7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment - We Are The Mighty
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7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment

Being deployed on a FOB or patrol base means you probably have little contact with the world outside the wire for the better part of a year. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a USO nearby where you can log onto Facebook for 20 minutes at a time until you have to rotate off.


Depending what part of the world you’re in, it might be in the middle of the night back home, and nobody is online — which sucks.

So what can you do to pass the time if you’re stuck in a sh*t hole?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

1. Hit the gym or freakin’ build an improvised one.

Wood, engineer stakes, and sandbags are just a few key ingredients every FOB has on hand. With some ingenuity and elbow grease, you can construct a new gym or modify an existing one.

Either way, working out is a great way to kill time.

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment
A Marine carves out some time from his day to hit the gym during his Afghanistan deployment.

2. Catch up on your movies

Before shipping out, you probably didn’t have much free time during your pre-deployment work up. Now that you’re stuck on a FOB with plenty of down time, break out that portable hard drive you put all those movies on and play cinema catch up.

Your brain and morale will thank you.

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment

You could also learn how to construct a movie theater from a few scraps by following these simple steps.

3. Create new MRE recipes

Let’s face it, the box where the MREs are stored have been completely rat f*cked — it happens all the time. Consider tugging on your creative strings and make something delicious from MRE items no one seems to want.

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment
Everyone loves M&Ms. (Source: Amazon)

4. Playing card or board games

Since the military is a competitive world, play a game like Risk that takes a lot of brain power to strategize and beat your opposition. You may even learn something you can use to beat the bad guys in a firefight — you never know.

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment
These soldiers play an intense game of world domination. (Source: Army.mil)

5. Sleep and then sleep some more — whenever you can

Need we say more?

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment
A soldier getting some much need shut-eye while chillin’ in a tank.

6. Create a journal

Write down your unique deployment experiences and self-reflection in a journal. You never know, that sh*t could get published later on down the line.

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment


7. Master a video game or two

If you’re lucky enough to have electricity where ever you get sent to, you can recharge that compact gaming system you loaded up with your favorite games. Video games are a nice way to zone out and relax.

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment
Sorry if you’re somewhere without power. We salute you…

Can you think of any more? Comment below.

Humor

6 things officers love but enlisted troops can’t stand

No matter what branch you serve in, there will always be a solid line between enlisted personnel and officers — they rarely understand each other.


Enlisted troops do some crazy sh*t, which causes officers to get in a bad mood — and vice versa.

Most officers want their troops to abide by all the rules and regulations while the members of the E-4 mafia just want to get through their day and go home.

Related: 5 reasons why military personnel give civilians a hard time

So, check out six things officers love but enlisted troops can’t stand:

6. Taking orders from an officer we don’t trust

Yes, we understand we swore an oath to obey the orders of those appointed over us — but holy sh*t have we taken some lousy orders from officers.

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment
I don’t. I don’t trust you at all.

5. Officer-led PT

It’s no secret that when a commanding officer wants to lead morning PT, morale lowers until the session is over. In a grunt platoon, we like to sh*t talk one another as motivation to gain that extra push-up or pull-up.

But, once the “brass” is on deck, the verbiage changes and the enlisted just want to finish up the mandatory run so they can go eat chow and play Call of Duty in their barracks.

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment

4. When a boot officer wants to be included in every single detail

Newbie officers typically want to learn every aspect of their job — which is a good thing. But, something this means they want to be involved in every meeting and a double check everyone’s work.

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment

3. Army-Navy games

Active duty enlisted troops don’t truly want to cheer for a cadet or a midshipman who they could have to potentially have to answer to one day.

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment
You know at least one of them expects you to call the room… (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad Runge/Released)

2. Having their sh*t pre-staged for them

At times, enlisted troops become personnel assistants even though it’s not in their job description. When grunts head out to the field, some officers require their tents and other amenities be set up prior to their arrival — and guess who is called upon to set that sh*t up?

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment
Taking bets on who built this gym in Afghanistan.

