Christmas time is here and that means spending a lot of time on Amazon.com looking for the best gift ideas for your friends, family, and other loved ones. This year, the armed forces could use a few gifts that you can’t buy online. These are a few things the U.S. Navy would like to find under the tree this holiday season:
6. Two repaired destroyers
2017 saw the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) damaged badly in collisions. While nothing can undo the tragic loss of the 17 sailors killed in the collisions, undoing the hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of hull damage would make a nice gift.
5. More hulls in the water
As of today, the Navy has 279 deployable ships. This is the lowest total since 1916. While these ships are very capable, they are not capable of being in two places at once.
4. Beefed-up carrier air wings
Thirty years ago, the cutting-edge air wing was composed of 24 F-14 Tomcats, 24 F/A-18 Hornets, and 15 A-6 Intruders. Today, it’s 48 F/A-18C Hornets and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. The Navy no longer has a carrier-borne, anti-submarine warfare aircraft – the S-3 Viking has been retired. A good replacement would be a second squadron of F-35C Lightnings per carrier.
3. More submarines
Russia is becoming a resurgent threat in the Arctic and the only warships that can be sent to counter it are nuclear-powered attack submarines. The United States currently commissions one or two Virginia-class submarines per year. Another sub or two per year would be a welcome Christmas present.
2. Real guided-missile frigates
The fact is, the Littoral Combat Ship is a nice pickup – for the Coast Guard. The Navy would have done a lot better to replace the Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigates with something like Spain’s Alvaro de Bazan-class Aegis frigates.
1. No more buzzing
Russia, China, and Iran have all been buzzing Navy ships and aircraft this year. Some brand-new rules of engagement to discourage such dangerous stunts would look good under the tree.
Anyone who drives up to a military base’s front gates trying to gain access can expect some kind of inspection. The process can be as simple as getting your ID checked, but other times you’ll be instructed to drive into the vehicle examination lane, where MPs, or military police, bust out the undercarriage mirror and drug-sniffing dogs.
Most people don’t care because they have nothing to hide, but on some occasions, MPs make some interesting discoveries.
Some servicemembers have to work as duty drivers, and they log several hours in government vehicles. They, too, are subject to inspections. If the servicemember is under time constraints and making a pit stop isn’t on the schedule, an empty bottle of Gatorade works just as well.
Hollywood loves to use the military in its movies. You can’t blame Tinsel Town because they’re awesome. But on occasion, film directors and screenwriters tend not to identify the fine line between theatrical and practical.
Americans thrive on celebrating the actions of a war hero that saves the day (in slow motion of course) with the perfect Hans Zimmer underscore playing over the calibrated speakers. It’s emotionally driving.
Veterans can see through the bulls*** and know when our favorite characters go a little too far. So check out these heroic movie acts that an officer would never do (probably).
1. Rhodey finds Tony
In Jon Favreau’s 2008 “Ironman” Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is kidnapped by a terrorist group and forced to build one of his deadly signature missiles the “Jericho.” Instead, the brilliant engineer creates the Mark 1 suit, defeats the first act villain and escapes.
Then, Rhodey (Terrance Howard) just so happens to show up finding Tony walking out and about in what appears to be a very large desolate area after spending three months in captivity. That’s quite a lot of missions he’d have to fly to save his missing bestie. With the odds that this was his first search and rescue mission, he should buy a lottery ticket.
2. Leave no man behind
Owen Wilson stars as a jokester Naval aviator who gets shot down and must fight to stay alive as he’s pursued by some pretty bad boys in Bosnia. Then, Rear Adm. Reigart, played Lex Luthor (I mean Gene Hackman) risks everything — including his command — to fly out and rescue one of his men in “Behind Enemy Lines.”
That’s what we call heroic.
3. “You can’t handle the truth!”
Audiences love courtroom dramas and that’s why Hollywood continues to produce them.
In Rob Reiner’s 1992 hit “A Few Good Men,” Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and Col. Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) go toe-to-toe in the climatic third act of discovering the truth of who ordered the “code red.”
Let’s face it – real or not, it’s a freakin’ awesome scene!
4. Engage – Engage!
2005’s “Rules of Engagement” stars Samuel L. Jackson playing Terry Childers, a Marine colonel who after successfully evacuating an American ambassador and his family in Yemen from an invading crowd orders his men to turn their sights on the invaders to end the fight — which contained women and children.
