Every week, new service members report for duty at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton located in Southern California. There, they’ll undergo some intense training — but they’ll also have some time off. So, the boots will often ask others what fun stuff is nearby.
You might get a few good suggestions but, for the most part, it’s tough for a newbie to travel around without spending a sh*t ton of cash. So, if you’re “ballin’ on a budget,” we’ve come up with a few places you can visit while on liberty that won’t bleed your wallet dry.
Located in Irvine, this outdoor mall contains of plenty of excellent restaurants, a state-of-the-art movie theater, and a Dave and Busters to help you hone your gaming skills. Just north of Camp Pendleton, the large shopping center has enough to keep you entertained for hours.
Ready for some excellent fish tacos? Well, OC Tavern has great ones alongside a full bar to get you smashed — if you’re of age, of course. This place hosts concerts, has a cigar lounge, and is a great place to play billiards. Since it’s located just a few minutes north of Camp Pendleton, it’s an easy spot to reach on a Friday or Saturday night.
Located in Mission Viejo, this shopping and entertainment area is close to Camp Pendleton and features a Buffalo Wild Wings, a solid movie solid theater, and a gym where real girls go — as opposed to the male-dominated Marine gyms.
Since it’s closer than Irvine Spectrum, the Uber ride will be cheap, which is perfect for junior enlisted who don’t make a lot of cash.
Located just north of Camp Pendleton, Goody’s Tavern is a chill place for great drinks and entertainment. You’ll run into tons of Marines here, so you know you’ll be in good company.
Del Mar Beach
Located near the main gate, the beach in Del Mar has everything you need to blow off steam. There, you can camp and rent small cottages for a few days at a time. These rental areas are so close to the shore that you’ll hear the waves lapping onto the sand as you sleep. There are also BBQ pits available, and you can sneak in a few games of football or volleyball before heading back to the office on Monday morning.
You may have noticed a select few Marines and sailors walking around in their uniforms with a green rope wrapped around their left arm — it’s not just for decoration.
That green rope is called a “French Fourragere,” and it was awarded to the members of the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments for their heroic actions during the Battle of Belleau Wood from the French government in WWI.
This rite of passage extends to Marines who serve in those respected units today to commemorate their brothers in that historic battle.
The Fourragere is authorized on all service uniforms, and dress coats or jackets where medals or ribbons are prescribed.
During the bloody summer months of 1918, the Marines and the Germans fiercely fought one another just northwest of the Paris-to-Metz road. For weeks, German Gen. Erich Ludendorff had his troops attack U.S. forces with artillery, machine guns, and deadly gas.
Although the Marines sustained thousands of casualties during the skirmish, the infantrymen charged their opposition through the wooded area with fixed bayonets.
It’s reported the French urged the Marines to turn back, but the grunts proceeded onward frequently engaging the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.
By June 26, 1918, the war-hardened Marines confirmed that they secured the woods from German forces and took many prisoners.
And the French Fourragere reminds Leathernecks in this storied units of their World War I bravery.
For decades, snipers have been a dominating instrument of warfare striking fear in the heart of their enemies — scoring record kill shots from distances up to two miles away.
With Hollywood tapping into the lifestyle with such films as “American Sniper” and the “Sniper” franchise, many young troops get a misconception of what it’s like to be one.
So we asked a few veterans of the craft what would they want young troops to know before embarking on the intense journey to become a sniper. Here’s what they said:
1. It’s not like in the movies
Hollywood often showcases a sniper as a single-man force tracking down that perfect location to take that most concealed shot possible.
In modern day, scout snipers typically work in 4-8 man teams consisting of a shooter, spotter, radioman, and additional troops to provide security.
2. Shooting is only a fraction of the job
A sniper needs to properly plan the mission, insert and quietly maneuver to a well-concealed firing location, stalk his prey, complete the math calculation before firing his weapon accordingly, then safely egress out.
A mission could last days.
