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Recruits with India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, conduct the land navigation course on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., Jan. 17, 2024. Land navigation is part of Basic Warrior Training and is designed to teach recruits how to use a lensatic compass and topographic map. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ava Alegria)

Parris Island, South Carolina. (January 17, 2024). In a previous life, I had the honor to serve as a Primary Leadership Development Instructor, short for the Army’s NCO academy, and my job was to train the next generation of combat leaders. An essential part of the curriculum is the science of map reading and land navigation that every student must master to pass. In this photo Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ava Alegria, a recruit participates in a land navigation course using  the “old fashioned” compass, protractor, and a pencil method.

Today’s young troops, so accustomed to digital technology to solve problems, often find  using these unsophisticated methods a bore. Why not just use GPS and not rely on human calculations at all? My response was always, “What happens when the enemy knocks out the satellites?"

This is why the U.S. military continues to teach map reading in this elemental way to prospective infantry leaders. Every infantry leader must be able to identify their position and navigate to various objectives without any electronic assistance. Students begin by understanding how to identify a grid square and to locate a point within it. A grid square is a division of the earth represented on a map on a scale of 1:50,000 (each centimeter is equal to 500 meters on the ground). Locations within this square are referred to as grid coordinates.

Terrain features are displayed using contour lines that identify hills, ridges, valleys, saddles (two small hills sitting side-by-side), and depressions. The closer the contour lines are to one another, the steeper the terrain. The father apart the lines are indicates a flat, sloping terrain. They also learn the colors and symbols used to identify bodies of water or man-made structures like railways or roads.

The United States Air Force Air Demonstration Team “Thunderbirds” conduct a photo chase over Spaceport, N.M., Jan. 17, 2024. This winter training trip marks the third consecutive year the Thunderbirds have conducted winter training at Spaceport. (U.S. Air Force photos by Staff Sgt. Breanna Klemm)

Spaceport, New Mexico. (January 17, 2024): It is one of the most spectacular demonstrations of aerial skill and daring in the world. In this photo by Staff Sergeant Breanna Klemm, the United States Air Force Air Demonstration Team “Thunderbirds” conduct winter training in preparation for another season entertaining audiences. The Thunderbirds were formed in 1953, just six years after the U.S. Air Force became its own branch of service, and they are the third-oldest formal flying aerobatic team in the world. Today’s  Thunderbirds are assigned to the Air Force’s 57th Wing based at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

The squadron's name is taken from the legendary creature that appears in the mythologies of several indigenous North American cultures. The Thunderbird, according to the Algonquian people’s mythology, rules the upper world while the Great Horned Serpent governs the underworld. The Thunderbird controls this ancient demon by firing thunderbolts to prevent it from overrunning the earth and devouring mankind. To these early American Indian tribes, the Thunderbird was literally a messenger from the Great Sun himself.

To become a Thunderbird, a pilot must undergo a rigorous selection process and must be nominated by at least two active Thunderbirds. Candidates must be experienced fighter pilots with a minimum of 750 hours in a fighter aircraft and must have demonstrated superior flying skills during their time in operational units. All candidates must have at least 3 years (but no more than 12 years) of military service and can expect to join the team for two years.

Crew members from Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley conducting helicopter operations with a Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter aircrew in the Bering Sea, January 8, 2024. These helicopter operations included Helicopter in Flight Refueling (HIFR) training. During this HIFR training the cutter crew and helicopter crew refueled the helicopter while it maintained a hover over the flight deck of the cutter.The HIFR method is used to refuel helicopters too large to be accommodated on the flight deck, or when flight deck motion is out of limits. Another added benefit of a HIFR method of refueling in the Bering Sea, is that a helicopter engaged in an urgent medevac or search and rescue case may refuel relatively quickly while remaining airborne. - U.S. Coast Guard photo by Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley crewmembers

Kodiak, Alaska. (January 8, 2024): Yes, THAT Alex Haley. In this photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jasen Newman, crew members assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley conduct in-flight helicopter refueling of a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter while on patrol in the Bering Sea. The Cutter’s namesake is indeed the famous author of Roots: The Saga of an American Family that became a worldwide sensation and won him the 1977 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. ABC adapted the book into a television miniseries that aired to a  record-breaking audience of 130 million viewers. Haley served in the Coast Guard until his retirement in 1959 at the rank of Chief Petty Officer with an extensive list of decorations from his service in World War II and Korea.

