If you haven't guessed by their names, special operations forces are all about finding men who can perform wartime tasks above and beyond those performed by the average soldier. So how do you train somebody to survive the unsurvivable?
Well, let's just say you have to think outside the box.
America has a whole bunch of special operations forces, each with its own focus and set of skills. United States Army Special Forces, or the Green Berets, are one such unit. Their primary focus is counter-terrorism and unconventional warfare, which we suspect is just code for "stuff the other pussies won't do."
Like training for the inevitable war on Pandora.
What sort of thing do these guys do for practice? Well ...
Exercise Robin Sage is a month-long training exercise focused on blending in in a foreign land and training guerrilla units to liberate their country. Seems pretty tame so far, but surprisingly, not many countries are really down with the whole "let a hundred American troops run around and stir up rebellion in our country for a month" idea. So America decided to simply create its own country to train in. Welcome to the Republic of Pineland, baby!
Yes, that's North Carolina. About a third of it, to be precise.
The People's Republic of Pineland is an entirely fictional country created for one purpose: to put the USASF through their paces. And when we say it's a fictional "country," we're including the people -- the residents are straight up part of the mission. The cities and towns within the 15 counties that comprise the training zone actively participate in the month-long training, with its citizens posing as citizens of "Pineland" in a vast, government-funded, open-air role playing game.
"... lightning bolt?"
People there take on a large variety of roles, from doctors and shop owners right down to one guy who has to torture other citizens before being killed in a final showdown with the soldiers. They even carry two sets of ID and have their own currency, with an exchange rate and everything. They don't stop their normal jobs, either -- the guy whose job it is to pretend to be a torturer is also a volunteer firefighter in his spare time.
Everyone who takes part does it for no more than the cost of the gas they use during the month the exercise takes place. One such citizen, when he dies, is set to receive a full military funeral for his services to his country and his selfless actions during the Robin Sage exercises, complete with a Pineland liberation flag draped over his grave. When asked why he was willing to do so much for so little reward, he simply said, "This may help save a life one day."
Gerry Broome / The Associated Press
Not to mention that having this in his wallet gets him a considerable amount of action.
But hey, at least the citizens were in on it. That's not how they used to do it in Australia, baby ...
Fortunately, it's not all stereotypes and hyperbole. For example, meet the Z Special Unit, a special operations force established in WWII-era Australia with the express purpose of blowing up everything in the Pacific Ocean that even looked slightly Japanese. During the four-year period in which they were functioning, they carried out 81 operations that ranged from basic reconnaissance to blowing up most of Singapore Harbor while undercover (that is, dressed in sarongs).
"We figure, if you look good, the rest of the war will follow."
It was a habit of this group to carry out mock attacks on Aussie towns unfortunate enough to be situated across the bay from Fraser Island, the unit's main training ground. So presumably, they warned the townspeople beforehand that they were about to come in and start tearing some imaginary enemy shit down.
Yeah, right. Where's the fun in that?
"These friendly civilians don't expect a thing."
The most infamous of these mock attacks, known as the Townsville Raid, was carried out in preparation for the aforementioned demolition of Singapore Harbor. At this time, Townsville was a bustling port filled with Australian warships, and as such, it was heavily defended with all the usual trappings you'd expect: mines, sentries, boat patrols and even surveillance aircraft, which was a fairly big deal at the time.
The mission? Sneak in and attach dummy limpet mines to everything that floated, while simultaneously avoiding being blown up and dismembered by their own country.
Australian War Memorial
In goddamn canoes.
At midnight on the 22nd of June 1943, the unit managed to evade all of these countermeasures and plant the mines on the hulls of 10 ships, which from a security standpoint is roughly about 10 more ships than you'd want an intruder to be able to plant mines on. The men then rowed across to their nearby rendezvous point of Ross Creek. And then, presumably in order to celebrate a job well done, they wandered back into Townsville and found somewhere to grab some sleep.
Until 10 a.m., that is, when all hell broke loose as the mines were discovered. Mines that no one knew were fake. And keep in mind, if these things all went off and sank the boats, you'd be getting into Pearl Harbor territory in terms of losses, and in a navy that could in no way afford it.
Even when members of the Z Unit came forward and insisted the mines were fake, nobody trusted them, and they weren't allowed to dismantle them out of fear that they'd pull some other crazy shit. Their unit commander, Samuel Carey, was arrested and then eventually booted out of Z Special as a condition of his release.
Yes, even Australia has to draw the line somewhere.
Yet they seem to still want to find more ways to make it onto more of our lists. Being a country that is also situated right next to its number one enemy, North Korea spends a lot of time flexing its military might, or just damn well showing the hell off, to the point where the regular soldiers are so well organized you could swear they were the same guy Photoshopped over and over again.
Someone got a little crazy with CTRL + V.
North Korea has a select special group of soldiers, known only through rumors, called the Storm Corps, proving that North Korea, as well as being crazy, has a totally bitching naming system for its army. Little has ever been officially confirmed by North Korea about what the Storm Corps are or how they operate. The only thing that seems to be certain is that they have one goal: to fuck up South Korea's shit, big time. Training for that task apparently requires a strict regimen of insanity.
Including daily courses in advanced Flag Marching.
A soldier once captured by the South Koreans revealed under interrogation that a single Storm Corp soldier trains specifically to take on between three and 15 opponents at once. Another soldier, allegedly a defector from the Storm Corps, describes how soldiers are required to punch a tree trunk 5,000 times in a row, day and night, for a month. Then they make them punch the jagged edge of a tin can until their hand is bloody and covered in pus, and then finally they start punching a pile of salt. The twisted reason for this being, of course, that the soldiers' hands become solid like a rock, thus allowing them to literally beat their enemies to death with their rock-hard fists.
The worst part is, the guy who undertook this and lived to tell about it looks like a completely regular guy. The Storm Corps could be anyone, anywhere, and you wouldn't realize it till you shook their hand and realized it felt like a brick.
"My hand could just as easily be on the other side of your chest right now."