There’s nothing like government-imposed isolation to bring out the best and the worst in people. It’s time to take a break from the empty shelves, homeschooling, terrifying headlines (and harrowing reality) and the truly unprecedented times we’re currently living in and lighten the load with our favorite memes of COVID-19.
In seriousness, we know these are scary times. We hope you and your loved ones stay safe and well.
There’s a culture in the military of service and honor, integrity and sacrifice; all those good things. There’s also plenty of tradition in sitting down with a glass of something and talking about the glory days, remembering the friends lost and cherishing times spent together, on and off the battlefield.
Here are 5 veteran-owned companies bettering lives around the world with their innovative spirits:
If you like the “sweet taste of freedom,” then pour yourself a glass of this fan favorite. With a smooth mouth-feel and complex flavor, this is definitely a bourbon you can get behind.
According to their website, “Merica Bourbon was born from military veterans who wanted to share the great taste of bourbon and freedom. It’s all about the flavor. This bourbon is meant to be shared with friends, on the rocks or neat, reminiscing on the good moments in life. So pull up a chair and have a glass or three with us and let us celebrate freedom together.”
Merica Bourbon was founded by Marine veteran Derek Sisson who brought us Famous Brands, and Army veteran Daniel Alarik, the mastermind behind Grunt Style.
Founded by Marine veteran Travis McVey to honor two of his friends he lost while serving, Heroes Vodka is the “Official Spirit of a Grateful Nation.”
Since launching on Veteran’s Day 2011, Heroes Vodka has given over 0,000 back to veteran-focused local and national nonprofits. If that isn’t enough to get you to indulge, it should help that this vodka is actually delicious. Four times distilled, it’s as easy to drink as this brand is easy to love. Their list of accolades and awards are impressive, including multiple gold medals in tasting competitions like the “Vodka of the Year” at the Melbourne International Spirits and New York City’s 50 Best Domestic Vodkas Competition.
If you’ve never had Sotol, get ready to be hooked. Desert Door is made by hand in Driftwood, Texas from wild-harvested West Texas sotol plants by three military veterans who met at an Executive MBA program. Marine veteran Brent Looby, Navy veteran Judson Kauffman and Army veteran Ryan Campbell are the best example of how different branches can unite around alcohol and entrepreneurship.
According to their website, Desert Door Sotol tastes unquestionably of the land. The sweet citrusy and herbal flavor is reminiscent of a desert gin crossed with a smooth sipping tequila.
Tasting notes include herbaceous, creamy and vegetal. It leads with grass and earth on the nose with a touch of natural vanilla. Toffee, mint, cinnamon and clove combine with citrus in a distinct way on the palate. It finishes with minerality and a welcome vegetal quality that will make you wonder why you haven’t met before and have you dreaming of your next encounter.
Desert Door Sotol stands alone as a great sipping drink, but it will level up your cocktails like never before. Our favorite? Use it in a “Desert Paloma” with grapefruit juice, lime juice and agave nectar and get ready for it to change your life.
Travis Barnes, like so many other incredible Americans, felt the call to enlist in the Marines following the terrorist attacks on 9/11. He left school at Purdue to serve his country. Following three tours in Iraq where he received multiple combat medals and incurred a Traumatic Brain Injury following an IED attack, Barnes received an Honorable Discharge and after graduating law school, pursued a new passion: distilling. The spirits are “fit to serve and made to share.”
While Hotel Tango crafts bourbon, whiskey, voka, rum, cherry liqueur, orangecello and limoncello, their gin is our very favorite. With a new wave style that’s citrus forward, it’s pleasing to gin vets and newcomers alike. Serve with tonic or sip on its own.
Willie, originally hailing from Appalachian moonshine country in western North Carolina, is a veteran of the Army and U.S. Forest Service, serving as an Army Ranger, Special Forces Medic, Hotshot Wildland Firefighter and Smokejumper. Clearly, he’s a badass, as is his product line.
Notably, according to their website, Willie’s Distillery mills, mashes, ferments and distills corn, barley and oats on site, as well as producing spirits from ingredients like molasses, cream and Canadian whisky. Their spirits are distilled in a custom Bavarian Holstein still, crafted by a family-owned company that has been building world-class spirits stills since 1958. If that isn’t already incredible, they employ veterans in positions ranging from production and sales to management.
While Willie’s has all sorts of spirits from vodka and bourbon to their legendary moonshine, our favorite has to be the coffee cream liqueur.
