Arnold Palmer, legendary professional golfer and Coast Guard veteran, died Sunday afternoon from complications of a heart condition. He transformed the game of golf with his aggressive, magnetic playing style and he later transformed the world of business and sports marketing with a similar passion.
After dropping out of Wake Forest in 1950, Palmer enlisted as a Yeoman in the Coast Guard and served until 1953. The Coast Guard allowed Palmer to compete in amateur golf tournaments. After his service, he returned to Wake Forest and promptly won the U.S. Amateur Championship in 1954.
Palmer was a working-class kid from Latrobe, PA who took the pro golfing world by storm, transforming a game that had previously been popular with the elite country club set to the massively popular pastime that it is today. His charisma and devoted fan base (dubbed “Arnie’s Army” because “Arnie’s Yeomen” wasn’t quite as catchy) inspired networks to broadcast golf tournaments in hopes they could cash in on the excitement. He won 7 major tournaments, 62 overall and was the first golfer to win a million dollars in prize money on the tour. His 1960s rivalry with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player brought fame to all three men.
And, yet, it was Palmer’s early embrace of sports marketing that truly transformed the sports world. An early alliance with lawyer Mark McCormack, whom he met in the Coast Guard, led to the creation of the International Management Group, which became the most prominent sports agency in the world.
Palmer aggressively pursued endorsements, putting his name on lines of golf clubs and clothing. Millions of Americans who knew nothing about golf knew him as the guy on the tractor who trusted Pennzoil in dozens of commercials in the ’70s and ’80s. He worked on the development or redesign of more than three hundred golf courses.
His most lasting legacy may be the drink that bears his name, the half-lemonade-half-iced-tea off-menu order known as the Arnold Palmer. He eventually made a deal with Arizona iced tea and now practically every convenience store in America is stocked with cans that bear his likeness.
Arnold Palmer paved the way for every athlete business tycoon that followed: Jack Nicklaus, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods and Lebron James all owe a debt to the Coastie from Latrobe, PA.
Earlier this week, an analysis from US intelligence officials revealed that North Korea has figured out how to fit nuclear warheads on missiles, and that the country may have up to 60 nuclear weapons. (Some independent experts estimate the figure is much smaller).
Several American cities, including New York, San Francisco, and Honolulu, have response plans for terrorist attacks, including so-called “dirty bombs” containing radioactive material. But few have publicized plans to deal with a real nuclear explosion.
One exception is Ventura County, a suburb about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles. In 2003, the local government launched a PSA campaign called “Ready” that aims to educate Americans how to survive a nuclear attack. The goal, according to the campaign site, is to “increase the level of basic preparedness across the nation.”
One of the more recent PSA videos is the one below, published in 2014. It opens with a short message from Ventura County public health officer Dr. Robert Levin, then cuts to a little girl with an ominous expression around the one-minute mark.
“Mom, I know you care about me,” she says. “When I was five, you taught me how to stop, drop, and roll … But what if something bigger happens?” The video then flashes to the girl walking down empty streets alone.
The Ventura County Health Care Agency has published severalguides on what to do in the event of a nuclear bomb hitting the area. As the girl says in the video above, the agency’s focus is to “go in, stay in, tune in.”
The scenario assumes a terrorist-caused nuclear blast of about 10 kilotons’ worth of TNT or less. Few people would survive within the immediate damage zone, which may extend up to one or two miles wide, but those outside would have a chance.
Brooke Buddemeier, a health physicist and radiation expert at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, previously told Business Insider that he likes Ventura County’s PSAs because they’re simple and easy to remember. “There is a ton of guidance and information out there,” he said, but “it’s kind of too hard to digest quickly.”
Buddemeier said you’d have about 15 minutes — maybe a little bit longer, depending on how far away you are from the blast site — to get to the center of a building to avoid devastating exposure to radioactive fallout. Going below-ground is even better.
