Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet

‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.


For the person of leisure (POL):

~ Footwear fabricated for you by warzone friendlies ~

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet

Matthew “Griff” Griffin’s company, Combat Flip Flops, found its mission somewhat off the beaten path of American vetrepreneurship — somewhat outside the parameters that veteran-owned businesses usually set for themselves.

Returning from his tours in Iraq, the former Army Ranger found himself wondering what role, if any, the private business sector might play in stabilizing some of the international communities that the U.S. military has been laboring through the first decades of this century to liberate.

Read: Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

Many vets return from war looking to brush the dirt off their shoulders and get on with the business of living as free and fortunate Americans. The businesses that veterans found are most often designed to put other vets to work, while giving back to veteran causes here on the home front.

And make no mistake, that is good and proper — and WATM goes out of its way to shine the light of public awareness wherever we find such stories unfolding.

But Combat Flip Flops’ approach is just different enough to make us pause and reflect. Is there another way, now that we’re home, to support the mission we fought overseas to advance? Matthew Griffin thinks so.

Combat Flip Flops sells goods – from the eponymous sandals and sneakers to bags, scarves, and accessories – that are manufactured by workers in war-torn countries, the proceeds of which go to fund business development and education for the people of those communities.

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet

Griffin’s goal is to attack the vicious cycle of poverty begetting local violence begetting regional instability begetting the kind of endemic violence that requires U.S. military intervention.

Combat Flip Flops currently manufactures its shoes in factories in narco-insurgent Columbia. Their employees in Afghanistan, many of them women, make their scarves and sarongs. They sell jewelry made from detonated landmines and funnel a portion of the profits back to mine-clearing efforts in Laos. And they’re always looking for new synergies.

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet

Combat Flip Flops is investing in the economic health and social well-being of communities living in the wake of warfare. They recognize that, by the very nature of the mission, veterans and active duty personnel are the de facto sales reps of 21st century American democracy to some of the most at-risk communities in the modern world. And when combat in these areas concludes, the message shouldn’t just be “You’re Welcome.”

With the right kind of private sector support, it can be shorter and much more profound. The message can simply be “Welcome.”

The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.

Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet

MIGHTY TRENDING

American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack

The U.S. military says one of its soldiers was wounded when insurgents launched an attack in eastern Afghanistan’s remote Achin district of Nangarhar province.


Capt. Tom Gresback, a U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, told the Associated Press one U.S. service member was wounded and in stable condition in what he would describe only as “active ground engagement.” He refused to give further details including whether it involved a local militia.

Also Read: Marines and Air Force just iced one of the most wanted Taliban kingpins

In Afghanistan, local militias are often paid by the U.S. and are partnered with them in operations in remote regions.

The Taliban claimed the attack Jan. 11 was carried out by two insurgent disguised as local militiamen. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press the attackers had infiltrated the local force months earlier.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Japan just lost an F-35; here’s what happens if Russia/China find it first

Japan’s military reported on April 9, 2019, that it lost contact with an F-35 stealth jet some 84 miles off the east coast of Aomori prefecture, Japan, in the Pacific and that the hunt was on for the pilot and the downed plane.

But if Russia or China — which both maintain a heavy naval presence in the region — find the plane first, the future of US airpower could be over before it started.

“Bottom line is that it would not be good” for the future of US airpower if Japan or the US don’t quickly recover the jet, retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula told Business Insider.


“There is no price too high in this world for China and Russia to pay to get Japan’s missing F-35, if they can. Big deal,” Tom Moore, an expert on Russia and weapons proliferation, tweeted.

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet

(Lockheed Martin)

The hunt for F-35 tech is on

Basically, if Russia or China, perhaps using their advanced and stealthy submarines to probe the ocean floor, first found the jet, they would gain a treasure trove of secrets about the most expensive weapons system in the history of the world.

The F-35 crash in the Pacific represents the first-ever opportunity for Russia and China to hunt for one of these planes in the wild because the jet has crashed only once before, and that time was on US soil.

Reverse engineering the technology could allow Russia and China to build their own versions of the jet, up to a point.

“The usefulness for Russia or China of recovering some or all of the wreckage would depend on how much damage the aircraft sustained upon hitting the water,” Justin Bronk, a combat-aviation expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider.

“The general shape of the jet is well-known, as are its performance characteristics so not much to gain there but parts of radar and other sensors would be prime targets for recover and testing/even attempts at reverse engineering,” he added.

