This is why it's awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

Thanking those who served is always appreciated. Nearly every single veteran signed on the dotted line to contribute to something bigger than themselves and, when civilians extend their gratitude, the good will is reciprocated — that is, on any day outside of the last Monday in May.

Yes, the gratitude is always welcomed, but Memorial Day isn’t the time. If prompted, nearly every veteran will give a polite response along the lines of, “thank you for your sentiment, but today is not my day.”


Memorial Day is a day that’s often confused with Veteran’s Day (November 11th) and Armed Forces Day (the third Saturday in May). While most countries around the world remember their fallen troops on Armistice Day (which commemorates the signing of the treaty that ended World War I — also November 11th), the United States of America began its tradition of taking a day to remember the fallen shortly after the end of the American Civil War.

In its infancy, the holiday was also called “Decoration Day” and generally fell on or around May 30th — depending on where you lived. It was a time when troops, civilians, family, friends, and loved ones would visit the graves of fallen Civil War troops and decorate them with flowers in remembrance.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
It was expanded after WWI to include all fallen troops from all wars.

The date was chosen because no major battles had taken place on that day — instead of honoring those died in a single battle, mourners could remember all who fell. It was also around the time most flowers started to bloom in North America.

After World War I, the country gradually transitioned to using Memorial Day as a way to honor fallen troops from every conflict. The celebration was kept around the same date and, on this day, the nation still decorates the graves of fallen troops with flags and flowers.

The final Monday in May became a federal holiday with the creation of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act and was chosen out of convenience. It gave every American a federally recognized, three-day weekend in order to continue the tradition of honoring those who sacrificed everything for our freedoms.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
As pleasant as it is to enjoyu00a0time off and au00a0cookouts are, it turned into a double-edged sword.
(Photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

The convenience of this three-day weekend was noted in a 2002 speech by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who said the change undermined the meaning of the day to the general public. To many, it also marks the unofficial beginning of summer, a time filled with barbecues and trips to the lake.

Now, that’s not to say that these pleasantries should ever stop — Americans enjoying their freedoms is what many troops fought to uphold. It’s important to remember, however, that day has, and always will be, in remembrance of the fallen. It’s a day of solemn reflection most troops and veterans spend thinking of their fallen brothers- and sisters-in-arms.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
If a veteran can make it there, this is generally how they spend their three-day weekend. If they can’t, this is where their head is at.
(Photo by Senior Airman Phillip Houk)

To properly thank a veteran this Memorial Day, visit one of the many national cemeteries and join them in placing flags, flowers, and wreaths on the graves of those who deserve our thanks. To find a national cemetery near you, please click here.

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This veteran invented Jell-O shots to beat base alcohol rules

Before he became one of musical comedy’s darkest satirists, musician Tom Lehrer served in the U.S. Army. The brilliant mathematician was an enlisted draftee from 1955-1957, serving at the National Security Agency.


He stood out from all the other enlisted troops. Specialist Third Class Tom Lehrer had a Master’s degree from Harvard at a time when his fellow enlisted troops barely had a high school education. He also had a hit record, one he self-published around Harvard but would become a nationwide hit.

 

 

Lehrer even wrote a submission for the Army song that talks about picking up cigarette butts, officers who can’t spell, bad food, and junior enlisted shenanigans.

What he did have in common with his brothers in arms was a fondness for having a few drinks at a party. But the party in question was on a naval base in Washington, D.C. — and no alcoholic beverages were allowed.

So he and a friend went right to work before the big day.

“We wanted to have a little party, so this friend and I spent an evening experimenting with Jell-O. It wasn’t a beverage…” he told San Francisco Weekly, “…so we went over to her apartment and we made all these little cups…”

After a few experiments with gin and vodka and number of different Jell-O flavors, they found that vodka and orange Jell-O worked best.

 

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

“I would bring them in, hoping that the Marine guard would say, ‘OK, what’s in there?’ And we’d say, ‘Jell-O.’ and then he’d say, ‘Oh, OK.’ But no, he didn’t even ask. So it worked. I recommend it. Orange Jell-O.”

True genius.

I wonder what the now 89-year-old Lehrer would think about smuggling alcohol in with mouthwash bottles and food coloring.

Incidentally, Lehrer’s record, a 10-inch LP titled “Songs by Tom Lehrer,” was a dark comedy album, but is considered by many to be one of the most influential of all time. He wrote songs about a Russian mathematician, the periodic table, and Christmas commercialism just to name a few.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

In all, Lehrer released 11 albums, with great titles like “An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer” and “The Remains of Tom Lehrer.” He even wrote a song for the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command for the 1963 film “A Gathering of Eagles.”

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4 stupid fights lost because of racism

Some things are universal. If you’re going to start a war, make sure you’re also the one who finishes it. To be ill-prepared for any reason is dumb and just prolongs a war, yielding pointless loss of life. In the history of the world, wars have been prolonged and lost for many, many stupid reasons.

Things like ignorance, hubris, and incompetence come to mind.

 

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

(Department of Defense)

Racism is all three of those things. Especially when a leader is about to send thousands — or even tens of thousands — of his most loyal troops into a situation they can’t possibly win because that leader thinks victory is assured just because he’s white. Or Chinese. Or Japanese. So, let’s be honest with ourselves: The most spectacular examples of military leadership did not belong to any one race.


As a matter of fact, if there’s any one person who can claim dominance over all other military minds, you don’t have to worry about race for two reasons. First, because he killed nearly everyone. Second, because he had sex with all the survivors and most of us are related to him anyway.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
Laughs in Mongol.

When a country goes to war, it needs to come prepared to earn that win. No army, weak or obsolete, is going to just let anyone roll all over them because the invader thinks they’re genetically or racially superior. Yet, in the history of warfare, it happens over and over again.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

“Cor, I think we may be knackered.”

1. Battle of Isandlwana

The British had been in Africa for a long time and were pretty good at subduing natives by 1879. Experience taught them that small groups of European forces with superior technology could outgun native warriors, even if they were outnumbered.

It turns out there was a diminishing rate of return to that theory.

British forces in South Africa prepared to invade Zulu with less than 1800 redcoats and colonial troops, a few field guns, and some rockets. They made zero effort at preparing defensive positions. The British didn’t even bother to scout or recon where the opposing Zulu force was. If they had, they would have known much sooner that their camp was surrounded by 20,000 Zulu Impi.

The Impi slaughtered the British — they just absolutely creamed them. Though the redcoats fought fiercely, 20,000 is a hard number to beat. Despite a British victory later at Roarke’s Drift, their invasion of Zululand fell apart. The worst part is that British High Commissioner for Southern Africa didn’t even have to invade. He just wanted to depose the elected government and federalize South Africa. No one authorized his invasion. He just thought so little of the Zulus that he figured it must be an easy task.

But the British had to finish what they started. The second time the British invaded Zululand (because of course they did), they brought more men and technology to win a decisive victory.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

Hint: not well.

2. The Battle of Adwa

Italian forays into colonizing Africa didn’t always go according to plan. When carving up Africa for colonization, the other European powers seemed to leave the most difficult areas to subdue for Italy. The Italian army had to subjugate modern-day Libya, Somalia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. How do you think that went?

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

Yeah, they died.