“Stay in, 12 to 24 hours, and tune in — try to use whatever communication tools you have. We’re getting better about being able to broadcast messages to cell phones, certainly the hand-cranked radio is a good idea — your car radio, if you’re in a parking garage with your car,” he said.
Buddemeier adds, however, that you shouldn’t try to drive away or stay in your car for very long, because it can’t really protect you. Today’s vehicles are made of glass and very light metals, and offer almost no shielding from damaging radiation.
In large cities, hundreds of thousands of people would be at risk of potentially deadly exposure. But fallout casualties are preventable, Buddemeier said.
“All of those hundreds of thousands of people could prevent that exposure that would make them sick by sheltering. So, this has a huge impact: Knowing what to do after an event like this can literally save hundreds of thousands of people from radiation illness or fatalities,” he said.
On October 9, 1999, the storied run of the Lockheed Martin SR-71 came to an end after more than 30 years of carrying out covert surveillance missions at an altitude three times as high as Mount Everest.
The SR-71, or “Blackbird” as it’s commonly known, was developed by Lockheed Martin’s legendary Skunk Works crew. It was a triumph of engineering that combined the most advanced technology available at the time in a way that hasn’t been replicated since.
The SR-71 flew in the US Air Force for more than 30 years, breaking records for speed and distance that stand to this day. In the photos below, relive the stunning legacy of the world’s fastest plane.
“Everything had to be invented,” Skunk Works’ Kelly Johnson said of creating the SR-71. The insane heat and speed of the Blackbird necessitated titanium construction, which was a first. Tools needed to be invented to deal with the brittle titanium alloy.
To manage the intense temperatures of Earth’s upper atmosphere, and to help baffle radar detection, the plane had to be painted jet black.
The plane also featured an extremely low cross section and swooping angles, which made it a nightmare for radar detection devices.
Because of the stratospheric altitudes the Blackbird traversed, pilots needed to wear fully pressurized space suits.
The SR-71 was operated by a pilot and a reconnaissance systems officer. The purpose of the plane was to photograph hundreds of thousands of miles of terrain for analysis.
Here’s a look at the cockpit of the world’s fastest plane. The SR-71 was equipped with twin jet engines that were most comfortable flying at over three times the speed of sound.
And again, because the plane was flying at 80,000 feet and its sole objective was surveillance, the SR-71 was unarmed.
And because the SR-71 had no missile defense, the standard operating procedure was to simply crank the throttle and outrun any enemy. In the history of the Blackbird, not a single one was shot down. Twelve were lost due to mishaps, however.
The Blackbird family logged 3,551 sorties by 1990 and 11,675 hours above Mach 3.
Though it has now been out of service for 16 years, the SR-71 remains a point of pride for the US military and a popular attraction at museums around the country.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., takes off on the first day of Red Flag 16-2 Feb. 29, 2016, at Nellis AFB, Nev.
Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Jonas, the 374th Operations Support Squadron’s survival, evasion, resistance and escape operations NCO in charge, jumps out of a C-130 Hercules while flying over Yokota Air Base, Japan, March 2, 2016. During the high-altitude, low-opening airdrop, Jonas jumped from 10,000 feet in the air and parachuted to the base.
Tech. Sgt. Allan Habel, a tactical aircraft maintainer, performs preflight checks on an F-16 Fighting Falcon during a practice demonstration Feb. 29, 2016, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
A U.S. Army Soldier, assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade, returns fire with an M240L machine gun during Exercise Sky Soldier 16, at Chinchilla Training Area, Spain, Feb. 29, 2016.
Paratrooper assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade and a Spanish army soldier from the Spanish Armed Forces Airborne Brigade (BRIPAC), work together to secure the perimeter of a building complex during Exercise Sky Soldier 16, at Chinchilla training area in Spain, Feb. 29, 2016.
WASHINGTON (Feb. 29, 2016) President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor to Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Edward C. Byers Jr. during a ceremony Monday, Feb. 29, 2016 at the White House. Byers received the Medal of Honor for his actions during a hostage rescue operation in December 2012.
