¡Libertad! – Eight Ways U.S.-Cuba Relations Benefit the Military
By Pablo James
This past Friday, the flag of the United States rose over the U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba for the first time since that embassy closed in January 1961. The reopening of the embassy is a part of ongoing the normalization of diplomatic and economic relations between the United States and Cuba. These are historic times for both countries.
As the restrictions of the last half century begin to ease, there is a great deal of speculation regarding what these changes will mean in the future with regards to travel and business between our two countries. We here at the Rhino Den have conducted extensive analysis of what these changes mean to our military and veterans.
- New PowerPoint™ Briefs – This is exciting news to the PowerPoint™ Jedi Masters around the military. While the revolving door that is the Army’s tattoo policy and the million and one ways to use a reflective PT belt have provided a steady source of new material for legion of Orcs imprisoned in the dungeons under the Pentagon hunched over laptops producing new slide decks, it is a challenge to come up with new material commanders can use to enslave service members in eternal briefings. Cuba brings with it a whole new selection of slides from off-limits areas to policies specific to that region.
- Unnecessary Ribbons and Awards – The only things the modern military loves more than briefings are ribbons and awards. Managed to go three years without getting arrested or being involved in an international incident? Here’s a medal! You graduated basic training? Here’s a ribbon! There was a war happening at the time? Here’s TWO ribbons! Graduated at the bottom of your class in a basic leadership course? Guess what…you still graduated! Here’s a ribbon! Yes, the military loves to give away ribbons and awards and Cuba presents the opportunity for a new battery of awards to be presented. The Caribbean Service Ribbon, the Caribbean Defense Freedom Medal, or the Theodore Roosevelt Safety Award.
- Instant Credit E-1 and Up! – As relations normalize and travel restrictions are lifted, the troops stationed at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base will, no doubt, reap the benefits of off post travel. As such, why shouldn’t the people of Cuba benefit financially by turning the area around Gitmo into a Mos Eisley-style hive of pawn shops, liquor stores, nude bars, used car dealerships, CrossFit gyms, and tattoo parlors all specially designed to separate Joe and Jane from their hard earned money.
- Back When It Was Still Tough – “Bruh, you don’t know shit. I was at Gitmo in ’13 when we couldn’t go off post…” Since the dawn of time, soldiers have talked trash based on where they have served and when. When sitting around in the motor pool trying to one-up others with tales of heroism and bravado, a soldier sometime realizes that almost everyone in the group has been to the same places. The dedicated trash talker doesn’t quit when this happens. The dedicated trash talker doubles down and pulls out the calendar. You were there in ’06? He was there in ’05. Whether the subject is a deployment, a school, or assignment to a particular unit, it was always harder when YOU were there back in [insert date-time group here]. A newly accessible Cuba will be no different. Lance Corporal McFuckthisshit will spare no effort to tell you how he was there when you couldn’t leave base, when you could leave base, or before the PX looked like Wal-Mart.
- Hashtags – The newest generation of American warriors LOVE their social media (don’t talk shit, dear reader, you came across this article on Facebook…let he who is without sin cast the first stone and all that). Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and SnapChat rule the day for the youngest in our ranks. Military units and leaders have even gotten into the game with their own social media pages and feeds. Service and/or leave in Cuba will bring with it a treasure trove of new social media hashtags from #gitmo to #havanafourdaypass and anything else you can imagine will begin to fill the interwebs. Shortly thereafter, we’ll meet our newest young celebrity – the military Private who does or says something incredibly unprofessional and stupid (but this time in Cuba) while broadcasting it on social media for all the world to see and thus creating a new topic to bore the rest of us with during Death By PowerPoint™ (See Item 1).
- Jungle Warfare School – If you’ve got a few years in combat arms, you probably had the chance to make a trip or two to Fort Sherman, Panama and go through the Army Jungle Warfare School. Black palm, venomous frogs, and monkeys that would come down from the trees and steal your TA-50….ah, the good old days. Why not re-open the school in Cuba? I know they’ve re-opened the school in Hawaii, but why limit ourselves? They could rename the schools the Pacific Jungle Warfare School and the Atlantic Jungle Warfare School and let graduates talk shit about which school was tougher (See Item 4 above). This would be economically beneficial to units closer to the east coast and, more importantly, it would present opportunities for new and more diverse ribbons and I Love Me Wall certificates! They could even give it a cool name like The Western Hemisphere Center for Jungle Excellence and Warrior Something. It’s a win-win!
- More Senior Leader Positions – With the war on terror winding down and since we’ve demonstrated that we’re not going to do anything serious about ISIS until they bring our Humvees back and start running operations out of FOB Hoboken, we’re going to need someplace to put all these senior leaders who don’t have actual wartime operations to run. What are we going to do with an overflow of colonels and sergeant majors? Send them to Cuba. Yes, my friends, Cuba is the answer to the your inability to swing a dead cat without hitting a sergeant major screaming at you about why you are not wearing your reflective belt and why the fuck you are swinging a dead cat around in the first place. With new bases and schools come new command billets and places to put the overpaid and underused members of our military while they write new policy memos and design new unit coins. Anyway, what would make a sergeant major happier than a few hundred new acres of grass for you not to walk on?
- Cuban Food in the PX – One of the best things about shopping in a commissary on a military base is getting access to foreign food, usually German or Korean, which is there because troops returning from overseas tours (and the spouses they sometimes bring home with them) have a love and a desire for the culinary tastes they acquired overseas. If we increase our presence in Cuba, you can add their food to the list. If you weren’t lucky enough to grow up in Miami, you probably had to get stationed in SouthCom or spend time in the Florida National Guard to truly appreciate the awe-inspiring beauty that is known as Café Cubano, or Cuban coffee. This incredibly strong, but sweet concoction of caffeine overload will challenge the coffee senses of even the most seasoned senior NCO or Chief Warrant Officer. Add a serving of Cuban toast or guava pastelitos and your taste buds will love you forever. As our Soldiers develop a taste for the cuisine of the island, our PXs and commissaries will soon be filled with black beans and Café Pilon. Life will be good.
Time will tell if these predictions come to fruition, but we here at the Rhino Den are pretty confident they will. If nothing else, you’ll have a sunny and tropical place to wear your Yo Soy Tim Kennedy t-shirt…and your PT belt.