This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world - We Are The Mighty
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This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world

The Special Air Service is the longest active special missions unit in existence and has remained one of the best. Staffed with the toughest and most resourceful enlisted and commissioned soldiers the United Kingdom has to offer, the SAS only accepts the cream of the crop. Of all candidates who try to earn the coveted beige beret and the title of “Blade,” only the very best make it through.


In order to thin out the herd, the SAS holds one of the most arduous and rigorous selection and training programs in the modern special operations community. Timed cross-country marches, treks through jungles, and a mountain climb are just a few of the challenges that make joining the SAS an extreme task.

Typically, the SAS runs two selection periods every year, one in summer and the other in winter. While any fully-trained member of the British Armed Forces may apply for selection, the bulk of candidates tend to come from light infantry, airborne, and commando units.

Selection lasts around five months and consists of multiple phases, each designed to break down every candidate and push them to their limits and beyond. That’s probably why the program has an astonishing 90% fail rate. Many drop out due to stress or injury — those who remain must meet and exceed the high standards set by the selection cadre.

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world
The dreaded Pen y Fan in Brecon Beacons

It all begins with physical testing designed to ensure that each candidate meets the minimum requirements to join the SAS. Selection then moves forward with a series of forced marches in the Brecon Beacons, a mountain range in South Wales. Candidates are issued rifles, weighted rucks, and rations and are then sent packing. Their ultimate test in the first phase is navigating themselves across Pen y Fan, the highest peak of the Brecon Beacons, alone and within a 20 hour time limit.

This segment, called officially “Endurance,” but popularly known as the “Fan Dance,” holds a special (if not dreaded) place in the hearts of all candidates. It’s such an excruciating and dangerous trek that some have even perished over the years in attempts.

After completing Endurance, all surviving candidates are given weeks of instruction on weapons, tactics, and procedures. This is their first real introduction to the shadowy world in which the SAS generally operates. Lessons on tradecraft, medical care, and hand-to-hand combat are also included. This segment is run in the hot, dense jungles of Brunei, Belize, or Malaysia.

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world
An L85 rifle, similar to those used during SAS selction, are standard issue of the British Armed Forces.
(US Marine Corps)

Upon passing the jungle phase, candidates return to the United Kingdom to Hereford, home of 22 Special Air Service Regiment, where they receive further specialized instruction and undergo testing on their trade. Their marksmanship abilities are honed and developed, their combat driving abilities are refined, and their proficiency with foreign weapons and vehicles is enhanced.

Candidates are also put through airborne school, learning how to conduct static line and freefall jumps, and are committed to a grueling combat survival and resistance program, similar to the US military’s SERE school. After a one week-test during which candidates are hunted down and brutally interrogated, they are finally on their way to joining the active SAS.

By the end of SAS selection, an initial batch of around 200 candidates will have dwindled down to roughly 25. These candidates are sent to operational squadrons for further training and eventual deployment. They represent the finest the British Armed Forces have to offer, and are thus awarded their beige berets and the SAS badge — the winged dagger.

They have earned the right to call themselves “Blades.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Senate passes $740 billion defense policy bill with troop pay raise

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.

Trump has threatened to veto any measure to remove the name of Confederate leaders from Army installations. On Tuesday, the White House released a statement listing the items Trump finds objectionable in the House’s bill, saying it is “part of a sustained effort to erase from the history of the nation those who do not meet an ever-shifting standard of conduct.”

Other items that pertain to personnel policy in the bill include:

  • Mandating that DoD develop and field body armor that properly fits female soldiers
  • Providing additional ways for service members to report sexual assault
  • Requiring DoD to better track and respond to incidents of child abuse on military installations.

The vote was 86-14. The two chambers will next name a committee of members to develop a compromise bill. The House approved its version of the fiscal 2021 authorization bill Tuesday.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

One vet’s story about coming back from the brink of suicide

In 2017, I left the military after 14 years of service as an Army military policeman. I came to Texas with a debilitating back injury, PTSD, little financial security and Hurricane Harvey was looming in my future. Like so many that are in pain, I started to abuse alcohol and prescription drugs.

Then Hurricane Harvey hit: the catalyst that tipped the scales. With my savings already gone and no assistance from FEMA, my family was left living in a hotel room. Feeling like I couldn’t provide for my family only worsened my PTSD. But I couldn’t go to anybody – I told myself that other people need help more than I do and that my problems weren’t “that” bad. So I tried to deal with it on my own, but I was in too deep.


This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world

(Military Families Magazine)

So deep, that in October 2017, I drove to the hotel I was living in, parked the car and pulled my pistol out of the glove compartment. I didn’t see any other options. At that moment, my fiancée came outside. I couldn’t let her see what I was about to do, so I put the gun away and followed her inside. There she handed me a check and I learned that somebody applied for a grant for me from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). It wasn’t necessarily the money that brought my head above water so that I could reanalyze the situation and take the next step forward — It was the fact that somebody cared enough about me to notice I was struggling and offer help.

From that point on, I knew that I wanted to help others. For those that know somebody who needs help, don’t sit by. Everybody has the power to make one small action that can change somebody else’s life, and in a time with so much uncertainty and fear in the world, we should all aim for that.

How can you help those in need?

So here are five small things that you can do today to help somebody in your life that may be struggling.

