Politicians: Let’s use the military to fight the coronavirus!
Military: uhhhh ok.
Many of us who served have participated in humanitarian missions around the world and at home. Whether it was big disasters at home like Hurricane Katrina, unrest like the Los Angeles riots of 1992 or the massive tsunami in 2004 to volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and famines in vast corners of the world, the United States military is usually there to provide assistance or security.
With the COVID-19 outbreak paralyzing most of the country and reports that it could possibly get really ugly, politicians have been throwing out many plans to help Americans, prevent the spread of the virus, and how to act if the worst-case scenario happens.
This past Sunday, during the Democratic primary debate, former Vice President Joe Biden threw out his plan to utilize the military to fight the outbreak.
“I would call out the military now,” Biden said. “They have the ability to provide this surge that hospitals need. They have the capacity to build 500 hospital beds and tents that are completely safe and secure. It’s a national emergency, and I would call out the military. We’re at war with the virus.”
His lone debate opponent (fellow veteran Tulsi Gabbard, anyone?) Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders echoed Biden’s call and said he would mobilize and deploy National Guard Units to combat the outbreak. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has started a plan to use the New York National Guard to create or build upon facilities so up to 9,000 more hospital beds could be ready if needed.
This talk brings up the images we have seen in the movies. When a monster attacks, a terrorist plot happens or a cataclysmic disaster happens, the military comes in, sets up shop and gets to kicking ass.
We have even seen in movies like Outbreak and Contagion where the military is either on the forefront or very involved in epidemic operations.
For all that talk and imagery we have, the Pentagon is a bit more restrained on how exactly the military will be involved.
“The Department of Defense is ready, willing and able to support civilian authorities to the greatest extent possible at the direction of the president,” Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said, “We just want to make sure that the conversation that we have is informed by the facts of what is possible and what is not and what those trade-offs are.”
The big issue is beds and field hospitals. The military can set up big tents to accommodate many potential patients. These tents can go anywhere from a couple of dozen to housing hundreds. The issue though, is if the military is prepared to handle coronavirus patients. The military trains and is prepared to handle trauma and casualties from war and natural disasters. Outbreaks, on the other hand, might not be the military’s strong suit. Do they have the medical personnel and support staff to handle the potential of thousands of infected patients?
The Navy has two hospital ships, but are limited in size, geography (they can only be close to the seaboards obviously) and are configured to deal with mass trauma and not infectious diseases. Being in an open sickbay might not be the best place for a large group of people that need to be treated in isolation.
National Guard units would be the units that would be used to help with any outbreak containment and treatment efforts. Active duty would be prohibited (as many of us know) by the Posse Comitatus Act. Right now, there are less than 1,000 Guardsmen mobilized (mostly in New York). If the virus spreads, there will be more mobilized, but the trade-off will have to be weighed. Many Guardsmen also work as police, firefighters and first responders, and that would be a huge loss to the town they are leaving.
While there are no plans yet to use the National Guard for law enforcement purposes, we keep hearing about curfews, lockdowns, shelter in place and Marshall Law (sorry Rubio) means that the military might have to consider they will be utilized as an auxiliary police force.
With all that’s been said, we do have to factor in two things. The first is that the military might not even be needed. This might all blow over or civilians might be able to take care of the outbreak without the need for much or any military assistance.
The second factor is that our military is really good at being adaptable. Time and time again, the United States military gets served a sh*t sandwich, and they adapt and overcome those situations. If the coronavirus spread does require a massive response from the military to help civilians, I think the men and women in uniform will do everything they can to make sure they can help as many of us as possible.
The military community is fond of its little myths and urban legends. Some of those repeated tall tales get so shrouded in mystery that, eventually, nobody questions them. On occasion, these unfounded urban legends get so widely accepted that they get written into regulations.
It is because of this phenomenon that the British Army has had a standing order since 1831 to never march in-step on a bridge.
At first glance, the reasoning seems silly. On April 12th, 1831, 74 soldiers were marching across the Broughton Suspension Bridge near Salford, England. The bridge, which was completed in 1826, was one of the first suspension bridges ever built in Europe.
According to the story, the troops’ synchronized march caused the bridge to vibrate at just the right frequency which, in turn, caused it to collapse. Thankfully for all the troops involved, no one was killed and only a few had broken bones, but ever since then, troops are given the command of “Break Step” (the British equivalent of the command “Route Step, March”) when they cross a bridge.
As unbelievable as that might sound, there’s strong scientific evidence to corroborate the story. The conditions need to be exactly precise for it to happen — but it is possible. When the Mythbusters first took on this story, they deemed it false. However, in a rare redaction, the dynamic duo reclassified this myth as “plausible.”
This is because of the power of resonance. Think of an opera singer who can break a wine glass just by singing. Repeated vibrations at an object’s resonant frequency will weaken the structural integrity of a solid object and, in some rare cases, even break it. Fragile objects, like a wine glass or, in this case, a flimsy bridge, are most susceptible.
A resonant frequency can only be hit if several conditions are met: The source must be extremely powerful, the pulses of force must be sent out a very precise frequency, and there must be no other frequencies interfering it. All of those requirements were met when the soldiers marched on the bridge while remaining completely in-step. There’s a one-in-a-billion chance of the soldiers’ march hitting that perfect the frequency, but in this case, it seems they did.
This was, in essence, a much smaller-scale version of what happened on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1940.
The workaround, thankfully, is really simple: If troops aren’t marching at exactly the same frequency, everything’s fine. Bridges built by today’s standards are far more sturdy than the Broughton Bridge, but little oddities like this are fascinating nonetheless.
The Army is preparing to receive delivery of its first of six newly-upgraded MIA2 SEP v3 Abrams Main Battle Tank pilot tank vehicles — specifically engineered to keep pace with fast changing technology and counter major armored warfare threats for decades to come.
The Army is now building the next versions of the Abrams tank – an effort which advances on-board power, electronics, computing, sensors, weapons and protection to address the prospect of massive, mechanized, force-on-force great power land war in coming decades, officials with the Army’s Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems told Scout Warrior.
