6 Cold War sites you can visit in America - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

For decades, America was convinced that the Soviet Union was going to nuke the country and possibly the world. Even though the US and Russia were allies during WWII, once the war stopped, that partnership ended. Postwar Soviet expansion and takeovers of many Eastern European countries fueled plenty of fears of communism. Americans had long been wary and concerned about Joseph Stalin’s treatment of his own country. For their part, the Russians weren’t fans of Americans either, especially since the US government was unwilling to accept the Soviet Union as a legitimate part of the international community. After the war ended, any relations Americans had with the Russians froze … but you can still visit Cold War sites in America.

American leadership decided the best way to deal with the Soviets would be a strategy called containment, which meant that America’s only solution was a long term vigilance of Russian tendencies to invade countries and take over. The containment approach also provided the government with the rationale for an unprecedented arms buildup, beginning in 1950. Both Americans and the USSR had access to atomic weaponry. The ever-present threat of nuclear war had a huge impact on American domestic life. People started to build bomb shelters, drills were practiced in schools and public places, and movies showcased depictions of nuclear devastation. The government did its part too and built bunkers, reactors, and missile silos in preparation for a possible Russian invasion. 

Though the Cold War might have ended, the traces of our fear, paranoia, and preparation still exist today. Check out this list of top Cold War tourism sites to visit in America.

Greenbrier Bunker, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia 

This fallout shelter is located at Greenbrier Resort. What’s strange about it is that no one in the hotel knew it was designated as a bunker or that the government planned to house all of Congress in the event of a nuclear attack. Apparently, the government somehow convinced resort staff that it was building a conference center and that the 7,000-foot landing strip outside the building was completely necessary. The bunker was never used, and now you can take tours of it and check out the less-than-glamorous digs reserved for Congress. 

Hanford Site, Richland, Washington 

This 586 square mile site has been producing plutonium since 1943 when the War Department took it over to conduct parts of the Manhattan Project. The last reactor was shut down in 1987, and formal cleanup began two years later. 

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, Philip, South Dakota

No surprise that this place used to house missiles, but what might be surprising is how many. At its peak, the South Dakota silo field houses 150 missiles. Now it’s down to just one, the Launch Facility Delta-09. Now it’s run by the National Park Service, and there are tours available of the underground control centers. 

The Culpeper Switch, Culpeper, Virginia

In 1969, construction on a bunker that had lead-lined shutters and steel-reinforced concrete. The reason? To keep cash flowing in case a Soviet attack wiped out America’s banks. For many years, the Federal Reserve kept $4 billion in cash inside the bunker. The government moved the cash out in 1988 and gifted the site to the Library of Congress in 1992.  

Titan Missile Museum, Sahuarita, Arizona

For 24 years, the US had 54 Titan II missile sites on high alert. President Reagan ordered all Title II missiles deactivated in 1981, and most of them were completely destroyed in the process. All except for one, which is now on display at the Titan Missile Museum in Arizona. The missile was never fueled and never carried a warhead, so it’s completely safe for the public. 

X-10 Graphite Reactor, Oak Ridge, Tennessee

For two decades, the X-10, an artificial nuclear reactor, existed on a diet of uranium. It’s dormant now and has been since 1963. Located inside the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the reactor is now open to the public. 

This is just a small sampling of the Cold War sites in America, even though the Cold War has officially been over for decades.

READ MORE: GREAT FALLS NIKE FIRE CONTROL SITE W-83 PLAYED A CRITICAL ROLE IN THE CREATION OF GPS.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How old is too old to join the military?

Being in the military is a physically demanding job. If you want to enlist, you can’t be weak, slow, or easily fatigued. There’s an enlistment age limit for that very reason; it’s safe to assume that most 60-year-olds don’t have the endurance or strength they did when they were 24. However, the times, and the people living in them, are changing. 

While obesity and sedentary lifestyles are impacting American health more than ever, people today are decidedly capable of remaining strong and healthy well into middle age and beyond. Because of improvements in our understanding of nutrition, fitness, and healthcare, we can continue to physically kick butt far longer than our predecessors. 

The Federal Law was recently changed to allow for older first-time soldiers to join, but some branches are tougher nuts to crack than others. 

Before 2006, the maximum age for first time enlistment was 35. Then, the Army requested that Congress elevate the age limit to 44. Congress wasn’t fully convinced, so they compromised and changed the maximum enlistment age to a middle ground of 42. Each branch has the option of setting stricter standards, however, and many do. 

The current age limits organized by branch are as follows: 

Active Duty Army – 42

Army Reserves – 42

Army National Guard – 42

Air National Guard – 40

Active Duty Air Force – 39

Navy Reserves – 39

Coast Guard Reserves – 39

Air Force Reserve – 35

Active Duty Navy – 34

Marine Corps Reserves – 29

Active Duty Marines – 28

Active Duty Coast Guard – 27

Logically, the branches that are the most physically demanding have lower enlistment age limits.

Special Operations branches have stricter age limits for the same reason. Still, if a 38-year-old wants to give back to his country through military service, it’s now well within his reach to do so. In some cases, you can be well into your 40s and still serve- if you have what the military needs, that is. Age waivers are occasionally offered if you have critical skills or experience that’s in short supply, but the commanding officer or community manager will have to approve it. Medical and legal professionals, plus religious officials, are the most likely to get approval. 

Joining, or re-joining, the military might be the best decision of your life.

When Pfc. Russell Dilling started basic training, he was about twice the age of the young men training beside him. Most of them were 21, while Dilling just met the age criteria at 42. He had always wanted to join the Army, and he finally had his chance when the age limit was raised. He quickly proved he deserved to be there as much as anyone else. Only 12 out of 60 recruits qualified for a rifle certificate on their first try, and he was one of them. 