3. Have mental conditioning
Being sniper isn’t just about being an excellent marksman — although that’s important. But when you’re in an operational status, you have to overcome many mental constraints like lack of sleep and sometimes limited rations. The teams typically only leave the wire with what supplies they can carry — and that’s it.
The teams are usually outnumbered by the enemy and must maintain discipline throughout the mission. If the sniper has a mental breakdown in the field, the mission could be lost.
4. Patience is a virtue
Making a mistake because you’re in a hurry is unacceptable and can get you killed. A sniper’s hyperactive moment could result in death.
5. The selection
Completing indoctrination doesn’t guarantee a spot in the platoon. Sniper teams look for the guy who is not only capable of firing that perfect shot but has an outgoing personality. Once a troop is selected, they will go on to the next phase of intense sniper training.
6. It’s constant training and learning
Battlefield tactics change and evolve based on the environment the shooter is facing. That said, a sniper team must be able to adapt and overcome any situation that presents itself.
If the wind keeps up or the sniper is forced to relocate, he will more than likely have to reconfigure his sight alignment within moments.
7. It’s not a way out of the infantry
Young troops tend to believe that going through the sniper pipeline is an easy way out of the grunt lifestyle. To outsiders, life in the scout sniper platoons can appear more glamorous because of the modernized gear they train with and operate.
The truth is, that’s just additional heavy gear they must haul during their missions.
Corpsmen and medics carry a mobile emergency room strapped to their backs along with their weapon systems — and it gets heavy. After going through months of intense medical training they can probably apply a wet tourniquet in the pitch black with one hand while under enemy fire.
Truth is, they can’t be everywhere at every moment. Make no mistake, if the medical staff could take care of everybody and send them home in one piece, they would.
During a mass casualty, “Doc” is outnumbered by the number of people he or she needs to care for. Being able to render care swiftly and take them to medical in a blink of an eye would save time and resources.
After my daughter was born, I didn’t sleep much. I thought to myself, when was the last time I had this little sleep? Basic training, of course. As I thought about it further, there are a lot of comparisons between basic training and being a parent to a newborn or infant. Here are nine tips and takeaways I learned from basic training and how they apply to parenthood.
You don’t sleep anymore. In Basic, we slept for about five, maybe six, hours a night. We would go to sleep at 11 o’clock and be woken up around 4-something. When I finished Basic, I slept for about 18 hours a day for three days. With a newborn, anyone who is a parent or knows a parent knows that you’re lucky to get four-to-five hours of sleep a night. The only issue is, you never really have a chance to catch up.
You have to eat fast. In Basic, we were given seven minutes to eat our entire meal. We could take as much food as we wanted, but we had to eat it all in that time frame. Once your seven minutes was up, you had to run back outside and wait for the next item on the agenda. With a newborn, you have to eat quickly (and in most cases separately from your spouse), before the kiddo needs something. Eating together with a quiet child is a luxury.
You don’t remember the last time you showered. In Basic, we had a finite amount of time after physical training and breakfast to clean our rooms, make our beds, shower, shave, etc. In most cases, you skipped a shower because that was the one thing that wasn’t mandated. After a few days, you had a hard time remembering the last time you cleaned yourself. With a newborn, you get spit on, pooped on, and peed on so much that you just stop caring about your own personal hygiene, in many cases not remembering the last time you showered.
The bathroom is your only solace. In Basic, after we ate, we stood in formation outside the dining hall to wait for everyone in our squadron to finish. As we were waiting, we had an opportunity to use a Porta-Potty. Even if you didn’t have to go number one or number two, you still waited in line and when it was your turn, just sat inside, took your hat off and took a minute to yourself. It was the only time the staff weren’t yelling at you. With a newborn, the only real “alone” time you have is in the bathroom. Speaking of yelling…
You get screamed at for seemingly no reason. In Basic, I remember a time when I had three staff members screaming in my face because the bottles of sunscreen for our team weren’t all the same brand (and no, they didn’t have to be). With a newborn, your kiddo can cry and scream at you for any number of reasons: hungry, soiled diaper, in an uncomfortable position, gassy, tired, scratched herself, startled, just wanting to be held, or…for no reason at all.
