This is how dog tags got their name - We Are The Mighty
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This is how dog tags got their name

Troops carry with them the reminder of their death on the battlefield. Nearly every military since has a variation of identification tags, but it’s American troops who truly intertwine them within their culture. There’s deep-rooted symbolism behind dog tags.


To the American war fighter, it is as much of a badge of honor as everything else carried with them. The tags give the survivors of the conflict all of the necessary information about the fallen warrior. When they go to meet their maker on the battlefield, one is collected for immediately for notification and the other is used in case cannot be immediately recovered.

Carrying around some sort of identification for a warrior’s remains is a time honored tradition. Going as far back as the ancient Spartans, the phrase “Come back with your shield or on it” had a deeper meaning.

Of course, it’s a cold way for a wife to tell her husband to win the fight or die with honor. But the intricate and deeply personal designs of the Spartan shield meant that the wife could have closure if he fell in battle. Even the Roman Legionaries carried lead disks in a pouch around their neck called “signaculum.”

 

This is how dog tags got their name
Roman Signaculum, one of the first identification tags. (Image via Rome Across Europe)

The first time American troops would use tags to identify their bodies was with Gen. George Meade having his men write their name and unit designation on a piece of paper. In 1906, aluminum tags were introduced and by 1913, it became mandatory to wear.

Through out the years, what was written on the tags has changed, and each branch of the current U.S. armed forces has different information written on them, but what remains constant is the troop’s name, religion, and usually the blood type.

The term “dog tags” actually can’t be found in U.S. military regulations, where instead they’re called “identification tags.” The military always has ridiculous names for everything, right? A shovel is an “entrenching tool,” a bed is a “rack,” the bumbling idiot who just graduated college is “sir.” The list goes on.

This is how dog tags got their name
A pair of blank dog tags hang from a battlefield cross on display during a Memorial Day ceremony, May 25, 2015, in Goldsboro, N.C. The battlefield cross presentation is a tradition that began during the Civil War and continues today to show respect for fallen service members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Shawna L. Keyes)

Among the first instances of the identification tags being called “dog tags” comes from the Prussian Army in 1870. It comes from the term “hundemarken” which was similar to what each dog in the then Prussian capital of Berlin required. The American adaptation of the name dates to just before WWII.

During the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted the Social Security Act. Through enumeration, the idea was to give a social security number to all employees across America. Troops would be an easy group to convince to adopt this change. We already had identification tags and incorporating a social security number into it for further identification was a smooth transition.

In comes William Randolph Hearst. History buffs may remember him as the media mogul who controlled the era’s news. Film nerds know him as the unofficial subject of “Citizen Kane.” He was also a fierce opponent of FDR and the New Deal.

Hearst began spreading a rumor about how the Social Security Act would label all workers with tags and probe them for all of their personal information. In reality, only one was ever created as a prototype in the massive brainstorm of ideas and was shot down early in favor of the cards we use today.

This is how dog tags got their name

As troops adopted the SSN into their tags, it was further proof Hearst needed that FDR wanted to destroy America. The fear mongering of “you’re treated like dogs! Your personal information will be taken away! The government will own you!” continued. Soldiers, sailors, and Marines would read the papers by Hearst with indifference, gave a collective “Meh, we know,” and rolled with it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Gen. Ham discusses his military career and how to stay ready for war

Few know mission command better than retired Gen. Carter F. Ham. In the time between his enlistment as an infantryman in 1973 and his retirement as a geographic combatant commander in 2013, Ham experienced the Army from a variety of perspectives, including as the commander of U.S. Army Europe and as the director for operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

As the current president and chief executive officer of the Association of the U.S. Army, Ham continues to make a difference on behalf of the men and women who serve. Here are his insights on mission command as the Army looks to the future.


Q: After having a career that spanned four decades, what does mission command mean to you?

A: When I think of mission command, it is getting the right process by which leaders make decisions to employ their forces from the strategic to tactical levels. It is freedom to act within intent and established parameters, and it’s achieving the right blend of initiative and control.

I’ve thought about this a lot as the Army sometimes has a tendency to rebrand old ideas with new names. The term “mission command” started gaining momentum over “command and control” in the late 2000s, particularly when Gen. Martin Dempsey was at Training and Doctrine Command. A lot of talk within the profession suggested this really wasn’t anything new but, rather, what the Army had always done in terms of mission-type orders and building trust.

This is how dog tags got their name

General Carter F. Ham.

My sense was that it wasn’t quite the same. The cohort of senior Army officers at the time, myself included, grew up mostly in the Cold War era with very clearly defined boundaries, rear areas, adjacent units, and the like. When that era changed and the Army found itself in highly irregular warfare, leaders recognized command and control wasn’t adequate for the new environment.

The command piece was okay, but the control piece was overly regulated given the circumstances in which the Army was anticipated to operate. It was time for a change, and I think mission command was exactly the right focus. With varying degrees at varying levels, and certainly as circumstances change, we must enable leaders to operate with empowered, disciplined initiative and higher degrees of flexibility.

Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as commander of U.S. Africa Command?

A: Most Americans think of Africa as a single place; it’s not. It is huge; at the very least, Africa is 54 countries with vast geographic differences, linguistic challenges, and economic, cultural, and ethnic diversity. It’s an exceedingly complex area of operations.

When Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told me he intended to recommend the president nominate me for [commanding general of] the Africa Command, I had two feelings simultaneously. First was pure exhilaration: “Holy smokes, you’re going to be a combatant commander! You get your picture hung on the entryway of the Pentagon!”

But instantaneously, the second feeling hit: “You don’t know anything about Africa.” At the time, it was not a part of the world any of us in the military thought much about.

This is how dog tags got their name

Carter F. Ham as lieutenant colonel commanding U.S. forces in Camp Able Sentry, Macedonia, speaking to Admiral William Owens in 1995.

