This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

At just 18 years old, Hjalmar Johansson was given a choice: either serve in the infantry or work as a nose gunner in a B-24 bomber. Johansson decided he would be best in the air and was quickly assigned to a ten-man aerial crew headed off to fight in World War II. His first flight in a war zone was over Italy, during which his aircraft was to bomb enemy petroleum plants. His squadron started taking heavy anti-aircraft fire, which punctured a hole in his bomber’s wing.

Then, out of nowhere, German fighter planes flew into position. headed straight toward the American bombers. Johansson, sitting in his front gunner’s position, squeezed his machine gun’s trigger, sending hot lead at his sworn enemy.

Just as Johansson was making a dent in the German forces, one of his weapon systems jammed. Soon after, his second gun went down. He was left without defenses.

Nobody could’ve prepared for for what happened next…


Also Read: Watch rare footage of a Kamikaze attack caught on film

POWs at Stalag 11B at Fallingbostel in Germany welcome their liberators, 1945.

With his plane’s wing on fire, Johansson thought to himself, “I’m not going home in this plane.”

The captain gave the order to bail out. Johansson quickly put on his parachute, leaped out of an open door, and careened head-first toward the ground.

He deployed his chute, hit the dirt, and located his tail gunner — just as small arms fire rang out in their direction. He could hear Germans shouting nearby. Johansson was captured, transported to an interrogation center, and then locked in solitary confinement.

He was officially a POW.

Hjalmar Johansson personal dog tags.

(HISTORY)

While confined, Johansson vowed to not give the Germans any information besides name, rank, and serial number. Soon after, Johansson and other POWs were loaded on a train and transferred to a permanent prison camp. The brave nose gunner estimated he and the others were on that transport train for roughly one-week.

For the next several months, Johansson ate nothing but weed soup and his body was riddled with lice.

“We didn’t live through it, we existed through it,” Johansson recalls.

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For months, Johansson and the rest of the POWs endured brutal beatings and freezing temperatures. Then, one morning, after all hope seemed lost, the brave POW noticed the prison’s guards had disappeared. The Americans looked out to find that Russian Army had broken through.

Russian forces tore down the barbed wire that held the men captive for so long and opened the prison’s front gates. Johansson tasted freedom for the first time in six months. He was finally sent back home to New York City, where he would spend his life working hard and retelling his incredible story.

Hjalmar Johansson passed away on June 30, 2018, at the age of 92.

Check out the History Channel’s video below to hear this incredible story from the legend himself.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Navy fooled the Russians before the US struck Syria

When President Donald Trump threatened to send missiles at Syria — despite Russia’s promises to counterattack— all eyes turned toward the US Navy’s sole destroyer in the region. But that may have been a trick.

Pundits openly scoffed at Trump’s announcement early April 2018, of the US’s intention to strike, especially considering his criticism of President Barack Obama for similarly telegraphing US military plans, but the actual strike appeared successful.


In April 2017, two US Navy destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean steamed into the region, let off 59 cruise missiles in response to gas attacks by the Syrian government, and left unpunished and unpursued.

But this time, with the US considering its response to another attack against civilians blamed on the Syrian government, Russian officials threatened to shoot down US missiles, and potentially the ships that launched them, if they attacked Syria. A retired Russian admiral spoke candidly about sinking the USS Donald Cook, the only destroyer in the region.

When the strike happened April 14, 2018, local time, the Cook didn’t fire a shot, and a source told Bloomberg News it was a trick.

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook transits the Black Sea.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Edward Guttierrez III)

Instead, a US submarine, the USS John Warner, fired missiles while submerged in the eastern Mediterranean, presenting a much more difficult target than a destroyer on the surface. Elsewhere, a French frigate let off three missiles.

But the bulk of the firing came from somewhere else entirely: the Red Sea.

Near Egypt, the USS Monterey, a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser, fired 30 Tomahawk cruise missiles, and the USS Laboon, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, shot seven, accounting for about a third of the 105 missiles the US said were fired.

Combined with an air assault from a US B-1B Lancer bomber and UK and French fighter jets, the attack ended up looking considerably different from 2017’s punitive strike.

