The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

At a family reunion several years ago, my uncle asked, “What unspoken vows do you have in your marriage?”

He was referring to the vows that respect each other’s pet peeves, and we all laughed as people shared their promises of keeping the cap on the toothpaste or using separate knives for the peanut butter and jelly.

At the time, I’d been married for only a couple of years, and I added that I’d promised not to meddle in my husband’s tools. But over the years, my uncle’s question echoed in my mind. As deployments came and went, I discovered that my unspoken vow was more complex, and in fact, I had more than one.


Deployment adds a unique dynamic to military marriages. As Army spouse and 2015 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year Corie Weathers writes in her memoir, Sacred Spaces, “Deployment, by its very nature, creates highly significant yet separate experiences for military couples.”

Deployment ushers us into a strange space, asking us to exist without each other and to accept that we can’t share each other’s experiences or even fully understand them.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

I’ve often thought of it as living parallel lives.

Others have thought of it this way, too. Air Force wife Alane Pearce writes of parallel lives in her piece “Committed,” which appears in Faith Deployed… Again, and Weathers addresses “gaps” that separate couples in Sacred Spaces. Surely, more wrestle with this notion in their hearts.

However we might term it, the awareness of separateness is a reality in deployment, presenting us with a veritable mountain to climb. Although we’ll encounter tough passes of doubt and aloneness, I believe we have the ability to make it through these obstacles with sure footing. In my own experience, the first step is simple but powerful: I give voice to my unspoken vows.

1. I promise I will let you go.

We all know that prior to deployment, our service members become laser-focused on pre-deployment trainings, preparations and briefings. Like kids on Christmas morning, they sit amidst their gear, organizing, packing, unpacking, and repacking.

Meanwhile, we file powers of attorney, wills and crisis notification forms. We make arrangements with friends to be the ones we can call in case of an emergency.

Suddenly, we realize that we are preparing to be alone. That awareness is grim. It can induce fear, crank our grip tighter and make us ask why. It’s a force manipulative enough to make us feel left behind.

But, the power is within us to pause, take stock and refocus our lens.

As I reflected, read and spoke to other spouses, it struck me that by focusing on the aloneness ahead of us, we can set ourselves up for a long, lonely climb. Some spouses recalled that simple expressions of compassion have eased the road toward deployment.

Air Force wife Katie Spain, who has been married for four years and faced two deployments, reflects on the difficulty service members must feel being so far removed from their families: “While the military may be their first responsibility, it is not the first priority in their hearts,” she says, “and I can’t imagine the internal conflict being easy to remedy.”

Weathers echoes such compassion in her book, when she recalls preparing for a unique experience to accompany former Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and his staff to visit American personnel deployed to the Middle East.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Sharla Lewis)

As she finds herself mirroring her husband’s pre-deployment motions, she realizes that she is also experiencing guilt in leaving her family.

Having been in her shoes, her husband empathizes with her position. Weathers describes this interesting role-reversal as an example of the value that spouses’ compassion can have in releasing service members to their mission.

“We play an awesome role to love them that way,” Weathers said in a recent interview. “We do have the ability to release the anxiety that they have not chosen deployment over their family.”

It seems to me that this compassion releases the military spouse, too, as it eases tension and draws us closer to our service members in a shared experience. It helps us understand that we are not alone in our feelings, it reaffirms our love with our service members and it allows us to approach deployment with clearer sight and firmer footing.

2. I promise I will be my best for you.

As military spouses, we know that once our service members leave, our role suddenly changes. We go from being part of a pair to being a “Class-B bachelorette” or a “pseudo-single parent.” Whether we dub it “flying solo” or “geo-baching,” no cute new title fills the emptiness left by our service members. The impact of their sudden absence can knock us off balance, making us struggle to find our grip without them.

All home front responsibilities immediately fall to us, and it seems that the same mystical force visits every household immediately following a service member’s departure, breaking every appliance and infecting every child with the stomach flu. Suddenly, we are swamped trying to work a two-person job, to nurture, discipline, organize, clean, counsel, and perform damage control. The sheer magnitude of this responsibility can be overwhelming.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Leanna Litsch)

This is the time when the feeling of living parallel lives is perhaps the most acute. The sense of separateness is seemingly insurmountable. Personally, I find myself angry with it. Angry with the feeling of separateness. It’s a strange, unwanted feeling to have in a marriage.

But it doesn’t have to be so bleak. I believe we have the power to overcome the feeling of separateness, to find an intersection, even when that seems impossible.

Reflecting on her experience as a licensed counselor working with military couples, Weathers describes many military spouses as “resilient, positive and resourceful” when going through a deployment.

“They push through and make things happen, and grow in their independence,” she says. “And the service members can trust that. It makes for a trusting relationship. They can focus on their mission.”

Although deployment changes my role temporarily, I am still married to my husband. Whenever I am overwhelmed, I owe it to him to push forward, because the obstacle he is facing doesn’t let him stop to dwell on his aloneness.

A friend once told me that her priest described marriage not as 50-50, but as 100-100. Each spouse must give 100 percent. Never is there a time when this is truer than during deployment. By actively choosing to give 100 percent, I am enabling my husband to do the same.

3. I promise I will seek you out.

When our service members return, many of us might feel out of sync as we try to walk in the rhythm of each other’s footsteps again. While we might expect this after so much time apart, we don’t have to accept our separate rhythms as the new normal; it can be our chance to recommit.

In these times, Weathers says, “Pursue your spouse.”

Army spouse of 16 years and 2015 Fort Huachuca Spouse of the Year Cynthia Giesecke agrees, saying that when couples seek out an “intentional period of reconnection,” they are better able to move forward honestly and lovingly.

Just as showing compassion and pushing forward through struggles can draw us closer despite our separateness, purposeful engagement with each other during reintegration can soon align our footsteps.

Looking back, I don’t know why I never thought of deployment this way before. This mindset allows me to reach past the anxiety of separateness. It empowers me to pick up the parallel lines and lay them back down across each other. It enables me to stand at the intersection with my husband, give voice to my vows and know that we’re a team that no battle – ever – can separate.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia is building up strength near NATO’s weak point

In the months leading up to the summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump in Finland, Moscow appears to have ramped up activity in its Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad.

Satellite imagery gathered by Planet Labs and reported by Defense One shows activity around bunkers in Baltiysk, a town that hosts a major Russian port and two air bases.

