Naval historians still argue about the legacy of the battleship. Critics call them too vulnerable and too expensive, while supporters laud their sheer offensive capability and awesome firepower. Whatever the opinions, the battleship will always have an important place in U.S. military history. Here are 19 pictures that show why:
The “Great White Fleet,” sent around the world by President Theodore Roosevelt from 16 December 1907 to 22 February 1909, consisted of sixteen new battleships of the Atlantic Fleet. The fourteen-month long voyage was a grand pageant of American sea power.
One of the Great White Fleet’s Connecticut-class battleships at Villefranche, France, circa January 1909. This ship is either USS Vermont (Battleship No. 20) or USS Minnesota (Battleship No. 22).
“Crossing the line” ceremony as the Great White Fleet crosses the Equator, turning “Pollywogs” into “Shellbacks.”
The bridge of the USS Connecticut circa 1908. Note the ship’s name in lights.
Officers sporting ceremonial attire about the USS Connecticut.
U.S. Army aviation pioneer Billy Mitchell started an inter-service and inter-warfare specialty argument in 1921 when he demonstrated how bombers could take out a battleship. He later testified before Congress that “1,000 bombardment airplanes can be built and operated for about the price of one battleship.”
The USS Arizona was the pride of the fleet through the 1930s and is pictured here at sea with President Hoover aboard.
Things went very badly for the U.S. Navy’s battleship fleet, including the USS Arizona, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
The American war machine kicked into high gear after Pearl Harbor. Here the battleship Iowa is launched from New York Naval Shipyard in 1942.
Battleships were used extensively in the Pacific Theater during World War II, primarily for naval gunfire support during amphibious landings.
Here the USS New Jersey launches shells at the beach to soften up the LZ for the Marines as they get ready to take Okinawa.
Here the USS Missouri offers some gunfire support of her own in 1944.
Always the master of optics, MacArthur insisted that a battleship be the venue for the Japanese surrender. The ceremony was held aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945.
Battleships were brought back into service during the Korean War. Here the USS Wisconsin sails between the destroyer Buck and heavy cruiser Saint Paul off Korea, February 22, 1952.
On May 6, 1956, the USS Wisconsin collided with the USS Eaton, a destroyer, in heavy fog off of Hampton Roads and sustained severe damage to her bow.
As part of Navy Secretary John F. Lehman’s effort to build a 600-ship Navy in the 1980s, and in response to the commissioning of Kirov by the Soviet Union, the United States recommissioned all four Iowa-class battleships. Here the USS Iowa is seen shelling targets in Lebanon in 1984.
The Iowa met with disaster on April 19, 1989 when an explosion in the center gun room killed 47 of the turret’s crewmen and severely damaged the gun turret itself. Two major investigations were undertaken into the cause of the explosion, one by the U.S. Navy and then one by the General Accounting Office and Sandia National Laboratories. The investigations produced conflicting conclusions.
Today guests can visit the USS Arizona memorial where oil still seeps from the wreck resting against the bottom of Pearl Harbor.
And guests can also visit the Iowa-class battleships in various cities around the country, including the USS Wisconsin docked in Norfolk, Virginia.
And lets not forget what is perhaps the greatest tribute to the battleship of all: Cher’s video for “If I Could Turn Back Time,” shot aboard the USS Missouri docked in Long Beach on July 1, 1989. (And Navy officials were not happy with Cher’s outfit.)
Aside from the doom and gloom, sometimes the hormones act up, your sailor goggles come on, and the natural thing happens when you’re cooped up for months at a time with members of the opposite sex. It just happens. Yes, it’s stupid, and yes, you should know better. But, if you know better, and you’re still doing it, the following tips will help you and your “boat boo” from visiting the goat locker:
1. Forget about dating on a small ship.
It’s easier to conceal your well deck escapades on larger ships, such as carriers and amphibious vessels.
2. Keep your distance
Keep it professional, don’t make it obvious. No flirting in your shop. Avoid eye contact altogether.
3. Never date in your division.
Keep it secret from your division buddies. One thing is for sure, as soon the wrong person catches wind, prepare to be teased or worse.
4. If the person you’re seeing is in the same division, volunteer for TAD (Temporary Additional Duty).
Yes, everyone hates it, but volunteering to crank in the galley might save you from getting caught. Once you’re called back to your division, it’s your partner’s turn to reciprocate.
5. Share no more than one meal per day.
6. Pass notes like you’re freakin’ teenagers.
You’ve been there before, so take a page from your high school days. Also, if you have a network of trusted friends to pass along your letters, seal your notes with candle wax for an extra layer of protection. It sounds medieval, but it’s effective.
NOTE: Don’t be stupid; don’t save your notes. The goats – Navy speak for chiefs – will use them as evidence if you get caught.
7. Visit common spaces together.
The library is a great common space to meet and pass notes.
8. Have a buddy in supply or any division with access to storage spaces.
This one is extra risky, but if you feel the urge to take it to the “next level,” your best friend is your buddy in supply. Supply personnel have access to storage spaces, which could be used to lock you in for an hour or two. Beware, you risk not showing up for emergency musters, such as GQ or man overboard. You’re at the mercy of your supply buddy since storage spaces are locked from the outside.
9. Wait for “darken ship” to meet at the bottom of ladder wells and corners.
10. Volunteer for roving watch and rendezvous on the fantail.
… or a dark catwalk.
11. Find another couple to provide you with a shore-buddy alibi.
12. Go out in groups.
13. Have an open relationship. (And good luck with keeping that from getting messy.)
Acronym cheat sheet:
HM1: Hospital Corpsman, E6 pay grade
HM3: Hospital Corpsman, E4 pay grade
DRB: Disciplinary Review Board
CMC: Command Master Chief
WATM editor’s note: Let’s be clear, you should never date on a Navy ship. There’s too much to risk, such as being demoted, or even worse: getting the boot. For clarification, read the Navy’s Fraternization Policy.