I was going from a very Europe-centric career — frankly a very comfortable setting for me because I had relationships with many of the senior leaders — to exceeding discomfort in Africa. It was intellectually stimulating, but I just didn’t have that foundational understanding of the area of operations as I did in Europe.

For me, this was mission command in practice at the upper operational and strategic levels. Despite the dispersed nature of U.S. forces, the requirement to work with host-nation forces, and the diversity of missions — ranging from very precise targeted activities and hostage rescue to maritime security, humanitarian assistance, and veterinary teams helping with herds of animals — there was still an expectation from the Secretary of Defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the other service chiefs. They were empowering me to make decisions in this vast and complex area of responsibility.

You can’t do that with a highly structured, highly controlling style of leadership. I had to catch myself sometimes, and my senior enlisted leaders would often remind me, “General, they don’t need you to tell them how many times to turn the screwdriver; they need your intent.”

If you can describe your intent, subordinate leaders will accomplish the mission.

Q: How does mission command need to evolve to maximize readiness for the future operational environment?

A: There is recognition that the Army has to refocus after 15-plus years of irregular warfare and counter-insurgency operations. Gen. [Mark] Milley has it right; we have to get back to preparing for combat operations across all domains against a very capable, state-based adversary. It’s a much more complex environment in which to operate.

The first half of my career was highly structured and very clearly focused on a state-based adversary, the Soviet Union. It was a very dangerous, but also very predictable, period. We knew their doctrine and organizational structure; they knew ours. We knew their equipment and capabilities; they knew ours. Our war plans were incredibly detailed: we knew exactly where we were going to fight and exactly where almost every soldier was going to go in the defense of Western Europe. Control was dominant.

That is not the environment in which the Army will operate in the future. We have to develop leaders who can thrive in the ambiguity that is certain to exist in future combat. Leaders must know how to exercise mission command and make proper decisions without linkages to their higher and adjacent units, or when communications are degraded. That, I think, is the great challenge the Army faces today.

This is how dog tags got their name

Carter F. Ham speaking to reporters during a press briefing at the Pentagon in October 2005.

Q: Can you discuss the importance of mission command for sustainment formations?

A: I’m not a logistician, but I learned the importance of sustainers early. When I was a division operations officer, I had some great mentoring from my division commander. The simple message was, “The brigades, they’re going to win the fight; you don’t need to spend time mapping things out for them. Your job is to set the conditions for those brigades to operate, and the biggest piece of that is sustainment.”

In the Cold War, sustainment was a complex operation; it’s tenfold more complex today. There are no longer safe rear areas, secure supply routes, or the ability to move “iron mountains” of supplies to the point of need at a moment’s notice.

In my era, sustainment was mostly a math problem: how do you move stuff from point A to point B? Today’s sustainment challenge is much more of an art than it is a science. How will sustainers make sure that dispersed, often separated, units have what they need to fight and win on the future battlefield?

The science is certainly still there; you still have to make sure fuel, water, chow, and ammunition are at the right place at the right time. But now, more than ever, sustainers have to be inside the heads of maneuver commanders, understanding what they want to achieve. That’s where it becomes more of an art, and I think that’s where mission command enters into the realm for sustainment leaders.

Q: How important is training?

A: I’m old enough to have been in the Army before there were combat training centers, and it’s night and day. I was an opposing force guy at the National Training Center in the mid- to late-1980s, and you could see the Army get better. Repetition matters. Complexity matters. The difficulty created in the training base matters.

We want Army leaders to be more challenged in their training than they will be in combat. That’s tough to achieve these days, particularly given multi-domain operations. How do you create that cyber, electronic warfare, or geographic complexity leaders will have to deal with? The more we invest in the rigors of our training, the better off we will be. That certainly applies to the sustainment force.

There are tremendous opportunities in the Synthetic Training Environment that allow for repetition and increased difficulty without great expense. At some point you still have to put Army units in the dirt to train, but it’s the most expensive way to do so. There’s so much you can do prior to that point so that units enter that phase at a much higher level. For all of our forces, the Synthetic Training Environment will yield a stronger Army that is able to train at levels we can’t imagine today.

This is how dog tags got their name

General Carter F. Ham being sworn into office as the Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe by Cairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen on Aug. 28, 2008.

Q: Where does integration with our allies and coalition partners fit into mission command?

A: In our guiding documents, including the National Military Strategy and Army vision, we’ve established a recognition that the Army will always operate with allies and partners. The scale will vary from time to time, but we’re always going to do so in some form. As fast as the Army is changing, we have to be careful we don’t leave our allies and partners out of our modernization efforts.

We also have to become increasingly comfortable with the idea of U.S. maneuver forces being sustained by forces of another country and vice versa. This became almost normal for us when our force presence in Iraq and Afghanistan was very high. Now that force levels are significantly lower, junior leaders have less opportunity to interact with our allies and partners. We have to find a way to replicate those kinds of activities in the training base.

Again, I think it is more art than science. Part of the art is making sure each of the partners has responsibility for support, for sustaining, and for direction in a coalition-type operation. That doesn’t happen by accident. Through the exercise of mission command, we want to create leaders who are comfortable in multinational environments.

Q: How are we doing as an Army when it comes to soldier resilience?

A: When I came home from Iraq, I think like many soldiers, I felt incomplete. I felt I had left soldiers behind; I came home and those I had served with were still there. I came to the Pentagon, the five-sided puzzle palace, and my work just didn’t feel very fulfilling. I had this tremendous longing to go back.

As a one-star general at the time, I don’t pretend I was on patrol facing hard combat every day like a squad leader or platoon sergeant. That’s an extraordinary kind of stress I frankly didn’t see on a daily basis. I think for leaders the effect is a little different; it’s a different kind of stress. Particularly for commanders, when you lose soldiers in combat — soldiers who are wounded or killed executing orders you issued — that stays with you.

