So, you want to be a United States Marine Corps Critical Skills Operator? Well, that’s really great to hear, but a word of warning to all you would-be Raiders out there: To start this journey, you must go through MARSOC Assessment and Selection.
MARSOC is one of our nation’s most elite fighting forces; its members are ready to respond to any crisis, anywhere.
These small but well-trained Marine units embrace the unknown and are prepared to face any challenge. To earn a position on a MARSOC team takes a superhuman effort and the willingness to go above and beyond.
On the long road between you and life as a Raider lies a 23-day training evaluation designed to test Marines’ mental and physical limits in order to reveal the true nature of a candidate’s character.
Check out these seven tips on how to get selected by MARSOC instructors:
7. Be physically fit.
This tip is so obvious it almost goes without saying, but don’t be fooled by the 225 physical fitness test score required to qualify — this is very misleading. If you want to be competitive and have a real shot at being selected, a score of 285 or higher is recommended.
6. Semper Gumby — always be flexible.
Without getting into any specific details, selection creates a dynamic environment replicating austere scenarios that require ingenuity and out-of-the-box problem-solving skills. There is no manual for chaos and chaos is exactly what you will be expected to deal with if you become an operator.
5. Know your knots.
Bowline, around the body bowline, double fisherman’s knot — believe it or not, knowing these knots is an invaluable skill. It’ll save you much pain and aggravation if you learn basic knots before selection. The granny knot is important, too, but you probably already know that one.
4. Be cool; it matters.
Selection is looking for the best, however, all the physical capabilities in the world amount to nothing if you can’t work as a team. Peer evaluation is a major part of selection. Whether you can get along with others has a substantial impact on reaching phase two.
3. Learn land navigation.
Learn how to read a map, orient yourself with a compass, shoot an azimuth, plot points, make intelligent route selections, and understand terrain association. Master these baiscs and always remember: get high, stay high. A straight line is not always the fastest route.
2. Take care of your feet.
You’ll be moving an impressive amount of gear and water across substantial distances for an unknown amount of time. This will take a toll on your feet. Your feet are your life in many situations, so take care of them accordingly. Seek out a doc and get up to speed on basic maintenance, put together a foot-care kit (gauze, bandages, moleskin, etc.), and use it.
Quitting is the surefire way of never being anything you want to be or do anything you want to do. Quitting is a poison that infects all other aspects of your life. If you start quitting now, it can easily become a habit. It is the exact opposite of what MARSOC is looking for and there is no room for quitters on these teams.
The M1126 Stryker is a beautifully designed vehicle. It’s packed with 16.5 tons of high-hardness steel to shield the passengers from direct attacks and a unique underbelly design to help defend against IEDs. Many are outfitted with remote weapon systems, allowing troops to engage the enemy without fear of snipers. It even has one of the most state-of-the-art fire-extinguishing systems in the world in case the worst happens.
With all that protection, it seems strange that someone decided a bunch of steel bars around it would make great armor…
It also works great for extra storage space for things you don’t mind losing. (Photo from U.S. Army)
Though it might look flimsy, the simple fence design is an excellent counter considering how explosives blow up. Having thick, reactive armor works wonders against conventional fragmentation rounds, but HEAT (High explosive, anti-tank) rounds are designed specifically to burst through it.
Take a standard RPG-7 single-stage HEAT round for instance: The explosion isn’t what makes it deadly. By forcing the explosion into a narrow cone, it’s used to blow a hole through whatever it hits. It’s the molten copper follows and uses the pathway cleared by the explosion that’s truly deadly.
In comes what we’ve been calling “fence armor.” This type of armor is actually called “slat armor” and has been used since the World War II on German panzers. The Germans needed an extra layer of defense from Russian anti-tank rifles and low velocity, high explosive rounds. They added steel plates. set a few inches away from the actual shell of the vehicle, so when it’s hit, the cheaper plates would be hit and the copper would have time to cool, causing minimal damage.
This method of stopping common HEAT rounds is still used today by armies going against enemies with RPGs. While slat armor isn’t 100% effective (no armor is, truly), it does have up to 70% effectiveness, which is remarkable for a solution that costs nearly nothing, is an addition to existing armor, and doesn’t negatively affect the mission.
Though nowhere near as effective, even ISIS tried to Mad Max their vehicles. Note, for this to work, slat armor needs to be a few inches away from the vehicle, it should cover vital spots, and shouldn’t be welded on (since the point of it is to be destroyed and swapped out).
