The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
Two F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base, Italy, fly over Europe on March 20, 2015. The aircraft participate in a training sortie with the Estonian air force.
Leaving a trail of dust in its wake, an MC-130J Commando II takes off April 2, 2015, at Melrose Air Force Range, N.M. The aircraft’s crew demonstrated its capability to take off, land and perform airdrops in remote areas during a joint exercise.
More than 630 Sailors, Marines and civilians aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) from a teal ribbon and spell out “ESX ARG” to show support for Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.
Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Keron King signals the pilots of an MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter attached to the Vipers of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 48 during preflight preparations aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio (CG 68).
A Trooper assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, fires a mortar from a mortar tube mounted onto a Stryker Combat Vehicle during the unit’s platoon live-fire exercise at Smardan Training Area, Romania, Apr. 8, 2015. The purpose of the exercise is to demonstrate unit capabilities to Romanian military counterparts during live-fire training in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve-South.
Infantrymen, assigned to 2nd Cavalry Regiment, provide security during an #OperationAtlanticResolve-South live-fire exercise at Smardan Training Area, Romania, April 6, 2015.
U.S. Marines attending the infantry officer course prepare to conduct a fast rope exercise during Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course (WTI) on Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., March 27, 2015. WTI is a seven-week event hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) cadre.
A U.S. Marine with Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, completes a pre-inspection before operating the M1A1 Abrams tank during Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) aboard Camp Pendleton, California, March 28, 2015. Marines with BLT 3/1 trained for combined arms operations in restricted terrain in preparation for their deployment this spring.
Marine Safety Security Team Honolulu conduct flight ops with crews from Air Station Barber’s Point to ensure U.S. Coast Guard Hawaii Pacific remain Semper Paratus.
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” – C. S. Lewis
Ah, Valentine’s Day! Love is in the air! Cupid is on the march!
And you have duty. Or are deployed. Or stuck in the barracks. … Whatever.
We all know what that means. While you’re busy mopping floors and standing at parade rest, Joe D./Jodie/Jody is on the prowl, looking for heartsick girlfriends and boyfriends stuck all alone at home. Here’s the date he’s probably suggesting to your significant other right now:
1. He’ll probably give her some nice flowers.
Most likely roses, but it could be something creative like daisies or tulips.
2. Take a ride in your Cadillac.
The wax still looks pretty good, and the shine on the tires hasn’t lost any of the luster. Sorry, man. “Ain’t no use in looking back, Jodie’s got your Cadillac.”
3. Dinner …
Soft light from candles glints off of some fancy silverware as it cuts through delicious Italian food. Filling, but not too heavy.
4. … and a movie.
They’re gonna finish up just in time to catch a movie at the theater. Something funny, and not too racey for a girlfriend hanging out with a guy just as friends. It’s not “50 Shades Darker.” It’s “The Lego Batman Movie.”
5. Take a long walk in the park, on the beach, through the woods, or out behind the barn where no one can see them.
It was an early movie, so the night is still pretty young. And the clear stars make a walk this time of evening just perfect. Of course, she might have to borrow his jacket, to keep the February chill at bay.
6. Play some nice, soft music.
What? Lots of guys keep smooth jazz on their phone. And Jodie just likes to hear this kind of music.
In the dark. In a secluded area. On a walk. With a service member’s significant other.
7. Let’s be honest, Jodie/Jody/Joe D. isn’t doing anything with anyone. But your girlfriend/guyfriend/general’s daughter-friend could use a good Valentine’s Day.
Your significant other is probably sitting at home, still in love with you. But don’t take that for granted. It’s Valentine’s Day for crying out loud.
If you’re stateside and can surprise them, just do everything from this list that Jodie might have done. If you’re deployed, send some nice flowers and a sweet video message.
Both of these things work even if you have to do it on the 13th or 15th.
Come on, give your loved ones some credit. The ladies know better than to give into Jodie’s nonsense. Now, the boys and Jane, on the other hand….
There are so many war movies out there to choose from, yet not many come from the perspective of a man who personally lived through the hell that was the Vietnam War.
