Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine - We Are The Mighty
Military Life

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine

There is another maritime “service” you may not have heard much about, yet, the United States Merchant Marine is arguably incredibly important to the Armed Forces. They also help keep America’s economy moving. But what exactly is this?


6. It is civilian-manned ships

Merchant Mariners are not part of the military. Now, some of them run a number of ships that support the U.S. Navy, like the Henry J. Kaiser-class replenishment oilers and Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ships, as well as the sealift vessels like the Bob Hope-class vehicle cargo chips.

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) receives fuel from the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204). The oiler is manned by merchant mariners. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelsey L. Adams/Released)

5. The United States Merchant Marine is small

The total civilian merchant fleet of the Untied States is 393 vessels, according to the CIA World Factbook. It ranks 27th in the world, behind Russia (11th with 1,143 merchant ships) and China (2nd, with 4,052 merchant ships). This includes privately-owned ships, as well as those owned by the federal government.

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine
The Maersk Alabama is one of only 84 container ships in the U.S. Merchant Marine. (U.S. Navy photo)

4. The United States has a special agency for the Merchant Marine

The United States Maritime Administration, under the Department of Transportation, handles programs that administer and finance the United States Merchant Marine. This includes supporting the United States Maritime Service, which helps to train officers and crew on merchant ships.

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine
Seal of the Maritime Administration (Department of Transportation graphic)

3. You can become an officer by going to one of seven “maritime academies”

To become the captain of a merchant ship, your best route would be to attend a “maritime academy.” There are seven of them located across the country: The United States Merchant Marine Academy, the California State University Maritime Academy, the Great Lakes Maritime Academy, the Maine Maritime Academy, the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, the State University of New York Maritime College, and the Texas AM Maritime Academy.

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine
An aerial view of the United States Merchant Marine Academy. (United States Merchant Marine Academy photo)

2. A lot of famous people were in the Merchant Marine

Some very familiar names have served in the Merchant Marine at one point or another. While today’s most famous merchant mariner is Richard Phillips, former captain of the Maersk Alabama, others include filmmaker Oliver Stone, writers Louis L’Amour and Jack Vance, as well as playwright and screenwriter David Mamet.

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine
Capt. Richard Phillips, former Captain of the container ship MV Maersk Alabama, publicly thanks Sailors assigned to the guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) for his dramatic rescue at sea. On Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009, Navy SEALs positioned on the fantail of the Bainbridge opened fire and killed three of the pirates who were holding Phillips hostage. (U.S. Navy photo)

1. There is a merchant mariner’s equivalent to the Medal of Honor

While merchant mariners cannot receive the Medal of Honor or other military decorations, valor doesn’t go unrecognized. The Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal is awarded by the Department of Transportation to those who show “outstanding conduct or service in the line of duty.” A list of awardees from World War II can be seen here.

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine
Front and back views of the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal. (DOD graphic)

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why one-third of the US thinks a second Civil War is coming

A Rasmussen poll released at the end of June 2018 revealed a fear among voters that political violence is on the rise, with one in three concerned a second US Civil War is on the horizon. The poll was conducted among likely American voters who were asked via telephone and online survey how likely that war would be.

A full one-third of voters said it was likely, and 11 percent said it was very likely. There’s no word on which side they might take. The day the poll was released, President Trump’s approval rating sat at 46 percent.

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine
(The White House)

The poll also revealed that 59 percent of voters are fearful that those opposed to President Trump will resort to violence to advance their cause and another 33 percent were very concerned. A similar poll was conducted in the second year of Barack Obama’s presidency that revealed similar fears in similar numbers.

Related: This is what happens to every state in a modern American Civil War

The difference this time around lies in the recent public confrontations of Trump Administration officials, something neither Obama nor Bush officials faced during their Presidents’ tenures. Media outlets posture that the public pressure is backlash from this administration’s “Zero Tolerance” policy that pulled migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.


By no means did civility rule the day for Obama officials. By this time in President Obama’s presidency, South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson interrupted the President’s speech to a joint session of Congress with a shout of, “You lie!” The heretofore unheard of interruption earned him a public rebuke in the House, and also led to his constituents chanting the same at him less than a decade later.

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine
Wison’s outburst was in response to a comment Obama made about the Affordable Care Act. It would bite him in the ass later.

Obama’s first two years as President dealt largely with the global financial crisis of 2008, automaker bailouts, and financial regulations. As the Brookings Institution points out, no one in power thrives when the economy suffers and the Democrats lost their Congressional majority in the 2010 midterms.

A Second American Civil War would not be as clean cut as the pro-slavery vs. anti-slavery arguments or the federal authority vs. states’ rights arguments of the actual Civil War. The United States is now almost three times the size it was in the 1860s and belief systems and population are very different than they were back then. The issues facing the country are also much different, separated by more than 150 years.