B- for effort. F for forgetting that missiles drop down — not across — at three feet above ground. (Image via Reddit)
The world is full of unwritten rules. Don’t make eye contact over a urinal wall. Order your usual or cheaper food when a friend is picking up the tab. I before E except after C or when sounded as eh as in neighbor and weigh, or when its the word science and a bunch of other exceptions. (That last one is less useful than others.) Here are seven rules that all soldiers pick up:
Yes. You suddenly outrank most people in the room. Congratulations. Now, please recognize that you don’t know anything yet.
(U.S. Army Spc. Isaiah Laster)
The LT absolutely does not outrank the sergeant major or first sergeant
Sure, on paper, all Army officers outrank all enlisted and warrant officers in the military. But new second lieutenants have zero experience in the Army while chief warrant officers 4 and 5 generally have over a decade and platoon sergeants and above have 10-ish or more experience as well. So none of those seasoned veterans are kowtowing to kids because they happen to have a diploma and commission.
Instead, they mentor the lieutenants, sometimes by explaining that the lieutenant needs to shut up and color.
“Hey, POG! Can I get my paycheck?” “No.”
(U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth White)
Finance will get it wrong, but you have to be nice anyways
Every time a group of soldiers goes TDY, deploy, or switch units, it’s pretty much guaranteed that at least a few of them will see screwed up paychecks. Get into an airborne slot and need jump pay? Gonna get screwed up. Per diem from a mission? Gonna get messed up.
You better be nice when you go to finance to get it fixed, though. Sure, they might be the ones who screwed it up. But the people who are rude to finance have a lot more headaches while getting pay fixed. So be polite, be professional, and just dream about beating everyone you meet.
(Caveat: If you’re overpaid, do not spend it. Finance will eventually fix the mistake and garnish your wages.)
Your plane is late. And the pilot is drunk. And the fueler is missing. It’s gonna be a while.
(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Alexandria Lee)
All timelines get worse with time
The initial mission or travel plans for any Army scheme will likely have time built in for breaks, for maintenance, for error. But as D-Day comes closer and closer, tweaks and changes will yank all of that flex time out of the timeline until every soldier has to spend every moment jumping out of their own butt just to keep up.
Count on it.
If it’s in your bag and kit, you have it. If it’s on the logistics plan, you might have it. If you have to request it in the field, you probably won’t have it.
(U.S. Army Spc. John Lytle)
Don’t rely on it being there unless you ruck it in
All big missions will have logistics plans, and they might be filled with all sorts of support that sounds great. You’ll get a bunch more ammo and water seven hours after the mission starts, or trucks will bring in a bunch of concertina wire and HESCO barriers, or maybe you’re supposed to have more men and weapons.
Always make a plan like nothing else will show up, like you’ll have only the people already there, the weapons already there, the water and food already there. Because, there’s always a chance that the trucks, the helicopters, or the troops will be needed somewhere else or won’t get through.
Dropping uniform tops, driving in all-terrain vehicles, and piling up sandbags are all fine. But pulling an umbrella in that same weather will cause some real heartache.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Carroll)
Officers do not carry umbrellas (neither will anyone else)
This one actually comes from a formerly written rule that literally said that male officers couldn’t carry umbrellas. But the sort of weird thing is that the official rule has been withdrawn, but almost no one carries an umbrella in uniform, and you will be struck down by the first sergeant’s lightning bolt if you tried to bring one to formation.
And God help the soldier dumb enough to bring one to the field.
Don’t steal personal items; don’t steal anything from your own unit
Look, no one likes a soldier who jacks gear. But some units like failing hand receipt inspections even less, so there’s often pressure to get the gear needed by hook or by crook. But there are some rules to grabbing gear or property. (Turns out, there is honor among thieves.)
First, you do not steal personal property. If it belongs to an individual soldier, it’s off-limits. And, if it belongs to your own unit, it’s off-limits. You don’t shift gear in your squad, in your platoon, or often in your company. But for some folks, if there are some chock blocks missing from their trucks, and the sister battalion leaves some lying around, that is fair game.
The guy at the front of the formation is a wealth of knowledge, knowledge that most of his students will be told to forget at some point.
(U.S. Army Spc. Tynisha L. Daniel)
Doesn’t matter how your last unit/drill instructor did it
This is possibly the most important. New soldiers go through all sorts of training, and then their first unit does all sorts of finishing work to get them ready for combat.
But that unit doesn’t care how the drill instructors taught anything in training. And other units don’t care how that first unit did business. Every unit has its own tactics, techniques, and procedures. So when you arrive at a new unit, stash everything you learned before that into a corner of your brain to pull out when useful. But fill the rest of the grey matter with the new units techniques.
“This is … how you say… the worst trade deal in the history of trade deals, maybe ever.”
