The AK-47 is not just the preferred weapon of America’s enemies, it’s also the weapon of America’s allies. It’s the most widely used weapon on Earth. People name their children after it. Some countries have its distinctive shape on their flag. Egypt even built a monument featuring the rifle with its barrel and bayonet in the Sinai Peninsula.
Yet, despite its widespread legitimate use in 106 recognized countries’ standing armies, the AK-47 has also become a symbol of pirates, insurgents, warlords, and terrorists. So where does the rifle live on the scale between good and evil?
To help figure that out, WATM presents 10 facts about the most durable, dependable and infamous rifle ever designed:
1. Though it is widely known that he did not receive any royalties from his design (the Stalin-Era Soviet Union wasn’t too big on international copyright law – the AK borrows from many contemporary designs), Kalashnikov received an award from Stalin and special privileges until the Soviet Union was dissolved.
2. The original AK-47 was unwieldy and much too heavy. It’s unusual to find a “real” ’47 AK. Most of the weapons produced by the Soviet Union and shipped abroad are really AKMs or AK-74s. You can tell the difference by the barrel: the AKM uses a muzzle brake while the 74 has a flash suppressor. For example, the Malian soldier pointing his rifle at my chest in the photo below is holding an AKM.
3. Because the Russian government produced and shipped out so many, and because more than 30 countries are licensed to produce AK family rifles, no one knows how many of them there really are. Its estimated that there is an AK-47 for every 70 people on Earth, around 100 million. The next most widespread family of rifle is the M-16 line, with a paltry 10 million.
4. The Kalashnikov is the deadliest weapon ever produced, killing around 250,000 people each year. This far surpasses the casualty count for any weapon (including nuclear ones) made by man.
5. The worldwide average cost of a single rifle is between $100 and $300. Prices of AK-47s in public markets can be used as a barometer for social unrest: The more expensive they are, the more likely an uprising is about to take place. For example, some AKs in Afghanistan can be purchased for around $10. If you can get an AK for less than $100, it might be better to buy a ticket home.
6. During the Iraq War, the US lost track of 110,000 AK-47s. So many ended up in the hands of insurgent groups, the U.S. began issuing M-16s to Iraqi Security Forces instead. (Fun fact: Saddam Hussein received a Gold AK as a gift. It was found by American troops after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: slightly used, dropped once.)
7. The AK is a relatively inaccurate rifle. This is because of its chrome lining, but that lining is why it’s so dependable, as the chrome reduces the need for cleaning. When the AK does need cleaned, it can be done faster than any weapon ever made, under almost any conditions.
8. A Missouri car dealership once offered a free AK-47 to new customers, which seems more controversial than it really is. True AKs have an automatic feature — rare in the US — and are only legal when grandfathered in before 1986. Legal AK-47s are only semi-automatic.
9. A Colombian artist, Cesar Lopez, turns AK-47 rifles into guitars. He was even able to put one into the hands on then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in 2005.
10. Mikhail Kalashnikov did well financially after the fall of the Berlin Wall, doing speaking tours and launching his own brand of Vodka.
For more information about the history of automatic weapons, Mikhail Kalashnikov, and his famous design, check out The Gun by CJ Chivers.
Leave your thoughts in the comments. (We all know what’s about to happen . . .)
We’ve all served with the zealot, the screamer, the wild man, the badass, the strange agent, and other signature personalities, but have we seen them accurately presented in movies? Well, sometimes. And in some cases when Hollywood has tackled military topics they’ve gone beyond simply “getting it right” and moved into the arena where icons are forged. Here are 12 examples of when movie makers got it absolutely right and then some:
1. Jack Nicholson as Colonel Nathan R. Jessup in “A Few Good Men”
Col. Jessup is as badass as grunts come . . . right up to the point where he gets his ass handed to him by a weenie JAG officer. With classic lines like “I eat breakfast 300 yards from 4000 Cubans who are trained to kill me, so don’t think for one second that you can come down here, flash a badge, and make me nervous,” and, of course, “You can’t handle the truth!” Nicholson’s reading of this somewhat psycho colonel is among the best military characters Hollywood ever created.
2. Steve McQueen as Captain Virgil Hilts in “The Great Escape”
Arguably the late Steve McQueen’s best work, Capt Hilts of the Army Air Corps is known around the stalag as the “cooler king” because of all the time he’s logged in solitary confinement following his escape attempts. In the climactic scene he jumps a barbed wire fence on a motorcycle (the only stunt McQueen didn’t perform himself in the film) but gets caught up in a second fence and is recaptured. The final scene shows him being thrown back into the cooler, but his attitude shows that it’s only a matter of time before he tries to escape again (because he’s an American fighting man).
3. Robert Duvall as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore in “Apocalypse Now!”
In a high-budget blockbuster full of stars like Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando, Duvall steals the show with his portrayal of Army helo squadron skipper Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore. As Sheen’s character muses, Kilgore “had that light in his eye . . . you knew he wasn’t going to get so much as a scratch on him in Vietnam.” And Kilgore cements his military movie icon status with lines like “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” and “Charlie don’t surf!” Cue “Ride of the Valkyries” and go win some hearts and minds.
