How the Army should celebrate its birthday like the Marines do - We Are The Mighty
Military Life

How the Army should celebrate its birthday like the Marines do

Ask any young Marine when the Marine Corps Birthday is and they’ll all know immediately that it’s November 10th. Ask them on November 10th and they may be intoxicated and/or greet you with a “Happy Birthday, other Marine!”

Ask any lower enlisted soldier what day the Army’s birthday falls on. They’ll probably struggle for a minute before deflecting the question and acting it like it’s some obscure fact they should know for the board. Here’s a hint: It was June 14th, otherwise known, at the time of writing, as yesterday.

If an Army unit throws a birthday ball, most soldiers there will probably be “voluntold” to go. Marines celebrate the Marine Corps’ birthday in the barracks or long after their military service ends, no matter where they are in the world. Don’t get this twisted. The Army goes all out on its birthday, it just doesn’t resonate with everyone outside of the higher-ups at nearly the same passion as the Marine Corps’


.

Army officers would see that they celebrate it at about the same level. Joe in the back of the platoon doesn’t.
(Photo by Nathan Hanks)

There are several reasons why Marines celebrate their birthday as hard as they do. The most obvious one is that Marines take pride in every aspect of being a Marine. Even earning their Eagle, Globe, and Anchor is a tattoo-worthy achievement. The only equivalent thing a young soldier has is putting on their first unit patch. Unless it’s one of the more historic divisions, it’s just — like the Army birthday — another day in the Army.

Another benefit the Marines have is that the following day, Veteran’s Day, is a federal holiday. A Marine can drink as much as they want without fear of missing PT in the morning. The Army would have gotten a day off the next day if it didn’t receive the American flag for its second birthday — or, you know, if people actually celebrated Flag Day.

Even Betsy Ross gave us a birthday present and Joes don’t care.
(Photo by Sgt. Russell Toof)

The Army could take some cues from the Marines on this one. The Corps is fiercely proud of their branch and that’s something the Army should emulate. Hell, Marines are so loyal to their branch that they’ll even buddy up with the Navy one day a year to play a football game.

The Army already does something to this effect on a much smaller scale at the division level. On August 12th, 1942, Major General William C. Lee activated the 101st Airborne Division and said that they had no history at that time but “a rendezvous with destiny.” And it did.

Just look at literally every war since our activation. You’re welcome.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas M. Byers)

That entire week, the 101st celebrates Week of the Eagle. It’s a week of smaller-scale parties and sporting events that bonds the soldiers together — much more than its May 24th’s Day of the Eagles on which everyone just takes part in a painstaking, slow division run. Soldiers in the 101st are proud to wear their Old Abe.

At the unit level, a simple call of “no PT on the morning of June 15th” would immensely spark interest in soldiers. Instead of knife-handing soldiers to go to unit functions, encourage them to enjoy the night in the barracks. Instead of unit runs, encourage platoon bonding events that will most likely end up in drinking. Traditions like having the oldest troop give the youngest troop a piece of cake don’t have to be brought over if the Army just lets soldiers enjoy their day — their birthday.

(Photo by Spc James C. Blackwell)

Even little things, like Sgt. Maj. of the Army Dan Dailey’s challenge for soldiers to “earn their cake” on the Army birthday a few years back, are a step in the right direction. You could even have fun with the most Army thing imaginable… impromptu push-up contests. Winner gets “bragging rights” for the year and first piece of cake.

It’s wouldn’t take a huge overhaul to reinvigorate soldiers’ interest in the Army’s birthday, thus sparking Army pride.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Doctors save sailor with appendicitis in rough seas

Electrician’s Mate Fireman Samuel Guidroz was more than 4,500 miles away from home when he was awakened by a sharp pain in his abdomen on the morning of Nov. 27, 2018.

The 20-year-old Sailor, assigned to the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25), tried to treat the day like any other day spent underway in the Pacific Ocean. But the discomfort in his stomach soon drove him to the ship’s medical bay.

“I had a nauseating feeling in my lower abdomen,” said Guidroz, from his bed in the ship’s recovery ward. “They ran some x-rays and a few additional tests.”

“Fireman Guidroz came to us, and we were able to determine he had acute appendicitis,” said Cmdr. Jeffery Chao, the surgeon for Littoral Combat Group One (LCG-1).