Also Read: 6 reasons why Marines hate on the Air Force

1. Working parties

Typically, officers aren’t the ones cleaning the grounds or the office spaces. Luckily, that’s why the U.S. government pays janitorial personnel.

Just when enlisted personnel think it’s going to be an easy day — think again — because there’s always something that needs to be cleaned and a “party” of troops will need to do it. For some reason.

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment
We know there are officers who truly believe this.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the spy planes Putin keeps sending past Alaska

Russian military aircraft — everything from long-range bombers to advanced fighters to spy planes — have ventured close to Alaska three times in one month, twice prompting US F-22 stealth fighters to intercept the aircraft.

Two pairs of unidentified Russian maritime reconnaissance aircraft flew past northern Alaska Sept. 21, 2018, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) announced in a statement, noting that while the surveillance aircraft entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone, they remained in international airspace.


The flight follows an alarming incident Sept. 20, 2018, in which two unresponsive Russian Tu-160 bombers approached the British coastline, causing France and the UK to scramble fighters to intercept the supersonic aircraft.

“Russian bombers probing UK airspace is another reminder of the very serious military challenge that Russia poses us today,” Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said in a statement, adding, “We will not hesitate to continually defend our skies from acts of aggression.”

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment

A Russian Tupolev Tu-160.

Japan encountered similar problems on Sept. 19, 2018, when it sent fighters to intercept Russian fighter jets approaching Japanese airspace. The same thing happened in early September 2018.

Two Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers accompanied by Su-35 Flanker fighter jets approached western Alaska on Sept. 11, 2018, leading the US to dispatch two F-22s in response.

A similar incident occurred on Sept. 1, 2018, when two of the same type of bomber entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone south of the Aleutian Islands. Alaska-based NORAD F-22 fighters were sent out to deal with that situation as well.

Following the first incident early September 2018, American defense officials speculated that the Russian bombers may have been practicing for possible cruise missile strikes on US missile defense systems in Alaska, although the true purpose of the flights is difficult to discern.

While seemingly disconcerting, Russia does this sort of thing fairly regularly. Russian Tu-160 bombers flew past Alaska in August 2018, and another pair of bombers did the same in May 2018. These flights come at a time in which tensions between Moscow and Washington are on the rise.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How Marine snipers train to kill from helicopters

Marine scout snipers are often described more like a force of nature than a group of warfighters. The Corps has recently had just a few hundred of them at a time, but a massive mission rests on their shoulders. They’re true scouts, acting as the commander’s eyes and ears, but they’re also trained to take careful shots at foes. And they even train to hit targets from moving platforms like helicopters.


The big difference between scouts and scout snipers is right in the name. It’s also in the Corps’ definition of the job:

The scout sniper is a Marine highly skilled in fieldcraft and marksmanship who delivers long range, precision fire at selected targets from concealed positions.

But the Marine Corps is very specific that scout snipers are shooters, even going so far as to define the snipers’ primary mission as that “precision fire” and the secondary mission as “gathering information for intelligence purposes.”

So, they’re really highly observant snipers rather than scouts who have become more lethal. And being a top-tier sniper requires a certain amount of flexibility, especially in the Marine Corps where they pride themselves on their “Semper Gumby” mentality.

And so these Marines train on not just riding into battle on helicopters, but on shooting enemies from them with their precise fires. To practice, the Marines hop into Super Hueys and spit fire at targets floating in the ocean or staged on land. The shifting helicopters provide an increased level of challenge, but also allows the snipers to take out threats while inserting into the battlefield or while providing cover for infantrymen hitting the deck.

The two-man teams work together to watch over friendlies, engage enemy forces, and send targeting data and other intelligence back to the headquarters, whether they’re working from a helicopter, a ship, or a secluded ridge or rooftop on the battlefield.

A video from the aerial sniper training is available above.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The F-35 in Japan is still losing dogfights to F-15s

The most expensive weapons system in history, the US’s F-35 Lightning II, is still sometimes losing to the 1970s F-15 in dogfights during training scenarios in Japan.

US Air Force F-15 pilot Capt. Brock McGehee, when asked by Defense News if the F-35s at Kadena Air Force base in Japan still sometimes lost to the Cold War-era fighters, said “I mean, sometimes.”


