Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets

The American Red Cross and NFL are teaming up this January, during National Blood Donor Month, to urge individuals – especially those who have recovered from COVID-19 – to give blood and to help tackle the national convalescent plasma shortage.

During this critical time, those who come to donate blood or platelets this January will be automatically entered to win two tickets to next year’s Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles.* In addition, those who come to give Jan. 1-20 will also be automatically entered to win a 65-inch television and a $500 gift card.**

Individuals can schedule an appointment to give blood today with the American Red Cross by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or activating the Blood Scheduling Skill for Amazon Alexa.

“Blood and plasma donors who have recovered from COVID-19 may have the power to help critically ill patients currently battling the virus,” said Dr. Erin Goodhue, Red Cross medical director of clinical services. “With hospital distributions for convalescent plasma increasing about 250% since October, these generous donations are vital in helping to save lives throughout the winter – a time that is often challenging to collect enough blood products for those in need.”

As COVID-19 cases have risen across the U.S., so has the need for convalescent plasma – leading to a shortage of this potentially lifesaving blood product. COVID-19 survivors have a unique ability to make a game-changing difference in the lives of COVID-19 patients. Individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 may have antibodies in their plasma that could provide a patient’s immune system the boost it needs to beat the virus.

How those recovered from COVID-19 can help

There are two ways COVID-19 survivors can help – through a convalescent plasma donation or by simply giving whole blood. Plasma from whole blood donations that test positive for COVID-19 antibodies may be used to help COVID-19 patients. Health emergencies don’t pause for holidays, game days or a pandemic – blood is needed every two seconds in the U.S. to help patients battling injury and illness.

Blood donation safety precautions

To protect the health and safety of Red Cross staff and donors, individuals who do not feel well or who believe they may be ill with COVID-19 should postpone their donation.

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including temperature checks, social distancing and face coverings for donors and staff – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive. Donors must wear a face covering or mask while at the drive, in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public guidance.

About blood donation

All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass® to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Blood Donor App.

About the American Red Cross

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

* Terms and conditions apply. Additional information and details are available at https://www.redcrossblood.org/local-homepage/events/super_bowl.html

** Terms and conditions apply. Additional information and details are available at https://www.redcrossblood.org/local-homepage/events/super_bowl.html

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Best Whiskey of 2020: The bourbon, rye, and scotch to find while you still can

2020 was not great. We’ve been shut in and locked down with nowhere to go and little to do. Thankfully, our essential master distillers and whiskey workers kept calm and carried on, releasing some amazing bottles of bourbon, scotch, and rye that we can enjoy in the confines of our own homes. Of course, the usual hyper-limited editions came and went this year, snapped up the moment they hit the shelf, often at 10x the retail price. But in 2020 there were still plenty of new stellar whiskey releases, bottles that are more reasonable and accessible. That’s why you won’t find any impossible to find bottles on this list (minus, well, a few exceptions). What you will find are what we think is the best whiskey of 2020, from long-aged scotches to new expressions of tried-and-true bourbons.

Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets

Wild Turkey Masters Keep 17 Bottled in Bond

This jaw-dropping bourbon is still available on shelves here and there but you may have to do a bit of searching to find a bottle. Bottled in bond means the whiskey has to be whiskey from a single distiller, barreled in one season, aged at minimum four years and entered the bottle at 100 proof. This vintage did an even longer stint. Seventeen years in the wood helped create a wonderfully complex bourbon. There are notes of vanilla, toffee, and sassafras as well as a punch of oak and a pulsing cherry that this a whiskey to sip slowly and savor. $200.00

Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets

2020 Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch

One of our favorite annual releases, this years is an impressive bottle. Four Roses master distiller Brent Elliot hand selected four batches, two 12 year olds, one 16 year and one 19, from four different bourbon recipes to blend together a brilliant whiskey. It fruity, rich and spicy with subtle oak. This bourbon clocks in around 111.3 proof, so we like it neat, but it can handle a drop or two of water. $220.00

Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets

Old Forester 150

To celebrate the brand’s 150th anniversary, the folks at Old Forester created this special edition that knocked our socks off. Master distiller Chris Morris selected 150 barrels and from those master distiller Jackie Zykan created three different batches, each meant to amplify traditional Old Forester flavors. While all three batches are highly sought after, Batch 1 is a fruit bomb that will shock and awe your palate. Loaded up with apple, pear, and apricot, the whiskey finds its balance against a plume of spice and a herbal peppermint. Old Forester founder George Garvin Brown would be proud. $540.00

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Russell’s Reserve 2003

Okay. We lied, this 16 year old Russell’s Reserve 2003 is basically impossible to find*. But master distiller Eddie Russell knocked this limited offering so far out of the park, we had to pay it a little tribute. Sweet sixteen years ensconced in oak gave this bourbon a dark hue and rich layers of smoke. At 89.5 proof, it’s a sweet and spicy mouthful awash in caramel, vanilla, leather and tobacco that’s worth a bit of a quest. $250.00

Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets

Knob Creek 12

While the folks at Beam-Suntory also dropped a stellar 15 year old Knob Creek as a limited edition this year, the brand’s 12 year grabbed our attention and prominent spot on our bar thanks not only to its depth but also its accessibility and more modest price point. For around $60 this is a bottle with quite a bit of wow factor for your taste buds. Big traditional notes of caramel, vanilla and spice but the extra three years in the barrel compared to the standard bearing nine year, have added enhanced balance and created a deeper more luxuriant mouthful. $58.00

Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets

Ardbeg Wee Beastie

A new addition to the Ardbeg core range, Wee Beastie displays a shocking amount of depth for a single malt only aged a short five years. It’s an excellent Islay whisky and currently one of the most affordable to emerge from the island. After a quick stint in both ex-bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks is already loaded up with a deep chocolate flavor, licorice, salt and pepper, a heap of peaty smoke and traditional Islay medicinal notes make Wee Beastie a helluva dram. $120.00

Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets

GlenDronach Port Wood

Port-finished whisky can be a bit of a sticky wicket. If the spirit sits too long, the wine flavors overpower the whisky. If it doesn’t rest long enough, the experience can be fairly middling. Thankfully, Rachel Barrie and her team at GlenDronach got this one just right. Port Wood takes the brand’s Highland spirit — aged in Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherry casks — and builds more flavors through another maturation cycle in port pipes from the Douro Valley in Portugal. The result is an exquisitely fruity dram, balanced by pungent baking spices and toasty wood. $90.00

Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets

Glenmorangie A Tale of Cake

When we heard the name, we thought this latest drop from Glenmorangie was going to be an overly sweet and cloying marketing gimmick. But second guessing Dr. Bill Lumsden and company is a fool’s errand. Glenmorangie Cake is in fact quite divine. A lovely heat gently radiates the palate, while flashes of peanut butter, shortbread, coconut cream pie and a hint of pineapple sparkle through a lingering pear syrup with a weighty toasted nutty finish. It’s just weird enough to make a great whisky. $120.00

Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets

Bruichladdich Black Art 08.1 1994

Islay maker Bruichladdich is probably best known for their wicked peat bombs in the Octomore series, but they do make some un-peated expressions as well, including their delicious house style Classic Laddie and their annual release Black Art. This year’s edition, 08.1 was barreled way back in 1994 and while it’s objectively an expensive bottle, it’s actually not ridiculously priced for a 26 year old single malt. Black Art is a delectably complex whisky, and while it did more than two and a half decades in the barrel, the oak is gentle texture soft and supple. Sweet notes a la vanilla, fruit, and caramel dance around tobacco, spice and dried herbs, making every sip incredibly luxurious. $550.00

Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets

Wild Turkey Rare Breed Rye

Given the chance, we think Wild Turkey Rare Breed Rye, could quickly become a go to for many rye enthusiasts. While the rye portion of the mash bill is only 51% it’s still packs a good dose of spice. It’s barrel proof, uncut at 112.2 proof, giving it a pleasant intensity and loads of flavors like caramel, fruit, biscuits and mellow saltwater taffy note that lead to a spicy, peppery finish. $72.00

Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets

Pinhook Vertical Series 4 Rye Tiz Rye Time

One of the most interesting, recent ideas in whiskey, Pinhook’s Vertical Series took 450 MGP rye barrels and is releasing them as they age from four to twelve years, so consumers can track the evolution of flavors with time. The four year rye, concocted by master taster Sean Josephs, is a phenomenal whiskey. It’s a high rye, 95% with 5% malted barley, spirit that after only four short years in wood is already, fruity, spicy, complex and balanced. We can’t wait to see what another year, and the next eight, in the barrels yields. $50.00

Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets

Little Book Whiskey Chapter 4

The Little Book series is, in part, the passion project of Freddie Noe, the eighth in his line to craft whiskey at Beam. Each drop has been extraordinarily successful both in terms of sales and as a quality whiskey. The fourth release, “Lessons Honored” is a tribute to his father master distiller Fred Noe. A blend of a 4-year-old Kentucky Straight Brown Rice Bourbon, 8-year-old Kentucky Straight “high rye” Rye Whiskey and a 7-year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, “Lessons Honored” is a robust glass. Clocking in at 122.8 proof, a splash of water mitigates the heat but won’t mitigate the spice that finds balance against lush fruit, caramel, and vanilla. $204.00

Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets

Michter’s Toasted Barrel Strength Barrel Finish Rye

Michter’s limited releases tend to sell out in short order but we have still seen a few of the 2020 Toasted Barrel Strength Barrel Finish Ryes on the shelf, so if you see one snap it up. The brand uses two different barrels to make this expression, a traditionally charred new American oak variety and then a second more lightly “toasted” one made from 2 year air dried wood. The result is a complex and intense whiskey laden with caramel, cherry, brown butter and of course spice with a finish that will take any rye lover straight to their happy place. $280.00

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Looking for your next vice? Meet Ranger Candy Coffee

It’s no secret that veterans and coffee go together like peanut butter and jelly. As more and more people separate from active duty to pursue their passions, the number of boutique coffee companies run by prior service folks is only growing.

