9 items deployed troops use instead of cash - We Are The Mighty
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9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

Everyone has heard the phrase “cash is king” but that’s not always the case when troops are deployed overseas.


When service members deploy to remote areas, they enter a barter economy where cash loses value since there is nearly nowhere to spend it. But a shortage of consumer goods drives up the value of many commodities.

Some troops — call them blue falcons or businessmen — will stockpile these commodities for a profit.

1. Cigarettes

Among vets, even non-smokers stockpile cigarettes. They’re easy to trade, hold their value for weeks, and are always in demand. Plus, sellers can reap great profits after patrols. A smoker who lost their cigarettes in a river is not going to haggle the price down if they won’t reach a store for days.

2. Dip

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/OAC

Similar to cigarettes, the addictive nature of dip means it’s always in demand. Dip is slightly harder than cigarettes to trade since users can’t easily break a can into smaller units. But, since troops can’t always smoke on patrol and smoking in government buildings is prohibited, dipping is sometimes the better method of nicotine consumption.

3. Energy drinks (especially “rare” ones)

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

Part of the reason tobacco is so popular is that it’s a stimulant, something that is desperately needed on deployments. Energy drinks are the other main stimulant that is widely traded. They have different value tiers though.

Drinks the military provides, like Rip-Its, are worth less since they’re easy to get. Monsters are generally available for purchase on large bases. So, they’re are easy to trade but still command high value. Foreign-made drinks, which pack a great kick, can sometimes be found in the local economy and demand the greatest price.

4. Beef jerky

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash
Mmmmm…..

High in protein and salt, jerky is great for marches and patrols. It’s easy to carry and shelf-stable. Troops can trade individual pieces if they want to buy something cheap or use whole bags for large purchases.

5. “Surplus” gear

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith

Every time a unit does inventory, someone is missing something. But, service members with lots of extra cigarettes can always buy someone’s “surplus” gear to replace what they’re missing. Prices vary, of course. Missing earplugs are cheap, but eye protection is expensive.

The only things that can’t be purchased are those tracked by serial number. Replacing something with a serial number requires help from the E-4 mafia.

6. Hard drives (the contents)

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash
Photo: US Air Force Airman Taylor Queen

Nearly everyone deployed has a computer drive with TV episodes and movies from back home. Old movies are traded for free, but getting new stuff requires the rare dependable internet connection or a care package with DVDs. Those who have digital gold will share new shows in exchange for other items or favors.

7. Electrical outlets

Electrical safety Army currencies Marine Corps deployed trades trading Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Johann H. Addicks

These work on a subscription basis. In many tents, there are only a few outlets hooked up to the generator. So, entrepreneurs snatch up real estate with an outlet, buy a power strip, and sell electrical access. The proliferation of portable solar panels is cutting down on this practice.

8. Lighters and matches

Matches are distributed in some MREs, but not as much as they used to be. Lighters are available for purchase at most bases. Still, service members at far-flung outposts are sometimes hurting for ways to light their tobacco. Smart shoppers save up their matches and buy up Bics while near base exchanges, then sell them in outlying areas.

9. Girl Scout cookies

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash
Photo: DoD by Capt. Andrew Adcock

Girl Scout cookies come in waves. Every few weeks, boxes will show up in every office on a forward operating base. Resupply convoys will grab dozens to take out to their troops in the field. But, as the days tick by, inventories will wane. This is especially true of top types like Caramel deLites and Thin Mints.

The trick is to store the boxes after the delivery comes in, and then trade them for needed items when everyone else has run dry. A box of Tagalongs can wrangle a trader two cans of dip if they time it right.

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The 32 best military movie quotes of all-time

Hollywood is known for riddling military movies with technical errors, but from “Full Metal Jacket” to “Stripes,” the movie industry gets it right with plenty of quotable military movies.


Here are WATM’s picks for 32 of the best ever:

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

1. “I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for 12 hours. When it was all over, I walked up. We didn’t find one of ’em, not one stinkin’ dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like … victory. Someday this war’s gonna end.” — Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore, “Apocalypse Now” (1979)

2. “When I go home people will ask me, ‘Hey Hoot, why do you do it man? What, you some kinda war junkie?’ You know what I’ll say? I won’t say a goddamn word. Why? They won’t understand. They won’t understand why we do it. They won’t understand that it’s about the men next to you, and that’s it. That’s all it is.” — Norman “Hoot” Hooten, “Black Hawk Down” (2001)

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

3. “You have to think about one shot. One shot is what it’s all about.” — Michael, “The Deer Hunter” (1978)

4. “Keep the sand out of your weapons, keep those actions clear. I’ll see you on the beach.” — Capt. John Miller, “Saving Private Ryan” (1998)

5. “Are you smoking this sh-t so’s to escape from reality? Me, I don’t need this sh-t, I am reality. There’s the way it ought to be, and there’s the way it is.” — Staff Sgt. Barnes, “Platoon” (1986)