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

Photos from the morning of the attack show Syrian air defenses firing missile interceptors on unguided trajectories, suggesting they did not target or intercept incoming missiles.

“No Syrian weapon had any effect on anything we did,” Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told reporters of the strike on April 14, 2018, calling the strike “precise, overwhelming, and effective.”

Syria said it shot down 71 missiles, but no evidence has surfaced to back up that claim. The US previously acknowledged that one of the Tomahawks used in last year’s attack failed to reach its target because of an error with the missile.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 key features that define a machine gun

Even within the military, there are people who use the terms “machine gun” and “automatic rifle” interchangeably. While these classifications of weapon share similar functions and mechanics, it’s important to understand that they are, in fact, not the same.


In terms of mechanics, machine guns and automatic rifles are both capable of fully automatic fire. But, beyond that, there are some key differences. Due to differences in range and firing rate, you should never send an automatic rifle to do a machine gun’s job, or vice versa. Here are some of the key features you will find on a machine gun but not on an automatic rifle.

Hearing a machine gun firing is glorious, though.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. David Hersey)

One firing option

Machine guns are absolutely designed for automatic fire, but here’s the thing: most machine guns only have that option. You can either have the weapon on safe or fully automatic. Conversely, with an automatic rifle, there’s an option for semi-automatic fire when full-auto is not tactically wise.

There’s a reason they’re always carried on the shoulder.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Weight

Probably the biggest and most notable difference, machine guns are inherently heavier. Even the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, a “light” machine gun, weighs 17 lbs when empty. While 17 lbs may not sound like a lot, when you take into consideration the amount of ammunition you’ll need to carry and the weight of your other gear, it adds up.

Automatic rifles, specifically the M27, don’t compare — even when loaded.

The ammunition is also loaded onto a feeding tray.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nathaniel Q. Hamilton)

Belt-fed ammunition

Plenty of machine guns offer a magazine-fed option, but that’s really only for extremely dire situations in which belt-fed ammunition isn’t easily available. An automatic rifle may be modified to be belt-fed, but the original design calls for magazines.

Melting the barrel would probably be an expensive — but amazing — “accident.”

(U.S. Air Force photo by Alejandro Pena)

Changeable barrel

Firing hundreds of rounds in rapid succession gets the barrel so hot it runs the risk of melting. So, to prevent machine guns from destroying themselves, barrels can be exchanged after a certain amount of time or number of bullets fired. An automatic rifle doesn’t need this option.

You can’t complete a disassembly without removing the buttstock.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Melissa Karnath)

Removable buttstock and pistol grip

In order to remove certain parts inside a machine gun’s receiver, the buttstock and pistol grip must first be removed. With an automatic rifle, the buffer and buffer spring can be removed by separating the upper and lower receiver.

Articles

This is how the Sabot round turns enemies into a fine mist

The Sabot is a non-explosive tank round that consists of a narrow metal rod made of depleted uranium that penetrates armor then explodes into a spray of metal fragments.


“It liquefies everything inside,” said the soldier in the video below. “You can technically come in with a hose and hose out the enemy tank crew. It just annihilates human matter.”

Firing the Sabot round:

The Sabot round is outfitted with a shell to stabilize the rod inside the barrel. Once it’s fired, the shell breaks away as the round zooms to its target at 3,500 mph.

American Heroes Channel, YouTube

Enemies have no chance of survival; the Sabot round turns them into a fine mist.

American Heroes Channel, YouTube

Here’s how the U.S. military used the Sabot round against suicide bombers in Baghdad to great effect.

Watch:

Video: American Heroes Channel, YouTube
MIGHTY TRENDING

How one flag can put the spotlight on many veteran issues

In the hearts of patriots all across this great country of ours, Old Glory isn’t just a piece of red, white, and blue cloth — it’s a symbol. A symbol of freedom, democracy, and the American way of life. No one knows this better than the military community, who go to war with the flag on their shoulders. Even after service, you’d be hard-pressed to find a veteran who doesn’t have a flag displayed in their home in one way or another.

