8 stores that let you know you're near a military base - We Are The Mighty
Military Life

8 stores that let you know you’re near a military base

Military installations are built to be self-sustaining. Many have their own water and power supplies, housing facilities, and enough entertainment options to keep troops on the installation. Just off-post, however, you’ll always find the same selection of stores that easily let anyone on TDY know that they’ve found the right place.


Many of these shops are helpful and offer troops better deals than they’d find on-post. Others, however, cater to a troop’s less-than-helpful needs. It’s not to say that all shops off-post are sketchy — but plenty of them are.

Here’s just a handful of the shops that thrive off of having a huge population of troops just a stone’s throw away.

It’s more than likely that any given Marine has the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor tattooed on them — but not all tattoos are the same. Don’t be the guy with the worst in the platoon.

(Courtesy Photo)​

Tattoo parlors

Troops love to show off their ink. Plenty of tattoo parlors around military installations are home to masterful artists who approach each job with pride. They take their labor of love seriously and put their best work forward for America’s war fighters.

And then there’re the parlors that offer dirt-cheap ink that won’t cut deeply into a young, dumb boot’s beer money. Remember, you’ll get exactly what you paid for.

The chances of you getting spotted at one of the thirty-seven now-open liquor stores is slim.

(Courtesy photo)

Liqour stores

Since military installations are exempt from sales taxes, it would make sense that buying highly taxed items, like liquor, almost exclusively at the Class 6 (on-post liquor store) is a no-brainer.

But those lines are long and no one wants to run into their first sergeant while you’re both carrying a bottle of Evan Williams on a Tuesday night.

“You’re trying to sell me a vintage poncho liner used by Gen. Mattis himself? Best I can do is .”

(Courtesy Photo)

Pawn shops

Troops are constantly moving between installations and, along the way, they may want to shed a few household goods. Conversely, they may not want to spend the extra cash on buying something new if they know they won’t have it for long.

Do you want to get made fun of for buying a car at 35% interest rate? Because that’s exactly how it happens.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Trujillo)

Used-car dealerships

In the military, everyone needs a car to get around. When troops come back with some extra “play money” they earned on deployment, they’ll upgrade their ride.

Many used-car dealerships aren’t as altruistic as they seem. If the only selling point they have going for them is that “E-1 and above are approved,” then you know that you’re about to get hammered on interest rates.

Which kinda defeats the purpose of having a privately owned weapon, but whatever.

(Photo by Michael Saechang)

Gun shop

Military and gun cultures go hand in hand. So, it makes sense that gun shops find a happy home just off-base.

Not to burst any bubbles among the lower enlisted who live in the barrack, but personally owned firearms and weapons are prohibited in living quarters — rules are rules. So, if you want one, you’ll need to store it in the unit’s arms room and hope you can convince the armorer to come in when you want to go hunting.

That, and their lines are a lot shorter when you’re scrambling to get back within regs after a 4-day weekend.

(Photo by Joe Mabel)

Nail salons/barber shops

In the civilian world, nail salons are plenty. Barber shops are also plenty. But you won’t find the two mixed as often as you do near military bases.

Sure, it’s more expensive than on-base options, but sometimes it’s worth it. Especially if you want a haircut that says, “maybe I’m an officer, maybe I’m just a specialist.”

Who knows? Maybe you’re buying the exact poncho liner that “went missing?”

(Photo by William Murphy)

Military surplus stores

These stores almost always claim first dibs outside of the main gate. Here, you’ll always find a good deal on something that you’re trying to avoid getting a statement of charges for. Why pay the to Uncle Sam because someone took your poncho liner when you can buy and immediately turn in a one found at the surplus store?

Now, we’re not openly accusing any military surplus stores of unintentionally fencing stolen, military gear, but some of the shadier ones are the go-to spots for blue falcons.

By going to a payday loan spot, you’re essentially paying to avoid getting help from the people trying to help you.

(Photo by Pvt. Yoo, Jinho)

Payday loan offices

There’s a silver lining to most of the places on this list, especially if they’re owned and operated by veterans of the installation they service. Then there are the payday-loan scammers that prey on troops like vultures in a desert.

There are far too many alternatives available to troops that don’t involved being nickeled-and-dimed to death in the name of scrounging up a few quick bucks. If you are really hurting for cash, have a heart-to-heart conversation with your commander and see what options are available through your branch’s version of an emergency relief fund.

MIGHTY TRENDING

B-52 bomber takes flight with hypersonic weapon for the first time

America’s longest-serving bomber just took flight with a new air-launched hypersonic weapon for the first time, the US Air Force announced on June 13, 2019.