In another example of “we’re white so we must be better” thinking, the Italians — who barely got themselves together as country in 1861 — tried to exploit Ethiopia, an already rich, complex, and advanced society. Italy tried to misinterpret a treaty signed with Ethiopia to subdue it as a client state, but Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II wasn’t having any of it. So, the Italians invaded from Italian-controlled Ethiopia.

After a year of fighting, they made it deep into Ethiopian territory. But as both armies began to struggle to feed themselves, the Italian government wanted a break in the stalemate. Instead of an orderly retreat, the Italians decided to attack, considering 17,000 Italians with old guns versus more than 100,000 Ethiopian troops would be less embarrassing than having retreat before Ethiopians.

Well, the Italians mostly died — but they didn’t have to. The Ethiopians not only had significantly more manpower, they weren’t exactly armed with spears either. They also had rifles. And cavalry. And more of everything on their home turf. The Italian invasion was just a bad idea from the start.

The Italians were pretty much annihilated at Adwa, with more than 10,000 killed, captured, or wounded. For Ethiopia, it guaranteed their independence from European meddling or subjugation, forcing Italy to recognize Ethiopia as such – at least, until Mussolini came to call with airplanes and chemical weapons.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

Next time, don’t make your hats such big targets.

3. The Russo-Japanese War

At the turn of the 20th Century, Japan and Russia were in direct competition for dominance over Korea and Chinese Manchuria. Russia was expanding the Trans-Siberian Railway to reach its eastern shores, and did so through China, eventually expanding to the city of Port Arthur — which the Japanese thought they’d won in a previous war with China. Both Russia and Japan became convinced a war was coming. Because it was.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

“Wait, wait… I think we want to negotiate now.”

For some reason (racism), the Russians didn’t seem worried. They were far away from any kind of reinforcement and the Japanese had an advantage in manpower and proximity. But the “yellow monkeys,” as they were portrayed in Russian press, gave the Russian military zero pause. The Czar and his advisors were sure Russia would win any war with an Asian country. Japan repeatedly attempted to negotiate with the Russians but to no avail. War was easily averted, but the Czar was sure Japan wouldn’t attack.

Since Russia had advisors with Menelik II in Ethiopia, you’d think they’d be wary of racist overconfidence, but you’d be wrong. Because Japan attacked.

When Japan attacks, they do it in a big way. They attacked the Russian Far East Fleet and bottled it up at Port Arthur, destroying it with land-based artillery. Japan then captured all of Korea in two months. They then moved into Manchuria as the Russians fell back, waiting for land reinforcements via the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Russian Baltic Fleet, which pretty much had to circumnavigate the globe to get to the war.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

Russians retreating from Mukden. You’d think they’d be sprinting.

Neither was put to good use. Russia lost 90,000 troops when the Japanese captured the Manchurian capital at Mukden. And the Baltic Sea Fleet (now called the 2nd Pacific Fleet) was annihilated by the Japanese on its way through the Tsushima Strait.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

Oh. Right.

4. World War II in the Pacific

Well, just as the Russians proved they learned nothing about racism by watching Menelik trounce the Italians, the Japanese learned nothing about racism from their victory over Russia.

By 1937, the Japanese were coming out of the Great Depression, well before the rest of the world. Coupled with significant military victories against China, Russia, and in World War I, Japan was riding pretty high. But this isn’t the start of the Japanese superiority complex. The country actually tried to have a race equality declaration written into the League of Nations.

But we all know how well the League of Nations turned out.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

Oh. Right. Pearl Harbor.

The Japanese became contemptuous of white Americans and Europeans and saw themselves as a superior race. The inferior white races were considered soft and weak in comparison. When Japanese officials were met with racism while visiting foreign countries, it only exacerbated the issue.

They saw whites as overly individualistic, a society that would crumble at the first sign that it needed to unify or die. Japan soon came to believe its divine role was to be the champion of Asians and to liberate the colonies of the Western powers. Their view of themselves as a superior race was so extreme, it would weigh heavily on the Asian peoples they “liberated.”

But before any of that happened…

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

And Yamamoto learned about this thing called the U.S. Army Air Forces.

The fact is that American citizens didn’t really want the U.S. to go to war with Japan. But Japan needed raw materials to continue their campaign in Asia. So, when the United States cut them off of American oil and scrap metal, there was only one way to go about getting it.

Just kidding. There were many ways Japan could maintain its expansion in Asia without bombing Pearl Harbor or going to war with Europe, but it opted to bomb the Americans, who had the only fleet that could stop the Japanese Navy, and then take oil and rubber from the British and Dutch colonies in Asia. The Japanese thought if they destroyed the U.S. fleet, then America would just give up and let them have it.

That’s how weak-willed the Japanese thought Americans were. That line Admiral Yamamoto supposedly said about waking a sleeping giant? He never said that. But Japan found out pretty quickly about these guys called “U.S. Marines.”

Japan’s leadership knew they couldn’t win a long war against the U.S., but it was their racial bias that led them to believe the Americans would just give up after Pearl Harbor. They had led themselves to believe Japan was invincible so much that losing the war came as a shock and surprise to most of the Japanese people.

Articles

Here’s who would win if Russia, China, and America went to war right now

With the rhetoric about global trade deficits heating up on the campaign trail, it might appropriate to momentarily shift our focus away from the asymmetric threats of the Taliban and ISIS and look at the world of conventional warfare. Here’s how the world’s three most powerful militaries stack up in 4 major categories:


1. Stealth fighters

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane

While America holds the current stealth jet lead with the only fielded fifth-generation fighter, Russia and China are both gunning for it. There are only 187 F-22s, and the F-35 that is supposed to be joining them is running into all sorts of problems in the test phase, including the hi-tech helmet that is supposed to put all kinds of info in the pilot’s visor that doesn’t work right yet.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
Photo: Xinhuanet

Meanwhile, China is developing four stealth fighters. The J-31 debuted in air shows in 2014 and is the most advanced current threat, and the J-20, which may have just entered full-scale production, is probably a match for the F-35 if not the F-22. The two newest designs, the J-23 and J-25, are mostly rumors and Chinese propaganda right now.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
Photo: Rulexip CC BY-SA 3.0

Russia is developing only one stealth fighter but it has capabilities that some put on par with the F-22. The T-50 will likely enter service in late 2016 or early 2017. Also known as the PAK FA, it’s less stealthy than the Raptor but more maneuverable. The F-22 would likely get a jump on the Russians in a war, but would be in serious trouble if it was spotted first.

Likely winner: As long as the other planes are still more hypothetical than real, the F-22 remains the clear victor. Still, Raptor drivers can’t rest easy knowing that multiple aircraft are being developed with the primary mission of bringing them down, and those planes are being developed with engineers who have the F-22’s schematics.

