Body armor for your average infantry troop has come a long way. Today’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are issued amazing technology designed to stop the most common threat they will likely face in combat: the rifle round. But the tech that will stop a lethal bullet isn’t just one miracle material that they can wear all over their bodies. There is a combination of forces at work, working to stop another combination of forces.
Soldiers don the Interceptor Armor before going on patrol in Iraq.
Kevlar itself is a plastic material five times stronger than steel. Everything about the material, from how it’s woven, right down to its molecular structure just screams strength. Its tensile strength is eight times that of steel. It doesn’t melt, it doesn’t get brittle with cold, and is unaffected by moisture. Kevlar is an awesome antiballistic material because it takes incredible amounts of kinetic energy to pass through it. Its molecular structure is like that of rebar through solid concrete, and forces a bullet to fight its way through at every level.
When layered, the material can sort of “soak up” a lot of the kinetic energy from a projectile. For most low-velocity handguns and even some of the more powerful handguns, a few layers of Kevlar is enough protection. But for high-velocity rifles, it needs some help. That’s where ceramic plates come in.
The standard AK-47 fires with a muzzle velocity of 716 meters per second. For Kevlar alone to protect a soldier from that kind of kinetic energy, the Kevlar would have to have more layers than a troop could carry while retaining the mobility necessary to perform his or her job functions. Kevlar is lightweight, but it’s not weightless, after all. The standard-issue Interceptor body armor was not tested to stop rounds at that velocity, which is classified as Level III protection. The Interceptor Armor does have pockets on the outside of the vests, so ceramic plates can be inserted to upgrade the armor to Level-IIIA.
Just like the Kevlar, the ceramic plates redistribute the kinetic energy of an incoming rifle round, slowing it down enough that it would not be able to penetrate the Kevlar, if it passed through the ceramic at all. It also prevents blunt force trauma from other rounds that may not penetrate the Kevlar, but still cause indentations in the material. The impact from bullets that don’t penetrate the Kevlar can still cause internal injuries. Ceramic inserts are rated to stop whatever projectiles are listed on the plate, and can take up to three hits before failing.
The ESAPI plate saved Sgt. Joseph Morrissey when he was hit in the chest with a 7.62mm round from about 30 meters while deployed to Afghanistan.
While ceramic may seem like an odd choice for stopping bullets, this isn’t the ceramic material used to make vases or coffee mugs. A lot of materials are actually ceramic, including titanium diboride, aluminum oxide, and silicon carbide, one of the world’s top ten strongest materials – the material used in the U.S. military’s Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts, or ESAPI plates. These enhanced plates, combined with the Kevlar are capable of stopping a Springfield 30.06 round with a tungsten penetrator.
That’s why the U.S. military uses ceramic plates and Kevlar body armor. It not only protects troops but allows them enough mobility to do their jobs in a hostile environment. And body armor tech is only getting better. Materials like spider silk and nanotubes are being tested that are even lighter and don’t take on as much heat as Kevlar. Maybe one day, we all won’t be drenched in our own sweat when we take off our armor.
Military leaders say that General Order 1, which limits alcohol consumption and cohabitation for troops deployed to war zones, reinforces good order and discipline. Advocates and troops say it’s an antiquated “ban on sex” — and may in reality be harming women’s health.
Women troops said in some cases that their doctors cited this controversial order to deny them access to birth control while deployed, a fact that was revealed in a survey conducted by the Service Women’s Action Network advocacy group.
In their survey of nearly 800 women serving or who have served in the US military, SWAN found that 26% of active-duty women do not have access to birth control while deployed. That number jumps even higher for other communities: 41% of women veterans reported limited access during their time in uniform.
While several reasons were provided to account for these numbers, including the inability to refill prescriptions far enough in advance, advocates were shocked to find that a limitation on sexual activity would be used to deny access to birth control.
A U.S. Army Pvt. pulls her way to the top of the slide to victory obstacle during the confidence course phase of basic combat training at Fort Jackson.
(U.S. Army photo)
“Isn’t that ridiculous,” Ellen Haring, chief executive of SWAN, told Business Insider. “It astounds me that people would be denied for that reason.”
It’s astounding, Haring said, because birth control is not just used as a contraceptive. One of the survey’s respondents said she was dismayed when she could not get enough refills to last through her deployments because she primarily used birth control to regulate, and even skip, her menstrual cycle.
Along with safely skipping a period, Planned Parenthood lists a range of medical benefits to using birth control — from reduction of acne to prevention of endometrial or ovarian cancers.
These benefits are not being ignored by the Department of Defense, which said it would be a violation of service members’ privacy if their commander denied them access to birth control.
“Birth control … is not just indicated for pregnancy prevention, it is also indicated for menstrual regulation, including menstrual suppression,” Jessica Maxwell, spokeswoman for the Defense Department, said in an emailed statement to Business Insider.
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Twila Stone readies her weapon during a Memorial Day ceremony.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Stefanko)
It would be a privacy violation for a commander to deny birth control, Maxwell wrote, because taking birth control would not limit a woman’s ability to perform her duties. But she could not publicly comment whether a doctor’s refusal to prescribe the medication would trigger a violation of any military regulation or whether the Pentagon was investigating any reports of this occurring.
Her statement emphasized that emergency contraception, which can be obtained over-the-counter, is readily available even for service members in deployed locations.
But emergency contraceptives are singular in their purpose; these remedies do not satisfy the host of alternate uses filled by prescription birth control.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It was the first time the United States fought a pitched battle on foreign soil and, as a sign of things to come, came out the victor. In 1805, Arab mercenaries and United States Marines under the command of William Eaton and Marine Lt. Presley O’Bannon marched on the Tripolitan city of Derna. Their mission was to capture the city, then restore the rightful (American friendly) ruler of Tripoli to the throne. The Marines were outnumbered by nearly ten to one and made an overland march of 500 miles before they could even attack.