America’s chief negotiator with the Taliban is Zalmay Khalilzad, who got torn a new one in the global press by Afghanistan’s national security advisor, Hamdullah Mohib. Mohib accused Khalilzad of trying to usurp power in the country by installing himself as a viceroy of a caretaker government. This caused the United States to demand an apology that never came.
Now Mohib, the only member of the Afghan government involved in talks with the Taliban, is being “frozen out.” Now that a draft agreement is in place, we know it’s an agreement that no Afghan official helped negotiate. Members of the Afghan government won’t even be allowed to sit at the table until they finalize this draft agreement.
Afghanistan is adorable.
For the internationally-recognized government of Afghanistan, the removal of American troops would be a disaster if done today. The Government only controls just under two-thirds of the population and just over half of the country’s administrative districts, according to a January 2019 report from the military’s Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction.
In reply, the Pentagon sent out a statement refuting its own report: “Measures of population control are not indicative of effectiveness of the South Asia strategy or of progress toward security and stability in Afghanistan.”
Afghanistan’s army is losing soldiers at a rate of some 3,000 or more per month, due to desertions and ending reenlistments. It is currently at 87 percent strength and falling fast – because they get killed at an alarming rate.
Maybe China will do it better.
In exchange for the United States agreeing to a timetable withdrawal, the Taliban has agreed not to let Afghanistan become a hub for international terrorism, as it was in the days before the September 11th attacks on the United States. But the Taliban’s promises are problematic from the start – every leader of al-Qaeda has declared the leader of the Taliban to be the “Emir of the Faithful,” the mujaheddin equivalent of Caliph.
Osama bin Laden named Taliban founder Mullah Mohammed Omar the Emir. When those two died, their successors, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mullah Aktar Mansour, recognized each other’s leadership. Mansour died in an airstrike in 2016 and his replacement, Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, was named Emir by Zawahiri. You can’t really have one without the other.
Although it’s not considered an all-time military movie classic like “Full Metal Jacket” or “Stripes,” the 1995 military comedy “Major Payne” is an entertaining family film (with some salty language). The film stars comedian Damon Wayans as U.S. Marine Corps Major Benson Winifred Payne. Payne is a rough and tough Marine who becomes a Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps instructor after being discharged from active duty for not making lieutenant colonel. Payne’s job is to impart confidence and discipline in the rambunctious junior cadets and train them to win a military cadet competition.
The film has some funny and memorable lines – quoted in military training to this day – such as “What we have here is a failure to communicate” and “I’m gonna put my foot so far up your ass, the water on my knee will quench your thirst.” In between laughs, Major Payne bestows some surprising life lessons that apply to current service members, veterans, and society at large.
1. Career transitions are tough – expect setbacks
Major Payne is served his separation papers from the Marines in the beginning of the film. Just a week out of the service, Payne finds himself in jail after a failed attempt to become a police officer by slapping a man senseless during a training scenario.”It’s civilian life, sir. I had a minor setback,” Payne tells his former commander Gen. Decker, played by Albert Hall. Thanks to the help of his former commander, he lands the job as the JROTC instructor.
Lesson: Many people face a career change at some point in their lives. Setbacks are inevitable but it’s important to be patient. It is also important to use your network when looking for a new career.
2. Not everyone is sympathetic; mental toughness goes a long way
The gif above is Major Payne’s most famous quote. He gives his young cadets this verbal tirade as they struggle to complete an obstacle course in the pouring rain. Eventually, the persistence and will of the cadets lead them to overcome the obstacle course and achieve success.
Lesson: Not everyone will be sympathetic to your plight, no matter how difficult things are in your personal or professional life. When faced with challenges, being mentally strong and determined can help overcome any challenge, no matter the level of difficultly.
3. Keep trying to improve
In a classic drill instructor tone, Major Payne tells the young men, “You’re still a shit sandwich, you’re just not a soggy one” following a drill and ceremony routine. In his own unique way, the rough and tough character is acknowledging the effort put in by the boys to improve.
Lesson: Never stop trying to improve. You can always get better.
4. Don’t give up
For Major Payne, failure is not an option. He wants victory at all costs! In order to win the military games, he puts the cadets through hell. He shaves their heads, PTs them all day and makes them run in dresses in front of the whole school. Despite their disdain for the man and his tough training methods, the kids don’t quit.
Lesson: Life will bring challenges. Don’t let that prevent you from achieving your goals.
5. Teamwork is important
The cadets are a ragtag group from the beginning. Despite their differences, they build cohesion, delegate responsibilities and establish a common goal to win the military games.
Lesson: The value of camaraderie is vital in bringing a group of people to work well together no matter their differences. Working effectively as a team will bring success to any project whether you are in the civilian or military sector.