Nothing says White Russian like Willie’s.
The lawyers make us say this: If you’re going to drink, do it responsibly and make sure you have a sober driver. We’re going to add: there’s nothing more responsible than supporting these 5 veteran-owned companies.
Every day, troops of all ages head off into the field and sustain all types of injuries, from simple bruises and scratches to fractures and open abrasions. You can train to fight the enemy, but the terrain will always change, bringing unique advantages and challenges with it.
That said, some of the most common types of injuries we sustain can be temporarily fixed using a little ingenuity and knowledge of your surroundings. The solution to your painful aliment could be right under your feet.
Troops fall over and take hits while they’re out in the field. In some cases, bones get bruised or even fractured. Once this happens, it’s important to seek medical attention quickly as surgery may be needed. But, first things first, you’re going to have to splint the injured limb.
Creating a rudimentary splint in the field requires finding some sturdy pieces of wood (or any hard, flat object), placing them alongside the fractured extremity, and tying it down to prevent bends and movement — both above and below the joint. It doesn’t have to be red-carpet quality; we just want to prevent further injury.
It’s also great on lattes.
Nature’s tastiest medicine
Since cinnamon is a common, delicious condiment here in the States that tastes terrific on a roll with a sugary glaze, we don’t realize the many health benefits it provides.
Cinnamon bark comes from a tree called the Cinnamomum verum. The spice is known to alleviate an upset stomach, diarrhea, and gas from eating too many MREs. It’s also been used to treat infections caused by various bacteria, hay fever (allergic rhinitis), and even stimulate your appetite.
A sting reliever
When you’re in the field, there are plenty of wasps, bees, and scorpions hiding about who would love to sting the sh*t out of you if provoked. Although it sucks to get stung, there’s a plant that can quickly soothe the pain — the plantain.
This small plant can be identified by its rubbery texture and the parallel veins that run along the leaves. In order to use the plant as a venom neutralizer, crush the leaves into a paste and apply it to the affected area for quick relief.
This tip can be applied to bleeds, from the most minor cuts to the freakin’ major gashes. Having an open-skin abrasion isn’t the best thing while you’re out in the field. Mother Nature is filled with nasty, infectious bacteria and animals that can sniff out blood in the air.
In the event that you cut yourself open, apply pressure to the wound. Then, instead of worrying about getting stitches, consider applying a layer of super glue to close the wound.
India’s Navy has become a major global player. Arguably, it has the second-strongest carrier aviation force in the world. Its navy is on the upswing as well, with powerful new destroyers and frigates entering service. Now, it has taken a new step forward – joining the “boomer club.”
India commissioned INS Arihant on the down low this past August. This is India’s first nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) – and it means that India becomes the sixth country in the world to operate such a vessel. The other five are the United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, and the People’s Republic of China.
The Arihant is a derivative of the Akula-class nuclear-powered attack submarine, one of which was leased by India in 2012 as INS Chakra, two decades after India returned a Charlie I-class nuclear-powered guided missile submarine (SSGN) with the same name. The big difference between the Arihant and the leased Akula is the addition of four launch tubes, which can carry either a single IRBM known as the K-4, with a range of just under 1900 nautical miles carrying a warhead with a yield of up to 250 kilotons (about 12.5 times more powerful than the nuke used on Hiroshima), or three K-15 missiles with a range of 405 nautical miles.
India’s nuclear deterrent is run by the Strategic Forces Command, which will not only handle the Arihant, but which also handles India’s land-based ballistic missiles (the Prithvi and Agni series), and India’s aircraft-delivered nukes (usually from tactical aircraft like the SEPECAT Jaguar, the MiG-27 Flogger, and the Mirage 2000).
INS Arihant gives India a technical nuclear triad. According to TheDiplomat.com, India’s first boomer is seen as a testbed and training asset. India’s future boomers (follow-ons to the lead ship) will carry twice as many tubes, making them more akin to operational assets.
A legendary chapter in Air Force history has come to a close.
Retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole, the last survivor of the “Doolittle Raid,” died April 9, 2019, in San Antonio.
“Lt. Col. Dick Cole reunited with the Doolittle Raiders in the clear blue skies today,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. “My heart goes out to his friends and family as our Air Force mourns with them. We will honor him and the courageous Doolittle Raiders as pioneers in aviation who continue to guide our bright future.”
