8 genius military uses for civilian products - We Are The Mighty
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8 genius military uses for civilian products

The Pentagon is using more equipment and technology from the civilian sector, but service members have been finding ingenious uses for civilian items for a long time.


1. Detecting tripwires: Silly String

8 genius military uses for civilian products
Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Ellen Keller

Tripwires have been a problem for centuries, but a modern toy has provided a solution. Silly String can be sprayed through open doors, windows, and other choke points to check for booby traps before soldiers and Marines move through.

2. Stopping bleeding: tampons

8 genius military uses for civilian products
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Tampons are known for stopping a certain kind of bleeding, but deployed service members realized that small tampons can plug a bullet hole, quickly controlling bleeding while the injured awaits a medical evacuation.

3. Marking bombs: flour and ear plugs

8 genius military uses for civilian products
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Once a mine or IED is found, its location has to be communicated to others. Some units will draw on the ground with flour from a squeeze bottle, making symbols that say the type of danger and its location.

Flour doesn’t work well in wet environments or anywhere the ground is a light beige or dirty white. There, disposable ear plugs can work better. Mine clearance will find a mine and drop a brightly colored ear plug on it. Soldiers following behind them know to watch out for these markers.

4. Cleaning weapons: baby wipes, cotton swabs, and dental scrapers

8 genius military uses for civilian products
Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Shahram Sharif

Weapons maintenance is important, but good materials can be hard to find. Still, some of the best cleaning can be done with baby wipes, cotton swabs, and dental scrapers. They’re used to wipe down surfaces, get to hard to reach areas, and remove burnt on carbon, respectively.

5. Sewing: dental floss

8 genius military uses for civilian products
Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Stilfehler

When uniforms rip, soldiers away from a base have to personally fix them. Dental floss is strong, easy to work with, and available to troops at the front. To make a sewing kit, troops throw floss in a cleaned out mint or dip can along with a couple of sewing needles.

6. Waterproofing: Soap dish or condoms

8 genius military uses for civilian products
Photo: Wikimedia Commons, josef325

A service member’s poncho should keep their gear dry, but even recruits in boot camp know better. Wallets, maps, and notebooks are better protected in a soap travel dish. When a dish isn’t available or an awkward items needs protected, condoms can be unrolled over them. This technique works well for waterproofing boots before crossing a stream.

7. Cleaning radio contacts: pencil eraser

8 genius military uses for civilian products
Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Evan-Amos

This one is so effective, it’s become official Army doctrine. The contact points where microphones or antennas meet with a radio can become tarnished and dirty. Erasers can get these spotless quickly, something which has been incorporated into Army manuals such as Field Manual 44-48, “Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for the Sensor Platoon.”

8. Making terrain models: marking chalk

8 genius military uses for civilian products
Photo: US Army Cheryl Rodewig

Marking chalk is that chalk contractors use with string to mark exactly where a wire should run or a cut should be made. The chalk doesn’t come attached to the string though, it comes in 5-gallon jugs. The military, which has to build sand tables that represent the terrain in their area of operations, realized they could use different colors of this chalk to make different colored sand. Water can be represented with blue, vegetation with green, and hazardous areas with red or yellow.

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Warriors in their Own Words: the Wild Weasels cleared enemy skies over Vietnam

During the Vietnam War, the Republic F-105 Thunderchief — affectionately known as the “Thud” — was one of the U.S. Air Force’s primary strike aircraft. But amidst mounting losses from North Vietnamese surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery, the Thud took on a new role — the Wild Weasel.

The Wild Weasels of the United States Air Force were some of the most courageous pilots in Vietnam. In a deadly game of cat and mouse, they flew fighter jets like the F-100, F-105 and F-4s deep into hostile airspace to coax the enemy into opening fire with their surface-to-air missiles. Once the Weasels located the site, other fighter bombers were called in to destroy the installations. In this episode of Warriors in their Own Words, Jerry Hoblit, Bill Sparks, Mike Gilroy, and Tom Wilson tell dramatic stories of their days as Wild Weasels.


8 genius military uses for civilian products

F-105s take off on a mission to bomb North Vietnam, 1966.

(USAF)

A history of the Wild Weasels

The F-105 was originally conceived as a single-seat, tactical nuclear strike-fighter. In the early days of the war, these single-seat variants, F-105D’s, flew strike missions with Combat Air Patrol provided by F-100s to defend against MiG fighters.

However, during Operation Rolling Thunder in 1965, North Vietnamese air defenses improved with the addition of Soviet-made SA-2 Guideline missiles.

8 genius military uses for civilian products

F-105 with Wild Weasel tail code carrying AGM-45 Shrike anti-radiation missile.

(USAF)

As American losses mounted from North Vietnamese SAMs and AAA, the decision was made to employ specialized F-100F two-seat fighters in a suppression role code-named “Wild Weasel.”

When the idea of flying directly into enemy air defenses was first briefed to the men flying the mission, an Electronic Warfare Officer gave the Wild Weasels their first motto by exclaiming,

“You gotta be sh*ttin’ me!”

After heavy losses in just seven weeks, it quickly became apparent that the F-100 was an insufficient aircraft to carry out the missions. The first Wild Weasel unit flying F-100’s was declared combat ineffective.

As luck would have it, Republic had produced two-seat trainer variants of the F-105 shortly before the end of the production run in 1964. These were quickly modified as the F-105F and rushed into the Wild Weasel role.

The newest Thud was also equipped to carry the first ever anti-radiation missile, the AGM-45 Shrike. These initial aircraft were designated Wild Weasel II.