Russia specifically operates a fleet of shadowy submarines meant for very deep dives and research. The US and Japan have advanced maritime capabilities to search for the fallen jet but mostly rely on two of the US’s aging rescue and salvage ships and on large nuclear submarines, which may not be ideal for the rescue mission.

As of now, all anyone knows is where the F-35 was last seen flying. It could have continued on for miles, and currents may have dragged it miles farther. In short, the entire region has a chance at brushing up against some piece of it.

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet

What Russia and China stand to gain

Russia and China know what an F-35 looks like. There’s even some evidence China stole plans for the F-35. But even with an F-35 in its hands, the two countries still lack the advanced manufacturing know-how held in the US.

Just having some composite material used in the F-35’s jet engines wouldn’t necessarily allow China to create the materials at will. Just measuring the characteristics of the fuselage wouldn’t necessarily allow Russia to reliably manufacture airframes like the F-35’s on its own.

The F-35’s stealth and performance represent a tiny portion of its worth to the US military. The rest lies in the networking, sensor fusion, and secure communications.

There, according to Bronk, the jet stands a chance against prying eyes.

“Samples or the ‘fibre mat’ stealth coating would be sought after,” Bronk said. “But the jet’s all-important software and programming would likely be hard to reconstruct given not only the likely damage from the crash and salt water in Pacific but also the way that the jet’s sensitive systems are designed to be very hard to decipher and reverse engineer to make it more suitable for export.”

Despite the US’s best efforts, Russia or China salvaging any part of the F-35 represents a US security nightmare.

“Both China and Russia have excellent reconstruction/reverse engineering/copying skills, particularly the Chinese as they are masters at it,” Deptula said.

Bronk and Deptula both agreed that in Moscow, Washington, Beijing, and Tokyo, the race is now on to find the fallen F-35 to either protect or undermine its future as the lynchpin of US and allied airpower.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Navy EOD’s 2030 vision is more byte than bang

On October 19, the Navy EOD released its Strategic Plan 2020-2030, its blueprints for the next 10 years. Its leadership is looking to mold the military’s maritime EOD force into one that best supports the U.S., its allies, and partner nations to compete and win in an era of Great Power Competition (GPC).

The Navy EOD’s mission statement is to “eliminate explosive threats so the Fleet and Nation can fight and win — whenever, wherever, and however it chooses.”


This mission statement is to be achieved through:

• Developing the force to win against near-peer competitors and empowered non-state actors.
• Expanding our advantage against competitors’ undersea threats.
• Capitalizing on our unique ability to counter weapons of mass destruction.
• Growing expertise in the exploitation of next-generation weapons systems.
• Emboldening allies and partner nation’s capabilities.

In the Strategic Plan, the community of operators internalized 80 years of knowledge and sacrifice to honor the legacy of those who have come before and develop and prepare future generations of the Navy EOD community. With Navy EOD being in its ninth decade of service, it is looking beyond the horizon to chart its future course. Its aim is to remain the world’s premier combat force for eliminating explosive threats.

This is the force’s first major mission update since 1997. The plan was developed to meet the challenges of a changing national security environment and position Navy EOD to best serve its role within the NECF said Rear Adm. Joseph DiGuardo, commander of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC).

“The Navy Expeditionary Combat Force (NECF) clears the explosive, security, and physical hazards emplaced by our adversaries; secures battlespace for the naval force; builds the critical infrastructure, domain awareness, and logistic capacity to rearm, resupply, and refuel the fleet; protects the critical assets the Navy and the nation need to achieve victory and reinforce blue-water lethality,” DiGuardo said.

NECF is comprised of Navy EOD, the Maritime Expeditionary Security Force, the Naval Construction Force, and diving and salvage units.

“As part of the NECF, our EOD forces play a pivotal role in clearing the explosive hazards in any environment to protect the fleet and Joint Force — from the simplest impediment to the most complex weapon of mass destruction—and build an understanding of our adversary capabilities by exploiting those hazards. Navy EOD is the key to our nation being undeterred by explosive threats,” DiGuardo added.

“The strategic plan ensures Navy EOD supports the NECF by eliminating explosive threats so the fleet, Navy, and nation can fight and win whenever, wherever and however it chooses,” Capt. Oscar Rojas, commodore of the Coronado-based EOD Group (EODGRU) said.