The first MIA2 SEP v3 tank, built by General Dynamics Land Systems, is slated to arrive as soon as this month – as part of a delivery of initial prototype vehicles, developers said.
“The Army’s ultimate intent is to upgrade the entire fleet of M1A2 vehicles — at this time, over 1,500 tanks,” Ashley Givens, spokeswoman for PEO GCS, told Scout Warrior.
The first v3 pilot vehicles will feature technological advancements in communications, reliability, sustainment and fuel efficiency and upgraded armor.
This current mobility and power upgrade, among other things, adds an auxiliary power unit for fuel efficiency and on-board electrical systems, improved armor materials, upgraded engines and transmission and a 28-volt upgraded drive system.
“The Abrams has been around since early 80s, and the original designers were forward thinking to build in the provisions for continual upgrade. Over the years, there have been significant improvements in sensor capabilities, power generation, mobility, lethality, survivability, armor and situational awareness,” Donald Kotchman, Vice President, Tracked Combat Vehicles, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
In addition to receiving a common high-resolution display for gunner and commander stations, some of the current electronics, called Line Replaceable Units, will be replaced with new Line Replaceable Modules including the commander’s display unit, driver’s control panel, gunner’s control panel, turret control unit and a common high-resolution display, developers from General Dynamics Land Systems say.
Facilitating continued upgrades, innovations and modernization efforts for the Abrams in years to come is the principle rationale upon which the Line Replacement Modules is based. It encompasses the much-discussed “open architecture” approach wherein computing standards, electronics, hardware and software systems can efficiency be integrated with new technologies as they emerge.
Kotchman added that moving to Line Replaceable Modules vastly improves computing capacity, power distribution and fire-control technology for the Abrams.
“The principle difference between the Line Replaceable Unit and Module is modularity. Currently to initiate a repair or an upgrade of a LRU, you must remove the entire unit from the tank, take it to a test bench and make the changes. Under the Line Replaceable Module concept, internal diagnostics isolates and determines failure at the card level. The card has been constructed such that you can remove it and replace it without damaging it,” Kotchman said. “Similarly, when new capability is introduced or increased computing power is required, changes can be made at the card level rather than redesigning the entire unit.”
This M1A2 SEP v3 effort also initiates the integration of upgraded ammunition data links and electronic warfare devices such as the Counter Remote Controlled Improvised Explosive Device – Electronic Warfare – CREW. An increased AMPs alternator is also part of this upgrade, along with Ethernet cables designed to better network vehicle sensors together.
The Abrams is also expected to get an advanced force-tracking system which uses GPS technology to rapidly update digital moving map displays with icons showing friendly and enemy force positions.
The system, called Joint Battle Command Platform, uses an extremely fast Blue Force Tracker 2 Satcom network able to reduce latency and massively shorten refresh time. Having rapid force-position updates in a fast-moving combat circumstance, quite naturally, could bring decisive advantages in both mechanized and counterinsurgency warfare.
The GDLS development deal also advances a commensurate effort to design and construct and even more advanced M1A2 SEP v4 Abrams tank variant for the 2020s and beyond. The v4 is designed to be more lethal, better protected, equipped with new sensors and armed with upgraded, more effective weapons, service officials said.
“The current M1A2 SEPv3 production will transition to the v4 configuration in 2023. The v4 upgrade is currently scheduled to begin production in 2023 with fielding in 2025,” Givens said.
The Army-GDLS deal is also the first contract is for SEPv4 upgrades, which include the Commander’s Primary Sight, an improved Gunner’s Primary Sight and enhancements to sensors, lethality and survivability.
“General Dynamics Land Systems will deliver seven prototype M1A2 SEPv4 tanks to the Army. The contract has an initial value of $311 million,” a company statement said.
Advanced networking technology with next-generation sights, sensors, targeting systems and digital networking technology — are all key elements of an ongoing upgrade to position the platform to successfully engage in combat against rapidly emerging threats, such as the prospect of confronting a Russian T-14 Armata or Chinese 3rd generation Type 99 tank.
The SEP v4 variant, slated to being testing in 2021, will include new laser rangefinder technology, color cameras, integrated on-board networks, new slip-rings, advanced meteorological sensors, ammunition data links, laser warning receivers and a far more lethal, multi-purpose 120mm tank round, Army developers told Scout Warrior.
While Army officials explain that many of the details of the next-gen systems for the future tanks are not available for security reasons, Army developers did explain that the lethality upgrade, referred to as an Engineering Change Proposal, or ECP, is centered around the integration of a higher-tech 3rd generation FLIR – Forward Looking Infrared imaging sensor.
The advanced FLIR uses higher resolution and digital imaging along with an increased ability to detect enemy signatures at farther ranges through various obscurants such as rain, dust or fog, Army official said.
Improved FLIR technologies help tank crews better recognize light and heat signatures emerging from targets such as enemy sensors, electronic signals or enemy vehicles. This enhancement provides an additional asset to a tank commander’s independent thermal viewer.
Rear view sensors and laser detection systems are part of these v4 upgrades as well. Also, newly configured meteorological sensors will better enable Abrams tanks to anticipate and adapt to changing weather or combat conditions more quickly, Army officials said.
“Meteorological sensors are being integrated into the fire control system. It provides information into fire control algorithms that help increase the accuracy and precision of your weapon system,” Givens added.
The emerging M1A2 SEP v4 will also be configured with a new slip-ring leading to the turret and on-board ethernet switch to reduce the number of needed “boxes” by networking sensors to one another in a single vehicle.
Advanced Multi-Purpose Round
The M1A2 SEP v4 will carry Advanced Multi-Purpose 120mm ammunition round able to combine a variety of different rounds into a single tank round.
The AMP round will replace four tank rounds now in use. The first two are the M830, High Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, round and the M830A1, Multi-Purpose Anti -Tank, or MPAT, round.
