The western world is always in a rush for the latest and greatest iPhone or other tech gadgets, but troops know that some weapons systems stand the test of time without too many, if any, mods. Here are 11 of them:
1. M2 (1933)
This baby predates World War II, entering service in 1933. The M2 fires a .50-caliber round at 2,910 feet per second. It was originally adopted as an anti-aircraft weapon, but has served for decades in anti-personnel, anti-light vehicle, and anti-ship roles as well.
The C-130 Hercules was a radical, and ugly, design departure from Lockheed’s previous transport aircraft. But the ridiculed “Herk” of 1954 has proven itself over hundreds of thousands of sorties and still serves with distinction today.
That sweet, sweet DD-214 can’t come soon enough. You’ve served your country honorably for all those years and now, finally, it’s time to close that chapter of your life. You’ve either got some big plans for your life after service or you’re just planning on winging it. Whatever the case, you’re ready to hang that uniform up for good and move on, into the great unknown.
Not to sound like the exit briefing slideshows that they’ll make you endure, but we’ve got to warn you: You’ve probably got a few misconceptions about what civilian life has in store for you.
Don’t worry about telling everyone you were in the military. We know. We all know.
(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)
“I can just fall back into my old life”
Let’s get the most obvious — yet somewhat depressing — misconception out of the way first: You’ve changed. You’re not the same person that you were when you stepped on that bus to head out to Basic/Boot Camp. And to be entirely honest, you’ve probably grown better for it.
But at the same time, the world didn’t stop spinning while you were gone, and others have changed in your absence — for better or for worse. Your family and your old friends have adapted to you not being around for years. They’ve developed hobbies, relationships, and interests without you, so jumping back in might just feel… odd. Hell, even your old job has carried on in your absence.
It’s not going to be easy, so just ease your way back into civilian life. Accept that the world is different now.
And don’t forget your references. You know your boys back in the military will talk you up.
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
“My skills won’t translate to civilian life…”
Over the years, you’ve perfected the art of putting your mind to tasks and getting them done. By now, your work ethic is probably phenomenal and you’re highly mission oriented. That just so happens to be a skill that every employer wants — but it’s not the only skill they’ll want.
When building a resume, pick aspects of your service and let those shine, too. For example, being an infantry squad leader taught you personnel management skills. Being a medic gave you skills in property accountability and acquisitions. Stuff like that.
If you feel, in the bottom of your heart, that your passion lies in underwater basket-weaving, you be the best f*cking underwater basket-weaver this world has ever seen. Maybe don’t lock yourself into crippling debt to get there, though.
“I’ll be 100% student loan debt free”
One of the key selling points of military life was the GI Bill and the promise of a tuition-free college experience. Now, don’t get me wrong: If you play your cards right, this might be exactly what happens. But know the GI Bill won’t cover your expenses at just any school.
If your plan is to go through a technical school or a smaller college, outstanding. Carry on to the next misconception. If you’ve got your mind set on a specific career path, look into exactly how much assistance the GI Bill can offer you. Then, evaluate if it’s worth taking out a sizable loan to pursue your goals.
If there’s anyone who’s earned the right to chase after their dreams, it’s a veteran who’s given the world their all.
You don’t have to hide all of your military bearing. Just know when to turn it on and off.
(Meme by CONUS Battle Drills)
“Civilian coworkers are going to be garbage”
You’ve spent years knowing that an individual’s failure has consequences for the entire unit. Many civilians don’t have that same kind of all-for-one way of thinking. They’ll see working hard at this job as a stepping stone to something bigger and better down the road. You will encounter blue falcons in the civilian world — but they aren’t all bad.
Many civilians are genuinely good people who just aren’t as loud as we tend to be. Some people legitimately want to help everyone succeed.
Keep the a**holes at an arm’s length, but don’t shut out everyone and adopt some sort of “holier than thou” mentality because of your service. In short, don’t be a civilian blue falcon.
You’ll be the odd duck — but at least your stories are funnier.
(Meme via Shammers United)
“I’ll never find friends like I did in the military…”
The tiny ray of sunshine is that you won’t be alone in this world. Just as you’ll find some co-workers to be good, decent people, you’re sure to find good friends, too. Open up a bit and try to socialize.
And if worst comes to worst and all civilians annoy you, you can always find the nearest VFW or American Legion and hop in for a beer or two. Vets tend to befriend other vets fairly easily.
