Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

I never went to Afghanistan. Iraq was my war, and when I think back about my deployments, there are very few things that I miss. I definitely don’t relish the sand storms or the dirt or the myriad of dangers lurking behind every piece of trash (and there is a sh#%load of trash).


Instead, I sometimes think back to those quiet moments of deployment, especially ones when I needed the rush of nicotine before stepping off on patrol or the pull of a long drag to settle down from one. Those frequent cigarette breaks with my fellow Marines were some of the most memorable moments of my life. I cherish them.

It’s been a decade since I was in the sandbox and I don’t smoke anymore, but as I unlock the door to We Are The Mighty, I have the crazy urge to light up. I’m nervous. Unlike other conflicts in our history, there isn’t a sacred place, a monument, for veterans of my generation to visit and reflect on our war and maybe even smoke a cigarette like old times. While that place may come someday, today we only have each other, and that’s why I’m nervous. I’m about to meet Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient from the Iraq war.

The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest award for valor, and it often comes at a significant price. Since WWII, 60% of all medals awarded for valor are posthumous and, for those who are able to receive the medal while living, the process is often long and arduous. Many are forced to relive and describe one of the worst days of their life — over and over again. As I prepare for the interview, I want to be sensitive to all Staff Sgt. Bellavia and his platoon in the 2-2 Ramrod faced during their war. But their story is special. They fought, and Staff Sgt. Bellavia earned his honor during hand-to-hand combat while clearing houses [Official Citation] in one of the most iconic battles: Fallujah.

Fallujah is a place that almost every Iraq war veteran has heard of. Like Iwo Jima or Hue, this battle defines an entire war. As I contemplate this idea, Staff Sgt. Bellavia and his full Army escort enter my office. As I reach out to shake Staff Sgt. Bellavia’s hand, I can’t help but think I am shaking the hand of a man who is the living monument to my war.

As I meet Staff Sgt. Bellavia, thankfully, he calms my nerves. First, he’s a very humble, open guy. He introduces himself as “Dave.” A modest father of three who’s been called back to service to tour the country in the wake of his medal ceremony. Second, he’s funny — like, really funny. He cracks a joke about how hard it is to put on a uniform after fifteen years, and I can relate; there’s no way I could wear my uniform now either. This is exactly the kind of guy who I would share a cigarette with. We laugh together as the cameras turn on.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

Staff Sgt. David Bellavia MOH Lincoln Memorial Visit.

Welcome to We Are The Mighty. So, we all have a crazy story of how we got in uniform… What’s yours?

DB: Sure. I joined the Army in 1999. My Army story’s a little bit crazy because my son was born with some birth defects. He’s good now, but the Army didn’t know what to do. So they put me on what’s called a “compassionate reassignment.” So right out of basic training, infantry cord, I go to a recruiting station for two and a half years, which is the worst gig because you’re not a recruiter, you’re not an infantryman. You’re just there telling the Army story, which you don’t know anything of because you don’t have an Army story. And when September 11th happened, the Army was like, “Hey, your son’s not officially healthy. You either get out or go on what’s called an ‘All Others Tour.'”

What’s an “All Other’s Tour”?

DB: So, I had a choice of basically getting out of the Army or just going for three years without my family… and I chose the Army. And so I went to Germany for three years. I didn’t see the family except for block leave, and that was really tough. But it was the best decision I made because of the relationships and the guys, it was really special.

Special? How so?

DB: Yeah. It’s always great to introduce young 18-year-old Americans to Bavarian beer.

Haha. Nice. Did you deploy from there?

DB: Yeah. I deployed to Kosovo in 2002, and then back-to-back from Kosovo to Iraq for 12 months, 2004 to 2005.

Kosovo? What was that like?

DB: It’s unbelievable. The one thing that I learned is that, for whatever reason, those kids in Kosovo could burn a DVD of a movie that is still in production. I don’t even know … they’re like, “Hey, have you seen X-Men 2?” I’m like, “It comes out in a month,” and like, “Here it is.” I’m like, “How is that possible? How do you have access to B-roll footage of a Marvel film before it’s made?” But these guys, [they] can’t figure out plumbing. [They] can’t get a mass transit system, but [they] can burn any movie within hours of Ron Howard saying, cut.” It’s done. It’s crazy.

Do you have a family history of military service?

DB: I grew up on Lake Ontario. Small little town. My dad was a dentist. I was the youngest of four kids. Every one of my brothers has like either multiple master’s degrees or like PhDs. I had two brothers who went to seminary. My grandad was in the Normandy campaign. [Not] D-Day. This was the 35 days after D-Day, but it was the hedgerows, ton of fighting. He would tell me his World War II stories at like … I’d be six years old just listening to this stuff. He’s still with us. He’s 99.

Was he your inspiration for joining the Army?

DB: The other thing was, I remember in high school, before the book came out, before there was a ‘Black Hawk Down’ movie, I watched the [bodies] being just dragged through the streets [of Mogadishu], that really affected me. I wanted to avenge that.

So before you got into the Army, what did courage mean to you?

DB: I had no idea what I was getting into. They told me 11 XRAY meant like extra special infantry. So courage to me was being able to endure rain and having wet socks because there was no thought of combat. Kosovo was the big war and no offense, but it wasn’t really much of a war. It was kind of a … when I got to Kosovo it was like, “Hey, take your helmets off. Soft cap.”

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

Let’s jump ahead. So you end up in 2-2 from 1st Infantry Division, The Ramrods. And now we’re at war with Iraq. What does that feel like?

DB: Well, I mean, first of all, we’re watching the invasion of Iraq in like a chow hall with a potato bar in Kosovo. And so the 1st Infantry Division had such an incredible legacy of just always being first to fight. We had our own movie. I remember watching The Big Red One movie, if I’m going to join the Army, I want to be in The Big Red One. No one questioned why Lee Marvin was like a 62-year-old squad leader in D-Day. You know what I mean? He’s got all white hair.

Yeah, he must have been passed over a few times…

DB: Do you know what I’m saying? Like, why is he here? I love that movie. I loved just all the stories of what The Big Red One stood for. And the take away was that, we were a peacekeeping, forward-deployed division in Germany and a war was happening in Afghanistan. A war was happening in Iraq, and we were going to miss out on it. And so my chain of command took it upon themselves in nine months of Kosovo to just train us for what was coming down the road. And we hated that because we were doing 15-hour patrols and presence and yet we were doing bunker drills and clearing houses and my God, all that training ended up saving our life because we were so ready when the fight initially came.

A year later, you were in Iraq outside Fallujah. And it was also your birthday?

DB: Yeah, November 10th [2004] was my 29th birthday. And I just remember thinking … as a kid, I’d walk through a cemetery, and I would see people born and died on the same day on their tombstone. And I just thought, “Man, that’s gotta just be the worst.” I was just, “Get me to midnight. At least I can have something different on there.” There were a lot of times where you just give up.

And you were a squad leader at this point?

DB: Yeah.

How did you manage the stress maybe even fear that you were about to lead your soldiers in one of the most violent battles of the Iraq war?

DB: When I was on block leave from Iraq, I ran into a crusty Vietnam guy, and he told me … I was telling him everything I was going through. I was so mad. I saw like a UPS guy, and I couldn’t understand why people were normal. They had no connection to what the hell was happening. And I was looking at this UPS guy deliver packages and be so happy, and I’m like, “What the … how is this?” … and this Vietnam guy told me, he’s like, “You still believe that you’re coming home. And once you give that up, once you just acknowledge that you have no control over this, everything is far more manageable. You can compartmentalize everything.” It was the best advice that we had is that it’s not about you… don’t worry about your own survivability, worry about your subordinates, worry about them, put all your … anything that causes stress, put that below your young guys and then if you come home, that’s a bonus.

Is that what you were thinking when you got to a house full of insurgents in Fallujah? The house where you earned the Medal of Honor?

DB: So yeah, this is basically what happened in Fallujah. So [in] Anbar Province, 82nd Airborne leaves, Marine Corps comes in. This is their fight. It’s very awkward to be receiving anything for Fallujah when so many Marines… you got Brian Chontosh, Brad Kasal, and Rafael Peralta, legends in the Marine Corps, did so many incredible things. We were there just to supplement them.

You did much more than support.

DB: Fallujah was left basically unmolested for six months, and the Marine Corps had a very difficult time breaching through. So what ended up happening is everyone was on one side from the north pushing in, and the only real clear breach lane [was ours]. We got into the city expecting everyone to be on our shoulder. And when we pushed through, it took like two days for the rest of the task force to get into the city. In that 48-hour period, we had very little support, and we were pretty much the only game in town. And it developed this really odd way of, you got to your objective, you cleared it, and then you massaged back, started the invasion again, cleared it. Uh-oh, come back, do it again. And so you’re refighting in neighborhoods that you’ve been almost four times at that point. And so we got a report that there were six to eight, possibly 10 bad guys in a little neighborhood block. And we were clearing all these different buildings out and nothing. I mean, we’d get blood, or you’d see a weapons caches, but you just missed the guys, and we finally end up in the last house, and that’s when it all went down.

