When coronavirus says ‘Stop,’ Travis AFB volunteers find a way to keep going - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

When coronavirus says ‘Stop,’ Travis AFB volunteers find a way to keep going

When restrictions to mitigate the spread of coronavirus closed Travis Air Force Base’s schools, shut services’ doors and canceled social gatherings, the community’s lifeblood stopped pumping.

“Everything just went dark,” said Air Force spouse Jessica Moser.


60th Air Mobility Wing Command Chief Master Sergeant Derek Crowder recognized the challenge, saying it was essential to engage people by strengthening their four pillars: mental, physical, spiritual and social.

Volunteers got innovative, finding ways to set activity abuzz and get the lifeblood pumping again. “The great things that we have going across the installation are important because even though we can’t gather in masses, there are still good opportunities that we can connect,” Crowder said. “That’s what will get us through this.”

It seems to be working.

When coronavirus says ‘Stop,’ Travis AFB volunteers find a way to keep going

Providing Essential Supplies

When Air Force spouse Jenn Taylor heard that local medical facilities needed masks, she volunteered to sew them. She wasn’t an expert seamstress, but she had the equipment and time, she said. “I thought that was really important,” Taylor explained. “Blood, sweat and tears go into it.”

Word spread, and now she sews masks only for Travis service members, who are required to wear them at work. Taylor even fulfilled a last-minute order for 12 service members leaving for Germany. Having the masks were necessary for their departure. A mom of three whose spouse is deployed, Jenn said productivity is important. “It can make you feel small and powerless if you don’t have something to focus on.”

Two neighbors now help prepare fabric, which increased her production from 10 masks per day to 30. They’ve made over 275 masks so far.

Like essential workers, some families need supplies, too. The struggling economy is making it tough for some to make ends meet. “A lot of spouses lost their jobs,” Moser said. An active community volunteer, Moser knew that, because of imposed restrictions, many local organizations had resources to give but no way to give them.

Moser provided the way.

She collaborated with the Cost of Courage Foundation, Operation Homefront and Blue Star Families to prepare bags of food, toys and supplies for Travis families. With the help of the Airman and Family Readiness Center, Moser organized a drive-through event, where families could pick up a bag.

Over 200 bags were given away – for free.

When coronavirus says ‘Stop,’ Travis AFB volunteers find a way to keep going

Boosting Morale

As Easter approached, Moser had one objective: spread joy. With no egg hunts or celebratory barbeques, she and other key spouses organized a drive-through Easter party. From the safety of their cars, families stopped at stations to take pictures with the Easter bunny, receive treats, select household supplies and enjoy the festive atmosphere. “There were a lot of happy children, and parents were grateful,” she said.

Crowder described other Eastertime efforts to spread cheer and lift spirits. On Easter, Travis’ Airmen Committed to Excellence group led a Chalk Cheer event. Dozens of families came to Travis’ David Grant U.S. Air Force Medical Center to support its 2,500 personnel by chalking encouraging messages and drawings outside. The event was a hit.

Crowder said he was heartened to hear that one medical center worker walked “the entire hospital just to see all of the messages that are out there.” Crowder has also sought to engage service members and families in ways that keep them sharp. In addition to a 30-day book challenge, designed to keep minds stimulated, Crowder launched a 14-day physical fitness challenge. He’s encouraging airmen to exercise in new ways while the gym is closed.

Airmen post their goals and workouts to Crowder’s social media, which cultivates a community of support and accountability. “It’s just great to see people thinking of different ways to challenge themselves physically,” Crowder said, praising airmen’s use of water jugs for weights and commitment to family bike rides. Multiple volunteers and organizations have found unique ways to support and connect, Crowder emphasized, adding that each person should find what works for them. “That’s going to be what helps us bounce back,” Crowder said. “It’s staying in tune with what’s going on across the installation.”

When coronavirus says ‘Stop,’ Travis AFB volunteers find a way to keep going

Serving Together

Service has helped volunteers push through their own challenges. “It’s stressful and scary,” admitted Moser, who also coordinated 1,000 care packages for dorm residents – twice. “But I guess I’d rather focus on the things that I can do rather than the fear and the unknown.”

Community members have sent volunteers patches, pictures of kids opening goodie bags and heartfelt notes of appreciation. “I think folks have seen where the Air Force and the installation have really wrapped their arms around the situation that we’re in and spread that message of ‘Hey, we’re going to take care of you,'” Crowder said. That, Crowder believes, is an example of what the Travis community – and the Air Force – is all about.

It’s transcending difficulties, making a difference and reaching a higher purpose.

It’s service before self, in action.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Pittsburgh Steelers honor WWII Army veteran brothers

Two brothers who served in the Army during World War II were honored during the home opener for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Seattle Seahawks with the ATI Salute to Heroes Award.

Former Cpl. Theodore “Ted” Joseph Sikora, 99, served in the Battle of the Bulge in France in 1944 and 1945. Former Sgt. Ed Sikora, 95, served in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1943 and later in the Pacific theater of operations.

The brothers expressed thanks for the tribute. “We’re not used to this much recognition, and I’m very grateful,” said Ted Sikora.


Ed Sikora said he was proud to serve. “I cherished the opportunity to serve my country,” he said.

When coronavirus says ‘Stop,’ Travis AFB volunteers find a way to keep going

Former Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris shakes hands with Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Vollstedt, grandson-in-law of Ted Sikora.