When I came home, it was my wife who said, “Hey listen, you’ve changed.” That was important. It was recognition that a normal person can’t be exposed to combat and be unchanged. A lot of soldiers go through combat and deal with it very effectively. They’re resilient, they deal with it openly and confront it, and they continue to move forward. But there’s a spectrum, and on the other end are soldiers who have post-traumatic stress or, in more severe cases, traumatic brain injury. I was one of those who needed a little bit of help; mine came from an Army chaplain.

I’ll confess I was outed publicly. It wasn’t me coming forward; it was someone else talking about it. But as a general officer, my sense was [that] many other soldiers were having the same challenges readjusting to a nondeployed environment. If coming forward publicly would encourage one other soldier to get help and to say, “I’m having a tough time,” to his or her spouse, a chaplain, a social worker, a commander, a first sergeant, to somebody — then my speaking out was worthwhile.

I think the Army is once again leading the nation in matters like this. The senior leadership — the Secretary, Chief of Staff, and Sergeant Major of the Army — are coming forward and saying, “Hey, it is strength to step forward and say I need a little bit of help.”

This is how dog tags got their name

Carter F. Ham listens to a soldier’s comments during a visit to the headquarters of the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Reserve.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Mark Bell)

That’s what the Army needs. We need soldiers who can take a blow, whether physical or psychological, recover, and be stronger in continuing their mission.

There’s still a lot of work to be done; we shouldn’t kid ourselves that the stigma is gone. We have to keep it as a frontline Army effort and continue to say, “This can make you stronger; and when you’re stronger, our Army is stronger.” But I’m really proud of our efforts thus far.

Q: You’re one of only a few to rise from private to four-star general. What advice do you have for soldiers today?

A: First, recognize I didn’t go from private to four-star overnight; there were just a few intervening steps along the way. When I was enlisted, I rose to the exalted position of being our battalion command sergeant major’s driver. He was, to me, the model of the noncommissioned officer: mission-focused, hard on soldiers, and always fair. He made me a better soldier. And after all these years, it comes back to one question, “Why do you serve?”

We get so busy sometimes that we forget this. We talk a lot about what we do; we talk less about what we’re for. Whenever I have the opportunity to talk to young leaders, both enlisted and officers, I ask them to think about the oath they took. It is the bond that ties us together, the shared commitment each one of us made to serve the nation.

In my mind, it’s what makes the Army such a unique organization. I have lots of experience as a joint officer, and I truly value the other services. We have the best Marine Corps, the best Navy, and the best Air Force. But of all the services, I think the Army is uniquely of the people. We’re the biggest and most diverse. I think it’s worthwhile to sit back and say, “What is this Army for, and why is it that more than one million women and men have raised their right hand and said I’m willing to do this?”

Every now and then, take time to think about it. Don’t get consumed by it, but take pause and remember why you chose to serve this nation. I found when I did, it caused me to reflect as a professional soldier and “re-green” myself. For any Army leader — enlisted, officer, or civilian — it’s a worthy endeavor to remember why.

Arpi Dilanian is a strategic analyst in the Army G-4’s Logistics Initiatives Group. She holds a bachelor’s degree from American University and a master’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Matthew Howard is a strategic analyst in the Army G-4’s Logistics Initiatives Group. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Georgetown University.

This article was published in the January-March 2019 issue of Army Sustainment.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

World War II battleship Wisconsin celebrates 76th birthday

In 1939, Congress authorized the construction of the USS Wisconsin. The build began at the Philadelphia Naval Yard in 1941. The United States was still doing everything she could to avoid being involved in the war in Europe, but preparing nonetheless. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor eleven months later would change everything.

The world was now at war for the second time and the USS Wisconsin would join the fight.
This is how dog tags got their name

In 1943 on the second anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, the USS Wisconsin launched. She was commissioned on April 16, 1944. She left Norfolk, VA, and began her work. A few months later, the USS Wisconsin earned her first star in battle by supporting carriers during Leyte Operation: Luzon Attacks. She would go on to prove her seaworthiness by surviving a typhoon that took out three ships.

In January of 1945 while heavily armed, she escorted fast carriers who completed air strikes against Formosa, Luzon. By supporting these strikes, she earned her second battle star. Shortly after that she was assigned to the 5th Fleet. She went on to assist in the strike against Tokyo, which was a cover for the eventual invasion of Iwo Jima.
This is how dog tags got their name

Under the cover of terrible weather, the USS Wisconsin supported landing operations for Iwo Jima, earning her third battle star. She would earn her fourth in an operation against Okinawa. Following that, she showed her might by keeping the enemy at bay with her powerful weapons and taking down three enemy planes. The USS Wisconsin earned a fifth star after operations against Japan. After putting in over 100,000 miles at sea since joining the fleet, she dropped her anchor in Tokyo Bay. She was vital to the support of the Pacific naval operations for World War II and earned her rest. She was inactivated in 1948 and decommissioned. It wouldn’t last long.

The USS Wisconsin rejoined the fleet in 1951 to assist in the Korean War operations. Following that war, she was placed out of commission yet again in 1958, and sat idle for 28 years until she was needed once more. She would go on to support operations in the Gulf War in 1991. Throughout her six months there, she played an absolute vital role in restoring Kuwait. She was decommissioned for the third and final time — she definitely earned her retirement.

The USS Wisconsin now sits in Norfolk, VA open to the public as a museum.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy prepares for healthy Thanksgiving feast

As Thanksgiving approaches, Navy Culinary Specialists (CS) around the world are preparing to serve sailors a healthy variety of traditional fare.

This year, the Navy plans to serve an estimated 105,000 pounds of roast turkey, 24,000 pounds of stuffing, 54,000 pounds of mashed potatoes, 20,000 pounds of sweet potatoes, 5,000 pounds of cranberry sauce, and 4,500 gallons of gravy.


In support of the Navy’s ongoing Go for Green nutrition awareness program, the food offered in shore and ship galleys during Thanksgiving will be labeled to encourage healthy food choices; green (eat often), yellow (eat occasionally), and red (eat rarely), along with a salt shaker graphic to measure sodium content. The food classification is based on calories, total fat, cholesterol, and sodium content. Go for Green encourages healthier food and beverage selections to support peak physical and cognitive performance of sailors. The Navy food service team takes professional pride in their quality service and important contributions to fleet health and readiness.