And then your soldiers get trapped inside?

DB: Yeah. So I’m on one side of the house, the other guys are on the other side, and basically, these guys are shooting belt-fed machine guns through a door. We have to break contact. My two guys outside with 240 Bravos that were John J. Rambo firing those things from the shoulder. Those rounds are coming in, the PKM rounds are coming out. No one can move. If anything that night that really took the most intestinal fortitude, it was standing in that door with that SAW because, again, I don’t know how many people there are. I just know that there’s fire coming out. And I got to be honest with you, you come up with a plan, and then you’re going to execute the plan, and then you just want to stall because your legs won’t walk, your body won’t move.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

So you grab a M-249 SAW and charge inside? What were you thinking? What was going through your head at this point?

DB: I remember thinking to myself, “I want to hook my finger around this trigger, not the way we’re trained to do, which is to three-second burst. But if I get hit, I want to just hold it down and just get enough fire.” And as soon as I get in that door frame, I’m looking at these guys [and] they’re not intimidated at all. The SAW was a runaway. On the range, you would break the links, point it to a safe direction. But here it’s just, “Well, I’ll just keep it on them.” I’m not hitting anything, I’m not hitting them, and I just clunk out on ammo. Those 200 rounds went like nanoseconds. It felt like far too quick. So I’m like, “could I have shot 200 rounds at like five feet and missed every single person?” I just found my body just running out of the house. And as I’m doing it, you hear, and you feel rounds everywhere, and you’re just like, “Man, that was worthless.” And so I was upset. I was angry.

And you traded the SAW for an M-4 and went back inside the house?

DB: Well, it was me, [and] Scott Lawson, who died in 2013, but he went in with me, and I had three SAW gunners. I was worried that these [insurgents] were going to run out of the house and we’re going to lose them and then they’re going to kill someone or we’re going to get killed by them down the road. So I set up the SAW gunners around the courtyard, and I was just going to run in there like an idiot and try to push them out. And again, I had no real idea how many were in there. I like my chances against wounded guys that we’ve been shooting at repeatedly. So I figured me and Lawson could at least ding them up and then the next wave of Americans could finish them off.

And you did finish them off. Five to be exact. I have one specific question. There’s a moment that I read about that. Did you smoke a cigarette during the fight?

DB: I did. I did. So, okay, understand that when you’re in [the house] … your night vision works like a cat’s eye, right? I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. I’ve never been in this building before. And after this guy jumps out of a wardrobe and I hit him five times, I was just like, “Man, I need a smoke.” I don’t have my helmet, my IBA is open, I don’t … my rifle is somewhere in the smoke. And I just am like, “You know, I need a smoke right now.”

With the enemy still in the house?

DB: I’m an infantryman. I know how to smoke at night. I’m well-rehearsed at cupping the hands and holding. And so my biggest fear was that my guys were going to come in the building and because I was just around the enemy, I was going to get popped. So I just tried to hug a wall where I knew I couldn’t be hit by anything and just have a quick smoke and that’s when this guy jumps off the roof right in front of me and breaks his leg or does something horrible to himself. But it was just, yeah, it was stress level … that’s the weird thing about that close quarter proximity. You’re super confident. “I’m Thor, I could do all of this, America.” And then you slip and fall and almost get your head blown off, and you’re like, “What am I thinking? I’m an idiot. This was a horrible idea.” And then you see fear in the [enemy’s] eyes, and you’re like, “Oh, they’re scared, I got this, everything’s great.”

That’s the most badass smoke break that I’ve ever heard of.

DB: In the moment, grab a smoke.

Let’s move into afterward. You got out of the Army. What have you been doing since you left?

DB: So I came home right during the whole political soccer ball of Iraq. So I started a group with a bunch of other Marines called Vets for Freedom, and we just went out there and said, “Hey, don’t send us to fight unless you want us to finish it. Right? I mean, we didn’t vote for this thing. We’re the ones adjudicating this fight. You want to defund it. I mean, we lost our buddies out there. This is more important than some political soccer ball.” And so in order to become apolitical, we became uber-political, and I just hated it. That’s not what we wanted to do. So I started focusing more on just veterans in normal life.

Do you think Veterans can find some kind of “normal” in civilian life?

DB: We’re not walking around with high and tights, we’re not wearing camouflage to work, but the type of men and women who served this country are special, and we’re volunteering to do it. And when we come home, we would like to make America as great as we did serving it in uniform and we want to be teachers and we want to be coaches, and we want to lead at home the way we did in battle.

What was it like taking off the uniform and leading in a different way?

DB: The first thing I learned right off the bat is that no civilian wants to know when you’re going to the bathroom. Right? Because I’m accustomed to being like, “Hey, I’m going to go to the bathroom. I’m going to go take a leak.” No civilian ever wants to hear that. So I learned some tough lessons right off the bat.

And now, as a business owner, what do you tell other veterans when you see them?

DB: When I wore the veteran thing on my sleeve, I found that I was a bigger spectacle. And so I just decided to just compartmentalize that. Let it go, move on with your life, tell them, “Oh yeah, I served too,” and most people, especially the Vietnam generation, they didn’t get any of this reflexive love. They didn’t get free tickets to Bush Gardens. They didn’t get applause when they walked through the airport. So I’ve been really appreciative of that Vietnam generation protecting us from what they went through, and also their ability to kind of do a victory lap for our generation when we come home. And these guys in the workplace, what they’ve been able to accomplish. I love that. When I find out someone’s a vet, it’s like a Christian in the Catacomb, a little wink. You do the secret handshake, and that resume goes right to the top. I want that … I don’t care what you did.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

You’re also a family man now, what do you tell your kids about courage and service?

DB: I tell them that the United States Army is the greatest … we’ve been fighting bullies since 1775 right? I’ve always told my kids, “I will never … if you come home with a fat lip because you were defending someone who couldn’t defend themselves, I don’t care what the school does, I don’t care what the law does. You will defend people who can’t defend themselves. That is why we’re on this earth.” We’re there to take care of our weaker brother. We’re there to take care of our weaker sister.

You also co-wrote a best selling memoir about your experience in Fallujah called House to House. Can you tell me briefly about the book?

DB: Well, yeah I’ve been going through that for a while. When I came out, there were very few memoirs written but, I don’t know if I would’ve made that choice again because I didn’t want to write [about me]. I wanted to write about my soldiers. My soldiers were the greatest men I’ve ever met in my life. They still are. And what we did together, we weren’t SEALs, we weren’t Green Berets [or] Recon. We were just knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathers. That’s what we were, just average soldiers doing above average things because we found ourselves in those situations.

One last question. Do you still smoke?

DB: I am a recovering smoker. I do some tobacco products here and there and nicotine lozenges, a little dip. But I’m trying to beat that. But now the smoking is definitely gone. I’ve graduated.

Dave, this has truly been an honor. Anything else I missed?

DB: No, you got it.

Click HERE to read more about Staff Sgt. David Bellavia’s actions which, earned him the distinguished role as the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient of the Iraq war.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out these ISIS propaganda video bloopers

A new video of ISIS recruits trying to pledge their allegiance to the caliphate shows a recruit fluffing his lines and being interrupted by screeching bird calls.

A video of a recruits in Yemen, unearthed by Dr Elisabeth Kendall, a senior research fellow at Oxford University’s Pembroke College, shows a bearded youth coming struggling to get through his vows.

The footage was recorded in 2017, when ISIS still held territory in Iraq and Syria, and was attracting recruits from further afield.

Kendall told Business Insider the clip was released this week by Hidaya Media, a broadcaster associated with al-Qaeda’s operations around the Red Sea.


ISIS and al-Qaeda are rival jihadist organizations and have been known to insult and belittle each other.

Although ISIS has been deprived of its former territory in Syria and Iraq, the organization continues. Both ISIS and al-Qaeda are currently fighting over territory in Yemen.

In the video the insurgent, identified by The Independent as Abu Muhammad al-Adeni, trips over his lines, prompting a fellow recruit to say: “Stay calm, keep cool”.

On two occasions his speech is cut short by loud, intrusive bird calls. The man has a Janbiya knife tucked into his belt.

The footage may have been found by al-Qaeda operatives when they took over an ISIS camp in northwestern al-Bayda, Yemen, earlier this summer, Kendall told Business Insider.

Footage from a different part of the shoot later made it into an actual ISIS propaganda video, released in September 2017. It shows a series of young recruits gathering together, celebrating, affirming their vows to the caliphate, and eating.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the military wants more spy planes from Congress

The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific told Congress he lacks the spy aircraft needed to verify any “denuclearization” agreement that might come out of the proposed summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.


“I don’t have enough because there isn’t enough to go around,” Adm. Harry Harris, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, said of the available intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee March 15, 2018.

In response to questions from Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska, Harris said Navy P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft, Air Force RC-135 Rivet Joint signals intelligence, and WC-135 Constant Phoenix “sniffer” aircraft are vital to his mission monitoring North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Also read: US officials warn that North Korea will test another missile soon

All three aircraft are “critical to intelligence collection,” he said, adding the WC-135 is taking on added importance following the stunning announcement that Trump had agreed to meet with Kim.