Even with the improved F-105F, the tactics often remained the same as with the F-100. Using hunter-killer teams, a Wild Weasel aircraft would guide a flight of Thuds loaded with bombs and rockets to find the SAM sites and destroy them.

The Wild Weasel was essentially the bait.

Using their advanced radars and warning devices — or sometimes good ol’ drawing enemy fire — the Wild Weasels would “ferret out” the SAM sites, which then allowed the Thuds to come in and pulverize the position. This was often accomplished by simply following the missile’s smoke trail back to its launch site.

As the F-105F models were upgraded to G-models, known as Wild Weasel III, the Air Force began to change the tactics employed. The Wild Weasels would fly in ahead of a strike package to clear the area of SAMs, stay over the target during the bombing raid in order to attack any other SAMs or AAA that appeared, and then maintain their position until the bombers left the area, at which time they themselves would head for home as well.

This led to incredibly long, dangerous missions for the Wild Weasel crews–often three to five hours of intense flying in hostile air space. It also led to another motto for the Wild Weasels: “First In, Last Out.”

The Wild Weasel mission was exceedingly dangerous, but there was no shortage of brave, if not slightly crazy, volunteers willing to carry it out. Two Wild Weasel Thud pilots would be awarded the Medal of Honor for their gallantry in the air.

The first was awarded to Maj. Merlyn Dethlefsen for his actions on March 10, 1967.

Dethlefsen was flying number 3 in a Wild Weasel flight codenamed Lincoln assigned to protect a strike package of F-105Ds on a mission to hit the Thai Nguyen steel factory.

As his flight entered the target area, the lead engaged in a duel with a SAM site but was shot down while his wingman, Lincoln 02, was put out of action by flak. This left Dethlefsen and his wingman, Lincoln 04, to deal with the SAMs in the area. As Dethlefsen dove for an attack on the SAM site, he was jumped by two MiG-21 fighters.

Dodging two enemy missiles, he fled for cover in the enemy’s flak zone, betting that his pursuers wouldn’t follow. He again pressed the attack on the SAM and was again driven off by the fighters, his Thud absorbing several 37mm cannon shells.

As the strike package egressed from the area Dethlefsen decided to try one more time to destroy the SAM site. Leading his wingman in, he fired his AGM-45 and destroyed the radar. With the defenses down, the two Thuds pummeled the site with their bomb loads.

For good measure Dethlefsen rolled over and strafed the site with his 20mm cannon.

The second Medal of Honor was awarded to Lt. Col. Leo Thorsness for his actions on April 19, 1967. While leading a Wild Weasel mission of F-105’s, Thorsness and his wingman attacked and destroyed a SAM with missiles. Spotting another SAM, they proceeded to move in and destroy it with their bomb loads.

However, Thorsness’ wingman was shot down in the attack. The two crewmen bailed out and as they descended, Thorsness circled them to provide protection and maintain sight for the inbound rescue crews. As he did this, a MiG-17 approached.

Thorsness quickly responded and blasted the MiG with his 20mm cannon, sending it to the ground. As the rescue crews approached the scene, Thorsness peeled off to refuel; however, hearing of more MiG-17’s in the area, he quickly returned to the fight. Seeing the enemy fighters attempting a wagon wheel maneuver, he drove straight in and raked a MiG as it crossed his path.

Thorsness bugged out on afterburners at low-level to avoid the pursuing fighters. Eventually Thorsness was forced to return to base, almost out of fuel. He put his plane into a “glide” and landed at a forward air base with empty tanks.

Eventually high losses and improving technology would see many F-105’s replaced by the newer F-4 Phantom II in the Wild Weasel and strike roles, though F-105G’s continued to operate as Wild Weasels through the end of the war.

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Pro baseball players should follow Olympians’ example during the National Anthem

8 genius military uses for civilian products
(Photo: fansided.com)


One of the great things about the Olympics is seeing the unabated pride of a gold medal athlete when Old Glory is hoisted and the anthem is played. Major League Baseball players should take note.

I get it; you guys go through pre-game rituals 172 times every summer and some of it has lost its meaning on them. But that doesn’t mean that during the National Anthem you get to chew gum, talk to your friends, shuffle your feet, check your Facebook status, wink at your girlfriends, scratch yourselves, or do anything that would come across as showing anything other than complete respect for our country, our flag, and those who sacrificed so much to allow you to stand on that diamond and make a luxurious living playing a game.

It might be just another of 172 games to you, but it’s the only game to a lot of people and can mean the world to them. The guy singing the Star-Spangled Banner is giddy and nervous beyond measure for his one chance to sing in the big leagues. The color guard is honored to hold Old Glory in front of 40,000 people. A specially selected person gets to throw out the first pitch for the one and only time he or she ever will. The young guy in the sweet seats behind first base is freaking out at how much he spent in the hopes of impressing his date. These people found it in their hearts to spend their hard earned money to support and respect you. Take a moment to do the same.

It’s not even three minutes. Even in this attention deficit world, you can stand still, be quiet, and dedicate three minutes of your precious life to those who sacrificed so much for it. Maybe in that time you’ll find a little pride in being American and some pride in the country that gave you the opportunity to be someone better than you would have been anywhere else. Maybe you’ll shed a tear like the rest of us.

Think about the people watching you and the kind of example you’re setting for them: veterans who have sacrificed for that flag, kids who dream to be like you, and the plain old hard working patriotic citizens who sing every word. You used your abilities to earn a spot in the show, and I’m eternally proud of you for it. Because of you, I get to forget about life for a few hours to cheer you on as I dream of being out there myself. But more importantly, I’m proud of the country that gives adults the opportunity to make ten times the national average income to play a game. Now return the favor show some respect for it. All 172 times.