According to the plan, the force’s 1,800 members can also expect an increased emphasis on building their knowledge and capabilities in areas critical to success in a GPC environment. This will include Navy EOD enhancing its expeditionary undersea capabilities by tapping into the cyberspace. The force will pursue unmanned systems (UMS) to access adversary communication networks in order to disrupt, delay, or destroy weapons systems.

Moreover, the plan calls for Expeditionary Mine Countermeasures (ExMCM) companies to test these new systems and software. “The operators using emerging UMS technology are the closest to the challenges. Our strategic plan will empower them to provide us feedback from the tactical level during the capability development process to help accelerate solutions to the ever-evolving threats,” said Rojas.

The Navy EOD community has evolved through the years to face new and troubling threats as they have emerged: Magnetic influence mines in World War II serving as coastal defenses or strategic deterrents. Sea mines blocking the Wonsan Harbor from an amphibious landing during the Korean War. Land and sea mines dotting Vietnam, preventing full maneuverability of American forces. Iranian-emplaced limpet and sea mines targeting both naval and commercial ships in the Arabian Gulf. WMDs during the Cold War and into today.

And nowadays, with non-state actors like violent extremist organizations or lone wolves having easier access to information on how to create and employ improvised explosive devices or chemical and biological weapons Navy EOD’s job has only gotten harder.

“Our strategic plan was designed to guide us in creating a force that can deter adversaries and win in a complex security environment,” said Capt. Rick Hayes, commodore of EODGRU-2. “That is why we dedicated an objective to specifically focus on developing and caring for our Sailors. Our people are our most important asset — they are our weapons system.”

As Hayes said, all the objectives put forward in the 2030 plan are essential to delivering a lethal, resilient, and sustainable Navy EOD force that can be called upon during contingency and crisis operations.

“Realizing this vision will be impossible without the support of everyone in the Navy EOD community. By leveraging their creativity, discipline, and leadership, we will develop a force for 2030 that continues to protect the security and future of the American people,” Hayes added.

Sailors training for the Navy’s explosive ordnance disposal rating must complete the basic EOD diver course at Naval Dive and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, Florida. The Navy EOD training pipeline can take nearly a year to complete and is unique among all other branches for teaching dive capabilities. Navy EOD technicians regularly integrate with special operations forces by regularly working alongside Navy SEALs or Army Special Forces soldiers.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Bulletproof Motivation: Tips from a Navy SEAL, CIA Officer, and Firefighter

When it comes to motivation, Navy SEALs have plenty to spare, but we know one guy that could even make some SEALs look lazy.


Earning your place among the U.S. Navy’s elite SEAL teams, gathering intelligence for your nation’s security as a CIA officer, or serving as a fire officer for a professional fire department would each be enough to fill most lives, but not for our friend Frumentarius–he’s done all three, and you can call him Fru, for short.

We caught up with Fru recently to talk about motivation, and how young service members can follow in his accomplished footsteps. Of course, Frumentarius isn’t his real name, but it’s not a throw-away pseudonym either. After a career in covert special operations and another in covert intelligence gathering, he’s learned the value in keeping his identity at arm’s reach when it comes to engaging with the public.

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet

The Navy SEALs specialize in small unit tactical operations in difficult and dangerous environments.

(U.S. Navy Photo)

I’ve known Fru for a few years now, and can personally attest that the guy practices what he preaches. Keeping your body in good working condition through three of the most physically demanding careers out there is nothing to scoff at, but it’s not his physical fitness that sets Fru apart from the pack; in a lot of ways, it’s his mindset.

I wanted to know what advice Fru had for young service members just beginning their careers in uniform, and like you’d expect from a SEAL, a spy, or a firefighter; he didn’t disappoint.

“Just enjoy the experience as something you’ll miss when it’s over. Always work hard at everything you do so that you become a ‘go-to’ guy or girl when somebody needs something done,” Fru said.

“Don’t get too jaded, but cultivate a sardonic sense of humor and learn to laugh at the sometimes-absurd nature of military life and war. Treat your family as your number one priority throughout so that you have a good support system at home. Have fun because it will be over before you know it!”
Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet

When this is what you do at work, it pays to have support at home.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle D. Gahlau/Released)

Of course, military service isn’t all good days, especially if you want to become a SEAL, Ranger, Green Beret, or any other member of America’s Special Operations units. In order to be successful, you’ve got to learn how to keep your head in the game and stay motivated. I asked Fru what he does when he’s working through exhaustion or high loads of stress.