“I don’t know where we’re going to end up with the talks,” Harris said, “[but] I do see demand increasing, clearly” for the use of the WC-135 and its ttop-secretequipment that can collect atmospheric samples and determine whether nuclear testing has taken place.

The WC-135 “helps me understand the nature of North Korea’s nuclear testing,” he said.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man
The WC-135W. (Photo by U.S. Air Force)

The problem with ISR assets, Harris said, is that other combatant commands want them and they must be allocated by the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.

“The WC-135, I have to ask for it and, when I ask for it, I get it,” he said.

Harris had a suggestion for Trump that is a wrinkle on President Ronald Reagan’s “trust but verify” axiom for arms reductions negotiations. In the case of talks with North Korea, “I think it’s distrust but verify,” he said.

“We have to enter this eyes wide open,” Harris said, but “the fact that we’re talking at all has a positive framework about it. We haven’t lost anything by talking … the opportunity to engage has value itself regardless of the outcome.”

Related: How the Navy will enforce North Korean sanctions

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who set the stage for the potential Trump-Kim summit by inviting North Korea to the Winter Olympics and then getting an offer from Kim to meet, pushed ahead with preparations for the negotiations.

Moon’s chief of staff, Im Jong-seok, said a high-level negotiating team would meet with North Korean counterparts later in late March 2018 to lay the groundwork and set the agenda for Moon’s anticipated meeting in April 2018 with Kim at the Panmunjom peace village in the Demilitarized Zone, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man
President Donald J. Trump and President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

“This inter-Korean summit should be a turning point for fundamentally addressing the issue of peace on the Korean peninsula,” Im said.

Yonhap quoted Moon as saying, “Our firm stance is that we can’t make concessions [on denuclearization] under any circumstances and conditions” in the negotiations.

Trump caused a flap on his own agenda for the talks in mid-March 2018 when his comments at a private fundraiser leaked. He appeared to suggest that he might pull U.S. forces out of South Korea unless the U.S. received more favorable terms on trade agreements.

“We have a very big trade deficit with them, and we protect them,” he said, The Washington Post reported. “We lose money on trade, and we lose money on the military. We have right now 32,000 soldiers on the border between North and South Korea. Let’s see what happens.”

Trump glossed over the trade issue in a phone call to Moon on March 16, 2018 in which he renewed his commitment to go ahead with the summit, probably at the end of May 2018, although a time and place have yet to be set.

A White House readout of the phone call said Trump “reiterated his intention to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un by the end of May 2018. The two leaders expressed cautious optimism over recent developments and emphasized that a brighter future is available for North Korea, if it chooses the correct path.”

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man
Kim Jong Un.

In his appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Harris was characteristically blunt on issues in the region.

Harris noted that his testimony would be his last before the committee. He will soon retire after 39 years of service and has been nominated by Trump to be the next ambassador to Australia.

On the North Korea talks, Harris said, “As we go into this, I think we can’t be overly optimistic on outcomes. We’ll just have to see where it goes if and when we have the summit. North Korea remains our most urgent security threat in the region.”

“This past year has seen rapid and comprehensive improvement in North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear capabilities despite broad international condemnation and the imposition of additional United Nations security resolutions,” he said.

“It is indisputable that KJU [Kim Jong-un] is rapidly closing the gap between rhetoric and capability,” Harris added. “The Republic of Korea and Japan have been living under the shadow of North Korea’s threats for years; now, that shadow looms over the American homeland.”

He scoffed at the notion that the Trump administration had been considering a so-called “bloody nose” strategy that would involve limited strikes on North Korea to rein in Kim’s nuclear ambitions.

“We have no bloody nose strategy. I don’t know what that is. The press have run with it,” Harris said.

“I’m charged with developing, for the national command authority, a range of options through the spectrum of violence, and I’m ready to execute whatever the president and the national command authority directs me to do, but a ‘bloody nose’ strategy is not contemplated,” he said.

More: This is why you can’t trust North Korea’s new charm offensive

The strategy that does exist, Harris said, is for full-spectrum warfare that would obliterate the North Korean threat.

“We have to be ready to do the whole thing, and we are ready to do the whole thing if ordered by the president,” he said.

By way of farewell, Harris said that during his time at PaCom, “I have had the tremendous honor of leading the soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Department of Defense civilians standing watch for the largest and most diverse geographic command.

“These men and women, as well as their families, fill me with pride with their hard work and devotion to duty. I’m humbled to serve alongside them,” he said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Inside Project Galahad: How the 75th Ranger Regiment used ‘creative destruction’ to prepare for the modern battlefield

The next war will be dynamic and disruptive. To prepare for it, some US military leaders have embraced a mindset of “creative destruction” in order to challenge orthodoxy, adopt revolutionary changes, and even question how success should be defined on the battlefield of the future.

Along that line of thinking, for the past three years the US Army’s vaunted 75th Ranger Regiment has run an experimental military design cell called “Project Galahad.” This select team has subsequently gone against the grain of so-called conventional doctrine and investigated novel solutions to tomorrow’s warfighting problems.

“We need to be nimble and can’t hesitate to wipe the board when we need to,” Army Lt. Col. Adam Armstrong, a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment who served as a Project Galahad team member, told Coffee or Die Magazine.

According to a forthcoming article in the Special Operations Journal, Project Galahad was an “act of creative destruction” intended to “create cognitive space for experimentation.”

Armstrong described Project Galahad as a “mixed team of carefully selected officers and [non-commissioned officers] from diverse educational and experiential backgrounds chartered to think big with nearly complete autonomy, beholden only to the [regimental commander].”

“Done a lot of jobs — that’s easily in my top three,” Armstrong added.

With support from the Joint Special Operations University, since 2018 Project Galahad has become a permanent fixture within the 75th Ranger Regiment’s command system. The project’s goals include “fostering innovation” and “disrupting legacy systems to provide novel opportunities.”

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man
A Ranger from 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment on patrol in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, Feb. 26, 2011. Photo by Sgt. Brian Kohl/US Army, courtesy of DVIDS.

‘Revolutionary Change’

Project Galahad implemented a decision-making process called “military design thinking.” A specialized field with roots in chaos and complexity theories, design thinking fosters divergent and experimental ways of problem solving.

Design thinking spurs its practitioners to “challenge their fundamental beliefs” in order to “reframe” a situation. According to the methodology, if you see problems in a different light, you’re more likely to produce innovative solutions.

An early version of design thinking called “Systemic Operational Design theory” — a product of the Israeli Defense Force’s Operational Theory Research Institute  — was put into action by select US military teams on the battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq during the mid-2000s. Since then, the methodology has become more mainstream within the US military as it prepares for a new era of great power competition.

“History seems to show folks rarely know when they are in need of a revolutionary change until circumstances force it upon them,” Armstrong said.

America’s military personnel have the natural attributes of autonomy, creativity, and the appetite for taking risks that are necessary to combat modern adversaries. US society is unique in the value it places on novel and unconventional thinkers. We praise the rule breakers. Whereas in many other countries — particularly those of America’s primary adversaries, Russia and China — that sort of proclivity for independent thought is not inculcated in citizens throughout their lives. So, some say that a design cell like Project Galahad is an effective way for US military units to take advantage of their premier battlefield advantage — the independent character of American troops.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man
Afghan and coalition security forces target a Taliban and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan safe haven, detaining six insurgents during security operations in Burkah district, Baghlan province, Afghanistan, March 14, 2011. Photo by Sgt. Brian Kohl/US Army, courtesy of DVIDS.

Answering directly to the regimental commander, Project Galahad does not implement policy. Rather, this unique team is charged with bucking orthodoxy and coming up with new ways of doing business. Unlike some other innovation-geared groups and think tanks within the US military, Project Galahad is meant to keep its pulse on the day-to-day realities of regimental life, as well as the requisites of real-world combat.

Prior to the beginning of Project Galahad in 2018, the military design process had already been used for solving real-world combat problems within the 75th Ranger Regiment. Once enacted, Armstrong said Project Galahad was subsequently geared toward “ill-defined, often nascent, and ambiguous problem sets.”

To foster creativity, the Project Galahad team members created a workspace more analogous to a Silicon Valley startup than an elite special operations unit. They covered the walls with whiteboards and Post-it notes and established dedicated collaborative spaces. They even repainted the interior in “less depressing paint than the bland tan colors found in so many government buildings,” Armstrong said. The overarching goal was to spur abstract thought. And, in that vein, the team frequently turned their cellphones and computers off and engaged in what they called “deep thought sessions.”

“By using abstract thought we found we could conceptualize things that maybe we hadn’t thought of, see things we wouldn’t have otherwise seen,” Armstrong said.

The team’s composition, too, was key to its success in generating innovative ideas. There was a major who studied music in university and who was, in Armstrong’s words, a “completely disruptive thinker.” There was a master sergeant who’d spent his career within the regiment and had an MBA “from a very high-end program.” There was a midcareer officer with a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear background, a retired Army master sergeant, and a young officer with only one year in the regiment.

