This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

If you look at the enlisted ranking system put in place by every branch of the United States Armed Forces, everything makes a good deal of sense. You start at the bottom — generally at E-1, but there are ways to get in at a higher pay grade — and work your way up to a certain point where you become an NCO. Officers have their own linear path, starting at O-1, and warrant officers are half way between the two.

But the Army has its very own conundrum with the E-4 ranks. Years ago, the hierarchy of ranks looked a little different: it went private first class, then corporal, then sergeant. Today, both specialist (the highest junior enlisted rank) and corporal (the lowest NCO rank) share the same pay grade. This means that, in a sense, being a specialist is just like being a corporal — only without the NCO benefits.

To understand the specialist rank we know it today, you’ll have to look back at the Army’s long-gone specialist ranks.


This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

The same insignia that would later be used for private first class.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Felicia Jagdatt)

In 1920, there was a consolidation that distilled 128 different rank insignia and titles into just seven. The results of this consolidation left us with something similar to what we use today — with a few key differences.

Since warfare involves much more than just general “infantrymen,” there was a need to identify the support soldiers, those who were specialists in their given field of expertise. Back then, it was assumed that all 5th-grade soldiers (corporals) fully understood what their job entails, but there needed to be a way to offer a little incentive to a privates to become known as a “private/specialist,” which was the name of the MOS at the time. That incentive came in the form of bonus pay — despite being paid more, a private/specialist was still officially of lower rank than a private first class.

The insignia of the private/specialist was a single chevron with a single rocker.

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

Think of the difference like today’s version of a master sergeant and a first sergeant. Same pay grade, same respect, but two very different positions and mentalities.

(U.S. Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

The next major overhaul came in 1942 when a need arose to differentiate between those who earned their rank because of how good they were at their job and those who earned it because of leadership abilities. And so the “technician” ranks were created, ranging from technician fifth grade (or “tech/5”) up to technician third grade (or “tech/3”).

They were distinguished from their peers by placing a ‘T’ under their chevrons. For all practical purposes, a technician third grade and a staff sergeant were on equal footing — same pay and same respect — but the staff sergeant was in a leadership position while the tech/3 was more of an instructor.

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

The joke used back then was “the NCOs may have been the backbone of the Army, but the specialists were the brains.”

(National Archives)

The final shakeup came in 1955 when these two previous iterations of separating specialists in their given field from general leadership culminated an entirely new ranking system — the specialists. This took the original insignia of the 1920s private/specialist, inverted it, and added the Army Eagle to it. Promotions within the specialists meant adding another rocker to the top instead of a chevron.

A young private could prove themselves ready to enter the non-commissioned officers as a corporal — or they could focus on their MOS as a specialist. Between the years 1959 and 1968, it was entirely possible to make it all the way to E-9 as a specialist. Throughout the years, the highest achievable rank dwindled down and down until 1985, when only the Spec/4 remained.

Since all other grades of specialists were obsolete, the rank is now just called “specialist.” In essence, the rank holds the same meaning as it did in the 1920s — except now it’s more of a holdover rank before most E-4s make sergeant.

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Covert action’ is back on the debate stage

Covert action is making its name again. Back on the strategic foreign policy stage, covert action is a way to achieve diplomacy without direct military confrontation. Kinetic operations by way of targeted killing have become a hot (and disputed) topic.

Even though Presidents Ford in 1976, Carter in 1978, and Reagan in 1981 signed Executive Orders to ban political assassinations, the U.S. has engaged in targeted killings through drone strikes to kill enemy combatants on the battlefield. Signature strikes that target behavior patterns and personal networks often result in increased collateral damage, namely to civilians. Some of these actions are overt while others are covert, or at least clandestine in some nature.


This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

An MQ-9 Reaper drone.

(USAF)

So, who does these things? Is it the military, CIA, or even both?

The answer to the purview of this comes down to law. More specifically, to the debate between authority in U.S. Title 10 and 50. The debate is widely and often invoked to address when the military is taking over actions or missions within the domain of the intelligence operations of CIA.

Title 10 describes the legal authority for military operations regarding the DoD’s organizational structure.

Meanwhile, Title 50 captures CIA’s authority to conduct its intelligence operations and covert action.

The legal stipulations of military versus CIA legal authority are a little more complex, but the two catchall designations are what matter in the larger scope. And that is how practitioners interpret it.

However, the differentiation in the purview between military and CIA operations is not always clear. As changes to the way we fight become more complex and dynamic with each operation, DoD and CIA officers constantly attempt to find themselves in the correct lane for engaging in their respective operations.

Perhaps the easiest example of this was when CIA found the potential for the Predator drone in aerial surveillance. CIA undoubtedly assumed that the aircraft would fall into its own designation. The debate went on between CIA and DoD. Even though the UAV was classified as an aircraft, CIA contended that it was only a platform to collect imagery intelligence. CIA won.

Once CIA tried to weaponize the UAVs by incorporating Hellfire missiles into their framework, DoD fought CIA again. This time, the Air Force made the argument regarding Title 10 versus Title 50. Already established to be an aircraft, a weaponized UAV would fall under Title 10 as the purview of the military. Being weaponized, the Predator was no longer just an imagery intelligence collection asset but more of a kinetic killing machine. Its job was not just to pick up and track high-value targets as much as it was to send warheads to foreheads. This time, the Air Force and DoD won.

So, the designation for military or CIA control of drone warfare is not black or white. It exists in the grey zone.

That is why drones remain a tricky topic for use regarding both surveillance and kinetic operations. It is still a working and developing decision of who calls the shots and who owns the infrastructure.

When it comes to boots-on-the-ground operations regarding both kinetic and non-kinetic operations, the debate becomes even more contested. Because of its charter, CIA is the only agency responsible for and charged with covert action. Action abroad in this context has always been part of CIA’s history: some of it good, other parts bad.

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

However, sometimes the military conducts operations that to the naked eye would appear to be consistent with covert action. The big difference is that these operations that may well be clandestine are not covert or designed to be plausibly deniable.

