6 travel hacks every military family should know - We Are The Mighty
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6 travel hacks every military family should know

Travel — it either makes your heart do a little pitter-patter or fills you top to bottom with dread. Traveling does not have to be stressful, and using a few time-tested hacks is guaranteed to make your life easier.


6 travel hacks every military family should know

Before you go

Scan a copy of your passport, driver’s license and any trip itineraries or reservations that you have and save them to your phone outside of e-mail. Depending on location, service might be spotty and you never know when you may need to access your records offline.

6 travel hacks every military family should know

Packing hacks

Vacation can be exciting, but packing is the pits. To maximize suitcase space:

  • Roll thin clothing (t-shirts and dresses) and fold heavier clothing pieces (jeans and sweaters) and utilize packing cubes to organize
  • Stuff socks into shoes
  • Insert a rolled-up belt into a shirt collar to maintain the collar’s shape
  • Prevent fragile makeup from cracking by inserting a cotton ball in the compact
  • Cover shoes in a hotel shower cap to avoid having dirty soles touch the rest of your suitcase

Utilize what you have

Did you forget your phone charger at home? Plug your phone into a hotel television. Don’t panic if you have left your wall plug-in at home. Most televisions now have USB connectors on the back or side panel. Take a peek and use your connection cord to seamlessly charge your phone.

Leave the camping lantern on the counter? Not a problem. Strap a headlamp to a water bottle to create an instant illuminated “lantern.”

6 travel hacks every military family should know

Google’s offline tools

Heading out of the country or simply beyond service? Be sure to download Google Maps to use offline. While connected to WiFi, download the city or territory maps you might need for the duration of travel and access them later — no connection required.

Like Google Maps, Google Translate is usually needed when there’s no WiFi available. Convenient, huh? Before you go, download the Translate app, and choose ‘Offline Translation’ in Settings. Here, you will be able to download different languages.

Pack a clothespin … or two!

A vacation seems like a weird place for a clothespin, but this handy accessory is ideal for keeping headphone cords from getting tangled, propping up a toothbrush in the bathroom, clipping hotel curtains closed for rooms that will not get dark enough or hanging up laundry to dry.

6 travel hacks every military family should know

There’s an app for that

It seems like there is an app these days for everything, and traveling is no different. The following cell phone apps are handy for travel purposes for everything from airport navigation to Wifi passwords.

Foursquare is a collection of city guides, but it’s notoriously great for tipping off visitors to connection spots by suppling local Wifi passwords.

Stuck in an airport without easy access to a USO? LoungeBuddy takes all the guesswork out of where travelers can relax by providing comprehensive guides to airport lounges around the world.

Headed on a long-haul journey with multiple connections? Download FlightAware to track flights online, see a live map of flight routes and be alerted to cancellations, delays and gate changes.

Timeshifter is working to banish jet lag for good. Using extensive research studies on sleep and circadian rhythms, the app helps in-flight travelers determine when to nap, seek light, eat and more based on gender, age and typical sleep patterns.

Whether you are planning a trip or daydreaming about your next destination, tuck these travel hacks away for the next big adventure to save yourself time, your sanity…or both.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia appears to be lying about size of military exercises

In September 2018, Russia kicked off its Vostok-18 military exercises, drills that defense officials claim involve some 300,000 troops, 36,000 tanks, 1,000 aircraft, and scores of warships and have touted as “unprecedented in scale.”

That’s roughly a third of the entire Russia military, much of which would have to be moved to the far east to participate in these large-scale maneuvers.

2018’s version of the Vostok, or East, exercise is billed as the largest ever, topping the 1981 Zapad, or West, military exercise, which took place in the Baltic Sea area and Eastern Europe amid heightened tension with the US after President Ronald Reagan took office.


Vostok is a no doubt a major undertaking for Russia’s armed forces — and a major geopolitical development, given the inclusion of Chinese forces for the first time — but there are a number of reasons to believe Moscow is overstating the forces it has mustered.

The logistical challenges of moving that many personnel and their equipment cast doubt on the stated numbers.

The 300,000 troops Russian officials have said would participate would be roughly one-third of the country’s military. Gathering such a force would be a considerable financial challenge in light of Russia’s decreasing defense spending and its standing military commitments elsewhere, according to The Diplomat. By comparison, that force would represent roughly two-thirds of the much better funded and equipped active-duty US Army.

6 travel hacks every military family should know

Tanks rolling during the Vostok 2018 military exercises in Russia.

A conservative estimate of the vehicles in the Central and Eastern military districts is around 7,000 to 10,000. Bringing in roughly 25,000 more vehicles would clog railways and highways, and shuttling in that many troops would likely overwhelm Russia’s military logistics structure.

The size of the force involved is likely around 50,000 to 100,000, according to The Diplomat. Other estimates put it around 150,000 — about the size of the Vostok-81 exercise — which is still very massive force.

Inflating the number of military personnel involved in such exercises is nothing new for Russia. And there appear to be a number of types of legerdemain through which Russian officials carry it out.

