Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is now a master photographer, cartoonist, and storyteller.

Eyes roll at the sight of yet another transition story. We all get it; it’s hard to transition from military to civilian life. I have read many a story myself and note positively that everyone brings up a new eureka moment for me that I didn’t experience myself, but that I totally get. My transition story doesn’t boast any novel epiphany though it does come from the aspect of a career SMU pipe-hitter.

“You’re not on the pods anymore, Geo… you need to get off the pods and throttle back a bit. I mean not a bit but a whole, whole lot!” explained my boss, Conan, also from my same SMU in Fort Bragg, NC.


Pods refer to the two benches on the exterior of the MH-6 Little Bird helicopter on which two men on each side of the aircraft can ride into an assault scenario. To many of us, riding the pods into an assault objective hanging on with one arm and lighting up targets on the ground with the other arm was the penultimate of brash aggression and acute excitement of living life on the very edge.

Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life

(A complex brown-water insertion of a Klepper kayak. Photo courtesy of the author)

“SMUs will always be around, because no amount of technology will ever replace raw unadulterated aggression.” (SMU Squadron Commander)

I stood tall in my new office cubicle at my new job as a civilian, having just separated from the Service. My job/title was Project Manager. This was my new life, this square. “This is going to be great!” I pallidly promised my psyche. I fervently thanked the creator for the “shower door” on my cube that I could slide closed to prove to the world that I was not really there.

It was plastic, but it was translucent rather than transparent; that is, you could see through it, but only gross shapes rather than defined detail like… a shower door does. If a body were to remain very quiet and still, nobody could detect your presence in the cube. This thing I did fancy.

Carol from HR then stood in my open doorway in her blue office dress to welcome me and list the ground rules — the corporate culture of life in office cube city. She recited those edicts as they appeared chiseled in granite:

• “No, singing or playing of music;

• no cooking food;

• avoid speaker phones

• watch your voice volume

• deal with gas in the restroom

• always knock before entering a cubicle

• no “prairie-dogging”

In fact, whatever it is you find yourself doing in your cube for the moment just stop it!

“Er… no prairie-dogging? Yeah, so… what might prairie dogging be?” I posed.

“Well Mr. Hand, prairie dogging involves the poking of ones head over the top of one’s cubicle walls and… and looking around!” Blue-dressed Carol from HR became a blurred and indistinct pattern from the other side of my show door as I closed it in her incredulous face.

“Well, I never… I AM NOT FINISHED MR. HAND!”

I popped one’s head up over the top of one’s cubicle and explained: “Yes, yes you are finished, Ms. Carol from HR… and please watch your voice volume — TSK!”

Within the hour my shower door flew open and there stood Conan, face awash with concern.

“Woah, now that is a great, big, fat, bulbous-assed no-go here in cube city—entering without knocking… tremendous transgression, Conan!” I warned.

“There was a complaint about you from HR, geo…”

We talked. Conan was right, and there was no dispelling that. I apologized and thanked him. We shook hands as we always did when we parted or met. So with a crappy first morning behind me, I vowed to make the best of the rest. I headed to the break room for a cup of coffee to calm myself down.

Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life

(Low-profile office cubicles offer no substantial privacy)

I embraced the notion that there might be nobody in the break room, but my crest fell for there were a man and woman seated at a table enjoying lunch. The noon hour had crept up on me though I scarce remarked. I held my breath and went about for that cup of Joe.

Men are great around just each other, but they get stupid and inclined to comport themselves like jackasses whenever a woman is around too. This fellow saw that I was engaged in an action that was somewhat contrary to break room policy, and he began:

“Excuuuuse me there, partner… but you’re not supposed to…”

“SHUT UP; SHUT THE PHUQ UP, PARTNER!!” I delivered to the man without even turning to look at him, not fully knowing from whence my outburst came.

“I’m screwed!” I thought, “I didn’t check the volume of my voice!” unable to sort through the gravity of which coffee offense I had committed just then. It was not the volume that was the greater offense, rather the content of my delivery.

The woman left the break room immediately at a cantor. Partner remained for the mandatory tough-guy extra seconds, me leaning against the counter, staring at him all the while sipping my incorrect procedurally-obtained break room coffee. He then sauntered out with backless bravado.

My shower door flew open without a knock. Once more, I reeled at Conan’s blatant disregard for cube rules. I endured the pod speech strewn with constant “I’m sorry, Conan” interrupts. This time his speech contained a threat annex to it. I needed to take that seriously. We two shook hands, as we always did when we parted or met.

A few months ago I was riding on the pods doing 90 MPH hanging on with one arm like a rodeo rider, spitting jacketed lead at targets on the ground, sprinting from the touched-down chopper at full speed smashing through doors and lighting up all contents… now I was born again into a world where the penultimate cringe comes from the shrimp platter at the buffet not being chilled down to the proper 54-degrees (Fahrenheit).

I had to turn this thing around, but wasn’t sure how. I accepted my plight with this eight-word phrase, one that I came to lean on in countless occasions: “We’ll just have to figure it out tomorrow.” And so it went for the next 16 years there at that same job.

I didn’t have to re-invent myself as I feared, but I did develop a set of guidelines that would steer my path over the next more than a decade and a half. There were the company rules, and then there were my rules. My rules were better than the company rules. They were simple. Though I never formally wrote them down, I can list them still for the most part:

1. Don’t ever tell anybody what the real rules are

2. Don’t ever hurt anybody in the company or customer base

3. Don’t ever damage any company or customer property

4. Don’t ever wear corduroy pants on a day you might have to run many miles.

5. Don’t ever allow yourself to be stuck in a position with a boss who sucks.

6. Don’t ever cheat entering time into your pay invoice

7. Never litter

8. Never threaten another employee within earshot of a witness

9. Remotely bury any items that could get you fired or that you just don’t want to deal with

10. Never reveal the locations of buried items

11. Eventually, return all clandestinely-acquired tools and equipment

12. (most important of all rules) ALWAYS WORK ALONE!

Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life

(The author on left and teammate on right, lift off with an MH-6 for more gun runs, not giving one-tenth of a rat’s ass about the temperature of the shrimp platter.

(Photo courtesy of SMU Operator MSG Gaetano Cutino, KIA)

Articles

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

Fifteen years after a 17-hour battle on an Afghan mountaintop, a pararescueman’s extraordinary heroism was recognized with an Air Force Cross, upgraded from a Silver Star, following a service-wide review of medals awarded since 9/11.


Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life
The Air Force Cross is the service’s highest combat medal for valor, second only to the Medal of Honor. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

Then-Tech. Sgt. Keary Miller –against overwhelming odds and a barrage of heavy fire from Al Qaeda militants– dashed through deep snow into the line of fire multiple times to assess and care for critically-wounded U.S. service members, March 4, 2002.

Miller was previously awarded the Silver Star medal for these actions, Nov. 1, 2003. The Air Force Cross is the service’s highest combat medal for valor, second only to the Medal of Honor.

“We are blessed to have Airmen like Keary in the Special Tactics community,” said Col. Michael Martin, the 24th Special Operations Wing commander, who directed training for Miller’s pararescue team before their deployment in 2002. “In an extraordinary situation, Keary acted with courage and valor to save the lives of 10 special operations teammates. This medal upgrade accentuates his selflessness despite an overwhelming enemy force…although Keary may humbly disagree, he belongs to a legacy of heroes.”

Miller was deployed from the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, an Air National Guard unit based in Standiford, Kentucky. During the mission, he was the Air Force combat search and rescue team leader assigned to a U.S Army Ranger quick reaction force.

Also read: Special tactics airman receives medal upgrade for dramatic rescue

“I would describe Keary as a dedicated pararescueman – dedicated to his craft and dedicated to the motto ‘That others may live.’ That’s how he defined himself and that really defines his actions that day,” said Lt. Col. Sean Mclane, the 123rd STS commander, who was a second lieutenant in Miller’s home unit during that time. “We have a proud legacy and a tradition of valor, and Keary is a big part of that.”

On March 4, 2002, his team was tasked to support a joint special operations team on a mountaintop called Takur Ghar, occupied by Al Qaeda forces– an engagement commonly known as the Battle of Roberts Ridge after the first casualty of the battle, Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts.

One of the most significant events in recent Special Operations history began when a joint special operations team attempted to infiltrate Takur Ghar, which held a well-fortified and concealed force. The ensuing battle would result in the loss of seven special operations team members.

“We were notified there was a missing aircrew and we were launching a team to go find them,” said Maj. Gabriel Brown, a Special Tactics officer, formerly an enlisted combat controller. “It was unknown who exactly was missing, but we loaded up two helicopters full of Rangers and the (combat search and rescue) package, which included me, Senior Airman Jason Cunningham [pararescueman] and Keary, who was my team leader. I trusted him.”

As the quick reaction force helicopter made its approach over the landing zone, they were struck by rocket propelled grenades at close range –they returned fire with mini guns, but the helicopter impacted the ground hard, lurching into the snow.

“Once we landed, 7.62mm rounds ripped through the fuselage–the daylight popping through, smoke aglow; then the rotors decelerated to a grinding halt,” Brown said. “Immediately, we had several casualties; I remember seeing two Rangers face down. Keary and I were deep in the aircraft—and we made eye contact and shared kind of a ‘here we go’ moment.”

The team disembarked from the aircraft to combat the blistering fire of a waiting enemy. At great risk to his own life, Miller moved through the snowy terrain, crossing into the line of fire on several occasions in order to assess and care for critically wounded servicemen.

Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life

“I saw Keary taking action on the wounded, worried about collecting the casualties and triaging them,” Brown said, who was in charge of aircraft communications and precision strike. “He was careful in his thoughts and actions, conducting himself calmly and coolly – relaying the casualty information to me all morning.”

As the battle continued, Miller collected ammunition from the deceased to distribute it to multiple positions in need of ammo, moving through heavy enemy fire each time.

“I was listening to the updates as they were coming in; I was so proud because my friends were on that mountain and their future was so uncertain but they were rocking it – they were doing everything right,” Mclane said, who was listening real-time to satellite communications of the battle. “It’s like, these guys might not make it off this mountain, but by God, they’re going down swinging.”

When Cunningham was killed during another attack, the casualty collection point he was at was compromised. Miller assumed Cunningham’s role — providing medical aid under fire to the wounded – and braved enemy fire to move the wounded to better cover and concealment.

Related: 12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades

“I wholeheartedly believe the Air Force Cross accurately represents Keary’s actions that day,” said Brown. “I know those lives were saved that day were because of his efforts within that environment…the steps he took to ensure they made it off the battlefield.”

Miller is credited with saving the lives of 10 U.S. service members that day, and the recovery of seven who were killed in action.

Following his deployment, Miller returned to the 123rd STS as a mentor for the newest generation of operators. The events he experienced helped him to shape tactics, techniques and procedures for years to come.

“Keary was already a mature pararescueman before he went on that mission,” Mclane said. “But, when he returned, he really dedicated himself to improving our body armor, our equipment, our (tactics, techniques and procedures) when under fire – he was driven to be better, and to make his teammates better.”
MIGHTY MOVIES

6 secrets you didn’t know about the making of Top Gun

Today, with its prevalence in pop culture and its sequel waiting in the wings, it’s difficult to imagine that Top Gun was anything but a surefire hit. But, in the time leading up its 1986 release, Top Gun‘s production had its share of problems and setbacks. In fact, plenty of people doubted that the idea of fighter jets would even work as a movie.


