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The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

Professions throughout the world all have their own unique terminology. Although the U.S. military is a unique organization, in this respect, it works in the same way. We’ve coined terms and created acronyms for just about anything you can imagine.


But what’s more interesting than the terms themselves is the original of each. While some terms have a clear origin, how others began is clouded in mystery. Military terms are sometimes seen as mildly derogatory, such as the term “boot,” or, in this case, “POG,” which means “Person Other than Grunt.”

So, where did the term “POG” come from? Well, we’re glad you asked.

Related: 5 ways to skate in Marine Corps boot camp

The term comes from the word “pogue,” which is Gaelic for “kiss.”

It was started by disgruntled Navy sailors of Irish descent who served during the American Civil War. They were upset that others, would never leave shore, would get to stay home and get all the kisses from the ladies while they were out fighting.

 

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’
Sailors always seemed to get the cute nurses back in the day…

Then, Marines caught wind of the term, adopted it, and began using it themselves to describe anyone who wasn’t involved in any type of combat. The term eventually found its way into the Army.

Also Read: 5 reasons why Luke Skywalker was operator AF

The Air Force doesn’t typically use this term since they’re all pogues — for the most part.

As time progressed, the term became associated with any non-combat military occupational specialties and, eventually, it was shortened to the acronym “POG.”

It’s since been classified as a derogatory term, and its usage is frowned upon by those in leadership positions — especially if they’re POGs.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’
Although every Marine is a rifleman, not every Marine is an infantryman. Some are POGs. (Image via U.S. Department of Defense)

If someone tries telling you that the word is spelled “pogue,” they’re wrong. It’s “POG,” and you should refer them this article right away before commanding them to do some push-ups.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why Apollo 13 astronauts couldn’t just put their suits on to stay warm

Contrary to popular belief, space isn’t actually “cold” per se, at least not in the way often depicted in movies. Space is just mostly empty and all that nothing doesn’t have a temperature. For example, if you were in space without a space suit, the two ways you’d lose heat are just via evaporation of moisture on your skin, in your mouth, etc, and then much slower via radiating heat away, which would take a really long time. In fact, if you were in direct sunlight at around the Earth’s orbit distance from the Sun (1 AU), you’d find yourself overheating pretty quickly, likely with severe sunburns within a few minutes.

This all brings us to the topic of today — if space isn’t cold, why did the astronauts on Apollo 13 get so cold in their ship? And when things did get chilly, why didn’t they just put on their space suits to warm up?


To begin with, somewhat counterintuitively, the reason their ship got so cold so fast is precisely because it’s troublesome to get rid of heat on a space craft. With all the equipment on aboard the ship generating heat, as well as extra heat absorbed when the ship is in direct sunlight, this would normally see the astronauts baking inside the craft. To get around the problem, the ships were specifically designed to radiate heat away very quickly to compensate. Just in case this cooling happened too quickly, for instance when not in direct sunlight helping to heat things up, the ship was also equipped with heaters to keep the astronauts comfortable.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

Apollo 13 launches from Kennedy Space Center.

Thus, during the Apollo 13 mission when all the equipment was off and they couldn’t spare power to run the heaters, they were left with a ship designed to radiate heat away relatively quickly, even when in sunlight, but nothing but their own bodies and sunlight generating heat. The net effect was that it got really cold inside the command module and LM.

This brings up the logical follow up question — when it got cold, why didn’t they just use their space suits to keep warm?

In search of a definitive answer, we discovered a variety of speculative explanations online, many of which get surprisingly technical and ultra specific, despite that nobody was using a definitive source and were simply speculating. Further, nowhere in any Apollo 13 transcripts we read does the idea of the astronauts in question donning their space suits to keep warm ever have appeared to have been suggested or brought up, despite the cold.

Unsatisfied with going with speculative explanations, we eventually resorted to mailing a letter to Fred Haise to get a more definitive answer, with, unfortunately no response.

Unwilling to give up, we continued to dig and finally managed to track down a May of 1970 LIFE magazine article in which all three astronauts gave their account of what happened during the Apollo 13 mission. A fascinating read, most notable to the topic at hand in that article is the following from Jim Lovell concerning the cold, which finally gave us the definitive answer we were looking for:

Eventually it dawned on me that somehow we all had to get some sleep, and we tried to work out a watch system. We weren’t very successful. Besides the inside of the Odyssey kept getting colder and colder. It eventually got down pretty close to freezing point, and it was just impossible to sleep in there. Fred and I even put on our heavy lunar boots. Jack didn’t have any, so he put on extra long johns. When you were moving around the cold wasn’t so bad, but when you were sitting still it was unbearable. So the three of us spent more and more of our time together in Aquarius, which was designed to be flown by two men — standing up, at that. There wasn’t really sleeping space for two men there, let alone three, so we just huddled in there, trying to keep warm and doze off by turns. We didn’t get any sleep in the true sense of the word. We considered putting on our heavy space suits, but the suits were so builky that they would compromise our maneuverability in an emergency situation, and when you put on the suit you were bound to perspire a lot. Soon you would be all wet and cold too, an invitation to pneumonia.

It’s also noteworthy here that in a separate interview, NASA engineer and man in charge of the spacecraft warning system during Apollo 13, Jerry Woodfill, stated that nobody on the ground was terribly concerned about the astronauts being cold or getting hypothermia. With what they were wearing and the temperature inside the spacecraft, they were cold, but not critically so, and everyone had much bigger problems to deal with.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

Astronaut Fred W. Haise Jr., Apollo 13 lunar module pilot, participates in lunar surface simulation training at the Manned Spacecraft Center.

(NASA)

You see, as you might have already gleaned from the previous passage by Lovell, it turns out the otherwise phenomenal Apollo 13 film took some liberties and it was not, in fact, ever cold enough to do something like tap frozen hot dogs against the wall. In fact, according to that same LIFE magazine article, Jack Swigert stated, “Aquarius was a nice, warm 50 degrees.” He further went on to state that “It was 38 degrees in [the Odyssey] before reentry.” To translate for the rest of the world, that means it was about 10 degrees Celsius in Aquarius and about 3.8 degrees Celsius in the Odyssey. Cold, particularly in the Odyssey, but with what they were wearing, not unbearably so for two of the three crew members, especially when spending as much time as possible in the Aquarius.

