This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo's Fire - We Are The Mighty
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This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

No, we’re not talking about the 1985 Brat Pack classic of the same name. This St. Elmo’s Fire is more akin to the phenomenon of the green flash at sunset or sunrise. It appears as an eerie blue or violet glow, usually accompanied by bursts of what appear to be lightning.

As with many meteorological mysteries, St. Elmo’s Fire was named by sailors of old. They couldn’t understand what caused the glow around their ship that looked like a sort of divine fire and named it for St. Erasmus. Also known as St. Elmo, he is the patron saint of sailors. The appearance of the mysterious glow was said to be a good omen of the saint watching over the crew, scary though it may be. However, we now know that there’s a scientific explanation behind the strange lights.

St. Elmo’s Fire is a luminous plasma discharge from a pointed object. This is why it usually emanates from the nose of a plane or the mast of a ship. The glow and subsequent discharge typically occur when a plane or ship comes near a thunderstorm or volcanic activity. It can also occur on the tops of buildings and electrical towers.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
St. Elmo’s Fire on the nose of an E-4B Nightwatch during aerial refueling (U.S. Air Force)

When the electrical field around a pointed object builds a sufficient charge, it ionizes the air around it. This turns it into plasma. The blue/violet color is the result of nitrogen and oxygen, which make up the majority of the atmosphere. Although the glow and discharge bursts can sometimes make a hiss or buzz, St. Elmo’s Fire itself is completely harmless.

Flying near or through a thunderstorm or volcanic activity is generally inadvisable. Lightning strikes and reduced visibility pose great dangers to safe navigation. In the case of British Airways Flight 9, volcanic ash can cause engine flameout. While St. Elmo’s Fire is associated with flying in these conditions, the plasma discharge itself has no effect on an aircraft’s safe flight.

If a flight or cruise ever takes you near a thunderstorm or volcanic activity, keep an eye on a pointed object like the plane’s wingtip or the ship’s mast. You just might be able to spot this fascinating phenomenon for yourself.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
A KC-10A Extender experiences a brilliant display of St. Elmo’s Fire (U.S. Air Force)
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines are now flying these new F-35 variants

This Is The First F-35C Carrier Variant Joint Strike Fighter For The U.S. Marine Corps VMFA-314.

Marines are also getting the F-35C CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Assisted Recovery) variant of the Lightning II. Here’s their first Carrier Variant Jet in VMFA-314 markings.

Along with flying the F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning II aircraft, that operates from amphibious assault ships, the U.S. Marine Corps is transitioning to the F-35C, the CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Assisted Recovery) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter (also known as CV – Carrier Variant), that can operate from U.S. Navy’s flattops (the Nimitz-class ones, until issues with the Ford-class carriers are fixed).

Indeed, the Corps plans to operate 353 F-35Bs and 67 F-35Cs to replace three types of aircraft: the F/A-18A++/C/D “Legacy” Hornet, the AV-8B Harrier II and the EA-6B Prowler.

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314, is the first Marines squadron that will replace the “Legacy” Hornet with the brand new F-35C.


This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

The first F-35C delivered to a USMC squadron, VMFA-314, at NAS Lemoore.

Photo by United States Marine Corps

At the time of writing, VMFA-314 has already started training alongside the U.S. Navy’s VFA-125, the F-35’s only Fleet Replacement Squadron, based at NAS Lemoore, California. The plan is to complete the preparation by next Spring.

By the time the Marine Aircraft Group 11 commander officer will certify the squadron as “safe for flight” and ready to operate independently of the FRS, VMFA-314 will have returned to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California.

The Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of the F-35C was declared on Feb. 28, 2019, after the first F-35C squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, conducted aircraft carrier qualifications aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) and received its Safe-For-Flight Operations Certification.

“In order to declare IOC, the first operational squadron must be properly manned, trained and equipped to conduct assigned missions in support of fleet operations. This includes having 10 Block 3F, F-35C aircraft, requisite spare parts, support equipment, tools, technical publications, training programs and a functional Autonomic Logistic Information System (ALIS). Additionally, the ship that supports the first squadron must possess the proper infrastructure, qualifications and certifications. Lastly, the Joint Program Office (JPO), industry, and Naval Aviation must demonstrate that all procedures, processes and policies are in place to sustain operations,” the Navy added in an official statement.

