Check out this tiny Navy SEAL team survival kit - We Are The Mighty

Check out this tiny Navy SEAL team survival kit

If there’s one group in the military that’s trained to survive in the most horrible conditions known to man, it’s the U.S. Navy SEALs. From the icy Arctic to humid jungles, SEALs are prepared for any kind of fight against the enemy at a moment’s notice.

Sometimes, missions don’t go as planned, so troops need to ready for anything and expect the unexpected while outside of the wire. To that end, troops should carry a survival kit filled with everything they need to endure the night in a harsh, potentially hostile environment.

But no ordinary survival kit will do. The SEAL Team Six survival kit puts all the essentials into one, easy-to-carry pack.

Related: 5 of the best ways to get drinkable water while in the field

Check out this tiny Navy SEAL team survival kit
The contents of the SEAL Team Six Survival Kit.

Although the kit doesn’t contain much food (SEALs can fend for themselves), it’s packed to the brim with the items necessary to keep you alive in an emergency.

This unique system contains over 25 different life-saving tools that can fit snuggly inside of your cargo pocket. Housed in a SUMA Container, the kit comes with an emergency blanket, leatherman, steel wire, button compass, and a signal mirror.

Also read: 5 kid toys troops will reuse for tactical reasons

The container’s anodized finish makes cooking small meals over a campfire possible. The larger kit covers eight different survival essentials, like water purification, temporary shelter construction, and fire starting.

The kit was specially designed to be taken into rough areas and functions as a durable piece of gear for any warfighter or backpacker looking to explore the unknown.

Check out Black Scout Survival’s video below to watch a complete breakdown of the SEAL Team Six survival kit for yourself.



The A-12 Avenger II would’ve been America’s first real ‘stealth fighter’

In October of 1983, the world’s first operational stealth aircraft took to the skies under cover of both physical and metaphorical darkness. This new jet, dubbed the F-117 Nighthawk, would revolutionize America’s approach to air warfare, pivoting away from the higher and faster mantra that had dominated much of the Cold War, and toward the doctrine of stealth. As of its introduction in 1983, being sneaky became more important than being powerful in military aviation. While this technical frontier was first explored by the U.S. Air Force, by the time the Nighthawk was on duty prowling the sky, the U.S. Navy wanted a stealth platform all their own.

Eventually, Lockheed would pitch the idea of a significantly more capable F-117N Seahawk, based on their first-of-its-kind Nighthawk. But the Seahawk wasn’t the Navy’s first pass at a carrier-capable stealth attack aircraft. Ten years before the Seahawk proposal would reach Navy desks, the Navy was already getting started on their Advanced Tactical Aircraft (ATA) program. The ATA initially sought to replace the Grumman A-6 Intruder by the mid-1990s. The Intruder had been in service for the U.S. Navy as a ground attack platform since 1963, and the Navy saw a replacement program as the perfect opportunity to get into the stealth game.

On 13 January 1988, a joint team from McDonnell Douglas and General Dynamics was awarded a development contract for what was to become the A-12 Avenger II, not to be confused with Lockheed’s proposed A-12 of the 1960s, which sought to arm an SR-71 sibling jet with air-to-air weapon systems. Once completed, the Navy’s A-12 would have been a flying wing-design reminiscent of Northrop Grumman’s B-2 Spirit or forthcoming B-21 Raider, though much smaller.

A new aircraft for a new approach to air warfare

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(Artist rendering courtesy of the U.S. Navy)

Intended to serve aboard carriers, the A-12 Avenger II was to be slightly more than 37 feet long, with a wingspan of a few inches more than 70 feet. These dimensions would have made the A-12 significantly shorter than the nearly 55-foot-long Intruder, while boasting a far wider wingspan that extended just far enough to allow two A-12s to sit side-by-side on adjacent catapults on a carrier flight deck. In fact, the A-12’s wingspan would have even dwarfed the F-14 Tomcat’s extended sweep-wings by a good six feet.

Although the A-12 Avenger II utilized a flying wing design, its overall shape differed from the triangular B-2 Spirit under development for the Air Force. The sharp triangular shape of the A-12 eventually earned it the nickname, “the flying Dorito.

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The size of the (never produced) McDonnell Douglas/General Dynamics A-12 Avenger II attack aircraft compared to the Grumman F-14 Tomcat (left) and the Grumman A-6 Intruder (right). (WikiMedia Commons)

Despite the width of the A-12 Avenger II, however, the aircraft itself was only meant to carry a comparatively small 5,150 pounds of internal ordnance, which would outperform the Nighthawk’s paltry payload of just two 2,000 pound GBU-27 laser-guided bombs, but was nowhere near the 18,000 pounds offered by the Intruder.

However, like modern stealth aircraft in operation today, the A-12 Avenger was never intended to scream into the fight with its teeth bared. In the minds of many defense officials, its ability to strike targets without warning in highly contested airspace was more useful than a massive payload. In yet another example of how military aviation was rapidly changing throughout the Cold War, blanketing an area with munitions was no longer considered the most effective means of engaging the enemy. Instead, stealth combined with highly accurate precision munitions would allow the A-12 Avenger II to surgically strike enemy targets where it hurt most.

