4 battles brought to you by booze - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

4 battles brought to you by booze

Alcohol is, like, super awesome. All the cool kids are drinking (unless you’re underage, then none of the cool kids are drinking it, you delinquent), it can lower peoples’ inhibitions, and it’s actually super easy to make and distribute.

So, it’s probably no surprise that the military likes alcohol or that many warriors throughout time have loved the sauce. Here are four times that drinking (or even the rumor of drinking, in one case) helped lead to a battle:


4 battles brought to you by booze

The Schloss Itter Castle was the site of one of history’s strangest battles, in which American and German troops teamed up to protect political prisoners from other German troops.

(Steve J. Morgan, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Waffen SS soldiers got drunk to attack a Nazi-American super team defending POWs

It’s been dubbed World War II’s “strangest battle,” that time German and American soldiers teamed up to defend political prisoners from an attacking SS battalion at Castle Itter. If you haven’t heard about it, this article from Paul Szoldra is worth a read.

What he doesn’t mention is that the Waffen SS soldiers attacking the castle in an attempt to kill the political prisoners had to stockpile some courage first, and they decided to steal the castle’s booze, drink it up, and finally kill the prisoners. Unfortunately for them, they took too long, giving the American and Wehrmacht defenders time to team up and occupy the castle. The attack failed, the prisoners survived, and 100 SS members were captured.

4 battles brought to you by booze

Washington inspecting the captured colors after the Battle of Trenton.

(Library of Congress)

Rumored Hessian partying paved the way for Washington’s post-Christmas victory

Gen. George Washington’s Christmas Day victory over the Hessians is an example of tactical surprise and mobility. It was a daring raid against a superior force that resulted in a strategic coup for the Colonialists, finally convincing France to formally enter the war on the side of independence.

And it never would’ve happened if Washington’s staff officers hadn’t known that Hessians liked to get drunk on Christmas and that they would (hopefully) still be buzzed or hungover the following morning. Surprisingly though, none of the Hessians captured were found to be drunk after the battle. Alcohol gave Washington’s men the courage to get the job done, but it turns out the chance for victory was inside them all along.

4 battles brought to you by booze

Viking ships attack and besiege Paris in 845.

Nearly all Viking raids were preceded by drunken debates

When Vikings needed to make major decisions, like about whether to launch new raids or engage in a new war, they did it in a stereotypically Norse way: By getting drunk and debating the decision with no emotional walls between them. Then, they sobered up to finish the debate.

But, once they decided to do battle, they were much more likely to be sober. The Vikings were professional warriors who left the village for the sole purpose of raiding, and they took their work seriously. So, the decision to do battle was aided by alcohol, but the actual fighting succeeded thanks to discipline.

4 battles brought to you by booze

Celts fought the British at the Battle of Culloden, probably mostly sober. But the Celts, historically, liked to imbibe before a fight.

The Celts would get plastered before battles on beer or imported Roman wines

Celts loved their alcohol, and anyone with the money went for jar after jar of red wine from Italy. For warriors heading into battle the next day, the drinking was a way to mentally prepare, to bond, and to get one last night of partying on the books in case you didn’t make it through.

Of course, most Celtic warriors weren’t financial elites, so they were much more likely to be berserking their way through battle drunk on beer and mead than on imported wines.

Want more cases of alcohol playing a role in war? Check out 7 times drunks decided the course of battle.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea

The Maginot Line is a historic meme, a shrine to the failure of fixed defenses in the age of tanks and planes. But modern historians are increasingly making a bold claim: It wasn’t the Maginot Line that failed, it was diplomacy and French armored tactics.


The Maginot Line: Actually a Good Idea

www.youtube.com

YouTube channel Historigraph has a pretty great primer on this concept that you can check out above, but we’re going to go over his arguments and that of historians below.

The purpose of the Maginot Line was to secure France’s border with German so well that, even accounting for Germany’s much larger population and birth rate, no attack over the border could succeed. This was to be achieved with strong defenses and massive concentrations of artillery.

And so it was constructed with thick concrete — reaching 12-feet thick in the most secure bunkers — and artillery and machine guns with overlapping fields of fire along a 280-mile front. The defenses were so imposing that military planners counted on second-rate troops to man them in case of a war.

But why would French planners place second-rate troops on the border with their greatest nemesis, even if they had great defenses? Because the French knew that Germany wasn’t limited to attacking over its shared border with France. And the military wanted its best troops available to fortify the less built-up grasslands in Belgium.

France had a deal with Belgium that, in case of a likely or actual invasion by a foreign army, would allow French troops to operate on Belgian soil. The plan was for the best French divisions to form a battle line with their Belgian counterparts along the River Meuse and Albert Canal.

The River Meuse was a great, natural bit of terrain for defenders that, when combined with the Albert Canal, would allow Belgian and French forces to hold back an attacking army for an extended time. It had seen fighting in World War I, and it always went bad for the attacker.

4 battles brought to you by booze

A French Char B1 tank destroyed by its crew. The Char B1 was a good tank with thick armor, a strong 75mm gun, and acceptable speed. But French armor was not used effectively in the defense of France despite France having about as many tanks as Germany did.

(Bundesarchiv Bild)

Nearly all of France’s tanks and most of her best troops would man this barrier and prevent a German invasion from the north. But, German forces would be forced to come against this defensive line because the only alternative was attacking against the Maginot Line — suicide.

But there were two flaws in France’s assumptions that wouldn’t be revealed until too late. The first was that Belgium was a neutral state in Europe prior to 1914. When Belgium was formed in 1830, it was as a neutral buffer state and all the major European powers gave some guarantee towards that neutrality. Most of the pledges stopped short of saying they would necessarily defend Belgium if it were invaded, but that was the general understanding.

So, Belgium was not actuallysuper comfortable with being an ally of a major European power in case of war. The country preferred neutrality instead. The other big problem was that Belgium in 1936 had a young and inexperienced king who headed a small military. King Leopold III needed strong guarantees of French resolve.

4 battles brought to you by booze

A Panzer IV pushes through France in 1940.

(Bundesarchiv Bild)

And so when Germany violated the Treaty of Versailles by moving their own troops into the Rhineland, German territory that was off limits to its military under the terms that ended World War I, Leopold III became scared. Rather than count on France to hold up its end of the bargain, he broke the pact with France and reasserted Belgian neutrality.

And that is what made the Maginot Line suddenly much less useful. Sure, it would still force the Germans to go around it, allowing 943 miles of border to be guarded with lower-tier troops. But France now had hundreds of miles of border, most of it bare plains, that were guarded by nothing but Belgian hopes and dreams.

Hitler invaded and France raced to set up a defensive line as deep into Belgium as they could. But the Germans broke through Belgian defenses even more quickly than anyone could have guessed, partially because the Belgians had under-supplied one of the world’s best forts.

4 battles brought to you by booze

The Fort Eban Emael as it was captured by German troops.

Fort Eban-Emael was the anchor of defenses on the Albert Canal, but Germany landed a bare 87 paratroopers on top of the fort, which was built into a hill, and captured it. The defenders had machine guns and artillery that could sweep the top of the hill, but their weapons maintenance was shoddy and the artillery lacked the canister shot that would have been most effective.

The fort fell in the first day, and the three bridges it guarded were soon lost as well. The Germans swept east and finally encountered the French digging in on the River Dyle. And here was where French armored doctrine failed. French tanks were only slightly outnumbered, but were committed to battle piecemeal while German armor was formed into strong columns capable of forcing opening in French lines and then exploiting them.