A B-52 Stratofortress heavy long-range bomber took to the skies over Edwards Air Force Base in California on June 12, 2019, with an inactive, sensor-only prototype of the new AGM-183A Air Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), one of a handful of hypersonic weapons the Air Force is developing for the B-52s.

Hypersonic weapons are a key research and development area in the ongoing arms race between the great-power rivals Russia, China, and the US. Hypersonics are particularly deadly because of their high speeds, in excess of Mach 5, and their maneuverability, which gives them the ability to evade enemy air-and-missile defense systems.


The hypersonic weapon carried by the B-52 on June 12, 2019, did not contain explosives and was not released during testing, the Air Force said, explaining that the focus of the test was to gather data on drag and vibration effects on the weapon, as well as evaluate the external carriage equipment.

A US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress.

(US Air Force photo)

For the B-52, a nonstealth bomber that might struggle to skirt enemy air defenses, the standoff capability provided by a weapon like the ARRW helps keep the decades-old aircraft relevant even as the US prepares to fight wars against high-end opponents.

Standoff is one area the US military has been looking closely at as it upgrades its B-52s to extend their service life.

The Air Force, much like the Army and Navy, is pursuing hypersonic weapons technology as quickly as possible.

“We’re using the rapid prototyping authorities provided by Congress to quickly bring hypersonic weapon capabilities to the warfighter,” Will Roper, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, said in a release.

A B-52H Stratofortress.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Greg Steele)

The Air Force’s ARRW is expected to achieve operational capability by fiscal year 2022.

“This type of speed in our acquisition system is essential — it allows us to field capabilities rapidly to compete against the threats we face,” Roper said, apparently referencing the challenges posed by near-peer competitors.

Russia, for instance, has developed the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal, a nuclear-capable air-launched ballistic missile that can be carried by both bombers and interceptor aircraft.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why getting the Antarctica Service Medal is so difficult

Easily one of the rarest medals a troop can earn is the Antarctica Service Medal. Spend a single day in Antarctica, south of 60 degrees latitude in the Southern hemisphere, and you’ve forever got bragging rights.


Do it in the wintertime and you’ve earned a distinctive “Wintered Over” clasp you can hold over everyone else. But being authorized to get down there is the hardest part.

Since its discovery in 1820, numerous nations who’ve landed in Antarctica have stuck their flags in the ground and claimed it as their own. Because the continent has essentially no readily available resources, is extremely remote, and was nearly impossible to settle on long-term, the flags (and their claims) were fairly weak.

So you can kind of get an understanding why there’s nothing in Antarctica. (Photo by Chief Petty Officer Nick Ameen)

But that didn’t stop many nations from trying to hold a claim. The United Kingdom (and, by extension, Australia and New Zealand), France, Norway, Argentina, Chile, and Nazi Germany all claimed portions of the continent. The United States and the USSR also held the right to make a claim but never did.

To ease tensions between all parties in 1959, the Antarctica Treaty was established which laid the ground rules for the continent. It was agreed that Antarctica is the “common heritage of mankind” and could not belong to an entity, territorial claim or not.

This was established to increase scientific understanding of the region and allow scientists the ability to freely communicate. Another article of the treaty bans military personnel and nuclear weapons testing from the continent.

Which is kind of remarkable if you consider it was brokered during the height of the Cold War. (Photo by Sarah E. Marshall)

The only exception to this policy is that troops are allowed entry into Antarctica as long as it’s done for scientific research and other peaceful purposes — this is the exact mission of every troop who travels south of the 60-degree line.

Airmen, sailors, and coast guardsmen will routinely travel to scientific research facilities to give aid, transportation, or supplies. However, finding the justification to send soldiers or Marines is more limited.

These troops can be found at McMurdo Station, one of the largest coastal facilities on the continent, and Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, which is a scientific research facility located at the geographic south pole.

Just let that sink in a bit. Coasties can get that cooler medal far easier than a grunt. Stings doesn’t it? (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst)

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Homecoming’ season 2 continues the dark military conspiracy thriller

This article contains spoilers for Season one of Homecoming. You have been warned.

The second season of Homecoming is live on Amazon Prime Video. A psychological thriller based on the podcast of the same name, Homecoming unravels a conspiracy around an organization that ostensibly exists to help military veterans transition to civilian life but in reality was designed to make warriors forget their trauma so they’d be willing to reenlist.


In the first season, Julia Roberts played a character named Heidi Bergman, a therapist working for the Homecoming Transitional Support Center. The season followed two timelines: one in 2018, where Heidi worked with veterans at homecoming; the other in 2022, where Heidi couldn’t remember the details of her previous job and worked to unravel the mystery of what really happened there.

