Former Soldiers Reveal What Really Happens In The Army

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The Army has existed since before the United States was even a country, and now has over a million active duty members. Now, little-known secrets about the military have leaked to the public.

Give Me Cover

The hats worn in the military are not called hats, they are called “covers.” If you are in uniform and outdoors, you must wear your cover. If someone salutes you, and you have your cover on, you salute them back. If you do not have a cover, you can just say, “Good morning, sir/ma’am.”

Rest And Relaxation

Being in the military does not mean you never get to go home. In fact, there are thirty days of paid vacation per year for every soldier, whether you are a private or a general. That means you can go back to your family, change out of your fatigues, and get into a stylish romper. Make sure to be back on time, because you do not want to be classified as AWOL. This means Absent Without Leave, and can get you thrown in jail.

Backwards Flag?

One strange thing that some notice about the United States flag patch on the sleeve of Army uniforms is that it is backward. Why is this? Did the seamstress make a mistake? Actually, it is done on purpose as an homage to the past. It used to be that one person was the dedicated flag holder, and when the soldiers charged towards the enemy, with their bayonets in the air, the flag-bearer would also run at top speed. The wind would push the flag, making it look backward.

Medic!

According to the Geneva Conventions, which are the internationally agreed upon rules of war, combat medics are not officially combatants. This means that they are not at war with anyone, really, and are simply there to provide medical care. They do carry weapons for protection, but they generally wear a red cross to show the other side that they are non-combatants. However, enemy forces have stopped caring, so US soldiers stopped having “peaceful” medics, and now produces soldiers who also happen to be medically trained.

Secret Double Life

Shannon Ihrke decided at age 19 to join the armed forces of the United States. For four years, she dutifully served her country. It was tough, and she “pushed [her] body harder than [she] could have ever imagined.” Getting into the best shape of her life was great for the career after she got her discharge papers: modeling. She adds to her 72,000 followers every day on Instagram. Her story really demonstrates that the military can train you for any career.

Pixelated

The Army uses pixelated camouflage for their uniforms, meaning it is patterned with blocky squares. The official name is “multi-scale camouflage.” It looks almost like a computer designed it, however, according to research, this is the best camouflage developed thus far. The old camouflage had solid lines, rather than pixels. The human brain easily picks out solid lines, as they form shapes. This can be dangerous for soldiers trying to hide. There is also a “desert” form of the pixels, which has a more sandy color palate.

Physical Limits

Being physically fit is a big part of being a soldier. Carrying heavy packs, helmets, and weapons can be taxing. This is why the military makes sure that all cadets exiting from boot camp who wish to move on to advanced training. It includes two minutes of push-ups and sit-ups, as well as a timed run. It does not end there, though. All soldiers are tested physically semi-annually, and are expected to be in even better shape than they were during boot camp.

Model Behavior

Lauren Berlingeri, a model, founded a YouTube series called Woman Versus Workout, where she sees how she holds up against different kinds of workout regimens. Many commented to her that she should try a military workout. She decided to go for the workouts done by an elite military unit, which included a 24-hour-long day of working out. She is very fit, and kept up pretty well, to the point where the boys were impressed with her high performance on some of the exercises.

Accessories

In the Army, individualism is not the most important thing, it is the group. In fact, during boot camp, they try and drill that idea into your head. One way to distinguish oneself is through jewelry, and it is mostly banned. This girl likes her nose ring, but it is only allowed to have it while not on duty. However, females can wear a small pair of matching, conservative earrings. This is also an issue of practicality- you do not want to get any jewelry caught in helmets or other military equipment.

Drink Up

Unexpectedly, a leading cause of injury to soldiers is dehydration. People lose liters of water a day through trips to the restroom, sweating, and even breathing (that’s what you see on cold days when you “see your breath”). Soldiers lose even more because of extreme conditions like heat and carrying heavy packs. It is extremely important for soldiers to drink, even when they are not thirsty. The military is developing an easy to use hydration test to keep troops aware of how much they need to drink.