(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Dalton Smith)

Although they are natives of Washington, Pennsylvania, both now live in the Pittsburgh area.

Ted Sikora was a crew member on a Curtiss C-46 Commando and Douglas C-47 Skytrain as a member of the 8th Army Air Force. Those transport aircraft dropped much-needed supplies to the besieged American soldiers.

He was stationed in England on D‐Day — June 6, 1944 — and remembers having trouble sleeping because of the noise from the airplanes taking off for France.

When coronavirus says ‘Stop,’ Travis AFB volunteers find a way to keep going

In a historic photo, Ed Sikora poses during basic training at Camp Edwards, Mass.

(Ed Sikora)

He also remembers planes returning damaged and on fire. He said he witnessed a lot of things he will never forget, and that he doesn’t really like to talk about.

After the war, Ted Sikora worked as a machinist. Now, he enjoys working out and taking Zumba classes.

Ed Sikora was on the opposite side of the world, assigned to the 7th Infantry Division 502nd Anti Artillery Gun Battalion.

Although Ed Sikora wasn’t in Oahu when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, he said the Americans were expecting another attack so they were on constant vigil.

When coronavirus says ‘Stop,’ Travis AFB volunteers find a way to keep going

A historic photo of Ted Sikora as a cadet shows him dressed in a flight uniform with a white ascot, black jacket, headgear and goggles.

(Courtesy of Ted Sikora)

In October 1944, he was attached to the 7th Infantry Division, which landed in the Philippines amid bombing by Japanese fighter planes. His unit was credited with downing six enemy planes.

In 1945, Ed Sikora participated in the Battle of Okinawa. His unit was credited with downing 33 Japanese aircraft.

Later in life, Ed Sikora taught high school and college, specializing in industrial arts. He later established a fruit orchard in California.

When coronavirus says ‘Stop,’ Travis AFB volunteers find a way to keep going

Brothers Ed and Ted Sikora, both Army service members, pose for a photo with their rifles crossed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

(Courtesy of Ed and Ted Sikora)

Ted Sikora’s granddaughter, Alia Ann Vollstedt, is married to Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Vollstedt, who participated in the game’s opening ceremony joint-service color guard. Daniel Vollstedt is with 2nd Battalion, Army Reserve Careers Division, based in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania.

When coronavirus says ‘Stop,’ Travis AFB volunteers find a way to keep going

Brothers Ed and Ted Sikora pose for a photo wearing World War II veteran caps in October 2018.

(Courtesy of Ed and Ted Sikora)

Daniel Vollstedt said the two veterans have shared some of their stories with him over the years and were proud of his decision to enlist in the Army.

John Wodarek, the Steelers’ marketing manager, said the brothers were selected for the honor because Ted Sikora will turn 100 in March 2020 — which ties in with the National Football League’s 100th-season anniversary being observed this year and next.

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

Articles

7 undeniable signs you’re a super POG

Look, not everyone can be a hardcore, red-blooded meat eater. Someone has to man the phones at the big bases and that’s just the job for you. You’re a vital part of the American war machine, and you should be proud of yourself.


But there are some things you’re doing that open you up to a bit of ridicule. Sure, not everyone is going to be a combat arms bubba, embracing the suck and praying they’ll get stomped on by the Army just one more time today. But some of us POGs are taking our personal comfort a little too far and failing to to properly embrace the Army lifestyle.

Here are seven signs that you’re not only a POG but a super POG:

1. You’re more likely to bring your “luggage” than a duffel bag and rucksack

When coronavirus says ‘Stop,’ Travis AFB volunteers find a way to keep going
(via NavyMemes.com)

There are some semi-famous photos of this phenomenon that show support soldiers laughing in frustration as they try to roll wheeled bags across the crushed gravel and thick mud of Kandahar and other major bases.

This is a uniquely POG problem, as any infantryman — and most support soldiers worth their salt — know that they’re going to be on unforgiving terrain and that they’ll need their hands free to use their weapon while carrying weight at some point. Both of those factors make rolling bags a ridiculous choice.

2. You actually enjoy collecting command coins

When coronavirus says ‘Stop,’ Travis AFB volunteers find a way to keep going
(Photo: WATM)

Seriously, what is it about these cheap pieces of unit “swag” that makes them so coveted. I mean, sure, back when those coins could get you free drinks, it made some sense. But now? It’s the military version of crappy tourist trinkets.

Anyone who wants to remember the unit instead of their squad mates was clearly doing the whole “deployment” thing wrong. And challenge coins don’t help you remember your squad; selfies while drunk in the barracks or photos of the whole platoon making stupid faces while pointing their weapons in the air do.

3. You don’t understand why everyone makes such a big deal about MREs (just go to TGI Fridays if you’re tired of them!)

When coronavirus says ‘Stop,’ Travis AFB volunteers find a way to keep going
(via Valhalla Wear)

More than once I’ve heard POGs say that MREs aren’t that bad and you can always go to the DFAC or Green Beans or, according to one POG on Kandahar Air Field, down to TGI Friday’s when you’re tired of MREs. And I’m going to need those people to check their POG privilege.

Look, not every base can get an American restaurant. Not every base has a DFAC. A few bases couldn’t even get regular mermite deliveries. Those soldiers, unfortunately, were restricted to MREs and their big brother, UGRs (Unitized Group Rations), both of which have limited, repetitive menus and are not great for one meal, let alone meals for a year.

