3 Winning PR Strategies For Muslim Extremists

Just like reality-TV stars, Muslim extremists are attention whores who have no qualms about doing the dirty work to get YouTube hits, social-media buzz, and mainstream coverage. Since nobody likes Muslim extremists—especially other Muslim extremists because they are not extreme enough—they need to think outside the Kaaba to get some sympathy and support for their cause. It used to be in the good ol’ days of terrorism that you could release a grainy, poorly produced video of Osama bin Laden wearing combat fatigues, toting an AK-47, threatening to crush the Great American Satan, and chanting “Allahu Akbar,” and the media would cover it around the clock.

But in the Internet era, most people aren’t impressed, shocked, or threatened by such tactics, so any fledging terrorist organization must adjust their public-relations strategies. Therefore, aspiring jihadist, take these lessons from your fellow terrorist cohorts.

1) The Hamas Crybaby Method

You know your piece-of-shit country stands no chance against those money-grubbing Jew bullies in Israel. Why don’t they understand that their mere existence is offensive to your twisted take on Islam and thus must be wiped out off the face of the Earth? Well, if you can’t bring them down to their knees militarily, you could make the world see how evil they truly are by starting a war with them and then avoiding all responsibility for starting it.

First order of business is to begin launching rockets indiscriminately into Israel’s southern cities. Well, you’ve already been doing that all along but now it’s time to do it harder and faster. After you launch hundreds of rockets, the big Jew machine will get annoyed and kill a few dozen of your men.

You begin surrounding your fighters with women and children. Then you begin another rocket-launching campaign with the result being that some of your men, women, and children get killed. Great fucking job, Abu! Now you must parade the bloody corpses of your civilian casualties through the streets to capture the international media’s much-coveted attention. Dead women and children are like Viagra to the media.

Don’t be nervous, but now it’s your moment in the spotlight, so don’t fuck this up. This is where you begin to cry about the brutal treatment the Israelis have dealt you through no fault of your own. You must then publish photos and videos of your dead civilians and distribute them. Don’t worry if some of those photos are actually from the Syrian Civil War; to the rest of the world, all you Arabs look the same and no one will be the wiser. It’s essential that you toss all logic out the window. You’re a Muslim extremist and that shit isn’t in your lexicon. Shout out pressing questions like: “How dare they defend themselves from our rocket attacks?” “How dare they hold us accountable for our terrorist actions?” “Why won’t they share the Iron Dome technology with us?” “Because they’re conniving Jews and must be exterminated, that’s why! Allahu Akbar!”

Employing the Hamas Crybaby Method is a simple and effective way to get the world media to sympathize with your cause. It’s been proven time and again to garner support from the European Union and bleeding-heart liberals in the United States. People from all over the world who believe your propaganda will hold pro-Palestine rallies under the guise of Islam being the religion of peace and will physically attack anybody who dares wave the Israeli flag. Fortunately for you, reporting on irony is not nearly as sexy as blaming the Jews.

2) Bring realistic shock value to your audience.

ISIL is the new, hip, tech-savvy kid on the terrorist block. It’s an organization that blends conventional and terrorist military tactics so effectively that it has been able to overrun northern Iraq quickly and easily. But even then, ISIL realized that people were getting bored with seeing the same old videos of mass murder with Hajis yelling out “Allah is great” as they shot up their theological and political rivals. They knew they needed to do something big to get the public to care about terrorism again.

Like Hollywood rebooting an old film, they decided to revisit the tried and true route of beheading a journalist—but for the first time ever in HD! High-definition footage made the viewer feel like he had a front-row seat at the terrible slaughter of James Foley. Yet HD wasn’t enough.

The ISIL think tank realized that most people are too lazy to read subtitles. While they may say some menacing shit in Arabic, most people only hear, “Derka derka derka, jihad, Muhammad.” They needed to get someone who spoke the infidel’s language to strike terror into their hearts. Why not a British jihadist?

The key to this kind of operation is to go for broke. Make completely delusional claims like you’re going to topple the most powerful nation on Earth and have your flag waving over their White House. Release additional videos of a prepubescent kid spewing out his hatred toward America. This will sound eerily familiar to the shit nearly every single prepubescent kid in America says to their parents. In turn, this will get the news outlets and political pundits talking about you so quickly that your organization will become a household name. This is essential for recruiting future martyrs to your cause.

3) Always exploit PC sympathies.

The great thing about being a Muslim extremist is that no matter how evil your organization is and how many innocent people you kill, you will have brothers and sisters under Allah who will publicly condemn your actions and say you’re just a bad egg and not a true representative of the religion of peace. Also, you will be able to make use of those same people to give sanctuary to your sleeper cells while you plot your next attack on the kaffir.

While the West’s military has the biggest cock in the world, its PC leaders often cockblock it. You must exploit this weakness to the best of your ability. One of the worst things anyone in the West can be labeled is a racist. It’s political kryptonite for a politician to admit they hold any religion or race of people in suspicion, no matter how consistently and repeatedly vicious the members of a religious sect are. Remember, even though you kill other Muslims for not being the right type of Muslims, Westerners are the Islamophobes for searching your Muslim brothers and sisters at the airport. Racist fucking pigs!

Make sure to send imams on their talk shows who will tout the glories of Sharia law and how people are happier under those laws, while they totally ignore the fact that they left their country of origin to get away from Sharia law. Then have the imam cry racism if the talk-show host dares to use any form of logic to contradict his statements.

