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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s dark. The air is heavy, filled with Afghanistan smoke and dust. On the flight line at Bagram Airfield, an Army CH-47F Chinook helicopter waits, beating thunder with its blades.
An 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron Guardian Angel team, which consists of pararescuemen and combat rescue officers, runs out and boards the helicopter. As the Guardian Angels settle into their seats, the helicopter takes off against the night sky over the mountainous terrain.
During the ensuing flight, two Operation Freedom’s Sentinel teams will conduct a personnel recovery exercise, testing their capability to work together as they extricate simulated casualties from a downed aircraft. The Army and the Air Force are working together to execute personnel recovery.
‘Personnel recovery is a no-fail strategic mission’
“Personnel recovery is a no-fail strategic mission,” said Air Force Maj. Robert Wilson, 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron commander. “The interoperability between the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force, by way of the CH-47F, has enabled our Guardian Angel teams to effectively conduct a wide variety of personnel rescue operations in ways not previously attainable.”
Executing missions with CH-47Fs gives the seven-man Guardian Angel team unique advantages; such as an increased capacity to recover a larger number of isolated personnel and the ability to fly further and higher than previous platforms allowed.
“This partnership strengthens the resolve of those fighting on the ground and in the air to fight harder and longer, knowing that someone will always have their back,” Wilson said.
The Chinook is a twin-turbine, tandem-rotor, heavy-lift transport helicopter with a useful load of up to 25,000 pounds. With its high altitude and payload capability, the CH-47F is vital to overseas operations, such as in Afghanistan. Its capabilities include medical evacuation, aircraft recovery, parachute drops, disaster relief and combat search and rescue.
“I’ve been flying CH-47 models for 22 years,” said Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Shawn Miller, a CH-47F pilot with the South Carolina National Guard. “This is an unprecedented tasking. Never in its history has an Army unit been tasked to provide dedicated aviation assets and crew to conduct joint personnel recovery operations.”
Miller’s team is also joined by the Illinois Army National Guard.
The CH-47F model, with its enhanced capabilities, combined with the combat search and rescue mission set, allows the team to transport more personnel and essential equipment higher, further distances, and offer longer on the scene station times than ever before, Miller added.
Joint operations between services capitalize on the unique skillsets each branch brings to the fight.
For missions in Afghanistan, because of its high altitudes and current enemy threats, the benefits seem to outweigh the risks of using a different system. Especially in terms of the varied mission sets required of the personnel recovery enterprise.
The pararescue team also specializes in cold weather/avalanche or snow and ice rescue, collapsed structure/confined space extrication, or many different forms of jump operations in static-line or free-fall configuration.
Using the teams to their full capacity is all about strengthening the resolve of those fighting on the ground and in the air.
“Critical to the warfighter is knowing that a highly trained and capable PR force is standing ready at a moment’s notice, willingly placing themselves in harm’s way … so that others may live,” Wilson said.
The bow often takes center stage in period pieces any time before the invention of gun powder. From modern portrayals in the Hunger Games series to those in a Roman epic, the bow is a weapon that has shaped the course of human history more than any other weapon. You would be hard-pressed to find a roleplay video game without one. Even Greek Gods wielded them in battle. The family tree of this weapon grows at the crossroads of human warfare.
Origin of the bow and arrow
Bow and arrow, a weapon consisting of a stave made of wood or other elastic material, bent and held in tension by a string. The arrow, a thin wooden shaft with a feathered tail, is fitted to the string by a notch in the end of the shaft and is drawn back until sufficient tension is produced in the bow so that when released it will propel the arrow. Arrowheads have been made of shaped flint, stone, metal, and other hard materials.
Like other weapons of war, the bow started with the humble beginning as a hunting tool. It was invented in Africa 71,000 years ago. Archaeologists have found bows on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. The Native Americans in North America are believed to invented the bow and arrow independently and it spread south to the rest of the Americas. Arrows are expensive and only wealthy countries could reasonably keep their armies equipped. This was true until the bow took its logical next step in its evolution.
The Long Bow
The Longbow first arrived in Europe around 3,000 B.C. and appeared in the battle of Somerset, England in 2,690 BC. The weapon gets its name from, well, being long. At six feet, it was as tall as the archer wielding it. It had a max effective range of 320 meters. They were the armor-piercing rounds of their day, able to penetrate anything up to and including plate armor. The weapon has become synonymous with the English although it was invented by the Welsh. It is romanticized in literature, movies and video games because it is a good weapon. Its biggest disadvantages were that it took years for a soldier to learn to use effectively and the cost of training.
The Composite Bow
Composite bow is a type of traditional bow made of horn, wood, and sinew which are laminated together and is similar to the “laminated bow” which is made only of layers of wood. Most of the composite bows are recurve bows (when not stringed they curve opposite of the archer) that have wooden core with horn on the belly, facing the archer, and sinew on the back. Wooden core is made of multiple pieces, joined with animal glue in V-splices. Horn is used on the inside because it can store more energy than wood in compression. Sinew, placed on the back of the bow is soaked in animal glue. It is obtained from the lower legs and back of wild deer and is used because it will stretch farther than wood which again stores more power.
