed regularly in Central and Latin America as part of the war on drugs but also to Afghanistan to counter the drug trade that fuels the Taliban war machine.

While in Afghanistan, the FAST teams developed a close working relationship with the Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) and 2nd Commando Regiment.

Special Response Teams (Department of Energy)

Why McChrystal threw out a Robert E. Lee painting after 40 years
Security contractors at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site. Department of Energy

These are the men who defend America’s nuclear sites. Only contractors serve in the SRTs, and to join one has to pass a tactical response certification course.

The course teaches skills required to perform the high-risk recapture, recovery, and pursuit operations of nuclear material and to support interruption, interdiction, neutralization, containment, and denial strategies.

Contractors also go through marksmanship training, team tactical urban movement, and breaching, fieldcraft, close-quarters combat, and night operations.

The SRTs are also capable of dealing with active shooter or hostage situations involving Department of Energy sites and facilities.

The unit was established in 1981 and historically has been manned by special-operations veterans. Former Delta Force operators, in particular, have been key to developing the unit’s training curriculum and standard operating procedures.

There are about 400 contractors divided into seven SRTs that cover the department’s nuclear sites.

Special Operations Group (CIA)

SOG is the tactical arm of the CIA.

Divided into three branches (Ground, Air, Maritime), SOG conducts covert special-operations on behalf of the CIA.

Ground Branch specializes on unconventional warfare and is pretty similar to the Army’s Special Forces. Air Branch operates a fleet of aircraft in support of CIA operations. Maritime Branch operates ships and vessels and conducts maritime special-operations for the agency.

SOG is mostly composed of former special-operations troops, with Delta Force well represented in its ranks.

SOG is part of the Special Activities Center, which also includes the Covert Influence Group (CIG) that conducts psychological operations.

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