5 ways to explore Okinawa - We Are The Mighty
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5 ways to explore Okinawa

Comprised of more than 100 islands in the East China Sea, Okinawa is one of Japan’s 47 prefectures with a population of 1.44 million people (as of May 2018).


A year-round warm climate and overall tropical landscape, Okinawa is considered a leading resort destination and home to multiple U.S. military installations. Here are five ways to explore the archipelago.

Eat and drink

There is no shortage of places to enjoy good food in Okinawa and nearly every type of international cuisine is represented.

“You have to try Coco’s Curry House, Arashi, Pizza In The Sky, Yoshi Hachi, Sea Garden, Gen, Thai In The Sky and Little Cactus,” KT Genta, a Navy spouse who was previously stationed in Okinawa shared.

Craving a good cup of coffee? Stop into Patisserie Porushe, and be sure to order a croissant to go with it.

The traditional spirit of Okinawa is Awamori, which dates back to the dynastic era, and is made by combining water, test and rice malt with korokoji mold and steamed rice. Get a free tour and tasting at Chuko Distillery.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

Historical sites and landmarks

The history of Okinawa is robust — from dynasties to American rule — and the various historical site and landmarks throughout the prefecture tell the region’s story. Be sure to visit:

Okinawa Peace Memorial Park – Located on Mabuni Hill, Peace Memorial Park was a heated battleground during WWII.

Japanese Naval Underground Headquarters – During WWII, Japanese forces constructed an elaborate series of underground tunnels that were used as military headquarters.

Katsuren Castle Ruins – Just a couple in-ruin walls remain at this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Tower of Himeyuri – The emotional monument honors the Himeyuri medical corps of female students who perished in WWII.

Ikema Ohashi Bridge – A 4,675 ft. bridge with panoramic views of the ocean, it connects the islands Miyako-jima to Ikema-jima and was formerly the longest bridge in Okinawa.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

Beaches and water sports

Trademarked by cerulean shaded waters, Okinawa’s beaches are world-renowned for enjoying a sun-soaked day on the sand or diving in to admire the marine life. Both public and private beaches pepper the coastline, and with hundreds of beaches to choose from across the main and more remote islands, there is a stretch of sand for everyone to enjoy.

Northern Okinawa Island – Uppama Beach, Kanucha Beach, Ie Beach

Central Okinawa Island – Zanpa Beach, Ikei Beach

Southern Okinawa Island – Aharen Beach, Nishibama Beach

Not only does Okinawa offer residents and visitors pristine beaches, the underwater views are attractive for avid divers and snorkelers. Top spots include Manza Dream Hole, Zamami Island and Kabira Bay.

Cultural arts

Okinawa is a destination with deep-rooted cultural history, thus a strong appreciation for traditional and performing arts.

Yachimun – The Okinawan name for pottery is Yachimun and can be traced back to more than 800 years.

Bashofu – Made from the fibers of a Japanese banana-like tree call the Basho, Bashofu is a thin textile that is woven and dyed to make into garments.

Kumiodori – Originating in the early 1700s, Kumiodori is an ensemble dance that has been inscribed by the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Sanshin – The literal translation of Sanshin is “three strings” and is a musical instrument that looks a bit like a banjo.
5 ways to explore Okinawa

Must-see sights

“There is so much to do,” Genta said. “Head to Cocoks for pedicures, hike Hiji Falls, explore Bise Village, which is a peaceful seaside town with sand roads lined with Fukuhi trees, or just drive and get lost. There are so many hidden gems on the island.”

Other must-see spots include Churmai Aquarium, Pineapple Park, Orion Beer Factory, Urashima Dinner Theater, Kokusai Street and Fukushu-en Garden.

This is just a small sampling of ways to explore Okinawa. It’s important to note that one could live their entire life in Japan’s tropical oasis and not see or do everything, so be sure to make the most of your time and have fun!

MIGHTY GAMING

5 of the best Call of Duty games from the past decade

Call of Duty has become a staple of military gamers. Both casual and hardcore gamers can enjoy picking up a controller and going a few rounds with their buddies in the barracks while waiting for their command to tell them it’s time to clean weapons at the armory or reorganize that connex container. While it’s a great pastime, there are plenty of titles to choose from, and not all of them are as good as the others.

Since the first release in 2003, Call of Duty has been the title of around 15 video games with the most recent being Black Ops 4, and there is another one on the way later this year. While a lot of people enjoy the multiplayer in the game, the franchise has also done a great job with storytelling in several of its installments.

It’s tough to choose from the 15 title roster, so we’re going to look at titles from the past decade that gave us a great story to play:


5 ways to explore Okinawa

That last mission is one of the best.

(Activision)

World at War

Okay, okay, this one was released in November of 2008 so not technically from the last decade, but it’s January 2019 so deal with it. This game needs to be on this list. The reason for this is that World at War featured some more mature thematic elements, showing World War II as a tragic and horrific event and showing that there’s a lot of moral gray areas.

The game also gave you control of a Russian character to see their side of the war, as well as giving birth to the Black Ops series.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

You fight off a Russian invasion of the United States.

(Activision)

Modern Warfare 2

While the first Modern Warfare installment was great, its sequel built on the strengths of its predecessor and made an even better game. This game’s story felt more like a military-action thriller, giving you a mystery to uncover, while still bringing realistic, war-related thematic elements and even serving up some controversy as a side dish.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

Sgt. Woods is one of the best characters in the entire series.

