How my transition impacted my health - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY FIT

How my transition impacted my health

It’s been nearly three years since I officially ended my Active Duty service. The first six months of my transition were rough. After speaking to a lot of fellow former service members, I realize that my experience is not an outlier, but rather, it’s the norm.


Hardest part about the military… logging into sites that don’t take a CAC card.

(Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash)

Civilian stress vs. Military stress.

In the Marine Corps, I was trained to deal with all sorts of tactical stresses. But civilian stresses? Not so much. When it came to work, insurance, or liberty, I could blame Uncle Sam for everything:

  • “Sorry, can’t make that baptism/wedding/ graduation/ (insert family event here). I have to move to Japan for work.”
  • “Yeah, the healthcare system is fugged; I’m on Tricare though, watch anything good on Netflix lately?”
  • “I put my name on a list to live off base, but if it doesn’t work out, we’ll just be put in the tower, end of story.”
  • “I PCS in June. I’ll either go to Camp LeJeune or get sucked into the vortex that is the Pentagon. Not much I can do.”

In the military, every moment of my life was planned out for me, until suddenly… it wasn’t. When I “got out,” all I had was choice, and I didn’t always make the right ones. In fact, it sometimes seemed like there were no right choices–just varying degrees of wrong.

There wasn’t a big picture for me anymore.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Robert Knapp/Released)

I lost my sense of purpose.

I was actually embarrassed about these realizations for a long time. I was a Marine Corps Officer. I did alpha stuff for a living. There are literally thousands of movies made about my old job.

How could I fess up to being lost and stressed? It felt like I would be admitting defeat to an enemy that hundreds of millions of Americans deal with every single day. That’s not very alpha.

On top of the stress and state of general lostness, my sense of purpose was gone. I felt that my time in uniform had been helping the greater cause. I was helping people. At the very least, I was impacting my Marines’ lives and helping them become better every day.

It’s a lot harder to become excited about sending emails and filing TPS reports in the civilian world when it seems that the only people that are being helped are the company owners or stockholders. That’s not really a mission statement I can get behind.

1 turns into 10 very quickly.

(Photo by Quentin Dr on Unsplash)

My health suffered.

I had spent the most testosterone-packed years of my life under the government’s thumb. I signed up at 17. For a decade, I was expected to be: sober, on time, awake at 0600, on-call 24/7, and never take more than 96 hours of liberty/leave.

As soon as I was let off the leash, I had some catching up to do. I slept when the sun was up and spent all night howling at the moon for months. It took a toll on my body; I gained weight, I lost energy, and I got sick a lot.

My cornerstone was gone.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels)

Worst of all, I stopped training.

Staying up late and spending all day stressing about “coulda, shoulda, wouldas” made me lose sight of the one thing I actually had control over. Me. More specifically, my training and diet.

This was the hardest-hitting of all my issues because it made everything else worse. It’s a lot harder to stay healthy if all you’re putting into your body is junk food and not moving.

Exercise is a natural stress reliever. Without it, I was living in a state of chronic stress.

I had the all too common reaction to physical training that I’ve seen dozens of times first hand. No more PFT…no more PT for me. The overwhelming majority of us do it. It’s like the military induces some traumatic memory of what exercise is supposed to make us feel like as well as how much we should hate ourselves for not working out.

It becomes a physical punishment when we train and a mental punishment when we don’t train.

Recognizing that it doesn’t have to be either one of those punishments was the key to me getting back in the gym.

Great advice.

(Photo by Johnson Wang on Unsplash)

Combating civilian stress with training.

I knew I had to make changes. I wasn’t in the position to come up with some grand overarching ethos that would cure all my woes. I needed something simple.

I started by making my training mandatory. I knew it made me feel better. Having stress hormones pumping through my veins 24/7 was the literal reason I felt like I was failing. Training hard helps relieve some of that cortisol and frees up the body to actually repair itself. That was the state I needed to get into regularly if I ever wanted to think clearly enough to actually turn my business into a success.

I started losing some of the extra fat I had put on, I got stronger, my performance increased, but the most important benefit of training hard was that I didn’t hate myself anymore.

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Getting your sense of purpose back.

My military service was a high-point in my life, but it isn’t the summit I need to plant my flag on. That’s much higher, and I have a lot more work to do. I was great then, but I’m greater every day that I decide to train and sink my teeth into another bite-sized piece of life.

The Marine Corps made it easy to feel like I was part of something bigger and helping people. Military service isn’t the only option in life to help other people though. By taking care of myself first, getting my training in line, and staying healthy, I’m able to take all the skills and discipline I gained from my service and directly apply them to my current mission.

I know that objectively my life looked fine, but internally, I felt like I was crumbling. Plenty of us live our whole lives with that feeling. I’m lucky that I managed to shift my perception after only six months of the vicious cycle.

Maybe it took you years.

Maybe you’re still in it.

Maybe you never served in the military, but you experienced a different transition that made you feel helpless, alone, and chronically stressed.

It doesn’t matter. Our perception is our reality. If your reality isn’t great, the only thing you can do is change your perception.

The best perception shifter I know of is…training hard.

If you aren’t training, start training.

If this resonates with you at all, I’d love to hear your story no matter what stage of the process you’re currently in. This link will take you to a survey that will allow you to do just that.

MIGHTY FIT

Who is Michael Gregory?

We talk with the Marine and Creator of the MightyFIT Workout plan about Promotions, Happiness and Freedom Hair.

Most Marines can remember their best PFT score. A solid performance can earn you bragging rights, a line on the promotion list or maybe even signifies a personal goal (yeah, I still remember my first twenty straight pull ups, twenty years later). Yet, there is something much deeper in the those numbers…happiness.

You can argue with me all you want, yes Marines can be happy, but that doesn’t mean their life is going to be easy. At some point, Marines are guaranteed to be covered in mud, zombie tired and cleaning a piece of gear for the ten thousandth time. Despite what life may throw their way, either in training or war, Marines are still the most happy when they are fit and ready for a fight. And that means tough training, physical fitness, and confidence.


After my first deployment to Iraq, I was back at 29 Palms getting ready for a second, possibly more dangerous deployment. We trained every day and most weekends in a hot, nasty desert. That spring, I ran the fastest PFT of my life and I’ve never felt happier (17:54…just saying…). Despite the stress of the world around me, being in that kind of shape was one of the happiest points in my life. I was a trained, fit Marine and that feeling has stuck with me to this day.

Now, if you’re reading this, then you at least have some interest in the military and you don’t have to be a Marine to understand that feeling fit and healthy is a good thing. That being said, even those of us who a maxed out a PFT at some point still have trouble finding a workout plan to meet the chaotic, unexpected and sometimes even lonely challenges that come after we take off the uniform.