4. R. Lee Ermey as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in “Full Metal Jacket”
Before “Full Metal Jacket” came out in 1987 the pop culture standard for a DI was Sergeant Carter from the TV comedy “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” That changed in a big way with Ermey’s brilliant portrayal of Gunny Hartman, as tough as he is doomed (oops, spoiler alert for any of you maggots who haven’t seen this Stanley Kubrick-directed masterpiece). Hartman remains the cinematic boot camp standard by a mile with lines like “did your parents have any children that lived?” and “choke yourself, Pyle!” Ooh-rah, Devil Dog!
5. Gregory Peck as General Frank Savage in “12 O’ Clock High”
Peck plays General Frank Savage, a B-17 driver who inherits a shitty command in the middle of high-tempo ops. Loses have been high and morale sucks, and Savage’s initial attempts to square the unit away are met with stiff resistance. In time his superior leadership techniques take hold and things improve. Peck does a great job of capturing the nuances surrounding the age-old facts that life is lonely at the top and being in charge is no popularity contest. There’s a reason this movie is shown in military leadership courses.
6. John Wayne as Captain Rockwell “Rock” Torrey in “In Harm’s Way”
Some fans of “The Duke” may argue that “The Green Beret” or “Sands of Iwo Jima” are his signature military roles, but he brings a lot more to the role of Capt. Rock Torrey. “In Harm’s Way” was a groundbreaking (and shocking with subplots that tackle themes like adultery and professional misconduct) film in its day and still holds up in many respects for how it presents the complexities of Navy life during wartime. “In Harm’s Way” allows Wayne to do more than just swagger; he stretches his talents as an actor. And because of that it’s his best military work.
7. George C. Scott as General George S. Patton in “Patton”
Everything the nation knows about General George S. Patton is a function of this movie and George C. Scott’s amazing performance in it. “Patton” presents the general as the flawed genius he was, as brilliant as he was self-destructive and reckless. The opening soliloquy alone is total money: “No damn bastard ever won a war by dying for his country,” he says in front of a giant flag backdrop. “He won it by making the other poor damn bastard die for his country.”
8. Alec Guinness as Lieutenant Colonel Nicolson in “Bridge on the River Kwai”
Before he was in “Star Wars” as Obi-Wan Kenobe urging Luke Skywalker to use the force, Sir Alec Guinness played Lt. Col. Nicolson, the senior ranking officer among prisoners held by some nasty Japanese troops. Guinness’ Nicolson is tough and resourceful and good at messing with his captors, especially when it comes to figuring out ways of keeping the construction of the Bridge on the River Kwai from proceeding. His performance is as good a cinematic example as there is for why the Brits make great allies.
9. Robert De Niro as Staff Sergeant Michael Vronsky in “The Deerhunter”
Staff Sergeant Vronsky is ballsy-as-pozz, especially during the Russian Roulette scenes. And good luck not yelling “hell yeah!” at the screen when he overpowers his VC captors and escapes. De Niro’s performance is moving and feels authentic, and he does the special forces community proud while at the same time showing the sometimes tragic impact of war on a small town.
10. Tom Hanks as Captain John H. Miller in “Saving Private Ryan”
“Saving Private Ryan” did much toward dispelling the myth that World War II was somehow cleaner than the wars that followed, and that cinematic landscape is made all the more real by Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Capt. John Miller, a school teacher-turned-war-weary-warfighter who knows the meaning of duty and leads by example. His on-screen sacrifice is truly felt and is a worthy representation of what earned The Greatest Generation their label.
11. Sterling Hayden as General Jack D. Ripper in “Dr. Strangelove”
This Cold War satirical masterpiece about B-52s gone wild by the orders of a lunatic wing commander is made pitch perfect by Sterling Hayden’s performance as General Jack D. Ripper (get it?). From his musings about post-coitus epiphanies (“loss of essence,” as he calls it) to his fears about the commie plot that is fluoridation, Hayden’s Ripper should be funny enough to scare us all that he might actually exist (and have his finger on the button).
12. Jürgen Prochnow as Captain-Lieutenant Henrich Lehmann-Willenbrock in “Das Boot”
The U-boat war was a little-explored part of military movies until “Das Boot” was released in 1981. Jürgen Prochnow does an amazing job playing the captain of the submarine toward the end of the war. The crew is beat down and the Nazi rhetoric has long since rung hollow, but there is still a mission to carry out and a war to survive. Lehmann-Willenbrock is as good a leader as military movies have ever created, and his courage, skill, and empathy are timeless. Watch this one and find yourself routing for the other side. (“Das Boot” is best viewed in German with English subtitles, by the way.)
Work can be monotonous for junior sailors who spend their days cleaning, cranking, and painting. The trick is to make the best of it, so we asked seasoned sailors from the Submarine Bubblehead Brotherhood and US Navy Veteran Facebook groups for their advice on how to avoid working without getting caught — better known in the fleet as “skating.”
There’s an art to skating. As one sailor from the Bubblehead Brotherhood put it, “Many people think that skating is merely a lazy man’s forte. But few fail to realize its complexity as a whole. To skate is to be a good actor, good talker, and well-liked among divisions.”
Take it from the pros; here are nine tips for skating:
1. Volunteer to go on a run for the division
Runs involve going for snacks, supplies, or other LPO-type errands. The key here is to take your time. Turn it into a half-day event, go to the NEX, the barracks, or anywhere you want, but avoid looking suspicious.
