Air Force challenges allies to 'friendship games' and yes, everybody wins! - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SPORTS

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

More than one hundred service members from the U.S., United Arab Emirates, and several coalition nations participated in the Friendship Games Feb. 6, 2019, at Al Dhafra Air Base.

This semi-annual event used games to promote partnerships between the different countries.

“This is the one time of year where we all get together and participate in sports,” said Anthony Dalton, 380th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron fitness director. “We try to pick universal sports that everyone wants to compete in.”


The 380th EFSS worked with their coalition forces counterparts to coordinate and organize the games. It kicked off with a 4k run and included competitive events like basketball, soccer, a relay race and tug-of-war matches.

“It’s called the Friendship Games but people come out here and they want to win, they’re very competitive,” Dalton said. “Whether they’re first, second or third, they’re happy to participate in an event and represent their country.”

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

The U.S. team steals the ball during the basketball portion of the Friendship Games Feb. 6, 2019, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Darnell T. Cannady)

These games allow service members to interact with and get to know each other in a universally-accepted environment.

“I believe these games are very important because it builds camaraderie between the countries and helps bridge the gap by getting to know one another on a personal level,” said Staff Sgt. William Hazelwood, 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron launch and recovery supervisor and Friendship Games participant. “Participating in the games with members from other countries was very exciting. Getting fellowship with other members, exchanging conversations and competing were the highlight of the games for me.”

Regardless of who won or lost, by building relationships through the Friendship Games at Al Dahfra AB was the true winner.

“When we come out here all together, we’re truly one force,” Dalton added. “Everyone talks with each other, everybody competes, so I just like the camaraderie that these events bring. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like that during my time working for the Air Force where all the countries come together and participate in sports.”

MIGHTY SPORTS

The branches of the military re-imagined as major sports leagues

No analogy better describes life in the military than being on a sports team. From the obvious comparisons (you’re operating in a team environment) to the more nuanced (there’s always some kind of competition going on within that team), there’s no denying a strong correlation between the two lifestyles.

As anyone who’s part of the military community knows, there’s an eternal inter-service rivalry running between the branches of the US Armed Forces. This competition is played out in hypotheticals shared between bored troops because, truthfully, there’s no real way to determine which single branch ‘better’ than the rest.

At the end of the day, it’s all a matter of taste, much like choosing a favorite sports league to follow. Well, don’t worry, sports fans, we’ve selected a league for each branch so you don’t have to.


Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

(MLB)

US Army = Major League Baseball

In a lot of ways, this is the easiest parallel to draw. The Army is the oldest of all the armed services, founded in June, 1775, which makes it less than a hundred years older than Major League Baseball, which was founded in 1869.

The Army is also the first branch that comes to mind when most people think of the US Armed Forces. All of us service members, current and prior, have been viewed as a “Soldier” by uninformed friends, family, or weal-meaning passersby. And if you’ve traveled abroad, you also know that most people assume every American loves baseball.

In many ways, the Army is “America’s service” in the same way that baseball is “America’s pastime.”

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

(U.S Air Force Photo by Zachary Perras)

US Navy = National Hockey League

There are some abundantly clear parallels here, as well. The most literal of these connections is that the the Navy is known for its astonishing power on the seas and NHL players are known for being immense forces on ice — frozen water.

The Navy was founded second, in the fall of 1775, and the National Hockey league, founded in 1917, is America’s second-oldest league.

Furthermore, there’s a lot more to the Navy than most people realize, but everyone knows about their elite, the Navy SEALs. Hockey has a long, storied history, filled with amazing athletes — many of which are unknown by most, but everyone knows of Wayne Gretzky.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!
(National Football League)

US Marines = National Football League

This one truly is the easiest to see. First, they both have the coolest uniforms. The much-worshipped Marine Dress Blues is, without a doubt, the most iconic uniform in the American military — and there’s nothing that says “American sports” quite like an NFL helmet.

Both require peak physical conditioning. If you’ve ever seen a NFL player in person, you knew right away that they’re capable of some abnormally amazing physical feats. The same is true for most Marines; their physical appearance announces their membership before they open their mouths.

The last and most prominent similarity is their popularity. The USMC is respected and recognized all over America. If their body, posture, or uniform doesn’t give them away, their conduct will. Though the public perception of the NFL is currently suffering, there’s no denying that, historically, football has held a firm foothold in American hearts.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

The general public cheering on the Air Force but calling in the Army

(Erik Drost)

US Air Force = National Basketball Association

Simply put, the USAF is the youngest and most fly.

The NBA gets a lot of greats that would’ve likely played football or baseball in generations past. They constantly get the newest uniform and technological updates — and it’s the hardest league to get into (by percentage. There are 494 total NBA players and 1,696 NFL players).

US Coast Guard = Major League Soccer

Look, we know you’re important and there are tons of fans out there, but the American public just hasn’t caught on yet. I mean, soccer didn’t even make the cover photo of this article, so…

One day, Coast Guard. One day.

MIGHTY SPORTS

This 7-step box jump workout is the ultimate leg day

What’s the difference between a box jump workout and a walk in the park?About 800 calories for every hour you exercise. Box jumps are super tough, no way around it. But they’re one of the best leg workouts at the gym that anyone can do. Take them on with regularity and expect strong, sculpted legs, a cardio boost, improved balance and coordination, and fat that seems to disappear overnight.

The intensity of the workout (and stress on your bones) means you probably shouldn’t do it more than twice a week. Mix it up with a healthy dose of traditional cardio and strength training to make sure you’re working your whole body.

If you’re new to box jumps, start by using a low platform — a foot to 18 inches off the ground. Add height as you become more comfortable with the moves, always choosing form first (you’ll burn more calories if you do these moves correctly at a lower height as opposed to faking it at a higher one). And no, you don’t technically need an official box-jump box to perform box jumps. If you’re not at the gym (or your gym doesn’t have them), any stable stool or upside-down wooden box will suffice.


To properly perform a basic box jump, stand facing the box, feet should-width apart. Bend your knees and swing arms behind you, keeping your back straight. In one explosive motion, swing your arms forward and push off the ground, tucking your knees slightly as you spring up onto the box. Straighten your legs once you land, then step back down to go again.

The Box Jump

www.youtube.com

Got it? Good, then you’re ready for the ultimate box-jump workout. The circuit here will take you about 20 minutes. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, add a set, or do the whole thing twice.

1. Leg day workout warmup: Step ups

Stand facing the box. Step up with your right foot, followed by your left, then down with right foot, then left. Do 10 reps, then reverse legs (up with left, down with left).

2. Box jump up & downs

Traditional box jump, followed by a reverse jump down. Keep your hands tucked and knees bent to help with balance. Note: If you have bad knees or shin troubles, don’t jump down, step down, as this move places stresses on the patella and tibia. Do 10 reps, 2 sets.

3. Single leg lateral steps

Stand on the left side of the box. Step up with your right leg, then quickly transfer your weight to your left leg, keeping the weight on your left side as you drop your right leg over the right side of the box, letting your foot tap the floor. Raise your right leg up to the top of the box again, shifting your weight to your right foot while your left leg reaches and touches the floor. Do 30 seconds on, 15 seconds rest x 4.

