On April 7, 2003, three weeks into the Invasion of Iraq and day four of the nine-day Battle of Baghdad, twenty-eight year-old Captain Kim Campbell (callsign “Killer Chick”) of the 75th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron was on her way in from Kuwait on a close air support mission when she got a call for immediate assistance from the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division.
The 3rd Infantry was attempting to take the North Baghdad Bridge, which was an essential maneuver for capturing the city and cutting off reinforcements, when they found themselves in a desperate Rebel Guard situation.
Upon receiving the call, Campbell and her A-10 Warthog (no need for “Thunderbolt II” pleasantries here) re-routed and readied the BRRRRT.
“We were originally tasked to target some Iraqi tanks and vehicles in the city that were acting as a command post, but on the way to the target area we received a call from the ground forward air controller or FAC, saying they were taking fire and needed immediate assistance,” she told Women’s History Month Luncheon guests.
With only seconds to identify the enemy location and — friendly troops — in a blazing war zone, she unleashed bullets on the enemy from the 19-foot long GAU-8 Avenger Gatling gun strapped to the nose of her A-10, followed by 2.75-inch high-explosive rockets.
She immediately became a target for Iraqi anti-aircraft weapons and she took heavy fire.
The Warthog’s tail was struck by a missile, impairing both hydraulic systems and sending it spiraling towards the city of Baghdad. Campbell had to react quickly.
She switched the jet into manual reversion (which basically looks like one of those old “Flying Machine” Da Vinci sketches – just a bunch of hand-cranking cables and wires rigged to the flaps and rudders of the aircraft).
She manually wrangled her mighty steed and mechanically regained control like some sort of god d*mn puppet master.
Heading back to her base in Kuwait, Campbell had the option of ejecting from the aircraft but decided to manually land the A-10 instead, hoping to keep the rig in one piece.
Only twice before this had manual landings like this been attempted: the first time ended with the pilot crashing to his demise, and the second time the pilot had to be rescued by fire crews after the plane broke in half and caught fire…
Crash recovery teams surrounded the base as Campbell made her descent, but against all odds, she landed her battered up beast.
“I was impressed,” said Lt. Col. Mike Millen, chief of the 355th Fighter Wing Commander’s Action Group and a fellow A-10 pilot. “Kim landed that jet with no hydraulics better than I land the A-10 every day with all systems operational.”
Despite this near fatal mission, the very next day Campbell was up and running on another rescue mission over Baghdad, completely unfazed by the events that had only just transpired.
“I never really had time to think about the fact that I was going back to Baghdad where just the day before I had escaped a possible shoot down,” she shared. “In my mind, the only thing that I could think about was that I had a job to do. I knew that the search and rescue alert crews were there for me the day before and I was going to do the same for this pilot.”
U.S. Army life has created a lot of heroes in its 243 years of service. Here are 9 of the most legendary soldiers to have ever shot, bayoneted, and blown up America’s enemies:
1. Gen. George Washington
The legendary standard, George Washington began as a militia officer working for the British Crown but later commanded all American forces both as the top general in the Revolutionary War and later the first commander in chief.
2. Sgt. John Lincoln Clem
John Lincoln Clem changed his own middle name from Joseph to Lincoln sometime before he tried to enlist in the Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War when he was 9. After being rejected by another unit, he made it into the 22nd Michigan Volunteer Infantry who sawed down the musket he later used to kill a Confederate officer who demanded his surrender.
He was promoted to sergeant and became a national hero before being discharged in 1864. He returned in 1871 and rose to major general before retiring in 1915.
Lewis Millett joined the Army in 1941 but got tired of waiting for the U.S. to invade someone, so he deserted to Canada and got himself deployed to London. When America entered the war, he jumped back under the Stars and Tripes and twice saved men in his unit from certain death before his desertion charges caught up with him.
Leaving the sights and sounds of modern day Saigon, we began our journey to the Central Highlands of Vietnam. As we left the city that I had come to feel comfortable in and approached the outlying rural areas, I felt a heightened sense of awareness.
Even though I knew this was 2017 and the war was far behind, my head was on a swivel and my eyes were constantly searching for threats. Intellectually, I understood that the jungles and hills of Vietnam held no threats, but my emotional side equally felt the need to be aware.
The pungent smells of the countryside – logs and vegetation burning to clear land, outdoor cooking alongside the road, and unrestricted vehicle exhaust were the same smells I had encountered years before and brought back a familiar feeling and sense of nostalgia. The remembered rubber plantations from my previous years in Vietnam have given way to rolling fields of coffee, but the same farmers living at the edges of the fields are the same people, just doing what needs to be done to provide for their families.
The brown soil of the areas around Saigon turned to red clay as we moved into the plateaus of the Central Highlands and the lowland farmers begin to turn in to descendants of the Montagnard tribes that I had worked with years ago.
Passing through Gia Nghia I think of an old friend, Martha Raye – comedienne, nurse, Army Reserve Officer and teammate of many Green Berets.
Stopping at a truck stop for a lunch of Pho, Jason’s favorite dish, I can look west across a valley and in the distance can see what I’m pretty sure is Cambodia. I spent a lot of time there and it feels surreal to see it in such a serene setting.
Driving into the lowering night and through a heavy rain storm, I feel my gut tightening as we approach the city of Buon Ma Thuot. It’s almost a physical action to push down the emotions that are starting to well up inside me as we get closer and closer to the city.
China has reportedly developed an over-the-horizon maritime early warning radar system that its creator claims can detect stealth aircraft far beyond visual range, an advanced capability that could threaten US fifth-generation fighters operating in the area.
Liu Yongtan, the team leader for the radar project, told Chinese media his high-frequency surface wave radar emits “high frequency electromagnetic waves with long wavelengths and wide beams” that travel along the surface of the sea, the Global Times reported June 10, 2019, citing a recent interview with Naval and Merchant Ships magazine.
The radar system, part of China’s ongoing efforts to prevent a sneak attack by enemy stealth assets, can purportedly detect enemy air and naval threats hundreds of kilometers away in any weather condition.
The 83-year-old creator says the radar is also “immune” to anti-radiation missiles, which track the point of origin for electromagnetic waves.
Liu’s radar system, which won him the country’s highest scientific award, has been named China’s “first line of defense.”
F-35A Lightning II.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)
Does it actually work?
Western experts argue that this type of radar, which is not new technology, offers the defending country a chance against incoming stealth assets, but there are limitations that prevent it from being the death of a fifth-generation fighter like the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.