2. Tanks

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy J. Fowler

The U.S. Army fielded the first M-1 Abrams in 1980. But the tank has undergone so many upgrades, including those to the armor, drivetrain, and weapons systems, that everything but the shell is new. It has a 120mm main gun, great electronics, remote-operated weapon stations, and an armor configuration that incorporates uranium, kevlar, reactive, and Chobham armor layers.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
Photo: Vitaly Kuzmin CC BY-SA 3.0

Russia is developing the prototype T-14 on the Armata platform, but right now it relies on the T-90A, which is still an awesome tank. One even survived a direct hit from a TOW missile in Syria. Originally fielded in 2004, the T-90A features an autoloader, reactive armor, a remotely-operated machine gun, and a 125mm cannon. The crew can fire anti-tank guided missiles from the main gun.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
Photo: Max Smith Public Domain

Like Russia, China fields a few varieties of tanks and has new ones in development. It’s go-to for tank-on-tank engagements is the Type 99. It features a 125mm smoothbore gun with auto-loader that can also fire missiles. The tank has been upgraded with reactive armor and is thought to be nearly as survivable in combat as Western or Russian tanks.

Likely winner: Strictly looking at the gear in a one-on-one fight, it’s a draw. But America has more top-tier tanks and a better history of training crews, plus (Ukraine notwithstanding) U.S. forces have more recent combat experience than their rivals.

3. Surface ships

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr.

With the largest Navy in the world, America has any surface fight in the bag if it happens in the middle of the ocean. The crown jewels are the Navy’s 10 full-sized aircraft carriers and 9 landing helicopter docks. But the Navy’s technological advantages and sheer size might not be enough to overcome China’s missiles or Russia’s diesel subs if it had to fight in enemy waters.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
Photo: Public Domain George Chernilevsky

Russia still struggles with force projection, but the launch of Kalibr cruise missiles at ground targets in Syria proved that Russia has found a way to give even their small ships some serious bite. An anti-ship version of the missile is thought to be just as capable and, if fired in a large enough salvo, may be able to overcome U.S. ship defenses like the Phalanx. Russia also fields the Club-K missile system, a land-attack and anti-ship cruise missile system that can be hidden in shipping containers.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
A Chinese destroyer pulls into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 2006. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ben A. Gonzales

China is pushing for a maritime revolution in both its Coast Guard and the People’s Liberation Army Navy. The Coast Guard is used to establish sovereignty in contested waters and is getting the world’s largest and most heavily armed Coast Guard ships. The Navy features hundreds of surface ships with advanced missiles and other weapons in addition to great sensors.

Likely winner: The U.S. Navy is still the undisputed champ across the world but it would take heavy losses if it fought China or Russia at home. A full-scale invasion might even fail if planners aren’t careful.

4. Submarines

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian G. Reynolds

The U.S. Navy has a staggering 14 ballistic missile submarines with a combined 280 nuclear missiles that can each wipe out an enemy city, four guided missile submarines with 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles each, and 54 nuclear attack submarines. They’re technologically advanced, heavily armed, and stealthy.

Russia has only 60 submarines but those are very capable. Russia’s nuclear subs are at or near par with their Western counterparts for stealth while their diesel boats are some of the quietest in the world. Russia is also working on new submarine weapons including a 100-megaton, city-killing nuclear torpedo. To top it all off, their crews were already good but are getting better.

China has only five nuclear attack submarines, 53 diesel attack submarines, and four nuclear ballistic missile submarines, but they’re working on more. China’s subs are easy to track, but the U.S. and its Pacific allies are deploying sophisticated listening devices to keep track of them anyway.

Likely winner: The U.S. submarine fleet wins for both power projection onto land and sub-on-sub combat, but the gap is narrowing. Chinese and Russian innovations and the rapid construction in new shipyards will make the ocean a more dangerous place for American submariners.

Bottom line: ‘Merica!

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the definitive history of the world’s most advanced fighter jet

The F-22A Raptor is a fifth-generation fighter incorporating fourth-generation stealth technology, radical maneuvering capabilities, the ability to fly at supersonic speed without afterburners and unprecedented pilot situational awareness, making it the most dominant and advanced air superiority fighter in the world.


This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

The Raptor’s sophisticated aerodynamic design, advanced flight controls and thrust vectoring allows it to outmaneuver any known aircraft. A combination of sensor capability, integrated avionics, situational awareness and weapons provides F-22 pilots with a first-look, first-shot, first-kill advantage over adversaries.

The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected. Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot’s situational awareness.

The F-22A Raptor was introduced Dec. 15, 2005, and a total of 187 operational aircraft were built. The last airframe was delivered to the Air Force in 2012.

Development and Design

The Raptor was developed through the Advanced Tactical Fighter program, which was initially requested by the Air Force in the 1970s to produce conceptual designs of an air-to-ground fighter to complement the air-to-air F-15 Eagle.

The Air Force needed the F-22 as a solution to emerging threats of the Soviet Su-27 Flanker, MiG 29 Fulcrum and the Chinese Shenyang J-11 multi-role fighter aircraft, to maintain air superiority after the Cold War and into the future.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
Lt. Col. James Hecker flies over Fort Monroe before delivering the first operational F/A-22 Raptor to its permanent home at Langley Air Force Base, Va., on May 12, 2005. This is the first of 26 Raptors to be delivered to the 27th Fighter Squadron. The Raptor program is managed by the F/A-22 System Program Office at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. Colonel Hecker is the squadron’s commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker)

Thus, the request was amended with the advancements in stealth technology and the ATF program was then charged with creating a fighter with the capabilities of speed, agility, electronic warfare and signal intelligence into a stealth airframe which could also provide precision long-rage air-to-air and air-to-ground weaponry.

The Air Force selected the two proposals of contract teams Lockheed/Boeing/General Dynamics and Northrop/McDonnell Douglas, to produce prototypes for flight testing, the YF-22 and the YF-23. The Lockheed YF-22 was ultimately selected in 1991 with the first F-22A being delivered for flight testing in 1997.

 

The Raptor is equipped with two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 afterburning turbofan engines producing 35,000 pounds of thrust each, more than any current fighter. The jet is capable of Mach 1.82 during supercruise, or sustained supersonic flight without afterburners, and able to reach speeds over Mach 2 with afterburners.

In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders. The Raptor also has an internally mounted M61A Vulcan 20 mm-rotary canon embedded inside the right wing.

The Raptor’s ability to collect and share tactical information with legacy aircraft enables U.S. and allied forces to engage targets with unmatched battlespace awareness. With the data processed with the Raptor’s advanced avionics sensors and radars, the aircraft can even designate targets for allies.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
A 1st Fighter Wing’s F-22 Raptor from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. pulls into position to accept fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker with the 756th Air Refueling Squadron, Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility, Md. off the east coast on May 10, 2012. The first Raptor assigned to the Wing arrived Jan. 7, 2005. This aircraft was allocated as a trainer, and was docked in a hanger for maintenance personnel to familiarize themselves with its complex systems. The second Raptor, designated for flying operations, arrived Jan. 18, 2005. On Dec. 15, 2005, Air Combat Command commander, along with the 1 FW commander, announced the 27th Fighter Squadron as fully operational capable to fly, fight and win with the F-22. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock)

During the F-22’s first Operational Readiness Inspection the aircraft was rated excellent in all categories with a 221-0 kill ratio against opposing aircraft.

The F-22 has a significant capability to attack surface targets from high cruise speeds and altitudes. In the air-to-ground configuration the aircraft can carry two 1,000-pound GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munitions internally.

The Raptor has the ability to deploy 1,000-pound bombs from 50,000 feet while cruising at Mach 1.5, and can strike a moving target 24 miles away.

