6 last-minute holiday items you're better off buying at the exchange - We Are The Mighty
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6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange

With no sales tax and some name-brand discounts, the Exchange is a military benefit designed to help troops and their families save money. But, as most military shoppers know, some items don’t end up being cheaper at the Exchange, especially things that regularly get marked down. Sunglasses, Keurigs, and a lot of other items can be bought for less at Amazon or big box stores.


But many essential or high-demand items are cheaper at the a local exchange or at shopmyexchange.com. Here are 6 last-minute gifts that fit in that category:

1. Fitness trackers

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
Photo: Wikipedia/Desmondma

Whether your gift recipients want to track their sleep, their runs, or both, the market is filled with awesome new options. Most trackers, including the popular Fitbits, are available at the Exchange for the same price they would be anywhere else, minus sales tax.

2. Video game consoles

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ash Severe

The tax savings on video game consoles at the exchange are typically $20 or more, so it’s a great place to pick up Playstations or XBoxes, if they have the bundle you’re looking for.

Both the Xbox One and the Playstation 4 are primarily sold with a game included in a bundle. While getting a bundle like Gears of War will cost less at the exchange, the LEGO Movie Videogame Bundle isn’t available there. And the cost saving at the exchange aren’t enough to justify buying a game you won’t play.

3. Fragrances

While the Exchanges’ selection of perfumes and colognes is small, what it does have is cheaper than a lot of other outlets and there are a number of “stocking stuffer” sized bottles for $5 or less.

Those looking for a specific scent may have to pick up their bottles somewhere else.

4. Tactical gear

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy

Getting military gear from a random website can be risky since badly sewn pouches won’t fit properly on a military vest and many items at tactical stores aren’t authorized for wear.

The items at the Exchange are more likely to appear on approved gear lists. But, remember that anything that can be bought used will likely cost less at a military surplus store.

5. Macs

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
Photo: Wikipedia/Intel Free Press

Macs usually sell for $10 less than at the military exchange than from the Apple Store. On the more costly models, the tax savings of shopping the Exchange can save over $100.

But, in the Apple store customers can buy upgraded memory or processors that come pre-installed in the computer. These options aren’t available at the Exchange.

6. PCs

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
Photo: US Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jeremy L. Wood

Dell and Office Depot both run online storefronts with special pricing on computers through the military Exchange. Before making the final purchase though, do an internet search of the model number. Some still end up being cheaper at civilian stores.

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This new speedboat-submarine could change amphibious warfare forever

Throughout its history, the Marine Corps has been known for rising out of the water and storming enemy beaches. But new technology could allow Leathernecks to emerge from the deep like James Bond.


A new powerboat/submarine hybrid vehicle was part of a new technology demonstration in San Diego in late April that could prove to be the ultimate amphibious assault vehicle.

Defense contractors teamed up with the U.S. military at the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise at Camp Pendleton in California to showcase the new “Hyper-Sub.”

Related: This is why German submarines attacked civilian vessels during World War I

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
The Hyper-Sub on display at the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise. (Source: HyperSub)

According to the Florida-based company, the fully-submersible nautical craft has over 30,000 pounds of lift and supports 12 hours of underwater operations. The vessel’s sea-to-shore feature makes secretly transporting troops easy where large amphibious ships can’t deliver — perfect for those classified MARSOC missions.

With similar dimensions compared to the classic rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) — the Hyper-Sub is geared for a cruising speed of  30-mph (26 knots), powered by two 480hp Yanmar 6LY3-ETP diesel engines with V-drives. The craft can handle a diving depth of 1,200 ft, but only with the steel cabin option (the acrylic option dives to 500 ft ).

The Hyper-Sub is much heavier and slower than that its inflatable boat counterpart. But its ability to submerge in a matter of moments makes it the better option for a stealth operations.

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
The HyperSub’s cargo area designed to hold up to 6,000 lbs of gear and/or potential troops. (Source: Hyper-Sub)

Also Read: Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal

Although the possibilities for this craft are virtually endless, these prototypes have no sensors, weapons or real defensive capabilities, but can come with high-tech surveillance as an upgrade.

The Marine Corps is currently looking into future uses and possible adding many modifications to this impressive craft which could change modern amphibious warfare forever.

Check out the promo video by Hyper-Sub Videos below to see this speedboat-submarine in action.

(Hyper-Sub Videos, YouTube)
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This SEAL was shot 27 times before walking himself to the medevac

Deploying to a war zone is a risky proposition, even for the most highly trained commandos like SEALs. While on deployment in Iraq in 2007, retired Senior Chief Mike Day and his team set out on the crucial mission to locate a high-level al Qaeda terrorist cell in Anbar province.


