Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops

Russia held large-scale military exercises with troops from Belarus earlier this year, during which Moscow claimed more than 12,000 soldiers took part in a variety of drills in both countries.


The Zapad 2017 exercises fell short of many of the sinister elements observers thought they might include, but one aspect of the electronic-warfare component of the drills elicited surprise among NATO officials.

“The amount of jamming of their own troops surprised me. It was at a level we haven’t seen,” the chief of Estonia’s military intelligence, Col. Kaupo Rosin, told Defense News. “And they did it in the different branches, so land force, Air Force. That definitely surprised us.”

Rosin said Russia has an advantage in that its forces can switch to civilian electronic infrastructure within its own territory should their military electronic networks get jammed or become compromised.

“They tested [their own troops] to learn how to switch into their own cable network and not to emanate anymore, but to deal with the problem,” he said.

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops
Zapad 2017, at the Luzhsky training ground during the main stage of the Zapad-2017 joint Russian-Belarusian strategic exercises. (Image from Moscow Kremlin)

Estonia and its Baltic neighbors, Latvia and Lithuania, have warned about increasingly assertive Russian action along their shared borders. Estonia in particular has noticed increased Russian espionage activity.

The country’s intelligence service noted in its most recent annual report that:

The Russian special services are interested in both the collection of information and in influencing decisions important for Estonia. The Russian intelligence and security services conduct anti-Estonian influence operations, including psychological operations — in other words, influencing the defense forces and the general population of a potential enemy.

Rosin said NATO forces had a record of good communications, pointing to the bloc’s experience in Afghanistan and Iraq. But he noted that Russia is more capable than opponents faced in those countries, so NATO needs to look for new solutions and different ways to train its military leaders.

“We have to approach the problem as a complex problem — not just jamming, but also what other means can we use in order to disrupt the Russian communication system,” he told Defense News. “It probably includes some cyber activities.”

Baltic and British officials have said there is evidence of persistent Russian hacking efforts against European energy and telecommunications networks, as well as disinformation campaigns. Estonia itself hosted NATO’s biggest cyber-defense exercise this week, where “fictional scenarios [were] based on real threats,” a Estonian army officer said.

Rosin also said a foe with more robust electronic-warfare capabilities would require new ways of training officers to approach their commands. “If you have some limitations in communications, for example, how do you deal with that?” he said.

The military-intelligence chief cited Estonia’s military’s rapid troop call-up abilities and its relatively small size as potential advantages in a conflict, but, he added, communicating and coordinating with troops from other NATO members countries would complicate operations.

“When we are talking about the NATO command structure or different staff,” he told Defense News, “then I think the problem will kick in.”

Also Read: This is how Russia could sweep NATO from the Baltic Sea

NATO has itself assessed shortcomings in its command structure. An internal report seen by German news outlet Der Spiegal concluded that the alliance’s ability to rapidly deploy throughout Europe had “atrophied” since the Cold War ended.

The report recommended forming two new command centers: One to oversee the shipment of personnel and supplies to Europe, and another to oversee logistics operations in Europe. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in early November that the bloc’s defense ministers were set to approve a plan to create those commands.

Despite that change, Rosin said there remained operational and strategic challenges to NATO capabilities as well as questions about the bloc’s ability to deter threats.

Russia has advantages in time, personnel, and territory in which to operate, and Moscow would try to thwart a NATO military response, he said, noting vulnerabilities created by the Suwalki Gap and sea lines of communication.

“So the danger for us is if the Russians for some reason come to the conclusion that they might get away with some type of action in our region, then there is … [the possibility that they] might do some miscalculation and start something, which we don’t want,” he told Defense News. “In order to keep that under control, then our military posture must be adequate and the plans must be adequate. [Russia is asking]: Is really NATO coming to help or not?”

Russian action in Ukraine in 2014 and its continued involvement there — and NATO’s response to it — have been cause for concern in Eastern Europe, the Baltics in particular.

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops
Ukrainian internal police at a massive pro-EU rally in Kiev, Ukraine. (Photo by Ivan Bandura.)

Earlier this year, Lithuania’s defense minister told The Guardian that his country was “taking very seriously” Russian threats to Batlic stability, drawing parallels between propaganda about Lithuania emanating from Moscow and events preceding Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

NATO has increased its troop and equipment deployment to the region in recent months to reassure allies there. (Lithuania has said it wants a permanent U.S. troop presence there.)

In June 2016, US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolts practiced takeoffs and landings on an Estonian highway for the first time since 1984. Russian and NATO aircraft have also come into increasingly close contact in the skies over the Baltics in recent years.

Overall, Rosin said, NATO had improved is posture in relation to Russia. Asked about his 2015 comments that Moscow was playing hockey while everyone else was figure skating, he struck an optimistic tone.

“I’m not sure if we are in the same hockey league with the Russians. Definitely not yet,” he told Defense News. “We are in a good way, but there is a lot of room for improvement.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everybody involved in that dino puppet reenlistment video just got fired

In the worst military overreaction since the Faber College ROTC pledge pin incident of 1962, the Tennessee National Guard’s adjutant general announced April 18, 2018, that everyone involved in a recent viral video of a kooky reenlistment ceremony would have their careers wrecked, because that’s how you honor our military traditions, dammit.


The controversy revolved around an Air National Guard master sergeant in the Volunteer State who took her oath of reenlistment with a tyrannosaurus rex hand puppet mouthing her words. The internet being the internet, video of the ceremony got around, and some watchers decided it just wasn’t in keeping with the highest traditions of service… unlike all that readily available online imagery of service members reenlisting as imperial stormtroopers; at gunpoint; underwater; in gas chambers; in GameStops; or with rigged-up explosions behind them.

