The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

When the English military needs to train its newest Gurkha recruits on English language and culture, they take them to the Gothic, fog-covered abbey that inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula for some cruel reason. Then, they urge them to buy fish and chips from local vendors for some even crueler reason.


The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

A British Gurkha soldier watches down his rifle barrel for threats during an exercise with U.S. troops.

(U.S. Army William B. King)

Gurkha soldiers, for those who haven’t heard, are elite troops recruited out of the Gurkha region of Nepal. Troops from the kingdom stomped the British and the British East India Company in the 1760s and again during the Anglo-Nepalese War, which ran from 1814 to 1816. The Gurkhas defeated so many British troops that the East India Company hired them for future conflicts — if you can’t beam ’em, hire ’em.

This mercenary force proved itself over the years and, eventually, the Gurkhas were brought into the regular British Army in special regiments. Now, they’re elite units famous for their controlled savagery in combat.

When Gurkhas See The Sea For The First Time | Forces TV

youtu.be

Today, the Gurkhas are still recruited out of the mountains of Nepal. While they’re assessed on their English skills during the selection process, many young recruits from Nepal generally know little of the language and culture of the nation they swear to defend.

So, the British government gives them classes and takes them on field trips to historic sites. Oddly enough, one of the historical sites they take them to is the abbey in Whitby, North Yorkshire — the site that inspired Dracula.

“Thank you for defending England. Too bad it’s haunted, eh?”

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

The Whitby Abbey ruins which helped inspire the story that would become ‘Dracula.’

(Ackers72, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Bram Stoker visited a friend in Whitby in July, 1890 — and it was a Gothic writer’s dream. It had the old abbey ruins, a church infested with bats, and large deposits of the black stone jet, often used in mourning jewelry.

Stoker was working on a novel about “Count Wampyr” when he arrived, but it was in a library in Whitby that he learned about Vlad Tepes, the impalement-happy prince whose nickname was Dracula, meaning “son of the dragon.” Stoker also learned about a Russian ship that had crashed nearby while carrying a load of sand. He tweaked the name of the ship to create the ship Dracula used to move his home soil and coffin to England.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

In ‘Dracula,’ the titular monster lands on the coast of Whitby — at a place like this — before climbing the abbey’s steps and beginning a reign of terror.

(Andrew Bone, CC BY 2.0)

In the novel, Dracula’s ship runs aground at Whitby and the “Black Dog” runs up the abbey’s 199 steps to begin terrorizing the English residents.

Now, Gurkhas tour the area to learn about Stoker and absorb some English history.

After their tour, the Gurkhas are encouraged to try out the local delicacy, fish and chips (for the fiercely American among us, “chips” means “french fries”). This may not seem like additional horror, but since Nepal is known for spicy curry and the English are known for using vinegar as a condiment, this is honestly the cruelest part of the lesson.

They also get to jump in the sea — or whatever.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force may train enlisted pilots for the first time in 75 years

Eugene Taylor remembers how eager enlisted airmen like him were to fly.

Taylor, who enlisted in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam, first worked as an avionics technician. Nearly a decade later, Taylor, a tech sergeant, became a T-37 and T-38 flight simulator instructor with the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. He became so adept that he was occasionally given the chance to fly the T-38, with permission from the pilot, during stateside flights.


It has been decades since enlisted airmen had the chance to sit in the cockpit. But as the Air Force faces the greatest pilot shortages since its inception, service leaders are contemplating a return to a model that includes enlisted pilots. A Rand Corp. study, set to be completed this month, is exploring the feasibility of bringing back a warrant officer corps for that purpose. And another, separate Air Force study is examining, in part, whether enlisted pilots could benefit from new high-tech training that leverages artificial intelligence and simulation.

With these moves, the Air Force is inching just a few steps closer to someday getting enlisted airmen back in the cockpit, on a formal basis, for the first time since World War II.

“We have enlisted airmen in our Guard and reserve component who have private pilot’s licenses and fly for the airlines. So it’s not a matter of can they do it, or hav[ing] the smarts or the capability, it’s just a matter of us, as an Air Force, deciding that that’s a route that we want to take,” said Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth O. Wright, the 18th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.

Military.com sat down with the service’s top enlisted leader in February 2018, to talk about enlisted aviators and reinstituting the warrant officer program.

“It’s something we walked away from years ago, and I won’t say that we haven’t been willing to relook at [it],” Wright said, of having enlisted pilots. “It’s nothing that we can’t overcome.”

Creating a Cadre

Wright noted there may be a few bumps in the road before an enlisted cadre could be instituted.

The main challenge would be to structure an appropriate career development path for the airmen, answering questions regarding when and how they would promote and when they would rotate to a new squadron. Wright said thus far officers “naturally float” to a flight commander or squadron commander from base to base, according to a system that has been in place for decades, but questioned whether the same system would work for enlisted pilots.

Additionally, the service would have to study whether enlisted airmen should be granted the right to employ weapons from an aircraft.

“Whether it’s manned or unmanned, if there’s an enlisted airman that’s going to be flying and employing weapons, it requires certain authorities we would have to get by,” Wright said.

For example, enlisted airmen are currently only authorized to be remotely piloted aircraft pilots on the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone, a surveillance-only platform.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English
One of Eugene Taylor’s trainees at Vance AFB, Oklahoma, straps into a flight simulator, circa 1978-79.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Taylor

“That’s just part of our age-old doctrine, that the employment of weapons, that the authority and responsibility lies with officers,” he said.

Reinstituting the warrant officer program could also help leaders decide on acceptable policies that would “determine if it makes us a more lethal and ready fighting force,” Wright said.

“What this is about is not just aviation or flying — it’s about maintaining the technical expertise,” Wright said. “In some cases, having warrant officers will allow us retain that talent and keep those folks doing what they love.”

The Air Force in the past has commissioned studies to look into bringing back warrant officers, with another study from RAND, a nonprofit institution that provides research and analysis studies on public policy, on the way.

“The Air Force is partnering with RAND for a study on the feasibility of warrant officers and we are projecting a completion by the end of March 2018,” Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Kathleen Atanasoff told Military.com.

February 2018, the Air Force began a separate study on whether it could benefit from someday allowing enlisted pilots.