The latter round was introduced in 1993 to engage and defeat enemy helicopters, specifically the Russian Hind helicopter, Army developers explained. The MPAT round has a two-position fuse, ground and air, that must be manually set, an Army statement said.
The M1028 Canister round is the third tank round being replaced. The Canister round was first introduced in 2005 by the Army to engage and defeat dismounted Infantry, specifically to defeat close-in human-wave assaults. Canister rounds disperse a wide-range of scattering small projectiles to increase anti-personnel lethality and, for example, destroy groups of individual enemy fighters.
The M908, Obstacle Reduction round, is the fourth that the AMP round will replace; it was designed to assist in destroying large obstacles positioned on roads by the enemy to block advancing mounted forces, Army statements report.
AMP also provides two additional capabilities: defeat of enemy dismounts, especially enemy anti-tank guided missile, or ATMG, teams at a distance, and breaching walls in support of dismounted Infantry operations
A new ammunition data link will help tank crews determine which round is best suited for a particular given attack.
Overall, these lethality and mobility upgrades represent the best effort by the Army to maximize effectiveness and lethality of its current Abrams tank platform. The idea is to leverage the best possible modernization upgrades able to integrate into the existing vehicle. Early conceptual discussion and planning is already underway to build models for a new future tank platform to emerge by the 2030s – stay with Scout Warrior for an upcoming report on this effort.
Active Protection Systems
As part of this broad effort to accelerate Abrams technological advancement into future decades, the Army is fast-tracking an emerging technology for Abrams tanks designed to give combat vehicles an opportunity to identify, track and destroy approaching enemy rocket-propelled grenades in a matter of milliseconds, service officials said.
“We are always looking for ways to enhance the protection provided on our combat vehicles and we recognize Active Protection Systems as one of our highest priorities towards this end,” Givens said.
Active Protection Systems, or APS, is a technology which uses sensors and radar, computer processing, fire control technology and interceptors to find, target and knock down or intercept incoming enemy fire such as RPGs and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, or ATGMs.
Systems of this kind have been in development for many years, however the rapid technological progress of enemy tank rounds, missiles and RPGs is leading the Army to more rapidly test and develop APS for its fleet of Abrams tanks.
The Army is looking at a range of domestically produced and allied international solutions from companies participating in the Army’s Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) program, an Army official told Scout Warrior.
The rigors of combat and the expectations of a soldier on the front lines may directly conflict with a person’s religious or moral beliefs. If a person is firm in their convictions and they’ve proven they’re serious about their beliefs, they may apply to be recognized as a conscientious objector.
Being opposed to war is not a Get Out of War Freecard. Simply read the stories of Medal of Honor recipients Cpl. Desmond Doss, Cpl. Thomas W. Bennett, and Specialist Joseph G. LaPointe and you’ll learn that being a conscientious objector doesn’t even mean you’ll be taken off the front lines.
Additionally, conscientious objection is too often confused with pacifism and cowardice — but this is far from the case. Watch Hacksaw Ridge (if you don’t want to read the book it’s based off, The Conscientious Objector) and you’ll quickly see what we mean.
What the status actually does give a troop is a way to aid their country while remaining faithful to any beliefs that prevent a troop from personally engaging in combat.
The 1-A-0 status was the classification for the Medal of Honor recipients, like Cpl. Doss, who still saved the lives of countless men but were religiously opposed to fighting their enemy.
To be labeled as a conscientious objector, a troop must prove to the military that their convictions are firmly held and such beliefs are religious in nature. The status is not given for any political, sociological, or philosophical views or a personal moral code.
Potential recruits in today’s military cannot enlist with any conscientious objections. Such an issue is plainly addressed in a question presented to all recruits at MEPS. It asks,
“Do you have any religious or morale objections that would hold you back from participating during a time of war?”
In an all-volunteer military with many applicants who aren’t conscientious objectors, answering this to the affirmative could bar them from enlistment.
It’s also not entirely uncommon for troops who are already serving to become conscientious objectors, typically when faced with a combat deployment. Troops are then sent in front of a board to determine if their beliefs are genuine or not. If approved by the board, the troop is then classified as either a 1-0 Conscientious Objector, which honorably discharges them from service, or as a 1-A-0 Objector, which leads to a travel to non-combatant duties and prevents them from handling weapons.
Conscientious objectors could also opt to do Civilian Public Service — where they’d stay stateside and perform duties as firemen, park rangers, and hospital workers.
In the past, the U.S. military has needed men to fight and has employed conscription policies to fill out the ranks. If you were selected to serve, decided you didn’t agree with the war (on whatever grounds), but were not recognized as a conscientious objector, you faced fines or jail time for refusing to enter service. No conflict saw more applications for conscientious objector status than the Vietnam War.
Unfortunately for the many who were opposed to the war, a political footing doesn’t exempt you from service. While previous wars saw exemptions for Anabaptists, Quakers, Mennonites, Moravians, and various other churches, disagreeing with U.S. policy wasn’t going to keep you from the fight.
Those who think conscientious objectors are just afraid to fight may be surprised to learn that many folk with religious objections will often opt to be 1-A-0 objectors and enter the service as a non-combatant, like a construction or medical work, as was seen with most Amish men drafted during WWII.
The Taliban Five are not the reigning champions of Afghanistan’s Got Talent. They are five long-term prisoners held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In a controversial move, the Obama administration released the five in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in a deal struck by the Emir of Qatar in 2014. Bergdahl had been held by the Taliban for five years.
The Taliban Five were among those the Administration deemed too hot to transfer to prison on the U.S. mainland, but not hot enough to remain in Gitmo. This is our rundown on where they came from, and an update on where they are these days.
Mohammed Fazl: Deputy Defense Minister in Afghanistan under the Taliban and senior military commander in the North during the American invasion. He was outside of Mazar-e Sharif when the prisoners of war held there revolted against their Northern Alliance captors. The Obama administration’s review of his case in 2010 says he may have been responsible for CIA agent Mike Spann’s death at Mazar-e Sharif. Spann was the first American killed in Afghanistan. Fazl is also responsible for killing ethnic minorities in the country and is connected to the killing of Iranian diplomats.