And the French also underestimated the ability of modern tanks to navigate the tough terrain of the Ardennes Forest, failing to send either a counterattack or bombers to the forest despite multiple reports that German armor was making its way through.

4 battles brought to you by booze

American troops look at Maginot Line defenses during the drive to Berlin in 1944.

(U.S. Army Signal Corps)

And so, the Maginot Line stood, strong and proud and funneling German troops north just like it was supposed to. The Maginot Line allowed France to choose its ground. But because of diplomatic missteps and a failure by French generals to understand the changing role of the tank, the defensive lines to the north failed.

The general argument against the Maginot Line is that the money should have spent on tanks, planes, and other modern equipment instead, but those were the exact assets which France failed to properly employ.

Today, fixed defenses are out of vogue as strategic bombing and bunker busters have made them nearly impossible to man for long. But they had one last hurrah in them in the Battle of France — if only their successes had been combined with good combined arms maneuvering.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A full explainer on how and why Russia stole Ukraine’s ships

A dusting of snow and unease fell over Ukraine one day after Russian Coast Guard vessels fired on and detained three Ukrainian military ships and their crews off the Crimean coast, igniting rioting outside the Russian Embassy and public demands for retaliation.

The Nov. 25, 2018 incident marked the most significant escalation of tensions in the shared Sea of Azov in 2018 and the first time since Russia’s unrecognized annexation of Crimea four years ago that Moscow has publicly acknowledged opening fire on Ukrainian forces.


The Ukrainian General Staff of the Armed Forces was on full combat alert ahead of an extraordinary session of parliament on Nov. 26, 2018, when lawmakers backed a decree by President Petro Poroshenko to impose 30 days of martial law in response to the skirmish.

Here’s what went down, what has happened since, and what it all could mean:

What happened and where?

The Ukrainian and Russian versions of events differ, with each blaming the other for instigating the incident.

Kyiv said the Russians’ actions violated a 2003 bilateral treaty designating the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait as shared territorial waters and the UN Law of the Sea, which guarantees access through the strait.

Russian officials said the Ukrainian ships were maneuvering dangerously, requiring the strait to be temporarily closed for security reasons. Moscow has since announced the reopening of the strait after using a cargo ship to block passage beneath a controversial new bridge connecting Russia with occupied Crimea.

4 battles brought to you by booze

But what isn’t disputed is that a Russian Coast Guard vessel, the Don, slammed into a Ukrainian Navy tugboat as it escorted two military vessels toward the Kerch Strait in the direction of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, which lies on the coast of the inland Sea of Azov. A series of dangerous events followed.

According to the Ukrainian Navy, the transfer of its vessels from the port of Odesa to the port of Mariupol was planned in advance. It said that while en route on Nov. 25, 2018, the ships had radioed the Russian Coast Guard twice to announce their approach to the Kerch Strait but received no response.

Hours later, as the boats approached the strait, they were intercepted by Russian Coast Guard vessels. A video recorded aboard the Don and shared by Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov appeared to show the chaos that ensued, including the moment that the Russian vessel collided with the Ukrainian tugboat. The tugboat suffered damage to its engine, hull, and guardrail, according to the Ukrainian Navy.

Ukrainian authorities said the Russian forces subsequently opened fire on its vessels, badly damaging them. Russia said its forces fired on the Ukrainian boats as a matter of security.

As the incident unfolded, Russia blocked the Kerch Strait — the only passage to and from the inland Sea of Azov, which is jointly controlled by Russia and Ukraine — by anchoring a freighter across the central span of its six-month-old Crimean Bridge.

At least six Ukrainian servicemen were said to have been wounded, including two seriously, a National Security and Defense Council official and a Foreign Ministry official told RFE/RL on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment officially to journalists. They said around midday on Nov. 26, 2018, that there had been no contact with 23 sailors aboard those vessels. The ships and crew were detained and brought to the Russia-controlled port in Kerch, in annexed Crimea.

Early on Nov. 26, 2018, Kerch FM, a local radio station and news site, published photographs and a video of what it claimed were the detained Ukrainian Navy vessels moored at the port in Kerch.

Захваченные украинские катера стоят в Керчи

www.youtube.com

Meanwhile, Poroshenko’s permanent representative for Crimea, Borys Babin, told the 112 Channel that at least three of six wounded Ukrainian servicemen had been transferred to Moscow for medical treatment. Russian Ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova reportedly told Ukraine’s Hromadske TV that three others were being treated at a hospital in Kerch.

Poroshenko calls for martial law. what would that mean?

From Kyiv’s perspective, the sea skirmish marked a significant escalation in a long-running conflict and perhaps the opening of a new front at sea. Until then, the fighting in eastern Ukraine, where government forces have battled Russia-backed separatists since April 2014, had been mostly a land war fought in trenches and with indiscriminate heavy artillery systems, albeit with mounting confrontations at sea as Russia bolstered its military presence there.

At an emergency cabinet meeting after midnight on Nov. 26, 2018, Poroshenko called on parliament to support a declaration of martial law to respond to Russia’s attacks and its effective blockade of the Sea of Azov. His call was heeded by parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy, who convened an extraordinary session for the late afternoon.

4 battles brought to you by booze

Some are uneasy about Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s desire to introduce martial law.

With a powerful coalition in parliament supporting Poroshenko, passage was virtually assured. Even some members of parliament who frequently oppose the coalition quickly voiced support for the measure, including Self Reliance party leader and Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadoviy.

But some lawmakers expressed concern about the move. Mustafa Nayyem, a member of Poroshenko’s party who is often critical of the president, wrote on Facebook that “the president must indicate the JUSTIFICATION of the need to impose martial law, the BORDER of the territory in which it is to be introduced, as well as the TERM for its introduction.”

“In addition,” Nayyem argued, “the document should contain an exhaustive list of constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens that would be temporarily restricted.”

The proposal from the National Security and Defense Council that Poroshenko announced he had signed on Nov. 26, 2018, listed some of these things, according to a text published on the president’s official site.

The initial text called for partial mobilization, the immediate organization of air-defense forces, tightened security at borders with Russia, increased information security, an information campaign to present facts about Russia’s “aggression,” increased security around critical infrastructure, and more. It can reportedly be canceled at any time.

The text reportedly made no mention of the scheduled presidential election in March 2019, which some critics fear could be postponed. But presidential adviser Yuriy Biryukov said before the decree was published that Poroshenko’s administration would not do that, adding that there would be no restrictions on freedom of speech.

As passed by lawmakers later on Nov. 26, 2018, martial law was to be imposed from Nov. 28, 2018. The order sets out extraordinary measures including a partial mobilization, a strengthening of Ukraine’s air defenses, and several activities with broad wording — such as unspecified steps “to strengthen the counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and countersabotage regime and information security.”

Martial law will be introduced in areas of the country most vulnerable to “aggression from Russia.”

Why now?

Poroshenko and the martial law decree say it is necessary for national security. Specifically, the decree states it is “in connection with the next act of armed aggression on the part of the Russian Federation, which took place on Nov. 25, 2018, in the Kerch Strait against the ships of the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

Beyond that, he hasn’t said much else about the timing or aims.

The introduction of martial law represents an extraordinary and unprecedented move. No martial law was imposed during Russia’s occupation and annexation of Crimea in early 2014 nor at any point since hostilities began a month later in eastern Ukraine — even when Ukrainian soldiers and civilians were dying at the height of fighting that summer and in early 2015.

