Infantrymen have a pride and arrogance that most Americans don’t understand and don’t like. Even soldiers who aren’t infantrymen don’t understand. The pride doesn’t exist because we have a job that’s physically impressive. It certainly doesn’t exist because it takes a higher level of intelligence to perform our duties. It’s sad and I hate to admit it, but any college student or high school grad can physically do what we do. It’s not THAT demanding and doesn’t take a physical anomaly. Nobody will ever be able to compare us to professional athletes or fitness models. And it doesn’t take a very high IQ to read off serial numbers, pack bags according to a packing list, or know that incoming bullets have the right of way.
The pride of the infantryman comes not from knowing that he’s doing a job that others can’t, but that he’s doing a job that others simply won’t. Many infantrymen haven’t seen a lot of combat. While that may sound ideal to the civilian or non-infantry soldier, it pains the grunt. We signed up to spit in the face of danger. To walk the line between life and death and live to do it again – or not. To come to terms with our own mortality and let others try to take our life instead of yours. We have raised our hands and said, “Take me, America. I am willing to kill for you. I am willing to sacrifice my limbs for you. I will come back to America scarred and disfigured for you. I will be the first to die for you.” [Most of you will hate me anyway.]
That’s why the infantryman carries himself with pride and arrogance. He’s aware that America has lost respect for him. To many he’s a bloodthirsty animal. To others he’s too uneducated and stupid to get a regular job or go to college. Only he knows the truth. While there are few in America who claim to have respect for him, the infantryman returns from war with less fanfare than a first down in a high school football game. Yes, people hang up their “Support Our Troops” ribbons and on occasion thank us for our service. But in their eyes the infantryman can detect pity and shame; not respect. Consider this: How excited would you be to meet the average infantryman? Now compare that with how excited you’d be to meet a famous actor or professional sports player and you will find that you, too, are guilty of placing the wrong people on a pedestal. You wouldn’t be able to tell me how many soldiers died in the war last month, but you’d damn sure be able to tell me if one of the actors from Twilight died.
Yet the infantryman doesn’t complain about that. He continues to do his job; to volunteer his life for you, all while being paid less in four years than Tom Brady makes in one game.
It’s a job most Americans don’t understand, don’t envy, and don’t respect. That is why we have pride for the infantry.
On 04 JAN 02, I left the Tampa, FL Military Entrance & Processing Station for Fort Benning, GA in a 15-pack van with 11 other future soldiers. We were headed for the 30th AG Reception Station before being pushed on to the Infantry Training Brigade (ITB). Georgia had received an ice storm on the 3rd and we ended up having to spend another night in the hotel in Tampa before making the drive. It took about 10 hours to make the drive and we arrived after midnight.
Upon arrival, we could see four men in uniform, wearing BDUs and brown Smokey the Bear hats. Under the arc sodium lights outside the building, all we could see is their jaw lines. It was quiet and cold. We got our bags out of the van and once we turned around, the shark attack began. In a tone loud enough to wake the dead in another state and with words that would make your mother blush, we were rushed inside to dump all of our belongings on a table. Our personal effects were searched for contraband. The next thing that we were instructed to do was to shave our [expletive x4] faces. We got our first hair cut shortly thereafter. Fuzzy cue ball is not my favorite coif for cold weather.
30th AG is where you get your Army identity. It’s where your pay check, medical benefits, insurance, and training starts. It was a whirlwind. Let’s skip forward a week. We marched to our basic training company, C Co 2-19th Infantry, “Rock of Chickamaugua”. Our duffle bags road on a truck. Drill Sergeants can be evil bastards. This was where we first experienced unrealistic time hacks to accomplish a task and then swiftly and severely punished when we failed to meet it. The duffle bags were thrown into a haphazard pile behind the trucks. Now, you have less than a minute to find two with your name on them. It’s like trying to find a pair of needles in a stack of needles while the timer on a bomb counts down. You get it now?
I am not going to recount all of basic training. Either you’ve been there and done that or you haven’t. If you haven’t gone yet, I don’t want to ruin the fun. I will make a short list of things that I will never forget:
- 1. The Obstacle Course- You and your Battle Buddy charging through the mud and water, exhausted, but feeling completely alive.
- 2. Eagle Tower- Repelling from the top of a tall ass tower. It was pretty awesome and rather terrifying at the same time.
- 3. THE BAYONET- A 25 mile foot march, broken up with squad/platoon attacks missions along the way (one of them involving climbing a clay cliff face to attack a dug in position). It ended with use climbing up Honor Hill, the pathway going up and the top of the hill lit with torches. The hand you a pint of grog before pinning your crossed rifles on the chest.
- 4. The Steak Breakfast the next morning.
- 5. Graduation Day- Standing on that field with your fellow baby grunts, ready to make your way to Airborne School or to your first Duty Station. You can feel the change in you. You stand taller, you are mentally and physically stronger. It was a proud day.