The invention of the composite bow is believed to have been ushered in the 1700s B.C. by the Shang Dynasty in China. Parallel thinking and engineering saw a proliferation of composite bows across the Mediterranean and Europe. The Mongol composite bow changed the course of history in one fell swoop in the hands of Genghis Khan. His version of the bow was designed to be shot on horseback. Everything in the Mongol culture was centered around the horse. The world wasn’t ready when the Great Khan forged the largest empire in history with it. You could either join the Mongols or have total war upon your people: The original “Plata o Plomo”.
The crossbow, leading missile weapon of the Middle Ages, consisting of a short bow fixed transversely on a stock, originally of wood; it had a groove to guide the missile, usually called a bolt, a sear to hold the string in the cocked position, and a trigger to release it.
There is a lot of debate whether crossbows are bows in the modern era especially when it comes to hunting. In the United States, some hunting seasons in different states prohibit the crossbow when bows are allowed. Other states restrict them to when rifles are allowed or restrict them altogether. Historians are also conflicted on when a crossbow was a bow and when it split into two separate categories. Crossbows are usually just as regulated as firearms and bows are considered sports equipment.
So, at this point in the evolutionary timeline of the bow, we can see it has become something new. While it may not fall under archery perfectly because even though it is a kind of bow, it is not a bow itself. It shares more history with the bow but the function of a crossbow is closer to rifle – with matching laws. Crossbows also have a PR problem across borders. In Brazil they’re considered a toy yet in the U.K. they’re associated with poachers but in America they’re used for hunting or zombies.
The current theme of special operations weapons seems to be small and quiet. I can’t blame them. Small, lightweight weapons with suppressors are quite comfortable for a wide variety of roles. When you have a far-from-average job, you need far-from-average equipment. That’s where guns like Sig Sauer’s LVAW come into play. LVAW stands for Low Visibility Assault Weapon, and it’s become well-represented in the hands of the men of the Army’s elite Delta Force, the Navy’s famed SEAL teams, and other JSOC commandos.
The LVAW offers selective fire capability and is only available to police and military forces. From the military perspective, this rifle is a submachine gun (SMG) killer. For the longest time, suppressed 9mm SMG platforms dominated the quiet-riot role. Capable as these weapons can be, however, they’re limited by the ammunitions. The 9mm round offers pretty poor penetration when compared to most standard rifle calibers. Weapons like the SIG LVAW were designed to provide an extremely quiet and compact weapon that brings rifle cartridges to the table, making them a superior alternative to an SMG is just about every way.
At Its Core
At its core, the SIG LVAW is a SIG MCX rifle designed and modified to fit a specific mission type. The MCX rifle from SIG Sauer is a short-stroke piston gas-operated rifle series. While the classic Stoner design has been proven to work extremely well, they tend to lose reliability when barrel length is limited to under 10.3 inches.
Short stroke gas piston guns work extremely well with short barrels, and the LVAW has one of the shortest rifle barrels on the market. It features a 6.75-inch barrel, which, I should point out, is absurdly short for a rifle. The SIG MCX design uses an upper and lower receiver that mimic the famed AR 15 and M16 series of rifles. This ensures the controls of the LVAW perfectly match the service rifles operators grow up on in service. This lowers the training time required to get familiar and proficient with the weapon and allows for a retained standard manual of arms across platforms.
Since the gun uses a short-stroke gas piston, there’s no need for a buffer, buffer spring, or buffer tube. In order to make things even more compact, SIG installed a simple folding stock that allows the gun to maintain even lower visibility when stored or stashed.
SIG also equipped the weapon with a modular handguard and industry-standard optics rail. Commandos can attach optics of all kinds, as well as PEQ-15s, lights, and whatever else they may need to make the LVAW better suited to its environment. It’s a short and lightweight weapon; however, tracking down official measurements has proven difficult.
Into the LVAW
The super-short barrel seems odd for a rifle, but keep in mind the LVAW was designed from the outset to be used with a suppressor. In fact, without a suppressor, you could actually damage the rifle’s handguard. The handguard encompasses the barrel and a portion of the suppressor. Without the suppressor, the muzzle blast can damage the handguard. While the suppressor likely can be removed, it seems feasible that it might be only for maintenance purposes.
The suppressors obviously reduce the signature of the gun while fired (though certainly not to the extent depicted in movies). It also acts as a means to lengthen the barrel and increase the velocity of the round, which is important due to the super short 6.75-inch barrel.
In terms of sound reduction, the SIG suppressor brings the sound of the LVAW down to a level that almost matches the MP5SD. The MP5SD is a 9mm suppressed submachine gun that’s widely considered one of the quietest options available for its purpose, which put the LVAW in good company. The suppressor also eliminates muzzle flash and helps control muzzle rise and recoil; making the user harder to spot during an engagement and making it easier to put their second and third rounds on target respectively.
