This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes - We Are The Mighty
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This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes

The Marine Corps is most famous for stripping away one’s individuality at boot camp and spitting recruits out 13 weeks later as Marines, formed into bands of brothers (and sisters).


But those bonds were tested when some of its strongest, toughest competitors battled one other in the second-annual High-Intensity Tactical Training Tactical Athlete Championship. When the dust settled after the fourth day of competition, the top male and female Marines were crowned “Ultimate Tactical Athlete.”

Sgt. Calie Jacobsen chewed up the final obstacle course event and took the top prize among 13 women who competed along 19 men to vie for bragging rights in the Aug. 15-18 service-wide competition at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego, California.

This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes
A Marine performs pushups with a pack during the 2nd Annual Tactical Athlete Championship aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, Aug. 17. The competition was a part of the Marine Corps’ High Intensity Tactical Training program and tested the strengths and abilities of Marines from different installations around the Corps. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Liah Kitchen/Released)

Jacobsen, 23, a nondestructive inspection technician at Miramar, spent eight weeks preparing for the championship and held the lead going into the final event, the obstacle course. The other women wouldn’t make that easy, but it was her strongest event. “I wasn’t planning on winning. I just wanted to go out there and do good,” she said. “The females definitely were at a higher level than I was expecting to see.”

Jacobsen and the male winner, Cpl. Ethan Mawhinney, each received a championship belt and 53-pound kettle bell.

Mawhinney, a 22-year-old from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, beat 18 other male Marines in his second shot at the service championship. He placed sixth last year in the inaugural contest. “I trained a lot harder for the prelims this year,” said the Marine air-ground task force planner from Camp Allen, Virginia. Winning “was surreal. I had left last year really hoping to take the title.”

HITT is like CrossFit, but for and by Marines. That means using brute strength, endurance and determination to survive tactical battles against fellow Marines on the athletic field, in the water and on the paintball battlefield.

“Competition was tough,” said Lance Cpl. Isaac Namowicz, an admin clerk with Marine Security Guard headquarters and this year’s Quantico Marine Corps Base, Virginia, HITT champ. “There’s a lot of passion.”

Marines traded tips and even encouraged each other during the championship, but each had a mission: Win. “You’re a brother, but at the same time, you are trying to beat everyone,” Mawhinney admitted. That included the male 2015 Ultimate Tactical Athlete, Cpl. Joshua Boozer.

Boozer, ammo tech with 1st Tank Battalion at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., was champ this year at his home base but met his match at Miramar.

“It’s not easy competition,” he said, catching his breath after enduring the “500 Yard Power Shuffle” where competitors did nearly a dozen events including tire flips, box jumps, dummy carry, weighted sled pull and push and a variety of weight lifts — on a sweltering athletic field. It was the longest event, time-wise.

The Marine Corps organized its first HITT competition last year, held at Twentynine Palms. Like last year, Marines learned events’ details at the start of the competition, so they didn’t really know what they’d face.

Ryan Massimo, the Corps’ HITT program manager and event coordinator, said the intent is to include some base-specific events – this year’s “Maneuver Under Fire” took place at Miramar’s paintball park – with physical challenges that reflect the strength and conditioning program. Last year, the run up and down the desert base’s hills while lugging heavy items made “sugar cookies” of a weakened competitor.

This year’s championship included a timed water event, the “Amphibious Tactical Challenge.” Competitors in boots and utes swam multiple laps bearing their pack and rubber rifle, and then they traversed the pool, diving and ducking with a pack under markers before cranking out 10 (men) or 5 (women) pushups wearing the pack. “It did definitely throw a curve ball for some people,” Mawhinney said.

Namowicz said he struggled in the pool.

“I was not expecting all that weight. It felt like cinder blocks,” he said. “My upper body was getting tired.”

At times, he’d talk to himself as he pushed weighted sleds or carried 35-pound ammo cans and 120-pound dummies in the sweltering heat. “I just kept saying, ‘Finish this.’ You have people in the stands pushing you, and it just keeps you motivated,” he said. “You just want to be done.”

Jacobsen hadn’t real plans to become competitive until the Miramar HITT Center coordinator encouraged her to the local HITT combine challenge. “I didn’t know how big it was, that it was Marine Corps-wide,” said the Nebraska native. “We just went in unassuming.”

And she finished first among the women, getting the ticket to compete against other installation winners for the championship.