Today, Old Glory is touching the lives of thousands as it makes its away across the country, carried by veterans, troops, and patriots alike on a trek from Boston, Massachusetts, to sunny San Diego, California. Over ten thousands pairs of hands will have carried the flag as it moves across twenty-four states and over 4,300 miles. Along the way, The Stars and Stripes are bringing attention to many of the issues that the veteran community faces.

This is Team RWB’s Old Glory Relay.


The best way to get everyone’s attention? By making a large event that runs from September 11th to November 11th. ​

(Team RWB)

Every participant in the Old Glory Relay is running to support their own cause, but all of these causes are important to the veteran community. Chief among these issues are the disastrously high suicide rate within our community, the struggles of isolation, sedentary lifestyles, finding meaningful post-service employment, and combating the stigma surrounding veterans seeking help for mental issues.

There’s no simple solution to any of these problems. There’s no magic wand to wave and make them disappear. It takes a serious conversation within the community. And this conversation can only happen when we all come together and make our voices heard in a singular, booming voice — and that’s exactly what the 10,000 men and women carrying the flag across the country are doing.

If you miss your time in the airborne, don’t worry: They have skydiving events as well.

(Team RWB)

Recently, We Are The Mighty chatted with Tom Voss, an Army veteran and member of Team Red, White Blue (or Team RWB) who will be carrying the flag across the finish-line on Veterans Day, November 11, 2018. Voss is no stranger to participating in events to raise awareness for veteran issues. A couple years back, he and another Iraq War veteran walked across the country to put that much-needed spotlight on important issues.

“It’s always important to pay homage and pay our respects to all the men and women that came before us.” said Tom. “Look at the American Flag — that’s what it represents. It represents the men and women who have sacrificed everything, the families that have sacrificed everything so that we are able to live the lives that we do today.”

Team RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans. They do this by connecting veterans to their community through physical and social activity. Outside of massive events, like the Old Glory Relay, local Team RWB chapters assist local communities in smaller ways, like placing flags at the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery, building housing areas with Habitat for Humanity in Los Angeles, putting on Range Days in Grand Rapids, Michigan, all to bring veterans together within their communities.

The veterans who participate in these events get a sense of camaraderie that they’ve been missing since their departure from active-duty life — but the door is always open to civilians, too.

The Old Glory Relay is like a perfect encapsulation of everything great about Team RWB. Veterans, active duty troops, and civilian patriots are banding together for a great cause. In addition to bringing attention to many of the issues that the veteran community faces, they’re also helping bridge the ever-expanding civilian-military divide.

“I think what it comes down to is, veterans are open and willing to share their stories. But you have to ask. Coming from a place of non-judgement and not just saying, ‘thank you for your service,’ but really asking, ‘what happened during your time in Iraq or Afghanistan? Because I weren’t there. I don’t know. All I know is what I saw on the news.’ Coming from a genuine place like that from the civilian standpoint is really important.”

If you’re in the area, be sure to catch Tom Voss and the rest of Team Red, White, Blue as they cross the finish line in San Diego, California on November 11th.

popular

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

In April of last year — for the third time in two months — Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has discovered a major American warship lost during World War II. The Brooklyn-class light cruiser USS Helena (CL 50) was discovered nearly 75 years after she was sunk during the Battle of the Kula Gulf. According to the announcement, USS Helena lies just over 2,800 feet below the surface of the ocean near the island of Vella Lavella.


USS Helena (CL 50) firing her main guns during the Battle of Kula Gulf. The flashes proved to be an excellent aimpoint for Japanese torpedoes.

(U.S. Navy photo)

In 1943, Helena, her sister ships (USS Honolulu (CL 48) and USS St. Louis (CL 49)), and four destroyers attempted to intercept ten Japanese destroyers. The Americans quickly eliminated one of the Japanese vessels, but Helena‘s guns didn’t have flashless powder, making her a perfect target in the night sky for Type 93 Long Land torpedoes.

Francis X. McInerney on board the Baltimore-class heavy cruiser USS Helena (CA 75) in 1949. McInerney received the Legion of Merit for the rescue of 165 crewmen from the light cruiser USS Helena that had been sunk in 1943.

(U.S. Navy photo)

Three torpedoes hit the Helena and she quickly sank. Meanwhile, the Americans fatally crippled a second Japanese destroyer and damaged two more. The story doesn’t end there.

