The past year was a busy time for the US Air Force.
Aside from coordinating and carrying out airstrikes against ISIS and other militant groups around the world, the branch also had to maintain its typically high level of readiness. The branch compiled a year in review, showcasing the US Air Force in action.
These are some of the most striking images the branch captured over the past year.
A soldier conducts a jump from a C-130 during the Japanese-American Friendship Festival at Yokota Air Base, Japan.
In September, soldiers also executed jumps out of a C-130 at the Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji, Japan.
During 2014, the long-delayed F-35 next-generation fighter was moved to its new home at Luke Air Force Base, in Arizona. Here is one F-35 being escorted by an F-16.
The Air Force helped Marines load cargo during the closure of bases throughout Afghanistan during the past year, as the US-led combat mission in the country wrapped up.
Drone operators were also constantly called upon throughout 2014. An MQ-1B Predator, left, and an MQ-9 Reaper taxi to the runway in preparation for takeoff at Creech Air Force Base, in Nevada.
In November, the Air Force carried out training operations alongside the Army and the Marines in Idaho.
Training took several forms throughout the year. Here, Air Force ROTC cadets observed the refueling of a B-2 over New Jersey as part of an orientation flight program.
Here, a C-17 is guided into an aerial refueling mission during a training flight.
Beyond airframes, personnel train in a variety of other combat-related skills. Here, Staff Sgt. Michael Sheehan fires a man-portable aircraft survivability trainer, or MAST, at Saylor Creek Range at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.
Dedicated personnel within the Air Force train to be firefighters capable of responding to a range of emergencies at a moment’s notice. Here, an airman puts on his helmet as part of training in ventilation techniques.
Members of the 334th Training Squadron combat controllers and the 335th Training Squadron special operations weather team ready themselves for a physical training session.
Here, Air Force service members take part in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, which is open to all service members.
Of course, just like in every service branch, the Air Force puts a premium on discipline. At Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Tech. Sgt. Chananyah Stuart unsparingly reminds a trainee of the procedures for entering the dining facility.
2014 also included integration exercises for the various service branches — such as Exercise Valiant Shield, which was held in Guam in September.
After a practice demonstration over Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, aircraft from the Thunderbirds, one of the Air Force’s demonstration squads, wait for clearance to land.
Here, an F-22 performs aerial demonstrations at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, in Alaska.
The Air Force also lent some of its older aircraft out as memorials during 2014. Here, airmen tow an F-15 to the Warner Robins, Georgia city hall for a memorial display.
The Air Force deployed a vast range of aircraft in 2014. Here, a T-38 Talon flies in formation with a B-2 during a training mission.
In April, a host of C-130Js and WC-130Js flew in formation over the Gulf Coast during Operation Surge Capacity, a training mission.
Here, U-2 pilots prepare to land in a TU-2S, a trainer aircraft for pilots before they undertake actual missions in the U-2.
Members of the 101st Rescue Squadron also practiced a simulated rescue and tested the defensive capabilities of a HH-60 Pavehawk.
The US Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team performs at Mount Rushmore. Between the rise of ISIS and fears of Russian aggression in eastern Europe, 2014 presented the US Air Force with a range of challenges that it continues to try to meet head-on.
Reports of sexual assaults in the military increased slightly last year, U.S. defense officials said Monday, and more than half the victims reported negative reactions or retaliation for their complaints.
The defense officials, however, said an anonymous survey conducted last year showed some progress in fighting sexual assault, as fewer than 15,000 service members described themselves as victims of unwanted sexual contact. That is 4,000 fewer than in a 2014 survey. Sexual assault is a highly underreported crime, so the Pentagon uses anonymous surveys to track the problem.
The new figures are being released Monday. Several defense officials spoke about the report on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the data ahead of time.
For more than a decade, the Defense Department has been trying to encourage more people to report sexual assaults and harassment. The agency says greater reporting allows more victims to seek treatment.
Overall there were 6,172 reports of sexual assault filed in 2016, compared to 6,083 the previous year. The largest increase occurred in the Navy, with 5 percent more reports. There was a 3 percent jump in the Air Force. The Army and Marine Corps had slight decreases.
Retaliation is difficult to determine, and the Defense Department has been adjusting its measurements for several years. It seeks to differentiate between more serious workplace retribution and social snubs that, while upsetting, are not illegal.
Two years ago, a RAND Corporation study found that about 57 percent of sexual assault victims believed they faced retaliation from commanders or peers. Members of Congress demanded swift steps to protect whistleblowers, including sexual assault victims, who are wronged as a result of reports or complaints.
Data at the time suggested that many victims described the vengeful behavior as social backlash, including online snubs, that don’t meet the legal definition of retaliation.
Officials are trying to get a greater understanding about perceptions of retaliation. They’ve added more questions and analysis to eliminate instances when commanders make adjustments or transfer victims to protect them, as opposed to punishing them or pressuring them to drop criminal proceedings.
As a result, while 58 percent of victims last year said they faced some type of “negative behavior,” only 32 percent described circumstances that could legally be described as retribution. This includes professional retaliation, administration actions or punishments. In 2015, 38 percent reported such actions.
Despite the small increase in reports last year, officials focused on the anonymous survey. The survey is done every two years and includes a wider range of sexual contact.
In 2012, the survey showed 26,000 service members said they had been victims of unwanted sexual contact, which can range from inappropriate touching and hazing to rape. The numbers enraged Congress and triggered extensive debate over new laws and regulations to attack the problem.
