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DUFFEL BLOG PRESENTS: Jane Austen gives your weekend safety brief

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It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single company in possession of a good four day pass, must be in want of a safety brief.

However little known the feelings or views of such a company may be on first entertaining the notion of such an enterprise, the truth is so well fixed in the minds of the first sergeant and commander, that they are considered the rightful property to some one or another of their mandatory briefings.

“My dear first sergeant,” said his commander to him one Wednesday, “Have you heard that we are to have a four day pass, at last?”

First Sergeant replied that he had not.

“But it is,” returned he; “For Maj. Long has just been here from battalion, and she told me all about it.”

First Sergeant made no answer.

“Do you not want to know who is on the pass?” cried Capt. Bennet impatiently.

“YOU want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it,” replied the first sergeant, amenably.

That was invitation enough.

“Why, my dear first sergeant, you simply must know, Maj. Long says that we are to have a four day pass and it is to be, command being delighted with us, the whole company! Indeed, I agreed immediately with Maj. Long, and we are to take possession of this leave at once. Oh! And we are to have a special guest, I am assured, to present to us our mandatory briefings on how to keep our soldiers unsullied by the blemishes of vice.”

“What is this guest’s name?”

“Capt. Bingley.”

“Is he staff or line?”

“Oh! Staff, my dear, to be sure. A staff officer of the highest virtue. What a fine thing for our company!”

“How so? How can it affect them?”

“My dear first sergeant,” replied his commander, “how can you be so tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of the integrity and virtue of our troops, and this briefing can only further their happy fancies.”

“Is it his design to settle in for a long brief to them?”

“Design! Nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that he MAY take a fancy to the company and give the whole of the safety brief, and therefore you must attend to him upon his arrival.”

“I see no occasion for that. You and the XO may go, or you may go yourself, which perhaps will still be better, for as you are as capable as any of them, Capt. Bingley may like you the best of the party.”

“My dear first sergeant, you flatter me. I certainly HAVE had my share of excellent evaluations, but I do not pretend to be anything extraordinary now. When an officer has a full company, he ought to give over thinking of his own career.”

“In such cases, an officer has not often much of a career to think of.”

“First Sergeant, how CAN you abuse me in such a way? You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion for my poor nerves.”

“You mistake me, my dear sir. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these last twenty years at least.”

First Sergeant was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three-and-twenty years had been insufficient to make officers understand his character. THEIR minds were less difficult to develop. They were of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When discontented, they fancied themselves nervous. The business of their lives was to make life more complex for their troops; its solace was found in PowerPoint and doctrine.

An invitation to the safety brief was soon dispatched; and already had the commander planned the order of briefs, by type and length and topic, that were a credit to his organizational style. Thus when Capt. Bingley entered the assembly area — accompanied by a Capt. Darcy, a fine and handsome man — the entire company was gathered in rows pleasing to the eye. That had been the work of first sergeant. The company remarked quietly to itself on its vexation and the disagreeable circumstances that required it to be there, rather than a pleasant and noble romp to the horseless carriages, whence they would speed to the public houses, surely to blemish themselves and sully their names.

Capt. Bingley had soon made himself acquainted with the company; he was lively and unreserved, briefed every brief, was angry that the safety brief closed so early, and talked of giving one himself back at battalion. What a contrast between him and his friend! Capt. Darcy briefed only once, and that badly, with a forbidding and disagreeable countenance, and the company hoped that he would never come there again. Indeed, the company hoped never to see another staff officer again, although all agreed upon what a fine and striking countenance that Capt. Bingley had.

“Tell me for once and for all, shall you engage in vice or drive as to endanger your very whole and perfect selves or put off the good and cleansing garment of the yellow belt?” asked Capt. Bingley of the assembled company.

“We will make no promise of the kind,” came back the company, throwing distasteful looks towards the ground.

“Company, I am shocked and astonished. I expected to find a reasonable troop. But do not deceive yourselves into a belief that I will ever recede. I shall not go away till you give me and the safety office the assurance I require.”