“Each Ranger brought a unique perspective — officer, enlisted, lots of time and life experience, or less,” Armstrong said, adding: “We also kept each other honest. Everyone had a voice, people could question things, we could argue. I was well out of my comfort zone, but that became comfortable after a few months.”

Still, it was difficult for Project Galahad team members to “reframe.” For his part, Armstrong said that after spending 10 years in the 75th Ranger Regiment, he had a lot of “institutionalization” to kick.

“My undergraduate degree is in physics, with almost 10 years in the regiment and an infantry officer — that’s about as ‘regimented’ as they come,” Armstrong said, adding: “We found that the key for Galahad’s team members was their assimilation through structured professional development. Team members went through courses on critical thought, basic and advanced design, and even cognitive optimization.”

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man
Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment conduct FRIES training (fast rope infiltration and extraction) at Fort Benning, Georgia, May 5, 2015. Photo by Pfc. Eric Overfelt, 75th Ranger Regiment documentation specialist/US Army, courtesy of DVIDS.

Rangers Lead the Way

The Army’s premier special operations direct action raid force, the 75th Ranger Regiment is headquartered at Fort Benning, Georgia. The Rangers specialize in joint special operations raids and joint forcible entry operations.

“The Rangers are the most elite large-scale fighting force the Army has to offer,” the Army says on its website. “Their mission, depending on the operation, can range from airfield seizure to special reconnaissance to direct action raids on select targets and individuals, and they have a rich operational history.”

Ranger units have always been outliers within Army doctrine. The concept of “standing orders” was adopted by US Rangers during the French and Indian War — from 1754 to 1763 — to facilitate the execution of small-unit raids.

Following the Vietnam War, a new, permanent peacetime Ranger battalion was established to be a “change agent” within the Army. It has gone through a series of expansions since then, from a single battalion to a regiment, and more recently adding a special troops battalion and military intelligence battalion. Thus, the experimental Project Galahad program is well suited to the 75th Ranger Regiment’s institutional culture, which remains receptive to novel and unconventional solutions to combat problems.

Since October 2001, the 75th Ranger Regiment has been continuously deployed in support of counterinsurgency fights that stemmed from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. War is always chaotic and dangerous and unpredictable. Yet, over the past two decades of unending combat, war has — in the American experience — existed, more or less, within a fairly consistent battlefield architecture. The nature of combat, the terrain within which it is fought, and even the general nature of the enemy haven’t significantly changed since 2001.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man
US Army Rangers assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment climb the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, in Cricqueville-en-Bessin, France, June 4, 2019. Photo by Master Sgt. Andy M. Kin/US Air Force, courtesy of DVIDS.

So, while the US military is battle-hardened after 20 years of counterinsurgency combat, all that experience doesn’t necessarily translate into a battlefield advantage against modern adversaries such as China and Russia. When Project Galahad was created, the Rangers faced “plenty of problem sets related to national security, which we knew had the potential to be very different from our experiences of the last 20 years,” Armstrong said.

The unrelenting pace of two decades of constant counterinsurgency combat has been an obstacle to the regiment’s ability to foster innovative, novel solutions to burgeoning threats. In short, the real-world demands of combat took precedence over the kind of “creative destruction” needed to adapt to new threats from burgeoning great-power competitors.

“The operational demand for continuity leaves little room for those who stray outside time-proven institutional practices. The uncertainty of war makes experimentation, even in conceptual forms, a difficult and controversial undertaking,” according to an excerpt from a forthcoming article in the Spring 2021 issue of the Special Operations Journal.

After its conception, Project Galahad helped the 75th Ranger Regiment to address future problems without diverting time and energy away from the management of ongoing combat operations.

“Project Galahad was able to take the problem set on, run it through some design iterations, and then bridge to plans while staying linked in with the regimental commander and our [higher headquarters],” Armstrong said. “Overall, I think that provided a much better product, while allowing quality to remain high on everything else that the regiment was working.”

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man
US Army Rangers, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, prepare for extraction from their objective during Task Force Training on Fort Hunter Liggett, California, Jan. 30, 2014. Rangers constantly train to maintain their tactical proficiency. Photo by Spc. Steven Hitchcock/US Army, courtesy of DVIDS.

Project Galahad’s purview also extends to the most basic institutional standards of the US military, including chain of command systems that date back to the 19th-century Prussian army.

In 2017, Col. Brandon Tegtmeier, then commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment, “recognized the risk posed by a legacy paradigm that applied yesterday’s practices to tomorrow’s challenges,” write the authors of the excerpted Special Operations Journal article, which was posted to Facebook.

The Prussian army’s general staff system became the gold standard for Western military chains of command after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 to 1871. For his part, Tegtmeier “decided to take unconventional action toward his own organizational form and took steps to upend the legacy, Prussian-designed Regimental staff system,” the Special Operations Journal reports.

The article’s authors add: “[Tegtmeier] saw the emerging complex security environment of the 21st century as something that required a new way of operating at the Regimental level, starting with his staff’s structure and processes.”

‘Studio for War’

The 2018 US National Defense Strategy made it clear that the preeminent challenge to the US was no longer terrorism but near-peer competitors such as Russia and China. That document underscored the ongoing evolution of thinking within the Pentagon that has spurred changes spanning the gamut from the creation of the US Space Force to the development of new battlefield technologies like artificial intelligence and ultra-long-range artillery systems.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man
A US Army Ranger of 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, scans his sector in the prone position during a live fire exercise on Fort Hunter Liggett, California, Jan 23, 2014. Rangers incorporated live fire training into battle drill exercises. Photo by Pfc. Sean Carlos/US Army, courtesy of DVIDS.

In June 2017, Tegtmeier charged a small team with investigating how the legacy Prussian command system was hobbling his unit’s ability to face new threats. His team came back and confirmed that, yes, the 150-year-old chain of command was indeed a hindrance to innovation. The team also identified an “insular culture” that this old system created, which was also stifling innovation.

Tegtmeier’s investigative team proposed two options to shake things up. He could either implement a top-to-bottom upheaval of the current command system or put in place a “standing cross-functional team” to address specific challenges outside the normal chain of command.

According to the excerpted Special Operations Journal article: “The re-organize option that flipped the Prussian-style staff structure on its head would be recognized as the superior option, despite the vast undertaking required.” However, that option also “risked functional chaos,” the article states.

“The process of analyzing which direction to go was pretty involved — and [Tegtmeier] was leaning toward a complete restructure for most of it,” Armstrong said. “He wanted to eliminate the typical ‘silo’ effect you get in conventional staff structure.”

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man
US Army soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment stand in formation during an award ceremony hosted by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, Oct. 26, 2012. Photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade/US Army, courtesy of DVIDS.

The Rangers are still at war, and sweeping changes to a 150-year-old command system might be too risky to carry out when lives are still at risk and American national security is still at stake. The regiment’s leadership also worried that the “re-organize option” could adversely affect the unit’s interoperability with the rest of the Army.

Moreover, by existing wholly outside the normal chain of command, the cross-functional team option would likely face less institutional resistance. According to the Special Operations Journal: “It would be a dynamic and highly experimental ‘studio for war’ within the Regiment, unlike any other staff function.”

Ultimately, the cross-functional team option was chosen for its practicality. Thus was begot “Project Galahad.” The project’s name is a nod to a legendary World War II unit, known as “Merrill’s Marauders,” which saw combat in Southeast Asia.

“‘Project Galahad’ was the answer to what I saw as a dire need in our formation — the ability to mass quickly on complex, ambiguous problems without a loss in capacity for the rest of our Regimental staff, already consumed with force generation, force modernization, day to day warfighting, and sustaining readiness for contingencies,” said Tegtmeier, the former 75th Ranger Regiment commander, according to the excerpted Special Operations Journal article.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man
US Army Rangers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, fire off a Carl Gustaf 84 mm recoilless rifle at a range on Camp Roberts, California, Jan. 26, 2014. Rangers use a multitude of weaponry during their annual tactical training. Photo by Pfc. Rashene Mincy/US Army, courtesy of DVIDS.

The Project Galahad team quickly identified “tensions” in the unit. One example: the occasional disparities between the qualifications that make a good Ranger versus what’s most beneficial for career advancement within the Army’s promotion system. That includes the need for Rangers to pursue higher education for the sake of their Army careers — all while maintaining the regiment’s unrelenting operational tempo.

One Project Galahad success story is in the so-called “war for talent” — or, in other words, the ongoing effort to improve recruiting and retention, and to “take care of our people,” Armstrong said. Due to Project Galahad’s recommendations, the 75th Ranger Regiment implemented the “Phalanx” program, which, according to Armstrong, has been instrumental in fostering a healthy unit culture that spurs the regiment’s Rangers to achieve peak performance.

‘Meat on the Bones’

Disruptive change is not always an easy ask within the hierarchical command structure of the US armed forces. Contrarian thinkers may be reluctant to buck the system for myriad reasons — such as the potentially negative consequences on one’s prospects for career advancement.

