Airborne for old guys - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Airborne for old guys

Here is a great information piece from an Army Soldier who completed the US Army Basic Airborne Course (BAC) at age 42. He has always been a great runner but needed to focus on the PT for the arms and legs to prepare for the landings / regular PT.

Phil Lowry is a JAG officer with the Utah National Guard. Here is his story of how to survive BAC during your late 30’s and early 40’s:


Airborne School poses particular challenges for Soldiers over 35 (which under the reg is the normal age cutoff for Airborne students). Those challenges come in two forms: (1) the PT test, and (2) the accumulating burdens of falling down a lot.

The PT test is very handily addressed in Stew’s preparation book for the Airborne School. Pay particular attention to the timed drills, since as we age our ability to make explosive movement decreases. Timed drills allow you to retain the muscle memory required to efficiently do 42 pushups and 53 situps in under two minutes (hopefully in less than 90 seconds).

Remember that the PT test is done in washed river gravel, about the size of almonds. That means that the pushups will be done on a plank, a strange feeling. The plank may not be wide enough for those of you who prefer a wide stance. It wasn’t wide enough for me (I like about 27 inches of space between the inside of my hands). Be sure to be able to comfortably pass the pushups at about a 25-inch stance. I found the situps to be easier in the gravel. Wiggle yourself into a depression before you begin so you are comfortable.

As for the falling down – there is a reason that there are not many football players older than 40. You will fall in a variety of ways in Airborne school. First, during ground week, in the 34-foot tower you will be falling in a harness onto a zip line, at least 6 times-if you master your exit. One guy in my stick went out the 34-foot tower 22 times. That takes a toll on the pinch points around legs, crotch and chest. It also taxes your neck to fall while tucking your chin in an ACH.

You will fall a lot more when learning parachute landing falls. Young guys tend to “get” PLFs quickly. Older guys can master it quickly, also, especially natural athletes. But if you are not very coordinated, or have to “unlearn” a technique (a martial arts forward roll, or a combat roll learned in combatives), you will be falling off the lateral drift apparatus (LDA) a lot. It does not really hurt at any given time, but it slowly but surely gives you bruises all over. It can also be very hard on your neck as you have to keep your chin tucked in all of your landings. A lot of bells get rung. Also, while in the PLF pit the only way you can travel is by bunny hopping with your feet and knees together. Sounds easy – until you do it for four hours.

During tower week, in the swing line trainer, you will fall even more. The SLT tends to hurt more than the LDA, since it is more realistic and harder to master. Mass exits in the 34-foot tower are comparatively easy, but come on the last day when you are beat. The two different harness training exercises are also easier, but once again give you that wonderful “pinching” feeling.

Learn more about Army Airborne PFT.

And, of course, there is jump week, where you put it all together, along with five 1/2 to 1-mile hikes at double time across a very soft drop zone that is as hard to run in as a newly plowed field. The manner of carrying the parachute, especially when hucking a combat load, puts a lot of stress on your already sore neck.

How does an oldster get ready for this? Some practical exercises:

1. Increase your endurance sets for your upper body, and try to use methods that engage large and small muscle groups in both power and stabilizing moves. Dumbbells are better than barbells, calisthenics are really good.

2. Focus on pullups. You need them to pull on your risers. But make sure not only your lats are strong, but also your hands and your forearms. Rock climbers do drills on these extremities-you should, too. Old guys tend to pull muscles in these areas more easily (I did), and it takes us longer to heal if we do.

3. Focus on your neck. There are a variety of techniques and exercises in published material that can help with both neck strength and endurance. The PLF puts a lot of strain on your neck (better your neck than your head). Even the youngest students complain about their necks at the end of ground week. It’s worse when you’re older. Also, get used to your ACH before you go to Airborne. You will always have it on whenever you train. It is a good idea to run or ruck with your ACH on as an endurance exercise. This will help your neck.

4. Run in boots. You will be doing so at Airborne. Get used to it. High-tec boots (Exospeeds, etc.) are authorized at Airborne.

5. Do more running than you need for the APFT. You should probably do at least half as much running as recommended by the training guide.

6. Endurance is more important than mass or strength, in all areas. Muscles with high endurance are highly vascularized, and so they heal quickly, and are less likely to be injured in the first place. Airborne training does not really require explosive strength-it requires efficient repetitive taxing motion, with the ability to absorb repetitive mild trauma.

7. The PT at Airborne is easy. Don’t worry about it. Focus on the APFT and preparing for the actual training. That way, when you do PT, you won’t worry about aggravating a training injury (try doing pullups with a pulled forearm muscle. Better to avoid pulling the muscle in training in the first place than having to baby it in morning PT).

8. Be ready for having to perform even if hurt. Cope and compensate as you can-there is no periodicity to the training. All of us oldsters had to suck it up, most of us more than once. I jumped three times on a badly bruised knee; a 43-year-old master sergeant jumped three times on a mildly sprained, but very painful, ankle.

The upside to being older at Airborne is that you will likely deal better with the mental stress that your physical ailments and the training environment place upon you.

“Remember, there is a difference between being hurt and being injured. You are all hurt-you are about to jump out of a plane for the fifth time. None of you are injured. Injured means you are in the hospital.” stated the First Sergeant, Charlie Company, 1/507 PIR, BAC.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 New Year’s resolutions every military spouse will break

There’s something magical about the approach of a New Year. After all, it’s the time we tend to create wonderful fantasies about what the coming year will bring. Untold riches, a beautiful new hobby, and a six-pack that would make Schwarznegger shed a tear are at the top of many lists.

However, come the end of January – let’s face it. The struggle bus is real and the wheels are about to come off. And you know what? That’s ok!

This New Year, give yourself some grace if you make – and then break – these resolutions.


Airborne for old guys

1. Limit Family Screen Time, Starting with Fortnite

I guess we could cut back an hour…or two…and parent by using less screen time in the house. But, since we’re talking crazy, I could also churn my own butter, but that’s not happening either.

Airborne for old guys

2. ‘Marie Kondo’ the $@%& Out of this House Before We PCS

Converts swear by organizational queen Marie Kondo’s life-changing magic of tidying up. And soon, you too find dreams of nice, clutter-free spaces dancing in your head. This year is finally THE YEAR to de-clutter before a PCS.

But let’s face it. Once you pull out every piece of clothing and lay it on your bed, it doesn’t take long to realize this little exercise does anything but spark joy. Back into the closet it goes, right next to “The Box” and the curtains you swore would fit in the next house.

Airborne for old guys

3. Not Go Into Feral-Mode Every Time My Spouse Leaves

Whether it’s a lengthy deployment, or the seemingly never-ending rounds of TDYs – it’s oh so tempting to set the loftiest of lofty self-improvement goals to stay busy while our spouses are away from home.

But, if you find yourself having ice cream, mac and cheese, or wine for dinner for a week straight, that’s ok too. We’ve all been there.

Airborne for old guys

4. Stay on Top of the Laundry

Is that the third time I’ve washed the same load of laundry – because I left it overnight in the machine? Someone remind me – why did we ever want to grow up and become adults?

Airborne for old guys

5. Not Buy Plane Tickets Before Leave is Finalized

Until one magical commercial later. Disney – here we come. Hopefully.