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

6. “Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.” — Gen. George Patton, “Patton” (1970)

7. “My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, Commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.” — Maximus, “Gladiator” (2000)

8. “The Almighty tells me he can get me out of this mess, but he’s pretty sure you’re f–ked.” — Stephen, “Braveheart” (1997)

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

9. “Aim small, miss small.” — Capt. Benjamin Martin, “The Patriot” (2000)

10. “Out here, due process is a bullet!” — Col. Mike Kirby, “The Green Berets” (1968)

11. “Mandrake, do you recall what Clemenceau once said about war? … He said war was too important to be left to the generals. When he said that, 50 years ago, he might have been right. But today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.” — Gen. Jack D. Ripper, “Dr. Strangelove” (1964)

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

12. “I feel the need . . . the need for speed.” — Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, “Top Gun” (1986)

13. “Each and every man under my command owes me one hundred Nazi scalps… And I want my scalps!” — Lt. Aldo Raine, “Inglourious Basterds” (2009)

14. “Are you quitting on me? Well, are you? Then quit, you slimy f–king walrus-looking piece of sh-t! Get the f–k off of my obstacle! Get the f–k down off of my obstacle! NOW! MOVE IT! Or I’m going to rip your balls off, so you cannot contaminate the rest of the world! I will motivate you, Private Pyle, IF IT SHORT-D–KS EVERY CANNIBAL ON THE CONGO!” — Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, “Full Metal Jacket” (1987)

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

15. “Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.” —Wardaddy, “Fury” (2014)

16. “I ain’t got time to bleed.” — Blain, “Predator” (1987)

17. “I could have killed ’em all, I could kill you. In town you’re the law, out here it’s me. Don’t push it. Don’t push it or I’ll give you a war you won’t believe. Let it go. Let it go.” —Rambo, “First Blood” (1982)

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

18. “Spartans! Ready your breakfast and eat hearty… For tonight, we dine in hell!” — King Leonidas, “300” (2006)

19. “All right, sweethearts, what are you waiting for? Breakfast in bed? Another glorious day in the Corps! A day in the Marine Corps is like a day on the farm. Every meal’s a banquet! Every paycheck a fortune! Every formation a parade! I LOVE the Corps!” — Sgt. Apone, “Aliens” (1986)

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

20. “You still think it’s beautiful to die for your country. The first bombardment taught us better. When it comes to dying for country, it’s better not to die at all.” — Paul Baumer, “All Quite on the Western Front” (1930)

21. “Sir, Custer was a p-ssy. You ain’t.” — Sgt. Maj. Plumley, “We Were Soldiers” (2002)

22. “Sir, I got lost on the way to college, sir.” — Anthony Swofford, “Jarhead” (2005)

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

23. “Remember Sully when I promised to kill you last? I lied.” — John Matrix, “Commando” (1985)

25. “Only two kinds of people are gonna stay on this beach: those that are already dead and those that are gonna die. Now get off your butts. You guys are the Fighting 29th.” — Brig. Gen. Norman Cota, “The Longest Day” (1962)

26. “F–kin’ badass, I was there. F–kin’ took him out at 400 yards, head popped up three feet in the air. Crazy shot, man.”

27. “Yes they had weapons! You think there’s a script for fighting a war without pissing somebody off? Follow the rules and nobody gets hurt? Yes, innocent people probably died. Innocent people always die but I did not exceed my orders.” — Col. Terry Childers, “Rules of Engagement” (2000)

28. “We’re Airborne. We don’t start fights, we *finish* ’em!” —Galvan, “Hamburger Hill” (1987)

29. “Lighten up, Francis.” — Sgt. Hulka, “Stripes” (1981)

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

30. “My name is Gunnery Sergeant Highway. I’ve drunk more beer, banged more quiff, pissed more blood, and stomped more ass than all of you numb-nuts put together.” — Gunny Highway, “Heartbreak Ridge” (1986)

31. “All I ever wanted was an honest week’s pay for an honest day’s work.” — Master Sgt. Ernie Bilko, “Sgt. Bilko”

32. “You see Danny, I can deal with the bullets, and the bombs, and the blood. I don’t want money, and I don’t want medals. What I do want is for you to stand there in that f–goty white uniform and with your Harvard mouth extend me some f–king courtesy. You gotta ask me nicely.” — Col. Nathan Jessep, “A Few Good Men” (1992)

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Navy will enforce North Korean sanctions

The US is reportedly talking about expanding crackdowns on North Korean ships, along with allies such as Australia, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea.


North Korea currently uses ship-to-ship transfers of sanctioned materials — sometimes in ports and sometimes in international waters — to evade sanctions from the international community. The UN Security Council has passed at least nine resolutions that imposed sanctions on North Korea, and Australia, the EU, Japan, South Korea, and the US have all placed additional sanctions on the country.