6. Loyalty is crucial
Major Payne is given the chance to return to active duty at the rank of lieutenant colonel. Initially, he chooses to take the job offer and leaves the boys high and dry before the competition. Eventually, his love and loyalty to the cadets brings him back to see his boys in the final event of the competition. He stays on as a JROTC instructor.
Lesson: It seems the thought of loyalty as a core tenet is slipping away to self-interest these days. Being loyal to friends, family or co-workers takes time and sacrifice. Believing in and devoting yourself to someone or something you care about is a great value to have for the rest of your life.
7. Self-confidence is essential
Major Payne instills confidence in all of his cadets, especially the smallest one in the group “Tiger.” He tells him a frightening version of “The Little Engine that Could,” and makes him the drill team leader. This gives Tiger the confidence he needs to trust his abilities. Tiger’s self-confidence shines through as the boys do a drill routine with a classic 90’s hip-hop beat and old-school rhymes. Tiger even breaks it down with the “Cabbage Patch” dance and some vintage Michael Jackson moves. His self-confidence helps him lead the team to victory.
Lesson: Trusting in your abilities will help you accomplish your goals. Believe in yourself.
8. Lighten up
Major Payne is a military badass. He takes his life and his work seriously but he begins to lighten up a bit during the movie. He even has a little fun on the dance floor with some sweet robot moves.
Lesson: There are times in life to be serious, but it’s ok to lighten up. Being able to enjoy life, relax, and not be so uptight can make life more enjoyable. YOLO.
According to a select few, that last notion is, apparently, not a work of fiction.
An American named Randy Cramer claims he spent 17 years deployed to Mars as part of the “Mars Defense Force” and then flew anti-gravity vehicles throughout the solar system as part of the “Earth Defense Force.” On his website, Cramer says his old command structure believes the weakening of the U.S. economy and divisive political infighting is a threat to national security, and they asked him to step forward to tell the story.
Randy Cramer lectures about anti-alien tactics.
Cramer says the Marine Corps trains certain Marines under a program called “Moon Shadow” starting at age four. Under the umbrella of what he calls the U.S. Marine Corps special section, or “USMC ss,” he says they implanted a device in his brain, and the brains of 299 others, that allows members of the special section to communicate via electronic telepathy. He would be trained for weeks at a stretch and then transported through time to when he was first taken, so it would appear to others as if no time had passed at all. At 17, he was finally sent off.
After coming of age into the secret space program in 1987, Cramer was taken to an advanced, secret base on the moon before beginning his tour on Mars. The moon base was first established as early as 1953 and this is where he signed his enlistment papers. After arriving on Mars via teleportation portal, his mission was to help defend five human settlements on the red planet, the biggest called Ares Prime.
“Eisenhower was able to avoid her recruitment and was awakened to the false matrix of reality, blinding us from seeing the truth behind the military-industrial complex’s hidden agenda.” That’s a real quote.
The existence of a secret space program is “corroborated” by Laura Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Ike’s famous “military-industrial complex” speech hit Laura harder than anyone else. She believes President Eisenhower knew about extraterrestrials on Earth and formed the last Earth-Alien treaty in 1954. She claims that, through a black-budget DARPA project, we’ve already established a human base on the red planet.
This is where she was invited to go by a man she calls “Agent X” in 2007. She also discovered how chemtrails, genetically-modified food, false flags, and the media are all controlling the population on Earth.
Supposedly a photo of a Draconian on Mars. It’s a little blurry because of course it is.
Laura Eisenhower says she devotes her life to spreading the divine, feminine “Gaia-Sophia” energy to free us from the faux power structures of today.
Meanwhile, Cramer tells stories of deadly battles between Marines and native people of Mars before he was redeployed back to the moon to spend his last three years in service. Allegedly, the two main indigenous species on the planet are Reptilian and Insectoid — Cramer was told they were just dumb, savage beasts. But, of course, he soon found out they were intelligent beings who lived underground in hives and nests. The three eventually signed a peace treaty.
The treaty stipulated that Marines would not invade the sacred places of either Reptilian or Insectoids. It also committed all three sides to defending Mars from an external invasion at the hands of a species known as the Draconians. The evil Draconians were eventually defeated by this joint force and were forced to leave Mars for good.
He claims humans have been traveling to Mars for decades and he, personally, was around for two of those decades. Mars is supposedly a U.S. territory. After his service ended, he was sent to the moon to undergo a “reverse-aging process” that would return his physical body to age 17 before being re-inserted into the timeline, taking him back to 1987.
Since Cramer spoke up, at least two others have come forward to claim they were also abducted into the secret space program. One claims he worked cargo between Mars and Jupiter and another claims Lockheed-Martin is heavily involved in the program.
