5 things you should keep after getting out - We Are The Mighty
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5 things you should keep after getting out

The day one gets out is one that nobody forgets. I packed my car the night before, did my check out process and said goodbye to gents I’d miss and showed the bird to those I wouldn’t. When I looked in the rear view mirror and saw Camp Lejeune shrink smaller and smaller I thought, ‘It’s over…oh sh*t, its actually over.’ I drove off on a cross-country journey to California onto the next chapter. The great thing about the book of life is you can always look back. Here are 5 things you should keep after getting out.

1. Up-to-date dress uniforms

5 things you should keep after getting out
A uniform as sharp as this is one thing you’ll want to keep when you get out.

Servicemembers take a lot of pride in their service but there are others that leave with a bad taste in their mouths because of some injustice. Don’t take it out on your uniforms, update them one last time. The sea bag is not where they belong. When you’re getting out its easy to disregard your dress uniform because you won’t wear it again. One day you may want to show your uniform, with its shiny medals pinned on the chest, to your children or grandchildren and you’ll be glad you gave them one last inspection before retiring them.

2. Your last pair of boots in country

The last pair of boots I wore in theater are squirreled away safely until I am further along in my career. When I’m old and crusty I will place them on a glass display case with a little plaque reading ‘Operation Enduring Freedom, Helmand Province Afghanistan 2011.’ That’s the only war trophy I can tastefully display – or can neither confirm or deny that others exist. Whether you want to have them in your home or office or never on display is your prerogative. It’s your story — keep them for you.

3. Backups of all your pictures

5 things you should keep after getting out
A friendly welcoming committee like this one is a memory worth saving. Photo by Lance Cpl. Dangelo Yanez
3rd Marine Division

I hate to admit how many pictures I’ve lost and had to track down of my buddies. Take pictures while you’re in and don’t be embarrassed to be that guy who looks like a tourist. As long as you maintain OPSEC you’re all good. You’ll be glad you’ll have them when taking a trip down memory lane. Candid shots of my friends and I are my favorite, it’s like that emotion in that moment in time was captured forever: white water rafting in Turkey, looking for IEDs in Afghanistan, swimming with sea turtles in Japan. You won’t regret it.

4. Those wacky and tacky gifts

Plaques when leaving a unit are the obvious ones to save. Those gag gifts your troops give you are worth keeping, too. You were thought of and rediscovering them years later brings back those memories of inside jokes. I still have an airsoft gun we used to fire at each other in the barracks. One day my roommate and I were shooting at drawn targets on pizza boxes when we were privates. One of our friends walked in and we all froze. There was an airsoft pistol on the bed directly in front of the intruder.

‘Don’t do it.’

But he did and it was like the elevator scene in smoking aces. Good times.

5. Your first EGA or service insignia

If a Marine tells you they didn’t cry when they got their first Eagle, Globe and Anchor they’re a liar. Yet, it’s easy to misplace something so small over the years. The sentimental value is through the roof and your future self will thank you for keeping it. Your first insignia is how it all started and a memory worth safeguarding.

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China warns the US against putting new missiles on its ‘doorstep’

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Aug. 3, 2019, that he wants to put ground-based intermediate-range ballistic missiles in the Pacific to confront regional threats, a move that is antagonizing rivals China and Russia.

“We would like to deploy the capability sooner rather than later,” he said Aug. 3, 2019, just one day after the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between the US and Russia officially expired. “I would prefer months. I just don’t have the latest state of play on timelines.”

He did not identify where the missiles would be located in Asia, suggesting that the US would develop the weapons and then sort out placement later. He has said it could be “years” before these weapons are fielded in the region.


The 1987 INF Treaty prohibited the development and deployment of conventional and nuclear ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, but the treaty has ended, giving the US new options as it confronts China’s growing might in the Asia-Pacific region.

Following the end of the treaty, Esper said in a statement Aug. 2, 2019, that the “Department of Defense will fully pursue the development of these ground-launched conventional missiles,” calling these moves a “prudent response to Russia’s actions.” But, the Defense Department is also clearly looking at China. “Eighty percent plus of their [missile] inventory is intermediate-range systems,” Esper told reporters Aug. 3, 2019. It “shouldn’t surprise [China] that we would want to have a like capability.”

5 things you should keep after getting out

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)

In his previous role as the secretary of the Army, Esper made long-range precision fires a top priority, regularly arguing that the US needs long-range, stand-off weaponry if it is to maintain its competitive advantage in a time of renewed great power competition.

Both Russia and China have expressed opposition to the possibility of US missiles in the Pacific.

“If the deployment of new US systems begins specifically in Asia, then the corresponding steps to balance these actions will be taken by us in the direction of parrying these threats,” Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned Aug. 5, 2019.

“If the US deploys intermediate-range missiles in Asia-Pacific, especially around China, the aim will apparently be offensive. If the US insists on doing so, the international and regional security will inevitably be severely undermined,” China Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Aug. 5, 2019.

5 things you should keep after getting out

An M270 multiple launch rocket system maneuvers through a training area prior to conducting their live fire exercise at Rocket Valley, South Korea, Sep. 14, 2017.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michelle U. Blesam, 210th FA Bde PAO)

“China will not just sit idly by and watch our interests being compromised. What’s more, we will not allow any country to stir up troubles at our doorstep. We will take all necessary measures to safeguard national security interests,” she added.

Her rhetoric mimicked Esper’s criticisms of China over the weekend, when he spoke of a “disturbing pattern of aggressive” behavior and warned that the US will not “stand by idly while any one nation attempts to reshape the region to its favor at the expense of others.”

While some observers are concerned US missile deployments may ignite an escalated arms race between great power rivals, Tom Karako, a missile defense expert at CSIS, argues that this is an evolution rather than a radical change in US defensive posturing in the region, an adaptation to Russian and Chinese developments.

“We want China’s leadership to wake up every morning and think this is not a good day to pick a fight with the United States or its allies,” Karako told INSIDER.

5 things you should keep after getting out

An M270 multiple launch rocket system fires during a live fire exercise at Rocket Valley, South Korea, Sep. 15, 2017.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michelle U. Blesam, 210th FA Bde PAO)


Mobile land-based missile systems complicate surveillance and targeting. “The point is not to consolidate and put everything in one spot so it can be targeted but to move things around and make it so that the adversary doesn’t know where these things are at any given time.”

“I would not minimize the potential advantages of this kind of posture,” Karako added.

Should the US pursue this course, China’s response is unlikely to be friendly, experts in China warn. “If the US deploys intermediate-range missiles in Asia, China will certainly carry out countermeasures and augment its own missile forces in response, so as to effectively deter the US,” Li Haidong, a professor in the Institute of International Relations at China Foreign Affairs University told the Global Times.

For now, the US has not made any moves to deploy missiles to the Pacific; however, the US is looking at testing a handful of new ground-based systems.

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

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This airman claims his top secret official duty was to talk to aliens

Dan Sherman joined the Air Force in 1982 to be what was then called Security Police (now known as Security Forces). While serving in Korea in 1984, he met another airman who told him about how great it was to be in Electronic Intelligence (ELINT). The man spoke about it so often, it convinced Sherman ELINT was where he wanted to be as well. Sherman was unhappy with being in Security and often told others if he couldn’t cross-train to the ELINT career field, he would get out entirely. His peers told him his job in security was a critically manned field and his chances of cross-training out were zero.