Exercise becomes more of a chore than something you enjoy. In Basic, we had physical training at least twice per day, but it wasn’t fun, it was push-ups, and sit-ups, and running, and all of those calisthenic-type exercises. With a newborn, it is still important to exercise, but because your time is limited and you know you need to do it for your health and mental sanity, it becomes more of a chore and check-box rather than something you an relax and enjoy fully.
Your teammates are key. In Basic, it is critical to have the support of your squad members. They can cover for you or throw you under the bus. With a newborn, having your support network of your spouse, family, and friends is necessary to help keep you sane, give you breaks when you need, and support you through tough times.
Nothing can truly prepare you for what is about to happen. In Basic, we were told to memorize a book called the “Field Training Manual” before we got there. The book explained how everything needed to be done, everything from making a bed to how your locker needed to look to how to properly lace your boots. If you read the book, you thought, hey, I’m in a good place to be successful. In reality, it didn’t go so easily, as the “rules” in the book didn’t necessarily translate well to the actual experiences. With a newborn, you can read all the books in the world (I read only two), but once that child arrives, you just try to figure it out as best you can. There’s no answer other than to just keep your kid alive and get her fed so she can grow to the point where she can sleep through the night and maybe you can, too.
It’s the most fun you have you never want to have again. In Basic, during the heart of it, it’s terrible. Some things can be fun, but overall, it’s a pretty miserable experience. That said, by the time it’s over, you think to yourself, that wasn’t so bad, I could probably do it again. With a newborn, when you’re up at 3 a.m. with a child you can’t seem to console, you think to yourself, this is a pretty miserable experience. But by the time the kid grows a few months, starts sleeping through the night, and acting a little more human, you think, that wasn’t so bad, I could probably do it again. And you do, because your wife wants a second kid.
Parker Schaffel is a former CIA officer, former Navy Reserve intelligence officer, and the author of Get After It: Seven Inspirational Stories to Find Your Inner Strength When It Matters Most. The book’s stories and lessons from Parker’s experiences are particularly valuable and helpful for junior servicemembers who want to achieve great things. It is available in eBook, soft cover, and audiobook on Amazon.
You know Abraham Lincoln as the emancipator and one of America’s greatest presidents, but a wrestler?
At 6-feet-4, 180 pounds, the frontier man was a highly regarded grappler who went 12 years with only one defeat in approximately 300 matches. According to Lincoln biographer Carl Sandberg, Abe was also an accomplished trash talker once challenging an entire crowd of onlookers after beating a foe: “I’m the big buck of this lick. If any of you want to try it, come on and whet your horns.”
Historians recount Lincoln’s badassery to as early as his teenage years. At age 19, he defeated the Natchez thugs by throwing them overboard during their attempted to hijack Lincoln’s stepbrother’s river barge. Ten years later, while working for an enterprising storekeeper in New Salem, Illinois, he doubled as a prize fighter for his boss who promoted his famous match against county champ, Jack Armstrong. Lincoln won by knockout when he threw Armstrong off his feet.
Lincoln was neither the first nor last president to succeed in wrestling. At age 47, George Washington famously defeated seven members of the Massachusetts militia during the American Revolution, Teddy Roosevelt cross trained in boxing and Jiu-Jitsu. Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant and William Taft were also champions, wrote Jennie Cohen for History.
Legend has it that Lincoln once beat a man by picking him up and tossing him 12 feet during a campaign speech. This American Heroes Channel video perfectly shows why you don’t want to get into a scuffle with honest Abe.
Salsa dancing and the military…it’s so crazy it just might work.
In honor of National Military Appreciation Month, Univision Communications Inc. and We Are The Mighty are teaming up to create a Salsa #InVETational, a dance competition for active duty servicemembers and veterans.