Related: This retired Navy SEAL shares 100 deadly skills

While running point on the raid, Day was the first to enter a small room defended by three terrorists who opened fire.

Related video:

He managed to take one of them down as he started taking rounds himself. He kept firing, and dropped another terrorist who detonated a grenade as he went down.

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange

Dazed and confused, the skilled operator switched to his sidearm and started re-engaging the insurgents, killing the rest. Day had been shot a total 27 times, 16 found his legs, arms, and abdomen. The last 11 lodged into his body armor.

Nevertheless, Day remained in the fight and cleared the rest of the house before walking himself to the medevac helicopter located close by.

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
“I was shot both legs, both arms, my abdomen. I mean you throw a finger on me, anything but my head I got shot there” — Day stated. (Source: CBN News/ Screenshot)

Day lost 55 pounds during his two weeks in the hospital, and it eventually took him about two years to recover from his wounds.

After serving in the Navy for over 20 years, Day now serves as a wounded warrior advocate for the special operations community.

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The Gripen E is Saab’s attempt to outdo the F-35

A couple of weeks ago, Saab unveiled its next-generation fighter. Dubbed “The Smart Fighter,” it’s aimed at markets not yet cleared to buy the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, as reported by the Daily Mail.


Related: One of the F-35’s most expensive features was made possible by flying saucers

With its fly-by-wire avionics and distinctive delta wing design, the Gripen E is similar to its predecessors. The difference is in its increased fuel capacity, 20 percent more thrust, extra pylons for carrying more weapons, and advanced electronics that feed tactical information to the pilot and co-op forces at all times. It’s also designed for quick and efficient maintenance, Saab claims the turnaround time between missions is 10 minutes and that the entire engine can be replaced in an hour. 

Some other Saab Gripen E features:

The fighter’s Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) antennas—called elements—work together or independently to track different targets.

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
Image: Saab

Its Infrared Search and Track (IRST) system looks for heat emissions from other aircraft, helicopters and from objects on the ground and sea surface without giving its position away.

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
Image: Saab

Its Electronic Warfare system alerts the pilot when it has been detected by radar, warns for incoming missiles, and used for electronic attacks.

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
Image: Saab

The pylons give it the flexibility to carry an array of weapons, making it deadlier than previous versions.

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
Image: Saab

The Gripen’s multi-frequency data links provide situational awareness to other fighters.

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
Image: Saab

Its Radar Warning Receiver and Missile Approach Warning systems increase the Gripen’s survivability in combat.

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
Image: Saab

At $85 million apiece, the Gripen E is significantly cheaper than the F-35, making it an attractive alternative for any military.

Now watch the fighter’s unveiling on 360 video:

Saab, YouTube
Articles

This daring commando raid’s only injury was from a negligent discharge

In March 1941, over 500 British and Allied commandos, sappers, and sailors launched a daring four-pronged raid against Norwegian towns occupied by the German Army. Despite the German forces spotting the commandos 24 hours before the attack, the British suffered only one casualty.


An officer accidentally shot himself in the thigh.

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
(Photo: War Office Capt. Tennyson d’Eyncourt, Imperial War Museum)

Operation Claymore, as it was known, was a commando raid targeting fish oil factories in the Lofoten Islands. The fish oil was a prime source of glycerin which is a crucial propellant for most types of weapons ammunition in World War II.

The islands are 100 miles into the Arctic Circle and guarded by a force of over 200 German troops. The commandos expected potentially heavy resistance and spent about a week in the Orkney Islands rehearsing their assault plan.

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
(Photo: War Office Capt. Tennyson d’Eyncourt, Imperial War Museum)

On March 1, they began a three-day journey through rough seas to the targets. Two days later, they were spotted by a German aircraft but pressed forward, risking the possibility of hitting beaches with prepared and dug-in Nazi defenders.

When the British arrived, ice had formed further out than expected and the commandos were forced to get out of the boats early before running across it to hit the towns. All four groups managed to cross the ice and hit their targeted towns without facing any real resistance.

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
(Photo: Royal Navy Lt. R. G. G. Coote, Imperial War Museum)

In fact, the local Norwegians watched the British coming at them like it was a small show, and the commandos made it into the buildings before they even began to see German uniforms. With many of the defenders separated or still asleep, the attackers were able to quell resistance with few shots fired.

They captured 225 prisoners while taking every one of their objectives. Despite the attack force having been spotted by the German plane, none of the defenders were ready.

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
(Photo: War Office Capt. Tennyson d’Eyncourt, Imperial War Museum)

The grateful locals brought out coffee and treats for the attackers, the sappers planted charges against the fish oil tanks, and the Norwegians started recruiting the citizens into the Free Norwegian Forces.