SOUTH CHINA SEA (Feb. 29, 2016) The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) conducts a replenishment-at-sea with the Military Sealift Command Fleet Replenishment Oiler USNS Tippecanoe (T-AO 199). Antietam is on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
Four EA-6B Prowlers belonging to each Prowler squadron aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point conducted a “Final Four” division flight aboard the air station March 1, 2016. The “Final Four” flight is the last time the Prowler squadrons will be flying together before the official retirement of Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Training Squadron 1 at the end of Fiscal Year 16 and the eventual transition to “MAGTF EW”. MAGTF EW is a more distributed strategy where every platform contributes to the EW mission, enabling relevant tactical information to move throughout the electromagnetic spectrum and across the battlefield faster than ever before.
U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa fly enroute from Pozo La Higueara drop zone to La Felipe drop zone after insertion of 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team soldiers during exercise Sky Soldier, Spain, Feb. 27, 2016. SPMAGTF-CR-AF participated in exercise Sky Soldier which promotes interoperability between Marine Corps Aviation assets and American and Spanish Airborne and Air Mobile forces.
Pfc. Bradley Brandes, a mortarmen with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, fires an 81mm mortar system during the supporting arms coordination exercise (SACCEX) portion of Exercise Iron Fist 2016 on San Clemente Island, Feb. 21, 2016.
Members of Station Burlington, Vermont’s ice rescue team adjust straps on their rescue board during training in Burlington Bay, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. The ice rescue board uses a system of pulleys to make it easier for rescuers to pull a survivor out of the freezing water. Another method for getting a survivor out of the water is the self-help technique. This technique involves a team member walking the survivors through how to get themselves out of the water. The team member instructs the survivor to kick their legs until they are parallel with the ice ledge and use their arms to crawl forward.
Coast Guard Station Calumet Harbor and Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City train together, ensuring they’re “Always Ready” when someone needs them.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, the convoy was hit on the southern edge of the city of Kandahar, the capital of the province of the same name in the country. Currently, about 8,400 American troops are in Afghanistan, alongside about 5,100 NATO personnel. The Trump Administration is considering whether or not to increase the American deployment by about 4,000 personnel.
These are not the first casualties the United States military has suffered in Afghanistan this year. In April, two Rangers were killed in a raid on the Taliban in Achin. Earlier this week, a UH-60 Blackhawk made a hard landing, injuring two American military personnel. NBCNews.com reported that the attack took place near the airport, which also served as a major military base for NATO personnel.
Stars and Stripes also reported that the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming to have killed two generals, 13 other troops, and destroying two armored vehicles. The Taliban have been known to exaggerate claims. They claimed they destroyed the Blackhawk that went down, and had killed all on board.
The attack took place a day after a Shiite mosque in Heart province was attacked, leaving 29 dead and 64 wounded. No groups claimed responsibility for the attack. ISIS has gained a foothold in Afghanistan, and the Taliban have made gains in the country in recent months.
Deep within the mountains of Gifu Prefecture, in a small farming village hidden away from the fast-paced city life, the family of a fallen Japanese soldier eagerly waited for the return of a precious heirloom. For the first time in 73 years, the Yasue family can finally receive closure for the brother that never came home from war.
World War II veteran Marvin Strombo traveled 10,000 miles from his quiet home in Montana to the land of the rising sun to personally return a Japanese flag he had taken from Sadao Yasue during the Battle of Saipan in June 1944.
The USMC veteran carried the flag with him decades after his time serving as a scout sniper with 6th Marine Regiment, Second Marine Division. He cared for the flag meticulously and never once forgot the promise he made to Yasue as he took the flag from him in the midst of war.
As a young corporal, Strombo looked up from his position on the battlefield, he noticed he became separated from his squad behind enemy lines. As he started heading in the direction of the squad’s rally point, he came across a Japanese soldier that lay motionless on the ground.