Season two begins with another mystery, as lead actress Janelle Monáe wakes up adrift in a rowboat with no memory of how she got there or who she is. Here’s the trailer:

HOMECOMING | Trailer – New Mystery on Prime Video May 22, 2020

www.youtube.com

“I knew something was wrong with me, but I couldn’t explain it to anyone. It was like the people around me were keeping a secret,” her character shares. As images of the red fruit from season one — which was responsible for the characters’ memory loss — flood the trailer, Monáe uncovers an image of herself in uniform.

“What was I doing? Why was I there?” Monáe asks Hong Chau’s Audrey Temple, who appeared as an assistant in season one until she forced her boss to confess to Homecoming’s dark purpose.

“It’s complicated,” replied Chau.

What makes conspiracy stories – especially military conspiracy stories — so compelling is that they are uncomfortably conceivable. Service members are expected to color inside the lines and follow orders without question. The conflicts they fight in, the targets they neutralize, the people they kill are all ordered by someone above them they hope they can trust.

What if that trust is shattered?

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The gun that makes the Warthog’s BRRRRRT is also on ships

The A-10 Thunderbolt is arguably the best close-air support plane in history thanks, primarily, to its GAU-8 cannon. The seven-barreled, 30mm Gatling gun holds 1,129 rounds and can chew up a modern tank. Despite its massive success in the air, the GAU-8 has proven to be far more versatile. Believe it or not, the GAU-8 is also at the heart of a last-ditch, anti-missile system used by a number of navies. That system is called the Goalkeeper.


The Goalkeeper uses a combination of sophisticated radars to detect incoming threats, typically missiles, and fires rounds from its cannon to obliterate the target before it can harm the ship. In function, this defense system is very similar to the U.S.’s Phalanx — the albino-R2D2 looking thing found on virtually every American ship built since the 1980s. The Phalanx, by comparison, uses the M61, a 20mm Gatling gun. It’s been upgraded over the years and has an effective range of roughly one mile.

A Goalkeeper CIWS. This uses the GAU-8, normally found on the A-10, to achieve twice the range of the Phalanx. (US Navy photo)

The Phalanx, however, cannot completely prevent a ship from taking damage — the system’s range is too short to guarantee full diffusion. That being said, the damage a ship endures after an incoming projectile is struck by the gun is from fragments rather than a direct hit. The ship may spend a lot of time replacing radars and fixing other gear, but it beats being sunk. The Goalkeeper, on the other hand, intends to reduce the risk of even that damage

According to NavWeaps.com, the Goalkeeper has almost twice the effective range of the Phalanx. The longer range and more powerful rounds mean that when an enemy missile is hit, not as many fragments hit the ship — and those that do will do so with much less energy. This reduces the damage done to the ship and can even make the difference between keeping a ship in the fight and going back to port for lengthy repairs.

Goalkeeper close-in weapon system onboard HMS Illustrious. (Royal Navy photo)

The Royal Netherlands Navy and the Royal Navy initially used the system. South Korea later acquired a number of the systems for their surface combatants and the system now serves with the Peruvian, Belgian, Qatari, Chilean, and Portuguese navies.

See the Goalkeeper bring BRRRRRT to a ship in the video below!

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force awards Boeing $1.2 billion for 8 F-15EX fighters

The U.S. Air Force has awarded a contract to acquire its first fourth-plus-generation F-15EX fighter aircraft from Boeing Co.

The service said Monday that the nearly $1.2 billion contract will cover eight jets, including initial design, development, test and certification, plus spare parts and support equipment, training and technical data, and delivery and sustainment costs.


“The F-15EX is the most affordable and immediate way to refresh the capacity and update the capabilities provided by our aging F-15C/D fleets,” Gen. Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command, said in a release. “The F-15EX is ready to fight as soon as it comes off the line.”

In January, officials posted a presolicitation notice with the intent of awarding two sole-source contracts, one for the F-15EX and the other for its F110 engines. The move initiated the Air Force’s first fourth-generation fighter program in more than 20 years.

Last month, the Air Force awarded General Electric a 1.4 million contract for the first, unspecified number of engines; however, Pratt Whitney — which makes the current F-15 Eagle engine — can also submit designs at its own expense after the company pushed back on the service’s sole-source objective.

According to Boeing, the F-15EX will be able to “launch hypersonic weapons up to 22 feet long and weighing up to 7,000 pounds.” The company has said the fighter will be equipped with better avionics and radars and could carry more than two dozen air-to-air missiles.