Ladies and gents, let me introduce to Marine Michael Gregory, the creator of the MightyFIT workout plan and owner of Composure Fitness, whose sales pitch is “wanna make gains and look great naked?”

Michael doesn’t need to sell himself, he resume does it for him. An economist by training who first put his analysis skills to work as a Marine intelligence officer, Michael is one of those guys who could fit right in on wall street but he’s also tough. Like really tough. One of his first assignments in the Marines was with the MACE, Martial Arts Center of Excellence, think Spartan training in modern times. So what does a badass Marine martial arts instructor with a ten pound brain decide to do after he leaves the Marine Corps?

He moves to Bali and begins his next chapter helping Marines and others find their peak physical performance and dare I say it…happiness.

So when it came time to develop a workout plan for We Are The Mighty, we asked Michael to do what he does best and the eight week plan is pretty amazing. I recently had the chance to catch up with Michael and his thoughts on fitness and happiness didn’t disappoint.

(Michael Gregory being promoted on Iwo Jima.)

Michael, it’s great to chat with you. Before we dive in, tell me, what’s the craziest thing that you did in the Marine Corps?

MG: I was promoted on Iwo Jima.

Really?

MG: Yeah it was cool. And not planned. My commander was like, “Hey there’s a C- 130 going to Iwo. Get on it, find whoever is the senior officer and have them promote you.”

Ok, that pretty badass, what drove you to the Marine Corps?

MG: Yeah. so I joined out of high school. I knew I wanted to be in the military. It was the height of the wars and everyone was going to the Middle East to fight. I didn’t even know Asia was a thing, but they sent me to Japan. I got to work with almost every Allied country in Asia and it was it was good for me because I was always the kind of Marine that was on my own little plan. I always had long hair.

Dude, your hair is pretty crazy now.

MG: It’s my freedom hair.

Freedom Hair. I love that.

MG: I haven’t had it cut since I got out. That’s my freedom.

What set you on the fitness path to where you are right now?

MG: [Fitness] was always something that I cared about. I studied economics in college and I had to work out to keep my sanity. But when I got in the Marine Corps I was lucky enough in one of the “in-between times” between schools. I got sent to the Martial Arts Instructor Course in Quantico.

The MACE is no joke. What was it like as a brand new a Second Lieutenant?

MG: It was actually like it was cool because it was my first experience working with enlisted Marines. But in the schoolhouse we’re all getting trained to be instructors. We were equals there. So we all got along and I learned a lot and I actually took a lot of that with me when I was with my unit and my first Marines. It was eye opening. And that was some of the best organized training I got.

So where did you get the fitness knowledge to build a plan like the MightyFIT?

MG: In Japan, I had a pretty good fitness routine going on. I was kind of training myself. And studying. I would print out fitness stuff and bring it into the vault because nobody would talk to me there. I read a lot about nutrition, the body and exercise programs.

And when did Bali come into the picture?

MG: After the Marines, I decided to take a break you know and figure out what I want to do with my life. My wife convinced me to move to Bali for six months to just decompress a little bit and figure out a plan. And you know, we’ve been there for two and a half years.

(Because when you’re a fitness guru in Bali, front flips in the rain are just a part of life.)

So you started training Athletes and even other Marines?

MG: It took some time and it was all based on the results. I have a guy that I work with who is a Captain. He was afraid that he couldn’t make gains and still perform on the PFT. We developed a plan for him. Now, he’s squatting and lifting more than he ever had in his life and he’s at a lower body fat percentage while still running a 295 PFT. It’s my clients that have helped me grow. The word of your former clients is the most important thing that I have as a fitness professional.

How is fitness like firing a weapon?

MG. You know when you go to a civilian firing range and see somebody with the nicest weapons but still doesn’t know what there doing. They lack a foundation. They haven’t mastered the basics of marksmanship and they wonder why they can’t hit the target.

I do. It’s scary.

MG: You can see the same exact thing walking into any gym and see people with great physiques but no foundation. Your body is your weapon. Just like a rifle, you need to zero it in with the basics to become efficient and effective for other activities. The fundamentals cross over into all different workouts. You can go on to do Crossfit, run Marathons or whatever you’d like. That’s what the Mighty FIT plan is designed to do. It uses eight weeks to build a fitness foundation. It’s your zero.

Ok, how does this plan work for a guy like me with knees that are beat up and a back reading from a decade of body armor? Won’t I just hurt myself?

MG: The plan is designed so that really anyone can do it. You obviously need to listen to your body but none of these movements are inherently dangerous. I’m not asking anyone to do anything outside of a normal physical range of motion or at an explosive speed. In fact, a lot of people hurt themselves during explosive exercises. They think they’re athletic but lack a solid foundation. And what this plan does is prepare people for anything without being potentially dangerous by using a safe rate of perceived exertion.

A safe rate of what?

MG: Haha, the rate of perceived exertion. It’s simple. 80% effort is the goal and the weight is irrelevant. That’s the base element of the Mighty FIT plan. I’m not dictating weights for anyone right now. I tell people the exercise and the number of sets and reps. And you stick to your own weight. So if you feel like shit one day at 80% and it’s 30Lbs less than it was last week. That’s OK. Just do what your body perceives as 80% exertion even if that means that you’re starting off point is just standing up out of a chair, then just do that. There’s really no barrier to entry as long as you’re willing to adjust and don’t feel like you need to be perfect. Just be happy.

But I want to clarify, is happiness the overall goal here or is it something different?

MG: Happiness is the overall goal in so far as this plan will allow you to do whatever you want to make you happy.

That’s a Bali- Eat, Pray, Love answer.

MG: [He Laughs]. If you want to work out like a maniac then these eight weeks will prepare your body to work out like a maniac. If you just want to play with your kids, this will allow you to pick up your two year old son without feeling like you’re going to split your back.

(Michael Gregory training in Bali.)

So as I was reading the plan I know that there’s going to be soreness. Can you kind of quickly walk me through what DOMS is?

MG: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Which is just a fancy way of saying, you’re going to feel the workout the next day. It’s just what happens when people reach a threshold of physical output that they’re not used to. When we work out, we’re literally tearing our muscles apart so that they can be rebuilt into stronger muscle fibers. The body must then recover from the inflammation so all the good blood cells rush to that part of the body which is where the soreness comes from.

Is there anything I can do to prevent the soreness?

MG: The research shows that if you stick to the 80% threshold that I already talked about there shouldn’t be any issues. You should be able to get up and walk around the day afterwards. Usually when people push past that 80% threshold that’s when you get someone walking around like a zombie for a couple days.

If you feel like one of the sessions is particularly hard especially on the legs, then just hop on a stationary bike for 15 and 20 minutes at the end of the workout. An ice bath is another great alternative. But if you’re going to go for the ice bath, wait one or two hours after the workout because what it does is it kills inflammation altogether and inflammation is actually good when we’re trying to build up some muscle so if you kill it right away it has a tendency to stall the gains.

