Every military installation has its ups and downs. You could be assigned to a tropical paradise, but you can’t afford anything off-base. You could be assigned to a breathtaking foreign country, but learning the local language will take some time. Or, you could be assigned to Thule Air Base in Greenland, where there’s literally nothing but ice and rock for 65 miles (and, even then, it’s just a remote Eskimo village).
The multinational team stationed there consists of around 400 Danish troops, 150 American troops, and a handful of Canadians. Team Thule is charged with tracking satellites and orbiting debris using a Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS), a remnant from the Cold War by being strategically placed roughly halfway between Moscow and New York City.
The BMEWS is still manned and operated by both American and Danish troops. Denmark holds territorial claim over Greenland but gave them “Home Rule” in 1979 and Greenlanders voted for self-governance in 2008. Denmark still handles much of the defense of Greenland, however.
Troops at Thule are locked out from the rest of the world by the ice for nine months, so during the three “summer” months, everyone loads up on supplies that’ll last them the rest of the year. Thule is also home to the Air Force’s only Tug Boat, the Rising Star, which it uses for these resupply missions.
The Military One Source Pamphlet hilariously tries to downplay the roughness of Thule while also telling you that there are no ATMs, no commissary, the PX is extremely limited, and there’s all of one bar and a single “base taxi.”
But hey! At least every barracks room comes with free WiFi and it’s kind of accepted that everyone shelters-in-place during the four-month-long Polar Night where winds can reach 200 mph and the temperatures are -28.
Making fun of the enemy is nothing new, especially for American troops. When U.S. troops like something, they’ll probably still come up with their own term for it. Even if they respect an enemy, they will still come up with a short, probably derogatory name for them. For American troops in the Civil War, many of which took the war very seriously (and rightly so), they would take any opportunity to denigrate the “Southern Way of Life.”
That started with the pop song “Dixie,” which became a de facto national anthem for the Confederates.
But even Abe Lincoln loved the song. Why? It was written in New York for use in traveling shows.
“Dixie” was actually written by an Ohioan, destined for use among blackface performers in traveling minstrel shows throughout the United States. These shows were wildly popular before, during, and after the Civil War everywhere in the United States, and were usually based on the premise of showing African-Americans as slow, dumb, and sometimes prolifically horny. It’s supposed to be sung by black people who are depicted as preferring life in the South, rather than as free men in the North.
“Dixie” is one of the most enduring relics of these shows, still retaining popularity today, although without the connection to the minstrel shows of the time. It’s safe to say almost every Confederate troop knew the words to “Dixie,” as the song depicts an idyllic view of what life in the American South was like in the 1850s, around the time the song was written, with lyrics like:
Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton Old times there are not forgotten Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land!
Union troops who were dead-set on killing Confederates, eventually came up with some new lyrics for the song. Like a group of murderous Weird Al fans, the Northerners wanted to poke fun at their deadly enemy in the best way they knew how – a diss track. The Union lyrics are harsh and the tune to the song just as catchy.
“Away down South in the land of traitors Rattlesnakes and alligators… … Where cotton’s king and men are chattels, Union boys will win the battles… Each Dixie boy must understand that he must mind his Uncle Sam…”
The Union version of “Dixie” rates somewhere between “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” on the list of All-Time Greatest Civil War Songs That Make You Want to March on Richmond.
One in 10 adults in the US will fall victim to fraud every year. That figure is only rising, and it jumped by 34% in 2018, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The vast majority of that fraud takes place online.
A new study conducted by the Better Business Bureau, FINRA, and the Stanford Center for Longevity sheds light on the channels through which scammers are raking in the most money, based on interviews with 1,408 consumers who submitted tips to the BBB between 2015 and 2018. The median losses reported by respondents was $600.
The study shows that about half of people who were contacted by scammers did not engage, detecting the fraud immediately. Meanwhile, 30% of respondents engaged and did not lose money, while 23% engaged and lost money to a scammer.