The stated total — 297,000, to be precise — likely includes all units stationed in the Central and Eastern military districts, as well as those in the Northern and Eastern Fleets and in the airborne units that are taking part.

“For every battalion fielded they will likely count the entire brigade, and for a few regiments an entire division, etc.,” writes Michael Kofman, a Russian military expert at CNA and the Wilson Center.

Many of those are involved may not ever venture into the field, instead remaining at command posts. (The US has also counted geographically dispersed units as taking part in certain exercises, but typically at much smaller scales.)

Participation may go beyond uniformed troops and include civilian reserves, Jeffrey Edmonds, a former Russia director for the National Security Council, told Voice of America

Edmonds noted that other units, like those operating in western Russia, may be included in some tallies.

Moscow has also likely counted under-strength units at full strength and included units that have been alerted or are indirectly involved — like those that are taking over assignments from units that are redeploying to actually take part, according to The Diplomat.

6 travel hacks every military family should know

Russian troops participating in Zapad-2017.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

The figures presented by Moscow for these kinds of exercises could be called “true lies,” Kofman told Voice of America, “in that they’re statistical lies whereby the Russian army’s General Staff tallies every single unit-formation that either sends somebody to the exercise or has some tangential command component in it.”

“So these numbers are not entirely fictional, but you have to divide them by a substantial amount to get any sense of how big the exercise actually is,” Kofman added.

Such sleight of hand is not new — similar tactics were used during the Cold War — and using them now may also be meant to avoid adding to anger over reduced social spending and proposed hikes to pension-eligibility ages.

Russia faces economic and demographic challenges, and, as noted by Mark Galeotti, a Russia expert and fellow at the European University Institute, the government spends an outsize portion of its federal budget on security.

Overstating the number of forces involved also likely serves broader geopolitical purposes.

Over the past decade and a half, President Vladimir Putin has turned a weakened military into a capable force, but the Russian leader is aware that his country lags in objective measures of strength, Galeotti notes at The Atlantic.

“Instead, [Putin] relies on bluff and bluster, theater and shadow play,” Galeotti writes. “He wants to project an image of a dangerous yet confident country, one that should be placated, not challenged.”

China’s inclusion may also indicate a shift in Moscow’s thinking.

Previous iterations of the Vostok exercise were meant to send a message to Beijing, which Moscow long viewed as a rival. The relatively small Chinese contingent taking part this year has been interpreted as a message to the West that Russia is not isolated and could further embrace China.

Many doubt a formal military alliance between China and Russia is in the offing, instead seeing their cooperation on Vostok — they have carried out joint military exercises elsewhere — as an effort by both sides to balance against US and by Russia to allay Chinese concerns about the target of the exercises.

“Maybe the announcements of how big it’s going to be is a reaction to hostilities with the West, but the actual exercise itself is a pretty standard Russian military activity,” Edmonds, now a research scientist at CNA, told Voice of America.

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

MUSIC

This musician survived the Holocaust despite being everything the Nazis hated

Django Reinhardt was a lot of things — most of which the Nazis hated. He was a gypsy, a European Romani, the storied wandering people who were targeted by the Nazis for extermination through forced labor (if they weren’t shot on sight). Reinhardt was also a jazz musician, practicing a form of music Hitler and Goebbels felt was part of a conspiracy to weaken Germany. Jazz was forbidden from the beginning of Hitler’s rise to power.

Yet, during World War II, Reinhardt stayed at his home in France long after the nation fell to the Nazis. In fact, Nazis were some his biggest fans.

6 travel hacks every military family should know
Something you don’t see every day: four black men, a Jewish man, and a Gypsy all hanging out with a prominent Nazi Luftwaffe officer.
(BBC)


At a time when the European Roma were considered racially inferior and German prejudices allowed them to be targeted alongside German Jews and other races for extermination, Reinhardt was able to maintain a quiet life for himself and his family. The reason was his superior musical talent. As gypsies were forced out of cities and into concentration camps by the tens of thousands, he kept his head down and played on.

Despite losing the movement in two fingers during an fire-related accident earlier in his life, Django was an amazing musician. His speed on the strings and frets allowed him to play furiously with just two fingers and a thumb. He picked up his performing skills in small clubs throughout Europe before the war and would perform alongside Jazz legends like Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, and Dizzy Gillespie. He would even perform a jam session with the great Louis Armstrong.

www.youtube.com

His skill was critical to his survival. He played jazz, but he knew when not to play jazz. He would even branch out musically, writing masses for the plight of his people and even a symphony. Jazz musicians had to follow certain rules under Nazi occupation, at least in occupied Bohemia and Moravia, where these rules come from:

1. Pieces in foxtrot rhythm (so-called swing) are not to exceed 20% of the repertoires of light orchestras and dance bands;
2. In this so-called jazz type repertoire, preference is to be given to compositions in a major key and to lyrics expressing joy in life rather than Jewishly gloomy lyrics;
3. As to tempo, preference is also to be given to brisk compositions over slow ones so-called blues); however, the pace must not exceed a certain degree of allegro, commensurate with the Aryan sense of discipline and moderation. On no account will Negroid excesses in tempo (so-called hot jazz) or in solo performances (so-called breaks) be tolerated;
4. So-called jazz compositions may contain at most 10% syncopation; the remainder must consist of a natural legato movement devoid of the hysterical rhythmic reverses characteristic of the barbarian races and conductive to dark instincts alien to the German people (so-called riffs);
5. Strictly prohibited is the use of instruments alien to the German spirit (so-called cowbells, flexatone, brushes, etc.) as well as all mutes which turn the noble sound of wind and brass instruments into a Jewish-Freemasonic yowl (so-called wa-wa, hat, etc.);
6. Also prohibited are so-called drum breaks longer than half a bar in four-quarter beat (except in stylized military marches);
7. The double bass must be played solely with the bow in so-called jazz compositions;
8. Plucking of the strings is prohibited, since it is damaging to the instrument and detrimental to Aryan musicality; if a so-called pizzicato effect is absolutely desirable for the character of the composition, strict care must be taken lest the string be allowed to patter on the sordine, which is henceforth forbidden;
9. Musicians are likewise forbidden to make vocal improvisations (so-called scat);
10. All light orchestras and dance bands are advised to restrict the use of saxophones of all keys and to substitute for them the violin-cello, the viola or possibly a suitable folk instrument.

And yet, the Nazis still loved jazz.

“The Germans used Paris basically as their rest-and-relaxation center, and when the soldiers came, they wanted wine and women and song,” Reinhardt’s biographer Michael Dregni told NPR. “And to many of them, jazz was the popular music, and Django was the most famous jazz musician in Paris… And it was really a golden age of swing in Paris, with these [Romas] living kind of this grand irony.”



MIGHTY HISTORY

One woman wrote 25,000 letters for wounded soldiers who couldn’t

In 1917, the horrors of World War I were something entirely new to the world. “The War to End All Wars” inflicted horrible casualties and painful deaths in a way no one had ever seen before in the history of warfare. Mechanized vehicles, poison gas, trench-clearing shotguns, and even the constant mud and water that filled the trenches took its toll on the men who fought the war.

Many of those wounded and dying from the new weapons of war found themselves laying next to Red Cross volunteer May Bradford, who would write what for many of her patients, was the last words they would ever say to their loved ones.


6 travel hacks every military family should know

Even those who survived were altered forever by the new weapons of war.

For those that were dying, Bradford recorded their last words. For those that were too injured to write, she informed their families of their loved one’s situation. For those who were simply illiterate, she was happy to take care of them too. She was part of the French No. 26 General Hospital, near Etaples, France during the war. She was there following her surgeon husband, Sir John Bradford.

She had been there for the entire war, watching the dying and wounded roll in and out of the clinics and field hospitals. She immediately took up the mantle of “hospital letter writer” for anyone who might want or need her services. Over the course of Britain’s time in the war, she wrote more than 25,000 letters, averaging 12 or more every day for four and a half years.

6 travel hacks every military family should know

Bradford later wrote a book of her experiences.

Rather than wear the traditional uniform of the scores of Red Cross volunteers at English aid stations around the world, Lady Bradford wore her usual clothes, which were usually an impeccably clean and neat dress, which made the men in her care feel less like they were in a hospital with a nurse and more like they were dictating a letter with an old friend.

In her relatively short time as a letter writer for the sick, injured, and mortally wounded, Bradford experienced firsthand the horrors of the First World War – and experienced the emotional rollercoaster of fighting that war secondhand.

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That time Marines in a firefight called customer service for help with an M-107

When you need help, there’s nothing embarrassing about asking for it. Especially when the pressure is on to get it right as soon as possible.


Rifles are no different. And if you have to call an arms manufacturer for a problem there, it’s probably a big deal.

That’s why Barrett Firearms Manufacturing provides service for its products long after they enter military service. Most notably, the beloved Barrett M-107 .50-caliber rifle.

Don Cook is a Marine Corps veteran who has been working at Barrett for 17 years. In an interview with National Geographic, he recalled the time he received an interesting call on the customer service line — a call from troops in an active firefight.

“It’s probably one of the biggest highlights in my life to be able to help a Marine unit in a firefight,” Cook told NatGeo.

He picked up the phone and heard what was happening in the background. Without being able to see the weapon, he was able to diagnose the problem.

The Marines bent the ears of the weapon’s lower receiver up during the previous night’s maintenance. When they saw action the next day, the rifle wouldn’t fire every time they pulled the trigger.

Cook told them they needed to bend the ears back down. Given the lack of tools and time, he suggested the Marines use the bottom of the carrier as leverage to bend the ears back and get the weapon firing again.

Within 30 seconds, the Marines had their rifle back in action. They thanked Cook for his help and got back in the fight.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US doesn’t know what to do with Turkey’s undelivered F-35s

Congress is offering the Defense Department the option to purchase Turkey’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and giving the defense secretary discretion to spend up to $30 million to store the fifth-generation jets until a plan for their use is formalized, according to the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2020.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has been given the green light to spend funds “to be appropriated for fiscal year 2020 for the Department of Defense to conduct activities associated with storage, preservation, and developing a plan for the final disposition of such F-35 aircraft and Turkish F-35 aircraft equipment, including full mission simulators, helmet-mounted display systems, air system maintenance trainers, and ancillary mission equipment,” the bill states.