If a U.S. military operation goes sideways, the U.S. Government is forced to acknowledge it. And contrary to popular belief, that includes higher tier units, such as Delta Force, DEVGRU, and others.

Kinetic covert action protocols on the ground are only deniable if under the sanctions of CIA. Meaning they would have to have been performed in a paramilitary context by the Special Activities Division (SAD), including Ground Branch, Global Response Staff …

The U.S. military cannot and does not perform covert action.

However, that is not the end of the discussion. Within the bounds of Title 10, the DoD has found a way to get close to covert action without crossing the line.

The closest the U.S. military gets to covert action is called the Operational Preparation of the Environment (OPE). OPE consists of clandestine intelligence collection that may have a more distant relation to military action. Because OPE exists in a pseudo-covert action context, DoD has won legal jurisdiction of it by arguing that a theoretical, distant military operation might one day exist as a result of its being.

It goes beyond traditional military operations but doesn’t legally cross the line into covert action by CIA. It does, however, get close.

Everyone from DoD, CIA, and even ODNI knows that the delineation is not clear. They argue, they fight, and they come up with some sort of consensus. But while there might not be a distinct line in the ground differentiating CIA and DoD authority, there is a grey line or a buffer zone at the very least.

However, this grey line possesses ambiguity that can have very adverse implications for the national security community. Such ambiguity makes it difficult, if not impossible, for intelligence officers to conduct intelligence operations in their field of work if the collection of such intelligence is proscribed.

If the military continues to conduct clandestine intelligence in the form of OPE, leaders at both DoD and CIA will need to prescribe more delineated instructions for how and by who such intelligence will be collected. This goes beyond mere turf wars that happen all of the time within the intelligence community. It gives instructions as to who can operate in this capacity when covert action is not conducted but is on the borderline of being touched.

The DoD argument for OPE that such intelligence may need to be collected via clandestine means for the potential exploitation in a future, theoretical military operation will not suffice. It only provides legitimacy to the military in conducting such operations but does not provide a way for it to complement or work along CIA.

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

Gina Haspel, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

Many of the covert operations undertaken by CIA are not very different from military OPE. The functions hold many of the same premises. The only difference is that DoD has made the argument for OPE’s potential value as to why it should be considered a military operation in accordance with Title 10 and not the covert action provisions of Title 50.

Accordingly, the functions of both DoD and CIA should complement one another as opposed to working against each other in the case of further jurisdiction debate. Leaders need to delineate the roles the processes should play in each agency while also proscribing intelligence requirements that can be satisfied according to each service.

There is no reason the DoD should not be able to conduct OPE. It is not covert action and does not fall exclusively into CIA’s charter. But it does border it.

That means there needs to be much more synchronization between DoD and CIA to facilitate intelligence collection on adversarial capabilities and intentions to fulfill intelligence requirements that are desperately needed.

However, the issue does not stop only with senior leadership. It has ramifications for operations officers at CIA and military officers, equally as well. While both cohorts know their jobs and the functions that are to be executed fairly well, operations such as that of OPE provide particular challenges that are still not widely understood. That is particularly the case because it is not firmly established in doctrine or proscribed to the legality of one agency or the other.

An operations officer at CIA who is tasked with clandestine human intelligence collection may be blindsided by OPE operations undertaken by the military that may disrupt or interfere with general Agency operations. Military intelligence collection may confuse Agency personnel as to their requirements as to whose prerogative or official duties the intelligence collection may involve. Further, intelligence collection of this sort in the same area of operations may interfere with CIA sources and asset networks that may inadvertently become shared with that of the military. Sources can quickly become compromised if they are not handled correctly, and too many asset handlers without adequate synchronization will do precisely that.

Likewise, many military officers are unaware of OPE and what it entails. It is not widely discussed, taught, or even presented to military officers in a way to educate them on what is encompassed by the military’s clandestine intelligence collection. Further, it is a discipline that is shared with a select few military personnel and officers who are not acquainted with it may also interfere with its operation. Conventional military hierarchies have become somewhat risk-adverse to date (for good reasons and bad) that their executive judgment (based on collective ambiguity relating to intelligence collection of this sort) may either interfere with or disrupt OPE collection efforts. The absence of clear guidance as to clandestine intelligence functions within the military can cripple the intelligence apparatus and needs to be further described in doctrine to allow for its potential and avoid interference of it inadvertently.

Summarily, the role of covert action between the DoD and CIA is rather clear. The Title 10 versus 50 debate has been exhaustively discussed in the literature and among practitioners. But where the line becomes grey has not. This is a problem for both DoD and CIA. Both agencies need to comprehensively describe the role of clandestine intelligence collection in both agencies. This is particularly true with OPE where the line is not delineated, education efforts are virtually nonexistent, and jurisdiction boundaries are more or less ambiguous. To facilitate the most successful and operationally safeguarded operations of this nature, DoD and CIA need to find a more delineated and prescribed approach to clandestine intelligence collection to fulfill the intelligence requirements that they need to satisfy.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist Home Bru

UPDATE: THE VOTING IS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON MONDAY, SEPT. 25, 2017 AT WE ARE THE MIGHTY!

Welcome to the finals for Mission: Music, where veterans from all five branches compete for a chance to perform onstage at Base*FEST powered by USAA. CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW TO VOTE every day to determine the winner!

Home Bru is a North Carolina based band comprised of husband-and-wife Matt Brunoehler (guitar/banjo/vocals) and Chelsea Brunoehler (bass/vocalist), and whenever possible, drummer/vocalist Zac Bowers and pianist Wryan Webb.


This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around
From left to right: Matthew Brunoehler (USMC), Chelsea Brunoehler (USN, USCG)

Matt and Chelsea started singing together in the U.S. Naval Academy Glee Club in 2003, and they have started bands everywhere they’ve been stationed ever since (even when they were separated!). In February 2016, they started Home Bru in North Carolina, and the band has been featured at various local events since. They primarily concentrate on covers of favorite Rock, Country, Pop, and Blues tunes, but they’ve recently been adding originals to their repertoire.