So please, send care packages.

4. You think of jet engines as those things that interrupt your sleep

When coronavirus says ‘Stop,’ Travis AFB volunteers find a way to keep going
Afterburners lit while an F-22 of the 95th Fighter Squadron takes off. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

I know, it’s super annoying when you’re settling into a warm bed on one of the airfields and, just as you drift off, an ear-splitting roar announces that a jet is taking off, filling your belly with adrenaline and guaranteeing that you’ll be awake another hour.

But please remember that those jets are headed to help troops in contact who won’t be getting any sleep until their enemies retreat or are rooted out. A fast, low flyover by a loud jet sometimes gets the job done, and a JDAM strike usually does.

So let the jets fly and invest in a white noise machine. The multiple 120-volt outlets in your room aren’t just for show.

5. You’ve broken in more office chairs than combat boots

When coronavirus says ‘Stop,’ Travis AFB volunteers find a way to keep going

Pretty obvious. POGs spend hours per day in office chairs, protecting their boots from any serious work, while infantryman are more likely to be laying out equipment in the motor pool, marching, or conducting field problems, all of which get their boots covered in grease and mud while wearing out the soles and seams.

6. You still handle your rifle like it’s a dead fish or a live snake

When coronavirus says ‘Stop,’ Travis AFB volunteers find a way to keep going
No, POGs, you don’t.

While most troops work with their weapons a few times a year and combat arms soldiers are likely to carry it at least a few times a month on some kind of an exercise, true super POGs MIGHT see their M4 or M16 once a year. And many of them are too lazy to even name it. (I miss you, Rachel.)

Because of this, they still treat their weapon as some sort of foreign object, holding it at arms length like it’s a smelly fish that could get them dirty or a live snake that could bite them. Seriously, go cuddle up to the thing and get used to it. It’ll only kill the things you point it at, and only if you learn to actually use it.

7. You’re offended by the word “POG”

When coronavirus says ‘Stop,’ Travis AFB volunteers find a way to keep going

Yes, it’s rude for the mean old infantry to call you names, but come on. All military service is important, and it’s perfectly honorable to be a POG (seriously, I wrote a column all about that), but the infantry is usually calling you a POG to tease you or to pat themselves on the back.

And why shouldn’t they? Yes, all service counts, but the burdens of service aren’t shared evenly. While the combat arms guys are likely to sleep in the dirt many nights and are almost assured that they’ll have to engage in combat at some point, the troops who network satellites will rarely experience a day without air conditioning.

Is it too much to let the grunts lob a cheap insult every once in a while?

MIGHTY TACTICAL

6 ships and planes the Navy could hand down to the Coast Guard

The Coast Guard has long been given huge tasks without getting a lot of the manpower, hulls, or aviation assets needed to complete them. Considering how much ground they need to cover with what little they have, it’s safe to they they’re the experts at working with what they have.


That said, it’s pretty obvious the Coast Guard could use a few more tools for the job. In the past, the Navy has been happy to pass pieces of gear along — here are a few ships and planes the Coast Guard could use today.

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At least 20 Perry-class hulls are awaiting sale or the scrapyard. Perhaps the Coast Guard could claim a few…

(U.S. Navy)

Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigates

In 2004, the Navy removed Mk 13 launchers from Perry-class frigates, greatly diminishing their firepower in the process. Even still, a 76mm gun and helicopter hangar makes them excellent complements to the Coast Guard’s National Security Cutters. At least twenty of these ships are awaiting sale or scrapping, but they could see decades more of service with the Coast Guard.

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A Cyclone-class patrol craft has a top speed of 35 knots, something very useful for chasing down drug smugglers.

(Customs and Border Patrol)

Cyclone-class patrol craft

Although they’re back with the Navy now, the Coast Guard once operated five of these vessels. Their high speed and respectable firepower give them excellent drug-interdiction capabilities. These 13 vessels would complement the planned 58 Sentinel-class patrol cutters extremely well.

When coronavirus says ‘Stop,’ Travis AFB volunteers find a way to keep going

The Avenger-class mine countermeasure ships may be old, but they could help the Coast Guard around Alaska.

(U.S. Navy)

Avenger-class mine countermeasures ships

These 13 vessels may be slow, but they’re built tough. Some of the Coast Guard’s missions, especially around Alaska, place a premium on ships that can take some punishment. Ships intended to hunt mines can do just that. Adding these ships to the fleet frees up other cutters for missions elsewhere.

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SPY-1 radars and Aegis make the early Ticonderoga-class cruisers, like USS Yorktown (CG 48), potential assets for the Coast Guard.

(US Navy)

Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers

The former USS Ticonderoga (CG 47) and USS Yorktown (CG 48) are berthed in Philadelphia, awaiting the scrapyard. However, the SPY-1 radars and Aegis systems aboard these vessels would greatly aid the Coast Guard’s maritime security mission.

When coronavirus says ‘Stop,’ Travis AFB volunteers find a way to keep going

The E-2C Hawkeye could give the Coast Guard an eye in the sky.

(US Navy)

E-2C Hawkeyes

The Navy is getting newer E-2D Hawkeyes, but the older E-2Cs would still be very useful for the Coast Guard in helping maintain situational awareness. The Coast Guard once operated Hawkeyes — doing so again would take a burden off of the Navy.

