10 heavy-hitter predictions on who will win the 2017 Army-Navy Game - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

10 heavy-hitter predictions on who will win the 2017 Army-Navy Game

We Are The Mighty is on the ground in Philadelphia with USAA at the Army-Navy Game. Down in “Military Alley,” some of the game’s alums and VIPs stopped by WATM to talk football, catch us up on their work, and – of course – give their predictions for who will win one of the oldest rivalries in college football.


1. Rob Riggle, Marine Corps Veteran / Actor

Army and Navy are coming into today’s game with winning records. And since both teams bested the Air Force Academy Falcons this season, the winner will go home with the coveted Commander-In-Chief Trophy and wins a trip to the White House.

2. Roger Staubach, Navy Veteran and 1963 Heisman Trophy Winner

Navy currently has 15 trophy wins, compared to Army’s six. The last time the Black Knights took the prize back to West Point, they met then-President Bill Clinton on their trip to the White House.

That was 1996.

3. Vice Adm. Walter Carter, 62nd Naval Academy Superintendent,

Army is coming off an upset win in last year’s game and no matter who wins today, both teams are bowl game-bound.

Navy could host the University of Virginia Cavaliers in the Military Bowl, while it looks like Army could meet San Diego State in the Armed Forces Bowl. Both games would be in January.

4. Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, 59th West Point Superintendent

The 118th Army-Navy Game features a number of heavy-hitting players to watch, including both quarterbacks: Army’s Ahmad Bradshaw and Navy’s Malcolm Perry. Both players are sure to have a decisive impact on the outcome of today’s game.

5. Rick Neuheisel, CBS Sports College Football Analyst

Going into today’s game, Navy looks to stop Army from extending last year’s win to a two game streak. The all time series has Navy with 60 wins and Army with 50. The teams also tied seven separate times.

A tie is an unlikely outcome of today’s game.

6. Lt. Gen. Michael Linnington (Ret.), CEO, Wounded Warrior Project

Even though the tough talk is fierce and the rivalry doubly so, the two teams take part in a number of joint traditions, both before and after the game. The two schools’ glee clubs join together to sing the National Anthem before the game and will sing each other’s alma mater after the game.

7. Vince “Invincible” Papale, NFL Legend Travis Manion Foundation Supporter

Both teams will join to sing each other’s alma mater, but the big question is who will sing first. The winner of the game will serenade the losing team’s fans in the stands with their alma mater. Then they jointly turn to the winning team’s fans to sing the winner’s alma mater.

The goal is to “sing second.”

8. Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Pete Dawkins

The Army-Navy game’s importance in NCAA athletics has declined over the years, but its importance to the nation and to those who serve has definitely not. Army hasn’t been the AP National Champion since 1945 and Navy’s only championship was won in 1926.

9. Boo Corrigan Director of Athletics, West Point

The game continues to exemplify the often-misunderstood rivalries between the branches of the Armed Forces of the United States: taking the smack talk to the very brink of good taste while remaining polite – and always remembering that in the end, they’re all on the same team.

10. Andrew Brennan, Army Veteran Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation Founder

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea gets confused, calls wrong guy ‘mad dog’

Pyongyang has responded in its usual fiery fashion to President Donald Trump’s speech to South Korea’s National Assembly in which Trump warned North Korea not to test the US’s resolve.


Trump’s speech focused largely on the long history of North Korea’s human-rights abuses, though Trump departed from his past rhetoric by offering North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his people “a path to much better future” if the country abandoned its nuclear ambitions.

10 heavy-hitter predictions on who will win the 2017 Army-Navy Game
You don’t want to mess with the real ‘Mad Dog.’

But returning to typical form, Trump also brought up the US’s victories over ISIS and its nuclear submarines in the region. Trump said misinterpreting the US’s restraint for weakness would be a “fatal miscalculation” by North Korea, and he called on the international community to implement the UN’s strict sanctions on Pyongyang.

North Korean officials, who spoke with CNN about the speech, were not thrilled. “We don’t care about what that mad dog may utter because we’ve already heard enough,” they said.

Also Read: 6 times Gen. ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis was a gift we didn’t deserve

The officials reaffirmed North Korea’s commitment to building nuclear weapons, bringing up the US’s “nuclear aircraft carriers and strategic bombers” before promising to “counter those threats by bolstering the power of justice in order to take out the root cause of aggression and war.”