In Shores of Tripoli, a new game from Washington, DC’s Fort Circle Games, take one or two players to take up arms as either the United States or the Bashaw of Tripoli in a game of wits and maneuvers designed to bend your opponent to your will. Tripolitania wants to keep conducting pirate raids that have brought it so much wealth in gold and slaves. The United States is out to end the reign of Barbary terror and restore the freedom of American ships at sea.
With cards representing significant events and the most important players in these events, players use dice and in-game figurines to start battles, start diplomatic talks, and get more troops to the fight. To win, the Americans must force the Tripolitans to submit to a peace treaty or forcibly install a pro-American ruler.
Guess which route the Marines chose.
“Lolz” – Lt. Presley O’Bannon.
To win as Tripoli, you have to inflict enough shock and damage on the Americans and their squadron of ships as possible, sinking four frigates or capturing 12 merchantmen.
Shores of Tripolithe board game honestly looks like any history buff’s greatest wet dream. Along with educational information about the conflict, the game comes with a high-quality game map, 82 wooden game pieces, and a lot of other high-quality elements. One historian’s review of the game called it “historically accurate” and “sophisticated” as well as “beautifully designed” and – most importantly, “very fun.
Now learning about military history doesn’t have to mean memorizing a bunch of boring dates. Now it means taking down the first terrorists with the United States Marine Corps.
Which looks like everything I’ve ever wanted in any game anywhere.
(Shores of Tripoli on Kickstarter)
You won’t get it in time for Christmas 2019, but for a backing of .00 you can get a copy of this amazing-looking historical strategy game. Or in true Marine Corps fashion, you can donate your copy to Toys for Tots. As you donate more money, you get more copies of the game, presumably one for yourself and up to 30 to donate to schools and Toys for Tots.
William Eaton just declared himself general and commander of the force that attacked Derna. For id=”listicle-2641249602″,000 you can declare yourself the Executive Producer of Shores of Tripoli game. Head on over to its Kickstarter page to find out how.
The Marine Corps presented the Air Medal to three U.S. Marines on July 24, 2018, at Marine Air Station Miramar, California, for their actions while crewing a CH-53E Super Stallion that caught fire off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, during aerial refueling operations.
Capt. Molly A. O’Malley stands during an award ceremony where she and two other Marines received the Air Medal.
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dominic Romero)
The awards were presented to Capt. Ryan J. Boyer, Capt. Molly A. O’Malley, and Sgt. Garrett D. Mills of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 462, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 16. The Marines were serving in Japan last year and were conducting operations near Okinawa’s Northern Training Area, an area often used for jungle training.
The helicopter itself was almost completely destroyed by the fire. The engine, most of the rotor blades, and the fuselage are visible as just a pile of slag in the Japanese field in images and video released by Japanese media after the crash.
Additional helicopters rushed to the scene to secure the crew and passengers and another CH-53 came on station with a helibucket to drop water and control the flames until Japanese firefighters and American first-responders from the nearby base could respond.
The quick actions of the crew and first responders prevented any property damage to anything except the plants directly under the burning helicopter.
This success by the crew and emergency workers had positive consequences beyond protecting the life and health of the passengers and local population. American military aviation in the area is extremely controversial, and nearly all incidents on the island trigger local protests and condemnation from politicians. Limiting the property damage and protecting all human life reduces the amount of backlash.
Capt. Ryan J. Boyer, Capt. Molly A. O’Malley, and Sgt. Garrett D. Mills pose with their air medals and a CH-53 Super Stallion after their award ceremony.
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dominic Romero)
The Marine Corps’ fleet of CH-53E Super Stallions are quickly becoming obsolete as their heavy rate of use in ongoing conflicts across the world — as well as normal operations and training — take a toll. The average CH-53E is 15 years old.
The aircraft is being replaced by the CH-53K, a very similar version of the helicopter but with a significantly more capability.
See more photos from the award ceremony below:
A U.S. Marine receives the Air Medal from Maj. Gen. Kevin M. IIams during a July 24 ceremony honoring three Marines’ quick actions during an Oct. 11, 2017 in-flight fire.
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dominic Romero)
Capt. Ryan J. Boyer, Capt. Molly A. O’Malley, and Sgt. Garrett D. Mills stand during an award ceremony as Maj. Gen. Kevin M. IIams gives his remarks.
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dominic Romero)
Capt. Ryan J. Boyer, Capt. Molly A. O’Malley, and Sgt. Garrett D. Mills stand in front of Maj. Gen. Kevin M. IIams during a July 24 award ceremony honoring their actions during an Oct. 11, 2017 fire in their CH-53E Super Stallion.
On Saturday, Arnold Schwarzenegger was going about his business, recording a Snapchat video on the sidelines of the Arnold Classic Africa, when a man emerged from the crowd and attacked the former California governor with a jumping, two-footed drop kick to the back.
While your average 71-year-old would probably suffer a broken hip or worse if they found themselves taking that sort of kick from a random stranger out of the crowd at a public event, for the Terminator, it was hardly a concern.
Schwarzenegger posted this image of him visiting with a friend on Twitter less than a day after the attack, showing it’ll take more than a random crazy person to hurt the Terminator.
(Arnold Schwarzenegger via Twitter)
“Thanks for your concerns, but there is nothing to worry about. I thought I was just jostled by the crowd, which happens a lot,” Schwarzenegger tweeted. “I only realized I was kicked when I saw the video like all of you. I’m just glad the idiot didn’t interrupt my Snapchat.”
Video of the attack clearly shows Schwarzenegger engaging with fans and recording a video with his phone as an unidentified assailant approached from behind and quickly sprung into the double-foot kick. Schwarzenegger was clearly knocked off balance by the kick, but in perhaps the most impressive testament to the man’s continued fitness, the actor kept his feet as he stumbled forward. In the end, the attacker found himself in a pile on the floor, while the seven-time Mr. Olympia quickly regained both his balance and his sense of humor.