“Because of its very long wavelengths, it can detect objects like stealthy aircraft,” Todd Harrison, an aerospace expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies told Business Insider, explaining that stealthy aircraft are designed to be less detectable to shortwave radar.
Major drawbacks, however, include the low resolution and lack of a real-time target-grade track. “It will tell you there’s something there, but you can’t characterize it,” Harrison explained, adding that the radar “can’t get a precise enough fix on a position to target it.”
Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute told Business Insider that “China might be better informed about where American stealth fighters are operating in the battle space, but still unable to use those radar systems to cue in missiles to actually kill them.”
F-35 Lightning II.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander Cook)
But, the over-the-horizon radar does have the ability to cue other types of radar systems to narrow their field of view and concentrate their radar energy on the position where an object was detected. “You have a better chance of finding it” with the over-the-horizon radar, Harrison explained.
Another big problem with the powerful Chinese radar, though, is that it is vulnerable to attack, meaning they might only be useful in the early stages of a fight.
While they may be immune to counter-radar anti-radiation missiles, these systems are large, can be easily seen from space, and could be targeted with a GPS-guided missile. “It will help you in the initial stages of conflict, but the US will probably put a missile on the antenna sites and take it out of commission pretty quickly,” Harrison said.
The Chinese radar system is also presumably vulnerable to jamming and electronic warfare attacks, a high-end capability provided by US fifth-gen fighters.
China’s new radar system is not perfect, but it does provide early warning capabilities that could alert the country to the presence of incoming stealth assets, strengthening its defenses and potentially giving it a shot.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The High-Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle, best known as the Humvee, has been a mainstay of the United States Military for three decades, replacing the classic Jeeps. These vehicles are now giving way to the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV, which has some big shoes to fill.
However, the Humvee is likely going to help its successor along — by being a parts donor.
According to a release from Marine Corps Systems Command, Humvees will be capable of donating their gun turrets to JLTVs. This turret, known as the Marine Corps Transparent Armor Gun Shield, or MCTAGS, helps protect the folks manning the machine guns from enemy small-arms fire.
The MCTAGS entered service in 2005, replacing the older Gunner’s Protection Kit. One of the major advantages offered by MCTAGS is increased situational awareness for the gunners, enabling them to better see and more quickly target the enemy.
The Marine Corps Transparent Armor Gun Shield has been used since 2005, but will continue on much longer thanks to a procedure that allows it to be transplanted on the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
Marines recently proved that the MCTAGS can be transplanted from a Humvee to a JLTV by carrying out a proof-of-principle operation, but it’s not the only piece being donated. The Improved TOW Gunner’s Protection Kit, or IT-GPK, is also fit for transfer, alongside radios and other communications gear.
The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle will enter service in 2019.
Not only will this second-hand gear enhance the survivability of the JLTV by giving gunners better situational awareness, it’ll also help the Marines save a fair chunk of change. By using existing technology, the Marines will save on development and manufacturing costs. Additionally, many who will operate the JLTV have previous experience with the Humvee’s similar configuration, meaning there’ll be no additional training — another savings.
A Marine Corps Transparent Armor Gun Shield being transplanted on a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. This will save time and money for the Marine Corps, while increasing the combat capabilities of the JLTV.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Kristen Murphy)
Marines are currently carrying out the Operational Test and Evaluation process on the JLTV. The first units to get the JLTV will be the Marine Corps School of Infantry-West at Camp Pendleton, California; School of Infantry-East at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; The Basic School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia; and Motor Transport Maintenance Instructional Company at Camp Johnson, North Carolina, which are scheduled to get the vehicles early next year.
The very first tanks in combat rolled across the plains of Europe on Sep. 15, 1916, at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette. Allied tank power only grew from there. Since the Germans most commonly found themselves on the receiving end of tank warfare, they were the ones who improvised the first responses. Here’s what they came up with:
1. Flame throwers
Flamethrowers were typically used after a tank suffered a mobility kill. A soldier with a flamethrower would approach the tank and order the crew to surrender before killing them if they didn’t. In some cases, soldiers would approach operational tanks and attempt to burn out the crew.
2. Reversed bullets
While standard rounds were nearly useless against tanks, Germans found that modifying their ammunition would let them kill tank crews at short ranges. First, the projectile was removed from the cartridge. Then, more powder was added and the projectile was put back on the cartridge backwards, with the point to the rear and the blunt side of the projectile forward.
When the rounds struck a tank at close range, they could dent in the armor with enough force that the armor would spit shrapnel into the crew area, killing and injuring the soldiers. Frequent misfires were reported though, so the Germans eventually invented armor piercing rounds.
3. Targeted artillery and mortar attacks
Artillery in World War could engage tanks with either howitzers, field guns, or mortars. Howitzers and mortars are traditionally fired “high-angle,” where they fire a shell into the air so that it falls on enemy targets, piercing the top armor when they hit tanks. In some cases, especially with mortars, desperate crews would “direct fire” their weapons at tanks.
Field guns were typically shot in direct fire mode, pointing the weapon at the enemy and attempting to punch through its hull with the force of the round. At first the German field guns only had high explosive rounds that could score mobility kills, but they eventually got armor piercing rounds that could destroy the target entirely.
Because they were already handy, grenades were some of the first weapons pressed into anti-tank warfare. While a single grenade was unlikely to destroy a tank, it could achieve a mobility kill by breaking the treads.
Later, stick grenades would be bundled together and tossed at oncoming enemy tanks. When everything went well, the combined explosive force of the grenades would break through the hull.
5. Tank obstacles
While tanks are the ultimate all-terrain vehicle, it’s still possible to carve the land so that tanks can’t roll over it. While thin trenches could be crossed with ease, very wide trenches were impassable for tanks and the Germans began digging accordingly.
6. Anti-tank rifles
The German Mauser 1918 T-Gewehr fired a large, 13.2 mm round with a steel core at 785 meters per second, easily piercing the tank armor of the day. Unfortunately, they were developed too late and in too few numbers to stem the Allied tank advance.
US Army soldiers will soon be deploying with game-changing new night vision goggles as the service wraps up the final round of testing this week.
Troops will be putting the Enhanced Night Vision Goggles – Binocular (ENVG-B), recognized as one of the most advanced night vision optics available, to the test at Fort Drum in New York at the last of ten limited user events. Once the testing is complete, the ENVG-B will enter full-rate production with fielding scheduled for this fall, PEO Soldier announced April 22, 2019.
An armored brigade combat team set to deploy to South Korea this fall is expected to be the first unit to deploy with the new system, according to Army Times.