Two landing craft air cushions (LCAC) assigned to Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 5 fly behind the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25), Nov. 23, 2018

(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle Carlstrom)

Chao said it was fortunate that the fleet surgical team happened to be there on the Somerset to augment the ship’s capabilities. The fleet surgical team is attached to Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 3, which is currently embarked on USS Somerset as part of LCG-1. If they had not been there, surgery aboard USS Somerset would not have been an option.

But not everything was working in Guidroz’s favor.

“The sea state at the time was a bit rough, so it made me nervous,” Guidroz said. “The doctors eased my mind though, assuring me it was the right thing to do.”

The LCG-1 fleet surgical team and the Sailors aboard USS Somerset acted immediately. The officer of the deck turned the ship to the steadiest course available. The maneuver
significantly lessened the ship’s motion in the water, allowing the medical personnel to do their work with precision. Then they prepared for surgery.

When Guidroz awoke, he felt groggy but relieved.

“Everything went great. Just like it would have if I had been back at a regular hospital,” Guidroz said.

9/11 Tribute Ship – USS Somerset

www.youtube.com

Chao says he expects Guidroz to make a full recovery in the next few days.

“This was a great learning experience to know the medical capabilities out here are far greater than my initial expectations,” Guidroz said. “It feels good knowing and having that assurance that something like this can be taken care of out here at sea. I can’t thank the medical team enough for what they did.”

Since the surgery, Guidroz has been in contact with his family at their home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“They were happy this was able to be done here on the ship, and even a bit surprised,” Guidroz said. “Being away from them was different at first, but I’ve made some new friends out here. And it’s important, I think, having people close to you when you’re away from home.”

USS Somerset is a San Antonio-class amphibious transport docking ship, based out of San Diego. LCG-1 is deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations in support of the Enduring Promise Initiative to reaffirm U.S. Southern Command’s longstanding commitment to the nations of the Western Hemisphere.

Articles

8 famous people who served on D-Day

On June 6, 1944, the Allies embarked on the crucial invasion of Normandy on the northern coast of France. Allied forces suffered major casualties, but the ensuing campaign ultimately dislodged German forces from France.


Did you know these eight famous individuals participated in the D-Day invasion?

James Doohan

James Doohan | Golden Pacific Media, YouTube

Actor James Doohan is beloved among Trekkies for his portrayal of chief engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott in “Star Trek.”

Years before he donned the Starfleet uniform, Doohan joined the Royal Canadian Artillery during WWII. During the Normandy invasion, he stormed Juno Beach and took out two snipers before he was struck by six bullets from a machine gun, according to website Today I Found Out. He lost part of a finger, but the silver cigarette case in his pocket stopped a bullet from piercing his heart.

David Niven

David Niven | Oscars, Youtube

Academy Award-winning British thespian David Niven became a lieutenant-colonel of the British Commandos during the Second World War. In the D-Day invasion, he commanded the Phantom Signals Unit, according to the New York Post. This unit was responsible for keeping rear commanders informed on enemy positions.

After the war, he declined to speak much about his military experience.

Yogi Berra

Yogi Berra | Getty Photos / Al Bello

Famed baseball catcher Yogi Berra helped to storm Normandy by manning a Naval support craft. The vessel fired rockets at enemy positions on Omaha Beach.

The New York Post reports that Seaman Second Class Berra manned a machine gun during the battle.

Medgar Evers

Medgar Evers | YouTube

In 1963, activist Medgar Evers was assassinated due to his efforts to promote civil rights for African Americans. Decades earlier, Evers served in the 325th Port Company during WWII, eventually rising to the rank of sergeant. This segregated unit of black soldiers delivered supplies during the Normandy invasion, according to the NAACP.

J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger | Wikimedia Commons

“The Catcher in the Rye” author J.D. Salinger belonged to a unit that invaded Utah Beach on D-Day. According to Vanity Fair, Salinger carried several chapters of his magnum opus with him when he stormed the shores of France.

John Ford

John Ford | Allan Warren | Wikimedia Commons

Director John Ford, famous for Westerns like “Stagecoach” and “The Searchers,” also went ashore with the D-Day invasion.

As a commander in the US Naval Reserve, Ford led a team of US Coast Guard cameramen in filming a documentary on D-Day for the Navy.