On April 18, 1942, the U.S. Army Air Forces and the Doolittle Raiders attacked Tokyo in retaliation for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which boosted American morale in the early months of World War II.
Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, Crew No. 1 (Plane #40-2344, target Tokyo): 34th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, pilot; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
“There’s another hole in our formation,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “Our last remaining Doolittle Raider has slipped the surly bonds of Earth, and has reunited with his fellow Raiders. And what a reunion they must be having. Seventy-seven years ago this Saturday, 80 intrepid airmen changed the course of history as they executed a one-way mission without hesitation against enormous odds. We are so proud to carry the torch he and his fellow Raiders handed us.”
Cole was born Sept. 7, 1915, in Dayton, Ohio. In 1938, he graduated from Steele High School in Dayton and attended two years of college at Ohio University before enlisting as an aviation cadet on Nov. 22, 1940. Soon after he enlisted, Cole received orders to report to Parks Air College in East St. Louis, Illinois, for training before arriving at Randolph Field, Texas and later, Kelly Field, Texas. He completed pilot training and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in July 1941.
U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole stands in front of a refurbished U.S. Navy B-25 Mitchell displayed at an airshow in Burnet, Texas.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
While Cole was on a training mission with the 17th Bombardment Group at Pendleton, Oregon, word came that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor.
The 17th BG flew anti-submarine patrols until February 1942, when Cole was told he would be transferred to Columbia, South Carolina. While there, he and his group volunteered for a mission with no known details. Cole would later say that he thought his unit was heading to North Africa.
For weeks, Cole practiced flying maneuvers on the B-25 Mitchell, a U.S. Army Air Corps twin-engine propeller-driven bomber with a crew of five that could take off from an aircraft carrier at sea, in what some would call the first joint action that tested the Army and Navy’s ability to operate together. When the carrier finally went to sea to bring 16 bombers closer to maximize their reach, it wasn’t until two days into the voyage that the airmen and sailors on the mission were told that their carrier, the U.S.S. Hornet, and all of its bombers, were heading in the direction of Tokyo.
A U.S. Army Air Force B-25B Mitchell medium bomber, one of sixteen involved in the mission, takes off from the flight deck of the USS Hornet for an air raid on the Japanese Home Islands on April 18, 1942.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
In an age-before mid-air refueling and GPS, the U.S.S. Hornet weighed less than a quarter of today’s fortress-like aircraft carriers. With Cole as the copilot to then-Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, the B-25 Mitchell bomber #40-2344, would take off with only 467 feet of takeoff distance.
What made the mission all the more challenging was a sighting by a Japanese patrol boat that spurred the task force commander, U.S. Navy Adm. William F. “Bull” Halsey, to launch the mission more than 650 nautical miles from Japan – 10 hours early and 170 nautical miles farther than originally planned. Originally, the Mitchells were supposed to land, refuel and proceed on to western China, thereby giving the Army Air Corps a squadron of B-25s and a commander. But now the aircrews faced increasing odds against them, in their attempt to reach the airfields of non-occupied China. Still, Cole and his peers continued with their mission.
Flying at wave-top level around 200 feet and with their radios turned off, Cole and the Raiders avoided detection for as much of the distance as possible. In groups of two to four aircraft, the bombers targeted dry docks, armories, oil refineries and aircraft factories in Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka and Kobe as well as Tokyo itself. The Japanese air defense was so caught off guard by the Raiders that little anti-aircraft fire was volleyed and only one Japanese Zero followed in pursuit. With their bombs delivered, the Raiders flew towards safety in China.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dick Cole answers question about the raid during a luncheon in honor of the event at the Army Navy Club in Washington.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford)
Many airmen had to parachute out into the night, Cole himself jumping out at around 9,000 feet. All aircraft were considered lost with Cole’s own aircraft landing in a rice paddy full of night soil. Of the 80 airmen committed to the raid, eight were captured by Japanese forces with five executed and three sent to prison (where one died of malnutrition). All of the 72 other airmen found their way to safety with the help of Chinese farmers and guerrillas and continued to serve for the remainder of World War II.
The attack was a psychological blow for the Japanese, who moved four fighter groups and recalled top officers from the front lines of the Pacific to protect the cities in the event American bomber forces returned.