And if you have to share the video (I get it), pick a blurry one without whatever he was yelling so he doesn’t get the spotlight.
By the way… block or charge?pic.twitter.com/TEmFRCZPEA
In a follow-on tweet, Schwarzenegger referenced the popular “block or charge” memes originated by former NBA star Rex Chapman. Chapman was inspired to create the meme when he saw a video of a dolphin diving out of the water and into a stand-up paddle boarder.
“I saw it and thought, ‘that’s a charge,'” Chapman explained earlier this year. “People thought it was really funny, I guess.”
Schwarzenegger was clearly among them, writing “By the way … block or charge?” on Twitter. He went on to call on the thousands of people sharing the video to use versions that don’t include the man shouting in the aftermath of the attack, saying, “if you have to share the video (I get it), pick a blurry one without whatever he was yelling so he doesn’t get the spotlight.”
It seems that the attacker was shouting, “Help me! I need a Lamborghini!” repeatedly as he was dragged away.
Update: A lot of you have asked, but I’m not pressing charges. I hope this was a wake-up call, and he gets his life on the right track. But I’m moving on and I’d rather focus on the thousands of great athletes I met at @ArnoldSports Africa.
Despite Schwarzenegger’s good spirits following the attack, MMA fighter and Green Beret Tim Kennedy took to Twitter to voice his frustrations with Schwarzenegger’s security detail.
“This is infuriating. I have spent a bit of time with Governor Schwarzenegger. He is an incredible human,” Kennedy wrote on Twitter. “Unforgivable lapse by his protective detail.”
Nonetheless, Schwarzenegger has stated that he has no intentions of pressing charges against that man that he considers a “mischievous fan.” He also made it clear that he doesn’t want the attack to become to focal point of the event.
“We have 90 sports here in South Africa at the @ArnoldSports, and 24,000 athletes of all ages and abilities inspiring all of us to get off the couch. Let’s put this spotlight on them.”
China has stopped major land-reclamation in the South China Sea but is continuing to work on facilities it has already built there, according to the US Defense Department’s annual report on Chinese military activity, which noted that China could soon add nuclear power plants to the mix.
After adding 3,200 acres of land to seven reefs and islands it occupies, China hasn’t done substantial artificial-island creation since late 2015, but at three of those outposts, the Pentagon report said, “Construction of aviation facilities, port facilities, fixed-weapons positions, barracks, administration buildings, and communication facilities at each of the three outposts was underway throughout 2017.”
“The outposts may be capable of supporting military operation in the Spratly Islands and throughout the region, but no permanent large-scale air or naval presence has been observed,” according to the report.
Other countries have disputed China’s claims in the South China Sea — through which an estimated one-third of global shipping travels — and an international tribunal has rejected China’s claims to islands there.
Aerial view of Woody and Rocky Islands in the South China Sea.
While China has said those projects are meant to improve the lives of personnel at those outposts, the work may be part of an effort to assert de facto control of the area and to maintain a more flexible military presence in order to boost its operational and deterrence abilities, the Pentagon report said.
“China’s plans to power these islands may add a nuclear element to the territorial dispute,” the report added. “In 2017, China indicated development plans may be underway to power islands and reefs in the typhoon-prone South China Sea with floating nuclear power stations.”
State-owned China National Nuclear Power said in late 2017 that it had set up a joint venture with several energy and ship-building firms to boost the country’s nuclear-power capabilities as a part of Beijing’s aim to “become a strong maritime power.”
That announcement came about a year after the state-run China Security Journal said Beijing could construct up to 20 floating nuclear power plants to “speed up the commercial development” in the South China Sea.
Floating nuclear power plants could bolster China’s nuclear-energy capacity and support overseas activities by providing electricity and desalinated water to isolated outposts.
“China sees securing the ability to develop marine nuclear tech as a manifestation of its maritime power status,” Collin Koh, a military expert at Singapore’s Nanyang Technology University, told The South China Morning Post in 2017. “It will enhance Beijing’s staying power and assert its claims, as military garrisons and civilian personnel living on those remote outposts would be able to sustain themselves better [and therefore stay longer].”
A Chinese Coast Guard ship patrols the South China Sea about 130 miles off the coast of Vietnam.
(Screenshot / Reuters TV)
Experts have said that the technology for floating plants, which provide about one-quarter of the energy produced by onshore plants, is not yet mature but that major powers are pursuing their development because of the mobility they provide.
Russia has already deployed its own floating nuclear reactor. In May 2018, the Akademik Lomonsov, the first nuclear power plant of its kind, arrived at the port of Murmansk on the Barents Sea ahead of a voyage to Russia’s far east, where it is to provide power for an isolated town on the Bering Strait.
While Russia has decades of experience operating nuclear-powered icebreakers, activists have criticized the plan. Greenpeace has dubbed the plant the “nuclear Titanic” and a “floating Chernobyl.”
“There are serious challenges unique to regulating the operational safety of floating nuclear power plants due to the novelty of the technology, the difficult operating conditions, and the inherent safety limitations of these plants,” like a higher chance of incidents due to collisions or capsizing, Viet Phuong Nguyen, a nuclear researcher at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, wrote for The Diplomat in early 2018
In light of civil-liability issues related to potential accidents with these plants and safety risks stemming from piracy or terrorism, “the best case scenario” for the region would be China reconsidering the plan or delaying the deployment, he wrote.
But China’s plan to test the plants at sea before 2020 makes that scenario unlikely, he said, so Southeast Asian countries “should soon seek at least a communication channel with China on how to exchange information on the safety of the fleet and the regulation of its operation, while not compromising the territorial claims of each country over the islands in the South China Sea.”
