Universal Studios Orlando announced it is offering the first-ever Military Freedom Pass, a seasonal pass option for military families, to use in its parks.
The Military Freedom Pass can be used any day through Dec. 31, with no blackout dates. Service members can choose from two-park or three-park options, and all tickets must be purchased at an ITT office.
The Military Freedom Pass costs $199.99 per person for the two-park option and $264.99 per person for the three-park option. It is similar to the park’s current Preferred Pass that is valued at $394.99 per person. It includes free valet parking, discounts on food and beverages, and more.
Universal’s Military Freedom Pass is available to active-duty service members, National Guard members, reservists, retired military, and military spouses. It is also available to Department of Defense civilians.
The two-park option includes access to Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. The three-park option includes access to Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Florida, and Universal’s Volcano Bay. Volcano Bay, a waterpark, is expected to open in March.
Military service members, retirees, and DOD civilian employees can also get discounts on vacation packages. Packages can be customized through the ITT office and start at $75 (this does not include ticket pricing, airfare, or other additional package costs).
Harry Potter fans can create the ultimate vacation as well, with customized packages to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter starting at $85.
Universal Studios Orlando is currently following strict COVID-19 protocols. Face coverings are required in the park and temperature checks are required before entering. In addition, there are services like mobile ordering for food and drinks, virtual line return times for rides, floor markings to ensure social distancing, limited capacity, and increased cleaning protocols. Read more about Universal Studios’ safety guidelines here.
To purchase your Military Freedom Pass ticket for Universal Studios Orlando visit your local ITT office.
The United States military is a brotherhood and sisterhood like no other. Those who serve together form a common sense of purpose and devotion to duty. It’s a level of trust not commonly found in civilian life. Those military friendships last forever. But as life moves, and when people leave the military, they often lose touch with those friends, some of whom they would have given their life for.
Tracking down old friends, particularly if you have been out of the service many years, is not always easy. But there is one company that can help. Together We Served (TWS) is a veteran-only website, launched in 2003. It provides veterans a highly-effective means to reconnect with old service-friends by simply entering their service history on their TWS Military Service Page.
TWS built an individual website for each branch of service and, with over 1.9 million veteran members, the chances of finding people you served with is high.
The secret behind TWS’s ability to connect more veterans is the depth of its databases. Over the past 16 years, TWS has built one of the most comprehensive databases of U.S. Military training and operating units in existence. Its databases span from WW2 to present day.
Military Service Page.
Sample Together We Served Military Service Page
By creating your Military Service Page on Together We Served, you can not only find veterans who went to the same basic training as you, or served in the same units or duty stations, but also those who participated in the same combat or non-combat operations. TWS’s search engine automatically matches the service information you enter on your Military Service Page with the service information on the Military Service Pages of all other TWS members. Those members, whose entries could match yours, get listed on your Service Page. That is what enables you to make contact with those you may know. This powerful feature helps veterans remember forgotten names.
Finding key people on TWS can be very helpful, especially if you need or can provide witness account to support a potential VA claim.
Take this opportunity to reconnect with the servicemen and women you shared some of the most important times of your life with. In recognition of your service, Together We Served provides all VA veterans with a FREE one year premium membership, providing unlimited people searches, when you join TWS via the following link:
The US is warning the Philippines to think very carefully about its plan to purchase military equipment from Russia, including diesel-electric submarines, and stressing that Russia is an unsavory partner.
The Philippines, a US ally in East Asia, is interested in acquiring its first batch of submarines to strengthen the navy amid tensions with China in the South China Sea. Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in June 2018 that his country needs submarines to keep up with neighboring states.
“We are the only ones that do not have [undersea capabilities],” Lorenzana explained at a flag raising ceremony, the Manila Times reported. “We are looking at [South] Korea and Russia and other countries [as source of the submarines],” he further revealed. Russia is reportedly willing to sell the Philippines Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines and offering soft loans if the Philippines cannot afford the desired vessels.
“I think they should think very carefully about that,” Randall Schriver, United States Department of Defense Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, said in Manila Aug. 16, 2018. “If they were to proceed with purchasing major Russian equipment, I don’t think that’s a helpful thing to do [in our] alliance, and I think ultimately we can be a better partner than the Russians can be.”
Russian Black Sea Fleet’s B-265 Krasnodar Improved Kilo-class submarine.
“We have to understand the nature of this regime in Russia. I don’t need to go through the full laundry list: Crimea, Ukraine, the chemical attack in the UK,” he added, “So, you’re investing not only in the platforms, but you’re making a statement about a relationship.”
Schriver encouraged the Philippines to consider purchasing US systems, as interoperability is key to cooperation between US and Philippine forces. After his meeting with Schriver, Lorenzana reportedly flew to Moscow for meetings with Russian officials, according to the Philippine Star.
During his time in Manila, Schriver assured the Philippines that the US would be a “good ally” and have its back in the spat with China over the South China Sea. “We’ll be a good ally … there should be no misunderstanding or lack of clarity on the spirit and the nature of our commitment,” he said at a time when the Philippines is charting an independent foreign policy that is less aligned with US interests.
The US has been putting pressure on allies and partners to avoid purchasing Russian weapons systems. Turkey’s interest in purchasing Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile system recently tanked a deal for the acquisition of the F-35 Lightning Joint Strike Fighter. The US has also issued warnings to India, Saudi Arabia, and others to reconsider plans to acquire Russian systems.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The GoPro Camera has provided us with a ton of awesome videos. But what do you think happens when paratroopers get a hold of one? Yeah, they take it on a jump.