4. Burpee box jumps

Stand in front of the box and squat down, placing hands on the floor and jumping your feet back into an extended pushups position. Jump feet forward again, and then spring off the ground into the air. Instead of the traditional burpee vertical jump however, you’ll jump forward and onto the box. Step down. Do 10 reps, 2 sets.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

5. Box jump pivot

Start by standing in the center of the box. Place your weight on your right leg, bend your right knee, and drop your left leg over the side of the box. As soon as your left foot touches the floor, push off it hard, allow the momentum to rotate your body slightly as you return to standing atop the box. Continue this drop, push, release pattern until your body spins in a full 360 on the box. Repeat in the opposite direction.

6. Four-sided box jump

Work in multiple planes with this round-the-box move. Start by standing in front of the box and jumping forward onto it. Jump off the box to the right side. Jump sideways to the left to land on top of the box again. Jump forward and land with the box behind you. Step backwards to re-climb onto the box top. (Note: If you are advanced, you can jump backwards but this is a difficult maneuver.) Jump sideways down to the right side of the box, then jump sideways to the right to land on top again. Repeat the full rotation 4 times.

7. Single leg hops

Use a lower-height setup for this one. Stand facing the box. Lift your left foot off the ground so you are standing on your right leg. Bend right knee and jump onto the box, keeping left foot off the ground. Jump or step back down. Do 10 reps on each leg.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Why you should play sports if you want to be a fighter pilot

Looking back, sports prepared me for flying fighters more than anything else. You develop thick skin playing sports—you learn how to lose, how to accept criticism, how to prepare, how to handle pressure; you grow you in a way that’s difficult to find outside of sports. Different sports teach different attributes, particularly team versus individual ones, but they all have parallels to what we do in the air.

Team sports, as the name implies, teach teamwork—you learn how to work together to build trust. As a group, you must come together to accomplish a shared vision; often with people who come from completely different backgrounds. It is a complex, messy process that doesn’t have a set formula. I played baseball, all the way from t-ball throughout high school and each year we would try to build a cohesive, effective team—failing as often as we succeeded. It was practice though. By the time I got to my first fighter squadron, I had been a part of probably 30 teams. It was easier to integrate, find my role, and start contributing than if I hadn’t had my sports background.

fighter pilot
You may be alone in the cockpit, but teamwork is still essential.

Another attribute I learned is situational leadership. As my skill and experience grew relative to the team I was on, my leadership style had to change. As a freshman in high school and one of the weaker players, my job was to shut up, work hard, and do the jobs the other players didn’t want to do. By the time I was a senior, I was one of the better players and a captain on the team. Part of my job was to hold people accountable, which meant being more assertive.

As a fighter pilot, after you spend four years becoming an officer, two years in pilot training, and a year learning to fly your fighter, you’ll show up to your first squadron and your primary job will be to stock the snack bar. Just like the new freshman on a sports team, the best thing you can do is shut up, learn your job, and volunteer for the tasks no-one else wants to do. As your skill and experience grow relative to the other pilots, your leadership style will have to evolve. 

Preparation is another trait I learned. Similar to being a fighter pilot, in sports the vast majority of your time is spent training. While boxing at the Air Force Academy, we would spend hours each day preparing for a six-minute fight. The training, in most cases, lagged the results, often by months. If you didn’t wake up at 5AM for your daily morning run, no-one would know until fight day when you were exhausted by the time you got to the third round.

fighter pilot
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Griffin)

Flying fighters is similar. We train for years before we go into combat. As a multi-role, single seat fighter pilot, there is always something you could be better at. The learning never stops. We have thousands of pages of tactics to memorize and with closure rates averaging a mile every three-seconds, it has to be instinctive by the time you get to combat. 

The most important attribute sports taught me was mental toughness—how to thrive in a high pressure environment. As a boxer you’re in the ring alone. No-one else can help you. If you’re distracted and having a bad day, you can get hurt. Leading up to the fight, you know there is an opponent working his hardest to knock you out in front of your friends and family.

At the Air Force Academy, we would have sports psychologists from the Olympic training center make the 15 minute drive to work with us. They taught us visualization, positive self-talk, and how to stay in the present moment. While the stakes are much higher now—we not only have our own lives to worry about, but our wingmen, other airborne assets, and the troops on the ground—I still find myself using what they taught me on a daily basis.

Sports are a training ground for your mind and body. They allow you to grow in a simplistic environment, under pressure, with short feedback cycles. You learn that through deliberate practice you will improve. Having had a chance to instruct many F-16 and F-35 pilots, the better ones usually have a sports background. It doesn’t matter if they were a star, or if they only played in high school—the important thing is they have the tools to get better each flight while contributing to the squadron. 

Make sure to check out Justin Lee’s podcast, The Professionals Playbook!

Feature image courtesy of the U.S. Air Force

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY SPORTS

12 of the best football party foods, ranked

Fall is definitely a sports season. Baseball season wraps up with the World Series, hockey and basketball are just getting started, and football season is in full swing. The odds are good that, at some point, you’re going to either throw or at least be part of a sports party. Whether you like sports or not, you still like your friends and will probably want to join them.

What to bring to that party is, however, an important decision — especially if you don’t know sports, because you want to get invited to the next one.


With this simple decision, you can either turn yourself into a party snack legend by going the extra mile or you can ensure that you’ll never be invited again and irreparably damage the personal relationships you’ve built with people who thought you were their friend until you proved otherwise with that terrible thing you brought.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

Note: This list is just for snack foods. Just because something didn’t make the list doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring it. Nearly any party will also accept finger-food desserts, like brownies, cupcakes, and Jell-O shots.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

Who puts okra on a cheese plate?

12. Cheese Plates

How to win: A cheese plate is an easy crowd-pleaser. Add some crackers, some cold cuts, and a few grapes for effect and you’re good to go. No one ever objects to a cheese plate. Be advised: Blue cheese is for wings, not cheese plates. That stuff smells like feet.

How to be a legend: Upgrade the cheeses from your standard cheddar, colby, and pepperjack. Get some real cheeses in there. We’re talking brie, gruyere, and fresh mozzarella. Spring for better crackers. Ditch the cold cuts and make all those meats prosciutto.

How to lose: Fried cheese sticks. You know this game is three hours long, right? If you aren’t deep-frying them at the party, there’s no way to win by bringing these. Ever see fried cheese sticks after they’ve been sitting out for an hour? Not pretty.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

French Onion dip is the easiest thing to make on this list. At least make it yourself.

11. Chips & Dip

How to win: Even if you only brought a tub of sour cream with a packet of french onion seasoning mixed in, you already won. Even if no one actually puts this on a plate, almost everyone will have at least one chip with dip. And no one will feel like they should save it when there are leftovers.

How to be a legend: Make your own layered dip that doesn’t involve packets of seasoning. Pro tip: the more layers, the better. Yeah, you could make a 35-layer dip, but if you’re feeling really saucy, why not make a 50-layer dip?

How to lose: Kale chips.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

If they’re mushy, we hate you.

10. Potato Skins

How to win: Proper potato skins have crispy shells and don’t skimp on the cheese and bacon. I don’t actually want big chunks of mushy potato in my mouth. That’s not what I signed up for.

How to be a legend: More meat. Every time. Maybe add a little spice to kick up the bland potato parts. Buffalo chicken potato skins are always a winner. Maybe some sriracha. Maybe even twice bake them.

How to lose: Bring a bag of Friday’s Potato Skins chips. C’mon, man.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

It’s entirely likely both of these ingredients came from a can. Amazing.