With 240 years of history, the U.S. Army has been around the block a few times. Artifacts from its history are put up in museums around the country, but a surprising number of awesome artifacts are kept in storage at a facility in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Here are five of the coolest things tucked away in the U.S. Army Museum Support Center.
(The Army is attempting to build a museum to display many of the artifacts in their collection. To see how to support its construction, check out the museum website. You can also find information on their Facebook.)
1. Badass weapons from history
The firearm collection in the Museum Support Center features weapons used since the start of the American Army. In addition to weapons carried by the average soldier, they have weapons that belonged to historic figures such as the sidearm carried by Maj. Walter Reed, the Army doctor credited with defeating yellow fever.
2. Original artwork by Norman Rockwell
The center is filled with awesome artwork commissioned by the Army, but the crown jewel of the 16,000 works of art is this painting by Norman Rockwell depicting a machine gunner firing into the night. Two other Norman Rockwell paintings are also in the collection.
3. Paintings from active duty soldiers
Famous civilians aren’t the only artists represented in the collections. Since World War I, the Army has maintained an art program in every major conflict. Now, artists in residency usually work in studios at the Museum Support Center in tours of duty two-three year long. They create original artwork that captures the emotion of the Army at war.
4. Uniform items from the Revolution to today
Carefully preserved in a series of shelves, gear and uniform items from the last 150 years are stored in the collection. This drum and hat were worn by Buffalo Soldiers in the Civil War. Gen. William Westmoreland’s uniform is in the collection as well. They even have a powder horn from 1775 that belonged to a Minute Man.
5. Captured enemy artwork and propaganda
Some of the most stunning displays in the collection were captured during war. This depiction of Hitler was bayoneted by the soldier who found it. America has 436 artifacts taken from Nazi Germany under the peace treaty as part of an effort to ensure the Nazi Party never rose again.
To learn more about the collection, check out the video below.
In the wars since Sept. 11, 2001, there have been sixteen Medals of Honor conferred, but ask any military member and they’ll likely bring up some other heroes who deserved the nation’s highest award but didn’t receive it.
Whether it be the chaos of battle, lack of witnesses, or that they were not recommended for the Medal of Honor although they almost certainly should have been, some troops never got the recognition they really deserved.
As articles in The Washington Post and Army Times have pointed out, the standards for military awards are rather inconsistent. The muddled process of which actions earn the nation’s highest award has resulted in a generation of “forgotten heroes” in the War on Terror, as I wrote previously at Business Insider.
Here are seven of those heroes who arguably should have received the Medal of Honor.
1. Marine Pfc. Christopher Adlesberger cleared part of an insurgent-filled house in Fallujah all by himself.
During the second battle of Fallujah, then-Marine Pfc. Christopher Adlesperger singlehandedly cleared part of a house filled with insurgents in a heroic action that was recommended for the nation’s highest military award.
Upon entering an insurgent-infested house in Fallujah on Nov. 10, 2004, Adlesperger pushed forward despite the death of his point man and the wounding of two others. Adlesperger, wounded in the face by grenade fragments, then single-handedly cleared a stairway and a rooftop, throwing grenades and shooting at insurgents while under blistering fire.
“Adlesperger was killing insurgents so they couldn’t make it up the roof,” said platoon corpsman Alonso Rogero, in his written statement of events. “The insurgents tried to run up the ladder well, but Pfc. Adlesperger kept shooting them and throwing grenades on top of them.”
Finally, an assault vehicle broke through a wall on the main floor. Adlesperger rejoined his platoon and demanded to take point for the final attack on the entrenched machine gun. He entered the courtyard first, and eliminated the final enemy at close range. By the end of the battle, Adlesperger was credited with having killed at least 11 insurgents.
He died a month after his heroics in that Fallujah house, but Adlesperger was posthumously promoted to lance corporal and recommended for the Medal of Honor. The award recommendation from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines originated with 1st Lt. Dong Yi and moved up the chain of command, with concurrence from Adlesperger’s battalion commander, regimental commander, and division commander.
Two years later, when his recommendation reached the MEF Commander, Lt. Gen. John Sattler, it was downgraded to the Navy Cross, the nation’s second highest award. His award recommendation did not include any comments or reasons as to why. He was awarded the Navy Cross on April 13, 2007.
2. Army Master Sgt. Thomas Ballard led a 12-man team of soldiers against an overwhelming enemy force. Three hours later, more than 265 insurgents would be dead.
After receiving a call for support from Iraqi Army soldiers being attacked by insurgents on Jan. 28, 2007, a small team of soldiers with Master Sgt. Thomas Ballard — believing the enemy strength was only around 15 to 20 militants — went out to help them.
As they neared the beleaguered Iraqis, an AH-64 Apache helicopter providing air cover crashed. “When I saw the Apache go down, it immediately changed everything,” Ballard, the non-commissioned officer in charge of Military Transition Team 0810, told Army Public Affairs. “Everything was focused on that crash site; nothing else mattered. That’s where we had to go and that’s what we did.”
Once they got to the crash site, the soldiers quickly realized the insurgent force was much larger than 20. The vehicle of Ballard’s commander started getting slammed by machine-gun and RPG fire and a major firefight broke out.
“We began engaging, and continued engaging. There were 265 bodies reported at the end, but I can tell you, there was more than that,” Ballard told Army Public Affairs. “Everything we shot was targets and collectively, we burned up about 11,000 rounds of machine gun ammo, M4 ammo, M203 grenade launcher ammo and 10 air strikes.”
