The moment a troop gets his or her DD-214, they start to feel that bittersweet freedom settle in. Sure, they can enjoy the little things in life, like sleeping in until 8 am, and go more than a single day without shaving, but life is never the same. Saying your goodbyes to the brothers and sisters you’ve earned is the hardest.
Every now and then, however, a troop won’t find themselves alone — a comrade will join them in the civilian world.
It’s a true sign of friendship when those veterans who fought together are now cruising the local bars as a unit, just like they did when they were still in.
It’s not uncommon for veterans to make friends with other veterans, but this one goes out to the buddies that endure the suck and venture into the civilian world, shoulder to shoulder.
It’s always good to have someone to embrace the new suck with.
Their goals and interests are aligned
Friendships in the military are formed by sharing suffering, but brotherhood is formed when two can talk to each other about things outside of work.
If both veterans share plans of doing something, like attending college to get a degree in criminal justice, they’ll do it together. They’ll probably be roommates through it all, too.
You’ll need someone with a tolerance for BS as low as yours.
They can’t relate to civilians
The civilian-military divide is real. Not only do civilians have a hard time understanding what being in the military is really like, the troops also lose touch with what civilians are up to.
Trends in pop culture don’t have any real effect on people who’ve been in a desert for 12 months without internet access. The only people veterans can relate to are the other troops who also skipped whatever viral joke is currently big.
No one will lie for you like the guys that covered for you when you were “at dental.”
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
Their friendship circle is closed enough
There’s an upper limit on good will for most veterans. Keeping track of all the niceties you’re socially obligated to upkeep gets exhausting. The only thing you need to do to maintain a strong bond with another veteran is show up with beer.
An easy test of a friendship is if both can sit and drink a beer in silence without feeling awkward.
It’s hard to impress veterans when sh*t like this was just called “Tuesday.”
They know how to keep things interesting
Veterans are rarely boring. A civilian friend may come over for a beer and talk about mundane crap, but veteran stories are always filled with foul, disgusting, and down-right hilarious details.
This isn’t even a skill that’s shared among the troops that served together. Veterans have mastered the art of enjoying the little things in life — you’ll never find a better storyteller.
Get out with your brother and you’ll never have to bother the prior service recruiter.
They promised each other they would
The military has bred us to be creatures of commitment. If we say something in passing, we’re going to keep our word — no matter how insignificant or nearly impossible it seems.
Years down the line, one veteran will turn to the other and say something along the lines of, “I promised you that I would, didn’t I?”
Over the past few years, public awareness of veteran suicide has increased and, more importantly, people are more aware than ever before of the resources available to help struggling veterans and active-duty service members. However, in the past year, we’ve noticed a disturbing new aspect of the problem — there have been a number of recent suicides among high-profile veterans who stood as beacons of hope for others in the suicide prevention movement.
At the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), our Red Team has been reflecting on these losses and their impact on suicide prevention and postvention efforts across the military and veteran community.
The late Pfc. Kevin S. Jacobs, United States Marine Corps infantryman. Pfc. Kevin Jacobs struggled with anxiety, emotional pain, and grief due to his experiences at war. Both he and his brother Bryan Keith Jacobs a veteran U.S. Navy Corpsman suffered from PTSD and emotionally began to drift apart. Kevin’s experiences eventually got the best of him, and on Memorial Day, May 28, 2014, Kevin died by suicide. (Guest Photo by Bryan Keith Jacobs, U.S. Navy Veteran)
If any among us believes that suicide is an act of weakness, we should alter our thinking: even the strongest of us — the fierce tribe of warriors who fight our wars — sometimes die by suicide. A man or woman can be a hero to many, noted for his or her uncommon bravery and unconquerable fighting spirit, and still be at risk. Such a man or woman is a true hero.
A second truth is that death by suicide leaves a wake of loss, risk, and regret that is devastating to our community. Many times, I have witnessed and walked with veterans who are cut to the core by this kind of loss. They often say that they “did not see it coming.” In addition to shock and overwhelming grief, they often feel angry that their brother or sister did not reach out to them. Far too often have I heard, “I would have dropped everything to be there if I had only known.”