In short: the hierarchical command system that maintains order and discipline amid the fog of war may not be ideal for fostering creative brainstorming sessions within peaceful circumstances. Still, the so-called old ways remain useful when it comes time to turn innovative ideas into action on the battlefield.

“Design allows you to frame a problem and identify some potential solutions but it still requires a bridge and handoff to plans teams for some detail work, placing meat on the bones,” Armstrong said.

“Conventional chains of command can be pretty ideal […] particularly in a time-constrained environment,” he added. “All that said — [for a] complex problem, when I have the time, I’m probably going to apply design whenever possible.”

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man
US Army Rangers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment fire a 120 mm mortar during a tactical training exercise on Camp Roberts, California, Jan. 30, 2014. Rangers constantly train to maintain the highest level of tactical proficiency. Photo by Pfc. Nathaniel Newkirk/US Army, courtesy of DVIDS.

While the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Project Galahad has proven successful, other Department of Defense programs geared toward the generation of innovative solutions to tomorrow’s problems have not fared as well under current budgeting priorities.

In October, Coffee or Die Magazine reported on the Army’s decision to defund its University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies — colloquially known in military circles as the “Red Teaming University.” The news followed the Army’s recent decision to shut down its Asymmetric Warfare Group, as well as the Marine Corps’ recent decision to close an experimental training program that focused on complex urban terrain called Project Metropolis II.

Some military experts have criticized these moves as shortsighted and part of a broader prioritization of Pentagon resources toward acquiring new technologies, rather than researching how doctrine should evolve to combat modern threats.

Throughout history, US military-industrial dominance has permitted the luxury of warmup periods in its wars to arrive at a coherent strategic vision and develop workable tactics to achieve victory. Famously, US military forces honed their combat acumen on the North African front in World War II before embarking on the liberation of Europe.

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the Allied North African campaign, An Army at Dawn, Rick Atkinson wrote: “Like the first battles in virtually every American war, this campaign revealed a nation and an army unready to fight and unsure of their martial skills, yet willful and inventive enough to prevail.”

However, against a near-peer adversary such as Russia or China, US military forces will have less time to hone their tactics and find their confidence in battle. The next war may be over before America’s armed forces learn how to fight it. Thus, one key goal of experimental programs like Project Galahad is to spur innovations to combat future threats before meeting them for the first time while in a war.

“That’s the classic innovation conundrum,” Armstrong said. “I think getting it right, 100%, the first time is pretty tough — but I think the employment of concepts like design are going to help us get closer to the mark, and hopefully save us from having to learn some hard lessons at high cost.”

He added, “I am a firm believer that design would work anywhere in the Army, something as simple as applying design thinking to routine problems could be hugely impactful.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how missing or captured troops get promoted

Bowe Bergdahl was Pfc. Bergdahl when he walked off his post in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and was captured by the Taliban. Five years later, however, when the White House exchanged five Taliban detainees for his release, he was Sgt. Bergdahl.


According to the Department of Defense, prisoners of war and those under missing status continue to be considered for promotion along with their contemporaries. They must be considered for promotion to the next highest grade when they become eligible.

For enlisted, it is based on time in grade and time in service. The eligibility for officers is based on the date of rank in their current grade.

A notable story is of then-Cmdr. James Stockdale. When he was captured and sent to the Hanoi Hilton, he was the most senior POW and so was the ranking officer among the prisoners there. When Lt. Col. ‘Robbie’ Risner was also captured, he outranked Stockdale by time in grade.

Later, a newly captured naval pilot informed Stockdale of his promotion to captain, he assumed command again.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man
Captured U.S. troops were paraded through the streets of Hanoi. Even living through Hell, none broke.

This continues for prisoners of war but stops for those on missing status when they are presumed dead under Title 37 of the U.S. Code, section 555.

This happened with 1st Lt. John Leslie Ryder. His aircraft, nicknamed “Bird Dog,” went missing during a visual reconnaissance flight during the Vietnam War on June 9, 1970.

During the flight, the crew failed to report in by radio and calls were not answered. The search could not be mounted until the next day. The search continued until the 19th to no avail. A year to the day later, Lt. Ryder was promoted to captain.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man
Service photo of Capt. John Leslie Ryder (Image via Together We Served)

Payment is also changed from regular enlistments. Instead of being involved in DFAS, the payment is authorized by Congress and made directly through the Secretary of the Treasury, tax-free. Any earnings, leave and money, are still given to the individual at their appropriate rank and are held until return.

There is also no limit on leave accrual, meaning it is well deserved for the returning service member to take all of the leave at two and-a-half days per month.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Tuxedo Park: The Secret Palace of Science that helped us win WWII

Millionaire scientist and Wall Street tycoon Alfred Lee Loomis who personally funded scientific research at his private estate and later went on to lead radar research efforts during WWII.

But the technological developments of Tuxedo Park didn’t happen in a vacuum. In fact, Winston Churchill gave the US access to British intel and research that fueled Loomis’ efforts, ultimately leading to our Allied victory.

Loomis was born in Manhattan, and his family were privileged, well-connected members of society. Most of his relatives were physicians, though several of his cousins held cabinet positions in various presidential administrations. After studying math and science at Yale, Loomis then went on to graduate in law from Harvard.


In 1917, Loomis volunteered for military service and was commissioned as a captain. During his time in service, he earned the rank of Lt. Col and worked primarily in ballistics at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

It was at Aberdeen that Loomis invented the Aberdeen Chronograph, the first instrument to accurately measure the muzzle velocity of artillery shells and could be transported and used on the battlefield.

Anticipating the Wall Street crash of 1929, Loomis managed to save his fortune by converting his assets to gold. With liquid resources, he was able to purchase stocks that had plummeted in value. This fortune allowed him to work closely with President Roosevelt in preparing the United States for WWII. Loomis used his contacts in the financial and law sectors of New York to finance early developments in radar. It was with this vision in mind that he opened up his expansive enclave in Tuxedo Park and turned it into a research facility.

At Tuxedo Park, Loomis and his small research staff conducted experiments into the emerging field of spectrometry, electro-encephalography, capillary waves, and the measurement of time. His laboratory was state of the art and contained equipment that several top-tier universities couldn’t afford. Because of this, Loomis’ reputation spread quickly as a patron of science. Several prominent European scientists traveled to Tuxedo Park to meet with American peers and collaborate on projects. Enrico Fermi, Werner Heisenberg, and Albert Einstein all visited the luxurious estate.

In as much as Tuxedo Park provided scientists with access to state of the art materials and equipment, the location also served as a socializing spot, where like-minded individuals could come together to discuss current issues in technology.

By the late 1930s, Loomis was interested in radio detection studies and worked with his research team to build the first microwave radar. Deployed from the back of a van, the team drove it to a golf course and aimed it at a nearby road to track cars and trucks. Then they took it to the local airport to track small aircraft.

Several prominent UK scientists were working on radar experiments in hopes that a technology might emerge, which could prevent the nightly bombing of the Luftwaffe. These scientists developed the cavity magnetron, allowing their radar tech to be inserted into aircraft.

Loomis then invited the cavity magnetron developers to Tuxedo Park to continue their work on the magnetron. Because Loomis had more experience than anyone else in the US, he was appointed to the National Defense Research Committee as the chairman of the Microwave Committee and the vice-chairman of Division D.

With so many scientists working toward the same goal, Tuxedo Park soon grew too small. So Loomis closed the research facility and moved to the Rad Lab, headquartered at MIT, where he and the team worked tirelessly toward the development of radar technology. What started as a handful of people working toward a common goal quickly grew to a staff of over 4,000. The Rad Lab’s innovation directly resulted in helping us win the war.

The resulting 10cm radar was the key technology that enabled U-boats to be sunk, along with allowing British forces to spot incoming German bombers. This radar also provided the cover the American troops needed for the D-Day landing.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how NATO’s budget really works

Since taking office, President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized NATO over how the alliance is funded and pressured other member states to increase defense spending.

In the process, he has made a number of misleading claims about NATO, distorting how it works and why it exists in the first place.

On July 12, 2018, Trump reiterated his criticism of NATO in a tweet, stating, “Presidents have been trying unsuccessfully for years to get Germany and other rich NATO Nations to pay more toward their protection from Russia. They pay only a fraction of their cost. The U.S. pays tens of Billions of Dollars too much to subsidize Europe, and loses Big on Trade!”


Trump added, “All NATO Nations must meet their 2% commitment, and that must ultimately go to 4%!”

The president is correct that his predecessors also pressured other NATO member states to increase defense spending, but his claim that member states must pay the US for “protection” misrepresents how NATO works.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

The North Atlantic Treaty was signed by US President Harry S. Truman in Washington, on April 4, 1949, and was ratified by the United States in August 1949.

NATO’s roots

NATO is an alliance that was formed in the wake of World War II as the US and its allies sought to counter the Soviet Union’s growing influence in Europe and beyond.

The alliance was founded upon the notion of collective defense, meaning an attack on one member state is considered an attack on all of them. This is precisely why NATO, for example, rallied behind the US in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks and has sent many troops to fight and die in places like Afghanistan over the years.