Green Beret Lt. Col. Brian Decker led a unit in Iraq. Then he was assigned to run the Special Forces Assessment and Selection program in North Carolina. He decided to improve the Army’s selection process and reduce the washout rate for men who made it through the initial screening.
Decker wanted to develop tools that would allow the Army to identify soldiers who could make good decisions in chaotic situations and have the necessary devotion to teamwork. He overhauled a process that had been static since its launch in 1988 and introduced new standards that collected over 1,200 data points on each candidate, including physical and mental processes. After three years, Decker’s program had reduced the washout rate by 30%.
He met former Cleveland Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski when the coach came to a Special Forces camp looking for training tips. That turned into an reciprocal invite to Browns camp. Team president Joe Banner was fascinated by Decker’s philosophy and convinced him to retire from the Army and join the team as a special advisor, in hopes that Decker’s analysis could help correct the NFL’s notorious 50% failure rate for first round draft picks.
He kept the job even after the Browns fired that management team. Their successors kept him on and he spent a couple of years advising the team on its draft. How did that turn out?
ESPN.com’s Seth Wickersham tells Decker’s story in a 3600-word profile that details Decker’s career and investigates how his football project has been going. It’s definitely worth a read.
French President Emmanuel Macron believes Europe is standing on the edge of a precipice and needs to think of itself as a power in the world in order to control its own destiny. He told the Economist the European alliance needs to “wake up” to the reality that the alliance and its deterrent is only as good as the guarantor of last resort – the United States. In his view, the United States is in danger of turning its back on NATO and Europe, just as it did to the Kurds in October 2019.
Along with the rise of China and the authoritarian turn of Russia and Turkey, Europe needs to act as a strategic power, perhaps without the US.
Macron spoke to the Economist for an hourlong interview from Paris’ Elysée Palace and spoke bluntly about NATO, its future, and the United States.
“I’d argue that we should reassess the reality of what NATO is in the light of the commitment of the United States.” he said. “… [President Trump] doesn’t share our idea of the European project.”
Europe faces myriad challenges that go far beyond the expectations of NATO and its American ally. Brexit looms large over European politics, while new EU membership is a point of contention within the European Union, especially in France. There is also much disagreement over how to engage with Russia, especially considering there are many NATO allies and EU members who used to be dominated by Moscow. But it wasn’t just Trump’s policy that concerned Macron.
“Their position has shifted over the past 10 years,” Macron said. “You have to understand what is happening deep down in American policy-making. It’s the idea put forward by President Obama: ‘I am a Pacific president’.”
That isn’t to say Macron is rejecting the American alliance. France’s president has taken a lot of time with Trump to keep that alliance closely engaged. But when the U.S. wants to go, it can go in the blink of any eye, just like it did in Syria. Meanwhile, Macron sees Europe as increasingly fragile in a hostile world, and he wants Europe (and France alone, if necessary) to be strong enough to stand up for itself.
“Our defence, our security, elements of our sovereignty, must be re-thought through,” he said. “I didn’t wait for Syria to do this. Since I took office I’ve championed the notion of European military and technological sovereignty… If it [Europe] can’t think of itself as a global power, that power will disappear.”
All it will take, he says, is one hard knock.
Germany expressed outrage at the comments, while Russia called them “Golden.”
While some conceded that Macron has a point about the strategic coordination of the alliance, many others were angered by his remarks. In response, the November 2019 meeting of NATO held a discussion about the validity of the French president’s description and what, if anything, they should do about it. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reminded reporters that week that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is the only body where North America and Europe sit together and make decisions together.
“I think it has value to look into how we can further strengthen NATO and the transatlantic bond,” Stoltenberg said as he made plans to visit Paris in the coming days. “We need to look into this as we prepare for the upcoming leaders’ meeting and then we will see what will be the final conclusions.”
There was only one foreign customer for the advanced F-14 Tomcat fighter during its heyday: Iran. The Shah chose to buy 80 Tomcats instead of the F-15 Eagle – and it was a good investment. Even after Imperial Iran gave way to the Islamic Republic of Iran after the 1979 revolution, the Iranian Air Force was still stacked with some of the best Tomcat pilots in the world.
And the U.S. doesn’t want any of them in the air again ever.