North Korean officials have repeatedly said they will not look to negotiate with the US until they complete their country’s nuclear weapons program. At the same time, the US remains intent on preventing North Korea from perfecting a nuclear-equipped missile capable of reaching the US mainland.

On Wednesday, Trump arrived in China to talk to President Xi Jinping, the most powerful Chinese leader since Chairman Mao, about North Korea among other things. China, North Korea’s main ally and trading partner, has been unusually helpful in the US’s recent push to increase sanctions on Pyongyang.

Trump expressed optimism in South Korea about the US’s ability to bring North Korea to heel, and he previously said he expected China to pitch in considerably.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US employee in China may have been victim of ‘sonic attack’

The State Department says a US government employee working in China suffered “subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure” that later led to a diagnosis of “mild traumatic brain injury” — resulting in a warning to all US citizens in the country.

The strange incident recalls a similar spate of reports from Cuba, where US officials reported symptoms consistent with a “sonic attack,” or exposure to harmful frequencies.


“The US government is taking these reports seriously and has informed its official staff in China of this event,” the State Department warned in a health alert. “We do not currently know what caused the reported symptoms, and we are not aware of any similar situations in China, either inside or outside of the diplomatic community.”

The State Department went on to advise: “While in China, if you experience any unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena accompanied by unusual sounds or piercing noises, do not attempt to locate their source. Instead, move to a location where the sounds are not present.”

Emily Rauhala, The Washington Post’s China correspondent, reported that the State Department confirmed the US worker’s ailment was diagnosed as a mild traumatic brain injury, something US officials in Cuba also experienced.

10 heavy-hitter predictions on who will win the 2017 Army-Navy Game
The U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba.

The Post reports that Chinese and US officials are looking into the matter. Americans working in Cuba suffered permanent hearing loss, severe headaches, loss of balance, brain swelling, and disruption to cognitive functions.

The US originally called the Cuba incidents “sonic attacks” but later backed off that phrasing as medical experts examined the patients and found their symptoms and conditions to be of mysterious origins.

Medical testing revealed the embassy workers in Cuba developed changes to the white-matter tracts that let different parts of the brain communicate, officials told the Associated Press.

But a purposeful attack hasn’t been ruled out as the source of the brain injuries now linked to two countries.

“The unique circumstances of these patients and the consistency of the clinical manifestations raised concern for a novel mechanism of a possible acquired brain injury from a directional exposure of undetermined etiology,” a study about the victims in Cuba concluded.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US & India practiced hunting subs together; keeping an eye on China

The US and India practiced hunting submarines in the Indian Ocean last week, a first for the two nations since the signing of a major agreement making it easier to keep track of Chinese undersea assets.

US and Indian P-8 multi-mission maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, together with the US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance, participated in anti-submarine warfare training exercises, focusing on information sharing and coordination, the US Navy said in a statement.


“Our goal is to further standardize our procedures, so we can work more efficiently in future real-world operations,” said US Navy Lt. James Lowe, a pilot with Patrol Squadron 8.

10 heavy-hitter predictions on who will win the 2017 Army-Navy Game

One of India’s P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft, dedicated on Nov. 13, 2015.

(Indian navy)

The exercises, which took place near the island of Diego Garcia, were the first ASW drills since India and the US signed the Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) in September 2018, The Diplomat reported last week.

The agreement allows for real-time operational intelligence sharing, especially in the maritime domain, where China is stepping up its surface and undersea activities.

“If a US warship or aircraft detects a Chinese submarine in the Indian Ocean, for instance, it can tell us through COMCASA-protected equipment in real-time, and vice-versa,” an unnamed source told the Times of India when the agreement was signed.

It was first disclosed two years ago by Harry Harris, then the US Navy admiral in charge of US Indo-Pacific Command, that the US was working with India to better monitor Chinese activities in the Indian Ocean.

“There is sharing of information regarding Chinese maritime movement in the Indian Ocean,” Harris explained in early 2017, adding that the US works “closely with India and with improving India’s capability to do that kind of surveillance.”

“Chinese submarines are clearly an issue and we know they are operating through the region,” said Harris, who is now the US ambassador to South Korea.

The US and India established their first secure communications link between the two navies as part of the COMCASA agreement in early April 2019.

10 heavy-hitter predictions on who will win the 2017 Army-Navy Game

India’s first-in-class Kalvari submarine during floating at Naval Dockyard in Mumbai in October 2015.

