4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance - We Are The Mighty
Military Life

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance

The Marine Corps is always training to become smarter, stronger, and more lethal than those who threaten to destroy our way of life. Marines are outside dogs who thrive on the hunt, however, when not forward deployed, they train the next generation to fight.


The fundamentals used to build up a puppy into a war-dog may seem asinine at first, but they are either proving a concept, developing a character trait, or conditioning muscle memory.

1. Break falls

A break fall is one, if not the first, thing you’ll learn in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. This exercise focuses on muscle memory: tucking the chin or looking up, not reaching out, and dispersing the energy from impact so you can get back on your feet unharmed and continue the fight.

Break falling can take years to perfect (good thing you signed that contract), but it will make you a better sparring partner and will come in handy for those “oh sh*t” moments, like getting in a fight or slipping on an icy sidewalk.

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance

2. Grass Week

Not every Marine is an infantryman, but every Marine is a rifleman. Generally speaking, it’s probably a good idea to have all personnel achieve proficiency with the metal object they have to carry for months on end while deployed.

Grass Week is when Marines develop muscle memory of shooting positions while aiming at an object (usually a barrel) while coaches fix their posture.

Proper bone support is a fundamental of marksmanship that will help you attain that Expert Rifleman Badge (and bragging rights over your peers). Unfortunately for the Marine, this means staring at the same barrel from dawn to dusk for five days straight.

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance

3. Fighting Holes

Offense and Defense, also known as O&D, is when Marines have to defend their position against an advancing enemy, conduct patrols, and other combat operations. This also means hours or days of digging with a tiny shovel.

There are set measurements for fighting holes, but their command may take certain liberties contingent on the environment, time, and resources. Dig, fill, relocate, repeat.

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance

4. Speed Reloads

Speed and tactical reloads make you look and feel like the operator bad ass you imagined yourself to be when signing that contract. The concept is simple: Develop muscle memory to the point that you can reload your weapon in pitch black darkness or blind-folded.

It’s a perishable skill that must be continually honed in the infantry community and it’s a great way to look busy if your staff sergeant is on the prowl for a working party.

As we all know, one must walk before they can run, which translates to many magazines being dropped prematurely.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA needs astronauts. Do you have what it takes for outer space?

Do some people call you a Space Cowboy? Or do they call you a Gangster of Love?

Well, if they do, have we got the job for you!


NASA recently announced that it is accepting candidates for its next astronaut class. The goal is to have humans on the Moon by 2024 with the next step of setting foot on Mars by the mid-2030s.

Dubbed the Artemis Generation, this new class of space cadets will make up the core of what should be the most historic period of space exploration since the Apollo Program.

“America is closer than any other time in history since the Apollo program to returning astronauts to the Moon. We will send the first woman and next man to the lunar South Pole by 2024, and we need more astronauts to follow suit on the Moon, and then Mars,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We’re looking for talented men and women from diverse backgrounds and every walk of life to join us in this new era of human exploration that begins with the Artemis program to the Moon. If you have always dreamed of being an astronaut, apply now.”

The last time NASA took applications, over 18,000 people applied for what would end up being 11 spots.

The odds are against you right?

Probably! (Successfully applying through USAJobs is the first difficult hurdle. View the job here.)
4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance

Education

You may be a genius when it comes to knowing everything during comment wars on Facebook, but to be an astronaut, you have to be educated in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) field with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. (the University of Hard Knocks doesn’t count sorry) plus at least three years of proficiency in your field. Advanced degrees go a long way.

If you want to be a pilot (the new Orion might be the new transport for Americans), you must have over 1,000 hours of command pilot experience under your belt.

The physical 

People usually focus on the science and education portion of being an astronaut without realizing that physical fitness is a major part of being accepted. Astronauts used to be only military men, but with the expansion of applicants into the civilian side, NASA makes sure that everyone that makes it into the interview stage (by this time down to 120 from 18,000) can pass a strenuous physical and medical exam.

It will probably be a bit more complicated than this.

www.youtube.com

The pay

As a civilian, you get paid GS11 to GS14 wages. If you are in the military still, you will get your typical military pay based on your rank and time in service.

Training

If you made it past the initial selection, interviews and physical and medical exams, then you have to go through nearly two years of Astronaut training. What does that entail?

Here are some of the things you will have to learn and show proficiency in:

Candidates must complete military water survival and become SCUBA qualified to prepare them for spacewalk training. Astronaut Candidates must pass a swimming test in their first month of training. They must swim three lengths of a 25-meter pool without stopping, and then swim three lengths of the pool in a flight suit and sneakers. They also have to tread water for 10 minutes wearing a flight suit.

Candidates are exposed to problems associated with high (hyperbaric) and low (hypobaric) atmospheric pressures in the altitude chambers and learn to deal with emergencies associated with these conditions.