“Those are the times when you need to be the most motivated,” he told me. “No one enjoys those times, and a true leader (in the sense of someone worth following or emulating) thrives in those difficult moments.”
Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet

A Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) student participates in interval swim training in San Diego Bay.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trevor Welsh/Released)

“Embrace the pain and stress and exhaustion and tell yourself those are the moments that make your own life exemplary — they are what make it stand out. They are what in many ways will define your service. You’ll tell the stories of those hard times for decades afterwards. Make them count and be the hero of your own story.”

But even Navy SEALs like to have a good time, and Fru is quick to point out that, while exhaustion and stress are par for the course, it’s still probably one of the coolest jobs on the planet.

“Most people are aware of the camaraderie, the high speed equipment/gear, the missions/operations, and all of that,” Fru explained.”

“They may not be aware that SEALs get paid to work out every single day, to dive and parachute, and to generally do fun stuff as part of the job. There are some sucky parts too, but for the most part, SEALs are paid to do stuff they love to do.”
Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet

The sort of stuff Navy SEALs do for fun.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Anthony Harding/Released)

Eventually, Fru left the SEALs to go to work for the CIA. While these two jobs may compliment one another, being a SEAL didn’t guarantee him a spot in America’s most secretive intelligence service. Just like earning his SEAL Trident, Frumentarius had to start from scratch and prove he could hang in the very different world (and culture) that is The Agency. As Fru is the first to tell you, even SEALs can’t rest on their laurels.

“I had an academic background in international affairs that made it an appealing move for me. After getting to the Agency, I then tried to remember that I was in a different culture than the SEALs,” he said.

“Some things I brought over with me, in terms of attitude and drive, but other things I had to leave behind (most of the ‘military’ culture). I ultimately made the transition successfully by working as hard as I could to be an effective CIA officer, knowing that my time in the SEALs was not something I could rest on. I had to earn my way at the CIA like every one else.”
Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet

(CIA Photo)

I asked Fru what his best tips are for current service members that want to pursue a career in an elite intelligence outfit like the CIA.

“Get a degree in foreign language, economics, chem/bio/nuke, or international affairs/politics. If you can be proficient in a hard language (Chinese, Russian, Arabic, etc), even better.”
Just like being in the SEALs, working for the CIA has its benefits. For Fru, some of the coolest parts of serving in that capacity was getting to see the big picture, and playing a role in how it unfolded. Even so, a job with unique benefits also comes with unique challenges.
“CIA officers have to be choosy in their chosen targets of collection because CIA officers are supposed to acquire intelligence unobtainable through all other means. That’s the real challenge.”
Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet

Aerial view of the CIA Headquarters, Langley, Virginia

(WikiMedia Commons)

Fru has since left the CIA behind as well, opting to switch to a different sort of service life that allows him to maintain a more regular lifestyle: that of a professional firefighter. Just like his previous gigs, saving lives and putting out fires can be extremely physically taxing. So I wanted to know how Fru had managed to stay so fit, active, and injury free throughout all of his various roles.

“A commitment to self-care — physically, mentally, emotionally, health-wise — is paramount. You have to commit to eating somewhat healthy, taking care of your body through aerobic exercise, weight training, and stretching, and to taking care of your emotional/psychological needs.”

“That means finding something healthy that works as an outlet for you (shooting, slinging weights, running, reading, playing guitar, painting, whatever). You have to keep yourself on an even keel as best as you can because all of those jobs have immense stresses. They’ll occasionally overwhelm you, and you have to just reset yourself and continue to carry on.”
If you want to know more about our friend Fru, or just to give him a shout on social media to thank him for his service, you can find him on Twitter here. Make sure to tell him Sandboxx sent you!

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

You will laugh at this Marine vet comic (and that’s an order)

Marine veteran James P. Connolly (Sirius/XM Radio, Comics Unleashed) hosted the 6th Annual Veteran’s Day Benefit Comedy Show “Cocktails Camouflage” at Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank, California in early November.


