How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY GAMING

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Violent video games have become embedded within American culture over the past several decades and especially since 9/11. First-person shooters, in particular, have become increasingly popular.

These games – in which players are positioned behind a gun – have turned a generation of kids into digital warriors who fight terrorists and battle alien invaders. Many play first-person shooters for pure, innocent enjoyment. Some like achieving objectives and being a part of a team. And, for others, it simply feels good to eliminate an enemy – especially someone who’s trying to harm them.


For the U.S. military, the rise of first-person shooters has been a welcome development. In recent years, the military has encouraged many of its soldiers to partake in the thrill of violent video games as a way to continue combat training, even when not on active duty. (In fact, using games to teach military tactics has been a longstanding practice in the U.S. military: Before video games, troops were encouraged to play military-themed board games.)

The games allow soldiers to take their combat roles home with them and blur their on-duty responsibilities with their off-duty, noncombat routines and lives.

But what effect have these video games had on U.S. soldiers? How accurately do they depict military life? And do they actually help recruit, train and retain troops?

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

The games in the Arma series strive to simulate combat. In this sequence from Arma 2, a helicopter insertion goes wrong as troops try to take a contested airfield.

(YouTube/GamerDudester)

From battle screen to battlefield

As part of a study, we interviewed 15 current and former members of the U.S. military who were between 24 and 35 years old to understand the role violent first-person shooter games played in their recruitment and training.

The majority of interviewees told us it was important to stay in the mindset of a soldier even when not on duty. To them, first-person shooters were the perfect vehicle for doing this.

Game preferences varied among the soldiers we interviewed, but popular titles included “Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2” and “ARMA 2,” which a current member of the Army said was “one of the most hardcore assault experiences in gaming.”

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, players fight a campaign across the world and in space during a war between the U.S. and Russia.

(YouTube/Bolloxed)

Meanwhile, an Iraq War veteran described “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2” and “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” as “the ultimate first-person shooter experiences ever” and “intensive and highly realistic approaches to tactical combat. The choice of attacking with stealth or unleashing an all-out frontal assault full of mayhem is yours. It’s violent, it’s chaotic, it’s beautiful.”

In this, the Iraq War veteran seems to say that video games can reflect real-life combat situations, an attitude that others share.

Altered realities

But it’s tough to make the case that games accurately simulate what a soldier’s life is really like. First, military tours of duty are not solely made up of hard-charging, chaotic battles, like those in first-person shooters. The majority of soldiers won’t participate in any full-frontal combat operations.

Second – and, most importantly – in the digital world there are no legal and ethical considerations. When things go wrong, when innocent people are killed, there are no ramifications. If anything, the games warp these real-world consequences in the minds of players; in 2012, psychologists Brock Bastian, Jolanda Jetten and Helena R.M. Radke were able to use brain scans to show that playing violent video games had the potential to desensitize players to real-life violence and the suffering of others.

In a 2010 article for the Brookings Institution, political scientist Peter Singer quoted a Special Forces soldier who was involved in the production of “America’s Army 360,” a video game developed to recruit and train enlistees.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

An American city burns in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

(YouTube/Bolloxed)

“You lose an avatar; just reboot the game,” the soldier said. “In real life, you lose your guy; you’ve lost your guy. And then you’ve got to bury him, and then you’ve got to call his wife.”

Indeed, journalist Evan Wright wrote in his book “Generation Kill” that solders were on “intimate terms with the culture of video games, reality TV shows and internet porn.”

Real-life combat, however, was something entirely different.

“What I saw was a lot of them discovered levels of innocence that they probably didn’t think they had,” Wright wrote. “When they actually shot people, especially innocent people, and were confronted with this, I saw guys break down. The violence in games hadn’t prepared them for this.”

Thus video games might suck soldiers in – offering a tantalizing taste of the glory and excitement of battle. But they do little to prepare them for the types of threats that actually exist on the battlefield.

“When I really think of the government seeing that as training, I laugh,” one of our interviewees told us. “But I also feel a bit uneasy.”

Militarizing legions of gamers

Regardless of their effectiveness as training tools, violent video games can certainly act as a valuable tool for connecting the military with potential recruits. In addition to influencing the decisions of gamers to pursue military service, they can also be used to promote the geopolitical goals of the military.

Journalist Hamza Shaban, in a 2013 article for The Atlantic, described just how deep the Army’s relationship had become with the commercial gaming industry, creating what he dubbed a “military-entertainment complex.” According to Shaban, the games that emerged from this relationship – an exciting, simplified, easy-to-play version of warfare – encouraged gamers to consider a career in the military.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Frontlines: Fuel of War attempts to simulate what World War 3 in the near future would look like.

(YouTube/Best War Games Channel)

Meanwhile, games such as “UrbanSim,” “Tactical Iraqi” and “Frontlines: Fuel of War” teach players and potential recruits about the discourse of modern-day warfare. Missions include battling Islamic militants, winning over potentially hostile populations and establishing pro-Western, pro-democratic societies. They engage with the fundamentals of insurgency and counterinsurgency, present the dangers of improvised explosive devices and highlight the military usefulness of weaponized drones.

However, to some of the soldiers and ex-soldiers we spoke to, the value of playing first-person shooters amounted to little more than propaganda.

“The idea of us training using these games is a bit of a [disaster],” one said. “What the U.S. seeks to achieve through the use of these games is not entirely within their control. It might be a cheap way of getting us involved … but it’s hardly ‘training.'”

Another called first-person shooters “more like brainwashing than anything.”

“But you have to be pretty stupid to buy into all this,” he added. How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers


This article was created by Scott Nicholas Romaniuk, University of Trento and Tobias Burgers, Freie Universität Berlin.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here.

Articles

This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

When a stranger says “Thank you for your service” to a veteran, it’s often an awkward — and short — conversation. For some veterans, being thanked for their job seems odd: I didn’t really do much, some may think. You’re thanking me for something you don’t even understand is another thought that may come to mind.


When I hear it, I cordially say thank you back. In my opinion, it takes some guts for a random stranger to approach and express that appreciation. But I sometimes think it may be the wrong sentiment. Sadly, “Thank you for your service” has become the end of the conversation, not the beginning. It’s a phrase that has become a punchline in military circles — thought as empty and overused — and takes away from what could be a chance for civilians to ask questions and really understand what troops have done.

Air Force veteran Elizabeth O’Herrin responds in a similar way, saying “my pleasure” in response. But was it really? As she explains in a wonderful essay at the website Medium, the exchange of pleasantries can take a quick turn:

Upon returning home, being thanked for my service became something I found awkward. My experience was not that traumatic. It was not that dangerous. It didn’t truly feel like a sacrifice. Other people certainly deserved a thank you, but not me. Not when I remembered leaning over a guy who had just lost his leg, scrubbing blood from his hands, attempting a conversation to soothe him when he was incoherent, doped up on morphine. Digging through his bag to find his Purple Heart because he became panicked when he couldn’t remember where they put it. I dug through the normal shit he packed in his bag earlier that day, back when he had two legs, like bubble gum. “Thank you for your service.”
I didn’t deserve much thanks for anything.