Remember when Somali pirates made headlines for seizing an oil tanker? That batch of Somali pirates was pretty smart. Others have managed to be very dumb. How dumb were they? Well, some pirates tried to hijack a pair of U.S. Navy warships.
According to a United States Navy release, on March 18, 2006, the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) were patrolling off the coast of Somalia as part of Task Force 150 to deter piracy. During their patrol, they were approached by a vessel towing a number of skiffs.
A boarding party from the Gonzalez was sent to investigate, but noticed a number of people were brandishing rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
The pirates on board the skiffs then opened fire on the Cape St. George, inflicting minor damage.
The Cape St. George and the Gonzalez, as well as the boarding party, proceeded to return fire, using what a contemporary CNN.com report described as “small arms.” The main pirate vessel was set afire and sank. Two smaller skiffs were captured, along with 12 pirates and one body. A Somali pirate group would claim that 27 “coast guardsmen” had been sent out.
The Virginian-Pilot reported that the wounded were first taken to the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA 4) for treatment. The pirates who survived this near-catastrophic failure in their victim-selection process were eventually released and repatriated back to Somalia.
Four years later, the guided-missile frigate USS Nicholas (FFG 47) also came under attack, according to a CBS News report. The BBC reported that five captured pirates were given life sentences for piracy.
Thank god you got out when you did! The moment you received your DD-214, it was officially an end of an era. Hopefully, your branch won’t fall victim like all those other, weaker branches did. It’s Lord of the Flies in here.
New recruits are arriving in droves and they’re pulling out their cell phones to record themselves talking back to their drill sergeants. If the drill sergeants have a problem with it, they whip out their stress cards, go back to eating their Tide Pods, and continue listening to their music (which, coincidentally, has gotten progressively worse since your generation, too).
In case you couldn’t tell, that introduction was slathered in enough satire to make Duffel Blog proud. If it wasn’t clear enough, don’t worry — stress cards weren’t ever a real thing and only a handful of people actually ate Tide Pods to get attention on social media.
The bit about cell phones, however, does have some basis in reality, but it’s nowhere near as overblown as you might think. First of all, phone calls are still a privilege (not a right) that’s dispensed at the discretion of the drill sergeant. If the drill sergeant says, “no phones this week,” that’s the final word.
Which leads directly into the next concern shared by many millennial-fearing vets. Let’s set the record straight: No. Privates in Basic are not allowed to keep their cell phones on them at all times. When Soldiers are allowed to use their phones, usually on a Sunday night, they follow the same rules as they were “back in the day” with pay phones. This time around, however, instead of allowing a line to form behind the phone, drill sergeants simply free recruits’ phones from lock-up.
Drill sergeants still monitor all phone use and often restrict photography, texting, and social media usage. If the recruits can send texts or check Facebook, it is entirely because the drill sergeant saw fit to reward them with such privilege. If the recruits are not allowed, then it’s just standard voice calls (wait — do phones still have a “voice call” feature?).
Either way, once their extremely short lease on phone time is spent, the phones are locked back up until the privilege is earned again.
The amount of pay phones in operation has dropped 95% since 1999, and a good portion of those that remain are in New York City. The pay phone business is far too dated to remain competitive in today’s world but the need for trainees to inform their family that they “just got here” and that they’re “doing fine” hasn’t magically evaporated.
So, yes. The military is an ever-changing, ever-adapting beast, but the high level of professionalism that you grew to love hasn’t been destroyed by the rise of cell phones.
One of the most uncomfortable things for everyone involved is a urinalysis. Unfortunately, it’s an integral part of how the military tracks the health and welfare of its troops and ensures that no illicit substances damage unit integrity.
Take it from us, the only way to make peeing in a cup while your NCO watches less uncomfortable for you is to actively make them more uncomfortable. Now, this shouldn’t be too hard because nobody wants to be there in the first place, but we’ve got some pro-tips for you.
Some advice, though: If you’re a guy, don’t make size jokes. You’re just setting yourself for a slam like the one in Jarhead.
Eat nothing but beets and asparagus
Fun fact: Eating a bunch of beets turns your pee a bright red color. You’ll probably fool someone into thinking you’ve got medical issues with this trick. Also, asparagus makes your piss smell nasty and unpleasant if you’re looking to make things that much worse.
If you know a urinalysis test is in your future, like after block leave, try it.