The F-35 has long been plagued by reports of that it can’t dogfight as well as older, much cheaper jets, despite being in development for nearly two decades and claiming to revolutionize air combat.

In 2015, War is Boring published a report from a test pilot that said the F-35 couldn’t turn or climb fast enough to keep up with older jets, and F-16s lugging heavy fuel tanks under wing still routinely trounced it.

But a lot has changed since 2015. The F-35 has had its software upgraded and the tactics refined.

Why the Cold War jets can still pull a win out — for now

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment

Retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke previously told Business Insider that the older jets benefited from decades of development and training, whereby new pilots today have established best practices. As the F-35 is still in its early days, Berke said the best is yet to come.

In 2017, the F-35 dominated older jets with a ratio of 15 kills to one death.

“The biggest limitation for the F-35 is that pilots are not familiar with how to fly it. They try to fly the F-35 like their old airplane,” Berke said.

But the pilots at Kadena dogfighting against F-15s may be a cut above, according to Berke, who said that because they have never flown a legacy jet before, they won’t bring the bad habits with them, and will instead learn how to fly the F-35 like the unique plane it is. “They’re going to be your best, most effective tacticians,” Berke said.

F-35s at a major disadvantage to any legacy jet in a dogfight

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment
(U.S. Air Force photo)

“The F-35 cannot out dogfight a Typhoon (or a Su-35), never in a million years,” Justin Bronk, a combat aircraft expert at the Royal United Services Institute, previously told Business Insider.

The reason why, according to Bronk and other experts on the F-35, is that the F-35 just isn’t a dogfighter. The F-35’s stealth design put heavy demands on the shape of the aircraft, which restricted it in some dimensions. As a result, it’s not the most dynamic jet the US could have possibly built, but it doesn’t have to be.

Instead, the F-35 relies on stealth. F-35s, employed correctly in battle, would score most of their kills with long range missiles fired from beyond visual range.

“If you get into a dogfight with the F-35, somebody made a mistake. It’s like having a knife fight in a telephone booth,” civilian F-16 pilot Adam Alpert of the Vermont Air National Guard wrote in 2016 after training on F-35 simulators.

A Top Gun pilot says dogfighting is dead anyway

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment
(Photo courtesy of Dave Berke)

Berke, an alumnus of the US Navy’s famous Top Gun school, echoed Alpert’s assessment, but warned that the common perception of dogfighting was “way off,” and something US jets haven’t done in 40 years. Berke disagreed with Bronk’s “never in a million years” assertion, but maintained that the dogfighting issue was basically irrelevant.

The bottom line is that in training, all jets lose “sometimes.” That the F-35 can hold its own and beat a jet refined over four decades to excel exclusively at air-to-air combat — when the F-35 has been designed to fight, bomb, spy, and sneak — shows its tremendous range and potential.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force B-52 bombers drop laser-guided bombs for first time in a decade

Laser-Guided Bomb Units, commonly referred to as LGB’s, were dropped from the bomb bay of a B-52 Stratofortress for the first time in nearly a decade during an operational test performed by the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron Aug. 28, 2019.

The munitions used to be dropped from the bomb bay of the jet using a cluster bomb rack system, but the method raised safety concerns and the practice was eliminated.

“We’ve still been able to utilize LGB’s underneath the wings of the B-52, but they don’t do very well when carried externally because they are susceptible to icing and other weather conditions,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Little, 49th TES commander.


According to Little, the seeker head of the LGB can be adversely affected by the elements, potentially reducing its effectiveness.

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment

US Air Force Senior Airman Endina Tinoco wires a GBU-12 laser guided bomb after it was loaded onto a Conventional Rotary Launcher in the bomb bay of a B-52 Stratofortress at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Aug. 20, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Gregory Steele)

The advent of the Conventional Rotary Launcher, a bomb bay weapons platform made available to the B-52 fleet in 2017, provides an alternative to the cluster bomb rack system and may once again allow LGB’s to be dropped from inside the jet.