“I remember walking up to him,” said Strombo. “He was laying on his back, slightly more turned to one side. There were no visible wounds and it made it look almost as if he was just asleep. I could see the corner of the flag folded up against his heart. As I reached for it, my body didn’t let me grab it at first. I knew it meant a lot to him but I knew if I left it there someone else might come by and take it. The flag could be lost forever. I made myself promise him, that one day, I would give back the flag after the war was over.”
As years went on, Strombo kept true to his promise to one day deliver the heirloom. It was not until the fateful day he acquainted himself with the Obon Society of Astoria, Oregon, that he found a way to Yasue’s family.
Through the coordination of the Obon Society, both families received the opportunity to meet face-to-face to bring what remained of the Yasue home.
Sadao’s younger brother, Tatsuya Yasue, said his brother was a young man with a future to live. When Sadao was called upon to go to war, his family gave him this flag as a symbol of good fortune to bring him back to them. Getting this flag back means more to them than just receiving an heirloom. It’s like bringing Sadao’s spirit back home.
Tatsuya was accompanied by his elder sister Sayoko Furuta and younger sister Miyako Yasue to formally accept the flag. As Tatsuya spoke about what his brother meant to not only his family, but the other members of the community, he reminisced over the last moments he had with him before his departure.
Tatsuya said his family received permission to see Sadao one last time, so they went to him. He came down from his living quarters and sat with them in the grass, just talking. When they were told they had five more minutes, Sadao turned to his family and told them that it seemed like they were sending him to somewhere in the Pacific. He told them he probably wasn’t coming back and to make sure they took good care of their parents. That was the last time Tatsuya ever spoke to his brother.
As Strombo and Yasue exchanged this simple piece of cloth from one pair of hands to the next, Strombo said he felt a sense of relief knowing that after all these years, he was able to keep the promise he made on the battlegrounds of Saipan.
The reunion also held more emotional pull as it took place during the Obon holiday, a time where Japanese families travel back to their place of origin to spend time with loved ones.
Although Strombo never fought alongside Yasue, he regarded him almost as a brother. They were both young men fighting a war far from home. He felt an obligation to see his brother make it home, back to his family, as he had made it back to his own. Strombo stayed true to his word and honored the genuine Marine spirit to never leave a man behind.
The American Legion is calling on Congress to reconsider its position on marijuana, asking lawmakers to remove the drug from Schedule 1 of the federal Controlled Substances Act and reclassify it as a drug with “potential medical value.”
In a resolution passed at the 98th National Convention of the American Legion on Sept. 1, the Legion’s Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Convention Committee unanimously recommended the delegates pass a resolution urging the DEA to “license privately-funded medical marijuana production operations in the United States to enable safe and efficient cannabis drug development research.”
Officials with the American Legion say there’s some evidence marijuana helps in the treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD. Research conducted by the Legion’s Ad Hoc Committee on TBI/PTSD found that the conditions cost the economy $60 billion.
“The response of the membership has been very positive,” says William Detweiler, the chairman of the Legion’s Ad Hoc Committee on TBI/PTSD. “Our veterans deserve the best medical care that we can offer. We believe that funding additional medical research in this field will provide another ‘tool’ in the physician’s toolbox for treatment.”
In 2011, the Ad Hoc Committee was formed to look into the issues surrounding the treatment of veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress. The goal was to determine what treatments are being employed by VA and DoD currently and what other treatments and protocols that may be available that are not being currently used or approved.
Schedule 1 of the federal Controlled Substances Act includes drugs like marijuana, heroin, and LSD while Schedule 2 includes oxycodone, morphine, and Ritalin.
Now that the national convention passed the resolution supporting medical marijuana research for veterans with certain conditions, the National Commander of the American Legion and the staff can urge Congress and the DEA to provide funds for research on medical cannabis.
Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Nadja West said marijuana is still an illegal drug and soldiers using it will face discipline, but she sees some benefit to using chemicals within pot to treat PTSD and TBI.
