That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated 'Saudi Gras' in Desert Storm - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Everyone who deploys during a holiday makes a special effort to feel as if they aren’t really missing it. No matter how short the war is, no one wants to miss one of those crucial days. Even if the entire buildup and fighting lasted just a few months, you still want that piece of home. The Louisiana National Guard was no different in the Gulf War. No way were they going to miss Mardi Gras.


So the celebration may not have been as raucous as it is on Bourbon Street. Nor was it a family affair as it is in other wards and and cities in Louisiana. Still, it was important to the men and women who deployed to Saudi Arabia during operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. Mardi Gras isn’t something to be casually missed, so the unit threw their own version: Saudi Gras.

In 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait, sparking off a huge U.S. military buildup in Saudi Arabia call Operation Desert Shield as a bulwark against further Iraqi aggression. It was part of a larger plan to go on the offensive and expel Iraq from Kuwait in an operation known as Desert Storm. The forces required to execute Desert Storm and secure Saudi Arabia took a while to arrive. From August 1990 to January 1991, American and Coalition troops began arriving in the Saudi Kingdom.

One of those units called to action was the Louisiana National Guard, who arrived in late January and early February. Their only problem was that Mardi Gras began on Feb. 12 that year.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

(Louisiana National Guard)

Mardi Gras is a Christian tradition, a celebration that begins on the Feast of the Epiphany and runs through Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. While Mardi Gras may not be a big deal in the rest of the United States, for the French-descended people of Louisiana, it is. For them, it’s more than beads on Bourbon Street – it’s a time of celebration, good food, parades, and family. Some 8,000 miles away from the French Quarter, the members of Lousiana’s National Guard deployed to Saudi Arabia decided they wouldn’t let the holiday pass them by.

Saudi Arabia saw its first-ever Mardi Gras celebration, dubbed “Saudi Gras” by those who were a part of it.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

(Louisiana National Guard)

The beer was non-alcoholic (by necessity and general order), the parade queen was a Lt. Col. who volunteered to dress in drag, and the Saudi Gras King, a member of the 926th Tactical Fighter Group and native of New Orleans, was given the title “King Scud.” Elsewhere, Louisianans formed ad-hoc krewes, those celebrating Mardi Gras with the pledge to form a group that hosts a party, builds parade floats, and attends social events all year long.

You can take the troops out of Louisiana, but you can’t take Louisiana out of the troops.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How women served in the Navy and Marines during WWII

The United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was authorized by Congress and signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt on July 30, 1942. Like their female counterparts servicing in other branches of the military, the primary function of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was to release men for combat duty. The jobs available to them were also very similar. Members served in occupations classified as professional, semi-professional, clerical, skilled trades, services, and sales. While over 200 job categories were made available to members of the Women’s Reserve, over half of members worked in clerical positions. Only Caucasian and Native American Women were accepted into service, the Marine Corps barred African American and Japanese American women from its ranks.


At its height, the Women’s Reserve had recruited more than 17,000 members. As was discussed in Part I, the military used a variety of tactics to recruit female members. Films such as Lady Marines, were used to provide a look at the life of a female military recruit in an effort to make new recruits more comfortable with the process. The film, shot at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, follows a class of recruits from their arrival, to graduation, highlighting their training and job opportunities.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

The United States Navy also recognized the importance of allowing females to serve in their ranks. The United States Naval Reserve (WAVES), was established and signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt on July 30, 1942, the same day the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve. Women were accepted into the WAVES as commissioned officers as well as at the enlisted level in order to release men for sea duty. They served at 900 shore stations in the United States and included over 85,000 members. While primarily comprised of white women, 74 African-American women were allowed to serve during the program’s existence.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

The color film, WAVES at Work, highlights the variety of jobs made available to members of the WAVES. Women wanting to serve in the medical, clerical, communication, and culinary fields were able to do so as a member of the WAVES. One of the most interesting jobs highlighted in the film is that of the Air Controlman. Those serving in this capacity would direct planes and ground crews from a control tower at naval air stations.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Both films, Lady Marines and WAVES at Work, touch on the values discussed in Part I femininity, benefits of joining the military, and the importance of the work needing done. These films also make it a point to highlight the opportunities made available to women in the military. Female recruits were provided with job training in non-traditional areas, training that was not widely available to their civilian counterparts . You can view both films in their entirety below.

This article originally appeared on The National Archives. Follow @USNatArchives on Twitter.

popular

This is why Nazis dubbed these paratroopers ‘devils in baggy pants’

Few units receive their nicknames from their exploits in combat. Even fewer derive their moniker from what the enemy calls them. But for the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of paratroopers that is exactly what happened in Italy in 1944.


The 504th first met the Germans in Sicily, along with the rest of the 82nd Airborne Division, during Operation Husky. It was there that the Germans and Italians first discovered that the American Paratrooper was a uniquely dangerous man.

The 504th next took part in the invasion of mainland Sicily.

Initial elements of the regiment to go into action were from the 3rd Battalion, who landed by sea with the Rangers at Maiori in the opening move of Operation Avalanche. Two days later the balance of the 3rd Battalion, along with the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, were diverted to the Salerno beachhead itself when the situation there became tenuous.

 

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm
The 504th patrolling Sicily in 1943.

 

As the situation continued to deteriorate, the remaining two battalions of the 504th conducted a jump into the collapsing perimeter, guided by flaming oil drums full of gasoline-soaked sand.

Resisting a strong German counterattack on the high ground near Altavilla, Col. Tucker, the regimental commander, exemplified the unit’s fighting spirit.

Facing the prospect of being overrun, Gen. Dawley, the VI Corps commander, called Tucker and told him to retreat. Tucker was having none of it and sternly replied “Retreat, Hell! Send me my other battalion!”