These days, Cramer offers consulting services to help law enforcement agencies and military units prepare for “exo-invasions” and “unnatural disasters,” complete with a tactical analysis of many different alien species. The self-proclaimed super-soldier and pilot is also developing a holographic medical bed that will regrow limbs and cure disease.
The Civil Irregular Defense Group compound at Loc Ninh. The airstrip is to the right of the photo.
The small town and airbase were important for two reasons. First, the airbase was a logistical hub for military and espionage operations conducted by the U.S.; something communist forces were keen to excise. But the town was also the district capital. With a new president awaiting inauguration in Vietnam, the North Vietnamese wanted to embarrass him before he took office.
And North Vietnam was looking for a tasty target. A new commander and staff needed to try out the 9th Division in the field and build up its combat proficiency ahead of larger, corps-level offensives. So, in late 1967, North Vietnamese Senior Col. Hoang Cam, gave orders to get his regiments in position and supplied for an attack on the base at Loc Ninh.
One of his key units ran into an immediate problem, though. U.S. forces were working to secure a hey highway and clear out communist forces that could threaten it, and they swept through an area where Cam’s top regiment was hiding. That regiment was able to set an ambush just in time and killed 56 Americans, but they also suffered heavy losses and fled to Cambodia.
So Cam was down a regiment before the battle started. Still, his men were facing 11 Special Forces soldiers, 400 Civilian Irregular Defense Group soldiers, and about 200 South Vietnamese regulars. The largest weapons on the base were a few mortars and machine guns.
But the North Vietnamese forces failed to hide their buildup. South Vietnamese and U.S. forces intercepted radio traffic, discovered a field hospital under construction, and discovered elements of a specific unit typically employed in major offensives, the 84A Artillery Regiment.
U.S. Gen. William Westmoreland was too savvy to overlook all this evidence of a coming attack. He suspended some operations and ordered his subordinate to plan for a major defensive operation in that part of Vietnam, especially the district capitals at Loc Ninh and Song Be.
U.S. Special Forces soldiers and South Vietnamese troops in September 1968.
On Oct. 27, 1967, just five days after Westmoreland issued his warning to subordinates, Cam launched the North Vietnamese attack on Song Be. His division attacked a South Korean division but was rebuffed, partially thanks to American artillery and air power. Before South Vietnamese Rangers and American infantry joined the fight the next day, Cam pulled his men back.
As the Rangers looked for the enemy near Song Be, Cam launched a new attack. This time, he struck at Loc Ninh and fully committed to the fight.
Rockets and mortars flew into the base with no warning. The town itself caught on fire, and the South Vietnamese soldiers, with their Special Forces allies, rushed to send their own mortar rounds out.
Before reinforcements could arrive, North Vietnamese sappers blew through a wire obstacle and forced the defenders into the southern part of the compound. With the American and South Vietnamese defense collapsing, the Army rushed in UH-1Bs with machine guns mounted, and the Air Force sent in an AC-47 Spooky gunship that rained metal into the jungle.
The helicopters were able to put some fire on the attackers within the compound, but the AC-47 couldn’t strike there without threatening the defenders. Eventually, that became beside the point, though, as the South Vietnamese called artillery strikes onto the compound. He specifically called for proximity fuses, detonating the rounds a little above the surface to maximize shrapnel damage.
That’s the call you make to shred humans behind light cover. Many of the defenders were in bunkers that would hold back the shrapnel, but the Viet Cong in the open were shredded. The Viet Cong in the jungle finally withdrew under aerial bombing, but attackers remained in the conquered bunkers of the northern part of the compound.
The South Vietnamese were forced to clear these bunkers one-by-one with LAWs, light anti-tank weapons.
The allies found 135 North Vietnamese bodies. They had suffered eight dead and 33 wounded.
But the U.S. knew it had nearly lost the district that night, and it wasn’t willing to go round two with the same setup. So it not only watched the South Vietnamese clear those bunkers, it flew in two artillery batteries and another infantry battalion. Those infantrymen dug into the jungle and established light bunkers.
The U.S. and South Vietnamese alliance struck hard, rooting out platoons in the rubber plantations. In one case, an impatient South Vietnamese soldier grabbed a U.S. officer’s pistol from him and used it to attack a North Vietnamese machine gunner. When he couldn’t chamber a round in the pistol, he used it to pistol-whip the machine gunner instead.
This back and forth continued for days. On Oct. 30, the North Vietnamese sent additional forces to threaten other cities and positions, potentially trying to draw away some of the American defenders. But the allies knew the fight for Loc Ninh wasn’t over and sent other forces to protect Song Be and other locations.
