Why Sergeant Major doesn't want you walking on the grass - We Are The Mighty
Military Life

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

The military is known for its rules. There are books upon books filled with them. But even when there’s no official documentation to back them up, troops adhere to rules laid out before them (usually). No unofficial rule is followed by as many troops as not walking on grass.

It’s so prevalent in military culture that most NCOs don’t even know why they’re yelling at a private for walking on grass — they just know that first sergeant is looking.

To any civilian or new recruit, it’s mind-blowing. Troops will do PT on the grass in the morning but once they’re told to shower for work call, they’re not allowed back on the grass until the following day (unless they’re cutting it).

But why? A few footsteps aren’t going to hurt anything.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass
If Sgt. Maj. of the Army Dan Dailey can come lead your unit’s morning PTu00a0on the grass, chances are it’s okay.
(Photo by C. Todd Lopez)

To be completely straightforward: Your sergeant major doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the grass itself. The grass will still grow all over the world with or without “blood, bright red blood.”


The restriction is symbolic and it’s about not taking literal shortcuts. The idea is that if a troop takes a shortcut once, they’ll see no problem cutting corners the next time.

Since military sidewalks are usually straight lines that intersect each other at 90-degree angles, a young private may save a half of a second by cutting through the grass. If enough troops cut that same corner, then the grass will die and become a path, thus destroying the need for the sidewalk to begin with.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass
Somewhere, there’s a retired Sgt. Maj. knife-handing this photo.

Another reason for the rule is that it requires a level of attention to detail. If you’re not capable of noticing that you’re now walking on soft grass instead of the sweat-stained concrete, then this is very likely not the only ass-chewing you’ll see in your career.

Your sergeant major probably isn’t a staunch environmentalist who’s trying to preserve the sanctity of poor, innocent blades of grass. They and the NCOs below them have ten million more important things to do than to knife-hand the fool who’s careless enough to do it — but they will. Stepping on the grass and spending the half-second required to stay on the pavement is symbolic of a troop’s discipline.


H/T to the Senior NCOs at RallyPoint for clarifying this mystery.

Lists

5 secrets to shopping at the Commissary with the kids

Shopping in any grocery store with children (young or old) can be a real pain. Add in going to the commissary on payday and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Maybe you’ve already tried all of the tricks for navigating shopping with kids in tow. Or are you are new to the whole grocery with kids game? Either way, try these five parent-tested secrets for making it through the experience without losing your mind.


1. Do it in the car

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

No list? No plan? Before you jump out of the car, write down must-have items and meal ideas, then prep any necessary items before you unleash the munchkins. Refresh your mind on coupons, write down any necessary purchases you remembered on your way there, and make sure you have any distraction items for the baby. It’s better to do this now than before you get in the store.

2. Get Attached

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

If they are little enough, the best place to have your kids is hanging out on you in a carrier. You can talk to them while you go to shelves and they aren’t climbing out of the cart and getting hurt. If they are at the in-between age where they want to run around, make holding onto the cart a game. “If you hold on through this aisle, you can pick out the cereal.” Or, if they sit still in the cart, say they can have a slice of cheese at the deli or bring a healthy treat along to get them through a rough spot. Make the reward something that can be given sooner rather than later.

3. Create a game

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

Involve you kids in the process and they’ll look at the grocery store as a fun place to be. Can they spy something orange in the fruit section? Find things that begin with “A”? See if they can locate the can of tomatoes you always buy first. How many uniforms can they count in the store? Don’t be afraid of looking a little silly. The commissary is a little crazy on payday anyway!

4. Give them a job

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

Oh, how kids love to help! But often it is the kind of help that gets them in trouble. Instead of letting them pick and choose their role, give your little helper a job each time you go. “You are in charge of crossing things off of the list.” Be sure to bring a clipboard. Or maybe they can get the items off of the low shelves. Can they help you pick out apples while sitting in the shopping cart? The more involved you make them on your terms, the less they will be on the receiving end of a reprimand.

5. Acknowledge and avoid their triggers

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

Kids feed off of your anxiety and the more amped up you are the crazier they feel. If you know you have a big shopping trip, don’t make it 20 minutes before lunchtime. Everyone will be hungry and grumpy, and you’ll have to rush through the store. If naptime is at noon, avoid bumping up against it and opt to go afterwards. If you know your child is going to flip in the cereal aisle, distract him as you grab the Cheerios. You know what has made shopping a miserable experience every trip before so create a battle plan that will keep you and your shopping buddy happy right to the checkout.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Mark Hamill hints Skywalker’s return in the next Star Wars

At the end of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Luke Skywalker said: “see ya around, kid.” And now, it seems like Luke and is real world alter-ego, Mark Hamill, weren’t kidding around. It’s not exactly confirmed yet, but Mark Hamill is strongly suggesting that he will return to the role of Luke Skywalker for the final installment of the newest Star Wars trilogy, the yet-untitled Star Wars Episode IX, debuting on Dec. 20, 2019.