All funds raised were donated to Veterans in Film Television (VFT), a non-profit networking organization that unites current and former members of the military working in film and television and offers the entertainment industry the opportunity to connect with and hire veterans.
In this video, headliner and USMC vet Greg Hahn reads the crowd into his grand life plan and remembers how he was right out of boot camp.
MIGHTY TRENDING

Someone tried to donate a grenade launcher to Goodwill

Okay, let’s imagine you’re going through your stuff to see what you want to donate to charity. First, there’re the old clothes that you haven’t worn in a while. Then there’s that kettlebell sitting in the corner from your last effort to get in shape. And finally, there’s the grenade launcher…


Don’t laugh — a grenade launcher was donated to a Florida Goodwill shop, according to ABC7.com. When the employees realized what they had, they called the police. Explosive ordnance disposal experts rendered the situation safe.

A spokesman for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office told WATM that what had been donated was “an airsoft grenade launcher used primarily for paintball.” The spokesman, Dave Bristow, admitted that he had no idea what the launcher’s ultimate fate would be. A UPI report indicated the launcher resembled the M203 grenade launcher.

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet
Aviation ElectronicÕs Technician 3rd Class Awail Hassen loads a high explosive point detonated 40MM grenade round into an M203 grenade launcher during a live-fire exercise on the fantail of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Gary Prill/Released)

However, this isn’t the only time armaments have surfaced where you might not expect them to. One former Marine recounted how the staff of Tierrasanta Elementary School, which opened in 1974, ended up on a first-name basis with the members of various local explosive ordnance units. The school had been built on an impact area in the former Camp Elliot, where the 2nd Marine Division had been training. Thirty years after the war, kids would find unexploded bazooka rounds and grenades and bring them in for show-and-tell.

The list doesn’t stop there. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew unearthed a number of Civil War-era cannonballs. Army explosive ordnance disposal personnel from Joint Base Lewis-McChord also had to deal with Civil War munitions in 2015. That same year, Air Force EOD personnel from Mountain Home Air Force Base dealt with a 150-year-old battlefield souvenir that became a family heirloom.

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet
This Civil War-era round was discovered in Washington state in 2015, then rendered safe via controlled detonation by Army EOD personnel. (U.S. Army photo)

Uncovered UXO has been far more common in Europe, with significant finds cropping up in both the United Kingdom and Germany in 2017. BALTOPS naval exercises have repeatedly uncovered UXO during mine countermeasures exercises in 2009, 2011, and 2012.

Should you come across UXO, a slight modification of the four rules of the National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle program makes sense: Stop, don’t touch, get away, and call police.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how you train for brotherhood

A lot of important learning about leadership and pecking order and magnanimity toward one’s inferior gets worked out for men in the childhood scrum of fraternal warfare. We learn to take heaps of sh*t and like it. We learn to administer a beat down without leaving incriminating bruises. We learn to distrust a man who can’t engage in a round or two of emasculatory sting-pong without losing his cool.


Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet
Photo via John Oxley.

Brothers, of course, are fantastic preparation for military service.

Max never had a brother. As a baby he left the cradle for a pre-dawn ruck, lost track of HQ and ended up being raised to manhood by mastodons. Way down range. So, as you can imagine, it can be hard for him to relate to the rest of us, we the sibling-enabled.

Max played Super Mario™ with Cave Bears.

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet
All fun and games until you make them play Luigi. Photo via Flickr, John Solaro, CC BY-ND 2.0

He played Marco Polo with Casteroides. (That’s a Giant Beaver!)

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet
All fun and games until you get an accidental woody. Photo via Flickr, James St. John, CC BY 2.0

He even fought the real Punch-a-saurus Rex and won by KO in Round 5.

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet
All fun and games until the bout photographer bets on Max.

But he never had a brother. So he joined the Army instead.

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet
And then Max suddenly had hundreds of brothers. And a bunch of sisters, too. (Go90 Max Your Body screenshot)

Max already knew about taking sh*t from grumpy beasts and holding his own in the Wild Rumpus. He already had plenty of muscle for beating brothers back. What he learned in the Army is that sometimes, it’s the other way. Sometimes, you gotta help your brother out.

In this episode, Max demos some drills for building your brother- helping muscles, the ones that make you good at the fireman’s carry. Make some time for these. And call your brother while you’re at it. Because it can’t all be sting-pong and prehistoric beaver. There’s gotta be some love in there too. And that’s the gospel, according to Max “The Body” Phili-delphia.