Between March and June 2018, “the visible change … appears to be the fortification of buildings, characteristic of explosive storage bunkers, utilizing earthen berms to further insulate these structures,” Matt Hall, a senior geospatial analyst at 3Gimbals, told Defense One.


Hall said other structures shown in the images appeared to have been reinforced over that period. Activity in a forested area was partially obscured by foliage, but there appeared to be more structures among the trees, some covered and some uncovered with different levels of fortification.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

Aerial photo of Baltiysk

“In this area some of the structures have changed, potentially showing roofing structures or tarps that have since been removed to reveal caches of items,” Hall said. “Additionally, there appear to be new or redistributed items — potentially identifiable as shipping containers.” Hall also told Defense One a railroad line was visible in the photos.

Kaliningrad — 86 square miles of land bordered by Poland and Lithuania — was an important asset to the Soviet Union, and military activity there has grown amid Russia’s recent military buildup. It also hosts Russia’s Baltic Fleet and its 11th Army Corps.

Russian weapons in Kaliningrad have been a point of contention with NATO. In late 2016, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said the transfer of nuclear-capable Iskander missiles to the exclave “means an aggressive, open demonstration of power and aggression against not the Baltic states but against European capitals.”

Iskander missiles have a range of about 310 miles and in the past were stationed in Kaliningrad on a temporary basis. But in February 2018, Grybauskaite said Russia had deployed more of the missiles there “for permanent presence.”

The head of Russian parliament’s defense committee confirmed that deployment, saying it was a response to NATO’s buildup in Eastern Europe. A Kremlin spokesman said at the time that Russia had the “sovereign right” to station military forces on its territory.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

(Russian Defense Ministry)

Satellite imagery of another area within Kaliningrad showed renovations of what appeared to be an active nuclear weapons storage site, according to a June 2018 report by the Federation of American Scientists.

Images “show one of three underground bunkers near Kulikovo being excavated in 2016, apparently renovated, and getting covered up again in 2018 presumably to return operational status soon,” the report said.

The imagery provided few conclusive details, but “features of the site suggest it could potentially serve Russian Air Force or Navy dual-capable forces,” the report said. “But it could also be a joint site, potentially servicing nuclear warheads for both Air Force, Navy, Army, air-defense, and coastal defense forces in the region.”

The missiles deployed to Kaliningrad have raised concern about threats to Western Europe, but the exclave also positions Russian forces near the Suwalki Gap, a weak point in the NATO alliance, according to a recent report from the Center for European Analysis, coauthored by retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, who was head of US Army Europe.

The gap, stretching between eastern Kaliningrad and western Belarus, is the only land connection between NATO and its three Baltic member states: Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

“The Suwałki Corridor is where the many weaknesses in NATO’s strategy and force posture converge,” the report says.

“If Russia attempted to establish control over the Suwałki region, or even threatened the free movement of NATO personnel and equipment from within the borders of Kaliningrad and Belarus, it could cut the Baltic states off from the rest of the Alliance” and hinder reinforcement efforts. NATO forces did exercises focused mobility and interoperability in the Suwalki region early 2018

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

Suwalki Gap crossing

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kevin Wang)

A dispute over the gap “could escalate with alarming speed,” the report says, though Hodges believes a Cold War-style Russian ground invasion is unlikely.

“I don’t think that Russia intends to invade Europe as though its 1991. They don’t have the capacity to do that anymore,” he told Defense One.

Moscow may instead look to use a crisis in the area to undermine NATO by showing it was unable to response effectively, or at all, to a threat.


“If you accept that premise, that they might do a limited attack to demonstrate that NATO cannot protect its members,” he told Defense One. “That would create a problem.”

Russia is believed to have a substantial military force stationed along NATO’s eastern border, and its ability to deploy it quickly could make it harder for Western forces to distinguish between a military exercise and an actual military operation.

During the Zapad war games in 2013 and 2017, Russian troops simulated advances on the gap, cutting off the Baltic states from the rest of Europe. There has also been an increase in close encounters between NATO and Russian aircraft in the skies over the Baltics.

In the years since Russia’s 2014 incursion in Ukraine, Baltic countries have warned about possible aggression against them.

In 2017, Lithuania said it worried Russia was laying the groundwork for “kinetic operations” through propaganda and misinformation — a manner similar to what preceded Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Lithuania, which is under pressure from Moscow to allow a permanent Russian-controlled transit corridor to Kaliningrad, has also called for a permanent US troop presence on its soil and started building a fence along its border with Kaliningrad.

The CEPA report lays out several scenarios through which Russia could provoke a crisis to justify action against Suwalki, using disinformation and hybrid-warfare techniques to deflect blame and confuse observers.

“If [Russian forces] ever tried anything, they would do it asymmetrically so that they could achieve whatever they wanted to achieve before the alliance caught on,” Hodges told Defense One.T

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This critical anti-submarine tool may soon be in short supply

ERAPSCO, a joint venture between US company Sparton Corp. and a subsidiary of British firm Ultra Electronics, was awarded a US defense contract worth $1.041 billion on July 18, 2019, to produce sonobuoys used in anti-submarine warfare.

“Sonobuoys are air-launched, expendable, electro-mechanical, anti-submarine warfare acoustic sensors designed to relay underwater sounds associated with ships and submarines,” the Pentagon said in the contract listing.


The id=”listicle-2639331070″,041,042,690 award was for the manufacture and delivery of a maximum of 37,500 AN/SSQ-36B, 685,000 AN/SSQ-53G, 120,000 AN/SSQ-62F, and 90,000 AN/SSQ-101B sonobuoys for fiscal years 2019-2023.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

Aviation ordnancemen load sonobuoys on a P-3C Orion before flight operations in Okinawa, Japan, Aug. 27, 2011.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Julian R. Moorefield)

The AN/SSQ series of sonobuoys are the principal sensors used by the US Navy to detect, classify, and localize adversary subs during peacetime and combat operations.

Active sonobuoys send pings through the water to bounce off potential targets. Passive sonobuoys just listen for subs or other vessels. There are also special-purpose sonobuoys that collect other data for radar and intelligence analysts.

Sonobuoys are limited by their battery life, and, if tracking a moving target, can become useless soon after being dropped. They’re mainly launched from MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters and P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, and when hunting without a target in its sights, the P-8A can expend its full supply in one mission.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

A US sailor launches a sonobuoy into the Atlantic Ocean from guided-missile destroyer USS Stout, Oct. 27, 2016.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Bill Dodge)

More subs means more buoys

Increasing submarine activity around the world has led to more interest in anti-submarine warfare, especially among the US and its partners, which are concerned about Russian and Chinese submarines.