Most of the Helena‘s crew managed to escape the sinking vessel. Unlike the commander of the USS Juneau (the wreckage of which was discovered by Paul Allen just a month before finding Helena), Captain Gilbert C. Hoover insisted on rescuing any and all surviving crew. Under the command of Captain Francis X. McInerney, the destroyers USS Nicholas (DD 449) and USS Radford (DD 446) turned around to rescue survivors. In the midst of the rescue efforts, two Japanese destroyers came back. McInerney turned to fight, telling the Helena survivors, “Hang on! We’ll be back for you!”

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It would take 11 days, but McInerney would eventually fulfill that promise. Eventually, over 700 survivors from the cruiser would be rescued. For his actions, McInerney he received the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, and the Legion of Merit. The Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS McInerney (FFG 8) was named in his honor.

See video of once-lost USS Helena below!

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These pics of an F-35 in the snow-covered mountains are epic

The stunning photographs in this post were taken on Feb. 21, 2019, by our friend and photographer Christopher McGreevy.

They show a 461th FLTS F-35A from Edwards Air Force Base, at low level, on the Sidewinder low level route, enroute to the famous “Jedi Transition.”

While we are used to see some great photographs of the F-35s, F-16s, and many other types thundering over the desert in the “Star Wars” canyon, the rare snow days in California provided a fantastic background for these shots McGreevy shot from an unusual spot, deep in the Sierra Mountains.


As mentioned several times here at The Aviationist, what makes the low level training so interesting, is the fact that aircraft flying the low level routes are involved in realistic combat training. Indeed, although many current and future scenarios involve stand-off weapons or drops from high altitudes, fighter pilots still practice on an almost daily basis to infiltrate heavily defended targets and to evade from areas protected by sophisticated air defense networks as those employed in Iran, Syria or North Korea. While electronic countermeasures help, the ability to get bombs on target and live to fight another day may also depend on the skills learnt at treetop altitude.

To be able to fly at less than 2,000 feet can be useful during stateside training too, when weather conditions are such to require a low level leg to keep visual contact with the ground and VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions). Aircraft involved in special operations, reconnaissance, Search And Rescue, troops or humanitarian airdrops in trouble spots around the world may have to fly at low altitudes.

Even a stealth plane (or helicopter), spotted visually by an opponent, could be required to escape at tree top height to survive an engagement by enemy fighter planes or an IR guided missile.

That’s why low level corridors like the Sidewinder and the LFA-7 aka “Mach Loop” in the UK are so frequently used to train fighter jet, airlifter and helicopter pilots.

And such training pays off when needed. As happened, in Libya, in 2011, when RAF C-130s were tasked to rescue oil workers that were trapped in the desert. The airlifter took off from Malta and flew over the Mediteranean, called Tripoli air traffic control, explained who they were and what they were up to, they got no reply from the controllers, therefore continued at low level once over the desert and in hostile airspace.

H/T to our friend Christopher McGreevy for sending us these shots. Make sure to visit his stunning Instagram page here.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why the US Navy doesn’t use battleships anymore

Long gone are the days where the United States Navy roamed the seas with heavily-armed battleships as its primary capital ships. Not everyone who talks naval warfare entirely agrees with mothballing the biggest guns of the American Navy, but there’s a reason the old battleships are gone – and a reason they’re never coming back.


“Come at me, bro.”

There was a time when ship-to-ship fighting was the way of war on the world’s oceans. It made sense to create the biggest, baddest ship technology would allow, then arm it with as many weapons as it took to tear the enemy to shreds. If there was any way you could also prevent yourself from getting torn to shreds with some heavy armor, that was great too. Imagine how great it felt to watch British cannonballs bounce off the sides of the USS Constitution as you watched your shipmates take down part of the “world’s most powerful navy.”

As time wore on, the technology only got better. By the Civil War, “Ironsides” was more than a nickname. It was a must-have feature on American ships, made famous by the confrontation of the USS Monitor’s and the CSS Virginia’s epic shootout at Hampton Roads. By the 20th Century, naval powers were churning out ships with speed, firepower, and armor in a race to be able to sink the other side’s seafaring battleships.