As for the third, Fred Haise did have a lot of trouble with the cold, likely due to a fever owing to his urinary tract infection. He stated in his own account in that LIFE magazine interview:

I’ve been a lot colder before but I’ve never been so cold for so long… The last 12 hours before renentry were particularly bone chilling. During this period, I had to go up into the command module. It took me four hours back in the LM before I stopped shivering… Because of the cold, during the last two nights I slept in the tunnel between the two vehicles with my head in the LM and with the string of my sleeping bag wound around the latch handle of the LM hatch so that I wouldn’t float around.

Bonus Fact:

  • Speaking of space suits and Hollywood myths, in movies you’ll often see humans exposed to the near vacuum of space doing things like suddenly exploding, instantly freezing in the supposedly extreme “cold” of space, etc. But, in fact, so long as you don’t try to hold your breath, which would result in your lungs rupturing and thus pretty well guaranteed that the incident will be fatal, what will actually happen is you’ll remain conscious for about 10-15 seconds. After that, you’ll be fine as long as you’re placed back in a pressurized environment within about 90 seconds. It’s even possible that some might be able to survive as much as 3 minutes, as chimpanzees are capable of this in such an environment without lasting detrimental effect. For significantly more detail on all this and how we know these numbers, check out our video How Long Can You Survive in Space Without a Space Suit?

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 3 reasons why ‘Generation Kill’ feels so authentic

Any post-9/11 Marine could easily sit down and binge through all seven episodes of the HBO miniseries, Generation Kill. In fact, if you’ve sat in your squad bay at Camp Wilson while there for a training exercise, you’ve probably already watched it a few times. Why is it so popular with the Devil Dogs? Simple: it feels pinpoint accurate.

There aren’t a whole lot of accurate depictions of Marines out there. At least, not many that really, 100% capture the true nature and mannerisms of Marines — the Infantry-type especially. That’s what sets Generation Kill apart from the rest. Based on the novel written by Evan Wright, a reporter for Rolling Stone, who was embedded with the 1st Recon Battalion during the invasion of Iraq, Mr. Wright set out with the goal of showing Marines as they were, unfiltered.

And that he did — but the miniseries adaptation took it a few steps further. There were aspects in production that not only honored Mr. Wright’s material, but Marine culture as well:


The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

If he’s portraying himself, is this still considered his costume?

(HBO Films)

1. Military advisers

A lot of people give Hollywood sh*t when incorrectly depict aspects of military life — likely due to the lack of someone on set who knows (from experience) what they’re talking about. In this case, they had two guys on the job — Rudy Reyes, who plays himself in the series, and Eric Kocher, both Recon Marines. They went as far as having the actors go through a six-day mini-boot camp to learn all of the basics.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

A side-by-side comparison of the real-life Brad Colbert with Alexander Skarsgard, who played Colbert in the series.

(HBO Films)

And the actors took it seriously. They dedicated themselves to honoring the memory and the experiences of the real-life Marines they portray in the series. Rudy Reyes himself said,

“… These guys have shown incredible discipline and attention to detail as well as commitment and camaraderie.”

Which goes to show that they picked the right actors for the job. But, in many cases, an actor can only be as convincing as the material they’re given.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

Lee Tergesen as Evan Wright.

(HBO Films)

2. Source material

As previously stated, Evan Wright set out to portray the Marines as they were. He’s gone on record as saying he didn’t aim to depict them as heroes or villains — but just as they were. If you were to go to Rolling Stone to read through his original series of articles, you’ll notice that they, too, are extremely accurate.

From reading his writing, you get a sense that he wanted to show the world that Marines are people, just like anyone else. Such authentic source material meant that the production team had some big shoes to fill — they needed performances that felt real. Really real.

Evan Wright on Generation Kill

www.youtube.com

Thankfully, HBO at this point had already done Band of Brothers, which was another accurate depiction of troops in war. For Evan Wright, that kind of pedigree was comforting; he know that HBO would do their best to faithfully adapt his work.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

Also, notice how the actors have learned to keep their booger hooks off the bang switch.

(HBO Films)

3. Cast and crew

And, of course, Generation Kill has a great cast of actors. As mentioned before, they were extremely dedicated to their roles and understood what it was that they were doing. Of course, that’s partially credited to the Reyes and Kocher, but the actors themselves played their roles brilliantly.

Beyond that, every department understood what they were making and made sure to get a lot of the details correct, including costumes.

Generation Kill: Becoming A Marine (HBO)

www.youtube.com

When it comes to getting things accurate, Generation Kill does an outstanding job. It would be great to sit here and write all of the amazing things the actors and crew had to say about it, but to hear them say it is even better:

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines return to their old stomping grounds

Marine Corps Recruit Training Depot Parris Island is a sacred place that shapes everyday citizens into United States Marines. The journey from recruit in training to United States Marine is unforgettable and some even describe it as the best worst time of their life. Once a Marine leaves the island, most may never return.

U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, were given the opportunity to visit MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina during a professional military education trip on June 14, 2019.


The day started off with the Marines visiting the famous yellow footprints, the place where the training begins. They then made their way to the receiving bay where all recruits are allotted one phone call home to let their families know they arrived safely, followed by a tour of a recruit living quarters.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, pose for a group photo with Brig. Gen. James Gylnn, commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, and Sgt. Major William Carter, sergeant major of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., June 14, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

“Going back to MCRD Parris Island was an overwhelming feeling,” said Pfc. Johnny Francis, who graduated from Parris Island on Nov. 23, 2019, now a motor vehicle operator with 2nd TSB. “It is the place that broke me, made me want to give up, but also gave me the courage to keep going and in turn allowed me to become a United States Marine.”

Marines pride themselves on being the best, and it all starts at recruit training. The Marine Corps has the longest entry level training of any of the four branches.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, walk down the road at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., June 14, 2019.

Recruits endure 13 weeks of rigorous physical, mental, and spiritual challenges. Under 24/7 watch and care of the Marine Corps Drill Instructor, recruits are completely stripped of their civilian habits and relearn everything the Marine Corps way.

