As the shadow operators of the Cold War reveal more and more about their formerly classified service, they’ve highlighted the wide set of soft skills necessary for finding success as they stared into the eyes of one of the greatest adversaries the U.S. ever faced — and they’re worried that today’s military might not have the same, broad toolkit.
For former Special Forces soldiers Master Sgt. Robert Charest and Chief Warrant Officer 4 James Stejskal, those skills were needed while they were assigned to West Berlin during the Cold War as part of a top-secret Army unit known as Detachment-A.
“We did everything,” Charest told WATM in an interview, “direct action, guerrilla warfare, unconventional warfare, stay behind, anti-terrorist. These all changed with the situation, year by year, as it happened in Europe.”
The members of Detachment-A, which Stejskal said included roughly 800 people over its 34-year lifespan, from 1956 to 1990, were tasked with monitoring Soviet activities in the city and surrounding areas and slowing or halting a Soviet invasion of the rest of Europe for as long as possible in the case of war.
To do this, the men tailed Soviet operatives; practiced crossing the city in secret, even after the Berlin Wall went up; and practiced digging up caches of secret radio equipment, weapons, and medical supplies that were placed there by the CIA in case war broke out.
While preparing for these missions required a lot of cool-guy, “hard skills,” like SCUBA diving through Soviet canals and shooting enemy role-players in the face and chest, they also required that the men develop “soft skills,” like diplomacy and psychological operations.
A lot of their skills, from using knives and forks the German way and speaking like a Berliner, were learned from Germans and other Europeans recruited into the military under the Lodge Act.
“One of my favorite quotes,” Stejskal told WATM, “is, the guy talking to the [Commanding Officer] and the guy, he’s a reporter, and he asks the CO what languages he speaks and the CO comes back, ‘Why would I want to learn a foreign language? I’m just going to kill the guy.’ It, kind of, sums up how I feel about the hard-skill people these days.”
“You can only kick doors for so long before you realize that it’s not going to solve the issue,” Stejskal said. “There’s always going to be a door to kick down. So, I think, things like psychological operations are good. Emphasis on intelligence collection, finding out what the problems are, and figuring out how to solve them.”
The intelligence-gathering issue is one that Robert Baer, a former top-CIA case officer in the Middle East, has addressed in his non-fiction books and writings.
Baer talked about the run-up to the September 11th attacks in his book, See No Evil, in 2002 and said:
“As for Islamic fundamentalists in particular, the official view had become that our allies in Europe and the Middle East could fill in the missing pieces. Running our own agents — our own foreign human sources — had become too messy. Agents sometimes misbehaved; they caused ugly diplomatic incidents. Worse, they didn’t fit America’s moral view of the way the world should run.”
In the next paragraph, Baer writes:
In practical terms, the CIA had taken itself out of the business of spying. No wonder we didn’t have a secure source in Hamburg’s mosques to tell us Muhammad Atta, the presumed leader of the hijacking teams on September 11, was recruiting suicide bombers for the biggest attack ever on American soil.
This isn’t meant to say that the military or the CIA has completely abandoned soft skills or that soft skills could’ve necessarily prevented the 9/11 attacks, but it is to say that men and women who carried the mantle against the Soviets in the Cold War and against Islamic extremists in the 80s and 90s have seen a lapse in the kind of skills they once used to assure victory.
Stejskal specifically mentioned future conflicts while lamenting the loss of soft skills, and he mentioned a new domain where we need experts besides the trigger pullers.
“I think that the next wars are going to be fought as a complete combination of military, civil, and in the cyber arena. I think those are areas that we need to look at.”
So, what would an increase in soft skills look like? More language experts, like those in Special Forces and psyops units but spread further through the force. It would include, like Stejskal mentioned, additional cyber and civil assets. We need to be ready to defend our networks and to rebuild cities after we take them, hopefully addressing the concerns of scared citizens before they grow into an insurgency. But, certainly addressing the issues if an insurgency is already in place.
“If you go to the insurgency in the El Salvador in the 1980s, 1990s, you can see a good resolution for a problem and it wasn’t just military,” he said. “It was us working with the local government, with people and, eventually, with the insurgents to determine what the problems were and find a solution for them. Killing people is not going to solve the problem of why they’re out there in the first place.”
In films and in comics, combat robots have caught our imaginations for years. Whether it’s the Terminator, Optimus Prime, or giant Gundams, robots with serious firepower draw big crowds to the box office. But such mechanical marvels haven’t yet emerged on the real battlefield.
That may soon change — at least for Russia, who recently demonstrated the Uran-9 unmanned ground combat vehicle (UGCV) at the 2018 Victory Day Parade on May 8.
Now, this vehicle isn’t some mech out of Robotech. According to Rosoboronexport’s website, this system is designed to provide “remote reconnaissance and fire support to combined arms, recon, and counter-terror units.”
Since it doesn’t need to haul any crew or grunts, the Uran-9 is a very compact vehicle that can hide and ambush the enemy.
The system consists of a control station, a truck, and two remote-controlled tankettes. It might not sound like much, but this small tank (it weighs about 11 tons) can punch way above its weight. In fact, its armament suite is comparable to some full-sized Russian infantry fighting vehicles.
