In the military, life is unpredictable. There’s no telling what’s in store service members during a given week. Thankfully, there are photographers among the ranks who have perfected the art of capturing the daily life of troops, both in training and at war.
These are the best military photos from this week:
Lt. Col. Alexander Heyman, Commander, 71st Student Squadron, and 2nd Lt. Mitchel Bie, Vance student pilot, walk out to a T-6A Texan II, March 8, 2018, Vance Air Force Base, Okla. The T-6A Texan II is a single-engine, two-seat primary trainer designed to train student pilots in basic flying skills common to U.S. Air Force pilots.
A U.S. Air Force pararescueman jump master, assigned to the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, stands to conduct a drop zone survey before a high altitude, high opening military free fall jump working with a C-130J Super Hercules flown by the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, March 4, 2018. Guardian Angel Team members conduct training on all aspects of combat, medical procedures and search and rescue tactics to hone their skills, providing the highest level of tactical capabilities to combatant commanders.
Artillerymen with Battery B, Field Artillery Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, transport and prepare artillery rounds as they await the arrival of their M777 howitzers by a CH-47 Chinook helicopter crew from Company B, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, inside of the Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany, Mar. 8, 2018. Soldiers of both units came together to train and strengthen relationships during an artillery raid training exercise as part of Dynamic Front 18, an annual U.S. Army Europe exercise focused on enhancing interoperability of U.S. Army, joint service and allied nation artillery and fire support in a multinational environment.
U.S. Army paratroops, assigned to the 16th Sustainment Brigade, are preparing for convoy live fire route as part of the Vanguard 360 at Pocek Range in Slovenia, Mar. 06, 2018. Exercise Vanguard Proof is a combined exercise between the 16th Sustainment Brigade and the Slovene Armed Forces focused on enhancing interoperability NATO operational standards and developing individual technical skills.
The amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) transits Manila Bay following a scheduled port visit. Bonhomme Richard is operating in the Indo-Pacific region as part of a regularly scheduled patrol and provides a rapid-response capability in the event of a regional contingency or natural disaster.
An Ice Camp Skate resident sets up communication equipment for Ice Camp Skate during Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2018. ICEX 2018 is a five-week exercise that allows the Navy to assess its operational readiness in the Arctic, increase experience in the region, advance understanding of the Arctic environment, and continue to develop relationships with other services, allies, and partner organizations.
Marines from Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, Calif., prepare to compete in the First Annual International Mountain Warfare Training Patrol Competition at the Chiemgau Arena in Ruhpolding, Germany. The competition is a challenging international competition that focuses on the mountain infantry’s capabilities.
U.S. Marines Corps with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, provide suppressive during a live-fire platoon attack at Range G-29 on Camp Lejeune, N.C., March 7, 2018. 2nd Marine Division provided funding and material for the creation of Range G-29 and tasked Marines with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion to finalize the production of the range.
Coast Guard Sector Boston Response Petty Officers look for damage to shoreside infrastructure March 5 in Swampscott, Massachusetts. A powerful nor’easter hit the area over the weekend causing damage along the shore.
Lt. Joe Brewan, the supply officer and the helicopter control tower operator aboard the U.S.S. Kidd, watches a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, from Air Station Port Angeles land on the flight deck of the ship, which was transiting the Strait of Juan de Fuca, in order to conduct a medevac of a sick Navy sailor, March 4, 2018. The 23-year-old Navy sailor was transported to Navy Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington in stable condition.
Every day, young men and women walk into a recruiter’s office with the prospect of serving their country. While some decide against joining, others sign their name on the dotted line and ship off to boot camp- and they don’t always know for sure whether the Army, Air Force, Marines or Navy are the right pick.
Most people didn’t take the time to think about what the military branch can do for them — they were just eager to join.
If you didn’t pick U.S. Navy, you freakin’ missed out, and here are nine reasons why.
In the military, it’s impossible to say what the next week will bring. Thankfully, the ranks are chock-full of talented photographers that are always capturing what life as a service member is like, both in training and at war.
These are the best photos of the week:
Airmen from multiple aeromedical evacuation squadrons treat a patient during a mock emergency scenario in route to Jackson, Mississippi, Feb 14, 2018. Airmen from multiple aeromedical evacuation squadrons formed teams to coordinate and work together for the PATRIOT South exercise.
A competitor in the 2018 Best Warrior Competition – Japan takes aim and fires his M4 rifle at his target during a weapon qualifying round held on Feb. 12 aboard MCB Camp Hansen.
Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Andy Blessing, from Katy, Texas, assigned to the “Sea Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22, surveys the waters surrounding the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) from an MH-60S Sea Hawk during a routine flight to support Exercise Cobra Gold 2018. Bonhomme Richard is participating in CG18 alongside Royal Thai Navy ships and personnel, conducting a range of amphibious operations that will enhance tactical expertise of participants and flex combined capabilities to respond to contingencies. Cobra Gold is an annual exercise conducted in the Kingdom of Thailand held this year from Feb. 13-23 with seven full participating nations.
Lance Cpl. Matthew Yaw and Military Working Dog Bbutler practice “out” drills Feb. 13 at the Marine Corps Installations Pacific K-9 kennels on Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan. Out is a command that military dog handlers give their MWD to release an object. Handlers and their dogs practice training through the obedience course to consistently instill instant, willing obedience. K-9 units are a visual and psychological deterrent which helps keep military installations narcotics and explosive free. Yaw is a military police officer and a dog handler with Headquarters and Support Battalion, MCIPAC- Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Japan. Bbutler’s unique name came from Lackland Air Force Base’s signature doubling of the first letter of the MWD’s name.