When coronavirus says ‘Stop,’ Travis AFB volunteers find a way to keep going

P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft could help the Coast Guard track ships for long periods of time.

(U.S. Navy)

P-3 Orion

Often, cartels will use makeshift subs to try and get drugs into the United States. The P-3s that the Navy is planning on retiring could be extremely useful assets for the Coast Guard in finding these undersea mules. Additionally, these planes could supplement the HC-130 Hercules aircraft in service, often by handling surveillance missions. With loads of sensors aboard the P-3, there’s nowhere for the bad guys to hide.

The fact is, the Coast Guard has always been able to give old gear new life. With a couple of hand-me-downs, the Coast Guard just might find itself with new ability — without busting the budget.

MIGHTY FIT

From battlefield to dad bod: How to get back in your fighting shape

So you used to be a lean, mean fighting machine and now? Well, now you kind of have a dad bod. The good news is, you’re far from the only one. It’s extremely common for veterans to put on weight after leaving the military, so it’s nothing to feel embarrassed about. Here’s why it’s so common to fall out of shape after resuming civilian life, and how to use the skills you learned in service to get back on track.


When coronavirus says ‘Stop,’ Travis AFB volunteers find a way to keep going

Warriors are athletes

When most people imagine a soldier, they picture broad shoulders and a near-perfect physique. That stereotypical image isn’t so far off, but it’s not just for looks. To undergo missions safely, physical fitness is a must. Strong muscles and low body fat are required to move quickly and keep yourself (and your team) safe. Whether you were in the army or the Marines, you had to be in great shape just to get in- and the training you took on in-service likely took your fitness levels to even greater heights. You became a true athlete, and staying that way was enforced on a daily basis.

In the military, you don’t choose what you eat

It seems obvious, but there is no all you can eat buffet in combat. While soldiers are supposed to get three solid meals per day, with at least one hot meal prepared consistently, there are no guarantees on the battlefield. At times, days may pass before soldiers can get their hands on a hearty meal.

Just as they don’t choose how often (or how much) they eat, a soldier doesn’t get to dictate how often or how hard they work out. Sure, plenty of soldiers opt to lift weights on their own, but in many military disciplines, more focus is placed on endurance and speed. They learn to move quickly and stay on their feet as long as necessary. It’s not easy, but a non-stop routine like that can whip almost anyone into amazing shape. Stay in the military, and it will keep you that way. Once you leave, it’s a totally different story.

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Why athletes put on weight when they retire

Take a look at the average Olympian a couple of years after they call it quits. A quick Google search will turn up plenty of examples; a pudgy gymnast is like tabloid paradise! People loooove to point and stare at once-ripped athletes who are now rocking baggy sweats and a few extra pounds, but let’s get real: ANYONE who is going from an intense training program and rigid eating regimen to an average lifestyle will lose tone and put on weight.

It’s not shameful. It’s science.

Seriously, even if you’ve put on 15 pounds (or 50), there’s nothing to feel bad about. When you get off a strict diet and exercise less, it’s NORMAL to gain weight. Athletes also are accustomed to consuming more calories at once to fuel their intense workouts. When the pace of the workouts slow down, and calorie intake doesn’t, weight gain is the result- and developing new eating habits takes time!

That said, whether you’re uncomfortable with your new shape or just want to feel like the warrior you still are inside, getting back on track is 100% doable, with a small dose of realism.

When coronavirus says ‘Stop,’ Travis AFB volunteers find a way to keep going

Train (and Eat) for your new lifestyle

Before you revamp (or restart) a fitness and nutrition program, reassess your goals. Expecting to hit the gym multiple times per day and return to the level of fitness you hit while on active duty isn’t realistic for most people. Moreover, it’s unnecessary. Unless you need to be able to run tens of miles in a single day and do it again the next on a single hour of sleep, trying to reach your peak level of fitness is probably overkill.

Instead, consider your current lifestyle and choose goals to match. Hitting the gym or track four-six times per week and eating a diet low in refined sugar and unhealthy fats will probably be enough to get you back in your favorite jeans and feeling strong. That said, your personal path to success is unique. Start by setting reasonable goals, and build a fitness and nutrition plan to match.

Already working out with no results? Check for three common mistakes

Eating Empty Calories

When your activity levels are through the roof, worrying about counting every calorie is the last thing on your mind. When you’re adapting to a lifestyle that has room for more than fitness, pay attention to eating habits that pile on unnecessary calories. A daily soft drink, sugary coffee, or even a sports drink can add calories that aren’t doing much for you. Save those indulgences for once-in-awhile treats, not daily snacks.

Overblown Portion Size

Remember, you were a serious athlete when you were on active duty, and serious athletes need serious calories! You can still be an athlete, but if you’re not training as heavily as you were, your portions do not need to be as large. Even if you’re choosing healthy foods, make sure your portion sizes are balanced. Go easy on things like meat, cheese, nuts, avocado, and fruit. They’re super healthy for you, but they’re also high in calories. Keep eating them, by all means! Just not too much.

When coronavirus says ‘Stop,’ Travis AFB volunteers find a way to keep going

Overtraining

Last but not least, don’t overtrain. Veterans are used to pushing themselves to the limits, but it’s better to think of a new training program as a marathon rather than a sprint. Pushing yourself too hard, too fast will lead to burnout, so listen to your body. It’s normal to be sore, but if you’re going down the stairs sideways for weeks, take it easy!