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine

The solution to this is to simply let your vote speak for your beliefs instead of your fists, or worse, a weapon. The peaceful transition of power ensures American democracy will endure, no matter who wins in 2020. The only Civil War sequel America needs is another Captain America movie.

Military Life

Navy recruits now test their fitness before shipping out

Enlisting in the Navy is about to get a bit more challenging.


On Nov. 15, the service announced it is creating an initial fitness test for prospective sailors on their first day of boot camp at Great Lakes, Ill.

Starting Jan. 1, 2018, male recruits must complete a one-and-a-half-mile run within 16 minutes, 10 seconds, and female recruits must complete the same run within 18 minutes, seven seconds.

If recruits can’t pass the test, they won’t move on to training.

Also read: The complete hater’s guide to the US Navy

The Navy is the only military service that until now has never had an initial test of fitness prior to recruit training, Lt. Sean Brophy, a spokesman for Naval Service Training Command, told Military.com.

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine
Sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) participate in the run portion of the physical readiness test. Nimitz is pierside at its homeport of Naval Station Everett. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Eli K. Buguey)

“It’s an effort to raise the bar and develop tough, more qualified sailors during basic military training to increase the lethality of the fleet overall,” he said.

The change was implemented after Rear Adm. Mike Bernacchi, commander of Naval Service Training Command, realized with surprise that the Navy, alone among the services, lacked an entry-level physical standard, an official with knowledge of the process told Military.com.

According to a Navy announcement, recruits who don’t make the minimum run time for the new test on first attempt can take the test again within 48 hours. If they still can’t pass the test, they will be discharged with an entry-level separation.

That form of discharge allows prospective recruits to obtain a waiver from Navy Recruiting Command and apply again for enlistment if they wish to do so.

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine
Navy is the only military service that until now has never had an initial test of fitness prior to recruit training. (Photo from US Navy)

While the new standard may keep some people out, it’s pretty lenient compared with the other services.

In the Marine Corps, the initial strength test includes pull-ups, sit-ups, ammo can lifts, and a one-and-a-half-mile run. For male recruits, the run must be completed in 13 minutes, 30 seconds. Female recruits have 15 minutes to finish.

The Air Force requires new recruits to complete a run of the same distance in a recommended 13 minutes, 45 seconds for men and 16 minutes, one second for women. Push-ups and sit-ups are also included in the test.

Read Also: 7 military fitness tricks for working out without a lot of fancy gear

The Army, which also requires push-ups and sit-ups, has prospective enlistees complete a one-mile run before they start training. Men have 8 minutes, 30 seconds for the run, while women have 10 minutes, 30 seconds.

Brophy said the Navy’s standard for its new initial fitness test is based on a calculation of where recruits need to start in fitness to make a satisfactory medium, or passing, score on the physical readiness test administered at the end of boot camp.

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine
US Navy recruits graduate, June 30, 2017. (Photo from US Navy)

“If recruits push themselves through eight weeks of boot camp, there’s a 98 percent chance we can get them to the satisfactory medium,” he said.

While challenges with meeting military recruitment quotas have prompted some services to rethink their entry standards and requirements, Brophy said officials expect this change to produce more qualified enlistees, rather than cutting into the eligible recruitment pool.

“We expect attrition due to [physical fitness assessment] failures to drop,” he said.

And along with the challenge posed by the new test comes an incentive.

Recruits who achieve an “outstanding high” score on their final physical fitness assessment will be meritoriously advanced to the next rank when they graduate boot camp, officials said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia allegedly threatened nuclear war in Europe in 2017

At some point during the Trump administration, Russia told Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that it could use nuclear weapons in the event of a war in Europe — a warning that led Mattis to regard Moscow as major threat to the US.

According to “Fear,” Bob Woodward’s recently released book about turmoil in the White House, Moscow’s warning was in regard to a potential conflict in the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

The Baltics were part of the Soviet Union and have deep ties to Russia, which has sought to reassert influence there since the end of the Cold War. Those countries have tried to move closer to the West, including NATO membership.


According to Woodward’s account, the warning from Russia came some time during or before summer 2017, when the Trump administration was haggling over the future of the Iran nuclear deal.

At the time, President Donald Trump wanted to withdraw from the deal, claiming Iran had violated the terms.

Others, including then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, pushed back, citing a lack of evidence of any violation. (Trump refused to recertify the deal in October 2017 and withdrew from it in May 2018.)

Mike Pompeo, then the director of the CIA, and Mattis didn’t disagree with Tillerson, Woodward writes, but they responded to the president’s assertions more tactfully.

Mattis, long regarded as a hawk on Iran, had mellowed, according to Woodward, preferring other actions — “Push them back, screw with them, drive a wedge between the Russians and Iranians” — to war.

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis.

