Usually, when someone or something retires, it’s because they’ve grown a little older — and maybe a little slower — over time. Maybe their skills aren’t as useful as they once were, so they opt to spend their sunset years peacefully watching others take over their old duties.
But not the SR-71 Blackbird. It went out with a sonic boom.
The SR-71 was in the prime of its amazing life. This was a titanium bird designed to outrun and spy on the Russians, a bird that was fooling Russians even before it was assembled.
(Laughs in Blackbird)
When the Blackbird was retired in 1990, not everyone was thrilled with the idea. Much of the debate around the SR-71’s mission and usefulness was because of political infighting, not because of any actual military need the plane couldn’t fill. Still, the program was derided by Congressional military and budget hawks as being too costly for its designated mission. Some speculate the old guard of Air Force Cold Warriors had long since retired and newer generals couldn’t explain the plane’s mission in the post-Soviet order.
Whatever the reason for its retirement, the Air Force’s most glorious bird was headed for the sunset — but not before making history and setting a few more records.
An SR-71 refuels in mid-air during sunset.
(U.S. Air Force)
When it was operationally retired in 1990, a Blackbird piloted by Lt. Col. Raymond E. Yeilding and Lt. Col. Joseph T. Vida was tasked to fly one last time from Palmdale, Calif. to its new home at the Smithsonian Institution’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Apparently, they had somewhere to be in the D.C. area that day, too.
West Coast of the United States to the U.S. East Coast – 2,404 miles in 68:17.
Los Angeles, Calif., to Washington, D.C. – 2,299 miles in 64:20
Kansas City, Mo., to Washington, D.C. – 942 miles in 25:59
St. Louis, Mo., to Cincinnati, Ohio – 311 miles in 8:32
(U.S. Air Force)
The SR-71 refueled in mid-air over the Pacific Ocean before beginning its transcontinental journey. It arrived at Dulles International Airport to a throng of onlookers and well-wishers who knew a good thing when they saw one.
Addressing the full Senate after the historic, record-setting 1990 flight, Senator John Glenn told the assembly that the flight would be remembered as “a sad memorial to our short-sighted policy in strategic aerial reconnaissance.”
It’s June! Soon we will be honoring our dads and reminding them how much we care this Father’s Day. While it can be tricky to get the perfect gift for your spouse “from your kids,” we have put together some sure-fire, military-themed gift ideas for the military dad in your life. AND they are SUPER reasonably priced for as awesome as they are… Order now and get them delivered in time for June 21st. Check it out!
1. Grenade Cufflinks
Yes, these really are as bad@$ as they look…class up any outfit. Grenades.
Who says gifts have to be serious?! This pistol is so detailed no one would ever guess it’s made out of soap! Whether it’s used as decoration at a party or gathering or in the shower, these are sure to be a great conversation starter (maybe not in the shower…) Be sure to check out this entire store of military replicated soaps and candles!
This company offers military tie clips to the max! You can choose from various types of aircraft, nautical replicas, ammunition and weapons. No matter what their branch or specialty, you’re sure to find the perfect addition to their suit and tie. At such great price points, you can buy a few!
4. Personalized Engraved .50 Cal or .30 Cal Caliber Ammo Can
“These mil-spec ammo-cans are tough, steel constructed and 100% brand new. Great for storing ammunition or other items. The lid features rubber gaskets to form a tight moisture proof seal that keeps water and dust out. These cases are also stackable.”
This is by far one of the coolest things we’ve ever seen. These are CAT scan images of actual weapons. After two years of effort and tweaking, they were finally able to take high-res, detailed images of over 40 different guns. With statements assuring you no one else in the world has perfected this technology, you can be positive this will be a one-of-a-kind man cave gift!
This is a bottle opener is handmade from a real expended .50 caliber round. They measure 5.5 inches long and 0.75 inches in diameter. It is guaranteed to look good while opening the service member’s beverage of choice. Made in the good ol’ US of A. Be sure to check out the different shell options!
It seems pocket knives are a dime a dozen these days. But pocket knives shaped like Beretta shotgun shells? Now those are a rarity. With a 2-inch stainless steel blade, it’s just as functional as it is esthetic.
“The paracord cord bracelet is made with 550 rope and one fish hook closure. The bracelet is also accented with customizable wrapped bands that secure the bracelet on your wrist. Leather (Leather available in black and brown only). The picture shows black leather accent wrap near the fish hook and near the opposite end of the loop.”
This company offers customization to the max! They have every branch to choose from in addition to branch neutral/American themes as well. Handmade from the best materials out there, these cornhole sets are perfect for a little RR in the backyard! Contact them today to customize names, logos, colors, bags, etc…they have every add-on imaginable!
These custom made, personalized lighters are available to be engraved with the military rank insignia of your choice. Each lighter comes in a case which can be laser engraved on the lid or even the bottom. Whatever satisfies your desires.