I am going to start writing about my journey in an effort to help someone prepare for what they are about to face. Things have changed in the last 12 years, but a lot of things haven’t. I hope you learn from these lessons, DR. If you’re willing…
To be continued…
8 ounces fresh skinless haddock fillet (or similar white fish)
1/4 cup gluten free all-purpose flour
1/4 cup imported Italian olive oil
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) salted butter
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine ( chablis)
Table salt and ground black pepper
1 whole fresh lemon
1 pound whole white potatoes, peeled (about 2 medium potatoes)
2 tablespoons imported Italian olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Table salt and ground black pepper
Small bunch fresh Italian parsley (or curly parsley), chopped, plus sprig for garnish
For the fish: Dredge the fish on both sides in the flour. Then, beat the eggs in a bowl using a fork or whisk. Take a saute pan and coat the bottom of the pan with the olive oil, so it is fully covered. Then turn the heat on medium, being careful to not let the oil burn. Splash in a speck of the egg batter to see if the oil is hot enough; the egg will puff up when the oil is ready. At this point, dip the dredged fish into the beaten egg, making sure to cover both sides well, and then place in the saute pan with the hot oil. Let the fish cook on each side until golden brown; be careful not to burn fish in the hot oil. Also, please note that the fish is very tender and breaks easily, so use caution when flipping the fish with a metal spatula or tongs.
For the margarita sauce: In another saute pan, add half of the butter, the chicken stock, the wine, pinch of salt and pepper, and squeeze in three-quarters of the fresh lemon. Make sure to save a few lemon wheels for garnish and set aside. Simmer the sauce for several minutes on medium heat, and then add the cooked fish to the sauce and let that simmer on low heat for a couple of minutes more. This is to infuse the sauce flavor with the egg-battered fish.
For the potatoes: Take the potatoes and cut into cubes. Par-cook them by boiling them in a small pot of water until they begin to soften, but still retain some firmness. In another saute pan over medium-low heat, coat the bottom of the pan with the olive oil and add the butter. Once the butter and olive oil have joined together, add the potatoes to the mixture and turn the heat to medium-high. Next, add the paprika, salt and pepper to taste. Stir the potatoes so that they are all coated evenly with the mixture. Taste one of the potatoes to know when they are finished cooking (they should be slightly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside). Place the cooked potatoes in a bowl and strain any excess oil from the potatoes. Garnish the potatoes with the parsley and finish with a pinch of table salt.
Plate the fish from the margarita sauce, then pour just a bit of the sauce over the fish to highlight the bottom of the plate surrounding the fish. Pour the remaining sauce into a small cup for dipping the fish and/or potatoes. Garnish the top of the fish pieces with 2 thinly sliced lemon wheels and a parsley sprig.
Get the UBRR Eight Week Workout E-Book by Stew Smith at http://www.refactortactical.com/Upper-Body-Round-Robin-UBRR-p/ssubrr.htm
The Upper Body Round Robin AKA the UBRR is a commonly used physical fitness test among many Tier I and Tier II Special Operations Units. This pt test goes well beyond the typical scoring of pushups, sit-ups and a run. Have you completed the UBRR? Tell us how you did! Send us a video of you completing the workout for a chance to get some free swag!
The UBRR events include:
5 Mile Run/Ruck
As soon as an individual finishes one exercise, he must start the next exercise in no more than 10 minutes.
There is only one common standard for all age groups.
Only one attempt is allowed per participant at each station
In order to pass the UBRR, participants must achieve the following:
Pass all events with at least the minimum score, and Receive at least 1100 total points from all the events combined.
Time: No time limit.
Minimum: 6 repetitions with the individuals body weight minus 20 percent of the individuals body weight is the minimum
Score: The minimum is 100 points. Each additional repetition above the minimum is worth 3 points
The correct position is: The individual will lay flat (supine) on the bench, feet flat on the floor, shoulder blades, head, and buttocks in contact with the bench. Hands are approximately shoulder width apart.
A correct repetition is: On the command, “Go”, the bar is pushed off the supports (first repetition only), and arms are extended fully to the locked position. Then the bar is lowered until it touches the chest, and then raised until the arms are fully extended, elbows locked.
Grader position: The grader must be located to one side of the individual doing the exercise to ensure the feet stay flat on the floor, the buttocks, shoulder blades and head stay in contact with the bench, and the arms fully extended. The grader will notify the individual doing the exercise if the feet, buttocks, shoulder blades, or head lift do not maintain contact, or the arms don’t fully extend. The repetition will not be counted after the second notification.
Example: Individual weighs 180 pounds.
Minimum weight: 180lbs-36lbs (20% of 180) = 144 lbs
Individual presses 144 lbs 15 times.
Score = 100 points for minimum (6repetitions)
9 repetitions over minimum x 3 points per repetition for a total of 27 additional points (9 x 3 = 27). Total score is 127 (100 points minimum and 27 points for additional points).
Time: 1 minute
Minimum: 40 pushups is the minimum
Score: The minimum is 100 points. Each additional repetition above the minimum is worth 2 points
The correct position is: The back is generally straight, feet are up to 12 inches apart, hands are placed should width apart with arms extended and locked on a generally flat surface
A correct repetition is: On the command, “Go”, the body is lowered from the front leaning rest position until the chest (sternum area) touches a flat hand on the floor, then the body is raised until the arms are fully extended (locked).