Norullah Nori: Nori was with Mohammed Fazl at a fortress near Mazar-e Sharif in Northern Afghanistan and may have been involved in Spann’s death. He is also responsible for massacring Shia Afghans, something he admitted to while at Gitmo.
Abdul Haq Wasiq: Wasiq was the head of Taliban intelligence and is responsible for torturing and murdering Afghan civilians. He is connected to al-Qaeda.
Khirullah Khairkhwa: Khairkhwa was the governor of Herat province under Taliban rule and was in close contact with Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. It is believed he helped found the Taliban in 1994. He met with officials from Iran and was a friend of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Mohammed Nabi Omari: A Taliban official who helped smuggle weapons into Afghanistan after the American invasion, Omari is connected to both the Taliban and the Pakistan-based terror group the Haqqani Network. While in captivity, Omari was deemed a risk to his captors.
In 2014, the five were transferred to Qatar in exchange for Bergdahl and are being monitored by the Qatari and U.S. security services, according to the Omani Tribune. The Obama Administration demanded strict monitoring as part of the deal because the first time the U.S. released a Taliban POW, Abdul Qayyum Zakir (released by the Bush administration in 2007), he returned to Afghanistan to continue fighting Coalition forces, eventually becoming the overall Taliban military commander.
He has not yet received his reward of a U.S. military drone strike.
The five are also currently fighting a travel ban with the government of Qatar, who are under pressure from the United States to help keep the five men from posing a threat to Americans or American interests.
According to CNN, the men will remain in Qatar under house arrest, until long-term solutions can be made. Where they want to go is unclear, as neither Pakistan or Afghanistan will take them. Some believe Fazl would likely attempt to join ISIS if he leaves Qatar, while two others want to rejoin the insurgency in Afghanistan.
Taliban negotiators and other representatives of the Afghanistan-based insurgent group are based in Qatar, where their every need is met in wealth and splendor. Until the world figures out what to do with the five, they will remain in Doha’s lap of luxury, with other Taliban diplomats.
When Jessica Pearce Rotondi lost her mother to breast cancer in 2009, she had no idea of what she would gain: the chance to become a part of her military family’s history. The unexpected journey took her from her childhood home in Massachusetts to the lush mountains of Laos, where her airman uncle was shot down in 1972.
“Sending a loved one away and not knowing if they’ll walk through the door again is an incredible sacrifice,” Rotondi said.
It’s a sacrifice her mother’s family made multiple times. For not only was her Uncle Jack shot down alongside his AC-130 crew during the “secret war” in the neutral nation of Laos, her grandfather — Jack’s father — fell from the sky too, spending two and a half years in a German POW camp during WWII.
As “What We Inherit: A Secret War and a Family’s Search for Answers” so arrestingly confesses in its first sentence, Rotondi comes from “a family that loses children.”Rotondi spent a decade researching and writing her debut novel, a deeply personal family memoir and obscure history lesson released this April. Historical supporting evidence, it turns out, would be hard to come by.
Read more about Vietnam War vets traveling to find answers.
“Much about what happened in Laos has only recently been declassified. I embedded photographs of some of the reports and letters I found directly into the book, because I wanted to recreate that sense of expectation to show how the force of a single document can change a family’s hopes,” Rotondi, a Brooklyn resident, said. “Getting CIA officers, refugees and former soldiers on the record about their role in the war was a slow exercise in trust-building but led to some incredible conversations.”
Before her mother’s death, conversation about Rotondi’s uncle and grandfather’s wartime experiences were few. A chance discovery of a hidden-in-the-closet file cabinet just hours after her mother’s passing launched Rotondi onto what would eventually become “What We Inherit.” It involved thousands of hours of research, sifting through redacted files, yellowed newspaper clippings and maps of questionable accuracy.
Rotondi, whose work has been published in the likes of The Huffington Post and The History Channel, traveled to Southeast Asia in 2013 to locate her uncle’s crash site. She was not the first family member to do so; she was simply retracing her grandpa’s steps through Laos as he obsessively searched for answers about his missing son years earlier.
The process of writing her family’s tragedies reminded Rotondi of the incredible strength of military families.
“I had the incredible privilege of speaking to other families of the missing for this book, and the biggest takeaway from them was the strength of the unspoken bond between military families,” she said. “I read somewhere that we never truly die until our name stops being spoken aloud. There is power in talking about our lost and missing veterans — especially with the next generation.”
“What We Inherit,” a book worth reading, ensures that will never happen on Rotondi’s watch.
Remember that awesome scene in “Saving Private Ryan” where the paratroopers and Rangers make bombs out of their socks, stick them to tanks, and blow the treads off?
Well, the British and Germans actually had devices that did that, and no one had to take his socks off. Americans would have had to improvise to create the same effect, but there’s little sign that they did this regularly since even the best sticky bombs had some serious drawbacks.
The British had one of the first sticky bombs, the Number 74 Mk. 2. It was developed thanks to the efforts of British Maj. Millis Jefferis and a number of civilian collaborators. Their goal was to create a device which would help British infantry fight German tanks after most of the British Army’s anti-tank guns were lost at the evacuation of Dunkirk.
The glass broke when the bomb hit the tank and deformed against the surface, allowing enough of the sticky fabric to attach for it to stay on the armor. When the handle was released, a five-second fuse would countdown to the detonation.
Obviously, getting within throwing and sticking distance of a tank is dangerous work. And, while the bomb was sent to the infantry in a case that prevented it from sticking to anything, it had to be thrown with the case removed. At times, this resulted in the bomb getting stuck to the thrower, killing them.
The Germans had their own design that used magnets instead of an adhesive, making them safer for the user. It also featured a shaped charge that allowed more of the explosive power to penetrate the armor.
