Being a “NUB” or “boot” in the Navy usually involves a fair amount of pride swallowing and large doses of embarrassment. Old salts get their jollies by giving their fresh-caught shipmates impossible or fallacious tasks. Here are 13 fool’s errands unsuspecting sailors receive on their way toward becoming fleet players:
1. “Go ask Boats for a boatswain’s punch.”
‘Boats’ is short for boatswain’s mate. If you ask him for a punch, Boats will gladly oblige.
2. “Go to HAZMAT and get me some bulkhead remover.”
A bulkhead is a ship’s wall, and it would take a lot of elbow grease to remove it.
3. “Go down to the ship’s store and get me some batteries for the sound-powered phone.”
Sound-powered phones are . . . wait for it . . . power by sound. No batteries required.
4. “Go get me the keys to the airplane.”
Silly newbie, Navy planes don’t have keys. Starting a plane involves flicking switches and moving throttles.
5. “Go bring me a bucket of prop wash.”
There’s practically a chemical or special product for every job, so this doesn’t seem like an odd request until you realize that prop wash is the water turbulence created by the ship’s propeller.
6. “Go get 20 feet of chow line.”
This one also sounds reasonable. After all, every piece of rope in the Navy has a name — mooring line, heaving line, tie line, etc. Chow line seems logical until you figure out it’s the line coming out of the galley.
7. “Go get me 10 feet of shoreline.”
A variation of the task above. You want shoreline? Wait for liberty call.
8. “Go ask the yeoman for an ‘ID-10-T’ chit.”
Write it down and see what you get. Yeomen describe newbies asking for this chit like Christmas at sea — a gift filled with laughter (and pointing).
9. “Go get me some portable pad eyes.”
Pad eyes are permanent fixtures on the flight deck that aircraft tie downs attach to. They’re anything but portable.
10. “Go turn on the cooling water for the hand rails.”
Searching for this imaginary valve can take all day. The bulkheads and overhead have miles of pipes and wiring. An unsuspecting sailor can go from one end of the ship to the other without success. Hilarity ensues.
11. “Go ask the supply chief for a can of A1R or A.I.R.”
Smart newbies will offer up an empty can, but history shows there aren’t that many smart newbies.
12. “Go get some hangers and tin foil, we need to calibrate the radar.”
Dress the newbie in tin foil with a matching hat and gloves and ask him or her to move slowly to get a good signal. Make sure you bring a camera; the tin man makes for great pictures.
13. “Go practice some touch and goes in the ship’s flight simulator.”
This one is usually reserved for new aviators. (There are no flight simulators on the ship.)
In 1987, Stanley Kubrick released one of the most acclaimed feature films that created a stir within the Marine Corps community — Full Metal Jacket. The movie was an instant hit and, suddenly, veterans and active-duty service members of all ages started memorizing the film’s dialogue and working it into their daily conversations.
Although the film debuted more than 30 years ago, its epic storyline and unique characters contribute to today’s popular culture. Full Metal Jacket still manages to engage audiences, even after we’ve seen it a dozen times. Now, in the age of memes, Full Metal Jacket lives on.
Why isn’t he standing at the position of attention?
We, of course, choose Animal Mother.
Taking jabs at Pvt. Pyle never gets old.
Too bad his vacation didn’t end well…
“Ain’t war hell?”
He was the guest of honor.
So that’s what Animal Mother’s problem was. We were way off!
The US Army recently announced that it is developing the first drones that can spot and target vehicles and people using artificial intelligence (AI). This is a big step forward. Whereas current military drones are still controlled by people, this new technology will decide who to kill with almost no human involvement.
Once complete, these drones will represent the ultimate militarisation of AI and trigger vast legal and ethical implications for wider society. There is a chance that warfare will move from fighting to extermination, losing any semblance of humanity in the process. At the same time, it could widen the sphere of warfare so that the companies, engineers and scientists building AI become valid military targets.
Existing lethal military drones like the MQ-9 Reaper are carefully controlled and piloted via satellite. If a pilot drops a bomb or fires a missile, a human sensor operator actively guides it onto the chosen target using a laser.
Ultimately, the crew has the final ethical, legal and operational responsibility for killing designated human targets. As one Reaper operator states: “I am very much of the mindset that I would allow an insurgent, however important a target, to get away rather than take a risky shot that might kill civilians.”
And this actually points to one possible military and ethical argument by Ronald Arkin, in support of autonomous killing drones. Perhaps if these drones drop the bombs, psychological problems among crew members can be avoided. The weakness in this argument is that you don’t have to be responsible for killing to be traumatised by it. Intelligence specialists and other military personnel regularly analyse graphic footage from drone strikes. Research shows that it is possible to suffer psychological harm by frequently viewing images of extreme violence.
An MQ-9 Reaper.
