Deployed U.S. service members are prohibited from consuming alcohol except on very specific occasions like the Navy’s beer day. The much-celebrated event provides each sailor with two cans of beer after they have been at sea for 45 continuous days and have more than 5 days left before returning to port. However, even this requires permission from a Numbered Fleet Commander before sailors are able to crack open a cold one. For the British though, alcohol remains an integral part of military culture.
The best-known use of alcohol in the British military is the rum ration. Also known as a tot, British sailors were issued a daily ration of one gallon of beer until after the Napoleonic Wars. If beer was not readily available, it could be substituted with a pint of wine or a half pint of spirits. Sailors would prove the strength of their spirits by checking that gunpowder doused with it would still burn; hence alcohol proof.
The tot was slowly cut down to its traditional size of one eighth of an imperial pint in 1850. During WWI, soldiers behind the frontlines were given their tot twice weekly while men in the trenches received a daily ration. It was also common for commanders to issue a double rum ration before sending their men over the top to charge the enemy line. Additionally, rum was used to treat exhaustion, hypothermia, flu, and even shell shock. “Had it not been for the rum ration, I do not think we should have won the war,” said the medical officer of Scotland’s Fourth Black Watch during a hearing on shell shock.
While the U.S. Navy abolished the consumption of alcohol in 1862, the Royal Navy tot persisted until July 31, 1970. Known as Black Tot Day, the loss of the rum ration was considered a day of mourning for many sailors across the fleet. However, British service members are still allowed to purchase up to three one-half imperial pint cans of beer per day. Additionally, certain traditional awards and ceremonies still maintain their use of drink.
The order to “splice the mainbrace” awards sailors an extra rum ration in recognition for outstanding service. The order can only be given by the Monarch and is still used to this day. Other special events like the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 also warrant an issuance of tot. Alcohol is also used in drill and ceremony.
Beer and port are common sights on the drill pad in the British Army. Following the calling of commands, a drill sergeant is often presented with a tray of small drinks. “Port is used within drill,” explained Cpt. Graham White of the Army School of Ceremonial in Catterick. “We use port for the voice. Once a small bit of port is down, it then allows for the voice, the vocal cords, to be used to shout louder and longer, preserving the throat itself.” Now let’s see how many drill instructors or drill sergeants decide to pitch the idea of a drill shot to their command.
While Russia likes to point to the “successes” of its state re-armament program, the fact is that many of the weapons have fallen well short of their touted potential. The T-14 is underfunded and probably overhyped. The Su-57 can’t be stealthy and fast at the same time. The nuclear-powered cruise missile might be what killed Russian scientists last month.
The RSM-56 Bulava missile has some problems that we’ll get into in a minute, but on paper, it’s one of the most impressive weapons in the world today.
These nuclear-armed missiles are able to fly over 5,000 miles from the Borei-class submarine that launched them. That’s far enough for the sub to fire from the southern coast of Brazil and hit anywhere on the U.S. East Coast. And when it hits, it hits hard. Estimates of its punching power vary, but it’s thought to carry between 6 and 10 independently targeted warheads. And each warhead has a 100-150 kiloton yield.
While it’s hard to get good numbers for how far the different warheads can spread, each one can essentially take out a city, and those cities can likely be spread 100 miles or more apart. Oh, and each sub carries 12-16 missiles.
Add to all of that the warhead follows a lower arc, foiling many missile defenses, and can deploy decoy warheads. It’s a recipe for absolute destruction. Each submarine can take out, conservatively, 72 city-sized targets. Well, they can do so if each missile works properly.
Russia overhyped the Su-57, failed to field the T-14 in significant numbers, and then claimed its nuclear-powered cruise missile was ready to go about a year before that missile blew up in testing and killed top scientists. So, yeah, there’s always the possibility that the Bulava doesn’t work as advertised.
But since the missiles have had successful tests and can take out entire regions of America, it could legitimately be the last thing millions of Americans ever see if there’s a nuclear shooting match between the U.S. and Russia. But hey, at least the suspense won’t last long.
If you’re reading this, it means you’ve survived 2020. And if you’ve survived 2020, it means you’re well aware that life can get pretty dang dark. It’s all too tempting to become cynical and jaded, but at the end of the day, I’m a firm believer that light and love are still quietly present. Small miracles are found all around us. They’re found when kind strangers lend a hand. When a beloved pet makes it home safe. When a life is nearly lost, but decides it’s not quite finished. Too old to believe in miracles? Well, keep reading, because all of the heartwarming, unexplainable stories below are true.
1. When Christmas arrives by balloon.
In 2011, Rosa Cardenas de Reyes’s husband had been unemployed for some time. The family couldn’t afford presents for Christmas, so Rosa fell back on an old tradition; sending notes to Santa by balloon! She helped her five year old daughter, Helen, write a letter, attached it to two helium balloons, and set it free. More than 500 miles later, the note was delivered to a ranch in Northern California. The owner of the ranch, Lane Sanderson, discovered the letter with his son, had the note translated, and got to work.
His wife and daughter shopped for clothes and a doll, wrapped them up, and sent them to the Reye’s family. Helen was thrilled, and Rosa was moved to tears. In an interview with the Auburn Reporter, she said, “I was very much surprised. It is like a miracle happened, a Christmas miracle.”
2. When lost dogs come home.
The idea of losing a dog is enough to still the heart of any pet owner. Ashley Power was unfortunate enough to experience the nightmare herself. Her beloved dog, Frankie, disappeared one day in Spruce Grove, Alberta. After five months of searching and posting flyers, she anticipated the worst had happened. Then, she got a phone call. It was the Langley Animal Protection Society. They had found Frankie in Abbotsford, BC, over 600 miles away! Power couldn’t afford to fly him home, so LAPS enlisted the aid of a truck driver who was thrilled to reunite the pup with his favorite human.
