For many people, the U.S. military is a mystery. They may imagine its photographic output is largely stoic soldiers and rows of tanks and jets, but the reality is different. Troops are people. A lot of them are nerds with the same hobbies as civilians, and. many of them take terrible photos.
Every year, the Pentagon takes millions of photos and uploads them on the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service, a repository of photographs and videos generated by the U.S. military. Every now and then you get something of historical significance on the DVIDS, like the cell phone photo an Air Force pilot took before shooting down a Chinese surveillance balloon. But the overwhelming majority of the photos are mediocre. Some are poorly composed. Others are cursed. But they all say something about the way America conducts war and what kinds of things are important to the troops who take them.
Your tax dollars paid for these photos, meaning they belong to the U.S. public. Please, pour yourself a coffee and join me as I recount the most cursed military images of 2023. A lot of them are Star Wars related, but as these photos illustrate, the army of today also loves horny anime just as much.
Oh yes, America’s troops love Star Wars. How much? U.S. military bases across the world celebrate May 4, Star Wars Day, and take photographs of it. There’s activities for Star Wars fans, both young and old. In Portsmouth, VA, Coast Guard members posed for glamor shots dressed as a rebel pilot and a stormtrooper this year.
At Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, a Marine dressed in a camo-colored Boba Fett and posed with children.
Army garrison Panzer Kaserne in Germany celebrated Star Wars day by inviting members of the cosplaying group the 501st Legion to parade through its on-base mall in full costume.
But it doesn’t have to be May 4 to celebrate Star Wars. In Georgia, a sailor sported a helmet dominated by heraldry that centered Darth Vader.
The U.S. military love of nerd shit extends well beyond Star Wars. Camp Foster in Okinawa, Japan hosted a two day comic book convention in early December. Cosplayers were there to discuss their regalia with the public.
A motorcycle with a horny anime wrap sat on the showroom floor. A nearby sign told attendees they could look, but not touch.
The Pentagon attended a lot of conventions it didn’t throw this year. The Army, Navy, and Air Force are having a hard time finding recruits and they showed up at an Anime NYC to try to find some warm bodies. In the only cursed image not taken by the military itself, a Redditor snapped a photo of a cosplayer dressed as Misato Katsuragi from Neon Genesis Evangelion hanging out with members of the Army Reserve at their booth.
Cosplay wasn’t limited to comic conventions. Airmen in Italy attended a video game themed award ceremony in March and dressed as their favorite video game characters.
Video games are big for recruitment. Several branches have eSports teams that participate in tournaments and spread the good word of military life. One Staff Sergeant in Utah who plays on the Air Force eSports team posted for a smoke-filled headshot while sitting in a gamer chair.
In Denver, Colorado, sailors actively recruited people at FanExpo over the summer and later posed for a picture with Goats and Glory, the Navy’s official eSports team.
Technology was another big theme in this year’s cursed images. There’s a lot of incredible shots of officers in virtual reality headsets, a look that looks awful on anyone.
Some members of the military schmoozed closer to tech billionaires. Earlier this month, a Navy Petty Officer snapped a photograph of Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti smiling up at Palantir CEO Alex Karp.
The Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana wants you to know that it’s got robots and isn’t afraid to use them. “Robot Dogs Bring the BARK to Barksdale,” said an image advertising a spot-like robot dog at the base.
And then there’s the generically cursed images, the weird stuff that has no wider place or theme. Photos like that of this airman chasing a yeti through an airshow at a base in Alaska.
Or Champ Boom, the mascot of the 6th Air Refueling Wing, hanging out with a school cop in Florida.
And of course, it wouldn’t be a cursed image list without Santa Claus waving to a crowd from an armored Humvee.