In a July 2018 funding request, the Pentagon asked Congress to reprogram million to buy more air-dropped sonobuoys, saying that “unexpected high anti-submarine warfare operational tempo in 2017 … resulted in unexpected high expenditure rate of all type/model/series.”

A 2015 study predicted global demand for sonobuoys would grow by 40% through 2020, with most of the interest in passive sonobuoys.

The Navy’s sonobuoy budget grew from 4 million in 2018 to 6 million in 2019 to 4 million in the 2020 budget, which asked for 204,000 of the devices. But there is concern about the Navy’s ability replenish its supply in the future.

The Pentagon believes it may no longer have a reliable supplier without government investment in the sonobuoy market, officials told Defense News in March 2019.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

A US sailor unloads a sonobuoy on a P-8A Poseidon to prepare it for use, April 10, 2014.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm. Specialist Keith DeVinney)

Right now, the Pentagon has just one supplier: ERAPSCO, a joint venture between the Illinois-based Sparton Corp. and the UK firm Ultra Electronics. But ERAPSCO will dissolve by 2024, and there’s no assurance either company can make the necessary investments to produce them independently.

The US is not the only buyer, but it is one of the largest, and the loss of US domestic production could lead to sonobuoy shortages around the world.

In March 2019, President Donald Trump signed a memo declaring that “domestic production capability for AN/SSQ series sonobuoys is essential to the national defense” and authorizing the Defense Department to pursue increased production.

Without action under the Defense Production Act, the memo said, “United States industry cannot reasonably be expected to provide the production capability for AN/SSQ series sonobuoys adequately and in a timely manner.”

Trump, the Pentagon, and the Navy believe money from the Defense Production Act and industry investment “to be the most cost-effective, expedient, and practical approach to meet critical AN/SSQ-series sonobuoy capability requirements,” a Defense Department spokesman told Defense News earlier this year.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Legendary pilot will be honored by all-female flyover

Nine female pilots at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia, say they feel privileged to be selected as volunteers to perform the “missing woman” formation Feb. 2, 2019, for an aviator who paved the way for their success: U.S. Navy Capt. Rosemary Mariner, who died last week at 65.

“We’re fortunate to be chosen,” said Cmdr. Leslie “Meat” Mintz, executive officer of Strike Fighter Squadron 213 (VFA-213). Mintz, a career weapons system officer on the Super Hornet, spoke to Military.com on Jan. 31, 2019, ahead of the flyover.


The tribute, announced by the Navy, will take place as Mariner receives a full military graveside service at New Loyston Cemetery in Maynardville, Tennessee.

The pilots have performed other flyovers, Mintz said. But “it’s certainly the first time I’ve done this for a female aviator. Everyone is truly humbled to be a part of it.”

Mariner was one of the first eight women selected to fly military aircraft in 1973, according to her obituary. A year later, she became the Navy’s first female jet pilot, flying the A-4E/L Skyhawk and the A-7E Corsair II. She died Jan. 24, 2019, after a years-long battle with cancer, the service said.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

Rosemary Mariner is shown in the 1990s when she was commanding officer of a squadron on the West Coast.

(U.S. Navy photo)

She was also the first female military aviator to command an operational air squadron, and during Operation Desert Storm, commanded Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 34 (VAQ-34), the Navy said.

Among other achievements, she executed 17 arrested carrier landings in her career, and, as an advocate for the pilot community, helped pave the way for those who came after. Mariner retired in 1997.

“She shaped generations of people with that confidence in them and helping them find their path,” said Katherine Sharp Landdeck.

Landdeck, an expert on the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II (WASPs) and a professor at Texas Woman’s University, told NBC News on Thursday she saw her friend Mariner as a brave “and badass” pilot.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

Lt. Emily Rixey, left, Lt. Amanda Lee, middle, and Lt. Kelly Harris, right, talk to each other in a hangar bay on Naval Station Oceana.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Raymond Maddocks)

“Landing on carriers? That’s pretty badass. You’re not just landing a jet. You’re landing a jet on a runway that’s rising up and down in the seas, and I think, as a woman doing it, you’ve got everybody on deck watching. Very cool under pressure,” Landdeck said in the NBC News interview.

Mintz will be flying alongside Cmdr. Stacy Uttecht, commander of Strike Fighter Squadron 32 (VFA-32); Lt. Cmdr. Paige Blok, VFA-32; Lt. Cmdr. Danielle Thiriot, VFA-106; Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Hesling, NAS Oceana; Lt. Christy Talisse, VFA-211; Lt. Amanda Lee, VFA-81; Lt. Kelly Harris, VFA-213; and Lt. Emily Rixey, Strike Fighter Weapons School Atlantic.

On Feb. 2, 2019, like any mission, the women will brief the plan before four F/A-18F Super Hornets and a single F/A-18 E-model launch from Oceana, roughly 400 miles from Mariner’s burial site. One of the jets will act as a backup in case something in the flight plan gets reshuffled, Mintz said.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

Female Aviators, Flight Officers, and aircraft maintainers pose for a group photograph.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Raymond Maddocks)

The jets will hold until the signal is given for the missing formation “so that the timing is perfect,” she said.

Uttecht will lead the formation. Mintz will be backseat in a jet on the flank as Thiriot pulls up thousands of feet into the sky.

The crew appreciates “the outpouring support, the text messages, the Facebook messages, for what we’re doing,” Mintz said.

“It’s truly an honor to do this … for Capt. Mariner. I’ve been in this business for 19 years. I really haven’t thought about male vs. female gender issues because it’s strictly merit-based. ‘Can you fly? Can you perform?’ [but] really I owe that to her,” she said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army’s new Infantry Squad Vehicle is based on the Chevy Colorado

On June 29, 2020, the U.S. Army selected GM’s submission for the new Infantry Squad Vehicle. Beating out submissions from a joint Oshkosh Defense-Flyer Defense team and an SAIC-Polaris partnership, GM has been awarded a $214M contract to build 649 of the new ISVs over the next five years. Additionally, the Army has already been approved to acquire 2,065 of the new trucks over the next decade.