After the Doolittle Raid, Cole remained in the China-Burma-India Theater supporting the 5318th Provisional Air Unit as a C-47 pilot flying “The Hump,” a treacherous airway through the Himalayan Mountains. The USAAF created the 5318th PAU to support the Chindits, the long-range penetration groups that were special operations units of the British and Indian armies, with Cole as one of the first members of the U.S. special operations community. On March 25, 1944, the 5318th PAU was designated as the 1st Air Commando Group by USAAF commander Gen. Henry H. Arnold, who felt that an Air Force supporting a commando unit in the jungles of Burma should properly be called “air commandos.” Cole’s piloting skills blended well with the unconventional aerial tactics of Flying Tiger veterans as they provided fighter cover, bombing runs, airdrops and landing of troops, food and equipment as well as evacuation of casualties.
Lt. Col. Dick Cole smiles while looking out of a B-25 aircraft April 20, 2013, on the Destin Airport, Fla. The B-25 is the aircraft he co-piloted during the Doolittle Raid.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
Cole retired from the Air Force on Dec. 31, 1966, as a command pilot with more than 5,000 flight hours in 30 different aircraft, more than 250 combat missions and more than 500 combat hours. His decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters; Air Medal with oak leaf cluster; Bronze Star Medal; Air Force Commendation Medal; and Chinese Army, Navy, Air Corps Medal, Class A, First Grade. All Doolittle Raiders were also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in May 2014.
In his final years, he remained a familiar face at Air Force events in the San Antonio area and toured Air Force schoolhouses and installations to promote the spirit of service among new generations of airmen. On Sept. 19, 2016, Cole was present during the naming ceremony for the Northup Grumman B-21 Raider, named in honor of the Doolittle Raiders.
“We will miss Lt. Col. Cole, and offer our eternal thanks and condolences to his family,” Goldfein said. “The Legacy of the Doolittle Raiders — his legacy —will live forever in the hearts and minds of airmen, long after we’ve all departed. May we never forget the long blue line, because it’s who we are.”
The M1A2 Abrams is arguably one of the best (if not the best) tank systems in the world today. It’s the main battle tank of the United States, along with several of its allies — including Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom deployed a number of the tanks in its intervention against Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia is not having the success they expected to have.
It’s been three long years for the Saudi military and the coalition it’s leading to take on Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen. Almost as soon as the Saudi “intervention” (aka “invasion”) of Yemen began, the Kingdom started asking U.S.-based contractor General Dynamics for upgrades to the tank. They also ordered replacements.
A quick YouTube search will show you why.
Houthi rebels posted a lot of these videos showing the M1A2 getting wrecked by simple anti-tank weapons. In the videos above, that weapon is Tosun anti-tank guided missiles, an Iranian-built variant of a the Soviet 9M113 Konkurs ATGM, which uses a trailing wire system to guide the projectile.
At just 32 pounds, this Iranian ATGM can hit a Saudi M1A2 from two miles away. The current M1A2 defense system can’t really defend against this simple kind of attack. Reactive armor can help and there are M1 upgrades that could possibly further help, but complete, reliable 360-degree protection doesn’t exist in this family of tanks.
But don’t think because it’s not working out for the Saudis, the same fate would await American tank crews.
For starters, Americans won’t just abandon their tank and bolt at the first sign of trouble.
The thing is that there’s nothing wrong with the tanks themselves. They could stand the upgrade package given to U.S. M1 tanks, maybe some of that depleted uranium armor, or maybe a tank protection system like the one Israel developed for its tankers. The problem Saudi Arabia has with its tanks is how they’re being used.
In the above videos, you could see tanks being destroyed that were completely alone. They were left out in the open with no infantry support. The minimal amount of 360 protection a crew can give themselves is to actually look around. We may never know what the crew was doing in there but what they weren’t doing was being aware of their surroundings.
So of course some Houthis are going to come up and shoot them with an anti-tank missile.
Maybe leaving your bright red Igloo cooler on the side of it isn’t a great idea either. Just throwing that out there.
Terry Hunt, a blind veteran who receives health care at the Kernersville VA Health Care Center (HCC), mentioned several years ago that he wished he could participate in water sports.
Around the same time, Terri Everett, a Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist at the HCC, became a chapter coordinator for the national kayaking organization Team River Runner.
Team River Runner helps veterans and their families find health, healing, community purpose, and new challenges through adventure and adaptive paddle sports. It is funded through VA grants.