(US Air Force photo)
When I interviewed over 100 Reaper crew members for an upcoming book, every person I spoke to who conducted lethal drone strikes believed that, ultimately, it should be a human who pulls the final trigger. Take out the human and you also take out the humanity of the decision to kill.
The prospect of totally autonomous drones would radically alter the complex processes and decisions behind military killings. But legal and ethical responsibility does not somehow just disappear if you remove human oversight. Instead, responsibility will increasingly fall on other people, including artificial intelligence scientists.
The legal implications of these developments are already becoming evident. Under current international humanitarian law, “dual-use” facilities — those which develop products for both civilian and military application — can be attacked in the right circumstances. For example, in the 1999 Kosovo War, the Pancevo oil refinery was attacked because it could fuel Yugoslav tanks as well as fuel civilian cars.
With an autonomous drone weapon system, certain lines of computer code would almost certainly be classed as dual-use. Companies like Google, its employees or its systems, could become liable to attack from an enemy state. For example, if Google’s Project Maven image recognition AI software is incorporated into an American military autonomous drone, Google could find itself implicated in the drone “killing” business, as might every other civilian contributor to such lethal autonomous systems.
Ethically, there are even darker issues still. The whole point of the self-learning algorithms — programs that independently learn from whatever data they can collect — that the technology uses is that they become better at whatever task they are given. If a lethal autonomous drone is to get better at its job through self-learning, someone will need to decide on an acceptable stage of development — how much it still has to learn — at which it can be deployed. In militarised machine learning, that means political, military and industry leaders will have to specify how many civilian deaths will count as acceptable as the technology is refined.
Recent experiences of autonomous AI in society should serve as a warning. Uber andTesla’s fatal experiments with self-driving cars suggest it is pretty much guaranteed that there will be unintended autonomous drone deaths as computer bugs are ironed out.
If machines are left to decide who dies, especially on a grand scale, then what we are witnessing is extermination. Any government or military that unleashed such forces would violate whatever values it claimed to be defending. In comparison, a drone pilot wrestling with a “kill or no kill” decision becomes the last vestige of humanity in the often inhuman business of war.
This article was amended to clarify that Uber and Tesla have both undertaken fatal experiments with self-driving cars, rather than Uber experimenting with a Tesla car as originally stated.
Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein emphasized the essential role airmen have when it comes to space superiority during the 34th Space Symposium, April 17, 2018, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“Our space specialists must be world-class experts in their domain,” said Goldfein. “But, every airman, beyond the space specialty, must understand the business of space superiority. And, we must also have a working knowledge of ground maneuver and maritime operations if we are to integrate air, space and cyber operations in a truly seamless joint campaign.”
Space is in the Air Force’s DNA, said Goldfein. The service has been the leader of the space domain since 1954 and will remain passionate and unyielding as the service continues into the future, he added.
“Let there be no doubt, as the service responsible for 90 percent of the Department of Defense’s space architecture and the professional force with the sacred duty to defend it, we must and will embrace space superiority with the same passion and sense of ownership as we apply to air superiority today,” Goldfein said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Scott M. Ash)
Space enables everything the Joint Force does, and space capabilities are not only vital to success on the battlefield, but are also essential to the American way of life.
Goldfein also discussed the importance of working with allies and partner in space.
“As strong as we may be as airmen and joint warfighters, we are strongest when we fight together with our allies and partners,” said Goldfein. “Integrating with our allies and partners will improve the safety, stability and sustainability of space and will ultimately garner the international support that condemns any adversary’s harmful actions.”
The importance of space is highlighted in both the recently published National Security and National Defense strategies. In addition, the President’s Budget for Fiscal 2019 offers the largest budget for space since 2003.
(U.S. Air Force / United Launch Alliance)
Goldfein acknowledged that investing in technology is vital, but investing in the development and training of our joint warriors is equally important, he said.
“We must make investments in our people to strengthen and integrate their expertise,” said Goldfein. “We are building a Joint-smart space force and a space-smart Joint force. That begins with broad experience and deep expertise.”
Goldfein went on to underscore how space enables all operations, but it has become a contested domain. The Air Force must deter a conflict that could extend into space, and has an obligation to be prepared to fight and win if deterrence fails.
“We will remain the preeminent air and space force for America and her allies,” said Goldfein. “The future of military space operations remains in confident and competent hands with airmen. Always the predator, never the prey; we own the high ground.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When Chad Hennings won the top award for College Football’s best inside lineman in 1987, it significantly raised his stock for the NFL draft. He would need it. Despite being the best in the game in his day, he still wasn’t drafted until the 11th round. The reason is that Hennings played football at the Air Force Academy, and would have to serve four years in the military before he could pursue his NFL dreams.
He wouldn’t have to do that today. Defense Secretary Mark Esper just signed a new memo, laying out the guidelines newly-graduated academy athletes need to pursue professional sports careers instead of entering the military.