The team of 12 soldiers had apparently fought nearly 1,000 insurgents, according to Ballard. The entire team received the Army Commendation Medal and two others received the Bronze Star. Ballard was awarded the Silver Star.
3. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez kept calling in crucial air strikes on enemy positions, even after he was shot in the chest and believed he would die in minutes.
As the lone combat controller assigned to an Army Special Forces team, Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez brought critical skills of directing accurate air strikes on enemy positions in past battles. On Oct. 5, 2009 while on a mission to find a high-value target in Afghanistan, those skills would be put to the test again — this time while he was seriously wounded.
The team was ambushed, and after a fellow soldier’s weapon had jammed, Gutierrez began firing at enemy fighters until he was struck in the upper chest. The enemy bullet just missed his heart, collapsed his lung and he began to cough up blood, according to Fox News.
“I thought about [my job], what I would do before I bled out,” Gutierrez later told Fox News. “That I would change the world in those three minutes, I’d do everything I could to get my guys out safely before I died.”
Ignoring his injuries and refusing to take off his body armor, Gutierrez remained calm and stayed on the radio to call in gun runs. Enemy fighters were lined up on a wall just 30 feet from him at one point in the battle, but the staff sergeant called in three A-10 strikes at “danger close” range to take them out.
The A-10 pilot talking to him on the ground said he had no idea Gutierrez was wounded, that his voice was calm the whole time, and only realized the man was injured when his team moved to the medical landing zone.
“He said he would be off of the mic for a few to handle his gunshot wounds,” Air Force Capt. Ethan Sabin said. “Until that point he was calm, cool and collected.”
After losing nearly half his blood, Gutierrez was medically evacuated from the battlefield after four hours of fighting. He received the Air Force Cross for his heroism in 2011.
4. Marine Cpl. Brady Gustafson kept directing heavy fire on insurgents despite an RPG partially amputating his leg.
On July 21, 2008 while manning the turret atop an MRAP in Afghanistan, Lance Cpl. Brady Gustafson continued to engage enemy fighters despite a devastating wound to his right leg.
Ambushed from multiple directions with rocket-propelled grenades and machine-guns, Gustafson’s vehicle took a hit from an RPG that partially severed his leg and knocked his driver unconscious, according to The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe.
“I looked down, and a lot of my right leg wasn’t there,” he told Time Magazine. “I could see muscle and bone, and I was bleeding pretty hard.” Still, he remained calm and unleashed hell from his machine-gun.
Despite his injuries, Gustafson remained vigilant on his M240B machine gun, locating and accurately firing on several insurgent positions, some as close as 20 meters from the vehicle.
He remained in the turret, reloading twice and firing over 600 rounds, while Lance Cpl. Cody Comstock, an Anderson, Ind. native, applied a tourniquet to his leg.
Gustafson was recommended for the Silver Star and ended up receiving the Navy Cross in 2009. But his battalion commander, Col. Richard Hall, later told The Marine Times that he regretted not putting him up for the nation’s highest award.
“When you consider that his leg is taken off, his driver is unconscious and he’s shouting to his driver to get him out of the kill zone. Meanwhile, he’s maintaining the presence of mind to keep returning fire on the enemy and to try to suppress them overwhelming that four-vehicle convoy, or patrol,” Hall told the paper. “The vehicle behind them was stuck, and Gustafson reloads no less than two times and wakes up his driver, tells him to push the burning vehicle behind them out of the kill zone, all while bleeding out and refusing medical aid for his severed leg.”
5. Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe pulled six soldiers from a burning Bradley fighting vehicle even though he was drenched in fuel.
Following a devastating improvised explosive device strike under his Bradley Fighting Vehicle in Daliaya, Iraq on Oct. 17, 2005, Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe managed to escape from the burning vehicle, out of his spot in the gunner’s hatch.
Then he went back in under enemy fire to save his fellow soldiers three times, all while he was drenched in fuel.
Cashe rescued six badly burned soldiers while under enemy small-arms fire. His own uniform caught fire, engulfing him in flames. Even with second- and-third degree burns over three-fourths of his body, Cashe continue to pull soldiers out of a vehicle set ablaze when a roadside bomb ruptured a fuel tank.
“I told him, ‘Don’t go over there playing a hero. You learn how to duck and come home,”‘ his sister, Kasinal Cashe White told the Orlando Sentinel. “He said, ‘I’m doing the job I was trained to do. I have to take care of my boys.”‘
Cashe held on until Nov. 8, when he succumbed to his wounds at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas. According to his sister Kasinal, who spoke with the Los Angeles Times, his first words when he was able to speak at the hospital were “how are my boys?”
The full extent of Cashe’s heroism became muddled in the chaos of war, and the soldiers he rescued were unable to provide details since they were hospitalized with severe wounds, The Times reported. He was recommended for, and posthumously received the Silver Star for his incredible bravery.
But many have advocated for Cashe to receive the nation’s highest award, including his former battalion commander.
“You don’t often find truly selfless sacrifice where someone put his soldiers’ welfare before his own,” Brig. Gen. Gary Brito told The Los Angeles Times. “Sgt. Cashe was horribly wounded and continued to fight to save his men.”
6. After being ambushed, 1st Lt. Brian Chontosh ordered his driver towards an enemy trench-line. Then he cleared much of it himself using his own weapons — and the enemy’s.
As a platoon leader in the opening stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom on March 25, 2003, then-1st Lt. Brian Chontosh was ambushed and couldn’t escape the kill zone. So he ordered his driver to move right into the Iraqi trench-line as the turret gunner laid down fire with the .50 cal.
It was the first major firefight of the war for the anti-armor platoon Chontosh led, belonging to Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division. Moments after the ambush began, Iraqi troops had already hit two vehicles with machine-gun, rocket-propelled grenade, and mortar fire, killing one soldier and severely wounding another.
