10 best places to party on leave - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

10 best places to party on leave

Troops train year-round to maintain the high standard of readiness essential to the preservation and defense of democracy. However, none of us are machines that can operate under constant pressure over an infinite amount of time. And enlisted professions, infantry, in particular, are among the most stressful jobs available. That’s why leave (or ‘vacation days’ in civilian terms) is a crucial component to blowing off steam and keeping morale high.

Homesick troops will often use their leave days to go and visit the family. However, those who have leave days burning a hole in their pocket should consider visiting these party cities if they’re looking for something new. Plus, there’s a good chance that someone from your platoon/squad is from the city you’re visiting and may even offer to be your guide.

In no particular order, these are the 10 best places to party on leave.


10 best places to party on leave

New York, New York

New York City has earned the reputation of being the city that never sleeps and defends its title vigorously. In the Big Apple, you can party until the small hours of the morning and still find a place serving piping hot, fresh, New York-style pizza. As the economic crown jewel of the U.S. you can find the best brands of any product imported from around the world.

10 best places to party on leave

Can’t answer SSGT’s call in another country.

Barcelona, Spain

Parties here start at 1 a.m. and last all night long, which means you’ll have enough time to do touristy things, go to the hotel to change, pregame, and invade Spain like a Roman Legionnaire. The theme parties here can get out of control, so definitely bring a battle buddy or two.

10 best places to party on leave

I’m ready for my close up.

(emerictimelapse.com)

Los Angeles, California

Music labels, film studios, and conglomerates have built empires on keeping you entertained. Los Angeles offers media from every medium, genre, and artist on an unparalleled scale. LA Weekly and Ticketmaster provide information on upcoming events to plan your trip around.

10 best places to party on leave

Home of the original libo risk.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

A classic destination on every bucket list but you might want to wait until you have your DD-214 to fully toke take in the culture. If your agenda doesn’t include visiting its coffee shops, there’s plenty else to do — Europeans party hard AF.

10 best places to party on leave

(emerictimelapse.com)

Las Vegas, Nevada

Sin city, a single Marine’s paradise — and other branches, too. The casinos offer free booze while you gamble, gentlemen’s clubs offer the perfect location to blow away your bonus, and many hotels have venues and clubs built into the location. Excellent for post-deployment debauchery relaxation.

10 best places to party on leave

Ze colors!

Berlin, Germany

Berlin is another city that never sleeps, and it is home to tons of DJs. The mainstream venues are good, but the underground parties are unbeatable. Bring someone who speaks German so you can have your finger on the pulse of this city.

10 best places to party on leave

The parties are year round.

(Miami.com)

Miami, Florida

Miami has arguably the best club scene; one that can compete with LA and New York. Florida’s beaches are often featured on top ten lists and are capable of dethroning Hawaii. Every troop must storm these beaches at least once in their career.

10 best places to party on leave

(Air Forces Central Command)

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

U.A.E. is home to the Burj Al Arab, the Palm Islands, and an indoor ski resort in the mall, but make sure you read up on the local laws. As a conservative Islamic country, it has many restrictions — unless you’re wealthy. Remember the golden rule: He who has the gold, makes the rules.

10 best places to party on leave

The famous bar crawls of Austin

Austin, Texas

Austin has been earning a reputation as a must-visit spot for partygoers at a steady rate in recent years. The city offers pub crawls, ghost tours, historic landmarks, and lounges. It is common to see Austin on lists of top places to live for both liberals and conservatives. This growing metropolis with a southern twang should not be underestimated.

10 best places to party on leave

New Years Eve in Iceland!

(icelandnaturally.com)

Reykjavik, Iceland

Vikings are still drinking and celebrating in both Valhalla and Reykjavik. Although Iceland is small, their festivals aren’t. Reykjavik is LGBTQ+ friendly and accepting of all types, but don’t wander off into the inland — the wilderness here is dangerous as hell.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump says ending Korean war games is good for the US

President Donald Trump continued to hype the results of his Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June12, 2018, by framing a massive concession he made as savings for the US military.

“We save a fortune by not doing war games, as long as we are negotiating in good faith — which both sides are!” Trump tweeted.

Trump’s tweet frames the US suspending war games, seen as a massive win for both China and North Korea in the negotiations, as a thrifty move from the US.