O’Herrin, who helped fuse bombs on jets that were later dropped on the bad guys, is and should be proud of her service. Like many of the post-9/11 military generation, she volunteered at a time of war and performed an essential job that most certainly resulted in saved lives on the ground.

In her essay, she recalls seeing a wounded veteran on the D.C. metro, and making eye contact with his mother. She struggles in that moment with wanting to tell the mother — who has no idea she is a veteran — that she understands at least some of what she’s going through. She wants to empathize with her, and tell her that she feels her pain.

“But I knew I couldn’t say something without sounding vapid and empty, swiping at some semblance of shared experience and missing entirely,” O’Herrin writes.

In this experience, she learns an important point, and one that perhaps all veterans should take to heart. While “thank you for your service” can sometimes sound like an empty phrase, just remember in that time before you heard it, that person had to work up the courage to approach when they were not obligated in any way. Far from the awful homecoming of our Vietnam veterans who were sometimes cursed by those who never served, this generation of veterans should accept that phrase and embrace it.

“They wanted me to know they felt something, and chose to say it,” O’Herrin writes in her closing. “And I feel grateful for their words.”

Now read the entire thing over at Medium

MIGHTY TRENDING

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

Defense Department officials want Congress to include in its fiscal 2019 defense policy bill new authorities to execute its plan to merge the Defense Commissary Agency with the three military exchange services under a single system of on-base stores to be called the Defense Resale Enterprise.

Resisting that effort out of public view are executives of the exchange services who fear their own success in running base department stores, gas stations and convenience outlets, which generate profits to support on-base morale, and recreational activities, could be put at risk by some of the policy executives they blame for deepening the decline in sales across the commissary system.


In 2016, Congress gave the department authority and new tools to “transform” base grocery stores, which for generations relied on taxpayer dollars to offer a wide array of brand products to military families and retirees at cost.

In addition, shoppers pay a five percent surcharge to fund the modernizing or replacement of aging commissaries.

The goal of recent reforms is to turn commissaries into profit-generating stores, similar to exchanges, thus lowering the $1.3 billion annual subsidy so that money can be diverted to more critical needs for sustaining a ready fighting force.

Congress insisted, however, that overall savings to patrons not drop, even as DeCA phases in more business-like practices. Two big ones are variable pricing of goods to replace the tradition of selling at cost, and adoption of commissary-label goods to compete for patron dollars with a narrowed selection of national brands.

Manufacturers over have competed through pricing for commissary shelf space. Surviving brands, in turn, often have cut coupon offerings and other promotions to make up for lower pricing, say industry sources.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
(Photo by Chiara Mattirolo)

Meanwhile, they have complained, it’s unclear whether their reduced profit margins are being passed on to patrons or retained to offset commissary operating costs. So far, critics in industry contend, one clear consequence of commissary reforms has been to accelerate declining sales.

Policy officials implementing the reforms are now seen as doubling down on their bet, insisting that, to survive, military resale stores must consolidate to squeeze out inefficiencies, rescue commissaries and evolve into super retailers to more effectively compete with commercial stores, not only on prices but on providing a more attractive, rewarding, and convenient shopping experience.

Officials are warning Congress, store suppliers and advocates for military shoppers that defending the status quo, amid falling sales, will jeopardize “the department’s ability to ensure the long-term viability” of base stores.

The comment appears in a draft legislative proposal for creating the Defense Resale Enterprise by merging DeCA with the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, Navy Exchange Command and the Marine Corps exchange system.

A merger, the proposal contends, will reduce reliance on appropriated funding; eliminate management redundancies; increase standardization of processes and systems; cut operating costs, and generate greater margins on goods sold “to be reinvested in price reductions, morale, welfare and recreation program funding and capital reinvestment.”

It also contends it “will increase the enterprise’s agility to respond to dynamic mission, industry and patron requirements and trends; and [to] ensure the long-term viability of these services” as benefits of military service.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
(Photo by Masayuki Kawagishi)

Sources say exchange officials are concerned that the team executing what so far are unproven commissary reforms is directing a merger of all resale operations with misleading claims. They are bristling at briefing materials to explain merger plans that lump exchanges in with DeCA as distressed operations. That’s just wrong, exchange leaders are contending, according to sources.

For example, AAFES touts that it has almost doubled earnings from sales over a recent five-year period, from 3.2 percent in 2012 to 5.9 percent in 2016, despite an 11 percent force drawdown across Army and Air Force in those years. Also, its website business is growing 50 percent annually and AAFES says it consistently has delivered about $375 million annually to support MWR programs.

And yet, sources say, to win support for a merger, Defense officials have portrayed exchanges as part of a failing resale system. The only store system that has been mismanaged, particularly against outside competitors, is DeCA, they insist. One internal communication referred to DeCA “the elephant in the room,” with sales down 20 percent since 2012 and current reforms aggravating patrons rather than turning sales around.

On April 12, 2018, Defense officials briefed some military associations on merger plans, perhaps also learned what sort of resistance to expect. Advocacy groups say they need to learn more.

“We are open to ideas that could make the system more efficient as long as they also preserve the value of the benefit for military families,” said Eileen Huck, deputy director of government relations for National Military Family Association.

Priorities for families are to sustain shopper savings, improve the in-store experience and ensure proper funding of MWR programs, Huck added.

Streamlining of backroom processes across base stores to gain efficiency, without diluting the shopping benefit, “is something we support,” said Brooke Goldberg, director of military family policy for Military Officers Association of America. But how does a full merger of stores benefit the exchanges, she asked.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
(U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Carol E. Davis)

“We don’t have answers on that,” she said.

“The intriguing part of all this is the untapped potential of commissaries…[T]here are things that should be explored [to] preserve that benefit. But we also want to preserve the exchange benefit,” Goldberg said. “Any change to the commissary that negatively affects the exchange is not something we support.”

Steve Rossetti, director of government affairs for the American Logistics Association, the industry trade group for businesses supporting military resale, cautioned against using exchange earnings to underwrite a wider resale enterprise. The earnings belong to patrons, he said, and have been used for decades to reinvest in exchanges and support MWR to improve base community programs.

Rossetti suggested Defense officials should focus first on reversing the falloff in sales at commissaries before launching a merger with exchanges to try to gain long-term efficiencies, and also that they “take a long hard look before they leap to ensure benefits truly outweigh costs.”

There’s fear a broken commissary system, and the quest to cut taxpayer support of it, could endanger still thriving exchanges if, through merger, their profits are seen as a life raft to save grocery discounts as the law requires.

