The U.S. military’s favorite foreign ally to train with is… The United Kingdom! At least that’s according to a 100% utterly non-scientific poll we recently ran. Our not-so-scientifically sound, but still very fun poll found that America’s first wartime enemy is now its favorite battle buddy due to the Brits’ witty humor, tough fighting spirit and avaricious appetite for alcohol. The British Royal Marines in particular stood out for their drinking habits.
“British Royal Marines were hysterical and almost drank us under the table,” one person said on Facebook in response to a recent Task & Purpose poll asking for reader input.
“The Royal Marines sure can party!” wrote one Twitter user.
“Royal Marines,” said another. “Beer with lunch.”
“Royal Marines,” said a third. “Nut jobs.”
The fact that the United Kingdom came out on top may not surprise folks: After all, we share a language and a long history of fighting side-by-side in conflicts at least as far back as World War I. Following that logic, other Commonwealth countries such as Australia and Canada finished in second and third, with New Zealand a few places back in sixth position (Germany was fourth).
Task & Purpose started this poll last week as a follow-up to a story about Lithuanian infantrymen kicking heavily-armored American tail in a training exercise last month. That got us thinking: the U.S. military trains with foreign allies all over the world, each with their own particular culture, style, doctrine, and even field rations. Which one is the best to train with?
Apparently, it was a topic people love to talk about: Task & Purpose received 99 responses via email, Twitter and Facebook. We allowed respondents to vote for more than one country, since so many listed more than one as their favorite. Even so, the British pulled away from the pack, largely thanks to their sense of humor and the drinking ability of their troops.
“The Brits stop every three hours for tea and toast, then supper, dinner and drink all night and 2 A.M. fish-and-chips in the pub,” wrote one Facebook user.
“The British were the only nation allowed to drink and those guys were just plain fun after a few,” wrote another.
Overall, respondents seemed to value the following traits in foreign allies, listed in order of precedence: partying or drinking ability, competence and professionalism, sense of humor, toughness and, finally, food. The British seemed to possess the first three traits in heaps, but the Australians, who came in second place, gave them a run for their pound sterling.
“The Australians because they’re just a blast to be around,” wrote one Twitter user.
“My favorite f**king allies are the Australians,” wrote one person on Facebook who remembered checking out each other’s tanks while on a joint mission with our friends down under. “One phrase that I’ll never forget from my Australian allies, in the most Aussie accent you can imagine: ‘hey where do you put your beer?’”
Of course, it would be foolish to try to deduce the character of entire nations based on a few interactions with service members on a training exercise. But, as the writer George Saunders once put it in a conversation with Navy vet and writer Will Mackin, “if a person really wanted to understand a culture, he’d need to go to the outposts of that culture — the place where that culture goes to exert itself on another culture.”
With that in mind, it’s interesting to hear the common themes that respondents noted among the allies they trained with. The Australians were described as being “hilarious and relaxed,” while members of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces were described as polite, professional and would clean up “anything and everything that was there.”
Plenty of other countries stood out for their food in the field. One respondent fondly remembered a huge barbecue made by Filipino troops after a training exercise, while another recalled enjoying stories and smoked sausages over a bonfire with Polish soldiers. Jordanian troops shared tea and shawarma, and Canadian soldiers enjoyed poutine MREs. Still, it sounds like Spain knew the best way to enjoy a snack.
“How could I forget the siesta and their quadcon [shipping container] full of wine, Jamón, and cheese?” one Facebook user said. “Work? No, it’s time for a siesta. Me: okay, sure what’s that? [Spanish Army]: hands me a cup of wine, cheese and prosciutto. This is siesta. Me: how can I somehow [lateral] move into the Spanish army.”
There were other stories that did not fit in any particular category but were just too good to pass up, like Indian paratroopers meditating after PT, or troops from the South Pacific island of Tonga doing a war dance on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier during the international naval training exercise RIMPAC. Norwegians and Finns seemed to enjoy easy access to saunas in Afghanistan, and Russian Spetsnaz troops had a strange habit of biting the heads off frogs as part of their training.
“That is just weird,” said a former Army lieutenant colonel who witnessed the frog-biting firsthand. “Not sure what it trains for, other than eating sushi!”
Not all stories were positive. The same Army lieutenant colonel disapproved of the Russians treating everything like a competition, to the detriment of the mission. Another respondent said the Czechs he served with were “lazy, drunk on duty, and would routinely refuse to go on patrols. It really prepared us for what we’d later experience working with Afghans.”
They were not the only countries to get some heat. One of our foreign readers even threw some shade at the good ol’ U S of A.
“US Marines were fun but the US Army we worked with I found poor and very unprofessional, but that could have been the unit,” said one British soldier.
Most, though, were fans of training with Yanks.
“The Polish, the British, the Germans and you lads in the States,” said one commenter listing his favorite training partners.
“I was in the [Israeli Defense Forces] and I enjoyed when the Americans would come visit,” said another.
Oddly enough, a few allies closer to home also made their way into the comments.
“Texans,” said one reader for his choice of favorite ally. “Working with partners from developing nations always reminds me to be grateful for what we have.”
“I was going to say Oklahomans,” said another. “Coming from Ohio we had a hell of a time getting past the accent. But a good group of guys.”
You know what they say: Join the Army and see the world. Turns out that’s one thing your recruiter didn’t lie to you about.
United Kingdom: 25
New Zealand: 4
South Korea: 3
El Salvador: 1
Editor’s note: this article has been updated with a few late votes since it was first published.
Featured Image – A British Royal Marine climbs an insertion ladder during a simulated raid aboard the submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40) March 27, 2018, in Guam (Marine Corps photo / Sgt. Carl King)