Olympic athletes are proud and reverent. They yearn to hear the national anthem played after they’ve won their event because it’s a reward in itself. Maybe that’s what Major League Baseball needs to do. Maybe the winning team gets the privilege of staying on the field and listening to the anthem while the other team heads to the dugout. Maybe the anthem needs to be a reward instead of automatic. It’ll never happen, but it would make it a little more special for everyone if it did.

Kelly Crigger is a retired lieutenant colonel and the author of “Curmudgeonism; A Surly Man’s Guide to Midlife.”

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This presidential nominee’s campaign was tanked by a tank

In the 1988 presidential campaign, Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, the Democratic nominee for President, had a problem: he needed to look credible as a commander-in-chief during a time when Democrats were being criticized for their defense policies.


Throughout the 1980s, the Reagan Administration had been pushing through a major peace-time military build-up.

According to CQ Researcher, a large portion of the Democrats in Congress had opposed that build-up in the 1984 elections. That caused the perception that the Democrats were being weak on defense, which led to Reagan’s 49-state landslide.

Dukakis had been among those who were critical of the buildup, the mainstays of which — the B-1B Lancer, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, and a host of other weapon systems – are in service today (with a few exceptions).

 

8 genius military uses for civilian products
An E-2C Hawkeye early warning and control aircraft flies over the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zackary Alan Landers/Released)

Worse, according to a 2013 article in Politico, during the month of August, Dukakis had gone from leading Vice President George H.W. Bush by 17 points to trailing him, and one big reason was that 54 percent of Americans felt that then-Vice President Bush would do a better job on national security, while only 18 percent thought Dukakis would.

To counter that, Dukakis went on a swing that discussed defense, but one event was marked by defense workers jeering him. Then, he went on a visit to a General Dynamics plant in Michigan where he planned to ride in an M1 Abrams tank, a key part of the buildup that Democrats had criticized.

8 genius military uses for civilian products
Aerial drone image of an M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank crew. (Dept. of Defense image)

 

However, to do the ride, Dukakis was told he had to wear protective headgear. He did so, and ended up sealing his fate.

Within a week, the photo of Dukakis in the helmet had become a joke (think Kushner in his vest), but the worst was to come when operatives with Bush’s campaign developed an attack ad. Using 11 seconds of footage, they highlighted Dukakis’s opposition to the Reagan buildup and foreign policy.

Dukakis, who had already been trailing, and already saw 25 percent of Americans less likely to vote for him, was now in freefall. He eventually lost the 1988 election by seven million votes.

You can see a video by Politico on the infamous tank ride below.

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Exclusive interview with US Naval Undersea Museum curator Mary Ryan

Mary Ryan has been the curator at the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum since October 2010. As curator, she leads the museum’s exhibit program, shapes the artifact collection, and connects the public to the museum’s rich subject matter. Mary has worked for 15 years as a curator, interpretive planner, and exhibit developer creating exhibitions and interpretive plans for museums and historic sites across the country. She earned her Master’s Degree in History Museum Studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Cooperstown, New York, and completed her undergraduate training in science and anthropology at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.

WATM: How did you decide to become a curator and a steward of our Nation’s history?

8 genius military uses for civilian products
Screen capture from YouTube

I discovered the museum field at a crossroads in my life, shortly after deciding not to attend medical school. I was immediately drawn to curatorial work — it’s intellectually challenging, always interesting and artifacts and exhibits have such power to tell meaningful stories. After completing a museum internship with an excellent mentor, I earned my graduate degree in history museum studies in 2008 and have worked as a curatorial and exhibit developer ever since.

When I joined the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum staff as curator in 2010, I didn’t know how much I would come to love the subject matter — the history, science, innovation and human ingenuity of the undersea communities is fascinating. I’ve met the most incredible people working here. It’s a privilege to do this job and serve these communities.

WATM: The U.S. Naval Undersea Museum was closed for COVID; what can attendees expect on their tour as it reopens?

We’re thrilled to share we reopened on May 24! We are excited to welcome visitors back to the museum. Initially, our open hours will be 10 AM to 4 PM on Monday, Wednesday through Friday, with weekend hours to resume as state and federal guidelines continue to expand.

Because the safety of our visitors, volunteers and staff is our top priority, we have implemented extra safety measures at the museum. We will be using a reservation system to ensure capacity stays within state guidelines (visitors can make a reservation here), disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces and limiting group sizes to 10 or fewer people. And for the short term, our exhibit interactives have been converted into touchless experiences. As always, there are no admission or parking fees to visit!

WATM: What virtual content do you have available?

We have a mix of virtual content for different ages and interests! We post social media content several times a week on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts — lots of “this day in history” posts, sailor profiles, artifact features, STEM activities, behind the scenes content. In the past five years, our virtual community has grown to more than 20,000 people across our platforms. 

Our virtual 3D tour lets anyone explore our exhibit galleries from any location. Having a virtual tour became an invaluable resource while we were closed during the pandemic. Now that we’re reopening, it makes the museum accessible to many people who can’t visit us in person. A handful of our artifacts have been turned into highly detailed, interactive 3D models by The Arc/k Project, and more than 500 artifacts are digitized on our Flickr page.