Also read: The US is seeking wide authority to hunt down North Korean ships and board them

Russian and Chinese ships have recently been caught exchanging goods and resources in ship-to-ship transfers, as has a ship registered in the Maldives.

The new efforts would expand the scope of the interceptions to possibly include searching and seizing North Korean ships in international waters. Currently, nations only have the authority to conduct these operations within their own waters, where North Korean ships that break sanctions rarely travel through.

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash
North Korean cargo vessel Dai Hong Dan. (Photo from US Navy)

“There is no doubt we all have to do more, short of direct military action, to show (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Un we mean business,” a senior American official recently told Reuters.

But the effectiveness of such operations is likely to be limited, Richard Weitz, the Director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis and the Hudson Institute, told Business Insider.

Related: Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea

“The problem is the legal complexity,” Weitz said. “Just stopping every ship that leaves North Korea is too far for countries like Russia and China.”

If any maritime operation were to succeed, Russia and China would likely need to be physically involved, conducting joint patrols and interdictions on the Korean Peninsula with US and other regional navies.

Limited effectiveness of maritime interdictions

China’s cooperation would be particularly important, as Donald Rauch, a US Navy Surface Warfare Officer and former Commanding Officer of USS Independence, recently argued in Foreign Policy.

“Such a move would convince North Korea that its sole ally and biggest trading partner had reached the end of its strategic patience,” Rauch writes.

However, the likelihood that China would be part of this kind of operation is low, given that China sees North Korea as a buffer between it and the West.

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash
The North Korean vessel Kum Un San 3 conducts a ship-to-ship transfer, possibly of oil, with the Panama-flagged Koti in an effort to evade sanctions, December 9, 2017. (US Department of the Treasury)

Still, more aggressive maritime interdictions, conducted in cooperation with partners in the region, could help with sanctions enforcement and could possibly slow down North Korea’s nuclear and ICBM ambitions.

“I’d imagine that you could supplement it with good satellite intelligence, good espionage in the countries that are receiving the materials, and intercepted communications,” Weitz said.

More: North Korea now has 7 missiles that can strike the US

“It will be useful and it will certainly adapt and its an area that needs to grow, but unless China and Russia were really going all the way in, it’s going to be imperfect.”

Weitz also pointed out that North Korea will likely find another way to continue to get the materials and money it needs.

“Insofar as the maritime interdiction becomes more effective, the more North Korea will then turn to other means of smuggling material in and out,” he said. “Whether it be by air, through China, or other methods.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Army cold-weather ops course is nuts

More than two dozen Army Rangers with battalions from the 75th Ranger Regiment bolstered their skills in cold-weather operations during training Feb. 21 to March 6, 2019 at Fort McCoy.

The soldiers were part of the 14-day Cold-Weather Operations Course Class 19-05, which was organized by Fort McCoy’s Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security and taught by five instructors with contractor Veterans Range Solutions.


9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

A student in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Scott Farley)

The Rangers received classroom training on various subjects, such as preventing cold-weather injuries and the history of cold-weather military operations. In field training, they learned about downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ahkio sled use, and setting up cold-weather shelters, such as the Arctic 10-person cold-weather tent or an improvised shelter.

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

Students in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Joe Ernst)

“Building a shelter among other soldiers and being able to stay warm throughout the night was one of the best things I learned in this course,” said Sgt. Paul Drake with the 3rd Battalion of the 75th at Fort Benning, Ga. “This training also helped me understand extreme cold weather and how to conserve energy and effectively operate while wearing the Extended Cold Weather Clothing System (ECWCS) uniform properly.”

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

A student in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Joe Ernst)

The Army ECWCS features more than a dozen items that are issued to soldiers, said Fort McCoy Central Issue Facility Property Book Officer Thomas Lovgren. The system includes a lightweight undershirt and underwear, midweight shirt and underwear, fleece jacket, wind jacket, soft shell jacket and trousers, extreme cold/wet-weather jacket and trousers, and extreme cold-weather parka and trousers.

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

Students in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Joe Ernst)

“It’s a layered system that allows for protection in a variety of climate elements and temperatures,” said Lovgren, whose facility has provided ECWCS items for soldiers since the course started. “Each piece in the ECWCS fits and functions either alone or together as a system, which enables seamless integration with load-carrying equipment and body armor.”

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

Students in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Joe Ernst)

In addition to many of the Rangers praising the course’s ECWCS training, many also praised the field training.

“Living out in the cold for seven days and sleeping in shelters makes me more competent to operate in less-than-optimal conditions,” said Sgt. Austin Strimenos with the 2nd Battalion of the 75th at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. “Other good training included becoming confident with using the Arctic tents and the heaters and stoves and learning about cold-weather injuries and treatments.

“Also, the cross-country skiing and the trail area we used were awesome,” Strimeros said.

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

Students in Fort McCoy Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05 practice skiing.