While the military is a huge expenditure for the US, and military drills are costly, their financial cost is comparatively minor compared to the diplomatic bargaining chip they represented.

10 best places to party on leave
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Bridget Keane)

But military drills do more than cost money, they keep the US troops and South Korea safe and ready for combat.

Without military drills, the US forces in South Korea would wither and fail to meet readiness standards. Also, by letting North Korea dictate what the US military does, Trump sends the US down a slippery slope.

If North Korea’s input into US military decisions keeps up, the entire rationale for US forces in South Korea could be quickly undermined, leaving a gap China would likely fill to displace the US as the region’s dominant power.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US ‘mini carrier groups’ could change how Navy, Marines operate

US Marines are not only experimenting with a new aircraft-carrier concept, but they are also taking a fresh look at forming “mini” carrier strike groups to fill in when the carriers are called away.

The capable fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighters are changing the way the service’s big amphibious assault ships — the centerpieces of the “gator navy” — go to war.

The Marine Corps is aggressively pushing ahead with the experimental “Lightning-carrier” concept, which involves arming the large flattops with a literal boatload of F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters to turn the traditional troop-transport ships into light carriers capable of boosting the overall firepower of the US carrier force.


10 best places to party on leave

The USS Essex sails alongside the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jake Greenberg)

At the same time, the service and the US Navy are looking at making changes to amphibious readiness groups (ARGs), transforming them into miniature carrier strike groups (CSGs). An ARG typically consists of an amphibious assault ship, an amphibious transport dock, a landing-dock ship, and a contingent of Marine expeditionary forces.

“We’re definitely changing the way amphibs are employed, especially on the blue side — we’re no longer just the trucks that carry Marines that we used to be,” Lt. Cmdr. David Mahoney, the Amphibious Squadron 1 operations officer, said, according to a USNI News report on April 16, 2019.

The amphibious assault ship USS Essex, the lead capital ship for the Essex ARG, sailed into the Persian Gulf in fall 2018 as the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier and its escort ships, which were initially expected to deploy to the Middle East, sailed into the north Atlantic in support of NATO.

“There was no carrier in 5th Fleet, so a lot of the CSG-like duties we started taking over just because we had to,” Mahoney said. “The ARG is now becoming almost like a mini CSG.”

10 best places to party on leave

F-35B Lightning II on the USS Essex.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Freeman)

“You can see that layered defense,” he said, pointing to the ARGs cooperation with destroyers and other warships and the increased capability provided by the multi-mission F-35s with advanced stealth and a powerful sensor suite. “This is what has to happen as the carriers are being sometimes sent elsewhere because the needs are rising elsewhere.”

The ARGs, especially in this time of a renewed great-power competition, are “definitely in high demand to fill those [CSG] roles as the Navy is spreading out further and further around the globe.”

Marine Corps F-35Bs, which are short-take-off vertical-landing aircraft built for operations aboard amphibious assault ships, flew into combat for the first time during the Essex ARG’s deployment. Amphibious assault ships lack the catapults and arresting wires used on aircraft carriers, and support only these jump jets and helicopters.

10 best places to party on leave

F-35B Lightning II takes off from the USS Essex.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Francisco J. Diaz Jr.)

In February 2019, the F-35B achieved another first as fighters aboard the USS Wasp and carried out simulated strikes in “beast mode” — meaning it was operating with an external ordnance loadout — in the Pacific.

Recently, the Wasp sailed into the South China Sea with an unusually heavy configuration of at least 10 stealth fighters, significantly more than normal, for joint drills with the Philippines. During the Balikatan exercises, the ship was spotted running flight operations near the disputed Scarborough Shoal as part of the light-carrier experiment.

10 best places to party on leave

The USS Wasp in the South China Sea.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)

At the heart of the new “mini” CSGs is the “Lightning carrier,” an amphibious assault ship loaded up with as many as 20 F-35s for carrierlike operations. This concept, which the Marines began experimenting with in 2016, is a rebranded version of the “Harrier-carrier” concept, an earlier variation with AV-8 Harrier jump jets that served the military well for decades.

“While the amphibious assault ship will never replace the aircraft carrier,” the Marine Corps said in a 2017 report, “it can be complementary if employed in imaginative ways.”