(Activision)

Black Ops

The first game in the series to start in Vietnam, going into the Cold War, this game seriously delivered on some awesome story. This game also featured some of the best three-dimensional characters in the franchise and gave us a taste of Vietnam, something we want more of.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

This series is a lot of fun.

(Activision)

Black Ops II

The third installment of the series and definitely worth mentioning, Black Ops II was the first in the line-up of futuristic warfare games. Building off the story of the previous installments of the Black Ops series, this story gave you some insight into the ripple effect of one’s actions, showing how the previous two story-lines bled into the future.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

This also led to the creation of the best fictional unit for stolen valor.

(Activision)

Ghosts

Not loved by many but there are some of us who loved the story and the concept. This game really focuses on what brotherhood means as it follows two literal brothers as they fight to stop an organization known as the “Federation of the Americas” and their father’s former teammate.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 awesome things that will survive a nuclear apocalypse

It’s hardly a secret at this point that there are enough nuclear weapons on Earth to kill us all and destroy everything on the planet many, many times over. That was kinda the point of the whole “mutually assured destruction” theory. If someone launched a nuke, everyone would die. Since that would be crazy or stupid, we could be reasonably sure that no one would do anything that crazy… right?


5 ways to explore Okinawa
Suuuuuuuuuuuure.

Well, that’s how it all turned out, despite a few of our best attempts to launch a nuclear war anyway — in true American fashion. Nixon even wanted the Communists to think he might just be crazy enough to do it as a way to gain leverage in Vietnam, a strategy he called the “Madman Theory.”

Related: That time Nixon wanted commies to think he was crazy enough to nuke them

So, being the daredevils we all are, humanity decided some things were important enough to save for all history, just in case we decided to send ourselves back to the Stone Age. Government and businesses wanted to ensure their most important possessions would be there for generations, so these things were just built to last — literally.

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Entrance to the Seed Vault at dusk, highlighting its illuminated artwork.

(The Svalbard Global Seed Vault)

1. Seeds

About 800 miles from the North Pole is a Norwegian island that holds more than 1,750 different kinds of seeds from all around the world. It’s an effort to protect the Earth’s biodiversity from accidents, disasters, and — surprise — nuclear wars. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a joint effort on behalf of Norway’s government, the Global Crop Diversity Trust, and the Nordic Genetic Resource Center. Its Arctic location makes it a perfect place to cold store some 4.5 million seeds, a genetic snapshot of the plants on Earth.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

2. Family Genetic Research Records

Deep inside the Granite Mountains near Salt Lake City, Utah, there’s an underground vault that houses 3.5 billion microfilm images of the world’s family genealogical history. The Mormon Church runs FamilySearch, a non-profit family historian organization. Since 1965, 200,000 members of the worldwide church have gathered records from all over the world. They’ve collected civil registration records, church records, and probate, census, land, tax, and military records. The collection also contains compiled sources, such as family histories, clan and lineage genealogies, oral pedigrees, and local histories.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

(WWE)

3. World Wrestling Entertainment

The WWE owns the single largest library of professional wrestling ever assembled — and it’s not just its original programming. It owns shows performed by ECW, AWA, WCW, and a slew of smaller wrestling federations from around the country. The trove is stored in a massive, climate-controlled bunker that is constantly maintained — in the Iron Mountains of Upstate New York’s Catskills range.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

4. Steam Trains

Despite the idea that the country would be totally destroyed in the event of a nuclear war with the United States, The Soviet Union wanted the ability to move around its massive territory. The problem was that nuclear weapons release an electromagnetic pulse upon detonation, destroying electronics within range of the pulse. For the USSR, the answer was easy, just use engines that don’t need electronics — steam power. Only 12 steam locomotives are still intact at the preserved base of the Strategic Steam Resource near Roslavl in Smolensk.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

5. The American Economy

While it’s no longer housed at one site (which was then called the Culpeper Switch), the entire American economy was prepared for a nuclear war. A bunker in Culpeper, Va. housed enough cash to replenish the U.S. economy east of the Mississippi River — to the tune of some billion. It also housed a switch that transferred the Federal Reserve Bank’s EFT system and provided data backup for the bank.

That facility has been moved from its original location and spread across the country so you can still owe your student loans in the event of a catastrophe.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

6. The Constitution and Declaration of Independence 

The foundational documents of the United States aren’t just going to be left on their own in the event of a nuclear war (or, actually, a zombie apocalypse — the responses for each are the same). The National Archives has a security plan in place for the most important documents it houses. The Library of Congress’ Top Treasures Inventory was housed in a special vault during the Cold War to ensure their survival in case of a nuclear attack on Washington — on the National Archives site.

If there was time, however, it was said the documents would be airlifted to another continuity of government site, like the Culpeper Switch. The documents’ current security plan is classified.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A short history of America’s only tank factory

President Donald Trump toured the US’s last tank facility on March 20, 2019, in a move to highlight the impact of his soaring defense spending in a politically crucial state.

The Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, Ohio, has been building Army tanks and armored vehicles since World War II. It nearly shuttered in 2012 under the drastic “sequestration” cuts, but it now produces about 11 tanks a month and employs a growing workforce of 580.

The plant’s assembly line is roaring back under Trump’s defense spending hikes, including $718 billion proposed for fiscal year starting in October 2019.


“In terms of economic security, the Trump defense budget is helping to create good manufacturing jobs at good wages, including in communities like Lima that have fallen behind economically,” Peter Navarro, White House director of trade and manufacturing policy, wrote in a New York Times op-ed. “The revitalized Lima plant will directly employ a little more than 1,000 employees.”