There was an additional lucky break for the commandos. They hit a German-held trawler and killed 14 of the defenders.

The ship commander managed to throw the Enigma machine over the side but the British still captured technical documents and spare parts for the machine, giving code breakers in Bletchley Park near London a leg up.

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
(Photo: Royal Navy Lt. R. G. G. Coote, Imperial War Museum)

The mission was a huge success, but as mentioned above, the British did suffer a single casualty when an officer accidentally shot himself in his thigh with a revolver.

The British knew how well the mission had gone, and got a bit cocky about it.

One group sent a telegraph to Hitler with the captured communication gear asking him where his vaunted German soldiers were. Another group hit a nearby seaplane base and took all their weapons, just for additional giggles.

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
(Photo: War Office Capt. Tennyson d’Eyncourt, Imperial War Museum)

The German commander, who probably should’ve been grateful that he and his men weren’t added to the 225 prisoners the British had captured, later complained to his fuhrer that the commandos had displayed “unwarlike” behavior.

(Pretty sure the dudes captured without a shot fired were the “unwarlike” fellows, but whatever.)

When the commandos finally left, they blew the fish oil tanks, sending huge fireballs into the sky. They also sank some ships vital to the fish oil production including the most advanced fish factory-ship of the time.

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Historic AC-130 gunship gets more lethal

The historic, lethal and combat-tested AC-130 gunship — known for attacking ISIS and Taliban fighters during close-air support high-risk combat missions — is getting a massive technological upgrade with newer weapons and avionics to increase the effectiveness of the attack platform and extend its service life into future decades, service officials said.


“AC-130 gunship work involves upgrading the plane with weapons, targeting systems and sensor packages,” Col. Robert Toth, Chief of Tactical Aircraft, Special Operations and Combat Search and Rescue Division, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Early variants of the AC-130 gunship first entered combat in the late 1960s during the Vietnam war. Later variants served in the Gulf War, War on Terror and war in Afghanistan, among other missions.

The gunships, operated by Special Operations Command, are often used to support Special Operations fighters on the ground engaged in combat.

The aircraft is known for its 105mm side-firing cannons which enable it fire from a side-axis position during close-in combat supporting ground troops. The AC-130 Gunship also has a 25mm Gatling gun and a 40mm weapon, according to Air Force statements.

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
An air-to-air front view of an AC-130A Hercules gunship aircraft. The aircraft is from the 919th Special Operations Group (AFRESO), Eglin Air Force Base Auxiliary Field) 3 (Duke Field) Florida | Airman Magazine, December 1984.

The Lockheed-Boeing built aircraft uses four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines, each with 4,300 shaft horsepower; the 155,000-pound aircraft has a 132-foot wingspan and hits speeds of 300 miles per hour. Its crew consists of a pilot, co-pilot, navigator, fire control officer, electronic warfare officers, flight engineer, TV operator, infrared detection operator, loadmaster and four aerial gunners.

The AC-130  gunship is a C-130 aircraft engineered for close-air support combat. Its variants include versions of a 105mm gun, called a M102 Howitzer, fires 33-pound high explosive shells at a firing rate of 10-round a minute. The weapon has a range up to seven miles and is the largest gun ever operated from a US Air Force aircraft, reports have said.

Air Force Special Operators ultimately plan to operate 37 of the newest version of the aircraft, the AC-130J Ghostrider, service officials said.

The aircraft’s 25-millimeter Gatling Gun, the GAU-12, is the same weapon now on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; the weapon fires both High-Explosive-Incendiary and Armor Piercing-Incendiary rounds against enemy fighters, buildings and light vehicles, Air Force officials confirm.

In a recent attack, AC-130 gunships and A-10 Warthog close-air support aircraft together destroyed an ISIS fuel convoy of more than 100 vehicles.

 C-130 Fleet

The AC-130 gunships make up a small portion of a fleet of roughly 500 C-130 planes throughout the Air Force and Special Operations Command, Toth explained.

The cargo planes are used to airdrop supplies, equipment, weapons and troops in forward deployed locations.

As a propeller-driven aircraft, the C-130s are able to fly and land in more rugged conditions and withstand harsh weather such as obscurants. The propellers make the aircraft’s engines less susceptible to debris flying in and causing operational problems for the engines.

“It really allows you to do that tactical movement of equipment and personnel to take the airplane to the last tactical mile. A lot of our transport strategic airlifters are meant to go to a hard runway to a hard runway somewhere and then they turn over the cargo to be moved to the forward areas to a C-130 or a vehicle. The C-130 allows you to take that cargo and land on a smaller runway or an unimproved airfield,” Toth added.