Joined by the 3rd Battalion, the 504th held the line and helped to save the beachhead. The 504th would fight on through Central Italy while the remainder of the division returned to England in preparation of the upcoming Normandy landings. The regiment was finally pulled back from the lines on Jan. 4, 1944 in anticipation of another parachute mission.

Their next mission would be part of Operation Shingle in late January 1944. This was another Allied amphibious assault on the Italian coast, this time at the port of Anzio, aimed at getting behind the formidable German defensive lines there were impeding progress from the south.

 

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm
The 504th PIR at Anzio as part of Operation Shingle.

 

Initial planning had the 504th jumping ahead of the invasion force to seize the Anzio-Albano road near Aprilia. This plan was scrapped at the last minute as prior experience, and the likelihood of tipped-off Germans, said it was too risky. Instead the 504th, now a Regimental Combat Team, would land abreast the 3rd Infantry Division to the south of Anzio. The initial landing seemed to have caught the Germans completely off guard and the Allies went ashore nearly uncontested. The easy advance would not last long.

Soon the 504th found itself engaged all across the lines as its battalions were sent to augment other units. As German counterattacks looked to drive the Allies back into the sea, the casualties rose.

The 3rd Battalion found itself fighting alongside the British 1st Infantry Division in some of the heaviest fighting at Anzio. The paratroopers took a beating from the Germans but kept up the fight. Most companies could only muster the equivalent of an understrength platoon – some 20 to 30 men.

When a British general was captured by the Germans, H Company’s few remaining men drove forward to rescue him. They were promptly cut off. Seeing their brothers-in-arms in distress, the final sixteen men of I Company joined the fray and broke through to the trapped men.

 

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm
Men of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment prepare to fire an 81mm mortar during the battle for Italy.

 

For their part in the heavy fighting of Feb. 8 – 12, the 3rd Battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. The paratroopers weren’t out of the fight yet, though. They continued to hold the line and harass the Germans.

The situation turned into one of static warfare with trenches, barbed wire, and minefields between the two sides. The paratroopers though were loath to fight a defensive battle and maintained a strong presence of patrols in their sector.

When the paratroopers found the journal of a German officer killed at Anzio, they knew their hard-charging, hard-fighting spirit had made a lasting impact on the Germans.

“American paratroopers – devils in baggy pants – are less than 100 meters from my outpost line. I can’t sleep at night; they pop up from nowhere and we never know when or how they will strike next. Seems like the black-hearted devils are everywhere…”

The baggy pants referred to the paratroopers’ uniforms, which differed greatly from the regular infantry whose pants were “straight legged.”

The men of the 504th were so enthralled with the German officer’s words that they christened themselves the Devils in Baggy Pants – a nickname they carry to this day.

The Devils in Baggy Pants would eventually be pulled off the line in Italy towards the end of March 1944. However, when they arrived in England to rejoin the 82nd Airborne Division for the jump into Normandy, they were saddened by the news. Due to the high level of casualties and insufficient replacements they would not be making the jump.

The Devils would next meet the Germans in Holland, then at the Bulge, before making it all the way to Berlin.

 

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm
While digging in near Bra, soldiers of Company H of the 3rd Battalion, 504th, met SS troopers on reconnaissance. Several Germans were killed and one captured. Dec. 25, 1944.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Navy humble-brags it has 7 carriers at sea

The US Navy bragged on social media Tuesday morning that it currently has seven aircraft carriers underway, a major improvement over the situation in late October, when half the carrier fleet was in a non-deployable state.

“The Navy has 7 aircraft carriers underway today. NBD,” the Navy Chief of Information (CHINFO) tweeted Tuesday in a humble-brag; “NBD” is an acronym for “no big deal.”


Less than two months ago, the Navy had that many carriers stuck pier-side due to maintenance issues, preparation for mid-life overhauls, unexpected malfunctions, and new construction challenges.

On the East Coast, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) was winding up to a deployment after an extended maintenance availability.

The USS George Washington (CVN-73) was in the yard for its Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH) with the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) pier-side, apparently in preparation for its mid-life overhaul.

The USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) was in extended maintenance. The USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) was down for an electrical malfunction.

The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) was in an extended post-shakedown availability.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.

(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)

And, on the West Coast, the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) was in maintenance, leaving only handful of the 11 carriers readily available.

Even with less than half of its carriers available, the Navy still had ready an unmatched carrier force, but the problem is that with that many ships in the yard, it makes it harder to meet the demand for carriers, important tools for the projection of American military power.

“I have a demand for carriers right now that I can’t fulfill. The combatant commanders want carriers,” Richard Spencer, the former Secretary of the Navy, said at that time.

Right now, the Truman is underway in the 6th Fleet area of operations while the Stennis, Ike, and Ford are all underway in the Atlantic. The USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) are underway in the 3rd Fleet AOR, and the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) remains in the 5th Fleet AOR, the Navy told Insider.

The USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) is forward-deployed in Japan, but it is currently in port.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US aircraft carriers aren’t that easy to kill, here’s why

Aircraft carriers are symbols of American military might, and, recently, a Chinese military professor caused a stir by calling for China to sink two of them to crush America’s resolve.

That’s certainly easier said than done.

The US military conducted a “Sink Exercise” test in 2005, using the decommissioned USS America for target practice to test the defensive capabilities of US carriers in order to guide the development of future supercarriers. The ship was bombarded repeatedly and hammered in a variety of attacks.


The carrier withstood four weeks of intense bombardment before it was finally sunk, according to The War Zone.

These leviathans of the seas are beacons of American power for a reason. China could knock one of the US’ 11 carriers out of the fight, but sinking one of these 100,000-ton warships is another thing entirely. That’s not to say it can’t be done. It’s just no simple task, experts told Business Insider.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) transits the Pacific Ocean.

(U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Kenneth Abbate)

“It wouldn’t be impossible to hit an aircraft carrier, but unless they hit it with a nuke, an aircraft carrier should be able to take on substantial damage,” said retired Capt. Talbot Manvel, who previously served as an aircraft engineer and was involved in the design of the new Ford-class carriers.