Grader position: The grader will have one hand on the floor and the other on one elbow of the individual doing the exercise. The grader will notify the individual doing the exercise if he needs to go lower or extend the arms fully, and will not count the repetition after the second notification
Stew Smith Push up
Time: 1 minute
Minimum: 40 sit-ups is the minimum
Score: The minimum is 100 points. Each additional repetition above the minimum is worth 3 points
The correct position is: The individual lies flat (supine) on his back on a generally flat surface. The legs should have a 90 degree bend at the knees. Feet should be flat on the floor with no more than 12 inches in between them, and at the same level as the upper body. Fingers should be interlaced (one or more and at any part of the finger) and placed behind the head.
A correct repetition is: On the command “Go” the individual raises his upper body by bending at the pelvis until the spine (base of the neck) breaks or equals the vertical plane (lower spine). Then he lowers his body until the shoulder blades touch the floor. The person holding the feet may secure them by any means, but will not be in the way or assist in the repetition.
Grader position: The grader will be positioned perpendicular to the individual doing the exercise. The grader will notify the individual doing the exercise if he needs to go higher or interlace the fingers and will not count the repetition after the second notification.
Time: No time limit
Minimum: 6 pull-ups is the minimum
Score: The minimum is 100 points. Each additional repetition above the minimum is worth 3.5 points
The correct position is: The bar will be grasped with hands shoulder width apart, knuckles facing the individual. The individual will hang from the bar so that the arms are fully extended (starting position).
A correct position is: On the command “Go”, pull with the arms, raising the body until the chin is higher than the bar (head can be level or tilted back). Then the individual will lower his body until he is hanging with arms fully extended. The knees may be bent so the feet are behind the body, but the knees cannot come up in the front or kip in any way that would assist in the repetition.
Grader position: The grader will stand 18 inches in front of the person doing the exercise and will count out loud. If the individual touches the grader with any part of this body, that repetition will not count. The grader will notify the individual doing the exercise if he needs to go higher or lock the arms, and will not count the repetition after the first notification.
Stud Pull Up Bar works great for the test/training
Time: No time limit.
Minimum: 10 dips is the minimum
Score: The minimum is 100 points. Each additional repetition above the minimum is worth 2.5 points
The correct position is: The body will be fully supported on the dip bar, arms fully extended and locked. Legs may be bent or straight, and feet may be crossed.
A correct repetition is: On the command “Go”, lower the body until the upper arms are parallel with the dip bar, and then press upwards with the arms until the arms are fully extended, elbows locked.
Grader position: The grader will be positioned to one side of the individual to ensure the upper arms are at least parallel with the dip bar in the lower position, and the arms become fully locked in the up position. The grader will notify the individual if he fails the go low enough, or if the elbows don’t lock. He will not count the repetition after the second notification.
Time: No time limit
Minimum: Individual mist climb the rope (using any technique) until he can touch the designate height (the green tape at 20 feet) on the rope. Individual will wear a 20 lb vest during this exercise.
Score: This is a GO/NO GO event, and no points will be awarded.
Time: One minute time limit
Minimum: Six kipp ups is the minimum.
Score: The minimum is 100 points. Each additional repetition above the minimum is worth 3.5 points
The correct position is: The individual will position himself underneath the pull-up bar as if he were doing a regular pull-up. Do a left or right facing movement so the pull-up bar is now perpendicular to the individual. Grasp the bar with palms facing each other, no more than 5” apart, arms fully extended and body hanging without touching the ground.
The correct repetition is: On the command, “Go”, pull up with the arms and torso, raising the feet and legs, one leg on either side of the bar, until the heels touch above the bar, with the bar between the legs. Then lower the legs until the arms and legs are fully extend in the starting position. This is one repetition.
Grader position: The grader will be located to one side or the other of the individual to ensure the arms and legs are fully extended to start each repetition. The grader will also ensure that the heels touch above the bar on each repetition. The grader will notify the individual if the individual fails to fully extend the arms or legs or fails to touch the heels above the bar. He will not count the repetition after the second notification.
Time: 24 seconds is the maximum time
Score: The maximum is worth 100 points. Each full 0.1 second under the maximum is worth 2 points.
A correct course is: The course will be a pre-marked 25 meter running lane that is flat and without obstructions. Easily visible lines on the ground will indicate the starting point and the 25 meter point.
A correct shuttle run is: On the command “Go”, the individual doing the exercise will leave the start point and run down to the far end of the course, pick up a block, return to the start point and put that block down behind the line. Then he will pick up a different block, return to the far end, put that block down behind the line, pick up a different block and return to the starting line. The blocks must be placed behind the lines and carried by hand.
Grader position: The grader will be positioned behind the starting line, and must use a watch that measures tenths of a second.
Example: Individual’s time = 22.4 seconds
Time is 24 seconds or less (maximum) = 100 points
Total time under 24 seconds is sixteen 1/10th second increments
Score = 100 (maximum time) + (16 x 2) for tenths of a second
under the maximum for a total score of 132 points
Five Mile Run:
Time: Maximum time is 40 minutes
Score: The maximum is worth 100 points. Every full 5 second increment under the maximum time is worth 2 points
A correct course is: The course will be 5 miles in distance, with a paved (or similar) surface, generally flat and without obstacles. The start and finish line will be the same.
