The B-52 has been serving in America’s nuclear deterrent arsenal since 1952. But a lot has changed on the BUFF and its mission since it was on the front line against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
The strategic bomber has gone from being designed to deliver huge nuclear bombs on Russia to dropping precision-guided conventional bombs on al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Today, it is far more likely to deliver its nukes using air-launched cruise missiles than a gravity bomb.
But little did most people know that part of its post-World War II heritage equipped the lengthy bomber with tail guns.
The retirement of Chief Master Sgt. Rob Wellbaum is notable since he was the last of the B-52 tail gunners in the Air Force. Most versions of the BUFF had four .50-caliber M3 machine guns – fast-firing versions of the historic Ma Deuce (1,000 rounds per minute, according to GlobalSecurity.org) that were also used on the F-86 Sabre. Two B-52 versions went with different armament options, the B-52B (twin 20mm cannon in some planes) and the B-52H (an M61 Vulcan).
In the B-52G and H, the tail gunners were in the main cabin, using a remotely operated turret. Earlier models had the tail gunners sitting in a shooters seat in the rear of the plane, providing the BUFF an extra set of eyes to detect SAM launches.
Those tail guns even saw some action. During the Vietnam War, three B-52Ds used their tail guns to score kills. All three of the victims were North Vietnamese MiG-21 Fishbeds, who found out the hard way that the BUFFs weren’t helpless targets on their six.
The B-52s up to the G model ultimately used the MD-9 fire-control system for the tail guns. The B-52G used the AN/ASG-15 for its remotely-operated quad .50 caliber turret while the B-52H used the AN/ASG-21 to guide its M61 Vulcan.
An incident during Operation Desert Storm, though, would soon change things for the BUFF. A friendly-fire incident occurred when a tailgunner thought an Iraqi plane was closing in. The plane was actually an Air Force F-4G Wild Weasel. The crew of the U.S. jet mistook the B-52G’s AN/ASG-15 for an enemy air-defense system. The Weasel crew fired an AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile, which damaged the BUFF. The BUFF returned to base, and was reportedly named “In HARM’s Way” as a result.
Shortly after the misunderstanding, the Air Force announced that the tail guns were going away.
So, for all intents and purposes, a generation has passed since the B-52 had a tail gunner. Gone are the days when a fighter had to watch its steps when trying to get behind the B-52. To get a glimpse at what was lost, check out the video below.
Two proposals concerning Amazon’s controversial facial recognition software failed to pass at the company’s shareholders meeting on May 22, 2019, according to reports from CNET and TechCrunch.
The first proposal would have prevented the Seattle tech giant from selling the software — called Rekognition — to the government, while the other would have required an independent human rights group to study the technology.
The decision marks a contentious turning point in a saga that put Amazon at odds with activist shareholders and civil rights groups, which have vocally opposed government use of facial recognition due to privacy concerns.
But with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos controlling a significant, though not a majority, stake in the company he founded and many large institutional shareholders holding similar voting rights as Bezos, it was a long shot that the proposals would pass.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
Rekognition, which Amazon launched in 2016, can identify people and objects in both videos and photos and has been used by government groups as well as media organizations. Amazon said the software has been used to rescue victims of human trafficking, for example, and Sky News used it to identify celebrities attending the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle last year.
But the technology has been heavily criticized by civil rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which has raised concerns over Rekognition’s accuracy and its potential to be used for surveillance. Last July, the organization found that the facial recognition software incorrectly identified 28 members of Congress with images of people who had been arrested. Prior to May 22, 2019’s meeting, the ACLU published an open letter urging shareholders to back both proposals.
Amazon has said in a previous statement to Business Insider that it has been working with working with academics, researchers, customers, and lawmakers to balance the “benefits of facial recognition technology with the potential risks.”
The decision comes after Amazon unsuccessfully requested that the SEC block the proposals in January. The company is expected to share a filing with the final vote tally later this week.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Today I found out Jimmy Stewart was a two star general in the United States military.
In 1940, Jimmy Stewart was drafted into the United States Army, but ended up being rejected due to being five pounds under the required weight, given his height (at the time he weighed 143 pounds). Not to be dissuaded, Stewart then sought out the help of Don Loomis, who was known to be able to help people add or subtract pounds. Once he had gained a little weight, he enlisted with the Army Air Corps in March of 1941 and was eventually accepted, once he convinced the enlisting officer to re-run the tests.
Initially, Stewart was given the rank of private; by the time he had completed training, he had advanced to the rank of second lieutenant (January of 1942). Much to his chagrin, due to his celebrity status and extensive flight expertise (having tallied over 400 flight hours before even joining the military), Stewart was initially assigned to various “behind the lines” type duties such as training pilots and making promotional videos in the states. Eventually, when he realized they were not going to ever put him in the front line, he appealed to his commanding officer and managed to get himself assigned to a unit overseas.