Air Education and Training Command said the study, called the pilot training next initiative, explores how pilots can learn and train faster “by using existing and emerging technologies that can decrease the time and cost of training,” but with the same depth of understanding to produce quality pilots.

That includes using virtual reality simulation and A.I. to get airmen in an aircraft faster, with the potential of expanding the streamlined training.

The study is expected to conclude in August, in hopes of advancing all 20 students in the program: 15 officers and five enlisted airmen.

Foundation of Skills

Taylor, the Vietnam-era airman, served in the 341X1 career field for T-37 and T-38 trainers, which would quickly disappear once the Air Force reasoned enlisted personnel were needed elsewhere.

Once airmen were taught scenarios in a classroom, they would go to him to practice the maneuvers in the simulator.

“I was one of those people as an enlisted instructor, and it was the best job I ever had,” Taylor said in a recent interview with Military.com.

Through months of simulation tech school paired with his past experience working on planes, Taylor had gained the skills he needed to know the aircraft. Taylor’s instructor career field, however, dissolved only a year later, and he moved back into avionics at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. But he remembers his “flight time” and experience with the T-37 and T-38 fondly.

“As a master avionics superintendent, I did get to fly in the back seat of the [T-38] aircraft six times to perform aircraft maintenance at off-station sites,” he said. “I told the pilot that I was a flight simulator instructor pilot at Vance. And when I flew, the pilot would say, ‘You know how to fly this, you do it.’ So, I would,” Taylor said.

Taylor recalled flying the aircraft from Columbus to MacDill Air Force Base,Florida.

“I [then] repaired another T-38 from our base and flew the aircraft back to Columbus. The pilot made the takeoff and landing on both legs of the flight, but I did all radio calls, and navigation,” he said.

Taylor would fly similar routes twice more with the same pilot.

“So yes, enlisted people can definitely perform the job,” he said.

According to a 1992 paper for the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Research Institute, the 341X1 and 341X2 career fields, born out of very early service ideals that enlisted members should work side-by-side with officer pilots, were Analog and Digital Trainer Specialists. The fields were part of the larger Aircrew Training Devices 34XXX specialty.

“The contributions of the enlisted men and women in the training devices career field were great,” noted the paper, written by Air Force student Senior Master Sgt. G. A. Werhs of the Senior Noncomissioned Officer Academy. “From its very beginning in 1939 until its end in the late 80s, [the 34XXX] was [an] entirely enlisted career field. All maintenance and operations were performed by highly skilled personnel. Every aircraft in the Air Force inventory had a simulator associated with it and enlisted members were there to operate and maintain it.

“[H]ow many people realize that for nearly 50 years those pilots received much of the initial training on the ground from enlisted soldiers and airmen[?]” Werhs asked.

Taylor suggested the career field closed because the service didn’t want enlisted troops to get to that next level: flying among officers. The service, he said, also had an abundance of pilots at the time.

“The Vietnam War had wound down, so they had more pilots than the Air Force needed,” Taylor said. “By taking away the enlisted instructors, it let them use the pilots that were qualified to fly the T-38 instead of kicking them out of the service.”

But there are many who believe that enlisted airmen, in some capacity, deserve the chance to once again get up in the air.

Rooted in History

Before the Air Force became a breakout service independent of the Army, enlisted pilots were known as “flying sergeants,” receiving a promotion to staff sergeant once they completed pilot training.

Enlisted pilots, in one form or another, date back to 1912. But it wasn’t until 1941, when Congress passed the the Air Corps Act of 1926 and Public Law 99, that enlisted troops were able to receive qualified training.

“We never thought about whether we wanted to be an enlisted pilot or an officer pilot,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward Wenglar, a former enlisted pilot. “We just wanted to be pilots, and we would gladly have stayed privates forever just to have the chance to fly,” Wenglar said in a 2003 service release.

Wenglar, who served overseas during World War II, holds the distinction of “achieving the highest rank of any former enlisted pilot,” according to the Air Force. He died in 2011.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English
Will Stafford stands third from left in this 1977 photo.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Taylor

During World War II, whoever was in the cockpit got grandfathered in and could remain flying. But in 1942, the passage of the Flight Officer Act meant new enlisted recruits no longer got the chance to fly.

The act, Public Law 658, replaced the program’s sergeant pilot rank with the warrant officer rank.

When the Air Force was created in 1947 out of the Army Air Forces, it would bring more than 1,000 legacy warrant officers in. The service stopped the program in 1959, the same year it created the senior and chief master sergeant ranks. The last warrant officer would retire from active duty in 1980.

With more than 3,000 enlisted sergeant pilots throughout the service’s history, 11 of them would become generals and 17 would become flying aces, according to information from the Air Force. More than 150 enlisted pilots would be killed in action.

“Our careers as enlisted pilots made us better men and gave us opportunities later in the civilian world that we never would have been offered,” Wenglar said in 2003.

New Focus on Warrant Officers

“If the Air Force is so very concerned about the pilot shortage, they should consider warrant officers in … the transport pilot, flight engineer, boom operator and drone pilot fields,” said Will Stafford, a former staff sergeant with similar maintenance, tech and simulator experiences as Taylor.

While in the Air Force in the 1970s and 80s, Stafford, outside of his military duties, would fly smaller aircraft such as Cessna 310s, Beechcraft Model 18s and some Douglas DC-3s. On his own, he would eventually become qualified “on 25 different makes and models of fixed-wing aircraft,” he told Military.com.

“If the [Air Force] wants their veteran airmen and airwomen to return, then they had better look at how it has squandered the talent, training and dedication that many of us had, and make some serious changes, beginning with the restart of the warrant officer corps,” Stafford said, referencing the Air Force’s initiative to bring back retirees into staff-rated positions to balance out the ongoing pilot shortage.

“This is cost-effective, and many professional fully-rated civilian pilots who have military experience would have no problem,” he said.

Stafford has tried, unsuccessfully, to start a White House petition on Whitehouse.org to get the administration’s attention about reinstituting the warrant officer corps. He has even tried to petition the Air Force directly by writing to then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, who Stafford got the chance to meet and work with when Schwartz was just a captain.

Schwartz told Stafford it just wasn’t in the Air Force’s plans.

Key Decisions Ahead

Wright says the new RAND study may give him and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein fresh perspectives.