On July 5, 2018, Hamill posted a countdown to Episode IX on Twitter with the words “Who’s counting? #9WillBeFineAllInGoodTime.”


Although Hamill is an expert at lovingly messing with Star Wars fans online, posting this reminder that the next Star Wars film is over a year away seems pointed. Ask yourself this question: why would Mark Hamill be posting about Star Wars: Episode IX on Twitter if he had absolutely nothing to do with it? Then, ask yourself another question: because Episode IX is possibly the very last installment of numbered Star Wars films in the main “saga,” would J.J. Abrams really not include the most beloved and famous character of all time for the grand finale? Search your feelings, you know it to be true! Mark Hamill is will return as Luke Skywalker, and if he doesn’t then he’s trolled people on Twitter harder than usual, and the powers-that-be at Disney and Lucasfilm have really dropped the lightsaber.

From a canonical, nerdy standpoint, one might wonder how Luke Skywalker could return in Episode IX since he clearly became one with the Force at the end of The Last Jedi. But, that question answers itself. We all saw Luke fade away into the Force, just like Yoda and Obi-Wan did, meaning his spirit will doubtlessly live on and guide Rey, and maybe even Ben Solo, from beyond the grave.

To put it another way, if Luke could project his image halfway across the universe just to play mind games with Kylo Ren, then it stands to reason his ghost will show up in Episode IX. And if Mark Hamill can play mind games with Star Wars fans on Twitter, then it also stands to reason he’s full of more than just a few surprises.

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

Military Life

6 ways for a POG to be accepted by grunts

The greatest divide in the U.S. Military is between grunts and the POGs. And for as long as this divide has existed, higher-ups have been trying to find ways to close this gap.


Today, we offer some advice from grunts for POGs on how they can earn respect from their infantry counterparts.

Related: The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

6. Don’t act like your job is more important

Everyone’s job plays a role in the grand scheme of things. Everyone is just one piece in the puzzle few of us get to look at.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass
Remember: Grunts get dirty so you don’t have to. (image via Terminal Lance)

5. Learn how to wear your gear properly

This is one that will undoubtedly gain some respect from grunts. One common complaint among the grunts is that POGs have no idea how to wear the gear. Magazine pouches don’t go on the back of your plate carrier, and get that first aid kit in a place where you can reach it.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass
Exhibit A: Clean gear, magazine dump pouch on the front of the plate carrier, and backwards plate carrier. This is why grunts make fun of you. (Image via United States Grunt Corps)

4. Learn basic infantry tactics

This one almost goes without saying — learn the basics of a grunt’s job and they’ll have no room to talk sh*t.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass
Be an asset, not a liability to the infantry.

3. Set yourself to grunt standards

Infantrymen have to be physically fit in order to handle carrying all their gear, and someone else if the need arises. If you can keep up with a grunt or even outperform a few, they’ll treat you like one of their own — especially if you take the advice from point #4.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass
If it helps, make faces.

2. Don’t act like your rank gives you experience

The infantry, especially the Marine Corps infantry, is full of E-3s with TONS of experience. One thing that will piss a grunt off more than anything is if an E-4 who only has 6 months to a year of time in tries to act superior to an E-3 with 2 or 3 years of experience (demotions exempt) and deployments under their belt.

If you need to correct an E-3, by all means, do it. But check that ego of yours.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass
Remember that prior service thing? (Image via reddit)

Also Read: 6 ways to make money while living in the barracks

1. Take a joke

Grunts talk trash all day, every day, and there is not a single day that goes by in the infantry where they don’t. If you can sh*t talk with a grunt (and if you can do it better) they’ll undoubtedly accept you as one of their own. But make sure you have more in your arsenal than, “Well, you’re just a dumb grunt.”

That one’s been used so many times that people with ASVAB scores of 80 and higher are joining the infantry.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass
Make jokes back.

*Bonus* Take pride in being a POG

Grunts feel that POGs often just have an inferiority complex, which results in treating grunts like low-life scum (which isn’t totally wrong). Take pride in the fact that you help grunts bring the fight to the enemy! Grunts actually love cooks and motor-T because otherwise they’re stuck with MREs and long walks.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass
Embrace your differences!