Back then, Ukrainian officials worried publicly that a declaration of martial law could severely damage the country’s ailing economy and disrupt cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Today, the economy has seen some recovery and the IMF recently promised Ukraine another financial bailout.

There could be other reasons, as some on Ukrainian social media pointed out after the president’s proposal was made public.

Poroshenko’s approval ratings have declined dramatically in recent months. He’s now lagging far behind his highest-profile opponent, former Prime Minister and Fatherland party leader Yulia Tymoshenko. Some Ukrainian and foreign observers have suggested that Poroshenko, who has tried to capitalize on the threat from Russia with a three-pointed election slogan — Army! Language! Faith! — might benefit from playing up Russian hostilities.

Also, under martial law, some fear Poroshenko could try to cancel or postpone elections. For its part, Ukraine’s Central Election Commission reportedly stated that holding elections under martial law would be possible.

Meanwhile, in Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s own approval ratings have sunk in recent months as Russians vented anger over controversial pension reforms. Putin’s purported order to special forces to seize the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine came in March 2014, with his approval ratings sagging.

But tensions in and around the Sea of Azov have been mounting for some time, with the Ukrainian military and Border Guard Service telling RFE/RL in August 2018 that it felt like only a matter of time before the situation would worsen.

How did we get here?

Confrontation has been brewing in and around the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait for months, if not years, as RFE/RL reported from Mariupol in August 2018.

The situation began ramping up in May 2018, when Russia opened a 19-kilometer, rail-and-highway bridge over the Kerch Strait connecting mainland Russia with the annexed Crimean Peninsula. The bridge’s low height restricted the types of merchant ships that could pass, decreasing traffic to service Ukrainian ports in Mariupol and Berdyansk. For those cities, their ports are economic lifelines.

Both sides increased their military presence in the Azov region. And Kyiv accused Moscow of harassing ships bound for Mariupol and Berdyansk. Ships operated by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) have since detained more than 150 merchant vessels, holding them for up to several days, at considerable cost to the companies and the ports.

Each side has detained the other’s vessels. In March 2018, Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service detained a Russian fishing boat and impounded it in Berdyansk. In November 2018, Russian Border Guards seized a Ukrainian fishing boat and impounded it in the Russian port of Yeysk, about 60 kilometers southeast of Mariupol.

How will the international community respond?

An emergency United Nations Security Council meeting held later on Nov. 26, 2018, failed to offer any solutions.

Much of the international community, which dismissed Russia’s claim to Crimea in a UN vote in 2014, has largely sided with Ukraine.

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said free passage of the Kerch Strait was guaranteed by the 2003 treaty signed by Russia and Ukraine. “The Agreement must be respected. It is of utmost importance to avoid any further escalation in the region,” he said in a statement.

Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian foreign minister, tweeted her support for Kyiv. “Canada condemns Russian aggression towards Ukraine in the Kerch Strait,” she wrote. “We call on Russia to immediately de-escalate, release the captured vessels, and allow for freedom of passage. Canada is unwavering in its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

U.S. Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker, who has been particularly critical of what he calls “Russian aggression” against Ukraine, tweeted, “Russia rams Ukrainian vessel peacefully traveling toward a Ukrainian port. Russia seizes ships and crew and then accuses Ukraine of provocation???”

But U.S. President Donald Trump did not name either country in a brief response to a reporter’s question about the confrontation. “Either way, we don’t like what’s happening. And hopefully they’ll get straightened out. I know Europe is not — they are not thrilled. They are working on it too. We are all working on it together,” Trump said.

Statements of condemnation were welcomed in Kyiv, but some Ukrainian officials privately expressed to RFE/RL their frustration with such statements. What they would prefer, they said, is for their international partners to apply fresh, harsh sanctions against Russia over the skirmish.

What’s Russia’s next move?

With Ukraine under martial law, this is perhaps the biggest lingering question. The short answer is that no one knows.

Russia’s flagship news program claimed the Kerch Strait incident was a Ukrainian provocation ordered from Washington in a bid to sabotage an upcoming meeting between President Donald Trump and Putin at this week’s Group of 20 (G20) summit in Argentina.

If Russia’s state media provide any indication, the Kremlin might well play up the incident as a demonstration of Ukrainian aggression and perhaps a pretext for further actions against Ukraine. But what kind of actions remains to be seen.

The Russian Foreign Ministry, in a statement, offered no specifics but warned the Kyiv “regime and its Western patrons” of “serious consequences” of the skirmish at sea.

“Clearly, this is a well-thought-out provocation that took place in a predetermined place and form and is aimed at creating another hotbed of tension in that region and a pretext for stepping up sanctions against Russia,” the ministry said.

“We are hereby issuing a warning to Ukraine that Kyiv’s policy, pursued in coordination with the United States and the EU, that seeks to provoke a conflict with Russia in the waters of the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea is fraught with serious consequences.”

It added: “The Russian Federation will firmly curb any attempts to encroach on its sovereignty and security.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Deadly crash raises questions about Marine Corps aviation

One Marine is dead, another is injured, and five are missing after an F/A-18 Hornet collided with a KC-130J refueling tanker during a night-time training mission off the coast of Japan on Dec. 5, 2018.

Capt. Jahmar F. Resilard, the pilot of the F/A-18, was rescued after crash but died on Dec. 6, 2018. The other Marine aboard the Hornet was rescued and is in stable conditions, but all five Marines aboard the KC-130J remain missing.


The deadly incident is the latest in series of fatal and costly accidents among Marine Corps aircraft that have raised concerns about the condition of aircraft and quality of training in the Corps and across the US military.

On July 10, 2017, a Marine Corps KC-130T tanker aircraft crashed in Mississippi, killing 15 Marines and a sailor.

4 battles brought to you by booze

A Marine Corps KC-130T deploys a high-speed drogue during an aerial refueling mission at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, June 16, 2018.

The KC-130T was introduced in the early 1980s. The aircraft in that incident, one of the last ones still flying, was set for retirement within a few years.

The proximate cause of the accident, however, was a corroded propeller blade that went unfixed when it entered an Air Force maintenance depot in 2011, according to an investigation released in December 2018. The corrosion became a crack that allowed the blade to shear off in flight and rip through the fuselage, causing the plane to break up.

Data compiled by Breaking Defense in September 2017 — after a summer in which deadly accidents led Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller to order rolling stand-downs across aviation units — showed that over the previous six years, 62 Marines had been killed in aircraft accidents, compared to just 10 personnel from the Navy, which has more people and more aircraft.

The Corps also had more Class A Mishaps, the most serious category of accident which involve loss of life or more than id=”listicle-2622946621″ million in damage.

The Marine Corps has fewer aircraft than the Navy, so a few accidents can boost the accident rate considerably. Marine Corps aircraft are also frequently carrying troops, which can make fewer accidents more deadly.

The age and nature of Marine Corps aircraft also complicate matters. The F/A-18 Hornet and the KC-130T both entered service around the same time. (The Corps has said it will get rid of its oldest Hornets, but delays in the F-35 program have slowed that process.)

Planes like the AV-8B Harrier, which first became operational in 1971, and the newer MV-22 Osprey are vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, which makes them trickier to fly even when they’re new.

4 battles brought to you by booze

An MV-22 Osprey from Marine Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron (VMM) 166 (Reinforced) lands on the flight deck of the dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) to conduct a personnel transfer.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Eshleman)

But, as Breaking Defense found, the Corps was seeing accidents at a much higher rate than the Navy — 10% more in the best year.