While Dilling barely met the age limit for first time enlistment, prior service members can reenlist later in life. Some do so with great enthusiasm. Staff Sgt. Monte L. Gould reenlisted in the Army Reserve after a 10-year break. After a decade devoted to raising his family, he was ready to return to service in hopes of giving back to the next generation of soldiers. The retirement eligibility didn’t hurt, either! 

Gould was especially excited to show the world what “old” men are capable of. He practices jiu-jitsu and runs seven miles a week with a 50-pound rucksack; living proof that becoming weak and tired in your 50s isn’t inevitable. 

While critics have suggested that more young people should be enlisting, the evolving age limit and physical requirements are evidence that the US military is keeping up with the times. To answer the question “how old is too old”; it depends on the person. Americans are living longer, healthier lives. If they’re fit and healthy, they can serve their country longer, too.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of May 31st

Former Secretary of Defense, retired general, and Patron Saint of Chaos James Mattis has announced that he will be publishing an autobiography called Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead. It’s said to cover him coming to terms with leadership learned throughout his military career starting from his days as a young Marine lieutenant to four-star general in charge of CENTCOM.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m freaking pumped. Yes, I’d love to know the nitty-gritty of commanding a quarter million troops, but I want to know about his lesser-known butter bar years leading a weapons platoon. Because let’s be honest, that’s where the seeds of his leadership style really grew.

He probably made mistakes and got chewed out for it. He slipped up and got mocked by the lower enlisted. He would have had to ask for advice and eventually grow into one of the smartest minds Uncle Sam has seen in a long time. Even the Warrior Monk himself may have been that nosy LT who needed to be whipped into shape by the platoon sergeant, and that’s kind of motivating in its own way. Yeah, you may f*ck up once in a while, but not even Chaos Actual was a born leader. He had to learn it.

Just think. There’s an old salty devil dog out there somewhere who’s responsible for knife-handing the boot-tenant out of Mattis. And he’s the real hero of this story.


While we wait for the one book that will actually get Jarheads to read for fun on June 16th, here’s some memes.

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

(Meme via Not CID)

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

(Meme via SFC Majestic)

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

(Meme via Broken and Unreadable)

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

(Meme via Disgruntled Decks)

Fun fact: The Department of Energy renamed natural gas “freedom gas” in a memo. You know what that means, boys… 

And no. That’s an actual thing and not from The Onion.

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

MIGHTY CULTURE

This WWII Army veteran just celebrated his 102nd birthday

The McCurtain County VA Clinic and members of the local community gathered in Idabel, Oklahoma to celebrate World War II veteran Sydney Hunnicutt’s 102nd birthday.

“We truly care about the veterans in our community and we just want to make a difference,” said Lisa Morphew, registered nurse and clinic manager. “We love our veterans and want to show them that we’re here to help, whatever their needs are.”

VA clinic staff presented birthday cards and Jonathan Plasencia, associate director for the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System, presented a gift bag to Hunnicutt on behalf of VA Voluntary Service.


Twelve of Hunnicutt’s family members were able to attend the party including several who were visiting from California. Dorothy Cash, Hunnicutt’s daughter, said she was grateful to the clinic and community who helped make the day special for her father.

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

Jonathan Plasencia shakes Sydney Hunnicutt’s hand.

“It means the world to us,” said Cash.

During World War II, Hunnicutt was drafted into the U.S. Army and deployed to the Philippines with the 63rd Infantry Regiment, 6th Infantry Division. During the Battle of Luzon, Hunnicutt fought the Japanese and was shot in his left hand. He lost two fingers and was later awarded a Purple Heart.

“It’s an honor to be here today to celebrate a member of the Greatest Generation,” said Plasencia, who drove from the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center in Muskogee to celebrate Hunnicutt’s milestone. “Veterans have many options for their health care and when they place their trust in VA, that is a privilege we do not take lightly.”

“It couldn’t have been better,” said Hunnicutt, who turns 102 on July 13, 2019.

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

Clinic staff join Sydney Hunnicutt for his 102nd birthday celebration.

Hunnicutt has been a patient at the clinic since it opened in 2017, and Dr. Jose Gomez has served as his primary care physician.

“He is so happy,” said Cash. “Dr. Gomez has been the best.”

Dr. Gomez said it’s been a privilege to provide care for Hunnicutt.

“I want to thank him for his courage and for putting his life on the line for us to be able to have the freedoms that we have,” he said. “It’s an honor just to shake his hand.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

popular

5 typical military rewards that aren’t actually that great

Everyone wants recognition for their hard work and dedication. In the civilian world, promotions and cash raises are a solid ways to let employees know that the company respects their work production and technical skills.

Holy sh*t we wish the military was structured in that same way.

Although service members do get promoted, that only happens once every few years — if you’re lucky. It’s only a 17 percent chance that an active duty troop will stay in the military for 20 years before retiring. That’s much lower than most people think. Now, we can’t accurately pinpoint why all troops decide to get out before hitting their 20, but we know why most of our veterans friends did: they didn’t felt appreciated.

So how does the military show their brave men and women that they give a sh*t about them? Well, keep reading.


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Yes. It kind of does.

“Mandatory fun” days

If this term sounds confusing to the civilian ear, it sounds just as weird to a newbie boot’s as well. Mandatory fun isn’t just the name of the We Are The Mighty podcast, it’s also the event all service members have to attend when their units throw appreciation parties for troops.