2. Hide in plain sight with cleaning materials
If you look busy, no one will bother you. Always have a cleaning item on hand and pull it out when someone of a higher rank approaches. Here’s how it worked for one sailor:
3. Sit in a stall in the head
Go to the head and take your time. It also pays to know the cleaning schedule. You can spend half the day rotating through different heads.
4. Volunteer for a dreaded task or one that requires little supervision
This works best with a task that you don’t mind doing. This plane captain will probably clean the same spot for 30 minutes before moving to another spot.
5. Walk around the ship with a worried look while holding a clipboard.
The key to skating with a clipboard is your facial expression. Always look focused, worried, or angry. Nobody will want to get involved in whatever you’re dealing with.
6. Chase the signature
In order to stand watch or use a piece of equipment in the Navy, you must first get qualified. Earning your qualification requires that another qualified sailor give you a tutorial on the peace of gear. You can be “Joe Navy” and have your qualification in a couple of days, or you can drag this out by asking for the tutorial at the wrong time. When asked for the status of your qualification, no one can deny that you weren’t trying.
7. Leave an extra cover and set of keys on the desk in the shop
Have a spare cover and set of keys that you keep at your desk and use the other set for leaving the shop. The spare set is to throw your shipmates off your scent. “He’s got to be here somewhere. His keys and cover are right here.”
8. Take a nap in a storage room
Get your buddy to lock you in a storage or munition room. The rooms lock from the outside, so make sure that your buddy is trustworthy, otherwise prepare to go to mast if a man-over-board is called and you miss your muster.
9. Get a wireless alert chime.
Wireless chimes are great for catching sleep during working hours. They are meant to be permanent, but you can make them mobile with Velcro tape. Place the magnetic sensors over the door or hatch and take the speaker/receiver with you away from view. The receiver will sound off when the door is opened.
The Tom Clancy brand was launched both in print and on the big screen with “The Hunt for Red October,” a Cold War nail-biter that more or less created the technothriller genre. The movie, released by Paramount in 1990, features a young Alec Baldwin as protagonist Jack Ryan who amazingly makes intel officers look cool. The movie remains an exciting romp 25 years on . . . but it also falls victim to the Hollywood trap of associated technical mistakes. (And we’ll skip the fact the Soviet captain has a Scottish accent while the rest of his crew have British accents to represent the fact they’re speaking Russian.) Here are 20 of them (with exact time stamp where applicable):
1. (2:55) Red October is being escorted out of the Russian harbor by a United States Coast Guard Cutter and U.S. Navy sea tugs.
2. (2:50) As Red October heads out of the channel the flat sides of the fake sub are visible at the waterline.
3. (5:24) Jack takes off from Heathrow in the dark for a six hour flight to DC (five time zones behind), but it’s light when he arrives and is driven to Langley.
4. (19:41) Patuxent, Maryland is home to the Naval Air Systems Command, not a Naval Shipyard.
Fun Fact: (20:01) Jeffrey Jones, who plays the engineer at the shipyard, also played Principal Rooney in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
Fun Fact: (23:03) Tim Curry, who plays Petrov, Red October‘s doctor, also played Frank N. Furter in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
5. (35:11) When the Red October‘s Political Officer reads the orders, he reveals they’re supposed to test the silent drive and return home “on or about the 16th of this month.” Shortly afterwards, Jack Ryan is briefing Jeffrey Pelt and asks “isn’t it the 23rd?” which means the 16th of the month has already past.
6. (35:15) Jack Ryan’s brief to Jeffrey Pelt and the Joint Chiefs ignores the fact that ICBMs could be fired from pretty much anywhere around the globe. Why would a “madman” drive within 500 miles of the coast to do what could be done from the Iceland-UK Gap or wherever?
7. (51:10) COD turns into an E-2 Hawkeye as it lands aboard the USS Enterprise off of Nova Scotia.
8. Jonesy identifies the sonar contact as a Typhoon-class ballistic missile submarine, and they label it the Typhoon-7 as they have six other Typhoon submarines recorded in the computer. However, in November 1984, which is when this is supposed to happen, only two had been commissioned and the third was near completion. As a result the Dallas couldn’t have had six Typhoons in its computer at the time, only two.
9. (1:14:26) Tomcat turns into a Korean War-era Panther during ramp strike. (See more detail about this egregious error here.)
Fun Fact: Fred Thompson, who plays the admiral aboard the Enterprise, was also a U.S. Senator from Tennessee between 1994-2003.
10. (1:23:20) Helicopter pilot randomly switches from right seat to left and then back again while ferrying Ryan to the USS Dallas.
11. (1:23:55) Helo crewman spots the Dallas at “three o’clock” and the pilot turns left in response, which would take the aircraft away from the sub not put it closer to it.
12. (1:26:00) Helicopter doesn’t have windshield wipers going in a torrential rain storm.
13. (1:28:52) Once aboard the Dallas Ryan shows no signs of hypothermia (shivering, for instance) after releasing himself from the helo hoist and spending several minutes in near-freezing water.
14. Same footage used twice to show a torpedo hitting the water –one from a Russian Bear bomber and one from an American asset.
15. (1:44:52) Reuben James (FFG-57) was not commissioned until March 22, 1986 therefore couldn’t have been around during 1984, the period in which “The Hunt for Red October” is set.