5 ways to explore Okinawa

Main entrance to Joint Systems Manufacturing Center. An M1A1 Abrams sits on a display platform to the left of the entrance gates.

Here’s a history of the sprawling tank plant, a still-operating legacy of World War II America’s so-called arsenal of democracy.

World War II

The facility opened in 1942 and soon began to build and test vehicles to be sent to the Pacific and European theaters. It built M-5 Light Tanks and T-26 Pershing tanks, according to the website Global Security. By the end of the war it had processed 100,000 combat vehicles.

The facility is owned by the US Army and operated by a contractor.

Korean War

An expansion began after the Korean War broke out in 1950. The Army built new structures, including two massive warehouses that each had 115,000 square feet of storage, according to an official history of the site.

Construction fell off sharply after the war and didn’t pick up much during the Vietnam War.

‘Supertank’

The Army introduced the M-1 Abrams in 1980 and called it a “supertank” that would be faster, better armored, and have more firepower than is predecessors.

The early M-1 Abrams tanks weighed 60 tons, carried a 105 mm cannon, and could speed across fields at 30 mph. The armor used a “new super alloy, composite-material” to protect against rockets and artillery, according to the history.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

105-mm M1 Abrams tank of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at Grafenwöhr Training Area in Germany, 1986.

Chrysler Defense began production of the M-1 tanks at Lima in 1979.

In 1980, the first M-1 Abrams rolled out of Lima. It was named “Thunderbolt,” in homage to the name Gen. Creighton Abrams gave to his tanks in World War II, according to Global Security.

Trump’s tanks

General Dynamics Land Systems bought Chrysler Defense in 1982. The plant became the sole US tank factory in when the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant closed in 1996.

The deep sequestration budget cuts nearly shuttered the plant in 2012, and tank production languished under the Obama administration, which oversaw counter-insurgency wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where a large force of tanks wasn’t needed.

In 2017, the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center was producing about one upgraded M-1 tank a month; a year later it was producing about 11, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Two factors have seen the Lima’s tank plant roar back to life: Trump’s massive defense-spending hikes and the US’s assessment that rivalries with China and Russia are now the country’s foremost threat.

Deterring a major power like them may rely on the US Army fielding the upgraded, 80-ton Abrams tanks now rolling off Lima’s assembly lines.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

8 things R. Lee Ermey taught us about the military

Marine Corps drill instructor and Hollywood actor R. Lee Ermey was robbed of an Oscar for his legendary portrayal of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 classic “Full Metal Jacket” and snubbed by the Academy’s Oscar “memoriam” montage.

But while the Academy may not have thought his contribution worth recognition, we know the Gunny knew a thing or two we should all remember about military service.

Ermey had a long career. As well as his iconic role in “Full Metal Jacket,” where he improvised most of his dialog, and that long run on “Mail Call,” he played iconic roles as the police captain in “Se7en,” the voice of Sarge in the “Toy Story” movies, the mayor in “Mississippi Burning” and a chilling serial rapist in a 2010 episode of “Law & Order: SVU.”

Ermey also had a wicked sense of humor, one that allowed him to play the over-the-top movie director Titus Scroad in the cult TV series “Action” and the lead kidnapper in the “Run Ronnie Run,” the bizarre comedy from “Mr. Show With Bob and David” guys Bob Odenkirk and David Cross.

He left us on April 15, 2018, and he’s now at rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

So what did his TV and movie appearances teach us about service? Here are nine great examples.


5 ways to explore Okinawa

1. Once a Marine, always a Marine.

In his “Full Metal Jacket” rants, Gunny Hartman tells his recruits that their Marine Corps training had permanently changed them. They’re no longer mere men: They’ve become Marines.

“Today, you people are no longer maggots. Today, you are Marines. You’re part of a brotherhood. From now on, until the day you die, wherever you are, every Marine is your brother. Most of you will go to Vietnam. Some of you will not come back. But always remember this: Marines die. That’s what we’re here for. But the Marine Corps lives forever and that means you live forever.”
5 ways to explore Okinawa

2. You gotta break someone before you build them up.

Few civilians understand the bonds of trust required for a military unit to function and even fewer can grasp the process that goes into tearing down the idea of the individual so a person can be truly absorbed into the group. Gunnery Sgt. Hartman can help you with that.

“If you ladies leave my island, if you survive recruit training, you will be a weapon. You will be a minister of death praying for war. But until that that day, you are pukes. You are the lowest form of life on Earth. You are not even human fucking beings! You are nothing but unorganized grab-ass-tic pieces of amphibian shit! Because I am hard, you will not like me! But the more you hate me, the more you will learn! I am hard, but I am fair! There is no racial bigotry here. I do not look down on niggers, kikes, wops, or greasers. Here you are all equally worthless. And my orders are to weed out all non-hackers who do not packed the gear to serve in my beloved corps. Do you maggots understand that?”
5 ways to explore Okinawa

Gunny Hartman may have been talking about Pablo Picasso’s 1939 portrait of Dora Maar.

3. Modern art is not good art.

Hidden in Gunny Hartman’s psychological tear down are some important observations about other parts of our world. He’s also an art critic.

“You’re so ugly you could be a modern art masterpiece!”
5 ways to explore Okinawa

Truthfully, Gunny Hartman’s material is closer to Don Rickles than Steve Martin but Steve’s the one who said, “Comedy is not pretty.”

4. Comedy is not pretty.


He’s a talented insult comic.

“Well I’ve got a joke for you, I’m going to tear you a new a–hole.”
5 ways to explore Okinawa

Ask yourself: “Is my toilet clean enough that I could invite the mother of Our Savior to use my bathroom?”