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s everything you need to know if you want to join the US Army

The Army also has options for those who want to serve as commissioned officers. Which option is best depends on your education level, where you want to go to school, and your age or family status.

Enlistees can also join the Army Reserves or Army National Guard directly.


Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

Students at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state take the Test for Adult Basic Education to improve their general technical score on the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery, Aug. 27, 2010.

(Photo by Spc. Alicia Clark)

First, you’ll need to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB.

The ASVAB is a multiple-choice exam that will help determine what jobs you qualify for in the military. Each service has its own minimum standards, according to Military.com, which provides practice tests for those who want to prepare.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

Recruiters gather with high-school students for an education event where they learned about Army operations and procedures, in December 2018.

(US Army photo by Amber Osei)

You’ll eventually meet with a recruiter.

If you’re not sure where your nearest recruiting station is, you can submit an application online, and the recruiter will come to you.

Otherwise, it’s important to remember a few things when you’re at the office:

You have no obligations until you sign a contract.

Make sure you understand whether the job you want has openings — if not, you may want to consider waiting until it does.

You’ll eventually need to pass a medical exam.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

Army Gen. George W. Casey, Jr., the Army’s chief of staff, administers the oath of enlistment to 26 recruits in New York City.

(Army photo by D. Myles Cullen)

Once you decide to enlist, the recruiter will take you to a Military Entrance Processing Station, or MEPS.

If you haven’t taken the ASVAB already, you’ll take one when you get to the MEPS.

If you have, you’ll undergo a medical exam, speak with a counselor about job opportunities and the enlistment contract, and take the enlistment oath.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

US Army soldiers from One Station Training Unit low crawl through an obstacle course during their first week of basic training in Fort Benning, Georgia.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade)

Basic Combat Training, has three phases.

After “reception week,” recruits enter Red phase — basic tactical training and Army heritage and tradition are hallmarks of this phase, as is the physical-fitness test. This phase is meant to break down individual recruits’ confidence in order to train them to work as unit during the next phase.

Next, they enter White phase, where they will start to rebuild confidence and learn marksmanship and combat training.

The last step is Blue phase, during which they will be trained to use weapons like grenades and machine guns and conduct field training and 10- and 15-kilometer marches.

Once they graduate, they will move on to advanced training in their specific job fields.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

Cadets enter Michie Stadium for their graduation ceremony at West Point — 936 cadets crossed the stage to join the Long Gray Line in May 2017.

(US Army photo by Michelle Eberhart)

If you’re applying for a ROTC scholarship or admission to the Military Academy at West Point, the process starts online.

You’ll apply for West Point on the academy’s admissions page. Once you submit a questionnaire, you’ll be assigned a candidate number to finish the process.

Requirements to enter the academy are slightly higher than they are to enlist. Competitive SAT or ACT scores are a must, as are a physical-fitness exam and recommendations from teachers or counselors at your high school.

You’ll interview with an academy alumnus and also have to complete a separate application process for a nomination, usually by a senator or congressional representative.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

ROTC cadets take a break from Leader Development and Assessment Course training.

(US Army photo)

Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC).

ROTC scholarships may be awarded to high-school students who wish to pursue a four-year degree at a civilian college.

The Army’s service obligation after graduation is four years on active duty and four years in the Army Reserves. Under some circumstances, like a lack of active-duty billets, students can go straight into the reserves. (Candidates can also enlist directly into the Army Reserve.)

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

Officer candidates with Washington National Guard troops disembark a morale flight on a CH-47 Chinook helicopter.

(US National Guard photo by Maj. Matt Baldwin)

Officer Candidate School (OCS).

OCS is meant for enlisted service members or civilians who already hold a four-year degree and want to become a commissioned officer.

The Army holds this 12-week leadership and tactical training course at Ft. Benning, Georgia.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the history of US military haircuts

When America was founded in 1776, the officers in charge wore powdered wigs. As time marched on, so did the evolution of regulation hairstyles — including facial hair. For most, facial hair isn’t an option anymore, but the military haircut was still in a world of its own.

From the buzzcut to the flattop to the high and tight, these are the definitive trends we can’t forget.


We Are The Mighty is proud to partner with Wahl, the brand used by professionals.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

Not a wig.