(Photo by Joe Ernst)

During training, the students experienced significant snowfall and below-zero temperatures. Spc. Jose Francisco Garcia, also with the 2nd Battalion of the 75th, said the winter extremes, along with Fort McCoy’s rugged terrain, helped everyone build winter-operations skills.

“The best parts of this course is the uncomfortable setting that Fort McCoy confronts the soldiers with during this kind of weather,” Garcia said. “This makes us think critically and allows us to expand our thought process when planning for future cold-weather operations. It also helps us to understand movement planning, what rations we need, and more.”

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

Students in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Joe Ernst)

Spc. Stephen Harbeck with the 1st Battalion of the 75th at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., which is near Fort Stewart, said enjoyed the training, including cold-water immersion training. Cold-water immersion training is where a large hole is cut in the ice at the post’s Big Sandy Lake by CWOC staff, then a safe and planned regimen is followed to allow each participant to jump into the icy water.

“The experience of a service member being introduced to water in an extreme-cold environment is a crucial task for waterborne operations and confidence building,” said CWOC instructor Joe Ernst.

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

Students in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Joe Ernst)

“The best things about this course are the training about fire starting, shelter building, and the cold-water immersion,” Harbeck said. “CWOC has helped me understand the advantages and disadvantages of snow and cold weather. Everything we learned has equipped me with the knowledge to operate in a cold-weather environment.”

By Army definition, units like the 75th are a large-scale special-operations force and are made up of some of the most elite soldiers in the Army. Rangers specialize in joint special operations raids and more, so gaining training to operate in a cold-weather environment adds to their skills.

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

Students in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Joe Ernst)

“Learning about and experiencing the effects of cold weather on troops and equipment as well as learning about troop movements in the snow are skills I can share with soldiers in my unit,” said Cpl. Justin Galbraith, also with the 2nd Battalion of the 75th. “It was cold, and it snowed a lot while we were here. So … it was perfect.”

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

A student in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Scott Farley)

Other field skills practiced in the training by the Rangers included terrain and weather analysis, risk management, developing winter fighting positions in the field, camouflage and concealment, and more.

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

A student in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Scott Farley)

“This course has given me insight on how to conduct foot movements, survive in the elements, and more,” said Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Bowman with the 3rd Battalion of the 75th. “It’s also helped me establish the (basis) for creating new tactics, techniques, and procedures for possible upcoming deployments and training situations.”

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

A student in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Scott Farley)

This course is the fifth of six CWOC classes being taught between December 2018 and March 2019.

“Fort McCoy is a good location for this training because of the weather and snowfall,” said Spc. Clay Cottle with the 2nd Battalion of the 75th. “We need to get more Rangers into this course.”

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

A student in the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-05.

(Photo by Scott Farley)

Note: Male CWOC students are provided a command-approved modified grooming waiver during training to help prevent cold-weather injuries because of multiple days of field training.

Located in the heart of the upper Midwest, Fort McCoy is the only U.S. Army installation in Wisconsin.

Fort McCoy lives its motto, “Total Force Training Center.” The installation has provided support and facilities for the field and classroom training of more than 100,000 military personnel from all services each year since 1984.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Airman earns top honors in course for Marine NCOs

On a muggy summer day in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, a Marine Corps instructor stood on a ledge overlooking a swamp. He looked out at his students, and his eyes found Master Sgt. Aretha Boston — the only airman in the platoon.

He called her forward, and Boston walked up to the ledge.

“Just as soon as I extended my hand, he grabbed it,” Boston recalled. “And before I knew it, he was pulling me into the swamp.”

For Boston, 11th Medical Group command staff superintendent, it was another of many surprises at the Marine Corps Staff NCO Academy Advanced Course. The opportunity to attend the course was a surprise in itself.


Most surprising, though, was how well she performed. At graduation time, Boston took home three of the most prestigious awards at the school: the class Gunnery Sergeant Award (voted on by instructors), the Honor Graduate Award (voted on by her classmates), and the Distinguished Graduate Award (for measured academic excellence).

In some ways, though, it was a fitting chapter in a storied career that almost never was.

Coming from a small town in Florida, Boston’s life plan didn’t involve joining the military. Her mother, though, had different ideas. She insisted that her daughter enlist.

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

Master Sgt. Aretha Boston, 11th Medical Group command staff superintendent, poses for a portrait Oct. 24, 2018, at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Boston.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Noah Sudolcan)

“To be completely honest, in the beginning I was angry,” Boston said. Despite her misgivings, at the age of 17 and straight out of high school, she begrudgingly agreed and enlisted in the Air Force to become a dental technician. Years later, she said she views it as “by far the best decision my parents could have made for me.”

Boston’s first base was 7,479 miles from home: Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. She was away from her family, the only airman basic in the dental clinic and learning a whole new lifestyle. Over those first few months, she learned the technical portion of her job, but she said she struggled with the challenge of conforming to military discipline.