As luck would have in Sherman was approved to train into ELINT, analyzing electromagnetic energy for intelligence value. He went to tech school in 1990 and was stationed at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. While he liked the job, he wasn’t thrilled with Offutt. He wanted to get back to Korea, and told his peers as much, even going so far as to say he wouldn’t re-enlist if he didn’t get orders there. His luck held again. A month later, he had the orders in hand.

He was enjoying his new career field and in 1992 was sent to Fort Meade, Maryland to train in an intermediate-level ELINT course at the National Security Agency (NSA) building there. His first day in town, he was ordered to report to the NSA for what he thought would be a quick introduction. His life was about to change forever.

According to his book “Above Black: Project Preserve Destiny,” Sherman was indoctrinated into an above Top Secret-level program involving what the Air Force called “Greys.” Grey are purported to be extra-terrestrial beings first encountered by the United States in 1947. Since the early 1960’s, it was revealed to Sherman, the U.S. government had been working on a way to communicate with the Greys. That’s where he came in. His mother was “visited by aliens” before he was born. She was the subject of genetic manipulation, the result would be bearing a child who could be more receptive to the way the Greys communicate, receiving transmissions and passing them on.

 

5 things you should keep after getting out
This means something. This is important.

The Air Force had been waiting for Sherman his entire life. He was part of a new communication plan just coming to fruition. His mother was not supposed to be able to have children. When she was pregnant, little Dan Sherman was not supposed to survive for long. All through his life, people had been telling him how great the Air Force life was, making that life seem to be his own destiny. Now, here Sherman sat, ready to be what the USAF called an “Intuitive Communicator.”

After his regular training courses at the NSA, Dan was taken to an unknown location in a blue Air Force van with blacked out windows. He was given two pills and instructed on how to move waves on electronic screens with his mind. Once he was proficient, he was released and given new orders, now as part of Project Preserve Destiny, or PPD.

5 things you should keep after getting out

His first PPD base established what his life would become. Though he no longer took the pills, he and another airman would sit in a communications van for their shift. Sherman would receive the communication, which included his identifier, 118, a five-digit code, and then what Sherman came to believe were latitude and longitude coordinates. His first handler was a Grey Sherman nicknamed “Spock.”

One day during communication, something startled Sherman and he reached a new “plane.” The alien asked Sherman if this was intentional. When Sherman said it wasn’t, the alien ended the conversation. Sherman would try for months to repeat the situation. Eventually, he was able to, and asked “Spock” some questions about their race and how they were communicating. Sherman’s command was apparently unable to monitor his communications with the Greys, so he was free to ask what he wanted. But after this second meeting, Spock never returned and Sherman was transferred to a new PPD base.

His role at this second base was very similar, but this time “Spock” was gone forever. His new counterpart (whom Sherman nicknamed “Bones”) was more conversational and forthcoming. Sherman asked about how the beings age, procreate, travel through space, and if they had souls. Here are a few more answers from the Greys to questions posed by Sherman:

1. God

“You question answers itself.”

2. Time

They don’t travel through time but around time and from time to time.

3. Souls

“Any entity that realizes its existence has intellect and therefore must have a soul.”

4. Previous visits

They’ve been visiting Earth for a “very long time,” because its much easier to visit the past than it is today. They’ve contributed to the culture and technology of some civilizations.

5. Interbreeding

Sherman believes they interbred with Humans (whom the Greys call “water vessels”), most likely the Basque people of the Pyrenees region of Spain, whose language is completely unrelated to any other and whose genetic makeup is different from most humans.

6. Other Aliens

There are many.

7. Pooping

They do it, just different from the way humans do.

8. Mating

They do that too.

9. Life Span

They don’t see time the same way humans do, but they live approximately the same span.

10. Energy

Earth’s sun is unique and one day we will learn to use the same energy on a smaller scale.

5 things you should keep after getting out

When Sherman asked “Bones” about Project Preserve Destiny, the Grey abruptly ended their ongoing discussions. Shortly after that, the nature of the “comms” between the Air Force and the Greys changed. Sherman started receiving what he calls “abduction data,” complete with dates, geographic information, potential for recall (reabduction), and a 1-100 “pain scale.” Rememberign some of the coordinates, he traced some sites to the Florida panhandle, Upstate New York, and rural Wisconsin.

Increasingly isolated from the outside world, Sherman began to grow increasingly frustrated with his PPD work. He wanted to go back to ELINT or to get out entirely. The response from his command was that he could not only never go back to ELINT, but he could never separate from the Air Force now that he was part of PPD. He did the only thing he knew to do. In the book, Sherman says “the way I obtained my discharge is not a secret. Anyone can go back and see the reason emblazoned on my discharge papers. But certain self-incrimination legalities keep me from discussing it here.”

According an interview with Sherman on the website Exopolitics, which (*sigh*) studies the communications of aliens with humans, Sherman’s twelve years of Air Force service were exemplary. He earned an Air Force Commendation Medal, as well as three Air Force Achievement Medals and four Outstanding Unit Awards. he also served in the Persian Gulf War.

Sherman concluded his story with this:

I only wish I could have continued an otherwise wonderful career of which I was extremely proud. I miss serving my country and being part of the most sophisticated and well-trained military in the world.

 

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This is what happens when an Army Ranger goes through Navy SEAL training

When Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released in March of 2016, the thought of two colossal superheroes clashing on the big screen brought out huge box office numbers for its opening weekend. But despite the initial hype, the pedestrian offering saw a huge drop-off in enthusiasm the following week, as poor word-of-mouth reviews plagued it: the final product, as usual, not living up to expectations


Batman versus Superman, on its face, seems such an intriguing construct though. We are unabashedly drawn to comparisons like Willie v The Mick, the US Government v John Gotti, et al, and iPhone v Android.

But what if we were to compare two REAL superhero castings? Let’s say, the US Army’s Rangers and the US Navy’s SEALS. And just for sh*ts and giggles, what if we compared their individual crucibles — their selection processes — and attempted to discern which was the harbinger for guaranteed future toughness or success? Let’s attempt to glean which selection program applied the most pain to its candidates. Is graduating from Ranger School a more daunting task than making it through the Navy’s difficult Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training? And is earning a Ranger tab easier or more difficult than being awarded a SEAL Trident?

And, which course actually results in more drop on requests–a fancy term for quitting? And how can we compare completion rates?

5 things you should keep after getting out
Ranger training. Photo courtesy of US Army.

The comparative analysis is difficult. To my knowledge, I haven’t heard of any former Rangers or SEALS transferring service branches and then embarking on the pursuit of their new branch’s most elite distinction. Maybe there does exist the unique American stud — or committed glutton for punishment — who chose this path of dual misery, and accomplishment. But I haven’t come across any stories chronicling some. With this in mind, I am going to share my reflections on some unique experiences I was privileged to have been afforded during my thirty-three years of government service.