Hairy Situation

Men get buzz cuts in the Army. What about women? According to Army Study Guide, long hair has to be put up: “Hair will not fall over the eyebrows or extend below the bottom edge of the collar at any time during normal activity or when standing in formation. Long hair that falls naturally below the bottom edge of the collar, to include braids, will be neatly and inconspicuously fastened or pinned, so no free-hanging hair is visible.” The Army is not exactly for fashionistas.

Hands Up

Sometimes, infantry soldiers must keep radio silence, as not to be tracked by the enemy. Usually, when trying to creep around without being detected, even speaking is forbidden. To communicate, the Army has developed hand and arm signals that are outlined in Training Circular 3-21.60. These signals in the manual are the big, widespread ones. Units that become very tight-knit or have special equipment develop their own hand signals to communicate about the specifics of their specialty. This is almost like they created their own dialect.

Special Uniforms

One special uniform that the military produces is for women who are expecting a child. It used to be that women were discharged automatically upon learning of a pregnancy, but now that 14% of the active duty personnel are women, the army cannot lose so many valuable soldiers. Instead, they give six weeks of maternity leave (as well as ten days of paternity leave). In the meantime, they made special maternity uniforms that can be worn more comfortably until the due date.

Combat Ban

For many years, it was impossible for women to be in certain combat units in the Army- those were just the rules. However, there was a lot of lobbying done, and it led to a significant change. Defense Secretary Ash Carter decided in 2015 that women should be eligible for all combat positions in the armed forces. Many top brass generals disagreed and thought certain very dangerous positions should be restricted, but Carter’s orders were to implement his plan “right away.”

Cross Dress Uniform

In the beginnings of America, there was one brave woman who defied all the rules. Her name was Deborah Sampson, and she lived at the time of the founding of the United States. She dressed up as a man, and was able to disguise herself well enough that she could enlist with the Continental Army, and help free America of tyranny. Deborah served about a year and a half under the moniker Robert Shirtliff, before being wounded and honorably discharged.

Initial Disappointments

Once Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s orders to lift the ban on women in combat positions came through, there have been many females enlisting for some of the toughest positions. One of the most intense jobs in the military is to be a Navy SEAL. One woman who signed up to be part of the SEAL Officer Assessment and Selection program, but sadly dropped out after a few weeks. This is not surprising, though, as the rate of success is quite low for men as well.

Barrier Broken

Since women have been allowed to be part of all combat units, one has made history. There was a woman who passed the 13-week Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course, which is a course that until she did it, only men had completed. This was a truly groundbreaking and historical moment. Commandant General Robert Neller said that he is “proud of this officer” for completing the course. Her identity is a secret, but she is still an inspiration to others who want to follow in her footsteps.

Devil’s Advocates

When everyone is wearing the same thing, and being respectful to your officers is paramount, the Army could quickly turn into a hive mind, where groupthink takes over, and every person simply becomes an unquestioning “yes man”. To prevent this, military colleges have been training professional devil’s advocates to act as skeptical voices when it comes to military decisions. Although it sounds hard to be the one to always debate the top brass on every little decision, this is a natural contrarian’s dream job.

Sikh Approval

The Army strictly forbids beards as they are seen as unhygienic, and also cause problems with gas masks fitting correctly. However, in the Sikh religion, having a beard is an important value. Captain Simratpal Singh filed a suit against the Department Of Defense, and eventually was given an exemption to the rule. The Captain is a war veteran, having served for ten years, including in Afghanistan. He believes the American Army value of helping the defenseless is similar to what is taught in the Sikh religion.

Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier

This monument is in honor of those service members who sadly passed away, but whose remains were never identified officially. There are remains inside. The first was chosen at random from four caskets of unidentified World War I soldiers who perished. Since the late 1930s, the tomb has been guarded round the clock, even when there is terrible weather. To be a guard, one must pass an excruciatingly detailed exam on the history of the tomb, and must have the neatest of uniforms.