Before we transition off the plan, is there anything else you think people need to know?

MG: Well you know, just take week one as what it is… week one. Do the whole eight weeks before you cast judgment on whether or not you liked it or if it was effective or not.

What do you think is your biggest enemy to happiness? And do you even think like that?

MG: Yeah, I do. I’m obviously living in Bali. So, I have been doing more meditation and self reflection than I ever thought was possible. And honestly my own worst enemy is myself. And I think that’s true for a lot of people. I easily talk myself out of things that I make a commitment towards or that I know are good for me. So finding consistency with myself is one of the hardest challenges and it was something I didn’t realize in the Marine Corps because you kind of don’t have that option in the military. There are constantly other people that you’re responsible for or that are holding you accountable.

And now you’ve built your business, Composure Fitness obviously you’ve got the launch of the Mighty FIT Plan. What does the rest of 2019 look like for you?

MG: Growth. You can only work with so many people at one time. I’m excited about getting my voice out there with good fitness advice and building something more sustainable that reaches more people at once.

I’m excited about starting the 8 week Mighty FIT Plan.

MG: Have fun with it and Semper Fi.

Oh, I will brother. Semper Fi.

Check out Michael Gregory’s blog @ComposureFitness and download the Mighty FIT plan HERE.

Humor

6 more Share-a-Coke cans they could also use

Coca-Cola, the USO, and Dollar General have teamed up to run a special “Share a Coke” campaign this summer in support of the military community. It was designed with the best of intentions, but it’s caught a bit of backlash for not including a few branches.

You can find 16-oz cans of Coke labeled with ‘Sailor,’ ‘Airman,’ and “Coast Guardsman,” which accounts for three of the five branches, but you’ll notice that both ‘Solider’ and ‘Marine’ are missing. Instead, you’ll find cans marked ‘hero’ and ‘veteran’ respectively.

So, if they’re going to swap out two branch-specific terms in favor of something more widely applicable, that opens the door for plenty of other possibilities! Try these on for size:


For that no-drag specialist in your squad.

High Speed

With all due respect, they’ve kinda missed the mark by using “Hero” as the label for soldiers — this isn’t exactly a compliment in some contexts. In the Army, the term ‘Hero’ is a play on the phrase, “there’s a fine line between bravery and stupidity.” Basically, it’s another term for ‘idiot.’

Why not go all the way and label one “High Speed?”

Boot

Every Marine was, at one point in their career, a dumb boot. It’s only after a young boot has made enough mistakes and has had the stupid smoked out of them enough times that they’re finally accepted by their fellow Marines. It’s a rite of passage.

Since boots are also the most likely to remind everyone in the outside world of their service, they should have their own can.

Caw caw, mother f*cker.

Blue Falcon

No one likes the blue falcon — it’s no coincidence that the first letter of each word in this term is shared with another, less polite label: Buddy F*cker.

Blue falcons work hard to keep up their game and getting your buddies in trouble is thirsty work. Why not celebrate them with a nice, cold middle finger?

Perfectly mixes well with whiskey.

C.O.B

The C.O.B. (or the Crabby Ol’ Bastard) is the Chief of the Boat and is more often than not the oldest person on the ship.

You’ll never know how these salty sailors made it so long without being forced into retirement, but you have to respect their amazing ability to hold a ship together using only pure hatred.

They can get a Coke and a Bronze Star as an End of Tour award.

Powerpoint Ranger

Rangers are some of the hardest badasses in the Army. The Powerpoint Ranger, however, is on the very opposite side of the coolness spectrum.

All these guys do is sit on the FOB and craft the perfect Powerpoint presentation on the complexities of connex cleaning. These guys probably haven’t seen the range in years, but they do have a direct line to the Colonel.

The one and only universal truth that every service member can agree on is: “F*ck Jodie.”

Jodie

A Coke isn’t the only thing Jodie wants to share with you.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NATO war games are focused on Russia and the extreme cold

Trident Juncture, taking place between Oct. 25 and Nov. 7, 2018, in and around Norway, is just one of NATO’s military exercises in 2018.

But officials have said the 50,000 troops, tens of thousands of vehicles, and dozens of planes and ships on hand make it the biggest NATO exercise since the Cold War.


NATO leaders have stressed it’s strictly a defensive exercise, but it comes amid heightened tensions between NATO and Russia, and Moscow has made its displeasure well known.

What’s also clear is that as the US and NATO refocus on operations in Europe, they’re preparing to deal with a foe that predates the alliance and the rival it was set up to counter.

German infantrymen board a MV-22B Osprey during Trident Juncture 18 at Vaernes Air Base, Norway, Nov. 1, 2018.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Cody J. Ohira)

“So when I was back in the States a couple weeks ago doing a press conference on Trident Juncture, people asked me the question, ‘Why in the world would you do this in October and November in Norway? It’s cold,'” Adm. James Foggo, who heads the Navy’s 6th Fleet and is overseeing Trident Juncture, said in an Oct. 27, 2018 interview.

“That’s exactly why,” he added. “Because we’re toughening everyone up.”

The US military maintained a massive presence in Europe during the Cold War. The bulk of it was in Germany, though US forces, like the Marine Corps hardware in secret caves in Norway, were stationed around the continent.

In the years after the Cold War, however, the emphasis on major operations in Europe — and the logistical and tactical preparations they entail — waned, as operations in the desert environments of the Middle East expanded.

In recent years, the US and NATO have taken a number of steps to reverse that shift, and with that has come renewed attention to the challenges of cold-weather operations.

Belgian and German soldiers from the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force train for weapons proficiency in Norway during Exercise Trident Juncture, Oct. 30, 2018.

(PAO 1 German/Netherlands Corps)

“The change is all of us are having to recapture the readiness mindset and ability to fight full-spectrum in all conditions across the theater,” said Ben Hodges, who commanded the US Army in Europe before retiring as a lieutenant general at the end of 2017.

“The Marines used to always be in Norway. They had equipment stored in caves,” Hodges said.

“I cannot imagine Hohenfels or Grafenwoehr without freezing” weather, he added, referring to major Army training areas in Germany. “It’s either freezing there or completely muddy.”

“We used to always do that” kind of training, Hodges said, but, “frankly, because of the perception and hope that Russia was going to be a friend and a partner, we stopped working on those things, at least the US did, to the same level.”

In mid-October 2018, US Marines rehearsed an amphibious assault in Iceland to simulate retaking territory that would be strategically valuable in the North Atlantic. That assault was practice for another landing to take place during Trident Juncture, where challenging terrain and weather were again meant to test Marine capabilities.