She’s a HITT convert. The isolation workout she previously did for weightlifting “isn’t applicable to everyday life,” she said. Interval training demands endurance and strength and “is a lot more applicable to everyday life. That’s definitely changed my mindset.”

Thin crowds watched this year’s competition, but Jacobsen said she was glad to see her station commander and sergeant major on the sidelines. “It’s an awesome event, and it needs to be more widely broadcast,” she said.

It’s certainly not as well-known as the military’s most famous tactical-physical competition, the “Best Ranger.”

The 60-hour event at Fort Benning, Georgia, pits Army Rangers against each other in two-man teams to test their skills, including land navigation, small-arms firing, obstacles and, in true Ranger style, parachuting.

Not to be outdone, Marines run the less-known but still grueling and gung-ho “Recon Challenge” at Camp Pendleton, California. After a predawn swim in the Pacific, two-man Marine Recon and Marine Raider (and Navy recon corpsmen) teams run in boots-and-utes with rucksack and weapon, enduring a nonstop series of grueling events in the pool, on the range and along Pendleton’s roller-coaster scrubby hills.

A close parallel to the HITT championship may be the Army’s “Best Warrior” competition, a four-day contest where soldiers complete tactical challenges, written exams and fitness events in more battlefield-like environments. The top 10 soldiers and 10 noncommissioned officers who’ve bested their local competitors will vie for the title at this year’s contest, to be held Sept. 26-Oct. 3 at Fort A.P. Hill, Virgina. The Army National Guard held its own contest on June 22 at Joint Base Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Events included a 14-mile ruck march.

The Air Force’s 1st Air Support Operations Group put airmen through grueling individual challenges and 22 events over a week in July for “Cascade Challenge 2016.”

The contest, held at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska this year included navigating the wild Alaskan forests with body armor and 50-pound rucksack.

The Navy takes a different tack in sailor competition. Its surface fleet of destroyer, cruiser and frigate crews each year showcase their athletic and professional naval skills during “Surface Line Week.” Sailors went toe-to-toe in firefighting drills, valve packing, welding, small-arms shooting, sailing and stretcher-bearer races. Team events include dodgeball and soccer, so fun is the operative word.

East Coast units this year even raced off in a cardboard boat regatta.

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US flies bombers over South Korea after the North’s latest nuke test

On Tuesday, the US dispatched two US Air Force B-1B Lancer strategic bombers from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, in response to North Korea’s largest nuclear test.


The long-range supersonic strategic bombers were joined by Japanese F-2s for training to “enhance operational capabilities and the tactical skills of units.”

The bombers were then joined by South Korean F-15s and US F-16s for a low-level flight in the vicinity of Osan, South Korea. Upon completion of the bilateral flight, the B-1Bs returned to Andersen Air Force Base.

This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes
Two US Air Force B-1B strategic bombers from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, conducted training with fighter aircraft from the Japan Air Self Defense Force and a low-level flight with fighter aircraft from the Republic of Korea. | Photo by US Forces Korea

“These flights demonstrate the solidarity between South Korea, the United States, and Japan to defend against North Korea’s provocative and destabilizing actions,” US Pacific Commander Adm. Harry Harris said in a statement.

“North Korea continues to blatantly violate its international obligations, threatening the region through an accelerating program of nuclear tests and unprecedented ballistic missile launches that no nation should tolerate. US joint military forces in the Indo-Asia-Pacific are always ready to defend the American homeland. We stand resolutely with South Korea and Japan to honor our unshakable alliance commitments and to safeguard security and stability.”

This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes
A B-1B being escorted by F-16s Photo by US Forces Korea

On Monday, South Korea’s Defense Ministry spokesman said the rogue regime is ready to conduct an additional nuclear test at any time.

“Assessment by South Korean and US intelligence is that the North is always ready for an additional nuclear test in the Punggye-ri area,” spokesman Moon Sang-gyun said, according to Reuters.

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Here’s how WWII’s V-Mail prevented espionage

At the onset of World War II, writing letters was the preferred communication between soldiers and family members. In fact, oftentimes it was the only form of communication. Phone calls were few and far between, and usually, technology like telegrams were reserved for internal military communication. When it came to talking with loved ones, letters were their bread and butter. On average, each soldier wrote six letters per week — almost one every day — with each one taking up to four weeks to make it to their delivery address. If they were lucky, letters would be delivered in a single week. The process was long, tedious and expensive logistically, but also incredibly reassuring for those on the receiving end. 