A correct five mile run is: On the command “Go”, the individual will begin to run at his own pace, and continue through the course until he crosses the finish line. This exercise must be completed
Grader position: The grader will be located at the start/finish line, and will begin the time at the command “Go”. He will call off the finish times as runners cross the finish line, and he will not stop his watch until the last runner has completed the run.
Example: Individuals time = 36:17
Time is 40 minutes or less (maximum) = 100 points
Total time under 40 minutes is 223 seconds
44 full 5 second increments x 2 points per increment = 88 points
(22 x 3 = 88)
Score = 100 (maximum time) + 88 (points for 5 second increments) for a total
Score of 188 points.
5 Mile Run
Five Mile Rucksack March:
Time: The maximum time is 75 minutes
Score: The maximum score is worth 100 points. Every full time increment of 15 seconds under the maximum is worth 2 points.
Equipment: The rucksack must weigh no less than 40 pounds dry. Uniform can be pants or shorts with boots.
A correct course is: The course will be 5 miles in distance, with a hard, solid surface, generally flat without obstacles. The start and finish line will be the same.
A correct five mile rucksack march is: Individual will begin at the start line, and at the command “Go”, will begin the ruckmarch at his own pace and continue through the course until he crosses the finish line. This entire exercise must be completed with the rucksack, and un-aided. Running is authorized.
Grader position: The grader will be located at the start/finish line, and will start the time at the command “Go”. He will call off the times as participants cross the finish line, and he will not stop the time until the last individual completes the rucksack march.
Example: Individuals time is 52 minutes 35 seconds.
Time is 75 minutes or less (maximum) = 100 points
Total time under 75 minutes is 22 minutes and two 15 full seconds
22 minutes x 4 (15 second increments) = 88 + 1 (15 full second)
89 x 2 = 178
Score of 178 points
Click to Purchase the UBRR E-Workout Book
Looking to improve your UBRR Score? Try the Eight Week Workout guide by Stew Smith available for immediate download at http://www.refactortactical.com/Upper-Body-Round-Robin-UBRR-p/ssubrr.htm
By THOM SHANKERJAN. 18, 2014
FORT DRUM, N.Y. — Spec. Perez Brown Jr. spent three years in the Army and two tours in Afghanistan, where on his 23rd birthday a homemade bomb blew up a vehicle in his convoy and he came close to driving over another one just down the road. “That second one might have been for me,” he said.
Now Specialist Brown is safely home with the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, where he goes on field marches in the frosty forests near Lake Ontario. He will not be sent again to Afghanistan, where American involvement is winding down, so he is part of an Army that is no longer carrying out war plans, only training for them.
Although he is glad to be back, Specialist Brown misses the intensity and purpose that deployments brought to his life. Here in upstate New York, he said, it is peaceful but a little boring. “There are too many slow days,” he said.
A dozen years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, most of the two million American men and women who went to war are home, adjusting to new lives. Slightly more than half remain in the armed services, where many are struggling — like America’s ground forces over all — to find relevance in the face of an uncertain future.
Their restlessness is a particular challenge for the Army, which sent 1.3 million troops to war after 9/11 and created the most combat-tested force in the nation’s history. But now it must sustain the morale of soldiers who have returned to American bases and are living what the military calls garrison life.
“You have to ask yourself if you want to be that leader who is relegated to navigating garrison bureaucracy — submitting ammo requests, coordinating weapons ranges and conducting inventories,” said Capt. Brandon Archuleta, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who returned to Hunter Army Airfield, Ga. “I know those processes are in place for a reason, but it’s frustrating nonetheless.”
Lt. Andrew Mayville, who commanded an artillery platoon of 20 soldiers in Afghanistan and is back home at Fort Drum, misses the urgency of his deployment and so is applying to the Special Forces, a branch of the Army that trains allied militaries overseas and is sent to hot spots. “You can compare it to a football player who trains for years,” he said, “and doesn’t want to sit on the bench for the Super Bowl.”
The problems soldiers face in adjusting to ordinary Army life after the adrenaline of combat weighs on commanders.
“It takes a bit of audacity to fall out of a perfectly good airplane in the dark of night,” said the 82d Airborne Division’s command sergeant major, LaMarquis Knowles, based at Fort Bragg, N.C. “So there are some challenges when we integrate back into civilization. You transition from one mind-set — you roll out of your cot and you seek and destroy the enemy — to coming back to the States, where we want you to drive safely.”
Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, acknowledged that the Army and its soldiers were at “a very important inflection point.” The numbers tell part of the story: The Army is reducing to 490,000 troops from a post-9/11 peak of 570,000, and some at the Pentagon already are suggesting that budget cuts might force the Army down to as low as 420,000 in years to come.
But General Odierno, who served multiple command tours in Iraq, insisted that the Army would not be confined to garrison life. Instead, he said, his soldiers will be “globally responsive and regionally engaged” in overseas war games, exercises with foreign militaries and, if needed, deployments to hot spots. He also wants to restore a schedule of academic training, which was pushed aside by combat.
Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commander of the 10th Mountain Division, is carrying out that mission with his soldiers. “We are not going to sit in our garrisons,” he said. “That’s not what the Army did before the wars. We trained here. We deployed for training all over the world. And we will find our way back to that.”