That professional service began when I graduated from West Point in 1987 and was branched as an officer into the Infantry. During the course of my four-year military career, I attended Army Ranger school and graduated with class 4-88. I turned 23 while incarcerated in the mountain phase, endlessly trekking up and down the formidable peaks of the Tennessee Valley Divide. While I wasn’t the class Honor Graduate, I did fairly well throughout the demanding course of instruction and was lucky enough to graduate with my tab, on time, and without being recycled to repeat a phase.

I served during the Cold War Era and the American military buildup precipitated by President Reagan’s stare-down of the Soviets. The 10th Mountain Division had just been reconstituted in 1985, following its long dormancy beginning when WWII ended. Officers and non-coms were selected for the unit’s rebirth only if they possessed the coveted tab. Division brass was intent on modeling the 10th after the Ranger battalions. My assignment to the 10th was contingent on my graduation from Ranger School. Failure to graduate meant a reassignment to the 197th Infantry Brigade (Mechanized), and the embarrassing stigmatization that would assuredly follow that failure.

5 things you should keep after getting out
Photo courtesy of US Army

From those fledgling days of (re)existence, the 10th Mountain Division has now distinguished itself as a solid and repeatedly deployed war-fighting machine in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. But it’s mid-1980’s formation with Ranger leadership was critical to its early success and reestablished prestige as a unit. So, in mid-March of 1988, I arrived at 2-14 Infantry battalion headquarters in my starched BDU’s with freshly attached Ranger tab.

The tab carries with it a certain distinction. And that respect for its woven black and gold threads stems from the hardship endured to earn it — the US military being one of the last bastions of meritocracy in this new 21st century era of everyone-gets-a-trophy.

Historically, the failure rate at the US Army Ranger School fluctuates between 50% – 65%. A portion of those failures, DORs, are self-inflicted. There doesn’t appear to be available statistical data that highlights just how many of those failures are related to DORs.

So, after ETSing from the Army on February 1, 1991, I packed up my quarters at Ft. Drum, NY, loaded my then-wife, newborn son, and two rescue dogs into my ’88 Chevy Blazer, and headed south to the FBI Academy at Quantico, VA, where I began the 20-week course to become an FBI Special Agent. In June of same year, I posted to the FBI’s New York City Office’s Brooklyn-Queens Metropolitan Resident Agency, and began a proud 25-year career as a Fed.

5 things you should keep after getting out
U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright

Along the way, I was selected for the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team, where I served as a counter-terrorist operator on Echo Assault Team from 1997 – 2001.

And in the Fall of 1998, while serving as one of Echo Team’s divers, and recently returned from deployments to Africa (US Embassy bombings) and North Carolina’s Nantahala Forest (search for ’96 Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph), I was suddenly tapped to deploy to Coronado, California, with three of my fellow HRT diver teammates, for a once in a lifetime experience.

I was an “old man,” all of 33 years. And though I was in peak physical condition, having spent almost a year and a half lifting, and running, and training at a HIGH level … I was in for a rude awakening.

It was September of 1998, and Dave, Jeff, Matty, and I checked into the Naval Special Warfare Center at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado and were officially informed we’d be joining BUD/S class 220. We had just offloaded our rental cars and strode across the sand dunes separating the BUD/S compound from the Pacific Ocean. Worst thing we could have done was to time our arrival with the conduct of Hell Week for BUD/S class 221. Long before casual observers had been treated to Discovery Channel documentaries on the course of instruction to become a SEAL, the four of us took in the spectacle.

5 things you should keep after getting out
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Shauntae Hinkle-Lymas

Exhausted youngsters — many between 18 – 20 years old — slogging along at the water’s edge, ferrying inflatable RHIBs, lifting massive logs over their heads, performing a staggering amount of “corrective actions” — flutter kicks, crunches, push-ups, and bear crawls. All accompanied by the monotonous, annoying, and ever-present Instructor “motivationals” echoed through a hand-held loud-hailer.

After we’d ingested all the observed pain and misery we could and signed in at NWSC, my HRT colleagues and I made our way over to the Second Phase HQ, a low-profile, nondescript group of single-story military buildings, and introduced ourselves to the cadre.

“All good,” the congenial class proctor stated. Get over to the BOQ on Mainside. Drop your gear off, change into UDT shorts and your yellow HRT PT shirts, and we’ll meet you at the pool for your qualifying PT test — 500 meter swim, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and mile and a half run in Bates brand combat boots. We even rolled our wool socks down over our boots exactly the way the SEALs did.

5 things you should keep after getting out
Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Russell

When in Rome…

And so it began. After easily completing the fit test required of all BUD/S aspirants, we joined class 220 as they began the initial stages of Phase Two. The classroom portions on Dive Physics weren’t too daunting — the four of us had the benefit of college degrees — but the daily regimen of early morning PT was an eye-opener. Yes, the four of us were quite fit. But we were also in our thirties, and didn’t take part in the same skill-specific training one receives in the BUD/S preparatory course the Navy offered its young sailors interested in becoming frogmen. And we didn’t have the benefit of true youth. If we were professional athletes, we’d be desperately trying to find an organization to sign us, so we could come off the bench, with a head coach “managing our minutes.”

We also didn’t have the benefit of having taken part in the first phase of BUD/S; that unforgiving crucible that weeds out the weak and strengthens the committed. The relationship between the USN and HRT was a long and durable one. Many of the early generation FBI-HRT operators had been SEALs (as well as former Rangers, Green Berets, and Marines). Compared to the military’s special operations units, HRT was an infant, having come on line in 1983, as a civilian counter-terrorist option for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. The ’72 debacle in Munich was a not-so-distant memory. And US law precluded the military from acting as law enforcement inside the United States.

So, here’s the thing: While I was certainly younger and my body more resilient as a 23-year-old when I completed Ranger School, ten years later, when I attended the Dive Phase of BUD/S — open circuit (SCUBA) and closed circuit (LAR-V rebreather) — with my HRT colleagues, I was certainly more experienced, savvy, and skillful at my craft. But that didn’t aid in the recovery time my body desperately needed between evolutions at BUD/S. Every night, the four of us limped back to our BOQ and attempted to “heal” before the fun began again the next morning, bright and early.

5 things you should keep after getting out
Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Russell

On the ground (or in the sand), we were the BUD/S students equals. We four were strong runners and could complete the grinders of push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, flutter kicks, and crunches as well as any of the kids in 220. On the beach, during timed four mile runs, we were more than their equals, often having to hold back so as not to bring the SEAL Instructors’ wrath down upon our classmates, as in:

“Hey, you pathetic pieces of human filth and fecal matter, why are you letting these old-ass FBI-HRT guys beat you on a timed run? You’ll all be ‘paying the man’ if you allow this to happen again!”

Yes, the typical SEAL Instructor was wicked smart and imbued with a great sense of wit and timing.

5 things you should keep after getting out
Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Shauntae Hinkle-Lymas

We reined in our run times, not wanting to cause any more pain to the young men who so graciously accepted us into their fraternity — despite the fact we hadn’t shared the excruciating pain of First Phase and Hell Week with them.