That money would fund storage for up to six jets and associated materials. F-35 deliveries to Turkey had originally been slated to occur between late summer and the end of this year.

6 travel hacks every military family should know

(photo by Tom Reynolds)

Lawmakers will not allow the F-35As once destined for Turkey to be transferred unless that country gets rid of its S-400 surface-to-air-missile systems and associated equipment and promises never to purchase or use the Russian-made weapon again, according to the bill.

“Turkey’s possession of the S-400 air and missile defense system adversely affects the national security of Turkey, the United States, and all members of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance,” lawmakers said.

In a joint statement provided with the bill Tuesday, Congress said it would “support” the U.S. purchase of all jets originally meant for Turkey. The aircraft have been stationed at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where international pilot training is conducted.

“The conferees also encourage the Secretary of Defense to maximize the procurement quantity of Turkish F-35A aircraft associated with Lots 12, 13, or 14 during fiscal year 2020 using the additional funds authorized in section 4101 of this Act,” according to the statement.

Esper has 90 days from the bill’s passage to provide congressional defense committees a report outlining a long-term plan for Turkey’s F-35s, “which includes options for recovery of costs from Turkey and for unilateral use of such assets,” the bill states.

6 travel hacks every military family should know

Hill Air Force Base F-35A Lightning IIs fly in formation.

(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Despite months of efforts to sway the NATO ally from purchasing the S-400, known to Moscow as the “F-35 killer,” Pentagon officials have been steadily phasing Turkey out of the JSF program.

The Pentagon in July officially booted Turkey from participating in the program over its purchase of the Russian-made S-400 and asked students — pilots and maintainers — attending F-35 training in the U.S. at Luke and at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, to leave.

The DoD also began phasing out aircraft parts manufactured by Turkey. Turkish industries produce 937 parts for the F-35, including items for the landing gear and fuselage.

“We’re on the path to March 2020 to transition all of those parts out. … The U.S. absorbed about a 0 million bill for that,” Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord said in October.

Lord at the time said top brass estimates that Turkey’s surface-to-air missile systems will be ready to track aircraft in the region by the end of 2019.

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

When coronavirus hits home: How to quarantine the sick

Most people in the U.S. will be exposed to the coronavirus, according to the National Institutes of Health. But not everyone with COVID-19 develops a cough and fever. For every infected person who shows symptoms, five to ten others are asymptomatic, meaning they look and feel just fine for the duration of having the virus, but are spreading the virus fast. This is what social distancing is all about: Stay home, wash your hands often, clean your space and hopefully you’ll be able to avoid the asymptomatic spread. But when someone in your house is showing symptoms or simply knows that they’ve come into contact with someone who has been tested and found to have the virus a different kind of quarantine is required. You need a quarantine within a quarantine. The infected need to isolate within your own home.


In these situations, the goal is to isolate the sick person from the world, and the members of their household, for two weeks. It isn’t easy, but there are steps to take that can give those not infected a fighting chance. Here’s how to proceed.

This Is the Time for a Mask

While there has been much controversy over masks — primarily aimed at those healthy folks hoarding them while hospitals run out — if you have someone sick at home, they should be wearing one while around others in the house. If they don’t own one, you can try making your own out of household materials or cover your mouth with a bandana. “In this critical time we’re having, anything is better than nothing,” says Sophia Thomas, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

Leave Them Alone

Designate a room in your house where those who are sick can spend the next two weeks, and stay out of it as much as possible. If you don’t have a bedroom they can hole up in alone, keep your distance. “The most important thing is to try to stay six feet away from one another,” says Georges Benjamin, director of the American Public Health Association. Don’t let visitors into the home, especially those at high risk, such as grandparents.

If the sick person does have a room of their own, check up on them several times per day. Ask how they’re doing through the door or give them a video call if they aren’t too ill. If the infected person has more serious symptoms, you may have to venture inside, but take precautions including distance and gloves. If the person feels well enough to bend down, leave their meals outside the door.

Of course, sending a five-year-old to their room for two weeks is basically impossible. Don’t panic. “You do the best you can,” Benjamin says. Reduce your risk of infection by cleaning surfaces kids touch frequently, such as toys. Pay attention to your own cleanliness, too. “The most practical thing for most parents is to simply wash their hands as often as they can,” Benjamin says.

6 travel hacks every military family should know

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Clean the House Like You Mean It

If a surface is visibly dirty, first clean it with a detergent and water. Then, disinfect it with a product that can kill viruses, such as bleach. Even if they look clean, wipe down high-touch surfaces with detergent and water often, including doorknobs, counters, tables, light switches, remote controls, cabinet handles, and sink handles. “The more frequently, the better,” Thomas says, but at least once daily. Use disposable gloves while cleaning, and don’t reuse them.