If you’re smart and play your cards right, you’ll be able to win over the West’s liberals to your cause. They don’t see you as a dangerous threat, but rather a misunderstood people who have been beaten down and exploited. No one understands and sympathizes with your plight better than a middle-class white girl from the suburbs sporting dreadlocks who got a degree in Middle Eastern Relations from a liberal-arts college. As much you may hate to do it, you’ll have to bite the bullet and accept the support from effeminate hipster guys in turtlenecks and kufi caps. Patience, young jihadists—you’ll get to kill that cocksucker soon enough. But right now you need them to be your useful idiot.

The West can’t be beaten through conventional means. You must wage the PR war against them. You must shame them into submission and place all the blame for your actions onto them. The West is a prima donna who can’t handle any form of criticism and is always asking if her butt looks big. Tell the bitch her butt looks huge. The truth doesn’t matter; what matters is what is perceived to be true. Now you’re ready to take down the Great Satan! Allahu Akbar!

~Raul Felix

This piece appeared on Ranger Up.
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4 Things That Security Contractors Love To Spend Their Money On

The Global War on Terror has offered unique career opportunities for American veterans that past wars have not. The US military’s inability to recruit enough troops to fill the mission requirements in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other sites throughout the world has created the need to hire private security contracting firms.

Being a private military contractor allows a combat veteran to grab some of those big bucks that are usually reserved for those in the upper echelon or technical side of the military-industrial complex. Since well-paying jobs on the home front are hard to come by, it makes perfect sense for a man who was willing to fight in a foreign land for less than $20,000 a year to become a shooter for a six-figure income. If you’re one of these men, you come back with quite a bit of money in your pocket after doing a contract or six. How should you go about spending it?

1. Getting a sweet ride.

Now that you’ve spent a few of the best years of your life in a shithole country being the personal security for some faceless executives of Tax Payer Money Funnel Incorporated, you’re ready to live out your own dreams—unless you’re a closet hipster who has wet dreams about owning a Prius, which signals to the world you’re trendy, environmentally conscious, and gay. It will include one or all of the following: a truck, a badass sports car, or a motorcycle.

You’ve been stalking the vehicle that catches your fancy for months. Checking out every color and trim variations. Deciding which features and extras you must have: sound systems, limo tint, grills, and lift kits. You know what? Fuck it! Just murder that motherfucker out. Should you put 24s on it? You fantasize of cruising down an open highway with your hands in between the thighs of a hot brunette sitting in the passenger seat in a tank top who is barely able to contain her breasts and singing along to the latest Taylor Swift hit single because you’re confident enough in your heterosexuality to listen to pop music without irony.

You’re finally able to strut into a dealership like an OG gangster with cold, hard cash. You’re not playing any games; you’re getting the car you want.

“I have $XX,XXX cash,” you say to the shady salesman who is eager to take as much of your money as possible. “You will give me this car, at this price.” He’ll then try to swindle you by saying they don’t give special cash discounts. You’ll then be like, “Hey Broseph, I ain’t no dumb private just out of Basic that you can financially rape with your 18.99% APR loan you’re able to secure through a subprime lender because I got a secure job in the military. I’ve been contracting and doing my research. You’re going to give me the car I want, with the specs I want, in the color I want, and at this fucking price.” You then drive away with a gangster lean in your car because you just dick-slapped the dealership.

2. Taking a vacation that fully indulges your vices.

Sure, your friends and family back home will be eager to see you and have missed you dearly. But if you have learned anything from your years when you were in the military, it’s that being home on leave is pretty lame after two or three days. All your friends and family are doing their own thing. Even if you do show back up, you’re not really going to see them more than once or twice. Why sit around in your hometown where not much has changed when you can take a trip to a foreign place where the foreigners aren’t trying to kill you?

Wolf Of Wall Street

Wolf Of Wall Street

If Hollywood and music videos have taught us anything is that it’s standard operating procedure to celebrate your newfound riches with scantly clad women in an exotic location while snorting mountains of coke and popping piles of Viagra to combat chronic erectile dysfunction. However, since you’ve spent the last few months around men, your game with females may have suffered. No worries; the time-honored profession of prostitution is there to make sure you have someone who will pretend to care about you for the allotted amount of time that you have bought her. Make sure to hide your drugs.

Perhaps you’re not the hookers-and-blow type. Perhaps you’re the drinking copious amounts of alcohol, brooding by your lonesome, thinking to yourself how everyone in the bar seems like a pussy and you miss hanging around real men, awkwardly hitting on chicks, and then falling asleep as you jack off type. No matter; you’ll have a way better time in foreign places where your American brutishness will be considered a cultural flaw rather than a personal one.

An extravagant vacation may not give you any tangible assets, but it will give you life experiences. Think of all those stories you’ll be able to tell while you’re pulling security at your next contracting gig to break up the monotony of everyone bitching about who they think are total cocksuckers on the contract and bragging about how hard they were back when they were in the military.

3. Embracing your right to bear arms.

You can’t spend all your money on cool toys, travel, drugs, and hookers; you need to be an adult and make a responsible investment. A gun is an asset that assures the security of the rest of your assets. It insures that any person who intrudes upon your person or property will get two in the chest and one in the head.

As much as freedom haters will protest, gun ownership is your right as an American. You risked your life for this country not just selflessly in your military service, but for personal profit when you became a mercenary—I mean, a security contractor. You’re the embodiment of patriotism and capitalism, two major principles in our mighty nation.