3. When a hatbox serves as an adoption agency.
The year was 1931. It was Christmas Eve in Superior, Arizona and Ed and Julia Stewart were on their way home when their car sputtered to a stop in the middle of nowhere. As Ed tried to get the engine running again, Julia ambled around the desert highway. Then, she saw something that seemed out of place in the bleak landscape. It was a hatbox. She called her husband over, and when they looked in the box, they found a newborn baby girl.
Ed rushed to fix the car, and the couple rushed the baby to the police station. She was perfectly healthy, and 17 different couples volunteered to adopt her. Eventually, she was adopted by Faith Morrow. She lived a long and happy life, eventually tracing her roots and unraveling some of the mystery behind her Christmas Eve hatbox adventure.
4. When Christmas lights keep hope alive.
Laura Rice of West Michigan was unconscious and relying on life support when her favorite season came around: Christmas time. Doctors advised her family that the odds of her ever waking up were slim. Her husband, Michael, had faith. He put up the Christmas lights on their house and sat by her side, vowing not to take down the lights until she opened her eyes. A month went by, then two. It was after New Year’s when she woke up with no explanation, moved by her husband’s unwavering hope. She was expected to make a full recovery. That was four years ago, so hopefully the Rice family is putting up the lights again for Christmas 2020. This time, together.
5. When a heart decides to beat again.
Gemma Bothelo was just four years old when she got the flu. She had a low-grade fever on December 13th, but just a few days later her condition rapidly deteriorated. She was rushed to the hospital pale and losing circulation to her fingers and toes. Shortly after she arrived, she went into cardiac arrest.
The doctors performed CPR, advising her parents to prepare for the worst. After a nail-biting 45 minutes, Gemma’s heart began to beat again. Doctors admitted that the world of medicine can’t explain everything, but her parents consider her recovery a true Christmas miracle.
6. When walking shouldn’t be possible, but it is.
In 2008, 7-year-old Marko Dutschak developed a cyst on his back. While it was technically benign, the cyst obliterated the majority of his spinal cord, rendering him paralyzed from the chest down. Doctors gave him a slim chance of ever walking again, but Marko had other plans. Just a week before Christmas, he hopped out of his wheelchair and walked out on the balcony of his hospital room for some fresh air. The neurosurgeon on his case, Hans Georg Eder, was blown away by the child’s recovery, saying, “In medical terms we don’t talk of miracles, but the boy’s recovery was not medically expected and is really a sensation. The cyst had completely surrounded the spinal cord, which was as thin as a thread inside it.”
7. When a family gets to spend the holidays at home.
Worrying about losing your home is just about the hardest thing a family can endure. After a series of tragedies, Daniel and Ebony Sampson were facing foreclosure just before Christmas. First, Ebony survived a car accident as a teen that killed both of her parents. She inherited the house, got married, and had two children, when her husband lost his job. Then, Ebony discovered she had a third child on the way. They needed $10,000 to bring their mortgage current, and had little hope of coming up with the funds in time to save their beloved home.
That’s when her friend, Jaki Grier, stepped in. She shared the Sampsons’s story on her blog along with a donation link. One by one, donations began rolling in. Just five days later, a total of $11,032 had been donated by total strangers. Some of the donors were struggling themselves, but they wanted to help anyway. The Sampson family home was saved.
8. When a car crash saves Christmas.
Kim Kerswell was already stressed beyond belief. The single mom of two was rushing to grab last-minute gifts for her kids when she rear-ended a stranger named Sherene Borr. Most drivers are understandably livid when someone crashes into their car, but Sherene had her priorities straight as a stick. The women chatted as they exchanged insurance information, and Kim admitted that she was struggling to make ends meet. She could afford her insurance deductible or presents for her kids, not both. Sherene had been raised by a single mom herself and decided that kids missing out on Christmas was unacceptable. She dismissed the damage to her car and offered to buy presents for the Kerswell family. The two women became friends, and Kim vowed to one day pay it forward to another family in need.
9. When a massive pileup turns out pretty okay.
The holiday season is full of cheer, but it’s also full of accidents. The combination of traffic, winter weather, and partying often takes a lethal turn. On Christmas Day, 2012 in Oklahoma City at nearly 3 am, freezing rain turned the highway into a hazardous slip n’ slide. Cars and trucks spun out of control, quickly spiraling into an ugly 21-car pileup. Police and paramedics rushed to the scene, expecting to treat dozens of serious injuries. When they arrived, they were shocked. Not a single person was hurt. How is that even possible?!
10. When a stranded driver channels Elsa’s ice powers.
Donna Molna really shouldn’t be here. On her way to the store one Christmas near her home in snowy Canada, she was trapped in a blizzard and lost her way. Her car ended up stuck in a field, and she was stranded there with no warm clothing or supplies. Three days later, she was found lying in a snowdrift, buried under 23 inches of snow. By all measures, she should have died from exposure, yet she didn’t. She was hypothermic and had a bit of frostbite, but she was very much alive. That’s about the equivalent of jumping out of a plane without a parachute and walking away with a scraped knee.
11. When a mother and child die, and then return home safe and sound.
In December, 2009, Colorado local Tracy Hermanstorfer was excitedly expecting a baby boy. But on Christmas Eve when she finally went into labor, everything went wrong. Tracy became unresponsive and stopped breathing. Assuming they had lost her, doctors focused on saving the baby. Tragically, after delivering him via C-section, the newborn was limp and lifeless. Doctors considered it a stillbirth and handed the baby to Tracy’s husband, Mike.
He held the child in his arms, thinking he had just lost his wife and baby in the same hour, when the unexplainable happened. The baby began to breathe. Seconds later, after four minutes without taking a breath, Tracy did too. The doctors couldn’t explain how the pair recovered from the brink of death, but recover they did. Tracy and Mike drove home safe and sound with their healthy baby boy, Coltyn.