But the German version featured the same major drawback that the British one did, the need for the infantryman to get within sticking distance of the tank.
Javelins and TOW missiles may be heavy, but they’re probably the better choice than running with bombs.
The Marine Corps is solving the problem of requiring pull-ups for women by adding a push-ups option for all troops on the physical fitness test, Military.com has learned.
On Friday, the Corps rolled out a series of sweeping changes to the PFT, combat fitness test, and body fat standards — the result of a review of existing policies that began last November. The new fitness standards go into effect Jan. 1, 2017, officials said, and the body composition standards take effect immediately.
New pull-up policy
Perhaps the most significant change is the elimination of the flexed-arm hang as an alternative to pull-ups for women on the PFT. Instead, both men and women will be able to opt for push-ups instead — an exercise that was not previously part of the test. To encourage troops to do the more demanding exercise, the new standards limit the number of points available to those who choose the push-ups option. While women can achieve the maximum 100 points for completing between seven and ten pull-ups, and men can meet their max at between 20 and 23 reps depending on age, the push-ups scoring chart maxes out at just 70 points.
Most female Marines will have to complete between 40 and 50 push-ups to earn those 70 points, while most men will have to do between 70 and 80.
“Push-ups become an option on the PFT, but Marines are incentivized toward pull-ups, as these are a better test of functional, dynamic upper body strength and correlate stronger to physically demanding tasks,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in an administrative message to the Corps released Friday. “Push-ups are also a valid exercise and good test; however maximum points can only be earned by executing pull-ups.”
Taken together, Neller said the changes to the PFT were the most significant updates to the program since 1972.
The hybrid pull-up option is the Marines’ solution to a four-year conundrum of how to promote pull-ups for all Marines without making it impossible for women to succeed. In 2012, the Corps announced it was doing away with the female flexed-arm hang in favor of pull-ups, with a minimum of three. Those plans were delayed multiple times, and in 2014, Marine officials admitted that half of women tested in boot camp couldn’t meet the three-pull-up minimum.
Brian McGuire, the deputy force fitness branch head for the standards division of Marine Corps Training and Education Command, told Military.com that push-ups, like pull-ups, could be completed in the field. But, he said, the pull-up is a more functional test and requires individuals to overcome their entire body weight, while push-ups only require them to overcome 75 to 80 percent of their body weight. But even with its limitations, the push-up is superior to the flexed-arm hang, he said.
“The flexed-arm hang, in many studies, has been shown to be an inadequate test of upper body strength,” McGuire said.
The high number of pull-up repetitions required of women in the new scoring standards reveal an optimism about how training will help them improve. Earlier this year, the Marine Corps promoted a training program piloted by Marine Maj. Misty Posey that promised to use strength and repetition pyramids to get female Marines from “zero to twenty-plus.”
The female pull-ups scoring chart maxes at 10 reps for women between the ages of 26 and 30, though most women will have to do at least seven reps to max their score.
Notably, all of the new standards will keep in place a gender-normed scoring system, which scores men and women differently on the same exercises in acknowledgment of different physical ability thresholds. While the Marine Corps introduced gender-neutral minimum standards for entry into an array of ground combat jobs last fall, McGuire said gender-neutral physical fitness standards for the Marine Corps were never ordered or considered.
Marines may also find themselves doing more repetitions than in previous years to max out their score. The new scoring charts divide Marines into eight age groups, all with different maximum standards based on calculated peak ability. For men and women, the charts assume peak fitness between the ages of 21-25, and 26-30. While the previous PFT scoring chart maxed out pull-up repetitions at 20 for all ages, the new male scoring chart maxes at 23 for men between the ages of 21 and 35.
McGuire said the new age groups were added to meet Neller’s guidance to create relevant and challenging standards. Previously, the Marine Corps had only four fitness age groups, and they only dictated minimum allowable standards.
“We had a 27-39 age group, that’s 12 years,” McGuire said. “There’s some performance differences that happen during that time.”
For events requiring repetitions, such as pull-ups, crunches, and the ammunition can lift, McGuire and TECOM officials went to the fleet to gather real data on Marines’ performance thresholds. Between January and March, they tested around 2,000 Marines at bases around the Corps to chart maximum and median repetition levels. As a result, some repetition maximums are increasing significantly. Max reps for the two-minute ammunition can lift portion of the combat fitness test are going up for 91 to 120 for men and from 60 to 75 for women in some age categories.
For other events, such as running on the PFT and maneuver-to-contact on the CFT, TECOM looked at existing data from Marines who were taking the tests, creating scatter charts and graphs to determine the real distribution of times and scoring. As a result, some maximum times were increased and some minimum times shortened.
“By elevating the standard, which was based again on our data collection, this will allow for greater levels of distinction” among Marines taking the tests, McGuire said.
Male and female run times are getting relaxed for some of the new age categories. While run times for men continue to max at 18 minutes for three miles and for women at 21 minutes, the standards now allow more time for men and women over 40.
Younger Marines will have to work harder, though, to achieve their minimum run score. While the previous standards awarded points for a 33-minute run time for men, now male Marines under 30 will have to beat 28 minutes to pass the test.
Similarly, Marines in younger age groups will have to do more crunches — between 105 and 115, depending on age and gender — to max their score on the exercise. Previously, all charts maxed out at 100 crunches.
Under the new program, the Marines’ combat fitness test will continue to feature maneuver-under-fire, the ammunition can lift, and movement-to-contact. But all scores are now age-normed using the new eight age groups.
No body fat limits for PT studs
Beginning in January, Marines who can get close to maxing out their PFT and CFT scores, earning at least 285 points out of a possible 300, are exempt entirely from the hated tradition of body fat testing, Neller said in his message to the Corps. Those who can score at least 250 on the tests also receive a bonus: an extra allowable one percent body fat above existing standards.
However, he added, all Marines must still comply with the service’s professional appearance standards, ensuring troops look good in uniform.
