Army Myths: No eye-pro, No SGLI

“Dude, there was a guy over in 1st Battalion that died in a motorcycle accident, and listen to this shit – he wasn’t wearing a reflective belt, so they denied his family the SGLI.”

“Why do you have to wear eye-protection, you ask? Well first of all, if god-forbid you should get shrapnel to the face and you go blind, the Army won’t cover your medical expenses because you weren’t wearing proper PPE. Roger?”

Since I’ve been in the Army, I’ve heard variations of the above myth. Like most Army myths, there are never any first or even second-hand accounts; just stories about unidentifiable guys in other units. For the unitiated, Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance, or SGLI, is the life insurance policy that all members of the Armed Forces have access to, and pretty much everyone elects to enroll in. The full coverage is $400,000, and will be paid to a beneficiary upon a servicemember’s death. As the myth goes, if a servicemember should die – be it as a result of hostile fire or simply an accident – the SGLI will not be paid if it is discovered that the servicemember wasn’t wearing a piece of normally required equipment. In most cases, I’ve heard it used in reference to motorcycle accidents and not wearing the require PPE (personal protective equipment) to include a reflective belt or vest, or not wearing eye-protection or gloves on a mission.

Of course, this is complete nonsense. It says so directly on the SGLI website on a page titled Myths and Rumors about SGLI/VGLI Insurance.

From the website:

True or False: SGLI won’t pay if I die while wearing privately purchased body armor or a privately purchased helmet.

False: SGLI claims are paid regardless of body armor or helmet type. Wearing body armor or a helmet is not a requirement for a SGLI claim to be paid.

True or False: SGLI or VGLI won’t pay if I die in a motor vehicle accident or airplane accident and wasn’t wearing a seat belt.

False: SGLI or VGLI claims are paid regardless of whether the member was or was not wearing a seatbelt.

True or False: SGLI or VGLI won’t pay if I die in a motorcycle accident and I was not wearing a helmet.

False: Your SGLI or VGLI proceeds will be paid to your beneficiary or beneficiaries, regardless of whether you were or were not wearing a helmet.

I’m almost certain that some devious NCO started this myth as a method to try to get his guys to wear the prescribed uniform. And like many other Army myths, this is one that soldiers will defend vigorously as being true, getting red in the face speaking about it, despite not having actually met or read about it actually happening.

Additionally, if it were the case that a beneficiary was denied SGLI because their loved one who died in service of their country wasn’t wearing a reflective belt, I’d like to think much hell would be raised.

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Army Myths: Confirmed kills

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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Army Myths: (insert school name) has to pass international students because their home country will kill them if they fail

“We had international students in our Ranger class. They pretty much got pushed through the course, because one time they sent home a student and he was killed for failing.”

I still hear variations of this one, despite the fact that all around I’ve seen international students fail a course and get recycled or sent back to their country. While it might be true that international students get cut a little more slack by American instructors, straight up failing usually results in failing the course, just like American students.

I’m not sure where this rumor started or if there is any merit to it. The original rumor that I heard was about a student from Thailand who failed Ranger School and was executed when he returned home. Since then, I’ve heard variations of this where the country is different or the punishment is less severe (substitute beating for killing). Nobody wants to fail a course, and I’m sure it is embarrassing for any soldier to travel across the world only to have to return back without success. But I find it hard to believe that a professional military would summarily execute one of their own. And if it did happen, we would probably know more about it, and it wouldn’t just exist as a Joe-Rumor.

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Army Myths: The .50 cal will kill/harm/maim even if you miss

I’ve been back in the Army for almost a year now, and I still hear some of the same myths I heard back when I was enlisted. I probably believed most of them back then.

This myth is about the .50 caliber machine gun, the M2. Most soldiers, even infantrymen, are usually not that familiar with the M2. It’s a heavy weapon and is normally only used by gunners, and most infantrymen will never be gunners. It’s also an old and highly revered weapon – ask anyone who has been supported by one.

The other day, I heard a myth about the .50 cal that I’ve heard many times before. It usually goes something like this:

Soldier: “I heard that if you shoot at someone with the .50 cal it will blow off parts of their body if the bullet comes within 3 feet of him.”

Soldier: “Just shooting near a target with the .50 cal will kill him from the air pressure.”

Soldier: “I heard that a gunner was shooting at a guy overseas with the M2, missed, but still knocked the guy down from the “pressure.””

Now, I’ve never heard someone validate this myth. It’s always something one guy heard from another guy. But I’ve heard completely intelligent people defend this “fact” aggressively despite the lack of evidence.

My guess is the general lack of experience with M2s explains the development and persistency of this myth. And apparently, the MythBusters proved that firing a .50 cal near glass wouldn’t even shatter the glass with a near miss, so I can’t imagine it would kill/harm/maim a person.

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