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world

(Military Families Magazine)

1. Notice changes.

In our fast-pace culture, its common to rush by people, even those you love, and not really notice how they are doing. Have they become quieter and more withdrawn or perpetually angry? That is often a big signal that they are struggling with something. Other top signals include changes to their hygiene, sleep, appetite and focus. But did you know that even positive changes are often indicators of mental or emotional turmoil?

Trust your gut. If somebody has become more social all of a sudden and they seem “fine” now, they probably aren’t really fine. Really taking the time to notice people in your life and be aware of any personality changes is the first step to being there for somebody.

2. Avoid giving advice and silver linings.

Once you start noticing the people in your life that may be struggling, it’s tempting to want to talk to them. But avoid giving advice and silver linings, as it can tend to make somebody shut down even more. You want to create space where they can open up to you, so check in often and just be there to listen – even if they don’t want to talk.

If they do want to open up to you, make an effort to hear the story from their perspective. Even if their struggle doesn’t make sense to you, avoid saying “it could be worse” or listing the reasons why they should be happy. Fight the urge to try and “fix” their problems. Sometimes, the best fix is to just lend a listening ear and to know when to refer your loved one to a professional.

3. Be proactive.

If you notice that somebody in your life could use a little tangible help, be proactive and offer it, rather than saying “let me know if you need anything.” While that may be a socially acceptable phrase, it puts all the pressure on the other person to reach out to you. We are often conditioned to see asking for help as a weakness, so the odds that they take you up on the offer are small. So if you notice a mom on your kid’s soccer team is constantly late for pickup, offer to drive her child home. If your sister’s health is poor, but she can’t afford to eat well, drop off a healthy meal once in a while. Apply for that financial aid for somebody. Your gesture doesn’t need to be big — It’s often the little things that help people the most.

4. Suggest volunteering.

Today, I travel around speaking and advocating for PTSD and suicide awareness. While sharing my story provides hope to others, it also continues to heal me. I have found that each time I recount my experiences, I release more of the burden of these stories. That’s why I continue to serve, and because of my service I have been named a spokesperson for the VFW’s newest campaign, #StillServing, which aims to bring to light the continued service of America’s veterans.

Remind your loved one that volunteering and serving others is a great way to foster their own healing. Invite them to go with you to a food bank or animal shelter as a way to get out of your head for a few hours.

5. Remember to care for yourself as well.

You can’t pour from an empty cup, so make sure to take care of yourself as well. Do not blame yourself for not “doing enough” or not feeling comfortable talking to somebody about their experiences. Even following just one of the tips above can mean the world to somebody. It did for me.

I still don’t know who applied for that grant for me, but it changed my life. Today, I am in school working toward becoming a family law attorney, I speak on and advocate for PTSD and suicide awareness and I am a spokesperson for the VFW’s #StillServing campaign.

Chris Blevins is a veteran of the US Army, serving 14 years as a military police officer with tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Today, he is an advocate for post traumatic stress disorder awareness and suicide awareness. He attends the University of Texas San Antonio where he is pursuing a degree in politics and law with the goal of becoming a family lawyer. He is a spokesperson for the VFW’s newest campaign, #StillServing and lives in San Antonio with his wife and four children.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY CULTURE

This epic music video from Mat Best is everything you miss about active duty

Quick: Name all the things you miss about active duty. (If you still are active duty, then list all the things that make your life bearable as well as all the things you most hate.) Well, Mat Best and Jarred Taylor want to take you on a quick nostalgia trip through those memories of PT belts, buddies marrying strippers, and policing brass at the range.


You might remember Mat Best from his T-shirt company. Or the coffee company. Or that epic rap battle. Now, he’s dropped a new, soulful music video about how much veterans find themselves missing even the crappy parts of active duty, from the hot portajohn sessions to the mortar attacks to the PT belts. Turn it up loud in whatever cubicle you’re in.

Military Ballad – Can’t Believe We Miss This

www.youtube.com

Military Ballad – Can’t Believe We Miss This

Their new single Can’t Believe We Miss This is all about, well, the things you can’t believe you miss after getting that coveted DD-214. A quick note before you hit play: It’s not safe for younger viewers and only safe for work if your boss is super cool. There’s not nudity or anything, but they both use some words picked up in the barracks.

Oh, and there are a few direct references to how crappy civilian jobs with suit and ties can be, so your boss might not like that either.

But, yeah, the song is like sitting in an ’80s bar sipping drinks with buddies from your old unit, swapping stories about funny stuff like getting stuck on base after someone lost their NVGs and the serious, painful stuff like dudes who got blown up by mortars and IEDs.

And if you think Mat Best and Jarred Taylor skimped on production, then you’ve never seen their epic rap battle. So, yes, there are plenty of drone shots, weapons, and big military hardware like the HMMWV, aka humveee. It’s got more lens flare than a J.J. Abrams marathon and more explosions than Michael Bay’s house on Fourth of July.

And speaking of Independence Day, they dropped the video just in time for you to annoy the crap out of your family and friends with it wherever you’re partying. If you really want to do that but might not have good YouTube access, you can also watch the video on Facebook or buy it on iTunes.

MIGHTY CULTURE

There’s a new battle brewing in the Atlantic

The National Defense Strategy issued by the Defense Department in 2018 declared a new era of great power competition with “revisionist powers” — namely, China and Russia.

A new period of tension and competition with Russia has been evident in Europe since 2014, when Moscow seized Crimea from Ukraine.

In the years since, NATO has sought to improve its position in Europe, while Russia has displayed new naval capabilities in the waters around the continent.