Collective defense requires collective spending

Accordingly, every NATO member state contributes to a relatively modest direct budget: a roughly id=”listicle-2586418750″.4 billion military budget and a 0 million civilian budget.

Overall, the US provides about 22% of this budget based off a formula that accounts for the national income of member states.

Beyond the direct budget, NATO came to an agreement in 2014 that each member state will increase their own defense spending to 2% of their respective gross domestic product by 2024.

At present, NATO has 29 members and few have reached this goal — only five NATO members are expected to meet the 2% target by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the US spends roughly 3.6% of its GDP on defense, as its military budget in 2017 was approximately 8 billion.

There is no penalty for not reaching the 2% goal; it’s simply a guideline, and most member states have increased defense spending even if they haven’t reached that goal quite yet.

Moreover, NATO estimates collective defense spending among all member states will total more that 6 billion in 2018. US defense spending accounts for roughly 67% of this, but it’s also true the US has the highest defense budget in the world by far and this is linked to both its strong economy and internal politics.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

President Donald Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stolenberg participate in a joint press conference, Wednesday, April 12, 2017.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Here’s Trump’s big issue with NATO

Trump wants other NATO member states to increase defense spending — and soon.

On July 11, 2018, he tweeted, “What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy? Why are there only 5 out of 29 countries that have met their commitment? The U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025.”

There is an underlying truth to Trump’s criticism of NATO that the US spends a significant amount of money and provides an extraordinary amount of resources and manpower to the protection of Europe and Asia. But the US benefits a great deal from this, and US involvement in NATO has long helped it solidify its role as one of the globe’s leading powers, if not the most powerful country in the world.

Moreover, Trump’s remarks on NATO seem to suggest that Europe must pay the US for protection from Russia, when this is not how the alliance is meant to function. Not to mention, Trump already has a dubious relationship with Russia at a time when much of the world, especially Europe, is concerned about its aggressive military activities.

In this context, Trump’s criticism of NATO has been condemned by politicians on both sides of the aisle in the US as well as by other world leaders and foreign policy experts.

Trump caused a crisis at the NATO summit over the issue of defense spending

Trump reportedly broke diplomatic protocol on July 12, 2018, by referring to German Chancellor Angela Merkel by her first name, and his intense demands regarding defense spending saw NATO leaders enter a special emergency session.

After the session, Trump said NATO member states had agreed to quickly increase spending.

“We’re very happy and have a very, very powerful, very, very strong NATO. Much stronger than it was two days ago,” Trump said in an unscheduled statement.

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

MIGHTY FIT

5 seriously tough workouts you can and should do at home

Your living room makes a convenient gym. There are no membership fees. There’s not a talkative sweaty dude or ripped body-shaming wannabe trainer. There’s just you, maybe the kids, maybe some clutter, and just enough floor space. But is a workout at home one that can get you in ripped-and-ready-for-the-world-without-a-shirt shape? Without question.

Home workouts become real sweat sessions when you turn off the television, crank some motivational tunes, and give it your all. Here are 5 hardcore workouts that require the willpower and fortitude — but no equipment and minimal space.


Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

Workout #1: Simply Squats and Pushups

This workout has two moves, and seems too simple to be sweat-inducing. To that we say, go ahead, give it a whirl.

Here it is: Do 21 squats, then immediately do 21 pushups. Rest and repeat with 15 reps each, then 9 reps each. You get two minutes of rest in between sets. That’s it.

There’s one caveat for this workout: Your pushup and squat form need to be perfect throughout. That means on the squat you stand with feet shoulder-width apart, bend knees and sink down and back like you are about to sit in a chair, aiming to get quads parallel to the floor. In the pushup, you keep a perfect plank in-between the pushups and bring your chest smoothly to the floor and back up without breaking the plank. Sound easy? Sure. Good luck.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

Workout #2: 4 Moves, All Out

This workout hits it all in an easy-to-remember 4-move sequence where you give each move your all, rest one minute, move on to the next, and then, you’re finished. Make that a laying-on-the-floor-in-fetal-position type of done.

Push-Ups: Maintaining form, do as many as you can, as fast as you can, for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds. Go again for 20 seconds. Complete 8 sets of 20 seconds hard/10 seconds rest.

Twist Jumps: Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and drop into a squat, twisting your torso and arms far to the right as you do. Release arms and torso back to the left as you jump in the air and do a half-rotation to the left. Drop, twist right, jump left again. Do 20 seconds of twist jumping right to left. Rest for 10. Do the next 20 seconds of twist jumps in the opposite direction. Switch sides two more times for 8 sets total.

Reverse Pulses: Start sitting on the floor, legs in front of you, knees bent, feet tucked under a heavy chair for support. Pull your gut toward your belly button and lean back about 45 degrees. Stretching your arms in front of you, begin to pulse up and down as fast as you can, aiming to lean a little further back with each pulse while keeping your abs contracted. Go for 20 seconds. Rest for 10. Do 8 sets.

Mountain Climbers: Get down on the floor in an extended push-ups position, engaging your core and holding your upper body still while you raise one knee to your chest. Then jump it back in place while raising the other. Alternate legs and “jog” your knees to your chest as fast as possible for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds. Do 8 sets.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

Workout #3: Climbing Burpees

Here’s another simple two-move workout that will absolutely crush you. The idea here is to do as many of this combination as you can in five minutes, rest one minute, and repeat.

Here it is: Start in a pushups position. Jump your feet towards your hands, then jump your whole body vertically in the air and back into a crouch. Jump feet back into an extended pushups position.

From this position, hike one knee high toward your chest, keeping your hands planted on the floor. Jump it back to the start position, hiking your other knee up at the same time.

Continue this alternating pattern of moves for five minutes. Rest one. And repeat. Try to do this three times. Then four. When you can do this five times, well, let’s just say you’re in pretty damn good shape.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

Workout #4 The Full Living Room Routine

This 11-part routine is for those days when you’ve got some time to spare and want to mix it up. This is all based on time, so maybe have a smart speaker handy. By the time you’re nearing the end, you might not be able to catch your breath enough to tell Alexa set the timer. That’s a sign it’s working.

Lunges: Warm your body up with lunges — front knee over toe, back leg slightly bent without letting your knee touch the floor, then push back up to standing and repeat with opposite leg. Two minutes total.

Squats: Stand, bend knees, drop seat, resume standing. Repeat. Two minutes.

Jumping Jacks: Get that heart rate up. Two minutes.

Triceps Dips: Find a chair or couch and sit, placing your hands on the edge of the seat. Slide your butt forward until it is off the seat, your weight supported by your arms. Bend and straighten elbows. Three sets of 10 dips.

Wall Sit: Place your back flat against a wall, feet about two feet in front of you. Bend your knees until your quads are parallel to the floor. Stay there for 90 seconds.

Side Plank: Lie on your side, propped up on one elbow and push through your feet to raise your hips off the floor, creating a straight line from your shoulder to your feet. Hold 60 seconds. Switch sides.

Mountain Climbers: Get down in the extended push-ups position, bend one knee to your chest, then straighten it back as you hike the other one up. Continue “jogging” in this fashion for one minute. Rest a minute; do one minute more.

Sit-Ups: Quick on the up, then slowly roll back down. Give us what you’ve got for two minutes.

Calf Raises: Sit in the chair, feet flat on the floor. Lean forward and press down on your quads with your hands. As you do this, rise up onto the balls of your feet. Lower back down. One minute.

Side Push-Ups: Straighten one arm out to the side so that your hand just touches the wall. Keeping your body in a straight line, bend your elbow and lean into the wall. Push away and back to standing. Do one minute on this side, then find the wall on the opposite side of the room and repeat on the other.

Modified Burpees: Start in an extended push-ups position, do a super-fast push-up, then jump your feet towards your hands and stand up tall, feet shoulder-width apart. From here, let your arms drift in front of you while you slowly bend into an easy squat. Hold five counts. Lean forward, drop your hands to the floor, and jump your legs back into a push-ups-ready position. Go again. Two minutes.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

Workout #5: The Murph

This classic Crossfit workout pushes the boundaries of living room workout (not to mention fitness sanity). It’s more of a challenge than a workout. It forces you to run outside. It requires a pull-up bar. But if you’re looking to take your workouts to the next level — to get serious about your fitness in a way you haven’t done since high school football — this is your way in.

We suggest trying this out at home and timing yourself for the first few times (spaced out by a month or three; yeah, you’ll need that much recovery) and then working your way up to a public display of the challenge, heading to a CrossFit gym on Memorial Day weekend for The Murph Challenge, where a bunch of loons go head-to-head with this challenge in honor of LT. Michael P. Murphy, the workout’s worthy namesake.

