The Space Force is presumed to be exactly like our current military. Over-the-top recruitment videos will only lead to utter disappointment, just like any other branch. “You’ll get to see the world,” the recruiter will promise, but we all know you’ll probably just be seeing it from a desk back on Earth. Even in many years when the need for space infantrymen comes up, it’ll still be filled with all the same BS that happens down here.
Think about it. There will still be NCOs and officers who will still need to bide their time until closeout formation. The only difference will be that it’ll take place 254 miles above the Earth’s surface. And how will latrines work? Who will clean them?!
You know the answer.
That’s just from man-made stuff… then you have to worry about the stardust
1. Literally cleaning the ship absolutely spotlessly
Remember those novelty “space pens” that you can find at souvenir shops? The joke on the back is that America spent a butt load of cash trying to get a pen that could write upside-down and with zero-G’s but those crafty Russians just used a pencil. Hate to burst that bubble but no one uses pencils in space for a very specific reason.
Any bit of dust or flakes caused by just regular everyday things, like pencil shavings, could mess with electrical systems while it’s floating around in space.
You can’t honestly expect lieutenants to clean up after themselves when there are privates available, now can you?
2. Vacuuming all that stardust
Of course no one down here can see it, but space is actually pretty filthy. There’s plenty of dust on the outside the atmosphere from when the universe was formed and we can’t go around with an unclean space ship. Most of it is microscopic but NASA astronauts regularly have to clean the dust or else it gets everywhere.
Any spacewalk done will suck in plenty of that minuscule specs of dust whenever the bay-doors open. When the astronaut comes back into the oxygen-filled area, the dust will follow. And some poor space private will have to vacuum all that up.
I want this globe spotless or no one is being released.
3. Police calling space debris
All of this is just to clean up the inside of ship — there’s also the outside. Satellites and other man-made debris deteriorate eventually and even a 1cm paint flake could zoom low orbit faster than a bullet. Those flakes can rupture panels and cause all sorts of hell on the ship.
This problem is magnified with even larger pieces of debris, like a baseball sized scrap of metal hitting anything at 4.76 miles per second. To prevent Newton’s Second Law (force is equal to the mass times acceleration) from obliterating everyone on board, it’s up to the space privates to handle it.
Good luck finding that ONE serial number for the change of command layout.
4. Container organizing… but in zero Gs
At first, it seems like this would be so much easier in space. You wouldn’t have to lift heavy things because it’s near weightless now. And astronauts are notorious about taking only what they need into space. But that’s the silver-lining. Trying to tie things down and organizing things to take up as little space as possible is the real problem.
A space private’s Tetris skills will be checked as there isn’t any room for open space.
Imagine losing a wrench and sending it soaring into Earth’s atmosphere.
5. Repairing the exterior of the ship
There is a diminishing return on enjoyment. The first time you go on a space walk, it’ll be beyond your wildest expectations. Your 1,348th time going on a space walk to scrub the stardust off the window because the Colonel is coming won’t be as great.
Even more high-stress would be making repairs on the spaceship. Any minor mistake and either you die alone or everyone gets sucked into the vacuum of space.
America’s history with conscription is a contentious one at best. Most of the men drafted to fight from the Civil War to the Vietnam War probably sucked it up and served as required. But after years of citizens rioting over the draft, burning draft cards, and running away to Canada to dodge the draft, the U.S. moved its military to an all-volunteer service in 1973.
But there was at least one man who found that Army life suited him well, and he wore the uniform of the United States Army for the next 39 years.
The man who would one day become Command Sgt. Major Jeffery Mellinger was the son of a Marine working as a drywall hanger in his hometown of Eugene, Oregon when he received his draft papers. Thinking they were written by President Nixon personally, he excitedly reported for duty at Fort Ord in California. He was just 19 years old.
What he found was less than the picture of military discipline that he expected. There was a lack of respect for the military as an institution, both inside and outside of the service. He found himself in West Germany working as a clerk. Around him, he saw rampant drug use, racism, and indifference. He could not wait to get out.
“If somebody told me I’d be in the army for 40 years on that day I would’ve just laughed at them, you know,” Mellinger told ABC News, chuckling.
But the commander of his first unit told him what military service meant – and that lesson stuck with him. The would-be onetime file clerk draftee soon became an Army Ranger, Jumpmaster, Special Forces instructor, jungle warfare expert, freefall expert, drill sergeant, and of course, Command Sergeant Major.
Mellinger in Army jump school in 1972, left, and on patrol in Baghdad in 2005.
Re-enlisting, he once said, was the best decision of his life. He has since made more than 3,700 jumps with 33 total hours in freefall. Although he was drafted during the Vietnam War, he never saw combat there. He deployed to Iraq, spending more than 33 total months in country. His convoys hit some 27 roadside improvised explosive devices, and on two occasions completely destroyed his vehicle. He was uninjured by any of them.
“We lost count of how many times Mellinger’s convoy was hit,” said his boss in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus. “He’s a national asset.”
Mellinger was just one of two million men drafted by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War era and says the Army is better off with an all-volunteer force.
“You get people who want to do this work,” he told Time Magazine. “If you had a draft at any other business in the world, you’d get people who maybe weren’t suited to be accountants or drivers or mathematicians. We’re doing just fine, thank you, with the all-volunteer force.”
Here are 5 of their masterpieces that, typically, aren’t issued to high schoolers:
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Scott Henshaw, a 35th Maintenance Squadron load crew member, ensures all parts are correctly in place on the AGM-88 high speed anti-radiation missile at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Sept. 19, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Xiomara M. Martinez)
High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile
The High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile is a pretty brilliant weapon for taking out enemy air defenses. Defenders on the ground typically run mobile radar dishes to find and target enemy planes. Planes carrying this type of missile search for such radar signals and then fire the HARM, which rides the radar signals back to their source — which is, you know, the radar dish.
Airmen prepare a 2,000-pound Paveway-III laser-guided bomb for the Combat Ammunition Production Exercise in July 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
Paveway Guided Bomb
The Paveway laser-guided bomb is sort of like the JDAM in that it’s really a kit that’s added to old, dumb bombs to convert them to guided, smart bombs. In the case of the Paveway, the missiles are guided by laser designaters, wielded by ground troops or pilots.
An F-35 with the Pax River Integrated Test Force conducts a test with a a Joint Stand-Off Weapon in 2016.
(U.S. Navy photo by Dane Wiedmann)
Joint Stand-Off Weapon
The Joint Stand-Off Weapon is a glide bomb that can fly as far as 63 nautical miles from the point at which it’s dropped, allowing Navy and Air Force ground attack and bomber planes to target anti-aircraft weapons or other enemy structures and emplacements from far outside of the enemy’s range.