His film on the Normandy invasion ultimately saw a very limited release to the public, due to the amount of Allied casualties. Much of the D-Day footage has since disappeared, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

Henry Fonda

Henry Fonda | National Museum of the United States Navy | Flickr

According to “WWII: The Book of Lists” by Chris Martin, American actor Henry Fonda served as a quartermaster on the destroyer USS Satterlee, which provided support to the Allies during the Normandy invasion. Years later, he played a part in the war epic “The Longest Day,” which focused on the D-Day landings.

Alec Guinness

Alec Guinness | Lucasfilm

“Star Wars” and “Bridge Over the River Kwai” star Alec Guinness served in Great Britain’s Royal Navy during WWII, according to the History Answers blog. StarWars.com reports that the Obi Wan actor served as an officer on a landing craft and transported British soldiers to the shores of Normandy on D-Day.

Articles

Get your tissues — The Rock just surprised a combat vet

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a big supporter of the troops, and this isn’t the first time he’s surprised a vet, but his sincerity and flare always make for a heart-catching watch.


He partnered with Ford to unveil the 2018 Ford Mustang, and he decided to take it one step further by giving the car to combat Army veteran Marlene Rodriguez, who earned the Purple Heart for injuries received from an RPG while serving in Mosul.

Her reaction was stunned as she said, “I don’t deserve all this.” Johnson replied with, “You deserve more,” and we all lost our sh**.

His Instagram caption of the reveal was perfect (including the emojis–we’ve kept them intact for you):

This one felt good. Very good. ?? Our Ford partners asked me to unveil the never seen before, brand new 2018 FORD MUSTANG to the world. As their Ambassador, I’m happy to do.

With a twist.

Myself and Ford compiled a big list of US veterans and from that list, I chose Army combat vet Purple Heart recipient, Marlene Rodriguez to surprise and give it away to her.

It was such a cool moment that all of us in the room will never forget.

When Marlene, stopped and just looked at me and asked “Why?”, well that’s when I may or may not have gotten a lil’ emotional with my answer – in a bad ass manly way of course.

Why? Because of the boundless gratitude and respect I have for you, Marlene and all our men and women who’ve served our country. Just a small way of myself and the good people of FORD of saying THANK YOU.

A HUGE thank you to FORD, our SEVEN BUCKS PRODUCTIONS and everyone who was involved in making this awesome surprise come true.

Finally, thank you FORD for making the new 2018 Mustang straight ?, completely customizable for the world to enjoy. Thanks also for making sure I fit in it as well.

Marlene, fits better. ?. Enjoy your ride mama. Enjoy that Dodger game. You deserve it. 

It’s okay if you get a little misty-eyed over this one. We did.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

No hand sanitizer? No problem. Here’s how to make your own.

The world is on high alert as COVID-19, more commonly known as Coronavirus, was declared a global pandemic today by the World Health Organization. WHO and other medical experts are imploring people to wash their hands, wipe down surfaces and not to touch your face. As more and more people take precautions seriously, more and more shelves are being emptied of things like toilet paper, paper towels and one of the most necessary items for on-the-go hygiene: hand sanitizer.

Empty shelves? Make your own. And the best part? It only takes two ingredients.


No hand sanitizer? No problem. Here’s how to make your own. #coronavirus #preparednesspic.twitter.com/EtKW06PAZM

twitter.com

We promise it’s that easy, but here’s a video so you can see for yourself. This mother-daughter duo also has some great tips on how to make your homemade hygenic concoction smell a little less like you’re a walking disinfectant. Although in these times, that’s definitely not a bad thing.

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of February 7th

On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper released a memo to the troops reminding them that it’s against the Uniform Code of Military Justice for active-duty troops to participate in anything political while in uniform. Obviously, it’s not saying that troops can’t hold political opinions or that they can’t participate in anything while in civilian clothes.

It’s just saying while in uniform as it gives the impression all troops support one candidate/policy/movement. Why? I’m so glad you asked my rhetorical question. Because civilians (and I’m taking the politically neutral stance by mocking both sides of the aisle on this one) tend not to know any better. They look at Private Snuffy in his dress blues, and they just see his uniform and assume he’s some official envoy from the military because that’s apparently the Pentagon giving their seal of approval – which they’re obviously not.