Appoint a bathroom for those who are ill, or, if you only have one, make sure it has good airflow. If the whole family must share a bathroom, immediately clean and disinfect after the sick person uses it.

Family members should not clean the room of someone who is ill, though the sick person may clean their own room if they’re up to the task. The sick person should use their own lined trash can, and family members should wear disposable gloves while disposing of the bag. Household members should also use gloves while doing the sick person’s laundry and washing their dishes.

Holy Crap, Is It Ever Time to Wash Your Hands

Wash your hands often, for at least twenty seconds after using the bathroom, before eating, and after sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose. Don’t share towels to dry your hands on. In fact, don’t share anything, including unwashed dishes and eating utensils. Avoid touching your face and wash laundry thoroughly, particularly if it is soiled by bodily fluids.

6 travel hacks every military family should know

Hopefully Your Dog’s Loyalty Lies With the Quarantined

“We want to keep all of our family members healthy, and that includes our furry family members,” Thomas says. Though there are no cases of pets contracting COVID-19, sick family members should avoid petting their cats and dogs and should ask a different household member to care for them. If the sick person must pet a pup, they should wash their hands before and after contact and wear a facemask while interacting. They should also avoid sharing a bed with their fur baby.

How to Feed Yourself 

If you’re anything like the rest of the country, you probably have a sufficient stockpile of snacks. If you do run out of food, don’t go to the grocery store. Stock up your pantry using an online grocery service or order delivery from a restaurant. Pay online beforehand and ask the deliverer to leave the package outside your front door. You can also ask a neighbor or relative to deliver a care package to your door.

5 Signs You Need to Go to the Emergency Room

Before you go to the ER, call ahead. Let them know if you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and any other symptoms you may be experiencing.

  • Difficulty breathing: If breathing is painful or hard to do, seek immediate help.
  • Blue around the lips: A blue tint to the lips, tongue, and skin of the face means you may not be getting enough blood flow to your head.
  • Fever that won’t come down: If medications such as Tylenol can’t bring down your fever, seek help.
  • Chest pain: Though many people with COVID-19 may feel chest pain, significant pain deserves an emergency call.
  • Worsening of other conditions: The virus can exacerbate pre-existing conditions such as asthma.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Elon Musk amuses the internet with tweet about flags

Chad and Romania are situated on separate continents and share few historical or geographical links. They don’t even have an embassy in each other’s country.

The two countries rarely come up in the same sentence. That is, unless you’re discussing their flags.

Aside from slight variations in color shading, the two countries’ flags appear identical — an observation Tesla CEO Elon Musk appears to have just discovered and shared with Twitter.


According to the online Encyclopedia Britannica, Romania initially displayed a flag with horizontal stripes of blue, yellow, and red before settling on its current vertical design in 1861.

Chad decided on its own flag design after it achieved independence from France in 1959.

The country initially considered a green, yellow, and red design but quickly discovered Mali had already taken the same pattern. It then swapped the green for the blue — inadvertently creating a flag that was almost identical to Romania’s.

Chad’s flag is not the only one to resemble other flags — here are some other examples

The flag of Mali, the country Chad tried to avoid copying, is similar to Senegal’s — a single green star in the middle appears to separate the two flags. Guinea’s also replicates Mali’s design but is reversed.

Both Indonesia and Monaco fly two horizontal stripes: red over white. Poland similarly flies white over red.

Ireland and Ivory Coast share the same design, but it is flipped on the flagpole.

All of these similarities may have stemmed from coincidence, but other flags have a specific reason for slight variations to a theme.

Ecuador, Venezuela, and Colombia all sport the same-colored horizontal stripes, but that’s because they used to be part of the same country of Gran Colombia, which dissolved in 1822, according to Britannica.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

America’s nukes are absolutely tiny compared to Russia’s

Here in the United States, we tend to think of nuclear weapons in much the same way we think of the space race and the Cold War: like a relic of a bygone era in which America emerged victorious. Unfortunately, that era isn’t quite as bygone as it seems: space defense is once again a topic of serious concern, America is once more at the precipice of an international arms race, and both China and Russia have unveiled massive new nuclear weapons in recent years.


America does still boast the second-largest arsenal of nuclear weapons on the planet, lagging just behind Russia who, like the Soviet Union, has always invested heavily in deterrence through guaranteeing Armageddon. The problem is, America has largely chosen to rest on its nuclear laurels since the fall of the Soviet Union, resulting in a significant difference between the nuclear tech in Uncle Sam’s arsenals and that of America’s most powerful competitors.

6 travel hacks every military family should know

Russian Topol-M nuclear ICBM preparing for the annual Victory Day Parade.

(Vitaly V. Kuzmin via WikiMedia Commons)

The Air Force is currently on the hunt for the company that will build America’s next generation of nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), but until that contract has been completed, the U.S. will continue to rely on silo-launched Minuteman IIIs and submarine-launched Trident missiles, with yields of 475 and 100 kilotons respectively. These weapons are quite powerful, with the weaker trident producing an explosive yield more than six times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima and the Minuteman III clocking in at nearly five times more powerful than even that.