“Getting to see recruit training as a Marine made me understand why we are held to such a high standard,” said Lance Cpl. Charlene Yabut, who graduated from Parris Island on Nov. 29, 2018, now a landing support specialist with 2nd TSB. “Those recruits don’t know it yet but they will remember everything that was drilled into their head. Being a Marine takes everything you have to offer every day and without the foundation that is laid here, we wouldn’t be the U.S. Marines.”

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

U.S. Marine Corps 1st Sgt. Nicholas Underwood with Company K, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, gives Marines from 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group a tour of Company K’s recruit living quarters at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., June 14, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

2nd TSB ended their trip on the island with witnessing 570 new Marines from P and M Company march and graduate on the Pete Ross Parade Deck.

Graduation day marks the end of recruit training; it is the culminating and most awaited day by all new Marines.

“We wanted to bring the Marines from our unit here to allow them to reflect and remind them that we all stepped foot on those yellow footprints for a reason; we all wanted to become Marines,” said Capt. Brian Hassett, Alpha Company Commander, 2nd TSB, CLR 2, 2nd MLG. “We have earned the title, but it doesn’t end there. We have to keep working hard, stay dedicated and be prepared for when America calls.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Navy’s $13 billion supercarrier continues to have serious issues

Shipbuilders and sailors have fixed the propulsion plant problems on the USS Gerald R. Ford, the first of a new class of supercarriers that is behind schedule, over budget, and still struggling with development issues.

Work on the ship’s propulsion plant was completed toward the end of July 2019, the Navy announced in a statement Aug. 12, 2019.

Problems with the carrier’s propulsion system first popped up in January 2018 during sea trials. A “manufacturing defect” was identified as the problem. Troubles were again noted in May 2019 just three days after the ship set sail for testing and evaluation, forcing it to return to its home port early.


In March 2019, James Geurts, the Navy’s acquisition boss, told US lawmakers that scheduled maintenance on the Ford would require another three months beyond what was initially planned to deal with problems with its nuclear power plant, weapons elevators, and other unspecified areas.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

The USS Gerald R. Ford.

(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)

The Navy said that the “Ford’s propulsion issues weren’t with the nuclear reactors themselves, rather the issues resided in the mechanical components associated in turning steam created by the nuclear plant into spinning screws that propel the ship through the water.”

While the completion of the work on the Ford’s power plant moves the ship closer to returning to sea, the carrier is still having problems with a critical piece of new technology — the advanced weapons elevators. The elevators are necessary for the movement of munitions to the flight deck, increased aircraft sortie rates, and greater lethality, but only a handful of the elevators are expected to work by the time the ship is returned to the fleet this fall.

Lawmakers recently expressed frustration with the Navy’s handling of the Ford-class carrier program.

“The ship was accepted by the Navy incomplete, nearly two years late, two and a half billion dollars over budget, and nine of eleven weapons still don’t work with costs continuing to grow,” Sen. Jim Inhofe, the Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said late July 2019.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

Sailors man the rails of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew J. Sneeringer)

“The Ford was awarded to a sole-source contractor,” which was asked to incorporate immature technologies “that had next to no testing, had never been integrated on a ship — a new radar, catapult, arresting gear, and the weapons elevators,” he continued, adding that the Navy entered into this contract “without understanding the technical risk, the cost, or the schedules.”

Inhofe said that the Navy’s failures “ought to be criminal.”

The Navy has been struggling to incorporate new technologies into the ship, but the service insists that it is making progress with the catapults and arresting gear used to launch and recover aircraft, systems which initially had problems. The elevators are currently the biggest obstacle.

“As a first-in-class ship, some issues were expected,” the Navy said in its recent statement on the completion of relevant work on the Ford’s propulsion system.

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

Articles

The Army built a fake base to fool Saddam Hussein — and it worked

In August 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army invaded and occupied neighboring Kuwait in a move which brought swift condemnation from much of the rest of the world. In response, U.S. President George H.W. Bush ordered planes, ships, and troops brought in to Saudi Arabia as quickly as possible to help mount a defense against possible Iraqi aggression. As Iraqi troops massed at the Saudi-Kuwaiti border, Operation Desert Shield began in full force, as the Coalition forces grew to 48 nations.


The United States isn’t known for its passivity when it comes to aggression against its interests, however. The U.S. was actively planning a response to the Iraqi invasion and a subsequent liberation of Kuwait, which happened between January and February 1991 in what became known as Operation Desert Storm.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’
We pretty much sent everyone. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Daniel Jackson)

During the military build-up, planners wanted to fool Saddam into thinking the Coalition forces would invade Kuwait near the “boot heel” of the country, while planning to really hit the Iraqi occupation forces with a “left hook” strategy. The centerpiece of this deception effort was at Forward Operating Base Weasel, an effort unlike anything since Operation Fortitude during WWII, the misinformation campaign designed to cover the real location for the D-Day invasions.

FOB Weasel was what Rick Atkinson, author of Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War called “a Potemkin base… giving the impression of 130,000 troops across a hundred square kilometers.” Army truck drivers wearing the red berets of paratroopers would shuttle vehicles between FOB Weasel and logistic bases.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

The U.S. army’s XVIII Airborne Corps established FOB Weasel near the phony invasion area. They set up a network of small, fake camps with a few dozen soldiers using radios operated by computers to create radio traffic, fake messages between fake headquarters, as well as smoke generators and loudspeakers blasting fake Humvee, tank, and truck noises to simulate movement. Inflatable tanks with PVC turrets and helicopters with fiberglass rotors were lined up on the ground as well. Inflatable fuel bladders, Camo netting, and heat strips to fool infrared cameras completed the illusion. The Americans even taped “Egyptian” radio traffic messages about the supposed American presence to be intercepted by the Iraqis.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’
Photo: Wikimedia

As late as February 21st, Iraqi intelligence still thought the Americans were near the Kuwaiti boot heel, well after the Iraqis were expelled from Kuwait.

MIGHTY CULTURE

As the US entered World War I, American soldiers depended on foreign weapons technology

On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war against Germany and entered World War I. Since August 1914, the war between the Central and Entente Powers had devolved into a bloody stalemate, particularly on the Western Front. That was where the U.S. would enter the engagement.