Airborne for old guys

6. Finally, Step Outside of my Comfort Zone

This is the year I’m finally going to do it! I will step outside of my comfort zone, meet that village I keep hearing about, learn a new hobby, and sign up for ALL of the things. Crochet, CrossFit and Zumba – here I come!

Right after I finish catching up on my latest Facebook gossip and hiding in my car for five minutes in the commissary parking lot to avoid people…

Airborne for old guys

7. Learn to Better Manage my Time

Ok, who are we kidding? I call foul and blame the military for teaching us constant lessons in the fine skill of “hurry-up…and wait.”

This year, let’s resolve to give ourselves grace and let go of the pressure to be perfect. Regrets? None.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Silent killers: These are the invisible, respiratory dangers that put our service members at risk

This post is sponsored by O2 Tactical.

You’ve been trained to recognize threats. You can spot an IED, read an unruly crowd, identify enemy armor from klicks away, and you know a predatory car loan when you see one. But what about those threats that don’t keep you up at night? What about the threats you can’t see?


The operational tempo of the last two decades has exposed military personnel to a myriad of dangers on and off the battlefield. While the conducting of combat operations poses the most obvious direct threat to our service members’ health, the existence of more discreet threats should not be overlooked. Respiratory health risks exist, both on the battlefield and in training environments, and mitigation should be prioritized to ensure both the health and safety of our service members and the combat effectiveness of our nation’s armed forces.

Fortunately, unseen doesn’t mean unidentified. Here are a few examples of the most pervasive invisible threats:

Airborne for old guys

Lead dust exposure

Exposure to lead is an inevitable byproduct of firearms training. When a weapon is fired, small amounts of lead particles are discharged into the air, posing a risk to shooters and weapons instructors alike. These particles are expelled through the ejection port on the firearm as the spent casing is ejected, as well as from the muzzle as the bullet leaves the barrel. Although invisible to the naked eye, these particles can be inhaled and accumulate on skin and clothing.

Because of the occupational necessity of range training time for military, law enforcement and security personnel, this population may be at risk for higher BLL (Blood Lead Levels). Lead is a heavy metal that has long been associated with a variety of health risks ranging from heart and kidney disease to reduced fertility, memory loss and cancer. Children tend to be more susceptible to lead poisoning and may be exposed second-hand through interaction with personnel in contaminated uniforms. These risks can be mitigated by eliminating food and drink at firing ranges, promptly changing clothes after a range session, and of course, proper ventilation at shooting ranges and facilities.

The threats posed by lead dust exposure are very real, and the Department of Defense has taken notice. As of April 2017, DoD made their lead exposure levels more restrictive than the OSHA standard, in an effort to limit the prolonged exposure of personnel. The Army has also published guidance to their personnel as to ways to reduce the risks to themselves and their families.


Airborne for old guys
Iraqi Freedom

Burn pits

Burn pits have been used extensively in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to dispose of waste products, and their use has generated a lot of media attention over the last several years, and with good reason. Thousands of veterans were likely exposed to the harmful fumes caused by the burning of waste products, food scraps, trash, tires, plastics, batteries, and a whole host of other items. Since the Veterans Administration established the voluntary burn pit registry to keep track of burn pit exposure, more than 180,000 veterans have registered. While there are several potential causes of respiratory health problems while deployed, ranging from sandstorms to exposure to diesel exhaust, burn pits are suspected of causing a variety of problems. Some of these include asthma, chronic bronchitis, heart conditions, leukemia and lung cancer.

Airborne for old guys

Asbestos exposure

While less of a concern today, asbestos was a commonly used material for a variety of construction-related purposes from the 1930s to the 1970s. Although the practice of using asbestos ended in the 1970s and the military has made a concerted effort to limit personnel to its exposure, the material remained in buildings for the following decades. The material was used as insulation in walls, floors and pipes, and even in aircraft and vehicle brakes and gaskets. Asbestos exposure is the primary cause of mesothelioma, a type of cancer that develops from the thin layer of tissue that covers many of the internal organs, notably the lungs and chest wall. There are many MOS’ that are at higher risk of asbestos exposure to include carpenters, pipefitters, aircraft mechanics, welders, electrician’s mates, and Seabees. For more information regarding asbestos exposure and the benefits available to you, please visit https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/hazardous-materials-exposure/asbestos/

Service in the military is undoubtedly an honorable profession that comes with inherent hazards to both health and safety. Service members should take control of their safety when it is possible to avoid dangers that are both seen and unseen.

Companies like O2 Tactical are at the forefront in addressing these threats. The company, which is comprised of engineers, designers, veterans and industry experts, has developed the TR2 Tactical Respirator II respiratory system with the operator in mind.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why this million RPM machine gun is too awesome to be fielded

It’s called the Metal Storm. This Australian-made, U.S.-funded behemoth of a cannon uses the same idea behind a Roman candle to fire round after round out of its 36 barrels. The prototype managed to achieve a maximum rate of fire of 1.62 million rounds per minute as it fired 180 rounds in a 0.01 second burst. At its peak, it can send, almost literally, a wall of 24,000 9mm rounds moving at Mach 5 that can eat through any armor it faces.

In 2007, the U.S. Navy announced that it would buy the Metal Storm grenade variant, but shy of that… nothing. The first prototype was created in June, 1997. It’s been over 20 years now and it’s never been fielded in combat.

Why?


Airborne for old guys

These could revolutionize drone warfare.

(Metal Storm Limited)

In short, the reason why this potential game-changer has never seen combat is mostly tied to legal issues surrounding contracts. But there’s also the rarely-brought-up question of, “how would we use it?”

Originally developed by J. Mike O’Dwyer under a company of the same name, Metal Storm Limited, the technology behind how the gun electronically fires caseless rounds has been tossed between several countries’ governments and many more companies, acquiring the intellectual property and trademark claims along the way. The rights ultimately landed in the hands of Australian-owned DefendTex.

Owning this patent not only keeps the original Metal Storm under their corporate thumb, but also any variations, including the 3GL grenade launcher, which fires three rounds from one of its four barrels in seconds, and the MAUL (Multi-shot Accessory Under-barrel Launcher), an under-barrel 5-round shotgun using the same technology.

Airborne for old guys

On the bright side, if you were turned to paste by this thing, you’d be obliterated in milliseconds and wouldn’t even have a chance to blink.

(Screengrab via YouTube)

Outside of legal issues, there are some very obvious downsides: cost and weight. Its applications, as is, are very circumstantial. It’s extremely heavy and requires plenty of prep time to set up effectively just for a single use. Then, there’s the insane amount of money that goes into fully loading it, only to have it waste nearly all of its ammunition.

Aiming this thing is also a challenge. It was originally conceived to remain stationary and to be used in setting up ambushes. Anything in its line of fire would be effectively turned into a paste, but by stepping a few feet to either side, the target remains fully composed solid.

These extreme limitations aren’t factors for the easier-to-sell versions, the MAUL and the 3GL, which can all easily be manned, moved, and loaded. The MAUL can easily be modified to fire less-lethal rounds and has been issued to Papau New Guinean prison guards while the 3GL has been fitted onto the Cerberus UAV with 3 rounds in a single barrel.