This is how dog tags got their name

The combined leadership of Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, and U.S. Embassy Djibouti staff, serve a Thanksgiving meal to forward-deployed service members, civilians, and contractors, Nov. 22, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Shannon D. Barnwell)

About 7,000 Culinary Specialists serve in our Navy today. They receive extensive training in culinary arts, hotel management and other hospitality industry areas. Culinary Specialists provide food service, catering and hospitality services for sailors, senior government executives, and within the White House Mess for the President of the United States.

They are responsible for all aspects of the shipboard mess decks and shore duty living areas, and are vital to maintaining high crew morale on ships, construction battalions and shore bases.

This article originally appeared on United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

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6 stupid simple steps to achieving stronger pull-ups

For Marines, doing twenty solid pull-ups is literally good for your career. Each time your chin crosses the bar’s threshold is five more points added to your physical fitness test score. That’s huge for any jarhead looking to get promoted. Plus, they’re just a great measure of how strong you are.

Pull-ups are a great equalizer. Yeah, you may be able to lift a ton, but if you aren’t lean, all that extra weight can hold you down while trying to pull yourself up. And if you think you’ve got it made because you’re skinny, you’ll quickly remember how important it is to be strong as your body flails around below the bar like a worm on a hook.


It takes discipline to master this exercise classic. So, to help elevate you young Devil Dogs, here are a few simple steps that’ll make you more capable on the bar during a PFT — and throughout life in general.

This is how dog tags got their name

Photo by Stew Smith

1. Stretch

Sounds like common sense, but very few people actually stretch on a regular basis. And if they do, chances are they’re not doing it very well. Understand that stretching leads to increased muscle control, enhanced range of motion, and improves circulation by upping blood flow to the muscles.

This is everything a body needs to perform and recover from exercise. It’ll make you feel better, both now and later.

This is how dog tags got their name

There’s no disgrace in a red face — but try to breathe a little.

2. Take it slow

How many times have you seen a Marine who said they can do sixteen pull-ups — but when they get on the bar, it’s a fury of swinging and kipping that ends in a red-faced warrior collapsing to the ground without having done a single real pull-up? One day, they’ll find themselves being monitored by Sgt. Strict and not have even one of those reps counted, leaving them with a less-than-mediocre score. Don’t be that leatherneck.

Instead, practice doing very slow, very strict pull-ups. Count out loud or have a buddy count for you: One full second to pull your chin up and over the bar and three full seconds to lower yourself down to a completely locked-out, dead hang. Breathe and take it slow. Doing this will likely cut your repetitions by half, but don’t be discourage. Stay strict and your strength will increase exponentially.

This is how dog tags got their name

3. Now kip, baby, kip!

You’ve been humbled by your new number, now it’s time to spread your wings and fly!

When done properly, kipping pull-ups can help you break through performance plateaus, increase overall strength, incorporate back muscles that may otherwise go unused, and increase confidence by inflating your rep count.

The Kipping Pull-Up

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Just be sure to wear gloves and do them properly, hands have been known to get torn up doing this exercise. Try alternating, week over week, between doing strict pull-ups and kipping to increase your overall performance.

This is how dog tags got their name

Is this really necessary?

4. Add weight

When you start feeling comfortable with pull-ups, try adding weight. Start with an empty vest and add on gradually. Doing strict, traditional pull-ups with extra weight will make you feel as light as a feather come kip week and increase your number dramatically.

This is how dog tags got their name

5. Get some rack time

Sleep is an essential part of the recovery process. All that work you’re putting in will be for nothing if you don’t allow your body the opportunity to rest and repair from the internal, micro trauma taking place in your muscles. If you want to do twenty, then sleep eight — it’s that simple.

This is how dog tags got their name

photo by Cpl. Kirstin Merrimarahajara

6. Actually do them

Get a calendar. Make a plan. Do it.

No matter how well-crafted your routine may be, if it isn’t a part of your daily routine, then nothing will change. Being fit and strong is a lifelong endeavor that requires every bit of discipline and fortitude as anything else worth attaining. There may be better techniques and smarter methods, but there is no substitute for hard work. If you want to be able to do pull-ups, you must do pull-ups consistently and correctly over a long period of time without interruption.

Get motivated and go be great.

MIGHTY HISTORY

16 facts you never knew about the American flag

It’s time to get out your stars and stripes – it’s Flag Day! June 14, 1777, is the date that Congress officially chose the design for our flag, and Americans have been pledging their allegiance to it ever since. While you’ll only get the day off work if you live in Pennsylvania, the state where the flag originated, the holiday’s history and meaning are important to know. Whether you’re reading this on Flag Day or any other day, these facts are fun enough to learn all year long.


This is how dog tags got their name

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1. Betsy Ross may not be the flag’s real designer

Betsy Ross is often cited as the designer of the first American Flag, but we have little evidence to support that claim. Her grandson presented statements by his own family in 1870, but beyond that, there’s no proof. Some historians want to transfer the credit to Francis Hopkinson, who was named as the flag’s designer in journals from the Continental Congress.

This is how dog tags got their name

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2. The celebration of the flag was invented by a teacher

In 1885, a 19-year-old teacher named Bernard J. CiGrand asked his class to write an essay on the symbolism of our flag. He spent the following half-century trying to make Flag Day a national holiday.

This is how dog tags got their name

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3. There have been 27 official versions of the American flag

On the American flag, the stripes represent the 13 original colonies, while the stars represent each state. Since there weren’t always 50 states, there weren’t always 50 stars. Each flag was similar, but with a different number of stars. If you visit the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, you can see the remnants of the 15-star, 15-stripe flag that inspired the national anthem.