Watch as Max gives your laziness a chocolate swirly, in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Max Your Body:

This is what happens when you swap your workout for PT

Our trainer will make you a leopard

This is what happens when a troll runs the obstacle course

One session with this trainer will make you assume the fetal position

This is how you fight when the waters are rising

MIGHTY TRENDING

This year, Norfolk’s Battleship has more lights than Disneyland

Missing holiday lights this year? If you live near Norfolk, Virginia, you don’t have to! Amidst countless cancelations of winter festivities this year, the battleship Wisconsin is restoring a little light to the season- literally. Kicking off the massive ship’s first annual WinterFest, the entire boat is decked out with so many lights that they can probably be spotted from space. 

Decorating the ship was quite the undertaking. 

Just decorating an ordinary house takes hours. Try decorating a 50,000-ton battleship the size of three football fields! 

According to the Nauticus Executive Director, Stephen Kirkland, the event took months to prepare for. They had to enlist the help of Blue Steel Lighting Design, led by lighting expert Jeremy Kilgore, to turn the cold, metallic ship into a winter wonderland. And transform it they did. Working up to 15 hours a day, a small crew installed over 250,000 lights and custom-built displays that can’t be seen anywhere else in the world. 

The ship itself isn’t perfectly primed for decorating. It’s not very symmetrical, which makes it trickier to make aesthetically pleasing displays. To add to the challenge, every installation has to be done by hand. It’s really a labor of love, but as you can see, the effort paid off. The ship’s massive guns were even turned into candy canes! 

While other battleships have been decorated before, including a series of annual decorating competitions in San Diego, nothing has ever been done to this scale. 

Beneath the glittering lights, the Battleship Wisconsin has a storied history.

It’s one of the largest battleships in American history, and one of the last to be built by the US Navy. She was first launched on December 7th, 1943, and commissioned the following April commanded by Captain Earl E. Stone. She earned five battle stars during WWII, along with numerous other honors. Visitors can enjoy the lights and learn more about the incredible ship’s history at the same time!

What to know before you go

The WinterFest will continue every weekend through the end of December. Tickets are $10 for kids and $12.50 for adults, with discounts for members. When you get there, expect plenty of fun with plenty of precautions. Tickets are timed to avoid overcrowding, masks are mandated for visitors ages 5 and up, and social distancing is required. 

Once you get there, a one-way path will take you through a glowing forest, with live entertainment, Santa sightings, holiday treats, and sailboat parades on Saturdays. A live tree can be spotted in the harbor, too! To save a spot, purchase tickets online.

Will WinterFest become a new tradition for the Wisconsin? The odds are looking good. 

If you miss it this year, don’t sweat it. The event’s organizers hope to continue the tradition for years to come, as a “Hampton Roads’ version of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree”. Alternatively, you can always enjoy footage of the lights without leaving your couch on the battleship’s Instagram page

And who knows? Maybe the Wisconsin’s whimsical take on military Christmas will inspire other battleships to get lit, too! 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The self-defense umbrella will make you feel like a Kingsman

In the United States, you don’t need to get dressed in your best formal attire to carry an umbrella. But you do need a permit to carry a weapon in many areas, if you’re allowed to carry one at all. For those who are worried about self-defense but won’t or can’t carry an equalizer, you’re in luck.

Would-be attackers, however, are not.


Unbreakable® Umbrella vs. Coconuts – Le Parapluie Incassable – Der Unzerbrechliche Regenschirm

youtu.be

The Unbreakable Umbrella is elegant enough not to attract unwanted attention and is legal to carry anywhere. The best part is that it really is also a durable umbrella that won’t fall short in that area either.

It’s the brainchild of Thomas Kurz, a leading expert on athletic flexibility training and stretching. A Polish immigrant, Kurz studied physical education at Warsaw’s University School of Physical Education, then coached Judo and a number of other olympic-level sports.

Kurz is also an expert on self-defense instruction. He created the Unbreakable Umbrella in 2004 as a means for an individual to defend themself against an armed attacker, even when no other weapon is available.

The umbrella is as strong and sturdy as a steel pipe but weighs just short of two pounds. The secret is in its “unbreakable” construction, made of aluminum alloys and steel or a proprietary fiberglass-polyester composite, depending on the type of umbrella purchased.

The best part is that no matter what kind of umbrella you prefer there’s an Unbreakable Umbrella for you. Be it the compact, telescoping kind seen on the streets of cities everywhere or the more elegant walking-stick model with or without a curved handle (the kind that would give you that “Kingsmen” look), they have you covered.

Kurz and the crew at Unbreakable Umbrellas have many, many instructional and demonstrative videos on YouTube and the Unbreakable Umbrella website. They range from keeping an assailant from attempting to take your new umbrella to fending off attackers who bring double-fisted knives to the fight.