In June of 1942, the U.S. Government announced a change in the way they delivered mail. Rather than collecting and delivering physical letters, they created Victory Mail. Shortened to V-Mail, it was a technology that took images of letters, then shipped the films — rather than sacks and sacks of paper — then re-printed smaller versions back in the U.S. The service was discontinued on November 1, 1945.

The benefits of V-Mail meant reducing plane cargo space; a film was 1/37th the space and weight of a paper letter. Films recorded up to 40 letters per minute, holding 1,600 on each roll of film. V-Mail letters could also be delivered quickly. As this was considered the number one morale booster to soldiers, there was heavy motivation to make V-Mail a success. 

V-Mail thwarted espionage

However, space wasn’t the only benefit to V-Mail, it also helped eliminate traitor and/or spy efforts against the U.S.

It did so in two ways:

First, all letters that went through V-Mail were censored. Sensitive information was deleted or removed from the correspondence altogether. There were folks whose entire job was to read letters and remove anything offensive or sensitive. Therefore, someone — willingly or not — sharing confidential information would have parts of their message redacted, ensuring nothing classified was transmitted.

Second, because V-Mail took images of letters, many spy tactics were made moot, to include invisible ink, microdots and microprinting. The latter two involved very small writings or codes that could only be deciphered by someone who knew what to look for, usually with a magnifying glass. But as V-Mail re-prints were at a quarter of the size of the original, tiny artifacts could not be identified. (It’s also likely that the image qualities were not clear enough to pick up such details.) 

Original copies of letters were kept by the receiving Post Office, assigning numbers so that “no V-Mail letter could ever be lost.” However, this meant copies with secret ink, etc. would not be seen by its intended recipient. 

Along with the speed of delivery, the ability to fight espionage was marketed as a patriotic way for V-Mail to help the war. In total, more than a billion V-Mail letters were sent until the end of the war in 1945.

Featured image: Left, National Archives; Right, WWII Museum

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This Air Force general could be the first female chief of staff

General Lori Robinson experienced a meteoric rise through the ranks of the U.S. Air Force. From 2012-2014, she added a star per year to her epaulets. She was the deputy commander of the USAF’s CENTCOM area of responsibility and the vice commander of the U.S. Air Force’s global strike force. She became the first female to command USAF combat forces when she took over Pacific Air Forces, which controls Air Force operations from the United States to the east coast of Asia and from Antarctica to the Arctic Ocean.


Now, she’s poised to make history again in 2016.

This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes
We assume she drops the mic at the end of her speeches. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Stewart/Released)

The current Air Force Chief of Staff (CSAF), General Mark Welsh III, is set to retire in the summer, and Robinson is on the short list to replace him.

She’s also in the running to head the U.S. Northern Command, which would make her the highest ranking combatant commander, tasked with defending the contiguous United States, Alaska, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico.

This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes

Robinson is also a unique choice because she would be the first non-pilot to be named CSAF. Her experience, however, includes more than 900 flight hours as a “senior battle manager” in the E-3B/C and E-8C aircraft.

“As far as the woman part of it all, I’m the commander at Pacific Air Forces,” Robinson recently said during an interview. “I’m a general of the United States Air Force; I’m an airman, and I happen to be a woman.”

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The ‘last casualty of the Civil War’ died of his wounds in 1914

Times were simpler in the days of the Civil War. Back then, any ol’ college professor might volunteer for the Union Army and become a straight up slayer of bodies, earning the Medal of Honor along the way. 

That’s how it was with Joshua Chamberlain, onetime professor of theology in Maine’s Bowdoin College. He turned in his mortarboard for the Union blue when the time came. He helped raise the 20th Maine Regiment, believing the south secession was treachery and eventually rose to become its commander. 

This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes
“I’m gettin’ too old for this…” -Joshua Chamberlain (maybe) (Photo by Immo Wegmann on Unsplash)

Chamberlain was a wildly accomplished Civil War officer and led a successful career after the war. Though he had finished with the Civil War by the time it came to an end, the Civil War wasn’t done with him. It came back to haunt Joshua Chamberlain in a big way – earning him the title of “last casualty of the Civil War.”