16. (1:45:52) Movie crew (holding camera and wearing blue jeans and tennis shoes) visible on deck as crew abandons Red October because of bogus nuclear reactor leak.
17. (1:53:30) When the members of the Dallas crew arrive aboard the Red October, Ramius asks Ryan if he speaks Russian (in Russian) but basic lip reading reveals he is actually saying “Do you speak Russian” in English.
18. (2:01:27) As camera angles shift during this scene Ramius randomly switches which hand he’s using to cover his gunshot wound and hold his weapon.
19. (2:06:42) A submarine would only “rig for red” if it was going to periscope depth, which the Dallas never does throughout “The Hunt for Red October.”
20. (2:07:32) Surface view of the supposed underwater explosion shows the pyrotechnic flash that triggered it (at time 2:05 in the YouTube clip below).
Most units in the military have a motto they use to stand out. Some of them are even pretty cool. But the most badass unit mottos are forged in the crucible of combat.
Here are seven units that live by the immortal words uttered in battle:
1. “Keep up the fire!” – 9th Infantry Regiment
The 9th Infantry Regiment has a long history, but its service in China is particularly noteworthy. Not only did the 9th pick up its regimental nickname, Manchu, from its time there — but also the unit’s motto.
He was immediately targeted by Chinese snipers and mortally wounded himself. His dying words to his men were “Keep up the fire!”
The unit successfully stormed the city and captured it from the Boxers.
2. “I’ll try, sir” – 5th Infantry Regiment
During the War of 1812, the 21st Infantry Regiment engaged the British at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane.
After the Americans were decimated by British artillery on the high ground, Lt. Col. James Miller, the regimental commander, was given the near suicidal task of launching an assault to capture the guns. He simply responded, “I’ll try, sir.”
The 21st advanced on the British position and fired a volley that swept the artillerymen from their guns. They then charged with bayonets, driving off the remaining British troops and capturing the guns.
3. “These are my credentials” – 8th Infantry Division
After landing in Normandy in July 1944, the 8th Infantry Division was part of the arduous task of liberating the port city of Brest. After weeks of hard fighting, the Germans finally capitulated on Sept. 19.
When Brig. Gen. Charles Canham, deputy commander of the division, arrived to accept the surrender of the German commander, Gen. Ramcke, the senior German officer demanded to see the American’s credentials. Canham, simply pointed to his battle-hardened soldiers and replied, “These are my credentials.”
4. “Rangers lead the way!” – 75th Ranger Regiment
The Rangers of WWII spearheaded many Allied invasions, particularly on D-Day at Normandy. The Rangers of the 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions found themselves pinned down on Omaha beach along with the rest of the assault force.
Trying to inspire the shell-shocked men of the 29th Infantry Division, Brig. Gen. Norman Cota, the assistant division commander, came across the men of the 5th Ranger Battalion. When they identified themselves as Rangers Cota then gave one of the most famous orders in the history of the U.S. Army: “Well, goddammit then, Rangers, lead the way!”
Their efforts effected the first break through on Omaha and what would later become their motto — Rangers lead the way.
5. “I’ll face you!” – 142nd Infantry Regiment
The 142nd first saw action as part of the 36th Infantry Division in World War I. After facing heavy fighting near the village of St. Etienne, the regiment faced off against the Germans at the Aisne River. The regiment sent a patrol across the river to reconnoiter behind enemy lines.
As they attempted to return to friendly lines, they came under heavy fire from the Germans. A young lieutenant, inspiring his men, turned towards the Germans and shouted, “I’ll face you!” and refused to turn his back.
6. “Nothing in Hell must stop the Timberwolves” – 104th Infantry Division
The 104th Infantry Division was a unique formation.
Having trained specifically as a nightfighting unit, the division then received a unique commander — Mej. Gen. Terry de la Mesa Allen. A combat commander who had previously commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Africa and Sicily, he had an unorthodox command style combined with a hard-charging attitude.
When Allen took command, he gave the division its new motto, “Nothing in hell must stop the Timberwolves,” and he meant it.
The 104th fought under numerous Allied commands and was always held in the highest regard, often being cited as the finest assault division. Through courage, grit, and determination the Timberwolves defeated the Germans and lived up to their motto.
7. “Let ’em have it!” – 59th Infantry Regiment
The 59th Infantry Regiment shipped to France during World War I as part of the 7th Brigade. During the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the 59th took part in the fighting around Chateau-de-Diable.
During the engagement, a squad approached from the Chateau. Initially the men held their fire, afraid of gunning down friendly forces, until a sergeant with the regiment realized the mistake and yelled out, “They come from the wrong direction, let ’em have it!”
It was later discovered that the squad was German soldiers in American uniforms and the sergeant’s words became the unit motto.
Although the perfect movie doesn’t exist, 1994’s Forrest Gump gets pretty damn close. Directed by legendary filmmaker, Robert Zemeckis, the film chronicles the fictional life of a man who lacks social intelligence but makes up for it with an incredible amount of heart.
Out of all the outstanding characters the film showcases, outside of Forrest, many moviegoers wanted to see “Lt. Dan” overcome his demons and succeed at life, but we only catch a glimpse of it.
Although the movie does feature his character arch, seeing his unique journey, start to finish, would have been awesome.