The 1,065-pound weapon carries up to a 500-pound warhead but can also carry smaller bomblets and submunitions for dispersal over a wide area.
A Marine with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, fires an FGM-148 Javelin Missile during Exercise Northern Strike at Camp Grayling, Mich., Aug. 14, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Niles Lee)
The Javelin missile is one of the premiere anti-armor missiles with guidance so good that it has a limited anti-aircraft capability and a warhead so powerful that it can kill most any tank in the field today, usually by flying up high and then going straight down through the tank’s turret. It can also be used against bunkers and other fortifications.
When fired against a tank’s hull, its two-charge warhead first initiates any explosive reactive armor, and the second charge penetrates the hull, killing the crew and potentially detonating stored explosives or fuel.
Texas Instruments pioneered the forward-looking, infrared camera used on everything from fighters and bombers to helicopters to ground vehicles to rifles. Here, the FLIR on a MH-60S helicopter is used to keep track of a rescue off Guam in 2017.
(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Chris Kimbrough)
FLIR for tanks, fighting vehicles, the F-117, and F-18
Forward-Looking Infrared is exactly what it sounds like, sensors that allow jet, tank, and vehicle crews to see what’s ahead of them in infrared. Infrared, radiation with a wavelength just greater than the color red on the visible light spectrum that’s invisible to the naked eye, is put off by nearly any heat source. Sources of infrared include human bodies, vehicle engines, and all sorts of other targets.
So, tanks and jets can use these systems to find and target enemies at night, whether they just want to observe or think it’s time to drop bombs or fire rounds.
In the 1970s, BP oil pipeline workers came across a curious item about 12 miles southwest of Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire sitting about 86 meters under the surface- an old German U-Boat. In fact, one of the last U-Boats ever sunk in WWII. Unlike so many of its fellow subs, however, this one’s demise came about owing to a sequence of events all stemming from someone flushing the toilet incorrectly… So what exactly happened here?
U-1206, a Type VIIC submarine, was officially ordered on April 2, 1942 and ultimately launched on December 30, 1943. About a year and a half later, On April 6, 1945, the shiny new craft with its crew of 50 men departed from Kristiansand, Norway on its first non-training patrol machine.
Pertinent to the topic at hand is that while most submarines at the time used a storage tank to stow the product of flushing on board toilets and other waste water, with stereotypical German engineering efficiency, U-boat designers went the other way and decided to eject the waste directly into the ocean.
On the plus side, this saved valuable space within the submarine while also reducing weight. The downside, of course, was that ejecting anything into the ocean required greater pressure inside than out. As a result, U-boats had long required that, in order to use the toilets, the ship would have to be near the surface
Of course, being so close to or on the surface is generally to be avoided when on patrol if a sub captain wants to see his ship not blown up. This resulted in crewmen who needed to purge their orifices while submerged needing to do so in containers, which would then be stored appropriately until the sub needed to surface and the offending substances could be ditched over board.
As you can imagine, this didn’t exactly improve the already less than ideal smell of the air within the sub while it was plodding away down under. But there was nothing much that could be done about this…
That is, until some unknown German engineers designed a high pressure evacuation system. As to how this system worked, in a nutshell, the contents of the toilet were piped into an airlock of sorts. Once the offending matter found its way into said airlock, this would be sealed and subsequently pressurized, at which point a valve could be opened which would eject the fecal matter and fluids into the sea.
This all brings us to eight days into the patrol mission, on April 14, 1945.
Now, before we get into this, it should be noted that there are two versions of the story of what happened next- one version is stated by literally every single source we could find discussing this event on the interwebs, as well as repeated on the show QI and found in countless books on the subject. As for the other version, if you dig a little deeper, thanks to the good people at the Deutsches U-Boot Museum Archive, you can actually find the official account from 27 year old Captain Karl-Adolf Schlitt, who, minus a couple letters in his last name, couldn’t have been more aptly named for what was about to occur.
All this said, in both cases, the root cause of the sub’s sinking were the same- improper use of the toilet’s flushing mechanism.
That caveat out of the way, as the vessel was cruising along at around 70 meters below the surface and about eight miles from Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, the popular version states that Captain Schlitt had need of evacuating his bowels and so, no doubt with dignity befitting a man of his stature and rank, did his business in the toilet. That done, he was now left to try to flush the thing.
Unable to figure out the complicated contraption, Captain Schlitt called in help from the “W.C. Waste Disposal Unit Manager”- literally the only guy on board officially trained in how to flush the toilet, apparently also known among the crew as (translated), “the shit-man”.
Unfortunately for the men that would soon die as a result, for whatever reason the crewman who was supposed to know how to flush the toilet made a mistake and turned the wrong valve…
That’s the popular version to which we could not find any primary document to support it, despite it being widely parroted. As for the official version, Captain Schlitt himself claimed, “In April 1945 U-1206 was in the North Sea off Britain. On board the diesel engines were faulty. We could not charge our batteries by the snorkel any more. In order to get the diesels working again we had put down about 8-10 miles from the British coast at 70mts, unseen by British patrols… I was in the engine room, when at the front of the boat there was a water leak. What I have learned is that a mechanic had tried to repair the forward WC’s outboard vent. I would say – although I do not have any proof – that the outer vent indicator either gave false readings or none at all.”
As to why said mechanic was attempting to work on the toilet’s outboard vent while deeply submerged, that’s every bit as much of a mystery as to why an engineer trained in how to properly flush the toilet would have screwed it up so badly in the Captain Schlitt pooping version of the story.
Of course, it is always possible that the good Captain made up his version of things to avoid personal embarrassment and perhaps the other version came from crew members giving a very different account, but we could not locate any crew member’s version of events to verify that.
Whichever story is true, the result in either case was the contents of the toilet, if any, and the ocean outside shooting like a jet stream into the submarine.
Things were about to get a whole lot worse.
You see, as alluded to in Captain Schlitt’s account, the U-1206 was a diesel electric sub, featuring twin Germaniawerft F46 four-stroke engines, which charged a bank of batteries which, in turn, powered two electric motors capable of producing 750 horsepower combined. The problem was that the batteries were directly below the toilet area. According to Captain Schlitt, when the water rushed in, “…the batteries were covered with seawater. Chlorine gas started to fill the boat.”
As this was all happening, Captain Schlitt ordered the vessel to be surfaced. He then states, “The engineer who was in the control room at the time managed to make the boat buoyant and surfaced, despite severe flooding.”