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops

Unlike all those clearly well-intentioned, lighthearted reenlistments, this sinister dino-puppet thing “goes against our very foundation,” according to the Air National Guard’s commanding general. That grave assessment led to this not-at-all bonkers Facebook post from Maj. Gen. Terry M. Haston, the Tennessee Guard’s top cheese, announcing that the master sergeant with the puppet, the colonel who administered the oath to her, and the NCO who acted as cameraman are all fucked, absolutely and utterly fucked (emphasis added):

I am absolutely embarrassed that a senior officer and a senior NCO took such liberties with a time-honored military tradition. The Tennessee National Guard holds the Oath of Enlistment in the highest esteem because that oath signifies every service member’s commitment to defend our state, nation and the freedoms we all enjoy. Not taking this oath solemnly and with the utmost respect is firmly against the traditions and sanctity of our military family and will not be tolerated…
Over the past few days, the leadership of the Tennessee National Guard has conducted a thorough investigation of the event with the following results:
The Colonel (O-6) administering the oath was immediately retired at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (O-5).
The Senior NCO taking the oath has been removed from her full-time position with the Tennessee Joint Public Affairs Office and other administrative actions are underway.
The Senior NCO who recorded the event has been removed from his position as a unit First Sergeant and has received an official reprimand, but will be retained in the Tennessee Air National Guard…

Let’s get this straight: A colonel was reduced in rank and sent packing, a senior enlisted leader who was reupping is now being drummed out, and the dude with the camera lost his billet and career momentum. Because of a dinosaur hand puppet.

MIGHTY TRENDING

B-52 bomber is getting a massive weapons update

The Air Force is giving its historic B-52 bomber a massive weapons enhancement by engineering an upgrade to the aircraft’s internal weapons bay, which promises to substantially enhance its attack mission options.


The 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade, or IWBU, will allow the B-52 to internally carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” bombs in addition to carrying six on pylons under each wing. This initiative not only increases the weapons delivery capacity for the bomber but also enables it to accommodate a wider swath of modern weapons.

IWBU uses a digital interface and a rotary launcher to increase the weapons payload, service officials said.

Also read: What happens when lightning tears a giant hole in the tail of a B-52

“The B-52 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade provides internal J-series (smart) weapons capability through modification of Common Strategic Rotary Launchers and upgrade of aircraft software,” Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Emily Grabowski told Warrior Maven.

The B-52 has previously been able to carry JDAM weapons externally, but with the IWBU, the aircraft will be able to internally house some of the most cutting-edge, precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, among others.

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops
(U.S. Air Force by Tech. Sgt. Robert J. Horstman)

Air Force weapons developers have told Warrior Maven that the IWBU effort will bring a 66-percent increase in carriage capability for the B-52.

Service developers also explain that having an increased internal weapons bay capability affords an opportunity to increase fuel-efficiency by removing bombs from beneath the wings and reducing drag.

The move is a key modernization step for the Air Force which, for many known reasons, no longer views the B-52 in its historic role as a “carpet bombing” aircraft. The demands and challenges of modern warfare, both counterinsurgency as well as the possible force of large-scale mechanized warfare, now require precision. This weapons upgrade will help expedite the integration of an even larger arsenal of precision-guided or (smart) weapons, as Grabowski explained.

Related: How the 65-year old B-52 Stratofortress just keeps getting better with age

While the B-52 can, of course, still blanket an area with bombs should it need to do so, more likely challenges in a modern threat environment would doubtless use long-range sensors, guided weapons, or even lasers to achieve both greater standoff and precision in possible engagements.

Also, given that the size and “not-so-stealthy” configuration of the B-52, it is primarily intended to operate in areas where the US Air Force already has air supremacy. Longer range, more precise Russian-built air defenses would also be expected to pose a significant threat to even high-altitude bombing missions.

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops
A United States Air Force Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. (USAF photo)

Given the fast pace of advances in command and control technology, manned-unmanned teaming, and artificial intelligence, it is entirely feasible that manned bombers, such as the B-52, will soon be able to control nearby drones from the air. (A former Air Force Chief Scientist discussed this at great length in previous interviews with Warrior Maven.)

The first increment of IWBU integrates an internal weapons bay ability to fire a laser-guided JDAM. A second increment, to finish by 2022, will integrate more modern or cutting-edge weapons such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, JASSM Extended Range (ER) and a technology called Miniature Air Launched Decoy, or MALD. A MALD-J “jammer” variant, which will also be integrated into the B-52, can be used to jam enemy radar technologies as well.

More: This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

Engineers are now equipping all 76 of the Air Force B-52s with digital data-links, moving-map displays, next-generation avionics, new radios, and an ability to both carry more weapons internally and integrate new, high-tech weapons as they emerge, service officials said.

The technical structure and durability of the B-52 airframes in the Air Force fleet are described as extremely robust and able to keep flying well into the 2040s and beyond – so the service is taking steps to ensure the platform stays viable by receiving the most current and effective avionics, weapons, and technologies, Air Force weapons developers told Warrior Maven over the course of multiple interviews with program managers in recent years

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump says it could take years for N. Korea to give up nukes

U.S. President Donald Trump, who in early 2018 demanded that North Korea swiftly give up its nuclear weapons, has said that it could take years to achieve those results in negotiations.

“I think we’re really going to do something that’s going to be very important, but we’re not playing the time game,” Trump told a news conference in New York. “If it takes two years, three years, or five months — doesn’t matter.”


Trump’s comments came as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was making plans to visit Pyongyang again in October 2018 to prepare for a second summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump held an unprecedented first summit with Kim in Singapore on June 12, 2018, that yielded a broad pledge by Kim to “work toward” denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Trump said afterward he expected results within months.

Since then, however, Kim’s actions have fallen far short of Washington’s demands, which range from providing a complete inventory of North Korea’s nuclear weapons to taking irreversible steps to give up its nuclear arsenal.

Despite the lack of progress, Trump has boasted repeatedly of having “a wonderful relationship” with Kim and said he expects the two to eventually clinch a deal.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This year’s Memorial Day concert honors Vietnam veterans

PBS’s multi award-winning National Memorial Day Concert returns live from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol for a special 30th anniversary broadcast hosted by Tony Award-winner Joe Mantegna. The 30th annual broadcast of the concert airs live on PBS Sunday, May 26, 2019, from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m., before a concert audience of hundreds of thousands, millions more at home, as well as to our troops serving around the world on the American Forces Network.