The main weapon on the Uran-9 is a 30mm autocannon, similar to those used on the BMP-2, BTR-90, BTR-80A, and BMP-3 IFVs. It also carries four AT-9 Spiral 2 anti-tank missiles, six RPO thermobaric rockets, and a 7.62mm PKT machine gun.
A look at the 30mm autocannon and two AT-9 Spiral 2 anti-tank missiles used on the Uran-9.
(Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
The Uran-9 is a versatile system and can swap out and add weapons to better suit the mission. For example, it’s capable of using the SA-16/SA-18 man-portable, surface-to-air missiles for stronger anti-aircraft capability. While its diverse arsenal makes it very capable fighter, it also carries sensors and tracking gear to find the enemy.
The United States doesn’t have a similar system, but has used packbots and larger robots for clearing explosives and urban recon.
Learn more about this super-lethal, unmanned Russian tankette in the video below!
America’s troops have very awesome tactical gear, even through all the teething problems that systems like the F-35 Lightning II have had.
That said, all that gear can’t win a war unless you can come up with a good plan.
During a walk-through demonstration given by Lockheed Martin at the 2017 AirSpaceCyber expo held at National Harbor, Maryland, the company explained how the technology and capabilities of mission planning are set to take a huge step forward.
But what’s it like now?
The present state of integrating the air, land, maritime, space, and cyber components in the military was described as a series of stovepipes by Kim Ponders of Lockheed Martin’s famous Skunk Works.
Hiccups with this integration sometimes means that different components go after the same target.
In essence, a JDAM dropped from a F-35 could very well hit an SA-20 command vehicle that was already fried by a cyber attack, and the site then gets hits by Tomahawk cruise missiles, even though the missiles are useless without a command vehicle.
While there are times that overkill can help, there are circumstances — like a target-rich environment or when you are short of munitions — where overkill can be a problem.
In essence, this helps network 4th-generation fighters with the 5th-generation fighters without compromising the stealth of the F-22s and F-35s. During that exercise, the Einstein Box was placed on one of the early successes of the Skunk Works, the U-2 Dragon Lady.
This merging of systems ranging from the F-22 Raptor to destroyers and cruisers equipped with Aegis to the control system for the Tactical Tomahawk cruise missile to the Space-Based Infrared System will eventually make it a lot harder to the bad guys, largely because American (and Allied) troops will be able to pass information to each other much faster than before.
By being able to pass the information faster, American troops will be able to rapidly pair platforms with targets. This will help them make the most of their assets on the scene. Lockheed even has teamed up with Raytheon and SRC to design a new JSTARS that could carry out MDC2.
This means that in the future, the pilot of a F-35 could detect a radar emission, and other assets (either special operation forces on the ground or a satellite) could very quickly tell that pilot whether the emitter is real or a decoy, how far it is from the van, and the pilot can then address the threat, or be told that another asset will handle it. Rapidly getting that information to everyone will eventually help save the lives of American troops, and that’s a very good thing.
If you haven’t given Triple Frontier a go on Netflix, you definitely should. If you’re unfamiliar, the story follows five Special Forces veterans who travel to a multi-bordered region of South America to take money from a drug lord. It stars Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Pedro Pascal, and Garrett Hedlund, who all do a fantastic job capturing the attitudes of their characters. But one thing especially helped make this film feel realistic: the presence of Special Forces veterans.
While Hollywood productions generally do have military advisors, it isn’t necessarily common that those advisors take the time to work with the cast to really nail down things like tactics and weapons handling. In this case, J.C. Chandor had two Special Forces veterans who did just that — Nick John and Kevin Vance.
Here’s why they were the most important part of the production:
This may not seem like a big deal but nicknames are a huge part of military culture and knowing how service members earn their nicknames can help you really understand the culture itself.
They taught the actors about nicknames
Charlie Hunnam plays William Miller who goes by the nickname “Ironhead,” and, of course, he wanted to know why, so he asked one of the advisors who explained that the nickname likely comes from the character having survived a gunshot to the head.
This film will have you saying, “Wow, these actors actually know what they’re doing with that weapon.”
They taught the actors how to handle weapons
Most of us who spent a lot of time training in tactics can really tell when the actors on screen haven’t had enough training, if any at all. It’s probably most evident in the way they handle weapons. In the case of Triple Frontier, Nick John and Kevin Vance really took the time to train the actors, and it shows.
They trained the actors with live ammunition
When learning how to handle a weapon, it helps to shoot live ammunition. Well, at the end of the first day of the two-week training, Nick John felt the actors were prepared to handle it. So, they gave them live ammunition and let them shoot real bullets, which is not standard for a film production, but it really pays off in this film.
The way these actors clear buildings is very smooth and convincing.
They taught tactics
After trusting the actors with live ammunition, Nick John and Kevin Vance ran them through tactics. From ambushes to moving with cover fire, the actors learned the basic essentials to sell their characters on screen, and they do so extremely well.
Actor Charlie Hunnam said, “It was amazing. I was shocked by how much trust they put in us. Very, very quickly, they allowed us to be on the range with live fire, doing increasingly complex maneuvers. We started ambush scenarios, shooting through windows and panes of glass, doing cover fire, and operating movements I’ve never done before.”