Critically acclaimed writer-director Oliver Stone (an Army veteran) took audiences into that politically charged time in American history, where the war efforts of our service members were either overlooked or disdained upon returning home, with Platoon.
With his unique perspective, Stone filmed one of the most iconic death scenes in cinema history — the dramatic end of Sgt. Elias.
But there are a few interesting things you probably didn’t know about Sgt. Elias’s onscreen death.
5. Dafoe was “self-contained” during the scene
The acclaimed actor was given a walkie-talkie and was instructed by Stone to run from point A to point B while avoiding all the explosions.
Besides that, he had no further communication with cast or crew during the scene.
4. It only took 3-4 takes
For anyone who understands the process of filmmaking, 3-4 “takes” is extremely few, especially for such a dynamic scene that turned out so strong. Oliver Stone set up several cameras to capture the drama of the moment that gives you chills.
3. Not all of the bombs exploded
As Dafoe dashed through the uneven terrain, he knew the locations of the squibs and the controlled detonations — some of which failed to explode, but the audience can’t tell.
2. Dafoe had the squib detonator in his hand — which he threw
If look closely at Dafoe’s left hand, you can see him carrying the squib detonator, which he used to set off the devices attached to his wardrobe. Since not all the squibs exploded as planned, Dafoe ended up throwing the detonator to the side during the take that made the final cut.
The shoulder sleeve insignia of the 82nd Airborne Division is two As for their nickname All-American. Command Sgt. Major Kenneth ‘Rock’ Merritt was that and more. He served in the Army for 35 years and saw heavy combat during WWII and the Vietnam War.
Merritt was born in Oklahoma in 1923. At the age of 17, he began his service in the Civilian Conservation Corps to help support his family. However, he was discharged following the attack on Pearl Harbor. He supported the war effort helping to construct Camp Gruber in Oklahoma and Camp Hale in Colorado, and worked at a naval shipyard in California.
Looking to get on the frontlines, Merritt went to enlist in the Marine Corps. However, while he was waiting to speak with a Marine recruiter, an Army poster caught his attention. It depicted a soldier descending under a parachute and holding a machine gun. The poster’s caption asked, “Are you man enough to fill these boots?” That was all the motivation Merritt needed to become a paratrooper.
Merritt enlisted in the Army at Fort Sill, Oklahoma on October 15, 1942 at the age of 19. Five days later, he was sent to Camp Blanding, Florida to join the newly formed 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. He attended paratrooper school at Fort Benning, Georgia in February 1943. After earning his silver wings, Merritt and the rest of the 508th shipped out to the war in Europe.
Merritt jumped into Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. He earned a Silver Star for disabling a German machine gun nest at Hill 131 near La Cuiroterie on July 3, 1944. The medal was presented to him by General Matthew Ridgway. Merritt went on to fight during Operation Market Garden and the Battle of Bulge, after which he went home on leave. He returned to Europe just a few days before the German surrender.
Merritt continued to serve in the Army and rose to the rank of Sergeant Major and was nominated for Command Sgt. Major positions in 1963, 1970, and 1973. Army regulations normally force soldiers to retire after 30 years of service. However, Merritt was one of five Command Sergeants Major allowed to serve an additional five years beyond this mandate. He is also the only soldier to serve two tours as the Command Sergeant Major of the XVIII Airborne Corps.
By the time he retired in 1977, Merritt had built an impressive career. In addition to his Command Sergeant Major positions and Silver Star, he earned a Legion of Merit and three Bronze Stars. He also earned a Master Parachutist with two combat stars. Merritt completed 200 parachute jumps and was awarded a Gold Century Parachute Badge by the Original Airborne Association.
Following his retirement, Merritt remained tied to the Army community. He stayed in Fayetteville, North Carolina and was active with veterans associations like the 508th PIR Association of which he served five terms as President. In 2016, he served as the Grand Marshall for the Fayetteville Veterans Day Parade.