Additionally, candidates are given exposure to space flight during training in modified jet aircraft (the Vomit Comet) as it performs maneuvers that produce weightlessness for about 20 seconds. This sequence is repeated up to 40 times in a day.

Finally, Astronaut Candidate Program will require successful completion of the following:

  • International Space Station systems training
  • Extravehicular Activity skills training
  • Robotics skills training
  • Russian Language training (We beat the Ruskies to the Moon but now have to ask them for a ride…. Until the Orion is ready)
  • Aircraft flight readiness training

Easy right?

If you think you have what it takes, go to USAJobs and apply!

The deadline is March 31.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This terrifying disease started in World War I Europe

Encephalitis lethargica is a disease that seems to belong in a horror movie, complete with brain damage that causes victims to sleep for years or to hack away at their own bodies — and it all started in Europe during World War I.


It was first described by World War I pilot and noble, Constantin von Economo, who switched to a career in medicine at the request of his parents after family members died in the war. As a physician, he served both civilians and the Central Powers, and his historical significance comes from being the first to describe a neurological disorder that popped up during the war.

His first patients reported constant exhaustion despite constantly sleeping, leading some people to call it the “sleeping disease” or “sleepy sickness.” This wasn’t exactly correct, though, as many patients never truly slept. They remained aware of their surroundings even when seemingly in deep sleep. As the disease progressed, patients also began exhibiting symptoms like abnormal eye movement, delirium, headache, or paralysis.

The paralysis and other symptoms were sometimes limited to one side of the body, giving off the surreal result that one side of the face and body became sluggish and tired while the other side remained relatively alert and functional.

From here, patients’ symptoms would progress in a couple directions. 5 million people were afflicted with the disease from 1917 to 1928. Approximately a third died, a third survived, and the final third were trapped in endless sleep. But the scary part for survivors was that symptoms could return years later — or they could suffer from Parkinson’s brought on by the disease.

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance

Dr. Oliver Sacks, a physician famous for his work with encephalitis lethargica patients who slept for decades before awaking for a short period.

(Luigi Novi, CC BY 3.0)

And that endless sleep thing wasn’t a euphemism or anything. Some patients went to sleep for decades, only coming out of their near-endless rest when given an anti-Parkinson’s medication in 1969 through an effort led by Dr. Oliver Sacks. Unfortunately, Sack’s treatment with L-DOPA only provided a temporary relief of their symptoms. All patients eventually regressed back to permanent sleep or a catatonic state.

Oddly enough, those afflicted with long-term catatonia did get one benefit: They aged much more slowly than people awake.

But while encephelitis lethargica has plenty of terrifying traits for adults, it was much worse in children and adolescents, among whom it caused psychosis. In one extreme case, a young girl pulled out many of her teeth and gouged out both of her eyes. Patients also often inflicted serious violence, sexual and otherwise, against others with no regard for age, gender, or nearly any other factor.

People attacked members of their own family, authority figures, or random passersby, often with little visible emotion afterwards.

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance

Encepheilitis lethargica could strike people of any age, and it often caused long-term Parkinson’s in the months or years after a patient had seemingly recovered from the condition.

(British Medical Journal 1925, Gullan)

Obviously, for troops in the war and returning veterans, the idea that exhaustion could be a sign of their imminent demise was terrifying, and the fact that their families could be afflicted by this mysterious disease was terrifying, but another outbreak pushed the sleepy sickness to the back of most people’s minds.

The Spanish flu pandemic broke out in 1918 and eventually killed between 20 and 50 million victims of the roughly 500 million people affected.

Today, we still don’t know the cause of encephelitis lethargica, but new cases fortunately fell off a cliff in 1926 and continued to dwindle in the 1930s. Now, new cases are extremely rare, but the exact symptoms of encephelitis lethargica were so varied that it’s hard to even be sure that new cases are from the same cause.

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance

The title page of Constantin von Economo’s 1931 description of encephalitis lethargica.

(Wellcome Images, CC BY 4.0)

There does appear to be an auto-immune element to the disease with nearly all sufferers showing damage to the brain stem consistent with it coming under attack from the body’s immune system. This, combined with the disease’s first appearance around the same time as the flu pandemic, has led to speculation that it comes from the body’s overreaction to a virus. But that’s still not certain.

Analysis of other influenza and viral outbreaks, both before World War I and after, show some connection between viral outbreaks and the onset of encephelitis lethargica.

It’s still possible that the world could see a sudden resurgence of encephelitis lethargica, especially if there’s a new influenza outbreak, but our luck has held for over 70 years — fingers crossed.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Navy’s small craft action teams defend US warships at sea

GULF OF ADEN (NNS) – Aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21), a small group is trained to defend the ship in an emergency situation.