Revolutionary War

In the late 18th century, large, curled hairdos were totally in for men, who normally achieved this look by wearing wigs (called ‘periwigs’ or even ‘perukes,’ if you want to be fancy about it). However, this coif just wasn’t practical for soldiers; they were hot, expensive, and susceptible to infestation.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

That hair tho…

(Mel Gibson in “The Patriot” by Columbia Pictures)

Officers may have worn a looser, pigtail wig, that could have been made from their own hair or that of horses, goats, or yaks. Common soldiers, however, did not wear wigs. They either styled their long hair into the pigtail (called a queue) or, if their hair was too short, they styled a queue out of leather and attached a tuft of hair to the end.

Early Republic

The queue, however, would find an enemy in Maj. Gen. James Wilkinson, the commanding general of the newly-established United States Army. He abolished the queue, much to soldiers’ dismay.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

Did he do it because the “pigtail was an aristocratic affectation that had no place in an egalitarian republic” or because he couldn’t grow his own? You decide…

The U.S. Army even court-martialed a guy who refused to cut his hair in accordance with the new standards. Lt. Col. Thomas Butler was found guilty, but he died before his sentence could be carried out — braid intact.

Civil War

By the time the Civil War broke out in 1861, long hair was out and facial hair was in.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

You do you, Ambrose.

Though there were regulations about dress and appearance, beard and facial hair fashion tended to default to “the pleasure of the individual.” The variety of styles therefore ranged from short, refined looks (the famous Civil War-era Admiral David Farragut sported a stately combover with no beard, for example) to the… well… not so refined.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

How does your beard flow, on a scale of 1 to General Alpheus Williams?

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

U.S. Marine Pfc. James B. Johnson was killed in action in the Pacific during WWII.

The World Wars

World War I was the first time when shaving became mandatory — not only was it a good sanitary practice, but it was necessary to get a seal on the gas mask. The face was to be clean-shaven and the hair no more than one inch long. By World War II, fingernails were also mentioned in the regs (they were to be clean).

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

This is actually a decent depiction of the military haircuts during Vietnam.

(Photo by Ted Wicorek)

Vietnam War

Long hair was fashionable for civilians during the 1970s but, for the most part, the military sported the opposite look — they also had Article 15 to contend with for non-compliance.

On Naval ships, however, rules were a little more relaxed. For years, it wasn’t uncommon for ships to have beard-growing contests while at sea.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

Beard-growing contest aboard the USS Staten Island.

In 1970, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Elmo Zumwalt began issuing “Z-grams” to help boost recruitment and retention. He used these communications to allow longer hair, beards, and sideburns. This policy lasted until the mid-1980s.

The 80s also saw the rise in the mustache.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

Due 100% to the standards set by Robin Olds, am I right?

Today, the mustache is still allowed, though there are now strict guidelines about how to wear it. Even a legendary triple ace from two wars like Col. Olds had to shave his as soon as he left Vietnam.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

Medal of Honor recipient Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward C. Byers Jr. sports what is probably the perfect modern military haircut: still in regs, but pushing it *just enough* to make you think.

Desert Storm and Post-9/11

Today, each branch of the military favors strict hair regulations for both men and women. There are medical exemptions extended as needed, and certain missions allow for relaxed hair standards (and even full beards), but overall, the “high and tight” reigns.

We Are The Mighty is proud to partner with Wahl, the brand used by professionals.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of May 18th

Retired Air Force Colonel and NASA astronaut, Greg Johnson posted a nice, heartfelt video for the folks seeking tips about getting through this time of isolation – as he’s something of a subject matter expert from his time in space. He makes excellent points, such as have a routine, be mindful of others, and stay positive, but I’d like to throw my two cents in from what I learned in Afghanistan.


Tip one: Don’t skip out on meals. You can even hit up midnight chow if you’d like. Beach season is cancelled this year anyway.

Tip two: Take whatever breaks you feel you need. We all basically lived in the smoke pit (regardless if we were actual smokers or not) and still somehow managed to get things done. You can too. You also have the added advantage of turning your Zoom meeting off and not having to deal with your boss all day.

Tip three: Don’t feel guilty about binge watching tv or playing video games all day. A good chunk of most Post-9/11 troops’ off-duty time on deployment was spent in the MWR doing the exact same thing and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who’d say they didn’t earn it after a stressful day.

If my list somehow looks like encouragement to become a fat, lazy couch-potato… Go for it. What do I care? I’m not your NCO. Anyway, here are some memes.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

(Meme via Not CID)

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

(Meme via Private News Network)

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

That’s why I like the film The Last Full Measure. It’s one of the only Air Force centered films that I can think of that doesn’t feature a single f*cking pilot. 

No offense to pilots, but your films are always the same. “I’m a renegade despite being bound by the UCMJ and I’ll only learn the value of being a part of a team after my actions directly cause someone’s death. Now cue the flying montage!”