1. People didn’t want to be part of Top Gun

After producer Jerry Bruckheimer saw a picture of an F-14 in a magazine, he came up with the idea of a fighter jet movie that would be like “Star Wars on earth.” After their successes with Flashdance and Beverly Hills Cop, Bruckheimer and his production partner, Don Simpson, went around pitching the idea to Hollywood studios. Though they were rejected by studio after studio, Paramount Pictures eventually picked up the movie and cautiously agreed to fund it.

The next challenge was getting actors onboard. At that time, a young Tom Cruise was known only for his role in Risky Business. Bruckheimer and Simpson were adamant that he be cast as their lead actor and sent him script after script to get him to sign on.

Cruise rejected every offer made to him, so Bruckheimer pulled out all the stops.

He called up Navy Admiral Peter Garrow and asked him to send Cruise up in a fighter jet to convince him to join the film. The Admiral arranged for Cruise to ride along in a Blue Angels A-4 Skyhawk and be put through his paces. After a wild ride (during which he reportedly threw up on everything), Cruise stumbled from the jet to the nearest payphone and called Bruckheimer to take the part. The only non-negotiable part in his contract was that he had to fly in an F-14 Tomcat.

Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life

Pete and Charlotte sing with the Bradshaws, Nick, Carole, and their son. Weird hearing their real names, isn’t it? (Credit Paramount Pictures)

With no real script and unable to send every potential actor up in a fighter jet, it was difficult for the producers to cast the rest of the movie. The part of Charlie was originally pitched to Ally Sheedy of Brat Pack fame, but she turned it down reportedly saying, “No one would want to see Tom Cruise flying around in an airplane.” Fresh off of filming Witness, Kelly McGillis only signed on because she didn’t expect the film to be the blockbuster hit that it would become. Val Kilmer was actually forced into the role of Iceman due to a contractual obligation with the studio. The rest of the cast like Tim Robbins, Meg Ryan and Anthony Edwards were still years away from becoming household names for their roles in The Shawshank Redemption, When Harry Met Sally and ER, respectively.

2. Danger Zone was attempted by Toto and REO Speedwagon

Bruckheimer and Simpson implemented the same formula that worked for them with Flashdance and Beverly Hills Cop and put together a top-notch soundtrack for Top Gun. Soundtrack producer Giorgio Moroder originally had Toto record the song, “Danger Zone,” but Bruckheimer disliked it and the recording was scrapped. The song was then offered to REO Speedwagon who wanted to be part of the film, but insisted that the song be their own. They recorded an original song and submitted it to the producers, but it was never used.

Kenny Loggins and his collaborators were hot off of their successes with Caddyshack and Footloose and decided to write the song “Playing with the Boys” for the volleyball scene. Assuming that other bands would be vying for the opening song, they figured that this scene would have less competition. While recording “Playing with the Boys,” Loggins was asked by Moroder to give “Danger Zone” a shot. “I walked in and I sang ‘Danger Zone’ and messed with it a little bit, you know, and had a good time with it,” Loggins recalled. The rest is history. “I wasn’t supposed to be the guy to sing it. I just lucked into it.”

Moroder had more luck pitching “Take My Breath Away” to Berlin lead-singer Terry Nunn. After hearing the song and watching the love-making scene that it would be set to, Nunn was on board. Less enthused was her bandmate, John Crawford, who didn’t want to perform a song written by someone else. Their band manager, Perry Watts-Russell, also had his doubts and said that he would shave his head if the song became a number one hit. Of course, Berlin recorded the song and it did reach number one. While Watts-Russell kept his word and shaved his head, Crawford was less pleased with the song’s performance as it meant that Berlin had to play it at every live performance following Top Gun‘s release.

3. There was a constant struggle between the producers, the director, Paramount and the Navy

Director Tony Scott was unpopular in Hollywood after his box office flop The Hunger, and clashed constantly with Paramount Pictures over the creative direction of the film. In fact, Scott was fired and rehired by studio execs three times over the course of Top Gun.

While filming aboard the USS Enterprise on a foggy Sunday morning, Scott lost the ideal lighting for his shot when the carrier altered its course. He implored that the captain return to his previous course so that they could film the scene. When the captain refused, Scott asked, “What does it cost for this aircraft carrier to run per minute?” The captain gave him a figure and Scott retrieved his checkbook from his bunk and wrote the captain a check for ,000. The captain returned the ship to its previous course and Scott was able to get his shot. He later bounced the check.

Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life

The opening scene gives me goosebumps every time (Credit Paramount Pictures)

Rear Admiral (ret.) Pete “Viper” Pettigrew, whose callsign was loaned to Tom Skerrit’s character, was hired as the film’s technical advisor for a sum of ,000 and served as a liaison with the Navy. Per his contract, he had a brief cameo in the film as Charlie’s boss, the “older guy” in the bar that she sits down with after Maverick’s rendition of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.” Pettigrew’s job was to keep the film grounded in reality, though his protests to the film’s eccentricities were always overridden by Bruckheimer and Simpson.

He argued against the locker room argument between Maverick and Iceman and the shower scene, saying that pilots just get changed after a hop and go to the bar. However, paying id=”listicle-2646420686″ million to have Cruise in the film, the producers insisted that Cruise show as much skin as possible to appeal to a female audience. As the script took shape, the Navy raised concerns regarding the increased focus on the relationships between the characters over the fighter jets and aerial combat. “Right now, I’m just trying to keep it from turning into a musical,” Pettigrew responded.

Though it played a major role in production, the Navy authorized only two missile shots to be filmed for the movie due to the cost of the weapon system. The shots were filmed from several angles to make the most of them. Additional missile shots were filmed using models of the planes and missiles. However, the company that produced and fired the model missiles did such a good job that the Navy launched an investigation to determine if additional missiles were fired beyond the two that were previously authorized.

Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life

One of the two authorized missile shots (Credit Paramount Pictures)

4. More trouble off-screen

Bruckheimer and Simpson worked well together because they complemented each other. While Simpson was bold and brash, Bruckheimer was calm and collected. However, Simpson’s alleged love of fast cars, women, hookers and drugs were reportedly negatively impacting his job as a producer. Having already been to rehab at least twice before, he checked himself in again midway through production. Little had changed by the time he checked out though. After renting a car, he sped down to the production office, crashed the car in the parking lot, barged into a meeting and declared, “We’re not shooting that f***ing scene!” He then proceeded to fire people and start rewrites to the script. Simpson’s self-destructive lifestyle came to a head when he overdosed in 1996.

Though Cruise and McGillis had to maintain a sexual tension and chemistry on set, McGillis had fallen for another actor during the filming of Top Gun. “We were walking across the street and she actually fell down, and I thought it was the funniest thing I’d ever seen,” Barry Tubb remembered of McGillis. “She fell down on her face in the middle of the street and she had my heart.” Tubb played a supporting role in the film as Wolfman.

Tubb and McGillis’ relationship off-screen threatened to weaken Charlie and Maverick’s relationship on-screen. To create more tension and add more lead-up to their eventual chase and kiss on W. Laurel Street, McGillis and Cruise were brought back to film one more scene months after production had wrapped.

In the elevator scene that follows the dinner at Charlie’s Oceanside house, Maverick’s hair is wet and slicked back while Charlie’s is hidden under a hat. Both actors had different hairstyles by that time which needed to be masked in order to preserve the continuity of the film. The scene succeeded though in adding more tension and lead-up to the relationship.

5. A tragedy occurred

Top Gun‘s production also saw a real-life death. While capturing footage for Maverick and Goose’s flat spin, stunt actor Art Scholl lost control of his Pitts S-2 camera plane. Filming about five miles off the coast of Carlsbad, California, Scholl radioed to his ground spotter, “I have a problem – I have a serious problem.” He was unable to recover from the spin and crashed into the ocean. The aircraft and his body were never recovered. As a tribute, Top Gun was dedicated to Scholl.

Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life

Scholl and his dog, Aileron (Credit Smithsonian Institution)

6. Bruckheimer and Scott thought the movie was a flop

Having wrapped production, an advance screening of Top Gun was scheduled for January 29, 1986, in Houston, Texas. With the rather lukewarm release of Iron Eagle two weeks before, receiving mixed reviews and grossing just million more at the box office than its budget, Top Gun‘s future as the second fighter jet movie of the year seemed unsure.

The advance screening was also clouded by the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster just the day before. “We’re in that theater, and I tell you, it was like a funeral,” Bruckheimer recalled. “I watched the movie with this audience and nobody reacted. I mean, they didn’t laugh, they didn’t applaud, it was nothing.” As a result of this screening, Bruckheimer thought that the movie would be a disaster upon its full release.

Director Tony Scott felt similarly following the Houston screening. “It was the worst experience of my life,” Scott said. “I can’t remember even hearing the audience.” Thinking he had failed directing another movie, Scott left the screening and went to a bar to get drunk.

However, contradicting the lack-luster advance screening, Top Gun was well-received by the rest of the cast and crew when it was screened for them. During that screening, Kenny Loggins was thoroughly impressed with what they had created. “I just held my wife’s hand and went ‘Holy s**t’,” he recalled.

Of course, Bruckheimer and Scott’s fears were misplaced and the film’s release in the summer of 1986 was perfect; Ronald Reagan was in the White House, the military was cool again and the country was going through a patriotic renaissance. Since its blockbuster release, Top Gun has gone on to become one of the most successful and iconic films of all time.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the Chinese copy of the Soviet Badger

In the early years of the Cold War, huge propeller-driven bombers began to give way to bombers equipped with jet engines. These first jet bombers, like the Boeing B-47 Stratojet, had performance, but very short range. The first B-47s entered service in 1950.


The Soviet Union answered the B-47 with the Tupolev Tu-16 bomber, code-named Badger by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This plane entered service in 1954, eventually proved to be a versatile airframe, and included tanker, reconnaissance, and electronic warfare versions. While the United States didn’t export the B-47, the Soviets had no compunctions when it came to exporting its jet-powered medium bomber. The fall of the Soviet Union saw the Badger and its variants retire in 1998.

Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life
A H-6 Badger bomber. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

One of those potential export customers was the People’s Republic of China. The Soviets had even sent some kits for China to assemble the plane locally (something also done with the MiG-15, MiG-17, MiG-19, and MiG-21). According to MilitaryFactory.com, some Soviet-built examples entered service in 1959 as the Xian H-6. Reflecting the fact that it is a Chinese copy of the Soviet plane, NATO calls the H-6 the Badger.

Then came the break-up of the Sino-Soviet friendship. Suddenly, China had to spend time reverse-engineering the Badger. Eventually, they were able to produce as many as 180 of their own. China’s newest variants have longer range and are optimized more for the cruise-missile shooter role.

Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life
KH-11 image showing a Xian H-6 Badger. (National Reconnaissance Office photo)

The H-6 can reach a top speed of 652 miles per hour, and has a range of 3,728 miles. The plane can carry up to 20,000 pounds of bombs, or it can carry C-601, C-602, or KD-88 missiles. China has been introducing newer versions of this bomber in recent years, and even made some exports of their own!

You can see more about this bomber in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdzEhMkvT1g
MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how the Army trains for war

Gen. Robert B. Abrams recalled once being awakened at 2 a.m. on a Friday. It was the early 1980s then, and he was a young lieutenant stationed in a cavalry squadron in West Germany.