4. The colors of the flag have important meanings

Red, white and blue were chosen to represent, respectively, valor, liberty and purity. The colors also have specific names; “Old Glory Blue,” “Old Glory Red”, and white. Just plain white.

5. The current version of the flag was designed by a student

In 1949, 17-year-old Robert G. Heft created an updated flag for a class project, and the poor kid only got a B-. Luckily, that didn’t dissuade him. He submitted his idea to President Eisenhower when Alaska and Hawaii gained statehood. Our of over 1500 submissions, his design was chosen.

This is how dog tags got their name

6. The flag has rules of its own. Lots of them.

According to the U.S. Flag Code:

– The flag shouldn’t be flown in bad weather.
– It should be raised and lowered slowly.
– No other flags should be placed above it.
– When flags from two or more nations are flown, they should rest on separate poles at the same height. They should also be about the same size.
– It must be flown at every school and during all school days.
– If flown at night, the flag should be illuminated.
– Flags can be burned if they become damaged and can no longer be flown.
– And many more.

7. You can’t sign your name on it

Despite what flag-signing politicians would have you believe, The Flag Code strictly prohibits adding any markings or drawings to the flag.

8. … or put it on a t-shirt

Every 4th of July, half the country is decked out in stars and stripes. As it turns out, we’re not really supposed to do that. The Flag Code actually specifies that the Stars and Stripes should never be used on clothing, bedding, or decorations. Considering how much Americans love our flag merch, that’s one rule we’ll probably keep breaking for a long, long time.

This is how dog tags got their name

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9. Flying a flag upside down isn’t necessarily disrespectful

At least not in the way you’re thinking of. An upside-down flag isn’t usually a signal of protest, rather, it’s a signal of distress. On your next cruise, if you see someone frantically waving an upside-down flag on a nearby island, he’s probably not a rebel. He’s stranded.

10. Burning a flag isn’t technically illegal

Historically, unlike flying a flag upside down, burning the flag WAS done as an act of protest. The Flag Protection Act of 1968 made this illegal, but the act was revoked 20 years later. The Supreme Court ruled that the government couldn’t limit citizens’ First Amendment rights, making it legal to do whatever you want to a flag with no legal consequences.

11. Indestructible flags exist

Historically, enemies of the United States have burned or defaced our flag to make a statement. (That’s why messing with the flag is a really, really bad idea, even if it’s not illegal!) To protect defaced flags from being used as a propaganda tool by enemies, a Green Beret veteran has designed an all but indestructible flag. Made out of kevlar and Nomex, the new materials ensure the flag can’t be burned or torn while still allowing it to fly naturally. Here’s how to order your Firebrand Flag today (and the first 150 WATM readers to order get off and free shipping – a additional savings!)

This is how dog tags got their name

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12. Using the American flag in burial ceremonies isn’t just for veterans

While draping the flag over the coffins of government officials and veterans is common practice, it’s not their exclusive right. Anyone can adopt this tradition if they like it!

13. Old Glory was the nickname of a specific American flag 

We now refer to any ol’ flag as Old Glory, but that wasn’t always the case. It started with a sea captain named William Driver, who nicknamed the flag on his ship “Old Glory” when he saw it flying on his ship’s mast back in 1831. It was such a good nickname that it stuck for good.

14. After 9/11 we held our flag a little closer

National tragedies are known for bringing our country together. According to Karen Burke of Walmart’s Corporate Communications, their stores sold 115,000 flags on September 11, 2001, compared to only 6,400 flags in 2000. In the following year, they sold a whopping 7.8 million US flags- around triple the sales of the previous year.

15. There are 6 American flags on the moon

…but only 5 are standing. Over the course of many moon expeditions, six US flags have been planted. The wind generated by the landing and takeoff of a shuttle, however, dislodged the original flag placed there by Neil Armstrong during the first-ever moon landing.

16. ‘Gilligan’s Island’ directors respected the flag.

During the opening sequence of the first season of the show, the American flag is filmed at half-staff. This was done to honor President Kennedy, who was assassinated the day the pilot episode was filmed.

You don’t have to walk to the moon to honor our flag. Kick off the Flag Day festivities by learning how to properly fold a flag, learn more about its history, or try one of these tasty, patriotic treats!

Which fact was your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what troops do when they’re wintered over in Antarctica

Winter sucks everywhere. Sure, the bugs have finally frozen over and you can finally break out that coat you like, but it’s cold, you’re always late because your car won’t defrost in time, and no one seems to remember to tap their brakes when stopping at intersections.

But, as any optimist might tell you, things can always get worse! While it sucks for us up here in the middle of December, it’s actually the nicest time to be in Antarctica — nice by Antarctic standards anyway.

It doesn’t last, though, as the winters there begin in mid-February and don’t let up until mid-November. And don’t forget, we have brothers and sisters in the U.S. Armed Forces down there embracing the suck of the coldest temperatures on Earth.


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McMurdo Station is by far the most populated location on the entire continent with a population of 250 in the winter.

(Photo by Sarah E. Marshall)

To ensure that no hostilities occur on the frozen continent, the Antarctica Treaty lists it as “the common heritage of mankind.” As such, only scientific expeditions are allowed down there. Since airmen, sailors, and coast guardsmen have the capabilities to assist in this respect, they routinely travel to scientific research facilities to help out. Their mission is, simply, keep the scientists alive and let them focus on doing their jobs.

During the winter, which, as we’d mentioned, lasts for ten months, most scientists head to more hospitable climates. Most. Not all. It’s up to the troops to help keep those who remain safe and well. Thankfully, there are only three spots on the entire barren continent that they need to keep tabs on: McMurdo Station, Palmer Station, and the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

The ports and airstrips at Palmer Station remain active year round. In case of any emergencies, the Air Force and Navy can quickly send supplies into Palmer to have it distributed out further. At McMurdo Station, the winters are a little more intense, so the ports and airstrip are strictly for emergency use — but they manage.