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

Articles

This Japanese pilot led the attack on Pearl Harbor then moved to the US

Mitsuo Fuchita was just shy of 40 years-old during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. When he took off in the observer’s deck of a Nakajima B5N2 ‘Kate’ torpedo bomber that day, he probably never imagined he would spend much of the rest of his life in the country he was set to destroy.


10 best places to party on leave

Commander Fuchita was in the lead plane of the first wave of bombers that hit Hawaii that day. He was the overall tactical commander in the air and led the attacks that destroyed American air power on the ground and crippled the Navy’s battleship force — a strike group of 353 aircraft from six Japanese carriers.

It was Mitsuo Fuchita who called the infamous words “Tora! Tora! Tora!” over the radio to the other Japanese planes.

10 best places to party on leave

He later wrote:

“Like a hurricane out of nowhere, my torpedo planes, dive bombers and fighters struck suddenly with indescribable fury. As smoke began to billow and the proud battleships, one by one, started tilting, my heart was almost ablaze with joy. During the next three hours, I directly commanded the fifty level bombers as they pelted not only Pearl Harbor, but the airfields, barracks and dry docks nearby. Then I circled at a higher altitude to accurately assess the damage and report it to my superiors.”

See Also: The attack on Pearl Harbor by the numbers

Fuchita next led the Japanese bombing of Darwin, the largest enemy attack ever wrought on Australia. He then led attacks on British Ceylon — now known as Sri Lanka — where he sank five Royal Navy ships.

He was still aboard the Akagi during the Battle of Midway, perhaps the most pivotal naval battle in American History.

When Midway began, Fuchita was below decks, recovering from appendicitis. He could not fly in his condition so he assisted other officers, coming up to the bridge during the fighting. When Akagi was evacuated that afternoon, Fuchita suffered two broken ankles as the bridge, already burning, exploded.

10 best places to party on leave
A6M2 Zero fighters prepare to launch from Akagi as part of the second wave of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

He was soon promoted to staff officer rank and spent the rest of the war on the Japanese home islands. Fuchita was even one of the inspectors who went to assess Hiroshima after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the city.

When WWII ended, he left the Navy and converted to Christianity after reading a pamphlet written by Jacob DeShazer, one of the Doolittle Raiders who was captured after the raid. He was converted by the pamphlet but was astonished upon meeting DeShazer  a few years later.

He called the meeting his “day to remember,” referencing the attack on Pearl Harbor. The experience with the Doolittle Raider changed him “from a bitter, disillusioned ex-pilot into a well-balanced Christian with purpose in living,” Fuchita wrote after the war.

10 best places to party on leave
Mitsuo Fuchita with Jacob DeShazer and family after WWII ended.

After his conversion, Fuchita toured the United States and Europe as a traveling missionary, regretting the loss of life he inflicted during the war. America, the country he attacked in 1941, eventually became his permanent residence. He wrote numerous books about his wartime experiences and conversion to Christianity.

Though he spent much of the rest of his life in the U.S., Mitsuo Fuchita died in Japan in 1973.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time engineers at China Lake MacGyvered a laser-guided missile

Laser-guided bombs had proven to be a winner during the Vietnam War. There was just one minor problem: Their range was relatively short. This was actually a big deal for pilots, who had to deal with surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft guns trying to shoot them down.

Some geeks at the Naval Weapons Center in China Lake, though, had a thought. They took a typical GBU-16 Paveway II laser guided-bomb, which was centered on the Mk 83 1,000-pound general purpose bomb. Now, a 1,000-pound bomb might seem small compared to the 2,000-pound bombs many planes carry today, but in World War II, the 1,000-pound bomb was good enough to sink carriers.


But what these geeks did was add a rocket motor from the AGM-45 Shrike, an anti-radar missile used to shut down enemy air defenses, to the back of the Paveway. The result was a weapon that gave the A-6 Intruder one heck of a punch. It certainly worked out better for Navy pilots than that JATO rocket did for a Chevy Impala driver who may or may not have existed.

10 best places to party on leave

The Skipper’s primary component is, for all intents and purposes, a GBU-16 laser-guided bomb. Engineers at China Lake stuck a Shrike’s rocket motor on the back, and got a weapon that could hit a target 14 nautical miles away.