One of the newest is Ranger Candy Coffee. Ranger Candy is run by a former US Army mortarman who served a total of eight years both on active duty and with the National Guard. The company launched earlier this year with the goal of bringing high-quality coffee to service members, first responders, and outdoorsmen. The HMFIC at Ranger Candy also owns a home remodeling company, giving us hope that the American work ethic isn’t completely dead.


Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets

Ranger Candy starts with hand-selected, single-origin Arabica beans that they import from 18 different countries. The beans are then blended, roasted, ground, and shipped by the Ranger Candy crew anywhere in the US or to anybody working overseas with an APO/DPO/FPO. They offer light, medium and dark roasts available in six different grinds from fine to espresso to coarse, with a couple of settings in between. You can purchase quantities from 12 ounces to 12 pounds as well as K-Cups.

Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets

We received our own sample of Ranger Candy in a re-sealable 12-ounce bag that kind of reminded us of an MRE pouch. We’re not sure if that was on purpose or if we happen to be feeling nostalgic. Said sample was a standard grind dark roast sourced from Tanzania. We know it came from Tanzania because the label on the bag includes a list of all 18 countries they source from, and they will conveniently “check the box” next to the country of origin for your particular bag of coffee. In fact, you can specify the country of origin when you order. Do you prefer Mexican coffee to Costa Rican? Or Indian? Or Ugandan? You can specify the country of origin when you place your order. If you’re not sure what you prefer, the Ranger Candy website includes tasting and origin notes for each of the countries they source from.

For our Tanzanian sample, tasting notes were chocolate, cherries, and caramel. We caught the chocolate and think maybe we tasted a little bit of cherry on the finish, but couldn’t find the caramel. Your mileage may vary. But we also learned that our coffee was grown at an elevation of 5,900 feet in the Mbeya region.

Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets

Ranger Candy coffee runs .99 per 12 ounce bag, regardless of country-of-origin. They also offer a line of mugs and swag to accompany your cup of joe. Check them out at www.rangercandycoffee.com or on your social media of choice.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

Unless you’re a Guamanian local, been stationed on Guam or have participated in the drop itself, Netflix’s new holiday movie may be the first time that you’ve of Operation Christmas Drop. In fact, the operation is the Department of Defense’s longest-running mission and the longest-running humanitarian airlift in the world. Here are five incredible facts about Operation Christmas Drop.

Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets
Tech. Sgt. Mario Montoya collects any remaining debris from an LCLA bundle during Operation Christmas Drop 2019 (U.S. Air Force)

1. It started with a random act of kindness

During the Christmas season of 1952, a WB-29 Superfortress of the 54th Weather Reconnaissance Wing was flying a mission from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. While over the Micronesian atoll of Kapinga-Marangi, the crew spotted islanders waving at them from down below. In the spirit of Christmas, the airmen collected supplies that they had on board, placed them in a container with a parachute attached and circled around to drop the care package. Since then, the operation has grown and continued every year.

2. It benefits islanders and airmen

According to an Andersen Air Force Base statement, “The event provides readiness training to participating aircrew, allowing them to gain experience in conducting airdrops while providing critical supplies to 56 Micronesian islands impacting about 20,000 people.” Aircrews coordinate the drops with the islanders via ham radio. Using Low-Cost Low-Altitude air drops, containers are dropped in the water just off the shore to avoid hitting any locals. In 2011, the drop included 25 boxes of IV fluids for Fais Island to combat an outbreak of dengue fever. In 2013, the drops included critical supplies of food and water for 30 recovery workers on Kayangel Island after it was hit hard by Typhoon Haiyan. In 2020, though additional safety measures will be put in place due to COVID-19, Operation Christmas Drop will go on. This year’s drop targets 55 Micronesian islands across a 1.8 million square nautical mile operating area.

Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets
Royal Australian Air Force pilots of the 37th Squadron participate in Operation Christmas Drop 2018 (U.S. Air Force)

3. The drops are completely legal

Unlike how it’s portrayed in the Netflix film, there is no Congressional issue with Operation Christmas Drop. The drops are conducted under the protection of the Denton Amendment. Also known as the Denton Cargo Program, it was launched in 1985. The program allows for space available on military aircraft to be used to carry humanitarian aid supplies to countries in need and for disaster relief. Aid under the Denton Program comes at minimal or no added cost to taxpayers since it utilizes excess space on scheduled military flights. Today, the program is administered jointly by USAID, the Department of State, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency and the Department of Defense.

4. The operation involves units across the Pacific

As mentioned in the Netflix film, Operation Christmas Drop involves international partners like Japan, Australia and the Philippines. While the U.S. Air Force’s 36th Wing and 734th Air Mobility Squadron are based at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and play a major part in the operation, other organizations support the drop, too. The 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base, the University of Guam and the “Operation Christmas Drop” private organization all help to make the drop possible.

5. The drops are all donations

In the months leading up to the drop, volunteers set up donation boxes and raise money from local businesses and citizens. A week before the drop, volunteer service members, civilians and contractors collect and sort through the donations. Afterwards, riggers at Yokota and Andersen volunteer their spare time to build boxes to hold the donations. The majority of items dropped are school supplies, clothes, rice, construction materials, fishing equipment and toys.