While scammers most frequently contacted potential victims using phone and email, relatively few people lost money from phone and email scams compared to scams on other platforms. By contrast, 91% of targets who were contacted by scammers over social media engaged, and 53% lost money. Similarly, 81% of respondents who encountered fraud via a website engaged, and 50% lost money.
Here are the scams that people fall for online, according to the study’s findings, ranked from least to most likely to separate victims from their money.
By this point, people are pretty good at sniffing out bogus tax collection scams, the study found.
The study’s authors define this scam as one in which “imposters pose as government tax collection agents and use threats of immediate arrest or other scare tactics to convince their targets to pay, often requesting that the target load money onto gift cards as payment.”
Fake IRS scams were one of the most highly reported types of grift in the study but had the lowest rates of engagement and people losing money — only 15% of respondents said they engaged with scammers, and only 3% reported losing money.
Of the respondents who reported phishing scams, 18% said they engaged and just 4% said they lost money.
“Phishing” is a catch-all term used to describe scammers who pretend to be a trusted person, like a banker, service provider, or mortgage company, in order to trick victims into sharing private information that can be used against them.
Despite their low rate of success, phishing scams were also among the most frequently reported types of scams, the study found.
Similar to fake tax collection, this scam hinges on grifters pretending to be debt collectors and harassing victims to pay debts that they don’t actually owe.
However, this approach was significantly more effective at fooling people than fake tax collection scams. According to the study, 38% of respondents who reported debt collection scams engaged with scammers, and 12% lost money as a result.
Of the respondents who reported scams involving fake checks or money orders, 64% engaged and 22% lost money.
This convoluted scheme relies on scammers sending victims a fake check, getting them to deposit it, and then asking for some of the “money” back via wire transfer due to a supposed overpayment — hoping that banks don’t notice the check is fake until it’s too late.
In this scam, grifters pose as potential employers and fool victims into thinking they’re being offered a job or considered for a position. From there, they trick victims into sending money to be spent on “training” or “equipment,” or carry out a fake check scam using a bogus paycheck.
This scam was one of the most successful at getting victims to engage. Of the respondents who reported employment scams, 81% engaged with scammers and 25% lost money
Ironically, tech support scams typically take the form of an advertisement, email, or pop-up that warns users their computer may be infected with a bug or virus. Once users engage, scammers then pretend to be an IT professional and badger victims to hand over money in exchange for phony tech support.
While not as many users engage with this scam as with employment scams, it has a high success rate at getting victims to spend money. Of respondents who reported tech support scams, 64% engaged and 32% lost money.
1. Online purchase scams
Online purchase scams were among the most highly reported and successful scams documented by the study, with 84% of respondents who reported online purchase scams engaging with them and 47% losing money as a result.
According to the study, these scams proliferate on websites like Craigslist, eBay, Kjiji, and other websites that directly connect sellers and buyers, and can take many forms.
On the most basic level, scammers list items, collect payment from buyers, and then never ship the goods. Conversely, scammers will sometimes pay for items with a bogus check in order to ask for a refund for “accidentally” overpaying.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
But military activity has been increasing on the other side of the Baltic Sea and in Kaliningrad — areas that have long been flash points for Russia and NATO.
Moscow assumed control of Kaliningrad after World War II and retained it after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Now an 86-square-mile exclave, Kaliningrad is home to about a million people who are separated from the rest of Russia by Lithuania, Poland, and Belarus. But that location makes it strategically valuable.
It has Russia’s only Baltic Sea port that is ice-free year-round. In addition to several air bases, it is also home to Russia’s 11th Army Corps. It also looks over one side of the Suwalki Gap, which NATO worries could be blocked during a conflict, cutting the Baltics off from the rest of Europe.
Russia appears to be upgrading its military facilities there.
Moscow has in the past deployed Iskander short-range, nuclear-capable missiles there temporarily, but in February 2018, a Russian lawmaker confirmed that the Iskander, which has a maximum range of about 310 miles, had been moved there permanently in response to NATO’s buildup in Eastern Europe.