Probably one of the best descriptors of the ethos of the paratroopers is the “Rule of the LGOPs.” The rule describes a fascinating effect that when, in battle, an Airbone plan dissolves, you’re left with something truly fearsome: Small groups of 19-year-olds who are willing to jump from a plane, armed to the teeth and lacking serious adult supervision and…well, you get the idea.
But in peacetime, if these same paratroopers want to remain fearsome, they need to keep their training up. This means lots of practice jumps from aircraft. This not only helps the paratroopers, it helps the crews.
Luckily for us, the 173rd Airborne Brigade brought a GoPro on one of these practice jumps, joined by Serbian Army paratroopers from the 63rd Parachute Brigade.
These paratroopers used a pair of C-130 transport planes during an exercise code-named Double Eagle. A C-130 can carry as many as 64 paratroopers on board, according to an Air Force fact sheet. A version known as the C-130J-30 can carry as many as 92.
The 173rd Airborne Brigade was part of the 87th Infantry Division in World War I, and saw some action in World War II when its headquarters company as designated the 87th Reconnaissance Troop. In 1963, it was activated, and eventually saw action in Vietnam before being inactivated. In 2000, it was reactivated, and has remained part of the active Army as a quick-reaction force based in Italy. The 173rd has generations of experience under its belt; let’s watch them put that experience to the test.
Take a look at the video below to see a first-person perspective of a parachute jump.
North Korea’s state-run outlet said on Nov. 16, 2018, that its country successfully carried out tests of a new “high-tech tactical weapon” that met “all superior and powerful designing indicators.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited a test site to inspect the weapon, according to a Korean Central News Agency statement first reported by South Korean news organization Yonhap News.
“The state-of-the-art weapon that has been long developed under the leadership of our party’s dynamic leadership has a meaning of completely safeguarding our territory and significantly improving the combat power of our people’s army,” KCNA said.
The weapons test is the first reported by North Korea since Kim and the President Donald Trump met during a joint summit in Singapore in 2018.
North Korea’s media reportedly did not mention any specifics about the weapon itself, but did state it had been in development since his father, Kim Jong Il, was in power. High-ranking officials were also said to have attended the event, include Jung Cheon Park, an artillery commissioner.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and United States President Donald Trump in Singapore.
Signs of an underground nuclear test, such as seismic activity, were not reported, according to North Korea monitoring organization NK News.
The report of the weapons test comes shortly after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was supposed to have met with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Yong Chol, in New York earlier in November 2018. The talks were scrapped abruptly by the North Koreans, according to the State Department. The government agency says the discussions are ongoing.
Word of the weapons test comes amid the reaffirmation of a potential second summit between Trump and Kim. On Nov. 15, 2018, Vice President Mike Pence said Trump plans to meet Kim in 2019, the second such meeting after the two met in Singapore in June 2018.
“The plans are ongoing,” Pence said. “We believe that the summit will likely occur after the first of 2019, but then when and the where of that is still being worked out.”
Pence added that the meeting would not be predicated on the US’ previous demand that North Korea disclose a full list of nuclear arms, but he stressed that the leaders must “come away with a plan for identifying all of the weapons in question.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Gary Sinise Foundation, a non-profit that focuses on veterans, first responders, and their families, has helped send almost 2,000 people from Gold Star families to Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida, as part of Snowball Express, a holiday season program that aims to help families of fallen service members.
Snowball Express started in 2006 and aims to create a five-day experience for the families that is fun, inspiring, and therapeutic. In 2017, Snowball Express became an official Gary Sinise Foundation program.
The program may be young, but through the tireless work of its supporters and members, it has quickly made an impact on participants. A tweet from Fallen Patriots, a non-profit that focuses on helping Gold Star family members get to college, said that participant Dale Mundell now wants to fly for American Air, the airline sponsoring the event, in order to help other family members take part in such events in the future.
I witnessed an international airport come to a complete stop today …
Airports got in on the festivities as well. The Killeen Airport, a familiar location for any service members who have activated or deployed through Fort Hood, Texas, welcomed Snowball Express participants and a man in a Santa costume met with the families.
In Nashville, other travelers stopped what they were doing and held a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. U.S. troops in the terminal stood at attention and saluted as the song was performed, and you can see bystanders drying their eyes in a Facebook video of the event.
Meanwhile, airport employees seem amped about the Snowball Express as well. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association sent tote bags to participants to help them get all their goods from location to location, and the controllers themselves posted photos on social media celebrating as flights took off from airfields under their control.
And around the Disney parks, other park goers and local residents have chimed in on social media as they ran into the crowds of Gold Star family members and were affected by the experience. For some, it was simply a great experience to see all the happy families, but for others, it was also a somber reminder that service members and first responders are still in harm’s way every day.
After all, some participants are as young as 2 or 3 years old, as Snowball Express participant Ramonda Anderson pointed out in a tweet.
If you’re interested in supporting the Gary Sinise Foundation, which also builds adaptive homes for disabled veterans, hosts free theater nights for veterans, and helps pay for training and equipment for first responders, they are always accepting donations on their website and are part of the Combined Federal Campaign. Use CFC number 27963.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
Five… four… three… two… one — BANG!
We slung mutual glances from our lineup outside the door we were trying to explosively breach. Door charges weren’t supposed to go bang; they were supposed to go “BOOM!“
“GO, GO, GO!” came the call as we rushed to the still-closed breach point. Moses Bentley was the man who built and fired the charge. He crashed through the still-closed door like Thing from the Fantastic Four. We piled in behind him and quickly cleared and dominated the interior of our target building.
