It’s about the most useful item the U.S. military has ever issued and has earned a soft spot in every service member’s heart for its versatility and the cozy comfort it delivers when Mother Nature turns against you.
But while the success of the elegant square of quilted heaven rests largely on its simplicity, it has recently received a much-needed update that’ll likely deepen a trooper’s smile.
Enter the Woobie 2.0.
Marines are now being issued the so-called “Enhanced Poncho Liner,” which to most of those who’ve cuddled up to its synthetic-filled goodness will notice has a huge upgrade that many a service member has been clamoring for for years.
The new version of the woobie keeps its various tie down points and parachute chord loops, but now adds a heavy-duty reversible zipper to turn the thing into a no joke cammo cocoon.
New Zealand’s national rugby team – as well as a lot of other New Zealanders – perform a foot-stomping, tongue lashing, rhythmic battlefield dance before every match. The dance, called the Haka, is a group war cry dance, originally used by the native Maori people of New Zealand.
Maoris were descended from Eastern Polynesians who canoed all the way from Polynesia to what we now call New Zealand in the 13th century. That’s a distance of at least 900 miles.
A warrior culture soon emerged among the Maori
They developed a number of societal traits, namely the moko tattoos, which convey information about the wearer’s genealogy, tribal affiliations, status, and achievements.
Moko are drawn by a Tohunga ta moko – a Maori tattoo expert – during a process that is considered a sacred ritual. Men wear their moko on their faces, buttocks, thighs, and arms and women wear them on the chin and lips. They are also applied with a sort of chisel, which give the Maori tattoo textured into the skin.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)
Haka, the aforementioned battlefield dance, is still performed to this day. But it’s not just a war dance. It is used to welcome special guests and celebrating an achievement. Women as well as men can take part in the dance. Regardless of who performs it, it’s both impressive, intimidating, and beautiful all at the same time.
The storied history of the Maori warrior goes well beyond tribal dances and tattoos. Catch the first episode of We Are The Mighty’s “Elite Forces” featuring the Maori Warriors.
After the end of the Cold War, many of the countries that had been coerced into joining the Warsaw Pact sought to join NATO. One of those countries was Romania, which joined the alliance in 2004.
Since the end of the Cold War, Romania has seen a major drawdown of its forces. The country used to field eight mechanized infantry and two tank divisions patterned after those of the Soviet Union. Today, it fields two mechanized infantry divisions and a separate brigade. Much of their equipment is based off of Russian designs.
An M1A2 Abrams Tank belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division prepares to fire during tank gunnery qualification at Presidential Range in Swietoszow, Poland, January 27, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Micah VanDyke)
Perhaps the most notable of these is the TR-85 main battle tank. This is not a version of the T-72, but rather the much older T-55 main battle tank. We’re talking vintage stuff here — and while vintage is cool for fashion, it can be a killer for armored vehicles. The T-55 design was good in its day, but it was unable to defeat the Israelis in several wars in the Middle East — evidence that the tank has past its prime. Fortunately, the TR-85 has seen some upgrades.
Like the T-55, the TR-85 has a 100mm main gun. The tank has 41 rounds for that gun. It also has a 12.7mm DShK machine gun and a pair of PKM 7.62mm machine guns. Improvements since the end of the Cold War were born from collaboration between French and Romanian companies.
Presently, Romanian and American units train together as the Russian threat has returned a quarter-century after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the video below, you’ll see some American M1A2 Abrams tanks from the 1st Infantry Division (the Big Red One) carrying out a live-fire exercise alongside Romanian TR-85s.
Nazi Germany may have been one of the most evil regimes in history, but that regime also had some very good equipment. The Tiger tank, the Bf 109 and FW 190 fighters, the U-boat, and the MG42 machine gun were all very good.
Perhaps the most notorious weapon they had was called the “88.” Technically, it was called the 8.8 centimeter Flak 18, 36, 37, or 41, but most folks just described it with the number that referred to the gun’s bore diameter in millimeters. That was a measure of how notorious the gun was.
The first 88s were intended as anti-aircraft guns to kill bombers. They were very good at that – as many allied bomber crews found out to their sorrow. But the gun very quickly proved it was more than just an anti-aircraft gun, starting with its “tryout” in the Spanish Civil War. The gun also proved it could kill tanks.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, it could kill tanks from a mile away. When the Germans discovered that, they began to churn out 88mm guns as quickly as they could. As many as 20,700 were built, and they found themselves used on everything from Tiger tanks to naval vessels. Even after the war, the gun hung around, and during the war, it was something that allied forces quickly tried to neutralize. The 88 was even pressed into service with some Seventh Army units due to an ammo shortage.
The gun had a crew of seven, and weighed nine tons. The gun could be fired at targets as far as nine miles away. Very few of these guns are around now, but in World War II, many Allied troops wondered if the Germans would ever run out.
You can see video of one of the few surviving “88s” being fired below.
Bravery is a thing you see every day in the military. In all branches, in moments great and small, it’s an expression of the fundamental courage it takes to put your life on the line for love of country and to serve those you swore to protect.