A 30-year tradition unlike anything else on television, America’s national night of remembrance takes us back to the real meaning of the holiday through personal stories interwoven with musical performances by the National Symphony Orchestra and guest artists.

The 2019 anniversary edition of the concert will feature Vietnam Valor and Brotherhood — brought to life by long-time friends acclaimed actor Dennis Haysbert and Joe Mantegna.


Fifty years since the height of the Vietnam War, the painful memories from their service remain fresh for many of its veterans. In 1969, our soldiers continued to fulfill their duty and carry out the missions their country asked of them. As part of a special 50th anniversary commemoration to honor the service and sacrifice of Vietnam War veterans and to thank them, the concert will share the story of two infantrymen — Ernest “Pete” Peterson (Haysbert) and Brad Kennedy (Mantegna) — who formed a brotherhood while serving in Vietnam and now meet each year at the Vietnam Wall where they remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Valor and Brotherhood

www.youtube.com

Other features include the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion — featuring a performance by Academy Award-nominated actor Sam Elliott and A Gold Star Widow’s Journey — portrayed by television series star Jaina Lee Ortiz.

For Gold Star families, every day is Memorial Day. This year, the concert will share the journey of one widow — Ursula Palmer (Ortiz) — beginning with the day her worst fears came true, just two weeks before her husband was due to return home. While “moving on” from this devastating loss was not possible, Palmer knew that for the sake of her daughter she would have to learn to move forward. Along the way she found solace and empowerment by co-founding a new chapter of Gold Star Wives, a virtual chapter for post 9/11 widows and widowers, and by helping wounded veterans and their families.

The all-star line-up also includes: distinguished American leader General Colin L. Powell USA (Ret.); Grammy Award-winning legend Patti LaBelle; multi-platinum selling singer, performer and songwriter Gavin DeGraw; Broadway and television star Christopher Jackson; multi-Grammy Award-winning bluegrass icon Alison Krauss; SAG and Olivier Award-winning and Grammy Award-nominated actress and singer Amber Riley; multi-platinum-selling country music star Justin Moore; and Patrick Lundy The Ministers of Music; in performance with the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of top pops conductor Jack Everly (additional performers to be announced). The 2019 National Memorial Day Concert will share Lambert’s story of bravery and pay tribute to heroes who sacrificed and died in service to our nation and the world.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The harrowing true story of a US soldier who was shot 13 times

U.S. Army Specialist Jay Strobino was with his team in Rushdi Mullah, a small farming village in Iraq’s infamous Triangle of Death, on Feb. 1, 2006. They were there on a mission to grab a suspected enemy insurgent. Everything was going according to plan as they searched the house — no surprises.

That all changed when a truck full of insurgents rolled into the opposite side of town and pinned down a corner of their outer cordon. Strobino was about to be in the firefight of his life.


Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops

The “Triangle of Death” became infamous during the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

(Image courtesy of the US Army Center for Military History.)

Strobino, along with three others, made their way to the corner. He killed one of the insurgents who was trying to make it across the road; the resulting break in fire allowed him and his team to run across the street, closer to where the other enemy combatants were.

His team snuck behind a row of houses, where Strobino shot another insurgent through a window of an adjacent house. They then moved to the house that the remainder of the insurgents were behind. With his SAW gunner on the rooftop of the last building, Strobino and two others maneuvered to the back of the property.

Behind the house, there was a shed and a fence surrounded by bushes. Strobino was the first to scale it but not without some difficulty.

“When I got over, I saw two insurgents spaced about 10 to 15 feet apart, facing away from me. I held my aim but didn’t want to fire because everyone else I shot that day wouldn’t die, and we were taking up to 15 rounds to stop [them from] advancing or firing,” he said. Insurgents in Iraq were known to take drugs before going into battle that would often allow them to keep fighting even after suffering mortal wounds.

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops

U.S. Army Specialist Jay Stobino in Iraq.

(Photo courtesy of Jay Strobino.)

So he stayed put for the moment, waiting on his teammate to get over the fence, but his teammate kept getting caught. The two insurgents Strobino had zeroed in on turned to face him, and he was forced to fire. Fortunately, his squad leader soon made it over the fence and was able to join in the fight.

There was still another insurgent left, though. He was aiming his AK-47 around the front corner of the house, firing back at Strobino and his squad leader. In response, his squad leader threw a grenade, and their team followed after.

“I ran to the front corner of the building and peered around. His weapon was up and out of the front doorway. I put my weapon on burst and turned the corner, hoping to grab his barrel,” he said.

The enemy fighter heard them coming and had already started moving toward Strobino and his other teammates when he came around the corner. Strobino pulled the trigger, sending the target to the floor; however, the target fired back.

Strobino was hit, and it was bad.

“My leg was broken and my ulnar nerve was hit in my arm,” he said, “and I lost control of my right hand.”

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops

Strabino in the hospital after suffering 13 bullet wounds in a firefight in Iraq.

(Photo courtesy of Jay Strabino.)

The two soldiers with him had taken cover behind a truck, and Strobino planned to throw a grenade. But the moment he pulled it out, the insurgent threw his own over the truck where his team was positioned and came out firing. He sprayed his weapon again, hitting Strobino a second time.

“At this point, I thought everyone was dead and I was immobilized. But my squad leader called out my name — I couldn’t believe it. I threw my grenade over to him so he could arm it and toss it around the corner,” Strobino said.

But the grenade didn’t kill the insurgent, and with his condition quickly deteriorating, getting Strobino out of there became the priority. The other members of his team pulled him behind the building. His platoon sergeant and his radiotelephone operator (RTO) moved up, bandaged him, pulled security, and called for a medevac.

The insurgent was still in the house. A second team threw multiple grenades into the home before going in. Two of those soldiers took rounds; one of them died on the medevac back to Baghdad. After that, they called in Apaches to finish the job, blowing up the house.

Strobino’s condition was so dire that his parents were nearly summoned in fear that he wouldn’t make it home. He immediately went under the knife and had surgeries every 12 to 24 hours. From Iraq, he was flown to Germany for two weeks and eventually back to the U.S., where a long road of recovery awaited him.