“The F-15EX is the most advanced version of the F-15 ever built, due in large part to its digital backbone,” said Lori Schneider, Boeing’s F-15EX program manager. “Its unmatched range, price and best-in-class payload capacity make the F-15EX an attractive choice for the U.S. Air Force.”

The service said the aircraft’s most significant upgrade will be its open mission systems architecture, allowing the plane’s software to be upgraded and installed more easily compared to its aging F-15C/D cousin, which the service has been on a quest to replace.

Officials voiced concerns in 2017 about the older Eagle model’s longevity.

“We are already having serious problems with that airframe, with metal fatigue within the longerons on the side of the aircraft,” then-Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said during a forum in May 2019.

Senior defense officials with the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office told reporters that they arrived at the Boeing-made F-15EX decision because the aircraft would help keep a “robust industrial base” and provide “a higher-capacity” combination alongside Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The Air Force expects to keep a well-rounded mix of fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft through the 2030s, including the F-35A, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-22 Raptor, A-10 Thunderbolt II and F-15 Eagle/Strike Eagle, officials have said.

“One of the considerations was the diversity of the industrial base,” a senior defense official said at the Pentagon on March 22, 2019. “Maintaining a diverse industrial base is in the best interest of the Department of Defense. The more diversity, the more competition … and the better prices we have.”

The Air Force plans to purchase a total of 76 F-15EX aircraft over the five-year Future Years Defense Program, known as the FYDP, officials said Monday. It intends to build an inventory of at least 144 aircraft over the next decade.

The first eight F-15EX aircraft will be based at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, for the testing wing at the base. The first two aircraft are expected to be delivered in fiscal 2021, and the remaining six in fiscal 2023, the release states.

“When delivered, we expect bases currently operating the F-15 to transition to the new EX platform in a matter of months versus years,” Holmes said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These 8 military bases will test residents for cancer-causing chemicals

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the federal agency responsible for investigating environmental threats, will begin assessing residents near eight active and former military bases for exposure to chemicals found in firefighting foam and other products.

The CDC, along with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), will check for exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, referred to as PFAS compounds, which have been linked to infertility, immune disorders, developmental delays in children and some cancers.


The compounds are found in nonstick pots and pans; water-repellent and stain-resistant fabrics; and products that repel grease, water and oil. But they are also found, concentrated, in the foam used on military bases and at airports for fighting aviation fires.

A C-130H Hercules drops a line of fire retardant.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)

Research is ongoing into the public health consequences of PFAS compounds, but the Defense Department has identified 401 active and former bases where they are known to have been released into the environment.

Since 2015, the DoD has been testing drinking water systems both on and off bases for contamination. As of March 2018, the Pentagon had identified 36 sites that supply drinking water to installations that tested above the Environmental Protection Agency’s accepted limits for PFAS contamination.

It also found 564 public or private drinking water systems off installations that tested above the EPA’s accepted limits.

The DoD is currently working to determine whether area residents were exposed and, if so, to switch to a clean water source and initiate cleanup. The CDC and ATSDR, meanwhile, are studying the extent of exposure and plan to launch studies to understand the relationship between PFAS compounds and health conditions.

The eight communities the agencies will examine this year are: Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska; Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado; New Castle Air National Guard Base, Delaware; Barnes Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts; Stewart Air National Guard Base, New York; Reese Technology Center, Texas; Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington; and Shepherd Field Air National Guard Base, West Virginia.

The investigations follow exposure assessments conducted in Bucks and Montgomery counties, Pennsylvania, near the former Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove, and the Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton, N.Y.

Firefighters train during an exercise at Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base.

(DoD photo by Senior Airman Christopher Muncy)

CDC officials said the primary goal of the research is to “provide information to communities about levels of the contaminants in their bodies.” This information will help the communities understand the extent of exposure, they added.

“The lessons learned can also be applied to communities facing similar PFAS drinking water exposures. This will serve as a foundation for future studies evaluating the impact of PFAS exposure on human health,” said Patrick Breysse, director of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and ATSDR.

In addition to the contamination of some base drinking water supply systems, DoD investigations found that the groundwater at some facilities contained PFAS compounds.

According to the DoD, as of August 2017, nine Army bases, 40 Navy and Marine Corps bases, 39 Air Force bases and two Defense Logistics Agency sites had groundwater levels of PFAS higher than EPA limits. The DoD tested a total of 2,668 groundwater wells for contamination, finding more than 60 percent above the EPA’s accepted limit.

According to the CDC, the community assessments will include randomly selecting residents to provide blood and urine samples to check PFAS levels. The exposure assessments will use statistically based sampling.