In August of 1943, he found himself with the 703rd Bombardment Squadron, initially as a first officer, and shortly thereafter as a Captain. During combat operations over Germany, Stewart found himself promoted to the rank of Major. During this time, Stewart participated in several uncounted missions (on his orders) into Nazi occupied Europe, flying his B-24 in the lead position of his group in order to inspire his troops.
For his bravery during these missions, he twice received the Distinguished Flying Cross; three times received the Air Medal; and once received the Croix de Guerre from France. This latter medal was an award given by France and Belgium to individuals allied with themselves who distinguished themselves with acts of heroism.
By July of 1944, Stewart was promoted chief of staff of the 2nd Combat Bombardment wing of the Eighth Air Force. Shortly thereafter, he was promoted to the rank of colonel, becoming one of only a handful of American soldiers to ever rise from private to colonel within a four year span.
After the war, Stewart was an active part of the United States Air Force Reserve, serving as the Reserve commander of Dobbins Air Reserve Base. On July 24, 1959, he attained the rank of brigadier general (one star general).
During the Vietnam War, he flew (not the pilot) in a B-52 on a bombing mission and otherwise continued to fulfill his duty with the Air Force Reserve. He finally retired from the Air Force on May 31, 1968 after 27 years of service and was subsequently promoted to Major General (two star general).
Both Stewart’s grandfathers fought in the American Civil War. He also had ancestors on his mother’s side that served in the American Revolution and the War of 1812. His father served in the Spanish-American War and World War I. His adopted son, Ronald, was killed at the age of 24 as a Marine in Vietnam.
The full list of military awards achieved by Stewart are: 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 4 Air Medals, 1 Army Commendation Medal, 1 Armed Forces Reserve Medal, 1 Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1 French Croix de Guerre with Palm.
As a child, Stewart was a Second Class Scout and eventually became an adult Scout leader. He was also the recipient of the prestigious Boy Scouts of America Silver Buffalo Award, of which only 674 to date have been given out since 1926. Of the other recipients besides Stewart, 14 have held the office of President of the United States.
A brigadier general is equivalent to a lower rear admiral in the navy. A major general is equivalent to a rear admiral and is typically given 10,000-20,000 troops to command and is authorized to command them independently.
U.S. law limits the number of general officers that may be on active duty at any time to 302 for the Army, 279 for the Air Force, and 80 for the Marine Corps.
Eligible officers to be considered to promotion for the rank of brigadier general (one star) are recommended to the President from a list compiled by current general officers. The President then selects officers from this list to be given the promotion. Occasionally, the President will also nominate officers not on this list, but this almost never happens. Once the President makes their selection, the Senate confirms or rejects the selected individuals by a majority vote.
The name “brigadier general” comes from the American Revolutionary War when the first brigadier generals were appointed. At that time, they were simply general officers put in charge of a brigade, hence “brigadier general”. For a time in the very early 19th century, this was the highest rank any officer in the military could achieve as the rank of major general (two star) had been abolished. The rank of major general was later re-established just before the war of 1812.
At Princeton, Stewart excelled at architecture and was eventually awarded a full scholarship for graduate work by his professors as a result of his thesis on airport design.
Stewart and Henry Fonda were roommates early in their careers. Later in life, they still shared a close friendship and, when they weren’t working, they often spent their time building and painting model airplanes with each other.
Jimmy Stewart also was an avid pilot before his military service. He received his private pilot certificate in 1935 and used to fly cross-country to visit his parents. Interestingly, when he did so, he stated that he used rail road tracks to navigate.
Stewart was also one of the investors and collaborators who helped build Thunderbird Field, which was a pilot training school built to help train pilots during WWII. During the WWII alone, over 10,000 pilots were trained there.
After WWII, he strongly considered abandoning acting and entering the aviation field, due to personal doubts that he could still act.
His first film after the war was Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life which, at the time, was considered somewhat of a flop with the public, though it was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Stewart. Partially due to this film’s poor showing at the box office, Capra’s production company went bankrupt and Stewart began to further doubt his ability to act following the war.
On January 5, 1992, It’s a Wonderful Life became the first American program ever to be broadcast on Russian television. A translated version, courtesy of Stewart and Lomonosov Moscow State University, was broadcast to over 200 million Russians on that day.
Stewart went on to act in several flops, as well as several critically acclaimed films, and by the 1950s was still considered a top tier actor over all. This was important because in 1950 he became one of the first top tier actors to work for no money up front, but rather a percentage of the gross of the film. Others had done this before, but it was rare and generally only lower end actors on the tail of their careers would agree to this. He did this on the movie Winchester ’73 where he had asked for $200,000 pay to appear in that movie and Harvey. The studio rejected, so he countered that he’d work for a percentage of the gross. He ended up taking home nearly $600,000 for Winchester ’73 alone. Hollywood’s other top-tier stars took noticed and this practiced began becoming the norm for top tier actors.