Now it’s also crucial that you just not have enough to arm yourself, but everyone in your household, and two or three of your closest friends. When Obama causes a nuclear holocaust, currency won’t be stocks or deeds, but weapons and ammo.

4. Getting yourself out of the rat race.

OK, you’ve blown your money from your previous contracts, but this time you’ve learned your lesson. You can’t keep on deploying anymore. You hate being away from your wife/girlfriend, kids, or dog. You need to figure out how to make your money work for you, not the other way around. While the pay is great, this isn’t a long-term career. You have to make plans for the future on the off chance that the zombie apocalypse doesn’t happen.

You’ve sacrificed and put a lot at risk for the opportunity you have now. You can use your money to start that business you’ve always wanted to start. Or invest in real estate to create a steady stream of income. Or learn a new skill set that actually has a market in the US.

You earned the money; whatever you do with it is up to you. You’ve been broke before and now you’ve gotten a taste of what making real money feels like. You know having money is awesome and it allows you to buy the things and experiences that make you happy to be alive. But it’s also a trap to keep you coming back for more and more. With a little smarts and a bit of luck, you can figure out how to have a sustainable income instead of being caught in the up-and-down cycles of being contractor-rich.

~Raul Felix

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3 Proactive Steps To Becoming A Writer

As much as some of my haters despise the fact, I’m a writer who gets paid to write. I must be doing something right. While I am nowhere near my end goals, I am proud of how much progress I have made so far. I look back and think about how I got started, and it’s pretty simple: About three years ago, I decided that I would be a writer. I didn’t seek anyone’s approval or permission. I just made it a goal and decided it was what I was going to do, no matter what the task required of me. So I started reading various books and articles looking for some tips to get started. With those nuggets of information I took the first steps to making my dream come true. Here are some things you can do to get yourself on the same track.

1. Write 1,000 words a day in a private journal.

The most important step is to actually write. That sounds good in theory, but anyone who has tried to sit down in front of a daunting blank computer screen knows that it’s tougher than it sounds. There is all this pressure to think of something useful and insightful to say. Or something funny, witty, and intriguing. Or something informative and factual. It’s a tough way to start when you don’t know jack shit about the creative process.

Instead, start a journal. This can be handwritten, on a typewriter, or it can be a text file on your computer. That shit is superficial and doesn’t matter. What matters is that you actually write. Your goal is not necessarily to write anything interesting, but rather to pour shit out. Write about your day, write about what is pissing you off, write about some chick you want to fuck, write in the first person, second person, and third person. Talk to yourself and encourage yourself to keep on writing. Hop from subject to subject. Your goal here is quantity, not quality.

This will create muscle memory for your hands and will get it used to writing prose. Your hands will learn where every key on the keyboard is and if you’re a slow writer, it will hone your fingers so they can keep up with your thoughts. In turn it will make you become a quicker and more effective writer. This process of mind-dumping anything that comes to your wee little head will encourage you to say whatever you have to say instead of worrying about what someone will think about what you are saying.

About 99% of what you write in your journal will be complete garbage. But as you’re vomiting out sentence after sentence, occasionally one will flow out that is genius. Or you will think of good subject matter to explore and develop. Remember, no one is going to read your journal but you, so you can talk about anything you want. If you share a computer with a significant other, tell them you don’t want them to read your journal. You will automatically censor your random thought process if you think someone else will be reading it. If your significant other doesn’t respect the fact that you want to keep that part of yourself private, ask yourself why you wish to remain with such a person.

If 1,000 words seems too daunting to start off with, write 500, 250, or 100; it doesn’t fucking matter. All that matters is that you get the process started and steadily increase your output. Aspire to write every day, but if you can’t do that, do it every other day or every third day—whatever you need to get some sort of pattern started. Once you develop consistency in frequency and output for about a year, you will have developed your skill set significantly and will be ready to actually get what you have to say out there.

2. Start a blog.

When I had been writing in my journal for a little under a year, I decided to read the first blog post of one my favorite writers. He fucking sucked. “I’m a way better writer right now than that motherfucker was when he started his blog,” I thought to myself. That’s when I knew I was ready to start my blog.

You have to define your blog’s goal. Is it where you want to launch your career, or is it a blog where you’re just going to write about bullshit that no one outside of your immediate circle of friends will care about? This is where you start thinking about quality over quantity. What value do you bring to the reader? Why should they care about what you have to say? How can you say it in a way that’s insightful, funny, or witty? What makes your perspective unique? What can you say that no one else can?

One big piece of advice I’ve consistently read is that your blog has to have a theme: travel, make-up, gaming, cars, the military, picking up chicks, fitness, etc. This implies that the only way you can succeed is by being an expert in something. Unless you’re trying to build a business around the concept, that’s bullshit advice. By giving your blog a theme, you pigeonhole yourself into writing about a limited range of subjects. You need to explore different subjects and styles to truly develop your voice.

Your goal your first year as a public writer should not really be to thrive, but rather to survive. Maybe you post two articles a month like I did or you’ll post 20+ like my first writer friend Katie Hoffman was able to do. Ever since I started writing my blog a little over two years ago, I have seen many would-be writers come and go. They’ll get all excited, hitting the ground running and write five blog posts their first week. Then as quickly as they came, they disappeared.