Doing so would keep the weapons protected from the elements, reducing the effects of weather. It also has the potential to increase the jet’s lethality.

“It’s another arrow in the quiver, it gives us the ability to carry more LGB’s on the aircraft or give more variation on a conventional load,” said Little. “It adds capability and is another thing you can bring to the fight.”

Little explained the CRL was not originally designed for gravity-type bombs like the LGB, but recent software upgrades to the system now allow for such munitions.

Getting to the point of operational testing required a team effort between the 49th TES and Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 307th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. The 307th AMXS took the lead in configuring the CRL to accept the LGB’s.

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Skyler McCloyn and Staff Sgt. Nathan Ehardt load a GBU-12 laser-guided bomb onto a Conventional Rotary Launcher in the bomb bay of a B-52 Stratofortress at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Aug. 20, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Gregory Steele)

SSgt. Skyler McCloyn, 307th AMXS aircraft armament systems mechanic, served as the loading team chief for the event.

“It was very cool mission,” said McCloyn. “It is exciting to know you are a part of something that could have a long-term impact.”

The experience of the Reserve Citizen Airmen contributed greatly to the success of the effort, according to McCloyn.

“When you are doing something for the first time there will always, be kinks,” said McCloyn. ” But the expertise we have from working with so many type of munitions allowed us to adjust and work through those issues without much trouble .”

Little appreciated having the breadth and depth of experience offered by the unit.

“The 307th AMXS is on the leading edge of weapons loading and giving the rest of the B-52 maintenance community the data they need for unique scenarios like this,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Lists

9 lies soldiers tell their loved ones while in combat

Sure, in theory it would be nice to tell loved ones the truth, but there are plenty of times when it’s probably a bad idea. Or maybe the truth doesn’t live up to loved ones’ expectations. Either way, here are 9 lies that usually do the trick:


1. “No, we never go outside the wire.” (or “We go on tons of missions.”)

 

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment

Everyone knows the grunts go out constantly, but for support soldiers it’s a crapshoot. Some will go out constantly; some rarely. Oddly, both groups lie about it. Support soldiers who are with infantry their whole deployment will tell their parents they’re staying safely inside the wire. Guys who never leave the wire will tell outlandish stories about combat.

2. “It’s boring here.”

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment
Photo: US Army Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

This is the combat arms soldier’s version of, “We never go outside the wire.” They can’t convince the family that they’re never going on mission, so instead they tell them that nothing is happening.

3. “They feed us pretty well.”

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment
Photo: US Army Vaughn R. Larson

If the soldier is deployed to a large base like an airfield, this may be true. But if they are further away from large logistics hubs, the food choices become repetitive and aren’t always healthy. The worst is for the guys in the field or living in tiny outposts. They’ll get most of their calories from MREs and the occasional delivery of Girl Scout cookies and maybe fruit. Care packages are valuable on deployment, so send good stuff.

4. “I eat healthy snacks.”

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment

Nope. The foods soldiers pick for themselves are worse than the ones in the MREs. Half the time, it’s just tobacco and caffeine. Again, send care packages. Maybe drop some vitamins next to the chips and dip they’re asking for.

5. “I’m learning a lot.”

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment

Everyone has their plan for a deployment, especially cherries on their first trip. Some plan to practice guitar, learn another language, or work on a degree. For most soldiers though, those ideas go out the window when they realize they’ll be working 13 hours or more per day. Still, when they call home, they’ll bring a German phrasebook with them, just to keep up appearances.

6. “I couldn’t call because of all the work.”

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Taylor

Though there is a lot of work, it’s not really enough to make phone calls impossible. Sometimes, troops just don’t feel like walking all the way to the morale, welfare, and recreation tent. Other times it’s because the lines for the phones were long and, for once, the lines for video games were short. The phones could have been cut off because of bandwidth issues or a communications blackout. Don’t worry, they’ll hit you up on Facebook when they’re able.

7. “Our rooms aren’t too bad.”

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment

Like the food, this depends on the base. Some people on big airfields have real rooms they share or a really nice tent. On forward operating bases, the tents get pretty crappy fast. Beyond the FOBs it’s even worse. Soldiers in the most forward positions dig holes in the sand and spread camouflage nets over them.

