If you’ve seen Top Gun, then you know how it ends — with a huge dogfight. Enemy MiGs shoot down one F-14 Tomcat, but at the expense of four airframes. The hero of the engagement, Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, is responsible for shooting down three of those MiGs.
At the end of the film, Maverick gets his choice of duty stations and returns to Top Gun as an instructor where he’s reunited with the lovely Charlie. Happily ever after, right? This is all well and good in Hollywood’s version of the military… but what would have really happened after that dogfight?
Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell would be in for a very extensive chewing out — in something much more intense than this counseling session.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle Hafer)
He’d probably get chewed out for the high-speed pass
In fact, it may very well go beyond a chewing out since he has a pattern of performing these — three before the film starts, another at Top Gun, and yet another during the climactic dogfight. At the very least, he’s likely to get a letter of admonition placed in his file. His chances for promotion to lieutenant commander will still be high, but he may be passed over for a year or two.
Maverick would be in so many debriefings, he’d be sick of talking about the dogfight.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams)
He’ll spend a lot of time talking about the dogfight
He will be debriefed. He’ll have after-action reviews and write several after-action reports. By the end of it, he’ll probably be sick of talking about the dogfight — as will the other pilots and radar-intercept officers involved. Merlin will be stuck talking about it for years, and so will Iceman, Slider, Hollywood, and Wolfman.
Like this EOD specialist, Maverick would be decorated for valor.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher A. Veloicaza)
He’ll eventually get decorated for valor
After all is said and done, three kills is hard to ignore. Then-Lieutenant Randall “Duke” Cunningham received the Navy Cross for his three kills on May 10, 1972. More likely, Maverick would get the Silver Star or Distinguished Flying Cross.
Like Frank Kelso, Maverick could see his career hit a roadblock after the Tailhook scandal.
His career, after Tailhook, will probably come to a halt
The Tailhook scandal rocked the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, bringing dozens of instances of officers committing sexual assault to light. As a consequence for their actions, many careers were snuffed out.
Maverick’s past antics at parties (including the infamous bet with Goose) would likely catch up with him. If he’s on a promotion list, some Senator would probably put a hold on it until he’s removed. Maverick will be able to serve 20 as a lieutenant commander and get his retirement.
Maverick’s flying career post-Navy would likely include working for a contractor.
(U.S. Navy photo by Gillian M. Brigham)
He’ll keep flying — but with a contractor
Maverick’s post-Navy career would likely see him with a contractor, like Draken International. He probably wouldn’t fly the F-14 anymore, but rather a wide range of jets, from the A-4 to the MiG-21. Combined with his Navy pension, Maverick would do pretty well for himself when all’s said and done.
Being a POW was not a great way to spend your enlistment in the Civil War, no matter which side you fought on. Depending on which POW camp you ended up locked into, your chances of survival were only slightly better. And if you did die, you probably died of some terrible disease.
So it makes a little sense why some Confederate troops had no problem turning around and joining the U.S. Army. They were called “Galvanized Yankees.”
By 1863, Union lines were becoming stricken by desertions. Coupled with the death rate and the number of wounded and missing men, the U.S. Army in 1863 needed a solution for this coming manpower shortage in a hurry. But with draft riots already happening and enlistments drying up, where could the Union Army find a source of able-bodied men who could fight but were just sitting around, waiting? In the POW camps. And it wasn’t just the Army fighting the Civil War who needed the help. Troops fighting Indian bands in the West needed augmentees as well.
So the Union formed the 1st Volunteer Infantry Regiment; former Confederate soldiers who had been captured, taken the oath of loyalty to the United States, and enlisted in the U.S. Army. It sure beat dying of dysentery or exposure at Camp Douglas.
Starting in 1863, the former Confederates stared down the Sioux tribe in Missouri while the war back home raged on. But they weren’t the only ones who were needed. Ultimately four regiments of Confederate volunteers were formed for the Union. When the Confederates heard of this, they dubbed the POWs who took the deal “Galvanized Yankees,” covering themselves and their deeds in the blue of the Union, the way a metal object is galvanized with a coating of zinc.
For most Southern troops, the choice wasn’t all that hard – and it wasn’t just about the conditions in POW camps. Many average Southern men weren’t too keen on the strict Confederate class distinctions in the South, where poor whites were little more regarded than slaves. Add on the desire for the war to end, and the terrible conditions for Confederate troops, and the choice becomes more and more clear.