A post-assault inspection of the door charge revealed that the explosive had gone “low-order;” that is, only a small portion of the charge and detonated, leaving the remainder still stuck to the door. “Don’t touch it…” Moses cautioned to us, “…it’s likely still sensitized from the initiator. Let’s leave it alone for about 30 minutes before I recover it.”
Moses (running) and the author training in Hereford, England, with the British 22 Special Air Service Regiment (22 SAS).
The setting was a condemned and abandoned residential neighborhood in New Orleans, “The Big Easy,” Louisiana. Our operations bros had found this hood and prepped it for a couple of days of absolutely realistic assault training with live breaches. We cut doors, blew through walls, blasted through chainlink fences… even through a shingle roof, which was more just something fun to do rather than a legit thing of tactical value, as breaching a shingle gable roof puts you in… an attic — doh!
Back at our breaching table, Moses (Mos) took the flexible sheet explosive he had collected from the door and packed it into a lumped pile. He added a little “P” for “plenty” and voila, the “Bentley Blaster,” as he entitled it, was born: “I’ll slap this Bentley Blaster between the doorknob and the deadbolt and punch all that sh*t through the jamb; right in, right out, nobody gets hurt!” Mos bragged.
“Right in, right out, nobody gets hurt,” was the meta-assault plan composed largely of anti-matter and existed in a parallel universe. The plan applied to all actions on every assault objective after the real-world assault plan was formulated. We recited it to together just before we went in on every objective.
It was a B-Team thing. Our A-Team began their assaults with the Team Leader turning to his men announcing in an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice, “I am the cleanah!” to which his men replied in kind and in unison, “And we are the cleaning crew!” Just a thing.
The Ryder rental truck with our assault teams crept through an alleyway, coming to a halt behind a cluster of houses. Inside, B-Team waited as the cleaner and the cleaning crew lowered themselves to the ground and padded their way to their target house. Team Leader Daddy-Mac turned to us and began: “Ok, what’s the plan?” to which we chanted, “Right in, right out, nobody gets hurt,” and we moved to our objective.
The team stacked just behind the corner from the front door. Mos and I emerged and moved to the breach point. Mos worked on the door where I covered him with my assault rifle in case anyone opened the door.
Mos fired the five second delay fuse to the initiator, turned 90 degrees to his left, and moved off quickly with me following. It struck me odd that he had turned his back to the charge. The SOP we followed dictated that we always backed away from our breach points.
Mos pushed into the stack with me next to him and, still with my AR trained on the corner we had turned. Our Troop Commander stood 20 feet away in an administrative observation posture. He had seen, at the very last second, something none of us realized, something which horrified him.
When Mos did his 90-degree turn, his pistol holster had caught and stripped the powerful Bentley Blaster door charge off of the door and it hung there on his person where he crouched in the stack.
To be continued in part II…
Just kidding! In a very split second, the Commander knew that if he had called out a warning to Mos, that Mos would most assuredly have tried to strip it off… and he surely would have lost his hand. Mos would certainly fare better to endure it where it was — whatever “fare better” meant in this case, anyway.
“BOOM” not “bang” went the charge this time. I found myself suddenly facing the opposite direction, spitting something warm and salty out of my mouth. Turning about, I saw that Mos had been violently cartwheeled with his head angered into the ground. His body was in the most impossible position; his legs were in the air against the wall… you couldn’t have manually placed him in that configurations no matter how hard you tried, and he was out cold.
Daddy-Mac was the first to respond calling Mos’ name, pulling him down from his morbid stance. I turned to our officer and hollered from him to pull the med kit from the pouch on my back. He pulled it then stood there, frozen, with the med kit in his hands and a horrified look on his face. Disgusted, I grabbed the med kit from him and turned to the scene.
Markey-Marcos was the newest man out our team. He looked at me with a nervous grin and shook his head, over and over, exclaiming: “Whew… whew… whew!” I was annoyed again and slapped him on the back, “Snap out of it bro; that’s the way it’s going to get in this business — get used to it!” I chided in some pretentious, hardened-vet sort of way.
Markey-Marcos turned his back to pick up his AR, which had been blown out of his hands by the Bentley Blaster. He was the rear man in the stack, so he had his back to Mos to provide security to our rear. I saw immediately that both legs of his assault trousers were completely shredded and Marcos was bleeding from dozens of tiny puncture wounds.
Shocked, I immediately put my arm around his shoulders and, with a much more humane tone, I told him, “Here, take it easy Marcos… let’s have a seat; it will be alright.” Our troop medic was already on the scene, cutting clothing and bandaging trauma and burns to Mos, mostly to his legs.
Doc (left) and an Operations Cell NCO work on Moses right were he “blew up”; the wall behind them is blackened by the explosion.
Mos and Daddy-Mac argued:
Daddy-Mac: “Damn bro, you were out cold!“
Mos: “No I wasn’t; I was awake the whole time.“
“Homes, I’m telling you I saw you and you were completely knocked out!“
“Bullsh*t, I was never knocked out; I was conscious for the whole thing.”
Daddy-Mac turned to our medic, disgusted but relieved, “Doc, he appears to be fine; back to his usual contrary pissy self.“
Marky-Marcos was patched up and returned to us with no training time lost. Mos was hurt pretty bad but refused to be sent back home to Fort Bragg. He insisted on staying in our hotel promising he would be back the next day. That didn’t happen. Mos didn’t walk for several days. When he finally could, he only came to hang out for training with no participation.
Moses debriefs with senior representatives from the Master Breecher’s office before being driven back to the hotel to take it easy. To the right is the door where the Bentley Blaster charge had been stripped off and attached to Mos’ pistol holster.