Highlights of the new night vision goggles include dual-tubed binoculars for improved depth perception and increased situational awareness, white phosphorous tubes (a higher-resolution improvement over the traditional green glow), and improved thermal capabilities that allow soldiers to see through dust, fog, smoke, and just about anything else that might impair a soldier’s vision on the battlefield.
But, the really impressive capability is the ability to wirelessly connect the new goggles to the Family of Weapon Sights-Individual (FWS-I) for Rapid Target Acquisition. With the picture-in-picture setup, soldiers can fire accurately from the hip or point their weapon around a corner to observe or fire on targets effectively while remaining hidden.
This capability “enables soldiers to detect, recognize and engage targets accurately from any carry position and with significantly reduced exposure to enemy fire,” the Army explained.
“Now, if a soldier’s on a patrol, weapon’s down at his hip, all of a sudden a threat pops, instead of having to flip up a goggle, shoulder his weapon, reacquire, he has that aim point in his field of view, and he can actually shoot from the hip,” a BAE Systems spokesman previously told Business Insider. The FWS-I, along with the highly-capable monocular ENVG IIIs, were developed by BAE. The new ENVG-Bs were developed by L3.
Army officials have spoken highly of the new goggles and their improved capabilities.
“It is better than anything I’ve experienced in my Army career,” Lt. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commander of Army Futures Command, recently told Congress, according to Army Times. He said there had been been a marked improvement in marksmanship, explaining that Rangers had “gone from marksman to expert” with the help of the new optics.
Referring to the Rapid Target Acquisition capability, Brig. Gen. Dave Hodne, director of the Army’s Soldier Lethality cross-functional team, told reporters last fall that he “can’t imagine, right now, any future sighting system that will not have that kind of capability.”
The new goggles are also suitable for augmented reality, an option that allows the Army, and later the Marines, to turn the optics into a virtual reality platform for synthetic training.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Everyone lies in the military. From the newest privates to the saltiest of generals — we’ve all done it.
Studies show that by the time a child reaches the age of three, they know how to tell a fib. Although white lies are considered harmless, others can screw with peoples’ heads.
Since the military is a structured environment, young troops depend on their senior enlisted leaders for not only career guidance but personnel management. You can’t go home on leave or sometimes liberty without getting their signature (depending on the branch).
Keep in mind many first sergeants won’t even know your name without looking at your name tape. So they might not even care if they lie to your face. However, others may care and want to earn your respect — but that won’t stop them from lying.
So check out a few ways in which you might catch your first sergeant in a fib.
1. Look for a momentary head jerk or tilt
First sergeants don’t know everything, even though they may want you to think they do. According to lie expert Richard Wisemen, liars tend to retract, jerk or tilt their head during specific parts of their reply. If they jerk their heads while listening, that doesn’t technically mean they’re lying because they need to be speaking.
If they jerk their heads while listening, it doesn’t technically mean they’re lying because they need to be speaking.
This muscle jerk is considered a form a user uncertainty.
The old fashion head tilt. It’s universally not a good sign. (Image via Giphy)
2. Watch their blinking
Everyone human on the planet blinks to lubricate their eyeballs. The average person blinks their eyelids 15-20 times per minute at nearly a consistent rate.
Lie experts suggest people who fib tend to change the rate of their blinking, slowing it down then increasing nearly eight times faster than norml. So to my E-4 mafia, if your first sergeant blinks too much, your request is denied.
Pretty inconsistent. (Image via Giphy)
3. Repeating their words
Since the military is about maintaining high levels of discipline, people often tend to over-speak or repeat the question you just asked them to buy themselves time. This act allows your brain to generate its next words carefully.
So the next time you ask your first sergeant for special liberty and it takes them an hour to explain why you can’t — they’re probably lying.
So, I guess it’s a no. (Image via Giphy)
4. Point towards the exit
We don’t mean that they literally point their index finger toward the exit, but many times when liars are in a situation they want to get out of, they tend to steer their bodies toward the nearest exit.
Yup, she’s lying. (Image via Giphy)
5. Breathing changes
In many cases, when someone is lying to you, their breathing habits increase as their stress levels elevate. Troops should watch how many times their first sergeant inhales and exhales. If the rate increases, it could be an indication they aren’t telling you the truth.
We think we just caught her in a lie. (Image via Giphy)
Body language tells us more than what the speaker is usually saying. In many cases, when a liar is lying, the lie creates a level of anxiety. So you may notice your higher ups overly correct their uniforms or put their hands in their pockets trying to relieve that stress.
If they do that, you can bust them for lying and for stowing their hands in a place that they’re not supposed too.
Next time you speak to anyone in your command, look for these “tells” to see if they’re telling you the truth.
The Organization of American States (OAS) has expressed the “greatest concern” about the arrival of nuclear-capable Russian aircraft in Venezuela.
In a statement released on Dec. 12, 2018, the OAS General Secretariat said it “takes note with the greatest concern of the news coming from Venezuela about the possibility that aircraft capable of using nuclear weapons from Russia are in its territory.”
It said the presence of the foreign military mission violates the Venezuelan Constitution “because it has not been authorized by the National Assembly, as required [by the constitution].”
“Therefore, we consider such an act harmful to Venezuelan sovereignty,” added the OAS, which consists of all 35 independent nations of the Americas, including the United States.
Nuclear-Capable Russian Bombers Arrive In Venezuela | NBC News
Russia’s Defense Ministry on Dec. 10, 2018, sent two nuclear-capable strategic bombers to Venezuela, in an unusual display of Russian military force in South America, raising tensions with the United States.
The bombers’ arrival came just days after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro visited Moscow, seeking Kremlin support for his country, whose economy is in shambles and deeply in debt to Russia.
Venezuela has purchased millions of dollars in military equipment from Russia in recent years.
The deployment of the aircraft drew a particularly pointed response from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a posting to Twitter.
“The Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer,” Pompeo wrote.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Dec. 11, 2018, that Pompeo’s comments were “undiplomatic” and “completely inappropriate.”
On Dec. 12, 2018, the White House said it had been assured by the Kremlin that the planes would leave Venezuela on Dec. 14, 2018.
“We have spoken with representatives of Russia and have been informed that their military aircraft, which landed in Venezuela, will be leaving on [Dec. 14, 2018] and going back to Russia,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told Reuters.
Oil-rich Venezuela has been racked by economic and political crises since 2010 under leftist leader Hugo Chavez and has continued into Maduro’s presidency.
Millions have fled the country, driven by violence, hyperinflation, and major shortages of food.