I’ve seen many wannabe writers say things such as, “Well, if someone gave me the opportunity to write for their site, I’d write a lot.” Fuck you, no you wouldn’t, you fucking lazy piece of shit. Writing is merit-based, and an audience is not an entitlement. You must earn the readers’ respect and attention. You must create your own opportunities rather than just wait for someone to hand them to you. Starting a blog is how you create your own opportunity and get your work out for the world to see. Go through your first year consistently producing content without quitting.

3. Grow some rhino skin.

Writing is subjective. What one person believes is a wonderfully crafted piece, another will think is total crap. Understand that even if you write a technically sound piece, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be interesting or capture anyone’s attention. What matters most is the content.

You will be insulted. You will be told you should go kill yourself. You will be told you can’t write for shit. You will be told that you should quit. You will be told that you have no talent for this. You will be told that your articles are mundane and unoriginal. You will be mocked and laughed at. You will be trolled. Or perhaps worse of all, you will be ignored.

Fuck them. Keep your head up, be tough, and with an almost delusional attitude, keep your eyes on your goals. Remember, you didn’t need anyone’s permission when you decided you wanted to be a writer, and you sure as hell don’t need anyone’s permission to keep walking on the path. The only person that can stop you is you.

Some articles that you pour your heart and soul into will be complete flops. There will always be someone who is more successful than you. Instead of being jealous of their accomplishment, read what they write, analyze what they do, and try to figure out what you would benefit from incorporating it into your own style.

Becoming a skilled wordsmith is not something that happens overnight. It’s a long process that requires many lonely nights in front of the keyboard. Self-doubt, frustration, and writer’s block will always be looming. Yet if you’re willing to do what it takes, you will earn the right to call yourself a writer.

~Raul Felix

Check out more of my writing at Thought Catalog.

28 Things I’ve Learned By Age 28

It’s my 28th birthday today and as a writer, I’m obligated to pass on the insightful and not-so-insightful lessons I’ve learned during my short stint on this Earth. While I’m not the epitome of enlightenment whatsoever, I’ve made a lot of stupid mistakes, so a few life lessons have made their way through my thick skull. So take heed, young reader, as this late-20-something who knows nothing about life tells you something about life.

1.

Women are not special from men in any way. Some are sweet; some are sour. Some are warm and some are cold. Some are intelligent and some are complete idiots. They can be as kind as saints or as cruel as devils. The right one can bring out the best in you, and the wrong one can destroy you. Figuring out the ones who are genuine and the ones who are completely full of shit is the tricky part.

2.

It’s way better to look broke and have good amount of money in your bank account than to look like a baller and have a negative net worth.

3.

Being all muscle with no mind makes you a slightly smarter and much weaker gorilla. Being all brain and no muscle makes you a weak sack of shit who can’t protect himself from the physical world.

4.

Waking up next to a woman you love deeply is way more fulfilling than fucking a different chick every night of the week.

5.

Sometimes you will give something every last bit of effort and will power you have but will still face a crushing defeat. It’ll hurt you deeply, but you can take pride in the fact you tried when others would have been too afraid.

6.

You don’t have to be your father if he’s a piece of shit. The best thing about him being a piece of shit is that you don’t have to respect him. You don’t have to live up to his expectations or seek his approval. You can be a force of change and end the cycle of shitty fatherhood.

7.

Don’t read books because they’ll make you look like some sort of intellectual. Read them because it’s on a subject matter that interests you and will add to your life in whatever small way.

8.

If you don’t trust your girlfriend to have a girls’ night out and not suck another dude’s cock, then why the fuck are you with her? If she doesn’t respect you, fuck that bitch and move on.

9.

If you live in a First World country, you can truly make something out of yourself if you put in the honest effort. If you look for external forces to blame such as “the man,” your parents, or your surroundings, it’s a sign of your weakness. You can always find a way out. It may not be quick, easy, or pleasant, but there is always a way to put yourself in a better position.

10.

Your coworkers aren’t always your friends. In the Army, you could hang out, talk shit, and be yourself around your coworkers. It’s not like that in the real world.

11.

If you have to get drunk, just drinking beer will keep you out of more trouble than taking shot after shot of hard alcohol.

12.

Your emotions don’t matter. What matters is whether you do your job regardless.

13.

If a chick doesn’t text you back after two attempts, delete her number and move on.

14.

If you’re traveling across the US, pizza with all the toppings on it is the most bang-for-your-buck food you can eat. It’ll keep you full and energized all day long.

15.

Want motivation to be a writer? Look at the first blog post of your current favorite writer. Chances are, they were fucking terrible when they started. The only difference is that they started, put in the effort, and gave themselves time to evolve.

16.

It’s easy to get caught up in the extremes of liberalism and conservatism. It’s easy to think the world is black and white, that things are strictly right or wrong. That’s why it’s simple for the media to manipulate the masses with hysterical headlines and emotionally triggered stories. It takes a lot more to learn the grey side, the enemy’s side, and to realize not everything is so straightforward.

17.

I’ve never smoked cigarettes, but I know two things about them: Everyone who smokes them wants to quit, and a lot of hot chicks smoke them. So hanging out at the smoking section even though you’re not smoking isn’t too bad of an idea.

18.

If you have a fragile ego and can’t take criticism, you’re going to get crushed by real world when you’re starting out as an artist. The world is full of self-important critics and cowards who never had the balls to go after what they want. These types love to dig their teeth and nails into you and tear you apart. They see your failure as their success. Fuck them. Keep your head up, your scrappy attitude on point, and keep moving.

