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This Iconic Vietnam-Era Rocket Launcher Just Got A Major Upgrade, And Marines Say It’s A ‘Game Changer’

Posted: 30 Mar 2018 02:54 PM PDT

First adopted by the Army and Marine Corps at the height of the Vietnam War, the M72 Light Anti-Tank Weapon (LAW) has remained a staple of infantry arsenals and action movies for over a half-century. Lightweight and reliable, the 66mm rocket system has a reputation for fantastic results. When Dirty Harry and Rambo are in the mood to make an explosive entrance, they lay down the LAW.

Now, Marines may get their chance to test a new and improved version of the tried-and-true M72 round. Defense News reports that arms maker NAMMO is working on an upgrade that wouldn't just offer a suite of adjustments to fire control but purportedly all-but eliminate backblast, the heat and overpressure created by each round that can limit the use of anti-tank weapons like the M72 in combat.

M72 Light Anti-Tank Weapon (LAW)U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Robert Alejandre

Marines with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, hold a new variant of the M72 Light Anti-Tank Weapon (LAW) during the Urban Advanced Naval Technologies Exercise 2018 (ANTX18), March 20, 2018

While there's no explicit request for additional M72 LAW systems in the Corps' fiscal 2019 budget request, troops with the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment reportedly got a chance to test out the new rockets during the Urban-ANTX 18 urban warfare exercise and deemed the new rounds "a game changer," as Lance Cpl. Sam Elichalt told Defense News:

Because the new upgrade has no backblast Marines no longer have to worry about overpressurization when firing from inside a building or a room.

That reduces the chance of injury and now Marines can fire the rockets without "having to expose themselves" to enemy fire, Elichalt said.

Backblast occurs when pressure builds inside the chamber of the launch tube after a rocket is fired. The gases that create that pressure rupture out the back end of the launcher.

For the shoulder-fired AT-4 — manufactured by Swedish company Saab Bofors Dynamics — a backblast area can extend nearly 300 feet. Before firing, Marines are trained to check and yell "backblast are all clear" to ensure no Marines are directly behind the weapon.

This is a very good description! But here's a more visceral picture of what it looks like when you don't check to make sure your backblast area isn't clear:

And that's not even involving standing directly behind someone! Backblast in an enclosed area, deflected by walls and other structures, and catch combat troops unawares. Observe:

Of course, it's not like NAMMO suddenly found a way to neutralize the laws of physics: As The War Zone notes, the upgrade only makes it "safer" to use, with potential danger within 230 feet of the M72's booty during operations. But the reduced backblast allows troops to unleash on light armored vehicles from fortified, enclosed positions without extra risk; considering that the new system is lighter, quieter (by 12 decibels), and "has less flash than a pistol," as Defense News reports, the upgrade ostensibly offers an increase in lethality with less risk of opening troops up to enemy fire.

It's unclear exactly what the Corps' future re-embrace of the M72 will look like. But if the new system offers the departure from previous anti-tank rockets that NAMMO says it does, it certainly won't look like this:

The post This Iconic Vietnam-Era Rocket Launcher Just Got A Major Upgrade, And Marines Say It's A 'Game Changer' appeared first on Task & Purpose.

Because Of The Military, I’m No Longer A Self-Conscious Pooper

Posted: 30 Mar 2018 01:56 PM PDT

Have you ever taken a poop while other people watched?

If you haven't… could you?

If you've served in the military, you understand this existential problem well.

Generally speaking, we poop in privacy. We also do our daily hygiene and face-pruning without an audience — except for that one dude in ninth grade phys ed class who always took a shower in the locker room before next period. For most of us growing up, our bodily functions were carried out behind closed doors.

At a Marine Corps recruit depot, recruits shower en masse. Grown men huddle three to a urinal. The toilet stalls have no doors.

You take your dumps in front of an audience.

For some, the experience can be overwhelming, perhaps even horrifying. But those who successfully move their bowels in front of battle buddies will be prepared for life downrange — where the enemy isn’t going to give you a porta-john to answer nature’s call, according to every gunnery sergeant ever.

This is the story of how I crossed the threshold from self-conscious pooper to a man who could shit like a Marine.


If you think "self-conscious pooper" isn't a thing, let me set your shit straight. A great many people seem to suffer from deep embarrassment when dropping a deuce in a public restroom. (It's a weird example of a first-world problem, sure, but hey, we're talking about pre-military me here.)

If self-conscious pooping was an actual, recognized disorder, these would be some of the symptoms:

  • Frequent flushing to cover not just the smell of a bowel movement, but also the sound.
  • Abruptly pausing mid-poo when another person enters the restroom.
  • Avoiding eye contact with other bathroom visitors when exiting the stall.
  • Deciding to hold it till you get home to avoid any/all of the above.

I'm not sure exactly when that self-consciousness set in for me, but it all evaporated once I arrived at Recruit Depot San Diego in 2008.

Related: War Taught Me How To Poop The Right Way »

Marine recruit training was defined by three things: Instant obedience to orders, speed, and yelling — yours, and theirs. Mostly theirs. The drill instructors yell to wake you up, then yell to get you dressed, then yell to get you and 60 to 80 of your new buddies through your revolutions in the head.

A couple of precious minutes, that's what you and these five or six dozen other guys get to shave, brush your teeth, and excrete all your excretions. So that every time you sit down on the toilet for your morning glory, there's a dozen guys anxiously waiting just outside the stall — the one without a door — to use the john before the yelling starts again.