These are four reasons why we think Lt. Dan should have gotten his own freakin’ sequel.
4. He knew his sh*t
We first meet Lt. Dan as Forrest and Bubba wrongfully salute him in the field. He quickly corrects their saluting and just as quickly explains why.
To other veterans, this is an excellent detail. We’ve seen many films where enlisted troops salute an officer in a war zone, and they don’t get briefed on why they shouldn’t do that.
Lt. Dan knows his sh*t, plus, he told them to take care of their feet, which is huge in the infantry and often left out of movies.
Lt. Dan Taylor informs Forrest and Bubba of a few of the “what-nots” to surviving in Vietnam. (Image from Paramount Pictures’ Forrest Gump)
3. Focus on Lt. Dan before Forrest shows up
We get a pretty comedic backstory of Lt. Dan’s family members fighting and dying in previous wars. However, we don’t know too much of what he’s done in Vietnam other than he’s probably been “in-country” for a while when we meet him.
We think it would be pretty awesome to see him when he was just a boot.
Maybe he looked a lot like this? (Image from Columbia Tristar Home Video’s A Midnight Clear)
2. What happened to Lt. Dan after he left the war?
We were all a little surprised when Forrest tried to give Lt. Dan some ice cream, only to find out he was transported back to the States. For the most part, we know how sh*tty Vietnam vets were treated after they returned from the war, which f*cking sucks.
“Lt. Dan, ice cream.” (Image from Paramount Pictures’ Forrest Gump)
Personally, we would love to have seen Lt. Dan bark back at some of the Vietnam protestors when he encounters them on the street… or something like that.
Lt. Dan was a yeller — we all know that. He yelled at Forrest when he had legs, and even more after he’d lost them. But, toward the end of the film, we see a cleaned up version of Lt. Dan, married, and sporting new, magic legs.
As veterans, we all know the struggle of overcoming adversity, and to see Lt. Dan clean up his life up — that’s impressive. But, we’d like to see how it all happened in a sequel.
Lt. Dan all cleaned up with his new magic legs at his best friend’s wedding. (Image from Paramount Pictures’ Forrest Gump)
What the folks back home think troops do while deployed is just a fraction of what actually happens downrange. In many ways, the average Joe is doing the same busy work that they’d be doing back stateside — this time, with the added “benefit” of doing it in full battle rattle with a weapon slung across their back.
Sometimes, Private Snuffy deserves to be put on the detail, but most times, he probably doesn’t. The fact of the matter is that things just need to get done. Having to sweep the motor pool back in the States may suck, but sweeping the motor pool while you’re deployed in the middle of the desert is futile. Details suck, but these tasks particularly suck when you’re deployed.
1. Sandbag Building
Even with the concertina wire, Hecso barriers, and giant-ass concrete walls, the military still seems to think that the only thing separating troops from certain death is having the Joes fill sandbags and use them to haphazardly barricade everything.
This isn’t to discredit the 30lbs of sand stuffed into an acrylic or burlap bag — they probably work. The problem is that they’re a pain in the friggin’ ass to fill, carry, and painstakingly stack.
2. Guard Duty
At first, it sounds like fun. This is what you signed up for and you’re going to do your part to save freedom, one field of fire at a time. Then, the heart-crushing reality sets in. You’re stuck in the same guard tower for 12 hours with someone who smells like they haven’t showered in 12 days. There you are, just watching sand. Occasionally, you get lucky and there’s a farmer out in the distance or a camel herder to break the monotony.
On the bright side, the cultural barrier between you and the ANA (Afghan National Army) guy you’re stuck with can lead to some hilarious conversations.
3. TOC/COC Duty
In a near tie with guard duty, being in the command center for 12 hours blows just a little bit worse. In the guard tower, you have some sort of autonomy. In the TOC, you’re stuck with higher-ups breathing down your neck.
To add insult to injury if you’re a grunt, you’re listening to all of your buddies do the real sh*t while you’re stuck on the bench. You’re just listening to them do all the things you enlisted for while you’re biting your lip. If you’re a POG, I guess watching the same AFN commercial 96 times over sucks, too.
4. Connex Cleaning
Replacing containers, prepping for redeployment back stateside, grabbing that one thing that your Lieutenant swore was in there — whatever the reason, anything to do with the pain-in-the-ass that is heavy lifting inside a Connex that’s been baking in 110 degree heat is just unbearable.
No matter what the lieutenant was looking for, it’s not there. It’s never going to stay clean. Everything inside is going to get shuffled around, regardless of how much effort you put into it.
5. Burn Pit
Whether you’re opting for the quick and easy solution to getting rid of classified intel, destroying old gear left behind, or burning human waste, nothing about burn pit duty is enjoyable.
Big military said that they’ve done away with burn pits and that everything is peachy keen now — too bad that’s not even close to true. Whether being exposed to the pits by KBR facilities or command directed, anything dealing with burn pits is a serious concern for your health. No matter how hard it gets denied in court, veterans are still dying from the “quick and easy way.”
If you believe you might have been affected by burn pits, register with the VA here. It’s a very serious health concern and the more veterans that stand up, the more seriously the issue will be taken.
If you’re a military spouse, you know that finding employment in this nomadic lifestyle of ours is tricky to say the least. In fact, a 2014 study by Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families and the Military Officers Association of America found that 90% of responding military spouses reported being underemployed.