In an email interview, Magnus Nordenman, a NATO expert and author of “The New Battle for the Atlantic: Emerging Competition with Russia in the Far North” who was previously director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council, explained what this new era of competition in the Atlantic looks like, what each side brings to it, and how the conditions continue to change.

Christopher Woody: As mentioned in the title of your book, there have been several battles for the Atlantic, namely during World War I and II and the Cold War. How does the present situation resemble those battles and how does it differ?

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world

Coast guardsmen aboard the US Coast Guard cutter Spencer watch the explosion of a depth charge, blasting a German submarine attempting to break into the center of a large US convoy in the Atlantic, April 17, 1943.

(Public domain)

Magnus Nordenman: During each great conflict in Europe during the 20th century the Atlantic has served as the crucial bridge that allowed the flow of war-winning supplies and reinforcements from America to Europe.

If a conflict between Russia and NATO erupted in the coming years, the Atlantic would serve that role again.

But it would not be a re-run of previous battles for the Atlantic. Changes in technology, a new-style Russian navy, and the context of global great-power competition would all help shape a future battle for the Atlantic.

Woody: Russia has made an effort to rebuild its navy in recent years. What capabilities does that force, its submarines in particular, have now that it didn’t have in the years after the end of the Cold War?

Nordenman: Unlike during Cold War days, the Russian navy is going for quality rather than quantity. And given that it has relatively limited resources it must focus its investments where they can make the biggest difference, and that is with its submarine force.

Russia has also focused on giving its navy a long-range strike capability with Kalibr missiles, which have been used to great effect in Syria. The use of long-range strike missiles from submarines was nearly an exclusive US domain until relatively recently.

Russia fires six Kalibr missiles at IS targets in Syria’s Hama

www.youtube.com

All this suggests that Russia would not try to halt shipping coming across the Atlantic from the US but would instead seek to attack command-and-control centers and ports and airfields in Northern Europe to disrupt US efforts to come to the aid of its European allies.

Woody: On the Center for a New American Security podcast in August, you mentioned that when it comes to dealing with Russia, you think there’s less an “Arctic problem” and more of a “Kola Peninsula problem.” Can you elaborate on the difference between the two and what that distinction means for NATO?

Nordenman: Arctic security is a growing theme, but I think it often confuses the debate rather than enlightens it.

The North American, European, and Russian Arctics are three very different places in terms of politics, accessibility, operating environment, and international relations. To place it all under the rubric “Arctic security” is not always helpful.

In the case of NATO and its mission to provide deterrence on behalf of its member states it comes down to the Kola Peninsula, where Russia’s northern fleet is based.

Woody: The Arctic remains a challenging region for navies to operate in, but climate change is altering the environment there. What changes do you expect naval forces to have to make in order to keep operating there effectively?

Nordenman: NATO member navies need to get familiar again with operating in the broader North Atlantic.

The last two decades have seen those navies primarily operate in places such as the Mediterranean, the [Persian] Gulf, and Indian Ocean. Those are very different domains in comparison to the Atlantic. And while the far North Atlantic is warming, it is not a hospitable place. It still remains very remote.

In terms of climate change, there are, for example, indications that warmer waters are changing the patterns of sound propagation in the far North Atlantic, which means that they must be measured and catalogued anew in order to conduct effective anti-submarine warfare.

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

Articles

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

1. Legionnaires are instilled with a “fight to the death” attitude. Giving up is not really an option.

In April 1863, a battle between the French Foreign Legion and the Mexican army showed how effective and ballsy legionnaires really could be. With a total of just 65 men, the legionnaires fought back against a force of approximately 3,000 at the Battle of Camarón. Despite the overwhelming odds, the small patrol of legionnaires inflicted terrible losses on the Mexican forces and they refused to surrender.


Instead, their French officers actually called on the larger Mexican force to surrender multiple times. Holed up inside of a hacienda, only five men remained able to fight (most were killed or wounded) — and incredibly — mounted a bayonet charge against the opposing force, until they were ultimately surrounded and forced to surrender.

“Is this all of them? Is this all of the men who are left?” a Mexican Major said at the time, according to the book Camerone by James W. Ryan. “These are not men! They are demons!”

The Legion still celebrates and commemorates the battle today — and the wooden hand of their slain commander, Capt. Danjou, is the most prized possession at the Legion’s museum in Aubagne, writes Max Hastings.

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world

2. Legionnaires who are wounded are granted automatic French citizenship.

Though troops serving the Legion hail from 138 different countries, they can become French citizens eventually. After serving at least three years honorably, they can apply to be citizens. But they also have a much quicker path: If they are wounded on the battlefield, they can become citizens through a provision called “Français par le sang versé” (“French by spilled blood”), according to The Telegraph.

The French government allowed this automatic citizenship provision in 1999.

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world

3. More than 35,000 foreigners have been killed in action while serving with the Legion.

Throughout its history, the French Foreign Legion — and the fighters who make up its ranks — were seen as expendable. The foreigners who continue to join do so accepting the possibility of their death in a far-off place, in exchange for a new life with some sense of purpose. But meaningless sacrifice has gradually become a virtue in itself, according to a Vanity Fair article about the Legion.

“It’s like this,” an old legionnaire told William Langeweische of Vanity Fair. “There is no point in trying to understand. Time is unimportant. We are dust from the stars. We are nothing at all. Whether you die at age 15 or 79, in a thousand years there is no significance to it. So f–k off with your worries about war.”

