The U.S. Navy issued a warning to China’s Navy over Instagram this week, telling China that it doesn’t want to “play laser tag” with the U.S. Navy with their destroyer-based laser weapons.
Last month, a Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy destroyer pointed a military grade laser weapon at a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon, which is an aircraft designed specifically for various types of sea-based warfare, including anti-submarine operations. According to Defense Department reports, the P-8A was flying approximately 380 miles west of Guam when it encountered a Chinese destroyer believed to have been the Hohhot, among the latest and most advanced destroyers in China’s fleet.
The destroyer reportedly shined a laser weapon at the P-8A, though the laser caused no injuries or immediately recognizable damage. The aircraft is being inspected further for issues. Despite the low level of threat the laser posed, the U.S. Navy has been taking this attack quite seriously, recognizing it as a test, both of their weapon’s efficacy and of the American response.
While the Navy’s warning on Instagram seems almost playful, the U.S. Navy isn’t messing around when it comes to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, nor are they kidding about their laser weapons. The U.S. currently has a number of laser weapons under development, and just recently deployed one aboard the USS Dewey aimed at “dazzling” or blinding and confusing drones.
This isn’t the first time the U.S. has had reports of being engaged with Chinese lasers, nor is it the first time these two naval powers have found themselves in a staring contest over China’s claims of sovereignty throughout the region. The United States and the international community recognize China’s claimed ownership of the South China Sea as illegal, but China’s Navy has been rapidly expanding to enforce their claims in recent years.
China’s claims over the South China Sea are shown in red.
With neither China nor the U.S. backing down in the Pacific, and laser weapons becoming more commonplace by the day, it seems entirely likely that this won’t be the last round of laser tag between our two navies.
Disney World 2018 Armed Forces Salute Prices (Valid through Dec. 19, 2018)
Four-Day Park Hopper Tickets for 6.00
Four-Day Park Hopper Plus Tickets for 6.00
Five-Day Park Hopper Tickets for 6.00
Five-Day Park Hopper Plus Tickets for 6.00
Disney World 2019 Armed Forces Salute Prices (Valid Jan. 1, 2019 through Dec. 19, 2019)
Four-Day Park Hopper Tickets for 1.00
Four-Day Park Hopper Plus Tickets for 1.00
Five-Day Park Hopper Tickets for 7.00
These tickets can be purchased at Shades of Green, your local Base Ticket Office, or Disney Theme Park ticket booths (Sales tax will be added at Disney World ticket booths), through Dec. 15, 2018, for 2018 tickets and purchase 5-Day Military Promotional Tickets now through Dec. 15, 2019 and 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets now through Dec. 16, 2019 for the 2019 Salute offer.
Disneyland Ticket Blockout dates (Dates that these tickets may not be used):
March 23, 2019 through April 8, 2019
California rates have not yet been announced! More to come for the West Coasters. Also, note the Disney Armed Forces Salute benefit is for the member only. While spouses may use their member’s benefit, they are not entitled to a benefit of their own. They only use the discounts in place of the member. Non-spouse dependents (kids) are not eligible.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
An Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has sickened 32 people, including three health workers, according to the latest update from the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO declared a new Ebola outbreak on May 8, 2018. That same day, the White House’s senior director for global health security, Timothy Ziemer, stepped down from his position. Rear Adm. Ziemer was the official in charge of leading the response to global pandemic disease, but nobody is taking over his role.
Ziemer is considered by some to be one of the most effective public health officials the US has had, but the Post reported he was “basically pushed out.”
Fighting an outbreak before it gets worse
The reported cases of Ebola so far are in a town called Bikoro in the Equateur province of the DRC. Of the cases, two have been confirmed, 18 are probable, and 12 are suspected. There have been 18 deaths.
But the outbreak may be worse than it seems, a WHO official told Stat, since it may have started earlier and spread further than has been reported. The cases so far have been on a lake port, which means it’s possible an infected person could have traveled to a larger city. The infected healthcare workers could have spread the disease as well.
A team from Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières is helping coordinate responses on the ground in the DRC, according to a statement from the organization.
“MSF has worked alongside the Congolese authorities in the past to care for patients suffering from Ebola and bring outbreaks under control. At the moment, there is an experienced MSF team in Bikoro, made up of medics, water and sanitation experts, health promoters, logisticians, and an epidemiologist,” Julien Raickman, MSF head of the mission in the DRC, said in the statement.
