During a US and Ukrainian-led multinational maritime exercise, a Russian destroyer created a “dangerous situation” by sailing into an area restricted for live-fire drills, the Ukrainian Navy said in an statement.
On July 10, 2019, the Russian Kashin-class guided-missile destroyer Smetlivy purposefully sailed into an area reserved for naval gunfire exercises, part of the latest iteration of Exercise Sea Breeze, the Ukrainian Navy said in a Facebook post.
“The Russian Federation once again showed its true face and provoked an emergency situation in the Black Sea, ignoring international maritime law,” the post explains, according to a translation by Ukrainian media.
The Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy attempted to communicate with the Russian ship, but the latter is said to have feigned communication problems.
The Russian military, which has been conducting drills in the same area, says that the Ukrainian Navy is lying.
“The Ukrainian Navy’s claim that the Black Sea Fleet’s Smetlivy patrol vessel has allegedly entered a closed zone where Sea Breeze-2019 drills are held is not true,” Russia’s Black Sea Fleet said in a statement carried by Russian media. “Smetlivy acts in strict compliance with the international law.”
A US Navy spokesman told Defense One that the Russian ship was present but declined to offer any specific details on the incident. “The presence of the Russian ship had no impact to the exercise yesterday and all evolutions were conducted as scheduled,” Lt. Bobby Dixon, a spokesman for the US Navy’s 6th Fleet, told the outlet.
He added, without elaborating, that “it can be ill-advised to enter an area given the safety hazard identified in a Notice to Mariners.”
The 19th iteration of Exercise Sea Breeze began on July 1, 2019, and will conclude July 19, 2019. The drills involved around 3,000 troops, as well as 32 ships and 24 aircraft, from 19 different countries and focused on a variety of training areas, including maritime interdiction operations, air defense, amphibious warfare, and more.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A user on Quora asked the following question: “Do some troops really wear ball caps and berets into combat instead of helmets? Why?” It might sound surprising, but the answer is actually yes, yes sometimes they do.
It seems counterintuitive, given that a helmet is worn to protect against bullets, collisions, and shrapnel while a ball cap is…not, but enough troops weighed in with their own experiences to confirm this activity.
The reasons varied, but legendary sniper Chris Kyle probably gave the most honest answer:
“Why a ball cap? Ninety percent of being cool is looking cool. And you look so much cooler wearing a ball cap,” Kyle wrote in his autobiography, “American Sniper.”
But one of the most important reasons service members will don a ball cap or beret in lieu of the helmet is to appear less intimidating to the local population. When dealing with low level insurgencies, appearing more friendly can help reduce tension and “win the hearts and minds” of civilians.
Still, at the end of the day make no mistake, in combat a protective helmet is the best protection against traumatic brain injuries and death.
Marines in the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response Africa are prepared to rescue American civilians and fellow service members in the massive continent where they operate. And they recently went on an exercise focusing on saving downed aircrews, a mission known as tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel that often requires Marines entering enemy-held territory and providing medical aid.
The mission is simple enough to understand. When an aircrew crashes to earth, the personnel could be spread out, injured, and in imminent danger of an enemy patrol or other force finding them with their pants down. So the SP-MAGTF flies in, conducts search and rescue, renders medical aid, and extracts everyone.
But that simple mission comes with a lot of complications. There’s obviously the problem of enemy forces, since they get a vote on what happens. But aircraft shoot downs and crashes are naturally chaotic events, so the personnel the Marines are looking for could easily be spread out over miles of debris-strewn ground.
And there’s always the chance, though slim, that the enemy will try to get a mole into U.S. forces by having them impersonate a crew member or passenger, so the Marines have to verify everyone’s identity while also caring for the injured, some likely catastrophically.
And extraction is no picnic either. The Marines will have to carry out the litter wounded and possibly guide the ambulatory. They’ll often have to select and prepare their own landing zone and then secure it to keep out baddies. Only when all the wounded are aboard and safe can they collapse their perimeter and withdraw.