(Indian navy)

The Department of Defense noted several times in its 2018 report on China’s growing military might that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) continues to deploy submarines to the Indian Ocean and is “demonstrating its increasing familiarity with operating in that region.”

“These submarine patrols demonstrate the PLAN’s emerging capability both to interdict key sea lines of communication (SLOC) and to increase China’s power projection into the Indian Ocean,” the Pentagon argued.

The Indian navy stood up its first squadron of P-8I Neptunes, a variant of the P-8A Poseidons used by the US Navy, in 2015. It currently operates a fleet of eight, but it has placed an order for four more of these planes, which are widely recognized as the best anti-submarine warfare aircraft in the world.

Earlier this month, the US approved the sale of two dozen submarine-hunting, multi-role MH-60R Seahawk maritime helicopters to India for .6 billion.

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

Articles

It’s official — the Army is looking for a new, bigger combat rifle

The stars are aligning and it’s looking more and more like the Army is working to outfit many of its soldiers with a battle rifle in a heavier caliber than the current M4.


Late last month, the service released a request to industry asking which companies could supply the service with a commercially-available rifle chambered in the 7.62x51mm NATO round, a move that many saw coming after rumblings emerged that the Army was concerned about enemy rifles targeting U.S. troops at greater ranges than they could shoot back.

10 heavy-hitter predictions on who will win the 2017 Army-Navy Game
Spc. Artemio Veneracion (back), an infantryman with Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, informs his team leader, Sgt. Ryan Steiner, that he has acquired his target with his M110 Semi-automatic Sniper System (SASS) during a Squad Training Exercise (STX) at Tapa Training Area in Estonia, May 26, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven M. Colvin)

It now seems that fear has shifted in favor of fielding a rifle that can fire a newly developed round that is capable of penetrating advanced Russian body armor — armor defense planners feel is more available to enemies like ISIS and terrorist organizations.

In late May, the Army released a so-called “Request for Information” to see if industry could provide the service with up to 10,000 of what it’s calling the “Interim Combat Service Rifle.”

Chambered in 7.62×51, the rifle must have a barrel length of 16 or 20 inches, have an accessory rail and have a minimum magazine capacity of 20 rounds, among other specifications.

The rifle must be a Commercial Off The Shelf system readily available for purchase today,” the Army says, signaling that it’s not interested in a multi-year development effort. “Modified or customized systems are not being considered.”

But what’s particularly interesting is that the ICSR must have full auto capability, harkening back to the days of the 30-06 Browning Automatic Rifle or the full-auto M14. Analysts recognize that few manufacturers have full-auto-capable 7.62 rifles in their portfolio, with HK (which makes the HK-417) and perhaps FN (with its Mk-17 SCAR) being some of the only options out there.

10 heavy-hitter predictions on who will win the 2017 Army-Navy Game
A Special Forces soldier takes a rest during a patrol in Afghanistan. The Army is considering outfitting its front-line troops with a 7.62 battle rifle like this Mk17 SCAR-H. (Photo from US Army Special Operations Command)

While the Army is already buying the Compact Semi-Auto Sniper System from HK, that’s not manufactured with a full-auto option.

Under Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, the Army is focusing on near-peer threats like China and Russia and starting to develop equipment and strategies to meet a technologically-advanced enemy with better weapons and survival systems. Milley also has openly complained about the service’s hidebound acquisition system that took years and millions of dollars to adopt a new pistol that’s already on the commercial market — and he’s now got a Pentagon leadership that backs him up, analysts say.

“The U.S. military currently finds itself at the nexus of a US small arms renaissance,” Soldier Systems Daily wrote. “Requirements exist. Solutions, although not perfect, exist. And most of all, political will exists to resource the acquisitions.”

Articles

The Air Force squeezed 13 F-22s into a NASA hangar to protect them from Hurricane Hermine

10 heavy-hitter predictions on who will win the 2017 Army-Navy Game
NASA Langley Research Center provides shelter for Langley Air Force Base F-22 Raptors as the approaching Hurricane Hermine moves up the east coast. | Photo by David C. Bowman/NASA, Langley


As Hurricane Hermine passed through Florida last week and moved northward, Langley Air Force Base in Virginia was faced with the problem of protecting its F-22 Raptors.

Costing about $140 million a pop, not including development costs, the stealth aircraft became vulnerable to the elements as Virginia declared a state of emergency.

That’s when the Air Force reached out to NASA’s Langley Research Center nearby.