Also read: F-35, once beaten by F-16s, shows stunts older jets can’t touch

VFA-147 will conduct the first deployment with the F-35C integrated into the Carrier Air Wing 2, aboard the Nimitz-class USS Carl Vinson in 2021, and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314 will conduct the second F-35C carrier deployment.

Interestingly, at least one F-35C already sports full VMFA-314 markings. The first photos of CF-35/169601, modex VW-434, including those that you can find in this article, were posted three weeks ago by Col. Simon Doran, MAG 11’s commanding officer. More shots have started circulating on the Internet after the aircraft, with just a handful flying hours, made a public appearance at Tinker AFB Air Show, on Jun. 1, 2019.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force is rolling out changes for new OCP uniform

The Air Force announced April 23, 2019, new rules on Operational Camouflage Pattern uniforms that aim to better fit the needs of airmen and the jobs they do while also holding fast to tradition.

The changes highlighted include authorization of the two-piece Flight Duty Uniform in garrison and updated patch guidance for the OCP uniform.

“During the initial rollout of the OCP, we originally matched our sister services regarding patch configurations as we sought to emphasize our role as a joint warfighting force,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein.


“In response to overwhelming feedback received from airmen, we will make an easy ‘sleeve swap’ of the patch configuration to further elevate our focus on honoring the heritage of squadrons as the war-fighting units of the world’s greatest Air Force. We will now place the squadron patch on the right sleeve along with the U.S. flag and move the higher headquarters patch to the left sleeve of the OCP.”

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

OCP uniform guidance.

Additionally, to provide commanders with expanded uniform options to fit myriad missions, on April 15, 2019, the two-piece flight suit, otherwise known as the 2PFDU, will be authorized to be worn in both garrison and deployed locations. The 2PFDU continues an effort to provide airmen with improved form, fit and function to perform their duties in any environment.

The traditional flight duty uniform will also continue to be an option. Squadron commanders will now have the flexibility to make combat uniform decisions based on what is best for their airmen to meet mission requirements.

“The new unit patch configuration of the OCP and 2PFDU also aligns with the traditional FDU, elevating the significance of squadron focus and identity, which supports CSAF’s intent to revitalize squadrons,” said Lt. Gen. Mark D. Kelly, Headquarters Air Force deputy chief of staff for Air Force operations.

In May 2018, Air Force leaders decided to transition to the OCP following feedback from airmen that it is the best, battle-tested utility uniform available. It will also eliminate the need to maintain two separate uniforms – one for in-garrison and one for deployments.

The service expects to fully transition to OCPs by April 1, 2021.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This canine prisoner of war is still held by Taliban captors

In February, 2014, Taliban insurgents released a video with what they claimed was a U.S. prisoner of war that they had captured the previous year. They called him “colonel” as they led him around by a leash and described taking him during a night raid in Afghanistan’s Laghman Province. He was a Belgian Malinois working dog – and he was about to put his captors to work.


“Colonel” was actually a dog working for the British forces under ISAF command in the country, according to BBC reporters. The dog was apparently captured in the middle of an intense firefight with coalition forces trying to drive the Taliban out of the Alingar Valley. They were tipped off about a British SAS raid on Dec. 23.

It was the first time a working dog was taken prisoner in Afghanistan.

Colonel, or dagarwal in Pashto, was a valuable asset, no matter how the Taliban chose to see him. Not only was the dog not killed, injured, or otherwise mistreated, he was an asset. They would never get a trained working dog like Colonel. They sure couldn’t train one. Even as a prisoner of war to be ransomed, he was priceless.

It’s always possible that we could use the dog, since it has been trained,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement. “If someone offers a trade for it then we can think about that.”

A casual viewer might never know it, as videos with the Malinois show him surrounded by as many as five Taliban fighters, all heavily armed with rifles and grenades, but the dog is much more than a mutt found on the street. Colonel had needs, and he liked things a certain way. Whereas other dogs were kicked out into the streets and fed scraps, Colonel had a team of Taliban waiting on him.

It is not like the local dogs which will eat anything and sleep anywhere,” Mujahid added. “We have to prepare him proper food and make sure he has somewhere to sleep properly.”

This means Colonel has a few Taliban fighters who were attached to him. They provided him with blankets and made human-level food for him from chicken and kebab meat. Dogs are not considered pets in Afghan culture, are widely seen as “unclean,” and the Coalition’s use of dogs has irked the Afghan President and people at times.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

The Taliban also showed off weapons seized during a raid on one of their hideouts.