Veterans have a tendency to spot inaccuracies immediately. But, what Triple Frontier brings to the table is realism. While not perfect, it does a great job of really making you believe these characters are real and all the work Nick John and Kevin Vance put into teaching the actors really pays off.
If you haven’t checked out Triple Frontier on Netflix yet, you definitely should.
Today, with its prevalence in pop culture and its sequel waiting in the wings, it’s difficult to imagine that Top Gun was anything but a surefire hit. But, in the time leading up its 1986 release, Top Gun‘s production had its share of problems and setbacks. In fact, plenty of people doubted that the idea of fighter jets would even work as a movie.
1. People didn’t want to be part of Top Gun
After producer Jerry Bruckheimer saw a picture of an F-14 in a magazine, he came up with the idea of a fighter jet movie that would be like “Star Wars on earth.” After their successes with Flashdance and Beverly Hills Cop, Bruckheimer and his production partner, Don Simpson, went around pitching the idea to Hollywood studios. Though they were rejected by studio after studio, Paramount Pictures eventually picked up the movie and cautiously agreed to fund it.
The next challenge was getting actors onboard. At that time, a young Tom Cruise was known only for his role in Risky Business. Bruckheimer and Simpson were adamant that he be cast as their lead actor and sent him script after script to get him to sign on.
Cruise rejected every offer made to him, so Bruckheimer pulled out all the stops.
He called up Navy Admiral Peter Garrow and asked him to send Cruise up in a fighter jet to convince him to join the film. The Admiral arranged for Cruise to ride along in a Blue Angels A-4 Skyhawk and be put through his paces. After a wild ride (during which he reportedly threw up on everything), Cruise stumbled from the jet to the nearest payphone and called Bruckheimer to take the part. The only non-negotiable part in his contract was that he had to fly in an F-14 Tomcat.
Pete and Charlotte sing with the Bradshaws, Nick, Carole, and their son. Weird hearing their real names, isn’t it? (Credit Paramount Pictures)
With no real script and unable to send every potential actor up in a fighter jet, it was difficult for the producers to cast the rest of the movie. The part of Charlie was originally pitched to Ally Sheedy of Brat Pack fame, but she turned it down reportedly saying, “No one would want to see Tom Cruise flying around in an airplane.” Fresh off of filming Witness, Kelly McGillis only signed on because she didn’t expect the film to be the blockbuster hit that it would become. Val Kilmer was actually forced into the role of Iceman due to a contractual obligation with the studio. The rest of the cast like Tim Robbins, Meg Ryan and Anthony Edwards were still years away from becoming household names for their roles in The Shawshank Redemption, When Harry Met Sally and ER, respectively.
2. Danger Zone was attempted by Toto and REO Speedwagon
Bruckheimer and Simpson implemented the same formula that worked for them with Flashdance and Beverly Hills Cop and put together a top-notch soundtrack for Top Gun. Soundtrack producer Giorgio Moroder originally had Toto record the song, “Danger Zone,” but Bruckheimer disliked it and the recording was scrapped. The song was then offered to REO Speedwagon who wanted to be part of the film, but insisted that the song be their own. They recorded an original song and submitted it to the producers, but it was never used.
Kenny Loggins and his collaborators were hot off of their successes with Caddyshack and Footloose and decided to write the song “Playing with the Boys” for the volleyball scene. Assuming that other bands would be vying for the opening song, they figured that this scene would have less competition. While recording “Playing with the Boys,” Loggins was asked by Moroder to give “Danger Zone” a shot. “I walked in and I sang ‘Danger Zone’ and messed with it a little bit, you know, and had a good time with it,” Loggins recalled. The rest is history. “I wasn’t supposed to be the guy to sing it. I just lucked into it.”
Moroder had more luck pitching “Take My Breath Away” to Berlin lead-singer Terry Nunn. After hearing the song and watching the love-making scene that it would be set to, Nunn was on board. Less enthused was her bandmate, John Crawford, who didn’t want to perform a song written by someone else. Their band manager, Perry Watts-Russell, also had his doubts and said that he would shave his head if the song became a number one hit. Of course, Berlin recorded the song and it did reach number one. While Watts-Russell kept his word and shaved his head, Crawford was less pleased with the song’s performance as it meant that Berlin had to play it at every live performance following Top Gun‘s release.
3. There was a constant struggle between the producers, the director, Paramount and the Navy
Director Tony Scott was unpopular in Hollywood after his box office flop The Hunger, and clashed constantly with Paramount Pictures over the creative direction of the film. In fact, Scott was fired and rehired by studio execs three times over the course of Top Gun.
While filming aboard the USSEnterprise on a foggy Sunday morning, Scott lost the ideal lighting for his shot when the carrier altered its course. He implored that the captain return to his previous course so that they could film the scene. When the captain refused, Scott asked, “What does it cost for this aircraft carrier to run per minute?” The captain gave him a figure and Scott retrieved his checkbook from his bunk and wrote the captain a check for ,000. The captain returned the ship to its previous course and Scott was able to get his shot. He later bounced the check.