(US Navy photo)

The missile took some time to win over the brass, but they eventually gave it a designation – the AGM-123 – and a name: Skipper. Over 2,500 were purchased. The Skipper got its name because of the way the guidance fins on the Paveway worked: They tended to make very sharp turns, so it would appear like the missile was skipping like a stone across a pond.

The Skipper was primarily intended to take out enemy ships from beyond the range of their defenses. They had their moment in the sun during Operation Preying Mantis, the American retaliation in the wake of the mining of the guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58).

10 best places to party on leave

The Iranian frigate Sahand was on the receiving end of two Skippers and a bunch of other weapons during Operation Preying Mantis.

(US Navy photo)

Four Skippers were used against the Iranian frigate Sahand, which was eventually sunk. The Skipper also saw some action during Operation Desert Storm. It had an effective range of almost 14 nautical miles, although its rocket could propel it up to 30 nautical miles. The real limitation came not from its improvised nature, but from the range of laser designators currently in service.

The Skipper was retired in the post-Cold War drawdowns of the 1990s, which also claimed the plane that wielded it most of the time, the A-6 Intruder. Still, for a while, it gave the Navy a very powerful and precise punch.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Disney World has a special resort hotel just for US troops

Already planning that special family getaway for next summer? If you’re thinking Disney World might be a little too expensive for your family, think again. Not only does the Magic Kingdom want more visits from more troops, but they’ve even created a special VIP place inside the kingdom just for American soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and yes, Coast Guardsmen.

It’s a place for all shades of green and as a matter of fact, they call it Shades of Green.


10 best places to party on leave

Legit.

(US Army)

Situated between two golf courses, now everyone who stays at Shades of Green can feel like they’re really in the Air Force for just a little while. Military members and their families can get discounts on food, stays, and park admission while staying here too – and it’s all just a stones throw away from the Disney World parks. The newly-renovated hotel area even has a direct walkway to the park. It is the only Armed Forces Recreation Center located in the continental United States and room rates are based on rank, starting with the lowest rates for E-1 to E-6 military personnel.

Before you start booking, be sure to check the resort’s eligibility requirements. To stay at Shades of Green, you must be an active duty service member, a retired service member, a surviving spouse, or a 100 percent service-connected disabled veteran. There are more categories to list but if you’re unsure, check out the eligibility requirements before you book. Sorry, regular vets with an honorable discharge. That’s not enough to stay on the Disney World AFRC any time you want. But through the Salute to Veterans program, honorably discharged vets can stay during the months of January and September.

10 best places to party on leave

Sure beats Minot in September.

(US Army)

If you’re wondering if January and September are worth the wait, keep in mind that Shades of Green has a great place in the area near Walt Disney World, very close to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and sits right between two PGA-level golf courses. Besides the pools, spas, and restaurants that one would expect at a Disney World Resort, the Shades of Green Resort also boasts Princess and Pirate Makeovers for the kids, arcades, tennis courts, and playgrounds (just in case the kids have a lot of extra energy to burn at the end of the day).

For the adults, the resorts boasts world-class bars and restaurants, along with a giant outlet mall filled with 50 different retail brand names. To top it all off, the resort even has an AAFES Exchange store, where you can still use your military benefits to get tax-free items for every day as well as Disney souvenirs.

Since the Shades of Green is a DoD Morale, Welfare, and Recreation facility, all proceeds from the resort go right back into keeping the facilities up and expanding its offerings.

10 best places to party on leave

Aside from the usual military discounts and benefits, the reasons for staying at Shades of Green are many. The resort’s rooms are larger than most other resorts on the Disney World Complex and the rooms are exempt from the Hotel Tax imposed on all other rooms in Florida and beyond. The best part is, the agreement between the DoD and Disney means that the rooms’ quality must meet Disney standards, so you aren’t staying in some forgotten lodging room somewhere. Also included are access to Disney FastPass services and Extra Magic Hours, and the monorail is just a short hike away from nearby Polynesian Springs.

So now there’s no excuse not to go to Disney World. You don’t even have to leave behind the comforts of the base or post when AAFES and MWR are traveling with you.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Elon Musk amuses the internet with tweet about flags

Chad and Romania are situated on separate continents and share few historical or geographical links. They don’t even have an embassy in each other’s country.

The two countries rarely come up in the same sentence. That is, unless you’re discussing their flags.