The surveys have shown a steady decline. Monday’s report shows 14,900 cases were reported. Of those, 8,600 were women and 6,300 were men. It marks the first time more women than men said they experienced unwanted sexual contact. There are far more men in the military and the total number of male victims had been higher, even if by percentage, women faced more unwanted contact.
The decrease in reports by men suggests a possible reduction in hazing incidents, officials said.
About 21 percent of women said they had faced sexual harassment, about the same as two years ago. The percentage of men dipped a bit.
And, for nearly 70 years, the U.S. Coast Guard has trained all of its academy cadets on a 295-foot sailing vessel commissioned by the Nazis, ridden on by Adolf Hitler, and originally named for the man who wrote the Nazi Party anthem.
The ship, now called the USCGC Eagle, has an amazing history.
Launched in 1936 as the SSS Horst Wessel, the vessel was always destined to be a training ship. The Nazis made her the flagship of the training fleet of the Kriegsmarine, the navy.
Hitler is believed to have rode on her only one time, but legends persist in the Coast Guard about where Hitler may have napped while on board. A sailor on the Horst Wessel in World War II, Tido Holtkamp said in a BBC interview that Hitler’s boots had nails that scratched the deck, but everyone was too afraid to say anything.
She served in this role for three years, but was sidelined at the start of World War II in 1939. For a few years, she was a dormitory for Hitler Youth. In 1942, the ship was pressed back into service with a complement of anti-air guns but they weren’t very effective. Hotkamp remembers an American bomber attempting to destroy the ship, but it only survived because the bombs missed.
The ship was captured by the British in 1945. In 1946, Allied commanders splitting up the captured spoils of war reportedly pulled the names of captured ships from a hat. A Russian commander pulled the Horst Wessel, but a U.S. officer eager to bring home the tall ship convinced him to trade it.
The ship was sailed across the Atlantic by a mixed crew of Germans and Americans. In American, she was rechristened the USCGC Eagle. It is the sixth cutter to bear the name.
When the Revenue Cutter Service — a prelude to the modern U.S. Coast Guard — began training cadets, it had no physical building to train them in. Instead, it took it’s first class of nine cadets and trained them on the USRC Dobbin, a cutter. In 1932 the academy received a permanent shore facility, but it has continued to use a sailing ship as a major part of the training process for potential officers. Since 1946, the vessel cadets have trained on has been the USCGC Eagle.
Training for emergencies is important when taking a nearly 80-year-old ship across the ocean.
Today, the training vessel also operates as a goodwill ambassador for the U.S., visiting friendly ports in the U.S. and around the world.
It has visited Kiel, its original homeport, a few times throughout history. She’s due to return next year to celebrate the 70th anniversary of her trip to America.
A few presidents have been photographed on board the Eagle. The first was President Harry Truman.
President John F. Kennedy toured her and later gave a speech on deck.
Future president Lyndon B. Johnson was there for the speech by Kennedy.
2015 was a good year for movies. Anticipated series continuations from franchises like Terminator, Jurassic Park, and James Bond met with mixed success. Star Wars came back in a big way, as did the Avengers. Marvel’s Ant-Man was a surprise hit while The Fantastic Four saw even the most die-hard Marvel fans struggle to stay in the theatre for the duration of the movie.
But it was a good year for military movies the world over. The world’s best war and conflict films from the past year are at your fingertips. A few movies are a great way to recover from New Years’ Eve.
1. Beasts of No Nation
Netflix made a foray into conflict films this year with its critical hit Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba as a warlord recruiting child soldiers to fight in a civil war in Liberia. The government falls as the warlords forces attack a village under international protection. A young boy named Agu flees after his father is shot and is captured by the NDF, rebel guerillas.
The film captures the brutality of life as a child soldier, with rampant drug use, rape, and murder of civilian noncombatants. The powerful film holds a 93% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
2. Cartel Land
This is a film about vigilante groups fighting drug cartels in the Mexican Drug Wars. The most shocking part of Cartel Land is that its a documentary, and you can see the characters and events unfold as they did in the real world.
The brutal film was shot in Mexico and Arizona. It garnered a 94% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is currently shortlisted for an Academy Award nomination.
3. Kilo Two Bravo
Released in 2014 in Europe as Kajaki, Kilo Two Bravo is the story of a small group of British soldiers stationed near the Kajaki dam in Afghanistan.
Though set during the modern day Afghan War, Kilo Two Bravo is more horror-thriller than a traditional set piece war film. The outcome is a realistic, critical success with a 100% Rotten Tomatoes critical rating.
4. Krigen (“A War”)
Danish Army Company commander Claus Michael Pedersen and his men are stationed in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. During a routine mission, the soldiers are caught in heavy Taliban crossfire. In order to save his men, Claus makes a decision that ultimately sees him return to Denmark accused of a war crime.
Claus’ wife Maria is trying to hold everyday life together with a husband at war and three children missing their father. This film is remarkable for its depiction of what life is like for the wife and children of deployed troops. The war hits those at home every bit as much as it affects the men who fight it. The film also uses real Danish Army veterans.
5. April 9th
2015 saw a lot of WWII films produced the world over. April 9th, also from Denmark, depicts the Nazi invasion of Denmark as bicycle and motorcycle companies are deployed to hold off the German Blitzkrieg until reinforcements arrive.
Denmark, of course, couldn’t resist the Nazi onslaught and fell in only six hours.
In the last full year of World War II, the Eastern Front was the most brutal battleground in the world. This Estonian film depicts the 1944 Battle of the Tannenberg Line through the Battle of Tehumardi. The war for Estonia was very different, as it bordered both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, each with mutually exclusive ideologies.
More than ideology, its location forced Estonians to choose sides during the war, pitting Estonians in the Wehrmacht against Estonians in the Soviet Red Army. The film shows the war from both sides.