More of a stealth fighter than the “stealth fighter”

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(Artist rendering of the A-12 Avenger II, courtesy of the U.S. Navy)

Despite clearly serving in an attack capacity, Lockheed’s F-117 Nighthawk had been given the “F” designator (and the informal moniker of “stealth fighter”) intentionally. The F-117 possessed no air-to-air capability whatsoever–a defining characteristic for a “fighter” aircraft–but Air Force officials hoped the concept of a “stealth fighter” would attract the sort of highly-skilled fighter jocks this new attack aircraft would really need.

The Navy entertained no such chicanery in their own stealth jet, planning to saddle their new platform with an “A” prefix to demonstrate its use against ground targets despite actually having the ability to engage air targets with its two internally-stored AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles. In other words, the A-12 Avenger II would have actually been America’s first stealth fighter.

Check out this tiny Navy SEAL team survival kit
(WikiMedia Commons)

However, the A-12 wouldn’t have been well suited for fighting the powerful and acrobatic fourth-generation fighters being fielded by national opponents like the Soviet Union and post-collapse Russia at the time. With a top speed of just 580 miles per hour and a service ceiling of 40,000 feet, this subsonic aircraft may have been armed with the missiles it would need to take down on enemy jet, but logic would dictate that it rely on stealth, rather than firepower, if enemy fighters were in the area.

The A-12 Avenger II would have led the way into battle

Check out this tiny Navy SEAL team survival kit
(U.S. Navy)

Aside from its two air-to-air missiles, the A-12 Avenger II was also intended to carry 2 AGM-88 HARM air-to-ground missiles that had entered service in 1985. The AGM-88 was an anti-radiation missile, meaning it could home in on the electromagnetic waves emanating from early warning radar arrays and surface-to-air missile platforms. In other words, the A-12 Avenger II would have been able to serve in a similar capacity to today’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in contested airspace. The A-12 would hunt down air defense systems and eliminate them to clear the way for less-stealthy and more weapon-laden platforms that could follow.

When not on the hunt for enemy radar, the AGM-88 HARM missiles could be swapped out in favor of unguided or precision bombs for continued action against ground targets.

Check out this tiny Navy SEAL team survival kit
(Artist rendering of A-12 Avenger II courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)

At one point, the Navy had plans to purchase 620 A-12 Avenger IIs, with the Marine Corps ordering another 238, and even the Air Force mulling over an order of 400 modified A-12 variants to replace their outgoing F-111 Aardvarks. It’s important to note that only 59 operational F-117A Nighthawks were ever built — so the A-12 Avenger II promised to become America’s premier stealth aircraft for years to come, with a total of 1,258 aircraft in American stables. If all of these orders had been filled, the A-12 Avenger II would have become one of America’s most plentiful aircraft, second only to the U.S. Army’s massive fleet of UH-60 Black Hawks.

For some time, it seemed as though the A-12 Avenger II program was going off without a hitch, but then, seemingly without warning, it was canceled by Defense Secretary (and future Vice President of the United States) Dick Cheney in January of 1991.

An unceremonious end

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(WikiMedia Commons)

For some time, the A-12 Avenger II program seemed to be progressing smoothly, and Cheney had repeatedly reported as such when pressed about the program by Congress. The truth is, as far as Cheney knew (according to some accounts), the program did seem to be going smoothly, as officials within the Navy, the Pentagon, and both McDonnell Douglas and General Dynamics all seemed intent on sugar-coating the program’s woes.

Unbeknownst to many, the aircraft, which had yet to fly by the beginning of 1991, was already significantly overweight, 18-months behind schedule, and massively over budget.

In an article published by Air Force Magazine in April of 1991, three months after the A-12 Avenger II program was canceled, Pentagon investigators had come to place the blame on four separate and significant factors (as outlined at the time by David Montgomery):

  • “Overly protective Navy officials, who didn’t want to endanger the plane by pointing out problems. A Pentagon analyst first detected a possible cost overrun two years ago, but the Navy program manager continued to describe the A-12 as being on track until after a major Pentagon review last year.
  • A “don’t-rock-the-boat” segment of the Pentagon bureaucracy, which was aware of the problems but apparently reluctant to buck its superiors to press its case. In one incident, a report noting A-12 problems was tucked away and forgotten.
  • Overly optimistic A-12 contractors, who miscalculated the extent of the technical difficulties in producing such a plane and shielded the problems from the government. An inquiry by Navy Deputy General Counsel Chester Paul Beach found that General Dynamics and McDonnell Douglas discovered “increasing cost and schedule variances” but did not alert the Navy in a timely fashion.
  • Excessive secrecy, which blanketed the project and prevented examinations that might have brought problems to light. Officials assigned to Secretaries Cheney and Garrett were kept away, standard reporting procedures were abandoned, and information was transmitted verbally rather than in writing.”

In the years that followed, the United States government and the A-12 Avenger II’s contractors, McDonnell Douglas and General Dynamics, would go through repeated litigation over breach of contract, eventually reaching as high as the Supreme Court. In January of 2014, Boeing, which had absorbed McDonnell Douglas, and General Dynamics agreed to repay the government $200 million each for failing to meet the requirements of the initial contract.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


5 things you need to know to become a Marine HRST master

Recruiting videos and Hollywood blockbusters often feature the thrilling image of a helicopter hovering over a building as soldiers or Marines quickly dismount via ropes into an austere environment. If you’ve ever wondered who is behind this ingress, you are not alone.