(Photo by Tech Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

Russia, Woodward then notes,”had privately warned Mattis that if there was a war in the Baltics, Russia would not hesitate to use tactical nuclear weapons against NATO.”

“Mattis, with agreement from Dunford, began saying that Russia was an existential threat to the United States,” Woodward adds, referring to Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, who is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Woodward offers no additional context for the warning, nor is it totally clear why that detail is included where it is in the book.

Most nuclear-armed countries have policies that would allow their first-use in a conflict.

The Baltic states have warned about what they perceive as increasing Russia activity against them, and there is evidence that Moscow is working on military facilities in the region.

Imagery released early 2018 indicated ongoing renovations at what appeared to be an active nuclear-weapons storage site in Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea, south of Lithuania.

“Features of the site suggest it could potentially serve Russian Air Force or Navy dual-capable forces,” a Federation of American Scientists report on the imagery said. “But it could also be a joint site, potentially servicing nuclear warheads for both Air Force, Navy, Army, air-defense, and coastal defense forces in the region.”

‘Tactical nuclear weapons as a leveler’

Tactical nuclear weapons typically have smaller yields and are generally meant for limited uses on the battlefield. Strategic nuclear weapons usually have higher yields and are used over longer ranges.

Some experts prefer the term “non-strategic nuclear weapons,” as the use of nuclear weapons would have both tactical and strategic implications. Mattis himself has said there is no such thing as a “tactical” nuclear weapon, as “any nuclear weapon used at any time is a strategic game-changer.”

Russia and the US have more than 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads, though Russia’s arsenal is slightly larger. Pentagon officials have said Russia wants to add to that arsenal, violating current arms-control treaties.

During the Cold War, the Soviets expected Western countries to use nuclear weapons first and had plans to use nuclear weapons against NATO targets in the event of war, using larger-yield devices against targets like cities and smaller-yield ones — “tactical” nukes — against NATO command posts, military facilities, and weapons sites.

The US had a similar plan.

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, Aug. 2, 2017.

(US Air Force photo)

The size of Russia’s current stockpile of non-strategic nuclear weapons is not known, though it’s believed to be much smaller than that of the Soviet Union.

It’s not totally clear how Russia would use “tactical” nuclear weapons — the Congressional Research Service has said Russia appears to view them as defense in nature — but they are seen as compensating for Russia’s conventional military shortcomings. (US interest in “low-yield” nuclear weapons as a deterrent has also grown, though critics say they would raise the chance of US first-use.)

Russia has fewer “strategic” nuclear weapons than the US, and “tactical” nuclear weapons may be more handy for Moscow’s shorter-range, regional focus, Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, told The National Interest in late 2017.

“Russia’s conventional forces are incapable of defending Russian territory in a long war,” Kristensen said. “It would lose, and as a result of that, they have placed more emphasis on more usage of tactical nuclear weapons as a leveler.”

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

MIGHTY GAMING

This highly anticipated PlayStation 4 game is confusing critics

Kojima Production’s “Death Stranding” has all the makings of a video game blockbuster. It’s an experience three years in the making, the product of a visionary director launching a new franchise from an independent studio.

But after three years of mounting anticipation, it’s still not totally clear what players can expect from “Death Stranding.” Sony gave critics an early chance to dive in and see what “Death Stranding” is about, and the reviews have brought back rather mixed opinions.

There’s no question “Death Stranding” is a clear departure from Director Hideo Kojima’s last game, “Metal Gear Solid V.” While “Metal Gear Solid” is a military-focused franchise starring a super soldier, “Death Stranding” puts you in control of a lone deliveryman in a desolate, post-apocalyptic that’s wide open for exploration.


Norman Reedus of “The Walking Dead” plays the game’s protagonist, and a handful of recognizable actors offer photo-realistic performances for the game’s cinematic cut scenes. The story wasn’t particularly celebrated among reviewers, though some said the cutscenes were well-acted.

Reviewers ultimately found that the experience would vary depending on the player, since “Death Stranding” takes dozens of hours to complete. Critics noted that the game’s first 10 hours can be particularly challenging or outright boring depending on your play-style, but the game changes rather dramatically after the long introduction.

Last year’s best-selling game, “Red Dead Redemption 2,” had a similar reception — the game’s campaign took 40 or more hours to complete and left reviewers with a mixed impression of the game’s massive open world. “Red Dead Redemption 2” was still well received by fans for its immersive gameplay and thoughtful storytelling.

Here’s what critics are saying about “Death Stranding” so far:

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine

(“Death Stranding”/Kojima Productions)

The visuals of “Death Stranding” are impressive by any standard.

“So much work has been poured into every inch of every model and it’s almost unbelievable to see this much detail – even in an era where most games already feature highly detailed characters. Put simply, the bar has been raised.” — John Linneman, Digital Foundry

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine

(“Death Stranding”/Kojima Productions)

‘Death Stranding’ is more about survival and exploration than action and combat.