This group of sailors, the Small Craft Action Team (SCAT), provides a surge capability for reacting to an emergency security situation within the defensive perimeter of the ship, and has earned high-level praise for its integration with the Marines of the embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

“SCAT is a team consisting of crew-served weapons machine gun operators that provide 360 degree coverage of the ship, an anti-terrorism tactical watch officer and a gunnery liaison officer,” said Lt. j.g. Frank Smeeks, New York’s anti-terrorism officer (ATO). “They are called away as a pre-planned response to threats the ship may face like a small boat attack or low, slow flyer.”

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Logistics Specialist 2nd Class William Aponte, aboard Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut (DDG 99), mans a 25mm machine gun as part of the small craft action team (SCAT) as the ship transits the Dover Straits, October 25, 2018.

US Navy/MCS 2nd Class Cameron M. Stoner

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US sailors with the small craft action team man and fire a .50-caliber machine gun on the forecastle of the Harpers Ferry-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry during a live-fire exercise in the Pacific Ocean, March 17, 2019.

US Navy/MCS 3rd Class Danielle A. Baker

“A SCAT member has to be qualified to shoot both the M240 and M2HB machine guns,” said Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Adam Gilbert, a SCAT watch stander. “They must know how to properly identify contacts and how to properly report them.”

New York puts SCAT members through rigorous training to ensure they are ready for any situation.

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Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Leogene Porticos communicates to the bridge using a sound-powered telephone to report surface contacts during a small craft action team drill aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge, August 22, 2018.

US Navy/MCS 2nd Class Dana D. Legg

“They must receive extensive training on many topics to include use of force and rules of engagement, warning shots, contact reporting and tracking, and how to clear machine guns of any malfunctions or stoppages,” said Smeeks.

This training was put to test during Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX), a pre-deployment exercise during which embarked assessors from Carrier Strike Group 4 gave New York’s SCAT the highest tier grade.

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A sailor assigned to San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage and Marines assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines H S Company, Scout Sniper Platoon, stand watch as part of the small craft action team during a force protection exercise, April 30, 2018.

US Navy/MCS 2nd Class Brandon Williams-Church

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US Marines assigned to the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit participate in a small craft action team (SCAT) drill aboard Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Rushmore during Essex Amphibious Ready Group and 13th MEU exercise in the Pacific Ocean, May 2, 2018.

US Navy/MCS 3rd Class Reymundo A. Villegas III

Chief Gunner’s Mate Sierra Karatali said the sailors and Marines onboard “have one common goal: Defend the ship.”

“Training together allowed us to get to know one another and share techniques to make us better,” she said. “We became one team, in one fight.”

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Seaman Bryce Frost-Johnson, with the small craft action team, looks through binoculars aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) as the ship transits the Strait of Tiran, September 9, 2019.

US Navy/MCS 3rd Class Danielle A. Baker

SCAT is an integral part of many evolutions aboard the ship.

“If the ship is conducting a sea-and-anchor transit or a strait transit anywhere in the world, the SCAT team is employed during the entire transit, if not longer,” said Gilbert.

“It is a 24/7 reaction force, day or night. The amount of precision SCAT member has to effectively employ our crew-served weapons as a team is amazing, and I am proud to be a member of the team.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the CIA recruited and handled its top KGB mole

On June 22, 1977, Aleksandr Ogorodnik killed himself with a CIA-supplied suicide pill after the KGB arrested him based on information initially provided by a mole within the Agency. Just over three weeks later, CIA officer Martha (Marti) Peterson — unaware of Aleksandr’s death — was seized in a KGB ambush while servicing a dead drop in Moscow.

The streets of Moscow were one of the most important, and dangerous, battlefields of the Cold War. American intelligence officers like Marti worked with assets like Aleksandr in the shadows to collect Soviet secrets. The Soviets, in turn, closely watched all foreign nationals and their own citizens for signs of espionage.


Although the story of TRIGON ended tragically, the intelligence Aleksandr provided gave US policymakers valuable insights into Soviet foreign policy plans and intentions. It was insights like this which ultimately helped us win the Cold War.

Recruiting a spy:

Aleksandr Ogorodnik was a mid-level official in the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) posted in Latin America and had access to information about Soviet intentions for the region. He enjoyed his life in Latin America and disliked the Soviet system, which he found oppressive.

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance
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The CIA recruited Aleksandr in South America in 1973. Upon signing up to spy for the Agency, he was given the codename TRIGON.

TRIGON smuggled documents from the embassy and took them to a safe-house, where Agency officers photographed them. The material he provided gave unique insights into Soviet policies in Latin America, including plans to influence other governments.

Return to the motherland:

In anticipation of his recall to Moscow, CIA officers taught TRIGON operational trade-craft and techniques. He also received training in secret writing, the use of one-time pads, and dead drop techniques.

One of the first female CIA case officer to serve behind the Iron Curtain, Marti Peterson, went to Moscow to be TRIGON’s handler. At the time, the KGB discounted the ability of women to conduct intelligence operations, so Marti went unnoticed for almost 18 months.

