This video starts with Marines engaged in a firefight against the Taliban in the Afghan countryside in 2012. All of a sudden, around the 0:50 mark, shots are fired and the helmet camera scans to the left as a Marine goes down. The next thing you hear is him yelling, “aghhh, aghhh, I’m f–king hit!”
The Marine settles into a state of temporary frantic but is quickly calmed when his battle buddy comes to assist. Trained for this type of scenario, the assisting Marine methodically removes his buddy’s gear to get to the wound while yelling for a corpsman.
The corpsman arrives, treats the wounded soldier, and by the end of the video the he walks himself to the helicopter on his own for evacuation.
Every recruit needs to make it through Basic Training before they earn the right to be called Soldiers. Drill sergeants have just two goals: to break the civilian out of their platoon and to give recruits a crash course in military lifestyle.
Some drill sergeants may impart all of their knowledge onto recruits in as short a time as possible. Others may humorously scold their platoon. Others still may take their anger out on their platoon. It’s impossible to say exactly which kind of experience is in store for recruits because each drill sergeant is different.
But what is near universal is their commitment to maintaining order and discipline. When they say any of the following, you know heads are about to roll.
“Half right, face.”
The command “Half right, face” means that you shift your current facing 45 degrees to the right. This opens up the formation for some, uh, “remedial training.”
And I don’t mean the standard “front-leaning rest position, move!” (translation: push-ups). That gets old after a while. No, instead, drill sergeants will come up with the most off-the-wall exercises that will make you question your physical limits.
“Toe the f*cking line”
There’s nothing out of the ordinary about “toeing the line.” Everyone in the bay stands to receive the next command from drill sergeants.
What sets this one apart is when they sprinkle some flavorful expletives in there. This means, specifically, that someone just became the reason that everyone’s about to feel some wrath.
“…I said,” followed by whatever they previously said
Drill sergeants shouldn’t have to repeat themselves. There’s a general understanding that everything needs to be broken down so simply that even a fresh-out-of-high-school kid can comprehend.
If the drill sergeant tells you to raise your duffel bag above your head, do not hesitate and make them repeat the order. The outcome is never pretty.
The military moves at an insane pace. Run here, run there. Be there 30 minutes prior to being 30 minutes early. There is no escaping this pace.
Drill sergeants know that recruits are given near-impossible timelines to achieve a given goal, like eating an entire plate of chow in five seconds. It’s not about making it within time, though. It’s about getting recruits as close to that impossible goal as possible. Continually practice until every possible second is shaved off a task. If a drill sergeant is reminding you to hurry up, you’re taking too long.
“Hey, battle! Come here!”
On the rarest of occasions, a recruit may do something so impressive that one drill sergeant will gloat to another and, if the stars have aligned, praise may be given to that recruit.
More often than not, when a drill sergeant calls for another drill sergeant, it’s to laugh at how foolish a recruit was. Now, both drill sergeants will take turns smoking the stupid out of said reruit.
“Whose ____ is this?”
Every other Soldier knows that “gear adrift is a gift.” Every other Soldier knows that “there’s only one thief in the Army.” Later on down the road, it sucks when your gear gets “tactically re-purposed,” but it’s just part of the lifestyle.
But recruits do not have the luxury of taking it on the chin and buying a replacement. If the drill sergeant finds anything left alone, like an unsecured wall locker, they will teach everyone the importance of proper gear security.
Many years down the line, if you ever run into them again outside of training, then (and only then) might you get that chance of receiving a friendly hello — but don’t hold your breath.
“Are we friends now?”
Don’t ever lose your military bearing — the drill sergeant won’t. Never forget that in order to stand in front of your wide-eyed platoon, a drill sergeant must have achieved their current rank, earned a selection to drill-sergeant school (which usually requires multiple combat deployments), gone through the rigors of said school, and have endured many cycles before you.
So, you shot 37/40 on your first try. This does not impress them to the point of friendship.
Award-winning nonprofit Pin-Ups for Vets is releasing its 13th annual fundraising calendar to raise money for VA hospitals; ill, injured, and homeless veterans; deployed troops; and military families. The 2019 calendar, photographed on the iconic Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA, features 19 female veterans decked out in World War II inspired fashion.
“Fans of Art Deco will appreciate the look of the upcoming calendar that reflects the vintage glamour of this 1936 cruise liner, now permanently docked in Long Beach, CA as a floating hotel,” said Pin-Ups For Vets Founder, Gina Elise, who established Pin-Ups For Vets in 2006, as a way to honor the WWII service of her grandfather.