19.

There is more pride working a job that pays you minimum wage than staying at home and being a burden on your family.

20.

It’s better to keep your mouth shut than tell a lie.

21.

Take pictures. You don’t have to post them all up on Instagram or Facebook, but take a picture or two of special events in your life. Chances are they’ll remind you of things you’ve long forgotten about five or ten years down the line.

22.

If you do have to lie, keep your lie as close to the truth as possible. It’s easier to remember that way.

23.

You don’t have to like everyone and everyone doesn’t have to like you. You have to respect their right to exist, but that’s pretty much it.

24.

No woman is worth sacrificing a male best friend over. Chicks come and go; your best friends will be there for you as long as you remain loyal to them.

25.

Not everyone is so quick-witted that they learn on their first fuck-up. I’ve made the same mistakes two, three, twelve times before I actually learned the lesson I needed to learn.

26.

When you say most people do X, most people will think you’re not talking about them.

27.

There is a lot of power in positive male role models. I was lucky that I had this throughout my life, from my stepfather to my football coaches to the noncommissioned officers and officers who mentored me in the Army. They each had their flaws, but I took from each something that I could apply to myself.

28.

Sometimes the person with the biggest balls in the room is a woman.

~Raul Felix
Read more of my writings a Thought Catalog.

Four Years Of Hell: College V. The Army

Co-created with Lance Pauker & Ella Ceron

Which path should you choose: going to college or joining the military? Young people who’ve asked themselves this question have received a plethora of different answers. Both options are viable in helping you set yourself up for success in adulthood. Just like anything else in life, it’s what you make of it, and no two experiences are exactly the same. To help you understand the lifestyle differences between the two paths, two college graduates and one veteran will share with you a year-by-year breakdown of their experiences through those very special four years.

Freshman Year:

Lance Pauker: 

There was a lot of pressure to meet people, but at first you didn’t really know how. So you just stuck to the same three questions, consisting of things like, “Where are you from?,” “What’s your major?,” and, “Are you secretly the son of an oil tycoon?”

Overall, I think I was a little too overwhelmed to really process what was going on—there’s so much coming at you at once. You’ve got the sudden freedom, you’ve got these new people in your life that you’re suddenly good friends with, and you’ve got professors constantly asking you if you did the reading. If there’s anything you figure out quickly, it’s that nobody really does the reading.

Ella Ceron:
I went to college 3,000 miles away from my hometown and was only really able to do so on a full-ride academic scholarship. It was terrifying being in a new city—though I’m from a large city, moving to New York was still a huge change. It was weird living with so many other people my age in one building all of a sudden, and I had five roommates in a very small three-bedroom/one-communal-area dorm. There was a lot of pressure on keeping my grades up, especially when what I thought I wanted my major to be proved much more difficult to maintain, and I had to take a good, hard look at whether I wanted to pursue that dream without my scholarship or change my course. I went home for the summer after that year and very desperately didn’t want to go back. I was homesick, miserable, hadn’t found a group of friends I felt very intrinsically close to, and felt all-around awkward.

Raul Felix:
Your first year in the Army is basically where you get your teeth kicked in. Everything you were, did, and knew no longer seems relevant. You’re going to do shit the way the Army wants you to do it. From your drill sergeants in Basic Training all the way to your team leaders and squad leaders in your first unit, you’re expected to be a sponge for knowledge and to shut your fucking mouth.

Life was simple in a way: You trained hard and worked long hours during the week and got drunk as fuck in the barracks with your buddies on the weekends watching movies, playing video games, and bitching about your miserable existence and how you should have gone to college. Even if you started off as a cavalier, gleaming-eyed young man full of glee and hope, the aura of massive amounts of testosterone, cynicism, and sexual frustration was prevalent. Back then MySpace was the main social network and you’d see your friends posting pictures of themselves at college parties surrounded by hot chicks, while all you had was Internet porn and a bottle of Jack to keep you company. Since most of us were under 21 and none of us were locals, meeting chicks was very rare indeed. Luckily, a few months in, I met a great girl through MySpace that went to a local university and we developed a long-term fuck-buddy relationship that gave me something to look forward to other than drinking myself into oblivion. My cousin and I were in the same battalion but different companies. He had already been the in Army for a little over two years at that point. We spent Christmas and New Year’s together drinking heavily in the barracks watching movies as we waited to deploy.

Sophomore Year:

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 9.31.22 AM

Spc Tiffany Fudge, US ARMY

Lance Pauker:
An article I once read on this pretty great website called Thought Catalog (def check it out if you get the chance) referred to sophomore year as “The Year Of The Wise Fools.” I think this summation is spot-on. You’re slowly gaining a sense of who you are and how you fit within the general landscape, but you’re still, relatively, an idiot. On a personal level, the majority of cool college stories I have occurred during sophomore year.

I feel like sophomore year represents the time in which you begin to move toward that thing you really want to pursue—you’ve finally figured out which people to acknowledge and which people to slowly start ignoring, so you’re finally ready to learn on your terms. Think of it as making your way through a crowded and cramped bar and then finally reaching the cool outside area. You light up a cig, talk about how you really shouldn’t be lighting up a cig, and finally get a chance to think.