Strobino had been shot a total of 13 times, and it cost him more than just blood. “I lost a large portion of my right femur and couldn’t walk on that leg for six months,” Strobino said. “I lost a lot of that quad group as well.”

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops

A portion of the wounds Strobino received during the firefight.

(Photo courtesy of Jay Strobino.)

He had to teach his brain how to perform small physical tasks again. He got winded standing at the side of his bed while two people held him. Fortunately, the great people at places like the VA hospital in Augusta, Georgia, and the Fisher House helped him pull through.

“The Fisher House is like a Ronald McDonald house for wounded vets,” Strobino said. “It’s practically five-star accommodations for the family members of a wounded veteran that are recovering at the adjacent hospital. The family has their own private room. There’s a huge shared kitchen, laundry room, dining rooms, relaxing rooms. Everything is handicap accessible. And the families stay there free of charge.

“It helps the veteran because they can have family there while they are trying to recover,” he continued. “And it also helps the families because they are living in an area with other families going through similar situations. They can all empathize and help each other out.”

At the end of 2006, Strobino was awarded a Silver Star for his valor in combat. The citation reads:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918 (amended by an act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Specialist Jay Christopher Strobino, United States Army, for exceptionally meritorious achievement and exemplary service as a Team Leader in 3d Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 502d Infantry Regiment, 2d Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), attached to the 4th Infantry Division, during combat operations in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, on a mission on 1 February 2006 in Rushdi Mulla, Iraq. Specialist Strobino’s exceptional dedication to mission accomplishment, tactical and technical competence, and unparalleled ability to perform under fire and while injured, contributed immeasurably to the success of his unit in Rushdi Mulla, Iraq, and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and the United States Army.

“The absolute biggest thing is to stay positive,” he said, in regard to facing an unexpected challenge. “Surround yourself with positive people and feed off each other’s energy. Know that you’re not going to be able to do it alone, and it’s not going to be easy. But be sure to celebrate each small victory.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

Imagine the worst happens. The person you have loved, your service member spouse, dies. Maybe you have been married for ten years. Or maybe you have been married for fifty years. But you navigated the craziness of military life together only to be told you need to forfeit your Survivor Benefit Plan, the money meant to help you survive this time. This was a part of your deceased service member’s well-planned safety net for you, and the government has yanked it away at your most fragile moment.

It’s called the Widow’s Tax. But it’s not a tax.


Learn more about it here. The date on the article: 2016. But you’ll find articles and editorials on this topic for many years. No one has solved the problem beyond slapping band-aids on it.

No one is getting rich off of the government here. We’re talking widows and widowers whose lives could be greatly impacted by losing the up-to-$15,000 a year in payments they should be (but aren’t) receiving. And the widows and widowers behind trying to correct this error, they are only asking that we change it from now forward. They are not asking to get the hundreds of thousands of dollars back that some of them are owed. You read right: widows and widowers fighting for money that is owed to them.

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops
These are the families who are impacted by the Widow’s Tax.

Why hasn’t this problem been solved?

There are about 64,000 surviving spouses who are impacted by the Widow’s Tax. It’s a relatively small group, and that makes solving the offset harder because it can be easily dismissed.

These military spouses didn’t come from a generation of hashtags. They didn’t have the Internet to organize as a group for some time. They were in a Widow’s Fog when it came to sign papers. And, when they learned about this offset, they probably thought it would be quickly remedied because: why would anyone think two programs that are entirely not related would require forfeiting monies for an annuity they paid into for years? It certainly wasn’t mentioned when their spouse paid into it.

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops
These are the families who are impacted by the Widow’s Tax.

No. They were not told.

According to the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), a strong supporter of repealing the SBP-DIC offset: No other federal surviving spouse is required to forfeit his or her federal annuity because military service caused his or her sponsor’s death. Additionally, the offset does not apply to surviving military children. Only to the spouse.

Oddly, it also does not apply to widows or widowers who remarry on or after the age of 57.

In fact, the whole situation is odd and why it hasn’t been fixed, that’s the oddest part of all.

These military spouses have been waiting long enough. Now we must all get behind them. #repealwidowstax

This is the call to action!

Call Senators and ask them to cosponsor SA2411 an amendment to the Defense Budget Bill for 2019 with language identical to S.339. This amendment has the same language as S.339. This would eliminate the Widow’s Tax, which is the only insurance one purchases and then is legally prohibited from collecting. This impacts all active duty line of duty deaths and disabled military retirees who purchased SBP, whose SBP is reduced dollar for dollar by DIC, indemnity compensation paid by the VA as a small reparation and to indemnify or hold harmless the government for causing the death.

Here’s how to contact your Senator.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army is looking for ways to keep generals from misbehaving

Struggling with an embarrassing series of misconduct and behavior problems among senior officers, the Army is putting together new mental health, counseling, and career management programs to shape stronger, more ethical leaders.


The programs stem from a broader worry across the military about the need to bolster professionalism within the officer corps while holding accountable those who abuse their power. The Army plan appears to focus more on building character than berating bad conduct.

In recent years, general officers from the one-star to four-star level have violated the military code of conduct they’ve lived under and enforced — often for decades. Some infractions involved extramarital affairs, inappropriate relationships with subordinates, or improper use of government funds.

Also read: This is why ‘General Butt Naked’ was the most feared warlord in Liberia

“The idea that we’ll be perfect, I think, is unrealistic, but we can be better and we strive to be better,” said Lt. Gen. Ed Cardon, tasked by the Army’s top officer to review the problem and devise ways to strengthen the senior officer corps. “Competence is no longer enough. Character is as or even more important.”

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops
Maj. Gen. John G. Rossi, Feb. 11, 2015. Photo by David Vergun.

Among the incidents fueling the order was the suicide of Maj. Gen. John Rossi shortly before he was to become lieutenant general and assume control of Space and Missile Defense Command. Army leaders worry they missed opportunities to deal with the high levels of stress and self-doubt that reportedly led Rossi to hang himself.

In the past nine months, the Army found two senior officers guilty of misconduct, forcing them out of their jobs and demoting them as they retired. One lost two stars; the other lost three.