By 1954, Stewart was voted the most popular Hollywood actor in the world, displacing John Wayne. He also was the highest grossing actor that year.
Stewart was also known somewhat for his poetry. He frequently would appear on Johnny Carson’sThe Tonight Show and would read various poems he had written throughout his life. One of his poems, written about his dog, so moved Carson that, by the end, Carson was choking back tears. Dana Carvey and Dennis Miller, in 1980, parodied this on Saturday Night Live. These poems were later compiled into a book called Jimmy Stewart and His Poems.
Later in life, Stewart appeared in The Magic of Lassie (1978), much to the dismay of critics and the general public, as the film was a universal flop and seen to be beneath him. Stewart’s response to them was that it was the only script he was offered that didn’t have sex, profanity, or graphic violence.
Stewart’s final film role was as the voice of Wylie Burp, in the 1991 movie An American Tail: Fievel Goes West.
Stewart devoted much of the last years of his life to trying to enhance the public’s understanding and appreciation of the U.S. constitution and the Bill of Rights as well as promote education. He died of a blood clot in his lung on July 2, 1997. Over his life, his professions included a hardware store shop-hand; a brick layer; a road worker; an assistant magician; an actor; an investor; a war hero; and a philanthropist. He also held a bachelors degree in architecture from Princeton.
Russian lawmakers have approved a bill banning the armed forces from carrying smartphones, tablets, and other gadgets capable of recording and keeping information while on duty.
According to the bill, approved in its third and final reading in the lower house on Feb. 19, 2019, only regular phones with no cameras and without an Internet connection are now allowed in the Russian armed forces.
The bill also bans military personnel from sharing information online about their military units, missions, services, colleagues, former colleagues, and their relatives.
The bill says that “information placed on the Internet or mass media by military personnel is … in some cases used to shape a biased assessment of the Russian Federation’s state policies.”
(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
The bill was approved by 408 lawmakers with no vote against.
The legislation was necessary because military personnel were of “particular interest for the intelligence services of foreign governments, for terrorists, and extremist organizations,” the Duma said.
In recent years, photos and video footage inadvertently posted online via smartphones by members of the Russian military have revealed information about the location and movements of its troops and equipment.
Human rights activists were also sometimes able to obtain from the Internet video and photographic proof of the hazing of young recruits in the Russian military.
General Walter Krueger needed the most up-to-date intelligence against a strong and lethal opponent. For the U.S. Army fighting the Japanese in WWII, good intel could avert a catastrophe and save thousands of lives. Given the nature of the war, it would be a dangerous job.
To be an Alamo Scout required problem-solving skills and quick-thinking. It demanded physical strength – not necessarily athleticism, but the ability to withstand the rigors of long marches and missions. And of course, it required observation skills, land navigation, and cover and concealment. Anyone who expressed a burning desire to “kill Japs” was turned away.
The Scouts’ rigorous training center at Kalo Kalo on Fergusson Island, New Guinea also served as a base of operations. After six weeks of intense training, 700 men dwindled down to 138, who formed 6- to 7-man fire teams. There were no prescribed uniforms and they didn’t pay much attention to rank.
Their first mission came in February 1944: to get intel on the Japanese on Los Negros in the Admiralty Islands. No one knew if there was a Japanese presence there; it was presumed to be evacuated. An Alamo Scout team was landed by a PBY Catalina. Once there, they had 48 hours before the 1st Cavalry Division landed.
Alamo Scouts came to within 15 feet of Japanese lines on Los Negros. Not only were the Japanese there, they were well-fed and well-armed–an estimated 5,000 troops remained in garrison. After a few close calls with unknowing Japanese fighters, the Scout teams were able to report enemy numbers to the invading forces, who successfully overtook the island.
The invasions of Madang, Wewak, Sarmi, Biak, Noemfoor, Sansapor and Japen Island were all subsequently preceded by recon operations conducted by Scout teams. They also liberated 66 Dutch POWs from their prison camp on New Guinea.
To get the most accurate information, Alamo Scouts approached to within a hundred yards of the camp’s fence dressed as Filipino rice farmers. The recon operation was never discovered.
Alamo Scouts were also to be used preceding the Allied invasion of the Japanese Home Islands, but the unconditional surrender of all Japanese forces in 1945 ended their reconnaissance mission. They were added to the occupation Army and then disbanded later that year.
Over their careers, the Alamo Scouts performed 106 missions deep in enemy territory over 1,482 days of sustained combat. Not one was ever killed or captured, though two were wounded in the Cabanatuan Raid. In 1988, the Alamo Scouts were added to the U.S. Army’s Special Forces lineage and its veterans were acknowledged with the Special Forces tab.
MARSOC — or Marine Special Operations Command — is one of our nation’s most elite fighting forces, as its members are ready to respond to any crisis, anywhere.