While many service members will be quick to point out military inaccuracies in the film, the positive effect that the drop has cannot be argued. The relief and joy that Operation Christmas Drop brings to the people of Micronesia every year is an incredible achievement and a testament to the hard work and dedication of the volunteers that make it possible.

Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets
(U.S. Air Force)
MIGHTY CULTURE

Don’t be a victim of a military romance scam

Are you dating or talking online to someone who says they are a military member? Have they asked you for funds or documents? You might be looking for true love, but chances are good that you are the victim of one of thousands of military romance scams conducted every day.

U.S. military officials have warned those involved in online dating to proceed with caution when corresponding with someone claiming to be a U.S. military member serving in Syria, Afghanistan or elsewhere.


Officials and websites like Military.com receive hundreds of questions or allegations a month from victims who state they got involved in an online relationship with someone who claims to be in the U.S. military but started asking for money for various false service-related needs such as transportation costs; communication fees; or marriage, processing or medical fees.

Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets

(Flickr photo by Mr Seb)

Victims of these online scams often think they are doing a good deed by helping a military member. Instead, they have given their money to a scammer, sometimes losing thousands of dollars, with very low possibility of recovery.

The U.S. has established numerous task forces to deal with this growing epidemic. Unfortunately, the people committing these scams are often overseas — using untraceable email addresses, routing accounts through numerous locations around the world and utilizing pay-per-hour Internet cyber cafes.

Are you being scammed? Here’s how to know.

Military romance scams: what to look for

There are a variety of words and phrases used by scammers to hook unsuspecting men and women into relationships. Here are some examples:

  • They say they are on a “peacekeeping” mission.
  • They say they are looking for an honest woman.
  • They note that their parents, wife or husband is deceased.
  • They say they have a child or children being cared for by a nanny or other guardian.
  • They profess their love almost immediately.
  • They refer to you as “my love,” “my darling” or any other affectionate term almost immediately.
  • They tell you they cannot wait to be with you.
  • They tell you they cannot talk on the phone or via webcam for security reasons.
  • They tell you they are sending you something (money, jewelry) through a diplomat.
  • They claim to be in the U.S. military; however, their English and grammar do not match that of someone born and raised in the United States.

Military romance scams: common questions

Scammers tend to use similar stories to convince men and women that they have a legitimate need. Military.com regularly receives questions about these claims. Here are common answers to those questions:

  • Military members and their loved ones are not charged money so that they can go on leave.
  • No one is required to request leave on behalf of a military member.
  • A general officer will not correspond with you on behalf of military personnel planning to take leave.
  • A general officer will not be a member of an internet dating site.
  • Military members are not charged money or taxes to secure communications or leave.
  • Military members do not need permission to get married.
  • Military members do not have to pay for early retirement.
  • All military personnel have medical insurance for themselves and their immediate family members (spouse and/or children), which pays for their medical costs when treated at health care facilities worldwide. Family and friends do not need to pay their medical expenses.
  • Military aircraft are not used to transport privately owned vehicles.
  • Military financial offices are not used to help military personnel buy or sell items of any kind.
  • Member of the military deployed to combat zones do not need to solicit money from the public to feed or house their troops.
  • Deployed military personnel do not find large sums of money and do not need your help to get that money out of the country.

Military romance scams: how to avoid them

You can avoid being taken for a ride by a military romance scam artist by practicing a few easy habits.

Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets

(Flickr photo by Saws)

  1. Never send money. Be extremely suspicious if you are asked for money for transportation costs, communication fees or marriage processing and medical fees via Western Union.
  2. Do your research. If you do start an Internet-based relationship with someone, check them out. Research what they are telling you with someone who would know, such as a current or former service member.
  3. Communicate by phone. Be very suspicious if you never get to actually speak with the person on the phone or are told you cannot write or receive letters in the mail. Servicemen and women serving overseas will often have an APO or FPO mailing address. Internet or not, service members always appreciate a letter in the mail.
  4. Fact-check. Many of the negative claims made about the military and the supposed lack of support and services provided to troops overseas are far from reality. Check the facts.
  5. Don’t use a third party. Be very suspicious if you are asked to send money or ship property to a third party or company. Often, the company exists but has no idea or is not a part of the scam.
  6. Watch for African countries. Be very suspicious if the person you are corresponding with wants you to mail anything to an African country. While some U.S. troops are stationed there, they are few and far between. Someone claiming to be in a place where we have few troops is suspect. Many scams originate in Nigeria.
  7. Watch for grammar. Be aware of common spelling, grammatical or language errors in the emails.
  8. Be guarded. Be very suspicious of someone you have never met and who pledges their love at warp speed.

Military romance scams: how to get help

How do you get help if you are the victim of a romance scam or think you have found a scammer posing as a military member?

Unfortunately, if you’ve given money to a scammer, you’re unlikely to get it back since scammers are often located overseas and are untraceable.

You can, however, report it.

You can report the theft to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) (FBI-NW3C Partnership) on its website.

You can also report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission. Your report helps law enforcement officials across the United States in their investigations. Report it online or by phone at 1-877-ID-THEFT.