Gina Elise, Founder
Gina has devoted her life to giving back to the military community. To date, Pin-Ups For Vets has donated over ,000 to help hospitals purchase new therapy equipment and to provide financial assistance for Veterans’ healthcare program expansion across the United States.
The 2019 calendar is officially ready for pre-order at www.PinUpsForVets.com. All 2019 Pin-Ups for Vets calendar pictures were taken by Shane Karns Photography — and let me just tell you…he really nailed it.
Kirstie Ennis, U.S. Marine Corps veteran
From a linguist, to a Human Intelligence Collector, to a combat photographer, to a combat medic, to a motor transportation operator, to a heavy equipment transporter driver leading convoys in Iraq, to a helicopter door gunner in Afghanistan, these ladies also include an above-the-knee amputee veteran (Marine Corps veteran Kirstie Ennis — who, by the way, at the time of this publishing was climbing Mount Denali in support of Service to Summit to raise money for Building Homes for Heroes, a nonprofit organization that builds or modifies homes and gives them to veterans in need).
Julie Noyes, Army veteran
Army veteran Julie Noyes says, “It can be so difficult as a female service member to feel empowered in her beauty without feeling like she may betray the professionalism of her uniform when we only seek to be treated like our male counterparts. I feel that Pin-Ups for Vets does a superb job at raising money and awareness for our elderly, wounded vets and our currently deployed troops while also showcasing the class and beauty of female veterans without objectifying them. What Pin-Ups Vets Founder Gina Elise has done with this publication and non-profit is nothing short of empowering and inspiring.”
Naumika Kumar, Navy Veteran
“I will always be thankful to the Navy. I met my husband in the Navy who is also a veteran now and I graduated from National University with Master’s Degree in 2012 as well. I am happy to see there are organization such as Pin-Ups For Vets who are doing so much to support the military and Veterans. I am happy that I got an opportunity to be part of the organization.”
Patti Gomez, Army veteran
Patti is a veteran of the United States Army, where she proudly served in the New York Army National Guard as a 35M (Human Intelligence Collector) of the 42nd Infantry Division, located in Glenville, New York. She volunteered to attend JRTC in Fort Polk, Louisiana, alongside the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in July 2016. She also trained at Warfighter at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, with her unit in October 2017. Patti attended Basic Combat Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and attended Advanced Individual Training at the United States Army Intelligence Center of Excellence in Fort Huachuca, Arizona.
“Pin-Ups for Vets is an incredible organization with an important mission. Being a part of a nonprofit that helps veterans and empowers women at the same time is truly an honor and one that I couldn’t pass up when I was asked to be a part of the 2019 calendar. As the reigning Mrs. New York America, my platform is veteran organizations — and Pin-Ups for Vets is truly among the best of them!”
Check out that cover image!
The 2019 calendar can be purchased at: www.PinUpsForVets.com or by check to: Pin-Ups For Vets, PO Box 33, Claremont, CA 91711.
The U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, announced the commanding officer for the 2018 and 2019 seasons at a press conference at the National Museum of Aviation onboard Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, April 4.
A selection panel comprised of 10 admirals and former commanding officers selected Cmdr. Eric Doyle to succeed Cmdr. Ryan Bernacchi.
Applicants are required to have a minimum of 3,000 flight hours and be in current command or have had past command of a tactical jet squadron.
Doyle, a native of League City, Texas, joins the Blue Angels after serving as the commanding officer of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 113. His previous assignments include six squadron tours, where he flew the F/A-18 Hornet and F-22A Raptor as an operational test pilot. He has deployed in support of Operations Southern Watch, Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, and Inherent Resolve.
Doyle attended Texas AM University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1996. He earned his commission through the Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida. Doyle has more than 3,000 flight hours and 600 carrier-arrested landings. His decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Strike/Flight Air Medal (with combat V), Navy Commendation Medals (one with combat V), and Navy Achievement Medal, as well as various campaign and unit awards.
“This was a childhood dream come true,” said Doyle. “My motivation to become a pilot came from watching the Blue Angels.”
Doyle will serve as commanding officer and flight leader for the 2018 and 2019 Blue Angels air show seasons. He will report for initial training in Pensacola, Florida in September and officially take command of the squadron at the end of the air show season in November. The change of command ceremony is slated for Nov. 12, at the National Naval Aviation Museum.
As the Blue Angels’ commanding officer, Doyle will lead a squadron of 130 personnel and serve as the demonstration flight leader, flying the #1 jet. The Blue Angels perform for 11 million people annually across the United States, and are scheduled to perform 61 shows in 33 locations for the 2018 season.
Let’s get this straight right away: Doing things that are clearly against the rules makes you a sh*tbag Soldier. However, just because you don’t want to be a sh*tbag doesn’t mean you have to strive to be the best. For many, the goal of Basic Training quickly becomes simply making it to the end.