US Marines during Trident Juncture 18 near Hjerkinn, Norway, Nov. 2, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Kevin Payne)

“Cold-weather training, we’ve had training before … we got underway. Just being here is a little different,” said Chief Petty Officer David Babil, a senior ramp marshal overseeing the Corps’ amphibious-landing exercise in Alvund, Norway. “You’ve just got to stay warm. The biggest difference is definitely the weather, but other than that we train how we fight, so we’re ready 24/7.”

Chances for unique training conditions are also found ashore.

“The first consideration is the opportunity to employ the tanks in a cold-weather environment,” said 1st Lt. Luis Penichet, a Marine Corps tank platoon commander, ahead of an exercise that included a road march near Storas in central Norway.

“So once the conditions start to ice over and or fill with snow, one thing we are unable to train in Lejeune is to cleat the tanks and drive them in those type of conditions,” Penichet added. “So we have the possibility to replace [tank tread] track pads with metal cleats to allow us to continue maneuvering. So that is one benefit of operating in the environment like this.”

US Marines in a Landing Craft Air Cushion vehicle from the USS New York perform an amphibious landing at Alvund, Norway, during Trident Juncture 18, Oct. 30, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tanner Seims)

“Everything is more difficult in the cold, whether it’s waking up in the morning or even something as simple as going from your tent to the shower,” said Marine Corps 1st Lt. Kyle Davis, the camp commandant at Orland Airfield at Brekstad, on the central Norwegian coast.

The US Defense Department recently extended the Marine Corps deployment in Norway, where Commandant Gen. Robert Neller has emphasized that the Corps is trying to prepare for a potential “big-ass fight” in harsh conditions.

But US personnel aren’t the only ones who see the benefits of training at the northern edge of Europe.

“To my surprise, it wasn’t actually much of a change in our equipment,” said 1st Lt. Kristaps Kruze, commander of the Latvian contingent at the exercise, when asked about how the weather affected his gear.

(US Marine Corps photo)

“That just proves that our equipment is not only capable of withstanding temperature in Latvia, but also capable of withstanding harsh winters also in Norwegian territory,” Kruze said in an interview in Rena, near Norway’s border with Sweden, as Trident Juncture got underway.

“During Trident Juncture, since we are in Norway, we have to deal with the cold weather,” Sgt. Cedric, a French sniper, said in Rena, as French, Danish, British, and German troops conducted long-range sniper training.

“For a sniper, cold weather requires to be more careful when shooting. It can affect the shooting a lot,” Cedric said. “Also, when we are infiltrating, we need to make sure we conserve energy and stay warm once we are in position.”

Integrating with NATO forces in the harsh conditions was particularly important for troops from Montenegro, which is NATO’s newest member.

Italian army soldiers face off against members of the Canadian army in a simulated attack during Trident Juncture in Alvdal, Norway, Nov. 3, 2018.

(Photo by MCpl Pat Blanchard)

“As you can see there is much snow and its temperature [is in] the very low degrees,” Lt. Nikola Popovic, an infantry platoon commander from Montenegro, said in Folldal, in the mountains of central Norway.

“Because we are a new NATO member, a new ally, we are here to prepare ourselves for winter conditions, because this is an exercise in extreme winter conditions,” Popovic said.

The temperature was the biggest surprise, he added, “but we are working on it.”

NATO countries in the northern latitudes, like Norway, as well as Sweden and Finland, which are not members but partner closely with the alliance and are at Trident Juncture, have no shortage of cold-weather experience.

“They live there so they do it all the time,” Hodges said.

A Canadian army BvS 10 Viking nicknamed “Thor” on a mountainside near Alvdal, Norway, during Exercise Trident Juncture 18, Nov. 4, 2018.

(NATO photo by Rob Kunzing)

“This is about the US having to relearn” how to operate in those kind of conditions, Hodges added.

Fighting in that kind of environment requires military leaders to consider the affects on matters both big and small, whether that’s distributing lubricant for individual machine guns or the movement of thousands of troops and their heavy gear across snow-covered fields and on narrow mountain roads.

“It affects vehicle maintenance, for example. It affects air operations. It’s not just about individual soldiers being cold,” Hodges added. “It’s all of your systems have to be able to operate, so you have to practice it and take those factors into consideration.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The first Space Force commissioned officers will graduate this spring

If you thought the first commissioned officers would be graduating from Starfleet Academy after passing the Kobayashi Maru test, you thought wrong.


It turns out they will be earning their commission this spring in Colorado Springs.

The Air Force said about 60 of the 1,000 cadets graduating will earn commissions in the new United States Space Force. The practice is called cross-commissioning and is similar but not exactly the same as Navy Midshipmen commissioning into the United States Marine Corps. Officials from the Air Force Academy and Air Force will be traveling to Annapolis to see how cross-commissioning works for them, but stress that the Naval Academy way is just “one solution and not the solution.”

As of now, there is no plan to offer cross-commissions into the Space Force for Cadets at the United States Military Academy or Midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy. Officers from the Space Force will be transferred from the Air Force or commissioned via the Air Force Academy, Air Force ROTC and Officer Training School. However, Army and Navy enlisted personnel will be able to transfer to the Space Force in the next few years. The only rank currently is General, although the rest of the rank structure is expected to mirror the Air Force.

Juniors at the Academy are already being counseled on potential career paths in the Air Force, including intelligence, cyber, acquisitions and engineering.

“It’s important for the Air Force Academy’s long-term mission, and not only in near-term Air Force strategy, but long-term space strategy and tactics to have that sort of core knowledge here,” said Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.

The cadets that will be the first Space Force Commissioned Officers will have a job simply referred to as Space Operations. The majority of the Officers commissioned will have jobs that focus on the direct mission at hand. As of now, officer and enlisted roles that are considered support will have those spots filled by members of the Air Force.

There are 16,000 individuals assigned to the Space Force and one official Officer, the Chief of Space Operations, General John “Jay” Raymond. The military portion of the 16,000 personnel will, at some point, have to transfer into the Space Force. Officers will have to resign their commissions, and enlisted will have to re-enlist into the new branch. The Air Force will be the first to be allowed to transfer in starting this year. The Army and Navy will have to wait until 2022 for the option to transfer.

Space Force personnel will be located primarily in three states; California, Colorado and Florida.

MIGHTY CULTURE

15 terrible military stock photos we can point and laugh at

If there’s one thing that ruins anything targeted toward the military, it’s messing up the uniform. It may seem like a small detail to people who were never in the military, but that’s kinda the whole f*cking point – details. Everything starts with paying attention to details. This is how veterans know who served and who’s out there just getting a half-price dinner at Chili’s.


So look, if you’re targeting the military-veteran community for anything, be it a new TV show or movie, a 3M lawsuit, or a reverse mortgage or whatever, we know immediately how much effort you’re putting into caring about actual veterans. Some of these are so bad, they popped my collar.

Nothing says “AMERICA” like a death grip on the flag.