The opening scene gives me goosebumps every time (Credit Paramount Pictures)
Rear Admiral (ret.) Pete “Viper” Pettigrew, whose callsign was loaned to Tom Skerrit’s character, was hired as the film’s technical advisor for a sum of ,000 and served as a liaison with the Navy. Per his contract, he had a brief cameo in the film as Charlie’s boss, the “older guy” in the bar that she sits down with after Maverick’s rendition of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.” Pettigrew’s job was to keep the film grounded in reality, though his protests to the film’s eccentricities were always overridden by Bruckheimer and Simpson.
He argued against the locker room argument between Maverick and Iceman and the shower scene, saying that pilots just get changed after a hop and go to the bar. However, paying id=”listicle-2646420686″ million to have Cruise in the film, the producers insisted that Cruise show as much skin as possible to appeal to a female audience. As the script took shape, the Navy raised concerns regarding the increased focus on the relationships between the characters over the fighter jets and aerial combat. “Right now, I’m just trying to keep it from turning into a musical,” Pettigrew responded.
Though it played a major role in production, the Navy authorized only two missile shots to be filmed for the movie due to the cost of the weapon system. The shots were filmed from several angles to make the most of them. Additional missile shots were filmed using models of the planes and missiles. However, the company that produced and fired the model missiles did such a good job that the Navy launched an investigation to determine if additional missiles were fired beyond the two that were previously authorized.
One of the two authorized missile shots (Credit Paramount Pictures)
4. More trouble off-screen
Bruckheimer and Simpson worked well together because they complemented each other. While Simpson was bold and brash, Bruckheimer was calm and collected. However, Simpson’s alleged love of fast cars, women, hookers and drugs were reportedly negatively impacting his job as a producer. Having already been to rehab at least twice before, he checked himself in again midway through production. Little had changed by the time he checked out though. After renting a car, he sped down to the production office, crashed the car in the parking lot, barged into a meeting and declared, “We’re not shooting that f***ing scene!” He then proceeded to fire people and start rewrites to the script. Simpson’s self-destructive lifestyle came to a head when he overdosed in 1996.
Though Cruise and McGillis had to maintain a sexual tension and chemistry on set, McGillis had fallen for another actor during the filming of Top Gun. “We were walking across the street and she actually fell down, and I thought it was the funniest thing I’d ever seen,” Barry Tubb remembered of McGillis. “She fell down on her face in the middle of the street and she had my heart.” Tubb played a supporting role in the film as Wolfman.
Tubb and McGillis’ relationship off-screen threatened to weaken Charlie and Maverick’s relationship on-screen. To create more tension and add more lead-up to their eventual chase and kiss on W. Laurel Street, McGillis and Cruise were brought back to film one more scene months after production had wrapped.
In the elevator scene that follows the dinner at Charlie’s Oceanside house, Maverick’s hair is wet and slicked back while Charlie’s is hidden under a hat. Both actors had different hairstyles by that time which needed to be masked in order to preserve the continuity of the film. The scene succeeded though in adding more tension and lead-up to the relationship.
5. A tragedy occurred
Top Gun‘s production also saw a real-life death. While capturing footage for Maverick and Goose’s flat spin, stunt actor Art Scholl lost control of his Pitts S-2 camera plane. Filming about five miles off the coast of Carlsbad, California, Scholl radioed to his ground spotter, “I have a problem – I have a serious problem.” He was unable to recover from the spin and crashed into the ocean. The aircraft and his body were never recovered. As a tribute, Top Gun was dedicated to Scholl.
Scholl and his dog, Aileron (Credit Smithsonian Institution)
6. Bruckheimer and Scott thought the movie was a flop
Having wrapped production, an advance screening of Top Gun was scheduled for January 29, 1986, in Houston, Texas. With the rather lukewarm release of Iron Eagle two weeks before, receiving mixed reviews and grossing just million more at the box office than its budget, Top Gun‘s future as the second fighter jet movie of the year seemed unsure.
The advance screening was also clouded by the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster just the day before. “We’re in that theater, and I tell you, it was like a funeral,” Bruckheimer recalled. “I watched the movie with this audience and nobody reacted. I mean, they didn’t laugh, they didn’t applaud, it was nothing.” As a result of this screening, Bruckheimer thought that the movie would be a disaster upon its full release.
Director Tony Scott felt similarly following the Houston screening. “It was the worst experience of my life,” Scott said. “I can’t remember even hearing the audience.” Thinking he had failed directing another movie, Scott left the screening and went to a bar to get drunk.
However, contradicting the lack-luster advance screening, Top Gun was well-received by the rest of the cast and crew when it was screened for them. During that screening, Kenny Loggins was thoroughly impressed with what they had created. “I just held my wife’s hand and went ‘Holy s**t’,” he recalled.
Of course, Bruckheimer and Scott’s fears were misplaced and the film’s release in the summer of 1986 was perfect; Ronald Reagan was in the White House, the military was cool again and the country was going through a patriotic renaissance. Since its blockbuster release, Top Gun has gone on to become one of the most successful and iconic films of all time.