A dangerous virus with pandemic potential
Ebola’s potential to spread rapidly is the reason it’s essential to have dedicated officials coordinating a response to an outbreak — before it turns into a deadly epidemic or pandemic.
The disease is a viral hemmorhagic fever that was first discovered in 1976 in Yambuku, Zaire, now the DRC. Fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks, with an average fatality rate around 50%.
(CDC / Dr. Lyle Conrad)
Generally, Ebola outbreaks begin when humans encounter an infected animal. The disease spreads between humans through direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids. Symptoms usually begin with fever, weakness, soreness, and headache. These are often followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, organ failure, and sometimes internal and external bleeding.
The 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak infected more than 28,600 and killed more than 11,300. In its wake, there has been significant research conducted on a potential Ebola vaccine. The WHO is planning to approve deployment of that experimental vaccine soon, but it’s not yet clear how effective it will be.
The current risk of Ebola spreading to nearby countries is moderate, based on the WHO’s assessment.
Turkish warplanes struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria on April 25, drawing condemnation from Baghdad and criticism from the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, which is allied with Kurdish factions in both countries.
Syrian activists said the attack killed at least 18 members of the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which is a close U.S. ally against IS but is seen by Ankara as a terrorist group because of its ties to Turkey’s Kurdish rebels.
The airstrikes also killed five members of the Iraqi Kurdish militia known as the peshmerga, which is also battling the extremist group with help from the U.S.-led coalition.
The YPG said the strikes hit a media center, a local radio station, a communication headquarters and some military posts, killing an undetermined number of fighters in the town of Karachok, in Syria’s northeastern Hassakeh province.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group which monitors all sides of the conflict, said the strikes killed 18 YPG fighters.
The YPG is among the most effective ground forces battling IS, but Turkey says it is an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and that PKK fighters are finding sanctuaries in neighboring Iraq and Syria.
A Turkish military statement said the pre-dawn strikes hit targets on Sinjar Mountain in northern Iraq and a mountainous region in Syria. It said the operations were conducted to prevent infiltration of Kurdish rebels, weapons, ammunition and explosives from those areas into Turkey.
The military said in a later statement that the air strikes hit shelters, ammunition depots and key control centers, adding that some 40 militants in Sinjar and some 30 others in northern Syria were “neutralized.”
In an emailed statement to The Associated Press, the U.S.-led coalition said Iraq’s neighbors need to respect Iraqi sovereignty.
“We encourage all forces to … concentrate their efforts on ISIS and not toward objectives that may cause the Coalition to divert energy and resources away from the defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” it said, using another acronym for IS.
Iraq’s Foreign Ministry denounced the strikes as a “violation” of its sovereignty and called on the international community to put an end to such “interference” by Turkey.
“Any operation that is carried out by the Turkish government without any coordination with the Iraqi government is totally rejected,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Jamal told The Associated Press.
He cautioned against a broader Turkish military operation, saying it would “complicate the issue and destabilize northern Iraq.”
Although Turkey regularly carries out airstrikes against PKK targets in northern Iraq, this was the first time it has struck the Sinjar region. Turkey has long claimed that the area was becoming a hotbed for PKK rebels.
Sinjar Mayor Mahma Khalil said the strikes started at around 2:30 a.m., killing five members of the peshmerga and wounding nine. Khalil said he was not aware of any casualties among PKK rebels.
The peshmerga command called on the PKK to withdraw from the Sinjar region, saying the ” PKK must stop destabilizing and escalating tensions in the area.”
The PKK has led an insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984, and is considered a terror organization by Turkey and its allies.
Last year, Turkey sent troops into Syria to back Syrian opposition fighters in the battle against IS and curb the expansion of the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces.
The Syrian Kurdish forces denounced the April 25 strikes on their positions as “treacherous,” accusing Turkey of undermining the anti-terrorism fight. The Syrian Kurds have driven IS from large parts of Syria and are currently closing in on Raqqa, the de facto capital of the extremists’ self-styled caliphate.
“By this attack, Turkey is trying to undermine Raqqa operation, give (IS) time to reorganize and put [thousands of lives in danger],” the YPG said on its Twitter account.
An airstrike in Idlib on April 25 killed at least 12 people, including civilians, the Observatory said. The area is controlled by hard-line rebel factions, some associated with al-Qaida. The Observatory said it suspected a Russian jet was behind the strike.