U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Richie Salinas demonstrates a tire flip during the Force Fitness Instructor (FFI) Course culminating event at The Basic School, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., February 12, 2018. The FFI course is made up of physical training, classroom instruction, and practical application to provide the students with a holistic approach to fitness. Upon completion, the Marines will serve as unit FFIs, capable of designing individual and unit-level holistic fitness programs.
Five boaters sit on a capsized 26-foot pleasure craft while a Coast Guard Station Lake Worth Inlet crew and good samaritans approach the vessel to assist the boaters Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018, 3 miles east of Lake Worth Inlet. The Coast Guard rescue recovered all 5 boaters from the water and transferred them to awaiting emergency medical services at the Lake Park Marina near Lake Worth.
Being a recruiter is harder now than it was during the surge. Post 9/11 recruiting stations even had to turn people away because every seat was full – plus a waiting list. The challenges of keeping numbers up are influenced by decisions in the Capitol. However, accomplishing the mission at the ground level is paramount regardless of politics. Its your career. Here are 5 ways military recruiters can boost their quotas.
1. Don’t use high pressure tactics
First of all, they don’t work. On the off chance that they do, the effects are only temporary. You’re not the top salesman in Glen Gary Glen Ross. Human beings are complex creatures but once they figure out that you’re attempting to manipulate them – all bets are off. They’re gone forever because, at the center, trust has been betrayed. Every branch has core values. Intimidation and deception are not found in any of them.
These young minds are coming to you, the recruiter, as the first mentor they will ever have in their military career. Your actions will shape the perception they have of your service branch. What you do and say when someone is deciding to sign the dotted line will impact them for the rest of their lives. Your branch and the lifestyle it offers should be enough to get you the troops you need. If someone has been in the service for years, it’s easy to forget that the military is cool. Lean on that.
2. Pedigree is a positive indicator
Communication is key to identifying potential candidates to recruit. When you hear that someone has family ties to the military it is a good indicator that they may have considered following in their footsteps. Tread lightly. Those same family members may be your biggest obstacle because of their experience in the service. For example, with Marines it’s 50/50. You may get someone who’s parent is a motivator and would be proud to have them join the Corps. You may also get hard charger who charged hard so his pups would not have to charge at all. Communicate and find some common ground. Never underestimate the influence of a parent.
3. Make sure they’re looking at the right branch
Of course, rivalries between recruiters is a thing, especially if the offices share a building. The potential recruit may be interested into more high speed, low drag occupation may be better suited in the Marine Corps or the Army. Every branch offers the Post 9/11 GI bill, so, if they’re interested in post service benefits offer an MOS that will help them post college too. The Air Force is highly technical and the Navy is the best branch when it comes to medical fields. Law enforcement and federal agencies love combat related experience or intelligence prior service skills.
Everybody gets out eventually, ask them about the future, and show them how the military can help them get there. Find allies in other recruiting offices and trade candidates when appropriate.
4. Make them study
The ASVAB should not be taken lightly. Let them know that passing is not enough, what if they want to change their jobs later in their career? The hassle of being on active duty and studying after one has been out of school for years is not fun. If you get a good enough score on the ASVAB and GT score off the bat, let them know they’ll never have to worry about it ever again.
Also advise them to take the SAT for the same reason. When I got out of the service my SAT score from high school was pretty good. I was able to enroll in college because it fell within window that I wouldn’t have to retake it. Their future self will thank them for it – and you too.
5. Be a straight shooter
You don’t have to say every single pro and con about the branch but at least be straight when it comes to the military occupational specialty. My recruiter told me I would be a better fit in comm due to the fact I was already CCNA certified and had college credits in the field. I pushed for infantry yet he wouldn’t let me sign as an 0311 until I thought about it for a month. I was going to enlist, no doubt about that, but he looked out for me by putting my needs ahead of his own. That’s what Marines do, we look out for each other. At that time I didn’t have my Eagle, Globe and Anchor but I knew that integrity was exactly what I was looking for in the Corps.
We Are The Mighty is on the ground in Philadelphia with USAA at the Army-Navy Game. Down in “Military Alley,” some of the game’s alums and VIPs stopped by WATM to talk football, catch us up on their work, and – of course – give their predictions for who will win one of the oldest rivalries in college football.
1. Rob Riggle, Marine Corps Veteran / Actor
Army and Navy are coming into today’s game with winning records. And since both teams bested the Air Force Academy Falcons this season, the winner will go home with the coveted Commander-In-Chief Trophy and wins a trip to the White House.
2. Roger Staubach, Navy Veteran and 1963 Heisman Trophy Winner
Navy currently has 15 trophy wins, compared to Army’s six. The last time the Black Knights took the prize back to West Point, they met then-President Bill Clinton on their trip to the White House.
That was 1996.
3. Vice Adm. Walter Carter, 62nd Naval Academy Superintendent,
Army is coming off an upset win in last year’s game and no matter who wins today, both teams are bowl game-bound.
Navy could host the University of Virginia Cavaliers in the Military Bowl, while it looks like Army could meet San Diego State in the Armed Forces Bowl. Both games would be in January.
4. Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, 59th West Point Superintendent
The 118th Army-Navy Game features a number of heavy-hitting players to watch, including both quarterbacks: Army’s Ahmad Bradshaw and Navy’s Malcolm Perry. Both players are sure to have a decisive impact on the outcome of today’s game.