Before the Battle of Gettysburg, Chamberlain and the 20th Maine hadn’t seen much action. They were at the Battle of Fredericksburg, but missed out on the Battle of Chancellorsville. Chamberlain’s finest hour was yet to come. It would happen on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

That pivotal battle of the Civil War not only decided the outcome of the war, but of the lives of many of those who fought in the battle. For Joshua Chamberlain, this was a very good thing. He and the 20th Maine were positioned on the Union’s far left flank, a little hill called “Little Round Top.” Chamberlain realized how important his position was and as soon as it came time, he was determined to hold it. 

This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes
The Twentieth Maine, by Dominic D’Andrea (U.S. National Guard)

Confederate forces attacked the Mainers over and over throughout the day, often pushing the Union troops nearly double back on themselves. Chamberlain ordered a bayonet charge that pushed the Confederates down the hill, capturing 101 of them and saving the day for the Union. His stalwart defense of Little Round Top and decision to launch a bayonet charge earned him the Medal of Honor.

Throughout his Civil War career, Chamberlain had a total of six horses shot out from under him and suffered six different wounds. He survived most of them. One of the wounds just took a little longer to kill him than the others. About 50 years longer.

This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes
He likely would have been wounded more, but his glorious mustache deflected most bullets (U.S. Army)

In 1864, Chamberlain was wounded at the Battle of Petersburg, as the Army of the Potomac attempted to capture the supply lines of Robert E. Lee’s Army of North Virginia. The Union laid siege to the city of Petersburg, and would eventually attack the city in earnest two months later. During the June 18 battle, Chamberlain was shot through the right hip and groin, with the bullet exiting through his left hip.

The doctors on the battlefield believed the wound would be fatal and told him as much. He had lost so much blood that he passed out on the battlefield. Newspapers in Maine reported his death and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant gave him a battlefield promotion to brigadier general believing he would die. 

But he didn’t die. Through sheer tyranny of will, he survived and continued to serve in the war. Not only was he wounded once more and almost captured, he also received a promotion from President Lincoln himself. 

After the war, Chamberlain went on with life as normal. He returned to teaching classes, was active with veterans groups, and even served as the Governor of Maine. He died in 1914 of complications from the wound he suffered at the Second Battle of Petersburg 50 years prior. The reason we know that is because one of his original battlefield surgeons was next to him as he died. 

That’s how Joshua Chamberlain became known as “The last casualty of the Civil War.”

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4 times armies blasted music to intimidate and infuriate their enemies

What an awesome scene.


Army military helicopters flying in on the North Vietnamese, guns blazing, as Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” plays from loudspeakers. This wasn’t reality – though rumor has it tankers in Desert Storm did the same thing – it was from the film “Apocalypse Now.”

But music has been a part of war for a long time. Horns, buglers, and drummers sounded orders for entire armies from the Classical era until as late as the Korean War. Even in psychological operations, the use of music is not a novelty – Joshua is said to have used horns as a weapon when he captured Jericho.

From biblical times to post-9/11, here are few contemporary examples of armies using music against the enemy.

1. Metallica, “Enter Sandman” – Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

Clive Stafford Smith, the founder of the Human Rights Group Reprieve, detailed the use of music on detainees in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay. The group says music was used at “earsplitting” volume and on repeat to shock and break prisoners into confessing crimes, and it worked. The detainees allegedly confessed to crimes they couldn’t physically have committed – anything to make the music stop.

Among these were Barney the Dinosaur’s “I Love You” song, “Bodies” by the band Drowning Pool, and “Enter Sandman” by Metallica.

“Part of me is proud because they chose Metallica,” frontman James Hetfield said in an interview with 3SAT, a German media outlet. “And part of me is bummed that people worry about us being attached to some political statement because of that… politics and music for us don’t mix.”

2. 4Minute, “HUH (Hit Your Heart)” – Korean DMZ

The main feature of the Korean Demilitarized Zone are the thousands of North and South Korean (and U.S.) troops literally staring each other down, daring each other to try something cute. It’s an intense area and you can cut through the tension with a knife. Each has tried a number of “cute” things to irk the others, including fake cities, propaganda billboards, and ax murders. In 2010, the weapon of choice became Korean pop music.

When North Korea sunk the South Korean warship Cheonan that year, The South responded by blasting propaganda messages across the border using 11 enormous loudspeakers aligned in the DMZ. They also used the song “HUH (Hit Your Heart)” by the Kpop group 4Minute, over and over. It got to be so much that the North threatened to turn Seoul into a “Sea of Flame” if the music didn’t stop.