Just after midnight on Oct. 31, another rain of mortars and rockets flew into Loc Ninh. But this time, the fire was more accurate, and North Vietnamese forces used anti-aircraft fire the moment the helicopters and AC-47 showed up. But proximity fuses were again used to slaughter North Vietnamese attackers.
At least 110 North Vietnamese were killed while the allies lost nine killed and 59 wounded.
The next night, artillery and machine gun fire rained onto the air base, but then the main thrust came at the new infantry base in the jungle. Observers posted in the jungle detonated claymores to blunt the attack but then had to melt away as the attackers continued their assault. The U.S. infantry pushed the attack back in just 30 minutes of concentrated machine gun fire and claymore use.
One U.S. soldier had been killed and eight wounded. Over 260 bodies were found, and there were signs that even more had been lost.
Additional forces were flown in, and the U.S. commanders were finally able to go on the attack. The attacks did not go perfectly, however. On Nov. 7, a U.S. battalion moving down a dirt road moved into the jungle and came under a furious assault. An RPG took out most of the U.S. battalion command team, including the commander.
One soldier in that fight was Spc. Robert Stryker who stopped one attack with a well-aimed M79 grenade launcher shot, but then died after diving on a grenade to save others. He’s one of the two Medal of Honor recipients for whom the Stryker vehicle is named.
But the 9th Division finally withdrew, ending the Battle of Loc Ninh. The U.S. had lost 50 dead and hundreds wounded, but the North Vietnamese lost somewhere over 850 dead and failed in its objectives to take either Loc Ninh or Song Be. But the Tet Offensive was on the horizon.
(Most of the information for this article came from an official Army history from the Center of Military History, Combat Operations: Staying the Course, October 1967 to September 1968 by Erik B. Villard. It is available here.)
After years of growing tension between Great Britain and the 13 North American colonies, war officially broke out between the British troops and the colonial militia in the Massachusetts battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775. That June, the revolutionary rebels were gaining traction, and the Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia to vote in favor of forming the Continental Army, which would be fronted by George Washington as the commander in chief. However, British Redcoats soon descended in the tens of thousands upon Washington’s humble forces, and a series of losses at battles such as Brandywine and Paoli brought the Continental Army to the brink of collapse.
General George Washington and his ramshackle army arrived in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania on December 19, 1777. As the British had taken the rebel capital of Philadelphia, the Valley Forge camp sat roughly twenty miles northwest in a wide open agricultural landscape. The six months that the General and his men spent there would turn out to be some of the most demoralizing—and revitalizing—periods of the Revolutionary War.
Around 12,000 people including soldiers, artificers, women, and children set up camp at Valley Forge. They constructed small wooden huts that would be inhabited by a dozen soldiers at once. Inside the cramped quarters, the soldiers used straw for their bedding and went without the comfort of blankets.
Though the winter of 1777 to 1778 wasn’t particularly harsh, the typical conditions overwhelmed the poorly supplied soldiers. Many of Washington’s men lacked proper attire—boots in particular—which rendered them unfit for service. As the men froze, their limbs would blacken. Often, there was no choice but to submit to amputations.
Worse yet, food stocks were quickly depleting, and there were stretches of time where troops went without meat for days. Diseases like influenza, typhoid, and dysentery ravaged the camp, thanks in part to poor hygiene practices, reportedly resulting in the death of one in six soldiers. Conditions were so bad, and the efforts of the troops so pitiable that George Washington was almost relieved of his command.
However, despite the distressed conditions that Washington’s army was experiencing, their time at Valley Forge would soon prove to be an incredible tactical opportunity with the assistance of one immigrant.
Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, often called Baron von Steuben, had been a military officer in the Prussian army since the age of 17. The Prussian army was a force widely considered one of the most formidable in Europe at the time, and von Steuben had made the most of his time with the army. The baron was a well-trained soldier with a clever mind for military strategy. On February 23, 1776, he rode into Valley Forge to turn the tides of war.
Upon his arrival, General George Washington was quick to appoint von Steuben as a temporary inspector general. Thanks to his impressive experience overseas, von Steuben was knowledgeable not just in drills, but also in maintaining a sanitary camp. He began redirecting the latrines to a location far away from the kitchens—and facing downhill.
More notably, Steuben was also appointed as the chief drillmaster for Washington’s Continental Army, even though he knew very little English upon his arrival. The main problem with the Continental Army was that, while they had first-hand combat experience, most of its members had never been formally trained. What training the soldiers had received at this point varied based on which militia or regiment they originated from, resulting in little to no uniformity during battle. Steuben was resolved to remedy this.