“Music tells our story,” says Chelsea. “Forming a band in each city we’ve lived has introduced us to our closest friends—our military family. We are fortunate to share music as a couple. It keeps us connected, even when separated by military obligations.”

Return to the voting page and check out the other finalists!

For every vote, USAA will donate $1 (up to $10k) to Guitars for Vets, a non-profit organization that enhances lives of ailing and injured military veterans by providing them with guitars and a forum to learn how to play. Your votes help those who served rediscover their joy through the power of music!

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around
MIGHTY CULTURE

How much a beer costs in the top 10 most expensive cities in the world

Three cities currently share the title of most expensive city in the world — Paris, Hong Kong, and Singapore — and, across those cities, the average price for a beer ranges from $1.77 and $2.27.

That’s according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Cost of Living Report, which uses over 400 prices across 160 different products and services — including food and drink — to calculate rankings. Among these products is the average cost of a bottle of beer (330 ml).


Some cities, such as Copenhagen — home to major brewing company Carlsberg — saw price drops when compared to last year’s average prices. New York, meanwhile, led the charge with the highest price per beer bottle.

Keep reading for a look at the cost of beer in 10 of the most expensive cities worldwide, along with some of the areas’ best-known breweries. All prices are in USD.

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

(Flickr / Ralf Steinberger)

Tel Aviv, Israel: .94

City ranking by cost of living: 10

Tel Aviv’s price per beer bottle dropped 25 cents from last year’s price of .19. Though Israel’s two major breweries are located farther up the coast in Ashkelon and Netanya, Tel Aviv is home to micro-breweries such as The Dancing Camel Brewing Company.

Source: Time Out, Hareetz, Bloomberg, Tempo, Carlsberg

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

(Flickr photo by Jörg Schubert)

New York, USA: .33

City ranking by cost of living: 7 (tied with Copenhagen and Seoul)

New York has the highest price per bottle. The city is known for its breweries, and while many are upstate, several are located in the city area. Brooklyn especially is infamous for new pop-ups — including Circa Brewing Company and Five Boroughs Brewing Company — along with Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Brewery, which was established in 1988. Overall, the price of beer in New York changed only eight cents, rising from last year’s price of .25.

Source: Time Out, New York State Brewers’ Association, City Brew Tours, NY State Senate, Brooklyn Brewery

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

(Flickr / Ryan Bodenstein)

Copenhagen, Denmark: .61

City ranking by cost of living: 7 (tied with New York and Seoul)

Home to the Carlsberg Group, Denmark’s capital has been brewing beer for over 170 years. Copenhagen’s price per bottle dropped almost 50 cents compared to last year, lowering its cost from .06.

Source: Carlsberg Group, Visit Denmark

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

(Flickr / Philippe Teuwen)

Seoul, South Korea: .13

City ranking by cost of living: 7 (tied with New York and Copenhagen)

Seoul’s beer scene is best known for the Oriental Breweries headquarters, more commonly known as OB. The city saw a bottle price reduction of eight cents compared to .25 last year.

Source: Bloomberg

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

(Flickr / Pedro Szekely)

Osaka, Japan: .30

City ranking by cost of living: 5 (tied with Geneva)

As the popularity of craft beer in Japan steadily increases, Osaka remains a major hub for both food and drink. Alongside restaurants with prime beer on tap, the city is home to several breweries, including Dotonbori Beer. The price change from last year included an eight cent raise from .22.

Source: Culture Trip, Dontonbori Beer Co., Culture Trip

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

(Flickr / ITU Pictures)

Geneva, Switzerland: id=”listicle-2632285079″.54

City ranking by cost of living: 5 (tied with Osaka)

While it is best known for its watchmaking and Swiss chocolate shops, Geneva hosted its first Open Air Craft Beer Festival in 2017 and is also home to Les Brasseurs micro-brewery. The city’s per per bottle dropped 34 cents compared to its 2018 price of id=”listicle-2632285079″.88.

Source: Les Brasseurs, Geneva Live Tourism

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

(Flickr / szeke)

Zurich, Switzerland: .25

City ranking by cost of living: 4

At over a dollar more than fellow Swiss city Geneva, Zurich’s price per bottle rings in at .25, down three cents from last year. Travel + Leisure noted that craft beer is becoming more accessible, and several small breweries now exist in the region.

Source: Travel + Leisure, MySwitzerland

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

(Flickr / Barbara Willi)

Hong Kong: id=”listicle-2632285079″.77

City ranking by cost of living: 1 (tied with Singapore and Paris)

Hong Kong is home to Hong Kong Beer Co., the city’s first craft brewery. According to the company’s website, it is also the first craft brewery in Asia to sell beer exclusively in bottles and kegs. Though Hong Kong is tied for the No. 1 most expensive city, it actually offers the cheapest beer prices amongst the expensive cities, with a price of id=”listicle-2632285079″.77 — down from last year’s id=”listicle-2632285079″.93.

Source: Hong Kong Beer Co., Time Out

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

(John Towner / Unsplash)

Paris, France: .10

City ranking by cost of living: 1 (tied with Singapore and Hong Kong)

While Paris is better known for its wine — brought from vineyards in Bordeaux and Burgundy — the French capital has several microbreweries. Located both inside and just outside the city arrondissements, locations include La Brasserie de l’Etre, Paname Brewing Company, and Le Triangle. Beer prices dropped 35 cents compared to .45 in 2018.

Source: Trip Savvy, Urban Adventures, Culture Trip

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

(Flickr / nlann)

Singapore: .37

City ranking by cost of living: 1 (tied with Paris and Hong Kong)

Beer in Singapore is dominated by Heineken Asia Pacific — formerly known as Malayan Breweries Limited — which produces both the Heineken brand and also owns craft breweries such as Archipelago Brewery, whose headquarters are located outside the city in Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim.