The Galvanized Yankees were sent to the American Plains, the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Missouri. The winters were not kind to the Southerners, who suffered from frostbite, scurvy, and other forms of malnutrition. To make matters worse, on top of enduring temperatures as cold a minus 29 degrees, the Lakota suddenly attacked on Nov. 27, 1863. The natives killed and wounded the new Army members throughout the winter and into the Spring of 1864. They would be able to hold out until the war’s end, however.
In 1865, the men had held their soldiers’ discipline, followed orders, and remained true to their oaths. Even after constant Indian attacks, brutal winters, and poor food, the Galvanized Yankees stayed at their posts. After two years, however, they were at their wits’ end. The war was over, and so was their enlistment. They demanded to be mustered out. Two years after arriving in the Missouri region, they finally were.
Ah, Memorial Day weekend. Enjoy yourselves and take some time to remember our fallen brothers and sisters. I can only speak for myself, but I know my boys all would have wanted me to crack open a cold one for them.
Take it easy. Relax. Call one of your old squadmates and check up on them. I’m not going to sound like your first sergeant and tell you to not “don’t do dumb sh*t” over the long weekend. Go ahead — just be responsible about it and try to stay off the blotter.
A Russian naval research team has claimed to have discovered five islands in the Franz Josef Land archipelago in the Kara Sea area of the Arctic Ocean.
Russian news agency RIA Novosti on Aug. 27, 2019, quoted Russia’s Northern Fleet as saying the islands range in size from 900 to 54,500 square meters.
The land areas are located in Vise Bay, west of Severny Island in the area of the Vylki Glacier, the report said.
It added that the islands were first sighted during an analysis of satellite photos three years ago.
The expedition to confirm the existence of the islands began on Aug. 15, 2019, and is expected to run through the end of September 2019.
Russian-owned Franz Josef Land is an archipelago of some 192 islands inhabited only by military personnel.
Severny Island in the Kara Sea.
The Arctic region has gained importance in recent years as rising temperatures have made the waters navigable for longer periods and because of the vast reserves of natural gas and minerals.
Russia has beefed up its military presence in the Arctic region, modernizing its Northern Fleet and reopening bases that were abandoned following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
In March 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to the Arctic archipelago, saying he had ordered the government to step up development of the region and calling for “large infrastructure projects, including exploration and development of the Arctic shelf.”
Other countries, including the United States, China, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, have also been looking to increase their activities in the Arctic.
The most secretive parts of America’s defense apparatus have a missile covered in swords, and they’re using it to take out terrorists in Syria.
One significant change to warfare that’s come about in recent decades has been the advent of precision guided munitions and the resulting shift in the way America, and the world at large, sees collateral damage. During World War II, massive fleets of heavy bombers dotted the skies above Europe, laying waste to vast areas of territory in an effort to damage a nation’s industrial infrastructure and force submission.
While there is still a use for this method of ordnance delivery, precision guided munitions have become the common platforms of choice for commanders in theater. (US Air Force Photo)
Thousands died in these large scale bombing campaigns, and today, many of those deaths would be considered unacceptable by the international community. Precision guided munitions with ever greater range and accuracy have replaced the carpet-bombing doctrine with the more cost effective and civilian friendly precision strike mindset. Today, collateral damage is not a thing of the past, but its metrics have shifted significantly. While carpet bombing raids may have killed hundreds or even thousands, the loss of a dozen civilian lives is now often considered too big a price to pay to engage many dangerous targets.
All that remained of the German town of Wesel after allied bombing. (WikiMedia Commons)
This shift is undoubtedly a good thing from the macro perspective for humanity, but it raises a number of new challenges for America’s defense apparatus that’s tasked with engaging terrorists outside of America’s borders. It takes weeks, months, even years to gather all the necessary intelligence on a target before you might have an opportunity to take him out, and if the target is surrounded by civilians (as they tend to do for protection from air strikes), there’s a chance the U.S. military may miss its opportunity to strike.
That’s where the AGM-114R9X comes in. While it’s official name may be a mouthful, the missile itself utilizes a fairly simplistic approach to killing specific targets while minimizing the chances that anyone nearby will be hurt.
The AGM-114R9X is, at its most simplistic levels, a Hellfire missile with the explosive warhead removed from the center portion of its body. In the warhead’s place are six extendable blades that bear a striking resemblance to swords. As brutal as this method of engaging a target may seem, the use of this missile actually makes going after these high value targets significantly safer for the civilians in the area.