8 genius military uses for civilian products
Master Diver Carl Brashear (via the museum’s Flickr)

And of course, our website is full of virtual content! Users can explore our online exhibit offerings, including our newest exhibit about Master Diver Carl Brashear, whose story was made famous by the movie Men of Honor. For families, our educator has created an extensive series of at-home STEM activities using common household objects. And for a look inside our artifact collection, users can visit our featured artifacts page to learn more about highlights from the collection.

WATM: What are some upcoming virtual events readers shouldn’t miss out on?

This past February we staged our biggest education program of the year, Discover E Day, entirely online. Following up on that success, our educator has teamed up with several local Navy groups to offer two virtual Navy STEM summer camp sessions July 13–15 and August 10–12. Families of local kids who will be in grades 3–8 this fall can email psns_kypt_stem.fct@navy.mil for more information or to register; it’s free and all learning will happen via Zoom.

I would definitely encourage readers to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — we’re most active there and always posting new content! Keep an eye on our website, too, as we’re developing a new online collections page that will share digitized documents and finding aid for archival collections.

8 genius military uses for civilian products
A photo from 2020’s “Discover E” Day (via the museum’s Flickr)

WATM: How can the public support the museum on its mission?

Our mission is to connect people to the U.S. naval undersea experience. Anyone who engages with our subject matter by learning about naval undersea history, technology, operations and people — whether through us or on their own — is supporting our mission.

As a federal organization, the museum is supported by a non-profit foundation that raises funds for education programs, new exhibits and artifact care and conservation. Their support allows us to take on projects that aren’t or can’t be funded by federal funding. Members of the public can support the museum by making a donation or becoming a foundation member.

We are lucky to have wonderful public support from the local community. Our volunteer corps includes more than 50 veterans, retired Navy civilians and community members that give generously of their time and expertise. Their contributions are almost immeasurable, and include greeting visitors, giving tours, operating the museum store, working with artifacts, supporting education programs and helping to build and install exhibits. Locals who are interested in joining our volunteer corps can learn more here.

WATM: Do you have anything you would like to say to the veteran and military audience?

8 genius military uses for civilian products
Retired Master Chief Machinist Mate Harry Gilger, one of many veterans volunteering at the museum (image courtesy of navalunderseamuseum.org)

Sharing the stories of undersea Navy veterans is an essential aspect of our work! There’s a lot we can’t say as a Navy organization because it’s not publicly cleared, but that just means we work harder to amplify the stories we can share.

We meet so many veterans at the museum and it’s an honor to be a place they can reminisce or show their families more about what they did in the Navy. To all the veterans out there, please come say “hi” if you visit the museum! Many of the volunteers who staff our lobby are veterans themselves. And if there is any way we can be of assistance, please reach out anytime!

WATM: What is next for you and the museum?

Every summer we host a popular education program called Summer STEAM, which offers hands-on science, technology, engineering, art and math activities for kids. Summer STEAM will be back this July and August with a twist: this year families can pick up activity kits to take home! Our educators and volunteers have been hard at work assembling kits to make this possible.

And coming next spring, we’ll open a new temporary exhibit called “Giving Voice to the Silent Service.” It’s an inside look at the strong collective identity that submariners share. While it centers on the submarine community, many of the ideas will resonate with anyone who served. This was one of the most interesting and fun exhibits I have ever developed and I can’t wait to see it come to life in our exhibit galleries!

Readers can follow future developments at our website, www.navalunderseamuseum.org.


Feature image: photo courtesy of navalunderseamuseum.org

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Mattis speaks out on Marine Corps’ nude photo scandal

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis released a statement condemning alleged sharing of nude photos by US military personnel, saying such behavior is “unacceptable and counter to unit cohesion.”


“The purported actions of civilian and military personnel on social media websites, including some associated with the Marines United group and possibly others, represent egregious violations of the fundamental values we uphold at the Department of Defense,” Mattis said, according to a statement obtained by Andrew deGrandpre at Military Times.

Related: Marines’ nude photo scandal is even worse than first realized

The statement comes just one day after Business Insider reported that every military branch had been affected by the nude-photo-sharing scandal, not just the Marine Corps.

Mattis added that the Pentagon was “taking all appropriate action” to investigate any wrongful behavior carried out by active-duty service members.

“Lack of respect for the dignity and humanity of fellow service members of the Department of Defense is unacceptable and counter to unit cohesion,” Mattis said. “We will not excuse or tolerate such behavior if we are to uphold our values and maintain our ability to defeat the enemy on the battlefield.”

8 genius military uses for civilian products
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis answers questions from the press during a flight to South Korea., Feb. 1, 2017. | US Army photo by Sgt. Amber I. Smith

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller similarly condemned such behavior on Tuesday, saying in a video, “When I hear allegations of Marines denigrating their fellow Marines, I don’t think such behavior is that of true warriors or warfighters.”

The Pentagon has come under fire from the media and congressional leaders in recent days, especially after Business Insider reported that the scandal that prompted an investigation into hundreds of Marines who were accused of sharing naked photographs of their colleagues in a private Facebook group was found to be much larger than previously thought.

Also read: US troops may take prominent role in attacking ISIS capital

The practice of sharing such photos goes beyond the Marine Corps and one Facebook group. Hundreds of nude photos of female service members from every military branch have been posted to an image-sharing message board that dates back to at least May. A source informed Business Insider of the site’s existence on Tuesday.

The site, called AnonIB, has a dedicated board for military personnel that features dozens of threaded conversations among men, many of whom ask for “wins” — naked photographs — of specific female service members, often identifying the women by name or where they are stationed.

