Toys today are much safer than those our parents had – and that’s a good thing. Even though so many bemoan the “everyone gets a trophy” mindset, let’s face it, some of the toys of yesteryear may have seemed like fun to the adults designing them, but they weren’t the best idea in the hands of children. These banned children’s toys might actually have “fun” purposes, but we think they’re really best for training kids for war.
The toys of yesteryear had so much going for them. These fun features allowed kids to main, poison, spear, and otherwise seriously injure their playmates. All in the name of good fun! This list of banned toys might no longer be around, but they’re still alive in our hearts. If you’re too young to have enjoyed these wild toys, just ask anyone born before 1900. Chances are they not only remember them but have the scars to prove it.
1. Lawn Darts
Also called “Jarts,” anyone who grew up in the 90s remembers these banned darks. What a random idea for a toy! Lawn darts are pointed steel stakes with plastic stabilizer fins, weighted to always come down point first. The idea was to stand far from a marked target area, then toss the darts high in the air, so they come down within the area.
What really happened, as you might expect, is the darts never hit their targets and hit eyeballs, elbows, and everywhere else instead.
2. The CSI Fingerprint Examination Kit
Prayers everywhere were answered when the CSI Fingerprint Kit hit the shelves. Or at least, the prayers of 10 year olds, that is. Finally, pre-teens everywhere could solve mysteries and drop one-liners as they put on their sunglasses. The kit also helped kids learn how to operate in a chemical warfare environment since the dust used to lift the fingerprints contained tremolite, a deadly form of carcinogenic asbestos. This banned toy was pulled from the shelves shortly after its arrival, but we’re not totally sure why.
3. The Atomic Energy Laboratory
Does your little one have the problem of being lumped into some kind of “Axis of Evil?”
Well, all you need to do now is go back in time and get your hands on the Gilbert Atomic Energy Laboratory. The U-238 Lab (yes, that was its name) came complete with radioactive materials to get the little Marshal and the glorious people’s democratic revolutionary nuclear program up and running before he meets the same fate as Saddam. Wait, in case you didn’t read that all the way through – the U-238 Lab came with radioactive materials. There are so many obvious reasons why this is on the banned toy list. Can you imagine giving nuclear materials to a 10 year old?
4. Kite Tube
Ever wanted to practice some Navy SEAL skills in a CRRC when you were a kid? Not being a SEAL and not having a CRRC should have stopped no one. In fact, young kids could have had CRCC skills training and airborne training – at the same time. Enter the Kite Tube. This banned toy is actually as dangerous or worse than any military live-fire exercise. And it’s probably killed more people than ISIS.
5. Splash Off Water Rockets
They aren’t from North Korea, they just act like they are. The idea behind the Splash Off Water Rocket is that the main compartment would fill up with water pressure until it had enough pressure to slip the surly bonds of Earth.
Unfortunately for kids, instead of breaking Earth’s bond, it shattered the compartment, launching plastic shrapnel in 360-degrees at water rocket velocity. So while this could teach kids to accept failure like the North Korean missile program, it could also teach them to dodge mortar and grenade shrapnel.
6. Mattel’s Sonic M Blaster
I’m not actually certain this was ever banned, but if it hadn’t premiered in the 1950s, it would have been. Nothing beats letting your kids fire a compressed air gun that not only fired the burst of air but also was loud enough to rupture an eardrum at close range. It was a weapon meant for a young Snake Plissken.
In case you were wondering, yes, that’s a young Kurt Russell taking out his neighbor’s property. They won’t do anything about it, because hopefully, they know better than to mess with a kid that’s learning to aim and fire a bazooka.
7. Austin Magic Pistol
You know it’s a weapon when the size of the round in the toy is on the cover of the box. This 1940s-era muzzle-loaded “toy” used an explosive mix of calcium carbide (aka “Magic Crystals”) and water to fire a ping-pong ball at high velocity.
“No special treatment, just like any other recruit,” Colbert says in the hilarious clip, hopping out of a limo and sporting a red tracksuit. He is, of course, greeted by a drill sergeant who starts screaming at him and takes him through various physical exercises.
There were plenty of wonderful questions from the private-for-a-day:
— “I’m here for the Army. Is this the Army?”
— “I have a question about tanks. Do they have bathrooms in there, or do you just pee out the barrel?”
OC qualifying is one of the most dreaded requirements in the military. Occasionally, you’ll run into some people who will try to act tough by saying that OC qualifying isn’t so bad but they’re lying. It is that bad.
Certain ranks in the military require that the troop first experience the pain of oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray. For the same reasons one might opt to experience the pain of a taser, the aim here is for the person carrying such a tool to understand how it feels so they think twice before using it.
Getting kicked in the family jewels
This is extremely painful for any man to experience — but it’s still not as bad as getting pepper sprayed and then subsequently having to fight people and do workouts afterward.