The area is best known for Tiger Beer, first brewed by Malayan Breweries Limited in 1932 but now distributed worldwide. Retaining its position as the most expensive city for the fifth consecutive year, Singapore’s beer prices dropped from .53 in 2018 to .37.

Source: The Heineken Company, Time Out, Archipelago Brewery, Tiger Beer, CNBC

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The patriotic reason FDR’s White House was known for its terrible food

While Franklin Delano Roosevelt was personally known for his love of good food, good drink and an all-together indulgent lifestyle, his White House was definitely not. The rule around Washington was “when invited to dine at the White House, eat before you go.” 

This rule can be traced back to two simple reasons. The first reason was that Roosevelt was elected president amid the greatest economic disaster the United States had ever experienced. 

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the GI Bill of Rights at the White House, June 22, 1944. Courtesy photo

Scores of the American people were going through some very hard times. As rich a man as Roosevelt was in private life, in his public life, he and Eleanor Roosevelt wanted to show their solidarity with struggling Americans. 

The second reason was the official White House housekeeper, Henrietta Nesbitt. Mrs. Nesbitt had never worked professionally in the hospitality industry. She just knew how to keep a home for her family. She was a close friend of Mrs. Roosevelt, however, and her husband lost his job after the 1929 Stock Market Crash, so Eleanor Roosevelt hired her for the job. 

Mrs. Henrietta Nesbitt, White House housekeeper, Feb. 1939

Henrietta Nesbitt was not only not a housekeeper, she was also so bad in the kitchen, even Gordon Ramsey would walk out. White House meals served to the President included boiled kidney and green beans, a prune and flour pudding, and Kedgeree, a British stew of boiled fish, rice and eggs. 

All this for the guy tasked to fix the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and later, World War II. All while suffering from a paralytic illness. Still, he rarely complained about the food, according to all sources from the time. 

Eleanor Roosevelt, a champion of the progressive policies of the day, was happy to report to the press that two-course meals at the White House cost less than ten cents on any given day. Visitors to the White House saw it another way entirely. 

When Ernest Hemingway ate with the Roosevelts in 1937, he later remarked to his mother that it was the worst meal he’d ever had. 

“We had a rainwater soup followed by rubber squab, a nice wilted salad and a cake some admirer had sent in,” he wrote. “An enthusiastic but unskilled admirer.” 

The simplistic and inexpensive menu didn’t just get served to the Roosevelts’ American guests. When King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited their private home in New York’s Hyde Park for an official dinner in June 1939, Mrs. Nesbitt served the royals good old American hot dogs and beer

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around
Eleanor Roosevelt (center), King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in London, October 23, 1942. Apparently, they were pleasantly surprised by an American hot dog dinner.

Also dining with the king and queen that evening was Hyde Park’s cooks, gardeners, and housekeeping staff. King George was unfazed, gleefully eating the dogs from silver trays. Rumor has it the queen didn’t know how to go about actually eating them. 

But even though she was serving the President of the United States, Henrietta Nesbitt had full control over what would be served for any meal at any given time. After being elected to an unprecedented fourth term in office, at the height of World War II, President Roosevelt’s health was in serious decline. He would die less than three months later, but asked that Chicken a la King be served at the inaugural lunch.

Mrs. Nesbitt swapped out the Chicken a la King for chicken salad. That’s real power.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Meet the MiG America fought over Vietnam

It was called the “Blue Bandit” by the American pilots who faced it in combat. It ranks as one of the most widely produced and exported fighters in history. It was the victim of one of the best ruses in military warfare, and it’s flown for almost 60 years. Even though it was designed in the ’50s, it remained in production until 1985 alongside more advanced jets.

This is, of course, the MiG-21 “Fishbed.”


This jet was produced by both the Soviet Union and Communist China. It saw action in Vietnam, the Middle East, and even over Yugoslavia. Even now, with upgrades that allow it to carry the latest in air-to-air missiles, it serves on the front for India. Over its long history, this plane has evolved from a pure interceptor to a multirole fighter.

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

The wide exportation of the MiG-21 meant that a few examples, like the one on the right, ended up in American hands.

(USAF)

The MiG-21 is best known for its use by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. It was fast — it could reach a top speed of 1,386 miles per hour — but had a short range of just 721 miles.

Most famously, the MiG-21 was the primary victim of Operation Bolo, a plan cooked up by U.S. Air Force legend Robin Olds. The North Vietnamese sent their MiG-21s to attack what looked like a large, unescorted strike. They found out the hard way that what looked like F-105 Thunderchiefs (ground-attack planes) were actually F-4 Phantoms. Seven Fishbeds were shot down in that dogfight.

While North Vietnamese Fishbeds did shoot down 56 American planes using the AA-2 Atoll anti-air missile, 90 were downed in air-to-air combat, including two by B-52 tail gunners.

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

A Bulgarian MiG-21 taxis for takeoff during a 2006 exercise with the United States Air Force.

(US Army photo by Maj. Dana Hampton)

The Fishbed also saw action in the Middle East, mostly going up against Israeli Defense Forces. Here, its record wasn’t as good — and it gained notoriety for being the first to fall prey to the F-15 Eagle.

Learn more about this veteran fighter in the video blow!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qxqEKhGTgU

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY CULTURE

WATM President Mark Harper featured on Suit Soldier podcast

This week, We Are The Mighty’s President Mark Harper sat down with the Suit Soldier podcast to talk about his time in service with the U.S. Air Force’s Combat Camera, and how that prepared him to lead a global company. From photographing the front lines to running a business that tells engaging stories about the military, Harper’s path wasn’t quite as unconventional as other transition stories. That doesn’t mean it was easy.


In this episode, Harper shares some of his tactical tips for transitioning, helpful recommendations for resumes as well as other practical guidance for the service member getting ready to leave active duty. But more than that, Harper tells his story. How his dad’s time in the Army instilled a deep calling to serve, how he captured poignant portrayals of life on the front lines through the lens of a camera, and why he moved to L.A. without a job to pursue his dream.