With 85,200 square feet of space in their hangar, NASA’s Category 2 hurricane-rated facility seemed like the ideal location to hold 13 F-22s. After it was all said and done, 22 aircraft, including a massive C-130, was squeezed into the hangar.

The Air Force even showed their gratitude with the following tweet:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia threatens ‘horrible conflict’ if Georgia joins NATO

Ten years after Russia and Georgia went to war, the West on August 7 condemned Moscow’s continued military presence in the Caucasus country’s territory and reiterated support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Earlier, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev issued a stern warning to NATO that Georgia’s joining the Western military alliance could lead to a “horrible” new conflict.

Medvedev said in an interview with the Kommersant FM radio station on August 6 that NATO’s plans to eventually offer membership to Georgia are “absolutely irresponsible” and a “threat to peace.”


10 heavy-hitter predictions on who will win the 2017 Army-Navy Game

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev

(TASS)

Late on August 7, 2008, Georgian troops rolled into the Russia-backed breakaway region of South Ossetia in an attempt to reclaim the territory from what Tbilisi said was growing Russian militarization.

The conflict erupted into a five-day war in which Russian forces drove deep into Georgia before pulling back in the wake of a European Union-brokered peace agreement.

The conflict, which Tbilisi and Moscow accuse one another of starting, left hundreds dead and drove thousands from their homes.

After the war, Russia left thousands of troops in South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, and recognized both as independent countries.

Marking the 10th anniversary of the conflict, Georgia and the United States on August 7 condemned Russia’s continued “occupation” of Georgian territory.

“This is a war against Georgia, an aggression, an occupation, and a blatant violation of international law,” Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili said during a meeting attended by the foreign ministers of Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and a Ukrainian deputy prime minister.

“The aggressor’s appetite has only increased after the invasion,” he added.

The “aggression” against Georgia did not start in August 2008, but much earlier, in 1991-1992, the Georgian president also said, when “Russia detached two regions from the Georgian central authorities by means of hybrid war.”

10 heavy-hitter predictions on who will win the 2017 Army-Navy Game

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili

​’Georgia’s Sovereign Choice’

In a joint statement, the Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, and Ukrainian ministers called on the international community to continue to demand that Russia “fully and without any further delay implements its international commitments and starts honoring international law and the right of sovereign neighboring states to choose their own destiny.”

They also expressed “strong support for Georgia’s sovereign choice to pursue the ultimate goal of membership in the EU and NATO.”

Last month, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, reiterated support for Georgia’s membership at a meeting in Brussels, but did not mention when that could happen.

Before the Russia-Georgia war, Russian officials had made clear that they vehemently opposed Georgia’s efforts to achieve NATO membership.

“Ten years of occupation is ten years too long,” the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi said in a statement.

“We will continue to work together with the Government and the people of Georgia and with our friends and allies to ensure the world’s continued support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders,” it also said, adding, “Georgia, we are with you.”

The European Union praised the truce deal putting an end to the fighting and called the continuing Russian military presence in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, a “violation of international law” and the agreement.

“The European Union reiterates its firm support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders,” a statement said.In an interview with Current Time TV on August 6, Mikheil Saakashvili, who was Georgia’s president at the time of the 2008 conflict, said that Russia’s motive in the war was to attack “Georgian statehood.”

Saakashvili said that Moscow was concerned because reforms had made the South Caucasus country a “role model” for others in the region.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

Watch Army special forces vet Tyler Grey talk music

Army Special Forces veteran Tyler Grey is definitely what you would call an “operator.”


A Ranger, a sniper with the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and a combat veteran, Grey has served his country well.

He knows the meaning of sacrifice, perhaps more than most. In 2005, he was blown up in a raid in Sadr City, Iraq, which nearly cost him his arm. But the experience gave Grey an evolved sense of perspective.

We Are The Mighty sat down to talk with him about how music had an impact on his career and his life, and what he had to say was pretty insightful.

“The journey isn’t that you never have a problem. The journey is overcoming problems. The music I like is about people who are honest and open enough to share a problem, to share a weakness, to share an experience that affected them, and then how they overcome it.”

We also asked Grey to make a Battle Mix — a playlist of power anthems — with songs that held significant meaning throughout his life. He didn’t disappoint.

Check out his interview here, and then hit up the Battle Mix for your own dose of inspiration:

(We Are The Mighty | YouTube)

The Grey Battle Mix (you’re welcome):

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A third of the Thai boys soccer team want to be Navy SEALs now

Four members of the Thai soccer team that survived being trapped in a flooded cave for more than two weeks now want to be Navy SEALS.