C-130s are used for domestic, international and warzone transport including homeland security, disaster relief and supply deliveries, among other things.

“There are probably missions that have yet to be dreamed up for the C-130,” Toth said.

The fleet consists of 135 more modern C-130J aircraft and 165 older C-130Hs which have been around since the 80s, Toth explained.

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
A C-130E from the 2nd Airlift Squadron, Pope AFB, N.C., flies over the Atlantic Ocean along the North Carolina coast. The C-130 Hercules primarily performs the intratheater portion of the airlift mission. The aircraft is capable of operating from rough, dirt strips and is the prime transport for paradropping troops and equipment into hostile areas. | U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Howard Blair

Also, MC-130Js are specially modified airlifters engineered to transport Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs and Army Rangers.

“They are essentially a C-130J further modified with defensive systems with radar countermeasures and infrared radar and advanced sensors for specialized missions. They also can perform in-flight refueling,” Toth explained.

C-130 Modernization

The Air Force remains vigilant about its C-130 fleet to ensure the airframes, wingboxes, avionics and communication systems remain safe and operational. This is particularly true of the older 1980s-era C-130Hs, Toth added.

“The thing that causes the greatest risk to the airplane is the life of the wing. We monitor the wing of the aircraft and as the wings get past their service life, we bring the airplanes back in and bring in new structures — with the primary focus being the center wingbox which is the area where the wings mount to the fuselage,” Toth said.

As for when a C-130 is in need of a maintenance upgrade to preserve and maintain service life, the Air Force uses an assessment metric referred to as “equivalent baseline hours.” The wing-boxes are changed once the aircraft reaches a certain “severity factor” in its operational service time. This is necessary because the wear and tear or impact of missions upon and airplane can vary greatly depending upon a range of factors such as the altitude at which a plane is flying, Toth said.

“Low-level flight may be three to four times the severity factor of flying at a higher level,” he said.

Also, by January of 2020 the entire fleet of C-130s will need to comply with an FAA mandate and be equipped with systems that will relay aircraft position to a greater fidelity back and forth between the airplane and the air traffic management authorities, he added. This will allow them to sequence more aircraft closer together and enhance an ability to move commerce.

Avionics Modernization Program, Increment 1 involves adding new 8.33 radios to the aircraft to improve communication along with initiatives to upgrade cockpit voice recorders and digital data recorders. C-130s will also receive new collision-avoidance technology designed to prevent the planes from hitting terrain or colliding with one another mid-air.  Inc. 1 is currently ongoing and is slated to complete by 2019.

AMP Inc. 2 involves a larger-scale effort to integrate digital avionics throughout the airplane. Inc. 2 will require nine-months to one year of work and be completed by 2028, Toth explained.

“This will allow us to bring the airplane from analog to digital, integrate a glass cockpit and use touchscreen displays. We will get away from the old systems of avionics where we had dial-driven instrumentation to where it is all digital. This makes us able to process a lot more information,” Toth said.

As part of the C-130 modernization calculus, the Air Force will consider retiring some C-130Hs and replace them with newly-built C-130Js; the service has authority to acquire an additional 20 C-130Js, Toth added.

“We continue to evaluate where it makes sense to retire and older airplane and instead put that money into buying new airplanes,” he said.

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THAAD now in place to take out North Korean missiles if required

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
via Lockheed Martin


The most advanced missile system on the planet can hunt and blast incoming missiles right out of the sky with a 100% success rate — and it appears to be headed to North Korea’s backyard.

On the heels of last month’s purported hydrogen-bomb test and a long-range rocket launch on Saturday, the US has apparently agreed to equip South Korea with the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system, according to CNN.

With its unmatched precision, Lockheed Martin’s THAAD can equalize tensions around the world with its mobility and strategic battery-unit placement.

In order to deter North Korean provocations and further defend the Pacific region, the Pentagon deployed a THAAD battery toGuam in April 2013.

However, after the rogue regime’s most recent launch, the US has reportedly agreed to deploy the THAAD to South Korea — which would counter almost all incoming missiles from the North.

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
Heritage.org

The pressure to deploy THAAD is rapidly mounting, as US defense officials have cited North Korean missile developments.

In October, Admiral Bill Gortney, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, assessed that North Korean has “the capability to reach the [US] homeland with a nuclear weapon from a rocket,” The Guardian reported.

Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of the United States Forces Korea, a sub-unified command of the US Pacific Command, told a forum in 2014 that placing THAAD in the country is a “US initiative.”

Discussions to equip South Korea with THAAD were held during South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s visit to the White House last October.