“I acted out a lot,” Boston said. “I didn’t want people to tell me to do something. I was very stubborn.”

After serving a year in Korea, she moved to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Dealing with the culture shock coming from Korea, she said she found it hard to connect with people.

Her first Christmas break in Florida started with a call from her first sergeant asking why she wasn’t at bay orderly — an extra duty to help clean the dorm common areas. Thinking she had the week off, she said it all seemed unfair.

“The first shirt sat me down and told me, ‘Listen, I’ve been told you’re a stellar airman, but you have a terrible attitude,'” she said. When he told her that an unchecked bad attitude could end up getting her kicked out of the military, she said she decided to make some changes.

“That was my turning point,” she said. “From then on, I did the best I could to be the best airman.”

The new attitude paid off. Several years — and promotions — later, everything was going well. But Boston said she craved something different. A new challenge. Something to separate herself from her peers. She was comfortable, standing on the solid ground of a well-constructed military career, but she was contemplating a big jump.

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

Air Force Master Sgt. Aretha Boston, middle left, poses with her Marine Corps classmates during the Marine Corps Staff NCO Academy Advanced Course in the summer of 2018.

She found out the Air Force offers the chance for master sergeants to attend a sister service academy. She applied. Then she got accepted. The class started in the summer of 2018, and when she arrived, there were only six airmen in a sea of 120 Marines.

“(Marines) operate completely different from (airmen),” Boston explained. “Everything ties into fitness. Leadership, strategy planning — it always goes back to fitness.”

Physical training was every day, which she said was taxing on both her body and mind.

Those challenges culminated when, after a long morning run, the instructor pulled her into the swamp. With Marines cheering from the side, Boston remembers the feeling of being engulfed by the freezing water. After she and the rest of her class swam to the other side, a long obstacle course lay ahead of them.

Like all the other obstacles in Marine Corps senior NCO training, along with the hurdles of her early career, Boston faced them head on.

“It was pretty motivating to think she was an airman coming over to the course, doing something unprecedented,” said Gunnery Sgt. Anthony Walker, Boston’s classmate and Marine Corps Aviation Logistics Squadron 14 warehouse managements division warehouse chief.

Walker said it would be natural to see a decrease in academic productivity in the individual taking on the busy role of class gunnery sergeant. But he said Boston had no such trouble. In fact, she still managed to excel beyond her peers – even the ones wearing Marine Corps insignia.

“She literally did everything you would expect from a Marine, pushing forward, even outside of class.” Walker said. “She carried herself as a professional the entire time and represented the Air Force well.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

This Iraq War vet’s debut novel is provocative and right

While deployed to Iraq in 2007, the U.S. Army’s then-Captain Matt Gallagher started a blog called Kaboom that quickly became very popular … and controversial — so controversial, in fact, that the Army shut it down.


After he separated from the military, Gallagher compiled the best of the blog into his 2010 memoir, “Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War.”  He has since written for the New York Times, The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, and Boston Review, among others. Now, with an Master’s degree from Columbia, he’s writing fiction. This week saw the debut of his first work of fiction, “Youngblood: A Novel.”

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

The U.S. military is preparing to withdraw from Iraq, and newly-minted lieutenant Jack Porter struggles to accept how it’s happening—through alliances with warlords who have Arab and American blood on their hands. Day after day, Jack tries to assert his leadership in the sweltering, dreary atmosphere of Ashuriyah. But his world is disrupted by the arrival of veteran Sgt. Daniel Chambers, whose aggressive style threatens to undermine the fragile peace that the troops have worked hard to establish.

Irreverent but dedicated like a modern day Candide, Jack struggles with his place in Iraq War history. He soon discovers a connection between Sgt. Chambers and and a recently killed soldier. The more the lieutenant digs into the matter, the more questions arise. The soldier and Rana, a local sheikh’s daughter, appeared to have been in love and what Jack finds implicates the increasingly popular Chambers.What follows finds Jack defying his command as Iraq falls further into chaos.

Gallagher’s storytelling is compelling and his characters are vibrant. “Youngblood” immediately immerses the reader into the Iraq War, defying genre and perspective. We equally see the war from the soldiers who fought there and the Iraqis who lived it, while Gallagher weaves a narrative that is engaging, thoughtful, and thought provoking.

Youngblood: A Novel” is on sale now.

Editor’s note: Catch Matt Gallagher’s Reddit AMA or read his recent opinion piece in the New York Times welcoming us to the “Age of Commando,” where he describes the public fascination with special operations forces in the military today.

 

Articles

This video shows the insider attack that killed 3 US special operators in Jordan

The Jordanian government released a video on July 24 depicting an insider attack that killed three US Special Forces in Jordan.


The video shows the soldiers pulling up to the King Faisal Air Base to participate in a training exercise in November. Upon reaching the entrance, Jordanian guard Cpl. M’aarek Abu Tayeh opened fire on the trucks carrying the soldiers. Staff Sgt. Kevin McEnroe was killed instantly and Sgt. First Class Matthew Lewellen was wounded, later dying from his injuries.