TRIGON’s value rose significantly after he returned to Moscow in October 1974. He had agreed to continue spying for the Agency, but he asked that the US government resettle his then-pregnant girlfriend. Before leaving for the Soviet Union, TRIGON requested a suicide device in case he was caught. After high-level deliberations at Langley, his CIA handlers reluctantly gave him a fountain pen containing a cyanide capsule.

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance
TRIGON’S dead drop instructions made by CIA.
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)

A few months later, per his recontact instructions, TRIGON gave a “sign of life” signal in February 1975. As face-to-face meetings were too dangerous, impersonal operational encounters—using signal sites, radio messages, concealment devices, dead drops, and car drops—began in October and were scheduled monthly.

For nearly two years they worked together, Marti and TRIGON never met. They were only spies passing in the night.

Dead rats for dead drops:

Moscow was a challenging environment to operate within. Even finding one’s way around Moscow proved difficult because Soviet-produced maps of the city were deliberately inaccurate. The Agency had to get creative when communicating with assets, which regularly included the use of dead drops.

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance
Dead drop rock intended for TRIGON.
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)

Dead drops are a way for intelligence officers to leave or receive items at a secret location in order to exchange information with an asset without having to meet directly. Everyday items like fake bricks can be used for dead drops. Packed with messages or supplies, the bricks can be deposited at a set location, such as a construction site, for later pickup.

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance
Marti Peterson’s purse, used during dead drop operations in Moscow.

One of the more surprising concealment devices sometimes used by the CIA were dead rats. The body cavity was large enough to hold a wad of money or roll of film. Hot pepper sauce kept scavenging cats away after the “rat” was tossed from a car window at a prearranged drop site.

Marti used a purse to conceal supplies and equipment that she transferred to TRIGON via dead drop exchanges. Because of the KGB’s gender bias, the purse, like Marti herself, did not attract suspicion.

The mole:

TRIGON soon secured a position in the Global Affairs Department of the MFA that gave him access to incoming and outgoing classified cables to Soviet embassies worldwide. He provided sensitive intelligence about Soviet foreign policy plans and objectives. His reporting went to the President and senior US policymakers.

Meanwhile, Karl Koecher, a naturalized US citizen, was working at CIA as a translator and contract employee. (Unbeknownst to CIA, he was also working concurrently for the Czech Intelligence Service.) He had incidental access to information about TRIGON’s first dealings with the Agency and told his intelligence service, which then notified the KGB.

When that occurred is not known, nor is the time when the KGB began investigating TRIGON. In early 1977, however, his case officers began noticing indications—principally a marked decline in the quality of the photographs—that he had been compromised and was under KGB control.

The Krasnoluzhskiy Most

TRIGON never showed up for a dead drop encounter on June 28, 1977, so another was arranged via radio message for two weeks later.

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance
Krasnoluzhskiy Most, Moscow Bridge site for dead drop.
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)

On July 15, Marti went to the Krasnoluzhskiy Most — a railroad bridge near Lenin Central Stadium —to set up the dead drop. The bridge spanned the Moscow River with a pedestrian walkway running along the side of the tracks. A spot was prepicked where TRIGON would receive a “drop” from Marti, and leave a package to be retrieved later that same night.

As night fell over Moscow, Marti left a concealment device in a narrow window inside a stone tower on the Krasnoluzhskiy Most. It was a trap.

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)

A KGB surveillance team was waiting and seized Marti. They took her to Lyubianka Prison, where she was questioned for hours and photographed with some of the espionage paraphernalia Agency officers and TRIGON had used. She was declared persona non grata (an unwelcome person) and sent back to the US immediately.

The Agency later learned that Alexander Ogorodnik had killed himself a month before Marti had been apprehended. He told the KGB he would sign a confession but asked to use his own pen. Marti wrote in her memoir, The Widow Spy, that “Opening the pen as if to begin writing, he bit down on the barrel and expired instantly in front of his KGB interrogators. The KGB was so intent on his confession that they never suspected he had poison….TRIGON died his own way, a hero.”

This article originally appeared on Central Intelligence Agency. Follow @CIA on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Russia and Poland are squabbling on Twitter over who invaded Poland in WWII

An 80-year-old conflict was revisited on Sept. 17, 2019, as the Polish Embassy in the UK commemorated the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s invasion, which came two weeks after Germany invaded and started World War II.


The Russian embassy in South Africa didn’t let Poland’s tweet go without a denial.

“The USSR is often accused of invading Poland. Wrong!” the embassy tweeted. “The Nazis attacked Poland on 1 September. It was not until 17 September, with Polish government fleeing forces defeated, that the Red Army entered ‘Polish territories’ – Belarus and Ukraine occupied by Warsaw since 1920.”

The USSR and Germany had signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a neutrality agreement, just days before Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939.

Germany invaded Poland from the west, the USSR invaded from the east, and the two carved up Polish territory between them, although the Soviet Union did not formally declare war.