Aside from slight variations in color shading, the two countries’ flags appear identical — an observation Tesla CEO Elon Musk appears to have just discovered and shared with Twitter.


According to the online Encyclopedia Britannica, Romania initially displayed a flag with horizontal stripes of blue, yellow, and red before settling on its current vertical design in 1861.

Chad decided on its own flag design after it achieved independence from France in 1959.

The country initially considered a green, yellow, and red design but quickly discovered Mali had already taken the same pattern. It then swapped the green for the blue — inadvertently creating a flag that was almost identical to Romania’s.

Chad’s flag is not the only one to resemble other flags — here are some other examples

The flag of Mali, the country Chad tried to avoid copying, is similar to Senegal’s — a single green star in the middle appears to separate the two flags. Guinea’s also replicates Mali’s design but is reversed.

Both Indonesia and Monaco fly two horizontal stripes: red over white. Poland similarly flies white over red.

Ireland and Ivory Coast share the same design, but it is flipped on the flagpole.

All of these similarities may have stemmed from coincidence, but other flags have a specific reason for slight variations to a theme.

Ecuador, Venezuela, and Colombia all sport the same-colored horizontal stripes, but that’s because they used to be part of the same country of Gran Colombia, which dissolved in 1822, according to Britannica.

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

popular

5 things you should keep after getting out

The day one gets out is one that nobody forgets. I packed my car the night before, did my check out process and said goodbye to gents I’d miss and showed the bird to those I wouldn’t. When I looked in the rear view mirror and saw Camp Lejeune shrink smaller and smaller I thought, ‘It’s over…oh sh*t, its actually over.’ I drove off on a cross-country journey to California onto the next chapter. The great thing about the book of life is you can always look back. Here are 5 things you should keep after getting out.

1. Up-to-date dress uniforms

A uniform as sharp as this is one thing you’ll want to keep when you get out.

Servicemembers take a lot of pride in their service but there are others that leave with a bad taste in their mouths because of some injustice. Don’t take it out on your uniforms, update them one last time. The sea bag is not where they belong. When you’re getting out its easy to disregard your dress uniform because you won’t wear it again. One day you may want to show your uniform, with its shiny medals pinned on the chest, to your children or grandchildren and you’ll be glad you gave them one last inspection before retiring them.

2. Your last pair of boots in country

The last pair of boots I wore in theater are squirreled away safely until I am further along in my career. When I’m old and crusty I will place them on a glass display case with a little plaque reading ‘Operation Enduring Freedom, Helmand Province Afghanistan 2011.’ That’s the only war trophy I can tastefully display – or can neither confirm or deny that others exist. Whether you want to have them in your home or office or never on display is your prerogative. It’s your story — keep them for you.

3. Backups of all your pictures

A friendly welcoming committee like this one is a memory worth saving. Photo by Lance Cpl. Dangelo Yanez
3rd Marine Division

I hate to admit how many pictures I’ve lost and had to track down of my buddies. Take pictures while you’re in and don’t be embarrassed to be that guy who looks like a tourist. As long as you maintain OPSEC you’re all good. You’ll be glad you’ll have them when taking a trip down memory lane. Candid shots of my friends and I are my favorite, it’s like that emotion in that moment in time was captured forever: white water rafting in Turkey, looking for IEDs in Afghanistan, swimming with sea turtles in Japan. You won’t regret it.

4. Those wacky and tacky gifts

Plaques when leaving a unit are the obvious ones to save. Those gag gifts your troops give you are worth keeping, too. You were thought of and rediscovering them years later brings back those memories of inside jokes. I still have an airsoft gun we used to fire at each other in the barracks. One day my roommate and I were shooting at drawn targets on pizza boxes when we were privates. One of our friends walked in and we all froze. There was an airsoft pistol on the bed directly in front of the intruder.

‘Don’t do it.’

But he did and it was like the elevator scene in smoking aces. Good times.

5. Your first EGA or service insignia

If a Marine tells you they didn’t cry when they got their first Eagle, Globe and Anchor they’re a liar. Yet, it’s easy to misplace something so small over the years. The sentimental value is through the roof and your future self will thank you for keeping it. Your first insignia is how it all started and a memory worth safeguarding.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Swiss vets can keep their rifle after leaving the service

After troops from various militaries around the world finish their time in service, they turn their gear in, finalize their paperwork, and hang up their uniform for good. Swiss soldiers, however, can skip that last visit to the arms room and walk out with their service weapon in tow.