So here they were, diesel engines down for maintenance, batteries soaking in seawater, having taken on a significant amount of said water, chlorine gas filling the ship, and on the surface just off the coast of enemy territory.
The nightmare for Captain Schlitt was about to get worse. As he noted in his account of events, “We were then incapable of diving or moving. At this point, British planes and patrols discovered us…”
With few options available, Captain Schlitt ordered various valves on the U-1206 be opened in order for it to fill with water, after which the crew abandoned the sub, with it shortly thereafter sinking.
The crew made their way to the Scottish coast on rubber rafts, but things didn’t go well here either. Schlitt states, “In the attempt to negotiate the steep coast in heavy seas, three crew members tragically died. Several men were taken onboard a British sloop. The dead were Hans Berkhauer, Karl Koren, and Emil Kupper.”
Ultimately 10 crewmen did make it shore, but just like their surviving compatriots at sea, were promptly captured.
In the aftermath, thankfully for just about everyone, just 16 days later, on April 30, 1945, Hitler bravely, and with no regard for his own personal safety, infiltrated the Führerbunker and single handedly managed to rid the world of one of the most notorious individuals of all time by putting a bullet through his own brain. About a week after that, Germany finally surrendered.
As for what happened to Captain Schlitt after, this isn’t clear, other than he appears to have lived to the ripe old age of 90, dying on April 7, 2009.
The practice of calling the toilet the “head” was originally a maritime euphemism. This came from the fact that, classically, the toilet on a marine vessel, or at least where everyone would relieve themselves, was at the front of the ship (the head). This was so that water from the sea that splashed up on the front of the boat would wash the waste away. The first known documented occurrence of the term used to describe a toilet area was from 1708 by Woodes Rogers, Governor of the Bahamas, in his work “Cruising Voyage Around the World.”
Despite toilet paper having been around since at least the 6th century AD (initially in China), it wouldn’t be until the late 19th century when toilet paper would first be introduced in America and England and it wasn’t until the 1900s, around the same time the indoor toilet became common, that toilet paper would catch on with the masses. So what did people use for wiping before toilet paper? This depended greatly on region, personal preference, and wealth. Rich people often used hemp, lace, or wool. The 16th century French writer Francois Rabelais, in his work Gargantua and Pantagruel, recommended using “the neck of a goose, that is well downed”.
The goose is kind of getting the crappy end of that deal. *crickets* Poor people would poop in rivers and clean off with water, rags, wood shavings, leaves, hay, rocks, sand, moss, sea weed, apple husks, seashells, ferns, and pretty much whatever else was at hand and cheap/free. For seaman, the common thing was to use old frayed anchor cables. The Inuit’s and other peoples living in frigid regions tended to go with clumps of snow to wipe with, which, other than the coldness factor, is actually one of the better options it seems compared to many other of the aforementioned methods.Going back a ways in history, we know the Ancient Roman’s favorite wiping item, including in public restrooms, was a sponge on a stick that would sit in salt water and be placed back in the salt water when done… waiting for the next person…
Back to America, one extremely popular wiping item for a time was corn cobs and, later, Sears and Roebucks, Farmers Almanac, and other catalogs became popular. The Farmers Almanac even came with a hole in it so it could be easily hung in bathrooms for just this purpose… reading and wiping material in one, and no doubt boosting their sales when said magazine needed replaced!Around 1857, Joseph Gayetty came up with the first commercially available toilet paper in the United States. His paper “The greatest necessity of the age! Gayetty’s medicated paper for the water-closet” was sold in packages of flat sheets that were moistened and soaked with aloe. Gayetty’s toilet paper sold for about 50 cents a pack ( today), with 500 sheets in that package. Despite its comfort and superiority at cleaning, this wasn’t terribly popular, presumably because up to this point most people got their wiping materials for free from whatever was at hand, and humans hate change and newfangled innovations.
Around 1867, brothers Edward, Clarence, and Thomas Scott, who sold products from a push cart, started making and selling toilet paper as well. They did a bit better than Gayetty; their original toilet paper was much cheaper as it was not coated with aloe and moistened, but was just rolls of somewhat soft paper (often with splinters).As the indoor flushable toilet started to become popular, so did toilet paper. This is not surprising considering there was nothing really to grab in an indoor bathroom to wipe with, unlike outdoors where nature is at your disposal. The age old Farmers Almanac and similar such catalogs also were not well suited for this purpose because their pages tended to clog up the pipes in indoor plumbing.Even once it became popular, wiping with toilet paper still doesn’t appear to have been painless until surprisingly recently.
The aforementioned splinter problem seems to have been somewhat common until a few decades into the 20th century. In the 1930s, this changed with such companies as Northern Tissue boasting a “splinter free” toilet tissue.As for today, toilet paper is still extremely popular, though wet wipes, similar to Gayetty’s, have made a major come back in recent years, much to the chagrin of sewer workers the world over.Much like our forebears who shunned Gayetty’s innovation, vastly superior toilet seat add-on bidet systems that take 10 minutes to install and cost only around , literally paying for themselves in drastic reduction of toilet paper usage relatively quickly and providing significantly better cleaning, are still largely shunned for some reason.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Last week, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk ruffled some feathers during a discussion with Air Force Lt. Gen. John Thompson at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium. The controversial tech mogul, who is no stranger to drawing headlines and occasionally criticism, voiced concerns over America’s apparent love affair with Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, first calling for competition for the advanced fighter, and then going further to say that the era of manned fighter jets was over.
“Locally autonomous drone warfare is where it’s at, where the future will be,” Musk said. “It’s not that I want the future to be this, that’s just what the future will be. … The fighter jet era has passed. Yeah, the fighter jet era has passed. It’s drones.”
Elon Musk, chief engineer of SpaceX, speaks with U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. John Thompson, the Space and Missile Systems Center commander and program executive officer for space.
Musk went on to say that even the F-35 wouldn’t stand a chance against a sufficiently advanced drone that coupled computer augmented flying with human control.
When the story broke, we here at Sandboxx pointed out that Musk is right that a technologically advanced drone could potentialy do a lot of things a manned aircraft couldn’t — including manage hypersonic maneuvers that would leave most human pilots unconscious as a result of the G-forces. Scramjet technology has proven effective at propelling unmanned aircraft to hypersonic speeds in the past, and it seems entirely feasible that this tech will find its way into UCAVs (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles) in the future.
An X-51A WaveRider hypersonic flight test vehicle is uploaded to an Air Force Flight Test Center B-52 for fit testing at Edwards Air Force Base.