“We recognized senior executive leaders, with varying amounts of stress, lacked a holistic program that focuses on comprehensive health,” said Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s chief of staff. The military has strived to combat stress disorders, suicide, and other problems, he said, but the focus often has been on enlisted troops or lower-ranking officers.

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops
General Mark Milley. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Marisol Walker.

A new emphasis on senior leaders is needed, he said.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Cardon said several pilot programs have started and others are under discussion.

The Army, he said, needs to better help officers manage stress, organize calendars, make time for physical fitness, take time off, and reach out to mentors or coaches for support.

Cardon said a key effort is finding ways to build self-control and self-awareness, ensuring officers and their families can quickly recognize and deal with problems that arise. Ethical behavior should be reinforced.

More reading: That time a Navy admiral left Marines hanging during a Japanese attack

“Most generals are very good at morphing themselves,” Cardon said. “They can be with the troops and they present this persona. They can be with the secretary and they present that persona. They’re very good at it and they get even better. The challenge is how do you uncover all that, and I think this is where that self-awareness, self-control, self-mastery has to help us out.”

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops
Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon. Photo by David Vergun.

Accurate numbers of senior Army leaders who have been disciplined or fired from a job for bad behavior are limited and unreliable. Some officers quietly retire or move to a different post, sometimes with an official reprimand in the file. Or sometimes without.

In response to a request for data, the Army said there have been nine general officers “relieved of duty” among active duty, the National Guard, and Army Reserves since 2012. Two high-profile cases in which senior officers were forced out and demoted weren’t included in those statistics due to complicated legal or administrative reasons, making it clear the numbers underestimate the problem.

One pilot program, said Cardon, creates a one-stop health care facility replacing the military’s often far-flung, disjointed, multistep system. It’s modeled after executive clinics that take a more in-depth, holistic approach to medical care.

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops
Gen. Arthur Lichte. The US Air Force has stripped retired Gen. Arthur Lichte of two ranks and docked a portion of his retirement pay due to sexual misconduct. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse.

Other ideas focus on time management, encouraging high-level officers to take longer vacations. He said every general should take 10 to 14 uninterrupted days off each year to unplug, breaking with a military culture making them believe they’re too important to disconnect.

On schedules, officers would be urged not to overbook themselves. Packing their calendars with events all day and every evening can increase stress and make it difficult to prioritize.

The role that chaplains, mentors, executive coaches, and colleagues can play is being studied, and how individual or group discussions might help.

Too often, three-star and four-star generals working as base commanders are posted in remote locations around the world and have few or no equals in rank to socialize with or ask for advice. They can become isolated, ego-driven, or surrounded by subordinates afraid to challenge them on inappropriate behavior.

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops
Army Maj. Gen. Wayne W. Grigsby. Grigsby has since been demoted by the Army and forced to retire after an investigation determined that he had an inappropriate relationship with a junior officer. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie.

A possibility, said Cardon, are programs strengthening officers’ relationships with spouses, who often notice problems first. Ninety percent of the approximately 330 active duty generals are married, he said.

Army officials stress only a minority of general officers are problems.

“We have tolerated people doing things they shouldn’t be doing because we say all of them are extremely competent and really good at what they do. And that’s not good enough now because you’re not only damaging yourself, you’re damaging the institution,” Cardon said. “We have great trust with the American people, every time one of these things happens, you’re putting a nick in that.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team started arriving in Europe this week for a nine-month rotation as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The 2nd ABCT’s rotation is the fifth one by an armored brigade in support of Atlantic Resolve, which started in 2014 to show US commitment to Europe’s defense after Russia’s interference in Ukraine.

But the unit is the first “in recent memory” to use the port of Vlissingen in the Netherlands, where soldiers, Army civilians, and local workers started unloading the first of three shipments of equipment early on Oct. 11, 2019.


Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops

A 2nd ABCT soldier directs an M1A2 Abrams tank as vehicles are offloaded at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 11, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

Armored units deployed for Atlantic Resolve rotations are typically stationed in Germany or elsewhere in Eastern Europe and have in the past arrived at ports closer to their bases.

But the 2nd ABCT’s arrival at Vlissingen — like that of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team at the nearby port of Antwerp last spring — is part of an Army effort to practice navigating Europe’s bureaucratic and geographic terrain.

NATO has been trying to operate out of more ports in Europe since around 2015, according to Ben Hodges, who led the US Army in Europe between 2014 and 2017.

There was a need to “to reestablish capabilities in all these ports” and “to demonstrate that we could come [into Europe] at a variety of different places,” Hodges, who is a retired lieutenant general, told Business Insider in 2018.

Vlissingen is the “first main juncture point” for the 2nd ABCT’s current deployment, and its troops and gear will arrive at ports in Poland, Latvia, Belgium, Greece, and Romania throughout October, the Army said in a release.

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops

First Lt. Quanzel Caston, a unit movement officer with the 2nd ABCT, examines M1A2 Abrams tanks at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 11, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

In total, the unit will deploy about 3,500 soldiers, 85 tanks, 120 Bradley fighting vehicles, 15 Paladin self-propelled howitzers, 500 tracked vehicles, 1,200 wheeled vehicles and pieces of equipment, and 300 trailers.

Massing forces across the Atlantic Resolve area of operation “displays the US Army’s readiness, cross-border military mobility and speed of assembly,” the release said.

The Army’s 598th Transportation Brigade will move the 2nd ABCT’s gear a variety of ways, including by “low-barge, rail-head, line-haul and convoy operations.”

It’s the first time the Army has used a low-barge inland cargo ship to transport tracked armored vehicles across Europe for Atlantic Resolve.

“The significance of using the low-barge is it enhances readiness in the European region by introducing another method of movement to the Atlantic Resolve mission,” said Cpl. Dustin Jobe, noncommissioned officer in charge of lifting provisions for the 647th Expeditionary Terminal Operations Element.

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops

Sgt. Julian Blodgett, a senior mechanic with the 2nd ABCT directs an M1A2 Abrams tank for loading on a low-barge cargo ship at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

‘Better than it was’

The US Army in Europe shrank after the Cold War. Since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014, however, the Army has beefed up its presence with exercises along NATO’s eastern flank and back-to-back rotations of armored units.