Former Navy SEAL David Meadows proved exemplary in this capacity, serving 11 years in some of the harshest theaters of war throughout the Middle East.
But unlike many of his fellow Oscar Mike alumni, Meadows chose, upon reentry, to translate his habituated bravery into a civilian arena that would, honestly, make most servicemen and women want to crawl out of their natural born skins…
Yeah, he became an actor.
And we can tell you from experience that there are few professions that require a more constant personal brokerage with public shame, mortal embarrassment, insecurity, and rejection — in short, all of the types of feelings that normal people avoid like their lives depend on it.
Being the Special Ops-trained bad ass that he is, though, Meadows surveyed this new theater of war and then dove in head first. Acting for a living takes guts.
“I think that if there is a magic left in the world…it’s really for a person to be affected, to be changed — by one human being actually affecting somebody else on a really human, natural, soulful level. Does that make sense? And performing artists have that power. And I thought…that’s absolutely amazing. And I want to be a part of that.”
To get a taste of the kind of courage an actor has to muster every day, Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis visited Meadows at his acting studio in Los Angeles and submitted himself to a battery of drills that actors employ to help them behave truthfully under imaginary circumstances.
Each exercise is designed to increase physical sensitivity, dial up emotional availability, and to inure actors to the fear of ridicule that can shut them down at crucial moments. Like all high-stakes training, it’s effective — but it ain’t pretty.
Today’s lesson is clear: in a successful civilian life, emotional bravery matters. But you don’t have to take our word for it, you can just watch as Curtis cracks under the pressure and and begs to postpone the big payoff in the video embedded at the top.
You’ve probably suspected it from WATM’s coverage of the “Kuznetsov Follies,” but let’s just go out and say it: Russia’s navy is a basket case. A floating disaster of aging, decrepit ships and not that many of them – which is a far cry from what the Soviet Navy was in the Cold War.
To get a sense of how far the Russian Navy has fallen, in 1991, the Soviet Union had seven carriers — two Moskva-class helicopter carriers, four Kiev-class vessels, and one Kuznetsov-class ship, with two more (another Kuznetsov and a nuclear-powered design) under construction.
Today, there’s just the Kuznetsov, with her then-under-construction sister now serving with China, and a highly-remodeled Kiev serving with India.
How did this happen? A big part was the fact that after the fall of the Soviet Union, the ship-building industry collapsed, and the projects that fueled it. Not only that, many of the Soviet Navy’s naval engines were built in what was then the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
Now, the Ukraine is an independent country, and the two countries aren’t exactly on friendly terms. Russia is reportedly looking to import naval engines from China. Even if that happens, new ships are a long way off.
Rumors persist that plans to modernize two of the four Kirov-class nuclear-powered battle cruisers were scrapped, and the Admiral Ushakov, formerly the Kirov, has been idle for nearly two decades after an accident. Russia has been developing and building smaller vessels, including the Gorshkov and Grigorovoch classes of frigate and the Karakurt and Derzky classes of corvette. These ships are heavily armed and superior to the American littoral combat ships.
You can see a video below, further explaining how the Russian Navy sank so far from its status as a blue-water threat in the Cold War.
While Russia has deployed a number of Mach 2 bombers — like the Tu-22 Blinder and Tu-22M Backfire — these were not the fastest bombers that ever flew.
That title goes to the the North American XB-70 Valkyrie.
You haven’t heard much about the Valkyrie – and part of that is because it never got past the prototype stage. According to various fact sheets from the National Museum of the Air Force, the plane was to be able to cruise at Mach 3, have a top speed of Mach 3.1, and it had a range of 4,288 miles. All that despite being almost 200 feet long with a wingspan of 105 feet, and having a maximum takeoff weight of over 534,000 pounds.
That performance was gained by six J93 engines from General Electric, providing 180,000 pounds of thrust.
The XB-70s had no provision for armament, but the production version of this bomber was slated to be able to haul 50,000 pounds of bombs – either conventional or nuclear. Imagine that plane being around today, delivering JDAMs or other smart weapons.
With the performance and a weapons load like that, buying this plane to supplement the B-52 should have been a no-brainer, right? Well, not quite.
The fact was that the Valkyrie was caught by the development of two new technologies — the surface-to-air missile and the intercontinental ballistic missile. The former made high-speed, high-altitude runs much more dangerous (although it should be noted that the SR-71 Blackbird operated very well in that profile). The latter offered a more rapid strike capability than the XB-70 and was cheaper.
Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that as a result of the new technologies, the XB-70 was reduced by the Eisenhower Administration to a research and development project in December 1959. The B-70 was reinstated for production during the 1960 presidential campaign in an attempt to deflect criticism from John F. Kennedy. But Kennedy eventually threw it back to the lab.
Despite a public-relations effort by top Air Force brass, the B-70 remained an RD program with only two airframes built. A 1966 collision during a flight intended to generate photos to promote General Electric’s engines destroyed one of them. The surviving airframe is displayed at the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
Take a look at this video from Curious Droid on the XB-70.
Well, that’s something you don’t see everyday. A group of truckers in Kazakhstan were surprised when an Mi-8 helicopter with attached rocket pods landed on the road, halting traffic.
