Tattoos are, by their very essence, pretty bad ass. They’re statements to the entire world that you’re willing to go through a few hours of pain to showcase your dedication to a certain thing. They’re messages that you’ll carry on your body forever.
In the military, it’s not uncommon for troops to get a new bit of ink that celebrates their branch on the day they graduate from initial entry training. It’s a legitimately badass reason to permanently mark yourself — a symbol of transformation into a warrior — just as Polynesian warriors have done throughout history.
That tattoo of a unicorn that you drunkenly got inked onto your butt because it’ll totally be funny? Not quite as badass.
Tattooing predates civilization itself. Ötzi the Iceman, found in the Italian Alps, is Europe’s oldest known human mummy and his skin was inked with 61 different tattoos. But the art form, as we know it, followed early Austronesian settlers and arguably reached its apex with the Polynesian peoples.
In many Polynesian societies, tattoos are symbols of class, nobility, and family. While certain design elements may be similar and represent a specific trait exhibited by the wearer, no two tattoos, by their very nature, are identical. In Polynesian society, tattoos read like someone’s life story. If lines are filled with a dog-skin cloak, it may signify that someone is a warrior. Intricate designs on the forehead may mean they’re in a leadership position within their community.
People want to appropriate other cultures and take their tattoo designs, but none of them are willing to go the distance by getting a Ta Moko (face tattoo).
(Photo by Graham Crumb)
Some Polynesians still get their tattoos the same way their ancestors did — using tools of sharpened bone and ink made from the candle nut. This traditional process makes heavier use of scarification than modern techniques.
Instead of using a needle to inject ink beneath the epidermis (first layer of skin), the traditional method used by Pacific Islanders involves, at its most basic, digging into the flesh with a serrated bone, using a tapping mallet to drive the the bone further into the skin, and rubbing ink into the wound. It’s extremely painful and may take weeks, if not years, to complete.
This is made even more impressive by the fact that the most common place to get a tattoo is the face. Unlike western cultures, face tattoos aren’t vilified by the Maori. It’s simply a way of showing the world who you are.
Fun fact: It’s very common in Samoa to get the tattoo from the waist to the knee — the pe’a — which covers everything to include the booty and the private bits.
The act of getting a tattoo is sacred in that it’s a rite of passage for the wearer. You cannot eat with your hands while it’s being done nor can you talk to anyone during the tattoo process. But the biggest no-no is wincing from pain. Any sign of weakness means you are not worthy of the tatau and you’ll be told to leave with a half-finished tattoo. This forever marks you with shame.
The tradition continues to this day as a sign of heritage. While most of the younger generations opt for the modern-day needle gun (it’s faster and less painful), traditional artists are still around. While it’s not forbidden for outsiders to undergo the traditional process, you will (understandably) be shunned if you get something that you know nothing about just because you thought it looked cool.
You might think that legendary fighter planes like the F4U Corsair and P-51 Mustang saw their last action in the Korean War.
It seems like a reasonable assumption – but it’d be dead wrong.
Believe it or not, the last combat those planes saw came around the time that F-4 Phantoms and MiG-21s were fighting for air superiority over North Vietnam, and Israeli Mirages and Neshers took on the air forces of Egypt, Syria, and other Arab countries.
In 1969, El Salvador and Honduras went to war. It lasted about 100 hours, and started less than three weeks after the end of a contentious qualifying series for the 1970 World Cup.
Dubbed the “Soccer War,” the fighting left nearly 3,200 people dead, both military and civilian.
Notable was that it was the last combat action that some legendary planes would see. The war started when El Salvador began its attacks — a makeshift affair with passenger planes being modified to carry bombs for the first strikes. El Salvadoran troops followed the strikes and pushed into Honduras.
Honduras at the time had 19 F4U Corsairs in its inventory, along with 6 AT-6 Texan attack planes. El Salvador had 11 P-51D Mustangs in service, plus some that upgraded Cavalier Mustangs. They had 25 F4U/FG-1 Corsairs in service as well.
During the fighting, Honduran Corsairs downed a P-51 and two Corsairs, gained air superiority over the battlefield, and began pushing the invaders back. Anti-aircraft fire claimed two more Salvadoran Mustangs, while two P-51s were lost in a mid-air collision.
Two Salvadoran Corsairs were also shot down by ground fire.
When all was said and done, the Organization of American States intervened to arrange for a cease-fire. The war ended with a status quo ante bellum. Today, both Air Forces operate A-37B Dragonfly attack planes (15 for El Salvador, 10 for Honduras), but Honduras also has nine F-5E Tiger II fighters. Honduras and El Salvador took over a decade to sign a formal peace treaty, but the underlying tensions remain in that region.
While the disputes that lead to the Soccer War have not been resolved, the Soccer War did give some legends one last chance to serve.
The most lasting image of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev with a U.S. leader will always be his close relationship with Ronald Reagan. In managing a very tense period toward the end of the Cold War, the image of the two leaders together has been enshrined in Cold War history. But the American President he teamed up to win a Grammy Award with would come to power four years after Reagan’s era ended, President Bill Clinton.
