The United States has joined the European Union in condemning plans by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine to hold “elections,” calling them “phony procedures” that undermine peace efforts in the region.
“Given the continued control of these territories by the Russian Federation, genuine elections are inconceivable, and grossly contravene Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements,” she added, referring to September 2014 and February 2015 pacts aimed at resolving the conflict.
She said that by “engineering phony procedures,” Moscow was exhibiting “its disregard for international norms and is undermining efforts to achieve peace in eastern Ukraine.”
On Sept. 8, 2018, EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini also criticized the plan and called on Moscow to use its influence to stop the planned Nov. 11, 2018 vote from taking place.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry also decried the announcement by the separatist officials in the Donbas region.
Ukrainians protest against elections planned by Russia-backed Donbas separatists in 2014.
“If fake ‘early elections’ are conducted, their outcome will be legally void, they will not create any legal consequences, and will not be recognized by Ukraine or the global community,” the ministry said in a statement on Sept. 7, 2018.
The separatists have vowed to hold elections to choose the region’s parliament and a new leader.
Donetsk separatist leader Aleksandr Zakharchenko was assassinated by a bomb blast in a city cafe on Aug. 31, 2018. Denis Pushilin, the chairman of the “people’s council” was selected as the acting head until the Nov. 11, 2018 vote to select a new leader.
More than 10,300 people have been killed in fighting in eastern Ukraine since April 2014 in the conflict, which erupted as Russia fomented separatism after Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych was pushed from power by huge pro-European protests in Kyiv.
Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine and its seizure and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula led the United States and EU to impose sanctions against Moscow and has heightened tensions between Russia and the West.
Featured image: Political rally in the Donetsk People’s Republic, Dec. 20, 2014.
This article was originally written by Kevin Wilson for The Havok Journal. The opinions expressed are his own.
There are many military occupational specialties that could make the argument that they’ve been underutilized in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One could argue, for instance, that there hasn’t been much need for ADA since the initial invasions, since our enemies in both countries are, for all practical intents and purposes, little more than exceptionally lethal cavemen.
They might be hell on wheels for making bombs and guerrilla warfare, but they don’t fly without a little bit of help, usually in the form of the high explosive warhead.
The same argument could be applied to our fighter pilots, for much the same reason. If the enemy has no fighters of their own, then they’re little more than glorified close air support. Sure, they get to stay on nice bases and have shirtless volleyball games, but that’s a poor substitute for life in the danger zone.
However, there is one very particular specialty who, I would argue, has the bluest balls of them all, and that’s the crews of the Army and Marine Corps’s MLRS and HIMARS launchers.
The MLRS, or Multiple Launch Rocket System, is the single most badass artillery piece in the US arsenal, and possibly the world. Its little brother, the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, is a very close second. Nicknamed “Steel Rain,” the MLRS and HIMARS represent a quantum leap in ground-to-ground destructive capability, above and beyond anything the world has seen before and since. Sure, cannon artillery might have its place on the battlefield, but that place isn’t wiping out grid squares with a single fire mission.
And yet, for all their awesome destructive power, they’ve seen very limited use over the last decade and a half. This is a phenomenon I’ve witnessed firsthand. My unit, a HIMARS battery in the North Carolina Army National Guard, has deployed multiple times since the start of the Iraq war, and we’ve yet to fire a single rocket in anger. We spent the better part of a year staring at the Sinai desert, but no shooting rockets.
It’s to the point where the 13Ms, the MLRS and HIMARS crewmembers, were nicknamed 13 Miscellaneous. If there was a job that needed bodies, chances are, they’d get sent to do it, because the chances of them doing the jobs they were trained for were less than nil.
Why, you ask? One could argue that the rockets were overkill, or that they were too expensive. Me, I’ve got another theory.
See, there’s this little country in Asia, you might have heard of it. You know, the one run by a fat little kid who keeps saber rattling? Starts with an N, ends with -orth Korea? Yeah, that one.