In May 2018, the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization that supports research and education on public health concerns related to environmental exposures, released an estimate that as many as 110 million Americans may have PFAS compounds in their drinking water.

A 2018 ATSDR draft toxicology report has associated PFAS compounds with ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease and high blood pressure in pregnant women. In addition, the most commonly used PFAS compounds have been linked to testicular and kidney cancer.

The Air Force in 2018 announced that it had completely transitioned its firefighting services to use foam considered safer to the environment than the original aqueous firefighting foam.

The Army also plans to replace its stockpiles and to incinerate the PFAS-containing foams.

In 2016, the Navy announced a policy to stop releasing foam at its shore facilities except in emergencies and had a plan to dispose of its excess foam. It also announced plans to dispose and replace all shore systems and fire trucks that use the PFAS-containing foam.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US, British navies join up in South China Sea

The US and British navies have conducted their first joint military drills in the South China Sea, where a rising China is tightening its grip.

The US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell and the Royal Navy frigate HMS Argyll have spent the past six days training together in the South China Sea.

Their mission was to address “common maritime security priorities, enhance interoperability, and develop relationships that will benefit both navies for many years to come,” the US Navy said in a press statement Jan. 16, 2019.


“We are pleased with the opportunity to train alongside our closest ally,” Cmdr. Toby Shaughnessy, the commanding officer of the Argyll, said.

The exercise follows an earlier trilateral drill in the Philippine Sea focused on anti-submarine warfare and involving the US Navy, Royal Navy, and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.

Both the US and British navies have run afoul of Beijing in the contested waterway.

The guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 1st Class Bobbie G. Attaway)

Following a freedom-of-navigation operation carried out by the USS McCampbell near the Chinese-occupied Paracel Islands on Jan. 7, 2019, Beijing accused the US of trespassing in Chinese waters.

The following day, Chinese media warned that the Chinese military had deployed “far-reaching, anti-ship ballistic missiles” capable of targeting “medium and large ships” in the South China Sea.

In September 2018, a Chinese warship challenged the destroyer USS Decatur during a FONOP in the Spratlys, nearly colliding with the American vessel and risking a potentially deadly conflict.

Earlier that same month, the Chinese military confronted the Royal Navy amphibious assault ship HMS Albion when it sailed close to the Paracel Islands.

China sharply criticized the British ship, asserting that the vessel “violated Chinese law and relevant international law and infringed on China’s sovereignty.”

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

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.

Military Life

The origin of the ‘best’ rank in the Marines (Lance Corporal)

Insane work environments, low-income housing, cafeteria food, and a general tone of condescension from leadership, combined with big personalities from all over the United States and beyond, have produced the “best” rank in the Marines — the lance corporal.


Also known as “third from the bottom,” lance corporal is one of the most common ranks in the Marine Corps. Despite the number of Marines who have received this humble endowment, the lance corporal is often called the “best” rank by those who have served in the Corps.

The origin of the rank’s title is both French and Italian and roughly translates to “one who has broken a lance in combat” and “leader.”

Related: 5 reasons veterans love the Terminal Lance perspective

Today, this would be similar to calling a Marine salty. The rank spawned from a need to establish small-unit leadership on the ground. Lance Corporal, as a rank, was used in medieval Europe for the same purpose. When one became a Corporal, they would receive their own horse and lance with which to ride into battle.

A U.S. Marine Corps lance corporal, right, addresses guests during the Evening Parade reception at the Home of the Commandants in Washington, D.C., May 24, 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Adrian R. Rowan)

The horse became a symbol of rank, but if the horse died and the soldier was grounded, what was there to separate them from the rest? Thus, lance corporal was established to distinguish corporals on the ground by giving them a lance.

In the U.S. Marine Corps, lance corporal didn’t officially become a rank until 1958, when Congress amended the Career Compensation Act of 1949. However, the rank has a much longer history than that. In the 1830’s, Lance Cpl. was used as a billet title for Marines that were on track to become corporal.

It wasn’t until the rank of private first class was established in 1917 that Lance Cpl. was almost totally removed from Marine rank structure. The U.S. Secretary of the Navy and Commandant of the Marine Corps, at the time, felt that the rank of Pfc. ended the usefulness of Lance Cpl., although the rank dies hard, and one writer on Marine Corps tradition asserts that privates were being detailed as lance corporals as recently as 1937.

Despite its turbulent past, the rank has been immortalized not only by heroic actions but also by the ridiculous conduct of Marines who wear its chevron with crossed rifles. Make no mistake — there is a reputation that goes along with this rank, and it has many sides.

Marine lance corporal service alpha dress chevrons.