At 1,100 feet long, carriers are floating nuclear power plants, fuel tankers, bomb arsenals, and an airfield stacked atop each other like a layered cake. They are then surrounded by cruisers and destroyers to defend them from missiles, fighters, and torpedoes — even if that means sacrificing themselves.

China can bring a lot of firepower to a fight.

The Chinese military has a lot of different weapons it could throw at a US carrier in a war.

China has its “carrier killer” anti-ship ballistic missiles, such as the DF-21D and the DF-26, which are capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads, as well as a variety of anti-ship cruise missiles and torpedoes.

China would likely use missiles to suppress the carrier, using ballistic missiles to damage the air wing’s planes and wreck the flight deck, where planes launch and land. Weapons like cruise missiles, which can strike with precision, would likely be aimed at the hangar bay, superstructure, and maybe some of the airplanes, Bryan Clark, a former US Navy officer and defense expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), told Business Insider.

These targets are all far above the carrier’s waterline and are meant to knock the carrier out of the fight.

“If they really wanted to sink the carrier, they might have to turn to a torpedo attack,” he added. “Torpedo defense is hard, not really perfected, and so [torpedoes] actually end up being the more worrying threat.”

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) transits the South China Sea.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Jasen Morenogarcia)

US carriers are behemoths that are built to take a hit.

Displacing more than 100,000 tons, the US Navy’s Nimitz-class aircraft carriers are among the largest warships ever built. Their ability to take a beating “is a function of both their size and the compartmentalization of the carrier,” Clark explained.

“In the case of the USS America, the size alone resulted in it being pretty survivable,” he said before calling attention to some other aspects of the powerful ships.

Each carrier has a number of main spaces, which the crew would try to seal off should the carrier take a hit below the waterline, say from a torpedo. The ship is so incredibly large that it would take a number of these compartments filling up with water for the ship to sink.

The type of steel used on the ships also makes them difficult to penetrate, Manvel said. “It has an underbottom and side protection of several layers of steel.” There are also “voids that allow for warhead gas expansion.”

The extra armoring is also designed to keep damage from detonating the ship’s weapons magazines, where bombs and missiles are stored.

Additionally, the US Navy pays attention to how it moves weapons around the ship, keeping these bombs and missiles as protected as possible. And steps have been taken to reduce the number of hot surfaces that could ignite.

There are also a lot of redundant systems, which means that critical systems can be rerouted, making it hard to take out essentials, such as the propulsion system, which would leave the ship dead in the water if destroyed. As long as the ship can move, it can retreat if necessary.

“Given enough time and weapons, you can sink a carrier. But, if you have defenses, people doing damage control, and propulsion, the carrier can take damage and drive away to eventually come back,” Clark told BI.

US carriers “can take a lick and keep on ticking,” Manvel, who taught at the US Naval Academy, said.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) launches a rolling airframe missile (RAM).

(US Navy)

US carriers and their escort ships are armed to the teeth.

Carriers and their escort ships are armed with sonar and torpedoes to prevent the stealthy boats from getting close enough for a torpedo attack. And the battle group is also armed with electronic countermeasures and kinetic interceptors for missile defense. They also have various close-in weapons systems to strike at incoming threats as a last resort.

Submarines are their gravest threat to sinking. Russian subs, for instance, are often armed with 1,000-pound torpedoes that were designed to destroy carrier groups, and it’s conceivable that enough fired at once and on target could sink a carrier.

For just this reason, the US has put a lot of effort into anti-submarine warfare, so US carrier strike groups have “the ability to put weapons on submarine contacts very quickly,” Clark told BI. Escort ships can launch torpedoes or rocket-fired torpedoes, and SH-60 helicopters can drop torpedoes or sonobuoys to track submarines.

The US has also put a greater emphasis on electronic warfare to prevent US carriers from being actively targeted by enemy missiles. The Chinese could “launch a weapon, but it may not be accurately targeted enough to actually hit” a moving carrier from 1,000 miles away, Clark further explained.

There is also a keen interest in improved missile-defense capabilities. “There are lots of ways to shoot it down with kinetic interceptors, like the SM-6, SM-2, Rolling Airframe Missile,” he added.

Of course, there is also the air wing, which could include up to sixty fighters, as well as a number of jammers, helicopters, and early-warning aircraft. “We have a pretty robust air wing that can go hundreds of miles out to provide a buffer for incoming stuff. It would take a lot to get through that,” Manvel said.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Ships with the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group and John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group transit the Philippine Sea during dual carrier operations.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila V. Peters)

American carriers are never alone in hostile waters.

“It’s important to put the carrier where it is least at risk … surrounded by the battle group,” Manvel said.

US aircraft carriers are surrounded by smaller ships, known as escorts. They sail in carrier strike groups consisting of at least one carrier, one cruiser, and one or two destroyers and are capable of unleashing a lot of firepower when needed.

They are exceptionally well defended. “You have to launch hundreds of weapons at the carrier strike group to even get a few of them through,” Clark explained. That doesn’t mean a strike group can’t be overwhelmed, though.

There’s a good chance China has the ability to do that. At a recent talk at The Heritage Foundation, Clark explained that China could hurl around 600 missiles downrange at a carrier group, which could, on a good day, down roughly 75% of the incoming Chinese weapons.

This, however, creates a dilemma for the Chinese military. The People’s Liberation Army has to make the hard decision on how many weapons it will throw away just to knock a carrier out for a few weeks, assuming it has merely been damaged and not sunk.

“Those weapons are gone. They don’t have them for some other part of the fight,” Clark said. “Maybe that is worth it to them. Maybe it’s not.”

And it’s likely in a war that the US would destroy these missile batteries with bombers and long-range missiles before it sends a carrier into their range.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) pulls alongside the Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), during a fueling at sea.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila Peters)

To strike a killing blow, China has to get close, really close.