There are three reasons why this is actually pretty cool:
Servicemembers and veterans will be the main event as they compete alongside their dance partners, showcasing their best Latin dance moves for Salsa, Merengue, and Bachata and vying for 1st place prize of id=”listicle-2565272073″,000 in each category and 0 for 2nd place.
Also, this event is totally free for active duty military and veterans.
“Salsa dancing nights have long been enjoyed by active duty military and veterans alike not only for therapeutic purposes, but as a cultural connection within the military community,” noted David Gale, CEO Co-Founder, We Are The Mighty.
The arts are a powerful way for vets to heal after military service, and dance in particular adds the physical element we grew accustomed to on active duty. Dancing puts us back in our bodies, pushes our comfort levels, and connects us to music in very intense ways.
Hispanics have a longstanding tradition of military service to our country. According to the US Department of Veteran Affairs 2014 Minority Veterans Report, Hispanics comprise 12.4% of Post-911 veterans with more than one million Latinos currently in uniform.
Learning about our American mixing pot makes us stronger, united, and worldly.
Plus, we’re talking about a culture that knows how to flavor its food, baby — and there will be plenty of it at the event.
The event will take place on May 12, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas.
Military and veterans interested in participating with a partner must be at least 21 years of age. The next qualifying round is May 6, 2018, at Arjon’s International Club. Registration starts at 8 p.m. and the contest kicks off at 9:30 p.m. Five couples from each category will advance to the finals on May 12.
For anyone who cannot attend, you can help veterans in the San Antonio area by supporting the Lackland Fisher House, a home-away-from-home for the families of seriously ill or injured patients receiving treatment at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, San Antonio Military Medical Center or other medical facilities in the San Antonio Area at no cost.
The US Navy’s new supercarrier is going through shock trials, and that means setting off live explosives near the warship to simulate aspects of actual combat conditions.
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), the first of a new class of aircraft carriers, completed the first explosive event of the ongoing full-ship shock trials on Friday off the US East Coast, where the Navy detonated explosives near the carrier.
The Navy said in a statement the aircraft carrier was “designed using advanced computer modeling methods, testing, and analysis to ensure the ship is hardened to withstand battle conditions, and these shock trials provide data used in validating the shock hardness of the ship.”
The official Twitter account for USS Gerald R. Ford tweeted Saturday that “the leadership and the crew demonstrated Navy readiness fighting through the shock, proving our warship can ‘take a hit’ and continue our mission on the cutting edge of naval aviation.”
Though the Navy has conducted shock trials with other vessels, the latest trials with the Ford, the service’s newest and most advanced carrier, mark the first time since 1987 the Navy has conducted shock trials with an aircraft carrier.
The last aircraft carrier shock trials involved the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, according to the Navy.
Shock trials are designed to test how Navy warships hold up against severe vibrations and identify potential shock-related vulnerabilities in a combat vessel.
Nearby explosions, even when vessels were not taking direct hits, would send destructive, high-pressure waves toward them.
During the major global conflict, “it was discovered that although such ‘near miss’ explosions do not cause serious hull or superstructure damage, the shock and vibrations associated with the blast nonetheless incapacitate the ship, by knocking out critical components and systems,” the study said.
“This discovery led the Navy to implement a rigorous shock hardening test procedure,” the report said, referring to shock trials.
The Navy said that the trials are being conducted in a way that “complies with environmental mitigation requirements, respecting known migration patterns of marine life in the test area.”
The service further stated that it “also has employed extensive protocols throughout [full-ship shock trials] to ensure the safety of military and civilian personnel participating in the testing evolution.”
After completing full-ship shock trials, the aircraft carrier will return to the pier at Newport News Shipbuilding for its first planned incremental availability, a six-month period during which the ship will undergo “modernization, maintenance, and repairs prior to its operational employment,” the Navy said.
The military is widely known for giving free medical and dental benefits to its service members and their families. Sometimes there can be a co-pay, but overall it’s a pretty sweet deal.
Although going to medical is also a smart way to skate your way through the day.