Every active duty member has to show up, be accounted for, and must look like they’re having fun (good commands will also design a fun event, but…that’s rare). Sure there are free hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and soda, but, unfortunately, these events usually take place on a Saturday afternoon. Although you’d much rather be doing anything else, you’re stuck at work because you did your job too well.

Free afternoons

What’s interesting about the military is we have to take part in formations on a regular basis. This is a standard tool the military uses to pass information to everybody in the unit at the same time.

Sometimes, the officer-in-charge will give their command the day off as a way of acknowledging everyone’s handiwork.

Unfortunately, they use the formation tool to relay this news to everyone. So…they call everyone to formation…to let them know they have the afternoon off.

But hey, a free afternoon is a free afternoon.

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Command coins

When most civilians hear the word “coin” they think that involves money. In this case, it really doesn’t. Although it costs money to purchase a command coin, the collector item has zero value anywhere on earth except in a veteran-themed bar. Sure the practice of handing out a command coin is a cool way of praising a troop, but, at the end of the day, it’s just something that collects dust on the owner’s desk or shelf in their office.

How about shelling out some real coin once in a while? That will really show the troops their command cares.

Certificate of appreciation

Nothing feels better than to be recognized for your hard work in front of your peers and be handed a piece of pre-formatted paper praising you. We’re totally kidding! Receiving a letter or certificate of appreciation means close to nothing when other troops next to you get the exact thing — word for word.

The only thing that makes the certificate different, it has your name and rank is on it.

Whoopty freakin’ do!

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Getting a shout out in formation

Remember earlier when we talk about standing in formation? Well, Staff NCOs and the command’s officer also like to give shout-outs to their troops there as well. At least you get some notoriety for your excellent work, but unless it reflects somehow on your bi-annual evaluation — nobody gives a f*ck afterward.

Unless you earn your unit a day or half day off, being told “good job for killing the enemy yesterday” only goes so far if it doesn’t get you anywhere afterward.

Welcome to the suck, boot.

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘Spoiled brat’ says Army put him in his place

“I have no idea why I joined the Army,” said Spc. Ken Park, a soldier with the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion, based out of Southfield, Michigan. “My parents were extremely against it. I was a spoiled brat. I was fat.”

Park came from what he considered to be a privileged life. He was constantly told that he was special by his parents and his teachers. But Spc Park never really felt like that was a life for him. “Coming from that sort of privileged background, joining the Army, being told that I was the same as everyone else sort of put me in my place.”

“My recruiter even told me I couldn’t join, the first time. He said I should go to school instead, and I could join later” said Park. He was about 60 pounds overweight at the time, so he joined a gym and, through hard work and discipline, ended up losing 70 pounds. Park was, perhaps unknowingly, starting to re-program himself into the Army life even before he officially enlisted.


By being in the Army, Park said, he has learned life skills that he may not have learned otherwise. “I didn’t know how to do laundry until the first or second day of basic. Actually, my battle buddy looked at me weird. He said, ‘How do you not know how to do laundry as an 18 year old?’ I had someone do that for me my whole life” said Park. “But now I know the value of a dollar. How hard you have to work to be something. And how to do laundry,” he said with a chuckle.

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

Spc. Ken Parks, a soldier with the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion listens to the range safety officer issue commands targets during a qualification table at his unit’s November drill weekend at Fort Custer, Mich. on Nov. 16th, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Bob Yarbrough)

Park went on to say that his Army experience has only gotten better. “In AIT (Advanced Individual Training) I had a case of bronchitis, but I kept going. We had a PT test and I had to pass. “There was [harsh winter] weather like this. And I had to go on. The fast guys came back, because they knew I had bronchitis, but I had to pass. I made it and it was hard, but I don’t know that I would have made it without them.”

Spc. Park isn’t new to the U.S. Army Reserve, but he is new to the Civil Affairs Community, and the 414th, first drilling with the unit in September. He says his time in the 414th has been eye-opeing. “There aren’t many places you can go, in the Army or in normal life, where someone will see you struggling, and say ‘Hey, I know you’re tired, I got you’ and they take care of you so the mission still gets done.”

Park came to the 414th after being contacted by an Officer in the unit. “Cpt. Babcock actually reached out to me on LinkedIn,” said Park, “because I’m fluent in Korean and Japanese. Now I feel proud to be part of the unit, and I hope to live up to the expectations of the Commander and the First Sergeant.”

“Despite being told that I shouldn’t, and couldn’t, join the Army, I’m glad I did,” said Park. “It gave me a higher value, a better reason for doing what I do.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

After years of vigilant service, veterans must remain vigilant online

The internet is a powerful tool for veterans. It allows them to keep up with friends, access their hard-earned benefits and shop for the things they need. Unfortunately, former service members are more likely than civilians to be targeted by online scammers while doing these things. Veterans are twice as likely to lose money to fraud because of identity theft, phishing, impostor scams, and investment, loan, or donation deceptions.


Many of these scammers target Veterans to alter or access their government-provided aid, swindling them out of the money or benefits they have earned. This is a widespread issue. Nearly 80% of Veterans say they have been targeted by scams due to their service, according to an AARP survey. These scams are diverse and range from phishing attempts to solicitations for fraudulent Veteran-focused charities.

“Help the Vets” is one example of a fraudulent charity targeting Veterans. It claimed to fund medical care and mental health services for Veterans. An investigation found that “Help the Vets” spent 95% of donations on administrative costs and compensation for its founder. Just 5% of proceeds were actually used to benefit Veterans.

Scammers and identity thieves also target financially stressed Veterans with promising investment opportunities. Recently, a man defrauded about 2,600 people—many of whom are pension-holding Veterans—in a Ponzi scheme. The investor told these pension holders to make monthly payments and disguised them as cash flows.