Ella Ceron:
I had a summer job in Los Angeles during the summer break and was lucky enough to transfer to a New York outpost of the same company, so I was juggling four and five courses a semester with 30-to-40-hour work weeks. Though my classes were being paid for by the school, I had to take out loans for my housing and had to fund my own food, clothes, and anything else I wanted. It was a lot, but I was able to interact with people who were already living and working in the “real world” and I realized that there was so much beyond the papers and assignments that I had been so stressed about during the previous year. I still didn’t have as many friends as college is always portrayed in the movies, but I let myself completely fill up my schedule so that I was either working or studying seven days a week. In retrospect, that was the stupidest idea ever, but it helped me cope with the loneliness.

Raul Felix:
To my bitter disappointment, that deployment I spent doing a support role for the line guys. We pushed out supplies from the main base to all of the platoons scattered throughout the country. When we did leave the base, it was doing detainee escorts where we would take captured Hajis from one prison to another throughout the country on Chinooks and Blackhawk helicopters. I saw the vastness of Iraq by the air—from our remote outpost in Al Qa’im to the major cities of Baghdad, Mosul, and Tikrit. I also fucked up a lot that deployment and made nearly every single stupid mistake a cherry private could make to the frustration and wrath of my leadership. That deployment I was hit by how real this war was—my cousin’s team leader and squad leader both got killed in action.

We deployed in three-months-there and six-months-back cycles. We came back stateside and I began to take all the lessons learned from that deployment into the next training cycle, determined to be less of a fuck-up. The lifestyle of training hard, drinking hard, and fucking hard took firm hold again. Before one knew it, it was time to go to Afghanistan. Arriving at the beginning of the blistering Afghan winter, me and a dozen other Batt Boys were tasked to man a secret prison that contained high-value targets that were freshly captured off of objectives by the line guys. It pissed me off because I didn’t join the Army to stay on the base; I joined to go on fucking missions. We spent Thanksgiving and Christmas there, and I spent New Year’s Eve 2007 on an airplane ride back to the US. Luckily we didn’t lose anyone on that deployment.

Junior Year

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KT King

Lance Pauker:
I went abroad the first semester of my junior year. Like everyone else who went abroad, I had such an incredible time that I spent the following semester acting superior to everyone who didn’t share the same new life experience as me.

Returning to college after spending a semester traveling all over Europe felt like going from an Elton John concert to an Austin Mahone concert. No disrespect to my man Austin; he just fits the reference.

Ella Ceron:
When everyone else went abroad, I moved out of the dorms and into my first apartment—a really crappy walkup that was about a 20-minute walk away from the campus. I still filled my schedule with work and school and tried to romanticize how utterly threadbare my life was. My roommate bought our couch with a bottle of Belvedere, I slept on a yoga mat before I managed to get a bed, and I wrote my papers on a busted laptop with an old radiator whistling nearby. This all sounds like something out of the New York warehouse episodes of Glee, and I deeply wish I wasn’t as proud of the bohemian bullshit I let myself dive into. I still worked 40 hours a week, and I really liked my job, but that began to happen at the expense of shirking off a lot of my papers and assignments, only to make up excuses to get extensions and not fail out of my classes. It was a wakeup call that being an adult is a lot more about work than it is about the aesthetic, and sometimes you have to decide which is more important to you in the moment and which is more important to you in the long run.

Raul Felix:
By that time, I was comfortable in the Army. I wasn’t a big fuck-up anymore, so my leaders usually stayed off my ass. I knew exactly what I needed to do, what my job was, and what I could and couldn’t get away with. I turned 21 that year, went to my first bar in Seattle, and subsequently got kicked out of my first bar.

We were set to deploy again that summer, and a few days before deployment I found my grandmother had died. My cousin and I went to her funeral and missed out on the deployment. We stayed on Rear Detachment, which meant we pretty much had half-days all the time and spent much of that time drinking heavily and attempting to find some tail, mostly unsuccessfully. One morning, news came that one of the men in our company had been killed in action. A few weeks later, another one had been killed.

Senior Year

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Spc Justin Young, US ARMY

Lance Pauker:
Senior year was the crossroads between living in an apartment that should probably be condemned and being “adult” enough to drink something other than watered-down Keystone Light. I found that I probably made the most friends in college senior year—just like senior year of high school, nobody really cares about the social distinctions they spent the past three years maintaining. People are finishing up sports, slightly embarrassed to have been a part of their Greek organization, and overall too consumed with the postgrad unknown to care about how sick Freddy’s party was. You also realize how much of an unrealistic bubble the American college experience is. While I definitely got a ton out of my four years, you certainly realize how alarming the disconnect is. If college prepares you for the working world, then playing baseball prepares you for running a marathon. They’re both sports, but that’s pretty much it.

Ella Ceron:
By senior year, I was totally immersed in my job, and a big chunk of me didn’t think I really NEEDED my degree anymore—but then I realized that the job trajectory I was on wasn’t the right fit after all. I was working 60 hours a week, could afford a lot of really nice things, made friends with my coworkers, and was acting the part of the adult—but I just wasn’t happy. I had to force myself to put any effort into my classes, because I’d saved a lot of the easy, fun classes for senior year, knowing full well I’d have senioritis. The caveat in that, however, was that I was constantly reminding myself that if I could do okay by coasting along, imagine how much better I could do by working hard. Ultimately, I realized that the degree I eventually chose meant more to me than the job I’d had all through college and that I not only wanted to actually pursue using my degree, but that I’d be disappointed if I didn’t.