Hennings spent four years as a pilot and would actually get his last four years waived by the Air Force. By the time he got to the Dallas Cowboys, he was already 27 years old – almost elderly by NFL standards. Luckily for Hennings, he really was one of the best linemen ever to play the game. After his first start in 1992, he went on to win three Super Bowls and snag 27.5 sacks before retiring after the 2000 season. But other athletes weren’t so lucky.
The issue of letting service members who can play at a professional level attempt that dream has been hotly debated by both pro sports fans and policymakers in Washington. The NCAA is big business now, and the NFL is even bigger, generating 5 million and .1 billion in annual revenues, respectively. The pressure to maintain popular talent is definitely on, but the service academies mean more than just big bucks for big-time athletes. They’re supposed to, anyway. There are many who are against the idea.
One in particular.
Before the Obama Administration, academy athletes were required to fulfill their service obligations. The Obama Administration allowed academy athletes to defer their service if they were good enough to be drafted by the NFL. Shortly after Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds was allowed to be drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2016, the Pentagon rescinded that policy. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis believed the academies “exist to develop future officers,” and those trained officers should fulfill the expectations of their education.
President Trump stepped in in June 2019, saying there was such a short window of talent between their college career and potential professional sports careers, that academy athletes should be allowed to try and take advantage. On Nov. 15, 2019, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper signed a memo that dictates what the athletes must do to try and take advantage – which includes getting permission from the SECDEF and either serving their commitment or paying the government back for their education.
These days, academy grads usually owe the military five years of service after graduation. Under the new athletics policy, once permission is obtained from the Secretary of Defense, the athlete must agree to return to the military and serve those five years. The waiver is then reviewed by the DoD every year while the athlete is in his pro sports position. If they can’t pass the medical standards when they get to the military, they’ll serve five years in a civilian job. If they don’t do either of those, they’ll be charged for their education.
It’s not impossible for service academy grads to serve first and then join the NFL. In addition to the Cowboys’ Chad Hennings, Navy’s Roger Staubach, Mike Wahle, and Phil McConkey as well Army’s Glenn Davis and Alejandro Villanueva all had successful NFL careers after serving their obligations.
The Purple Heart is the U.S. military’s oldest medal — but it’s more than just a medal. It’s a symbol of a sacrifice made on behalf of a U.S. troop for his or her unit, mission, and country. It represents a tangible, physical offering — a risk to life or limb. An officer can’t write themselves a Purple Heart package with some fancy wordplay. To get one, a military member must be wounded or killed in action against an enemy. There’s a reason people, veteran and civilian alike, take notice when they see it — it always means something.
So it’s nice to know that those who made such a sacrifice get a little bit extra.
President George W. Bush awards a Purple Heart medal and citation to U.S. Navy sailor Jefferson Talicuran of Chula Vista, California, on Thursday, July 3, 2008, at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
(White House photo by Eric Draper)
1. Medical Priority Upgrades at the VA
The VA prioritizes veterans into eight categories, ranging from Group 1, those with a 50-percent military disability rating or higher, and Group 8, veterans who have no service-connected conditions and are ineligible for medical care. A Purple Heart recipient will automatically be placed in at least Group 3, so they’re never responsible for a copay for medical treatment.
2. The Forever GI Bill
In order to qualify for GI Bill benefits, most troops must serve at least 36 months on active duty. Purple Heart recipients will get full benefits no matter how long they spent on active duty — and they get the full benefits offered in the bill.
President Barack Obama awards Sgt. James N. Rowland, a Rohnert, Calif. native, the Purple Heart for wounds received in combat. The ceremony was held in Al-Faw Palace on Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq on Apr. 7, 2009.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kimberly Millett)
3. Preferential hiring in government jobs
When applying for a federal government job, all honorably discharged veterans who served active duty get hiring preference over non-veterans. Vets get five-point preference if they served during a war, served during a campaign for which a campaign medal was created, or served during certain periods or for certain lengths of time.
Ten-point preference is given to veterans who have a service-connected disability — including Purple Heart recipients.
4. Commissary and MWR access
The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act makes Purple Heart recipients eligible for on-base shopping and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation area use starting in 2020.
President Trump shakes hands with U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Alvaro Barrientos, after awarding him with a Purple Heart, with Tammy Barrientos at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, on Apr. 22, 2017 in Bethesda, Maryland.
5. State Benefits
Many states offer some sort of extra benefit to Purple Heart recipients. In Arizona, in-state university tuition can be waived for Purple Heart recipients. In South Carolina, children of Purple Heart recipients are eligible for free in-state university tuition. Check with your state VA to be sure — individual states offer property and income tax breaks that you may never hear about in a national discussion.
It’s just about here – the sequel aviation and military buffs have been patiently waiting for.
“Top Gun: Maverick” was supposed to fly onto the big screen in July but was pushed back to December due to COVID-19. The sequel with Tom Cruise returning in the starring role as hotshot naval aviator LT Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a graduate of the US Navy’s elite TOPGUN school and a career fighter pilot flying the Grumman F-14 Tomcat.