The United States’ win over Japan in World War II won’t be nationally celebrated on again until its September anniversary, but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate it whenever you want. Grab yourself a bottle of Old Crow bourbon and let’s get down to it with the Marine Corps’ finest beverage.
The capture of Guadalcanal in World War II marked another turning point in the war for the Pacific. Though the Imperial Japanese Navy was irreversibly trounced at Midway, the Japanese were still making gains in the war. After the Battle of Guadalcanal, all that ended. America took the initiative and Imperial Japan never again recovered their post-Pearl Harbor momentum.
When the Navy dropped the Marines off at Guadalcanal, Admiral Chester Nimitz left them with some cases of Old Crow bourbon. To make the limited supply last, the Marines rationed their bourbon to two to four ounces of the hard stuff per day. Being the disciplined warriors that the Marines are, they took the rationing a step further and cut the bourbon with their supply of unsweetened grapefruit juice.
U.S. Marines landing at Guadalcanal.
While unsweetened grapefruit juice and warm bourbon may seem like a harsh combination, keep in mind that some Japanese positions captured by the Marines also featured icehouses. Being able to cool down their beverages was a nice added bonus to wresting positions from Japanese control. Even if they couldn’t ice it down, harsh cocktails were hardly the biggest worry the Marines face on Guadalcanal.
For just over six months, Marines made amphibious landings to capture heavily-defended airfields and ridgelines as the Navy battled it out with Imperial Japanese submarines and battleships off the coast. At its outset, victory at Guadalcanal for the United States Army and Marines was anything but guaranteed. By the end of it, even the Japanese began to call Guadalcanal “the graveyard of the Japanese Army.”
So, if you’re looking to toast to the bravery of U.S. Marines, mix some Old Crow Bourbon with some fresh grapefruit juice, serve it over ice, and enjoy!
I hope you already know this, but it is going to be ok. These are uncertain times, but don’t forget where we’ve been. We have been through the wringer before, and yet we always come out stronger. Sometimes someone messed with us, sometimes we messed with ourselves and sometimes shit just happened.
We got through a civil war, world wars, depressions, recessions, slavery, segregation, pandemics, famines, dust bowls, droughts, hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, wildfires, floods, terrorist attacks and a whole bunch of other crazy things.
Life is pretty interesting right now, to say the least. As we battle through this outbreak and hope it’s not as bad as the experts think it will be, it is hard to feel positive right now.
We are worried about our health, kids, parents, grandparents, family, friends, neighbors, jobs, bank accounts, stocks, food, gas, security and a lot of other things right now. And it’s ok to worry.
But it’s also a time to come together. Don’t think that can happen? I don’t blame you for thinking that. Social media, the news and your crazy relatives make it really hard to think this country is unified. We seem to fight over literally everything nowadays. We fight over politics, religion, race, foreign policy and even trivial things like sports, music and the color of a dress.
If you think this is a new thing in America, you don’t know American history. We have been at each other’s throats since we became a country and will probably be that way until the end. We like to stand up for what we think is right, about everything. It’s one of the best parts about a democracy and the freedom of thought.
But we also rally together well. We saw that after major disasters like Pearl Harbor and 9/11.
It was a terrible day and one that we will never forget. There was a great fear of what would happen next. Would there be more attacks, when would we go to war, how long would it last, how much would our lives change and whether things would ever go back to normal were questions we asked ourselves and each other in the immediate aftermath.
But in the darkest moments then, we rallied together. Remember? We all started flying our flags. Everywhere you went — houses, apartment balconies, windows, cars, pickup trucks, jackets, hats, there was a collective sense of American pride.
Everywhere we went, we saw that these displayed flags were an act of unity. Like a family, we might mess with each other, but you don’t mess with us.
I know the virus isn’t a terrorist, it’s not an enemy country, it’s not the commies or the fascists. It’s nothing we are going to beat with bombs or our fists. There will be no raising of the flag on Iwo Jima or marching through the streets of Paris.
But we can show our unity to each other and remind ourselves that we are in this together, and we can only get through this together.
So break out the flags again.
I know, if I am stuck in my house how am I going to see it? If everyone else is inside, how are they going to see it? Flying a flag isn’t going to stop a virus.
You’re right. It isn’t going to stop a virus.
But it isn’t about that.
There are doctors and nurses and hospital staff that have to go to and from work. There are police and firefighters and EMTs that will have to take care of us. There are grocery store workers that have to make sure there is food on the shelves. There are people that still have to go to work. There are farmers who still have to grow the food we eat. There are truck drivers that need to transport goods so we can live. Dockworkers too. There’s going to be a lot of people from all walks of life delivering food, so we don’t have to leave the house.
Maybe on their way to and from work, on their way to care for us and feed us, we can show them that we are behind them. We are thinking of them. We are in this together.
So, go fly your flag. If it’s already out, great. If not, go ahead and run it up. If you don’t have a flagpole, hang it from the balcony, in the window, on your car, or from your truck, let them colors flow.
Now is the time to stick together. Now is the time to support those who are helping us. Now is the time to show what it means to be an American.
Mary Walker, the only woman to be issued a Medal of Honor, is about to get some prime-time coverage, thanks in part to a graphic novel series produced by the Association of the U.S. Army. The latest edition of “Medal of Honor,” shines a light on the bravery and valor of Mary Walker, the first woman in the U.S. to earn a medical degree and the only woman ever to receive the Medal of Honor.
Dr. Mary Walker attended Syracuse Medical College before the start of the Civil War. Her parents encouraged her to pursue her education, and she graduated in 1855 with a medical doctor degree – the first woman to do so in the almost 100-year-old United States.