Working through college was a very important part of my experience, because it gave me a crash course in the wild world of money and having an apartment and adulthood and adult friends, but I was worn really thin throughout those four years and wouldn’t necessarily suggest you try to do everything all at once if you don’t absolutely need to. If I could do it all over again, and if I had the means, I would definitely have not worked as much as I did, even though I don’t regret how hard I worked. College is a time for discovery, and sometimes I wonder if I was too burdened with bills and being a grown-up to do that then—but now I’m making up for it by discovering myself along the way now.

Raul Felix:
Another training cycle started. The same dance all over again. I had calmed down my bar-hopping since I had gotten a girlfriend, but it didn’t mean I still didn’t drink to my heart’s content. Working, drinking, and hanging out with my girl was all I contented myself with during that training cycle. It had all become second nature at that point. We took off for the sandbox again. This time I drove Strykers through the streets of Mosul on hundreds of direct action raids. I was happy because at last I was doing the cool guy shit I’ve been training for. In typical poetic fashion, my girlfriend broke up with me. This was costliest and most heart-wrenching deployment during my time in battalion. We lost three great men all within a month of each other.

It’s a strange feeling being in a bar when only 48 hours earlier you were in the middle of the streets of Mosul pulling security. I was more than eager to get out of the Army. I had acquired an annoyed and hate-filled attitude toward my job, but I knew I had one deployment left before I was free at last. I bought a motorcycle and developed a passion for motorcycle travel when my buddies and I took a trip around Washington State.

In my final deployment to Iraq, I was driving Strykers like I did before. Though we did go on quite a few missions, it was way slower than the previous high-operations tempo deployment. The war was winding down. There was a stretch where we went two weeks without a single mission. Books, video games, and TV shows were how you kept your sanity from the boredom. I came back with only a month left on my enlistment. One month later, I hopped on my motorcycle to travel the US, leaving behind the red-fenced compound that took me in during my most formative years and forged me into a man.

~Raul Felix

You can read more of my writing at Thought Catalog.

3 Things People Who Served In The Military Do That Make Them Look Like Tools

Regardless of how much the media likes to depict everyone who serves in the military as the essence of integrity, professionalism, and selfless service, there are lot of people who are total fucking tools. Just like any large organization, the military has its share of window-licking, mouth-breathers whose only talent in life is not choking on their own tongue when they sleep. What happens when people like this get to wear the service uniform for the holy cock of freedom that is the United States? They use it to compensate for their many other shortcomings, of course.

1. Wearing Dog Tags As A Fashion Accessory

Just like many of the other ills in America, Hollywood is to blame for this trend. In the movies, you’ll see a battle-hardened Special Ops guy in an olive-drab tank top sitting alone at the bar drinking straight whiskey. He clutches his dog tags that hang around his neck and begins to reminisce about combat. Cue CCR’s “Fortunate Son” and flash back to Vietnam 1969.

The reality is that the scrawny guy wearing his dog tags over his Abercrombie & Fitch shirt is more than likely a cherry fucking private who just finished Basic Combat Training and thinks he’s a real soldier now. He has to show the whole world how much of a Billy Badass he is because having a high and tight and weighing a buck thirty-five isn’t enough of an indication that he’s a soldier. Wearing dog tags will surely be a conversation starter with the fairer sex and moisten her panties.

He doesn’t know that there are other soldiers and veterans at the bar with multiple deployments who aren’t as blatantly obvious about it and think he looks like a total tool. They’ll chuckle among themselves and shake their heads in disgust. Looks like they’ll let any kind of retard in the military these days.

2. Posting Moronic Memes On Facebook

If you’ve had anyone in the military as a friend on Facebook, you’ve probably seen a meme saying something similar to this: “Share if you think a person in camouflage should make more money than one in a jersey.” This will be accompanied with a picture of a soldier covered in mud hating his miserable existence in contrast to one of a famous football player in a packed stadium. This ensures the poster gets guilt-driven Likes and Shares because if you don’t think that, you obviously hate the troops.

When a person posts that, what they’re really telling you is that not only aren’t they the sharpest tool in the shed—they aren’t even in the shed. They’re so dull that they fail to grasp how the free market and the premise of supply and demand work—you know, the very things our men and women in uniform are fighting to preserve.

People in the military are all about telling the harsh truth. Well, here is one: It takes considerably more talent, skill, and hard work to be a professional athlete than it does to be a common Joe in the military. Have you been training since the age of five to be a soldier? Did you stand out as an All-Star in high school, get a scholarship to a Division One school, and then, despite the 1-in-100 odds, get drafted to a professional team? There is a reason why guys who sacrifice million-dollar contracts who decide to join the military make the news, while Joe Snuffy—who dropped out of community college while working at Subway and didn’t know what else to do with his life so he joined the Army National Guard—doesn’t.

3. Mentioning Something About Their Military Service In Every Conversation

You’re in your college US History class discussing the Great War and how gruesome it was. Then a longhaired, unshaven, and overweight former Marine wearing a “Mess With The Best, Die Like The Rest” Devil Dog T-shirt raises his hand.

“Oh yeah, my former unit that I served in Iraq with, the 5th Marine Regiment, was in the Great War.” Then he smugly lowers his hand and coyly looks around to see who is highly impressed with the fact the he is a veteran. You sit there thinking, “What the fuck does that have to do with anything?”