For some, weight standards will become more relaxed, beginning immediately. The new standards increase weight maximums for women by five pounds across the board. A 5’3 female Marine who previously maxed out her weight at 141 pounds can now weigh 146 pounds and stay within regulations.
Neller told Military.com in February that female troops had told him they struggled to get stronger in order to complete pull-ups and work to enter newly opened ground combat jobs while staying within existing height and weight standards.
“Whether women go into ground combat or not, they’re telling me they’re going to do pullups for the fitness test. They’re going to get stronger. You get stronger, normally you gain weight, you get thicker,” Neller said then. ‘[Female Marines are] wanting to know, ‘Hey, Commandant, make up your mind. What are you going to have us do and if we do this, understand that I’ll do it, but it’s going to cause me probably to have a physical change, so don’t penalize me for doing what you’re telling me to do.'”
The decision to ease the female weight requirements was also supported by data from the Marines Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, an experiment that tested the ability of female Marines to succeed in the infantry alongside men.
“Females who were performing better at the integrated tasks were heavier,” McGuire said.
In his message Friday, Neller said Marines would also use more precise measuring devices to measure body fat. While the “rope-and-choke” circumference method of measuring body fat isn’t going away, McGuire said the Marine Corps would start using self-tensioning tape measures designed to yield more accurate measurements.
“It does eliminate some of the error,” he said.
Also taking effect immediately is a new waiver authority governing troops who max out their weight and body fat limits and are assigned to the body composition program, which can stall career progression and promotion. If Marines cannot get within standards after six months in the program, they risk expulsion from the Corps.
Now, Neller said, the first general officer in a Marine’s chain of command will have the authority to sign off on a waiver exempting him or her from the BCP on account of satisfactory fitness and military appearance.
While the new weight standards are not retroactive, Marine officials said, troops who are currently assigned to the BCP or in the process of administrative discharge because they can’t meet standards will be re-evaluated immediately in light of the new policy. If they fall in line with the new regulations, they will be removed from the BCP right away.
“We will monitor the effects of these adjustments for two years and then adjust if required to ensure our standards continue to contribute to the effectiveness of our force and enhance our ability to respond when our Nation calls,” Neller said.
Maj. Gen. James Lukeman, the commander of TECOM, said the new physical standards “raised the bar” for Marines’ fitness.
“Marines today are stronger, faster and fitter than ever and these changes reflect that. Bigger and stronger often means heavier, so tying performance on the PFT and CFT to changes to the Body Composition Program are improvements that we think the Marines will appreciate,” he said in a statement. “In the end, it’s all about improving the readiness and combat effectiveness of our Corps and the physical fitness of every Marine contributes to that.”
The U.S. military is awash in regulations, laws, and official traditions. How troops march and salute, what uniform to wear to what event, or what you are supposed to say when greeting a superior are all examples of “on-the-books” behaviors expected of service members.
And then there are the “off-the-books” traditions. They are the unwritten rules: traditions that go back way before the books were printed. These activities — especially the ones involving hazing — are often frowned upon, but still continue to happen, usually without any official recognition.
Here are eight examples.
1. Fighter pilots (or members of flight crew) get hosed down after their final flight.
The “fighter pilot mafia” is definitely a thing in the Air Force and Navy, which is the nickname for the pilot sub-culture within each service. Soon after aviators get to a new unit they will go through an unofficial ceremony of receiving their callsigns, and they usually are not very flattering.
On the flip side is the final flight. Much like a football coach gets a giant cooler of Gatorade dumped over their head at the end of a game, pilots sometimes will get hosed down with water by their comrades. In some cases, they’ll be doused with champagne.
In the case of Maj. Vecchione (shown below), his peers also threw string cheese, flour, and mayonnaise on him. Personally, I would’ve thrown in some ketchup and mustard, but hell, I wasn’t there.
2. At a military wedding with a sword detail, the wife gets a sword-tap to her booty to “welcome her” to the family.
Nothing like a little tradition that allows some dude to tap your brand new wife on the butt. When a service member wants to go through the pageantry of having a “military wedding” — wearing their uniform at the altar and bringing along a sword detail — they can expect that at the end of it all, some random dude will be sexually harassing his wife for the sake of tradition.
It goes like this: On the way out right after the ceremony, the couple passes over an arch of swords on both sides. They go through, kiss, go through, kiss, then they get to the last one. Once they reach the final two and pass, one of the detail will lower their sword, tap the bride, and say “welcome to the Army [or Marine Corps, etc]!”
Here’s the Navy version:
3. When a Navy ship crosses the equator, sailors perform the “crossing the line” ceremony, which frankly, involves a lot of really weird stuff.
The Crossing the Line ceremony goes far back to the days of wooden ships. According to this Navy public affairs story, sailors were put through this hazing ritual designed to test whether they could endure their first time out at sea.
These days, sailors crossing the line for the first time — called Pollywogs or Wogs for short — can expect an initiation into the club of those who have done it before, referred to as Shellbacks. During the two-day event, the “Court of Neptune” inducts the Wogs into “the mysteries of the deep” with activities like having men dress up as women, drink stuff like a wonderful mix of hot sauce and aftershave, or make them crawl on their hands and knees in deference to King Neptune. I swear I’m not making any of this up.
In the modern military that is decidedly against hazing rituals, the events have toned down quite a bit. In 1972 a sailor may have expected to be kissing the “Royal Baby’s belly button,” which again, is totally a real thing.
Nowadays however, there’s much less of that sort of thing, and the Navy stresses that it’s all completely voluntary (ask any sailor, however, and they’ll probably tell you it’s “voluntary” with big air quotes).
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
4. Before going on deployment, Marine infantrymen who have never deployed need to shave their heads.
Don’t ask me where this unwritten rule came from or why — other than to distinguish who the total boots in the platoon were — but Marine grunts who have never done a deployment are often told to shave their heads before they move out.
