One soldier is proving childhood dreams can come true as she prepares to launch into space for her first time.
Army Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne C. McClain, and her crewmates, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Oleg Kononenko of the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos, are scheduled to launch Dec. 20, 2018, aboard the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for a six-month rotation on the International Space Station.
“When you look over the history of human space flight during the past 50 years, it is a relatively short time,” McClain said. “Every vehicle that has been built and every flight that has been taken is an accomplishment in and of itself. We have been flying to the space station for about 18 years and the thing we are always doing at all of our agencies is [asking], ‘What’s next? What is the next step we can take where mankind has never been before?’ For us, that is deep space.
“At the crew level we are fortunate,” she continued. “We have been training together more than a year for this flight. It is actually very easy to forget we are from three different countries and three different places because we are doing the same things together every day. We have the same concerns and the same issues in dealing with our families and we just connect as human beings.”
‘We are all in it together’
“At the end of the day, the Earth is a small place and we are all in it together, McClain said. “The decisions we make affect one another. From our perspectives, rather than taking politics and letting them inform our friendships, we actually take our friendships and let them inform our view of how politics should be and how our world could be.
“The peaceful exploration of space is absolutely a unifying aspect,” she added. “Working with this crew is an incredible opportunity, but it is also an example of what humans can do when we put aside our differences and really focus on what motivates us.”
Army Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne C. McClain.
McClain is a native of Spokane, Washington, and earned her undergraduate degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. Additionally, she earned two master’s degrees while studying in England. She was a member of the USA Rugby Women’s National Team and said her experiences have played an integral role in helping her work with the international members of her NASA team.
“We are not just going to the International Space Station to visit, we are going there to live. It will be our home, and we are going to adapt to it,” McClain said. “When I go to Russia, it is absolutely a second home for me right now. I always tell people it is amazing the perspective you get when you get out of your comfort zone long enough to make it your comfort zone.
“It is amazing to see how people on the other side of the world approach the exact same problems yet come up with different solutions,” she added. “Getting comfortable in another culture really helps you understand perspectives and that we are not that different from one another.”
As a soldier, McClain earned her wings as an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scout/attack helicopter pilot. She has more than 2,000 flight hours and served at every level of Army aviation units at Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii, and at Fort Rucker, Alabama; as well as in combat operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“The Army has given me everything I have as an adult,” she said. “It gave me my undergraduate college education and two master’s degrees. It gave me flight school and test pilot school. But I think, most importantly, the Army gave me really humbling, selfless leadership experience.”
“I went into the Army probably a little overconfident in some of my abilities, and I came out very humbled and very in awe of the people I serve with and with a recognition that I could never accomplish remotely what others can when given the right tools,” McClain said. “My biggest role as a leader or as a member of the team is to enable other people around me to perform at their optimal best.”
Expedition 58 crew members Anne McClain of NASA (left), Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos (center) and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency (right) pose for pictures following their final Soyuz spacecraft qualification exams at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.
(NASA photo by Elizabeth Weissinger)
“I try to be the leader who synergizes the team and tries to recognize barriers to the team around me and knock those barriers down,” she continued. “Our soldiers in our military are some of the most innovative, smart, dedicated, selfless people who I have ever worked with in my life. I am humbled every day just to be in their ranks. I learned from them to trust the people around me.
“Here at NASA our lives depend on each other every day,” McClain added. “I was in a vacuum chamber last week that can be a real threat to your body. These guys put on my gloves and pants while doing a leak check to make sure everything was good. My life was in their hands last week and it will be again in the future. I learned to have that trust in the Army.”
In 2013, McClain attended the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School where she was selected as one of eight members of NASA’s 21st astronaut class. Her astronaut candidate training included scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in ISS systems, spacewalks, robotics, physiological training, T-38 flight training and water and wilderness survival training. She completed astronaut training in 2015.
“If you do the thing everybody else does, you are going to get what everybody else does,” McClain said. “If you want to do something amazing and something great, you need to start being different today and stay dedicated to that. There is nothing you are doing that is not important so you must excel in everything you do.”
During the upcoming mission, McClain and her team will facilitate about 250 research investigations and technology demonstrations. She explained that science experiments conducted in space yield benefits and technology advancements for all humanity and looks forward to achieving more scientific progress.
“The benefit of science experiments in micro-gravity and low-earth orbit are too numerous to just leave and move onto the next thing,” McClain said. “I am overwhelmed at the quantity of tasks we have, in a good way. One of the really neat things about going to the space station for six months is that we don’t specialize.”
“One of the things I really like is getting into academic areas I had no experience with before,” she continued. “I am an aerospace engineer by training and I was a test pilot in the Army. One of my favorite things now is biology and learning about the human body. To me this is really fascinating, and I could have had a totally different career and loved it also.
“What I am most excited about is space walks. We have some ‘penciled in’ for our mission,” McClain added. “It is what I dreamed of when I was a little 5-year-old girl and it is pretty neat to think that maybe in the next six months it could be happening.”
The US Army is developing precision-guided 155mm rounds that are longer range than existing shells and able to conduct combat missions in a GPS-denied war environment.
The Precision Guidance Kit Modernization (PGK-M) is now being developed to replace the standard PGK rounds, which consist of a unguided 155 round with a GPS-fuze built into it; the concept with the original PGK, which first emerged roughly 10 years ago, was to bring a greater amount of precision to historically unguided artillery fire.
Now, Army developers with the Army’s Program Executive Office Ammunition at Picatinny Arsenal are taking the technology to a new level by improving upon the range, accuracy, and functionality of the weapon. Perhaps of greatest importance, the emerging PGK-M shell is engineered such that it can still fire with range and accuracy in a war environment where GPS guidance and navigation technology is compromised or destroyed.
The emerging ammunition will be able to fire from standard 155mm capable weapons such as an Army M777 lightweight towed howitzer and M109 howitzer.
Spc. Avery Lebron Johnson Jr. (R), a cannon crewmember in 1st Platoon, Archer Battery, Field Artillery Squadron, 2d Cavalry Regiment guides a m155 round into a M777 howitzer Aug. 5, 2017 while training in the Vaziani Training Area, Republic of Georgia during Noble Partner 17. Noble Partner is a multinational training exercise in support of Georgia’s second light infantry company contribution to the NATO Response Force. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Bunn, 2d Cavalry Regiment)
“PGK-M will provide enhanced performance against a broad spectrum of threats. In addition, PGK-M will be interoperable with the Army’s new long-range artillery projectiles, which are currently in parallel development,” Audra Calloway, spokeswoman for the Army’s Picatinny Arsenal, told Warrior Maven.