9. Pigs in a Blanket

How to win: Bring all-beef junior franks wrapped in crispy golden-brown dough. Brush on melted butter for extra effect. Even your friend who swears they don’t eat processed food is going to sneak one or two.

How to be a legend: Bratwurst in pretzel dough.

How to lose: Someone once told me that anything wrapped in dough is a surefire winner, then I discovered Spanakopita. If you bring spinach wrapped in dough to my football party, I’ll know we aren’t friends.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

Bringing sub sandwich ingredients not in sandwich form will get you ejected from the party.

8. Party Subs

How to Win: Sandwiches are the closest thing to an entree anyone should bring to a sports party. From cold cuts to po’boys, they will be the unofficial main course on everyone’s plate.

How to be a legend: Tie the sub to the favorite team in the night’s game. If you’re watching the Steelers or Penguins, get some french fries and make a Primanti Brothers sandwich. For the Bills or Sabres, Beef on weck. Watching the Saints or Pelicans? Make a Muffuletta. You get the idea.

How to lose: Bringing Sloppy Joes or Manwiches. Those sandwiches are about as appetizing as their names make them sound.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

Literally anything.

7. Bacon-Wrapped Anything

How to win: The best part of this is that you get to mix up everyone’s expectations and bring something memorable. Bacon-wrapped pork medallions with little toothpicks are a surefire winner. Bacon-wrapped scallops are a classic. Even bringing bacon-wrapped bacon will be good for a laugh — and people will still want it.

How to be a legend: Get some cheese in there, too. Everyone likes bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers. Everyone.

How to lose: Anything where the bacon ends up served cold. Desserts. Salad bowls. Bacon needs to be served hot and crisp.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

If these aren’t actually soft, then we’re not actually friends.

6. Soft Pretzels

How to win: It’s important to emphasize that we’re talking about soft pretzels here. Not a bag of hard, sourdough pretzels. Those are for when I’m drinking all the leftover Bud Light later because the Bengals blew their playoff win with less than a minute left on the game clock.

How to be a legend: The pretzels are the easy part. What you’re going to bring is extra salt and an assortment of dipping sauces for everyone to enjoy with their pretzels – hot cheese, stone ground mustard, and pizza sauce are just the beginning.

How to lose: Few things in life are worse than picking up a warm pretzel, expecting to sink your teeth into its soft, buttery flesh and finding out it’s rock hard, either because it’s stale, old, or wasn’t cooked properly. Do your due diligence.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

If it’s DiGiorno, you better have a good reason.

5. Pizza

How to win: Everyone loves a fresh, hot slice. Your best bet is to come with one cooked and ready and have a prepared, uncooked one ready to heat up mid-game. Coordinate with your host.

How to be a legend: Individual calzones.

How to lose: If you put pineapple on a pizza meant for a group, you’re a sadist. Some people hate that. If you dip it in milk, you might as well be ISIS.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

The only item on the list that is acceptable in its deconstructed form.

4. Street Tacos

How to win: Your biggest problem will be that some people will expect flour tortillas and/or cheese when we all know real street tacos have neither. It’s fine; bring both. This is America.

How to be a legend: Bring a spit and carve off some al pastor filling for you and your friends. No one will ever be able to forget you. Make a day of it.

How to lose: Forgetting the pickled onions.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

Extra credit for King’s Hawaiian buns.

3. Sliders 

How to win: It’s hard to go wrong with tiny cheeseburgers, my dude.

How to be a legend: Imagine the best burger you’ve ever had. Was it made with lamb? Wagyu or kobe beef? Did it have an amazing cheese component? Think of the veggies – pickles, arugula, tomatoes, onions, caramelized onions… the sky is the limit. Whatever made it so good, make a ton of those for your friends. Grab a few Beyond Meat patties for your vegetarian friends.

How to lose: Everyone will eat turkey burger sliders if you bring them, but many will resent you for it.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

Blue Cheese still smells like feet but is an expected condiment here.

2. Wings

How to win: I know, everyone’s probably wondering how wings ended up at #2 on a ranking of football foods. I love a good wing as much as anyone. While they’re still tops, they’re not the top. They’re just expected at a football party these days and when was the last time you heard anyone say, “oh, you have Buffalo Wings?! I love these!”

How to be a legend: Bring a bunch of different flavors, outside of ‘hot’ and ‘mild.’ You should always bring the classics (because everyone expects them) but nowadays, there’s so much everyone wants to try on a chicken wing: lemon pepper, Old Bay seasoning, spicy ginger, and so on.

How to lose: If you brought a bunch of crazy flavors and neglected to bring hot and/or mild, everyone is just going to ask for hot or mild. When you tell them you only brought garlic parmesan, they’re going to look down and just say “oh.” They’re looking down because delivering any respect to your face is going to be difficult in that moment.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

Admit it.

1. Ribs 

How to win: If I went to a football party and someone brought a legit racks of ribs, they’ll be invited to every party I ever throw until the end of time.

How to be a legend: You brought ribs, buddy. You ARE a legend.

How to lose: McRibs.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Why Americans should give a damn about soccer

Every sports bar across the world right now is packed to the brim as soccer football fans gather to cheer their country on for the FIFA World Cup. Argentina’s Lionel Messi came out of retirement for one last Cup. England’s Harry Kane is shaping up to be the best player of the tournament so far. And Brazil’s Neymar is making hilariously bad flops.

All while barely any Americans bother to check out the score. Admittedly, the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team didn’t qualify this year but even when they did kick ass in 2014, Americans still don’t care.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

There are several unjust reasons why most Americans don’t bother with our soccer teams. The elephant in the room is our own version of football. Historically speaking, America has always favored its own version of football and relegating what (nearly) everyone else in the world calls football to just being called soccer.


The reason for that change in name goes back to when both sports were created. The first to get their rules codified and organized was then called “association football” which was given the shortened nickname by the Brits (the ones who essentially invented the sport) to just “soccer.” The gridiron football played by Americans was just referred to as American football. It’s just redundant to call it American football while in America. Kind of like that scene in Delta Farce with Mexican standoffs in Mexico.

Americans may not really care about soccer…but you know who does take the U.S. soccer teams seriously? Everyone else in the world. The U.S. team is beloved by many soccer fans around the world because they are one of the few teams that actively discourages flopping (when players make an extremely lousy attempt to get a foul for the other team by pretending they’re hurt — seen in this video below. Watch it. It’s brilliant.):


Sure, the stubbornness to give into the unsportsmanlike behavior may put the team at a disadvantage but it’s a point of pride that the U.S. teams avoid doing it. According to The Atlantic, this flagrant attempt to get a free kick is what sours the entire sport for American viewers. But it’s something American fans can at least point out in other teams and say “We are better than that.”

There are many other examples of what the American teams do far better than anyone else that not too many Americans know about. For instance, the third ranked active male international player for goals is actually an American: Clint Dempsey. The other two players ahead of Dempsey are Ronaldo and Messi, who are both considered to modern-day legends in the sport.