Sadly, it’s hard to know if Colonel was ever rescued. British special operations forces from the Who Dares Wins Regiment volunteered to go find the dog and rescue him, but the British Defence Ministry called the mission “unlikely.”

Colonel has since been nominated for the Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of March 29th

Recently, a Marine was kicked out of a wedding for wearing his Dress Blues instead of a regular suit and tie. According to the post on Reddit, he was polite and gentlemanly but was asked to leave because he didn’t follow the dress code and the bride felt he was taking the spotlight away from the marriage.

There’s still a lot of other variables that aren’t really known that could really determine who’s the a**hole in this situation. If he was pulling a “you’re welcome for my service” routine, totally justified. If he didn’t have any other suit and tie, he could have probably explained that. If he was flexing his bare pizza box and two ribbons, he’s a douche. Since he was a friend of the groom, did he ask first? So on and so forth.

I’m personally of the mindset that he didn’t follow the uniform of the day and weddings are one of those things where you just nod and agree with the bride. But that’s ultimately pointless since this wedding has no bearing on my life.


Anyways. Since we in the U.S. aren’t subject to the EU’s Article 13 ruling on copyright material and the gray area it puts on sharing memes – have some memes!

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

Relax, it’s only a meme.

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

(Meme via Military Memes)

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

(Meme via Private News Network)

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

(Meme via Infatry Follow Me)

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

(Meme via Uniform Humor)

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

(Meme via The Army’s F*ckups)

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

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These are 6 other weapons legal for open carry in the United States

As we all know by now, the Second Amendment protects the right for citizens of the U.S. to bear arms. In 48 states and territories, it is also legal for Americans to carry their weapons in the open, in public, in plain sight. While these “open carry” laws allow users to wear various firearms, it doesn’t allow for all weapons. Some non-firearms are legal for open carry, some aren’t so much.


 

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

 

Depending on where you are in the United States, you’ll want to check the local ordinances before you strap on your other weapons. Seriously, this site is We Are The Mighty, not We Are The Lawyers — so check those laws.

1. Swords – California

In California, any fixed blade must be sheathed. But not only is it legal to openly carry a sheathed sword, it’s the law. Any kind of concealment for bladed weapons is a misdemeanor. Bladed weapons in most states where they are legal to carry, are usually illegal if they’re longer than five inches. Concealed blades, like cane swords, are always illegal.

 

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
Just one of the many things wrong with the movie Blind Fury.

2. Religious Knives – U.S. Military and all States

Because Sikh religious practices sometimes require the use of a kirpan, a small sword used in religious practices. Because the bladed weapon is anywhere from three to nine inches long, it can be illegal in most states, but many state courts and legislatures found this violates the Sikh’s religious rights. The U.S. military allows for Sikhs to wear the bladed weapons in uniform.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
Also, turbans (photo via The Sikh Coalition)

3. Flamethrowers – Everywhere except Maryland and California

The perfect tool for melting snow and killing insects is now commercially available and legal for open carry in 48 states. Why? Because it runs on good ol’ 87 octane gasoline. Homemade flamethrowers were previously regulated based on the fuel they used. Now nothing can stop you from getting to work in those deep February snows.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
Pesky mosquitos!

4. Tomahawks – Not California, Colorado, or Texas

Unless you’re carrying a tomahawk made of wood and stone (in which case you should also be wearing a Native American headdress and traveling with a construction worker, policeman, and cowboy), then a tomahawk is actually a pretty popular weapon. Battle tomahawks are legal to own in most states that allow a fixed blade, except Colorado. Texas prohibits “any hand instrument designed to cut or stab another by being thrown.” In California, you should be on your way to a re-enactment or camping while holding your tomahawk, otherwise the law can give you a headache over it.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
But not the same headache you can give them.

5. Battle Axes – Washington State

Washington State Football Coach Mike Leach famously announced he uses a Viking battleaxe for home defense, instead of his firearms. It is legal to open carry any type of weapon in Washington State, so long as it is “not carried in a way that may cause others alarm.”

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
Time for a kinder, gentler battleaxe.

One trailblazing action group is working on getting restrictions to battle axes lifted in Texas.