It’s no secret that the Hermit Kingdom is ratcheting up tensions in a big way. Tensions are as high as they’ve ever been, and if the manure hits the air circulator for real, it’s going to be the single greatest conventional conflict of the new millennium. Leaving aside the issue of whether or not their nukes are worth a damn, we can count on a vast wave of troops rolling over the DMZ and riding like hell for Seoul, the capital of South Korea.
And what stands in their way?
Well, aside from a whole lot of angry South Koreans, the US has a substantial troop presence over there, and with them, a whole lot of artillery. And the biggest and baddest of them are Steel Rain.
Stopping that initial onslaught is going to be a lot like stopping an avalanche with fire-hoses: doable, but you’re gonna need one hell of a hose, and an awful lot of water. And brother, it’s hard to find a bigger fire-hose than the Multiple Launch Rocket System.
Now, I’m not saying I’m in favor of war in the Korean Peninsula. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s a terrible idea, but I’m also pretty sure we don’t have much of a choice in the matter. If it happens, it happens.
If North Korea steps over the line, however, I’m kinda hoping they do it in a big way, on behalf of all the 13M and 13P out there. Because, you know, it’s been a while, and we have needs that just haven’t been taken care of.
The head of the US’s cyber operations, on Feb. 27, 2018, said the country’s response to Russia’s hacking provocations has “not changed the calculus or the behavior” and that “they have not paid a price.”
Speaking before lawmakers on Feb. 27, 2018, US Cyber Command chief and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers said that he had not been given the authority by President Donald Trump to counter Russia’s cyber operations.
“I believe that President Putin has clearly come to the conclusion there’s little price to pay here,” Rogers said. “And that therefore, ‘I can continue this activity.'”
“Everything, both as a director of NSA and what I see at the Cyber Command side, leads me to believe that if we don’t change the dynamic here, this is going to continue,” Rogers said. “And 2016 won’t be viewed as something isolated. This is something will be sustained over time.”
The US intelligence community has concluded that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election through a complicated media and hacking campaign. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also believed that Russia has already launched a campaign to meddle with the US’s midterm elections in 2018.
Russia has also been a prime suspect in the hacking hundreds of computers that were used by authorities from the 2018 Winter Olympics, according to US intelligence sources cited in a Washington Post report.
“There are tools available to us, and again, I think in fairness, you can’t say nothing’s been done,” Rogers said. “But my point would be it hasn’t been enough. Clearly what we’ve done hasn’t been enough.”
A recent SSRS poll indicates most Americans believe the Trump administration is not doing enough to prevent foreign meddling in elections, according to CNN. Around 60% of respondents in the poll say they are not confident Trump is doing enough to stop countries from influencing US elections.
More details have emerged from a massive battle in Syria that is said to have pitted hundreds of Russian military contractors and forces loyal to the Syrian government against the US and its Syrian rebel allies — and it looks as if it was a mission to test the US’s resolve.
Bloomberg first reported in February 2018, that Russian military contractors took part in what the US called an “unprovoked attack” on a well-known headquarters of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a rebel cohort the US has trained, equipped, and fought alongside for years.
Reuters cited several sources on Feb. 16, 2018, as confirming that Russian contractors were among the attackers and that they took heavy losses. The purpose of the attack, which saw 500 or so pro-government fighters get close to the US-backed position in Syria, was to test the US’s response, Reuters’ sources said.
How the battle played out
Initial reports said pro-government forces launched a coordinated attack that included about 500 troops, 122mm howitzers, tanks, and multiple launch rocket systems.
A source close to Wagner, the Russian military contracting firm, told Reuters that most of the troops were Russian contractors and that they advanced into a zone designated as neutral under a deal between the Russian military and the US-led coalition against the terrorist group ISIS.
The troops reportedly sought to find out how the US would react to the encroachment into that zone.
Forces operating Russian-made T-55 and T-72 tanks fired 20 to 30 tank rounds within 500 feet of the SDF base, which held some US troops, said Dana White, the Pentagon press secretary, according to the executive editor of Defense One.