7. Baahubali: The Beginning
This film is a Telgu and Tamil film. It’s the fictional story of two ancient brothers at war. One prince returns to free his mother the queen who was wrongfully usurped by his elder brother.
The two-part blockbuster is also the most expensive Indian film ever made. It took a full year of preproduction, 25 artists made 15,000 storyboards, there were 380 shooting days over three years, 2,000 stuntmen worked on it, and thousands of weapons and props were used.
8. Hyena Road
This Canadian film is eagerly anticipated outside of Canada. It’s the story of Canadian forces building a road deep into Taliban territory, creating a dirt track that can only be driven in armed convoys protected by snipers. The road is strategically crucial to defeating the Taliban.
The theme of war being bad while those who fight are inherently good continues in Hyena Road but the depiction of the deployed life and combat by Canadian Forces by Canadian writer Paul Gross is authentic and realistic.
9. The Battle for Sevastopol
When the Nazis invade the Soviet Union in 1941 a young girl, Lyudmila, joins the Red Army. She turns out to be a natural sniper, and her impressive skills impress those around her. Her wounds keep her from fighting on, so she travels to the United States to press for a second front.
This film is actually about a real Red Army sniper, Lyudmila Pavlichenko, one of WWII’s deadliest snipers. The movie hero fights in the Battles of Odessa and Sevastopol. She racks up 309 confirmed kills, she is sent to the US to campaign for American support. She meets Eleanor Roosevelt, just as the real Pavilchenko did. This joint Russian-Ukrainian project is like the Mockingjay on steroids but, you know, real.
Bristol Palin, daughter of reality TV star and former Governor of Alaska and VP candidate Sarah Palin, and Dakota Meyer, Marine vet and Medal of Honor recipient, announced their surprise marriage earlier this week, 13 months after nixing their first attempt at nuptials.
“Life is full of ups and downs but in the end, you’ll end up where you’re supposed to be,” the couple told the TV show “Entertainment Tonight.”
The couple met while Meyer was filming a TV show in Alaska in 2014. They were soon engaged, which caused both mom and daughter to gush on Instagram: “I’m the luckiest girl in the world,” Bristol wrote in a since-deleted post. “We’re happy to welcome Dakota into our family,” Gov. Palin added.
But with less than a week to go before the big day, the wedding was canceled. Sarah Palin cryptically posted the news on Facebook, adding that they’d just discovered that Meyer had been married before. (Bristol Palin was also married before to Levi Johnson who is the father of her first child.)
Then, boom, another bombshell: Bristol was pregnant. “I know this has been, and will be, a huge disappointment to my family, to my close friends, and to many of you,” she wrote in a blog post last summer without saying whether or not Meyer was the father.
Palin gave birth to daughter Sailor Grace on December 23, 2015. More drama followed soon thereafter as Meyer filed for joint custody.
“For many months we have been trying to reach out to Dakota Myers (sic) and he has wanted nothing to do with either Bristol’s pregnancy or the baby,” Gov. Palin told “Entertainment Tonight.” “Paramount to the entire Palin family is the health and welfare of Sailor Grace,” she said. Palin also accused the Marine vet of trying to “save face.”
Eventually, Meyer was awarded joint custody, and that outcome also rekindled the spark between Palin and him.
“On one hand, we know that everything happens for a reason, and there are no mistakes or coincidences,” Meyer wrote on Instagram, alluding to the pair’s past. “On the other hand, we learn that we can never give up, knowing that with the right tools and energy, we can reverse any decree or karma. So, which is it? Let the Light decide, or never give up? The answer is: both.”
Meyer received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Ganjgal on September 8, 2009, in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. As indicated in the citation, “Meyer personally evacuated 12 friendly wounded and provided cover for another 24 Marines and soldiers to escape likely death at the hands of a numerically superior and determined foe.”
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Newly-minted Air Force second lieutenants celebrate during their graduation at the Air Force Academy, Colorado, May 24, 2017. The guest speaker during the ceremony was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford.
A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle from RAF Lakenheath, England, flies alongside a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker from RAF Mildenhall following aerial refueling over Finland, May 25, 2017. Both aircraft are participating in Arctic Challenge 2017, a multinational exercise encompassing 11 nations and more than 100 aircraft.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Miller with the 101st Airborne Division holds the American flag during a graduation ceremony for Somali National Army soldiers May 24, 2017, in Mogadishu, Somalia. The logistics course focused on various aspects of moving personnel, equipment and supplies.
Members of the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) perform a three rifle volley during the graveside service for U.S. Army 1st Lt. Weston C. Lee in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., May 25, 2017. Lee was interred in Section 60 with full military honors.
MANHATTAN, N.Y. (May 24, 2017) The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) passing the One World Trade Center during the 29th annual Fleet Week New York’s Parade of Ships. Fleet Week New York is an unparalleled opportunity for the citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as witness firsthand the latest capabilities of today’s military.
Sailors pose for a photo moments before attending “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” preshow as part of Fleet Week New York 2017, May 26, 2017. The service members are in New York to interact with the public, demonstrate capabilities and teach the people of New York about America’s sea services.
Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron (MWSS) 373 return from their guard post and prepare to conduct an area damage assessment as part of the base recovery after attack training (BRAAT) evolution during Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 3-17 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., May 23.
A Marine aboard the USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) salutes the Statue of Liberty during Fleet Week New York’s parade of ships May 24, 2017. U.S. Marines, Sailors and Coast Guardsmen are in New York to interact with the public, demonstrate capabilities and teach the people of New York about America’s sea services.
Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Krystyn Pecora, external affairs officer, 5th Coast Guard District, speaks with a local media member about boating safety for children on Base Portsmouth, Virginia, May 26, 2017. Pecora and her 10-month-old son, Osceola James, demonstrated how to snugly fit a small child with a proper life jacket.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Mandi Stevens and Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Parmenter, aviation maintenance technicians from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii, prepare a long range deployable drop kit to a disabled vessel approximately 80 miles off Tonga May 25, 2017. The kit includes food and water, a VHF radio and a transponder.
Admittedly, I’d rather not be shot with either, but if I had to choose, I’d take a round from the AK47 over the M4 any day of the week. To understand why, it’s important to have a very basic look at the physics behind terminal ballistics, in this case being the science of what happens when a penetrating missile enters a human body. The first place to start is the Kinetic Energy Equation:
KE = ½ M (V12 – V22)
Breaking this equation down into its components, we have Kinetic Energy (KE) influenced by the Mass (M) of the penetrating missile, as well as the Velocity (V) of the missile. This make sense, and it is logical that a heavier, faster missile is going to do more damage than a lighter, slower missile. What is important to understand is the relative influence that Mass and Velocity have on Kinetic Energy, as this is key to understanding why I’d rather be shot by an AK than an M4.
You’ll notice that the Mass component of the KE equation is halved, whereas the Velocity component is squared.
For this reason, it is the Velocity of the projectile that has far more bearing on the energy that it dissipates into the target than the mass.
The V1-V2 component of the equation takes into consideration that the projectile might actually pass straight through the target, rather than coming to rest in the target. In this instance, the change in the Velocity of the projectile as it passes through the target (V1 being its velocity as it enters, and V2 being velocity on exit) is the factor that is considered when calculating how much energy the missile delivered into the target.
Naturally if the projectile comes to rest in the target (ie: no exit wound) then V2 equals zero and the projectile’s velocity as it entered (V1) is used to calculate the KE.
That’s enough physics for now, but you get the concept that the optimum projectile to shoot someone with is one that has a decent mass, is very, very fast, and is guaranteed to come to rest in your target, as to dissipate as much energy as possible into them, and hence do maximal damage.
The next concept to grasp is that of permanent cavitation versus temporary cavitation. Permanent cavitation is the hole that gets left in a target from a projectile punching through it. You can think of it simply like a sharp stick being pushed through a target and leaving a hole the diameter of the stick. The permanent cavity left by a bullet is proportionate to the surface area of the bullet as it passes through the tissue.
For instance, if an AK47 round of 7.62mm diameter at its widest point passes cleanly through a target, it will leave a round 7.62mm hole (permanent cavity). If this hole goes through a vital structure in the body, then the wound can be fatal. However, if the bullet passes through soft tissues only, then the permanent cavity can be relatively benign.
This is a slight oversimplification of the concept, as bullets will rarely remain dead straight as they pass through human bodies, as they have a tendency to destabilize, and the heavier back-end of the bullet will want to overtake the front.
This concept, known as yaw, increases the frontal surface area of the bullet as it passes through tissue, and hence creates a larger permanent cavity.
Far more damaging than the permanent cavity left by a projectile is the temporary cavity that it creates. Anyone who has ever watched the TV show MythBusters will have some familiarity with this concept, and it is best demonstrated using slow motion video imagery of bullets being shot into special jelly known as ballistic gelatin, which is calibrated to be the same density as human soft tissues.
What can be seen in these video images (below) is the pulsating dissipation of energy that emanates out from a bullet as it passes through the gelatin.
This is a visual illustration of the concept of temporary cavitation, and it allows the viewer to begin to appreciate the devastating effect that a high velocity missile can have once it enters a human body. The temporary cavitation is the transfer of Kinetic Energy from the projectile into the tissues of the target, and as we learned above, is relative to the mass and, more importantly, the velocity of the projectile.
As the energy of the projectile is dissipated into the tissues of the target the temporary cavitation pulverizes structures adjacent to the bullet’s tract, including blood vessels, nerves, muscles, and any solid organs that may be in close proximity.
For that reason the high velocity projectile does not need to pass directly through a structure in the body to destroy it. The higher the Kinetic Energy of the projectile the further out from the permanent cavity the temporary cavity extends.
Below is a slow motion video of a 5.56x45mm round (same as the M4 fires) hitting ballistic gelatine in slow motion. After watching, the medical provider can begin to appreciate the damage that gets done to tissues by the pressure wave of the temporary cavitation.
Another characteristic of the M4 round is the tendency for the bullet to disintegrate if it strikes tissue at a decent velocity. Despite being a jacketed round, owing to it being smaller, lighter, and faster than an AK47 projectile, it tends to yaw faster once it hits tissue and the shearing forces on the bullet once it is traveling at 90 degrees through the tissue often tears the bullet into pieces, thus creating multiple smaller projectiles and increasing the chances of all of the bullet parts remaining in the target, and hence dissipating more energy.
The AK47 round, being slightly heavier and slower than the M4 round will have a tendency to remain intact as it strikes tissue, and whilst it will penetrate deeper, it tends to remain intact and not yaw until it has penetrated much deeper than the M4.
The video below shows a soft point round being used, which theoretically should be more destructive than its full metal jacket counterpart, the video still illustrates nicely the significant penetration of the AK47 round without it yawing significantly or disintegrating.