For time:

  • Run 1 mile
  • Do 100 Pull-Ups
  • Do 200 Push-Ups
  • Do 300 Air Squats
  • Run 1 mile

Note: You don’t have to do this in order. In fact, we suggest that, especially for beginners, you divide it into blocks of, say: 5 pullups, 10 push-ups, and 15 air squats. Be sure to keep a tally on a chalkboard or paper. You will lose track.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine black belt judges Vladimir Putin’s judo moves

Russia is no stranger to carefully crafting military propaganda for Western audiences. From “doomsday” submarines to missiles with “unlimited range,” the Kremlin has a knack for the dramatic when they know it’ll capture the world’s digital attention span. If I’m honest, that’s why I clicked on the link for a recently uploaded video of Russian president Vladimir Putin training with the Russian Judo team.

I expected to see a carefully crafted bit of propaganda meant to hide Putin’s advancing age. Instead, I was surprised to find that the 66-year-old man actually does seem rather spry and capable. Moreover, despite some rust on the joints, he genuinely does appear to know what he’s doing on those mats.


Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

Most real martial arts training looks like this: two people working on techniques at 50% intensity.

(Image released by the Kremlin)

It’s worth noting that despite years of training in multiple forms of martial arts, I’m no expert in Judo. My background began with scholastic wrestling and led to a passionate pursuit of martial arts throughout my time in the Marine Corps. I secured multiple waivers to earn my black belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program by the time I was a corporal, and then proceeded to join the Corps’ first formal mixed martial arts team, Fight Club 29, under the tutelage of (then) Sergeant Major Mark Geletko. During my time there, I trained largely in American boxing, Muay Thai, and Pankration, before transferring to a unit near Boston, where I studied Brazilian jiu-jitsu for a time under Rickson Gracie Cup Champion Abmar Barbosa. Since then, I’ve gotten out of the Corps and moved to Georgia, where I’ve focused largely on Filipino martial arts systems.

I went undefeated in my short semi-pro fighting career, but I left the world of competition behind when I took a solid right hook in sparring and lost much of the vision in my right eye (since repaired). I’m not the toughest or baddest fighter in the world, the country, or probably my state – but I have been around long enough that I can usually pick the real fighters out of a crowd when I see them.

If I were to sum up my expertise, I’d call myself a jack of multiple martial arts trades, but certainly a master of none. I’ve had the good fortune to train with a number of masters though, and it’s not a title I take lightly.

Putin trains with Russian judo champions

youtu.be

Despite Vladimir Putin holding a black belt in Judo, this video suggests that he’s no master either, though he could have been close once. Coming back to a discipline you’ve left stagnant for years is a lot like riding a bike: you may never forget how to do it, but when it’s been a while, you still look a little foolish. And Putin does indeed seem a bit silly executing the agility drills at the opening the video.

From there, the video moves to what I expected to see: a young man with a black belt serving as Putin’s training dummy and doing a fine job of allowing himself to be thrown, rolled, and balled up, meaning the former KGB agent didn’t need to execute any judo techniques with the requisite form or intensity necessary to actually take down an opponent in a real fight. Putin’s footwork and use of leverage does, however, suggest an active awareness of his body and what it’s supposed to be doing as he executes throws and leg sweeps. Form and leverage are integral to the proper execution of these types of techniques, and while the intensity is lacking, the form does largely seem present.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

For plenty of 66-year-olds, this stretch is death defying enough.

(Image released by the Kremlin)

These drills aren’t meant to be street fights, they’re meant to develop the muscle memory required to execute these movements with little or no thought, and in that regard, Putin shows a level of competency in the footage that suggests that at least some of the martial arts awards and honors bestowed upon him may have been legitimately earned.

Of course, I’ve read pieces like this one in the Washington Post where “tough guys” have accused Putin of lacking real chops, since the only footage one tends to find of him are in training environments such as this, but in truth, these claims are largely foolish grabs for attention rather than legitimate criticisms. Training of the sort shown in this video is not only completely normal, it would make little sense for a 66-year-old man to climb in the ring and spar at 100% with anyone just to silence an internet troll–even for someone as bravado-based as Putin.

Putin may not look like a spring chicken in this video, but he does appear to harbor a level of martial arts competency that, while rusty, is certainly more impressive than I’ve seen out of other celebrity martial arts “masters” like Steven Seagal. Is Putin as dangerous as he wants the world to believe? Probably not–but for a Bond villain on the downward slope of his 60s, he doesn’t appear to be a pushover either.

MIGHTY HISTORY

‘Ask a Marine’: The inspiring story of the first black man on recruitment posters

When I frequented my Marine Corps recruiting office from 1999 until I enlisted in 2003, Staff Sgt. Molina used to welcome me with a familiar, “Ey devil,” and Staff Sgt. Ciccarreli would echo with “Eyyyyyyy.” Vintage recruiting posters were sprinkled among more modern propaganda. The message they consistently reinforced was that the Corps’ values—especially service above self—are timeless.

In one of the old posters, a strong, black Marine standing tall in his dress blue uniform with gold jump wings stared back at me. I couldn’t tell whether he was grinning or scowling—welcoming a potential recruit or warning me. Scrawled in bold typeface across the bottom third of the poster were the words “Ask a Marine.” My reaction was visceral. Where do I sign?


Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

The iconic Marine recruitment ad campaign featuring Capers. He was the first black man to be featured in such a campaign.

The man in the poster was James Capers Jr., a now retired major whose 23-year career was defined by breaking barriers and blazing a path of excellence in the Marine Corps special operations community. Capers recently published “Faith Through the Storm: Memoirs of James Capers, Jr.,” and the book is a powerful portrait of an extraordinary life.

As the son of a sharecropper in South Carolina, Capers had to flee the Jim Crow South for Baltimore after his father committed some petty offense, which he feared might get him lynched. Capers describes his flight in the back of an old pickup driven by a white person as a sort of “Underground Railroad.” His trip to Baltimore is reminiscent of Frederick Douglass’ escape north because not much had changed for black people in the South since 1830.

We get a vivid picture of Capers’ early years and family life in Baltimore before he joins the Marine Corps. In the Marines, Capers finds an organization where men are judged by their actions, and he excels. He polishes his boots, cleans his weapons and learns what he can from the old salts, who mostly respect his effort. Early on, Capers commits himself to a standard of excellence that distinguishes him above his peers. That struggle is a consistent theme throughout his career.

When applying for special operations swim qualification, an instructor cites pseudo-science to explain that black people can’t swim. Capers has to beg to be let into the class. When a white student fails the test required to graduate, Capers pleads with the cadre to allow the student to swim it again. Then he swims with the Marine, motivating him to muster up the fortitude and faith in himself to pass.

At one point, Capers can’t find an apartment in Baltimore even though the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had recently passed and was promoted to end housing discrimination based on race. While assigned the temporary lowly duty of a barracks NCO, a white Marine flicks a cigarette butt at Capers—already trained as an elite Force Reconnaissance Marine—and tells him to pick it up. The slight weighs heavily on Capers until he tracks the Marine down and does something about it.

As Vietnam approaches, Capers is eager to get in the fight. A seasoned veteran of more than 10 years, he volunteers to return to special operations, and in the spring of 1966, he deploys with 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

Capers (bottom right) with his Marine Corps 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company in Vietnam.

The section about Capers’ Vietnam tour is harrowing and crushing. He survives and thrives as a warrior and leader through several months of brutal combat in the jungle. Eventually, he receives a battlefield commission to 2nd Lieutenant and becomes the first black officer in Marine special operations. By the heart-pounding final mission in Vietnam, I couldn’t help but feel like the book is a 400-page summary of action for a Medal of Honor.

Heart is the book’s central theme. Its most moving parts focus on overcoming adversity and heartbreak. In one chapter, Capers leads his men through two minefields to avoid the enemy. His inspiring leadership carries them through alive against all odds.

Characters frequently appear only briefly enough to become attached to before they die. Capers recalls fondly an old black first sergeant who had fought on Iwo Jima in World War II and saved Capers from some trouble. He dies in Vietnam.

In another scene, a Marine hollers a cadence on a medevac transport out of Vietnam to raise the spirits of wounded Marines who join the sing-song before the Marine dies somewhere along the way.

These wrenching memories reminded me of returning to the recruiting office after my first combat deployment and asking Staff Sgt. Alvarado whatever happened to Staff Sgt. Molina, whose son had fallen under my supervision when I was an assistant karate instructor before I enlisted. Alvarado’s eyes looked to the ground, “You didn’t hear?” I’d seen enough death on my deployment to suddenly know without having to be told, and a mental image of his cherub-faced child still tugs my heart because that kid had an especially wonderful dad.

The death surrounding Capers takes its toll on him, and though he is a hard charger and maybe the best Marine in Vietnam, he is not a machine. His pain is complicated. The book’s strength is in Capers’ brutal honesty about his emotional state, which deteriorates as the death toll mounts and the misuse of his recon team by new out-of-touch officers costs more than he can bear.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

Retired Marine Corps Maj. James Capers II.

(Photo by Ethan E. Rocke)

This memoir may not break into the mainstream like a Matterhorn or Jarhead because it’s steeped in Marine culture that may not translate to readers outside of those bounds. It deserves a mini-series due to its dramatic story arc and relevance regarding the unique historical experience of a black U.S. Marine who is able to achieve in the Marine Corps what most likely would not have been accessible to him in the society of his time.