You are still a warrior, but now you’re a warrior who’s repertoire includes doing laundry, taking the kids camping, and being home for a family dinner. The new battlefield to conquer is balance. Find that, and you’ll be on your way to hitting fitness goals you can maintain for life.

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.

When coronavirus says ‘Stop,’ Travis AFB volunteers find a way to keep going

(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.

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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.

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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.

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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

5 weird fears that only service members have

Yeah, yeah, yeah… Enemy artillery and bayonet duels and concentrated machine gun fire are all terrifying and all, but those are to be expected, and most people can develop fears of those things after watching a few movies about Vietnam. But actual service members have a lot of fears that aren’t exactly intuitive.

These are the little things that make their lives crappy, and usually for dumb reasons.


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Believe it or not, getting smaller, more efficient, and easier-to-handle batteries is actually a big deal for soldiers. We know it sounds boring.

(USARDEC Tom Faulkner)

Changing batteries can be the end

It’s one of those things that’s hard to explain to civilians, or really even to explain to troops that have never relied on radios in the field. For all of you, here’s the footnotes version: SINCGARS is a radio system in wide use with the U.S. military that relies on a bunch of information that has to be uploaded from another device. But if you take too long to change batteries in combat, it will drop all that information and it will need to be re-uploaded.

Re-uploaded from a device you probably don’t have in the field. This can make a low battery embarrassing in exercises, but terrifying in combat. You’re essentially faced with, “Hey, if you screw up this battery swap, you will spend the rest of this battle cut off from the comms network, incapable of receiving timely orders and warnings or calling for help. Good luck.”

Radio operators have to practice this skill like the world’s highest-stakes game of Operation.

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Aw, crap, did someone leave the tent poles off of packing list v9.3?

(U.S. Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Gregory Camacho)

Is this version of the packing list really the final one?

No matter how many times you check whether something is on the final packing list, it’s virtually guaranteed that you’re going to end up in the field at some point and be asked for a piece of equipment only to find it missing. That’s because you had packing list v7.2 but the final one was v8.3, but your platoon went with v6.4 because the company XO said you have special needs.

If you’ve been around a while, you know the real essentials to bring, so whatever you don’t have will probably result in a slap on the wrist and won’t affect the mission. But new soldiers are always sweating that something they didn’t know to bring will be essential. Forgot your protractor, huh? Well, you’re now nearly useless for land nav. Good work.

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There’s a 20 percent chance this heartwarming moment will be broken up when a junior airman gets his junk stuck in the wall of a local bar because he thought it was a glory hole.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson)

This is a good weekend. Someone is definitely going to ruin it.

Even when you’re relaxing on the weekends or holidays, there’s always a serious risk that everything is about to go sideways with one phone call. Someone gets too drunk and fights a cop? You’re getting recalled into formation. Too many cigarette butts outside the barracks? Come on in. Someone isn’t answering their phone because they’re worried about all the recall formations? Guess what company is being called back in?

Seriously, this whole deal is like the monster from It Follows, except you can’t even delay it with sex.

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This is a photo of an airborne operation briefing that we swapped in because, legally, we can’t risk showing you pictures as boring as SAEDA briefings when some of you might be operating heavy machinery.

(U.S. Army Spc. Henry Villarama)

Surprise formation? Crap, here’s a new training requirement.

The worst nightmare comes when you’re just minding your own business, carving phallic symbols into old equipment behind the company headquarters. That’s when you’ll get the mass text that you have to report to the chapel/base theater.

And if you’re not due for training on the Sexual Harassment Assault Response Program, Suicide Awareness, Subversion and Espionage Directed Against the US Army, Anti-Terrorism Level 1, or Citibank Annual Training for Cardholders, then you probably have a new annual training requirement you have to show up for (By the way, every one of those is real.)

Good luck in Magnetic North Pole Drift Awareness Training. Be sure to sign the attendance roster.

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Yay, getting to stand around in squares in a different country! So exciting!

(U.S. Army Spc. Gage Hull)

Any acronym that ends in X probably sucks (Cs aren’t great either)

CSTX, MRX, CPX, they all suck. ENDEX is cool. But if you get called into SIFOREXs or NATEXs, forget about it. There goes weeks or even months of your life. SINKEXs will monopolize your time, but at least there’s usually a nice, big explosion you get to see.

Oh, quick translations — those are Combat Support Training Exercise, Mission Readiness Exercise, End of Exercise, Silent Force Exercise, National Terrorism Exercise, and Sink Exercise. Basically, if you hear an acronym with an X in it that you’ve never heard before, there’s a good chance you’re going to spend a few weeks in the field practicing something you know how to do.

This message was brought to you by the letter ‘C.’ ‘C’ is just glad that you hate it a little less next to ‘X,’ because ‘C’ usually gets the blame thanks to things like JRTC, NTC, and JMRC (the Joint Readiness Training Center, National Training Center, and Joint Multinational Readiness Center, respectfully).

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 more military movie deaths we’re bummed about

War movies are a dime a dozen. The ones that truly stay with us are ones through which we connect to the characters as if they’re members of our own unit — like they could be our own best friends or beloved commanding officers.


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Damian Lewis/Dick Winters in Band of Brothers was both.

So, when that character is killed off, it hurts – even when the movie is based on a true story and we know it’s coming. And we never forget it.

Check out our first list (linked below) and then read on to see more military movie deaths that shocked us.