“There’s no automatic parkour or physics-defying cliff climbing here. Every step I take needs to be intentional, or I might end up taking a serious tumble. When I overload my pack I have to use the left and right triggers to balance my weight, or else I risk falling over, damaging my goods.

It’s equally engaging and frustrating as I topple over after twisting my ankle, forcing myself to restack all my belongings. Death Stranding is a walking simulator in the truest sense.” — Russ Frushtick

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine

(“Death Stranding” Kojima Productions)

Exploring doesn’t mean you’ll always be alone though.

“Violence is a last resort, and ‘Death Stranding’ is best experienced in a careful and stealthy fashion, but when the time comes for the silence to break and explosions to ring out, it’s powerful.” — Heather Alexandra, Kotaku

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine

(“Death Stranding”/Kojima Productions)

“Death Stranding” is a long game that requires a personal investment from its players.

“It’s not a game that makes itself easy to enjoy. There are few concessions for uninterested players. It’s ponderously slow, particularly in the early chapters, which largely consist of delivering packages over staggering distances. Early conversations are filled with phrases and words that will be incomprehensible to the uninitiated — and, honestly, much of it remains a mystery after the credits roll.” — Andrew Webster, The Verge

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine

(“Death Stranding”/Kojima Productions)

‘Death Stranding’ left many critics excited for the game’s release so they could compare their experiences with other players’.

“I came away from the game exhilarated, confused and wanting to find others who have played it not only to put together the missing pieces but to commiserate about the experience. In a clever meta twist, Kojima has created a game that begs for a larger discourse, a connection for all those who have played it to share.” — Kahlief Adams, The Hollywood Reporter

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Army Chief learned about Pearl Harbor in 14 words

December 7, 1941, is a day which lives in infamy. But it dawned normally at 7:13 a.m. in Washington, D.C., and the attack on Pearl Harbor didn’t begin until the afternoon in Washington. For leaders like Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall, the expectation would have been that it would be another tense day of preparing for war, at least until a single note was presented to him.


Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine

Then-Lt. Col. George C. Marshall in World War I.

(National Archives and Records Administration)

Marshall had spent years growing as an Army officer before he was tapped in 1939 to become the chief of staff. By that time, he had 37 years of experience in the military and had served in the mud of the Philippine-American War and of France in World War I, rising to colonel and serving as the chief of staff to then-chief of staff Gen. John J. Pershing.

After World War I, he led a number of units before taking over the Army as a whole, and he was experienced in making do with short spending. But it was probably by late 1939 that the growing regional wars would become a world war. (In an odd twist of history, Marshall’s first day as chief of staff was September 1, 1939, the same day Germany invaded Poland.)

And so Marshall oversaw a large increase in military spending and re-armament. His role included deciding where the most direly needed equipment would be sent. And Marshall believed Oahu was nearly impregnable. So while he promised certain new weapons and reinforcements to Lt. Gen. Walter Short at Pearl Harbor, he also took back heavy bombers and other assets that he moved to places like the Philippines.

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine

Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall in 1944.

(U.S. Army Military History Institute)

Marshall was the only high official eligible to see “Magic” intercepts who was not alerted on the night of December 6 that Japan was going to reject a U.S. proposal that Japan withdraw its troops from China and Indochina. And so he didn’t know until he entered his office at 11:25, after his morning horseback ride, how closely America had come to an active war. He immediately ordered that the intelligence be passed to commanders in the field.

Even though the president, secretaries of State, Navy, and War, and the chiefs of Army and Navy war plans and Chief of Naval Operations had all known for hours about the building intelligence signaling war, Marshall was the first one to order the likelihood of war be briefed to the commanders in the trenches. Unfortunately, transmitting that intelligence would take over 8 hours, and Short wouldn’t receive it until seven hours after the attack began.

So when the day dawned on December 7, Marshall was likely hoping that he could keep shifting resources to where he thought they were needed most, that he had a little more time to reinforce and improve positions across the Atlantic and Pacific. By noon, he knew he was likely out of time and that December 7 would be the day.

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine

A digital scan of the actual note given to Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George C. Marshall.

(U.S. Army War College)

Within hours, he would receive a message. It was not addressed to him, though most papers destined for the chief of staff’s desk were laboriously drafted and then addressed to him. It was not typewritten or printed. It wasn’t even written with particularly good handwriting.

But it likely made Marshall’s blood run cold. In just 14 words, it confirmed that the suspected attack was underway.

To all ships Hawaiian area
Air raid on PH
This is no drill.
Urgent

Marshall would learn over the following weeks that over 2,300 Americans had died. He likely second-guessed some of his own decisions about Pearl Harbor after the stunning losses there, though it’s unclear that any of the assets he removed from the island base would have made a difference.