Soldiers with 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, behavioral health team, host a Cars Against Suicide Car Show Dec. 1, 2017 at Fort Stewart, Ga. The Cars against Suicide event was hosted by 2nd ABCT in an effort to promote awareness and offer resources to help prevent suicide. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Robert Winns)
They also express a deep sense of helplessness, a kind of helplessness that puts them directly at risk for self-destructive actions. And sometimes, when they think of losing a leader among them to suicide, they feel great fear. If this fear had a voice, it might say, “if suicide felt like the only option for a person this strong, what does that mean for me?”
These reactions are the last thing their hero would have wanted them to think and feel.
A family and an entire community can be changed forever based on a decision made in one day of suffocating despair. There is the heroic life lived, but also the death that leaves behind more loss and destruction. How can we make sense of senseless loss?
Based on our work with veterans and military service members over the past ten years, here are 3 things we offer for the community to consider.
3. The tribe is stronger than the power of despair.
To learn to be seamlessly interdependent is to reach the summit of our human potential — it is not a sign of weakness. The lifeblood of those who do battle together is love and trust between those who would lay their lives down for each other.
Connection with the tribe is the protective factor that buffers against despair and disconnection, even in the most extreme situations. This bond of trust is stronger than despair and, when the tribe comes together and locks shields, it has a power that can defeat demons.
2. Balancing legacy and prevention.
Suicidal thinking arises in the context of a perfect storm of events; there’s never just one precipitating event. Self-destructive acts are most often the result of a combination of overwhelming mental anguish, physical pain, a biochemistry altered by chronically poor sleep, and events that create a perception of acute hopelessness. What are we to do if a perfect storm presents itself to us? Here, we can continue to find meaning and hope from the life of a hero and the things that he or she stood for.
While it is important to honor the life lived, it is equally important to balance that message with education, resources, and support around preventing additional suicides. We must think about the message that he or she carried over many years of life, while also understanding the contributing factors of that single, perfect-storm day. What did the person argue for with all of their energies while they were alive? Can their death be used to support the message that was so important during their life? Did this person advocate for turning to one’s tribe, for trusting in one’s community to supply the strength to fight demons? Was this person able to do for themselves what they encouraged in others?
These are the lessons learned on the look back that balance preventing another loss of life with the heroic life lived.
1. Leaders also need the tribe.
Finally, those who stand as a beacon of hope may have some under-appreciated vulnerabilities. Veterans are often driven to find a next mission and derive a great sense of purpose — sometimes even life-saving purpose — from inspiring others to stay in the fight. However, when veterans become caregivers and public examples of strength, there is an additional pressure that is placed on their shoulders as they hold the hope of their brothers and sisters. Veterans have expressed to us that as soon as they became a caregiver of other veterans, they have felt, in some indescribable way, a door is closed to them in terms of seeking help for themselves.
As we work with veteran and military leaders, we have observed that their first instinct is often to isolate in the hope of “getting it together” when their stress feels overwhelming. It runs against their instincts, developed through training and culture, to turn to their tribe when they themselves need support. This does not mean that they do not believe in the value of help-seeking, but may feel shame and guilt when they need it for themselves.
Maybe these leaders and heroes become like a lighthouse, helping keep other people safe, holding strong against the storm. But what happens when the lighthouse itself becomes enveloped by lashing waves and raging seas? How does it signal distress? Who looks out for the lighthouse and how can we make sure that all can turn towards the tribe of those they love and trust to lend them strength to fight their demons? Leaders also need the tribe.
When we’re aware a perfect storm is brewing, one of the best things we can do is connect the person with their tribe and with resources that can help — whether that person is a peer or a leader.
TAPS offers comprehensive, best-practice postvention support services for suicide loss survivors, including the 24/7 Helpline (1-800-959-TAPS), virtual groups and chats for survivors, and on-the-ground events and gatherings.