Though not a whole lot of information about the new movie has been released just yet, it’s generally understood that Maverick will be an instructor or something similar, teaching the next generation of fighter pilots how to push themselves and their aircraft to the limit.
While a lot has changed in the three decades since Maverick first set foot on TOPGUN’s campus at NAS Miramar (now a Marine Corps base), one thing remains absolutely certain — Maverick really shouldn’t be anywhere near the school, especially as an instructor.
From his downright reckless flying to his cavalier attitude, this aviator is no example for new TOPGUN candidates, and he definitely shouldn’t be in a position to instruct them.
Here are four reasons why Maverick might actually be the worst possible choice to be a TOPGUN instructor in the sequel:
1. He wasn’t even the best pilot at Top Gun!
Far from it.
In fact, Maverick didn’t even come close to winning the top graduate award at the end of the program, losing his edge and competitiveness after his radar intercept officer, Lt. JG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, died during a training exercise gone wrong.
In convincing him to return to the program, “Viper” — TOPGUN’s head honcho in the movie — lets the depressed soon-to-be washout know that he has enough points to graduate with the rest of his class… but certainly not enough to achieve the award for best pilot.
Instead, it’s Maverick’s classmate and fierce rival, Lt. Tom “Iceman” Kazanski who took the plaque for first place (and gains the option to return to TOPGUN as an instructor). If anything, being that the program is designed to mature the most capable of all Navy fighter pilots currently serving, shouldn’t they only learn from the best?
2. He’s definitely not a team player
“You never, never leave your wingman.” – Lt. Cmdr. Rick “Jester” Heatherly (Photo Top Gun Youtube screengrab)
This is alarmingly evident from the very beginning of the movie, when the young pilot and his backseater decide to leave a fellow Tomcat behind and completely exposed to do a little showboating.
Instead of covering his wingman, Maverick pulls his F-14 over an enemy MiG-28 for Goose to take vanity images with a Polaroid camera. Meanwhile, “Cougar” and “Merlin” — the two aircrew of the other F-14 — are mercilessly hounded by another MiG fighter, causing Cougar to lose his edge and turn in his wings after nearly crashing his jet.
Over at Miramar, Maverick once again draws the ire of his fellow classmates by leaving them behind during training exercises, choosing instead to selfishly pursue Viper while allowing his wingmen to take a hit.
3. He’s too reckless and narcissistic
Every time Maverick goes up, he flies dangerously.
It’s a chronic problem and he doesn’t know how to solve it. From buzzing control towers to his inverted encounter with the MiG-28 to his training sorties at TOPGUN, Maverick just doesn’t know how to turn off his recklessness.
At times, he’s even been known to disobey direct orders from commanding officers. His superiors call him out on it repeatedly, from his time in the fleet aboard the USS Enterprise to his antics at TOPGUN, darting below the “hard deck” to get a radar lock on one of his instructors.
Perhaps this is a result of his inherent narcissism… a trait unbecoming of a potential TOPGUN instructor pilot. The young naval aviator is frankly way too self-absorbed to be an instructor given his penchant for doing things that would ultimately give himself the glory.
4. He’s way too old to be an instructor anyways
Let’s do the math here — “Top Gun” was released in 1986, over 3 decades ago. By the time the sequel makes its appearance on the silver screen, 34 years will have elapsed since Maverick’s stint at the former NAS Miramar. Let’s add another four years to that, since Maverick was a lieutenant back when he first entered the TOPGUN program… which brings us to a grand total of 37 years.
The vast majority of military officers don’t even have careers that long! Given Maverick’s penchant for angering people in authority over him, it’s unlikely that he’d still be in the Navy, though it’s also possible that he got relegated to a desk job, ending his flying career, where he might remain today.
With that being said, fighter pilots also have a “shelf life.” There’s only so much wear and tear that their bodies can take from the physical and mental stress of flying high-performance fighter aircraft, and most tend to either leave the cockpit due to advancement, or out of a personal choice to accept a less-strenuous job elsewhere (within or outside the service) within 15-20 years.
OF COURSE we’re going to see the new “Top Gun” when it comes out. But we’ll be looking to make sure that if Maverick is indeed an instructor, he’s matured from his previously reckless ways.
On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war against Germany and entered World War I. Since August 1914, the war between the Central and Entente Powers had devolved into a bloody stalemate, particularly on the Western Front. That was where the U.S. would enter the engagement.
How prepared was the country’s military to enter a modern conflict? The war was dominated by industrially made lethal technology, like no war had been before. That meant more death on European battlefields, making U.S. soldiers badly needed in the trenches. But America’s longstanding tradition of isolationism meant that in 1917 U.S. forces needed a lot of support from overseas allies to fight effectively.
In Europe, American combat troops would encounter new weapons systems, including sophisticated machine guns and the newly invented tank, both used widely during World War I. American forces had to learn to fight with these new technologies, even as they brought millions of men to bolster the decimated British and French armies.