The US-led coalition responded with “AC-130 gunships, F-15s, F-22s, Army Apache helicopter gunships, and Marine Corps artillery,” according to Lucas Tomlinson, a Fox News reporter. CNN also reported that Himars and MQ-9 drones were used in the attack.
“First of all, the bombers attacked, and then they cleaned up using Apaches,” attack helicopters, Yevgeny Shabayev, a Cossack paramilitary leader with ties to Russia’s military contractors, told Reuters.
The Reuters report cites an unnamed source as describing Bloomberg’s report that 300 Russians died as “broadly correct.”
The US reported more than 100 dead. According to Reuters, Russia says only five of its citizens may have died in the attack.
The Pentagon says only one SDF fighter was injured in the attack.
What might the Russians have learned from the ‘test’?
The pro-government forces operated without air cover from Russia’s military. The US-led coalition apparently warned Russia of the attack, but it’s unclear whether Russia’s military passed on notice to the troops on the ground.
“The warning was 20 minutes beforehand,” a source told Reuters. “In that time, it was not feasible to turn the column around.”
Reports have increasingly indicated that Russia has used military contractors as a means of concealing its combat losses as it looks to bolster Syrian President Bashar Assad’s flagging forces. Russia has denied it has a large ground presence in Syria and has sought to distance itself from those it describes as independent contractors.
According to the news website UAWire, Igor Girkin, the former defense minister of the self-described Donetsk People’s Republic, a separatist region backed by Russia in eastern Ukraine, said that Russian mercenaries operating in Syria who died in combat were cremated on sight to hide the true cost of Russia’s involvement.
As the US’s stated mission in Syria of fighting ISIS nears completion, others have taken center stage. The US recently said it would seek to stop Iran from gaining control of a land bridge to Lebanon, its ally, citing concerns that Tehran would arm anti-US and anti-Israeli Hezbollah militants if given the chance.
The US also appears intent on staying on top of Assad’s oilfields in the east both to deny him the economic infrastructure to regain control of the country and to force UN-sanctioned elections.
It’s now summertime, which means hotter temperatures for physical training, longer days for working parties, and more intense nights for barracks parties. All three of those are a lot easier if you take to your medic/corpsman’s advice and drink some water.
You don’t need to change your socks as often as they claim, but doing so at least once a day is appreciated by everyone around you. If you don’t, well, you’re one nasty SOB. But you’re not here for advice, you’re here for memes.
(Meme via Air Force Nation)
(Meme via Navy Memes)
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)
(Meme via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Says)
(Meme via Ranger Up)
Everyone wants to do infantry stuff until it’s time to do infantry stuff.
(Spoiler alert: A lot of infantry stuff sucks if you don’t embrace it.)
The US on Sept. 6 offered cautious optimism for Russia’s call to deploy a United Nations peacekeeping force in Ukraine while disagreeing with Moscow over its scope.
A State Department official told Anadolu Agency in emailed comments that the option is “worth exploring” in order to protect civilians and as a possible means to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sept. 5 that Moscow will call on the UN Security Council to send peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine, where fighting has raged between government forces and Russia-backed separatist rebels.
Putin insisted during remarks to reporters that the peacekeepers be deployed between government forces and rebel-controlled areas in Ukraine’s east.
But Washington and Kiev worry that deploying the peacekeeping force solely along a line dividing the warring parties would help cement the rebels’ territorial claims.
The State Department official, who spoke on condition that she not be named, said if UN forces are deployed, they should have a broad mandate that would include all Ukrainian territory up to and including the Russian border “in order to avoid deepening or institutionalizing the divisions inside Ukraine.”
“Our goals are simple: restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity and protect Ukrainians no matter what their religion, ethnicity, or language,” she said.
Patrick Shanahan has taken over the helm of the Pentagon, as U.S. President Donald Trump attacked his Defense Department predecessor, pointing to what he said was a lack of success in Afghanistan.