BAE Systems is among several vendors currently developing PGK-M with the Army’s Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium. BAE developers say the kits enable munitions to make in-flight course corrections even in GPS-jammed environments.
“Our experience with munitions handling, gun launch shock, interior ballistics, and guidance and fire control uniquely positions us to integrate precision technology into the Army’s artillery platforms,” David Richards, Program Manager, Strategic Growth Initiatives for our Precision Guidance and Sensing Solutions group, BAE Systems, told Warrior Maven in a statement.
This technological step forward is quite significant for the Army, as it refines its attack technologies in a newly-emerging threat environment. The advent of vastly improved land-fired precision weaponry began about 10 years ago during the height of counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. GPS-guided 155m Excalibur rounds and the Army’s GPS and inertial measurement unit weapon, the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, burst onto the war scene as a way to give commanders more attack options.
Traditional suppressive fire, or “area weapons” as they have been historically thought of, were not particularly useful in combat against insurgents. Instead, since enemies were, by design, blended among civilians, Army attack options had little alternative but to place the highest possible premium upon precision guidance.
GMLRS, for example, was used to destroy Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, and Excalibur had its combat debut in the 2007, 2008 timeframe. With a CEP of roughly 1-meter, Excalibur proved to be an invaluable attack mechanism against insurgents. Small groups of enemy fighters, when spotted by human intel or overhead ISR, could effectively be attacked without hurting innocents or causing what military officials like to call “collateral damage.” PGK was initially envisioned as a less expensive, and also less precise, alternative to Excalibur.
The rise of near-peer threats, and newer technologies commensurate with larger budgets and fortified military modernization ambitions, have created an entirely new war environment confronting the Army of today and tomorrow. Principle among these circumstances is, for example, China’s rapid development of Anti-Satellite, or ASAT weapons.
This ongoing development, which has both the watchful eye and concern of US military strategists and war planners, underscores a larger and much-discussed phenomenon – that of the United States military being entirely too reliant upon GPS for combat ops. GPS, used in a ubiquitous way across the Army and other military services, spans small force-tracking devices to JDAMs dropped from the air and much more, of course including the aforementioned land weapons.
Advanced jamming techniques, electronic warfare and sophisticated cyberattacks have radically altered the combat equation – making GPS signals vulnerable to enemy disruption. Accordingly, there is a broad consensus among military developers and industry innovators that far too many necessary combat technologies are reliant upon GPS systems. Weapons targeting, ship navigation and even small handheld solider force-tracking systems all rely upon GPS signals to operate.
Accordingly, the Army and other services are now accelerating a number of technical measures and emerging technologies designed to create what’s called Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT), or GPS-like guidance, navigation, and targeting, without actually needing satellites. This includes ad-hoc software programmable radio networks, various kinds of wave-relay connectivity technologies and navigational technology able to help soldiers operate without GPS-enabled force tracking systems.
At the same time, the Army is working with the Air Force on an integrated strategy to protect satellite coms, harden networks and also better facilitate joint-interoperability in a GPS-denied environment.
The Air Force Space strategy, for instance, is currently pursuing a multi-fold satellite strategy to include “dispersion,” “disaggregation” and “redundancy.” At the same time, the service has also identified the need to successfully network the force in an environment without GPS. Naturally, this is massively interwoven with air-ground coordination. Fighters, bombers and even drones want to use a wide range of secure sensors to both go after targets and operate with ground forces.
Today, the Air Force operates the largest GPS constellation in history with more than 30 satellites. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Maureen Stewart)
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is working with industry to test and refine an emerging radio frequency force-tracking technology able to identify ground forces’ location without needing to rely upon GPS.
Given all this, it is by no means insignificant that the Army seeks guided rounds able to function without GPS. Should they engage in near-peer, force-on-force mechanized ground combat against a major, technologically advanced adversary, they may indeed need to launch precision attacks across wide swaths of terrain – without GPS.
Finally, by all expectations, modern warfare is expected to increasingly become more and more dispersed across wider swaths of terrain, while also more readily crossing domains, given rapid emergence of longer-range weapons and sensors.
This circumstance inevitably creates the need for both precision and long-range strike. As one senior Army weapons developer with PEO Missiles and Space told Warrior Maven in an interview last Fall — Brig. Gen. Robert Rasch — … “it is about out-ranging the enemy.”
The People’s Liberation Army Navy stole an American unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) conducting oceanographic research Thursday in plain view of a U.S. Navy vessel about fifty miles from Subic Bay in the Philippines.
According to a report from the Washington Examiner, the brazen heist took place in international waters as the oceanographic research vessel USNS Bowditch (T AGS 62), a Pathfinder-class ship.
The BBC reported that the vessel responsible for the heist was ASR-510, identified in Combat Fleets of the World as a Dalang III-class “rescue and salvage” ship. The Chinese vessel apparently came within 500 yards of the Bowditch, lowered a small boat and seized the littoral battlespace sensing (LBS) glider.
In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said, “Bowditch made contact with the PRC Navy ship via bridge-to-bridge radio to request the return of the UUV. The radio contact was acknowledged by the PRC Navy ship, but the request was ignored. The UUV is a sovereign immune vessel of the United States. We call upon China to return our UUV immediately, and to comply with all of its obligations under international law.”
According to a 2010 Navy release, the LBS glider can operate for up to eight months on a lithium battery. The data gathered by these gliders assist in everything from special operations to mine warfare to anti-submarine warfare.
This is not the first time the Bowditch has been involved in a maritime incident with the People’s Liberation Army Navy. Globalsecurity.org noted that a week before the 2001 EP-3 incident in which a People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force J-8 Finback collided with a U.S. Navy electronic surveillance plane, a Chinese frigate came very close to the unarmed vessel. The Bowditch, which is manned by a civilian crew, also was involved in incidents in 2002 and 2003.
China claims ownership of the South China Sea, marking its claims with a so-called “Nine-Dash Line.” An international panel rejected Chinese claims earlier this year in a case brought by the Philippines. The Chinese boycotted the process, and have since armed a number of artificial islands in the disputed region. Shortly after the ruling was issued, Chinese forces rammed and sank a Vietnamese fishing vessel in the disputed waters.
Myth: The way a soldier’s horse is portrayed in an equestrian statue indicates how the soldier died.
This myth, perpetuated by many a tourist guide the world over, simply isn’t true.
(Not unlike how tourist guides around the equator will often tell you that what hemisphere you’re in effects the way the water swirls down the toilet or drain. They’ll even sometimes take you a few hundred meters on one side of the equator and show you water swirling one way, then a few hundred meters from that on the other side of the equator and show it swirling the other. Magic! In fact, of course, what hemisphere you’re in has almost nothing to do with the way water swirls down toilets and drains.)