(One of the biggest redeployments from Pearl was nine heavy bombers which, if they had survived the attack, would have been used in the hunt for the Japanese fleet and vengeance on December 7, but American hunters had almost no idea where the Japanese carriers were.)

The air raid pulled America firmly into World War II, awakening the “Sleeping Giant.” America would chase Japanese forces all the way back across the Pacific and would pummel the island nation’s allies in Europe.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How you can buy M1911 pistols made from meteorites

Few weapons ever wielded by the U.S. Military are more beloved than the M1911. The weapon was designed by a competitive pistol shooter and equipped with the stopping power necessary to take down a berserk Moro rebel fighter. There’s a reason it was in the American arsenal for more than a century.

These days, the legendary .45 pistol isn’t used as much around the military, but it remains a collector’s item for veterans and aficionados alike. It retains its title of the greatest issued sidearm of all time – and now you can get one that came from interstellar space.


Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine

The Big Bang Pistol Set, crafted from a 4-billion-year-old meteorite from Namibia.

It may sound like the first in (probably) a long line of Space Force weapons programs from a less-than-honest defense contractor, but it’s actually just a nifty idea from American firearms manufacturer Cabot Guns. Their weapons are like the concept cars of firearms, with pistols that feature mammoth ivory grips (yes, Wooly Mammoth ivory) harvested from Alaska, a pistol crafted from a 50-layer block of Damascus steel, and a Donald Trump-level .45 with a gold finish, engraved with “Trump 45” along the barrel.

Gimmicky, maybe, but all are truly so well-crafted, they earned the right to be called “elite.” The biggest standout among the manufacturer’s arsenal has to be the Big Bang Pistol Set, crafted from the Gibeon Meteorite that fell in prehistoric Namibia.

The meteorite, believed to be at least four billion years old, is comprised of iron, nickel, cobalt, and phosphorous, along with numerous other rare minerals. The object fell from the sky and broke up in the days before history was recorded, dropping interstellar rocks in a meteor field some 70 miles wide. Prehistoric tribesmen would make tools and weapons of the hard material from the sky.

The Widmanstätten pattern formed by the alloy makes it a particularly interesting design for use in jewelry and other specialty items… like firearms.

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine

A slice of Gibeon Meteorite, featuring the Widmanstätten pattern.

For just ,500,000, you can own a piece of geological history with the power to end someone else’s history. Crafted from a 77-pound piece of the extraterrestrial rock, from the barrel to its smaller moving parts, the set contains two of the one-of-a-kind firearms. They are both fully functional pieces, made completely from the meteorite and feature the space rock’s natural pattern on the finish.

Firearms fan or not, the pistols are a pure work of art, along with all the other weapons the specialty manufacturer has to offer.

Humor

6 differences between machine gunners and riflemen

Contrary to what your higher-ups probably wanted you to believe, not every Marine is a rifleman. That’s just a bedtime story they tell POGs so they stop crying about the mean grunts on the other side of sh*t creek.


But, when it comes to rivalries, there’s none greater than the one between the different infantry jobs — namely between machine gunners and riflemen. Their jobs may seem similar to civilian or POG eyes but, realistically, they’re very different.

The Marine Corps infantry rifleman is the centerpiece for combat operations, and machine gunners, essentially, exist to directly support riflemen so they can move around the battlefield without being overwhelmed by enemies.

Here are just a few of the major differences that riflemen and machine gunners fight each other over.

Related: 6 ways to be successful in the Marine infantry

6. Machine gunners have to carry the heavy stuff

While riflemen just have to carry their puny rifles and tiny bullets, machine gunners have to lug around a 24-pound (when unloaded) machine gun on top of their big bullets.

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This one does NOT look happy. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Isaac Ibarra)

5. Machine gunners have bigger muscles

Riflemen are generally skinny guys because, as you probably guessed, they don’t have to carry such large weaponry most of the time. Machine gunners, on the other hand, carry the big guns, and they have the big guns from lugging them around.

Make no mistake, there are some skinny machine gunners out there who do the job just as well as their bodybuilding brothers, but they usually end up becoming just as bulky over time.

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine
The brain of a machine gunner can be found in their arms.

4. Riflemen have bigger brains

A rifleman’s job may not be extremely physically demanding all the time but it can certainly be mentally demanding, so they can’t eat their brains for protein like some machine gunners might.

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They need those brains to read those maps. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde)

3. Machine gunners get to sit on a hill somewhere

Since the job of a machine gunner is to directly support the rifleman, they don’t always have to be embedded within a rifle squad. They can just sit on a hill with a vantage point and shoot from afar while the rifleman runs around and clears trenches.

This gives a machine gunner the opportunity to catch their breath momentarily, whereas riflemen get to catch theirs as they wait to move from one objective to the next.