While most people aren’t going to have to fight off a dual-wielding knife attack, it’s good to know that you could if you wanted to. To learn more about Unbreakable Umbrellas, visit the website.


Articles

This is how the military is integrating women

Gender integration is vital for the success of women in the military, the commander of US Southern Command said July 13 at the closing ceremony of the second Women in Military and Security Conference held in Guatemala City, Guatemala.


Navy Adm. Kurt W. Tidd made opening and closing remarks at WIMCON 17, a two-day conference on gender perspectives in force development and military operations co-hosted this year by the Southcom commander and the Guatemalan armed forces.

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet
Photo courtesy of Southcom

In attendance were US Ambassador to Guatemala Todd D. Robinson, Guatemala Chief of Defense Maj. Gen. Juan Perez, and regional leaders.

The first WIMCOM was held last year in Trinidad and Tobago.

Over the past two days, Tidd said, “we’ve shared insights and observations and learned from one another’s experiences. We’ve celebrated our progress and identified the obstacles that still remain in our paths. And we’ve reinforced … a commitment to equality, a commitment to equity, a commitment to opportunity.”

The admiral said the Western Hemisphere offers a potential model for regional cooperation on gender integration and advancing gender perspectives.

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet
U.S. Marines PFC. Cristina Fuentes Montenegro (Center Left) and PFC. Julia R. Carroll (Center Right) of Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry – East (SOI-E), stand at parade rest during their graduation ceremony from SOI-E aboard Camp Geiger, N.C., Nov. 21, 2013. (U. S. Marine Corps photo by LCpl. Nicholas J. Trager, Combat Camera, SOI-E/Released)

“This week we’ve seen how much we have to share with one another, and I know this is only the beginning of setting the standard for the rest of the world,” Tidd added.

Community of Interest

The Southcom commander proposed two ideas for the group going forward, the first being to commit to establishing a formal community of interest to further the topic.

“Southcom will happily take on the task to find the best tool for continuing this vitally important conversation,” he said, “and we will use the contact information you provide today to share this forum once we create it.”

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet
Logo for the Women in Military and Security Conference held July 10-13 in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

Gender advisors — subject matter experts attending the conference — are ideal members, Tidd added, but other personnel also will add value and over the next year the community can work on issues identified at WIMCOM 2017 as focus areas for improvement.

Second, the admiral said, is a need to collect better data to document progress.

“We have a term in English called baselining — determining a minimum starting point to use for comparisons,” he explained. “There’s clearly a lot more work to be done on [the kinds of] data we need to gather and share, but we’ve all heard this week about the importance of using data to further this message.”

Regional Observatory

Southcom, he said, offered to serve as a regional observatory to help keep track of integration progress by country, regional advances and obstacles to advancement.

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet
Female soldiers negotiate obstacles during the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s cultural support program which prepares all-female Soldier teams to serve as enablers supporting Army special operations combat forces in and around secured objective areas. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Klika)

Tidd added, “If you will get us the data and research, we’ll help collate it and make it available for our collective use.”

Other highlights from the meeting included the idea that equality for women in the military requires male acceptance and collaboration; that qualification and advancement for everyone should be based on capability, competency and character; and that fair standards should be set and all should be required to meet them.

The admiral also asked for ideas or recommendations for the focus of WIMCOM 2018.

“I sincerely hope that you’ll seek to replicate the face-to-face, candid conversations we sought to foster in this conference,” the admiral said. “Hopefully this is just the beginning, not the end, of those types of conversations.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is what makes the Javelin missile so deadly

There’s always been a competition between armored units and infantry. As far back as the Middle Ages, developments in technology constantly shifted who had the upper hand. For example, gleaming knights of old wore heavy armor that protected them from most weaponry — at least until the Battle of Agincourt introduced the piercing, infantry-wielded English longbow. Throughout history, technologies developed back and forth, until, finally, the gun firmly established that an ordinary grunt could beat armor with a good shot.


However, World War I drastically changed that dynamic. The tank emerged as the modern equivalent of armored knights, seemingly untouchable by infantry. The armored edge continued to grow through World War II. Even with the development of the bazooka, the best way to kill tanks was either with other tanks, or to call in artillery or air strikes. Times were tough for infantry.