Very few things indicate that a service member has no depth to their personality than their inability not to talk about the military regardless of how irrelevant to the conversation it may be. You could be talking about how much you love puppies; they’ll talk about the scraggly dogs in Mosul. It’s a bit a chilly out today. “This is fucking nothing. When I was in the mountains of Afghanistan, we froze our balls off.” You’re trying to decide where to get lunch. “Oh, it doesn’t matter. Anything is better than eating MREs like we had to do in the FOB.”

While the military is a vicious, soul-sucking beast that leaves a lasting impact on those who serve, it’s not so consuming that it leaves an individual with no personality and unable to have other hobbies and interests. While it’s great to be proud of one’s service, it’s also the mark of a huge tool bag if he is unable to talk about anything but his time in the belly of the beast.

~Raul Felix

Check out more of my work at Thought Catalog.

The Harsh Realities of Teaching English as a Foreign Language

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) has become an option for many disillusioned recent college grads when they realize their Humanities degree is not that high in demand. You can qualify to be a TEFL teacher with nearly any type of degree. You will fantasize about how you’re going to enlighten foreign minds, but like anything else, reality will set in. Luckily for you, English Teacher X is a salty-as-fuck veteran of this mysterious world. He has written several books and been blogging about it since 2005.

Raul: English Teacher X, you’ve been TEFL for 15+ years now. What’s the biggest difference you see now between new, cherry English teachers and when you were a newbie in the 90s?

ETXEnglish Teacher X: Of course, there are a lot more people doing it now in general, but surprisingly, I don’t see that much difference. Still plenty of middle-aged whoremongers/wife-hunters, plenty of young backpacker types, and plenty of clueless youngsters in search of a Real Authentic Cultural Experience. You’d think there’d be fewer clueless people with the Internet and all, but there are still plenty of wide-eyed innocents, many of whom end up ripped off but with a few interesting stories to tell the folks when they go back to working at the Cheesecake Factory. One thing you see a lot more of these days is middle-aged women getting into it for a midlife career change after a divorce or whatever. Eat, Pray, Love syndrome. My friend in Dubai says he sees a lot of them, and a friend in Peru says the same thing. They’re often also looking for romance—men are not the only ones unhappy with the dating situation back home.

Raul: What kind of “Authentic Cultural Experience” do most of the youngsters look for, and what is the harsh reality?

ETX

English Teacher X: Oh, you know, the usual—they think they’re going to learn the language and befriend the locals and such and go to traditional ceremonies and such, but they generally find that the only people who want to speak with them either just want to practice their English or rip them off somehow. Or have sex with them, maybe.

Raul: You spent nine years in Russia from 2000-2009 in an industrial wasteland you’ve named “Vodkaberg.” Russia changed quite a bit since those days. You mentioned that the same Vodkaberg doesn’t exist anymore. What changes have occurred?

ETXEnglish Teacher X: Oh, man, well, it’s pretty much a 180-degree shift. When I got there, they loved foreigners, especially Americans and Europeans, and everybody loved to drink and smoke and party, and people were very cynical about work and the government. Everybody was extremely sexed-up, and there was a lot of prostitution going on. People had very little hope for the future. There was very much an atmosphere of “Eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Now, shit, it’s like the Reagan 80s. First there were a lot of rules limiting alcohol consumption—no more drinking on the streets, can’t buy alcohol after eleven, can’t drink on trains, etc. Then depictions of homosexuality in the media. With the Ukraine thing, Putin has stirred up the patriots and the nationalists, and even one of my slutty, foreigner-loving female friends there was lecturing me last night on Skype about how everything in the American media about Russia is a lie. People want to work hard to get the Toyota Corolla and the iPhone. People do take care of their health a lot more, though, I guess, which is a good thing. I read yesterday that Putin is banning some of the Russki mat—curse words—from movies, theater, and TV. He seems to be trying to create a Puritan republic in response to the excesses of the 90s and early 00s. Oh, and in addition to that, to show the attitude of Russians recently—a friend and I were trying to talk to some Russian girls in Dubai last week and one of them told us, “I don’t talk to Americans anymore because of the international situation.”

Raul: Damn, so Russia is losing its unique Russian ghetto charm; what a shame. Where could a young, hopeful, future TEFL type go to get the same crazy social atmosphere as was prevalent in Vodkaberg during your stint there?

ETXEnglish Teacher X: Of course, your social life is what you make of it and anybody going to Eastern Europe can probably find enough alcohol and sex and general wackiness to satisfy them. But the kind of blind worship of foreigners—that’s hard to find these days. You’d need to go someplace that has endured a long period of isolationism and protectionism. North Korea, Cuba, Belarus. Just in general, the kind of places that are experiencing the sort of rapid economic growth and social change that Russia experienced during the 00s are places in the Middle East, and I hear people talking about places like Turkey, Ethiopia, and Lebanon a lot. Recently somebody sent me an email asking where the best place to go to have that experience would be and I answered, “Just go anywhere that people tell you not to go because it’s too dangerous.” I remember buying the train ticket to Russia back in 2000, and the women at the train station in Prague told me I was crazy; they would kill me. They didn’t, although not for want of trying.

Raul: Any random advice for any aspiring TEFLers?

ETXEnglish Teacher X: Well, I was thinking today that while TEFL is not much of a career choice, it probably combines well with your various possibilities for “location independent” jobs like freelance writing or running an eBay store or an affiliate site or whatever. As a teacher you’ll probably have enough free time to work on something like that, but you’ll always have something to do to meet people or to fall back on if your Internet job punks out for some reason.

~Raul Felix

Check out more of my writing at Thought Catalog