The game-changing Swedish warship that sank in its first battle - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The game-changing Swedish warship that sank in its first battle

In 1563 and 1564, Sweden built a massive warship that was the pinnacle of naval technology at the time.

Its creation ushered in a sea change in naval combat — despite the fact that the ship sank early in its first battle.


King Eric XIV of Sweden ordered that the ship Mars be constructed to put Sweden at the forefront of naval artillery. It was a five-deck ship with two decks dedicated to artillery, mostly cannons. Even the crow’s nests had guns.

All this came at a time when naval engagements were decided by seamanship and armed boardings —where a group of sailors from one ship crossed to the deck of an enemy ship and fought with swords and pistols.

Naval artillery in the early and mid-1500s was focused on killing enemy personnel or causing structural damage to the enemy ship, but no one had ever sunk a ship that way. Ships were usually sank by fire, sabotage by boarding crews, or by ramming.

But Eric XIV had a vision of the future and ordered his admiral to take the Mars as part of a huge fleet aimed at Denmark and Lubeck (part of modern Germany) and sink ships using its naval artillery.

And the admiral delivered… probably. A Danish chaplain said that the Mars cast a somber shadow over the whole Danish and German fleet when it arrived. He also said it later sank the Longbark, one of the largest ships in the enemy fleet, with naval gunnery.

If accurate, it was likely the first time a ship was sunk by naval artillery.

The game-changing Swedish warship that sank in its first battle

The 64-gun warship Vasa sits in museum. The ship was built in the tradition of the Mars, but wasn’t as well designed and floundered during its first voyage in 1628.

(Jorge Lascar, CC-BY 2.0)

But the Mars cast too large a shadow and, as a consequence, drew too many attackers. On the second day of the battle, enemy ships sent massive amounts of fireballs onto the Mars and disabled it before sending boarding parties onto it.

What happened next is unsure. A fire definitely occurred in the Mars‘ gunpowder stores, and that might have set the loaded cannons off. Regardless, the ship was destroyed in the following hours, left to sink in approximately 250 feet of water.

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Luckily for archaeologists, it was 250 feet of the Baltic Sea, which lacks the large populations of shipworms that destroy wrecks in the rest of the world. And the cold water is relatively still, reducing erosion. According to researchers who spoke to National Geographic, the wreck might be the best preserved vessel of its kind.

The concept behind the Mars was proven in the years following its loss as navy after navy, including those of Denmark and Lubeck, constructed large ships reminiscent of the cannon-toting behemoth.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Top Gun 2’ will fly the F/A-18 Super Hornet, not the F-35

The actor Tom Cruise on May 31, 2018, tweeted a teaser for the long-awaited sequel to the movie “Top Gun” — and in doing so, he wandered into one of the most heated debates in modern combat aviation and delivered a savage burn to the F-35.

The original “Top Gun” film was nothing short of a revelation for the US Navy. People around the US and the world saw fighter jets in a whole new light, and naval aviation recruitment shot up by 500%.

A new “Top Gun” movie, now 32 years after the first, could again spike interest in combat aviation at a time when the US military struggles to retain and attract top talent. But for the most expensive weapons system in history, it already looks like a bust.

Here’s the poster for the new “Top Gun.”


Notice anything? The F-35C, the US Navy’s long overdue, massively expensive new carrier aircraft, is nowhere to be seen. Instead, the F-18 Super Hornet, the F-35’s main competitor, can be seen.

The F-35 community was not thrilled.

“Everybody that’s flown a fighter in the last 25 years, we all watched ‘Top Gun,'” retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, who flew F-35s and actually attended the US Navy’s Top Gun school, previously told Business Insider.

“Damn shame,” Berke said in response to the new movie’s choice of fighter. “I guess it will be a movie about the past!”

While experts agree that the F-35’s carrier-based variant, the F-35C, and its vertical-takeoff sister, the F-35B, represent the future of naval aviation, they’re just not ready for the big time yet.

The F-35B had its first operational deployment in 2018 in the Pacific, but the F-35C remains a ways off from adoption onto the US Navy’s fleet of aircraft supercarriers. Persistent problems with launching the sophisticated airplane off a moving ship have pushed back the schedule and resulted in huge cost overruns.

Meanwhile, the F-18 Super Hornet continues to do the lion’s share of combat-aviation work aboard aircraft carriers, and its maker, Boeing, has even offered an updated version of the plane that President Donald Trump entertained buying instead of the F-35.

In short, it’s an embarrassment to the F-35 program that mounting setbacks have pushed it out of a potentially massive public-relations boost.

“It’s a capable aircraft,” retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, the dean of the Mitchell Institute of Aerospace Studies, told Business Insider of the Super Hornet. “It’s just last century’s design.”