In 2003, GM sold its defense division to General Dynamics for $1.1B. In 2017, GM saw renewed opportunity in adapting its civilian vehicles for the defense market and created the subsidiary GM Defense. In 2019, GM Defense became a finalist in the Army’s Infantry Squad Vehicle procurement competition along with the two aforementioned teams. The three teams were given $1M to build two prototypes of their proposed vehicle which were tested and evaluated at Aberdeen Test Center, Maryland and Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

(Left to right) SAIC-Polaris DAGOR, Oshkosh-Flyer Defense GMV, and GM Defense ISV concepts (Photo from NationalDefenseMagazine.org)

Contract specifications called for the ISV to weigh no more than 5,000, carry nine soldiers and their gear at highway speeds in extreme conditions both on and off-road, capable of being slung under a UH-60 Blackhawk, and fit inside of a CH-47 Chinook. To meet these requirements, GM Defense based its design on the popular Chevrolet Colorado and its ZR2 and ZR2 Bison variants.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

Chevy’s popular midsize truck, the Colorado ZR2 (Photo by Chevrolet)

The ISV is powered by a 2.8L 4-cylinder Duramax diesel engine that produces “significantly more power than the Colorado ZR2 known for delivering 186 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque,” mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission according to the GM Defense ISV product sheet.

Overall, the ISV retains much of the DNA of the Colorado variants it is based on, featuring 70% off-the-shelf components. “The chassis — which is the frame, the suspension, driveline, engine, transmission, transfer case, axles, brakes — all of that hardware comes from the Colorado ZR2,” said GM Defense Chief Engineer Mark Dickens. “Somebody could walk into a Chevy dealership and purchase those parts.”

Per the Army’s specifications, the ISV seats nine soldiers: two in the front, three in the second row, two rear-facing seats in a third row, and two outward-facing seats in a fourth row. Gear is stowed between the third and fourth rows, strapped to webbing that acts as the roof over the roll cage cabin, or slung from the roll cage itself.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

The ISV on display at the 2019 SEMA Show (Photo from GMAuthority.com)

In addition to the Army contract, GM Defense President David Albritton told Detroit Free Press that, “[The ISV] platform can be used for international sales to other militaries, other government agencies like Border Patrol, the Marine Corps, Air Force and Special Forces,” since future variants, “would be a totally different design.”

The ISV follows a trend that the military is setting of purchasing readily-available commercial technology for tactical use. On June 5, 2020, Polaris was awarded a 9M contract to supply USSOCOM with its MRZR Alpha Light Tactical All Terrain Vehicle. The LT-ATV is a redesigned Polaris RZR that has been in use with the Army’s light infantry units like the 82nd Airborne Division and 10th Mountain Division.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

10th Mountain LT-ATVs (left) alongside a Humvee and an LMTV flanked by 2 M-ATVs

(Photo by author)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Gina Elise knows how to make a first impression

I’m in an Uber driving north, passing by the Hollywood Sign. I am supposed to be headed south. My driver swears he knows a shortcut. Ok, Raffee, we’ll see, bro — but my land nav skills are telling me we’re headed towards a disaster and I’m late.


Really late, and this is not the impression I want to send to the woman waiting for me at the famous Hollywood American Legion. I’ve just arrived, thanks to Raffee’s shortcut. He earned his 5 stars today. As I rush to the entrance of the historic building that rightfully looks like a bunker defending the Hollywood Hills, I realize that I’ve just traveled back in time.

Before me is a marvelous Pin-Up model posing before a row of flags and one large cannon. She’s got it all. Hair perfectly curled, a vintage-inspired 1940s dress, and a smile that is making our cameraman blush. This is an image that could sell war bonds or find its way onto the nose cone of a B-24. Wow, I just learned that Pin-Ups For Vets‘ Founder, Gina Elise, really knows how to make a first impression.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

Pin-Ups for Vets Founder Gina Elise at the Hollywood American Legion.

(Photo courtesy of @markharper147)

Here I am, nervous and fumbling with my bag as Gina takes photo after photo almost effortlessly. She’s a pro. It’s been 13 years since Gina founded Pin-Ups For Vets, a non-profit organization that supports active military and veterans by producing an annual fundraiser pin-up calendar. The Pin-Ups For Vets Ambassadors visit ill and injured veterans in VA hospitals across the country (Gina’s volunteered in 31 of the 50 states). The organization also purchases thousands of dollars of rehabilitation equipment for VA therapy departments.

The photoshoot is coming to end when Gina tells me she has a surprise. She’s baked an eight-layer brownie for me and the cameraman. Seriously, is there anything that Gina can’t do? Right now, she’s off to change before our chat. As I bite into the absolutely delicious snack, it hits me that Gina, like the brownie, has many layers that only get sweeter and sweeter.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

Pin-Ups for Vets Founder, Gina Elise, at the Hollywood American Legion.

(Photo courtesy of @markharper147)

I’m downstairs at the American Legion. It’s dark and the smell of cigars lingers. This is definitely a place for veterans and is home to some pretty amazing movie history. Just out of the corner of my eye is the long bar where Jack Nicholson had a conversation with a ghost bartender in The Shining. And, just like old Jack, I wonder if my eyes are playing tricks on me as Gina approaches in a fresh new dress.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

Pin-Ups for Vets Founder, Gina Elise, at the Hollywood American Legion.

(Photo courtesy of @markharper147)

You ready?

GE: [She smiles]. Yes.

So, what were you doing before you came here?

GE: Today?

Totally. I am curious about what you do when you aren’t owning photoshoots?

GE: I was wrapping up some details for our upcoming visit with hospitalized veterans! I was also trying to see if our CBS News clip was up online yet, so I could share it on our Facebook page. I like to keep our supporters up-to-date about things that we’re doing.

And baking Brownies?

GE: I wanted to bring dessert for you guys. These bars have seven ingredients with a chocolate glaze on top.

Thank you. [I can still taste the glaze]

GE: I was also planning a morale-boosting pin-up makeover for a female Air Force veteran. We have multiple projects going on all the time. I have to be a multi-tasker.

Makeovers?

GE: It’s one of the things that we’ve been doing for a while. We do makeovers for female veterans and military wives as a fun way to give back to them and pamper them. I also just released a casting call for our 2020 calendar. It’s our 14th edition! We’ve received more submissions this year than ever before!

What does it take to be a Pin-Up in the calendar?

GE: Well, we look for female Veterans who have great stories to share. We ask them to submit their picture, tell us a bit about their military service and why they would like to be in our next calendar and what that would mean to them.

Last year’s calendar at the Queen Mary was amazing. It’s still hanging in my office. How do you find these places?