One of the most special gifts I’ve ever received in the course of my life was to be afforded a Hell Week t-shirt from BUD/S class 220. This class-specific attire made us feel a part — if only for a moment — of their exclusive club. It was truly an honor and I cherish the now tattered shirt emblazoned with the class motto that borrowed from William Ernest Henley’s short and powerful Victorian poem Invictus:

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

During the course of our “internment” at BUD/S, we also participated in the required weekly SEAL Obstacle Course completion. It was an ass-kicker. And again, as I reminisced about my days at Ranger School and tangling with the infamous Darby Queen Obstacle Course, I have to give this round to the SEALs, as well. In the summer of 1998, we HRT guys were fit, relatively young, nimble, agile, and strong. We had all the necessary tools required to excel at the SEAL Obstacle Course. But it was still a daunting task to make the required times. We did so, narrowly, and aided by the Instructor allowance for us to use a rope traversing technique that wasn’t available to the BUD/S students in Second Phase. [Full disclosure: we were also permitted to discreetly utilize calculators for the long division and multiplication required in the classroom on the dive physics exams]

Well, as proficient as we HRT guys found ourselves in PT, on the sand dunes and while partaking in the dreaded “soft sand runs,” we quickly ascertained that the water, however, was a different story altogether. Here’s where those same young kids flat-out kicked our assess. On the weekly open-water two-mile swims, Dave, Jeff, Matty, and I were “competent.” We were all notably strong swimmers who had been hand selected by HRT Dive Team cadre to “represent” at BUD/S.

5 things you should keep after getting out
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd class Megan Anuci

While we consistently barely made the required times, we were often the last, or next to last teams to come in.

But we were in no condition to compete with the damn dolphins that BUD/S students typically morphed into by Second Phase. The water became our Waterloo of sorts.

But it was pool competition, or pool comp in SEAL shorthand, that really cemented for me what the BUD/S experience was about, and just why SEALs are a cut above all others in the Special Operations community.

And, yes, we four HRT guys participated in pool comp.

And, again, it was another eye-opener.

5 things you should keep after getting out
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Antonio Turretto Ramos

SEAL Instructors had their own comically dreadful names for the knots they would tie in your hoses underwater. As a BUD/S student, your job was to diligently cycle through a sequence of trouble-shooting procedures to untangle the mess of knotted hoses and restore your air supply…while on a breath-hold. And you had to do so without exhibiting any signs of panic. We were treated to the Matlock and the Babilock — two impossibly difficult and deviously conceived knots named after two particular SEALs on the cadre. Failure to extricate your gear from the wicked devices of the seasoned knot-tying instructors OR failure to work through the prescribed sequence for trouble-shooting your crippled gear led to a failure. Two failures in the same event and you earned a rollback — just like the nefarious recycle at Ranger School — to the next class, if you were lucky not to be dropped from the course.

There’s a reason that, as Rob O’Neill, former SEAL Team Six counter-terror operator — the man who killed Bin Laden — stated to Howard Stern recently, on his eponymous Sirius radio program, that some 85% of BUD/S attendees don’t graduate.

BUD/S is tough — even the teensy-weensy taste of it that I experienced. It’s REALLY tough. And it sucks.

5 things you should keep after getting out
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jumar T. Balacy

Ranger School was “uncomfortable” and difficult for all the reasons that include sleep deprivation, starvation, and relentless physical overexertion. It was a grind. And reports from recent graduates confirm it’s STILL a grind.

At BUD/S, however, they fed you lots of chow, and in Second Phase, getting eight solid hours of sleep was never an issue. But just as in Ranger School, you had to perform, to make sound decisions, to accomplish critical military tasks and objectives when your body was futilely attempting to heal, and always with the overzealous instructors omnipresent in your ear…

…but you did it at depth.

Whether at the bottom of the 15-foot pool, on the Coronado Bay side, or in the unforgiving waters of the Pacific Ocean, performing at depth takes special operations training to another level entirely. We were forced to conduct doff and don procedures, and buddy-breathing exercises — you know, like sharing the same oxygen supply at depth and while performing tasks like an equipment exchange. There were insanely long breath-holds, while enduring the Instructor-assaults associated with the dreaded pool comp. Then there was the archaic (by design) and cumbersome Jacques Cousteau era twin 80’s tanks and leaky two-hose regulators which made for a purposeful panic-induced set of pass/fail evolutions. Yes, I believe the experiences to be the closest thing to waterboarding — sanctioned “almost-drowning” — that there is. And it’s legal!

5 things you should keep after getting out
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dominique M. Canales

Learning to dive with the Dräger (or Draeger) closed circuit rebreather gear — the LAR-V — was the purpose behind sending HRT divers to BUD/S. So, no, in a civilian law enforcement capacity, there’s no need to learn the craft of placing limpet mines on enemy ship hulls. However, learning the advanced system of transit-diving that allows an operator to approach a target underwater, bereft of telltale bubbles is a key skillset for HRT to have at its disposal. That was the purpose behind the relationship we had with the Navy and is how we ended up enrolled in the Second Phase of BUD/S.

The advanced dive skills we learned were necessary. The voluntary participation in PT and mild hazing — being dropped for push-ups or forced to become “wet and sandy” — the “sugar cookie” punishment — was part of earning our stripes and being accepted as outsiders within the close-knit SEAL and BUD/S community.

Make no mistake about it — we weren’t to become SEALs and weren’t subjected to a fraction of what the Navy candidates endured, but we certainly gained a modicum of appreciation for the process.

And again, as difficult as Ranger School was to complete, the 8 weeks I spent at BUD/S proved that there’s a clear distinction between difficult and difficult-at-depth.

5 things you should keep after getting out
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam Henderson

Apologies, fellow Rangers, but this round goes to the Navy’s SEALs. I’ve been up close and personal with both Selection processes. 81 torturous days at Ranger School did not compare to the tiny portion of the year of misery available to BUD/S candidates that I experienced.

Rangers, can I get a Hooah!

And SEALs, while we’re at it, how about a Hooyah!

And let’s forever remember that we’re ALL part of the same team!

God bless the United States of America and God bless and protect our brave Special Operators who continue to confidently stride into places full of wrath and tears, and do so bravely, selflessly and willingly.

Thank you.

Originally published July 2017.

MIGHTY TRENDING

New Russian propaganda claims bears are afraid of Putin

Russian state TV has dedicated an entire show to documenting Vladimir Putin’s activities and praising him.

In the first episode of Rossiya-1’s new show, which aired on Sept. 4, 2018, the Russian president can be seen hiking around the Russian countryside, while his employees compliment almost everything about him, from his physical fitness to his “very empathetic” personality.

The show — named “Moscow. Kremlin. Putin.” — aired during prime time on Sept. 3, 2018, with the first episode lasting an hour long, The Guardian reported.


Clips from the episode showed wholesome activities such as Putin hiking with his ministers and picking berries in the Russian hills. Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu can be seen complaining about his legs hurting several days after his hike, in what is most likely praise for Putin’s fitness levels.

The episode also showed footage of Putin’s recent hiking holiday in Siberia. Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman and a guest on the show, said jokingly according to The Guardian: “This is wild nature, there are bears there. Bodyguards are armed in an appropriate manner, just in case. Although if a bear sees Putin — they aren’t idiots — they will behave themselves properly.”