Then there’re the troops with the scientists at the South Pole Station. They’re almost entirely frozen in. Thankfully, it doesn’t snow that much at the South Pole, but the wind combined with near-permanent darkness make it feel close to -100 Fahrenheit. The only real thing to do then is to bunker inside at the one bar located at the South Pole and wait for ten months inside.

To see what the winters actually look like in Antarctica, check out the video below.

Humor

7 times enlisted troops don’t want to salute

Saluting is a non-verbal form of communication used in day-to-day military life and during various ceremonies to convey respect.


As recruits, we learn how to properly execute a hand-salute, and it’s an act we demonstrate hundreds of times throughout our service. The hand gesture quickly becomes part of our muscle memory.

Although the gesture is meant to pay respect, there are a few times in which enlisted personnel want to hold back their rendered salutes — these are a few of those times.

Related: 7 different types of MPs you’ll face at the gate

1. When you’re on a roll, working hard, but then “Colors” begins.

Sure, we joined the military because we’re patriotic, but it sucks to shift your focus when you’ve got momentum.

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2. When it’s 3 a.m., you’re half asleep on barracks duty, and the Officer of the Day walks in.

Oh, sh*t! You weren’t sleeping, right? Just tell them you were just praying before you screw up the salute.

3. After a 12-hour shift guarding the gate and you’ve already saluted at least 500 blue stickers.

“If I have to salute another dependant with a blue sticker, I’m going to flip.”

This is how dog tags got their name
(Photo by U.S. Marine Cpl. Jo Jones)

4. When it’s freezing outside and evening “Taps” sounds off.

Sometimes, it’s just too damn cold out to be patriotic.

5. When an officer from another branch rolls around.

Yuck… Let’s just get this over with.

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Also Read: 5 common movie mistakes veterans can spot right away

6. Having to salute a lower-ranking troop to gain entry onto the ship.

To get payback later, make sure the lower enlistee salutes you back with proper freakin’ form.

7. After work, when you’re carrying more than a case of beer back to the barracks, and an officer walks by.

Whatever you do, do not make eye contact with the general.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The best American tank of World War II rarely saw combat

Sometimes, a good weapon system never gets a chance to shine. In some cases, there simply aren’t any conflicts going on through which the gear can demonstrate its worth (the B-36 Peacemaker comes to mind). In other cases, a piece of technology might mark an important milestone, but end up virtually obsolete by the time the next war rolls around, as was the case with USS Ranger (CV 4).

Well, the M26 Pershing fits into neither of these categories. While over 2,000 of these tanks were produced, they largely missed World War II because of bureaucratic infighting. The few tanks that did get to the front lines performed well, though — leaving many to wonder what might have happened had an Army general by the name of Leslie McNair been more open-minded.


Here’s the deal. Prior to World War II, the United States Army didn’t think that tanks should fight other tanks. Instead, that job was relegated to the aptly named tank destroyer class of vehicle. These vehicles were fast and had potent guns, but sacrificed a lot of armor to achieve such a speed. Meanwhile, the mission of the tank was to support infantry.

That was the leading theory of the time and, as a result, the Army went with the M4 Sherman – producing over 50,000 of those tanks.

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One of the few M26 Pershing tanks that got to the front lines.

(US Army)

Reality, of course, tells a different story. If tanks support infantry and infantry fights infantry, then logic would tell us that tanks would end up facing off against other tanks as those tanks supported opposing infantry. In essence, a key capability in supporting infantry is the ability to kill the other side’s tanks.

The Pershing could do just that with its 90mm main gun (and the 70 rounds it carried for it). Unfortunately, GIs would never get the chance to witness that.

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M26 Pershings being prepared to embark on LSTs in Pusan, South Korea.

(US Army)

According to tanks-encyclopedia.com, Leslie McNair, who headed Army Ground Forces, stuck with the pre-war theory. His opposition to a new tank delayed the M26’s service entry. Eventually, McNair was given a combat assignment and killed by friendly fire during the fighting near Saint-Lô.

The Pershing reached the front lines after the Battle of the Bulge proved the inadequacy of the M4 Sherman in tank combat.

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The M26 Pershing saw some action in the Korean War, but many were soon shipped to Europe to bolster NATO.

(USMC)

The Pershing went on to see some action in the Korean War, but it was quickly shifted to Europe to bolster the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Eventually, it was replaced by the M46/M47/M48 Patton family of tanks.

Watch the video below to learn more about this great tank that never get a real shot to prove itself.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FURywJI-MkU

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY CULTURE

2 more women attempt Air Force special warfare training

Two more women are attempting to enter the U.S. Air Force’s combat controller and pararescue (PJ) battlefield airman career fields.

The women, who were not identified for privacy reasons, are the first to enter the official training pipelines of those career fields, according to 1st Lt. Jeremy Huggins, a spokesman for the Special Warfare Training Wing.

However, they are not the first two female candidates to attempt PJ or combat controller training overall, he said Nov. 1, 2019.


“One candidate is pursuing pararescue, [but] she is currently not in training,” Huggins said in an email. “The most common reasons for this are medical hold, administrative hold or waiting for a training class to begin. The second woman is a combat control (CCT) candidate, and she is currently in the Special Warfare Preparatory Class.”

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U.S. Air Force pararescuemen.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Erik Cardenas)

The prep class runs eight weeks. Once she graduates, she will proceed to the Assessment and Selection (AS) course, he added.

The two new candidates make the 10th and 11th women to attempt any type of battlefield courses under the Special Warfare Training Wing, and the 11th and 12th to express interest in the program since the Defense Department opened combat career fields to all in December 2015.

Of the female candidates who have previously attempted to join the service’s special warfare program, seven pursued Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) training; one tried pararescue training. Another woman recently dropped from the special reconnaissance program — previously known as special operations weather team, or SOWT — in August 2019, according to Air Education and Training Command.

The 10th, who attempted to become a combat controller, left the program, Huggins said. AETC previously mistakenly said that she had graduated the prep course.