The draft legislative proposal, however, describes different goals aimed at keeping all base retail operations competitive, for example by allowing exchanges and commissaries to combine into single stores. This could “respond to generational shopping habits” and to market forces “impacting all traditional grocery and retail stores,” it says. “Millennials (ages 22-36), who collectively represent the majority of military shoppers, [are] using technology to shop and save, and are driven by speed, convenience, proximity, variety, (rather than brand) and experiences.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Winning a Nobel Prize isn’t as easy as you think

There have been calls to award a Nobel Peace Prize to everyone involved with ending the Korean War, including President Donald Trump. Given that the award has a broad selection process, it’s much more competitive than you’d think and the specifics about the process are often kept secret for fifty years.


Any person, group, or organization can be nominated after doing, in accordance to Alfred Nobel’s will, “the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” The only officially recognized nominators include heads of state, former Nobel Peace Prize laureates, and current or former members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
The first ever recipient was Henry Dunant, the founder of the International Red Cross. His organization would win the award three more times.

Any submissions must be done begin in September and the absolute cut-off is February 1st. Between the beginning of February and the end of March, the list is combed through and a short list is prepared for April.

In 2018, there were 328 candidates and each of the five members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee usually pick five nominees. Because of the secrecy around the process, the Nobel Committee combs through the maybe twenty-five candidates until September.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
This year’s front-runner is The White Helmets, a volunteer search and rescue organization that saved countless lives during the Syrian Civil War.
(United States Agency for International Development)

In October, the voting between the members begins and the winner is chosen. The decision is final and there are no appeals. Hence the secrecy. No one can be upset that they weren’t picked if they didn’t know they got that far. Once the voting has finished, it’s announced to the world who the winner for that year will be.

Then comes the big day on December 10th. The new laureate receives their shiny golden award, a diploma, and a monetary prize. The prize money in 2017 was 9 million Swedish Kronas, which is $1,028,655 US Dollars. The prize money is often donated to which ever cause the recipient championed.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Panama actually started its war with the United States

On Dec. 20, 1989, President George H. W. Bush launched Operation Just Cause, the U.S. invasion of Panama. The goal was to oust Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and maintain the neutrality of the Panama Canal while protecting American citizens there. Some 27,000 U.S. troops toppled Noriega’s regime in just over a month and they started it – just like the U.S. planned.


Some people would swear that a small Central American dictatorship with a patronage-based military starting a war with a world superpower is a terrible idea. Those people would be correct, especially considering the superpower already controlled a huge chunk of the country, and staged military units from inside that zone of control.

Until 1979, it was known as the Panama Canal Zone. By 1989, that area was full of U.S. military personnel.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Just a sliver. No big deal.

At the time, the United States still controlled the canal. The terms of the Carter-Torrijos Treaty stated that Panama would gain full control of the canal on Dec. 31, 1999. But even after the canal was given to Panama, the U.S. retained the right to defend the canal to keep it a neutral lane for all ships of all countries. So, the United States already had 12,000 combat-ready forces in the country before the invasion even began.

Still, the United States worked to provoke the Panamanians into committing overtly hostile acts toward U.S. troops. The Americans gave money to the campaign of Guillermo Endara, a politician in direct opposition to Noriega’s regime. When Endara won the national election over Noriega’s chosen candidate, the dictator ruled the vote invalid and then declared himself the sole ruler of Panama.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Drug and human trafficker-in-chief, Manuel Noriega.

Alarmed at Noriega’s shocking display of power, the U.S. military began stepping up its provocation efforts, staging military exercises in former Canal Zone areas, driving through Panamanian territory, and challenging the Panamanian Defense Forces to stop them from moving as they pleased. The Bush Administration also expanded sanctions on Panama and even funded a coup attempt against Noriega.

On Dec. 15, 1989, Noriega even declared war on the United States — but even that didn’t precipitate the invasion. The next day, four military officers were stopped by the Panamanian military on their way to dinner at the Marriott in downtown Panama City. The four officers were driving in a private vehicle when they hit a roadblock and were suddenly surrounded by PDF troops. The Panamanians fired at the vehicle, hitting Marine Capt. Richard E. Hadded in the foot and wounding Marine 1st Lt. Robert Paz, who was rushed to the hospital, where he died of his wounds.

Two Americans, a Naval officer and his wife, witnessed the event. They were detained and beaten by the PDF. That’s when President Bush called down the thunder.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Cue the Van Halen song.

The Panamanian Defense Forces got hit hard. In the middle of the night, tens of thousands of American troops using mechanized infantry, Special Forces, and even airborne assaults, made a move to cripple the Panamanians and capture Noriega. It was the largest combat operation since the Vietnam War, an invasion of an area the size of South Carolina.

By one in the morning on Dec. 20, 1989, U.S. troops installed Endara as Panama’s new President. Meanwhile, Army helicopter gunships and USAF F-117 Nighthawks were hitting targets around the country and the U.S. Army Special Forces, Navy SEALs, and U.S. Marines hit the ground in full force. They first captured special military targets, like the PDF’s La Comandancia and the Bridge of the Americas over the canal itself. SEALs destroyed Noriega’s personal boat and jet as the dictator took refuge inside Vatican City’s diplomatic mission in the capital.

He would not be there long.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Netflix, here’s your next season of Narcos.

Noriega hid under the protection of the Holy See as the United State military cleaned up the remnants of the Panamanian Defense Forces. Meanwhile, the Americans blasted rock and heavy metal music at the mission in an attempt to force Noriega to leave the building and face justice.

Related: Listen to the playlist that ousted Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega

He finally did on Jan. 3, 1990. Noriega was flown back to the U.S., where he faced indictments for drug trafficking in Miami. The onetime dictator would spend the rest of his life in prison.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 things that have already happened without safety briefs

On September 4, 2018, the Secretary of the Army signed a memo that shifted the Earth under the U.S. Army by declaring that the Safety Brief, a longtime weekend ritual of every formation across the primary land forces of these United States, was no longer required.

For soldiers everywhere, the news was met with a sudden intake of breath and widening of the eyes.


And then, after careful reading, an eye roll and long sigh — because the memo only removed the requirement for the safety brief, it didn’t prohibit them. So, yeah, most soldiers are probably still getting safety briefs every weekend. But, through a network of squirrels, pigeons, and the occasional honey badger, WATM has learned about these 7 events that totally happened since the safety briefs were dropped at some units:

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

An investigating officer enters one of the stolen Army wreckers.

(U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret)

An unknown Fort Bliss corporal stole everything he could get his hands on, including the flagpole

An unidentified corporal assigned to Fort Bliss, Texas, went on a wild crime spree, stealing everything from a humvee to the keys to the dropzone to the physical flagpole from which the base colors fly. That last theft was only made possible by the multiple wreckers which he stole beforehand. Worse, the corporal ate the dropzone keys, and has not yet passed them.