However, despite all the carnage one could deliver with 475 kilotons of nuclear fury, America’s mighty Minuteman III missiles are not only far behind Russian and Chinese competitors in terms of technology and the ability to counter missile defense systems, they are woefully underpowered.

6 travel hacks every military family should know

These mushroom clouds represent the yields of each nuclear weapon.

(Individual mushroom cloud courtesy of Flickr)

China’s newest ICBM, the DF-31, for instance, boasts a massive 1 megaton yield, or 1,000 kilotons. That means China’s new 42-foot nuclear missile has more than twice the destructive power of America’s workhorse ICBMs. Powerful as the DF-31 may be, if you’re impressed by that, you haven’t looked in Russia’s inventory lately.

Russia’s massively powerful RS-28 Sarmat, or simply, the Satan II, carries a whopping 50 megaton nuclear warhead. For those who aren’t fond of arithmetic, that’s the equivalent of 50,000 kilotons and is so powerful that America’s Minuteman III missiles barely even register by comparison.

6 travel hacks every military family should know

America’s ICBM’s would barely be visible compared to the RS-28 Sarmat’s yield.

(Individual mushroom cloud courtesy of Flickr)

Like China’s DF-31, the RS-28 Sarmat could forgo the single large warhead for a group of smaller ones, but the reduction in yield would likely be offset by the distribution of the weapon’s payload: in short, multiple warheads can destroy a larger swath of territory than a single large warhead tends to.

Of course, with Russian officials claiming their doomsday-weapon nuclear torpedo carries a positively gigantic 100-megaton warhead, even the Satan II isn’t the biggest kid on the nuclear block.

Of course, the sheer destructive yield isn’t the only measure of a nation’s nuclear capabilities, but it does pay to maintain a healthy frame of reference when it comes to ways the world could end. After all, when it would take more than 105 American ICBMs to match the destructive power of just one Russian nuke… we should all be a little concerned.
MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Red Army taunted its fleeing Nazi enemies in the race for Berlin

The violence of the final weeks of World War II on Europe’s Eastern Front was matched only by its chaos, as exhausted and outmanned German forces withered under attacks from well-equipped and highly motivated Soviet troops.

The front line became more fluid, with Soviet forces quickly enveloping Nazi units that then made shambolic retreats and launched desperate breakout attempts.


At times, Soviet forces arrived at vacated German positions so quickly that the Russians found opportunities to taunt their reeling enemies.

The Soviet race to Berlin began on April 15 from positions east of the city, and by the morning of April 21, 1945, staff officers at the German army and armed forces joint headquarters at Zossen, south of Berlin, were girding themselves for capture after Hitler denied a request for them to relocate away from the Soviet advance.

But Soviet tanks ran out of gas south of the headquarters, and the delay allowed Hitler’s staff to reconsider, ordering the headquarters to move to Potsdam, southwest of Berlin. The officers at Zossen got the order just in time.

“Late that afternoon, Soviet soldiers entered the concealed camp at Zossen with caution and amazement,” historian Antony Beevor writes in his 2002 book, “The Fall of Berlin 1945.”

Just four German defenders were left. Three surrendered immediately. The fourth was too drunk to do anything.

“It was not the mass of papers blowing about inside the low, zigzag-painted concrete buildings which surprised [the Soviets], but the resident caretaker’s guided tour,” according to Beevor. The tour, he writes, took the Soviet troops down among the two headquarters’ maze of bunkers, filled with generators, maps, and telephones.

“Its chief wonder was the telephone exchange, which had linked the two supreme headquarters with Wehrmacht units,” Beevor writes.

“A telephone suddenly rang. One of the Russian soldiers answered it. The caller was evidently a senior German officer asking what was happening,” Beevor writes. “‘Ivan is here,’ the soldier replied in Russian, and told him to go to hell.”

Soviets troops found other ways to taunt the Germans using their own phone lines.

A few days later, as Russian armies advanced to the outskirts of Berlin, the senior officers in the Fuhrer bunker, which didn’t have proper signaling equipment, were increasingly in the dark about troop movements. In order to supply Hitler with up-to-date information, they had to turn to Berlin’s residents.

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Three senior German officials emerge after Germany’s unconditional surrender terms were formally ratified in Berlin, May 9, 1945.
(U.S. Signal Corps photo)

“They rang civilian apartments around the periphery of the city whose numbers they found in the Berlin directory,” Beevor writes.

“If the inhabitants answered, they asked if they had seen any sign of advancing troops. And if a Russian voice replied, usually with a string of exuberant swearwords, then the conclusion was self-evident.”

In the final days of April 1945, Berliners started calling their city the “Reich’s funeral pyre,” and Soviet troops were calling them to rub their looming victory in to their nearly vanquished enemy.

“Red Army soldiers decided to use the telephone network, but for amusement rather than information,” Beevor writes.

“While searching apartments, they would often stop to ring numbers in Berlin at random. Whenever a German voice answered, they would announce their presence in unmistakable Russian tones.”

The calls “surprised the Berliners immensely,” wrote a Soviet political officer.

Amid those taunts, the battle for Berlin and the fighting that preceded it left widespread destruction and death.