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9 fictional characters that would make great drinking buddies

Picking a reliable drinking buddy in the military is a difficult decision to make. You don’t want someone who brings too much drama to the table, but you also don’t want someone who isn’t interesting.


Since drinking is about having fun and getting to know other people, having someone who can serve as an awesome wingman can make your evening out that much better.

Related: 7 reasons why ‘Top Gun’ made you want to become a fighter pilot

Check out our list of fictional drinking buddies we’d like to toss a few back with.

1. Gunny Highway (Heartbreak Ridge)

He can eat concertina wire, piss napalm, and put a round through a flea’s ass at 200 meters. We’d love to see that after tossing a few back.

8 genius military uses for civilian products
He also probably brings beer to the field. (Source: WB/ Screenshot)

2. Topper Harley (Hot Shots! Part Deux)

Because a fighter who battles his competition with gummy bears and sprinkles honey-glued to his fists, better know how to hold his liquor.

8 genius military uses for civilian products
We would have chosen crushed jolly ranchers and jaw-breakers bits. (Source: Fox/Screenshot)

3. Col. Walter E. Kurtz (Apocalypse Now)

For someone who was bat-sh*t crazy and a genius at the same time — you know he has some crazy drinking stories to tell.

8 genius military uses for civilian products
A diamond through your brain? That’s cool. (Source: MGM/Screenshot)

4. Lt. Aldo Raine (Inglourious Basterds)

This guy snorts tobacco and cuts Nazi swastikas into his enemy’s foreheads. Why wouldn’t you want him as your drinking buddy?

8 genius military uses for civilian products
Plus, it would take a few beers before we’d ask him how he got that badass scar on his throat. (Source: Weinstein Company/ Screenshot)

5. Animal Mother (Full Metal Jacket)

After smashing a few shots, he’d be the first guy to have your back during a bar brawl.

8 genius military uses for civilian products
I need a beer! (Source: WB/Screenshot)

6. Pvt. Valentine (Private Valentine: Blonde Dangerous)

Since she’s a “looker,” she’ll be able to bring her hot friends to the bar for you to meet. It’s a win-win situation.

8 genius military uses for civilian products
She wears that shirt well. (Source: Oasis Films/ Screenshot)

7. Bill Kilgore (Apocalypse Now)

This Army renegade loves the smell of napalm in the morning and killing the enemy while shirtless. You know he has some epic stories that only come out with some expensive scotch.

8 genius military uses for civilian products
(Source: MGM/Screenshot)

8. Gunny Hartman (Full Metal Jacket)

Before his untimely murder in the first act, this fair but tough drill instructor probably had some hilarious stories of how he used to mind f*ck Marine recruits.

8 genius military uses for civilian products
I ordered a double whiskey you miserable puke! (Source: WB/ Screenshot)

Also Read: 7 life lessons we learned from Gunny Highway in ‘Heartbreak Ridge’

9. Maverick (Top Gun)

Who else would be your wingman at the bar, fly inverted, and then go buzz the tower during the after party with you?

8 genius military uses for civilian products

Who would be on your list of drinking buddies? Comment below.

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9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

Everyone has heard the phrase “cash is king” but that’s not always the case when troops are deployed overseas.


When service members deploy to remote areas, they enter a barter economy where cash loses value since there is nearly nowhere to spend it. But a shortage of consumer goods drives up the value of many commodities.

Some troops — call them blue falcons or businessmen — will stockpile these commodities for a profit.

1. Cigarettes

Among vets, even non-smokers stockpile cigarettes. They’re easy to trade, hold their value for weeks, and are always in demand. Plus, sellers can reap great profits after patrols. A smoker who lost their cigarettes in a river is not going to haggle the price down if they won’t reach a store for days.

2. Dip

8 genius military uses for civilian products
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/OAC

Similar to cigarettes, the addictive nature of dip means it’s always in demand. Dip is slightly harder than cigarettes to trade since users can’t easily break a can into smaller units. But, since troops can’t always smoke on patrol and smoking in government buildings is prohibited, dipping is sometimes the better method of nicotine consumption.

3. Energy drinks (especially “rare” ones)

8 genius military uses for civilian products

Part of the reason tobacco is so popular is that it’s a stimulant, something that is desperately needed on deployments. Energy drinks are the other main stimulant that is widely traded. They have different value tiers though.

Drinks the military provides, like Rip-Its, are worth less since they’re easy to get. Monsters are generally available for purchase on large bases. So, they’re are easy to trade but still command high value. Foreign-made drinks, which pack a great kick, can sometimes be found in the local economy and demand the greatest price.

4. Beef jerky

8 genius military uses for civilian products
Mmmmm…..

High in protein and salt, jerky is great for marches and patrols. It’s easy to carry and shelf-stable. Troops can trade individual pieces if they want to buy something cheap or use whole bags for large purchases.

5. “Surplus” gear

8 genius military uses for civilian products
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith

Every time a unit does inventory, someone is missing something. But, service members with lots of extra cigarettes can always buy someone’s “surplus” gear to replace what they’re missing. Prices vary, of course. Missing earplugs are cheap, but eye protection is expensive.

The only things that can’t be purchased are those tracked by serial number. Replacing something with a serial number requires help from the E-4 mafia.

6. Hard drives (the contents)

8 genius military uses for civilian products
Photo: US Air Force Airman Taylor Queen

Nearly everyone deployed has a computer drive with TV episodes and movies from back home. Old movies are traded for free, but getting new stuff requires the rare dependable internet connection or a care package with DVDs. Those who have digital gold will share new shows in exchange for other items or favors.