Another player that Americans can proudly look up to is Tim Howard. In the 2014 World Cup, Howard made a World Cup record-number of saves against Belgium by stopping 15 attempts. He’s also scored an unbelievable goal from the penalty area (which spans the entire field) in a Premiere League match. Everyone around the world lost their collective minds because of his breathtaking skill.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!
Plus I think his glorious beard/shaved head combo would fit well with our veteran audience.
(Photo by Ray Terrill)

As fantastic as Howard and Dempsey are, their skills are outdone by the pure dominance of the Women’s U.S. soccer team. Ever since the FIFA Women’s World Cup’s inaugural tournament in 1991, the United States has taken home the title three of the seven times. In the other four times, the US Women’s team came in second once and third place three times. That’s a 100 percent franchise championship appearance rate with a 42 percent title win rate. This level of a sport’s dynasty is unheard of in any other sport.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!
USA! USA! USA!
(Photo by Rachael C. King)

But shy of a potential for a London gridiron team, inclusion of a handful Canadian teams in the NBA and MLB, and plenty of American hockey teams in the Canadian NHL, Americans don’t have a real presence in the sporting world outside of the Olympics.

Time and time again, the U.S. soccer teams have proven their worth on the world’s sporting stage and we could prove our power with enough interest. Unlike any other U.S. sport franchise, you can’t trade out players in the FIFA world series. Other athletes could be traded and the rosters of local teams change every season. Soccer players will represent their country for life.

This also bonds all U.S. fans. Regardless if you’re from rural Kansas, urban Los Angeles, or a suburb outside of Boston, the U.S. national soccer teams’ fans are all over. This gives us another great way to show up in the rest of the world.

If all of this doesn’t excite you, the 2026 FIFA World Cup will be hosted by the United States with Canada and Mexico also hosting games. This is an awesome opportunity for many fans to watch the fun as seventeen American cities will host games; three cities from Canada and another three from Mexico will also host.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Recalled from the Mekong Delta to set a world record in the Olympics

Melvin Pender was a 25-year-old soldier headed to the 82nd Airborne Division when he first tied on some running shoes to race, but it quickly became clear that he would become a legend in the sport. He was fast. So fast, in fact, that the Army would twice recall him from active duty to train for the Olympics.


Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

A helicopter deposits troops in the Mekong River Delta of Vietnam.

(U.S. Air Force)

The first recall came in 1964 for the Tokyo Olympics, where Pender placed sixth. After the games, he went to officer’s candidate school. A few years later, Pender was sent to the Mekong Delta of Vietnam as a platoon leader.

The fighting was fierce, with rounds tearing through the underbrush to crash into the bodies of American soldiers. One day was particularly bad for Pender and his men.

“You couldn’t see the enemy; they were shooting at us from the jungles,” Pender told his friend Keith Sims during an interview. “And, uh, I had one of my kids killed. This young man died in my arms.”
Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

U.S. Army soldiers take a break during a patrol in Vietnam.

(Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr. Collection, Texas Tech University)

Later that same day, Pender was told that he had to go home. The Army needed him to run in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, this time as part of a four-man relay team. Pender tried to stay, but was told it wasn’t optional.

“And I told my men, I says, ‘I’m going back for you. I’m going to win this gold medal for you guys,'” Pender told Sims.

But the 1968 Olympics were roiling with the same racial tensions that were consuming America as black athletes protested racial violence in the states.

When we got to Mexico, we start getting threats from the president of the Olympic Committee, saying if we demonstrated in the Olympics, ‘I’m going to send all you boys home.’

How are you, how are you going to call someone ‘boy’? I mean, here I just got out of combat, seeing people die defending my country, and you’re going to call me a boy? They don’t make boys like me.

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While Pender opposed the restrictions that were being placed on black athletes at the games, he acceded to orders from a colonel to not take part in any protests.

He focused on the games and the promise he had made to his men to win a gold medal for them.

“To be on the relay team, it was my time to shine,” he said. “I ran my heart out. We ended up winning the race at a world record time of 38.2 seconds.

The world record in the event has been beat numerous times since, but only by fractions of a second each time. Pender’s team’s 38.2 second run is still less than two seconds from the current world record of 36.84 set by a Jamaican team (You can see the race on YouTube here).

www.youtube.com

Despite Pender keeping his head down at the games, he did end up tangentially connected to protests. His roommate was John Carlos, one of the athletes who famously gave the Black Power salute on the podium during the U.S. Anthem, something that the athletes and Pender maintain was about asserting black humanity, not disrespecting the anthem. Pender told Sims:

You know, when Carlos came back to the room, I could see the hurt in his eyes and he just said, ‘I did what I had to do, Mel.’ And that’s when I told him, I said, ‘I’m so proud of you.’

They was not trying to disgrace the national anthem of America. What was happening was wrong. They were trying to show the world. ‘Hey, we are human beings. We are human.’ That changed my life.

Carlos and another demonstrator were stripped of their medals. Pender, meanwhile, went back to Vietnam after the games and received a Bronze Medal for his service. He rose to the rank of captain and served as the first black track and field coach at West Point before retiring with 21 years of service in the military.

Pender lives in the Atlanta area with his wife and recently told the Atlanta Journal Constitution the he still believes America “is the greatest country in the world,” a sentiment he shares with during motivational talks at high schools and other venues.

Most of the quotes in this article came from a recent StoryCorps interview between Keith Sims and Dr. Melvin Pender. A two-minute excerpt from that interview is available here.

MIGHTY SPORTS

How the national anthem came to sports

As the 2020 MLB season kicks off in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, ballplayers return to the field to play in front of an audience of cardboard cutouts while fans watch from home. Though the cheers and roars of the crowd are absent, one familiar sound persists; before the players play ball, “The Star-Spangled Banner” plays first. But what is the origin of this display of patriotism before sporting events?

It’s no surprise that the national anthem’s connection to sports began with the national pastime of baseball. On May 15, 1862, “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played at the inauguration of the Union Base Ball and Cricket Grounds in Brooklyn. Of course, the song wasn’t the national anthem at the time and was played as a patriotic tune in the midst of the Civil War. The band commenced the proceedings with “The Star-Spangled Banner” and continued to play at intervals throughout the opening game. After this, the song was played at baseball games throughout the rest of the 19th century, but only on opening day. It was over 50 years later, during another horrific war, that the future anthem became forever connected to baseball.


The 1918 World Series saw Babe Ruth and the Boston Red Sox taking on the Chicago Cubs. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, American troops were fighting tooth and nail in the muddy trenches of Western Europe. In addition to the daily names of war dead in the papers, September 4 saw Game 1 in Chicago rained out as well as a deadly bombing by the radical Industrial Workers of the World labor union at the Chicago Federal Building. The next day wasn’t much better; the weather was still unfavorable and the Cubs were playing poorly.

The crowd of just over 19,000 was unimpressed by the game, with one New York Times reporter recalling that the people in the stands were yawning. The mood at Comiskey Park completely changed during the seventh-inning stretch, however, when the band started to play “The Star-Spangled Banner”. Though it was still 13 years off from becoming the national anthem, the song was familiar to most American ears and ignited a surge of patriotism in the crowd and on the field.

All the ballplayers took off their caps and faced the flag save for one. Red Sox third baseman Fred Thomas was an active-duty sailor on furlough from Naval Station Great Lakes to play in the World Series. Thomas kept his cap on, snapped to attention, faced the flag and rendered it proper honors with a crisp salute. Thomas’ actions inspired the rest of the stadium as the crowd sang along, reinvigorated with patriotic fervor.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

Third Baseman Fred Thomas (Society for American Baseball Research)

The Navy band played the song again during Games 2 and 3 in Chicago. The wave of patriotism followed the Series to Boston and Fenway echoed to the sound of “The Star-Spangled Banner” during Games 4, 5 and 6. Wounded troops in the crowd, returned from the frontlines, were cheered by the people around them who helped them to their seats; some troops were even given seats and carried to them. The Red Sox won the Series 4-2, but the song won the hearts of a war-weary nation.