He added: “It is a missed opportunity.”

Berke pointed out that the producers of the new “Top Gun” may have gone with the Super Hornet over the F-35 because the Super Hornet has two seats, which could facilitate filming and possibly on-screen dynamics.

The popular aviation blog The Aviationist also pointed out that Cruise is holding an outdated helmet and that the photo does not appear to take place at the US Navy’s Top Gun school. But Hollywood sometimes makes mistakes.

“Hollywood doesn’t build movies around what makes sense — they build movies around what makes money,” Deptula said.

But despite what might have come as a slight sting to F-35 boosters hoping a new film could help usher in what they call a revolution in combat aviation, both Berke and Deptula said they were looking forward to the film.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

George Washington was voted Britain’s ‘Greatest Enemy Commander’

In 2012, Britain’s National Army Museum organized a contest asking its patrons which of Britain’s historical enemies was their greatest foe? The answer turned out to be the man who, almost through sheer force of will, and despite a lack of trained and equipped troops, organized the worst defeat the British Empire ever suffered. Ever.

The man was George Washington.


The game-changing Swedish warship that sank in its first battle

“Give us this firecake and I’ll bring forth on this continent a new nation.”

When considering the winner of the contest, the museum took into account Washington’s spirit of endurance against the odds stacked in the British Empire’s favor and the enormous impact of his victory – not in the two centuries to come but in the immediate aftermath.

“His personal leadership was crucial,” said historian Stephen Brumwell, who called the American victory the Empire’s worst defeat. “His army was always under strength, hungry, badly supplied. He shared the dangers of his men. Anyone other than Washington would have given up the fight. He came to personify the cause, and the scale of his victory was immense.”

The game-changing Swedish warship that sank in its first battle

And he made Cornwallis walk next to his horse after Yorktown, apparently. Ballsy.

Each possible commander must have led an army against British forces in combat, which ruled out enemies like Adolf Hitler. Candidates must also have been within the National Army Museum’s timeframe of the 17th century onwards, which ruled out enemies like William the Conqueror, who actually conquered Britain and changed Western Civilization forever.

The 8,000-plus votes in the survey put Washington well above other notable British enemies, such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Irish Independence leader Michael Collins, Nazi Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, and Turkish founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

MIGHTY HISTORY

World War II vets rebuilt an APC to drive through the Iron Curtain

On July 25, 1953, seven Czechoslovakians rolled across one of the most heavily guarded borders in the world to freedom in the West. They rolled over three rows of barbed wire, land mines, and guard towers on their way into West Germany. The Czech border guards didn’t even try to stop them. No one fired a shot. They all just watched in stunned disbelief as the Nazi armored personnel vehicle just tore its way across the Iron Curtain.


The story of Vaclav Uhlik is a success story for American soft power, specifically the Cold War-era broadcasts of Radio Free Europe. Uhlik was an engineer in the new, Soviet-dominated Czechoslovakia following the end of World War II. He was a concentration camp survivor, a fighter for the Czech Underground, and mechanic who hid a big secret from the new Communist authorities in his country: there was an armored vehicle in his backyard – and he was rebuilding it.

For three years, he listened to the broadcasts of Radio Free Europe as he gathered parts and materials needed to get the APC operational again. The broadcasts gave him hope. His progress gave him patience. He was assisted by former Czech soldiers Walter Hora and Vaclav Krejciri in his efforts, and they were rewarded by riding in the vehicle the night it was to drive to the West.

The game-changing Swedish warship that sank in its first battle

The Czech-West German Border in 1980.

(Photo by Alan Denney)

Starting nearly from scratch, the men slowly reconstructed a battered Nazi Saurer RR-7 Artillery Tractor. Vaclav Uhlik, the engineer, rebuilt the vehicle as an armored personnel carrier. He made it large enough to carry himself, his wife and two children, the two veterans, Josef Pisarik, and Libuse Hrdonkova, a Czech woman who married an American after the war. Since he could only stay with her for three months, she decided to come to him in Iowa.

After years of tinkering and preparation, the modified RR-7, covered in the brush and foliage that hid it from Czechoslovakian authorities for so long, rumbled its way to the West German border. They drove through the Bavarian forest to the Wald-München (near Nuremberg) border crossing. And he did cross the border, except he didn’t go through the gates, instead opting to go right through the rows of barbed wire between guard towers and minefields.

The border guards just watched in awe, as they thought the APC was a friendly army vehicle. The Czechs inside had only what they wore with them, but they were on the right side of the Iron Curtain.