Marine Helicopter Rope Suspension Techniques (HRST) masters are the ones responsible for all aspects of these maneuvers. They shoulder a serious burden in that the Marines who fast rope or repel from their lines very literally entrust them with their lives.

Here are a few tips from a former HRST master instructor on how to live the dream showcased in those high-speed commercials.

Related: 7 tips on how to get selected by MARSOC instructors

1. Attention to detail

This may seem to be a little obvious but it cannot be emphasized enough: Do it right every time. Your Marines’ lives are literally on the line.

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Now lean back, let it happen. (Image via Cpl. Jodson Graves)

2. Order of operations matters

There are many knots to know and, when anchors are tied inside helicopters, the order in which they are tied is just as important as how they were tied. Distribution of the load is paramount and can only be achieved if done in order.

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Primary, secondary, and tertiary, we’re trying to go home soon. (Image via Cpl. Jodson Graves)

3. Speed and accuracy

Get it done faster! When you take your knots test, instructors will give you times as short as 15 seconds to to put together perfect knots with pigtails (rope left over at the end of a knot) no longer than 2-4 inches.

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Bro, hurry up. (Image via Sean Dodds)

4. Hatch-side manner

Not everyone you send down is cool with heights. Maintain a certain level of confidence as the HRST master and it’ll bleed over onto an individual, terrified of heights, who may be living their nightmare right now.

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Oh sh*t… I told him not to grip with his guide hand, right? (Image via Cpl. Jodson Graves)

Also Read: They started at the bottom, now they are billionaire veterans

5. Complacency kills

No matter how dynamic or exciting, eventually everything becomes routine. Believe it or not, even flying around and repelling out of helicopters can become just another Tuesday and, thus, become a breeding ground for complacency. Fight that sh*t. Do your job right and get the mission accomplished with zero casualties.


The new uniform most sailors will wear every day was actually developed by SEAL Team 6

The Navy just released information to the fleet on the fielding of its new Navy Working Uniform Type III, the pixelated green, black and brown camouflage duds that look an awful lot like the Marine Corps’ MARPAT digital cammies.

This is the second camouflage uniform for the Navy in less than 10 years, and replaces the oft-mocked blue, black and grey “blueberries” deployed to the force in 2008 to the tune of $224 million.

The new Navy Type IIIs look pretty badass and come with all the whistles and bells of previous combat-style uniforms, including shoulder pockets, velcro tabs for all your merit badges and flags and a collar designed to protect against body armor chafing. The camo pattern is a lighter green version of the Marine Corps forest MARPAT and, if you look closely, the have the Navy Anchor, Constitution and Eagle, or “ACE,” embedded in the pattern.

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Notice the Anchor, Constitution and Eagle logo embedded in the pattern. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

There’s also a desert digital version that’ll be only for sailors operating in arid climes abroad. The new Navy Working Uniform Type III is set to be rolled out Navy wide Oct. 1 and will typically be worn by sailors at home stations.

While the new green digital Type IIIs look a darn sight better than the Type I “blueberries,” they trace their lineage to some of America’s most elite warriors. Now all sailors can have a little of the “operator” spring in their step thanks to their brother frogmen.

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Medal of Honor Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Edward C. Byers Jr. wearing AOR1 combat duds during a deployment to Afghanistan. (U.S. Navy Photo)

In the mid-2000s, as special operations forces were fighting pitched battles against al Qaeda terrorists worldwide, Naval Special Warfare operators were refining their kit to better suit the environments they were fighting in. About the time Army Special Forces and Rangers cast their gaze at Crye Precision’s MultiCam pattern, sailors in SEAL Team 6 were testing out a modified version of the Corps’ MARPAT.

What came out of the battlefield research were two patterns dubbed AOR1 and AOR2. AOR1 was a slightly darker version of the Corps’ desert digital pattern but ran more vertically than horizontal, and AOR2 was a brighter green-hued woodland MARPAT, perfect for SEAL operations in places like the Philippines where they were hunting al Qaeda affiliates.

Check out this tiny Navy SEAL team survival kit
Navy SEALs assigned to a west coast based SEAL Team debark a hostile vessel off the coast of San Diego. Naval Special Warfare Boat Team (SBT) 12 assisted in the operation by providing small boat insertion and extraction to and from the boarded vessel. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kristopher Kirsop/Released)

The uniform was the exclusive province of Naval Special Warfare operators for several years, who wore tactical duds in those patterns manufactured by outside vendors like Beyond Clothing. They didn’t become standard Navy issue until 2010, when the service opted to field the AOR2-patterned uniforms to “expeditionary” sailors — typically Seabees, EOD technicians, riverine troops and others who operate closely with ground-based forces overseas.

Interestingly, at the time the Navy precluded sailors other than SEALs from wearing the desert AOR1 pattern, opting instead to keep sailors in the desert wearing the old tri-color analog pattern.

Fast forward to 2016 and the service announced it would field the DevGru-approved AOR2/Type III green-camo uniforms across the force, casting the cartoonish blue Type I patterned uniforms to the dustbin of history.

Guess now there’s another reason to buy that SEAL a drink.


Army ditches search for 7.62 battle rifle — for now

Multiple sources are reporting that the Army has put on hold its search for a new battle rifle to field to troops in overseas operations that fires a heavier round than the service’s current weapon.