Over the next two decades, the song became a regular occurrence in baseball as well as hockey and football. In 1931, “The Star-Spangled Banner” became the official national anthem, playing in newsreels before feature films in movie theaters. During WWII, all but one Major League club was playing it before the start of every game, with the Cubs being the lone holdout for over 20 years. Following the war, the anthem became something that people expected and insisted on before a game of any sport.

While the national anthem in sports originated as a show of support, it has also been used as a platform for protest. From the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Black Power protest to today’s Black Lives Matter movement, demonstrators have used the anthem as a challenge to the state of the country.

While people’s actions during the anthem remain a subject of debate, “The Star-Spangled Banner” persists like the flag for which it’s named and continues to be played before the start of sporting events across the nation.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

A Marine Color Guard displays the flag during the national anthem at Petco Park (US Navy)


MIGHTY SPORTS

The 10 best at-home dumbbell exercises for building muscle

Lots of work and busy family schedules can be a major hindrance to getting yourself to the gym. Don’t fight it. Cancel your gym membership and buy a set of dumbbells. Bam! Your home is now all the gym you need. Really. Dumbbells are staples in all gyms for a reason. They’re versatile as hell and can build muscle fast, if you know how to use them. All you need is 30 minutes, two-to-three days a week.

Like any strength workout, you are best off performing this routine with at least one day between sessions to allow your muscles a chance to recover. Once you get the hang of the basic moves, try the advanced variation to work your body a little harder. In all cases, you want to focus on form above all else, since the correct body position maximizes the load on your muscles. In other words, you’ll get stronger and fitter doing fewer reps and simpler moves with the right form than you will doing complicated sequences incorrectly.


To get started, grab two medium-weight dumbbells, find yourself some clear floor in your living room, basement, or garage, and get ready to pump iron for the next 30 minutes. Note: Most exercises require two or three sets. You can rest as long as you need between sets, but ideally you’ll aim for around 30 seconds.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

(Photo by Sergio Pedemonte)

1. The dumbbell move: Standing overhead press

How to: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your knees soft, bend elbows and lift weights to your chest, then straighten elbows and push weights skyward until your arms are straight, palms facing forward. This is your start position. Bend elbows out to the sides and lower weights to shoulder height. Straighten arms and raise weights to the ceiling again. 8 reps, 3 sets.

Make it harder: Instead of lifting weights straight up, diagonalize to a spot just forward of your head, forcing your body to engage your core and pecs for stabilization.

2. The dumbbell move: Lunges

How to: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand tall. Take a large step forward with your right leg, landing with a bent right knee. Lower yourself toward to floor until your right leg forms a right angle, knee over toe, and your left knee hovers above the ground. Push off your right foot and return to standing. Repeat on left side for one full rep. 10 reps, 2 sets.

Make it harder: Take these moves up two flights of stairs, stepping every-other-stair to maintain proper form.

3. The dumbbell move: Curls

How to: Stand with feet hip-width apart, a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing forward, arms straight by your side. Keeping elbows stationary at your side, bend arms and curl forearms in front of you until weights touch your chest. Release. 10 reps, 3 sets.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

(Photo by Danielle Cerullo)

Make it harder: Perform curls while standing on one leg, the other leg bent in a right angle, knee flexed in front of you. Alternate legs with sets.

4. The dumbbell move: Lying chest press

How to: Lie on the floor, knees and elbows bent, dumbbell in each hand, and hands at your chest. Press dumbbells up into the air until arms are straight and weights are above your head. Bend elbows and release. 8 reps, 3 sets.

Make it harder: Straighten your legs as you lie on the floor. Lift your heels three inches off the ground. Keep them there as you perform the exercise.

5. The dumbbell move: Squats

How to: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly turned out. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, bend knees and elbows as if you are about to sit down into a low chair. Stop when your thighs are parallel to the floor and your knees are over your toes. Straighten back to standing. 10 reps, two sets.

Make it harder: When you reach the lowest point of the squat, push through your heels and jump vertically in the air. Land with soft knees and lower back into a squat again.

6. The dumbbell move: Dumbbell flye

How to: Lie on your back on the floor or on a bench. Lift dumbbells directly above your chest, arms straight, palms facing each other. Inhale and open arms wide out to the sides. Exhale and squeeze your chest muscles as you lift weights back up over your chest. 8 reps, 3 sets.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

(Photo by Alora Griffiths)

Make it harder: Do one arm at a time. This challenges your body’s stability and engages your core and glute muscles for balance.

7. The dumbbell move: Reverse flye

How to: Standing with a dumbbell in each hand, feet hip-width apart, hinge forward at the waist so your chest faces the floor. Lower dumbbells to the floor below you, arms straight. Keeping your back flat, raise dumbbells out to the sides. Lower. 8 reps, 3 sets.

Make it harder: Perform a squat every time you raise your arms.

8. The dumbbell move: Corkscrew

How to: Interlace fingers around both dumbbells so you are holding them together with both hands. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Rotate your body to the right, swinging your arms to your right side. Shift weight to the left, twisting your body and raising dumbbells above your left shoulder, arms straight. Twist back to the right, lowering dumbbells down to your right hip. Perform 10 corkscrews to the left, then switch sides and perform 10 twists to the right.

Make it harder: As you twist to the left, raise your right leg off the floor so that your weight is entirely supported by your left side. Do the same as you twist to the right.

9. The dumbbell move: Row kickback

How to: Standing with a dumbbell in each hand, feet hip-width apart, hinge forward at the waist so your chest faces the floor. Keeping elbows tucked close to your sides, bend arms so weights come to your chest, then straighten them until weights are behind you. 10 reps, 2 sets.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

(Photo by Alora Griffiths)

Make it harder: Once arms are fully extended behind you, lift weights an extra 2-3 inches higher (using your full arm) to engage your deltoids. Release.

10. The dumbbell move: Pushup row

How to: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, get into a modified pushup position (resting on your knees, body at an incline, arms straight). Keeping your torso stable, bend your right elbow out to the side and raise the dumbbell to your chest. Return to start. Bend left elbow and raise the left dumbbell to your chest. Return to start. This completes one rep. 8 reps, 2 sets.

Make it harder: Perform move in full pushup position (legs straight, balancing on toes).

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

How soldiers push their limits to stay fit

Some soldiers physically push themselves, compete against who they were yesterday, and train above and beyond meeting the minimum requirements of an Army physical fitness test. As motivation to be physically active can vary, some Maryland Army National Guard soldiers conduct their regular exercise routines in innovative ways.

Soldiers like Capt. Meghan Landymore, an ultra-marathoner and member of the All Guard Marathon Team; Sgt. Donita Adams, a basketball coach and All-Army Women’s Basketball team member; and Capt. Ben Smith, an avid obstacle course racer and American Ninja Warrior participant, are passionately competing in high levels of sports and maintaining their personal fitness.