GE: The 2019 Pin-Ups For Vets calendar was photographed on the Queen Mary. Producing the calendar every year is like making a film — from location scouting to casting to styling to pre-production to photography to post-production to editing and printing. It takes months. I want it to be top notch so people want to order it year after year. Many of our supporters collect them, and some have the entire calendar collection — all the way from 2007, our first edition.

And you do this all yourself?

GE: I have a lot of amazing volunteers, many of whom are female veterans.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

Pin-Ups pose on the Queen Mary for the 2019 Pin-Ups for Vets Calendar.

(Photo courtesy of @pinupsforvets)

Really? Are you recruiting an army of Pin-Ups?

GE: It’s really a sisterhood of volunteers. They are coming together, after their military service, to give back to their brothers and sisters. One of our volunteers recently told me, “I came for the service. I stayed for the sisterhood.” I think that having images of female veterans in the calendar is a starting point to tell their story. Images are powerful. People want to know, “Who is she?” Then, they find out that she is a veteran. It makes people think twice, as it is a common assumption that veterans are only men. The ladies constantly tell me that they are often mistaken for being a military spouse. They are not assumed to be a veteran because their gender. I think that the calendars have started changing peoples’ minds on what a veteran is.

You’ve definitely changed my mind. What’s the craziest place you’ve seen your pictures?

GE: They’ve gone all over the world. We are constantly shipping care packages to deployed units.

I have to ask: has anybody painted you on the side of their Humvee?

GE: Soldiers put my name on a helicopter!

Ok, that’s pretty cool. I mean, not a lot of people get their name on a helicopter.

GE: It was a great picture.

Yeah, I have to get that picture. OK?

GE: Of course.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

Gina Elise painted on the side of an AH-64 Apache Helicopter.

(Photo courtesy of @pinupsforvets)

It’s pretty amazing that you’ve used an iconic 1940s fashion style to embrace femininity within the military culture. How do the ladies even start to learn how to be a Pin-Up?

GE: The ladies who volunteer with us have adopted the 1940s style so well. They watch YouTube tutorials about how to do their hair and makeup. There’s something about presenting yourself in this vintage style that makes you feel really confident. It’s a beautiful celebration of a woman. It’s really about embracing our femininity. I love how I feel when I get dressed up. It gives me confidence.

Really? Confidence doesn’t seem to be hard for you at all. You’re a natural leader.

GE: I was shy growing up. Being involved in leadership classes in junior high and high school were life-changing for me. They gave me a sense of responsibility at a very early age, and showed me what I was capable of doing. Maybe that is why I connected so well with the military community — because there is such a focus on strong leadership.

A little bird told me that you are a Colonel?

GE: Honorary. The American Legion made me an Honorary Colonel. It was incredible. We are so grateful to the American Legion. They’ve been so supportive of what we do.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

Pin-Ups for Vets Founder, Gina Elise, at the Hollywood American Legion.

(Photo courtesy of @markharper147)

Roger that, Colonel. So, when do we get to see the book of all the Pin-Up pictures?

GE: A coffee table book? I’ve thought about that! Our supporters have asked me to do a coffee table book before. I would love to see that!

Have the fans asked for anything else?

GE: Yes! I actually have an idea for a television show.

Oh really? Let’s talk about that later after I finish this amazing brownie.

GE: Any time.

Be sure to visit www.pinupsforvets.com for more info.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force’s new ICBMs will be operational by 2020

The Air Force plans to fire off new prototype ICBMs in the early 2020s as part of a long-range plan to engineer and deploy next-generation nuclear armed intercontinental ballistic missiles by the late 2020s — by building weapons with improved range, durability, targeting technology, and overall lethality, service officials said.

The service is already making initial technological progress on design work and “systems engineering” for a new arsenal of ICBMs to serve well into the 2070s — called Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, or GBSD.

“GBSD initial operating capability is currently projected for the late 2020s,” Capt. Hope Cronin, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.


Northrop Grumman and Boeing teams were awarded Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction deals from the Air Force in 2017 as part of a longer-term developmental trajectory aimed at developing, testing, firing and ultimately deploying new ICBMs.

Following an initial 3-year developmental phase, the Air Force plans an Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase and eventual deployment of the new weapons.

“Milestone B is currently projected for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020. This represents the completion of technology maturation and risk reduction activities and initiates the engineering and manufacturing development phase,” Cronin said.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

A Minuteman III ICBM test launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, United States.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The Air Force plans to award the single EMD contract in late fiscal year 2020.

Overall, the Air Force plans to build as many as 400 new GBSD weapons to modernize the arsenal and replace the 1970s-era Boeing-built Minuteman IIIs.

The new weapons will be engineered with improved guidance technology, boosters, flight systems and command and control systems, compared to the existing Minuteman III missiles. The weapon will also have upgraded circuitry and be built with a mind to long-term maintenance and sustainability, developers said.

“The GBSD design has not been finalized. Cost capability and trade studies are ongoing,” Cronin added.

Initial subsystem prototypes are included within the scope of the current Boeing and Northrop deals, service developers said.

Senior nuclear weapons developers have told Warrior that upgraded guidance packages, durability and new targeting technology are all among areas of current developmental emphasis for the GBSD.

The new ICBMs will be deployed roughly within the same geographical expanse in which the current weapons are stationed. In total, dispersed areas across three different sites span 33,600 miles, including missiles in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Minot, North Dakota, and Great Falls, Montana.

The Paradox of Strategic Deterrence

“GBSD will provide a safe, secure and effective land-based deterrent through 2075,” Cronin claimed.

If one were to passively reflect upon the seemingly limitless explosive power to instantly destroy, vaporize or incinerate cities, countries and massive swaths of territory or people — images of quiet, flowing green meadows, peaceful celebratory gatherings or melodious sounds of chirping birds might not immediately come to mind.

After all, lethal destructive weaponry does not, by any means, appear to be synonymous with peace, tranquility and collective happiness. However, it is precisely the prospect of massive violence which engenders the possibility of peace. Nuclear weapons therefore, in some unambiguous sense, can be interpreted as being the antithesis of themselves; simply put — potential for mass violence creates peace — thus the conceptual thrust of nuclear deterrence.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The legendary Gurkha warriors are creating a new battalion

The legendary Gurkha units of the British Army have centuries of history as premier warfighters, earning top awards for individual and unit valor in combat from the Indian Mutiny in 1857, through both World Wars, Iraq, and Afghanistan. On March 11, Great Britain announced that it will be creating a new Gurkha rifle battalion, the infantry forces of the Gurkhas.