5. A clean toilet is a holy toilet.

He’s concerned that our religious icons have a good bathroom experience.

“I want that head so sanitary and squared away that the Virgin Mary herself would be proud to go in there and take a dump.”
5 ways to explore Okinawa

What’s YOUR major malfunction?

6. A great catchphrase works in any situation.

Ask anyone who grew-up in a household where dad always asked “What’s your major malfunction?” Every Single Time they did something he didn’t like.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

7. The Heart is the Deadliest Weapon.

He even operates on multiple levels. He may SAY a Marine is the deadliest weapon but listen closely: The threat really comes from a Marine’s cold, cold heart.

“The deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle. It is your killer instinct which must be harnessed if you expect to survive in combat. Your rifle is only a tool. It is a hard heart that kills. If your killer instincts are not clean and strong, you will hesitate at the moment of truth. You will not kill. You will become dead Marines. And then you will be in a world of s***. Because Marines are not allowed to die without permission. Do you maggots understand?”
5 ways to explore Okinawa

8. Everyone Needs Mail.

Ermey did his part on his long-running History Channel series to educate a generation of Americans who knew nothing about the military. He also reminded everyone that communication is critical for men and women who are serving their country. If you want to remember Ermey, write a letter, send an email or make a phone call in honor of his service.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Former Army Ranger saves man’s life on commercial jet

Before his flight left from Charlotte, Norvel Turner Jr. heard a fellow passenger yell for help.

After running to catch the flight heading to Columbia, South Carolina, a 59-year-old man had collapsed in the aisle a few rows behind Turner.

Not sure what had happened, Turner, a former Army Ranger instructor, watched as another passenger rushed over and started to do chest compressions.

Turner’s military training then kicked in. He went over and noticed the man, Mark Thurston, was not moving and his skin had turned purple and mouth was frozen shut.


Turner, currently the safety director at Army Central Command, grabbed a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation device from a nearby first aid kit and pried open Thurston’s mouth.

“I was able to get his mouth open, get the tube in there and then blow into his chest while the other guy did compressions,” Turner said in a recent interview.

Safety first

Long before he found himself on this flight, Turner had spent over 30 years in the Army.

He retired in 2004 after serving as an 82nd Airborne Division command sergeant major in Afghanistan. He now travels throughout the Middle East to help reduce risks across ARCENT’s area of operations.

On June 27, 2019, he was flying home from a work trip in Florida where he attended safety meetings at the U.S. Central Command headquarters.

Safety has been paramount throughout Turner’s life.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

Norvel Turner Jr., left, safety director for Army Central Command, poses for a photograph with Mark Thurston, the man he helped save June 27, 2019, while on a commercial jet awaiting to depart from Charlotte.

(Candy Thurston)

In the military, he attended several CPR and combat lifesaver courses like many other soldiers do. He was also a Ranger instructor, responsible for his students who sometimes got hurt or passed out from the grueling tasks.

“If someone goes down, you got to be able to administer basic lifesaving skills,” he said.

Turner recalled that while he and other soldiers were in Rhode Island for paratrooper training in 1980 they came across a car that had just crashed into a tree on a nearby road.

They stopped, got out and saw two teenagers pinned inside the vehicle.

Turner attended to the driver, a girl whose chest was pressed up against the steering wheel. After he pulled her out, he performed CPR on her until emergency crews arrived.

About a month later on Thanksgiving Day, Turner received a heartfelt letter in the mail.

“I received a letter from the mother thanking me for saving her daughter’s life,” he said, “and as a result of that she was able to spend Thanksgiving with her daughter.”

Flight to Columbia

After a short time performing CPR, Turner began to feel a faint pulse from Thurston.

“Every once in a while we would get a pulse, but then it would go out,” he said.

Turner continued giving lifesaving breaths to Thurston as the other passenger did the chest compressions. He also tilted Thurston’s head back to open up his airway.

About 15 minutes later, emergency medical technicians arrived and used a defibrillator to electrically shock Thurston to life. His pulse grew steady, he took breathes on his own and he was rushed to the hospital.

The diagnosis: a massive heart attack.

That hit close to home for Turner. In 2012, Turner’s wife convinced him to get a thorough physical. Once the stress test and other data came back, the doctor told him he had three blocked arteries.

5 ways to explore Okinawa

(Photo by Suhyeon Choi)

At first, Turner said he couldn’t believe it since he was an avid runner and ate healthy. He later discovered his collateral blood vessels near his arteries had grown to compensate the blood flow.

“So I had no problems,” he said, “but in order to fix it they had to go in and do a triple bypass on me.”

Thurston, now back from the hospital, called Turner and invited him to his home near Columbia on Tuesday so he could thank him in person.

“He wanted to give me a hug and sit down and talk to me,” said Turner, who considers himself a quiet professional who sought no gratitude for what he did. “At first, it was very emotional that one would do that.”

A little more than a month after his heart attack, Thurston said he is now walking, driving and expected to make a full recovery.

If it wasn’t for the quick action of Turner and the others on the plane, Thurston said it would have been a different story.

“I was told later on by the doctors that had they not started CPR when they did, that would have been it. I would not have survived,” Thurston said. “They seriously saved my life.”

Turner said he just reacted instinctively, using what he had learned as a soldier.