China has decent torpedoes, and their submarines are increasingly capable. But whether or not they are good enough to slip past the defenses of a carrier strike group to deliver the kill shot to a US carrier is debatable.

In 2006, a Chinese Song-class submarine reportedly managed to skirt the defenses of the USS Kitty Hawk strike group, surfacing within firing range of the carrier as it sailed through the East China Sea, according to a report by The Washington Times, some details of which have been called into question. The incident reportedly caused the US Navy to reevaluate its approach to Chinese subs.

The US Navy can put a lot of fire on a submarine very quickly, and because submarines tend to be rather slow with limited defenses, the enemy submarine could retreat only once it was spotted.

“Once a submarine has been detected and you start throwing weapons at it, it pretty much has to leave because it is too slow to evade, it doesn’t have a lot of self-defense, and it doesn’t have the sensors necessary to stand and fight,” Clark told BI.

The big question is: Will the US Navy strike group be able to spot an enemy submarine before it manages to get a shot off?

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Awesome photos of snipers on high-angle shoots

Military snipers from several NATO countries recently practiced high-angle shooting in the Austrian Alps.

Snipers from Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, the United States, and other NATO countries practiced the shooting from Sept. 9-14 at the International Special Training Centre’s High-Angle/Urban course at the Hochfilzen Training Area.

“High-angle shooting is when you shoot further than 300 meters at angles greater than 15 degrees,” Lt. Alexander Rishovd, a sniper instructor assigned to the Norwegian Army Land Warfare Centre, said.

“Imagine the whole shooting process being a triangle and the sniper is on top, the line of sight to the target at the other end is greater than the distance the bullet travels in a flat line,” Rishovd said. “With the greater the angle the more the deviation between the line of sight and the distance that gravity has to affect the bullet.”

And the pictures are stunning.

Check them out below.


That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Austrian packhorses haul equipment up to a high-angle range on Sept. 12, 2018.

(US Army photo)

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Multinational snipers hike to the high-angle range on Sept. 13, 2018.

(US Army photo)

And the training taught the soldiers how to pack lightly.

“With a sniper rifle and sometimes two rifles, hundreds of rounds of ammo, tripod, spotting scope and night optics, mountaineering gear, sleep system, and water and food, your pack easily gets over 40 kilos,” one Belgian special forces soldier said.

“It is a difficult balance because snipers require a lot of specialized equipment, so you have to decide what is absolutely mission essential.”

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

A US Army sniper team from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment engages targets uphill of their position on Sept. 12, 2018.

(US Army photo)

After ascending to the range, they started the high-angle shooting.

“Each degree of angle will have an associated number value called its cosine,” Rishovd said.

“For snipers shooting at high-angles they need to measure the range to the target in line of sight and multiply it by the cosine [to] get the actual range the bullet is going to fly. Then the sniper will set his bullet drop compensation from that distance.”

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

A Norwegian Army Telemark Battalion sniper team takes aim at targets across a valley on Sept. 11, 2018.

(US Army photo)

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

A Dutch sniper engages targets below in a valley on Sept. 12, 2018.

(US Army photo)

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Italian snipers from the 4th Alpini Regiment engage targets uphill of their position on Sept. 11, 2018.

(US Army photo)

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

A Slovakian special operations sniper engages targets uphill of his position as smoke in the foreground is used to indicate wind speed and direction on Sept. 12, 2018.

(US Army photo)

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

A Belgian special operations sniper takes aim at targets across a valley on Sept. 11, 2018.

(US Army photo)

“The calculations are not very difficult,” one Belgian Special Forces soldier said. “The challenge is the shooting positions.”

“To aim at targets that are at odd angle requires getting into difficult and sometimes unstable and uncomfortable positions,” he continued. “It is also difficult for the spotter to get a good line of sight. The further out you shoot the more the angle and other factors effects your shot. Operationally it is one of the most commonly used skills, so it is good to refine them here.”

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

A Norwegian Army Telemark Battalion sniper and a US Army sniper run back to their rifles during a stress shoot competition on Sept. 13, 2018.

(US Army photo)

They even practiced “stress shoots,” which test a soldier’s physical fitness and firearms training together to replicate a combat situation.

You can read more about stress shoots here.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

A Norwegian Army Telemark Battalion sniper engages a target using a night vision optics while a US Army sniper from 2nd Cavalry Regiment acts as a spotter Sept. 10, 2018.

(US Army photo)

Snipers from different countries were paired together too.

“Each country has its own tactics, techniques and procedures,” an unnamed US Army Special Forces sniper instructor said. “When we pair snipers from different countries together, or have them compete against each other, they are able to compare and see what works best.”

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Multinational snipers begin their descent down from the high-angle range on Sept. 13, 2018.

(US Army photo)

After the training sessions, the snipers hiked back down from the high-angle range.

“It is very difficult to find ranges where you can shoot at high angles,” US Army Staff Sgt. Ryen Funk said. “We don’t get to practice high angle enough, so it is good to come here and get that experience.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 incredible photos of Navy ships barely fitting through the Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is a man-made 52-mile-long waterway through Panama that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. When it opened in 1914, about 1,000 vessels transited the canal. By 2012, more than 815,000 vessels had passed through. In 2016, the waterway was expanded to allow larger vessels with more cargo. Here are five impressive pictures of massive U.S. naval vessels passing through the Panama Canal.