It’s like how civilians all assume every troop knows every aspect of how WWIII is going to play out. Private Snuffy is clearly fifty levels too low on the totem pole for that kind of stuff, but the civilians wouldn’t know. I’m just saying. Even top generals appointed by a sitting president can’t even clap during their State of the Union because of this rule, so even they are obviously not going to officially back any politician.


But who am I kidding? We all know troops aren’t going to listen, and there’s going to be at least one ASVAB-waiver this political cycle who’d rather be the poster boy for social media likes than follow the rules. Here are some memes.

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

(Meme via Call for Fire)

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

(Meme via Not CID)

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

Articles

This Iranian was the highest-scoring F-14 Tomcat pilot ever

Jalil Zandi’s Air Force legend almost never made it off the ground. He joined the Iranian Air Force when it was still the Imperial Iranian Air Force, under Shah Reza Pahlavi. After the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Zandi stayed blue – a risky move at a time when Iranian military officers were being executed for doing their duty to one’s country.


But fighter pilots need to be bold and take risks. Zandi did spend some time in a prison cell, sentenced to 10 years for… whatever. Does it matter? In September 1980 – less than a year after the revolution in Iran – Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi troops invaded Iran whose military was woefully undermanned.

So, Zandi was back in the pilot’s seat within six months.

Mustaches are always in regs in the Iranian Air Force of the 1980s.

It was a good thing too. Then-Major Zandi had some serious skills at the controls of his F-14 Tomcat. Forget what you think about the governments of Iran and Iraq in this time period, you have to admire a pilot who fought Iraqis in the skies for eight straight years to keep them from shooting chemical weapons at playgrounds.

All those aviator sunglasses… and Top Gun wouldn’t even be released for another five years.

Zandi survived the brutal eight-year-long war, and according to the U.S. Air Force’s intelligence assessments, he took down 11 Iraqi aircraft – four MiG-23s, two Su-22s, two MiG-21s, and three Mirage F-1s. His last engagement of the war saw him go up against eight enemy Mirage F1s over Iraq in 1988. He scored two unconfirmed kills but was badly shot up in the dogfight and had to break off. He was able to fly back to his base in Iran and the war ended that very same year.

He received the Order of Fath 2nd Class for his time in the skies over enemy territory. The Fath Medal is one of the highest awards an Iranian military member can receive and is personally presented by the Supreme Leader. Jalil Zandi’s 11 kills in the F-14 make him the highest-scoring Tomcat pilot ever. Zandi died in a car accident near Tehran in 2001, having reached the rank of Brigadier General.

Brigadier General Jalil Zandi, IRIAF, ca. 2001.

The F-14 was retired from the U.S. military arsenal in 2006 but is still in use in Iran.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What a battle between the Space Force and China would look like

Billions of bits of debris flying across space, lasers burning holes into the atmosphere, and space-faring robots steering satellites into fiery reentry… welcome to the Space Force vs. China.


Luckily, for now, it seems like everyone is sticking to the “No weapons of mass destruction in Space” rule.

(U.S. Army)

Any future war between the U.S. and China will likely become a space battle, and any space battle will focus on the destruction of each other’s warfighting satellites — the ones that provide intelligence, communications, and GPS. The U.S. has over 800 in orbit and China has over 200.

The first salvos will be the least destructive. The U.S. Space Force and the People’s Liberation Army would use weapons like lasers and jammers to temporarily blind or disable. If things escalates from there, it’ll be time to turn to true anti-satellite weapons.

The Raven allows for relatively easy and precise steering in space.

(NASA)

The U.S. could turn to systems like the Raven, a NASA program that allows for automated link ups between satellites, to get American kill satellites into position above Chinese satellites, link up with them, and then steer them downwards, turning them into a meteor that will explode and burn up in the atmosphere.

But by the time a space war breaks out, China may have has its own system for sending orbiting objects into the atmosphere, like the proposed “space broom,” a satellite bearing a laser for burning up space debris and sending it back into the atmosphere. If it aims at a pressurized tank on an American satellite, it could create a tiny hole that would vent gasses and degrade the satellite’s orbit, dooming it.

For a more visceral destruction, China’s AoLong 1 satellite can grab enemy satellites with its arm and hurl them towards the ocean.