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

As U.S. moves to exit Afghanistan, rivals prepare to swoop in

The U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 was backed by most countries in the region, who shared the goal of ousting the extremist Taliban regime and eliminating the allied Al-Qaeda terrorist network.

The governments in Tehran, Moscow, and Islamabad readily helped the United States fight the extremist groups.


Iran provided crucial intelligence to support U.S. special forces and CIA teams orchestrating the invasion.

Russia supplied Soviet-era maps and intelligence and later allowed the U.S. military to send supplies to Afghanistan through its territory.

Even Pakistan, the chief backer of the Taliban, offered its assistance in helping hunt down Al-Qaeda militants and became the main supply line for NATO forces.

But in the intervening 19 years, the regional consensus favoring the U.S. troops in Afghanistan has eroded.

Though the U.S. military swiftly overthrew the Taliban and eliminated Al-Qaeda safe havens in Afghanistan, many feel it got bogged down in mission creep.

Meanwhile, Washington’s ties with many regional players — including Pakistan, Iran, and Russia — became toxic.

With U.S. forces scheduled to exit Afghanistan next year as part of a framework peace deal with the Taliban, Washington’s rivals see an opportunity to step in and expand their footprint in the war-torn country.

Those efforts have intensified since the United States and the Taliban signed a deal in February aimed at negotiating an end to the war, which began way back in 2001.

Under that agreement, U.S. forces will withdraw from Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which has pledged to negotiate a permanent cease-fire and power-sharing deal with the Kabul government.

The delayed intra-Afghan peace talks are expected to be complex and protracted, and will likely take years.

Impatient to end the costly and unpopular war, President Donald Trump is considering fast-tracking the exit of American troops ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November, according to U.S. media reports.

Experts say that in the absence of a peace deal, a U.S. military withdrawal could ignite a free-for-all that involves regional powers pursuing often competing interests in Afghanistan.

“The stage has already been set, with many key actors — including Russia and Iran — increasing their ties with both the Afghan state and the Taliban,” says Michael Kugelman, South Asia senior associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

“The objective is to develop more influence and generate more leverage with key actors across the board, so that they will be in a better position to pursue and achieve their goals in a post-America Afghanistan — a place we can expect to be increasingly unstable and complex.”

Iran, Pakistan, and Russia — with long histories of meddling in the country — are hedging their bets. The three countries have sought to improve their relations with the Western-backed government in Kabul, while also reaching out to the Taliban in case it gains a role in a future Afghan government.

Islamabad has retained its long-standing ties with the Taliban and shelters the group’s leadership, while Tehran and Moscow have been tacitly working to bolster their ties with the militants, with the goal of expanding their own strategic interests in Afghanistan.

‘Make The Taliban Even Stronger’

Pakistan has long been accused of playing a double game in Afghanistan, sheltering and aiding the Taliban while receiving billions in U.S. aid to clamp down on the militants.

Pakistan’s ties to the Taliban date back to the 1990s, when it provided arms, training, and intelligence to the militants. Islamabad was one of only three countries to recognize the Taliban government when it took power in Afghanistan in 1996. After the regime’s fall in 2001, many Taliban leaders took shelter inside Pakistan.

Observers say Pakistan sees the Taliban as an insurance policy for reaching its long-standing strategic goals in Afghanistan — installing a pro-Pakistan government in Kabul and limiting the influence of its archrival India, which has close ties to Kabul.

Experts say Pakistan stands to be the biggest beneficiary of a U.S. military pullout from Afghanistan.

“If a withdrawal leads to a peace process that results in a settlement, then Pakistan would benefit as this would likely entail the Taliban holding a fair share of power,” says Kugelman. “If the peace process collapses and the U.S. withdrawal ushers in a period of extended destabilization, Pakistan would still benefit because it would make the Taliban even stronger.”

‘Buffer Zone’

Iran has supported its traditional allies in Afghanistan — the Shi’ite Hazara minority and the Persian-speaking ethnic Tajiks — while recently establishing contacts with the Taliban, a predominately Pashtun group.

Iran and the Taliban were on the verge of war in 1998 — when the group controlled most of Afghanistan — after the deaths of eight Iranian diplomats in the Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif.

Tehran backed the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. But in recent years the Islamic republic and the Taliban have forged closer ties, with militant leaders even visiting Tehran.

The relationship between Shi’ite-majority Iran and the Taliban, a fundamentalist Sunni group, is complex. Iran officially opposes the Taliban, but experts say it provides some military support to the mainstream Taliban and even rival breakaway factions.