She knew she wanted to serve her country, she just didn’t know how it would happen. Dr. Walker worked in private practice for a few years until the Civil War broke out in 1861. Despite her best efforts to join the Army, she was denied on the grounds of being a woman. And since she’d worked so hard to earn a medical doctorate, Dr. Walker was nonplussed at the suggestion that she join the Army as a nurse.
Instead, she decided to volunteer and work for free at a temporary hospital set up at the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, D.C. There, Dr. Walker continued to face discrimination, as the male surgeons refused to address her as “Dr.” and instead regulated her duties to that of an assistant.
By 1862, Dr. Walker was living in Virginia and working at field hospitals throughout the state. A year later, her medical credentials were finally accepted by the Army. This was only because of the recommendation of Maj. Gen. William Sherman and Maj. Gen. George Thomas. Without their letters of recommendation, it’s likely that Dr. Walker would have continued to work as an unpaid surgical assistant, despite being a highly trained doctor.
With her recommendation letters in hand in hand, Walker moved to Tennessee and was appointed as a War Department surgeon, which is equivalent to today’s rank of either a First Lieutenant or Captain. Her position in Tennessee was paid.
Dr. Walker quickly became well-known among the troops and units. She would routinely risk crossing enemy lines to tend to wounded personnel or civilians. It was during one of these forays into enemy territory that Dr. Walker was captured by Confederate forces. Dr. Walker was sent to the infamous Castle Thunder Camp, located in current-day Richmond, Virginia. She was held as a POW for about four months and was eventually exchanged in a POW swap for Confederate medical officers.
Castle Thunder was mainly used for civilian prisoners, not POWs, so it’s not entirely clear what Dr. Walker witnessed and experienced during her time as a POW, but it probably wasn’t pleasant. But, true to her nature, Dr. Walker saw an opportunity instead of internment. While imprisoned, she cared for the ill and the wounded at Castle Thunder. She is credited with having saved several lives while waiting for her own life to resume outside the prison walls.
After being released by the Confederate Army, Dr. Walker worked as a medical director at a hospital for women prisoners in Kentucky. She was routinely seen wearing men’s clothes and was arrested several times for impersonating a man, always stating that the “government” gave her permission to dress that way. She was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Andrew Johnson even though she’d never officially been commissioned as an officer. That’s why her medal was rescinded in 1917, just two years before she died. Dr. Walker refused to return the medal and wore it until she died.
Due in part to the efforts of her family, President Jimmy Carter restored her Medal of Honor in 1977. As part of the Army’s efforts to bring to light the courageous acts of service personnel, Dr. Walker’s story is now available in graphic novel form. Her story is the third installment of 2020. A final issue for 2020 will feature Holocaust survivor and Korean War veteran Cpl. Tibor Rubin. Read Dr. Walker’s graphic novel here.
“I have no idea why I joined the Army,” said Spc. Ken Park, a soldier with the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion, based out of Southfield, Michigan. “My parents were extremely against it. I was a spoiled brat. I was fat.”
Park came from what he considered to be a privileged life. He was constantly told that he was special by his parents and his teachers. But Spc Park never really felt like that was a life for him. “Coming from that sort of privileged background, joining the Army, being told that I was the same as everyone else sort of put me in my place.”
“My recruiter even told me I couldn’t join, the first time. He said I should go to school instead, and I could join later” said Park. He was about 60 pounds overweight at the time, so he joined a gym and, through hard work and discipline, ended up losing 70 pounds. Park was, perhaps unknowingly, starting to re-program himself into the Army life even before he officially enlisted.
By being in the Army, Park said, he has learned life skills that he may not have learned otherwise. “I didn’t know how to do laundry until the first or second day of basic. Actually, my battle buddy looked at me weird. He said, ‘How do you not know how to do laundry as an 18 year old?’ I had someone do that for me my whole life” said Park. “But now I know the value of a dollar. How hard you have to work to be something. And how to do laundry,” he said with a chuckle.
Spc. Ken Parks, a soldier with the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion listens to the range safety officer issue commands targets during a qualification table at his unit’s November drill weekend at Fort Custer, Mich. on Nov. 16th, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Bob Yarbrough)
Park went on to say that his Army experience has only gotten better. “In AIT (Advanced Individual Training) I had a case of bronchitis, but I kept going. We had a PT test and I had to pass. “There was [harsh winter] weather like this. And I had to go on. The fast guys came back, because they knew I had bronchitis, but I had to pass. I made it and it was hard, but I don’t know that I would have made it without them.”
Spc. Park isn’t new to the U.S. Army Reserve, but he is new to the Civil Affairs Community, and the 414th, first drilling with the unit in September. He says his time in the 414th has been eye-opeing. “There aren’t many places you can go, in the Army or in normal life, where someone will see you struggling, and say ‘Hey, I know you’re tired, I got you’ and they take care of you so the mission still gets done.”
Park came to the 414th after being contacted by an Officer in the unit. “Cpt. Babcock actually reached out to me on LinkedIn,” said Park, “because I’m fluent in Korean and Japanese. Now I feel proud to be part of the unit, and I hope to live up to the expectations of the Commander and the First Sergeant.”
“Despite being told that I shouldn’t, and couldn’t, join the Army, I’m glad I did,” said Park. “It gave me a higher value, a better reason for doing what I do.”
The sting of the Warrior Wasp is pure torture, according to entomologist Dr. Justin Schmidt, who was willingly stung by each of the most painful insect stings on Earth to create a scale of pain. He went on to describe it as being chained in the flow of an active volcano. It was the only one that ever made him question why he would endeavor to create such a scale.
Schmidt’s Pain Index covers the stings of Hymenoptera, a class of insect that includes bees, wasps, and ants. On the scale of one to four, with four being the worst pain imaginable, only three insects made the top of the list.
