Serving in the military can be very rewarding personally and professionally, but a lot of potential recruits want to know which jobs make the most cash. The military pay tables are here, but in the meantime, here are seven of the most lucrative military jobs for new enlistees:
1. Army Military Working Dog Handler
Military working dog handlers train and work with dogs that specialize in finding explosives, drugs, or other potential threats to military personnel or law and order. They train for 18 weeks after the Army’s 10-week basic combat training.
Starting annual salary: $18,561.96 plus benefits.
2. Air Force Histopathology Specialist
Histopathology specialists in the U.S. Air Force prepare diseased tissue samples for microscopic examination, aiding doctors in the diagnosis of dangerous diseases.
Starting annual salary: $18,561.96 plus benefits
3. Marine Corps Engineer
Engineering Marines build and repair buildings, roads, and power supplies and assist the infantry by breaching enemy obstacles. There are different schools for different engineering specialties including Basic Combat Engineer Course, the Engineer Equipment Operator Course, and the Basic Metal Workers Course.
Starting annual salary: $18,561.96 plus benefits
4. Navy Mass Communications Specialist
Mass Communications Specialists tell the Navy story through photography, writing, illustration, and graphic design. They educate the public and document the Navy’s achievements.
Starting annual salary: $18,561.96 plus benefits
5. Army Paralegal Specialist
Paralegal Specialists assist lawyers and unit command teams by advising on criminal law, international law, civil/administrative law, contract law, and fiscal law. The are experts in legal terminology, the preparation of legal documents, and the judicial process.
Starting annual salary: $18,561.96 plus benefits
6. Air Force Firefighter
Firefighters in the Air Force have to combat everything from building fires to burning jets to forest fires. They operate primarily on Air Force bases but may also be stationed at other branches installations or be called on to assist civilian fire departments.
Starting annual salary: $18,561.96 plus benefits
7. Marine Corps Light Armored Vehicle Crewman
Light armored vehicles support the Marine Corps mission by carrying communications equipment, Marines, and mobile electronic warfare platforms. The heart of the LAV mission is the LAV crewman, who drives, maintains, and operates these awesome vehicles.
On a chilly May morning, the city of Murrieta, CA dispatched a firetruck to a new home. Dozens of men, women and children congregated the driveway. The sounds of Rolling Thunder could be heard in the distance. As if on cue, the wind picked up and the huge American flag streaming from the ladder of the firetruck began to wave. American Legion Riders escorted wounded Army veteran Sgt. Nicholas Mendes to his new specially adapted home, and the community was there to welcome him.
This is the work of Homes for our Troops.
HFOT builds mortgage-free, specially adapted homes across the United States for those who have been severely injured in theater of combat since September 11, 2001. The non-profit’s purpose is to assist wounded warriors with the complex process of integrating back into society.
Army Sergeant Nicholas Mendes, who was a gunner with the 10th Mountain, 3rd Brigade, is one of 214 veterans to thus far be living in one of these homes. On April 30, 2011, an IED detonated beneath his vehicle in Sangsar, Afghanistan. The explosion, set off by a 1200-pound command wire device, caused multiple fractures to his vertebrae and rendered him paralyzed from the neck down. Mendes had previously served in Iraq in 2008.
After being presented with the key to his new home, Mendes’ wife held the microphone up to his mouth so he could address the audience of well-wishers.
“Bear with me, I didn’t write anything down – because my arms don’t work.” Mendes joked. “It’s just crazy looking back on everything, this all started with a Google search, and then putting in an application to a foundation that I didn’t know if they’d ever write me back…”
Not only did they write him back and build him a home, Homes for our Troops is working with Mendes to allow him to reclaim his independence. The adapted features in his home remove much of the burden from his wife and family and allow him to focus on recovery and his plans to pursue a career in real estate.
“These men and women are not looking for pity. They’re looking to rebuild their lives.” said Bill Ivy, Executive Director of HFOT. “We have an extremely talented group of men and women who are either in homes or that we are building homes for. The whole idea is to get them back going to school, back into the work force, raising families. Since 2010 we’ve had over 100 children born to families living in our homes. So it is about the next generation and moving forward. We have a tremendous amount of successes out there.”
Homes for Our Troops lays a foundation for these men and woman to continue on after their injuries. Although their way of life has undergone major changes, their spirit and desire to serve remains. Many of these home recipients are able to rehabilitate to the point where they enter the workforce and give back to their community as teachers and counselors.
Two HFOT recipients started a non-profit together called Amputee Outdoors. Another recipient, Joshua Sweeny is an American gold medal sledge hockey player and Purple Heart recipient who competed in 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia. Four recipients participated in the recent Invictus games, and one even spent a month in a tent to raise awareness for veteran homelessness.