There is still hope for the Metal Storm’s technology. The caseless, electronically fired, multi-stacked rounds will change future wars. But, for now, don’t hold your breath on getting your hands on one of the 9mm versions.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

See how A-10s are practicing to fight Russia in Europe

Russia’s increasing aggression in Europe has made some countries nervous. This is particularly true for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — former Soviet republics that have since joined NATO. To make matters worse, these countries don’t have much in the way of military power.

That said, NATO is doing what they can to reassure these countries. To do that, they’re putting on an exercise known as Saber Strike. This exercise brings together 19 countries, including Baltic nations and Poland, to “build readiness” in the area — sending a clear message to a particular Eastern neighbor.

This year’s exercise features the 2nd Cavalry Regiment moving from its base in Germany to Poland, simulating the type of deployment the unit would make in a real crisis.


Airborne for old guys

In a fight with Russia, A-10 Thunderbolts would likely use AGM-65 Mavericks as a primary weapon against air-defense systems.

(DOD photo by Jim Haseltine)

One of the units taking part in this exercise is the 127th Operations Group, the parent unit of the 107th Fighter Squadron of the Michigan Air National Guard. This unit has flown the A-10 Thunderbolt II, a plane designed for close-air support missions, since 2008. This is the plane that would back up NATO forces sent to defend the Baltic states if anything were to go down.

The United States currently has 13 squadrons that operate the A-10. This plane, famous for the BRRRRRT emitted by its GAU-8 Avenger Gatling gun, has a top speed of 450 knots and a maximum range of 2,240 nautical miles. In addition to its massive gun, the A-10 can carry up to eight tons of bombs, missiles, and rockets.

Airborne for old guys

The A-10 Thunderbolt II was designed to help NATO defeat the hordes of Soviet and Warsaw Pact tanks threatening Western Europe.

(USAF)

The Air Force is currently running the OA-X program to try to (partially) replace the A-10 — right now, the AT-29 Super Tucano and the AT-6 Wolverine, a pair of light attack planes, are looking like favorites. Unfortunately, as it stands now, those planes aren’t nearly as capable as the A-10.

Watch the video below to see the A-10s with the Michigan Air National Guard take part in Saber Strike ’18!

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY CULTURE

High explosives and low temps: Special Forces in Alaska

Editor’s Note: This is part two of George Hand’s story about his Special Forces team operating in Alaska. Read part one here.

I admit I got some pretty decent shuteye in that Patrol Base (PB). I ate cold food because I just don’t care, plus heating food is such a hassle in the field. I did heat up a canteen cup of coffee, and of course we had plenty of water thanks to the run to the babbling brook.

I took my shift on security which was sitting in a Listening Post/Observation Post (LPOP) a few hundred meters to the rear of our PB for a few hours being quiet, listening, and — you guessed it — observing. It was the usually tearful boredom save for the herd of Caribou that went meandering some 700 meters out. I had binos hanging around my neck tucked just inside my jacket which made for a closer pleasing eyeful of the herd.


When I was relived, I headed back to the PB and helped build the explosive cutting charges to take down the RF tower. We didn’t want to build those forward in the hide sight because it’s bad policy to plan on doing any work in a hide site other than shutting-up, being still, and freezing.

Airborne for old guys

To cut the cylindrical steel at the base of the tower we built Diamond charges — shaped like an elongated diamond and duel-primed on both ends of the short axis with blasting caps:

Airborne for old guys

(Diamond High-Explosive Steel Cutting Charge [photo courtesy of the author])

C-4, in simple block form, made up the two other charges that were to cut the support cables. Our plan was to tie all three charges in together so they would detonate as near simultaneous as possible. I caught a slight whiff of burning time fuse. Another team was calculating the burn time of the fuse. They cut a length of fuse, burned it, and timed the burn so they would know how long of time fuse they needed to give us three minutes to get away from the tower once the fuse was ignited.

Gosh, a breeze picked up and as God is my witness I saw a piece of paper blow by that looked like a page out of cryptography One-Time Pad (OTP)… and it was! I lunged to grab it. Our Commo Sergeant must have been in the process of encrypting his next message transmission to our Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Anchorage.

I moved to his location and sure enough he was shacking up a message:

“Hey, dick… think you’ll need this?”

“Wha… woah — where did you get that??”

“Oh… it just kinda came blowing by.”

“Bullshit! Gimme that!!”

He snatched it up, struck up a lighter under it, and burned it — a thing he was supposed to do before he ever laid it down.

“Here, sign this, dick!”

He passed his his burn log for my signature as a witness to the burning of the crypto page. He was the best commo man I ever knew, just had some housekeeping issues. He set to constructing his quarter-wave doublet antenna; in those days we used the High-Frequency bandwidth (3-30 MHz) and bounced our radio signal off of the ionosphere. He needed to cut his antenna length to match the frequency he was going to transmit on.

Airborne for old guys

(An example of a crypto One-Time Pad [OTP] page [photo from the author])

I find it interesting that the Army has not used the HF band for such a long time, depending on satellites and Internet for most of its communication. Now days, satellites are being targeted for disruption, and the military is actually going back to the dependable HF band for backup communications. It was used during the Russian mercenary Wagner Group attack on U.S. troops in Syria; that battle ended in some 250 dead Russians.

Departing our patrol base, we slipped along tundra quietly to our hide sight. When we got close, we could occasionally spy the RF tower target through openings in the bush. Team Daddy halted us and laid us down while he moved forward with an Engineer Sergeant to have a reconnaissance of the terminal hide area.

He was gone long enough for us to get to freezing again. He lead us into the area where we laid down and established our hides: we stretched camouflage nets out low to the ground. We spread foliage on the top and sides were also covered up. Once inside, there was only enough room for two men to lay prone.

Airborne for old guys

To our front was an open field of some 100 meters by 75 meters. We were just back off of the edge of the field where the men on watch could see the tower and the support corollary building. It was concrete with a pickup truck parked near the door — someone, likely a technician or maintenance person, was in there.

It was time to be cold for the next 24 hours. I went out with our commo man to help him construct an antenna and make his commo shot. He couldn’t do it from our hide site; we had to push back to the rear a thousand meters and sneak that transmission back to the FOB. It was great to be up out of the hide and moving around.

Twenty-four hours later we tore down our hides and packed up our rucks. Leaving the rucks behind, we took six pipe-hitters — half of our Green Beret detachment — and crept through the field ahead toward the tower. The other six pipe-hitters surrounded the target tactically establishing security for the demolitions teams. One of the security teams was blocking the access road incase the pickup returned, upon which they were to pull him out of the vehicle and detain him until the target was destroyed.

Our diamond charge went on smoothly and I paid out lengths of explosive det cord to the cable teams. All went together without a blunder. We collapsed back to our hide site leaving one man to tie in and fire the charges. Security remained in place. Team Daddy was glancing at his watch often, then finally lifted his hand-held radio:

“Bergie, this is Tango Lima, over…”

“Tango Lima, this is Bergie, ready to fire, over…”

“Bergie, stand by to fire in fife, fo-war, tree, two, one — fire!”