Rather than utilizing explosive force or shrapnel from the missile’s body to kill its target and anyone else in the vicinity, the AGM-114R9X deploys its six swords upon impact with a target. Each blade is approximately 18 inches long, giving the missile a “kill radius” of only about three feet. Couple that with the Hellfire missile’s extremely accurate targeting capabilities, and you have a weapon that can take out the bad guys without worrying about a large explosion that could potentially hurt others.
The weapon’s development began under the CIA during the Obama Administration, and to date, has only been used in combat a handful of times. In each of these instances, these precision weapons appear to have been employed by the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, though it’s not entirely clear as to whether or not there is any overlap between CIA and JSOC operations in terms of leveraging the AGM-114R9X in combat.
Charles Lister on Twitter
The “ninja sword” Hellfire missile saw a sharp uptick in press late last year after it was used twice in less than a week to kill different terrorists in Syria. The first strike took place on December 3, when an AGM-114R9X was used to engage the passenger seat specifically of a minivan in the Syrian city of Atmeh. The second took place somewhere between Afrin and Azaz, once again killing its target without injuring any bystanders. As pictures of the strikes and their aftermath hit social media, the U.S. government’s sword-wielding missile was introduced to the world, despite the general lack of formal acknowledgement from the Pentagon.
All told, this missile covered in swords is believed to have only seen use a half a dozen times, which coupled with the small amount of information released about the platform suggests that the missile is a limited production run that may be the result of modifying existing Hellfire platforms. Either that, or JSOC would just prefer to keep this secret close to the chest.
In any regard, it just got a little bit tougher to be a terrorist, and that’s always good news.
Today, Brady will become something he has not been since the 1990s, an unrestricted free agent. The 42-year-old ageless wonder will test free agency (it should not be much of a test) and will be wearing another team’s colors next season. Brady released a statement via Instagram in which he thanked the Patriots organization, teammates and the fans for his two-decade run. As many football fans know, the Patriots were nothing like the franchise they are now, usually being a struggling team that did not have much success. They had made two Super Bowls previously losing both, including one of the worst losses in Super Bowl history.
Then, as the story famously goes, the Patriots drafted a quarterback in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL Draft. Pick #199 was a quarterback out of the University of Michigan that not too many people were excited about. While at Michigan, he was a backup for two years before becoming the starter for the Wolverines his junior year. Heading into his senior year, Brady thought he was a lock to be the starter… only to find out that he had to compete with highly heralded recruit Drew Henson. Brady found himself the unpopular guy on campus as Wolverines fans (and some coaches) seemed to favor the younger QB. The plan was for Brady to start while Henson would come off the bench in the second quarter. Brady would have none of it. He fought tooth and nail and during the season cemented his status as the only QB that Michigan needed that season. Many NFL teams should have seen the tenacity and determination that Brady showed as a potential leader for their team.
Instead, they focused on mechanics and how he looked.
The Patriots drafted Brady and had him set as a back up to Drew Bledsoe. By this point, the Patriots had turned their franchise around first under the coaching of Bill Parcells and then under the helm of Bill Belichick. Bledsoe was their quarterback for the future. In 2001, he signed a 10 year, 100 million dollar contract, and was their guy that would lead them to glory. A big hit from the New York Jets Mo Lewis changed that fast. Bledsoe suffered massive internal injuries (doctors almost had to perform open chest surgery), and Brady had to step in.
Brady (to the delight of Pats fans and despair of literally everyone else) would go on to have a career that will be hard for future quarterbacks to match. Yes, you can argue if Montana had it harder. You can argue if Brady is truly the best football “player” or the best at his position. You can argue it was really Belichick’s football genius and Brady is a “system quarterback.”
You can argue all that, but really the argument will fall on deaf ears.
Tom Brady will play for a different team next season. Rumors right now say the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the San Diego Los Angeles Chargers (ugh that still hurts to write) are the front runners. He might go to these teams and do amazing, he might do average or he might really suck.
But he will also be 42 years old. There aren’t too many 40+ players in NFL history. There are even fewer that will have teams fighting to bring them on board to win a Super Bowl.
No matter where he ends up, hats off to an amazing athlete and all-time great!
A missile malfunction aboard German navy frigate FGS Sachsen on June 21, 2018 scorched the ship’s deck and injured two sailors.