It was a unit alert that had woken him from his sleep, he recalled. Back then, those alerts could come at any time, completely unannounced. And when they came, soldiers in area bars would need to report to their units, in whatever state they were in, within two hours.

Abrams, commander, US Army Forces Command, spoke earlier this month at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition.

Once soldiers were assembled, he said, they had four hours to get all their gear and ammunition loaded on trucks and tanks, and move out to their tactical assembly areas. They had to be ready to cross the border into East Germany, if called to do so.

Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life
A US Army Soldier looks through binoculars as part of an orienteering event during the second day of the 2017 Forces Command Best Warrior Competition at Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 21, 2017. Army photo by Spc. Hubert D. Delany III

“Everyone had a sense of urgency and knew what was at stake,” he said, remembering his early days in the Army.

The Army needs to regain that same sense of urgency today, he said, but “we’re not there yet in our Army.”

However, the mindset is beginning to shift, he said. “That’s the direction the Army is now taking.”

Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life
A US Army Soldier, assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division, gives two thumbs up as he boards a plane at Fort Stewart, Ga., Aug. 3, 2017, for a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Candace Mundt

Improved Training

Abrams pointed to a number of readiness indicators, including training, which he said has improved over the last couple of years.

Recently, the Army has shifted its training focus to a “decisive-action training environment that’s very robust,” he said.

The DATE training environment includes training with both conventional and non-conventional forces in all domains during every combat training center, or CTC, rotation, he said.

Leading up to the CTC rotation, units have also improved their home-station training, he said, adding that there’s been a 300 percent increase in company-level, live-fire exercises at home station over the last two years.

Even aviation units at the platoon and company levels are now participating in live-fire exercises, something not widely seen since before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.

Non-Deployables Reduced

“We’ve made huge progress over the last couple of years in reducing the number of non-deployable (soldiers),” Abrams said, adding that it’s still the No. 1 readiness challenge facing the Army today.

Some units have seven or eight percent non-deployables, he said, so there’s still some work to do to shrink those numbers.

Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life
Photo courtesy of US Army

Abrams attributed improvements in reducing the number of non-deployable soldiers to several factors, including the fielding this year of the commander’s Medical Readiness Dashboard. That computerized medical update allows company and battalion commanders to better understand and deal with the medical status of their soldiers.

Improved physical training is another area the general credited with reducing injuries and elevating fitness levels. He gave a shout-out to a pilot program now underway that is incorporating a new soldier readiness test involving four brigades from FORSCOM that are evaluating “all five measurements of fitness.”

Also Read: This is everything you need to know about Army Rangers

The Army is moving away from an “industrial-age medical system,” to one that’s more like the type used for professional athletes that gives soldiers the care they need “at their point of impact and at the point of injury,” he noted.

The importance of care is so important because “muscular-skeletal injuries continue to impact soldiers,” he said.

Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life
Army recruits practice patrol tactics while marching during U.S. Army basic training at Fort Jackson, SC. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller.

Improved Equipment

Twelve of the Army’s 25 brigade combat teams have, to date, received their complete authorized stockage lists, Abrams said, and US Army Materiel Command is working on equipping the rest. ASLs consist of such things as repair parts, fuel, and construction material kept at each BCT distribution center.

To ensure the equipment is sufficient and where it needs to be, Abrams said FORSCOM conducts monthly logistics and aviation readiness reviews.

The biggest struggle in equipping the force right now, he said, is getting spare parts to where they are needed in a timely manner. Currently, he said, the wait time is about five times what it should be.

Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life
A US Army Soldier, assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, guides a pilot into place during sling load operations, Aug. 11, 2016 at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Sling load operations allow US Army Central to move artillery and trucks and shipping containers for mobile operations in the Middle East. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Hubbard

A big part of increasing readiness, Abrams said, involves adequate and predictable funding from Congress.

“Continuing resolutions crush us at the unit level,” he said. “We are unable on a monthly basis to adequately plan to support training and requisition repair parts for our fleet at a tempo we are training.”

Abrams admitted that the Army doesn’t have an adequate narrative about readiness to present to lawmakers. “We in the military intuitively know what readiness means but have been unable to articulate it to the public. Everybody wants a ready force but we have a hard time describing it.”

Articles

The US is amping up its cyber war force

A decade ago, he was a young Army soldier training Iraqi troops when he noticed their primitive filing system: handwritten notes threaded with different colors of yarn, stacked in piles. For organization’s sake, he built them a simple computer database.


Now an Army reservist, the major is taking a break from his civilian high-tech job to help America’s technological fight against Islamic State extremists, part of a growing force of cyberexperts the Pentagon has assembled to defeat the group.

“The ability to participate in some way in a real mission, that is actually something that’s rare, that you can’t find in private sector,” said the 38-year-old Nebraska native who is working at U.S. Cyber Command at Fort Meade, Maryland.

“You’re part of a larger team putting your skills to use, not just optimizing clicks for a digital ad, but optimizing the ability to counter ISIS or contribute to the security of our nation.”

Last year, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter expressed frustration that the United States was losing the cyberwar against Islamic States militants. He pushed the Cyber Command to be more aggressive.

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The files are in the computer. It’s so simple. (Dept. of Defense photo)

In response, the Pentagon launched an effort to incorporate cyber technology into its daily military fight, including new ways to disrupt the enemy’s communications, recruiting, fundraising, and propaganda.

To speak with someone at the front lines of the cyber campaign, The Associated Press agreed to withhold the major’s name. The military says he could be threatened or targeted by the militants if he is identified publicly. The major and other officials wouldn’t provide precise details on the highly classified work he is doing.

But Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, commander of U.S. Army Cyber Command, said the major is bringing new expertise for identifying enemy networks, pinpointing system administrators or developers, and potentially monitoring how the Islamic State’s online traffic moves.