Associated Press writers Sarah El Deeb and Philip Issa in Beirut, Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad and Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed to this report.
President Donald Trump may be preparing to slap tariffs on Wakanda, the fictional homeland of the Marvel superhero Black Panther.
That’s one explanation for the US Department of Agriculture’s removal of the high-tech African nation from a list of free-trade partners that includes Panama and Peru in addition to other actual countries. In reality, officials uploaded Wakanda and its supposed exports to test a tariff-tracking tool and neglected to remove it.
“Wakanda is listed as a US free trade partner on the USDA website??” tweeted Francis Tseng, a fellow at the Jain Family Institute, after he spotted the gaffe while using the agency’s Tariff Tracker tool.
Tseng tweeted a screenshot of the list and another detailing Wakandan exports such as horses, goats, and sheep. The “Heart-Shaped Herb” that gives Black Panther his superhuman strength and agility didn’t make the cut.
“I definitely did a double take,” Tseng told NBC News. “I Googled Wakanda to make sure it was actually fiction, and I wasn’t misremembering. I mean, I couldn’t believe it.”
Wakanda was added to the USDA Tariff Tracker after June 10, NBC reported, and removed Dec. 18, 2019.
“Over the past few weeks, the Foreign Agricultural Service staff who maintain the Tariff Tracker have been using test files to ensure that the system is running properly,” the USDA said in a statement to NBC. “The Wakanda information should have been removed after testing and has now been taken down.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Ships hunting subs faced a sort of odd challenge when it came to confirming their number of kills. After all, their target was often underwater, there weren’t always a lot of other ships around to confirm the kill, and the destroyed target would sink additional hundreds of feet under the ocean.
“Are you sure you killed the enemy sub?” “Umm, I filled the ocean with explosives. Does that count?” “No, but that sounds awesome.”
But sub hunters came up with a solution. See, most of a sub sinks when it’s destroyed underwater, but some items float. These items include oil, clothes and the personal belongings of submariners, the occasional packet of documents, and, disturbingly enough, human remains.
It’s definitely kind of nasty, but it’s also good for ship commanders who need to prove they actually sank an enemy sub or five. Commanders would take samples of the water or collect pieces of oily debris.
In Britain, it was traditional by World War II to dip a bucket into the water, scoop up the soup of oil, seawater, and debris, and then keep it on the ship, often in the freezer or refrigerator if they had one.
“We took this photo as we dropped bombs on the sub. Good enough?” “I mean, the sub still looks super intact in this photo. Not good enough.”
(U.S. Navy Reserve)
When they returned to port, intelligence officers would take the buckets to confirm the kills and collect what other info they could.
Obviously, a pile of documents or sub gear was preferred, but the bucket would do when necessary.
This physical evidence of the kill was important, and some ship and boat commanders failed to get credit for claimed kills because they brought no evidence.
“This time, we filled the ocean with explosives, and then took a photo of the second, larger explosion that followed.” “Eh, guess that’ll work.”
There were other ways to get kills confirmed. If multiple ships had hydrophone and sonar operators who heard the sub suffer catastrophic danger before losing contact with the sub, their crews could confirm the kill. Or intercepted intelligence where enemy commanders discussed lost subs could be matched up with claimed kills. Photos were great for subs that were sunk near the surface.
But the preferred method was always physical evidence.
It became so well known, however, that some sub commanders would pack a torpedo tube with random debris and then shoot it into the ocean when under attack. The bubbles from air exiting the tube combined with the trash floating to the surface could fool attackers on the surface, giving the sub a chance to escape after the surface ship left.
The Japanese I-26 submarine, a legendary sub presumed sunk in October, 1944.
Eventually, this caused commanders on the surface to prefer the collection of human remains that floated to the surface. Since it was very rare for submarines to carry dead bodies, that was usually a safe proof.
All of this makes it sound like confirming submarine kills was an imprecise science — and that’s because it was. After the war, governments exchanged documents and historians and navy officers tried to piece together which ships killed which other ships and when. Most ship crews saw an increase in their total kill count, since previously suspected kills could now be confirmed.
But some who had previously gotten credit for kills later found out that they were duped by decoy debris — or that they had gotten a confirmed kill for a sub that actually survived and limped home.