The Sachsen, an air-defense frigate, was sailing with sub-hunting frigate Lubeck in a test and practice area near the Arctic Circle in Norwegian waters, according to the German navy.
The Sachsen attempted to fire a Standard Missile 2, or SM-2, from the vertical launch system located in front of the ship’s bridge. The missile did not make it out of the launcher, however, and its rocket burned down while still on board the ship, damaging the deck and injuring two crew members.
“We were standing in front of a glistening and glowing hot wall of fire,” the ship’s captain, Thomas Hacken, said in a German navy release.
Sachsen class frigates are outfitted with 32 Mark 41 vertical launch tubes built into the forward section of the ship. Each SM-2 is about 15 feet long and weighs over 1,500 pounds.
It was not immediately clear why the missile malfunctioned; it had been checked and appeared in “perfect condition,” the German navy said. Another of the same type of missile had been successfully launched beforehand.
While the ship’s deck and bridge were damaged, the effects were likely limited by the design of the Mark 41 launcher, which is armored, according to Popular Mechanics.
The two ships sailed into the Norwegian port of Harstad on June 22, 2018, before returning to their homeport in the German city of Wilhelmshaven on the North Sea.
Damage on the vertical launch system aboard the German navy frigate Sachsen, June 2018.
(Photo by German Navy)
“We have to practice realistically, so that we are ready for action in case of emergency, also for the national and alliance defense,” Vice Adm. Andreas Krause, navy inspector, said in the release. Despite the risks, Krause said, “our crews are highly motivated and ready to do their best.”
Germany’s military has hit a number of setbacks in recent years, like equipment shortages and failures. Dwindling military expertise and a lack of strategic direction for the armed forces have contributed to these problems.
The navy has been no exception. The first Baden-Württemberg frigate, a program thought up in 2005, was delivered in 2016, but the navy has refused to commission it, largely because the centerpiece computer system didn’t pass necessary tests.
At the end of 2017, it was reported that all six of the German navy’s submarines were out of action— four because they were being serviced in shipyards with the other two waiting for berths.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Richard Arvin Overton was already 35 years old when he fought at Pearl Harbor. Now, 73 years after the end of World War II and his service in the Pacific Theater, the 112-year-old is alive and kicking. Today, the City of Austin and its Mayor, Steve Adler, even came out to wish America’s oldest veteran a happy birthday.
Find out how to live your life like Richard Overton lived his.
Overton is still completely independent — he lives on his own, walks where he wants (albeit with the aid of a cane), and drives where he needs to go. He enjoys cigars, good whiskey, and dating his “lady friend.”
That also happens to be Richard Overton’s big, anti-aging secret, which he shared over a few drinks with We Are The Mighty’s Orvelin Valle during the celebration.
“The secret to life,” Overton says, “is Scotch and cigars.”
You’ll never catch Overton without a pocket full of cigars and, while you might think they’re hazardous to his health and well-being, it seems they’re doing more good than harm. He passes every medical test the doctors (and the DMV) can throw his way.
Although he drives himself because he thinks too many people around his neighborhood drive crazily, he isn’t afraid of anything, even at his advanced age. He even remarked that he feels completely comfortable sleeping with his doors unlocked at night.
“You see a soldier with a gun,” he once told National Geographic (while holding his issued M1 Garand rifle), “you don’t see him turn around and come back this way.”
But that stress-free life starts with a good cigar or twelve. He often smokes a dozen or more per day. He doesn’t inhale, though, saying there’s no point.
“Forget about swallowing it,” Overton says. “There’s no taste to it. It just makes you cough.”
Not inhaling his cigars is what he calls “the healthy way.” This lifestyle also includes a diet of milk, fish, corn, and soup. But the 112-year-old vet also starts his day with about four cups of coffee and ends each by eating butter-pecan ice cream.
And, sometimes, he adds whisky to the mix
He doesn’t spend his money on buying things he doesn’t need and he definitely doesn’t use credit cards. He’s been driving the same truck for decades, which he paid for with cash. Still, it’s a far cry from his first car – a Ford Model T.
To live like America’s oldest veteran, just live a stress-free life. Start with the simple pleasures, like ice cream, whisky, and cigars. If you don’t take his advice, that’s fine. As he says, “that’s your bad luck.”
Few weapons ever wielded by the U.S. Military are more beloved than the M1911. The weapon was designed by a competitive pistol shooter and equipped with the stopping power necessary to take down a berserk Moro rebel fighter. There’s a reason it was in the American arsenal for more than a century.