The battle began with one of the most powerful artillery barrages in human history, and by the time it was over on May 2, about 100,000 German troops — many of them old men and children — and more than 100,000 German civilians had been killed. Germany surrendered unconditionally on May 7 and 8.

Soviet forces lost about 70,000 troops in the fight for the city. Many of their deaths were caused by the haste of the Soviet operation, which was driven by commanders’ desire to impress and please Stalin and by Stalin’s own desire to seize Nazi nuclear research.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

This was the toughest NFL player to ever catch a football

When you think of sheer football toughness and grit, running backs like Jim Brown and Houston Texans Defensive End JJ Watt come to mind. But the record for all-time toughness has to go Hall of Famer Larry Wilson. The former St. Louis Cardinal (when St. Louis had a football team, and they were also the Cardinals), routinely makes the list of the NFL’s greatest players – and for good reason.


The Cardinals Free Safety spent his entire playing career with the Cardinals and after retiring, spent the rest of his working career with the Cardinals, even moving to Arizona from St. Louis. with the team. That wasn’t what was most remarkable about Wilson. What was most remarkable was his dedication to the game.

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Yeah, those are casts. Over his broken hands.

Wilson was a free safety whose size and speed were previously unheard of in that position. In college he played running back, but was too small to play there for the NFL. He switched to defensive back after being drafted by the Cardinals in 1959, but he had the athleticism that allowed the defense to experiment with using him as a pass rusher – which had never been used to rush the quarterback before. The Cardinals created a new blitz play called the “Wildcat,” and that became the name Larry Wilson picked up too. That just describes his speed and athleticism, however. His toughness on the field was another matter.

Throughout his 12-year career, Wilson racked up 52 interceptions, five of them being worth six points. One of those interceptions was caught while the Wildcat was on the field with two broken hands, still playing free safety with casts over his hands.

After retiring from the NFL as a player in 1972, Wilson became a coach on the staff of the Cardinals, and later, an executive for the team. In 1978, The Wildcat was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, the first year he was eligible for induction. For 17 years, he was the General Manager of the Cardinals, and ever since he left the field, he is remembered as a part of every All-Star or All-Time team ever created by sports pundits. He is routinely labeled as one of the greatest players ever to take the field.

Not bad for a kid who was too small to play the game in the first place.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How troops learn to sleep anywhere, any how, any way

Sleep is, apparently, one of those things that medical professionals tend to claim is vital to not dying. While in the military, you’ll get so little sleep that your body grows accustomed to functioning at a high level with just four hours of non-continuous sleep.

For one reason or another, putting aside large chunks of time for that vital sleep just doesn’t happen. So, troops quickly learn how to rack out at the drop of a dime while smothered in their gear. Or they find a nice, cozy spot underneath a HUMVEE in the glaring Afghan sun with only their rifle and pebbles to keep them comfy.

It’s really an impressive skill — and it’s usually among the first truly mastered by even the most average of recruits.


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That’s not to say that calories are a good thing either. It’s a level of complication that can’t be footnoted into an article about sleep deprivation, though.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth)

The biggest contributing factor to this mastery over snoozing is that troops are constantly on the move. The human body is only meant to exert so much effort and that limit is pushed daily by all troops. Normally, the body needs to both sleep regularly to rebuild damaged muscles and eat healthy foods to replenish what’s lost.

Troops supplement this by maintaining a higher-than-average caloric intake. It’s assumed that an average active male in their twenties should take in about 3000 calories to function normally. The average deployed troop takes in three MREs per day, which totals 3,750 calories.

Contrary to popular belief, eating calories is actually a good thing if you’re moving about as much as troops do. This intake means that the body has more to work with when it finally has time to recharge.

Troops exhaust themselves by being constantly in motion. When an opportunity to knock out arises, even if it’s just for a few minutes, it will be seized.

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And you really don’t want to try that while on guard duty. That’s still punishable under the UCMJ.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Charles M. Willingham)

The next contributing factor is that troops are generally sleep deprived and have their sleep cycles interrupted constantly. Starting in basic training, a drill sergeant could wake everyone up at 0100 for sh*ts and giggles, have a special someone pull fire guard at 0300, and wake up for the rest of the day at 0500.

The body does most of its recharging during cycles of REM sleep, the first of which starts after roughly 45 minutes of sleep and again in another 45 minutes. The rigors of training, however, rarely permit troops to achieve multiple cycles of REM, so the body tries to recharge as much as possible during those first 45 minutes. As this pattern of interrupted sleep becomes the norm, the body adapts and requires less time to get into REM cycles.

In essence, this pattern resembles polyphasic sleeping — which is a terrible thing to try without adding in a solid, 6-8 hour chunk of rest into the mix.

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Even if it’s in broad daylight on a pile of sharp rocks.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ken Scar)

The body actually can’t handle this type of sleep deprivation but, by sheer power of will (and a metric f*ck-load of caffeine), troops can shut off their body’s warning signs.

Troops’ bodies can endure this for a few days, typical of a combat mission while deployed, but a dearth of sleep can’t last for weeks. There will have to be a time when that troop hits their rack to get a full night’s rest.