THAAD’s ‘hit to kill’ lethal effects

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
AiirSource Military | YouTube

The THAAD missile does not carry a warhead. Instead, the interceptor missile uses pure kinetic energy to deliver “hit to kill” strikes to incoming ballistic threats inside or outside the atmosphere.

Each launcher carries up to eight missiles and can send multiple kill vehicles at once, depending on the severity of the threat.

Lockheed’s missile launcher is just one element of the antimissile system.

The graphic below, from Raytheon, shows the rest of the equipment needed for each enemy-target interception.

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
via Raytheon

How THAAD works

Five minutes after an enemy missile takes off, a truck-mounted THAAD interceptor missile launches in pursuit of its target.

This is a close shot of what the THAAD missile looks like when launched:

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
Lockheed Martin | YouTube

And here’s what the launch looks like from far away:

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
Lockheed Martin | YouTube

THAAD’s missile hunts for its target, then obliterates it in the sky.

The following infrared imagery shows THAAD demolishing the target:

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
Lockheed Martin | YouTube

By the end of 2016, the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is scheduled to deliver an additional 48 THAAD interceptors to the US military, bringing the total up to 155, according to a statement from MDA director Vice Admiral J.D. Syring before the House Armed Service Committee.

According to the US Missile Defense Agency, there are more than 6,300 ballistic missiles outside of US, NATO, Russian, and Chinese control.

Other US partners around the globe are interested in purchasing THAAD.

The United Arab Emirates has become the first foreign buyer after signing a deal with the Department of Defense for $3.4 billion. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have “expressed interest,” according to Richard McDaniel, vice president of Patriot Advanced Capability programs at Lockheed Martin. “We expect deals,” he added.

The UAE seems like a particularly appropriate buyer: In September, 45 of its troops deployed near Yemen were killed when an enemy missile struck an arms depot, a reminder of the strategic challenge of ballistic missiles falling into the wrong hands.

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America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I

America’s first tank unit, known as the “Treat ’em Rough Boys,” rushed through training and arrived in Europe in time to lead armored thrusts through Imperial German forces, assisting in the capture of thousands of Germans and miles of heavily contested territory.


6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
Army Col. George S. Patton just after World War I. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The tankers were vital to the elimination of the famous St. Mihiel salient, a massive German-held bulge in the lines near the pre-war German-French border.

American forces joined the war late, participating in their first battle on Nov. 20, 1917, over three years after the war began and less than a year before it ended.

America had never attempted to create a tank before its entry into World War I. So while American G.I.s and other troops were well-supplied and fresh, most weren’t combat veterans and none had any tank experience.

Into this gap rode cavalry captain George S. Patton. He lobbied American Expeditionary Force Commander Gen. John J. Pershing to allow him to establish a tank school and take command of it if the U.S. decided to create a tank unit.

Patton also pointed out that he was possibly the only American to ever launch an armored car attack, a feat he had completed in 1916 under Pershing’s command in Mexico.

Pershing agreed and allowed Patton to set up the school in Langres, France. Patton quickly began taking volunteers into the school and establishing American doctrine and units.

The first-ever American tank unit consisted of the light tank units organized by Patton and heavy tanks with crews trained by England.

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
America’s first heavy tank battalions were not ready and equipped in time for the St. Mihiel offensive but took part in later battles. (Photo: U.S. Army)

When it came time for the AEF to lead its first major operation, the St. Mihiel salient was the obvious target. Other allied forces had already pacified other potential targets, and the salient at St. Mihiel had severely limited French lines of communication and supply between the front and Paris since Germany had established it in 1914.

The tanks led the charge into the salient on Sept. 12 with two American light tank battalions, the 326th and the 327th, backed up by approximately three battalions worth of French light tanks and two companies worth of French-crewed heavy tanks.

Infantry units moved into battle just behind the tanks, allowing the tracked vehicles to crush barbed wire and open the way.

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
American engineers returning from the front at the Battle of St. Mihiel. (National Archives, 1918)

Per Patton’s design, the tank companies were equipped with a mix of heavy guns to wipe out machine gun nests and other prepared defenses and machine guns to mow down infantry that got within their fields of fire. This mix allowed for rapid advancement except where the Germans had dug their trenches too deep and wide for the Renaults to easily cross.

The American infantry attacked the remaining resistance after the tanks passed and then took over German positions.

The light tanks, which could move at speeds faster than advancing infantry, sometimes pressed ahead and found themselves waiting for the infantry to catch up. At the village of Thiacourt, an important crossroads within the salient, tank units surrounded the village and cut off all entrances and exits while waiting for their boot-bound brethren.