Soldiers are required to maintain a certain standard of physical fitness. The annual Army Physical Fitness Test requirement for soldiers gives commanders an indication of the overall fitness of the soldier. The Army is now transitioning to the Army Combat Fitness Test, a six-event, age and gender neutral test, designed to assess a soldier’s physical fitness and readiness for physically demanding combat situations. Staying active can help prepare individuals to maintain a level of fitness for the physical demands of military service.


Runner for life

Capt. Meghan Landymore, a Joint Force Headquarters Medical Detachment physician assistant, is an accomplished ultra-marathon runner and member of the All Guard Marathon team. Each year, Army and Air guardsmen compete for a position on the All Guard Marathon Team during the National Guard Marathon Trials. The trials take place during the Lincoln Marathon, a traditional 26.2 mile marathon race, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Landymore placed third in her age group, sixth overall, and qualified for the national team with a time of 3:23:09.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

Army Capt. Meghan Landymore, a Joint Force Headquarters Medical Detachment physician assistant, poses for a photo July 9, 2019, at the Fifth Regiment Armory, Baltimore. Landymore is an accomplished ultra-marathon runner and member of the All Guard Marathon Team.

(Photo by Senior Airman Sarah McClanahan)

Landymore first moved off the starting block as a competitive runner in high school, where she was required to participate in a sport. As a kid who grew up performing gymnastics, running wasn’t her initial choice. However, after some encouragement from her father, she found her path – cross country.

On her first day of practice where every single person raised their hand in response to the question “who trained over the summer?” Every person except for her. The feeling of being behind the curve wasn’t something she was comfortable with. But, after working hard with her new coach, Landymore quickly became one of the top athletes on the team after just a couple short months.

Once she started, no one could stop her stride. Landymore ran all throughout her years in college and ran her first marathon, the 2010 New York City Marathon, while in graduate school. In 2012, she placed ninth overall for her first ultra-marathon, the Golden Gate Trail Run Winter 50K, with a time of 5:02:34. Ultra-marathons are anything over the traditional 26.2 mile marathon and sometimes through challenging trails that require hiking or climbing. With more than 30 ultra-marathons under her belt, this July she competed in the 106-mile North Dakota Maah Daah Hey Trail Run with the All Guard Marathon Team.

For ultra-marathon athletes like Landymore, training for a race becomes more than just a form of physical fitness, it becomes a lifestyle.

“It affects everything,” said Landymore. “It becomes your personality and becomes what you talk about, and who you hang out with.”

Training includes a combination of all types of running, from lengthy distances, overnight trail runs, tempo runs on a track, to hitting a strength training session in the weight room. However, training extends beyond the track or gym, needing to balance nutrition and family life can be a challenging task.

“It takes a lot to try and eat enough calories that are not junk calories,” says Landymore. “Other than nutrition, you’re fatigued. Just getting through daily life is actually really hard as an ultra-runner. I think we overlook it because it’s just what we do. It’s exhausting, I have two young kids. It affects my husband. Though they are supportive and understanding as much as they can be.”

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

Capt. Ben Smith, 32nd Civil Support Team survey team leader, poses in for a photo in front of a sign for the American Ninja Warrior 2019 television show. Smith is an avid obstacle course runner and was a participant in the 2019 Baltimore Maryland City Qualifiers for this year’s ANW.

(Photo by Senior Airman Sarah McClanahan)

On race day, her family often plays an impactful role of supporting her through the experience. Her husband will sometimes pace her for portions of her runs or act as a support crew providing various supplies like dry shoes or socks at each stop throughout the race. Her 4-year old son even ran with her through the finish line during the 2017 Patapsco Valley 50K.

Landymore explains that the supportive community of ultra-marathoning is what the experience is all about. Ultra-marathon racing is more than simply running, it gives other invaluable attributes.

“I think a big part of people [competing in any sport] is being able to be in pain and to handle it for any given time whether that’s a few seconds or few minutes,” says Landymore. “You have to know how to be uncomfortable. I think that’s necessary for most of life.

Nothing but net

Sgt. Donita Adams, a MDNG chaplain’s assistant and All-Army Women’s Basketball team member, connects her faith and the love she has for the game of basketball. She is the only National Guard member selected for an all-star team to compete at the 2016 Conseil-International-Du-Sport-Militaire World Military Women’s Basketball Championship.

“Basketball is a way that I can cope with a lot of things,” says Adams. “If I’m stressed out, I know I can go play basketball and clear my mind from anything. It’s my peace. God has given me a way to escape and go into an element where him and I can connect. Basketball is almost like that connection that I have with God. It ties us together because it’s something that I’m passionate about.”

Both basketball and her faith have been pivotal elements in Adams’ life. At 5-years old she picked up a basketball for the first time and by 8-years old started playing on a team. It wasn’t until high school that Adams found her love for coaching.

At 16, Adams landed her first coaching gig at a summer camp. Unbeknownst to her, one of the girls she would coach that summer was the daughter of an inspiring teacher Adams had in the sixth grade. This teacher saw the potential in Adams and made a point to push her to succeed. It was at this camp that her passion for mentorship and coaching ignited.

“My Amateur Athletic Union coach was a big influence in my life, a father that I didn’t have,” said Adams. “I knew that I wanted to give back to my community and this [coaching] was my way to give back.”

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

Army Capt. Meghan Landymore, a Joint Force Headquarters Medical Detachment physician assistant, poses for a photo July 9, 2019, at the Fifth Regiment Armory, Baltimore. Landymore is an accomplished ultra-marathon runner and member of the All Guard Marathon Team.

(Photo by Senior Airman Sarah McClanahan)

Prior to enlisting in the Army, Adams took on a head coaching job at Watkins Mill High School, the school she attended prior to transferring to Damascus High School. For four years, she taught and developed nearly 100 female student athletes on and off the basketball court. She taught the importance of mentorship and being a role model as an athlete.

“Sometimes you don’t sign up for this stuff,” said Adams. “But when you put on that jersey, or when you sign up for a sport, it comes along with it.”

Adams recently resigned from her head coaching position to give herself the opportunity to impact young athletes beyond the walls of Watkins Mill High School. Now she coaches the young men and women of Truth Basketball, a personal venture dedicated to teaching, coaching, and mentoring young athletes. Truth Basketball holds fundraisers to cover much of the fees associated with playing basketball. Adams hopes to turn the venture into a non-profit in the future to continue making basketball accessible and providing more resources to young men and women.

In addition to coaching, Adams is in her third year of playing for the All-Army Women’s Basketball team. October 2019, she’s headed to Wuhan, China to play with Team USA in the Military World Cup Games. For the second time, Adams will have the opportunity to play with Team USA representing the Maryland Army National Guard on an international stage. However, this will be the first time she will play in an Olympic-level event.

Leaping over obstacles

Capt. Ben Smith, 32nd Civil Support Team survey team leader, an avid obstacle course runner and a participant in the 2019 Baltimore Maryland City Qualifiers for American Ninja Warrior, a show where contestants demonstrate their agility and strength through challenging obstacle courses.

Through his training for the Toughest Mudder races, an overnight, eight-hour version of the Tough Mudder races, Smith realized while he was adequately conditioned to run the course, his technique work in tackling obstacles needed to be strengthened. This is where Smith was introduced to the world of American Ninja Warrior.

“I began Ninja Warrior training to increase obstacle course proficiency,” said Smith. “From there, I fell in love with the sport.”