Warriors guard their hearts underneath a stoic resolve because showing emotion is often misunderstood as a weakness. Leaders often weigh the needs of the many against the needs of the few to build a brighter future for their people to live and prosper. Love is an unstoppable force that can influence the influencer or conquer the conqueror. What can those in command do when love is true but the world is wrong?
They change it.
Seven Wonders Of The Ancient World-GARDENS OF BABYLON PART 1
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were built by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II for his wife Queen Amytis. He knew his queen’s happiness stayed in the green mountain valleys of her childhood home in Media. In order to make his wife happy, he built one of the seven wonders of the ancient world between 605 and 562 BC in what is now known as modern day Iraq.
The word ‘hanging’ that gave the wonder its name sake comes from trees planted on elevated balconies. The wonder used raised platforms, aqueducts, and a system of irrigation centuries before their time to water the vast collection of plants and trees.
He literally built his wife a mountain.
Archaeologists debate whether the wonder was built in Nineveh (back then called New Babylon) instead of Babylon itself. The ruins shared the same fate as Cleopatra’s Tomb of being lost in the sands of time.
Emperor Hongzhi seen here not cheating on his wife with 10,000 options.
They refused concubines and consorts — Emperor Hongzhi of China
High status men in late imperial China over the age of forty were encouraged to take on a second wife or a mistress. It was also common that your mistress would try to kill your first wife and all your children. In the case of Emperor Hongzhi, he had his mother killed by one of his father’s mistresses.
The death of his murdered mother by a mistress was enough to highlight the advantages of monogamy. He had no children outside of his one marriage to his empress and had no extramarital affairs.
He loved his wife and five children so much that he did not want to risk their safety over loose women and swore them off completely. The importance he placed on monogamy was seen as out of place since most emperors during those times had a man-cave harem with 10,000 available women, empire wide, determined to show you the privileges of being a ruler.
Dr. Kenneth Swope, of the University of Southern Mississippi describes Hongzhi as the “most uninteresting and colorless of all the Ming emperors.”
He chose to have his life be seen as a model of morality and his morals as the center piece for his anti-corruption campaign. He used his love for his one and only wife to shape his empire in peace.
“That was still an expensive divorce, Henry.”
They changed religions — King Henry VIII of England
Marriage and religion are touchy subjects, especially when conversions are involved. Henry VIII had fallen in love with with a young woman named Anne Boleyn, but there was a problem: he was already married. He became convinced his marriage to Catherine of Aragon was cursed because she was his brother’s widow. The king commanded asked the pope to annul his marriage.
However, Catherine’s nephew was the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and he commanded urged Pope Clement VII to not annul the marriage.
The king then decided that he didn’t need the pope’s permission to do anything so he declared himself Supreme Head of the Church of England, changed England’s religion, decreed his daughter Mary illegitimate, and got a divorce. In 1533 Henry and Anne Boleyn were married.
She then bore him a daughter so he had her beheaded.
In under two minutes, Cadet Trevaun Turner made history at the United States Military Academy at West Point. The track and field athlete ran the Indoor Obstacle Course Test, a full-body functional fitness test given to all cadets throughout the year – and they must pass.
Cadets pass the IOCT with a minimum time of 3:30 for men and 5:29 for women. But according to the Twitter account for the USMA’s Commandant of Cadets, one cadet not only passed, but set an almost unbeatable record.
Since 1944, West Pointers have been running the IOCT, and the test itself hasn’t changed much since 1948. Cadets are as excited to take the test as they are to watch other cadets traverse it. They can take the test multiple times to try and score better and better times. Anyone scoring under 2:38 for men and 3:35 for women is authorized to wear a special badge on their PT uniform. Needless to say, Trevaun Turner will get that badge.
On Nov. 20, 2019, Turner ran the 11-part obstacle course, completing a low crawl under barrier, tire footwork, a two-handed vault, an eight-foot horizontal shelf, a horizontal bar navigation, the hanging tire, a balance beam, eight-foot vertical wall, a 20-foot horizontal ladder, a 16-foot vertical rope, and a 350 meter sprint (first carrying a six-pound medicine ball for 120 meters, then a baton for the second 120 meters, and running empty-handed for the remaining 110 meters. He did it all in an incredible 1:54.
The previous record of cadets passing the IOCT was held by then-Cadet Joshua Bassette in 2014, with a time of 2:01, beating the previous cadet record by one second. Bassette hoped to beat his own record by getting his time under two minutes. He never did, and he graduated in 2016. The previous all-time record for the fitness test was held by Capt. Austin Wilson, a physical education instructor at the U.S. Military Academy, whose score of 1:59 stood for years. Until now.