“We have to be smart about this, right?” Wright said. “This can’t just be, ‘Oh, this is nice to have.’ We have to know exactly what we’re buying [into] and we have a plan to implement it.”

Wright said cost-benefit analysis would play into the decision.

“I’m looking to learn, and the boss [Goldfein] is looking to learn, again, that simple question: Will this make us a more lethal force? Will it make us more efficient?” Wright said.

“There is a chance through the RAND study and through some of our internal studies that the evidence reveals and the analysis reveals that warrant officers won’t move the needle that much,” he said.

While Wright said it’s hard to say when enlisted pilots or a warrant officer program may come back into the Air Force’s ranks, he believes the feat can be achieved in roughly five to 10 years.

“I think it would help would shortages in career fields, I think it would help with retention, I think it would help with career development.

“Now there’s nothing that says that, within our current system we can’t do that same thing. But if you’re asking me what the obvious benefits are,” he said, ” … I think it’s a good thing.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why the US never exported the deadly F-22

At one time, the U.S, Air Force’s now-retired F-22 program was the most-expensive and most-advanced fighter in the world. It was eclipsed only the USAF’s fifth-generation system, the F-35. But even during its development, the United States Congress ensured the U.S. military couldn’t share the technology with anyone – even allies. Yet, American allies were the first to use the more advanced F-35 fighter in combat.

What’s the difference?


The $62 billion F-22 program would have certainly had some of the research and development costs alleviated had the sale of the fighter been approved for American allies, but the Obey Amendment to the 1998 Department of Defense Appropriations Act very specifically prevents the sale of the F-22 Raptor to any foreign government — and they were lining up to buy.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

F-22A Raptor Demonstration Team aircraft maintainers prepare to launch out Maj. Paul “Max” Moga, the first F-22A Raptor demonstration team pilot.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher L. Ingersoll)

Developing the kind of technology that makes the F-22’s radar signature closer to that of a bumblebee would take billions of dollars and untold years to develop independently. Why would a country allied with the United States want to make that kind of military effort when they could just purchase the tech? Well, until they received the F-35, they simply couldn’t.

Israel wanted the F-22. Japan was very interested in obtaining some F-22s for its Self-Defense Forces. If Japan was able to buy, South Korea would have wanted parity, then Singapore, then Australia. Even China would have expressed an interest. Despite the passage of time, Japan’s neighbors are still worried about the rebirth of militarism in the island nation.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

In case you thought the U.S. was the only country who can’t forget World War II.

And now that China’s own air forces are developing advanced stealth fighters of their own, the need for stealth fighters in the hands of and skies of American allies is more important than ever. And this was true, even in the 1990s.

But Congressman Dave Obey wasn’t having any of it. The Congressman worried that the stealth technology on the F-22 (which still makes a smaller radar cross section than even the F-35) would end up in the hands of China or Russia if sold to allies – especially Israel. It seems Congress was worried the Israelis would leak U.S. tech to China the way American intelligence believes Israel aided China in the development of its J-10 fighter.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

Obey spent 40 years in Congress and retired in 2011.

Since then, the House of Representatives has had a number of debates and discussions about whether or not they should repeal the law. The Department of Defense remains neutral on the subject but critics of the Obey Amendment argue that critical American industries would stand to benefit from parts and continued production of the F-22.

Parts of the plane are made in plants from Marietta, Ga. to Palmdale, Calif. and a few places in between. American manufacturing centers have had to sink the costs of research and development as well as advanced manufacturing techniques since the production of the fighter ended.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

An F-22 Raptor in full afterburner during flight testing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

(U.S. Air Force)

Ultimately, the F-22 program was ended because it was very costly and the need for an air-to-air fighter to counter Soviet fighters just wasn’t the U.S. military’s priority any longer. The U.S. military purchased 183 Raptors, well short of the proposed 381. But then China and Russia began producing next-generation fighters anyway, so the U.S. doubled down on the Joint Strike Fighter.

So, why can our allies, like Israel and Japan, get the world’s most-advanced multirole fighter? The F-35 was always intended to be an internationally developed fighter system. U.S. allies were always supposed to have access to it and help bear the costs of developing all that mighty tech — much of which was developed in the quest for the F-22.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Red Cross has only 2 days worth of Type-O blood left

Imagine going into the Emergency Room, bleeding from a car accident. The EMTs tell you it doesn’t have to be a serious injury as long as they can handle the blood loss. Imagine then being told they can’t actually handle the blood loss – even at the hospital.

That’s the reality the American Red Cross is facing today. It has only two days worth of Type-O blood left for the entire United States. Just six units for every 100,000 people.


An estimated seven percent of Americans have Type-O negative blood, but it can be transfused to any patient. So when the emergency department needs blood in a hurry and doesn’t have time to type a patient’s blood, a process that can take up to a half hour, they reach for the universal donor’s blood. But Type-O positive is also a critical blood type, being the most widely transfused type.

The Red Cross has tried a number of different gimmicks to try and get more people to donate, especially those with O-negative blood. The Red Cross in Arizona even offered a giveaway package to send a lucky donor to Los Angeles for the season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones.

And that was back in February 2019. Nearly four months later, the show has ended, and the blood supply situation is critical and will only get worse. As the year turns to Spring and Summer, blood drives and school collections wind down, further shortening the supply.

With such a severe shortage, conditions that would normally be survivable could soon become more and more lethal. Transfusions are needed for much more than trauma from car accidents and the like. Blood is necessary for things we may even consider routine in our day and age, from cancer treatments to childbirth.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 of the top unexpectedly fitting jobs for veterans

Every person who has ever worn the uniform has had to, one day, step away from the uniform. The uncertainty that often accompanies that day is something that no explanation can truly capture, you’ll have to have your own experience. Once you’re on the other side, finding a proper fit can be one of the more substantial challenges that you’ll face.

Being a veteran, you are equipped to do and handle certain things. One of those veteran superpowers, adaptability, can make it hard to find a place that you actually fit in with. We have grown and developed that superpower so much that we can easily find ourselves in a job that we hate and not even realize it until we’ve been there for a year or more. Below you’ll find a handful of jobs that are not only good fits but are also financially and otherwise satisfying.