Back at Bragg, Mos continued to heal, a process that took several weeks. He routinely reported to the clinic to have yards of Curlex bandage pulled from cavities in his legs and have fresh Curlex packed back in, and extraordinarily painful process, one that the rest of us wouldn’t have missed for the world.
Back at Ft. Bragg Moses Bentley stand behind his assault uniform as it was pulled off of him on the scene. Speculation revealed that his pistol and holster likely spared him from losing his left leg.
I’m put squarely in mind of the words of one of our training cadre from a trauma management class during our training phase:
“Pay attention to this, guys… if you stay in Delta for any period of time, you will be putting this training to good use.”
No, we’re not talking about Pet Rocks. We’re talking about toys from the ’70s that defined play for countless kids with bell-bottoms and feathered haircuts, like Mego, G.I. Joe, and the Six Million Dollar Man. Maybe that’s you. Maybe that was one of your older brothers or sisters. Either way, if any of you stashed some of your prized playthings from the seventies in your folks’ basement when you moved out, you could be sitting on some serious cash.
While the seventies is remembered now as a fabulously dated era of toy gimmicks (stunt cycles, flashy paint, etc.), the decade also marked a cultural shift in how toys were marketed to kids. “It was the first time you saw advertisers go after kids instead of their parents,” says toy expert Mark Bellomo, who’s written books on Star Warsand other popular toy franchises including Transformers. Toy companies started to consider the voice of the kids rather than the voice of the parents, he adds. And while commercials included an appeal to parents to purchase the toy, for the first time they spoke directly to the child.
“Today, a lot of seventies toys are having a resurgence,” says Bellomo, who also works on Netflix‘s The Toys That Made Us.“Once a toy line reaches a decade-based anniversary, they start to gain traction on secondary markets.” And with toys from the early seventies fast approaching their 50th anniversary, demand is only likely to intensify. But which seventies toys specifically are taking off, or are poised to do so, in terms of value? We asked Bellomo for the top five toys from the seventies that are worth a lot of money today.
1. Mego Action Figures
For many collectors, Mego action figures and celebrity dolls were the ultimate toy line for kids growing up in the seventies. Not only were they incredibly adaptable ⏤ thanks to their brilliant use of an 8-inch tall stock body ⏤ but Mego had the foresight to cash in on licensing agreements to create toys for boys.
Mego created figures based on Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, Chips, Buck Rogers, Action Jackson, The Dukes of Hazard, and so many more. “If you look at the amount of money that Mego paid to corporations to license their images, superheroes, TV stars, and movie stars,” Bellomo says, “It was a pittance to what’s being paid today.”
The holy grail Mego toy line for collectors, however, remains the World’s Greatest Super Heroes! based on both Marvel Comicsand DC Comic book characters. “The reason why that line was so successful was the scale,” Bellomo says. “A kid could put Spider-Man or Bo Duke in the Batmobile. For the company to hold Marvel and DC licenses at the same time — that made Mego a dominant force.” It sounds like an impossibility today to have Superman and Iron Man under the same umbrella, but it was the norm for years.
Surprisingly, Bellomo says the most sought-after superhero toys aren’t even full action figures ⏤ it’s the accessories to the toys kids already owned, the Secret Identity Outfits. “It was a head and the outfit and no body, and it was the only way for you to get Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, Peter Parker, and Clark Kent,” he says. “There were such limited numbers manufactured, it’s like they don’t exist.” A Peter Parker Outfit recently sold on eBay for nearly id=”listicle-2629642946″,000.
While Bellomo says you can find original pieces if you’re patient ⏤ for example, Clark Kent’s eyeglasses are just a couple of hundred bucks ⏤ an entire set intact can put a kid through college. Then again, they’re very rare. “It’s like a Faberge egg,” he says. “They’re so absolutely, supremely rare that I don’t care if you come to the table with ,000.”
2. Six Million Dollar Man
Kenner is known for giving the world Star Wars toys in the late seventies, but their first big hit was the Six Million Dollar Man. Much like the sci-fi series, the toy line was a smash success and Bellomo credits that to a lack of superhero shows on TV at the time. “There was a void in live-action super heroic programming for kids. I don’t think the show was targeted to kids, but Kenner realized they couldn’t compete with Mego’s [expansive toy line] so they offered something different and unique.”
That offering included not only a 12-inch-tall Steve Austin toy with a litany of features (bionic eye, interchangeable limbs, bionic grip, just to name a few), but also some colorful secondary characters to match including Maskstron and Bionic Bigfoot. “The Six Million Dollar Man has ticked up the last few years. People love kitsch, and the line has a kitschiness that makes it more attractive. And they’re all so wonderfully dated,” says Bellomo. Most toys from the 40-year old line can sell for hundreds of dollars (as high as 0 on eBay) if it’s still in its original packaging and in mint condition.
3. Hot Wheels Redline
When Mattel debuted their new toy car line in 1968, it went toe-to-toe with the biggest car toy manufacturer at the time, Matchbox. And Hot Wheels nearly put the king out of business. Known as the “Redline” Series because the cars had a literal red line on every wheel, Mattel offered something new to kids by creating concept cars and muscle cars in a dynamic new paint treatment called Spectraflame.
“When Hot Wheels starting making those first 16, they were revolutionary,” says Bellomo. “Hot Wheels made Matchbox reconsider what they were doing. Mattel wasn’t using standard paint. It was like a lacquer that had a very realistic effect. The paint, the detailing, they just stood out.”