Related: 7 military movie deaths we’re still bummed about

6. Chief Petty Officer Marichek – Crimson Tide

One minute, everyone aboard the Alabama is dancing to “Nowhere to Run” and the next, a Chief close to retirement is fighting a huge galley fire.

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You don’t realize it, but the death of Chief Marichek is the tipping point of the whole movie. No one really cares about some faceless Russian nutjob. Hunter’s disagreement with Captain Ramsey doesn’t turn to real anger until Chief Marichek dies.

Admit it, we were all thinking the same thing Lt. Cmdr. Hunter was when Ramsey callously described Marichek’s horrible death.

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5. Sgt. 1st Class Randy Shughart and Master Sgt. Gary Gordon – Black Hawk Down

You see what the Somalis do when a helicopter goes down in this movie. So when Shughart and Gordon demand to be landed to help extract pilot Mike Durant, knowing full well they probably won’t make it out alive, you really hope against the odds that they can pull of some heroics and survive.

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And goddamn are they handsome.

This is all the sadder because, like most characters in Black Hawk Down, Shughart and Gordon were real men who really did ask three times to land and secure Durant — even though they knew it would be suicide.

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The real Gordon and Shughart.

These two stone-cold operators held off the entire city of Mogadishu long enough for the mob to spare Mike Durant, who was captured, released, and survived his deployment. Shughart and Gordon posthumously received Medals of Honor.

4. Captain Vasili Borodin – The Hunt for Red October

*sniff* Montana is so nice to see, Borodin. IT’S SO NICE.

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You commie sons of bitches…

Someone show this guy Montana. No! You’re crying!

3. Lt. Billy “A-Train” Roberts – The Tuskegee Airmen

Fresh from taking down enemy planes and a Nazi destroyer (not to mention forever tearing down an immense racial barrier), Hannibal Lee and Lt. Billy Roberts were such a good team, all the white bomber pilots couldn’t believe it. Prejudices couldn’t stop Lee and Roberts.

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What stopped Roberts was an errant Me-109 on a subsequent bomber escort mission.

Lee and Roberts sing as Roberts slowly loses consciousness and altitude and, when they’re finally taken out, a small part of my youth died forever.

2. Staff Sgt. Don “War Daddy” Collier – Fury

We grew to love War Daddy as the movie Fury rolled on. And, eventually, we understand and support his determination to stand his ground in the tank that became his home.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6k8a33WfYE
Unlike the Fury version, however, the real War Daddy – Army Tanker Lafayette G. Pool – survived the war. His 81-day combat career saw 1,000 dead Nazis, 250 enemy POWs captured, 12 downed enemy tanks, and some 250-plus other vehicles destroyed.

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Like Brad Pitt’s War Daddy, but without the Macklemore haircut.

1. Captain John Miller – Saving Private Ryan

Capt. Miller was in North Africa at the Kasserine Pass, then at the Italian campaign’s landing at Anzio, and then (as if that wasn’t enough), he led most of his men alive through Operation Overlord.

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Um… can someone tell me again why this movie isn’t about Captain Miller?

So, knowing he survived so much just to get stuck defending some podunk town because there’s one bridge in it only to get mortally wounded as the Army Air Forces show up and ice the Nazis… it’s just… goddammit.

This is why a chain of command exists, so privates like Ryan will do as they’re told and go home instead of arguing with a captain who’s a genuine war hero and getting everyone in a platoon killed as they try to keep his disobedient ass alive.

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What an a-hole.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the German military may look to recruit foreigners

The German military, the Bundeswehr, had 21,000 unfilled positions in 2017, and the service is now looking beyond its borders to fill its ranks.

A Defense Ministry report in late 2016 proposed recruiting from other EU countries, and the ministry confirmed in late July 2018 that it was seriously considering doing so.

“The Bundeswehr is growing,” a ministry spokesman told news agency DPA. “For this, we need qualified personnel.”


Germany’s military has shrunk since the Cold War. In 2011, the country ended mandatory military service. From a high of of 585,000 troops in the mid-1980s, the service’s numbers have fallen to just under 179,000 in mid-2018.

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A German infantryman stands at the ready with his Heckler Koch G36 during a practice exercise in 2004.

(U.S. Navy photo)

About half of current members of the German military are expected to retire by 2030, and with an aging population, finding native-born replacements may get tougher.

German leaders have pushed to add more troops while beefing up defense spending.

In mid-2016, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said she would remove the cap of 185,000 total troops to help make the force more flexible. She said the military would look to add 14,300 soldiers over seven years. (In early 2017, the Defense Ministry upped that to 20,000 soldiers added by 2024.)

“The Bundeswehr is under pressure to modernize in all areas,” she said at the time. “We have to get away from the process of permanent shrinking.”

Efforts to grow have included more recruitment of minors — a record-high 2,128 people under 18 joined as volunteers in 2017, but signing up young Germans has been criticized.

Recruiting foreigners was generally supported by the governing parties, with some qualifiers.

Karl-Heinz Brunner, a defense expert and member of the Social Democrat Party, said foreigners who join up should be promised citizenship.

“If citizens of other countries are accepted, without the promise of getting a German passport, the Bundeswehr risks becoming a mercenary army,” he told German newspaper Augsburger Allegemeine.

Florian Hahn, a defense spokesman for the Christian Democratic Union, said such a recruitment model “could be developed,” but “a certain level of trust with every soldier must be guaranteed.”