Each year, ANW hosts city qualifying and final competitions in different cities throughout the nation including Baltimore. Each qualifier race consists of six obstacles testing competitors’ ninja skills including grip strength, lateral transversing, static or dynamic balance, and explosive movement. Competitors will need to efficiently and cohesively use all of these skills to complete an ANW course.

“The principles are the same as the preparation for any school, task, or mission,” explains Smith. “I worked through minor obstacles and adjusted my plan for major ones. The first key was to assess the skills I would need to develop. This is a challenge as no two ninja courses are the same. I set out a plan to identify weaknesses and train them in lieu of improving only my strengths.”

To be selected, Smith competed for one of around 600 slots against about 60,000 applicants. The selection decision rested entirely on his submission video. Once he was selected, his ANW training began.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

Capt. Ben Smith, 32nd Civil Support Team survey team leader, poses in for a photo in front of a sign for the American Ninja Warrior 2019 television show. Smith is an avid obstacle course runner and was a participant in the 2019 Baltimore Maryland City Qualifiers for this year’s ANW.

(Photo by Senior Airman Sarah McClanahan)

Smith explains simply being physically fit will not carry an athlete far in ANW and a more well-rounded approach to training is required. To prepare for his competition, Smith’s physical training and conditioning focused on improving endurance, speed work, functional strength, balance, and active recovery. This often resulted in late nights at his obstacle course gym multiple times a week. Smith would also incorporate ninja training into his regular physical training for the Army by including exercises focused on grip strength, balance, or running on curbsides for portions of his regular runs.

However, the biggest obstacle for Smith’s training was the unknown. The day prior to the competition he was able to see the course but wasn’t able to touch any of the obstacles prior to competing.

Though challenging, tackling the ANW course helped Smith identify areas he could improve upon including his speed and fluidity between the different obstacles. His training leading up to the race focused on individual skills. In practice, it was a struggle to apply them cohesively on the course.

Unfortunately, Smith did not successfully complete his run of the Baltimore Maryland City Qualifiers and was stopped short at the second obstacle of the race, the double twister. This obstacle involves two free-spinning pendulums where competitors must leap from a springboard to the first pendulum and use their momentum to move from each pendulum and finally to the landing platform. An unexpected stopper restricting the movement of the second pendulum caused Smith to ultimately plummet into the water.

While his run was not aired on this episode of ANW, a short clip of his entrance was aired of Smith ripping off of a modified level A vapor protection suit. Vapor protection suits are crucial for protection against dangerous chemicals encountered in Smith’s job with the 32nd Civil Support Team.

Despite recently sustaining a broken ankle, he is determined to work through his injury and get back to training and sharpening his ninja skills for the next round of applications.

The MDNG athlete

For every Maryland National Guard soldier, “game day” may not come in the form of an ultra-marathon, basketball game, or obstacle course race. Instead, the training, conditioning, and physical readiness of each and every soldier is tested by the APFT or fast-approaching ACFT.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

U.S. Army Sgt. Donita Adams, assigned to the Md. Army National Guard attempts to score during a basketball game. The 2017 Armed Forces Basketball Championship is held at Joint Base San Antonio, Lackland Air Force Base.The best two teams during the double round robin will face each other for the 2017 Armed Forces crown.

(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Emiline Senn)

It’s important to note that the ACFT will not be an easy test and must be approached with a well-rounded training program personalized for each individual soldier to build them up from where they are starting to where they need to be, explained Landymore.

Competing at a higher level of sports is not the only option for soldiers preparing for the ACFT. A voluntary program called “Fit to Serve” is available to soldiers for coaching in fitness and offers technology to track physical activity and sleeping habits. The program also provides physical therapy resources which focus on overall health wellness and resiliency.

“The best advice I can give is to use the resources around you,” says Adams. “There are people in your circle or even in your unit who are experts, like trainers or athletes, so use those resources. They are very knowledgeable. Take time during your drill weekend to do the exercises and workouts because it’s going to help you. Because as soon as it’s implemented we are expected to perform.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Team gets kicked out of Military World Games for ‘extensive cheating’

A Chinese team got kicked out of the Military World Games in China after accusations of “extensive cheating” from six European nations.

On Oct. 21, 2019, China took gold, silver, and fourth place in the women’s Middle Distance orienteering challenge in Wuhan, as well as silver in the men’s event.

But their celebrations were short-lived.

“The Middle Distance competition was unfortunately overshadowed by extensive cheating by the Chinese team,” the International Orienteering Federation (IOF) said in a press release.


The IOF said it was “discovered and proven” that Chinese runners “received illegal assistance both by spectators in the terrain, markings, and small paths prepared for them and which only they were aware of.”

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

The U.S. Armed Forces Sports team marches during opening ceremonies for the 2019 CISM Military World Games in Wuhan, China Oct. 18, 2019.

(DoD photo by EJ Hersom)

The national teams of Russia, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Poland, and Austria submitted a formal complaint, and the jury disqualified everyone in the home orienteering team.

Business Insider contacted The People’s Liberation Army and China’s Ministry of Defense for comment, but is yet to receive a response.

The IOF said it rejected an appeal from China.

Athletes from Russia’s military were then awarded gold in both the men’s and women’s event.

Orienteering is a foot race involving small teams, who use a compass and map to navigate a path through complex terrain to a finish line.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

The logo and mascot for the 2019 Military World Games in Wuhan, China.

(YouTube/CISM)

The Military World Games are an annual event which see several armed forces compete in a variety of summer and winter sports.

This year’s event ran from Oct. 18 to Oct. 27, 2019, and was opened with a ceremony attended by Chinese president Xi Jinping.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

ROTC cadet sets burpee world record

An Army cadet from Michigan State University recently set a Guinness World Record for the most chest-to-ground burpees completed in 12 hours, an effort that helped him raise more than $7,800 for his nonprofit group for wounded veterans.

4,689. That’s the number of burpees Bryan Abell, a 23-year-old ROTC cadet, accomplished July 7, 2019, in his hometown of Milford, Michigan. His original goal was 4,500, the minimum number required by Guinness to set the record, but Abell kept going when there was time to spare.

Abell’s drive to push forward is rooted in the Army’s core values, he said. Before becoming an ROTC cadet his sophomore year, Abell originally enlisted as a National Guard infantryman in 2015, assigned to the 126th Infantry Regiment for the Michigan National Guard.


“If I wasn’t in the military, I wouldn’t have broken the record,” he said. The Army has taught me “to be proud of what you’re doing and to keep moving forward. I wanted to prove to myself I could do it.”

Abell not only proved it to himself, he proved it to the world.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

Cadet Bryan Abell, Michigan State University ROTC, rests during a work out Aug. 16, 2019, at Fort Knox, Ky.

(Photo by Reagan Zimmerman)

Guinness officially certified his record shortly before he started Cadet Summer Training-Advanced Camp at Fort Knox, Kentucky, last month. CST is a must-pass field training program for cadets and a stepping stone in becoming an officer in the Army.

Training for a world record

No stranger to physical activity, Abell is a veteran of multiple ultra-marathons, often running more than 50 miles through the winding wooded trails of Michigan’s countryside.

At first, Abell planned to vie for the record of “most burpees in an hour,” but after seeing nobody had accomplished the 12-hour record, he changed his mind.