Of the original set, the least popular colors at the time are the most sought after by collectors today. Especially, pink. “That’s the one worth more money to collectors,” says Bellomo. “To get one of the original sweet 16 in mint condition, in pink… good luck.” Although any of the original Redline toys in the package can sell for thousands of dollars, Bellomo is quick to warn that if you’re going to seek out any original Redline, however, make sure you’re dealing with a reputable dealer. Novice buyers are known to shell out big bucks for what they think is an original, but is actually just a re-release.
4. Lord of the Rings Action Figures by Knickerbocker
Based off of the divisive animated film by Ralph Bakshi, the Lord of the Rings action figures are some of the hardest to find figures from the decade. According to Bellomo, the toys were on shelves for just weeks because of the criticism the film received. “They’ve always been relatively expensive because the devotees of Lord of the Rings are huge, even without the Peter Jackson films,” he says.
But for some time, they were the only toys for the franchise, and it was a tiny toy line of six figures. Time has only made these figures harder to find, especially after the lauded Peter Jackson films, and virtually all of the figures from the series sell for top dollar ⏤ even the accessories. “About a month ago, Frodo’s horse went for id=”listicle-2629642946″,200 and that wasn’t even an AFA graded sample. Gandalf mint on card goes for about 0. I saw a Ringwraith cape — just the cape — sell for .”
5. Evel Knievel
The stunt performer transcended American culture with his death-defying, and at times, bone-shattering performances on his motorcycle. So of course it made sense to create a toy that not only could recreate said stunts, but also be unbreakable. “The great irony of his action figure is that it’s a bendy toy,” Bellomo says. “It’s plastic over wire. The head is vinyl plastic, but the accessories and costumes made it an action figure that couldn’t break.”
Despite being a wildly popular toy, mostly due to the stunt cycle’s ability to totally rip, Knievel with a working, sealed bike could fetch a couple of big ones. “A factory sealed Stunt Cycle Set, depending on the condition of the box, can go for 0 or more,” says Bellomo.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Any troop in today’s military will eventually, inevitably be deployed. Even before the announcement of the new, “deploy or get out” policy, you’d be hard-pressed to find an E-6 or above who doesn’t have a bit of time in the desert under their belt.
Everyone else is simply waiting for their time to come — and those in wait always have a few questions about their upcoming deployment. Unfortunately, it’s kind of hard to describe. You could be a commo guy in a signal unit, constantly dealing with threats up at your retrans site. Conversely, you could be an infantryman who spent years at the rifle range only to stay at a major base and train local forces on how to use their weapons. The fact is, you never know what it’ll actually be like until you’re there — and this is true regardless of rank, position, branch, or unit.
That being said, there are a few universal truths that stretch the spectrum of military service, for POGs, grunts, and special operators alike — and those truths are in direct conflict with what boots have on their mind.
On the bright side, that usually means PT is on your own schedule — but that doesn’t mean you can slack off. You’re probably still going to have to take regular PT tests.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ed Galo)
“I’ll have plenty of downtime”
Deployments seem like the perfect time to try and knock out some online college courses so you can get a leg up on your peers and have an easier time finding a job after your service — oh man, you are mistaken.
Your work schedule will shift from the standard of PT in the morning, work call during the day, and time off at night to something that looks more like work 24/7 with maybe a single day off. Sure, you’ll have a few hours here and there between missions, but those will usually get eaten up by catching up on sleep or relaxing with the squad.
Just imagine all the dumb crap that would fill these tents if people had access to wasting their money while deployed.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marie Cassetty)
“I’ll have so much money when I get back”
On paper, a deployment seems like the perfect way to get out of debt. You’re gone for somewhere between nine to eighteen months, you’ll have nothing to blow your money on, and you’ll get better pay — tax free. This could be just what you need to crawl out of debt. The operative words here are “could be.”
If you’ve got a family back home, that money is being spent on responsibilities. If you’ve got preexisting debt, that money you’re accumulating is going toward paying people back. You’ll be making more than you’re used to back stateside and you’re less likely to waste it on stupid crap, — that is if you can avoid blowing it all in one reckless weekend like so many have before you.
Also, with deployments shrinking down to nine months, units aren’t going to be required to give their troops RR, so… there’s that…
(U.S. Air Force)
“I’ll get R&R when I want to”
All the calculating in the world can’t help you outrun the reach of the Big Green Weenie. There’s no scheduled block leave when it comes to RR. If your deployment is around twelve months, you’re lucky if you’re able to take it somewhere near the mid-point.
Your unit must remain operational, however, and it can’t do that if everyone is gone — so they’re not sending everyone home at the half-way point. Your leave is more than likely going to fall somewhere between three and nine months in. Troops who are expecting the birth of kids get top priority, but it’s a free-for-all after that.
Do not get this twisted. Troops are still in harm’s way every day. The likelihood of an outright firefight, however, has dropped.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sean A. Foley)
“I’ll get that Combat Action Badge (or equivalent) soon”
If there’s one prized medal within the military, it’s the one that comes after a troop has experienced combat first-hand. There’s an undeniable badassery that comes with the badge, ribbon, medal, etc., but they aren’t just handed out like candy anymore.
These days, fewer and fewer troops are seeing direct combat as America’s responsibilities in the War on Terror shift to more advisory roles with local militaries. Armed conflicts still occur in the Middle East, definitely, but the numbers are shrinking with each passing year. Even if your unit is one of the few that goes outside the FOB, you’ll likely not see combat right away.
Which leads us directly into the next myth about deployments…
The “hearts and minds” part of counter-insurgency truly is a better strategy for the overall well-being of the region. The sooner you adapt, the better time you’ll have outside the wire.