You can tell he’s really in the Army because he wears two Army tapes instead of his name. Promote ahead of peers.

Do not leave unsupervised.

Stop laughing you insensitive bastards.

That’s my reaction too.

That hat tho.

Call the cops.

Is that his family in the background or just some family? As for this poorly positioned hat, that is not what is meant by “cover.”

No hat, no salute zone, bruh.

Most bedrooms are.

You had two chances.

They had two different opportunities to use camo and they couldn’t come up with even one the U.S. actually uses.

Made you look.

… At my shirtless chest.

This is real.

Lieutenant Congdon is clearly a Hulkamaniac.

Nothing say ARMY like a boonie hat.

Especially when ARMY is emblazoned across the front of it.

Maybe not use a 12-year-old model.

Is he 12 or 60? I can’t tell. Nice boots.

Time for PT?

Clearly, the answer is no.

I never took off my uniform, either.

“Just hanging out in my ACUs in my living room with my family, as all military members do.”

Stealing valor for a lifetime.

Why do stolen valor veterans always want to add an extra American flag patch?

Just use any medals, no one will notice. 

That 50-year-old is wearing a 20-year-old winter uniform and i’m pretty sure Boris on the end there is sporting American, Soviet, and Russian medals.

Mommy’s a liar, Billy. 

Where would you even get BDUs with an arm sleeve pocket?? Mommy’s been lying for a long ass time.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 14 most valuable Lego sets ever released

Next time you step on a LEGO brick in the middle of the night, think twice before you vindictively throw it in the trash. If it’s part of a rare or coveted set, it could be worth enough to dull your pain. In fact, the LEGO collectors market has become its own building block economy, with some sets bringing in thousands of dollars on the brick market.

“Many factors play into a set’s aftermarket value, but demand is the primary factor,” explains Chris Malloy, managing editor for The Brothers Brick, and co-author of Ultimate LEGO Star Wars.“For most of the company’s history, LEGO was viewed as exclusively a children’s toy. So, in the early 2000s, when LEGO began to explore the adult market in a serious way, they began developing a lot of massive sets with high price tags.”


Gerben van IJken, a full time LEGO expert with the EU-based auction platform Catawiki, and a LEGO investor and appraiser, also cites rarity, detail, and demand as reasons for increased value in LEGO collectibles.

“Most high-priced sets are recent, but not that recent. Properties such as Star Wars, for example, benefited from the restart of the movie franchise and the fact that people who loved Star Wars as kids – but didn’t have the money to buy sets that cost hundreds of dollars – are now buying them.”

So what are the most valuable LEGO sets around? That’s what we set out to find. While LEGO lore (get used to that term) tells of employee exclusives, such as a solid gold, 14K LEGO brickvalued between ,000 and ,000, we’ve kept this list to models, sets, and minifigures that are, or once were, available to the general public. So take a look at these sets and see if you have any of them sitting in the attic.

1. #10179 LEGO Ultimate Collector’s Series Millennium Falcon

Highest Sale Price: ,000

The out-of-this-world sale price for this Star Wars set is a bit misleading, because it was a one-time thing influenced by some extraordinary factors. “This sale involved a first edition set, sold in an airtight case,” says van IJken. “It was also sold in Las Vegas, which influenced the markup.”

Despite the galactic inflation, a first edition Millennium Falcon is one of the most — if not the most —valuable Lego sets ever produced. “We’ve sold these sets for prices ranging from ,400 – ,700,” he says. However, a re-released version that came out in 2017 has devalued the set, according to Malloy. “Since the new Millennium Falcon came out, the more recent value is about id=”listicle-2629731824″,679, with only one sold in the last 6 months.” That said, with an original price of about 0, even the more modest sale price still represents a nearly 300 percent increase, making this set a true smuggler’s treasure.

2. #10189 LEGO Taj Mahal, First Edition

Highest Sale Price: ,864

“This set used to trade blows with the Millennium Falcon for the top spot,” explains Malloy. “But it’s a perfect example of why speculating LEGO set values and prices is a very, very risky business.” LEGO re-released the Taj Mahal model a few years ago as part of a different collection, which dropped the price from north of ,000 to a mere 0. Despite the devaluation however, this set is still an architectural masterpiece and first editions once sold for about 10 percent of their highest valued price.

3. #6080 LEGO King’s Castle

Highest Selling Price: ,600

If you’ve got a mint condition, in-the-box 1984 King’s Castle, you might be able to fetch some serious LEGO loot. Part of the reason is that, in general, a sealed LEGO set is worth up to ten times as much as an opened one. Another part is that, for the 80s, this was a HUGE set. “The largest set in a given theme during the 80s and 90s was typically in the 600 piece range,” Malloy explains. “Since the early 2000s, most themes include sets of more than 1,000 pieces. This means that there are a greater number of recent sets with a high starting value than there were from decades past.” Remarkably, the price of LEGOs on a per-piece basis has stayed relatively the same – about .10 per piece – since the 1980s, according to Malloy. So, the larger the set, regardless of its release date, the greater the possible value.

4. #10030 LEGO Ultimate Collector’s Series Imperial Star Destroyer

Highest Sale Price: ,300

According to Malloy and van IJken, the high prices for Star Wars sets has less to do with rarity, and more to do with the enormous demand for all things Light or Dark Side. “Countless fans collect these sets to try and complete the full ‘Ultimate Collector’s Series’, or find every version of their favorite ship,” Malloy says. When fully assembled, this highly-detailed Star Destroyer measures more than three feet long, and is comprised of more than 3,000 pieces. Other versions of the same ship, which are not part of the Ultimate Collector’s Series, can still fetch nearly a grand on the secondary market.

5. #6399 LEGO Airport Shuttle

Highest Sale Price: ,484

As part of the “Classic Town” line, this set was sought after by 90s kids everywhere. Why? Because it was one of the rare monorail sets that featured a looping track and battery-powered train. Originally selling at 0, this 730-piece model sits alongside other monorail sets such as the Futuron Monorail Transport System (1987, set #6990) and the Monorail Transport Base (1994, set #6991), which each average more than id=”listicle-2629731824″,000 in collector markets. “The monorail is sought after because it was a limited production,” says van IJken. “In fact, LEGO folklore tells us that LEGO outsourced the production of the monorail tracks — just the tracks, not the trains — to a company that went bankrupt. Because of that, the tooling pieces for the tracks were lost, and the monorail sets were abandoned.”

6. #10190 LEGO Market Street

Avg. Sale Price: ,163

Designed by a LEGO fan, this hyper-realistic set is a LEGO Factory exclusive which incorporates intricate design elements such as spiral staircases, awnings, and removable balconies. It’s also part of the sought-after “modular” collection, which allows you to construct it in different ways and supplement it with different sets to create a truly unique LEGO town. The highly-valued “Cafe Corner” set (#10182), is one such set, itself valued at nearly id=”listicle-2629731824″,600.