Once the two sides saw each other, it was on.

Kinda like that.

In modern naval warfare, however, two sides don’t need to see each other. As a matter of fact, one side is better off being able to strike the other without warning – and without one side being able to return fire. These days, satellite technology, radars, and other long-range sensor technologies mean an attacker can see its target without ever needing to go looking for them. More importantly, a battleship (or battleship fleet) can be hit and destroyed without ever seeing where the shots were fired.

And while the battleship would be searching to take down its seaborne opponent, land-based ballistic missiles and anti-ship missiles fired from aircraft would be on its way to put 2,500-plus battleship sailors at the bottom of the ocean.

That last hit made Tommy remember his shipmates on the Lexington and the night took a dark turn.

What battleships are still effective for is supporting ground forces with its guns, using them as support artillery for landing Marines. This is the main reason pro-battleship advocates argue for recommissioning the Iowa-class battleships currently being used as museums. But even the Iowa-class still uses a lot of sailors to fire so-called “dumb” weapons at a potentially civilian-filled environment, while a more precision close air support strike would be more effective and lower the risk of civilian casualties.

Not to mention lowering the risk of a counterattack killing the 2,500 sailors that might be manning the guns.

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army

In the early days of comic strips, they were often more political cartoon than art enjoyed by adults and kids. This was until Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson released the very first comic book, 1935’s New Fun, under his new company, National Allied Publications.  Through a series of mergers and buyouts, this company would eventually evolve into the comic giant, DC Comics. Before this, however, Wheeler-Nicholson served in the U.S. Army and was widely known as the “youngest major in the Army” at 27.


Just as many of the Marvel superheroes have pulled inspiration from Stan Lee’s time in the Army, many DC heroes followed Wheeler-Nicholson.

Related: 7 Marvel superheroes that served in the Army

Here are six DC heroes that served in the Army. Not all of them have superpowers, but then again, neither does Batman.

6. Jonah Hex

Jonah Hex‘s story begins in the Civil War where he was a southerner fighting for the Confederacy. His conscience held him back from fighting abolitionists, with whom he agreed philosophically, and he eventually surrendered his forces.

Tried for treason and exiled to the Wild West, Hex would later be branded with the mark of the demon and be forced to walk the west as a supernatural bounty hunter. At some point, he’d also travel time (because comic logic) and fight alongside other superheroes.

He also fought alongside Yosemite Sam. Yeah, the Looney Toons’ Yosemite Sam. (Image via DC Comics)

5. Deathstroke (Slade Wilson)

DC’s greatest and deadliest assassin, Deathstroke, cut his teeth in the Special Forces before he was experimented on, giving him super-human strength, agility, senses, and healing. It’s a very similar storyline to Marvel’s Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool, even though Deathstroke came out 10 years earlier.

Contrary to how he’s portrayed in many mediums, he’s actually a completely neutral agent, only interested in fighting heroes for a price. His strict moral code prevents him from hurting innocents and he’s even been known to fight on the side of good when the price is right.

He’s also one of the few who can go toe-to-toe with everyone in the Justice League. (Image via DC Comics)

4. John Diggle

A more recent addition to DC comic continuity is John Diggle. Originally created for the CW show, Arrow, his character is a bodyguard and close friend to the eponymous Green Arrow. Fans immediately loved the character as he helped Oliver Queen deal with his tragic yet over-the-top comic backstory by sharing his time with Special Forces in Afghanistan.

Though not originally a comic book character, he was given a life in print when DC rebooted many of their series as part of the “New 52.” His comic-book origin story follows his on-screen past very closely.

DC is really cool with making badassery a superpower. (The CW’s Arrow)

3. Wonder Woman (Diana Prince of Themyscira)

Diana Prince has had a long military career. In more recent storylines, she’s portrayed as an Air Force Intelligence Officer, but she’s most recognized for her WWII-era stories as an Army nurse where she first took the name, “Diana Prince,” to enlist.

At the time, the Amazonian Princess didn’t take kindly to being relegated to being the secretary when she was literally the strongest member of the Justice Society of America (Superman and Batman hadn’t joined at this point). So, she up and left to fight in WWII where she met the sometimes-Army, sometimes-Air Force, sometimes-Navy SEAL, Steve Trevor, as fans would recognize from the 2017 film.