Operation and Deployment

Air Force units that operate the F-22 Raptor include:

  • The 27th Fighter Squadron, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia
  • The 94th Fighter Squadron, JB Langley-Eustis, Virginia
  • The 149th Fighter Squadron, Virginia Air National Guard
  • The 19th Fighter Squadron, JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii
  • The 199th Fighter Squadron, Hawaii Air National Guard
  • The 43rd Fighter Squadron, Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida
  • The 95th Fighter Squadron, Tyndall AFB, Florida
  • The 301st Fighter Squadron, Tyndall AFB, Florida
  • The 90th Fighter Squadron, JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
  • The 302nd Fighter Squadron, JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
  • The 525th Fighter Squadron, JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
  • The 433rd Weapons Squadron, Nellis AFB, Nevada

    This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
    An Air Force F-22 Raptor executes a supersonic flyby over the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). John C. Stennis is participating in Northern Edge 2009, a joint exercise focusing on detecting and tracking units at sea, in the air and on land. (U.S. Navy photo by Sonar Technician (Surface) 1st Class Ronald Dejarnett)

The first overseas deployment of F-22s was to Kadena Air Base, Japan in February 2007.

F-22s participated in combat sorties for the first time during Operation Inherent Resolve, dropping 1,000-pound GPS-guided bombs on Islamic State of Iraq and Syria targets during the American-led intervention in Syria.

From September 2014 to July 2015, F-22s flew 204 sorties, dropping 270 bombs on 60 different locations.

On June 23, 2015, two F-22s performed the aircraft’s first close air support mission conducting airstrikes protecting friendly forces in Syria.

Did you know?

– The F-22 Raptor has a radar cross-section smaller than a bumblebee, making it nearly undetectable.

– An F-22B two-seat variant was planned in 1996, but cancelled to save development costs.

– The radar on the F-22 changes frequencies over 1,000 times per second to deter detection by enemy forces.

F-22A Raptor Fact Sheet:

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

  • Primary function: air dominance, multi-role fighter
  • Contractor: Lockheed-Martin, Boeing
  • Power plant: two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners and two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles.
  • Thrust: 35,000-pound class (each engine)
  • Wingspan: 44 feet, 6 inches (13.6 meters)
  • Length: 62 feet, 1 inch (18.9 meters)
  • Height: 16 feet, 8 inches (5.1 meters)
  • Weight: 43,340 pounds (19,700 kilograms)
  • Maximum takeoff weight: 83,500 pounds (38,000 kilograms)
  • Fuel capacity: internal: 18,000 pounds (8,200 kilograms); with 2 external wing fuel tanks: 26,000 pounds (11,900 kilograms)
  • Payload: same as armament air-to-air or air-to-ground loadouts; with or without two external wing fuel tanks.
  • Speed: mach two class with supercruise capability
  • Range: more than 1,850 miles ferry range with two external wing fuel tanks (1,600 nautical miles)
  • Ceiling: above 50,000 feet (15 kilometers)
  • Armament: one M61A2 20-millimeter cannon with 480 rounds, internal side weapon bays carriage of two AIM-9 infrared (heat seeking) air-to-air missiles and internal main weapon bays carriage of six AIM-120 radar-guided air-to-air missiles (air-to-air loadout) or two 1,000-pound GBU-32 JDAMs and two AIM-120 radar-guided air-to-air missiles (air-to-ground loadout)
  • Crew: one
  • Unit cost: $143 million
  • Initial operating capability: December 2005
  • Inventory: total force, 183
MIGHTY TACTICAL

A B-52 found a lost canoe on a rare search and rescue mission


A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress crew from the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and deployed to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam are being hailed as heroes. The B-52H located the lost crew of an open ocean Polynesian-style canoe after they were missing at sea for six days.

The traditional Pacific Island-style canoe carrying six paddlers had become lost after sailing from nearby Piagailoe Atoll on June 19, 2018. The journey from the atoll to Guam was only supposed to take one day — meaning the paddlers, who had minimal supplies had been missing at sea for nearly a week.



Following the location of the canoers from the USAF B-52H, the six-member crew of the ocean-going canoe rendezvoused with a merchant vessel in the area that was directed to their location to effect rescue. The merchant vessel provided the canoers with water, food and navigational assistance so they could safely return to land.

The eight-engine, long range B-52H bomber joined the search when the crew from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., was on a routine flight during a deployment to Guam. The heavy bomber crew responded to a call from the Coast Guard for assistance in the search on June 25, 2018.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

Crew members flying a B-52H Stratofortress assigned to the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, successfully located six passengers who had been missing for six days and relayed their location to the U.S. Coast Guard.

“This was a unique situation for us,” Capt. Sean Simpson, one of the bomber’s crew, said in an Air Force statement. “It’s not every day the B-52 gets called for a search and rescue.”

Initially the crew of the B-52H was unfamiliar with the type of vessel they were searching for. Coast Guard personal compared the small, difficult to spot indigenous canoe with the boat from the Disney cartoon “Moana”. Capt. Simpson told media, “We asked for more details about the vessel and the dispatcher told us, ‘It’s just like the boat from [the Disney film] ‘Moana.'”

The B-52H crew were able to locate the canoe and its crew at sea only three hours after being called into the search and rescue operation.

“We spotted this vessel from about 19,000 feet,” 1st Lt. Jordan Allen told Air Force media in the statement. “It’s really a small miracle that we were able to see it, because there was quite a bit of clouds.”

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The lost canoe was located by the crew from one of the B-52H after it was compared to a similar one that appeared in a Disney cartoon.

“Search and rescue isn’t something people typically think of when they talk about the B-52, but our training and adaptability really paid off,” Lt. Col. Jarred Prier, the bomb squadron’s director of operations, said in the statement. “Being a part of this successful search and rescue operation speaks to the diversity of our skill set and shows our importance here in the Pacific.”

While the 63-year old Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, first flown in 1952 and accepted into the Air Force in 1955, is oddly well suited for the maritime search and rescue role even though it was introduced as a global reach strategic nuclear bomber. The aircraft has an extremely long combat radius of 4,480 miles, meaning it can search out in a straight line 4,480 miles and return the same distance without refueling. Given midair refueling availability, the B-52’s endurance is limited mostly by its crew’s physical endurance.

In January 1957 three USAF B-52s set an endurance record by becoming the first jet aircraft to circle the earth on a non-stop flight. The early version B-52Bs flew continuously for 45 hours and 19 minutes. In total the planes flew 24,345 miles without landing.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

Articles

The top 6 reasons civilians back out of military service

Anyone who’s ever served in uniform has probably heard someone say the immortal line: “I would have joined the military, but…”


Lots of civilians make a trip to the recruiter with an eye toward military service, full of patriotic zeal and martial courage. But many pull out at the last minute and give their friends and family some song and dance about why they couldn’t commit.

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…But the MRE bread is too good? A U.S. Marine recruit with Alpha Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, takes part in a Meal, Ready-to-Eat during the Crucible at Parris Island, South Carolina, Dec. 3, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jamal D. Sutter)

No matter what excuse they give you for not signing on the dotted line, here are six real reasons recruiters tell us people decide not to join.

6. They’re physically disqualified

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The Marine Corps Bulletin 1020, released June 2, 2016, explains the new Marine Corps tattoo policy.