Merritt passed away on March 10, 2021 in his home with his daughter by his side. “We certainly know Rock did his duty here on Earth, not only in WWII and Vietnam, but also in his service to our Soldiers on Fort Bragg,” Fort Bragg and XVIII Airborne Corps said. “For many, his investment in our Soldiers will serve as his legacy. Every change-of-command, every All American Week, every big event, Rock was there. He met every Paratrooper, he shook every Soldier’s hand. He will be deeply missed.”
For decades, the president has flown in style on a variety of different planes and under various call signs. Air Force One is one of the most famous aircrafts to ever take to the skies as it’s the to-go plane for U.S. presidents.
The plane is so popular, it was featured in the 1997 action film, Air Force One, starring Harrison Ford as he battles terrorists trying to take over his flying fortress.
You better listen! (Image via GIPHY)
Here’s what you might not know about this famous flyer.
The term was coined as a call sign for the President’s two nearly-identical planes. The planes are perfect twins except for their tail fin numbers. The two modern AF1 edition aircraft are labeled with different numbers: 28000 and 29000.
4. The original Air Force One
In the mid-1940s, planes were deemed reliable for transportation, seeing as they were successfully flying some intricate missions in World War II. The Army repurposed a C-54 Skymaster for the president’s use and dubbed the aircraft, The Sacred Cow.
3. Air Force One almost collided with a commercial flight
In 1953, President Eisenhower flew under the call sign Air Force 8610. A control tower got it confused with Eastern Airlines flight 8610 as they entered each other’s airspace. After that near accident, the call sign Air Force One was permanently used.
2. The government hired a real designer
Since Air Force One wasn’t considered a “looker,” designer Raymond Loewy came into the picture and took the plane’s aesthetic to a new level. Loewy designed the logos for IBM, Exxon, Shell, Lucky Strike, the Coast Guard, and the U.S. Postal Service.
Understanding the mental cost of taking someone’s life can be nearly impossible for those people who have never experienced it. In this StoryCorps video, Joseph Robertson, an infantryman who served during the Battle of the Bulge, tries to explain to his son-in-law the guilt he has carried since he killed a German soldier approaching his position.
StoryCorps, which works nationwide to collect oral history, has a veteran specific program, Military Voices Initiative, where veterans and service members can tell their stories.
All military working dog (MWD) handlers — no matter what branch of service they are in, go through the same basic handlers course and advanced dog training schools. As a result, all handlers in the military use key terms and phrases that every handler will understand. Here are the most common terms and what they mean.
All handlers will learn how to decoy — aka pretend to be the bad guy — and it’s important they know how to “agitate” properly to provoke the dog to bite them. To do this they need to make noises and watching them scream and grunt for the first time can be hilarious. To make it simple, instructors tell beginning handlers to yell “HOT SAUCE!” very quickly over and over to provoke the dog.
Inverted V (Lackland shuffle)
To conduct a proper detection search, all handlers are taught the “inverted V” method in which the dog detects low, then high, then low again. To do this, handlers must learn to walk backward and beginners move their feet so slow it’s known as the “Lackland shuffle” in reference to the basic handler’s course at Lackland Air Force Base.
The toy used as a universal reward for all military working dogs is the kong. Handlers reward their dogs so much that they call themselves nothing but a kong dispenser.
MWD’s are incredibly strong and athletic and so when the situation calls for a handler to maintain tight control of their dog, they will apply a “short safety.” All handlers use a 6-foot leash and, with the dog on their left, they will hold the end of the leash in their right hand while using their left hand to grab the leash halfway down and wrap it once around their hand to ensure the dog stays close.
When an MWD is released to bite, handlers want them to get a full mouth bite, clench tight, and hold on until the handler gets there so the suspect can’t get away. However, dogs that are not fully confident will not clench and hold and instead will bite, then release, and then bite a different area. MWDs that do this are known as typewriters.
This is when a military working dog runs and hits a decoy so hard that the decoy ends up dazed and confused on the ground, and handlers watching are more than likely laughing their butts off.
This refers to MWD’s whose speed, strength, and bite are a cut above the rest.