Just take a few pointers from the E-4 Mafia and you’ll find your Basic Training experience to be much more bearable. Keep in mind that while these may not be against any rules, they certainly won’t win you brownie points with anyone.
5. Hide behind the fat kid
Right out the gate, trainees experience a “Shark Attack.” Every stereotype you’ve ever heard about a Drill Sergeant is unleashed upon new recruits in one fell swoop. As newbies get off the bus for the first time, DIs swarm, “attacking” each as they emerge. The Drill Sergeants will try to space themselves out to make sure every trainee gets a chance to “enjoy” the attack. Sometimes, however, they can’t help themselves when a big boy gets off the bus — every Drill Sergeant wants a chance to yell in his face.
That’s where you come in. Quietly avoid eye contact and let the big guy ahead of you take the brunt.
4. Be just good enough
You’re just trying to make it to the finish line. There’s no first place trophy. Well, technically, there’s a Certificate of Achievement, but those are remarkably easy to get after you arrive at your first duty station and rarely is an Army Achievement Medal is given to out-f*cking-standing trainees.
If you’re not already in that 0.1 percent of excellence, your sole focus should be on improving yourself and graduating.
3. Do nothing, say nothing
At some point, you’ll hear the drill sergeants call, “everywhere I go, there’s a drill sergeant there.” You have no idea how true that saying actually is.
You could just be getting ready for lights out and decide it’s safe to f*ck off. Nope, there’s a drill sergeant. You might think no one will notice you skipping out of cleaning the bay. Nope, there’s a drill sergeant. Don’t even bother shamming or slacking off with the other guys in the platoon. Just keep your nose down.
2. “Clean” the latrines while you’re on firewatch
Every night, two trainees pull fire watch. In one hour intervals, the two oscillate between sitting at the desk and cleaning.
Always volunteer to be the cleaner because chances are that whatever you’re about to clean has been cleaned already. As long as you, say, wipe down the sink, you’ve technically cleaned something.
1. Don’t stop the sh*tbag from getting in trouble
Nothing is more true in the military than the phrase, “one team, one fight.” Which brings us to the as*hole trainee that doesn’t get the message.
There will always be that one trainee who is not fit for military service and comes in with a bad attitude. There’s no redemption. When they go down in flames (which they will), you’ll look better by comparison by just not being a sh*tbag. But at the same time, don’t get in their way — you don’t want to get bunched together in their idiocy. Whatever you do, don’t try to cover for them.
Being “the best” in the military is a weird paradox. Of course, you should always strive to be the best at whatever you do. But, at the same time, you can’t put others down or set yourself to such a high bar that it screws over everyone else. There is a fine line between giving Uncle Sam the best version of yourself and stepping into “Blue Falcon” territory.
You can be an outstanding troop without brown-nosing. You can be a great leader without throwing your troops under the bus. You can be highly motivated without overdoing it — but it’s a tricky balance to strike.
1. They integrate their military gear into their civilian attire
Ask anyone who’s ever rucked more than 24 miles in a single march: The best feeling ever in the military is, after finishing a grueling ruck, taking your gear off and throwing it across the room as hard as you can. Why in the hell would someone willingly wear their uniform after work hours for any reason outside of sheer laziness?
There are only two types of people who wear combat boots with civilian clothes: FNGs who haven’t had a chance to buy civilian shoes and the overly-hooah.
2. They force everyone to do more PT
Morning PT means its just another day in the military. It’s not designed as much for personal improvement as it is for camaraderie-building and sustainment. If you want to improve, the gym is open after work hours.
Do not get this twisted: Everyone should be sweating with everyone else. But remember, there’s a fine line. When you’re overzealousness legitimately breaks your comrade and they’re now on profile, you’re an ass.
3. They always ask for more work
The one phrase every NCO loves hearing from their troops is, “what else should we do?” It’s also, coincidentally, the last phrase lower enlisted want to hear right before close of business.
If the mission is complete, that’s it — shut up and move on.
4. They step on others to get to promotion points
This applies to boards, schools, certifications, medals, badges, etc. They are all in limited supply and can’t be handed out like candy. Remember, it’s not a competition and your battle-buddies are not your enemies.
These things should go to the best and most deserving — not to the person who made everyone else look like sh*t.
5. They parrot NCO sayings unironically
It’s a little bit funny when it’s coming down outside and an NCO turns to their troops and says, jokingly, “if it’s not raining, we’re not training. Am I right?” When a staff officer peaks their head out from behind their PowerPoint presentation and says it to troops who are soaking wet… not so much.