The history of the Gurkhas in 3 minutes

www.youtube.com

Gurkha warriors fought British Dutch East India Company soldiers in the early 1800s and did so much damage to the company military that its leaders tried to buy some of the Gurkhas over to their side, and they were successful.

(While many Gurkha histories, including the quick summary embedded above, gloss over this part of the timeline and make it sound like the Gurkha warriors were recruited after the war, the first units were recruited while the company was still fighting Gurkha forces. And yes, some Gurkha tribes fought directly against their brethren on behalf of the company. But these tribes had fought each other for years, so it’s not as shocking as you might think.)

The Gurkha units in the company military were immediately successful, and they proved deep loyalties during the Indian Mutiny in 1857-1858, saving British forces and government leaders that were nearly overrun during mass uprisings against British rule. The Gurkhas were so successful in these early decades working for the company that the British absorbed them into the Indian Army, part of the forces that fought for the British Crown.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

Colour Sgt. Dhan Prasad Ghale, a Gurkha assigned to the British Army’s 2nd Battalion, Royal Gurkha Rifles, follows a Malawi Defense Force soldier as he crawls towards an objective at Machinga Hills Training Area in Zomba, Malawi, May 30, 2018.

(U.S. Army Sgt. Asa Bingham)

Five Gurkha rifle regiments were originally absorbed into the Indian Army, and another three were transferred from the Bengal Army soon after. These rifle regiments served around the world in the Great War and World War II. When India gained its independence after World War II, these regiments were split between the Indian Army and the British Army.

The British Army units were organized into the British Brigade of Gurkhas with four rifle regiments as well as transportation, engineer, and signal units. But another reorganization in the 1990s trimmed the size of the Gurkha infantry down to two battalions.

When Prince Harry deployed to Afghanistan as a forward air controller, he did so with a Gurkha infantry battalion, partially because they are seen as some of the best in the world and could help keep him safe even during fierce frontline fighting.

But Britain announced March 11 that they would create another Gurkha infantry battalion, the 3rd Battalion, Specialist Infantry. Specialized infantry units are part of Britain’s new Specialised Infantry Group (British spelling), an infantry force that focuses on working with Britain’s allies, analogous to America’s new security force assistance brigades.

And the new Gurkha battalion is expected to be especially valuable in this role. The Gurkha units are still recruited from Nepal, and all of its members beef up on English when they are selected to serve in the British Army. That’s because the Nepalese people grow up speaking a caste language as well as Nepalese, and many speak Hindi. So, by the time they are trained by Britain for service in its army, most Gurkha warriors can speak four languages.

So, the new Gurkha specialized infantry will be filled with some of the world’s most elite and respected infantrymen who can speak four languages and teach their skills to most of Britain’s allies. It’s hard to imagine a force that would be better suited to the mission.

Articles

Why the longest-serving Bond was the ultimate vet

Roger Moore, famous for his roles on the small screen and his seven films over 12 years as James Bond, died at the age of 89 in Switzerland on May 23, 2017. His family said that he died “… after a short but brave battle with cancer.”


He had previously defeated prostate cancer.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse
Sir Roger Moore in London in 1973. (Photo: Allan Warren, Public Domain)

But while Moore is most famous for his acting career, a lot of soldiers could relate with the man’s little-known military service. Moore was drafted from a blue collar family in England in 1946, married his first of four wives while he was in the military, and then returned home to so little available work that he had to move to America.

In 1946 at the age of 18, Moore was an up and coming young actor and child of a police officer when his career was interrupted by conscription. He answered the call and married his friend, Lucy Woodard, who performed as an actress and ice skater under the name Doorn Van Steyn.

Moore was deployed to West Germany under the service ID number 372394 and rose to the rank of captain. After a short period, he was able to transfer into the Combined Services Entertainment Unit, a morale-boosting initiative that allowed some Cold War-era servicemen to complete their service obligation entertaining the rest of the military.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

According to a June 2015 question and answer session on his website, it was in the CSEU that he really enjoyed his national service.

When he left the military after about three years, Moore returned to England to pursue acting once again. Despite his training before the service as well as his experience in the British Army, jobs were few and he wasn’t able to make much headway.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

The jobs were so lean that Moore decided to move to Hollywood and pursue work there. Before he left, he divorced his first wife who he later accused of domestic violence.

In Los Angeles, he did some modeling and bit parts before MGM signed him and put him into a series of movies, none of which were hugely successful.

Moore transferred over to Warner Brothers where he saw more success and got a role on the TV show “The Saint,” a spy series that helped lead to his being cast as the lead in “Live and Let Die,” his first James bond role.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

For the next twelve years, Moore would film another six Bond movies including “The Man with the Golden Gun,” and “Octopussy.”

He continued acting after leaving the Bond role but also expanded his work in charitable causes. It was his extensive work as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF that led to his being knighted and becoming Sir Roger Moore.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Dutch intelligence agents fooled Communists for almost 40 years

By 1968, global Communism was very much a threat to Western Europe. In Czechoslovakia, a massive invasion of Warsaw Pact forces saw a revolution crushed under the communist boot. Eurocommunist parties were popping up in Spain, Finland, and Italy. In China, Mao Zedong had rejected reforms enacted by Deng Xiaoping and re-enacted the repressive policies that led to the Cultural Revolution there. Unlike the Americans, who faced the spread of global Communism with force, the Dutch decided to found the Marxist-Leninist Party of the Netherlands – a group with which China cooperated.

The Chinese didn’t know its pro-China party in the Netherlands was a run entirely by Dutch spies who just wanted information on Chinese intentions.


The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

Beijing even paid for the party newspaper, also run by Dutch spies.

A Dutch intelligence agent named Pieter Boevé set up the MLPN in 1968, gaining the trust of its Chinese Communist allies through the publication of its newspaper. Its timing was also fortuitous, as China and the Soviet Union had long before began to split in their view of what global Communism should look like. Since the MLPN embraced Maoist China and rejected the Soviet Union, that was even better for the Chairman. Using his MLPN, Boevé was able to expand his influence deeper into the party in Beijing.

His supposedly 600-member Communist party in a deeply capitalist society was the toast of the Communist world while Boevé ran the MLPN. In truth, there were only 12 members, but no one in the party or in the rest of the world knew that. Boevé could go anywhere in the Eastern Bloc, and China welcomed him with open arms so much, Zhou Enlai even threw a banquet in his honor. More importantly, they would brief him on the inner workings of the Chinese mission at the Hague.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

The math teacher who outsmarted global Communism.