Analysts say that while Iran does not want the Taliban to return to power, Tehran is looking to maintain influence with the group as a hedge in case the Taliban becomes a political player in Afghanistan or it forcibly seizes control of the country.

“These initiatives serve the purpose of securing Iran’s sphere of influence in Afghanistan and perhaps even creating a buffer zone on Afghan soil to protect parts of Iran’s eastern borders from infiltration by forces hostile to Iran,” says Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow at The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.

‘A Great Power’

For more than a decade after the U.S.-led invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Washington for taking on the “burden” of fighting terrorism in Afghanistan and urged it to “carry it to the end.”

But since 2014, the Kremlin has attempted to undermine the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, fueled by Moscow’s desire to be an international power broker and its rivalry with the West in Ukraine and Syria, where Russia joined Iran in supporting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Moscow said it has established contacts with the Taliban in recent years because of the common threat posed by the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Afghanistan. Washington has accused Russia of arming the Taliban, which it denies.

In the past two years, Moscow has hosted two international conferences on the Afghan peace process, inviting Taliban leaders and Afghan opposition members.

Earlier this month, U.S. media reported that a Russian military intelligence unit had offered secret bounties to the Taliban if they killed U.S. or NATO-member troops in Afghanistan.

Moscow and the Taliban have denied the reports, which are based on U.S. intelligence assessments. But the revelations have served to highlight Moscow’s murky dealings in Afghanistan.

“Russia’s interests in Afghanistan are twofold: to avoid an explosion of chaos on the borders of what it considers its sphere of influence, and to use it as an opportunity to demonstrate and assert its claim to be a great power,” says Mark Galeotti, a Russia analyst and a senior associate fellow at the British-based Royal United Services Institute.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US may send more troops to confront the mysterious Iran threat

Amid reports that the US could send anywhere from 5,000 to 120,000 additional troops to the Middle East to confront Iran, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan offered the first public confirmation May 23, 2019, that additional manpower might be needed.

Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday that the Department of Defense was looking at ways to “enhance force protection,” saying that this “may involve sending additional troops,” CNN reported.

Exactly how many troops could be headed that way remains unclear.


The New York Times reported a little over a week ago that the Trump administration was considering sending as many as 120,000 US troops to the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran. Trump called the report “fake news” the following day but said that if Iran wanted to fight, he would send “a hell of a lot more troops than that.”

On May 22, 2019, Reuters reported that the Pentagon intended to move 5,000 troops into the Middle East to counter Iran. The Associated Press said the number could be as high as 10,000.

Shanahan dismissed these reports May 23, 2019, while declining to say how many more troops might be required. “I woke up this morning and read that we were sending 10,000 troops to the Middle East and read more recently there was 5,000,” he said, according to Voice of America, adding: “There is no 10,000, and there is no 5,000. That’s not accurate.”

The US has already sent the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, a task force of B-52H Stratofortress heavy, long-range bombers, an amphibious assault vessel, and an air-and-missile defense battery to the US Central Command area of responsibility.

These assets were deployed in response to what CENTCOM called “clear indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack US forces in the region.” The exact nature of the threat is unclear, as the Pentagon has yet to publicly explain the threat.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why your radio guy is always up at 0430

Communications troops don’t get nearly the amount of love that they deserve. Sure, the job description is very attractive to the more nerdy troops in formation and they’re far more likely to be in supporting roles than kicking in doors with the grunts, but they’re constantly working.

In Afghanistan, while everyone else is still asleep, the S-6 shop is up at 0430 doing radio work. This is just one of the many tasks the commo world is gifted with having.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass
Being appreciated is, however, not one of them.
(U.S. Army Photo)


The reason they’re up so early is because they need to change the communications security (or COMSEC) regularly. In order to ensure that no enemy force is able to hack their way into the military’s secure radio systems, the crypto-key that is encoded onto the radio is changed out.

Those keys are changed out at exactly the same moment everywhere around the world for all active radio systems. Because it would be impractical to set the time that COMSEC changes over at, the global time for radio systems is set in Zulu time, which is the current time in London’s GMT/UTC +0 time zone.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass
This is also why the good radio operators carry two watches u2014 one in current time and another in Zulu time.

For troops stationed in Korea or Japan, this gives them a pleasant 0900 to change the COMSEC. Troops on America’s west coast have 1600 (which is great because it’s right before closeout formation.) If they’re stationed in Afghanistan however, they get the unarguably terrible time of 0430.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass
As if being a deployed radio operator wasn’t sh*tty enough.