Staff Sgt. James Moriarty was in the truck behind the first, and was able to exit the vehicle, along with another soldier from a different truck. The soldiers attempted to speak with Tayeh in Arabic, but were ignored. Tayeh kept firing, eventually killing Moriarty before the fourth soldier was finally able to shoot the assailant.

WATCH:

 

None of the Jordanian soldiers nearby appeared to aid the Americans. The video clearly shows one man who opened the gate running away as soon as shots were fired.

Jordan, a US ally in the ongoing war on terrorism, initially denied responsibility for Tayeh’s attack, placing blame on the US for failing to follow proper protocols when entering the base. US Special Operations Command found “no evidence that US forces failed to fully comply with Jordanian base procedures.”

In fact, SOCOM reported that the troops “demonstrated valorous conduct and extraordinary heroism” in taking down Tayeh, who was armed with an M-16 rifle and body armor. The Special Forces soldiers had only sidearms.

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash
DoD photo by Sgt. Christopher Bigelow

The families of the dead soldiers vocally condemned the Jordanian government in March for its failure to properly look into the incident.

The government eventually charged Tayeh with murder in June. He was found guilty and received life in prison with hard labor, though some relatives of the deceased were hoping for a death sentence.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Drones will soon decide who to kill

The US Army recently announced that it is developing the first drones that can spot and target vehicles and people using artificial intelligence (AI). This is a big step forward. Whereas current military drones are still controlled by people, this new technology will decide who to kill with almost no human involvement.

Once complete, these drones will represent the ultimate militarisation of AI and trigger vast legal and ethical implications for wider society. There is a chance that warfare will move from fighting to extermination, losing any semblance of humanity in the process. At the same time, it could widen the sphere of warfare so that the companies, engineers and scientists building AI become valid military targets.


Existing lethal military drones like the MQ-9 Reaper are carefully controlled and piloted via satellite. If a pilot drops a bomb or fires a missile, a human sensor operator actively guides it onto the chosen target using a laser.

Ultimately, the crew has the final ethical, legal and operational responsibility for killing designated human targets. As one Reaper operator states: “I am very much of the mindset that I would allow an insurgent, however important a target, to get away rather than take a risky shot that might kill civilians.”

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An MQ-9 Reaper Pilot.

(US Air Force photo)

Even with these drone killings, human emotions, judgements and ethics have always remained at the centre of war. The existence of mental trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among drone operators shows the psychological impact of remote killing.

And this actually points to one possible military and ethical argument by Ronald Arkin, in support of autonomous killing drones. Perhaps if these drones drop the bombs, psychological problems among crew members can be avoided. The weakness in this argument is that you don’t have to be responsible for killing to be traumatised by it. Intelligence specialists and other military personnel regularly analyse graphic footage from drone strikes. Research shows that it is possible to suffer psychological harm by frequently viewing images of extreme violence.

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An MQ-9 Reaper.

(US Air Force photo)

When I interviewed over 100 Reaper crew members for an upcoming book, every person I spoke to who conducted lethal drone strikes believed that, ultimately, it should be a human who pulls the final trigger. Take out the human and you also take out the humanity of the decision to kill.

Grave consequences

The prospect of totally autonomous drones would radically alter the complex processes and decisions behind military killings. But legal and ethical responsibility does not somehow just disappear if you remove human oversight. Instead, responsibility will increasingly fall on other people, including artificial intelligence scientists.

The legal implications of these developments are already becoming evident. Under current international humanitarian law, “dual-use” facilities — those which develop products for both civilian and military application — can be attacked in the right circumstances. For example, in the 1999 Kosovo War, the Pancevo oil refinery was attacked because it could fuel Yugoslav tanks as well as fuel civilian cars.

With an autonomous drone weapon system, certain lines of computer code would almost certainly be classed as dual-use. Companies like Google, its employees or its systems, could become liable to attack from an enemy state. For example, if Google’s Project Maven image recognition AI software is incorporated into an American military autonomous drone, Google could find itself implicated in the drone “killing” business, as might every other civilian contributor to such lethal autonomous systems.

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

Google’s New York headquarters.

(Scott Roy Atwood, CC BY-SA)

Ethically, there are even darker issues still. The whole point of the self-learning algorithms — programs that independently learn from whatever data they can collect — that the technology uses is that they become better at whatever task they are given. If a lethal autonomous drone is to get better at its job through self-learning, someone will need to decide on an acceptable stage of development — how much it still has to learn — at which it can be deployed. In militarised machine learning, that means political, military and industry leaders will have to specify how many civilian deaths will count as acceptable as the technology is refined.

Recent experiences of autonomous AI in society should serve as a warning. Uber and Tesla’s fatal experiments with self-driving cars suggest it is pretty much guaranteed that there will be unintended autonomous drone deaths as computer bugs are ironed out.