These days, the legendary .45 pistol isn’t used as much around the military, but it remains a collector’s item for veterans and aficionados alike. It retains its title of the greatest issued sidearm of all time – and now you can get one that came from interstellar space.
It may sound like the first in (probably) a long line of Space Force weapons programs from a less-than-honest defense contractor, but it’s actually just a nifty idea from American firearms manufacturer Cabot Guns. Their weapons are like the concept cars of firearms, with pistols that feature mammoth ivory grips (yes, Wooly Mammoth ivory) harvested from Alaska, a pistol crafted from a 50-layer block of Damascus steel, and a Donald Trump-level .45 with a gold finish, engraved with “Trump 45” along the barrel.
Gimmicky, maybe, but all are truly so well-crafted, they earned the right to be called “elite.” The biggest standout among the manufacturer’s arsenal has to be the Big Bang Pistol Set, crafted from the Gibeon Meteorite that fell in prehistoric Namibia.
The meteorite, believed to be at least four billion years old, is comprised of iron, nickel, cobalt, and phosphorous, along with numerous other rare minerals. The object fell from the sky and broke up in the days before history was recorded, dropping interstellar rocks in a meteor field some 70 miles wide. Prehistoric tribesmen would make tools and weapons of the hard material from the sky.
The Widmanstätten pattern formed by the alloy makes it a particularly interesting design for use in jewelry and other specialty items… like firearms.
For just ,500,000, you can own a piece of geological history with the power to end someone else’s history. Crafted from a 77-pound piece of the extraterrestrial rock, from the barrel to its smaller moving parts, the set contains two of the one-of-a-kind firearms. They are both fully functional pieces, made completely from the meteorite and feature the space rock’s natural pattern on the finish.
Firearms fan or not, the pistols are a pure work of art, along with all the other weapons the specialty manufacturer has to offer.
Prior to filming Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1980, director Steven Spielberg and writer George Lucas really, really didn’t want to cast as Harrison Ford as Indy. Instead, they wanted that guy who your mom thought was hot in the ’70s, Mr. Magnum P.I. himself, Tom Selleck. Selleck famously screen-tested for the character of Indiana Jones, but because he was locked into a contract with Magnum P.I., he couldn’t take the role! Spielberg and Lucas brought in Harrison Ford just a few weeks before filming. (Lucas didn’t want to, because he’d already cast Ford in the Star Wars movies.) The rest is history, and Harrison Ford’s (other) famous franchise was born.
But what if Selleck had been cast? A new “deepfake” video created by YouTube user Sham00K is answering that question and making the rounds on the internet. It digitally plasters Selleck’s ’80s face — including the famous mustache — over Harrison Ford’s. It’s basically a way to see (but not hear, Ford’s voice is still audible) an alternate dimension in which Selleck played Indy.
If Tom Selleck had said yes to ‘Indiana Jones’ instead of Harrison Ford
You can also watch Selleck’s screen test for Raiders with actress Sean Young below. This has been around for a while and is relevant to this thought experiment because Tom Selleck’s voice is super-distinctive in a way that is totally different than Harrison Ford. (It’s also interesting because though Karen Allen, not Sean Young, ended up playing Marion, Young did star opposite Harrison Ford in Blade Runner a few years later in 1982. So many roads not taken in these ’80s movies!)
The new “deepfake” video also assumes that there would have been Indiana Jones movies after Raiders of the Lost Ark; it features digitally altered scenes of Tom Selleck in both Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade. But, let’s get serious. Tom Selleck is fine, but the reason there were sequels to Raiders of the Lost Ark is because of the singular charm and deadpan coolness of Harrison Ford. Meaning, the idea of digitally inserting Selleck into Temple of Doom and Last Crusade is anachronistic, twice.
We’re still a long way out from a new Indy movie, but most of the old ones are still on Netflix!
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Counting down the last days of a deployment while standing post is a feeling universally felt by service members past and present. However, not all are able to move onto greener pastures. Unlucky souls that are caught in the gears of war repeat their last moments on an infinite loop; no changing of the guard, no end to the task at hand, no relief.
Their names have been lost, but their actions continue to ripple through the fabric of time. These fallen souls share a fate I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy — eternal enlistment.