Each and every radio system that will be used needs to be refilled by the appropriate radio operator. When this is just before a patrol, the sole radio operator with the SKL (the device used to encrypt radios) will usually be jokingly heckled to move faster. The process usually takes a few minutes per radio, which could take a while.

This is also why the radios themselves are set to Zulu time. If the radio is not programmed to Zulu time — or if it’s slightly off —it won’t read the encryption right and radio transmissions won’t be effective. This goes to the exact second.

So maybe cut your radio guy some slack. The only time they could be spending sleeping is used to program radios.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s the latest on the new US Air Force uniforms

Trainees entering into basic military training at the 37th Training Wing the first week of October 2019 were the first group to be issued the new Operational Camouflage Pattern uniforms.

When Air Force officials announced last year they were adopting the Army OCP as the official utility uniform, they developed a three-year rollout timeline across the force for the entire changeover. Last week put them on target for issue to new recruits entering BMT.

“Each trainee is issued four sets of uniforms with their initial issue,” said Bernadette Cline, clothing issue supervisor. “Trainees who are here in (Airmen Battle Uniforms) will continue to wear them throughout their time here and will be replaced when they get their clothing allowance.”


The 502nd Logistics Readiness Squadron Initial Issue Clothing outfits nearly 33,000 BMT trainees every year and maintains more than 330,000 clothing line items.

“We partner with Defense Logistics Agency who provides the clothing items upfront to be issued,” said Donald Cooper, Air Force initial clothing issue chief. “Then we warehouse and issue to the individuals’ size-specific clothing.”

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

U.S. Air Force basic military training trainees assigned to the 326th Training Squadron receive the first Operational Camouflage Pattern uniforms during initial issue, Oct. 2, 2019, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

After taking airmen feedback into consideration, the uniform board members said they chose the OCP for the improved fit and comfort and so that they will blend in with their soldier counterparts’ uniforms in joint environments, according to Cooper.

“Right now, if someone deploys, they’ll get it issued,” Cline said. “And now that everyone is converting over to this uniform, (the trainees) already have the uniform to work and deploy in.”

Following the timeline, the OCP should now be available online for purchase as well.

The next mandatory change listed on the timeline, to take place by June 1, 2020, will be for airmen’s boots, socks, and T-shirts to be coyote brown. Also, officer ranks to the spice brown.

Switching from two different types of utility uniforms to just one, multifunctional uniform could also simplify life for the airmen.

“I think the biggest value is going to be the thought that they aren’t required to have two uniforms anymore once they convert to a uniform that is for deployment and day-to-day work,'” Cooper said.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

Military Life

7 little ways to be an effective radio operator

Every combat arms unit needs a radio operator. Whether they enlisted as one or they were “voluntold” to be one, someone’s gotta do it. There’s a steep learning curve between being a guy with a radio pack and being the go-to radio operator. If you can manage to be the best, your unit will cherish you.

To be the best, you need to master your equipment. Learning the ins and outs of the radio takes years of hands-on training that you won’t find in any schoolhouse — you can only find it by volunteering during every field op.

That being said, there are some tips and tricks that anyone can pick up to make as a radio operator a whole lot easier.


Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass
The radio operator in the TOC may be better at their job than you…
(Photo by Ensign Rixon Fletcher)

Never place the blame on the distant end for comm problems

Want to know the fastest and easiest way to lose all credibility as a radio operator? Blame the distant end.

It might actually be the other radio operator’s fault — too bad your squad won’t look at it that way. Instead, just say that you’ve done everything you can and continue to try and make it right.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass
And if basic math is too hard for you, just get a second watch.
(Photo by Sgt. Matthew Callahan)

The problem with the radio is probably the time

The way that frequency hop works, broken down Barney style, is that a radio is given a sequence of radio frequencies to hop around to depending on the time of day. If you’ve loaded the COMSEC fill into a radio and you’re not able to talk to anyone, the time is probably wrong.

All COMSEC uses Greenwich Mean Time, so it might be easier to just set your watch to London time, regardless of where you are in the world.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass
Just don’t get violent with it — or toss it around the room.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nathan Rivard)

Drop tests totally work

Don’t question why or how it works, it just does.

Realistically, if you pick up any piece of electronics and drop it from about a foot off the ground, it could shatter or break. A SINCGARS and some of the older radio systems, however, can handle the abuse.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass
Just stop licking the damn cable. That’s f*cking nasty.
(Photo by Cpl. Bernadette Wildes)

Carry an eraser or chapstick

W4 cables are used to transmit audio and fill between a radio and whatever. Getting these damn cables to attach properly will be the bane of your existence.