Engaging with small arms
In certain areas of military technology, the United States was well-prepared. The basic infantrymen of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps were equipped with the Model 1903 Springfield rifle. Developed after American experience against German-made Mausers in the Spanish American War, it was an excellent firearm, equal or superior to any rifle in the world at the time.
With far more soldiers than supplies of modern machine guns, the U.S. Army had to adopt several systems of foreign design, including the less-than-desirable French Chauchat, which tended to jam in combat and proved difficult to maintain in the trenches.
Meeting tank warfare
American soldiers fared better with the Great War’s truly new innovation, the tank. Developed from the need to successfully cross “No Man’s Land” and clear enemy-held trenches, the tank had been used with limited success in 1917 by the British and the French. Both nations had combat-ready machines available for American troops.
Instead, U.S. ground forces used 239 of the French-built versions of the tank, as well as 47 British Mark V tanks. Though American soldiers had never used tanks before entering the war, they learned quickly. One of the first American tankers in World War I was then-Captain George S. Patton, who later gained international fame as a commander of Allied tanks during World War II.
Also new to Americans was poison gas, an early form of chemical warfare. By 1917 artillery batteries on both sides of the Western Front commonly fired gas shells, either on their own or in combination with other explosives. Before soldiers were routinely equipped with gas masks, thousands died in horrific ways, adding to the already significant British and French casualty totals.
Scientists on both sides of the war effort worked to make gas weapons as effective as possible, including by devising new chemical combinations to make mustard gas, chlorine gas, phosgene gas and tear gas. The American effort was substantial: According to historians Joel Vilensky and Pandy Sinish, “Eventually, more than 10 percent of all the chemists in the United States became directly involved with chemical warfare research during World War I.”
Blinded by German tear gas, British soldiers wait for treatment in Flanders, 1918.
(British Army photo)
Naval power for combat and transport
All the manpower coming from the U.S. would not have meant much without safe transportation to Europe. That meant having a strong navy. The U.S. Navy was the best-prepared and best-equipped of all the country’s armed forces. For many years, it had been focusing much of its energy on preparing for a surface naval confrontation with Germany.
A German submarine surrenders at the end of World War I.
In May 1917, the British Royal Navy pioneered the convoy system, in which merchant ships carrying men and materiel across the Atlantic didn’t travel alone but in large groups. Collectively protected by America’s plentiful armed escort ships, convoys were the key to saving Britain from defeat and allowing American ground forces to arrive in Europe nearly unscathed. In fact, as military historian V.E. Tarrant wrote, “From March 1918 until the end of the war, two million U.S. troops were transported to France, for the loss of only 56 lives.”
A U.S. Navy escorted convoy approaches the French coast, 1918.
(US Navy photo)
Taking to the skies
Some of those Americans who made it to Europe climbed above the rest – right up into the air. The U.S. had pioneered military aviation. And in 1917, air power was coming into its own, showing its potential well beyond just intelligence gathering. Planes were becoming offensive weapons that could actively engage ground targets with sufficient force to make a difference on the battlefield below.
An American-painted British-made Sopwith Camel in France, 1918.
Despite often lacking the weapons and technology required for success, it was ultimately the vast number of Americans – afloat, on the ground and in the air – and their ability to adapt and use foreign weapons on foreign soil that helped turn the tide of the war in favor of the Allies.
On a summer morning in a desolate corner of Iraq’s western desert, Jim Mattis learned he’d narrowly evaded an assassination attempt.
A Sunni Arab man had been caught planting a bomb on a road shortly before Mattis and his small team of Marines passed by. Told the captured insurgent spoke English, Mattis decided to talk to him.
After Mattis offered a cigarette and coffee, the man said he tried to kill the general and his fellow Marines because he resented the foreigner soldiers in his land. Mattis said he understood the sentiment but assured the insurgent he was headed for Abu Ghraib, the infamous U.S.-run prison. What happened next explains the point of the story.
“General,” the man asked Mattis, “if I am a model prisoner, do you think someday I could emigrate to America?”
In Mattis’ telling, this insurgent’s question showed he felt “the power of America’s inspiration.” It was a reminder of the value of national unity.
Mattis, now the Pentagon boss and perhaps the most admired member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, is a storyteller. And at no time do the tales flow more easily than when he’s among the breed he identifies with most closely — the men and women of the military.
The anecdote about the Iraqi insurgent, and other stories he recounted during a series of troop visits shortly before Christmas, are told with purpose.
“I bring this up to you, my fine young sailors, because I want you to remember that on our worst day we’re still the best going, and we’re counting on you to take us to the next level,” he said. “We’ve never been satisfied with where America’s at. We’re always prone to looking at the bad things, the things that aren’t working right. That’s good. It’s healthy, so long as we then roll up our sleeves and work together, together, together, to make it better.”