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(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Burt W. Eichen)

‘Germany just doesn’t feel threatened’

Personnel woes are only part of the Bundeswehr’s problem.

Reports have emerged in recent years of shortages of everything from body armor to tanks. German troops overseas have been hamstrung by damaged or malfunctioning equipment. A lack of spare parts has left some weapons systems unusable.

Reports of inoperable fighter jets — and insufficient training for pilots — have raised questions about whether Germany can fulfill its NATO responsibilities. As of late 2017, all of Germany’s submarines were out of service, and the navy in general has struggled to build ships and develop a strategy.

Gen. Volker Wieker, the military’s inspector general, said in February 2018 that the force would be ready to assume command of NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force in Eastern Europe in 2019.

The Bundeswehr had a long-term plan to address ” still unsatisfactory ” gaps in its capabilities, Wieker said, but it would take at least a decade to recover after years of dwindling defense spending.

Defense spending is a contentious issue in Germany — one supercharged by President Donald Trump’s attacks on NATO members for what he sees as failures to meet the 2%-of-GDP defense-spending level they agreed to reach by 2024.

Governing-coalition members have feuded over how to raise defense expenditures. Those in favor of a quick increase say it’s needed to fix the military. Others want the money directed elsewhere and have said Chancellor Angela Merkel is doing Trump’s militarist bidding.

“What we’ve seen in the last few years — really the sort of tragic and kind of embarrassing stories about the state of the Bundeswehr — that is certainly sinking in, and Germans are now supporting more defense spending than they have in the past,” Sophia Besch, a research fellow at the Center for European Reform, said on a recent edition of the Center for a New American Security’s Brussels Sprouts podcast .

“There is just this huge debate … around the 2% [of GDP defense-spending level] being the right way of going about it,” Besch added.

Some Germans also remain chastened by World War II and the Cold War, which devastated and then divided the country. The Bundeswehr still struggles with its Nazi history.

“There’s a definitely a generational aspect to this,” Besch said. “The sort of traditional pacifist approach … I think is mostly permanent in the older generations.”

Others just aren’t that worried.

“I think the issue today is that Germany just doesn’t feel threatened. Germans just don’t see a threat to themselves,” Besch added. “They see perhaps a threat in the East, but their relationship with Russia is complex. They just don’t see the need to invest that much in defense spending.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

New restaurant options are coming to Army and Air Force Bases

Panda Express and Muscle Maker Grill are among the new restaurants coming to Air Force and Army bases in 2019, officials with the Army and Air Force Exchange (AAFES) told Military.com.

AAFES manages restaurant contracts on Army and Air Force bases, including deals with familiar brands such as Subway and Starbucks. Other restaurants, like P.F. Chang’s, currently at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and coming soon to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, are contracted by base morale and welfare officials.


On-base food fans will get a break from Burger King and Taco Bell, as officials open a variety of new options and expand others.

Chinese fast-food restaurant Panda Express will open this year at Fort Meade, Maryland; Fort Benning and Fort Stewart, Georgia; and Travis Air Force Base, California, AAFES officials said.

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Panda Express.

(Flickr photo by Rick Obst)

Healthy menu-focused Muscle Maker Grill will open additional locations at Benning; Joint Base Andrews, Maryland; and, according to the company’s website, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Qdoba, which opened on several bases last year, including Fort Knox, Kentucky; Fort Lee, Virginia; and Fort Stewart, Georgia, will add more military locations.

While a Change.org petition to bring Chick-fil-A to bases continues to circulate and had collected nearly 88,000 signatures as of this writing, AAFES officials declined to comment on whether the restaurant will make an on-base appearance.

AAFES officials said they also will be bringing in a few less well known restaurant chains.

Chopz, a fast-food outlet that offers healthy options focused on salads, subs, burritos and wraps, will open at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, they said. And Slim Chickens, a fast-food chain primarily located in Texas and Oklahoma, will open locations at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and Fort Hood, Texas, later in 2019, they added.

Troops, military families and veterans can stay on top of military discounts, from travel accommodations to auto and entertainment deals. Sign up for a free Military.com membership to get full access to all discounts.

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Iran coronavirus deaths mount, including senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader

Iran’s Health Ministry reported 12 more deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the total to 66 deaths, while the number of cases in the country has reached 1,501.


A member of a council that advises Iran’s supreme leader is among those who died, state television reported on March 2.

Expediency Council member Mohammad Mirmohammadi died at a Tehran hospital of the virus, state radio said. He was 71. Mirmohammadi is the first top Iranian official to succumb to the COVID-19 disease that is affecting several members of Iran’s leadership.

The council advises Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It also acts as a mediator between the supreme leader and parliament.

Mirmohammadi’s death comes as other top Iranian officials have contracted the virus. Iran has the highest death toll in the world after China, the epicenter of the outbreak.

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Infections Could Be Higher

Among those who are infected are Vice President Masumeh Ebtekar and Iraj Harirchi, the head of an Iranian government task force on the coronavirus who tried to downplay the virus before falling ill.

Across the wider Middle East, there are over 1,150 cases of the new coronavirus, the majority of which are linked back to Iran.

Experts say Iran’s ratio of deaths to infections, around 5.5 percent, is much higher than other countries, suggesting the number of infections in Iran may be much higher than official figures show.