Their goal is to enhance the overall performance of every operator in any setting they may face. Depending on the mission, a MARSOC team or individual may find himself under attack and must negotiate any obstacle that presents itself.
While these Marines continuously train to keep their skills sharp, they take pride in being the best at all ends of the spectrum — including tactical driving.
Primarily dressed in civilian attire, these badasses train to take the average vehicle to its physical limits depending on the situation and location.
During a high-speed chase, the teams must learn how to drive their vehicles within close counters of one another.
These advanced drills also focus on the team’s survivability and to teach the passengers how to drive from a passenger seat in the event the driver is severely wounded or killed — giving the term “side-seat driver” a whole new meaning.
Each Marine who takes this course has already undergone several layers of filtering before joining MARSOC. The exclusive selection focuses on moral caliber and the individual’s ability to handle themselves in a stressful environment.
This aspect causes the MARSOC teams to build a unique brotherhood — a necessary trait for their line of work.
Check out the Marines‘ video below to witness this high-speed training for yourself.
The U.S. Army is testing new recoilless rifle technology designed give soldiers shoulder-fired rockets that are lighter and more ergonomic and in future, make them safe to fire in tight urban spaces.
Testers at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland are evaluating upgrades to the M3 recoilless rifle, also known as the Multi-role Anti-armor Anti-personnel Weapon System, or MAAWS. The improvements will make it more ergonomic, six pounds lighter and shorter.
Maneuver officials at Fort Benning, Georgia, are also conducting a live-demo on the new Shoulder Launched Individual Munition, or SLIM, as part of the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiments, or AEWE, 2017.
SLIM is a new lightweight, disposable shoulder-fired rocket, made by Aerojet Rocketdyne. It weighs 14.9 pounds and is designed to be safely fired from inside enclosures without causing hearing or respiratory system damage, Army officials at the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Benning maintain.
“At 14.9 pounds, it lightens the soldier load, increases engagement lethality and flexibility by eliminating the need for multiple specialized rocket systems with single purpose warheads,” according to a recent press release from MCOE.
Officials from Benning’s Maneuver Battle Lab will document findings in an initial report on live fire capabilities Nov. 1 and present them in conjunction with the AEWE 2017 Insights Briefing to the public on March 1, 2017.
Findings from the assessment of SLIM and other technologies will inform the material selection process for the Individual Assault Munition capabilities development document and final production decision, Benning officials say.
The Individual Assault Munition, or IAM, is a next-generation, shoulder-launched munition being designed for use by the Objective Force Warrior.
IAM will also contribute to survivability by enabling soldiers to engage targets from protected positions without exposing themselves to enemy fire, Army officials maintain. The new weapon is being designed to combine the best capabilities of the M72 LAW, M136 AT4, M136E1 and M141 BDM and replace them in the Army arsenal.
Meanwhile, Aberdeen test officials are testing improvements to the M3 MAAWS . The 75th Ranger Regiment and other special operations forces began using the recoilless rifle in 1991.
The Army began ordering the M3 for conventional infantry units to use in Afghanistan in 2011. The M3 weighs about 21 pounds and measures 42 inches long. The breech-loading M3 fires an 84mm round that can reach out and hit enemy bunkers and light-armored vehicles up to 1,000 meters away.
Program officials will incorporate modern materials to “achieve input provided by U.S. Special Operations Command and other services’ users,” said Renee Bober, Product Manager for the M3E1 at U.S. Army Project Manager Soldier Weapons, in a recent Army press release.
To assist in the project with funding and expertise, the M3E1 team turned to the Army Foreign Comparative Testing Program and began working with the M3’s Swedish manufacturer, Saab Bofors Dynamics, for testing and qualifying its next-generation weapon, known as the M3A1.
Saab unveiled the new M3A1 in 2014. It’s significantly lighter and shorter than the M3 recoilless rifle. It weighs about 15 pounds and measures 39 3/8 inches long.
The Army project team traveled to Sweden so they could observe and validate the vendor’s testing instead of duplicating it back in the U.S., said William “Randy” Everett, FCT project manager.
“It was an innovative solution that saved more than $300,000,” he said.
When testing and qualifications are completed in spring 2017, it is scheduled to go into type classification in the fall of 2017, Army officials maintain. After that, the system will be available for procurement to all Department of Defense services.
The upgraded weapon will able to fire the existing suite of MAAWS ammunition, Army officials maintain.
One of the upgrades will include a shot counter. For safety reasons, a weapon should not fire more than its specified limit of rounds.
Right now, soldiers are manually recording the number of rounds fired in a notebook provided with each weapon. The shot counter will help the system last longer because soldiers can keep a more accurate count of how many rounds go through each weapon, Army officials maintain.
Check out these awesome facts you probably didn’t know about our beloved holiday.