Three boys, and the team coach, said they now aspired to the join the SEALs, whose divers swam into the cave and helped get all 12 boys and the 25-year-old coach out alive.


Asked during a press conference on July 18, 2018, about his future plans, the 14-year-old goalkeeper Ekarat Wongsukchan said: “I still want to pursue my dream to be a professional soccer player, but there might be a new dream, which is to become part of the Navy SEALs.”

Wongsukchan and three other members of the team — including the coach, Ekapol Chantawong — then raised their hand when asked how many of them wanted to be Navy SEALs.

10 heavy-hitter predictions on who will win the 2017 Army-Navy Game

Members of the rescued Thai soccer team, including some who want to be Thai Navy SEALs.

(Channel News Asia)

It was met with applause from the SEALs onstage at the conference as well as many members of the audience.

Six other members of the team also said they hoped to one day be professional soccer players.

Rescuers found the team huddled on a dry ledge in the partially flooded cave complex after nine days of searches.

Three Thai Navy SEALs and a doctor stayed with the boys over the ensuing week until they were extracted one by one as part of a three-day mission that ended July 9, 2018.

Sanam Kunam, a former SEAL who volunteered to help, died while placing oxygen tanks in the cave.

The team paid condolences to Kunam toward the end of the conference while holding a portrait of the diver with personal messages written around it.

Chanin Vibulrungruang, 11, the youngest of the team, said in his message:

“I would like to thank both Lt. Saman and everyone involved in this. I hope that Lt. Saman has a good sleep and I hope that he rests in peace.

“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

7 more professional athletes you didn’t know were veterans

The military is a breeding ground for excellence. You have to be a cut — or two — above the rest to make it through those doors and the wringer doesn’t stop until you are appropriately Blue, Green, or Marine.


It is no surprise that some of those excellent members turned out to be some of the all-time great athletes. Check out some of the best to ever step on the field of competition before, after, and sometimes during service to their country.

Related: 6 reasons being E-4(ish) mafia is the best

7. Bernard James – United States Air Force

James served in the U.S. Air Force from 2002 to 2008 as a security forces member, HUA. James would separate from service to eventually attend and play ball for Florida State. He was drafted in 2012 by the Cleveland Cavaliers. James is the youngest veteran on this list at 32.

10 heavy-hitter predictions on who will win the 2017 Army-Navy Game
Bernard James in warm-ups. A long way from the front gate. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

6. Elgin Baylor – Army Reserves

Baylor joined U.S. Army Reserves during his Hall of Fame career. At the time, Baylor was one of the premier players in the early days of the NBA. He was called to active duty during the 1962 season, having to bounce from duty to game and back throughout the course of the season. Baylor is a Hall of Fame inductee and a stylistic predecessor to many of today’s players.

10 heavy-hitter predictions on who will win the 2017 Army-Navy Game
Elgin Baylor. He was basically MJ before MJ… seriously. (Image from Alchteron.com)

5. Alejandro Villanueva – Army

Villanueva attended West Point and received a commission in the U.S. Army in 2010. He would initially go undrafted before eventually finding a home with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2014. In the space between, Villanueva served his country as a U.S. Army Ranger and notched a few tours in the Middle East under his belt. His journey has come full circle, as he made the NFL Pro Bowl in 2017.

10 heavy-hitter predictions on who will win the 2017 Army-Navy Game
Alejandro Villanueva post-game with Steelers in 2015. From Army Ranger to NFL O-line. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

4. Willie Mays – Army

Mays was drafted to the U.S. Army in 1952 during the Korean War. He would miss two seasons while serving his country. He would return to the MLB with the San Francisco Giants in 1954 and promptly liter the record books with his name. Mays would go on to make every All-Star game until retirement in 1973.

10 heavy-hitter predictions on who will win the 2017 Army-Navy Game
A 1951 Bowman of Willie Mays. Just a year before serving in the Korean War. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

3. Nolan Ryan – Army Reserves

Ryan holds the MLB record for strikeouts — nearly 1,000 strikeouts ahead of the number 2 guy — and no-hitters. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves in 1967.