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world

4. The Legion used to accept anyone — criminals and misfits especially — with no questions, but now there is a thorough screening process.

Since its founding in 1831, the Legion has become the one place of escape for those with haunted pasts. Men with criminal records, shady business dealings, or deserters from their home country’s armies were accepted into the ranks, with no questions asked. Stripped of their old identity and given a new one, the new legionnaires are able to begin their new life with the slate wiped clean.

The legion will still accept deserters and other minor miscreants, but it’s not as easy as it once was. New recruits are given a battery of physical, intelligence, and psychological tests before they even get any kind of training. Later on in the process, recruits are screened for “motivation” in order to weed out those who don’t have the drive to make it in the ranks.

Some of the process was detailed by Simon Bennett at Vice:

Finally, after countless hours spent lingering in uncomfortable conditions, the only thing standing between us and a spot with the Legion was what was referred to as the “Gestapo.” Rumor had it that at this point, the Legion knew everything about you. The word Interpol is thrown around a lot—any financial, criminal, family, and employment background information is supposedly fair game. Call it a hunch, but I think that’s bullshit. Make no mistake, I believe someone, somewhere has access to all of that information. But a sweaty, apathetic French administration in a run-down, quasi-bureaucratic shithole in suburban Marseille isn’t that someone or somewhere. In any case, they called me in for an interrogation.

While they may not necessarily be running from their past when they join the Legion these days, all new legionnaires are still stripped of their old identities and given new ones, which they maintain for at least their first year of service.

“Legionnaires begin a new life when they join,” a legionnaire named Capt. Michel told NBC News. “Each and every one of them is allowed to keep his past a secret.”

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world

5. The pay is terrible, and so are the benefits.

Legion recruiters could easily steal the infamous U.S. Marine Corps recruiting poster with the slogan, “We don’t promise you a rose garden.” The pay is terrible, as are the benefits, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Despite the promise of a very rough life and the possibility of being sent to fight anywhere, thousands continue to show up each year.

Legionnaires can expect deployments to austere environments and/or see plenty of combat. The Legion is currently in Afghanistan and Mali, for example.

Their starting pay is roughly $1450 per month for at least the first couple of years in. That’s a pretty small paycheck compared to the lowest-ranking U.S. Army soldier making $1546, which is guaranteed to go up to $1733 after being automatically promoted six months later (if they don’t get in trouble of course).

There is at least one bonus to the Legion if you fancy yourself a drinker: There’s plenty of booze. Even in a combat zone, legionnaires are drinking in their off time, and their culture of heavy drinking would make any frat-boy blush.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This pilot in his pajamas shot down an enemy fighter at Pearl Harbor

Comfort is important when doing a hard job. If it’s hot on the work site, it’s important to stay cool. If it’s hazardous, proper protection needs to be worn. And comfort is apparently key when the Japanese sneak attack the Navy. Just ask Lt. Phil Rasmussen, who was one of four pilots who managed to get off the ground to fight the Japanese in the air.

Rasmussen, like many other American GIs in Hawaii that day, was still asleep when the Japanese launched the attack at 0755. The Army Air Forces 2nd Lieutenant was still groggy and in his pajamas when the attacking wave of enemy fighters swarmed Wheeler Field and destroyed many of the Army’s aircraft on the ground.

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world
Damaged aircraft on Hickam Field, Hawaii, after the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

There were still a number of outdated Curtiss P-36A Hawk fighters that were relatively untouched by the attack. Lieutenant Rasmussen strapped on a .45 pistol and ran out to the flightline, still in his pajamas, determined to meet the sucker-punching Japanese onslaught.

By the time the attack ended, Wheeler and Hickam Fields were both devastated. Bellows Field also took a lot of damage, its living quarters, mess halls, and chapels strafed by Japanese Zeros. American troops threw back everything they could muster – from anti-aircraft guns to their sidearms. But Rasmussen and a handful of other daring American pilots managed to get in the air, ready to take the fight right back to Japan in the Hawks if they had to. They took off under fire, but were still airborne.

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world
Pearl Harbor pilots Harry Brown, Phil Rasmussen, Ken Taylor, George Welch, and Lewis Sanders.

They made it as far as Kaneohe Bay.

The four brave pilots were led by radio to Kaneohe, where they engaged 11 enemy fighters in a vicious dogfight. Even in his obsolete old fighter, Rasmussen proved that technology is no match for good ol’ martial skills and courage under fire. He managed to shoot down one of the 11, but was double-teamed by two attacking Zeros.

Gunfire and 20mm shells shattered his canopy, destroyed his radio, and took out his hydraulic lines and rudder cables. He was forced out of the fighting, escaping into nearby clouds and making his way back to Wheeler Field. When he landed, he did it without brakes, a rudder, or a tailwheel.

There were 500 bullet holes in the P-36A’s fuselage.

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world
Skillz.

Lieutenant Rasmussen earned the Silver Star for his boldness and would survive the war, getting his second kill in 1943. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1965, but will live on in the Museum of the United States Air Force, forever immortalized as he hops into an outdated aircraft in his pajamas.

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world
(U.S. Air Force photo)

popular

How the Persian Immortals became masters of psychological warfare

War is just as much a psychological battle as it is physical. If you’re able to convince your enemy that they have no chance of surviving before the first drop of blood is spilled, you’ve already won. No warriors in history have embodied this concept better than the Anausa or, as they’re more commonly known, the Persian Immortals.