But, we noted, the problem with Musk’s bright idea is that information traveling at the speed of light is actually too slow for the sort of control drone operators would need for such a platform. Even with a somewhat local operator, as Musk pointed toward, the time it would take to relay sensor data from the drone to the operator, followed my the operator processing the information and making a decision, followed by those commands being transmitted back to the drone is simply too slow a process for the split-second decisions that can be essential in a dog fight.
In other words, Musk’s plan is hypothetically right, but likely won’t work in practice for some time to come.
“For a long time, we’re still going to need the manned aircraft on the fighter and bomber side,” Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Holmes, an F-15 Eagle pilot, said Wednesday during the annual McAleese Defense Programs Conference. “We will increasingly be experimenting with other options, [and] we’re going to work together.”
U.S. Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, watches a mission video during a visit to the 363rd Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance Wing at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.
The future of air combat likely will include some combination of manned and unmanned aircraft, which is exactly the future the Air Force’s Skyborg program is aiming for. Using “loyal wingman” armed drones like the Kratos Valkyrie, the Air Force hopes to couple fighters like the F-35 with support drones that can extend sensor range, engage targets, and even sacrifice themselves to protect the manned aircraft. In theory, one F-35 could control a number of drones that bear the majority of the risk, flying ahead of the manned jet.
“We can take risk with some systems to keep others safer,” the Air Force’s service acquisition executive, Dr. Will Roper said. “We can separate the sensor and the shooter. Right now they’re collocated on a single platform with a person in it. In the future, we can separate them out, put sensors ahead of shooters, put our manned systems behind the unmanned. There’s a whole playbook.”
The combination of the sort of technology in play in Skyborg and rapidly developing hypersonic propulsion could put the power of hypersonic platforms in the hands of fighter pilots, just likely not in the jets they’re flying.
Of course, doing so would greatly increase the mental load on pilots in the fight, particularly if their means of controlling their wingmen drones is too complex. One of the selling points of the F-35 that doesn’t get much play in the press is its ability to fuse data from disparate sensors into an overlapping augmented reality display. Prior to this advancement, pilots had to read and manage multiple displays and gauges, combining the data in their minds to make decisions. In the F-35, friendly and enemy assets are clearly identified with colored indicators, as are air speed, altitude, and other essential information. At night, pilots can even use external cameras with their augmented reality helmets to look through the aircraft at the ground below.
This is what an F-15 pilot has to keep track of while flying combat missions.
A complex drone-control interface could be a step backward in a pilot’s ability to manage the flow of data, but a DARPA experiment first revealed in 2018 might just be able to solve that problem.
At the time, Justin Sanchez, director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, explained that two years prior, DARPA had successfully utilized what he called a “Brain Computer Interface” to put one volunteer in control of not one, but three simulated aircraft at the same time. The “N3 System,” as they call it, could give pilots the ability to manage their drone wingmen using only their mind.
“As of today, signals from the brain can be used to command and control … not just one aircraft but three simultaneous types of aircraft,” he said at the “Trajectory of Neurotechnology” session at DARPA’s 60thanniversary event
In later experiments, volunteers even experienced feedback from the aircraft, transmitted into their brains to feel like a tingling sensation in the hands when the aircraft was pushing back against steering in a certain direction. The only problem is, currently, this system only works for volunteers who have had surgically implanted electrodes in their brain. The volunteers were all people with varying levels of paralysis, as this same technology could feasibly be used to control exoskeletons that could help a patient regain the ability to walk.
“The envisioned N3 system would be a tool that the user could wield for the duration of a task or mission, then put aside,” said Al Emondi, head of N3, according to a company spokesperson. “I don’t like comparisons to a joystick or keyboard because they don’t reflect the full potential of N3 technology, but they’re useful for conveying the basic notion of an interface with computers.”
So, while it’s true that a drone isn’t subject to same physical limitations a manned aircraft is, the tradeoff is that a drone would need to have an extremely advanced, fully autonomous flight system in order to execute maneuvers at the fuzzy edge of its capabilities, because communications lag would make such performance impossible in a human-controlled drone at a distance. If the drone weren’t under the control of a nearby pilot, the only choice would be to give the drone itself decision making capabilities, either through an on-board processor, or through an encrypted cloud computing process.
To date, that level of tech simply doesn’t exist, and even if it did, it would pose significant moral and ethical questions about what level of war fighting we’re comfortable relinquishing to a computer. Friendly fire incidents or unintentional civilian casualties are complicated enough without having to defend the actions of a Terminator drone, even if they were justified.
In the future, it seems entirely likely that drones will indeed be more capable than manned fighters, but they still won’t be able to fly without their cockpit-carrying-counterparts. A single F-35 pilot, for instance, may head into battle with a bevy of hyper-capable drone wingmen, but the decision to deploy ordnance, to actually take lives, will remain with the pilot, rather than the drone, just as those decisions are currently made by human drone operators.
Elon Musk is right that drones can do incredible things, but he’s wrong about the need for human hands on the stick. The future doesn’t look like Skynet, but it may look like the terrible 2005 movie, “Stealth.”
Elon Musk may be good at building rockets, electric cars, and even tunnel boring machines, but when it comes to predicting the future of warfare, he’s just as fallible as the rest of us.
Australia passed sweeping foreign interference laws on June 28, 2018, that have been one of the most contentious pillars of deteriorating relations with China in recent months.
The laws broaden the definition of espionage and ban foreign agents from influencing politicians, civil society organizations, media, and ethnic groups. Individuals will also be required to register if they’re acting on behalf of a foreign power. Some offenses covered by the laws are punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
“Foreign powers are making unprecedented and increasingly sophisticated attempts to influence the political process, both here and abroad,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said when he introduced the laws in December 2017, though he made a point of saying he was not speaking about any one country.
But shortly afterwards Turnbull cited “disturbing reports about Chinese influence” and called out an Australian politician for being a “clear case” of someone who took foreign money and then allegedly promoted China’s political views.
In response, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said its government had made a “serious complaint” with Australia and that the claim of foreign interference “poisons the atmosphere of the China-Australia relationship.” The sensationalist state-run Global Times reportedly carried an editorial claiming “[Australia] is beginning to look like a piece of chewing gum stuck to the bottom of China’s shoe.”
And in June 2018 a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry answered questions about the laws by saying: “We hope that all countries could cast off Cold War mindset and strengthen exchanges and cooperation on the basis of mutual respect and equal treatment.”
It’s not the first time the idea of the Cold War has been invoked in discussion around Australia’s current national security.
Duncan Lewis, director-general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), recently told a parliamentary hearing that that espionage and interference activities have reached new and dangerous heights.