Like this, but then the robotic arm throws the satellite back towards earth, cups its hand to its ear, and acts like it can’t hear the crowd cheering for the first successful wrestling take down between robots in space. (Wrestling leagues, I look forward to pitching you a spec script.)

(NASA)

By this point, it would be expected that military forces would start to clash on the lands and sea — that is, if the war didn’t start there in the first place.

Once significant numbers of troops are in harm’s way, which would be immediately with both navies sailing carriers holding thousands of sailors in the Pacific, the forces would be willing to turn to even move destructive measures to gain an advantage.

This would mean the use of missiles designed for destroying ballistic missiles. Most weapons capable of engaging a ballistic missile in the middle of its flight are also capable of engaging a satellite in low earth orbit, where most military and civilian satellites operate. Some are even capable of engaging targets in higher, faster orbits.

In general, hitting an object in low earth orbit means firing a guided missile at an object approximately 250 miles above the earth that’s traveling at over 17,000 miles per hour. It’s a bit of a tricky shot, but China and the U.S. have shown they’re capable. The Space Force would likely inherit some of the land-based missiles and lasers capable of making this shot, but they would also ask for a huge assist from the Navy.

See, China and the U.S. both have land-based missiles that can make the shot, but any anti-satellite missile launch faces a fuel problem. Missiles can only hit satellites that fly within a certain range of the launch point since the missiles have to make it into space with enough fuel to maneuver and reach the target. So, a Space Force would likely be stacked to engage targets that fly over missile shields on the West Coast, but would be weak elsewhere.

These things can reach space and kill things there. For realsies.

(Missile Defense Agency photo by Leah Garton)

But the Navy’s Standard Missile-3, a common armament on the Navy’s Aegis destroyers, has a demonstrated capability of killing satellites after a software change.

In a shooting war with China in space, expect the missiles to get their software upgraded immediately.

A tit-for-tat escalation into missiles exploding in space creates an immediate crisis for all astronauts up there. See, nearly all manned space missions have taken place in low earth orbit, an area that would become even more saturated with space debris in this situation. The International Space Station, for example, is in LEO.

Think thousands if not millions of bullets, all flying at speeds sufficient to punch right through the International Space Station or the planned Chinese large, modular space station. Expect both countries to immediately try to evacuate their troops. For the ISS crew, this means they need to make it the Soyuz capsules and immediately start the launch sequence, a process expected to take three minutes.

But the really bad thing about this type of war is that it can’t end. See, those bits of space debris go in all directions. The ones flying at escape velocity will fly away and travel, potentially forever, through the universe. The ones that explode towards the earth will likely burn up quickly.

But the ones flying at the right velocity, quite possibly thousands or millions of pieces of metal per missile vs. satellite engagement, will simply fly through low earth orbit at thousands of miles per hour, shredding everything they come in contact with and creating more debris.

Think of those really scary scenes in Gravity.

Eventually, this is nearly guaranteed to take out the bulk of the satellites in orbit, from communications to weather to mapping.

In a stroke, we’d get rid of a significant portion of our internet architecture, our weather data, and other systems, like GPS, that we just expect to work, potentially setting us back decades.

So, even if the combatants decide to stop shooting at each other, it’s too late to save space for that generation. For decades, the job of the Space Force, NASA, and all of our allies will be cleaning up from the war, whether the whole thing lasted minutes or years.

So, let’s just make a movie about it, watch that, and try to avoid actually fighting each other in space.

Come on, Space Force. You guys can work out deterrence strategies, right?

/**/
MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the real Ragnar Lothbrok is so shrouded in mystery

The Viking Age spanned from the sacking of the abbey on Lindisfarne in June, 793, and is generally accepted as ending with William the Conqueror’s ascension to the English throne in 1066. The Norse traveled outward from Scandinavia, reaching everywhere from Estonia to Canada to Spain to Baghdad. Despite their many accomplishments in exploring and trading, history knows them as warriors who welcomed battle and death.


No viking warrior has a reputation for badassery quite like that of Ragnar Lothbrok. His lifestyle was so badass that it’s been made into television series on History, aptly named Vikings. According to the show, Lothbrok single-handedly lead the assaults on Lindisfarne, Paris, and Wessex, and his eventual death sparked his sons to form the Great Heathen Army.