Finally, report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission on Nigerian Scams by email at spam@uce.gov.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

In a war with Russia, both sides could focus on this 60-mile stretch

There are a number of potential vulnerabilities in NATO territory if the Cold War ever goes live, but three countries are especially scared of an attack to close the Suwalki Gap, a spot where NATO territory is only 60 miles wide with Belarus on one side, Russia’s Kaliningrad Enclave on the other, and relatively flat ground with little forest or natural defenses in the middle.


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A German Army Soldier directs military vehicles onto land during one of the largest combined exercises in Lithuania, the Suwalki Gap River Crossing, as media observe the event, June 20, 2017.
(U.S. Army Sgt. Shiloh Capers)

If Russian tanks and other forces quickly span the gap and dig in, they could cut Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia off from the rest of Europe and NATO for easy digestion, leaving the rest of NATO to decide whether its worth it to risk their own troops re-securing them.

These sorts of geographic and political choke points aren’t new. Cold War weapons development was heavily influenced by the Fulda Gap, one of Soviet Russia’s most likely routes of advance if they invaded western Europe. And in World War II, France fell so quickly partially because it had counted on holding Germany at the Albert Canal and River Meuse in Belgium, but Germany had gotten Belgium to rescind its alliances with France before the invasion.

But the Suwalki Gap is a particularly vulnerable and important point. Kaliningrad is a Russian enclave that borders the Baltic Sea, and Belarus is a historic ally of Russia. Russia could easily muster troops in both areas for a mad dash across the line, and it could do so quickly and with little warning.

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Battle Group Poland U.S. Soldiers locate their sector of fire for their weapons as part of the Bull Run training exercise near Suwalki, Poland, July 16, 2017.
(U.S. Army Spc. Kevin Wang)

On paper, NATO would be required to respond, but NATO’s joint defense clause has only been invoked one time, and that was when America was attacked on September 11, 2001. That’s part of why deploying to Afghanistan usually results in a service member receiving a NATO medal. The whole alliance was party to the invasion because one member of the alliance had been attacked.

But that was NATO allies backing up their most powerful member while invading a relatively weak, authoritarian state. The Taliban had little air force or proper army assets, and it quickly fell. Getting NATO allies to muster in Poland for an attack into Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia would be much more challenging, especially since many countries would be interested in holding back at least some of their military forces to defend their own borders as the situation developed.

Poland might be especially reluctant. The gap shares its name with a Polish city and a Polish County, and Poland shares a much larger border with Kaliningrad and with Belarus. It might legitimately need its troops to hold the line against further Russian attacks.

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The Iskander-M is likely a violation of the INF Treaty, and it gives Russia the ability to cover the entire Suwalki Gap and most of Eastern Europe with a few missile launchers
(Boevaya mashina, CC BY-SA4.0)

Meanwhile, remember how Russia is under a lot of pressure to get back in line with that INF Treaty that bans missiles of certain ranges, especially ones that can carry nuclear warheads? Well, a lot of the Iskander and Iskander-M systems that are likely in violation of that treaty are kept in Kaliningrad, where they could threaten U.S. and NATO ships in the Baltic Sea and army formations approaching Suwalki from the south.

An Iskander launcher could likely cover the entire Suwalki Gap from any point in Kaliningrad. Multiple launchers could take turns shooting and then scooting before they could be hunted down. Meanwhile, Russia’s invasion force would be north of the gap, conquering the NATO countries and setting up defenses ahead of the NATO counterattack.

The Suwalki Gap is something Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges talked about when he was the commanding general of NATO, saying that an invasion of NATO countries wouldn’t make any sense to him, but then neither had the seizure of Crimea or the Russian deployment to Syria.

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Battle Group Poland tested its readiness and interoperability as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence during Bull Run, a simulated training exercise, July 16, 2017, near Suwalki, Poland.
(U.S. Army)

For comparison, while the Suwalki Gap is 60 miles long, the annexation of Crimea created an approximately 85-mile-long front between Russia and Ukraine, though NATO wasn’t obligated to take part in that fight and much of that border is covered in water, making a Ukrainian counterattack much more risky and challenging.

Of course, all of this only matters if Putin is ready to do something even crazier than kidnapping an Estonian intelligence officer, annexing Crimea, or invading Georgia or the Donbas. While all of those actions were baffling for international observers, the annexed territory, at least, did have populations sympathetic to Russian rule.

While Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania do have some Russian-speaking populations, the countries as a whole strongly support NATO membership and have even inked agreements to move more U.S. and other NATO troops into the countries or allow more forces to transit through them. So, Russia would likely find it challenging to actually hold the countries permanently.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The word ‘deadline’ has a horrible origin in Civil War prisons

Have you got a project due that you should be working on? A paper, a PowerPoint presentation, a briefing to the commander? If so, you are probably on a deadline. But missing a deadline in our modern world is typically just a problem of professional conduct, or maybe they’ll be some sort of financial penalty. But for Civil War prisoners, it was a matter of life and death.


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Anderson prisoner of war tents run right up to the deadline demarked by the low fencing. Prisoners who crossed this line could be shot by prison guards.