(DoD photo by 1st Lt. Becky Bort)
“My sole mission is to fight the bad guy”
From the moment you enter basic training, you’re fed one purpose. You’re being groomed to become the biggest, baddest motherf*cker Uncle Sam has ever seen. You will shoot, move, and communicate better than anyone else ever has. For the most part, however, that’s just not going to be the case.
If you do manage to get into a unit that will send you outside the wire, 98 percent of what you do are called “atmosphericals.” Basically, this means your unit rides through an area of operations, watching to see if anything goes down, being a show of force to both the civilians who need American aid and any potential threats watching from afar.
Case in point: There is a very specific reason I personally stopped mocking the French forces…
(ISAF photo by MC1 Michael E. Wagoner)
“My foreign counterparts are held to the same standards as me”
American troops are given very strict instruction on how to be professional and courteous while turning an area of operations “less hostile.” Our foreign counterparts do not have the same level of regimented training. Other NATO nations could be treating war like it’s a nine-to-five while the local military’s training curriculum probably doesn’t even cover “minor” things, like properly using a weapon.
But this misconception swings both ways. You might also be surprised to learn that certain allies don’t mess around — and train their “standard” infantry more like special operations.
Our men and women in blue are just like our men and women in green. They both hold very serious jobs that come with an often misunderstood lifestyle. The similarities don’t end there; police officers have pretty much the same sense of humor as troops, too.
Trust me, police officers don’t join the force with high aspirations of sitting on the side of the road to passively deter people from speeding. They definitely don’t get joy out of writing tickets for folks they catch going three miles per hour over the limit. No, most cops want to get out there and make a difference in their communities.
This sentiment is mirrored by the troops that enlist as infantrymen and end up spending most of their deployment sweeping sand off sandbags or scrubbing d*ck doodles off porta-john walls. Neither troops nor police officers sign up for monotony, but it finds a way in nonetheless.
So, how do cops deal with the daily grind? In the exact same way that troops do. They mess around with each other while between missions. The moments police officers spend sitting around with their partner, waiting for their next call, is often filled with comedy gold.
If you can’t laugh at yourself… am I right?
(Bath Township Police Department)
Showing their lighter sides to the community
Nobody hates bad cops more than the astronomical amount of good cops. Their entire livelihood depends on maintaining a mutual trust between themselves and the people they’ve sworn to protect. When one as*hole goes off the rails and does something stupid, it distorts their image in the eyes of the people. They can’t effectively serve and protect the people with a tarnished reputation.
Police officers can’t be everywhere at once. They rely on that mutual trust so the people can tell them when and where they’re needed most. So, officers will often bend over backwards to prove to the people that their trust isn’t misplaced. Good officers will often show their lighter side — even if that means playing sports with kids or letting themselves be the butt of a joke.
Dancing in traffic
Think of the most mind-numbing detail in the military. That’s the police equivalent of being the dude who stands in traffic just waving people on. So, instead of just pointing and waving at lanes of traffic, some cops will make it fun and dance along to the music in their head.
It sounds like that scene in The Other Guys, but when traffic cops are faced with the choice of either embracing the silliness of directing traffic or going insane, most pick the former.
Cops take National Doughnut Day very seriously.
Going all in on the doughnut jokes
Who doesn’t love doughnuts? That sweet, soft bread with a sugary glaze can be eaten whenever, wherever. It’s the perfect sweet treat to perk you up after a long day. Police officers, however, have been stuck with the stereotype of being doughnut-obsessed, like Officer Wiggum from The Simpsons.
Since it’s a lighthearted joke at their expense — that often leads to getting free boxes of doughnuts from local shops — they go all in. And can you blame them? If someone made a joke about troops drinking too much beer and it lead to people giving beer away, you know troops would have fun with it, too.
Cops really don’t like being the asshole in the situation unless they have to.
Having fun with “teaching moments”
If you ask nearly any police officer what their favorite cop movie is and why, nine times out of ten, it’s going to be Hot Fuzz — mostly because it nails the stupid amount of paperwork required by the job.
If a cop stops you for something minor, you might get lucky and get off with a warning. They’re probably not doing it out of the goodness in their hearts, though. It’s more likely because issuing that fine involves a lot of paperwork on their end. In some cases, it’s more effective to just tell you why speeding on streets where kids often play is a bad idea.
This is great on so many levels. The officers get less paperwork, the citizen doesn’t have to pay money for doing something stupid, and the cop gets to call you out for being an idiot.
Sheesh, can’t an officer just eat?
Trolling people on Waze
Waze is a real-time navigation app that allows users to report things like traffic jams, accidents, and even “hidden police.” The intent here is to let people who may be speeding know that there’s a cop nearby — ready to pull them over. Most of the times, however, the cop isn’t trying to hide. They’re just parked there, filling out paperwork or enjoying their lunch break.
Users are able to comment on any reports made — and cops get in on the action, too.
Participating in the Lip Sync challenge
The law enforcement community is not immune to social media trends. Right now, the lip sync challenge is the hot-ticket item and entire departments are uploading their videos to YouTube and Facebook for the world to see.
Typically, the videos feature macho officers pretending to sing along with some female pop singer. Sometimes you’ll see two cops singing show tunes to one another. Occasionally, you’ll get some officers who have a little too much fun with it…
And that’s just from dispatch. Chances are they’ve well-crafted a response to the same four jokes they always hear.
Messing with suspects
The biggest perk of being a police officer is that sweet, sweet moment of catching the bad guy. The world is made a little bit better, the paperwork is worth the result, and the officers can enjoy that brilliant moment where they can finally tell the perpetrator that they f*cked up.