How prepared was the country’s military to enter a modern conflict? The war was dominated by industrially made lethal technology, like no war had been before. That meant more death on European battlefields, making U.S. soldiers badly needed in the trenches. But America’s longstanding tradition of isolationism meant that in 1917 U.S. forces needed a lot of support from overseas allies to fight effectively.


In Europe, American combat troops would encounter new weapons systems, including sophisticated machine guns and the newly invented tank, both used widely during World War I. American forces had to learn to fight with these new technologies, even as they brought millions of men to bolster the decimated British and French armies.

Engaging with small arms

In certain areas of military technology, the United States was well-prepared. The basic infantrymen of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps were equipped with the Model 1903 Springfield rifle. Developed after American experience against German-made Mausers in the Spanish American War, it was an excellent firearm, equal or superior to any rifle in the world at the time.

The Springfield offered greater range and killing power than the U.S. Army’s older 30-40 Krag. It was also produced in such numbers that it was one of the few weapons the U.S. military could deploy with to Europe.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

The American soldier on the left, here greeting French civilians, is carrying a French Chauchat machine gun.

(US Army photo)

Machine guns were another matter. In 1912, American inventor Isaac Lewis had offered to give the U.S. Army his air-cooled machine gun design for free. When he was rejected, Lewis sold the design to Britain and Belgium, where it was mass-produced throughout the war.

With far more soldiers than supplies of modern machine guns, the U.S. Army had to adopt several systems of foreign design, including the less-than-desirable French Chauchat, which tended to jam in combat and proved difficult to maintain in the trenches.

Meeting tank warfare

American soldiers fared better with the Great War’s truly new innovation, the tank. Developed from the need to successfully cross “No Man’s Land” and clear enemy-held trenches, the tank had been used with limited success in 1917 by the British and the French. Both nations had combat-ready machines available for American troops.

After the U.S. entered the war, American industry began tooling up to produce the French-designed Renault FT light tank. But the American-built tanks, sometimes called the “six-ton tank,” never made it to the battlefields of Europe before the Armistice in November 1918.

Instead, U.S. ground forces used 239 of the French-built versions of the tank, as well as 47 British Mark V tanks. Though American soldiers had never used tanks before entering the war, they learned quickly. One of the first American tankers in World War I was then-Captain George S. Patton, who later gained international fame as a commander of Allied tanks during World War II.

Chemical weapons

Also new to Americans was poison gas, an early form of chemical warfare. By 1917 artillery batteries on both sides of the Western Front commonly fired gas shells, either on their own or in combination with other explosives. Before soldiers were routinely equipped with gas masks, thousands died in horrific ways, adding to the already significant British and French casualty totals.

Scientists on both sides of the war effort worked to make gas weapons as effective as possible, including by devising new chemical combinations to make mustard gas, chlorine gas, phosgene gas and tear gas. The American effort was substantial: According to historians Joel Vilensky and Pandy Sinish, “Eventually, more than 10 percent of all the chemists in the United States became directly involved with chemical warfare research during World War I.”

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

Blinded by German tear gas, British soldiers wait for treatment in Flanders, 1918.

(British Army photo)

Naval power for combat and transport

All the manpower coming from the U.S. would not have meant much without safe transportation to Europe. That meant having a strong navy. The U.S. Navy was the best-prepared and best-equipped of all the country’s armed forces. For many years, it had been focusing much of its energy on preparing for a surface naval confrontation with Germany.

But a new threat had arisen: Germany had made significant progress in developing long-range submarines and devising attack tactics that could have posed severe threats to American shipping. German Navy U-boats had, in fact, devastated British merchant fleets so badly by 1917 that British defeat was imminent.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

A German submarine surrenders at the end of World War I.

In May 1917, the British Royal Navy pioneered the convoy system, in which merchant ships carrying men and materiel across the Atlantic didn’t travel alone but in large groups. Collectively protected by America’s plentiful armed escort ships, convoys were the key to saving Britain from defeat and allowing American ground forces to arrive in Europe nearly unscathed. In fact, as military historian V.E. Tarrant wrote, “From March 1918 until the end of the war, two million U.S. troops were transported to France, for the loss of only 56 lives.”

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

A U.S. Navy escorted convoy approaches the French coast, 1918.

(US Navy photo)

Taking to the skies

Some of those Americans who made it to Europe climbed above the rest – right up into the air. The U.S. had pioneered military aviation. And in 1917, air power was coming into its own, showing its potential well beyond just intelligence gathering. Planes were becoming offensive weapons that could actively engage ground targets with sufficient force to make a difference on the battlefield below.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

An American-painted British-made Sopwith Camel in France, 1918.

(US Army photo)

But with fewer than 250 planes, the U.S. was poorly prepared for an air war in Europe. As a result, American pilots had to learn to fly British and French planes those countries could not man.

Despite often lacking the weapons and technology required for success, it was ultimately the vast number of Americans – afloat, on the ground and in the air – and their ability to adapt and use foreign weapons on foreign soil that helped turn the tide of the war in favor of the Allies.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force’s tricky paths to 386 operational squadrons

The U.S. Air Force will soon need to make a decision on whether its plan to grow to 386 operational squadrons should focus on procuring top-of-the-line equipment and aircraft, or stretching the legs of some of its oldest warplanes even longer, experts say.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced in September 2018 that the service wants at least 74 additional squadrons over the next decade. What service brass don’t yet know is what could fill those squadrons.


Some say the Air Force will have to choose between quantity — building up strength for additional missions around the globe — or quality, including investment in better and newer equipment and warfighting capabilities. It’s not likely the service will get the resources to pursue both.

“It’s quite a big bite of the elephant, so to speak,” said John “JV” Venable, a senior research fellow for defense policy at The Heritage Foundation.

Wilson’s Sept. 17, 2018 announcement mapped out a 25 percent increase in Air Force operational squadrons, with the bulk of the growth taking place in those that conduct command and control; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and tanker refueling operations.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks with members of the workforce during a town hall at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., April 5, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

She broke down the planned plus-up as follows:

  • 5 additional bomber squadrons
  • 7 more fighter squadrons
  • 7 additional space squadrons
  • 14 more tanker squadrons
  • 7 special operations squadrons
  • 9 combat search-and-rescue squadrons
  • 22 squadrons that conduct command and control and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
  • 2 remotely piloted aircraft squadrons
  • 1 more airlift squadron

Venable, who flew F-16 Fighting Falcons throughout his 25-year Air Force career, estimated that buying new aircraft such KC-46 Pegasus tankers, F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and newer C-17 Globemaster IIIs for the squadron build-up could set the Air Force back some billion on plane costs alone.