All this makes the LVAW an extremely capable Close Quarters Battle (CQB) weapon. Its quiet operations allows the operator to engage threats without causing an alert. But lowering the volume does more than that. When the gun is used inside a vehicle or in extremely close quarters with teammates, operators can still communicate with each other and avoid causing serious hearing loss, as is prone to happen when using un-suppressed weapons in tight situations.
It’s hard to overstate just how loud gunfire can be in an enclosed space. The noise can permanently damage the hearing or those nearby and significantly reduces an operator’s situational awareness. But the LVAW design doesn’t do it all by itself. It functions so silently due, in part, to its round of choice: the 300 Blackout.
Into the 300 Blackout
The 300 Blackout cartridge is relatively young when compared to most of its military peers. This cartridge was developed for a very specific purpose, and that purpose includes exactly what the LVAW does. The 300 Blackout was designed to functioned extremely well when fired from a rifle with a short barrel.
On top of that, or maybe as a part of that function, the 300 Blackout was also designed to function well with suppressors. It can utilize both supersonic and subsonic rounds without needing any internal parts swapped out. Subsonic rounds, for those who aren’t ammunition savvy, don’t break the sound barrier, eliminating the supersonic crack that makes up a fair portion of the audible bang when the weapon is fired. Using subsonic rounds in a suppressed weapon makes for a very quiet day.
The downside to subsonic ammo is that it’s really only useful at short ranges. So LVAW users can use subsonic ammunition when they need to remain sneaky and quiet, and then swap magazines for supersonic rounds when they need to extend their range on the fly.
As a rifle cartridge, the 300 Blackout provides better penetration and range than any pistol round. It beats soft armor and deals more damage to hard armor. It’s extremely effective, and the 300 Blackout makes the LVAW one highly versatile firearm.
The Low Visibility Assault Weapon
SIG’s LVAW strikes a certain chord with the special operations community, and it comes as little surprise that it’s been seen in the hands of DEVGRU (colloquially known as SEAL Team 6) and Delta commandos. Specifically, it seems to be a very popular weapon for personal security details. General Austin Miller’s bodyguards were seen carrying these firearms in Afghanistan, and it’s easy to see why. They’re small but capable and work well, both in and out of buildings and vehicles.
The LVAW likely won’t ever be a general issue service rifle; it just wasn’t designed to be. However, in its niche, it’s tough to find a better option. It’s a low-issue item used for specific mission sets, and a fascinating design that seems to be popular among the elite of the elite.
When people think of U.S. military pistols, the M1911 and M9 come to mind. The former is iconic for being in service in some capacity for over a century and winning two World Wars. The latter is well-known as the standard-issue sidearm since 1985. However, the Glock 19 has quickly become a favorite in Special Operations. After all, these top-tier operators get to cherry-pick the best equipment available over the standard-issue gear.
Introduced in 1982, the Glock is arguably the most iconic handgun in the world. Its boxy shape and common depiction in media make it instantly recognizable. Moreover, its lightweight polymer frame revolutionized the firearm industry. Even the new standard-issue sidearm, the Sig P320-derived M17/M18, follows this design methodology. Despite initial doubts over the strength of a polymer-framed handgun, the Glock has proven its dependability over decades of use in the hands of soldiers and law enforcement officers all over the world.
Despite its track record, the Glock lost to the aforementioned Sig for the contract as the U.S. military’s standard-issue sidearm. A major factor in this decision was the fact that the Sig provided the modularity that the contract called for with its interchangeable chassis system while the Glock did not. After all, it was called the XM17 Modular Handgun System competition. Sig also bid with a specialized ammunition package from Winchester which reportedly edged it out over Glock.
The cost of arming and rearming an organization the size of the U.S. military is an enormous one. However, Special Operations has a much smaller population to supply and a bigger budget per capita. As a result, SOCOM is able to supply its operators with the best gear for the job at hand. Delta Force has reportedly used the .40 S&W-chambered Glock 22 heavily in the Global War on Terror. However, advancements in 9mm ammo and reduced maintenance have led to reports that they have switched to the Glock 19. The Navy SEALs famously used the Sig Sauer P226-based MK25 before making the switch to the Glock 19. Even the MARSOC Raiders have traded in their steel-framed .45 ACP 1911s for Glocks. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention General Austin “Scott” Miller and his tricked out Glock.
As part of a system, the Glock 19 makes sense a lot of sense. Its compact size and polymer frame save weight on an operator’s total kit. Remember, ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain. The Glock 19 is also accurate enough to serve as a combat sidearm while being small enough to conceal for the more covert operations that SOCOM undertakes. Although the majority of the U.S. military has modernized with the adoption of the M17/M18, SOCOM continues to field the tried and true Glock.
Feature image: A representative assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group fires a Glock 19 Pistol during range training in support of Emerald Warrior Feb. 24, 2021 at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. Emerald Warrior is the largest joint special operations exercise where U.S. Special Operations Command forces train to respond to various threats across the spectrum of conflict. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Gabriel Macdonald)
The Marine Corps is a small organization that does a good job of producing a united front. Marketing people call it consistent messaging, and the Corps has long made it a part of their communications strategy. It’s simple. Marines are Marines. There are no special Marines.