Getting a toenail removed without lidocaine
Granted, any type of procedure is going to be painful without a sedative, but no matter how painful that procedure is, it’s still not as bad as taking pepper spray to the face.
CS gas qualification
This is probably the worst part of boot camp — getting put into a bunker filled with tear gas then being forced to pull the mask off your face. If you’ve got lungs of steel, no problem, just hold your breath. But, if you take the smallest breath, your entire respiratory system is going to be on fire. Even still, pepper spray is much worse.
This one will likely stir some debate, but let’s be real: At the end of a MARSOC screener, even if you don’t get picked, there’s the gratification of having completed some of the most grueling preliminary testing the military has to offer. At the end of OC qualification, you’re just in pain.
People who have done both taser and OC qualification will debate this all day. You’ll hear some may say they’d rather get tasered ten times than be sprayed once and vice versa. The truth, however, is that with tasers, the pain ends when the trigger is released. With OC, the pain lingers long after you complete training.
Training for a helicopter crash in water is fun for some, but a lot of people hate it. For those who don’t know, what happens is you get strapped into a simulated helicopter, which then gets dropped in a pool, submerged, and flipped upside down.
Your goal is to escape the grips of death and resurface. Once you get out of the helicopter, you’re done — that’s it.
The most commonly despised word across the military is “reenlistment.” While the option to reenlist is not exciting, some might even choose it over getting pepper-sprayed again.
Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mariette M. Adams
One of the benefits of quarantine is catching up on every single television show ever made. There’s nothing better than revisiting some of the classics and clearly, Cheers has to make that list. What’s extra entertaining is when these 40-year-old shows accurately predict the future (like these M*A*S*H episodes).
In episode five of season one, Cheers absolutely nails it.
In this episode, titled “Coach’s Daughter,” customer Chuck (played by Tim Cunningham) sits at the bar and tells bartender Sam (Ted Danson) and the Cheers’ regulars that he has a new job at a biology lab. He shares his anxiety about working with mutant viruses and the reaction from the Cheers’ crew couldn’t be any more fitting to what we are experiencing with COVID-19.
Cheers ran from 1982 through 1993 with 275 half-hour episodes. Although it was almost cancelled early on, it made it an impressive 11 seasons. Set in a bar in Boston, visiting the friendly location on the airwaves became a weekly household staple, with everyone wanting to visit the place, “Where everybody knows your name.” Cheers earned 26 Emmy Awards, six Golden Globe Awards and many other accolades. It remains one of the best shows in history.
Cheers had several episodes with military-connected plots, although none better than “One for the Book,” which aired December 9, 1982. In this iconic episode, two customers enter the friendly neighborhood establishment, and of course their paths should meet. One is Buzz Crowder played by Ian Wolfe.
Buzz and his buddies from WWI agree to meet every 10 years for a reunion, but just as we see with our WWII veterans present day, Buzz’s peers are dwindling. In this episode, Buzz is the last one left. Luckily for him, you may walk into Cheers alone, but you’ll never leave without making friends. In “One for the Book,” that friend happens to be a young man getting ready to head to the monastery and looking for a night of fun before he becomes a monk.
Photo: Cheers, NBC Universal
While Cheers ran on NBC, all 275 episodes are now available for streaming on CBS All Access. Start today and we’re confident you can finish the series before the end of quarantine. Or, let’s be honest, by the end of the week.
So, you’re in a firefight. Rounds are coming at you as you return fire, but you are so stressed you have lost fine motor skills and can’t even use your fingers to drop the magazine. It’s obviously a huge problem, but luckily YouTuber “Phuc Long” is here to show you how to use your gross motor skills to reload. Sort of.
On his channel Firepower United, Long demos an actual decent magazine change.
Which he says is “noooo problemmmmm.” Then he goes to the gross motor skills, which is just… Well, you have to see it.
As a commenter says on another one of his videos, “Is that your real accent or are you just hard core trolling? Either way, I am a fan.”
That said, if you actually need to learn to reload a weapon, maybe look elsewhere…
Who doesn’t love a good laugh at their employer’s expense? It’s all the stuff that you have to deal with, day in and day out. Only this time, it’s poking fun at the bear. It’s not you on the chopping block, it’s someone else. That means it’s time to let loose and relax — all while getting in a solid chuckle. There’s no exception for Army jokes. In fact, we laugh that much harder, knowing there are so many solid jokes at the expense of Uncle Sam. Take a read and join us in chuckling over the expense of the institution that is the U.S. Army.
Acronyms at their best:
ARMY — a recruiter misled you
2. This low-blow at boots on the ground:
What do you call kids in the military?
3. Getting cheesy:
What do you call a soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray?
A seasoned veteran.