Rossiya-1 also showed Putin meeting with schoolchildren and musicians. Peskov said: “Putin doesn’t only love children, he loves people in general.”

www.youtube.com

Protests in Russia

The series comes as Putin is going through one of the lowest points in his presidency. August 2018 the president broke a 13-year-old promise to increase Russia’s retirement age, a decision which meant Russian workers could miss out on a pension altogether due to lower life expectancies in Russia than in Western countries.

Thousands of people around the country protested against the reforms in summer 2018, and Putin’s popularity rating plummeted to a four-year low, at around 67%.

Around 10,000 Russians across the political spectrum demonstrated against the pension reform on the streets of Moscow, while other small protests took place in cities like St Petersburg and Vladivostok, the Independent reported.

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A protest against the Russian government’s proposal to raise the retirement age in Omsk in June 2018.

(Al Jazeera English / YouTube)

“Cult of personality”

Putin’s critics said the show was fostering a cult of personality.

Ilya Barabanov, a BBC journalist in Moscow, tweeted in response to the show on Sept. 4, 2018: “We must somehow record that in September 2018 we returned to the cult of personality.”

US journalist Susan Glasser also told CNN this was a “classic Kremlin project to elevate Vladimir Putin and to humanize him at a time when he’s under increasing fire from his own public.”

“It’s not an accident that this is occurring,” she added. “It seems to me right at a time when he’s embroiled in a real political controversy.”

The Kremlin has denied being behind the program, despite the broadcaster being state-run. Peskov, who appeared the show, said according to Agence France-Presse: “This is the project of [state TV company] VGTRK, not the Kremlin’s.

“It is important for us that information about the president and his work schedule is shown correctly and without distortion.”

Peskov added that Putin does not plan to be in the show.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Japan proves that its equipment can shoot down Chinese missiles

A Japanese warship, using a US ship-based anti-missile system, successfully intercepted and destroyed an incoming ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean on Sept. 11, 2018, the Missile Defense Agency revealed in an official statement.

An upgraded Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force Atago-class guided-missile destroyer detected and tracked a simple, separating ballistic missile launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii. Responding to the threat, the ship’s onboard Aegis Weapon System tracked it and launched a Standard Missile-3 Block IB Threat Upgrade missile that intercepted it mid-flight.


“This success provides confidence in the future capability for Japan to defeat the developing threats in the region,” Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves, director of the Missile Defense Agency, said in a statement apparently referencing Beijing’s arsenal of ballistic missiles and Pyongyang’s program, which the regime suspended after the Trump-Kim talks and which has involved test-firing ballistic missiles over Japan.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force “is developing and testing several new variants of missiles and developing methods to counter ballistic missile defenses,” the Pentagon explained in its 2018 report on Chinese military power.

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U.S. President Donald Trump met with North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un on June 12, 2018, in Singapore.

“We are committed to assisting the government of Japan in upgrading its national missile defense capability against emerging threats,” Greaves said, according to Reuters.

The latest intercept will enhance the overall capabilities of Japan’s Atago-class destroyers, which have been limited to air defense while the Kongo-class guided-missile destroyers have employed ballistic missile defense systems, Tom Karako, a missile defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote on Twitter after news of the successful test.

The US and Japan are jointly developing another interceptor missile — the SM-3 Block IIA, but testing has been a little hit or miss lately. The system has been tested three times since the start of 2017, and it has only had one successful intercept.

The Missile Defense Agency called Sept. 10, 2018’s test a “significant milestone in the growing cooperation between Japan and the U.S. in the area of missile defense.”

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

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Did you know these military facts about Alcatraz?

On March 21, 1963, Alcatraz or “The Rock” closed its doors forever. Although modern society may know its name because of famous residents like Al Capone and James “Whitey” Bulgar, there is a rich history beyond that. Long before the daring escapes of mobsters, it was actually used by the United States Military as a fortified defense. It would also become the Army’s first long-term prison.


Discovered in 1775 and mapped by Spanish explorers, Alcatraz wouldn’t come under the ownership of the United States until after the end of the Mexican-American war in 1848. Two years later an Army and Navy joint commission recommended that it be a part of a triangle of defense for the bay of San Francisco. It was then that President Fillmore signed an executive order reserving it for public purposes. That purpose was a military prison.

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Photo by Shelby Cohron on Unsplash.

Captain Joseph Stewart and Company H of the U.S. Artillery took command over Alcatraz. It would go on to house Army personnel who had violated rules and regulations. Two years after the Civil War began, a confederate ship was seized and its entire crew imprisoned on Alcatraz. As prisoners continued coming, more prison structures were built.

Prison construction continued, eventually covering up the original coastal fortification that was built in the 19th century. Alcatraz was officially designated as the Pacific Branch military prison in 1907 and was renamed “Pacific Branch, U.S. Disciplinary Barracks” in 1915. It was considered the place soldiers would go for punishment and to undergo “retraining.”

Army prisoners would go on to build almost all of the buildings on the island. The last soldiers departed Alcatraz in 1933 when it became the property of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. It would undergo some modernization and improvements before it opened its doors in 1934. A few months later, Al Capone would help make Alcatraz forever infamous.

5 things you should keep after getting out
Photo by Shelby Cohron on Unsplash.

The new federal prison became home to America’s criminal population that was deemed too difficult or dangerous to be anywhere else. It would house a total of 1576 men and there were 14 known attempts at escape. Alcatraz officially closed its doors on March 21, 1963, after it was decided it was just too costly to maintain.

Today, over a million tourists visit Alcatraz every year walking the halls and grounds of one of the most infamous prisons in history, many not knowing it was built by soldiers.

Featured Image: Gabriel Tovar on Unsplash

MIGHTY TRENDING

An eyewitness account of US sanctions in Nicaragua

A situation that started with students protesting the government evolved into a failed coup d’etat and, consequently, the decimation of a once-thriving tourism industry. Protesters, feeling powerless in the face of violence, turned to the dark side for help, accepting aid from narco-terrorists sponsored by oligarchs.

The Sandinista Government, also known as the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), is a revolutionary ideology and organization that was created on July 19, 1961, to overthrow the Somoza dictatorship. From an outside perspective, it looks like the government has come full circle in becoming what it was created to destroy.

U.S. Sanctions have influenced the Sandinista Government to change their strategy in restoring law and order to what was once known as the “safest country in Latin America.” Disregarding warnings from the embassy, I boarded a plane leaving the U.S. to Nicaragua to see it for myself.


5 things you should keep after getting out

No sh*t, there I was…

Did someone say, “communism?”

A History of Distrust

Historically, Nicaragua and the United States have not have an outstanding relationship due several political scandals, including the Iran-Contra affair. Long story short: We sold weapons to Iran through Israel in order to negotiate the release of U.S. hostages. The funds from the weapons sale were going to benefit the Contras, a guerrilla terrorist organization that opposed the Sandinistas. Needless to say, they weren’t so thrilled about it.

Today, the people of Nicaragua don’t treat U.S. citizens negatively because of our nations’ histories, but they do harbor a general distrust of American diplomats and government officials — this is especially true among the top brass.

It is important to note these specific examples of the past because there are similar accusations heading our way once again.

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Not your best pitch, Don.

The Reason for the Sanctions

In Nicaragua, a country that has served as a physical barrier in our ongoing War On Drugs in Central America, was developing all the telltale signs of an impending coup.