There are some specializations in the military that train you for a very lucrative life, post-service. What happens when you don’t have one of those jobs, or you don’t want to continue the career path you’ve been on?

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

*Actual footage of a veteran’s first day on the job as a customer service representative

(Image from Working Title Films’ The Big Lebowski)

Customer Service Representative

This job/career probably doesn’t pop out at you at first thought but dig a little deeper, and it makes a lot of sense. Weren’t so in love with your job? That’s completely fine and normal.

Regardless of your actual job in the military, we all have one thing in common service-wide: military customs and courtesies. This is beat into you as soon as you step foot off the bus, often before then. That makes you an excellent candidate to work in customer service. Doesn’t pay super well at entry level, but it does give you a foot in the door and a paycheck.

This is more of a placeholder job than anything else for many of us. Typically, we bide our time in these positions until we promote out or find something we actually like.

Average growth expected through 2026, with very low requirements for employment.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

If you had any question, this is absolutely a transferable skill.

(Image by Army Sgt. Stephanie van Greete)

Mechanic

Obviously, some of us leave the service better equipped for this type of work than others. However, if you want to get into the field, there is opportunity. There may be some school or on the job training required, depending on your personal experience heading into the field.

Outside of that, you can find work with the right combination of a high school diploma, a good attitude, and experience. As an added bonus, there will always be a need for a good mechanic.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

Still a fan of isolation and seeing what most others never will? Try this!

(Image courtesy of GI Jobs)

CDL Driver/Operator

For the veteran community, the choice to become a truck driver can be a surprisingly comfortable one. It requires learning a skill, a period of time spent in on-the-job training working closely with a mentor, and finally entering a state of constant polishing.

Eventually, you may want to move from driver to owner and begin buying and manning your own fleet.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

Like working with your hands?

(Image courtesy of GI Jobs)

Construction

Another option for those drawn to working with their hands. In other words, this is a job many veterans can gravitate towards and thrive. On-the-job training is the most common way in, but you could also earn a degree in the subject and likely enter with a much higher ceiling and amount of pay.

Regardless, there will be some type of ladder climbing involved, literally and figuratively.

Job growth in this area is above average through 2026.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

They are more competitive and harder to find but they are there.

(Image courtesy of GI Jobs)

Human Resources/Operations Manager

These are two very different career fields that require some different skills and experience. You find them together because of their similarities and how those similarities can benefit you.

By the time many of us leave the service, we have compiled many years of experience as some type of leader/manager. That experience is valuable, especially when coupled with a degree or two. If you have at least a bachelor’s degree and experience you can find yourself in one of these positions.

Both of these areas expect an average to above average job growth through 2026.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

Literally. ANYTHING!

(Image courtesy of GI Jobs)

Anything with computers

Literally. Anything dealing with computers is looking great going forward.

If you’re into computers at all, it’s highly recommended that you bet on yourself, put some type of education behind whatever experience you have and go get paid. Most of the jobs in this area require a degree or certificate, but if you can stomach it, you won’t regret it.

Many jobs in this area pay near or about 100K and job growth is well above average in many, many different specific jobs through 2026.

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 epic military movie mistakes you have missed

Military movies are emotional to watch as many are based on real and fascinating stories of man’s ability to overcome any obstacle and fulfill his or her goals and destiny and all that sh*t.


With so many important aspects to pay attention to, filmmakers commonly make mistakes that veteran moviegoers can spot.

So check out some epic mistakes we managed to find in our favorite Hollywood war films.

1. Where did the German tank go?

“Saving Private Ryan” is one of the best war movies ever recorded on film, but that doesn’t mean it’s flawless. In the 3rd act — just as the final firefight is about to end — Capt. Miller fires his pistol at a tank headed toward him. After firing a few shots, the tank blows up, bursting into flames and stopping dead in its tracks.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English
Bang! Bang! (Source: Dream Works)

The tank surprisingly blowing up isn’t the mistake, but moments later the Tiger tank vanishes.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English
It must have been magic, right? (Source: Dream Works)

2. Playing musical chairs

In Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge,” Desmond Doss sits on the right side of the bus saying his goodbye to his girl.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English
Good movie, but a humorous mistake. (Source: Lionsgate)

Cut to a few moments later and Desmond is now sitting on the left side of the bus after it departs the station.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English
Either that or it’s a 180 break. Either way, we’re confused. (Source: Lionsgate)

3. No force protection…at all

In the Clint Eastwood directed “American Sniper,” the SEAL team enjoys a meal with an Iraqi man and his family who is about to be discovered for being a bad guy. Although the team is on a crucial mission, the lights are on, and someone forgot to close the curtains on the window.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English
A good sniper would love to take a pop shot through that window. (Source: WB)

4. A non-combatant?

We love the film “Full Metal Jacket” just as much as other veterans, but this Stanley Kubrick directed film has a lot of screw-ups — especially here. As the Marine squad advances on the Vietnamese sniper, you can spot a crew member in the bottom of the frame. Oops!

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English
He should have ducked a little better. (Source: WB)

5. Marine sniper training on an Air Force base?

In 2006, Universal pictures gave us the Desert Storm film “Jarhead,” directed by Sam Mendes. In this scene, Anthony Swofford (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) reports for bugle tryouts at the Marine Corps parade deck. Look at the water tower behind him; the Air Combat Command emblem is clearly represented in this shot. The A.C.C. is a major command of the Air Force and wouldn’t be located on the Marine Corps base.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English
WTF! (Source: Universal)

The Air Combat Command emblem up close.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 best places to party on leave

Troops train year-round to maintain the high standard of readiness essential to the preservation and defense of democracy. However, none of us are machines that can operate under constant pressure over an infinite amount of time. And enlisted professions, infantry, in particular, are among the most stressful jobs available. That’s why leave (or ‘vacation days’ in civilian terms) is a crucial component to blowing off steam and keeping morale high.

Homesick troops will often use their leave days to go and visit the family. However, those who have leave days burning a hole in their pocket should consider visiting these party cities if they’re looking for something new. Plus, there’s a good chance that someone from your platoon/squad is from the city you’re visiting and may even offer to be your guide.

In no particular order, these are the 10 best places to party on leave.