The game-changing Swedish warship that sank in its first battle

The seven Czechs drove the APC for several miles into West Germany and away from the border until they were stopped by West German police, taken to an American installation to be interviewed by intelligence officers, and then welcomed to their new home in the West. They would eventually be resettled in Springfield, Mass. – all except Hrdonkova. She would move to Sioux City, Iowa, to be with her long-separated husband.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Sandrin TCK 416 makes a sharp and slim addition

Even before the millions of everyday carry (EDC) pocket dump photos started popping up on social media, knives have been a common everyday tool. Young boys receive their first knife as a rite of passage, and more women are becoming acclimated to carrying knives everyday for protection and necessity.

In my line of work, I’ve handled a variety of knives from many companies. Ranging from truly impressive to mediocre, I’ve gained the hands-on experience to know a good knife when I see one. However, it doesn’t take years of blade enthusiasm or expertise to understand if the knife you’re holding is good enough to “make the cut.” It’s either sharp and durable or it’s just metal taking up space in your pocket.


The game-changing Swedish warship that sank in its first battle

The Sandrin TCK 416 is made of tungsten carbide and will retain its sharp edge indefinitely.

(Photo by Karen Hunter/Coffee or Die)

When I receive a new knife, the first thing I do is test for sharpness. A simple paper-cutting test will tell you more than you’d think. Simply take a piece of loose-leaf paper in one hand and cut down the center in one smooth, continuous motion. A sharp knife should cut from top to bottom without catching. If a knife catches or leaves snags/jagged edges, this is an issue.

I recently discovered a knife that not only cut clean through the paper test, it also holds its own among EDC knives: the TCK (Tungsten Carbide Knife) 416 by Sandrin. Sandrin is a division of Cabot Guns and brings innovations to the knife realm just as Cabot does with 1911s. The TCK 416 is incredibly thin (4.5mm) and lightweight (2.18 ounces). Although an ultra-slim gentleman folder is nice, the “cool” factor of the TCK is all in the blade. The blade is perfectly, measurably parallel. The circles on the blade are measured in the Fibonacci sequence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8) in both diameter and from the center of one circle to the next. If you’re not a math person, just know that’s actually pretty incredible.

The game-changing Swedish warship that sank in its first battle

The TCK 416.

(Photo courtesy of Sandrin Knives)

The TCK is not made of steel or ceramic. Instead, it’s made from a completely new blade material that is superior to both. This is where the fascination lies. You have to wrap your brain around the science — or “magic” — of it all, which began in Italy.

Sandrin is the brand name for knives manufactured by its parent company, Turmond. Turmond is a second generation family business that has been working with tungsten carbide for more than 40 years. They dominate the global cutting blade market and have intensely studied the science of cutting in controlled applications that other knife makers cannot. Allessandro Colombatto, the creator and director of Sandrin Knives, started grinding carbide at the age of 12. By age 24, he started crafting tungsten carbide blades for industrial high-speed cutting applications. Behind the TCK is measurable, proven science.

Tungsten carbide has been used for industrial wear purposes — such as the hulls of ice breakers and seals for oil pipes that sit miles below the ocean — but traditional grades of tungsten carbide will shatter like ceramic. Sandrin uses a patented method of sintering a proprietary grade of polyhedral tungsten carbide from particles of tungsten, carbide, and cobalt, making their blades hard and not brittle. Most steel knives have a hardness from 52 to 57 on the Rockwell scale, which is considered high. The TCK has a hardness of HRC 71.

The Longest Lasting Knife Edge – Sandrin Tungsten on a TCK

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In addition to superior hardness, polyhedral tungsten carbide doesn’t rust and allows the TCK to retain an edge unlike any other blade — it will never require sharpening. You can, however, sharpen a steel knife with the top edge of a Sandrin blade. Tungsten carbide is the hardest metal on Earth — the only thing harder is the mineral diamond.

I’ve been carrying the TCK 416 for approximately six months, and it lives up to its reputation. This isn’t merely hype, it’s literal science, which is what makes the TCK so fascinating. Rob Bianchin, president and founder of Cabot Guns, echoed the sentiment: “I have been using my TCK for a year, opening boxes on a daily basis, and I can still shave with it. It remains razor sharp!”

Razor sharp is not an exaggeration. Regardless of experience level, handle the TCK 416 with care. This is a seriously sharp knife in a slim, lightweight package. If you remain mindful of its capabilities and level of sharpness, this could be a great EDC — especially with a reasonable MSRP of 9 and a lifetime guarantee.

The game-changing Swedish warship that sank in its first battle

(Graphic by Erik Campbell/Coffee or Die. Photo courtesy of Sandrin Knives.)

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How vets kicked out under DADT can upgrade their discharges

On Sept. 20, 2011, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed. The policy served as a sort of compromise between people who wanted to continue to ban gay men and women from serving in the military, which had been the case prior to 1993, and those who felt that Americans should be eligible to serve regardless of sexual orientation.