4. When backtalk is still funny:
As a group of soldiers stood in formation at an Army Base, the Drill Sergeant said, “All right! All you idiots fall out.”
As the rest of the squad wandered away, one soldier remained at attention. The Drill Instructor walked over until he was eye-to-eye with him. The soldier smiled and said, “Sure were a lot of ’em, huh, sir?”
5. Past careers come to light:
Did you hear about the karate master who joined the military?
He saluted and nearly chopped off his own head.
6. Training done right:
A drill sergeant grumbles at his fresh young trainee, “I didn’t see you at camouflage training this morning, Private.”
“Thank you very much, Sir,” replies the soldier.
7. The laws of nature:
If God had meant for us to be in the Army, we would have been born with baggy green skin.
8. Pulling rank:
During training exercises, the Lieutenant who was driving down a muddy back road encountered another car stuck in the mud with a red-faced Colonel at the wheel.
“Your car stuck, sir?” asked the Lieutenant as he pulled alongside. “Nope,” replied the colonel, coming over and handing him the keys. “Yours is.”
9. A macabre play on words:
Overheard at the VFW, “When I was in the Army, I got both my arms shot off.”
“I shouldered on, anyway.”
10. A trip down memory lane:
Son: Dad, what was your favorite day as a soldier?
Dad: The first time I sent some private to find batteries for the chem lights.
11. A difference in opinions:
The company commander and the sergeant were in the field. As they go to bed for the night, the first sergeant said: “Sir, look up into the sky and tell me what you see?”
The commander said: “I see millions of stars.”
Sgt: “And what does that tell you, sir?”
“Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Theologically, it tells me that God is great and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it tells me that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you, Top?”
Sgt: “Well sir, it tells me that somebody stole our tent.”
12. Getting punny:
What do you get when you drop a piano on an Army officer?
A flat major.
These jokes poke fun at the largest military branch to date, we can all slap our knees at its expense. Whether you’ve served or just enjoy a quick chuckle, these jokes are bound to brighten your day.
Have some great Army jokes to share? Tell us below.
Oliver J. “Porky” Bickar rolled out of bed on April Fools’ Day, 1974, looked out his window to a white-topped mountain outside Sitka, Alaska, and told his wife, Patty, “I have to do it today.” She replied with age-old words of wisdom: “Don’t make an ass of yourself.”
Bickar, then 50, had lived in Sitka for 15 years. He was a logger by trade and no stranger to the local editors of the small town Daily Sitka Sentinel newspaper. The showman and serial prankster routinely entertained onlookers with a stunt that involved felling a large tree to smash a target, typically a hard hat, on the ground.
As April had arrived in each of the previous three years, Bickar had postponed a stunt for which he needed perfect weather conditions. But April 1974 provided a clear blue sky with visibility for miles. His mind raced as his elaborate plan went into motion.
He immediately phoned his conspirators. Harry Sulser, Ken Stedman, and Larry Nelson were close friends, and the group referred to themselves as the “Dirty Dozen.” They all regularly met for coffee at Revard’s Restaurant. The group met at a hangar at the local airport where Bickar had 70 old and discarded tires waiting. He had been collecting them for years for this project. Now they needed air support. Two helicopter pilots refused to join the plan, but Earl Walker from nearby Petersburg accepted.
The pranksters took all 70 tires, piled them into two large canvas bags with 150-foot rope slings, and attached them to the bottom of the helicopter. They also brought along black smoke bombs, several gallons of kerosene, some rags, and cans of black spray paint. The hooligans scrambled into the chopper and took off toward Mount Edgecumbe.
Mount Edgecumbe sits on Kruzof Island, separated from Sitka and the mainland by about 10 miles of water. While Sitka, a fishing village, sits at sea level, Edgecumbe rises to 3,000 feet, dominating ocean views from the town, which today is a favorite for visiting cruise ships and other tourists. But in the 1970s, the town was an out-of-the-way fishing village and Edgecumbe a volcano that had been dormant for 50 years.
But Bickar’s plan was to convince the town that Edgecumbe had awoken by setting the tires ablaze on the mountain’s peak.
As outlandish as Bickar’s plan seemed, he knew he had seen crazier. The jokester had enlisted in the US Army in 1942 and worked in a unit that waterproofed vehicles such as tanks and trucks in anticipation for the saltwater immersion of the D-Day invasion.
Bickar arrived in Normandy three days after D-Day. “It was all a dream,” he said in 2002, a year before he died, at a ceremony honoring veterans with the Jubilee of Liberty Medal, an award the French government created for participants in the invasion. “A big dream. I was seasick and so scared and mixed up. After I hit the beach, and got my feet settled, I came out of it — and became the man, the soldier, I could be.”
Bickar also served with Lt. Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army and participated in its march through France, Belgium, and across the Rhine River. He told the Daily Sitka Sentinel in 1984 about a harrowing experience in which he and another soldier overpowered and killed a German soldier who was marching them to a POW camp.