Surprised? To the Swiss, this is just a part of the culture.


This is a part of Switzerland’s Aggressive Neutrality Policy. Despite being a nation whose name has become synonymous with neutrality, Switzerland has kept the peace by letting the world know that it will not hesitate to defend itself by any means necessary.

It’s an open secret that the country hosts a huge amount of heavily fortified bunkers, ready-to-blow roadways, and the world’s 38th largest military despite the fact that the country is just shy of half the size of South Carolina. No, really — all of this information is readily available on Google.

10 best places to party on leave
Very picturesque, even after realizing there’s enough TNT hidden on that thing to blow it to Hell.
(Photo by Oma Toes)

Another way for the Swiss to keep outside threats on edge is by pairing conscription with a gun culture that’s on par with Texas’. Every able-bodied male citizen is required to join the military in some fashion and the women are strongly encouraged. Culturally, conscription isn’t seen as a negative thing and recruits aren’t dragged in kicking and screaming.

In fact, it’s just an ordinary part of life and the Swiss are proud to join. In 2013, a referendum was drawn up to abolish conscription, but it failed miserably — 73% of citizens strongly favored conscription.

10 best places to party on leave
The Swiss love their army. And their Army Knives…
(Courtesy Photo)

All of this is important to understanding the mindset of the Swiss people, their military, and their veterans. Nearly everyone in Switzerland has served in the military in some capacity and they keep the peace by tiptoeing while carrying a large friggin’ stick. If there should ever come a time where Switzerland is invaded, a well-armed and well-trained population is ready to rise up.

Now, this isn’t to say that rifles are handed over freely, even though that would make for the greatest VA system in the world. Most times, Swiss veterans pay out of pocket to keep the firearm they trained on. The ammunition isn’t for sale, though. Swiss vets need to get that on their own.

10 best places to party on leave
u200bI have one, plausible, idea why that might be…

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 facts you should know about Ukraine

Ukraine has become a defining feature of the 2020 presidential election season. Here are some facts to help you better understand Ukraine’s role on the global stage:


10 best places to party on leave

Traditional Ukrainian embroidered blouses.

(Source: Shutterstock)

Ukraine 101

Medieval Ukraine, known as “Kievan Rus,” was the birthplace of Slavic culture. Ukraine was formerly part of the Soviet Union and became an independent country in 1991. The country has long been known as the “breadbasket of Europe” due to its fertile soil. Although its economy has improved steadily since 2000, Ukraine continues to suffer from poverty and corruption. Ukraine is a close ally of the United States, and polls have shown a generally positive attitude toward the U.S. by Ukrainians.

10 best places to party on leave

Ukrainian soldiers take cover during a mortar attack in eastern Ukraine.

(Source: Sergei L. Loiko)

Ukraine has been at war since 2014

Ukraine was rocked with instability in 2014 due to a political protest movement called “Euromaidan.” Russia seized this opportunity to invade Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and claim it as Russian territory while also stirring up pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Crimea was conquered without bloodshed, and a large proportion of Crimea’s residents actually support the annexation. The insurrection in eastern Ukraine, however, quickly became violent.

Today the Ukrainian military continues to fight heavily armed, Russian-backed separatists and Russian military forces (although Russia publicly denies the latter) in eastern Ukraine. The conflict, which has claimed at least 13,000 lives and displaced over 1.4 million people, has since become a stalemate.

10 best places to party on leave

Euromaidan protestors battle police in central Kyiv in 2014.

(Source: Reuters)

Euromaidan was a really big deal

In 2014, growing discontent against president Viktor Yanukovych erupted in a massive protest movement. The activists, who hoped for a Ukraine more oriented toward Western Europe, accused Yanukovych of being a puppet of Vladimir Putin trying to pull Ukraine closer into Russia’s orbit. The Euromaidan movement led to street battles between police and protesters and over 100 deaths.

Euromaidan eventually succeeded, however. Yanukovych abandoned the presidency and fled to Russia, where he remains to this day. (In 2019 a Ukrainian court convicted him, in absentia, of treason.) Euromaidan was historic because it reflected the will of many Ukrainians to choose a trajectory free of Russian domination, but it also aggravated simmering tensions within Ukraine’s population and triggered Russia’s armed interventions in Crimea and the eastern regions.