5. Rick Neuheisel, CBS Sports College Football Analyst
Going into today’s game, Navy looks to stop Army from extending last year’s win to a two game streak. The all time series has Navy with 60 wins and Army with 50. The teams also tied seven separate times.
A tie is an unlikely outcome of today’s game.
6. Lt. Gen. Michael Linnington (Ret.), CEO, Wounded Warrior Project
Even though the tough talk is fierce and the rivalry doubly so, the two teams take part in a number of joint traditions, both before and after the game. The two schools’ glee clubs join together to sing the National Anthem before the game and will sing each other’s alma mater after the game.
7. Vince “Invincible” Papale, NFL Legend Travis Manion Foundation Supporter
Both teams will join to sing each other’s alma mater, but the big question is who will sing first. The winner of the game will serenade the losing team’s fans in the stands with their alma mater. Then they jointly turn to the winning team’s fans to sing the winner’s alma mater.
The goal is to “sing second.”
8. Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Pete Dawkins
The Army-Navy game’s importance in NCAA athletics has declined over the years, but its importance to the nation and to those who serve has definitely not. Army hasn’t been the AP National Champion since 1945 and Navy’s only championship was won in 1926.
9. Boo Corrigan Director of Athletics, West Point
The game continues to exemplify the often-misunderstood rivalries between the branches of the Armed Forces of the United States: taking the smack talk to the very brink of good taste while remaining polite – and always remembering that in the end, they’re all on the same team.
10. Andrew Brennan, Army Veteran Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation Founder
You never forget your first — that’s what they all say. Whether service member or military spouse, your first duty station sticks with you for the duration of your military existence. Why? Because it’s all-new, and likely not so shiny. You have to learn things the hard way, you never know where anything is located, housing is a mess, and that’s not even the bulk of it.
PCSing certainly gets easier with time, but when it comes to your first move — your first oh-so-very-painful PCS — it’s an experience you won’t soon forget.
Take a look at these all-too-common instances as described in totally accurate memes.
When you realize you have no idea what you are doing
2. Finally getting your HHG and trying to unpack like
Are we done yet?
3. Calling the housing office 10 times a day
4. All the training events for new families
Can we go now?
5. Trying to find the closest grocery store:
Do your best work, GPS.
6. Until you finally get acclimated to your surroundings
Everything is different here.
7. Trying to meet the new neighbors like:
8. SRSLY let’s BFF
Find your own kind of weird out there.
9. More unpacking
Seriously how long does this even take?
10. There are just so many distractions
It’ll get done … eventually.
Your first move, and your first duty station stick with you for the long haul. More often than not, it’s because of the growing pains along the way. Tell us about your most difficult lessons learned with your first PCS experience.
Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book “The Right Stuff” documented the United States’ postwar love affair with high-speed, high-powered aircraft, rocketry, and the test pilots who flew them. Wolfe used an interesting term to describe how military personnel and veterans speak English, “Army Creole.”
Army Creole, according to Wolfe, was a “language in which there were about ten nouns, five verbs, and one adjective.” In the book, the word “f*ck” is used for all of these.
The original Army Creole as described by Wolfe was a manner of speech similar to actual creole. The term now refers to the military-veteran propensity toward including swear words as intensifiers and the sometimes overwhelming use of acronyms.
Accoring to Wolfe, no one was more proficient in Army Creole than Mercury 7 astronaut Deke Slayton, who made people cringe whenever he got near a microphone, for fear he was “going to Army Creole the nationwide TV and scorch the brains of half the people of the U.S.A.”
The unique name given to the dialect is not to be confused with Seaspeak, the official, universal language of mariners the world over. Developed in 1983, shipping experts and linguists devised a communication system, defining the rules for speaking on the ship’s radio.
In 1988, the International Maritime Organization made seaspeak official.
When you first enlist, there isn’t much room in the process for you to get what you want. Yeah, you can choose your MOS and you’ll probably get lucky with an enlistment bonus and some school options, but there’s only so much a recruiter can get you. Once you’re in for a few years and your reenlistment window opens, however, the retention NCO is the person you really want to sweet talk. Retention NCOs hold the real power — they’ll move heaven and earth to keep troops in the unit and the military.
Keep in mind, the retention NCO isn’t a wizard who can fix all your problems with a whisk of a pen. Whatever you do, don’t ever confuse their willingness to work with you as an invitation to make demands. If you start holding your enlistment for ransom, you will get laughed out of the office.
Think of these more as poker chips for retention to ante up in exchange for you putting up more time in the military. The more valuable you are and the more time you are willing to give to the unit, the more “chips” they’ll put down. If you’re just Joe Schmoe hiding in the back of the platoon, don’t expect more than a few of these.
6. Get into a school
An easy win you can score is the option to get into a school whenever the slot opens up. This is a pretty simple request since it doesn’t involve HRC.
When a commander is notified that there’s room in a school opening up, the retention NCO can shuffle your name up to the top of that list.
Just a tip: If you go to The Sabalauski Air Assault School, don’t wear an 82nd patch. Just throwing that out there — but it will be hilarious for every 101st guy there. (U.S. Army Photo by Army Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton)
A key goal of the retention NCO is to keep the good troops in the unit, but if you request a change of duty station, they’ll understand the bigger picture here is keeping you in the military.
A change of scenery might also give you a new perspective on the military as a whole.
4. Have fun with the ceremony
There are very few moments in anyone’s military career where they have the power to dictate what they want and have it happen. Troops can have fun with where the reenlistment takes place, invite friends and family, and, for a brief period during the ceremony, you’re technically “honorably discharged,” so the enlistment period timer is set back to zero.