It's not the kind of environment that accommodates self-consciousness and embarrassment well. Everything is a mission. There's always a timetable. Even when pooping. If you know fast pooping is not a strength of yours, you try to speed up the shaving and the brushing to buy some time. But you still need that crap to be a speedy one. You can't hold things up — and you can't, for the love of God, be the last guy the DIs see coming out of the head.

By the time I graduated recruit training, I could probably poop on command. You could scream at me to take a dump and start a countdown, and before you finished I'd likely respond with a wipe, a flush, and a "DONE, SIR, DONE." (This was never put to the test.)


Boot camp, it turned out, was only a crash course in public crapping; now came the advanced courses and follow-on training. Barracks life as an enlisted Marine is defined by its 24/7 open door policy. There's no semblance of privacy. NCOs drop in unannounced, like roid-raged Jehovah’s Witnesses, for random inspections. And once you hit the fleet, nothing's private. If you’re lucky, you share a room and one toilet with just one or two other Marines, if you’re not, then you share an adjoining bathroom with twice that number. There's always someone outside the crapper door yelling at you to "hurry the fuck up so I can shit and get to formation 15 minutes prior to being 15 minutes prior."

Then there's deployments to exotic locales. For me this meant Helmand province, Afghanistan's Marjah and Kajaki districts, where flushing toilets and individual stalls were the stuff of dreams. A grown man could cry tears of joy just discovering an empty ammo can or a crate he could set underneath his wag bag. And a wooden outhouse erected by combat engineers would make any weary Marine or sailor feel like a king atop an ivory throne.

But when such amenities weren't available, you had to make do.


In 2011, I was attached to an infantry battalion in Afghanistan. We were early into a multi-day movement through the township of Kajaki Sofla when I made the mistake of eating some questionable chicken.

On the second day of our mission, I ran through my allotment of wagbags.

On the third day, I was out of empty MRE bags.

On the fourth, I grew steadily more competent at rapidly dropping my trousers, squatting, and doing my business on the side of whatever road, goat path, or wadi I was near.

I never stopped to feel embarrassed — just concerned that I might get shot while my pants were around my ankles. So I'd ask a nearby Marine to keep his eyes out while I popped a squat, and I would take the security watch when it was his turn to clear out some inventory. Taking a tactical deuce like this can often be a point of pride, or a much-needed source of humor downrange.

By the time the food poisoning passed, I probably had the process down to a few minutes from start to finish. And that was it: I was a poop jedi.

It's been nearly a decade now since I enlisted, and six years since I left the Corps — along with many of the good habits it tried to instill. But there's one lesson that stays with me: Thanks to the Marines, I no longer shit in a public toilet with any embarrassment.

Now, in those moments, I can almost feel like that youthful Marine on the side of a goat path in Kajaki again, freed by his discovery that poop is a lot like shame: Sometimes, you just gotta let it go.


The post Because Of The Military, I'm No Longer A Self-Conscious Pooper appeared first on Task & Purpose.

Forget ‘The Art of War’: Everything You Need To Know About Military Leadership Is In ‘Star Trek’

Posted: 30 Mar 2018 12:41 PM PDT

Von Clausewitz. Sun Tzu. Gene Roddenberry?

The 'Star Trek' creator has a lot to say about war and military life — and, it happens, he has a superfan in the Marines' top general.

Gen. Robert Neller, the Marine Corps commandant, is a big fan of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, the unflappable USS Enterprise skipper played by Sir Patrick Stewart in "The Next Generation."

The show, Neller says, teaches lasting lessons about leadership.

"I’ve always enjoyed watching it," Neller said during a March 29 discussion at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington. "It’s a leadership show, because you always find that the crew and the captain are put in some sort of moral, ethical, operational dilemma, which I find interesting."

Neller wasn't able to give us some of his favorite TNG episodes, but here's a few with with timeless lessons for Marines and other service members. Be warned, spoilers ahead.

"The High Ground."

When terrorists kidnap the Enterprise's doctor, Capt. Picard and his crew wrestle with how to respond without being drawn into a planet's civil war. The episode first aired in 1990, the same year as Desert Shield — and the U.S. military's first showdown with Saddam Hussein. In one scene, a surveillance video shows what looks eerily like the World Trade Center's twin towers.

Key Picard quote: “History has shown us that strength may be useless when faced with terrorism."

Main takeaway: Terrorism is a military problem that requires a political solution — but the better the military does, the less incentive politicians have to solve it. So, as Picard so finely put it, we're just fucked.

Related: The Pentagon Refuses To Discuss How It Plans To Screw Up The New Space Force Uniforms »

"Peak Performance."

Data unexpectedly loses a war game against a famous strategist. He goes into a funk, trying to find out where he failed. Picard tells him to unfuck himself. Data realizes that to win, he doesn't need to beat his opponent, just create a stalemate and outlast him.

Key Picard quote: "It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness; that is life."

Main takeaway: Don't be afraid to fail. That's why we have second lieutenants.

"The Drumhead."

After a saboteur is discovered aboard the Enterprise, a retired admiral leads a witch hunt to for conspirators. Eventually, even Picard falls under suspicion. The episode is reminiscent of how James Jesus Angleton nearly destroyed the CIA looking for non-existent Soviet moles.

Key Picard quote: "Five hundred years ago, military officers would upend a drum on the battlefield. They’d sit at it and dispense summary justice. Decisions were quick; punishments severe; appeals denied. Those who came to a drumhead were doomed."