Even their very name, “Immortal,” is a part of the mind tricks they played on their enemies. In order to keep up the image of being unkillable, they wore matching uniforms and hastily recovered their dead or wounded, fueling the illusion that none fell in battle. But that barely even scratches the surface of the psychological warfare the Persians employed to conquer 44 percent of all humanity at the height of their power in 480 B.C.


This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world
As over-the-top as the rest of “300” was, this is an entirely accurate scene. The rest of the movie, though? Ehhh…(Warner Bros. Pictures)

As with many early civilizations, much of the history of Achaemenid Empire (to Empire for which the Immortals fought) has been lost to time. The history we do have comes from the Greek scholar, Herodotus. Though he opposed Persia, he kept detailed battle plans of the Immortals and those that faced them.

One such example happened to make its way into the 2006 film, “300.” A Spartan at Thermopylae scoffed at a Persian envoy who said their arrows could “black out the sky” by replying, “then we’ll fight in the shade.” That wasn’t just a boast — that actually happened.

The Immortals were well aware that their arrows were inferior to Spartan steel. So, instead of making them stronger, they made more of them so that every archer could unleash them in one, rapid moment, literally blacking out the sky with arrows.

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world
“Cats! Our only weakness!” – Some Egyptian, probably. (Ancient History Museum)

Another example of the ferocity of the Immortals was when the Persians defeated the Egyptians at the Battle of Pelusium. The Persians knew that the Egyptians were faithful to the Egyptian Goddess of Cats, Bastet. To the Egyptians, any harm done to a cat was considered great sacrilege.

Knowing this, the Persians simply drew cats on their shields and let loose a bunch of cats onto the battlefield. This alone was enough to make many Egyptians immediately surrender. When the other Egyptians manned their catapults, the Persians would let them know that they had cats with them — and that unleashed the artillery could mean killing a few felines.

If the Immortals didn’t have enough time to prepare for an individual opponent, they’d resort to their shock-and-awe cavalry, armed with sagaris, or long axes. The lightweight ax made it easy for Immortals to twirl them over their heads and swing fast enough to make an enemy’s blood splash far enough back to intimidate their foes.

At the Battle of the Granicus in 334 B.C., Alexander II of Macedon was nearly scalped by an Immortal cavalryman named Spithridates. His ax sliced clean straight through Alexander’s helmet and was just millimeters away from being a fatal blow.

After that moment, Alexander swore to the destruction of Persia. He studied their tactics and instructed his men on how to counter their advances. This took away the Persian’s edge in battle, and Alexander, from then on, took on the moniker of “the Great.”


Features images: Wikimedia Commons

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 old school problems today’s troops don’t have to worry about

For decades, our troops have faced awful weather, separation from their families, and a diet consisting of the same daily rations, and yet they still complete their vital missions.

In our eyes, that’s badass!

However, as time moves forward, so, too, does technology. Because of that, many modern troops don’t face the same problems as those that came before them. It’s important to always remember and respect just how tough our brothers and sisters-in-arms had it way back in the day.


To all past, present, and future veterans out there, WATM salutes you for your outstanding service. Be thankful that you don’t have to worry about these problems that once plagued the old-timers.

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world

Two trusty SAPI plates.

Getting shot by a small-caliber round

We understand that getting shot sounds like a huge deal — because it is. However, allied troops on the modern battlefield wear a particular type of body armor, called “SAPI plates.” The inserts are made from a ceramic material and are worn over vital organs. These plates protect from small-arms fire and they’re a massive step up compared to what troops wore in Vietnam.

In Vietnam, troops wore only the uniforms issued to them as protection. Taking a round to the upper torso was, almost without exception, a profound injury that left long-term effects.

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world

Lance Cpl. Eric W. Hayes makes a phone call to his mother from the phone center at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.

(Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Mark E. Bradley)

Not hearing from your family back home

Back in the day, the art of letter-writing was a troop’s only avenue of communication with family and friends back home. Those letters could take weeks to be delivered.

Today, we still have a mail service up and running, but we also have this thing called “the internet” — ever hear of it? — that can keep deployed troops in the loop. Soldiers, sailors, and Marines today also have access to phones through the USO and, sometimes, satellite phones to connect them with home in a matter of seconds.

Frequent weapon jams during a firefight

Those of us who’ve fired a weapon or two in our lives may have experienced a jam at some point. Even those of us who have seen combat in Iraq and Afghanistan rarely experience weapons malfunctions while sending rounds downrange because modern weapons are so well-manufactured and well-maintained.

It hasn’t always been this way. Ask any Vietnam veteran and they’ll tell you that their weapons would jam “just by looking at them.” We can’t imagine anything worse than losing your primary weapon when fighting the enemy on their home turf.

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world

Staff Sgt. Bryan Robbins calls in for mortars during a live-fire exercise.

(Photo by Cpl. Jonathan Wright)

Communication issues between troops

Today, calling a service member from another platoon or company is as easy as picking up the comms gear headset and requesting someone’s call sign.

Although troops have had verbal communication systems in place for decades, they weren’t nearly as mobile or readily available as they are today. Back then, the radioman was in charge of carrying the proper equipment and usually stuck closely to their superior to make sure they maintained quick access. If that unit’s radio was down, replacing it wasn’t as easy as going to Radio Shack and buying another.

Today, many key members of the infantry platoon carry vital gear, making communication easy as f*ck. If a radio goes down, you can have it replaced in a few hours.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Service members face off in a battle of strength

Members of the U.S. military community competed against one another Sept. 29, 2019 in another installment of Okinawa’s Strongest: Battle of the South on Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.