The Army has been facing pressure from Congress and some in the service to field a larger caliber rifle to troops fighting ISIS and other militants who use Russian-made weapons and body armor. Defense officials have said the American M4 carbine and its variants fire a 5.56mm round that cannot penetrate new Russian-designed armor and that the answer was to field an immediate supply of rifles chambered in 7.62mm.

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The M110 SASS is the Army’s current 7.62 compact sniper rifle. Some service leaders pushed a version of this rifle for more deployed troops to penetrate Russian-made body armor. (U.S. Air Force photo/Justin Connaher)

“We recognize the 5.56mm round, there is a type of body armor it doesn’t penetrate. … Adversarial states are selling it for $250,” Army chief Gen. Mark Milley told lawmakers in May. “There’s a need, an operational need [for a 7.62 rifle]. We think we can do it relatively quickly.”

But less than two months after the Army issued a request from industry to provide up to 50,000 7.62 battle rifles, sources say the service has pulled the plug on the program, citing internal disagreements on the true need for the rifle and cost savings. The shelving comes as the Pentagon is finalizing a broad-based report on the military’s small arms ammunition and what the future needs of the services are given the existing threats.

Some insiders say the service is leaning toward a rifle chambered in an entirely new caliber that has better penetration and fires more accurately at longer distances, and that pursuing an “interim” solution is a waste of time and resources.

“There are systems out there today, on the shelf, that with some very minor modifications could be adapted to munitions that we’re developing at Fort Benning that could be used to penetrate these SAPI plates that our adversaries are developing,” Milley said in May. “It’s not necessarily an either or proposition on that one. I think there’s weapons out there that we can get, in the right caliber, that can enhance the capability of the infantry soldier.”

Other experts say most hard body armor can withstand multiple hits from both 5.56 rounds and 7.62 ones, so spending limited funds on a new rifle in a caliber that current body armor can already resist is simply spending good money after bad.

So for now, it looks like the Army is going to stick with its M4 for now. But with the service holding off on buying an interim 7.62 rifle, it could be that soldiers might be looking at a whole new rifle platform a lot sooner than they thought.


The world’s special forces train at this base in Jordan

Located on the outskirts of the capital city of Amman, the sound of gunfire, explosions, helicopters, and tire screeches reverberate around the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Centre.

A massive 6,000 acre compound, KASOTC is dedicated to the training of special forces operators from around the world. It has everything it needs to train operators — a mock village, an embassy compound, driving and shooting ranges, and even an Airbus A300 with targets to simulate hostage scenarios.

“Simply put, if special operations units are the tip of the spear, then KASOTC is the sharpening-tool that hones it,” the center’s website states. It certainly lives up to its motto: “Where Advanced Training Meets Advanced Technology.”

Also read: This is the ‘Super Bowl’ for special ops commandos

KASOTC is the project of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, a graduate of Britain’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and the former commander of Jordan’s Special Forces. The king recognized the importance of special operations and counter-terrorism in the 21st Century, particularly in the Middle East, and wanted Jordan to be a leader in these types of warfare.

Built by a US company on land donated by King Abdullah, KASOTC is handled by the Jordanian armed forces and private security companies.

They have trained military teams, private security contractors, and even the actors playing SEALs from Zero Dark Thirty. They also hold the Annual Warrior Competition, a contest where the best special forces teams from around the world participate in exercises and drills.

Take a look at KASOTC here:

The King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Centre opened in 2009 and trains special forces teams from various nations, as well as private contractors and security firms.

The main part of KASOTC is a massive amount of buildings designed for counter-terror and urban warfare.

The buildings include residential areas, an embassy compound, industrial facilities, government buildings, and public areas.

They’ve been built to be as realistic as possible. Some have features like exploding charges, fires, and sound systems that play everything from gunfire to the screams of civilians.

KASOTC also has a Airbus A300 and control tower.

Related: Jordan’s new Black Hawks will punish terror cells on its border

The plane features targets and civilian dummies that can move up and down, and speakers that play the sound of panicked civilians.

The Jordanian Armed Forces, particularly its Special Operations Forces, train regularly at KASOTC.

The drills conducted at KASOTC include helicopter insertions, hostage rescue, and urban warfare.

KASOTC offers courses to teach soldiers how to use vehicles in special operations.

Dirt bikes are also common at KASOTC. KASOTC has hosted international military exercises like Eager Lion. Its facilities and equipment make it one of the best places to hold these exercises.

More: Watch Jordan’s King Abdullah II lead his troops in a live-fire exercise

Jordan’s king and KASOTC’s namesake, King Abdullah II, makes frequent visits to the training center, as does his son Crown Prince Al-Hussein bin Abdullah II

King Abdullah, sometimes referred to as the “Warrior King” for his military background, is known to participate in drills himself.

As does the crown prince.

KASOTC also hosts the Annual Warrior Competition, where special forces teams and elite police units from around the world compete to be recognized as the best.

While a regular week of training can cost as much as $200,000 the competition is free to whoever can make it. The teams compete by running various drills like hostage rescue, urban battles, VIP protection, and marksman competitions. Obstacle courses are timed to find out which team is fastest. Speed is a very important part of the competition. The teams learn valuable lessons that help them on the battlefield, like Iraqi soldiers who fight against ISIS.


These dragons help teach pilots how to dogfight

History has taught that dogfighting is a perishable skill. The United States found that out the hard way during the Vietnam War, when the decision to not preserve that skill in favor of a reliance on missiles like the AIM-7 Sparrow.