Identity thieves have developed both low-tech and high-tech ways to steal Veterans’ data, like shoulder surfing and skimming. Shoulder surfing requires that someone physically look over your shoulder to steal your password, PIN, or credit card number. Skimming utilizes a device that fits onto regular credit card machines, allowing scammers to steal your credit card information.

How to protect your information

Veterans can take simple actions to better protect their information:

  • Use unique passwords for your online accounts. Re-using passwords increases the risk of cyber theft.
  • Use multi-factor authentication (MFA). This combines more than one authenticator type based on information users know and information users receive. It also adds another level of security when Veterans log in to access and manage VA services and benefits.

VA works hard to prevent Veteran identity theft. VA delivers cybersecurity awareness training for all VA employees. It ended the use of Social Security numbers in its business processes. Lastly, VA gives free credit monitoring to Veterans and beneficiaries whose data was compromised by a VA breach. Veterans or beneficiaries of identity theft not caused by a VA breach can contact the toll-free Identity Theft Help Line at 1-855-578-5492 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.

Veterans can also find additional information on protecting their identity and what VA is doing to help by visiting the More Than a Number website.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

It’s time to get together for Wreaths Across America

The United States has a number of holidays meant to honor those members of the armed forces who are serving, who have served, and who have given their last true measure of devotion on the battlefield. There’s an organization now that seeks to make sure we remember everyone in uniform through its mission to “Remember, Honor, and Teach.” And it all starts one day in December, decorating for one of America’s biggest holidays.


Men and women in the U.S. military are putting their lives on the line for Americans back home every day of the year, says Wreaths Across America. The group aims to remember and honor those warfighters while teaching future generations to do the same. Their mission restarts every year on the third Saturday in December (this year, it’s December 15), when volunteers around the United States place a wreath on a veteran’s grave, say their name aloud, and thank them for their courage and sacrifice.

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

Wreaths Across America began with Morrill Worcester of Harrington, Maine, the owner of Worcester Wreath Company. As a young boy, he was sent on a trip to Washington, D.C. where he saw Arlington National Cemetery for the first time. The experience never left him and, after he became a successful entrepreneur, he decide to give back to the men and women who died so that he could make his fortune.

In 1992, the company saw a surplus in its product and he decided to use them in the older areas of Arlington National Cemetery, the ones that were receiving fewer and fewer visitors every year. When other companies got wind of the plan, they joined in. The local trucking company provided transportation to DC. Members of the local VFW and American Legion posts decorated the wreaths with red bows, all tied by hand.

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

Volunteers from Maine and in the nation’s capital helped lay the wreaths on the graves in Arlington. It even included a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. For 13 years, Worcester quietly and solemnly did the honored dead this service without advertising or announcement.

In 2005, at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, someone noticed the wreaths on the grave markers in Arlington and posted a photo of its snow-covered majesty on the internet. It quickly went viral and those who couldn’t make the trip to DC wanted to do versions of the same in their own hometowns.

Since the company couldn’t possibly make enough wreaths to give to every grave in every state, they instead send seven wreaths to each state, one for every branch of the military and one for prisoners of war and the missing in action.

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

The Clarion, Pennsylvania Civil Air Patrol has partnered with Wreaths Across America.

Since Wreaths Across America began in 2006, 150 sites across the United States hold simultaneous wreath-laying ceremonies. By 2008, that number doubled and wreath ceremonies were held in Puerto Rico and 24 cemeteries overseas. In 2014, the number grew to 700,000 memorial wreaths at more than 1,000 sites, including Pearl Harbor, Bunker Hill, and the September 11th sites.

Their volunteers managed to cover every grave in Arlington National Cemetery.

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

Representatives of each branch of military service salute behind wreaths in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Ivy Green Cemetery in Bremerton during the Wreaths Across America ceremony.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Charles Gaddis)

Now the ceremonies are held on the third Saturday in December, and the movement of the wreaths bound for Arlington from Harrington, Maine is the world’s largest veteran’s parade. The annual wreath laying goals are surpassed now by education programs and partnership programs with local-level veterans organizations.

To learn more about Wreaths Across America, donate, or volunteer to lay wreaths, visit their website.

MIGHTY CULTURE

March is Marine Infantry Month, here’s how to celebrate

Okay, okay. Marines are arrogant; we get it. So, maybe we don’t need to dedicate an entire month to one of the finest fighting forces on the planet. Maybe doing so will simply add fuel to their egotistical fire. But the fact is that Infantry Marines are some of the best, most badass creatures on the planet, and we’re going celebrate them however we damn-well want.

Luckily, for the celebratory folks among us, the Marine Corps’ MOS codes have given us a pretty easy-to-follow structure. So, we’re officially declaring that March be Marine Infantry Month, and we’re marking the following days on our calendars to celebrate each of the many Marine Corps Infantry sub-cultures.


6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

It should be noted that, on this day, if you wish to express your anger, just yell, “but I have a college degree!”

(U.S. Marine Corps)

March 1st — Infantry Officers Day (0301)

While many may not feel like celebrating it, infantry officers are certainly something you can appreciate. Each year, we’ll start this day off with a land navigation course during which you purposely get lost before you find yourself on a beach, sipping on expensive alcohol with lance corporals cooking on grills (not in the barracks, though).

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

See how much fun this one’s having? That could be you.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brendan Custer)

March 11th — Day of the Rifleman (0311)

The most populous of the infantry jobs, on March 11, start your celebration with a long-distance run or a patrol into a densely wooded area nearby. Once you’re there, eat some MREs — but save that poundcake! You’ll need it for the ceremonial field birthday cake: an MRE pound cake with a burning cigarette in the center.