Sassy comebacks is another one of her superpowers. (Image via DC Comics)

2. Sgt. Franklin Rock

One of the more surreal storylines in DC Comics’ history is that of Sgt. Rock. Very rarely did these comics ever deal with over-the-top action and silly, convoluted plots. Simply put, Sgt. Rock was just the story of the average soldiers of Easy Company during WWII, serving their country.

Sgt. Rock and his men were the musings of Army veteran, writer, and, eventually, executive editor, Robert Kanigher. Many events that happen during his run of Sgt. Rock are based on his real-life battles. After other writers took over his character, things took on a more outrageous, comic-book feel. Even Sgt. Rock’s service number — 409966 — is said to have belonged to Kanigher.

Write what you know, am I right? (Image via DC Comics)

1. Superman (very briefly)

That’s right, every other branch: The Man of Steel himself served in the U.S. Army. Unfortunately, it only lasted for one cross-over issue and because of time travel (because comic logic).

Very long story short, Superman brought a bomb that was going to destroy modern-day Paris into space, but it flung him back in time to WWII where he met with Sgt. Rock and Easy Company (which was very grounded in reality until this point). The blast gave him amnesia (because comic logic) and he assumes the identity of Corporal Steel to fight with the Americans. They stumble upon a Nazi program to create “Ubermensch” soldiers and Superman, realizing Ubermensch roughly means “super men” in German, regains his memory and remembers he has powers.

Superman beats all the fake Nazi copies of him and, to preserve his identity, fakes his own death before heading back to the future (because comic logic).

Nobody ever said comic books weren’t weird sometimes. (Image via DC Comics)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

Recently, the Afghan Air Force grabbed headlines by dropping its first laser-guided bomb. From here, that might not seem so impressive — the U.S. dropped laser-guided Paveways in Vietnam as early as 1968. But, considering the fact that their military force was decimated by a civil war that began after the Soviets left in 1989, Afghanistan’s military modernization is quite the shock.


Today, as World Air Forces 2018 notes, the Afghan Air Force has 12 A-29 Super Tucanos (with six more on order) as well as 28 MD530Fs (with 154 on order) and ten UH-1H Iroquois utility helicopters. The Afghan Air Force is also acquiring almost 160 UH-60A Blackhawk helicopters, four of which have already been delivered. These aircraft are set to replace a fleet of Russian-designed Mi-8/Mi-17 Hip transport helicopters and Mi-25 Hind attack helicopters.

Afghan Air Force MD-530F Cayuse Warrior helicopter fires its two FN M3P .50 cal machine guns

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston)

The Super Tucano is currently a finalist in the OA-X competition (alongside the Beechcraft AT-6B). The UH-60A Blackhawk helicopters are second-hand, but will be upgraded with a newer engine and rocket pods before delivery. Afghanistan is also going to acquire Cessna 208 Caravan light transport aircraft armed with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.

But did you know that, thirty years ago, the Afghan Air Force packed a lot of punch? An inventory of older equipment shows a lengthy list of Soviet designs were once in service, ranging from the Il-28 Beagle and MiG-17 Fresco to the MiG-23 Flogger. But 12 years of civil war wore that force down substantially. By the time Operation Enduring Freedom began, less than 20 planes were flyable. After Operation Enduring Freedom, there simply wasn’t an Afghan Air Force.

One of what will be up to 160 UH-60A Blackhawks for the Afghan Air Force.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jared J. Duhon)

We’ve got a long way to go before the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and ISIS are defeated in Afghanistan, but the new Afghan Air Force should help speed that process along.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Are promotion ceremonies standard? What to expect when pinning up

Promotions are an exciting event in a military career, and celebrating them comes standard. The question, however, comes in what type of celebration to expect — essentially, how big is too big? And what’s the “norm” for each rank and service branch?


Because everyone who gets promoted to a new rank is presumably doing so for the first time, there’s a steep learning curve. You can talk to others or attend services of those ahead of you in order to learn what’s expected by you as the service member.

Big or small, salute them all!