On Sept. 14, 2019, a swarm of drones and cruise missiles struck the world’s largest oil processing facility inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. There was little doubt in the Saudi’s minds as to who the culprit could be. Their American allies agreed: the attack came from the Islamic Republic of Iran, their neighbor across the Persian Gulf. But the attack on the Saudi Aramco facility was less about making the Saudis pay and more about making their American allies pay.
The regime in Tehran was still pissed about the United States leaving the 2015 nuclear deal.
According to Reuters reporters, the Iranian regime wanted to punish the Americans for leaving the deal and reimposing crippling sanctions on the Iranian economy. These sanctions have caused widespread hardship and unrest inside Iranian borders. Just four months prior, the head honchos of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps met in Tehran to figure out a way to do just that. They even considered attacking American bases in the Middle East. Of course, they didn’t go that far, but they had to do something.
One senior official took the floor to tell the room, “It is time to take out our swords and teach them a lesson.”
The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, approved the operation on the condition that the IRGC didn’t kill any civilians or Americans. With that nod from their leader, the Revolutionary Guards, experts in covert warfare and missile strikes, began planning.
Both the Saudi government and the Iranian government have refused to comment on the attack, with the exception of the Iranian Mission to the United Nations who vehemently denies any involvement, any planning, or any meeting taking place. American military and intelligence representatives also refused to comment. But the Houthis in Yemen, the Iranian-backed rebel group who has defied a Saudi-led invasion for years, claimed responsibility for the attacks. No one believed them because it was an attack intelligence agencies believed could only have come from Iran.
If it was supposed to be an attack on the Kingdom itself, it was a success. The September attack was just in time to disrupt projections for state-owned Aramco’s coming IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. If the Iranians wanted the United States to stick up for its Middle Eastern ally, however, the timing was terrible. After the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, and the years of destruction causing a humanitarian crisis in Yemen, no one in Washington was quick to stick up for Riyadh.
For 17 minutes, swarms of drones and low-flying missiles hit the Khurais oil installation and the Abqaiq oil processing facility, cutting the Kingdom’s oil production by half and knocking out five percent of the world’s oil. Oil prices soared by 20 percent as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hit Iran with another round of sanctions. Everyone pointed fingers at everyone else, but the blame ultimately ended up in Iran’s lap, despite its refusals. Iran remained steadfast and despite increased sanctions and threats against further violence, largely got away with it.
Iran believed President Trump would not risk an all-out war to protect Saudi oil companies, Reuters quoted Ali Vaez, director of the Iran Project at the International Crisis Group as saying. “Hard-liners [in Iran] have come to believe that Trump is a Twitter tiger,” Vaez said. “As such there is little diplomatic or military cost associated with pushing back.”
The insiders believe Iran is already planning its next attack.
The U.S. Marine Corps didn’t allow black men into its ranks until 1942, months after America joined World War II and decades after the Army and Navy began accepting black troops. But that delayed start means that cameras were common when the first black Marines earned their Eagle, Globe, and Anchors. Here are 15 photos from those first pioneers.
(Writer’s note: These images come from the National Archives which have a whole section dedicated to black troops in World War II with over 250 images. The captions below were updated for language and clarity, but the information contained comes from that archive. You can find more images and historical context by visiting them here.)
Iranian state TV cited a report by the Associated Press (AP) claiming that 100 bodies were found at the site of a US military plane crash in Afghanistan, but the news agency says this report doesn’t exist.
The Islamic Republic of Iran News Network (IRINN), which is part of the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, reported Tuesday, according to BBC Monitoring: “US authorities have not yet released official casualty figures but the Associated Press, quoting local officials in Ghazni Province in Afghanistan, has announced that nearly 100 corpses have been found at the crash site.”
The AP has published reports on the disaster, but none of them have contained the 100-bodies figure. The AP told Business Insider it did not report this.
Neither officials in the US nor in Ghazni, the Taliban-held province where the crash took place, have given a death toll so far.
US officials on Tuesday recovered the remains and are confirming the identities of people involved in the crash, Reuters reported. The officials did not give a number.
The plane, a US Air Force Bombardier E-11A, is widely believed to have been carrying no more than six people at the time of the crash. New York Times correspondent Mujib Mashal said on Tuesday that the most widely-cited figure is two.
Ghazni provincial police chief Khalid Wardak told Reuters on Tuesday “there are four bodies and two onboard were alive and they are missing,” but said Taliban fighters repelled Afghanistan’s attempt to access the crash site.
Iran’s state-run Channel One network also peddled a theory that a senior CIA official named Michael D’Andrea had been on the plane.
Marine scout snipers are often described more like a force of nature than a group of warfighters. The Corps has recently had just a few hundred of them at a time, but a massive mission rests on their shoulders. They’re true scouts, acting as the commander’s eyes and ears, but they’re also trained to take careful shots at foes. And they even train to hit targets from moving platforms like helicopters.
The big difference between scouts and scout snipers is right in the name. It’s also in the Corps’ definition of the job:
The scout sniper is a Marine highly skilled in fieldcraft and marksmanship who delivers long range, precision fire at selected targets from concealed positions.