In a move to stem the outbreak, Iran on March 2 held an online-only briefing by its Foreign Ministry.

Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi opened the online news conference by dismissing an offer of help for Iran by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Meanwhile, a team from the World Health Organization (WHO) has arrived in Tehran to support Iran’s response to a coronavirus outbreak, the UN agency said.

The plane carrying the team also contained “medical supplies and protective equipment to support over 15,000 health care workers, as well as laboratory kits enough to test and diagnose nearly 100,000 people,” the WHO said in a statement.

The supplies worth more than 0,000 were loaded onto the United Arab Emirates military transport plane in Dubai.

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Earlier, Britain, Germany, and France have offered Iran a “comprehensive package of both material and financial support” to combat the spread of coronavirus.

In a statement, the three European countries committed themselves to providing financial support “close to” 5 million euros (.6 million) through the World Health Organization or other UN agencies.

The group would send by plane medical material to Iran on March 2, including equipment for laboratory tests, protective body suits, and gloves, it said.

live.staticflickr.com

The British Embassy in Tehran announced that it has begun evacuations over the virus.

It said that essential staff were still in Iran, but if “the situation deteriorates further,” the embassy’s ability to help British nationals there “may be limited.”

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

popular

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

The A-10 Thunderbolt II, known affectionately as the Warthog, is the U.S. Air Force’s most beloved and capable close air support craft. Its low airspeed and low altitude ability give it an accuracy unmatched by any aircraft in the Air Force fleet. No matter what anyone in an Air Force uniform tells you.


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Sorry, Bruh. (U.S Air Force photo)

Read Now: Watch the effects of an A-10’s GAU-8 cannon on an enemy building

For one A-10 pilot, the CAS world was turned upside down in the First Gulf War. Captain Bob Swain was flying anti-armor sorties in central Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. After dropping six 500-pound bombs and taking out two Iraqi tanks with Maverick missiles, he saw potential tangos several miles away, just barely moving around.

“I noticed two black dots running across the desert that looked really different than anything I had seen before,” Swain told the LA Times in a February 1991 interview. “They weren’t putting up any dust and they were moving fast and quickly over the desert.”

He was tracking what he thought was a helicopter. When his OV-10 Bronco observation plane confirmed the target, Swain moved in for the kill. One of the targets broke off and moved north (back toward Iraq), the other moved south. The A-10 pilot tracked the one moving south but couldn’t get a lock with his AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles because the target was too close to the ground, just 50 feet above.

So he switched to the A-10’s 30mm GAU-8 Avenger cannon – aka the BRRRRRT.

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It would be the first air-to-air kill in the A-10’s operational history. But Swain didn’t know that. He was just concerned with taking it down and started firing a mile away from the helicopter. His shots were on target, but the helicopter didn’t go down.

“On the final pass, I shot about 300 bullets at him,” Swain recalled to a press pool at the time. “That’s a pretty good burst. On the first pass, maybe 75 rounds. The second pass, I put enough bullets down, it looked like I hit with a bomb.”

Swain’s A-10 became known as the “Chopper Popper” in Air Force lore and is now displayed on the grounds of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

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“We tried to identify the type of [helicopter] after we were finished, but it was just a bunch of pieces,” he later told the Air Force Academy’s news service.

After the war, Swain went back to his job flying Boeing 747s for U.S. Air and is still in the Air Force Reserve, now with the rank of Colonel.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Sticky grenades are only really a thing in video games and movies

From a video game standpoint, it makes sense: A weapon that racks up in-game kills without the hassle of managing a frag grenade bouncing all over the place. Even in Saving Private Ryan, quickly improvising a sticky bomb to take out a tank proved how smart Tom Hank’s Captain Miller was in battle.


In actuality, sticky grenades did exist, but were far more headache than help. Meet the British Anti-tank No. 74.

They weren’t used against infantrymen like video games would have you believe, though. Packing 1.25 lbs of nitroglycerine along with another pound of plastic and glass meant that the boom from real-life sticky grenades would only destroy things that are stuck to it.

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Diagram of the No. 74 Sticky Grenade. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

As such, the British No. 74 was designed as an anti-tank weapon that troops would break out of its casing, throw (or, more likely, just walk up and plant), and, five seconds after the lever is released from the handle, boom!

As for the “epic sticky grenade throws” you see in Call of Duty — still no. The most common concern with the No. 74 was that once you take it out of the protective casing that conceals the stickiness, you’ve armed it. Everything that it sticks to is now going to be destroyed. Meaning that if it stuck to your clothes or anything around you, you need to remove whatever it’s stuck to without letting go of the lever. If the lever was released… you’d better get as far away from it as you can in five seconds or else… boom!

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You can understand why most troops planted the grenade instead of tossing it. (Image via YouTube)

To make matters worse, they traveled terribly. The inside was made of glass, so if it cracked in transit, the explosive would leak. If the leaked explosive got just a tiny amount of friction… you guessed it: boom!

Even if the handling, arming, and tossing of the grenade all went perfectly, it still may not work as intended. If the Brit managed to get close enough to toss the 2.25 lbs grenade at the German armor, which was usually surrounded by ground troops, tanks were always covered in things that the grenade had trouble sticking on: Wet surfaces and dirt.

Despite being having over 2.5 million sticky grenades produced, it rarely saw as much use as it does in pop culture.

To see the No. 74 in use, watch the old training video below:

(YouTube, Okrajoe)