While this narrative approach gives the Corps a consistent message and appearance, it also fails to highlight many of the special missions the Corps accomplishes that involve small teams of elite, specifically trained, war fighters. Today we are going to highlight one of those small teams of elite service members, commonly called FAST Marines.
FAST stands for Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team. These FAST units fall under the branch’s Security Force Regiment, which provides a dedicated security force and anti-terrorism unit made up of Security Force Marines. These Marines usually guard a variety of installations like Naval bases and others too sensitive to leave without an armed presence.
FAST Marines have a very specific and specialized job. FAST teams are highly trained Marines who deploy across the world to serve as security at United States government installations. Imagine an embassy is threatened, and they need an immediate shot of highly trained Marines with a whole lot of guns.
They call FAST, and those Marines live up to their acronym. FAST Marines do non-traditional deployments to Guantanamo Bay, Bahrain, Spain, and Japan, where they essentially stage as a just-in-case precaution. These ‘staging’ deployments allow them to deploy at a moment’s notice to nearly anywhere in the world. On these deployments, they train extensively and keep their skills sharp in case they are called upon. FAST Marines also deploy stateside to aid Marine Security Forces in guarding nuclear subs and ships during nuclear rod replacement.
History of FAST
FAST saw its establishment in 1987. The 1970s and 1980s saw the rise of modern terrorism, and American interests overseas become targets of it. The President issued an order for the military and federal law enforcement to enhance their anti-terrorism capabilities. The Marines did as ordered and found a weakness in their Security Force infrastructure.
In the event of an attack that could overwhelm a Security Force detachment, they had no dedicated quick reaction force to enhance a Security Force’s numbers and capabilities. Thus, FAST Marines were born. Their mission was simple: they exist to reinforce an installation’s security force when the threat outguns the security forces on hand.
Since then, FAST has been called in to help secure Naval stations In Panama, where they engaged with what they believed to be Cuban special forces in an intense 30-minute firefight. From there, the Fast Marines would continue into Operation Just Cause, or the full invasion of Panama, in December of 1989.
FAST Marines deployed to Bahrain to protect the Naval Installations during Desert Storm, and in 1991, helped evacuate U.S. personnel from Liberia. When the U.S. established a liaison office in Mogadishu, they called FAST to provide security.
Without going through the entire history of FAST, it’s easy to say they’ve operated at a relatively high tempo since their inception, and have always been there when the Marine Corps and their nation called upon them.
How to become a FAST Marine
FAST Marines have a long pipeline of training before they become active-duty operators. It starts with speaking to a recruiter and obtaining a Security Forces contract. Like everyone in the Corps, it starts at a recruit training depot.
From there, Security Force Marines will attend Infantry Training At the School of Infantry West or East and obtain a MOS of 0311. Security Force Marines will maintain an infantry MOS as their primary MOS.
After SOI, they attend Security Force School. Here they can volunteer for FAST company. There is no guarantee for acceptance, and it’s all based on the needs of the Corps.
After acceptance into FAST Company, they begin 5 Weeks of FAST training. From there, they go to an 8-week Close Quarter Battle School. The CQB school teaches FAST Marines how to fight in extremely close quarters. Here they become experts in clearing rooms, hallways, stairways, as well as dynamic entry and various other tasks associated with urban combat.
Following CQB school, they take a tactical driving course. Here Marines learn Motorcade Operations, high-risk driving, evasive driving, PIT maneuvers, ramming, close proximity driving, and driver down drills.
Marines then become bodyguards at a High-Risk Personnel course where they learn close quarters protection tactics.
From there, they begin training in individual nonlethal weapons. This course teaches them tactics and weaponry they can use to deal with threats in a nonlethal manner. Finally, they attend the Helicopter and Rope Suspension Techniques Master Course, where they learn how to fast rope, rappel down structures and out of helicopters, and use SPIE rigging.
Life as a FAST Marine
After all that training, they’ll still be expected to know basic Marine skills. This includes basic and advanced trauma medicine, how to use nearly every weapon in the Corps’ arsenal, how to use night vision and thermal optics, land navigation, HMMWV course, and more.
FAST Marines will be stationed in either Naval Station Norfolk or Naval Weapons Station Yorktown in beautiful Virginia in companies Alpha, Bravo, or Charlie. 400 Marines and Sailors make up a FAST company.
From there, they can look forward to a potential deployment at the Platoon level to one of several naval stations where they can further their training and be on call for a mission. FAST Marines can expect to be constantly training in one direction or another.
FAST Marines utilize a lot of the same gear as their infantry counterparts. This includes the M4 and likely the M27 in the near future, as well as the Beretta M9, the M249 SAW, and M240B medium machine gun. Shotguns from Mossberg and Benelli offer a powerful close-quarters fighting tool, as well as a nonlethal option with the right rounds. Some Senior FAST Marines may have even been to designated marksman school and be wielding specialized rifles for that role.