Veterans and their loved ones can call the Veterans Crisis Line by dialing 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Shauna Springer is the Senior Director of TAPS Red Team within the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. Dr. Springer is a licensed psychologist with an undergraduate degree from Harvard University and a Doctoral degree from the University of Florida. Known to many veterans as “Doc Springer,” she has helped hundreds of warriors reconnect with their tribe, strengthen their most important relationships, and build lives that are driven by their deepest values. TAPS Red Team provides training and consultation related to suicide prevention and postvention to clinicians, military leadership, policymakers, and organizations.
Every branch of the service has that place their soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines just dream of getting orders for.
That place could be anywhere that might appeal to an individual… maybe they love the cultural experience of being in Europe, or they enjoy the sun in Hawaii, or maybe they’re just away from their hometown.
These aren’t those places.
Army: Fort Polk, Louisiana
Ever hear of Leesville, Lousiana? No? Good for you. Living in a swamp is not something anyone grew up dreaming about. The nearest towns are at least an hour away, and the nearest fun is in New Orleans, a long drive away.
Sure, the PX is supposedly great thanks to a facelift, but it had better be: There’s nothing else to do. Fort Polk will supposedly ruin your car, ruin your marriage, and make you hate biting lizards.
Navy: NAS Lemoore
Hey, how does being cast out into one of the most polluted cities on the planet sound? Because NAS Lemoore is a great place to get asthma.
Most people who haven’t been to Clovis will argue that I spelled “Minot” wrong. I argue that any place referred to as “Afcannonstan” is probably far worse.
Both places are pretty remote, and while Minot has a seemingly endless winter, the people of Clovis are annually subjected to a wave of giant insects. Also, the stink of cow dung doesn’t travel as far in the cold. Cannon’s airmen would tell you to be happy it’s so cold.
Marine Corps: Twentynine Palms, California
All of the duty stations on this list have one thing in common: They’re pretty far from real American life. Twentynine Palms is no different. These guys are smack-dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert.
So, Marines can prep for sandstorms in the Middle East with sandstorms right here at home. And remember, when airmen complain about the smell of cow manure in the desert, Marines can complain about the lake of sewage.
Coast Guard: You tell me.
The Coast Guard talks about its districts like it’s in the world of The Hunger Games. Everyone seems to love district 13. In fact, as much flak as the Coast Guard gets for being the awkward child of the military, the Coast Guard doesn’t seem to have a “worst” station among them.
I’m told the station at Venice, Louisiana can be pretty bad and that the CG will let you choose your follow on orders for doing a tour there. But no one ever seems to talk Twentynine Palms-level smack about any station.
For one Airman, deciding to switch careers from a law enforcement tradition to serving her country was no easy decision.
Joining the Air Force wasn’t an easy decision for Senior Airman Shayna Dunn, 690th Cyberspace Operations Squadron network manager operator, but looking back she feels it was the right one for her.
“My father was a Marine and he met my mother while stationed in Germany,” said Dunn, who grew up in Stafford, Virginia. “By the time I was born, my father was no longer in the military, and was working as a Capital Police officer.”
While in high school, Dunn developed an interest in criminal justice from influences from her father and television.
“I used to watch a lot of criminal justice shows like ‘NCIS’ or ‘Criminal Minds’ and I ended up taking a class in high school and it piqued my interest,” she said.
Dunn attended James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
After college, Dunn was offered an opportunity to work with the U.S. Secret Service, but while training, an injury caused her to rethink her plans.
“One day while training, I ended up fracturing my wrist and during my recovery I was tasked with more administrative work,” said Dunn. “During this time I had to decide if I wanted to continue down my current path or did I want to do something else. On one hand, I was in a position where I should have been content with this job, however, on the other hand, something internally just didn’t feel right.”
After much deliberation, Dunn decided to resign from the U.S. Secret Service and start on a new path by joining the Air Force.
Breaking the news to her family and friends about her decision wasn’t easy.
“To some, my decision was surprising,” said Dunn. “It took a little while for people to understand where I was coming from, which made it difficult for me because I didn’t want to let anyone down, I didn’t want to let my family down, my friends down.”