When the chopper landed on Mount Edgecumbe, Bickar used black spray paint to draw a message in 50-foot letters for those he knew would soon come to investigate. And the other men doused the tires in kerosene and lit them. By the time they reached Sitka to complete their getaway, an air-traffic controller reportedly told them, “The son of a gun looks fantastic.”
To prevent an overreaction, Bickar had let police, fire department, and airport officials know what he had planned. But he forgot to tell the Coast Guard, which sent a helicopter to investigate and found Bickar’s message in the snow: APRIL FOOLS.
The phones at police, fire, and radio stations rang off the wall from concerned citizens. The story even made national news on The Associated Press news wire. Jimmy Johnson, the vice president of Alaska Airlines, instructed departing planes to fly over the mountain to give all the passengers onboard a laugh.
The following year, Alaska Airlines sponsored the Alaska Brag Contest. Bickar sent in this entry: “On April Fools’ Day, I hired a chopper and flew 70 old, kerosene-soaked tires on top of the dormant volcano, Mt. Edgecumbe, that looms over Sitka. I set the tires on fire, and the billowing black smoke created one hell of a commotion in Sitka. I dare you to top that April Fools’ joke.”
Surprisingly, someone did. The contest winner was a story about a bear attack.
The U.S. military is a diverse fighting force. The various backgrounds give warfighters an edge when understanding the enemy in order to destroy them. One difference that does not involve race or religion only affects the individual warfighter – being short. As a 5’2″ infantry Marine veteran, I can attest that short stature is annoying when using pull up bars or the obstacle course. Yet, there are some advantages to having a pocket-sized Rambo around.
Cover and concealment
In the infantry, one of the first tactics a young troop is taught is how to utilize micro-terrain. Normal cover is something that can provide protection from enemy fire that is about the size of an average person. Micro-terrain is using cover that can only partially protect you and you combine it with the angle of enemy fire and the slope of elevation for a hasty defense. Small stature allows you to exploit your hereditary disadvantage by providing more options for cover.
In training, sometimes SIM rounds are used to add an extra layer of realism to combat training. It is a 9mm round filled with a chalk like, dyed powder out of a weapon system. It uses a special upper receiver that is switched out from a troops issued weapon. Which, in my opinion, is better than training with blanks because seeking cover and returning fire should be your first reaction. It forces troops to consider cover and how well that cover will actually cover them.
Additionally, SIM training removes the eventual ‘no, you didn’t shoot me’ argument that appears with blank only training. Being naturally small makes you difficult to hit. I’ve seen this advantage play out when I’m the closer target, but I won’t be targeted just because I’m a hardtarget. If it means not getting shot in training or in life – I’ll buy that for a dollar.
Armor covers more surface area
The tallest Marine in my platoon was 6’3 and his large flak jacket looked like a crop top. My body armor came down to my waist. I was an armored turtle with an M4 and an anger problem. The entire point of that equipment is to protect your vital organs.
Savings on uniform costs
When I was in, a strategy I used to save money on uniforms was that I would buy used uniforms from surplus stores and use those in the field. Using old faded, uniforms works well in the field but in the infantry they tend to go by faster due to all the field ops. I never had a problem finding a small/short (SS) pair of cammies.
However, my taller counterparts did not have the same luck as often as I had when shopping. So, small/short-wearing brethren keep their garrison uniforms in top shape and have the plenty of field cammies to do real grunt sh*t in.
Some PT is easier
This one may feel more like cheating yourself and the team than an actual advantage, but it is what it is — log runs. When everyone is taller than you, by a lot, you don’t lift the log; it’s barely within reach. Usually, log runs are accompanied by a stretcher or water jugs. You’re not trying to screw over the team but this is where you can get somewhat creative in the fight. Run the other items longer or switch in more frequently. Regardless, log runs don’t suck as much for the vertically challenged.
If the platoon is ever in need of a tunnel rat, though, you’re going in. Balance. There have been countless times when we were infiltrating a compound, in training or real-world, where everyone pauses at an opening too small for everyone. In unison, everyone turns to you – let’s do it! Whether it’s searching in tight spaces or time to check someone over a wall or through a window, you’re the guy. If you’re vertically challenged, I hope you’ve been practicing your break falls. You will get chucked into some improvised tactical situations.
Civilians believe in all kinds of stereotypes about the military. Every branch believes in stereotypes about each other, too. Most are complete nonsense, but we can all stand to laugh at ourselves, right? Based on your personality, which branch of the US military would you be?
If you had average grades, an average personality, and have vaguely jock-ish tendencies, congratulations! You’re the Army.