An additional 14 airlift squadrons using C-17s could cost roughly billion; five bomber squadrons of fifth-generation B-21 Raider bombers would cost roughly billion; and seven additional fighter squadrons of either F-22 Raptors or F-35s would be .5 billion, Venable said, citing his own research.

“Tanker aircraft, that was the biggest increase in squadron size, a significant amount of aircraft [that it would take for 14 squadrons] … comes out to .81 billion,” he said.

By Venable’s estimates, it would require a mix of nearly 500 new fighter, bomber, tanker, and airlift aircraft to fill the additional units. That doesn’t include the purchase new helicopters for the combat-search-and-rescue mission, nor remotely piloted aircraft for the additional drone squadron the service wants.

And because the Air Force wants to build 386 squadrons in a 10-year stretch, new aircraft would require expedited production. For example, Boeing Co. would need to churn out 20 KC-46 tankers a year, up from the 15 per year the Air Force currently plans to buy, Venable said.

The service says it will need roughly 40,000 airmen and personnel to achieve these goals by the 2030 timeframe. Venable said the personnel that come with these missions would cost an additional billion over the next decade.

The Air Force thus would be spending closer to billion per year on these components of its 386-squadron plan, he said.

New vs. old

In light of recent Defense Department spending fiascos such as the Joint Strike Fighter, which cost billions more than estimated and faced unanticipated delays, some think the Air Force should focus on extending the life of its current aircraft, rather than buying new inventory.

The Air Force will not be able to afford such a buildup of scale along with the modernization programs it already has in the pipeline for some of its oldest fighters, said Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Harrison was first to estimate it would cost roughly billion a year to execute a 74-squadron buildup, tweeting the figure shortly after Wilson’s announcement.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

F-16 Fighting Falcons in flight.

If the Air Force wants to increase squadrons quickly, buying new isn’t the way to go, Harrison told Military.com. The quickest way to grow the force the service wants would be to stop retiring the planes it already has, he said.

“I’m not advocating for this, but … as you acquire new aircraft and add to the inventory, don’t retire the planes you were supposed to be replacing,” said Harrison.

“That doesn’t necessarily give you the capabilities that you’re looking for,” he added, saying the service might have to forego investment in more fifth-generation power as a result.

By holding onto legacy aircraft, the Air Force might be able to achieve increased operational capacity while saving on upfront costs the delays associated with a new acquisition process, Harrison said.

The cost of sustaining older aircraft, or even a service-life extension program “is still going to be much less than the cost of buying brand-new, current-generation aircraft,” he said.

Just don’t throw hybrid versions or advanced versions of legacy aircraft into the mix.

It has been reported the Air Force is not only considering an advanced F-15X” fourth-plus generation fighter for its inventory, but is also open to an F-22/F-35 fifth-generation hybrid concept.

“That would just complicate the situation even more,” Harrison said.

Venable agreed.

“Why would you ever invest that much money and get a fourth-generation platform when you could up the volume and money into the F-35 pot?” Venable said.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

Boeing is proposing a new version of its F-15 Eagle, the F-15X.

(Boeing)

Running the numbers

Focusing on squadron numbers as a measure of capability may not be the right move for the Air Force, Harrison said.

The Navy announced a similar strategy in 2016, calling for a fleet of 355 ships by the 2030s. But counting ships and counting squadrons are two different matters, he said.

“While it’s an imperfect metric, you can at least count ships,” Harrison said. “A squadron is not a distinct object. It’s an organization construct and [each] varies significantly, even within the same type of aircraft.”

Still less clear, he said, is what the Air Force will need in terms of logistics and support for its planned buildup.

Harrison estimates that the aircraft increase could be even more than anticipated, once support and backup is factored in.

For example, if it’s assumed the squadrons will stay about the same size they are today, with between 10 and 24 aircraft, “you’re looking at an increase [in] total inventory of about 1,100 to 1,200” planes when keeping test and backup aircraft in mind, he said.

A squadron typically has 500 to 600 personnel, including not just pilots, but also support members needed to execute the unit’s designated mission, he said. Add in all those jobs, and it’s easy to reach the 40,000 personnel the Air Force wants to add by the 2030 timeframe.

“It’s difficult to say what is achievable here, or what the Air Force’s real endstate is,” said Brian Laslie, an Air Force historian who has written two books: “The Air Force Way of War” and “Architect of Air Power.”

“[But] I also think the senior leaders look at the current administration and see a time to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak,” Laslie told Military.com. “Bottom line: there are not enough squadrons across the board to execute all the missions … [and] for the first time in decades, the time might be right to ask for more in future budgets.”

The way forward

Air Force leaders are having ongoing meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill ahead of a full report, due to Congress in 2019, about the service’s strategy for growth.

So far, they seem to be gaining slow and steady backing.

Following the service’s announcement of plans for a plus-up to 386 operational squadrons, members of the Senate’s Air Force Caucus signaled their support.

“The Air Force believes this future force will enable them to deter aggression in three regions (Indo-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East), degrade terrorist and Weapons of Mass Destruction threats, defeat aggression by a major power, and deter attacks on the homeland,” the caucus said in a letter authored by Sens. John Boozman, R-Arkansas; John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, Jon Tester, D-Montana, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. “We are encouraged by the Air Force’s clear articulation of its vision to best posture the service to execute our National Defense Strategy.”

For Air Force leadership, the impact of the pace of operations on current and future airmen must also be taken into account.

“Every airman can tell you they are overstretched,” Wilson said in late September during an address at The National Press Club.

The secretary said the new plan is not intended to influence the fiscal 2020 budget, but instead to offer “more of a long-term view” on how airmen are going to meet future threats.

“I think we’ve all known this for some time. The Air Force is too small for what the nation is asking it to do. The Air Force has declined significantly in size … and it’s driving the difficulty in retention of aircrew,” Wilson said.