Remember, cops spend their entire careers dealing with people who think they can out sh*ttalk them. Needless to say, they’ve got practice in throwing that shade right back.
Maritime forces from France, Australia, and the United States participated in Ship Anti-Submarine Warfare Readiness and Evaluation Measurement (SHAREM) 195 exercise in the Arabian Sea, Dec. 14-18, 2018.
Participating ships included French navy F70AA-class air defense destroyer FS Cassard (D 614), and Royal Australian navy Anzac-class frigate HMAS Ballarat (FFH 155), guided-missile destroyers USS Stockdale (DDG 106) and USS Spruance (DDG 111), Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Louisville (SSN 724), and Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4). Additionally, U.S. P-3C Orion aircraft and a French Atlantique 2 maritime patrol aircraft supported the exercise from the air.
“SHAREM provides a great opportunity for realistic training, strengthening the maritime relationship between France, Australia, and the U.S. as our forces work together to refine and develop anti-submarine warfare tactics,” said Lt. Ryan Miller, lead exercise planner from U.S. 5th Fleet’s Task Force 54. “We are stronger when we work together.”
The exercise put the ships through several structured events to collect data and train sailors against a known adversary. The ships then tested their offensive prowess by tracking and prosecuting the submarine in a “freeplay” event.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 111) and the fast attack submarine USS Louisville (SSN 724) are underway in formation during the anti-submarine warfare exercise SHAREM 195 in the Arabian Sea, Dec. 18, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abigayle Lutz)
In the culminating event, the warships defended the supply ship, Richard E. Byrd, from a submerged threat with conducting replenishment operations.
The SHAREM program focuses on developing anti-submarine warfare in the surface community by reviewing performance and tactics and recommending solutions to warfighting gaps.
Task Forces 54 and 50 led segments of the exercise.
The fast attack submarine USS Louisville (SSN 724) surfaces during the anti-submarine warfare exercise SHAREM 195 in the Arabian Sea, Dec. 18, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abigayle Lutz)
TF 54 is the submarine force in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations, and commands operations of U.S. submarine forces and coordinates theater-wide, anti-submarine warfare matters. Their mission covers all aspects of submarine operations from effective submarine employment to safety and logistics.
An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71 approaches the flight deck of the guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 111) during the anti-submarine warfare exercise SHAREM 195 in the Arabian Sea, Dec. 16, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ryan D. McLearnon)
Stockdale and Spruance are both part of the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, which serves as Task Force 50 while deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet. Their participation and SHAREM 195 is a part of the U.S. 5th Fleet’s theater security cooperation engagement plan to improve interoperability with partner nations, while ensuring maritime security.
The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 111), left, the Royal Australian Navy Anzac-class frigate HMAS Ballarat (FFH 155), and the French navy F70AA-class air defense destroyer FS Cassard (D 614) are underway during anti-submarine warfare exercise SHAREM 195 in the Arabian Sea, Dec. 14, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abigayle Lutz)
U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The expanse is comprised of 20 countries and includes three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab al-Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.
Young at the controls of an NYA Sikorsky S-55 (NASM)
Perry Henry Young Jr. was born on March 12, 1919, in Orangeburg, South Carolina. In 1929, the family moved to Oberlin, Ohio where his parents hoped that Young and his siblings would receive better education. Young graduated in the top quarter of Oberlin High School’s 1937 class. Following high school, he attended Oberlin College, the country’s oldest coeducational liberal arts college, with the intent of becoming a doctor.
However, in the summer between high school and college, Young went for a ride in an airplane and developed a love for flying. During his freshman year, Young worked part-time to fund his pursuit of a private pilot’s license. Earning $9/week, Young bought flight lessons at the airport for $5.25/20 minutes. With just three hours and 20 minutes of instruction, he made his first solo flight. On August 14, 1939, Young earned his private pilot’s license at the age of 20.
Young developed such a love of flying that he dropped out of Oberlin College to attend the Coffey School of Aeronautics in Chicago to earn his commercial pilot’s license. Founded in 1938, Coffey was America’s first flight school to be African American owned and operated. It was also one of the only schools in the country guaranteed to accept African American students. Despite earning his commercial pilot’s license, Young was unable to find work as a pilot due to racial discrimination.
With a second world war looming, Congress passed the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938 which created the Civilian Pilot Training Program. Under the CPTP, African-Americans were required to be included in civilian pilot training, Additionally, Public Law 18 provided for an expansion of the Army Air Corps and the creation of an African-American military flying unit. However, the Army maintained the belief that blacks could not learn to fly as well as whites, and allowed African Americans to train and fly only in segregated units under the command of white officers.
Young (right) with colleagues at Tuskegee (NASM/Courtesy Linda Young-Ribeiro)
Young was able to find work as one of the 40 African American flight instructors at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute. “Very few of us knew anything about flying—few blacks did—and we thought our instructors were going to be white,” then-cadet Lee Archer recalled. “When I saw men like Perry Young, I was surprised and proud. They were like minor gods to me.” Despite his position as an instructor, Young was actually younger than most of the men that he instructed.
Young wanted more than to just teach though; he wanted to serve and fight overseas. However, instructors were too valuable to risk in combat and were barred from joining deploying units. Shakeh Young remembered of her husband, “He didn’t want to be an instructor who trained cadets. He wanted to be a cadet. He wanted to fly.” Of the 992 pilots trained at Tuskegee, Young instructed 150, including George “Spanky” Roberts who would become the first commander of the famed 99th Pursuit Squadron.
After the war, a surplus of military transport planes and a booming economy allowed many ex-military pilots to find jobs in civilian aviation. Despite his extensive experience, Young was unable to find employment as a pilot. He later told a reporter, “I had come up with a different-colored skin, and there wasn’t much I could do about it.”