The stories tend to be snippets of Mattis’ personal history, including moments he believes illustrate the deeper meaning of military service.
On a trip last month to the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and three domestic military installations, Mattis revealed himself in ways rarely seen in Washington, where he has studiously maintained a low public profile. With no news media in attendance except one Associated Press reporter, Mattis made clear during his troop visits that he had not come to lecture or to trade on his status as a retired four-star general.
“Let’s just shoot the breeze for a few minutes,” he said at one point.
Another time he opened with, “My name is Mattis, and I work at the Department of Defense.”
Mattis used stories to emphasize that today’s uncertain world means every military member needs to be ready to fight at a moment’s notice.
He recalled the words of a Marine sergeant major when Mattis was just two years into his career:
“Every week in the fleet Marine force is your last week of peace,” the sergeant major said. “If you don’t go into every week thinking like this, you’re going to have a sick feeling in the bottom of your stomach when your NCOs (non-commissioned officers) knock on your door and say, ‘Get up. Get your gear on. We’re leaving.'”
By leaving, Mattis meant departing for war.
A recurring Mattis theme is that the military operates in a fundamentally unpredictable world. He recalled how he was hiking with his Marines in the Sierra Nevadas in August 1990 when he got word to report with his men to the nearest civilian airport. Iraq’s Saddam Hussein had just invaded Kuwait, and the Marines were needed to hold the line in Saudi Arabia.
In an exchange with Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Mattis recalled sitting in the back of a room at the Pentagon in June 2001 while senior political appointees of the new George W. Bush administration fired questions at a military briefer about where they should expect to see the most worrisome security threats. At one point, Mattis said, the briefer said confidently that amid all the uncertainty, the one place the U.S. definitely would not be fighting was Afghanistan.
“Five and a half months later, I was shivering in Afghanistan,” Mattis said, referring to his role as commander of Task Force 58, a special group that landed in southern Afghanistan aboard helicopters flown from Navy ships in the Arabian Sea to attack the Taliban in and around Kandahar.
Regardless how much they resonate with his young audience, Mattis’ stories illustrate how he sees his military experience as a way to connect with troops who often feel distant from their political leaders. They also are a reminder Mattis’ boss is one of the most politically divisive figures in recent history.
Speaking to troops and family members at an outdoor movie theater at Guantanamo, Mattis pointed directly to the political battles.
“I’m so happy to be in Guantanamo that I could cry right now, to be out of Washington,” he said, adding jokingly that he wouldn’t mind spending the rest of his tenure away from the capital. He said as soon as he gets back in the company of uniformed troops, he is reminded of why the military can set a standard for civility.
“Our country needs you,” he said, and not just because of the military’s firepower. “It’s also the example you set for the country at a time it needs good role models; it needs to look at an organization that doesn’t care what gender you are, it doesn’t care what religion you are, it doesn’t care what ethnic group you are. It’s an organization that can work together.”
Since ancient times, warriors have gathered around the fire to recall battles fought with comrades over flagons of strong ale. Today, we keep this same tradition — except the storytelling usually happens in a smoke pit or dingy bar.
If you’ve been part of one of these age-old circles, then you know there’s a specific set of mannerisms that’s shared by service members, from NCOs to junior enlisted. The way veterans tell their stories is a time-honored tradition that’s more important than the little details therein — and whether those details are true or not. Not every piece of a veteran’s tale is guaranteed to be accurate, but the following attributes will tell you that it’s legit enough.
Just hear them out. Either out of politeness or apathy — your choice.
Beginning the story with “No sh*t, there I was…”
No good story begins without this phrase. It draws the reader in and prepares them to accept the implausible. How else are you going to believe their story about their reasonably flimsy military vehicle rolling over?
It’s become so much of an on-running trope in veteran storytelling that it’s basically our version of “once upon a time.”
But sometimes, you just have to tell the new guy that everything they just signed up for f*cking sucks.
Going into extreme (and pointless) detail
Whenever a veteran begins story time for a civilian, they’ll recall the little details about where they were deployed, like the heat and the smell.
Now, we’re not saying these facts are completely irrelevant, but the stage-setting can get a bit gratuitous.
If your story is about your time as a boot, everyone will just believe you… likely because your story is too boring to fact check.
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
Constantly reminding the listener that they can look it up
The military has paperwork for literally everything. Let’s say you’re telling the story of how you were the platoon guidon bearer back in basic training. If you tried hard enough, you could probably find a document somewhere to back that statement up.
As outlandish as some claims may be, nobody is actually to put in the work to fact-check a story — especially when you’re just drinking beers at the bar.
Maybe it was because I was boring, but I never understood why people felt the need to go overboard with hiding people in the trunk. Just say, “they left their ID in the barracks.”