These two leaders never squared off in Cold War weapons agreements or faced a standoff between Russian and American forces. What they shared was the interpersonal foundation of a lasting peace.
Boris Yeltsin was hammered the day they called. And probably every day.
Gorbachev was the Soviet Union’s seventh and last President and Communist Party Chairman. He managed the final days of the Cold War as the Iron Curtain came tumbling down. Reagan was gone by then, succeeded by his Vice-President-turned-President, George H.W. Bush, who masterfully handled the U.S. response to the end of the Cold War. Clinton would be the first president to have to deal with the new Russian Federation and its former Soviet client states.
Gorbachev wouldn’t be his Russian counterpart. Boris Yeltsin came to power in the 1990s. But the two men were integral to shaping the post-Cold War relations between the United States and the former Soviet Union. They were also integral to the 2003 children’s album, Wolf Tracks: Peter and the Wolf.
Gorbachev with a decadent Western awards statue, likely sad he missed the chance to meet Christina Aguilera.
Peter and the Wolf is a 1936 children’s story, first written by Soviet Composer Sergei Prokofiev. It originated as a piece of Soviet propaganda, telling the story of a young boy challenging his grandfather who chided him for going out alone into the world, for fear of being devoured by a wolf. When a wolf does appear, the brave boy gets the best of it and makes sure it ends up in a zoo.
Clinton and Gorbachev performed spoken parts of the story, while actress Sophia Loren performed other sections. The album was an international hit, and was soon translated into multiple languages with more celebrity voices, including Antonio Banderas in the Spanish-language version. But the Grammy went to Gorbachev and Clinton, the first of such awards for a former American President or a former Soviet Premiere.
Just a few years later, Clinton would win another Grammy for the narration of his autobiography, My Life. Following that, other American Presidents would win for spoken-word works of their memoirs, including then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama for his memoirs, The Audacity of Hope and Dreams of my Father, and former President Jimmy Carter for his work, A Full Life: Reflections at 90. Carter would win another spoken-word Grammy in 2019 for his personal religious memoir, Faith – A Journey For All.
Carter has nine Grammy nominations, Clinton has four, and Obama has two, though he has won both years he earned a nod.
The one thing no one ever talks about with deployments is the mind numbing boredom that comes between missions. Times have changed from the “Wild West” days of early 2000’s where even having a power outlet was a luxury.
Things have gotten slightly less monotonous but they haven’t changed that much. Troops are still sitting at the same USO, playing on the same broken Foosball table, watching the same videos that have been shared by everyone.
Here are some pro-tips that help make the deployment a little less sucky.
1. Coffee pot ramen
There was nothing more valuable than a cheapo coffee pot that every PX larger than the back of a semi-truck sold. Even then they would probably still sell them.
Instead of using it for coffee like officers in S-3 do, place ramen noodles in the glass carafe and the powder on top where the hot water will eventually drip down. It will save you time on running to the dining hall or spare you another night of MREs (depending on your level of POG-ieness).
2. MRE hacks
You can talk about the blandness of MREs for months at a time, but there’s hope: you can combine your way through any MRE, it just takes a lot of ratf*cking a bunch of ingredients from several other MREs. It’s common knowledge to combine the Cocoa powder, coffee, sugar, and creamer to make Ranger Pudding, but with enough creativity, you can take it to the next level.
Taken to the extreme, even the old dreaded Egg and Cheese Omelet (which was thankfully removed years ago, a long enough time to make it inedible by Army standards) could be mixed with the Beef Stew and crackers to make it “decent”.
If all else fails, have family members send out cheap seasonings like Lowry’s or Tony Chachere’s.
3. Knock off all that inter-unit bullsh*t
There’s no reason to keep up the “screw (whatever MOS) platoon!” Don’t stop playful banter — but don’t be a jerk, either. One team, one fight.
Everyone has one or two things that can help everyone else while deployed. Commo always have batteries and new movies. Medics always have medical supplies and hygiene stuff. Chaplin Assistants always have the best care packages. Mechanics always have cigarettes. The list goes on.
4. Living Space
If you can manage to get a bunk bed all to yourself, you’ve got it made.
Instead of storing gear on the empty bunk, hollow the bottom bunk out and brace it with plywood. This way you can use that space for your own bedroom. Complete with tough box furniture and one of those cheap lawn chairs.
5. Cotton sock cooler
Troops always deploy to unpleasant areas of the world — usually in crazy hot climates. It gets so bad that drinking water becomes so blistering hot, you feel more thirsty after drinking it than you did before you took a swig.
Here’s the solution: Take a single cotton sock and get it damp. Put a cool bottle of water from the dining hall or S-shop mini-fridge and stick the bottle in the sock.
The eventual evaporation helps cool down the water bottle inside. Same concept behind sweating. Because science.
6. The Postal Service is faster than the Connex
Deploying to the sandbox and coming back stateside, troops split their gear and personal belongings into two categories: Stuff they take on the plane with them and stuff they send with the connex (which arrives months later).
Why not split it into a third? Things too bulky for the plane, but things you’d want immediately. The moment you get the APO address, send out your Xbox, cheapo TV, gear that might be useful, and extra personal supplies (hygiene stuff, ramen noodles, etc.)