In other words, until Sept. 20, 2011, service members were punished and even discharged with prejudice for being gay or bisexual. Now, it’s time to restore their honor and give them the benefits they deserve. Here’s how:


82-Year-Old Gay Veteran Receives Honorable Discharge

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There are several different types of discharges:

  • Honorable — For service members who meet or exceed the required standards of service. An honorable discharge comes with four major benefit programs, including disability compensation and medical care as well as pension programs and education.
  • General — For service members whose performance is satisfactory but is marked by a considerable departure in duty performance and conduct. A general discharge will also come with the benefit programs available to those honorably discharged.
  • Other Than Honorable — The most severe form of administrative discharge, representing a serious departure from the conduct and performance expected of military members. The majority of veterans’ benefits are not available to individuals who receive an Other Than Honorable discharge.
  • Bad Conduct — A punitive discharge that can only be given out by a court-martial. Virtually all veterans’ benefits are forfeited by a Bad Conduct Discharge.
  • Dishonorable — A punitive discharge handed out by a court-martial for the most reprehensible conduct, including sexual assault and murder.

Downgraded discharges not only result in the loss of benefits, they carry with them shame and stigma, as well.

As reported by The Bay Area Reporter, “Advocates for LGBT veterans estimate that roughly 114,000 U.S. service members were “involuntarily separated” from the military due to their sexual orientation between the end of World War II and the repeal in 2011 of the homophobic “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that barred LGBT people from serving openly in the military. While many of those veterans could likely qualify to correct or upgrade their discharges, just 8% had done so as of 2018, according to a report presented that April at a conference held at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School.”

Vets can also receive help from non-profit organizations like Modern Military Association of America, dedicated to advancing fairness and equality for the LGBTQ military and veteran community, or Swords to Ploughshares, which provides assessment and case management, employment and training, housing, and legal assistance to veterans.

Veterans are being encouraged to upgrade their discharges to finally receive the benefits they deserve. Veterans can start by reading some of the literature shared by Swords to Ploughshares about what to expect from the process. They can reach out to a non-profit to ask for help and advocacy, or they can go directly to the Veterans Affairs website and apply for a Discharge Update.

Humor

6 signs she is more in love with your contract than you

Many service members can recall their recruiter’s insistence that they will be swarmed with the attention of beautiful women as soon as they graduate from basic. For the most part, this claim is incorrect.


However…

There are those who are absolutely into the fact that you signed on the dotted line. One can usually find them within close proximity to a military base, keeping always on the alert, and searching for their future spouse. Of course this would never happen to you but, if you think your buddy is in a relationship with someone like this, there are signs to look for:

Related: 5 things boot Marines buy with their first paycheck

6. She approaches you at a service bar

You walk into the bar just outside base, have a seat with your boys, you all are celebrating finally making it to fleet. You walk to the bar for another round when she taps you on the shoulder. She is gorgeous — you’ve never talked to girl like this, much less had one approach you. Must be your lucky day right? Well…

The game-changing Swedish warship that sank in its first battle

5. She asks if you are married, not if you’re single

Ok, maybe it’s just you — after all, you’re much more fit than you used to be and she doesn’t even know you serve. How could she? (haircut, farmer’s tan, affliction t-shirt) Then she asks if you are married. Not if you are single — but if you are married. This is a little to the point but maybe she just knows what she wants. Maybe she saw you and just fell in love.

4. She knows your contract better than you

You let her know that you are not married, that you live in the barracks, and have your meals at the chow hall. She informs you that if you were married you could live off base and could eat whatever you want, whenever you want.

The game-changing Swedish warship that sank in its first battle
So I give you this and then I can get an apartment?

3. She explains BAH to you

You kindly explain to her that you wouldn’t be able to afford to live off base and the cost of groceries is also a little steep. She smiles at you the same way an adult does a child, pats you on the head and says, “Oh sweetie, you sweet ignorant little thing, the basic allowance for housing is X amount of dollars here which is more than enough for us to live in a small place, not to mention the basic allowance for subsistence which would get you off that prison food in the chow hall.”

The game-changing Swedish warship that sank in its first battle
Yes, but you can’t PROVE anything… (Image via imgflip)

 

2. She proposes to you just before deployment.

So you’ve been dating now for two-weeks and things are getting serious. She sits on your rack and stares at her phone while you play video games in your barracks room. Things are perfect, until you hear her say it. “You should get married before you deploy.” (Pauses game, turns slowly)

“They’d pay you so much more: BAH, SAH, separations pay, hazardous duty pay, baby you’d clean up.”