Service members lead strong, full-bodied lives…they don’t need watered down whiskey. These stones are made out of cubes of solid soapstone. They retain their temperature much longer than ice, so they will cool the whiskey or liquor of choice and provide a more sustained chill.
WATM recently posted an article (inspired by 13 Hours: The Secret Heroes of Benghazi) about transitioning out of the military into a career in private security contracting. That feature generated a great deal of interest and discussion. Based on that, we did some intel and came up with this list of 20 private security firms for those interested in taking the next step:
GRS is the private security contractor that employed the surviving operators who’s personal accounts are featured in 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. GRS is designed to stay in the shadow, work undercover and provide an unobtrusive layer of security for CIA officers in high-risk outposts.
ACADEMI, formerly known as “Blackwater,” was founded by former Navy SEAL Erik Prince in 1997. Prince is famous for explaining his firm’s purpose by stating: “We are trying to do for the national security apparatus what FedEx did for the Postal Service”.
SOC is ranked as one of the global Defense News Top 100 List of defense companies and has provided security services for over a century. It provides security, facility management and operation, engineering, explosive ordnance storage and disposal, international logistics and life support services. Customers include the U.S. Department of State, Energy, Defense and Fortune 500 companies.
4. Triple Canopy
Triple Canopy was founded by former U.S. Army Special Forces operators and today, more than 80 percent of its employees have served in the U.S. military. Most of its security specialist positions require experience in military operations, military police, security police, emergency medicine and more.
Aegis security and risk management company serves over 60 countries around the world with clients including governments, international agencies and corporations. Aegis runs a global network of offices, contracts, and associates and provide security from corporate operations to counter-terrorism.
6. Blue Hackle
Blue Hackle is a security contractor to multiple sectors including oil and gas, mining, construction, and governments. They provide stability to commercial enterprises, as well as developing governments, according to its website.
7. GardaWorld Government Services
GWGS specializes in protecting U.S. government personnel and interests wherever they’re needed. They train in security, crisis response, risk management and close protection.
8. ICTS International N.V.
ICTS International N.V. was founded in 1982 by security experts, former military commanding officers and veterans of government intelligence and security agencies. They set the standard for the aviation security industry.
9. AKE Group
AKE Group provides security and consultant services ranging from emergency evacuation and crisis response to kidnap avoidance. They provide close protection to war reporters, executives and VIPs.
G4S was founded in 1901 in Denmark and today has operations around the world in over 100 countries with more than 611,000 employees. G4S goes where governments can’t—or won’t— maintain order, from oil fields in Africa to airports in Britain and nuclear facilities in the U.S., G4S fills the void. It is the world’s third largest private-sector a employer and commands a force three times the size of the British Military, according to Vanity Fair.
11. Armed Maritime
Armed Maritime Security offers services to commercial and private vessels operating off the east and west coast of Africa, the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. Its board of directors consist of former diplomats, Army and Naval Officers from Britain, Finland and Sweden. Its security teams are drafted from current, serving members and former members of the Swedish, British, Finnish Elite units.
12. Control Risks
With operation in over 150 countries around the world, Control Risks provides security services to governments, fortune 500 companies and private citizens. It specializes in cyber, operational, maritime and travel security in hostile areas and actively hires people with experience in military, law enforcement, business consultancy, security services and intelligence.
13. Beni Tal – International Security (BTS)
BTS serves military and government organizations with its own private military. It has expertise in guerrilla warfare and non-conventional terrorism and provides solutions for land, air, naval and intelligence forces.
14. Blue Mountain
Blue Mountain is a UK based private security contractor that specializes in private, government and commercial protection. Its close protection operators are designed to blend seamlessly into family and professional life for true incognito security.
15. Chilport (UK) Limited
16. Chilport specializes in Canine security and training. It supplies dogs for search and rescue (SAR), drug sniffing, bomb detection and more.
16. GK Sierra
Based in Washington DC and Portland, GK Sierra gathers intelligence for the CIA. It has operators around the world specializing in corporate investigation, intelligence, digital forensics and encryption.
Prosegur is one of Spain’s leading security contractors with over 158,000 employees around the world. Its clients consist of entities in non-English speaking countries in Asia, Europe, Oceania and Latin America. It specializes in manned guarding, cash in transit and alarms.
18. Andrews International
Andrews International is a Los Angeles, CA based company with services around the world. It provides armed and unarmed security to government services and the department of defense.
Erinys provides security services to gas, oil, shipping and mining companies in Africa and the Middle East. They provide regional and country expertise by hiring and training locals.
20. International Intelligence Limited
International Intelligence employs former law enforcement, military and intelligence personnel to operate in hostile environments. It offers private investigation, intelligence, surveillance and forensic services to corporations, government agencies, embassies and police forces.
The real vets turned private security operators from the 13 Hours film explain their experience during the attack on Benghazi. The part about being a private security operator starts at 01:15.