Shanahan, who has been serving as deputy defense secretary, worked his first day in office as acting defense secretary on Jan. 2, 2019, as the replacement for Jim Mattis, who resigned as defense chief on Dec. 20, 2018, saying his policies were not fully “aligned” with the president.
Trump has not specified a time frame for choosing a permanent defense secretary or said whether Shanahan could potentially assume that role.
Mattis initially said he would be leaving the Pentagon at the end of February 2019. But Trump later announced that Mattis, 68, would be leaving earlier after the defense secretary published a letter that directly criticized the president.
Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.
(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
In televised remarks on Jan. 2, 2019, Trump said he “essentially fired” Mattis. “I’m not happy with what [he has] done in Afghanistan — and I shouldn’t be happy,” said Trump, as Shanahan sat by his side.
“I wish him well. I hope he does well. But as you know, President [Barack] Obama fired him, and essentially so did I. I want results.”
A former Marine general, Mattis was fired by Obama in 2013 as head of U.S. Central Command over what the then-president said were too hawkish views toward Iran.
Shanahan, 56, meanwhile, said his priorities would include the impending U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria and countering China’s military might.
“While we are focused on ongoing operations, Acting Secretary Shanahan told the team to remember: China, China, China,” a Pentagon official said.
On Sept. 22, 1917, a British Lewis gun team was hit by an incoming German shell during the third Battle of Ypres, near Passchendaele, Harry Patch was a member of that team. He was blown away by the blast, but his other three teammates were completely vaporized. He never saw them again. Patch struggled for years to tell that story, which he finally did before he died in 2009.
At his death, the last British Tommy to see World War I combat was 111 years, one month, one week, and one day old.
A Canadian soldier tests out a Lewis Gun similar to the one Harry Patch worked in World War I.
With Patch went our collective connection to a bygone era. While other Great War veterans outlived Patch, Patch was the last among them to fight in the mud, the wet, the disease-ridden trenches of World War I’s Western Front. He was born in 1898 and drafted into the British Army at age 18. After a brief training period, Private Patch was sent to the Western Front with the other members of his Lewis Gun team during the winter of 1916. The next year is when the German artillery round hit his position and killed his friends.
Patch was still wounded and recovering by the time of the Armistice in November 1918. For the rest of his life, he considered September 22 to be his remembrance day, not November 11.
Patch with Victoria Cross recipient Johnson Beharry in 2008.
By the time World War II rolled around, Harry Patch was much too old to join the Army and served as a firefighter in the British city of Bath instead. Patch never discussed his wartime experiences with anyone, let alone journalists, so he declined interviews until 1998, when the BBC pointed out to him that the number of World War I veterans still alive was shrinking fast. His first appearance was World War I in Colour, where he recalled the first time he came face to face with an enemy soldier. He shot to wound the man, not kill him. Patch was not a fan of killing, even in warfare.
“Millions of men came to fight in this war and I find it incredible that I am the only one left,” he told the BBC in 2007.
Six pall-bearers from the 1st Battalion The Rifles bear the coffin of World War I veteran Harry Patch into Wells Cathedral in 2009.
Before his death, Harry Patch returned to the fields of Passchendaele where his three best friends met their end. He was going to once again meet a German, but this time there would be only handshakes. At age 106, Patch met Charles Kuentz, 107-year-old German World War I veteran who fought the British at Passchendaele. The two exchanged gifts and talked about the futility of war.
Patch wrote his memoirs at 107, to become the oldest author ever, and later watched as World War I-era planes dropped poppies over Somerset in memoriam to those who served. He died in 2009, aged 111 years, one month, one week, and one day. The bells of Wells Cathedral in Somerset were rung 111 times in his honor.
The Senate approved broad legislation June 6 to make firing employees easier for the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs, part of an accountability effort urged by President Donald Trump following years of high-profile problems.
The bipartisan measure passed by voice vote. It comes more than three years after a 2014 scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, where some veterans died while waiting months for appointments. VA employees created secret lists to cover up delays.