I once saw a good case study illustrating this point nicely where a casualty had sustained an AK47 gunshot wound to the right lateral thigh and we recovered the intact bullet from the inside of his left upper abdominal wall. It had passed through approximately 1 metre of his tissues and shredded his small bowel, but the projectile hadn’t fragmented at all, and the temporary cavitation hadn’t done enough damage to be lethal. The casualty required a laparotomy to remove multiple sections of small intestine, but made a good recovery. That one is a story for another time.
Although an unpleasant injury to have, the fact that the AK47 round was travelling slower than an M4 at the same range would have been, coupled with the fact that the projectile remained intact and didn’t yaw significantly as in passed through him, meant the wound was nowhere near as devastating as the above-mentioned M4 injury in the same area.
It must be noted however that the comparison is far from perfect given that the M4 injury involved the bone, with the one immediately above passing solely through soft tissues.
So there it is, all things being equal, when all is said and done I’d rather be shot with an AK47 than an M4 on any day of the week. Naturally, as medical responders, it is always important to treat the wound and not the rifle that inflicted it, and I have certainly seen some horrendous AK47 wounds over the years and some relatively minor ones from M4s, so it all depends.
The main take home points for medicos are to be aware of the magnitude of damage that can be caused by the temporary cavitation resulting from high velocity missile wounds, and also if you find an entrance wound, there’s no telling where in the body the projectile might have ended up!
Afghan officials appear confident a planned deployment of about 300 U.S. Marines will help local forces reverse insurgent gains in the embattled southern province of Helmand.
Backed by airpower, the Afghan National Army has intensified offensive operations in the largest Afghan poppy-growing province, after the Taliban captured the strategically important district center of Sangin in late March, although government officials continue to dispute the claim.
Afghan forces in overnight operations are reported to have killed dozens of insurgents and destroyed several narcotics-producing factories in Helmand.
The provincial governor, Hayatullah Hayat, says national security forces are prepared and better placed this year to beat back the Taliban. They already have cleared areas around the provincial capital of Lashkargah and nearby districts.
“We have [also] started clearing pockets of [insurgents] in Garmsir district, in Marjah district, and also this will be done in Sangin district,” Hayat told Voice of America.
Hayat sounded upbeat about a planned deployment of Marines in Helmand, saying it will boost local efforts to evict the Taliban, which is currently in control of most of the province.
“I am quite sure they will have definitely lots of positives to bring in the frontline and also changing the security situation down in Helmand,” Hayat noted. He emphasized that Afghans will continue to lead the security operations, and U.S. Marines will serve in an “advise-and-assist” role.
The Pentagon announced in January it will send a task forces of about 300 Marines back to Helmand in the wake of rapid insurgent advances and heavy casualties inflicted on Afghan forces during the 2016 fighting season.
Marines will be returning to an area where they have engaged for years in intense deadly battles with the Taliban. This will be the first deployment since 2014 when the U.S.-led international forces combat forces withdrew from Afghanistan.
Peace talks offered
Governor Hayat again urged the insurgents to quit fighting and join the Afghan government-led peace process.
“I think the only solution [to the conflict] in Afghanistan is negotiations. It’s the land of jirgas (tribal dispute resolution councils) and it’s the land of talks. Any problems, even if they were big or small, can be resolved through negotiations and dialogue,” he said.
The Taliban has extended its control of influence across Afghanistan since the withdrawal of U.S.-led international combat forces two years ago, and efforts aimed at encouraging the insurgents to come to the table for peace talks with Kabul have not yet succeeded.
Russia plans to host a multi-nation conference of Afghanistan’s immediate and far neighbors on April 14 to try to jump-start peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, India, China, and several former Soviet Central Asian states have been invited to the talks in Moscow.
The United States also was invited to attend the meeting, but turned down the invitation, questioning Russian objectives and intentions for initiating the process.
A Taliban spokesman said late March it was not in a position to comment, and would not consider whether to attend the Moscow talks until the group received an invitation.
Every service branch has its own ways of messing with the new guys. The military has been compared to fraternities and sororities because of the bond forged with those we serve with. Similarly, both have off the book traditions and a purpose behind them. No one wants anyone to get seriously hurt. Hazing needs to be kept within reason; we’re the military, not barbarians.
1. Not all unofficial traditions are harmful
There are some traditions such as ‘Pinning’ chevrons or blood stripes that are understandably outlawed because people took it too far. The act of Pinning is done when someone gets promoted and they have new chevrons placed on the collar of their uniform. The backs of the chevron, bearing the rank insignia, has sharp spikes. The spikes have caps to prevent the service member from being poked while executing his or her duties.
During a ‘pinning’ tradition, soon after a troop is promoted, the caps are left off. Those of a higher rank punch it once and are supposed to congratulate you. It was intended to be love tap. A light jab, ouchies, let’s grab a drink. Pinning is not a blank check to start whaling away at someone causing them to bleed all over the place or break their collar bone.
That’s not hazing, that’s a crime. Go straight to prison.
When I was new to the Marine Corps fleet my seniors banged on my door at four in the morning. When I opened the door, they had a six pack and told my roommate and I to chug them all immediately. After we completed the task, they left as suddenly as they came. Is that hazing? No. Does the Uniform Code of Military Justice consider it hazing? Yes. Did we shut the hell up? Absolutely.
2. Hazing identifies who can be trusted
Lets say my roommate and I told on our seniors when we went to formation that day. It not only would’ve been a sh*t storm, they would’ve been sent to jail and demoted. What man is really a man who can’t keep a secret? If no one can trust you with their careers no one will ever trust you with their lives.
3. The knife hand is not hazing
On April 1, 2013 an article in the Marine Corps Times came out titled No More Knife Hands, Leaders want you to play nice with junior Marines. I remember that day as if it were yesterday. Marines were confused about the new standards, as is tradition. There were motivators who accepted and enforced it immediately. Others were knife handing each other jokingly in defiance. I strongly suspect it was an April fools joke but ever since Marines have refrained from using them.