“The grim reality is that there are more foreign intelligence officers today than during the Cold War, and they have more ways of attacking us,” Lewis said.
Though the federal government had remained hush on the classified report that spurred its foreign interference laws, a number of media outlets have reported that a year-long inquiry found attempts by the Chinese Communist Party to influence Australian politics at all levels. The report also described China as the country of most concern to Australia.
Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit practiced their ability to conduct mechanized raids on July 1 against an island in Queensland, Australia, showing off American muscle while also ensuring the Marines are ready to take territory and inflict casualties on enemies in the Pacific. Not that there is any chance of conflict in that region.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)
Marines position their vehicles in the well deck, a portion of the ship that can be flooded with water to allow ships and swimming vehicles to transit between the open ocean and the ship.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)
Marines double check their gear and prepare to move out from the well deck. Careful checks of the vehicles are necessary before the well is flooded, as an armored vehicle without all of the necessary plugs and protections in place can quickly sink in the open water, creating a lethal threat for the Marines inside.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)
Amphibious operations have a lot of risks like that. Simple physics force the armored vehicles to move slowly between the ship and shore, leaving them vulnerable to enemy fire. And many of them can’t fire their best weapons while floating because it might cause the vehicle to flounder.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)
But the risks can be worth the reward, like in the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Sometimes the only logical way to get a battalion or larger force onto an enemy-held island is to deliver it over the water.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)
The Marines prepare constantly for that eventuality, buying gear and training on its use so they can land on the sand under fire, quickly build combat power with armor, artillery, and infantry, and then move from the beachhead inland.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)
The success of these operations depends largely on the initiative of individual Marines and small teams. Enemy defenses can quickly break up formations moving through the surf, and so junior leaders have to be ready to keep the momentum going if they lose contact with the company, battalion, or higher headquarters.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)
Many of the Marine Corp’s current vehicles are slow and cumbersome in the water, but can move much faster once their treads reach dry ground. For instance, the Assault Amphibious Vehicle can move a little over 8 mph in favorable waters, but can hit up to 20 mph off-road and 45 mph on a surfaced road.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)
The Marines have multiple versions of the AAV including the recovery vehicle shown above. AAVs can carry 40mm automatic grenade launchers and .50-cal. heavy machine guns, but the primary combat capability comes from the 21 Marine infantrymen who can deploy from the back.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)
Those infantrymen can still benefit from the AAVs after they deploy, though, since the large weapons and armor of the AAV allows it to break up enemy strongpoints more easily or safely than dismounted Marines.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)
The Marines on the ground, in addition to fighting enemy forces, will collect intelligence. Some of that will be done with hand-held cameras like that in the photo, but drones may also be flown, and Marines forward may draw maps or illustrations of enemy defense or write reports of what they’re seeing. This allows higher-level commanders and artillery and aviation leaders to target defenses and troop concentrations.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)
The destruction of enemy fortifications allows the Marines to break out from the beachhead. If they don’t get off the beaches, it makes it easier for a counterattacking enemy force to push the Marines back into the sea. A breakout helps prevent that by keeping the enemy on their back foot.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)
Keep scrolling to see more photos from the simulated raid in Australia.
The Pentagon on July 20, 2018, announced it’s giving $200 million to Ukraine to bolster its defenses as its conflict with pro-Russian separatists rages on.
This move comes as President Donald Trump continues to defend his controversial relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the two world leaders met in Helsinki in July 2018, highlighting the disconnect between the president’s rhetoric and his administration’s policies.
“The added funds will provide equipment to support ongoing training programs and operational needs, including capabilities to enhance Ukraine’s command and control, situational awareness systems, secure communications, military mobility, night vision, and military medical treatment,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
The statement also said the US has given more than id=”listicle-2589292724″ billion to Ukraine since conflict broke out there following the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin
Meanwhile, Trump on July 19, 2018 tweeted his meeting with Putin had been a “great success” while once again stating the “Fake News Media” was the “real enemy of the American people.”
The Trump administration this week also said discussions are “underway” to host Putin in Washington in fall 2018, a visit that could occur close to the 2018 midterms.
Trump and the US intelligence community’s Russian rift
The US intelligence community, which concluded Russia interfered in the 2016 US presidential election under Putin’s guidance, has warned the Kremlin is also planning attacks on future US elections — including the midterms.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats appeared to be shocked when he learned Putin was being invited by the Trump administration to the nation’s capital after spending much of the week reiterating warnings about Russia’s dubious intentions regarding the US electoral process.
Trump sided with Putin over the US intelligence community on the subject of Russian election interference during a press conference in Helsinki, only to walk back on his statements upon returning to the US.
The president claimed he’d misspoke during his summit with Putin and agreed with the US intelligence community that Russia had interfered in the election, though he added it could be “other people also.”
The White House on July 20, 2018, also said it was rejecting a proposal from Putin to hold a referendum in eastern Ukraine, calling the Russian leader’s suggestion “illegitimate.”
The conflict in Ukraine has resulted in the deaths of roughly 10,000 people, including 3,000 civilians, and displaced roughly 1.7 million.
Though Trump has long signified a desire to have a strong relationship with Putin and often complimented the Russian leader, his administration has maintained support for Ukraine in its fight against the Russian-leaning separatists in the Donbass region.
(Dept. of Defense Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
Mattis: ‘Russia should suffer consequences for its aggressive and destabilizing behavior’
Defense Secretary James Mattis has maintained a hawkish stance on Russia but on July 18, 2018, urged Congress to waive sanctions on allies who purchase Russian arms over an apparent concern it could push these countries into the Kremlin’s arms.
“Russia should suffer consequences for its aggressive and destabilizing behavior as well as its continuing illegal occupation of Ukraine,” Mattis said in a letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain.
The letter added, “[But] as we impose necessary and well-justified costs on Russia for its malign behavior, at the same time there is a compelling need to avoid significant unintended damage to our long-term, national strategic interests.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Active-duty servicemembers and veterans share many common experiences which often sets us apart from civilians. We can come together over a tour-of-duty station, a shared commander or unit, or the unforgettable aspects of our training. But it’s often our dark sense of humor — stories about Jody, tales of ass-grabbing antics on and off post, and the ribbing of comrades and competing branches alike — which underpins military culture and unites the community. That’s why I was excited when I recently discovered a growing non-profit organization, Irreverent Warriors, whose mission is to bring service members and veterans together using humor and camaraderie. Their target is to improve mental health and end veteran suicide through humor.
I was intrigued.