Even from our distance we heard the faint *pop* of the two M-60 fuse igniters fire. After about a nervous minute we witnessed brother Bergie, the trigger man, approaching quietly. He had stayed a little while to make sure he had a good fuse burn. I admired his dedication in that instance. He went to his ruck and laid to wait with the rest of us.

Team Daddy in typical fashion was observing his watch and called over his hand-held to the security teams:

“Standby for detonation in fife, fo-war, tree, two, one…”

And there came an ear-splitting *CCCRRRRAAAACCCCCKKKKK* of high-order C-4 expanding at 24,000 feet per second followed seconds later by a ground-shaking cacophony of steel slamming onto the ground with sheiks and groans of twisting steel.

“Security, collapse to hide site,” Team Daddy called out, followed seconds later by the panting pipe-hitters from the security perimeter. We threw on our rucks and stepped out smartly some 90 degrees from our original target approach azimuth.

Airborne for old guys

(Destroyed tower [photo courtesy of the author])

Approximately 20-minutes into the walk, our Senior Medic pulled Team Daddy aside for some bad news; he had left his hand-held radio back at the hide — major blunder. How could we possibly return to the target so soon after destruction? We simply had to, that was is just the way it was.

Team Daddy had the men form a PB while he, the medic, and I went back for the radio. The sun had been steadily dropping lower to the horizon. Dark would be to our advantage as we swung around to make our approach to the hide site from the bush rather than the open field.

Doc found his radio immediately once we got there. There were a number of first responder vehicles scattered around the ruined target site with men milling around. We scampered like rabbits back in the direction of the patrol base. With Team Daddy up front and me walking in back, Doc from the middle kept turning around looking with awe on his face.

“What’s the deal, Doc?” I finally had to ask him.

“It’s going back up! The sun is… it’s going back up! It dropped low but it never went below the horizon and I swear to you its going back up now!!”

“Well, yee-haw, Daktari… so you saw it too, yeah? You saw the sun not set — was that cool or what??”

Airborne for old guys

(“It dropped low but it never went below the horizon and I swear to you its going back up now!!”

[photo by Ms. Anne Castle])

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

popular

You have to hear Drew Brees’ inspiring message to his kids

In October 2018 New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees officially became the leading passer in NFL history. While leading his team to a 43-19 win over the Washington Redskins, Brees overtook Peyton Manning in the record books when he hit Trequan Smith for a 62-yard touchdown late in the second quarter. Brees has now thrown for an astounding 72,103 yards in his 18-year career.

Officials stopped the game as soon as the play was completed so that Brees could celebrate his incredible accomplishment. The Super Bowl-winning quarterback took the time to savor the moment with his teammates and coaches at midfield before taking the ball from the referee and finding his family on the sidelines ⏤ they had been brought down on the field in anticipation of his record-setting pass. He then shared an inspiring message with his three sons and daughter.


“You can accomplish anything in life that you work for,” Brees told his four kids as he hugged them on the Saints sideline.

This message will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Brees’ journey. The 39-year-old gunslinger played college at Purdue, where he nearly won the Heisman Trophy his senior year. However, his relatively short stature (Brees is 6’0″, which is short for an NFL quarterback) caused him to fall to the second round of the NFL draft in 2001, where he was picked by the San Diego Chargers. Brees played five seasons in San Diego before the Chargers eventually let him become a free agent after he tore his labrum in 2005.

Brees then joined the Saints, where he won a Super Bowl in 2010, made 10 Pro Bowls, and led the NFL in passing yards 10 times. Along with holding the record for passing yards, Brees is also expected to compete with Tom Brady for most passing touchdowns in NFL history. Both he and Brady are within 40 touchdowns of Manning, who currently holds the record.

As great of a quarterback as Brees is for the Saints, he does an equally great job raising his three sons, Baylen, 9, Bowen, 7, Callen, 6, and daughter, Rylen, 4 with his wife Brittany. Brees coaches his sons’ flag football teams when he’s not busy being the most prolific quarterback ever and said the birth of Rylen“melted [his] heart.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump and the Pentagon are split on US withdrawal from Syria

President Donald Trump is sounding off about an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Syria, according to multiple news reports published on April 5, 2018.

But the president reportedly faced some strong opposition from top military officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford, who warned Trump of the consequences of a rapid withdrawal during a meeting on April 3, 2018.


After Trump ranted about the US “wasting” trillions of dollars in the Middle East during the meeting, he claimed that it had achieved “nothing” in return, according to officials familiar with the discussions.

During the meeting, Dunford reportedly said Trump’s plan was not productive and asked the president for clear instructions on what to do, The Associated Press reported.

Mattis chimed in and argued that a quick pull-out would not only be detrimental to the US, but doing so in a responsible manner would be logistically impossible. Mattis reportedly suggested a one-year withdrawal timeframe instead.

Airborne for old guys
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Trump then countered and gave officials five to six months to destroy the Islamic State and then withdraw, officials told The Associated Press.

Trump also indicated that he expects the military to succeed in destroying ISIS by October 2018.

The reservations that Mattis and Dunford have expressed about US troops leaving Syria too quickly may be rooted in worries that ISIS militants are looking for ways to regroup in the region,according to the Military Times.

“Daesh is not over,” a commander of the US-backed Manbij Military Council said, referring to the transliteration of ISIS’s Arabic acronym. “Daesh still has cells present in all areas and every now and then there are problems in areas where the cells are still operating.”

Around 2,000 US troops are in Syria as of December 2017. Four US soldiers have been killed in action since the US became involved about three and a half years ago as part of Operation Inherent Resolve.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

On a recent warm fall afternoon in Charleston, South Carolina, Stacy Pearsall struggled to wind herself down from the daily bustle of ranch life. Flustered from her regular stream of chores and nursing a broken hand for which she recently underwent surgery, the retired Air Force combat photographer fumbled briefly with her phone as she settled into a video-chat interview with Coffee or Die Magazine

Constant motion is Pearsall’s preferred state of being. A few weeks before she was trampled by one of the rare Brabant draft horses she cares for, another horse kicked her in the head; fortunately, she was wearing a helmet. Even after multiple combat deployments left her with a traumatic brain injury and significant spine and nerve damage, she’s never quite figured out how to listen to her body, slow down, and generally behave like a person with actual physical limitations. 

“She’s about as stubborn as one of her donkeys,” says Pearsall’s husband, retired Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway, with a chuckle.  

svg%3E
Staff Sgt. Stacy Pearsall documents combat operations with the 1st Cavalry Division, 12th Infantry Regiment, in Khalis, Iraq, on Feb. 21, 2007. Photo by Andy Dunaway.

Pearsall’s unflinching resolve is a characteristic she habituated early in her career as she fought to earn her place among the military’s best photojournalists at the Air Force’s elite 1st Combat Camera Squadron, where she carved out a legacy of extraordinary, trailblazing service as one of the best shooters in the Department of Defense. 

“I spent my entire career trying to tough everything out,” Pearsall says. “I never wanted to be the one who reflected badly on women. I always had this attitude that I wouldn’t let people in and let people know how bad things were.” 

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Pearsall in Iraq in 2007. Photo courtesy of Stacy L. Pearsall.