When reached for comment, a Fort Bliss spokesman would only mutter, “We didn’t even think the dropzone could be locked. How the hell are we going to train there, now?”

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

No, it doesn’t make any sense that a sergeant first class led the fireteam, but this article is clearly satire — of course there are no real photos of the fireteam entering Canada.

(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Haley D. Phillips)

A fireteam from Drum invaded Canada under the incorrect assumption that “it’s basically polite Russia”

Meanwhile, at Fort Drum, a single fireteam, working under the assumption that all countries under a certain temperature are basically Russia, invaded Canada with no warning, capturing two banks, a law office, and the Chamber of Commerce of a large town before the Canadian Army arrived and eventually captured them despite heavy losses.

The Fort Drum commanders quickly apologized, but were surprised when the Canadians simply offered to fly the fireteam to Moscow just to “see what the little hellions can do there.”

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

A rapid response team made up entirely of officer candidates were the first on scene after Pvt. Skippy’s actions were reported. They apparently took the threat of his captured “Charizard” seriously, while local NCOs shook their heads in disbelief.

(U.S. Army National Guard Maj. Matt Baldwin)

Pvt. Skippy of Joint Base Lewis-McChord went on a rampage

A common refrain of the weekend safety brief is, “Don’t beat your fish, don’t beat your dog, don’t beat your neighbor’s dog. You can beat something else of your own, but not your neighbor’s — unless it’s consensual.”

Apparently, that was the only thing stopping Pvt. Skippy, because he attacked every animal he could find in the vicinity of the barracks, according to MP reports. When apprehended, he explained that he was “playing Pokemon Go when the damnedest Pikachu showed up. It was all brown, smaller, and eating acorns,” and he asked the MPs why they hated video games.

His toxicology report has not yet come back.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

By all reports, the girls, girls, girls survived, but will have to find new work in the harsh light of day.

(Rick Hall, CC-BY 2.0)

Three bars and two stripclubs have been declared total losses in the Fort Hood area

Base officials aren’t talking about what happened at a series of business right outside of South Fort Hood last weekend. At most, you can hear them mutter things about “tornadoes” and “wildfires” under their breath as they rapidly walk away.

But, insurance companies on the hook for the damages have pointed out that every damaged business caters to soldiers, was operating normally on Friday, and was expecting a slow weekend since the weather was normal and it wasn’t a paycheck weekend.

Instead, five businesses have been completely demolished and are currently littered with debris, broken teeth, and a few stray dog tags.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

It only took one report of less-than-horrible meals at the facilities for the senior brass to know something was up.

(U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Zach Tomesh)

Multiple detention specialists at Guantanamo Bay are facing charges of renting out cells on Airbnb

With the low numbers of prisoners currently housed at Gunatanamo, some specialists there apparently decided that a rules-free weekend was the perfect time to transition empty cells into small apartments, renting out the rooms to tourists on Airbnb.

The scheme was discovered quickly as guests kept wandering into the facility’s kitchens to steal ingredients and oven space for their personal meals. When soldiers on base started enjoying the food that came out, the brass knew something was up.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Fort Bragg Paratroopers are tested for the new STDs. With an average of less than two infections per soldier, the situation is much closer to normal than epidemic specialists had dared to hope for.

(Department of Defense Brenda Gutierrez)

Every D.A. civilian in North Carolina has contracted an STD

In a surprise twist on Fort Bragg, every Department of the Army civilian has contracted at least one STD, despite the fact that no one was trying to sleep with them.

Experts from the Center for Disease Control are working off the theory that the soldiers went so crazy when they weren’t reminded to not sleep with strippers, spouses, and local women, that they created a cross between multiple major STDs and an upper respiratory infection that was prominent in Fayetteville, N.C. at the time, allowing the previously sexually transmitted diseases to become airborne.

Either that, or the paratroopers left so much fluid on all of the base’s surfaces that now it’s just dangerous to be on or near the installation.

A new memo has been drafted making the safety brief mandatory once again

Amidst all the chaos, the Department of the Army is quietly preparing to reinstate the mandatory brief, hopefully while they still have an army to administrate. While retention rates have suddenly jumped, hospital admissions and police bookings have more than wiped out the retention advantage.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US trains with France and Australia on how to slaughter submarines

Maritime forces from France, Australia, and the United States participated in Ship Anti-Submarine Warfare Readiness and Evaluation Measurement (SHAREM) 195 exercise in the Arabian Sea, Dec. 14-18, 2018.

Participating ships included French navy F70AA-class air defense destroyer FS Cassard (D 614), and Royal Australian navy Anzac-class frigate HMAS Ballarat (FFH 155), guided-missile destroyers USS Stockdale (DDG 106) and USS Spruance (DDG 111), Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Louisville (SSN 724), and Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4). Additionally, U.S. P-3C Orion aircraft and a French Atlantique 2 maritime patrol aircraft supported the exercise from the air.


“SHAREM provides a great opportunity for realistic training, strengthening the maritime relationship between France, Australia, and the U.S. as our forces work together to refine and develop anti-submarine warfare tactics,” said Lt. Ryan Miller, lead exercise planner from U.S. 5th Fleet’s Task Force 54. “We are stronger when we work together.”

The exercise put the ships through several structured events to collect data and train sailors against a known adversary. The ships then tested their offensive prowess by tracking and prosecuting the submarine in a “freeplay” event.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

The guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 111) and the fast attack submarine USS Louisville (SSN 724) are underway in formation during the anti-submarine warfare exercise SHAREM 195 in the Arabian Sea, Dec. 18, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abigayle Lutz)

In the culminating event, the warships defended the supply ship, Richard E. Byrd, from a submerged threat with conducting replenishment operations.

The SHAREM program focuses on developing anti-submarine warfare in the surface community by reviewing performance and tactics and recommending solutions to warfighting gaps.

Task Forces 54 and 50 led segments of the exercise.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

The fast attack submarine USS Louisville (SSN 724) surfaces during the anti-submarine warfare exercise SHAREM 195 in the Arabian Sea, Dec. 18, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abigayle Lutz)

TF 54 is the submarine force in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations, and commands operations of U.S. submarine forces and coordinates theater-wide, anti-submarine warfare matters. Their mission covers all aspects of submarine operations from effective submarine employment to safety and logistics.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71 approaches the flight deck of the guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 111) during the anti-submarine warfare exercise SHAREM 195 in the Arabian Sea, Dec. 16, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ryan D. McLearnon)

Stockdale and Spruance are both part of the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, which serves as Task Force 50 while deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet. Their participation and SHAREM 195 is a part of the U.S. 5th Fleet’s theater security cooperation engagement plan to improve interoperability with partner nations, while ensuring maritime security.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 111), left, the Royal Australian Navy Anzac-class frigate HMAS Ballarat (FFH 155), and the French navy F70AA-class air defense destroyer FS Cassard (D 614) are underway during anti-submarine warfare exercise SHAREM 195 in the Arabian Sea, Dec. 14, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abigayle Lutz)

U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The expanse is comprised of 20 countries and includes three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab al-Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 heroes from Pearl Harbor you’ve likely never heard of

The attack on Pearl Harbor, which catapulted the US into World War II, happened 77 years ago on Dec. 7, 2018.