Iran is the United States’ ex-girlfriend that we just can’t stop thinking about. After the Islamic Revolution, the U.S. could just not leave Iran alone. A major sticking point for the United States was that our ex still had 30 of our best fighter aircraft, and they were using it to great effect against our new boo, Iraq, in the Iran-Iraq War. The Iranian Air Force was so skilled in the Iran-Iraq War that a lone tomcat could clear the skies of enemy aircraft without firing a shot. Many of the successful downings of Tomcats were at the hands of ground-based SAM batteries… Iranian SAM batteries.
But the United States eventually gets better stuff, no matter how iconic Top Gun is. Since the Tomcat, we’ve had the major advances in fighter technology that led us to develop the F-22 and F-35 fighters, technology so amazing it might seem like magic to some. So it made sense to retire our fleet of F-14s in 2007, given that we had an air superiority fighter that had the radar cross-section of a bumblebee and could take out enemy planes before it could physically see them. When Iran got wind of its retirement, you could practically hear the CEO of Northrop Grumman’s tummy growling at the idea of parts sales.
But nope. This was 2007 and Iran was still firmly placed in President George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil,” along with North Korea. The idea of selling Iran rare F-14 parts, so it didn’t have to cannibalize its own F-14 inventory was preposterous. It was this concern that led the Pentagon to shred every last leftover F-14 Tomcat.
Did the United States have to take a million plane and reduce it to scrap metal just so Iran couldn’t repair its aging fleet? No, according to many national security experts, it did not. They said the move was more symbolic than practical. F-14 parts were considered sensitive equipment just for this reason, so the U.S. ended all parts sales to anyone, not just Iran, for fear that Iran might get them eventually. But that doesn’t matter, there isn’t much Iran could do with their F-14s if they were airworthy.
“Those planes as they age are maybe the equivalent of Chevrolets in Cuba. They become relics of a past era,” said Larry C. Johnson, a former deputy chief of counterterrorism at the State Department in President George H.W. Bush’s administration. “Even if they can put them in the air, they are going to face more advanced weapons systems.”
The decision to destroy all the surplus Tomcats was the defense equivalent of taking the house and the car despite not needing or wanting either – a purely spiteful move that makes Tomcat fans wish they would have just donated to museums.
We learn from our siblings. We watch them. We copy them. We accidentally erase the save on their Pokèmon game when we’re 10 years old and they still, to this day, think the game file was “probably ruined from leaving it in the sun too long.”
Maybe siblings of construction workers know why it takes so long to fill in city potholes. Maybe siblings of newscasters know why they all talk in that really creepy rhythm. Maybe siblings of chess masters know the actual names of the “horsey” or the “castle” or the “boob-shaped thingie.”
Then, there are some things that all siblings of military personnel know…
Actually knowing how to mail a letter
On base, deployed, or on a ship — we send our love in envelopes. Now look to your left. Look to your right. Neither of those people can properly address an envelope without Google… unless they are both over the age of 70, in which case, you are 100% at a community center playing bingo and should pay better attention to that.
(Photo by Lt. Col. John Hall/173rd Airborne Brigade)
You do not need to set out a sleeping bag… or blankets… or anything at all
You know how military personnel sleep after coming home. They sleep like astronauts without gravity. They don’t need blankets or pillows. Hell, they barely need a floor.
The difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day
You celebrate the men and women throughout time who have served our country in any capacity on Veterans Day. But you also know that some men and women made the ultimate sacrifice for their loved ones, and they’ve got a day, too.
The many functions of a styrofoam cup
It turns out this can do much more than hold an .89 cent future-diarrhea-slushie from the gas station. Apparently, they can also: hold dip spit, sunflower seeds, and make a cell phone speaker louder…. Alright, it’s mostly for dip spit.
Why they might not tell a drunk dude at the bar that they served
Besides blabbering two inches away from your face for 45 uninterrupted minutes about their real estate failures and how quick their fastball was in high school, drunk dudes at bars can pose a lot of really uncomfortable and, frankly, dumbass questions. Much like college baseball scouts did to them in the 1980s — it’s best to ignore them.
Why you should willingly answer 3 a.m. calls from some random, 999-999-9999 number
Your civilian homies probably let anything outside their immediate area code go straight to voicemail. If your brother or sister is on deployment, though, you know you can get some calls at any hour of the night from some weird numbers. It’s worth it to stomach the pleas for help from a phony Nigerian prince if it means every 5th one is the resolute voice of your sibling, hundreds of miles away, asking what the new J. Cole album sounds like.