An example of a tourist guidebook that perpetuates the equestrian myth is the 1987 Hands on Chicago:
At Sheridan Road and Belmont Avenue, the statue of [General] Sheridan beckons troops to battle. The horse General Sheridan rides is named Winchester…Winchester’s raised leg symbolizes his rider was wounded in battle (the legs of [General] Grant’s horse are on the ground, meaning he was not wounded).
This gives a pretty good account of the myth as it is generally stated, but leaving out the third commonly said option of the horse having both front legs in the air, implying the soldier died in battle. Another caveat is that if the rider died of complications from wounds received in battle, but at a later date from the battle, most versions of this myth have it that just one leg should be up as with the people who were wounded but didn’t die of complications from the wound.
According to the US Army Center of Military History, no such tradition has ever existed. This is not surprising considering that examples of multiple equestrian statues of the same person tend to be inconsistent in terms of the horse’s legs positioning. But let’s not take the US Army historian’s word for it, let’s look at some examples.
First, take a walk around Washington DC, which has the largest collection of equestrian statues of any city in the world. From this, you’ll quickly be disabused of the notion that the depiction of the horse’ legs has anything to do with the way the person died, with only about 30% of this city’s statues conforming to the above “rules”. (Given that there are 3 options here, that 30%-ish seems rather fitting.)
One of the oldest known equestrian statues in the United States is the 1853 statue of General Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Park, Washington D.C., which was made in celebration of Jackson’s victory over the British at the Battle of New Orleans.
In this statue, the horse has both forelegs in the air. Of course, Jackson did not die in battle, but of tuberculosis. The person who cast that sculpture, Clark Mills, was the first sculptor in the United States to cast a horse with a rider where the horse has some of its legs in the air (in this case both) — at this point it was more of a mark of the skill of the artist to have the horse with legs in the air rather than any sort of tradition relating to battle and death.
In cases where the same sculptor made multiple equestrian statues that could potentially apply to this “rule,” such as the case of world renowned Irish sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, we see that he, at-times, violated the supposed tradition and other times seemed to adhere to it.
One such statue he made of General William Techumsa Sherman has one of the front legs of the horse raised.
Indeed, General Sherman was wounded twice in battle, and even had 3 horses shot out from under him. He did not die in battle, but lived to the ripe old age of 71, and is thought to have died from pneumonia. So from that respect, this one fits. It should be noted, though, that this statue also has one of the horse’s rear legs lifted. The equestrian statue horse legs myth doesn’t seem to cover what that potentially would mean…maybe…just maybe…it means the horse is supposed to look like it’s running and has nothing to do with the rider’s death/wounds…
There is also a major equestrian statue of General Sherman at the General Sherman Memorial in Washington DC. This statue has the horse with all four legs on the ground. (This is a common theme where multiple equestrian statues exist. One would guess the differences have something to do with sculptors wanting theirs to look markedly different than the already existing statue(s).)
The only place where this equestrian statue “tradition” seems to hold with any sort of consistency is with a few statues of soldiers who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg. (This is thought to be how the myth got started in the first place.) Of the nearly 500 monuments at Gettysburg, there are 6 equestrian statues. Five of the six conform to the myth and the sixth loosely does, but the problem is the statue of General John Sedgwick, who died at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House- his equestrian statue has all four hooves are on the ground.
(Aside: General Sedgwick’s last words were: “What? Men dodging this way for single bullets? What will you do when they open fire along the whole line? I am ashamed of you. They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.” He then took a bullet through his head fired from about 900-ish meters (1000 yards) away.)
Of course, it could be argued that this “tradition” was meant only to refer to what happened at the battle of Gettysburg, in which Sedgwick was not wounded nor did he die in. If that’s the case, then his is correct. However, if that’s the case then the statue of James Longstreet in that collection is not. He wasn’t wounded in Gettysburg, but his statue has the horse with one foot raised.
(He was wounded in the Battle of Glendale, so that would fit there, but not if we’re limiting the statue’s positioning based on the battle of Gettysburg to make the statue of General Sedgwick fit.)
Even then, it seems odd such a code would be created just for 6 statues of prominent people who fought in the battle of Gettysburg, and even more odd that if the code did exist that they would have broken it in one of the statues. Given there is no record of the sculptors having done this intentionally, and the discrepancy, it’s really not clear that this is what they were going for. It’s possible given the small sample size and that this is the only place we find this somewhat consistent correlation, it just randomly happened to work out that way with the way the sculptors decided to make the statues.
So this covers pretty thoroughly the statues in America. What about the equestrian statues across the pond? The Ancient Romans had numerous examples of equestrian statues, but unfortunately nearly all were destroyed or melted down for use in other things. One of the very few surviving equestrian statues from Rome was of Emperor Marcus Aurelius who died in 180 of an illness.
His horse in that statue has one foreleg up in the air. There is no record of Marcus Aurelius ever being wounded in battle and as a prominent Roman and eventual Emperor, it’s unlikely he saw much direct, close-up battle time (though was a part of many battles).
(Aside: funny enough, probably the only reason the statue of Marcus Aurelius survived when most all the others did not is that for a long time it was misidentified as a statue of Emperor Constantine the Great, who was a Christian Emperor. Why is this important to its preservation? Because many of the Roman statues were melted down to make things like church bells, coins, and sculptures for churches. Melting down a statue of Constantine would have been borderline blasphemy.)
There is a surviving equestrian statue of Emperor Constantine with the horse having both front legs up. Constantine did not die in battle, rather of natural causes.
Fast-forward to more recent times, in Medieval Europe and there really aren’t many equestrian statues, as they were (and are) very expensive to make and require a skilled sculptor. The few examples that exist don’t seem to correlate at all with any sort of horse leg tradition. For one brief, slightly more recent example, we have King Louis XIV who had an equestrian statue at Versailles with both forelegs on the horse in the air.
Louis XIV died of gangrene at the age of 77, not in battle.
Given that many a sculptor has worked on equestrian statues throughout history, if there is supposed to be some sort of code, even if not generally followed, there would be documentation of it somewhere — after all, they have to pass that code on. Not surprisingly, there is not.
It’s almost as if the sculptor just chooses the horse’s attitude to suit personal artistic preference…
Marine Corps boot camp is legendary. But is it anything like the movies show?
The commercials make it look like constant action, with obstacle courses, gladiator style fighting, jumping off high dives, and crawling through the dirt commanding most of the airtime.