The Japanese attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii killed more than 2,400 American sailors and civilians and wounded 1,000 more.

Japanese fighter planes also destroyed or damaged almost 20 naval ships during the attack.

But the US sailors and civilians didn’t standby without putting up a fight.

Here are 7 Pearl Harbor heroes you’ve never heard about.


How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Phil Rasmussen during flight school.

1. Phil Rasmussen, who raced into his plane to attack Japanese Zero fighters.

Lt. Phil Rasmussen was one of four American pilots able to get in the air and engage Japanese fighters during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

When the attack was launched, Rasmussen was still in his pajamas when he ran out to the flight line and jumped in an then-old Curtiss P-36A Hawk fighter plane — the only US planes the Japanese hadn’t yet taken out.

Once in the air, Rasmussen shot down one Japanese Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero fighter planes, and damaged another before he was targeted by two more.

The two Japanese fighters shot up his plane, and took out his radio, hydraulic lines and rudder cables, but he was able to fly away and hide in the clouds before landing without brakes, a rudder or tailwheel.

Rasmussen received the Silver Star for his actions, and retired from the Air Force in 1965.

Sources: US Air Force, We Are The Mighty

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Doris Miller.

(US Navy photo)

2. Doris Miller, who fired a machine gun at attacking fighters.

Cook Third Class Doris Miller was stationed on the USS West Virginia battleship when the Japanese attacked.

Awake at 6 a.m., Miller was collecting laundry when the attack was launched. He went to his battle station, which was an anti-aircraft battery magazine in the middle of the ship, only to find it had been taken out by a torpedo.

Miller then went to the deck, where he was assigned to carry away wounded sailors before he was ordered to the bridge to help the mortally wounded Mervyn Sharp Bennion (who later received the Medal of Honor).

After helping deliver ammunition to two .50 caliber Browning anti-aircraft machine gun crews, and without any weapons training, he manned one of the guns himself and fired until the ammunition was spent.

“It wasn’t hard,” Miller later said.

“I just pulled the trigger and she worked fine. I had watched the others with these guns. I guess I fired her for about fifteen minutes. I think I got one of those Jap planes. They were diving pretty close to us.”

He received the Navy Cross for his actions, the first ever given to an African American.

Miller was killed in 1943 while serving on the escort carrier USS Liscome Bay, which was sunk by a Japanese torpedo.

Source: US Navy

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

First Lieutenant Annie G. Fox.

(National Archives photo)

3. Annie G. Fox, who worked ceaselessly to care for the wounded.

First Lieutenant Annie G. Fox was the head nurse at the hospital at Hickham field, which was Hawaii’s main army airfield and bomber base, when the attack on Pearl Harbor was launched.

Fox “administered anesthesia to patients during the heaviest part of the bombardment, assisted in dressing the wounded, taught civilian volunteer nurses to make dressings, and worked ceaselessly with coolness and efficiency, and her fine example of calmness, courage and leadership was of great benefit to the morale of all with whom she came in contact,” according to her Purple Heart medal citation.

Fox was the first US service woman to receive the Purple Heart, which she received for her actions during the attack.

At the time, the US military awarded Purple Hearts for “singularly meritorious act of extraordinary fidelity or essential service.” When the requirement of being wounded was added, her Purple Heart was replaced with the Bronze Star, since she had not been wounded.

Fox was promoted to the rank of major before retiring from the service in 1945.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

USS Pennsylvania still in dry dock after the Pearl Harbor attack.

(US Navy photo)

4. George Walters, a crane operator who warned sailors of the incoming attack.

George Walters was a civilian who operated a huge crane next to the USS Pennsylvania battleship at Pearl Harbor.

He was 50 feet up in the crane when the attack was launched, and was one of the first Americans to see the Japanese planes coming, and alerted the sailors aboard the Pennsylvania.

Walters then repeatedly swung the crane back and forth to shield the ship from Japanese fighter planes as US sailors aboard the Pennsylvania attempted to return fire.

But the sailors manning the guns on the battleship had trouble seeing the Japanese planes because they were in dry dock.

“The water had been pumped out, dropping their decks to a point where the high sides of the drydock blocked most of the view,” author Walter Lord wrote in his book “Day of Infamy.”

So Walters used the crane’s boom to point out incoming Japanese planes.

“After a 500-pound bomb exploded nearby, damaging the crane and stunning Walters, he nearly fell from the crane. But Walters had moved the crane just in time to avoid a direct hit from the bomb, which left a 17-foot crater,” according to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

Walters has since been credited by many with helping save the ship. He operated cranes until 1950, and retired in 1966.

Source: Honolulu Star-Bulletin, History.com

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Cmdr. Cassin Young, who saved his ship from the attack.

(US Navy photo)

5. Cassin Young

Cmdr. Cassin Young commanded the USS Vestal repair ship during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Young was in his cabin in the Vestal when the attack was launched. He ran to the deck, where he organized sailors to fire the ships’ three-inch guns at the Japanese planes overheard.

But Young was blown overboard, along with 100 other sailors, when the forward magazine of the famed USS Arizona battleship, which was next to the Vestal, was hit and exploded.

The Vestal’s second in command ordered the remaining sailors to abandon ship, but Young swam through the oil slick water and climbed back aboard.

“Where the hell do you men think you are going?” Young yelled at the sailors abandoning ship, shouting at them to go to their stations and get the ship underway.

The Vestil eventually made it out into open waters. Damaged and on fire, it ran aground.

Young later received the Medal of Honor for his actions, and was promoted to captain of the heavy cruiser USS San Francisco. He was killed aboard the San Francisco during the Guadalcanal Campaign.

Source: US Navy, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Chief Boatswain Edwin Joseph Hill, who saved shipmates from Japanese fighters.

(US Navy photo)

6. Edwin Hill

Chief Boatswain Edwin Joseph Hill was stationed on the USS Nevada battleship when the attack on Pearl Harbor began.

As Japanese planes fired down on the ship from above, Hill jumped into the harbor’s waters and climbed ashore to release the Nevada from its mooring. He then jumped back in and swam towards the Nevada, which was moving to open water, and climbed back aboard the battleship.

But with the Nevada alone in the water, the ship was an obvious target, and would have blocked the harbor if destroyed.

With Japanese fighters attacking the Nevada, Hill directed other sailors to take cover behind the gun’s turrets. Many of the sailors later credited him with saving their lives.

When Hill tried to drop anchor during the second wave of attack, a Japanese bomb hit the bow and he was killed.

