Slide background


Navy Divers… On Snowmobiles?

Little Falls, Minnesota. (January 22, 2024): The last place you would expect to find Navy Divers is roaring through frozen forests on snowmobiles. In this photo by Lance Corporal Hunter Jones, Sailors undergo Arctic mobility training during the annual Snow Crab exercises at Camp Ripley, Illinois. This 53,000-acre military and civilian training facility is operated by the Minnesota National Guard and is located near the city of Little Falls in the central part of the state. The location of the camp is ideal due to its numerous frozen lakes and harsh environment for most of the year.

As part of the Navy’s expeditionary combat force, deep-sea divers use the camp to evaluate their performance and to test their equipment in a simulated Arctic environment. At Camp Ridley, the ice is about 16-inches thick and the water temperature hovers just above freezing which leads to equipment challenges that many divers have not seen. During the exercise, the divers spent as much as ten hours below the frozen surface.

The Navy has increased its presence in the Arctic in recent years as have peer adversaries Russia and China. Under the Navy’s Strategic Blueprint for the Arctic, Navy divers are at the tip of the spear in building a more capable Arctic naval force. This global competition ensures we will likely see divers in some strange places well into the future.

In Charge Of “Everything That Explodes”

Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois. (January 29, 2024):  In this photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Matt Hall, Sailors simulate loading a war shot torpedo into a surface vessel torpedo tube at Gunners Mate school. A Gunners Mate, or GM, is responsible for every type of weaponry aboard ship, from shot guns to guided missiles. If it shoots, it’s their gig.

These highly trained professionals are charged with securing all weaponry, repairing defense systems, and maintaining guided missile launchers. GMs are also experts at a multitude of small arms including shotguns, automatic riflespistols, and submachine guns. On the explosives side, GMs stow and maintain all bombs, portable and large-scale, along with mounted weapons systems and various rocketstorpedoes, and missiles. GMs also assist with operating shooting rangesarmories, and the storage and maintenance of arms.

To become a GM, a recruit must pass boot camp at Recruit Training Command Great Lakes followed by fifteen more weeks of specialized training at Class "A" Technical School. Here Sailors study electronics and the operation of launch systems and the torpedoes they will encounter aboard ship. After graduation, DMs may be assigned to a combat surface craft, a weapons installation, ordnance depot, or aviation activity in the U.S. or overseas.

Tradition Ensures Steady Leadership

Colorado Springs, Colorado. (January 24, 2024): Practically everyone who has served in the armed forces has participated in a time-honored tradition, the Change of Command ceremony. In this photo by Rayna Grace, cadets salute during a Cadet Wing Change of Command ceremony transferring power from Cadet 1st Class Isaac Bates to Cadet 1st Class Abigail Worley at the Air Force Academy.

The ceremony ensures the continuity of command by marking the transfer of authority, responsibility, and accountability from one commanding officer to another. There is normally a passing of colors, or unit standards, from the outgoing commander to the incoming one which ensures that the unit is never without leadership. The military often includes such symbolism as aircraft flyovers, a ceremonial review of the troops, gun salutes, and military bands in the ceremony.

The Change of Command ceremony lets these cadets know they will never be leaderless during their career as Air Force officers.

Pugil Sticks Breed Toughness, Confidence

Futenma, Japan. (January 19, 2024): Whether it is a fight at school or in sports like boxing, you always remember your first taste of close quarter combat. In this photo by Lance Corporal Sav Ford, Marines participate in a pugil stick battle during a field competition. These pugil stick battles have become a rite of passage for Marines and Soldiers undergoing basic combat training.

The word is… the troops look forward to them.

The goal of the pugil stick is to simulate close combat in battlefield situations while maintaining a controlled, safe environment for safety. The weapon is designed like a rifle and bayonet, one end is usually designated as the butt end while another simulates the bayonet. This heavily padded pole-like training weapon has been used since the early 1940s by military personnel training for rifle and bayonet combat.

While many feel a bit apprehensive or fearful at first, these battles have become a tradition and a source of pride. Battling with pugil sticks tests both a recruit’s mind and body and even a less than perfect bout instills confidence.

The name "pugil stick" comes from the Latin pugnus (fist) which is also the term used for boxing (pugilist) and the word "pugnacious" (eager to fight). The bouts are full contact with recruits wearing protective gear such as football helmets, hockey gloves, and chest and shin guards. Much like traditional martial arts, the techniques involve deflecting the blow of an attacker and countering with a downward strike, simulating a "bayonet". Likewise, students are taught to use a straight jab, usually with the butt end.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of this training is the mental development that the troops undergo. Most civilians are unprepared for the life and death scenarios warfighters are likely to encounter in real combat. Pugil stick training motivates troops to develop the “warrior spirit,” toughness, and confidence they will need on the battlefield.

Survivors Remember The Battle of The Bulge02_Battle_of_The_Bulge_WWII_Ardennes_Offensive_Bastogne_101st_Airborne_Screaming_Eagles_Support_Our_Troops.jpg

Arlington, Virginia. (January 25, 2024): Seventy-nine years ago, American troops were fighting for their lives in a winter hellscape called Bastogne in one of the bloodiest struggles in World War II, the Battle of the Bulge. In this photo by Elizabeth Fraser, Darrell Bush, 99, a former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant and a WWII veteran of the Battle of the Bulge, attends a ceremony commemorating the anniversary at Arlington National Cemetery.

The Battle of the Bulge, also known as the Ardennes Offensive, was a surprise winter German attack through the dense forests between Belgium and Luxembourg in December 1944. It was Hitler’s final desperate attempt to split the allies and capture the Belgian port of Antwerp. If successful, the Germans would be able to encircle and destroy the Allied armies. The Fuhrer hoped a victory would force the western Allies to negotiate a peace treaty in the Axis powers' favor.

What Hitler did not count on was the Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne Infantry Division.

Surrounded by five German armored divisions at the tiny Belgian town of Bastogne, the 101st valiantly held off countless attacks long enough to blunt the German invasion. The troops suffered through unimaginably harsh, wintry conditions in sub-zero temperatures and under relentless artillery fire.

Seabees Lend A Hand In West Africa

Sao Tome and Principe, West Africa. (January  21, 2023): “Travel to exotic places, meet interesting people” goes the famous 1970s recruiting pitch. No assignment fits that description better than assignment to the tiny nation of Aao Tome and Principe. In this photo by MC2 Andrew Waters, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Nathaniel Yarbrough, assigned to Navy Underwater Construction Team 1, follows a buoy chain to surface during an underwater survey of a coast guard pier. These divers belong to the famous Seabees underwater construction units numbered 1 and 2 that were created in 1974. They specialize in both underwater construction and demolition and are in Sao Tome and Principe as part of the Navy’s Africa Partnership, a multinational strategic program to increase the professionalism of African militaries.

They do this by conducting joint exercises, port visits, hands-on practical courses, and community outreach with the coastal nations of Africa. Underwater Construction Team 1, comprised of seven officers and seventy-one enlisted, is assisting local coast guards to maintain their underwater facilities and teaching skills that enhance their ability to respond to mariners in distress.