Same deal for your return trip, too.
7. Scorpions glow under UV
If you are deployed to an outlying post in the middle of nowhere, you probably noticed a few scorpions.
Spotting them while you’re walking at night is tricky. Since scorpions glow, pick up a black light flashlight to help guide your way.
8. MOLLE pouch for your Woobie
In the PX, there’s countless amounts of “sort of” military gear that no one is ever issued and no one really has a purpose for. The M249 SAW ammo pouch, however, can come in handy for plenty of things.
If you get sent on multi-day missions, that pouch fits your Woobie perfectly. No need to awkwardly dig through your assault pack when the ammo pouch is on the side.
9. .50 Cal Brass as a cigarette cover
We Are The Mighty does not encourage smoking. But if you must smoke…
Every smoker who goes without a cigarette for an extended period of time can tell you that you can spot a cigarette from blocks away.
In the day time, the smoke floats and gives your position away. Especially dangerous at night is the glow of the cigarette, which can give a sniper a bright red target to aim at.
Take an expended .50 cal brass from the Ma Deuce and place it over the cigarette if you just need to have one while on mission. Still does nothing for the smell though.
10f. No one is as stealthy as they think
It should seem obvious, but with your entire platoon squished into a tiny tent on a tiny outpost, there is very little privacy. The sooner you realize it, the sooner your platoon stops mocking you.
If you think you can take a piss in a Gatorade bottle without everyone else in the tent hearing it because you’re too damn lazy to get out of your bunk, you’re wrong. Same goes with everything else that happens in the tent.
President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) held a first, historic summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018.
President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un conducted a comprehensive, in-depth, and sincere exchange of opinions on the issues related to the establishment of new U.S.-DPRK relations and the building of a lasting and robust peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Convinced that the establishment of new U.S.-DPRK relations will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and of the world, and recognizing that mutual confidence building can promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un state the following:
1. The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
2. The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.
Having acknowledged that the U.S.-DPRK summit — the first in history — was an epochal event of great significance and overcoming decades of tensions and hostilities between the two countries and for the opening of a new future, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un commit to implement the stipulations in this joint statement fully and expeditiously. The United States and the DPRK commit to hold follow-on negotiations led by the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and a relevant high-level DPRK official, at the earliest possible date, to implement the outcomes of the U.S.-DPRK summit.
President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have committed to cooperate for the development of new U.S.-DPRK relations and for the promotion of peace, prosperity, and security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world.
June 12, 2018
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The rigors of combat leave a lasting impact on many veterans who have proudly served. As painful as it is to admit, as a society, we’ve mostly left these troops to fend for themselves and find their own path in coping and healing.
No two roads to recovery are alike, but there’s one method that’s proven, time and time again, to be an effective way for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress to see through the haze — and that’s adopting a support animal.
Whether it’s an officially certified and properly trained service animal or just a pet that offers its unconditional love, it’s been proven that animals can get veterans through their struggles.
As many veterans who are accompanied by a support animal can tell you, a little nudge of love can make the biggest difference in the world. Such is the story of Andrew Einstein and his dog, Gunner.
And the two have been inseparable ever since.
When he was deployed in August, 2011, a grenade went off near Andrew. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and lost the hearing on his right side. The road to recovery was long, lonely, and painful. Without adequate support, Andrew went through dark times. He reached his lowest point less than ten months after the injury, and intended to end his own life.
Thankfully, he made it through the night. The very next day, he met Gunner. He wasn’t the biggest or the most energetic dog, but this little puppy didn’t want to leave Andrew’s side. Gunner chose to stick by Andrew, despite of all the hardships he’s endured.
The bond between the two grew with each passing day. Today, Andrew and Gunner participate together in various runs and obstacle courses across the country. Competition after competition, the pride Andrew has for Gunner, as he successfully navigates the various challenges, can only be described as the pride a parent has for a child.
“Service dogs allow people to live a life they otherwise wouldn’t be able to live because of whatever issue or disability they’re suffering from,” says Andrew. “It’s near impossible to do anything on your own and having a support system — whether it be one dog, a team of people, it doesn’t matter the number — if you don’t get help, you’re gonna get worse. But if you ask for help, you’ll get better. You’re still the same person, nothing changes, except your life getting better.”
Andrew found that support system in Gunner.
To learn more about Andrew and Gunner’s incredible journey — and to explore the amazing ways a service animal can impact lives — visit Nulo’s website.
ATLANTIC OCEAN — The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is bringing vital information to the fleet from its Aircraft Compatibility Testing (ACT), which began off the East Coast, January 16.
ACT is allowing the crew of Ford to further test its Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), two Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment (ALRE) systems unique to Ford.
It’s also allowing the crew and embarked test personnel to rigorously evaluate the effect of the CVN 78 air wake, or burble, and its compatibility with all types of fleet aircraft the Navy utilizes on an aircraft carrier.