Looking at the timeline of those events in the real-world, that would mean he had a roughly 73-year viking career. The vikings, historically, made those victorious raids in 793, 845, and 858, before his death in 865. While it’s not entirely impossible for someone to raid for 73 years, the show’s creators are open about their creative liberties. The biggest of them being that there may have been many people named Ragnar Lothbrok — or no one at all.

I mean, if your BS story makes a cold-hearted deathbringer think twice, it’s worth the risk.

(Vikings Heading for Land / Frank Dicksee / 1873)

The Norse weren’t keen on preserving their own history. They did tell stories orally, which is how they still exist today, but historical records kept by the vikings are scarce at best. As with most stories, there was room for exaggeration. Plus, the people who wrote the stories of the vikings were almost always on the receiving ends of raids, concerned more with exaggerating their ferocity and triumphs over vikings than accurately retelling their defeats.

This leads us to the biggest debate surrounding Ragnar Lothbrok: When and where he actually died. Many have claimed responsibility for death: from Carlingford Lough to East Anglia to Anglesey to where the show places his death, Northumbria, everyone wanted to be known for slaying the fearsome Lothbrok. Taking credit for such a victory could ward off potential raids, but there’s little proof to back up most of these claims.

The battles of the Great Heathen Army were entirely accurate. They destroyed the hell out of Old England.

The only legitimate source for information on Ragnar Lothbrok is the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a collection of documents detailing Anglo-Saxon history originally published around the time Ragnar was said to exist. His name does appear, but there is a debate within the historical community if that the name “Ragnar” has been attributed to several other Norse leaders and not one single badass.

This puts a new perspective on the term “Son of Ragnar,” as it might have been more of a title than an actual blood relation. In the television series, many of Ragnar’s sons are born from his multiple wives. The two sons that actually have been historically proven to exist are Bjorn Ironside and Ivar the Boneless, both from different mothers. But any stories of their exploits, once again, fall firmly in the “with-a-grain-of-salt” category, seeing as The Saga of the Sons of Ragnar is, like much of viking history, more of a collection of campfire stories than historical evidence.

Though Vikings may not be a completely historically accurate telling of events, they do the vikings plenty of justice by interweaving the vast collection of Ragnar Lothbrok tales and piecing them into a single, compelling, easy-to-follow narrative. The facts are a bit hazy, but it’s still one of the more accurate representations of vikings in modern media. It just takes some liberties with individual characters.

Of course, there was no one assuming the mantle of “Ragnar” at the Lindisfarne raid. The actual viking, Rollo, who became the First Duke of Normandy in the year 911, lived nearly fifty years after Ragnar’s death, which means it’s impossible for them to be brothers. Even his first wife, Lagertha, may also be more myth than fact.

But on the bright side, the greatest scene in the entire series — if not television history — is actually very historically accurate.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How troops use a combat scythe in Afghanistan

Picture yourself on a foot patrol in Afghanistan, one of the most dangerous countries in the world where the majority of the population hates the fact that you’re there.


Now, imagine you’re the “lead” of that foot patrol (typically the combat engineer who is looking for IEDs buried in the ground) and you spot a suspicious device ahead with a command wire sticking out of the dirt.

For most of us, it’s not a good idea to approach, especially if that wire trails off toward a nearby compound — it’s a freaking trap. But for troops serving in Afghanistan, it’s just another day at the office.

Counter-IED teams locate roadside bombs using Valon metal detectors. (Photo from Army.mil)

Although most IEDs are considered primitively built with limited resources, the grunts on the ground have a clever way of dealing with ’em: the combat scythe.

Related: This is what it was like fighting alongside Afghan troops

Famously known as an agricultural tool, ground pounders use them to conduct a “hands-on” inspection of a potential threat from up to 12-feet away. The operator will extend out the scythe and use its rounded tip to tug and drag out the device for an exam.

A Marine and his trusty scythe will never run out of batteries. (USMC photo by Cpl. William J. Jackson)

By deploying his trusty scythe, a troop can safely determine if that bump in the ground is indeed an IED and call for a controlled detonation of the affected area. Of course, if it’s a false alarm, then that foot patrol proceeds onward without fear.