After spending her first four years on active duty processing photos from U-2 surveillance aircraft, Pearsall, whose family’s tradition of military service can be traced back to the Revolutionary War, applied for a spot at 1st Combat Camera, where she says “somebody typically had to die or retire” for a spot to open up. When a former supervisor was assigned to the unit, he encouraged Pearsall to apply, and after a rigorous screening process, she was accepted and joined the unit in 2002.  

“I actually wasn’t a very good photographer back then, but I was a hard worker,” Pearsall says. “There was absolutely a ‘good old boys’ climate, so all I could do was earn respect through my work.”  

Pearsall’s husband served at the squadron from 2002 to 2010. 

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Pearsall and Dunaway on active duty in 2009. Photo courtesy of Stacy L. Pearsall.

“We supported a lot of tier 1 missions and taskings that were only open to men,” Dunaway says. “Some men at the time definitely viewed women as not necessary or less capable.”  

Pearsall says she lost count of how many times she was told she couldn’t do an assignment because the unit wanted a man. But as she navigated an often overtly misogynistic culture, she was also exposed to the best training and equipment the military had to offer and a pool of incredibly talented and experienced photographers — many of whom rewarded her determination and work ethic with invaluable mentorship.  

“Stacy was always out on assignment or looking for something to photograph,” Dunaway says. “She was always out experimenting with the camera, working to get better, and people noticed that.”  

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Pearsall hired a National Guard soldier in this photo from a commercial photo shoot for a body armor company. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

Pearsall’s work ethic earned her a combat deployment to Iraq in late 2003, and the photos she made during her first Iraq tour earned her top honors in the National Press Photographer Association’s 2003 Military Photographer of the Year (MILPHOG) competition, making her the second woman to ever win the prestigious title.  

Pearsall was exposed to combat action several times, including an incident in which the HMMWV she was riding in hit a bomb. Her service during that deployment earned Pearsall an Air Force Commendation Medal for valor while documenting combat operations. 

“I don’t know why anyone earns a medal for that,” Pearsall says, looking down uncomfortably for a moment and processing. “I think it was for continuing to document even when shit went sideways — for doing my job. I look back and think how ludicrous it is to get a medal for doing your job.” 

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US Air Force medical personnel transfer a wounded soldier, who was just struck by an improvised explosive device, from an ambulance to a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in Baghdad, Iraq, on June 22, 2003. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

After returning from Iraq, she earned the privilege of attending the Pentagon’s Military Photojournalism program at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications in 2004. The yearlong course of study at one of the country’s best journalism schools is the Department of Defense’s most advanced photography course. Only a handful of Air Force members are selected annually, and the service gives its graduates the special designation of “PJ,” or photojournalist.    

Dunaway says it was a rare feat for a squadron member to win MILPHOG without first attending the MPJ program, and after excelling at Syracuse, Pearsall was afforded more opportunities to prove herself among her peers. 

She ultimately deployed to 41 countries, supporting humanitarian relief missions, special operations forces, combat, and other operations. Her images were used by the president, secretary of defense, and Joint Chiefs of Staff to make informed decisions about military operations.

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Casablanca, Morocco, June 10, 2010. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

In 2007, Pearsall was again named Military Photographer of the Year, making her the first and only woman in American history to win the title twice. Her portfolio consisted mostly of images from her second Iraq deployment, and Pearsall also took home top honors in numerous individual categories of the competition, including Combat Photography, Portrait, Pictorial, and Photo Story.  

But just as Pearsall appeared to be hitting her professional stride, beneath the surface, she was beginning to break. She had suffered another improvised explosive device blast in Iraq and lived through a bloody ambush during which she was knocked off her feet while rushing to aid a gravely wounded soldier. Her neck slammed into the edge of an ICV Stryker ramp, aggravating the cervical spine trauma she suffered on her first combat deployment. With adrenaline surging through her, Pearsall jumped up and dragged the wounded soldier out of the street and into the Stryker before pinching closed a severed artery in his neck until a medic arrived.

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US and Iraqi soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 5th Division, conduct a cordon and search for insurgents and weapons caches in Chubinait, Iraq, on Feb. 3, 2007. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

Recalling the ambush, she suddenly stops and goes quiet for several moments. She turns away from the camera, trying to suppress the anguished feelings that always flood back when she tells the story. Gathering herself after several moments, she says, “I just try not to live in that moment too much.”

In 2011, Pearsall shared the whole story on the PBS NewsHour. 

It’s not just the trauma of that day’s violence and death that haunts Pearsall. It was, after all, just one of the many intense combat actions she lived through and documented on that deployment, earning a Bronze Star in the process. The thing that seems to pain Pearsall most about the ambush is that she pinpoints the injury she suffered that day as “the beginning of the end” of her military career. 

“I got banged up a lot on that deployment,” she says. “But I had always operated under the ideology that if I wasn’t missing a limb and I could see and had a pulse, I should just keep working.”

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Members of the US Army, Military Transition Team, and Iraqi army, 4th Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 5th Division, conducted a three-day raid during Operation Brown Hawk in Tahrir, Iraq, on Feb. 27, 2007. The purpose of Operation Brown Hawk was to eliminate Tahrir as an operating base for improvised explosive device building cells and key leaders of the al-Qaeda forces in Iraq. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

Soon after suffering the neck trauma, she started having bad side effects from nerve damage. She often found it difficult to hold her camera or other objects as neurological tremors would sometimes involuntarily release her grip on items. The bomb blast from Pearsall’s first deployment had ruptured her eardrum, and the vertigo she suffered from inner-ear damage worsened after the ambush in 2007.  

After a friend convinced Pearsall to seek medical treatment in Iraq, a doctor hooked her up to an electrical stimulation device, hoping to alleviate some of her pain. 

When the current contracted the muscles in her neck, Pearsall fell backward, nearly passing out from the jolt of excruciating pain. After ordering and reviewing X-rays for Pearsall, the doctor explained the severity of her condition:  

“He’s like, ‘I don’t know how to tell you this, Sgt. Pearsall, but you’ve got to go to Balad [Air Base] today. The chopper leaves in four hours. Go pack your shit.’” 

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As the sky turns ominous, Army Sgt. Kyle Ellison searches the roof of a local’s house for weapons during an assault against anti-Iraqi forces in Buhriz, Iraq, on April 11, 2007. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

Pearsall expected to get a CAT scan and return within 24 hours. Instead, doctors told her she had a cervical spine trauma and wearing a Kevlar helmet and body armor every day was no longer an option without treatment and recovery.  

“They wanted to send me to Germany for surgery right away,” she says. “And I was like, ‘No, not doing that.’”

Pearsall never returned to combat. She was sent back to Charleston for long-term nonsurgical treatment. Ultimately, she had to endure a soul-crushing process that required her to go before a medical review board. 

“I remember when I was going through that,” Pearsall recalls, “I had an officer in my unit look me in the eye and say, ‘You weren’t wounded.’ The whole process was awful, and after going through all of that, I thought about suicide. It was not a good place to be.” 