But returning to Europe in force has highlighted NATO’s problems getting around the continent, where customs rules and regulations, insufficient infrastructure, and shortages of transports for heavy vehicles inhibit movement.

These obstacles would present issues for any peacetime mobilization effort and led NATO to conclude in a 2017 internal report that its ability to rapidly deploy around Europe had “atrophied since the end of the Cold War.”

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops

A local contractor attaches lift chains to an M1A2 Abrams tank for lowering into a low-barge ship at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

European countries, working through the European Union and NATO, have sought to reduce or eliminate the hurdles.

A new NATO command based in Germany now oversees the movement of alliance forces in Europe, and the EU has set up Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO, to address security issues by “integrating and strengthening defence cooperation within the EU framework.”

The logistical skills of the US and its NATO allies will face their biggest test yet next year, during Defender 2020 in Europe — the US Army’s largest exercise in Europe in 25 years. It will range across 10 countries and involve 37,000 troops from at least 18 countries.

The point of Defender 2020 “is to practice the reinforcement of US forces in Europe for the purposes of collective defense of the alliance,” Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the head of US Army Europe, said on Monday during a panel hosted by Defense One at the Association of the US Army’s annual conference in Washington, DC.

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops

A 2nd ABCT M1A2 Abram tank is raised over the pier at Vlissingen to be lowered onto a low-barge ship for transportation to another location in Europe, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

“That’s something that requires practice, because you’re moving large forces great distances through complicated infrastructure and across a variety of different national lines,” Cavoli added.

“We call this strategic readiness, the ability to strategically deploy and to project a force,” he said. “It’s a significant concatenation of small things that have to go right in order to do this well.”

Asked about Europe’s railways, which vary in rail size and have differing regulations, Cavoli said there were procedural and infrastructural issues that had to be addressed.

“Procedurally, we’ve made a great deal of progress across the alliance. Some countries, they’ve relaxed some of their restrictions, shortening the notification times required,” Cavoli said. “We, as an alliance, have gotten much more practice scheduling and moving and loading rail, and we’re able to move very, very quickly across great distances.”

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops

US Army Reserve Cpl. Dustin Jobe watches a 2nd ABCT M1A2 Abram tank as it’s raised over the pier to be lowered onto a low-barge ship for transport elsewhere in Europe, at Vlissingen, Netherlands Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

But infrastructural problems remain, Cavoli said, pointing specifically to a difference in rail gauge between Poland and Lithuania. But Lithuania plans to buy dual-gauge rail cars for heavy equipment, Cavoli added.

“In addition to that, across the alliance, there’ve been some challenges with bridge classification, with the strength of rail heads … can it take a tank driving off a train there?” Cavoli said. “The EU has really stepped in using prioritized … shopping lists, prioritized by NATO, and it has been investing throughout the alliance in mobility infrastructure.”

Cavoli said recent exercises had exposed challenges to mobility but had also prompted NATO members “to get after those challenges. So I think we’re in a fairly good place right now.”

Asked to assign the alliance a letter grade for mobility, Cavoli demurred, saying only that it’s “better than it was previously.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

New leadership course brings officers closer to the fire

The Field Artillery Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC) implemented a new change to its capstone exercise, Red Leg War, giving students a more realistic experience before entering their respective units.

This change now allows students to approach the impact zone while calling in fires during the Fires Support Coordination Exercise.


“We want them to have the experience of fires impacting much closer than they have in the past,” said Lt. Col. Terry Hilt, 1st Battalion, 30th Field Artillery commander. “They will now be able to potentially walk through the craters as they move from objective to objective.

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops

Field Artillery Basic Officer Leader Course students conduct a walk-through of the impact zone during a fire support coordination exercise (FSCX) Jan. 17, 2019, at Fort Sill.

(Photo by Daniel Malta, Fort Sill Public Affairs)

“We have a safety on Dailey Hill counting rounds as the lane [of soldiers] advances,” he said. “We also have an EOD [Explosive Ordnance Disposal] team out there.”

If a round doesn’t explode and it’s in the path of the soldiers, then the lane is stopped and the EOD team takes care of the unexploded ordnance, Hilt said.

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops

2nd Lt. Anderson Simmons approaches the impact area Jan. 17. He and his classmates graduated Jan. 23, 2019, to become the Army’s newest field artillery officers.

(Photo by Daniel Malta, Fort Sill Public Affairs)

In the past, after planning, briefing and rehearsing, students had been brought to an observation point where they would call in fires on designated targets.

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops

Field Artillery Basic Officer Leader Course students do a quick huddle as they approach the impact zone Jan. 17, 2019.

(Photo by Daniel Malta, Fort Sill Public Affairs)

Now, students get to fully realize the effects of that planning by getting as close as 750 meters from impacting rounds, while simultaneously calling in fire from mobile positions.

This also allows students to more realistically adapt their fire commands while moving to contact, and exposes them to the devastating effects of those artillery rounds, Hilt said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA just pulled the plug on the Mars rover

One of the most successful and enduring feats of interplanetary exploration, NASA’s Opportunity rover mission is at an end after almost 15 years exploring the surface of Mars and helping lay the groundwork for NASA’s return to the Red Planet.

The Opportunity rover stopped communicating with Earth when a severe Mars-wide dust storm blanketed its location in June 2018. After more than a thousand commands to restore contact, engineers in the Space Flight Operations Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) made their last attempt to revive Opportunity Feb. 12, 2019, to no avail. The solar-powered rover’s final communication was received June 10, 2019.


“It is because of trailblazing missions such as Opportunity that there will come a day when our brave astronauts walk on the surface of Mars,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “And when that day arrives, some portion of that first footprint will be owned by the men and women of Opportunity, and a little rover that defied the odds and did so much in the name of exploration.”

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops

Designed to last just 90 Martian days and travel 1,100 yards (1,000 meters), Opportunity vastly surpassed all expectations in its endurance, scientific value and longevity. In addition to exceeding its life expectancy by 60 times, the rover traveled more than 28 miles (45 kilometers) by the time it reached its most appropriate final resting spot on Mars – Perseverance Valley.