“All those skills and training that I had just kicked in automatically,” he said. “That was amazing to me. I never really thought about it until it was over. We were able to save this gentleman’s life and there were no previous rehearsals or anything.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

There’s a German U-boat at the bottom of Lake Michigan

Crewman aboard a ship owned by A and T Recovery on Lake Michigan dropped cameras into the deep to confirm what sonar was telling them – there was a German U-boat resting on the bottom of the Great Lake. Luckily, the year was 1992, a full 73 years removed from the end of the Great War that saw German submarines force the United States to enter the war in Europe. How it got there has nothing to do with naval combat.


5 ways to explore Okinawa

Unlike how we got into World War I in the first place.

In the days before a true visual mass medium, the American people were restricted to photos in newspapers to get a view of what the war looked like. World War I was the first real industrial war, marked for its brutality and large numbers of casualties, not to mention the advances in weapons technology that must have seemed like magic to the people who had never seen poison gas, automatic machine guns, and especially boats that moved underneath the waves, sinking giant battleships from the depths.

So after years of hearing about evil German U-boats mercilessly sinking tons and tons of Allied shipping and killing thousands of sailors while silently slipping beneath the waves, one of those ships began touring the coastal cities of the United States – and people understandably wanted to see it.

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WWI-era submarines after being surrendered to the Allied powers.

The Nov. 11, 1918 Armistice demanded that the German navy turn over its ships to the British but instead of doing that, the Germans scuttled the bulk of their fleet near the British base at Scapa Flow. The submarines, however, survived. Seeing that there were so many U-boats and that German technology surrounding U-boats used some of the best technology at the time, the British offered them out to other nations, as long as the submarines were destroyed when their usefulness came to an end.

The United States accepted one, UC-97, and toured it around the country to raise money needed to pay off the enormous war debt incurred by the government of the United States. When they successfully raised that money, the Navy continued touring the ships as a way to recruit new sailors. The UC-97 was sailed up the St. Lawrence Seaway into Lake Ontario and then Lake Erie.

It was the first submarine ever sailed into the Great Lakes.

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UC-97 sails into New York Harbor in April 1919.

Eventually, though, the novelty of the ship wore off, and after raising money, recruiting sailors, and giving all the tech she had on board, the boat just sat on the Chicago River. All the other subs taken by the U.S. were sunk according to the treaty’s stipulations. UC-97 couldn’t really move under her own power and was towed to the middle of Lake Michigan, where she was sunk for target practice by the USS Wilmette, forgotten by the Navy for decades after.

MIGHTY CULTURE

EXCLUSIVE: What Iran’s military training is like, according to an Iranian

Author’s note: The Islamic Republic of Iran doesn’t have diplomatic relations with the United States. In Iran, the media and the internet are closely monitored by the government. However, it’s impossible to keep track of everyone. And sometimes, despite the tremendous risk involved, an Iranian is eager to share their story and hit back at the pervasive propaganda that Iran’s government uses to control its people.

The vast military camp was on the outskirts of a small city. The soil was nearly frozen. There wasn’t a tree or any greenery in sight. Concrete buildings made up the complex where Farhad (a pseudonym for his real name) would receive his two months of mandatory military training. He wore light brown and dark green fatigues, a belt, and a pair of poorly manufactured combat boots.


First, Farhad marched for a while. After that, his picture was taken, along with the other conscripts. He then was shown to his barracks and bunk. While many training camps in Iran don’t permit leaving the base, he was allowed to go home every weekend.

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Iranian soldier in basic training barracks.

(Screenshot of video posted on Youtube by Persian_boy.)

“Soldiers need food. Their food was shitty — rice with little pieces of meat — and this helped to lessen expenses,” he said.

The food may have been bad but remaining connected to his family was one of the benefits. He and the others there were allowed to call home anytime after 5 PM using the phone booths set up on the grounds of the camp.

As for the training he received, Farhad called it a “joke,” especially the shooting portion.

The firearm he was issued — a Heckler Koch G3 — has been around since 1959. If he would have been part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC, or Sepâh), he would have been issued an AK-47 instead. According to Farhad, you go out on the range one time and shoot a dozen bullets. Your results are written on a scorecard, and then it’s back to marching. “You march a lot,” he recalled.

Farhad further described what he learned about weapons: “Not much. Effective range. Pure fire range. Caliber. Rate of fire. Weight. How many bullets they take. How to discharge. How to aim. How to safely check a weapon. How to clean your weapon. How to carry it. How many ways there are to carry it. Different types of weapons in the military. Things like that.”

In addition, he didn’t receive any combatives or medical training. “They aren’t trying to make soldiers. They want a work force,” Farhad said.

More so than actually training in combat or tactics, the Islamic Republic of Iran is interested in creating soldiers submissive to its religious ideology. Farhad said that religious indoctrination was a major part of his training experience, but he and many others didn’t take the sermons seriously. In fact, they would question and mock the mullah’s lecture whenever they had the chance.

“The mullahs really got frustrated with us,” Farhad said. “No one cared about them and made fun of them when they could and laughed and argued with them and put holes in their arguments all the time.”

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Iranian soldiers marching.

(Screenshot of video posted on Youtube by Persian_boy.)

When asked if this resulted in a consequence for him or anyone else involved, Farhad said no. “We didn’t get in trouble. Pretty much everyone was doing it.”

Even the non-commissioned officers (NCOs) in the camp didn’t follow the written rules that governed it.

One night on watch duty, Farhad smelled something weird. There was a little place outside of the chow hall that was mostly blocked from view, and when he looked out there, he saw two NCOs smoking. It didn’t take long to figure out they were smoking marijuana, which is a felony for a soldier in the Iranian military. He investigated further in the morning, finding remnants from dozens of marijuana cigars on the ground.

