Friggin’ War Machines!

I find a lot of military t-shirts at the old thrift shop. This was one of the first, and I must admit: it had me worried.

“Trample the weak?” “Hurdle the dead?” Is this Today’s Army? Or Air Force?

But soon, all became clear: this t-shirt was made for new recruits in basic military training, aka “boot camp.” They are teenagers or near-teenagers. And their drill sergeants are shouting at them that they’d better become tough mofo warriors if they want to make it in this man’s army. Or women’s. Or air force. You get it.

So they give them prompts that teenagers will respond to. They’re enrolled in a training platoon called the Predators, or Devil Dogs, or Warrior Flight. And in most training sites each platoon can have its own special t-shirt.


“Warrior Fligh”t is my personal favorite basic tee, what with the inhuman Drill Instructorbot standing on a pile of skulls and telling the troops that they’re all FRIGGIN’ WAR MACHINES.

Well, that’s an aspirational goal if ever I heard one. Take a look at some of these friggin’ war machines on a typical “ruck walk” in Army basic — a happy tramp through the wilderness with a fifty-pound pack. But it’s true — boot camp is about aspiring.


But the boots like the tees. Most have spent heavy time mowing down adversaries in video games. Now it’s their job in the real world — technically.

Besides, they get to choose their own t-shirt design. T-shirt vendors/designers work with the major boot camps and offer design services and ready-made or custom graphics that a platoon can decide on.

Because the boot camp tee is sort of a school yearbook — a keepsake .You can order one for yourself and more as gifts for your relatives, And of course all your buddies’ names are on it, and the DI’s names, and anything else that the platoon wants to say. It’s always a nice, professional product, even if it’s hard to look at sometimes.

That’s for the Army and the Air Force. The Navy does things a little differently — because Navy. Traditions. Something. Anyway, recruits in each training division (platoon) hand-draw an illustration representing their unit. This illustration goes on a banner that they carry on parade during training, and later onto keepsake “digitally enhanced” t-shirts for the boot and their whole family if need be.

I swiped a few designs off the “order here” page for recent graduates. Remember, these are mainly 18-21 year-olds.

Some people have more talent than others, but they’re all fun. I have no Navy boot camp shirts in my collection but I’d love to have one for that amateur, hand-drawn art alone. Because they look like they’ve been drawn by kids.

No, mostly they HAVE been drawn by kids. And people under 21 — kids — fight most of our wars. They always have. It’s important to remember that. Support our troops, because most of them are goddamned children fighting in our name. Or they look like children to me.

Basic training tees do move with the times. “The times” now indicate “gender-integrated training” — men and women training together in the same unit, even if they keep separate quarters and toilet facilities. Gender-integrated basic training isn’t yet universal in our armed forces, but it is the rule in more and more basic training facilities. As below:

Basic training companies as a whole can have their own t-shirts, not just the individual training platoons. And this company tee makes the point that the Alpha Company Apaches, 2nd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment are blood-thirsty gender-integrated warriors.

And they are: men and women together learning how to fight and shoot and team-build and climb large, weird obstacles. And yes, take long, long marches together hauling 50-pound packs.

Even the command team is gender-integrated. Here are photos of the company commander and his senior non-commissioned officer.

I look at the two of them, and I can guess which one keeps the place running like a top. Or else.

I have one more tee to show: an Air Force basic training tee that’s at least 15 years old and perhaps more.

The squadron / flight number doesn’t register on the Internet. My assumption is that this was a non-gender-integrated women-only basic training flight (platoon) from the before-integration times.

And…. I am more impressed by the spirit shown here than by three piles of skulls, several armored demons, and a lake of fire.

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