After attending a Communist youth seminar in Moscow in 1955, Boevé was recruited by the BVD, the Dutch intelligence service, to play up his Communist bona fides. He accepted and soon visited Beijing for a similar congress. The Sino-Soviet Split played right into the BVD’s hands, and after he embraced Maoism, his fake party practically built itself. The Dutch were able to know everything about China’s secret workings inside their country, and the Chinese paid for it, all of it orchestrated by Boevé, who was never paid as a spy. He was a math teacher at an elementary school.

“I was invited to all the big events – Army Days, Anniversaries of the Republic, everything,” Boevé told the Guardian in 2004. “There were feasts in the Great Hall of the People and long articles in the People’s Daily. And they gave us lots of money.”

The secret was kept until after 2001, when a former BVD agent wrote a book about the agency’s secret operations. Boevé and his fake party were outed.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S., allies warn Syria against chemical attack in new offensive

The United States, France, and Britain are warning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad not to use chemical weapons as he launches a campaign to retake the last remaining rebel-held province in Syria.

In a joint statement issued late on Aug. 21, 2018, the three Western powers said “we remain resolved to act if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons again” as it embarks on a military offensive in Idlib Province after reasserting control over most other rebel-held areas of the country since 2017.


Assad’s forces have started heavily bombing and shelling Idlib, which lies next to the border with Turkey and where holdout rebels from all over the country were transported in recent months under Russian-brokered deals offering them safe passage to Idlib if they surrendered territory they once held around Damascus and other areas.

Assad’s assaults against major rebel strongholds in the country’s seven-year civil war have followed a pattern, with initial heavy bombing and artillery attacks followed by the alleged use of chemical weapons in an apparent attempt to intimidate rebels and force civilians to flee the area under siege.

In light of this pattern, the three Western powers stressed their “concern at the potential for further — and illegal — use of chemical weapons.”

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

The ruins of the 2018 American-led bombing of Damascus and Homs.

Britain, France, and the United States said that “our position on the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons is unchanged” since the three powers staged air raids in April 2018 to eliminate sites where chemical weapons allegedly were made, in response to an alleged chemical attack that occurred in Douma weeks earlier.

“As we have demonstrated, we will respond appropriately to any further use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime, which has had such devastating humanitarian consequences for the Syrian population,” the three powers said.

Assad has denied using chemical weapons, and efforts by Western powers at the UN to rebuke Syria over alleged chemical attacks have been batted down by Syria’s biggest ally, Russia, in recent years.

The impasse at the United Nations is what led the United States, Britain, and France to act on their own in early 2018

The three allies released their warning to Syria on the anniversary of what they called a “horrific” sarin-gas attack in Ghouta outside Damascus that killed more than 300 people five years ago.

That attack, which the West blamed on Assad’s forces, led to a U.S.-Russian agreement to rid Syria of its chemical stockpile and its means to produce the deadly chemicals.

But despite the agreement, numerous chemical attacks have occurred since then, with most of them documented by the global chemical weapons watchdog and blamed on the Syrian government.

The UN Security Council is scheduled to discuss the situation in Syria in August 2018.

Featured image: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the world’s combat-tested nuclear aircraft carriers stack up

Nuclear-powered aircraft carriers are more effective than conventionally-powered carriers for two basic reasons.

One, nuclear power provides more energy for catapults and sensors than fossil fuel; and two, the lack of fossil fuels onboard also frees up a lot of space for more missiles and bombs.

But there are only two countries in the world with nuclear-powered aircraft carriers: the United States and France.

France has one nuclear-powered carrier, the Charles de Gaulle. The US has a fleet of 11 nuclear-powered carriers, including two different classes, the Nimitz and Gerald R. Ford classes.


But the Ford-class only has one commissioned carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, and it has yet to see combat, while the USS Nimitz was commissioned in 1975, and has seen plenty.

The Charles de Gaulle, which was commissioned in 2001, has also seen combat for over a decade.

So we’ve compared the tried-and-trusted Nimitz and Charles de Gaulle classes to see how they stack up.

And there’s a clear winner — take a look.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

The USS Eisenhower (left) transits the Mediterranean Sea alongside the Charles de Gaulle (right) in 2016.

(US Navy photo)

The first big difference between the CDG and Nimitz-class carriers are the nuclear reactors.


Nimitz-class carriers have two A4W nuclear reactors, each of which provide 550 Megawatts of energy, whereas the CDG has two K15 reactors, each providing only 150 Megawatts.

Not only are Nimitz-class carriers faster than the CDG (about 34-plus mph versus about 31 mph), but they also need to be refueled about once every 50 years, whereas the CDG needs to be refueled every seven years.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

The USS Eisenhower (top) transits the Mediterranean Sea with the Charles de Gaulle (bottom) while conducting operations in support of US national security interests in Europe.

(US Navy photo)

Another big difference is size.


Nimitz-class carriers are about 1,092 feet long, while the CDG is about 858 feet long, which gives the Nimitz more room to stage and load airplanes for missions. Nimitz-class carriers also have about a 97,000 ton displacement, while the CDG has a 42,000 ton displacement.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

(US Navy photo)

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

Charles De Gaulle nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

(US Navy photo)

Whereas the CDG can carry a maximum of 40 aircraft, such as Dassault Rafales, Dauphins, and more.

However, both the CDG and Nimitz-class carries use Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery launch systems, which means the jets are catapulted forward during takeoff and recovered by snagging a wire with the tailhooks mounted under their planes when landing. CATOBAR launch systems are the most advanced in the world.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

RIM-7P NATO Sea Sparrow Missile launches from Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln during an exercise.

(US Navy photo)

As for defensive weapons, Nimitz-class carriers generally carry about three eight-cell NATO Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missile launchers. They also carry Rolling Airframe Missiles and about three or four Phalanx close-in weapons systems. These weapons are used to intercept incoming missiles or airplanes.


Source: naval-technology.com

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

Two Sylver long-range missile launchers on the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier.

The CDG, on the other hand, has four eight-cell Sylver launchers that fire Aster 15 surface-to-air-missiles, two six-cell Sadral short-range missile launchers that fire Mistral anti-aircraft and anti-missile missiles. It also has eight Giat 20F2 20 mm cannons.


Source: naval-technology.com

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

The USS Eisenhower transits the Mediterranean Sea alongside the Charles de Gaulle in 2016.

(US Navy photo)

Both Nimitz-class carriers and the CDG have seen their fair share of combat, especially the former.