An investigation by Military Times this spring found Marine Corps aviation accidents had increased 80% over the previous five years, rising from 56 in fiscal year 2013 to 101 in fiscal year 2017. The greatest increase came among Class C mishaps, where damage is between ,000 and 0,000 and work days are lost due to injury.

2013 marked the beginning of mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration, and other services also saw an increase in mishaps starting that year as squadrons reduced flying hours for training.

The Marines, however, have a smaller budget, fewer personnel, and fewer aircraft. After 2013, flying hours were reduced and and experienced maintainers supervisors were released.

4 battles brought to you by booze

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Zachary Almendarez, cleans the inside of a nacelle on a V-22 Osprey aboard USS Iwo Jima, Oct. 7, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Margaret Gale)

The next year, military operations increased as a part of the campaign against ISIS and in response to Chinese activity in the South China Sea. Flying hours for deployed pilots grew while returned pilots were “flight-time deprived.”

Along with increased flight hours for deployed Marine pilots, maintenance suffered, as the Corps was not able to replace some of its more experienced maintainers and crew members. That drove an increase in the number of aircraft that were unable to fly, in turn depriving pilots of flight time for training.

The loss of both skilled maintainers and pilot hours increases the chances a mishap will occur and the chances that a minor mishap will escalate, defense analysts told Military Times.

“You got worse at everything if you flew two or less times a week,” John Venable, a former F-16 pilot and senior defense fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told Military Times. “And the average units have been flying two or less times for five years. It lulls your ability to handle even mundane things.”

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

Articles

7 quotes that perfectly capture the US Army

The U.S. Army has been defending our nation for nearly two-and-a-half centuries. Here are 7 quotes that capture the soldier’s spirit:


1. “The soldier is the Army. No army is better than its soldiers. The soldier is also a citizen. In fact, the highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one’s country.” – Gen. George S. Patton Jr.

4 battles brought to you by booze
(Photo: Public Domain)

The Army, the soldiers, and the citizens are all inextricably linked. The U.S. Army is a reflection of the best that American citizens have to offer.

2. “They’ve got us surrounded again, the poor bastards.” – Gen. Creighton Abrams

4 battles brought to you by booze
(Portrait: Public Domain/Herbert Abrams)

America’s enemies shouldn’t count the battle won just because they’ve gained the good ground. Gen. Creighton Abrams said this quote while surrounded by Nazis at the Battle of the Bulge. He and his men didn’t die, but many of the German soldiers surrounding them did.

3. “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” – Richard Grenier while discussing the works of George Orwell

This quote is often misattributed to George Orwell, but it’s actually a summary written by Richard Grenier of key points made in Orwell’s writings. It is loved by soldiers for how it describes their chosen profession.

4. “Nuts.” – Gen. Anthony MacAuliffe, said while replying to a request for his surrender

4 battles brought to you by booze
(Photo: Public Domain)

U.S. Army commanders aren’t always great orators, but they get their point across quickly.

5. “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country.” – Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.

4 battles brought to you by booze
(Photo: US National Archives)

Dying for your country is noble, but America would much rather let you be noble while its soldiers concentrate on being victorious.

6. “There were only a handful of Americans there but they fought like wildmen.” Antone Fuhrmann of Mayschoss while discussing Americans in World War I

When U.S. soldiers arrive, they do so violently.

7. Front toward enemy

4 battles brought to you by booze
(Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger)

Look, sometimes soldiers need a little help knowing which end of a weapon is the deadly part. Our mines carry instructions that reflect this reality.

Articles

The US Navy built 12 concrete ships for World War I

During World War I, steel for building ships was in short supply.


While American President Woodrow Wilson was determined to keep the U.S. out of the war, he didn’t want America’s Merchant Marine to be left unbuilt. So he approved the construction of 24 ships made from concrete to the tune of $50 million ($11.4 billion adjusted for inflation) to help build American shipping capacity.

Concrete, while cheap and readily available, is expensive to build and operate when it comes to ships. They need thick hulls, which means less room for cargo. Only 12 were ever built and by the time they were ready, the Great War was over.

A website dedicated to this “experiment in ship building,” ConcreteShips.org, keeps track of what happened to these 12 innovations.

SS Atlantus

The Atlantus was a steamer that was sold as a ferry landing ship. Before she could ever be used for that, she broke free during a storm and grounded near Cape May, New Jersey, in 1926.

4 battles brought to you by booze
The Atlantus in 1926.

She’s been falling apart ever since but what’s left can still be seen from shore.

SS Cape Fear

A good example of the drawbacks of using concrete for shipbuilding, the Cape Fear ran into a cargo ship in Rhode Island, shattered, and then sank with 19 crewmen lost.

SS Cuyamaca

The Cuyamaca was stripped down in New Orleans after she was built. She was then converted into an oil barge. Like other concrete ships hauling oil in the Gulf of Mexico, not much is known about her final resting place.

SS Dinsmore

Artificial structures sunk in coastal areas protect the coasts from negative effects due to weather and the spread of sediment. The Dinsmore is living on in this regard. She was sunk to be a breakwater in the Gulf of Mexico.

SS Latham

The Latham also became an oil barge, storing oil pumped in the Gulf of Mexico. While transporting oil pipes, she hit a jetty and nearly sank. She’s now floating around the Gulf somewhere, storing oil.

SS Moffitt

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SS Moffitt being launched.

Moffitt is another oil barge off the coast of New Orleans.

SS Palo Alto

This ship was turned into a dance club and restaurant in California. It featured an arcade and a swimming pool before the company that ran the place collapsed in the Great Depression.

4 battles brought to you by booze
The Palo Alto (used by permission)

When a storm cracked her across the middle, the Palo Alto became a fishing pier.

SS Peralta

Now in British Columbia, Canada, the Peralta spent time as a floating fish cannery and is now a floating breakwater. She’s the only one of the 12 still afloat.

4 battles brought to you by booze
The SS Peralta (photo by Scott J. Lowe)

The Peralta is also the largest concrete ship still afloat anywhere in the world. She protects the log storage pond of a Canadian paper company.

SS Polias

After hitting an underwater ledge, Polias shattered and sank off the coast of Maine. Fourteen crewmen died trying to abandon ship.

4 battles brought to you by booze

A 1924 hurricane further shattered her wreck. What remains is off the coast of Port Clyde, Maine.

SS San Pasqual

When the San Pasqual ran aground off Cuba, no one was inclined to dig her out. She stayed there and became a depot ship and then a prison. Now, she’s a 10 room hotel.

SS Sapona

Originally sold for scrap, Sapona was converted into an offshore liquor warehouse during Prohibition. She was grounded off the coast of Bimini, an island of the Bahamas, during a hurricane. The stern broke off, destroying the rum running owner’s stock and leaving him penniless.

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The Sapona in 2009

The Army Air Forces and Navy used Sapona for target practice during WWII.

SS Selma

Called the “Flagship of Texas,” the Selma was an oil tanker that hit a jetty off the coast of Tampico, Florida. The government sent Selma to Galveston for repairs, but the shipwrights had no experience with concrete. She was taken to Pelican Island, Texa in 1922, where she sits today.

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The SS Selma in Galveston (photo by John Wiley)

The Texas Army named her its flagship 70 years later.