10 heavy-hitter predictions on who will win the 2017 Army-Navy Game
Nolan Ryan after opening up a can of whoop *ss. (Image from BeyondTheBoxScore.com)

2. Randy Couture – Army

Couture served in the U.S. Army from 1982 to 1988. He attained the rank of sergeant before separating to pursue other endeavors. He went on to become an Olympic team alternate three times as a Greco-Roman wrestler before going on to UFC fame.

10 heavy-hitter predictions on who will win the 2017 Army-Navy Game
Former UFC champion Randy Couture spent the afternoon with the Army Marksmanship Unit seeing what the AMU does and getting to know the troops April 17. (Photo from Ft. Benning)

Related: 7 of the top superpowers every Airman possesses

1. Brandon Vera – United States Air Force

Vera enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in the late 1990’s after deciding college wasn’t the route for him. He trained with the Air Force wrestling team before injuring his arm and eventually being medically discharged from service.

Vera went on to rehab himself and make it to the UFC where he has a professional record of 15 and 7.

10 heavy-hitter predictions on who will win the 2017 Army-Navy Game
Brandon Vera landing a front kick during UFC 164. (Image from MMA Mania)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

Thousands of Soldiers and their families are traveling home for the holidays, including about 44,000 trainees and cadre from initial-entry training centers.


The Soldiers are participating in a two-week Holiday Block Leave beginning Dec. 18, said Michael Brown, a training analyst at the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training’s Initial Entry Division.

These Soldiers are in various training sites across the U.S., going through Basic Combat Training, One Station Unit Training, Advanced Individual Training, the Basic Officer Leadership Course, and Warrant Officer Basic Course, he said.

Normally, about 3 to 5 percent of these Soldiers choose to remain at their installation and not travel home, he added. For those who stay behind, units coordinate several Morale, Welfare, and Recreation activities for them, including attending professional sporting events.

Maj. Gen. Pete Johnson, commander, U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson, South Carolina, was at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina Dec. 18, granting media interviews about the holiday travel. Around him were thousands of Soldiers trainees awaiting flights.

10 heavy-hitter predictions on who will win the 2017 Army-Navy Game

Holiday Block Leave gives Soldiers a chance to reconnect with their families, he said. About 7,000 Soldier trainees were traveling out of Fort Jackson on Dec. 18, “by trains, planes, and automobiles” and by buses, too, he added.

Planning for this mass exodus is like planning for the D-Day landings, he added, describing the logistical challenges of packing all the Soldiers out, giving them their safety and Army Values briefings, and getting them to their preferred modes of transportation.

Most of those Soldiers will be telling the Army story back home, he said, and some will even have “embellished war stories.”

Most of them are young, as young as 17, he noted, but sprinkled among them are “elder statesmen,” some as old as 39. They are from every state in the Union.

Johnson praised the volunteers at the airport’s USO lounge, who are particularly busy this time of year giving Soldiers a place to relax while awaiting their flights.

Also Read: Watch Stephen Colbert’s Hilarious Stint In Army Basic Training

Pvt. Seth Akavickas was at the airport in Charlotte Dec. 18, waiting for a flight to take him home to Wausau, Wisconsin.

Soldiers in training at Fort Jackson were given personalized assistance getting home by ticket vendors, Akavickas said. His ticket vendor got him discounted round-trip tickets for $480, which was a good deal, he noted.

Feb. 28 is when Akavickas began his Basic Combat Training, so he’s experienced life in the Army for some time now. Currently, he is in Advanced Individual Training and will graduate Feb. 1.

Akavickas said he has mixed feelings about Holiday Block Leave. On the one hand, he’ll be able to spend time with his family over the holidays. But on the other hand, he said he’d kind of like to stay and finish training.

However, he added, the vast majority of Soldiers in training whom he’s spoken with are delighted for the break.

After AIT, Akavickas will return to Wisconsin to work as a human resource specialist in the National Guard. He said he plans to attend college through the ROTC program and then try to get commissioned in four years. He wants to make a career in the Army.

Pfc. Madeline Sallee was also at the Charlotte airport Dec. 18. She was heading home to Minnesota, on leave from Basic Combat Training and very happy to see her friends and family.

10 heavy-hitter predictions on who will win the 2017 Army-Navy Game
New U.S. Army soldiers in basic combat training wait for further in-processing after receiving their initial haircuts January 16, 2008, at Fort Jackson, S.C. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Micky M. Bazaldua)

Sallee said the rest over break will be very good, particularly after some arduous training that included a 15-kilometer rucksack march and a lot of other physical activity.