Of course, you can’t do anything stupid because the ceremony isn’t done yet and the command and retention will hem your ass up if you make a fool of yourself, but briefly “discharged” troops can laugh at the fact that they can finally put their hands in the pockets of their uniform for a whole ten seconds.
3. Help with promotion
This one is especially helpful for lower enlisted troops looking for a way to prove to the commander that they’re ready to take the next step in the military.
Reenlisting indefinitely won’t make your name appear on the Sergeant First Class List, but it can help an Army Specialist or Corporal get into the Sergeant board.
2. Change of MOS
Recruiters (usually) don’t lie, but they don’t shine a light on the reality of certain MOS. If you enlisted hoping for a fun and exciting time in that obscure MOS and now you’re feeling some buyer’s remorse, you can finally reclass.
I mean, you can finally learn that everyone has to embrace the suck: just some more than others.
1. The money
Nothing sounds better than pure, hard-earned cash. The amount you can earn is dependent on a lot of factors, including available funds, time during the fiscal year, your MOS (or what MOS you want), and your time in service. But you can at least squeeze something out of Uncle Sam if you know how and when to push for a reenlistment bonus.
If you don’t want to haggle for anything else on this list, at least get yourself some zeroes on that paperwork. Just be sure to reenlist while you’re deployed in a combat zone so you can get that money tax-free.
Troops hating on each other is commonplace. It builds branch esprit de corps to poke fun at our brothers. When it comes to soldiers hating on Marines, that’s just it — hating on, not hating. Us soldiers laugh at our thick-skulled, knuckle-dragging brothers from a place of camaraderie. In fact, our knuckles drag just as low.
The Army’s mission is too different from the Navy and Air Force for many of us to have prolonged contact with them. Marines, on the other hand, are often in the same guard post, same smoke pit, same bunker, and same all-around sh*t as soldiers, but that doesn’t make them safe from mockery.
Here are 6 reasons soldiers hate on the Marines:
6. “But every Marine is a rifleman!” said every Marine POG ever.
03 Series? Cool as f*ck in my book. Carry on.
Literally everyone else in the Marine Corps who tries to leech cool points from the 03 series with that stupid saying? Get out of here with that bullsh*t. There’s pride in playing your role and being the tiny gear that moves the military forward. You don’t need to pretend you’re something harder than you really are.
5. They act like their sh*t doesn’t stink.
Marines pride themselves on being the fittest and most war-fighting capable branch in the U.S. Armed Forces. They sh*t on the Air Force for being lazy. They sh*t on the Navy for being useless. They shit on us for being fat. All of which may be true — we won’t fight back.
But tell me, are you 100% certain there aren’t any fat, lazy, or useless Marines?
4. Marines complain about funding like we’re not also broke.
Whenever a group of Joes and Jarheads run into each other downrange, there’s always that one Marine who says something like, “oh, you have an ACOG on your M4? Must be nice.”
My heart goes out to you. It really does. But why b*tch to us about it? Average Joes are just slightly more geared than Marines. The Air Force gets far more than us and squanders it on airplanes they won’t use. If you really want fix the problem, take it up with the Navy. They blew what could have been your ACOG and M4 money on “Fat Leonard” kickbacks.
3. We’re tired of cleaning up after them.
“Tip of the Spear” has its benefits and setbacks. It sucks being the first ones anywhere, and soldiers sympathize.
The Marine Corps’ “first to fight” mentality, however, often means pissing off a local village and hot-potatoing that sh*t to the incoming soldiers.
2. Sure. They have Nassau, Tripoli, and Okinawa…
…but we still have Invasion of Normandy. For being the largest and most well-known amphibious landing force in the world, you’d think they would’ve played a bigger part in the largest and most well-known amphibious landing.
1. Those Dress Blues are actually sick as hell.
We can’t deny it. We may change our dress uniforms every year, but Marines just found an awesome design and stuck with it.
At the end of the day, we hate on them because they’re the brother we’re closest to and we couldn’t ask for a better friend to watch our back.
The following is an excerpt from the first book by Air Force veteran and Hollywood writer Dan Martin. Titled Operation Cure Boredom, it’s a hilarious collection of short stories chronicling the adventures of Martin’s 1990-1994 enlistment in the world’s best Air Force.
This chapter, called “Guest on the Range,” is about the extraordinary lengths Martin went to in order to qualify on the firing range as a junior enlisted Crew Chief:
One of the things I learned while holding a loaded semiautomatic rifle was that I shouldn’t “goof around.” Apparently it’s distracting and unnerving to the other participants at the firing range. The angry sergeant on duty pointed this out, adding that it was irresponsible and unsafe. But everyone was so serious, so uptight, so concentrated.
Colton continued making the rest of us laugh, lightening the mood. We only managed to annihilate the dirt mounds behind the paper people. At the end of the session, when I learned that I had failed the firing range test and had one more chance to pass it or be discharged from service, I stopped goofing around.
In order to maintain a good standing with the U.S. Air Force, one must complete the annual firing range test. If you fail the retest, pack your bags because you’re heading home on an early discharge. Not wanting to go back to Long Island so soon, I concentrated and passed the retest, barely. For the following annual firing range test, I made arrangements to get help, mostly by ensuring that I was out of the country on assignment, whereupon the test was lost to bureaucracy and ultimately waived. But the year I got married and stopped going on so many TDYs was the year the test came back to haunt me.