You were probably your parent’s firstborn child. You don’t have much to prove, so you don’t have a ton of ambition. You were probably better at P.E. than any other subject in school, and getting ripped in the Army is appealing. If you can’t have a unique personality, at least you can have abs. You played sports so you’re not bad at teamwork…mostly.
You know you want to join the service, but the specifics? You haven’t a clue. The Army is, well, the Army. It’s sort of a natural default, and let’s face it; picking the obvious choice is pretty much your go-to. That’s okay. The Army is happy to make your decisions for you.
If you were asked to secure a building, you’d do it by the books. The safe choice, just like your choice of branch.
If you were a bit of an outcast and in the drama club (possibly the closet, too), congrats! You’re the Navy.
You were a middle child who wasn’t quite sure where you belonged. You probably didn’t fit in at school either, but at least you got decent grades. You didn’t want to get stuck in P.E. so you joined the track team. You never won a race, but you never came last either. You had more than your fair share of *ahem* romantic exploration, but not in a frat-boy kind of way. More of a band camp way, really. Since you’re going to be at sea with limited options, that’s probably not going to change. You’re a bit of a nerd who likes to play with legos. You want to explore a little, but you don’t really want to fight much, and that’s cool.
You’ll get to drink beer, bitch, and stare at water all over the world. In a fierce uniform, too. If you’re a middle child with something to prove, you’ll probably try to become a SEAL. Good luck with that. If you were asked to secure a building, you would lock all the doors and call it a night.
If you went to Kumon Math and liked it, congratulations! You’re the Air Force
You were an only child whose mom thought “fart” and “shut up” were bad words. Academics were easy, but you HATED P.E. Hated it. You were always picked last and the only game you were good at was dodgeball. (And only the dodging part.) You knew how smart you were though, and that restored some of your self-confidence and gave you a bit of a superiority complex in one go. If you were on the preppier side of superior, you probably wore Lacoste polo shirts. Your Air Force uniform will be the worst, but you’ll also land the highest paying job when you retire from the military. It evens out. Maybe you want to serve, maybe you just want to play with fancy tech gear. Does it really matter?
If you were told to secure a building, you’d buy it and upgrade the A/C.
If you think you’re the absolute sh*t, congratulations! You’re the Marine Corp.
You were either your parent’s favorite or least favorite. There’s no middle ground here. You have the arrogance and aggression of someone who was either told that he was the best, or wants to convince everyone that he is. In high school, you were definitely a jock. You were probably in JROTC, and during football or hockey, you were probably the hothead who started a fight.
That didn’t dissuade the cheerleaders, though. They were into it. When ladies here you call them “ma’am” while in uniform, they’ll probably be into that, too.
Remember what we said about picking fights? Yeah, that’s still a thing. Everyone knows war is part of military life, but you literally signed up for it. Blowing sh*t up sounds like a good time. You’re the kid who loved action movies a little *too* much, but at least you’re insanely tough.
If you were asked to secure a building, you’d just chuck some grenades through the windows. OOH-RAH!
If you were a class clown with a secret heart of gold, congrats! You’re the Coast Guard.
You were probably the youngest child. Your parents were a little more laidback raising you, so you kind of did your own thing. You might have been a bit shy from living in the shadow of your older siblings, so you used comedic flair to set yourself apart. You were a bit of a nuisance to your teachers, but at heart, you were a sweet kid.
You developed into an average, nice guy who wants to serve but isn’t crazy about violence. You might join the Navy, but you’d prefer to see land (and people) a little more often. If you were asked to secure a building…well, don’t worry about that. No one would ask you anyway.
Well, were we right?
Probably not, but it was all in good fun anyway. Even if you’re a ultra-nerd or a bit of a bro, if you’re a service member or vet, you have our gratitude. If you’re thinking about enlisting, check out our real tips on how to choose the right branch!
There’s nothing that projects American force like an amphibious assault ship or carrier on the horizon, since they’re floating fortresses of the sea. For sailors, serving on these vessels is like hitting the jackpot in terms of living space. But for Marines, life on a Navy ship is less than stellar.
The boys of Terminal Boots (Lance Cpls. Deacon Gerard, John Davis and Joseph Jewett) put together this short video showing what life is like for Marines on a US Navy ship.
At one point in the video, an off-camera questioner asks, “how do you feel being aboard a Naval vessel?” The response: “Honestly, I’d rather be back in jail.” There are plenty more laughs. Watch:
Nicknames and the military are a tradition as old as war itself. Many military legends have nicknames such as General “Mad Dog” Mattis because of his fearlessness. Others such as Lt. General Lewis “Chesty” Puller had his nickname because of his posture and large chest. Nicknames can be cool or they can be aggravating to the bestowed. Regardless, they’re a tradition that isn’t going anywhere. So, one may as well come up with good ones. Here are some tips for coming up with good nicknames for your fellow troops.