In the early years of the Cold War, huge propeller-driven bombers began to give way to bombers equipped with jet engines. These first jet bombers, like the Boeing B-47 Stratojet, had performance, but very short range. The first B-47s entered service in 1950.
The Soviet Union answered the B-47 with the Tupolev Tu-16 bomber, code-named Badger by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This plane entered service in 1954, eventually proved to be a versatile airframe, and included tanker, reconnaissance, and electronic warfare versions. While the United States didn’t export the B-47, the Soviets had no compunctions when it came to exporting its jet-powered medium bomber. The fall of the Soviet Union saw the Badger and its variants retire in 1998.
One of those potential export customers was the People’s Republic of China. The Soviets had even sent some kits for China to assemble the plane locally (something also done with the MiG-15, MiG-17, MiG-19, and MiG-21). According to MilitaryFactory.com, some Soviet-built examples entered service in 1959 as the Xian H-6. Reflecting the fact that it is a Chinese copy of the Soviet plane, NATO calls the H-6 the Badger.
Then came the break-up of the Sino-Soviet friendship. Suddenly, China had to spend time reverse-engineering the Badger. Eventually, they were able to produce as many as 180 of their own. China’s newest variants have longer range and are optimized more for the cruise-missile shooter role.
The H-6 can reach a top speed of 652 miles per hour, and has a range of 3,728 miles. The plane can carry up to 20,000 pounds of bombs, or it can carry C-601, C-602, or KD-88 missiles. China has been introducing newer versions of this bomber in recent years, and even made some exports of their own!
You can see more about this bomber in the video below.
When it comes to uniform variety, the US Air Force is definitely the least inventive of all the branches. The USAF carries the standard work option, OCPs, along with a more professional office version. When things get really fancy, the Air Force just ditches the flight cap and dons a white shirt instead of the blue – and that’s about it. No swords for officers, no Class-As, no khaki, no whites.
But it wasn’t always that way.
The Air Force used to have a ton of different uniforms.
From 1947 to 1995, the Air Force used a white version of its dress uniform for those in tropical zones, an easy way to keep cool while maintaining a professional appearance when necessary. The first fully-Air Force regulated white uniform featured a white coat, shirt, and pants, but with black shoes and blue tie, along with blue mess dress cap (aka the “bus driver” hat), complete with Air Force “farts and darts” on the brim.
For social events, the hat was gone, white gloves were added, and black bow ties replaced the blue necktie. Eventually that gave way to a new uniform, once the Air Force was completely free of Army uniforms in 1959.
In 1959, this uniform became officially known as the Tropical Dress Uniform, which included a coat very similar to the blue coat of the regular Air Force and was made of a Dacron-rayon blend instead of the Army’s cotton uniform. It was mandatory wear in tropical climates, but also at diplomatic functions, dinners, and anywhere else a white coat was the prescribed dress for the event. The blue mess cap was replaced by a white mess cap with an Air Force blue band around it and the black shoes were replaced with white ones.
By 1983, the Air Force introduced a new white uniform, the White Ceremonial Dress uniform, which was gone by 1989. Many aspects of the White Ceremonial Dress Uniform can still be seen on today dress blues, especially for officer ranks as the white ceremonial dress uniform was optional for lower enlisted personnel.
But whether tropical or ceremonial, the end of the white uniform came in 1995, when they were all phased out in favor of a simplified blue version for all locales and functions. The only formal uniform that remains in the Air Force is the Mess Dress Uniform, which is now drastically different from its ceremonial predecessors.
Some parts of the world will see the sun turn into a “ring of fire” on Sunday.
The event, known as an annular solar eclipse, occurs when the moon is at the farthest point from Earth in its orbit and passes between our planet and the sun. The moon partially covers the sun, but its small size in the sky means the sun’s outer rim remains visible, making it look like a bright ring.
People in parts of China, Central African Republic, Congo, Ethiopia, India, and Pakistan will be able to watch the full annular solar eclipse. The event will begin for those in Central Africa — the first location to see the eclipse — on Sunday, June 21 at 4:47 a.m. local time. It will end for the last areas to see it — parts of China — at 8:32 a.m. local time. (That’s at 12:47 a.m. and 4:32 a.m. ET if you watch remotely from the US.)
A partial annular eclipse will also be visible in southern and eastern Europe and northern Australia.
If you are able to catch the solar eclipse in person, make sure to wear proper eye protection, since staring directly at the sun causes eye damage.
If, however, the eclipse won’t be visible in the sky where you live, you can catch it online. TimeandDate is presenting a livestream on Youtube that can watch below.
The name annular eclipse comes from the Latin word “annulus,” which means ring.
A “ring of fire” eclipse happens once a year. Solar eclipses generally take place about two weeks before or after a lunar eclipse. One lunar eclipse occurred on June 5, and another will happen on July 5.
During this annular eclipse, it will take the moon several minutes to pass in front of the sun, but the full eclipse will only last for about one second.