You have traded your soul for a spaghetti MRE
Once your lips have tasted the eternal glory of it, there can be no going back. Chef Boyardee will taste like blasphemy on the tongue. My soul is currently screaming silently from a jar in the pocket of my brother’s BDUs. I traded it long ago, and it was worth every dehydrated, calorie-packed ounce.
One of the most useful and game-changing weapons of World War II was radar, a technology that allowed Allied pilots to know when and where to fly in order to intercept incoming German bombers, but Britain was actually hunting for a super weapon: A death ray.
In 1935, World War II had essentially not started yet. Japan was conducting limited, intermittent fighting with China, but Europe was technically at peace. Except war was clearly bubbling up. Germany was re-building its military in violation of the Peace Treaty of Versailles, and Italy launched a successful invasion of Ethiopia.
Britain knew, sooner or later, it would get dragged into a fight. Either Italy would attack colonial possessions in Africa that belonged to it or its allies, or Germany would attempt to conquer Europe. And there was a rumor that Germany had developed a weapon that could wipe out entire towns.
(This may have been a result of early nuclear research. German scientists made some of the critical first breakthroughs in what would later result in nuclear bombs.)
So British leaders asked Robert Watson-Watt if his research, using electromagnetic radiation to detect clouds, could be used to kill enemy pilots.
Yes, they wanted a death ray. But Watson-Watts quickly realized that he couldn’t get that much energy into the clouds. His work, which would lead to modern day weather radar, used a magnetron to send microwave radiation into the sky. But it wasn’t a focused beam of energy, and there simply wasn’t enough juice to kill or even seriously distract an enemy pilot.
To get an idea of how the death ray would’ve had to work, imagine a microwave that could cook a human in less than a minute while they were still miles away. That would be a huge, power-sucking microwave and essentially technically impossible to build.
But Watson-Watts came back with an alternative proposal. The death ray was dead in the water, but the magnetrons could be used to detect planes just like clouds, but even more effectively. And the early math around the idea revealed that the device could see enemy planes for miles and miles, eventually 100 miles out.
British troops guard a downed German Messerschmitt Bf 109 in August 1940. Radar helped British pilots hold off German advances despite a shortage of pilots and planes.
(Imperial War Museums)
This was game-changing for British pilots when war did break out and reach British shores. Germany quickly conquered France and then began attacking England in the Battle of Britain, using the Luftwaffe to bomb British targets and take on British fighters. The British were outnumbered, and so they needed to make each flight hour of each pilot count for as much as possible.
Radar made this possible. If Britain could only spot incoming German forces with human eyeballs, it would need a large number of spotters on the ground and pilots in the air at all times. But with radar looking out a hundred miles, the Royal Air Force could fly fewer patrols and keep most pilots resting on the ground until needed, instead.
When radar detected incoming planes, the in-air patrols could fly to intercept as additional forces scrambled into the sky as necessary. The network of radar stations would become the “Chain Home” system, and it watched Britain to the north, east, and south.
Germany developed its own radar and deployed it operationally in 1940.
Britain never got its death ray, but Japan did experiment with making a death ray like Watson-Watts considered. They used magnetrons to create microwave radiation in an experimental design that did kill at least one rabbit targeted during tests. But killing the rabbit required that it stay still for 10 minutes, not exactly useful in combat. A groundhog took 20 minutes.
“Going to the war zones and visiting the troops . . . and being able to pat them on the back and support them . . . has been a great joy, a great personal reward because you can see that you’re providing a service for somebody who’s providing a service for us, and it’s lifting them us in some way,” Gary Sinise says. “I make my living as an actor and all of this is simply something I do with the resources . . . and time that I have.”
Sinise started working with working with wounded warriors primarily as a function of his portrayal of Lt. Dan in the movie “Forrest Gump,” a vet who lost both legs during the Vietnam War. “That movie came out in ’92,” Sinise explains. “Then we had September 11, that terrible event, and we started responding to that in Iraq and Afghanistan — deploying to those places — and our people started getting hurt. And we had this whole new generation of Lt. Dans coming back from those wars. I wanted to very much get behind them and support them in some way.”
That desire wound up manifesting itself in myriad ways including the Gary Sinise Foundation and the Lt. Dan Band, which got its name from the fact all the troops were calling Sinise “Lt. Dan” when he’d visit them in theater.
Sinise pushes back on the idea that he’s living out some sort of rock n’ roll fantasy at midlife by playing bass guitar in a touring rock band, pointing out that he was a rocker in high school, which is, ironically, the thing that got him into acting. “I was standing in a hallway with the band members and we were looking kind of raggedy, sort of grubby band guys, you know. And the drama teacher walked by, and she told us to audition for ‘West Side Story’ because we looked like gang members. Two of us ended up going, and I got in the play.”