In reality, these things are sandwiched between hours and days of monotony and boredom.
I spent the summer of 2012 at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, and here is a sample day that a recruit might experience in the first phase of training.
A recruit writes in the log book as he stands watch at night.
(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Caitlin Brink)
0330: Officially, 0400, pronounced as “zero four,” or “oh four hundred,” is the time to wake up and get out of bed. Unofficially, you’re up 30 minutes before that.
The drill instructor woke you up by barking commands at the firewatch. The firewatch, which you will also stand every few days, is the interior guard. They are members of the platoon who are awake for one or two hours at a time throughout the night. The first and last shift aren’t so bad, but the 0000 to 0200 shift is brutal. The drill instructor is yelling at them, asking them why they messed up the log book, making them give the report until they get it right, or just making them run around the squad bay, looking for things that are amiss. You take this time to use the bathroom, as there won’t be time later. There are around 50 recruits to six toilets, so it’s best to go when you have time. Officially, you will have time to go after the lights come on, but it’s best to go now. It’s also best to brush your teeth before the lights come on.
A drill instructor storms through the squad bay as recruits stand “on line.”
(U.S. Sgt. Jennifer Schubert/US Marine Corps)
0400: Lights, lights, lights! That’s what firewatch yells as they throw the switches, turning on all the lights.
There’s no time for stretches or yawns, you get up and stand on line and stick your hand out. You better be ready, because the count starts immediately. Every time your platoon goes anywhere, you are counted. They have to make sure nobody took off in the middle of the night, even if firewatch is there to make sure this doesn’t happen. The recruits are standing “on line,” meaning standing in front of their beds, called “racks,” at attention, awaiting instruction. You will spend a lot of time here on line, so get used to it. The drill instructor runs down the line of recruits, around 25 on the left, and then back down the right, 25 there too. You have to yell your number and snap your arm back down at lightning speed. If somebody messes up, you start over. This counting process takes forever in the first few weeks, as recruits mess up by shouting the wrong number, pausing too long, or skipping over somebody. You do this counting process until you get it right.
Recruits race to put on their uniforms.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dana Beesley)
0401: After 30 seconds to get 50 recruits in and out of the bathroom, now called the head, it’s time to get dressed.
However long it takes you to get dressed in the morning, it takes longer now. You are about to get dressed “by the numbers.” This process was the single most frustrating part of boot camp for me, since it was so tedious and you would inevitably end up with a sock inside out all day. This process looks like this: the drill instructor names a piece of clothing, say trousers, and all the recruits get that item and bring it on line. The uniform items, or cammies, are hung on the back of the racks overnight, meaning you have to run to the back, get it, and make it back on line, arm outstretched, before the drill instructor gets to zero. If somebody doesn’t make it, you put it back.
You finally get your trousers on, but somebody didn’t get them buttoned by zero, so you take them off and put them back. Once you get your trousers on, it’s time for the blouse. Then it’s time for the boots. You can get to the last item of clothing, say your left boot, and have to start all over. This process takes as long as the drill instructor needs it to. If there is a gap in the schedule, it takes forever. The countdown goes as fast or as slow as they want. You can sometimes tell when the games have gone on too long, as they start counting down slightly slower. But in the beginning, you will finish with a few buttons undone, your boots untied, and you’ll be rushed onto the next task. You are expected to fix it on the fly. Not surprisingly, tying your boots while trying to run down the stairs is not easy.
Recruits “scuzz” the floor of their barracks.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Caitlin Brink)
0415: Time to clean house.
With around 50 recruits constantly running in and out of the squadbay, dirt is always present. You will spend many hours “scuzzing” the deck, meaning sweeping the floor with a little hand held “scuzz brush.” This process works much like getting dressed, (“Scuzz brush on line, ready, move!”) but you have to run to the wall, squat down, and push the dirt to the middle of the squadbay. You are in boot camp though, so you have to do so at “parade rest” with your non-scuzz brush hand behind your back. And don’t even think about letting your knee hit the deck. You squat and duck walk your way to the middle. If you don’t get there in time, you do it again. Either before or after this, you make your bed, aka “rack.” In years past, recruits got wise and started sleeping on top of the sheets so as to leave the rack pristine. This was not allowed in the summer of 2012. You either slept under your sheets, or you would have to tear them up in the morning anyway. Making the bed can be as fast or as slow as getting dressed, depending on what’s happening that day. They can let you get it done fast and move on, or they can have you rip all the sheets off and bring them on line. It’s always a surprise.
Recruits at Parris Island march in formation.
(U.S. Marine photo by Cpl. Caitlin Brink)
0430: Somewhere during that time, you got your boots tied, and it’s time to get outside and “form up.”
Forming up is the process of getting outside and standing in formation, ready to move to the next place. For right now, it’s breakfast. All meals in boot camp are referred to as “chow.” This is morning chow. You are formed up in the correct order, rifles in hand, and you are ready to march to the chow hall.
This isn’t a leisurely walk though, this is a chance to practice drill. The drill instructors call the commands, and you execute. Depending on how early in the process of learning drill you are, you could be marching at a snail’s pace, your foot hitting the ground only when the drill instructor allows it. You eventually get to the chow hall, you stack your rifles outside, since they don’t go in, and get in line. You leave a couple of guards on the rifles, who will have a chance to eat when the first two in your platoon come out.
While waiting in line for the chow hall, you will study your knowledge. Knowledge is just the word that the Marines use to describe any of the things that will be on the tests. This can be history, land navigation, first aid, marksmanship, drill, uniforms, customs and courtesies, or rank structure. This is usually done at top volume, with the drill instructor shouting the question, and the recruits shouting the answer. For example, the answer to “Two Marines, two medals,” is “Dan Daly, Smedley Butler Ma’am!” at top volume. The question is looking for the two Marines who have been awarded the Medal of Honor twice. The answer will be shouted at top volume, or it will be shouted again.
Eventually you get inside, get your food, and sit down to eat. You eat as fast as possible without choking, since the drill instructor is yelling at you to get out. There is no time here for butter on toast. If you want butter on your toast, you stuff the toast in your mouth, then stuff a pat of butter in after it. You finish eating and go back outside to pick up your gear.
Welcome to the sand pit.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Sarah Stegall)
0500: Your platoon got into the chow hall first, and now you are done. Your next activity doesn’t start until 0600, so it’s time for drill.
Your platoon marches back and forth on a concrete square, called a parade deck, learning how to turn, start and stop, or reverse direction as a unit. If anybody messes up, you start over.