Satellite imagery taken between March and June 2018 showed activity around bunkers in Baltiysk, the main base of Russia’s Baltic Fleet, including the fortification of buildings “characteristic of explosive storage bunkers,” Matt Hall, a senior geospatial analyst at 3Gimbals, told Defense One in July 2018.
Imagery taken between mid-July and the beginning of October 2018 showed upgrades at least four sites in Kaliningrad, according to CNN.
That included construction of 40 new bunkers and the expansion of a military storage area near Primorsk, which is Russia’s second-largest Baltic port. Images also showed improvements at the Chkalovsk air base and upgrades at a base in Chernyakhovsk, which houses Iskander missiles.
Kaliningrad received much of the Soviet weaponry in Eastern Europe after the USSR’s collapse, and for a long time the area “was a bit of a dumping ground,” said Jim Townsend, a transatlantic security expert at the Center for a New American Security.
Moscow’s focus on Kaliningrad increased in the early 2000s, around the time the Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — joined NATO. Their inclusion was especially galling for Russia, which sees them as its “near abroad.”
“Kaliningrad has been on a trajectory of improvements since the Baltic tensions and certainly since” the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, Townsend said.
The Iskander deployment is of a piece with Russian efforts to influence other European capitals, Townsend added. “They would say, ‘Look, if NATO puts troops into the Baltics, we’re going to put Iskanders onto Kaliningrad.”
Northeast Europe is a particularly sensitive area for Russia, Townsend said.
St. Petersburg, from which the Baltic can only be reached by passing Finland and Estonia, is Russia’s second-biggest city. To the north is the Kola Peninsula, home to Russia’s Northern Fleet and its submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
“The Baltic is kind of a backdoor to that. Kaliningrad helps to defend that backdoor,” Townsend said. “So that’s very sensitive.”
Russia’s military is not the only one active in the Baltics.
The NATO buildup cited by Moscow as reason for permanently deploying Iskander missiles was the multinational battle groups the alliance has stationed in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia since 2016.
More recently, the US Air Force and the Estonian air force heralded the completion of a joint-use facility at Amari air base near the latter’s capital, Tallinn, which was the first completed military construction projected fully funded by the European Deterrence Initiative.
Soviet jets were stationed at Ameri during the Cold War, but since 2004 it has hosted NATO aircraft during their rotations in the alliance’s Baltic air-policing mission. (The Baltic countries don’t have their own combat aircraft.)
US airmen from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron marshal in an F-15C Eagle at Siauliai air base, Lithuania, Aug. 29, 2017.
(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
Improvements at Amari “provide strategic access into that very contentious part of Europe,” said Brig. Gen. Roy Agustin, director of logistics, engineering, and force protection for US Air Forces in Europe and Africa, according to Stars and Stripes. “You look right across the border and there’s a big regional adversary right there.”
The EDI, previously called the European Reassurance Initiative, has funded military projects in Europe since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014. Since then, the US has spent millions upgrading facilities across Eastern Europe to allow its military and partner forces to respond quickly to crises.
EDI funding also covers Operation Atlantic Resolve, which includes US armored rotations in Europe, a continuous presence in the Black Sea area, and prepositioning equipment and weapons around the continent.
The Pentagon’s 2019 budget request for the EDI was nearly doublewhat it got for the program in 2017 and six times what was allotted for it in 2015.
North of the Baltics, Sweden and Finland — close NATO partners that remain outside the alliance — have also turned increasing attention to military readiness.
Sweden’s armed forces said in 2018 that they needed to boost staffing from 50,000 to 120,000 by 2035 — in addition to adding new surface vessels, subs, and combat aircraft — to meet future challenges.
The report also said Sweden’s military budget would need to more than double over that period. Every mainstream party in the country’s September 2018 parliamentary election backed a military budget increase, but that growth will take time.
Stockholm’s defense outlay has tumbled since hitting 3.68% of GDP in 1963. The 1.03% of GDP currently spent on the military is a historic low, according to Defense News.
Sweden has also reintroduced military conscription and put troops back on Gotland Island in the middle of the Baltic Sea.