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

The Suit Soldier podcast is created by Chris Coker, a Business Architect and Career Coach who talks with today’s top veterans to get their story on transitioning from the military so you can understand the path from military service to business success. Discover the traits you already have within yourself that you can deploy into your career and business to achieve your own definition of success.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time dead communist revolutionaries showed up at a Soviet seance

“Is Stalin a man of genius, or not?”

The reply that came during a seance, according to a defendant’s testimony given at a Kyiv court on March 10, 1948, was that the Soviet dictator was no such thing.

Coming at a time when Josef Stalin’s cult of personality was at its height, such a conversation was sure to attract attention. Especially because the founding father of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin, was allegedly the one replying from beyond the grave during the conjuring, more than two decades after his death.

Other court evidence revealed that during one of the seances “Lenin” predicted from the afterlife that war was coming — six countries would soon free the Soviet people from Stalin’s yoke.


When asked about the future of Soviet power, an unidentified Russian revolutionary responded that “it won’t exist, with the help of America.”

Such “conversations” were revealed in archived documents of trial testimony and interrogations carried out by the Soviet State Security Ministry (MGB), which included the secret police.

Aside from Lenin, the court heard from a number of early Soviet A-listers, some of whom might have cause to slander Stalin.

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

Lenin and Stalin.

There was archrival Leon Trotsky, who was assassinated in Mexico City in 1940 on the Soviet leader’s orders. And Nadezhda Alliluyeva, Stalin’s second wife, who died under mysterious circumstances after a public argument with her husband in 1932.

Others speaking from the grave included the writers Maxim Gorky and Aleksandr Kuprin, as well as famed rocket scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky.

Their questioners were not members of the Bolshevik inner circle, but ordinary residents of the north-central Ukrainian town of Bila Tserkva who had never even belonged to the Communist Party.

For their role in conjuring up voices from the past, Ilya Gorban, his sister Vera Sorokina, and his lover Olga Rozova were arrested and accused of anti-Soviet acts and the “creation of an illegal religious-mystical group of spiritists.”

Wandering soul

Gorban was an unaccomplished artist when he moved to Bila Tserkva from Kyiv in early 1947, a year before the trial.

The 44-year-old native of the Poltava region had designed museum exhibits and prepared posters and portraits of Lenin for demonstrations. He was wounded during World War II while manning an anti-tank gun near Orel.

He had married and fathered a child. But the marriage ended in divorce and his daughter lived with her mother.

Gorban settled into his new life in Bila Tserkva with his sister, Vera, and got a job at the local industrial plant as a sculptor.

A book lover, he frequented the city library and soon entered into a romance with 39-year-old Olga Rozova, a library employee.

Rozova was married. But her husband — Andrei Rozov, a journalist with a newspaper in Voronezh — had been accused of belonging to an “anti-Soviet Trotskyite terrorist organization” in 1938 and imprisoned for 10 years.

While at work, Gorban had a conversation with colleague Mikhail Ryabinin, who asked the sculptor if he believed in the afterlife and the existence of spirits.

Gorban said he did not, but he did take Ryabinin up on his recommendation that he read the Spirits Book — written in 1856 by Frenchman Hippolyte Leon Denizard Rivail under the pen name Allan Kardec and considered one of the pillars of spiritism.

Pointed ‘discussions’

The doctrine of spiritism, or Kardecism, centers on the belief that the spirits of the dead survive beyond mortal life and can communicate with the living. The communication usually takes place during seances conducted by a person serving as a medium between this world and the otherworld.

Gorban read it with fascination and proposed that Ryabinin organize a seance. His friend declined, however, saying according to case files that “all these sessions with plates — they are nonsense and baby talk. I contact the spirits at a higher level.”

Gorban’s sister agreed to try, however, and together they conducted a seance based on what they had learned.

They lit candles and sat at a table with a sheet of paper in the center. On the paper the letters of the alphabet, the numbers zero through nine, and the words “yes” and “no” were drawn in a circle.

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

A seance board similar to the one used in Bila Tserkva

A saucer with an arrow from the center to the edge was set over the paper.

The idea was to call on the spirts of a particular person and, if he or she appeared, to ask them questions. If all went well the saucer, beneath the hands of participants, would begin to rotate freely and without force, spelling out answers by pointing to the appropriate symbols on the paper.

Family affair

Altogether, Gorban and his sister conducted 15 to 20 seances in the summer and autumn of 1947. At times they reached out to people outside the Soviet circle. The spirits of deceased relatives were often conjured up, including the siblings’ mother, who allegedly gave the pair everyday advice. They even got a hold of Alexander Pushkin, but the Russian poet “cursed” them.

Gorban’s girlfriend, Olga Rozova, began to join the sessions, and the group conjured up a late writer who began to compliment her.

“I suspected that this was a trick of Gorban’s, with whom I had been in an intimate relationship,” she recalled during her courtroom interrogation. “The whole session was of a purely personal, amorous character.”

Some sessions were held at Rozova’s apartment, which was inside the library. A friend of hers who headed the local school library, Varvara Shelest, took an interest and also started attending the sessions.

The last seance, according to testimony of group members, was held in December 1947.

They asked Lenin’s spirit about the monetary reforms enacted that year, which included the denomination of the ruble and the confiscation of personal savings.

Knock on the door

A couple of months later Chekists — agents of the feared secret service — came for them.

Rozova was detained on Feb. 19, 1948; Sorokina and Gorban were taken away the next day.

The case was transferred to the authorities in Kyiv, and the trial began on March 6, just two weeks after the suspects were detained.

From the MGB’s point of view, the seances were evidence of the formation of an “illegal religious-mystical group” — which on its own could have led to imprisonment. But the authorities took things one step further by adding the more serious “anti-Soviet” charge.

“This seance had a sharply anti-Soviet character,” read one file. “This deliberate slander pertained to one of the leaders of the [Communist] Party and government.”