At the maximum point of the eclipse, the moon will cover about 99.4% of the sun, according to NASA.
On July 7, 1919, a group of U.S. military members dedicated Zero Milestone — the point from which all road distances in the country would be measured — just south of the White House lawn in Washington, D.C. The next morning, they helped to define the future of the nation.
Instead of an exploratory rocket or deep-sea submarine, these explorers set out in 42 trucks, five passenger cars and an assortment of motorcycles, ambulances, tank trucks, mobile field kitchens, mobile repair shops and Signal Corps searchlight trucks. During the first three days of driving, they managed just over five miles per hour. This was most troubling because their goal was to explore the condition of American roads by driving across the U.S.
Participating in this exploratory party was U.S. Army Captain Dwight D. Eisenhower. Although he played a critical role in many portions of 20th-century U.S. history, his passion for roads may have carried the most significant impact on the domestic front. This trek, literally and figuratively, caught the nation and the young soldier at a crossroads.
Returning from World War I, Ike was entertaining the idea of leaving the military and accepting a civilian job. His decision to remain proved pivotal for the nation. By the end of the first half of the century, the roadscape — transformed with an interstate highway system while he was president — helped remake the nation and the lives of its occupants.
For Ike, though, roadways represented not only domestic development but also national security. By the early 1900s it become clear to many administrators that petroleum was a strategic resource to the nation’s present and future.
At the start of World War I, the world had an oil glut since there were few practical uses for it beyond kerosene for lighting. When the war was over, the developed world had little doubt that a nation’s future standing in the world was predicated on access to oil. “The Great War” introduced a 19th-century world to modern ideas and technologies, many of which required inexpensive crude.
Prime movers and national security
During and after World War I, there was a dramatic change in energy production, shifting heavily away from wood and hydropower and toward fossil fuels – coal and, ultimately, petroleum. And in comparison to coal, when utilized in vehicles and ships, petroleum brought flexibility as it could be transported with ease and used in different types of vehicles. That in itself represented a new type of weapon and a basic strategic advantage. Within a few decades of this energy transition, petroleum’s acquisition took on the spirit of an international arms race.
Even more significant, the international corporations that harvested oil throughout the world acquired a level of significance unknown to other industries, earning the encompassing name “Big Oil.” By the 1920s, Big Oil’s product – useless just decades prior – had become the lifeblood of national security to the U.S. and Great Britain. And from the start of this transition, the massive reserves held in the U.S. marked a strategic advantage with the potential to last generations.
As impressive as the U.S.’ domestic oil production was from 1900-1920, however, the real revolution occurred on the international scene, as British, Dutch and French European powers used corporations such as Shell, British Petroleum and others to begin developing oil wherever it occurred.
During this era of colonialism, each nation applied its age-old method of economic development by securing petroleum in less developed portions of the world, including Mexico, the Black Sea area and, ultimately, the Middle East. Redrawing global geography based on resource supply (such as gold, rubber and even human labor or slavery) of course, was not new; doing so specifically for sources of energy was a striking change.
When the war broke out, military strategy was organized around horses and other animals. With one horse on the field for every three men, such primitive modes dominated the fighting in this “transitional conflict.”
Throughout the war, the energy transition took place from horsepower to gas-powered trucks and tanks and, of course, to oil-burning ships and airplanes. Innovations put these new technologies into immediate action on the horrific battlefield of World War I.
It was the British, for instance, who set out to overcome the stalemate of trench warfare by devising an armored vehicle that was powered by the internal combustion engine. Under its code name “tank,” the vehicle was first used in 1916 at the Battle of the Somme. In addition, the British Expeditionary Force that went to France in 1914 was supported by a fleet of 827 motor cars and 15 motorcycles; by war’s end, the British army included 56,000 trucks, 23,000 motorcars and 34,000 motorcycles. These gas-powered vehicles offered superior flexibility on the battlefield.
Government airplane manufactured by Dayton-Wright Airplane Company in 1918.
In the air and sea, the strategic change was more obvious. By 1915, Britain had built 250 planes. In this era of the Red Baron and others, primitive airplanes often required that the pilot pack his own sidearm and use it for firing at his opponent. More often, though, the flying devices could be used for delivering explosives in episodes of tactical bombing. German pilots applied this new strategy to severe bombing of England with zeppelins and later with aircraft. Over the course of the war, the use of aircraft expanded remarkably: Britain, 55,000 planes; France, 68,0000 planes; Italy, 20,000; U.S., 15,000; and Germany, 48,000.
With these new uses, wartime petroleum supplies became a critical strategic military issue. Royal Dutch/Shell provided the war effort with much of its supply of crude. In addition, Britain expanded even more deeply in the Middle East. In particular, Britain had quickly come to depend on the Abadan refinery site in Persia, and when Turkey came into the war in 1915 as a partner with Germany, British soldiers defended it from Turkish invasion.