(Library of Congress)

That’s because the original deadlines existed in Civil War prisons, most famously at Camp Sumter, the prison camp at Andersonville, Georgia. Most Civil War prisons weren’t like Alcatraz Island, where prison cells and buildings were used to keep prisoners confined. Instead, officers would build rough wooden fences 10-20 feet high to contain the prisoners.

But, of course, a healthy man can typically climb a 10-foot fence. And, working as teams, troops could fairly easily clamber over 20-foot fences as well. So prison commanders built positions for sentries to watch the prisoner population, and the sentries typically had orders to kill any man attempting to escape.

Well, to ensure that the sentry would have time to shoot a man or raise the alarm before the prisoner got away, the camps put in something called a “deadline.” This was a line, usually literally made on the ground with fencing or some type of marking, that prisoners would be killed for crossing.

In the case of Andersonville, the line was marked with low fencing and sat up to 19 feet from the tall wooden walls of the prison. If a prisoner even reached over this wall, guards were allowed to shoot him. And the guards were well positioned to do so. The prison incorporated “pigeon roosts” every 90 feet along the wall. These were guard posts that sat above the wall and gave the guards great lines of sight to fire onto the deadline.

If the prisoners ever attempted to rush the line en masse, the guards could drop back to a series of small artillery positions around the fort and blow the Union prisoners apart. These artillery positions also served to protect the prison from outside attack.

The bulk of the nation found out about this deadline in the trial of Confederate officer Henry Wirz, the commander of Fort Sumter. Because of overcrowding and a massive shortage of supplies at Andersonville and Fort Sumter, Union prisoner deaths there numbered approximately 13,000, and an angry Union public wanted justice.

Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets

A reconstruction of the wall at Fort Sumter at Andersonville, Georgia. The low fencing near the wall was the dead line.

(Bubba73 CC BY-SA 3.0)

During the prosecution of Wirz, the deadline around the camp was described and reported across the nation, and it helped to seal Wirz fate even though the practice occurred in other places. Wirz was sentenced to death and executed on October 31, 1865.

It was in the 1920s that the word morphed into its current usage, becoming “deadline” and describing a looming time or date by which something must be completed.

So, yeah, deadlines in the Civil War meant a lot more than they do today. The term has been watered down to mean something completely different.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Disabled veterans can now get free lifetime access to national parks

It’s never too soon to start planning an epic spring or summer vacation. For disabled veterans living stateside, 2020 could be the best year yet for outdoor recreation. This is because the National Parks Service offers disabled veterans an amazing deal on their next visit. From Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park to Dry Tortugas National Park and the Mt. Zion and the Smokey Mountains in between, they’re all at our fingertips – and it’s now totally free.


More than 330 million people visit America’s most beautiful parks every year, and the parks are about to see a huge influx from American veterans due to this partnership between the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. Disabled veterans can get free access with an Access Pass on their cars, granting free access to anyone in that vehicle. On top of access, the access pass gives holders a discount on expanded amenity fees at many National Parks sites, which can include campsite fees, swimming, boat launches, and group tours.

All a veteran has to do to be one of those who enter the parks for free is submit proper documentation of his or her service-connected disability, along with proof of identification and a processing fee. A Veterans Administration letter of service connection is enough to satisfy this requirement, and the passes can even be ordered online.

Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets

This could be you.

(Emily Ogden/National Parks Service)

On top of the disability award letter from the VA, qualified veterans can also use a VA summary of benefits, or proof of SSDI income to prove their disability status. Once proof of residency is also established, and the processing fee is paid, all the veteran has to do is wait. Their new lifetime access pass will arrive 3-5 weeks after sending the application. If online payments aren’t available to the veteran, the passes can also be acquired by paper mail or by stopping into an access pass-issuing facility. The documentation is still required, but getting the pass is a breeze.

The National Parks Service really is full of amazing natural wonders, which make this lifetime pass one of the biggest benefits of having served. The NPS is full of places you’ve always heard about, but likely have never seen: Big Bend, Arches, Denali, Sequoia, Crater Lake, Petrified Forest, Glacier Bay, Hot Springs, and so much more. Summer vacations will never be the same.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This year’s Super Bowl flyover was decided by a coin toss

There are so many things that make the super bowl one of our favorite times of the year; the halftime show, the food, the tailgates and oh yeah, the game. But there is nothing that gets you more amped up for kickoff than a fighter jet screaming over the stadium as the high notes of the national anthem are being hit.

How do they decide who gets to fly in the Super Bowl flyover? Well this year’s honors came down to luck.


Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets

Major Alex Horne displays the challenge coin that decided who would get to fly in the Super Bowl LIV flyover.

Tessa Robinson/We Are The Mighty

At The NFL Experience’s USAA Salute to Service lounge, We Are the Mighty spoke to members of VMAFT-140, specifically the F-35 pilots assigned to the flyover for Super Bowl LIV in Miami, FL. Marine Major Hedges told WATM, “It’s a dream to fly over the Super Bowl on game day and it’s hard to choose … so we did what most Marines would do. We tossed a coin.”