(Left to right) Young’s mother, Edith, Willa Brown, one of the first female African American pilots, and Young at Chicago’s Harlem Airport, June 1941 (NASM)
Yearning to return to the skies, Young moved to the Caribbean where he and two friends set up a small airline named Port-au-Prince Flying Service. However, the airline went bust after just two years. Young remained in Haiti and found work flying for the Société Haïtienne-Américaine de Dévelopment Agricole until 1953 when he secured a position as an executive pilot for the Puerto Rico Water Resources Authority. In 1954, he was sent to Connecticut to qualify as a helicopter pilot. Afterwards, Young flew for the Puerto Rico Water Resources Authority for one more year. He would go on to work as an aircraft mechanic for Seaboard World Airlines in Canada and as a pilot for KLM in the Virgin Islands. By December 1956, he had accumulated 13,000 flight hours, 200 of which were in helicopters.
Young with the Beech Bonanza that he flew for the Puerto Rico Water Resources Authority (NASM/Courtesy Linda Young-Ribeiro)
Founded in 1949 as a mail and cargo carrier, New York Airways became the first scheduled helicopter airline to carry passengers in the United States. Young had previously applied to NYA, but was rejected because he did not meet their 500 hour helicopter flight time minimum. However, as NYA expanded their routes and upgraded their fleet of single-pilot Sikorsky S-55s to S-58s, which required copilots, the airline needed to hire more pilots. The growing company was also looking to earn some good publicity so, on December 17, 1956, they tracked Young to the Virgin Islands and hired him.
After weeks of intense training, Young made his first official flight as a copilot on February 5, 1957. With this flight, he became the first African American pilot of a regularly scheduled commercial airline in the United States. The New York Mirror was aboard the historic flight and reported:
With Perry Young as the co-pilot, the 12-passenger helicopter rose three feet from the ground, hovered gently for a moment, then, pointing its snub-nose down, soared straight up from LaGuardia Airport. In nine easy “bumpless” minutes we were at Idlewild… Perry Young is unique because he is the first Negro pilot hired by any scheduled airline in America.
Young had broken through a major color barrier in aviation. His achievement made him the face of African American aviation. He even posed for cigarette and razor advertisements in Ebony magazine.
One of the magazine advertisements featuring Young (Viceroy)
Not everyone was pleased with Young’s hiring though. Initially, two white pilots refused to take him as a copilot. NYA was too short-staffed to indulge in their prejudices, and Young was given command of an aircraft within months of his hiring. He went on to fly for NYA for 23 years until the airline filed for bankruptcy in 1979.
Young with an NYA Sikorsky S-58 (NASM/Courtesy Linda Young-Ribeiro)
At 60 years old, Young wasn’t ready to retire just yet though. He returned to the skies as the chief pilot of the Island Helicopter Corporation, flying sightseeing tours from Long Island. Young flew until he was grounded by the FAA’s mandatory age restrictions in March 1986 at the age of 67.
Young retired with his wife to Pine Bush, New York. Ever the aviator, he spent much of his time at the Orange County Airport talking with other pilots and going up for flights with them. His friends and family remember him as always doing something. He died on November 8, 1998.
Young lived for the sensation of flight. His passion for aviation took him beyond both the pull of gravity and the barriers of racial discrimination. Through his achievements, Young opened the door for other black pilots and inspired the next generation of colored aviators to follow their dreams into the skies.
Russia and Communist China have worked together a lot since the fall of the Soviet Union. Back in the 1990s, Russians sold the Chinese a lot of military technology, including the Su-27/30/33 Flanker family of multi-role fighters and Sovremennyy-class guided missile destroyers.
This wasn’t the first instance of Eurasian collaboration — the Soviet Union and Communist China were close in the 1950s, when Russia shared a number of jet, tank, missile, and ship designs. The two countries had a falling out in the 1960s, which culminated in the 1969 Sino-Soviet border conflict. As a result, Communist China turned to the West for some military technology, including designs for the 105mm main gun used on the M60 Patton and on early versions of the M1 Abrams. However, the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre quickly severed any Western connections, leading, eventually, to this latest round of acquisitions from Russia.
But what if Russia and China had another falling out? Nearly 50 years ago, the two nations came close to all-out war — it could happen again. Today, while Russia’s military power has faded due, primarily, to the fall of the Soviet Union and ongoing economic struggles, Communist China’s armed forces have risen to a qualitative near-parity.
If the two were to face off, much of the ground fighting would involve tanks like China’s Type 99 and the Russian T-14 Armata. The Type 99 is a version of the Russian T-72. It carries a 125mm main gun that not only fires conventional tank rounds, but also the AT-11 Sniper anti-tank missile. It has a crew of three, a top speed of 50 miles per hour, and can go 280 miles on a single tank of gas. The tank also has a 12.7mm heavy machine gun and a 7.62mm machine gun.
The T-14 Armata packs a 125mm gun as well, but unlike in Chinese designs, it is in an unmanned turret. The Armata also has a crew of three, a 12.7mm machine gun, and a 7.62mm machine gun. It can reach speeds of up to 50 miles per hour and has an active protection system to defend against missiles and rockets.
Which country’s tanks would win this fight? It depends. Recently, Russia has been unable to field a force of its latest designs due to budget constraints. Communist China, on the other hand, has been thriving. In a one-on-one fight, the Russian Armata would have a technological edge, but tank warfare is rarely a one-on-one affair.
The Chinese Communists would simply overwhelm an Armata with sheer numbers.