“What we’re doing is validating years of test catapult shots that were done at the EMALS test facility at Lakehurst, New Jersey, and years of arrestments on AAG at Lakehurst, then taking that data, bringing it to sea and using it on installed equipment aboard our ship, now in an austere underway environment with different wind and environmental conditions to build those safe flight envelopes,” said Capt. John J. Cummings, Ford’s commanding officer.
Ford’s ACT has seen the first arrestment and launching of E-2D Hawkeye, C-2A Greyhound, EA-18G Growler, and the T-45 Goshawk aircraft on these new systems unique to Ford-class carriers.
“Honestly it’s great to be the first ones to fly the E-2/C-2 out on an entirely new class of carrier,” said Lt. Cmdr. Eric Thurber, a test pilot assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20.
“We spent some time up at [Joint Base McGuire-Dix] Lakehurst, New Jersey doing some of the developmental testing for the systems before coming to the ship, so it’s neat to have seen the entire system land based; see some of the issues we have here, then go back and correct it and come out to the ship and test it at sea.”
Cummings reflected on the historical aspect of ACT for the entire Ford class of aircraft carriers.
“We are pioneers in this new class to figure it out, and we will. We will do this for the Ford-class and then that’s it, done,” said Cummings. “Our crew is extremely proud to be a part of this historic event; to do this testing and get it to the fleet, and then get ready to accept all fleet aircraft.”
Testing also includes an F/A-18F Super Hornet which was also previously used for testing aboard Ford in 2018. Prior to ATC, Ford had 747 launches and arrestments.
Since getting underway on January 16, Ford has already seen over 70 successful launches and arrestments using the new EMALS and AAG technologies, and will continue to increase the sortie frequency in the second half of testing.
“To see it all come together and see the ship do what it’s designed to do — which is to launch and recover aircraft — it’s extreme pride for our crew and for the aviators who’ve come out here to support that,” said Cummings. “So I’m extremely proud of the work by the team to get here, and we’ll continue to keep pushing to get a lot of flying in this next year.”
This round of testing is allowing the crew to further test the improvements made during its post-shakedown availability (PSA) at Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding while also allowing the crew to gain experience on these unique systems.
The Army was on track to meet or exceed its recruiting goals again this year, with help from an unexpected boost of enlistments in the traditionally difficult northeast region, Army officials said Wednesday.
“The whole East Coast, from Richmond north, is really taking off,” Army Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, commander of Army Recruiting Command, said at a Pentagon roundtable with defense reporters.
He didn’t have specific numbers at the ready, but said Army recruiters had met 100% of their goals in New York City and Boston, where recruiting has normally lagged behind the South and Southwest.
Muth and Dr. Eugene “Casey” Wardynski, assistant Army secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, also said that the surging economy, with unemployment at 3.6%, was not having the usual effect of discouraging enlistments.
“We want to be great in a great economy,” Wardynski said. “We’re in a position to do great when America is doing great.”
Muth said the Army fell short of its goal in fiscal 2018, when about 70,000 were recruited, compared to the goal of 76,000. Last year, the Army met its goal of 68,000 new recruits. And so far this year, the service is pacing 2,026 recruitments ahead of the same period last year, Muth said.
The plan was to have the end strength of the Army at 485,000 by the end of this fiscal year on Sept. 30, Wardynski said. With recruitments currently going well, the Army already has plans for a late entry pool for recruitments in excess of 485,000, he said.
Both Wardynski and Muth attributed the improving recruiting numbers to a new marketing campaign called “What’s Your Warrior,” begun last November to highlight opportunities in the Army for today’s youth.
They also emphasized a switch to focus more on 22 major cities for recruiting, and a targeting of so-called “Generation Z,” those born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s.
Under Brig. Gen. Alex Fink, chief of Army Enterprise Marketing, the Army marketing team moved from its headquarters near the Pentagon to Chicago last fall to get closer to private-sector expertise. That includes DDB Chicago, which has a billion contract as Army’s full-service ad agency until 2028.
Fink said the effort to connect with Generation Z through such innovations as virtual recruiting stations and more creative uses of Instagram and YouTube were already paying off. In December, the Army logged 4.6 million visits to GoArmy.com, Fink said.
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis shared the thinking behind the new National Defense Strategy during a discussion at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington on Oct. 30, 2018.
The strategy, released in January 2018, sees Russia and China as the greatest threats with Iran and North Korea as regional threats. Violent extremism rounds out the threat matrix.
The strategy is based on a return to great power competition among the United States, Russia and China.
Power, urgency, will
Mattis told Stephen Hadley, the moderator of the event and former national security advisor to President George W. Bush, that in setting up the strategy, officials looked at threats from three different angles: Power, urgency and will.
“In terms of raw power right now, I look at Russia and the nuclear arsenal they have,” he said. “I look at their activities over the last 10 years from Georgia and Crimea to the Donetsk Basin to Syria and I can go on and on and on. In terms of just power, I think it is Russia that we have to look at and address.”
U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis speaks at the United States Institute of Peace, in a discussion moderated by the chair of the institute’s board of directors, Stephen J. Hadley, Washington, D.C., Oct. 30, 2018.
(DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
There are two threats that are most urgent right now: North Korea and the continuing fight against violent extremism. North Korea’s nuclear and missile program — in clear violation of United Nations sanctions — remains a problem, and the current fight against violent extremists from the Islamic State to al-Qaida to Boko Haram to other transnational terror groups must be fought.
“In terms of will, clearly it is China,” he said.
China is different than Russia. “Russia wants security around its periphery by causing insecurity among other nations,” he said. “They want a veto authority over the economic, the diplomatic and the security decisions of the nations around them.
“China seems to want some sort of tribute states around them,” he continued. “We are looking for how do we work with China. I think 15 years from now we will be remembered most for how … we set the conditions for a positive relationship with China.”
The United States is looking for ways to cooperate with China and that has been beneficial to both countries, Mattis said. He pointed to China’s vote against the North Korean nuclear program in the United Nations Security Council as an example. The United States will also confront China when it must as he pointed to the United States continuing freedom of navigation operations in international waters and airspace.
“I have met with my counterpart in Beijing and in Singapore 10 days ago, and he will be here 10 days from now to continue that dialogue as we sort it out,” Mattis said.
Also part of the strategy are U.S. strengths, and foremost among them is the country’s network of alliances and friends around the world. This network requires constant tending, the secretary said. He noted that just in the last month he has attended NATO meetings, consulted with Central and South American allies and journeyed to Manama, Bahrain, to meet with Middle Eastern allies and friends.
All of these were part and parcel of forming the National Defense Strategy.
South Asia Strategy
The secretary also spoke about the South Asia Strategy announced in August 2017 and how that is proceeding. Officials continue to follow the strategy and it is making progress, but it is slow. It entails far more than just the military and far more than just the United States, he said.
The strategy is a regional approach to the problem. It also reinforced the commitment to the area and realigned those reinforcements with Afghan forces. This was needed because the Afghans had an Army that wasn’t ready to have the training wheels taken off the bike, Mattis said. “Only the Afghan special forces had mentors from NATO nations with them,” he said. “And every time they went against the enemy, the Taliban, they won.
U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis speaks at the United States Institute of Peace, in a discussion moderated by the chair of the institute’s board of directors, Stephen J. Hadley, Washington, D.C., Oct. 30, 2018.
(DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
But the rest of the Afghan forces were spread out around the country with no mentorship and no air support. The strategy changed that. The air support is crucial in giving Afghan forces the high ground in the mountainous country, “and that changes the tactical situation,” the secretary said.
Afghan forces are carrying the burden. They took more than 1,000 dead and wounded in August and September 2018, the secretary said, and they stayed in the field fighting. “And the Taliban has been prevented from doing what they said they were going to do, which was to take and hold district and provincial centers, also disrupt an election that they were unable to disrupt,” he said.
But the most important aspect of the strategy is reconciliation. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad agreed to serve as a special envoy in Afghanistan specifically aimed at reconciliation between the Taliban and the government in Kabul. “He is hard at work on this, on an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation effort,” Mattis said. “So this is the approach we’re trying to sustain right now. It is working from our perspective, but what is heartbreakingly difficult to accept is the progress and violence can be going on at the same time.”
Being a meal card holder has its benefits. It’s awesome to have the perfect excuse to get out at 1730. It’s food you get to enjoy without having to cook it. All you have do is overlook the fact that the meals are deducted from your pay when you’re assigned a barracks room and the fact that there’s barely any chow left by the time you get there —but outside of those details, it’s great!
That optimism starts to wane, however, after eight months of eating the same seven entrees ad nauseam. Then, one glorious day, the cooks throw you a curve-ball by turning what’s normally a grab-and-go dinner into an elaborate, fine-dining experience.
You’ll rarely hear the lower enlisted complain when they’re about to get something that’s not just decent but actually really good. (In reality, lower enlisted troops would probably complain about being given a brick of gold because it’s “too heavy,” but that’s beside the point).
It might seem like random chance, but there’s a method to the madness.
Also, your chain of command will usually pop in to serve the food on the line. Savor that moment.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Brian Lautenslager)
No one likes being stuck on-post during a holiday. If your leave form got denied or you just didn’t feel like putting in for a mileage pass, it often means your ass will be stuck on staff duty.
Thankfully, the cooks also get screwed out of block leave and work holidays with us. Even if it’s not a big holiday that revolves around a massive meal (we’re look at you, Thanksgiving), the cooks will still serve something festive.
If you thought Air Force dinging facilities were leagues above the rest during the rest of the year…
(U.S. Air Force photo by Lan Kim)
The lead-up to best-chef competitions
In the service, there’s a competition for cooks in which they’re expected to deliver a gourmet meal to a judge that has the emotionless vile of Gordon Ramsey with the knife-handing ability of a Drill Sergeant.
They don’t want to mess it up and will prepare the only way possible: by practicing. And that practice tastes delicious.
“Can we get you anything else, Specialist? Steak sauce? Another drink? Another three months in this god-forsaken hellhole? How about some cake? We got cake!”
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson)
Right before the unit is about to get bad news
It’s basic psychology. If you outright tell the troops that their deployment got extended, they’re going to flip the tables over. If you break it to them gently over a steak-and-lobster dinner that somehow found its way to Afghanistan, they’ll take it slightly better.