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US Air Force Security Forces at Lackland Air Force Base. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

After she was medically retired, Pearsall found herself making frequent trips to the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston. As she carried a head full of bad memories, remorse, and shame to her appointments, she felt alienated and isolated by the constant assumptions by male veterans and staff that she was a dependent rather than a combat veteran. 

“In our society, a lot of people, especially older veterans, still don’t associate women with being military veterans,” Dunaway says. “They look at women as a support function, or as being married to a service member.” 

Pearsall says at the VA hospital, she was frequently asked if she was bringing her father or husband for a doctor’s appointment. On one especially irritating occasion, the Red Cross was passing out cookies and sodas, and when Pearsall reached for some, her hand was slapped away. The cookies were for veterans only, they told her.

“That really made me resentful and bitter,” she says. “I thought everyone was prejudiced against me.”

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Retired Army Maj. Ron DeMello served in the infantry and Special Forces from 1957 to 1978. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

In 2008, Pearsall was waiting to see a neurologist at the hospital when an Army veteran from World War II named Mickey Dorsey sat down next to her and changed her life forever.

“I could see him staring at me, and I was getting really pissed,” she says. “When I turned and asked if there was something I could do for him, I found out he was a volunteer at the VA, and he could see that I was struggling and was just looking to help me.”

Pearsall says as she and Dorsey forged a friendship, he inspired her to find a new purpose — another way to serve. She says she set out to honor and thank other veterans with “the only gift I had worth giving, my photography.” 

She started bringing her camera to appointments and making portraits of some of the veterans she’d meet. After doctors told her she shouldn’t carry anything more than 5 pounds or stand for long periods, she started bringing a backdrop and lights — stubborn and determined as ever. 

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Jewish-American veteran Benjamin D. Cooper served as a combat medic for three years in World War II. Photo courtesy of Stacy L. Pearsall.

The Veterans Portrait Project was born. 

That first year Pearsall photographed 100 veterans, and 88 of the portraits were curated for a permanent exhibition in the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center’s Hall of Heroes. 

“Suddenly I found myself enjoying what I was doing, and it gave me a sense of purpose,” she says. “It showed me that I could serve outside of a uniform — that I could serve my fellow veterans by helping to challenge people’s perceptions and educate the general public and even the veteran community about who veterans are.” 

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Retired Marine Lt. Col. James Sfayer, left, served as an infantry and recon officer from 1972 to 1994 and is a Desert Shield/Storm veteran. Retired Maj. Henry “Duke” Boswell, right, is a World War II and Korean War veteran. He successfully completed combat jumps into Sicily, Italy; Normandy; and Holland. Photos by Stacy L. Pearsall for the Veterans Portrait Project.

She set a goal to photograph veterans at other VA facilities and in the nearby area. Soon she was holding exhibitions — some permanent and some pop-up — all over the country. She would curate a number of portraits and invite political leaders, local business owners, and community members to engage in a dialogue with the veterans she photographed. 

Since taking her first portrait in late 2008, Pearsall has traveled coast to coast with the VPP, covering 82 cities in all 50 states. She has documented more than 8,500 veterans in more than 189 engagements. Each veteran receives a complimentary, high-resolution portrait that they can share with friends and family. Their portraits and stories are also included in national printed exhibitions, showcased in video productions, and shared via social media, ensuring their contributions to American military history are never lost.

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Retired Army Col. Sharon A. Singleton, left, served as a nurse from 1985 to 2010 and is a Desert Shield/Storm veteran. Philip George, a Mohawk Native American, served as an Army infantryman from 2009 to 2013 and deployed to Afghanistan twice. Photos by Stacy L. Pearsall for the Veterans Portrait Project.

Pearsall’s portraits are displayed at the National Veterans Memorial Museum in Columbus, Ohio, the Pentagon, the Military Service Memorial for America at Arlington National Cemetery, and myriad locations all over the country. 

‘They’re everywhere,” she says proudly.

Pearsall says the VPP collection represents the more than 22 million military veterans in the United States. 

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Army 1st Sgt. Willie S. Grimes, left, served from 1995 to 2012 and deployed to Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq. Service dog Daisy sits with her veteran, former Army Staff Sgt. Robert “Bobby” Henline, also known as the “Well Done Comedian.” Photos by Stacy L. Pearsall for the Veterans Portrait Project.

“They’re young and old, male and female. They come from all walks of life and have varied religious beliefs, levels of education and racial ethnicity,” she says on the VPP website. “What unites them all is their service. It’s a bond that cannot be broken, and I’m proud to be one of them.”

Pearsall says she remains passionately devoted to teaching photography and supporting photographers of every skill level. From 2009 to 2013, she owned and operated the Charleston Center for Photography, a photography education institution and studio. She is a Nikon Ambassador, an educator, military consultant, public speaker, veteran advocate, and author of two books — Shooter: Combat from Behind the Camera and A Photojournalist’s Field Guide: In the Trenches with Combat Photographer Stacy Pearsall. She also produces her own podcast and will soon produce a TV show for PBS.  

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Marilyn “Mickey” Cogswell, left, enlisted in the Marine Corps at 18 alongside a few high school girlfriends and served one enlistment in the early 1950s. Retired Army 1st Sgt. Eugene D. Smith enlisted in 1966 at the height of the Vietnam War and retired in 1992. Photos by Stacy L. Pearsall for the Veterans Portrait Project.

Dunaway says his wife’s work sustains and fulfills her, but most people don’t see that it takes a lot out of her, too. As Pearsall points out, “The hard part for me is I have constant reminders in my pictures.”

“Every time she does a speech or engagement, it brings her PTSD back,” Dunaway says. “But Charlie helps with that.”

Charlie is Pearsall’s service dog. He helps her deal with everything from seizures to post-traumatic stress, hearing and mobility support, and nightmare interruptions.

“Every day is a conscious decision to be present,” Pearsall says. “The emotional stuff that you carry with you — it’s not something you ever get over. It’s just something you learn to carry and how heavy you allow that burden to be.” 

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Pearsall with service dog Charlie. Photo courtesy of Stacy L. Pearsall.

With that, Pearsall looks at her watch, and as the interview winds down, she worries aloud that her sincerity and vulnerability might come off “bitter and ugly.” She stresses that her military experience was “incredible on so many levels,” and that she would do it all over again if given the choice. 

“I think the military has come a long way,” she says. “The fact that combat arms and special operations roles are now open to women is pretty extraordinary. More women are filling important leadership roles at even the highest levels of the Air Force, and that’s incredible too. So I look at all of that progress, and I am honored to have been part of the growth and to have had the opportunity to experience and to document the history that unfolded while I was in the service.”

And with that, Stacy Pearsall gets back to work. 

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s how airmen keep B-52 bombers flying on a moment’s notice

The US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress has been in service since the 1950s and is still a major player in the mission of deterrence to our adversaries.

The maintainers of the 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 96th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, deployed out of Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, traveled to RAF Fairford, England, to ensure the success of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1.

“Our mission is to give confidence to our allies to show we are capable of going anywhere, anytime,” said US Air Force Senior Airman Braedon McMaster, 2nd AMXS 96th AMU electronic warfare journeyman.


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US Air Force airmen perform maintenance on a B-52 Stratofortress at RAF Fairford in England, Oct. 18, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Philip Bryant)

Maintainers accomplish their mission by providing routine and unscheduled maintenance to the B-52s to ensure it is ready to fly at a moment’s notice.

