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Fort Cavazos, Texas. (January 9, 2024): Every recruit undergoing basic combat training can attest to the horror they felt when a drill sergeant first handed them a live grenade. In this photo by Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Hughes, a soldier assumes the proper launch posture to accurately throw a live grenade. Before coming near a live grenade, every Soldier and Marine is taught a highly rigid set of procedures they will use when it is time to toss the real thing.

First, every troop is taught the hand-exchange process receiving a grenade and the proper aiming method. Trainees spend hours tossing practice dummies until each has perfected their launch technique. On the day of the real deal, troops are taken to a special range that has fortified concrete “stalls” placed side-by-side and usually positioned atop a hill so that grenades fall away naturally.

Newly commissioned 2nd Lt. Lexi De Villiers, right, embraces a fellow graduate following the U.S. Air Force Academy’s 2023 Winter Graduation ceremony, Dec. 15, 2023, in Colorado Springs, Colo. In total, USAFA commissioned 32 seniors into the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Justin R. Pacheco)

Colorado Springs, Colorado. (January 21, 2024): “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” John Kennedy. In this photo by Justin R. Pacheco, newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenant Lexi De Villiers, right, embraces a fellow graduate at the U.S. Air Force Academy’s 2023 Winter Graduation ceremony. The 2023 Class commissioned 806 officers into the Air Force and another ninety-three to the Space Force. Twelve international cadets graduated with their U.S. classmates.

The Air Force Academy is not easy to get into with only 13% of the 11,500 applications accepted each year. Cadets must have a minimum of a 3.78 GPA along with numerous other requirements. The Academy is ranked seventh in the 2024 edition of U.S. News Best Colleges and has a graduation rate of rate of 87 percent.

U.S. Army Soldiers with the 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, New Jersey Army National Guard, sit in formation during the 44th IBCT’s farewell ceremony at the Cure Insurance Arena, Trenton, New Jersey, Jan. 14, 2024. More than 1,500 NJARNG Soldiers will deploy in support of U.S. Central Command’s Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve. CJTF-OIR advises, assists, and enables partnered forces until they can independently defeat Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – ISIS – in designated areas of Iraq and Syria, in order to set conditions for long-term security cooperation frameworks. It is the largest deployment of New Jersey Army National Guard Soldiers since 2008.(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Michael Schwenk)

Trenton, New Jersey. (January 14, 2024}: In this photo by Specialist Michael Schwenk, 1,500 New Jersey National Guard soldiers gather for a farewell ceremony as they prepare to deploy in support the U.S. Central Command’s Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve. The Combined Task Force advises and assists coalition forces fighting to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. Operation Inherent Resolve is chiefly an American and British effort along with local allies to defeat ISIS militarily and to free innocent civilians trapped in their self-proclaimed caliphate's territory.

America contributes combat ground troops, mostly special forces, along with regular infantry and artillery units. This is the largest deployment of New Jersey Army National Guard Soldiers since 2008. The Soldiers, from the 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, will spend five weeks additional training at Fort Bliss, Texas before deploying overseas.

The 44th Brigade consists of three light infantry battalions, one field artillery battalion, a cavalry squadron, and an engineer unit. Nicknamed the “Jersey Blues,” the 44th dates to the 17th Century with early units of the brigade serving in both the French and Indian and the Revolutionary Wars.

U.S. Air Force operators assigned to the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron and Joint Personnel Recovery Center perform high altitude, low opening training jumps from a U.S. Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules cargo aircraft over East Africa, Dec. 27, 2023. HALO jumps are performed from altitudes where oxygen is limited, requiring members to employ specialized training beyond standard parachute insertions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Allison Payne)

Undisclosed Location. East Africa. (January 9, 2024): One of the most daring, and dangerous, techniques to insert warfighters into combat is by way of a HALO jump. In this photo  by Staff Sergeant Allison Payne, Air Force operators assigned to the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron and Joint Personnel Recovery Center perform HALO jumps from Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules cargo aircraft. HALO stands for high altitude-low opening military free falls and is a method to deliver people and supplies via parachute insertion. In the HALO technique, the parachutist opens the parachute at a low altitude after free-falling for a lengthy period before pulling the cord. The technique allows pilots to remain at altitude out of range of ground fire or missiles while increasing the stealth and accuracy of insertions.

The chief danger of HALO jumps is the lack of oxygen at high altitude and the risk of passing out from hypoxia (insufficient oxygen). Special Operators jump from altitudes between 30 and 40 thousand feet, and fee fall to as low as eight hundred feet above the ground. Military parachutists have been clocked at up to 126 mph while achieving jump times under two minutes.

The HALO was first developed in the 1960s for military use and the first jump was accomplished by Colonel Joseph Kittinger, a leap from nineteen miles above the world’s surface. The first use of the HALO in combat was during Vietnam where the technique was used by special forces for recon insertions and the tactic continues to be a staple for U.S. Special Operators.

U.S. Marine Corps' Mounted Color Guard carries the American Flag and the Marine Corps Standard in the 135th Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 1, 2024. The Rose Parade is part of an annual celebration, Tournament of Roses, that includes various floats, bands, dancers and equestrian units, and is meant to showcase the beauty of Pasadena, Calif. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Kristina Judy)

Pasadena, California. (January 17, 2024): In this photo by Corporal Kristina Judy, the Marine Corps' Mounted Color Guard carries the American Flag and the Marine Corps Standard in the 135th Rose Parade. The Rose Parade is part of the annual Tournament of Roses celebration that includes various floats, bands, dancers, and equestrian units. As the only mounted color guard in the Marine Corps, it is quite an honor to be selected to represent America at patriotic events across the nation.

Marines who join the color guard have little or no equestrian experience so they are trained by civilian horse whisperers to ride and maintain horses and operate a ranch effectively. The horses in the unit are wild mustangs adopted from the Bureau of Land Management's Adopt a Horse and Burro Program. Before they are adopted by the team, these horses are “green broken” by federal inmates meaning they are only partially trained and only recently learned to be under saddle.

Initially, Marine stablemen establish a training routine designed to bond rider and horse so that trust and cooperation is firmly established. Next, they work in arenas where they are sensitized to loud noises and moving crowds so that the horses relax and trust their handlers.

The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB 10) “tows” the cutter while on the fast ice in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, Dec. 29, 2023. The U.S. military's support of U.S. Antarctic research began in 1955. U.S. Indo-Pacific Command continues to lead the Joint Task Force-Support Forces Antarctica team in providing logistic support for the United States Antarctic Program. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Graves)

McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. (January 16, 2024): In this photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Graves, the crew of the Coast Guard cutter Polar Star participates in an ice liberty to give the crew a moment to walk on the ice and “tow” the vessel. The nation’s only active icebreaker, the Polar Star recently completed its annual mission to clear a navigational channel to U.S. facilities in Antarctica. Officially called Operation Deep Freeze, this joint mission with the National Science Foundation uses the Polar Star to cut through ice up to twenty-one feet thick to allow ships to deliver fuel and essential supplies to America’s Antarctic stations with McMurdo Station as the logistics hub.

For 75 years, Operation Deep Freeze employs active and reserve members of the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Coast Guard to brave the harsh Antarctic weather to resupply some 700 NSF research facilities while the southernmost continent has 24 hours of daylight.

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