“For more than a decade, Opportunity has been an icon in the field of planetary exploration, teaching us about Mars’ ancient past as a wet, potentially habitable planet, and revealing uncharted Martian landscapes,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Whatever loss we feel now must be tempered with the knowledge that the legacy of Opportunity continues – both on the surface of Mars with the Curiosity rover and InSight lander – and in the clean rooms of JPL, where the upcoming Mars 2020 rover is taking shape.”

The final transmission, sent via the 70-meter Mars Station antenna at NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Complex in California, ended a multifaceted, eight-month recovery strategy in an attempt to compel the rover to communicate.

“We have made every reasonable engineering effort to try to recover Opportunity and have determined that the likelihood of receiving a signal is far too low to continue recovery efforts,” said John Callas, manager of the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) project at JPL.

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops

The dramatic image of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity’s shadow was taken on sol 180 (July 26, 2004) by the rover’s front hazard-avoidance camera as the rover moved farther into Endurance Crater in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars.

(NASA)

Opportunity landed in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars on Jan. 24, 2004, seven months after its launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Its twin rover, Spirit, landed 20 days earlier in the 103-mile-wide (166-kilometer-wide) Gusev Crater on the other side of Mars. Spirit logged almost 5 miles (8 kilometers) before its mission wrapped up in May 2011.

From the day Opportunity landed, a team of mission engineers, rover drivers and scientists on Earth collaborated to overcome challenges and get the rover from one geologic site on Mars to the next. They plotted workable avenues over rugged terrain so that the 384-pound (174-kilogram) Martian explorer could maneuver around and, at times, over rocks and boulders, climb gravel-strewn slopes as steep as 32-degrees (an off-Earth record), probe crater floors, summit hills and traverse possible dry riverbeds. Its final venture brought it to the western limb of Perseverance Valley.

“I cannot think of a more appropriate place for Opportunity to endure on the surface of Mars than one called Perseverance Valley,” said Michael Watkins, director of JPL. “The records, discoveries and sheer tenacity of this intrepid little rover is testament to the ingenuity, dedication, and perseverance of the people who built and guided her.”

More Opportunity achievements

  • Set a one-day Mars driving record March 20, 2005, when it traveled 721 feet (220 meters).
  • Returned more than 217,000 images, including 15 360-degree color panoramas.
  • Exposed the surfaces of 52 rocks to reveal fresh mineral surfaces for analysis and cleared 72 additional targets with a brush to prepare them for inspection with spectrometers and a microscopic imager.
  • Found hematite, a mineral that forms in water, at its landing site.
  • Discovered strong indications at Endeavour Crater of the action of ancient water similar to the drinkable water of a pond or lake on Earth.

All of the off-roading and on-location scientific analyses were in service of the Mars Exploration Rovers’ primary objective: To seek out historical evidence of the Red Planet’s climate and water at sites where conditions may once have been favorable for life. Because liquid water is required for life, as we know it, Opportunity’s discoveries implied that conditions at Meridiani Planum may have been habitable for some period of time in Martian history.

Opportunity: NASA Rover Completes Mars Mission

www.youtube.com

“From the get-go, Opportunity delivered on our search for evidence regarding water,” said Steve Squyres, principal investigator of the rovers’ science payload at Cornell University. “And when you combine the discoveries of Opportunity and Spirit, they showed us that ancient Mars was a very different place from Mars today, which is a cold, dry, desolate world. But if you look to its ancient past, you find compelling evidence for liquid water below the surface and liquid water at the surface.”

All those accomplishments were not without the occasional extraterrestrial impediment. In 2005 alone, Opportunity lost steering to one of its front wheels, a stuck heater threatened to severely limit the rover’s available power, and a Martian sand ripple almost trapped it for good. Two years later, a two-month dust storm imperiled the rover before relenting. In 2015, Opportunity lost use of its 256-megabyte flash memory and, in 2017, it lost steering to its other front wheel.

Each time the rover faced an obstacle, Opportunity’s team on Earth found and implemented a solution that enabled the rover to bounce back. However, the massive dust storm that took shape in the summer of 2018 proved too much for history’s most senior Mars explorer.

“When I think of Opportunity, I will recall that place on Mars where our intrepid rover far exceeded everyone’s expectations,” Callas said. “But what I suppose I’ll cherish most is the impact Opportunity had on us here on Earth. It’s the accomplished exploration and phenomenal discoveries. It’s the generation of young scientists and engineers who became space explorers with this mission. It’s the public that followed along with our every step. And it’s the technical legacy of the Mars Exploration Rovers, which is carried aboard Curiosity and the upcoming Mars 2020 mission. Farewell, Opportunity, and well done.”

Mars exploration continues unabated. NASA’s InSight lander, which touched down on Nov. 26, is just beginning its scientific investigations. The Curiosity rover has been exploring Gale Crater for more than six years. And, NASA’s Mars 2020 rover and the European Space Agency’s ExoMars rover both will launch in July 2020, becoming the first rover missions designed to seek signs of past microbial life on the Red Planet.

JPL managed the Mars Exploration Rovers Opportunity and Spirit for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. For more information about the agency’s Mars Exploration program, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/mars.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Navy SEAL kicked PTSD with coffee

In 2008, former SEAL Salvatore DeFranco was busy ramping up for his second deployment to Iraq when an unexpected accident happened. Salvatore was in a vehicle-on-pedestrian accident that left the SEAL with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), in a coma, and with nearly half of his skull removed to relieve the pressure on his brain.


Salvatore was in for a hard road ahead. He was sent home to Massachusetts to recover — and he has, but it took a while. He battled a number of issues daily in his recovery, which included depression. Salvatore had been seeing a mental health professional, but it was time to explore medication as an option in coping.

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops
Salvatore DeFranco and wife Dana kicking depression with caffeine.

The doctor he went to see asked Salvatore two questions: Are you working out? Are you drinking coffee?