NOW WATCH:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How to find cover anywhere according to operators

There are some important fundamentals underlying proper shooting techniques that involve cover and what we’ll refer to as half-assed cover, based on hard-learned lessons gleaned from nearly two decades of continuous warfare. And they all fall under the most important principle of patrolling — common sense. Yet, you’ll still see outdated, old-school techniques used in the field and presented all over social media. I always say, “my way isn’t the only way,” but I preach what’s worked for the Special Forces community during the recent wars — nothing validates doctrine and fundamentals like confirmation under fire. Regardless of what you take from this article, at a minimum, do the following: have an offensive mindset, limit your exposure to the enemy, think in terms of near and far, and use what you have to stabilize your shooting platform.


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The corner of this building provides some cover as well as stability for sending more effective fire downrange. The author braces his support hand and rifle against the edge of the building.

Cover and mindset

First, let’s define cover as the term’s used in military doctrine. Cover is anything that provides protection from bullets, fragments, flames, and nuclear, biological, and chemical agents. Cover can be man-made or naturally occurring. Examples include logs, trees, ravines, trenches, walls, rubble, craters, and small depressions. What’s half-assed cover, then? Well, you really never know… Vehicles are half-assed cover for the most part, but hat’s a whole other topic in itself. And it’s far better to use half-assed cover than to just stand out in the open.

Remember, we don’t hide, we fight, and nothing will ever afford us complete protection. In conflict, you either fight or you hide, period — and we fight! Always maintain an offensive mindset and act accordingly.

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Is a mud wall in Afghanistan thick enough to provide cover? Well it all depends where you’re situated. Will a PKM smoke right through it? If someone says you should simply move to a 100-percent solid structure and fight from there, well that’s just not possible in most circumstances. Perhaps you’re next to a wall, the side of a building, or a door frame. They may or may not stop that PKM round, but they’re often sturdy and can provide you some stability. So use what you have as support and deliver faster, more accurate follow-up shots. If you’re behind something, why not use it to support yourself and your firearm? If you’re not using cover to support your position, no matter if it’s half-assed or not, you’re doing it wrong. If you think there’s theory and science behind what bullets do when they ricochet, please show us a scientifically validated study. You can apply techniques based on theory or maintain that offensive mindset. The choice is clear.

Take the sh*t and stop playing peek-a-boo

This isn’t just my opinion, but also that of the Special Operations Forces community, and those who’ve taught in its school house and know what’s right. Years ago, we’d come up to an alleyway and pie it off in a slow, methodical movement. It involved baby steps to clear the alleyway at angles to limit exposure, and we didn’t use the available cover to support our firing position. Was it valid? Perhaps. But what about our shooting position? We weren’t using the edge of the wall to support our shooting platforms. Could we engage someone close? Hell yes, but we weren’t effective at longer distances and weren’t supporting what we currently teach and refer to as a 10-round-string stance; that’s a strong, stable fighting stance from which you can effectively and quickly put multiple rounds on target. We’ve found it’s far more effective and faster to just take the alleyway by force, and then post up on the side of the wall in a stable firing position and collapse that sector.

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Being able to shoot with both your strong and support side dramatically reduces your exposure behind cover.

The next time you go to the range, put up a barricade and place targets at 10 to 40 and 70 meters away. Pie off the barricade, don’t support yourself, and shoot five rounds at each target while timing yourself. Next, take it by force, post up in a good stable firing position, use the barricade, and execute the same drill. Your hits will be far more accurate, and your time will be much faster. We’ve put in the time using simunitions and teammates playing the peek-a-boo technique — the bottom line is if someone’s waiting for you to break a corner or an alleyway, he’ll see you anyway. Bring a good solid supported stance and shove 10 rounds of lead down his throat rather than slowly pieing off the corner and giving up the extra stability.

There’s a time and place for the pieing technique — save that for CQB. We never know how far our threat will be, and we plan for the worst case. So stop pieing sh*t off. Take it by force and post up while you collapse your sector of that alleyway or when you turn the corner of a house on a raid.

Support yourself

If you’re fighting from behind something, use it. Using your piece of cover or even half-assed cover will further stabilize your firing platform. The goal is to put fast, accurate follow-up shots on target, so use what’s in front of you. It doesn’t matter if you have a rifle or a pistol. Yes, there are a lot of great shooters that could run up to a barricade or position of cover and crush targets without a support. That’s great when running drills on the flat range, but the flat range is not reality. Reality is when you’re pulling security in an isolation or containment position — you’ll definitely benefit from using what’s in front of you to support yourself for extended periods of time. Then add in stress, adrenaline, the dark of night, weather, fatigue, and maybe an injury, like being down to one arm or hand.

There’s no single, best way to support your carbine on a piece of cover. The key is to get meat between your weapon and what you’re using for cover. That means your hands; it’s not a good idea to support yourself with equipment connected to your blaster. There are some exceptions, like laying your carbine flat on its side at 90 degrees. You definitely don’t want the slide of a pistol touching anything; we all know what’ll happen — a lot of shooter-induced malfunctions. Place the meaty portion of your palm against cover and form an L to support and brace your rifle. Use your forearm to brace against awkwardly shaped pieces of cover or half-assed cover like the front end of a vehicle. With a pistol, dig your knuckles into cover or use your support thumb to hook onto cover as well. However, attempt to maintain a solid fundamental grip on the pistol, and don’t let the piece of cover totally support you.

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Being able to shoot with both your strong and support side dramatically reduces your exposure behind cover.

Square up to your piece of cover as best as you can. This isn’t a USPSA or three-gun match where you can be off balance, rip off two shots, and haul ass to the next position. Establish a solid base, square up to cover, and remember our 10-round-string stance. Squaring up also keeps legs and knees in a tight position so teammates aren’t tripping over legs at night. Who knows how many others will need to share that piece of cover with you.

When kneeling, always keep the outside knee up. Right or wrong? It’s a technique we teach. It provides a stable platform to drop your arm and tuck it into your thigh. It also avoids legs sticking out and tripping teammates as they run past the alleyway you’re posted up on. So, square up and support your firing platform, and remember the 10-round-string stance, no matter what awkward position you might find yourself in.

Limit your exposure

Limiting exposure sounds like common sense, but what it really means is you need to be an ambidextrous gunfighter. People get small and seek cover when it’s raining lead. Whether standing or kneeling, squaring up helps — you don’t want to expose yourself needlessly, yet you must stabilize yourself to support that 10-round string of fire.

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Vehicles are half-assed cover, but you should still use them as support.

First, don’t try to conceal yourself so much that you give up both a stable firing position and the ability to fight effecively. Remember, we must have an offensive mindset — we don’t hide. Second, you have to shoot strong and support side — don’t forget we don’t have a weak side (see issue 7 of CONCEALMENT for more on weak sides). If you’re on the left side of something, you should shoot from the left side of your body with a carbine. The same applies for the right side of cover. Your mindset and training philosophy should be to become fully ambidextrous, especially when it comes to shooting around cover. Put in the practice time on the range.

Oh sh*t vehicle tactics

Vehicles aren’t cover; they’re half-assed cover. Yet the philosophy of using them to support yourself still applies. Be offensive and seek better positions like the rear of the vehicle, the engine block, and axles. This philosophy comes from battlefield experience, and is presented as doctrine in SOF and law enforcement training. First, have you seen ballistic data on ricochets? Bullet type, distance, angle, and so on; there are too many factors that influence what bullets will do when they hit sh*t. We used to have beer shoots, skipping rounds off car hoods into the A zone of targets. We knew the distance and where best to try to aim, but the reality is that there’s no telling where that bullet will go.