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Meanwhile, the tiny riflemen are running around. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Luke Kuennen)

2. Machine gunners have the most pride in their job

Most riflemen only choose to be such because, when the time came, they decided they wanted the easiest possible life in the infantry. The job isn’t as physically demanding and you don’t have to memorize all the separate parts of the Browning M2 .50 caliber machine gun in order to graduate from the School of Infantry.

But, on the other hand, within the standard infantry, machine gunners take the most pride in their jobs. You gotta love what you do.

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Why wouldn’t they? They have a tough job. (image via Armchair General)

Also read: 5 things service members hate on that are actually useful

1. Machine gunners make better riflemen

Because handling a fully automatic machine gun takes a lot of marksmanship and the job requires extensive physical and mental conditioning, machine gunners can make great riflemen. They’re used to taking a much harsher physical beating, so the job of the puny riflemen is not challenging to them in the least. In fact — they find it extremely fun.

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine
They don’t care about diving into the mud. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. James R. Skelton)

popular

Congress considers 3.1% military pay raise

A House Appropriations subcommittee on May 15, 2019, approved a fiscal 2020 defense funding bill that would cover the cost of a 3.1% military pay raise.

The bill, introduced May 14, 2019, by the House Appropriations Committee, would provide $690.2 billion for the Defense Department — $8 billion below President Donald Trump’s budget request, but $15.8 billion above the fiscal 2019 DoD budget. The $690.2 billion includes $68.1 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations funds, or OCO.

Under the legislation, active-duty end-strength would be trimmed: The proposal supports 1,337,500 troops, 600 fewer than are currently serving and 2,000 fewer than the administration’s request. It also would cut the reserve component by 16,900, the amount requested by the Pentagon.


On other personnel issues, the bill would provide .7 million to upgrade child care facilities on installations and direct the services to come up with “innovative ideas” to solve the shortage of quality child care services.

It also would provide 0 million for medical research programs directed by Congress and furnish 7 million for sexual-assault prevention and response, an increase of million above the administration’s request.

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Soldiers load onto a Chinook helicopter to head out and execute missions across the Combined Joint Operations Area- Afghanistan.

(US Army photo)

“The subcommittee has sought throughout this legislative process to keep in mind the morale and quality of life of all our service members and their families. I believe we have taken tangible steps in this bill to refocus much-deserved attention on their issues of concern,” said Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Indiana, who chairs the subcommittee.

Several programs would be bolstered if the legislation passes as written — unlikely, given that it is one of four bills that ultimately guide future defense spending. However, large sections of it are expected to be included in the final measure, usually an amalgam that includes similar legislation from the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Senate and House Armed Services Committees also weigh in with legislation that directs policy issues.

Programs that may see increases next year include the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The proposed House bill would fund 90 F-35s, or a dozen more than the Pentagon’s request. It also would fund 73 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters; 14 V-22 Osprey aircraft and 16 C-130J aircraft, four more of each than the services asked for; and nine P-8A Poseidons, three more than requested.

The bill would fund 11 ships, including three DDG-51 guided missile destroyers, two SSN-774 attack submarines, one FFG frigate, a Ford-class aircraft carrier, two fleet oilers and two towing, salvage and rescue ships.

It also would pay for cannon and weapon stations for 86 Strykers and upgrade 165 M1A2 Abrams tanks.

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine

US Army M1A2 Abrams tank.

“The bill ensures that our service members are trained and equipped to do their jobs safely and effectively and that they are prepared for future military needs,” House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rep. Nita Lowey, D-New York, said in a statement May 15, 2019.

The proposed bill places a number of restrictions on the defense budget, including limiting how the executive branch and the Defense Department can move money in accounts. It limits the amount to id=”listicle-2637320945″.5 billion, down from .5 billion.

The change is a direct response to the Trump administration’s efforts to transfer money to fund a fence or wall along the southern border.

The bill also places an emphasis on environmental cleanup of military bases and former military sites, providing id=”listicle-2637320945″.26 billion — 8 million more than requested — for restoration, removal of unsafe property and debris, and hazardous waste disposal.

This includes million to study and assess the extent of contamination from chemicals used in firefighting foam and stain-resistant materials called perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Wounded veteran finds new purpose with Jaguars

On his second deployment to Afghanistan, then-Sgt. Sean Karpf led his squad along a narrow pathway between two streambeds in Kandahar.

Up ahead, about 300 meters, a group of suspicious men scrambled on the rooftop of a building. He and his squad moved in closer to pull security.

As he walked on the pathway, which had been previously cleared, his left boot stepped on a pressure plate. A buried bomb exploded.


In a daze, Krapf remembered looking down at the cloud of smoke. He had ringing in his ears; he could taste the chemicals from the bomb.