Farhad’s boots and the frigid cold gave him the biggest problems, though. In addition to the blisters all over his feet from marching, he also had an infection to keep at bay. And despite how cold it was, the military didn’t provide their conscripts with warm enough clothing. During a particularly cold watch duty assignment, he and the others on duty passed around a poncho, each using it for a few minutes to keep warm.

When training concluded, there was a ceremony where everyone dressed their best, but, unlike basic training graduation in America, family and friends were not permitted to attend. To his recollection, only one conscript failed to complete the training.

Farhad then spent two years in the Iranian military, which only solidified the negative impression he started with.

“It’s such a shitty, unreliable, broken system,” he said. “Whenever I see these websites talking about Iran’s military might, it makes laugh. They have no idea what they are talking about.”

Resistance Radio: Fighting ISIS Over the Airwaves

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

First naval aviators graduate new USAF pilot training program

The first two student naval aviators graduated from the U.S. Air Force’s Pilot Training Next (PTN) program at Randolph Air Force Base (AFB) just outside of San Antonio, Aug. 29, 2019.

The PTN program is a course of instruction designed to train military pilots at a lower cost, in a shorter amount of time, and with a higher level of proficiency leveraging emerging technologies to create a dynamic training environment.

The PTN program individualizes training, adjusting to each student pilot’s strengths and weaknesses. It integrates virtual reality (VR), advanced biometrics, artificial intelligence (AI), and immersive training devices (ITD) with traditional methods of learning.


“The most appealing part of this program is we step away from the common denominator or one-size-fits-all training that has to be done on a certain timeline,” Det. 24 Commander U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ryan Riley said. “With PTN we have been able to focus more on competencies and the focus of the individual student. We tailor the training to you, and that is a very different mindset shift and that is what I am most excited about.”

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A T-6A Texan II aircraft prepares to conduct a tough-and-go landing on Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st. Lt. Pawel Puczko)

Navy instructors selected Ensigns Charles Hills and Seth Murphy-Sweet for the PTN program in lieu of the standard Navy Primary Flight Training phase. This joint training effort is a step toward integrating emerging technologies into Navy’s flight training curriculum. Now Hill and Murphy-Sweet are ready to move forward to the advanced stage of flight training with the Navy’s Training Air Wing 2 at Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas.

“I think a big thing with this program was the ability to utilize the VR, get the experience and pacing down for each flight realtime,” Hill said. “This benefited all the students – being able to chair fly while being able to see the whole flight rather than to have to use your imagination. This helped in getting the motor skills while we were able test it out in VR and see how the exact input corresponds to a correct output.”

The relatively new program is being improved with each iteration and allows a more tailored approach to learning in comparison to traditional flight training from the instructor’s perspective. Instructors use a collaborative learning environment to evaluate and analyze students and subsequently make corrections and improvements.

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Ensign Charles Hill (left) and Ensign Seth Murphy-Sweet stand with their graduating Pilot Training Next (PTN) class on Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st. Lt. Pawel Puczko)

PTN First Assignment Instructor Pilot (FAIP) U.S. Air Force Capt. Jake Pothula shared his views on just how the program differs from the traditional syllabus.

“I went through traditional training,” he said. “The biggest difference with the PTN program is the fact that we aren’t tied to a very rigid, unforgiving syllabus, so students have the ability to choose their own training or have it be molded by instructor pilots who have the students’ individual best interest in mind. In traditional Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) you get more flying hours, but PTN students get a lot more simulator time. The students probably get three times as many hours in the sim than a traditional UPT student would. It’s something they could do at their own pace and choose what they want to do. I would say that these students have a very different set of skills. They excel at understanding their place in a larger mission and understanding what their aircraft is going to do especially in the cases of large field or large force exercises. I feel they definitely have a better grasp on more abstract concept such as mission management.”

Integrating new technologies such as ITDs allows students to gain experience using real-world scenarios. Students can not only fly the strict patterns and procedures they learn from their books, but also integrate air traffic control decondition as well as other aircraft.

“I think the unique and most exciting aspect with where PTN is going is the partnership with the Navy and Air Force,” Riley said. “With this partnership the Navy has loaned us eight T-6B Texan II aircraft. The manufacturer modified the avionics to what we call the T-6B plus, which has software specifically built for the PTN program mission.”

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Commander Air Force Recruiting Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt speaking at the Pilot Training Next (PTN) class graduation on Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st. Lt. Pawel Puczko)

Adding Navy instructors and students to the PTN program brings a unique perspective since training in the T-6B Texan II is new to the Air Force. VR simulators add a new and exciting element to the PTN program and draws parallels to the gaming industry, which could help attract new accessions.

Today the Navy’s Primary Flight Training phase uses simulators and VR trainer devices to augment the traditional curriculum, which allow students better familiarity with aircraft controls and their areas of operations. Technology within fleet aircraft and the aviation community at large is constantly advancing, and as we move forward simulators and ITDs will play an increasingly significant role in the way we train our military aviators.

CNATRA, headquartered in Corpus Christi, trains the world’s finest combat quality aviation professionals, delivering them at the right time, in the right numbers, and at the right cost to a naval force that is where it matters, when it matters.

This article originally appeared on United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 reasons why veteran characters would ruin horror flicks

In order for a horror film to work, you need to have relatable characters. The more easily the audience can put themselves in the shoes of the cast, the more real the terror. That’s why, when a horror film is geared towards a younger crowd, the characters are primarily teenagers who are made to be as average and generic as possible.

Of course, while veterans come from every walk of life, one thing they all have in common is that they aren’t average. We’re generally brash, crude, and perform well in environments that would freeze your average horror film character.