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet
The FGM-77 Dragon anti-tank missile. (U.S. Army photo)

The development of the FGM-77 Dragon and the BGM-71 Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided (TOW) missile helped American grunts, but these still had problems. First, the wire guidance meant that anti-tank teams had to stay in one location to guide the missile. Any sudden moves would put the missile off course. As you might imagine, remaining stationary in the face of a tank isn’t a great idea.

Second, the missiles had a huge back-blast, which would immediately alert enemy armor to the idea that they’re being attacked. This, coupled with the wire guidance, meant enemy tanks knew when and where to look for anti-armor specialists. TOW teams were lucky: The missile’s range of 2.3 miles allowed the crews some standoff distance. Folks with the Dragon, sporting a range of just under a mile, often found themselves within heavy machine-gun range upon firing.

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet
(Minnesota National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Ben Houtkooper)

Thankfully, these issues have been addressed with the introduction of the FGM-148 Javelin. With a maximum range of about 1.5 miles, it gives the crews the ability to stand off. More importantly, it’s a fire-and-forget missile with a much-reduced backblast. So, even if the launch position is detected, the team can move to a new location, leaving enemy fire to rain upon an empty foxhole. The missile can attack the top of an armored vehicle (useful against tanks like the Russian Armata) or carry out a frontal attack.

That is why the Javelin is so deadly: It gives the light infantry a fighting chance against tanks. When you consider that “light” units, like the 82nd Airborne, are usually followed by heavier units with lots of tanks, the Javelin’s importance becomes very apparent.

MIGHTY CULTURE

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen

While Black Hawks, Apaches, and Chinooks usually get top billing when the Army comes out to play at air shows and sporting events (plus the occasional MH-6 Little Bird when special operation aviators come to play), the service does have another helicopter quietly working behind the scenes to plug crucial gaps: the UH-72 Lakota.


Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet

(New Jersey National Guard Mark Olsen)

There are a few reasons why you may not know much about the Lakota. First, there aren’t very many of them. While the Army has over 2,000 Black Hawks, there are less than 500 UH-72 Lakotas. And a new purchase of less than a dozen UH-72 airframes can trigger news coverage. Meanwhile, even the expensive and relatively niche Apache fleet boasts over 650 birds.

But another reason the Lakota doesn’t usually get on the front page is that it doesn’t deploy. It wasn’t purchased to deploy, and then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told Congress that it couldn’t go overseas as currently configured. It simply doesn’t have the necessary systems to protect itself from enemy fire and keep its pilots alive after crashes.

But the missions the Lakota can do are still important. It’s a workhorse that can fly in rough weather and provide assistance during disaster response. That’s a big part of why it’s primarily flown by National Guard units. It may not be expected to fight and win in the deserts of the Middle East, but it can hoist a family out of hell or high water during a wildfire or flood.

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet

(Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office Scott Sturkol)

And it can do so at a discount. It costs 30 to 50 percent less to fly per flight hour than a Black Hawk according to Sikorsky estimates, partially thanks to the lack of all those protective systems that a Black Hawk has.

It first flew in 2006, making it the youngest helicopter in the Army’s fleet. It has two engines that supply over 1,400 shaft horsepower to the main rotor over 36-feet in diameter. The main and tail rotors are intentionally set higher than normal above the ground so that, when the helicopter is on the ground, it’s still relatively safe to load patients, passengers, or cargo into the side or rear doors.

This is especially valuable when the UH-72 is used as an air ambulance, which it often is. Litter crews can load a patient in quickly and safely from multiple angles, and the helicopter can carry two litters and a medic per flight. In its utility role, it can carry eight troops instead of the two passengers.

It can reach a maximum altitude of 18,000 feet, pretty close to the Black Hawk’s 19,000 feet ceiling. Though, again, that’s largely thanks to all the gizmos the Lakota doesn’t need for its peacetime missions. The newest Black Hawk has way more power at over 3,600 shaft horsepower, more than 2.5X the Lakota’s.

All of this makes the Lakota great for homeland security and disaster response, and the Army has even made it the primary helicopter in its training fleet.

But don’t expect it to become the shiny crown jewel in the Army’s fleet. Modifying the Lakota to take on the Black Hawk’s mission or anything similar would drastically drive up costs and, without upgraded engines, adds little in terms of capability. And the Army is already shopping for more exotic designs like the tilt-rotor V-280 Valor and Sikorsky’s S-97 Raider with its compound rotor and push propeller.

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