But many hate the idea and just want to conduct their business and get out. The fact is, unlike sick commandoes (you know who you are), you’ve got work to do and don’t want to spend your day fighting your way through the process of being seen.
So check out these reasons why troops hate going to sick call.
Depending on what command you report to every morning, you’re required to be there at a specific time. In most cases, medical is usually open before you need to get to work or it never closes. Since the majority of the military population (not all) are seeking to get an SIQ chit (Sick in Quarters) and stay home, they show up at the butt-crack of dawn like everyone else, causing long lines.
Unless you’re very high ranking or know the doctor well — you’re going to have to wait.
2. One chief complaint at a time
Military doctors treat dozens of patients per day then have to write up and complete the S.O.A.P. note. They’re typically face-to-face with the patient for just a few minutes, but behind the scenes, they can spend valuable time developing a treatment plan.
An unwritten guideline is a doctor only has time to treat one symptom or chief complaint per visit — that’s if the issues aren’t related. So in many cases, if you have a headache and a twisted ankle, pick one then wait in line to be seen for the other. So hopefully the medic or corpsman who’s helping out knows what he or she is doing and can treat you on the side.
3. Missing paperwork
Depending on your duty station, you may notice that the staff hand wrote the majority of your documented medical visits and probably never scanned them into the computer. That means there’s only one copy floating around.
When you plan on separating and you file for disability claiming you were seen in medical for that shoulder injury, if it isn’t in your medical record, it didn’t happen.
When doctors order labs or x-rays in hospitals, staff members usually come to the patient to either extract the sample or transport them to the right area.
In a sick call setting, those services may not even be located in the same building. So good luck getting from A to B.
5. Not getting what you want
Patients frequently enter medical feeling sick as a dog and convince themselves they wouldn’t be efficient at work. So when your temperature reads normal and the doctor doesn’t see a reason to let you go home for the day, don’t hate on medical when you get…
Hollywood war movies are usually comprised of strong and versatile trope elements like the wise seasoned soldier, the good decision makers, and the flawed protagonist who needs a solid character arch before the credits roll.
There’s also the cast of characters that are considered the weaker links, or they’re just so naïve audiences sigh with relief when they die off.
So here’s our list of newbie boots we wouldn’t want taking point on patrol with us.
1. Conrad Vig (“3 Kings”)
He’s the funny, goofy guy who also talks too much and no one takes him seriously until you get annoyed by his presence.
Great movie, but bad karate kick. (Image via Giphy)
2. Corporal Upham (“Saving Private Ryan”)
He stops himself from saving a fellow brother because his fear got the best of him, but to add insult to injury, he gave up an easy kill shot and let the German soldier off the hook. Unacceptable!
Unfreaking believable. You had him, Upham! (Image via Giphy)
3. Gardner (“Platoon”)
We knew this over-weight character was going to perish sooner rather than later — no way his stature meets physical regs. No squad wants the guy who can’t hold his own weight — literally — on their team.
WATM received this piece from a Marine reader deployed to Almaty, Kazakhstan, who was concerned about the scandal engulfing the Marine Corps over allegedly illegal postings of photos of female Marines on Facebook and other social media outlets. The views expressed in this piece are his own.
My views on the recent scandal are simple: sharing someone else’s nude photo with friends at the barracks is as equally reprehensible as sharing it on social media. There is no honor in either situation. If you justify the first, the latter will shortly follow.
I think the bigger problem here is that we have not done a good enough job fostering a culture of chivalry in the Marine Corps.
While we’ve done exceptionally well with regards to physical fitness, physical appearance, and discipline, we’ve also allowed a culture where “locker room talk” is not only acceptable, but somehow considered “manly” — and that couldn’t be further from the truth.
This issue is neither unique to the Marine Corps nor the military. This behavior plagues our schools and workforces, and is a detriment to our society as whole.
It’s true that we are a product of the society we recruit from, but it is also true that as Marines, we hold ourselves to a higher standard. Making Marines doesn’t simply mean training them for duty, but instilling in them the values and ethics that will in turn mold them into better citizens.