Even though it took Dunn a year to make it Basic Military Training, it wasn’t until she arrived that she felt confident with her decision to enlist.
After being assigned to the 690th COS for her first assignment, Dunn earned several awards, made Senior Airman below-the-zone, and met her future husband.
“If I had to describe Shayna, she is humble and caring, always putting others before herself,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Dunn, 690th COS cyber systems operator.
To some, the uncertainty of not knowing the outcome of a decision can be exhausting, but for Shayna, her difficult choice proved to be worthwhile.
Keeping your head on a swivel, eyes always on alert, and being prepared for anything are just a few of ways Marines serving in the infantry stay vigilant while forward deployed.
With the constant threat of danger lurking around every corner, many veterans use music as a way to relax and recenter; some, like John Preston, take it one step further and use music to tell their stories and encourage others not to give up hope.
During a tour in Iraq, Preston began his music career by writing the song “Good Good America,” which propelled John into the industry and landed him a record deal upon his return home.
For the next few years, John slowly veered away from music and became a firefighter — but his passion for music didn’t die out.
Luckily, he managed to return to music signing with Pacific Records and quickly released his first single “This Is War” in the fall of 2014. The song became a national media topic after a Marine veteran made a call-to-action to veterans across the nation to make a stand against ISIS.
John’s musical momentum began taking shape once again as his record label released several of his songs in the following months.
“We are taking our message to the public, and today we tell the mainstream that we are here and we are loud. The perception of the broken veteran is a myth that we refuse to buy into,” Preston tells WATM. “My music is about our lives and the real battles we have and continue to fight: on and off the battlefield. We are here to show our community and the general public our talent, work ethic, and our drive to push forward through all adversity.”
Sadly, in January of 2016, John’s brother ended his own life after a hard battle with post-traumatic stress. The action almost convinced Preston to end his music career once again but has instead fueled his passion and his new single “Superman Falls.”
Preston is an executive producer on the album, which climbed to #21 on the iTunes rock charts. The song continues to spread throughout the veteran community as well as the mainstream music scene. To check out the John Preston’s music on iTunes click here.
Currently signed with Concore Entertainment/Universal Music Group, his newest single “Before I am Gone” was released on September 5, 2017. To check out the John plans on donating 100 percent of his profits to Stop Soldier Suicide.
John plans on donating 100 percent of his profits to Stop Soldier Suicide.
Check out John Preston’s video below to watch his behind the scenes footage.
The U.S. Army first started training troops in the jungles of Panama in 1916, just two years after the opening of the Panama Canal. Training began in earnest in the early 1940s as World War II in the Pacific necessitated the need for soldiers to be well-versed in the tactics of jungle warfare.
The 158th Infantry Regiment even adopted the nickname “Bushmasters” after the vicious pit viper they encountered while training there.
However, it was not until 1953, as the Korean War was drawing to an end, that the Army finally established a formal school, called the Jungle Operations Training Center. Operations ramped up once again during the 1960s in order to meet the demand for jungle-trained soldiers to fight in Vietnam.
In 1976, the Army realized it would be more efficient to train whole battalions at one time rather than training individuals piecemeal and sending them back to their home station. Those battalions would go through some of the toughest, most grueling training the Army had to offer. The jungle itself provides challenges of its own.
The thick, triple canopy and dense foliage made radios all but useless and reduced visibility to just a few yards. Rain and humidity ensured soldiers were constantly wet and the jungle floor was always slick with mud, which the soldiers had to march and crawl through.
There were tree roots and vines on which to trip or become entangled. Other plants offered worse. A manual written for troops stationed in Panama during World War II listed over 100 poisonous or injurious varieties of flora. Leaning or brushing against the wrong plant could lead to some rather uncomfortable conditions.
If the plants weren’t bad enough, there was local wildlife to contend with. Poisonous snakes and bugs surely top the list of unwanted encounters. Enormous spiders would spin giant webs across narrow jungle paths. Snakes waited in the underbrush and in trees. Jim Smit, a National Guard platoon sergeant and Vietnam veteran captured and killed a fifteen-foot boa constrictor during his time at Jungle Warfare School.