Hill was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.

Source: Pearl Harbor Visitors Bureau, Pearl Harbor Visitors Bureau

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Ensign Herbert C. Jones, who was passing ammunition up to gun crews when he was critically injured.

(US Navy photo)

7. Ensign Herbert C. Jones

Ensign Herbert C. Jones was stationed aboard the USS California battleship during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Jones had just taken over for the junior officer of the deck when the attack was launched.

After a torpedo damaged the mechanical hoist that loaded the ship’s anit-aircraft guns, Jones led a group of sailors to deliver the ammunition by hand.

Jones was in a compartment on the third deck passing ammo up a ladder to the gun battery when a bomb struck the second deck, injuring him critically.

The Nevada was taking on water, and threatened with catching fire from burning oil in the water, when an abandoned ship order was given.

Two sailors carried Jones up from the compartment, which had caught fire, but at one point, got stuck.

“Leave me alone! I’m done for. Get out of here before the magazines go off,” Jones said.

Marine Corps Pvt. Howard Haynes, who had been confined when the attack was launched, later credited Jones with saving his life.

“God, give me a chance to prove I’m worth it,” Haynes said.

Jones was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Source: Defense Department, “Pearl Harbor: Why, How, Fleet Savage and Final Appraisal”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Lee Greenwood and the USAF Band singing ‘God Bless the U.S.A.’ will give you chills

Other than the National Anthem, there really isn’t another song out there that evokes the pride of country like Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” So when the iconic singer teamed up with the United States Air Force band to perform it during COVID-19, it’s no surprise the rendition is truly breathtaking.


Home Free – God Bless the U.S.A. (featuring Lee Greenwood and The United States Air Force Band)

www.youtube.com

Home Free – God Bless the U.S.A. (featuring Lee Greenwood and The United States Air Force Band)

It’s not the first time Greenwood has teamed with the Armed Forces to perform the song. In 2015, he partnered with the U.S. Army Chorus for an impromptu acapella version at the NHL Winter Classic.

Army Chorus and Lee Greenwood sing a capella God Bless the USA impromptu at the Winter Classic

www.youtube.com

Army Chorus and Lee Greenwood sing a capella God Bless the USA impromptu at the Winter Classic

While Greenwood never served, he has long supported the troops and military community. In a 2000 interview with Military.com, Greenwood was asked why he thought the song has such a powerful message for the military. He responded:

“I knew we had a song that touched the heart of the public. I knew that it was a song that gave proper salute to the military and its job. I knew that it honored those that had died, and I knew it made people stand up. I actually wrote those words: “I’d proudly stand up and defend her still today,” [meaning] even though pride had been gone in the past, it’s back and we should stand up at any time and defend this free country. So those who are away from home, it has much more impact on. I am a world traveler as well, and have been with the USO for 15 of the world USO tours with my celebrity cast. It does mean much more. You’re in another country where you’re subject to attack, and you long for the protection of the United States and all the things you find familiar about it.”

Here’s to you, Mr. Greenwood. Thanks for continuing to serve all of us.

popular

10 time-honored military traditions that civilians find weird

Some military traditions make sense to nearly everyone — little things that show mutual respect, like leaders serving food to their subordinates on holidays or NCOs electing to eat after their guys. Other traditions are odd at first blush, like messing with the new guy or passing through an archway after graduating a class or achieving a higher rank, but civilians can generally understand where they come from.

But then there are the ones that require a lot of explaining to your civilian family members. Every time, these story begins with a, “well, you see. It kinda goes back to…” and more often than not, the explanation just makes them tilt their head in confusion.

At one point, the following traditions may have meant something to one person or a group, but today, the original meaning is buried beneath decades of military bearing and tradition. We mostly just do them because, well, if it ain’t broke — and no one’s getting UCMJ’d for it — why bother stopping?


How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
Ever since Hostess kinda went under, the tradition changed to use red helmets instead — which is definitely cleaner. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Katrine M Brisbin)

10. Paratroopers and cherry pies

When you finish going through Army Airborne School, your head will be spinning, filled with all of the information you’ll need to not shatter every bone in your body when you make a landing. You’ll have to master the art of hooking up your static line and perform countless parachute landing falls before you’re even able to get the chance to actually jump out of a perfectly good airplane.

Finally, the moment of truth arrives — you finally get to jump with your unit in the 82nd. Your superiors will recommend that you fill your cargo pockets with Hostess Cherry Pies first. They’ll often say it’s for some reason like, “in case you get hungry when you land” or whatever. Who are you to argue?

When your big moment finally comes and you take in the sights while falling gracefully, you’ll hopefully have your PLFs burnt into the back of your mind as second nature. Everything will happen so fast that you’ll forget those cherry pies in your pants. When you land, you’ll squish all those pies and leave a nice red stain on your uniform.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
There are great call signs out there, you just need to be lucky enough to snag one. (Fox News)

9. Actual callsigns

In pop culture, callsigns are the coolest things ever. You’ll often see some badass names, like Iceman, Maverick, or Snake used in TV and movies. They’re always just made up because they sound cool and the storytellers don’t really know how the military works.

In reality, callsigns are usually unit designations followed by a number to signify who they are in said unit. So, for example, the commander of the Alpha company “Black Sheep” would be known as “Black Sheep 6,” and the first sergeant of the same unit is “Black Sheep 7.”

If you’re looking for unique callsigns, those are in the aviation world, and they’re typically less cool and more nonsensical. For example, if you eat a Pop-Tart one time in front of another pilot, your callsign is now forever “Pop-Tart.” Good going, Pop-Tart. That’s your callsign until the end of time.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
You (and everyone else in the unit) will have to drink whatever you put in. Or do what most people do and hide in the bathroom until this bit is over. (U.S. Air Force photo by Don Peek)

8. The grog bowl

At civilian parties, if there’s a punch bowl, it’ll be centrally placed and it may or may not have some kind of alcohol in it. Whenever the military throws a unit ball, that punch bowl will most certainly have alcohol in it… plus a whole slew of other random things that would make anyone throw up.

Most of the leadership of the unit gets a chance to add one ingredient to the grog bowl (which is a toilet bowl) and offer some kind of nonsense to explain why their chosen ingredient has some kind of significance to the unit.

You can expect classic grog bowl ingredients, like hot sauce, because of the deserts the unit deploys to, ground coffee, because of the long hours the troops works, a cup of salt, because of the sweat that troops give to the cause, and a dirty sock because… reasons?

7. Blood wings and blood stripes

When civilians get promoted or graduate some school, the accomplishment is usually met with a party or a card that’s signed by everyone in the office. That sounds pleasant. Troops, on the other hand, almost always lose a bit of blood over it.