The company was of a good and solid stock that did not distress itself over the feelings of officers, nor did it hold truth to be of a sacred nature when speaking with said creatures, and so assented readily to Capt. Bingley’s entreaties. The company cast sidelong glances at each other and then to the ground, mirthful with delight.

Captains Bingley and Darcy departed and scarce could Bingley contain himself over the merits and virtues of the company. Both men were quiet on their return to battalion; Bingley thinking of the pleasant qualities and wholesome nature of the company, and Darcy thinking of breakfast.

Happy for all his feelings was the day on which the commander got rid of his deserving company for the weekend. With what delighted pride he afterwards told the first sergeant, may be guessed. I wish I could say, for the sake of the Army, that the accomplishment of his earnest desire in the final safety brief for his company produced so happy an effect as to make them sensible, amiable, and well-informed soldiers; though perhaps it was lucky for the first sergeant, who might not have relished domestic felicity in so an unusual form, that the company still bound itself to being loutish, loud, and decidedly without common sense.

The first sergeant did not miss his company exceedingly; his affection was for his bottle of bourbon, which drew him oftener from home than anything else could. He delighted in going to the tavern, especially when he was least expected.

Army

Army sergeant’s steampunk top hat springs class III leak in formation

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FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. – Army Sgt. Pennyworth Montgomery’s notably complex steampunk top hat sprung a class III leak in the middle of morning formation, sources confirmed today.

“I noticed it immediately,” said Spc. Christie Jones. “One moment the steam whistle puffed away gentle bursts of vapor to release pressure. In the next, there was clear drop formation  each of which fell from their own weight.”

Having escaped Montgomery’s notice, the leak worsened due to the internal pressure generated by the boiler apparatus held within the hat’s large stovepipe structure. This caused a torrent of scalding water to spray over the faces of two privates standing adjacent to Montgomery.

“Arrghhh!!!” screamed Spc. Michael Johnson as doctors treated him at the local burn unit. “Who even lets him wear that stupid thing?!”

The military police sergeant said an internal problem caused the top hat to send boiling water shooting on the privates who he expected to hold the position of attention.

“Well, I think the problem arose when the 25 tooth brass gear misaligned with those around it. This caused the hat’s internal dampening system to overfill with steam pressure,” Montgomery said while wearing a purple tented set of welding goggles.

“This sent a gust of steam through the incorrect piping and into a glass reservoir directly underneath the series of Edison bulbs I have attached around the top to indicate ambient air temperature and atmospheric pressure,” he continued after adjusting a few external lenses over his left eye and checking an ornate brass pocket watch.

Montgomery then opened an umbrella with a loud, “Cheerio!” and floated into the sky towards the dirigible he had moored to a light pole at the barracks parking lot.

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Army

The untold story behind the name of the US Army Special Operations Command

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The following is an excerpt from the personal journal of Lt. Gen. William Yarbrough (1912-2013), reprinted by Duffel Blog with permission from the Green Beret Association.

So here it was, June of 1998, and the Pentagon made the decision that they wanted all the Army Special Operations components under one unit umbrella. They had pretty much everything figured out except what to call the new parent command. So Eric [Shinseki], who was about to take over as chief of staff, called me up and asked me for ideas on a name.

Now, during Vietnam, Green Berets would be out doing things in the middle of nowhere, and they’d have absolutely no supplies to speak of.

Guys would be complaining that they had to do their business out there in the jungle but didn’t have anything to wipe with. The team commanders would be constantly telling people “use a sock.” Or when guys would need to take care of themselves, if you know what I mean, but there was no tissue paper handy? “Use a sock.”

Seriously, socks were easier to get than toilet paper. I still don’t know why. Guys within the Special Forces community started saying “use a sock” for literally everything. It got to the point where it almost became an institutional joke motto, sort of like “Wagner loves the cock” for the Marines.

So now here it is, I’d been retired for almost thirty years, when out of the blue I get a phone call from Eric, and he asks me to come up with an idea for a name for this new major command.