6. Ninja Stars – Montana

In Montana, it is legal to openly carry any weapon that is legal to own. So, throwing knives, lightsabers, ninja stars, you name it: anything not expressly forbidden by case law or state legislation is fair game. Go nuts, ninjas in Montana!

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
Cowboy ninjas rejoice!

MIGHTY CULTURE

Versace is selling ‘Desert Boots’ for $1,125; enlist and get them free!

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How this patrolman engaged 50 enemy troops with a single M60 will make you proud

On Aug. 2, 1969, David Larson was serving as a gunner’s mate on a patrol boat as it steered up the Saigon River, transporting a seven-man ambush team.


The team was a part of the Army’s LRRP — or Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol. After cruising up river for a time, they set up an ambush position during the day near the riverbank.

As night fell, they silently settled into their discrete position. Little did they know, all hell was about to break loose.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
A river patrol boat similar to Larson’s as it maneuvers through the water’s narrow lanes in Vietnam.

Later that night, the spec ops team engaged four enemy troops who, unknown to them, happened to be a part of a massive force. Almost immediately after engaging, the unit began taking accurate rocket and small arms fire, which, sadly, killed half of the team outright.

Also Read: 5 countries that tried to shoot down the SR-71 Blackbird (and failed)

One of the LRRP members called to the boat for support. This caught Larson’s attention, getting him fully engaged in the firefight.

The motivated gunner’s mate leaped out of the patrol boat with his M60 in hand and blasted the weapon system on full auto — holding off a force of nearly 50 enemy combatants.

Nothing used to clear the way like an M60. (Image via Giphy)Standing in the direct line of fire, Larson provided enough covering fire for the wounded to clear from the area. When asked, “what goes through your mind during something like that?” David Larson stoically offered a hero’s response:
“At the time, it just comes to you that you need to do it to get the job done.”

For his brave actions, Larson received the coveted Navy Cross.

Check out the Smithsonian Channel’s video below to hear this heroic tale straight from Vietnam veteran David Larson himself.

(Smithsonian Channel, YouTube)
MIGHTY CULTURE

What next of kin should expect if service member is killed

It’s included in that giant bucket of information dumped on you in briefing after briefing right before deployment:

Exactly what will happen if your service member or another member of his unit is killed? What should you expect? What happens if they are injured?

We get a lot of questions about this at SpouseBuzz. Readers want to know what to expect from the notification process, can’t remember what was said in those briefings or maybe never made it to one. They want to know who will show-up at their door, what they will say and when they will arrive. They want to be empowered with information.


We understand the predeployment mental block on this stuff. While it may be the most important part of any predeployment briefing, it’s probably the part you most want to forget. Who wants to dwell on the possibility that their service member may not come home before he even walks out the door?

But it is so important. And whether this is your first or fifteenth deployment, a refresher from the casualty affairs folks is probably a good idea.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Adam Dublinske)

But we’re not PowerPoint people here. So instead of making you sit through an acronym riddled briefing the next time we see you, we’ve gone straight to the source at the Pentagon to get you as cut and dry a run down here as we can.

Look at this as a point of reference. Forward it to other members of your unit or include it in your FRG newsletter. And if you have any questions, leave them in the comments and we’ll do our best to get you the official answer and get back to you.

But first, a caveat: The policies and information we’ll talk about below are the Pentagon’s military-wide standard, straight from Deborah Skillman, the program director for casualty, mortuary and military funeral honors at the Defense Department. However, like almost everything else in the military, each service has the ability to change things at their discretion. We’ll note where that is most likely to happen. In a perfect world, though, the below is how things are supposed to be done.

What to expect if your service member is killed:

Two uniformed service members will come to your door to tell you or, in military speak, “notify you.” One of them will actually give you the news, the other one will be a chaplain. Sometimes a chaplain may not be available and so, instead, the second person will be another “mature” service member, Skillman said. If you live far away from a military base there is a chance the chaplain may be a local emergency force chaplain and not a member of the military, she said.

These people will come to your door sometime between 5 a.m. and midnight. This is one of those instances where the different services may change the rule in limited instances. Showing up outside this window is a decision made by some very high ranking people. If it happens it’s because it’s absolutely necessary.

You are supposed to learn about your spouse’s death before anyone else. A different team of notification folks will deliver the news to your in-laws – but only after you’ve been told. Same thing goes for any children your spouse has living elsewhere or anyone else he’s asked be told if something happens.