Unbeknownst to the Polish, the USSR and Nazi Germany had secretly discussed how they would divide parts of Europe, including Poland, giving the USSR the territory it felt it had lost after the Treaty of Riga ended the Polish-Russian War in 1921.

Russia has attempted to rewrite history, saying World War II didn’t actually start until 1941 and referring to it as the Great Patriotic War. This year, Russia tried to justify the existence of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact by claiming European countries didn’t sufficiently stand up to Hitler or offer Germany more favorable alternatives, according to the Associated Press.

Russia’s response to the Poland tweet takes on more significance in light of its annexation of Crimea in 2014, a move reminiscent of its invasion of Poland in 1939 — in both cases, Moscow denied or obfuscated the invasion but claimed the lands being invading belonged to it anyway.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was not invited to a commemoration of the invasion of Poland this year because of the annexation of Crimea and his increasingly authoritarian rule.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

George Washington’s egg nog recipe will destroy you

The father of our country was famous for his moderation but when he did imbibe, he made sure his drink packed the punch of a Brown Bess. Not only did Washington keep a healthy supply of imported Madeira, he also distilled his own distinctive rye whiskey and the Commander-In-Chief always made sure his troops were well-lubricated when on the march. The most powerful weapon in his cellar came only once a year, however, the General’s egg nog made its presence felt.


4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance

“I cannot tell a lie, I’m totally wrecked. Merry Christmas to all, including the Mahometans.”

In the years since historians have rifle through all of our first president’s personal papers and diaries, a number of interesting recipes have been found, including Washington’s small beer recipe. Though his personal egg nog recipe has never been found written in his own hand, it is at least a good representation of what such a recipe in the days of yore would have been like – at least for a wealthy man such as General Washington. It is, unlike most recipes found online nowadays, remarkably blunt. No intros, just straight to the business of catching a buzz.

Maybe colonials weren’t the biggest fans of family get-togethers.

“One quart cream, one quart milk, one dozen tablespoons sugar, one pint brandy, ½ pint rye whiskey, ½ pint Jamaica rum, ¼ pint sherry—mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of 12 eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, mix well. Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days. Taste frequently.”

“Taste frequently” being the operative command from the first Commander-In-Chief. Be careful, this drink packs a wallop.

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance

William Henry Harrison was a wuss.

While even the Farmer’s Almanac lists the recipe as General Washington’s, there is no evidence he ever wrote it, made it, or drank it. The earliest mention found of the recipe was in a 1948 book called Christmas With The Washingtons by Olive Bailey. While this recipe can’t really be found in earlier papers or other works, the book is in the catalogue at the Mount Vernon Archives and there is definitive proof that George and Martha Washington entertained Christmas guests with some kind of egg nog.

So why not this one?

The egg nog is a strong but delicious concoction that takes some work, like separating eggs and beating the whites until fluffy, then folding the whites into the mixture, but it is well worth the effort. Take heed, though: General Washington would not care much for soldiers in his army in a constant state of inebriation.

That is well-documented.

popular

Why the Certificate of Appreciation is a slap in the face to troops

Troops always like feeling appreciated. A simple “good job” at the right time can go a long way in improving the morale of a unit. You can even take it a step further by expressing your gratitude to troops in many different ways: by releasing them early, taking them out for chow, going a little easier on them throughout the work week — you name it.

Then, there’s the Certificate of Appreciation. Given its name, it may seem like a good thing, but if you’re the type of leader that puts a troop in for one of these after they’ve worked their ass off for an extended period of time, well, you might as well just tell them they’re garbage.


Keep in mind, the Certificate of Appreciation is different from a Certificate of Achievement. They look exactly alike, have the same acronym, and they’re often treated the same way at ceremonies — but the one for achievement is actually worth something: Five promotion points each, to be exact, for a maximum of 20 points. It’s not huge, but it’s something.

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance
(Air Force photo by Ron Fair)

2nd Lts. handing them out is fine, because it’s the best they can do and they’re at least trying to do something nice. Company commanders and above who can argue for higher have no excuse.

The other key difference between these two certificates is the approving authority involved. A Certificate of Achievement has to go through the battalion commander for approval. The Certificate of Appreciation, on the other hand, can be signed by literally anyone in the unit because all it tells a troop is that someone appreciates them. Despite that, if you look at who most often hands them out, it’s Lieutenant Colonels in battalion commander positions.

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Eric Provost, Task Force Patriot PAO)

If that troop royally f*cked up, fine. But there’s nothing more discouraging than seeing everyone else get something better while you’re stuck with a CoA.

Don’t get this twisted — not every action warrants official recognition. If a troop did something great or put forth a little extra effort, but it’s still well within the scope of their normal duties — like if a commo soldier brought the NIPR net back up at a critical moment — then it’s the right amount of reward. You can even make it a huge thing and officially let the unit know that you appreciate the hard work that a certain soldier put forth at the right moment.