It doesn’t matter if you’re getting your first promotion or your 10th, it’s something to be excited about! Enjoy your achievement and bask in the progress of your career. Don’t overlook a promotion for it being “small,” but rather take time to pat yourself on the back.

This is a big deal; you’ve earned it!

Early career promotions

Consider that, earlier in one’s career, promotions will come faster. It’s easier to climb the ranks your first few years in. There’s nothing wrong with this, only to keep in mind that in years to come, promotions won’t come as easily, or as frequently.

It’s a good idea to communicate this to friends and family, too. So they aren’t expecting fast pay jumps … and to give them a better idea of how the military works. In fact, it’s a good idea to keep your loved ones in the know for a better communication process about your future.

Pinning and pomp and circumstance

No matter what rank you’re pinning, there will be some type of ceremony. Keep in mind that, depending on the circumstances, they could be a big deal, or something simple. For instance, if deployed, you might have a fast “here’s your new rank” get together. While, when stateside, you can invite loved ones and plan an actual event.

In general, you get to choose someone to pin (or velcro) on your new rank. Decide who you want this person to be, whether a family member, co-worker or someone else who’s made a profound influence in your life. Ask them in advance, and if they aren’t associated with the military, coach them on what/when to add said insignia.

Branch matters

Promotion ceremonies usually come with much tradition and history. These traditions will vary based on branch, unit and career path. Be sure to get in on the fun and play up whatever will take place. As a member of each branch, you’re likely to know what’s ahead and how the ceremony will play out.

For instance, army members might exchange coins, Marines will march in and out of their promotion stance, and so forth.

Reaching the big jumps

When reaching higher ranks, more is expected on promotion day, most notably a cake! Sources say, even at 8 a.m., a cake will be eaten, and showing up without one is simply not done.

Whether enlisted or an officer, upper ranking soldiers will host a reception to celebrate their big day, and the size of that reception often depends on the rank itself. In general, this is usually E7 or O4 and above, while E9 or O5/O6 will host an even larger celebratory event. Each branch will have its own nuances, so check with those in your unit, or scour the net for best practices with each upcoming promotion.

When a promotion sits ahead, consider the best way to celebrate. Not only to bask in your achievements but to follow within military traditions based on your achievement and branch.

Military Life

5 reasons why troops stick together after they leave the service

The moment a troop gets his or her DD-214, they start to feel that bittersweet freedom settle in. Sure, they can enjoy the little things in life, like sleeping in until 8 am, and go more than a single day without shaving, but life is never the same. Saying your goodbyes to the brothers and sisters you’ve earned is the hardest.

Every now and then, however, a troop won’t find themselves alone — a comrade will join them in the civilian world.


It’s a true sign of friendship when those veterans who fought together are now cruising the local bars as a unit, just like they did when they were still in.

It’s not uncommon for veterans to make friends with other veterans, but this one goes out to the buddies that endure the suck and venture into the civilian world, shoulder to shoulder.

It’s always good to have someone to embrace the new suck with.

Their goals and interests are aligned

Friendships in the military are formed by sharing suffering, but brotherhood is formed when two can talk to each other about things outside of work.

If both veterans share plans of doing something, like attending college to get a degree in criminal justice, they’ll do it together. They’ll probably be roommates through it all, too.

You’ll need someone with a tolerance for BS as low as yours.

They can’t relate to civilians

The civilian-military divide is real. Not only do civilians have a hard time understanding what being in the military is really like, the troops also lose touch with what civilians are up to.

Trends in pop culture don’t have any real effect on people who’ve been in a desert for 12 months without internet access. The only people veterans can relate to are the other troops who also skipped whatever viral joke is currently big.

No one will lie for you like the guys that covered for you when you were “at dental.”

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Their friendship circle is closed enough

There’s an upper limit on good will for most veterans. Keeping track of all the niceties you’re socially obligated to upkeep gets exhausting. The only thing you need to do to maintain a strong bond with another veteran is show up with beer.

An easy test of a friendship is if both can sit and drink a beer in silence without feeling awkward.

It’s hard to impress veterans when sh*t like this was just called “Tuesday.”