It didn’t work out well, and a number of Air Force and Navy pilots paid a dear price for that lack of training.

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A-4 Skyhawk (Photo: US Navy Lt. j.g. Nelson)

In the late stages of the Vietnam War, the Navy founded what became known as “Top Gun” to teach its pilots the art of the dogfight.

The Air Force set up its own aggressors as well. Planes like the McDonnell-Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, the Northrop F-5E/F Tiger, and the Northrop T-38 Talon were among the first used as adversaries, later joined by the Israeli F-21 Kfir, the Lockheed F-16 Fighting Falcon, and Boeing F/A-18 Hornets.

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A Spanish Air Force Dassault Mirage F1. (Wikimedia Commons)

But the constant flying can be hard on those airframes. As a result, the Air Force has been turning to contractors to help them train the next generation of aces.

One of the contractors that could get the call is Draken International. The name should sound familiar – the company is named for the Saab J 35 Draken, the first plane the company bought, according to a representative manning the company’s booth at the AirSpaceCyber expo in National Harbor, Maryland.

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Aermacchi MB-339 (Wikimedia Commons)

Today, the company has a large fleet of planes. Some are familiar ones that have done aggressor duty, like the A-4 Skyhawk, of which Draken has 13 on hand. The company also has 27 MiG-21 Fishbed fighters – meaning an old adversary is now used as an aggressor.

According to handout obtained by WATM, the company also has at least 20 Dassault Mirage F1s, 21 L-159 Honey Badger advanced trainers, nine Aermacchi MB-339CB trainers, and five L-39 Albatros trainers.

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A civilian-owned L-39 Albatros (Wikimedia Commons)

The company currently provides support the Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Lockheed’s F-35 test program, the French Navy, and the Air National Guard, among other entities. It not only provides dogfighting training, they also help training the crews of surface ships, including simulating missiles.

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The Aero L-159, known as the Honey Badger. (Wikimedia Commons)

In short, these flying dragons are helping military personnel be ready for a dogfight. While not many of those have happened lately, one can never tell when those skills will be needed.


What size crew do these tanks really need?

When main battle tanks like the T-55, M48/M60 Patton, and Leopard 1 emerged, they usually had a crew of four: the tank commander, the gunner, the loader, and the driver. But all of that changed when the Soviet Union introduced the T-64 main battle tank.

The T-64 was designed with a mechanical device to put the shells in the gun — called an auto-loader — that effectively made the role of “loader” obsolete. Since then, every Soviet and Russian tank that has entered service has operated with a crew of three. Their main gun is now one giant semi-automatic – much like a M1911, only it fires a shell roughly five inches in diameter instead of a .45 ACP bullet. So, which crew arrangement works best? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.

Pros of a four-man crew

For starters, having a four-man crew spreads out basic maintenance tasks. Tanks, like any other piece of complex machinery, need care and attention to continue to operate smoothly. The extra crewman also helps the others get more rest by providing an extra pair of eyes for standing watch – a little extra shuteye can be a lifesaver. Third, a 19-year-old grunt is easier to take care of than a mechanical loading device. Finally, the loader, if needed, can bring an extra machine gun to the fight


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United States Army Abrams tanks on the move during an exercise in South Korea. (DOD)


Pros of a three-man crew

The biggest advantage of a three-man crew is that it enables you to build a somewhat smaller tank. A smaller tank is, theoretically, harder to hit. There are also some logistical benefits — the same number of rations can sustain a smaller crew longer. The bean-counters in the rear are also happy — auto-loaders do not need to be paid or equipped.


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Left front view of a convoy of Soviet T-72 main battle tanks. (DOD)


Cons of a four-man setup

As you can imagine, to operate with a crew of four, tanks will have to be larger. Also, as a human being, the loader is in need of food, water, and other necessities. In the unfortunate event that the loader is injured or killed, suddenly, a three-man crew must do a four-man job.


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Lance Cpl. William Laffoon, tank crewman with Tank platoon Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, braces himself after firing a 120mm round from a M1A1 Abrams battle tank during a live-fire range in Djibouti. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alex C. Sauceda)

Cons of a three-man crew

Let’s lay this out here: If the mechanical loading device breaks, that tank is out of action. To make matters worse, a smaller crew has fewer hands to maintain a lot more stuff – including the auto-loader. If the loader malfunctions, someone with a critically important job is going to have to divert attention.

The tanks being compact also means that the entire thing goes sky-high with a single hit.

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The T-72 is the tank with an auto-loader that has had the most extensive combat record. (DOD)

There is perhaps one test that can determine which system works best: actual combat experience. The T-72 main battle tank and variants — all operated by a driver, gunner, tank commander, and auto-loader — have seen a lot of action, often against Western, four-man-crew tank designs.

Typically, the T-72s lose out. Perhaps that has something to say about which approach is better.


Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round

Back in May, the Army Times ran a piece announcing that the Army was officially looking to replace the M16 family of weapons and the 5.56mm cartridge with a weapon system that is both more reliable, and has greater range.

As the article states, they’re taking a hard look at “intermediate rounds,” or rounds with diameters between 6.5 and 7mm, that have greater range and ballistics than either the 5.56 x 45 or the 7.62 x 51, both of which are old and outdated compared to the crop of rounds that have sprung up in the last decade or so. The thinking is, with these newer rounds, you can easily match the superior stopping power of the 7.62 without sacrificing the magazine capacity afforded by the tiny 5.56 cartridge, while still giving troops better range and accuracy.