Also Read: 5 things infantrymen love about the woobie

1. She needs health care

So you are married now, congratulations. First deployment is about to be underway, and where is your new bride? She was at the dentist on Monday, the dermatologist on Tuesday, optometrist Wednesday, and seems to have a healthy relationship with the ear nose and throat doctor. It may be time for you to make an appointment with the proctologist, because this is all highly suspect.

Articles

This is how the Marine Corps ensured Union victory in the Civil War

Before World War I, the U.S. Marine Corps wasn’t the true expeditionary warfighting branch that it is today. It was frequently neglected, underfunded, and at one point entirely disbanded.


The Civil War Marine Corps usually had just a little over 3,000 men but manned the guns at vital points in the Union war machine, helping usher in the victory.

The game-changing Swedish warship that sank in its first battle
A group of U.S. Marines guards the Washington Naval Yard. (Photo: Library of Congress)

First, in the immediate aftermath of the Articles of Secession, Marine detachments were sent to reinforce federal garrisons in seceding states, including Fort Sumter. While the Marines were unable to reach Sumter, they did reinforce Fort Pickens in Florida which, though threatened by Florida secessionists throughout the war, never fell from Union control.

The game-changing Swedish warship that sank in its first battle
A group of 348 Marines took part in the first battle of Bull Run as support for a Union artillery battery. (Image: Library of Congress)

But the Marines didn’t just defend backwater outposts. A battalion of 348 Marines under the command of Maj. John Reynolds fought at the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861. The Marines were credited for brave action through most of the day but were routed with the rest of the Union forces in the afternoon.

Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Marines to the war effort was their manning guns on Navy ships and guarding Union positions on America’s rivers, helping ensure the success of the Anaconda Plan, which called for the Confederacy to be split in two and starved for supplies.

The game-changing Swedish warship that sank in its first battle
The Monitor fighting the CSS Virginia at the Battle of Hampton Roads. Marines were manning guns on many of the wooden ships seen in the background. (Image: National Archives)

One of the most stunning naval battles the Marines took part in was the Battle of Hampton Roads, the first clash of iron vessels in the history of naval warfare. The Marines manned guns on the Union Navy ships USS Cumberland, USS Congress, USS Minnesota and others.

The Cumberland fought bravely against the ironside CSS Virginia, pumping cannon rounds through open portholes on the Virginia, destroying two cannons and killing 19 of the crew. But the Cumberland was eventually doomed by a ram strike from the Virginia. The USS Monitor, also an ironside, arrived and drove off the Virginia from the other wooden-hulled ships.

The game-changing Swedish warship that sank in its first battle
Vice Adm. David Farragut’s naval attacks at New Orleans were facilitated with Marines at some of the guns. The attack eventually closed the important port to Confederate supplies. (Painting: Mauritz de Haas/Public Domain)

The next month, Marines took part in Navy Capt. David Farragut’s attack on New Orleans. On April 24, 1862, Farragut led his flotilla through a gauntlet of Confederate guns and gunships and captured the city. At one point in the naval battle, Marines stabbed Confederate sailors through the gunports on two ships jammed together and exchanging cannon fire.

Marines later stood guard as the state banner in New Orleans was cut down and the American flag raised.

The game-changing Swedish warship that sank in its first battle
Cpl Mackie aboard the USS Galena at Drewry’s Bluff. (Painting: U.S. Marine Corps)

On May 15, 1862, Marine Cpl. John Mackie took the first actions for which a Marine would be awarded the Medal of Honor. He was on the USS Galena at the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff. When Confederate fire from the shore damaged the ship and knocked an important gun out of action, Mackie got it back into service and led the crew in its operation.

The Marines under Farragut’s command distinguished themselves again when then-Vice Adm. Farragut sent his ships past Confederate torpedoes and Fort Morgan to threaten Mobil Bay, Alabama. It was in this battle, with Marines firing their muskets into enemy portholes, that Farragut uttered his famous curse, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” The attack was ultimately successful.

The game-changing Swedish warship that sank in its first battle
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps flickr)

Finally, the Marines helped close the Confederacy’s last major port through which it received supplies from blockade runners. Fort Fisher held open the port at Wilmington, North Carolina. In January 1865, a naval brigade of sailors and 400 Marines assaulted the fort under heavy fire. While their attack was easily beaten back, it served as a diversion for a second attack by the Army.

The Army was able to take the fort in large part due to the sacrifice of the Marines and sailors. The fall of Fort Fisher closed Wilmington’s port and shut down the last major supply route into the Confederacy. The surrender of Confederate units came faster after this loss of supplies and Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Virginia at Appomatox Court House only three months later.