The news is supposed to reach you within 12 hours of his death. The services use that time to get their notification team together, find your address and send someone to your home. If you live near the base and have all your contact information up to date with your unit, they’ll arrive at your home very quickly. If you’ve moved and live far away from any base, it may take the full 12 hours. If you live in a very remote location (for example our past unit had to send a team to notify in the Philippines) it could take more than 12 hours.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada)

You’re supposed to hear the news first from the notification team. There’s a reason for that, and it’s not just because it’s solemn and respectful. Telling you in person makes sure you are in a safe place to hear such life changing news. And it makes sure that the information they are giving you is accurate, not just a rumor. After they notify you, the team will stay with you until you can call a friend or family member to be with you or until the next official person – the casualty assistance officer – can arrive.

If you hear the news first from someone else, the notification team will still come. In that case instead of delivering notification they will deliver their condolences, Skillman said. Even though the unit goes into a communications blackout after someone dies or gets seriously injured, sometimes word sneaks out anyway through a well meaning soldier or wife who doesn’t know the rules. The team, however, will still come and do their duty.

What happens after notification? You will be assigned a casualty assistance officer who will walk you through all the next steps, including the benefits you receive as a widow. You can read all about those here. That service member has been specially trained for this duty. His or her job is to make sure you get everything you need from the military.

What if your service member is wounded?

The notification process for a injured service member is different but the result is still the same — you are supposed to learn the news before anyone else (other than his unit) stateside. Here’s how it works:

You’ll receive a phone call. If at all possible, Skillman said, the phone call will be from your service member himself. If that’s not possible a military official will call you with as many details as he has and then give you regular updates by phone until they are no longer necessary. If they cannot reach you (let’s say you dropped your iPhone in the toilet again) they will contact your unit to try to reach you through whatever means necessary.

If your service member is severely wounded and will not be transferred stateside quickly, you may be able to join him wherever he is being treated outside the combat zone, often Germany. The official will let you know whether or not this is an option.

You’ll be regularly updated with how and when you will be able to see him. If he is transferred to a treatment facility stateside far away from you, the military will help you arrange travel to wherever he is being sent.

What if someone else in your unit is injured or killed?

Some of the hardest moments you’ll have as a military spouse will be spent wondering if your service member is the one who has been injured or killed. Because the unit downrange goes on blackout until all the notifications stateside are made, you may be able to pretty well guess when something has happened based on a sudden lack of communication. Will it be you? Will the knock be on your door this time?

That can be very a scary time. In my experience, the best thing to do is to choose to not live in fear. When our unit lost 20 soldiers in four months, it became very easy to predict when something had happened and sit in dread in our homes alone — just waiting, watching and praying. However we knew that wasn’t healthy. So instead, a small group of us purposefully spent time together instead.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Willis)

Specifically what happens in the unit when a service member is injured or killed probably differs from unit to unit and base to base. But most of the processes look something like this:

The unit goes on blackout. That means that all communication from downrange to families is supposed to abruptly and without warning stop. That blackout will likely last until notification to the families has been made.

You will receive a phone call or an email from your unit that someone has been killed or injured. After all the family has been notified, the unit will let you know who has been killed or injured by either email or phone. If it has been less than 24 hours since the last family member was notified, the message will only tell you that someone was killed or injured — not who. If you are told about it via a phone call, the person making the call — possibly a point of contact from your family group — will likely read you a preset script. An email could look like the below, one of the many our unit received during our 2009-2010 deployment:

Families and Friends of 1-17 IN,

On Sept. 26, 2009, 1-17 IN was involved in an incident that resulted in 1 soldier who was Killed in Action. The soldier’s primary and secondary next of kin have already been notified.

On behalf of the soldiers of 1-17 IN, I send my condolences to the soldier’s Family. We will hold a Memorial Ceremony for this soldier at a time and place to be determined.

Please remember to keep the soldiers of 1-17 IN and all other deployed soldiers in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you for your continuous support.

The Defense Department will release the name of the person killed no less than 24 hours after the family has been notified. That buffer gives the family some private time. However, you may learn who it was before that. The family may choose to tell people. If blackout is lifted downrange, your servicemember might tell you. The most important thing during this time is to respect the family’s privacy. If you do happen to know who was killed before the family or the DoD has released the name, for the love of Pete don’t go blasting it all over town.