He “has the ability to bring an analytic focus of what the threat is doing, coupled with a really deep understanding of how networks run,” Nakasone said, describing such contributions as “really helpful for us.” He outlined a key question for the military: “How do you impact an adversary that’s using cyberspace against us?”

The military services are looking for new ways to bring in more civilians with high-tech skills who can help against IS, and prepare for the new range of technological threats the nation will face.

Nakasone said that means getting Guard and Reserve members with technical expertise in digital forensics, math crypto-analysis and writing computer code. The challenge is how to find them.

“I would like to say it’s this great database that we have, that we’ve been able to plug in and say, ‘Show me the best tool developers and analysts that you have out there,'” Nakasone said. “We don’t have that yet. We are going to have one, though, by June.”

The Army Reserve is starting a pilot program cataloging soldiers’ talents. Among 190,000 Army reservists, Nakasone said there might be up to 15,000 with some type of cyber-related skills. But there are legal and privacy hurdles, and any database hinges on reservists voluntarily and accurately providing information on their capabilities.

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Marines with I Marine Expeditionary Force and sailors with 553 Cyber Protection Team, monitor network activity during I MEF Large Scale Exercise 2016 at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Aug 22, 2016. (Photo: Marine Corps)

Normally, Nakasone said a reservist’s record includes background, training, assignments, and schools attended.

“I would like to know every single person that has been trained as a certified ethical hacker,” he said.

The Army has been steadily building cyber mission teams, as part of a broader Defense Department undertaking. Of the 41 Army teams, just over half come from theArmy National Guard and Army Reserve.

Nakasone said officials were still working out costs.

“The money will come,” he said, because building a ready cyber force is necessary.

The Army major said others in the civilian high-tech industry are interested in helping.

Many would like to participate “in something bigger than themselves, something that has intrinsic value for the nation,” he said.

The major said he has signed up for a second one-year tour in his cyber job. He is looking at options for staying longer.

“I find what I’m doing very satisfying, because I have an opportunity to implement things, to get things done and see them work and see tangible results,” he said. “I’m not making as much as I was on the civilian side. But the satisfaction is that strong, and is that valuable, that it’s worth it.”

MIGHTY GAMING

6 US conflicts that would (probably) make terrible video games

When developers set out to make video games, their focus should always primarily be on crafting a fun and engaging experience. Oftentimes, you’ll see video games set far in the future so that developers can place an arsenal of advanced, sci-fi weaponry in the hands of the player — because it’s fun. Other times, they’ll take cues from real wars and toss the player directly into the heat of a historical battle — because that’s fun, too.


But, despite the fact that wars have been fought since the beginning of time, most games are set during WWII and onward, into modern conflicts. These backdrops just work better for gameplay reasons. Nobody wants to play a video game set in an era where you have march right up to and fire against an opposing formation only to spend the next two minutes reloading your rifle.

Granted, there are exceptions to this rule but, for the most part, you’d probably not want to play games set during the following conflicts.

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But holy sh*t, was this mission amazing!

(Electronic Arts’ Battlefield 1)

World War I

Yes, Battlefield 1 gave this war the gritty treatment that it deserved and was one of the funnest games of 2016, but the multiplayer didn’t have anywhere near the same feel as the single-player campaign.

If the game really wanted to bring WWI to gaming, everything about the game would feel like the tutorial. It’d be dark, dirty, your weapons would barely work, and you’d probably not make it out alive.

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There’s a good reason the last good game from this era was made in 1997.

(Sierra Entertainment’s Civil War Generals 2)

The American Civil War

Every video game set during the American Civil War is a strategy game that places you in the shoes of a general, overlooking the chaos.

Playing as a boots-on-ground soldier simply couldn’t be fun, given the technology and tactics of the time — unless you broke away and did some guerrilla warfare. Now take into account the emotional grief of brothers literally fighting brothers over ideological differences… On second thought, most of us already have fun beating our little brothers at any video game…

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Worst part is that everyone would forget that you had to play this “level.”

(National Archives)

American involvement in the Russian Civil War

Imagine a game where you just finished playing something amazing, like Battlefield 1‘s single-player campaign, and then you’re told that you can’t set down the controller until you go help the Russian Czar. No one cares that you’re there and the developers probably wouldn’t send you any support either.

You’d spend the entire game in a downward spiral as more and more Russians join the Red Army until you eventually rage quit.

Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life

At least the mission where you blast Bruce Springsteen to piss off Noriega would be fun.

(National Archives)

Operation Just Cause

Funnily enough, there’s already a video game series called Just Cause and they’re great! The only thing is that they have absolutely nothing to do with the 42-day invasion of Panama, otherwise known as Operation Just Cause.

Realistically, the game would probably only last for two or three missions before the credits roll.

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At least they made the Boston Tea Party playable.

(Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed III)

The Revolutionary War

There is no finer moment in American history than when patriots banded together to fight for their freedom from the British. It will forever ring in history books as a hard-fought, bloody victory over the finest military in its prime. It’s a shame that everything about the war make for a boring video game.

Assassin’s Creed III was able to transform this era into something fun by conveniently focusing on everything but the political disputes. Also, you’d more often grab a new rifle instead of spending minutes reloading.

Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life

“Get good, scrubs!”

(‘The Custer Fight’ by Charles Marion Russell)

The Battle of Little Bighorn

So, you’re one of those gamers who played Dark Souls (or, if you’re old school, the original Ninja Gaiden) and thought it was for casuals? Okay, I got you. Imagine playing a game where you’re fighting in Custer’s Last Stand.