The hardest part of training, she said, was spending the night outside when the temperature got down to 16F. “We were all shivering,” she added, despite being used to cold in her home state.

Sallee will graduate Feb. 1 and will become a logistical specialist. She said one of the benefits about basic was making a lot of new friends.

Staff Sgt. Domenic Buscemi, a drill sergeant from Fort Jackson, was also at the airport in Charlotte Dec. 18. He said drill sergeants accompany their Soldiers to help facilitate movement through the airport and to ensure standards of discipline are adhered to at all times.

Soldiers in training are required to travel in uniform, which means they are still representing the Army even while they are away, he said.

Buscemi also relayed some of the benefits of Holiday Block Leave. It serves to boost morale and motivation and gives Soldiers a chance to recharge.

It also gives them time to reflect on their experiences and spread their short-but-memorable Army story back in their communities, he said.

When the Soldiers return, Jan. 3, they will have retained about 70 percent of their basic military knowledge, so there will be some re-learning, he said, along with re-establishing their military discipline.

10 heavy-hitter predictions on who will win the 2017 Army-Navy Game
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Pfc. Andrew Valenza)

Soldiers don’t get to travel home in the middle of their training cycle during the rest of the year, he noted. On Thanksgiving, they’re given one day off, but that’s not time enough to travel home for most.

Fifteen years ago, Buscemi was a Soldier in training at Fort Benning, Georgia. It was summer and it was hot, he said, much tougher than winter training weather-wise.

Buscemi said he’ll return to Fort Jackson today, take a day of rest, then pile into the car with his wife and drive to her family’s home in Oklahoma where they will spend the holidays.

Brown admitted that the break in the training cycle is tough on drill sergeants, who have to re-teach numerous tasks, including discipline and customs and courtesies, when the Soldiers return from leave.

However, he said “the break is also good for trainees who come back with a little more pride about training to be a Soldier.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

A US service member was killed in an IED ambush in Iraq

The US-led coalition says a service member was killed and another was wounded when an explosion from a booby-trapped explosive hit their vehicle in Iraq.


An Oct. 2 statement from the coalition says further details would be released once next of kin are notified. The explosion happened on Oct. 1.

So far, seven American servicemen have been killed in Iraq in the fight against the Islamic State group, including two in the battle to retake the northern city of Mosul.

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Paratroopers, with Charlie Battery, 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, engage ISIS militants with precise and strategically placed artillery fire in support of Iraqi and Peshmerga fighters in Mosul. Army Photo by Sgt. Christopher Bigelow.

Additionally, a French paratrooper was killed in the fight against IS last month, though officials did not specify if the individual died in Iraq or Syria.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in August that more than 1,200 Iraqi forces were killed in the battle for Mosul and more than 6,000 were wounded.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why people think Trump may have turned on Mattis

President Donald Trump has reportedly soured on Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and is now increasingly making US military policy on his own.

Trump withdrew from the Iran deal, stopped US military exercises in South Korea, and aired plans to create the first new military branch in 70 years all in snap, shock decisions that saw Mattis scrambling to keep up, according to a new report from NBC.

“They don’t really see eye to eye,” said a former senior White House official.

These policy moves represent a budding trend of Trump steering US foreign and military policy by himself, and often against the advice of his top advisers like Mattis, sources told NBC.


Trump has made a number of snap decisions that have met with slow responses from Mattis and the Pentagon.

In July 2017, Trump announced a ban on transgender people joining the US military. Four federal courts struck down the order, and by the end of the year Mattis was accepting transgender troops again.

Trump, unsatisfied with the Pentagon slow-walking his policy decisions, has increasingly cut out Mattis and taken matters into his own hands, NBC cites sources as saying.

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Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis

Trump recently asked the military to come to the rescue of another imperiled policy by asking the National Guard to come to the border. Mattis reportedly resisted the idea in private but remained tight-lipped and dutiful in his public comments.

“[Mattis] didn’t feel like the mission was well-defined,” a senior White House official told NBC.

Now those National Guard soldiers are reportedly shoveling manure and feeding border patrol horses, among other menial tasks.

A Pentagon spokesperson told NBC that it was “silly” to say Mattis had been out of the loop on major US military policy decisions taken by Trump, but the White House and Pentagon have a record of making disjointed statements.

On June 25, 2018, Mattis is in Asia to lay ou the US’s stance on China’s militarization of the South China Sea, one of the few military issues on which Trump has yet to truly leave his mark.

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

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