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Kneeling with the outside knee up provides a more stable shooting platform than the alternative. Always have an offensive mindset.

It’s fine to take these things into consideration, but you shouldn’t avoid using the vehicle to support yourself. Most vehicle interdictions in military terms are close range, but not all of them… and not all engagements are at close range. So apply the same techniques for shooting around vehicles as for around walls. Of course, if the bad guy’s 5 feet away, you don’t have to support yourself on a vehicle. But some say that ricochet theories dictate that you shouldn’t support yourself on a vehicle. In my book, that’s not an offensive mindset, and we should always have an offensive mindset.

Outside the vehicle

So, get up close and personal on the outside of your vehicle. Use it to support yourself and your shots. Yes, vehicles don’t stop bullets, but what about armored or military vehicles? Don’t correlate this all to vehicles, but the principles apply to both. If you’re in an engagement, using the engine block or front of the vehicle to fight from, why would you be 3 to 5 feet away from the vehicle? Then, how would you support yourself in a junkyard prone position on the hood? If your threat is 5 feet away, you don’t need support; but what if it isn’t? Think night; think far.

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When shooting underneath a vehicle, get close to it.

Second, consider fighting in a hostile environment where threats are at the rooftop level. The further you move away from a vehicle, the more exposed you are. You also limit your fields of fire. Try backing away from a piece of cover, then shoot underneath or over it — you better have some good loophole math locked into memory to avoid putting rounds into your cover in a stressful situation! Shooting underneath a vehicle certainly reduces your situational awareness, but you might need to do it at some point. I’ve seen it before — it’s easy with a gun truck, not so easy under a BMW with the tires blown out. When you only have a couple inches to get it done, hug those axles and get that gun up underneath the vehicle to get your shots off. This becomes very difficult when you’re several meters from the vehicle.

Inside the vehicle

When fighting from a vehicle, there are certain areas of the vehicles that afford better protection than others. Probably not the front two seats, though shooting through the front windshield is a viable option, if needed.

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When shooting through windshields, don’t be stingy.

I’ve shot numerous types of ammunition through windshields, from inside and out. There’s one rule to remember — P for Plenty, plenty of lead! No matter what type of ammunition you use, it’ll take multiple shots through the same hole to get good hits on target. If a threat’s approaching your vehicle and you must engage through the windshield, put a couple rounds into the same hole and then jam your muzzle into the hole. To adjust your aim and point of impact, move your body. Never walk rounds across the windshield; you won’t make the positive contact you need to eliminate the threat.

Contingencies of gunfighting

Should you ever find yourself injured and in an engagement when behind cover, or half-assed cover, you’ll need that platform to support yourself. Don’t train or think of the best case scenarios at all time. Train and develop techniques that apply to contingencies as well. When rounds are flying, it shouldn’t be your first time figuring out how to fire your pistol one handed from behind a wall or how to support yourself using the wall.

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Get meat between your weapon and the support — with a pistol as shown here, you can dig your knuckles into the fender.

Wrapping up

There aren’t any right answers when sh*t hits the fan and it’s raining lead. What you do and how you do it on the range is the answer. There are a lot of ways to do things, but if you’re fighting from behind cover (or half-assed cover), utilize the following four fundamentals.

  • Have an offensive mindset
  • Limit your exposure
  • Think near and far for engagements
  • Support yourself to provide a solid, 10-round string firing position

Also don’t forget common sense, one of the principles of patrolling. If it works at night, in the rain and cold, when you’re exhausted or injured, then you’re on the right track. Fast, accurate shots win the day. Prepare yourself to take advantage of what’s around you and practice supported shooting from behind cover. Apply the fundamentals and push forward; remember that on the range, everything is a rehearsal for something.

Photos by Blake Rea and RECOIL Staff

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY GAMING

5 reasons why being a SPECTRE would be awesome

The Mass Effect series has had its share of ups and downs, but one thing is undeniable — the world-building was done insanely well. One such piece of world-building that is worth mentioning is the existence of the Special Tactics and Reconnaissance agents. For those who don’t know, SPECTREs are special agents, granted authority by a government council to essentially carry out special missions that standard military cannot. This authority also gives them an insane amount of freedom.

If there is any unit, fictional or otherwise, to live up to the “Own F***ing Program” mantra, it’s definitely SPECTREs. Why? Because they’re rarely even assigned tasks; often times they just find their own and occasionally check in with the council that granted them their authority in the first place.

So, here are the biggest reasons being a SPECTRE would be awesome:


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Although, you may still have to answer to military and government officials when the time comes.

(Bioware)

You can choose your missions

You can also decide which ones take the most precedence. Do you want to rescue colonists before defeating a rogue who’s threatening life in the galaxy? Have at it. For the most part, military officials won’t breathe down your neck about what you’re doing — you just do you.

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This allows you to put together your own personal A-team.

(Bioware)

You choose your crew

You don’t have to go planet-side with a team that was assigned to you. You can essentially recruit whoever you want, including mercenaries, to watch your back.

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Like signing out a duty van — just make sure you fill up the tank.

(Bioware)

You get your own ship

Who doesn’t want their own ship to travel where and when as they please at the expense of their government? That ship is basically yours to do with as you please and go where you see fit, even if there aren’t any missions tied to that distant moon you just dropped in on.

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Or you can just go with what they give you.

(Bioware)

You get the best weapons and gear

“Military grade” doesn’t apply to you. In fact, you can buy whatever you need for your missions, and no higher-up is going to yell at you for it. You want that scope for your rifle? Cool. Do you want to use that alien’s blaster that they just dropped? Go for it. Is the military issued armor not best on the market? Pick up your own.

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No more relying on that government salary.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

You can get paid by whoever you want

One thing that may not have been covered is whether SPECTREs earn a salary or not. But, one thing’s for sure — if someone offers to pay you credits for a job, you’re allowed to take it. Remember how we said you can pick your own missions? One being more lucrative than another may actually be part of which ones you take.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Internet swoons over unexpected chemistry of a sailor and a stranger

Two strangers who answered an ad now have the world rooting for fate to be real.

At first glance, the photo session looked like two people celebrating an engagement. The viewer’s heart swells as the couple interacts lovingly. He gently kisses her forehead, she closes her eyes to breathe in the moment as he embraces her. They share a gentle kiss as she straddles him, and he lifts her on his back as they both smile with contentment. And all the hopeless romantics collectively say awe.


But this couple isn’t engaged. In fact, they were perfect strangers who’d just met that day.

When 23-year-old Heather John, a master’s degree student, and 28-year-old Baxter Jackson, a sailor, answered a photographer’s Facebook marketplace ad to do a Virginia Beach ‘stranger session’, they had no idea how big this would become. Within 24 hours of being posted the photos went viral and have since been shared over 51,000 times. At this point everyone is pining to know all the juicy details of this relationship, friendship and happenstance meeting. We don’t know what to call it, but we just want it to be magical and mushy because we could all use some ‘feel good’ right now.

Initially they were both a little nervous about doing something so intimate with a stranger. All they knew of each other was that they (including the photographer) had all tested negative for COVID-19 prior to this session.

“When I agreed to it, I thought, ‘Oh my goodness what have I done?’ I almost convinced myself that I wasn’t going,” John said.

But her mom and sister wouldn’t let her back out. In fact, they said they would take her themselves if they had to.

Jackson admits he was on Facebook looking for a TV when the ad popped up.