That’s why the Marines spend so much time and energy training for this and other emergencies. On game day, there won’t be much time to prepare, and their performance will determine life and death for themselves and potentially dozens of others.
A bit of far off Irish-American-Mexican history brings to light a lesser-known chapter of Irish military service – the time that 265 Irish service members defected.
Some called them heroes; others called them traitors. The Irish immigrants who joined the Army in the 1840s decided when the war broke out between the US and Mexico that they wanted none of it.
Right after the US annexed Texas in 1845, both Mexico and America sent military members to the newly created and shared border.
1845 America was a tumultuous place – Florida was admitted as a state, the Great Fire of Pittsburg destroyed much of the city, and Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, was published.
Thoreau embarked on his two-year experiment to live in the woods at Walden Pond, a huge fire destroyed lots of New York, and the US Naval Academy officially opened its doors. Johnny Appleseed died in 1845, and Edmonia Lewis died.
A lot was going on, no more so evident than within the US Army. In 1845, the Army was a hodgepodge of service personnel, with diverse backgrounds, much like it is today. Service members were from all over the world, especially from western European countries, all of which had distinct and robust Catholic population groups. Many immigrant service members were blatantly disrespected and discriminated against by “native-born Americans,” which led to widespread unrest and low morale. Adding to that was most of the immigrant soldiers were Catholic, outliers in the very protestant America of the time.
So back to the Irish battalion. No one is quite sure exactly how it happened. Still, most historians agree that the widespread abuse of immigrant personnel coupled with the very low troop commitment levels led to a huge percentage of the Army feeling invisible, disenfranchised, and without appropriate ways to voice their frustrations.
Much of the American public felt that the annexation of Texas was useless – an expansionist war was nothing the young country needed. One of the most vocal about the uselessness of the expansion was Abraham Lincoln, who was quoted as not surprised that the Army saw so many deserters during this time.
While the Army was struggling to hold rank, the Mexican military saw an opportunity to infiltrate and spread propaganda, which is exactly what they did.
Several Mexican Army generals sent messages targeted toward immigrant personnel stationed at the Texas border. These messages crossed the Rio Grande River. All held one core focus – that immigrant service members should abandon their American Army posts and join their Catholic brothers in arms in the Mexican military. The messages offered Mexican citizenship and huge land grants – as much as 320 acres for privates.
More than 5,000 US soldiers would desert their posts throughout the war, and more than 40,000 simply disappeared in Mexico.
The Irish defectors were known as the St. Patrick’s Battalion, and their Mexican brothers-in-arms called them “The Red Company” because so many of them had red hair and ruddy complexions.
The battalion’s flag showed a winged harp, three-leaf clovers, and the motto, “Irish till the end of time,” written in Gaelic. The battalion fought alongside the Mexican Army as part of a rolling rearguard that worked to defend against as the US military advanced further into Mexico.
In the final days of the final battle, over 60 deserters were captured, and fifty of them were executed. The Mexican Army pleaded for mercy and leniency, but only a handful of the Irish deserters were actually pardoned.
But, of those who were pardoned, it wasn’t as easy as just walking away. The men had to receive 50 lashes on their backs while being tied to trees in the plaza at Churubusco, and their faces were branded with “D” for deserter. To this day, the Irish battalion is honored every year in festivals throughout Mexico and Ireland.
On Sept. 10, 2019, US and Iraqi forces dropped 80,000 pounds of munitions on Qanus Island, in Iraq’s Salah-al-Din province, to destroy what Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) called a “safe haven” for ISIS fighters traveling from Syria into Iraq.
“We’re denying Daesh the ability to hide on Qanus Island,” Maj. Gen. Eric T. Hill, the commander of OIR’s Special Operations Joint Task Force, said in a press release, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Col. Myles Caggins tweeted a video of the operation on Sept. 10, 2019, that shows bombs carpeting the tree-lined island from end to end, saying the island was “Daesh infested.”
Air Force Central Command tweeted an additional statement, saying that the strikes come at the “behest of the Iraqi government” and that Qanus Island is believed to be “a major transit hub and safe haven for Daesh.”