1. USS Saratoga (CV-3)

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm
USS Saratoga (CV-3) transits the canal during the inter-war period (U.S. Navy)

2. USS Lexington (CV-2)

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm
USS Lexington (CV-2) in one of the Panama Canal’s locks in March 1928 (U.S. Navy)

3. USS Boxer (CVS-21)

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm
USS Boxer (CVS-21) passes through the canal in 1958 before she was redesignated as an experimental amphibious assault ship (LPH-4) in 1959. Note the personal vehicles carried on her flight deck (U.S. Navy)

3. USS Valley Forge (CV-45)

ship in panama canal
USS Valley Forge (CV-45) was one of the last aircraft carriers to transit the Panama Canal (U.S. Navy)

4. USS Missouri (BB-63)

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm
USS Missouri (BB-63) had just 8 inches of clearance on either side (U.S. Navy)

5. USS New Jersey (BB-62)

ship in panama canal
USS New Jersey (BB-62) transits the Panama Canal in 1984 (USS New Jersey)

6. USNS Comfort (T-AH-20)

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm
USNS Comfort (T-AH-20) passes through the Miraflores Lock (U.S. Navy)
MIGHTY CULTURE

Heroic military working dogs receive prestigious medals for courage

The bad guys and their improvised explosive devices couldn’t hide from Marine Sgt. Yeager, a Purple Heart veteran of three tours in Afghanistan.

His specialty was route clearance, and he was credited with sniffing out dozens of roadside bombs in more than 100 combat patrols for his Marine buddies.

On April 12, 2012, Yeager and his handler, Lance Cpl. Abraham Tarwoe, were hit by one of those roadside bombs while on patrol in southwestern Helmand province with a unit from the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment.

Tarwoe, originally from Liberia, perished in the blast and Yeager was hit with shrapnel and lost part of an ear.


Yeager was one of four working dogs who received American Humane’s K-9 Medal of Courage in a ceremony Sept. 10, 2019, at the Rayburn House Office Building.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

(Robin Ganzert, American Humane / Twitter)

After the 2012 IED blast, Yeager received the Purple Heart from the Marines and was retired to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where the now 13-year-old black Lab was adopted by a Marine family.

Caroline Zuendel, of Cary, North Carolina, Yeager’s new best friend, called him “just a sweet dog” who dotes on her three kids. “He’s like my fourth,” she said.

Yeager hasn’t lost his devotion to service. He’s now a roving goodwill ambassador for the Project K-9 Foundation that seeks to improve the quality of life for retired military and police working dogs.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Marine Sgt. Yeager.

(Rep. David E. Price / Twitter)

Another recipient, a 12-year-old Dutch Shepherd named “Troll,” had no designated rank in the Air Force, said his long-time handler, Air Force Master Sgt. Rob Wilson.

Unlike the Marines, who give their working dogs a rank above that of their handlers, Troll went through his working career without a rank.

“But you can call him general,” Wilson said.

Wilson, who was assigned to Troll while serving in Europe in 2011, said he wasn’t quite sure how Troll got his name but speculated that it was because “he’s always in control. He found a lot of IEDs out there [in Afghanistan] and some high-value [targets].”

In 2012, they deployed to Afghanistan, where they went on 89 combat missions in support of Army and Special Operations units, according to the biographies of the four working dogs from American Humane, the animal welfare organization founded in 1877.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Military Working Dog Troll.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse)

On a four-day mission against an enemy compound, Troll sniffed out three IEDs enroute to the target and then went on a sweep of the area, finding a well-concealed tunnel where two enemy combatants known to have conducted attacks against the coalition were hiding.

Troll also found nine pressure plates, 20 pounds of explosives and six AK-47 rifles.

The patrol came under fire as they exited the area and an Afghan National Army soldier was wounded.

“Troll and I kinda pulled back for cover,” Wilson said, and he began returning fire.

Troll and Wilson were then told to clear a landing area for a medevac helicopter as Wilson and others from the patrol continued to return fire. Once Troll had checked out an area that was safe to land, the helicopter safely evacuated the wounded soldier.

“By helping locate enemy positions, engage the enemy, sniff out deadly IEDs and hidden weapons, military dogs have saved countless lives in the fight for freedom,” Rep. Gus Bilarakis, R-Florida, co-chairman of the Congressional Humane Bond Caucus, said at the ceremony.

American Humane President Robin Ganzert said that 20 working dogs have been honored with the K-9 Medal of Courage over the past four years.

“These dogs do amazing work and give unconditional love,” she said.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Marine Sgt. Yeager.

(Photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez)

The awards were named for philanthropist Lois Pope, who said “there are heroes on both ends of the leash.”

“Niko,” a 10-year-old Dutch Shepherd, spent four years in Afghanistan working for the Defense and State Departments, the CIA, the U.S. Agency for International Development and NATO partner nations, participating in countless patrols and house-to-house sweeps, and protecting personnel at high-level meetings.

American Humane said Niko has now been adopted by a family in Alaska.

Military working dog “Emmie,” a 12-year-old black Lab, was on three tours in Afghanistan from 2009-2012, and worked mainly off-leash, assisting with route clearance. She had three different handlers in Afghanistan, and the last one described her as a “high-drive dog, stubborn at times, who never stopped working,” American Humane said.

After her last tour in Afghanistan, Emmie came to work at the Pentagon, where she easily adapted to working on leash in searching cars, buildings and parking lots, American Humane said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of June 14th

The higher-ups at the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Carson instituted a new ban on the sale of alcohol past 2200. It’s going to be put in place on Monday, June 17, so this will be the last weekend troops there can buy liquor through AAFES until 0800.

On one hand, I totally understand the frustration. Which soldier hasn’t run out of beer at midnight and needed to stumble to the Class Six to pick up another six-pack? That’s part of the whole “Lower Enlisted” experience. On the other hand, I get why. It’s a reactionary step that the chain of command took in response to the rise in alcohol-related incidents while not outright banning alcohol in the first place.

There’s an easy workaround, and it’s probably one the chain of command might already know and actually prefer. Just stockpile all the booze in the barracks room. Think about it. If all the booze is in one place, there’s no safer place for a young soldier to get sh*tfaced drunk. A few steps away from their bed, there’s an NCO within shouting distance at the CQ desk, usually the unit medic is nearby, and any alcohol-related issues can be handled within house.