“There’s duty, there’s honor and self sacrifice. Death nor injury does not diminish those qualities in our soldiers. It is a testament to the love of this country” said David Powers of Prospect Mortgage – one of the key ceremony speakers. “Duty is the mission, the lesson is the sacrifice for our country, and for our freedom.”
For more information visit the Homes for Our Troops website.
The annual Army-Navy football game is intense. And though the players will be doing their best to out-maneuver and out-muscle the opposition, the competition extends well beyond the field. The fanbase of each service academy, which includes the troops and veterans of their respective branches, rally loudly behind their team with a single, unifying phrase: “Go Army! Beat Navy!” Or, for the sailors and Marines, “Go Navy! Beat Army!“
As creative and ambitious as the smacktalk has become in recent years, the phrase never changes. And that’s because these rallying cries are nearly as old as the Army-Navy game itself.
Which I can only assume would cause confusion (and maybe a bit of jealousy) from the players of Notre Dame.
(Photo by Mike Strasser, West Point Public Affairs)
The tradition of military academy fans shouting out, “Go [us]! Beat [them]!” can be traced back to some of the earliest Army-Navy Games. It’s unclear which side started the tradition, but both teams were shouting their own versions of the simple phrase as early as second game, long before the sport of football became the mainstream cultural staple it is today.
Over the years, the phrase remained unchanged. The only variations come when a West Point or Naval Academy team faces off against the Air Force Academy or the Royal Military College of Canada. It doesn’t even matter if the team is facing off against a university unaffiliated with the Armed Forces — they’ll still add the “Beat Navy!” or “Beat Army!” to the end of their fight song.
Plebes who don’t follow this would presumably do push-ups and add “Beat Navy!” after each one.
(Photo by Mike Strasser, West Point Public Affairs)
The plebes (or freshmen) of each academy are also expected to be fiercely loyal to their football team at every possible occasion. At the drop of a hat, a plebe is expected to know how many days are left until the next Army-Navy Game. They’re also only allowed to say a handful of accepted phrases: “Yes, sir/ma’am,” “No, sir/ma’am,” and, of course, “Beat Navy/Army.”
Plebes are also expected to finish every sentence or greeting with a “Beat Navy” in the same way that an Army private adds “Hooah” to pretty much everything. It doesn’t matter if it’s an in-person meeting, e-mail, phone call, or text message. They better add “Beat Navy” to the end of whatever point they’re trying to make.
Go team! Beat the other team!
In the end, it’s still a friendly game between the two academies. They’re only truly rivals for the 60 minutes of game time. The phrase is all about mutual respect and should never get twisted. Years down the line, when the cadets become full-fledged officers, they’ll meet shoulder-to-shoulder on the battlefield and joke about the games later.
The rivalry is tough — but isn’t it always that way between two siblings?
American troops in World War II didn’t just face enemy tanks in the African and European theaters. German Panzers get much of the attention when it comes to WWII-era armor, so it might surprise you to learn that Japan also used tanks in both the Pacific and China-Burma-India (CBI) theaters. That being said, there’re good reasons why Japanese tanks haven’t enjoyed the same level of hype as their counterparts from Nazi Germany.
One of the biggest of those reasons is the nature of the theaters themselves. Pacific campaigns were dominated primarily by air and naval battles. Most of the ground fighting there was done on small islands — the terrain didn’t allow for much tank-versus-tank action. As for the CBI theater… well, that was largely a sideshow — and much of the attention there was spent on the Flying Tigers.
But occasionally, Allied infantry would find themselves facing off against a Type 95 Ha-Go light tank — it’s a good thing they were prepared to take them out.
Over 2,100 Type 95 Ha-Go light tanks were produced between 1936 and 1943. As was typical of a light tank in the pre-World War II era, it had a 37mm main gun and two medium machine guns.
Note the tread arrangement of the Type 95 — it’s one of the tank’s weak points.
This tank, as it turns out, wasn’t exactly the best of the bunch. While German tanks, like the Tiger, held an edge over many of their Allied opponents in the European theater (a deficit the Americans arguably inflicted upon themselves), American tanks usually had a huge edge over Japanese armor.
Even when Japan was “running wild” in the Pacific, Type 95s were easy to kill.
(Australian War Memorial)
Although Japanese tanks were able to do real damage to the large but under-equipped Chinese Army, they were quite easy for American troops to deal with. These tanks could be disabled by landing a well-aimed rifle shot in the tread’s front-most bracket. Additionally, they didn’t stack up well against American armor. For instance, comparable M3 Stuart light tanks were nearly 25% faster than Type 95s (the M3 had a top speed of 36mph compared to the 28 of the Type 95), making them easy to outmaneuver and outgun.
This Type 95 was destroyed and became something for Marines to check out.
In fact, one of the biggest problems of the Type 95 was its turret design. It had an exploitable gap that an American GI could jam with a canteen, a bayonet, or rock, completely disabling it.