This becomes a problem when the act was actually deserving of an award — like what happens to the many troops who “earn” one as an end-of-tour award. Troops who put heart into what they do get burnt out because they’ve earned far better than what they’re being given. Certificates of Appreciations like that are what sour it for the entire military. If you’re going to go through that extra effort to congratulate them, then make it actually matter.

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Thomas Duval)

It’s also costs the same amount of money on behalf of the unit, since the troops have to go out and buy the damn medal themselves after the ceremony.

If you actually want to show a troop they’re appreciated, let them know. Hell, you can even keep the exact same format— bring the troop in front of the formation and personally thank them for what they did. Just replace the “military’s version of a high five” with an actual high five.

But when that exact same level of effort on the leadership’s part that could be put toward something that actually matters? Please don’t insult your troops like that. Hell, an Army Achievement Medal is also approved at a battalion commander-level and that could actually make a difference on a troop’s morale by appearing on their uniform — if they’ve done something worthy of it.

Humor

5 nuggets of wisdom in ‘Three Kings’ you may have missed

Greed, redemption, and ultimately doing the right thing are just some of the themes stated in David O. Russell’s 1999 classic hit “Three Kings.”


Set in the days after the end of Operation Desert Storm, four American soldiers head out on a quest to locate a sh*t ton of gold Saddam Hussein stole so they can steal it for themselves. But they end up on a crazy journey that causes them to help the local population and divert them far from their original selfish plan.

Related: 5 nuggets of wisdom in ‘Black Hawk Down’ you may have missed

Peel back the layers of the film and check out a few nuggets of wisdom you may have missed in the story.

1. The reasoning of modern day warfare

It’s big business for the media covering a war — maybe a little too much business that pulls the decision makers away from the real issues.

They’ll always be media wars. (Images via Giphy)

2. Everyone’s perception varies

When sh*t goes down, and bullets go flying, some people see things that didn’t happen.

That would have been pretty cool to see. (Images via Giphy)What really happened.Why didn’t he have the daylight sight already up? (Images via Giphy)

3. America always changes the plan at the last second

When we head into a battle, we always seem to have a great insertion plan.

See what we mean. Most military plans go to sh*t quickly. (Images via Giphy)But our extraction strategies seems to always go to sh*t, and someone always gets shot.Then all hell breaks lose. (Images via Giphy)

4. News reporters need to stay away

Although this is a movie, sometimes news reporters will get themselves into trouble by going too deep into a story, which can potentially get good people killed.

You may want to think about taking cover, lady. (Images via Giphy)

Also Read: 6 pearls of wisdom we learned from War Daddy in ‘Fury’

5. Finishing something you didn’t start

With the original intention of stealing gold, the “Three Kings” ended up giving away nearly everything to get their refugee friends to safety and fulfilling a soldier’s promise and honor.

The end. (Images via Giphy)

Military Life

7 ways the military breaks introverts out of their shells

The military has a way of ensuring that its troops constantly work, live, and interact with each other. While it’s not uncommon for troops to get off duty and hide away in their barracks or at home, the way the military is structured prevents them from truly shutting themselves off from the rest of the unit.


One of the most mission-critical elements of the military is a foundation of trust and rapport between troops. To that end, the military has a way of forcing its troops into building camaraderie.

1. Basic Training/Boot Camp living conditions

Straight out of the gate, potential recruits are thrown in 30-man bays under the watchful eye of Drill Sergeants/Instructors. Troops will quickly learn the go-to pastime when there’s absolutely nothing else to do: talking to each other.

That quiet kid from a Midwestern suburb will probably have their first interaction with people from nearly every other state, background, economic status, and lifestyle during Basic.

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance
Doesn’t matter where you’re from; you’re all sh*t. (Photo by Sgt. Ken Scar)

2. Morning PT

You’ll never hear more words of encouragement than you do during physical training. When troops go for a run in the morning, they’ll often shout motivation at one another. “Come on, Pvt. Introvert! You got this!”

This isn’t done solely to lift spirits, but rather to make sure their ass catches back up to the platoon.

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance

3. Working parties

Another perfect way to build mutual understanding is to share suffering. Cleaning the same connex they cleaned out last week may seem boring (because it is), but every time a troop says something like, “man, f*ck this. Am I right?” a friendship is born.

There are few stances shared by troops more than a dislike of mundane, physical labor.

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance
Many friendships have bloomed through the shared hatred of sandbags. (Photo by Sgt. John Crosby)

4. Barracks parties

In nearly every comedy about high school or college life, there’s always that one party scene. Those kinds of lavish parties don’t really exist like they do in the movies — college kids are broke. But do you know who gets a regular paycheck on the first and fifteenth of each month and has few bills to spend the money on? Troops.