There will be much to consider in the months ahead as the Air Force draws up its blueprint for growth, Laslie said.

“I think the Air Force looks at several things with regard to the operations side of the house: contingency operations, training requirements, and other deploymentsF-22s in Poland, for example — and there is just not enough aircraft and aircrews to do all that is required,” Laslie said. “When you couple this with the demands that are placed on existing global plans, there is just not enough to go around.”

It’s clear, Laslie said, that the Air Force does need to expand in order to respond to current global threats and demands. The question that remains, though, is how best to go about that expansion.

“There is a recognition amongst senior leaders that ‘Do more with less’ has reached its limit, and the only way to do more … is with more,” he said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways the military protects the environment

The U.S. Military prides itself on serving our country in all situations, foreign and domestic. The Military coordinates with government agencies to issue out destruction to the enemies of freedom, but it also focuses on preserving this beautiful land of ours. Researchers routinely find rare or endangered species of plants and animals on bases because of the way we preserve training areas.

The cohesion between military and civilian organizations, coming together to preserve our wildlife, has grown stronger over the last decade. All branches take painstaking care to protect nature; the inheritance of generations yet to come. Here’s how:


The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

“Many years ago, [red-cockaded woodpeckers] decided to plant themselves in our training area and we decided that we wanted to help save these birds,” – Colonel Scalise

(Lip Kee)

The Marine Corps plants trees to save woodpeckers

In April, 2018, Col. Michael Scalise, Deputy Commander of MCI East, Camp Lejeune, met with Representative Walter Jones to plant Longleaf Pine Seedlings at Stones Creek Game Land. The Longleaf tree is a favorite of the red-cockaded woodpecker, a species that has made nests under the protection of the Marine Corps for generations. Camp Lejeune shares land with a nature preserve that further protects the woodpecker and other endangered species alike.

The ceremony of planting new trees was the culmination of state and federal conservation agencies, such as the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Recovery and Sustainment Program partnership (RASP), to encourage the species to relocate their nesting grounds off ranges and onto safer areas. Training schedules are adjusted regularly to accommodate the woodpeckers’ preservation.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

The Coast Guard battles the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The Coast Guard spearheads oil spill disasters

The Office of Marine Environmental Response Policy’s mission statement is to:

Provide guidance, policy, and tools for Coast Guard Marine Environmental Response planning, preparedness, and operations to prevent, enforce, investigate, respond to, and to mitigate the threat, frequency, and consequences of oil discharges and hazardous substance releases into the navigable waters of the United States.

They are the first line of defense against oil spills that threaten the health of our citizens and wildlife. Coast Guardsmen are the first responders in the event of a hazardous substance release polluting our waters on a very real, catastrophic scale. Coasties are the stewards of our oceans, the most precious of national treasures, and risk their lives in the name of public health, national security, and U.S. economic interests.

Rare butterfly thrives on, and because of, US military bases

www.youtube.com

The Army saves endangered butterflies with controlled burns

Across many Army Installations, a variety of endangered butterflies would rather take their chances living on artillery impact areas due to habitat destruction. Species such as the St. Francis Satyr need disturbance to keep their populations at a thriving level. The fires set by explosions burn across forests and wetlands that benefit the frail little ones. Even if an impact kills some butterflies, even more are able to take their place. At least three of the world’s rarest butterflies have found safety among the howitzer shells of Fort Bragg, NC.

The Army partners with biologists to retrieve females and relocate them to a greenhouse the Army built. The butterflies are bred and released into new areas for the population to continue to grow. Biologists and the Army recreate zones that resemble the impact areas to ensure the population won’t have to resort to living amongst unexploded ordinance.

Other species, such as the one in the video below, also call Army bases home.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

It’s as if the military was never here…

(USAF Civil Engineer Center)

The Air Force prevents the contamination of wildlife after training

The Air Force has a division that specializes in Restoration Systems and Strategies. Their mission is to promote efficient and effective restoration of contaminated sites. They provide expertise on clean-up exit strategies and implementation of effective remediation using science and engineering. They ensure that the Air Force keeps up with their environmental responsibilities and tracks progress to prevent adverse long-term effects of training.

Performance-based remediation has become the standard for the Environmental Restoration Technical Support Branch that keeps the homes of wildlife clean.

Navy Marine Species Research and Monitoring

www.youtube.com

The Navy shares their data with marine researchers

The Navy has a program called Marine Species Research and Monitoring and has invested over 0 million dollars to better understand marine species and the location of important habitat areas. Civilian researchers have access to the Navy’s data about the migratory patterns of whales, sea turtles, and birds that can aid them when their work is peer-reviewed.

The benefit is mutually beneficial because the published works can then be used by the Navy to develop tools to better estimate the potential effects of underwater sound. The program empowers scientists with research they otherwise would never have had access to independently, and the Navy can safeguard marine protected species.

Articles

This is why World War I-era British spies used semen as invisible ink

The first head of Britain’s secret service — which would one day be called MI6 — carried a swordstick, drove a personal tank, and would sometimes stab his wooden leg with a pen just to see how people reacted.


If that wasn’t enough to make him eccentric, his department also discovered that semen makes an excellent invisible ink.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’
It’s probably best not to ask why. Or how.

No one actually knows which British agent was the one who came up with the idea, but the book “Six: The Real James Bonds 1909-1939” notes that his fellow spies made so much fun of him that he had to be transferred to another office.

His name was — no joke — Captain Sir Mansfield Cumming and his agents lived by the motto, “Every man his own stylo.”

The truth was, British spies were searching for the perfect invisible ink during World War I and thought natural fluids were the ideal. The major issue with using semen to write letters? The smell eventually becomes very distinctive.

Cumming ruled that agents abroad using this method of secret messaging ensure their ink was fresh for every letter.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

The book details an agent in Copenhagen, a Maj. Richard Holme, who apparently kept a ready supply on hand.

“…his letters stank to high heaven and we had to tell him that a fresh operation was necessary for each letter.”