When the Allies expanded to include the U.S. in 1917, petroleum was a weapon on everyone’s mind. The Inter-Allied Petroleum Conference was created to pool, coordinate and control all oil supplies and tanker travel. The U.S. entry into the war made this organization necessary because it had been supplying such a large portion of the Allied effort thus far. Indeed, as the producer of nearly 70 percent of the world’s oil supply, the U.S.’ greatest weapon in the fighting of World War I may have been crude. President Woodrow Wilson appointed the nation’s first energy czar, whose responsibility was to work in close quarters with leaders of the American companies.
Infrastructure as a path to national power
When the young Eisenhower set out on his trek after the war, he deemed the party’s progress over the first two days “not too good” and as slow “as even the slowest troop train.” The roads they traveled across the U.S., Ike described as “average to nonexistent.” He continued:
“In some places, the heavy trucks broke through the surface of the road and we had to tow them out one by one, with the caterpillar tractor. Some days when we had counted on sixty or seventy or a hundred miles, we could do three or four.”
Eisenhower’s party completed its frontier trek and arrived in San Francisco, California on Sept. 6, 1919. Of course, the clearest implication that grew from Eisenhower’s trek was the need for roads. Unstated, however, was the symbolic suggestion that matters of transportation and of petroleum now demanded the involvement of the U.S. military, as it did in many industrialized nations.
The emphasis on roads and, later, particularly on Ike’s interstate system was transformative for the U.S.; however, Eisenhower was overlooking the fundamental shift in which he participated. The imperative was clear: Whether through road-building initiatives or through international diplomacy, the use of petroleum by his nation and others was now a reliance that carried with it implications for national stability and security.
Seen through this lens of history, petroleum’s road to essentialness in human life begins neither in its ability to propel the Model T nor to give form to the burping plastic Tupperware bowl. The imperative to maintain petroleum supplies begins with its necessity for each nation’s defense. Although petroleum use eventually made consumers’ lives simpler in numerous ways, its use by the military fell into a different category entirely. If the supply was insufficient, the nation’s most basic protections would be compromised.
After World War I in 1919, Eisenhower and his team thought they were determining only the need for roadways — “The old convoy,” he explained, “had started me thinking about good, two lane highways.”
At the same time, though, they were declaring a political commitment by the U.S. And thanks to its immense domestic reserves, the U.S. was late coming to this realization. Yet after the “war to end all wars,” it was a commitment already being acted upon by other nations, notably Germany and Britain, each of whom lacked essential supplies of crude.
While nuclear-powered carriers and submarines are all the rage in the U.S. Navy today, the sea-going service used to have a much wider nuclear portfolio with nuclear-powered destroyers and cruisers that could sail around the world with no need to refuel, protecting carrier and projecting American power ashore with missiles and guns.
The USS Long Beach fires a Terrier missile in 1961.
The first nuclear surface combatant in the world wasn’t a carrier, it was the USS Long Beach, a cruiser launched in 1959. That ship was followed by eight other nuclear cruisers, Truxtun, California, South Carolina, Virginia, Texas, Mississippi, and Arkansas. The Arkansas was the last nuclear-powered cruiser launched, coming to sea in 1980.
During the same period, a nuclear-powered destroyer, the USS Bainbridge, took to the seas as well. Due to changes in ship nomenclature over the period, it was a frigate when designed, a destroyer when launched, but would be classified as a cruiser by the time the ship retired.
The Navy launched Operation Sea Orbit where nuclear-powered ships sailed together in 1964. This is the USS Enterprise, a carrier; the USS Long Beach, a cruiser; and the USS Bainbridge, classified at the time as a destroyer.
The big advantage of nuclear vessels, which required many more highly trained personnel as well as a lot of hull space for the reactor, was that they could sail forever at their top speed. The speed thing was a big advantage. They weren’t necessarily faster than their conventionally fueled counterparts, but gas and diesel ships had to time their sprints for maximum effect since going fast churned through fuel.
That meant conventional vessels couldn’t sail too fast for submarines to catch them, couldn’t sprint from one side of the ocean to the other during contingency operations, and relied on tankers to remain on station for extended periods of time.
Nuclear vessels got around all these problems, but their great speed and endurance only really helped them if they weren’t accompanied by conventional ships. After all, the cruisers and destroyer can’t sprint across the ocean if that means they are outrunning the rest of the fleet in dangerous waters.
The Navy detonates an explosive charge off the starboard side of the USS Arkansas, a nuclear-powered cruiser, during sea trials.
(U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Toon)
That’s why Rickover wanted a full nuclear battle group. It could move as a single unit and enjoy its numerous advantages without being slowed down by other ships.
And the ships were quite lethal when they arrived. Nuclear carriers at the time were similar to those today, sailing at a decent clip of about 39 mph (33.6 knots) while carrying interceptor aircraft and bombers.