Steuben began to run the troops through a series of strict Prussian drills. He taught them how to quickly and efficiently load and fire their weapons, and they practiced volley fire as well as skirmish operations. Steuben then tackled their issues with maneuverability by standardizing their marching paces and organizing them into tight four-man columns as opposed to the endless single file lines they’d been trudging into battle. He also taught the soldiers how to proficiently charge with bayonets.
The impact made by Steuben’s efforts was not contained merely to those soldiers who spent six months at Valley Forge. The drillmaster was instrumental in the creation of an American military manual, “Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States”, often simply referred to as the “Blue Book”. This work would stand as the official training resource for the U.S. Army for decades to come.
The Continental Army was in fighting form like never before. Not only were they armed with expert combat skills, but Steuben’s training had effected a sharp incline in morale across the camp. It was with this sharpened tactics and heightened confidence that General George Washington’s troops would face the British again in the thaw of 1778.
Not long before Baron von Steuben arrived at Valley Forge, the French had signed a treaty with colonial forces. The Franco-American alliance eventually shook the nerve of British officers, and fearing that they would be set upon by the French naval force if they remained in Philadelphia, the British marched on to New York City on June 18, 1778. George Washington and his reformed soldiers followed bravely after the Redcoats the very next day.
As the British made their way through New Jersey, they decimated property and pillaged supplies from civilians. In response, the local militia set about exhausting the British soldiers with small scale confrontations. On June 28, the Continental Army and the British troops finally came together in the Battle of Monmouth.
The battle in the sweltering summer heat lasted five long hours. Though many historians consider this first great clash after Valley Forge to have been a stalemate between the forces, it was still pivotal in the Continental Army’s rise. They had proven themselves a cohesive and impressive unit. The changes made at the once-grim Valley Forge camp would propel them forward to eventually win their independence from Britain.
On October 6, legendary rocker Eddie Van Halen lost his battle with cancer. The death of the rocker shocked not just his legions of fans but people around the globe. As a tribute to the late great, Army Staff Sgt. Austin West took to the internet to play through his grief and offer one of the most fitting tributes to the musician.
West knew what many of us inherently understand – music unites us, both in times of hope and in times of grief. Of course, West wasn’t the only person who took to the internet to offer their tributes, but his was definitely the best.
The three-minute video of West has been viewed more than a million times. West, who is a recruiter based in Watertown, New York, instantly became a viral sensation, not just because of West’s stellar guitar skills but also because it’s so very clear that his tribute to the late rocker is so heartfelt.
West successfully manages to play half a dozen of Van Halen’s best-known guitar riffs, including “You Really Got Me,” “Panama” and “Eruption.” The Army musician reportedly told Stars and Stripes that he feels connected to both his guitar and the late musical legend.
The 26-guitar player first picked up an ax after listening to an AC/DC cassette. He was hooked and immediately wanted to learn how to play. Then, he saw Van Halen live in 2008, and that sealed the deal. He’s been playing for 13 years now, and he once played a single song for an AC/DC tribute band.
That tribute was never rehearsed and played flawlessly, West said, so it’s no surprise that his Van Halen tribute has had so many views and rings so true.
In an interview with the Watertown CBS affiliate WWNY, West said that even his earliest attempts at learning Van Halen’s music made him feel like a “rock god,” and that’s one of the many reasons he kept practicing.
During his Army career, West has worked as both a signal soldier and then held a post as a guitarist for the US Army Bank.
A soldier spotlight video for the US Army Recruiting Command, released in February, features West. In the video, he says that getting out of bed every morning is easier knowing he’s going to help someone, “whether it be in recruiting and helping change someone’s life and hearing their success stories or going out and playing in front of all these beautiful people.”
The Van Halen tribute video isn’t the first time that West’s guitar playing has reached countless fans. Back in 2015, he performed in a tour with the US Army Soldier Show. The Soldier Show is an annual production that visits installations around the country to feature the musical and theater talents of service members and to help raise awareness that creative positions in the Army exist. During West’s participation in 2015, the Soldier Show stopped at 74 installations.
In a time of increasing social isolation, music is one of the few shared creative outlets that can exist across all communities. Uniting through music, no matter if it’s Van Halen or Mozart, can help bring people together in a way that other media can’t. West’s touching tribute proves that viral videos don’t need to be over the top or extreme to be shared, liked, and appreciated by people all around the country. Music is all around us and helps provide us the foundation to share our stories, which is exactly what West has been able to do with his tribute to Eddie Van Halen. As a universal language, it helps unit us across cultures and can comfort people in times of need, grief, or sadness – emotions all felt when the world learned of Van Halen’s untimely death.