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

This is a day of stillness. Don’t you move, boot.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Israel Chincio)

March 17th — Day of the Snipers (0317)

When you wake up on the 17th, paint your face in camouflage, crawl a few miles, and then lay there for the rest of the day. When the sun starts to set, shoot a rifle at something really far away, and then crawl home.

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

A fun day at the beach, right?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christian Ayers)

March 21st — Day of Reconnaissance (0321)

On the 21st, take a boat out from the shore before paddling it back in. What you do after you’ve landed is completely up to you, but no matter what, you can’t tell anyone what happened.

6 Cold War sites you can visit in America

Also, make that dumb crunchy dig your fighting hole then take it over!

(U.S. Marine Corps)

March 31st – Weapons Day (0331, 0341, 0351, 0352…)

Because there are a lot of MOS codes out there that end in numbers bigger than 31, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover at the end of the month. Not exactly optimal — each job really deserves their own day — but hey, we didn’t make the universe.

Here’s how a celebration might go: You sit back and watch as the riflemen do all the work and only help them when they call up the proper radio report. Then maybe you help them. Otherwise, you’ve got an avenue of approach to keep an eye on, right?

MIGHTY CULTURE

This woman landed under fire at Inchon with the Marines

Marguerite Higgins was a legend of the news media who went ashore with the Marines in the fifth wave at Red Beach at Inchon, South Korea, earning her the respect of ground-pounders and a Pulitzer Prize while allowing the general public to understand what troops were doing for America overseas.


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Marguerite Higgins, a war correspondent who landed with Marines at Red Beach.

(YouTube/womenshistory)

Higgins’ journalism career started when she traveled to New York with her portfolio from college, asked a newsstand guy where the closest newspaper office was, and stormed in with the demand that she be made a reporter.

That was in 1941. America was quickly dragged into the wars in Europe and the Pacific, and Higgins got herself sent to Europe where she wrote some of her most haunting work, describing the liberation of concentration camps during the fall of Nazi Germany. She braved shellfire in battle and wrote about what the soldiers around her suffered.

In fact, when she rushed to cover the liberation of the concentration camp at Dachau, she arrived with a Stars and Stripes reporter before the Army did. The German commander and guards at the southern end of the camp turned themselves over to the journalists, and those journalists had to let the prisoners know they’d been freed.

Her work in World War II was appreciated, but she hadn’t been sent overseas until 1944. When the Korean War began, Higgins was based out of Japan as the bureau chief of the New York Tribune’s Far East Office, and she immediately sent herself to the front.

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Prisoners are marched past an M26 Pershing tank in the streets of Seoul, South Korea in 1950.

(Department of the Navy)

She was there when Seoul fell to North Korea, but then the Tribune sent another war reporter and ordered Higgins back to Japan. Instead of leaving, she kept reporting from the front in competition with other journalists — including the other Tribune journalist: Homer Bigart.

Yup, she competed against other employees of her own newspaper. Though, in her defense, that just meant the New York Tribune was getting a steady stream of articles from two of the top war correspondents in the world.

Well, it was, anyway, until the U.S. passed a new rule banning female reporters from their front lines. Higgins protested, which did nothing. Then, she protested directly to Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who was then the commander of all U.S. forces in Korea. This proved to be much more successful.

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Newspaper article announces that ban on women war correspondents in Korea has been lifted.

(YouTube/womenshistory)

MacArthur sent a telegram to the Tribune saying, “Ban on women correspondents in Korea has been lifted. Marguerite Higgins is held in highest professional esteem by everyone.”

And that was great for Higgins, because her Pulitzer moment came a couple months later. Higgins got herself onto one of the largest operations of the war: The Army and Marine Corps landing at Inchon. The strategic idea was to threaten the interior supply lines of the Communists and to relieve pressure on troops that were barely holding the southern edge of the peninsula. She opened her article with:

Heavily laden U.S. Marines, in one of the most technically difficult amphibious landings in history, stormed at sunset today over a ten-foot sea wall in the heart of the port of Inchon and within an hour had taken three commanding hills in the city.

A little later in the article, she writes:

Despite a deadly and steady pounding from naval guns and airplanes, enough North Koreans remained alive close to the beach to harass us with small-arms and mortar fire. They even hurled hand grenades down at us as we crouched in trenches which unfortunately ran behind the sea wall in the inland side.

It was far from the “virtually unopposed” landing for which the troops had hoped after hearing the quick capture of Wolmi Island in the morning by an earlier Marine assault.
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Marines clamber over obstacles at Inchon, South Korea, during the amphibious assault there. Marguerite Higgins landed with the fifth wave of Marines.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Higgins landed with the fifth wave of Marines. Her coverage highlighted the bravery of troops under fire, but was also critical of those who had sent forces in under-prepared or -equipped. In 1951, she wrote in War in Korea: A Woman Combat Correspondent:

So long as our government requires the backing of an aroused and informed public opinion it is necessary to tell the hard bruising truth. It is best to tell graphically the moments of desperation and horror endured by an unprepared army, so that the American public will demand that it does not happen again.

After Korea, she continued to search out chances to cover troops in combat. In 1953, she went to Vietnam to cover French forces and covered the defeat at Dien Bein Phu where her photographer was killed by a land mine. She got a pass to report from both sides of the Iron Curtain and covered the Cold War tensions as they rose in the early 1960s.