These are MWD’s who are so well trained overall, especially in obedience, that they will rarely need a correction, if any.
Change of behavior
When an MWD is trained to detect specific odors it will show a “change of behavior” when it encounters it. Handlers must get to know their dog’s change of behavior so they know their MWD is about to find something.
Reverse. (Not at source. Pinpoint.)
No handler wants to hear “reverse.” When doing detection with their MWD, if a handler hears “reverse” from the instructor, they know they missed the training aid and now must do the embarrassing action of backtracking. Sometimes, a “not at source” or “pinpoint” is added when the instructor notices the dog is on the odor but hasn’t found the training aid yet.
Most MWD’s that defecate in their kennels will simply wait for their handler to clean it up. Unfortunately, some MWD’s like to play with it and spread it every where they can. By the time the handler comes to clean it, the MWD has “painted” the kennel with feces.
Drop the purse
Most novice handlers unknowingly hold the leash up high while their dog is detecting making it look as though they are holding a purse. It is unnatural, there’s no reason for it, and typically it’s a sign of the handler not being relaxed. Instructors will tell them to “drop the purse” so they lower the leash and assume a more relaxed hold of it.
Military working dogs are the world’s most-highly trained dogs and must be controlled or in a controlled environment at all times for everyone’s safety. When an MWD has escaped a controlled environment, handlers will yell “LOOSE DOG!” to alert everyone in the area.
Catch my dog
When a handler asks another handler to decoy for their MWD.
Want peanut butter with that jam?!
MWD’s build up a lot of momentum when they run after the decoy. At the moment of impact it’s important the decoy is not so stiff to allow the dog’s momentum carry through. If the decoy is too stiff, they can jam the dog which can potentially hurt them. The typical response from a handler whose dog was jammed is to ask the decoy if they want peanut butter.
Emotions run up and down leash
Dog teams form a bond so strong that a handler’s attitude will affect the dog’s attitude and vice versa. To keep the dog motivated, it’s important the handler stay motivated.
Trust your dog
This is ingrained in every handler’s head. Dogs who become certified as military working dogs have gone through an extensive selection and training process. They have proven themselves to be the best at what they do. Yet, with the bond a dog team creates and all the training they have gone through, handlers will, at times, doubt their dogs abilities. It’s important to always remember to trust your dog because if there’s anyone who is wrong, it’s the handler because the dog is always right.
Sorority houses and military barracks couldn’t be more different… at least that’s what most people think. In less than six weeks, you can go from living in a beautiful Victorian home, adorned with Greek letters, on a corner of a college campus to settling into James Hall at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May.
The two seem vastly dissimilar, but you will find there are quite a few similarities, no matter how much anyone wants to deny it. Here are just a few things you’ll find familiar when joining the military right after college.
1. You share everything
Barracks or sorority house, someone is always trying to borrow something from you — your printer, your tools, your computer, your DVDs… Just no one in the military has asked me to borrow my Lilly Pulitzer scarf.
2. They both have their own unique culture
Each Greek organization and each military branch has official colors, symbols, and values, like the EGA of the Marine Corps, the grey and gold of the Navy, and the “Integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do” core values of the Air Force.
You can go from green to blue, from a teddy bear and dagger to a shield and anchors, and from “Honorable, Beautiful, Highest” to “Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty,” and still find the simple things that tie organizations together to be remarkably similar.
3. Getting masted is a lot like a military standards board meeting
You sit awkwardly in a group of people who are upset by what you did and you have to try to talk your way out of getting kicked out of the organization.
Alcohol and bad decisions were usually involved. You’ll take a punishment, fine, but you just don’t want to be banned forever.
4. Recruitment is a grueling process
Once you’re accepted into a sorority, there is usually a long process of staying up late and deciding on who does and doesn’t join your chapter. In the military, everyone dreads recruiting. Recruiters are seen as people that you have to deal with, not that you want to deal with.
If they want you, they’re there to get you into the branch any way they can. If they don’t want you, good luck trying because you aren’t getting in.