When initially questioned, the three did not appear to hide that they had participated in seances. Gorban and Sorokina wrote them off as an attempt to have fun; Rozova said there was no intended goal.

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

Joseph Stalin, Lenin, and Mikhail Kalinin.

But ultimately their confessions were recorded by their interrogators — the sessions were driven by anti-Soviet sentiment and were just a “convenient screen” for “slanderous agitation.”

In his interrogation report, Gorban was quoted as saying he had “tried to defame and slander the Soviet powers and the leaders of the Party and government” to expose the “talentlessness” of Soviet leaders to his alleged accomplices.

Disgruntled by postwar poverty, it was Gorban who had directed the movements of the saucer, according to the documents.

Harsh ruling

During their trial, those alleged admissions were recanted. Each of the three defendants declared that they did not believe in the otherworld or spirits. When queried about their religious beliefs, each answered that they were atheists. And their sessions, they said, were for entertainment.

“I didn’t think that our sessions were anti-Soviet,” Sorokina testified. “What we did was, of course, not good, but I was, am, and will remain a Soviet person.”

As for the saucer, Gorban said, he had no idea how it moved. All admitted to partial guilt, according to the court files.

The ruling in their case came on March 10, after just two court sessions.

The three were found guilty of anti-Soviet propaganda and agitation, and of participation in a counterrevolutionary organization.

Gorban was sentenced to 25 years in a labor camp; Rozova and Sorokina to 10 years each. Gorban would have been executed had the verdict come a year earlier — but the death penalty had recently been suspended.

The mystery of ‘North’

The role of Gorban’s colleague in all this was not forgotten. A criminal case was opened against Ryabinin — the man who had suggested Gorban read the Spirits Book — the same day the others were sentenced.

It is unclear, however, what might have happened to him.

Rozova’s friend, Shelest, also remains a mystery. Despite her attendance at the group’s seances, she was apparently never detained.

According to the case files, she disappeared shortly after the others were nabbed. Material related to her was transferred to a different case, a common step intended to avoid the search for the accused slowing down the investigations of those detained.

When it later emerged that the others had been arrested as part of an underground sting operation, Shelest’s name was not listed among the targets. And when the MGB informed other Soviet authorities about the eradication of a group of spiritists in Bila Tserkva, it made mention only of an informant — codenamed “Sever” (North) — who had attended some of the sessions.

But Shelest’s name did pop up. During their trial the three defendants claimed it was Shelest who initiated most of the “political” questions posed to spirits — including Trotsky, Alliluyeva, and Gorky. Rozova said she had suspicions that Shelest had manipulated the saucer’s movements.

In requesting a pardon in 1954, one year after Stalin’s death, Rozova wrote that “at the trial it became clear to me that Shelest had been tasked with creating an anti-Soviet crime from our seances.” She further argued that Shelest continued to live in Bila Tserkva, yet no one was trying to question her.

Around the same time a prosecutor wrote that while Sorokina and Rozova were “addicted to spiritism because of their curiosity and irresponsibility,” their actions did not result in serious consequences. The two, the prosecutor argued, should be released.

The Supreme Court eventually ruled that while the verdicts handed down against Gorban, Sorokina, and Rozova were correct, their sentences were too harsh.

Sorokina and Rozova were released on Feb. 22, 1955, seven years after their arrest. The decision came too late for Gorban, who died in 1950 while incarcerated at a labor camp near the Arctic Circle.

In 1992 — less than one year after the dissolution of the Soviet Union — all three were rehabilitated.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how the Air Force will use prop planes on high-tech battlefields

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has said he wants to build agile networks to connect the force’s battlefield assets, allowing personnel to make the best decisions as quickly as possible.


The shift from wars of attrition to wars of cognition, Goldfein said in September, has led the Air Force to ask different questions about the weapons and platforms it acquires. “Now we are starting the dialogue with … does it connect … and … can it share,” he told an Air Force conference.

Goldfein reiterated this month that the force was looking at the light-attack aircraft program, known as OA-X, to produce a plane that fits into that networked battlefield, where all of a force’s assets are connected.

While the force is not yet set on acquiring a new light-attack aircraft that could fly alongside the vaunted A-10 Thunderbolt, it carried out tests with four candidates in August. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said at a press briefing on November 9 that the force expected to have a report on the experiment by the end of December, after which it would make decisions about the program and potential battlefield tests.

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around
The Textron Scorpion experimental aircraft conducts handling and flying quality maneuvers above White Sands Missile Range. Scorpion is participating in the U.S. Air Force Light Attack Experiment (OA-X), a series of trials to determine the feasibility of using light aircraft in attack roles. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Christopher Okula)

Goldfein — who has previously touted the importance of the OA-X on the battlefield of the future — added that the Air Force was looking to the light-attack program to augment information-sharing among partner forces with different capacities.

“There’s two parallel paths that we’re looking at on light attack. One is the traditional aircraft, sensor, weapon, but there’s another part of that, which is the network that it rides on,” Goldfein told reporters at the briefing. “As we bring more and more exquisite technology to the battlefield, it actually becomes harder and harder to share information with out allies and partners who don’t have … either the same quality or level of technology.”

Read Also: The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense

“So the question that we’re asking is not only is there a light-attack capability off the shelf that we can use that can increase lethality and readiness, but is there also a shareable network that allies and partners who are already with us and those that may choose to join us … in the campaign against violent extremism, can we actually get into a new, shareable network that allows information to flow at a far faster rate so we can take out the enemy?” he added.

The light-attack experiment started taking shape earlier this year, when the Goldfein said the Air Force was looking for a cheap, commercially built fighter capable of performing close air support and other basic operations. The Air Force plans keep the A-10 Thunderbolt, the force’s premier close-air-support platform, in service, but a light-attack aircraft would allow high-end fighters like the F-16 to focus on more complex missions.