You need the rank and position to make those kinds of jokes. Otherwise, you’ll be glared at with disdain.
6. They have flaws and overcompensate for them
No one is perfect. We all make mistakes or slip up. Regular troops take the hit on the chin, learn from mistakes, and move on. Ultimately, nobody cares if the mistake doesn’t involve the UCMJ.
You don’t need to lose your mind because you accidentally saluted with the wrong hand. The officer will probably laugh at you for your stupid mistake and forget about it. You don’t need to stand outside their office all day to prove you can salute properly.
Veterans pride themselves on their accomplishments after spending some of the best years of their lives serving. But that path to greatness starts when recruits first enter boot camp — all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
Recruits arriving at MCRD San Diego — (Photo By: Cpl. Angelica I. Annastas)
As the world changes, so do the expectations of our future Marines, sailors, airmen, and soldiers as basic training gets revised based on new technology and evolving social norms.
But no matter how much things change, most of us we want our sons and daughters to have the same “in your face” training experience that we once endured.
Here are few ways boot camp has changed over the last several years.
1. Rifle Combat Optic
Back in the day, Marine recruits had to train and qualify on a rifle with their M-16s using precise breathing control, unsound vision and iron sights.
A few years ago, the Marine Corps decided to switch from the traditional iron sights to Rifle Combat Optics, or “red dot sights,” to help recruits better hit their targets.
From personal experience, the ability to home in and snipe out the enemy from far away is badass, but the downfall is if the optic takes a hard hit, the sight can be thrown off, limiting its effectiveness and you need to go back to the range to “zero” it back in.
With a set of iron sights, most damage isn’t severe enough to completely take you out of the fight.
2. Gender Integrated Training
In the mid-2000s, I marched into Naval Training Command Great Lakes to begin my path to become a corpsman. Little did we know that our division would get integrated with a female class. There’s nothing wrong with it generally speaking.
Being integrated means you’re going to train to fight on a ship alongside female recruits and might have a female Recruit Division Commander yelling at you to tie a bow knot faster.
Not saying women can’t be tough, but images like the one below suggest they may be too relaxed.
3. Weapons Training
In this day and age, Navy boot camp isn’t much more than eating three meals a day, memorizing your recruit handbook, some physical training here and there and eventually spending a long night going through battle stations.
My division spent a half of day snapping in, then firing approximately 30 rounds at a patched up target. That was it.
No wonder service members accidentally shoot themselves.
Back in the day, heading to the rifle range was a major event conducted as a massive outdoor range.
Navy Bootcamp during the 60’s in San Diego, Ca. “Look Ma, iron sights.”
4. Hard Training
The stress cards have been debunked awhile ago — they don’t exist.
What does exist is the fine line recruit trainers have to walk to avoid rules barring hazing. There have been quite a few reports of drill instructors being charged with hazing recruits in Parris Island. True or not, it’s a problem.
Not only do these reports shine a bright light on the way recruits are trained, it could also undermine the drill instructor’s authority.
In every branch of the military, there are going to have a few bad apples in charge who go overboard, but as one former Marine drill instructor stated: “you have to train for war to be effective in war.”
Gunny Hartman is hard, but he is fair. (Source: WB/Screenshot)
Having known many Marines who went through recruit training during the Vietnam War era, Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” is a pretty accurate depiction of boot camp life back then. (Just the first act. The second and third acts aren’t known for their accuracy).
In some aspects, hazing is considered a right of passage, but punching or slamming recruits down isn’t cool.
5. Cellphone usage
I told you number five would shock you.
Remember when you showed up to boot camp and you got one phone call home to inform your family you arrived safely. Well, that still exists, but now in some Army boot camps you can call them on your personal cell phone at your drill sergeant’s discretion.
The recruits need to been in good standings to use their most prized possession on the weekends.
Note: Erase any sensitive photos you might have beforehand.
Can you think of any other changes not listed? Comment below.
Ah, the MRE. Known by such illustrious nicknames as “Mr. E,” “Meal, Rarely Edible,” and “Meal, Ready to Excrete,” the military meals ready-to-eat aren’t exactly known for their delightful taste.
Luckily, the taste of (at least) some MRE’s has improved over the years. Troops these days don’t have to deal with the terror that was the “Four Fingers of Death” — aka hot dogs — or the bean burrito. If you are opening a box of meals out in the field, these are the ones to look for.
#6: Chili with Beans
It’s got a Ranger Bar! Sadly, this bad boy comes with cheddar cheese and snack bread — which sucks — so you should probably trade that out with the one weird guy in your platoon who actually likes snack bread. Oh, and the chili is kind of good too.