Main takeaway: The military justice system can be cruel and arbitrary. Take whatever plea deal prosecutors offer you.

Related: When It Comes To The Military, SciFi Movies Are Missing The Mark »

"In Chain of Command, Part II."

Picard is captured on a mission concocted by the Cardassians to lure him away from the Enterprise. His captors torture him for intelligence on the defenses of a planet they plan to invade. The interrogation scenes evoke George Orwell's "1984": The Cardassian interrogator tries to get Picard to say he sees five lights when there are only four.

Key Picard quote: "THERE… ARE… FOUR LIGHTS!"

Main takeaway: Pay attention during SERE training. That stuff is super useful.

"The Best of Both Worlds, Part I."

Even though chances of victory are slim, Picard orders the Enterprise to attack a Borg ship. He is quickly captured and assimilated into the Borg collective. Second Officer Riker decides to try a new weapon against the Borg ship, even though it would mean killing Picard.

Key Picard quote: "Mr. Worf, dispatch a subspace message to Admiral Hanson. We have engaged the Borg."

Main takeaway:  No matter how much readiness sucks; no matter how broken equipment is; the military will always answer the nation's call to fling itself head-first into an open-ended conflict without an end game.


The post Forget 'The Art of War': Everything You Need To Know About Military Leadership Is In 'Star Trek' appeared first on Task & Purpose.

The Pocket Chainsaw You Never Knew You Needed Is Finally Here

Posted: 30 Mar 2018 11:49 AM PDT

Okay, it's not the ridiculous chainsaw bayonet that USA Today imagined affixed to the end of an AR-15… but this mini chainsaw may be the most delightful mechanical hand tool we've seen today.

With 4mm links wrapped around a 12-inch "NanoBlade" (lol), the Bosch EasyCut 12 Mini Chainsaw gives you big cutting power in an elegant, handheld package. Instead of being reserved for slicing up downed trees, this bad boy allows for precision applications on small-scale projects — from home renovations and repairs to body disposal — all with a 12V battery pack.

This is certainly fun as hell for the would-be Tim Taylor, but there's a unique level of appeal for anyone who's had to ruck a full-size chainsaw to clear debris, whether as an engineer downrange or a helpful neighbor after a bad storm. But the mini-chainsaw also has a level of warfighting allure to it.

The traditional chainsaw is bulky and unbalanced, extremely noisy, and too power-intensive to ever function as an efficient weapon, beyond the custom versions developed by firearms junkies in anticipation of the zombie apocalypse. But the Bosch EasyCut seems like a civilian development that has a clear military application. as a modern-day adaptation of the Lancer from Gears of War.

Anyway, this is a great tool for declaring war on your weekend home renovation list, and definitely not something you should maybe try to affix to your M4's Picatinny rail. Definitely not. Absolutely not. No way. Never.

The post The Pocket Chainsaw You Never Knew You Needed Is Finally Here appeared first on Task & Purpose.

The Navy Is Using ATARI To Remotely Control And Land Fighter Jets

Posted: 30 Mar 2018 11:25 AM PDT

The United States Navy is testing a new system called the ATARI onboard the USS Abraham Lincoln that allows the Landing Signals Officer (LSO) to take control of an aircraft on approach to the carrier.

The Navy has been working on developing the aircraft terminal approach remote inceptor (ATARI), but the system was only tested at sea for the first time this March. Conditions at sea were challenging to say the least.

“I was really impressed with LSO’s ability get me to touch down,” VX-23 test pilot Lt. John Marino, the first naval aviator to land using ATARI, said. “The conditions were really varsity, and it was really impressive the system worked the way it did. On a calm day, it would have been a little bit boring, but this was definitely more challenging.”

The Navy expects that ATARI could be used as a backup during contingencies to correct an aircraft's glideslope from as far away as five miles. And while the system could be a useful backup for manned aircraft such a Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, ATARI might be especially useful for the day when unmanned aircraft start to operate from the flight deck.

“We don’t have unmanned carrier-based vehicles in the fleet today, but they are coming soon," Dan Shafer, a Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) air vehicle engineer, said. “This is a potential alternative landing method and our system performed well.”

Indeed, unmanned aviation will arrive onboard the carrier in the coming years. After a long and troubled requirements development process that has had many fits and starts, the Navy has issued a request for proposal for the MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial refueling tanker. The MQ-25 could be a bridge towards a future air wing where unmanned aviation features heavily. Boeing, General Atomics, and Lockheed Martin are vying to win the contract.

Conditions at sea were especially rough during the tests onboard Lincoln, but LSOs are amongst the most experienced and capable naval aviators. “We took the guy who’s flying the aircraft and we moved him to the LSO platform,” NAVAIR engineer Buddy Denham—creator of ATARI—said. “You’re effectively using little joystick controllers to guide a 40,000 lbs. airplane, and it’s almost like you’re playing a video game.”

Despite the tough conditions, the ATARI performed well. “The deck was pitching significantly and yawing and rolling,” Denham said. “It was particularly difficult to land that day, and we showed it’s possible to use this system even when the conditions aren’t ideal.”

It will still take years of development before ATARI could be fielded to the fleet, but the system looks promising. Eventually, technology like ATARI or something similar could revolutionize naval aviation not just for manned aircraft but unmanned aviation as well. It really is just a matter of time.

This story originally appeared at The National Interest

Read more from The National Interest:


The post The Navy Is Using ATARI To Remotely Control And Land Fighter Jets appeared first on Task & Purpose.