This is so common in the military that any time the commander shows up and asks for a crate of ice cream bars for the troops, the Private News Network and Lance Corporal Underground buzz with rumors.
You think they’ll serve the same scrambled eggs that they serve the average boot to the Commandant of the Marines? Hell no. Especially not if they get some kind of warning. That’s you cue to grab food and dash.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mallory S. VanderSchans)
When high-ranking officials make the rounds
Not even the cooks are exempt from the dog-and-pony show that comes with a general’s visit. In fact, while the other lower enlisted are scrubbing toilets in bathrooms the general will never realistically visit, the cooks know that the mess hall is the go-to spot to bring the generals to give them a “realistic” view of the unit.
If you’re willing to stomach the off-chance of being dragged into a conversation with a four-star general about “how the commander and first sergeant 100% absolutely always treat you like a real human being and that, oh boy, do you definitely love the unit,” then you’re in for one of the best meals the cooks can offer.
Everyone loves the cooks on Taco Tuesday.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valentina Lopez)
Taco Tuesday (and any other themed meal days)
There’s no way in hell any troop would willingly miss Taco Tuesday at the DFAC. Even if you don’t post flyers about it, troops will magically crawl out of the woodwork if it means they’re getting free tacos.
As much as everyone in the unit uses their cooks as punching bags for jokes, they can deliver some mighty fine meals when they try.
The last month of deployment can either drag slowly on or fly by, depending on how you keep your mind busy. If you’re looking for an escape from the drudgery, keep yourself distracted. And there’s no better way to keep your mind off the present quite like imaging all of the food you’ll eat when you arrive stateside. America is the melting pot of all the world’s cultures, which also means we have the very best of the world’s cuisine.
I can guarantee you, based on personal experience, that the question of, “what’re you going to eat first?” will come up. If you’re looking to start the discussion off with a delectable imaginary dining experience, fantasize about the spots on this list:
Pinch Kitchen — Miami
Restaurants overseas never perfectly nail the taste of American cuisine — and I do not mean fast food (admittedly, foreign countries can’t get that right, either). If you’re lucky enough to be stationed in Florida, or you’re planning on using some of your post-deployment leave days down south, make sure to stop by Pinch Kitchen in Miami, Florida.
They take American classics and add a dash of this and that to really bring out the taste in the classic meals we love. Now, before people start saying that hamburgers and hotdogs are not American because they originated from Germany, I’ll say this: Just like we did to the moon, we put our flag on them and now they belong to us.
Two executive chefs, John Gallo and Rene Reyes, put every effort into ensuring the food is perfect, the ambiance is unpretentious, and the place is filled with all of our favorite beers.
This is a piece of art that you’re encouraged to eat. What a concept.
Delmonico Steakhouse — Las Vegas
If Vegas is in your future, do not miss Delmonico Steakhouse. The genius in the kitchen is Emeril John Lagassé III who, as you might know, had his own show on the Food Network. This restaurant is more upscale, and I’d strongly recommend taking someone you’re more serious with than that stripper you just met thirty minutes ago.
Regardless, the filet mignon and other steaks here are so good you’ll wish you were exclusively carnivorous. Treat yourself to a quality meal because you’ve earned it. Vegas has buffets and deals around every corner, and there are plenty of comfort foods for after you have stumbled out of the casino (and almost married that stripper I told you not to take to the Steakhouse while successfully evading capture from the police and being black-out drunk). So, take some time to enjoy a meal that isn’t self-served, warrior.
It’s a family restaurant… I swear!
(Twin Peaks, Front Burner Restaurants, LP.)
Twin Peaks is a sports bar that started in Texas, but now has franchises all over the U.S. and is the primary competitor of Hooters. They serve beer at 29 degrees and have a made-from-scratch menu that includes American favorites, like burgers and nachos. It’s themed like a hunting lodge and goes to great lengths to put forth a degree of manliness, like offering “man-size” 22oz beers.
It’s a wholesome family restaurant with friendly waitresses that will make sure your table receives the attention a patron deserves. The themed events are fun and, sometimes, they have bikini car washes. The best part is that new franchises are opening every year so you won’t have to travel far if you’re lucky.
Worth every penny.
Sushi Iki — Los Angeles
Sushi Iki is in Los Angeles County, not the city itself. It’s in what the locals call “The Valley,” a barren wasteland of broken dreams. Just kidding — the Valley’s fine. It’s just really far from Hollywood, Santa Monica, or anything LA you’ve seen on television. However, don’t let the distance from your hotel deter you from this place; the sushi is legendary.
The variety of fish and shellfish served here can’t be found in just any sushi restaurant, and some are prepared so fresh that they were alive when you walked in the door. This is an expensive restaurant, but if you find yourself in L.A. this is one of those places you should not miss. Expect to pay around 0 per person for the full experience and for something modest.
While it might seem a little odd at first glance, it turns out the first helicopter pilot ever to receive the United States’ prestigious Medal of Honor, John Kelvin Koelsch, was born and and mostly raised in London, England. Considered an American citizen thanks to his parentage, Koelsch moved back to the US with his family in his teens, and soon after studied English at Princeton.