But the reality is indisputable. The 10th Mountain was the first division sent off to fight the war in Afghanistan, and now it will be the last. General Townsend is headed to eastern Afghanistan in a final deployment that will close the official NATO combat mission by the end of the year.
A More Experienced Field
Captain Archuleta, 30, is the face of today’s Army, the kind of young officer who had experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan far beyond his rank. President of his 2006 class at West Point, he deployed a year later as a platoon leader to Babil Province, south of Baghdad. One day, his battery commander approached him with an unusual offer.
“He said, ‘I’m having trouble with the town council,’ ” Captain Archuleta recalled. “ ‘I know you are a wonky poli-sci kind of guy. I’m at a standstill. Can you contribute to this?’ ”
Captain Archuleta joined a team of military representatives to the town council of Al Haq, where he helped oversee public services — water, roads, electricity — assisted in reconciliation talks with tribal elders and worked as a payroll officer to Iraqi security forces.
“My battery commander and my battalion commander realized they had a big challenge with governance,” he said. “They knew they couldn’t be everywhere at once. It was quite empowering for them to delegate those authorities to me.”
Over two wars, experiences like Captain Archuleta’s were repeated up the chain of command.
Commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan never had as many forces as called for under the military’s troop-heavy counterinsurgency strategy, so officers had to secure far larger expanses of territory than in past wars as a range of unexpected responsibilities, particularly governance and economic development, fell to them. Captains had responsibilities held by colonels a generation before, colonels shouldered the challenges of past generals, and generals had resources larger than many nations’ defense ministries.
But when Captain Archuleta returned home to Hunter Army Airfield in 2010, after he commanded a company of 110 soldiers in Afghanistan’s volatile Khost Province, he missed the responsibilities that his commanders had given him in war.
“My peers who felt similarly either pursued broadening assignments within the military, like me, or simply left active duty for business school and the private sector,” he said.
The Army, seeking to retain Captain Archuleta, selected him to join the West Point faculty to teach American politics. The Army is now paying for him to earn a master’s degree in public affairs at the University of Texas en route to a doctorate in government. Under his agreement with the Army, he will leave the West Point faculty and return to the fighting force in 2017.
“Such a positive option was not the experience of all of my contemporaries,” Captain Archuleta said.
Transition to Peacetime
That challenge of transitioning to a peacetime Army is felt in a different way across the enlisted ranks, as commanders say they typically face more challenges disciplining troops at home.
“We all struggle with the fact that leadership in garrison is much tougher than leadership in combat,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Larry D. Farmer, who served as the senior noncommissioned officer for the 82nd Airborne’s Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Bragg.
Young soldiers may have survived multiple combat tours and countless brushes with death, which commanders say can lead to a sense of invincibility and the need to seek out the rush of war from thrills like reckless driving and drug and alcohol abuse.
Although there is typically an initial honeymoon period when soldiers return to their families, the frictions of daily life start to spark by the six-month mark, and Army leaders know they have to pay special attention as problems may emerge.
Stepping up the training schedule can help. Last summer, in a military exercise, more than a thousand paratroopers from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division floated down from the dark bowl of sky over Fort Bragg, visible through night-vision goggles as umbrella-shaped shadows against a pale green backdrop.
Their mission, the centerpiece of an eight-day war game for 7,500 troops, was to evacuate civilians endangered by a foreign political crisis and secure a chemical weapons depot in a chaotic, unnamed nation.
The 82nd Airborne, back home after years of nonstop deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, continues to prepare for conflict, although not the full-scale land wars of the last 12 years. As Robert M. Gates said in 2011, when he was the defense secretary, “Any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined.”
Instead, commanders say the Army’s future lies in creating leaner, faster units that can provide disaster relief, secure embassies, seize airfields and deploy for other emergencies large and small — all while continuing to deter potential adversaries from aggressive actions.
“Our recent combat experience is not necessarily analogous to what we are going to have to do in the future,” said Maj. Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., commander of the 82nd Airborne. The division has again been designated the military’s Global Response Force — ready to deploy a battalion of about 750 troops overseas within 18 hours, and a full brigade of about 3,500 troops in as little as two days.
To meet that renewed purpose, General Nicholson also put his paratroopers through a separate “no-notice alert” last year to rehearse going from a status quo daily schedule to a rapid combat deployment. More than 1,000 soldiers swapped out their distinctive maroon berets for camouflage helmets as they shrugged into parachutes and loaded their combat equipment onto transport aircraft as if for immediate dispatch to an overseas crisis.
These drills, General Nicholson said, reflect the most significant change for paratroopers here, one that will return the division to its historic rapid-reaction role. They also serve to keep impatient troops who experienced real combat in Iraq and Afghanistan occupied at home.
When it comes to money for training, his division is one of the fortunate ones. For almost a year, tight budgets have meant that only those units next in line for deployments have been allowed to conduct large-scale training exercises — the sort of event that focuses the energy of soldiers and boosts morale.
“What keeps me up at night,” General Odierno said, “is if I’m asked to deploy 20,000 soldiers somewhere, I’m not sure I can guarantee you that they’re trained to the level that I think they should be.”