MIGHTY FIT

6 of the most important core exercises you’ll ever do

When gym amateurs think about doing core exercises to get rid of love handles and to gain ripped abs, they probably think they must do tons of sit-ups and leg raises.

The truth is when we refer to “ab exercises,” we’re typically only targeting our transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, and our internal and external oblique muscles. These are the four muscles that make up our abdominals. Our “core” consists of our abs plus many “stabilizer” structures like the pelvic floor, hip abductors, lower chest, and lower back. These are the areas many athletes target when they put themselves through a tough core workout.

Aside from getting those abs to pop out, having a strong core directly relates to how our bodies are balanced and our agility levels. As a bonus, a strong core helps promote our immunity, which can fend off colds and cases of flu while in season.

Unlike most muscle groups, putting ourselves through an intense core exercise program can be accomplished without using a single weight or having a ton of space. These movements can be done in virtually any location.

Out of the dozens of core exercises out there, we tend to go with these six movements three to four times a week to improve our overall health and wellness… and (we’re not going to lie) to get ripped abs.


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The “dead bug”

The name of this exercise might make it sound simple, but the dead bug is a lot harder to pull off than you think. You start off by positioning yourself like you’re a dead bug turned over on its back. With your legs and arms extended upward, keep all those core muscles we spoke about as tight as possible before lowering one of your legs down to the floor. As you slowly lower your leg, your back will want to arch itself to assist you with the load.

Don’t allow that to happen.

Keep your core tight as you bring your leg back up, and then repeat the whole process with the other leg. Continue onward until you hit failure. This is one of the best core movements in the book, so always keep this in mind when you’re looking to tone up your tummy.

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Scissor kicks

This is an exercise that many veterans want to forget about. We’ve done thousands of these bad boys during our command-led fitness adventures. Although you might not remember enjoying them during all your years of service, scissor kicks are a hell of a way to boost your body’s balance and get those abs ripped.

This supinated exercise is as easy as just moving your feet sideways while contracting your core muscles. However, you can exhaust your core in a matter of moments. After you hit 40 or 50 reps, you can quickly move into conducting a series of flutter kicks while you’re resting from all those scissor kicks you just did. Super setting your exercises burns more calories, which means you’re going to tone up faster.

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Russian twists

Although this movement sounds like a delicious vodka drink, it’s actually one of the hardest core exercises to master. Sure the idea of twisting your body so your fingertips can touch your hips sounds easy, but to do this movement correctly, you must balance yourself or risk falling over.

And no one wants to be seen falling on their side at the gym. It just looks bad. So, to master it, slow the motion down until you build up enough core strength to balance yourself perfectly.

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Alternating heel touches

We put this exercise here for a good reason. It’s not just an excellent movement but it’s also a great transitional motion after doing some Russian twists for a minute or two. Your core will probably feel like it’s on fire but alternating heel touches can help you catch your breath while still allowing you to tone up. By merely going from the same Russian twist position, start to touch your hands to your heels and an alternative motion.

You’ll feel this movement in your obliques and lower back.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riAutegDqdI

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V-ups

Remember how we talked about gaining balance through these core exercises? V-ups are one of the best movements to train the core to stabilize itself. By starting in a supine position, raise your lower and upper body up from the floor and attempt to touch your fingertips to your shins.

As you continue to get better, the goal is to touch your fingertips to your toe without falling over. Strengthening your body is a gradual process, so alway monitor your pain levels at all time.

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Two-point planks

Since the majority of the world has either heard of planks or seen someone do them, we want to challenge you by increasing its level of difficulty. After getting into a pushup position, raise up one leg up while lifting up the opposite arm to maintain your personal balance. After both limbs are extended for a second or two, lower them back down and proceed to lift your other limbs to complete the exercise.

We know it sounds super easy, but after a few cycles, you’ll feel your whole body start to shake. Don’t worry — that’s normal, even for advanced plankers.

Fitness is all about making goals and then destroying them once you’ve achieved them. So, set that goal and then break it.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What really happens at Fort Ord?

Army posts aren’t typically known for their beauty, but an exception can be made with Fort Ord. Between the rocky cliffs, the fantastic ocean views, and the excellent weather, this Army post was, well, actually pretty decent.

Located about 100 miles south of San Francisco, California on the Monterey Bay, millions of Soldiers have trained here over the years. No, we’re not exaggerating. Literally millions of Soldiers passed through Fort Ord. That’s because it used to be one of the Army’s principal training centers. As many as 50,000 soldiers trained at Fort Ord in just one year when it was at its peak.

Fort Ord Beginnings

In 1940, Fort Ord was first constructed and designated as a fort. Before that, the military used the land as a field artillery target range and maneuver area. The 7th Infantry Division was first activated at Fort Ord in 1917, during World War I, and it remained there for the majority of its history.