All Hunt needed to say was, “Let’s get on the water!” and Everett was ready to go. Shortly after they connected, Hunt began regular kayaking with the Triad Chapter of Team River Runner. He has been doing so for the past five years. Everett or other volunteers guide him on the water.
Guides use several methods to help blind people kayak, including voice commands, music and tethering, if necessary.
Hunt purchased his own kayak last year. He also participated in the 2018 High Rock Lake Dragon Boat Race, where he placed first in one of the races. He will compete in the Dragon Boat Race again this year as one of the lead rowers.
Everett has worked in blind rehabilitation for 38 years. She has participated in adaptive sports for disabled veterans for most of that time. She is a certified, level 2 American Canoe Association kayak instructor with adaptive endorsement.
Hunt has been kayaking for five years and loves every minute of it.
This past summer, Team River Runner and Hunt took kayaking to a new level for visually impaired and blind kayakers. They used a new, remote guiding system, developed and engineered by Team River Runner Chapter Coordinator Jim Riley.
The veteran wears a vest with sensors and Everett uses a paddle with a switch, guiding him based on where he feels the sensors. The vibrating sensation of sensors on his sides, chest and back let him know where he needs to concentrate effort.
It was an incredible success. On that day, they paddled four miles, in and out of coves, under bridges, in and around piers and then back to the dock. The guiding system will be featured at the VA Summer sports clinic in San Diego in September.
Reflecting on his experience, Hunt jubilantly declared, “This life vest, having pulsating areas at the right, left, front and back, to let the visual impaired person know which way you want them to go, was awesome!”
“This is incredible because it gave me a sense of greater independence,” Hunt said. He continued, “I feel this life vest is a breakthrough for help in enjoying the kayak trip for the visual impaired person.
“How awesome to feel independent on this day! I think this not only shows Team River Runners’ commitment to visual impaired persons, but also shows VA’s willingness to help our visual impaired community in ways not just connected to health care.
“It is a great feeling to do things you never thought you would ever do again.”
Hunt will continue his kayaking adventures with Team River Runner and beyond. He will attend the VA Summer Sports Clinic in September 2020. There, he will have the opportunity to kayak, sail, ride a tandem bike and participate in other activities. Kudos to Mr. Hunt for the positive example he is setting for other disabled veterans!
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
After having success with unmarked trailer trucks in Ukraine, Russia is looking to exploit its incognito strategy even further. The Russians have come up with a weapons concept reminiscent of Optimus Prime from Transformers.
It’s designed to surprise the U.S. military by sneaking up under the cover of an inconspicuous semi-trailer truck. When the weapon is close enough to strike, the trailer disconnects from the truck and transforms into a nasty helicopter drone with missiles and a Gatling gun.
In keeping with Hollywood’s depiction of Russian bad guys, the trailer also includes two get-away motorcycles. Seriously, it looks like something you’d expect to see in a ‘Die Hard’ flick.
Here’s how it works:
The trailer pulls up within striking distance of its target.
One soldier in civilian clothes scopes out the area while another soldier stays behind to monitor the transformation.
Most of the transformation is self automated.
A final weapons check is done with an iPad before the nasty payload is deployed.
The drone surprises the target by rising from the tree line.
US Air Force F-22 stealth fighters intercepted two sets of two Russian Tupolev Tu-95 bombers, one of which was accompanied by two Su-35 fighter escorts, off the coast of Alaska on May 20, 2019, according to North American Aerospace Defense Command.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced May 21, 2019, that Russian Tu-95MS bombers, which are capable of carrying nuclear missiles, conducted an observation flight May 20, 2019, near the western coast of Alaska, adding that at certain points during the 12-hour flight the bombers and their escort fighters were shadowed by US F-22s, Russia’s state-run TASS News Agency reported.
It is unclear why the Russians sent so many bombers near US air defenses, and NORAD was unable to say whether the Russian bombers were armed. It is also unclear why such bombers were used at all, as observation is not the traditional role of the large, four-engine, propeller-powered bombers, which are essentially heavy cruise-missile platforms.
NORAD sent out four F-22s, two for each intercept, to intercept the Russian aircraft after they entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone. An E-3 Sentry provided surveillance during the intercepts. The Russian bombers remained in international airspace, NORAD said in a statement.
“NORAD’s top priority is defending Canada and the United States,” Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, the commander of NORAD, said. “Our ability to deter and defeat threats to our citizens, vital infrastructure, and national institutions starts with successfully detecting, tracking, and positively identifying aircraft of interest approaching US and Canadian airspace.”