More recently, Finland, which shares a 838-mile border and a history of conflict with Russia, has begun pumping money into military modernization — notably id=”listicle-2614964544″.5 billion for the Squadron 2020 program, which includes buying four multirole, ice-breaking, submarine-hunting corvettes armed with surface-to-surface missiles, torpedoes, and sea mines.
The program will also fund upgraded fast-attack missile vessels and upgrades to Finnish mine-layers and mine-countermeasure vessels, according to Defense News.
“The Baltic Sea has become a possible focal point for tension between East and West,” said Finland’s defense minister, Jussi Niinistö. “We are dealing with a more unpredictable Russia.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A few years ago, there was a viral Facebook post about a woman getting a haircut before Memorial Day weekend. She had lost her husband in a Navy helicopter crash months prior. He died on deployment, never having met their youngest son. So, when the smiling receptionist wished her a “Happy Memorial Day” after she had buried her spouse, the words cut extra deep.
Before you tag every veteran and service member on Facebook and wish them a Happy Memorial Day, remember that, in this community, Memorial Day means something much, much bigger than the start of summer. The day feels fraught with memories of those we’ve lost, mixed with gratitude for the times we’ve had.
While it is true that every day is Memorial Day for the families of the fallen, they aren’t asking that you stay inside and wallow.
But we do owe it to them to pause. Reflect. Remember. Honor.
Gold Star wife Krista Simpson Anderson, who lost her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Michael Harrison Simpson, in Afghanistan in 2013, said, “I get upset when people scold others for enjoying the weekend or having BBQs. What do you think our service members did before they died? Mike sure did enjoy his family and friends. What better way to honor them than to be surrounded by family and friends living. But we are also so grateful for your pause and reflection as you celebrate our heroes and the lives that they lived.”
Krista Anderson and her sons pose for a photo in 2014.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Butler)
Memorial Day and Veterans Day are different holidays with unique purposes — and unique ways to honor each.
How to honor Veterans Day
Veterans Day is the day to tag all your people, posting photos with your brother in uniform or the selfie with your bestie before he or she deployed. Veterans Day celebrates the living who served our country. Offer veterans a discount at your business. Call your favorite vet on the phone and thank him or her for their service. Attend a parade. Celebrate a veteran.
How to honor Memorial Day
Memorial Day is about remembering and honoring every single man and woman who has died for our freedoms — men and women who were mommies and daddies, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, patriots, incredible Americans and really, really great friends.
The United States Marine Band on Memorial Day.
(Photo by Spc. Cody W. Torkelson)
You want to honor and celebrate patriotism and the military this Memorial Day? Then you have to honor the complicated feelings surrounding it. Express your knowledge that this day is about remembrance.
It’s no secret that veterans and coffee go together like peanut butter and jelly. As more and more people separate from active duty to pursue their passions, the number of boutique coffee companies run by prior service folks is only growing.
One of the newest is Ranger Candy Coffee. Ranger Candy is run by a former US Army mortarman who served a total of eight years both on active duty and with the National Guard. The company launched earlier this year with the goal of bringing high-quality coffee to service members, first responders, and outdoorsmen. The HMFIC at Ranger Candy also owns a home remodeling company, giving us hope that the American work ethic isn’t completely dead.
Ranger Candy starts with hand-selected, single-origin Arabica beans that they import from 18 different countries. The beans are then blended, roasted, ground, and shipped by the Ranger Candy crew anywhere in the US or to anybody working overseas with an APO/DPO/FPO. They offer light, medium and dark roasts available in six different grinds from fine to espresso to coarse, with a couple of settings in between. You can purchase quantities from 12 ounces to 12 pounds as well as K-Cups.
We received our own sample of Ranger Candy in a re-sealable 12-ounce bag that kind of reminded us of an MRE pouch. We’re not sure if that was on purpose or if we happen to be feeling nostalgic. Said sample was a standard grind dark roast sourced from Tanzania. We know it came from Tanzania because the label on the bag includes a list of all 18 countries they source from, and they will conveniently “check the box” next to the country of origin for your particular bag of coffee. In fact, you can specify the country of origin when you order. Do you prefer Mexican coffee to Costa Rican? Or Indian? Or Ugandan? You can specify the country of origin when you place your order. If you’re not sure what you prefer, the Ranger Candy website includes tasting and origin notes for each of the countries they source from.