Good luck trying to make it out of one the biggest military blunders without a Konami code.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Buck Thanksgiving tradition with cold-brew marinated steak

Nothing says Thanksgiving like football in the backyard, family gathered around the table, and, of course, a nice hunk of meat. For many of us, this means turkey or chicken, but if you’re seeking a good, old-fashioned red meat this holiday season (or just looking to change things up), consider a cold-brew marinated steak.


This meal may seem jarring if you think coffee is only for drinking. But for those of us who have experimented with coffee rubs during grilling season, we know it can infuse a rich nutty flavor and make the meat super tender. This is due to the coffee’s high acidity levels, which help break down tough proteins in the meat. Allowing meat to marinate in a coffee brine for a few hours further assists the softening process, leaving the meat tender and with a smoky flavor.

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This cold-brew marinated ribeye is a great way to shake things up for Thanksgiving dinner.

(Photo by Lacey Whitehouse/Coffee or Die)

We’ll be using cold-brew coffee as the base for our marinade. This is a great opportunity to finish up the last batch of concentrate you brewed — or make some fresh to use in other seasonal beverages during the holidays.

It’s important to note that cold brew is not simply iced coffee — it’s a completely different process. While iced coffee is brewed hot and brought to room temperature before being served over ice, cold brew utilizes room temperature water and coffee grounds to create a concentrate. Typically, the coffee is ground coarsely and left to brew in temperate water for six to 12 hours. The result is a smooth concentrate that is three times stronger than traditionally brewed coffee and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

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(Photo by Lacey Whitehouse/Coffee or Die)

To mitigate the risk of the meat hardening, we’ll be combining the cold brew with other acid-rich ingredients to make the juiciest possible steak. For our marinade, we’ll be using cold brew, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, garlic cloves, onion powder, parsley, dried oregano, salt, and molasses. The apple cider vinegar cuts the fats and natural sweetness of the steak to help round out its overall flavor. Combined with molasses, we’ll achieve a wonderfully delicate balance between the savoriness of the meat and the tang of the marinade.

The holiday season is a time to show your love, and there’s no better way to do that than with a good cut of meat. Enjoy your steak with fries or your favorite holiday sides.

Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life

Recipe by Brittany Ramjattan/Coffee or Die.

(Photo by Lacey Whitehouse/Coffee or Die. Graphic by Erik Campbell/Coffee or Die.)

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US-North Korea summit ends early over sanctions and nuclear sites

President Donald Trump’s administration was confident enough in reaching a deal with North Korean chairman Kim Jong Un at the summit in Vietnam that it had scheduled a signing ceremony for the two leaders.

Trump and Kim were due to take part in a 35-minute-long “Joint Agreement Signing Ceremony” after their lunch on Feb. 28, 2019, according to the White House’s public schedule.


The ceremony was abandoned when the White House announced an early end to the summit, with no deal between the countries.

Here’s what the schedule said. The first time for each event is local time in Vietnam, and the second is local time in Washington, DC.

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President Donald J. Trump is greeted by Kim Jong Un on Feb. 27, 2019, at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi, for their second summit meeting.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

11:55 a.m./11:55 p.m. THE PRESIDENT participates in a working lunch with the Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Hanoi, Vietnam
2:05 p.m./2:05 a.m.THE PRESIDENT participates in a Joint Agreement Signing Ceremony with the Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Hanoi, Vietnam

At 2:40 p.m. Trump was scheduled to leave the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, the five-star hotel where Trump and Kim met on Feb. 28, 2019, to return to the JW Marriott, where the US delegation is staying.

Instead, he got on Air Force One and flew home.

How the plan unraveled

The two leaders ended up skipping lunch, and Trump moved his press conference — first scheduled for 4 p.m. — two hours earlier.

The Washington Post’s David Nakamura, who traveled to Hanoi with the White House, said at 12:25 p.m. that a meeting between the US and North Korean delegations appeared to be running 30 minutes behind schedule, and that lunch appeared to be delayed.

At 12:35 p.m. a White House spokeswoman told reporters that “there has been a program change,” Nakamura said.

“No sign of US or DPRK delegations in the lunch room where table was set with menus and name cards on chairs,” he added, using an acronym for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or North Korea.

Trump says he’s still friends with Kim

At his press conference later on Feb. 28, Trump said he remains “optimistic” about North Korea’s aim to denuclearization and his relationship with Kim, and said they didn’t sign a deal because Kim wanted total sanctions relief in exchange for closing only some of his nuclear sites.

“They were willing to denuke a large portion that they want but we couldn’t give up all the sanctions for that,” Trump told reporters. He added that he could have signed a deal if he wanted to, but “we decided to walk” instead of run.

Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life

President Donald J. Trump is greeted by Kim Jong Un on Feb. 27, 2019, at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi, for their second summit meeting.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, also said in a statement that Trump and Kim “had very good and constructive meetings” in Hanoi on Wednesday and Thursday.

“The two leaders discussed various ways to advance denuclearization and economic driven concepts,” she added. “No agreement was reached at this time, but their respective teams look forward to meeting in the future.”

Trump tweeted a video montage of his Vietnam trip on Feb. 27, 2019, thanking “our generous hosts” President Nguyen Phu Trong and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and “the wonderful people of Vietnam” for his stay. Kim does not appear in any of the footage.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Chinook could have been a search and rescue legend

Search-and-rescue choppers have become legendary. Remember the Jolly Green Giants and Pave Hawks? Well, it turns out that there was another helicopter that almost joined those two in fame. Why it didn’t make it? Well, it’s a long story — and it had nothing to do with the chopper’s performance.


The Air Force had been looking to replace their search and rescue helicopter, the HH-60G Pave Hawk, in the 2000s. The program even had a name — Combat Search and Rescue, or CSAR-X. Three designs competed for that contract, one from Lockheed (based on the EH-101 helicopter, also used then as the basis for a Marine One replacement), one from Sikorsky (based on the S-92), and one from Boeing (the HH-47, based on the MH-47G, a special ops version of the CH-47F Chinook).

Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life
An Army CH-47 helicopter attached to the 159th Aviation Regiment lifts a Naval Special Warfare 11-meter rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) during a maritime external air transporation system training exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robyn Gerstenslager)

Boeing’s HH-47 won the contract, but Lockheed and Sikorsky protested the decision. Such protests aren’t exactly unusual  — the recent M17/M18 handgun contract drew a protest from the loser of that competition, too. Unlike the protest over the M17/M18, however, the Government Accountability Office upheld the protests and forced a re-do.

Well, the HH-47 won again. That’s when the politicians, including Senator John McCain, stepped in. All in all, the CSAR-X program never had a chance to get off the ground. In 2009, the HH-47 was cancelled by the Obama Administration. In 2013, the new Combat Rescue Helicopter program picked a joint Lockheed-Sikorsky design, the HH-60W, as a winner after other companies declined to bid.

Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life
Artist’s impression of Sikorsky’s HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter (Graphic from Lockheed Martin)

Did the Air Force miss out on a better helicopter due to the political maneuverings of the CSAR-X competition losers? A look at the specs on paper indicates the HH-47 would have offered higher speed, more range, and more capacity to evacuate wounded personnel. But by sticking with a version of the HH-60, however, the Air Force will not have to make major changes to logistics systems training programs. Much of this is speculation, however, as both Lockheed and Sikorsky reps declined to comment for this piece.

Interestingly enough, the South Korean Air Force uses a modified version of the CH-47D Chinook as a search and rescue platform, an aircraft very similar to the contract-winning HH-47. One has to wonder what it could have done in the hands of the United States Air Force.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Check out this spooky ‘No Time to Die’ trailer teaser

The first full trailer for the next James Bond film, No Time To Die, will be released on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. But for now, the official 007 Twitter account has teased the very first footage from Daniel Craig’s final outing as Bond. And, honestly, the movie looks a little spooky. But, it also confirms a huge reference to the Sean Connery years.

Featuring Bond walking in the shadows, and a mysterious monster-ish face behind glass, No Time To Die is keeping its thriller secrets close to its finely-tailored vest right now. The style and ominous tone of the trailer will also probably remind everyone a little bit that the new Bond film is directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, the same guy who directed the thrilling first season of True Detective. Here’s the brief tease:


Obviously, there’s a lot to love about this trailer. Perhaps the best thing is the fact that Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 is, once again, sporting some guns. And, this appears to be, for the most part, exactly the same spot where Sean Connery’s secret guns were hidden in his Aston Martin; right behind the headlights.

It should be noted, however, that so far, there are at least two separate classic cars confirmed for No Time To Die: the Aston Martin DB-5, but also, the Aston Martin V8, last driven by Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights

Expect a ton more Bond references in the new trailer in a few days. We’ll update this space with all the new info as our spies report back.

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

Articles

Sarah Palin is reportedly in the running to take over the VA

The woman who unsuccessfully ran for vice president on the ticket of Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain in 2008 may soon be in charge of the agency tasked with taking care of America’s veterans.


Several news reports indicate former Alaska governor and Republican VP pick Sarah Palin has been in discussions with the Donald Trump transition team in recent days to become the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

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(Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr)

A Palin aide told ABC News that the conservative firebrand had told Trump her “megaphone … can be used in a productive and positive way to help those desperately in need.”

Earlier reports indicated former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, a 30-year Army vet, had been in talks with the Trump camp about the job.

The reports on Palin don’t come out of left field, as the former governor has made veterans’ issues a major subject of her speeches across the country. In 2015, Palin addressed the massive Conservative Political Action Conference with a 30-minute speech devoted entirely to military and veterans issues.

“This bureaucracy is killing our vets,” Palin said of the VA in her CPAC speech. “They wait for months, they wait for years to get treatment at the VA, and they’re losing hope. The VA’s mistakes and coverups have cost the lives of over 500 vets in the last four years — and that doesn’t account for those who took their own lives.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the largest U.S. government agencies, with over 300,000 employees and a 2017 budget of $187 million.

Palin’s oldest son Track served in the Army with a combat tour to Iraq and her daughter Bristol is married to Medal of Honor recipient and former Marine Dakota Meyer

popular

This is what a silencer for howitzers looks like

For those moments when you absolutely, positively have to train your artillery but you don’t want to wake the local population, accept no substitutes. Yes, artillery silencers are a thing.


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Pictured without a gun to suppress. (photo from TheFirearmBlog)

These photos were taken at an artillery range in Germany. The vehicle using the giant suppressor is an M109G 155mm self-propelled howitzer. Apparently the locals don’t like the sound of freedom.

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The sides can be opened to allow the expansion of the muzzle blast. (photo from TheFirearmBlog)

A report from the Defense Technical Information Center reveals the U.S. Army has some silencers of its own, for both 105 mm and 120 mm to be used at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds.

Residents across Chesapeake Bay experience considerably louder noise than other nearby communities because the artillery’s blast sound is highly directional. Something had to be done.

The steel construction allows for it to be lifted into position and used when firing at a 30-degree elevation. But it cannot be attached to the turret, because tests showed it affected recoil and harm the turret barrel.

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Looks like a weird hammer to me. How about you? (photo from TheFirearmBlog)

The Firearm Blog also found a patent for a potential tank silencer, which would attach to the muzzle of the tank’s main turret.

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Seems cumbersome.

The holes on the silencer are kept as small as possible to keep the decibel levels lower, which is most effective behind and in front of the suppressor. The total cost of the construction is $100,000.

Silencers can reduce artillery noise by as much as 20 decibels, which may not seem like much, but is the difference between listening to your television and listening to your blender.

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