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
Army Lt. Col. George S. Patton with a Renault tank. He became America’s first-ever tank officer the previous year as a captain. (Photo: U.S. Army)

While the tanks received great credit in American newspapers for their success in the AEF’s first independent operation, the real story of St. Mihiel was that it was an enormously successful combined arms operations with massive amounts of artillery support, about 3,000 guns, the largest air force assembled to that date (approximately 1,500 planes), and large infantry assaults making huge contributions to victory.

Plus, the Germans had received ample warning of the AEF’s pending attack and had decided not to seriously contest it. Instead, they pulled many of their units back to the Hindenburg line to the east and left only 75,000 men defending the salient against the over 260,000-man attack.

One of the prisoners, a German major and count, reportedly was even waiting with his staff and packed bags to be captured.

Of course, the first American armored offensive was not without its hiccups. The French-made Renault tanks got bogged down in deep mud. While German artillery was only able to knock out three American-crewed tanks, another 40 were lost to mud, mechanical breakdowns, and a lack of fuel at the front.

Patton continued refining American tank deployments, ordering that U.S. tanks carry fuel drums strapped to the back of the tank. At the suggestion of an unknown private, he also began equipping one tank per company as a recovery and repair tank, leading to the dedicated recovery vehicles in use today.

The tank corps went on to fight in the Meuse-Argonne offensive through the end of the war, this time with their heavy tanks there to support the infantry alongside their light armored friends. All of the tanks continued to face greater losses from terrain and mechanical breakdown than they did from enemy forces.

The greatest enemy threat to the tanks was artillery and mines, but the Germans learned to place engineering barriers such as large trenches to slow down the advance, and early anti-tank rifles took a small toll.

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After 50 years, a heroic Huey pilot will receive the Medal of Honor

In the early morning of May 15th, 1967, U.S. Army soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division were ambushed near Song Tra Cau riverbed Duc Pho in the Republic of Vietnam. Outnumbered and outgunned, they faced an entire battalion of North Vietnamese soldiers with heavy machine guns and recoilless rifles. The 101st couldn’t hit their attackers and quickly took casualties.


6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
Maj. Kettles deployed in Vietnam

Charles Kettles was a UH-1 Huey pilot on his first of two tours in Vietnam. When he learned soldiers on the ground were taking intense fire and many were wounded, he didn’t hesitate. Then-Maj. Kettles volunteered to lead a flight of six Hueys (including his own)into the firefight to drop off reinforcements and pick up the wounded.

“There wasn’t any decision to be made,” Kettles was quoted as saying in a recent Army Times piece. “We simply were going to go and pick them up.”

When the helicopters approached the landing zone, they came under the same intense fire. Kettles stayed in the fight until all the wounded were loaded and the 101st received their supplies. He then went to pick up more reinforcements.  After dropping off the second wave, his gunner was injured and the small arms fire caused a ruptured fuel line. He got his bird back to Duc Pho but later that same day, the last 40 U.S. troops, with eight members of Kettles’ own unit (their helicopter was shot down) requested an emergency extraction. Maj. Kettles volunteered to go back with five other Hueys.

“The mission was simple,” Kettles said. “The situation was anything but simple.”

Kettles had what he thought was everyone, and so he departed the area. Once airborne, however, he learned that eight troops were pinned down due to the intense fire and didn’t make it to the helicopters. Kettles immediately broke off from the main group, turned his bird around, and went back for the missing eight men on his own. With no gunship or artillery support, Kettles flew what was now a giant, lurking target into the ambush area. A mortar immediately his tail boom, rotor blade, and shattered his front windshield. His Huey was raked by small arms fire. Despite the constant attack and severe damage to his helicopter, he held firm until the eight men were aboard and flew everyone to safety. When he landed, he was “unrattled and hungry.”

“I just walked away from the helicopter believing that’s what war is,” Kettles told USA Today. “It probably matched some of the movies I’d seen as a youngster. So be it. Let’s go have dinner.”

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange
Kettles receiving the Distinguished Service Cross.

He did another tour in Vietnam, then retired in 1978 as a Lieutenant Colonel. He started a car dealership with his brother after his retirement, happy to receive the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism in Vietnam. He had no expectations of receiving the Medal of Honor. That came about from the work of amateur historian William Vollano. Vollano, in the course of interviewing veterans for the Veterans History Project, heard Kettles’ story. With written accounts of men from the 101st who were there that day, Vollano was able to push the Army to reexamine Kettles. They determined that Kettles’ actions merited the nation’s highest honor.

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“Kettles, by himself, without any guns and any crew, went back by himself,” said Roland Scheck, a crew member who had been injured on Kettles’ first trip to the landing zone that day. “I don’t know if there’s anyone who’s gotten a Medal of Honor who deserved it more.”