I Tried To Make Women Marines Tougher. It Was The Hardest Fight Of My Career

Posted: 30 Mar 2018 11:15 AM PDT

This is an excerpt from "Fight Like A Girl: The Truth Behind How Female Marines Are Trained" by retired Marine Lt. Col. Kate Germano and Kelly S. Kennedy.

As I prepared to take command of the Marine Corps' Fourth Recruit Training Battalion, I told myself I would have to stop cussing so damned much.

I would have to reconstruct my "resting bitch face" into a countenance brimming with sunshine and light.

I told myself, "I'm going to be happy all of the time. I'm going to smile all of the time. I'm never going to use foul language"—which, by the way, isn't the easiest thing for a Marine to do. I figured, "You know what? If the drill instructors aren't allowed to use foul language with the recruits, then I'm not going to use foul language with the drill instructors or my company staff. I don't want them to think it's okay for me to do it but not for them to do it."

I would work to encourage a culture of compassionate listening, and I would try not to yell.

It was, after all, the Marine Corps.

This job seemed perfect for me. Parris Island is the only place in the Marine Corps where female Marines are made, and I wanted to ensure that every day of their thirteen weeks of training counted, so they could graduate tougher, faster, and smarter.

Related: A Handful Of Female Marines Just Made History At Camp Pendleton

I hoped to take the lessons I had learned as a Marine— but also as a female Marine—and build up women so they understood just how capable they were. I wanted to prepare them to succeed in a Marine Corps that might not always be supportive or understanding of their goals; and I wanted them to leave with a strong vision of themselves and their abilities.

I wanted it for my drill instructors. I wanted it for my officers. And I wanted it for my recruits.

In my previous command assignment at a recruiting station, I had pushed to make good changes for my Marines to make sure they had more time off and less stressful jobs. I wanted to see fewer divorces, fewer drunk-driving cases, and fewer suicide attempts. But to do that, I shoved my curvier peg into the Marines' extraordinarily square hole. I cursed. I yelled. I was extremely strict. Even though we were able to reach our goals and life got better, a lot of my Marines didn't like me much, and it was my fault.  I constantly fought not to be "other," by acting the way male Marines acted. But the things I did to fit in? The yelling and cursing? They only made me stick out worse. Even in the Marine Corps, those are not the traits expected of a woman—unless that woman is "mean" or "a bitch." Worse, none of those attributes matched my personal leadership style.

I was less than authentic.

‘There were men at the highest levels of the Marine Corps who expected—even wanted—the women to fail.’

So a few years later as I took charge of women's boot camp for the Marine Corps overseeing some of the world's fiercest drill instructors, I decided to be true to myself.

I thought, "How awesome would it be to leave a command at the end of my tour as commanding officer and not have any regrets like, 'Maybe I shouldn't have said this?' or 'Maybe I shouldn't have yelled about that?'"

I went to Parris Island thinking, "This is my redemption tour. I'm going to retire after twenty years in the Marine Corps, and this tour is going to allow me to feel good about leaving the service."

We all see how that worked out.

To say it was a tumultuous year would be like calling the Titanic disaster a "bad day at sea." Despite the significant obstacles I faced, I never lost sight of the feeling of absolute pride I felt in my Marines as they proved women recruits could perform better if they were simply expected to shoot well and run faster. But no matter how we worked to overcome decades of apathy and low standards for performance, there were men at the highest levels of the Marine Corps who expected—even wanted—the women to fail.

female marinesU.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Joseph Jacob

U.S. Marine Corps recruit Bianca A. Jimenez participates in the Crucible, the grueling 54-hour culminating event of Marine boot camp.

And there were women in my battalion who fell so fully in line with the status quo that it never occurred to them to try to find out what the female recruits could really achieve.

Before I arrived at Parris Island, my predecessor warned me, "They're either baking you cupcakes or on your couch in tears."

In hindsight, I see that her comment perfectly encapsulated the perception of the battalion throughout the depot and the Marine Corps. Everyone had the expectation that Fourth Battalion, my battalion, was incapable. It could achieve enough to get by, but there was not an established tradition of excellence—a stated need to be better and best. Derided as the "Fourth Dimension" by many male Marines on the depot, the battalion operated in a different world with different expectations from any other place in the Marine Corps. There was always an undercurrent of women being emotional and cruel—to each other and to the recruits—and, because the expectation existed, that's how some of the women behaved.

On top of all of that, the culture within Fourth Battalion was often petty and mean, riddled with rumors and false claims. Many "old school" leaders encouraged gossip and arbitrarily enforced Marine Corps standards. This led to a miserable climate within the battalion, but it also reinforced the idea within the male battalions that women could not operate without "drama."

The problems ran deep. Female drill instructors were sleeping with female recruits, and with each other. Drill instructors abused the recruits. Drill instructors abused other drill instructors.

I would have to work through inappropriate sexual relationships, screaming as an accepted form of communication, and even fist fights. The issues with drill instructors sleeping with recruits had long been brushed under the rug. A lot of the issues with recruits being abused? Those were brushed under the rug, too.

It was a big rug.

I had to quickly get everyone focused on good order and discipline, and then deal with the gender-related issues.  


The abusive drill instructors didn't want to change, because they felt that new recruits—and new drill instructors—should have to pay their dues, just as they had. They also did not want to be held accountable for bad behavior.

And since the enlisted Marines—the drill instructors—had run the show for so many years, the officers—the Marines in charge of the drill instructors—essentially had no control over their Marines. Some of the officers rebelled when forced to take control, because it meant more work.