Some people recommend licking the end to get it to work, but that’s just nasty. You can get the same result by just cleaning the prongs and removing gunk with an eraser. You can also use chapstick to lube it up. Sure, that might damage the cable, but since W4 cables are a dime a dozen, it doesn’t really matter.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass
Toss the bug-out bag in the vehicle — or just anywhere close by, really.
(Photo by Spc. Jesse Gross)

Extra batteries are worth the weight

Every good radio operator has a bug-out bag filled with extra crap. This bag includes the radio system itself, maybe cheat-sheets for the nine-line and everyone’s call signs, an extra hand mic, and a few spare W4s. I know they get heavy after a while, but bring some extra batteries, too.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass
Just remember to pack it back up before driving off.
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Lesley Waters)

SatCom antenneas work best on the roof of a vehicle

Unlike most line-of-sight antennas, a SatCom antennae works by, as the name implies, communicating to satellites. Just because you’ve pointed the antennae toward the other hill doesn’t mean you’ll be able to talk.

Giant metal vehicles disrupt the relatively weak signal, so placing it on the ground next to an MRAP is a terrible idea — but don’t be afraid to climb on top and place it up there if you’re not planning on moving soon. Oh, and point the antennae towards the Equator. That’s around where the satellite is supposed to be.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass
Another pro-tip: Tennis balls with holes cut in them work far better than the standard-issue tips.
(U.S. Army)

OE-254s still work if the antenna is a bit wonky

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen new radio operators and uptight NCOs waste plenty of time trying to get their OE-254 antenna to stand up perfectly straight. The actual pole doesn’t matter. As long as the head of the antenna isn’t broken and is connected, it’ll work just fine.

Now, don’t misinterpret that. This is just meant to say that it’ll be operational. Hell, you could duct-tape it to the top of a tree and it’ll still work (trust me, I know). This doesn’t mean you should half-ass setting up an OE-254 just because you think it’ll be fine. You better be damn sure that it’s secure.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Airstrikes to Continue in Syria Against ISIS

U.S. forces have continued air and artillery strikes in Syria against Islamic State targets and will conduct them indefinitely despite President Donald Trump’s announcement Dec. 19, 2018, that U.S. troops would withdraw from the country, the U.S. military regional command said Jan. 4, 2019.

In a release, Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) said that U.S. and coalition forces conducted 469 strikes with either air or artillery in Syria between Dec.16 and Dec. 29, 2018, against a range of ISIS targets and in support of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeastern Syria.


The strikes were carried out using a variety of platforms, including fighters, attack aircraft, bombers, rotary-wing and remotely piloted aircraft, rocket-propelled artillery and ground-based tactical artillery, the task force said.

There is no immediate cutoff date for the air and artillery strikes, CJTF-OIR said.

U.S. forces “will continue to target ISIS” and “will remain committed to the enduring defeat of ISIS to improve conditions for peace and stability in the region,” the release stated.

In addition to the U.S. and coalition strikes, Iraqi fighter aircraft have also attacked ISIS targets inside Syria in recent days.

Iraq’s Joint Operations Command in Baghdad said Dec. 31, 2018, that Iraqi F-16s hit a house near the Iraqi border that was being used for meetings by ISIS leaders. The attack Dec. 31, 2018, came a day after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he had no objections to Iraqi cross-border strikes that were limited to the remnants of ISIS in eastern Syria.

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Commanders of the SDF, which has driven ISIS out of most of eastern Syria, initially charged that Trump’s withdrawal announcement amounted to a betrayal that would leave them prey to threatened attack by Turkey, but SDF fighters have continued to press the offensive against ISIS near the Iraqi border, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

Turkey considers the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units), the main fighting force within the SDF, to be linked to the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), which has been labeled a terrorist group by the U.S., Turkey and the European Union.

In another sign that the U.S. is continuing to support the SDF, the Observatory said Jan. 4, 2019, that U.S. troops were conducting patrols in the flashpoint town of Manbij in northeastern Syria near the Turkish border. Turkey has demanded that elements of the SDF in Manbij leave the town and withdraw east of the Euphrates River.

Since his withdrawal announcement, which prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Trump has repeatedly backed up his intention to bring home U.S. troops from Syria, but said the withdrawal would be “slow and coordinated.”

Why Sergeant Major doesn’t want you walking on the grass

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

At a White House Cabinet meeting Jan 2, 2019, Trump said, “We’ve had a tremendous success in Syria and “we’re slowly bringing people back.”

He added, “We are doing something that, frankly, if I would have told you two years [ago], when we first came into office, that we would have had that kind of success, nobody would have believed it.”

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

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