Unfortunately, her dangerous work eventually caught up with her. She returned to Vietnam to cover American operations there and, in 1965, she contracted leishmaniasis. She was sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the U.S. for treatment, but died on January 3, 1966, from the disease.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army culture: Make room for recovery

From January 2018 to June 2020, I served in key development positions as a battalion operations officer, battalion executive officer, and brigade executive officer. My key development time was the hardest I have ever worked in my life. Fortunately, I had great teammates, worked for wonderful bosses, had the opportunity to coach and mentor junior officers and NCOs, and formed lifelong bonds I will cherish for the rest of my life. Despite being part of a great team, stress took its toll, and by the end I was something of a wreck; my personal life was strained, I was mentally and physically exhausted, and, to add insult to injury, I had also gained about ten pounds. 

Fortunately, my next assignment was one that advertised a much slower pace and exposure to parts of the Army I had never seen. Needless to say, I arrived excited. I would get to spend time with my family, refocus on my fitness, and get my life together while preparing for my future. However, myriad self-imposed expectations and a constant drive for excellence became destructive. I was still waking up at 0530 every day to go to the gym, do PT, and get to work early. Falling back on old habits, I once again found myself checking emails and responding to every single text or call at all hours of the day. 

Despite a desire to recover, I continued to run at the same pace I had for the last two and a half years. My drive never turned off. I continued to redline and found myself once again breaking down. I thought I had slowed down, but I never truly began the recovery process.

Merriam-Webster defines “recover” as “to bring back to normal position or condition,” and The American Psychology Association defines “recovery time” as “the time required for a physiological process to return to a baseline state after it has been altered by the response to a stimulus.”  The common element in each definition is a change in state. The drive for excellence during a demanding period is counterproductive, or even harmful, during recovery. We must give ourselves permission to power down, throttle back, and take time to heal. Not giving ourselves permission to slow down can impede recovery, multiply the damage incurred during a high demand period, and cause lasting negative impacts to our physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual well-being.  

In CADENCE!

“If the Soldier cannot recover properly from the acute training load…then the training load will accumulate and not be absorbed. The continued volume and intensity of the workload becomes chronic. This failure to properly progress the workload increases risk of underperformance…” FM 7-22, pg 4-7, “Physiology

In 1908, psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John Dillingham Dodson demonstrated an empirical relationship between stress and performance, known as the Yerkes-Dodson Law. The law dictates that performance increases with physical and mental stress, but only to a point. When stress becomes too great, or endures for too long, performance begins to decrease. This relationship is often depicted by a bell curve:

While not explicitly mentioned, the Yerkes-Dodson Law can be found throughout the new FM 7-22, Holistic Health and Fitness. FM 7-22 mentions recovery, or some variant of, 623 times. Clearly, the Army recognizes recovery is a requirement, and not just for physical fitness. In addition to physical recovery, FM 7-22 explicitly mentions mental, spiritual, nutrition, and sleep dimensions. However, despite encapsulating a recovery requirement in the Holistic Health and Fitness program, the OPTEMPO within many BCTs remains unsustainably high, impeding any progress made with the publication of the new doctrine.

EXERCISE!

“Soldiers’ roles and jobs change, complicating the requirements for sustained character and psychological training across a Soldier’s lifecycle. …Therefore, commanders must consider this doctrine as providing best solutions and messaging for the collective mental health of the unit—procedures and tactics that allow Soldiers to prepare for, thrive in, and recover from the ordinary and extraordinary stressors that might degrade readiness.” FM 7-22, pg 9-1, “Mental Readiness”

FM 7-22 and other like programs are a much-needed step in the right direction, providing comprehensive doctrine and tangible steps individuals and leaders can take. However, they fail to address the cultural aspects at the root of the recovery problem. In my experience, some unit cultures, particularly divisional units, value work for the sake of work, not work for the sake of output. A Soldier who completes their assigned tasks on time, or even tasks beyond their assigned workload, but leaves at a reasonable hour is often seen as less committed or lazy. However, a Soldier who comes in early and stays late is seen as hard working and dedicated, despite producing little to no value for the organization.  

When leaders tie value to input instead of output, they risk creating a culture where how hard and how long one works is equally, and sometimes more, important than what one produces.  Worse, those cultures often also associate work length and effort to commitment and dedication to the organization. In these environments, it matters less what one does, as long as you do it for as long and as hard as you can. One of the most important things a person can do in these cultures is to be seen as “really getting after it”, regardless of what “it” is or whether “it” truly advances the organization or not.

This is not to say performance and output go unnoticed in these cases. Poor performers are eventually identified and rated accordingly. However, cultural norms allow average performers to “muscle through it” by putting in long hours, yet be viewed as equal to or more valued than the high performing individuals who complete their work on time while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

These cultural norms manifest themselves at both operational and institutional levels. Many commanders consider it acceptable to text, call, or email about non-emergent work at night, over weekends, and during leave periods. This naturally creates pressure for subordinates to respond, regardless of the time of day. It is routine for Soldiers to avoid behavioral counseling or therapy because they fear admitting they need help will harm their career.  Over my 15 year career, I have routinely observed Soldiers at all ranks lose leave because the high OPTEMPO consistently produces a pressing requirement.  Finally, there is the phenomenon of “waiting on the word”, where Soldiers will wait around for hours until the commander leaves, despite not having any assigned tasks to accomplish, just in case the boss needs something or has a question.  

At the institutional level, the issue manifests in how assignments are viewed and managed.  I’ve seen many raise an eyebrow when an individual seeks a job that isn’t viewed as “hard charging.” Instead, the expectation is that careerists who want to advance and eventually command must seek the hard jobs and “keep rowing.”   Human Resources Command considers these high pressure nominative or competitive broadening assignments career enhancing, meaning that they increase one’s chance for promotion or CSL selection.  