Related: Female Infantry Marines Will Train, Fight, And Sleep Alongside Their Male Counterparts

I was walking into a minefield, but because I had never encountered anything like Fourth Battalion, I went in blind. I needed to hold my officers and drill instructors accountable; I needed to reward excellence and eliminate bad behavior; and I needed to help my Marines and recruits understand that they were capable of meeting much higher standards. And I needed to be perceived as nice.

And I knew that without senior leadership supporting the changes, my job would impossible.

During my first month in South Carolina, my boss invited me to talk about my goals and to give me a rundown of his command philosophy. The colonel didn't seem too interested in what I had to say, but I wrote down the words he emphasized: "I prize harmony among my staff above all else."

In other words, he didn't want to deal with any turbulence. He just wanted everyone to get along.

That stuck with me.

female marinesCourtesy

Germano oversees training at the rifle range at Parris Island. She pushed her raise the standards for shooting and fitness among women recruits.

The same month, I had my first conversation with Brigadier General Loretta Reynolds, who was the first female Marine to serve as commanding general of the recruit depot at Parris Island.  

I wrote down what she said, too: "Go with your gut, and never back down if you think something is right."

They gave me two perspectives completely at odds regarding how I should go into this command tour. If I had chosen the first, there would be no story to tell.

I chose to take Reynolds's advice.

My gut was telling me everything was subpar for the women. Everything. Their living quarters. Their standards. Their training. And it led to lower scores for female recruits across the board: academics, physical fitness, shooting, drill—everything. Because the women were set apart from the men, they seemed to be forgotten.

Many of the female recruits were barely able to meet the standards. They fell out of hikes and runs. They struggled to qualify with their rifles at the range. They broke themselves because they hadn't been physically and mentally prepared to succeed in boot camp.

The slowest member of the platoons set the running pace for everybody else during physical fitness training. Rifle range coaches told the recruits that their arms were too short to fire weapons properly and that girls couldn't shoot. Because the female company staff hadn't measured the route properly, the female recruits didn't even march the same distance as the men for the Crucible hike—the proud culmination of a recruit's training.
From the moment I arrived, it was obvious that the Marine Corps was locked in an era of tight girdles and smelling salts when it came to how women were recruited and trained.

I'm not exaggerating.

At the Marine emblem ceremony following the Crucible hike, a row of chairs provided a safety net behind the newly minted female Marines. Why? In case any of them felt faint.

There were no chairs behind the male formation.  

Over the next 12 months, as I removed those chairs and we worked to improve rifle scores, reduce injuries, and build up the recruits' physical strength, we encountered incredibly out dated ideas about gender. My team and I realized if we were going to change perceptions about women, we had to start with ourselves. All of us would be accountable for pushing to be better—from running to leadership to shooting.  My officers, drill instructors, and recruits needed to know that I expected them to excel.

‘If we were going to change perceptions about women, we had to start with ourselves. All of us would be accountable for pushing to be better.’

But we also needed to make life better for my Marines. We did not have enough women on our staff—a product of the small population of women in the Marines in general, as well as senior leadership stealing women away for collateral duty assignments and drill instructors getting pregnant. That meant longer work hours for the women, more 24-hour duty shifts, and more stress.

The stress, combined with the culture of hazing in the battalion, led to bad behavior, including scaring recruits until they peed their pants and not allowing new drill instructors to drink water during training events. We worked to address the bad behavior but we also combated the stress with everything from reorganized duty schedules to yoga classes.

However, change is hard. Sometimes it's hard to recognize that change is good; sometimes people simply become set in their ways; and, sometimes, people believe everybody should be subjected to the same kind of nonsense they dealt with coming up through the ranks.

Not all of my Marines wanted change.

And I clashed with my boss. He didn't want the friction that comes with forcing change.

I thought making female Marines stronger would make the Corps stronger, and I assumed that I would have support up and down and sideways through the chain of command.

I was wrong.                                    

A year into my command tour, after complaints from disgruntled Marines, a horrible command climate survey, and an investigation into my leadership, it started to sink in that I was going to be relieved. As I prepared for what I knew was coming, I agonized about the end of my career. I am so proud to be a Marine, and I love the institution. I love the people I served with. I love what I learned about myself. I loved the challenges I faced and obstacles I had overcome. I still bought into the motto Semper Fidelis. Always faithful.

But on June 29, 2015, I got a call from my boss telling me I needed to be at the commanding general's office at 7:30 the next morning. At that point, I knew I was going to be fired. I tried not to hear the glee in his voice.

When I walked into the commanding general's office the next day, my boss was there to lead me to the hangman's tower.

And I had removed the fainting chairs.

Kate Germano is a 20-year veteran of the Marine Corps. She is a vocal advocate for an end to gender bias and lowered expectations for female performance and conduct. She is married with three cats and three chickens. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the United States government.


The post I Tried To Make Women Marines Tougher. It Was The Hardest Fight Of My Career appeared first on Task & Purpose.

A Champion Army Powerlifter Opens Up About What It Takes To Be ‘Army Strong’

Posted: 30 Mar 2018 09:32 AM PDT

Army 1st Lt. Max Pippa is, by definition, Army strong.

At the peak of his powerlifting career, he could bench press eight times the average infantry rifleman's load (405 pounds x 2), front squat an underweight male grizzly bear (495 pounds), and deadlift the equivalent of the B61 nuclear bomb (700 lbs) that was once the backbone of the U.S. stockpile. He weighed 285 at the time, with guns on par with legendary bodybuilder and Arnold Schwarzenegger mentor Reg Park — and in December, he came second in the Under 90 kilograms class at the 2017 Official Strongman Games in Raleigh, North Carolina, where his feats of strength included deadlifting a Jeep Wrangler and hauling a 650-pound metal frame around the arena.