A recruit who wants to join but is physically disqualified is disappointing for both the recruit and the recruiter. Applicants can be physically disqualified because of asthma, bad eyesight, scoliosis, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and other causes. Sometimes people disqualify themselves with tattoos, ear gauges or other kinds of body art.

5. Friends and family talk them out of it

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Some occupations in the military are the most dangerous jobs in the world, but that doesn’t mean they will necessarily lead to death. The type of job and location of a recruit’s duty station will determine the risk that military personnel encounter. Approximately 80 percent of career fields in the military are non-combat related.

Still, some potential recruits are convinced their service will kill them.

4. They don’t want to leave a significant other

Being in a relationship while going through the process of enlisting is challenging. Getting married or having a child as a single parent may affect the process of enlistment and eligibility to serve. Some refuse to leave their partner behind and instead give up on a potential military career for love.

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They’ve apparently never heard of Army Wives. (Promotional photo/Lifetime)

3. They enlist and sign a contract but don’t get their dream job

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Everyone wants to be gangster, until there’s gangster poop to be burned. (Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kowshon Ye)

Open positions are based on the needs and manning of the particular service. In the Navy, (my expertise) most jobs do not have to be permanent. Changing jobs can be easy if there’s a new job open and you can meet the qualifications. The Army has a program where a service member can re-enlist and change his MOS. But for some people, not having the ideal job is non-negotiable, so they never enlist.

2. The recruiting experience went south

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Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Micky M. Bazaldua

Recruiters have a duty and job to fill the needs of the military, but they are also responsible for building a connection with applicants. The relationship between a recruiter and a candidate is often seen as a reflection of what the service will be like, but that shouldn’t not be the only thing to consider. Still, a negative recruiting experience can discourage people from joining.

1. Some people just back out

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That look tho. (photo by U.S. Army Recruiting)

The service is not for everyone and though the idea of joining seems attractive because of the honor, the uniform and the respect — it is a sacrifice. Some people may at some point feel they can make it but don’t. After weighing the pros and cons, people just change their mind.

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump wants to free an American held in Turkey

President Donald Trump appealed to Turkey for the release of the American pastor, Andrew Brunson, who is being held on accusations that he supported a failed military coup in 2016.

Brunson is originally from North Carolina, but has lived in Turkey for 25 years, serving as leader of a Christian church in the town of Izmir, about 360 miles southwest of the capital Ankara.


He has remained in custody for the last 18 months, facing charges that he helped support Turkish soldiers who tried to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July 2016. Brunson has denied any wrongdoing.

“Pastor Andrew Brunson, a fine gentleman and Christian leader in the United States, is on trial and being persecuted in Turkey for no reason,” Trump said in a Twitter post on April 17, 2018.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

“They call him a Spy, but I am more a Spy than he is,” the US president said. “Hopefully he will be allowed to come home to his beautiful family where he belongs!”

Trump’s declaration that “I am more a spy” than Brunson is hits at the crux of Turkey’s argument about Brunson and the vast swath of the Turkish population arrested and accused of subverting Erdogan’s government.

Some people did a double-take on Trump calling himself a spy.

In an apparent gesture to coax Turkey into freeing Brunson, the US dropped charges against members of Erdogan’s security detail who were accused of brawling with protesters during the Turkish president’s visit to the US in 2017.

By all accounts, Turkey was unmoved.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The first clash of iron fleets was in 1866, and it was weird

In 1862, the Merrimack and the Monitor fought the famous naval battle at Hampton Roads where ships with iron armor fought each other for the first time. That clash is often cited as one of the moments where warfare changed overnight. Suddenly, it was clear that most cannons couldn’t penetrate iron hulls, and so every navy rushed to armor their hulls.


Just four years later, two fleets of wooden and iron-hulled boats clashed in the waters near Venice, and this first clash of iron fleets got weird, fast.

The Battle of Lissa was fought near an island of the same name in the Adriatic Sea, sometimes known as Vis, its Croatian name. A large Italian fleet of about 26 ships, including 13 ironclads, faced off against about 26 Austrian ships, but only seven Austrian ships were ironclads.

But the ironclad numbers weren’t the end of the Italian advantage. The ships that took part were powered by a mix of sail and steam. Like, each ship used both. Some ships were predominantly steam-powered but had sails to make them more efficient on long voyages, and some were sail-powered with small steam engines and paddles to help them quickly turn in combat. The ships predominantly powered by steam were generally more effective in combat, and Italy had a higher mix of those. And the Italian ships were generally larger, as well.

But most importantly, the Italian ships had larger guns and more rifled pieces. At the time, rifle-fired rounds and exploding rounds were about the only thing that could pierce iron armor. And by larger guns, we mean the largest Austrian guns were 48-pounders, and every piece of Italian naval artillery was larger.

So, the Italian ships were larger, better armed and armored, and technologically advanced. Guess the Italians won. Cool. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.

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The Austrian wooden battleship Kaiser rams an Italian ironclad in the Battle. The ship left its figurehead behind after the clash.

(Eduard Nezbeda)

Except, nope, just wait. Italy sent ships to capture the island of Lissa from an Austrian garrison on July 16, 1866. This assault was repelled, and the Italian ships returned on the night of July 19 to try again. The next morning, July 20, 1866, was rainy and the waters were covered in mist.

But the Italian fleet used the weather as a cover for their coming bombardment and landings right up until a dispatch vessel ran back to elements of the fleet with news that Austrian ships had reached the island. The Italian fleet had been split up to bombard multiple targets and land troops. They were not properly massed for a naval battle.

The Italians were unimpressed, though, and continued to focus on landing troops. With the technological and numerical advantage, it must have seemed that they could bat away any attempts at disturbing the landings.

The sun came out a couple of hours later and burned away the mist, and the Italians had to deal with a real Austrian threat. Three groups of ships, all arranged into arrowhead formations, were bearing down on them. But while this was a threat, it would have seemed like an easily countered one.

Ships are designed with long bodies to minimize resistance and to give stability, but artillery works best when it’s deployed side-by-side with all the guns firing in support of one another. So, when one group of ships charges on another, the group firing broadsides can typically fire many more cannons than the group that is charging. So, seemingly, this would work to the Italians’ advantage.

But then the Italian admiral did something completely baffling. He changed flagships as the Austrians bore down on him. He would later claim that he did this so he would be on a faster ship that could more efficiently relay orders, but the Italian ship crews didn’t know about the change and so would look to the wrong ship for direction for most of the battle.

And then the Austrians got a second break. Their headlong charge was obscured as the naval guns opened fire and began to emit those huge clouds of smoke. The Austrian commander, Rear Adm. Wilhelm von Tegetthoff, charged through the smoke with most of his ships and suddenly realized that he had unwittingly passed through the Italian line of battle.

So the Italian fleet was receiving no clear orders from what the captains thought was the flagship, was obscured by smoke, and suddenly had an enemy literally sailing through their lines. The battle quickly descended into a tight mass of ships circling and firing on one another with little real coordination. As the smoke filled the air and everyone lost sight of nearly everything, it became tough for combatants to tell who they were supposed to fight.

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An illustration shows Rear Adm. Wilhelm von Tegetthoff during the Battle of Lissa.