Again, this is one of those “voluntary” you-don’t-have-to-do-this-if-you-don’t-want-to kind of things, but there were 3 guys in my platoon who decided to keep their hair before deploying to Okinawa in 2003. Interestingly enough, they were put on plenty of cleanup details and other not-so-fun jobs as a result.
5. When achieving the next rank or earning parachute wings or other insignia, a service member may get “blood-pinned,” though it’s rare these days.
Soldiers who get through five successful jumps at Airborne School in the past could expect to get “blood wings,” but that practice has died down in recent years as the public has learned of it. After a superior pinned their wings on, a soldier would get their new badge slammed into their chest, which often draws blood.
This kind of thing is frowned upon — and prohibited under military regulations — but it still sometimes happens. In some cases, it’s considered a rite of passage and kind of an honor. I personally endured pinning ceremonies that I volunteered for when I picked up the ranks of lance corporal and corporal.
6. Some units have mustache-growing contests in training or on deployment to see who can achieve the most terrible-looking ‘stache.
The military regulations on facial hair offer little in the way of good looking when it comes to shaves. Most men are not allowed to grow beards (except for some special operators) and although they are allowed, mustaches are generally frowned upon. Why they are frowned upon usually comes down to how terrible they often look.
Don’t expect any mustache greatness ala Rollie Fingers; troops usually have to keep the mustache neatly trimmed within the corners of their mouth. Those regulations give way to the terribleness derived from the “CAX ‘stache,” which is what Marines refer to as the weird-looking Hitler-like mustache they’ll grow out while training at 29 Palms.
These contests sometimes extend overseas, especially when junior troops are away from the watchful eyes of their senior enlisted leaders. But whenever the sergeant major is around, you might want to police that moostache.
7. First-year West Point cadets have a giant pillow fight to blow off steam after the summer is over.
Before they become the gun-toting leaders of men within the United States Army, first year cadets are beating the crap out of each with pillows in the school’s main courtyard. The annual event is organized by the students and has occurred since at least 1897, according to The New York Times.
While it’s supposed to be a light-hearted event featuring fluffy pillows filled with things that are, you know, soft, some [blue falcon] cadets have decided to turn the event bloody in recent years. One first-year cadet told The Times in September: “The goal was to have fun, and it ended up some guys just chose to hurt people.”
That quote came from a story that broke months ago after the “fun” pillow fight ended with at least 30 cadets requiring medical attention, 24 of which were concussions.
8. Naval Academy midshipmen climb a lard-covered monument for a hat.
Around the same time that first-year West Point cadets are beating each other and causing concussions, 1,000 screaming Navy midshipmen are charging toward a 21-foot monument covered in lard with a hat on top. The goal: Retrieve the first-year “plebe” hat and replace it with an upperclassmen hat, a task which signifies their transition to their next year at the Academy.
Beforehand, upperclassmen hook up the plebes with about 200 pounds of greasy lard slapped on the sides of the Herndon Monument, making their task a bit more difficult. They need to use teamwork and dedication to climb their way to the top, which can take anywhere from minutes to over four hours (Class of 1995 has the longest time 4 hours, 5 minutes).
According to the Academy’s website, the tradition is that the first guy to make it to the top will likely rise to the rank of admiral first. That is if he or she doesn’t get themselves fired first.
The Air Force announced the name of a service member who has been recovered from a C-124 Globemaster aircraft that was lost on Nov. 22, 1952.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Eugene R. Costley has been recovered and will be returned to his family in Elmira, New York, for burial with full military honors.
On Nov. 22, 1952, a C-124 Globemaster aircraft crashed while en route to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, from McChord Air Force Base, Washington. There were 11 crewmen and 41 passengers on board. Adverse weather conditions precluded immediate recovery attempts. In late November and early December 1952, search parties were unable to locate and recover any of the service members.
On June 9, 2012, an Alaska National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter crew spotted aircraft wreckage and debris while conducting a training mission over the Colony Glacier, immediately west of Mount Gannett. Three days later another AKNG team landed at the site to photograph the area and they found artifacts at the site that related to the wreckage of the C-124 Globemaster. Later that month, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and Joint Task Force team conducted a recovery operation at the site and recommended it to be monitored for possible future recovery operations.
A U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht)
In 2013, additional artifacts were visible and every summer since then, during a small window of opportunity, Alaskan Command, AKNG personnel and Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations have been supporting the joint effort of Operation Colony Glacier.
Medical examiners from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System positively identified Costley’s remains, which were recovered in June 2018. The crash site continues to be monitored for future possible recovery.
For more information, please contact Air Force public affairs at 703-695-0640. For service record specific information, please contact the National Archives at 314-801-0816.
When you first get that precious, beautiful DD-214, it feels like good things are coming. You’re invincible. You just completed your military service and you’re ready to enjoy the sweet taste of civilian freedom. One thing you might not expect, though, is that you get lonely. Like, really lonely — and it’s the worst feeling.
After some introspection, you’ll realize it’s because all of your best friends are hundreds (or thousands) of miles away, scattered across this beautiful country, doing their own thing. You know, deep down, that the civilian friends you make will probably never compare to the brothers and sisters you just left.
So, how do you remedy that? How can you start to feel like you belong? Here are a few ideas to look into if you want to make some awesome new friends:
Prove to everyone that you’re not just another crayon-eating doofus.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Capt. Jefferson S. Heiland)
Go to school
You spent years dealing with sh*tty chains of command and you’ve listened to too many people tell you that you’re going to exit the service only to be a hobo. Well, now’s your chance to prove ’em wrong. You earned your G.I. Bill, now go to school.
There, you’ll meet plenty of potential friends and, despite what your fellow service members have you believing, it’s a better place to find a significant than your local exotic dancing joint.
You spent almost every morning working out in the military anyways, right?
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dennis Sloan)
Join a CrossFit gym
If school isn’t your thing, check out your local CrossFit gym. The exercise routines are the main course, but most have a type of community attached. Start working out there and you’ll get to know most of the others. Chances are you’ll meet another veteran while you’re at it.