For our Tanzanian sample, tasting notes were chocolate, cherries, and caramel. We caught the chocolate and think maybe we tasted a little bit of cherry on the finish, but couldn’t find the caramel. Your mileage may vary. But we also learned that our coffee was grown at an elevation of 5,900 feet in the Mbeya region.
Ranger Candy coffee runs .99 per 12 ounce bag, regardless of country-of-origin. They also offer a line of mugs and swag to accompany your cup of joe. Check them out at www.rangercandycoffee.com or on your social media of choice.
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
Fighter pilots have a lot of cool sayings like, “Don’t ask somebody if he’s a fighter pilot. If he is, he’ll tell you. If he’s not, why embarrass him?” and “Faster fighters, older whiskey, younger women,” but not all of these can be applied to real life.
Fortunately, they also have a few saying that can be applied to real life. Here are 11 of them:
1. Train like you fight
This saying was made popular by “Duke” Cunningham, Navy Vietnam-era ace who served a stint in federal prison for misdeeds committed while serving as a congressman from California. It seems obvious, but think of how many processes your organization has that don’t really matter when it comes to executing the mission.
2. Don’t be both out of airspeed and ideas
That’s a bad combo. As Dean Wormer said in the movie “Animal House,” “Fat, dumb, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”
3. Keep your knots up
Speed is life. It gives you options. In business “speed” can be resources, revenue, people. Having X+1 is a good idea.
4. Keep your scan going
If you’re only focused on one thing, something else is about to jump up and bite you. While you’re staring at the bandit in the heads-up display, you’re missing the fact you’re about to run out of gas or get shot by the other bandit who just rolled in behind you.
5. Lost sight, lost fight
Regardless of Gucci technology or whatever, you can’t kill what you can’t see.
6. You can only tie the record for low flight
So don’t fly into the ground.
7. There’s no kill like a guns kill
This is as pure as it gets for a fighter pilot. Feels. So. Good. And, remember, stealth doesn’t work against bullets.
8. Don’t turn back into a fight you’ve already won
Know when to bug out and then do it. Live to fight another day.
9. You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take
You also miss 100 percent of the shots you take out of the missile’s operating envelope . . . which gets back to No. 1: Train like you fight.
10. A letter of reprimand is better than no mail at all
As John Paul Jones once said, “He who will not risk, cannot win.” Nobody ever made history or changed the world by only worrying about his or her career.
11. If you know you’re about to die, make your last transmission a good one
No whining. Just key the radio and say, “Have a beer on me, boys.”
When you think of airborne troops, there’s one unit that comes to mind because of its place in both history books and pop culture: the 101st Airborne Division. Nearly every major World War II film features — or at least mentions — the bravery and tenacity of the Screaming Eagles that jumped into action on D-Day.
Even after the triumphant stand of Easy Company at Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest, the 101st Airborne kept performing heroics that would land them in history books. This happened in the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, and again in the Global War on Terrorism.
Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t immediately recognize the iconic 101st patch — the Screaming Eagle. And when civilians see that patch, they immediately think of elite paratroopers. Here’s the thing: we technically haven’t been an airborne unit since 1968, but you’ll still find the words “AIRBORNE” above Old Abe — here’s why.
Yes, you read that correctly. The Screaming Eagles have largely been re-designated away from the airborne world since their reactivation following Post-WWII restructuring. Fun fact: During the Korean War, the 101st was actually a training unit out of Camp Breckenridge, Kentucky, until 1953.
The unit bounced around a little before landing at Fort Campbell and being made into a “pentomic” division — meaning it was structured to fight with atomic warfare in mind. As the possibility of nuclear war grew, the role of the paratrooper in war shrank. The airborne infantrymen of the 101st were still needed — mostly involved in rapid deployment strategies — but the training was shifting with the times, and the times were changing indeed.