The Cutter Alex Haley operates in one of the most dangerous oceans on earth. Its mission is to rescue ships at sea and enforce maritime law in America’s most northern regions. The Bering Sea is in the Northern Pacific Ocean which divides the two largest land masses on earth, the Americas and Eurasia. The narrowest point of the sea is the Bering Strait which is only fifty-three miles wide and whose strong currents and unpredictable depths make it particularly treacherous. The Bering is one of the coldest seas on earth with frigid temperatures often below freezing for most of the year. Its shallow depth, volatile weather, and extremely cold sea temperatures create waves that are shorter and pack more power than deep sea waves. Winter storms are frequent and severe, often coating the superstructures of ships with ice and generating wave heights that may exceed forty feet.

Chesty XVI, mascot of the Barracks, stands at attention during a promotion ceremony at Marine Barracks Washington, Jan. 17, 2024. Chesty XVI was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal by the Honorable Carlos Del Toro, Secretary of the Navy. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Chloe N. McAfee)

Marine Corps Barracks, Washington D.C. (January 25, 2024): "All right, they're on our left, they're on our right, they're in front of us, they're behind us...they can't get away this time." U.S. Marine Chesty Puller. These words from America’s most decorated Marine typify the courage and tenacity of the Corps. In this photo by Lance Cpl. Chloe McAfee, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Chesty XVI, the Marine Corps mascot, stands at attention while Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro promotes him from the rank of private first class to Corporal during a ceremony at Marine Barracks Washington, Jan. 17, 2024.

In 1957, the Corps adopted the tenacious bulldog as its mascot in honor of Puller who was awarded five Navy Crosses and one Distinguished Service Cross for bravery across three wars and two counterinsurgency campaigns. With six crosses, Puller is second behind Eddie Rickenbacker for citations of the nation's second-highest military award for valor. Puller retired from the Marine Corps in 1955 after 37 years of service and he died in 1971 at age 73.

To this day, the unofficial “lights out” slogan of the Marines is “Good night, Chesty, wherever you are.”

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Miami, Florida. (January 9, 2024): It is an industry that dumps tons of poison onto our streets that results in violence and mayhem in our neighborhoods. Thanks to the U.S. Coast Guard, a sizable chunk of these deadly narcotics will not make it to American shores. In the photo Petty Officer 2nd Class Diana Sherbs, a crew member of the Coast Guard Cutter Margaret Norvell offloads $32 million in illegal narcotics after a recent seizure in the Caribbean. Six suspected smugglers were detained aboard the Norvell and they will face American justice.

The Caribbean Sea is a world hot spot for drug trafficking and is one of the most dangerous assignments in the Coast Guard. Drug smugglers are almost always heavily armed and desperate to avoid capture making interdictions at sea especially hazardous. Cocaine is the most profitable illicit drug and it accounts for 85 percent of the drug market in the region. Colombia is the origin of over 95 percent of cocaine imports within the region followed by Venezuela which is the source of an additional 29 percent.

An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter, attached to the "Swamp Foxes" of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 74, lands on the flight deck onboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), Dec. 17, 2023. The Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to support maritime security and stability in the Middle East region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas Rodriguez)

Red Sea. (January 27, 2024): The Iranian back Houthi rebels in Yemen continue to attack peaceful shipping in the Gulf of Aden and the USS Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group is fighting back. In this photo by MC3 Nicholas Rodriguez, an MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter, attached to the "Swamp Foxes" of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 74, lands on the flight deck of the Eisenhower after a reconnaissance mission. This week, the Carrier group came under direct missile attack which represents an escalation on the part of the Iranian backed group.

The Eisenhower, commissioned in 1977, is the second of ten Nimitz-class aircraft carriers currently in service and is named after the 34th President of the United States.  Assisting the Eisenhower are six Navy surface ships including the cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the destroyers Gravely, Mason, Carney, and Laboon. The strike group is coordinating its attacks with the United Kingdom and is supported by maritime assets from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands.

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