But the Marine Corps is very specific that scout snipers are shooters, even going so far as to define the snipers’ primary mission as that “precision fire” and the secondary mission as “gathering information for intelligence purposes.”
So, they’re really highly observant snipers rather than scouts who have become more lethal. And being a top-tier sniper requires a certain amount of flexibility, especially in the Marine Corps where they pride themselves on their “Semper Gumby” mentality.
And so these Marines train on not just riding into battle on helicopters, but on shooting enemies from them with their precise fires. To practice, the Marines hop into Super Hueys and spit fire at targets floating in the ocean or staged on land. The shifting helicopters provide an increased level of challenge, but also allows the snipers to take out threats while inserting into the battlefield or while providing cover for infantrymen hitting the deck.
The two-man teams work together to watch over friendlies, engage enemy forces, and send targeting data and other intelligence back to the headquarters, whether they’re working from a helicopter, a ship, or a secluded ridge or rooftop on the battlefield.
A video from the aerial sniper training is available above.
Getting a new ship into the water is, presumably, the most important part of building a seafaring vessel. But not all ships are created equal — some are simply massive. They all need to get in the water somehow… can’t we just toss that bad boy in there?
Yes. The answer is yes, we can.
Traditionally, shipbuilders construct a ship-launching slipway — this is, essentially, a ramp that will slide a ship of any size into the water at full force. There are four ways of going about this:
This is something many of us have seen before. A ship slides sideways into the water on a ramp. That ramp has either been made slick with oil or wax, uses steel rollers, or detaches with the ship and is later recovered. The oldest ship-launching method was powered by gravity and is known as longitudinal oiled slideway launching. It uses minimal equipment, but makes heavy use of oil, which can pollute the water.
…it’d be a whole lot cooler if you did.
Ships built in drydocks are typically launched this way. Using locks, the drydock is filled with water and the ship simply floats out when launched. This is a much less violent way of launching a ship than throwing it over the side of the dock, but it’s also way less cool. Think about that — you could just chuck the Disney Fantasy directly into the Caribbean…
At least the boat was launched, right?
Why throw a ship into the water when you can place it there, like a reasonable, civilized person? For those less interested in a cool launch and more interested in keeping their smaller craft from sinking, a mechanical assist is a great option. Large ships, of course, can’t just be picked up and slowly moved, so this method’s for the lesser vessels.
Keep in mind, however, that introducing any additional element to launching a ship opens more areas for potential chaos.
This method is the safest for any size ship. The newest form of launching, employed primarily by Asian shipbuilders, uses these hardcore rubber airbags to slowly put a new ship to sea. It’s a safe way for smaller shipyards that may not have access to a slideway to get crafts in the water.
If you’ve learned everything you know about Marine Corps boot camp from watching films like Full Metal Jacket or Jarhead, then you’ve got a skewed idea of what goes down. In fact, before we even hop into the list of misconceptions, let’s squash one here and now: your senior drill instructor does not train you the whole time. If anything, he or she is more like a ghost, only appearing when it’s time to pass out mail or if your platoon really f*cks up.
Sincerely, one of the biggest challenges you’ll face as a boot is telling people tales of your training. Why? If you’re telling someone who hasn’t experienced boot camp for themselves, you’ll have to constantly stop and break down all of their existing misconceptions. If you’re telling someone who has gone through it, then they don’t want to hear a bunch of crap they’ve already heard from every boot before you.
So, to save you some time, my young boot, go ahead and share this article with your friends before you regale them with tales of your triumph over boot camp. These preconceived notions are all wrong:
Your drill instructor trains you to shoot
Drill instructors have a role during your basic rifle training, but you get most of your training from a primary marksmanship instructor. Being a PMI is the only other way to be able to wear a campaign hat, the infamous “Smokey Bear” as some refer to it. Your drill instructor takes you to class and you’re trained by someone with a more even temper.
You learn infantry tactics
This one’s easy — you don’t. Not extensively, anyways. Not to a degree where you could be dropped off on a battlefield the day of graduation and expect to survive, at least.
All you do is PT
There’s a lot of physical training done during Marine boot camp, like, a lot. But it’s not the only thing you do. If you’re a total sh*t bag and no one likes you, yeah, that’s all you’ll do because you’re going to live in the freaking sand pit. Generally, though, PT only accounts for a portion of your day.
Your drill instructors never stop being mean
At first, yeah. Every time you see a Marine in a campaign cover it sends a chill down your spine and you die a little bit on the inside, but after a while, your drill instructors will treat you just a little bit better. You may even have some cool sit-downs where one lectures about their personal experiences as a teaching tool.
But, if you take that kindness for weakness — you’ll pay.
Marine Corps boot camp is extremely difficult
While some believe it’s the most difficult of all the branches, that’s irrelevant. The truth is that Marine Corps boot camp — or any other basic training — isn’t as hard as you’ll make it out to be in your mind.
If you can adapt, you can survive. That’s essentially what you learn in boot camp, because that’s what it means to be a Marine.