8. “That’s not machine-gun fire; it’s a jackhammer.”

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment
Photo: US Army Pfc. Adrian Muehe

There are variations of this. “That helicopter pilots are just doing some training,” or, “The engineers are just detonating some old munitions.” Anytime a compromising noise makes it through the phone, the soldier will try to explain it away. The soldier knows they aren’t in immediate danger, but they still don’t want their wife to know the base takes a rocket attack every 72 hours. So, they lie about what the noise was and get off the phone before any base alarms go off.

9. “I’m going to pay off my cards and put some money away for retirement.”

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment

In their defense, most soldiers are lying to themselves here. They think they’re going to be responsible, but they come home with tens of thousands of dollars saved and realize they could buy a really nice car. The barracks parking lots fill with Challengers and BMWs in the months after a unit comes home.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis’ brother says he has ‘no anger’ about early departure

The phone call Tom Mattis got from Jim Mattis on Dec. 23, 2018 wasn’t a pleasant one, but he said his younger brother was “unruffled” by President Donald Trump’s decision to force him out early, the elder Mattis told The Seattle Times.

“He was very calm about the whole thing. Very matter of fact. No anger,” Tom Mattis told The Seattle Times. “As I have said many times in other circumstances, Jim knows who he is … many more Americans (now) know his character.”

Jim Mattis announced his resignation as defense secretary on Dec. 20, 2018, reportedly prompted in large part by Trump’s decision to withdraw the roughly 2,000 US troops deployed to Syria.


Mattis went to the White House that day in an effort to get Trump to keep US forces in the war-torn country. Mattis “was rebuffed, and told the president that he was resigning as a result,” The New York Times said at the time.

Trump initially reacted to Mattis’ resignation gracefully, tweeting that the defense chief and retired Marine general would be “retiring, with distinction, at the end of February,” echoing Mattis’ resignation letter.

But Trump reportedly bridled at coverage of Mattis and his letter, which was widely interpreted as a rebuke of Trump and of the president’s worldview.

On Dece. 23, 2018, Trump abruptly announced that Mattis would leave office two months early, sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to tell Mattis of the change. Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will take over the top civilian job at the Pentagon in an acting capacity.

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

Trump’s sudden move to push Mattis out was reportedly a retaliatory measure, but Mattis evinced no ire over it when he told his older brother on Dec. 23, 2018.

The Mattises are natives of Richland, Washington. Tom, who was also a Marine, still lives there, as does their 96-year-old mother, Lucille.

Tom said his brother was faithful to the Constitution and would always speak truth to power “regardless of the consequences.”

“No one should assume that his service to his country will end. And the manner of his departure is yet another service to the nation. It is the very definition of patriotism and integrity,” Tom Mattis added.

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Jim Mattis — who checks in with their mother almost daily, Tom Mattis said — had no plans to return home from Christmas, according to the elder Mattis, hoping instead to visit troops in the Middle East.

But Trump’s announcement appeared to forestall that trip.

On Dec. 19, 2018, a day before his resignation, Mattis released a holiday message to US service members, telling them “thanks for keeping the faith.”

On Dec. 24, 2018, Mattis signed an order withdrawing US troops from Syria, the Defense Department said, though a timeline and specific details are still being worked on. On Christmas Day, Mattis was reportedly in his office at the Pentagon.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US quietly lowers threshold for conflict in the South China Sea

The US has been steadily ratcheting up the pressure on China’s sea forces in a way that could lower the threshold for conflict in the South China Sea, already a hotbed of tension and dispute.

The US is signaling a tougher stance toward the Chinese maritime militia, a paramilitary sea force disguised as a fishing fleet and known to harass foreign rivals to enforce China’s vast sovereignty claims in the contested waterway.

The Chinese maritime militia “thrives within the shadows of plausible deniability,” according to Andrew Erickson, a leading expert at the US Naval War College, but it can no longer hide like it once could.