A spokesperson for OIR told Insider that ISIS casualties were still being assessed but that there were no casualties for the coalition or the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Services. A small cache of abandoned weapons was found on the island, the spokesperson said. The spokesperson said the number of ISIS militants on the island at the time of the strike was unknown.
After the group’s supposed defeat in March, the Islamic State regrouped in Syria and Iraq, partly as a result of troop withdrawal in Syria and a diplomatic vacuum in Iraq, according to a Pentagon Inspector General’s report. The report also blamed Trump’s focus on Iran for the resurgence, saying that the administration’s insufficient attention to Iraq and Syria also contributed to ISIS’s ability to regroup, even though it has lost its caliphate.
While ISIS is not nearly as powerful as it once was — the Pentagon estimates the group has only 14,000 to 18,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria at present, compared with the CIA estimate of between 20,000 and 31,500 in 2014 — it is still carrying out assassinations, crop burnings, ambushes, and suicide attacks.
OIR said that it targeted the area because ISIS militants were using the tiny island to transit from Syria and the Jazeera desert into the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Makhmour, and the Kirkuk region. The dense vegetation there allowed militants to hide easily, according to OIR.
Airstrikes on Qanus Island, Iraq, on Sept. 10, 2019.
The airstrikes, carried out by US Air Force F-35 Lightning II and F15 Strike Eagles, came in the midst of Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s new policy to consider flights in Iraqi airspace hostile unless they are preapproved or a medical emergency. That policy took effect on Aug. 15, 2019. These aircraft typically carry Joint Direct Attack Munitions, which are precision-guided air-to-surface munitions.
According to the release, Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Services are carrying out additional ground operations on the island to “destroy any remaining Fallul Daesh on the island.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
On the morning of July 4, 1989, alarm bells blared at Soesterberg Air Base in the Netherlands, home of the US Air Force’s 32d Tactical Fighter Squadron.
Within minutes, a pair of armed F-15 Eagles, manned by Capts. J.D. Martin and Bill “Turf” Murphy, were launched on a scramble order. Their mission was to intercept what appeared to be a lone fighter making a beeline from Soviet-controlled airspace into Western Europe.
Though the Cold War’s end was seemingly not too far away, tensions still ran high between the two sides of the Iron Curtain, and any incursion by an unidentified aircraft would need to be responded to swiftly.
As JD and Turf were vectored in on the aircraft, now identified as a Soviet MiG-23 Flogger supersonic fighter, ground controllers notified them that all attempts to contact the inbound jet had failed and the intentions of its pilot were unknown and potentially hostile.
When they got close the the Flogger, the two Eagles were primed and ready to shoot down their silent bogey if it didn’t respond and carried on its flight path. But when the two F-15 pilots closed in on the aircraft to positively identify it, they noticed that the pylons underneath the Flogger — used to mount missiles and bombs — were empty.
By then, the Flogger was firmly in Dutch airspace, casually flying onward at around 400 mph at an altitude of 39,000 ft.
What JD and Turf saw next would shock them — the Flogger’s canopy had been blown off and there was no pilot to be found inside the cockpit. In essence, the Soviet fighter was flying itself, likely through its autopilot system.
After contacting ground control with this new development, the two Eagle pilots were given approval to shoot down the wayward MiG over the North Sea, lest it suddenly crash into a populated area. Unaware of how long the pilotless MiG had been flying, and battling poor weather which could have sent debris shooting down the MiG into nearby towns, JD and Turf opted to let the jet run out of fuel and crash into the English Channel.
Instead, the aircraft motored along into Belgium, finally arcing into a farm when the last of its fuel reserves were depleted. Tragically, the MiG struck a farmhouse, killing a 19-year-old. Authorities raced to the site of the crash to begin their investigation into what happened, while the two F-15s returned to base. French Air Force Mirage fighters were also armed and ready to scramble should the MiG have strayed into French airspace.
Details of what led to the loss of the Flogger began to emerge.