They can’t like it
Story time: When I was a junior Marine and hit the fleet, one of my seniors was sitting around waiting for our turn to shoot on the range. He said “We need to give you a nickname,” and in true Marine Corps fashion, everyone threw in their two cents. “Mexi-Cano” (I’m not Mexican) and some variations of the first part of my last name were tossed around. They didn’t quite fit.
Then he simply asked how to say “The Kid” in Spanish. I replied, “Niño” without thinking, and I could see it click on everyone’s face.
No, please, not that one.
“That’s the one. Niño.” I hated it at first and they could tell, which is why it stuck. I knew if they knew how much it really bothered me it would definitely be my name for my entire career. Everyone liked it but me, so, there was nothing I could do. I was the “Niño.”
Fast forward two deployments and a workup later, I was the Niño no more. New unit, new me. It was bittersweet because I knew I finally shook it off but the ones who called me that were no longer around. Some got out, some others passed away. Once in a blue moon, I’ll talk to my old platoon and I’ll hear my old moniker. In hindsight, I ended up liking it because it was like being called “Billy the Kid,” the most famous outlaw to have lived.
Some people have long last names. Although the pronunciation may be simple, some people just can’t deal. At some point when someone reaches E6, they just stop trying. The nickname ‘Alphabet’ is one that is thrown out there for those with a long last name. When dealing with a large list of people, let’s say the rifle range, you are bound to run into many people’s last names that will be hard to say. So, steer clear from this one because it will get confusing and no one is going to respond to it anyway.
We had a troop named Rzonca, pretty simple to say. However, for reasons unbeknownst to me, E6s and above couldn’t say it. He was nicknamed ‘Bazooka’ instead. Which turned out to be a cool name since he also had an M203 grenade launcher on his issued weapon. Anything is better than calling someone “alphabet.”
Shorten their name with a twist
Marzbanian, my former machine gunner on my first deployment, ended up with nickname “Mars.” The letter Z must be SNCO repellent because they would always pull some sort of nickname for people with one. Then there was Humphreys who had “Hump” or “J Hump.” Shortening a troop’s name is the quick get of jail card because everyone will know who you’re talking about. It’s not much but it’s a good place holder until you come up with something else.
They can be built upon
That’s not a free pass to start calling people NJP-able nicknames. Part of the joke with mine is that I am short and Latino, thus “el Niño.” It’s right on the line without crossing it. It’s racial without being racist, it’s fun to say, and most importantly, it pissed me off. To be on the safe side, avoid race-based names. Peacetime is a lot more politically correct than during the Surge. Once on post duty in Afghanistan, the Corporal of the Guard was looking for someone and asked for specifics on the radio. “Second tent on the left when you’re looking at the generators. His rack is five Niños up on the right hand side.” Apparently, I had also become a unit of measurement. It also became an inside joke for our platoon — until the lieutenant used it… and killed it.
Lieutenants are not in on the joke
Nicknames are for the guys, not the leadership. That is until that leader has earned everyone’s trust. It just sounds weird to have superiors and subordinates referring to each other by their nicknames when they’re not even on a first name basis yet. It’s a two way street, and no matter what direction the traffic is going, it’s going to sound unprofessional.
A year a half later, we had a new lieutenant who, as is usually the case for a butter bar, was disliked. He called me by my nickname once and everybody gave him a “Dude… no,” look. I didn’t know it at the moment, but it really touched a nerve with a lot people. When I asked why it bothered them more than it did me, my friends and seniors replied, “He’s not one of us. Only we f*** with us.” If you want to kill a nickname have your leadership use it. It’s a like a boomer saying “woke.” Gross.
Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class China M. Shock
Retired U.S. Navy Captain and former NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly once received a full gorilla suit in a care package while living on the International Space Station. He didn’t tell anyone about it. One day, without warning his fellow crew, he put it on. Hilarity ensued.
And luckily for us, there’s video:
Kelly was a fighter pilot in the Navy before becoming a U.S. astronaut. A veteran of four space flights, he commanded the International Space Station (ISS) on three expeditions and was a member of the yearlong mission to the ISS from March 27, 2015, to March 2, 2016. His book, Infinite Wonder, features the photographs he took during that year. In October 2015, he set the record for the total accumulated number of days spent in space.
It was his brother, Captain Mark Kelly, who sent the gorilla suit care package. Mark Kelly is also a retired U.S. Navy pilot, engineer, and NASA astronaut, and the husband of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.
Who else could get away with sending such a gift?
The Kelly twins have also been part of an investigation on the health effects of long-term space flight. While Scott lived aboard the ISS for a year, Mark remained on Earth as a “genetically identical ground control.” Scientists have been able to discern the effects of space on the human body to the DNA and chromosomal level, from Scott’s gut microbiome to the thickening in his retina and carotid artery.