USS Hornet CV-12 is an aircraft carrier that participated in naval combat during World War II. While she was deployed with Task Force 58, she participated in the battles for New Guinea, Palau, Truk, and other engagements in the Pacific theater. The ship also saw service in the Vietnam War, and the Apollo program by recovering Apollo 11 and 12 astronauts when they returned from the moon. The Hornet was retired and decommissioned in 1970.
This ship has seen a lot of combat, accidents, and suicides during her time at sea. So much so that sightings of the paranormal are commonly reported by the staff caretakers and guests.
Sailors in dress whites are reported to have been seen walking down passageways into empty rooms. The mess hall dishwashing area has dents on the bulkhead belonging to an angry cook. It is said that a poltergeist phenomenon involving the throwing of objects is experienced here. Panicked voices can be heard saying ‘run’ in the lower decks, and it is speculated that they’re the souls who did not manage to escape impacts from combat.
The ship was opened to the public as the USS Hornet Museum in Alameda, California, in 1998. Ghost tours can be booked on their website.
This is exactly how stupid I imagine this ghost to look.
The Jody of Warren Air Force Base
Established in 1867, F.E. Warren Air Force Base was originally named Fort D. A. Russell in Wyoming. It’s named after Civil War Brigadier General David A. Russell. The base was erected to protect the workers constructing the transcontinental railroad and has had a gloomy history ever since.
Troops stationed here report seeing cavalrymen in full dress uniforms walking around the base. Others report screaming from unknown sources thought to be of a Native American woman who was sexually assaulted and murdered by two cavalrymen at White Crow Creek. Some apparitions are less jarring like a lone soldier standing at attention next to buildings in the same dated uniform.
The most famous ghost is “Gus.”
During the early days of the fort, Quarters 80 was home to a young officer. He was away a lot of the time on military maneuvers. One day he came home early, only to find a soldier entertaining his wife in an upstairs bedroom. With his escape route blocked by the angry husband, the soldier took an alternate route by leaping out of the second story window and accidentally hanging himself on the clothesline. Since then, Gus has been notorious for moving objects around in the house, opening cabinets and re-arranging furniture. Maybe it’s true what some say he is doing: looking for his trousers. – Airman Alex Martinez, 90th Space Wing Public Affairs
This wasn’t even my shift.
(National Museum of Civil War Medicine)
The sentry forever on firewatch at the Jefferson Barracks
The base was operational for over 100 years and had many sightings of Civil War era troops still guarding the base. The Jefferson Barracks Military Post is located in Lemay, Missouri. It was active from 1826 through 1946, and it is currently used by the Army and Air National Guard.
One recurring phantom is of a guard standing duty with a bullet hole in his head. He was allegedly shot during an enemy raid attempting to steal munitions. It is said that he appears to confront troops standing duty as well. If I was standing duty for the rest of my undeath, I might also be in a permanent foul mood too.
To be honest, all squad bays look creepy
Suicide recruits at the Parris Island rifle range barracks
As a recruit who trained at Parris Island with platoon 1064 Alpha Company, I confirm the eerie ambiance of the barracks at the rifle range. Now, I didn’t see anything there, at least I don’t think so. Once I thought I saw a shadow move, but I just chalked that up to sleep deprivation and some hazing physical training. Besides, I wouldn’t have told anyone if I did see something paranormal, not because I didn’t want people to think I was crazy, but because they would assume I was trying to get intentionally kicked out of boot camp like a coward.
However, some of my friends did say that they heard footsteps outside, but when they checked, there was no one there. Others said they heard voices or crying from the bathrooms. We did know suicides have happened in the barracks and that is the reason why drill instructors ease up on you while you’re there — another reason might be the fact that you get handed live rounds and it’s not the right moment to haze train you.
I heard someone mention that they saw a ghost on fire watch with blotch cammies (camouflage). We were issued digital cammies, and that’s what immediately stood out. When approached, he vanished. I was more concerned with finishing my food at the time.
The strangest thing that happened to me at the rifle range was not paranormal at all. We had a cease-fire one day because a bald eagle decided to land in the middle of the range. One PMI suggested throwing a rock to motivate it to move and was passionately reminded by a very loud PA system that it is a felony to throw anything at the national bird.
Wondering what it takes to cut the mustard in Special Forces selection?