Once his Humvee reached the enemy position, “Tosh” (as he calls himself) got out of the vehicle and jumped into the trench, mowing down enemy soldiers with his rifle until he ran out of ammo.
“I shot my pistol dry twice,” then grabbed an AK off a dead Iraqi, shot every bullet in it, picked up another AK and emptied it, too. “It’s just crazy,” he recalled to Phil Zabriskie for his book “The Kill Switch.”
When it was all over, Chontosh had cleared 200 meters of the enemy trench, killed more than 20 enemy soldiers, and wounded several others. He had used up all of his rifle and pistol ammo, along with two enemy AK-47s, and an RPG.
He was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions, but he didn’t want to take all the credit, and instead commended the Marines with him that day for saving his life.
“They saved my life, multiple times that day, during the ambush,” Chontosh told Stars and Stripes. “That’s all them. If it wasn’t for them, I would be the lieutenant who would be reported as … a case of what not to do.”
7. Despite heavy enemy fire, Cpl. Jeremiah Workman ran into a house multiple times to save Marines who were trapped inside.
On Dec. 23, 2004, Cpl. Jeremiah Workman was leading one squad of Marines while his friend Sgt. Jarrett Kraft had another. Searching houses in Fallujah, Kraft took the left side of the street while Workman took the right.
On the third house they entered that day, Kraft’s squad came under heavy fire on the second floor. Workman immediately rallied his squad to rescue his fellow Marines.
“I was scared,” Workman told The Washington Post. “I really was … when you get caught in a situation like that, it’s a real man check. For two seconds, you have to look in that invisible mirror that’s not there and look at yourself and question yourself as a man. And say, ‘Okay, I’m a corporal in the Marine Corps and I have guys that are looking up to me for leadership. What am I going to do?’ … So I grabbed everybody in the house and we come running.”
Dreading the worst, Workman organized his squad to enter the building. A corporal at the time, he and his Marines faced a maelstrom of small-arms fire and grenades. Three times, he sprinted up a stairwell under fire to fight the insurgents and help the pinned down Marines, who eventually escaped through the roof. At times, the Marines were close enough to see the insurgents’ faces amid the smoke and flashes of gunfire.
Two Marines — Cpl. Raleigh Smith and Lance Cpl. James Phillips, both 21 — were mortally wounded in the house, while several others were hurt but survived. Lance Cpl. Eric Hillenburg, 21, was killed nearby, cut down by enemy sniper fire as he and his fire team raced to the house to help. Workman sustained multiple shrapnel wounds from grenade explosions, but escaped without being seriously hurt.
Workman and his fellow squad leader Kraft were awarded the Navy Cross for their actions that day. Workman’s citation credited him with the “elimination of 24 insurgents.”
“I accepted this medal for three guys who didn’t make it back,” Workman told The Post. “So it’s really theirs.”
8. Sgt. Maj. Brad Kasal took 43 pieces of shrapnel while shielding another Marine from a grenade blast.
On Nov. 13, 2004 while serving in Fallujah as the company first sergeant for Weapons Co., 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, Brad Kasal joined up with a squad entering a house to rescue Marines inside.
Soon after he found a wounded Marine inside, Kasal and another Marine were both severely wounded in the legs by enemy fire. Then the insurgents threw grenades at them. The bleeding first sergeant rolled on top of the wounded Marine with him and absorbed the shrapnel.
Kasal took 43 pieces of shrapnel and was shot seven times inside the “House of Hell.” He lost roughly 60 percent of his blood, according to an article in VFW Magazine.
“When First Sergeant Kasal was offered medical attention and extraction, he refused until the other Marines were given medical attention. Although severely wounded himself, he shouted encouragement to his fellow Marines as they continued to clear the structure,” reads his citation. He was awarded the Navy Cross.
As Kasal was carried out of the house by two of his Marines — covered in blood and still clutching his pistol — Lucian Reed captured the scene, in what was perhaps one of the most iconic photographs to come out of the Battle of Fallujah.
Marine Corps boot camp is a slice of hell that turns civilians into modern-day Marines.
With constant physical training, screaming drill instructors, and so much close-order drill recruits eventually have dreams about it, spending 12 weeks at boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina or San Diego, California can be difficult for most young people.
Having stepped off a bus and onto the yellow footprints at Parris Island on Sep. 3, 2002, one of those young people was me. While in hindsight, boot camp really wasn’t that bad, I thought then that it was the worst thing ever. While writing this post, I thought I would speak in general terms, but since my mother kept all my correspondence home, I figured I would go straight to the source: my original — and now-hilarious-to-read — letters back home.
Drill instructors are the worst.
Having a crazy person with veins popping out of their neck scream in your face and run around a barracks throwing stuff can be quite a shock to someone who was a civilian a week prior. Although I later learned to greatly respect my DI’s, I didn’t really like them at the beginning, as my first letter home showed.
“Our DI’s are complete motherf—king a–holes. There’s no other way to describe them,” I wrote, before including a great example: “Today they sprayed shaving cream and toothpaste ALL OVER the head and we had to clean it up. Yesterday, threw out all of our gear, had to change the racks, and sh– was flying.”
Sounds about right.
My recruiter totally lied to me.
It’s a running joke in the Marine Corps (and the greater military, really) that your recruiter probably lied to you. Maybe they didn’t lie to you per se, but they were selective with what they told you. One of my favorites was that “if I didn’t like my job as infantry, I could change it in two years.” That’s one of those not-totally-a-lie-but-far-fetched-truths.
In my initial letter, I took issue with my recruiters for telling me that drill instructors don’t ever get physical. Most of the time they won’t touch you, but that’s not exactly all the time.