7. Electrical outlets

Electrical safety Army currencies Marine Corps deployed trades trading Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Johann H. Addicks

These work on a subscription basis. In many tents, there are only a few outlets hooked up to the generator. So, entrepreneurs snatch up real estate with an outlet, buy a power strip, and sell electrical access. The proliferation of portable solar panels is cutting down on this practice.

8. Lighters and matches

Matches are distributed in some MREs, but not as much as they used to be. Lighters are available for purchase at most bases. Still, service members at far-flung outposts are sometimes hurting for ways to light their tobacco. Smart shoppers save up their matches and buy up Bics while near base exchanges, then sell them in outlying areas.

9. Girl Scout cookies

8 genius military uses for civilian products
Photo: DoD by Capt. Andrew Adcock

Girl Scout cookies come in waves. Every few weeks, boxes will show up in every office on a forward operating base. Resupply convoys will grab dozens to take out to their troops in the field. But, as the days tick by, inventories will wane. This is especially true of top types like Caramel deLites and Thin Mints.

The trick is to store the boxes after the delivery comes in, and then trade them for needed items when everyone else has run dry. A box of Tagalongs can wrangle a trader two cans of dip if they time it right.

NOW: 18 terms only soldiers will understand

OR: 19 of the coolest military unit mottos

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5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever

As the saying goes, “a man’s home is his castle.”


While this rings true for people who own a house, it was even more important for the leader in charge of a kingdom, an empire or even a republic. The reason for this is that the man in the “high castle” had much a stake. So to make sure that the country is strong, a king would build a fortress — or a wall with many fortresses — to project the centralized strength and influence of his nation throughout his realm and beyond.

Understand that a fortress is not just a building with a certain amount of walls and towers, but also can be a wall. Below is a list of the strongest fortresses ever built in the history of the world.

5. Masada, Israel

On a rocky plateau situated on a hill in southern Israel near the edge of the Judean desert, one can find the fortress of Masada. Almost all information on Masada and the siege that took place comes from the first-century Jewish Roman historian Josephus.

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The fortress of Masada withstood a year-long siege by Roman Gov. Lucius Flavius Silva. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In 66 AD, the Kingdom of Judea was in upheaval over Rome’s prolonged occupation and revolted. In doing so, a small group of rebels known as the Sicarii captured Masada after slaughtering its Roman garrison. In 72 AD, Lucius Flavius Silva, commander of the Legio X Fretensis, laid siege to Masada.

To reach the top, Lucius gave the order to build a massive ramp that was 375 feet high and 450 feet long. Once the legionaries made it to the top, they rolled the siege engines in and battered Masada’s walls until they fell.

Once inside, the Romans didn’t find an enemy in sight. Rather, they found over 900 dead. Only two women and five children survived.

4. Great Wall of Gorgan, Parthian/Sassanid Empire

The Great Wall of Gorgan is a fortress that remains mostly unknown. Located in northeastern Iran, the wall stretches from the Caspian Sea to the Kopet Dag Mountain Range. In total, the wall was 121 miles long.

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The Great Wall of Gorgan. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The date of its construction is disputed. Some say it is 1,000 years older than the Great Wall of China. While little is known about the wall, the Parthians (247 BCE – 224 AD) who ruled Iran, are said to have built on the original remains of the wall.

The original height and width is unknown, but when the Sassanid Empire (224–651) overthrew the Parthians they repaired, enlarged, and added fortresses to the wall. The height of the Gorgan wall has yet to be determined. The width of the wall was between 20 to 30 feet wide and featured 30 fortresses.

What made this wall significant was that for many centuries it prevented nomads from the north, like the Dahae, Massagetae, Hephthalites and other various nomadic elements from getting in.

3. Hadrian’s Wall, England/Scotland

Hadrian’s Wall is well known to most casual students of history.

The Roman Emperor Hadrian in 122 AD ordered for the construction of the wall along with 16 fortresses garrisoned with static troops. The length of the wall expanded from the Irish Sea to the banks of the River Tyne near the North Sea — a distance of 73 miles.

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The author walking on Hadrian’s Wall in Great Britain. (Photo courtesy Cam Rea)

The purpose of the wall is obvious, but as to why it was constructed, remains disputed. The reason for this is that there is no clear evidence that suggests Roman Britain, south of the future wall, was under any real substantial threats — even though there had been some minor rebellions in the province and within the Roman Empire. This was probably the reason why Hadrian built the wall — as a symbol and reminder that it is best to separate one from the barbarians.

Hadrian’s Wall would provide Roman Britain security from the Celtic/Pictish tribes in the north until Rome abandoned Britannia in 410 AD.

2. Walls of Constantinople

In 324 AD, Emperor Constantine I moved the capital from Rome to the small port town of Byzantium and renamed it Constantinople. The reason for this move was to be closer to the eastern portion of the Roman Empire due to its lucrative trade.

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To ensure the safety of this second Rome, Constantine issued an order to build of a wall. The Wall of Constantine was laid out in a series of four rows, with the inner two featuring towers 50 feet apart.

While very effective in repelling invaders, the Roman Emperor Theodosius II decided to expand the walls. The Theodosian Walls consisted of two — an inner and outer wall — which consisted of 96 towers. The inner wall was 40 feet high while the outer wall stood at 30 feet high.

The walls of Constantinople paid off for many centuries and were able to throw back 12 sieges from 559-1203 AD. However, the city was captured in 1204 during the fourth crusade, but afterward was able to withstand five more sieges until that fateful day in 1453, when the Ottoman Turks bashed down the walls and captured the city.

1. Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China needs no introduction. Many assume that the Great Wall was built and finished during the lifetime of a Chinese emperor. Instead it was constructed by multiple emperors over 1,000 years.

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The height, length, and thickness of the wall — or walls — vary, depending on which emperor built it and how much they could afford.

For example, once the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) pushed out the Mongols, they set about to expand and enlarge the Great Wall. The total length of the Great Wall under the Ming was over 5,000 miles long and 25 feet high and 15 – 30 feet thick at the base. If one were to take the wall and line it up, the length would be over 13,000 miles, according to study in 2012.

While the Great Wall looks good, it provided only temporary protection. The problem was that due to its size, it was too cumbersome and too costly to man.

The purpose of the Wall was to keep nomads out from the north. Instead, it kept the people of China isolated within and the wars that came with it.

The Mongols, however, just went around it during their invasion in 1211. The Ming would later enhance the wall, but it didn’t make a difference when the Manchu invaded in 1644.

From that point on, the Great Wall was more of a monument to look upon with amazement.

 

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The Veteran Community Gives ‘American Sniper’ A Huge Thumbs Up


At a recent screening in Hollywood, “American Sniper” received overwhelming praise from the veteran community for “getting it right.”

Also Read: ‘Canadian Sniper’ Is A Hilarious Parody Version Of ‘American Sniper’ 

On Monday, students of the Los Angeles Film School and members of the Veterans in film Television organization were treated to a special screening of American Sniper followed by QA session. Panelists included cast members Luke Grimes, Ricky Ryba, Tony Nevada, and screenwriter Jason Hall.

The special event included behind the scenes footage that showed the magic behind moviemaking and the experience of working on such a riveting story.

“This was my first big roll on a big major film, so for me it was an amazing experience,” said Navy veteran-turned actor Ricky Ryba. “You’d actually be really surprised with the similarities in the military and how things are run on set. To me, that relates to the chain of command. I was used to that, and just the professionalism that you get in the military. You bring it over to the set and they love it.”

Most of the veterans who attended the screening loved the movie, and the QA that offered a behind-the-scenes view into the moviemaking process.

“The QA was amazing, for me as a veteran and how it relates to my experience, I got a lot out of it,” one veteran said.

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9 essential items soldiers should have in their barracks rooms

1. Water filter

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Photo: Youtube.com


Soldiers drink enough crappy water in the field when a lieutenant decides the platoon needs to practice using iodine tablets. While relaxing in the barracks, they need a decent filter. Pitcher filters allow the water to chill in the fridge, but faucet-mounted units provide water on demand.

2. Headphones

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Photo: US Army

No one wants to hear their roommates’ music, movie, or video game, so headphones should be on everyone’s list.

3. Coffeemaker

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Photo: Youtube.com

For a cup of coffee before PT, the DFAC is no help. Plus, coffee in the room is great for troops during lazy weekends when throwing on a hoodie and walking to chow is too much work. A cheap coffee maker allows a soldier to create their own brew on demand. For those under strict barracks policies against coffee makers, French presses aren’t forbidden and are nearly as easy to use.

4. Hot plate

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Photo: Flickr.com/George Alexander Ishida Newman

The DFAC won’t serve grilled cheese at 2 a.m. on a Saturday morning when soldiers are craving it. Hot plates with a couple of pans allow for diner quality meals at home. For those who only grill, griddles allow for mass production or George Foreman grills are good for chicken and hot dogs. Keep an eye out for inspections however, since few commands allow hotplates. Some barracks now have stoves, so troops there can just buy pans.

5. Rugs (or a carpet for the swanky)

Rugs and carpets hide a lot of the stuff first sergeant looks for on the floor, and they grab up lots of the hair and debris that forms dust bunnies. Plus, carpet is more comfortable on sensitive toes after a long ruck march.

6. Vacuum

Vaccum cleaner for the barracks automated Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Nohau

Of course, carpets and rugs necessitate vacuums. There’s only a few hundred square feet to cover though, so a cheap vacuum is generally fine. Roombas can wait until the soldier marries out of the barracks.

7. Family photos, whether of a real family or not

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Evil Erin

Units want to see that soldiers are settling into the barracks, and that means personal items should be up on the walls. If the family is normal, the trooper can put up actual photos. For those with hot sisters and creepy roommates, a trip to a stock image site could be helpful. Just print and frame.

8. Plunger/Toilet Brush

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Photo: Youtube.com

Troops go to the field, even the human administration folks. They are fed MREs. They need a plunger, and they need a toilet brush.

9. Tons of cleaning wipes and air fresheners

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Surprise inspections center on a few things. 1. Dishes in the sink. 2. Dust accumulated on ledges. 3. Smells. The dishes are simple enough. The best way to deal with dust and any odd smells is to stock up on cleaning wipes and air freshener. The wipes make cleaning the lips of door frames and the fridge easy, dealing with the dust. Air freshener helps the room at least smell clean so first sergeant will move on to the next area.

EXTRA BONUS: A hot tub.

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Photo: Terminal Lance/Facebook

Because that’s how you win at barracks life.

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World’s only civilian-owned Harrier will join Syracuse Airshow to honor fallen Blue Angel pilot

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Joe Anderson prepares for his performance at the Cleveland National Air Show in 2014 | Photo by Skeet Shooter


The 2016 Syracuse Airshow in Western New York was originally supposed to feature the US Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron as their headlining act, but with the loss of their Opposing Solo pilot Jeff “Kooch” Kuss (Blue Angel #6), the team withdrew from shows for the time being and returned to NAS Pensacola, Florida to grieve their fallen teammate and to determine the best course of action for the remainder of this airshow season.