Per their contract, a Security Force Marine will only serve two years active duty with Security Forces. After these two years, most will be reassigned to conventional infantry forces. It’s an odd system that doesn’t make much sense to me. It seems like after an expansive series of schools that FAST Marines would stay FAST Marines, but the Force dictates differently.
In the Infantry
Security Force Marines often have difficulty adjusting to the infantry. They’ve spent years in Security Forces and often come to the infantry as Non commissioned officers. Their specialized training is just that, specialized. It doesn’t translate over to conventional infantry operations, and because they lack the experience of most infantry Marines, they can feel like a fish out of water in the new surroundings and operational environment.
FAST Marines do come to the ‘fleet’ with a more advanced set of skills and can serve as excellent advisors in close quarter’s combat, however. Urban terrain has been a big factor in recent wars, and knowing how to properly fight in it is invaluable.
FAST is simply one small cog in a large Marine Corps. These small teams of specialists always interest me, and I think the Marine Corps does a disservice to itself by failing to highlight their unique capabilities. Regardless, when American installations overseas dial 911, it’s FAST that answers the call.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In a post-COVID world of streaming movies and digital premieres, Amazon’s The Tomorrow War starring Chris Pratt is a solid summer blockbuster. The sci-fi action film can be likened to Interstellar crossed with Edge of Tomorrow with a healthy dose of Chris Pratt being Chris Pratt. For a Hollywood production, The Tomorrow War gets a surprising amount of things right when it comes to gear. Of course, there are plenty of movie sins in it as well. This article will be mostly free of spoilers, but we make no guarantees, so read at your own risk if you haven’t seen the movie yet.
1. BCM Carbine
Let’s get the “not so awesome” out of the way first. Over the last decade, Bravo Company Manufacturing has become a go-to brand in the firearms industry. Best known for its high quality AR-15 parts and builds, BCM has gained widespread popularity in both military and civilian shooter circles. In The Tomorrow War, the primary weapon of the human resistance is a tricked out short-barreled BCM carbine.
Although it looks futuristic and cool to the average viewer, anyone who has handled the AR-15/M4 platform knows that the weapon is a pretty poor choice. The short barrel significantly reduces the effectiveness of the 5.56x45mm round that it fires, explaining why the humans are losing the war. Despite the linear compensators, all those short barrels firing full-auto in the stairwell would have left everybody with some serious hearing loss too. While the Trijicon ACOG and canted red dot look cool, the short barrel means that the weapon really doesn’t have the range to make use of the magnified optic and no one seems to ever use the canted red dot. Plus, it’s not like the Whitespikes are hard to see so the 4x zoom isn’t necessary for identification at range. Chris Pratt and his crew would have been better served with a larger caliber weapon like SOCOM’s MK 17 SCAR-H or the Sig NGSW.
2. Kimber Warrior SOC
Maybe Pratt’s character knew about the inadequacies of the standard-issue carbine after all. Before reporting for duty, he retrieves his personal .45 ACP Kimber Warrior SOC from his home safe. Used by elite units like LAPD SWAT and Marine Force Recon, Kimber 1911-style pistols are considered to be some of the best .45 sidearms money can buy. While militaries and law enforcement agencies have largely made the switch to the smaller 9x19mm cartridge in 2021, a full-power .45 is probably a better choice against the aliens seen in The Tomorrow War.
3. IWI Desert Eagle Mark XIX
Speaking of big-bore pistols, J.K. Simmons’ character carries one heck of a hand cannon. Playing Pratt’s father in the film, Simmons’ character is a Vietnam veteran with a taste for big guns. His sidearm of choice is an IWI Desert Eagle Mark XIX chambered in .50 AE. That’s the kind of slug you want to be throwing at a gigantic armored alien. A .45 is great, but a .50 is a .50. Naturally, the film features a bit of father-son verbal jabbing regarding the size of the pistol, but it proves its worth in the end.
4. F&D Defense FD338
Matching his Desert Eagle, Simmons’ character carries an equally heavy-hitting rifle. Made to order with a lead time of eight weeks, the FD338 has a base price of $5,450 according to F&D Defense’s website. The .338 Lapua Magnum that it fires hits with about five times the force of 5.56x45mm and has more consistent and predictable ballistic performance than the legendary .50 BMG. This kind of performance in an AR-style rifle is unparalleled in the firearms industry and Simmons’ character puts the FD338 to good use in the film.
5. Beretta 1301 Tactical
One weapon that stands out from the others is the shotgun used by Edwin Hodge’s character. His Beretta 1301 is a 12-gauge gas-operated semi-automatic shotgun that deals serious damage to the armored aliens at close range. While it doesn’t have anywhere near the reach of the FD338, the 1301 excels in close quarters and Hodge’s character uses it to great effect. Hopefully he had it loaded with something crazy like tungsten slugs to make the most of his shotgun’s raw power.