4. It’s different for the infantry
In the infantry we need to know that you can take it. When deployed to combat zone, we use the F word like a comma. When you’re on a live fire range and someone tells you to move the hell over at the top of their lungs, move. If your gear is improperly packed and you’re forced to dump it and repack it. Dot it.
It’s for your own good.
For example, you’ll start dropping gear, evidence of troop movement. Your balance is off and you can injure yourself, affecting the platoon’s combat effectiveness. Lost essentials like food or water. The list goes on and that’s just for packing. Is a corporal going to be patient with a private and refrain from using colorful language and a knife hand in the middle of a field op? No. That’s part of one’s pre-combat checks and pre-combat inspections before going to the field. Does the UCMJ consider it hazing? Yeah.
5. You knew what you were getting into
Finally, this is the military. From the Marine Corps to the Air Force, they’re war fighting organizations. Our purpose is to find bad guys and turn them to pink mist. There is a reason the world fears America’s military strength and its not because of our shiny toys. Its because of the men and women in uniform are tougher than the enemy. If someone can’t take a little rough housing in the most powerful military in history then they shouldn’t be here.
Receiving the Medal of Honor confers a great deal of prestige on the recipient as well as an acknowledgement that the recipient and their unit members went through an especially dire and dangerous experience or gave a heavy sacrifice for the American people. The celebrity that goes with the medal allows recipients to cast light on issues that affect veterans and active duty troops.
But in addition to the intangible benefits like honor and stature, there are some tangible benefits that the military and the U.S. government give to medal recipients to acknowledge their sacrifice. Here are 6 special benefits that serve as an enduring “thank you” from the American people:
1. Preferred access to military academies for their dependents
Every American senator can nominate up to 10 candidates from their state for each of an allotted number of seats in the next freshman class at the Army, Navy and Air Force military academies. The number of slots changes from year to year, but the total number of names that state senators can put forward represents an annual “quota.”
But as a recognition of the sacrifice that MoH recipients have made for their country, recipients’ children can bypass this part of the selection process and put their name in for consideration regardless of whether there are open slots in that state’s academy quota.
2. A monthly stipend
Every Medal of Honor recipient is entitled to a monthly stipend on top of all other pay or retirement benefits. This stipend was originally $10 a month in 1916 but has climbed to $1,299 per month.
The recipient’s base retirement pay is also raised by 10 percent.
3. Free, priority Space-A travel
Medal recipients are granted lifelong access to the military’s “Space A” travel, which allows active duty military members, some veterans and their dependents to hitch rides in empty seats on military planes. MoH recipients get preferred access, meaning they can jump the line.
4. Special parking spots at on-base amenities
Service members with an MoH also get lifelong access to other military benefits like the commissary, on-post gyms and pools and recreational facilities. Many of these facilities have reserved spaces for MoH recipients.
5. Special status in the exchange of salutes
While military members aren’t required to salute Medal of Honor recipients, they are encouraged to do so as long as the recipient is physically wearing the medal, even when the recipient is in civilian clothes.
Also, while military salutes in other situations are always up the the rank structure — meaning the junior soldier salutes the senior one — anyone may render a salute to a MoH recipient first. There have even been cases of American presidents saluting MoH recipients.
6. Headstones with gold lettering and full burial honors
Medal of Honor recipients are guaranteed a burial with full military honors — an honor otherwise only guaranteed to retirees and active duty service members. This includes a nine-member team of six pallbearers, a chaplain, an officer-in-charge or noncommissioned-officer-in-charge and a bugler.
At the gravesite, the MoH recipient is also entitled to a special headstone with gold lettering.
Author’s Note: An earlier version of this story referred to Medal of Honor Recipient and Lt. Col. Charles Kettles as an Army major. He was a major at the time of the actions for which he received the award, but he retired and received the award as a lieutenant colonel. The author regrets this error.
The Air Force is offering high year of tenure extensions to active-duty Airmen in certain shortage Air Force Specialty Codes and grades effective August 1.
High year of tenure, or HYT, refers to the maximum number of years enlisted Airmen in each grade may remain on active duty.
This voluntary extension opportunity focuses on retaining experienced Airmen in shortage specialties such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, maintenance, nuclear, cyber, and special operations to help improve readiness.
“Squadron commanders may approve extensions for qualified Airmen, which reinforces the Air Force Chief of Staff’s efforts to revitalize squadrons,” said Col. Erik Bovasso, Military Sustainment and Transitions Programs division chief at the Air Force’s Personnel Center. “This purposeful empowerment places the approval authority and responsibility at the right level, with commanders who know their mission and Airmen best.”
The HYT program allows eligible senior airmen, staff sergeants, technical sergeants, and master sergeants in targeted AFSCs and grades to apply for a high year of tenure extension between 12 and 24 months in order for the Air Force to retain experience and enhance mission effectiveness and readiness.
“Although retention is high in some career fields and FY16 and 17 retention programs were successful, the Air Force needs to ensure experienced Airmen are available to complete the mission as well as train new Airmen,” Bovasso said. “HYT extensions will help improve mission capability in key areas where readiness is currently strained.”
Eligibility for HYT is limited to those AFSCs and grades posted on the matrix on myPers, and is based on the Airman’s control AFSC as listed in the Military Personnel Data System on July 21.
“The Air Force will notify Airmen via email of their eligibility to request an extension,” Bovasso said. “Airmen must have a HYT date of Oct. 1, 2017, through Sept. 30, 2018, to be eligible under this program.”