Described by his peers as “a man men admired and followed” Koelsch was a physically imposing individual who excelled at athletics and reportedly possessed a daunting intellect and a keen wit. Seemingly destined for intellectual greatness, Koelsch’s original plan was to become a lawyer, but he ultimately decided to join the war effort during WWII, enlisting with the U.S. Naval reserve as an aviation cadet on Sept. 14, 1942. He quickly rose through the ranks and was noted as being a terrifyingly effective torpedo bomber pilot.
Following WW2, Koelsch continued to serve with the Navy, though not before returning to Princeton to complete his degree.
At the start of the Korean War, Koelsch retrained as a helicopter pilot and ended up serving aboard, somewhat ironically, the USS Princeton.
Specializing in helicopter rescue, after what has been described as a “long tour of duty” aboard the USS Princeton, Koelsch turned down an offer to return to the United States with the rest of his squadron, simply telling his superiors that he wanted to remain until the job was done.
Two U.S. Navy Grumman F9F-2 Panthers dump fuel as they fly past the aircraft carrier USS Princeton during Korean War operations.
His request granted and with the rest of his squadron back in the United States, Koelsch was transferred to the Helicopter Utility Squadron Two, a detachment of which he was put in charge of.
Not just a great pilot, Koelsch also tinkered extensively with his own helicopter, customizing it to handle the Korean weather better, as well as perform better at extremely low altitudes so as to make spotting injured comrades easier during rescue missions.
In addition, Koelsch had a hand in inventing a number of devices to make rescuing people caught in specific circumstances via helicopter easier, such as the so-called “horse collar” hoist and a floating sling for water-based rescues.
This all brings us around to July 3, 1951. The ship Koelsch was stationed on received a distress call from a downed Marine Captain called James Wilkins. According to reports, Wilkins’ Corsair had been downed during a routine reconnaissance mission and he had been badly injured, suffering a twisted knee and severe burns over the lower half of his body.
Unsurprisingly for a man who once stated “Rescuing downed pilots is my mission” in response to a question about why he took so many risky rescue missions, Koelsch immediately volunteered to attempt to go after Wilkins. His superiors, on the other hand, noted, amongst other things, that rescuing Wilkins would be near impossible due to the heavy ground resistance expected, Wilkins being deep in enemy territory, and the rapidly approaching night and thick fog making it unlikely he’d spot Wilkins even if flying right over him.
Despite all this, Koelsch loaded up his Sikorsky HO3S-1 and set off with his co-pilot, enlisted airman George Neal to at least make the attempt.
Described diplomatically as “slow moving”, Koelsch’s helicopter was both unarmed and travelled to Wilkins’ location without a fighter escort due to the aforementioned heavy fog that day making such an escort impossible. On that note, even without enemy fire, this combination of fog, approaching night, and mountainous terrain also made flying in those conditions exceedingly dangerous.
Nevertheless, flying as low as 50 feet above the ground at some points so as to make spotting Wilkins’ downed Corsair easier through the mist, the sound and sight of Koelsch’s helicopter lazily buzzing through the air caught the attention of Wilkins (who’d been hiding in the woods from North Korean forces), prompting him to return to the parachute — his reasoning being that this would be the easiest thing for his rescuer to see.
John Kelvin Koelsch.
However, Koelsch brazen flying not far above the heads of nearby enemy forces saw them almost immediately begin firing at him as he came close to the region where Wilkins had been downed. Instead of, you know, getting out of range or doing anything whatsoever to protect his own life, when Koelsch located Wilkins, he simply hovered above him, weathering the hailstorm of bullets directed at himself and his chopper, and signaled for Wilkins to grab the hoist which had been lowered by Neal. As Wilkins would later note — “It was the greatest display of guts I ever saw.”
Unfortunately, it turns out helicopters don’t fly very well when the engine is riddled with bullet holes, and as Neal was winching Wilkins up, this is exactly what happened, causing the helicopter to crash.
Perhaps a problem for mere mortals, Koelsch was able to make something of a controlled crash into a mountainside, with himself and Neal avoiding any significant injuries, and Wilkins not suffering any further injuries as the chopper smashed into the ground.
Following the crash, Koelsch took charge of the situation and the trio fled the enemy forces, all the while taking special care to ensure Wilkins didn’t over exert himself. Koelsch and his cohorts managed to avoid capture for 9 days, eventually making their way to a small Korean fishing village. However, this is where the groups luck ran out and all three men were found hiding in a hut by North Korean forces.
During their march to a POW camp, Koelsch had the audacity to demand their captors provide Wilkins with immediate medical attention. After enough angry shouts from Koelsch, the North Korean soldiers eventually did just this; Wilkins would later credit Koelsch’s insensate and vehement pestering of their captors to give medical aid as something that ended up saving his life.
When the group reached the POW camp, Koelsch, despite being malnourished from his 9 days on the run with few supplies, shared his prisoner rations with the injured and sick, reportedly stating simply that they needed the food more than he did.