So if you’re stationed at Carson, here are some memes while you stockpile booze like it’s the apocalypse.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

(Meme via Not CID)

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

(Meme via Victor Alpha Clothing)

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

(Meme via ASMDSS)

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

(Meme via Uniform Humor)

Articles

4 ways to avoid getting your ass kicked by Seal Team 6

Here at We Are The Mighty, we can understand if people are worried about getting their ass kicked by SEAL Team 6.


So, as a public service, here are some pointers on how to stay off DevGru’s Naughty List:

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

1. Don’t be a terrorist

SEAL Team 6 is the Navy’s dedicated counter-terrorist group. If you’re not a terrorist, they have no professional interest in giving you an ass-kicking at all. But if you are a terrorist, they will have a very professional interest in ruining your day and going through your stuff.

So, you may ask, “Why might they think I am a terrorist?” Well, if you join a terrorist group, they might think you are a terrorist. Here is a very handy list of groups, courtesy of the State Department, to not hang out with:

  • Abu Nidal Organization (ANO)
  • Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)
  • Aum Shinrikyo (AUM)
  • Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA)
  • Gama’a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group) (IG)
  • HAMAS
  • Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM)
  • Hizballah
  • Kahane Chai (Kach)
  • Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) (Kongra-Gel)
  • Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
  • National Liberation Army (ELN)
  • Palestine Liberation Front (PLF)
  • Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)
  • Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLF)
  • PFLP-General Command (PFLP-GC)
  • Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)
  • Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C)
  • Shining Path (SL)
  • al-Qa’ida (AQ)
  • Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)
  • Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA)
  • Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM)
  • Lashkar-e Tayyiba (LeT)
  • Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (AAMB)
  • Asbat al-Ansar (AAA)
  • al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)
  • Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA)
  • Jemaah Islamiya (JI)
  • Lashkar i Jhangvi (LJ)
  • Ansar al-Islam (AAI)
  • Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA)
  • Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (formerly al-Qa’ida in Iraq)
  • Islamic Jihad Union (IJU)
  • Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami/Bangladesh (HUJI-B)
  • al-Shabaab
  • Revolutionary Struggle (RS)
  • Kata’ib Hizballah (KH)
  • al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami (HUJI)
  • Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP)
  • Jundallah
  • Army of Islam (AOI)
  • Indian Mujahedeen (IM)
  • Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT)
  • Abdallah Azzam Brigades (AAB)
  • Haqqani Network (HQN)
  • Ansar al-Dine (AAD)
  • Boko Haram
  • Ansaru
  • al-Mulathamun Battalion
  • Ansar al-Shari’a in Benghazi
  • Ansar al-Shari’a in Darnah
  • Ansar al-Shari’a in Tunisia
  • ISIL Sinai Province (formally Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis)
  • al-Nusrah Front
  • Mujahidin Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC)
  • Jaysh Rijal al-Tariq al Naqshabandi (JRTN)
  • ISIL-Khorasan (ISIL-K)
  • Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s Branch in Libya (ISIL-Libya)
  • Al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent

2. Don’t support terrorists

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm
Navy SEALs train. (Photo: Wiki Commons)

If you provide money, supplies, or even a place to stay to a member of a group on the State Department’s list, you’ve supported terrorism. This is bad.

Other activities, like drug trafficking, money laundering, recruiting members of terrorist groups, training new members of terrorist groups, and other forms of facilitating can get you on the official ass kicking list.

If terrorists approach you and ask you for help, mutter an excuse and GTFO.

Once you’ve fled, check out the Rewards for Justice web site; turning a terrorist in could be a way to set yourself up for life. Some terrorists could get you up to $25 million.

Wouldn’t you rather have $25 million than an ass-kicking courtesy of SEAL Team 6?

3. If the SEALs pay a visit, don’t resist

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm
Seen through the greenish glow of night vision goggles, Navy SEALs prepare to breach a locked door in Osama Bin Laden’s compound in the hyper-realistic action thriller from director Kathryn Bigelow, “Zero Dark Thirty.” (Image: Columbia Pictures)

Now, let’s assume that you were dumb enough to attract the professional attention of the SEALs by ignoring Rules 1 and 2. You can still avoid an ass-kicking, but you need to use the common sense you have failed to use up to the point where the SEALs are kicking in the door.

Do not resist. Keep your hands where the SEALs can see them. Do not struggle.

You may get yourself taken to Guantanamo Bay for a while, and yes, the SEALs will take your stuff and look for anything with intelligence value (and some of it may become trophies), but you should be safe from a beating.

Here’s the deal. SEALs are professionals. They’re not gonna kill you just for sh*ts and giggles. But they also intend to go home to their families.

If a SEAL thinks there’s danger present, he’s gonna mitigate that threat.

Don’t threaten Navy SEALs, dude. Just…don’t.

4. Be very cooperative

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm
Detainees in orange jumpsuits sit in a holding area under the watchful eyes of Military Police at Camp X-Ray at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during in-processing to the temporary detention facility on Jan. 11, 2002.(DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st class Shane T. McCoy, U.S. Navy)

In addition to not resisting, it would be very helpful to cooperate with the SEALs. Answer their questions. Here are a few phrases to practice:

  • “I will answer your questions.”
  • “This is the boss’s laptop and cell phone.”
  • “I can show you where the booby traps are.”
  • “Our cash is over there.”
  • “Our records are in these filing cabinets.”
  • “My password is [tell them your password].”
  • “The combination to the safe is [tell them the combo]”

You may still get the all-expenses paid trip to Gitmo, but the SEALs will note that you were highly cooperative. Your stay there will be much more comfortable than if you clam up.

Follow these rules and you might not get your ass kicked by SEAL Team 6.

Articles

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired

Nazi Germany may have been one of the most evil regimes in history, but that regime also had some very good equipment. The Tiger tank, the Bf 109 and FW 190 fighters, the U-boat, and the MG42 machine gun were all very good.