“Back home, people are focused on their job and will occasionally help out here and there,” said US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joshua Crowe, 2nd AMXS 96th AMU B-52 expediter.

“Here, what seems to work is that everyone is all hands on deck. You may have an electronic countermeasures airman change an engine or an electrical environmental airman helping crew chiefs change brakes.”

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US Air Force airmen assigned to the 2nd Bomb Wing prepare a US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress for take off during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, at RAF Fairford, England, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

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US Air Force 1st Lt. Kevan Thomas, a pilot assigned to the 96th Bomb Squadron, does a preflight inspection on a US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, at RAF Fairford, England, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

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US Air Force Airmen 1st Class Thomas Chase, left, and Christian Lozada, right, 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron 96th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chiefs, walk around a B-52H Stratofortress to conduct final pre-flight checks at RAF Fairford, England, Oct. 21, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

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US Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephen Zbinovec, 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron 96th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief, inspects the inside of the engine of a US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress after it has landed at RAF Fairford, England, Oct. 18, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

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US Air Force Maj. “Feud,” a pilot assigned to the 96th Bomb Squadron, looks out at two US Air Force B-52H Stratofortresses during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, over the Baltic Sea, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

The airmen of the 96th AMU are excited to be a part of the BTF for a variety of reasons.

“Being able to join with our allies is exciting,” Crowe said. “We [join them] from home too, but here it feels different.”

Spending time in England not only allows the maintainers to accomplish extra training, but they also use it to become closer and build trust with each other.

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US Air Force Maj. “Feud” and US Air Force 1st Lt. Kevan Thomas, pilots assigned to the 96th Bomb Squadron, prepare to fly by Tallinn Airport as a show of force during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, in Tallinn, Estonia, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

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Two US Air Force B-52H Stratofortresses assigned to the 96th Bomb Squadron fly in formation during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, over the Baltic Sea, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

Without the 96th AMU at RAF Fairford, the B-52s would not be able to fly. “It’s like your car,” Crowe said. “If you are driving your car and you don’t have anyone to take care of any of the parts that break, you may be able to drive it once or twice but that will be it.”

The mission of the BTF is to assure our allies and deter our adversaries, and maintainers play a major role in ensuring we are able to accomplish our mission to respond at a moments’ notice.

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Two US Air Force B-52H Stratofortresses parked after arriving at RAF Fairford in England, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Philip Bryant)

“The B-52 is capable of going anywhere and in any point of time,” McMaster said. “It launches fast and it puts fear into the hearts of our adversaries.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

President is considering a permanent U.S. presence in Poland

U.S. President Donald Trump has said his administration was considering a request for a permanent U.S. military presence in Poland.

Trump made the comments in Washington on Sept. 18, 2018, before a meeting at the White House with Polish President Andrzej Duda.

“Poland is willing to make a very major contribution to the United States to come in and have a presence in Poland, and certainly it’s something we’ll discuss,” Trump said, adding that “we’re looking at it very seriously.”


Poland has requested the deployment several times and has offered up to billion in funding for a base. U.S. forces currently serve in Poland as part of NATO’s back-to-back rotation program.

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President Donald J. Trump and President Andrzej Duda.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Poland has said a permanent U.S. presence is needed to counter Russian military activity in the region.

Russia has objected to the proposal, saying it views NATO expansion toward the east as a threat to stability in Europe.

Featured image: President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump with Andrzej Duda, President of the Republic of Poland, and Mrs. Kornhauser-Duda.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY GAMING

8 reasons why ‘Apex Legends’ is the best Battle Royale game

It’s 1 a.m. again, and I’m wearily crawling into bed hours after my partner.

This is the effect of “Apex Legends” on my life — the latest major Battle Royale game to demand the attention of tens of millions of players. Since “Apex Legends” arrived in early February 2019, it’s become the standard background game in my life.

Unlike “Fortnite” or “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” “Apex Legends” has its hooks in me deep and I don’t foresee them letting go anytime soon. Here’s why:


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There are ziplines in “Apex Legends” that defy the laws of physics in delightful ways.

(EA/Respawn Entertainment)

1. “Apex Legends” feels better to play, from gunplay to movement to strategy, than any other Battle Royale game available.

Everything about the act of playing “Apex Legends” feels good, and the more I dig into the game, the more I find to love.

The simple act of moving around is so thoroughly, thoughtfully detailed that it bears praising.

Here’s a very basic overview: Every character moves at the same speed, whether walking or running. While running, you can push the crouch button to slide — this offers you a minor speed boost if you’re on flat or sloping ground. Every character can jump, and if you hold jump while leaping into a wall you’ll clamber up the wall.

It’s a very simple set of rules, but the way that “Apex Legends” makes all movement feel so fluid and smooth is remarkable. It’s perhaps the most impressive aspect of “Apex Legends”: The game simply feels good to move around in. The same can’t be said for any other Battle Royale game.

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(EA/Respawn Entertainment)

2. It’s a tremendously detailed game, despite being straightforward and accessible to anyone.

Allow me an example: For the first few weeks, I rarely used hip-fire (shooting without aiming down the sights). Why would I do that if I could aim more carefully by aiming with a sight?

It turns out there’s a massive benefit to using hip-fire shooting in “Apex Legends,” and blending your shooting between aimed shots and hip-fire is a crucial component to successful play. Due to the relatively accurate spread of fire, hip-firing is critical for winning close-quarter fights with most weapons in “Apex Legends.”

That’s one tiny detail of myriad tiny details that make every little thing you do in “Apex Legends” feel so good. It’s actually my favorite component of the game: I’m still learning finer nuances of each specific weapon, of how to move through the environment more swiftly, of how to reach a place I didn’t know I could.

It’s a game that still feels remarkably fresh to me even after dozens of hours played.

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The full “Apex Legends” island.

(“Apex Legends”/Electronic Arts)

3. The way players can interact with the extremely detailed world in “Apex Legends” is a testament to its excellent world design.

On our way to the next circle, my friend pinged a location for me to see — a tiny little hole he’d discovered that could be used to sneakily get away in a desperate Skull Town fight.

It was the most recent discovery he’d made after over 100 hours spent running, sliding, and shooting through the single map in “Apex Legends.”

There are dozens of these little quirks to the map, and it’s clear that an absurd amount of attention was given to exactly how each area of the map was laid out. There are always more angles to take, or ways to flank enemies, or a carefully placed boulder that’ll have to serve as cover — the hands of the game’s development team are all over the map if you look close enough.

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“Fortnite” recently added a bus that acts a lot like the Respawn Beacons in “Apex Legends.”

(Epic Games)

4. “Apex Legends” is the evolution of Battle Royale — every other game in the genre feels old by comparison.

Watching a video recently of a popular Twitch streamer playing “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” I was struck by how stiff it was. Movement had no sense of weight to it, and the sound of the player running made it look like they were tiptoe-running across a field.

Frankly, it looked outdated and unpolished compared to “Apex Legends.”