The time of my first (just) two-year enlistment in the Army was coming to an end. I originally enlisted for the shortest amount of time in the Army in the event that if I really hated it too much I only ever had two years to endure. There were two things that I was positively certain of:
I really DID want to stay in the Army
I really did NOT want to stay right where I was in the Army
It wasn’t a matter of being so fervent about wanting to excel into the ranks of Special Forces soldiers at that time; rather, it was the matter of getting away — far away — from the attitudes and caliber of persons I was serving with at the time in the peace- time Army as it was. I understood, so I thought, that the way to ensure I could distance myself from the regular army aura was to go into Special Forces, namely the Green Berets.
(Special Forces Regimental insignia)
That was a great path forward, but with a near insurmountable obstacle — you had to be a paratrooper! Jumping from an airplane in flight was fine by me, the problem associated with that was that most airplanes had to be really high up before you jumped out of them. I was then as I am still horrendously terrified of heights — woe is me! My fear of altitudes was keeping me from going to Airborne Jump School and stuck in my current morass of resolve.
Well, just two short years in the regular “go nowhere, do nothing” Army and I was ready to jump out of high-in-the-sky airplanes parachute or no parachute. I was ready to jump ship!
Jump School was indeed terrifying despite the small number of jumps, just five, that we were required to make. All of the jumps were in the daytime though mine were all night jumps. All that is required to qualify as a night jump is to simply close one’s eyes. I did. I figured there was nothing so pressing to see while falling and waiting for the intense tug of the opening of the parachute, so I just closed my eyes.
(Every jump can potentially be a night jump, so says I — Wikipedia commons)
There were 25 of us paratroops headed to the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) upon graduation from Jump School. I was the highest ranking man even as an E-4 in the group, so I was designated the person in charge of the charter bus ride from Jump School to Ft. Bragg, NC for the course — of course! I imagined that duty would not entail much on a bus ride of just a few hours. I was shocked when approached by two men from my group who wished to terminate their status as Green Beret candidates.
Well, the course certainly MUST be hard if men are quitting already on the bus ride to the course.
“Sure fellows, but can you at least wait until we get to Bragg to quit?” I pleaded.
Once at Ft. Bragg, it was our understanding that we were on a two-week wait for our SFQC class to begin. Our first week we tooled about doing essentially nothing but dodging work details like cutting grass and picking up pine cones. The second week was an event that the instructors called “Pre-Phase,” a term that I didn’t like the sound of and braced for impact.
“Pre-Phase,” in my (humble) opinion, was a pointless and disorganized suck-athon. It was a non-stop hazing with back-breaking, butt-kicking, physical events determined to crush the weak and eliminate the faint of heart. In the end we had a fraction of the number of candidates that we started with. I noted that of the 25 men I brought over from Jump School, only me and one other very reserved soldier survived. We nodded at each other and shook hands at the culmination of the mysterious Pre-Phase.
“Good job, brother-man!” I praised him.
“Thank you; my name is Gabrial, you can call me Gabe,” he introduced.
“Great job, Gabe — George is my name — please, call me Geo!” I invited.
The documented entry-level criteria included the ability to pass the standard Army Physical Readiness Fitness Test (APRFT) in a lofty percentile, though one I am loath to admit I do not remember. There was also a swim test that was required of us to perform wearing combat fatigues, combat boots, and carrying an M-16 assault rifle.
We did it in the post swimming pool. It was a bit of a challenge but by no means a threat to my status as a candidate. I was nonetheless dismayed at several men who were not able to pass it after having gone through all they had. It was sad.
(Special Forces have a charter for conducting surface and subsurface water operations — Wikipedia commons)
The first month of the SFQC was very impressive to me as a young man barely 20 years old. It was all conducted at a remote camp in the woods where we lived in structures made of wood frames and tar paper — barely a departure at all from the outdoor environment. We endured many (MANY) surprise forced marches of unknown distance, very heavy loads, and extreme speed that were hardly distinguishable from a full run.
Aside from the more didactic classroom environment learning skills of every sort, there were the constant largely physical strength and endurance events like hand-to-hand combat training, combat patrolling, rope bridge construction with river crossings, obstacle course negotiating, living and operating in heavily wooded environments. We learned to kill and prepare wild game for meals: rabbits, squirrels, goats, and snakes. Hence the age-old term for Special Forces soldiers — “Snake Eaters,” a moniker I bore with proud distinction.
(Survival skills are essential in Special Forces — Wikipedia Commons)
We all had to endure a survival exercise of several days alone. There were dozens of tasks associated with that exercise that we had to accomplish in those days: building shelter, starting and maintaining a fire for heat and cooking, building snares and traps to catch animals for food, and building an apparatus to determine time of day and cardinal directions.