We have a proven record of doing just that, but we regularly fall short with our commitment to female Marines, as evident with recent events.
On March 14, 2017, Gen. Robert B. Neller, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, told Congress he understands this kind of behavior is a problem in the Marine Corps, and he honestly confessed to not having a good answer in regard to how to fix it.
He took full responsibility as the Commandant, and I commend him for it. He didn’t make excuses; he acknowledged the deficiencies and I genuinely believe he is seeking a sustainable solution. That took humility and courage, which are characteristics of exceptional leaders.
To get to that end goal, I think it’s important we start at the beginning.
Men and women from all over the U.S. and our territories flock to Marine Corps Recruit Depots San Diego and Parris Island every year to become Marines. Currently, the requirements to even get accepted to attend Marine Corps recruit training are higher than in that of recent years.
The Marine Corps looks for quality men and women who will add value to our force and while we may come from different backgrounds and walks of life, in the end, we’re all united in our love of Corps and country.
Many of these recruits are fresh out of high school and still in their teens, which means that sex is typically the first and last thing on their mind and a big reason why the Marine Corps has traditionally conducted much of the training separately in order to reduce distractions and make the most out of those twelve weeks.
Male Drill Instructors are known to use sexual innuendos and lewd comments about women to help male recruits remember the skills and knowledge they need to graduate. While this might be an effective way to get the male recruits to absorb the information quickly, it also exacerbates a problem that we’ve already acknowledged takes place in our society, and therefore fosters a culture that is not conducive for chivalry to thrive.
It teaches Marines that disrespecting their female counterparts, by making lewd comments about them, is acceptable.
While this might be a common practice in the civilian sector, we should, and must, hold ourselves to a higher standard.
The Marine Corps’ core values are honor, courage, and commitment. While some Marines may not follow all of these, the truth of the matter is that most do, and it is our responsibility — as noncommissioned officers, staff noncommissioned officers, and officers — to instill these values in all of our Marines by setting the example and holding each other accountable.
I can’t tell you how much I love this organization as we’re perhaps the last real warrior culture that exists today.
We’re known as modern day Spartans, Devil Dogs, etc., but I think that some may have misunderstood what it means to be a warrior. Some equate it to being hostile and irreverent towards women. Some, unfortunately, believe part of being a man means to degrade our female counterparts even though Spartans were known to hold their women in the highest regard and medieval knights were the ones who created the concept of chivalry to begin with.
My hope is that we as Marines can grasp this concept and set the example for the rest. We are known to be “First to Fight,” and it’s a term we’re proud to bear.
We thrive on being known as standard-bearers, and that is a privilege and honor that should, and must, also extend to how we choose to lead.
Since the beginning of time, the dichotomy of love and war are two sides of the same coin. You must have yin to have a yang, an alpha and omega. Most war movies depict what it is like for a spouse to be away from their love who’s fighting half-a-world away. Military service members play romantic interest roles in movies for a reason: they’re lovers and fighters – and they’re the best at both.
Here are 6 reasons military service members are the best lovers:
1. Love letters
Tinder and other apps have changed the way people find someone but they will never change the romanticism of love letters between star-crossed lovers. Love letters from warriors and their beloved are something that technology cannot compete against. When I was in Afghanistan I could only use the satellite phone once a month due to the remote area we operated in. There is something about those private correspondences you share that is difficult to put into words.
It’s borderline magical, like a fairytale. My then-girlfriend used to sign her letters calling me her ‘Knight in shining armor.’ It may be corny, fine. It hits different seeing those words on paper, in the handwriting of your love, with her perfume on the sheets of paper, after literally taking off your armor returning from fighting the enemy.
Love letters are something that you never see in the civilian world which makes them even more impactful. When kindred spirits finally rendezvous, sparks are going to fly, I guarantee it.
2. Military service members are usually in shape
There isn’t much to the science here, military service members are in shape – not by choice – but in shape regardless!