The 7th Infantry Division is particularly special because is it the only active-duty multi-component division headquarters in the entire US Army. It is most famous for its placement at Ford Ord in the Pacific theater of World War II to fight off US enemies. These days, 7th ID calls JBLM home. Not a far stretch from Fort Ord, but they’re definitely not getting California sunshine in Washington state.

A Booming Monterey Bay Thanks to Fort Ord

After the Vietnam War, training missions at Ford Ord were redesigned with technology in mind. Both education and physical training occurred here. Throughout the years, Soldiers all lived in town, spending a lot of their hard-earned money supporting many of the neighboring communities. You could say business was always booming thanks to the Soldiers. Often, it was the first taste of Army life as well as the last stop before deployment for many soldiers.

Fort Ord closed in 1994 after the Base Realignment and Closure Act passed in 1988. At the size of San Francisco, 28,000 acres, it is the largest army base to ever have closed in the US. Unsurprisingly, the nearby cities took an economic beating as a result.

What to Do with All That Land?

The neighboring communities received divided portions of the land, with proposals to use it for artist colonies, amusement parks, golf courses, you name it. No one could agree on how to use the ex-Fort Ord land, which caused more than a few scuttles. In the end, the State of California had to step in and make the final decision.

Their verdict was to use Fort Ord for education, the environment, and economic vitality. California State University – Monterey Bay was established on Fort Ord grounds. As of 2009, the majority of the land became Fort Ord Dunes State Park and National Monument. That was an easy choice because ot its wildlife variety and lush natural beauty. Both the educational and environmental uses of the land also helped the economy.

While thousands of acres of toxic buildings and empty lots still remain on Fort Ord land, the decisions about what to do with them and the rest of the land lie in the hands of the community. Hopefully, they will keep the best interest of the land and its rich history in mind.

Military Life

Everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine

There is another maritime “service” you may not have heard much about, yet, the United States Merchant Marine is arguably incredibly important to the Armed Forces. They also help keep America’s economy moving. But what exactly is this?


6. It is civilian-manned ships

Merchant Mariners are not part of the military. Now, some of them run a number of ships that support the U.S. Navy, like the Henry J. Kaiser-class replenishment oilers and Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ships, as well as the sealift vessels like the Bob Hope-class vehicle cargo chips.

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The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) receives fuel from the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204). The oiler is manned by merchant mariners. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelsey L. Adams/Released)

5. The United States Merchant Marine is small

The total civilian merchant fleet of the Untied States is 393 vessels, according to the CIA World Factbook. It ranks 27th in the world, behind Russia (11th with 1,143 merchant ships) and China (2nd, with 4,052 merchant ships). This includes privately-owned ships, as well as those owned by the federal government.

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The Maersk Alabama is one of only 84 container ships in the U.S. Merchant Marine. (U.S. Navy photo)

4. The United States has a special agency for the Merchant Marine

The United States Maritime Administration, under the Department of Transportation, handles programs that administer and finance the United States Merchant Marine. This includes supporting the United States Maritime Service, which helps to train officers and crew on merchant ships.

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Seal of the Maritime Administration (Department of Transportation graphic)

3. You can become an officer by going to one of seven “maritime academies”

To become the captain of a merchant ship, your best route would be to attend a “maritime academy.” There are seven of them located across the country: The United States Merchant Marine Academy, the California State University Maritime Academy, the Great Lakes Maritime Academy, the Maine Maritime Academy, the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, the State University of New York Maritime College, and the Texas AM Maritime Academy.

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An aerial view of the United States Merchant Marine Academy. (United States Merchant Marine Academy photo)

2. A lot of famous people were in the Merchant Marine

Some very familiar names have served in the Merchant Marine at one point or another. While today’s most famous merchant mariner is Richard Phillips, former captain of the Maersk Alabama, others include filmmaker Oliver Stone, writers Louis L’Amour and Jack Vance, as well as playwright and screenwriter David Mamet.

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Capt. Richard Phillips, former Captain of the container ship MV Maersk Alabama, publicly thanks Sailors assigned to the guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) for his dramatic rescue at sea. On Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009, Navy SEALs positioned on the fantail of the Bainbridge opened fire and killed three of the pirates who were holding Phillips hostage. (U.S. Navy photo)

1. There is a merchant mariner’s equivalent to the Medal of Honor

While merchant mariners cannot receive the Medal of Honor or other military decorations, valor doesn’t go unrecognized. The Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal is awarded by the Department of Transportation to those who show “outstanding conduct or service in the line of duty.” A list of awardees from World War II can be seen here.