Then, on July 29th, 1965, the 1st Brigade landed at Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam, and the 101st adapted to their new role in the jungle. Now, we’re not saying that combat jumps into Vietnam didn’t happen — they definitely did — but the 101st wasn’t conducting them.
In case you’re wondering. Yes. It did have a loudspeaker to blast Ride of the Valkyries or Fortunate Son for Charlie to hear.
The Screaming Eagles were tasked with one of the largest areas of operations during the early days of the Vietnam War. Given the terrain and the nature of the enemy, airborne insertion at one point and moving from town to town just didn’t make good sense. They needed an alternative. They needed a way to get from place to place faster, efficiently, and safely. Enter the helicopter.
Helicopters saw use in the Korean War, but it was fairly rare — mostly just for medical evacuations. In the jungles of Vietnam, however, The UH-1 (or “Huey”) Iroquois and the 101st Airborne Division were like a match made in military heaven. The division designated itself as an airmobile division in mid-1968 and became the Air Assault division it is today in 1974.
If you really want to be technical, the airborne tab itself isn’t isn’t given to the troops. That still has to be earned individually. Think of the tab in the same vein as a unit citation.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kevin Doheny)
That leaves the 101st Airborne Division legs in everything but name. The air assault capabilities of the 101st are the contemporary evolution of the paratroopers of old. Now, don’t get this wrong: There are still several units on Fort Campbell that are still very much on airborne status, such as the 101st Pathfinders
Today, the Screaming Eagles are the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) — with “Air Assault” in parentheses. It’s a more accurate description of the unit, since we’re still involved with airborne operations — just not the paratrooper, jump-out-of-planes-and-into-combat type. Screaming Eagles just fast-rope from a helicopter or wait for it to make a solid landing for insertions.
The reason “airborne” is still in the name (and on a tab above Old Abe) is because it’s difficult as hell to change a division’s name while it’s still active. Go ahead and ask the 1st Cavalry Division about the last time they rode horses into combat or the 10th Mountain Division about when they last fought on an arctic mountaintop.
The names and insignia are historic. They’re part of a legacy that still lives on within the troops.
Every year, thousands of motorcyclists descend on Sturgis, South Dakota for days of camaraderie, fanfare and riding. Despite COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s rally is still happening. Here are 5 wacky sights you have to see to believe.
The human bowling ball named Short Sleeve Sampson is considered by some as a rite of passage at Buffalo Chip and the Sturgis Rally. With his assistants, Lady Victoria and Summer, the midget wrestling icon lines up to be hurled down the lane at a set of bowling pins. Seeing country-music star Zac Brown partake in the action is like an odd cherry on top of a wacky sundae. That said, Zac Brown is joined on the list of midget bowlers by other famous artists like Rob Zombie, John 5 and Eric Church.
(Rapid City Journal)
2. The kangaroo at the wedding
When Lady Victoria married Marco Webber at the 2009 Sturgis Rally, she was escorted down the aisle by Jack the Kangaroo of Roo Ranch. Lady Victoria noted that her previous marriage ceremonies were very traditional and wanted to change things up. For his services, Jack received a BreathSavers mint, a favorite treat of his.
(Rapid City Journal)
3. Rhett Rotten and the Wall of Death
Sure, you could argue that it’s simple physics: counteracting gravity with sufficient velocity and centrifugal force. But, there’s just something fantastic about a man riding his motorcycle around on a wall. Did we mention that the wall is 12 feet high, 30 feet wide and 81 years old? If only Humvees were as reliable as the Wall of Death.
(Rapid City Journal)
4. Riding through a beer wall
If you’re riding, it means you’re not drinking. So what’s the next best thing? How about riding through the drink? Bursting through a wall of cold ones results in a fantastic display of foam that we can only imagine must be supremely refreshing and satisfying.
(Rapid City Journal)
5. A man in a barrel
This one is pretty self-explanatory. We’ll just leave it here for you to enjoy.