Featured image: the floating Russian nuclear power plant Akademik Lomonosov.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It’s no secret that being a sniper requires a lot of discipline and a high tolerance for discomfort, but one photo of a sniper taking this to an extreme level is making the rounds because the sniper maintained position so well that a snake slithered across his barrel.
Thankfully, an Army photographer was there to capture the moment.
A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force scout sniper prepares his ghillie suit in during exercise Forest Light 17-1 at Somagahara, Japan, March 10, 2017.
During tests of the new suit at Eglin Air Force Base, Army photographer Staff Sgt. William Frye was taking photos of Army National Guard Pfc. William Snyder when a southern black racer snake slithered up and over the weapon’s barrel like it was a fallen branch.
The photo is pretty great, and is actually a good, single image that shows a lot of the traits necessary for a sniper to be successful.
A southern black racer snake slithers across the rifle barrel held by junior Army National Guard sniper Pfc. William Snyder as he practices woodland stalking in a camouflaged ghillie suit at Eglin Air Force Base, April 7, 2018.
The fact that the snake felt bold enough to crawl over the human implies that the sniper has sat still for a protracted period of time, at least a couple of minutes, if not longer. Anyone who has worked with snipers knows that they have to endure long periods of waiting without moving. A sniper who reportedly held the range record for a sniper kill from 2009 to 2017 prepared himself for sniper school in part by setting up portable DVD players and watching entire movies through his rifle scope without moving.
U.S. Army Sgt. Clinton Scanlon fires an M107 sniper rifle during the 2018 International Sniper Competition at Burroughs Range on Fort Benning, Georgia, Oct. 17, 2018.
Snipers also discuss the need to endure discomfort, sometimes staying in stressful positions for minutes or hours to not give away their position or screw up their ability to take a shot if it suddenly presents itself. That necessity includes physical discomfort like cramps, but it also encompasses psychological discomfort, like staying completely still as a snake suddenly moves within inches of your face, possibly too fast for you to ascertain whether it’s likely venomous.
(Southern black racers, like the one in the photo, will often strike humans and emit foul smells in the presence of predators, but are not venomous and are not a physical threat to humans.)
So, the photo is sweet and will likely show up as an illustration in some sniper training classes if it hasn’t already, but it isn’t surprising that a sniper would end up with a snake slithering across their gear. It’s actually much more surprising that an Army photographer, a profession that typically does not require as much discipline and discomfort, sat still enough for long enough to get an image he couldn’t have predicted.
Kudos to Snyder the sniper, and thank you Frye for getting the shot. We’re pretty sure some people have a new computer wallpaper thanks to you.
When it comes to military history, the Guinness Book of World Records – like the rest of the public – only knows what it’s allowed to know. For the longest time the Guinness Book gave the award for the longest continuously submerged patrol to the HMS Warspite – one of the Royal Navy’s storied names.
While there have been longer patrols the mission of the Warspite happened at the height of the Cold War, prowling the waters around the Falkland Islands after the end of the UK’s war with Argentina.
This Warspite was the eighth vessel to carry the name.
The Warspite had a number of innovations that made it perfect for its 1983 submerged mission. It was the first Royal Navy vessel navigated entirely by gyroscope. Its nuclear-powered engines, along with air conditioning, purification systems and electrolytic gills allowed it to be submerged for weeks at a time. The longest time below the waves wasn’t even its first record. During a 6,000-mile journey in the far east, the submarine did the entire run submerged, earning the then-record for longest distance submerged. But breaking records wasn’t the Royal Navy’s mission, it was countering the Soviet Union.
No naval force on Earth was better at penetrating the USSR’s maritime boundaries than the Royal Navy. Warspite was specially suited for spy missions in the cold waters of the Arctic. Its ability to sneak into the areas undetected allowed them to watch the Soviet Navy at work and listen to their uncoded communications. But its record-breaking underwater patrol didn’t come against the USSR, it came while watching Argentina.
The now-decommissioned HMS Warspite.
The ship had just completed a complete, three-year refit after a massive fire nearly caused the captain to scuttle the ship. It was finished just in time for the United Kingdom to go to war with Argentina over the latter country’s invasion of the Falkland Islands. In a rush to get into the action, the crew of the Warspite shrugged off the six-month trial period and dashed for the war.
She didn’t see much action in the war, but its patrol afterward was the stuff of legend at the time. The ship and its crew spent more than 112 days aboard ship and underwater, keeping the Argentine Navy at bay.
Who can resist the temptation to adopt a retired military working dog?
The Air Force is once again looking for people — military members or otherwise — who want to adopt retired military working dogs.
Take a second to just look at this face.
Meet Fflag, a U.S. Marine Corps military working dog. Fflag is a patrol explosives detection dog, trained to find explosive devices and take down an enemy combatant when necessary.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Brendan Mullin)
Air Force officials at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland issued a news release highlighting the need for adoptive parents for retired dogs. They said that, while there is demand to adopt puppies that didn’t make the cut for the program, there is less interest in the older dogs, even though they are exceptionally well trained and could probably rescue you from a well or warn you about any nearby bombs.
A military working dog from the 366th Security Forces Squadron, Mountain Home, Idaho, poses for a picture during a field training convoy at the Orchard Combat Training Center, south of Boise, Idaho.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Joshua C. Allmaras)
Adopting a retired military working dog can be a long process, they warned, and can take up to two years.
Interested potential dog parents must fill out paperwork and answer questions about where the dog will live and how it will be cared for.
And not just anyone can adopt one of these four-legged heroes. To be eligible, applicants must have a six-foot fence, no kids under the age of five, and no more than three dogs already at home. They also have to list a veterinarian on the application, have two references and provide a transport crate.