Without even thinking, I blurted out, “Use a sock.” It was just an offhand joke. I never meant for him to take it seriously. But he ran with it, and sure enough, a year and a half later, there he is, announcing the formation of USASOC (U.S. Army Special Operations Command).

I never had the heart to tell him. He’d probably be really embarrassed.

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Air Force

Pentagon worries that plunging morale might affect morale

Nevertheless, many service members remain skeptical that conditions will improve anytime soon.

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ARLINGTON, Va. — Officials at the Pentagon have expressed concerns that plunging morale among American service members may be affecting service member morale, sources revealed today.

“We at the Department of Defense are deeply worried that the growing apathy of America’s war fighters may have a negative impact on America’s ability to fight wars,” said Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Ed Marquand.

“Though we are at present unsure of the exact root of the growing malaise, our researchers suspect that it may have something to do with almost two decades of perpetual conflict, a gradual decline in America’s international prestige, or endemic inefficiency across the military industrial complex.”

While the Pentagon’s recognition of this growing problem strikes many Americans as a step in the right direction, it remains unclear what actions the Pentagon will take to rectify the issue.

“We are currently exploring a number of possible solutions to increase the job satisfaction of our soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen,” Marquand said. “Currently, we suspect that if we find a way to make living more bearable for our military personnel, they may actually begin to enjoy being alive. Experiments conducted on laboratory animals and members of the Coast Guard support this theory.”

However, despite the Pentagon’s announcement, there are some across the military who disagree with any attempt to improve the the happiness of military members.

“Morale is a crutch,” an anonymous colonel stated in a recent suicide letter.

Nevertheless, many service members remain skeptical that conditions will improve anytime soon.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” said Lance Cpl. Marcus Strudelmeier of 7th Marine Regiment. “If Maj. Whatshisnuts thinks a little press conference will keep me from doing cough syrup jello shots in a desperate attempt to shuffle off this mortal coil, stand the fuck by.”

As of press time, Pentagon researchers were attempting to link overwhelming depression among E-5s and below with poor barracks Wi-Fi.

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Army

Retiring Sergeant Major convinced he was medieval Japanese Samurai in previous life

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FORT HOOD, Texas — An Army sergeant major months from retiring after more than 30 years of service is pretty sure he was a Japanese samurai in a previous life, sources confirmed today.

“You know, I can really identify with the Samurai mindset,” sources say Sgt. Maj. Joshua Thomas, an overweight 48-year-old father of four, murmured to himself. Thomas, gently fingering a challenge coin given to him 20 years prior by the Commander of III Corps, added: “Maybe I could have been a ninja.”

Thomas recently submitted his retirement packet which has, reportedly, spurred a series of adolescent fantasies about medieval Japan. Chief among them is an image of himself in full suit of traditional samurai armor. “I can see myself on the field of battle, clutching my weary katana and squinting to see out from my lacquered mengu face mask. But it is difficult, because of the blood which makes my eyes sting.”

Thomas pivoted listlessly in his chair and sighed, according to sources, who added that for at least the past few hours he had been staring out his window, daydreaming of a snowy Japanese landscape. He ended his fidgeting by leaning back in his chair and resting his feet on a large wooden desk.

“After I aided my defeated opponents’ in ritual suicide, I would likely return to my holdings and ruminate on their courage by quietly inspecting cherry blossom trees. Maybe I would donate a portion of my yearly koku to a shrine for their kami and participate in a tea ceremony,” Thomas told reporters.

Thomas’ wife, Helen Jackson-Thomas, reports that her husband has lined up civilian work as mid-level management at an IT company just outside of Boise, Idaho. Sources confirm that his personal internet search history include the terms, “Iaijutsu Idaho,” “The Five Rings,” “Movie Forty Something Samurai,” “Clacky Practice Swords For Sale Boise,” and “Extended Tri-Care Coverage for Dependents.”

“I think I would be a weary samurai. Tired from the horrors I’ve seen, but resolute in my duty.”