Blood wings and blood stripes are, essentially, the same thing. You get the wings from a school and the stripes from a promotion. Then, everyone takes turn punching it in. It’s technically considered hazing, but the troop receiving the blood wings/stripes usually agrees to it. There (typically) isn’t any malice or hate involved in the ceremony and troops usually walk away with a bit more pride in whoever bled for their new badge/rank.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
“A Mickey Mouse Challenge Coin? Really?” (U.S. Air Force photo by Josh Plueger/Released)

6. Challenge coin “duels”

There’s nothing really odd about challenge coins in general. It’s basically the same thing as collecting trading cards as a kid, but instead of aiming for a holographic Charizard, you’re aiming for the coolest-looking coin with the most badass backstory.

Usually, officers will keep the coolest coins on their desk in their office to casually gloat about and enlisted troops keep them in some drawer at home, but sh*t gets real when troops take their coins to the bars. The ensuing game basically goes like this:

Troops unsheathe their coolest coin. If you don’t have your coin on you, you buy the drinks. If everyone has a coin, whoever has the “least valuable coin” buys the drinks. Since the “value” is determined by backstory and design — both of which are subjective — this game almost always ends in a shouting match over who has to pick up the tab.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
Every airman thinks they can grow a mustache like Col. Robin Olds. The only reason his mustache is so majestic is because he literally gave zero f*cks about the rules. Rules all airmen have to follow. (U.S. Air Force)

5. ‘Stache contests

In case you haven’t nailed down the common thread between all of these traditions, the military is engaged in a perpetual pissing contest. Troops are in constant contest to see who can do literally anything better than the next guy; to see who is the most macho of the troops. It should come as no surprise that one of the most macho things out there, facial hair, gets quantified into some sort of challenge.

The problem with this is that the military doesn’t allow most versions of facial hair — that is, with the exception of a very thin mustache. A word of warning: The first two weeks of a mustache-off makes every contestant look pathetic.

Mustache contests usually begin at the start of the deployment (presumably, when troops’ wives have less of a say in the matter) and, after a certain point, someone is declared a winner. Yet, the Air Force has unanimously decided to make March their official contest month. Whichever airman grows the best mustache by the end of March wins a high five or whatever.

4. The West Point pillow battle royale

At some point during the first years of the most intense academy for the U.S. Army’s future officers, students are offered a unique way of handling the stresses of simultaneously earning a college education while enduring four years of constant military training. These future warriors, trained in all things warfare with the intention of becoming the Army’s next generation of great leaders, settle things the exact same way as children at slumber parties — with a pillow fight.

As goofy as this sounds, things got serious. Yes. “got” — very much in the past tense, as this tradition was unceremoniously banned in 2015 in response to numerous injuries. Most cadets donned full kevlars and vests and beat the hell out of each other with pillows. More than thirty plebes that year were sent to the hospital for serious injuries, despite the strict no-hard-objects-in-the-pillows rule.

Thankfully, they had PT belts on or this could have gotten even more out of hand.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
Don’t think you can just bring a spare cap that won’t be blown up. The troops will find it and make sure it’s also blown to smithereens. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord)

3. Blasting up the lieutenant’s patrol cap

In the technical terms, a “blasting cap” is a small, sensitive primary explosive device used to detonate a larger, more powerful and less-sensitive secondary explosive. Soldiers in the artillery world take this term literally whenever they welcome a new platoon leader.

When the platoon first goes out for a live-fire exercise with a brand new lieutenant, they’ll take the officer’s patrol cap (either willingly or otherwise) and tape it to the end of the barrel or backplate of a rocket pod. Then, the first round goes off; it’ll take the cap with it. The officer is then expected to retrieve the nearly-burnt-to-a-crisp cap so they can remain in uniform after the ceremony is done.

No one really knows when or where this began, but every artillery officer since then has had to buy a new cap the following day.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
The real question is, if they’re both military, do neither of them get spanked — or both? (U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

2. The sword butt tap at weddings

Most of the traditions on this list are kept within the realm of the military and don’t often affect civilians directly — with the major exception of military weddings. They are one of the most beautiful ways to introduce a new civilian spouse into our world. The troop’s comrades will attend wearing full dress uniforms, each carrying a sword to signify the protection they’ll offer the new spouse, as he or she is now kin.

The new comrades will serve as either groomsmen or bridesmaids and post guard outside of the chapel, or wherever the ceremony is held, and form a beautiful archway with their swords under which the married couple will walk.

Then, whoever is at the very end of the archway on the civilian spouse’s side will give a loving spank with their sword. Not a hard one, mind you, just a nice gentle way of letting them know that they’re now a part of the grander military family.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
Every weird little detail of the “Crossing the Line” ceremony has been replicated as far back as anyone can remember. It can’t be THAT weird if your sailor granddad was also doing it, right? (U.S. Navy)

1. The Court of Neptune

Whenever a Navy vessel crosses a certain point on the globe, all sailors who’ve never done so get to be initiated into an unofficial fraternity of sailors who’ve been there before. The most famous example of these ceremonies is the moment a vessel crosses the Equator at any point in the world.

Officially, it’s called the “Crossing the Line” ceremony, but sailors know it as “the Court of Neptune.” The uninitiated (known as “slimy polliwogs”) must bow before King Neptune (as portrayed by the ship’s captain) and entertain his queen, Davy Jones, the Royal Baby, and his dignitaries (portrayed by other high ranking members of the crew) with a talent show.

Regardless of how the young sailors perform, they’re found guilty of being polliwogs and must answer for their crimes. They’re “punished” by eating an extremely spicy or disgusting breakfast and are forced kiss the Royal Baby’s greasy belly. Only then can they have their slimy polliwoginess washed in seawater to finally become trusty shellbacks.

Follow any of that? Neither did any of us other slimy polliwogs…

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out this awesome photo of a sniper and snake

It’s no secret that being a sniper requires a lot of discipline and a high tolerance for discomfort, but one photo of a sniper taking this to an extreme level is making the rounds because the sniper maintained position so well that a snake slithered across his barrel.

Thankfully, an Army photographer was there to capture the moment.


How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force scout sniper prepares his ghillie suit in during exercise Forest Light 17-1 at Somagahara, Japan, March 10, 2017.

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Isaac Ibarra)

The photo was actually taken in April during a test of the Army’s new ghillie suits, special camouflage clothing created to mimic actual vegetation on the ground rather than just mimicking the colors. If you’re not familiar with the term, you’ve likely still seen the suits. They’re the ones that make marching soldiers look like swamp creatures.

During tests of the new suit at Eglin Air Force Base, Army photographer Staff Sgt. William Frye was taking photos of Army National Guard Pfc. William Snyder when a southern black racer snake slithered up and over the weapon’s barrel like it was a fallen branch.