The Sinise family has military heritage, most notably that of his uncle Jack who was a navigator aboard a B-17 in World War II. Sinise arranged for Jack to have a ride in a vintage B-17 almost 70 years after his final war sortie in 1945, and the event was made into a short documentary that premiered at the GI Film Festival a few years ago.
Watch Gary Sinese talk to actor and Navy veteran Jamie Kaler about his support of wounded vets and the Lt. Dan Band:
Don’t miss Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band as they kick off the 10th annual GI Film Festival in Washington DC on May 21. Check out more information and get your tickets here.
This may seem like blasphemy to some, but Popeye started his professional career as a civilian mariner and then Coast Guardsman. The famous sailor did join the Navy, but as of 1937, Popeye was firmly in the Coast Guard. A two-reel feature titled Popeye the Sailor meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves introduces Popeye serving at a Coast Guard station. The sailor man’s creator did not live to see the United States enter World War II, but it was in 1941 that his creation joined the Navy and the legend of Popeye the rough and tumble U.S. Navy sailor was born.
Popeye the Sailor meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves wasn’t Popeye’s first feature. He started life as a character in the comic strip Thimble Theater in 1929, a comic actually centered around his off-and-on girlfriend, Olive Oyl. When it became obvious that Popeye was the real star, he made a jump to feature films. In the aforementioned 1937 film is when we see Popeye in the Coast Guard, on guard duty and deploying to intercept “Abu Hassan” (aka Bluto), who is terrorizing the Middle East.
It was during WWII that Popeye reached his incredible popularity. After enlisting in the Navy in 1941’s The Mighty Navy, Popeye’s clothing changed and reflected his status as a U.S. Navy sailor, wearing the distinctive white crackerjack uniform. Popeye would remain in uniform until 1978, when new cartoons put him back in his original outfit, with one exception: the white yachting cap he used to wear was replaced with a standard issue Navy “Dixie Cup” cap.
It should be noted that Popeye and Bluto once attempted to join the Army in a 1936 film short called I’m In the Army Now, but they really just ended up fighting in the recruiter’s office. Popeye left the office after beating Bluto to a surrender, but without actually joining. Popeye also regularly beats Bluto to the tune of “The Army Goes Rolling Along.”
Despite his dedication to service, Popeye never once tried to join the Air Force.
Wondering what it takes to cut the mustard in Special Forces selection?
The time of my first (just) two-year enlistment in the Army was coming to an end. I originally enlisted for the shortest amount of time in the Army in the event that if I really hated it too much I only ever had two years to endure. There were two things that I was positively certain of:
I really DID want to stay in the Army
I really did NOT want to stay right where I was in the Army
It wasn’t a matter of being so fervent about wanting to excel into the ranks of Special Forces soldiers at that time; rather, it was the matter of getting away — far away — from the attitudes and caliber of persons I was serving with at the time in the peace- time Army as it was. I understood, so I thought, that the way to ensure I could distance myself from the regular army aura was to go into Special Forces, namely the Green Berets.
(Special Forces Regimental insignia)
That was a great path forward, but with a near insurmountable obstacle — you had to be a paratrooper! Jumping from an airplane in flight was fine by me, the problem associated with that was that most airplanes had to be really high up before you jumped out of them. I was then as I am still horrendously terrified of heights — woe is me! My fear of altitudes was keeping me from going to Airborne Jump School and stuck in my current morass of resolve.
Well, just two short years in the regular “go nowhere, do nothing” Army and I was ready to jump out of high-in-the-sky airplanes parachute or no parachute. I was ready to jump ship!
Jump School was indeed terrifying despite the small number of jumps, just five, that we were required to make. All of the jumps were in the daytime though mine were all night jumps. All that is required to qualify as a night jump is to simply close one’s eyes. I did. I figured there was nothing so pressing to see while falling and waiting for the intense tug of the opening of the parachute, so I just closed my eyes.
(Every jump can potentially be a night jump, so says I — Wikipedia commons)
There were 25 of us paratroops headed to the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) upon graduation from Jump School. I was the highest ranking man even as an E-4 in the group, so I was designated the person in charge of the charter bus ride from Jump School to Ft. Bragg, NC for the course — of course! I imagined that duty would not entail much on a bus ride of just a few hours. I was shocked when approached by two men from my group who wished to terminate their status as Green Beret candidates.