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Army

First MRE eaten in war in Afghanistan finally pooped out

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JACKSON, Mo. — After more than 17 years inside a retired Special Forces soldier’s colon, the first Meals Ready-to-Eat consumed during the war in Afghanistan was pooped out this week, sources confirmed today.

1st Sgt. Jeff Donegan (Ret.) says he ate the beef ravioli MRE during the initial invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001.

“I remember it like it was yesterday. A hot, dusty afternoon on the outskirts of Kandahar. Not a rock or something in sight to lean my heater on,” Donegan said. “I cracked open that wheat snack bread knowing we’d be in it for the long haul, but I never could have imagined it would be this long.”

Donegan went on to serve three more tours in Afghanistan and two in Iraq before retiring in 2011. He said his battle to push the MRE through his intestines is an analogy for the invisible battles thousands of troops fight once they leave the service.

“I thought that once I retired, my days thinking about the war were over, and I could move on with my life,” he said. “But the years went by, and I could still feel the cheese spread inside me, gnawing at my guts. It cut down deep into my core, an obsession that I just couldn’t shake out.”

Donegan finally sought professional help to assist him in passing the MRE through his bowels. He says help is out there for the many soldiers who still struggle to defecate after eating them.

“I finally talked to a therapist and she said that it’s all about acceptance,” he added. “I needed to accept it before I could let it go, to face my demons head on. Yeah, it hurt. I think pooping out MREs hurts us all in its own way, but I got through it.”

At press the time, the most recent plate of goat meat and rice served to American troops by their Afghan partners had already been sprayed all over a local Port-a-John.

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Army

Space Force seeking applications for transfer to mobile infantry

It’s called the “Cross Into the Black” initiative.

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WASHINGTON — Space Force Recruiting and Retention Command announced today that it is seeking applications from current active-duty Army 11-series MOS and Marine 03xx-series MOS personnel for lateral transfer into the Mobile Infantry, the service’s direct-action combat arms branch.

The “Cross Into the Black” initiative seeks to recruit current infantry soldiers and Marines to take their ground combat skills to the interstellar battle space.

“Our goal is to be able to rapidly field an initial corps of trained warfighters who will then be able to train the next generation of mobile infantry,” said Space Force Lt. Col. John Rico. “Our troopers will be prepared to deal with anything, from the gritty hell of face-to-face combat, to the potentially awkward moral dilemmas that may arise from railing out your smoking-hot redhead platoon mate while you’ve still sort of got a thing for this pilot chick.”

Mobile infantry warfighting doctrine calls for rapidly deployable units that can counter not only Earth-based threats, but also potential attack from non-Earth based enemy forces. Insertion by orbital dropship is the primary assault tactic employed, as it enables rapid massing of friendly forces on the enemy objective and the establishment of a secure lodgment for follow-on operations or beer-and-bang parties.

Mobile infantry units will deploy aboard heavy fleet cruisers such as the USS Rodger Young, the first Space Force cruiser to be commissioned. The cruisers can deploy 32 Viking-class dropships, each capable of carrying one fully combat-equipped rifle platoon as well as four Conestoga-class support dropships stocked with mission-critical supplies including spare munitions, rations, hair-styling products, beer kegs, electric violins, and footballs.

Units are gender-integrated, which eases logistical and supply-chain burdens for field shower units, portable tents, personal prophylactic kits, and other sustainment provisions.

The Space Force is offering transfer bonuses of up to $20,000 for service experience of eight years or more, or the equivalent qualifying time and unlocked achievements in a candidate’s online gamer profile, as an incentive to lure experienced mid-career infantrymen away from sister services.

Applicants should have a GT score of 110 or greater on the ASVAB. Scores down to 50 are waiverable if the applicant has less than 12% body fat and flexible sexual standards.

Would you like to know more?  Space Force Recruiting and Retention Command says interested parties should visit its website for more information.

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Army

Jody Moth makes sure soldier’s lamp is okay

Don’t trust him.