To learn more about how American GIs were trained to take on this tank, watch the instructional video below!
A recent ambush of British special operations forces in Mosul reportedly required hand-to-hand combat for survival.
Military sources told The Daily Star on July 2 that an intelligence gathering operation by Special Air Service personnel in Iraq turned into a firefight with roughly 50 ISIS terrorists. Over 30 were killed near a riverbed before the British troops ran out of ammunition.
“They knew that if they were captured, they would be tortured and decapitated,” a source told the Star. “Rather than die on their knees, they went for a soldier’s death and charged the ISIS fighters who were moving along the river bed. They were screaming and swearing as they set about the terrorists.”
The Daily Star reported that the SAS operators had roughly 10 rounds between them, so they charged the ISIS bad guys with knives, bayonets and improvised weapons.
One terrorist was reportedly drowned in a puddle by an operator.
“[The warfighter] then picked up a stone and smashed it into the face of another gunman wrestling with one of his colleagues,” the source said. “Another killed three of the fighters by using his assault rifle as a club. Others were stabbing at the gunmen who wanted to capture the British troops alive.”
The team, all suffering injuries, eventually met up with Kurdish allies after the remaining ISIS fighters fled.
After troops leave the service, many of us are left feeling like the skills we learned while on active duty don’t perfectly apply to the civilian world. While that couldn’t be further from the truth, the idea rings true in the back of many veterans’ minds. The truth is that countless employers around the country would scoop up a veteran in a heartbeat.
Now, whether the civilian job will match the high-energy, high-risk, high-reward aspects of military life is another question. But if you’re looking for your next challenge, your local fire department is usually taking applications.
The most rewarding part of serving was the ability to give back to your country and your community. Working in the fire department is another way for vets to take a hands-on approach to helping out.
Ever wonder why firefighters are always on the scene during emergencies? Because they’re often just as good as paramedics and are usually more readily available.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Jack J. Adamyk)
The skillsets are a near-perfect match
If you look at the entrance requirements for becoming a firefighter, you’ll notice they’re all things satisfied for or by military service: Be 18-30 years old. Be able to pass knowledge-based and physical ability tests. Have a moderate amount of medical training (and be willing to learn more). Finally, you must earn certain third-party certifications, which you can pay for by using your GI Bill by going through an accredited associate’s degree program.
Don’t worry, the mundane is still there… Paperwork and pre-safety checks and all that…
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Eugene Oliver)
The workload is similar
There’s no doubt about it: firefighting is one hell of a job. Despite what pop culture teaches us, it’s not all about getting cats out of trees or high-stakes rescues from burning buildings. Firefighters are called in for nearly every emergency, from bad traffic accidents to responding to natural disasters, even when things aren’t on fire.
Many veterans find the average 9-5 job too mundane and could use a little bit of excitement. What better way to keep your life moving than by being on-call for an emergency 24/7?
You won’t get featured as “Mr. June” in the sexy fireman calendars without working for it!
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Bryan Boyette)
The physical intensity is the same
All of those fireman carries you did back in the military make for a regular day as a firefighter. We hate to put it so bluntly, but most people just aren’t physically capable of cutting it in either field. The average weight of society keeps growing higher and higher, but the physical fitness required of firemen remains extreme.
Thankfully, the average day in the military does your body favors when it comes to applying for a role at the fire department. Why not put that body that Uncle Sam gave you to good use and help extinguish fires?
No one ever said being a firefighter was easy. But then again, no one ever dressed up as an accounts manager for Halloween.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock)
Both roles share a burden of responsibility
The life of a firefighter isn’t as glamorous as many are led to believe. There will be bad days. The kind of bad days that you won’t be able to fully explain to your friends and family because it hurts in a certain, unique way.
That pain is nothing new to veterans. Time spent in the military teaches you (implicitly) how to handle those hard times cand your experience with those coping mechanisms might just come in handy for your brothers and sisters working in the fire department.
Oh, and just so you know, all of the firefighters in the images in this articles are military firefighters. Just goes to show how much crossover there really is between our two worlds.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Charles Haymond)
There’s that same sense of camaraderie
In the service, downtime is sacred. It’s where you get the know the guys to your left and right who will lay their life in the line just to make sure you get home. Honestly, it’s something that can’t be easily be explained to someone who hasn’t experienced it firsthand.
It’s a feeling that only comes with professions that can put you in harm’s way – and it’s something firefighters know well.
The Marines of Hotel Company, 2nd Battalion 5th Marines had a pretty rough Vietnam deployment as they patrolled through the violent streets of Hue City. They managed to kill several enemy combatants all while sharing a few laughs — and a Da Nang lady of the night.
But did you ever think about where they all might be today?
After being the first kid on his block to get a confirmed kill, Pvt. Joker eventually finished out his tour of duty and moved to Southern California. He began dating a single mother who sold and smuggled marijuana into the country for a living.