Pippa, now 27 (and 225 pounds) and currently assigned to the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, says being "strong" doesn't actually make you Army strong, the type of strong you need to hump gear miles before kicking down doors. And although Pippa's been powerlifting since he was 15, he only discovered the real definition of 'Army strong' when he joined the ROTC program at the University of Missouri.

Task & Purpose caught up with Pippa to chat about his workouts and the meaning of strength in the modern Army. Answers have been edited for brevity.

army strong max pippa powerliftingMax Pippa/Official Strongman Games

Army 1st Lt. Max Pippa at the Official Strongman Games in Raleigh, North Carolina in December 2017

Task & Purpose: You mentioned that your powerlifting regime and Army PT were somewhat incompatible.

Pippa: When I joined the ROTC, I realized that I needed to take a break from powerlifting for PT simply because I was horrible at endurance. I had such an anaerobic bias towards short-duration, high-intensity workouts that the first time I did my two-mile I couldn't do anything for about 10 minutes afterward. I was dead.

I knew I was going to have to lose some weight and come down from 230. And that meant, at least for a time, putting something I loved on the backburner.

You were coming from a powerlifting build and slimming down. What did you do to maintain that core strength?

It was very simple and basic movements: squatting, overhead pressing, deadlifting. These are all things that anyone who is a human being who wants to be able to do human being things better or more efficiently should do. Carrying anything, putting anything over your head, triple extension movements, jumping — all of that translates into real life.

Curling Hellfire missiles?

There are no secret training tricks, really. Everything is functional movements. I recommend focusing most of your energy on core movements. If you only have an hour a day to train, spend 50 minutes of that hour on something that matters: trap deadlift, squats, a compound movement. You'll get more bang for your buck out of that … hell, you'll get more out of five hard sets of squats than 10 to 12 sets on different leg machines.

How do you find the time to maintain while on active duty?

Here's a trick for the average dude who wants to get more out of the gym: Spend 15-20 minutes the night before actually prepping your food the next day.

Food is honestly the biggest challenge with being active duty, and not because you're getting not enough time to get a meal. You only need 2 cups of rice and 8 oz meat and vegetable, and that takes maybe 10 minutes to eat. Food prep and sleep are the two biggest things that people in the military botch the most. Even if you’re stuck in the barracks with no kitchen, microwaveable packs of Uncle Ben's rice and tuna with almonds are better than going 5 or 6 hours without eating.

army strong max pippa powerliftingU.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Curt Beach

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Max Pippa, an infantry officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Alaska, performs a dead lift at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Feb. 20, 2018.

Look, it's about managing expectations. A lot of soldiers see their idols and the meals they post on Instagram and the shit they do in a magazine and they get disheartened about what they can and can't do — they believe it's not worth the struggle. Christ, there are fucking guys in prison eating nothing but Ramen and walking around built like a mountain.

For a service member to say they don’t have time, well, they're lying to themselves. It's not sexy to eat tuna with a sriracha sauce every day, but if you have to do it, you have to do it.

Wait. How strong are you … really?

The most I've lifted on 2-inch axles [barbells] is 330 [pounds] from the ground to overhead.

Could you… could you punch a man's heart so hard it explodes in his chest?

Like the "Kali-ma" dude? I wish.

Do you think civilians have an image of the uber-bulky, Arnold-Schwarzenegger-in Predator view of combat troops, still?

The Arnold … man, that’s nobody I’d want on my fireteam or the platoon. Dude, if he goes down it would take that entire fireteam to carry that guy.

Each person brings something different to the table with their own physical talents —guys in my platoons or companies who are 160-pound dudes growing up on a farm and can ruck as hard as any of the big boys, and I’ve seen big guys who are huge pussies who crawl out after an hour or two. There is no body type that is the best — there is no super soldier.

Look at the top-tier units in the U.S. military: Most of those guys who are the biggest badasses… they look like normal dudes. There's no way a dude who's 250-260 with insane abs is going to be able to go the distance day and night with only an hour of sleep. He's going to be too much of a debt.

army strong max pippa powerliftingMax Pippa/Official Strongman Games

Army 1st Lt. Max Pippa at the Official Strongman Games in Raleigh, North Carolina in December 2017

I have a dumb question.


If you could fight any historical figure, living or dead, who would it be?

In their prime? Or, like, FDR on his deathbed?

In their prime.

Kurt Russell as Jack Burton in "Big Trouble In Little China."

He's … not a historical figure.

He's as historical a figure as there has ever been. Rewatch the first three minutes of that movie and you'll rethink that statement.

Do you have one last piece of fitness advice?

Look at everything you're doing and think about how you're going to apply it to your end product, whether you're an athlete or you're thinking about your fireteam. Have a reason for what you're doing. Do you really need to squat 500 pounds to be an effective soldier?

If you don't have a reason for doing something, then it's just fluff. And if you're doing it just to be in the gym, then what the fuck is that doing for you?


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US Service Member Among Coalition Troops Killed Fighting ISIS In Syria

Posted: 30 Mar 2018 07:19 AM PDT

A U.S. service member was among the two military personnel killed and five wounded in Syria on March 29 as part of Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS, officials announced on Friday.

The service member killed was reportedly an Army Green Beret, NPR reports.