Based on this, why would someone who wants to promote and command select slower paced broadening jobs to round out the professional skill set and allow them and their family to recover when the Army has already told them that choice does not make them the most competitive?  As a result, many Soldiers, especially those on track for early promotion or with high potential for CSL selection, will move from serving two years in high stress, key development billets to equally high pressure nominative or competitive broadening billets to maximize promotion and selection chances.  

Ask yourself a question: when is the last time you took a four-day pass?  Why do so many leaders overvalue work for the sake of work or disparage those who require recovery?  Why do career managers often discourage people from picking  jobs where they can rehabilitate an injury, be home every night for dinner, and build memories with their families? Resting our muscles after lifting weights enables muscle tissue growth, in turn allowing us to lift more the next time. Similarly, resting our minds, bodies, and families after a hard push in a key development billet enables us, and our families, to push hard again in the next big job.  

HALT!

“Recovery: The period of four to eight weeks when the Soldier begins to prepare for the primary mission. It is characterized by low workloads and general adaptation and recuperation.”, FM 7-22, pg Glossary-8

Recovery is a physiological necessity. This is an immutable fact that both high performers and the institutional Army recognize on an intellectual level. Still, both struggle with recovery, conceptually and in implementation. Fixing this problem requires action at the individual, unit, and Army levels; it also requires senior leaders to lead from the front in execution.

 We can take three steps to improve the recovery process. First, we must give ourselves PERMISSION to recover. We must acknowledge it is permissible to perform below peak output all the time, and throttling down is both healthy and necessary. Second, we must recognize  recovery is a process that takes TIME. These issues cannot be fixed over a long weekend. The length of the recovery period is tied to the length and intensity of the high demand period. Finally, we must be DELIBERATE about our recovery. We must budget time and resources for recovery the same as we would a training exercise. Like training, we must also avoid things that distract or pull us away from our recovery efforts.

At the cultural level we must shift how we view recovery. The Army’s Holistic Health and Fitness program is an amazing start and does a lot to cement recovery concepts into our doctrine. However, it requires leaders at every level to embrace it and put it into practice in tangible ways. First, effectively managing organizational capacity increases efficiency and enables routine working hours. Working late nights and weekends may be required to accomplish some missions, but those should be the exception, not the expectation.

Second, senior leaders at all levels must change their messaging and lead by example.  How can they expect subordinates to truly recover if they are not willing to stop sending emails on the weekend, leave the office on time, unplug and actually take leave, or see a doctor when sick or injured? If board guidance and selection continue to weight high pressure operational assignments over broad experience, then what incentive is there to change the mold? Senior leaders must live the reforms for them to take root. Leaders at all levels must make it clear that long work hours, lost leave, and weekend emails are not a badge of honor, nor will they be viewed in a positive light.  

In addition, we must embrace a concept of active recovery while in high stress, high demand jobs. When I was a battalion operations officer, my commander made a point to leave the office at 1730 each day. Even better, he chased everyone out, including myself, the command sergeant major, battalion executive officer, company commanders, and first sergeants. Making a habit to leave on time, being present for the little league game, or turning off the phone for date night are examples of “recovery in contact” that allow for some respite while enabling continued performance in a high demand job.

Finally, our culture must re-examine how it views assignments. Slower paced assignments should not be derogatively viewed as “taking a knee,” but rather rounding out areas in an individual’s professional development. Instead of pushing Soldiers from one high-pressure assignment to another, branch managers and senior leaders should encourage a greater diversity in assignments, not just in the operating force, but the generating force as well.  Not only does the slower pace allow the individual and the family to recover, but the breadth of experience will benefit the Soldier in their next critical assignment.

RECOVER!

Recovery can be uncomfortable. Over my 15-year career, the Army has trained and conditioned me to go farther, push harder, and move faster in everything I do. There was a metric for everything and if you didn’t perform better than before there was more work to do until you did. Trying to break this mindset is hard. In fact, forcing yourself to slow down and recover in many ways is more difficult than simply continuing to push the pace. However, we must remember one unalterable fact: what got you here, will not get you there. Maintaining the habits that made you successful in a high demand job will not make you successful while executing recovery.

Recovery is necessary. Recovery is a process. Recovery is healthy. While it may feel uncomfortable to power down, do less, and not push to our limits, we must realize this is a mental trap. Our personal growth happens as we consolidate gains, reflect, and rest during our recovery periods. By changing how we view recovery and taking a more deliberate approach in its execution, we can maximize our recovery, capitalize on our growth, and be ready to perform at our peak when called to do so.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what makes Marine scout snipers so deadly

Marine scout snipers are some lethal dudes. Capable of sending lead downrange with great accuracy, they’re also great for getting eyes on the battlefield for persistent reconnaissance. Here’s what makes them so deadly:


1. Yes, the Marines are masters of stealth, trained to stalk and hunt enemy troops or, more commonly, set up firing points to strike targets of opportunity and protect friendly forces.

 

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Corporal Brighten Bell, a student undergoing the 2nd Marine Division Combat Skills Center’s Pre-Scout Sniper Course, acquires a target during a stalking exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 22, 2016. The exercise required students to traverse approximately 1,000 meters of high grass and fire on a target, all without being detected. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul S. Martinez/Released)

2. To achieve this, they become masters of reading the terrain, ballistics, and tactics. These skills have to be combined to ensure that they can predict a target’s actions and engage it accurately.

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A U.S. Marine assigned to Scout Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, 1st Battalion 3rd Marine Regiment, writes down data for long range target engagements, part of Lava Viper 17.1, at Range 10 aboard the Pohakuloa Training Area, on the big Island of Hawaii, Oct. 17, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ricky S. Gomez)

3. Of course, they don’t have to rely on only their own weapons systems. The snipers can report enemy activity and request other fires such as artillery or aircraft to engage targets, keeping the sniper’s position secret.