Unfortunately, their love didn’t last more than a year or so. Joker then decided he needed another career change and became a scientist. Although his brilliance dominated the secret laboratory where he worked, one of his creations ended up escaping, prompting a massive manhunt.
This Marine machine gunner made an interesting career change after the Vietnam war ended. Apparently, the Marine Corps didn’t need his explosive trigger finger during peacetime, so Animal Mother moved onto the 1st CivDiv. After a few months of not getting into any fights, the commander of Area 51 got ahold of him and offered him an officer commission in the Air Force. He took it.
Luckily for him, aliens attacked earth, and he got to get back into the sh*t — where he belongs.
Take that you damn soda can. (Source: Screenshot from “ID4” Fox)
After helping to defeat earth’s unwanted guests, he went where the action is and joined the Navy. Eventually, he became the XO of a naval destroyer as a pandemic killed off most of the world’s population.
You probably thought Pvt. Pyle blew his brains out while sitting on a toilet after shooting his drill instructor, but you’re wrong. In fact, the bullet he shot himself with missed the brain’s vital structures, and he just suffered a skull fracture, along with a concussion.
After several hours of surgery, the doctors managed to save Pyle’s life, but he’d never be the same again. He got even crazier if you can believe that. Years later, a hot FBI agent pursued him after a string of kidnappings.
She busted him, entered his mind and found out about all the twisted sh*t he’s been thinking.
After the hot FBI agent busted him, Pyle faked his death and escaped to an island where genetically engineered dinosaurs now roam. But he got greedy and ended up getting eaten by a velociraptor.
Nobody liked him anyway.
After putting countless recruits through intense training and amusing hazing, Gunny was indeed murdered by Pvt. Pyle. But since the Marine Corps never dies, Gunny found a way to f*ck with people from beyond the grave.
Yup, you guessed it. He became a freaking ghost.
What cast of characters would you like us to track down next? Comment below.
When Dave Berke was a kid, he imagined himself flying an F-18 off an aircraft carrier.
By the time he retired as a US Marine officer in 2016, he had not only done that, but he’d also flown an F-16, F-22, and F-35, taught at the elite Top Gun fighter pilot school, and served a year on the ground alongside Navy SEALs in the 2006 Battle of Ramadi as a forward air controller.
Today, he’s a member of Echelon Front, a leadership consulting firm started by two of those SEALs, Task Unit Bruiser commander Jocko Willink and one of his platoon commanders, Leif Babin.
Berke has spent the past year sharing lessons from his 23-year military career, and we asked him what insights were at the heart of his leadership philosophy. He shared with us two lessons he learned as a teenager, long before he ever saw combat.
They’re lessons he said became not only the foundation of his service, but his entire life, and they’re ones he’s had reinforced repeatedly.
Set specific goals and develop detailed paths to them.
Berke’s mom Arlene had become used to hearing her young son talk about how he wished he could fly fighter jets one day.
She told him that he needed understand that the role of a fighter pilot was a real job, one that existed outside of his daydreams. Berke said her message boiled down to: “You could sit there and think about wanting to be a pilot. By the time you’re 25 somebody will be doing that job. Spend less time fantasizing about it, spend less time dreaming about it, and spend more time coming up with a plan.”
Berke took it to heart, and in retrospect, probably took his mom’s advice even more intensely than she had intended. By 15 he knew that his goal was to fly F-18s off aircraft carriers and be stationed in Southern California. He wouldn’t go the more traditional Navy route, either, but would join the Marines and become an officer.
The Marines have fewer pilots, but even their pilots go through the same training as all other Marines. He wanted the best of both worlds, and to have his goal be as challenging as possible.
He accepted that he might not make this a reality, but decided he would act as though there were no alternative.
At 17, he met with a recruiting officer to nail down everything he needed to do to make his vision a reality, giving him a year to think about the resulting timeline before signing up for the Marine Corps.
“It keeps you disciplined because the risk of not doing all the things you need to do is failure,” he said about this timeline approach. “It’s a failure that you have nobody else to blame but yourself.”
Mental toughness is more important than abilities.
Berke said that he’s never been the biggest or strongest guy among his friends in the military, and as an 18-year-old, he was thin and average height.
He arrived at the Marine Corps Base Quantico for officer candidate school scared and intimidated. “I looked around and everybody else around me looked bigger, tougher, stronger, faster, and seemed to be more qualified than me to do that job,” he said.
But as the days went by, he would be surprised to see some of his fellow candidates break under pressure. A guy next to him that he knew was naturally a better athlete than he was wouldn’t be able to keep up in fitness trials, but it was because he didn’t share the drive that Berke had developed for years.
“As they started to fail, I started to realize that the difference between success and failure was mental toughness,” he said.