Level One: Adorable.
The first level is short, sharp, but not lasting stings from things like sweat bees and fire ants. The pain from these stings generally last around five minutes or less. There is minimal damage done to the body from the insect venom. Schmidt described the sting of a sweat bee as “light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.”
Level Two: Been There, Done That.
Raising the stakes just a little means the next level is still filled with creatures with which most of us are familiar. Level two includes common honeybees, yellow jackets, and hornets. Dr. Schmidt says the vast majority of bees, wasps, and ants will fall into level two, though the sensations of pain are different from creature to creature.
While a yellow jacket can cause a very directed and hot kind of pain, Schmidt describes the sting of a termite-raiding ant as a “migraine contained on the tip of one’s finger.”
Level Three: Not Cute.
This level, though not exclusively filled with wasps, is mostly wasps. The stings of a level three insect can last from anywhere from a few minutes to longer than an hour. Though the ants that do make a level three kind of pain are very painful and memorable.
He described the sting of the Maricopa Harvester Ant as “After eight unrelenting hours of drilling into that ingrown toenail, you find the drill wedged into the toe.”
Level Four: Kill It With Fire.
As previously mentioned, only three insects fall into this level of pain, and Dr. Schmidt has experienced all of them, including that of the bullet ant, long regarded as the most painful insect bite ever felt and lasting for hours. The others include the tarantula hawk, a wasp whose venom is meant to hunt giant tarantulas and the warrior wasp, with a sting that was once clinically described as “traumatic.”
The Amazonian Tribe of the Mawé have a puberty right for males that includes wearing a bullet ant glove. If you experience the worst pain the jungle has to offer, how can you possibly fear anything else?
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
(The featured cartoon courtesy of the author. A flash-bang is a concussion grenade that does not produce primary fragmentation, only extreme sound and blinding flash that serves to stun an enemy momentarily upon a room entry.
Depicted is a team preparing to enter a room of unknown threat posture, substituting the flash-bang preparation drill with a can of “explosive” spray adhesive. “Lid’s off!” replaces the usual “Pin’s out!” referring to the flash-bang’s safety pin whose removal is the last step before throwing the grenade.
In the final scene, the threat is neutralized by the exploding can of “spooge” rendering the threat stuck to walls, floors, and other incapacitating postures.)
(A typical Flash-Bang grenade used by Law Enforcement; no fragmentation, just loud extreme loud noise and flash. Flash-Bangs are categorized as non-lethal riot control devices.)
“Spooge” somehow became the nickname for the cans of spray adhesive we used to stick paper targets, bull’s eyes, and the like to a target stake downrange. It simply was the quickest and most convenient way to stick paper to cardboard and get on to the business of sending maximum rounds down range on a near-daily basis.
(In all its glory, the 3M Super 77CA Multipurpose spray adhesive can)
Spray adhesive was for paper on cardboard. For attaching cardboard to a wooden target, slat roofing tacks were used. Roofing tacks are a short nail with a very wide and flat head. It happened that when our Delta brother, Cuz, was hurriedly attaching a fresh target paper he noted his target backing was pulling apart from the wooden target slat.
Not wanting to lose the time to run the 150 meters back to the target shed to retrieve a proper hammer, Cuz decided that the spooge can already in his hand possessed sufficient merit to serve to pound in the tack. Within a few smacks on the roof tack with the bottom edge of the can it burst, completely engulfing his head and face.
Cuz’s ballistic eye protection was glued to his face, and his hair was covered. He staggered around blindly and calling out:
“Little help… a little help over here — we have a situation!”
We quickly engage in the attempt to pull his eye protection away from his face so he could see again, a ponderous and painful process.
“Well guys… that’s why we wear this safety equipment, you know?” he recited flatly, mimicking a certain redundant preaching that was certain to result from the incident.
“Cuz, I think you better just head on straight home from here and see about getting that spooge out of your hair; there’s not much else you can accomplish here… unless you want to finish hammering that nail with a fresh can…” our Troop Sergeant joked.
As fortune would have it, Cuz’s Mrs. was a hairdresser and knew just how to work the glue from out of Cuz’s hair and off his face. She did a remarkable job; when Cuz returned to work the next day, there was not so much of a hint of the adhesive in his hair, a vision that I found truly extraordinary.
For sure I endured the nagging and pining need for a cartoon to portray the event. As bizarre as it was, it was sure to be a cinch to find the humor…the humor in a can of target spooge that blew up in Cuz’s face like a… a flash-bang grenade. There it was; the vision in my head of spooge cans replacing bangers in a tactical building entry, the bad guys glued to the walls, floors, and fixtures. I stuck a fork in it *cuz* it was done.
Soon enough, I felt Cuz’s eye on me for a time, then he finally approached me when I was alone; I felt I already knew what was coming and was right:
“Yo Geo… this isn’t going to find its way into the cartoon book, is it?”
Oh, the shame! Yet again a man was missing the glory of being immortalized in the Unit cartoon book. I had to remind him; I had to remind them all that they WANTED to be in the cartoon book for the balance of time, though it might not be a thing they recognized immediately. I had to explain to Cuz the same way I had to explain it to every candidate:
Just because you got hurt or injured or humiliated due to an unfortunate blunder committed while on the job… do NOT think you should get a pass for that from the unit Cartoonist. That will not happen — if you dance you’re going to have to pay the band, and if you have to pay the band you might as well make sure it plays your favorite tune!
“Recall if you will that the cartoonist has a measure of reputation to maintain with his public. The fact that you make the cartoon book is purely a business decision, one entirely devoid of any emotion or sympathy… a cold, impersonal, heartless business decision. I am the cartoonist; I AM THE BAND!