As for Specialist Brown, he has decided that his future and the Army’s are intertwined. With hopes for advanced training in electrical engineering, and at least the prospect of another tour overseas — perhaps to Africa, Europe or Asia — he has re-enlisted for another three years.
“I haven’t decided whether I’ll stay in for the whole 20 years,” he said. “But I’m willing to take it a couple of years at a time.”
By: Daniel Amen, M.D.
You’re sitting behind the wheel of your van at an everlasting traffic light. The only thing slower than the traffic is your perception of time’s passage.
Then you notice her.
She appears at the curb, waiting to cross. No, she’s not the love of your life. She’s more like the heat of the moment. It’s fortunate that your wife isn’t there, otherwise you’d be in deep trouble as you take in the stranger’s hips and breasts, and the way her waist scoops in to accentuate both. Time is enhanced; there’s a pleasing buzz connecting your temples.
PLUS: The red-hot guide to the sex of your dreams.
Your reaction is automatic, reflexive, and quite possibly the most powerful one you’ll have this day. It temporarily blots out your long-range commitments—that 10-year marriage, that kid in second grade, that responsibility to keep eyes forward at traffic lights. You’ve surrendered control; you’re captivated by the pleasure in the vision.
“You dog!” you may whisper under your breath, embarrassed by what you’re envisioning as you sit there in your family van. But it might be more correct to say, “You dopamine fiend!” As a neuroscientist of 25 years, I know that your brain is command central for everything sexual.
When you spot the object of your desire, the neurotransmitter dopamine lights up areas deep within the brain, triggering feelings of pleasure, motivation, and reward. (Cocaine acts the same way.) You feel a rush, and your heartbeat quickens. Attraction, too, is a powerful drug. The brain stem also gets into the act, releasing phenylethylamine (PEA), which speeds up the flow of information between nerve cells. It’s no wonder your neck and eyeballs track her every movement.
But she’s not gawking back at you, and it’s not just because you’re driving a family bus with a paint scrape on the fender. Her brain acts very differently from yours. You’re keyed in to beauty, shape, fantasy, and obsession; on some biological level that she may be unaware of, she’s trolling for a mate who will sire healthy children and protect and provide for her and them. And yes, maybe even buy them a family van.
Her goals are programmed for the long range; yours are often shockingly short term, right up to and including thoughts of pedestrianophilia. And she knows it, which is why she presses those short-term buttons shotgun-style: She never knows when a suitable mate might be looking.
The whole encounter can leave you quivering with pleasure, hoping for more.
It can also hijack and ruin your life.
And between the “walk” and “don’t walk” signals of delight and disaster, your brain is sorting information, making choices, spurring actions. But you don’t want to passively accept all that, especially because your whole life is riding on the choices you make.
That’s where I come in. I know the brain processes behind the temptations, and I can help you steer clear of trouble. After all, that woman in the crosswalk could help you realize your destiny, or derail it entirely. All the more reason to get to know that big sex organ between your ears so you can control the smaller, less important one between your legs.
Why You’ve Always Been Horny
You’ve been lit up on testosterone right from the start, even when you were just a multicelled notion in your mother’s womb. The inherited Y chromosome that makes you male (thanks, Dad) triggers two bursts of testosterone that change your brain and body.
The first produces a male brain: one that’s more interested in objects, actions, and competition. The left (parietal) lobe flourishes in the testosterone bath and helps you visualize objects in three dimensions (good for catching a football or watching a woman cross the street), and it boosts your aptitude in mathematics (that’s how you estimate that she’s about a 34DD). In addition, testosterone beefs up your hypothalamus, the area of the brain that’s interested in sex. The hypothalamus is twice as large in men as it is in women.
Why You Become Hornier as a Teen
That’s when the second big burst of testosterone hits, causing your hair to sprout everywhere, your voice to flip from Norah Jones to James Earl Jones, and your interest in third base to go from literal to metaphorical. (Touch ’em all!) Your body now harbors 20 times the level of testosterone found in girls your age, which accounts for your sexual obsessions.
Unfortunately, your brain is maladapted for sociability, so she can overwhelm you with words, and all you have to counter them is silent (thank goodness) adolescent lust. It’s an advantage she has that you’ll never make up. On your side of the ledger: Your left brain—the planning center—is massive, which helps in planning the Panama Canal, a rocket launch, or a lifetime of wedded bliss.
Why She Looks at Your Ring Finger
Because it knows and tells all. University of Liverpool researcher John Manning has determined that the size of a man’s ring finger is related to how much testosterone he received in the womb. That’s true of your penis, as well. The more T, the longer they grow. It’s interesting to note that your digital symbol of virility is also the finger on which she slips the golden shackle during the wedding ceremony.
Why You Must Watch Your T-Levels
Women are more predisposed (in brain structure and hormone secretions) to settle down and start a family than you are. But committing to family life is easier for men who have lower testosterone levels. A study of more than 4,000 men found that men with high testosterone levels were 43 percent more likely to get divorced and 38 percent more likely to have extramarital affairs than men with less of the hormone.