#5: Maple Sausage
This is obviously better around breakfast time, since most of the contents are geared toward that very important meal of the day. The sausage, if heated up, isn’t half bad. But the big takeaway here is the Maple Muffin Top. Unfortunately they couldn’t jam a full muffin in there, but hey, the top is the best part anyway.
This also has the trail mix, crackers and cheddar cheese, and orange beverage powder. Don’t eat it all in one sitting.
#4: Cheese Tortellini
There are so many MRE’s with totally crappy main meals. I’m throwing it out there right now: I actually like the cheese tortellini. Unless you don’t heat it up. Not only is the main meal pretty damn good, but it’s got all kinds of goodies, including wet pack fruits, a first strike protein bar, peanut butter and crackers, and beverage powder.
And if you are feeling extra brave, throw that extra hot hot sauce on top of the tortellini. Just make sure a port-a-john is on standby.
#3: Beef Ravioli
If you are Italian, you are going to hate this meal, since calling this concoction ravioli is probably a grave sin. But for the rest of us, it’s actually a decent meal when it’s hot. But the best part: Bacon cheese spread. In the field, you can probably sell that stuff and make serious bank.
#2: Meatballs in Marinara
Just like the beef ravioli, this one is pretty decent. It also has jalapeno cheese spread and tortillas, and who doesn’t like that Jal-op-eno? The potatoes au gratin are fairly terrible, but at least there’s a first strike bar, and beef snack strips. Unless you are a fatty who eats the entire meal, there’s lots of trading opportunity here.
#1: Chili and Macaroni
Chili Mac is the best. There’s no question. Main meal: delicious. But wait, there’s more. This has a pound cake, jalapeno cheese spread and crackers, candy, and beverage powder. Even the accessory packet is the best: There’s coffee AND matches in there. Brew up a cup of joe then burn things when you’re bored.
There are way more Meals Ready-to-Eat in existence of course. We didn’t rank them all. If you want to see what’s in the current batch, you can check out MREInfo.com.
Words matter. And sometimes well-meaning words can sting. It’s been almost 2 decades since I said, “I do” and entered the military family — and its rather unique lifestyle.
Here is my list of the 4 biggest offenders in the “things never to say to a military spouse” category.
4. “You knew what you were getting into.”
Actually, most of us did not. I would go as far as to say that even a military brat who grew up surrounded by the culture didn’t know exactly what it feels like to send their spouse off to war. We didn’t know what it would be like to move our own children across the country multiple times or to sacrifice our career goals for another person’s military service. It’s kind of like having your own kid — you can read all the books and take all the classes, but nothing truly prepares you for the moment when you’re the one rocking a sick child to sleep in the middle of the night.
This is mostly a veiled attempt to say, “stop complaining, you signed up for this.” I get it. No one likes a complainer. But venting is healthy and we all need to get things off our chest from time to time.
3. “Suck it up, Buttercup.”
Embracing the suck is sometimes a necessity. But frankly, a military spouse doesn’t need a reminder of how to do this. Just because he/she puts up a tough front doesn’t mean they aren’t scared, upset, worried, or a combination of all three at times. It’s normal to miss home. It’s normal to be scared about a deployment. It’s normal to be overwhelmed with everything.
If your milspouse friend is becoming isolated or seems to be negative constantly, it’s perfectly fine to reach out and offer resources or just show up and take them to get coffee. Wanting to help is wonderful, but telling someone going through something very real and challenging to “suck it up” is rarely helpful. Tough love in this situation is mostly just lacking in the “love” department.
Yes. Yes, you could. I didn’t marry my husband because I wanted to be a military spouse, I married him because I love him. I haven’t stayed with him for 19 years because I adore the retirement check, I stay because I love him. I didn’t have two children with him because I think the term “military brat” is cool, we had kids because we love one another and wanted to grow our family.
Military families love each other, just like any other family does. And when we love someone, we do things for that person. Do you love your spouse? Then, yes. You could do it, too.
1. “Thank you for YOUR service.”
I don’t know why this one bothers me so much — maybe it’s just me. I know where the sentiment is coming from and, on some level, I appreciate people who recognize that spouses and children also face challenges due to military service. Regardless, the word “service” always makes me feel uncomfortable. I didn’t step on those yellow footprints. I have not deployed. I haven’t sacrificed my own health for this country. I did not agree to die in defense of it.
So, for me, the word ‘service,’ while well-meaning, seems off. When a kind stranger says this to me, I thank them and gently say, “thank you so much. It’s been my pleasure to support my husband in his service.”