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The last soldier killed in WWI died one minute before the war ended

Sergeant Henry Gunther was actually a private the day he charged a German machine gun nest for the last time in World War I. He had just been busted down in rank for criticizing the war in a letter he wrote home, and he wasn’t happy about it.


Luckily for millions of other soldiers and civilians in Europe, everyone knew the Armistice would come into effect on the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

This is why so many question why Sgt. Gunter charged a German machine gun nest at 10:59 that same day.

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A memorial to Gunther built on Nov. 11, 2010 at his gravesite in Baltimore.

Gunther and his unit came across a German position north of Verdun on Nov. 11, 1918. As they took cover from the machine guns, they received word that the war would be over in less than an hour.

That’s when Sgt. Gunther charged the position with a fixed bayonet.

The Germans fired a number of warning shots and tried to yell at Gunther – in English – to stop.

But Gunter wasn’t the only troop to die in that last hour of World War I. Some 3,000 men died in that short time. Some historians even speculate that Gunther was ordered to charge the machine guns.

Even though so many others died around the same time, the commander of the American Expeditionary Force General John J. Pershing declared that Gunther would be known as the last man killed in action in the war.

Sergeant Henry Gunther was engaged before the war started and just secured a job as a bookkeeper in the Baltimore area before he was drafted in 1917.

After his death was recorded at 10:59, his fellow troops moved his body and buried him near where his company was posted. His remains were moved to the United States in 1923.

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A man in WWI-era French uniform stands beside a memorial stone at the spot where Henry Gunther fell on Nov. 11, 1918. The stone was unveiled by the French government as part of a 90th anniversary event in 2008. (Photo by American War Memorials Overseas)

On Veteran’s Day 2008, a memorial was constructed on the site where he was killed in Chaumont-devant-Damvillers, France.

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This Soviet sniper dropped out of school so she could kick Nazi butt

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Lyudmila Pavlichenko was 24 years old when Germany invaded the USSR in June 1941. Like most Soviet citizens, she wasn’t thrilled to hear that 3 million Nazis were marching across the motherland. The Kiev University history student was determined to do her bit, but she didn’t want to be a nurse. What’d Pavlichenko do instead? She became the most feared female sniper in history.

Born in the Kiev region in 1916, Pavlichenko was blessed with a competitive nature and a surplus of moxie. She also had a natural affinity for guns:

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A Soviet Union-issued postage stamp dedicated to Pavlichenko

I was keen on sports of all kinds, and played all the boys’ games and would not allow myself to be outdone by boys in anything. That was how I turned to sharpshooting. When a neighbor’s boy boasted of his exploits at a shooting range I set out to show that a girl could do as well. So I practiced a lot.

The sniper-turned-student was holed up in a sanitarium in Odessa when war broke out. She’d been sent there to recuperate from a long illness—but her patriotic fervor cured her. Pavlichenko was eager to put her sharpshooting skills to good use, so she immediately applied for a discharge. Signing up with the Red Army proved more difficult than she thought:

The moment I heard the news I stopped feeling ill. When I applied to the doctors of the sanitarium for a discharge, they refused. I didn’t feel that the time could be spared for arguments and appeals. I knew the war had done more to cure me than they could. So I took French leave. They wouldn’t take girls in the army, so I had to resort to all kinds of tricks to get in. But I finally managed it. I served first with one of the volunteer detachments called ‘destroyer squads’ organized in cities and districts close to the front, to dispose of German paratroopers.

Good thing Mother Russia decided to bend the rules. By the end of Operation Barbarossa,Pavlichenko was famous for having a very particular set of skills: She excelled at shooting fascists. Nicknamed “Lady Death” by the Western media, the 25-year-old sniper was credited was 309 confirmed kills.

Lyudmila Pavlichenko Eleanor Roosevelt Justice Robert Jackson, Lyudmila Pavlichenko and Eleanor Roosevelt in 1942

Her status as Nazi Germany’s nightmare du jour scored her an invitation to the Oval Office in 1942. Dispatched to drum up American support for a “second front” in Europe, she was the first Soviet citizen to be received at the White House. Stalin didn’t regret his decision: Pavlichenko and the Roosevelts got along famously. After their official meeting, the First Lady asked the Ukranian-born lieutenant to accompany her on a tour of the country. The “girl sniper” caused a media frenzy. When the press grilled her on her makeup habits and frumpy uniform, Pavlichenko put them in check:

I wear my uniform with honor. It has the Order of Lenin on it. It has been covered with blood in battle. It is plain to see that with American women what is important is whether they wear silk underwear under their uniforms. What the uniform stands for, they have yet to learn.