As it turns out, the Soviet fighter had originated from Bagicz Airbase — a short distance away from Kolobrzeg, Poland — on what was supposed to be a regular training mission. The pilot, Col. Nikolai Skuridin, ejected less than a minute into his flight during takeoff when instruments in the cockpit notified him that he had drastically lost engine power. At an altitude of around 500 ft, it would be dangerous and almost certainly fatal if Skuridin stayed with his stricken fighter, trying to recover it with its only engine dead. The colonel bailed out with a sense of urgency, assuming the end was near.
But as he drifted back down to Earth, instead of seeing his fighter plummet to its demise, it righted itself and resumed climbing, its engine apparently revived.
The ensuing debacle proved to be thoroughly embarrassingfor the Soviet Union, which was forced to offer restitution to Belgium and the family of the deceased teenager. By the end of the MiG’s flight, it had flown over 625 miles by itself until it ran out of fuel and crashed.
The Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared a military coup against the government of President Nicolás Maduro on Tuesday, April 30, 2019, sparking a confrontation that escalated into an armed conflict.
In a message to supporters online, Guaidó announced the beginning of what he called “Operation Liberty” and called for supporters to rally at a military air base in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas.
Reporters for the news agency Reuters reported that the gathering at the military air base — called La Carlota — came under fire Tuesday morning and shot back. Reuters said both sides appeared to be using live rounds.
Part of the clash can be seen in this video, broadcast by the Latin American TV channel NTN24. A noise that sounds like gunfire can be heard:
The opposition leader then held a rally at Francia de Altamira square where he told supporters: “Today it became clear that the armed forces are with the people and not with the dictator.”
Maduro called for his supporters to maintain “nerves of steel,” tweeting that he still has complete loyalty from his commanders.
His government also said it was taking action against “a small group of traitors” in the military who had defected to Guaidó.
In his announcement Tuesday morning, Guaidó was seen surrounded by uniformed men whom he described as Venezuelan soldiers who switched their loyalty to him.
“People of Venezuela, the end of the usurpation has begun,” Guaidó said on Twitter. “At the moment I am meeting with the principal military units from the armed forces to start the final phase of Operation Liberty.”
He said the gathering at La Carlota would set in motion the “definitive end” to Maduro’s rule.
Guaidó was joined by Leopoldo López, another opposition leader who had been under house arrest for two years. López tweeted that he was freed by soldiers supporting Guaidó.
Venezuela’s government said it was working to stop the uprising.
Jorge Rodríguez, the Vice President of Communications, said on Twitter that the state was “confronting and deactivating a small group of traitors in our military personnel.”
Venezuela’s defense minister, Vladimir Padrino, tweeted: “The armed forces are firmly in defense of the national constitution and its legitimate authorities.”
Diosdado Cabello, the leader of Maduro’s socialist party, urged Maduro supporters to rally in front of the presidential palace, according to the AP.
The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said President Donald Trump had been briefed. “We are monitoring the ongoing situation,” BBC News reported her as saying.
Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, tweeted that the US government “fully supports the Venezuelan people in their quest for freedom and democracy.”
Russian news agencies reported that President Vladimir Putin, an ally of Maduro, had scheduled a meeting to discuss the uprisings with his Security Council, according to the AP.
Guaidó has been trying to oust Maduro since January 2019, when Guaidó declared himself the legitimate interim president of Venezuela. He cited emergency powers in the constitution that he argued gave him the right to rule.
More than 50 countries, including the US, the UK, and all the nations of the European Union, have backed Guaidó’s claim to power.
Besides calling for new elections, one of Guaidó’s main goals was to win support from Maduro’s power base: the army.
The power is especially concentrated among high-ranking officers who hold important government positions and run influential companies under the socialist government.
Back in World War II, patrol torpedo, or PT, boats were the scourge of the Japanese Navy. These vessels were so small, they weren’t even measured in tons, but rather by feet. The Elco PT boat was 80 feet long, and the Higgins PT boat was 78.
Many were discarded after World War II, but the Soviet Union, China, and some NATO allies brought the concept back, this time equipping them with anti-ship missiles, like the MM38/MM40 Exocet, the Penguin, and the SS-N-2 Styx.