3. Britney Spears, “Oops! I Did It Again” – Horn of Africa

By 2013, the Somali pirate fleet operating in the Horn of Africa was such a problem, the UK’s Royal Navy had 14 warships on alert in the area. Attacks have decreased since then, thanks to increased attention by international naval patrols. But there are a few merchant mariners who think Britney Spears might have had a hand in it as well.

The UK’s merchant navy told the Mirror in 2013 that they found blasting Britney Spears’ “Oops I Did It Again” and “Baby One More Time” at pirate skiffs warded off the pirates.

“They’re so effective the ship’s security rarely needs to resort to firing guns,” one merchant told the Mirror. “As soon as the pirates get a blast of Britney they move on as quickly as they can.”

 4. Martha and the Vandellas, “Nowhere to Run” – Operation Just Cause

In December 1989, the United States invaded Panama after its leader Gen. Manuel Noriega discarded the results of a national election and Panamanian troops killed a U.S. Marine and wounded another. American troops were sent to safeguard its citizens lives, enforce the election results, and capture and extradite Noriega to the United States.

Noriega took refuge in the Vatican City diplomatic mission in Panama City, and the U.S. military kept up physical pressure on him to surrender by blasting songs like “Nowhere to Run,”  Nazareth’s “Hair of the Dog,” and the Clash’s “I Fought the Law.”

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Marine commandant wants to extend dwell time, speed up aviation recovery

The commandant of the Marine Corps wants the service to come up with a strategy to give Marines more time at home between deployments before the end of the year and get new aircraft cranking off production lines ahead of schedule.


Those are two of the 25 time-sensitive tasks for service commanders published Tuesday alongside Gen. Robert Neller’s second major message to the force. In the task list, he calls on Marine Corps leadership to invest in people, build up readiness, and take training into the future.

Also read: This Marine just retired after 54 years of service

Neller’s checklist tasks Marine Corps Forces Command and Manpower and Reserve Affairs with developing a plan to give Marines on average more than twice as much time at home than they spend deployed.

Increasing “dwell time,” as it’s called, from the current 1:2 ratio has long been cited by Marine Corps commanders as a goal at odds with the service’s high deployment tempo and ongoing force reductions. As leaders await approval of a defense budget measure that would modestly increase the size of the force for the first time in years, Neller’s order is a signal that times may be changing.

This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes
A Marine signals to move forward in an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) during an amphibious landing for Exercise Dawn Blitz 2015. | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Riley

“The optimal deployment-to-dwell ratio will not be the same for all elements of the [Marine air-ground task force] and we must strike the right balance between risk-to-force, risk-to- mission, and risk-to-institution,” Neller cautioned in the document. “Potential factors to consider among others: increasing the end strength of the force, growing key Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs), and decreasing in Global Force Management (GFM) demands.”

Another goal dependent on budget decisions is the plan to accelerate aviation recovery for the service, which has seen aircraft readiness rates and pilots’ flight hours plummet and then begin to recover in the last two years.

In an interview this month in his office at the Pentagon, Neller said the Corps would try to buy new aircraft faster, including F-35B Joint Strike Fighters, to replace aging legacy platforms, and petition Congress to fully fund the service’s flight hour program and spare parts requirements so aviation readiness as a whole will improve.

“We’re going to be in a position where we’re fielding new aircraft and sustaining legacy aircraft for a number of years and it would be nice if the [operational] tempo would go down, but I don’t see that happening either. So we’ve got to do this all on the fly,” Neller said. “We’ve got to improve our readiness and continue to meet our requirements.”

This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes
Gen. Robert Neller | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shawn Valosin

Whether or not the extra money rolls in within future defense budgets, Neller is asking aviation leaders to come up with more efficient ways to accelerate the recovery plan.

He’s also calling for better training for aviation maintenance Marines, citing recent readiness reviews that highlighted a lack of training and standardization in these fields. By improving and standardizing the training pipeline for specialized aviation maintainers, he wrote, “We can improve overall readiness and performance of Marine Aviation.”

In parallel, Neller wants commanders to develop a comprehensive plan by the end of the year to modernize the Marine Corps ground combat element, allowing infantry Marines to fight with similar technological and training advantages to their aviation counterparts.

