“Rip It? What are you talking about – it’s an energy drink?” Yes, it’s an energy drink, and that’s usually the confused response I receive whenever I ask one of my civilian friends if they’ve ever had one. You see, it’s extremely rare to find one of these delicious sugar free energy drinks out in the American wild – and by wild I mean at truck stops, gas stations or convenience marts. On the other hand, where you will find unlimited amounts of Rip Its and all their caffeinated glory is at American combat military outposts throughout Afghanistan. While I had heard about the awesomeness that is the Rip It energy drink (I love the sugar free version) during our battalion’s deployment work-up, I wasn’t able to taste one until I touched down at FOB Geronimo in Central Helmand Province, Afghanistan, sometime in 2010. All I can say is those tiny little cans (they have tall boys as well) made a big impression on my caffeine-seeking soul, and if you can find one here in the States, it will be well worth your journey. (Rip It Treasure Map after the link!)
So as I’m sitting here watching Forrest Gump and the awesome scenes from when Forrest enlisted and went on to Vietnam, it made me think about war soundtracks: Vietnam obviously solidified its soundtrack years ago through the countless movies that have defined it, but what about OEF? What’s our war soundtrack? For those out in SQ Nation that aren’t sure what OEF stands for – Operation Enduring Freedom – it’s the official name to the “War in Afghanistan”. For that matter, OIF could be included as well in this conversation since the two wars completely overlapped. I just posed this very question over in Reddit’s excellent /r/Veterans subreddit, but would love to hear the thoughts of our fellow OEF’ers (and OIF) here at SQ.
If you haven’t seen the excellent Afghanistan war (Operation Enduring Freedom) documentary Restrepo yet, then you absolutely need to as soon as humanly possible. Korengal, which comes straight from Restrepo’s award winning director Sebastian Junger’s camera, basically continues on where Restrepo left off, as he states its “the same men, the same valley, the same commanders, but a very different look at the experience of war.” (http://goo.gl/w4RXtG) With 44 days left until the Kickstarter ends, Mr. Junger still needs about $55,000 to reach his goal of $75,000, which he is utilizing to bring Restrepo – and the intimate war stories of not only this incredible US Army infantry platoon, but of every force that has fought in the Korengal and Afghanistan for that matter – to the big screen around the entire country. I am pumped for this film, as Restrepo ranks as #2 on my favorite OEF documentaries to date; find out what my number one – as well as more slightly qualified thoughts on Korengal, the movie and the valley – after the jump.
You just got home from the Marine Corps recruiting office, and your ship date for boot camp is 100 days out – there’s only one problem. You can only do 3 dead hang pull ups. Or your body fat percentage is borderline unauthorized for your height. Or you are barely clearing 24 minutes on your 3 mile run. Can’t do 100 crunches? You get the point. Marine Corps recruits have a higher standard than the other service branches: they all understand that the title of Marine is earned, and never – and I mean never – given. If you can’t perform the bare minimum physical fitness – or academic, character, etc – standards, then you’ll get rolled into the next class. If you keep the poor performance going, then the Army would love to have you. So what’s the easiest way then to prepare for three months of physical and mental hell? The answer will surprise you.
Now how cool is this beast? Having worked with a few different drones from my recent time in the Marine Corps, I can definitely vouch for the huge value they bring to the battlefield; on that same token however, many of them also have significant shortfalls. Although drones are making the biggest impact from the skies at this point, robots on the ground have been a huge help in the fight against IED’s (CIED). Boston Dynamics has been at the forefront of ground-based robotics for the US military, and that four-legged gentleman who you see above is their latest and greatest creation: his name is WildCat, and you do not want to be in front of him when he starts a chargin’. Check out the video, then hit the link below for our thoughts on if this guy is battlefield ready yet.
If you’ve never played a role playing game before, then you will likely not get the humor in this post. RPG’s over the years have enabled gamers to create their own characters, and then jump into a massive gaming experience that can span more than 100 hours of complex game play. Although each RPG allows gamers to select their character from a set selection of “classes”, some classes are more rare than others. The “Bard” in particular, is probably the rarest of them all, and in my opinion, for good reason. If you’ve never heard of bards before, much like my advice in the beginning of this post, it would probably behoove you to move on to some of our other, slightly qualified content, because this may be lost on you. Let me get to the point: why oh why would a gamer create a bard, whose primary weapon is a musical instrument, over say a warrior or a mage, who carry a sword or lethal doses of magic, respectively? Oh, what’s that you say? The bard is crucial to the team because he can boost morale? Excuse me while I step outside and attempt to recover my professionalism. If there has ever been a laughingstock class in RPG’s, it’s the bard. Sorry to all those who have posters of bards on their walls, but seriously, there can’t be many of you. So what’s this “proof” that I speak of, you ask? After all, it is the title of this post. Hit the link below, and prepare yourself for at least 10 minutes of genuine hilarity and satisfaction!