I had taken a second job at this point, working in a liquor store not far from the Louisiana Downs racetrack, not because I was saving to buy a house and raise a family, but rather to help pay off all the loans. We had financially backed ourselves into a corner between the cars, furniture, and vacations we simply charged on credit cards. We had to have them because we were a responsible adult married couple. In my third year of military service, now that I was no longer on TDYs, I was unable to escape the firing range.
At the time I had enlisted in the Air Force, it is key to note that nobody, with the exception of the security police, the special ops guys, and maybe a few fighter pilots, had a useful knowledge of weapons, let alone were able to locate the safety. For the rest of us, the firing range seemed to only serve the purpose of reminding us what weapons looked like. I hit my targets by mistake, and self-defense skills were measured by how fast I could run a mile. Although the chow hall on the base displayed a sign upon entering that read “Those Carrying Automatic Weapons May Go to the Head of the Line,” I can guarantee that had my base ever been attacked, it would have been captured within minutes. A massive army of children riding atop Saint Bernards and wielding broomsticks could have charged the main gate and I’d have to think twice about holding my ground. Broomsticks hurt.
Now faced wit having to take the firing range test, I came to the conclusion I needed someone to help teach me how to pass it. Unfortunately, asking for help within the military community was not exactly the option I wanted to exercise. I was all too aware that I had joined the one branch of the military that didn’t require you to use handheld weapons. But asking for help was like a plumber you hired asking you to show him what a pipe fitting looked like.
We were supposed to at least pretend we knew what we were doing. There were a few guys in my squadron who grew up hunting the small animalsI always associated with my local park or the garbage cans on a trash night. But even one of them managed to book himself a trip to the emergency room. Firing a hand cannon with one hand and a large ego, he managed to adorn his forehead with a welt the size of a grapefruit, the recoil smacking him with the pistol hard enough to make him forget the date. Knowing that I was proficient in neither accuracy or emergency room small talk, I decided to search for a teacher who was not in the military.
I knew I could find someone, I had done it before.
My brother piqued my interest in firearms when he shot our father with a flare gun. To be fair, it was a misunderstanding. My father had explained to Peter that he was grounded for some infraction of the rules. Peter said no, then shot him. From the moment my father stepped into his room to confront him, he should have take notes of Peter’s nautical emergency rescue kit, now open on his desk. Normally tucked away on his lobster boat, the flare gun was now strangely instead in Peter’s hand. Moments later, the flare bounced off my dad’s chest and zipped around the carpet, finally coming to a halt near the hamster cage, melting a small hole in the synthetic rug the size of a potato.
The room immediately turned a blindingly bright white color only the Coast Guard could love, and by the time my father regained his vision and looked through the smoke, presumably to grab Peter’s neck and snap it, my brother had used the diversion to jump out the window, eluding punishment for yet another night. Peter was not the best communicator, nor was he ever considered a good candidate for “negotiator,” but I quickly learned by observing his actions that perhaps I didn’t need to learn to communicate with words. Being a shy teenager who was also lacking command of a large vocabulary, talking problems out and reasoning with each other just seemed time-consuming. That night, I came to understand the power of a gun and realized aloud, “Guns are awesome.”
I wanted to test it out for myself. So I found an instructor who chose as my first target the happy, winged creature symbolizing love that perched outside my bedroom window each morning. It was just sitting there on the branch, singing, ruffling its feathers like most swallows do. I was seventeen. My instructor was twelve. The BB gun was pumped with enough pressure to launch a kitten into space. Then I aimed and pulled the trigger, sending the bird reeling over backward in a cloud of feathers and guilt. When it was all over, Jason explained it was normal to feel nauseated:
“It’s okay. You’ll be fine. But I gotta go. My mom’s taking me to see The Little Mermaid.“
That would be the last time I let a twelve-year-old whisper “kill it now” in my ear. While I learned that it was an amazing feeling to hold an object that has the ability to sway opinions, after the incident with the swallow, I decided guns weren’t really for me. Though committing arson on my father’s vegetable garden was acceptable, a gun was just taking things too far.
Now face with the firing range test, my search for a weapons instructor finally came to an end the day I met Barry, the assistant manager fo the liquor store where I worked nights. The day I walked in and inquired about a job, he was sitting behind the manager’s desk. I explained that I was looking for employment. He regarded me for a moment, then asked if I’d mind working with a fat pig name Clarence, pointing to the skinny guy behind the register. I said I thought this would be fine. He then led me on a tour through the massive walk-in refrigerator to show me where all the different beers were stacked. He asked me if I had any back problems preventing me from lifting boxes. I said no, then noticed his back brace and realized this was the best possible answer I could have given. Barry nodded his head up and down, seemingly trying to decide if I was going to work out, then wrenched open a bottle of Boone’s wine and washed down a handful of unknown pills. Needless to say, I was intrigued. Then he pulled a .22-caliber, long-barreled pistol out of his pants. It was fitted with some sort of custom-made silencer and he asked me if I’d ever seen such a thing of beauty. I said I hadn’t. Then he aimed it at a can of Milwaukee’s Best and fired, leaving a fountain of amusement in his wake.
I accepted the job on the spot.
It wasn’t until a week into the job that I learned that Barry hadn’t been the assistant manager at all. He was just an unstable employee whom the actual manager was afraid to fire. He called himself the assistant manager, and nobody argued with him. Although, looking back, it should have occurred to me, since Barry had given me a bonus one day for a job well done with a case of Miller Lite. But this guy could handle a weapon, even while hallucinating and mumbling, so who was I to question it?