The bill would lower the burden of proof needed to fire employees — from a “preponderance” to “substantial evidence,” allowing a dismissal even if most evidence is in a worker’s favor.
The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, opposed the bill. But the measure was viewed as more in balance with workers’ rights than a version passed by the House in March, mostly along party lines. The Senate bill calls for a longer appeal process than the House’s version — 180 days vs. 45 days — though workers would not be paid during that appeal. VA executives also would be held to a tougher standard than rank-and-file employees.
The bill now goes back to the House, where the revisions are expected to be approved.
Trump praised the bill Tuesday night and urged the House to act quickly. ” Senate passed the VA Accountability Act,” he wrote on Twitter. ” The Houseshould get this bill to my desk ASAP! We can’t tolerate substandard care for our vets.”
The VA has been plagued by years of problems, and critics complain that too few employees are punished for malfeasance. The Associated Press reported last week that federal authorities were investigating dozens of new cases of possible opioid and other drug theft by employees at VA hospitals, even after theVA announced “zero tolerance” in February. Since 2009, in only about 3 percent of the reported cases of drug loss or theft have doctors, nurses or pharmacy employees been disciplined.
“The overwhelming majority of the people who work at the VA are good, hard-working employees who serve our veterans well,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. “But it has become clear under the current law the VA is often unwilling or unable to hold individuals appropriately accountable for their actions and misdeeds.”
He was a lead sponsor of the bill along with Democrat Jon Tester of Montana and Republican Johnny Isakson of Georgia.
“To shield employees from consequences brings down the entire department, it demoralizes the workforce and undermines the core mission of the VA,” Rubio said.
The Senate bill would codify into law a Trump campaign promise — a permanent VA accountability office, which was established in April by executive order. The legislation would give the head of the accountability office more independent authority and require regular updates to Congress. The office would also maintain a toll-free number and website to receive anonymous whistleblower disclosures.
In a “State of the VA” report released last week, VA Secretary David Shulkin described an employee accountability process that was “clearly broken.” He said the VA had about 1,500 disciplinary actions against employees on hold, citing a required waiting period of at least a month before taking action for misconduct.
Dan Caldwell, policy director of the conservative Concerned Veterans for America, hailed the bill’s passage as “long overdue.”
“The regular horror stories have made it clear that veterans deserve much better,” he said.
Despite problems at the VA, Congress has had difficulty coming to agreement on a bill. A 2014 law gave the VA greater power to discipline executives, but the department stopped using that authority after the Obama Justice Department deemed it likely unconstitutional. Last month, a federal appeals court temporarily overturned the VA firing of Phoenix VA hospital director Sharon Helman over the wait-time scandal.
The U.S. Army performs a variety of missions and duties all over the world every year — and 2017 was no different.
They provided relief to the victims of hurricanes that hit the mainland US and Puerto Rico, as well as artillery support as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. They suffered tragic losses in Niger and the Middle East, but also fulfilled a host of duties in calmer places in the world.
We rounded up some of the best U.S. Army photos taken this year that highlight these events and missions.
A Green Beret provides over-watch security during small-unit tactic training on January 18 at Fort Carson, Colorado.
A US Army drill sergeant corrects a recruit during her first day of training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri on January 31.
Soldiers with 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, watch the Super Bowl in Karliki, Poland, on February 5.
US Army Reserve soldiers participate in the 1st Mission Support Command Best Warrior Competition at Camp Santiago, Puerto Rico, on March 14.
Army mortarmen, deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, fire mortars near Al Tarab, Iraq, during the offensive to liberate western Mosul from the terrorist group ISIS on March 19.
Air-assault recruits prepare to support their fellow students as they rappel from a UH-60 Blackhawk on April 13 at Camp Buehring in Kuwait.
A UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in the Mojave Desert on May 30 at Fort Irwin in California.
Soldiers conduct sling-load and air-assault training with M777A2 howitzers at Bemowo Piskie Training Area near Orzysz, Poland, on June 7.