Above The Clouds

To become a helicopter pilot, you do not actually need an advanced degree. There is even a program called “High School to Flight School.” Still, one must pass standardized tests and physical standards. Being an Army pilot can be very tough, as they not only have to learn to fly this multi-million dollar machine, but they have to do it in combat zones, and sometimes at night while wearing night vision goggles. Everyone trains on a TH-67 Creek helicopter, but pilots specialize to either Blackhawks, Apaches, or more.

Looking At The Numbers

The US military has about 1.4 million soldiers on active duty. This includes 74,000 women in the Army. Some have made it to the highest levels, with 19 women serving as Army generals. One example is Major General Robin L. Fontes, who spent 12 years serving in Afghanistan. She is impressive, as she speaks three additional languages: Farsi, Russian, and Dari. She is the highest-ranking female officer in terms of the leadership in Afghanistan. When she retires, she plans to return to her native Ohio.

Size Matters

The United States Army is absolutely massive in many different ways. First of all, in terms of people. There are about 1.4 million active duty soldiers, which, to compare it, is much higher than the population of San Francisco, Austin, and Jacksonville. The Army is also the second-biggest employer in the country (behind Walmart). Since there are many places to go and things to do, the Army uses a lot of fuel: about a billion gallons a year.

Bugle Call

You might be able to hear the bugle call that is played when it is time to wake up in the morning on a military base. The humble bugle is used to signal events, but also orders. It was originally used because it was easy to hear the bugle sound on a loud battlefield. There actually also used to be more instruments, like drums, as well. All sorts of different tunes mean begin or stop firing, go left or right, and much more.

Hearts And Minds

There is a concept in a war called “winning hearts and minds.” This means campaigning the locals to be on the invading army’s side. Using appeals to their emotions and logic, they are able to turn potential enemies into supporters. This strategy was used in the Vietnam War as well as during the second Iraqi conflict. The phrase comes from John Adams, who said the American Revolution started before a shot was fired because the “Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people.”

Mother Of Invention

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Lucky for inventors, the Army has a lot of needs. Many products that are available to us all today were actually originally made for the military. One of those inventions is super glue, which was accidentally discovered when looking for materials to use with clear gunsights. Duct tape was also made for the Army- in fact, it used to be camouflage green. The military also had early versions of the internet and GPS.

Feeling A Draft

Although the United States does not have a draft (officially known as “conscription”), they did use it during the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Eventually, there was a shift to a volunteer system. However, there is something called the Selective Service System, which men ages 18-25 have to register for, just in case a draft becomes necessary. Now, since women are eligible for combat, there are early talks of including them as well.

Army Strong

Over the years, there have been many slogans associated with the Army. Now, it is “Army Strong,” a phrase that was adopted in 2006. Before that, it was briefly “Army Of One,” but it was not as popular as the previous slogan: “Be All That You Can Be.” The latter was so successful, it was the Army’s slogan for twenty years. Of course, the most famous slogan is from a World War I recruiting poster, that features Uncle Sam pointing and saying “I Want YOU for US Army.”

Total Control

Boot camp can be grueling physically as well as mentally. The first week, the drill sergeants assume an all-consuming control over the cadets; heaven help any free-thinking cadet who does something wrong. Drill instructors are known for their hearing issues, as they yell so loud and so often at cadets. In week two, the army hopefuls are put into a chamber to experience tear gas. They come in with gas masks, but have to take them off to get the stinging gas into their lungs and eyes.

Airborne

The army trains paratroopers, as sometimes, soldiers are best transported by dropping from a plane. Soldiers volunteer to go to United States Army Airborne School, which is known by all as Jump School. The training starts on the ground. First, it involves learning how to fall correctly when landing, how to position your body while in the air, and then jumping from towers. Finally, soldiers are taken into planes and go for the real thing. A trainee has to do five jumps, including one at night, to graduate.

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