Sure, data like that can be a bit of a bummer, but if you’re a military spouse then you’re basically a modern day MacGyver, a master of the back up plan and pretty darn good at getting creative. Military spouses also have a secret weapon: the milspouse network. For the most part, we want to see each other succeed (yeah, yeah I know some of you disagree) and are willing be supportive in many surprising ways.
It’s not going to be easy or close to easy, but if a career is something you truly desire, it is entirely doable, even as a military spouse. Let this list be a jumping off point to get those creative juices flowing.
A company that specifically calls for military spouse contractors? Yes, please. This awesome business creates beautiful handbags and other products “the hard way” and uses military spouses in all aspects of the process. Your role is simply determined by your skill level and what you have to offer.
2. Animal Groomer
If you’re into fluffy things, then this is the career for you. Although, I am told that things can sometimes get a bit…hairy.
3. Furniture Refinisher
For the creatively minded who like rolling up their sleeves and giving old furniture a new lease on life, this might be just the thing. Don’t know what I’m talking about? While she’s not a milspouse, Jamie at Southern Revivals is a great example.
5. Personal Chef Caterer
May’s MilSpouse Issue featured one milspouse’s unique take on catering and personal chef-ing. Located in Okinawa, Japan, The Set Table provides weekly meal kits and brings a service previously reserved for the well to do, to the masses. Talk about creative.
5. Virtual Bookkeeper Accountant
Yes, number crunching is not usually a profession associated with the word “cool” per se, however, I think the term “virtual” really adds some excitement. More and more professions are becoming available for remote commutes on sites like AccountingDepartment.com.
6. Dog Sitter
Here’s another opportunity to get some extra kisses and tail wags. You can use your own network to find clients or become a provider through a service like Rover.com.
7. Nanny or Baby Sitter
Moving on from fur babies to real babies, you can count on there being a need for quality childcare anywhere your family is stationed.
8. Hair Stylist
I’ve never met an uncool hair stylist. Cool must be a class they take. Or maybe it’s the vibe you emit when you have the option to work from your own home, someone else’s home, or a storefront.
I was hesitant to add photography to the list because it is often mistaken to be easier than it looks, which means that the market is frequently oversaturated. That said, if you have an eye for truly quality photos (using something other than your iPhone), you could stand out from the pack and provide a truly valued service.
10. Personal Trainer
If you’re good at motivation and have a hankering for health, then you might just be perfect for this line of work. Tasks aren’t limited to one-on-one sessions; there are opportunities for a variety of group classes that you can offer privately or even through your base fitness center.
Food, water, and shelter are three essentials that everyone needs to survive while out in the field.
Out of those three resources, water reigns supreme. Humans can live without food and shelter for extended periods of time, but no more than a week (typically less) without water. But, if you’re in a war zone, how do you fill up your canteens when you’ve been in the field for days and there’s no sign of resupply?
Well, we’re glad you asked.
If you’re near a body of water and can pump or collect water, you’ll need to put it through some filtration before ingesting it safely.
If you’re in an area where creating a fire to boil water is safe — do it. Bring water to a full boil and let it continue for at least a minute. Once the time is up, cut the heat and let the water cool down. Filter the water through a clean flannel or t-shirt or before you drink it to remove small particles of debris.
2. Use a UV light water kit
UV light is widely used to kill bacteria and other organisms found in water. However, this method won’t remove metals and other harmful minerals. Filter the water through a clean flannel or t-shirt before you drink.
3. Iodine and chlorine tablets
This method chemically kills the bacteria and other organisms living in the water. Pay close attention to the directions on the tablet box or you could end up ingesting a few million harsh, little critters.
4. Use a LifeStraw
This device is an ultra lightweight, clean water drinking system that works without using any chemicals, batteries, or moving parts. This ingenious device is perfect if you, unfortunately, are desperate enough to drink from a rainwater puddle left a tire track in the mud.
Yes. We admit, that scenario was nasty — but it can happen.
Every warfare specialty has its own language, but Naval Aviators have elevated slang to an art form. Here are a few terms that only make sense when said between brownshoes ambling about the boat:
1. “Speed of heat”
To move through the sky at a rapid clip, as in “you were going the speed of heat when you came into the break.”
2. “Full blower”
When an aircraft is at max afterburner.
3. “Bust the number”
“The number” is Mach 1.0, so busting it means going supersonic.
4. “Making ‘Vapes”
Under the right meteorological conditions, an airplane in a high-G turn can disturb the air to the degree that vapor clouds (“vapes”) form around control surfaces.
5. “Pop the boards”
To deploy the speed brakes, generally used to slow an airplane down.
6. “Three in the green”
In older model airplanes the verification of the landing gear in a “down and locked” position was a green light, so if a pilot reports “three in the green” it means he has his gear safely down.
7. “Wheels in the well”
When the landing gear is raised the wheels move into the wheel well. Aviators refer to the the act of taking off as being “wheels in the well,” as in, “we’ll shoot for being wheels in the well at 1400 local.”
8. “Speed jeans”
Another name for a G-suit.
9. “Zoom bag”
Another name for a flight suit, the uniform Naval Aviators pride themselves on never, ever switching out of during a deployment.