These kinds of studies help give clues toward human health as we explore space. While the ISS is in low-Earth orbit and not deep space like, say, Mars, the findings give scientists more information about the effects of space travel.
The Dining-In is a military custom that predates the Air Force, the military, even the United States. There are many versions of it, whether that branch calls it Mess Night, Regimental Dinner, or something else. Though other branches hold these, this is one of the oldest traditions of the youngest branch of service.
The Dining-In is held at any unit level – Wing, Group, or Squadron. This is the most traditional form of Air Force unit social events, where dress uniforms are expected and rules and ceremony are to be followed. A proper Dining-In will include hails and farewells, as well as recognition for achievement. The function is supposed to be a morale-building event, after all.
The Dining-In is one of very few events in official Air Force culture where drinking a lot in front of your unit is encouraged and being an overachiever won’t get you sent to ADAPT. Just have a designated driver (or four) on stand-by. The rules are strict and many will be sent to the Grog Bowl (more on that later).
Chief Master Sgt. William Wade, the superintendent of the 59th Clinical Support Group, samples the grog at the 2nd Annual Joint Dining-In. (U.S. Air Force photo by Robbin Cresswell)
The Air Force iteration is said to have started in the 1930s with the Army Air Corps’ General H. “Hap” Arnold’s “wing dings.” Many of its original traditions are still very much alive. While the customs of the Dining-In holds formality above all else, it’s important to remember the point of this is to have fun and build morale.
Dress is considered “Black Tie.” Officers will be in mess dress, Enlisted will wear mess dress or semi-formal dress uniforms. Some events will have a military band present, and as such, the diners may be ordered to march to their seats.
And there are other orders.
The Rules of the Mess
Thou shalt arrive within 10 minutes of the appointed hour.
Thou shalt make every effort to meet all guests.
Thou shalt move to the mess when thee hears the chimes and remain standing until seated by the President.
Thou shalt not bring cocktails or lighted smoking material into the mess.
Thou shalt smoke only when the smoking lamp is lit.
Thou shalt not leave the mess whilst convened. Military protocol overrides all calls of nature.
Thou shalt participate in all toasts unless thyself or thy group is honored with a toast.
Thou shalt ensure that thy glass is always charged when toasting.
Thou shalt keep toasts and comments within the limits of good taste and mutual respect. Degrading or insulting remarks will be frowned upon by the membership. However, good-natured needling is encouraged.
Thou shalt not murder the Queen’s English.
Thou shalt not open the hangar doors. (talk about work)
Thou shalt always use the proper toasting procedures.
Thou shalt fall into disrepute with thy peers if the pleats of thy cummerbund are not properly faced.
Thou shalt also be painfully regarded if the clip-on bow tie rides at an obvious list. Thou shalt be forgiven, however, if thee also ride at a comparable list.
Thou shalt consume thy meal in a manner becoming gentlepersons.
Thou shalt not laugh at ridiculously funny comments unless the President first shows approval by laughing.
Thou shalt express thy approval by tapping thy spoon on the table. Clapping of thy hands will not be tolerated.
Thou shalt not question the decisions of the President.
When the mess adjourns, thou shalt rise and wait for the President and head table guests to leave.
Thou shalt enjoy thyself to thy fullest.
Violations of Etiquette
Failures to comply with the rules of the mess are “punished,” generally with fines or a trip to the Grog. The Grog, held in a Grog Bowl (usually an unused toilet), consists of multiple types and flavors of alcoholic drinks blended together, and may even contain other things, like Tootsie Rolls or oysters. It is a punishment, after all.
Any member of the mess can call out violations warranting a trip to the grog bowl at any time. Members bring infractions to the attention of the President by addressing the mess and raising a point of order. If the validity of the charge is questioned, members vote by tapping their spoons on the table.
When the President sentences a violator to the grog bowl, the person proceeds to the bowl promptly, remembering to march and perform all proper facing movements. The bowl is usually located on or near the Vice’s table. Upon arriving at the grog bowl, the violator does the following:
An about face and salutes the President
An about face to the bowl and fills the cup
An about face and toasts the mess: “To the Mess”
Drink the cup completely then inverted over their head to ensure it is empty.
Does an about face, replaces the cup, about faces again, salutes the President, and returns to their seat.
Except for the toast, the violator is not permitted to speak at all.
President – the central figure of the event and primary planner, usually the ranking commander of the organization. The President will oversee the Dining-In and appoint subordinate officers:
The President also ensures the Dining-In has a speaker and a chaplain for the Invocation. He or she will greet all the guests before dinner is served and will open and close the mess.
Vice-President – The chief assistant to the President, usually the most junior-ranking officer (but the President may choose anyone to serve in this role). The VP sits alone in the back of the room, facing the President, observing the proceedings and making not of violations of the Rules of the Mess and breaches of etiquette.