The event was held to determine who were some of the strongest men and women on Okinawa.

“Today went great,” explained Taryn Miller, an adult sports specialist for Marine Corps Community Services. “The weather was awesome. The competitors had a lot of energy. There was a lot of camaraderie along with a competitive edge among everybody.”

Okinawa residents and service members traveled from all across the island to participate in this event.


The competitors were divided into five different weight classes. Two female weight classes and three male weight classes.

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world


U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ian Dernbach, a heavy equipment operator with III Marine Expeditionary Force Support Battalion, lifts an atlas stone during the Okinawa’s Strongest: Battle of the South, Sept. 29, 2019 on Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Brennan Beauton)

The first event was the yoke carry, which consisted of a competitor carrying a set weight 50 yards in a race against time. The second was a farmer’s carry 100 yards followed by 10 log cleans and presses for time. The third event was the atlas stone lift, which involved the competitors lifting three different stones and placing them on a platform for time.

Competitors with the highest combined score in their weight class at the end of the competition were declared the winners.

The champion from the female weight class up to 150 pounds was U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Kathryn Quandt, a future operations officer with 9th Engineer Support Battalion.

The champion from the male weight class up to 150 pounds was U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ezekiel Garza, a motor transportation mechanic with III Marine Expeditionary Force Support Battalion.

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ezekiel Garza, a motor transportation mechanic with III Marine Expeditionary Force Support Battalion, executes a log clean and press during the Okinawa’s Strongest: Battle of the South, Sept. 29, 2019 on Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Brennan Beauton)

The champion from the male 150-to-200 pound weight class was U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Kermeen, a faculty advisor with the Staff Noncommissioned Officer Academy on Camp Hansen, and the champion from the male over-200-pound weight class was U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ian Dernbach, a heavy equipment operator with III MEF Support Battalion.

The island-wide Okinawa’s Strongest competition will feature winners from both the Battle of the North and South and will take place in November 2019 on Camp Foster.

“Today’s event had a lot of similar movements that you will see in the event coming up in November 2019 which will have eight different stations as opposed to the three that we had here today,” said Miller. “This was a great way for competitors to get a feel for what it’s going to be like at the big one.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys

Soldiers are slated to fire at targets in 2020 using a platoon of robotic combat vehicles they will control from the back of modified Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

The monthlong operational test is scheduled to begin in March 2020 at Fort Carson, Colorado, and will provide input to the Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center on where to go next with autonomous vehicles.

The upgraded Bradleys, called Mission Enabler Technologies-Demonstrators, or MET-Ds, have cutting-edge features such as a remote turret for the 25 mm main gun, 360-degree situational awareness cameras and enhanced crew stations with touchscreens.


Initial testing will include two MET-Ds and four robotic combat vehicles on M113 surrogate platforms. Each MET-D will have a driver and gunner as well as four soldiers in its rear, who will conduct platoon-level maneuvers with two surrogate vehicles that fire 7.62 mm machine guns.

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world

Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy, center left, and Gen. James C. McConville, the Army’s vice chief of staff, center right, discuss emerging technology while inside a Mission Enabler Technologies-Demonstrator, a modified Bradley Fighting Vehicle equipped with several upgrades, in Warren, Mich., Jan. 18, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

“We’ve never had soldiers operate MET-Ds before,” said David Centeno Jr., chief of the center’s Emerging Capabilities Office. “We’re asking them to utilize the vehicles in a way that’s never been done before.”

After the tests, the center and Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team, both part of Army Futures Command, will then use soldier feedback to improve the vehicles for future test phases.

“You learn a lot,” Centeno said at the International Armored Vehicles USA conference on June 26, 2019. “You learn how they use it. They may end up using it in ways we never even thought of.”

The vehicles are experimental prototypes and are not meant to be fielded, but could influence other programs of record by demonstrating technology derived from ongoing development efforts.

“This technology is not only to remain in the RCV portfolio, but also legacy efforts as well,” said Maj. Cory Wallace, robotic combat vehicle lead for the NGCV CFT.

One goal for the autonomous vehicles is to discover how to penetrate an adversary’s anti-access/aerial denial capabilities without putting soldiers in danger.

The vehicles, Centeno said, will eventually have third-generation forward-looking infrared kits with a target range of at least 14 kilometers.

“You’re exposing forces to enemy fire, whether that be artillery, direct fire,” he said. “So, we have to find ways to penetrate that bubble, attrit their systems and allow for freedom of air and ground maneuver. These platforms buy us some of that, by giving us standoff.”

Phase II, III

In late fiscal year 2021, soldiers will again play a role in Phase II testing as the vehicles conduct company-level maneuvers.

This time, experiments are slated to incorporate six MET-Ds and the same four M113 surrogates, in addition to four light and four medium surrogate robotic combat vehicles, which industry will provide.

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world

(Ground Vehicle Systems Center)

Before these tests, a light infantry unit plans to experiment with the RCV light surrogate vehicles in Eastern Europe May 2020.

“The intent of this is to see how an RCV light integrates into a light infantry formation and performs reconnaissance and security tasks as well as supports dismounted infantry operations,” Wallace said at the conference.

Soldier testing for Phase III is slated to take place mid-fiscal 2023 with the same number of MET-Ds and M113 surrogate vehicles, but will instead have four medium and four heavy purpose-built RCVs.