Local police responded with extreme force against what they believed was a new arm of the criminal underground created to overthrow the government. Their aggressive pushback was interpreted by outside news outlets as a wanton wave of human rights violations. The ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ approach backfired — as it tends to.

The United States responded by implementing sanctions on the government and corporations, withdrew vehicles donated to the Police, and the U.S. embassy closed its doors and ceased routine operations until further notice.

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I assure you, we’re open.

(RuddyWrites)

The Effect of Sanctions in August, 2018

Jacinto Saurez, the International Secretary of the FSLN, told the Havana Times of a conspiracy theory of a U.S.-sponsored coup. Oldtimers were quick to believe this because of our nations’ turbulent recent history.

Meanwhile, the United States is Nicaragua’s top investor with nearly a billion dollars invested in 2017, producing a return of 6%. Meanwhile, the rest of Central and South America was generating declining returns for U.S. investors. A law ratified in 2000 allowed foreign investors to retain 100% of their capital and the current Government has offered generous tax incentives in the areas of exports, agriculture, and forestry sectors.

As capitalists, we would never take a metaphorical cow producing milk behind a barn and shoot it, so the idea of a U.S. coup doesn’t hold water against facts.

The harsh reality is, sadly, that Nicaragua killed that cow themselves. The entire economy is reliant on the United States but old revolutionaries in power, blinded by pride, resent that the U.S. is essential to the country’s stability. The old, stubborn leadership resents any foreign influence — even if it is beneficial.

5 things you should keep after getting out

Taxes? No habla ingles.

(RuddyWrites)

U.S. sanctions aimed towards the Sandinista government have hit the tourism industry hard and they’ve hit the private sector even harder, yet the upper class has felt nothing. Investors have almost completely pulled out of the country and major corporations tied to the government have fired half their staff.

Mom-and-pop shops are running at max capacity to fill the void left behind by the departure of major department stores, restaurants, and franchises. Larger businesses have to raise their prices to keep up with taxes that the smaller businesses dodge. In short, we’re seeing a great dying of big business but an exploding entrepreneur market.

Small businesses are unaffected by the sanctions because they do not report their income. Hell, most small businesses down here don’t even have the proper licenses to operate legally.

The moment the new national strategy was implemented.

Intur ​

According to the Institute of Nicaraguan Tourism (Intur), U.S. tourism makes up a 24% market share in the country. A new national strategy has been implemented to try and regain American confidence and ensure visitors’ safety. They have increased police presence day and night, all barricades have been removed, and criminals have either been arrested or have fled the country. Regardless, I would highly recommend against traveling here without a guide or prior experience until the political situation improves.

Despite safety precautions, there are more ‘demonstrations’ planned for the near future that pose a security risk. It is unknown if the anti-government forces are going to return en masse.

A deflationary trend has developed for the Nicaraguan Cordoba (NIO) from 32.24 to 31.70 (at the time of writing). This may not seem like much at first glance, but it’s actually a pretty severe drop. The exchange rate is currently id=”listicle-2598140554″ USD to C.70 and, though the jump in U.S. buying power is good news for us, it has had devastating consequences for the local population.

Adam Hayes of Investopedia does a great job of explaining it:

“Deflation typically occurs in and after periods of economic crisis. When an economy experiences a severe recession or depression, economic output slows as demand for consumption and investment drop.

This leads to an overall decline in asset prices as producers are forced to liquidate inventories that people no longer want to buy. Consumers and investors alike begin holding onto liquid money reserves to cushion against further financial loss. As more money is saved, less money is spent, further decreasing aggregate demand.”

Normally, Nicaraguans are paid in U.S. dollars on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. The employees prefer to be paid this way because the dollar is less volatile. Corporations are lobbying for a new law that changes the payout to workers to Cordobas instead of dollars because of deflation. So, now that the local currency has deflated, the prices on everything have gone up. Unfortunately, corporations want to pay people “technically” the same amount — but by that logic, when the economy recovers, they’re “technically” paying people less.

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These colors don’t run.

(RuddyWrites)

Americans living in Nicaragua

So, what’s the situation like for Americans in the country?

Many foreigners have left, but one thing is for certain among Americans who have remained: They will not be intimidated. Surprisingly, the Americans give no f*cks. They have stockpiled supplies, ammo, and alcohol. Those who have property out in the countryside have opted to weather the storm away from the cities. Those living within the cities have installed electric fences, cameras, and are even flying personal drones when things get hairy.

Nicaragua may be dangerous at the moment, but I can tell you that it’s no Afghanistan. Fortunes are made in times of chaos and it’s a buyers market. Right now, residential and commercial properties are practically being given away.

Americans aren’t turning tail. When I attended a bullfighting competition in the city of Juigalpa, a city saturated with Sandinista loyalists, I took a picture of this warrior:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Soldiers got to fire the Army’s new pistol — and they liked what they saw

McGregor Range, New Mexico – Eager soldiers shared looks of excitement and awe under the watch of the immense New Mexico golden mesas as they awaited their opportunity to finally fire the newly fielded M17 pistol.

Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division fired the M17 pistol for the first time during a qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019. Within 1AD, 3ABCT is the first brigade to field and fire the new weapons system.

“The M17 pistol is an adaptable weapons system. It feels a lot smoother and a lot lighter than the M9,” said 2nd Lt. Michael Preston, an armor officer assigned to 1-67 AR. “I feel like the transition to the M17 will benefit us greatly in combat. Just from being out here today I was able to shoot well and notice that it felt lighter.”


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2nd Lt. Michael Preston, an armor officer assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, fires an M17 pistol during a pistol qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The M17 is a 9mm semi-automatic handgun, which offers a lighter weight than the previous M9 pistol, weighing 30.8 ounces. It has an improved ergonomic design and a more modern internal striker firing mechanism, rather than an external hammer firing mechanism, to reduce trigger pull and improve accuracy and lethality.

The striker design of the M17 is less likely to snag on clothing or tactical gear when firing than an external hammer and furthermore, the M17 has a capacity of 17 rounds, two more than the M9.

The M17 pistol is the full-sized variant of the Modular Handgun System which also includes the compact M18 pistol, designed to replace the M9 and M11 pistols.

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Staff Sgt. Tramel Gordon, an M1 armor crewman assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, fires an M17 pistol during a qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

Soldiers using the new M17 pistol will potentially have greater maneuverability and operational flexibility while in combat, due to the reduced weight and improved design compared to the M9 pistol.

“When we climb out of our tanks, less weight is good,” said 1st Lt. Shannon Martin, an armor officer assigned to 1-67 AR and native of Scituate, Massachusetts.

“Every ounce that you shave off the equipment is less weight for soldiers to carry. So for those infantrymen who are rucking miles at a time, it is good for them to have less weight that they’re carrying so that they can focus on staying fit for the fight and being ready to go.”

5 things you should keep after getting out

Staff Sgt. Tramel Gordon, an M1 armor crewman assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, fires an M17 pistol during a qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The Modular Handgun System has an ambidextrous external safety, self-illuminating tritium sights for low-light conditions, an integrated rail for attaching enablers and an Army standard suppressor conversion kit for attaching an acoustic/flash suppressor.

“Coyote brown” in color, it also has interchangeable hand grips allowing shooters to adjust the handgun to the size of their hand.