He said it was the best training, short of combat, that any soldier could undertake.
There was also the venomous and dangerous Bushmaster pit viper. Mercifully, the snakes preferred not to make contact with humans, so encounters were rare. Rounding out the dangerous reptiles in the area were the crocodiles that lived in the waterways nearby.
However, the worst encounter for many soldiers was the common mosquito. They are ubiquitous in jungle environments and are a terrible nuisance. Although most bites simply leave soldiers itchy, their most dangerous quality is their ability to carry malaria. In the jungle, a little carelessness can lead to a lot of pain. Failing to properly secure mosquito netting at night could mean waking up covered in mosquito bites. Even with the netting, soldiers weren’t entirely safe. Exposed skin, carelessly pressed against the net while sleeping, would be open to bites.
It was in this setting that the Army conducted some of the best training and created some of the best unit cohesion possible. The terrible conditions forced soldiers and leaders alike to have to think through situations while not being able to simply go “by the book.”
This is because the jungle is a great equalizer in combat conditions. The thick foliage interferes with radio signals, renders night-vision devices nearly useless, and stops hand-held GPS devices from working properly. Soldiers at Jungle Warfare School could not rely on the technological advantages they were accustomed to.
These circumstances were what made the Jungle Warfare School unique, though. While soldiers learned how to operate in the jungle learned many valuable warfighting skills that are difficult to replicate in other environments.
Although not technically authorized for wear, many students who completed the school wore the Jungle Expert tab or patch.
Despite the unique nature of the school and the exceptional training it provided, it was not relocated when Fort Sherman closed down in 1999. Soldiers would not have the opportunity to attend Jungle Warfare School again for another fifteen years, when it was reopened in Hawaii in 2014.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
*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.
Squads are the most fundamental part of the military. While you can generally get by with having an issue with someone else in the company, a squad can’t function unless everyone is on the same level.
It takes years to earn someone’s trust to the point of knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that they have your back. To get the new guys in the squad up to speed, they’ll have to be given a crash course in earning it.
There is a difference between impressing the squad and impressing the platoon sergeant. Choose wisely.
(Photo by Spc. Noel Williams)
PT as well in the morning
the uninitiated may think that the fastest way to earn respect is to out-hustle, out-perform, and outlast the rest. The problem here is that morning PT isn’t designed to improve — it’s for sustaining one’s assumed peak performance. If you’re looking to improve, it’ll probably happen off-duty.
With that in mind, many troops who’ve been in for years won’t be impressed by the new kid smoking everyone on the pull-up bar. They’re probably hungover from drinking the night before. During morning PT, there’s no way to improve your standing with the guys, but making everyone else look bad will definitely cost you some points.
This also means don’t ever miss the 50m target — you will be justifiably ridiculed.
(Photo by Sgt. Maj. Peter Breuer)
Shoot as good at the range
This rings especially true with line units. It’s also assumed that by the time a Drill Instructor hands off a boot to the unit, they’re ready to be hardened killing machines. Taking time to train someone to shoot perfectly is no longer in the training schedule, there’re still guys who’ve been in the unit for ages rocking a “pizza box,” or Marksman badge.
If you can show everyone that you’re not some kid, but rather someone who’s ready to train with the big boys, the squad will take notice and use you to belittle the guy who missed the 50m target. That’s a good thing for you.
Or keep an eye out for staff duty and keep them occupied so they don’t crash the party.
(Screengrab via YouTube)
Party as hard in the barracks
Barracks parties are very tight-knit. There may be some cross-over with other platoons or companies that are cool with whomever is hosting, so don’t fret and be cool. It’s a real sign of trust if someone is willing to show you to the others off-duty.
Chances are that most boots are fresh out of high school. No one wants to party with the kid who’s going to get them arrested by the MPs for underage drinking. For all the legal reasons, you really shouldn’t be drinking if you’re under 21 (even though we all know what happens in the barracks). You can still play a part, however, by being the designated driver or helping others who’ve drank too much by grabbing water, junk food, and sports drinks.