The bomber flights May 20, 2019, came roughly two months after Russia accused the US of unnecessarily stirring up tensions between the countries by flying B-52H Stratofortress bombers near Russia for training with regional partners.
“Such actions by the United States do not lead to a strengthening of an atmosphere of security and stability in the region,” a Kremlin spokesman told reporters at the time.”On the contrary, they create additional tensions.”
The US military, however, stressed that the training missions, which included simulated bombing runs, were necessary to “deter adversaries and assure our allies and partners.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The balloons can float as high as 65,000 feet, and are able to track vehicles day or night, regardless of the weather.
The goal of the balloons, according to the FCC filing, is: “To provide a persistent surveillance system to locate and deter narcotic trafficking and homeland security threats.”
The company named in the filing, Sierra Nevada Corporation, is working on behalf of the United States Department of Defense to test the balloons. The United States Southern Command (Southcom) commissioned the tests; the balloons are scheduled to begin flying in South Dakota and conclude in central Illinois.
An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted drone aircraft flies a combat mission.
(Photo by Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt)
Though the technology might sound strange, it’s not the first pairing of balloons with tech hardware to enable surveillance: The Israeli government has repeatedly used surveillance balloons with cameras attached in Israel.
The surveillance balloons in this case, however, are equipped with so-called “synthetic-aperture radar” devices from Artemis Networks — a tech company that makes wireless radar devices. Using an SAR device, users can create high-resolution images using radio pulses, which enables a much higher level of detail in surveillance use.
Neither the Department of Defense nor the Sierra Nevada Corporation responded to requests for comment as of publishing.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
From vigorous barking to dashing through water-based obstacles, military working dogs and handlers with the 6th Security Forces Squadron participated in water aggression training to maintain full spectrum readiness at Adventure Island amusement park in Tampa, Florida, Oct. 29, 2018.
“We have 7.2 miles of coastline around MacDill and we always have to be ready to patrol it,” said Tech. Sgt. Matthew McElyea, a military dog trainer assigned to the 6th SFS. “We never stop training and it’s our job to keep our dogs engaged and excited about the job we accomplish together.”
Additionally, eight Tampa law enforcement agencies unleashed their own K9s during the joint training exercise.
“We do this training annually,” said Eddie Durkin, Tampa Police Department public information officer. “Some dogs don’t get enough exposure to water-based scenarios and this type of training gets them more confident and comfortable in the water.”
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Damion Morris, a military dog handler assigned to the 6th Security Forces Squadron, tests the water with his military working dog, Lleonard, at Adventure Island, Tampa, Fla. Oct. 29, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Scott Warner)
MacDill’s military working dogs, Lord, Zeno, and Lleonard, participated in a wave of training scenarios involving suspect apprehension and deterrence in an unfamiliar environment.
“We are always looking for new ways to evolve our training and be ready for any contingency situation,” McElyea said.
The event simulated three water-based scenarios, from an obstacle course to waves and large depths of water. The training fully encompassed what a military working dog might experience in the field.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Greene, a military dog trainer assigned to the 6th Security Forces Squadron, practices water aggression training with 6th SFS military working dog, Lleonard, at Adventure Island, Tampa, Fla. Oct. 29, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Scott Warner)
“Lord was outstanding in every water-based evaluation, and Zeno and Lleonard made significant progress throughout the day,” McElyea said. “This situational training is invaluable when our dogs need to be ready to respond to anything.”
Whether it’s inside of the base or at a point of entry, MacDill’s working dog handlers and their partners continuously practice detection, bite drills, obeying commands and apprehending suspects.
“We are the best at narcotic and bomb detection and deterrence,” McElyea said. “But our local law enforcement agencies are experts in patrol, so collectively these joint training exercises are mutually beneficial since we can learn so much from one another.”
Challenge coins have a special place in the hearts of many. Enlisted troops keep them as souvenirs to commemorate a specific moment while officers display them at every opportunity to build clout. It’s like a hardened war-fighter’s version of collecting trading cards.
But not all challenge coins are created equally. This is especially important when it comes to the military’s drinking game. If two troops or vets are in a bar and someone calls, “coin check,” whoever doesn’t have one must buy the drinks. If you want to take it to the next level (or if everyone pulls a coin), have the person with the worst coin buy while the troop with the best coin chooses what the group is drinking.