Guys with high levels were also 50 percent less likely to marry in the first place. Men with the least testosterone were more likely to get and stay married, maybe because lower testosterone levels make men more cooperative. If you’re too cooperative for your own good, build some muscle: It will increase testosterone levels over time. You can even coordinate dating with workouts. A study at Baylor University determined that testosterone levels were highest 48 hours after weight lifting.
Why You Should Marry After 25
Quite simply, a man’s brain is incomplete before then. Sure, his sexual organs are all present and accounted for, but his prefrontal cortex (PFC) is still developing. Which is too bad, because that’s the part of his brain that’s involved in judgment, impulse control, organization, planning, forethought, and learning from mistakes. And it won’t be fully developed until he’s 25.
Why Beauties Make You Stupid
You act like a goof with the Hooters waitress, leaving a tip that doubles the bar bill. But why? Beautiful women cause a man’s limbic system (the amygdala and other brain-stem structures, which are in charge of emotion) to fire up at the same time that his PFC checks out, leaving the judgment area vacant. Las Vegas casinos hire beautiful cocktail waitresses, dress them in low-cut tops and miniskirts, and have them pass out free alcohol—all of which encourages men’s self-control to take the day trip to Hoover Dam. No wonder the house has the edge.
How You Can Get the Edge Back
When faced with the dilemma of a bad bet on a beautiful woman, remember that her beauty is fleeting, but a bad decision can last a lifetime. It’s a very PFC sentiment, in fact.
Why You Love Porn
Guys aren’t shallow; it’s just that the visual parts of their brains are strong and tend to twang their emotions. Using sophisticated imaging equipment, researchers at Emory University in Atlanta found that the amygdala, which controls emotions and motivation, is much more activated in men than in women when they view sexual material for 30 minutes, even though both sexes report similar levels of interest.
This may be one of the reasons men are much more captivated by pornography than women: For men, it’s not just porn, it’s personal. Back in the real world, women hijack men’s brains by appealing to their strong visual sense. But women can take in a guy’s visuals and think, Yeah, but how much does he have in his 401(k)? To avoid the tyranny of the visual, you need to kick-start your responsible prefrontal cortex by asking yourself, What’s my goal in a relationship? That can divert you from those short-term, erotic visions.
How Your Nose Triggers an Erection
There’s a direct connection between the olfactory bulb, at the top of your nose, and the septal area, the arousal center of your brain. When cells in your nose are stimulated, they send signals to your libido (and hers) to stand up and pay attention. You know what smells turn you on—the evidence is obvious.
As for her, a study at the University of California at Berkeley found that women become aroused when exposed to a chemical called 4.16-androstadien-3-one (AND). The good news? AND occurs naturally in men’s sweat, hair, and skin. Take her someplace cold on your date—the favorite jacket or sweater you’ll conveniently have on hand to lend her should be loaded with the stuff.
Why You Lose Your Erection in Bed
Maybe little Willie is nervous during his big moment onstage. Performance anxiety is about the fear of being judged or not living up to expectations. The body is programmed to see anxiety as a threat, and the nervous system sets up the fight-or-flight response, sending out chemicals to protect us: Our heart races, muscles tense, and blood is shunted from our hands, feet, and penis to the large muscles of the shoulders and hips so we can fight or run away. That’s not such a good strategy in bed, however.
Why You Can Be Addicted to Love
As with obsessive-compulsive disorder, love decreases brain levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for mood and flexibility. Low serotonin means you can get stuck on ideas—you become obsessed. Which is just fine, unless she suddenly dumps you. That’s when the short supply of serotonin makes you vulnerable to depression. In extreme cases, the serotonin shortage can trigger obsessive behaviors, such as exhibiting extreme jealousy or even stalking.
To get those serotonin levels back up before the police come, try exercising more, eating more carbs, and generally distracting your lonesome thoughts. (Road trip!) All of them will boost your serotonin levels.
Why Touch Strengthens the Bond
Oxytocin is your brain’s love juice: the bonding and attachment hormone. When you feel connected, empathic, in love, the oxytocin jets are spurting. Women have naturally higher levels of this chemical: It boosts nonsexual bonding between a mother and newborn, and it’s responsible for putting babies to sleep after they nurse.
Though both men and women secrete an extra jolt of oxytocin during orgasm, we men go through a 500 percent surge—which explains our special talent for falling asleep immediately after sex. If she complains that she doesn’t feel close enough, ask for her help readjusting your oxytocin levels.
Why Women are the Dumpers
Women have greater access to the more negative right side of the brain, one of the reasons they suffer from depression twice as much as men. The right hemisphere also allows women to see the gestalt, or big picture, of relationships, so they tend to know before men when a relationship is not working out.
Where the Thrill Goes
Dopamine and PEA—your powerful attraction chemicals—are strong stuff. But, as with any high, it can’t last. Intense feelings of euphoria and obsession start to wane. You again wonder what’s been going on in the NFL or whether you should see your buddies. As you come down off the hard stuff, you may actually go through withdrawal, missing the high of the attraction stage.
How to Get the Love Buzz Back
You have a choice to make. Either you go right out and chase that high (and some comely tail) again, or you settle into the longer-term buzz of a committed relationship. Oxytocin and serotonin are your two best chemical friends for the drive toward your 25th wedding anniversary. They’re not as exciting to the brain as the attraction chemicals, but they have longer-lasting effects. So you can trade the dizzying high for a sustainable one.