Ask for some soothing music
Seriously, the observer doesn’t have any desire to be there either, so they’ll do whatever is necessary to speed up the process. Usually, they’ll turn on a faucet to help get you going. Soothing music wouldn’t seem like an unreasonable request.
That’s when you say, “now I’m in the mood! Let’s do this!”
If they aren’t paying attention, mess with them.
The observer’s job is to ensure that the urine leaves the body. If they’re giving you privacy, they’re doing it wrong.
Keep them on their toes and say, “You wanted a stool sample, right?” Or the classic, “I can’t do this without any magazines…”
Don’t break eye contact
A steady stream of eye contact is sure to make everyone involved very uncomfortable.
Get butt-naked to pee
Technically, the observer is supposed to make sure you’re not using a prosthetic. Yep, that’s right, because that’s a thing that dumb-f*cks have tried to get away with.
So, be extra helpful and make sure there’s no possibility that you’re using a fake by stripping all the way down.
“Stumble” while holding the filled cup in your hand
Just because you’ve finished the act doesn’t mean you have to stop messing with others.
If you pretend like you’re about to trip, everyone’s eyes will jolt open out of fear. You should be clumsier than infomercial people.
We sent our “Vet On The Street,” Marine Corps veteran and comic James P. Connolly, to Santa Monica, California, to find out if your average civilian could explain what information is included on dog tags.
During the 2016 election, Russian-linked bots and trolls on social media attempted to inflame relations among Americans by spreading fake news and highlighting vulnerable racial and political divisions. They bought ads on Twitter and shared posts on Facebook, concealing their identities while pretending to be real Americans.
But the Kremlin has another, more conspicuous way of spreading propaganda and trolling the West that doesn’t normally get as much attention.
In the last few years, Russia has used official government Twitter accounts to undermine the West and hit back against criticism, often with tantalizing and meme-filled rhetoric. The Twitter accounts of Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and its Embassy in the UK, both of which tweet in English, have been particularly active.
On Nov. 14 for example, after UK Prime Minister Theresa May slammed Russia for planting fake stories and photo-shopping images on social media “in an attempt to sow discord in the West,” Russia’s MFA tweeted a satirical response.
In a report published Nov. 13, the watchdog group Freedom House noted that in few places is “the hypocritical link between state propaganda and legal restrictions on the media stronger than in Russia.” This gives Russia monopoly over the flow of information within its borders. Increasingly, the report says, Russia has used similar information manipulation tactics abroad.
Here are 9 other times Russia has used its official Twitter accounts to troll Western leaders and the media:
The Russian Embassy in the UK reacted to former President Barack Obama expelling diplomats and closing Russian compounds in December 2016 in retaliation for meddling in the US election.
President Obama expels 35 ?? diplomats in Cold War deja vu. As everybody, incl ?? people, will be glad to see the last of this hapless Adm. pic.twitter.com/mleqA16H8D
So, you’re a high-speed, low-drag new trooper who wants to have a successful and rewarding military career. The only problem is that you’re lazy.
Not “I can’t get out of bed without a personal pep talk from Richard Simmons” lazy, but more, “I’m not going to make my bed because I’m just going to ruin it tonight” lazy.
In the civilian world, that’s fine. But in the military, you can actually get demoted for not making your bed. So how do you get ahead in Uncle Sam’s Rifle Club with minimum effort? Easy. You learn to sham (or if you joined the sea services, “skate”).
Shamming and skating are the fine arts of doing little to no work while avoiding friction and punishments from command.
The trick is to pace yourself throughout the day, doing work only when necessary but also giving the perception of constant activity.
A top-shelf sham day starts with not doing physical training. The most obvious way to get out of this is a pass from the medics. WATM does not encourage this…but here’s our guide. If you can get a full-day pass to stay in the barracks, your shamming is now in easy mode.
But sick call slips and chits are rationed, and remaining on quarters for too long can get you kicked out for “malingering.” If you want to get promoted, you’ll have to get more creative.
First, always know who is instructing PT in the morning and what the planned activity is. If Spc. McMuffin is leading the platoon on a slow jog down the main strip, just bite the bullet and do PT. But if Sgt. Creatine is leading a ruck-run and circuit-training Crossfit extravaganza, then you need to volunteer for a work detail.
But wait, wait, wait! I thought you said I wasn’t going to have to actually work?