Well, the course certainly MUST be hard if men are quitting already on the bus ride to the course.
“Sure fellows, but can you at least wait until we get to Bragg to quit?” I pleaded.
Once at Ft. Bragg, it was our understanding that we were on a two-week wait for our SFQC class to begin. Our first week we tooled about doing essentially nothing but dodging work details like cutting grass and picking up pine cones. The second week was an event that the instructors called “Pre-Phase,” a term that I didn’t like the sound of and braced for impact.
“Pre-Phase,” in my (humble) opinion, was a pointless and disorganized suck-athon. It was a non-stop hazing with back-breaking, butt-kicking, physical events determined to crush the weak and eliminate the faint of heart. In the end we had a fraction of the number of candidates that we started with. I noted that of the 25 men I brought over from Jump School, only me and one other very reserved soldier survived. We nodded at each other and shook hands at the culmination of the mysterious Pre-Phase.
“Good job, brother-man!” I praised him.
“Thank you; my name is Gabrial, you can call me Gabe,” he introduced.
“Great job, Gabe — George is my name — please, call me Geo!” I invited.
The documented entry-level criteria included the ability to pass the standard Army Physical Readiness Fitness Test (APRFT) in a lofty percentile, though one I am loath to admit I do not remember. There was also a swim test that was required of us to perform wearing combat fatigues, combat boots, and carrying an M-16 assault rifle.
We did it in the post swimming pool. It was a bit of a challenge but by no means a threat to my status as a candidate. I was nonetheless dismayed at several men who were not able to pass it after having gone through all they had. It was sad.
(Special Forces have a charter for conducting surface and subsurface water operations — Wikipedia commons)
The first month of the SFQC was very impressive to me as a young man barely 20 years old. It was all conducted at a remote camp in the woods where we lived in structures made of wood frames and tar paper — barely a departure at all from the outdoor environment. We endured many (MANY) surprise forced marches of unknown distance, very heavy loads, and extreme speed that were hardly distinguishable from a full run.
Aside from the more didactic classroom environment learning skills of every sort, there were the constant largely physical strength and endurance events like hand-to-hand combat training, combat patrolling, rope bridge construction with river crossings, obstacle course negotiating, living and operating in heavily wooded environments. We learned to kill and prepare wild game for meals: rabbits, squirrels, goats, and snakes. Hence the age-old term for Special Forces soldiers — “Snake Eaters,” a moniker I bore with proud distinction.
(Survival skills are essential in Special Forces — Wikipedia Commons)
We all had to endure a survival exercise of several days alone. There were dozens of tasks associated with that exercise that we had to accomplish in those days: building shelter, starting and maintaining a fire for heat and cooking, building snares and traps to catch animals for food, and building an apparatus to determine time of day and cardinal directions.
Since the same land was used time after time by the survival training, it was understood by the cadre that the land was pretty much hunted out, leaving no animals to speak of for food. Therefore there was a set day and time that a truck was scheduled to drive by each candidate’s camp to throw an animal off of the back. When the animal hit the ground it became stunned and disoriented. We had just seconds to profit from the animal’s stupor to spring in and catch it before it ran away… or go hungry for the duration.
Hence the sundial I built and my track of the days, to have myself in position to capture my animal when the time came. The time and the truck came. I crouched along the side of the terrain road. The cadre slung a thing that was white from the truck. It hit the ground and was stunned. I pounced on what turned out to be a white bunny rabbit.
“Oh… my God!” I lamented earnestly in my weakened physical and mental capacity, “I’ve stumbled into Alice in Wonderland’s enchanted forest… I can’t eat the White Rabbit!”
(He’s late, he’s late, for a very important date — Wikipedia Commons)
Some men were unfortunately unable to capture their rabbits in time before they ran away. One man was overcome by grief at the prospect of killing his rabbit — his only source of companionship. He rather built a cage for it and graced it with a share of the paltry source of food that he had. Me, I was a loner and swung my Cheshire rabbit by the hind legs head-first into a tree. I ate that night in solace and in the company of just myself.
Men who could no longer continue sat on the roadside each morning and waited for a truck, one that I referred to in disdain as the hearse, to be picked up and removed from the course. One of them was carrying a cage lovingly constructed from sticks and vines in which sat therein a nibbling white rabbit. The man was washed out of the course for failing tasks, backed up by quitting. There was no potential for a man to return for a second time if he had quit on his first try — quitting was not an option.
