Army Myths: The way you’re supposed to wear the blue cord (infantry)

how to wear the blue infantry cord

Pay day activities, uniform inspection, whatever the event, when infantrymen start putting on their dress uniform, there will always be “that guy” who insists there is a certain way that the blue cord is supposed to be worn. I’ve seen senior NCOs pinch both sides of the cord with their thumb and index finger to test for “thickness,” insisting that the “fat” side goes to the rear (or to the front, who knows). I’ve also heard others say that the loop that grasps the button is supposed to be facing a certain direction as it comes off of the cord.

This is another myth. DA 670-1 indicates how the blue cord is worn, and it’s pretty simple:

DA 670-1

It’s worn on the shoulder, attached to the button. No thickness, no directions. Pretty simple.

Related: turning the buttons of the Class A’s/ASUs a certain way so that the eagles on them face this or that direction in times of war. More nonsense that gets passed around from generation to generation.

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Army Myths: Saluting a Medal of Honor recipient

sal giunta saluting medal of honor
Snow Salute

It is common knowledge that if someone is awarded the Medal of Honor, then that person will be saluted by other service members – whether the awardee is an officer or not. In fact, it is again, common knowledge, that even officers are obliged to salute enlisted Medal of Honor recipients. Soldiers I’ve known joke about this phenomenon unendingly, excited about the prospect of having the general “salute my ass.”

Well, it turns out that this common knowledge simply isn’t true, but a myth that has persisted for as long as I’ve been in the Army, and I’m sure much longer.

True, a Medal of Honor recipient gains access to a bevy of entitlements (see AR 600-8-22), including a supplemental uniform allowance, special identification cards (which brings other benefits), full military honors at burial, and admission to the military service academies for their children outside of the normal quotas (it would be interesting to see if anyone has ever done that, actually). But in no regulation does it say anything about saluting a Medal of Honor recipient.

Commonly, I’ve heard from soldiers “you’re not saluting the soldier, you’re saluting the award,” which sounds like it allows for this loophole, but unfortunately saluting an award also isn’t a “real thing.”

Like other myths I’ve covered, the root is rarity. Passing a Medal of Honor recipient is an extremely rare event, mostly because of the few that are still alive, most choose to get out of the military. For most of us, the closest we come into contact is the forever empty space at the PX parking lot reserved for “Medal of Honor Recipient.” CPT Swenson recently returned to duty, and I’m sure passing him in the parking lot must be a “significant emotional event” for the field grade officers who are waiting for him to salute as they walk past each other.

All this said, the myth is so ingrained and reverence for the Medal of Honor is so high that even the saltiest Command Sergeant Major might not make that on-the-spot correction. As a military, we simply don’t encounter Medal of Honor recipients enough to really know what to do. If there were Medal of Honor recipients all over the place, and everyone was saluting everyone, I’m sure we’d tighten it up and start digging into the regulations and stop the madness.

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Army Myths: MRE gum is a laxative

two pieces of mre gum wrapped

There’s lots of lore surrounding MREs. One prominent myth is that the chewing gum contained in every MRE has laxative properties, presumably to counter that other myth that MREs induce constipation (a myth for another day!).

A friend of mine, another prior-service officer who did time in the 82nd actually emailed Natick, the folks who design the MREs and asked them about the gum myth. Here is their response:

Thank you for your comments and interest in the U.S. Army Natick Soldier
Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC), Department of Defense
(DoD), Combat Feeding Directorate (CFD). The Combat Feeding Program has an
active interest in receiving proposals and comments pertaining to new ideas,
suggestions, innovative concepts, and products that could be of benefit to
our Warfighters.

The MRE™ is part of the Continuous Product Improvement process under the
Fielded Individual Ration Improvement Project (FIRIP). Feedback from
Operation Desert Shield/Storm suggested that Warfighters would consume more
if their preferences were taken into consideration. In 1993, the FIRIP was
initiated to improve the variety, acceptability, consumption and nutritional
intake of individual combat rations to enhance performance on the
battlefield. Today, all components that are put into or taken out of an MRE™
must first be Warfighter Recommended, Warfighter Tested, Warfighter
Approved™. From 1993 through 2013, over 260 new items have been approved and
added to menus and over 65 of the least acceptable items have been removed.

Attached is Natick PAM 30-25 Operational Rations of the DoD which highlights
the entire family of fielded rations. Pages 14-16 provides the detailed
information regarding MRE individual components that you inquired about. The MRE™ gum does not function as a laxative.

Another myth, solved.

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I guess it has to be said again – there is NO SUCH THING AS A CONFIRMED KILL!

confirmed kills
Kill count

A friend of mine posted this article on Facebook, about retired SFC Johnson – “the deadliest US soldier on record with 2,746 kills.” I’ve seen posts at other milblogs about this guy and the outrageous claims being made. I’ve also seen news items, like this one from Yahoo News which discusses the potential case for stolen valor here.

What blows my mind though, is how the whole notion of the “confirmed kill” is glossed over again and again. Authors even put the term in quotation marks without taking a moment to ask what it even means or if it is an actual real thing.

I’ve written about it before. There is no such thing as a “confirmed kill.” The term is something popularized by Hollywood and video games. There is no recording of kills and crediting it to individuals. It’s nonsense. All of it.

If someone wants to “claim” kills, fine. It’s disgusting and abhorrent but more accurate than “confirmed,” which makes it sound clinical and official – which it isn’t.

So, again, in conclusion, there is no such thing as a confirmed kill.

There is no such thing as a confirmed kill.

There is no such thing as a confirmed kill.

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Army Myths: Confirmed kills

sniper a ghille suit
Confirmed Kill

I’ve checked and double-checked my ERB and ORB. There is no category to record my “confirmed kills.” The term “confirmed kill” gets thrown around a lot, especially in sniper circles. The whole idea of a “confirmed” kill suggests there is some process or that there is a forensics team that descends on a body after a shot was fired to confirm unequivocally who gets the credit.

That doesn’t happen.

Most Confirmed Kills
People really want to know.

As far as I understand, there is no way of keeping track of individual kills. Individual soldiers may ‘confirm’ to themselves that they are responsible for a kill – but there is no official way of tracking that, no process. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some award citations out there where you might find the term ‘confirmed kill,’ but that is a reflection on how pervasive the term has become, not an indication of an official policy or process.

Hollywood and the media have latched onto the idea of the “confirmed kill” and use it as a way of displaying the individual skill and prowess of a soldier – usually a sniper. Journalists have no problem throwing the term around without checking to see what the term means or how a confirmed kill is actually confirmed, often taking military folk at their word.

So if someone tells you they racked up X amount of “confirmed kills” you can blow them off. Or better, ask them how those kills were confirmed and who confirmed them. If he (or she) says that they did it themselves, you can nod and smile at them. Then walk away.

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