If you are struggling more than they would like, you might be sent to the pit. There is a sand pit conveniently located right next to the parade deck, and you are about to go do exercises in it. You do pushups, sit-ups, mountain climbers, side straddle hops, or hold a plank while screaming at the top of your lungs. Usually you are screaming the number of reps completed. If you aren’t loud enough or you aren’t performing up to their expectations, you just stay in there until you do.
If there is more than one of you in there, it’s a group effort. This is one of the most effective ways to break a recruit down. Maybe I don’t care about getting yelled at or being seen as weak, but there might be five of us in the pit, and nobody gets to leave until I hold that plank for 60 seconds. After 8 or 9 solid minutes of planks, 60 seconds gets a lot longer. They force you to care, because now you’re letting the team down. (“Oh good, Ohlms wants to let her knees touch the deck. Start over.”) The funny thing is, they will say you cheated a move just to piss off your fellow recruits, and you can’t say anything about it. Eventually you get back to your unit, just in time to mess up the next drill move.
Recruits attend classroom training.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jennifer Schubert)
0600: Time for class.
This should be a relaxing time. You go into a classroom, sit in the air conditioning, and learn about topics that the Marine Corps will test you on later. You may be a huge history buff, and this may be a history class, but it will not be fun. You drill over to the classroom and get inside as fast as possible, lining up by a desk. You don’t dare sit down, as you weren’t told to yet. Your rifles get stacked in racks at the back of the room, and you take off your day pack, holding it out parallel to the deck, arms straight out, both thumbs hooked under the carrying handle. You stand there until the drill instructors deem you worthy of sitting.
If you don’t get that day pack under the chair and your book on the desk fast enough, you pick them back up, arms parallel to the deck. All the while, a constant stream of yelling. You try again and maybe this time you make it. You sit when told to and you open your book. The teacher is another drill instructor, but the class isn’t so bad. He isn’t yelling at you, unless your eyes start to droop or your head starts to bob. Then you get put on a list. After about an hour, it’s time for a break. Those who were pointed out in class are rushed outside to the pit, while the rest of you are given a chance to go to the head and refill your canteens with water. Everywhere you go, you are screamed at. You are screamed at to fill your canteen faster, pee faster, wash your hands faster, get back in the classroom faster. You get back to the classroom to pick up your pack and hold it out again. As soon as everybody is back, some covered head to toe in sand, the next class starts.
A drill instructor inspects a recruit’s weapon.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Anthony Leite)
0900: Class is over and there is an hour until afternoon chow. Time for more drill.
This time, the sun is beating down on you, adding to the experience. The sweat makes the sand stick so much better.
1000: Afternoon chow. The bugs have come out now, making standing outside the chow hall unbearable. You dare not swat at a bug crawling on your face, as you know that earns you a trip to the pit later. You just stand there screaming knowledge as the sweat drips into your eyes and the bugs crawl on your neck and face. Eventually you get inside, stuff down as much food as you can in 60 seconds, and get back outside.
A recruit in the basic warrior stance during martial arts training.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brooke C Woods)
1100: Time for MCMAP, the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.
You move to this football field-size lot of chopped up rubber and slip a mouth guard in. You are about to do the Marine Corps version of karate. You partner up and practice punching, kicking, chokes, escaping from chokes, slamming your partner to the ground, and trying to enunciate with a mouth guard in. If the drill instructors feel like you aren’t going hard enough, they will make you do it again and again until you do. Your partner will thank you to do it right the first time.
1300: Time to go back to the house, but you’ll stop by the parade deck first to get in a little drill.
A drill instructor inspects recruits.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Anthony Leite)
1500: You get back to the squad bay.
With your first inspection coming up, the drill instructor shows you exactly how everything is going to look in the squad bay. Everything has to match. Every recruit has a foot locker, a sea bag, and a rack, and they all must be marked and arranged in exactly the same way. If one person marks their foot locker in the wrong spot, the tape is ripped off of all of them and it is done again.
Recruits line up for chow.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dana Beesley)
1700: Evening chow.
1800: Back to the squad bay. It’s time for all 50 recruits to take a shower.
1805: Done with showers. Get out.
Recruits are responsible for cleaning their rifles.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Maximiliano Bavastro)
1806: Rifle cleaning time.
One piece at a time, and everybody cleans the same piece until they are all done. Also, somebody was slouching, so you are scrubbing with both arms fully extended up over your head.
A recruit reads letters from his family.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Mackenzie Carter)
1900: You get one hour of “free time” before bed.
This is when they hand out letters, you have time to study for the upcoming history test, you can practice drill movements that you are having trouble with, or somebody might forget to announce a drill instructor as they enter the room and you spend most of your free time at attention waiting for forgiveness.
Even sleeping involves discipline.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Vaniah Temple)
You lay at the position of attention in your rack until you are given permission to adjust. You will get used to falling asleep in the position of attention. Another day down, only seventy-something left.
Sara Ohlms spent 13 weeks feeding the sand fleas of Parris Island in the summer of 2012. She then spent the next four years as a military working dog handler. She is now a freelance writer based in St. Louis, Missouri.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When you think of famous musicians who have honorably served in the United States Armed Forces, the mind immediately goes to Elvis Presley — and how could it not? Photos abound of the handsome, young Elvis in a crisp Army uniform. When he arrived at the airport to attend basic training, the airport was mobbed with screaming fans.
Upon being drafted, Elvis Presley entered the United States Army in spring of 1958 and served until spring of 1960, receiving his discharge from the Army Reserve in 1964. At the time of his draft, he was the most well-known entertainer in the Armed Forces, but he didn’t let his fame get in the way of service. Despite being offered a safer, cushier role in the Special Services as more of an entertainer and recruiting tool, Elvis chose instead to serve as a regular soldier.
However, Elvis isn’t the only famed musician to serve their country. Let’s look at eight other musicians you might be surprised to learn served their country in the United States Armed Forces.
Tracy Lauren Marrow, better known by his stage name, Ice-T, is one of many young adults who found themselves turning to military service as a way out of a tough situation. Dealing drugs on the streets of Los Angeles to support himself, he knew he needed to turn his life around when his daughter was born.
Marrow enlisted in the Army and served four years in the 25th Infantry Division at the Tropic Lightning Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.
During his time in Hawaii, Marrow served as a squad leader at Schofield Barracks. It was during this time that he purchased musical equipment and began work to hone his skills, save money, and prepare to launch a career in music. As Ice-T, Marrow went on to a dynamic career, first as a Grammy Award-winning musician, rapper, and songwriter, then as an actor on television on the hit show Law Order: Special Victims Unit.
American rock legend Jimi Hendrix remains one of the most influential guitarists of all time, despite an incredibly short career of only four years.