The event that cut the greatest swath through the candidate numbers was the individual land navigation event. It lasted a week or so with some hands-on cadre-lead instruction, some time for individual practice, culminating in a period of several days and nights of individual tests. The movements were long, the terrain difficult, the stress level very high. Every leg of the navigation course was measured on time and accuracy — we had to be totally accurate on every move, and within the speed standard.
(SF troop candidate during Land Navigation Phase of SFQC moves quickly with heavy loads — DVIDS)
I recall a particular night when all of us lay in our pup tents waiting for our release time to begin our night movements. Just as the hour was on us a monumental torrent of rain began to gush down. The men scrambled and clambered back to their tents like wet alley cats. I performed a simple mathematical equation in my head:
time equals distance
hiding in a tent for an undetermined period equals zero time
zero time equals zero distance
choosing one’s personal comfort over time equals failure
I had a Grandma Whipple’s rum-soaked cigar clenched tightly in my teeth; it was lit before the rain but no more, and I assure you most fervently that it was never in any way Cuban! Plowing through the vegetation for many minutes I came to a modest clearing that I came to be very familiar with over the days. It told me that I was thankfully on course for the moment. The rain was tapering off generously and I felt a leg up on the navigation for the night.
I reached for my cigar but there was none there save the mere butt that remained clenched in my teach. To my disgust the waterlogged cigar had collapsed under its weight and lay in a mushy black track down my chin and neck edging glacially toward my chest. There would be no comfort of the smoke, nor deterrence of mosquitoes by the smoke of the Grandma Whipple’s rum-soaked positively non-cuban cigar that night.
More than five months later I sat on my rucksack (backpack) of some 50 lbs just having completed a timed 12-mile forced ruck march, nothing any longer between me and graduation from the SFQC course. There were plenty of things to think of that had happened or did not happen to me over the nearly half-year, though I somehow chose the bus ride from Jump School to Ft. Bragg to ponder. How rowdy and arrogant the crowd had been, all pompously sporting green berets that they hadn’t even earned yet. Me, I had chosen to wear my Army garrison cap — nothing fancy.
I filtered through the events that had taken each man who had not already quit from that arduous bus ride from Jump School. I remember how they had all failed or quit one by one except that one brother whose hand I shook at the end of pre-phase.
Buses pulled up to move us back to some nice barracks for the night, some barrack at least 12 miles away by my calculation. Usually everyone snatched up his own rucksack by his damned self, but on this occasion the brother next to me pulled up my rucksack to shoulder height for me in a congratulatory gesture of kindness.
I in turn grabbed his rucksack in the same manner though with a deep admiration and respect for the man who had come all the way with me from Jump School through the SFQC fueled by reserved professionalism. His name was Gabriel, but I just called him Gabe.
The Pentagon has named a U.S. soldier who died on Nov. 24, 2018, in Afghanistan’s southern province of Helmand and confirmed that the soldier had been critically wounded during a firefight against “enemy forces” in a neighboring province.
In a statement issued on Nov. 25, 2018, the Pentagon said 25-year-old Army Ranger Sergeant Leandro Jasso sustained his fatal wounds during combat in the Khash Rod district of Nimruz Province.
He died after being evacuated to the Garmsir district of Helmand Province, where U.S. forces operate an expanded forward operations base known as Camp Dwyer and a smaller military installation known as Camp Garmsir.
Jasso was the ninth U.S. soldier to die in Afghanistan in 2018.
Some 14,000 U.S. soldiers are currently serving in Afghanistan, where the United States and NATO formally concluded their combat mission in 2014.
The remaining Western forces mainly train and advise the Afghan security forces, which have been struggling against attacks from a resurgent Taliban and other militant extremist groups.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said earlier in November 2018 that 58 Americans had been killed in Afghanistan since the start of 2015 when Afghan troops took over primary responsibility for Afghanistan’s security.
During the same period since the withdrawal of most NATO combat troops from Afghanistan, Ghani said nearly 29,000 Afghan police and soldiers have been killed — a figure far higher than anything previously acknowledged by the government in Kabul.
The Russian defense contractor Rostec just showed off a stealth camouflaged helmet that they claim can change colors quickly and even display moving images to better conceal Russian troops.