Initially, I was a little nervous about taking a second job because the supervisors in my squadron tended to frown upon moonlighting, even though many of the enlisted guys I knew did it anyway. I had reached out to may coworker Tony Coloccini, who had confided in me that he also had a second job at a liquor store chain and would put in a good word. A week later, I was standing in this rundown liquor store. Needing money, and not wanting to be seen, this was the perfect job. Barry, the firearms expert, was the gift I was looking for.
Barry would walk up and down the aisles with an aimless purpose to do nothing but strut. Occasionally, he’d say he was going to take inventory or stock the shelves. But there was always some condition that prevented him from doing any actual work. He could never bend over to reach the bottom two shelves because of a bad back, nor could he stand on small ladder, claiming he once fell off one and preferred to avoid them. He couldn’t ever read inventory lists or do the ordering because he always forgot his glasses and, I suspect, couldn’t write.
This always left me wondering what Barry’s function in the store actually was until one night some suspicious-looking guys walked in and were greeted by Barry stroking a .44 magnum long barrel. This is a gun more commonly used to take down a helicopter or a Tyrannosaurus Rex, I imagine. They immediately turned and walked out. In short, the story had never been robbed since Barry started working there two years prior. And in a neighborhood where crime seemed to be the gross domestic product, Barry’s value went a long way.
As a result, the place became kind of a safe hangout for Barry’s friends who all lost their money at the track and would come in and shoot the shit with him for a while. This eventually led to the question of could have a bottle of Thunderbird or Mad Dog 20/20 and pay him back tomorrow. Barry always said yes, and, of course, would always forget that he did. In fact, unsurprisingly, Barry forgot a lot of things. He forgot to shower and shave. He forgot that you couldn’t scratch off twenty-five instant-win lotto tickets and not pay for them. And once he even forgot his gun was loaded and shot out his own windshield, or so Clarence, who had witnessed the incident, told me.
The store closed each night at midnight and by the end of the first month, Barry, Clarence, and I found ourselves on the same schedule. We got to know each other pretty well and enjoyed each other’s company and displayed our newfound friendship by developing a routine after locking up every night that involved petty theft, drinking, and soon enough, firearms practice.
Anyone else, I think, would have been alarmed by the double holster he wore to work every day, accompanied by a different set of pistols. Or, perhaps, the cocktail of pharmaceuticals, vodka, belligerence, and the dash of hallucinations that housed this human being. But one night, as we were leaving, he quick-drawed his pistols and unleashed a few rounds on the speed sign on the side of the road, hitting it perfectly without aiming and I knew I found my instructor.
The first problem with asking Barry about being my sharpshooting mentor was just trying to catch him in a moment when he was actually visiting Earth. I timed my approach carefully, since Barry was known to spend the first part of each night shift with his head down on the manager’s desk, occasionally snapping awake with a look of fear behind his milky eyes. Some nights, because the desk was located behind a small wall, his abrupt and frightening rise from the ninth circle of hell would cause a customer to drop a bottle of alcohol.
“Barry, I was wondering if you could teach me to shoot a gun and possibly–”
“Absolutely. Grab a case of beer and meet me at the trunk of my car.”
I can only assume that in the event that the local police force, the National Guard, and the entire US Army found themselves overmatched, Barry was their red phone emergency call. to find that Barry possessed a lot of weapons was not a surprise. To find that each of his weapons came with its own quick-release latch, strapped into the truck of his car, was. Barry, who stood at about five feet, two inches, drove a 1973 four-door Lincoln Continental. I t had a trunk big enough to carry a pond stocked with trout.
What should have worried me most was that somewhere over the course of his life, he came to the conclusion that it was a good idea to haul around enough ammunition to take out Shreveport, just in case he had to. Also worrisome was the stun gun he had as a “back up” in case all else failed. But honestly, what concerned me most was not passing the firing range test.
“What is that?” I asked, pointing at a weapon only Arnold Schwarzenegger could handle.
“Needed something for a crowd. Made it myself. Fully automatic.”
We stared by setting up in front of what appeared to be a fenced-off electrical power station. It was located a short distance behind the liquor store and far away from the road. I inquired it if seemed troubling that, essentially, we were shooting at a potential eleven o’clock news story, but Barry explained that it was metal and would not explode, so no need to worry.
“No one’s gonna lose power,” he added.
“I meant the ricocheting bullets.”
“What about them?”
“Won’t they ricochet into us?”
“Unlikely. Now, do you want my help or not?”
Before we began, I tried to explain that there were no moving targets on the firing range, to which Barry explained that I was a woman. I said it wasn’t necessary, but that maybe we should start with something easy like a Coke can. But Barry insisted these were the basics and handed me a contraption that resembled a howitzer. Then he switched it to automatic and yelled, “Pull!”
Clarence lobbed a bottle of Bartles & Jaymes strawberry wine cooler into the sky. The weapon was so heavy that aiming it wasn’t really an option. I just sort of heaved it up, like throwing a heavy rock, and squeezed the trigger as best I could. The recoil forced me to the ground like a cannon blast. All the while, as I kept my finger on the trigger, I could have sworn I heard the faint but distinct sound of my mother crying.
It’s safe to assume that the Air Force was the right branch for me. Placing a wrench or a screwdriver in my hands at least ensures that any pain inflicted will be minimal and blunt and kept within the radius of me. Putting a loaded weapon in my hand is like strapping sharp knives to a small boy and sending him off to play tackle football with the other kids.