Not every IED can be figured out with a solid poking, though. If that IED is trickier than usual, the patrol will call upon the services of Explosive Ordnance Disposal to access and, typically, blow the sh*t out of the device.

On the bright side, controlled detonations are pretty epic to watch. They’re allied forces’ way of telling the bad guys ,”Not today, f*cker.”

That is all.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Historic hikes: 4 must-visit trails for history buffs

Almost any hiking area has some sort of history tied to it, but sometimes a historical connection makes a hike even more special. When we walk over old trails, we see what others saw and get a sense for their universe.

History is never far from the surface of our world, and as much as I love a good historical text, hiking in a historic area is a more personal encounter. Here are four historic hikes for nerds who love to be outdoors.


Las Medulas ancient Roman mines, UNESCO, Leon, Spain.

(Adobe Stock photo/Coffee or Die)

1. El Camino de Santiago, Spain

For over 1,000 years, pilgrims have travelled to Santiago along El Camino, or The Way of Saint James. The route reached its greatest popularity in the high Middle Ages, between about 1000 and 1300, and only came back into heavy use in recent decades.

Along the way, pilgrims and secular travelers experience medieval architecture combined with stunning vistas of the countryside of northern Iberia. Unlike most modern trails, however, El Camino has nearly infinite variations, though the classic route to Santiago runs from the French border near Roncevaux, site of the mythical battle in “The Song of Roland.”

A hiker can walk The Way of Saint James alone or with others, though trail camaraderie typically makes the experience more enjoyable. Whether or not you hike with others, El Camino takes you through a region of tremendous history. Churches, little towns, and even the roads have long stories here.

Stunning Stone Monuments of Petra | National Geographic

www.youtube.com

2. Petra, Jordan

For thousands of years, people have lived in the Jordanian desert near Petra. Whether you choose to explore the ancient Nabatean Treasury building featured in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” or a lesser-known area like the Byzantine Church, Petra will not disappoint.

History is rarely linear, and Petra makes this point eminently clear. Layers upon layers of history converge in a single place. The Nabateans, a mysterious pre-Roman people, first built tremendous structures into the sandstone. Then the Romans came, and the site expanded further. The Romans evolved into the Byzantines, then the Islamic world absorbed the area.

With each iteration, another layer of history and architecture was added, only increasing the grandeur of Petra. You can hike in areas with seemingly incongruous Greco-Roman influence, only to remember later how vast those empires were.

The Byzantine monastery is another piece of history left behind in rural Jordan. The Byzantines actually made this building from recycled remnants of older structures. Much of the area still remains buried under time and sand.

Handrian’s Wall west of Caw Gap.

(Copyright Mike Quinn and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License)

3. Hadrian’s Wall, England

One of Britain’s finest UNESCO World Heritage sites, Hadrian’s Wall has stood for nearly 2,000 years, a stone line across the north of England. Built on the order of the Roman Emperor Hadrian as part of his effort to shore up a deteriorating military situation, his wall was meant to deal with Pictish threats to the north of the Roman province of Britannia.

The wall failed, of course, as the Angles, Jutes, and Saxons that finally invaded and conquered Roman Britain had ships.

A modern hiker can walk the 73 miles of wall in just over a week, and the walk itself is fairly easy. The terrain of Northumbria is mostly gentle, rolling hills and farmland.

Best part of this historic hike? You get to sleep in a bed each night if you’d like to.

#FindYourPark Along the Lewis and Clark Trail – The Hunt

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4. Lewis and Clark Trail, Montana

Between 1803 and 1806, the Corps of Discovery paddled, walked, and rode across North America, led by captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Though the Lewis and Clark Trail stretches over most of our country, the most spectacular part is in Montana, where the captains and their group experienced the most difficulty.

Today, a hiker can paddle the Missouri River or trek over the daunting Lolo Pass. Cross the Continental Divide near Salmon, Idaho, where Lewis became the first member of the expedition to see west of the Divide. You can even horseback ride over the Bitterroot Mountains, as the Corps did after purchasing Shoshone horses in 1804.

The grandeur of the American Rockies is on full display in Montana, and every bit is worthwhile. Stephen Ambrose’s well-researched and -written book “Undaunted Courage” offers a beautiful portrait of the expedition from the perspective of Lewis himself, who kept a detailed journal.