Chances are that the joke, just like your first time, will be quickly forgotten by most people involved.
(Photo by Pfc. Vaniah Temple)
Joke as witty off-duty
As odd as it sounds, the surefire way to make everyone in the squad trust you is to get them to like you. They’ll overlook a lot of your flaws if you’re not quite “grunt enough” if you can make them laugh.
No one wants to be around the guy who’s telling the same unfunny story that ends with getting yelled at by the drill sergeant. No matter how mind-blowing it was to you back then, I assure you that it’s nothing special. Dig deep and find that real humor. Joke about something personal, like the first time you got intimate with someone. There’s definitely an awkward moment in there that’s funny to reflect on.
I’m just sayin’. Nearly every friendship is sealed in the smoke pit.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo)
Be as loyal when the time comes
There’s no concrete way to know when this time will come, but it will. At some point, everything will be on the line and you need to swoop in with the clutch. When it happens, you’ll know.
This is when you’ll show the squad that you’re one of them — that you value the rest of the guys above your own well-being. It could be as large as saving everyone’s ass from an enraged first sergeant to just bringing an extra pack of cigarettes to the field. Get to know your squad and you’ll know what it takes.
History books will forever speak of the countless heroics and astonishing life of General George S. Patton. He’ll always be remembered as the Army officer who became an Olympian, the “Bandit Killer” at Columbus, the “Father of Armor” in WWI, and the liberator of Europe. It’s hard for anyone to stand in that shadow, but Helen Patton, his granddaughter, would have made him extremely proud.
Like every member of the Patton family, Helen has done many great things with her life while also carrying the torch for her father and grandfather. From attending ceremonies commemorating WWII anniversaries to heading up the Patton Foundation, which aids returning troops and veterans in need, Helen continues the Patton tradition of giving to our great country.
She also set out to fix a missed opportunity in history by hosting the soldiers of the 101st Airborne in a game of football. In 1944, there were plans for the troops to play what was dubbed “The Champagne Bowl.” These plans were cut short on Christmas Day because they needed in a march toward the Battle of the Bulge.
With Luxembourg firmly liberated for the past 74 years, Helen Patton played in integral role in hosting what was renamed the “Remembrance Bowl.” The game was played on June 2nd, 2018, in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, France by men of the 101st. Patton told the Army Times,
“I felt that we should play the game that never happened for them. It’s a new way to commemorate. It’s a way to turn the page of history.”
The event will now be an annual tradition.
Helen Patton champions military history as well. She has produced two award-winning documentaries, one about General John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing and another about the continued struggles of war long after troops return.
She also hosted an amazing TEDxTalk about her grandfather, which can be seen below:
Every Marine alive will talk about their drill instructors from boot camp because they’re they’re the ones who turned them into Marines. But you’ll rarely ever hear about their combat instructors, which is strange considering that the School of Infantry is much more difficult than boot camp.
You meet your combat instructors when you report to Camp Lejeune or Pendleton. The Marines bound for the infantry go to the Infantry Training Battalion and the POGs go to Marine Combat Training. Infantry Marines will, without exception, look back on this training as the worst they’ve experienced — and part of that is because of the instructors.
These are reasons why combat instructors are actually tougher than your drill instructors.
You may want to listen up to what they’re trying to tell you.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery B. Martin)
They’re all combat veterans
Not all drill instructors are combat veterans. In fact, for some, the only Iraq or Afghanistan they saw was in pictures.
This is absolutely not the case with combat instructors. Alpha Company at the west coast SOI in 2013 had an instructor cadre with in which every single one had done multiple deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan.
They’ll break you off but the key is to not quit.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ashley D. Gomez)
They don’t care about numbers
Drill instructors in boot camp will talk all day about how you can’t quit, but the truth is that you can — and plenty of people do. The fact is, drill instructors are out to keep as many recruits as they can.
Your combat instructors, on the other hand, will actively do everything they can to make your life a living hell to weed out the weaklings. Some slip through the cracks, but not many.