Actual parties also bring troops together. Everyone is pulled from their barracks room to do keg-stands off the roof of the Battalion Headquarters before staff duty finds them.

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance
Your party isn’t close to awesome until someone calls the unit’s medic because they don’t want to explain it later to the aid station. (Screen-grab via YouTube)

5. The “battle-buddy” system

The “battle-buddy” system is a method the chain of command uses to have troops keep an eye on each other. What probably started out as a great PowerPoint presentation given by a gung-ho 1st Lt. gave the military what is, essentially, an assigned best friend. The idea was to prevent troops from getting into trouble, but it’s eventually devolved into simply having two troops stand in the First Sergeant’s office.

This system is even more needed while stationed overseas. Command policies often dictate that a troop can’t leave post without someone keeping an eye on them. Now, instead, there’re two dumbasses let loose on the world.

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance
Battle buddies have a way of picking you up when you’re down. (Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

6. Constant pissing contests

Pissing contests are a weird constant in the military. In the civilian world, people try to one-up each other with made-up stories. In the military, actions speak louder than words, so when troops do awesome things daily, chances are they were trying to one-up the person next to them.

The best way to describe it would be if someone were to say, “Man, I’m awesome. How about you, introvert? How awesome are you?”

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance

7. Deployments

Troops stateside can find some room to breathe, but when they’re deployed and end up 30 to a tent with no walking room, well… good luck.

The only privacy you’ll find is in the latrine. Even then, you might have a conversation with the guy in the next stall.

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Russian military just landed in Venezuela

Two Russian military planes loaded with troops landed in Venezuela amid an escalating national crisis in the country, according to a Mar. 24, 2019, Reuters report. The planes departed from a Russian military airport and landed in Caracas just months after the two countries conducted military exercises in Venezuela.


The exercises also included troops from Cuba and China and were conducted along the Venezuelan border with Colombia. The planes were filled with at least 100 Russian troops that some say are a message to the Trump Administration, but will likely be helping the Venezuelan military settle the crisis there.

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance

One of the planes carried the troops while another brought tons of military supplies and equipment. Venezuela’s military is the critical component to holding power there. President Nicolas Maduro maintains a tenuous grip on power because of the military, along with armed groups of militiamen whose role is to keep civilians in line. Those militias can be seen primarily along the Venezuelan border and are being used to keep American aid out of the country.

Challenging Maduro’s legitimacy is opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself the legitimate President of Venezuela, with the backing of the United States. At least 50 other countries have recognized Guaido’s claim to power.

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance

While the Chinese interest in Venezuela is primarily seen as a financial one – it has a lot invested in Venezuela’s neglected oil sector – Russian interest is believed to be an attempted check on American interventionism worldwide. Russian President Vladimir Putin may even establish a permanent Russian military presence in the country as a way to show the United States it means business.

Another indication that Russia is serious about bolstering the Maduro regime is that the planes allegedly carried Russian General Vasily Tonkoshkurov, the Chief of Staff of the Russian ground forces, with the rest of the Russian troops.

The United States criticized the move as Russian interference in the region. The planes were sighted at the airport in Caracas by a local journalist, who checked the planes against a flight tracking website. The site confirmed the Ilyushin IL-62 passenger jet and an Antonov AN-124 cargo plane departed Russia for Venezuela, after a brief stop in Syria.

Both Russia and Venezuela have not yet commented on what the troops will be doing there.

MIGHTY SPORTS

One of the NFL’s finest is supporting wounded warriors with custom cleats

The Carolina Panthers are fighting for their lives. With their divisional rival, the New Orleans Saints, clinching the NFC South and a playoff spot in the Thanksgiving Day win over the Atlanta Falcons, the Panthers are still in the hunt – but barely. Their Dec. 8th game against the Falcons could mean the difference between a playoff berth of their own or waiting until next season. Even with so much riding on their next few games, Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey has something else on his mind: America’s wounded warriors.

And he’s all set to raise money and support for the Wounded Warrior Project through the NFL’s My Cause, My Cleats campaign.


Even though the NFL’s Salute to Service month has passed, the spirit of honoring veterans of the U.S. military never stops. For the fourth year in a row, the NFL and its Salute to Service partner, USAA, are teaming up to support veterans through the annual philanthropic events. In Week 14, NFL players from around the league choose a cause to celebrate and support. Coaches and players have commissioned special cleats to be worn in support of these causes that will be worn during the game and then auctioned off for their charities. Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey’s cleats will support the Wounded Warrior Project.

The cleats were custom-made by Miami, Florida-based Marcus Rivero of Soles by Sir, who has custom made cleats in previous years for players like the Arizona Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald, who honored deceased NFL player and Army ranger Pat Tillman with his 2018 My Cause My Cleats campaign.

Read: How one of the NFL’s greats honors fellow Cardinal Pat Tillman

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance

McCaffrey greets military members before each home game.