The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

New York, New York

New York City has earned the reputation of being the city that never sleeps and defends its title vigorously. In the Big Apple, you can party until the small hours of the morning and still find a place serving piping hot, fresh, New York-style pizza. As the economic crown jewel of the U.S. you can find the best brands of any product imported from around the world.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

Can’t answer SSGT’s call in another country.

Barcelona, Spain

Parties here start at 1 a.m. and last all night long, which means you’ll have enough time to do touristy things, go to the hotel to change, pregame, and invade Spain like a Roman Legionnaire. The theme parties here can get out of control, so definitely bring a battle buddy or two.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

I’m ready for my close up.

(emerictimelapse.com)

Los Angeles, California

Music labels, film studios, and conglomerates have built empires on keeping you entertained. Los Angeles offers media from every medium, genre, and artist on an unparalleled scale. LA Weekly and Ticketmaster provide information on upcoming events to plan your trip around.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

Home of the original libo risk.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

A classic destination on every bucket list but you might want to wait until you have your DD-214 to fully toke take in the culture. If your agenda doesn’t include visiting its coffee shops, there’s plenty else to do — Europeans party hard AF.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

(emerictimelapse.com)

Las Vegas, Nevada

Sin city, a single Marine’s paradise — and other branches, too. The casinos offer free booze while you gamble, gentlemen’s clubs offer the perfect location to blow away your bonus, and many hotels have venues and clubs built into the location. Excellent for post-deployment debauchery relaxation.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

Ze colors!

Berlin, Germany

Berlin is another city that never sleeps, and it is home to tons of DJs. The mainstream venues are good, but the underground parties are unbeatable. Bring someone who speaks German so you can have your finger on the pulse of this city.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

The parties are year round.

(Miami.com)

Miami, Florida

Miami has arguably the best club scene; one that can compete with LA and New York. Florida’s beaches are often featured on top ten lists and are capable of dethroning Hawaii. Every troop must storm these beaches at least once in their career.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

(Air Forces Central Command)

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

U.A.E. is home to the Burj Al Arab, the Palm Islands, and an indoor ski resort in the mall, but make sure you read up on the local laws. As a conservative Islamic country, it has many restrictions — unless you’re wealthy. Remember the golden rule: He who has the gold, makes the rules.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

The famous bar crawls of Austin

Austin, Texas

Austin has been earning a reputation as a must-visit spot for partygoers at a steady rate in recent years. The city offers pub crawls, ghost tours, historic landmarks, and lounges. It is common to see Austin on lists of top places to live for both liberals and conservatives. This growing metropolis with a southern twang should not be underestimated.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

New Years Eve in Iceland!

(icelandnaturally.com)

Reykjavik, Iceland

Vikings are still drinking and celebrating in both Valhalla and Reykjavik. Although Iceland is small, their festivals aren’t. Reykjavik is LGBTQ+ friendly and accepting of all types, but don’t wander off into the inland — the wilderness here is dangerous as hell.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 of the most accurate military representations on screen

A common gripe among those in the military is that there aren’t enough accurate representations of us in film and on television. There’s plenty of representation, sure, but “accurate” is the operative term, here — and Hollywood tends to get more wrong than they do right. Every once in a blue moon, however, you’ll stumble upon a tiny golden nugget truth on screen. That special piece of media will ignite a fire within you and you’ll be forced to stand up and shout, “that right there! THAT is what it was like!” to all your civilian friends.

Now, we’re not saying Hollywood does a piss-poor job. Service members have a tendency to be extremely nit-picky when it comes to military depictions on screen. We see even the smallest flaw and we say, “nope. They got it wrong again.” Realistically, there are many reasons why that happens, but it’s most likely because they didn’t have someone on set who knew what they were talking about.

But when they get things right? Well, you get the items on this list:


The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

R. Lee Ermey was immortalized by this performance.

(Warner Bros.)

‘Full Metal Jacket’

Specifically, we mean the boot camp scene. The entire film is great, but the representation of Marines in the first act of the film is (mostly) accurate. This can be attributed to the legendary R. Lee Ermey. He was actually a drill instructor and Stanley Kubrick was dedicated to making everything as authentic as possible.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

Oh, and it has Jake Gyllenhaal in it.

(Universal Pictures)

‘Jarhead’

Based on the true story written by Anthony Swafford, the film adaptation paints the character of Marines in a very accurate light. The dark humor put forth by the characters and the way they portray our mannerisms on screen are absolutely spot on.

So, how’d they do it? Well, if you’ve read the book and you’ve seen the movie, you’ve probably noticed that they didn’t stray too far from the source material, which was written by someone with first-hand experience.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

The Marines in this series are downright authentic.

(HBO Films)

‘The Pacific’

Based on the novels of Eugene Sledge and Robert Leckie, this miniseries was produced by none other than Saving Private Ryan star Tom Hanks, and it nails the attitude of Marines. If you’ve served in the Marine Corps, you can appreciate even the smallest details, such as the Marines stealing Army rations because they’re superior.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

The nod of approval for this series.

‘Generation Kill’

If you thought The Pacific and Jarhead got Marines right, then you’ll be blown away by Generation Kill. When it comes down to it, the series not only got the character and mannerisms of Marines down pat but, the situations, scenarios, and leadership are all true-to-life, too.

Again, this show was based on Evan Wright’s source material, which surely added to the authenticity — he even wrote a couple episodes. Oh, and it certainly helps to have Marines like Rudy Reyes playing themselves.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

The cast of this series could not be more perfect.

(HBO Films)

‘Band of Brothers’

Unsurprisingly, we’ve got another Tom Hanks-produced miniseries atop this list. This series portrays the brotherhood (as the title suggests) experienced in the military better than anything else. Not only do they get the gear, the actions, and the missions right, it’s all capped off by amazing acting performances. Most of the characters are fantastic, but nobody compares to Damien Lewis’ enthralling rendition of Maj. Richard Winters.

So, what’s the secret sauce here? In addition to an immense attention to detail, the actors actually met with their characters’ real-life counterparts. If you’re making a movie about a group of people who did extraordinary things, who better to learn from than the men themselves?

MIGHTY HISTORY

The most ‘Murican moments of every presidency, part four

Here we go. Rounding out the list of the most patriotic, most ‘Murican moments of every U.S. Presidency are the presidents of our age, numbers 35 through 44. Abraham Lincoln is already the all-time best, James Buchanan is the all-time worst — and no one gives a sh*t about Rutherford B. Hayes.