“Oh, by the way, recruiters are lying bastards. They [the drill instructors] scream, swear a lot, and choke/push on a daily basis,” I wrote. (It was day three and I was of course exaggerating).
Mail takes forever to get there.
Getting mail at boot camp is a wonderful respite from the daily grind at boot camp, but letters are notoriously slow to arrive. In my letters home, I complained about mail being slow often, since I’d ask questions in my letters then get a response of answers and more questions from home, well after I was through that specific event in the training cycle.
“Sometimes I write more letters than everyone back home and I have way less time to do it,” I wrote in one letter.
The other recruits were terrible.
I’m sure they said the same thing about me. Put 60-80 people from completely different backgrounds and various regions of the United States and you’re probably going to have tension. Add drill instructors into the mix constantly stressing you out and it’s guaranteed.
Then of course, there’s the issue of the “recruit crud,” the nickname for the sickness that inevitably comes from being in such close proximity with all these different people.
Throughout my letters home, I complain of other recruits not yelling loud enough or running fast enough. “They don’t sound off and we are getting in trouble all the time,” I wrote. No doubt I was just echoing what the drill instructor has given us as a reason for why he was bringing us to the dreaded “pit.”
Getting “pitted” is the worst five minutes of your life.
Marine boot camp has two unique features constantly looming in the back of a recruit’s mind: the “pit” and the quarterdeck. The quarterdeck for recruits is the place at the front of the squad bay where they are taken and given “incentive training,” or I.T. — a nice term for pushups, jumping jacks, running-in-place, etc — for a few minutes if they do something wrong.
But for those times when it’s not just an individual problem — and more of a full platoon one — drill instructors take them to sand pits usually located near the barracks for platoon IT. Think of them as the giant sandboxes you played in as a kid, except this one isn’t fun. For extra fun, DI’s may play a game of “around the world,” where the platoon is run from one pit to another.
While the Pentagon has been very adamant with claims that none of the 4,000+ American troops in Iraq are involved in “combat,” American jets have been flying attack sorties against Islamic State (IS) militants. But what exactly goes into getting bombs on the bad guys? Here’s what a day in the life of an aircraft carrier-based crew is like:
The mission cycle begins with CENTCOM’s Joint Task Force sending the tasking order to the intelligence center on the aircraft carrier. From there, the air wing operations cell assigns sorties to the appropriate squadrons, and those squadrons in turn assign aircrews to fly the sorties. At that point aircrews get to work with intel officers and start planning every detail of the sortie.
Once the long hours of mission planning are done, crews attempt a few hours of sleep. (The regs call for 8 hours of sleep before a hop, but that seldom happens.)
After quick showers and putting on “zoom bags” (flight suits), aviators hit the chow line before the mission brief.
All the crews involved with the mission gather for the “mass gaggle” brief, usually two and a half hours before launch time. After that elements break off for more detailed mission discussions.
Meanwhile, on the flight deck maintainers fix gripes and make sure jets are FMC — “fully mission capable.”
At the same time ordnance crews strap bombs onto jets according to the load plan published by Strike Operations.
Forty-five minutes before launch, crews head to the paraloft and put on their flight gear — G-suits, survival vests, and helmets. They also strap on a 9mm pistol in case they go down in enemy territory.
Aviators walk to the flight deck and conduct a thorough preflight of their jets, including verifying that their loadouts are correct.
Once satisfied that the jet is ready, crews climb in and wait for the Air Boss in the tower to give them the signal to start ’em up.
While lining up with the catapult for launch, pilots verify that the weight board is accurate.
With the throttles pushed to full power and the controls cycled to make sure they’re moving properly, the pilot salutes the cat officer. The cat officer touches the deck, signaling the operator in the catwalk to fire the catapult.
Zero to 160 MPH in 2.2 seconds. Airborne! (Airplanes launching on Cats 1 and 2 turn right; those on Cats 3 and 4 turn left.)
Overhead the carrier, Super Hornets top off their gas from another Super Hornet configured as a tanker.
Wingmen join flight leads and the strike elements ingress “feet dry” over hostile territory.
The flight hits the tanker again, this time an Air Force KC-135.
At that point the mission lead checks in with “Big Eye” — the AWACS — to get an updated threat status and any other late-breaking info that might be relevant.
E/F-18 Growlers — electronic warfare versions of the Super Hornet — are part of the strike package in the event of any pop-up surface-to-air missile threats.
The AWACS hands the flight off to the forward air controller in company with Iraqi forces. The FAC gives the aviators a “nine-line brief” that lays out the details of the target and any threats surrounding it and the proximity of friendlies.
The enemy has no idea what’s about to happen . . .
Target in the cross-hairs of the Super Hornet’s forward looking infrared pod.
Ground view . . .
Mission complete, the jets head back “feet wet,” stopping at the tanker once again along the way.
Jets hold over the carrier until it’s time to come into the break and enter the landing pattern. The aircraft from the event attempt to hit the arresting wires every 45 seconds or so.
Once the planes are shut down on the flight deck, aircrews head straight to CVIC with their FLIR tapes for battle damage assessment or “BDA.”
At that point everybody waits for the word to start the process all over again . . .
Troops serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere face plenty of hardships, from the threat of enemy fire to spending time far away from their loved ones.
While these can be serious problems for troops in harm’s way, there are also some other “first-world problems” that some of today’s military members are dealing with that their forefathers didn’t have time for. The keyword here is “some.”
Plenty of Post-9/11 troops have it rough on deployment and serve under extremely spartan conditions, while others live on sprawling bases with plenty of amenities. In Iraq and Afghanistan, experiences may vary. Your grandfather wasn’t complaining about the WiFi going down before he stormed the beach at Guadalcanal. Just sayin’.