“I didn’t know what a stranger session was. But my friends explained it, so I thought it sounded cool and fun. Why not?” he said.

At first sight both agree that they were instantly attracted to each other, but John says, “It was really awkward at first.” So, she pulled her speaker from her purse and played the newest music by Lil Baby. Jackson adds, “it was a wrap after that.”

They joked, danced, sang to the music and had so much fun that they stopped listening to the photographer and let the session flow.

When asked what was going through his mind, Jackson says, “I couldn’t think. I don’t know what she put in her hair that day, but she smelled so good!”

They may have started the session as strangers, but they ended it as new friends. John was afraid of a wolf spider that she’d seen in her purse, so Jackson politely picked her up and carried her off the field.

The buzz of their meeting – and undeniable chemistry – spread across the nation, with the story being featured on CBS This Morning, and WTKR News 3. Now everyone wants to know what’s next for them.

“We’re like best friends, and we’ve only known each other a little over a week,” John said.

“We’re not trying to let outside forces pressure us into anything. I want to pursue this naturally. I have kinks to work out,” Jackson shared.

While he has been legally separated from his wife since January of this year, travel restrictions due to COVID-19 have kept him from being able to finalize his divorce. But he says they have a good relationship and, “she is a fantastic person.” According to Jackson, they have very open communication and she knew about the photo shoot beforehand.

John and Jackson aren’t trying to pursue anything but a platonic relationship right now. After their session he says he felt he left with a really good friend.

But the chemistry they displayed is impossible to fake so maybe it’s written in the stars for these two. We are all anxious to see where this goes and how their friendship blossoms.

“Hexter,” as they refer to themselves, have decided to vlog about their friendship journey. Subscribe to their story and updates on YouTube.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ official trailer is finally here

“My name is Sarah Connor. August 29, 1997 was supposed to be judgment day. But I changed the future. Saved three billion lives. Enough of a resume for you?”

“No.”

Terminator: Dark Fate will follow the events of Terminator 2: Judgment Day and disregard all other Terminator works and reboots (Rise of the Machines, Salvation, Genisys, Sarah Connor Chronicles etc.).

Make no mistake, the disregarded projects were profitable, but none had the same critical laurels as Judgment Day, which was not only the highest grossing film of 1991, but earned multiple Academy Awards.

Plus, it was a great film. Will Dark Fate live up to its standards?

Based on the trailer…maybe!


Terminator: Dark Fate – Official Trailer (2019) – Paramount Pictures

www.youtube.com

Terminator: Dark Fate – Official Trailer (2019) – Paramount Pictures

Let’s look at the team making this film. We’ve got Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger returning in their iconic roles (you got a lot of explaining to do, T-800) — and totally hamming it up, as they should:

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Arnold’s cool and strong and whatever, but Linda Hamilton is a BAMF and you know it.

Also read: How fans are reacting to ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ footage

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Another thing going for Dark Fate is that it’s directed by Deadpool’s Tim Miller, who has proven that he knows how to entertain. Deadpool’s outlandish personality makes his films unlike any other superhero movie out there, which is true to the character created in the comics, but is still a challenge to pull off.

Miller nailed it with both films. Finger’s are crossed that he brought that ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking to the Terminator franchise as well.

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The consensus on the twitterverse seems to be “cautious optimism” — we’ve been hurt before, but this trailer looks like the film could be pretty cool. At a minimum, pouring through the tweets about it definitely doesn’t suck:

ATTN: The Terminator is wearing flannel #TerminatorDarkFate #Terminatorpic.twitter.com/NADClmiAU0

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Me after watching the trailer #TerminatorDarkFatepic.twitter.com/8SXOG5xRzN

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She’s back. Linda Hamilton takes you inside #TerminatorDarkFate and the role that helped define a franchise. Share what Terminator means to you in honor of #JudgmentDay below.pic.twitter.com/TkLIT2HFKr

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Also, Linda Hamilton has some thoughts:

Meanwhile, I’m just going to sit and ponder what the poster tagline means until the film is finally released on Nov. 1.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

This US soldier has deployed home to Afghanistan

As an Afghan-American linguist, Sgt. Zabi Abraham strives to help the two countries he loves.

Originally from Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province near the border of Pakistan, Abraham first served as a contractor to support U.S. Special Forces units.

Before and during operations, Abraham, now 35, would translate for the soldiers and share knowledge about his country’s customs and traditions.


“They respected me a lot,” he recalled, “and also gave me the chance to explain every situation to them.”

The soldiers also taught him about America, and he became interested in the opportunities it offered.

Years later, those opportunities led him on a path to U.S. citizenship. He also had the chance to return to Afghanistan, where he now serves as an advisor for one of the U.S. Army’s newest units, the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade.

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Sgt. Zabi Abraham, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, interprets a conversation between Lt. Col. Zachary Miller, right, the battalion commander, and an Afghan National Army officer during an Afghan-led operation near Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 16, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Sean Kimmons)

In Afghanistan, about a quarter of the labor force is unemployed and more than half of the population lives below the national poverty line, according to the most recent data provided by The World Bank.

Determined to have a better life, Abraham’s hard work as a contractor helped him be recommended for a special immigration visa. In 2013, he was approved and moved his family to the United States to start a new journey.

His first taste of America left him amazed when he and his family first stepped foot onto U.S. soil while switching planes in Chicago.

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Sgt. Zabi Abraham, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, speaks with Afghan soldiers during an Afghan-led operation near Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 16, 2018.

(Army photo by Sean Kimmons)

“We saw everything was very nice and very fresh. We said that this is the life,” he said, smiling.

His family chose to live in Missouri and, at first, it took some time to adapt to the American way of life.

The endless choices at megastores, a variety of pay systems (Afghanistan mainly relies on cash), and the other differences in American culture presented some challenges.

“At the beginning, it was little bit hard,” he said. “Everything was very new for us.”

Abraham and his wife also wanted to be a dual-income family, so both obtained learner’s permits so they could drive themselves around.

Although it is legal for women to drive in Afghanistan, many families restrict them from doing so due to safety concerns.

Abraham and his wife studied for the driver’s test and frequently practiced behind the wheel. Once the test came, they both passed.

“It was such a big experience and a good day for us,” he said.

Joining the Army

While things went well in his new home, his heart still longed for Afghanistan and he searched how he could help rebuild the war-torn country.

In 2015, he walked into an Army recruiter’s office and told them he once served as a linguist with U.S. soldiers. Impressed, a recruiter suggested he become an active-duty interpreter.

“My main reason was to come back and use my skill,” said Abraham, who speaks Dari and Pashto, the two most widely spoken Afghan languages.

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In traditional Afghan attire, Zabi Abraham, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, poses for a photo in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in 2013.

At basic training, Abraham, still an Afghan citizen, was issued sets of the Army combat uniform along with the other trainees. When the time came to wear the uniform, he could not help but share the moment with his family.

“I was very proud and took some pictures and sent them to my family,” he said. “They were proud of me, too.”

Abraham eventually earned his citizenship and was stationed at Fort Irwin, California, where he and other interpreters helped rotational units at the National Training Center prepare for deployments.

Speaking in his native tongue, Abraham and others role-played as peaceful villagers, insurgents and even detainees to gauge how soldiers responded.

News then spread across the training base about a new unit designed to bolster the train, advise and assist mission in Afghanistan.

The more he heard about the 1st SFAB and its experienced soldiers, many of whom have been deployed to Afghanistan, the more it appealed to him.