When the war in Vietnam kicked off, the Navy’s special warfare operations weren’t exactly the same as we know them today. During World War II and the Korean War, the Navy’s special operators were mostly “Frogmen,” members of the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT).
Within months of the start of the Vietnam War, the Frogmen were carrying rifles and became experts in special operations tactics. The Navy SEALs were about to be reborn and tested in the jungles of Vietnam.
The Navy SEALs, as we know them today, were established in 1962 in a commitment from the Kennedy White House to develop America’s unconventional warfare capabilities. The SEALs were descended from the World War II-era joint “Scouts and Raiders” and the Navy’s UDTs used extensively throughout that war.
Although they kept a low profile throughout the Korean War, the UDTs’ Frogmen perfected many of their operations along the North Korean coastline (even moving inland in many cases) and honed their commando abilities against a real-world enemy.
But Vietnam was the first war in which the Navy SEALs were fully funded and fully developed, graduating three classes of SEALs from the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Course (BUD/S) every year.
By 1967, the number of BUD/S classes increased to five per year. Before the mid-1960s, SEALs in Vietnam were being used to reconnoiter beaches and landing sites, survey waterways and train South Vietnamese commandos. The CIA began to use SEALs in its Phoenix Program, an effort to undermine the Viet Cong in South Vietnam through counterterrorism and counterintelligence operations.
In the late 1960s, the Viet Cong, the guerrilla forces of the North Vietnamese communist government, had created an entire shadow government of its own in North Vietnam. The bread and butter mission of the U.S. Navy SEALs was to deploy into the jungle and take down VC leaders.
Most of these leaders were mid-level, and the SEALs would deploy in nine-man teams, with two of those being South Vietnamese commandos and one being a Navy SEAL officer. The team would head out into the jungle for a couple of days, complete the destruction of a VC official, and then head back to base.
These direct action, search-and-destroy missions were a far cry from the SEALs earliest days of carrying demolition explosives to a specific structure and destroying it before leaving the area. On top of killing the enemy, SEALs also had to gather intelligence in Vietnam. This meant they had to actually capture enemy troops and interrogate them.
Sometimes, this meant learning to speak Vietnamese. The SEALs had truly come into their own as a complete, well-rounded special operations force. For the duration of the war in Vietnam, there were at least eight full platoons of Navy SEALs in the country.
The elite status of the special operators also included the look they’re still known for to this day: relaxed uniform and grooming standards. One of the favorite items among Vietnam-era Navy SEALs, were Levi’s blue jeans – because the government-issued camouflage just didn’t hold up against the dense jungle foliage.
For all the trouble SEALs had at the start of the war, including high casualty rates, public anger over the Phoenix Program, and internal Navy division over the relaxed grooming and uniform standards, the SEALs proved they were worth the trouble. They were willing to do what other units weren’t willing to do, in the face of overwhelming odds.
And the Navy SEALs still do it, almost 60 years later.
The skies above the United States and its allies aren’t just an intelligence battleground anymore, they’re also a big business arena. Some of the world’s top aircraft designers are looking to get their designs airborne with America’s most top secret missions.
Today, Sweden’s air forces are flying nondescript, ulta-secret spy missions in what appear to be the swankiest luxury aircraft on the market. In April 2021, Sweden flew a pair of luxury airplanes off the coast of Russia, where Russian military signals and radar were highly active.
It looked like a luxury private jet that could have belonged to any corporate officer from anywhere in the world. The converted Gulfstream IV was nothing of the sort; it was filled with the latest and greatest in signals intelligence collection equipment.
This isn’t the first time Sweden has employed its sleek fleet of Gulfstream spy planes over the past few years. They’ve been seen flying around Syria and the Mediterranean Sea. Sweden isn’t alone in employing them – other governments are bringing a demand for converted luxury aircraft.
According to Reuters, the market for selling special mission business jets to intelligence agencies is worth more than $3 billion worldwide. Using converted luxury aircraft is apparently a lower-cost alternative to converting larger passenger planes or military aircraft.
One defense and military analyst believes the shift is coming from the advanced listening and intelligence systems. As they get smaller and more powerful, the size of the aircraft needed to house them also gets smaller.
These special missions can vary from passive radar detection, communications interception, and early-warning systems. Countries from South Korea to France to the Israel Defense Forces are looking for more inexpensive ways to continue these missions using advanced equipment and smaller planes.
A private corporate jet can cost anywhere from $20 million to $60 million, the Reuters report says. Conversion to a spy plane with the latest technology could run state actors upwards of another $200 million.
The new demand for smaller aircraft is a boon to the private aviation industry, according to industry executives, who saw a drop off in demand from the civilian sector. A focus on military conversion means the companies will be more dedicated to that sector.
Although using luxury private aircraft as spy planes is a tradition that dates back to the Cold War, the breakthroughs in signals intelligence technology mean that smaller planes can be as effective as larger ones in singular “special mission” roles. The only threat to this new, emerging marketplace for corporate aircraft: special mission drones.
Unmanned aerial vehicles can be a slightly cheaper alternative for some countries looking for so-called “special mission aircraft,” but they aren’t that much cheaper. The Northrop Grumman Global Hawk UAV will still run about $130 million.