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A Marine in the Scout Sniper Platoon with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment calls in coordinates for a position report during a patrol for SSP training aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., July 29, 2015.(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Krista James/Released)

4. Spotters usually handle the duties of conducting calls for artillery or close air support, and they also help the sniper find and engage targets by scanning the battlefield and relaying environmental information like wind speed and range.

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U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Jacob B. Yoder, a student with the Marine Scout Sniper School, Advanced Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-East, spots targets while conducting a known-distance course of fire at Hathcock Range, Stone Bay, Feb. 8, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by SOI-East Combat Camera, Cpl. Andrew Kuppers/Released)

5. Like any good Marine, the scout snipers can arrive on the battlefield in a number of ways, from riding in on the waves in AAVs to fast roping out of Ospreys.

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Marines with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Weapons Company, Scout Sniper Platoon, fast rope from an MV-22B Osprey with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164 aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., June 30. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Lillian Stephens/Released)

6. Rucking in can give them a much stealthier insertion.  The spotter will assist carrying the ammo for the sniper.

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Students with the Marine Scout Sniper School, Advanced Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-East, move to their next firing positions while conducting a known-distance course of fire at Hathcock Range, Stone Bay, Feb. 8, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by SOI-East Combat Camera, Cpl. Andrew Kuppers/Released)

 

7. Scout snipers can engage the enemy with a variety of long-range rifles.

 

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Students with the Marine Scout Sniper School, Advanced Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-East, conduct a known-distance course of fire at Hathcock Range, Stone Bay, Feb. 8, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by SOI-East Combat Camera, Cpl. Andrew Kuppers/Released)

8. The M40 is one of their most commonly-deployed weapons.

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U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Jake Ruiz, an instructor at the Scout Sniper School, Weapons Training Battalion, fires an M40A5 bolt action sniper rifle during an unknown distance marksmanship training exercise at Range 7, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Oct. 2, 2014. The Marines trained with weapons systems organic to a scout sniper platoon, to include; the M40A5 bolt action sniper rifle, the M107 Special Assault Scope rifle, and M110 Semi-automatic Sniper System. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Timothy Turner/Released)

9. And of course, the Barrett M82 .50-cal. sniper rifle is so powerful you could kill a building.

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10. To properly employ all this lethality, scout snipers stay super fit.

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A Marine candidate with the Scout Sniper Screening Platoon, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, conducts a 500-meter swim as part of the Scout Sniper Physical Assessment Test at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Oct. 19, 2015. The 500-meter swim was the first of several physically demanding events that tested endurance, strength and speed. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul S. Martinez)

11. Look at these guys. Carrying rucksacks. Drinking from Camel Baks.

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Marine candidates with the Scout Sniper Screening Platoon, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, conduct a 12-mile ruck run as part of the Scout Sniper Physical Assessment Test at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Oct. 19, 2015. The run required 50 pounds of equipment and had a time limit of three hours. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul S. Martinez/Released)

12. Scout snipers are always there for you. Or maybe right behind you. Or possibly 1,000 meters front of you. They’re so stealthy, you can’t actually be sure. But they can kill you from practically anywhere.

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A Marine student undergoing the 2nd Marine Division Combat Skills Center’s Pre-Scout Sniper Course prepares to move during a stalking exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 22, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul S. Martinez/Released)

MIGHTY CULTURE

The best Single Malt Irish Whiskey to drink this St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day is nearly upon us and so is the flavorless onslaught of cheap, green beer dully visible through red solo cups. Midwestern brewed pilsner paired with a few drops of food coloring seems a poor way to celebrate the Irish. We prefer to toast old St. Pat with uisce beatha, also known as whiskey.

There is no shortage of good Irish whiskey. But while most are familiar with the traditional, big name blended varieties like Jameson and Bushmills, few are familiar with the Emerald Isle’s fantastic single malts. That’s a shame because single malts are much more flavorful and there are numerous stellar bottles worth sipping. Take this as an opportunity to celebrate some Irish single malts and try one of these five excellent options.


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Dingle Batch No. 3

Out on the island’s west coast, independent maker Dingle only started producing spirits a few short years ago in 2012. Their Batch No. 3 can be a little hard to find but its worth the search. Aged in ex-bourbon and port barrels, it’s is a sweet sipper with elegant notes of honey, berries, citrus, and wood.

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Connemara 12

Peated whiskey is a rarity on the emerald isle. In fact, there is only one Irish peated single malt on the market. But if you enjoy a healthy dose of smoke in your dram you’re going to love Connemara 12. Nutty and peppery, notes of vanilla, grass, honey, and wood play off the smoke and a lingering brine to create a lovely mouthful.

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West Cork 10

Fruity and rich, West Cork’s ten-year-old single malt is an easy sipper and even easier on the wallet. Delicious with notes of apples, sugar and toffee with a hint of pepper, it’s an approachable and satisfying for whiskey lovers of all stripes.

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Knappogue Castle 14 Year Old Twin Wood

A fusion of two 14-year-old single malts, one aged in ex-bourbon barrels, the other in Oloroso sherry, the result is a rich and tasty dram. Honey, coconut, and fruit notes play off a subtle touch of oak.

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Tyrconnell 10 Madeira Cask

Made from the mountain-fed waters of the Slieve na gCloc river, this ten-year-old malt gets a finish in Madeira wine barrels from the Portuguese islands. Light in the mouth, cocoa and honey play off oak, cinnamon and salt.

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This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

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