Perhaps the most notorious weapon they had was called the “88.” Technically, it was called the 8.8 centimeter Flak 18, 36, 37, or 41, but most folks just described it with the number that referred to the gun’s bore diameter in millimeters. That was a measure of how notorious the gun was.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm
The seven-man crew of an 88 manhandles their gun somewhere on the Russian front. (Wikimedia Commons)

The first 88s were intended as anti-aircraft guns to kill bombers. They were very good at that – as many allied bomber crews found out to their sorrow. But the gun very quickly proved it was more than just an anti-aircraft gun, starting with its “tryout” in the Spanish Civil War. The gun also proved it could kill tanks.

According to MilitaryFactory.com, it could kill tanks from a mile away. When the Germans discovered that, they began to churn out 88mm guns as quickly as they could. As many as 20,700 were built, and they found themselves used on everything from Tiger tanks to naval vessels. Even after the war, the gun hung around, and during the war, it was something that allied forces quickly tried to neutralize. The 88 was even pressed into service with some Seventh Army units due to an ammo shortage.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm
FLAK 36 88mm multipurpose gun on display in the Air Power Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The gun had a crew of seven, and weighed nine tons. The gun could be fired at targets as far as nine miles away. Very few of these guns are around now, but in World War II, many Allied troops wondered if the Germans would ever run out.

You can see video of one of the few surviving “88s” being fired below.

popular

Robert Wilkie is confirmed as new VA secretary

The Senate by a vote of 86-9 confirmed Robert Wilkie on July 23, 2018, as the next secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs in a move to bring stability to a department Republicans and Democrats suggested has been in turmoil over political infighting and low morale.

The vote for Wilkie, 55, of North Carolina, an Air Force Reserve colonel with long experience at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, capped a tumultuous four months at the VA marked by ongoing leadership shuffles since President Donald Trump fired former VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin in March 2018.


In a sign of continuing questions about the direction of the VA, the Senate’s action in confirming the new secretary — normally a bipartisan event — featured opposition votes.

The vote to confirm Shulkin in 2017 was 100-0 to head a department serving nine million veterans annually with a budget of more than 0 billion and a workforce of more than 350,000.

The “no” votes came from eight Democrats, including Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and one independent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sanders in early July 2018 cast the first opposition ballot in memory for a VA secretary nominee in the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee vote that sent the nomination to the floor.

Sanders at the time said he was voting more in protest of Trump than he was to Wilkie’s qualifications, saying he feared that Trump and political appointees within the VA would use the recently passed VA Mission Act as a vehicle to press for the “privatization” of VA health care.

In the floor debate leading up to the vote, Sen. John Boozman, R-Arkansas, said he is confident Wilkie can “re-establish the non-partisan approach to serving our veterans” at the VA, a possible reference to political infighting at the department.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, who voted for Wilkie, was more direct. “We’ve got political forces at play inside the VA. That’s very unfortunate,” said the committee’s ranking member. “When Mr. Wilkie becomes secretary, he has to see that this stops.”

In his stormy departure from the VA, Shulkin said he was the victim of “subversion” by Trump political appointees within the VA and at the White House.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the committee, said, “We know Robert Wilkie is the real deal,” and he will now have the opportunity “to fix the problems that we have” at the VA.

“This is the opportunity to do the changes of a lifetime,” Isakson said but repeated a warning he gave Wilkie at his confirmation hearing: “You will have no excuses.”

Shulkin’s firing initially led Trump to nominate Rear. Adm. Ronny Jackson, his personal physician and head of the White House medical unit, to head the VA.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Rear. Adm. Ronny Jackson

In an embarrassment to the administration, Jackson withdrew his name over allegations — never proven — that he mishandled prescriptions at the White House medical unit and may have been drunk on duty.

Following Jackson’s withdrawal, Wilkie was moved over from the Pentagon to become acting secretary at the VA. In his time as acting secretary, Wilkie noted the political turmoil and low morale at the department. He said he wanted the staff “talking to each other, not at each other.”

When Trump surprised him by nominating him to the full-time position, Wilkie had to step down as acting secretary to avoid violating a provision of the U.S. Code barring acting secretaries from nomination to cabinet positions.

Peter O’Rourke, a former Trump campaign worker who had been chief of staff at the VA, was moved up to the acting secretary’s position. O’Rourke has since clashed with VA Inspector General Michael Missal over access to whistleblower complaint data.

The major veterans service organizations (VSOs) supported Wilkie’s nomination despite initial reservations that expansion of community health care options for veterans could lead to privatization.

In a statement after the vote, Denise Rohan, national commander of the two-million-member American Legion, said in a statement, “I congratulate Mr. Robert Wilkie on his Senate confirmation to be the 10th secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

“We look forward to working closely with Secretary Wilkie and his staff to ensure America’s veterans receive the health care, education, and other benefits they have earned through their selfless service to our great nation,” she added.

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

popular

Why you should stop chugging so many energy drinks

We’ve all seen them before. The cans, small shots, and uniquely packaged energy drinks that promise to give you an energy boost during the most important parts of your day. At first glance, it seems like a great idea: chug it down and get reinvigorated for the day. But, if you go beyond wanting to simply stay alert and begin to overindulge, you could wind up doing some serious harm to your body.


 

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm
Spc. Kyle Lauth, assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, sips an energy drink before a dismounted patrol through the Hussainiyah town of the Istaqlal Qada district northeast of Baghdad, Dec. 29, 2008. (Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class JB Jaso)

Energy drinks became the beverage of choice for many service members during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research analyzed data collected during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2010 and found nearly 45 percent of deployed service members consumed at least one energy drink daily. Nearly 14 percent reported drinking three or more per day.

Related: Here are 5 healthy habits to work into your busy military lifestyle

Many of the most popular energy drinks are heavily marketed to young people, including military members. The marketing is sexy, the packaging is slick, the flavors are sweet like fruit drinks children crave, and the beverages are readily available on military bases and down range.