Military Working Dog LLoren, a patrol and explosive detector dog, stands by his handler Staff Sgt. Samantha Gassner. 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, during an MWD Expo at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Robert Cloys)
Interested in adopting a retired military working dog? You can contact officials at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 210-671-6766.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
To keep the many men and machines in fighting shape during the World War II invasion of France, logistics technicians sure had their work cut out for them. Bomb, bullets, planes and tanks were top priorities, so there was little room for luxury items that’d keep the troops in good spirits while fighting Nazis.
And when a British brewery donated gallons of beer for troops on the front, there was no way to get it to the men by conventional means.
Enter Britain’s Royal Air Force.
In the early days after the Normandy invasion of June 1944, British and American troops noticed an acute shortage of adult beverages — namely beer. Many British soldiers complained about watery cider being the only drink available in recently liberated French towns. Luckily for them, the Royal Air Force was on the tap (pun intended) to solve the problem.
With no room for cargo on their small fighter planes, RAF pilots arrived at a novel solution – using drop tanks to transport suds instead of fuel.
The drop tanks of a Spitfire each carried 45 gallons of gas, meaning a plane could transport 90 gallons of extra liquid. When carrying fuel, the tanks were used and then discarded.
For the purposes of ferrying beer, ground crews set about steam cleaning the tanks for their special deliveries. These flights became known as “flying pubs” by the troops they served. A few British breweries, such as Heneger and Constable, donated free beer for the RAF to take to the front. Other units had to pool their funds and buy the beer.
As the desire for refreshment increased in Normandy, the RAF began employing the Hawker Typhoon which could carry even more than the Spitfire. Unfortunately, the Typhoon was often mistaken by inexperienced American pilots as the German Focke-Wulf 190.
According to one British captain, the beer deliveries were attacked twice in one day by U.S. P-47 Thunderbolts. The Typhoon had to jettison its tanks into the English Channel to take evasive action, costing the troops on the ground dearly.
The drop tanks also had a serious disadvantage. While they could carry large amounts of beer, the initial runs still tasted of fuel. Even after the tanks had been used several times and lost their fuel taste, they still imparted a metallic flavor to the beer.
To counter this problem, ground crews developed Modification XXX, a change made to the wing pylons of Spitfire Mk. IXs that allowed them to carry actual kegs of beer.
These kegs, often called ‘beer bombs,’ were standard wooden kegs with a specially-designed nose cone and attachments for transport under the wing of the Spitfire. Though they carried less beer, it arrived tasting like it just came out of the tap at the pub, chilled by the altitude of the flight over the channel.
To ensure their compatriots remained satisfied, pilots would often return to England for rudimentary maintenance issues or other administrative needs in order to grab another round. As the need for beer increased, all replacement Spitfires and Typhoons being shipped to airfields in France carried ‘beer bombs’ in their bomb racks to the joy of the thirsty crews manning the airfields.
When the Americans learned of what the British were doing they joined in, even bringing over ice cream for the GIs as well.
As the practice gained popularity, Britain’s Custom and Excise Ministry caught wind and tried to shut it down. Thankfully by that time, there were more organized official shipments of beer making it to the troops. However, the enterprising pilots kept up their flights with semi-official permission from higher-ups, they just kept it a better secret.
‘Tis the season for yuletide carols, family, gifts, entirely too much food, and, of course, some much-needed downtime. Somewhere between “I swear to defend….” and getting that sacred DD-214, many of us developed quite the affinity for film and television.
So, it’s only natural that we spend our downtime getting together on the nostalgia train to binge watch a few of our favorites. Christmas might be over, but there’s still time to enjoy these must-see holiday films. So, grab your spiked eggnog, a warm blanket, and snuggle up for a day’s worth of cinema magic as you pretend the break isn’t rapidly coming to an end.
Tim Allen is comedic greatness in this role.
(Walt Disney Pictures)
‘The Santa Clause’
The greatness of this film lies in two words: Tim Allen. His comedic timing is great here, and it really serves the premise of the movie: a dad kills Santa Claus and is forced to become Santa himself.
I mean, it’s a completely impossible narrative (Santa Claus is immortal, duh), but it’s fun all the way through.
This one is for all the dads
(20th Century Fox)
‘Jingle All The Way’
This one’s another movie about a dad and holiday hijinks. Arnold Schwarzenegger is on the search for a near-impossible-to-find toy in a quest to buy the affections of his son. In a lot of ways, this movie from the ’90’s has proven to be prophetic for its time. Much of the shenanigans that Schwarzenegger’s character experiences have become the standard holiday shopping experience.
No holiday season is complete without Kevin.
(20th Century Fox)
By now, you’ve probably noticed that parental neglect and aloofness is a bit of theme among the items on this list — but Home Alone cranks it up to full blast.
Kevin McCallister, as played by the immortal Macaulay Culkin, became the iconic ’90s smartass that indirectly shaped a generation. In the film, Kevin proves to be more than capable when he defends his family home against would-be invaders using nothing but wit and a closet full of toys.
It’s sheer conjecture, but we’re sure Kevin McCallister grew up and served — that resourcefulness says “veteran.”
Yippee ki yay, MF.
John. Mc. Clane.
Die Hard is definitely the most non-holiday movie on this list but, make no mistake, it is absolutely a holiday flick! It’s got a Christmas tree and a happy, warm and fuzzy ending.
Close enough for me!
It is, literally, a Christmas story.
‘A Christmas Story’
“You’ll shoot your eye out!”
It’s one of the most iconic lines in cinema history, but it’s not even the best in the film. A Christmas Story is brilliantly written, fantastically acted, and features some of the best narration in film.
This one is to be viewed, preferably, on Christmas Day, but as long as there’s snow on the ground, it’s still good.
Amid the extensive flooding in Nebraska and across the Midwest, farms, ranches, and feedlots have seen damages that will likely be far in the millions. Preliminary estimates of the overall damage in Nebraska are about $650 million. But it’s important to remember that the damage is ongoing, and that’s why the Nebraska National Guard delivered hay by air and land on March 25.