“It was just chaos,” he recalled of the June 2012 incident. “I could hear people yelling my name, but I was still stunned at that point and I really did not know what was going on.”

Today, Karpf, 33, wears a prosthetic on his left leg that was later amputated below the knee.

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine

Former Sgt. Sean Karpf, who lost his lower left leg after he stepped on a pressure plate that detonated a buried bomb in Afghanistan, now works as a strength and conditioning associate for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

(Courtesy photo)

He can often be seen in the weight room or on the practice field for the Jacksonville Jaguars — his favorite NFL team since he was 10 when they began to play in his hometown.

In his first year as a full-time strength and conditioning associate for the team, Karpf has found a new purpose in life that drives him.

Helping players get ready for each weekly battle on the gridiron against opposing teams reminds Karpf of his days as an Army sergeant.

“I love the preparation that goes into the games,” he said in a phone interview Dec. 18, 2018. “It brings me back to military training.”

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine

Former Sgt. Sean Karpf was a squad leader with the 82nd Airborne Division.

(Courtesy photo)

Recovery

Once the smoke cleared, the squad leader with the 82nd Airborne Division saw his injured leg and began to push himself out of the crater the bomb had left.

A medic put a tourniquet on him and he was placed onto a litter. As a medevac helicopter began to land, the Taliban insurgents fired a machine gun toward it and it lifted back up.

A firefight ensued and Karpf, who was still calling out orders to his squad, said an Army attack helicopter swooped in to make a few gun runs so the other helicopter could pick him up.

Karpf, who had played linebacker for a semipro football team in North Carolina, was about to face the biggest test in his life.

He spent over a year at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and had more than 20 surgeries.

The following year, he returned to sports. He competed in several swimming and track and field events in the Warrior Games and took home four gold medals.

“When I was working with the physical therapist, I made sure I got in extra work,” he said. “I had that goal in mind and I think it helped with my recovery.”

He also received a presidential send-off at the White House for a four-day bicycle ride that he and other wounded warriors participated in.

To the sergeant’s surprise, then-President Barack Obama spoke of his recovery and training in his speech.

“I didn’t even know that he was going to talk about me,” Karpf said, laughing. “I was sitting there on the bike and he mentioned my name and told the crowd I was competing in Warrior Games. I was like, wow, that was pretty cool.”

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine

Former Sgt. Sean Karpf, left, who lost his lower left leg after he stepped on a pressure plate that detonated a buried bomb in Afghanistan, now works as a strength and conditioning associate for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

(Courtesy photo)

Dream job

Once he left the Army after almost six years, Karpf moved back to Jacksonville. No longer in uniform, depression began to set in and he stopped staying active.

He then started a program through a nonprofit that allowed him to take college courses and do an internship in the local community. He chose his favorite sports team.

At first, he did various office jobs for the Jaguars but then gravitated toward the weight room to help out players.

When his brief internship ended, the father of two was asked to come back to intern for the entire season in 2017.

Following the Jaguars loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game, Karpf came in for his last time with the team to clean out his locker.

Karpf was asked to report to Tom Coughlin, a two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach who now serves as the Jaguars’ executive vice president of football operations.

Coughlin decided to take on the former soldier full time.

“I thought this would be a heck of a guy to hire for our strength and conditioning program because of what he brings to the table,” Coughlin said in a recent ESPN video about Karpf. “And also for our players to maybe get to know a young man who had made those kind of sacrifices for his country.”

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine

Former Sgt. Sean Karpf, a strength and conditioning associate for the Jacksonville Jaguars, gave U.S. flags encased in shadow boxes to players who support the local community, including veterans and their families.

(Photo by Alex Brooks)

Being able to be around the game he loves has been therapeutic for Karpf, who has just started on a master’s degree in injury prevention.

“As far as with the [post-traumatic stress disorder], it’s made it easier,” he said.

He also shares a special bond with those on the team, a similar connection he once had with his fellow soldiers.

“You can see a brotherhood, but it’s not as prevalent as in the military,” he said. “But it’s still that team atmosphere and everybody coming together with that same goal in mind.”

As he was preparing to leave after last season’s final game, he gave folded U.S. flags encased in shadow boxes to players who volunteer in the community, some of those efforts helping veterans and their families.

“I did that before I realized that I was coming back,” Karpf said. “It was my way of saying thank you for everything you do in the community.”

As an honor to Karpf, some players even kept the flags on display in their lockers.

“It’s pretty cool going through the locker room and seeing the flags,” he said. “It means a lot to me.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch how a suppressor works at 10,000 FPS

Destin Sandlin, the former Army engineer behind the YouTube channel Smarter Every Day, shot video of see-through suppressors and then went through the video in slow motion, discussing exactly how these weapon accessories work to mask the location of a shooter.