The Department of Defense first called attention to the maritime militia in its 2017 report on China’s military power. The report explained that China uses its commercial fishing fleet to engage in gray-zone aggression, “to enforce maritime claims and advance its interests in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict.”

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Declan Barnes)

It wasn’t until this year, though, that the US really began putting pressure on the militia forces.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson warned his Chinese counterpart during a meeting in Beijing in January 2019 that the US Navy will treat coast guard and maritime militia vessels as combatants and respond to provocations the same way it would a Chinese navy ship, the Financial Times reported.

In March 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo publicly assured the Philippines that the US would come to its defense in the event that it was attacked in the South China Sea. “Any armed attack,” the secretary explained, “on Philippine forces, aircraft or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger mutual defense obligations.”

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim clarified the earlier assurances on June 14, 2019, telling reporters that US security guarantees apply to potential acts of aggression by the Chinese maritime militia.

“Any armed attack, I would think that would include government-sanctioned militias,” the ambassador explained, according to The Philippine Star. He did not say what type of behavior would constitute an “armed attack.”

The increased pressure is intended to change China’s strategic calculus in the disputed waterway, experts argue.

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

(Photo by Mark Taylor)

“By injecting greater uncertainty about how the US will respond to China’s grey-zone coercion,” Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Financial Times, “the US hopes to deter Chinese destabilizing maritime behaviour, including its reliance on coast guard and maritime militia vessels to intimidate its smaller neighbours.”

At the same time, it potentially makes it easier for a lower-level dispute between China and its neighbors to escalate, especially considering the ambiguity surrounding both the US deterrence posture and the role of the maritime militia.

Incidents involving Chinese fishing vessels, potential members of the maritime militia, are frequent occurrences in the South China Sea. It is unclear exactly what kind of incident might trigger US defense obligations.

For instance, in April 2019, more than 200 Chinese fishing vessels allegedly swarmed Thitu Island, a Philippine-occupied territory in the Spratly Islands.

And, last week, a suspected Chinese vessel allegedly rammed a Philippine ship in the South China Sea, sinking it and then sailing off as nearly two dozen Filipino fishermen fought for their lives in open water.

China has denied allegations of misconduct.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are the 6 best performances of the National Anthem ever

For some Americans, the Super Bowl is the culmination of two teams fighting it out to claim the title of the best team in one of the world’s toughest sports.


For many other Americans, it’s a time to eat, drink, be merry, drink some more, and make silly bets.

One of the many prop bets on the game is the over/under on the length of the National Anthem.

Which brings up the question: which rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner is the best? These might not all be sporting events, but we guarantee you these six performances will give you chills.

The Star-Spangled Banner is a notoriously hard song to sing. It is a lot harder to sing in front of thousands of fans and millions watching around the world.

How hard is it? There are countless viral videos of people (famous and average joes) giving their best effort, only to find out the hard way their best isn’t good enough.

Who could forget Carl Lewis’s infamous Francis Scott “Off” Key version?

Michael Bolton using a cheat sheet?

And Fergie’s painful attempt that left the players and crowd laughing?

But as hard as it is to sing, when it is done right, it is one of the most rousing pieces of music one can hear. Whether the singer goes the traditional route or decides to add a little bit of flourish, the song can get you right in the feels.

Here are some of the more memorable renditions of the national anthem.

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1. U.S. Military Academies combined choirs

In 2005, while the War in Iraq was in high gear, the NFL decided to forgo the usual celebrity singer and invited the choirs of the service academies to sing the anthem.

In typical military style, the arrangement was simple. The harmonies of the combined choirs, however, was beautiful beyond words.

www.youtube.com

2. Lady Gaga, Super Bowl L 

You can argue she has one of the top five Super Bowl halftime shows ever. (That catch is legendary)

But in 2016, Lady Gaga put her talented voice to work and delivered a rousing version of the anthem. What followed was a clinic to young singers on how to add personal flair to the song while still not taking attention away from the song itself.

The chest pounding was awesome too.

YouTube

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3. 1991 NHL All-Star Game

The Chicago Blackhawks have a tradition. During the national anthem, you cheer and clap. It’s a great part of hockey culture, but there was no better time to do it than during the 1991 All-Star Game.