(BrickLink.com)

7. #1952 LEGO Milk Truck

Average Value: id=”listicle-2629731824″,980

Released in 1989, this LEGO vehicle set debuted in Denmark to promote the Danish dairy company MD Foods. While it only contains 133 pieces, it’s niche availability, and subsequent rarity, make it one of the most sought after “oddities” in LEGO land. Don’t be fooled by later, domestic releases, such as this one, which are much less valuable.

8. #71001 LEGO Minifigures Series 10, “Mr. Gold”

Average Sale Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,786

If you have kids, you know the thrill of hunting for the rare, blind-boxed LEGO Minifigures. “This Minifigure was limited to 5,000 pieces,” explains Malloy. “Sold to the public, they were mixed in with the unmarked, blind packs as a ‘treasure hunt’ item.” Minifigures, which are a huge part of LEGO lore can drastically affect the value of whole sets. “It’s common to sell sets without the Minifigures, which will often drop the value by at least 50%,” Malloy adds. And Mr. Gold, because he wasn’t part of a larger set, had a sticker price of only .99 during his release in 2013.

(brickpicker.com)

9. #1650 + #1651 LEGO Maersk Line Container Ship + Container Truck

Average Sale Price: 8 (used), id=”listicle-2629731824″,700 (Mint in Same Box [MISB])

“Maersk and LEGO have a long history, and LEGO continues to release Maersk sets,” explains Malloy. “These are both limited sets, and finding accurate listings on them can be tough. I’ve seen a mint, in-box Container Ship listed for id=”listicle-2629731824″,700, a used Truck for ,000, and a new Truck for ,600. But these are asking prices.” Still, both sets are rare enough to command respectable scratch.

10. #10196 LEGO Grand Carousel

Average Sale Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,591

The LEGO Creator series – of which this intricate carousel set is a part – is a recent example of the detail factor that makes certain models so valuable. It’s a work of art that sells for nearly id=”listicle-2629731824″,500.

(BrickLink.com)

11. #3450 LEGO Statue of Liberty

Average Sale Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,531

As part of the LEGO Architecture series, this 2,882 piece beauty can fetch up to ,000 in its first edition. There’s even a boxed set on Amazon listed at ,000. (.54 for shipping, though? We’ll pass.) “This set and the Eiffel Tower regularly switch places in the value department, says van IJken. “More recently, the Statue of Liberty has begun to gradually increase in value,” he says. Standing at 30″ tall, it’s likely to tower over your typical toddler — assuming he or she doesn’t swallow the torch pieces first.

(BrickLink.com)

12. #10018 LEGO Darth Maul

Average Sale Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,333

Back to the Sarlacc pit we go to retrieve yet another high priced Star Wars LEGO set. This time, it’s a bust of a bust — the majorly underwhelming Darth Maul from 1999’s The Phantom Menace. His 1,800+ piece visage looks incredibly cool, and the hype was strong with this one, having been released less than two years after the film. So, again, a combination of Star Wars buzz, moderate rarity, and a great looking figure created a sought after collectible. If you’re not inclined to pay max Galactic Credits, though, here’s a list of all the pieces needed to build your own for a fraction of the bounty. Instructions too!

13. #6081 LEGO King’s Mountain Fortress

Average Listing Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,326

A key component of LEGO’s 90s Castle line, this 400+ piece stronghold features a realistic drawbridge, landscaping elements, and several badass Minifigure knights. Currently, eBay features a handful of used sets (some complete, some not), which go for nearly 15 percent of the boxed set we’ve listed. “If you want to sell a set like this quickly,” Malloy says, “eBay is the way to go. If you get lucky and there’s a bidding war, it’s likely to bring in the highest price possible. But if you want to have more control over the price but don’t care about selling as quickly, use Bricklink, which is a dedicated community for LEGO collectors.”

14. #4051 LEGO NesQuik Bunny

Average Sale Price: 4

“There are a few increasingly rare LEGO pieces that were available to the public, but this one is the most baffling to me,” says van IJken. “It’s the Nesquik bunny, who is the mascot of the chocolate milk brand. This figure was part of a line that was centered around movie making, and was endorsed by Steven Spielberg.” It came with a yellow sweater and brown pants and was given away with European chocolate milk cartons. Some did hop on over to the US, though, and if you have a mint, bagged one, you can hock it for some modest money. Not bad for what was once a free giveaway.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Despite Russian shoot down, U.S. planes will remain in Syria

U.S. officials expressed sorrow over the shoot-down of a Russian military surveillance plane off the Syrian coast and said it would not affect the U.S. campaign against Islamic State (IS) fighters.

The comments on Sept. 18, 2018, came as Russian officials said that Syrian antiaircraft forces brought down the Il-20 plane inadvertently, but also blamed Israel for conducting a fighter jet raid on Syrian forces at around the same time.


U.S. officials said U.S. forces were not involved in the incident.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement expressing sorrow for the shoot-down, which killed 15 Russian servicemen. He also criticized Iran, which has reportedly shipped sophisticated weaponry to the Hizballah fighters in Lebanon.

Israel has struck targets in both Lebanon and Syria, seeking to thwart Hizballah’s ambitions.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, meanwhile, told reporters that the shoot-down complicates relations between Syria and Russia but would have “no effect whatever” on the U.S. campaign to defeat the extremist group IS in Syria.

Mattis also said the incident was a reminder of why the United States supports the United Nations’ effort to end the seven-year civil war.

President Donald Trump also expressed concern about the downed Russian plane, calling it a “very sad thing” and “not a good situation.”

Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Israel against conducting air raids on Syria.

And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Putin to express sorrow over the plane’s loss but insisted that Syria bore responsibility.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

A sudden flash. A mushroom cloud. A sudden expanding pressure wave. In the event of a thermonuclear attack, seeing these things means its probably too late to survive. So the U.S. developed warning systems to give Americans a heads up before the bombs landed. But that begs the question: What do you do if you have just an hour or so until your city blows up?


Coordinating protection and relief for civilians in war falls to civil defense workers, and America’s civil defense program underwent an overhaul after World War II. Many of the funding and legislative changes were focused on responding to atomic and nuclear threats.

But hearings in 1955 revealed that civil defense was, uh, let’s say, far from robust. How far?

Well, Administrator Val Peterson told Congress that Americans should learn to dig holes in the ground and curl up in them to escape nuclear fallout. But he did also offer that the government could dig trenches next to highways for about .25 per mile and then cover the trenches with boards and soil for additional protection. In some areas, the boards and dirt could be replaced with tar paper.

Even at the time, the public realized a huge shortcoming of this plan: Ditches don’t last. They have to be dug for a specific attack, and the diggers would need at least a few days notice to provide shelter for a significant portion of a city.

