The 6 Most Hilariously Petty Abuses of Military Power
We're all for goofing around at work -- our entire business model is based on it. But when that workplace is the military, you'd hope there wouldn't be people running around doing dumbass things like sticking firecrackers down each other's pants while they're trying to pilot a state-of-the-art weapon system. Sadly, this isn't the case.
A Drunk Russian Soldier Crashes His Tank into a Light Pole
As we've previously discussed, pretty much every driver in Russia has a dashboard camera installed in their vehicle to incriminate the culpable party in the event of a collision and/or capture a visual document of the last moments of their lives. Additionally, as one driver discovered, the cameras will allow you to record magical moments like a soldier drunkenly attempting to pilot a tank through a busy intersection:
The video begins as the driver comes to a stop in front of a Russian soldier blocking traffic to make way for a military motorcade. The traffic director, gripping a baton authoritatively, waves his comrades through behind him, and the first tank proceeds into the intersection. However, the tank suddenly comes to an abrupt, axle-shattering stop in the middle of the street. It's as if the driver spotted a raccoon in his path.
After several motionless seconds, which we assume were spent thumbing frantically through the operating manual, the tank suddenly lurches forward another 5 feet before slamming to a stop again, snapping the man in the gunner's hatch violently around like a whip antenna on a Ford Bronco.
Then, with the subtle, practiced grace of a teenager getting blown on his way to prom, the driver sends the tank zooming up over the curb and directly into an electrical pole, throwing a visible shockwave through every power line in the area. He continues trying to push forward, as if he hasn't noticed that the pole is in his way, but the tank remains firmly stuck in place, because the laws of physics do not care how much you are embarrassing yourself.
It deserves to be mentioned that at no point during this caravan of failure does the guy directing traffic offer any kind of reaction. He just stands there like he's in a staring contest with a repressed memory. Either he has the thousand-yard stare of a Spetsnaz soldier or he's just seen Sergei crash that goddamn tank so many times that it no longer even registers.
Incidentally, the driver is currently facing a court martial for this, even though (judging by other dash cam videos) this was a pretty typical day at a Russian intersection.
A U.S. Army Pilot Crashes His Helicopter While Showing Off
Showboating is a natural response to being put in a position where you have more power, control, prestige, or access to cool toys than your peers -- even pulling doughnuts in the parking lot of Wendy's with an Oldsmobile Cutlass is badass if you're the only one of your friends who owns a car. And if instead of an Oldsmobile it's an awesome attack helicopter worth $20 million, well, the temptation must be overwhelming.
This was the precise situation faced by a U.S. Army pilot as he got behind the controls of an Apache attack chopper at an American military base in Afghanistan. His sworn duty to both represent and defend the ideals of his great nation came into direct conflict with his obligation to look awesome in front of his friends, and that "sworn duty" bullshit got launched right out of the cockpit like Goose in Top Gun.
"No biggie. You can just work for free for the next 180 years to pay for it."
The pilot came zipping in close to one of the main buildings in the compound, literally clearing it by inches. He then made a hard bank that nearly sent the helicopter completely vertical before coming back around to dazzle spectators by making an even lower pass over the snowy ground. However, it's clear that he hadn't quite mastered this particular maneuver, because instead of coolly missing the rocky terrain by a hair, he smashed an $18 million whirling death machine into the middle of a wintery field surrounded by his fellow soldiers. Eight tons of rotating metal blades then bounced into a snow drift and flew upward in a cartwheeling spiral of self-defeat that would be comical if it wasn't so defecatingly terrifying.
Impossibly, no one was injured, but the Army is investigating the possibility of filing criminal charges against the pilot for doing the dumbest fucking thing you could ever possibly do with a helicopter outside of trying to use it to chop vegetables.
"No, it wasn't the crash. He pissed himself so hard, it dehydrated him."
A Fighter Jet Flyby Shatters the Windows of the Brazilian Supreme Court
As we just discussed, flying dangerously close to buildings that you aren't otherwise attacking is generally not met with a congratulatory round of beers and backslapping, regardless of how cheekily you may cause an overbearing superior officer to spill his or her coffee. If we may once again relate things to Top Gun, which is an unspoken tenet of every exercise in gentlemanly discourse, the trouble Maverick got into for buzzing the tower must have been minuscule in comparison to the punishment faced by two particular Brazilian air force pilots who decided that a flag-changing ceremony in their nation's capital was a stuff-shirted fanciness parade ripe for pranking.
So, while doing their scheduled flyover for the event, they instead took their jets dangerously low to the ground and scorched past the crowd of surprised onlookers at supersonic speeds, shattering every single window in the city's joint supreme court/congressional building.
For those of you who have never played Street Fighter II, whipping something through the air at supersonic speed creates a sonic boom. As its name might suggest, a sonic boom is a seriously loud goddamned noise accompanied by an actual release of force. The force is generally harmless, unless it happens to go off near some kind of brittle structure, like, say, the glass facade of the supreme court building in Brazil.