1. Moment of remembrance at 3 pm
On Dec. 28th, 2000, President Bill Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance Act, which asks all Americans to pause on Memorial Day at 3:00 pm local time for a full minute to honor and remember all those who perished protecting our rights and freedoms.
2. Wearing red poppies
You may have noticed people wearing red poppy flowers pinned to their clothing on Memorial Day. This idea was influenced by the sight of poppies growing in a battle-scarred field in WWI which prompted the popular poem “In Flanders Fields” written by former Canadian Col. John McCrae.
The American Legion adopted the tradition of wearing the red poppy flowers along with many allied countries to commemorate troops killed in battle.
3. Flag raising procedures
Americans love to proudly display their flags and let them wave high and free. On Memorial Day, there’s a special protocol to properly raise and exhibit the ensign. Here it is.
When the flag is raised at first light, it’s to be hoisted to the top of the pole, then respectfully lowered to the half-staff position until 12:00 pm when it is re-raised to the top of the pole for the remainder of the day. Details matter.
4. The origin of the holiday
Originally called “Decoration Day” by Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, in 1868, the day was intended to honor the estimated 620,000 people who died fighting in the Civil war and was celebrated on May 30th.
But it wasn’t until 1971 that Congress shifted the holiday to the last Monday of May to ensure a three-day weekend and renamed it to what we all know today.
At least five separate cities claim to be the birthplace of “Decoration Day,” including Macon and Columbus, Georgia. Of course, there’s no real written record or D.N.A test to prove who is truly the mom and dad.
California, you are not the father… or mother. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)
Michael Myers is once again on the hunt for Laurie Strode in Halloween, the 40-year sequel that confusingly shares its title with the original film. And before you head to the theater to witness Myers wreak some suburban havoc, you may want to revisit a few of the original eight Halloween films, even with the knowledge that only the first film is now considered canon. Here is where you can stream every Halloween movie, from the iconic original to the seven mediocre sequels that follow.
Widely considered the foundation of modern horror, this John Carpenter classic is every bit as scary today as it was 40 years ago. So if you want to have trouble sleeping for the next few nights, you can rent (.99) or buy (.99) the original Halloweenon Amazon Prime and stream it tonight.
Halloween II (1981)
From here on out, we have left the official Halloween canon, as the upcoming film is ignoring the seven Halloween sequels, with good reason. While the first Halloween is one of the most celebrated horror movies ever made, the sequels are decidedly less so. And it all began with this clunky sequel, which makes the unnecessary family tree connection between Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Michael Myers (Dick Warlock). But if you love bad horror, you can stream Halloween II on Hulu.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (5/10) Movie CLIP – Test Room A (1982) HD
While Halloween II was a confusing misstep, Season of the Witch is when it became clear studio executives were more than happy to destroy this franchise to make a few bucks. The movie is a part of the Halloween franchise in name only, as Myers and Strode are nowhere to be found in this forgettable flick. If you really want to test your tolerance for terrible horror, you can rent (.99) or buy (.99) Halloween III: Season of the Witch on Amazon Prime and stream it tonight.
Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
Cinema’s most terrifying killer may have returned but he forgot to bring back quality story-telling and genuine tension with him. Myers is officially a supervillain in this movie and his greatest power seems to be destroying a beloved franchise. If you are a masochist, you can rent (.99) or buy (.99) Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers on iTunes and stream it tonight.
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
The less said about this movie, the better. Revenge of Michael Myers is most commonly referenced as the worst film in the Halloween franchise, which is impressive considering the fact that basically every Halloween movie except the original is a flaming pile of garbage. If you hate happiness, you can rent (.99) or buy (.99) Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers on iTunes and stream it tonight.
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
Much like the titular character, Halloween finds a way to come back to life even when its own terrible quality seemingly forces it into the grave. Six years after the abysmal Revenge comes Curse and you probably already know where this is going: This movie is terrible. If you have lost all hope, you can rent (id=”listicle-2612882044″.99) Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers on YouTube and stream it tonight.
Halloween H20 Twenty Years Later Official Trailer #1 (1998) – Jamie Lee Curtis, Josh Hartnett HD
By 1998, the Halloween franchise seemed to be long past its prime but against all odds, Myers made a comeback with this sequel, which wisely circumvented the nonsense of Halloweens III-VI and framed itself as a direct sequel to the second Halloween movie, which was bad as opposed to terrible. The result? This movie isn’t good by any means but it may be the second best in the franchise so far, with the much-welcomed return of Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode. If you are a fan of adequate horror, you can rent (.99) or buy (.99) Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers on Amazon Prime and stream it tonight.
Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
While H20 seemed to be a return to form for Myers, this sequel derailed the Halloween franchise to the extent that it was rebooted by Rob Zombie five years later. The eighth chapter of the Halloween story stars Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks and is nonsense from start to finish. If you want to watch a franchise nearly destroy itself, you can rent (.99) or buy (.99) Halloween: Resurrection on Amazon Prime and stream it tonight.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Officials at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa Bay, Florida reported an unusual obstruction on the airstrip this past Tuesday preventing military aircraft from taking off: a laid back alligator seemingly perfectly content to catch some sun on the warm blacktop of the runway.
While alligators are no stranger to Florida, they are an uncommon sight in places like a military flight line, where perimeter fences and frequent traffic tend to make for an unwelcoming area for wildlife–especially the sort that tends to move at a leisurely pace outside of the water. Alligators are, of course, capable of achieving downright terrifying speeds in short bursts on land, but this gator didn’t seem to have speed on its mind as it was approached by MacDill officials.
As luck would have it, wrangling wayward alligators happens to be one of the unusual skill sets I’ve gathered over the years, cutting my gator wrestling teeth in a large animal preserve in Colorado some time ago.
The preserve maintained a sizeable population of wild and rescued alligators, many of which sometimes require medical care for the small wounds they tend to give one another in their sporadic alligator squabbles. Some of the worst gator-on-gator injuries, I came to find, often involved long-term mating pairs going through bad breakups. Despite having the size advantage, it’s often the males that require medical attention after a breakup–and I’ll leave any jokes about the fury of a woman scorned for you to make for yourself.
At MacDill, they were able to get their alligator intruder off the flight line by coaxing it into the bucket of a front loader using a bucket of food, which was probably the safest and most expedient method of dinosaur removal you could come up with on short notice. My experience wrangling alligators was slightly different… as the gators I was after were submerged under waist-deep opaque water and often injured.
Although you can’t see it, there’s an alligator right beneath me here.
Despite the terror associated with wading around in water you know is chock-full of apex predators, alligators can be a surprisingly docile species when approached by humans. Don’t let that fool you. It isn’t a friendly demeanor that keeps them still, but rather a supreme confidence in their ability to manage the threat posed by your squishy, meat-filled body.
Getting a submerged alligator out of the water for treatment is a nerve-racking but surprisingly simple endeavor: you walk barefoot through the water very slowly, being careful not to lift your feet, as a submerged alligator might mistake a raised foot for a swimming fish. As you slowly push your feet forward, you feel for the leathery hide of an alligator resting on the river bed. Maybe it’s their thick skin, maybe it’s their confidence, but alligators rarely react when you nudge them with a toe.
From there, the stress begins: you need to determine which way the head is pointing and step over the alligator’s back, so you’re standing with the submerged gator between your legs, with its head pointing in the same direction as yours. Then it’s as simple as reaching down under the water and carefully looping your rope around the alligator’s neck. Once the rope is secured, you once more very gingerly, step away from the gator with the other end of the rope in hand. Once you’re a few feet away, you’ve got a gator on a leash, and you need to get it to shore: there’s only one way to do that. With one tug of the rope, hell breaks loose. An explosion of water fills the area as the alligator tries to attack with both teeth and tail. There’s nothing left to do now but play tug of war with a dinosaur.
Just like taking your giant, tooth-filled dog for a walk that he really doesn’t want to go on.
Once on shore, the fight has just begun. You pass the rope to your partner to put some tension on it to redirect the alligator’s focus while you circle around. Once you’re sure the alligator has lost sight of you, you move as quickly as you can to get onto the alligator’s back with your feet beneath you, sticking your fingers into its mouth at the rear near the jaw joint and heaving your weight backward as you pull to subdue the monster.
With small alligators, this is a challenge. With big alligators, it’s exactly as scary as you imagine. If the gator bucks you off (as they sometimes do) your partner will need to move quickly to save your life. Alligators attack at angles and with lightning quickness, making their aggressive movements difficult to predict and even more difficult to evade.
Believe it or not, this was still a “small” alligator during training classes.
Once subdued, we used good old fashioned triple antibiotic ointment on small wounds and antibiotic injections for larger injuries before releasing the alligators back into the water.
Fortunately for MacDill, a bucket of food and a bit of heavy equipment did the trick just fine this time… but if these sightings keep up, alligator wrestling could become one heck of a B-billet.
Lt. Col. Megan A. Brogden was handed a flag today that was full of symbolism.
It marked her new position as a battalion commander and all the responsibilities associated with that job.
It marked the pinnacle of her U.S. Army career so far.
And it marked a milestone in the continued diversification of Army special operations.
Brogden, who assumed command of the Group Support Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, is the first woman to assume command of a battalion within any of the Army’s seven Special Forces groups.
“It was a very humbling moment,” she said after the ceremony on Fort Bragg’s Meadows Field. “It’s such a great organization.”
But while happy to take on the challenges and proud of her accomplishments, Brogden is hesitant to mark herself as breaking new ground or smashing through any so-called glass ceilings.