With the country in the middle of the Gulf War, Chicagoans made sure to cheer extra loud and send love to the troops in the Gulf.

If this doesn’t give you the chills, I don’t know what to tell you.

www.youtube.com

4. Buckingham Palace after 9/11

Ok, I know… this version didn’t take place at a sports event. In fact, it was probably the farthest from a sporting event that it could be. In the days after 9/11, with flights in and around the States shut down, many Americans found themselves stranded overseas during one of the darkest moments in American history.

In London, many found themselves wandering around and milling about tourist spots.

The Queen, breaking royal tradition, allowed the Star-Spangled Banner to be played during the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.

Make all the Royal Family jokes you want, but this was one of the classiest moves of all.

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5. Boston Bruins game following Boston bombing

After the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, Bostonians and the rest of the country rallied together in unity. One of the best examples of this was the first Bruins game after the bombing. After a touching tribute to the victims, Rene Rancourt, the Bruins long-time singer, started singing the anthem.

Two lines in, he did what most singers don’t do…. He stopped.

Realizing the crowd was taking over out of emotion, Rancourt let them run with it.

There are times when we truly come together as Americans, and this was one of them.

www.youtube.com

6. Whitney Houston, Super Bowl XXV

At Super Bowl XXV, America and her Allies were ten days into the air assault portion of the Gulf War. The biggest military engagement since Vietnam, Americans were rightfully worried for the aviators flying sorties over Iraq and the troops who were preparing for the inevitable ground assault to liberate Kuwait.

In fact, ABC didn’t even air the halftime show, instead cutting to an ABC News Special Report with Peter Jennings.

This was also a unique time. With the combination of media attention because of the war, the recent fall of communism in Eastern Europe, and the growth of global television, this Super Bowl was one of the first broadcast around the world, reaching over 750 million people.

Enter Whitney Houston.

Wearing a simple tracksuit and backed by the Florida Orchestra, Houston started off strong and only got stronger. Known for her powerful vocals, she gave us one of the most tremendous renditions of our anthem our country has seen to this day. The nation went crazy for it, to the point it was released as a single and got to #20 in the Billboard Top 100. (Houston donated the proceeds to charity).

This is the benchmark singers are measured against when taking on the Star Spangled Banner.

The national anthem is definitely not easy to sing, but when it’s done right, there’s nothing better.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army might have weaponized ticks and released them in the US

Ticks are some of the dirtiest disease-carrying bugs on Earth. They can carry any number of pathogens, bacterias, and viruses – a single tick bite can infect a human with more than one of those at any given time. The point is ticks don’t need any help to be terrible disease vectors.

But you couldn’t tell that to the U.S. Army, who apparently doesn’t have an off switch.


7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment

“… and that’s how I made cancer airborne and contagious. Go Army, beat Navy.”

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to require the Pentagon’s Inspector General to tell the public if the Army weaponized disease-ridden ticks and then released them into the continental United States between 1950 and 1975. The vote came as part of a vote on amendments related to the 2020 defense authorization bill, which was passed the next day.

A very important aspect of the request is finding out if the military released the ticks on purpose or if the release came as an accident. Congress also required the Pentagon to provide the House and Senate Armed Services committees with a detailed report on the scope of the experiment.

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment

How would you vote on this measure?

Ticks can cause Lyme Disease, Typhus, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Meningoencephalitis, Hemorrhagic Fevers, paralysis, and even an allergy to meat. The House vote was only to force the Pentagon to acknowledge and deliver a report on whether or not the military released weaponized ticks, despite a ban on such experiments implemented by the Nixon Administration. The vote, however, would not require the Pentagon to reveal what the ticks were carrying, though advocates of the bill are primarily interested in the spread of Lyme Disease, which affects 300,000 to 400,000 new people every year.

The Senate bill did not have the weaponized ticks amendment and it remains to be seen if the reconciled bill bound for the President’s desk will include it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

New executive order expands opportunities in government jobs for Milspouses

President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump invited military mothers and spouses to the White House May 9, 2018, in honor of Mother’s Day, and the president signed an executive order to enable military spouses to find work more easily in the private and federal sectors.