And to be fair, there have been horror films that feature characters with military backgrounds, like Predator. The problem here is that troops and vets would easily turn any horror film into an action film. In fact, the 2018 sequel to the Schwarzenegger classic seems to be embracing this action/horror dynamic of “vets versus monster.”

But here’s why vets wouldn’t make the best fit in most horror flicks:

We’re not easily scared

Veterans often have a desensitized “fight or flight” reflex. When vets are spooked, it’s rare for them to freeze in place or scream like children. They’re conditioned to hop right into fight mode.

If a twig snaps, vets look in that direction. When someone screams off in the distance, they’re not just going to shrug it off and continue their party in the middle of the woods.

We would organize survivors

Veterans instinctively take control of situations when everyone stands around confused. It doesn’t need to be a life-or-death situation, either. At a kid’s birthday party, for example, vets expertly knifehand their way into getting balloons inflated and cake cut.

Vets would identify who’s useful and smack some sense into the idiots that say, “let’s split up!”

We could make due with few resources

In horror films, survivors often run around looking for supplies. Most would probably settle for finding a pair of safety scissors that they would then inexplicably throw at the unkillable monster.

Meanwhile, the veteran has fashioned a ghillie suit using mud, sticks, and leaves and they’ve found the sturdiest club they could get their hands on — and set it on fire.

We’d probably be carrying

Chances are, the veteran probably doesn’t need to scavenge. The moment the idiot who went skinny-dipping starts screaming bloody murder, a veteran would chamber a round.

Unless the vet is fighting some supernatural force, the credits would start rolling shortly after the knife-wielding clown starts rushing them.

We know how to actually run and start cars

From the most macho grunt to the wimpiest supply guy, everyone has done Land Nav enough times to not trip on their own feet every ten seconds while running through the forest.

If the monster couldn’t be shot to death, the vet probably wouldn’t even bother and, instead, leave. Especially if the monster just comes at them at a walking pace…

We’ve secretly been preparing for this forever

Ask any veteran why they stockpiled arms and supplies and they may joke that it’s for the zombie apocalypse. The moment an actual zombie apocalypse happens, that cache is definitely coming in handy.

We also have at least seven different plans on what to do in every situation. Catching us completely off-guard isn’t a realistic plot point.

*Bonus* The downside to being a veteran in a horror film

But realistically our f*ck-off attitude would get us killed. The masked killer would probably show up, covered in blood, and we’d mock them for whatever reason. That’s maybe not the best idea…

Articles

This was the inspiration behind ‘The Hunt for Red October’

First published in the mid-1980s, “The Hunt for Red October” by Tom Clancy quickly rose from obscurity to national bestseller lists, with even then-President Ronald Reagan calling it “my kind of yarn.”


In 1990, the book was made into a blockbuster movie starring Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin.

The hit novel tells the tale of a next-generation Soviet ballistic missile submarine — the eponymous Red October — going rogue with both the United States and the Soviet Union racing against time to find the missing sub.

While the Soviet Union, to the best of our knowledge, never had a submarine and its crew attempt to defect to the West during the Cold War, it did have two very similar incidents — both of which served as the inspiration for this famous book.

In 1961, a young Soviet Navy captain by the name of Jonas Pleskys steered his vessel, a barge turned into a submarine tender, away from a charted course to Estonia in a successful attempt to defect to Sweden.

This Lithuanian-born naval officer, a graduate of the Leningrad Naval Academy, was thoroughly dissatisfied with life in the USSR, finding it corrupt and cruel.

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An official photograph of Jonas Pleskys during his time as a Soviet Navy officer (Photo Soviet Navy)

According to Marion Boyle’s book, “Search for Freedom: The Man from Red October,” Pleskys planned his defection in advance, reaching port and protective custody in Gotland, Sweden, before the Soviet Navy was able to stop him.

In absence, the Soviet military sentenced the captain to death, though they would never have the opportunity to carry out the execution.

The CIA later hid Pleskys in South America before moving him to the US, where he lived out the rest of his years.

Years later, in the mid-1970s, a second (and considerably more embarrassing) incident involving a Soviet Navy vessel — a brand new Krivak class frigate named “Storozhevoy” — proved to be the second event that would factor into the making of “The Hunt for Red October.”

The ship’s political officer, Valery Sablin, seized control of the ship while it was berthed in a Soviet naval port, imprisoning the captain and many of the ship’s officers in compartments belowdecks. Quickly sailing the frigate out of port, Sablin aimed the ship’s bow towards Northern Europe.

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With visions of Pleskys’ earlier defection flashing through their minds, Soviet brass deployed half of their Baltic Fleet immediately upon learning of their newest warship going missing and Sablin’s intentions.

Over 60 maritime patrol and attack aircraft were deployed to find and stop the Storozhevoy… and if it came to it, sink the frigate with its entire crew aboard.

According to former Storozhevoy officer Boris Gindin in his co-written autobiography, “Mutiny,” the frigate was never meant to fall into American hands. Sablin was loyal to the Soviet Union to the very end — he just wasn’t a fan of the corruption of the Soviet government, and saw their actions as a major departure from Leninism and “true communism.”

Instead, the disillusioned political officer wanted to sail the frigate to Leningrad (now known as Saint Petersburg), where he would moor the Storozhevoy alongside an old museum ship, the cruiser Aurora, and would then broadcast a message to the Soviet people with the hopes of revealing the government’s corruption, and with sparking a second communist revolution to retake the country.