Fortunately for me, Irreverent Warriors was organizing a very popular event that I could attend right in New York City: a Silkies Hike. The hike was designed to get veterans, active-duty soldiers, reservists, and retired servicemembers together (in Silkies shorts — also known as “ranger panties” or “Catch-Me-F**K-Me’s”) to be among friends and build new bonds. The New York City Silkies Hike was just one of five going on that day. The hikes were held throughout the country and drew hundreds of hikers.
“As of now, we have 65 hikes scheduled for 2021,” Irreverent Warriors CEO Cindy McNally said. “We doubled the number of hikes in two years!”
But the group does more than Silkies Hikes. According to McNally, the organization has put together “camping trips, Silkies Olympics, boat trips, community clean-ups, events to serve disabled and senior vets, and much more.”
And the events are strictly for the military. The purpose is to ensure that members know that everyone who participates either wears the uniform or has worn it before.
That was reassuring for me. I knew my dirty jokes and endless f-bombs would be welcomed — even encouraged. That toilet humor doesn’t always fit well with civilians, but a soldier, airman, marine, or seaman (quick chuckle) will always get it.
So I went for it, Silkies and everything.
Warriors SP at 0830 hours led by event organizer, Marc Herzog, taking point and donning the black Irreverent Warriors flag.
As if sensing my newness, Irreverent Warriors New York Area Leader Marc Herzog told me that his first social event in 2017 “was the most amazing experience ever.”
“I found my people for the first time,” he added.
Another Irreverent Warriors member, a Marine named Kevin Bunn, assured me: “Many of us shared your experience… we’re not gonna push you. I know where you were and I know what you’re going through.”
In fact, I was quite comfortable around every hiker. I knew what type of people was around me: gritty, hard-working, selfless Americans who would jump at any opportunity to help a brother or sister in uniform.
Kevin confirmed what my gut knew: “[The vets] need these events to keep them from feeling isolated,” he said. “Just one or two events gets them through the year.”
The Warriors report to formation for a photo in Times Square, NYC. (Photo courtesy of Arturo Martinez, Marine.)
I also knew they can party, as I have done many times before (probably too much). And some partying was the first thing I saw that morning.
As we mustered at the start point in Central Park, many Irreverent Warriors members cracked open beers. I’ll admit I was a bit nervous that this affair would get out of control. As a former officer, I knew the math: soldiers + booze = debauchery.
But it turned out to be everything but that.
No matter how many drinks some Warriors had, (and a few had a lot!) they knew what line not to cross. No one urinated on the street, left garbage behind, or damaged any property. With the exception of some slurring and a little stumbling, it was pure professionalism at its finest. I was impressed, a little relieved, and totally at home.
On many occasions, curious onlookers asked the Warriors about the purpose of the group. No matter who answered, the response was always the same: “We bring veterans together using humor and camaraderie to improve mental health and prevent veteran suicide.”
A small platoon-sized element poses for a picture at one of the checkpoints, Washington Square Park, NYC.
Another Warrior, “A.A. Ron,” was asked what the group meant to him: “I met a lot of vets through IW,” he replied. “Regardless of when you served, we’re the same. We’re here for each other to lift our spirits and to enjoy our lives and the lives of others lost.”
The New York City hike hit its climax at Ground Zero. As we rounded a city corner in the Financial District, we were confronted by the Freedom Tower. The direct view of the building and how it dominated the landscape captured everyone’s attention. The party atmosphere quickly dipped into a somber state. The group, whose mood had been one of partying and incessant chanting, became silent. We all felt the same way, we all knew what this meant.
As we mustered outside the Freedom tower, several Warriors took the stage to tell their stories of those lost and remembered. The message was clear: you are not alone!
After a moment of silence, a prayer, and warm hugs we gathered our belongings and carried on with the mission, as all Warriors do.
With soldiers increasingly being asked to shoulder heavier workloads, the Army hopes to compensate them for their efforts with a 3.1 percent pay raise.
The Army’s $182.3 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2020 includes the highest pay increase for soldiers in a decade. Additionally, the service plans to raise basic housing allowances by 3.2 percent and basic subsistence allowances by 2.4 percent.
After launching a new recruiting initiative this year, the Army is aiming for a modest end-strength target next year, hoping to have 480,000 active-duty soldiers, 336,000 National Guard members and 189,500 reservists by 2020.
While much of the Army’s fiscal year 2020 budget focus has centered on modernization efforts, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy and Lt. Gen. Thomas Horlander, the military deputy for Financial Management and Comptroller, discussed the importance of readiness and quality of life during a budget briefing at the Pentagon March 12, 2019.
“Readiness will continue to be the number-one priority for the Army,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said two-thirds of the Army’s brigade combat teams are at their “highest state of readiness.” Army leaders have asked for steady and consistent funding to supplement its readiness efforts, which helped support 32 combat training center rotations this year.
Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy.
“Because of the consistent funding that we’ve gotten at a higher level here over the last couple of years, [it] has really allowed us to make some readiness gains,” Horlander said.
To meet its readiness goals, the Army proposes to increase its operations and maintenance budget to .6 billion. The plan covers an increase to infantry one-station unit training from 14 to 22 weeks. It will also provide funding to train 58 brigade combat teams, six security force assistance brigades and 11 combat aviation brigades. The service additionally plans to increase spending for flight crew hours for both active-duty and National Guard members.
The operations budget funds multi-lateral exercises in the Pacific region and in Europe to help bolster partnerships with allies, a crucial element identified in the National Defense Strategy.
“There are a lot of efforts to strengthen the partnerships with our allies,” Horlander said.
The service has prioritized improving housing standards, as senior leaders have visited post housing at different installations in recent months. The Army is asking for an additional 0 million for the restoration and modernization of soldiers’ barracks and installation facilities. Some funding will go toward three new housing projects, Horlander said.
The Army is seeking billion for its research, development and acquisition funding that will go toward newer weapons systems.
Capt. Bryson McElyea fires the M16 rifle.
(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)
The Army will cut funding from certain weapons platforms and legacy systems will be cut to funnel more funding toward the Army’s modernization efforts. McCarthy said that 93 programs were eliminated and an additional 93 will be reduced or delayed beginning in fiscal year 2020 to fiscal 2024.
“These choices were complex and difficult. At times people will focus in on … winners and losers,” McCarthy said. “But what we look at is the choices we had to make from a modernization standpoint to be the Army that we need by 2028.
While the Army will shift its focus from legacy programs, McCarthy said that some of the platforms will still be needed. Those programs will be gradually enhanced to bridge the gap between newer and older weapons systems.
The Army’s FY20 budget request now awaits approval from Congress.
The Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta — or “Delta Force” or CAG (for Combat Applications Group) or whatever its latest code name might be — is one of the best door kicking-units in the world.