(Anton Romako)

Von Tegetthoff, though, had issued an order that worked perfectly in this insanity. Remember, Austria’s largest guns in the battle were nearly useless for firing at armor plating. The 48-pound shells that were his most powerful projectile would still need a lucky shot to seriously damage an Italian ironclad. So, von Tegetthoff had ordered his ships to ram Italian vessels whenever the opportunity arose.

And so the spinning, chaotic, smoke-filled brawl that morning was perfect for them. It softened the impact of the Italian artillery advantage, and Austrian crews began ramming everything that looked vaguely Italian.

Yeah, the first clash of iron fleets descended into a battle of naval ramming, a tactic that had lost favor in the decades prior because rammings were hard to pull off as the ships required a lot of time and space to build up speed, but easy to avoid as the targeted vessel could pull out of the way or turn so that an otherwise lethal blow would be a glancing hit instead.

In the melee of Lissa, ships of both sides rammed each other, and gun crews fired on ships that they were locked into combat with. An Austrian battleship rammed an Italian vessel and left its figurehead, a statue of the emperor, in the enemy’s iron armor. The Austrian ship even caught fire when one of its masts broke, landed on its own smokestack, and then became overheated by the exhaust.

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The Italian ship Re d’Italia sinks at the end of the Battle of Lissa.

(Carl Frederik Sørensen)

When the ships were exchanging shells, the Italians generally got the better of the exchanges as they could lob 300-pound shells from some guns. But the Austrian proficiency at ramming claimed a greater toll.

The original Italian flagship, the Re d’Italia, became the target of multiple Austrian ships looking to capture the enemy commander and his colors. Austrian gunners managed a hit that broke its steering, limiting it to forward-back maneuver. And then the Austrian flagship, the Ferdinand Max, bore down on it for a solid ram and scored a hit amidships, punching an 18-foot-wide, 7-foot-tall hole in it with a ram mounted at the waterline.

The heavy Italian ship rolled away, rolled back, and then sank in less than two minutes as sailors and marines struggled to escape the suction of the quickly sinking iron.

The fleets disentangled themselves. The Austrian forces had lost no ships, had only one badly damaged, and had suffered almost 200 casualties including 38 killed. The Italians had lost a prized ironclad and hundreds killed. Worse, a fire was spreading on another ironclad, the Palestro. Despite heroic efforts by the crew to save the ship, including flooding its powder magazines, a separate store of shells and powder was ignited.

The ship blew up like a massive bomb, sending parts of its plating and hull high in the air. Hundreds more Italian sailors died, and the wreckage sank within minutes. Italy had lost a second ironclad, and its death toll for the battle rose to 620. Not to mention, the shores of Lissa were now safe from the threatened Italian amphibious assault.

The aftereffect of Lissa was even weirder than the battle, though. The success of rams led to new ship designs that emphasized the weapon for decades, so even in World War I modern-ish battleships and many smaller vessels still carried iron rams at the waterline. And, maybe even more surprising, the Austrian success at Lissa had become moot before it was even fought.

The Austrian Empire had been decisively defeated on land at the Battle of Königgrätz by Prussian forces on July 3. Prussian forces on the continent kept pressure on Austria for the rest of July, and the war came to an end with Prussian victory.

Germanic tribes, and their Italian allies, were allowed to consolidate their peoples into new nations separate from the Austrian Empire. That empire renamed itself the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and, 48 years later, one of its archdukes was killed while riding in a car in the town of Sarajevo, less than 130 miles northeast of Lissa.

(Today, the island is part of Croatia and is known by its name in the Croatian language, Vis.)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Surprise, surprise — UN says Iran is playing by the rules of nuclear deal

In April, US President Trump ordered a review of the suspension of sanctions on Iran related to the nuclear deal.


The head of the UN nuclear watchdog said on Sept. 11 Iran was playing by the rules set out in a nuclear accord it signed with six world powers in 2015, after Washington suggested it was not adhering to the deal.

The State Department must notify Congress every 90 days of Iran’s compliance with the deal. The next deadline is October, and President Donald Trump has said he thinks, by then, the United States will declare Iran non-compliant.

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DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

Yukiya Amano, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Iran had not broken any promises and was not receiving special treatment.

“The nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran under the [deal] are being implemented,” he said in the text of a speech to a quarterly meeting of the IAEA’s 35-member Board of Governors.

Most sanctions on Iran were lifted 18 months ago under the deal and, despite overstepping a limit on its stocks of one chemical, it has adhered to the key limitations imposed on it.

In April, Trump ordered a review of whether a suspension of sanctions on Iran related to the nuclear deal, negotiated under President Barack Obama, was in the US national security interest. He has called it “the worst deal ever negotiated.”

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, traveled to Vienna last month to speak with Amano about Iran and asked if the IAEA planned to inspect Iranian military sites, something she has called for.

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Nikki Haley. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Iran dismissed the US demand as “merely a dream.”

Iran has been applying an Additional Protocol, which is in force in dozens of nations and gives the IAEA access to sites, including military locations, to clarify questions or inconsistencies that may arise.

“We will continue to implement the Additional Protocol in Iran… as we do in other countries,” Amano said.

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Inspectors and other IAEA staff prepare for the resumption of inspections in Iraq 18 Nov, 2002. (Photo Credit: Mark Gwozdecky / IAEA)

In addition, the IAEA can request access to Iranian sites including military ones if it has concerns about activities or materials there that would violate the agreement, but it must show Iran the basis for those concerns.

That means new and credible information pointing to such a violation is required first, officials from the agency and major powers say. There is no indication that Washington has presented such information.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China is building a massive amount of warships

The U.S. Navy’s 2016 shipbuilding plan called for 355 ships needed to compete in an increasingly contested international environment. The acting Secretary of the Navy has promised the Navy’s new plan will be complete by Jan. 15, 2020, but by all accounts, the number of ships will be reduced to 304, allotting for the construction of 10 new ships per year, fewer than the 2016 assessment.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Navy is increasing its naval presence – at a massive rate.


The People’s Liberation Army Navy is gearing up for the naval fight of the century, one that will likely happen without ever firing a shot. For control of the contested islands in the South China Sea, the PLAN is going to have to intimidate all the other naval forces of the world, but mostly the United States Navy. While China sees the waters around the Spratly Islands as its sovereign territory, other countries in the neighborhood don’t see it that way. The U.S. Navy, as part of its Freedom of Navigation mission, makes regular trips through these “Chinese waters,” challenging China’s claim to the islands and its territorial sea.

Basically, the U.S. Navy goes to contested sea areas and conducts operations inconsistent with “Innocent Passage,” which would be any action that doesn’t contribute to their quick and hasty movement through the territorial waters. When the U.S. Navy does something like launch planes or helicopters while in the disputed zones, it’s basically telling China, the U.S. doesn’t recognize their claim. In the South China Sea, there are at least two island chains in dispute between the Chinese and their neighbors.

The U.S. doesn’t take sides, but it also doesn’t recognize China’s Excessive Maritime Claims, so it frequently conducts Freedom of Navigation operations – and China hates it.