He reiterated his desire to get quadcopter drones fielded to each Marine rifle squad “immediately,” and said he wanted to see ground Marines take advantage of the 5th-generation platforms, sensors and networks that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will bring to the force.

Neller endorsed a growing trend in the Marine Corps to tailor equipment and gear to the specific needs of the ground combat Marine.

In 2015, the Corps announced that infantry Marines would use M4s as their standard service rifle, while non-infantrymen would continue to carry the longer M16; and last fall, Marine Corps Systems Command held an event focused on equipping infantry Marines with tailor-made gear specific to their jobs, with leaders even discussing the possibility of tailoring Meals, Ready to Eat to the needs of grunts.

“While every Marine is a rifleman, not all Marines serve in or alongside ground combat units like the infantry as they actively locate, close with, and destroy enemies by fire and maneuver,” Neller wrote. “Their mission and risks are unique. From clothing and equipment to training, nutrition, and fitness, we must look at and develop the [ground combat element’s] capabilities differently than the rest of the MAGTF.”

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Get your tissues — The Rock just surprised a combat vet

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a big supporter of the troops, and this isn’t the first time he’s surprised a vet, but his sincerity and flare always make for a heart-catching watch.


He partnered with Ford to unveil the 2018 Ford Mustang, and he decided to take it one step further by giving the car to combat Army veteran Marlene Rodriguez, who earned the Purple Heart for injuries received from an RPG while serving in Mosul.

Her reaction was stunned as she said, “I don’t deserve all this.” Johnson replied with, “You deserve more,” and we all lost our sh**.

His Instagram caption of the reveal was perfect (including the emojis–we’ve kept them intact for you):

This one felt good. Very good. ?? Our Ford partners asked me to unveil the never seen before, brand new 2018 FORD MUSTANG to the world. As their Ambassador, I’m happy to do.

With a twist.

Myself and Ford compiled a big list of US veterans and from that list, I chose Army combat vet Purple Heart recipient, Marlene Rodriguez to surprise and give it away to her.

It was such a cool moment that all of us in the room will never forget.

When Marlene, stopped and just looked at me and asked “Why?”, well that’s when I may or may not have gotten a lil’ emotional with my answer – in a bad ass manly way of course.

Why? Because of the boundless gratitude and respect I have for you, Marlene and all our men and women who’ve served our country. Just a small way of myself and the good people of FORD of saying THANK YOU.

A HUGE thank you to FORD, our SEVEN BUCKS PRODUCTIONS and everyone who was involved in making this awesome surprise come true.

Finally, thank you FORD for making the new 2018 Mustang straight ?, completely customizable for the world to enjoy. Thanks also for making sure I fit in it as well.

Marlene, fits better. ?. Enjoy your ride mama. Enjoy that Dodger game. You deserve it. 

It’s okay if you get a little misty-eyed over this one. We did.

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This is actual WWII footage of a tank duel

While everyone talks about D-Day, what’s often forgotten is that getting past the Atlantic Wall was only the first step. The Allies had to fight their way out of Normandy and into the rest of France — not to mention across Germany.


This wasn’t easy. Germany had some very well-trained troops who were determined to put up a fight. One of the places where the Nazis held up the Allies was Villers-Bocage — a village to the southwest of Caen, a major objective of the initial staged.

 

This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes
This version of the M4 Sherman could take on the German Tiger tank on even terms and win. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to Battle of Normandy Tours, on June 13, 1944, a force of British tanks from the famous 7th Armoured Division — also known as the “Desert Rats” — headed towards Villers-Bocage. At that village, a company of German Tiger tanks, under the command of Michael Wittman, fought the British force of Cromwell and Sherman Firefly tanks.

This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes
A German Tiger in Sicily, 1943. (U.S. Army photo)

When all was said and done, Wittman’s force had destroyed 27 Allied tanks, according to WarfareHistoryNetwork.com. The Germans had also killed, wounded, or captured 188 Allied troops.

This video shows some of the fighting that took place during the Battle of Villers-Bocage. Warning: It does show some of the consequences of when armored vehicles are destroyed.

History, YouTube

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Go behind the scenes with the military side of “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”

This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes


“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” was an ambitious project for Tina Fey to undertake for a couple of reasons: First, it’s a drama and not a comedy. Second, she plays a journalist embedded with the U.S. military in Afghanistan, which means the movie tees up a lot of military details that Hollywood has a history of getting wrong — much to the chagrin of the military community.