Berke, middle, with the Echelon Front team and Jocko Podcast producer Echo Charles, second from right. Berke joked this photo proves his point about not having to be the biggest or strongest to succeed. Photo from Echelon Front
He became an officer. Next was the Basic School, where he would be given his role in the Marine Corps. He was one of 250 new officers, and there were only two pilot spots for his class.
“There’s no way I’m going to let somebody else work harder, be more committed, be more disciplined, and outperform me in that environment to accomplish what they want at my expense,” he thought. “It’s not going to happen.”
The same mindset is what got him through the chaos of Iraq 15 years later, when a plane didn’t separate him from the fighting on the ground.
Most vets will have you believe that he or she joined because it’s their patriotic duty. While that may be part of the reason, Blake Stilwell’s alcohol-fueled honest answer sums it up for a lot of the troops:
“At 18, and with my only experience being a sea food cook, I don’t know where I was going to go,” Stilwell said. “It was either the Air Force or ‘Deadliest Catch,'” he claimed, referring to the popular Discovery show about king crab fishing off the coast of Alaska.
Luckily, there are tons of benefits that service members receive. From cash bonuses to the G.I. Bill, the military takes care of its own. And then there are the little-known advantages of service life — the perks.
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Chase, Tim, and O.V. discuss their favorite perks of service life.
Developed over the course of decades, GPS has become far more ubiquitous than most people realize. Not just for navigation, its extreme accuracy in time keeping (+/- 10 billionths of a second) has been used by countless businesses the world over for everything from aiding in power grid management to helping manage stock market and other banking transactions. The GPS system essentially allows for companies to have near atomic clock level precision in their systems, including easy time synchronization across the globe, without actually needing to have an atomic clock or come up with their own systems for global synchronization. The problem is that, owing to a quirk of the original specifications, on April 6, 2019 many GPS receivers are about to stop working correctly unless the firmware for them is updated promptly. So what’s going on here, how exactly does the GPS system work, and who first got the idea for such a system?
On Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. As you might imagine, this tiny satellite, along with subsequent satellites in the line, were closely monitored by scientists the world over. Most pertinent to the topic at hand today were two physicists at Johns Hopkins University named William Guier and George Weiffenbach.
As they studied the orbits and signals coming from the Sputnik satellites the pair realized that, thanks to how fast the satellites were going and the nature of their broadcasts, they could use the Doppler shift of the signal to very accurately determine the satellite’s position.
A replica of Sputnik 1.
Not long after, one Frank McClure, also of Johns Hopkins University, asked the pair to study whether it would be possible to do this the other way around. They soon found that, indeed, using the satellite’s known orbit and studying the signal from it as it moved, the observer on the ground could in a relatively short time span determine their own location.
This got the wheels turning.
Various systems were proposed and, in some cases, developed. Most notable to the eventual evolution of GPS was the Navy’s Navigation Satellite System (also known as the Navy Transit Program), which was up and running fully by 1964. This system could, in theory, tell a submarine or ship crew where they were within about 25 meters, though location could only be updated about once per hour and took about 10-15 minutes to acquire. Further, if the ship was moving, the precision would be off by about one nautical mile per 5 knots of speed.
Another critical system to the ultimate development of GPS was known as Timation, which initially used quartz clocks synchronized on the ground and on the satellites as a key component of how the system determined where the ground observer was located. However, with such relatively imprecise clocks, the first tests resulted in an accuracy of only about 0.3 nautical miles and took about 15 minutes of receiving data to nail down that location. Subsequent advancements in Timation improved things, even testing using an atomic clock for increased accuracy. But Timation was about to go the way of the Dodo.
By the early 1970s, the Navigation System Using Timing and Ranging (Navstar, eventually Navstar-GPS) was proposed, essentially combining elements from systems like Transit, Timation, and a few other similar systems in an attempt to make a better system from what was learned in those projects.
Fast-forward to 1983 and while the U.S. didn’t yet have a fully operational GPS system, the first prototype satellites were up and the system was being slowly tested and implemented. It was at this point that Korean Air Lines Flight 007, which originally departed from New York, refueled and took off from Anchorage, Alaska, bound for Seoul, South Korea.
What does this have to do with ubiquitous GPS as we know it today?
On its way, the pilots had an unnoticed autopilot issue, resulting in them unknowingly straying into Soviet airspace.
Convinced the passenger plane was actually a spy plane, the Soviets launched Su-15 jets to intercept the (apparently) most poorly crafted spy plane in history — the old “It’s so overt, it’s covert” approach to spying.
A Soviet Sukhoi Su-15 interceptor.
Warning shots were fired, though the pilot who did it stated in a later interview, “I fired four bursts, more than 200 rounds. For all the good it did. After all, I was loaded with armor piercing shells, not incendiary shells. It’s doubtful whether anyone could see them.”