Airmen with a previous HYT extension approved for a period of less than 24 months may, if otherwise eligible, request an extension under the FY17/18 program. However, the total number of months of HYT extension for their approved AFSC and grade cannot exceed 24 months.
“For example, an Airman approved for a Hardship HYT extension for a period of 12 months, who meets the eligibility criteria, may request an additional extension of up to 12 months under the FY 17/18 program,” Bovasso said.
The window for submitting a HYT extension request via the application on myPers is August 1, 2017, through May 31, 2018. Qualified Airmen should check with the Career Development element at the local Force Support Squadron for details, as specific timelines depend on the Airman’s current HYT date.
Find additional information about eligibility criteria, application process and other specifics on myPers. Select “Active Duty Enlisted” from the dropdown menu and search “HYT.”
For more information about Air Force personnel programs, go to myPers. Individuals who do not have a myPers account can request one by following instructions at http://www.afpc.af.mil/myPers/.
A U-2 spyplane captured a strange photo in 1960; the Soviets had built a massive new antenna near a missile test range. The CIA and others immediately suspected that the array was part of a new radar system and wanted to figure out what its capabilities were, but it was deep in defended space.
So the CIA, after they ruled out further collection by aircraft, decided for a literal moonshot. They would train highly sensitive antennas on the moon and wait for the Soviets to scan an object in front of the moon. When the radar energy that passed the target struck the moon and bounced back to the earth, the CIA could collect information from it to figure out how the new radar worked.
But the effort required truly massive receiving antennas. Most of the available antennas that would suffice were 150 feet wide and the best was a proposed 600-foot dish that was never completed. Even then, the CIA needed to get lucky and be looking at the same moment that the Soviet Union was using the radar in the direction of the moon.
They would get insanely lucky.
The first break came in 1962 when the Soviet Union inadvertently reflected radar data out, not from the moon, but from their own atomic testing. The nuclear detonation created an ionized cloud that reflected signals and allowed some limited intercept.
In 1964, the CIA was able to start regularly collecting data from the Soviet site, dubbed the “Hen House Site,” after it reflected off the moon. A specially modified receiving station in Palo Alto, California, picked up the signals.
We expected to see a regular scanning, or “search” mode, and a tracking mode, where the beam follows a target. Both of these have been observed. In the latter, the Soviets, apparently just for practice, have set the radar to track the moon for as much as half an hour. This makes the intercept job much easier, as we then see the signal continuously rather than in short bursts as the beam swings by the moon.
The radar system was estimated to be quite sophisticated, capable of not only identifying and tracking individual targets but of tracking multiple targets and quickly switching focus between them. The system was so fast that the CIA felt confident it was controlled by a computer.
All in all, it made the system a serious threat to American efforts. It would later come to light that the system was designed to track and potentially defeat ballistic missiles. If successful, it could have negated the American nuclear deterrent.
Thanks to the efforts of the CIA, though, America was able to get a jump on the Russians and steal back the advantage.
American hero Michael Collins passed away on April 28, 2021 at the age of 90 after a battle with cancer. Along with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Collins was one of the Apollo 11 astronauts who made the legendary trip to the moon in 1969. He also served as an Air Force test pilot and reached the rank of Major General in the Air Force Reserves.
Collins was born on October 31, 1930 in Rome, Italy. He was the son of a U.S. Army officer serving as the U.S. military attaché. As a military child, Collins spent his youth in a number of locations including New York, Texas and Puerto Rico. It was in Puerto Rico that Collins first flew a plane. During a flight aboard a Grumman Widgeon, the pilot allowed Collins to take the controls. Though this ignited Collins’ passion for flight, the start of WWII prevented him from pursuing it.
When the U.S. entered WWII, Collins’ family moved to Washington, D.C. where he attended St. Albans School and graduated in 1948. He decided to follow his father and older brother into the service and received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. His father and brother were also West Point graduates. Collins graduated in 1952. In his graduating class was fellow future astronaut Ed White who tragically perished in the Apollo 1 disaster.
Collins’ family was famous in the Army. His older brother was already a Colonel, his father had reached the rank of Major General, and his uncle was the Chief of Staff of the Army. To avoid accusations of nepotism, he opted to commission into the newly formed Air Force instead.
Collins received flight training in Mississippi and Texas and learned to fly jets. He was a natural pilot with little fear of failure. After earning his wings in 1953, he was selected for day-fighter training at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada where he learned to fly the F-86 Sabre. Although 11 pilots were killed in accidents during the 22-week course, Collins was unfazed.
After training, Collins was stationed at George Air Force Base, California until 1954. He moved to Chambley-Bussières Air Base in France where he won first place in a 1956 gunnery competition. He met his future wife, Patricia Mary Finnegan, in an officer’s club. A trained social worker, Finnegan joined the Air Force service club to see more of the world. Their wedding was delayed by Collins’ redeployment to West Germany during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. However, they were married the next year in 1957. Their first daughter, future All My Children actress Kate Collins, was born in 1959. The Collins’ had a second daughter, Ann, in 1961 and a son, Michael, in 1963.
In 1957, Collins returned to the states to attend the aircraft maintenance officer course at Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois. In his autobiography, Collins described the course as “dismal” and boring. He preferred to fly planes rather than maintain them. Afterward, he commanded a Mobile Training Detachment and a Field Training Detachment training mechanics on servicing new aircraft and teaching students to fly them.
