Army Myths: You get kicked out if you win the lotto

I’ve heard variations of this one forever. Another myth that people believe and defend with aggression and violence, despite not being able to point to a regulation, source, or even a single incident where it happened.

The myth goes, if a soldier comes into a windfall of money – lottery winnings are usually the culprit here – they will be separated from service.

Why?

The reason usually provided is “because they have so much money they won’t respect rank or authority anymore.”

I’ve also heard people refer to “change of lifestyle” separation.

As usual, there is nothing to back this up.

It is true that a person can request a voluntary discharge, but there is no mandatory separation requirement or “rule” that says a request for discharge must be approved.


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Eleven Years of Carrying the Gun

young psycho mantis metal gear solid

Today is the eleventh anniversary of Carrying the Gun.

Top Posts:
1. Army Myths: Don’t Lock Your Knees
2. The Secret Brilliance of “You go to war with the Army you have…”
3. Ranger Hall of Fame: SGT Martin Watson, Abraham Lincoln & Tom Hanks

Wow! Eleven years, huh.

Interesting that the back catalog is starting to get more traffic than the newer stuff. That wasn’t the case last year. That’s just the magic of the Google algorithm at work.

I’ve definitely settled into a better writing groove. The pieces are shorter, and the content is more focused and moving in the direction I originally intended when I relaunched. And that’s good.

Although, it seems I’ve certainly strayed from the original spirit of not blogging “about other blogs.”

If you counted the posts and categorized them, most are reactions to podcasts, which are basically audio blogs.

But that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with a little evolution.

The longer, more editorial stuff that I originally aspired to is still around. Most of it is found in external pieces. The rest can be found monthly at the top of the newsletter. Have you subscribed?


What did the past year look like?

Well, first of all, no one will ever challenge you if you write that we need to “do better” at anything. It’s also an easy way to garner attention. It’s much more difficult to find where we’re doing well.

As such, there was a string of posts late last summer as the Afghanistan withdrawal was underway tussling with “all the reasons we’re bad at irregular warfare” and some others pushing back against the common charge that “we’re getting our asses kicked in the information environment.” Also, the fact that things hit different when you can watch it in real-time. All emotion and absence of mind.

Everyone had an Afghanistan withdrawal think-piece, and I didn’t have much to add, but I fired one tiny dart into the ether trying to reconcile the 9/11 anniversary with the withdrawal. Did it matter?

Lots of milestones, reactions, and reflections. The GWOT was marked by a lot of things, one of those things was repeat deployments and credit card debt.

I marked the passing of Colin Powell, who I had the fortune of meeting on a number of occasions. His 13 rules sit on my desk. I’m especially fond of #1, #4, and #13.

I recalled a time over twenty years ago when I picked up brass with a Green Beret at a MOUT site at Fort Bragg.

I’ve basically given up on the new Star Wars universe (and the Marvel Universe for that matter). But one of my favorite scenes from the series was when Darth Vader finally flipped at the last moment? There’s always a choice.

Some of the best advice you’ll ever get – don’t criticize, condemn, or complain. It’s advice I try to live by, but don’t always succeed.

And as such, not everything was positive. As much as I try to resist, I sometimes get cynical too. Do you find yourself skeptical when someone says they are “getting after it?” It’s similar to how I feel about “threads.” It’s mostly a performance and it’s for them, not for you.

And what happens when everyone tells you to “start with why” and read Marcus Aurelius? Is that really unique knowledge or are we simply fostering groupthink?

A perennial interest of mine, there were a few posts on productivity – which was also featured prominently in a number of newsletters. In getting things done, especially when it comes to dealing with other people, you start with in-person, on the phone, and then via emailin that order. And related, there are very few things I have strong opinions on. One of those things is that “doing” email is the illusion of work. Sure, responding to email is part of a job, but with few exceptions, “doing” email is simply shuffling papers around. Have no doubt; nothing was accomplished.

We like to discuss “future war” these days. It’s fascinating that when we use the term “future war,” we kind of mean war that might happen now. I made an argument that to be effective in future war, we need to go back to what we were doing in the past – extended field training. What about leadership? What attributes do future leaders need? Are they different? Yes, a little bit I think. And we’re sure asking a lot.

Did you ever ready General DePuy’s 11 Men One Mind? It’s an infantry classic, and as relevant today as it has ever been.

Finally, future war sure seems like old war.

A friend of the blog once pontificated on Twitter: “What is something that seems like unconventional warfare but isn’t?” There is a litany of terms that are used in places where we think they make sense, but it turns out they aren’t even “real” terms or they are just being misused. It is helpful from time to time to go back to the books to see if what you think you know is what you actually know. Irregular Warfare? Real term. Hybrid Warfare? Nope. Expect to see more of this in the future.

Lots of psychology and information warfare. It all starts with the fact that “psychological” isn’t a dirty word – or at least it shouldn’t be. The primacy of video (aka ‘pics or it didn’t happen’). Smear war. When briefing, should you read off of the slide or have your audience read it themselves? I know you have a strong opinion. But there’s an actual psychological answer. Why is a lie so hard to debunk? Oh yeah, whatever you do, don’t click this link. Propaganda has no effect on you, only those other guys get duped. You’ve heard of deep fakes, but what are “shallow fakes?” They’re kind of like low-effort memes.

And I know it seems counter-intuitive, but it is behaviors that shape attitudes, and not the other way around.

Oh yeah. Lots and lots and lots of social sciences as sorcery.

And as has become the theme of this site – podcasts. There are way too many to mention, but here are the ones that got a lot of attention:

  1. What if the PLA doesn’t need NCOs?
  2. “It’s psychological warfare, just done with modern tools”
  3. Solid Snake Oil

Lastly, I got brave and wrote a few articles outside of CTG. This, the first, at MWI with a partner on how there is value in supporting cooperation between service-specific IO fields. The second, part two of a journey to figure out how to become a paladin. Here, an observation on observation. There are a few others out there too. And there are more on the way.

The post that I wanted to do better than it did: It has to be Social Sciences as Sorcery (and all the related posts). People don’t want to hear it, because it makes us rethink everything we’re doing. A little humility will go a long way. We don’t know it all, and thinking that if we can just get the dials right does us more harm than good.


A long time ago I learned that the future is video. And more and more, it seems to be the only thing that matters. I’m finally planning on jumping in.

Thanks for being here!


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Bahamut

the monster bahamut from final fantasy
Bahamut (bottom) is much less intimidating here.

Wow! This came as a complete surprise!

Bahamut, one of the most powerful “summons” in the Final Fantasy universe has its roots in Middle Eastern mythology.

The name in Arabic is بهموت (bahamut) and the creature supposedly forms the base of the world, with other creatures standing on top of it.

The name “behemoth” (also a Final Fantasy creature) and now just another word for “huge” or “monstrous” is based on the same word.

This whole thing led me down a nice Saturday afternoon rabbit hole where I learned about Zakariyya’ al-Qazwin who wrote the Aja’ib al-Makhluqat wa Ghara’ib al-Mawjudat (The Wonders of Creatures and the Marvels of Creation). It contains some seriously creepy illustrations.


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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

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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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

soldiers firing the .50 caliber machine gun

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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