But fortunately for Ms. Fey, the production team behind “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” knew a few things about making a movie that deals with military subjects, not the least of which was understanding how to navigate the Pentagon’s approval process.

“Because of this script we had a need from the beginning to get the U.S. military to support the project,” producer Ian Bryce said. “The military does quite well to make these movies great.”

Bryce approached the Department of Defense’s director of entertainment media, Philip Strub, a guy he’d worked with before on other military-related movies. Strub had some reservations about whether “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” ultimately presented the U.S. military in the right light.

“But we talked it through,” Bryce said.

Ultimately Bryce was able to convince Strub that “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” was an accurate, positive portrayal of the American military experience, and so the effort got the green light from the Pentagon for direct U.S. military support. The crew wound up using Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico to replicate Bagram Air Force Base as well as the surrounding lands to replicate the wilds of Afghanistan.

The movie features Air Force pararescue airmen and their assets including H-60 helicopters and CV-22 tiltrotors. And although access to the real people and machinery made the shoot easier (and provided a greater guarantee of accuracy), Bryce pointed out that it still took a great deal of coordination to get the job done while honoring the fact that making movies wasn’t the U.S. Air Force’s primary duty.

“We recognized and embraced the fact that we were guests on a military facility,” Bryce said. “They are doing much more serious stuff.”

Watch:

The digital HD version of “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” has just been released  and contains special features including an interview with the author of the original book, in-depth looks at life in Afghanistan and how war correspondents cope with stress, and deleted scenes. Look for the Blu-Ray version on June 28.

Check out more about “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” here and here.

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The difference between Air Force and Army hair expectations

Civilians might think of military hair regulations as one standard look (see: jarhead), but there’s actually some variance among the branches. The “high and tight” sported by soldiers and Marines is much too short for your average airman.

Just ask Air Force captain Mark Harper.


In 2005, Harper deployed to Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq as Officer In Charge of the Joint Combat Camera team. Though he deployed with the Air Force, it was a joint environment, so Harper found himself reporting to an Army colonel and supervising about 40 grunts.

This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes

The first day he reported to Army HQ, those soldiers jumped on the chance to give him a hard time about his hair (which is probably a good thing — you only haze the people you like, right? Right?).

“I learned my schedule was intense and I wouldn’t be able to get someone else to cut it, but I wasn’t going to endure this mockery again, so I thought, ‘How hard can this be? I’m just going to cut it myself…'”

He lucked out — the Post Exchange sold Wahl clippers.

That night at 0200 he finally found some spare time to cut his hair.

Also read: These are the rules NATO allies have about growing beards

With no practical experience selecting clipper guards, Harper wasn’t exactly sure what he was doing, but the Wahl gear was pretty intuitive and he even managed to fade it on the sides.

“So I officially did it. I cut my own hair.”

He then walked proudly into the Air Force tent.

Check out the video below to see their reaction:

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We Are The Mighty is proud to partner with Wahl, the leader in the professional and home grooming field.

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8 text messages from your Master Chief you never want to read

We’re hoping the top leaders in your unit don’t have your cellphone number, but if they do, the text messages you may someday receive probably won’t be fun to read.


There’s a way of gauging the level of trouble you’re in by the person who contacts you about your offense. The first and less severe level is your shop LPO (Leading Petty Officer). The second level is your chief and the third and most severe level is your Command Master Chief, also known as the CMC.

It’s never a good thing if your CMC skipped this chain to contact you directly. Here are nine text messages you’ll dread receiving from master chief:

1. Why is your liberty buddy in my office and you’re not?

You and your buddy submitted liberty plans agreeing to watch over each other during the weekend. Now you’re at your girlfriend’s place wondering what kind of trouble your buddy has gotten both of you in.

This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes

2. It’s called Cinderella liberty for a reason shipmate. WHERE THE F–K ARE YOU?!

Cinderella liberty means that you have to be on the ship by midnight. You haven’t earned overnight liberty at your new command. Do you play the new guy card and say you got lost or do you stay out all night and live it up while you can?

3. You better be dead, hurt or kidnapped. There’s no excuse for missing ship’s movement.

The CMC is right, there’s no excuse for missing ship’s movement. It had better been worth it, don’t expect to go on liberty for a long time.