Sgt. Trey Troney credits training he received from his unit’s medics for helping him save a man’s life after an accident on Interstate 20 near Sweetwater, Texas, Dec. 22, 2018.
Troney, 20, was on his way home to Raleigh, Mississippi, a small town about 1,085 miles east of Fort Bliss, for Christmas when he saw the accident at about 2 p.m. and pulled over.
Seeing Jeff Udger, of Longview, Texas, slumped over the steering wheel of his truck, Troney asked two other men to help him pry open the door. Udger had a bad gash on his head, and Troney took off his brand new “Salute to Service” New Orleans Saints hoodie and wrapped it around Udger’s head to help stop the bleeding.
At this point, Udger was still conscious enough to make a joke about it, Troney said.
“Well, this is Cowboy country, so I don’t know how I feel about you wrapping me up in a Saints hoodie,” Udger told Troney.
Soon after, however, Troney noticed that the left side of Udger’s chest wasn’t moving, and he realized Udger had a collapsed lung. Troney ran back to his Jeep, hoping he still had some first aid supplies left from the brigade’s recent rotation at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California. Sure enough, he had a Needle Chest Compression, or NCD, and an Individual First Aid Kit, or IFAK, so he grabbed them and ran back to Udger.
The scene of the accident on Interstate 20 near Sweetwater, Texas.
While his training made the use of the NCD second nature for Troney, he had to think fast after the NCD needle was too small to reach into Udger’s collapsed lung and relieve pressure.
Finding a ballpoint pen, he had an idea. He tore off the ends of the pen and took out the ink so it was just a hollow tube.
“I took the NCD and put it right in the hole and kind of wiggled (the pen) in with my hand in between the ribs and you just started to see the bubbles come out of the tip, and I was like, ‘OK, we’re good,'” said Troney.
The state trooper who had just arrived asked, “Did you just put an ink pen between his ribs?”
“I was like, ‘I did,'” Troney said. “And [the state trooper] was like, ‘he’s on no pain meds,’ and I said, ‘oh, he felt it, but he’s unconscious. He lost consciousness as I was running back to my Jeep because he had lost a lot of blood.'”
When the ambulance arrived about 10 minutes later, the paramedics credited Troney with saving Udger’s life, and the state trooper bought him food at the truck stop up the road. Still, Troney said he was afraid Udger might try to seek legal action if he had made any mistakes. To the contrary, Udger, as soon as he recovered enough to respond, has been contacting government officials, the media and Troney’s chain of command — all the way up to his brigade commander, Col. Michael Trotter — and telling them how thankful he is for Troney’s actions.
“In an urgent situation [Troney] showed amazing patience and continuous care,” said Udger in an email. “He kept talking to me and acted as if the situation was no pressure at all.”
In a phone interview, Udger said he is glad Troney left behind his email address so he could contact him, and he has offered to replace Troney’s hoodie. Troney said the loss of the hoodie means nothing to him and there is no need for Udger to replace it.
Doctors expect him to make a full recovery, said Udger.
Troney, a field artillery cannon crewmember assigned to Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, said the medics made sure soldiers knew the basics of combat medicine, and often reinforced and extended that training in between Howitzer fires in the field. Also, in El Paso’s 100-degree heat in the field, they would trade coveted DripDrop hydration packets for demonstrated knowledge of combat medicine.
Soldier Uses Ballpoint Pen, Football Sweatshirt To Save Man’s Life After Car Accident
“We train over and over; it’s like muscle memory. Not to sound biased, but at 2-3 … they’re some of the best combat medics that I’ve ever met,” said Troney.
Capt. Angel Alegre, commander, Btry. C, 2nd Bn., 3rd FA Regt., 1st SBCT, 1st AD, said he has worked with Troney for about a year and recently became his battery commander. Knowing Troney, his actions at the accident scene do not surprise him, he said.
“Put simply, he is a man of action and excels in times of adversity. It’s what he does best,” Alegre said. “Sgt. Troney is very attentive and places great emphasis on all Army training. To be available when needed as a Combat Lifesaver [Course] qualified [noncommissioned officer], and especially to have the IFAK readily available sitting in his vehicle, many could say is nothing short of a miracle.”
Troney has set the example and represented the battery, the battalion and the brigade very well, Alegre said.
“I will speak for all when I say we are very proud of one of our own, one of our best and brightest, being ready and able to answer when called upon to help someone in need,” Alegre said.
Troney said he has been in the Army for about three years and the incident taught him how his training can help others outside the Army.
“I was in a pair of jogging pants and a T-shirt on the side of a highway and somebody’s life depended on me slightly knowing a little bit [about emergency medical care],” Troney said. “It wasn’t anything crazy [that I knew], but to [Udger], it was his world.”
Troney said one of the things Udger told him in an email will always mean a lot to him: “Young man, you will always be my hero. Continue to give back to this world and the people in it. You truly will never know when you will make a life-changing impact to someone.”
Troney said he learned from the incident that you never know what a person might need.
“You’re just there and you might have what they need,” said Troney. “He needed an ink pen to the ribs. Luckily I had an ink pen.”
When Gen. Stanley McChrystal began working on his memoir after retiring as a four-star general in 2010, he realized that his perception of himself as a leader was different from reality. In the past eight years, he’s had time to reflect on his career and the notion of leadership itself.
During that long career, McChrystal led America and its allies in the Afghanistan War before retiring as a four-star general in 2010. He revolutionized the Joint Special Operations Command. And he’s best known for taking out the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.
He’s now the managing partner of the leadership-consulting firm the McChrystal Group, and he’s the lead author of “Leaders: Myth and Reality.”
In an interview for Business Insider’s podcast “This Is Success,” he breaks down what he learned from key points in his life, including how recently revisiting the legacy of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee helped him realize it was time to redefine leadership.
Listen to the full episode here:
Subscribe to “This is Success” on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or your favorite podcast app. Check out previous episodes with:
Stanley McChrystal: By the time we finished this book, we really arrived at this conclusion that leadership isn’t what we think it is, and it never has been. It’s much more complex. It’s not two-dimensional. And for me, one of the representative incidents is my relationship with Robert E. Lee. I grew up, figuratively speaking, with Robert E. Lee.
Rich Feloni: You grew up in Virginia.
McChrystal: I grew up in Northern Virginia, not far from his boyhood home, and I went to Washington-Lee High School. And when I turned 17, I went to West Point, as Robert E. Lee had done, and when you go to West Point, you don’t escape Robert E. Lee. I lived in Lee Barracks. There were paintings of Robert E. Lee. And while every other leader at West Point is famous, he’s special.