As expected, I missed everything, except for the power grid, a line of cypress trees, a storage shed, and the planet below our feet, which really took a kick in the balls that night. Also in the line of fire was human safety.
“F*ck this,” Clarence said, “I’m out of here.”
“Calm down,” Barry yelled. “Just stand behind him.”
“But that’s where the shed was!”
This is how it happens, I thought. This is how morons die. You always read in the paper, or hear on the news, about a couple of friends from a basement in Colorado Springs, just hanging out with a bottle of Jameson when one best friend shoots the other. There’s never any great detail about the incident. One buddy “accidentally” shoots the other. But the news anchor always includes that one fatal clue: “He thought the safety was on,” “He didn’t know it was loaded,” “He didn’t think that doing shots from the barrel was that big of a deal.” As a viewer, you sit eating your bowl of cornflakes at one o’clock in the morning, thinking to yourself, f*cking morons, and then turn the channel back to TMZ to find out what the latest Disney starlet thinks of terrorists.
But there we were, throwing a few back, shooting wildly at fast-moving wine coolers with automatic weapons and talking about how awesome it would be if Lynyrd Skynyrd could come back from the dead and play one more time. We deserved nothing more than a really stupendous obituary in which the editor would mercifully, thinking about our families, substitute the word “manslaughter” for “accidental.” The caption under the picture in the newspaper would read: “One man arrested after shooting his two best friends.” Then I realized the scariest part was that Barry and Clarence would be forever connected to me as “best friends.”
“You know what. I’ve got to get going,” I announced suddenly.
“What? But you haven’t even tried the sniper rifle yet.”
As I drove away from the scene of tomorrow’s headline, I watched Clarence crack open a bottle of something, then rummage through Barry’s trunk, reappear with the stun gun and chase him around the car, laughing.
The following week, I took the firing range test. I was really sweating hard, as this retest was a make-or-break moment – a few misplaced shot was all the difference between being able to stay in the Air Force and pay my bills and a less-than-honorable discharge, leading to financial ruin and divorce. I hit a few dirt mounds but managed to place a few on the paper target. Upon finishing, I approached the sergeant in charge of the scoring. I handed him the paper enemy that had clearly gotten away with only a few scratches.
“Huh,” he said, looking at the target. “Not great,” he observed.
I began to panic a little there. I saw my life as it truly was: a meager existence in a sham marriage, depressed and held down at twenty-one years of age by my own rash stupidity. I would have to call my parents and see if they were cool with the Stranger and I living in my old bedroom. I would have to get a minimum-wage job to pay off a mountain of debt. I began hyperventilating, seeing this whole terrible near-future play out when I suddenly heard the sergeant ask me:
“What’s your job again?”
He rolled his eyes, and in a gesture of exasperation, made a check mark next to my name.
“F*ck it. You passed. See you next year.”
“Told in a collection of vignettes, Operation Cure Boredom is a coming of age story in camouflage. From dodging alligators, to surfing the inside of a plane at 30,000 feet, to being taken hostage by a Frenchwoman, and sex education in church, this absurdist portrait of life in the military is both an iconic look at listlessness in wartime, and the whirlwind journey of a young man getting the adventure he didn’t know he needed.” – Amazon
The military has a way of ensuring that its troops constantly work, live, and interact with each other. While it’s not uncommon for troops to get off duty and hide away in their barracks or at home, the way the military is structured prevents them from truly shutting themselves off from the rest of the unit.
One of the most mission-critical elements of the military is a foundation of trust and rapport between troops. To that end, the military has a way of forcing its troops into building camaraderie.
1. Basic Training/Boot Camp living conditions
Straight out of the gate, potential recruits are thrown in 30-man bays under the watchful eye of Drill Sergeants/Instructors. Troops will quickly learn the go-to pastime when there’s absolutely nothing else to do: talking to each other.
That quiet kid from a Midwestern suburb will probably have their first interaction with people from nearly every other state, background, economic status, and lifestyle during Basic.
2. Morning PT
You’ll never hear more words of encouragement than you do during physical training. When troops go for a run in the morning, they’ll often shout motivation at one another. “Come on, Pvt. Introvert! You got this!”
This isn’t done solely to lift spirits, but rather to make sure their ass catches back up to the platoon.
3. Working parties
Another perfect way to build mutual understanding is to share suffering. Cleaning the same connex they cleaned out last week may seem boring (because it is), but every time a troop says something like, “man, f*ck this. Am I right?” a friendship is born.
There are few stances shared by troops more than a dislike of mundane, physical labor.
4. Barracks parties
In nearly every comedy about high school or college life, there’s always that one party scene. Those kinds of lavish parties don’t really exist like they do in the movies — college kids are broke. But do you know who gets a regular paycheck on the first and fifteenth of each month and has few bills to spend the money on? Troops.
Actual parties also bring troops together. Everyone is pulled from their barracks room to do keg-stands off the roof of the Battalion Headquarters before staff duty finds them.
5. The “battle-buddy” system
The “battle-buddy” system is a method the chain of command uses to have troops keep an eye on each other. What probably started out as a great PowerPoint presentation given by a gung-ho 1st Lt. gave the military what is, essentially, an assigned best friend. The idea was to prevent troops from getting into trouble, but it’s eventually devolved into simply having two troops stand in the First Sergeant’s office.
This system is even more needed while stationed overseas. Command policies often dictate that a troop can’t leave post without someone keeping an eye on them. Now, instead, there’re two dumbasses let loose on the world.