You also get to refine your fighting skills.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jordyn Fetter)
Join a martial arts dojo
It’s easy; just pick a school you’re interested in and make the commitment. There are plenty of veterans out there who do this across all sorts of different styles, so you’ve got a good chance of meeting one or two.
You can also volunteer at a place run by veterans, like a decommissioned war ship.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Randall A. Clinton)
Join your local veteran organization
These things exist for the very purpose of bringing veterans together. If you miss the brotherhood, check one out. You’ll notice pretty quickly that it doesn’t matter what generation you’re from, everyone had that same sh*tbag NCO.
These are kind of like their own veteran’s organization.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class George Goslin)
Join a motorcycle club
Few other areas of life mimic the brotherhood of the military like an MC. If you’re into motorcycles and leather and surrounding yourself with great people, look for one or, hell, start your own. Just, you know, be mindful of the law.
What makes a movie “the most Russian movie possible?” In this case, it isn’t the long takes and subtle camera movement that trademarked films of the late Soviet Union. It instead features modern-day Soviet-level superheroes drawn together from all corners of the former USSR in order to fight an evil super villain who destroys Moscow and wants to take on the whole of Russia.
One of them is a military-trained, literal Russian Bear who mows down robotic drones with a minigun.
In the Russian action flick “Zaschitniki” (which translates to “Guardians“), the bear and other Russian superheroes are formed as an Guardians of the Galaxy-meets-Suicide Squad super unit who must take down a force of robots and henchmen who threaten all of Russia after they destroy the Russian Army and burn Moscow to the ground. The Guardians are superheroes formed through science during the Cold War, intended to protect the USSR from invaders.
Xenia has the power of invisibility and can change her body into water, Lernik can control Earth and rocks with his mind. Temirkhan has super speed and kills people with curved swords, and Arseniy turns into a giant bear-man who wields an equally giant machine gun. The creator of a subsequent superhero creation program flees the Soviet government and hides in Siberia, continuing his experiments and turning himself into a cyborg and creating clones of himself.
All of the heroes hide for decades after the fall of the USSR, emerging only because the Russian government wants to restart the program.
You see where this is going.
To shots like this.
The Guardians are quickly captured by the evil cyborg doctor. While he’s off controlling an army of robots and tanks to gain control of all the Russian satellites in orbit so he can control all the technology in the world. Somehow, a Russian officer frees the Guardians. She trains them to fight and gives them special suits and weapons. An all-out Avengers-level brawl takes place in Moscow with the Guardians just murdering the other side.
Eventually they have to come together to defeat the villain. They touch each other and release a blast of energy, which the Russian officer forgets to tell them while they’re training for this big battle.
Listen, what you need to know is that Guardians isn’t a great movie, even by international action flick standards. What it does have is an awesome werebear and some other cool action scenes, which is all we ever really wanted. It also has a setup for a sequel which will be the worst movie I ever watch from start to finish.
During World War II, 22 Asian Americans earned Medals of Honor, but, due to prejudices that lasted until decades after the fighting, only one received the award during the war: a young infantryman who fought in Italy and France before giving his life to save his comrades by eliminating machine gun nests and then throwing his body on an enemy grenade.
100th Infantry Battalion soldiers receive grenade training in 1943.
Pfc. Sadao Munemori trained in civilian life as a mechanic but, unable to find work, ended up joining the Army instead in February, 1942, just a couple of months after the Pearl Harbor attacks. Like most Asian Americans at the time — and nearly all Japanese Americans — he was sent to noncombat units to conduct menial duties.
But patriotic Japanese Americans like Munemori got a new chance in early 1943 when the Army formed the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated combat unit for Asian Americans. Munemori was assigned to the 100th Infantry Battalion and shipped to Europe in April, 1944.
Munemori first saw combat in Italy, but he was then sent to France, where he took part in the historic rescue of the Lost Battalion. The 100th Battalion had already distinguished itself multiple times when the 1st Battalion, 141st Texas Regiment, found itself cut off with limited food and water.
A painting illustrates the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Combat Team, breaking through the German lines to rescue the 1st Battalion, 141st Texas Regiment.
The 100th was sent to rescue it, an order that remains controversial as it’s unclear whether the 100th was sent because of its already-impressive combat record or because the Japanese soldiers were considered expendable next to their white counterparts.
The 141st, who already knew about the 442nd’s combat prowess, was overjoyed to see the Japanese Americans attacking the German troops.
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team stands in the snow while their citations for rescuing the “Lost Battalion” are read out.
“To our great pleasure it was members of the 442nd Combat Team,” said Major Claude D. Roscoe of the 141st Regiment. “We were overjoyed to see these people for we knew them as the best fighting men in the ETO.”
In early 1945, the 442nd was sent back to Italy, where Munemori would make his last heroic sacrifice. On April 5, Munemori was part of an attack on mountain positions near Seravezza, Italy. German machine gun fire from higher altitude pinned down members of his unit and wounded his squad leader.
Pfc. Sadao Munemori was the only Japanese recipient of the Medal of Honor whose wartime recommendation for the Medal of Honor was originally approved. An additional 22 Asian Americans would be awarded the top medal in 1995 after a review of their actions.
Munemori took over as squad leader, but twice ran through enemy fire on his own to get close to machine gun nests and destroy them with grenades. While making his way back from the second nest, enemy machine gun fire and grenades rained down around him.
He was still uninjured as he approached the shell crater that he and his men were using as cover, but an enemy grenade bounced off of his helmet and into the hole. Munemori dove onto the grenade and his body absorbed the blast. The other soldiers in the crater were still injured, but survived thanks to Munemori’s sacrifice.
He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in early 1946, and was the only recipient whose recommendation during the war was approved. During a review of Distinguished Service Cross and Navy Cross awards in 1995, 22 other Asian Americans medal recipients were recommended for an upgrade to the Medal of Honor for actions in world War II. Three of these upgrades were awarded to members of the 100th Battalion for their role in rescuing the “Lost Battalion” in France.