And then when I got older and I was retired and I had this picture that my wife had given me 40 years before. My wife had paid for it when I was a second lieutenant, and I hung it proudly at every set of quarters we ever had, because for me it represented “This is what I believe in.” When someone came into my quarters, they’d see, “Oh, Robert E. Lee. Those are the values that he believes in.” And I was proud of that.
Then, after Charlottesville, in late spring of 2017, my wife, Annie — we’d been married 40 years at the time — she goes, “I think you ought to get rid of that picture.” And my first response was, “You gave it to me, honey. I could never get rid of that?” And she says, “No.” And I said, “Well, why?” And she says, “I think it’s communicating something you don’t think it is.” And I said, “What do you mean? He was a general officer. He just did his thing. He was a military guy, not a politician or something.” She said, “You may think that, but people in our home may not think that, and they may think you’re trying to communicate something deeper, white supremacy and all those things. So one morning, I took it down and literally threw it away. And it was a pretty emotional moment for me.
And then as we started writing this book, and we had already begun the initial work, I realized I couldn’t write a book about leadership unless I wrote about Robert E. Lee. And I knew that was dangerous, because Robert E. Lee had become a controversial character. There’s a part of American society that is just passionate in his defense, part of it that is passionate against him, and everybody’s going to weigh in. But you know, I’d grown up with Robert E. Lee, both as a person in my mind, but also as an ideal. And just recently, I walked down, just to walk the distance between his childhood home and the slave-trading house in Alexandria, Virginia, which was the second-busiest slave-trading house in the United States. And this is where northern African-Americans were bought. Some freed men were captured, but others were bought from farms that weren’t profitable and shipped to the deep South, where cotton was so profitable. And so it was right in front of him. It was 10 blocks from his home. You don’t hide from the fact that this very ugly thing is a reality. And he spent the next four years defending it. And so there’s this contradiction. Here’s a guy who in some ways, is so admirable. His soldiers loved him
Feloni: From a military perspective.
When McChrystal attended West Point in the ’70s, Confederate general Robert E. Lee had transcended his connection to the Confederate cause, and had become a symbol of military discipline and honor.
(The Library of Congress)
Feloni: Yeah, but it would have to be removing from the context of basically a traitor to his country, ignoring that and kind of replacing it with a myth.
McChrystal: That’s right, and I couldn’t.
Feloni: And were you not aware of that link that people could make when you had that painting in your quarters?
McChrystal: Here’s the point. On one level, yes I was. On another level, what I did was I just said, “Yeah, but.” And I think a lot of people, with Robert E. Lee, go, “Yeah, but.” And the real point of the book is, everybody is a complex person like that. Every memory of every leader that we profiled and everyone we could think, may not have that clear a contradiction, but they all have them. And we as followers, we as observers, we have to make a decision on how we look at those, how we process that, because if we’re looking for the perfect person, woman or man, we can wait forever. They’re not coming.
The ‘Great Man Theory’ of leadership is a myth
Feloni: Yeah. Well, when you’re looking at that and kind of leading into your thesis here, what is the way that we define leaders and leadership, and what is wrong with that, and what were you looking to correct?
McChrystal: I wrote my memoirs starting in 2010, and I thought that it would be fairly straightforward, because I was there, so I knew what happened. And I’d be the star of the show. The spotlight would be on me. And yet, when we went to do … I had a young person helping me that was brilliant. We went to do the research. We did a whole bunch of interviews, and we went to things that I had been very much a part of and given credit for. We found that I would make a decision and issue some order and there would be an outcome. And I thought, “OK, my order produced that outcome.” And in reality, we found that there’s a myriad of actions that other people are doing, or factors impinging on it, that actually affected the outcome much more than I did.
Feloni: So you didn’t realize this until you were writing your memoirs?
McChrystal: No, I mean, you get to this point in life because you sort of believe the Great Man Theory. You sort of believe that the leader is central to everything. And then when I get this, it’s very humbling, and I realize, leaders matter, just not like we think they do. And as we put in the book, it’s also the way we study leadership. We study biographies, which puts the person at the center. And so the spotlight tends to stay on them, and everything else tends to be a bit in shadows. You very rarely see a statue of a team. You see a few, but usually there’s a person on the pedestal. But in reality, a team, and sometimes a very large team, made it happen or didn’t make it happen. And yet, it’s hard to explain that.
Feloni: In this book, you picked a very interesting collection of profiles, and you even included the al-Qaeda leader that you defeated in Iraq, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. So what can you learn about leadership from studying someone that you morally oppose, even on an extreme example. This was your enemy. What do you gain from studying that?
McChrystal: Well, we didn’t just oppose him — we killed him.
As the head of Joint Special Operations Command, McChrystal hunted down and assassinated al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. McChrystal got inside Zarqawi’s head during the hunt.
McChrystal: I stood over his body right after we killed him. So for about two and a half years, we fought a bitter fight against this guy. And Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had come from a tough town in Jordan, very little education, got involved in crime and things like that in his youth. But then what happened was he realized that if he showed self-discipline to exhibit the conviction of his Islamic beliefs, if he did that overtly, if he became a zealot other people were attracted to him. He was living up to what he said and was demanding that they do. Later, when he became the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, he led the same way; he wore all black, looked like a terrorist leader. He actually killed himself — he was the person who held the knife when they beheaded Nicholas Berg. A gruesome thing to do, but what he’s showing people is our cause is so important, I’m willing to do something that we all know is horrific. And so he would lead around the battlefield courageously. And so what he did was he was able to bring forth people to follow his very extreme part of Islam, when most of them really didn’t. The Iraqi Sunni population were not naturally adherents to al-Qaeda, but he was able to produce such a sense of leadership and zealous beliefs that they followed. He became the godfather of ISIS.
Feloni: Yeah, and so by looking at this was, are you saying that to benefit your own leadership you had to get in the mind of him and understand that?
McChrystal: Well, the first thing you have to do is understand him. Your first desire is to demonize him, but the reality is, I had to respect him. He led very effectively, very, and if you really get down and put the lens another way, he believed and he fought for what he believed in. And who’s to say we were right and he was wrong?
Feloni: And that was something that you were thinking when you were in Iraq?
McChrystal: Not initially. Initially, you just say, “We’re just gonna get this guy.” And then after a while you watch him lead and you realize not only is he a worthy opponent — he’s making me better — but you’re also going after someone who truly believes. Who do you want to hang out with, who do you want to go to dinner with? You want somebody who believes what they’re doing. Now, his techniques I didn’t agree with. In many ways he was a psychopath. But I know a lot of people for whom I have less respect than I do for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Feloni: Interesting. When you were having the collection of people in this book, what were you looking for? Because in some ways you were saying that taking a look at profiles of individuals is the opposite of what you wanted to do. Because if you elevate someone above the context that they’re in, it’s counterproductive, but you’re proving that through elevating people so how do you navigate that?