5. You join a large family
It is truly a sisterhood or brotherhood. The ties that bind sorority sisters are the same as those that bind a Coastie to her brothers-in-arms. You know you will never stand alone, on a battlefield or during hard times in life.
6. Sibling rivalry is everywhere
Just like blood relatives, you fight like cats and dogs, make fun of each other, and give one another a hard time, but no outsider can hurt your siblings. Whether it’s a bar fight, simple teasing, or anything in between, no one gets to be mean to your sisters or brothers except you.
7. There are people you like — and people you don’t
You’re going to have to live with people you didn’t pick, and it can be amazing or awful. Life with 26 other women is not the most fun you can have, but you’ll do it all over again by joining the military after college. Though military roommates may not understand your past sorority life, they are exactly the same: They will tell you how your hair and makeup looks and if your uniform looks good.
8. It gives you a unique identity
The motto of sorority women everywhere is, “it’s not four years, it’s for life.” The Marines have, “once a Marine, always a Marine.” The other branches never give up their identity as veterans. Even though it wasn’t an easy transition, I left college and my sisters and gained a whole new family.
My sisters were still at my boot camp graduation and my Coast Guard family has been there the whole ride. To quote a letter I once received from another Coastie,
In 1940, the evacuation of allied forces from the beaches of Dunkirk commenced as approximately 338,000 troops were loaded into small boats over the course the rescue.
Also known as “Operation Dynamo,” German forces conducted hellish air raids killing the numerous troops that attempted to flee the area.
In the mix of all that chaos was 20-year-old Bill Lacey, a rifleman in the 2nd Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment. Reportedly, Bill had already boarded a relief boat but decided to give up his seat to make room for a wounded man and leaped off the vessel.
Back on land, Bill turned around to see that the boat he had exited from was now well underway — without him.
He quickly located a raft and thought he could use it to rejoin the boat that was sailing off in the distance. As he took hold of it, he realized the raft was useless as it had two bullet holes poked through it.
As gunfire erupted in all directions, Bill witnessed German troops rounding up British stragglers taking them prisoner. Unsure of what the future held, he decided to make a run for it and take his chances surviving on his own.
Headed in the opposite direction as the armed Germans, he maneuvered south, hoping to run into other British troops.
Bill made his way into the woods and traveled deep into the hostile countryside not knowing how he was ever going to make it home.
His mission was to stay out of sight, as German patrols were consistently roaming the area.
He got rid of his issued uniform, hid his weapon, and donned clothes he had stolen from nearby washing lines to help blend into the local population. Bill was forced to drink from streams and eat handfuls of straw dipped in margarine.
“I had to learn to stay alive in the same way a wild animal would,” Bill states in an interview. “My only thought was to survive from one day to the next.”
Since he didn’t speak French, he nodded to locals if they attempted to interact with him. Then, one day after four long months of surviving on scraps, Bill finally saw an opportunity to make it home.
Bill spotted a fishing boat that was tied down to a small pier and began to format a plan in his head. After the sun went down that evening, he carefully made his way to the small vessel, slipped off the moorings, quieting boarded, and steered off toward the English coast.
The forgotten soldier arrived at the shoreline near Dover, England, weak with hunger and clad in ratty clothes. Soon after, he was arrested and transported to an Army base where intelligence officers interrogated him — they didn’t believe his traumatic story.
Luckily, they checked many French newspapers and found articles about a British soldier reportedly on the run who stole food from farmhouses. There was also a report about a fishing boat from the pier that went missing.
After proving himself, Bill was recruited into the British special operation division and completed several more years of service — finally retiring in his early fifties.
Sadly, the hero and survival expert passed away at the age of 91, but his Dunkirk legacy will live on forever.
A while back, Team Mighty posted a story about song lyrics airmen shouldn’t text to each other to avoid punishment from the Air Force. For that list, we created this meme:
Airmen did not love seeing Miley riding their beloved A-10 Thunderbolt II. To repay our debt for defiling the most beloved of Close Air Support airframes, we collected the best memes and internet humor with the A-10 and/or the GAU-8 Avenger. Netizens love the A-10 as much as ground combat troops, so A-10 humor isn’t hard to find.