“I don’t necessarily see it as much of a milestone,” she said. “I didn’t go to Ranger school or selection. It’s a lot about timing.”
Officials have called Brogden’s assuming command a historic moment for 3rd Group and the rest of the Special Forces Regiment. But during the change of command, leaders made clear that she was chosen for her expertise and leadership, not because she is a woman.
“She is without a doubt the right choice to assume command of this great unit at this time,” said Col. Bradley D. Moses, the 3rd Special Forces Group commander who passed the battalion colors to Brogden, symbolically starting her time in command.
Moses said Brogden has an unwavering dedication to soldiers, and a long history of supporting and leading special operations soldiers and maintaining the force.
“You’re a great officer, Megan. Smart, humble and full of energy. It’s an honor to serve with you again,” he said. “Lead from the front. Focus on the mission and take care of your soldiers and their families. I look forward to working with you in the days ahead.”
Brogden said the Group Support Battalion has a noteworthy reputation. It’s the largest, most diverse of five battalions within the 3rd Special Forces Group, charged with supporting Special Forces teams deployed to remote and austere environments in Africa and the Middle East.
“They have an awesome reputation,” she said.
And for the next two years, she said, she’ll work to build on that reputation and innovate to better support soldiers and their missions.
In taking command, Brogden said she feels no added pressure due to her gender. She said her selection as battalion commander shows the continuing growth of women within the special operations community.
“I think the doors are already opening, and if females want to be in the Special Forces community, the opportunities are there,” Brogden said.
She noted that women are already assigned within the Group Support Battalion, have served within U.S. Army Special Operations Command as civil affairs and psychological operations soldiers for nearly two decades and have served in cultural support teams with Army Rangers and as part of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
Capt. Christopher Webb, a spokesman for the 3rd Special Forces Group, said the percentage of women serving in special operations is comparable to the active Army. The first female service members served alongside the predecessors of today’s special operations soldiers as early as World War II, he said.
But there’s little doubt that the role of women in special operations is changing. In addition to filling more leadership roles, USASOC continues to integrate women into previously closed military jobs, officials said, stressing that standards have and will remain high for any position.
Brogden took command from Lt. Col. Chris Paone, who had led the Group Support Battalion, also known as the Nomads, for two years.
Moses honored the work the battalion has done under Paone’s command, praising his role in a massive shift that saw the 3rd Group’s mission focus move from Afghanistan to Africa.
Along the way, Paone and the battalion had to adjust from the resource-rich Central Command area of operations to a more austere environment, often hours away from supply lines.
The Group Support Battalion, on any given day, has soldiers deployed to about 12 countries in North and West Africa. It also has soldiers in Afghanistan, working alongside local partners.
The battalion, formed more than a decade ago, has more than 400 soldiers assigned to more than 35 military occupational specialties, and nine officer branches. The soldiers provide communications and electronics support, military intelligence, food service, chemical reconnaissance, supply and services, transportation, maintenance, water purification, medical support, engineering, water purification, parachute rigging, unmanned aerial reconnaissance, contracting support and more.
Paone praised the soldiers and battalion leaders. The special operations community needs leaders to be team-builders, Paone said. And there’s no doubt Brogden is uniquely qualified.
“The battalion can only benefit from your strong sustainment experience,” he said. “Best of luck.”
Brogden is a native of Myrtle Creek, Oregon, and was commissioned as a quartermaster officer from Oregon State University. She has served in Korea, within the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, and at Fort Lewis in Washington.
With the 82nd Airborne, she was executive officer for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. She also served in other Fort Bragg units including as J4 plans chief at Joint Special Operations Command and, most recently, as secretary of the general staff for the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command.
According to her Army bio, Brogden served two tours with a Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan and Kuwait.
She said her past experiences have molded her into the leader she is today and will help guide her in the future.
In words of advice to younger female officers, Brogden said they will need to challenge themselves as officers and take the tough jobs that will develop them into leaders.
For Brogden, those jobs have often put her in contact with leaders who have become mentors. On Friday, many of those mentors were by her side. They included retired generals, such as Lt. Gen. Kathy Gainey, Brig. Gen. Ed Donnelly and Maj. Gen. Jim Hodge; and other leaders, including Col. Kathy Graef, Col. Geoff Kent and her most recent former commander, Brig. Gen. Chris Sharpsten.
Brogden’s military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and numerous other honors. She is also authorized to wear the Combat Action Badge, Parachutist Badge, Rigger Badge, German Parachutist Wings and a Joint Meritorious Unit Achievement Medal.
Every Marine alive will talk about their drill instructors from boot camp because they’re they’re the ones who turned them into Marines. But you’ll rarely ever hear about their combat instructors, which is strange considering that the School of Infantry is much more difficult than boot camp.
You meet your combat instructors when you report to Camp Lejeune or Pendleton. The Marines bound for the infantry go to the Infantry Training Battalion and the POGs go to Marine Combat Training. Infantry Marines will, without exception, look back on this training as the worst they’ve experienced — and part of that is because of the instructors.