Brain injuries are the signature wounds of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with more than 380,000 service members experiencing them between 2001 and 2017, according to the Department of Defense. Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can have devastating effects on those who experience them, such as vomiting, seizures, speech disorders, and aggression. Long after initial impact, the resulting injuries can leave sufferers with invisible wounds that are tough to pinpoint or treat.
According to the Military Health System guidelines, a TBI is a traumatically induced structural injury or physiological disruption of brain function, the result of an external force. It’s indicated by an altered mental state, such as disorientation or a decrease in cognitive functions, as well any loss of memory for events immediately before or after the injury, or the loss of or a decreased level of consciousness.
Equally challenging for medical providers is the stigma victims often feel when it comes to seeking help. But researchers say awareness and advances in the DoD’s treatment and prevention strategies have changed for the better the way patients recover.
“There has been an increase of awareness about TBI, and that has made a great difference in early identification and intervention. Even in the past few years, we’ve seen a greater willingness to seek treatment for both TBI and psychological health concerns,” said Dr. Louis French, deputy director of operations and a clinical psychologist at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) located in Bethesda, Maryland.
Opened in 2010, NICoE helps active duty members, reservists, veterans, retirees, and their families manage TBIs and other associated conditions while providing diagnostic evaluation, comprehensive treatment planning, outpatient clinical care, and TBI research and education.
According to French, understanding the relationship between the mind and the brain is important because psychological and emotional health can influence TBI recovery.
A TBI can impact a person’s physical, cognitive, and behavioral or emotional functions. It can cause a variety of symptoms, including headache, nausea, dizziness, difficulty with concentration, memory, and language, and feelings of depression and anxiety.
“We continue to grow our understanding of the various factors that go into a person’s recovery from TBI, including physical, emotional, sensory, cognitive and other aspects,” said French. “Family involvement is also now recognized as an important part of the recovery process, and for those who may have complicated recoveries.”
At the NICoE, patients and their families have access to traditional medical specialties like primary care, advanced neurology and neuropsychology, as well as complementary holistic approaches, including wellness and creative arts therapy.
Alyson Rhodes, a yoga therapist, leads patients through the rest pose portion of a therapeutic yoga session, Dec. 11, 2017.
One of many reasons the center was created, said Capt. Walter Greenhalgh, director of NICoE, is to provide support to patients and their families.
“NICoE treatment programs are designed to encourage family-member involvement in the patient care plan by attending appointments and participating in programs like family therapy, family education classes, and Spouse and Caregiver Support groups. Our social workers provide education and skills training for all family members and connect them with resources to help them cope as a family unit,” Greenhalgh explained.
Group therapy for those coping with similar injuries can also show patients they aren’t alone and allow families the opportunity to interact with other family members.
Although TBIs are widely viewed as combat injuries, service members can still be at risk during day-to-day activities. Research conducted by the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center shows TBIs are more commonly the result of operational training, falls and motor vehicle accidents.
“TBI is not just a military injury. It’s easy to forget that it was only 10 years ago that we wrote the first in-theater guidelines for TBI, and now we have standardized assessment and treatment protocols across the entire Defense Department,” said French.
The National Intrepid Center of Excellence, or NICoE, a directorate of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
The majority of traumatic brain injuries — 82 percent — are classified as mild TBIs or concussions. Mild TBIs:
– Can leave sufferers in a confused or disoriented state for less than 24 hours – Can cause loss of consciousness for up to 30 minutes – May result in memory loss lasting less than 24 hours
– Can create a confused or disorientated state that lasts more than 24 hours – Can cause loss of consciousness for more than 30 minutes, but less than 24 hours – May result in memory loss lasting more than 24 hours but less than seven days – Can appear to be a mild TBI, but with abnormal CT scan results
– Can create a confused or disoriented state that lasts more than 24 hours – Can cause loss of consciousness for more than 24 hours – May result in memory loss for more than seven days
A penetrating TBI, or an open head injury, is the most severe type of TBI:
– The scalp, skull and dura mater (the outer membrane encasing the brain and spinal cord) are penetrated by a foreign object. – Penetrating injuries can be caused by high-velocity projectiles. – Objects of lower velocity, such as knives or bone fragments from a skull fracture, can also be driven into the brain.
The current definition of TBI was updated in 2015 to be consistent with military and civilian guidelines, and a later review showed that many previously “unclassifiable” cases were likely moderate TBIs.
“Having standardized assessment and treatment guidelines pushed out to an entire military health system and being able to track people through an integrated medical record is amazing,” said French. “Then you have the development of places like NICoE and the Intrepid Spirit Centers that provide intensive, integrative treatment.
“The military and academia are working hand-in-hand to answer questions and improve assessment and care. There are a lot of things that have been done in support of TBI advancement — any of my civilian colleagues look at what the Defense Department achieved in this amount of time, and it’s phenomenal.”
Military working dogs are an essential part of many missions — even sensitive ones, like the raid on the compound of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Oct. 26, 2019. They’re so important, in fact, that they occasionally hold ranks themselves, although it’s merely formal and not official, and they’re always ranked one higher than their handlers.
That “seniority” honors the dog’s role and reminds the handler to be lenient when it has a bad day.
The dog who chased after Baghdadi, leading to his death by suicide, has become a celebrity — even though the dog’s name remains classified. A photo of the dog led to confirmation of its breed (a Belgian Malinois), but little else is known about the good boy (or girl). Disclosing the dog’s name and rank could lead to information about the dog’s affiliation with Delta Force, a classified unit, The Washington Post reports. That unit is still in the field, and revealing the dog’s name could put its handler at risk, although the dog’s possible name and sex have been reported, by Newsweek and the Washington Post, respectively.
Read more to learn more about military working dogs.
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. William Chrisman, a combat tracking dog trainer, and Cpl. Ludjo, a military working dog, both with Third Law Enforcement Battalion, Third Marine Information Group, play tug of war at Camp Wilson, Marine Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California, Oct. 16, 2019.