McChrystal: Yeah, that’s an absolutely great point, and we actually didn’t realize that at the beginning of the book. We started writing and we said, “Hey, we are almost running in absolutely opposite directions of what we’re proposing.” You can write a theoretical book on leadership, and there will be a small community of people who read it. We learn through stories, all of us do, and we learn through stories of people. We picked these 13 diverse people and we had these six genres, we had founders, we had geniuses, we had power brokers, we had Coco Chanel, we had Boss Tweed, we have Martin Luther, we have Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we have Harriet Tubman. We wanted something that would be universal, give us a wide look at different kinds of leaders and context. We wanted diversity in sex, we wanted diversity in nationality, we have a Chinese admiral from the 15th century. And so we thought that if you could bring it wide like that you can draw the universal lessons out, that we couldn’t do if we just took politicians or soldiers or something.
Lessons from success and failure in war
Feloni:Yeah, now I want to talk about these lessons with the lens of your career as well. You became known for the approach that you took to join Special Operations Command, re-imaging the approach to Special Operations, particularly in Iraq, which led to the death of Zarqawi. And so when you had such transformations at JSOC, what was that like coming into a role where you had to adapt on the fly but every change, every risk that you took had lives in the balance?
McChrystal: Well, it was frightening, but it was very, very important. I had grown up essentially in joint Special Operations Command and the Rangers and then on the staff. I was very familiar with this very elite counterterrorist force. And this force was, you’ve seen it in movies, bearded guys with big knuckles and fancy weapons and these surly arrogant attitudes and that’s pretty accurate but the hearts of lions. But we very insular, we were designed to do counter-hijacking, hostage rescue, precise raids, and so we were almost in an insular part of the military and no one else interacted much with us. We would be directed to do certain missions and we loved that because we didn’t have to be affected by the big military bureaucracy. And then in Iraq what happened is, starting in 2003, really after the invasion, we ran into a problem that was bigger and more complex than we’d ever faced before, and that was al-Qaeda in Iraq. And we found that very narrow insulated way of operating before, tribal way, it didn’t work because you had to have this synergy of a real team and at first we almost were in denial because we’re so good at what we do.
We said, “Well, we’ll just do what we do and everybody else will figure everything else out.” But that wasn’t going to work. Really starting in early 2004 we came to a collective understanding that we were losing, and we were likely to lose if we didn’t change. Now we had no idea how to change, there wasn’t a road map, I wasn’t the visionary leader to provide that. And so what we said was, “Well, we will do anything but this. Now we’ll change.” And because I didn’t have this vision or clear blueprint to put in front of the organization, I essentially put it out to the team. I said, “We’re going to start changing to whatever works, so what we do that works we’ll do more of, what we do that doesn’t work we’ll stop.” And that freed the organization to constantly adapt. We’re able to modify, adapt ourselves and constantly change without the limitations of a doctrine that says, “You can’t do that.”
U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal in his official portrait as head of ISAF.
Our doctrine became, “If it’s stupid and it works, it ain’t stupid and we’ll push it.” And as it came it started to change the way we thought about leadership. When I took over I was approving every mission because I’m the commander and I found there’s no way you can be fast enough, so my role changed. I went from being the micro-manager, the centralized director, to being a commander who creates this ecosystem in which this group of really talented people figure it out. And my goal was to keep the ecosystem going, grow it with new participants and keep everyone supported and inspired.
Feloni: When you’re saying that when you had to take big risks with these changes, that there was a level of fear involved. Were you mitigating that fear by learning to trust the people that you were working with?
McChrystal: Yeah, and you have to — sometimes you can’t completely mitigate it. In an organization like JSOC, when you take casualties it’s deeply emotional because it’s not like new privates coming in, you get a new private. It takes about a decade to build an operator, everybody’s the godparent of other operator’s kids, you know. And so when you lose people, you lose people who’ve been around a long time, it took a long time, so it’s very emotional. T.E. Lawrence talked about the ripples in a pond.
Feloni: That’s “Lawrence of Arabia.”
McChrystal: That’s right, “Lawrence of Arabia.” He talked about when you lost one of the better ones, it was like ripples because it went out into their families and whatnot. Every casualty was much more costly and therefore you had to try to minimize them. And so as we went into this risk period there was a lot of uncertainty and I couldn’t, I don’t have the wisdom or courage or any of that to bear all that together, so we had a team and we supported each other.
Feloni: Distribute that.
McChrystal: Yeah, exactly.
Feloni: Yeah, and in terms of looking at something continuing after you leave, so you led the US-led coalition in the war in Afghanistan. That was eight years ago when you left; the war is still going. How does that look to you, because, for example, I could speak to a CEO who left a company and they can comment and be, like, “Oh, here’s what worked and what didn’t.” But as we were talking about, the stakes are just so much different in war. How do you process that?
McChrystal: You can process it in a lot of ways. You could take a strict business sense you could say, “Well, it hasn’t succeeded thus far, so it’s a bad investment.” And then I can also look and see that as of 2001 when we entered Afghanistan there were no females in school under the Taliban. There weren’t that many young males in school and now we’ve had almost 17 years of young ladies going to school, young men and so we’ve got a different young generation in Afghanistan. And 4.4 million Afghans voted this week and it wasn’t a presidential election. Is the glass half full, is it half empty, is there a hole in it? The answer is yes to all of those. There’s deep corruption, there’s huge problems inside the country, but in many ways I think that rather than say, “OK, it’s a failure,” I’d say it’s a complex problem, one of which you work on over a long period. I know I would not subscribe now to thousands of American troops or unlimited amounts of money, but I wouldn’t recommend walking away. I think our partnership with the Afghan people and the signal we send to other countries in the region is important. And if we think about the world as a completely connected place now, not just by information technology but culturally, I think the ability to have relationships, to demonstrate our willingness to be a part of things is more important than ever. It was critical really right after the Second World War, we gave both Asia through Japan and Europe enough cohesion to grow back. It doesn’t feel as easy or as good in Afghanistan but I would tell you, I look at the world through that lens is how I come at it.
Feloni: In “Leaders,” your memoir, it’s giving you a chance to be introspective of your own career. And on the nature of leaving the military when it came in this much publicized, there was a Rolling Stone article that reporter Michael Hastings portrayed you as a renegade general and that ended up leaving your position. How do you process that now, looking back at your role since it’s been eight years?