We should note at this point that Koelsch continued to do this while being periodically tortured by his captors for his refusal to cooperate in any way with them. When he wasn’t being tortured, Koelsch also continually argued with said captors about their mistreatment of his comrades, citing the Geneva Conventions. His refusal to shut up about this reportedly earned him a number of extra beatings.
Unfortunately, it all ended up being too much and Koelsch succumbed to a combination of malnutrition and dysentery, dying in October of 1951, about three months after his capture.
As for his companions, Neal and Wilkins ended up surviving the war.
In 1955, when the full extent of Koelsch’s actions and exemplary conduct while a prisoner became known, the decision was made to posthumously award him the Medal of Honor, with it noted that, beyond the selfless heroism displayed in the rescue attempt, “Koelsch steadfastly refused to aid his captors in any manner and served to inspire his fellow prisoners by his fortitude and consideration for others. His great personal valor and heroic spirit of self — sacrifice throughout sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the United States naval service.”
Koelsch’s remains were returned to the United States in 1955 by the Koreans and were interred at Arlington Cemetery, an honor reserved for all Medal of Honor awardees.
Further honors bestowed upon Koelesh include a Navy destroyer escort being named after him, as well as a flight simulator building in Hawaii.
Perhaps the most fitting honor though is that Koelsch display of stoic resilience in the face of unthinkable abuse, as well as his general conduct while a prisoner, served as one of the inspirations for the content of the 1955 Code of Conduct for American POWs which, among other things states:
If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy. … If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information or take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way…. When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause…. I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Editor’s note: We Are The Mighty is a non-partisan outlet and does not officially endorse any candidate for office. However, we’re always happy to report and celebrate veterans doing important things.
Retired Navy Commander Todd Chase has a deep rooted belief in service. Raised by a single mother who was a social worker, she instilled in him the vital importance of serving others. He took those lessons from her with him as he raised his right hand to defend this country. Chase hopes to now continue that legacy of service to the halls of the United States Congress.
Chase was commissioned into the Navy in 1988 and went to flight school, becoming a pilot. He went on to fly the P-3 for hundreds of different missions. He served during the Cold War, tracking Russian nuclear submarines. He vividly remembers when the Soviet Union collapsed and watching those Russian submarines came up to the surface to head home. Chase decided to go into the reserves after eight years serving actively so that he could raise his children.
He was then accepted into Harvard Business School and there earned his Master of Business Administration degree.
Despite having his Ivy League education backing him, he wanted to continue serving in the Navy reserves. When he was home he was investing and building businesses. But when he wasn’t, he was flying to serve the needs of the country. He flew missions across the Libyan coast to combat terrorist activity and completed drug interdictions in South America. While doing all of this, he began to see things in his own town that he didn’t like. Rather than complaining about it, he said he decided to change it by running for office on the Gainesville City Commission.
He held that position for six years. When he left office, he went on to retire from the Navy in 2016 after 26 years of serving actively and in the reserves. He shared that he feels he is ready to bring his life experience and military service into Congress to continue serving.
“That sense of service when you serve in the military, the longer you do it – the more it grows in you…. we are at a point in this country where I believe that it is critically important that we have members of Congress who are experienced military veterans,” he explained. Chase shared that he felt service to this country is essentially a vital ingredient needed for successful leadership.
Following the Vietnam War, around 75% of Congressional members were veterans. That number has steadily been on the decline ever since then. In the 116th Congress, less than 20% of Congressional members have served in the military. He’s hoping to change that.Republican Todd Chase For Congress
“It should give the entire country comfort to know that we have people [in Congress] who have served collectively together to fight for this country and then go on to serve for the good of the country as they set policy and govern it,” said Chase. He went on to explain that he feels it’s important that this country have people who believe in this country enough that they’ll volunteer to serve and possibly die for her.
Chase hopes that more veterans will consider running for government positions, bringing their sense of service and devotion with them. As the country just celebrated Memorial Day, it’s never been more important that we remember the cost of freedom and the importance of maintaining it.
It is with that in mind that Chase held a virtual Memorial Day event on Facebook Live attended by Gold Star family James and Donna Islam, Gold Star Mom Ronna Jackson, Gold Star Spouse Krista Simpson Anderson and Retired U.S. Army Major General David Kratzer. All of the families shared stories of their loved ones lost in service to this country. Throughout the discussion, one point was very clear. Each person remains devoted to ensuring that they are remembered. It’s not only about how they died, but that they lived.
Memorial Day is a somber reminder of loss but also a meaningful day to the families of the fallen. They know that on this day, the entire country stands in gratitude and love. Although the weight of their loss will always be heavy, the burden is lightened for them every time someone says their name. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten.
Chase shared his own story of losing a fellow pilot and the impact that it has had on his life. It’s been 30 years but he still struggles with survivor’s guilt saying, “It could have been me.” That loss stays fresh in his mind as a reminder of how fragile life can be and how important it is to get it right. Chase shared that he’s spent his life trying to make the world better in any way he can. He’ll take this vision, purpose, and commitment to continued service with him to his next fight; a seat in the United States Congress.
To learn more about Todd Chase and his campaign for the United States Congress, head over to his website.