See Through Suppressor in Super Slow Motion (110,000 fps) – Smarter Every Day 177

www.youtube.com

Suppressors are often referred to as “silencers” in popular media, but that’s a misnomer that has been clearly debunked in the last few years. So let’s take a quick look at what it does instead of silencing the sound of the weapon.

When is weapon fired, a pocket of cool air and powder is suddenly ignited, creating a massive stream of extremely hot gases that propel the round from the barrel. This process also creates an audible explosion that can alert everyone in the area as to where the shot came from.

Suppressors work by channeling the explosive gases through channels, often cut into a series of chambers, in such a way that the gases escape over a longer period of time, mostly after they’ve already cooled and returned to normal volume. This doesn’t eliminate the sound, but instead turns it from a solid single explosion to a sort of muted thunderclap with a short roll to the sound.

Typically, this process takes place inside a metal “can” that contains the suppressor, making it impossible to see the flow of the gases. But as this video shows, high-quality acrylic can serve the same purpose, allowing you to see the flow of the gases. The best example is the second demonstration in the video, and you can actually see the process in its stages.

First, the suppressor captures the gases leaving the barrel in a large chamber near the muzzle. But then, as that superheated gas is captured, the suppressor channels a lot of the gases over a diamond-patterned area which contains the heat until it dissipates. The gases don’t escape until after the bulk of the heat is gone, making the sound much quieter.

Of course, this process does have some drawbacks. First, a large amount of heat that would normally pass into the air is instead captured in a can near the barrel, increasing the amount of heat that remains in the barrel. This shortens barrel life and reduces how many rounds a shooter can fire in a short period of time without melting the barrel.

It can also affect the ballistics of the round fired and the accuracy of the shooter as it changes the flow of gases and adds weight to the barrel.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

French troops ride into battle in this armored truck

When you think of moving infantry, one of three options usually springs to mind: Troops marching in unison, troops riding in infantry fighting vehicles or armored personnel carriers, or transporting troops by the truck-load. In recent years, that third option has undergone a very interesting evolution, largely due to the War on Terror.


Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine

TITUS by NEXTER on TATRA chassis, IDET 2017, Brno Exhibition Center, Czech Republic

(Photo by Karel Subrt)

Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, wreaked havoc on Coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan who used unarmored wheeled vehicles, like Humvees, to move troops. Extremely effective and inexpensive, IEDs quickly became a popular choice among insurgents. In response, Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicles were born, specifically tuned to reduce the risks presented by IEDs while maintaining the tactical mobility required by urban warfare.

Developing technology to protect vehicles from explosives is not a new phenomenon. Rhodesia and South Africa had pioneered such vehicles to fight insurgencies in the 1970s. Today, just about every country is developing — or buying — some form of MRAP. France, which has been fighting a radical Islamic terrorist group in Mali, is no different. Their vehicle of choice is the Nexter TITUS, which is short for Tactical Infantry Transport and Utility System.

The TITUS has a crew of three, a top speed of 68 miles per hour, and can go up to 435 miles on a single tank of gas. It can hold up to a dozen fully equipped troops. This transport system also supports an option for a remote weapon system that can hold a variety of machine guns or a 40mm automatic grenade launcher, like the Mk 19.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Te_V8IfhM_c

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The TITUS also comes in several variants, including a version for police Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams, a 120mm mortar carrier, a counter-insurgency version, a water-cannon vehicle, and a “forward-support” vehicle capable of carrying ammunition.

This versatile vehicle will likely be around for a while. Learn more about this tough armored truck in the video below.

Intel

This is the part of your brain that will make you ‘fight or flight’

You’re on a foot patrol in an enemy-infested region of Afghanistan when a massive explosion detonates within just a few meters of your position. Immediately after, heavy incoming rounds penetrate the surrounding terrain. Without thinking, your brain makes one of two initial reactions:

Will you stay and fight, or run away from the stressful situation to battle it out another day?


Although we understand the dangers of battle from extensive training and, typically, volunteer to surge forward to fight once we’ve assessed the situation, our initial and default response is all thanks to a unique part of your brain called the amygdala.

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine

Located at the end of the hippocampus (the floor of the brain), the amygdala is part of the limbic system that governs our emotions, like fear, pleasure, and anger.

When the human brain encounters intense stimuli, a significant amount of hormones and neurotransmitters flood the body to prepare you to either immediately dash away from the danger or fasten your resolve to stay in the fight.

Although the majority of all ground troops are trained to bring the fight back to the enemy, one or more of the troops’ in the squad’s initial reaction may be a “flight” response.

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine
The First Battle of Fallujah was an operation to root out extremist elements of Fallujah, as well as an attempt to apprehend the perpetrators of, the killing of four U.S. contractors in April 2004.

This special characteristic also helps keep your body cool, provides more energy (with the help of your adrenal glands), and helps the individual improve their mindset.