If machines are left to decide who dies, especially on a grand scale, then what we are witnessing is extermination. Any government or military that unleashed such forces would violate whatever values it claimed to be defending. In comparison, a drone pilot wrestling with a “kill or no kill” decision becomes the last vestige of humanity in the often inhuman business of war.

This article was amended to clarify that Uber and Tesla have both undertaken fatal experiments with self-driving cars, rather than Uber experimenting with a Tesla car as originally stated.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Revolutionary hypersonic weapons to be fielded in 10 years

The secretary of the Army wants to accelerate research into hypersonic and other advanced weapons as part of the service’s push to modernize its offensive and defensive fires.

Hypersonic weapons, capable of flying at five times the speed of sound or faster, are the key to the service’s top modernization priority — long-range precision fires, Army Secretary Mark Esper told reporters at a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington, D.C. Aug. 29, 2018.


“Long-range precision fires at the strategic level is the capability that we need to ensure we have overmatch in future conflicts, and I think that the way to get to it is through hypersonics.”

Esper said he has stressed to the cross-functional team responsible for developing a new generation of long-range precision fires that the Army must move faster to develop hypersonic technology.

“I am pushing them to go as fast as they can, move to the left,” he said, adding that the other services are also working on the technology.

“The services have been working together. We signed a joint agreement, if you will, in terms on how to proceed. The secretary of the Navy and the secretary of the Air Force and I meet constantly on this and other issues where we can work together. We all recognize that that is a key capability for all of us,” he said.

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

High Speed Strike Weapon

(Lockheed Martin photo)

The Army hopes to develop and field hypersonic weapons by 2028 at the latest, Esper said.

“This is one where, clearly, technology is an issue,” he said. “It’s not like there is one out there right now that I am aware of. … This is one that is going to take some technology development. We are pushing hard because we’ve got to get there first.”

The Army is also trying to accelerate efforts to develop directed-energy weapons for use in air and missile defense, another of the service’s key modernization priorities.

“I think what’s most exciting, and where the Army is making a good deal of progress, is on directed energy, and I think that is the future for the most part because of the volume and speed of shots that it gives you,” Esper said, adding that the service is “putting a lot of our investments” toward powerful lasers designed to be mounted on vehicles.

In July 2018, the Army awarded Raytheon a contract worth up to million to develop a 100 Kilowatt-class laser weapon system preliminary designed to be mounted on the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles, or FMTV.

“We have some things now, and I want to get them out in testing as soon as possible. Within a few years, I want to get something out there,” Esper said. “Initial fielding is something else, but in terms of prototyping, seeing what it can do, I want to get it out sooner rather than later.”

Lasers are a challenge because they can travel a great distance, depending on their power, “so you have safety concerns you have to work through,” he said. “But like everything else, I am pushing folks to move left. Let’s get it out to the field. Let’s let soldiers experiment with it and see how they can best use it. … They will help shape how we think about the importance of lasers in terms of actually firing them, but also how do we integrate them as part of our formation against everything from small drones to cruise missiles to fast movers.”

The Army announced its ambitious plan to modernize its fleet of combat systems in October 2017. In addition to long-range precision fires and air and missile defense, the service has also stood up special cross-functional teams to focus on its next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, a mobile network, and soldier lethality.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

Listen to the playlist that ousted Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega

The death of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega brings back memories of the dictator’s last hours of freedom. U.S. special operators tried to force his surrender using loud rock music — music now gathered together on two handy Spotify playlists.


Noriega was ousted by Operation Just Cause, the 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama. But before he was captured by American troops, he took asylum in the Panamanian location of the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See — a diplomatic mission of the Vatican.

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash
Gen. Manuel Noriega is escorted onto a U.S. Air Force aircraft by agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The former Panamanian leader will be flown to the United States, where he will be held for trial on drug charges. (DoD Photo)

Instead of storming a building owned by a neutral, noncombatant foreign power, the Navy SEALs and Delta Force operators developed Operation Nifty Package. It was a psyops mission, designed to force Noriega to rescind his right of asylum in the Vatican-owned Embassy.

When Pope John Paul II refused to comment on the incident and the Papal Nuncio wouldn’t force the dictator to leave, the U.S. Army Psychological Operations Command began to blare a “Rock n’ Roll Assault on Noriega…for three full days.

Noriega was captured and sent to Miami where he was sentenced to 30 years in prison for drug and money laundering charges. He was extradited to France in 2010 to stand trial for money laundering there. Noriega was then extradited to Panama the next year to finish his sentences for the disappearances of political prisoners in the 1980s.

He died of a brain tumor in May 2017.

You can read the entire list of music from a FOIA request made by The George Washington University.

Articles

The age of aircraft carriers could be coming to an end

Since World War II, flat-topped aircraft carriers have been the backbone of US power projection and military might at sea, but a new generation of long-range missiles being developed by the US’s adversaries could push these mechanical marvels off the frontlines.