Trevaun Turner ran the IOCT during his plebe year at the academy, earning a time of 1:59, almost beating the all-time record. Cadet Madaline Kenyon broke the female IOCT record in 2017, a record held strong since Tanya Cheek set the record in 1989. Kenyon broke it with an incredible 2:26. As for Trevaun Turner, Navy better hope he doesn’t start playing football.
A US military commander said on Aug. 31 that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is probably still alive and hiding in the Euphrates River valley between Iraq and Syria.
“We’re looking for him every day. I don’t think he’s dead,” Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, commander of the counter-IS coalition, said in a conference call with reporters.
Townsend said he didn’t “have a clue” where Baghdadi is precisely, but he believes the reclusive extremist leader may have fled with other IS militants to the river valley region after IS lost control of its former bastions in Mosul, Tal Afar, and parts of Raqqa.
US Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve commanding general, speaks with Airmen, Marines, and coalition personnel thanking them for the many contributions in support of OIR during an all-call. USAF photo by Tech Sgt. Andy M. Kin.
“The last stand of ISIS will be in the Middle Euphrates River Valley,” Townsend said, using another well-known acronym for the extremist group. “When we find him, I think we’ll just try to kill him first. It’s probably not worth all the trouble to try and capture him.”
“I’ve seen no convincing evidence, intelligence, or open-source or other rumor or otherwise that he’s dead,” said Townsend. “There are also some indicators in intelligence channels that he’s still alive.”
The Abrams can fire different rounds for different purposes, and tank crews have to train in a variety of environments. That means they get a lot of time on the range.
The crews are tested at twelve different levels, referred to as tables. The tables demand crews prove they can drive, fire, and coordinate together in battle in a variety of conditions.
The main gun is what most people think of when it comes to tanks, but crews also have to certify on the machine guns mounted outside, as well as the M9 pistols and M4 carbines they’re equipped with.
Crews generally have four members. There is a tank commander, a gunner, a driver, and a loader.
The inside of the tank can be a little cramped with equipment and crew.
The driver sits in a small hole in the front of the tank. His control panel is located immediately in front of him.
Tankers sometimes bring their family to see the “office.”
Much of the maintenance for the tank is done by the crew.
Considering everything the M1 is designed to withstand, it can be surprising that tanks sometimes break down because of soft sand or loose soil pushing a track out of place.
When tanks break down and have to be towed out, it takes specialized equipment. The main recovery vehicle for an Abrams tank is the M88. Here, an M88 rolls up the tread from a damaged Abrams before towing the Abrams to a maintenance area.
Transporting tanks can also be problematic due to the tank’s weight. Crews will generally take their tanks to railways …
… or Naval ports for transport for deployments or exercises. Here, an Abrams tank is driven off of a ship.
When the mission calls for it, M1 tanks can also be flown on the Air Force’s largest planes.
Air Force C-17s, like the one in the following photo, can carry one tank while C-5s can carry two.
While on deployment, tankers can end up working for 20-hour days.
U.S. tank crews are commonly called on to train foreign allies. Recently, the Iraqi Army got a large number of Abrams tanks and U.S. soldiers provided training.
Sometimes the mission calls for tankers to operate on foot or from other vehicles. Here, tank crews conduct a patrol in Humvees.
The tanker tradition dates back to WWI when the first combat cars and tanks took to the battlefield with tank crews leading the way into mechanized warfare.
Today, US crews continue the tradition, carrying armored combat into the future.
The Jordanian government released a video on July 24 depicting an insider attack that killed three US Special Forces in Jordan.
The video shows the soldiers pulling up to the King Faisal Air Base to participate in a training exercise in November. Upon reaching the entrance, Jordanian guard Cpl. M’aarek Abu Tayeh opened fire on the trucks carrying the soldiers. Staff Sgt. Kevin McEnroe was killed instantly and Sgt. First Class Matthew Lewellen was wounded, later dying from his injuries.
Staff Sgt. James Moriarty was in the truck behind the first, and was able to exit the vehicle, along with another soldier from a different truck. The soldiers attempted to speak with Tayeh in Arabic, but were ignored. Tayeh kept firing, eventually killing Moriarty before the fourth soldier was finally able to shoot the assailant.