And when they do, it’s some of the best sleep they’ve ever gotten.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Paralyzed for 27 years, veteran walks with exoskeleton

Since being paralyzed almost three decades ago, Dean Juntunen has competed in more than 90 wheelchair marathons, continued snowmobiling and four-wheeling, and taken up kayaking.

Now, Juntunen is taking another significant step. And then another step. And then another.

“Just standing talking to you is interesting,” Juntunen said. “I had not gone from a sitting position to a standing position in 27 years. I got injured in ’91, so just standing is fun. I like just standing up and moving around.”


The medically retired Air Force captain is walking with the aid of a wearable exoskeleton robotic device as part of a study at the Spinal Cord Injury Center at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.

About 160 veterans are participating in the program at 15 VA Centers across the country. After completing a series of rigorous training sessions, veterans in this study will take the exoskeleton home for use in everyday life.

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Juntunen executes a challenging 180-pivot with the aid of VA trainers Cheryl Lasselle (left) and Zach Hodgson.

Participants must meet certain criteria, including bone density. Users should be between about 5-foot-3 and 6-foot-3 and cannot weigh more than 220 pounds.

“Most paralyzed people, if not all, lose bone density,” Juntunen said. “So, you have to pass a bone density scan to qualify for this program. I happen to have unusually good bone density and I’ve been paralyzed for 27 years.”

Juntunen was on active duty when he was injured in between assignments from Malmstrom AFB in Great Falls, Montana, to Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, when his life changed.

Fell 30 feet, broke spinal cord in two places

An avid hiker and outdoorsman, Juntunen’s life changed when a tree branch gave way and he fell 30 feet to the ground.

“I landed on my back in a fetal position,” said Juntunen, who lives near Mass City in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. “Spine folded in half, broke five vertebrae, wrecked my spinal cord in two spots.”

“Well, I have a hard time saying no and they strongly asked me to do it. So, I decided, that’s probably going to be fun playing with that robot. I guess I’ll make a bunch of trips to Milwaukee.”

Juntunen, who has an engineering degree, said the hardest part of mastering the robotic device was developing balance.

“One of the hardest things about getting paralyzed is relearning your sense of balance because you can’t feel anything through your butt,” he said. “I’m paralyzed from the base of the rib cage down, so it’s like I’m sitting on a stump all the time.”

Turns and pivots presented challenges, as did going up an incline, he said.

“I liken this to walking on stilts for an able-bodied person because you have to feel the ground through wooden or metal legs. That’s basically what I’m doing in this thing.”

“I don’t really describe this as walking, more like riding the robot,” he said. “The interesting thing is, my brain feels like it’s walking. I’m a complete injury, so I can’t feel anything. My brain has no idea what my legs are doing, but nonetheless, it feels like I’m walking in my head.”

Not all participants are able to sufficiently master the nuances of the 51-pound device to meet the requirements of the study.

Basic training needed to master balance skills

“Some people don’t get past what we call the basic training,” said Joe Berman, Milwaukee VA project manager. “To be eligible to go into the advanced training, you have to be able to master some balance skills and do five continuous steps with assistance within five training sessions. That’s been shown by previous research to be a good predictor of who is going to succeed in passing the advanced skills that we require to take the device home.”

The training sessions at Milwaukee last about two to two-and-a-half hours, usually twice a day. With the aid of certified trainers, Juntunen walked up to a quarter mile, starting with the lightly trafficked tunnel between the main hospital and the Spinal Cord Injury Center.

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When Juntunen takes the device home, companions trained to assist will replace the VA trainers.

He eventually progressed to one of the main public entries to the hospital, which had inclines, carpeted areas, and pedestrian traffic.

“The inclines are harder,” Juntunen said. “Here, you’ve got short incline, then flat, then incline, so the transitions are harder. You’re in balance going down and when it flattens out, you have to change where your balance is, so the transition is a little trickier. Coming up is the worst, up the ramps is the hardest. You kind of have to reach behind you with the crutches. It’s more exertion and more difficult on the balance because the robot is always perpendicular to the surface.”

Mastering use of the device in the public space was part of the requirement before Juntunen can take it home.

“In order to take the device home, they need to be able to navigate up and down Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant ramps and go through doorways,” said Zach Hodgson, a physical therapist at the Milwaukee VA and part of the certified training team. “Right now, we have three trainers, but at home, he’ll need a companion to walk with him at all times. It’s looking at all those skills we need to get to and then making plans based on how he’s progressing.”

“He’s going to use this device in his home and community so we really get a good idea about how useful these devices are,” Hodgson said.

At home, companions replace the VA trainers to help with the device. In Juntunen’s case, he’s getting help from his kayaking buddies.

“They’ve seen me transferring and stuff,” he said. “They know I can sit and balance, sit on the edge of my kayak before I transfer up to the seat. So, that’s all normal for them.”

After completing training in Milwaukee, Juntunen is scheduled to have another session at a shopping mall in Houghton, Michigan, tentatively followed by another session in the atrium of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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