The Nimitz-class has served in every US war since Vietnam, with its planes launching missions in Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. The USS Nimitz, the lead ship in the class, first saw action during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979.

The CDG was deployed to the Indian Ocean during Operation Enduring Freedom and the initial liberation of Afghanistan. It also took part in the United Nations’ no-fly zone over Libya in 2011, flying 1,350 sorties during that war.

More recently, de Gaulle was involved in France’s contribution to the air campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, codenamed Opération Chammal in France.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines just took tanks out of secret caves to train near Russia

US Marines from the 4th Tank Battalion withdrew tanks and weapons from caves in Norway early May, 2018, taking them east to Finland, where, for the first time, they took part in the annual mechanized exercise called Arrow 18.

The drills took place from May 7 to May 18, 2018, in southern Finland, which shares a long border with Russia and has a history of conflict with its larger neighbor. It involved about 150 armored vehicles and 300 other military vehicles. Only 30 Marines took part, but they were joined by thousands of personnel from Norway and Finland.


The live-fire event is led by the Finns, who perform the exercise with partner forces to test the fitness of their military, which is largely made up of conscripts.

“The Finnish Army’s mechanized exercise concentrates on mechanised units’ offensive and involves Army helicopter measures as well as Air Force flight activities,” the Finnish army said. “The exercise also aims at enhancing interoperability in cooperation with foreign detachments.”

Marines joined the multinational exercise for the first time “in order to increase interoperability, reassure partner nations, improve readiness and reinforce relationships,” a Corps spokesman told Marine Corps Times.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse
Marines with Bravo Company, 4th Tanks Battalion, fire a M1A1 Abrams tank during a low-light live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kankaanpaa, Finland, May 16, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

The Marine Corps began storing vehicles, weapons, and other supplies in caves in Norway during the Cold War in an effort to pre-position equipment in case of conflict. The gear is housed in a chain of six caves in the Trondheim region of central Norway; the exact location is not known.

Three caves have everything from rolling stock to towed artillery. The other three hold ammunition, officials told Military.com in 2017. There is enough gear and food to stock a force of 4,600 Marines for several weeks of combat with everything except aircraft and desktop computers.

“All of our major equipment was drawn from the caves in Norway,” Capt. Matthew Anderson, a tank commander who participated in the exercise, told Stars and Stripes. “This exercise would not have happened without the caves. The equipment, forward-staged, allows us to conduct these exercises. Without it, it’s a whole lot less likely that we would have been as successful as we were.”

Below, you can see what Marines faced during their first time in Finland.

Tensions between Russia and other countries in Europe have been elevated since early 2014, when Russia intervened in Ukraine and annexed Crimea.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse
U.S. Marines with Bravo Company, 4th Tank Battalion, fire the M1A1 Abrams tank during a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kankaanpaa, Finland, May 15, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

In the years since, NATO has reassessed its security posture in Europe, deploying more forces to eastern Europe and seeking to streamline operations.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse
Marines with Bravo Company, 4th Tanks Battalion, prepare to fire a 50-cal. machine gun mounted on a M1A1 Abrams tank during Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kankaanpaa, Finland, May 17, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

The initiative, designated Operation Atlantic Resolve, has seen multinational forces stationed in rotations in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. The US has also sought to rebuild its armored presence on the continent after withdrawing the last of its tanks in 2013.

The US Army’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, from the 1st Cavalry Division, known as the Ironhorse Brigade, recently arrived in Antwerp, Belgium, using the trip from the port to its base in Germany as a chance to practice the overland movements that a military mobilization would require.

Niether Finland nor Sweden are NATO members, but both countries have worked more closely with each other and the defense alliance to develop military capabilities and maintain readiness.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse
A Finnish soldier overlooks live-fire training in Pohjankangas Training Area, Finland, as part of Exercise Arrow 18, May 15, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

Helsinki said in early 2017 that it would increase troop numbers by 20% and add to its defense budget in response to rising tensions with Russia.

Source: Reuters

Russia singled out those moves closer to NATO by Finland and Sweden as a matter of “special concern.” Russia has also criticized neighboring Norway for allowing a US Marine rotational force to be stationed in the country — the first time a foreign force has been posted on Norwegian soil since World War II.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse
Marines with Bravo Company, 4th Tanks Battalion, drive the M1A1 Abrams tanks during a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kankaanpaa, Finland, May 16, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

Source: Reuters, Business Insider

The Marines deployed to Finland with M1A1 tanks for the exercise, where they were joined by soldiers from the Army’s 2nd Cavalry Regiment using Stryker armored vehicles. US personnel and a Finnish mechanized infantry brigade took part in a mock battle in woods and marshland in the western part of the country.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse
Marines with Bravo Company, 4th Tanks Battalion, fire a 50-cal. machine gun mounted on a M1A1 Abrams tank during Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kankaanpaa, Finland, May 17, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

Source: Stars and Stripes

The exercise saw Marines working with Finnish soldiers to attack the enemy, a role filled by other Finnish troops. “We would punch holes through the enemy lines and the conscripts would come in and give us support,” Anderson, the tank commander, told Stars and Stripes.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse
Marines with Bravo Company, 4th Tanks Battalion, fire an M1A1 Abrams tank during a low-light, live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kankaanpaa, Finland, May 16, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

Finnish army cooks also supplied troops in the field with hot meals every day, sparing soldiers and Marines from having to eat Meals, Ready to Eat. “It doesn’t get any better than that,” Anderson said.

The territory presented a new challenge for the Marines.

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse
Marines with Bravo Company, 4th Tanks Battalion, review the scheme of maneuver for a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kankaanpaa, Finland, May 16, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

“We’re used to operating in open terrain,” Anderson told Stars and Stripes. “This is very different. It is very forested, and we’ve had to adjust to the way Finnish tankers fight, more closely together.”

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse
Marines with Bravo Company, 4th Tanks Battalion, prepare their M1A1 Abrams tanks for a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kanakaanpaa, Finland, May 16, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

Source: Stars and Stripes

One of Finland’s Leopard 2 tanks got stuck in a swamp during the training, giving Marines a chance to show off. “That was a lot of fun for my crew,” Sgt. Jonathan Hess, a recovery-vehicle mechanic, told Stars and Strips. “We showed the conscripts how to do recovering with our vehicle, because they have nothing like what we have.”

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse
Finnish soldiers stage Leopard tanks during a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kankaanpaa, Finland, May 18, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

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