But converted executive aircraft are a good investment. The U.S. military purchased a number of Grumman Gulfstream I planes in the early 1960s, converting many to long-range command and control aircraft. They remained in service until 2001.
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.
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.
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.
To develop Sailors with character and professional competence, who possess integrity, accountability, initiative, and toughness, Recruit Training Command (RTC), the Navy’s only boot camp, administers a final exam that is designed to evaluate the proficiency of critical warfighting skills.
The final exam is called “Battle Stations-21.” It is a graded evolution held on board USS Trayer, a 210-ft replica of an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile Destroyer, in which recruits must earn the right to be called a “Sailor” and graduate basic training. They spend the night loading stores, getting underway, handling mooring lines, standing watches, responding to incoming attacks, manning general quarters stations, and combating shipboard fires and floods. It is as close to being underway as a recruit can get before reaching their first ship.
Facing sensory overload from compartments full of smoke, blaring alarms, periods of low visibility as well as disorienting flashes, recruits are required to overcome the stress, self-organize and tackle each scenario with little-to-no intervention from instructors. Their Battle Stations-21 grade is comprised of 75% individual proficiency and 25% team proficiency. Failure in either category, or an overall score below 80%, results in training remediation which impacts recruit graduation dates.
Part of the new hands-on learning curriculum, designed by RTC’s senior enlisted instructors to develop tough, more qualified Sailors through realistic training, the Battle Stations-21 grading requirements measure warfighting proficiency during the Sailor development process.
“Battle Stations-21 is the standard for testing the effectiveness of recruit training,” said Chief Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) Kevin Barrientos, one of the RTC instructors responsible for running USS Trayer. “Scenarios include ship replenishment, sea and anchor detail, firefighting, damage control, crew casualties and various deck, bridge, engineering and navigation watch stations.”
To prepare for Battle Stations-21, recruits conduct hands-on training that is focused on the critical warfighting skills of watch standing, seamanship, force protection, firefighting and damage control. In the classroom, applied labs and practical trainers, recruits conduct more than 30 hours of seamanship training and more than 40 hours of firefighting and damage control training before reaching their final exam.
Recruits also maintain an around-the-clock watch rotation, simulating various watch stations as they are manned in the Fleet. They also have the opportunity to earn their M9 Service Pistol qualification during small-arms familiarization training.
“Our hands-on learning curriculum enforces repetitive and deliberate practice of each skill,” Barrientos said. “This type of training motivates recruits to rise to the challenge at Battle Stations-21, and prepares them for service in the Fleet.”
Recruits fight all night long to keep USS Trayer operational and battle ready. If they embrace their training, they will pass their final exam, earn their Navy ball cap, and advance to graduation. Trayer is then reset for the next division of recruits who hope to become the Navy’s newest Sailors.
Recruit Training Command is approximately eight weeks long and all enlistees into the U.S. Navy begin their careers at the command. Training includes physical fitness, seamanship, firearms, firefighting and shipboard damage control along with lessons in Navy heritage and core values, teamwork and discipline. About 40,000 recruits graduate annually from RTC and begin their Navy careers.
The Navy SEAL community is arguably the best-known special operations organization in the U.S. military, if not the world. But there is a smaller community within the SEAL Teams you may have never heard of that specializes in some old-school commando-style missions: the SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) Teams.
Inspired by the Italian frogmen of World War Two, who sunk or damaged several Allied ships in daring special operations, the SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams operate a fleet of mini-submarines that can strike or carry special operators clandestinely behind enemy lines.
A Unique Capability
SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams specialize in three primary mission sets: underwater insertion and extraction of special operations troops, underwater special operations, and underwater special reconnaissance.
Although not a primary mission-set, SDVs can also support Naval Special Warfare Development Group, the Tier 1 SEAL Team that specializes in counterterrorism and hostage rescue, in maritime counterterrorism scenarios by clandestinely transporting assaulters close to a target. That unit is more commonly known among those outside the SEAL community as SEAL Team 6.
SDV Teams offer a niche but highly valuable capability to commanders. As competition with China heats up and tensions with Russia continue to increase, the SDVs are becoming increasingly valuable at both tactical and strategic levels.
In the event of a conflict with China, for example, SDV Teams could transport SEAL operators close to enemy harbors or to other strategic targets, such as the Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) batteries that can prevent U.S. Navy aircraft carriers from getting within range. Also, SDVs could unilaterally attack enemy warships in harbor by placing limpet mines on ships or detonating other devices that would block the entrance and stop or stall traffic. Finally, SDVs could operate close to enemy shores, emplace sensors, and reconnoiter before sending vital intelligence back to headquarters to inform commanders.
“SDVs aren’t sexy. They are uncomfortable and a lot of work, but they fill a critical and unique capability. The guys that do get to work with the SDVs are a strategic national asset,” a former Navy SEAL operator told Sandboxx News.