Video games are known for over-the-top weaponry. In the universe of games, a seemingly tiny blonde dude can easily swing around the giant Buster Sword (see: Final Fantasy VII) and a kid with a mask is given free reign to swing around a ridiculously shaped, dual-bladed sword (see: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask).
In real life, getting your hands on these incredible weapons is a much more painstaking endeavor than simply showing up at a store and dropping a few rupees or a couple hundred gil. Tony Swatton of Burbank, California’s Sword and Stone and the crew over at Baltimore Knife and Sword take pride in forging authentic, legitimate versions of pop-culture’s finest weaponry. Together, they formed the web series, Man at Arms: Reforged, which you can find on YouTube.
Let’s set the bar extremely high right off the bat with a look at their work on a Warhammer 40K Chainsword:
Swatton is a self-taught blacksmith who got his start working on Steven Spielberg’s Hook and has been creating weapons and armor for film and television ever since. His work can also be seen on the official World of Warcraft channel in a series called Azeroth Armory.
The show expanded to Maryland and added Baltimore’s Knife and Sword crew at the start of the second season. Since then, the channel has achieved internet stardom by bringing the viewers along for the ride as they create some of the most interesting weapons from film, television, and gaming. Behind each weapon is a very long, methodical process. Each weapon takes as long as 200 hours to forge, which is distilled down into a single 10-minute video segment.
They’re also not afraid to take on historical recreations, such as a 400-year old Chinese Dandao:
Each project requires a unique approach but, in general, they employ plasma cutting to get the desired shape out of steel, mold the intricate details out of clay for a bronze cast, spend days perfecting every minute detail, and then finally assemble, sharpen, and test their new weapon.
They create content based off of YouTube comments, so if you can think of an awesome weapon that isn’t in their nearly 150-video-long catalog, leave a suggestion!
On a flight line shrouded in a constant haze and tortured by Thailand’s relentless sun, the sounds of jet engines and jungle birds fill the ears of Staff Sgt. Travis Davis, 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief; a best friend to any 35th Fighter Squadron pilot who puts their trust in crew chiefs like Davis every time they fly.
While executing U.S. Indo-Pacific Command objectives and U.S. Pacific Air Forces priorities at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Davis and 114 other maintainers from the 8th Fighter Wing, Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, are operating and will redeploy 12 F-16 Fighting Falcons loaded with full-scale-heavy-weight-munitions supporting exercise Cobra Gold 2019. Cobra Gold is a Thai-U.S. co-sponsored exercise that promotes regional partnerships to advance security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region and is one of the longest-running international exercises.
Behind the Scenes: Air Force Crew Chief Prepping F-16 for Launch
Staff Sgt. Travis Davis, 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, inspects an F-16 brake during exercise Cobra Gold 2019 at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, Feb. 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Savannah L. Waters)
Davis and other maintainers quickly adapted to operating in a hot and humid environment alongside their Royal Thai Air Force partners, and as the sun shines, they’re reminded of the winter conditions of home-station.
“I like my job, but there are people who don’t necessarily enjoy it due to extreme cold or hot weather conditions,” Davis said. “Especially when we are busy and breaks are hard to come by, but the mission comes first.”
Davis advises fellow crew chiefs in maintaining, servicing and inspecting the F-16s. His inspector role ensures 8th AMXS Airmen are equipped with the proper tools and skill sets to get the job done as safely and efficiently as possible, while keeping those who fly the jets reassured that they’re sitting in a well taken care of and lethal jet.
“As a crew chief, you need to keep your head on a swivel, and make sure to pay attention to what you’re doing,” Davis said. “You have someone else’s life in your hands, and mistakes can quickly escalate into a life or death situation. We can always replace parts here and there, but we can’t replace a person.”
Staff Sgt. Travis Davis, 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, gives the 35th Fighter Squadron’s “Push It Up!” sign during exercise Cobra Gold 2019 at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, Feb. 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Savannah L. Waters)
Consistency is very important, Davis said, and a mistake on a crew chief’s part creates the potential for loss, whether it’s a million aircraft or a precious life.