They know how to keep things interesting

Veterans are rarely boring. A civilian friend may come over for a beer and talk about mundane crap, but veteran stories are always filled with foul, disgusting, and down-right hilarious details.

This isn’t even a skill that’s shared among the troops that served together. Veterans have mastered the art of enjoying the little things in life — you’ll never find a better storyteller.

Get out with your brother and you’ll never have to bother the prior service recruiter.

They promised each other they would

The military has bred us to be creatures of commitment. If we say something in passing, we’re going to keep our word — no matter how insignificant or nearly impossible it seems.

Years down the line, one veteran will turn to the other and say something along the lines of, “I promised you that I would, didn’t I?”

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 facts you didn’t know about the U.S. Coast Guard

Today marks 230 years that the Coast Guard has been serving the United States. The Coast Guard supplies a unique and valuable service to our country and is the only military organization within the Department of Homeland Security. To help celebrate its 230 birthday, let’s take a look at some fun facts about the Coast Guard that you might not know.

1. Writers, take heart.

Alex Haley, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Roots, was the Coast Guard’s first journalist. After graduating high school at age 15, Haley enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1939 at the age of just 18 as a Mess Attendant Third Class, one of the only two ratings available to Black service members at the time. During his long patrols, Haley started writing letters to his friends and family – sometimes as many as 40 a week!

(U.S. Coast Guard Photo)

2. Swimmers, brush up on your freestyle.

Becoming a Coast Guard rescue swimmer is exceptionally difficult. In fact, more than half the people who try out for this assignment fail. Fitness standards for rescue swimmers include being able to function for thirty minutes in heavy seas. Swimmers must be able to think, perform challenging tasks, and react, all while either being submerged, holding their breath, or being tossed around by high waves.

3. Flags for all occasions.

The Coast Guard has two official flags – the CG Standard and the CG Ensign. The Ensign is flown by cutters and shore units, while the Standard flag is used at ceremonies. The Standard is used to represent the Coast Guard, but the Ensign flag is something altogether different. Since law enforcement is one of the Coast Guard’s core missions, the ensign flag is the visible symbol of law enforcement authority and is recognized globally.

4. Coast Guard deploys. No, really.

Service members of the Coast Guard have served valiantly in 17 wars and conflicts in US history. The CG was America’s first afloat armed force. It predates the Navy by several years and is older than most other federal government organizations. The Coast Guard’s motto, Semper Paratus (Always Ready), is proven time and again in its readiness to deploy.

(NOAA/Flickr)

5. Protecting the US is just a small part

In addition to protecting the United States coastlines, Coast Guard service members serve all over the world. You can find CG ships as far north as the Arctic, as far south as Antarctica and everywhere in between.

6. The Coast Guard isn’t very big

With roughly 40,000 Active Duty service members, the Coast Guard is just a little larger than the NYPD. Compared with over 554,000 in the Army and roughly 200,000 in the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard is definitely much smaller. But what the branch doesn’t have in personnel, it makes up for in might. Since its service members have acting law enforcement authority, their mission goes a long way to keeping America’s coastlines safe.

7. Coast Guard families don’t have the same resources

Resources available to other military families like Military One Source and MyCAA are inaccessible to CG families. In most situations, these DoD resources aren’t inclusive to members of the Coast Guard. Instead, CG personnel and families receive support through the Coast Guard Office of Work-Life, as well as the CG SUPRT organization.

8. It’s not easy to join 

The Coast Guard is one of the most difficult branches of the military to get into because it accepts such few recruits. In addition to having to undergo a credit check and a security clearance, you should probably also have a college degree in hand. The branch requires a minimum of 54 points on the ASVAB, and if you have a shellfish allergy, you’re eliminated from applying. Basic training takes place at just one location, Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, in Cape May, New Jersey. It’s a good idea to know how to swim before joining, and if you’re selected, you should be comfortable jumping off a five-foot platform into a pool, swim for 100 meters, and then tread water for five minutes.

So there you have it! It turns out that the Coast Guard is one of the most elite branches of our military. As part of DHS, its service members help keep America’s 95,000 miles of shoreline safe. Maybe in time, DoD resources will open up to these valuable service personnel and their families. Until then, happy birthday, Coast Guard!