3. Spare no expense
Warriors do not earn a lot compared to their civilian counterparts. If we did it for the money we wouldn’t be who we are. Returning from deployment, troops are known to spare no expense living life to the fullest and will bring you along for the ride. Post Afghanistan; there were cliques that vacationed together with their spouses in the Virgin Islands, others went on skiing trips, or other adventures. Believe me, vacationing with a military service member is nothing to take for granted, these MFs know how to party.
4. Smooth talkers
Military service members can sell water to a fish. It’s hard to not like someone that’s actually a good person. If a troop, especially a Marine, likes you – you’re going to know it. They’re warrior poets, some are rougher around the edges, but they have their own way of communicating that you’re the best thing since sliced bread.
5. Military service members are protective
Rest assured that you won’t end up like Batman’s parents, a military service member is brave. Any clime, any place, we’ll knock anyone out who disrespects someone we love.
6. Endless choices
If intellect isn’t your forte then you have an endless buffet of to choose from. I had one friend from high school I kept in contact with when I was active duty. She asked if I could hook her up with someone, I responded with ‘say no more.’ I asked her preferences and on a leave block she flew down for the holiday weekend. Every detail she mentioned was taken into account and I had a wall of handsome ready for her to pick whomever she wanted. We have 5,000 Marines per company element, one of them is bound to float your boat.
It’s safe to say that we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to the gear we carry with us into the great outdoors. Whether you’re in the market for a new pocket knife or a thirty-foot camper to tow behind your truck, there’s no shortage of options available to you, each claiming their own “extreme” superlatives to make sure you know just how rugged they are. Of course, there’s one phrase you may see pop up more than many others when it comes to toughness: “military grade.”
The idea behind claiming your product is “military grade” is simple: the consuming public tends to think of the military as a pretty tough bunch, so if you tell me a product has met some military standard for toughness, it stands to reason that the product itself must be pretty damn tough, right?
The phrase “military grade” can be used on packaging and on promotional materials without going through any particular special toughness-testing. In fact, even when sticking closely to the intent behind the phrase, which would mean making the product meet the testing criteria set forth in the U.S. military’s MIL-STD-810 process, there’s still so much leeway in the language of the order that military grade could really mean just about anything at all.
The testing procedures set forth in the military standard are really more of a list of testing guidelines meant to ensure manufacturers use controlled settings and basic standards for reliability, and importantly, uniformity. The onus is on the manufacturer, not any military testing body, to meet the criteria set forth within that standard (or not) and then they can apply the words “military grade” to their packaging and marketing materials. In other words, all a company really has to do is decide to say their products are “military grade” and poof–a new tacti-tool is born.
It’s as simple as that. No gauntlet of Marines trying to smash it, no Airmen dropping it from the edge of space, and no Navy SEALs putting it through its paces under a sheet of ice near the Russian shore. The only real reason that pocket knife you just bought said “military grade” on the box is that the company’s marketing team knew plastering the phrase on stuff helps it sell.
For those of us that have spent some time in uniform, that really shouldn’t come as a surprise. There’s never any shortage of jokes about the gear we’re issued coming from “the lowest bidder” for a reason: the gear we’re issued often really did come from the lowest bidder. Meeting the military standard (in mass production terms) usually means that a manufacturer was able to meet the minimum stated requirements at the lowest unit price. To be fair, those minimum requirements often do include concerns about durability, but balanced against the fiscal constraints of ordering for the force. When you’re budgeting to outfit 180,000 Marines with a piece of kit, keeping costs down is just as important in a staff meeting as getting a functional bit of gear.
But most products sold as “military grade” never even need to worry about those practical considerations, because the Defense Department isn’t in the business of issuing iPhone cases and flashlight key chains to everyone in a uniform. When these products advertise “military grade,” all they really mean is that they used some loosely established criteria to conduct their own product tests.
Of course, that’s not to say that products touting their “military grade” toughness are worthless–plenty of products with that meaningless label have proven themselves in the kits of millions of users, but the point is, the label itself means almost nothing at all.