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around
An Afghan air force A-29 Super Tucano flies over Afghanistan during a training mission April 6, 2016. Train, Advise, Assist Command-Air worked daily with the Afghan air force to help build a professional, sustainable and capable air force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Eydie Sakura)

Congress allotted about $400 million to OA-X in the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act, and legislators have said they want OA-X program to continue.

One of the aircraft under consideration, the A-29 Super Tucano, is already in service with the Afghan air force, and the US has ordered six more of them to send to the country as the military adjusts to President Donald Trump’s plans to expand the US-led war effort there. The US also recently sent A-29s to the Lebanese army.

Earlier this year, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis described an “annihilation campaign” against ISIS in which the US and partner forces would work to reduce violence to a level that local authorities could handle it. Speaking on November 9, Goldfein used similar terms to underscore the role a light-attack aircraft would play on a connected battlefield.

“Remember the overall strategy is that we push violence down to the point where local governance and local police forces can manage it,” Goldfein said. “How can the light attack actually contribute to that?”

MIGHTY MOVIES

Watch bunnies prepare for war in new ‘Watership Down’ trailer

The BBC released the first trailer for mini-series Watership Down, based on the 1972 Richard Adams novel, and it looks pretty intense. This group of rabbits in Southern England is up against the entire world. When Fiver (Nicholas Hoult) starts having visions of his home being destroyed, all of the rabbits go on a journey to find someplace new to live. It’s terribly dangerous, though. Humans, dogs, foxes, birds, and other rabbits are trying to kill them.


This book was made into an animated movie in 1978, which looked like it was made for kids. It was not and infamously scarred a generation of young children. There’s a lot of brutal death in the novel and it’s a little similar to Lord of the Rings, so don’t be fooled by the adorable rabbits.

Watership Down: Trailer – BBC

www.youtube.com

The voice cast for this mini-series is stacked. Nicholas Hoult (The Favourite) and James McAvoy (Glass) lead the cast as brother rabbits. John Boyega (The Last Jedi), Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Ben Kingsley (The Jungle Book), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) and Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who) also lend their voices to characters in Watership Down. Sam Smith recorded the song “Fire on Fire” for the film as well.

Watership Down‘s story will be told in four parts. It’s going to be released on the BBC in the United Kingdom on Dec. 22 and Dec. 23, 2018, and it’ll come to Netflix on the Dec. 23, 2018. That’s just in time for the holidays, but remember the movie is probably not suitable for young children — unless they can handle a lot of animal death.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Chinook crew pulls long nights to keep birds flying in Puerto Rico

The maintenance team from the Army’s 2nd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment has been working nonstop in Puerto Rico since they flew in from Fort Bliss, Texas, Oct. 9. The crew maintains six CH-47 Chinook helicopters that deliver humanitarian supplies daily to some of the hardest-hit and most remote areas of Puerto Rico following Hurricanes Irma and Maria.


Soldiers need to do 90 percent of the maintenance work at night to allow full usage of the helicopters during the day for essential humanitarian missions, said Army Lt. Col Chris Chung, the battalion commander.
“At first, night shift was running from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m., sometimes 2 or 3 a.m.,” said Army Sgt. Jason Gonsalves, a CH-47 helicopter repairer. “We were working long days, only stopping to take a break for thirty minutes.”

When the unit arrived, the maintenance team had to reassemble the Chinooks, which they had only recently disassembled to fit on C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft for the trip from Texas, Gonsalves said.

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around
A CH-47 Chinook helicopter sits on the airfield at Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, Nov. 2, 2017. Chinooks are being used to deliver aid to the worst-hit and most remote areas of Puerto Rico as part of the ongoing relief and recovery efforts after the island territory was hit by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Army photo by Spc. Samuel D. Keenan

In order for two Chinook helicopters to fit aboard a C-5, their rotor systems and housings must be detached and disassembled.

The maintainers had the helicopters back together and ready to fly within 48 hours, said Army Pfc. Zachariah Ingram, a CH-47 helicopter repairer.

In addition to regularly scheduled maintenance, the crew has to be vigilant for other problems that come with the operating environment. For example, the salt air and humidity inherent with operating in tropical environments can lead to corrosion, Gonsalves said.

Also Read: How 10k soldiers helped out during Hurricane Irma

Volunteering

When not working on the helicopters, the maintainers volunteer to help with the humanitarian airlift.

“I’ve gone on a flight to help pass out supplies and talk to the populace,” said Army Spc. Juan Betancourt, a CH-47 maintainer.

Betancourt, a native Spanish speaker, uses his skills to help other soldiers communicate with the island’s residents.

“There was a younger girl, maybe 12 or 13, who came up and gave me a hug and said ‘Thank you,'” Betancourt said. “It was heartwarming.”

The work of the maintenance crews has not gone unnoticed.

“Our maintainers have done a phenomenal job keeping the Chinooks … up and running at the mission-capable status that we need to continue to achieve missions that are requested of us and to be on standby for those that are not,” Chung said. “It’s not a small task and it’s not a small feat.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Mountain fighting was hell for Italy’s elite WWI shock troops

World War I’s western front stretched from the English Channel to the Adriatic Sea and passed through the Italian Alps. The soldiers there were miserable and the conflict was characterized by long, bloody deadlock.

Life for soldiers of the Italian Army was no different. They were poorly equipped and trained, which was even worse horrible when combined with the incompetence of many high-ranking officers. This lack of leadership and equipment is a key reason Austro-Hungarian troops were able to invade the northeast part of Italy.


This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

Soldiers on WWI’s Italian front fought enemies, frostbite, and avalanches.

In 1915, a sudden breakthrough came for the Italians in the form of a special operations unit. Some Italian officers and enlisted men volunteered to go behind enemy lines to gather information and create confusion among their enemies. These volunteers took the name of “Esploratori Arditi” – or “hardy explorers.”

These men were noted for their bravery and initiative and, by the end of the year, the first companies of Arditi were ready for action. Many of their fellow soldiers called them “Companies of the Death” because of the high number of casualties they both suffered and inflicted.