The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English
Sorry, but it’s true. Now stop staring at us like that.

Since we’re approaching today’s era, it’s important for me to remind you all that We Are The Mighty is an apolitical organization and the last time we sided with a political party, the Whigs dissolved like… a week later. This is about America, and no matter how much you dislike(d) one of our Chief Executives, they all led the country to moments of American Glory.

This list is for the Presidents who have completed their time in office, so Trump won’t be on here — perhaps his most patriotic moment is yet to come.

John F. Kennedy

JFK’s time in office was tragically cut short, but his effect on American life is one that endures for the ages. In May, 1961, he addressed Congress to discuss America’s urgent national needs. In that speech, he challenged the United States to send a man to the moon and return him safely to Earth before the end of the next decade — calling for a plan that would find success after Kennedy left office (if he had lived).

But it wasn’t just that challenge that inspired America. It was Kennedy’s re-assertion of that challenge the next year while speaking at Rice University where he described the spirit of the United States. This is where he delivered the immortal line about why the United States takes on challenges like going to the moon — “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon Johnson was a man of action, ready and able to push business through the political machine of the United States Congress at any cost. This made Johnson an extremely capable Chief Executive, whether you liked him or not. In the middle of the Cold War, during the very hot Vietnam War, amidst all the cultural revolutions that swept the U.S. in the 1960s, everyone could count on calm, collected leadership in the White House.

But his most American moment was forcing the passage of Civil Rights Acts through a Congress that didn’t always agree with that kind of legislation. Johnson, a Texan and devout Christian since age 15 believed in equal rights for all Americans and that it was the duty of Christians everywhere to deliver social justice in God’s name. So he put his infamous temper to work to pass Civil Rights legislation, even though it cost him and his party dearly.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon took office during one of the most tumultuous times in American history ever. The year 1968 was a turning point for the people and culture of the United States and, despite his overall failure to maintain the solemnity of the office of president, Richard Nixon wasn’t a bad president at all. Had he not tried to cover up his role in the Watergate Scandal, he might have been remembered more fondly by history.

But while he was in office, he was the master of American foreign policy and used his skill to manage the Soviet Union and Communist China (which, by this time, were much less than friends) and use them to bring North Vietnam to the negotiating table. Where Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev trounced Kennedy in their first meeting, he couldn’t kick ol’ Nixon around. And, as they still say sometimes, “only Nixon could go to China.”

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

This is how cool you think you look while smoking a pipe. You don’t, but he does.

Gerald Ford

Ford is, interestingly, the only President who was never elected to the White House. He ascended to the vice-presidency after his predecessor, Spiro Agnew, resigned in 1973 and became president the next year. Ford’s most American moment will also forever be his most controversial. As representative, as house speaker, and as vice president, Ford faced very little (if any) in the way of scandals, but one of his first acts as President was to pardon Richard Nixon for any wrongdoing associated with Watergate.

My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here, the people rule. But there is a higher Power, by whatever name we honor Him, who ordains not only righteousness but love, not only justice, but mercy. … let us restore the golden rule to our political process, and let brotherly love purge our hearts of suspicion and hate.

The pardon was highly controversial at the time but history proved President Ford correct, so much so that incoming President Jimmy Carter thanked Ford for it as his 1977 inauguration.

“For myself and for our Nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land.”

Jimmy Carter

President Jimmy Carter is considered an unsuccessful President by most – including the former President himself. Carter always said his post-presidency was way more successful than his presidency. Carter’s administration was plagued by high inflation, an inherited energy crisis, and, of course, the Iran Hostage Crisis.

Carter’s most American moment came when he was originally supposed to address the nation about energy for the fifth time. Instead of rehashing what he’d said before, Carter laid out everything that was really plaguing the United States: mistrust in government, disrespect for American institutions, petty Washington politics, failures of his own leadership — a crisis of confidence. He told Americans the sad truth, unusual for a politician seeking re-election to any office.

This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth … and it is a warning.

But Carter also discussed how Americans could best the Crisis of Confidence. The Chief Executive and baptist minister implored Americans to have faith — faith in each other, faith in American institutions, and faith in our ability to govern ourselves. Although the speech was initially well-received, the “malaise” speech was a downer and came to be associated with his failed presidency.

Ronald Reagan

President Reagan was elected in a landslide over Carter, whose Presidency was marked by economic trouble and hostages in Iran, which Carter seemed impotent to free. Reagan offered Americans a new morning, augmented by his near-trademark humor and sunny disposition.

The only people who seldom saw that disposition were the Soviets, who were often on the receiving end of Reagan’s stellar speech-making abilities. Nowhere was this more apparent than during a speech late in the President’s second term where Reagan spoke at the Brandenburg Gate, site of the infamous Berlin Wall, and called out Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s new openness policy, saying if he truly desired peace he would come to the gate and “tear down this wall.”

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

George H.W. Bush

President Reagan’s Vice-President George H.W. Bush was Reagan’s successor who handily won the election of 1988. But during the run-up to the election, Bush — a World War II aviator and former head of the CIA — was labeled a “wimp” by Newsweek Magazine.

Yet, when Iraqi troops poured across the Kuwaiti border and the rest of the world told him sanctions would bring Saddam to his knees, it didn’t take the President long to decide to check Saddam Hussein’s aggression. He moved so many troops to Saudi Arabia to prevent an Iraqi invasion that an offensive move seemed imminent. In 1991, Desert Shield switched to Desert Storm and expelled the Iraqis from Kuwait in some 40 days. Not only were the United States and her allies victorious, the looming shadow of military failure in Vietnam was broken.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

Bill Clinton

Love him or hate him, no one felt the pressure of partisan politics like Bill Clinton. After the 1992 election, his party controlled the White House and the Congress but two years later, he felt a wave of pressure as the opposition swept Congress in the midterms. To say the rest of his time in office was “rocky” would be the understatement of the century.

Still, despite the scandals that rocked his administration, Clinton was the first real post-Cold War president and his administration was the first to deal with being the world’s only superpower. Though he faced serious foreign policy challenges over eight years, he used the opportunity to turn attention to America’s domestic issues, including child health care, federal investment in local law enforcement, and securing a balanced budget (and surplus) before leaving office.