The closest any Battle Royale game gets, in terms of movement and gunplay and feel, is “Call of Duty: Blackout.” It’s quick, and has solid gunplay, and there are some interesting gameplay twists that make it unique. But it is inherently a “Call of Duty” Battle Royale mode, with all the baggage that comes with — movement isn’t very fluid, and guns mostly sound like toys.

And that’s before we start talking about the respawn system, or ziplines, or the pinging system, or dropships, or care packages, or the jumpmaster system, or any of the other dozen innovations that “Apex Legends” brings to the Battle Royale genre. It adds so much new stuff that it feels like a full step forward past every other game in the genre.

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Level 1 Shield here!

(EA/Respawn Entertainment)

5. The ping system!

It’s hard to overstate how impressive the ping system is in “Apex Legends.” It should be the number one takeaway for any game developer working on a new multiplayer shooter.

The idea is simple: See an enemy? Tap the right bumper on your gamepad, and your character will call out those enemies and even mark their last movement for your teammates. See ammo your teammate needs? Tap the right bumper! It’s a brilliant, robust system for “spotting” various things — from items to enemies.

Smarter still, that system is contextual. If you’re looking at a level-three helmet and “spot” it, your character shouts out, “Level-three helmet here!” and marks it for your teammates. It’s this system that enables teammates to communicate a wealth of information without having to literally speak to strangers.

The spotting system cannot be overstated in its importance — it’s such a smart innovation that I outright expect it to show up in most multiplayer shooters going forward. It better!

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Even with a sight, shooting someone from this distance with an Alternator is a tricky proposition.

(EA/Respawn Entertainment)

6. It’s the best shooter of any Battle Royale game — shooting specifically.

The team behind “Apex Legends” has a serious pedigree behind it, having created the “Call of Duty” series and the “Titanfall” series.

It’s no surprise, then, that the shooting in “Apex Legends” feels so good — it’s from developers who more or less set the standard in video-game shooting.

To this end, bullets fall appropriately over a distance. Gunshot sounds are directional. Headshots feel substantial, and submachine guns feel like high-powered BB guns.

The shooting looks, feels, and sounds as good or better than the best shooting games, from the latest “Call of Duty” to “Destiny 2.”

This may sound obvious but, in the most popular Battle Royale games, the shooting is pretty terrible. “Fortnite” has notoriously lackluster shooting mechanics. The only great Battle Royale shooter is “Call of Duty: Blackout,” and that shooting is held back by the relatively stiff movement of the game.

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(EA/Respawn Entertainment)

7. Since each Legend has their own abilities, learning how to mix those abilities with your friends is a blast.

In “Fortnite,” every character you play as has the same abilities. It’s a third-person shooter with building mechanics, and every avatar — visuals aside — is identical.

The same can be said for “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” and the Battle Royale mode in “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.”

But in “Apex Legends,” each player has unique abilities. There are various “classes” of characters — soldiers, tanks, healers, etc. — and various specialties within each class. In this way, “Apex Legends” is more similar to “Overwatch” than its direct competition.

And blending those characters into a team made up of complementary players is part of the delight of “Apex Legends.” Better yet: The game’s developer, Respawn Entertainment, has already added one new character, Octane. And more are promised for the future.

So, what are these powers? They range from the ability to conjure a healing drone that can heal multiple teammates at once, to a grappling hook for reaching high places, to the ability to deploy noxious-gas containers. Using Bangalore’s smoke grenade combined with Gibraltar’s air strike ultimate is one combination I’ve been particularly enjoying.

Since it’s still early days for “Apex Legends,” many of the best ways to use various abilities are still shaking out. And that’s thrilling! There’s a “meta” to “Apex Legends” that is deeper and smarter than games like “Fortnite.” It feels like there are many ways to win, with a variety of different team setups, rather than a “best” way to win. And that leads to the kind of experimentation that keeps the game fresh.

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Picking up wins with friends is absolutely delightful.

(EA/Respawn Entertainment)

8. Playing with friends is critical, and makes the game so much more enjoyable.

I’ve had lots of good matches of “Apex Legends” with total strangers. I’ve won many games where my teammates and I never spoke a word, using only the in-game pinging system to communicate while moving from fight to fight. It is entirely possible to play this game with strangers and have a blast.

But nothing is better than playing with friends, using both your voice and the game’s pinging system to detail your words. Saying “Enemies right here” and pinging the location at the same time is a great way to immediately convey complex information to your teammates. Even better is the tactical planning you convey to each other afterward as you head into battle. “I’ll take left flank,” for instance, or “Getting height” — common refrains while sneaking up on an opposing squad.

Better still, you learn each other’s strengths and compliment each other’s chosen character. You laugh at each other’s faults and call out items you know friends are looking for — yes, I’m always looking for an R-301. Thank you for remembering!

It’s why I’ve been staying up way past my normal bedtime almost every day to play more “Apex Legends.” It’s the best game that’s come out this year by a longshot, and by far the best Battle Royale game available.

Apex Legends Gameplay Trailer

www.youtube.com

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marine F-35B drops 1,000-pound bombs in the Pacific

Marines in the Pacific carried out the first-ever, at-sea F-35B “hot reloads” in that theater, allowing the aircraft to drop back-to-back 1,000-pound bombs on a target in the middle of the Solomon Sea.

Marines from the amphibious assault ship Wasp went to war last week with the “killer tomato,” a big red inflatable target that was floating off the coast of Papua New Guinea. The Joint Strike Fighter jets left the ship armed with the 1,000-pound GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition and a 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bomb.

Once they dropped the bombs on the target, they returned to the Wasp where they reloaded, refueled and flew back out to hit the floating red blob again. It was the first-ever shipboard hot reloads in the Indo-Pacific region, according to a Marine Corps news release announcing the milestone.


Or as Chief Warrant Officer 3 Daniel Sallese put it, they showed how Marines operating in the theater can now “rain destruction like never before.”

Airborne for old guys

Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, move Joint Direct Attack Munitions and laser guided bombs during an aerial gunnery and ordnance hot-reloading exercise aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1), Solomon Sea, Aug. 4, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dylan Hess)

“Our skilled controllers and pilots, combined with these systems, take the 31st [Marine Expeditionary Unit] to the next level,” he said in a statement. “… My ordnance team proved efficiency with these operations, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

The aircraft, which are assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced) and deployed with the MEU, also fired the GAU-22 cannon during the exercise. The four-barrel 25mm system is carried in an external pod on the Marines’ F-35 variant.

Airborne for old guys

An F-35B Lightning II fighter aircraft with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, armed with a Joint Direct Attack Munition and a laser guided bomb, prepares to take off during an aerial gunnery and ordnance hot-reloading exercise aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dylan Hess)

The F-35Bs weren’t the only aircraft engaging the “killer tomato” during the live-fire exercise. MV-22B Osprey aircraft and Navy MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopters also fired at the mock target.

Airborne for old guys

An ordnance Marine with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, prepares ordnance during an aerial gunnery and ordnance hot-reload exercise aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp.

(Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Cameron E. Parks)

The 31st MEU was the first Marine expeditionary unit to deploy with the F-35B. The aircraft has since had its first combat deployment to the Middle East, where it dropped bombs on Islamic State and Taliban militants.

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

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