 

This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes

4. Last minute change, your duty section is doing load-in tomorrow. Muster time is 0600.

The CMC doesn’t actually believe you’re sober on the last night before pulling out to sea. But he’s the CMC, so whatever he says, goes. Stop drinking now and prepare for a full day of intensive labor.

This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes

5. I’m not approving this marriage chit until I talk to you.

But CMC, I love this woman. I know she’s a little older, and her English isn’t great, but I think it’s time. We’ve been dating for six months.

6. I need to talk to you about chief’s Captain’s Mast tomorrow. Come to my office.

Do you comply with the CMC and lie at Captain’s Mast or do you throw him and the chief under the bus?

7. I just got a call from the MAs. Your entire shop is being accused of hazing the new guy.

Hazing is an egregious offense in today’s Navy. You and your shop will be the example for what not to do for years to come.

8. I just got a call from security. Your duty driver was in a wreck and he was drunk.

You’ve just lost your duty section leadership position. In the CMC’s mind, that idiot is a direct reflection of your leadership.

This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes

NOW: The 4 biggest myths US Marines keep telling themselves

OR: 9 text messages from First Sergeant you never want to read

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This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell

What was the worst thing about being a soldier assigned to the invasion of Normandy? Probably the beaches with Nazi machine guns raining hell down, right?


Well, some historians make a pretty good case that it was actually the French gardens and farms that spread throughout Normandy.

This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes
The hedgerows of the Cotentin Peninsula. (Photo: Public Domain)

While American farms and yards are split by fences — split rail fences in the early days and mostly barbed wire by the World War II years — the farms in Normandy were split by ancient hedgerows.

Originally built by the Romans, the hedgerows were mounds of dirt raised in irregular patterns that served as fences between plots of land. Irrigation ditches with raised sides provided water to all the fields and animals.

Over the hundreds of years since the dirt mounds were raised, thick, tall growths of plants had turned the ditches into tunnels and raised virtual walls of up to 16 feet on top of the mounds.

This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes
Normandy, France, July 15, 1944. (Painting by Keith Rucco for The National Guard)

These wall of vegetation were thick and seemingly impossible to quickly cut through. And the hedgerows were everywhere, an aerial photo of a typical section of the battlefield showed over 3,900 hedged enclosures in less than eight square miles.

Each of these enclosures was a virtual fortress, and the Germans had spent months preparing their defenses. They practiced moving through the hedges, selected areas for machine guns and anti-tank weapons, and practiced firing from trees into nearby enclosures.

Perhaps most importantly, they had planted stakes near the most likely routes of American troops and had mapped the locations of the stakes by coordinates, allowing defenders to quickly and accurately call fire onto the advancing Allies.

This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes
Advancing through an opening in the hedgerows was risky at best. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Compounding the problem was the irregular shape of the enclosures. The rows weren’t laid out in a proper grid. Instead, they were roughly rectangular as a whole, but with a variety of sizes even among adjoining fields. And all of these fields were connected primarily by thin wagon trails that wound through the irregular enclosures.

All of this combined to form a defender’s paradise and an attacker’s hell. In the first days of the Battle for the Hedgerows, American troops would assault an enclosure at full speed, attempting to use velocity and violence of action to overwhelm the defenders. German machine guns pointed directly at these openings cut them down instead.

This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes
(Photo: U.S. National Archives)

While the German defenses in the hedgerows greatly delayed the American advance, the Allies did eventually find a way to breakthrough. At first, armored and infantry units had worked largely independent of each other. The tanks had tried to stay on the move to avoid German anti-tank weapons and artillery while the infantry had slowed down to try and avoid ambushes.

But Sgt. Curtis Grubb Culin III, an armor soldier from New Jersey, figured out the fix. He welded a bar across the front of the tank and added four metal prongs across it. The prongs acted as plows and cutters, allowing the tanks to push through the hedgerows, destroying the obstacles without exposing any of the tanks’ weak points.

This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes
(Photo: U.S. Army)

This allowed the tanks to cut new routes for the infantry while reducing their own vulnerabilities as well. The Allied soldiers began engaging in a true combined arms manner with tanks opening the way and infantrymen advancing just behind.

The infantry would help quickly knock out anti-tank weapons while the tanks could help destroy fortified machine gun nests and cut through hedgerow after hedgerow.

To see what the American GIs had to fight through, check out this video:

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