Well known for his groundbreaking instrumentalization on electric guitar and his legendary performance at Woodstock, Hendrix entered the military as one of two choices given to him by police after being caught twice in stolen cars: it was prison or the military.
Hendrix enlisted in May 1961 and was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division and stationed in Kentucky. Hendrix next completed paratrooper training and was given the prestigious Screaming Eagles Award in early 1962.
However, it seems that Hendrix wasn’t well-suited to military service and was given an honorable discharge just six months later. While Hendrix later claimed that he received a medical discharge after breaking his ankle in a parachute jump, he was actually discharged due to “unsuitability” for service.
Johnny Cash receives an award from a Marine sergeant during his performance for military personnel at the naval station.
The Man in Black was first a man in uniform. Johnny Cash, singer, songwriter, and one of the bestselling musicians of all time, had a career that spanned decades, genres, and generations.
Before he was an award-winning musician, Cash served in the United States Air Force. At age 18 and directly after high school, Cash enlisted and attended basic training at Lackland Air Force Base and technical training at Brooks Air Force Base in Texas.
He was assigned to the 12th Radio Squadron Mobile of the Air Force Security Service in Germany as a Morse code operator, intercepting Soviet transmissions.
His earnings in the military allowed him to buy his first guitar while stationed in Germany and he actually formed his first band, the Landsberg Barbarians, in the Air Force. Upon his discharge, he took advantage of the GI Bill to attend a radio announcing course in Memphis before launching his country music career.
And if it weren’t for his time in Germany, we probably wouldn’t have this version of “I Walk the Line” to contemplate!
Singer, songwriter, and grassroots activist, Willie Nelson is one the most famous voices in country music. He’s well-known for his work supporting American farmers and advocating for the legalization of marijuana through his role as co-chair of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
He grew up in Texas during the Great Depression. After tumultuous early years, he moved to Arkansas to live with his grandparents, and he began playing honkytonks to avoid field work.
After he left high school, Nelson enlisted in the Air Force and served for about nine months before receiving a medical discharge due to back issues.
And while he didn’t serve very long, he has stayed passionate about veteran issues throughout his storied career as a singer, songwriter, author, and actor, advocating for increased medical care for veterans and supporting veteran advocacy groups, helping to raise awareness about homelessness among veterans.
Yes, that MC Hammer.
Stanley Burrell, known professionally as MC Hammer, is an American hip-hop recording artist, dancer, and producer who enjoyed tremendous success during the 1980s and ’90s with hits such as “U Can’t Touch This” and “2 Legit to Quit.”
After graduating from high school in Oakland, Burrell took undergraduate classes in communications. Discouraged by his lack of success, he was at a crossroads. He vacillated between considering work as a drug dealer or a job in the military.
He ultimately decided to join the United States Navy for three years, serving as an Aviation Storekeeper 3rd Class at the Naval Air Station at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, until his honorable discharge.
Jazz legend John Coltrane was one of the most influential saxophonists and composers of all time. Known for his own recordings (more than 50) and his collaboration with other jazz greats, including Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, Coltrane died young of liver cancer but leaves behind an exceptional musical legacy.
To avoid being drafted by the Army in 1945 during World War II, Coltrane enlisted in the Navy on the day the first atomic bomb was dropped on Japan. He trained as an apprentice seaman and was sent to Pearl Harbor.
During this time, his musical talents came to light, and he joined the Melody Masters, the base swing band. By the end of his service, he had assumed a leadership role in the band, and it was during this time that he made his first recording with other Navy musicians, playing alto saxophone on jazz standards and bebop tunes.
With a career that has spanned more than six decades, Tony Bennett is the living voice of American pop standards, jazz classics and, more recently, contemporary duets with other legends such as Amy Winehouse and Lady Gaga. He has earned 19 Grammy awards, two Emmy awards and is a Kennedy Center Honoree. He has sold more than 50 million records worldwide.
However, before he was Tony Bennett, he was Anthony Benedetto, who was drafted into the United States Army in November 1944 during the final stages of World War II. As a replacement infantryman, he served across France and into Germany, and in March 1945, he joined the front line.
During active combat, Bennett narrowly escaped death several times and he participated in the liberation of a Nazi concentration camp, where American prisoners of war from the 63rd Division were also freed.
During his service, he also sang with the Army military band under the stage name Joe Bari, and played with many musicians who went on to have post-war music careers. Once discharged, Bennett studied at the American Theater Wing on the GI Bill.
George Strait with U.S. Army Chief of Staff Peter J. Schoomaker at the 2005 San Antonio Stock Show Rodeo, before Schoomaker swore in a new group of Army recruits in front of rodeo fans.
Country music singer, songwriter, and producer, George Strait, AKA the “King of Country,” is considered by many to be one of the most popular and influential country music artists of all time. George Strait is famed for his neo-traditionalist style, his cowboy look and 60 No. 1 Billboard country music hits.
In 1971, Strait eloped with his high school sweetheart, Norma, then joined the United States Army. He was enlisted in the Army from 1971 to 1975 and was stationed in part in Hawaii. While there, he launched what would become a lifelong career, singing with the Army-sponsored band called Rambling Country.
Strait’s commitment to the men and women of the Armed Forces has continued throughout his illustrious career. He even served as the spokesman for the Wrangler National Patriot program, which raises awareness and funds for American wounded and fallen military veterans and their families.
Any dad would put himself in danger to save his child, but a North Carolina dad proved he’s truly a hero. When Charlie Winter’s 17-year-old daughter Paige was attacked by a shark at Fort Macon State Park’s Atlantic Beach, he sprang into action. Winters punched the shark five times, fighting off the predator and ultimately saving his daughter’s life.
Family friend Brandon Bersch described the frightening attack to TODAY Parents: “They were standing in waist-deep water and chatting and then Paige suddenly got pulled under.” Winters quickly reacted by punching the shark repeatedly. “Charlie wouldn’t stop until it released his little girl,” Bersch continued. “He lives for his children.”
Winters’ quick response is likely due to his experience as a firefighter and paramedic, which allowed him to know to apply pressure to Paige’s wounds and was able to remain calm. “Paige is alive today because of her father,” Bersch said.
Paige was airlifted to Greenville’s Vidant Medical Center 80 miles away, where she had emergency surgery and unfortunately, lost her leg. “Paige has more surgeries upcoming, but she’s really optimistic,” Bersch said of the teen’s recovery. “As soon as Paige woke up at the hospital, she made a comment about how she doesn’t have animosity toward sharks and she still loves the sea.”