“I wanted to be involved with such professional people,” he said.

SFAB mission

Now based at the New Kabul Compound in the middle of the country’s capital city, Abraham is one of the most impactful advisors within the brigade’s 5th Battalion.

Often, he is at the battalion commander’s side, translating conversations between him and senior Afghan leaders.

His respectful demeanor and extensive knowledge of Afghan traditions make him a popular soldier to almost every Afghan he meets.

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Zabi Abraham, right, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, prepares to do the Oath of Enlistment while at a military entrance processing station.

“They see him as serving us, but also as serving them,” said Lt. Col. Zachary Miller, the 5th Battalion commander.

During important discussions, Abraham is sort of Miller’s key advisor to ensure things are not lost in translation or to pick up on cultural cues.

“It’s the word choice they are choosing. It may be the way they did or did not answer a certain question,” Miller said. “So, if you got a really quality cultural advisor and interpreter, like we do with Sgt. Abraham, he will stop you from asking a question that is not the right time to ask.”

When the time is right, Abraham will ask those sensitive questions in private to support the mission.

“Even if you get trained on the Dari language,” Miller said, “you’ll never be able to pick up on those things if you’re not a native speaker.”

Wearing the same combat gear as every American soldier over here, Abraham also surprises Afghans when he speaks in their language.

“They don’t realize because I’m in full kit, but after I speak with them they realize I am Afghan,” he said, laughing. “I tell them about the service I provided when I was a linguist with them and right now how I support both countries.

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Zabi Abraham, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, poses for a photo with his wife and two children during a trip to San Diego.

“They are appreciative of my service.”

With his unit’s deployment ending this month, Abraham recently spoke of where his career may go next.

If his family approves — most importantly his wife and two young children — he would like to retire as a soldier.

“Without their support, I could not do anything and achieve my goal here in Afghanistan,” he said. “They are part of my heart.”

Another part of his heart belongs to Afghanistan.

Abraham is in the process of completing his bachelor’s degree and raising his test scores to perhaps re-class to 35P, a cryptologic linguist. That job deals with identifying foreign communications using signals equipment.

Even if he does switch careers, Abraham aspires to be halfway across the world again helping his native country.

“My hope is that one day there is peace in this country,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia may be preparing a ground invasion of Ukraine

Ukraine on Nov. 26, 2018, imposed martial law in parts of the country as President Petro Poroshenko warned of the “extremely serious” threat of attack by Russian forces.

Poroshenko on Nov. 26, 2018, said in a televised address that the move was necessary after Russian ships attacked Ukrainian vessels off the coast of Crimea on Nov. 25, 2018.

“Russia has been waging a hybrid war against our country for a fifth year. But with an attack on Ukrainian military boats it moved to a new stage of aggression,” Poroshenko said.


Ukraine says Russia opened fire on its navy and seized three of its vessels, injuring at least six of its servicemen. Russia claims the ships entered Russian waters illegally, and gave them warning to turn back.

Poroshenko said in his video address that martial law was necessary as intelligence services had evidence that Russia was preparing for a massive incursion.

“Here on several pages is a detailed description of all the forces of the enemy located at a distance of literally several dozens of kilometers from our border. Ready at any moment for an immediate invasion of Ukraine,” he said.

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Flagship of the Ukrainian Naval Forces.

The country’s parliament granted him emergency powers in areas of the country most vulnerable to attack, and suspended elections for 30 days.

Critics alleged that Poroshenko’s request for martial law was an attempt to postpone elections scheduled for 2019, though lawmakers confirmed the polls would take place as scheduled.

President Donald Trump said he was working with EU leaders to assess the situation, though he refused to condemn Russian aggression. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the incident “a dangerous escalation” and a violation of international law, and called on both countries to exercise caution.

Several countries, including Britain, France, Poland, Denmark, and Canada, denounced Russia’s use of force.

Russia has been steadily increasing its control around the Crimean peninsula, which it annexed in 2014. Nov. 25, 2018’s stand-off came to a head after Russia used a huge tanker to block passage through the Kerch Strait — the only access point to the Sea of Azov, which is shared by both Ukraine and Russia.

The Sea of Azov has been a flash point in the conflict between the two countries. In May 2018, Russia completed its construction of a massive 18-kilometer (11.2 mile) bridge linking the Crimea peninsula to mainland Russia.

Russia’s foreign ministry accused Ukraine of “well-thought-out provocation” in order to justify ramping up sanctions against them. Russia also alleged that Kiev was working in coordination with the US and EU and warned of “serious consequences.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 things you didn’t know about the agent who took down Al Capone

U.S. Attorney George E. Q. Johnson of Chicago, Illinois, was personally tasked by President Hoover to orchestrate the takedown of Al Capone, the gangster of the Windy City who had the law in his pocket. Capone had transformed Chicago into a hive of organized crime in defiance of prohibition. However, how can the law be enforced if those in charge of gathering evidence accepted bribes? You bring in a man who cannot be bought.

Eliot Ness was a Prohibition agent who attacked the distribution pipeline of alcohol while the U.S. Treasury Department simultaneously collected evidence on Al Capone’s tax-related crimes. Ness marshaled a small team of experts to track empty barrels from saloons en route to Capone’s distilleries to be refilled with the illegal substance. Whenever there was to be a raid on these operations, Ness notified the press so they could be on the scene. It was his way of sending a message to the public: There was a new sheriff in town.

However, there was a lot more to this moral crusader than met the eye.


4 battles brought to you by booze

The face of a man who just watched years of his collected evidence get tossed to the wayside.

(Crime Museum)

The Prohibition case was not used against Al Capone

In June, 1931, Al Capone was indicted on charges of tax evasion and one count of conspiracy to violate Prohibition. Unfortunately, the chances of convicting the crime lord for his violating Prohibition required city-level action, and to betray Capone was as deadly as suicide. So, the only charges that would stick were federal tax crimes.

While Eliot Ness is credited as the agent who took down Al Capone, it wasn’t his thwarting of the bootlegging operation that did it.

Hello darkness my old friend

He had a drinking problem

Eliot Ness decompressed after a long day of busting bootleggers by pouring himself a drink and reading the headlines made from his crackdowns. That’s like a DEA agent going home to do a celebratory line of coke while watching the news praise yet another successful raid on a cartel. He pieced together a scrapbook of his victories to chronicle his own legacy.

Maybe there’s some truth to the saying, “never meet your heroes…”

4 battles brought to you by booze

Front-page news

He failed to catch a serial killer in Cleveland

Later in his career, Ness took his fight against organized crime to Cleveland, and he successfully turned it from the deadliest city in America to the safest. Then, in what seems like a deliberate challenge to the man who turned a city around, a serial killer preyed on the homeless, killing them and severing their limbs in brutal fashion.

After 12 bodies were found in succession, Ness brought the police to where the homeless lived in makeshift huts and burned them to the ground. Ness reasoned that if there were no more homeless to fall victim, there would be no murders.

It seems crazy, but it worked. The homeless were relocated to the Salvation Army, and the death toll stopped climbing.

Eliot Ness

Crime Museum

He wrote the book that was turned into a movie

The 1987 hit gangster film, The Untouchables, directed by Brian De Palma, was based on Eliot Ness’ book by the same name. It recounts a sensationalized version of the hunt for Al Capone that puts him at the center of the investigation as the principal figure who took down the gangster.

Most of the embellishments can be credited to the co-author, Oscar Fraley. An abundance of self-celebration aside, a good story is a good story.