Once his recruiting billet is complete, West will be joining the Army pop-rock group, As You Were, for a three-year assignment.
Well. The world still isn’t doing too great right now and the ghost of Nero is somewhere out there presumably fiddling. Another week of social distancing, binge-watching shows you never thought you’d care about and there’s still a shortage of sh*t tickets as we haven’t even gotten to the apex of this pandemic.
The news seems bleak at the moment but there are cases of folks coming out the other side of this sickness. In particular, two WWII veterans – Bill Kelly, 95, and Bill Lapschies, 104. Now, I’m not the type of guy to bring up “feel good” fluff pieces for the sake of feel-good-ness. I bring them up because their interviews are both perfect responses of what you’d expect from the Greatest Generation’s vets.
Kelly responded with a, “I survived the foxholes of Guam, I can get through this coronavirus bullsh*t!” and Lapschies, who celebrated his 104th birthday with a full recovery, says he’s “pretty good. I made it. Good for a few more!” After some internet sleuthing, Lapschies does appear to be the oldest survivor of the coronavirus from what I could find.
Just goes to show you that even in the worst moments, veterans of all eras have an instinctual habit of keeping a stiff upper lip and a sense of humor. Speaking of which, here’s some memes…
Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned military spouse heading to their umpteenth ball, rest assured you can have an enjoyable, memorable event. Military balls are a time-honored tradition, and while they’re not in everyone’s immediate comfort zone, they can make for a fun experience you won’t soon forget.
In order to attend your best ball yet, take these tips to heart, and to your upcoming formal event.
Choose an outfit you love
First things first, it’s important to dress the part. Whether you’re decked out in a fancy gown, perfectly tailored tuxedo, or anything in between, find what suits you. Choose attire that makes you feel strong and confident. No one wants to be adjusting their undergarments every few minutes. Take some time to find an outfit that actually fits, and that flatters your personal tastes.
You’ll be far more relaxed when feeling attractive, so don’t be afraid to put yourself first and find a getup you’re excited to show off!
No one wants to sit next to strangers … but it’s even worse when sitting next to a stranger who doesn’t talk or engage in any type of conversation. (Yes, this happens.) Talk to folks at your table and make nice! It will make the evening far more enjoyable, even if you don’t walk away friends. If you’re introverted, break the ice with small talk over decor, seating arrangements, the weather, parking, anything!
Whether or not you end up sitting next to folks you know, engage with them, and remain friendly throughout the night to make for a better time.
Each service branch and battalion will have its own traditions, so go ahead, jump on the bandwagon! We’re talking chants, specific handshakes, checking out displays, or voting for personalized awards. Jump into the fun!
Then again, be careful of TOO MUCH fun. Military balls are known for being heavy on the libations, and it’s a good idea to stay aware of how much you’re drinking, especially if sampling group punches.
Chances are, you won’t be associated with the unit for long, so you can make the most of each ball appearance by going all in and doing what it is they do best.
Don’t come starving
While it’s true you’re there to eat, that’s just part of the night. There are too many variables — maybe you won’t like the food, maybe someone took your fish and left you with steak (or vice versa, depending on your preferences). Or maybe you’re busy talking and don’t want to be shoving food in your face while doing so. In any case, eat a snack before you come and maybe plan a drive-thru trip on your way home. Whatever you can do to make sure you aren’t hangry!
Make a day of it
Relax. Take your time to get ready. Don’t rush it so you can enjoy the experience as a whole. This is a fun experience for all. Don’t consider the day just for your spouse or “mandatory fun,” but something you can celebrate together and with coworkers.
Show off your date!
As an extension of your military member, how you act, and what you do reflects on them. Remember to be on your best behavior (of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun!). Be polite, make small talk, and find a way to have fun. You should also take their lead. Let them introduce you to coworkers, get appetizers, order drinks, etc. While yes, you’re going to have a good time, technically, this is their work event, and you should follow their moves.
Attending a military ball should be a fun, memorable experience, no matter how many of them you attend. Look to the above to more easily plan your night toward having a great time!
Sen. John McCain does not want President Donald Trump at his funeral.
The Arizona senator is battling brain cancer, and news about his funeral arrangements prompted at least one fellow senator, Orrin Hatch of Utah, to protest McCain’s wish to bar Trump from his farewell service. McCain reportedly prefers Vice President Mike Pence to represent the current administration in Trump’s place.
Hatch called McCain’s decision “ridiculous” according to multiple news reports, and said that he would choose differently because Trump is “a very good man.”
In July 2015, Trump said of McCain: “He’s not a war hero … he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.” And in September 2017, months after McCain’s cancer diagnosis was announced, Trump reportedly mocked the senator again.