(Seattle Municipal Archives)

And people in the 1950s were also familiar with pissing and pooping. These trenches would have no sanitation, water, or food, and people would have to stay in them for days. At the time, it was believed that a few days might be enough time for the radioactivity to fall to safe-ish levels. We now know it’s a year or more for the longer-lasting radioactive isotopes to get anywhere near safe.

But meanwhile, even a few days in trenches is problematic. For the first few hours, radiation is at peak strength, and any dust that makes its way from the surface into the trench is going to have levels of radiation high enough to threaten imminent death. This dust needs to be washed off as quickly as possible, something that can’t happen in a trench surrounded by more radioactive dust with no water.

Oh, and, btw, canned food and bottled water will become irradiated if not shielded when the bomb goes off.

But there was another plan that, um, had many of the same problems. This called for laying long stretches of concrete pipe and then burying it in a few feet of dirt. Same sanitation and supply problems, worst claustrophobia. But at least less irradiated dust would make it into the civilians huddling inside.

Duck And Cover (1951) Bert The Turtle

www.youtube.com

Most of this information was learned by the public in 1955 during those public hearings. Though, obviously, portions of the hearings were classified, and so the public wouldn’t learn about them for decades. One of the items that came out in closed session was that the irradiated zone from a hydrogen bomb would easily stretch for 145 miles with the right winds. A serious problem for the farmers who thought they were safe 40 miles from the city.

Things did get better as the Cold War continued, though. Government agencies, especially the Federal Civil Defense Administration, encouraged the construction of hospitals and other key infrastructure on the perimeters of cities where it would be more likely to survive the blast of a bomb (though it still would have certainly been irradiated if downwind of the epicenter).

Educational videos gave people some idea of what they should do after a bomb drop, though, like digging trenches next to highways, most of the actions an individual could take were marginal at best. Those old “Duck and Cover” cartoons from 1951? Yup, ducking and covering will help, but not enough to save most people at most distances from the bomb.

What you really need to do is find a nice, recently dug trench.

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Combat on the gridiron: this is playing football for the Marine Corps

For many Americans, joining the military represents a second chance, free of the social obligations, economic pressures, and uncertainty of our civilian lives. For me, however, it represented a bit more: a second chance at playing a sport I thought I’d left behind.

Football in the Marine Corps was unlike anything I’d ever seen before — a league full of men that had spent their entire adult lives training for war, intrinsically tied to the Corps’ own culture of honor, courage, and commitment.

The football field was where we fought our skirmishes, and if there’s one thing Marines take seriously, it’s a fight.


Marine Corps football exists somewhere between where customs and courtesies stop, but duty remains.

Marine Corps football goes on at a number of levels. Players start by trying out for battalion-level teams that compete against one another until a champion emerges. Base champs then compete regionally for a chance to move on and compete against other regional champions, and (at least sometimes) those regional champions compete for the honor of becoming the All-Marine squad.

In order to field the most capable team, there’s little room for the customs and courtesies Marines use when interacting with their seniors. Something about trying to head butt a captain into submission to secure your place on the starting roster makes it tough to find the time for the appropriate greeting of the day. Most of us tend to forgo the pleasantries and just engage with one another as peers.

Football is, above all else, an exercise in the pursuit of victory. Your rank and MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) mean exactly sh*t between whistles. All that matters is your ability to perform when the team is counting on you. You may stand at parade rest when you bump into your wide receiver at the PX, but come gametime, he’s just another dude with the right colored jersey on.

Playing ball in the Marine Corps is as close as some of us will get to being professional athletes.

While a battalion-level football program is truly a command function, being on the team often isn’t enough to get you out of your normal training requirements. That doesn’t mean football doesn’t become another full time job anyway, however.

Playing football for the Corps is an honor that isn’t bestowed lightly: you’re expected to give the team three to four hours of practice a day, to train on your own, and to meet the general training requirements of your respective command. At one point, I was participating in a brown belt MCMAP course for four hours each morning, attending unit PT, and then going to practice from 1600 to 2000 each night.

Once the base season was over and my team had earned its place in the regional leagues, my requirements to the team only grew. At that point, the command tends to grant you a reprieve from many of your usual duties. It’s only then that football becomes more than a side gig: it becomes your profession.

The competition can be downright brutal.

Playing ball for the Marines is just like playing anywhere else, except everyone on the field has trained to some extent in ways to kill you. Marines don’t take failure lightly, they don’t like to lose, and in many cases, they’re eager and willing to sacrifice their own well being to accomplish the mission.

Many players in the Marine Corps leagues played college football and everyone on the field is already in the sort of shape active duty Marines just generally need to be in. Over my years of playing both football and rugby, I’ve never run into a more physically capable group, but to be frank, it’s not the physicality of Marines that makes the competition so daunting… it’s really all about mindset.

My tenure playing football for the Marine Corps resulted in multiple broken bones and torn ligaments (along with the corresponding surgeries to patch me back together). I like to think that’s because I’m mentally tougher than I am physically, but the truth is, I could say the same about most good Marines.

Out there on the field, the stakes may not be as high as they are in combat, but the drive to succeed for your brothers, to push through the pain and the hardship to accomplish something great, is as alive between the goal posts as it is on any battlefield. Today, the only football trophies I have in my office were earned during my two seasons starting for the Marine Corps’ Best of the West champions — and for good reason.

I still walk with a slight limp and all I had to do was play against Marines. Let that be a lesson for any foreign militaries that might fancy themselves a match for America’s crayon-eating, jar-headed, ego-driven war-fighters, because when the pads come off, the kevlar goes on.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why the Russian submarine fleet is such a basket case

The Russian Navy has been having a lot of problems since the end of the Cold War. The Kuznetsov Follies are just the tip of the iceberg. But the Russian Navy may be taking a real hit under the ocean.


Yeah, folks, Russia’s headed for a big hit on the submarine front. In a sense, they already took one.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union had an immense fleet of submarines, ranging from the ancient Whiskey-class diesel-electric subs to modern Typhoon-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines.

A port bow view of a Soviet Oscar Class nuclear-powered cruise missile attack submarine underway. Each Oscar sub is equipped with 24 SS-N-19 550-kilometer-range missiles. (DOD photo)

According to GlobalSecurity.org, there were a total of 61 submarines active in the Russian Navy in 2015. In 1985, the Soviet Navy had 366. That is a drop of 83 percent. Much of this was due to the end of the Cold War. Russia, practically bankrupt, couldn’t afford to keep many of those subs in service.

Worse, new construction also fell off, truncating the production runs of the Oscar-class nuclear-powered guided-missile submarines and the Akula-class attack submarines. It also had the effect of stretching out the time it took to get the first Yasen-class submarine built (20 years from start to finish on the first sub). The slow rate of construction means that Russia will see its nuclear submarine force dwindle even further.