The Arditi led several attacks into the enemy trenches, quite often armed only with grenades and knives. One of their actions is described in the official records relative to the Silver Medal of Honor granted to Capt. Cristoforo Baseggio.

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

Arditi were issued unique equipment, like this diamond visor.

In 1916, Baseggio led an isolated column of 1500 men — about 200 Arditi and the rest mountain troopers. He ordered an attack on two enemy strongholds at Saint Osvaldo, one at an elevation of 1100 meters and the second at 1440. Even though it was April, there was still snow on the mountains. Soldiers climbed their way up, sliding and falling along the way. Their hands were covered in cuts etched in by frozen crags. Donkeys followed behind, pulling the artillery pieces.

Once they arrived, the soldiers spent the night digging trenches and foxholes. Between 5am and 9am, the Beech trees that hid the Austrians became a hell of flames and metal.

Two companies of mountain troops were sent to the right and to the left sides of the Austrian trenches. The Arditi were ready to attack the center just as soon as artillery blew away the barbed wires. They engaged the enemy in furious hand-to-hand combat, forcing the defenders to fall back, inward to the second line of trenches that encircled the mountain like a crown.

From their higher position, the Austrians managed to trap the Italians in the very trenches they conquered. The first two companies sent by Capt. Baseggio should have joined the action, attacking the enemy from the sides, but never showed up. The captain decided to go look for them himself. He ran through the snow, dodging bullets and hopping over corpses.

Soon, he found the two companies of Arditi pinned down by enemy fire. By all practical measures, his pincer maneuver had failed, so he decided to return to the central section with more of his men. While the reinforcements couldn’t get close enough to the Arditi, the sight of their captain gave the the Hardy Explorers strength enough to push forward again and recapture the trench

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

Fighting on the Italian Front was particularly brutal.

The two Austrian companies on higher up the hill managed to hold the attackers for a time, but without reinforcements, they were not able to hold it for very long. As was typical of World War I, the Italians gained and lost the trench several times — each advance cost them dearly. On a third attack, the Italians reached the second trench, fighting over piles of corpses made up of troops of both armies. From the nearby high ground, an Italian Lieutenant could see the battle. He wrote,

“The fight on the other side of the valley intensifies more and more, it will soon involve me and my men. I’m separated from my comrades by four hours of rough march. It has been 36 hours that we have not eaten, but we will join our brothers in arms.”

The shocking thunders of artillery were interspersed with moments of silence, during which the men fought each other with knives and bayonets. A mountain trooper named Turin used all of his grenades to clean a trench in the highest position. Then, he jumped in to find an Austrian who had stood his ground in face of the bombardment. Turin’s rifle jammed and the Austrian managed to rip off part of the Italian trooper’s skull.

His comrades arrived and killed the Austrian. Turin wanted to continue the attack, even with his face covered by a horrible mask of blood. He couldn’t stand properly because of the shock. Only the resolute order of his superior convinced him to retreat — but not before cursing the now-dead Austrian one last time.

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around

Arditi became known for their knife-fighting skills.

Forced to step back, the Italians retreated downhill once more, the last of them was a Lt. Rabaioli, who ran back smiling — holding six rifles stolen from the enemy.

After two days of battle and with the reinforcements of Lt. Bongiovanni, Capt. Baseggio took the first of the two strongholds — and went immediately on to recon the second, which was defended by an Austrian battalion. He spent the entire next day attacking this position, using his advantage of artillery in higher position to rain hell on the enemy.

By the end of the day, only a quarter of his company of Arditi — about 50 men — were still able to fight. Exhausted, he gathered and aligned the remaining Arditi in the open and inspected the weapons. Then, they all started marching in a parade in front of the enemy, who, astonished, ceased the fire and abandoned the position.

Humor

6 ways you can tell a troop isn’t an infantryman

Walk onto any American military base in the world, and you’re going to encounter some pretty disciplined men and women. Continue walking and you’ll also notice all the hard work each troop puts into their day.


But you may also wonder which one of them deploys and fights in combat versus those who ship off to support the war effort.

Well, we’ve got you covered.

Related: 3 key differences between Recon Marines and Marine Raiders

Here are six simple ways you can tell a troop isn’t an infantryman:

6. There are no dog tag in their boot laces.

Infantrymen wear a dog tag around their necks and another looped in their left boot — it’s tradition (and practical for identification in the worst case scenario).

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around
A dog tag inserted into the left boot — your motivated left boot.

5. When a troop can count how many MREs they’ve eaten.

MREs — or Meals Ready to Eat — are a staple food for any grunt. The classic meal plan is the troop’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner for as long as you’re in the field or outside the wire. If a troop only had a few during boot camp…they’re probably not a grunt.

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around
Yum! Spaghetti and meat sauce.

4. They remember and brag about their ASVAB score.

It doesn’t take a high ASVAB to become an infantryman. Grunts mostly brag about their shooting scores and how big their egos are versus what they got on their ASVAB.

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around
No crayons = POG.

3. They actually have morale — and you can see it in their eyes.

Read the photo caption — it’s epic.

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around
The Airmen responded to U.S. Air Force Gen. Mark Welsh III when he challenged the Air Force to a mustache competition. Mustache March continues to be a method of raising morale for the Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kyle Gese)

2. When you sport a “serious face” for a photo, but you’re stationed on a beautiful military installation.

Look how happy they are!

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around
Two Airmen stand with too much pride in front of Andersen Air Force Base. (Source: DoD)

Also Read: 6 questions you asked yourself after your first firefight

1. When they say the words “Well, I’m basically an infantryman.”

No, you’re not — but good job convincing yourself.

Unless your MOS starts or used to start with “11” (Army) or “03” (Marines), you’re not an infantryman.

This is why the Army keeps the Specialist rank around
Two Army infantrymen keep their eyes on a wadi in Andar, Afghanistan. The area is known as a Taliban stronghold and commonly receives small arms fire from the location.

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

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