The U.S.-led coalition announced that the personnel were targeted by an improvised explosive device in an undisclosed location.

News of the casualties came with an announcement that OIR forces conducted 21 separate military strikes against ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria between March 23 and March 29 as part of the coalitions ongoing efforts to “degrade, disrupt and dismantle” the terror network.

There are currently 2,000 U.S. troops fighting ISIS in Syria as part of OIR. But put speaking before supporters at a rally in Ohio on March 29, President Donald Trump said that U.S. forces “will be coming out of Syria, like, very soon.”

“We're knocking the hell out of ISIS. We'll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon,” the commander-in-chief said. “Let the other people take care of it now. We got to get back to our country where we belong, where we want to be.”

This is a breaking news story and will be updated with new information as it becomes available.

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The Most Overused (And Annoying) Military Sayings Ever

Posted: 30 Mar 2018 07:01 AM PDT

Here, as a sequel to our collection of military rhyming phrases (which we like), are some military phrases that Tom and his colleagues at T&P believe are past their due date for retirement. Fines double for using them in briefings.

Long pole in the tent

Oh and by the way

And getting blown up/shot could ruin your whole day

Bottom line up front

Zero dark hundred/ zero dark thirty

All of us are smarter than any of us

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt


Standby to standby

That’s not in your seabag

Hurry up and wait

Too easy

Only easy day was yesterday

You get what you inspect

Needs of the [service]

Ship, shipmate, self

Full spectrum

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast

Boots on the ground

Lackadaisical attitude

Soup sandwich

Warmy fuzzy

Shut up and color

Stay in your lane

Show me your war face

Just to piggyback on what the CO said . . .

High speed, low drag

Dog and pony show

Shit hot

We got a lot of moving parts here

Break break

Are you tracking?

It would behoove you

Got any to add? Please post in the comments. But don't kill "Let me break it down for you, Barney-style." I still like that one.

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Another Not Quite Ship’s Dog

Posted: 30 Mar 2018 06:03 AM PDT

Picked up on the cruise of the Great White Fleet.

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The Face Of Deported Veterans Is Finally Coming Home

Posted: 30 Mar 2018 05:00 AM PDT

Hector Barajas, who became the face and voice of deported veterans after his own deportation, will be allowed to return to the place he considers home and become a U.S. citizen.

Barajas burst into joyous tears seated on a couch Thursday afternoon in front of a large American flag as he read a document informing him that he would be sworn in as a citizen on April 13 in San Diego.

"Fourteen years, man," Hector said, his voice cracking. "Oh my God, this is great. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!"

"I'm coming home, mom!" he added.

Nathan Fletcher, a candidate for county supervisor who has championed the deported veterans' cause, sat beside Barajas on the couch, his hand rubbing Barajas's shoulder in congratulations. Norma Chávez-Peterson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in San Diego, sat on the other side of Barajas, telling him that an ACLU attorney had already arranged how he would get back home.

Barajas was honorably discharged from the Army in 2001 but struggled to readjust to civilian life. He took a plea deal for a charge of shooting at an occupied car in 2002. Because of that conviction, the government took away his green card, and he was deported in 2004 after he finished a prison sentence.

"I made bad decisions," Barajas-Varela told the Union-Tribune last year about that time in his life. "I put myself in that situation… I wouldn't put myself in that situation again."

Hector Barajas deported veteransGuillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images

Hector Barajas, a deported veteran stands for a portrait at the Deported Veterans Support House on March 31, 2017, in Tijuana, northwestern Mexico.

Barajas founded the Deported Veterans Support House, known to many as "the Bunker," in 2013 to support deportees in Tijuana. He became a leader in a push for legislative changes to help U.S. military veterans who had not become citizens avoid deportation and to bring back those who were already removed.

He was born in Mexico but raised in Los Angeles from age seven. Since he had a green card, he was able to serve in the Army and was part of the 82nd Airborne Division from 1995 to 2001. At the time, he thought he'd automatically become a citizen, but that was not the case.

Members of the military are allowed to apply for citizenship with no waiting period. They still have to fill out the paperwork and pass the tests.

Noncitizens who serve in the military are still at risk for deportation if they commit crimes that can cause the U.S. to revoke their green cards.

Advocates have argued that conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder and other challenges that veterans face when they leave the military can make it more likely that they commit such crimes. They say that the veterans should be expected to serve whatever sentences they're given for the criminal convictions but that deportation goes too far. The ACLU has documented at least 239 cases of deported veterans living in 34 countries.

Critics of the deported veterans movement say that a green card is a contract and any violation should result in deportation, regardless of military service.

Related: Deported To Mexico, U.S. Veterans Are Pressed Into Service By Drug Cartels »

In April 2017, Gov. Jerry Brown pardoned him, along with two other deported veterans, saying Barajas "has shown that since his release from custody, he has lived an honest and upright life, exhibited good moral character and conducted himself as a law-abiding citizen."

Barajas hoped that might eventually allow him to return to the U.S., but he knew it was no guarantee. He applied for citizenship before receiving the pardon.

Marco Chavez Medina, a deported Marine whom Brown also pardoned, crossed back into the U.S. in December after his green card was reinstated. Barajas and several other deported veterans escorted him to the San Ysidro port of entry.

Barajas has a middle-school-age daughter named Liliana who lives in Los Angeles. He has dreamed of reuniting with her while he waited to find out if the U.S. would let him back in.