If you find yourself complaining about the things below while overseas, you should stop, read the book “With the Old Breed,” then hang your head in shame. [Editor’s note: If you haven’t figured it out by now, this is lighthearted ribbing, all in good fun, and not to be taken too seriously.]
1. “The port-a-johns are too far away from my tent.”
Most forward operating bases (FOBs) in Iraq and Afghanistan are outfitted with plenty of general-purpose tents, Hesco barriers, and portable toilets. Unlike your old man having to dig a slit trench in Vietnam, you just have to walk to an outhouse that gets cleaned out every day.
The struggle is real.
2. “The guy at the DFAC won’t give me seconds.”
In the Post-9/11 era of war-fighting, the U.S. tried to bring all the creature comforts of home to Iraq and Afghanistan, including your base chow hall. Except this one is not just any chow hall. It’s a dining facility with a salad bar, and steak and lobster on Fridays.
World War II veterans want to throw their C-rations at your face right now.
3. “The bazaar doesn’t have the latest season of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ that I wanted.”
Plenty of FOBs have bazaars where locals sell everything from cheap TVs, rugs, and bootleg DVDs. Locals come on base and sell their wares and troops happily oblige, but not all is well in Afghan-land. You just got finished watching the last of your “Grey’s Anatomy” episodes and if the shopkeeper doesn’t have the latest, you’re going to be forced to watch some movie you’ve already watched ten times this deployment.
What? You watched a movie ten times this deployment? That old-timer at the VFW who served in Korea worried about more important things, like not freezing. How’s the A/C in your tent working, by the way?
4. “The internet is down.”
You are thousands of miles away from home — singularly focused on delivering 5.56 mm of freedom to the enemies of the United States — and working hard to serve that end, and, OH GOD, THE INTERNET IS DOWN.
While you are calling the S-6 shop to whine about not being able to access your Facebook account to instantly message your girlfriend, remember to think about your grandfather handwriting letters back home that would be delivered four months later.
5. “Is that incoming? No, that’s outgoing. That’s gotta be outgoing.”
I’ll be the first to admit I’ve actually said this one. When you’re sitting inside your nice tent watching a riveting episode of “The O.C.” you definitely don’t want to be interrupted. On heavily-protected FOBs, big attacks rarely happen, since the bad guys mostly harass with indirect fire from rockets and mortars. It’s usually ineffective.
6. “Ugh. We have to go sit in the bunker until IDF stops.”
When you finally figure out that yes, it is in fact, incoming. Those ineffective rockets need to be kept ineffective, so off to the concrete bunker you go. Yes, that’s right, you have a bunker made of concrete that some Seabee put there with a crane.
That’s almost the same as the grunts in Vietnam who built bunkers entirely with wood and thousands of sandbags, filled with their hands and e-tools. Almost.
7. “I’ve got blisters on my thumb from playing Playstation so much.”
Ok, fine. Pass me the damn controller. I want to learn what fighting in World War II was like by playing “Brothers in Arms.”
Service members come from every walk of life. Just because someone doesn’t walk around looking like Mat Best, doesn’t mean they’re not a veteran. Even if someone walks around in a perfectly squared away uniform, it doesn’t mean they’re a veteran. Stolen Valor dirtbags have probably figured out how to use Google.
If you’re uncertain whether someone is really in the military or faking it, talk to them. Google will only help them out so far. Pull them aside and ask them a few questions, calm and collected, so they’re off-guard. Bear in mind, if they fail a question, they may still have served. Traumatic brain injury and dementia are common among veterans. If you’re giving hell to the guy who can barely remember his daughter’s name because of an IED in Iraq – you are the dirtbag.
The trick is to catch them playing along with a lie you made up. Praise something that doesn’t exist and if they latch on hoping to get your approval, they’re full of sh*t. Add in minute details that should set off red flags if they don’t look at you’re crazy. From there, it’s up to you. I, personally, recommend just shaming them into going back home and changing out of the uniform of good men and women. You do whatever you see fit.
“That’s impressive, I heard about the serious fighting in Atropia, Iraq. Were you there?”
For some reason, no one ever pretends to be a part of the 97% of the military that are POGs. Stolen valor dirtbags always go big. If you make up some random place that sounds vaguely foreign in Iraq or Afghanistan, they won’t know that the place doesn’t exist.
The people of Krasnovia didn’t deserve the hell brought to their homes —mostly because the people of Krasnovia don’t exist.
“How long did it take you to make insert a rank not indicated by their uniform?”
Memorizing very important details is hard for dirtbags. Specifically, details like believing you can make E-7 in three years. Added bonus if they don’t correct you on saying the rank incorrectly.
“Did you ever serve with my buddy Wagner? Man, I can’t remember what that dude kept going on about loving…”
If there’s one thing you can always count on is civilians not truly understanding the real size and scope of the military. With over 2.2 million troops in the United States Armed Forces, there’s no possible way to know every single person serving.
“Oh nice! What was basic training/boot camp like? Were the Drill Sergeants/Instructors mean?”
Soldiers do not go through boot camp. Marines do not go through basic training. To civilians, they’re used interchangeably.
If you intentionally mix them up, and they don’t politely correct you or immediately look at you like you’re an idiot, you got ’em.
If they’re in a dress uniform: “That ribbon is nice. Did you get it for -whatever-?”
According to basic human psychology, liars always elaborate their stories to try and make their story seem more believable. If you point higher up on the ribbon rack, those can be awarded for some insane things. But it’s the lesser awards that are basically handed out for not messing up anything. When you point to, say, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and they say it’s for saving their platoon: laugh.
“We are supposed to have our PCS Move in a couple of months and have not heard anything. We are still PCSing, RIGHT?!”