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BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Staff Sgt. Daniel Clark loved nothing more than connecting and video chatting with his wife back in the states. Not long ago, the deployed NCO came off a particularly tiring shift and called her up. That’s when he saw it.

“Something big was creeping around behind her,” said Clark. “I nearly panicked and yelled for her to watch out.”

Clark’s wife assured him that the ‘something big’ was nothing more than a harmless moth.

“Her explanation made sense,” said Clark, “but I just had this… uneasy feeling.”

While Clark didn’t want to make a big deal of the situation, he also couldn’t let it go. Over the next few days he did a little digging and noticed a spike in the electric bill. When he confronted his wife about it, she claimed it was probably related to the air conditioner.

“I knew right then and there she was feeding me bullshit,” said Clark. “She’s always griping that I crank the A.C. too low. If anything, the electric bill should’ve gone down.”

Clark also noticed the moth was becoming a regular part of the background whenever he dialed home during hours of darkness. Clark said his wife denied running the lamp any longer than necessary. She was growing more defensive and agitated whenever he mentioned the issue. Eventually, things came to a head.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Clark. A tear ran down his cheek. “I gave her my heart. I trusted her.”

After noticing a $200 Amazon purchase on the credit card, he logged into their account to check the order history.

“She bought a set of those color-changing ‘smart’ light bulbs—” He sniffled and used his forearm to wipe his eyes. “and some blackout curtains.”

When she stopped answering his repeated calls and messages, he knew their marriage was over. He’d seen this scenario play out with too many battle buddies too many times. Defeated, he informed his first sergeant that a divorce packet was incoming. When the company commander asked him to check his bank account, Clark responded that it wouldn’t be necessary. He already knew it was cleaned out.

Two week later, Clark received a divorce packet in the mail.

“Everyone always thinks it’ll never happen to them,” said Capt. Pete Harrington, Clark’s company commander. “Soldiers hate safety briefings and marriage counseling, but it’s all done in an effort to protect their best interests — to prevent these sorts of tragedies.”

Harrington added: “It takes a real son of a bitch moth to do this.”

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Army

Army hopeful new combat fitness test will turn the tide of war in Afghanistan

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PENTAGON — After 40 years of the same physical fitness test, the Army has announced a new combat focused test that will reverse its recent spate of war loses dating back to Vietnam, sources confirmed today.

“The new test is combat-focused,” said Esper. “It’s a game changer. Clearly our inability to properly test our soldiers’ physical fitness levels has led to some poor outcomes in recent conflicts.”

The Army Combat Readiness Test is a massive change to the current assessment and will include six events: the deadlift, power throw, push-up, sprint/drag/carry, leg tuck, and 2 mile run.

Senior Taliban leaders are clearly intimidated by the well-developed deltoids of soldiers that have been training for pilot programs to test the new ACRT, a recent Rand Corporation study shows. The research, citing several unnamed intelligence sources, stated that the Taliban are particularly concerned that soldiers well trained in the “dead-lift” could push back recent Taliban inroads in a number of provinces.

“If we had had this test back in 2001, we would have already won the war in Afghanistan,” said Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost, who oversees the ARCT as commanding general of the U.S. Army Center of Initial Military Training. “Frankly, I can’t believe it has taken so long.”

Generals across the Army greeted the announcement with enthusiasm, while criticizing the Afghans’ poor performance on their own physical fitness test as a clear indicator of their inability to conduct combat operations. Security Force Assistance Brigades, the units charged with training indigenous forces to fight in lieu of American soldiers, are now focusing entirely on training for the ACRT.

“If we can get the Afghan Army to master the power-throw, I really think we can turn this thing around,” Staff Sgt. Damien Alverez of 1st SFAB told reporters. “I wish I had trained this way for my last six deployments.”

Esper added that he was eager to see the new ACFT implemented across the force, particularly in staff and institutional units.

“We’ve been doing entirely too much thinking and planning across the force. It’s time for our leaders to get out there and focus on what really matters. Physical training.”

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