 

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The 13 funniest military memes of the week

It’s Friday, which means you’re one week closer to a DD-214. Here are 13 memes to kick off your weekend:


1. Passed is passed (via Air Force Memes and Humor).

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Now it’s time to celebrate.

2. It’s only a winter wonderland when you’re sleighing (via Air Force Nation).

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SEE ALSO: This wounded airman saved his team (with an A-10’s help)

3. Chief doesn’t care. Figure it out (via Bangor Correctional Facility).

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Maybe if you reboot again.

4. Hey, Carl. All those jokes that were so funny?

(via Pop Smoke)

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Probably should’ve checked to see if staff sergeant was laughing.

5. When the lieutenant finally gets to correct the chief:

(via Air Force Nation)

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Just wait till the next time you need something … sir.

6. The saltiest sailor who ever salted:

(via Team Non-Rec)

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7. If you’re story starts with, “In boot camp we …” no one wants to hear it (via Coast Guard Memes).

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8. When you’re headed to the field but you need that iced mocha:

(via Team Non-Rec)

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9. Til Valhalla!

(via Sh-t My LPO Says)

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There’s no mistress like the sea, right?

10. Surprisingly accurate.

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Except the haircuts. Really, specialist? A pony tail?

11. The city that never sleeps …

(via Sh-t My LPO Says)

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… except when chief isn’t watching.

12. Only the Air Force would think their base is supposed to be as good as a theme park (via Air Force Nation).

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13. Kind of makes me want to see other senior ISIS notebooks.

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10 bucks says Baghdadi’s is Pokemon.

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The new CZ P-10C might just have it all

New Czech Polymer Fighting Pistol: the CZ P-10C

Team Mighty – Photos courtesy of CTT Solutions and Pillar Media Group

CZ USA has released its newest pistol, a polymer, striker-fired handgun called the CZ P-10Z. It has been described as weapon that combines all the best features of its competitors: a Steyr M-A1 bore axis, VP9 trigger, MP grip, and the safety and ergonomics of a customized Glock — all for a price comparable to the XDM.


If all that is true, this might be the best pistol of this breed yet. Time and round count will tell.

You can take a 3D, 360° look at it right here.

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The CZ P-10 C (presumably so named in anticipation of a full-sized and sub-compact version yet to come) is a 9mm or .40 fiber-reinforced polymer framed, striker-fired pistol. It features a cold hammer-forged barrel, trigger safety and firing pin block safety with three-dot “stepped” metal sights suitable for use in racking the weapon off a bootheel or belt. MSRP is set at $499, which means barring political shenanigans you’ll be able to pick one up for even less.

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When news of the new pistol first broke a couple months ago, Mike Pannone (a former Unit operator who now runs CTT Solutions) spoke highly of it.

“I’ve shot it and I’m gonna tell you all, this will be a big player in the striker market,” Pannone said. “Great ergos, legendary CZ reliability/durability/accuracy, incredible trigger right out of the box…and it fits in nearly every Glock 19 holster. Just wait until the full-size model hits…Duty gun and Production class USPSA here we go!”

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6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange

Here he is more recently, going into more detail.

 

Now, why should you give a damn what this guy thinks?

Easy. Mike “Noner” Pannone of CTT Solutions is a former Force Marine turned CAG (1ST SFOD-D) operator. Pannone came back out of retirement after 9/11 to serve as the head marksmanship instructor for the (then-fledgling) Federal Air Marshals Service, the agency said to have the most stringent and rigorous firearms/marksmanship standards in US law enforcement.

He later worked as a security contractor for the Department of State overseas in highly non-permissive areas, later working with the Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group.

Pannone is a CZ-sponsored competitive shooter, yes, but by all accounts is reckoned a blunt, even brutally candid SME. Knowing what we know of him, if he wasn’t happy with the weapon, he’d say so (or just wouldn’t say anything at all).

Here’s how CZ lists out the P-10 C’s primary advantages.

•Slide and barrel with extremely durable surface finish

•Two pairs of cocking grip surfaces for comfortable handling

•New “degree” of resistance against corrosion and mechanical damage

•Exceptional iron sights accentuated by three luminescent dots

•Automatic striker block guaranteeing drop safety

•Mechanically and thermally stable polymer frame reinforced with glass fibre

•Three interchangeable backstraps in S, M, L sizes

•Excellent magazine capacity of 15 (17) rounds in 9×19 calibre

•Excellent shooting comfort thanks to the well-designed ergonomic grip with distinct checkering

•Flat ambidextrous slide stop and magazine catch; a magazine catch with a wider grip for right-handed as well as left-handed shooters is available as an accessory

The pistol should be hitting shelves sometime during the first half of 2017. Find more details online at CZ USA.

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