Despite two centuries of industrialism and destruction, the Northern Rockies remain much as Lewis saw them, albeit with less snow and smaller glaciers.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

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This is what we know about Area 51

Area 51 is a restricted site in Nevada with an almost cult-like mythology surrounding it. Some people claim it’s a standard military operation site, but others swear that it within its gated walls exists proof about extraterrestrial life.

Before we get into public knowledge, I want to throw in my thoughts on this. I was an intelligence officer in the Air Force and I maybe shouldn’t post this on the internet but my final assignment was in a place that rhymes with Rational Maturity Agency, and while the government definitely does some cool classified work there, I can say with high confidence that no one would be able to keep aliens a secret. At least not the kinds of aliens we tell stories about. Maybe Area 51 has some petri dishes of extraterrestrial amoebas…but I really doubt it.


What’s more likely is that the government tests advanced technology out in the desert. The flight pattern of an aircraft like the Harrier could totally be interpreted as a UFO at night.

As the video below states, “No doubt aircraft are still being secretly built and tested there today.”

You can check declassified documents to learn about what has been tested on site in the past. In fact, because of the Freedom Of Information Act, U.S. citizens have the right to request access to federal agency records; there are limitations, of course, but it’s a fun pastime to ask the “Rational Maturity Agency” for documents concerning things like aliens or Elvis or other conspiracies.

Check out this fascinating video to get a no-nonsense re-cap of what we know about Area 51 — then let me know what you think is going on out there!

MIGHTY HISTORY

How enemy aircraft get their American nicknames

So, if you’re a loyal WATM reader, you’ve probably noticed that, when we’re talking Chinese or Russian aircraft, they’ve got some odd-sounding names. Fishbed, Flanker, Backfire, Bear, Badger… you may be wondering, “how the f*ck did they get that name?” Well, it’s a long story – and it goes back to World War II.


This painting shows ground crews loading AS-16 Kickback air-to-surface missiles on a Tu-22M Backfire. (DOD painting)

In 1942, Captain Frank McCoy of the Army Air Force was tasked with heading the materiel section of Army Air Force intelligence for the Southwest Pacific. Early on, he realized that pilots could get confused about enemy fighters. To address this potential confusion, the Tennessee native began giving them nicknames. Fighters got male names, bombers and other planes got female names, and transports were given names that started with the letter T. Training planes were named for trees and gliders for birds.

When it first was encountered in the Pacific, the A6M3 version of the Zero was given the code name ‘Hap,’ drawing the ire of ‘Hap’ Arnold. (Japanese Navy photo)

The idea was a good one – and it began to spread across the entire Pacific. All went well until a new Japanese Navy fighter got the nickname, ‘Hap.’ You see, that was also the nickname of the Army Air Force Commander, General Henry “Hap” Arnold. To say Arnold wasn’t happy is an understatement. McCoy was quickly called in to explain it.

This modernized MiG-21 Fishbed in service with the Indian Air Force is armed with AA-12 Adder and AA-11 Archer air-to-air missiles. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Sheeju)

When the Cold War started, and both the Soviet Union and Communist China became threats, the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization turned to a version of McCoy’s naming conventions. They adjusted the system. This time, code names for fighters started with the letter F, those for bombers started with B, transport planes start with the letter C, other planes start with M. If the name has one syllable, it’s a prop plane. If it has multiple syllables, it’s a jet. Helicopter names start with the letter H.

For a comprehensive list, go to designation-systems.net.

Chinese Communist planes, like the J-8 Finback — shown here flying a little too close to a U.S. Navy EP-3E Aries — were also given NATO code names. (DoD photo)

The system also covered missiles: Air-to-air missiles start with the letter A, air-to-surface missiles start with the letter K, surface-to-surface missiles start with the letter S, and surface-to-air missiles start with the letter G. NATO even began to use code names for Soviet and Chinese Communist submarines and surface ships.

Code names were also assigned to ships, submarines, and missiles. This Indian Navy Osa-class missile boat is firing an SS-N-2 Styx anti-ship missile. (Indian Navy photo)

McCoy retired as a two-star general in 1968, but what he did in World War II still helps pilots and troops today. So, that’s why they call a Flanker, a multisyllabic fighter jet, a Flanker.