In the 1980s, the United States got into the game with the Pegasus-class hydrofoil.
The Pegasus was all of 255 tons, according to the Federation of American Scientists. It carried some serious firepower, though: A single 76mm gun, like those used on the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates (and later, the Coast Guard’s Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters) forward and eight RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles. That’s a lot more than what you see on today’s Littoral Combat Ships.
The Navy bought six of these vessels and based them at Key West, Florida. There, they helped keep an eye on Fidel Castro’s dictatorship and pitched in to fight the War on Drugs. With a top speed in excess of 45 knots, these boats could chase down just about anything on the waves, and their firepower gave them a good chance of defeating any vessel the Cuban Navy could throw at them. That said, these vessels were expensive to operate and suffered from short range.
With the end of the Cold War, the PHMs were among the many assets retired. All six were retired on July 30, 1993. Four of the vessels were scrapped immediately. A fifth, USS Gemini (PHM 6), became a yacht for a brief time before she went to the scrapyard. The lone surviving vessel in this class is the former USS Aries (PHM 5), which is slated to become part of a hydrofoil museum.
On Sept. 20, 2011, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed. The policy served as a sort of compromise between people who wanted to continue to ban gay men and women from serving in the military, which had been the case prior to 1993, and those who felt that Americans should be eligible to serve regardless of sexual orientation.
In other words, until Sept. 20, 2011, service members were punished and even discharged with prejudice for being gay or bisexual. Now, it’s time to restore their honor and give them the benefits they deserve. Here’s how:
Honorable — For service members who meet or exceed the required standards of service. An honorable discharge comes with four major benefit programs, including disability compensation and medical care as well as pension programs and education.
General — For service members whose performance is satisfactory but is marked by a considerable departure in duty performance and conduct. A general discharge will also come with the benefit programs available to those honorably discharged.
Other Than Honorable — The most severe form of administrative discharge, representing a serious departure from the conduct and performance expected of military members. The majority of veterans’ benefits are not available to individuals who receive an Other Than Honorable discharge.
Bad Conduct — A punitive discharge that can only be given out by a court-martial. Virtually all veterans’ benefits are forfeited by a Bad Conduct Discharge.
Dishonorable — A punitive discharge handed out by a court-martial for the most reprehensible conduct, including sexual assault and murder.
Downgraded discharges not only result in the loss of benefits, they carry with them shame and stigma, as well.
As reported by The Bay Area Reporter, “Advocates for LGBT veterans estimate that roughly 114,000 U.S. service members were “involuntarily separated” from the military due to their sexual orientation between the end of World War II and the repeal in 2011 of the homophobic “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that barred LGBT people from serving openly in the military. While many of those veterans could likely qualify to correct or upgrade their discharges, just 8% had done so as of 2018, according to a report presented that April at a conference held at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School.”
Vets can also receive help from non-profit organizations like Modern Military Association of America, dedicated to advancing fairness and equality for the LGBTQ military and veteran community, or Swords to Ploughshares, which provides assessment and case management, employment and training, housing, and legal assistance to veterans.
Two Islamic State leaders behind the terrorist attacks in Paris last year were killed in a U.S.-led drone strike Dec. 4 in Raqqa, Syria, the Pentagon confirmed Tuesday.
The two targets, Salah Gourmat and Sammy Djedou, worked with external terror operations and recruitment of foreign fighters in Europe. They were directly involved in facilitating the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people.
Gourmat and Djedou were close associates of Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, ISIS’s former chief spokesman who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in August.
Walid Hamman, the third terrorist killed in the drone strike, was a suicide attack planner, Hamman was convicted in absentia by a Belgian court for a terror plot foiled in 2015.
“The three were working together to plot and facilitate attacks against Western targets at the time of the strike,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters.
All three were part of a terror network led by Boubaker Al-Hakim, who died in another U.S.-led airstrike Nov. 26.
“Since mid-November, the coalition has now successfully targeted five top ISIL external plotters, further disrupting ISIL’s ability to carry out terrorist operations beyond Syria and Iraq,” Cook said.