With no U.S. aircraft maintenance support, Davis and other 8th AMXS maintainers learned to operate in conditions that are similar to a bare base during Cobra Gold 19. Weapons, avionics, and other maintenance specialists assisted crew chiefs in launching aircraft by aiding as a “B man,” and egress technicians supplemented crash and recovery teams to build F-16 tires.
Regular maintenance, inspections, refueling, launch and recovery is a lot of work, said Davis, but combining hands-on efforts across the 8th MXG enabled smoother transitions throughout the exercise.
“Cross utilization of maintainers of different (Air Force specialty codes) and roles is a true embodiment of maintainers making the mission happen,” said Capt. Su Johnson, 35th Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge. Without (the) Wolf Pack maintainers’ pride and aggressive attitude to succeed, exercise Cobra Gold would not have been successful.”
Davis has averaged about 50 work hours a week, overseeing maintenance operations and inspections so pilots are able to conduct training without delay or complications.
“I’m thankful for the many opportunities this career has given me the last 10 years,” Davis said. “It makes you really appreciate the job, even on the tougher days. During deployments and exercises such as Cobra Gold, you really get to see the bigger picture, and how your work contributes to and impacts the mission.”
Everyone has to hit the head (bathroom) at least a few times a day (if you don’t, you should probably consult with a doctor ASAP). For troops in the field, using the restroom might not always be as easy as just visiting the nearest toilet.
In fact, some forward-deployed troops don’t even have access to running water, so flushing their waste away through a series of pipes would simply be impractical.
So, how do troops make a number one or two while in the field? Well, keep reading and be slightly amazed!
This might sound like some new way to smoke tobacco, but it’s far, far from it. These public urinals are constructed from large pipes that are halfway buried. This way, all the human pee collects several feet underground instead of pooling on the surface.
You know how cats sometimes burr small holes in the kitty litter before dropping the payload? Well, the military adapted that idea when it comes to human waste disposal and created what are known, aptly, as “cat holes.”
According to field manuals, proper cat holes are 12-inches long, 12-inches wide, and 12-inches deep. This method of waste disposal is meant to be temporary and quickly covered up if a squad needs to get on the move.
Have you ever made brown in a Ziploc bag? Well, if you have, that’s exactly what it’s like taking a dump in a WAG bag — except this one has a bunch of biodegradable odor neutralizers inside.
Since holding a WAG bag open while taking care of business isn’t easy, use some sort of container (like a bucket) to keep the bag open.
Remember the cat hole we talked about earlier, and how they’re made for temporary use? Well, the straddle trenches are like that — only permanent. To properly use the straddle trench, squat over the rectangular hole and release.
According to Army regulations, the trenches are supposed to be 1-foot wide, 2 1/2-feet deep, and 4-feet long.
Yes, we have “Porta-sh*tters” located on the frontlines. For the most part, they’re located on the larger FOBs. To keep these maintained, allied forces pay local employees who live nearby to pump the human discharge out of the poop reservoirs.
3. The Marine Corps emblem — the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor — is one of the most recognizable symbols in the world. You could be wearing one now if you would’ve joined.
4. They have the toughest boot camp in the military. So just graduating says a lot about an individual.
5. Some of the most successful actors served in the Marine Corps. Drew Carey, Gene Hackman, and WATM’s good friend Rob Riggle just to name a few.
6. You could have been a part of some major military moments in history. Marines have fought in every American conflict since they were created in 1775.
7. Since all Marines are considered riflemen, you’ll learn to eat concertina wire, piss napalm, and put a round through a flea’s ass at 200 meters.
8. Anyone can claim the title of a sailor if you have been on a boat. Anyone call themselves a soldier if they listen to a lot of rap music. Lastly, anyone can call themselves an airman if you’ve flown once or twice. But the title of a Marine is never just handed out — it’s earned.
9. When there’s a significant conflict poppin’ off anywhere around the world, America sends in the Marines first. It’s best fighting force when you need to settle things down.