Since the same land was used time after time by the survival training, it was understood by the cadre that the land was pretty much hunted out, leaving no animals to speak of for food. Therefore there was a set day and time that a truck was scheduled to drive by each candidate’s camp to throw an animal off of the back. When the animal hit the ground it became stunned and disoriented. We had just seconds to profit from the animal’s stupor to spring in and catch it before it ran away… or go hungry for the duration.
Hence the sundial I built and my track of the days, to have myself in position to capture my animal when the time came. The time and the truck came. I crouched along the side of the terrain road. The cadre slung a thing that was white from the truck. It hit the ground and was stunned. I pounced on what turned out to be a white bunny rabbit.
“Oh… my God!” I lamented earnestly in my weakened physical and mental capacity, “I’ve stumbled into Alice in Wonderland’s enchanted forest… I can’t eat the White Rabbit!”
(He’s late, he’s late, for a very important date — Wikipedia Commons)
Some men were unfortunately unable to capture their rabbits in time before they ran away. One man was overcome by grief at the prospect of killing his rabbit — his only source of companionship. He rather built a cage for it and graced it with a share of the paltry source of food that he had. Me, I was a loner and swung my Cheshire rabbit by the hind legs head-first into a tree. I ate that night in solace and in the company of just myself.
Men who could no longer continue sat on the roadside each morning and waited for a truck, one that I referred to in disdain as the hearse, to be picked up and removed from the course. One of them was carrying a cage lovingly constructed from sticks and vines in which sat therein a nibbling white rabbit. The man was washed out of the course for failing tasks, backed up by quitting. There was no potential for a man to return for a second time if he had quit on his first try — quitting was not an option.
The event that cut the greatest swath through the candidate numbers was the individual land navigation event. It lasted a week or so with some hands-on cadre-lead instruction, some time for individual practice, culminating in a period of several days and nights of individual tests. The movements were long, the terrain difficult, the stress level very high. Every leg of the navigation course was measured on time and accuracy — we had to be totally accurate on every move, and within the speed standard.
(SF troop candidate during Land Navigation Phase of SFQC moves quickly with heavy loads — DVIDS)
I recall a particular night when all of us lay in our pup tents waiting for our release time to begin our night movements. Just as the hour was on us a monumental torrent of rain began to gush down. The men scrambled and clambered back to their tents like wet alley cats. I performed a simple mathematical equation in my head:
time equals distance
hiding in a tent for an undetermined period equals zero time
zero time equals zero distance
choosing one’s personal comfort over time equals failure
I had a Grandma Whipple’s rum-soaked cigar clenched tightly in my teeth; it was lit before the rain but no more, and I assure you most fervently that it was never in any way Cuban! Plowing through the vegetation for many minutes I came to a modest clearing that I came to be very familiar with over the days. It told me that I was thankfully on course for the moment. The rain was tapering off generously and I felt a leg up on the navigation for the night.
I reached for my cigar but there was none there save the mere butt that remained clenched in my teach. To my disgust the waterlogged cigar had collapsed under its weight and lay in a mushy black track down my chin and neck edging glacially toward my chest. There would be no comfort of the smoke, nor deterrence of mosquitoes by the smoke of the Grandma Whipple’s rum-soaked positively non-cuban cigar that night.
More than five months later I sat on my rucksack (backpack) of some 50 lbs just having completed a timed 12-mile forced ruck march, nothing any longer between me and graduation from the SFQC course. There were plenty of things to think of that had happened or did not happen to me over the nearly half-year, though I somehow chose the bus ride from Jump School to Ft. Bragg to ponder. How rowdy and arrogant the crowd had been, all pompously sporting green berets that they hadn’t even earned yet. Me, I had chosen to wear my Army garrison cap — nothing fancy.
I filtered through the events that had taken each man who had not already quit from that arduous bus ride from Jump School. I remember how they had all failed or quit one by one except that one brother whose hand I shook at the end of pre-phase.
Buses pulled up to move us back to some nice barracks for the night, some barrack at least 12 miles away by my calculation. Usually everyone snatched up his own rucksack by his damned self, but on this occasion the brother next to me pulled up my rucksack to shoulder height for me in a congratulatory gesture of kindness.
I in turn grabbed his rucksack in the same manner though with a deep admiration and respect for the man who had come all the way with me from Jump School through the SFQC fueled by reserved professionalism. His name was Gabriel, but I just called him Gabe.