Not long after, the pilots of Korean Air 007 called Tokyo Area Control Center, requesting to climb to Flight Level 350 (35,000 feet) from Flight Level 330 (33,000 feet). This resulted in the aircraft slowing below the speed the tracking high speed interceptors normally operated at, and thus, them blowing right by the plane. This was interpreted as an evasive maneuver, even though it was actually just done for fuel economy reasons.
A heated debate among the Soviet brass ensued over whether more time should be taken to identify the plane in case it was simply a passenger airliner as it appeared. But as it was about to fly into international waters, and may in fact already have been at that point, the decision was made to shoot first and ask questions later.
The attacking pilot described what happened next:
“Destroy the target…!” That was easy to say. But how? With shells? I had already expended 243 rounds. Ram it? I had always thought of that as poor taste. Ramming is the last resort. Just in case, I had already completed my turn and was coming down on top of him. Then, I had an idea. I dropped below him about two thousand metres… afterburners. Switched on the missiles and brought the nose up sharply. Success! I have a lock on.
Two missiles were fired and exploded near the Boeing plane causing significant damage, though in a testament to how safe commercial airplanes typically are, the pilots were able to regain control over the aircraft, even for a time able to maintain level and stable flight. However, they eventually found themselves in a slow spiral which ended in a crash killing all 269 aboard.
As a direct result of this tragedy, President Ronald Reagan announced on Sept. 16, 1983, that the GPS system that had previously been intended for U.S. military use only would now be made available for everyone to use, with the initial idea being the numerous safety benefits such a system would have in civil aviation over using then available navigation tools.
This brings us to how exactly the GPS system works in the first place. Amazingly complex on some levels, the actual nuts and bolts of the system are relatively straightforward to understand.
To begin with, consider what happens if you’re standing in an unknown location and you ask someone where you are. They reply simply — “You are 212 miles from Seattle, Washington.”
You now can draw a circle on a map with radius 212 miles from Seattle. Assuming the person giving you that information is correct, you know you’re somewhere along that circular line.
Not super helpful at this point by itself, you then ask someone else, and they say, “You are 150 miles from Vancouver BC.” Now you’re getting somewhere. When you draw that circle on the map, you’ll see it intersects at two points. You are standing on one of those two points. Noticing that you are not, in fact, floating in the ocean, you could at this point deduce which point you are on, but work with us here people.
Instead of making such an assumption, you decide your senses are never to be trusted and, after all, Jesus stood on water, so why not you? Thus, you ask a third person — they say, “You are 500 miles from Boise, Idaho.” That circle drawn, you now know exactly where you are in two dimensional space. Near Kamloops, Canada, as it turns out.
This is more or less what’s happening with GPS, except in the case of GPS you need to think in terms of 3D spheres instead of 2D circles. Further, how the system tells you your exact distance from a reference point, in this case each of the satellites, is via transmitting the satellites’ exact locations in orbit and a timestamp of the exact time when said transmission was sent. This time is synchronized across the various satellites in the GPS constellation.
The receiver then subtracts the current known time upon receiving the data from that transmission time to determine the time it took for that signal to be transmitted from the satellites to its location.
Combining that with the known satellite locations and the known speed of light with which the radio signal was propagated, it can then crunch the numbers to determine with remarkable accuracy its location, with margins of error owing to things like the ionosphere interfering with the propagation of the signal, and various other real world factors such as this potentially throwing things off a little.
Even with these potential issues, however, the latest generation of the GPS system can, in theory, pinpoint your location within about a foot or about 30 centimeters.
You may have spotted a problem here, however. While the GPS satellites are using extremely precise and synchronized atomic clocks, the GPS system in your car, for example, has no such synchronized atomic clock. So how does it accurately determine how long it took for the signal to get from the satellite to itself?
It simply uses at least four, instead of three, satellites, giving it the extra data point it needs to solve the necessary equations to get the appropriate missing time variable. In a nutshell, there is only one point in time that will match the edge of all four spheres intersecting in one point in space on Earth. Thus, once the variables are solved for, the receiver can adjust its own time keeping appropriately to be almost perfectly synchronized, at least momentarily, with the much more precise GPS atomic clocks. In some sense, this makes GPS something of a 4D system, in that, with it, you can know your precise point in not only space, but time.
By continually updating its own internal clock in this way, the receiver on the ground ends up being nearly as accurate as an atomic clock and is a time keeping device that is then almost perfectly synchronized with other such receivers across the globe, all for almost no cost at all to the end users because the U.S. government is footing the bill for all the expensive bits of the system and maintaining it.
Speaking of that maintanence, another problem you may have spotted is that various factors can, and do, continually move the GPS satellites off their original orbits. So how is this accounted for?
Tracking stations on Earth continually monitor the exact orbits of the various GPS satellites, with this information, along with any needed time corrections to account for things like Relatively, frequently updated in the GPS almanac and ephemeris. These two data sets are used for holding satellite status and positional information and are regularly broadcast to receivers, which is how said receivers know exact positions of the satellites in the first place.