Eager to get back into the cockpit, Collins applied to the Air Force Experimental Flight Test Pilot School. He was accepted to Class 60C in 1960. His classmates included fellow future Apollo astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Irwinn and Tom Stafford. The test pilot school put Collins at the controls of the T-28 Trojan, F-86 Sabre, B-57 Canberra, T-33 Shooting Star and F-104 Starfighter. Notably, Collins quit smoking in 1962 after a suffering bad hangover. The next day, he flew four hours as the co-pilot of a B-52 Stratofortess. Going through the initial stages of nicotine withdrawal, Collins described the flight as the worst four hours of his life.
Following the historic Mercury Atlas 6 flight of John Glenn in 1962, Collins was inspired to become an astronaut. However, NASA rejected his first application. Undeterred, Collins flew for the Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School. He later applied and was accepted to the Air Force’s postgraduate course on the basics of spaceflight. He was joined by future astronauts Charles Bassett, Edward Givens, and Joe Engle.
In June 1963, Collins applied to the astronaut program again and was accepted. After basic training, Collins received his first choice in specialization: pressure suits and extravehicular activities. In June 1965, he was received his first crew assignment as the backup pilot on Gemini 7. Following the system of NASA crew rotation, this slated Collins as the primary pilot for Gemini 10.
Along with John Young, Collins lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 0520 on July 18, 1966. Gemini 10 took them to a new altitude record of 475 miles above the Earth. Collins later said that he felt like a Roman god riding the skies in his chariot. On Gemini 10, Collins also became the first person to perform two spacewalks on the same mission. At 0406 on July 21, Young and Collins splashed into the Atlantic and were safely recovered by the USS Guadalcanal.
After Gemini 10, Collins was reassigned to the Apollo program. He was slated as the backup pilot on Apollo 2 along with Frank Borman and Tom Stafford. However, Collins’ future in Apollo was put on hold when he began experiencing leg problems in 1968. He was diagnosed with cervical disc herniation and had to have two vertebrae surgically fused. Originally slotted as the primary pilot for Apollo 9, Collins was replaced by Jim Lovell while he recovered.
Following the success of Apollo 8, Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins were announced as the crew of Apollo 11. While training for the mission, Collins compiled a book of different scenarios and schemes during the lunar module rendezvous. The book ended up being 117 pages.
Collins also created the mission patch for Apollo 11. Backup commander Jim Lovell mentioned the idea of eagles which inspired Collins. He found a painting in a National Geographic book, traced it, and added the lunar surface and the Earth. The idea of the olive branch was pitched by a computer expert at the simulators.
At 0932 on July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 lifted off. Collins docked the Command Module Columbia with the Lunar Module Eagle without issue and the combined spacecraft continued on to the Moon. Apollo 11 orbited the Moon thirty times before Aldrin and Armstrong entered the Eagle and prepared for their descent to the lunar surface. At 1744 UTC, Eagle separated from Columbia, leaving Collins alone in the command module.
While Aldrin and Armstrong performed their mission on the Moon, Collins orbited solo. During each orbit, he was out of radio contact with the Earth for 48 minutes. During that time, he became the most solitary human being alive. Despite that, Collins did not feel scared or alone. He later recalled that he felt, “awareness, anticipation, satisfaction, confidence, almost exultation.”
Collins orbited the Moon a further 30 times in the command module. After spending so much time in the spacecraft, he decided to leave his mark in the lower equipment bay. There, he wrote, “Spacecraft 107 – alias Apollo 11 – alias Columbia. The best ship to come down the line. God Bless Her. Michael Collins, CMP.”
At 1754 UTC on July 21, Eagle lifted off from the Moon and rejoined Columbia for the trip back to Earth. Columbia splashed into the Pacific at 1650 UTC on July 24. The crew was safely recovered by USS Hornet. As the first humans to go to the Moon, Collins, Aldrin, and Armstrong became worldwide celebrities. They embarked on a 38-day world tour of 22 foreign countries.
Satisfied with his legendary space flight, Collins retired from NASA after Apollo 11. He was urged by President Nixon to serve as the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. However, the Vietnam War, the invasion of Cambodia, and the Kent State shootings, sent waves of protests and unrest across the country. Collins did not enjoy the job and requested to become the Director of the National Air and Space Museum. Nixon approved and Collins changed jobs in 1971.
Along with Senator and former Air Force Major General Barry Goldwater, Collins lobbied Congress to fund the building of the National Air and Space Museum. In 1972, Congress approved a budget of $40 million. With a smaller budget than what Collins had hoped for, he also had a short suspense to meet. The museum was scheduled to open on July 4, 1976 for the country’s bicentennial. Not one to back away from a challenge, Collins got to work hiring staff, overseeing the creation of exhibits, and monitoring construction. Not only was the museum completed under budget, but it opened three days ahead of schedule on July 1, 1976.
Still a member of the Air Force Reserve, Collins reached the rank of Major General in 1976 and retired in 1982. He served as the museum’s director until 1978 when he became undersecretary of the Smithsonian Institution. In 1985, he started his own consulting firm. He has also wrote books on spaceflight, including a children’s book on his experiences. Collins enjoyed painting watercolors of the Florida Evergreens or aircraft that he flew. He lived with his wife in Marco Island, Florida and Avon, North Carolina until her death in April 2014.
Following Collins’ passing, NASA released a statement. “NASA mourns the loss of this accomplished pilot and astronaut, a friend of all who seek to push the envelope of human potential,” the release said. “Whether his work was behind the scenes or on full view, his legacy will always be as one of the leaders who took America’s first steps into the cosmos. And his spirit will go with us as we venture toward farther horizons.” Michael Collins will forever be remembered as an American hero and a champion for humanity on its quest into space.