Holy pivot, Batman! In a stunning one-80 (you’re impressed, aren’t you?), Microsoft issued a mega press release through the executive fingers of Don Mattrick, President of the software giant’s interactive entertainment business, highlighting two big changes. First: that ridiculous, once every 24-hour online connectivity/piracy check is no longer in place. In fact, gamers will only need to connect to the Interweb to validate the game disc after the game is purchased; from then on out no Internet required. Second: no more fine print or confusion whether or not Xbox One games are trade-inable. In other words, and to quote Mr. Mattrick, “There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.” Touch the link below for the official press release from El Presidente, as well as for more of the juicy details.
When it comes to picking duty stations in the Marine Corps, it’s pretty much a crap shoot. You list what your preferences are, but in the end it all comes down to what the Marine Corps needs, and not what you want. Somehow, I was able to land Marine Corps Base Hawaii as my duty station, and during my time there, when not deployed, I discovered quite possibly the greatest Irish bar in America: Murphy’s Bar and Grill, located in the heart of Chinatown, in Honolulu. What’s an Irish bar doing in Chinatown, you ask? On Oahu, Chinatown is the hip place for 20 and 30-somethings to live and congregate; Waikiki is all tourists, so us “locals” or mainland transplants like to keep to our own, and that awesome secret is Chinatown. Murphy’s sits on the south end of the electric district, and it has everything that Irishman in you desires: a great staff that will hook you up if you treat them well, a stellar array of rare, craft beers on draft, easily the best social atmosphere in Chinatown, and arguably most important, the best pint of Guinness on the island, if not America. Yes, I just went that far.
My post-active Marine Corps career has brought me to the oil and gas industry down south, and on the road quite a bit. Over the last six weeks in my F-150, I’ve driven back and forth from Houston to Oklahoma City, OK, Arcadia, LA (yeah, I had to Google Map that one too), and Longview, TX. Throw in all sorts of random well site locations out in the middle of nowhere, USA, and my chariot is already calling for another oil change. When I loaded my iPhone a couple months ago, I figured I had enough music to keep me going for a year on the road; it turns out I was wrong. It only lasted about 4 hours on shuffle. Well the radio is out; the only stations you can pick up in Somewhere, OK, are a single country station, and 1,000 different flavors of static. So I turned to my iPhone’s podcast app, and looked at the discovery/popular tab, and that’s when I met the Chairborne Commandos.
In my four years as a Marine Corps officer, I had many young Marines tell me they had originally enlisted with the Marine Corps because they wanted to become a scout sniper. I have also fielded a handful of phone calls from friends of family whose sons are interested in enlisting, with many of those as well wanting to earn the title, scout sniper. I bring this up because I feel that I am slightly qualified; no, I am not a scout sniper. I was a scout sniper platoon commander however, and have been through Scout Sniper Platoon Commander’s course. I also have had the grueling opportunity to attend Scout Sniper Basic Course, which is the venue where enlisted Marines, and sometimes Navy SEALs, Soldiers, and even Navy Corpsmen get the chance to become Marine scout snipers. I will tell you that school is as physically demanding as Infantry Officers Course, which has been in the news recently, although it doesn’t hold a candle mentally. Regardless, I didn’t make the cut; I fell three shots short on the known distance range to be exact, and it’s a credit to those who do qualify to truly earn the title. I passed every other phase, to include stalking, but that’s not good enough, and I don’t want to cut corners. Not everyone can be a Marine scout sniper, but lots of young men and women are interested in the true path to earning their own hog’s tooth; quietly hit the link below for my best advice to everyone/anyone interested in this elite path.
Take yourself back almost three years to February of 2010. What were you doing then? Were you in school, or at your last job? For the Marines of 1/3, 1/6, 3/6, and 3/10, they were about to begin what was dubbed as the most dangerous combat operation since Fallujah with the commencement of Operation Moshtarak. Their mission: clear the Taliban-infested city of Marjah, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. While I have never set foot in Marjah, I did deploy just next door in Nawa district, having gone on many a patrol just outside of Marjah in the “friendly” area of Trek Nawa. Before you watch this legendary speech by Gunnery Sergeant Walgren of 1/6 (1st Battalion, 6th Marines), try and imagine yourself as one of these young Marines that’s about to climb into a CH-53 helicopter and begin the assault. Can you imagine the mental preparation you have to do to really prepare yourself for a mission like that, especially with all of the intel/news reports on how heavy the enemy activity was? That’s where good leadership comes into play, and the video speech you’re about to witness is spine-tingling good. You don’t have to be a good public speaker to be a good leader, but it is a good quality to have, and Gunny Walgren possesses it in spades.
Raise your hand if you think the United States Air Force has a special forces branch? If your hand is in the air, you are correct: the USAF does man a wing (no pun intended) in Special Operations Command, and their most notable asset is the Parajumpers, or “PJ’s”. As a former Marine and Afghan vet, I will be the first to stand up and vouch for the PJ’s (these guys aren’t your average Airman); they’re absolutely legit. Until now, the Air Force hasn’t allowed a peek into the PJ’s training or life on deployment, which is where National Geographic TV comes into play with their latest smash hit, “Inside Combat Rescue”. So what in the world does Leeroy Jenkins have to do with any of this? If you haven’t seen an episode, then you’ll have no idea; heck, if you’ve only seen one episode you may not have caught it either. Hit the link below for the answer, and also my slightly qualified thoughts on the importance of humor in the (combat) workplace.