The battlefield airmen career fields are comprised of special tactics officer, combat rescue officer, combat controller, pararescue, special reconnaissance, TACP specialist and air liaison officer.

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Combat controllers from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron fast-rope from a CV-22 Osprey.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

Huggins said it’s no secret that these career fields are tough.

“There is no specific timeline as to when we’ll see our first woman serving as a Special Warfare airman in one of the seven combat-related career fields,” he said. “From start to finish, it may take up to two years for a woman to join an operational unit because of the Air Force’s natural timeline to recruit, access, select and train.”

Earlier this year, Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, said in written testimony before the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on personnel that attrition in these career field pipelines has been high because of the grueling training.

Attrition across the elite training pipelines ranges between 40 and 90 percent, depending on specialty, he added.

“Consequently, we do not foresee large numbers of females in operational units in the near term,” Kelly said in February 2019.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Mysterious “Col. Ned Stark” comes forward with true identity

Ned Stark was an honorable man, a protector of the realm— a king for the people, and a man who was wholly dedicated to the balance of power in leadership. How fitting then, that the mysterious man who wrote biting columns on the Air Force’s leadership development, chose the pen name “Col. Ned Stark.”


The columns went viral from their inception and have been regularly stirring the pot for a year. The columns have been applauded for their straight candid talk about the flaws in how the Air Force makes leadership decisions. Nobody knew the mastermind, the “true” Col. Ned Stark, behind these columns…Until now.

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Col. Jason Lamb, director of intelligence, analysis, and innovation at Air Education and Training Command, previously known as Col. Ned Stark

(Ben Murray-Air Force Times)

“Col. Ned Stark” wrote under a pseudonym to protect his career from being targeted by the same leaders that he criticizes. It’s ironic that he also understands that he must write these covertly, lest his career be threatened by the same kind of power abuse that he sheds light on, “The power that comes with rank and command is inherently corrupting, and we must guard against those who fall prey […] We owe it to our airmen to ensure that they are better off with their leadership than without.”

But, within the last week, the infamous Col. Ned Stark has come forward and revealed himself as Col. Jason Lamb. Lamb is the director of intelligence, analysis, and innovation at Air Education and Training Command. He stands behind his columns purpose and hopes to continue and engage in the difficult (but arguably very necessary) conversations that the Air Force needs to be having more transparently.

You can read one of his columns here.

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(Tech Sgt. Cecilio M. Ricardo-Air Force)

Lamb graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1995. His father was a Marine Corps non-commissioned officer who served in the Korean War, and Lamb attributes his Ned Stark-esque streak of directness to his father.

Lamb first revealed his identity on the “War on Rocks” podcast last Monday. Lamb’s identity reveal was in large part due to the fact that, as Lamb said in an interview with Air Force Times, he thinks he has said all that he can under Col. Ned Stark, and can now engage in the conversation publicly.

Lamb argues in his columns that the Air Force is fixated on “risk avoidance” and that the hierarchical chain of upward mobility reflects that. He is also frustrated with the lack of frankness with which the Air Force system operates.

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Lamb, second from left, speaks to attendees at the grand opening of the command’s “Fire Pit” workshop March 5, 2019, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas

(Sean M. Worrell)

However, Lamb did not make criticisms without offering solutions. Lamb offered these two options as his ideas for the “next steps” the Air Force should make:

  • Create a new evaluation form for commanders that includes a section with command climate survey results against both similar units and Air Force averages.
  • Implement peer and subordinate evaluation sections that score leadership traits and characteristics on a quantitative scale, to include trustworthiness, approachability, propensity to empower, empathy, decisiveness, fairness, professionalism, and risk tolerance.

His sense of problem-solving and no-BS approach are some of the many reasons his columns caught fire in the military zeitgeist last year.

Lamb set up an anonymous “Eddard Stark” Gmail alongside his the beginning of his columns, and stated that, “Good gravy, a lot of people wrote in.”

Alongside that “good gravy” of writers, he drew the attention of Gen. Goldfein who, at last summer’s Corona meeting, made Lamb’s initial article required reading for top Air Force leaders. Goldfein was vocal in his support of Lamb’s column, and even extended a digital olive branch “Ned, I can assure you, your head is safe,” he wrote.

Although Lamb knows these changes will have to be made over a wide span of time, he still lobbies for “big changes” in how the Air Force can alter its risk-averse structure. Lamb, of course, seeks a wiser, more polished generation of leaders to come.

And, with the apparent parallels between Ned Stark and Col. Jason Lamb, grows the prospect of birthing a brighter generation of leadership for Westeros the U.S. seems even more plausible.

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-35 pulls out new moves, can out-turn older jets

Early in its combat testing, a test pilot’s damning report leaked to the press and exposed the world’s most expensive weapons system, the F-35, as a bad dogfighter that the F-16 routinely trounced in mock battles.

But new videos leaked from the US Air Force’s F-35 demo or stunt flying team show the jet making head-spinning turns that older jets could never hit.


In 2015, the test pilot’s write up of the jet’s combat performance obliterated the idea of F-35 as a capable dogfighter due to a glaring flaw: Weak maneuverability.

“Overall, the most noticeable characteristic of the F-35A in a visual engagement was its lack of energy maneuverability,” the pilot wrote.

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the U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

“The F-35 was at a distinct energy disadvantage in a turning fight and operators would quickly learn it isn’t an ideal regime… Though the aircraft has proven it is capable of high AOA [angle of attack] flight, it wasn’t effective for killing or surviving attacks primarily due to a lack of energy maneuverability,” he continued.

Furthermore, according to the pilot, there was basically nothing the F-35 could do to escape getting killed by the F-16’s gun. Any move he tried to escape the F-35’s cannon read as “predictable” and saw the pilot taking a loss.

But the F-35 program and its role in dogfights hadn’t been as well figured out back then.

Since then, the F-35 has mopped up in simulated dogfights with a 15-1 kill ratio. According to retired Lt. Col. David Berke, who commanded a squadron of F-35s and flew an F-22 — the US’s most agile, best dogfighter — the jet has undergone somewhat of a revolution.