Yes, it is the senior-junior rank, yes, many great leaders bear the mosquito wings with honor, however, the rank is also synonymous with those who will do anything to get out of a working party. They’re also the one ones who have the best liberty stories, barracks room socials, and an endless stream of comments ridiculing anything the Corps can come up with.

Every Marine who served as a Lance has stories detailing the debauchery consistent with the rank, and if they didn’t serve in the rank, like an officer, they have stories of a young Lance Criminal acting accordingly.

Lance Corporal is considered the best because of the distribution of responsibility amongst its ranks.

Also Read: What it’s like having a submarine crash into your ship

Living Marine legend Kyle Carpenter wears the rank of lance corporal.

When you wear the rank, you are among the highest density of eligible working party Marines, creating an environment primed for skating. It is here that legends are born. These legends range in notoriety from the heroic medal of honor recipients to hilarious battalion level shit-baggery. One of them has even become a dark lord of the Star Wars universe.

Only those who have served in the USMC will ever really know just how much of an impact a Marine Lance Cpl. can have with the proper amount of motivation and creativity, and it is in the name of those hard chargers that we honor the history of the Corps’ best rank.

For more reference, check out the Terminal Lance comics by Maximilian Uriarte, a former Marine Lance who has been chronicling the mind and spirit of the USMC E-3 in the most comprehensive way (comic strips) for years.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how Marine infantrymen prepare for a hike

There are few words in the English language that stir up a tornado of hateful emotions in a Marine quite like “stay with the LT,” “the trucks aren’t coming,” and “hike.” There are plenty of mandatory hikes a Marine has to do annually — and command always throws in a few more, just for good measure.

We, the infantry community, can’t drag ass in physical fitness. And if you’re not a grunt, you should at least learn how to hike like one. Why? For bragging rights. It’s all we’ve got, Marines — everyone else has funding.


No gear loss today!

(Breach Bang Clear)

Packing

The very first thing you should do is figure out how to pack the gear list in a way that doesn’t resemble a gypsy wagon. Now, I don’t know what kind of gateway-to-Narnia bags they’re using in the S3 to fit all this garbage, but you’re going to have to find a way to make it work.

Pack the heaviest things in the bottom center and fill any empty space with smaller objects. Repeat this process, layer after layer, until you reach the top. Putting the heaviest things on the bottom allows you to maintain a more comfortable center of gravity — your pack should swing with you not against you.

Remember: Pack your socks last and nearest to the top.

Werewolves aren’t the only ones scared of a silver bullet.

(Seymour Johnson Air Force Base)

Hydration

You’ll often hear people citing some study that claims the human body can re-hydrate within 45 minutes. Well, go tell those people to find you a box of grid squares because you don’t need that negativity in your life.

Before your hike, take a minimum of two days to drink two gallons of water and a Pedialyte. Yes, you read that right: Pedialyte. Baby Gatorade. While you’re at it, put two additional bottles of Pedialyte in your bag. You’ll thank me later.

Sunflower seeds are also good!

Food and snacks

The day before a hike, you should carb load, just like a marathon runner. This will ensure you have enough energy for the journey and a strong finish. Runner’s World has an in-depth guide on how to carb load properly and I highly recommend reading it. Bear in mind that you will have to make some changes to fit the task, but the overall strategy is pretty solid.

Pack some snacks that can be eaten with one hand and are biodegradable. Fruits, such as apples and bananas, are perfect. They’re easy to eat and you can toss the core/peel into the woods. You’re nourishing the earth before we scorch it later!

You’re going to end up with so many of these

(The Marine Shop)

Your feet

Preparation: The feet are the infantryman’s Cadillac. Take care of your feet. I’ll say it again: Take care of your feet. Clip your nails, wash them every time you take a shower, and change your socks at least once during the day. At night, do not sleep with socks on so they can breathe. Also, moisturize (yes, use that lotion for its intended purpose).

Score bonus points by getting yourself a foot massage or a pedicure once a month. Remember, it’s manly if it’s for the sake of survival.

These puppies are going to get you through this hike, through combat, and through the rest of your life, so take f*cking care of them.

The Hike: During every rest period, change your socks and immediately put your feet back into your boots. If you leave them out too long, the inflammation will set in and it will be more difficult to put your boots on. If you packed intelligently, your socks should be easily accessible.

Tip: Some people wear a pair of dress socks over their boot socks to ease rubbing.

Also, never wear brand new boots on a hike.

Mental fortitude

This is your life now and there’s no way to go but forward. It’s going to hurt, it’s going suck, but you’re going to crush it. Believe in yourself and keep up the pace.