In “Prisoners, Lovers, and Spies: The Story of Invisible Ink,” Kristie Macrakis writes that Cumming began inquiring about the use of bodily fluids as invisible ink as early as 1915 and told Walter Kirke, Deputy Head of Military Intelligence that he thought the best invisible ink was indeed semen.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

Semen does not react to the iodine vapor test, a method that then turned all known invisible inks brown. This was particularly attractive to the spy agency, but unfortunately (for spies — not for those concerned with hotel cleanliness) heat develops semen ink and it appears in ultraviolet light.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Your issued M4 carbine could fire without a trigger pull

U.S. Army units have reported about 3,000 M4 carbines have failed a safety inspection because of a potential glitch in the selector switch that could lead to unintended discharges, Military.com has learned.

In March 2018, the Army’s Tank-automotive and Armaments Command sent out a safety-of-use message to all branches of the U.S. military, advising units to perform an updated functions check on all variants of M16s and M4s after a soldier experienced an unexplained, unintended discharge.


The Fort Knox soldier’s M4A1 selector switch was stuck in-between the semi and auto detents. When the soldier pulled the trigger, the weapon failed to fire. The soldier then moved the selector switch and the weapon fired, the TACOM message states.

As of June 1, 2018, TACOM has received reports on about 50,000 weapons put through the updated functions check. Of that number, “about six percent,” or 3,000 weapons, failed, R. Slade Walters, a spokesman for TACOM, told Military.com.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’
An M4A1 just after firing.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

Task and Purpose first reported the percentage of weapons that failed the check.

TACOM officials stress it is still early in the process and about 900,000 Army weapons still must be checked, Walters said.

Military.com reached out to the Marine Corps to see what its weapons inspections have found, but did not receive a response by press time.

TACOM officials emphasize that M16 and M4 variants “will perform as intended” if personnel follow the operator’s manual when using them.

“The additional functions check is to inform [TACOM] of the extent of this issue and determine the number of weapons affected,” the message states.

The M4A1 is now the Army’s primary individual weapon. The service is converting M4 carbines to M4A1s through the M4 Product Improvement program.

The M4A1 has been used by special operations forces for about two decades. It features a heavier barrel and a full-automatic setting instead of the three-round burst setting on standard M4s.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

America almost conducted a doomed invasion of France in 1942

In the lead up to American involvement of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt committed his administration to a “Germany-First” policy if the U.S. entered the war. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, it shook his commitment, but he stuck to it. Although, in his rush to take the pressure off the U.K. and the Soviet Union, he almost pressed American forces into a doomed invasion.


The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

Workers assemble fighter aircraft at Wheatfield, New York.

(Public Domain)

The American war machine had to shake itself awake at the start of 1942. While the industrial base had achieved some militarization during Lend-Lease and other programs, it would need a lot more time to produce even the tools necessary to make all the vehicles, uniforms, and even food necessary to help the troops succeed in battle.

And those troops needed to be trained, but almost as importantly, many of the military leaders needed to get seasoned in combat. There were generals with limited experience from World War I and plenty of mid-career officers and NCOs who had never fought in actual battle.

But there was limited time to ramp up. England was barely staving off defeat, beating back German attack after attack in the air to keep them from crossing the English Channel. And the Soviet Union was facing 225 German divisions on the Eastern Front. According to Rick Atkinson’s An Army at Dawn:

If Soviet resistance collapsed, Hitler would gain access to limitless oil reserves in the Caucasus and Middle East, and scores of Wehrmacht divisions now fighting in the east could be shifted to reinforce the west. The war could last a decade, War Department analysts believed, and the United States would have to field at least 200 divisions….
The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

Russian anti-tank infantrymen in the important Battle of Kursk. Soviet troops were reliant on American arms for much of World War II, but there sacrifice in blood inflicted the lion share of casualties against Nazi Germany.

(Cassowary Colorizations, CC BY 2.0)

To get the pressure off the Soviet Union and ensure it survived, thereby keeping hundreds of German divisions tied up, Roosevelt committed U.S. forces to a 1942 invasion. And his top officers, especially the new Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, Adm. Ernest J. King, told Roosevelt that the American invasion had to be made at France.

And this made some sense. While Great Britain was lobbying for help in North Africa in order to keep Italy from taking the oil fields there, invading North Africa would pull few or no troops from the Eastern Front. And while the oil fields in North Africa were important, the Italian military hammering there was less of a threat than the German attacks on the Soviet Union.

And attacks into Europe could be driven home straight into Berlin. A landing in France or Denmark would be about 500 miles or less from Hitler’s capital as soon as it landed, a serious threat to Germany. But a landing in Africa would be 1,000 miles or more away and would require multiple amphibious landings to get into Africa and then on to Europe.

King and other senior leaders like Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George C. Marshall thought it would be a waste of time and resources.

And so planning went into effect for Operation Sledgehammer, the 1942 Allied invasion of France. But the British officers immediately started to campaign against the attack. They had already been pushed off the continent, and they knew they didn’t have the forces, and that America didn’t have the forces, to take and hold the ground.

Germany had over 24 divisions in France. For comparison, the actual D-Day landings and follow-on assault in 1944 were made with only nine divisions with additional smaller units. And that was after the military was able to procure thousands of landing craft and planes to deliver those troops. In 1942, many of those tools weren’t ready.

And, the timeline forced planners to look for a Fall landing. The Atlantic and the English Channel in the Fall are susceptible to some of the worst storms a landing could face. High winds and surging seas could swamp landing craft and destabilize the naval artillery needed to support landings.

Worse for Britain: a failed landing across the channel in 1942 would result in bodies floating in that body of water by the thousands or tens of thousands. And if Germany successfully bottled the landing up and then slaughtered the Allied troops day by day, then those bodies could have been visible on the English coast for days and weeks.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

Americans with the 45th Infantry Division prepare equipment in Sicily for movement to Salerno.

(U.S. National Archives)

So Britain renewed its lobbying for an invasion of Africa, instead. Churchill led the campaign, pointing out that German troops there could be bottled up and potentially even captured, the Suez Canal would be re-opened, and Americans could get combat experience in a theater where it would have a balance of forces in its favor rather than fighting where it could be overwhelmed before it could learn valuable lessons.

And so Operation Sledgehammer was shelved in favor of Operation Torch, the November 1942 invasion that landed on multiple beachheads across the northern coast of Africa. America would learn tough lessons there, but was ultimately successful.

