National Geographic/Jeremy Benning

“Can you believe this is only our day four here?” a corporal asks from his turret, more to himself than to the specialist in the turret next to him. They’re in an alleyway in the sprawling Baghdad suburb of Sadr City, straddling their up-armored Humvees, facing opposite directions, to cover the avenues of approach. They’re positioned in front of a three-story house where their platoon-mates regrouped in the aftermath of an ambush that killed one of their number — Sgt. Yihjyh “Eddie” Chen, 31, from Saipan — and left the unit cut off and surrounded.

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U.S. Army photo

A vial of sand from hallowed ground sits on Lt. Col. Kwenton Kuhlman’s desk in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

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U.S. Army photo

It’s been less than a year since soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group returned from an Africa deployment.

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U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Brandon Martinez

The day-to-day ground truth for U.S. troops involved in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq has been shrouded in relative mystery. It’s been characterized by politicians and reporters as an “advise and assist” mission, in which American forces train and manage local troops, largely avoiding direct combat. But new information obtained by Business Insider’s Paul Szoldra shows that the men of one particularly cloistered Marine artillery battery were under near-constant threat of enemy attack, taking fire more than a dozen times during a two-and-half month stretch at Fire Base Bell in 2016.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Isaac Ibarra

Military life can be a lot of things: rewarding, empowering, life-changing. It can also be shitty, exhausting, wet, dry, hot, cold, sticky, slimy, extremely dangerous, exhausting, filled with small paychecks, huge debt, brutal training, and a whole bunch of other crap — which is where phrases like “embrace the suck” get their true meaning. There’s a certain kind of pride that comes with always being able to win the “who has it worst” contest, which is what embracing the suck is all about.

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