“It really hit me when they told me that watching football was their getaway…. you wanna put on a show for them. It makes football more than just a game.” McCaffrey told USAA. “It’ll definitely be a constant reminder for me of why I play and who I play for.”

My Cause My Cleats – Christian McCaffery | USAA

youtu.be

But McCaffrey’s support doesn’t stop at the cleats. The running back and the Carolina Panthers hosted a few wounded warriors at their offices and at the stadium earlier in 2019. He took the veterans through a typical day as a Panthers football player, from the morning meeting at 8:00 a.m. and through a visit to the team locker room. They then went out to the playing field and threw a football around to talk shop.

“That’s the reason why we’re out there, fighting the fight,” one veteran said, admiring the Panthers playing field. “So stateside can be like this.”

4 important training exercises that seem useless at first glance

“Our missions are different,” said another vet of McCaffrey. “But at the end of the day, he respects what we do and we’re fans of what he does. Picking the Wounded Warrior Project shows you the kind of character that he has.”

The cleats McCaffrey will wear on Week 14 will honor all five military branches. On one shoe, five members of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard are featured, saluting in uniform. On the other shoe, the featured prominently is the distinctive black-and-white logo of the Wounded Warrior Project one half and an NFL game field on the other, with the stars and stripes centered in midfield and a large THANK YOU in the watching crowd.

If you like McCaffrey’s cleats, anyone is able to bid on the shoes when auctioned off. One hundred percent of the money raised goes toward the cause designed on the cleats.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A World Trade Center survivor left an amazing goodbye to his family

As the Director of West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, I have the good fortune of exposing cadets at the U.S. Military Academy to a number of experiences that shape their worldviews about terrorism and counterterrorism. Sometimes we even get a special opportunity to shape their worldviews on life in general.


One of the most rewarding and life-changing experiences for cadets and faculty is our annual Fall trip to New York City. Surprisingly, we have not always done this, but we started an annual trip in 2014 with the intent of showing cadets the efforts to counter terrorism in the greatest city on the planet, just 50 miles south of West Point.

In addition to visiting with partners such as the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, NYPD, and the FDNY, we always spend the entire morning at the National 9/11 Museum and Memorial.

Regardless of whether it is your first time or your 100th time, it is guaranteed to be a moving experience. I learn something new every time I am there. If you have not visited it, you should make it a priority to do so. Many cadets say it is one of the most rewarding experiences of their West Point career, and almost every cadet wishes we could spend more time there.

If you do intend to visit, don’t plan on spending an hour or two. You really should carve out the whole day. No matter how many hours you spend in this sacred place, it won’t be enough.

On this last trip, I somehow spent more time in a lesser-known section of the memorial dedicated to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. On that cold February day, there was a guy caught in an elevator shaft. Thinking it was his final hour due to the heavy smoke that came pouring in, he wrote a hand-written letter to his wife and kids. He thought he was going to die. Thankfully he survived, but his letter is in the museum for all to see, and I’m so glad it was included.

It is beautiful, jarring, inspirational, and emotional. It got me thinking about what I would write in that situation. It also made me think why we don’t articulate these kinds of thoughts to the people we love while we have the opportunity to do so (e.g. not waiting until we are in an elevator shaft filling with smoke, thinking we’re going to die).

Here it is:

*************************************************

To my family, from Dad

12:40PM smoking elevator 66, 2/26/93

A few thoughts if I am fated to leave you now.

I love you very much. Be good people. Do wonderful things in your life.

Barbara – I’ve always loved you, and showed you as much as I could.

Debbie – my beautiful girl, with wonderful bear hugs and kisses. Do good.

Jeff – What a terrific person, stay well, make good decisions, help people.

Doug – My boy. Discover secrets to cure lots of the world’s problems.

I’m so proud of my children – they’re each so wonderful.

I love and cherish – ideas, people, Cooper Union (Alumnus of the Year!!), my work, my family, doing the best I could. Nothing more to say. 

Love,

Dad

12:59 very smoky

**************************************************

It is a simple letter, but I love the themes he wrote about:

“Be good people.”

“Do wonderful things.”

“Do good.”

“Help people.”

“Cure lots of the world’s problems.”

I also love that beyond his family, the first things that came to mind when he thought about things he loved were ideas, people, his alma mater, and doing the best he could.

Also Read: This was how the military reacted after terrorists attacked on Sept. 11

So in the aftermath of a seemingly never-ending political season, where we still have to sit and watch negative messages that are intended to divide us, I like to focus instead on the wise words of someone forced to maximize what little time he had left on this earth. This is what is important. Whether you are black, white, or purple, straight or gay, native-born or an immigrant, everyone can relate to this letter. When you strip everything else away, we want our families to know we loved them and to inspire them to do good in the world.

After you read it, please tell the people in your life what they mean to you, and do it as if you were in an elevator shaft filling with smoke and you thought you weren’t going to make it.

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