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The cruiser Aurora permanently parked in St. Petersburg. Sablin wished to moor the Storozhevoy near the symbolic Aurora during his mutiny and escape (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

As it turns out, the Soviet military wasn’t having any of that, and within a matter of hours, the Storozhevoy was found and hailed. Now less than 50 miles from Swedish territorial waters (though that wasn’t the ship’s destination), the frigate continued to sail on without heeding calls to stop.

The order was given to sink the ship.

Attack aircraft began strafing the ship with their cannons, obliterating the bridge of the Storozhevoy while pockmarking the rest of the gray warship with bullet holes. Bombs were dropped near the rogue ship, and soon, it became evident that the ship’s steering and propulsion was damaged to the point that the vessel could not go any further – it was dead in the water.

However, the Baltic Fleet had already closed in, and began firing warning shots from their deck guns. In a matter of minutes, Soviet naval commandos boarded the vessel and arrested the 200-strong crew of the Storozhevoy, regardless of who was and wasn’t involved in the mutiny.

As it turns out, during the ship’s escape from port, a number of its officers and crew, previously imprisoned for resisting the mutiny, had escaped captivity and overpowered Sablin and his bridge crew.

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A Krivak-class frigate at anchor. Storozhevoy would have looked almost identical to this ship (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

In true Soviet style, the incident was hushed up quickly, with Sablin facing a firing squad for treason against the Soviet Union. The Storozhevoy was quietly repaired in dockyard, repainted and sent back out to the fleet. By the end of the 1990s, the frigate was pulled from service and sold overseas to the wreckers.

In the early 1980s, a 37 year-old insurance salesman by the name of Tom Clancy Jr. came across the Storozhevoy’s tale in the US Naval Academy’s archives while doing research for his first novel.

Later making contact with Jonas Pleskys, and inspired by his and the Storozhevoy’s short-lived adventure, Clancy penned “The Hunt for Red October” soon afterwards, with the novel hitting bookshelves in 1984, a resounding success.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Military commanders warn troops against investing in marijuana

While the Defense Department has no official policy that explicitly states service members or U.S. federal employees may not buy stock in companies that manufacture or sell marijuana, commanders have the discretion to warn their troops against the move because it could jeopardize security clearances.

Commanders do have the authorities to develop local policies as long as they do not contradict with overall DoD guidelines, according to a defense official who spoke with Military.com on background. If an organization or command issues guidelines stating the organization’s legal position on the matter, it does not mean it is official DoD policy, the official said.


The clarification comes after multiple emails surfaced from local leaders telling service members to be careful about what they invest in — especially if they hold a clearance.

“While, currently, no official DoD guidance specific to financial involvement in marijuana exists, the Pentagon continues to research the topic,” Army Lt. Col. Audricia Harris, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said March 7, 2019. “Any changes will be addressed through normal policy update procedures.”

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(Flickr photo by Miranda Nelson)

DoD uses 13 criteria to evaluate security clearance request, flagging service members who may be at risk for illicit or illegal activities. These evaluation criteria range from allegiance to the U.S. to sexual preferences and financial circumstances and debt.

“Recently, several news outlets have incorrectly cited a change in Department of Defense Consolidated Adjudications Facility (CAF) policy regarding investment in companies that sell or manufacture marijuana or related products,” Harris said in a statement. “The DoD CAF does not issue policy. Instead, the DoD CAF adheres to applicable policies when making adjudicative determinations.”

“These determinations apply the ‘whole person concept’ and take into account all available information, favorable and unfavorable, to render an appropriate determination on a person’s reliability and trustworthiness to hold a clearance,” Harris added.

While the clearance determination process is subjective, the evaluation categories illustrate how much risk people are willing to take, which could imperil their jobs, the official said.

The current guidance stems from a 2014 memo signed by then-Direction of National Intelligence James Clapper.

The memo states that any government employee who disregards federal law about “the use, sale, or manufacture of marijuana” remains under scrutiny, and could be denied for a security clearance.

While the use “or involvement with marijuana” calls into question “an individual’s judgment,” the memo, signed Oct. 25, 2014, does not explicitly mention investing in companies that legally distribute marijuana.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pilot shot down by Pakistan returns to India

An Indian pilot captured by Pakistani forces on Feb. 27, 2019, after his warplane was shot down in the disputed region of Kashmir has returned to India after being freed by Islamabad in a “peace gesture.”

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman crossed into India at the Wagah crossing point on March 1, 2019, hours later than expected and sporting a black eye.

Varthaman’s release came a day after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan made the announcement in a speech to Pakistan’s parliament on Feb. 28, 2019.


Pakistan’s military said its air force shot down two India Air Force jets in its airspace and captured a pilot on the ground in Pakistan-administered Kashmir on Feb. 27, 2019.

Pakistan returns captured Indian pilot

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India confirmed the loss of one of its MiG-21s and the capture of its pilot. It said it also foiled an attack by Pakistan warplanes over Kashmir and shot down one Pakistani plane.

Islamabad denies any of its aircraft were shot down.

The aerial confrontation came a day after India on Feb. 26, 2019, struck what it said was a militant camp in northeastern Pakistan in retaliation for a suicide bombing that killed at least 41 Indian troops in the India-controlled part of Kashmir

A Pakistan-based group, the Jaish-e Muhammad (JeM), claimed responsibility for the Feb. 14, 2019 attack — the deadliest to take place during a three-decade insurgency against Indian rule in Kashmir.

India has accused Pakistan of having a “direct hand” in the attack and providing sanctuary to the militants.

Islamabad denies involvement.

India’s air strikes in Pakistani territory on Feb. 26, 2019, were the first since the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.