You will receive details from your family readiness group on how you can help support the family and when the military memorial will be. Above all us, respect the family’s privacy and needs. Attending the military memorial can be a great way to show that you care without being intrusive.

Also read: This is how the military conducts a ‘death notification’

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Momma works in a prison, pops served overseas

Momma babysits inmates at Arizona State Prison. Dad served as a Marine in the 90s. My little brother drives a 23%-interest, blacked-out Dodge Charger, which means — you guessed it — he is also a Marine. I, on the other hand, chose to study theatre and English.

My brother and I were raised (like nearly all children of military/law enforcement parents) on a diet of heavy structure, logic, toughness, discipline, preparedness, and accountability. He ordered seconds; I drew a pretty picture on the menu with a crayon.


This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

From one generation to the next — see the resemblance?

The closest I ever came to military service was yelling, “1, 2” as a toddler in the bath when my dad would call out “sound off” from his living room recliner.

The closest I ever came to being a corrections officer was babysitting an 8-year-old kid obsessed with cramming Cheerios up his nose. He claims his record was 12, but when I told him to prove it, he could only fit, like, 6 or 7. Liar.

I say “corrections officer” because my momma prefers the term “corrections officer.” She thinks the term “prison guard” describes a knuckle-dragging extra in an action movie — who, by the way, always seem to get killed in movies. Like dozens of them just get absolutely mowed down, usually by the GOOD guys, and nobody cares. Nobody! Do you know what it feels like to be in a large room full of people who cheer and clap every time Jason Statham snaps the neck of your could-be mother on-screen? Not super great.

It always occurred to me as odd that I noticed that in movies and my momma never did. But it highlights an important aspect of growing up in that atmosphere — you don’t really talk about how or why you feel a certain way. Which, if you’re coming from a prison system or a military system, is completely understandable. In those worlds it’s all about short, useful information: yes sir, copy, etc.

I think that rigid structure ironically led me to be drawn to things I found subjective and expressive — sort of like Malia Obama smokin’ weed, or Jaden Smith doing, uhhh, whatever it is that he’s doing. However, that made me a sort of black sheep — not really feeling like I belonged on either side of the fence.

Here’s what I mean: I can go out and absolutely slam some brews with my little brother and his military brothers. We can talk about why we think the Raiders can’t seem to win a damn game, we slug each other in the arm, and tell each other truly depraved jokes.

But, I’m still gonna end up hanging on his shoulder, telling him how much I love him, and I’ll inevitably tear up while telling him I cried reading a Wilfred Owen poem that reminded me of him while he was deployed. That’s just who I am. They never really quite feel comfortable in emotional moments. And that’s okay — it’s just a difference — like how my brother looks like a Jason Statham character (it’s a love/hate thing with that guy) when he’s shooting a gun, but I look kinda like Bambi trying to learn how to walk.

Conversely, if I’m out with some of my theatre or comedy buddies, the military/prison differences are highlighted. They are, for instance, fifteen minutes late to everything. I, personally, would rather take a shot of bleach than be late. Sure, they can be comfortable discussing how they feel (maybe even too much) — but they are terrified of any confrontation. I once had an actor sit me down and ask me what being in a fight felt like. Me, the guy who cries at Silver Linings Playbook, was seen as traditionally masculine.

Plus, they’re always excited to hear me suggest a “blanket party” until they find out what it is. Bummer.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

Everyone’s invited!

So either way, my folks shaped who I am. The military and the prison — they shaped my folks. Those systems; the words, the discipline, the people — it’s impossible to separate them.

Even though I’ve never fastened a utility belt at 5 a.m. and willingly locked myself in a prison with violent offenders, even though I could never imagine what it feels like to tie up your boots and go to war for your family — the lessons they learned while they did those things for me, even if indirectly, shaped who I am.

It is only because my folks got their hands dirty, raised me to embrace who I am — to follow what I believe in — that I have the dear privilege to sit here, criss-cross-applesauce, and type this up while I blow gingerly at a decaf coffee that’s a little too hot for my lips.

MIGHTY TRENDING

4 reasons why you shouldn’t give candy to kids while on patrol

The idea of winning hearts and minds dates back decades. Higher command believes that if allied forces do favors for and give material gifts to the enemy, they’ll be influenced by the acts of kindness and, perhaps, change their way of thinking.