6. Constant pissing contests
Pissing contests are a weird constant in the military. In the civilian world, people try to one-up each other with made-up stories. In the military, actions speak louder than words, so when troops do awesome things daily, chances are they were trying to one-up the person next to them.
The best way to describe it would be if someone were to say, “Man, I’m awesome. How about you, introvert? How awesome are you?”
Troops stateside can find some room to breathe, but when they’re deployed and end up 30 to a tent with no walking room, well… good luck.
The only privacy you’ll find is in the latrine. Even then, you might have a conversation with the guy in the next stall.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team deputes their 2017 routine during the 81st Training Group drill down at the Levitow Training Support Facility drill pad March 10, 2017, on Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. The team comes to Keesler every year for five weeks to develop a new routine that they will use throughout the year.
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Dyess Air Force Base (AFB), Texas, takes off March 10, 2017, at Andersen AFB, Guam. The B-1B’s are deployed to Andersen as part of U.S. Pacific Command’s (USPACOM) Continuous Bomber Presence operations. This forward deployed presence demonstrates continuing U.S. commitment to stability and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Most importantly, these bomber rotations provide Pacific Air Forces and USPACOM commanders an extended deterrence capability.
U.S. Army Spc. Vincent Ventarola, assigned to Cobra Battery, Field Artillery Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, pulls the lanyard on a M777 Howitzer during Exercise Dynamic Front II at the 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, March 9, 2017. Dynamic Front is an artillery operability exercise and focuses on developing solutions within the theater level fires system by executing multi-echelon fires and testing interoperability at the tactical level. It includes nearly 1,400 participants from nine NATO nations.
Two CH-47 Chinook helicopters from 12th Combat Aviation Brigade conduct environmental qualifications and sling-load training with M777 howitzers, Jan. 18, 2017, outside Grafenwoehr, Germany. Aircrews practice flying in whiteout conditions areas with heavy snow fall and wind.
EAST CHINA SEA (March 16, 2017) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Jesse Harris, assigned to amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), braces himself as an MV-22B Osprey, assigned to the “Flying Tigers” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262, takes off during an air assault exercise. Bonhomme Richard is on a routine patrol operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to enhance warfighting readiness and posture forward as a ready-response force for any type of contingency.
SUEZ CANAL (March 10, 2017) Sailors gather on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) to view the Friendship Bridge as the ship transits the Suez Canal. George H.W. Bush and its carrier strike group are deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Bryce Meeker, a hospital corpsman with 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, scouts out the terrain during Exercise Forest Light 17-1 at Somagahara, Japan, March 10, 2017. Forest Light is designed to maintain readiness of Japan Ground Self-Defense and deployed U.S. Marine Corps forces to ensure an effective and rapid response to any contingency in the region.
The U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon performs during the Battle Color Ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, March 2, 2017. The ceremony was held to celebrate Marine Corps history using music, marching and precision drill.
Coast Guard and NOAA responders confer during whale disentanglement operations off Maui March 11, 2017. The services received a report of an entangled humpback whale off Maui prompting a two-day response to remove a large electrical cable from the mouth of the whale.
The crew of a Coast Guard MH-65 rescue helicopter rescued overdue kayaker Josh Kaufman (center) during the morning of March 17, 2017, after being stranded on the uninhabited island of Desecheo, approximately 13 nautical miles off Rincon, Puerto Rico. Kaufman, 25, a resident of Fla. was visiting his family in Puerto Rico, when he was reported being overdue to the Coast Guard from a kayak trip in Rincon March 16, 2017.
The military community is fond of its little myths and urban legends. Some of those repeated tall tales get so shrouded in mystery that, eventually, nobody questions them. On occasion, these unfounded urban legends get so widely accepted that they get written into regulations.
It is because of this phenomenon that the British Army has had a standing order since 1831 to never march in-step on a bridge.
At first glance, the reasoning seems silly. On April 12th, 1831, 74 soldiers were marching across the Broughton Suspension Bridge near Salford, England. The bridge, which was completed in 1826, was one of the first suspension bridges ever built in Europe.
According to the story, the troops’ synchronized march caused the bridge to vibrate at just the right frequency which, in turn, caused it to collapse. Thankfully for all the troops involved, no one was killed and only a few had broken bones, but ever since then, troops are given the command of “Break Step” (the British equivalent of the command “Route Step, March”) when they cross a bridge.
As unbelievable as that might sound, there’s strong scientific evidence to corroborate the story. The conditions need to be exactly precise for it to happen — but it is possible. When the Mythbusters first took on this story, they deemed it false. However, in a rare redaction, the dynamic duo reclassified this myth as “plausible.”
This is because of the power of resonance. Think of an opera singer who can break a wine glass just by singing. Repeated vibrations at an object’s resonant frequency will weaken the structural integrity of a solid object and, in some rare cases, even break it. Fragile objects, like a wine glass or, in this case, a flimsy bridge, are most susceptible.
A resonant frequency can only be hit if several conditions are met: The source must be extremely powerful, the pulses of force must be sent out a very precise frequency, and there must be no other frequencies interfering it. All of those requirements were met when the soldiers marched on the bridge while remaining completely in-step. There’s a one-in-a-billion chance of the soldiers’ march hitting that perfect the frequency, but in this case, it seems they did.
This was, in essence, a much smaller-scale version of what happened on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1940.
The workaround, thankfully, is really simple: If troops aren’t marching at exactly the same frequency, everything’s fine. Bridges built by today’s standards are far more sturdy than the Broughton Bridge, but little oddities like this are fascinating nonetheless.