(Yeah, we know it sounds weird that getting hay wet can start a fire. In the broadest possible strokes: Wet hay composts in a way that generates lots of heat. The heat builds enough to dry some of the outer hay and then ignite it, then fire spreads.)
Cows fed affected hay, at best, can become malnourished. At worst, they are poisoned by the mold.
Nebraska National Guard soldiers provide assistance during flood relief
(Nebraska Air National Guard Senior Master Sgt. Shannon Nielsen)
So, when ranchers and farmers in Nebraska reported that they had some cows safe from the floods and rain, but they were susceptible to becoming malnourished or poisoned by the only feed available, the National Guard planned a way to get fresh, safe hay to them.
Deliveries were conducted via helicopters and truck convoy, getting the feed past flooded roads and terrain and into the farms where it can do some good. In some cases, CH-47 Chinooks are rolling massive bales of hay off their back cargo ramps, essentially bombing areas with fresh hay. This allows them to reach areas where cattle might be trapped and starving, but even ranchers can’t yet reach.
Hopefully, this will ameliorate some of the damages from the storms. But the storms have already hit military installations hard and, as mentioned above, are thought to have caused over half a billion in economic damages.
I never went to Afghanistan. Iraq was my war, and when I think back about my deployments, there are very few things that I miss. I definitely don’t relish the sand storms or the dirt or the myriad of dangers lurking behind every piece of trash (and there is a sh#%load of trash).
Instead, I sometimes think back to those quiet moments of deployment, especially ones when I needed the rush of nicotine before stepping off on patrol or the pull of a long drag to settle down from one. Those frequent cigarette breaks with my fellow Marines were some of the most memorable moments of my life. I cherish them.
It’s been a decade since I was in the sandbox and I don’t smoke anymore, but as I unlock the door to We Are The Mighty, I have the crazy urge to light up. I’m nervous. Unlike other conflicts in our history, there isn’t a sacred place, a monument, for veterans of my generation to visit and reflect on our war and maybe even smoke a cigarette like old times. While that place may come someday, today we only have each other, and that’s why I’m nervous. I’m about to meet Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient from the Iraq war.
The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest award for valor, and it often comes at a significant price. Since WWII, 60% of all medals awarded for valor are posthumous and, for those who are able to receive the medal while living, the process is often long and arduous. Many are forced to relive and describe one of the worst days of their life — over and over again. As I prepare for the interview, I want to be sensitive to all Staff Sgt. Bellavia and his platoon in the 2-2 Ramrod faced during their war. But their story is special. They fought, and Staff Sgt. Bellavia earned his honor during hand-to-hand combat while clearing houses [Official Citation] in one of the most iconic battles: Fallujah.
Fallujah is a place that almost every Iraq war veteran has heard of. Like Iwo Jima or Hue, this battle defines an entire war. As I contemplate this idea, Staff Sgt. Bellavia and his full Army escort enter my office. As I reach out to shake Staff Sgt. Bellavia’s hand, I can’t help but think I am shaking the hand of a man who is the living monument to my war.
As I meet Staff Sgt. Bellavia, thankfully, he calms my nerves. First, he’s a very humble, open guy. He introduces himself as “Dave.” A modest father of three who’s been called back to service to tour the country in the wake of his medal ceremony. Second, he’s funny — like, really funny. He cracks a joke about how hard it is to put on a uniform after fifteen years, and I can relate; there’s no way I could wear my uniform now either. This is exactly the kind of guy who I would share a cigarette with. We laugh together as the cameras turn on.
Staff Sgt. David Bellavia MOH Lincoln Memorial Visit.
Welcome to We Are The Mighty. So, we all have a crazy story of how we got in uniform… What’s yours?
DB: Sure. I joined the Army in 1999. My Army story’s a little bit crazy because my son was born with some birth defects. He’s good now, but the Army didn’t know what to do. So they put me on what’s called a “compassionate reassignment.” So right out of basic training, infantry cord, I go to a recruiting station for two and a half years, which is the worst gig because you’re not a recruiter, you’re not an infantryman. You’re just there telling the Army story, which you don’t know anything of because you don’t have an Army story. And when September 11th happened, the Army was like, “Hey, your son’s not officially healthy. You either get out or go on what’s called an ‘All Others Tour.'”
What’s an “All Other’s Tour”?
DB: So, I had a choice of basically getting out of the Army or just going for three years without my family… and I chose the Army. And so I went to Germany for three years. I didn’t see the family except for block leave, and that was really tough. But it was the best decision I made because of the relationships and the guys, it was really special.
Special? How so?
DB: Yeah. It’s always great to introduce young 18-year-old Americans to Bavarian beer.
Haha. Nice. Did you deploy from there?
DB: Yeah. I deployed to Kosovo in 2002, and then back-to-back from Kosovo to Iraq for 12 months, 2004 to 2005.
Kosovo? What was that like?
DB: It’s unbelievable. The one thing that I learned is that, for whatever reason, those kids in Kosovo could burn a DVD of a movie that is still in production. I don’t even know … they’re like, “Hey, have you seen X-Men 2?” I’m like, “It comes out in a month,” and like, “Here it is.” I’m like, “How is that possible? How do you have access to B-roll footage of a Marvel film before it’s made?” But these guys, [they] can’t figure out plumbing. [They] can’t get a mass transit system, but [they] can burn any movie within hours of Ron Howard saying, cut.” It’s done. It’s crazy.
Do you have a family history of military service?
DB: I grew up on Lake Ontario. Small little town. My dad was a dentist. I was the youngest of four kids. Every one of my brothers has like either multiple master’s degrees or like PhDs. I had two brothers who went to seminary. My grandad was in the Normandy campaign. [Not] D-Day. This was the 35 days after D-Day, but it was the hedgerows, ton of fighting. He would tell me his World War II stories at like … I’d be six years old just listening to this stuff. He’s still with us. He’s 99.