“This is the first demonstration which we will be out of the surrogate realm and fielding purpose builts,” Wallace said, adding the vehicles will conduct a combined arms breach.

The major said he was impressed with how quickly soldiers learned to control the RCVs during the Robotic Combined Arms Breach Demonstration in May 2019 at the Yakima Training Center in Washington.

“Soldiers have demonstrated an intuitive ability to master controlling RCVs much faster than what we thought,” he said. “The feedback from the soldiers was that after two days they felt comfortable operating the system.”

There are still ongoing efforts to offload some tasks in operating RVCs to artificial intelligence in order to reduce the cognitive burden on soldiers.

“This is not how we’re used to fighting,” Centeno said. “We’re asking a lot. We’re putting a lot of sensors, putting a lot of data in the hands of soldiers. We want to see how that impacts them. We want to see how it degrades or increases their performance.”

The family of RCVs include three variants. Army officials envision the light version to be transportable by rotary wing. The medium variant would be able to fit onto a C-130 aircraft, and the heavy variant would fit onto a C-17 aircraft.

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world

A C-130 aircraft.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhett Isbell)

Both future and legacy armored platforms, such as the forthcoming Mobile Protected Firepower “light tank,” could influence the development of the RCV heavy.

With no human operators inside it, the heavy RCV can provide the lethality associated with armored combat vehicles in a much smaller form. Plainly speaking, without a crew, the RCV heavy requires less armor and can dedicate space and power to support modular mission payloads or hybrid electric drive batteries, Wallace said.

Ultimately, the autonomous vehicles will aim to keep soldiers safe.

“An RCV reduces risk,” Wallace said. “It does so by expanding the geometry of the battlefield so that before the threat makes contact with the first human element, it has to make contact with the robots.

“That, in turn, gives commanders additional space and time to make decisions.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the legendary .50-cal. actually kills you

There’s a reason that the M2 .50-caliber machine gun design has endured since John Browning first created it 100 years ago, in 1918: The mechanical reliability of the weapon and ballistics of the round are still exactly what a soldier needs to kill large numbers of people and light vehicles quickly at long range.

Here’s how it works and how it affects a human body.


This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world

A mounted .50-cal. fires during an exercise in Germany in September 2018.

(U.S. Army Capt. Joseph Legros)

First, the M2 and its ammunition can be legally used to target enemy personnel, despite apersistent myth that states it can only be aimed at equipment. That said, it isn’t designed solely for anti-personnel use. An anti-personnel specific weapon usually has smaller rounds that are more likely to tumble when they strike human flesh.

See, there are three major effects from a metal round hitting flesh that are likely to cause severe injury or death. First, there’s the laceration and crushing from the round’s traversalthrough the flesh.

Then, there’s the cavitation,which has two parts. The first cavity is the permanent one:the open space left from the laceration discussed above. But there’s a second, temporary cavity. As the round travels through the body, it’s crushing the flesh and pushing it out of the way very quickly. That flesh maintains its momentum for a fraction of a second, billowing out from the path of the bullet. The flesh can tear and cells can burst as the tissue erupts outward and then slams back.

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world

In this GIF of ballistics gel taking a .50-cal. round, you can see all three effects. There’s the laceration and crushing immediately around the bullet, the huge cavity as the gel flies apart, and the shockwave from that expansion as it forces the gel to fly outwards before re-compressing. The cavitation and re-compression is so violent that you can see a small explosion in the first block from the compressing air.

Finally, there’s the shock wave. That temporary cavity discussed above? The flesh all around it is obviously compressed as the cavity expands, and that’s where the shock wave starts. The cavity pushes outward, compressing the flesh and the energy in the compressed flesh keeps traveling outward until it dissipates. This can also cause separations and tears. In extreme situations, it can even cause damage to nerve tissue, like the spinal cord and brain.

Typical rifle rounds generally aim to maximize the first two effects, laceration and crushing and cavitation. A relatively short, small round — 5.56mm or .223 caliber in the case of the M16 — travels very quickly to the target. When it hits, it quickly begins to yaw and then tumble, depositing all of its kinetic energy to create a large, temporary cavity. And the tumble of the round allows it to crush and cut a little more flesh than it would if flying straight.

But maximizing design for cavitation is maximizing for tumble, and that can make the round more susceptible to environmental effects in flight, making it less accurate at long range.

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world

A 5.56mm NATO round stands to the left of a .50-cal. sniper round.

(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Lawrence Sena)

But Browning wanted the M2 to be accurate at long ranges, so he opted for a big, heavy round with a sharp tip. That’s great for flying long ranges and punching through the skin of a vehicle, but it can cause the bullet to punch right through human flesh without depositing much kinetic energy, meaning that it only damages the flesh directly in the path of the round.

But there’s a way to still get the round to cause lots of damage, even if it’s going to pass right through the enemy: maximizing its speed and size so that it still sends a lot of energy into the surrounding flesh, making a large cavity and creating a stunning shockwave. Basically, it doesn’t matter that the round only deposits a fraction of its energy if it has a ton of energy.

The M2 fires rounds at a lower muzzle velocity than the M16 and at similar speeds to the M4, but its round is much larger and heavier. The M33 ball ammo for the M2 weighs almost 46 grams, while the M16’s NATO standard 5.56mm round weighs less than 4 grams. That means, flying at the same speeds, the M2 .50-cal. has 11 times as much energy to impart.

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world

A Jordanian soldier fires the M2 .50-cal. machine gun during an exercise near Amman, Jordan in 2018.