Anyone can get in movie-star shape. All it requires is working out every day for two to four hours, skipping carbs, hiring trainers, and having a Hollywood studio foot the bill and then pay handsomely for your time. It’s how Ryan Reynolds and his superhero peers look the way they do on the big screen. That’s not to say their workouts aren’t impressive. They’re typically the kind of upper-body-heavy exercise routines that only someone who does this for a living could finish. Because of this, they’re worth following.
Take the workout that Reynolds was tackling while filming “Deadpool 2.” When he enlisted celebrity trainer Don Saladino to create a routine that would build muscle, add definition, and improve overall fitness, he got what he asked for. Saladino designed a variety of circuit-style workouts that covered most major muscle groups with a focus on the upper body. While he didn’t report how often he worked out, let’s just say he ended up looking like a pretty unrealistic dad of two in the end. Mission accomplished.
What does this have to do with us mere mortals? Well, the workouts Reynolds did are pretty great for full-body strength and agility because (little known fact) Reynolds does a lot of his own stunt moves. But, yeah, it’s too hard. We get that. Which is why we took the principles from one of the sample workouts he shared with Men’s Health, and dumbed it down for us regular dads. Here’s your streamlined version, with moves modified to fit the schedule and skills of everyday dads.
(Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)
Reynolds’ version: 15 minutes of stretching, foam rolling, and deep breathing.
Your version: Your time is precious, so you can do this 3 minutes. Stand with feet wide apart. Reach arms overhead, inhale deeply. Exhale and release, bending your knees and allowing your torso to fall forward so that your hands rest on the floor. From here, bend your right knee deeply, shift weight to right side, and move into a side lunge. Hold as you breathe in and out. Shift weight to left side and repeat. Return to center, straighten your back and legs and raise arms out the side. Twist right, then left, five times. Relax — you’re ready to go.
Move #1: Kettlebell swing
This full-body move works your arms, back, glutes, and quads. Start standing with feet hip-width apart. Hold the handle of a kettlebell with both hands, arms straight in front of your body. Bend your knees into a squat, and let the kettlebell drift back between your legs, keeping your back straight. With a single movement, push through your heels and explosively return to a standing position, allowing the kettlebell to swing forward so it reaches chest height as you do. That’s one rep.
Reynolds’ version: 5 reps with as heavy a weight as possible.
Your version: You can nearly keep up here! Make it 3 reps with a 25-pound weight.
Move #2: Front squat
Start standing, feet hip-width apart and toes slightly turned out. Hold a barbell with both hand (palms facing forward and tilted upward) just below your chin. Bend knees and allow your hips to drift back as if you were sitting in a chair. Keep back straight. Aim to get your quads parallel to the floor, but stop lowering as soon as you feel your form begin to slip. Return to standing to complete one rep.
Reynolds’ version: 5 reps with a heavy weight (about 85% of a max load)
Dad’s version: Keep it at 5 reps, but skip the weight altogether and go for air squats. Focus on the form — that’s what really matters here.
Lie back on a flat bench, holding the barbell above your chest with an overhand grip, arms straight. Keep hands shoulder-width apart. Bend elbows, keeping them close by your sides, and lower bar to chest height, then straighten again.
Reynolds’ version: 5 reps with a weight that is probably more than you can lift, placing hands close together to increase difficulty.
Dad’s version: Let’s go with 3 reps using a weight that’s about 75% of your max load (roughly around 150 if you’re a 200-pound guy, although it’s a wide range). Place hands slightly wider than shoulder-width to help with bar stability — even wider if you’re new-ish to the move.
Move #4: Pull-up
Stand in front of the pull-up bar and grab it with an overhand grip. Keeping your back straight and eyes focused on the wall just above eye level, bend arms as you hoist your chin over the bar, then straighten back down.
Reynolds’ version: 5 reps maintaining a plank position with his body (i.e. board-straight) and fully extending arms with every lowering.
Your version: Stick with the 5 reps, but use an assist. See that resistance band? Tie it around the bar so it creates a long loop. Place your feet inside the loop, allowing band to stretch as you lower your body, then add support as you lift yourself up. Another alternative: Perform reverse pull-ups by gently jumping off the floor to begin in a contracted position, chin above the bar, then feel the burn as you lower yourself down to the floor.
Reynolds did various versions of the weighted walk in his workout to prep for “Deadpool 2” — it’s one of the most efficient ways to build overall strength and tone your muscles. You can choose between a suitcase carry (carry dumbbells or kettlebells down by your sides), overhead carry (raise the weight directly over your head, arm straight, doing one arm at a time as you walk), or bottom-up carry (bend your arm at a 90 degree angle in front of you and carry the kettlebell upside-down by its handle so that the weighted endpoints up into the air). In all cases, focus on good form.
Reynolds’ version: 5 reps of 75-foot carries with a weight that is 35-40 pounds.
Your version: Challenge yourself here with 3 reps of 50-foot carries. Still, don’t go too heavy. Start with 25 pounds and work up from there.
Rest and repeat
Reynolds’ Version: No rest for Merc with a Mouth. Do this circuit five times in a row.
Your version. Take 30 seconds between reps and 5 minutes between sets. You’ve earned it. Start by hitting this circuit twice and work your way up from there (capping at four).
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
Student: “Sergeant, how long do I have to deploy my reserve parachute if my main fails to open?”