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Front and back views of the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal. (DOD graphic)

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Battle of Iwo Jima and the unbreakable Navajo Code

Peter MacDonald is one of the last remaining Navajo Code Talkers. The former chairman of the Navajo Nation recently sat down with VAntage Point staff to explain what made the “unbreakable” code so effective, and how it helped save lives and secure victory in the Pacific.


“Without Navajo, Marines would never have taken the island of Iwo Jima,” he said. “That’s how critical Navajo Code was to the war in the Pacific.”

The Unbreakable Code

Code Talkers used native languages to send military messages before World War II. Choctaw, for example, was used during World War I. The Marine Corps, however, needed an “unbreakable” code for its island-hopping campaign in the Pacific. Navajo, which was unwritten and known by few outside the tribe, seemed to fit the Corps’ requirements.

Twenty-nine Navajos were recruited to develop the code in 1942. They took their language and developed a “Type One Code” that assigned a Navajo word to each English letter. They also created special words for planes, ships and weapons.

Understanding Navajo didn’t mean a person could understand the code. While a person fluent in the language would hear a message that translated into a list of words that seemingly had no connection to each other, a code talker would hear a very clear message.

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Here is an example:

Navajo Code: DIBEH, AH-NAH, A-SHIN, BE, AH-DEEL-TAHI, D-AH, NA-AS-TSO-SI, THAN-ZIE, TLO-CHIN
Translation: SHEEP, EYES, NOSE, DEER, BLOW UP, TEA, MOUSE, TURKEY, ONION
Deciphered Code: SEND DEMOLITION TEAM TO …

In addition to being unbreakable, the new code also reduced the amount of time it took to transmit and receive secret messages. Because all 17 pages of the Navajo code were memorized, there was no need to encrypt and decipher messages with the aid of coding machines. So, instead of taking several minutes to send and receive one message, Navajo code talkers could send several messages within seconds. This made the Navajo code talker an important part of any Marine unit.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Washington DC VA hospital is in a disgusting critical situation

The persistence of serious problems endangering America’s veterans at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, DC has employees begging Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie for assistance.

“We ask you, our respected leaders, to stop this coverup and incompetence, to really care and live up to America’s promise to its Heroes,” the employees wrote to Wilkie and other senior Department of Veterans Affairs officials in correspondence obtained by USA Today.


“Enough is enough,” they added in the letter, which called attention to soaring infection rates and plummeting patient and employee satisfaction.

The response from the employees comes after reports of horrific conditions at the facility, which serves tens of thousands of veterans in Washington. Deemed high risk in January 2018 and designated “critical” in a leaked memo written in July 2018 and obtained by Stars and Stripes on Aug. 1, 2018, the hospital is presently under investigation. VA staffers, however, are not optimistic, even with the prospect of leadership changes following administrative review.

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Robert Wilkie, acting United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

A scathing report from April 2017 revealed that not only did the hospital lack essential equipment and fail to meet necessary cleanliness standards, but senior leaders were aware of the problems and had not properly addressed them. The VA removed the hospital director, and sent teams of experts to the medical facility to improve the situation. It didn’t help.

Internal reports in November 2017 highlighted the findings of VA sterilization specialists, who discovered rusty medical instruments and bacteria in the water intended to sterilize the equipment. With limited sterilization supplies on hand, the hospital was reportedly borrowing them from a neighboring private hospital. The facility in DC is one of 15 VA hospitals with a one-star rating, despite it being a flagship medical care center for the VA.

Other alarming reports noted consistent cleanliness failings and incidents in which the hospital was forced to borrow bone marrow for surgeries.

In March 2018, a report from the VA Office of Inspector General revealed that a “culture of complacency” had allowed problems to persist for years, putting the lives of US veterans in danger and wasting taxpayer dollars. The report concluded that officials at every level of the Department of Veterans Affairs — local, regional, and national — were aware of the serious shortfalls at the hospital in DC, but those officials were either unwilling or incapable of fixing the problems.

President Donald Trump previously described the VA, which has an annual budget of 0 billion and runs the nation’s largest integrated health care system, as “probably the most incompetently run agency in the United States government.” The department, as well as a number of medical care facilities, have repeatedly been plagued by problems and scandal.

The DC hospital has made headlines numerous times, and after multiple inspections and leadership changes, the situation continues to deteriorate, which is why employees are now begging the new VA secretary for help. Wilkie was sworn in as the VA secretary just two days ago.

“VA appreciates the employees’ concerns and will look into them right away,” VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour reportedly said in response to the pleas of the DC hospital’s employees. “Veterans deserve only the best when it comes to their health care, and that’s why VA is focusing on improving its facilities in Washington and nationwide.”

He told the media that the VA is “taking additional measures to support the facility.”

The VA hospital in Washington was not available for comment at the time of publication.

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