The airport closed that night and all of Feb. 12, 2018 so Royal Navy bomb disposal experts could remove the device.
Divers removed the ordnance with a lifting bag on Feb. 12, dragged it down the Thames overnight, and took it to Shoeburyness, a coastal town 60 kilometers east of the bomb’s original location.
The area where London City Airport stands used to be an industrial center, and it came under heavy bombardment from German planes during the war. Unexploded bombs still occasionally turn up during construction work.
“Game of Thrones” composer Ramin Djawadi has been a central craftsmen of HBO’s iconic series since the very first episode. For the coming final season, he’s keeping the secrets of the score close to his chest.
“I don’t know if I should … or what I can even say at this point,” Djawadi told INSIDER at the season eight premiere in New York City last week when asked if there are any new instruments we’ll hear on season eight. “I can say there are new themes, definitely, and there are plenty of the existing themes as well, with new iterations.”
Djawadi says the experience of producing this final season has been “bittersweet.”
“It’s obviously super exciting but writing this final season was definitely very emotional for me,” Djawadi said. “I went through all the ups and downs all by myself.”
He was sent the final season’s episodes earlier this year, but had to watch them by himself in order to maintain the secrecy of how the show ends.
“Obviously it’s so under wraps that even my direct team can’t have access to my studio,” Djawadi said. “So it was just me and nobody else, all the doors were locked. It was quite emotional.”
The music you hear on “Game of Thrones” isn’t just written by Djawadi; he plays most of the instruments himself and then assembles the individual layers into one cohesive piece for the score.
Djawadi told INSIDER he watched all six episodes “straight through” before he started writing any music.
“Then I re-watched them countless times,” Djawadi said. “Like hundreds and hundreds of times.”
One theme INSIDER is eager to hear on the coming official soundtrack is the music which plays during Jaime Lannister’s signature moments, including the memorable bathtub monologue on season three and when Jaime goes to treat with the Blackfish on season six.
Neither of those pieces of score were put on the official released compilations fans can buy or stream. But Djawadi says he hopes to get Jaime’s theme onto the released season eight soundtrack.
“Yes, definitely,” Djawadi said. “A lot of people have approached me [about that]. It’s interesting, when I get stuff ready for the soundtrack I sometimes think, ‘Oh this piece is too short,’ and then all these people ask why it’s not on there.”
“I feel like I should go back and look through all the unreleased material and do something with it,” Djawadi said.
We suggested he release a bonus soundtrack after the series finale.
“Yeah, I think we have to,” Djawadi replied.
“Game of Thrones” premieres Sunday, April 14, 2019, at 9 p.m. ET. Tune in to hear if any of those new themes teased by Djawadi makes it into the first episode of season eight.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
It is my staunch belief that warriors are born and not created. In the case of either you can trace back through your past to your first ever action that made you realize — though not likely back then at the time — that you were destined to take the warrior’s or the leader’s path through life.
I came up through Army infantry at 19 years old gravely afraid of heights, a condition that kept me from becoming a paratrooper, the gateway training to the elite forces. After two years in the infantry, I was ready to jump even without a parachute if that was what it took to get me out of that horror show.
I made it into the Green Berets only to be met with great disappointment, as in those years between wars I felt we were more of an in-case-of-war-break-glass unit with peacetime ambition and an equally disappointing budget. The thought of going to war with my Green Beret A-Team scared me to the extent that I ran arms-flailing to the Delta Force, where I immediately faded into anonymity by a sea of raw talent and sheer badassery. I was home.
But even after arriving at the unit, which requires one of the toughest selections on the planet, I came to realize that the essence of my warrior spirit had been with me all along. I can finally go back to the very early days of my own basic army training and identify an event that has stayed with me for so many years. Finally, I think I understand what it meant and why the simple memory has remained close to my heart for so many decades.
Search as I have for hints of warrior potential during my coming of military status in basic training, I’m put finally in mind of a trivial incident that remains to impress me still today. I have thought of it often in attempts to make sense of it. Since it is mine, I shall own the interpretation.
