So the Battalion is still on the special Annual Training in Europe, and as they settle into the Autobahn for a long “road march” (called a “march” even when on vehicles), Private Alvarez brought some reading material.
I don’t know how many people outside the military are familiar with the various “-Times” publications; there’s an “Air Force Times” and a “Navy Times” and so on. The various military “-Times” newspapers are popular on base and post exchanges, the little “general stores” that operate anywhere military personnel gather. These are technically civilian newspapers that have developed close relationships with the military services and the newspapers they sell are very similar to supermarket checkout tabloids, in a way. Smaller than normal newspapers but bigger than magazines, and often chock full of all kinds of lurid and enticing headlines.
Except these headlines are not about the latest shenanigans of pop stars, but rather new science-fiction like weapons systems, vehicles, and other things that the Army is supposedly developing for the future. Pretty much every issue has some sort of article about a new combat vehicle, a new rifle, or (really juicy) new robots or mechanical exo-skeletons that will ease a soldier’s burden. About the only time people buy these is when there is little else to buy, or when a small wad of excess dollar bills is burning a hole in some troopie’s pocket after loading up on energy drinks.
The articles about future combat vehicles always follow down the same unicorn trail: a fantastic new vehicle of super impervious armor, that can go for days on a tank of fuel, can blast apart any enemy vehicle, carry a fully-loaded squad and –of course– all be air-dropped from a C-130. Don’t get me wrong, and the C-130 is a fine aircraft, but it is limited in what it can carry. These magical armored combat vehicles, with their paper-thin nuclear blast-proof armor and rugged Himalaya-crossing suspension and Star Wars blaster cannons have become the Army’s version of “cold fusion”: it is eternally “just around the corner”.
I enjoyed using some of the pictures of past Army Combat Armored Unicorn vehicles to show the progression of fantasy thinking that goes into these, and of course the Cessna as a stand-in for the C-130 was fun too. I hope I don’t get too many C-130 pilots ticked off at me, especially when they see that the picture I used for the Cessna turns out to be a radio-controlled model (which make sit all the more fun in my opinion).