The 10 nuclear cruisers (counting the Bainbridge as a cruiser), were guided-missile cruisers. Four ships were Virginia-Class ships focused on air defense but also featuring weapons needed to attack enemy submarines and ships as well as to bombard enemy shores.
The other most common nuclear cruiser was the California Class with three ships. The California Class was focused on offensive weaponry, capable of taking the fight to enemy ships with Harpoon missiles, subs with anti-submarine rockets and torpedoes, and enemy shores with missiles and guns. But, it could defend itself and its fleet with surface-to-air missiles and other weapons.
Ticonderoga-class cruisers like the USS Hue City, front, and Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers like the USS Oscar Austin, rear, replaced the nuclear cruisers.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kristopher Wilson)
But the nuclear fleet had one crippling problem: expense. Rickover knew that to ensure that the larger Navy and America would continue to embrace nuclear power at sea, the ships had to be extremely dependable and secure. To do this, ships needed good shielding and a highly capable, highly trained crew.
Also, the reactors took up a lot of space within the hull, requiring larger ships than conventional ones with the same battle capabilities. So, when budget constraints came up in the 1990s, the nuclear fleet was sent to mothballs except for the carriers.
And even at that stage, the nuclear cruisers cost more than their counterparts. Conventional cruisers can be sold to allied navies, commercial interests, or sent to common scrap yards after their service. Nuclear cruisers require expensive decommissioning and specially trained personnel to deal with the reactors and irradiated steel.
Everyone wants recognition for their hard work and dedication. In the civilian world, promotions and cash raises are a solid ways to let employees know that the company respects their work production and technical skills.
Holy sh*t we wish the military was structured in that same way.
Although service members do get promoted, that only happens once every few years — if you’re lucky. It’s only a 17 percent chance that an active duty troop will stay in the military for 20 years before retiring. That’s much lower than most people think. Now, we can’t accurately pinpoint why all troops decide to get out before hitting their 20, but we know why most of our veterans friends did: they didn’t felt appreciated.
So how does the military show their brave men and women that they give a sh*t about them? Well, keep reading.
If this term sounds confusing to the civilian ear, it sounds just as weird to a newbie boot’s as well. Mandatory fun isn’t just the name of the We Are The Mighty podcast, it’s also the event all service members have to attend when their units throw appreciation parties for troops.
Every active duty member has to show up, be accounted for, and must look like they’re having fun (good commands will also design a fun event, but…that’s rare). Sure there are free hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and soda, but, unfortunately, these events usually take place on a Saturday afternoon. Although you’d much rather be doing anything else, you’re stuck at work because you did your job too well.
What’s interesting about the military is we have to take part in formations on a regular basis. This is a standard tool the military uses to pass information to everybody in the unit at the same time.
Sometimes, the officer-in-charge will give their command the day off as a way of acknowledging everyone’s handiwork.
Unfortunately, they use the formation tool to relay this news to everyone. So…they call everyone to formation…to let them know they have the afternoon off.
When most civilians hear the word “coin” they think that involves money. In this case, it really doesn’t. Although it costs money to purchase a command coin, the collector item has zero value anywhere on earth except in a veteran-themed bar. Sure the practice of handing out a command coin is a cool way of praising a troop, but, at the end of the day, it’s just something that collects dust on the owner’s desk or shelf in their office.
How about shelling out some real coin once in a while? That will really show the troops their command cares.
Certificate of appreciation
Nothing feels better than to be recognized for your hard work in front of your peers and be handed a piece of pre-formatted paper praising you. We’re totally kidding! Receiving a letter or certificate of appreciation means close to nothing when other troops next to you get the exact thing — word for word.
The only thing that makes the certificate different, it has your name and rank is on it.
Remember earlier when we talk about standing in formation? Well, Staff NCOs and the command’s officer also like to give shout-outs to their troops there as well. At least you get some notoriety for your excellent work, but unless it reflects somehow on your bi-annual evaluation — nobody gives a f*ck afterward.
Unless you earn your unit a day or half day off, being told “good job for killing the enemy yesterday” only goes so far if it doesn’t get you anywhere afterward.
An enlisted leader is proving the Coast Guard’s reach extends far beyond America’s coastlines.
Bahrain is the epicenter of the Combined Maritime Forces — a partnership comprised of 33 different nations dedicated to combating terrorism and piracy, while promoting maritime safety. Command Master Chief Lucas Pullen, the first Coast Guard member to hold a senior enlisted leadership role for a coalition force, serves as its liaison. The decision to put him in that position instead of a sailor was done purposefully, he says.
Since the CMF operates as a part of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, a coastie brings objectivity, Pullen explained. In the midst of extensive Navy operations, him being in the Coast Guard more clearly defines his position and role.
“With this there are no blurred lines on who does what, I am able to specifically make sure things are working for the coalition side of things,” Pullen said.