It came down to Major Adam Wellington (callsign “Zombie”) and Major Alex Horne (callsign “Ape”). They used their squadron coin to call it. The front of the coin has a blue background, emblazoned with the words VMFAT-501 Warlords with an F-35 set across some lightning, while the back mimics the squadron patch and is largely silver.

“I called blue,” Ape said. “I lost the toss.” He said he was crushed, of course, but still thrilled to be in Miami as part of the squadron and to experience Super Bowl fever, even if they aren’t going to the game.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Wild photos show US Marines munching on scorpions and washing them down with snake blood as they learn to survive in the jungle

US Marines are eating scorpions and drinking snake blood in the jungle, and no, it’s not because someone forgot to pack the Meals Ready to Eat.


Check out these wild photos and see how the Marines are connecting with nature in a way a lot of people would probably rather not.

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Royal Thai Marine Petty Officer 1st Class Pairoj Prasarnsa, Chief Jungle Survival Trainer with Marine Recon Patrol holds two Cobras during jungle survival training alongside his U.S. Marine counterparts

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

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Royal Thai Marine Petty Officer 1st Class Pairoj Prasarnsa, Chief Jungle Survival Trainer with Marine Reconnaissance Patrol, displays a spider’s fangs during jungle survival training alongside his US Marines.

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

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U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink water from a plant as part of jungle survival training.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall

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U.S. Marine Cpl. Alicia Yoo with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, eats watermelon during jungle survival training.

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

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U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Lance with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, eats a live scorpion as part of jungle survival training during exercise Cobra Gold 2020.

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

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U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink the blood of a King Cobra.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall

Then, of course, there is one of the most iconic aspects of the Cobra Gold jungle survival training, and that is drinking cobra blood.

A King Cobra can grow to 13-feet-long and carries venom that attacks the central nervous system of its prey. A person bitten can die within 30 minutes.

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U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink the blood of a King Cobra.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall

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U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink the blood of a king cobra.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall

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U.S. Marine Sgt. Etrice Sawyer a native of Miami, Fla., with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, drinks the blood of a King Cobra.

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

“We don’t do this for fun, but to survive,” a Royal Thai Marine instructor explained previously, adding, “It won’t fill you up, but it will keep you alive.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to jump out of a perfectly good airplane the Navy SEAL way. This could save your life!

Several years ago I filmed a video for Business Insider about my experience with civilian skydiving. It turned out to be a controversial one.

At the time I was taking my military parachute qualification and transferring it to a civilian skydive license at a drop zone in San Diego, California.

The skydiving community was outraged and I received hundreds of emails. “How could you say this!” “You’re ruining our industry!!!” were some of the nicer emails I received.

The truth is that a lot of drop zones — like gun ranges — are very poorly run, and the staff isn’t professional or nice. Worse yet, they sometimes overlook critical safety checks and often have lax protocols.

Most people probably didn’t watch the video all the way through. This is just more proof that people rarely read past the headline before they are ready to light the torches and start burning down the town square.

The video had millions of views and was titled something like, “A Navy SEAL tells us why he’ll never skydive again…” This, actually, isn’t true: I still enjoy skydiving and since I’m flying aerobatics in my plane I have to strap on a chute as well. Hopefully, I’ll never use it unless the wings fly off my RV8!

In the video below, I’m telling the story again but in greater detail. In addition, I give some practical advice on what to look for in a drop zone. I see so many people putting their lives in the hands of completely incompetent drop zone staff when there are some incredible professionals out there that will take care of you.

It’s so strange that something so dangerous never really gets scrutinized by the people that participate in it.

If you’re going for surgery you are probably going to do some research right? Isn’t it the same with skydiving? You’d hope so but no, most people don’t ask some basic questions.

Hopefully, this video will help.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Combat Flip-Flops’ latest is a beautiful, uniquely Afghan gift

There is no gift more uniquely Afghan than something made of the mineral lapis lazuli. Since the dawn of human civilization, nowhere was the powerful blue rock more plentiful than in this now-war-torn country. The history of using this stone in jewelry dates back to the days of the Pharaohs of the Nile River Valley, but its time as a mineral dates back much further, to the Archean Eon — before life on Earth.

Now, you can wear a small piece of it while helping the women of Afghanistan put their lives back together. Combat Flip-Flops, the clothing company founded by two Army Rangers with a mission of using business entrepreneurship and women’s education to end the cycle of conflict in the Afghanistan, has a new product: a bracelet made from lapis lazuli. Each is handmade in Afghanistan using stones from the Sar-i Sang Mines — the same mine whose ores have decorated ancient kings and queens across the known world.

Lapis lazuli has a rich history and you can own a piece of it. We’re working with Combat Flip-Flops to give our readers 20-percent off their purchase when using the coupon code at the end of this article.


Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets

(Combat Flip-Flops)

Lapis lazuli dates back some 2.7 billion years — that’s more than half of the Earth’s total age. It wasn’t until well after its formation that the first stirrings of single-celled organisms began to appear on Earth. Humans didn’t appear as we know them until five to seven million years ago.

This stone is, truly, timeless.

Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets

The raw lapis lazuli gives the mask its deep blues.