The look in their eyes will tell you everything you need to know.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery B. Martin)
They were all infantry Marines
To teach the next generation of grunts, you have to be one yourself. This makes them a lot scarier than a drill instructor who spent their entire career sitting behind a desk, eating hot meals three times a day. Infantry Marines live a life that revolves around the elimination of the enemy and breaking their things. They spend most of their day at least thinking about how to do this to the best of their ability.
If you keep your mouth shut, you’ll probably make it through training.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Lukas Kalinauskas)
They aren’t afraid to haze you
This never officially happens, but if you f*ck up at SOI, your combat instructor will make sure you pay for it accordingly. They’re training the next generation of hardened war fighters, so they have to know you can handle a few push-ups with a big rock on your back.
You’ll just feel like you disappointed your dad who didn’t really like you to begin with.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Carlin Warren)
They never had to use a frog voice
Combat Instructors rarely yell at people and that’s terrifying in its own right. But, when they do, they don’t change their voice to sound more intimidating — they know you’re already afraid of them, so they take advantage of that. They’ll yell at you at a lower volume and dismantle the fiber of your being.
You laughed at it, don’t lie.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
They encourage others to join in on the berating
If a drill instructor is tearing someone apart and the platoon laughs at something they say, everyone might get punished. A combat instructor will use it to add to what they’re telling you. They practically encourage others to join in on the insulting.
At the end of the day, though, they’re trying to make sure you have what it takes to be an infantry Marine. This means you have to prove your physical and mental fortitude.
You never forget your first…team leader. They’re the one who taught you how the fleet really works. They provide sage advice for the upcoming deployment and can be the difference between a good or bad first impression of military service. A team leader who provides a good example can set you up for a successful career and the knowledge may even save the life of others.
1. You train how you fight
Marine train how we fight….or we will correct that mistake. Every training evolution is a field of battle. What you do here will echo what you will do in combat. Marines are a different breed, on paper we will adhere to every black and white line. In actual training, we will work the hell out of you. This is how you will react when the bullets in country. High command may apologize but the squad leaders in charge of the lives of your sons will not. We will bring them home, dead or alive. One team, one fight, Marines do not fight as a person – we fight as a unit. Push harder, run faster, shoot better!
2. Ignorance can kill
Small unit leadership is the cornerstone of Marine Corps. Lessons learned from urban combat have transformed our Corps into the ‘it must be destroyed overnight’ reputation. A private and an officer must be able to call mortars when the need arises. Time and time again, across all wars, Marines are masters of combined arms. Our pilots in the skies, the lance corporal on the ground, and armored assaults are a testament to our resilience and heritage of those who came before us.
As a lowly private I could call fire missions. When Marines are called to do God’s work there is no excuse why one cannot call a casualty evacuation. On leave you met their mothers. In garrison we drank together. Complacency kills, so does ignorance. “I did not know how to do that’ is not an acceptable answer for a Marine to tell a mother, who entrusted you with her son, when you hand her a folded flag. Learn you knowledge, boots, we depend on you although seniors will never admit it.
3. You are an ambassador
“Everywhere go, you are an ambassador to our cause.” The man who said those words is no longer among us. I miss my team to a degree a cannot put into words. As an immigrant those words will forever echo in my heart. It was the first time I felt accepted as an American. “Make us proud.” Marines have a legacy and we must conduct ourselves in a manner that makes the warriors of the past proud.
4. A Marine POW is personal
To the enemies of the state, to the insurgents in the desert, to the communists infecting the pacific: we will not rest, we will not falter. We are coming. A Marine prisoner of war is not forgotten. We drank together, we bled together, we leave together. Marines bond with stories of home when they have down time. We know the trials and tribulations one has endured. Yes, we know all about the exes, the plagues that have onslaught our families, and we know every intimate detail of what went wrong that ends with us holding a loaded rifle. An assault on a Marine is an assault on the Marine Corps itself. Blood in, blood out. No one gets left behind.