The satellites themselves can also have their orbits adjusted if necessary, with this process simply being to mark the satellite as “unhealthy” so receivers will ignore it, then move it to its new position, track that orbit, and once that is accurately known, update the almanac and ephemeris and mark the satellite as “healthy” again.
So that’s more or less how GPS came to be and how it works at a high level. What about the part where we said many GPS devices may potentially stop working very soon if not updated?
Near the turn of the century something happened that had never happened before in the GPS world — dubbed a “dress rehearsal for the Y2K bug”. You see, as a part of the time stamp sent by the GPS satellites, there is something known as the Week Number — literally just the number of weeks that have passed since an epoch, originally set to Jan. 6, 1980. Along with this Week Number the number of seconds since midnight on the previous Saturday evening is sent, thus allowing the GPS receiver to calculate the exact date.
Artist’s conception of GPS Block II-F satellite in Earth orbit.
So what’s the problem with this? It turns out every 1024 weeks (about every 19 years and 8 months) from the epoch, the number rolls back to 0 owing to this integer information being in 10 bit format.
Thus, when this happens, any GPS receiver that doesn’t account for the Week Number Rollover, will likely stop functioning correctly, though the nature of the malfunction varies from vendor to vendor and device, depending on how said vendor implemented their system.
For some, the bug might manifest as a simple benign date reporting error. For others, such a date reporting error might mean everything from incorrect positioning to even a full system crash.
If you’ve done the math, you’ve probably deduced that this issue first popped up in August of 1999, only about four years after the GPS system itself was fully operational.
At this point, of course, GPS wasn’t something that was so ubiquitously depended on as it is today, with only 10-15 million GPS receivers in use worldwide in 1999 according to a 1999 report by the the United States Department of Commerce’s Office of Telecommunications. Today, of course, that number is in the billions of devices.
Thankfully, when the next Week Number Rollover event happens on April 6, 2019, it would seem most companies that rely on GPS for critical systems, like airlines, banking institutions, cell networks, power grids, etc., have already taken the necessary steps to account for the problem.
The more realistic problems with this second Week Number Rollover event will probably mostly occur at the consumer level, as most people simply are not aware of the issue at all.
Thankfully, if you’ve updated your firmware on your GPS device recently or simply own a GPS device purchased in the last few years, you’re probably going to be fine here.
However, should you own a GPS device that is several years old, that may not be the case and you’ll most definitely want to go to the manufacturer’s website and download any relevant updates before the second GPS epoch.
That public service announcement out of the way, if you’re now wondering why somebody doesn’t just change the specification altogether to stop using a 10 bit Week Number, well, you’re not the first to think of this. Under the latest GPS interface specifications, a 13 bit Week Number is now used, meaning in newer devices that support this, the issue won’t come up again for about a century and a half. As the machines are bound to rise up and enslave humanity long before that occurs, that’s really their issue to solve at that point.
Ever notice that your cell phone tends to lock on to your GPS position extremely quickly, even after having been powered off for a long time? How does it do this when other GPS devices must wait to potentially receive a fresh copy of the almanac and ephemeris? It turns out cell phones tend to use something called Assisted GPS, where rather than wait to receive that data from the currently orbiting GPS satellites, they will instead get it from a central server somewhere. The phone may also simply use its position in the cell phone network (using signals from towers around) to get an approximate location to start while it waits to acquire the signal from the GPS satellites, partially masking further delay there. Of course, assisted GPS doesn’t work if you don’t have a cell signal, and if you try to use your GPS on your phone in such a scenario you’ll find that if you turn off the GPS for a while and then later turn it back on, it will take a while to acquire a signal like any other GPS device.
Starting just before the first Gulf War, the military degraded the GPS signal for civilian use in order to keep the full accuracy of the system as a U.S. military advantage. However, in May of 2000, this policy was reversed by President Bill Clinton and civilian GPS got approximately ten times more accurate basically overnight.
The military also created the ability to selectively stop others from using GPS at all, as India discovered thanks to the Kargil conflict with Pakistan in 1999. During the conflict, the U.S. blocked access to the GPS system from India owing to, at the time, better longstanding relations between the U.S. and Pakistan than the U.S. had with India. Thus, the U.S. didn’t want to seem like it was helping India in the war.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
I love Bond. But, for very obvious reasons, I don’t want to actually be James Bond. For one thing, that dude is surely riddled with STDs and for another thing, having that many arch enemies would make going to the grocery store to buy diapers a real pain in the ass. But, after seeing a photo of Daniel Craig working out on the set of the newest James Bond movie, I realize I do wish I was more like our incumbent 007 actor. The man just had ankle surgery and he’s already back to work, pumping iron like a boss, making me realize my complaints about too much cream cheese on my bagel the other day are really lame.