Your neighbors and peers are getting assignments left and right. Every time you hear of a new assignment drop, you can’t help but judge their next base.Regardless if it’s a dream location or one that you would like to avoid, there is a sense of jealousy for the fact that they at least KNOW where they’re going.
That’s when it happens. You get the phone call, email, tap on the shoulder, whatever it is, that you have been (im)patiently waiting for.
“Congratulations! Your next assignment is ___________.” Is this a joke? There’s actually a military installation there?
I’ve only ever heard it referred to as the location that you spend your whole career trying to avoid. I’ve heard others even console themselves after receiving a less-than-ideal assignment by saying, “well at least it’s not ___________.”
What do you do in this situation?
I’ll tell you what you do.
You hold your head high and hope for the best. Chances are, you only have a split second to figure out your emotions before people start looking for your reaction.
And guess what? Your reaction to this news is what sets the stage for the rest of your move.
Everyone puts together a “dream sheet” of assignments, whether actually written down on paper or just in your head. You imagine all of the amazing places the military could send you.
It’s time to let go of all of that.
Your past wishes and desires for assignments don’t matter anymore (at least not right now). Turn your new assignment into your first choice and make yourself believe that it’s what you have wanted all along.
Our very first assignment drop was a public event. My husband stood in front of a room full of people as he was told where he would be going next, while I sat in the audience.
We were waiting to hear whether we would be living on the East Coast or West Coast. When my husband was told that we would be moving across the globe to a remote island, my world was rocked.
Everyone around me immediately turned to see my reaction, mouths wide open. Someone asked, “Is that what you wanted?” I was numb and don’t even know how I managed to get any words out, but I responded, “It is now.”
I have tried my best to keep this mentality EVERY time we move. I try to get excited for any assignment and research everything I can about our new “home.” It’s not always easy, especially when you are leaving a fantastic place for the unknown, but it sure makes moving a lot easier when you’re looking forward to the place you’re going.
2. Go Straight to the Source
Most of what you have probably heard about this new location is hearsay. You’re likely hearing rumors from people that have NEVER been there before. Before you get all riled up, try speaking to people that have been there recently, or better yet, are currently there.
One of the best resources I have found for gathering intel on a new duty station has been social media. Simply type your new duty station into the search bar of Facebook and you will probably find a number of informational pages.
Join the local classifieds pages, spouse pages and activity pages. Here you will be able to ask any questions you might have and receive up-to-date answers.
3. Debunk the Rumors
Each duty station has a number of rumors associated with it, whether good or bad. Try to figure out why your new assignment has a bad rap and focus on the positives. Here is an example for our current assignment:
“There is nothing to do.”
“Think about all of the family time we will have. We can go camping, hiking, horseback riding, check out local farms and attend rodeos.”
There will always be something to do and places to explore, but you have to actively search for them.
“It’s in the middle of nowhere.”
“We can do road trips on the weekend and see parts of the country we’ve never seen before.”
Attempt to find the silver lining to each of the negative statements. Maybe even make it a challenge to dispel each of the rumors during your time at your new location.
4. It’s Only Temporary
Do you remember how quickly your last assignment flew by?
Be prepared for that to happen again.
Three years (plus or minus) is not a lot of time in the grand scheme of things. Make the most of your assignment and get to know a new part of the country (or world!) in the short time that you are there.Make a point to visit that local landmark, attend the parade downtown, see the state park and just go for a drive.
Immerse yourself in the local culture and get to know your new home. If you’re not careful, it might be time to move again before you even got to know this new town.
5. Remember that Attitude Is a Choice
You, and only you, can decide how you feel about something. You can make the choice to be excited about a new assignment, or you can choose to dread every minute of it.
Don’t be tempted by those around you trying to bring you down.
When you tell people where you are going next, you might hear, “I’m sorry” or, “Maybe you’ll get a good assignment next time.”
They might be trying to be sympathetic, but in a sense they are peer pressuring you into feeling lousy about your assignment.
You still have a choice. You can still choose to look forward to your move. You can still choose to stay positive.
Finally, appreciate the fact that you have been given the opportunity to experience a place that you most likely would not have lived had it not been for the military.
I am often told by civilians that I am “so lucky” to move every three years and travel the world. Even though PCSing most definitely has its ups and its downs, I do try to remind myself that we REALLY ARE lucky.
I have made friends all over the world.
Ihave artifacts from each of our assignments proudly displayed in our home.
I have lived in the Deep South, the West Coast, a foreign country and the Great Plains.
I have a greater understanding and appreciation for new people that I meet.
The military has provided me with wonderful opportunities to try new places and has really shaped me as a person. I am more resilient, more patient and more curious than before.I have to remember that each assignment, no matter where it is, is simply adding to my life experience.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
There are three people you should always be friends with: The cook. The medic (or Corpsman). And whatever the MOS of the person repeating the phrase.
Everyone in the military serves a purpose in the grand scheme of things, but this week we’ll break down why the cook always belongs on the top of that list.
This is first in a series that will cover the benefits, both obvious and subtle, of befriending service members of another MOS. Stay tuned for more! Who knows? Your MOS might be next!
Why they’re important
6. Everyone needs food
Just a fact of life. The average human needs 2,000 calories a day to stay functional — and that number is far higher for people with an active lifestyle, like troops.
There’s only a certain amount of MREs you (and your digestive tract) can take. That’s where the chef comes in — with fresh food.
Even on the other end of the spectrum, if you’re so POGgy that all you eat is fast food — well…you do you. You f*cking POG.
5. Despite the jokes, they’re actually really good chefs
“But they always serve those gross eggs that come in plastic bags!” the uninformed are typing furiously in the comment section.
This is true. Not denying that they do serve mass quantities of food that can only be eaten doused in sauce. But take a look at the stuff they can make when they have the time, like on holidays or “best chef” competitions. Even that awkward E-2 you only ever see in the smoke pit can probably pull off some really impressive work those days.