But, there are real reasons to avoid overusing energy drinks.

Energy drinks can cause drastic side effects

Energy drinks are loaded with caffeine, and too much of it isn’t good for you. Dr. Patricia Deuster, professor and director of the Consortium for Health and Military Performance at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, warns service members to avoid consuming more than 200 mg of caffeine every four hours. That means service members should add up the caffeine in their energy drinks, plus any other caffeinated beverages they may drink, like coffee and soft drinks.

“If it’s got more than 200 mg of caffeine, don’t use it,” cautions Deuster.

Deuster also warns female service members to be cautious about using energy drinks, noting the amount of caffeine you ingest relative to body weight is an issue for women. “Women get a higher concentration [of caffeine] since they tend to be smaller,” she said.

“Doctors don’t know what the effects of [energy drink] ingredients are in larger doses,” Deuster noted. “I don’t think anybody has an answer to the long term effects question.”

High amounts of caffeine can lead to increased blood pressure, panic attacks, heart palpitations, anxiety, dehydration, insomnia, and even bowel irritability when energy drinks are mixed with alcohol.

What is clear is consumers need to be more aware about what they’re putting in their bodies when it comes to energy drinks.

Energy drinks can activate your sweet tooth

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm
Service members should use caution when consuming energy drinks due to their potential health risks. Most drinks average about 200 calories, which can lead to weight gain. (Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Heather Johnson)

Energy drinks are loaded with sugar. Some cans pack a punch of 27 grams of sugar — two thirds of the recommended daily maximum for men, and 2 grams more than the maximum doctors recommend for women. Some service members can double or even triple that if they drink more than one energy drink per day.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend keeping your intake of added sugars to less than 10 percent of your total daily calories.

They can make you pack on the pounds

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm
Spc. Kevin Alexander of 138th Quartermaster Company grabs an energy drink at the Camp Atterbury Post Exchange. Most energy drinks contain anywhere from 70 to 200 milligrams of caffeine. The daily recommended intake of caffeine is no more than 300 milligrams. (Army photo by Sgt. David Bruce)

All of that extra sugar can cause your blood sugar to increase. Even the sugar-free versions of energy drinks can lead to weight gain, as research suggests artificial sweeteners may raise blood sugar, too.

Your body can also begin storing fat, especially if you’re unable to increase physical activity.

Energy drinks + alcohol = a dangerous cocktail

Energy drinks have become popular mixers for alcohol, raising concerns for health experts.

“A lot of the young people mix energy drinks with alcoholic beverages, then you’ve got a wide awake drunk,” says Deuster.

The CDC warns that when alcoholic beverages are mixed with energy drinks, the caffeine stimulant can mask the effects of the alcohol, which is a depressant. Often, the person drinking doesn’t even realize that they’re actually drunk. According to the CDC, that means people who mix alcohol with energy drinks are three times more likely to binge drink than those who don’t mix alcohol with energy drinks. Experts warn motor skills can be affected and some people engage in riskier behaviors while under the influence of alcohol and energy drinks. Additionally, both caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, which can cause dehydration if you’re not careful.

Some companies sell pre-mixed alcoholic energy drinks which have the same sweet or tart flavors as standard energy drinks. As the Army notes, the alcohol content in these beverages can be significantly higher than what’s found in beer.

These energy drinks with alcohol may appeal to underage drinkers because they’re cheaper than hard liquor and they’re marketed with a message that the drinker can last all day or all night long. The sugary nature of the beverages also makes drinkers feel they can imbibe longer than if they were having harder alcohol.

Energy drinks can ruin your good night’s sleep

Deuster raises concerns about a problem in the military with energy drinks and sleep. And, the data back up those concerns. While service members may initially use energy drinks to make up for a lack of sleep, overuse can lead to a harmful cycle. Excess consumption of energy drinks can cause sleep problems and hamper performance.

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm
Marines and sailors with Regimental Combat Team 8 sleep during a C-17 Globemaster III flight from Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan, to Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan. (Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Clayton Vonderahe)

 

Dr. Nancy J. Wesensten, from the Center for Military Psychiatry and Neurosciences Research, tells Army Medicine that research on caffeine shows that it can be effective if used properly. However, Wesensten notes “because caffeine impairs sleep, individuals should stop all caffeine consumption at least 6 hours prior to scheduled sleep. Otherwise, sleep could be impaired without the person even being aware of it.”

As caffeine is the major ingredient in energy drinks, the CDC reports service members who drink three or more of the drinks per day were significantly more likely to report sleeping fewer than four hours per night. They were also more likely to report disrupted sleep and other illnesses. Lack of sleep can impact memory and a service member’s ability to pay attention when it matters most. Research indicates service members who drank three or more energy drinks each day also had difficulty staying awake during briefings or on guard duty.

The Army’s Performance Triad offer tips on how to get a better night’s sleep, including controlling light and temperature, as well as leaders ensuring service members have time for quality sleep.

You really don’t know what’s in them

These drinks are not regulated as dietary supplements. While the cans have nutrition labels, many do not list supplement information.

 

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm
The Human Performance Resource Center cautions energy drink users to be aware of the drink’s ingredients. (Operation Supplement Safety graphic)

 

One area that’s concerning to Deuster is the ingredient taurine. The chemical compound is an amino acid found in animal tissue. Many manufacturers purport the ingredient will enhance mental and physical performance. Researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center report little is actually is known about taurine’s neuroendocrine effects.

So, what should service members use instead of energy drinks?

 

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm
Dehydration is caused by not drinking enough water. The amount of water necessary to keep someone hydrated depends greatly on the weather, the amount of physical activity, and an individual’s physical fitness level. The symptoms of dehydration include lethargy, headaches and lack of energy. (Army photo by Sgt. Timothy R. Koster)

Deuster keeps it simple: “Good old water.” Appealing to service members’ frugality, she adds,

“If you want to save money, drink water.”

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