The US’s massive aircraft carriers have a problem. The F-18s aboard US aircraft carriers have a range of about 500 nautical miles, as noted by Ben Ho Wan Beng at the US Naval Institute.

The incoming F-35Cs are expected to have a marginally better range of about 550 nautical miles.

At the same time, China’s aptly named DF-21 “Carrier Killer” antiship ballistic missile is said to have a range of 810 nautical milesand is capable of sinking an entire1,100-foot carrier with 70 aircraft and 6,000 sailors on board.

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash
The DF-21D rolling through China’s 2015 military parade. | William Ide via Wikimedia Commons

Such long-range antiship missiles create areas (also established in the Baltics by Russia) in which the US can’t position its most powerful assets, the aircraft carriers.

Aircraft carriers, which have been the star of the show since their emergence during World War II, may therefore end up taking a back seat to smaller vessels.

The US Navy has long been working toward achieving “distributed lethality,” or a strategy that entails arming even the smallest ship with missiles capable of knocking out enemy defenses from far away. Engaging enemies with smaller ships also helps to keep extraordinarily valuable targets like carriers out of harm’s way.

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash
Photo: US Navy Lt. j.g. David Babka

In fact, the Navy plans to have at least 40 littoral combat ships with a “full suite of anti-ship and anti-submarine sensors and weapons … Plus such improvements as a medium-range ‘over the horizon’ missile to sink enemy ships,” as Breaking Defense notes.

So instead of putting a carrier in harm’s way, the Navy will most likely look to use longer-range platforms, like cruiser-destroyers that carry the Tomahawk land-attack cruise missile, which have a range of about 900 nautical miles.

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash
The guided-missile destroyer USS William P. Lawrence. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan Burke

In the end, a carrier strike group would no longer lead with the carrier.

Instead, destroyers firing Tomahawk missiles would initiate the attacks, softening up enemy anti-access/area-denial capabilities before the big carriers moved in closer to shore.

MIGHTY GAMING

6 infantry tasks we hope to never see in video games

Let’s be honest with ourselves, if video games were to depict the average day for a grunt, they would be boring. Even if they showed field training, there are still a lot more tedious things going on than shooting guns and blowing things up. The reality is that in the modern era, military video games like Call of Duty or Battlefield lied to everyone about military life.

If you joined because you thought it would be fun based on a video game, you might feel robbed. You probably cleaned more floors than battlefields and you probably sprayed more window cleaner than bullets. Infantry life isn’t as exciting as you thought, is it?

There’s definitely a lot you do outside of combat that you hope will never make it into any video games because it does, it will be a terrible experience for everyone involved.


9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

Digging the fighting holes will make you rage-quit.

(U.S Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. David Diggs)

Digging fighting holes

Easily at the top of the list. Can you imagine paying for a bad ass looking military shooter game just to end up spending half of it digging a hole to shoot from?

In real-life, it probably takes you ten hours because three hours in you discovered the world’s biggest rock and you spent the last seven hours using a tiny shovel to cut through it like it’s California in 1850 and you found some gold in that bad boy.

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

Press “F” to slightly bend your knees so you don’t pass out.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jerrod Moore)

Formation

If you think un-skippable tutorials are bad, just be glad you don’t have to stand still for two hours waiting for your company Gunnery Sergeant try and figure out how to say, “To all who shall see these presents, greetings,” as if it was written in Hebrew.

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

Spades Simulator 19?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Jackson)

Standing-by

This is the life of a grunt: you spend most of your day sitting in your room waiting for someone to give you a task. Usually they end up telling you to clean something thirty minutes before you’re supposed to be cut loose for the day. And it will take you until Midnight.

Funny enough, video games are just one of many things to do while you stand-by so what would you do in a video game that had this?

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

Imagine this scenario as the loading screen between missions.

(U.S Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Patrick Osino)

Weapon maintanence

To be fair, Far Cry 2 had a mechanic and you would have to clean your weapon periodically or it would jam on you. What we mean is going through a Call of Duty campaign and then the post-credit mission is to spend 14 hours at the armory cleaning everything because you just put the entirety of the Department of Defense’s ammunition store through it in a single go.

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

Before you can even go on a mission, you would have to do this for an entire week.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Stormy Mendez)

Annual training

Would you pay for a video game that forced you to spend at least 25% of your play time at the base theater listening to your chain of command lecture on different subjects that they’re vaguely qualified to speak on? Maybe that could be a downloadable content release that comes out after everyone stops playing it.

9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

Imagine if every update just erased your swim qual data.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Robert Brown)

Swim qualification

Part of the real-life tutorial is being taught survival swimming in boot camp but the military thinks after two years you’ll forget so they make you do it again. It’s like getting through that one water level you always hated (you know what we mean) just to do it again after a few missions.