Why they’re actually important
4. They can get you more of the good food
They do have to hold on portion sizes during meal rushes to make sure everyone can get something to eat. It’s just the way things go if you’re told you have 400 pieces of bacon and 100 people to feed. You’d logically give four pieces to everyone. But the cooks know that there won’t be 100 people who want bacon.
Once they know that it’s cool, they will definitely toss those extra bacon strips your way.
3. They have access to the real deployment gold: Rip-Its, muffins, beef jerky, etc.
The weirdest thing happens on deployment. Money becomes meaningless (because everyone has expendable cash and nothing to spend it on) and minor things like Rip-Its, despite being half the size of the same ones they sell at the dollar store, have more value and trading power than the 5o cents it’s probably worth.
Why barter for gold when you could go to the goldmine itself?
What happens when you’re their bro
2. They can get you food on the off-hours
If you’ve ever worked KP, you will probably notice the bullsh*t that is all of the leftover food being tossed. Just trays of bacon being thrown directly into the trashcan. Most cooks are just like every other troop: plenty of them would rather save that bacon for their bros than see it in a landfill.
On top of that, there’s this weird thing about cooks. Most actually enjoy cooking — on and off duty. They may also just whip you up something in the barracks kitchen if you ask them nicely.
1. They will make you the food you actually want
Remember those disgusting bagged eggs from earlier in this article? Cooks can make you a real egg omelet if you ask them. Same goes for everything else in the “made to order” lines.
But the real kicker are those little comment suggestion cards they always have at the end of the dining hall. Not to blow their secret, but most cooks have a hard time coming up with countless menu options day in/day out, so they’ll stick to a schedule or a guide that has been passed down since god knows when.
If you say to your cook friend, “Hey man, I found this recipe for some Brazilian food. Looks easy enough,” they’ll likely give it a shot — and you’ll feast at “Brazilian Day” in the chow hall sooner or later.
Operation Just Cause was a quick, decisive mission to remove Manuel Noriega from power in 1989. The operation was opened by the largest airborne operation since World War II and is often cited as an example of using overwhelming force to achieve mission objectives.
The operation also saw many firsts for the U.S. military.
1. First deployment of the entire 75th Ranger Regiment
While Rangers are one of the oldest units in the US military, the unit in its modern incarnation did not come into being until 1986. Just three short years later the entire 75th Ranger Regiment would spearhead the assault into Panama with parachute landings at Rio Hato Airfield and Torrijos/Tocumen International Airport.
The next time the entire regiment would be deployed to one operation was the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
2. First (and only) airborne deployment of the M551 Sheridan tank
The M551 Sheridan armored reconnaissance/airborne assault vehicle had been in the military’s inventory since 1967 and had served in combat in Vietnam. However, by the mid-1980’s it had been phased out of all units, without replacement, with the exception of the 3rd Battalion, 73rd Armored Regiment (Airborne), a part of the 82nd Airborne Division.
This was the first, and only, time that tanks and their crews were delivered by parachute in combat. With little else in the way of armored units, these tanks provided a much needed punch to the assault forces. Less than ten years later, though, the 82nd also divested itself of the M551 without a planned replacement.
Two F-117A Nighthawks dropped bombs during Operation Just Cause. (Photo: Department of Defense)
3. First mission for the F-117
Having just been revealed publicly the year prior, six F-117A’s flew from the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada — though only two would actively participate. Those two aircraft dropped 2,000 laser-guided bombs on the Rio Hato airport prior to the parachute insertion of the Rangers in order to stun and confuse the Panamanian soldiers stationed there.
After a successful debut in Panama, F-117’s would next see action in Operation Desert Storm where they flew through strong Iraqi air defenses to take out targets in Baghdad without a single loss.
4. First combat deployment of the AH-64 Apache
The AH-64 Apache, another weapons system that would see extensive service in the First Gulf War, also made its combat debut in Panama. In its first missions, the Apache proved a capable Close Air Support platform and, though not tank-busting, provided precision fires against fortified targets.
Its superb night-fighting capabilities ensured it had a long career ahead with the U.S. Army. After the warm-up in Panama the Apache would also see extensive service in Iraq in 1991, where it wreaked havoc on Iraqi armored formations. An improved Apache, the AH-64D Apache Longbow, continues to serve in the Army and has seen extensive use in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
5. First combat deployment of the HMMWV
The venerable “Humvee” is as ubiquitous to the modern military as its predecessor the Jeep. The HMMWV had come into service earlier in the decade to replace a multitude of different service, cargo, and combat vehicles. In its debut in Panama, it quickly showed that it could outperform all of them.
The Humvee received praise for its durability and reliability from ground commanders in Panama. The Humvee has served troops all over the world for over 30 years, seeing extensive action in both Afghanistan and Iraq, before finally succumbing to the operational needs of the battlefield.
Operation Just Cause also saw the combat debut of a Marine Corps weapons system, the LAV-25. In its first combat use the LAV-25 showed its versatility as it covered Marine advances, conducted breaching operations, and quickly transported Marines from objective to objective across the battlefield.
7. First unified combatant command operation after the Goldwater-Nichols Act
While this sounds rather boring (yawn) compared to the rest of this list, it is actually very important. The Goldwater-Nichols Act had changed the chain of command and the interoperability of the branches of the armed forces. Like the rest of this list, Panama was a testbed for this new organizational structure.
The success of the operation proved that Congress had gotten it right. The new streamlined chain of command, which goes from the President to the Defense Secretary right to the Combatant Commanders, greatly increased speed of decision-making and the ability of the different branches to coordinate for an operation. This has been the model used throughout our current conflicts to ensure that each service is properly coordinated for joint operations.