This was hardly the first time Charlie stepped in to save a life. In 2013, he rescued a then 2-year-old boy from a burning home. “Charlie is the bravest man I know,” Bersch said of his friend. Absolutely no arguments here.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
At some point in your life (especially if you’ve ever been in the Navy), you’ve heard Village People’s 1979 disco classic, “In The Navy.” Whatever you know about the group and this song, know these two things: First, their characters are supposed to be the ultimate, macho, American men. Second, the Navy asked the band to use this song as the Navy’s official recruiting song.
Following up on the success of the band’s previous hit, “YMCA,” the United States Navy approached the band’s management to get permission to use it in a recruiting campaign. The song was written well before the Navy asked about it and, in the service’s defense, it seems like a pretty innocuous song, praising the life of a sailor.
“… Search the world for treasure , Learn science technology. Where can you begin to make your dreams all come true , On the land or on the sea. Where can you learn to fly…”
A deal was struck. The Navy could use the song for free in a commercial so as long as the Village People could film the music video for the song aboard a real U.S. Navy ship. The Village People performed the song aboard the frigate USS Reasoner at Naval Base San Diego. The song peaked at #3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 charts.
But seeing as the band was, for the most part, an openly gay band in the late 1970s, upon closer inspection, the lyrics seemed to be filled with double entendre. To the Navy, it began to be seen as an anthem for promoting homosexual intercourse while underway.
Everywhere the Navy looked in the song, there was some sort of implicit reference.
“… If you like adventure, Don’t you wait to enter, The recruiting office fast. Don’t you hesitate, There is no need to wait, They’re signing up new seamen fast…”
According to the band, however, that’s not true at all. The principle writer of the songs, frontman (and faux-policeman) Victor Willis has said there are no intended homosexual references in any of the songs, not “In The Navy” or “YMCA.” The Navy (and general public) was applying those meanings on their own.
In fact, Victor Willis isn’t even a gay man. The lyrics are just a play intended to make people think there’s more to the background than there really is. In the end, it’s just supposed to be a fun pop song.
Still, the Navy decided to stick with its old “Anchors Aweigh” for recruiting purposes. In the long run, it was probably for the best. The Navy kept its tradition intact and both the Village People and the Navy benefited from the song’s enduring popularity, especially in terms of pop-culture homage.
The White House on Nov. 4 hit back after former President George H.W. Bush gave his most candid assessment yet of President Donald Trump.
“I don’t like him,” Bush said. His comments were included in a new book by historian Mark Updegrove, called “The Last Republicans,” which focuses on the lives of George H.W. Bush and his son, former President George W. Bush.
“I don’t know much about him, but I know he’s a blowhard,” the elder Bush continued. “And I’m not too excited about him being a leader.”
George W. Bush threw in his own two cents as well.
“This guy doesn’t know what it means to be president,” he said.
A White House official told CNN, in response to the Bushes’ comments, “If one presidential candidate can disassemble a political party, it speaks volumes about how strong a legacy its past two presidents really had.”
“And that begins with the Iraq war, one of the greatest foreign policy mistakes in American history,” the official said.
Trump repeatedly blasted the second Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq during the 2016 primaries, as he was running against George W.’s younger brother, and George H.W.’s son, Jeb.
“I was totally against the Iraq war,” Trump said at a national-security forum at the height of the presidential race. “You can look at Esquire magazine from ’04. You can look at before that.”
But in a 2002 interview during which shock-jock Howard Stern asked Trump if he supported the invasion, Trump replied, “Yeah, I guess so.”
The White House official added on Nov. 4 that Trump “remains focused on keeping his promises to the American people by bringing back jobs, promoting an ‘America First’ foreign policy and standing up for the forgotten men and women of our great country.”
The George H.W. confirmed in the new book that he voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, while George W. says he left his ballot blank.
The US Navy’s new supercarrier continues to face major problems that will delay its delivery to the fleet by at least three months as the service bets big on the troubled ship, Navy officials said March 26, 2019.
Following testing and evaluation with the fleet, the USS Gerald R. Ford last July began maintenance and upgrades at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, with the expectation that the aircraft carrier would return summer 2019.
The Ford is now set to spend at least another three months in dry dock because of unforeseen problems with its nuclear power plant, weapons elevators, and other areas, USNI News first reported on March 26, 2019, citing testimony by Navy officials before a House Armed Services Committee subcommittee.
The US Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) underway on its own power for the first time.
“October right now is our best estimate,” James Geurts, the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development, and acquisition, told the committee, according to USNI News.
The weapons elevators, of which the Ford has only two of the necessary 11, have long been an issue, but the propulsion problem is reportedly less understood.
Problems with the ship’s main turbine generators, which use steam from the two onboard nuclear reactors to generate electricity for its four propeller shafts, appear more serious than initially indicated at sea trials, the report said.
Citing sources familiar with the extent of the repairs, USNI News said two of the main turbine generators “needed unanticipated and extensive overhauls.”
The issue appeared May 2018, when the ship was forced to return to port early.
“The ship experienced a propulsion system issue associated with a recent design change, requiring a return to homeport for adjustments before resuming at sea testing,” the service told Navy Times at the time.
Aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.
(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)
The War Zone said that while the billion Ford has experienced numerous problems with things from the arresting gear and catapults to the radar systems, the Navy is pushing ahead with purchases of this new class of carrier while proposing early retirement for an operational Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.
In its fiscal 2020 budget proposal, the Navy said it planned to retire the USS Harry S. Truman two decades early rather than refuel the ship’s nuclear cores to power it for another quarter century. The move is reportedly designed to free up billions for a block buy of two Ford-class carriers and investment in untested unmanned systems the service has determined necessary for future combat.
As the Ford faces developmental challenges, the service is moving forward with future Ford-class carriers: the USS John F. Kennedy, the USS Enterprise, and a carrier now identified only as CVN-81, the War Zone report said.
The embattled flagships are expected to play a crucial role in power projection, but setbacks have raised questions about when exactly it will be ready to do that.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
TBILISI — The United States and Britain have joined Georgia in blaming Russia for a massive coordinated cyberattack last year that took thousands of Georgian websites offline and even disrupted TV broadcasts.
Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimer Konstantinidi told a news conference in Tbilisi on February 20 that the cyberattack was planned and carried out by Russia.
“The investigation conducted by the Georgian authorities, together with information gathered through cooperation with partners, concluded that this cyberattack was planned and carried out by the main division of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation,” Konstantinidi said.
Meanwhile, the United States and Britain said in separate statements that the attack was carried out by a unit of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency known as Unit 74455 and Sandworm.