The Oklahoma-native enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1998 to become a Boatswain’s Mate, a rating that is the operational core of almost every mission. After completing basic training, he was assigned to Small Boat Station South Padre Island, Texas, according to his official biography. As an operator, he gained experience “in maritime law enforcement to include fisheries, counter-narcotics, and counter-migrant operations, as well as search and rescue, and maritime security operations.”
Pullen’s extensive 22-year Coast Guard career prepared him for his new role as the senior enlisted leader of the CMF. He now works directly with senior military leaders from the multi-national partnership to promote security and stability across 3.2 million square miles of international waters.
“As a command master chief, one of my main jobs is the people and their families,” he said.
Working directly with members of the coalition has been an incredible experience, Pullen added. He described a typical day as starting with sharing Arabic coffee with a Kuwaiti leader and ending with tea and scones with the British. He loves the diversity and continuous ability to learn from the other nations’ military leaders, he said, also expressing his position in Bahrain will serve him well for further Coast Guard positions, although none will probably be as unique and involved.
Prior to Bahrain, the Pullen family was stationed in Guam — a duty station the kids did not want to leave. Marcy Pullen, who has moved 10 times with her husband, didn’t initially think she and the couple’s children would be eligible to PCS to Bahrain. It is typically an unaccompanied tour but a waiver changed that.
Photo courtesy of Candice Baker.
“I didn’t hesitate, I said let’s go,” she said.
Her husband praised his family’s resiliency and strength. Their oldest son, Tucker, is 17 and about to start college. If he attends the same college all four years, it’ll be the longest he’s ever lived anywhere.
Adjusting to life in Bahrain has included a unique set of experiences for the family, due to the political influence, culture, and customs. Seated to their left could be a fellow military kid while on their right, a Saudi Arabian royal.
Sixteen-year-old Cheyenne shared her struggle with not being able to just go explore or do things independently off base because it isn’t safe, especially for girls. Bahrain is a very conservative country where most women are either hidden or extensively covered when in public. But Levi, 13, also says there’s some good to being a military kid in Bahrain.
“I loved getting to do new things like learning how to play cricket with the Australian military kids. You get all of these amazing experiences that are out of the way and interesting,” he said.
All of the kids did agree on one thing: the food is amazing. One of their favorite things to eat is Baklava, a sweet dessert dish made with nuts and honey.
Pullen also credits the Coast Guard with preparing his family for such a unique assignment in the Middle East.
“Our quality of life thought process is very different from the other branches. I think we are very resilient as a service because we go into these remote locations without big military bases. We pick up all the military challenges without the resources there to support us,” he explained.
Marcy Pullen echoes his sentiment, reflecting on how hard it was as a new Coast Guard spouse and mom. She takes those lessons and experiences with her, using what she’s learned to help all military families who may be struggling to adjust to life in Bahrain.
Lucas and Mary Pullen Photo courtesy of Candice Baker.
With one year left in Bahrain, travel remains high at the top of their bucket list — though COVID-19 and tensions overseas have heavily restricted movement. As the Pullen family reflected on their journey, they agreed each move has brought new lessons and memories. They eagerly anticipate their next Coast Guard adventure that can take them anywhere.
The new Army Combat Fitness Test is scheduled to replace the current Army Physical Fitness Test by October of 2020, but units across the Army are preparing for it now. Out of all formations the Army has across the world, only one can claim an enlisted soldier who has maxed the test: 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), the “Frozen Chosin.”
All Army units have that “one” soldier. The PT-master. Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-32IN takes physical fitness very seriously. He regularly maxes out the APFT (a score of 300), and recently maxed out the ACFT (a score of 600), making him the second soldier in the Army to achieve such a goal.
Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), poses for a photo at the 1-32IN 24-hour gym where Gonzalez trained hard enough to become the 1st enlisted Soldier to max out the new Army Combat Fitness Test with a score of 600.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Avery)
“It all started in high school where I wrestled and weight-lifted. Then I got into power lifting for a few years and cross-fit where I competed a lot.” Gonzalez said. “Then I drifted off into solely Olympic lifting and went to Nationals where I placed in the top 20. After that I joined the Army.”
Like many soldiers who joined the Army later in life, Gonzalez has seen his share of life outside of a military career, and saw joining as a way to straighten out and get on track.
Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), performs a kettle bell lap at the Atkins Functional Fitness 24-hour Gym where Gonzalez trained hard enough to become the 1st enlisted Soldier to max out the new Army Combat Fitness Test with a score of 600.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Avery)
“It’s been the story of my life. I never felt like I had a career. I’m very athletic and competitive, but a little old to be trying out for the Olympic team at 29. I went to college a few times, but the structure the Army offered has helped me stick to things and get them done.”
Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), prepares to perform T-pushups at the Atkins Functional Fitness 24-hour gym where Gonzalez trained hard enough to become the 1st enlisted Soldier to max out the new Army Combat Fitness Test with a score of 600.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Avery)
Like his Army career, Gonzalez has a habit of finding a path to success and running it to ground with tenacity. When he found out just how much the ACFT incorporated into what he already knew about cross-fit, he made it his mission be on top and help others get there with him.
“I’m looking at getting to Ranger school soon, and going Special Forces would be awesome. I want to be the best I can be. Me and a lot of other soldiers are in the gym countless nights, working on strength and speed. It feels good,” Gonzalez said.
Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), performs a ball toss at the Atkins Functional Fitness 24-hour Gym where Gonzalez trained hard enough to become the 1st enlisted Soldier to max out the new Army Combat Fitness Test with a score of 600.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Avery)
When the ACFT hits Army Ranks in 2020, it will be the first time all soldiers, male and female, will be held to the same standard of fitness and accomplishment. It levels the playing field dramatically by introducing events specifically designed to test fitness levels and push soldiers to the edge of burnout.
Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), performs a leg tuck at the Atkins Functional Fitness 24-hour Gym where Gonzalez trained hard enough to become the 1st enlisted Soldier to max out the new Army Combat Fitness Test with a score of 600.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Avery)
It will be difficult. It will be stressful. But it’s meant to be. Thankfully, with soldiers like Spc. Gonzalez in our formations, motivating and supporting the troops, we can all aspire to be the tip of the spear.
Marine Corps boot camp is a slice of hell that turns civilians into modern-day Marines.
With constant physical training, screaming drill instructors, and so much close-order drill recruits eventually have dreams about it, spending 12 weeks at boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina or San Diego, California can be difficult for most young people.
Having stepped off a bus and onto the yellow footprints at Parris Island on Sep. 3, 2002, one of those young people was me. While in hindsight, boot camp really wasn’t that bad, I thought then that it was the worst thing ever. While writing this post, I thought I would speak in general terms, but since my mother kept all my correspondence home, I figured I would go straight to the source: my original — and now-hilarious-to-read — letters back home.
Drill instructors are the worst.
Having a crazy person with veins popping out of their neck scream in your face and run around a barracks throwing stuff can be quite a shock to someone who was a civilian a week prior. Although I later learned to greatly respect my DI’s, I didn’t really like them at the beginning, as my first letter home showed.
“Our DI’s are complete motherf—king a–holes. There’s no other way to describe them,” I wrote, before including a great example: “Today they sprayed shaving cream and toothpaste ALL OVER the head and we had to clean it up. Yesterday, threw out all of our gear, had to change the racks, and sh– was flying.”
Sounds about right.
My recruiter totally lied to me.
It’s a running joke in the Marine Corps (and the greater military, really) that your recruiter probably lied to you. Maybe they didn’t lie to you per se, but they were selective with what they told you. One of my favorites was that “if I didn’t like my job as infantry, I could change it in two years.” That’s one of those not-totally-a-lie-but-far-fetched-truths.
In my initial letter, I took issue with my recruiters for telling me that drill instructors don’t ever get physical. Most of the time they won’t touch you, but that’s not exactly all the time.
“Oh, by the way, recruiters are lying bastards. They [the drill instructors] scream, swear a lot, and choke/push on a daily basis,” I wrote. (It was day three and I was of course exaggerating).
Mail takes forever to get there.
Getting mail at boot camp is a wonderful respite from the daily grind at boot camp, but letters are notoriously slow to arrive. In my letters home, I complained about mail being slow often, since I’d ask questions in my letters then get a response of answers and more questions from home, well after I was through that specific event in the training cycle.
“Sometimes I write more letters than everyone back home and I have way less time to do it,” I wrote in one letter.
The other recruits were terrible.
I’m sure they said the same thing about me. Put 60-80 people from completely different backgrounds and various regions of the United States and you’re probably going to have tension. Add drill instructors into the mix constantly stressing you out and it’s guaranteed.
Then of course, there’s the issue of the “recruit crud,” the nickname for the sickness that inevitably comes from being in such close proximity with all these different people.
Throughout my letters home, I complain of other recruits not yelling loud enough or running fast enough. “They don’t sound off and we are getting in trouble all the time,” I wrote. No doubt I was just echoing what the drill instructor has given us as a reason for why he was bringing us to the dreaded “pit.”
Getting “pitted” is the worst five minutes of your life.
Marine boot camp has two unique features constantly looming in the back of a recruit’s mind: the “pit” and the quarterdeck. The quarterdeck for recruits is the place at the front of the squad bay where they are taken and given “incentive training,” or I.T. — a nice term for pushups, jumping jacks, running-in-place, etc — for a few minutes if they do something wrong.
But for those times when it’s not just an individual problem — and more of a full platoon one — drill instructors take them to sand pits usually located near the barracks for platoon IT. Think of them as the giant sandboxes you played in as a kid, except this one isn’t fun. For extra fun, DI’s may play a game of “around the world,” where the platoon is run from one pit to another.