None of the Jordanian soldiers nearby appeared to aid the Americans. The video clearly shows one man who opened the gate running away as soon as shots were fired.
Jordan, a US ally in the ongoing war on terrorism, initially denied responsibility for Tayeh’s attack, placing blame on the US for failing to follow proper protocols when entering the base. US Special Operations Command found “no evidence that US forces failed to fully comply with Jordanian base procedures.”
In fact, SOCOM reported that the troops “demonstrated valorous conduct and extraordinary heroism” in taking down Tayeh, who was armed with an M-16 rifle and body armor. The Special Forces soldiers had only sidearms.
The families of the dead soldiers vocally condemned the Jordanian government in March for its failure to properly look into the incident.
The government eventually charged Tayeh with murder in June. He was found guilty and received life in prison with hard labor, though some relatives of the deceased were hoping for a death sentence.
The holidays can feel awfully lonely when you’re hundreds of miles from your hometown, and your spouse is deployed. Traveling solo with kids is overwhelming, sure, but a holiday season with no adult interaction is even more depressing. Here’s what you need to know to travel while solo parenting, whether on the road or in the skies.
Don’t forget the gifts
If you’re planning to visit relatives over Christmas, take advantage of online shopping, and have your children’s gifts and gifts for others shipped directly to your destination—no one wants to schlep a Barbie Dream House through DFW. But, speaking of that Dream House, don’t forget that you’re going to have to take all of this stuff back home with you! Don’t buy anything big for your kids and remind your relatives not to give big gifts, either.
Pro Tip: Cram a large duffle bag into one of your suitcases so you can use it to pack and check gifts for your flight home.
Traveling alone with kids means your days of throwing some clothes into a bag and heading out are long gone. This is going to require thought and planning. Start packing at least a week in advance. Chances are good that the stuff you all wear all the time, is also the stuff you’ll want to bring, so put your empty suitcases next to the washer and dryer and toss the clothes in as you fold them. Only bring enough diapers, wipes, and formula for two or three days. You can buy more at your destination.
Whether flying or driving, it’s a good idea to use your biggest suitcase and try to consolidate multiple bags into one. Unless you’ve got a teenager to help carry bags, you’re going to be handling them all yourself, and one big bag is easier to manage than three small ones.
Pro Tip: If you’re driving a long distance, it’s a good idea to pack an overnight bag with stuff for each of you. Put that small bag into the car last so it’s easily accessible. If you have to stop for the night along your route, you’re not going to want to drag all your big suitcases into the room.
Just pack PJs, comfy traveling clothes, toiletries, diapers and wipes, and whatever woobies or special stuffies you all can’t sleep without, and a few snacks for the room. A snack bag will absolutely save you when the late-night hunger hits, and your hotel doesn’t even have a vending machine. You might want to throw in some herbal tea bags (or a single serving wine box) for yourself.
No two kids are exactly the same, and you know yours better than anyone. Some can’t handle more than an hour of uninterrupted driving, others can go 15 hours so long as their bellies are full of chicken nuggets. Don’t fool yourself that a child who hates driving will miraculously be great for a 17-hour slog, or that you’ll be able to drive all that distance without getting tired. If you need to stop for the night, do so. A motel room is much cheaper than a wreck.
Be sure to plan your route ahead of time. GPS navigation is great and all, and by all means use it, but it’s no substitute for actually knowing where you’re going. The roads will likely be crowded, you may encounter closures, accidents, and detours, and we’ve all had navigation lead us astray. RoadTrippers.com is a great resource for planning.
iExit tells you how far the next Interstate exit is and what amenities you’ll find there, like the always-important bathrooms, gas, and food.
Flush Toilet Finder uses your location to show you nearby toilets on a map, which is absolutely essential information when you’re traveling with preschoolers. Bonus: it works offline and can integrate with Google Maps to provide directions.
And if you’re not in a big rush and want to break up your drive with some Americana oddities, the Roadside America app will tell you about all sorts of weird stops along your way, like Foamhenge.
The Priceline app is also great for road trips because it lets you bid on rooms that are nearby, meaning you don’t have to know in advance where you’ll be when you want to pull off and sleep.
ProTip: Wait until after 3 p.m. to start bidding. By afternoon check-in time, many hotels are willing to accept a lower bid than they would have taken earlier in the day.