Sergeant: “The rest of your life, son… the rest of your life.”
There is no argument that Tier-1 units routinely engage in dangerous training: climbing skyscraper structures, engaging in gunfights in close quarters and confined spaces, hunkering down nexts to explosive breaching charges that are barely an arm’s reach away as they ignite… A cringe-worthy component to that list that hooks every seasoned operator’s attention is airborne operations, because most things that go wrong during them can be fatal.
The feature image, Toad Jumper, is of course a parody of “towed jumper,” an airborne term used to describe a paratrooper whose static line, a 15-foot nylon cord that pulls open the jumper’s parachute, doesn’t separate from the aircraft. On the rare occasion that the parachute pack fails to break free from the static line anchored to the jump aircraft, the paratrooper will be towed behind the aircraft at ~120MPH spinning and slamming against the airplane. It is a horrid and deadly event.
Paras line up and hooked up. Static lines are hooked to anchor cable; they are routed correctly OVER the men’s arms. Mac’s had looped under his arm.
My best friend and renowned firearms trainer Patrick Arther “Mac”McNamara was a towed jumper on his very first training jump with the Army’s Airborne School in Ft. Benning, GA. His static line had unfortunately looped under his arm, cushioning the tug of the line and preventing it from effectively pulling his parachute loose.
Mac spun wildly and bounced off of the kin of the aircraft… then his static line fortunately was able to pull away his pack and deploy his parachute canopy correctly. The violent tug of the static line ripped his biceps muscle from his humerus bone and pulled it down to his forearm. He was in severe pain and unable to use his damaged arm.
When it rains it pours, and since Mac was not able to use his arm, he could not steer his parachute for a safe up-wind landing. Rather than face into the wind a parachute defaults to running down (with) the wind at higher speed. Mac braced himself, cringing before the impending impact with the ground.
Patrick McNamara frame grab from one of his training videos reveals the gnarly scar on his left biceps, a staunch reminder of being a towed (toad) jumper
He hit with great speed tumbling and flipping in excruciating pain. Landing is the most critical step in a jump that the jumper can have the most control over. The jumper must correctly assess the wind direction and turn himself to face into the wind by maneuvering the lines that suspend him from his canopy.
A paratrooper must perform a proper Parachute Landing Fall (PLF) to preclude broken bones and other injuries, and finally, a jumper must quickly securehis parachute to prevent being dragged across the ground resulting in potential death.
Now, the instructors on the Drop Zone, the Black Hats, saw Mac’s cartwheel landing and began to scream at him through electrically amplified megaphone:
“HEY LEG! WHO THE HELL TAUGHT YOU TO DO A DOWN-WIND LANDING, LEG!”
A leg was a term used to refer to a soldier who was not airborne qualified. By military doctrine, soldiers can be referred to as regular straight-leg infantry, and airborne infantry. Leg is a mildly derogatory term, yet a moniker of pride used by airborne forces.
Airborne pipe-hitters from the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) packed in their jump aircraft
Now Mac was being dragged by the wind across the ground further contributing to his anguish, as he could not release his parachute connection on his chest. That further infuriated the Black Hats:
“GODDAMNIT LEG, PULL YOUR CANOPY RELEASES, LEG… YOU STINKING LEG!!!”
A fellow student ran in front of Mac’s inflated parachute and collapsed it. Mac now had to stow all of his parachute into a kitbag and carry his gear to an assembly zone where students were gathered… all with just one good arm and the other in extreme pain.
Airborne soldier about to make contact with the ground; always a tense moment
Mac stumbled to the assembly point. His assessment of the event sums up what an amazing warrior Pat Mac is, and why I regard him such esteem to this day (words to the effect): “I didn’t really know what to think at the time; I mean, it was my first time and I really had no idea what to expect. To me, that was just what jumping was like… what every jump would be like… and I was willing to accept that.”
Pulling open his BDU shirt he saw that his biceps had been reassigned south of his shoulder to his forearm; the skin was stretched so tight that it had taken on a transparent form revealing the color of the sinew and blood vessels thereunder. He showed it to a couple of other students to see if their arms all looked the same way; none did. Only then did Mac realize his plight.
Mac had to have surgery to pull his bicep back up to his humerus to re-attach it, leaving him a gnarly scarred reminder. One of my team brothers in Delta also suffered the same fate as Mac in jump school. His static line looped under his arm. When he jumped he was momentarily towed; his biceps torn and pulled down to his forearm.
His biceps never really recovered to its original position, rather a bit low on his humerus toward his elbow. It really looked funny when he flexed his biceps, intentionally flexing it often in the gym with accompanying remarks such as: “(flexing) Just came in to pump up ol’ Betsy here… I know she looks pretty ripped now, but you should have seen how ripped she was in jump school!”
The trauma associated with a towed jumper scenario would easily be “quittin’ time” for most folks, with no fault assigned or explanation required. For Pat McNamara it was just one entry in a long line of threats that tried to beat him down and prevent him from obtaining his warrior goal. He went on to be arguably the best physically fit and top-performing Delta Operator of our era, and continues today to even exceed the standards that we maintained in the Unit.