10 best places to party on leave

Mural in Kyiv depicting a Ukrainian Cossack strangling Vladimir Putin, represented as a snake.

The Ukrainian population is deeply divided

Many Ukrainians, especially in western Ukraine, are staunch Ukrainian patriots. They take great pride in Ukrainian culture, history, and language and generally hold negative attitudes toward Russia.

More eastern regions of the country, however, have larger percentages of Ukrainians who speak Russian as a first language and consider themselves more Russian than Ukrainian. This is the root of the current war in eastern Ukraine, and the reason many Ukrainians in Crimea welcomed Russian annexation in 2014.

10 best places to party on leave

(Source: WorldAtlas.com)

Choose your words carefully when referring to Ukraine

There are some semantics involved when speaking of Ukraine which cannot be divorced from the country’s complicated history and politics. Even the name “Ukraine” means “borderland” in Russian. The Ukrainian capital city has historically been transliterated as “Kiev,” the traditional Russian spelling, although the Ukrainian-language “Kyiv” is increasingly preferred.

Likewise, many English speakers incorrectly refer to the country as “the Ukraine,” a dated reference to the Soviet era when Ukraine was a Soviet republic (similar to saying “the Midwest” in relation to the United States). Both the Ukrainian government and many Ukrainians strongly discourage the term “the Ukraine.”

Even language itself is contentious: the majority of Ukrainians can speak both Ukrainian and Russian, but the use of either language can be seen as a political and social statement by the speaker.

10 best places to party on leave

President Volodymyr Zelensky

(Source: Getty Images)

Ukraine’s current president is literally a comedian

Current president Volodymyr Zelensky, whose phone call with President Donald Trump in July 2019 has triggered controversy within the United States, was a comedian before being elected in a landslide in 2019. He is most famous for playing the lead role in “Servant of the People,” a hugely popular sitcom about a schoolteacher who is unexpectedly elected president of Ukraine.

The 41-year-old Zelensky ran for office as a reformer whose priorities include fighting corruption and negotiating an honorable end to the war. Zelensky also wants to maintain U.S. support, particularly American shipments of “lethal” aid such as anti-tank missiles, which Ukrainian troops need to counter the Russian-equipped rebels.

Although a longtime Ukrainian patriot, Zelensky’s first language is Russian, and he has been criticized for not being entirely fluent in Ukrainian.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force will clear out hundreds of ‘stupid’ regulations

At an Air Force Association breakfast March 30, 2018, the Secretary of the Air Force talked up the service’s progress in ridding the service of outdated rules and procedures that burden airmen.

When she took office in May 2017, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson ordered a two-year review of the service’s blizzard of instructions, policies, and rules with the overall goal of eliminating the unnecessary ones. Since then, the Air Force has gotten rid of about 100 of the total of about 1,400 instructions, she said.


As an example, Wilson cited a regulation that would have required her as Air Force secretary to sign off on how an obstacle course could be constructed on a base.

“We have an instruction on how to build an obstacle course,” Wilson said. “My guess is, if they need to build an obstacle course, they can probably figure it out.”

Wilson said the work continues to whittle down the Air Force’s body of rules and regulations.

10 best places to party on leave
Tech. Sgt. Joe Lovanisci climbs the inverted rope challenge.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht)

“We are prioritizing the ones that are outdated and actually track them every month,” Wilson said. “The biggest challenge we have been facing is in personnel and operations” as the Air Force presses to push decision-making down to the lowest levels to save time and money.

In addition to eliminating red tape, the Air Force is also intent on teaching airmen to act on their own initiative, she said.

“We don’t expect in future conflicts to have the exquisite command, control and communication we’ve had over the last 27 years of combat” as potential adversaries become more adept at jamming, Wilson said.

“We will need airmen to take what they know and take mission orders and execute the mission using their best judgment for the circumstances at the time. If we expect them to work that way in wartime, then we need to treat them that way in peacetime,” she said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part seven

Da Lat, Vietnam
April, 2017

My “one night in Da Lat” was a pleasant reprieve from the war and normal combat operations that we had been conducting. I’d heard of the city, but never believed all of the stories I’d heard. Stories about the beautiful architecture, the green and lush gardens, cool weather, and about the graceful people — certainly a Shangri-La such as this couldn’t exist in the Vietnam I’d come to know. But low and behold, it did.