From raining hell on al Qaeda in the early days of the war in Afghanistan to going after the “deck of cards” in Iraq, the super-secretive counterterrorism unit knows how to dispatch America’s top targets.
But during the wars after 9/11, Delta’s brethren in the Army Special Forces were tasked with many similar missions, going after top targets and kicking in a few doors for themselves. And Delta has a lot of former Special Forces soldiers in its ranks, so their cultures became even more closely aligned.
That’s why it’s not surprising that some might be a bit confused on who does what and how each of the units is separate and distinct from one another.
In fact, as America’s involvement in Iraq started to wind down, the new commander of the Army Special Warfare Center and School — the place where all SF soldiers are trained — made it a point to draw the distinction between his former teammates in Delta and the warriors of the Green Berets.
“I hate analogies like the ‘pointy end of the spear,’ ” said then school chief Maj. Gen. Bennett Sacolick.
“We’re not designed to hunt people down and kill them,” Sacolick said. “We have that capability and we have forces that specialize in that. But ultimately what we do that nobody else does is work with our indigenous partner nations.”
So, in case you were among the confused, here are four key differences between Delta and Special Forces:
1. Delta, what Delta?
With the modern media market, blogs, 24-hour news cycles and social media streams where everyone’s an expert, it’s tough to keep a secret these days. And particularly after 9/11 with the insatiable appetite for news and information on the war against al Qaeda, it was going to be hard to keep “Delta Force” from becoming a household name.
The dam actually broke with Mark Bowden’s seminal work on a night of pitched fighting in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993, which later became the book “Black Hawk Down.” Delta figured prominently in that work — and the movie that followed.
Previously, Delta Force had been deemed secret, it’s members signing legally-binding agreements that subjected them to prison if they spoke about “The Unit.” Known as a “Tier 1” special operations unit, Delta, along with SEAL Team 6, are supposed to remain “black” and unknown to the public.
Special Forces, on the other hand, are considered Tier 2 or “white SOF,” with many missions that are known to the public and even encourage media coverage. Sure, the Green Berets often operate in secret, but unlike Delta, their existence isn’t one.
2. Building guerrilla armies.
This is where the Special Forces differs from every other unit in the U.S. military. When the Green Berets were established in the 1950s, Army leaders recognized that the fight against Soviet Communism would involve counter insurgencies and guerrilla warfare fought in the shadows rather than armored divisions rolling across the Fulda Gap.
So the Army Special Forces, later known as the Green Berets, were created with the primary mission of what would later be called “unconventional warfare” — the covert assistance of foreign resistance forces and subversion of local governments.
“Unconventional warfare missions allow U.S. Army soldiers to enter a country covertly and build relationships with local militia,” the Army says. “Operatives train the militia in a variety of tactics, including subversion, sabotage, intelligence collection and unconventional assisted recovery, which can be employed against enemy threats.”
According to Sean Naylor’s “Relentless Strike” — which chronicles the formation of Joint Special Operations Command that includes Delta, SEAL Team 6 and other covert commando units — Delta’s main mission was to execute “small, high-intensity operations of short duration” like raids and capture missions. While Delta operators surely know how to advise and work with foreign guerrilla groups, like they did during operations in Tora Bora in Afghanistan, that’s not their main funtion like it is for Green Berets.
3. Assessment and selection.
When Col. Charles Beckwith established Delta Force in 1977, he’d spent some time with the British Special Air Service to model much of his new unit’s organization and mission structure. In fact, Delta has units dubbed “squadrons” in homage to that SAS lineage.
But most significantly, Beckwith adopted a so-called “assessment and selection” regime that aligns closely with how the Brits pick their top commandos. Delta operators have to already have some time in the service (the unit primarily picks from soldiers, but other service troops like Marines have been known to try out) and be at least an E4 with more than two years left in their enlistment.
From what former operators have written, the selection is a brutal, mind-bending hike through (nowadays) the West Virginia mountains where candidates are given vague instructions, miles of ruck humps and psychological examinations to see if they can be trusted to work in the most extreme environments alone or in small teams under great risk of capture or death.
Special Forces, on the other hand, have fairly standard physical selection (that doesn’t mean it’s easy) and training dubbed the Q Course that culminates in a major guerrilla wargame called “Robin Sage.”
The point of Robin Sage is to put the wannabe Green Berets through a simulated unconventional warfare scenario to see how they could adapt to a constantly changing environment and still keep their mission on track.
4. Size matters
Army Special Forces is a much larger organization than Delta Force, which is a small subset of Army Special Operations Command.
The Green Berets are divided up into five active duty and two National Guard groups, comprised of multiple battalions of Special Forces soldiers divided into Operational Detachments, typically dubbed “ODAs.” These are the troopers who parachute into bad guy land and help make holy hell for the dictator du jour.
Delta is a small, elite unit that specializes in direct action and other counter-terrorism missions. (Photo from YouTube)
It was ODA teams that infiltrated Afghanistan with the Northern Alliance and Pashtun groups like the one run by Hamid Karzai that overturned the Taliban.
These Special Forces Groups are regionally focused and based throughout the U.S. and overseas.
Delta, on the other hand, has a much smaller footprint, with estimates ranging from 1,000 to 1,500 operators divided into four assault squadrons and three support squadrons. Naylor’s “Relentless Strike” even hints that Delta might have women in its ranks to help infiltrate operators into foreign countries for reconnaissance missions.
And while Special Forces units are based around the world, Delta has a single headquarters in a compound ringed with concertina wire at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The U.S. Navy’s Aegis Combat System is primarily a defensive weapon (Aegis was first used in English as a synonym to “shield”), but it can also be used to attack enemy land and sea targets. Many American allies have sought to have Aegis installed on their ships or land installations, a trend that Russia hates and often protests.
The Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex fires during a flight test in December 2018.
For America’s allies around the world, this can be a godsend. Japan has to constantly worry about the possibility of a Korean nuclear missile attack. So, a package deal for highly capable radar and compatible missiles is highly desirable. But when Japan bought two of them for use ashore, Russia lodged protests.
Russia is a regional power. While it doesn’t have the might or clout of the Soviet Union, it did inherit a lot of the Soviet treaties and nearly all of the Soviet nuclear weapons when that nation collapsed. And so it doesn’t want to see its own missiles made obsolete in the unlikely chance of war with Japan, especially when it can lodge protests under treaties like the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
But when it comes to Europe, Russia is even more sensitive. The Soviet Union used to hold sway over all of Eastern Europe, but American diplomatic expansion after the Soviet collapse has allowed the U.S. to find friends in places like Ukraine, Poland, Estonia, and more that border Russia or its enclave at Kaliningrad.