There isn’t a clearly defined ranking system, but here’s the generally accepted hierarchy if you want to call someone out.
Think of these are having a pair of twos in a game of poker.
8. Any store-bought coin
At the very bottom are the “at-least-I-have-it” coins. There’s no challenge involved in getting these coins. There’s nothing unique about them and they cost a couple of bucks at the Exchange.
They often have just an installation marking, regimental crest, or a generic rank on them. But, hey, they’re better than nothing.
It only counts if it was given on a military installation, at any military event, or from a military-related company.
7. Promotional coins
An obvious but effective marketing gimmick popular among companies who’ve done their homework is to make a branded military challenge coin. Companies will often give these to troops and vets on a whim and it’s more about spreading brand recognition than displaying individual achievement.
Nonetheless, they’re usually pretty nice and we rank them slightly higher than a store-bought coin because you have to be at the right place at the right time to get one.
Some commanders put plenty of thought into their coins. See the exceptions below.
(Photo by Lieutenant Junior Grade Samuel Boyle)
6. Unit coins
This is the category under which most coins fall. Each unit commander can commission their own coin to be made with the unit insignia alongside the names of the senior enlisted and hand them to deserving troops.
Determining where each coin falls within this level is easy. Battalion coins beat company coins. Brigade coins beat battalion. Divisional coins beat brigade. Branch coins may beat divisional coins if and only if they weren’t just bought at a store and were actually given at the Pentagon level.
Some are generic, some are spectacular — hence why they’re in the middle of the list.
(Photo by Cpl. Jesus Sepulvada Torres)
5. General officer coins
Each general officer has a coin made specifically for them. Fun side note: Officers who have coins made almost always pay out-of-pocket to have something to give to troops. Since generals have a nicer paycheck than captains, their coins are nicer and more prestigious.
To get a general officer coin, you have to do something outstanding enough to warrant a nice coin. This could be in addition to an official military decoration or officers may just feel like handing them out like candy. It depends on the general officer.
And a coin from that school’s commandant is higher than just attending that school.
(Photo by Tech Sgt. Eugene Christ)
4. School coins
Many military schools also hand a nice challenge coin to each graduate along with their diploma. The troop worked hard to get through it and the diploma will oftentimes end up forgotten in an “I-love-me” book.
School coins rank as high as they do because it takes far more effort to get one than just giving a proper salute to a general.
Impressing the most impressive men in military history at least gets you a beer.
3. Medal of Honor recipient coins
Not all, but many Medal of Honor recipients also have challenge coins that they can give to troops and vets.
Just shaking hands with one of America’s greatest is impressive enough. Getting a coin from one of them means that you will always choose the drink during a coin check.
There are also two exceptions to this ranking system that should also be taken into account should there ever be a tie or an appeal. A really cool unit coin can still beat a school coin if everyone in the group can agree that it meets these two criteria:
• Best design
If the coin is well-crafted and you can tell that the designer put plenty of heart into making such an outstanding coin, that person gets the boost.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mike Meares)
• Best backstory
Every coin should have a story to tell. If your story is something lame like, “I met this person and they gave me a coin,” you don’t lose points but it certainly doesn’t earn you any.
If the coin has some major significance, then you’re clearly the winner.
When a Taliban murder-suicide bomber killed two American troops with the 82nd Airborne Division, it particularly hit hard for one family. According to an Army Times report, the solider, Specialist Chris Harris, 25, of Jackson Springs, North Carolina, left behind a wife, Britt, who was expecting their first child.
The Defense Department reported that the August 2 attack that killed Spc. Harris also killed Sgt. Sgt. Jonathon Hunter, 23, of Columbus, Indiana ,and wounded four other troops. Both Harris and Hunter were with the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment based at Fort Bragg.
An online fund-raiser was launched on Aug. 3 on the crowd-funding site GoFundMe.com to help Britt keep a handle on bills and other expenses. As of 9:53 AM Eastern time on Aug. 4, the online fundraiser for Mrs. Harris had raised $35,570 from 782 donors.
The online fundraiser is not the only fundraiser on the way for Britt and her unborn child. According to the VA website, Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance offers a $400,000 death benefit for a monthly premium of $29.00.
While those benefits will kick in, words from the GoFundMe page still apply: “During this time, money should be the absolute least important thing on [Britt’s] mind. If you feel it in your heart to donate to this cause, it would be kindly appreciated.”