“No one left behind” is a phrase inextricably linked with our military culture. The concept is a pillar that supports the platform of what it means to serve, analogous to “defending those who can’t defend themselves” and “protecting our freedom.” Like all military axioms, no one left behind means many different things, depending on the service member or veteran you ask.
The most prominent examples of this are in the Medal of Honor citations of U.S. troops braving enemy fire to bring a wounded comrade to safety without regard for their own well-being. Not as thoroughly illustrated in Hollywood, however, are veterans who are determined to bring home the remains of U.S. troops lost in foreign wars, or those working to help other veterans with challenges in employment, physical disabilities, and mental health. All of it can be traced back to “no one left behind.”
The time has come for the U.S. to embody this core principle yet again.
Close to 18,000 Afghans (and their 53,000 family members) who provided assistance to the U.S. as interpreters, security guards, contractors and more, now face a future that is uncertain at best. These people who fought alongside our men and women in uniform are running out of time, as the U.S. Department of Defense now estimates its withdrawal from Afghanistan is 95% complete as of July 12th.
One man with a wealth of knowledge and experience on the subject is General Joseph Votel (Retired). The former commander of the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and US Central Command (CENTCOM) was one of the first troops on the ground in Afghanistan after 9/11, conducting a rare combat jump with his fellow Rangers on Objective Rhino, near Kandahar.
“I was in the first wave of troops, October of 2001,” General Votel told Sandboxx News. “And I think between 2001 and 2019 — when I actually left service — I’d been to Afghanistan for some part of every year, sometimes just a few days and sometimes for a whole year.”
General Votel’s extensive time spent in theater, dating back to the very beginning of U.S. operations there, makes him as qualified as any expert one could find on the war-torn country and its looming humanitarian crisis.
These thousands of Afghans who aided or sympathized with U.S.-led forces in the 20-year war against the Taliban have been imperiled as the American presence dwindles. The slow trickle of departing troops turned to a hasty exit at the beginning of May, and the U.S. has assumed a much more defensive posture. As a result, the Taliban has seized territory at an alarming rate and now control over half of the districts in the country. There was already plenty of support for their strict interpretation (and enforcement) of Sharia in more conservative, rural areas, but they are now are closing in on major cities that have been more secular and progressive in terms of things like women’s rights.
“I’ve invested a lot of time in this like many have, and I feel like I got to know the Afghan people. I certainly got to know their story quite well. I feel sad that we are not leaving them in a better position,” General Votel said.
The Taliban are determined to improve their image with the U.S. government and avoid any entanglements that would prolong the withdrawal. Multiple Taliban spokesmen have been dismissive of human rights abuses in territories they’ve re-captured, and recently stated that Afghans who worked with the U.S. will not be harmed if they “show remorse for their past actions and must not engage in such activities in the future that amount to treason against Islam and the country.”
Many Afghans put little stock in the statement from Taliban leadership, and have no intention to stay and find out if they keep their word. There are countless stories of retaliation against these Afghans that the Taliban has past referred to as “traitors” and “slaves.” Whether all of the more recent violence has been sanctioned by the Taliban or not, those who fear further reprisals without the U.S. presence do so justifiably.
“These interpreters and others that helped us, they did this at their own personal risk. We recognized this and we set up programs. The Special Immigrant Visa program, SIV program… is specifically designed to give those who’ve spent time with us a leg up in the immigration process — to come to the United States and have an opportunity to become a citizen, because we knew that their jobs — what they were doing for us –would put them in danger down the line.”
The sheer volume of SIV applications coupled with staffing issues and lack of a central database has created an enormous backlog at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul that could take several years to sort through. An outbreak of COVID-19 killed one and infected 114 staffers at the embassy last month, grinding operations to a halt. Further complicating the issue, many SIV applicants do not live in Kabul. Transportation and communication would already be an issue, particularly in rural areas, even without Taliban militants’ ever-increasing presence.
“It’s really important, I think, for us to follow up on that, follow through on our promises and, and do the right thing for these people. It’s literally a life and death situation for many of them,” General Votel explained.
Operation Allies Refuge, announced earlier this week, will begin the massive task of evacuating all SIV applicants out of Afghanistan by the end of the month. When asked at Wednesday’s briefing, DOD Press Secretary John Kirby was non-committal about potential locations for the soon-to-be displaced Afghans while their pending immigration is processed. There is precedent, and therefore hope, for such a large undertaking. CONUS installations have not been ruled out, such as in 1999 when the U.S. airlifted 20,000 Kosovo refugees to Fort Dix, NJ. International U.S. assets like Guam seem more likely, as that is where 130,000 Vietnamese refugees were evacuated to in 1975.