Now, here are the ways I am exactly like Daniel Craig: I have blond hair, I am a father, and sometimes, minor setbacks occur while I’m trying to do something that can derail my entire day. For me, these setbacks often involve being frustrated that there is no mustard in the refrigerator or that I have again, forgotten to buy the correct kind of plastic bags for the recycling bin. For me, these kinds of things can knock me down quicker than a flying kick from an assassin. I sigh deeply. I grit my teeth. And through it all, I generally feel sorry for myself. Will I now have to spend 20 minutes going to the hardware store to locate one specific kind of screw for the weed-eater because I managed to lose the only type of screw that will fit? Yes, yes I will. And I am going to grumble about it! It isn’t fair!
Grumbling and complaining might seem to be the God-given right of every father, but I gotta say, seeing D. Craig working out with an ankle cast made me feel like shit. Am I really going to be the guy who lets his day get ruined because the barista screwed up my coffee order? As a dad, I never have outbursts of anger around my daughter, but sometimes the fatigue and frustration of parenting will crop up in other, more petty ways. Would Daniel Craig do this? I mean, I’m sure he swore a lot when his ankle got screwed up while filming Bond, but would he really throw a hissy-fit? I mean, I know the guy has great health insurance because he’s a movie star, but still, I bet he would be a little bit more chill about this stuff.
This photograph of Daniel Craig has changed me the same way an ejector seat can quickly get rid of an unwanted ninja chilling in your passenger’s seat. Petty baggage is dumb. Setbacks happen. Let’s be like Daniel Craig and just get on with it. Dads of the world, hear me out on this one: Let’s all channel our inner Daniel Craigs more often. If this guy can hit the gym and be James Bond two weeks after ankle surgery, surely, all of us can complain a little less about cleaning baby food up off the ground or taking the trash out on time.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Heat, smoke, and that loud “wop-wop” sound make helicopters easy targets on the battlefield. For these reasons, helicopters make the unlikeliest candidates for stealth technology. But during the 1990s and early 2000s, Boeing-Sikorsky challenged that notion with the RAH-66 Comanche helicopter.
The Light Helicopter Experimental program is the brainchild of the U.S. Army. It charged Boeing-Sikorsky with developing armed reconnaissance and attack helicopters. The result incorporated stealth technologies that minimized radar and human detection. It used advanced sensors for reconnaissance intended to designate targets for the AH-64 Apache. The helicopter was also armed to the teeth with tucked away missiles and rockets to destroy armed vehicles. Two prototypes were built and tested but the project was ultimately canceled in 2004.
It was a big weekend for the Arizona Cardinals. The team has been struggling this season and they were looking to roll into Green Bay and hand the vaunted Packers their first loss at home. It was a special game for a number of reasons, but for Larry Fitzgerald, it allowed him to participate in the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign.
The star wideout is one of the greatest players in the NFL today, and his cleats bore the name and likeness of one of the NFL’s legends – Pat Tillman.
NFL uniform wear is incredibly strict, and the league is known to hand down steep fines to players who step onto the field out of regs. But during the “My Cause, My Cleats” weekend, 800 select players get to sport customized cleats that raise awareness and funds for their personal causes, from fighting colon cancer to ending sex trafficking. Larry Fitzgerald wanted to honor the men and women who serve in the U.S. military.
As an Arizona Cardinal, that meant honoring the legacy of Pat Tillman.
Fitzgerald’s cleats were custom-made by Miami, Florida-based Marcus Rivero of Soles by Sir. He incorporated an image of Pat Tillman himself, as well as the name of former Arizona Senator, John McCain, who died earlier in 2018. The designer also added the name of Fitzgerald’s grandfather, who served in the Korean War.
Beyond simply making and wearing the custom cleats, the Cardinals wide receiver gave a special experience to two U.S. Army veterans and Pat Tillman scholars, Joseph Wheaton and Jameson Lopez. Wheaton is a native of northern Maine who joined the military after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Lopez is member of the Quechan Tribe from Arizona’s Colorado River Valley.
The Cardinals wide receiver gave the two scholars a tour of the Cardinals facility, a chance to meet the trainers and staff, and presented them each with a Pat Tillman Cardinals jersey.
Fitzgerald’s custom “My Cause, My Cleats” wear, honoring Pat Tillman, Arizona Sen. John McCain, and his own grandfather, a Korean War veteran.
The mission of the Tillman Foundation is to empower military veterans and military spouses to become the next generation of great American leaders. More than 580 Tillman Scholars around the country are tackling the widespread issues surrounding national security, healthcare, technology, civil rights, and education.
“I’ve always just had so much respect for everything the organization and foundation has done,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald and the Cardinals improved to 3-9 with a win over Green Bay at home as Fitzgerald caught three passes for 48 yards wearing his custom Pat Tillman-inspired cleats.