Since that plan rarely works, many ground troops will appeal to the enemies’ children, thinking they can steer them over to the good side while they’re impressionable. In America, the idea of strange men giving candy to little kids is reprehensible, but on deployment, it’s cool.

However, in a country like Afghanistan, where most of the population is dirt poor, little kids have no problem with walking up to a patrol and asking an infantryman for “chocolate,” which means they’ll take any candy you have.

Sure, the kids usually have good intentions, but there are a few reasons why you shouldn’t give them those sugary snacks from your MRE.

It might piss off their parents

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
Lance Cpl. Randy B. Lake talks to some children during a foot patrol.
(Photo by Marine Cpl. Adam C. Schnell)

Some Afghan parents don’t want their kids socializing with American troops because they don’t want the bad guys to see it happening — or they just flat-out hate America.

The last thing a grunt wants to hear is a potential Taliban member screaming at them.

What if the kids have allergies?

Some kids are allergic to chocolate, coconuts, or peanuts — and you can be sure that they won’t read the nutritional facts to see what’s in the small treat you gave them. Most of the kids think all candy is called chocolate and they want that piece you have stowed away in your cargo pocket. Once they get it, they just pop it in their mouth.

If they eat that bite-sized Snickers bar you gave them, suddenly go into anaphylactic shock, and their airway closes, you’ve just made the local populous even more pissed off than they already are at you for being in their country.

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire
It’s hard to learn a little trust, but easy to place an explosive in a poorly placed dump pouch.

 

A friendship going bad

Grunts are people, too, and they have one or two strands of humanity floating around in their bloodstreams — somewhere. Frequently, the infantryman will notice a little kid who reminds him of someone back home. In this moment, they might “bro down” a little and give them some candy.

However, Marines wear dump pouches that they use to put things in, like empty magazines or extra bottles of water. There could be a time where their new little friend sneaks up to them, discreetly steals something out of the dump pouch (or puts a ticking grenade in there) and takes off running.

That troop could die because he trusted that little sh*t. We’re speaking from experience here.

They might sell it for drugs

Countless kids we encountered on patrol while in Afghanistan were high off their asses. They were entertaining as hell, yes, but doped out of their minds. It’s possible that the piece of candy you gave them was what they need to sell to get the cash to buy their next fix.

We could put a photo of some Afghan kids getting lit below, but this article isn’t supposed to depress anyone… right?

popular

Jimmie Howard led the USMC’s most decorated platoon

Because of Marine Gunnery Sergeant Jimmie Howard’s perseverance and focus, a platoon was able to hang on during one of the Vietnam War’s fiercest battles.

Two years after earning two Purple Hearts and a Silver Star, Jimmie Earl Howard arrived in Vietnam in April 1966, when he was 36 years old. The Burlington, Iowa, native enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1950 after completing a year at the University of Iowa.


Here’s a look back at GySgt Howard’s career and what he and his platoon managed to accomplish.

June 13, 1966: Staff Sgt. Howard’s platoon, which includes just 15 other Marines and two Navy hospital corpsmen from C Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, are helicoptered inside enemy-controlled Hiep Duc Valley in northern Southern Vietnam. Their landing point, Nui Vu Hill, is a 1,500-foot observation point. Known on military maps as Hill 488, it would quickly become rechristened as “Howard’s Hill.”

June 15, 1900: An Army SF team reports that a 300-person North Vietnamese Army battalion is moving toward Hill 488. Darkness is falling, and there’s no time to alert Howard or pull out the platoon.

2100: American personnel shoot a Viet Cong scout just 12 feet from their position, provoking a fire barrage that wounds one Marine. Howard pulls her men into a tight circle just 20 yards in diameter.

A lull in the firefight is short-lived. The NVA returns with reinforced lines that attack Howard and his unit with gunfire, grenades, mortars, and machine guns. Howard moves in between his young Marines, encouraging them, redirecting when necessary, and helping them pinpoint their targets. Despite his advice, every single Marine and both Navy corpsmen are wounded. Two are killed in fierce hand-to-hand combat. The enemy falls back – temporarily.

Howard uses the fall back to radio Lt. Col. Arthur J. Sullivan at nearby Chu Lai. He tells Sullivan, “You have to get us out of here.”

But there was no rescue force that could reach Howard and his men that night.

From deep in the valley comes the voice of the enemy. “Marines, you die in an hour.”