After planning his record setting goal, Abell started a training regimen in his parents’ backyard. He initiated training by doing more than 500 burpees a day and over time he increased his daily total to more than 1,500. During the six weeks he trained, Abell did nearly 33,000 total burpees.

A dirt hole, where Abell trained, formed in the grass of his parents’ backyard. As the hole became deeper, it served as a testament to his will to set the world record. Although Abell was stronger with each passing day, his dad “wasn’t very happy with the hole,” he joked.

Today, the yard is back in the pristine condition his dad generally maintains it at, and the once deep, dirt hole has become a faded memory.

Burpees for a purpose

Milford, a Detroit suburb with a population of more than 6,000, was handpicked by Abell as the location for the world record attempt. The reason was simple — Abell said “it was home,” and he “just wanted to see it in the record books.”

That said, the clerical tasks of setting a world record weren’t as simple. Breaking a record can be a tedious job, he admitted, “It became pretty stressful. I didn’t realize how much time would go into (filling out paperwork).”

In addition, with CST on the horizon, Abell needed to speed up the application and training process. Luckily, Guinness offered two options: 12-week review or a priority, five-day application review. Abell opted for the quicker option.

“I chose the priority option because I didn’t have much time,” Abell said. “I wanted to (attempt the record) before I came to advanced camp. The application came back within five days and basically from there, I had to set a date.”

After establishing the application process, the next step was his favorite part: gunning for the record books.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

Cadet Bryan Abell, Michigan State University ROTC, shows off his Guinness World Record plaque at his home in Milford, Michigan.

“I just wanted to do the burpees,” Abell joked.

With hometown pride, the day finally came. From 7:05 a.m. to 7:05 p.m., and only resting periodically, Abell averaged at least six to seven chest-to-ground burpees a minute.

“I could only rest for 20-30 seconds,” said Abell, who also took short restroom breaks during the timed event.

In lieu of a witness from Guinness, Abell took a different route to provide proof of his record. He set up multiple cameras from different angles to watch his proper form, and he had six individuals working two-person, four-hour shifts while he contended for the world record at the Carls Family YMCA.

At least one of the witnesses, at any given time, was required to have a fitness-related certification.

The event was live streamed on social media from his nonprofit organization’s page, Stronger Warrior Foundation, where he also received donations.

A good cause

Stronger Warrior Foundation, officially incorporated in January, is a nonprofit Abell founded with his sister, Katelyn, during his sophomore year in college.

The siblings started “from the ground up”, he said, and their main purpose is to help servicemembers and veterans who have been wounded or have suffered disabilities from combat-related service.

The live streamed, half-day challenge raised more than id=”listicle-2639958942″,300, with more donations generated after he set the world record.

Abell doesn’t plan to give up his record anytime soon.

When asked what he’d do if someone does 5,000 chest-to-ground burpees and breaks it, he laughed and said, “Then I’d have to do 5,001.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

These sports icons served during the Battle of the Bulge

(Featured image courtesy of War History Online)

Sports, in large part, were halted when the U.S. military became involved in World War II. The Indy 500 was canceled to save gasoline, and the U.S. Open golf tournament was scrapped favoring resources in rubber, which typically made golf equipment. Several professional athletes, managers, owners, and even rules officials across many leagues enlisted, commissioned, or were drafted.



These sports icons sacrificed the prime of their careers for a cause bigger than themselves. On the anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, we celebrate the lives of some of sports’ greatest stars who served during this time.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

(Courtesy of World Golf Hall of Fame)

Lloyd Mangrum

“I don’t suppose that any of the pro and amateur golfers who were combat soldiers, Marines, or sailors will soon be able to think of a three-putt green as of the really bad troubles in life,” Mangrum said when he returned from World War II. Mangrum was both a veteran of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. Before he left for war to fight with General Patton’s Third Army, he made a pact with his friend, Sergeant Robert Green. Each ripped a id=”listicle-2641582160″ bill in half, vowing to each return it when the war ended. Green was killed in action, thus the pair never rekindled their promise.

Mangrum and his brother spent their childhood in the backyard where his thirst for competition began. “A small creek ran behind our house,” he told the NY Times. “My brother, Ray, and I built a crude green on the opposite bank and had [sic] pitching contests with a rustyblade old mashie somebody had discarded.” Soon he was a caddie learning how to approach the game through judgment. He took first place in the first US Open (1946) golf tournament since its hiatus during World War II. He became known as “Mr. Icicle” for his calmness on the links, which he credits how nothing on the golf course could rattle him like the battlefield.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

Ralph Houk

Ralph Houk is not a name that is first mentioned when thinking of a New York Yankee, but he should be. His commanding officer, Caesar Flore, spoke of his battlefield fearlessness when he sent Houk out in a jeep to do reconnaissance on enemy scouting positions. He didn’t return until two nights later, and Flore listed him as ‘missing in action.’ “When he had returned, he had a three day growth of beard and hand grenades hanging all over him,” Flore said. “He was back of the enemy lines the entire time. I know he must’ve enjoyed himself. He had a hole in one side of his helmet, and a hole in the other where the bullet left. When I told him about his helmet he said, ‘I could have [sic] swore I heard a ricochet.'”

Houk rose from Private to Major in four years and earned a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster, and a Purple Heart for when he was wounded in the calf during the Battle of the Bulge. After the war, he secured the back-up catcher’s position behind Yogi Berra and became a manager where players referred to him as “The Major” for his wartime discipline.
Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

(Courtesy of the New York Times.)

Gino Marchetti

Gino Marchetti was known primarily for two things: being a Hall of Fame defensive end for the Baltimore Colts and an entrepreneur who co-owned a restaurant called Gino’s with teammate Alan Ameche. Their influence was so great that members of the community, including New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, often muttered their slogan “Gino’s, oh yeah!” while they visited players at their favorite hamburger joint.

What most don’t know is that Gino Marchetti served as a machine gunner with Company I, 273rd Regiment of the 69th Infantry Division during the Battle of the Bulge. “You don’t realize that you are going to see some of your friends go down,” Marchetti told ESPN. “You don’t realize any of it. For example, the first time I ever saw snow, I slept in it. It’s hell.” Marchetti credits joining the Army as the greatest thing he had ever done because it gave him the discipline and toughness to compete in the NFL.

Air Force challenges allies to ‘friendship games’ and yes, everybody wins!

Nestor Chylak

Nestor Chylak’s career behind home plate almost never came to be. While serving as a Technical Sergeant in the US Army’s 424 Infantry Regiment, Chylak was severely wounded on January 3, 1945, in the Ardennes Forest. While his battalion braced artillery fire in the blistering cold and blanketed snow, an artillery shell exploded a tree, which sent splinters traveling the speed of bullets into his face. He was blind for ten days, but ultimately regained his eyesight. He was awarded both the Silver Star and the Purple Heart.

Chylak would go on to become one of the most legendary MLB Umpires in the history of the game. He was never one to cower to a feisty manager’s tirade, nor did he get flustered from loud boos from fans. He umpired baseball’s bizarre promotion games like the infamous “10-Cent Beer Night” promotion in Cleveland and Bob Veeck’s “Disco Demolition Night” in Detroit. Both promotions ended in similar flair — a forfeiture and a flying chair. Chylak, however, umpired for 25 years in five World Series and was respected for his fairness.

At the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, a bronze plaque in the Umpire Exhibit says in his jest, “This must be the only job in America that everybody knows how to do better than the guy who’s doing it.”

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