George W. Bush

Another “love him or hate him” President, the younger Bush was able to enjoy the Pax Americana for just a few short months before the whole world changed before all our very eyes. George W. Bush was known for a lot of things, but being a fantastic public speaker was not one of them — few would ever dispute that fact. But his most American moment came right after the attacks that changed the world, when he was trying to talk to the American people.

Bush was in the middle of a speech at Ground Zero, delivering his perspective on where the United States would go from here, when, from the background, people complained of not being able to hear what he was saying. Bush’s off-the-cuff response was just f*cking great.

Barack Obama

The election of Barack Obama was a historic first that foretold a shift away from the policies of the previous administration. But there was one policy of the United States that remained unchanged since the years of Bill Clinton – the hunt to capture or kill Osama bin Laden.

The day finally came on May 1, 2011. Then, President Barack Obama was able to inform Americans that forces of the United States finally got to the world’s most wanted terrorist. Jubilant crowds gathered everywhere, not just in front of the White House, but at baseball games, at Times Square, and in towns across America. If you’re not a fan of Obama’s measured tone and think it calls for more celebration, you can see what happened when John Cena broke the news to WWE fans in Tampa, Florida at about the same time.

For a look back at part three, click HERE.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how early World War II cluster bombs worked

The Joint Direct Attack Munition gets a lot of attention for its ability to strike within 30 feet of a target, no matter what the weather is like. But with all that attention, other bombs get short shrift it seems. Take, for instance, the cluster bomb.


The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

The German SD2 bore a resemblance to a butterfly, getting the nickname “Butterfly bomb.”

(U.S. Army)

JDAMs can’t do everything

The truth is that cluster bombs can do things that JDAMs simply can’t. In fact, the bombs are so useful that, this past December, Secretary of Defense James Mattis decided to reverse the Obama Administration’s plan to ditch these valuable weapons. Despite recent controversy and efforts to ban their use, systems like these have been around for decades.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

The CBU-103 is a modern cluster bomb, able to hit within 85 feet of its aimpoint with 202 BLU-97 submunitions from 10 miles away.

(U.S. Air Force)

Germany’s lethal “butterflies”

Cluster bombs first saw widespread use by both sides in World War II. The Germans used a version called the “Butterfly bomb,” also known as the SD2, which carried a number of “bomblets,” or four-and-a-half-pound submunitions. One attack in 1943 on British cities used over 3,000 of these bombs — some were set to go off immediately, others had a delayed detonation.

The system proved effective, so the United States made copies of that bomb: the M28 (100lbs) and the M29 (500lbs). The Americans added a proximity fuse to some of the bomblets, making them even more devastating to troops caught in the open.

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Modern cluster bombs are more lethal

Today, modern cluster bombs, like the CBU-97, make attack planes like the F-15E Strike Eagle or strategic bombers like the B-1B Lancer capable of wiping out dozens of tanks in a single pass. Other cluster bombs opt to replace the boom with the ability to knock out a country’s electrical grid.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Kitty Hawk rammed a Soviet sub

Sinking an American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier would be quite a feat for any vessel or aggressor. Not only because they each carry an air force greater than the air forces of most countries, and pack a punch with more power than anything most countries could ever hope to bring to bear, but also because they’re really, really hard to sink. American carriers are the biggest warships ever built and move fast enough to outrun submarines.

But that didn’t stop one Soviet sub from trying.


In March 1984, the USS Kitty Hawk was part of Team Spirit 1984, a massive naval exercise in the Sea of Japan, along with the navy of South Korea. The carrier’s 80 aircraft and eight escorts were so engaged in the exercise that they didn’t detect a Soviet Submarine chase the Kitty Hawk into the area. The submarine, K-314, was noticed by the carrier much later than it should have been. The Kitty Hawk turned on its engines to outrun and outmaneuver the Soviets.

It was the height of the Cold War, and both ships were carrying an arsenal of nuclear weapons. Games like this could have ended with a spark that ignited World War III. Instead, it ended in one of the most unforgettable naval engagements of the entire Cold War.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

The 5,200-ton Soviet Victor I-class attack submarine chased the American carrier for a week or so until the Yellow Sea began experiencing some pretty foul weather. K-314 would eventually lose sight and all contact with the Kitty Hawk and the other American ships. The skipper of the sub, Captain Vladimir Evseenko, decided to rise up to periscope depth and assess the situation from 10 meters below the surface. What he saw surprised him – the American carrier strike group was only four or five kilometers from his boat.

And the submarine and the Kitty Hawk were approaching one another very, very fast. At those speeds, it would be very difficult for any two ships to avoid a collision. Capt. Evseenko ordered an emergency dive as fast as he could, but it was all for naught. The 80,000-ton Kitty Hawk hit the sub at full speed.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

“The first thought was that the conning tower had been destroyed and the submarine’s body was cut to pieces,” recalled Evseenko. “We checked the periscope and antennas – they were in order. No leaks were reported, and the mechanisms were ok. Then suddenly another strike! In the starboard side! We checked again – everything was in order…. We were trying to figure out what happened. It became clear that an aircraft carrier had rammed us. The second strike hit the propeller. The first one, most likely, bent the stabilator.”

“I was on the bridge at the time of the incident, monitoring one of the two radars,” Capt. David N. Rogers told reporters aboard the carrier. “We felt a sudden shudder, a fairly violent shudder. We immediately launched two helicopters to see if we could render any assistance to them but the Soviet sub appeared to have suffered no extensive damage.”

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

The carrier ran over the submarine’s stern, a point in the Victor I-class where the submarine’s sonar is blind due to the sounds of its own engines. The submarine, it turns out, failed to turn on its navigation lights. The Kitty Hawk suffered no damage when running over the sub. The Soviet Union had no response.

Navy officials were quick to point out that in a wartime setting, a Soviet submarine would never have gotten so close to a carrier strike group. In peacetime, losing a Soviet submarine’s location was fairly common. Ramming an adversary, during war or peace, has never been all that common.

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This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War

While the Korean War Battles of Old Baldy, Triangle Hill, and Geumseong may not be the first battles that come to mind when we think of the Korean Conflict, for Colombia, they were certainly important. Like their Brazilian neighbors in World War II, the Colombians saw the importance of stemming the advance of an aggressor as essential to the world’s collective security. Three Colombian frigates along with more than 5,000 troops saw action alongside their U.N. allies there.