The drivers waited as one of the pilots climbed out and asked a quick question before waving, running back to the bird, and taking off again.
According to RT, the drivers are getting a good laugh on the radios after they realize what has happened:
“They were lost,” says a voice on the convoy radio, failing to suppress his laughter. “He came to ask which way to Aktobe.”
“How can you get lost in the steppe? How the hell can you get lost in the steppe?” says another incredulous voice.
According to the Kazakhstan Ministry of Defense, the pilots were on a planned visual-orienteering mission to test their navigation skills, including human survey. Since the pilots made it back after asking for directions, their mission was a success.
Even if it made them a bit of a joke between the truck drivers.
On Dec. 23, 1944, 2nd Lt. Charles E. Carlson was killed in action when Nazi planes shot down his P-47 Thunderbolt. Carlson would be missing for almost 73 years until he was identified and buried with full honors at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in Pennsylvania on Aug. 4, 2017.
When the “missing man” formation was flown, it was done by four F-35s.
The F-35s belonged to the 62nd Fighter Squadron, one of 23 assigned to the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, according to the wing’s official webpage. The 56th operates both F-35s and F-16s.
But long before it had the mission to train pilots on the Air Force’s newest multi-role fighter, the 56th Fighter Wing was a combat unit, as was its predecessor, the 56th Fighter Group.
A July 28 release by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency noted that Carlson’s remains had finally been identified. It noted that Carlson’s wingman had believed that the pilot got out, but German officials had claimed his remains had been recovered near the crash site.
The release stated that Carlson would be returned to his family for burial. So, how did the F-35s end up flying the missing man formation?
Back in World War II, the 56th Fighter Group was known as the “Wolfpack,” which included the 62nd Fighter Squadron. Among the pilots who flew with that unit was the legendary Robert S. Johnson, a 27-kill ace who later wrote the book, “Thunderbolt!”
According to an Air Force News Service report, it was because Carlson had been a member of the 62nd when he was killed in action. Squadron commander Lt. Col. Peter Lee had been browsing Facebook when he noticed the patch for the 62nd Fighter Squadron.
“I clicked on the link and that’s how I found out. It started with something as simple as a Facebook post…and next thing you know we’re flying four airplanes over and talking with the family,” he said.
The F-35s flew the missing man formation for Carlson, led by Capt. Kyle Babbitt, who said, “If it had been me on the other side, I would really appreciate this for my family. It’s definitely an honor to take on this responsibility.”
You can see a video about this mission by the 62nd Fighter Squadron below.
Keeping the troops well fed is a big part of how the military works. Navy veteran and pop-up chef August Dannehl knows this better than most. In the WATM series “Thank You For Your Service” August cooks a four-course meal for his fellow vets, and each course is inspired by a veteran’s story from his or her time in uniform.
Jawana attributes her pork-free diet to growing up with a vegan mother. Having to endure PB and J’s for two weeks to avoid the ham-heavy Army training menu, Jawana was in need of a good meal. Even though her mom is vegan, she roasted a chicken for Jawana to welcome her home.
Beer Can Roasted Chicken w/ Pommes Puree and Mushroom Sauce
Inspired by Jawana’s mom’s roasted chicken
8-10 lb. roasting chicken
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tbs sweet paprika
1/2 tbs smoked paprika
1/2 tbs chili powder
1/2 tbs onion powder
1/2 tbs garlic powder
3/4 tbs rosemary
1 (16 oz) can of favorite beer
1 lb yukon gold potatoes (peeled)
1 lb russet potatoes (peeled)
1 stick butter (room temp)
1 cup half and half
Salt and pepper to taste
flat leaf parsley for garnish
1 tbs butter
3 cloves garlic (minced)
8 oz. cremini mushrooms
8 oz. shitaki mushrooms
8 oz. enoki mushrooms
8 oz. morels (all sliced)
if you cant find morels, up the other qualities to 12 oz.
2 cups half and half
1/2 cup armagnac (or cognac)
1 tb orange zest
1 ts saffron
Prepare the chicken by patting dry with paper towel, rubbing with olive oil and applying spices liberally and evenly to the bird. Once spiced, situate chicken onto opened beer can and place on baking sheet. Refrigerate for four hours.
Preheat oven to 350°. Once at temp, cook chicken at 350° for 1 hour and roast at 375° for 15 minutes to crisp skin. Let chicken rest for at least 10 mins.
Meanwhile, place all potatoes into a pot of cold salted water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cook potatoes for 45 mins or until a potato falls cleanly off of a fork. Add butter, salt and pepper to taste and enough half and half to cream the potatoes with a wooden spoon.
Prepare the mushroom sauce by sautéing garlic in butter in a saucepan. Once sweated(about 5 mins) add all of the mushrooms and sauté for 8 mins or until the mushrooms are soft. Then add the armagnac and orange zest and flambé by catching flame with the alcohol and let ignite until alcohol is burnt off. Once reduced by 1/2 add the half and half and saffron and let cook for 15 mins.
Carve chicken into 2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 wings and 2 legs. To serve place pommes puree on plate, topped with selected chicken piece and mushroom sauce. Garnish with parsley.