“Finally, after years of fighting for the rights of deported veterans to return to the U.S., Hector will be able to return home as an American citizen,” said Jennie Pasquarella, director of immigrants’ rights for the ACLU of California and one of Barajas’s attorneys. “Hector, like a true soldier, has fought day in and day out since his deportation on behalf of deported veterans across the globe. He never gave up hope that he would one day return to his home and be reunited with his family.”


©2018 The San Diego Union-Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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No One Saw It Coming: How Russia Went to War Against China in 2020

Posted: 30 Mar 2018 04:00 AM PDT

August 30, 2020

From:  U.S. Ambassador, Tokyo

To:   Secretary of State Pompeo

Mr. Secretary,

I am writing this to you, after the fact obviously, to review the last several months of operations in the war none of us foresaw just two years ago.

Background and Discussion:  As you recall, we were in some disarray after the departure of your predecessor, Mr. Tillerson, and you asked all of us for our own take on the situation in Korea, especially with the appointment of Mr. Bolton coinciding as it did with your own appointment and the President's initiation to meet with Mr. Kim.

As we all know, Kim met with President-Chairman Xi in March of that year and there was much speculation as to what passed between them.  Reality only became clear, however after the President's earth-shaking meeting with Kim and President Moon of S. Korea in Seoul.  This was followed, not long after, by the Pyongyang Protocol in August, wherein all three leaders announced the demilitarization of the peninsula with the withdrawal of all US forces and the institution of a UN-led mission with a regime of inspections to ensure the dismantling of Kim's nuclear weapons programs.

This — of course — stunned everyone, as did the Nobel Peace Prize shared by Kim, Trump, and Moon the following year.  But as you know, as these high profile events took place, China was on the move. We now know, through various sources, some from your former Agency colleagues, that China had long been displeased with Kim.  What we did not know was that Kim had reneged on an ultra-secret deal with his other enabler, Mr. Putin of Russia.

Kim had met secretly, even in secret from his own government, with Russian agents prior to going to Beijing, assuring them that he would do nothing to compromise Russia's ongoing support for his nefarious programs, including his weapons program, which Russia was secretly paying for and assisting with.

It now appears he was duplicitous in the extreme. There is no way to understand what happened absent that conclusion. He turned right around and cut a secret deal with China.

Thus, when he publicly announced on CNN  in November 2019 that he was stepping down as leader and asking China to enter the nation to secure it from the Russians, it shocked everyone.  Russia? We all shook our heads, how did that happen? They were not even on our radar scope.

When the NRO informed us of a Russian military build-up in the summer of 2019 in the Russian Far East Military District, we puzzled as to what was going on. Was Russia going to help the North invade the South as in 1950?  Except this time in the winter? Of course global warming has made that all a bit easier, but still, the weather was atrocious.

Imagine our shock, as well as yours, when Kim fled to Harbin on his special train at the same time as the PLA crossed the border in great numbers. We had completely missed the Chinese build-up, which they had been secretly doing since, it appears now, mid-2015. Slowly increasing their border forces and inserting PLA operatives into Manchurian cities and factories. The landing of the three Chinese Marine divisions (about which we knew absolutely nothing) south of the Imjin in North Korean territory was equally shocking.

However, it was the Russia invasion along the Korean-Russian border that surprised everyone most, and the use of the Russian submarine fleet in a guerre de course against the Chinese shipping.  Who knew that the PLAN was so ineffective at anti-submarine warfare?  Also, the cyber attacks that paralyzed Chinese C4ISR systems was that "cyber Pearl Harbor" that we have all been worrying about.  Thus the ham-handed Chinese efforts to turn their forces northeast and deal with the Russian incursion.

It was fortuitous that we had evacuated most US personnel from the peninsula before hostilities began and that the Russian actions, once they became apparent, allowed us to get a NEO quickly accomplished of as many Americans as would leave, although we estimate there are still 30,000 Americans still in South Korea. From our vantage point and that of our Japanese allies, who are helping us monitor military events closely along with our national assets, it appears that the Sino-Russian war will not end anytime soon.  It is still extremely dangerous for US shipping to attempt to navigate the declared Russian exclusion zones in the Sea of Japan, Tsushima Strait, and Yellow Sea. It appears, in fact, that the Russians intend to expand the war by making limited incursions into Manchuria and Mongolia, just as they did prior to World War II, or so my staff historian tells me. Our Agency chief of station has related that it appears the Russians are transferring their most seasoned combat forces in the Baltics and Ukraine to this theater, which perhaps explains the recent ceasefire the Ukrainian government signed at Khirkiv (Kharkov) with Putin's representatives.

This new conflict, thus far conventional, is the greatest threat to world peace. It now appears the South Koreans are providing troops to the Chinese "coalition" battling Russian "aggression." Certainly they are providing logistics and intelligence.

Recommendation:  You have asked for an assessment of our Japanese allies, both their intentions and their views. Their G-2 has informed the DAO that they intend to remain guardedly neutral. I am sure Secretary Gates is hearing the same thing through his channels. My recommendation is we do the same, remain neutral and continue to offer mediation for all parties, along with our efforts in the United Nations. This is the best course, I think.

Dr. John T. Kuehn is the Past General William Stofft Chair for Historical Research at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.  He retired from the U.S. Navy 2004 at the rank of commander after 23 years, serving as a naval flight officer, flying land and carrier-based aircraft.  He has taught a variety of subjects, including military history, at CGSC since 2000. He has written several books , including Agents of Innovation and A Military History of Japan:  From the Age of the Samurai to the 21st Century.

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