(Photo by Senior Airman Ryan Zeski)
Citing someone that may or may not exist as a source
Among troops and veterans, it’s easy for most of us forget that people also have first names. This is why so many of our stories refer to someone named of ‘Johnson,’ ‘Brown,’ or ‘Smith.’ It’s up to you whether you want to believe this person actually exists.
If they start getting into the stories that will make grandma blush, fewer nudges are required.
(U.S. Army photo)
Tapping the listener’s arm if they lose interest
Military stories tend to drag on forever. Now, this isn’t because they’re boring, but rather because the storyteller vividly remembers nearly every detail.
Sometimes, those telling the story feel the need to check in on the listener to make they’re absorbing it all. Most vets do with this a little nudge.
Basically how it works.
(Comic by Broken and Unreadable)
Filling in the blanks with “because, you know… Army”
It’s hard to nail down every minute detail of military culture, like how 15 minute priors really work.
Some things can only be explained with a hand wave and a simple, “because, you know, that’s how it was in the service.”
Or they could just be full of sh*t. But who cares? If it’s a fun story, it’s a fun story.
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
Finishing the story in a way that fosters one-upsmanship
Veterans’ stories aren’t intended to over-glorify past actions — even if that’s how it sounds to listeners. Generations upon generations of squads have told military stories as a way of a team-building, not as a way for one person to win a non-existent p*ssing contest.
Whether the storyteller knows it or not, they often finish up a tale by signaling to the listener that it’s now their turn to tell an even better story. Just like their squad leader did for them all those years ago.
Late Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, U.S. military officials identified the Army helicopter pilot who died on Aug. 20, 2018, as a result of wounds received in a crash in Iraq on Aug. 19, 2018 during an undisclosed operation. Official news releases report three additional wounded U.S. personnel have been evacuated to treatment facilities.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Taylor J. Galvin, 34, from Spokane, Washington, died Aug. 20, in Baghdad as a result of injuries sustained when his helicopter crashed in Sinjar, Ninevah Province, according to a Department of Defense news release.
CW3 Galvin was assigned to Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 160th SOAR (Special Operations Aviation Regiment) as an MH-60M Blackhawk helicopter pilot. He was flying in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. Galvin was originally from Phoenix, Arizona. He was 34 years old. Galvin was a combat veteran special operations pilot with nine deployments including two during Iraqi Freedom, three in Operation Enduring Freedom and four more during Operation Inherent Resolve. He was the recipient of the U.S. Army Air Medal (C device) and Air Medal (30LC) for heroism or meritorious achievement while flying in addition to numerous other awards.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Taylor J. Galvin.
In an August 20, 2018 article on Newsweek.com about the fatal crash, journalist James LaPorta reported that, “It is unclear why the MH-60 Blackhawk went down, but U.S. military sources with knowledge of the crash said the helicopter was returning to base after conducting a partnered small-scale raid on Islamic State militants in an undisclosed region as part of ongoing counterterrorism operations.” LaPorta went on to write, “Ten U.S. military personnel were onboard the aircraft being flown by U.S. Army pilots from the elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, known as the Night Stalkers.”
The region near Sinjar (Shingal), Iraq where the crash occurred had been active in supporting cross-border anti-ISIS operations into neighboring Syria for more than a month until U.S. troops were withdrawn from the area in the middle of July 2018 according to a report by Wladimir van Wilgenburg published in the regional Kurdistan 24 online news source. This is also the region where Iraqi Air Force F-16s have conducted their first airstrikes against insurgents during cross-border strikes into Syria.
The crash was reported to have occurred at approximately 10:00 PM local time (2200 hrs, GMT+3). Sunset in the region on Aug. 19, 2018, the date of the accident, occurred at 6:40 PM local time. Weather in the area was hot, 101 degrees Fahrenheit, with light winds and clear skies. Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning told reporters that the crash was not caused by enemy fire.
(US Army photo)
Reports about the aircraft and the personnel on board may contradict official assertions that the U.S. role in the region is predominantly in an advisory capacity. The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the “Night Stalkers”, is a highly-specialized combat aviation unit headquartered at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky that supports elite U.S. and coalition combat units like Army Special Forces, Naval Special Warfare (SEALs) and other special operations units.
The 160th SOAR, the “Night Stalkers”, are most famous for the raid to capture Osama bin Laden, Operation Neptune’s Spear, on May 1, 2011. During that raid, the unit flew a classified, low-observable variant of the Blackhawk helicopter that has since been popularly referred to in speculation as the “MH-X Stealth Black Hawk” or “Silent Hawk”. Images of part of the secret helicopter were seen around the world when one of them crashed inside Bin Laden’s compound during the raid, leaving the tail section visible. Books and media accounts suggest only two of the aircraft were ever produced.
U.S. troops are all but guaranteed a 3% pay raise next year under legislation that passed the Senate Thursday.
The Senate passed its version of the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act Thursday. The $740 billion bill contains numerous personnel initiatives, including the second consecutive 3% pay raise for service members, and hazardous duty pay for troops responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If signed into the law, the legislation would also make changes designed to standardize the military services’ Exceptional Family Member Programs, improve housing for military families and halt a planned reduction of teachers within Department of Defense Education Activity schools.