Sure, volunteering for work may seem counterproductive. But pulling a 12-hour guard shift on some ammo in a field while you’re playing the newest Candy Crush level and taking turns napping with the other guard is way better than playing log throw with Capt. America and then spending all day at a desk.
Speaking of desk work, there are ways to sham through that if you get stuck in it. If you permanently work in an office, the best thing you can do is create the impression that you’re always working way too hard to be interrupted.
This can be achieved with multiple little green notebooks, legal pads, and an endless number of browser windows. Spread the legal pads and notebooks around the desk and fill the open pages with illegible writing. Draw lots of arrows between areas of text.
If anyone asks what you’re doing, start talking a lot about guidance from headquarters and how it affects 3rd quarter mandatory training. There’s not an NCO in the world that will stick around.
When you’re only working the office for the day, the best thing you can do is offer to shred things and take the trash out. No one is timing these tasks, so there’s plenty of time to joke around with buddies or check your phone. You should take the trash out at least three or four times in a regular duty day.
And, once you volunteer to take the trash out enough times or to run other errands, people will start thinking that you must be doing said errands when they can’t see you.
Now you’re in business. Once they stop checking up on you, start adding a 20-minute nap to each errand and trash run that you do.
Another place you can work constant naps into the day is the motor pool. Avoid emptying and reloading connexes by volunteering to PMCI vehicles. At each vehicle, open the front doors and raise the hood, then rack out in the back seat for a few minutes. Finally, declare the vehicle ready to go, close everything up, and move on to the next one.
At the end of the day, there’s always the risk that a pleased platoon or first sergeant will want to inspect the room of such a squared-away individual.
Fear not — passing room inspections is easy. The trick is to get the barracks super clean one time. We’re talking perfection here. No dust anywhere, scrub the backs of the appliances, secure the bedspread with bungee cords and glue the hospital corners into place. Tie up your roommate and hide him in the woodline.
Place neatly organized study cards next to your computer, which should have exactly one browser window open to whatever your branch’s promotions and accessions guidance is.
The platoon and first sergeant will not believe their eyes. They’ll praise you in front of the formation and talk amongst themselves for days about how polished you are.
Then they’ll become complacent and they won’t inspect you anymore. They might come by for payday inspections and the company change of command, but that’s about it.
The rest of the year you can walk around in your room dripping marinara sauce onto the floor, and no one will know or care.
That barracks will become your palace of filth, and no one will be the wiser. In fact, they’ll be so impressed by that one inspection and all those guard details you volunteered for that they’ll promote you ahead of your peers until you get paid to move out of the barracks — you won’t even have to get a contract marriage to the first person you meet off-base.
Congrats, shammer. You have arrived.
(Also, maybe retrieve your roommate from the woodline at some point. He could legitimately die).
Check out these five military veteran comedians you should look out for in 2018.
5. Mitch Burrow
This Marine veteran served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Afterward, he started a career in manufacturing, but quickly realized that it sucked. He began his stand-up comedy career after driving down to the Comedy Store in La Jolla, drinking three shots of tequila and a couple of Budweisers, and getting on stage. Later, Mitch was told it went pretty well.
To follow Mitch or check out one of his shows visit his website: MitchBurrow.com.
4. Thom Tran
After enlisting in the Army at 18, Thom spent most of his career as a Communications Sergeant and Civil Affairs Sergeant. Thom decided to become a comedian after sustaining an injury during combat operations.
In 2008, he moved to Los Angeles and soon created The GIs of Comedy tour — a show that travels the world performing for both military and civilian audiences.
3. Isaura Ramirez
After serving 13 years in the Army, this former captain deployed to Iraq for 15 months. When she returned home, Isaura enrolled herself in a comedy class as a form of expression.
This Philadelphia native joined the Marine Corps at 18, serving as an infantry rifleman (0311) with 3rd Battalion 6th Marines. After leaving the Corps in the mid-90s, Rocco moved to Los Angeles where he’s had luck landing gigs, including headlining his act at several comedy stores throughout the U.S.
This comedian and Marine veteran also serves the community as a knowledgeable yoga instructor
Before James was cracking up audiences with his flawless stand-up routine, he was giving orders while stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. This former captain served in both Operation Desert Shield and Storm before exiting from the Corps.
Now, he performs wherever he can find work, but you follow him on his website JamesPConnolly.com.
They will be here all week and don’t forget to tip your waiter.
Got any vets you think will make us laugh? Leave a comment.