The show’s other acts include the US Army’s Golden Knights parachute demonstration team, as well as the F-16 Viper demo and the GEICO Skytypers, but without the Blues, the lineup feels a little empty, especially with the incredibly sad reason for their cancellation. However, the show will most certainly go on, according to Syracuse’s organizers, now dedicated to the memory of the deceased Blue Angel. Profits from the show will be going towards the Kuss family in their time of need.

Now, the world’s only civilian Sea Harrier airshow team will be pitching in after a last-minute request from Syracuse’s organizers to assist with the show. Featuring a retired US Marine, Lieutenant Colonel Art Nalls, Team SHAR as they’re more popularly known, will be bringing their gray Sea Harrier and an L-39 Albatros to New York where they’ll perform for a reduced fee, and will also donate a considerable portion to Kuss’s family.

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Art Nalls at the Cleveland National Air Show

“A very busy weekend for our team. At 10:30 pm on Friday, I received a phone [call] … The show wants to continue, dedicated to the memory of Capt Kuss. ALL profits are going to support the family of Capt Kuss. Can we be there to support them?” Nalls says on his personal Facebook page. “Of course we’ll be there,” he enthusiastically replies. Team SHAR, having recently completed a demonstration, was in a stand down state of their own, as they didn’t have another scheduled performance for a while. Their aircraft required maintenance, their truck was in the process of being serviced, and the support trailer was also in the middle of being worked on.

But when the organizers called, Team SHAR kicked into high gear and readied themselves to roll out to support the show. “Emails were flying all weekend to get a quorum of mechs, driver, pilots, and planes ready,” said Nalls. The former Harrier pilot flies with Major General Joe Anderson, a man instrumental in helping to successfully integrate the AV-8A Harrier into the Marine Corps’ air wings. Anderson retired in 2001, while Nalls retired in 1998… both much before Kuss earned his commission as an Officer of Marines in 2006. However, the brotherhood that links the three Marine aviators transcends time, and Team SHAR’s willingness without hesitation to help out with the Syracuse show for the benefit of Kuss’s family truly  demonstrates the spirit of “Semper Fidelis”, the Latin motto of the Marine Corps which translates to “Always Faithful”.

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As Art aptly puts it, “While the airshow industry is indeed a business, it’s actually much more for the performers, supporters, and promoters. It’s more like a family.” If you can be there at Syracuse this coming weekend (June 10-12), please consider making your way over to the show. Though the previous headlining act has been canceled, Nalls Aviation expressed that they want people to continue to purchase tickets for the show, knowing that even though they won’t see the Blues perform, their money will go to do good for the family. It’s for a fantastic cause, and you’re bound to see some incredible flying and airmanship from some extremely gifted aviators.

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This is who wins in a dogfight between the French Rafale and the Eurofighter

While the F-35 has been in the headlines and the F-22 is perhaps the most dominant jet in the sky, there are some other advanced jets in the air that are not from the U.S., Russia or China. Two of them are the French-designed Dassault Rafale and the multi-national Eurofighter Typhoon.


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A Royal Air Force Typhoon in 2012. Peter Gronemann/Flickr photo

The Rafale is a purely French design. The French did face the challenge of coming up with a fighter meant to not only replace older Mirage fighters for the French air force, it also had to operate from the French navy’s aircraft carrier, the Charles De Gaulle, replacing aging F-8 Crusaders and the venerable Super Etendard.

According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Rafale has a top speed of 1,190 miles per hour, a range of 1,150 miles, can carry almost 21,000 pounds of ordnance, and is equipped with a 30mm cannon. Among the ordnance it can carry are Mica air-to-air missiles, the ASMP nuclear cruise missile, the Exocet anti-ship missile, laser-guided bombs, rocket pods, and various dumb bombs.

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A French Dassault Rafale performs a touch-and-go landing. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Denny Cantrell)

The Eurofighter Typhoon, on the other hand, is a joint design primarily from the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy. Those same countries teamed up to create the Panavia Tornado, an aircraft that had air-defense, strike, and “Wild Weasel” versions. The Eurofighter team was a bit larger as this time, Spain joined in.

MilitaryFactory.com notes that the Typhoon has a range of 1,802 miles and a top speed of 1,550 miles per hour. It can carry 16,500 pounds of ordnance, and has a 27mm cannon. It carries a very wide array of weapons, including the AIM-120 AMRAAM, the AIM-132 ASRAAM, the IRIS-T air-to-air missile, the MDBA Meteor air-to-air missile, the S-225 air-to-air missile, the Brimstone anti-tank missile, the AGM-88 HARM, the ALARM, laser-guided bombs, dumb bombs, and even land-attack missiles like the Storm Shadow and KEPD 350.

Perhaps the only thing the Eurofighter can’t carry is the kitchen sink.

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A bomb-laden Royal Air Force Typhoon F.2 fighter takes off for an evening mission here June 3 during Green Flag 08-07. During Green Flag, the RAF proved the Typhoons’ air-to-ground capabilities and combat readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chief Master Sgt. Gary Emery)

Which plane is more likely to win in a head-to-head fight? Given the wider variety of ordnance, including long-range air-to-air missiles like the S-225 and Meteor, the Eurofighter has an edge – at least when it comes to land bases. The Rafale, though, can operate from an aircraft carrier, and that gives France a very potent naval aviation arm.

Check out the video below to see how these planes stack up.

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