Can I NJP myself?

Storytime

Some of the greatest stories I’ve ever heard were told on a hike — sexual conquests, actual conquests, accusations, and confessions. Marines love telling stories and they love hearing them. You’ll hear about that time the lieutenant got ripped off by that stripper or that Staff Sergeant has a weird fetish that involves putting on an animal costume.

A compelling story will help you forget that your feet are bleeding until, suddenly, it’s done.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China launches new combat-ready unmanned warship

China has launched a new “world-leading unmanned warship” that is supposedly ready for combat, Chinese media reports.

The JARI multi-purpose unmanned combat vessel, a new product of the state-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, is 50 feet in length and displaces 20 tons. Chinese media reports that this ship is capable of conducting the same missions as China’s Type 052 destroyers, namely air-defense, anti-ship and anti-submarine missions.

Chinese military observers refer to China’s latest development as a “mini Aegis-class destroyer” because of its radars, vertically-launched missiles and torpedoes, the Global Times reports, referencing the US Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, many of which are equipped with powerful Aegis radars, surface-to-air missiles, and anti-submarine warfare capabilities.


“This is [People’s Liberation Army] vaporware,” Bryan Clark, a US defense expert and former naval officer, told Insider, referencing technology that is a bit more conceptual than meaningfully applicable.

“The boat is very similar to commercially-available unmanned harbor patrol vessels,” he said.

“Like those boats, there is a mount on the forward deck that would normally carry a machine gun. It may also have some vertically-launched rockets or small missiles in cells on the rear deck or behind the gun.”

China has yet to say what type of missions this vessel might conduct. “This boat doesn’t have the range for operations very far from Chinese territory. Therefore, it may only be good for patrolling around China’s islands in the South China Sea or around Chinese ports,” he said.

China first revealed a model of the JARI unmanned warship last year in South Africa at the Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition, where a China industry representative explained to Navy Recognition that the medium-sized vessel is propelled by a single water jet, has a maximum speed of 42 knots, and has a maximum range of 500 nautical miles.

The model showed a 30mm main gun with eight vertical launch systems behind the cannon and two light torpedo launchers on each side of the superstructure.

Another model was again showcased at the International Defense Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi back in February, where Defense News noted that the vessel included an electro-optical sensor, a phased array radar, a dipping sonar, and a rocket launcher, among the previously-mentioned features.

It is unclear how many of these features have been effectively incorporated into the final design. There are actually quite a few uncertainties surrounding this technology.

Seth Cropsey, a seapower expert at the Hudson Institute, told Insider that China is getting better and better at technology but said there are questions of “how soon the Chinese can field this, what its real capabilities are versus what its advertised capabilities are and, this is important, how many of these things they are going to put out to sea.”

The JARI can, the Global Times reports, be controlled remotely or operate autonomously, although more testing is required before it can fully do the latter. Chinese military analysts have talked about this vessel being used with other drone ships to create a swarm.

The US military has experimented with small crewless swarm boats, as well as medium-sized unmanned surface vessels like the Sea Hunter.

Earlier this month, the US Navy expressed an interest in the development of a large unmanned surface vessel, “a high-endurance, reconfigurable ship able to accommodate various payloads for unmanned missions to augment the Navy’s manned surface force.”

The Navy has said that it is pursuing “a balance of high-end, survivable manned platforms with a greater number of complementary, more affordable, potentially more cost-imposing, and attritable options.”

Expert observers suspect the new revelation is a response to US Navy plans. “I believe one of the drivers for this rollout from the PLA is the US Navy’s recent announcement of its proposed Large USV,” Clark told Insider.

Cropsey explained that “this is a start” for the Chinese, but added that “it doesn’t really compare to what we’re planning.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The B-36: The plane ‘so good it never dropped a bomb in anger’

There was a plane designed during World War II and completed just after cessation of hostilities that served for 13 years but was never called upon to fly an operational mission. According to some, this is a sign that it was so successful at deterrence that no foreign adversary wanted to tussle with it. But it’s not that clear cut.


The first B-36A sits next to a B-50 SuperFortress at Carswell Air Force Base, New Mexico.

(U.S. Air Force)

The B-36 Peacemaker was massive, weighing in at 278,000 pounds without bombs or fuel, but could tip the scales at 410,000 pounds when it had its 86,000 pounds of bombs and a full fuel load. And those 86,000 pounds of bombs could be made up of conventional or nuclear weapons.

The design phase for the aircraft began in 1941 when American leaders asked for a plane that could take off in the states, fly into Germany and bomb Berlin, and then fly back home. But the first B-36 prototype rolled out of a hangar six days after the Japanese forces surrendered, ending World War II. Its maiden flight didn’t take place until August 8, 1946, almost a year after the end of the war.