Was he your inspiration for joining the Army?
DB: The other thing was, I remember in high school, before the book came out, before there was a ‘Black Hawk Down’ movie, I watched the [bodies] being just dragged through the streets [of Mogadishu], that really affected me. I wanted to avenge that.
So before you got into the Army, what did courage mean to you?
DB: I had no idea what I was getting into. They told me 11 XRAY meant like extra special infantry. So courage to me was being able to endure rain and having wet socks because there was no thought of combat. Kosovo was the big war and no offense, but it wasn’t really much of a war. It was kind of a … when I got to Kosovo it was like, “Hey, take your helmets off. Soft cap.”
Let’s jump ahead. So you end up in 2-2 from 1st Infantry Division, The Ramrods. And now we’re at war with Iraq. What does that feel like?
DB: Well, I mean, first of all, we’re watching the invasion of Iraq in like a chow hall with a potato bar in Kosovo. And so the 1st Infantry Division had such an incredible legacy of just always being first to fight. We had our own movie. I remember watching The Big Red One movie, if I’m going to join the Army, I want to be in The Big Red One. No one questioned why Lee Marvin was like a 62-year-old squad leader in D-Day. You know what I mean? He’s got all white hair.
Yeah, he must have been passed over a few times…
DB: Do you know what I’m saying? Like, why is he here? I love that movie. I loved just all the stories of what The Big Red One stood for. And the take away was that, we were a peacekeeping, forward-deployed division in Germany and a war was happening in Afghanistan. A war was happening in Iraq, and we were going to miss out on it. And so my chain of command took it upon themselves in nine months of Kosovo to just train us for what was coming down the road. And we hated that because we were doing 15-hour patrols and presence and yet we were doing bunker drills and clearing houses and my God, all that training ended up saving our life because we were so ready when the fight initially came.
A year later, you were in Iraq outside Fallujah. And it was also your birthday?
DB: Yeah, November 10th  was my 29th birthday. And I just remember thinking … as a kid, I’d walk through a cemetery, and I would see people born and died on the same day on their tombstone. And I just thought, “Man, that’s gotta just be the worst.” I was just, “Get me to midnight. At least I can have something different on there.” There were a lot of times where you just give up.
And you were a squad leader at this point?
How did you manage the stress maybe even fear that you were about to lead your soldiers in one of the most violent battles of the Iraq war?
DB: When I was on block leave from Iraq, I ran into a crusty Vietnam guy, and he told me … I was telling him everything I was going through. I was so mad. I saw like a UPS guy, and I couldn’t understand why people were normal. They had no connection to what the hell was happening. And I was looking at this UPS guy deliver packages and be so happy, and I’m like, “What the … how is this?” … and this Vietnam guy told me, he’s like, “You still believe that you’re coming home. And once you give that up, once you just acknowledge that you have no control over this, everything is far more manageable. You can compartmentalize everything.” It was the best advice that we had is that it’s not about you… don’t worry about your own survivability, worry about your subordinates, worry about them, put all your … anything that causes stress, put that below your young guys and then if you come home, that’s a bonus.
Is that what you were thinking when you got to a house full of insurgents in Fallujah? The house where you earned the Medal of Honor?
DB: So yeah, this is basically what happened in Fallujah. So [in] Anbar Province, 82nd Airborne leaves, Marine Corps comes in. This is their fight. It’s very awkward to be receiving anything for Fallujah when so many Marines… you got Brian Chontosh, Brad Kasal, and Rafael Peralta, legends in the Marine Corps, did so many incredible things. We were there just to supplement them.
You did much more than support.
DB: Fallujah was left basically unmolested for six months, and the Marine Corps had a very difficult time breaching through. So what ended up happening is everyone was on one side from the north pushing in, and the only real clear breach lane [was ours]. We got into the city expecting everyone to be on our shoulder. And when we pushed through, it took like two days for the rest of the task force to get into the city. In that 48-hour period, we had very little support, and we were pretty much the only game in town. And it developed this really odd way of, you got to your objective, you cleared it, and then you massaged back, started the invasion again, cleared it. Uh-oh, come back, do it again. And so you’re refighting in neighborhoods that you’ve been almost four times at that point. And so we got a report that there were six to eight, possibly 10 bad guys in a little neighborhood block. And we were clearing all these different buildings out and nothing. I mean, we’d get blood, or you’d see a weapons caches, but you just missed the guys, and we finally end up in the last house, and that’s when it all went down.
And then your soldiers get trapped inside?
DB: Yeah. So I’m on one side of the house, the other guys are on the other side, and basically, these guys are shooting belt-fed machine guns through a door. We have to break contact. My two guys outside with 240 Bravos that were John J. Rambo firing those things from the shoulder. Those rounds are coming in, the PKM rounds are coming out. No one can move. If anything that night that really took the most intestinal fortitude, it was standing in that door with that SAW because, again, I don’t know how many people there are. I just know that there’s fire coming out. And I got to be honest with you, you come up with a plan, and then you’re going to execute the plan, and then you just want to stall because your legs won’t walk, your body won’t move.
So you grab a M-249 SAW and charge inside? What were you thinking? What was going through your head at this point?
DB: I remember thinking to myself, “I want to hook my finger around this trigger, not the way we’re trained to do, which is to three-second burst. But if I get hit, I want to just hold it down and just get enough fire.” And as soon as I get in that door frame, I’m looking at these guys [and] they’re not intimidated at all. The SAW was a runaway. On the range, you would break the links, point it to a safe direction. But here it’s just, “Well, I’ll just keep it on them.” I’m not hitting anything, I’m not hitting them, and I just clunk out on ammo. Those 200 rounds went like nanoseconds. It felt like far too quick. So I’m like, “could I have shot 200 rounds at like five feet and missed every single person?” I just found my body just running out of the house. And as I’m doing it, you hear, and you feel rounds everywhere, and you’re just like, “Man, that was worthless.” And so I was upset. I was angry.