5. Real Marines are forged in combat
This one is going to strike a cord with some but the truth hurts. The infantry is a fraternity of brothers with a pact made in blood. There are milestones that distinguish a person as a Marine, there are checks-in-a-box that make you an infantryman, but no ceremony on earth will separate you from the rest than firing your weapon in anger. There is no feeling on earth that can compare than in the fog of war, taking a breath, with a slow and steady squeeze and watching pink mist appear exactly where you wanted it to. In the end, that’s what we were trained to do, no, born to do. America needs you to stick your hand in the sh*t and walk it off, Marine. A good leader will teach you that.
American-style taco – shell + sushi rice = a dish to heal the wounds of WWII. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)
Kon’nichiwa, TACO RICE.
Meals Ready To Eat explored the advent of one of Japan’s most popular street foods when host August Dannehl traveled to Okinawa in search of taco rice, a true food fusion OG.
If you were to suggest that spiced taco meat dressed in shredded lettuce, cheese, and tomato, would seem a bastard topping to foist upon sushi rice, Japan’s most sacred and traditional foodstuff, well, in Okinawa at least, you’d find yourself on the receiving end of a lesson in local history.
Taco Rice is the result of two post-WWII cultures: that of the Japanese and the American troops stationed in Okinawa, finding a way to transcend their differences through the combination of comforting foods.
An influx of American delicacies, most notably Spam, flooded the island following the cessation of hostilities and led to a heyday of culinary cross-pollination. Spam is still featured in many now-traditional Okinawan dishes, but taco rice is, for modern Okinawans and American military personnel, the belle of the mash-up Ball.
There aren’t many ranks throughout the U.S. Armed Forces that have a lateral promotion between two separate ranks at the same pay grade. The difference between Master Sergeants and First Sergeants is nearly the same as Sergeants Major and Command Sergeants Major. One is a command position and the other enjoys their life isn’t.
And then there is the anomaly that only exists within the Army’s E-4 pay grade system: having both a non-commissioned officer rank, Corporal, and the senior lower enlisted rank, Specialist.
Originally, the U.S. Army rank went from Private First Class directly into the leadership position of a Corporal — similar to the way it works in the Marine Corps. They would take their first steps into the wider world of leadership. In the past (and still to this day), they serve more as assistant leaders to their Sergeant, generally as an assistant squad leader or fire-team leader.
Today, Corporals are often rare in the U.S. Army outside of combat arms units. While a Corporal is by all definitions an NCO, they aren’t often privy to the niceties of Sergeants and above. It’s very common to hear phrases like: “We need all E-4’s and below for this duty” — that includes the Corporal. The other side of the coin is when an ass chewing comes down on the NCOs of a unit: “We need all NCOs in the training room, now” — that, too, includes the Corporal.
A specialist exists as a mid-century relic where a separate rank system was established to differentiate someone who was a “Specialist” in their MOS but not necessarily an NCO. This would mostly apply to, for example, a member of the Army band member outside of D.C or West Point. From 1959 to 1968, this went up from E-4 (Spec/4) to E-9 (Spec/9) but it slowly tapered off until 1985 when it became just an E-4 rank.
This is more or less the concept of the modern Specialist. The idea is that a Specialist would focus on their MOS instead of leading troops. In practice, a specialist is given the responsibilities of being a buffer zone between Privates and Sergeants. In execution, they often shrug off physical duties to the lower ranks and any leadership duties to the higher ranks. This is called the “sham shield of the E-4 Mafia.”
A Specialist is definitely the easier rank. Think of a big fish in a little pond versus the little fish in the big pond. The Privates are required to show respect to their senior ranks, so they treat both the Specialist and the Corporal as a higher-up. But often times the Senior Enlisted ignore Specialists but toss things like paperwork onto the Corporal. Sergeants tend to treat Specialists with more leniency. If they mess up something small, it’s fine. If a Corporal messes up at all, they get an ass chewing like the big kids.
But there is a positive note for the Corporal that comes with having more responsibility. While it isn’t necessary for a Specialist to become a Corporal to move on to Sergeant, a Corporal rank shows that the soldier is ready for more responsibility and will show that the soldier is far more responsible when it comes to picking positive things like when a slot for an awesome school opens up.
The Corporal will more than likely get in before the Specialist.