A Colombian veteran returns home from the Korean War.

 

While the country’s then-President, Laureano Gomez, was also looking for economic support from the West, the Colombians were also eager to remove the pro-German brush that had painted them during the Second World War. By 1951, for the first time in 127 years, Colombia was fully engaged in the fighting on the Korean Peninsula, attached to the U.S. 7th and 24th Infantry Divisions.

Over the course of the rest of the war, Colombia would send battalion after battalion over to fight, numbering more than a thousand men each. They were eager to prove Colombia’s bravery to the rest of the world, like the Turkish and Ethiopians before them. They were unlike any Colombian soldiers who came before them, but when returning home, they found a cold indifferent world.

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Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford meets a Colombian Korean War veteran at the Korean War Memorial, Headquarters of the Military Forces of Colombia. (DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

Their service went largely unnoticed when they returned home. Colombians rejected many of the ideals the Korean War veterans held as they fought to earn their respect in the halls of the U.N.. They suffered the way many veterans the world over suffer after their wars end. While abroad and fighting, they found themselves honored and beloved by veterans from every nation they fought. When they came home, they found it was hard to win over their own nation.

They received no benefits, no pension. Many wounded veterans would come home and one day die without so much as a thank you from the nation for which they were willing to give their lives.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English
Colombian Army veterans.

Eventually, the Colombian government would relent and offer a pension to Korean War veterans who could prove they were indigent. By then, many of those fighting men were well into their 60s and 70s. Some of those veterans were never recovered and remain in Korea to this day. The unit also suffered 213 dead and 567 wounded. They were the last force to arrive but the 9th largest to join in the effort to keep the South free. Still, the men who fought there don’t hold regrets about going.

“It was a really extraordinary experience,” said General Álvaro Valencia Tovar. “I never regretted going, despite the hardships suffered during war, the bitter winter we lived through there…resisting subzero temperatures, but that was all part of a chapter in my life that I’ve always regarded with great sympathy and with pleasant memories.”

MIGHTY MONEY

Time to slay the myth around the magical unicorn called the “VA Loan”

Since transitioning out of the military, I’ve had the, um, “pleasure” of being around a lot more civilians. Some of the questions I’m asked on an annoyingly regular basis are, “Aren’t VA loans awesome? Don’t you get a free house? Did you get yours?”


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After polling some veterans, I realized I should give a little brief on the subject. Time to slay the myth around what a VA loan is or isn’t.

First: The VA loan is, in fact, not a loan at all.

The VA Loan Program, created in 1944 as part of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, is a service the Department of Veteran Affairs created to help veterans returning from WWII buy a home.

According to the VA website, “VA Home Loans are provided by private lenders, such as banks and mortgage companies. VA guarantees a portion of the loan, enabling the lender to provide you with more favorable terms.”

Essentially, the VA will co-sign a loan with you, and that gives you a few perks.

Why is co-signing helpful?

When new adults try to rent an apartment or buy a car, most people won’t trust them unless they get a “guarantor” to co-sign the loan or the lease, usually in the form of a parent or older family member. After faithfully paying rent and payments on a loan or two, civilians in their 20s build up credit and no longer need anyone to sign off their financial choices.

Military personnel and veterans are a bit different. Our lifestyle inherently makes us look financially untrustworthy.

How are you 24 with no rental history?” I live in a barracks.

You seem to have moved every two years...” Yep.

You disappeared from our system for over a year except for credit card transactions from… Afghanistan. Are you a terrorist?” It’s called deployment!

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Luckily, we have an Uncle Sam willing to co-sign on such a big purchase, or what’s called a Purchase Loan. You’ll be able to get better interest rates than your credit alone could get you, and you can skip the down payment.

Bonus: Uncle Sam will also insure the transaction, allowing you to skip Private Mortgage Insurance.

The Devil’s Details

Just because you can get a loan for down, doesn’t mean you should. Regular people are expected to drop at least 20% value of the house as a down payment.

Here are three different scenarios. Same house, same interest rate, same 30-year loan.

The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English
The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English
The spooky way the UK teaches its Gurkhas English

The less you pay upfront, the more you have to pay in compounded interest for the next 30 years. 30 years. That’s your entire military career plus half your next career!

Being able to do less of a down payment is useful in a few scenarios. For example, if you live in California, chances are you won’t ever have 0K cash for a 20% down payment on the crazy prices out here.

A few resources to see how much you can afford while buying a house: RedFin has a quick calculator (above) as well as a more in-depth option. USAA also has one with different loans they offer.

Warning: Anything offered by Uncle Sam comes with a catch

According to the VA website, “VA-guaranteed loans are available for homes for your occupancy or a spouse and/or dependent (for active duty service members). To be eligible, you must have satisfactory credit, sufficient income to meet the expected monthly obligations, and a valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE).”
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A few takeaways:

  • VA Loans are only for houses you will live in, NOT commercial or investment properties.
  • You have to live in the house for at least one year.
  • You can’t buy a multi-family or multi-unit property. No duplexes or apartment buildings (Trust me, I tried).
  • Banks set the terms of the loan (interest rate, payment schedule, etc.) based on your credit and current job, not the VA.
  • The VA might not approve you.
  • Requires at least 181 days active duty completed to be eligible.
  • Dishonorable discharge not eligible
  • Some dependents are eligible
  • Can be used to BUILD a house
  • Receiving a Certificate of Eligibility is required
  • There is a loan fee charged by the VA
  • Closing costs still have to be paid (typically 2-5% of the loan)
  • There is a limit on how much you can borrow without making a down payment based upon where in the country you live.

When good loans go bad

After nearly an hour and being transferred 7 times, I finally spoke to the most unenthusiastic Federal Employee in existence to answer my unanswerable question: “Are VA loans any different in foreclosure or the foreclosure process than a regular civilian mortgage?”

The answer: No, mostly.

The VA will not step in and save you, there are no cash handouts, and the VA will not shield you from the banks that are after their money. The VA will take care of a few fees dealing with the lenders, but that is about it. For more questions: 1-877-827-3702 or visit the payment problems page.

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