The measure also includes incentive pay to retain military health officers, increases funding for child care facilities, adds money for research on industrial chemicals used in firefighting foam and packaging and expands the list of diseases linked to Agent Orange exposure.
“The NDAA gives our military the personnel, equipment, training and organization needed to implement the National Defense Strategy and thwart any adversary who would try to do us harm,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the committee’s ranking Democrat, called the bill an “important step” toward wise investment for the future.
“Mindful of new risks, as well as unfolding and unprecedented unemployment and budget challenges, Congress must wisely invest every defense dollar in a cost-effective and forward-looking manner,” he said.
The bill would create a commission to study removing Confederate names from Defense Department assets within three years — a measure that will need to be sorted out when the House and Senate meet to develop the final version of the bill that will go to President Donald Trump for a signature.
The House bill would force the military to take action to change the names of bases and facilities named after Confederates within a year. The Senate version of the bill incorporates similar provisions to remove Confederate names from bases over three years.
To the absolute surprise of no one in the military, being enlisted personnel can suck. Of course, the magnitude of that suckiness depends on your unit but, overall, there’s a very good reason it tops many peoples’ lists of “worst jobs in the world.”
Being the lowest guy on the worst totem pole isn’t all bad, though. There are genuine moments of levity that keep troops reenlisting — despite how much bile they spew about their unit.
Leaders in the military aren’t the troops’ mothers. They won’t pat them on the back for tying their boots properly or washing their hands like a big kid. What a good leader will do, however, is commend good troops when it’s warranted. And, to be completely honest, there was no better feeling than knowing you’ve impressed your chain of command.
As a lower enlisted, these are the six greatest things you’ll hear.
The thing about being commo was that no one notices you until something goes wrong — and then it’s your fault. Being commended means a lot.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
“Huh… I guess you’re right”
Good troops will always try to better themselves in their given field. If they’re an infantryman, you know they’re going to try to be the best infantryman they can. If they’re a waterdog, you better believe they’ll be be best damn waterdog the world has ever seen.
Acknowledgement of one’s hard work is rarely direct. You’ll likely never hear, “good job, Pvt. Smith. You really cooked one hell of a batch of eggs this morning.” True gratification usually comes when a leader admits that they’ve been bested at a given task by the person they’re training.
Having a superior admit that you’re in the right is a sweet, sweet feeling.
Or the commander could just have you mop the grass in front of the company. That’d be a surprise to everyone.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
“The commander has a surprise for you at close out formation”
Surprises are almost never a good thing. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it means that the poor Joe has to go clean the latrines or sweep all that sunshine off the sidewalk.
When it’s specifically noted that a surprise is coming “at close out formation,” however, it usually means either a promotion ceremony or an award. You know, the kind of surprises you actually want.
If your barracks room actually does need cleaning, then it’s not a subtle clue. Clean your damn barracks room.
“I got nothing else for you. Go clean your barracks room or something”
The military can’t stop for a single second. That’s just how it works. So, when the business day is reaching its close, the company area has already been cleaned for the seventh time that week, and there aren’t any pending connex layouts, leaders still need to find something for their troops to do.
There’s an understanding between good leaders and troops that the phrase “clean your barracks room” doesn’t always mean “clean the barracks.” Sometimes, it means go hide out in your room with your phone on. It definitely mean, “start drinking” — you’ll be called back in at any moment.
Training rooms are like those sloths in Zootopia except the reason they’re so slow is because no one cares enough.
“Your paperwork was pushed through”
You’d think that with the stupid amount of bureaucracy in the military, accountability of paperwork would be paramount. It isn’t. Not by a mile. When people tell you to make copies of everything and keep your originals, it’s not an off-handed suggestion. Things will get lost.
That being said, there are those once-in-a-blue-moon moments when everyone in the training room and battalion S-1 are in sync and absolutely nothing gets lost, torn, or rejected. When everything works in concert and a leave form is involved, it’ll bring a tear to your eye.
All you can do is keep being the troop that your leader knows you to be.
(U.S. Army photo)
“My guy is one hell of a soldier/Marine/airman/sailor”
Leaders are in a perpetual pissing contest, trying to prove that they lead best. That’s part of the reason they push for their Joes to make the “Soldier of the Month” boards. Sure, it looks good for the soldier, but it’s more about getting some bragging rights over other leaders.
Still, knowing that you’re one of the guys that your leader is willing to put on a pedestal is one hell of a feeling.
This list wouldn’t be complete without the one-word phrase that makes a morning so much better:
It means that the first sergeant is fine with giving the troops a morning of PT off if they can sprint to their barracks room/car before they have time to change their mind. Legend has it that the first sergeant will do something if they catch someone — but nobody has ever been slow enough.