SDVs have two crew members: a pilot and a navigator. Traditionally, the pilot has been an enlisted operator, while the navigator is an officer. But the roles aren’t set in stone and depend on both manpower and skill.
Becoming an SDV SEAL, however, isn’t easy or (one might argue) even desirable.
A Special Community
After a Sailor has finished the SEAL pipeline, which is composed of the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training and the SEAL Qualification Training (SQT) course, and has earned the SEAL Trident, he (or in the future, she) gets assigned to a SEAL Team.
There are nine active duty regular SEAL Teams, two SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams, and three Special Boat Teams. The units are divided between the West and East Coasts. There is an additional Tier 1 SEAL Team, the DEVGRU, previously and colloquially known as SEAL Team 6, that recruits the best SEALs from the other teams and specializes in hostage rescue and counterterrorism operations.
“Most Team guys actively try to avoid getting assigned to an SDV Team. Believe it or not, SEALs don’t really like the water, despite the fact that we’re America’s dedicated underwater special operations force,” the former Navy SEAL said.
“When you’ve spent so much time being cold and miserable in BUD/S [Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training], the last thing you want is spending eight plus hours in a wet coffin in the bottom of the cold ocean.”
If a newly minted SEAL is selected or volunteers for SDV duty, he has to go through additional training, namely the SEAL Delivery Vehicle School, before he gets to his team. And often, SEALs will receive additional training, called Advanced Operator Training (AOT), once they arrive on the team. That’s another reason for the unpopularity of SDV teams within the SEAL community. By the time a new SEAL has finished with all of his SDV training and is fully qualified, a classmate of his from BUD/S would be finishing his first platoon or beginning his second.
Although a minority, there are some SEALs who actually prefer the SDVs and volunteer for duty in one of the Teams. As with all military assignments, SEALs rotate through units throughout their careers, and though an operator might begin his journey in an SDV team, he might end it in a regular SEAL team.
“[Guys] also think getting shipped to an SDV Team means fewer opportunities to deploy in an operational role and see some action—really what we signed up for. That’s not very accurate. Take the Red Wings guys, for example, they were SDV SEALs but deployed to Afghanistan and were conducting a special reconnaissance mission when it happened. But truth be told, that was another age, where everyone and their mom saw combat,” the former SEAL added.
“Today, opportunities to see combat outside the tier 1 level [Naval Special Warfare Development Group] are very few, and, in a perverse twist of roles, SDVs are the place to be right now because of the attention to China in the Pacific.”
At the headquarters of SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team Two, there is a plaque hanging with a simple question: “Are you just a SEAL or are you an SDV SEAL?”
The U.S. military first used submersibles for special operations with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the predecessor of the CIA and the Army Green Berets, during World War Two. OSS’ maritime branch had a primitive submersible capability in the form of underwater canoes. The British had developed more advanced technology, which the OSS was able to study and pave the road for the modern-day SDVs.
The workhorse of the SDV Teams today is the Mark 8 SEAL Delivery Vehicle. However, the days of the aging Mark 8s are almost over, with the Mark 11 Shallow Water Combat Submersible (SWCS) currently going through final operational trials.
The future of the Naval Special Warfare’s SDV capability is focused on two submersible platforms: The Mark 11 (SWCS) and the Dry Combat Submersible (DCS).
The Mark 11 comes with several upgrades over its Mark 8 predecessor, including increased operational range, more advanced sensors, better navigation systems, a new command-and-control structure that allows for the easy integration of new technologies, and an increased payload. It is approximately 23 feet long and is designed to carry two crew members, a pilot and navigator, along with a four-person combat diver team.
Both the Mark 8 and Mark 11 are flooded, meaning that the combat swimmers are exposed to the water, using the vehicle’s compressed air supply to breath during the transit and shifting to their Drager breathing apparatuses once close to the target.
At 40 feet, the DCS is almost twice the size of the SWCS and also four times heavier. But the increased size and weight come with a much longer operational range and payload, in addition to being more comfortable for the operators. While comfort may not sound essential, it becomes imperative when SEALs have to accomplish their mission after an eight-hour plus dive. The DCS can hold two crew members and eight combat divers, twice that of the Mark 11.
SDVs are quiet, hard to detect, and clandestine, making them the perfect chariot for covert and clandestine special operations. They can be launched from the water (both via surface ships and submarines), from land, and even from the air via helicopter. The most optimal launch method for stealth is underwater via a submarine’s Dry Dock Shelter (DDS), which is attached on top of a submarine.
However, SDVs aren’t a magic bullet for getting operators ashore without arousing suspicion. They’re limited by their low speed and short operational range and can be affected by environmental factors, such as water temperature and sea conditions.
The U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is placing increasing emphasis on the SDV capability. In 2019, Naval Special Warfare Command reactivated SEAL Vehicle Delivery Team Two (SDVT-2) in Little Creek, Virginia. SDVT-2 is the dedicated East Coast SDV team, while SEAL Delivery Team One (SDVT-1), based in Hawaii, is responsible for the West Coast. The SDV teams were first activated in the early 1980s.