These are reasons why combat instructors are actually tougher than your drill instructors.
You may want to listen up to what they’re trying to tell you.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery B. Martin)
They’re all combat veterans
Not all drill instructors are combat veterans. In fact, for some, the only Iraq or Afghanistan they saw was in pictures.
This is absolutely not the case with combat instructors. Alpha Company at the west coast SOI in 2013 had an instructor cadre with in which every single one had done multiple deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan.
They’ll break you off but the key is to not quit.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ashley D. Gomez)
They don’t care about numbers
Drill instructors in boot camp will talk all day about how you can’t quit, but the truth is that you can — and plenty of people do. The fact is, drill instructors are out to keep as many recruits as they can.
Your combat instructors, on the other hand, will actively do everything they can to make your life a living hell to weed out the weaklings. Some slip through the cracks, but not many.
The look in their eyes will tell you everything you need to know.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery B. Martin)
They were all infantry Marines
To teach the next generation of grunts, you have to be one yourself. This makes them a lot scarier than a drill instructor who spent their entire career sitting behind a desk, eating hot meals three times a day. Infantry Marines live a life that revolves around the elimination of the enemy and breaking their things. They spend most of their day at least thinking about how to do this to the best of their ability.
If you keep your mouth shut, you’ll probably make it through training.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Lukas Kalinauskas)
They aren’t afraid to haze you
This never officially happens, but if you f*ck up at SOI, your combat instructor will make sure you pay for it accordingly. They’re training the next generation of hardened war fighters, so they have to know you can handle a few push-ups with a big rock on your back.
You’ll just feel like you disappointed your dad who didn’t really like you to begin with.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Carlin Warren)
They never had to use a frog voice
Combat Instructors rarely yell at people and that’s terrifying in its own right. But, when they do, they don’t change their voice to sound more intimidating — they know you’re already afraid of them, so they take advantage of that. They’ll yell at you at a lower volume and dismantle the fiber of your being.
You laughed at it, don’t lie.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
They encourage others to join in on the berating
If a drill instructor is tearing someone apart and the platoon laughs at something they say, everyone might get punished. A combat instructor will use it to add to what they’re telling you. They practically encourage others to join in on the insulting.
At the end of the day, though, they’re trying to make sure you have what it takes to be an infantry Marine. This means you have to prove your physical and mental fortitude.
Actor John Krasinski has been on a steady five-year come up. Even before acclaim was heaped onto both his acting and directorial performance in the 2017 horror movie A Quiet Place, Krasinski had successfully stepped out of the shadow of his more awkward and decidedly less muscular role as Jim Harper on The Office. Give him props, you can only count on one hand how many actors left The Office and convincingly did something that wasn’t comedic. Now Krasinski is doubling down on his newly badass vibes in the first trailer for his new show Jack Ryan where he plays the titular character.
Jack Ryan is set to debut on Amazon Prime and is yet another take on the character from author Tom Clancy’s classic spy novels. Though the character of Jack Ryan has been played by a bunch of actors— Chris Pine in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit; Ben Affleck in The Sum of All Fears; Alec Baldwin in The Hunt For Red October, and most notably Harrison Ford in Clear and Present Danger and Patriot Games— no one but Ford has ever mustered a performance that was compelling enough to warrant more than one shot at playing Ryan. Krasinski though, he might have what it takes.
See, the cool thing about Krasinski as an actor sort of mirrors the cool thing about Jack Ryan as a character. Jack Ryan is an ex-soldier, yeah, but by profession, he’s an analyst— the guy who tries to dodge boring meetings, not bullets. But in the novels, Ryan is constantly thrust out of his comfort zone and forced to carry on like a spy, which, even for a soldier, is not remotely the same. HEll, in one of Clancy’s books Ryan even become president of the United States. The duality of Ryan as this brilliant desk jockey with a badass streak in him is what makes the character so good. Similarly, as an actor, Krasinski can be convincingly comical, normal-looking, and smart while also (per his performance in 13 Hours) having the ability to come off like he could kill you with a spork.
Similar to the Chris Pine and Ben Affleck entries into the Jack Ryan canon, the show for Amazon will be an origin story that shows Ryan make his first transition from behind his desk to behind enemy lines as a spy. Unlike other takes on the character though, this will be an episodic show which is good for Krasinski. Because it’s a show, he’ll have the space to come up short sometimes or not always hit the mark, but also to redeem himself episodes later. Movies are so much less forgiving in this regard, you just don’t get another chance at anything if it doesn’t work. Still, Krasinski has proven himself more versatile in the second act of his career, and Jack Ryan looks to be another exciting entry in it.
Jack Ryan debuts on Amazon Prime Video on Aug. 31, 2018.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.