A CH-47 Chinook helicopter pilot deployed with Task Force Warhawk scans the Registan Desert in Afghanistan’s Helmand province on June 21.
A paratrooper, deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, shakes the hand of a young boy in Mosul, Iraq, on July 4.
Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division engage ISIS militants with strategically placed artillery fire in support of Iraqi and Peshmerga fighters in Mosul on July 5.
Paratroopers conduct urban-breach training at Pocek Range in Postojna, Slovenia, on July 20.
A US Army Reserve sniper and infantry soldier poses at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey on July 26.
Paratroopers conduct Hollywood jumps at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska on July 27. They’re known as Hollywood jumps because the paratroopers wear nothing but a parachute and a reserve.
A US Army reserve soldier rappels down a tower during professional-development training at Camp Buehring on July 31.
US Army soldiers and cadets prepare for a live-fire exercise at Camp Grayling in Michigan on August 4.
A shark swims under soldier at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Washington on August 10. Operation Shark Dive is a program that gives ill, injured, and wounded soldiers the opportunity to swim with sharks.
Paratroopers deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve kneel during a memorial service honoring two fallen paratroopers in northern Iraq on August 17.
Soldiers secure an objective on top of a mountain during Decisive Action Rotation 17-08 at Fort Irwin on August 21.
Soldiers fire a Javelin weapons systems at Fort Stewart in Georgia on August 23.
Sgt. Samiera Lanier is greeted by a child after arriving at Liberty Fire Department in Texas on September 2 after Hurricane Harvey.
M1A2 Abrams main battle tank crews engage targets at a joint live-fire exercise at Mohamed Naguib Military Base in Egypt on September 20.
A paratrooper from the 173rd Airborne brigade collects his parachute after landing on September 26.
A US Army reservist shakes hands with a local man while coordinating road-clearing operations in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria on October 7.
A K-9 handler for the Group Support Battalion 7th Special Forces Group leaps from the back of the aircraft on October 17.
Myeshia Johnson, the wife of US Army Sgt. La David Johnson, who was among four special forces soldiers killed in Niger, kisses his coffin at a graveside service in Florida on October 21.
A US Army Green Beret stands ready to exit a C-130 Hercules aircraft during a night jump on October 24 at Fort Carson in Colorado.
US Army Charley Battery waits after a fire mission in support of Combined Joint Task Force near Rawa, Iraq, on November 16.
A soldier scans the terrain over the sights of his M-249 machine gun on November 18 during an Allied Spirit VII training event in Grafenwoehr, Germany.
US Army paratroopers conduct an airborne operation from a C-130 Hercules in Pordenone, Italy, on December 12.
The US Navy has its first Black female tactical fighter pilot in its history, according to a Thursday tweet from the Chief of Naval Air Training announcing Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle will receive her “wings of gold” later in July.
“BZ to Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle on completing the Tactical Air (Strike) aviator syllabus,” read the tweet. “Swegle is the @USNavy’s first known Black female TACAIR pilot and will receive her Wings of Gold later this month. HOOYAH!”
Swegle is a native of Burke, Virginia, and graduated from the US Naval Academy in 2017, Stars and Stripes first reported. She is assigned to the Redhawks of Training Squadron 21 in Kingsville, Texas, according to the report.
Swegle will earn her wings at a ceremony on July 31, The Navy Times reported. The US Navy shared the news, tweeting “MAKING HISTORY!”
What do you think of the combat boots currently worn by the Service? I think they’re pretty BA. Great for kicking in doors, and stomping throats.
Turns out that may be the wrong way to look at our boots though…
When you compare the number of Spartan push-kicks and axe-stomps the average service member conducts during their career to the number of standard steps they take to get from the barracks to work it’s astounding.
It’s like one forcible entry for every 1 billion steps…..
Axe stomp, push kick, round kick… you know the drill
A Marine with Korps Marinir, 2nd Marines, 6th Brigade, Tentara National Indonesia, performs a kick during martial arts training with U.S. Marines with Landing Force Company May 27
I was astonished by these numbers as well. I remember having a lot more boots pressing into my jugular while on active duty than that. Numbers don’t lie though.