It was during my own Infantry Basic Training in Sand Hill Georgia, where my platoon and I were waiting in the pine woods for a couple of hours between training events. At times like those, there was nothing to do but notice and complain about how hot it was, and it was plenty hot.
We boys huddled under the shade of an awning in our steel helmets. In that year I learned that shade was indeed only a state of mind, and had little physical impact on the Georgia swelter; where a boundary blocked the direct sun’s rays, the humidity served to usher the heat around obstacles, presenting it to who would cower. “We” huddle and bitched and complained and moaned, making it all the worse. I quickly grew annoyed with the negative attitude of the group to the extent that I, but for slight, sniped at them verbally.
The “group” — my group: the hayseed from under the Bible Belt who spoke maybe just a little too fondly of his female cousin, the guy who came in for college; he already had one semester and constantly wanted everyone to know that by saying things like: “Yeah, but that doesn’t detract from or minimize the context of what I’m saying,” the fellow who was given the choice by a judge of either the Army or jail, the black man whose dad and grandad were both in the Army before him, the white dude who felt a patriotic debt to the country but really had no clue what that meant, the Chicano who wanted something different out of life… anything other than what he was living at the time.
And then there was — OMG! — that Asian fellow who during a group debate on race and equality announced to the group: “If there is a man here who can sh*t with his pants on, let him stand now and show it!” As God as my witness, he did say that. I resigned to the notion that he was trying for something along the lines of “We all put on our trousers one leg at a time.”
I suffered too from the heat, but the urge to bellow seemed so futile, only adding to the misery. Knowing no better, I decided to remove myself from the crowd, so I stood and stepped some fifty feet away in direct view of the blazing sun. There I squatted in the muddy sand and hung my head and thought:
“The heat is bad, but it’s better than being in the shade with the pity patrol. Bad means there is a worse; there is even a worse than this… somewhere. This too is bearable. All things, no matter the intensity, are always bearable. Here, I’m setting an example for all my platoon — see me here, guys? It’s not so bad!”
Indeed remarks wafted over:
“What the hell’s the idiot doing?”
“He can’t last out there like that.”
“Someone needs to go get him; he’s delirious, he is.”
“Yeah, holy crap, man!”
You see, now no longer were they absconded in their own misery; they were submersed in mine. I had taken their suffering away, even if for this brief bout of minutes. “I complained because I had no shoes, and then I saw a man who had no feet.” Bad begets worse, and even worse is tolerable.
I think by wanting to be alone I had only drawn attention to myself… but it was done, and now I would give them a show. This is how we deal with the pain. This is how we stand up and take it… how we shake it off and defy it! This is how a much grander force within us makes a thing like the Georgia swelter such an insignificant trifle — “pour it on, Blythe! Fire your weapon!”
From the nose of my drooped head, beads of sweat were queued up and falling in serial. I decided that I would count off 100 of them before I went back to the shade. When 100 beads had fallen, I decided that I would let yet another 100 fall before I relented… then another 100, followed by another then another concatenation of 100.
After 500 had fallen, I stood and removed my helmet. I shook my face wildly, like a dog shakes off pool water upon exit. I wiped my face with my sleeves as I trudged back to the shade and the group. I remarked as I squatted back down:
“Yep… it’s a real scorcher out there today, brothers.”
And there was nothing but silence and a man who reached out his canteen my way, which I graciously declined.
Sometimes we imagine the Earth was gifted with us, to just be us, our mystical, magical, wonderful selves. Other times we might wonder if the planet might get along just swimmingly without us. Ask ten people if they “march to the beat of a different drum,” and you will get ten affirmative answers every time. Now watch when the different drumsticks start their cadence how many stand, step out, and march… and keep marching until 500 beads of their sweat have rolled from their nose and hit the ground.
As I have searched and debated over the years to answer the question are warriors born or made, I often think back to the quote from Heraclitus nearly 2,000 years ago,
“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.” (Heraclitus c. 535 – c. 475 BCE)