Improved Kilo class submarine. Photo from Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.

Russian submarines have also had a disturbing trend of being lost in accidents, including at least three nuclear submarines since 1985, a Yankee-class ballistic missile sub off Bermuda in 1986, a Mike-class attack submarine off Norway in 1989, and the Oscar-class submarine Kursk in a 2000 explosion.

One bright spot for Russia is that the production of diesel-electric submarines like the Kilo-class are continuing, fuelled by export orders. That said, the recent loss of an Indian Navy Kilo, the Sindhurakshak, to a fire and explosion in 2013 will leave open questions about the quality of Russian designs.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Drone Dogfight: Air Force plans to pit manned fighter against a drone next year

The United States Air Force says they intend to pit an artificial intelligence-enabled drone against a manned fighter jet in a dogfight as soon as next year.

Although drones have become an essential part of America’s air power apparatus, these platforms have long had their combat capabilities hampered by both the limitations of existing technology and our own concerns about allowing a computer to make the decision to fire ordnance that will likely result in a loss of life. In theory, a drone equipped with artificial intelligence could alleviate both of those limiting factors significantly, without allowing that life or death decisions to be made by a machine.


As any gamer will tell you, lag can get you killed. In this context, lag refers to the delay in action created by the time it takes for the machine to relay the situation to a human operator, followed the the time it takes for the operator to make a decision, transmit the command, where it must then be received once again by the computer, where those orders translate into action. Even with the most advanced secure data transmission systems on the planet, lag is an ever-present threat to the survivability of a drone in a fast paced engagement.

Unmanned aerial vehicle operators in training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman BreeAnn Sachs)

Because of that lag limitation, drones are primarily used for surveillance, reconnaissance, and air strikes, but have never been used to enforce no-fly zones or to posture in the face of enemy fighters. In 2017, a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone successfully shot down another, smaller drone using an air-to-air missile. That success was the first of its kind, but even those responsible for it were quick to point out that such a success was in no way indicative of that or any other drone platform now having real dogfighting capabilities.

“We develop those tactics, techniques and procedures to make us survivable in those types of environments and, if we do this correctly, we can survive against some serious threats against normal air players out there,” Col. Julian Cheater, commander of the 432nd Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, said at the time.

Artificial intelligence, however, could very feasibly change this. By using some level of artificial intelligence in a combat drone, operators could give the platform orders, rather than specific step-by-step instructions. In effect, the drone operator wouldn’t need to physically control the drone to dogfight, but could rather command the drone to engage an air asset and allow it to make rapid decisions locally to respond to the evolving threat and properly engage. Put simply, the operator could tell the drone to dogfight, but then allow the drone to somewhat autonomously decide how best to proceed.

A hawk for hunters

The challenges here are significant, but as experts have pointed out, the implications of such technology would be far reaching. U.S. military pilots receive more training and flight time than any other nation on the planet, but even so, the most qualified aviators can only call on the breadth of their own experiences in a fight.

Drones enabled with some degree of artificial intelligence aren’t limited to their own experiences, and could rather pull from the collective experiences of millions of flight hours conducted by multiple drone platforms. To give you a (perhaps inappropriately threatening) analogy, you could think of these drones as the Borg from Star Trek. Each drone represents the collected sum of all experiences had by others within its network. This technology could be leveraged not just in drones, but also in manned aircraft to provide a highly capable pilot support or auto-pilot system.

“Our human pilots, the really good ones, have a couple thousand hours of experience,” explains Steve Rogers, the Team Leader for the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Autonomy Capability Team 3 (ACT3).
“What happens if I can augment their ability with a system that can have literally millions of hours of training time? … How can I make myself a tactical autopilot so in an air-to-air fight, this system could help make decisions on a timeline that humans can’t even begin to think about?”

As Rogers points out, such a system could assess a dangerous situation and respond faster than the reaction time of even highly trained pilots, deploying countermeasures or even redirecting the aircraft out of harm’s way. Of course, even the most capable autopilot would still need the thinking, reasoning, and directing of human beings–either in the cockpit or far away. So, even with this technology in mind, it appears that the days of manned fighters are still far from over. Instead, AI enabled drones and autopilot systems within jets could both serve as direct support for manned aircraft in the area.

The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins)

By incorporating multiple developing drone technologies into such an initiative, such as the drone wingman program called Skyborg, drone swarm initiatives aimed at using a large volume of cooperatively operating drones, and low-cost, high capability drones like the XQ-58A Valkyrie, such a system could fundamentally change the way America engages in warfare.

Ultimately, it may not be this specific drone program that ushers in an era of semi-autonomous dogfighting, but it’s not alone. From the aforementioned Skyborg program to the DARPA’s artificial intelligence driven Air Combat Evolution program, the race is on to expand the role of drones in air combat until they’re seen as nearly comparable to manned platforms.

Of course, that likely won’t happen by next year. The first training engagement between a drone and a human pilot will likely end in the pilot’s favor… but artificial intelligence can learn from its mistakes, and those failures may not be all that long lived.

“[Steve Rogers] is probably going to have a hard time getting to that flight next year … when the machine beats the human,” Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, head of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, said during a June 4 Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event. “If he does it, great.”

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


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The intense ‘Crucible’ is what separates recruits from Marines

During boot camp, Marine recruits must endure and complete a 54-hour training event under intense mental and physical distress.


This training event includes marching over 45-miles and negotiating several obstacles that require problem-solving strategies that usher in the concept of teamwork to complete each combat-related mission.

Every moment of the training event is highly structured and preplanned in advanced while under strict Marine drill instructor supervision.

The Marine Recruits of Fox Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, navigate their way through the Weaver obstacle during the Crucible Confidence Course at Edson Range aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Ca.

“The Crucible means being sleep deprived, hungry, and digging deep to push forward,” Marine veteran Bryant Tomayo recalls. “[After the completion] it’s the proudest moment for all recruits. It symbolizes the transformation from civilian to Marine.”

These recruits crawl through the nasty mud in order to reach their goal of earning the title of U.S. Marine.

Recruits are only allowed eight total hours of sleep during the 54-hour event and two-and-a-half MREs — which they are expected to ration themselves.

Since chowtime is continuous in the field, food management becomes essential; each Marine must space out their meal intake for added energy to push forward when the time is needed.

After the Crucible comes to a close, the recruits will exit from the field at 0400 and proudly march back to their training grounds where they will receive the beloved Eagle, Globe, and Anchor in a ceremony from the same drill instructors that made their lives hell for the past three months.

This is the moment where the drill instructors finally call the recruits a Marine for the first time.

Check out the Marines‘ video below to see the craziness that is the “Crucible” for yourself.

Marines, YoutubeWhat are some of your Crucible stories? Comment below.