Parenting Pro Tip: Try to book a hotel with an indoor pool and free breakfast. A day strapped into a car seat will leave any kid antsy, with oodles of energy to burn. An evening splash in the pool will mean that your children actually fall asleep when you turn the lights out. Complimentary breakfast means you can get back on the road without stopping to eat, saving time and money.
And another one: If your children are too small to help with bags at the hotel, grab a luggage cart. You can easily set an infant carrier on the cart, and toddlers and preschoolers can climb on and catch a ride. They’ll love it! Most importantly, you’ll be able to manage all your bags and people in one trip.
It should go without saying, but arrive early, at least 30 minutes earlier than what you think being early means. Flying is stressful. Flying with children is even more stressful. Flying solo with children when you’re running late is agony.
Pro Tip: If at all possible, book a morning flight, especially if you have to make a connection. Why? Because if your flight gets cancelled or delayed, you’re more likely to get on another flight if you start early in the day. You do not want to be stuck overnight in an airport with children.
If your kids are too big for a stroller but too small to turn loose, look into buying a fun ride-on suitcase, like this one. All of a sudden, the tedium of the airport will look more like a playground, at least to your child. Speaking of playgrounds, here’s a list of some of the family-friendly amenities available in U.S. airports.
Don’t forget about the lounges and the USO. If you have the American Express Platinum Card (And you should, the annual fee is waived for active duty, plus you get all these perks) you and your children can access the Delta Sky Club Lounges and the Centurion Lounges … and all the free food, drinks, and WiFi in them. Some even have a family room.
But even if you don’t have the AMEX, your military family status allows you to use the USO lounges, which means you get access to free snacks, comfy chairs, and the nicest people in America. Many of the volunteers are grandparent-aged and love to play with kids. Stop in, grab a snack (the USO in Charlotte, NC’s airport often has free Cinnabon), kick back in a recliner and let other people soak up the adorableness that you stopped noticing somewhere over Des Moines, when your toddler kicked the seat in front of her for the 18th time.
Speaking of, while you’re on the plane, just accept that your normal nutrition and screen time rules are on hold. Bring your own junk food and whatever device your child likes to play— with headphones, please!— and then let them play and eat as much as they want. Bring old fashioned coloring and activity books, too. Kids love having your undivided attention, and a game of Hangman or Tic-Tac-Toe on a seatback tray will burn up some time. You will be exhausted by the end of the flight. It’s just going to happen. Accept it and expect it.
You don’t have to spend the holidays marinating in loneliness and exhaustion. With a little planning, a lot of patience, some managed expectations, and a few apps, you can travel with children to celebrate the season, without losing your sanity.
Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army spouse, a mother of three, a professional writer and an obsessive traveler. Once, during a deployment, she took all three kids on a 6-week-long roadtrip from Florida to Maine— and back!—stopping to see every long lost military friend and roadside attraction along the way.
The squadron recently completed two successful sorties where a B-52 released eight PDU-5/B leaflet bombs over the Point Mugu Sea Test Range and eight more over the Precision Impact Range Area on Edwards Air Force Base.
“We are primarily looking to see safe separation from the external Heavy Stores Adapter Beam,” said Kevin Thorn, a 419th FLTS B-52 Stratofortress air vehicle manager. “We are ensuring that the bombs do not contact the aircraft, and/or each other, creating an unsafe condition. Additionally we are tracking the reliability of the bomb functioning.”
The PDU-5/B is a new-use or variant of an older Cluster Bomb Unit. The original designation for the weapon was the MK-20 Rockeye II, SUU-76B/B, and/or CBU-99/100. The designator changes depending on the type of filler used in the bomb, said Thorn. Having leaflets as a filler designates the bomb as a PDU-5/B.
According to the Air Force, PDU-5/B canisters can deliver about 60,000 leaflets and were deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom before any Air Force munitions began hitting targets in Baghdad.
The dispenser bomb can be dropped from helicopters and fighter jets, and now the 419th FTS is trying to see if the B-52 fleet can be used as well.
“The PDU-5/B is just another tool that the B-52 uses in its vast and reliable tool box,” said Earl Johnson, the B-52 PDU-5/B project manager. “Without the capability to carry PDU-5s on the B-52 aircraft, the impending shortfall on leaflet dispersal capability will jeopardize Air Force Central Command information operations.”
Johnson said testing the PDU-5/B on the B-52 is complete for now. The program is forecasted to return at a future date to test PDU-5/B releases from the B-52’s internal weapons bay.