The photo is pretty great, and is actually a good, single image that shows a lot of the traits necessary for a sniper to be successful.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

A southern black racer snake slithers across the rifle barrel held by junior Army National Guard sniper Pfc. William Snyder as he practices woodland stalking in a camouflaged ghillie suit at Eglin Air Force Base, April 7, 2018.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. William Frye)

They have to be well camouflaged, avoiding observation at long distances but also staying secret enough that patrols walking by can’t spot them from just feet away. Marine sniper Carlos Hathcock killed an NVA officer in Vietnam after crawling closer to the officer’s base for days. During the days of crawling, multiple patrols passed Hathcock at ranges so close that Hatchcock has said he could’ve reached out and touched them. If a snake can’t tell that you’re not a fallen log, you’re well on your way.

The fact that the snake felt bold enough to crawl over the human implies that the sniper has sat still for a protracted period of time, at least a couple of minutes, if not longer. Anyone who has worked with snipers knows that they have to endure long periods of waiting without moving. A sniper who reportedly held the range record for a sniper kill from 2009 to 2017 prepared himself for sniper school in part by setting up portable DVD players and watching entire movies through his rifle scope without moving.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

U.S. Army Sgt. Clinton Scanlon fires an M107 sniper rifle during the 2018 International Sniper Competition at Burroughs Range on Fort Benning, Georgia, Oct. 17, 2018.

(U.S. Army Sgt. Michelle U. Blesam)

He would later take four shots that would fly for six seconds each and cross 1.5 miles of battlefield before killing two enemy machine gunners firing on British troops.

Snipers also discuss the need to endure discomfort, sometimes staying in stressful positions for minutes or hours to not give away their position or screw up their ability to take a shot if it suddenly presents itself. That necessity includes physical discomfort like cramps, but it also encompasses psychological discomfort, like staying completely still as a snake suddenly moves within inches of your face, possibly too fast for you to ascertain whether it’s likely venomous.

(Southern black racers, like the one in the photo, will often strike humans and emit foul smells in the presence of predators, but are not venomous and are not a physical threat to humans.)

So, the photo is sweet and will likely show up as an illustration in some sniper training classes if it hasn’t already, but it isn’t surprising that a sniper would end up with a snake slithering across their gear. It’s actually much more surprising that an Army photographer, a profession that typically does not require as much discipline and discomfort, sat still enough for long enough to get an image he couldn’t have predicted.

Kudos to Snyder the sniper, and thank you Frye for getting the shot. We’re pretty sure some people have a new computer wallpaper thanks to you.

Articles

That time the CIA shot down a bomber with an AK-47

If North Vietnamese bombers were coming to strike a remote CIA radar station and helicopter landing zone filled with Air Force volunteers, there are certain weapon platforms that would be expected to respond. Maybe some fighters or some air defenders on the ground.


But probably no one would expect a couple of CIA operatives in a helicopter to chase down the bombers and shoot one down using an AK-47.

So, guess what happened on Jan. 12, 1968?

The North Vietnamese sent four AN-2 Colt biplanes to bomb Site 85, a radar station in the mountains of Laos used partially as a staging base for rescue and special operations helicopters. The station’s primary role was to guide bombers headed into missions against Hanoi, Vietnam.

On Jan. 12, Ted Moore was flying a UH-1D Huey helicopter owned by “Air America,” a CIA front company, to Site 85. When he and his crewman arrived at the site, he saw two of the biplanes circling the station as the other two conducted bombing runs.

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl/CC BY-SA 3.0

Moore began chasing one of the bombers that was actively taking part in the attack. His crewman, Glenn Woods, grabbed an AK-47 and began firing it at the cockpit of the fleeing bomber.

All four of the bombers bugged out, and Moore and Woods kept chasing and firing on the bombers.

After about 20 minutes of chase, the first bomber crashed just inside of the North Vietnam border and a second one crashed into a ridge just a few minutes later. The other two bombers escaped without incident. A CIA ground team later searched the wrecks and found bullet holes in both.

The two Americans were credited with the only plane kill by a helicopter in the war. An artist named Keith Woodcock later painted the scene in “Lima Site 85.”

The remote radar station operated for another two months before a ground assault by North Vietnamese commandos was able to force its way to the summit. The site was overrun in the greatest single ground loss of U.S. airmen in the war.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Apache will fly for 30 more years, says major general

The U.S. Army has no current plans to replace its Cold-War era AH-64 Apache, a still-lethal attack helicopter that the service plans to fly into combat for at least another three decades, according to the head of Army aviation.

“Right now, it’s an incredibly capable aircraft that we know we are going to be flying well into the 40s,” Maj. Gen. William Gayler, who commands the Army’s Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, Alabama, told an audience Sept. 5, 2018, at the Association of the United States Army’s Aviation Hot Topic event.


Gayler’s comments on the future of the AH-64 offer a new perspective on the Army’s evolving Future Vertical Lift program. FVL is the third priority under the Army’s bold new modernization plan, and until now Army leaders have focused on talking about the program’s goals of building a new long-range assault aircraft to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk and an armed reconnaissance aircraft — leaving the future of the AH-64 an open question.

Senior Army leaders continually hammer away that the service’s modernization vision is to begin fielding a new fleet of combat platforms and aircraft by 2028 that will replace the Cold War “Big Five:” the M1 tank, Bradley fighting vehicle, Black Hawk, Apache, and Patriot air defense system.

“Does it mean you now have to have a replacement for the AH-64? I would say somewhere in the future, absolutely, 64s will no longer be in the inventory, just like [UH-1] Hueys are no longer in the inventory … they have a lifespan,” Gayler said. “But the timing of what replaces it and the affordability what replaces it has yet to be seen.”

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

An AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter from 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, based at Forward Operating Base Speicher, Iraq.

The new armed reconnaissance aircraft, or ARA, is designed to take on a burden that AH-64 has long shouldered, Gayler said.

“What that armed reconnaissance aircraft is designed to do is replace an AH-64 used as a reconnaissance and security platform in an armed reconnaissance squadron,” Gayler said. “That aircraft was not designed to do that, therefore that’s why we are pursuing something does it optimized for that mission.”

For the long range assault aircraft, the Army selected two firms to develop demonstrators in 2014. Textron Inc.’s Bell Helicopter created the V-280 Valor, which completed its first test flight in December 2017. Sikorsky, part of Lockheed Martin Corp., and Boeing Co. built the SB1 Defiant, a medium-lift chopper based on Sikorsky’s X2 coaxial design.

The FVL family will also include an advanced unmanned aerial system to deliver targeting data to long range precision fires and launch electronic attacks on enemy radar systems.

Future Vertical Lift is competing with five other modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, a mobile network, air and missile defense and soldier lethality.

To be successful, Army aviation leaders have to focus on “what you can afford to do and prioritize where you have greatest need,” Gayler said, pointing to the ARA and “long range assault aircraft.”

“That Apache is still very, very capable … made more capable by the armed reconnaissance aircraft that complements it and the long range assault aircraft that further enables it to be successful,” Gayler said.

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

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