One young Marine looks at Howard and asks if he can respond. Howard tells him to yell anything you like. Soon, the entire platoon is shouting at the enemy with the worst schoolyard taunts. Later Howard would recall that when his unit started laughing at the enemy, something shifted for the NVA soldiers. “I think it had a chilling effect on them,” he recalled.

For five hours, the NVA alternates between small probes and full-on assaults of the entrenched platoon. Howard is hit in the back with grenade fragments and can’t move his legs. He continues to drag himself around the perimeter to encourage his platoon and distribute ammunition.

Soon the grenade supply is gone, so Howard issues one of the most basic military strategies – he tells his Marines to throw rocks at the enemy. The NVA mistake the sound of rocks as grenades and inadvertently expose themselves to single-shot fire.

At 0300, the radio dies. Commanders in Chu Lai fear that Howard and his Marines are gone. Three hours later, Howard sounds Reveille, as if his unit hadn’t been in a firefight all night. Demoralized, the NVA troops begin to fall back.

Dawn comes to the valley, and that’s when, finally, the helicopters start to arrive. By now, the surviving Marines have only eight rounds of ammunition between them, and they’re still under sporadic fire. Howard waves off the first of the rescue aircraft, and one gets shot down. It takes another five hours for a full relief force to fight its way from the hill’s base to where Howard and his Marines are on top. When the rescue arrives, just three Marines can walk without assistance. Six out of the 18 are dead.

Three Marines and one corpsman are awarded Navy Crosses, and 13 Marines receive Silver Stars. A year later, Howard received the Medal of Honor. The ceremony is attended by eleven of the surviving Marines.

Howard retired from the Marines in 1977 after serving 27 years in the Marine Corps. He died on Nov. 12, 1993. In 1998, Navy Secretary John H. Dalton named one of three Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Howard in honor of GySgt. Howard and his courage in Vietnam.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia’s ‘new’ tank tactics are actually old US maneuvers

Russia claims to have developed new tank attack strategies to baffle and destroy modern adversaries while counteracting dangers, according to RIA Novosti, a Russian news agency.

With the advent of suicide cars, IEDs and anti-tank missile systems, Russian T-72 tank crews have implemented new strategies, such as “tank carousels,” “tank trousers” and “Syrian shaft,” according to Defence Blog, which cited the RIA article.


Tank carousels involve several platforms rotating in a circle and firing like a revolver.

“It allows us to fire over an unlimited time period,” Captain Roman Schegolev told RIA, according to Sputnik. “There can be three, six, nine or more machines. They move uninterrupted in a circular motion, one pummeling the enemy, the other moving to the rear and reloading, the third preparing to enter firing position, and so on. Non-stop shooting; just make sure to feed the shells.”

Unlike Abrams tanks, T-72s have automatic loaders which allows for the maneuver, Schegolev added.

“On the other side they will break down and open return fire, revealing their armament,” Schegolev said. “Then our disguised sniper tanks with specially trained crews step into action. They quickly and efficiently strike the identified targets.”

This reason behind the incredible electrical phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire

Russian T-72

(Russian Defense Ministry)

This strategy was especially successful in Syria, where T-72s were able to fire atop and then hide behind embankments. It can even be used when the tank crews don’t know with what the enemy is armed, Defence Blog reported, citing RIA.

The tank trousers tactic, on the other hand, involves tanks rotating between trenches, staying in each trench for no more than a few seconds.

“The tank enters the trench, fires, kicks into reverse and moves to the next. Enemy anti-tank weapons don’t have time to react,” Sputnik reported.

The third tactic, Syrian shaft, involves tanks hiding behind parapets and shooting through holes in the wall before scooting away, which is effective against ATGM and IED attacks, according to Jane’s 360.

Unfortunately for the Russian crews, The National Interest’s Michael Peck adroitly rained on their parade.

“What’s interesting here isn’t the tactics themselves, but rather that Russia is trumpeting them as innovative,” Peck wrote.

“Rotating tanks in and out of the firing line, rapid fire shooting and switching between alternate firing positions have been standard practice since World War II (the Russians would have learned this the hard way at the hands of the Germans),” Peck wrote. “These are tactics that American, British, Israeli and other tank crews would be familiar with.”

“Tanks may differ between nations,” Peck wrote. “But often tactics are the same.”

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

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