10. “Pull chocks”
Chocks are blocks placed around the tires to ensure an airplane doesn’t roll while parked, and they’re “pulled” when an airplane is ready to launch. In more general terms, to “pull chocks” means to leave, as in, “All right, dudes, this place is out of beer. It’s time to pull chocks.”
Acronym for “foreign object debris” — stuff that can get sucked into a jet engine and do catastrophic damage to the turbine blades. More generally, when something is bad, Naval Aviators might refer to it as “FOD,” as in, “that slider I just ate at midrats was total FOD.”
12. “The Dirty Shirt”
There are two wardrooms on an aircraft carrier. Wardroom One is all the way forward on the same deck level as the squadron ready rooms and is referred to as “The Dirty Shirt” because, unlike Wardroom Two where officers have to be in the uniform of the day (usually khakis), crews can wear flight suits and/or flight deck jerseys.
When an airplane can’t communicate because of equipment failure it is called “nordo,” which is short for “no radio.” Clue-do is short for “no clue,” as in, “Is it just me or is the skipper totally clue-do?”
A first-tour aviator, an unpolished hunk of material waiting to be shaped by his or her surroundings.
15. “Dash Last”
An airplane’s position within a formation is annotated by a dash number — for instance, the flight lead is dash one. Aviators refer to being at the end of something as “Dash last,” as in, “I was dash last in that 5K I ran last weekend.”
16. “Severe Clear”
Great weather conditions, not just clear of clouds but severely clear of clouds.
17. “Bug out”
The act of exiting a dog fight rapidly in order to survive to return another day.
18. “Hanging on the blades”
Flying a max endurance profile to reduce fuel consumption is often described by pilots as “hanging on the (turbine) blades,” which is a reference to setting the engine power as low as possible to stay airborne.
19. “Banging off the stops”
When a pilot moves the control stick aggressively — either by design or absence of technique — he is “banging off the stops” — “stops” being the physical limits of stick movement.
Despite their popularity on the silver screen, many of the best military action scenes don’t depict the heroic storming the beaches of Normandy or cutting through the enemy frontlines in the jungles of Vietnam. In fact, some of the most intense sequences are of the deadly dogfights in the sky.
Several awesome films get overlooked just because there isn’t any land warfare involved. So, to even things out a bit, here are a few of our favorite films that feature dogfights and keep us on the edges of our seats.
When Tony Scott’s Top Gun landed in movie theaters across the country, it was a freakin’ blockbuster, raking in over $350 million worldwide. Filled with plenty of aerial acrobatics, Top Gun made audiences of all ages want to be the next hotshot pilot.
The fight scenes that capped off the film were well-edited, featured a kick-ass soundtrack, and delivered plenty notable one-liners that had moviegoers nodding in approval.
2. Memphis Belle
Directed by Michael Caton-Jones,Memphis Belle follows the brave men crewing a B-17 bomber based in the United Kingdom as they prepare for their final mission over Germany.
The dogfight scenes capture what it must have been like battling wave after wave of well-trained German fighters.
3. Fly Boys
In 2006, James Franco took to the pilot seat playing a young man who volunteered for the French military before the U.S. got involved World War I. The film showcased the intense training and extreme dangers that canopy-less fly boys encountered during the war.
4. Red Tails
This film chronicles a group of African American pilots flying in the Tuskegee program and shows how their bravery maneuvered them right into the history books and America’s hearts.
5. Tora! Tora! Tora!
Considered a classic war film, the story of Tora! Tora! Tora! focuses on the days leading up to the Pearl Harbor attack and makes clear the political context of the surprise Japanese offensive.
The stunning imagery tells the story without much dialogue, which is doubly impressive for a film released in 1970.
6. Red Baron
This German biopic is closely based on the World War I fighter pilot ace, Manfred Von Richthofen, nicknamed the Red Baron. The film’s excellent shot selection and pacing show how skilled warfighters were back then, scoring kills without using the advanced technology we enjoy today.
7. The Eternal Zero
We don’t typically praise the enemy in American cinema, but holy sh*t — director Takashi Yamazaki did an amazing job of putting you in the pilot’s seat in epic aerial battles.
Bonus: Les Chevaliers du Ceil (Sky Fighters)
You might be thinking, why did WATM put a French film on the list? Well, this film displays one of the most intense dogfights ever recorded. Between high-voltage camera work and excellent cinematography, you’ll be left guessing what’s real and what’s CG.
The military is full of interesting lingo. The Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Army all have their own unique phrases. Some of these are so good, the civilian world just can’t resist picking them up when it hears them. Here are 17 phrases that jumped from the military ranks to the civilian sphere.
1. “Balls to the walls” (also, “Going balls out”)
Meaning: To go as fast as one possibly can.
From military aviation where pilots would need to get their aircraft flying as fast as possible. Their control levers had balls on the end. Pushing the accelerator all the way out (“balls out”), would put the ball of the lever against the firewall in the cockpit (“balls to the wall”). When a pilot really needed to zoom away, they’d also push the control stick all the way forward, sending it into a dive. Obviously, this would put the ball of the control stick all the way out from the pilot and against the firewall.
2. “Bite the bullet”
Meaning: To endure pain or discomfort without crying out
Fighters on both sides of the American Civil War used the term “bite the bullet,” but it appears they may have stolen it from the British. British Army Capt. Francis Grose published the book, “Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue” in 1811 and used “chew the bullet” to explain how proud soldiers stayed silent while being whipped.