Fortunately no one was hurt, and the Brazilian air force is currently working to cough up the money to pay for the damages, which will probably come as a great expense to the nation, considering that they apparently couldn't afford to give two different branches of the government separate headquarters in the first place.
Coast Guard Pilots Fly Their Rescue Helicopter to a Butcher Shop
Plenty of us run errands after work -- the scant one or two business hours remaining in a day once we're finally off the clock are usually the only time we have during the week to run down to Piggly Wiggly for a carton of eggs or zip on over to Best Buy and root through the bargain bin for the fourth season of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. People in the armed forces are no different. For example, after completing some training exercises off the coast of Scotland, two Shetland Coastguard pilots decided to make a detour to pick up some steaks from the mainland. And by "make a detour," we mean they flew their rescue helicopter 85 miles across the North Atlantic and landed it outside a butcher shop in Orkney to pick up about $600 worth of meat.
"We don't actually care what it is. Just start chuckin' animal muscles into the back."
Some crusading local managed to capture the whole thing on video and uploaded it to YouTube (it has since been taken down), and the two men were immediately suspended for misusing military hardware. Luckily, the Orkney butcher came to the pilots' defense when he heard of their suspension and insisted that they shouldn't be punished because they use the helicopter to stop by for steaks all the time, which you may have noticed is the single worst excuse for committing a flagrant rule violation outside of blaming it on evil twins. Previously, the two pilots would land at a nearby airport and have the butcher come deliver the meat to them, but this time the butcher recommended that they just park their helicopter next to his butcher shop, since he owned the field behind it anyway.
"Hey, while you're here, whaddaya say you guys fly up on the roof and get my nephew's Frisbee down?"
The butcher's admission pretty much sealed the deal as far as the coast guard was concerned, and the two pilots were both demoted. Bizarrely, Orkney locals decided to mount a signature campaign to get them reinstated, because apparently no one in Scotland has heard of coolers, ice, or the mail.
A Vice Admiral Abuses His Power for a Bad April Fools' Joke
April Fools' Day is the one time of year when we can all behave recklessly insane and immediately absolve ourselves of any wrongdoing by yelling "April Fools!" the moment our chicanery is discovered. On every other day of the year, this is simply called "being an asshole." And really, why should the military be any different, other than the fact that billions of dollars in hardware are in play?
For example, Israeli vice admiral Ram Rothberg had the hilarious idea to issue orders for his men to get ready for a 10-day series of naval exercises off the coast of Italy, planning to revoke them on April 1 with the traditional "April Fools!" shout to a chorus of appreciative laughter and applause.
"Oh, man, you got us so good! I sincerely hope you don't die choking on your own blood!"
The problem is, soldiers tend to take their orders pretty seriously. Literally one of the most important parts of military training is to obey the orders of a superior officer, regardless of whether or not you personally agree with them or how little sense their orders seem to make. So on April 1, as Rothberg prepared to deliver the crushing punchline to his humorless, time-wasting anti-joke, he found three fully prepped warships ready to set sail, with hundreds of sailors lined up to go run drills near Italy for a week and a half.
Needless to say, the joke went unappreciated. The Israeli government called the whole incident "inappropriate," and vowed to come up with some way to ensure that the proper lessons were learned. We can only assume Step 1 would be to schedule Rothberg's court martial hearing for April 1. Although as far as practical jokes go, that's not even the most insane one to come out of the Israeli military ...
An Israeli Officer Gases a Roomful of Peers as a Practical Joke
When you put in your two weeks' notice at a job you've spent the past few years hating with every fiber of your being, you might feel the urge to mark your departure by pulling some legendary prank that will both burn your bridges with the bosses and make you a hero worthy of song to your fellow employees. This is not such a good idea if the reason you're leaving is that you've been promoted within the same company.
Unfortunately, Israeli paratrooper Major Nir Doft stopped reading after the first sentence of that last paragraph and came up with the ultimate way to punk his fellow officers before moving on from the battalion to accept a new post as a commander. During a farewell get-together in his office, Doft pretended to drop a pencil underneath his desk. When he bent down to retrieve it, he quickly slipped on a gas mask and pulled the pin on a tear gas grenade.
"Crap, I thought this was a regular grenade. Oh well, it'll have to do."
Then, he sat back and watched as his peers choked and vomited all over themselves as they struggled to escape the room, which of course they couldn't because Doft had placed two enlisted men under his command to block the exit. A good time was had by all. Then, two days after the incident, Doft went on vacation.
He came back expecting to assume his new command as if nothing had happened, but returned instead to find that, shockingly, a full investigation was being conducted by the Israeli military. They are presumably looking to see exactly how many different voices are currently screaming at each other inside Doft's mind before determining whether to allow him to remain in a leadership position surrounded by dangerous weaponry.
Related Reading: For some abuses of military hardware that are honestly impressive, click this link and discover the wonders of a combination machine-gun / tea kettle. If you're more interested in new uses for old-school weaponry, this article will sow you Chinese police and their badass crossbows. And for a look at some insane new weapons that make war look cartoonish, just fondle this hyperlink and be confronted by flesh-eating robot apes.