Of course, if you’re really smart, you can inject the hot stuff back into any love relationship. Take her away on a trip, spoil her rotten with La Perla lingerie, send her flowers with a dirty note attached, and the little dopamine chemicals come back out and play. Just like the night you met her.
What Makes Your Eye Wander
Blame vasopressin. This hormone is involved in regulating sexual persistence, assertiveness, dominance, and territorial marking. And men have lots of it, naturally. In male voles (night-loving rodents, which probably describes you perfectly), the levels of vasopressin seem to make the difference between stay-at-home dads and one-night-stand artists. Your hormone levels are probably set at the genetics factory, but the more you give in to vasopressin, the more of it you produce. It’s your choice.
Should You Stay or Should You Go?
Only your prefrontal cortex knows for sure. Men who have healthy activity in their PFCs have greater empathy, can focus for longer periods of time, and tend to make better husbands. Men who have overactive PFCs tend to be obsessive, oppositional, and argumentative. This can turn them into major chick repellents.
Likewise, men who have low activity in the PFC tend to be impulsive (more vulnerable to affairs), easily distracted (lousier at listening), easily bored (more “business” trips to Vegas), and constantly scamming for that attraction high (more given to looking for love in all the wrong places). To keep your PFC firing on all cylinders, protect it from injury, which can come from using too much alcohol, nicotine, or caffeine. Better still, exercise your PFC by setting goals and following through on them.
Why the Guys in Bands Get Lucky
In a study in Finland, eight male volunteers underwent brain scans while they were having orgasms. (Must have been a fun study.) Overall bloodflow in the brain decreased during orgasm, but it skyrocketed in the right prefrontal cortex—as it does in creative people (like musicians) when they do their creative thing. Now, exactly why did you give up those guitar lessons?
Why She Moans During an Orgasm
It almost certainly doesn’t have anything to do with you. In addition to its duties as an orgasm assistant, the right hemisphere has also been called the “God” area of the brain. When scientists stimulate the right hemisphere, their subjects have more religious or spiritual experiences. So it’s not too much of a leap to guess that when she moans “Oh, God” in the throes of sexual ecstasy, she may be connecting pleasure to a deeper spiritual place in her brain. Music and dancing can jumpstart the right hemisphere, which means the nuns at your high school were right to discourage it.
Why Her Orgasms are Like Paxil
Sexual climax has an antidepressant effect. Orgasms cause intense activity in the deep emotional parts of the brain, which then settle down when the sex is over. Antidepressants calm the same part of the brain. This calming effect may be why people who regularly have sex experience less depression.
Why It’s Better if She Swallows
Prostaglandins, fatty acids found in semen, are absorbed by the vagina and may have a role in modulating female hormones and moods. I also feel duty-bound to report that women who perform oral sex on their mates are less likely to suffer from preeclampsia, a condition that causes a dangerous spike in women’s blood pressure during pregnancy. Plus, sperm carries TGFbeta, a molecule that can boost the activities of her natural killer cells, which attack the rogue cells that give rise to tumors. Don’t make her beg. Offer.
Why a Foot Massage is Foreplay
When you rub the arch of her right foot, you affect her about 30 inches higher, and a little to the left. The foot-sensation area of the brain is next door to the clitoral (and penile) region, which may be a big reason that women are so focused on shoes—yours and hers.
Carrie Bradshaw was on again, off again with any number of men, but her Manolos endured. And perhaps now we know why Imelda sought solace in 1,060 pairs of shoes. But even if you’re not a Filipino dictator, you can make this work for you.
“There are 36,000 nerve endings in the foot,” says Kathleen Miller-Read, a massage therapist and spokeswoman for the American Massage Therapy Association. “By exploring these, you can find sore spots all over the body.”
If your girlfriend has her feet crammed in high heels all day, she’s bound to have aching toes and a sore back. Use your thumb and forefinger to gently pull, twist, and rub below her toes. For her back, focus on the heel of her foot, moving your knuckles in a circular motion all over the heel. She’ll let you know when it’s working.
Where Your Kinkiness Come From
Weird sexual fetishes or fantasies are brain symptoms. They fall into the category of impulsive-compulsive disorders: impulsive when you can’t control the behavior and compulsive when, even though you may want to, you can’t stop.
A person who’s prone to voyeurism, exhibitionism, bestiality, transvestism, S and M, or infantilism (deriving sexual pleasure from being treated like a baby) often has too much activity in the emotional parts of the brain, as we see in people who have obsessive-compulsive disorders, and too little activity in the PFC, or judgment center. A study of 26 men with unusual sexual fantasies found that using medications to balance these two areas of the brain gave the men significant relief. But then, so did wearing an adult diaper and being handed a rattle. You can’t tell with some people.
How to Control Your Brain
Even though men are programmed to look at beautiful women and populate the earth, the human brain, especially the prefrontal cortex, has evolved to the point where, with proper training, we can be thoughtful, goal oriented, and focused on our families. You are not a rodent, doomed to follow the pattern of hormone receptors in your brain. Ask yourself: What are my goals for my relationships? Stay focused on loving and protecting the people in your life, and it’s mind over what really matters.