In stark contrast to what I had come to expect, this beautiful city, now grown into a true metropolitan area filling much more of the mountain encircled bowl, represented a softer, subtler side of Vietnam.

10 best places to party on leave

Not found in Da Lat were the loud bars and crowds of rowdy people. In their place were quiet enclaves where people would meet, have a drink, and talk in a quiet atmosphere. Here couples and families would stroll down the wide boulevards and enjoy the fragrant air and quiet neighborhoods. Also included was the central market area where you could find virtually anything you needed, from sweaters to shoes to fast food.

10 best places to party on leave
10 best places to party on leave

40 years later and none of that has changed in Da Lat, it’s only gotten bigger and it was a pleasure to see that the city and people were as I remembered them.

10 best places to party on leave

Follow Richard Rice’s 10-part journey:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Families of deceased troops can heal during this annual hunt

Concluding its third year in November 2018 and set to occur for a fourth year in 2019, the annual Gold Star Hunt gathers Gold Star children, their Families, active-duty service members, and retired service members to hunt for game on and off post.

Gold Star Families are those Families who lost a military service member during a period of conflict, and the hunt is coordinated by Mark Moore, a retired command sergeant major and now operations chief for Installation Management Command at Fort Benning.

“These Families had a soldier who was lost, but these Families are still a part of the Army for life, as far as we’re concerned,” said Moore. “I think it’s important to continue to reach out to the Families to let them know that the Army still cares about them.”


Moore was a command sergeant major of U.S. Army Garrison Fort Benning and deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He feels a personal obligation to Gold Star Families.

Moore became interested in forming a Gold Star Family hunt after meeting with the son of a military service member who, like Moore, was browsing the hunting section of a large retail store. Their mutual interest in hunting led Moore to conceive the weekend hunt idea.

“A lot of the people that volunteer for the program, especially myself, have lost soldiers in combat, and it’s important for us to be able to give back to those Families who have lost a soldier,” he said. “There’s goodness in it in both directions. One, the Family has a good time. The kids gets to experience something that dad would have wanted to do if [he] were here. And the soldiers and retirees are able to give back after experiencing loss themselves.”

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In this file photo from 2016, volunteers present hunting gear to children of fallen service members during the inaugural Gold Star Hunt at Uchee Creek at Fort Benning, Alabama.

(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)

Moore coordinated volunteers, on-post organizations and off-post corporate enterprises to deliver this weekend event. He reached out to the local offices of Survivor Outreach Services of Morale, Welfare and Recreation to get in touch with Gold Star Families to determine whether the Families were interested.

Megan Baumgartner, Benning’s SOS coordinator, commended Moore’s dedication.

“Mark pours his passion of hunting and heart for mentoring Gold Star Children into every detail of this event,” said Baumgartner.

Alonzo Stewart, a financial counselor with SOS, said he has seen the positive impact the hunt has had in the lives of its participants.

“To partner with a person like Mark Moore and the different retirees and active-duty soldiers, to see the need to support these kids, is just great,” said Stewart.

In addition to coordinating with SOS, Moore also reached out the MWR to reserve cabins at Uchee Creek on the Alabama side of Fort Benning. Corporate sponsors provided funding for the event to get the Gold Star children a hunting kit, which includes rifle, ammunition and more. Local restaurants donated food to the event. The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, a tenant unit of Fort Benning, zeroed the rifles and provided a shotgun demonstration for the Families. And volunteers from units across post took part in the hunt with the children. Gold Star Family members who do not take part in the hunt get to visit the 34-foot towers at Eubanks Field on main post, thanks to volunteers from the 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

The first year in 2016, the hunt had six children participating. The second year, it was 10. So, in addition to the hunt on post at Fort Benning, there was an additional hunt that took place at Iron Horse Farms in Marion, Alabama.

The children hunt deer and feral pigs on post. Moore said the hunt was a success as most of the participants were able to bag a deer or pig. He also said the hunt was successful as far as gaining community support.

“We’ll do it as long as we have support to execute the hunt for Gold Star kids as long as we have Gold Star kids out there,” said Moore.

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

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