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(Forbes)

China’s response to the ongoing Freedom of Navigation operations has been to increase the presence of its deployed military hardware throughout the Spratly and Paracel Islands. It has even moved its vaunted DF-26 Ballistic Missile forces onto the islands in an effort to intimidate the U.S. Navy from continued operations. It has not been successful. China has even put its own ships in the way of the U.S. ships traversing the islands, threatening to stop them with one ship and sink it with another. But that is easier said than done. The United States Navy is the largest and most advanced fleet of ships in the world, with 11 aircraft carrier battle groups and hundreds of ships. It’s a lot to consider fighting.

Unless you also have hundreds of ships.

While the U.S. Navy is planning to build ten ships every year, the Chinese shipyards have been documented building up to nine ships at a time. The photo above shows nine Destroyers under construction, a number that would dwarf the UK’s Royal Navy, who has just six destroyers in service. This is only one yard, captured on social media for the world to see. China just finished its homegrown aircraft carrier, its second, and it boasts a crazy mysterious sailless submarine the United States knows very little about.

One day soon, the U.S. Navy’s intimidating Freedom of Navigation missions might just blow up in its face and it might find a fleet of Chinese ships waiting for it.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how GPS actually works – and why some devices might stop working

Developed over the course of decades, GPS has become far more ubiquitous than most people realize. Not just for navigation, its extreme accuracy in time keeping (+/- 10 billionths of a second) has been used by countless businesses the world over for everything from aiding in power grid management to helping manage stock market and other banking transactions. The GPS system essentially allows for companies to have near atomic clock level precision in their systems, including easy time synchronization across the globe, without actually needing to have an atomic clock or come up with their own systems for global synchronization. The problem is that, owing to a quirk of the original specifications, on April 6, 2019 many GPS receivers are about to stop working correctly unless the firmware for them is updated promptly. So what’s going on here, how exactly does the GPS system work, and who first got the idea for such a system?


On Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. As you might imagine, this tiny satellite, along with subsequent satellites in the line, were closely monitored by scientists the world over. Most pertinent to the topic at hand today were two physicists at Johns Hopkins University named William Guier and George Weiffenbach.

As they studied the orbits and signals coming from the Sputnik satellites the pair realized that, thanks to how fast the satellites were going and the nature of their broadcasts, they could use the Doppler shift of the signal to very accurately determine the satellite’s position.

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A replica of Sputnik 1.

(NASA)

Not long after, one Frank McClure, also of Johns Hopkins University, asked the pair to study whether it would be possible to do this the other way around. They soon found that, indeed, using the satellite’s known orbit and studying the signal from it as it moved, the observer on the ground could in a relatively short time span determine their own location.

This got the wheels turning.

Various systems were proposed and, in some cases, developed. Most notable to the eventual evolution of GPS was the Navy’s Navigation Satellite System (also known as the Navy Transit Program), which was up and running fully by 1964. This system could, in theory, tell a submarine or ship crew where they were within about 25 meters, though location could only be updated about once per hour and took about 10-15 minutes to acquire. Further, if the ship was moving, the precision would be off by about one nautical mile per 5 knots of speed.

Another critical system to the ultimate development of GPS was known as Timation, which initially used quartz clocks synchronized on the ground and on the satellites as a key component of how the system determined where the ground observer was located. However, with such relatively imprecise clocks, the first tests resulted in an accuracy of only about 0.3 nautical miles and took about 15 minutes of receiving data to nail down that location. Subsequent advancements in Timation improved things, even testing using an atomic clock for increased accuracy. But Timation was about to go the way of the Dodo.

By the early 1970s, the Navigation System Using Timing and Ranging (Navstar, eventually Navstar-GPS) was proposed, essentially combining elements from systems like Transit, Timation, and a few other similar systems in an attempt to make a better system from what was learned in those projects.

Fast-forward to 1983 and while the U.S. didn’t yet have a fully operational GPS system, the first prototype satellites were up and the system was being slowly tested and implemented. It was at this point that Korean Air Lines Flight 007, which originally departed from New York, refueled and took off from Anchorage, Alaska, bound for Seoul, South Korea.

What does this have to do with ubiquitous GPS as we know it today?

On its way, the pilots had an unnoticed autopilot issue, resulting in them unknowingly straying into Soviet airspace.

Convinced the passenger plane was actually a spy plane, the Soviets launched Su-15 jets to intercept the (apparently) most poorly crafted spy plane in history — the old “It’s so overt, it’s covert” approach to spying.

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A Soviet Sukhoi Su-15 interceptor.

Warning shots were fired, though the pilot who did it stated in a later interview, “I fired four bursts, more than 200 rounds. For all the good it did. After all, I was loaded with armor piercing shells, not incendiary shells. It’s doubtful whether anyone could see them.”

Not long after, the pilots of Korean Air 007 called Tokyo Area Control Center, requesting to climb to Flight Level 350 (35,000 feet) from Flight Level 330 (33,000 feet). This resulted in the aircraft slowing below the speed the tracking high speed interceptors normally operated at, and thus, them blowing right by the plane. This was interpreted as an evasive maneuver, even though it was actually just done for fuel economy reasons.

A heated debate among the Soviet brass ensued over whether more time should be taken to identify the plane in case it was simply a passenger airliner as it appeared. But as it was about to fly into international waters, and may in fact already have been at that point, the decision was made to shoot first and ask questions later.

The attacking pilot described what happened next:

“Destroy the target…!” That was easy to say. But how? With shells? I had already expended 243 rounds. Ram it? I had always thought of that as poor taste. Ramming is the last resort. Just in case, I had already completed my turn and was coming down on top of him. Then, I had an idea. I dropped below him about two thousand metres… afterburners. Switched on the missiles and brought the nose up sharply. Success! I have a lock on.

Two missiles were fired and exploded near the Boeing plane causing significant damage, though in a testament to how safe commercial airplanes typically are, the pilots were able to regain control over the aircraft, even for a time able to maintain level and stable flight. However, they eventually found themselves in a slow spiral which ended in a crash killing all 269 aboard.

As a direct result of this tragedy, President Ronald Reagan announced on Sept. 16, 1983, that the GPS system that had previously been intended for U.S. military use only would now be made available for everyone to use, with the initial idea being the numerous safety benefits such a system would have in civil aviation over using then available navigation tools.

This brings us to how exactly the GPS system works in the first place. Amazingly complex on some levels, the actual nuts and bolts of the system are relatively straightforward to understand.

To begin with, consider what happens if you’re standing in an unknown location and you ask someone where you are. They reply simply — “You are 212 miles from Seattle, Washington.”

You now can draw a circle on a map with radius 212 miles from Seattle. Assuming the person giving you that information is correct, you know you’re somewhere along that circular line.

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Not super helpful at this point by itself, you then ask someone else, and they say, “You are 150 miles from Vancouver BC.” Now you’re getting somewhere. When you draw that circle on the map, you’ll see it intersects at two points. You are standing on one of those two points. Noticing that you are not, in fact, floating in the ocean, you could at this point deduce which point you are on, but work with us here people.

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Instead of making such an assumption, you decide your senses are never to be trusted and, after all, Jesus stood on water, so why not you? Thus, you ask a third person — they say, “You are 500 miles from Boise, Idaho.” That circle drawn, you now know exactly where you are in two dimensional space. Near Kamloops, Canada, as it turns out.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

This is more or less what’s happening with GPS, except in the case of GPS you need to think in terms of 3D spheres instead of 2D circles. Further, how the system tells you your exact distance from a reference point, in this case each of the satellites, is via transmitting the satellites’ exact locations in orbit and a timestamp of the exact time when said transmission was sent. This time is synchronized across the various satellites in the GPS constellation.