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2nd Lt. Michael Preston, an armor officer assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, fires an M17 pistol at a target, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The primary service round is the M1153 9mm special purpose cartridge, which has a jacketed hollow-point projectile. It provides improved terminal performance against unprotected targets as well as reduced risk of over-penetration and collateral damage compared to the M882 9mm ball cartridge and the Mk243 9mm jacketed hollow-point cartridge.

The M1152 9mm ball cartridge has a truncated, or flat, nose full-metal-jacket projectile around a solid lead alloy core. It provides improved terminal performance compared to the M882 ball cartridge.

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A soldier assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, checks his target for accuracy after he engaged it with an M17 pistol, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The fielding of the M17 pistol has generated great excitement and energy among 1AD soldiers, most of whom have never fired a handgun other than the M9 pistol.

“I think having a new weapons system has sprouted interest. We have soldiers who say ‘Cool, I’m so excited to go and shoot these,’ so it creates more interest in qualifying with a handgun,” said Martin. “During our deployment to Korea, we saw the M17 and we were all excited to get our hands on them, train with them and to see what’s different about them.”

5 things you should keep after getting out

Staff Sgt. Tramel Gordon, an M1 armor crewman assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, walks back to his firing position after collecting his target during a pistol qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The adoption and implementation of the M17 pistol reflects the Army’s continued commitment to modernization, ensuring that soldiers are best equipped to deal with any threat and to project lethal force with efficiency.

The division began fielding and distributing the M17 to its units in August and have used classroom training time with these live-fire ranges to familiarize their soldiers with the new handgun, ensuring that they are ready and proficient with the weaponry.

5 things you should keep after getting out

Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, carry their equipment prior to a qualification range with their new M17 pistol, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

Soldiers learn through innovation and iteration. As part of ongoing modernization efforts, research teams rapidly develop new prototypes and arm soldiers with new technologies, including protective gear, weaponry and communications capabilities.

“Adopting the M17 pistol is good for our readiness and lethality,” said Martin. “It forces us all to go out, shoot and be familiar and proficient with our new weaponry.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The legendary career of the Coast Guard’s first commandant

. . . [Captain] Fraser opposed an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, and this official’s hostility proved fatal to the Captain’s long career: by an arbitrary abuse of power, the administration in 1856 revoked his commission summarily. Both indefensible and stupid, this action resulted wholly from personal animosity and cost the government one of the most far-sighted and loyal men who ever sailed in the Revenue-Marine.
Capt. Stephen Evans, U.S. Coast Guard, retired. “The United States Coast Guard: A Definitive History”

As the quote above indicates, Capt. Alexander Vareness Fraser, first commandant of the service, was a visionary and a man of character. During his four years as head of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, he did his best to professionalize and modernize the service. Many of his innovations were ahead of their time taking place decades after he tried to implement them.


Fraser was born in New York, in 1804, and attended the city’s Mathematical, Nautical and Commercial School. In 1832, he applied for a commission with the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service. President Andrew Jackson signed his commission as second lieutenant aboard the cutter Alert. Fraser served as boarding officer when the service ordered his cutter to Charleston during the infamous “Nullification Crisis” in which South Carolina officials defied federal law requiring merchant ships arriving in Charleston to pay tariffs. During this event, political tempers cooled and a national crisis was ultimately averted.

After the Nullification Crisis, Fraser was offered command of a merchant vessel destined for Japan, China and the Malayan Archipelago. Upon his return two years later, Fraser received appointment as first lieutenant aboard the Alert. Soon thereafter, Congress passed a law authorizing revenue cutters to cruise along the coasts in the winter months to render aid to ships in distress. Fraser returned to New York before any cutters actually started this new duty, and he applied for it, taking command of the Alert when its captain was too sick to go to sea. He spent three years performing this mission, becoming the first cutter captain to carry out the service’s official search and rescue mission.

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Rare pre-Civil War photo of Alexander Fraser in dress uniform.
(U.S. Coast Guard Collection)

In 1843, Treasury Secretary John Spencer created the Revenue Marine Bureau to centralize authority over the cutters within the department and appointed Fraser head of the Bureau. As head of the service, Fraser busied himself with all financial, material and personnel matters concerning the revenue cutters. During his first year in office, he assembled statistics and information for the service’s first annual report and he outlawed the use of slaves aboard revenue cutters. He instituted a merit-based system of officer promotion by examination before a board of officers. He also began the practice of regularly rotating officers to different stations to acquaint them with the nation’s coastal areas. He tried to improve the morale of the enlisted force, raising the pay of petty officers from $20 a month to $30; however, he also prohibited the drinking of alcohol onboard cutters. He made regular inspection tours of lighthouses and tried to amalgamate the Lighthouse Board with the Revenue Marine Bureau, a merger that finally occurred nearly 100 years later. With construction of the 1844 Legare-Class cutters, Fraser introduced the service to iron hulls and steam power. However, these hull materials and motive power were experimental at the time and the new cutters proved unsuccessful.

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Early photo of a Legare-Class iron cutter converted to lightship use.
(U.S. Coast Guard Collection)

In November 1848, Fraser completed his four-year tenure as commandant. He asked for command of the new cutter C.W. Lawrence on a maiden voyage that would round Cape Horn bound for the West Coast. This journey placed him in charge of the first revenue cutter to sail the Pacific Ocean. The Lawrence arrived at San Francisco almost a year after departing New York and, during this odyssey, Fraser took it upon himself to educate his officers in navigation and seamanship much like the Revenue Cutter Service School of Instruction did after its founding in 1876. Unfortunately, all of these trained officers resigned their commissions when they reached California to join the Gold Rush.

On the San Francisco station, Fraser had an exhaustive list of missions to perform with a crew depleted by the lure of gold. He not only enforced tariffs and interdicted smugglers; he provided federal law enforcement for San Francisco, relieved distressed merchant vessels and surveyed the coastline of the new U.S. territory. Fraser had a busy time with 500 to 600 vessels at anchor in San Francisco harbor, many with lawless crews. There were no civil tribunals to help with law enforcement, so Fraser did his best to enforce revenue laws while aiding shipmasters in suppressing mutiny.

5 things you should keep after getting out
Painting of Alexander Fraser showing his home town of New York and the cutter Harriet Lane in the background.
(U.S. Coast Guard Collection)

After completing his assignment on the West Coast, Fraser returned to New York City. There, he was suspended and investigated on the charge of administering corporal punishment in San Francisco. The case was unsuccessful so he retained his captaincy in New York. In 1856, the merchants of New York decided they needed a new cutter because the port had become such an important commercial center. Fraser favored building a steam cutter and visited Washington to lobby for new construction. Congress appropriated funds for the steam cutter Harriet Lane, which later earned fame in the Civil War.

Because Fraser had lobbied Congress directly, without permission from the Department of the Treasury, his commission was revoked in 1856. He went into private business in New York as a marine insurance agent, but he retained a sincere interest in military service. He applied for reinstatement in the service during the Civil War and, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed a captain’s commission for Fraser. By then, however, personal matters intervened and Fraser regretfully declined the appointment. He died in 1868 at the age of 64 and was laid to rest in a Brooklyn cemetery.