Coupled with a more reliable platform, preferably one that doesn’t jam up if you so much as think about sand getting in it, this could potentially be a game changer for the US Army.

Now, me personally, I think this is great. I’ve had a chance to play around with a couple of these intermediate calibers, and I quickly fell in love. I’m not one of those guys who despises the 5.56, because, for what it is, it’s not a bad little round. It’s got decent ballistics out to a decent range, and you can carry a lot of them. But, when you compare it to something like the 6.5 Creedmore, one of the rounds reportedly being considered as a replacement, it’s like comparing a Mazda Miata to a Lamborghini Aventador.

And hey, a new rifle would be pretty great, too. The M16 platform has been around for ages, and while its modular nature means that it’s endlessly adaptable, the direct gas impingement operating system is a right pain in the ass. Advances in firearm technology over the past half century have given us plenty of options, and it’s high time we took a look at them.

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U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Qujuan Baptiste uses smoke as concealment during a stress shoot at the 2017 Army Materiel Command’s Best Warrior Competition July 18, 2017, at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Teddy Wade)

But giving soldiers a more reliable weapon with greater range is kinda pointless if we don’t address one of the Army’s most persistent and glaring faults: its marksmanship program sucks. There’s no one part of the thing we can point to as being problematic. It’s not just the BRM taught at Basic, or the qualification tables. The whole thing, from start to finish, really, really, sucks.

What’s the point of giving soldiers a shiny, new rifle if they can’t hit the broadside of a barn with the one they’ve got?

Now, before you break out the pitchforks and your Expert qualification badges, sit down and think about what I’m saying. Unless your MOS directly involves shooting things in the face, when was the last time you went to the range during the workday for something other than qualification? When was the last time you broke out the rifles for anything other than to qualify, or to clean them for inspection?

For most of you, that answer will be either the last time you deployed, or never. And that’s a huge problem.

Over the last ten-and-a-half years in the North Carolina Army National Guard, I’ve spent more time being told not to kill myself or rape people than how to shoot. I don’t have a problem with qualification myself; I can reliably shoot high sharpshooter to low expert. But I also make a point to shoot recreationally whenever I can. Not everyone has that option, and plenty of folks who do don’t take advantage of it.

For most folks, the entirety of their marksmanship training will consist of three weeks in Basic, the few days out of the year when they go qualify, and maybe a few days or even a week or two of extra training when they mobilize. And that simply isn’t enough.

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U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Qujuan Baptiste uses a vehicle as a barricade and fires at multiple targets during a stress shoot scenario at the 2017 Army Materiel Command’s Best Warrior Competition July 18, 2017, at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Teddy Wade)

Nevermind that the Army’s qualification system is stupid and outdated. Shooting static popup targets at ranges between 50-300 meters is a good start, but to rely on that as the sole measure of a soldier’s ability to engage the enemy is insane. According to the Army Times article linked up at the top, one of the driving forces behind looking for a new round is the fact that something like half of all firefights occurred at ranges greater than 300 meters. Meanwhile, your average soldier doesn’t even bother shooting at the 300 meter targets, because they know they can’t hit the damn things.

If the Army’s quest for a new sidearm is any indication, the search for a new rifle will take at least a decade, untold millions of dollars, a half-dozen Congressional inquiries and investigations, and probably a few lawsuits before they settle on the final product. Which means there’s plenty of time to teach soldiers how to shoot before the new gear ever starts filtering its way through the system.

As a starting point, come up with a comprehensive training plan that utilizes Basic Rifle Marksmanship, then build on that foundation throughout the soldier’s career. Get soldiers to the range more often. Update the qualification tables to more accurately represent the threat they’re expected to face. Enforce qualification standards like PT standards, and offer regular remedial training for folks who fail to meet those standards.

Or just carry on before and put a shiny new rifle in the hands of a kid who barely knows which end goes bang. I watched a guy from out battalion’s Forward Support Company shoot a 6 this year. That’s good enough, right?


This is how a guitar pick can keep you warm out in the field

A crackling fire, some good music, and a heap of roasted marshmallows are just a few of the classics that campers enjoy when spending a day or two out under the stars.

However, in some cases, things don’t go as planned and disaster strikes at the worst times. That’s why it’s important to always be prepared for when the weather gets nasty. If you’re not ready to face Mother Nature’s wrath, you might pay the ultimate price.

In the event that you need to spend an extra night outside for some reason, you’re going to need to stay warm. For the unprepared, there’s one small piece of unassumingly useful gear that the musician of the group might have brought along with them — a guitar pick.

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A normal guitar pick.
(Black Scout Survival)

This small strumming tool might be exactly what you need to start a fire and stay toasty.

Guitar picks are made out of a very flammable material called celluloid — the same stuff used in film. This makes picks extremely handy tools for starting fires.

First, find yourself some wood and carve out a small divot. Next, cut a slit down the centerline, starting about an inch or so from the top.

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Slice the wood down the centerline
(Black Scout Survival)

Scratch the flammable celluloid off the surface of the pick and collect the shavings in the freshly carved divot. Don’t be cheap with the shavings; you’ll want to slice off around a quarter of the guitar pick’s surface. We’ll use the rest later.

