I've been enjoying the History Channel series, "The Human Weapon." Anyone else been watching? I dig how the hosts will travel around a country learning about all the different variations on an art. It's a cool way to bring history together with modern arts.
Entertainment Weekly ran a festure article this week on English he-man, Jason Statham. I'm betting that while this actor may still hae too low a profile inside Hollywood, most of my readers have seen one of Mr. Statham's movies: Transporter, Transporter 2, Crank, and are waiting for the chance to see his newest -- War, with Jet Li.
The EW article made no bones about the fact that Mr. Statham is hungry to be the next big Action Hero; just like we had back in the glory days of the 1980's. Mr. Statham himself sees parallels between his ambitions and a certain Governator of California...
Most exciting was the news that the producers of the GI Joe movie are considering Mr. Statham for a role in their movie. Who could it be? No word. But my money is on my hero and role model: Snake Eyes. And since Jet Li's name has been linked to Storm Shadow over the years, that means War may be a preview for the brotherhood of GI Joe fanboys. Of course, Mr. Statham may, in fact, take a page from Ahh-nold's playbook and play the villain. He could just as easily be the Scottish arms dealer, Destro. After all, he's got the abs to show off in that ridiculous V-neck outfit. The women will swoon.
Click above for the full story, and yes, the horrible pictures...
Back in January, a five-year old boy named Youssif was playing outside in his hometown of Baghdad. His mother was inside and upstairs when she heard a commotion outside. Fearing the worst, she ran down to her front door to check on her son.
She got the worst... Youssif was aflame like a candle.
Miraculously, the child survived. But Youssif's once beautiful face is now horribly scarred.
He remembers the attack and describes how masked men pounced upon him at random, doused him in gasoline, and set him ablaze before running down the street. And he understands exactly what happened. "I was burning," he says. The masked men have not been caught. No one -- it seems -- knows who they are.
War is -- it goes without saying -- hell. People end up in the wrong place, and innocents do get killed. But this... This is beyond the pale. This wasn't an accident. This may not have even been intended as a message; since no one has claimed credit. This was pure evil of the kind rarely seen in Iraq since Saddam's reign.
I realize that the mood of the country is shifting to bring our troops home sooner rather than later. Leaving our men and women in harm's way is hardly a palatable option. But what happened to Youssif is only a taste of what will follow our withdrawal from Iraq. There will be killing fields in Iraq. Youssif, alone for now with his scars, will not stay alone in the wake of a hasty departure of American forces. He will have plenty of company.
This is why we fight...
And this is why we fight them there... rather than here.
Morale Patches are an unofficial military tradition that has exploded in the past few years. The trend has been helped along by the increase in Private Military Conctractors who aren't subject to the same rules about uniform wear, and the Army's increased use of velcro on uniforms and equipment. It's real easy now for grunts to peel off an offending patch before someone in the chain of command spots the unapproved item.
Above is a selection of common morale patches. As you can see there is a patch for every mood and sentiment. Some are in good taste, while others are risque.
Ever since I can remember, there has been a military recruiting depot on the mainstreet of my hometown: Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. (For the record, I know where the Coast Guard recruiter is in the vicinity, but not the Air Force recruiter.)
About two years ago, I noticed a few protestors liked to gather outside the Marine recruiter with anti-war signs and shout slogans against the current administration. They were real vocal during the summer, and even cynced-up their small protests with the weekly gathering of Marine recruits. The Marines like to get the kids in shape before they arrive at Parris Island, so they do group PT for the kids while they await their induction date. The protestors tried to disrupt the training, but the Marine recruiters kept smiling while they urged their kids to do more pull-ups, or push-ups, or sit-ups. Knowing a few Marines, I suspect they got a perverse joy out of exercising in full view of the protestors.
Eventually, the Winter months came, and the protestors diappeared, but the Marines didn't. Funny thing that.
But, about two months ago, I noticed the Marines and the Army were no longer occupying the storefronts they'd used as offices for over 30 years. Only the Navy remained. One month ago, I noticed that the Marines had posted two identical billboards on either side of town.
The signs say "We don't accept applications, only COMMITMENTS." There's a portrait of a Marine NCO in full dress blues staring out at the viewer, too.
My daughter was looking one billboard over one day and asked me who that man was. "He's a Marine, sweety. He keeps us safe."
I don't know why, but I feel a little funny about the change. Billboards aren't the same thing... Especially for an elite force that prides itself on being the first in and the last out. I miss those Marines.
I like to think I take my training seriously. My scheduled training includes three martial arts classes each week. One of those is a double-length session. Three mornings out of each week, I get up at 5:30 am and go for a mile run. There's also at least ten minutes a day in which I do push-ups and sit-ups. I have unscheduled training too... I walk up stairs at work rather than take an elevator. I concentrate on my walking; which means I'm concious of my posture, balance and body movement. And I try to take advantage of other opportunities to practice some skill -- even if that means sneaking up on somebody.
Now, I think that counts as taking training "seriously," but that doesn't necessarily mean it's "Hard" training. Oh, sometimes a "hard" session is mixed into my regular martial arts classes unexpectedly. But, realistically, my training isn't consistently "hard."
But then, as I've said before in this blog... I'm not a shoot-and-looter or First Tier operator. My fitness training is for health maintenance, and to stay ahead of the average shlub. Those are my most likely enemies.
But I do need to keep in mind that somewhere, someone is training harder than I am, and if we meet... If we compete... I will lose.
Take for instance the young man I saw running along the side of the road last Sunday (after posting my blog entries). Nothing special about that you say?
Try this on for size... It was 90 degrees with high humidity. The young man was double timing it down the side of bare blacktop, choking in the exhaust of passing cars, and dressed in BDU pants, and wearing a full size ALICS pack sagging from added weight. He did not look like the average jogger; because he wasn't the average jogger.
He was prepping for Ranger School.
How can I be sure? Well, I can be pretty sure, because I've seen it before. The first time was (way) back in college. My roommate, a ROTC cadet, put between 60 to 75 pounds of dead weight in his ruck sack, dressed in his BDU pants, and pulled on his most broken -in pair of jungle boots before disappearing into the Appalachian foothills for hours of roadmarch. He went to Ranger School the same summer he graduated -- while most of our class was still hanging out at the beach chasing bikinis and sipping fruity drinks.
A few years later, I saw another young man hustling down the road outside my hometown wearing BDUs, and bent over under a heavy ruck. He was wearing jogging shoes -- they'd changed the rules you see. Too many good candidates were washing out with leg and foot injuries from all those marches in combat boots.
Last week marks the third Ranger candidate I've seen prepping for the notoriously tough Army school. There's an Army base not too far away, but it isn't staffed with any combat arms soldiers, so we don't have all that many potential Rangers training in my hometown. I'd guess the two I've seen are either National Guard infantrymen, or home on leave and being consistent with their training. I'm sure some towns near infantry bases see plenty of these kids hoofing it down the road under their loads, but we're not one of them.
God bless these kids. Not only have they volunteered for some of the toughest training in the military, but they are preparing for it with little outside support. It's real easy to slow down the pace, or skip a day, or choose to play video games instead of do a solo roadmarch with extra weight. How conspicuous do you think these kids feel in their distinctive uniform and giant backpack? Despite the camouflage, these kids aren't blending into the background like most joggers.
And what's the reward for this self-torture? A little sliver of black and gold cloth, and an annotation in a personnel file. Oh... and pride.
My best wishes to the kid I saw last weekend. God bless you and keep you as you strive for your goal.