The above being true, shouldn’t our boots be designed to promote the best foot function while walking, hiking, and running?
According to one paper making its rounds through the Marine Corps, modern footwear is locking our feet into a poor position that is causing structural issues in humans of all ages from the feet all the way up the kinetic chain.
What exactly is the issue with our current boots, and footwear in general, then? How can they be fixed to prevent 20-year-old veterans from feeling like someone who fell out of the disability tree and hit every branch with their feet on the way down?
Apparently, there are four parts of standard shoes and boots that make us suck at using our feet.
The anatomy of a boot.
1. Toe Spring
It’s that bent up portion at the front of your boot.
Toe spring stretches out the various muscles of the sole of the foot and shortens the extensor muscles running along the top robbing toes of range of motion.
Over time, toe spring makes you weaker at being able to articulate your toes. Which means you’ll be getting weaker in your feet even when you are training hard.
Support is great for short term bursts of concentrated effort. Like a lifting belt, it’s great if you wear it for a one-rep max deadlift. But if you use it every rep of every session, you will become reliant and weak in the muscles of your core.
Marines with Company E, Battalion Landing Team 2/4, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit
Toe prison… See what I did there?
3. Toe Box
It’s where your toes hang out. It’s way more restrictive than it should be. You want your toes to be able to spread out and grab the ground. Currently, it should be called a toe prison.
This is probably the most egregious offender of foot deformities in the long run.
First off the heel makes us balance on the balls of our toes. This breaks the equal line of thrust of the arch from the heel and the ball and drives it all to the ball creating a collapse. This causes us to lose strength in the arch of our foot, which is supposed to naturally absorb shock when we walk or run.
Imagine what would happen to an arch bridge if you took away one of the supports on either end. The bridge would turn into the newest architectural addition to Atlantis when it crumbles and sinks to the bottom of the ocean.
That’s why insoles have become a “must buy” at boot camp and the other indoc courses. They give artificial arch support when the feet fail to provide the natural support that they should.
Second, the walking pattern is changed from a natural walking pattern to a “heel strike.” We aren’t supposed to walk heel first, try it in your bare feet, you’ll immediately realize it’s quite painful. The heel and cushioning of the boot take away that immediate pain response that you get when you walk barefoot, that leads to ever more forceful heel strikes that send a shock all the way up the body to the spine. Just another example of modern conveniences making us more comfortable but ultimately worse off.
The barefoot rickshaw driver circa 1951
From the Ronald H. Welsh Collection (COLL/5677) at the Archives Branch, Marine Corps History Division
Your feet are in a prison
So it turns out that just about every aspect of current footwear is flat-out wrong for the human foot.
The interesting thing is that this isn’t a new revelation.
Dr. Schulman of the U.S. Army had very similar observations back in 1949, during WWII. This guy was a high achiever, he’s in the middle of the largest war to ever consume planet Earth, and he decided to conduct a study on the human foot…wild.
Dr. Schulman compared those who wore restrictive footwear to those who didn’t in the native populations of China and India.
His most stark observation is that barefoot rickshaw drivers had none of the same foot deformities as those that wear shoes all day.
Rickshaw drivers spend all day running on concrete, or hard-packed roads, everyday for decades, and Dr. Schulman observed that their feet were strong and healthy.
Compare that to your feet crammed into those freshly brushed feet prisons you currently have on.
His conclusion? “…restrictive footgear, particularly ill-fitting footgear, cause most of the ailments of the human foot.”
Silent Drill Platoon performs during Cherry Blossom Festival
On their way to Dermo for new boots…
The movement for a new boot
There’s now a movement developing in the Marine Corps to change the culture of the service to promote health and longevity in the feet of today’s Marines rather than slowly break them down.
Are you in support of this movement? Do you think that a closer look at foot health and boot structure would make our services stronger and more capable? Would they do more or less to make the Force more resilient than the upcoming Plank addition to the PFT?