Now, place the rest of the guitar pick in the slit you cut down the wood’s centerline, above the divot.Now, add heat to the small pile of collected celluloid shavings by either rubbing a sturdy stick against the wood like Tom Hanks did in Castaway — or you can use a ferrocerium rod if you have one.

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(Black Scout Survival)

Once you get the shavings lit, add a small amount of kindling (the drier the better) and let the flame breathe and grow.

Note: All fires should be built safely and cared for responsibly. We wouldn’t want an already sh*tty situation to get worse.

Check out Black Scout Survival‘s video below to see how this little tool can start the perfect fire in mere seconds.


This is how Marines set up ‘vehicle checkpoints’ in enemy territory

In many Hollywood war movies, directors film scenes where terrorists barrel down the street and aim their speeding vehicles at ground troops in hopes of killing as many as possible. But instead, the ground forces open fire on the incoming car or truck and eventually score a kill shot.

Well, that’s not too far from reality — sh*t happens.

The enemy will do just about anything to transport weapons, militia, and sensitive information any way they can — so setting up a proper vehicle checkpoint is crucial.

Related: 6 reasons why it’s not a good idea to attack a Marine FOB

So check out how Marines set up their vehicle checkpoints while in enemy territory

Set up an overwatch position

Marines hardly stay in a prolonged position of any type without having an extra set of eyeballs stationed on the high ground watching over their brother-in-arms down below. This overwatch position helps to spot any potentially dangerous activities well before it gets to their boys.

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This Marine watches for enemy activity from an overwatch position.

Strength in numbers

Typically, infantry Marines rarely leave the wire to conduct static checkpoints without having enough eyes to see in all directions. Being deployed in a country where the majority of the population hates you, it’s a good idea to have as many “trigger pullers” as possible on deck — you never know when sh*t is going to pop off.

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These Marines stand close by one another as they conduct a vehicle checkpoint in Afghanistan. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

The serpentine

Since the enemy has been known to mow pedestrians down in the street, allied forces can quickly lay down concertina wire to form a serpentine style obstacle course intended to slow vehicles down before entering the checkpoint.

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The classic serpentine obstacle.

If the vehicles fail to stop and drive over the concertina wire, the strong metallic coil wraps around the tires and aisles, rendering the car useless.

Also Read: 14 images that humorously recall your first firefight

Stopping the vehicles

The ground troops usually speak — or carry stop signs — in the native language, signaling to the potential bad guys to halt when they draw closer. Once they do come to a complete stop, the Marines will allow all the passengers to step out as they search for illegal materials.

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Marine conduct a vehicle checkpoint while in Afghanistan. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Retina scans

After the passengers are removed, they’re placed under strict Marine supervision as their vehicle is carefully inspected. A Marine with a specialized camera called a “Bat and Hiide, ” or biometric automated toolset and handheld interagency identity detection equipment will take a retina scan of the passenger’s eyes.

This system will search a data base and reveal the passenger’s identity, as terrorists are known for using multiple aliases.

The eyes never lie.

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The Bat and Hiide system.

To detain or not detain

If the vehicle and its passengers check out clean, the occupants are free to go. If not, they will be detained for further questioning.

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These Marines detain a potential bad guy in Iraq. (Source: 2nd MarDiv)

Do you have any interesting vehicle checkpoints stories? Comment below.


Could the answer to Army marksmanship woes be found in the Corps?

Evidently, the US Army has a marksmanship problem. The problem being, roughly, soldiers can’t hit the broadside of a barn with their rifles. My good friend Kevin Wilson recently wrote an article and pointed out that just giving soldiers a better rifle isn’t going to get them to shoot better. So, what’s to be done?

There’s really no question the Marine Corps puts an emphasis on marksmanship. And, yeah, a Marine making jokes about shitty Army marksmanship is pretty low-hanging fruit. So, instead of jokes, here are some thoughts my Army friends might want to take to heart when considering how to improve marksmanship.

What sets Marine Corps marksmanship apart is simple, marksmanship is a fundamental part of Marine Corps culture. The other differences between Marine Corps and Army rifle training, and there are some real differences, are a product of that culture.  Things like shooting at greater distances than the Army, shooting from more positions than the Army, and ensuring all Marines (including POGs) go through basic infantry instruction, are all a result of a mindset that every Marine must be ready to face combat, regardless of their MOS. Due to this mentality, good marksmanship is both socially mandated and required by regulation.

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Staff Sgt. Shawn Coleman, assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 26, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducts a Table 3 live-fire exercise. USMC photo by Cpl. Kyle N. Runnels.

Marksmanship is an essential part of our identity, beginning with Marines’ role acting as marksmen on sailing ships, sniping the enemy from high up in the riggings. Marines like to say every Marine is a rifleman. Obviously, this isn’t entirely true, there are plenty of crappy shots in the Corps. But, unlike in the Army, being a crappy shot is something to be truly embarrassed by. As much as being a fat-body. Or, a sailor not knowing how to swim. Or, an Air Force officer not knowing how to play golf. Being intimately familiar with your rifle starts in bootcamp; in fact, the rifle a Marine recruit is issued at the beginning of bootcamp is the same rifle that recruit uses to qualify on later. And it goes further. We all know that scene in Full Metal Jacket where the recruits march around in their underwear in the squad bay singing, “This is my rifle, this is my gun,” right? Yeah, that (or something similar) actually happens sometimes in bootcamp. My Drill Instructor even encouraged us to name the rifles we were issued at the beginning of bootcamp, life imitating art, perhaps, but an excellent example of the emphasis the Marine Corps places on making handling the rifle second nature.