The answer to the first question was yes, but Salvatore’s answer to the second question was no. He had never been a coffee drinker. The doctor (which happened to be a former SEAL) stated that coffee was a natural anti-depressant and that it may help. After drinking coffee, things began to get better; he was happier and his energy came back. He started hanging out at cafes where the interaction with people was therapeutic and his passion for the coffee industry grew.

It’s not a stretch to say that coffee saved his life.

Battle Grounds Coffee is the product of this pain, hard work, and perseverance. Battle Grounds Coffee Company proudly roasts one of the finest coffee beans on earth. Alongside their popular house blends, they source a variety of seasonal single-origin coffees to provide their customers with a broad coffee experience. In addition to coffee, they serve breakfast sandwiches all day and a selection of salads and specialty sandwiches.

Salvatore and his wife Dana opened Battle Grounds Coffee in 2016 and have never looked back. They opened it as a way to give back to their community. Dana comes from a military family; her father, uncle, and grandfather all served. Her grandfather believed in the business so much he provided the seed money to open the café. He was a veteran who fought at the Battle of the Bulge in Europe, and was awarded the silver star, bronze star, and purple heart.

This family is no stranger to service for one’s country and community.

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops
Coffee is an unexpected treatment that can have a positive effect on veterans suffering from depression.

Community is the corner stone for Battle Grounds Coffee. They strive to be at the forefront of initiatives for the local and state veteran’s community. From helping homeless veterans stay warm in the cold weather to helping veterans get back to work. Salvatore and Dana are a family owned and run business and want to serve as a bridge between veterans and civilians.

“Battle Grounds serves as a place for people to discuss ideas, build relationships and create business. In our community, we are the tip of the spear,” stated Salvatore.

Country, Community, Coffee.

Side note: The doctor that suggested the coffee as a solution was a sleep specialist.

Visit Battle Grounds Coffee, where you can buy coffee and merchandise.

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops
Check out Battle Grounds Coffee Co. on Facebook or Twitter.

About the Author

Bennett is a former Reconnaissance Marine and US Army Infantryman. Bennett is the Co-Founder of Battle Sight Technologies, Cigars Sea Stories and 5Paragraph and is the Managing Editor of Change Your POV Podcast Network. Also, as a Certified Peer Support Specialist Bennett has dedicated his life to helping veterans navigate the system and aid them in adding value to their communities.

MIGHTY FIT

Three ways playing football for the military is nothing like playing in college

There’s something about football that just lends itself to the melodramatic emotions of our youth. It’s the closest socially acceptable approximation to gladiatorial combat young men in our modern civilized world can pursue, and as such, it tends to hold an honored place in our hearts. The gridiron is where we proved our mettle; Where we found that toughness within us we always hoped was there.


And then, just like that, it’s gone. For most of us, football ends right around when real life begins, and you’re left with no choice but to trade in your pads and passion for a steady job and a pile of bills. Although I once had college football aspirations, an injury cost me that opportunity, and I found myself working as a race mechanic alongside a dozen other “coulda beens”–if only we’d made that one last tackle, dodged that one block, or chased the dream while our knees were still strong enough to hack it.

I joined the Marine Corps at 21 years old and with no intention of finding my way back onto the field. I had found my way to rugby after my college football “career” ended, but as I checked in to my first duty station at 29 Palms, California, neither was on my mind. That is, until I noticed the battalion team practicing just a few blocks away from my barracks room.

The next season, I earned myself a starting spot on the battalion team, which led to a spot on the base team, and eventually, to the first of two Marine Corps championships. Those successes, however, were hard earned… as playing ball for the Corps wasn’t quite like it had been back home in the hills of Vermont.

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops

Playing pulling guard meant I at least got a running start before I tried to smash these dudes.

You’re playing against Marines, some of whom are battle-hardened veterans.

As Al Pacino once so eloquently put it, football is a game of inches. For all the strategy, practice, and technique involved, football is one of the few places left that sheer toughness remains a high-value commodity. Sometimes, when everything else is even, it’s the guy that’s willing to hurt that’ll get the job done. Sometimes you have to choose between the game and your safety. Knowing that reaching for that ball thrown across the flats against a zone defense will almost certainly mean taking a helmet to the sternum and choosing to do it anyway isn’t something you’re taught. It’s just who you are.

In most leagues, you’ll be lucky to find a few players willing to throw their bodies into the grinder for a “W.” In the Marine Corps, we already live in the grinder. Infantry units field teams between combat deployments, Marines attend football practices between training rotations in martial arts and on the rifle range. Mental and physical toughness is a prerequisite to success in the Corps, and as such, the playing field is ripe with men willing to hurt in order to achieve their goals.

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops

The things we do to have a Sergeant Major hand us a wooden football.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Scott Schmidt)

Service members thrive on competition (and that can really suck).

Playing football in the Marine Corps comes with a level of competitive social pressure that can really only be compared to some high-level college teams. When you’re on a squad with a shot at some trophies, you’re representing more than the team itself, you’re representing your unit. The commanding general may not give a sh*t about your last inspection, but he does about the score of this week’s game. A slew of wins can make you feel like a celebrity, but a bad loss can make you ashamed to show your face at work… or in front of your commanding officer.

Marines, perhaps more than other services, are in a perpetual state of competition. Like Ricky Bobby, if we aren’t first, we’re last… and nobody’s going to let you forget it.

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops

We’re all here with a job to do.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Albert F. Hunt)

The Corps always comes first.

If you play football for a successful college program, you’re expected to keep up with your grades, but otherwise, the sport is your job. Marine Corps football can be a lot like that–with the obligations of the sport occasionally taking precedence over other duties (like when you go TAD/TDY for away games), but at the end of the day, the Marine Corps is a warfighting institution.

Infantry units, for instance, often had their seasons cut short by field requirements or combat deployments. Players on your team would be pulled from the roster to augment a deploying unit. Last season’s star quarterback may miss this season because he has to travel for training or worse, because he’s been injured or killed since we last took the field. Football is a way of life for most that love the sport, but nothing supersedes the Corps. We’re Marines first, football players second, and if we’re lucky, we eventually get to be old men writing stories about our days with an Eagle, Globe, and Anchor on our helmets.

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