There are motivational posters.
There are newer jokes.
And old favorites.
And even Star Wars A-10 Jokes.
There are digs at ISIS.
And digs at the Air Force for trying to get rid of the A-10.
We love the GAU-8 Avenger, the massive 30mm hydraulic-driven gun, around which the plane is built.
Most importantly, we love the BRRRRRRRRRRRT
And the A-10 is a great way to show your appreciation on Facebook.
Although the H-6 was initially fielded by the U.S. Army in the early ’60s, it wasn’t until the failed “Eagle Claw” mission in 1980 that the service started getting serious about supporting special operations with helicopters.
Since that time “Little Birds” have been used in crucial special operations missions across the globe from Panama to Somolia to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Little Birds are operated by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), the “Night Stalkers”
The Night Stalkers operate a variety of helicopter models including the Chinook and Blackhawk, all modified for special operations missions.
Little Birds come in two basic variants — troop transport and attack. The attack version — the AH-6 — is armed with two M134 miniguns, two M260 7-shot Hydra 70 rocket pods. Alternately, the AH-6 can be armed with Hellfire anti-tank missiles, air-to-air Stingers, Mk-19 40 mm automatic grenade launchers, or .50 caliber machine guns.
In September 1987, Night Stalkers participated in Operation Prime Chance, engaging and neutralizing an Iranian ship that was being used for mine laying. Little Birds attacked the threat while using aviator night vision goggles and forward-looking infrared devices over water, the first successful night combat engagement under these conditions.
The Little Bird can carry up to six troops, three on each side, but usually they limit the number to two per side.
Little Bird pilots get specialized training in close quarters flying and night ops and those skills are heavily leveraged once they get to the Night Stalkers.
When not at war Little Bird pilots train as intensely as the special operators they carry.
After all, they set themselves to a very high standard: According to it’s mission statement the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) is constantly ready to arrive time-on-target plus or minus 30 seconds.
And here’s the last thing an insurgent might see . . .
You’re on a foot patrol in a dangerous war-zone and you haven’t taken any enemy contact yet. It’s hot outside and all you want to do is head back to the patrol base and snack on an MRE. When will your first firefight begin?
Then, it happens. Snap! Crack! Boom!
Your first firefight breaks out and you put all of your training to use engaging the enemy. After the chaos ends, these questions will enter your mind and help better prepare you for your next mission or patrol.
6. How well did you work under real freakin’ pressure?
Throughout your training, your instructors have done their best to stimulate combat stress by increasing your heart rate and making you complete tactical drills during squad-sized maneuvering.
If this is you, then you may want to consider a career change. (Image via GIPHY)
Ultimately, nothing can prepare you for when those AK-47 rounds buzz and snap near your head. Talk to your squad members off-line about what they saw and felt during the engagement. This helps build leadership and strengthens brotherhood.
5. Did you stow your gear in a reachable spot?
Newbies want to look as badass as possible in their staged gear, but when sh*t hit the fan and enemy contact was thick, were you able to grab that next magazine or tourniquet without fumbling?
If not, consider re-configuring everything on your flak jacket for accessibility.
4. Did you communicate effectively?
Communication is key while taking enemy contact. Firefights can pop off out of nowhere and from some unlikely places. If you’re in a leadership position or saw the insurgent first, did you call it out effectively enough to return fire towards the enemy position? Or did you race through everything too quickly?
Slow down. (Image via GIPHY)
3. Did you bring enough ammo gear?
The truth is, you can never bring too much gear since you can’t predict what’s going to happen next on patrol, but you also don’t want to carry the entire armory. That’s a lot of crap to haul and you’ve got enough sh*t on your back.
He put on a pearl necklace. That’s classic. (Image via GIPHY)
2. Were you really prepared for the worst?
Bad things can happen — it’s war. The question is, how prepared will you be for the next time?