While usually the VP is a comfortable position, here the VP is the MC – the toastmaster – the success of the event depends on the Dining-In VP’s wit, levity, and ability to keep the show going. The Veep is also responsible for opening the lounge, sounding the dinner chimes, and preparing toasts as directed by the President. He or she must compose poems and jokes (in good taste) at the expense or tribute only to those persons and organizations who are present. The VP is the last person to leave the party.
Arrangements Officer – Responsible to the President for handling the details involved with planning the evening’s events, but is not to make any final decisions without the advice and consent of the President.
The AO will set the seating arrangements and ensure each seat is marked with the proper name and organization, will ensure proper flags and awards are in place, set up suitable microphone and lectern systems for the speaker and chaplain, ensure the VP has the necessary dinner chimes, arrange the photographer, publish a proper agenda for the evening as well as a guest list, and hire the hat and coat check team.
The day after, the AO will prepare letters of appreciation for the President to sign and send to guests of honor and others who helped with the evening.
Mess Officer – The Mess Officer will handle all responsibilities related to the actual food preparation.
Protocol Officer – The Protocol Officer Ensures everyone receives a formal invitation at least four weeks in advance of the event and will take RSVPs and will get biographical information on special guests for the other officers. The PO will ensure transportation and billeting arrangements are made and will make the seating arrangements for the Head Table. The PO briefs the Escort Officers on protocol requirements related to the guests, handles parking arrangements, and advises on flag arrangements.
Escort Officers – One escort officer should be appointed for each official and personal guest. The EO will contact their assigned guest in advance to discuss dress, location, meeting point, and composition of the audience. If the guests are from out of town, the EO will meet them at their initial arrival point and arrange for transportation and accommodations during their stay. It is essential the EO brief the guest on the customs, courtesies, rules, and procedures of the Mess.
Make sure the guest is properly introduced to as many members of the mess as possible. They will ensure their guest is always in the company of several members of the mess, yet take care that no individual or group monopolizes the guest. Upon their guest’s departure, the EO will escort the guest to the point of departure and bid farewell on behalf of all members of the Mess.
This is how a dentist loads the Grog. (U.S. Air Force photo by Robin Cresswell)
Addressing the Mess
A member may want to raise a point of order, propose a toast, or identify infractions to the Rules of the Mess. The proper way is as follows:
Rise and state “Mr./Ms. Vice-President, a point of order”
When recognized by the VP, identify yourself and state your business.
It is required to speak in rhyme when addressing the Mess. The President may waive this and all other requirements as he or she sees fit. The penalty is being sent to the Grog.
Sequence of Events
The event starts with a cocktail hour. At the end of that hour, the VP will chime the mess to dinner. Members of the Head Table will remain in the cocktail lounge. Once the guests are in the dining area and standing at their assigned seats, whether marched or not, Head Table members file into the room in order and walk to the Head Table. After ruffles and flourishes are played, the President then calls the mess to order with a gavel and will propose the first toast. The first two are always the same and should be given as such:
Toast: “To the Commander-in-Chief”
Response: “To the President”
Toast: “To the Chief of Staff, United States Air Force”
Response: “To the Chief of Staff”
The proper response to further toasts is “Hear, Hear”.
Improper toasting procedures will be punished by a trip to the Grog. Serving staff should be prepared with a few bottles for each table – Often many toasts are given by the President, including to the heads of state of foreign visitors, the colors, other services, and more. When the President is done, the floor is open to any further toasts from the guests throughout the remainder of the evening.
Stand and identify yourself
Address the VP by saying, “Mr. Vice-President, I want to propose a toast”.
The VP informs the President and receives approval.
Everyone stands and the toast is given.
After toasting, the President will explain the POW/MIA table, make opening remarks and introduce the guests of honor – then dinner will be served. After dinner, the President will rap the gavel three times and call the house to Recess. During Recess, diners are excused to the lounge for cocktails while dinner is cleared and dessert is served. The VP will sound the chimes again to reconvene the diners (do not bring cigarettes or cocktails into the dining room).
As coffee and tea are served, the guest of honor will speak. After the guest speaks, the VP will propose a toast to him or her and the President will close the Mess, thanking the planners and retiring the colors. Between the posting of the colors and the retirement of the colors, other events are allowed, including handing out awards, and multiple guest speakers.
The Combat Dining-In
The newest of these traditions (and probably the most fun), these are very similar in function to the rules and tradition of the Dining-In, except they are far less formal. The rules are similar – but the differences are important to know. There aren’t any hard or fast ones because they vary by unit.
The sky is the limit – you may be forced to eat with your mess kit… or maybe they’re only serving MREs. You may not even get to eat because you’ll be throwing your dinner on another reveler. There are many variations to the rules of the combat version of this tradition.