(Sgt. Stormy Mendez / US Marine Corps)
The bond between a military working dog and its handler is vitally important to completing missions.
A handler needs to be able to read shifts and subtleties in their canine partner’s behavior to gather information about their targets or environments, and even how the dog is feeling.
For example, if the dog doesn’t feel like working, or has deficiencies with some tasks, the handler needs to be able to pick up on this and give the dog the tools, training, and motivation it needs to complete the task.
U.S. Marine Corps military working dog Allie waits inside a Humvee to go on a mission while being held by her handler, Lance Cpl. Ronnie Ramcharan at the Central Training Center, Okinawa, Japan on Aug. 25, 2019.
(Lance Cpl. Andrew R. Bray / US Marine Corps)
While the military working dog’s rank is a formality — not an official rank like human troops have — it’s meant to encourage handlers to treat their dogs with love and respect.
Handlers have to be able to communicate what their canine partners are “telling” them, and to know without a doubt that the dog will listen to him or her.
“There’s no doubt about my dog: Number one, he will protect me. Number two, he will find a bomb,” Sgt. 1st Class Regina Johnson told the Army in 2011.
Airman 1st Class Daniel Martinez, 355th Security Forces military working dog handler, participates in a simulated narcotic/bomb detection exercise with Darius, an MWD assigned to the 355 SFS, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Sept. 23, 2019.
(Airman 1st Class Kristine Legate / US Air Force)
Military working dogs whose units allow them to hold ranks are non-commissioned officers (NCOs).
By and large, military working dogs are treated as regular US troops would be.
Unfortunately, there was one period where military working dogs were left behind in a combat zone — in South Vietnam, during US troops’ hasty withdrawal there.
Prior to 2000, military working dogs were also euthanized after their service was finished. Military working dogs can now be adopted to civilians once their service is finished.
A U.S. Army soldier with the 10th Special Forces Group and his military working dog jump off the ramp of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment during water training over the Gulf of Mexico as part of exercise Emerald Warrior 2011 in this U.S. military handout image from March 1, 2011.
(Manuel J. Martinez/U.S. Air Force)
Cairo the dog, also a Belgian Malinois, earned accolades from former President Barack Obama for his role in killing al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011.
Cairo secured the perimeter of bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, and, should the al Qaeda leader have proven difficult to find, Cairo would be sent in after him.
Upon hearing that Cairo was involved in the raid, former President Barack Obama said, “I want to meet that dog,” according to an account in The New Yorker.
“If you want to meet the dog, Mr. President, I advise you to bring treats,” one member of the SEAL team jokingly advised the president.
(Department of Defense)
Military working dogs and their partners both require extensive training to keep up with the demands of their job.
Dogs and their trainers go through a 93-day training program to cement their skills and gain practice as a team in real-world scenarios, according to the Army.
Only about 50% of the dogs the military procures to become military working dogs are actually suitable for the job.
Cpl. Ramon Valenci, a dog handler with 1st Law Enforcement Battalion, assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, orders his military working dog, Red, to search for improvised explosive devices during Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 2-17, aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., Jan. 19, 2017.
(Aaron S. Patterson / US Marine Corps)
100th Military Police Detachment, Military Working Dog (MWD) Money, conducts basic obedience drills, June 25, 2019, Panzer Kaserne, Germany. The MWDs and their handlers are trained to provide narcotics and explosives detection keeping the bases safe from threats.
(Photo by Yvonne Najera)
Callie, a search and rescue dog for the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, rides in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter as part of her familiarization training at the Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort, Ky., Nov. 29, 2018.
(Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton / US Air National Guard)
Timo, 23d Security Forces Squadron (SFS) Military Working Dog (MWD), bites Joe Dukes, Lowndes County Sheriffs Office SWAT team lead, during a MWD capabilities demonstration, March 21, 2019, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Timo is trained to attack on or off leash with or without command.
(Senior Airman Janiqua P. Robinson / US Air Force)
Jan Mayen is north of Iceland and between Greenland and Norway, the latter of which administers and supplies it with regular flights by C-130 aircraft.
It has been used for centuries for whaling, hunting, and, more recently, meteorological monitoring. During the Cold War, it was a base for communications and navigation systems. Though it doesn’t have a usable port, its airfield can be used for research and search and rescue.
The island is also above the Arctic Circle and, the release noted, “along sea-routes connecting Russia to the Atlantic Ocean.”
The assessment and survey took place from November 17 to 24, but the squadron “spent several months working with the host nation to find the optimal time” to do it, US Air Forces Europe said in an email.
The visit by the survey team was its first airfield assessment there, and before the survey, US aircraft could not land there.
“The 435th CRS was there to conduct a landing zone survey and assessment so C-130J Super Hercules aircraft can land at the Jan Mayen airfield in order to provide transport and resupply to the station located there,” US Air Force Staff Sgt. Kyle Yeager, a member of the squadron, said in the release.
Members of the 435th Contingency Response Squadron conducting a landing-zone survey.
(US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Kyle Yeager)
The 435th CRS is the “unit of choice” for these airfield surveys because of its “cross-functional makeup,” comprising more than 25 Air Force specialties that train together for unique challenges, Air Forces Europe said.
Its members were joined by members of the 435th Security Forces Squadron, which was there to do “a security assessment of the airfield to ensure that it met Air Force security requirements for C-130 operations,” said Tech. Sgt. Ross Caldwell, a member of that squadron.
“We must be trained and certified on many different tasks to counter any threat and survive in any environment we are tasked to operate in,” Caldwell said.
“If the [Contingency Response Group] goes, we go,” Caldwell added, referring to the US Air Forces Europe unit that assesses and opens air bases and performs initial airfield operations.
Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Christopher Carlson watches the Royal Norwegian navy frigate Thor Heyerdahl pull alongside the USS Harry S. Truman in October 2018.
(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist Seaman Joseph A.D. Phillips)
The Norwegian Sea in particular has also gotten more attention, as Russia’s growing submarine fleet — which is far from the size of its Cold War predecessor but much more sophisticated — would need to traverse it to get to the Atlantic.
The USS Harry S. Truman became the first US carrier to sail above the Arctic Circle since the 1990s when it arrived in the sea in late 2018 for Trident Juncture, NATO’s largest exercise since the Cold War.
Navy ships carrying Marines to the exercise first stopped in Iceland, where the Navy has spent millions refurbishing hangars at Naval Air Station Keflavik to accommodate more US Navy P-8 Poseidons, considered the best sub-hunting aircraft out there. P-8s will visit Keflavik more often, but the Navy has said it’s not reestablishing a permanent presence, which ended in 2006.
In November, the Navy publicized visits by surface ships and submarines to Norway for exercises, tweeting photos of the nuclear-powered attack sub USS Minnesota loading MK-48 torpedoes at Haakonsvern naval base in Bergen.
That deployment also saw B-2s fly into the Arctic, performing “an extended duration sortie over the Arctic Circle” in early September. US Air Forces Europe called it the B-2’s “first mission this far north” in Europe.
While the Jan Mayen airfield may be able to handle cargo and mobility aircraft like the C-130J, strategic bombers like the B-2 or the B-52, which also flew into the Arctic in late 2019, may not be able to operate there.
But it’s always better to have more places to land.
“You’ve got Fairford, you’ve got Keflavik, you’ve got other places … It’s not just one spot that if you crater the runway that’s it,” Jim Townsend, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a former Defense Department official, told Business Insider after the B-2s visited Iceland last year.
US Air Force fuel-distribution operators conduct hot-pit refueling on a B-2 Spirit bomber at the Keflavik air base in August.
(US Air Force/Senior Airman Thomas Barley)
Jan Mayen’s airfield “would add another option in that region, and the surveys are often a critical piece of the Global Air Mobility Support System, ensuring unfamiliar airfields are safe to land for a variety of Air Force mobility aircraft,” US Air Forces Europe said in its email.
During the Cold War, Iceland sat in the middle of the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap, through which Russian subs would have to pass to reach the North Atlantic. Russian submarines’ newfound ability to strike cities and infrastructure in Europe with sub-launched missiles has led to arguments that NATO needs to operate farther north, closer to the Barents Sea, to keep an eye on them.
Jan Mayen is closer to the Barents — but if there’s a role it could play in operations up there, the US military isn’t saying.
“It would be inappropriate for us to speculate about possible future operations by US or partner nation forces,” US Air Forces Europe said when asked about the island’s future.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
There’s a never-ending pissing contest between all of the branches of the U.S. Military but, at the end of the day, we’re all still one big, happy, dysfunctional family. We’ll always throw barbs at our brothers while we work with them because we expect the same jokes to be thrown our own way.
No two branches better demonstrate this love/hate relationship than the Marines and the soldiers. Yeah, the Marine Corps falls under the Department of the Navy and yes, the Air Force was once a part of the Army, but — sorry, sailors and airmen — it’s the soldiers and the Marines who inevitably become the closer friends in the end.
Train. Go to the field. Deploy. Clean. That’s about it for both branches…
1. Our missions are similar
Marines and soldiers often share the same FOBs, the same areas of operation, the same interpreters, and the same objectives. It’s bound to happen when both branches pride themselves on being Uncle Sam’s premier door kickers.
Hell, both branches even share the same joke about one another. You’ll hear both Marines and soldiers talk about how “we’re the first ones in and it’s up to those guys to clean up the mess!” And no matter who says it, there are historical examples of it being true.
“Locker room talk” has nothing on “deployed smoke pit talk.”
(U.S. Marine Corps)
2. We get each other’s low-brow humor
When life gets rough, the only thing you can do is joke it off — the more stressful the situation, the raunchier the humor.
Don’t get me wrong. Sailors can tell some pretty dirty, messed-up jokes, but leave it to the Marines and the soldiers to find the line you shouldn’t cross… and then go a few clicks past it.
There’s a certain finesse required to kicking in a door that only our brothers would find admirable.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
3. We share the same values
Can you shoot well? Can you max your PT test? Can you insult the boot/FNG to the point that they have to pull out a stress card? Can you and your boys drink an entire bar dry in a single evening? Awesome! You’re one of us.
We also both value our ability to speak with our fists over “soft skills,” like reasoning and negotiation. Don’t believe me? Just watch as either group shows up to a new FOB and there’s an open bunk in the back corner. Someone will get choked out and the winner will get a year in the best spot.
And we both want to smack the ever living sh*t out of that one person who always jokes, “if it ain’t rainin’, we ain’t trainin’!”
(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Henry Chan)
4. We understand each other’s pain
Jokes about how much it sucks to be stuck in the motor pool until 2130 because the some butter-bar misread the serial number on a pair of NVGs are universal — because it happens all the friggin’ time to all of us.
But the empathy runs much deeper than that. Both groups also left in the field for a few weeks just to come back to the monotony of garrison life, where we spend most of our time cleaning things as we wait for the totally-going-to-happen-this-time visit from a general.
Here’s to you, you glorious bastards!
5. We both mock our brother’s branch viciously
It’s beautiful when Marines and soldiers sh*t-talk each other. You poke fun at the Navy, and sailors will get defensive. You mock the Air Force, and airmen will probably just agree with you, sucking the fun right out of the joke.
When soldiers and Marines go at it, you’d be surprised by how even the lowest blow is matched by another vicious, hilarious comment… that gets laughed off just as quickly.