“Mother’s Day, which is this Sunday, is celebrated just one time per year,” the first lady said to the gathering in the White House East Room. “Today, I want to take this opportunity to let you all know that as mothers who are members of the military community, you deserve recognition for not only your love for your … children, but for the dedication and sacrifice you make on behalf of our country each and every day,” she said.


The president said he was honored by the presence of military spouses. “We celebrate your heroic service — and that’s exactly what it is,” he said.

The president talked about spouses’ hardships during long deployments. “Some of them are much longer than you ever bargained for, and you routinely move your families around the country and all over the world,” the president said.

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment
President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump
(Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

“[My] administration is totally committed to every family that serves in the United States armed forces,” Trump said. “Earlier this year, I was proud to sign that big pay raise … and I am proud of it.”

Noting that the White House is taking action to expand employment opportunities for military spouses, the president said service members’ spouses would be given “treatment like never before,” noting that the unemployment rate among military spouses is more than 90 percent.

But that is going to change, he added.

“[For] a long time, military spouses have already shown the utmost devotion to our nation, and we want to show you our devotion in return,” the president said. “America owes a debt of gratitude to our military spouses — we can never repay you for all that you do.”

Following his remarks, Trump signed an executive order addressing military spouse unemployment by providing greater opportunities for military spouses to be considered for federal competitive service positions.

The order holds agencies accountable for increasing their use of the noncompetitive hiring authority for military spouses, and American businesses across the country are also encouraged to expand job opportunities for military spouses, the president said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

Articles

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops

Creating a fool-proof selection program as well as finding the right entry requirements to test candidates is something the military, police, special ops, and fire fighter worlds constantly seek to perfect. I recently was asked the following question by a few friends who are either active duty or former Tactical Professionals (aka military, special ops, police, swat, and fire fighters):


Do you think there will ever be a measurable test or metric to predict the success of a candidate in Special Ops programs?

My unqualified short answer is… maybe? I think there are far too many variables to test to create a measurable metric to predict success in selection programs or advanced special operations training. Now, this does not mean we should stop looking and creating statistical analyses of those who succeed and fail, or testing out new ideas to improve student success. There is no doubt that finding better prepared students will save money, time, and effort, and it’s worth remembering that much of the entry standards are based on those studies. The ability to measure someone’s mental toughness (aka heart or passion) may be impossible, but there are groups making great strides with quantifying such intangibles.

7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment
U.S. Navy SEALs exit a C-130 Hercules aircraft during a training exercise near Fort Pickett, Va.

Recently, Naval Special Warfare Center (BUD/S) did a three-year study on their SEAL candidates attending Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL Training. If you are looking for the physical predictors to success, this is about as thorough of a study as I have ever seen to date.

The CSORT — Computerized Special Operations Resiliency Test is another method of pre-testing candidates prior to SEAL Training — while still in the recruiting phase. The CSORT is part of the entry process and has become a decent predictor of success and failure with a candidate’s future training. Together with the combined run and swim times of the BUD/S PST (500yd swim, pushups, situps, pullups, and 1.5 mile run), a candidate is compared to previous statistics of candidates who successfully graduated.

Can You Even Measure Mental Toughness?

This is a debate that those in the business of creating Special Operators still have. In my opinion, the “test” is BUD/S, SFAS, Selection, SWAT Training, or whatever training that makes a student endure daily challenges for a long period of time. The body’s stamina and endurance is equally tested for several days and weeks, as is one’s mental stamina and endurance (toughness) in these schools. The school IS the test. Finding the best student — now that is the challenge.

Related Articles/ Studies:

Here is a study on general “Hardness” with respect to Army SF graduates.

Some other intangible qualities of successful special operators.

Some Science of Mental Toughness.

Building Blocks of Mental Toughness.

Training to Think While Stressed. Thinking under pressure is a common trait of successful operators.

Stew Smith works as a presenter and editorial board member with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He has also written hundreds of articles on Military.com’s Fitness Center that focus on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

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