“Faith Through the Storm” should be required reading for Marine infantry officers. It’s the perfect book for The Commandant’s Professional Reading List. This book ultimately adds another dimension to one of the Corps’ most famous recruiting posters.

MIGHTY SPORTS

NHL ventures “Into the Wild Blue Yonder”

On Feb. 15, the NHL will host its annual Stadium Series Games at a really unique and, frankly, awesome location.


The Colorado Avalanche will host the LA Kings at Falcon Stadium on the campus of the United States Air Force Academy.

The Stadium Series has been played previously at several landmark stadiums in its six years of existence. In 2014, the series kicked off with a game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and then two games in Yankee Stadium.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

Falcon Stadium.

(goairforcefalcons.com)

Two years ago, the United States Naval Academy hosted the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. The Capitals won that game 5-2.

This is part of an initiative by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to build a unique partnership with the military. There have also been talks that the New York Rangers are working on having a game at Mitchie Stadium on the campus of the United States Military Academy.

Colorado Avalanche General Manager and hockey legend Joe Sakic said, “We are grateful for the chance to honor our military and our local U.S. service academy with a special event.”

Another benefit of the game is to highlight the Air Force Academy hockey team. In homage to its own history, the team started playing outdoors as a club team. As it built its reputation over the years, the Falcons have made the NCAA Tournament seven times. Three times they have made it to the Elite 8. What is even more impressive is that Air Force can’t recruit like other schools. (no Canadians or Europeans).

The NHL is going all out with pregame fan spaces, which will have interactive activities for everyone. Fans will be able to meet NHL legends, create their own hockey card, take a look at the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile and other activities. The highlight of the pregame festivities will definitely be the Stanley Cup. The iconic trophy will be on display, and fans will have the chance to see the Cup up close and personal.

In preparation for the event, the Avalanche sent forward Gabriel Landeskog to be a ‘Cadet for a Day.”

Landeskog took the time to tour the Academy, try out a flight simulator, take in the school’s athletic facilities, and most importantly, spend time with the cadets.

Click here for more information about the game.

Articles

This is how the Army plans to keep soldiers more comfortable during jungle ops

In January, US Army uniform officials will begin an evaluation of the service’s new Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform by issuing the lighter, more breathable uniform to thousands of soldiers in Hawaii.


The new IHWC is the result of a directed requirement to outfit soldier with a jungle uniform suitable for operations in the Pacific theater. This follows a similar effort that recently resulted in the Army fielding 9,000 pairs of new Jungle Combat Boots to the 25th Infantry Division’s 2nd and 3rd Brigade Combat teams in Hawaii between March and August.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man
The Army Jungle Combat Boot. Army photo by C. Todd Lopez.

Up until this point, 25th ID soldiers training to operate in hot, tropical environments have been wearing Universal Camouflage Pattern Army Combat Uniforms and Hot Weather Combat Boots intended for desert environments.

“January 2018 is going to be huge,” said Capt. Daniel Ferenczy, assistant product manager for Extreme Weather Clothing and Footwear. “They are going to be pure-fleeted in the [Operation Camouflage Pattern] with jungle boots in a hot weather combat uniform.”

The new uniform, made by Source America, is a 57 percent Nylon / 43 percent cotton blend to make it “faster-drying” and have “greater airflow” than the 50-50 Nylon cotton blend on the ACU, Ferenzcy said.

“It adds a little bit more strength, which allows us to make it a lighter blend or a thinner weave … so it should dry a little quicker,” Ferenzcy said. “There are also architectural differences between the ACU uniform and this one.”

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man
Daniel Ferenczy wearing the Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform. Photo from Military.com.

The new uniform has better flexibility and less layers of fabric, Ferenczy said adding that “less layers of fabric means that it retains less moisture means it dries quicker.

There are no breast pockets since soldiers in the field are typically wearing gear that covers them, and “all they end up doing is retaining moisture and heat, so we removed that extra layer there,” Ferenzcy said.

“The back pockets in the trousers are gone as well for the same reason,” he said. Uniform officials have added an ID card pocket inside the waistband.

The Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform blouse also features a button-down front instead of a zipper closure. Uniform officials also replaced the side zipper closure on the shoulder sleeve pockets with a button-down flap at the top of the pocket, Ferenzcy said.

The new uniform features reinforced elbows and reinforced and articulated knees and a gusseted crotch, said Ferenzcy, whose office worked with the Natick Soldier Systems Center to develop the IHWCU.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man
Army Spc. Jake Burley assigned to the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 1st, Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division maneuvers through a river during United Accord 2017 at the Jungle Warfare School on Achiase military base, Akim Oda, Ghana, May 26, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brian Chaney)

“Every design feature on this uniform came straight out of the horse’s mouth,” Ferenzcy said. “The folks that designed it worked hand-in-hand with the Jungle Operations Training Center in Hawaii.”

The plan is to issue about 20,000 sets of the new uniforms to the 2nd and 3rd BCTs in Hawaii in January and then another 10,000 to 12,000 sets in March, Ferenzcy said, describing the $14 million effort.

“This is under a directed requirement, so right now they are just a one-time buy,” Ferenzcy said. “It was ‘hey, we need to get these guys ready for Pacific operations.’ We don’t know exactly yet how we are going to sustain it.”

After 25th ID soldiers have a chance to train in the new uniforms, Ferenzcy’s team plans to return in “April or May and get feedback on the uniform and then we will make adjustments as needed, Ferenzcy said.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man
The IHWCU promises to dry faster; useful in environments common in the Pacific Theater. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jerome D. Johnson.

“It they don’t like this material, the 57/43 NYCO blend, we may go with something else,” he said.

Phase two of the effort involves buying another 11 brigades worth of the IHWCU in its final form for contingency stocks “in case another brigade got turned on to deploy or do a training mission in a tropical environment, we would have uniforms ready for them,” Ferenzcy said.

“This uniform is about a pound lighter than the Army Combat Uniform; it’s very comfortable and not only does it make fighting and operating in a tropical hot wet environment easier, it’s also going to potentially mitigate heat injuries because it holds less heat and less moisture,” Ferenczy said.

“There no scientific studies to back this up, but heat casualties across the force are one of the biggest things that take soldiers out of the fight.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 military jokes troops have heard a million times

Military members have their own inside humor that is often dark and quite hilarious. Then there are the cliche jokes that troops hear all the time. Often interchangeable (substitute an Air Force guy for an Army guy and it’s the same) and heard by your crusty old staff NCO, these jokes aren’t going away anytime soon.


These are the jokes we’ve all heard a million times.

1. A sailor tells a joke to Marines

A sailor in a bar leans over to the guy next to him and asks, “hey, do you want to hear a Marine joke?” The guy responds, “well, before you tell that, you should know that I’m 6′ tall, 200 pounds, and I’m a Marine. The guy sitting next to me is 6′ 2″, weighs 250, and he’s also a Marine.”

“Now, you still wanna tell that joke?”

The sailor says, “Nah, I don’t want to have to explain it three times.”

2. The military pilot is the center of the universe

How many pilots does it take to change a light bulb?

Just one. He holds the bulb, and the world revolves around him.

3. The five most dangerous things in the Army (or Marines)- The most terrifying joke ever

A private saying “I learned this in boot camp…”

A sergeant saying “Just trust me sir…”

A second lieutenant saying “Based on my experience…”

A captain saying “I was just thinking…”

… and a warrant officer saying “Ok now watch this shit.”

Marine Corps Pfc. laughing at jokes

4. The Sergeant Major who always uses military time…jokes on her?

A crusty old Sergeant Major found himself at a wedding when one of the bride’s guests approached him for conversation.

“Excuse me, Sergeant Major, but you seem to be a very serious man. Is something bothering you?”

“Negative, ma’am,” he said. “Just serious by nature.”

The young lady looked at his awards and decorations and said it looked like he had seen a lot of action.

“Yes, ma’am, a lot of action.”

The young lady, tiring of trying to start up a conversation, said, “you know, you should lighten up a little. Relax and enjoy yourself.”

The Sergeant Major just stared at her in his serious manner. Finally the young lady said, “you know, I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but when was the last time you had sex?”

“1955, ma’am.”

“Well, there you are,” she responded. “No wonder you’re so serious. You really need to chill out and relax! I mean, no sex since 1955! Come with me.”

She took his hand and led him to a private room where she proceeded to relax him several times.

Afterwards, panting for breath, she leaned against his grizzled bare chest and said, “wow, you sure didn’t forget much since 1955.”

After glancing at his watch, the Sergeant Major said in his serious voice, “I hope not. It’s only 2130 now.”

5. The silent professionals

How do you know if there is a Navy SEAL at the bar? Don’t worry, he’ll tell you.

6. The urinal joke

A sailor and a Marine are both in the bathroom taking a piss. The sailor finishes up and washes his hands. The Marine gets done, and then immediately starts heading for the door. The sailor stops him and says, “in boot camp, they teach us to wash our hands after we take a leak.” The Marine replies, “in our boot camp, they teach us not to piss on our hands.”

Have any to add? Throw yours in the comments section!

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