The receiver then subtracts the current known time upon receiving the data from that transmission time to determine the time it took for that signal to be transmitted from the satellites to its location.

Combining that with the known satellite locations and the known speed of light with which the radio signal was propagated, it can then crunch the numbers to determine with remarkable accuracy its location, with margins of error owing to things like the ionosphere interfering with the propagation of the signal, and various other real world factors such as this potentially throwing things off a little.

Even with these potential issues, however, the latest generation of the GPS system can, in theory, pinpoint your location within about a foot or about 30 centimeters.

You may have spotted a problem here, however. While the GPS satellites are using extremely precise and synchronized atomic clocks, the GPS system in your car, for example, has no such synchronized atomic clock. So how does it accurately determine how long it took for the signal to get from the satellite to itself?

It simply uses at least four, instead of three, satellites, giving it the extra data point it needs to solve the necessary equations to get the appropriate missing time variable. In a nutshell, there is only one point in time that will match the edge of all four spheres intersecting in one point in space on Earth. Thus, once the variables are solved for, the receiver can adjust its own time keeping appropriately to be almost perfectly synchronized, at least momentarily, with the much more precise GPS atomic clocks. In some sense, this makes GPS something of a 4D system, in that, with it, you can know your precise point in not only space, but time.

By continually updating its own internal clock in this way, the receiver on the ground ends up being nearly as accurate as an atomic clock and is a time keeping device that is then almost perfectly synchronized with other such receivers across the globe, all for almost no cost at all to the end users because the U.S. government is footing the bill for all the expensive bits of the system and maintaining it.

Speaking of that maintanence, another problem you may have spotted is that various factors can, and do, continually move the GPS satellites off their original orbits. So how is this accounted for?

Tracking stations on Earth continually monitor the exact orbits of the various GPS satellites, with this information, along with any needed time corrections to account for things like Relatively, frequently updated in the GPS almanac and ephemeris. These two data sets are used for holding satellite status and positional information and are regularly broadcast to receivers, which is how said receivers know exact positions of the satellites in the first place.

The satellites themselves can also have their orbits adjusted if necessary, with this process simply being to mark the satellite as “unhealthy” so receivers will ignore it, then move it to its new position, track that orbit, and once that is accurately known, update the almanac and ephemeris and mark the satellite as “healthy” again.

So that’s more or less how GPS came to be and how it works at a high level. What about the part where we said many GPS devices may potentially stop working very soon if not updated?

Near the turn of the century something happened that had never happened before in the GPS world — dubbed a “dress rehearsal for the Y2K bug”. You see, as a part of the time stamp sent by the GPS satellites, there is something known as the Week Number — literally just the number of weeks that have passed since an epoch, originally set to Jan. 6, 1980. Along with this Week Number the number of seconds since midnight on the previous Saturday evening is sent, thus allowing the GPS receiver to calculate the exact date.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

Artist’s conception of GPS Block II-F satellite in Earth orbit.

So what’s the problem with this? It turns out every 1024 weeks (about every 19 years and 8 months) from the epoch, the number rolls back to 0 owing to this integer information being in 10 bit format.

Thus, when this happens, any GPS receiver that doesn’t account for the Week Number Rollover, will likely stop functioning correctly, though the nature of the malfunction varies from vendor to vendor and device, depending on how said vendor implemented their system.

For some, the bug might manifest as a simple benign date reporting error. For others, such a date reporting error might mean everything from incorrect positioning to even a full system crash.

If you’ve done the math, you’ve probably deduced that this issue first popped up in August of 1999, only about four years after the GPS system itself was fully operational.

At this point, of course, GPS wasn’t something that was so ubiquitously depended on as it is today, with only 10-15 million GPS receivers in use worldwide in 1999 according to a 1999 report by the the United States Department of Commerce’s Office of Telecommunications. Today, of course, that number is in the billions of devices.

Thankfully, when the next Week Number Rollover event happens on April 6, 2019, it would seem most companies that rely on GPS for critical systems, like airlines, banking institutions, cell networks, power grids, etc., have already taken the necessary steps to account for the problem.

The more realistic problems with this second Week Number Rollover event will probably mostly occur at the consumer level, as most people simply are not aware of the issue at all.

Thankfully, if you’ve updated your firmware on your GPS device recently or simply own a GPS device purchased in the last few years, you’re probably going to be fine here.

However, should you own a GPS device that is several years old, that may not be the case and you’ll most definitely want to go to the manufacturer’s website and download any relevant updates before the second GPS epoch.

That public service announcement out of the way, if you’re now wondering why somebody doesn’t just change the specification altogether to stop using a 10 bit Week Number, well, you’re not the first to think of this. Under the latest GPS interface specifications, a 13 bit Week Number is now used, meaning in newer devices that support this, the issue won’t come up again for about a century and a half. As the machines are bound to rise up and enslave humanity long before that occurs, that’s really their issue to solve at that point.

Bonus Facts:

  • Ever notice that your cell phone tends to lock on to your GPS position extremely quickly, even after having been powered off for a long time? How does it do this when other GPS devices must wait to potentially receive a fresh copy of the almanac and ephemeris? It turns out cell phones tend to use something called Assisted GPS, where rather than wait to receive that data from the currently orbiting GPS satellites, they will instead get it from a central server somewhere. The phone may also simply use its position in the cell phone network (using signals from towers around) to get an approximate location to start while it waits to acquire the signal from the GPS satellites, partially masking further delay there. Of course, assisted GPS doesn’t work if you don’t have a cell signal, and if you try to use your GPS on your phone in such a scenario you’ll find that if you turn off the GPS for a while and then later turn it back on, it will take a while to acquire a signal like any other GPS device.
  • Starting just before the first Gulf War, the military degraded the GPS signal for civilian use in order to keep the full accuracy of the system as a U.S. military advantage. However, in May of 2000, this policy was reversed by President Bill Clinton and civilian GPS got approximately ten times more accurate basically overnight.
  • The military also created the ability to selectively stop others from using GPS at all, as India discovered thanks to the Kargil conflict with Pakistan in 1999. During the conflict, the U.S. blocked access to the GPS system from India owing to, at the time, better longstanding relations between the U.S. and Pakistan than the U.S. had with India. Thus, the U.S. didn’t want to seem like it was helping India in the war.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of April 27th

I know the sh*t has hit the proverbial fan and the world is going through a fairly sh*t time at the moment… But hold the presses because it came to light, via Business Insider, that Gen. James Mattis (Ret.) did some modelling work for a veteran-owned leather jacket company in between his time in the service to his appointment as Secretary of Defense.

Just when you thought the Patron Saint of Chaos could not get any more badass, he can apparently pull off a leather jacket far better than any of us ever could.

After reading that, I just don’t know what to do anymore. Anyway, here’s some memes while I contemplate whether dropping my stimulus check on that $1,300 jacket would be worth the ire of my wife…


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(Meme via Army as F*ck)

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(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

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(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

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(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

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(Meme via Call for Fire)

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(Meme via Not CID)

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(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

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(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

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(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

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(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

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(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

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(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

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(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

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