Overhead view of many people wearing blue helmets (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Steven Edgar)
Sailors applaud an award at an “all hands call” aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush on March 22. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Steven Edgar)

Welcome to our regular feature that presents some examples of the incredible photography coming out of the U.S. armed forces and their global missions.

All hats

Maintaining an aircraft carrier is no easy feat. Moving it to dry land (called dry-docking) takes all hands and then some.

In February, the USS George H.W. Bush began a 28-month maintenance overhaul. It’s been dry-docked for the first time since it first set sail in 2009. The overhaul includes improvements to the ship’s military and technical capabilities.

The work requires state-of-the-art technology, including exoskeleton safety suits and virtual reality training models — all in the interest of the ship’s main duty: helping to ensure free and open seas around the world.

At its temporary home in Norfolk, Virginia, thousands of hours will be needed to maintain the 93,440-metric-ton, 333-meter-long aircraft carrier.

All hands, indeed.

Hang in there

Two military personnel dangling midair from ropes (New Jersey National Guard/Master Sergeant Mark C. Olsen)
August 22, 2018 (New Jersey National Guard/Master Sergeant Mark C. Olsen)

No, they’re not just hanging around, these airmen from the New Jersey Army and Air National Guard are demonstrating a special patrol infiltration system while rappelling from a UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter during the 2018 Thunder Over the Boardwalk, Atlantic City, New Jersey’s annual air show.

Known as SPIES (special patrol infiltration/exfiltration system) and FRIES (fast-rope insertion/extraction system), these techniques allow for the safe removal or depositing of personnel where landing a helicopter is not possible. According to Chief Warrant Officer 3 Abdelkader Hosni, who has conducted training in Hawaii, “We can recover a seized vessel by FRIES or come assist a crew during a disaster situation.”

White Christmas

Snowy night scene on deck of aircraft carrier (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Erika Kugler)
December 25, 2017, aboard the USS John C. Stennis (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Erika Kugler)

A lone sailor crosses the flight deck aboard the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier on Christmas Day 2017.

Thousands of U.S. service members are deployed in all corners of the globe, enduring holidays and other important events far from loved ones. Like other ships in the fleet, the USS Stennis holds holiday activities for all on board that include religious services, traditional holiday meals, entertainment, and community service events.

The USS Stennis is currently steaming through the Arabian Sea to ensure stability and security in the region. Far from home but carrying on.

Inherent Resolve

Large weapon being fired behind soldier at night in glare of red light (U.S. Marine Corps/Sergeant Matthew Callahan)
Undisclosed location in Syria, June 2017 (U.S. Marine Corps/Sergeant Matthew Callahan)

Seventy-four nations and five international organizations fight with one goal in mind: to defeat ISIS. This global coalition makes up Operation Inherent Resolve.

Support for the coalition’s local partner in Syria goes on 24 hours a day and uses the best firepower available, including a mobile artillery weapon called a howitzer (above), a ground-shaking weapon that is incredibly accurate from up to 25 miles away.

The task force’s motto? “One mission, many nations.”

Happy Thanksgiving

Young girl running toward three people with military jets in background (U.S. Marine Corps/Corporal Joseph Abrego)
A young girl runs to greet her family at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, on November 28, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps/Corporal Joseph Abrego)

“The American people admire the men and women of our military and admire the families that serve alongside them,” Vice President Pence said in a Thanksgiving message delivered November 18 to an audience of military personnel and families at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. Before returning from a successful visit to the Indo-Pacific region, he stopped to pay tribute to all members of the military, alongside his wife, Karen, and acknowledged the challenges faced by those in uniform as well as their families who sacrifice and “stand for freedom every day.”

Valiant Shield

Military ships and aircraft in formation (U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist/Erwin Miciano)
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist/Erwin Miciano)

(Above) One aircraft carrier, 15 other surface ships, more than 160 aircraft, and approximately 15,000 personnel from the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Army and Marine Corps sent a clear message in the Philippine Sea this September: The U.S. is ready for anything. This display of military technology and strength is called Valiant Shield, and it is the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s U.S.-only joint training exercise. Held biennially, Valiant Shield began in 2006.

Exercise Valiant Shield is “extremely important,” U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Daniel Dwyer said in a U.S. Air Force news story. “No service will go alone. Any opportunity that we can come together to train as a joint force makes us that much more lethal and capable.”

How cold is it?

Man with frozen eyelashes dressed for very cold weather (U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Corporal Cody Rowe)
(U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Corporal Cody Rowe)

It’s so cold in Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, in January that it will freeze your eyelashes.

Wisconsin’s frigid winter climate provides a perfect, if grueling, training ground for the 2nd Marine Air Wing’s Ullr Shield exercise. For Marines like Lance Corporal Kwan Walker (above), this is where they develop the skills necessary to perform all manner of duties in extreme cold-weather conditions.

As NATO’s Trident Juncture exercise continues in and around Norway until November 7, extreme weather skills — like those practiced in Wisconsin — will be honed in the harsh climates of northern Europe.

Holy smoke!

Soldiers in tall grass surrounded by colored smoke (Corporal A. J. Van Fredenberg/U.S. Marine Corps)
(U.S. Marine Corps/Corporal A. J. Van Fredenberg)

Above, U.S. Marines and Malaysian soldiers train together as part of a Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise in August. The two allies have been holding these exercises for 24 years to build mutual war-fighting capability and support long-term regional cooperation.

See you on the ground

Soldier jumping out of aircraft (U.S. Army/Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston)
(U.S. Army/Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston)

Seemingly suspended in mid-air, a U.S. soldier from the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) jumps out of a C-130 Hercules aircraft over Germany in this 2015 photograph.

Richard Grenell, U.S. ambassador to Germany, said the U.S. is “committed to strengthening the trans-Atlantic alliance, and President Trump’s promise to increase U.S. defense capabilities means the alliance is stronger today.”

Safe landing

Military plane landing on aircraft carrier lit by red and green lights (U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist/Dana D. Legg)
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist/Dana D. Legg)

Above, an AV-8B Harrier lands on the flight deck of the USS Kearsarge amphibious assault ship during a June readiness exercise in the Atlantic.

All branches of the U.S. military conduct exercises similar to this across the globe, in cooperation with foreign counterparts and allies, to help improve security, ensure open access to seas and airways, and participate in humanitarian and disaster readiness operations.