Growing up in St. Paul, Minnesota, General Votel has a personal connection to that operation as well. Many Vietnamese Hmong ended up immigrating to that area, and the connection to the present-day crisis is not lost on him:
“They have integrated so well and they have become a very integrated, important and contributing part of our community right here. And whenever you see Hmong, and the different influence they have in here, it makes you think of America doing the right thing, even in the wake of a disaster like Vietnam was,” he said.
“We did the right thing. We stood by people that stood by us, that were going to be persecuted because of their association and support to us. And we brought them to our country and then made them part of our society.”
While the U.S. government has acknowledged the problem and is putting things in motion to get these Afghans to safety, General Votel said that the American people can also help. No One Left Behind is a non-profit at the forefront of the issue, one that Votel supports himself. They have already raised over $1 million dollars for their cause of evacuating our Afghan allies from Kabul, and now the General is helping to spread the word far and wide.
While Americans can certainly offer their financial support to No One Left Behind, General Votel was just as quick to mention the importance of people using their “time and talent” to help. He says one of the best ways Americans can help right now is to be aware of the problem, make others aware of it, and especially, put pressure on Congress and keep the plight of the Afghans in the public eye and a high-priority for President Biden’s administration.
General Votel’s own experience with interpreters, in particular, speaks to why ensuring the safety of these Afghans is not only a question of American morality and doing the right thing, but also crucial to the safety of U.S. troops and the security of the American people. What interpreters provide troops on the ground is invaluable, and is not just translation of the language (though it is certainly that, as well).
“What I deeply valued was the cultural aspects that I really picked up from them… They understand the country. They understand things that are just so difficult for us as Americans to appreciate that they can share that with us, and they give us an understanding of the society and how things there work.”
The estimated cost of approximately $699 million to execute Operation Allies Refuge is a relatively small price to pay for a mission that will enhance security and save American lives in the future. However, General Votel emphasized to Sandboxx News more than once that there’s also the moral obligation that the United States has to the Afghan people who helped us.
“They become comrades. They begin to appreciate our values, as well, and are really good representatives for our country. So they’re just so much more than somebody that translates words from one language into another.”
Those suffering from injuries will do and try just about anything to relieve pain. With musculoskeletal injuries being a top health problem for the U.S. Armed Forces, it’s time to prioritize better treatments and solutions.
A recent report by Walter Reed and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences found that 3/4 of medically non-deployable service members are sidelined due to musculoskeletal injuries, and 68,000 service members fall into that category each year. Studies suggest that non-combat musculoskeletal injuries could account for nearly 60% of soldiers’ limited duty days and 65% of soldiers who cannot deploy for medical reasons.
Throughout my five years working with the military, currently with units from every branch, including Special Operations Command and the Reserve Component, the most common musculoskeletal injuries I see our service members suffer from are lower back pain and lower leg issues, with the former being at the top of the list for the warfighter. Lower leg issues are a close second, with those injuries ranging from shin splints and stress reactions to stress fractures.
These two injuries are the most common across the force, but each branch exhibits certain types more than others. For example, the Air Force tends to suffer from lower back injuries because Airmen are sitting in cramped areas for an extended period. Additionally, they are at an increased risk for spinal injuries, neck, and back. The neck becomes an issue because jets are faster and helmets have more tech, making them heavier. Confined spaces, faster jets, and heavier helmets make a great recipe for spinal injuries.
However, the Army is the best example of lower leg injuries because they tend to cover the most mileage on rugged terrain over long distances.
Although these two branches stand out for certain types of injuries, nearly every service member will suffer from some musculoskeletal injury during their career and seek the best solution for recovery and pain relief.
Whether information is found on the internet or received from a doctor, it is typically seen as the magic cure by the patient seeking help.
While there are certainly good doctors and sound advice online, each injury and individual require specific, personalized treatment. As an expert in using Force Plate Machine Learning™ (FPML™) to identify, prevent and treat musculoskeletal injuries, I encourage military leaders to seek out programs that focus on the individual warfighter’s health and fitness needs. Solutions like FPML™ will allow for early identification of musculoskeletal weakness and help create individualized training programs to prevent future injury.
Practices that utilize evidence-based, individualized solutions are best for preventing injuries and correctly training the body but understanding that this technology is not yet widely used by the Service, I will share some generic at-home remedies for common service member injuries, as well as dispel myths about well-known treatments.
The easiest way to make an injured area feel better is to stimulate or contract the opposite area. For example, if suffering from back pain, a solution can be working your abdominals with exercises like the plank. This is because the human body has antagonistic relaxation – meaning when one muscle group fires, the other is inhibited. Therefore, activating the abdominal muscles will, in turn, relax the back muscles and provide relief.