New moves, new rules

In the video, the F-35 pilot takes the plane inverted, hits a tight loop, and appears to pause in mid-air as he enters a flat spin that makes his hundred-million-dollar jet appear like a leaf floating down towards earth. (Really better to watch than read about it.)

The flat spin move is often used by F-22 and Russian fighter pilots to show off the intense ability of their planes to sling the nose around in any direction they wish.

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(Lockheed Martin)

According to Berke, this F-35 stunt “demonstrates what the pilots and the people around the aircraft have always known: It’s vastly superior to almost anything out there,” in terms of agility.

Furthermore, according to Berke, an F-16 could not hit the move shown in the demo team’s video.

Berke and others close to the F-35 program have described to Business Insider a kind of breakthrough in the maneuvering of the F-35 throughout its development.

Berke said the video proves that the F-35 is a “highly maneuverable, highly effective dogfighting platform,” but even still, he wouldn’t use that exact maneuver in a real dogfight.

The flat spin is “not an effective dogfighting maneuver, and in some cases, you would avoid doing that.”

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F-16 Fighting Falcons.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Kleinholz)

“If me and you were dogfighting and we’re 2 miles away, and I had a wingman 5 miles away, you’d be super slow and predictable and easy for him to find,” due to executing the move, said Berke.

But despite the F-35’s impressive moves and ability to win dogfights, Berke said he’d stay on mission and try to score kills that take better advantage of the jet’s stealth.

“I want to avoid getting into a dogfight, but if I had to I’m going to be able to outmaneuver most other aircraft,” he said.

After all, the F-35’s makers never intended it as a straight World War II-era Red Baron killer, but a rethink of aerial combat as a whole.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghans brace for coronavirus as thousands return from Iran

HERAT, Afghanistan — Officials in Afghanistan’s western province of Herat are bracing for a rise in coronavirus infections, as thousands of Afghans return from neighboring Iran every day.


The provincial Public Health Department told RFE/RL on March 12 that nearly 10,000 Afghans had entered Herat from Iran the previous day alone.

That’s a twofold increase from March 9, when local officials said about 4,800 Afghans had crossed the border from Iran in one day.

Afghanistan has so far reported only seven cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

But provincial Governor Abdul Qayum Rahimi said the situation was certain to worsen soon, creating new challenges for the war-torn country. “Increasingly high numbers of people are crossing the border from Iran and we are seriously concerned that [some of them] will bring more coronavirus to Afghanistan,” Rahimi told RFE/RL on March 10.

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Map of the risk of the virus’s spread in Tehran.

Wikimedia Commons

Tehran reported more than 1,000 new cases on March 12, raising the official number of infections in Iran to more than 10,000. But many Iranians say they distrust the figures released by the authorities and believe the Iranian government is grossly underreporting the extent of the outbreak there.

Iran is home to more than 3 million Afghans — including migrant workers and refugees as well as university and religious students.

Five of Afghanistan’s confirmed COVID-19 patients are from Herat. The other two are from the northern province of Samangan. All of the confirmed cases are Afghans who had recently returned from Iran, local officials say.

Bracing For Worse

Afghanistan has deployed small teams of medics who have been screening Afghans who cross the border from Iran into Herat Province. The medics are checking temperatures of returnees and asking if they’ve had any potential COVID-19 symptoms.

They also are asking returnees whether they’ve been exposed to an infected person, said Abdul Hakim Tamanna, the head of Heart Province’s Public Health Department. Those with high fever or other symptoms are transferred to a special ward at a hospital in the provincial capital.

“We’ve allocated a special ward with 80 beds for COVID-19 patients, both for the suspected and confirmed cases in isolated sections. But this is not enough,” said Muhammad Ibrahim Basem, who oversees the special ward. “The situation is extremely fluid and requires that at least 1,000 beds are ready,” Basem told RFE/RL on March 12.

Similar concerns are being voiced in Samangan Province, where two people tested positive earlier this week. “We’ve been prepared in advance. A hospital ward with 20 beds was prepared for potential COVID-19 patients,” Abdul Khalil Musaddiq, head of Samangan Public Health Department, said on March 10.

But Musaddiq warned that Samangan Province did not have the resources to handle an outbreak beyond the hospital’s capacity.

Health officials in Herat are calling for Afghanistan’s central government to provide equipment for laboratories in provincial regions so that more people can be tested.

Afghanistan, a country of 35 million people, currently has only one laboratory that is able to test for coronavirus. Authorities outside of the Afghan capital must send samples from suspected cases to the laboratory in Kabul for testing.

The Afghan government has allocated million to combat the outbreak. Public Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz said another million “is in a state of reserve if the unwanted incidents escalate and get out of control.

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Low Public Awareness

Provincial authorities in Herat declared an emergency when the first COVID-19 case was confirmed there on February 24. Schools, restaurants, wedding halls, and public baths have been closed and large gatherings are banned.

Officials from Herat’s provincial government told RFE/RL on March 12 that the public spaces were unlikely to reopen in the foreseeable future.

Buses and minibuses that carry a large number of passengers have also been banned as part of Herat’s effort to contain the virus.

Mosques remain open. But RFE/RL’s correspondent in Herat reports that the number of the worshipers has dwindled in recent days.

The war-ravaged country’s poor health-care services, as well as low public awareness about health and hygiene, are adding to difficulties in the battle against coronavirus.

One patient last week briefly escaped from the quarantine ward of Herat hospital, sparking concerns that he could contaminate many more people. Hospital officials said the patient was apprehended and isolated. They said those who came in contact with him have been told to take tests and exercise precautions.

Authorities also have launched an extensive coronavirus-awareness campaign through media in recent weeks.

The Education Ministry, meanwhile, has set up a special working group along with public-health authorities to assess the situation in other high-risk regions and decide whether to suspend schools.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.