Every Marine recruit is drilled with the basics of marksmanship. Right from the very beginning of a Marine’s enlistment recruits are taught things like sight alignment/sight picture, proper cheek/stock weld, natural point of aim, breath/trigger control. Now, I’m not saying the Army doesn’t teach the fundamentals, I’m just saying it’s a matter of real study for Marines. A Marine is expected to know how to read the wind strength and be able to adjust the dope on his/her rifle accordingly, no Kentucky windage allowed. Recruits literally spend dozens of hours simply practicing dry firing and practicing their aim on barrels before they even get to the range.

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A Marine with Company A, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion performs rifle drills during a combat marksmanship program. USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Justin Bowles.

But it isn’t just an issue of not wanting to be embarrassed by having to wear a badge below Expert. Unlike in the other branches, marksmanship matters in terms of professional advancement. A Marine literally can’t get promoted if they don’t have a rifle score in the system every year, and they can’t get a rifle score unless they achieve a minimum qualification on the range. Qualifying Expert isn’t just a matter of bragging rights or having a cooler badge to put on your uniform, not qualifying at all means a Marine could get kicked out of the Marine Corps, same as if they can’t make weight, pass the swim qual, or pass the Physical Fitness Test.

Making being a basic rifleman a part of the Marine Corps culture isn’t limited to just the Known Distance range, though. POG Marines spend an extra month after bootcamp learning basic infantry skills. Patrolling, fire team rushes, squad-level attacks, platoon-level assaults on an objective. MOUT. Learning how to set up fields of fire for a defensive position, proper channeling techniques. All Marines become familiar with basic infantry weapons like the AT-4, the MK-19 grenade launcher, the M2 50 cal, the M-240 Golf medium machine gun, and the SAW.

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A reconnaissance Marine serving with Alpha Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, fires the AT-4 antitank rocket at an enemy machine gun bunker during a raid exercise. Photo by Lance Cpl. Corey Dabney.

Now, do Marine POGs become experts on any of these systems? Of course not. The training isn’t intended to make admin clerks into infantry, it’s intended to make sure that if the shit really goes down in combat, any and all Marines have real training to fall back on. It’s intended to give every Marine a rifleman’s mentality, regardless of what MOS they’re in. These are the basic standards that ALL Marines are expected to meet.

If the Army wants to improve the marksmanship capability of its soldiers, and thus increase their survivability in combat, it doesn’t need a new rifle. The Army needs to raise the bar. Make the fundamentals of marksmanship a part of Army culture, and watch how the quality of soldier improves across the board.


That time a soldier grappled a suicide-bomber and lived

During Operation Enduring Freedom, American troops weren’t just tackling the Taliban and al-Qaeda. A number of them were part of Provincial Reconstruction Teams. The term was a bit of a misnomer – in some cases, they weren’t reconstructing things, they were building things in one of the poorest countries in the world.

One of those troops in a provincial reconstruction team, or PRT, was Staff Sergeant Jason Fetty of the United States Army Reserve who was a pharmacy technician in West Virginia before he was called up and deployed to Khost province. According to a 2007 American Forces Press Service release, he had spent ten months working to build a new emergency room when he would have a fateful confrontation on Feb. 20 of that year.

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Staff Sgt Jason Fetty (Defense Video Imagery Distribution System)

“We build roads, build bridges, improve health care. The Afghan government doesn’t really have the means to fix itself by itself,” Fetty explained about the PRT’s mission.

Fetty had gotten to know many of the medical professionals at the time, and while on guard duty that day for the opening of the emergency room, he noticed an unfamiliar face. And that person “definitely didn’t look right,” Fetty later said.

“Every Soldier who has been in combat or been downrange knows when something is not right,” he later explained to reporter Donna Miles. “You can feel it. You can see it. It’s a general sinking feeling that things are not going to go right. You feel it in your gut.”

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Members of a Provincial Reconstruction Team deliver school supplies. (Photo: U.S. Navy HMC Josh Ives)

Fetty attempted to use verbal commands to force the intruder away, but the man grabbed his rifle by the barrel. At that point, Fetty began to maneuver the would-be murder-suicide bomber away, while others evacuated the assembled VIPs, including the governor of the province.

“It was either going to be me or 20 other people back there. …suicide bombers are next to impossible to stop. All you can do is limit the damage that they can do,” Fetty said. But after he got the would-be killer around the corner, things escalated. Accounts differed as to whether Fetty tackled the bomber or struck him with the end of his rifle, but there was a violent encounter that included Fetty shooting the terrorist in the lower legs.

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Army Spc. Joseph Sullivan, security force team member assigned to Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah, provides security. Staff Sgt, Fetty was on security duty when he went eyeball-to-eyeball with a murder-suicide bomber. (US Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Josh Ives)

Other troops soon started firing, and eventually, Fetty took three steps away and then made what he would call “a Hollywood dive” as the bomber’s explosives detonated. Fetty was peppered with shrapnel, as were some other American troops, but the bomber had been kept from his primary target – as well as the doctors who would staff the new emergency room.

For his actions, Fetty became the first Army Reserve soldier serving in Afghanistan to receive the Silver Star.