McChrystal: Yeah, I mean, there are a lot of ways that maybe I could or should. The first thing is it happened, and I didn’t think that the article was truly reflective of my team. It was about me and my team and the runaway general and that is obviously not a good title. And so on the one hand I thought that that wasn’t fair; on the other hand I’m responsible and we have this negative article about a senior general shows up on the president of the United States’ desk. And it’s my job not to put articles like that on the president’s desk, so I offered my resignation. President Obama accepted it, and I don’t have any problem with it because I’m responsible whether I did something wrong or not. I’m responsible, and as I told the president that day, “I’m happy to stay in command or resign, whatever is best for the mission.”
Now that’s phase one, and I feel very good about that decision. I’m not happy it happened, but I feel good about that. Then you have a moment when you have a failure like that in your life and you get to make a decision. You’re either going to relitigate that for the rest of your life and I could be a retired bitter general, I could be whatever, the CEO got fired or whatever or not. And my wife helped me through this more than anything, because as I tell people, “She lives like she drives, without using the rear-view mirror.” And so we made the decision, she helped me. “We’re going to focus completely on the future.” We made the decision, she helped me. “We’re going to focus completely on the future. There is no point in being bitter because nobody cares but you.” So I decided to look forward, I decided to think about, “What can I do now?” Now, that’s easier said than done. Every day there’s some hurt.
Feloni: Even now?
McChrystal: Occasionally. Not every day, but occasionally something will come up. Last week, Rolling Stone queried if I wanted to do another interview. The answer was no.
Feloni: That seems like … yeah.
McChrystal: Yeah. I kind of went, “Really?” But the reality is, it always kind of comes back up, and you have to remake that decision on a constant basis. But it gets easier over time because you start to see how healthy that is. I would argue that every one or your listeners is going to fail. They’re going to fail in a marriage, they’re going to fail in a business, they’re going to fail at something for which they are responsible. And they’ve got to make the decision, “OK, what’s the rest of your life going to be like?” Because you can’t change what’s already happened. The only thing you can change is what happens in the future. So I tell people, “For God’s sakes, don’t screw up the rest of your life because of something that happened there.” And if you make the right decision, to lean forward, I’ve been extraordinarily satisfied and happy with that.
McChrystal in Afghanistan.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Francisco V. Govea II)
Feloni: And if you were to write a biographical profile for yourself in “Leaders,” what would the theme of your leadership style be, and what would be the reality versus the myth of it?
McChrystal: It would be evolution. One of the things we see in some of these leaders is they didn’t evolve. Walt Disney was this extraordinary animator, and with a small team he was exceptional. When the team got big, he didn’t adapt well, and his brother basically had to run it, and he focused on projects. Mine was a journey … I was a very different leader as a lieutenant colonel than I was as a company commander captain. I was very centralized when I was young. I started to loosen up, by the time I was a general officer I was, I think, completely different. I was much more decentralized. So I think the theme of a profile of me would be the evolution of that.
Now, the myth is the opposite; the myth is the counterterrorist leader who killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. I went out, wrestled him to the ground, buried to the waist, and that’s total B.S. At times do I like the myth because people go, “Wow, look at him!”? Yeah, it’s kind of cool, you never want to go, “No, that’s not true.” But it’s not true. The reality is that I built a team. Ultimately I’m more proud of enabling the team that I would be of wrestling to his death. But it still feels kind of cool when people say that. [laughs]
Feloni: So it’s the evolution of you as someone who is a very centralized commander to decentralizing.
McChrystal: Yeah, and thinking about it entirely differently.
Applying these lessons to the workplace
Feloni: And we’ve been talking about leadership on a grand scale, but you’re also the head of the McChrystal Group, which works with businesses on leadership development. So after having worked with a bunch of different industries, often on much smaller scales, what would you say are some of the most common mistakes a new leader makes?
McChrystal: I think often a new leader comes in and wants to prove themselves, because they’ve been hired, typically they’ve been given a role and a fair amount of money, and so they think they’ve got to prove themselves. There’s a reticence to say, “I don’t know.” There’s a reticence to look at the team and say “What should we do?” and to have the team do it. Because you’re worried about your own credibility. I think leaders actually, if they’re willing to, I’m not saying take a subordinate role, they’re responsible, but take a much more inclusive role, a much more role in which you ask people to help lead, actually works much better. Some of the best I’ve ever seen that have particularly been in jobs awhile have reached that, and it’s magic to see.
Feloni: And on the flip side of that, should people who are followers, should they see leadership in a new light, maybe their relationship to their boss, their boss’ boss?
McChrystal: Yeah, think about it — how many times have we sat back and you’ve got either a new leader or your leader in the auditorium, in the room, and they’re saying, “OK, here’s what we’re going to do,” and you’re sitting back kind of the smart-ass, going, “This is stupid, that won’t work, boom, boom, boom.” Rear up on your hind legs and bark, and maybe we’ll think about doing it. Leaders have a role, but the followers have a huge role, huge responsibility. Huge responsibility in doing their part, but also shaping the leader. You see the leader making a mistake and you don’t say something to them? You fail in your job. And then when you see them fail and you get smug and you go, “Yeah, I thought that she was never that good, he was never that good,” shame on you. Because you own part of that, and in reality when it’s firing time they had to fire all of you.
Feloni: So not only should we not put figures of the past on pedestals. We shouldn’t do that with our own bosses.
McChrystal: Absolutely, and bosses shouldn’t put themselves on pedestals either. There are a few who keep wanting to step up there, and then … I think it’s much better for the leader to stay away from the pedestal.
Feloni: And at this point, how do you personally define success?
McChrystal: It’s the team I’m part of. I’ve got this company that’s now 100 people, it’s grown, and I’m not critical to the business, except my name’s on the door. I show up occasionally, and they’re very nice to me and whatnot, but the reality is the work gets done by the team, and I take the greatest pride in the world when I sit in one of our meetings and I’m not saying much, and it’s happening. They’re just doing things, they’re pulling, they’re saying we’re going to go in this direction, and nobody looks to me to say, “Can we go in that direction or should we?” And they’re not being discourteous. They know that that’s not the best thing to do. If they turn to me or somebody else to let the old gray beard do it, it’s too slow. It’s often not the right answer. So I am really happiest when I see that, and it gives you great pride.
Feloni: So success to you, would it be having a non-integral role among your team?