The final design had a wing span of 230 feet and featured six engines and propellers. These propellers were mounted on the back of the wing, pushing the aircraft through the sky instead of pulling it. At that point in history, it was one of the largest planes to ever fly.

The U.S. built 384 of them and the plane ushered in the era of strategic bombing deterrence, the idea that you could threaten an enemy with such wholesale destruction that they would instead opt to just not fight you. And, while it can’t be directly tied to this one aircraft, the B-36 did fly over a period of tense peace. It never once dropped a bomb in anger, possibly because it could carry large nuclear bombs and it could fly from Maine to Leningrad and back without refueling.

But it did drop bombs — both in training exercises and on accident. In February, 1950, a B-36 crew was forced to jettison their nuclear bomb near British Columbia after flames were sighted in three of their engines. There is a chance that the weapon was a dumb bomb used for practice runs, but it was unarmed either way.

In 1957, a B-36 crew accidentally dropped their Mark 17 nuclear bomb near Albuquerque, New Mexico. The conventional explosives in the weapon did explode, but the nuclear material, thankfully, did not.

The NB-36 with a nuclear reactor onboard flies near a B-50 bomber. The NB-36 was a testbed plane created to one-day fly using nuclear power, but it used conventional fuel for all of its 47 flights.

(U.S. Air Force)

But the craziest part of the B-36’s career with nuclear material arguably came during planned experiments rather than an accident in flight. In 1942, one of the Manhattan Program scientists spitballed the idea of a nuclear-powered aircraft, one with a nuclear reactor instead of huge gas tanks.

Over the following 16 years, the Army and then the Air Force devoted increasing amounts of time and money to studying and then experimenting with the concept. In 1951, they selected the B-36 Peacemaker, the only aircraft large enough to hold the test reactor and the necessary cockpit modifications to protect the crew.

One B-36 was modified into the NB-36, the nuclear-powered bomber. While it flew 47 test flights and had a powered reactor for most of them, it only ever flew using conventional fuel as scientists and engineers studied how the reactor worked in flight. Advances in conventional aircraft design made a nuclear-powered bomber largely irrelevant, and the program was shelved in 1958.

A YRF-84F fighter in flight with its parent B-36 Peacemaker.

(U.S. Air Force)

The bomber was big enough and strong enough to take part in the short-lived “parasitic fighter” concept wherein a massive bomber could take a fighter escort with it into combat.

The larger plane would head towards its target and, if it was spotted by enemy radar or fighters, would release a fighter from its belly. The fighter pilot would engage the enemy forces, breaking them up or destroying them before returning to its parent bomber.

The B-36 would then receive the fighter into its belly again and continue toward the target. The advent of mid-air refueling made the concept obsolete, and it also ended the necessity of larger bombers with larger fuel tanks like the B-36. After all, a smaller bomber with more conservative tanks could take off, top up on fuel just outside of the enemy air defense ring, and then pierce the airspace.

A B-47B takes off using rockets to assist in generating the necessary thrust.

(U.S. Air Force)

So, the B-36 had a long and fairly storied career without once going on an operational mission against an enemy force. It gets a lot of credit for that, but it’s not actually the only aircraft to carry that distinction. The B-47 Stratojet and the B-58 Hustler were jet-powered aircraft with a similar mission to the piston-powered B-36.

They were all designed to fly from U.S. bases, drop big bomb loads, and then fly home. They were all nuclear-capable and they all went their entire careers without dropping a bomb on an enemy — but that alone doesn’t necessarily mean that they were or weren’t successful bombers.

While their strategic deterrence mission was important, they were unsuitable for a conventional bombing mission because they all had handling or speed issues that made leaders worried they would be too susceptible to being shot down. So, it’s not really that they were too good to need to drop bombs, it’s that they were too specialized for a specific deterrence to complete the operational missions.

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to the 345th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, takes off during exercise Trojan Footprint at RAF Fairford, England, June 1, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Emily Copeland)

The modern B-1 and B-2 stealth bombers, on the other hand, have both served as nuclear-deterrent bombers but had the handling, speed, and stealth necessary to survive while dropping bombs in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

In fact, the U.S. will likely turn to these modern successors to the B-36 in case of war with China, Russia, or North Korean, not for their nuclear payloads but for their value at dropping conventional bombs (the B-1 has been modified to remove its nuclear capability to comply with treaties).

So, toast the success of the B-36 and its peers — but don’t forget the modern bombers that rose above the forebears.