3. “Boots on the ground”
Meaning: Ground troops engaged in an operation
Credited to Army Gen. Volney Warner, “boots on the ground” is used to mean troops in a combat area or potential combat area. After the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the term saw wide use and has ceased to refer exclusively to military operations. It can now be used to refer to any persons sent out to walk the ground in an area. It’s been employed in reference to police officers as well as political canvassers.
4. “Bought the farm”
Meaning: To die
Thought to date back to 1950s jet pilots, the phrase quickly spread to civilian circles. There is no clear agreement on exactly how the phrase came about. It could be from war widows being able to pay off the family farm with life insurance payments, or farmers paying off their farms with the damage payout they’d receive when a pilot crashed on their land, or the pilots who wanted to buy a farm after they retired being said to “buy the farm early” when they died.
5. “Caught a lot of flak”
Meaning: To be criticized, especially harshly
Flak is actually an acronym for German air defense cannons. The Germans called the guns Fliegerabwehrkanonen. Flieger means flyer, abwehr means defense, and kanonen means cannon. Airmen in World War II would have to fly through dangerous clouds of shrapnel created by flak. The phrase progressed in meaning until it became equated with abusive criticism.
Meaning: Everything about the current situation sucks
All three words are acronyms. FUBAR stands for “F*cked up beyond all recognition,” SNAFU is “Situation normal, all f*cked up,” and TARFU is “Things are really f*cked up.” FUBAR and SNAFU have made it into the civilian lexicon, though the F-word in each is often changed to “fouled” to keep from offending listeners. The Army actually used SNAFU for the name of a cartoon character in World War II propaganda and instructional videos. Pvt. Snafu and his brothers Tarfu and Fubar were voiced by Mel Blanc of Bugs Bunny and Porky the Pig fame.
Usage: Yelled when jumping off of something
“Geronimo” is yelled by jumpers leaping from a great height, but it has military origins. Paratroopers with the original test platoon at Fort Benning, Georgia yelled the name of the famous Native American chief on their first mass jump. The exclamation became part of airborne culture and the battalion adopted it as their motto.
8. “Got your six”
Meaning: Watching your back
Military members commonly describe direction using the hours of a clock. Whichever direction the vehicle, unit, or individual is moving is the 12 o’clock position, so the six o’clock position is to the rear. “Got your six” and the related “watch your six” come from service members telling each other that their rear is covered or that they need to watch out for an enemy attacking from behind.
9. “In the trenches”
Meaning: Stuck in a drawn out, tough fight.
Troops defending a position will dig trenches to use as cover during an enemy attack, reducing the chance they’ll be injured by shrapnel or enemy rounds. In World War I, most of the war occurred along a series of trenches that would flip ownership as one army attacked another. So, someone engaged in fierce fighting, even metaphorical fighting, is “in the trenches.”
10. “No man’s land”
Meaning: Dangerous ground or a topic that it is dangerous to discuss
“No man’s land” was widely used by soldiers to describe the area between opposing armies in their trenches in World War I. It was then morphed to describe any area that it was dangerous to stray into or even topics of conversation that could anger another speaker. However, this is one case where civilians borrowed a military phrase that the military had stolen from civilians. “No man’s land” was popularized in the trenches of the Great War, but it dates back to the 14th century England when it was used on maps to denote a burial ground.
11. “Nuclear option”
Meaning: A choice to destroy everything rather than give in on a debate or contest
Used most publicly while discussing fillibusters in the Senate, the nuclear option has its roots in — what else — nuclear warfare. In the Cold War, military leaders would give the commander-in-chief options for the deployment and use of nuclear weapons from nuclear artillery to thermonuclear bombs. In the era of brinksmanship, use of nuclear weapons by the Soviets or the U.S. would likely have ended in widespread destruction across both nations.
12. “On the double”
Meaning: Quickly, as fast as possible
Anyone who has run in a military formation will recognize the background of “on the double.” “Quick time” is the standard marching pace for troops, and “double time” is twice that pace, meaning the service member is running. Doing something “on the double” is moving at twice the normal speed while completing the task.
13. “On the frontlines”
Meaning: In the thick of a fight, argument, or movement
Like nuclear option, this one is pretty apparent. The front line of a military force is made up of the military units closest to a potential or current fight. Troops on the frontline spend most days defending against or attacking enemy forces. People who are “on the frontlines” of other struggles like political movements or court trials are fighting against the other side every day. This is similar in usage and origin to “in the trenches” above.
14. “Roger that”
This one is pretty common knowledge, though not all civilians may know why the military says, “Roger that,” rather than “yes.” Under the old NATO phonetic alphabet, the letter R was pronounced, “Roger” on the radio. Radio operators would say, “Roger,” to mean that a message had been properly received. The meaning evolved until “roger” meant “yes.” Today, the NATO phonetic alphabet says, “Romeo,” in place of R, but “roger” is still used to mean a message was received.
15. “Screw the pooch”
Meaning: To bungle something badly
“Screw the pooch” was originally an even racier phrase, f*ck the dog. It meant to loaf around or procrastinate. However, by 1962 it was also being used to mean that a person had bungled something. Now, it is more commonly used with the latter definition.