(Egyptian Musum in Cairo)

Humans in what we today call Afghanistan first began mining and using lapis lazuli around the 7th millennium BC, the same time agriculture began to spring from Mesopotamia. The beauty of the deep blue stones has been found at numerous ancient sites, from the Indus Valley in modern-day India to the Caucasus Mountains of Russia, Georgia, and Armenia. Afghan lapis lazuli was even found on the West Coast of Africa. Queen Cleopatra is said to have used it as eyeshadow and the mineral adorns King Tutankhamun’s burial mask.

Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets

In the middle ages, lapis lazuli was imported through the Silk Road, crushed, and turned into the deepest blue hues of paint available anywhere on earth: the ultra-expensive, ultramarine color. Artists like Michelangelo, Titian, and Vermeer all used the color in their most famous works.

The skies depicted on the Sistine Chapel are all painted with ultramarine, from lapis lazuli of Afghanistan.

For 6,000 years Afghans have mined the Sar-i Sang for lapis lazuli. The deeply blue-hued mineral can be found on everything from Johannes Vermeer’s masterpiece, Girl with a Pearl Earring, to Fabergé Eggs on display in St. Petersburg.

Now, it can adorn your wrist or the wrist of someone you love. Besides having a rich history laced with historical beauty, purchasing one of the lapis lazuri bracelets from Combat Flip-Flops will fund one day of school for a young Afghan girl, employ an Afghan war widow, and support the relatives of fallen American troops..

Sold in conjunction with TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, America’s premiere nonprofit dedicated to the families of America’s fallen fighting men and women), this lapis lazuli bracelet is made in Afghanistan, shipped to the U.S., and prepared for you by members of a Gold Star Family.

If you’ve never heard of Combat Flip-Flops before now, check out this vet-owned business. They’re doing some amazing things at home and abroad.

Buy your “Perfect Circle” lapis lazuli bead bracelet at Combat Flip-Flops and get 20 percent off with the coupon code: PERFECTWATM

MIGHTY CULTURE

Master Sergeant gives hated Air Force tiger stripe uniform a memorable sendoff

It’s almost time to say goodbye to the tiger stripe.

The U.S. Air Force is approaching its sunset date for the Airman Battle Uniform, known as the ABU, in favor of the Army‘s Operational Camouflage Uniform. The service approved the OCP to be worn full time beginning Oct. 1, 2018, with the expectation that all airmen and Space Force guardians would make the changeover by April 1, 2021.

The service asked airmen at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in Tennessee whether they had any final words on the ABU, which has been their standard service duty uniform for more than a decade. Some said they aren’t sad to see it go, while others saw its potential, according to a release.

Read Next: Army OKs Long Ponytails, Buzz Cuts for Women in Grooming Standards Overhaul

Master Sgt. Mike Smith at the base’s I.G. Brown Training and Education Center asked airmen their opinions and received a variety of responses.Advertisement

“Not since leisure suit wearers were cool has an outfit been so disliked and oppositely loved,” he said in the release. “One opponent compared its camouflage design to an over-patterned couch; another advocate hailed its unique ability to channel the wind down her sleeves, from one arm to the other while driving down the road — she will miss that.”

In 2013, The Washington Post reported that there were 10 different types of military camouflage uniforms floating around, dependent on where a service member was stationed.

The ABU’s “tiger stripe” pattern was supposed to pay homage to camouflage used during the Vietnam War, according to the Post. But early iterations “looked slightly off” from one uniform to the next, with multiple shades making up the pattern, Smith said.

The ABU didn’t really help airmen blend in in Afghanistan. As a precaution, airmen were issued the Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern, the same as their soldier brethren, when deploying outside the wire — unless they were in the mountains.

“Turned out, the ABU pattern blended into the mountains extremely well,” an airman who had once stationed at Bagram Airfield told Smith.

“ABUs came in handy when I wanted to blend in with concrete,” another airman told him.

Respondents also panned the ABU’s matching footwear. Airmen knew to keep a pair of shoes handy when changing after work because “there were no doubts that the sage-green boots weren’t hip with a pair of blue jeans and a T-shirt,” Smith said in the release. “It looked about as stylish as a fat collar and polyester bell-bottoms.”

If airmen accidentally forgot spare shoes during a TDY, they “had to own it,” one airman told Smith. “Or you stayed in the dorm.”

Still, the ABU has its perks. Troops can wash and wear the uniform without having to iron or press it, and the oversized apron-style front pockets help airmen pack extra items like “a handful of cookies and a banana to stash on your way out,” Smith wrote.

Airmen also have liked having their rank prominently displayed on the sleeve.

While the OCP uniform was designed with fit and function in mind for both men and women, ranks and name tape will be velcroed on instead of sewn like it is on the ABU. The service is working to manufacture new OCP name and service tape that is less busy to make it easier to identify air and space personnel.

“History will show that the U.S. Air Force once had a unique utility uniform that, no matter our opinions of it, airmen wore with absolute pride all over the world,” Smith wrote.

“For those last holdouts: It’s time to fold it up,” he added. “Now Airmen share their cloth with the U.S. Army’s Soldiers and the U.S. Space Force’s Guardians, and that’s ‘Dynomite.’”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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