“The specialized electrically-operated material covering the helmet prototype is able to change color depending on the camouflaged surface and environment,” Rostec said in a press statement of the helmet displayed Aug. 21, 2018, at the Army-2018 Forum in Moscow. “The material can display dynamic changes of color intensity and simulate complex images, for example, the motion of leaves in the wind.”
Rostec said that the stealth camouflage coating can be “applied to the base, like ordinary paint, and does not require great accuracy in terms of thickness and uniformity.”
In this case, it was applied to a helmet designed for Russia’s third-generation Ratnik-3 combat suit, which Russia Today previously dubbed the “Star Wars-like” suit, but Rostec says it can be applied to practically anything, even armored vehicles.
The Ratnik-3 combat suit.
The third-generation Ratnik-3 suit “comprises five integrated systems that include life support, command and communication, engaging, protection and energy saving subsystems,” TASS, a Russian state-owned media outlet, previously reported.
In total, the suit comes with 59 items, including a powered exoskeleton that supposedly gives the soldier more strength and stamina, along with cutting-edge body armor and a helmet and visor that shields the soldier’s entire face.
The first-generation Ratnik suit was reportedly given to a few Russian units in 2013, and some pieces of the suit were spotted on Russian troops in Crimea.
It should be noted, however, that there do not appear to be any video yet of the helmet changing color, but that doesn’t mean the stealth coating doesn’t work.
“I haven’t seen the system working myself of course, but I doubt they’d be displaying it if it didn’t at least do something resembling what they claim,” Sim Tack, chief military analyst at Force Analysis and a global fellow at Stratfor, told Business Insider.
It’s “not something we expect to see on the battlefield too soon, but as armies move towards more advanced infantry systems including exoskeletons and that type of technology, [it] could be a part of that,” Tack added.
“Even if Russian industry was able to perfect stealth camo and exoskeletons, it would likely be too expensive to fit to ordinary Russian troops, with small numbers of Russian special forces — spetsnaz — the likely recipients,” Popular Mechanics’ Kyle Mizokami wrote on Aug. 20, 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Some of our nation’s greatest treasures aren’t places, they are people. Leo LaCasse survived three crash landings and evaded 4,000 enemy troops during World War II. He now lives at a VA Community Living Center in Salem, Virginia. Here is his story:
Born on July 4, 1920, Leo LaCasse was one of five children–all of whom were born on birthdays of former presidents. At the age of 15, he joined the New Hampshire National Guard, and later the Army Air Corps, where he was assigned to a recruiting command. The private was soon promoted to corporal, then sergeant, as he traveled New England recruiting pilots from colleges and universities.
One day, Leo learned that he was accepted to flight school. It was a reward from his commanding officer who had submitted the application on his behalf. Despite never having gone to college, the Army sent Leo to college under an accelerated learning program, and when he graduated, he became a B-17 bomber captain.
Soon, flying planes “felt like home” to Leo.
“Some of them [planes] were cramped, but it didn’t make any difference to me because I was the pilot. When you’re packed in an aircraft and don’t have the room to move your body in the cockpit, any airplane you fly after that is good.”
In June 1943, Leo was assigned to the 8th Air Force, Bomb Group 548th in Suffolk, England, where he served under General Curtis Lemay.
Leo LaCasse flew 35 missions over Germany and other occupied countries, and survived three crash landings. During World War II, Leo evaded 4,000 enemy troops over 4 months.
One of Leo’s crashes landed in France, which was then occupied by Germany. He instructed his crew to head for the front lines, to surrender and tell whoever interrogated them that he was headed for Berlin. Instead, Leo left for Luxembourg to meet up with the French Resistance, where he crossed the Pyrenees Mountains, and made his way to Portugal.
In all, he spent four months avoiding Nazi capture. When the war was over, he was sent to Berlin for debriefing. That’s where he met and befriended a German general who recognized Leo’s name and revealed there had been 4,000 German troops looking for him following the crash landing in France.
Captain Leo LaCasse in front of his B-17 Bomber.
Leo retired from the military as a Brigadier General. For his service he has received numerous medals including the Silver Star Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, Legion of Merit Air Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Combat Medal, Joint Services Commendation Medal, World War II Victory Medal, European and Middle East Campaign Medal, Army Air Force Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, and the American Defense Medal.
On June 5, 2016, Leo received the Legion of Honor Medal, France’s highest honor.
Leo now resides at Salem VA Medical Center’s Community Living Center located in Salem, Virginia.
On July 4, 2019, Leo will celebrate his 99th birthday.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.