And you traded the SAW for an M-4 and went back inside the house?
DB: Well, it was me, [and] Scott Lawson, who died in 2013, but he went in with me, and I had three SAW gunners. I was worried that these [insurgents] were going to run out of the house and we’re going to lose them and then they’re going to kill someone or we’re going to get killed by them down the road. So I set up the SAW gunners around the courtyard, and I was just going to run in there like an idiot and try to push them out. And again, I had no real idea how many were in there. I like my chances against wounded guys that we’ve been shooting at repeatedly. So I figured me and Lawson could at least ding them up and then the next wave of Americans could finish them off.
And you did finish them off. Five to be exact. I have one specific question. There’s a moment that I read about that. Did you smoke a cigarette during the fight?
DB: I did. I did. So, okay, understand that when you’re in [the house] … your night vision works like a cat’s eye, right? I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. I’ve never been in this building before. And after this guy jumps out of a wardrobe and I hit him five times, I was just like, “Man, I need a smoke.” I don’t have my helmet, my IBA is open, I don’t … my rifle is somewhere in the smoke. And I just am like, “You know, I need a smoke right now.”
With the enemy still in the house?
DB: I’m an infantryman. I know how to smoke at night. I’m well-rehearsed at cupping the hands and holding. And so my biggest fear was that my guys were going to come in the building and because I was just around the enemy, I was going to get popped. So I just tried to hug a wall where I knew I couldn’t be hit by anything and just have a quick smoke and that’s when this guy jumps off the roof right in front of me and breaks his leg or does something horrible to himself. But it was just, yeah, it was stress level … that’s the weird thing about that close quarter proximity. You’re super confident. “I’m Thor, I could do all of this, America.” And then you slip and fall and almost get your head blown off, and you’re like, “What am I thinking? I’m an idiot. This was a horrible idea.” And then you see fear in the [enemy’s] eyes, and you’re like, “Oh, they’re scared, I got this, everything’s great.”
That’s the most badass smoke break that I’ve ever heard of.
DB: In the moment, grab a smoke.
Let’s move into afterward. You got out of the Army. What have you been doing since you left?
DB: So I came home right during the whole political soccer ball of Iraq. So I started a group with a bunch of other Marines called Vets for Freedom, and we just went out there and said, “Hey, don’t send us to fight unless you want us to finish it. Right? I mean, we didn’t vote for this thing. We’re the ones adjudicating this fight. You want to defund it. I mean, we lost our buddies out there. This is more important than some political soccer ball.” And so in order to become apolitical, we became uber-political, and I just hated it. That’s not what we wanted to do. So I started focusing more on just veterans in normal life.
Do you think Veterans can find some kind of “normal” in civilian life?
DB: We’re not walking around with high and tights, we’re not wearing camouflage to work, but the type of men and women who served this country are special, and we’re volunteering to do it. And when we come home, we would like to make America as great as we did serving it in uniform and we want to be teachers and we want to be coaches, and we want to lead at home the way we did in battle.
What was it like taking off the uniform and leading in a different way?
DB: The first thing I learned right off the bat is that no civilian wants to know when you’re going to the bathroom. Right? Because I’m accustomed to being like, “Hey, I’m going to go to the bathroom. I’m going to go take a leak.” No civilian ever wants to hear that. So I learned some tough lessons right off the bat.
And now, as a business owner, what do you tell other veterans when you see them?
DB: When I wore the veteran thing on my sleeve, I found that I was a bigger spectacle. And so I just decided to just compartmentalize that. Let it go, move on with your life, tell them, “Oh yeah, I served too,” and most people, especially the Vietnam generation, they didn’t get any of this reflexive love. They didn’t get free tickets to Bush Gardens. They didn’t get applause when they walked through the airport. So I’ve been really appreciative of that Vietnam generation protecting us from what they went through, and also their ability to kind of do a victory lap for our generation when we come home. And these guys in the workplace, what they’ve been able to accomplish. I love that. When I find out someone’s a vet, it’s like a Christian in the Catacomb, a little wink. You do the secret handshake, and that resume goes right to the top. I want that … I don’t care what you did.
You’re also a family man now, what do you tell your kids about courage and service?
DB: I tell them that the United States Army is the greatest … we’ve been fighting bullies since 1775 right? I’ve always told my kids, “I will never … if you come home with a fat lip because you were defending someone who couldn’t defend themselves, I don’t care what the school does, I don’t care what the law does. You will defend people who can’t defend themselves. That is why we’re on this earth.” We’re there to take care of our weaker brother. We’re there to take care of our weaker sister.
You also co-wrote a best selling memoir about your experience in Fallujah called House to House. Can you tell me briefly about the book?
DB: Well, yeah I’ve been going through that for a while. When I came out, there were very few memoirs written but, I don’t know if I would’ve made that choice again because I didn’t want to write [about me]. I wanted to write about my soldiers. My soldiers were the greatest men I’ve ever met in my life. They still are. And what we did together, we weren’t SEALs, we weren’t Green Berets [or] Recon. We were just knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathers. That’s what we were, just average soldiers doing above average things because we found ourselves in those situations.
One last question. Do you still smoke?
DB: I am a recovering smoker. I do some tobacco products here and there and nicotine lozenges, a little dip. But I’m trying to beat that. But now the smoking is definitely gone. I’ve graduated.
Dave, this has truly been an honor. Anything else I missed?
DB: No, you got it.
Click HERE to read more about Staff Sgt. David Bellavia’s actions which, earned him the distinguished role as the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient of the Iraq war.