Unfortunately, that hope of isolating and capturing the German force would be partially prevented by a German escape at Messina where many Nazi troops made it across to Sicily. But the Allies took the oil fields in Africa, took Sicily, and landed in Italy, building the experience needed to land in France in 1944.

Meanwhile, America sent as much industrial support to the Soviet Union as it could to keep it from falling, and it was successful, largely thanks to the heroic sacrifices of the Communist troops who turned back the Axis troops at Stalingrad, Kursk, and other battles.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This US soldier has deployed home to Afghanistan

As an Afghan-American linguist, Sgt. Zabi Abraham strives to help the two countries he loves.

Originally from Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province near the border of Pakistan, Abraham first served as a contractor to support U.S. Special Forces units.

Before and during operations, Abraham, now 35, would translate for the soldiers and share knowledge about his country’s customs and traditions.


“They respected me a lot,” he recalled, “and also gave me the chance to explain every situation to them.”

The soldiers also taught him about America, and he became interested in the opportunities it offered.

Years later, those opportunities led him on a path to U.S. citizenship. He also had the chance to return to Afghanistan, where he now serves as an advisor for one of the U.S. Army’s newest units, the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

Sgt. Zabi Abraham, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, interprets a conversation between Lt. Col. Zachary Miller, right, the battalion commander, and an Afghan National Army officer during an Afghan-led operation near Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 16, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Sean Kimmons)

In Afghanistan, about a quarter of the labor force is unemployed and more than half of the population lives below the national poverty line, according to the most recent data provided by The World Bank.

Determined to have a better life, Abraham’s hard work as a contractor helped him be recommended for a special immigration visa. In 2013, he was approved and moved his family to the United States to start a new journey.

His first taste of America left him amazed when he and his family first stepped foot onto U.S. soil while switching planes in Chicago.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

Sgt. Zabi Abraham, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, speaks with Afghan soldiers during an Afghan-led operation near Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 16, 2018.

(Army photo by Sean Kimmons)

“We saw everything was very nice and very fresh. We said that this is the life,” he said, smiling.

His family chose to live in Missouri and, at first, it took some time to adapt to the American way of life.

The endless choices at megastores, a variety of pay systems (Afghanistan mainly relies on cash), and the other differences in American culture presented some challenges.

“At the beginning, it was little bit hard,” he said. “Everything was very new for us.”

Abraham and his wife also wanted to be a dual-income family, so both obtained learner’s permits so they could drive themselves around.

Although it is legal for women to drive in Afghanistan, many families restrict them from doing so due to safety concerns.

Abraham and his wife studied for the driver’s test and frequently practiced behind the wheel. Once the test came, they both passed.

“It was such a big experience and a good day for us,” he said.

Joining the Army

While things went well in his new home, his heart still longed for Afghanistan and he searched how he could help rebuild the war-torn country.

In 2015, he walked into an Army recruiter’s office and told them he once served as a linguist with U.S. soldiers. Impressed, a recruiter suggested he become an active-duty interpreter.

“My main reason was to come back and use my skill,” said Abraham, who speaks Dari and Pashto, the two most widely spoken Afghan languages.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

In traditional Afghan attire, Zabi Abraham, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, poses for a photo in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in 2013.

At basic training, Abraham, still an Afghan citizen, was issued sets of the Army combat uniform along with the other trainees. When the time came to wear the uniform, he could not help but share the moment with his family.

“I was very proud and took some pictures and sent them to my family,” he said. “They were proud of me, too.”

Abraham eventually earned his citizenship and was stationed at Fort Irwin, California, where he and other interpreters helped rotational units at the National Training Center prepare for deployments.

Speaking in his native tongue, Abraham and others role-played as peaceful villagers, insurgents and even detainees to gauge how soldiers responded.

News then spread across the training base about a new unit designed to bolster the train, advise and assist mission in Afghanistan.

The more he heard about the 1st SFAB and its experienced soldiers, many of whom have been deployed to Afghanistan, the more it appealed to him.

“I wanted to be involved with such professional people,” he said.

SFAB mission

Now based at the New Kabul Compound in the middle of the country’s capital city, Abraham is one of the most impactful advisors within the brigade’s 5th Battalion.

Often, he is at the battalion commander’s side, translating conversations between him and senior Afghan leaders.

His respectful demeanor and extensive knowledge of Afghan traditions make him a popular soldier to almost every Afghan he meets.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

Zabi Abraham, right, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, prepares to do the Oath of Enlistment while at a military entrance processing station.

“They see him as serving us, but also as serving them,” said Lt. Col. Zachary Miller, the 5th Battalion commander.

During important discussions, Abraham is sort of Miller’s key advisor to ensure things are not lost in translation or to pick up on cultural cues.

“It’s the word choice they are choosing. It may be the way they did or did not answer a certain question,” Miller said. “So, if you got a really quality cultural advisor and interpreter, like we do with Sgt. Abraham, he will stop you from asking a question that is not the right time to ask.”

When the time is right, Abraham will ask those sensitive questions in private to support the mission.

“Even if you get trained on the Dari language,” Miller said, “you’ll never be able to pick up on those things if you’re not a native speaker.”

Wearing the same combat gear as every American soldier over here, Abraham also surprises Afghans when he speaks in their language.

“They don’t realize because I’m in full kit, but after I speak with them they realize I am Afghan,” he said, laughing. “I tell them about the service I provided when I was a linguist with them and right now how I support both countries.

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

Zabi Abraham, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, poses for a photo with his wife and two children during a trip to San Diego.

“They are appreciative of my service.”

With his unit’s deployment ending this month, Abraham recently spoke of where his career may go next.

If his family approves — most importantly his wife and two young children — he would like to retire as a soldier.

“Without their support, I could not do anything and achieve my goal here in Afghanistan,” he said. “They are part of my heart.”

Another part of his heart belongs to Afghanistan.

Abraham is in the process of completing his bachelor’s degree and raising his test scores to perhaps re-class to 35P, a cryptologic linguist. That job deals with identifying foreign communications using signals equipment.

Even if he does switch careers, Abraham aspires to be halfway across the world again helping his native country.

“My hope is that one day there is peace in this country,” he said.

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

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