While Aegis ships at sea can be equipped with everything from Tomahawk Land-Attack Missiles to the entire family of Navy Standard Missiles, Aegis Ashore was initially equipped with just the ballistic defense missile known as Standard Missile-3. But some American leaders have floated the idea of adding the missiles SM-2 and SM-6, missiles capable of killing enemy cruise missiles, jets, and helicopters.
Aegis Ashore Site in Poland under construction in August 2019.
(U.S. Navy Lt. Amy Forsythe)
For Russia, this creates obvious problems. While it has sought to fight in the so-called “grey zone” just short of open warfare in the last few years, it has previously invaded neighbors like Georgia and would like the option of doing so again. A network of missiles that could shred its jets would make the situation worse.
But Russia’s diplomatic protests against Aegis are all aimed at the Tomahawk missile, a potential treaty-violating weapon that would truly terrify Russia if deployed near its borders in large numbers. Aegis at sea can control these missiles and rain them down on America’s enemies like it did against Syria.
But as long as Aegis systems are going in across the world, Russia is going to be protesting. The Tomahawk problem is just the part they can protest against. It’s likely that the real problem for Russia is its missile threat being negated and its bombers and fighters threatened.
But, you know, sucks to be you, Russia. Get on our level.
It is my staunch belief that warriors are born and not created. In the case of either you can trace back through your past to your first ever action that made you realize — though not likely back then at the time — that you were destined to take the warrior’s or the leader’s path through life.
I came up through Army infantry at 19 years old gravely afraid of heights, a condition that kept me from becoming a paratrooper, the gateway training to the elite forces. After two years in the infantry, I was ready to jump even without a parachute if that was what it took to get me out of that horror show.
I made it into the Green Berets only to be met with great disappointment, as in those years between wars I felt we were more of an in-case-of-war-break-glass unit with peacetime ambition and an equally disappointing budget. The thought of going to war with my Green Beret A-Team scared me to the extent that I ran arms-flailing to the Delta Force, where I immediately faded into anonymity by a sea of raw talent and sheer badassery. I was home.
But even after arriving at the unit, which requires one of the toughest selections on the planet, I came to realize that the essence of my warrior spirit had been with me all along. I can finally go back to the very early days of my own basic army training and identify an event that has stayed with me for so many years. Finally, I think I understand what it meant and why the simple memory has remained close to my heart for so many decades.
Search as I have for hints of warrior potential during my coming of military status in basic training, I’m put finally in mind of a trivial incident that remains to impress me still today. I have thought of it often in attempts to make sense of it. Since it is mine, I shall own the interpretation.
It was during my own Infantry Basic Training in Sand Hill Georgia, where my platoon and I were waiting in the pine woods for a couple of hours between training events. At times like those, there was nothing to do but notice and complain about how hot it was, and it was plenty hot.
We boys huddled under the shade of an awning in our steel helmets. In that year I learned that shade was indeed only a state of mind, and had little physical impact on the Georgia swelter; where a boundary blocked the direct sun’s rays, the humidity served to usher the heat around obstacles, presenting it to who would cower. “We” huddle and bitched and complained and moaned, making it all the worse. I quickly grew annoyed with the negative attitude of the group to the extent that I, but for slight, sniped at them verbally.
The “group” — my group: the hayseed from under the Bible Belt who spoke maybe just a little too fondly of his female cousin, the guy who came in for college; he already had one semester and constantly wanted everyone to know that by saying things like: “Yeah, but that doesn’t detract from or minimize the context of what I’m saying,” the fellow who was given the choice by a judge of either the Army or jail, the black man whose dad and grandad were both in the Army before him, the white dude who felt a patriotic debt to the country but really had no clue what that meant, the Chicano who wanted something different out of life… anything other than what he was living at the time.
And then there was — OMG! — that Asian fellow who during a group debate on race and equality announced to the group: “If there is a man here who can sh*t with his pants on, let him stand now and show it!” As God as my witness, he did say that. I resigned to the notion that he was trying for something along the lines of “We all put on our trousers one leg at a time.”
I suffered too from the heat, but the urge to bellow seemed so futile, only adding to the misery. Knowing no better, I decided to remove myself from the crowd, so I stood and stepped some fifty feet away in direct view of the blazing sun. There I squatted in the muddy sand and hung my head and thought:
“The heat is bad, but it’s better than being in the shade with the pity patrol. Bad means there is a worse; there is even a worse than this… somewhere. This too is bearable. All things, no matter the intensity, are always bearable. Here, I’m setting an example for all my platoon — see me here, guys? It’s not so bad!”
Indeed remarks wafted over:
“What the hell’s the idiot doing?”
“He can’t last out there like that.”
“Someone needs to go get him; he’s delirious, he is.”
“Yeah, holy crap, man!”
You see, now no longer were they absconded in their own misery; they were submersed in mine. I had taken their suffering away, even if for this brief bout of minutes. “I complained because I had no shoes, and then I saw a man who had no feet.” Bad begets worse, and even worse is tolerable.
I think by wanting to be alone I had only drawn attention to myself… but it was done, and now I would give them a show. This is how we deal with the pain. This is how we stand up and take it… how we shake it off and defy it! This is how a much grander force within us makes a thing like the Georgia swelter such an insignificant trifle — “pour it on, Blythe! Fire your weapon!”
From the nose of my drooped head, beads of sweat were queued up and falling in serial. I decided that I would count off 100 of them before I went back to the shade. When 100 beads had fallen, I decided that I would let yet another 100 fall before I relented… then another 100, followed by another then another concatenation of 100.
After 500 had fallen, I stood and removed my helmet. I shook my face wildly, like a dog shakes off pool water upon exit. I wiped my face with my sleeves as I trudged back to the shade and the group. I remarked as I squatted back down:
“Yep… it’s a real scorcher out there today, brothers.”
And there was nothing but silence and a man who reached out his canteen my way, which I graciously declined.
Sometimes we imagine the Earth was gifted with us, to just be us, our mystical, magical, wonderful selves. Other times we might wonder if the planet might get along just swimmingly without us. Ask ten people if they “march to the beat of a different drum,” and you will get ten affirmative answers every time. Now watch when the different drumsticks start their cadence how many stand, step out, and march… and keep marching until 500 beads of their sweat have rolled from their nose and hit the ground.
As I have searched and debated over the years to answer the question are warriors born or made, I often think back to the quote from Heraclitus nearly 2,000 years ago,
“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.” (Heraclitus c. 535 – c. 475 BCE)