Sandworm is known as a single group of hackers within the GRU and security experts have linked it to such cyber breaches as the theft of 9 gigabytes of e-mails from the French presidential campaign of Emmanuel Macron, a similar campaign against the Democratic National Committee in the United States in 2016, as well as the malware that hit Ukraine’s power grid in 2015 and spread globally.
Britain has also linked the group to two attacks against Ukraine in 2017, including NotPetya and BadRabbit, which affected the nation’s financial and energy sectors as well as the Kyiv Metro and Odesa’s airport.
“The United States calls on Russia to cease this behavior in Georgia and elsewhere,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, adding that Washington would provide assistance to Georgia to help improve the country’s ability to fend off such attacks.
“We also pledge our support to Georgia and its people in enhancing their cybersecurity and countering malicious cyber actors,” Pompeo added.
Russia denied involvement in penetrating Georgian government websites.
“Russia did not plan and is not planning to interfere in Georgia’s internal affairs in any way,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko told Russian news agencies.
The Russian Defense Ministry did not immediately comment.
More than 2,000 state, private, and media websites as well as two private television stations — Imedi and Maestro — were knocked out on October 28. The targeted websites included those of the president’s office and local municipality offices.
In many cases, website home pages were replaced with an image of former President Mikheil Saakashvili, and the caption “I’ll be back.”
With the rise of cyberattacks, Navy ships are now equipped with defense from hackers.
Russia has fraught relations with its southern neighbor, which is seeking to join Western organizations, including the European Union and NATO, moves that Moscow opposes.
Russia fought a five-day war with Georgia in 2008 after which Russia recognized the independence claim of two breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which comprise 20 percent of its territory.
Russia is one of only a few countries that recognizes the two regions’ independence.
After the horrific terror attacks at the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics ended in the death of 11 hostages, nations of the world began creating their own versions what we, in the United States, call Special Weapons and Tactics teams, or SWAT teams. Just under a year later, France established their very own elite tactical police unit called the Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale, or GIGN.
Their counter-terrorism efforts are well regarded when they operate within their homeland, but not many know that they’re also a component of the French Armed Forces, which means they’re one part elite police officers and one part special operations soldier.
They’ve quickly become the most experienced and successful counter-terrorist organization in the world, tallying up over 1,800 publicly known missions with a near-flawless track record. And each time the Gendarmerie step up against a threat, they’ll always bring a trusty six-shooter revolver as their sidearm.
If it looks stupid, but works, it ain’t stupid.
(Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale)
While the GIGN does employ a wide variety of firearms for any given mission, including the MP5 submachine gun, the Fabarm SDASS Tactical shotgun, the Hécate II sniper rifle, and, recently, the BREN 2 rifle, their sidearm of choice is almost always the Manurhin MR73 double-action revolver. It should be noted that some have been known to carry Glock 17s, but that’s more the exception than the rule.
When the testing which sidearm to field, the MR73 made the cut after the teams were able to each shoot over 150 rounds of .38 Special with their sample weapons. They didn’t need to see any other firearms — the MR73 was the first and only sidearm they wanted to test.
Each MR73 is made to be used in marksmanship competitions. Each has an adjustable trigger weight in both double-action and single-action modes so it can be made to perfectly fit its wielder.
Even when the officer is given a choice of firearms, they’ll still almost always take the revolver. Because nothing beats a classic.
(Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale)
But while the MR73 revolver is a solid, practical choice, it’s just as much a status symbol. Commissioner Robert Broussard also saw what the revolver meant to the lawmen of America. It was the weapon of choice used by police to take down both Wild West outlaws and prohibition-era gangsters. A weapon like that earned its place among his police.
Historical status aside, the Manurhin MR73 is one the last remaining high-quality French firearms. The truth is, there simply aren’t many French firearm manufacturers that strive to achieve ultimate quality. Having a highly-customizable, expertly-crafted, .38 Special-firing symbol of both France industry and Wild West lawman? It’s the perfect match for the GIGN.
The author served as a Navy Corpsman with Marines in Sangin, Afghanistan.
The primary mission of a U.S. Marine infantry rifle squad is to locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver or to repel the enemy’s assault by fire and close combat. This mission statement is branded into each infantryman’s brain and consistently put to practical use when the grunts are deployed to the front lines.
In the event a Marine infantry squad takes enemy contact, the squad leader will order the machine-gunners to relocate themselves to an area to return fire and win the battle for weapon superiority. The squad leader will also inform his fire team leaders of the situation and they’ll deploy their two riflemen and SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) gunner to a strategic area — getting them into the fight.
Once they have a fix on the enemies’ position, they’ll call the mortar platoon to “bring the rain.”
At literally the flip of a switch, troops go from having a cold weapon system to knocking a fully automatic weapon, bringing death to the bad guys at the pull of a trigger.
This sounds super cool, right? Well, it kind of is when you’ve experienced the situation first hand. We understand that having a fully automatic machine gun gives troops a commanding advantage, but when you look at how ground pounders are trained to fire the weapon system, the rate of fire nearly mirrors that of an M4’s after a few bursts.
They can get trigger happy
For the most part, grunts love to take contact from the enemy when they are locked and loaded. When you’ve trained for months to take the fight to the enemy, nothing feels better than getting to fire your weapon at the bad guys. However, it’s not uncommon for machine-gunners to squeeze their triggers and fire off more than the recommended four to six rounds.
We’d also like to add that the feeling of sending accurate rounds down range is fun as f*ck! Unfortunately, infantrymen often lose their bearing and keep the trigger compressed and end up wasting ammo.
Negligent discharges can be worse
Most times, a negligent discharge means you accidentally fired one round from your rifle or pistol. For a troop carrying a fully automatic weapon, the negligent discharge can be much more violent and dangerous. Instead of firing off one round accidentally, you can fire two or three.
We understand that the M16 has both semi-automatic (one round at a time) and burst (three shots at a time) firing capabilities. But it’s more unlikely you’ll ND on the burst setting than the semi-automatic one.
Remember when we said troops can get trigger happy? Hopefully, you do, because we just mentioned it a few minutes ago. When grunts do get trigger happy, their weapons systems can overheat. To combat the overheating, troops must change out their barrel in order to stay in the fight.
Which takes precious firefight time that you won’t get back.
It can lower accuracy
Machine guns are very, very powerful weapons. They can kill the enemy positioned beyond the maximum effective range of an M4 and M16. Sounds awesome, right? Well, it is.
Unfortunately, since they are very powerful, when the mobile operator fires the weapon, the recoil will bring the rifle’s barrel up and off target. This mainly happens when the ground pounder gets trigger happy. In a firefight, mistakes need to be kept to a minimum or people can die.