McChrystal: No — I want to be integral to it, I want to feel like a part of it, but I don’t want to feel like the critical cog. I don’t want to feel like the keystone to the arch. I want the company, the organization, to be confident in themselves. If I got hit by a car, they’d say, “We’re going to miss Stan, but guess what? In his honor, we’re going to move forward and we are going to do X, X, X.” That’s when I really feel best about things. Or they don’t even tell me about things they’re doing, and suddenly we’re doing very well on a project and I hear about it, and I go, “Wow, that’s good — when did we do that?” They say so and so, I say, “Well, why didn’t I know?” They say, “Well, you didn’t need to know. It’s not important.” And they’re right.
Feloni: Is there a piece of advice that you would give to someone who wants to have a career like yours? It doesn’t necessarily have to be military — it could be a sense of leadership.
McChrystal: When I think about the two things that I hope leaders have, first is empathy. Understanding that if you’re sitting on the other side of the table you have a different perspective, and they might be right. So just being able to put yourself in their shoes. Doesn’t mean you agree with them, doesn’t mean you approve, but being able to see it is really important. And then the second part is self-discipline. Because most of us know what we ought to do as leaders. We know what we shouldn’t do. It’s having the self-discipline to do those things, because you’re leading all the time. You’re leading by example all the time — it’s a good example or a bad example. It’s not just the leadership in your job; it’s an extraordinary responsibility. I had a battalion commander whose battalion I joined, and he had just left when I got there. But all the lieutenants are wearing their T-shirts backwards. And I’m going, “All right, what’s going on here? Did they get up after drinking all night or something?” And the battalion commander had done that because it showed less skin when you’re out there in the field and the enemy couldn’t see the white skin and shoot you. I didn’t think that was that smart an idea, but the fact that just because he wore his T-shirts backwards, his whole cohort of young lieutenants was doing it.
Feloni: He didn’t tell them to.
McChrystal: I don’t think he told them to. I got there right after he’d left, so it was kind of like this clinical thing. I got there ‘ “Why have they got their T-shirts backwards?” And this guy had done that. Just the power you find that if you are charismatic and whatnot, anything you do, how you treat people, how you think about things, the little things, you’ll start to see it mimicked by people through your organization, and there’s great power in that. And you’ve got to be careful with it.
Feloni: Thank you, general.
McChrystal: It’s been my honor. Thank you.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Tattoos are, by their very essence, pretty bad ass. They’re statements to the entire world that you’re willing to go through a few hours of pain to showcase your dedication to a certain thing. They’re messages that you’ll carry on your body forever.
In the military, it’s not uncommon for troops to get a new bit of ink that celebrates their branch on the day they graduate from initial entry training. It’s a legitimately badass reason to permanently mark yourself — a symbol of transformation into a warrior — just as Polynesian warriors have done throughout history.
That tattoo of a unicorn that you drunkenly got inked onto your butt because it’ll totally be funny? Not quite as badass.
Tattooing predates civilization itself. Ötzi the Iceman, found in the Italian Alps, is Europe’s oldest known human mummy and his skin was inked with 61 different tattoos. But the art form, as we know it, followed early Austronesian settlers and arguably reached its apex with the Polynesian peoples.
In many Polynesian societies, tattoos are symbols of class, nobility, and family. While certain design elements may be similar and represent a specific trait exhibited by the wearer, no two tattoos, by their very nature, are identical. In Polynesian society, tattoos read like someone’s life story. If lines are filled with a dog-skin cloak, it may signify that someone is a warrior. Intricate designs on the forehead may mean they’re in a leadership position within their community.
People want to appropriate other cultures and take their tattoo designs, but none of them are willing to go the distance by getting a Ta Moko (face tattoo).
(Photo by Graham Crumb)
Some Polynesians still get their tattoos the same way their ancestors did — using tools of sharpened bone and ink made from the candle nut. This traditional process makes heavier use of scarification than modern techniques.
Instead of using a needle to inject ink beneath the epidermis (first layer of skin), the traditional method used by Pacific Islanders involves, at its most basic, digging into the flesh with a serrated bone, using a tapping mallet to drive the the bone further into the skin, and rubbing ink into the wound. It’s extremely painful and may take weeks, if not years, to complete.
This is made even more impressive by the fact that the most common place to get a tattoo is the face. Unlike western cultures, face tattoos aren’t vilified by the Maori. It’s simply a way of showing the world who you are.
Fun fact: It’s very common in Samoa to get the tattoo from the waist to the knee — the pe’a — which covers everything to include the booty and the private bits.
The act of getting a tattoo is sacred in that it’s a rite of passage for the wearer. You cannot eat with your hands while it’s being done nor can you talk to anyone during the tattoo process. But the biggest no-no is wincing from pain. Any sign of weakness means you are not worthy of the tatau and you’ll be told to leave with a half-finished tattoo. This forever marks you with shame.
The tradition continues to this day as a sign of heritage. While most of the younger generations opt for the modern-day needle gun (it’s faster and less painful), traditional artists are still around. While it’s not forbidden for outsiders to undergo the traditional process, you will (understandably) be shunned if you get something that you know nothing about just because you thought it looked cool.
When a soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine is wounded, the clock starts ticking on the “golden hour” to save his or her life. The goal the Department of Defense had in the War on Terror was to get a wounded serviceman to definitive care within 60 minutes of being hit.
The term “golden hour” is a carryover from emergency medical care in the United States. The fact is if a wounded serviceman (or any trauma victim, for that matter) is seen at a hospital in the first 60 minutes after the injury, the chances for survival go up. This is why the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have seen only 8,398 coalition servicemembers killed in action over the 16-plus years that they have been fought, according to icasualties.org.
Why is this the case? According to a report by the Marine Corps Times, the DOD’s “golden hour” policy was put in place in 2009 and had the effect of creating a 98 percent survival rate. To do that, though, the military had to surge medevac and medical assets to the theater of operations.
“Our potential problem is air lift capacity, in certain scenarios we are not going to have enough capacity and so as opposed to right now, we are going to have to hold onto those patients much longer,” Rear Adm. Colin G. Chinn, the surgeon on the Joint Staff, said during a seminar at Marine Corps Base Quantico. He also cited equipment interoperability issues between the services, noting that a wounded Marine treated by a Navy corpsman may end up being treated in Air Force and Army facilities that have incompatible gear.
Chinn noted that the advantages the United States has now may not exist in a conflict with Russia or China. Even North Korea, which has drawn intense focus, could present problems in evacuating wounded troops due to the acquisition of new weapons and military technology.
“We need to be ready now. You fight tonight with what you have,” Chinn said.