Fraser introduced the service to professionalization, new technology and moved a reluctant service toward reforms and innovations that would take place long after his death. As the first commandant, Fraser’s foresight and enlightened leadership set the service on course for growth and modernization. He was a true seaman, a visionary and a member of the long blue line.

This article originally appeared on Coast Guard Compass. Follow @USCG on Twitter.

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The American howitzer you never heard much about

Some artillery pieces become very famous. Some of the most notable are the French 75 of World War I, or the Napoleons used during the Civil War, or the German 88. But some are less well-known, but packed a big punch – or long range – of their own.


One such artillery piece is the M107 self-propelled howitzer. This 175mm artillery piece entered service in 1962, alongside the M110, an eight-inch self-propelled howitzer. It could fire shells as far as 25 miles away – and this long range proved very handy during the Vietnam War.

 

5 things you should keep after getting out
SGT Max Cones (gunner) fires a M107, 175mm self-propelled gun, Btry C, 1st Bn, 83rd Arty, 54th Arty Group, Vietnam, 1968.
(U.S. Army photo)

 

The M107 is not like the M109 self-propelled howitzer in that it is open, and lacks both a turret and on-board ammunition storage. As such, it needed its ammo vehicles nearby to provide shells. The M107 was fast for an armored vehicle, with a top speed of 50 miles per hour, and could go almost 450 miles on a single tank of fuel.

The M107s used the same chassis as the M110s. In fact, Olive-Drab.com reported that the two self-propelled howitzers could exchange guns, thus a M107 could become a M110, and vice versa. This was used to good effect in Vietnam, where the barrels could be swapped as needed at firebases. Israel also used the M017 for decisive effect in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, destroying a number of Syrian and Egyptian surface-to-air missile batteries, and even shelling Damascus.

 

5 things you should keep after getting out
A gun crew member from 1st Battalion, 83rd Arty, takes a short break on top of the loading mechanism of his self-propelled 175 while waiting for further instructions. (U.S. Army photo)

 

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the M107 fired only one type of conventional round, the M347 high-explosive round. The gun didn’t see service long past the Vietnam War. The M107 had a long reach, but it was not accurate – rounds like the laser-guided Copperhead or the GPS-guided Excalibur had not been developed yet.

An extended barrel for the M110 was developed, and in the late 1970s many M107s were converted to the M110A2 standard. The M110s eventually were replaced by the M207 MLRS.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The world’s longest minefield isn’t where you’d expect

Veterans of the war in Afghanistan can tell you the country is absolutely riddled with land mines of all kinds. The country has experienced nonstop war and civil strife since the 1979 Soviet Invasion and ever since, land mines have been a constant hazard. But despite being one of the most heavily mined countries on earth, the biggest minefield is far from Afghanistan – it’s in the Sahara Desert.


Sure, there are plenty of war zones where one might expect a minefield, especially in North Africa. The unexploded ordnance from World War II is still a concern for North Africans, as well as the remnants of the French expulsion from Algeria, and the recent Civil War in Libya. But the world’s longest minefield is actually just south of Morocco – and it was placed there by the Moroccans.

5 things you should keep after getting out

Little known outside of Africa is the tiny territory of Western Sahara. It’s not a country, not a recognized one anyway. When Spain left the area in 1975, both Mauritania and Morocco were quick to claim it for themselves. The people who lived in the area, called Saharawis, had other ideas. They wanted their independence along with the rest of Africa, which experienced wave after wave of anti-colonial independence movements in that time frame. Forming a military and political body called the Polisario, they forced Mauritanian troops out but were unable to dislodge neighboring Morocco. Morocco has occupied the area ever since.

But the Moroccan forces weren’t able to subdue the entire country. Instead of allowing a protracted rebellion by allowing the freedom of movement between the occupied territories and the so-called “free zone” run by the Polisario, Morocco constructed a sand berm with a strip of land mines 2,700 kilometers long (that’s 1677-plus miles for non-metric people). That’s some seven million mines along the disputed boundary.

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(Stefan Grossman)

Even after the shooting stopped in 1991, Morocco made no attempt to take out the mines. In fact, it doubled down on its occupation, constructing guard towers, radar posts, and deploying thousands of troops along the berm to keep the Saharawi out of Western Sahara and detect any possible infiltrators. Civilians are constantly being blown up and maimed by the minefield, while almost no other country recognizes the Moroccan claim to Western Sahara.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Shop these 6 veteran-owned businesses on Small Business Saturday

Whether you’re an avid leave-at-three-in-the-morning-and-stand-outside-Walmart-for-hours kind of shopper or more of the hell-no-I’m-not-leaving-my-couch kind, save your money on Black Friday and spend it all the next day: Small Business Saturday. Specifically, spend your money with these 6 veteran-owned businesses for everyone on your holiday shopping list:


5 things you should keep after getting out

Death Before Decaf mug

Blue Angel Coffee

For the coffee lover:

Blue Angel not only has awesome coffee, but their merch is some of the best around. Who doesn’t need a mug that says “Coffee because crack is bad for you,” or “Death before decaf,” among other hilarious quips?

5 things you should keep after getting out

The Lower 48 in Alder

Dark Horse Wood

For the patriot:

We know you love ‘Merica more than anyone and most of the people in your life do too. Nothing says pride like hanging The Lower 48 in Alder on your wall for all to see. Beautifully handmade by Dark Horse Wood, this gorgeous craftsmanship is a gift that will keep on giving.

5 things you should keep after getting out

Rumi Spice Blend Gift Box

Rumi Spice

For the cook:

The best kind of presents are ones that you can feel good about gifting. Rumi Spice was founded by veterans to connect Afghan farmers with the global food market to lay down a foundation for peace, one flower at a time. “Spice for good” sounds like something we can get behind—and that we can use as stocking stuffers. With Afghan saffron, wild black cumin and spice blends, the artisan chef in your family will appreciate not just the spices, but the meaning behind them as well.

5 things you should keep after getting out

USMC MRE T-shirt

Military Muscle

For the Marine:

Have that buddy you love to make fun of? Buy him this t-shirt from Military Muscle that has a box of crayons on it labeled USMC MRE (you’re welcome). Plus, you can feel good about it. For every t-shirt purchased, Military Muscle donates one to either someone deployed or a homeless vet.

5 things you should keep after getting out

Leadslingers Bourbon Whiskey

Leadslingers Whiskey

For the bourbon lover:

If you’re looking for a smooth, tasty bourbon, look no further than Leadslingers to make your holiday spirits bright. With a light bourbon flavor born from its single barrel aging process, it’s double distilled and handcrafted in Moore, Oklahoma. It’s got top shelf flavor without the hefty price tag. It “melds sophistication and down home flavors, delivering hints of oak, toffee and vanilla; it’s sure to satisfy even the most distinguishing taster.”

5 things you should keep after getting out

The Krypteia

Toor Knives

For the outdoorsman:

What’s better than knife hands? An actual knife. Toor Knives gives you mount, engraving and sheath options, allowing you to build a customized knife and a one-of-a-kind gift.

Whether you start your holiday shopping at midnight on Thanksgiving or would rather procrastinate until Christmas Eve, you do you… and do veteran-owned too.

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