(U.S. Army)

It also maintains more speed during flight. So, when the M33 round from the M2 hits a target, it does usually pass through with plenty of its kinetic energy left with the exiting round. But it still cuts a massive path through its target, doing plenty of damage from the first effect. And it compresses plenty of flesh around it as it forces its way through the target, creating a large permanent cavity and a still-impressive, temporary cavity.

But it really shines when it comes to shock wave damage. The M33 and other .50-cal. rounds have so much energy that even depositing a small fraction of it into the surrounding tissues can cause it to greatly compress and then expand. With a large round traveling at such high speeds, the shock wave can become large enough to cause neurological damage.

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world

A soldier fires the M240B during an exercise. The M240B fires a 7.62mm round that carries more energy than a 5.56mm NATO rounds, but still much less than the .50-cal. machine gun. The amount of kinetic energy in a round is largely a product of its propellant and its mass.

(U.S. Army National Guard Spc. Andrew Valenza)

Yeah, the target’s flesh deforms so quickly that the energy can compress nerves or displace them, shredding the connections between them and potentially causing a concussion.

And all of that is without the round hitting a bone, which instantly makes the whole problem much worse for the target. All rounds impart some of their energy to a bone if they strike it, but with smaller rounds, there’s not all that much energy. With a .50-cal, it can make the bone explode into multiple shards that are all flying with the speed of a low-velocity bullet.

The M2 can turn its target’s skeleton into a shotgun blast taking place inside their body. The harder the bone that takes the hit, the more energy is imparted to the skeleton before the bone breaks. On really hard bones, like the hip socket, the huge, fast-moving round can leave all or most of its energy in the bone and connected flesh.

This will basically liquefy the enemy it hits as the energy travels through the nearby muscles and the organs in the abdominal cavity. There’s really no way to survive a .50-cal. round if it hits a good, hard, well-connected bone. Not that your chances are much better if it hits anything but an extremity.

In fact, the .50-cal. hits with so much energy that it would likely kill you even if your body armor could stop it. The impact of the armor plate hitting your rib cage would be like taking a hit from Thor’s Hammer. That energy would still crush your organs and break apart your blood vessels and arteries, it would just allow your skin to keep most of the goop inside as you died. No laceration or cavitation, but so much crushing and shock wave that it wouldn’t matter.

So, try to avoid enemy .50-cal. rounds if you can, but rest confident in the effects on the enemy if you’re firing it at them. The ammo cans might be super heavy, but causing these kinds of effects at over a mile is often worth it.

There are a lot of vets sharing their stories of bodies hit by .50-cal. rounds on Quora, if you’re into that sort of thing.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Watch celebrities challenge each other to push-ups for veterans

Pairing athletes with military veterans just makes sense. Both have a team mentality, dedication to their uniform and all the meaning associated with it, and — most importantly — a deep connection to their fellow teammates. It may (or may not) surprise some to learn that making film and television is very much a team sport as well. The cast and crew have to operate in tandem and rely on one another for success. Physical fitness is also a very important aspect to all three lifestyles.

So, it makes sense that movie stars are getting into the latest social media trend: push-ups for veterans.


In 2015, FOX NFL insider Jay Glazer created the nonprofit Merging Vets and Players to match separated combat veterans and former professional athletes to help the vets deal with transitioning out of their old team — the U.S. military — and into civilian life. He wanted to show that the country cared about what happens to them when the uniform comes off, that the skills they picked up in service to the United States are still applicable in their new lives, and that professional athletes could help show them their true potential.

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world

Glazer was soon joined by Nate Boyer, a U.S. Army Special Forces veteran and player for both the Texas Longhorns and Seattle Seahawks who is very active in the veteran community. He believes the two worlds have a lot in common.

“Both war fighters and football players need something to fight for once the uniform comes off, and your service to country or time on the field is over,” Boyer says. “Without real purpose for the man on your right and left, it can be easy to feel lost.”

Related: Nate Boyer climbs Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water

With Glazer’s access to the world of the NFL and its players combined with Boyer’s impeccable credentials in the military-veteran community and unique knowledge of the struggles returning veterans face, the nonprofit offers peer support between the athletes and veterans, as well as physical training and challenges at locations across America.

One of those challenges recently caught on with another group: movie stars. Glazer challenged all the members of his elite LA-based training center, Unbreakable Performance, to a 25 push-up challenge. For every member who publicly posts their 25 push-ups, TV personality and NFL alum Michael Strahan will donate fitness equipment to Merging Vets and Players. It immediately got a response.


Chris Pratt, star of Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World was challenged by Strahan specifically. He answered the call, then challenged Jack Ryan star, John Krasinski, who challenged both Captain America Chris Evans and The Rock to pump out 25 for Merging Vets and Players.


They both did their 25. In the days that followed, Pratt’s Guardians of the Galaxy co-star Dave Bautista answered the call, as did Caleb Shaw, and Sylvester Stallone. Recently challenged stars include Mark Walhberg, LeBron James, and even Snoop Dogg.

The 25 push-up challenge didn’t stop with celebrities, though. Veterans who follow Merging Vets and Players, as well as MVP alumni, are also posting their 25 push-up challenge videos on Instagram and Twitter.

Follow Glazer’s @unbreakableperformance or @mergingvetsandplayers on instagram to keep track of the latest responders to the #25PushUpChallenge.

For more about Merging Vets and Players, visit the MVP Website.

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