The quick and easy treatment used by traditional doctors reluctant to adopt more complex solutions is RICE. We’ve all heard it: rest, ice, compression, elevation. Sure, ice is great as an anesthetic (a numbing agent) for short-term pain relief immediately after injury. It will hide the pain and help with performance for about 5-60 minutes post-injury. But after that, ice and RICE will significantly prolong the healing process.
Both RICE and ibuprofen (Advil) actually delay the healing process and can be harmful to the body’s recovery. Many doctors still prescribe the nifty acronym because it’s easy to remember for the physician who is still operating in the 1980s.
RICE exemplifies the power of simplification and reinforces the idea that people will try just about anything – opioids, RICE, or over-the-counter painkillers when in pain.
In reality, movement is the best medicine, with data-driven, individualized movement plans being effective solutions that can help reduce chronic pain and injuries.
Dr. Phil Wagner is a physician, strength & conditioning coach, and expert on using force plates and machine learning to prevent and treat musculoskeletal injuries. He is the founder and CEO of Sparta Science.
Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Timothy Moore
Hopeful NCOs at leadership schools or promotion boards are asked a two-part question: The first part is, “how many trucks are there on the military installation?” The answer is, ‘one.’
‘Truck’ is the term for the finial — or ball — on top of the base headquarters’ flagpole. It’s kind of a trick question because every other ‘truck’ is either a military or privately-owned vehicle. The second part of the question is, “What’s inside the truck?”
The answer the Sergeant Major and First Sergeants are looking for is, “a razor, a match, and a bullet.” Occasionally, it’s also said to contain a grain of rice or penny — it depends who’s asking. The actual answer, and one they probably won’t accept, is “absolutely nothing.”
The items that are supposedly inside the truck are to be used in the case of an enemy invasion. If the enemy overwhelms the base, it’s up to the last survivor to climb the 50-to-75-foot pole, unscrew the truck, strip the flag with the razor, give it a proper retirement with the match, eat the grain of rice for strength, and blind the enemy with the penny. The survivor then digs up the pistol buried six paces away from the base of the pole.
What the survivor is supposed to do then is up for speculation. If you don’t use the gunpowder for kindling, the most universally accepted use of it is for the survivor to turn the pistol on themselves in a last-ditch, you’ll-never-take-me-alive act.
Here’s the thing, though. The military is very particular about the order of precedence when it comes to the Stars and Stripes. No flag can fly higher than the American flag. There are two exceptions to this rule: “Death’s flag,” or the flag that is raised, in spirit, above the actual flag when it’s at half mast (but is actually nothing) and a chaplain’s pennant (which is a pennant, not a flag).
Placing a chaplain’s pennant higher than the American flag is to say that the only thing higher than country is God. The fact that some claim we’d put a bullet in the finial above even the chaplain’s pennant is a dead giveaway that this myth is BS.
The final nail in the coffin on this myth is the fact that there’s no regulation set by the Department of Defense, by any branch, or by any military installation. As widespread as this belief may be, there simply isn’t any written record of it in any official capacity.
Oh. Also, nicer trucks, like the ones used to decorate a military installation’s flag that is saluted twice a day, are usually made of solid metal.
Every military installation has its ups and downs. You could be assigned to a tropical paradise, but you can’t afford anything off-base. You could be assigned to a breathtaking foreign country, but learning the local language will take some time. Or, you could be assigned to Thule Air Base in Greenland, where there’s literally nothing but ice and rock for 65 miles (and, even then, it’s just a remote Eskimo village).
The multinational team stationed there consists of around 400 Danish troops, 150 American troops, and a handful of Canadians. Team Thule is charged with tracking satellites and orbiting debris using a Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS), a remnant from the Cold War by being strategically placed roughly halfway between Moscow and New York City.
The BMEWS is still manned and operated by both American and Danish troops. Denmark holds territorial claim over Greenland but gave them “Home Rule” in 1979 and Greenlanders voted for self-governance in 2008. Denmark still handles much of the defense of Greenland, however.
Troops at Thule are locked out from the rest of the world by the ice for nine months, so during the three “summer” months, everyone loads up on supplies that’ll last them the rest of the year. Thule is also home to the Air Force’s only Tug Boat, the Rising Star, which it uses for these resupply missions.
The Military One Source Pamphlet hilariously tries to downplay the roughness of Thule while also telling you that there are no ATMs, no commissary, the PX is extremely limited, and there’s all of one bar and a single “base taxi.”
But hey! At least every barracks room comes with free WiFi and it’s kind of accepted that everyone shelters-in-place during the four-month-long Polar Night where winds can reach 200 mph and the temperatures are -28.