“Using marijuana has a lot of adverse health effects, it’s surprising that’s not brought out when they’re trying to legalize it. … It’s more dangerous that some of the carcinogens that are in tobacco,” West said during a media roundtable in Washington. “But if there’s some component of [marijuana] that can be useful to treat our service members, anyone who has post-traumatic stress disorder … I’m for that.”
The American Legion did not survey the 2.4 million veterans it represents to find their feelings on medical marijuana but has found their constituents to be generally receptive to the idea.
“Veterans are exhausted and feel like guinea pigs; they’re getting desperate,” said Dr. Sue Sisley, a researcher from Arizona who spoke at the Legion’s National Convention. “It’s a big breakthrough. While I can’t say definitively that medical marijuana works for PTSD – we are three years away from published data – we owe it to veterans to study this plant.”
The U.S. Marines put supermodel Kate Upton through her paces on Aug. 22 during a workout in Detroit to promote the upcoming Marine Week celebration in the city.
Upton struggled a bit at the end, but was able to complete the training routine that involved a series of aerobic exercises and running as her fiance, Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander, watched from afar. Upton joined several other Tigers players’ wives and significant others in the session at Wayne State University’s athletic complex that was led by Gunnery Sgt. Sara Pacheco, a Marine Corps fitness instructor.
“It was (a) very hard workout,” Upton said following the exercise session, which she concluded by collapsing to the grass in an exhausted embrace with a fellow workout warrior. “I knew it was going to be hard. The Marines are very tough.”
Verlander, a former American League most valuable player and winner of the Cy Young award as the league’s top pitcher, said afterward that he was proud of Upton for her efforts.
“I think it’s easy to show your support with words. I think going out there and doing that workout I think really shows how much she supports (the military),” Verlander said. He is the founder of the Wins for Warriors charity that supports military service members and their families.
Upton, a world-famous model who has appeared three times on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, was on hand to promote Marine Week, which runs Sept. 6-10, and is designed to provide the public with a better understanding of the Corps and its mission and the chance to connect with hundreds of Marines.
In its Joint Urgent Operational Needs Statement, the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) requested 325 “Miniature Aerial Missile Systems” or LMAMS by this summer, the delivery of which has already been completed, US-based Defense One reported.
According to the report, SOCOM has just received 350 of the so-called switchblades — tube-launched drones outfitted with cameras and cursor-on-target GPS navigation — which can be fired from “handheld bazooka-like launchers.”
It cited officials of the California-based company, AeroVironment, which manufactures the drones, further adding that they “can be operated manually or autonomously.”
The drone can fly for about 15 minutes, at up to 100 miles per hour.
The report further cited Army Colonel John Reim, who outfits special operations troops as head of SOCOM’s Warrior program office, as saying that he needs missile drones that can blow up bigger targets.
“We have a good capability right now with the Switchblade. But it’s got a smaller payload. How do you get a little larger?” Reim asled.
“We’re trying to create organic firepower and situational awareness in so many of the places we operate in.”
According to SOCOM commander General Ray Thomas, the US military is not alone in developing the new lethal drones, alleging that “ISIL weaponeers” based in Mosul, Iraq, have converted “an off-the-shelf rotary-wing quadcopter” into a flying 40 mm weapon.
SOCOM has begun working with the Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab to convert the devices US troops use to detect an jam improvised explosive devices (IEDs) into drone jammers.
“The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab was able to really help us out,” said Reim. “We’ve made some initial progress. I’ve got an initial capability out now.”
The development comes amid continued US military involvement in Iraq and multiple incidents, in which American forces have targeted Iraqi troops and volunteer defense forces during their operations against ISIL terrorists, triggering protests and calls for US troop ouster from the country, so far to no avail.
President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, Lt. Gen H. R. McMaster, has a reputation as a “warrior-scholar” and positions that make him appear an almost complete reversal from Michael Flynn.
Throughout his career, McMaster has established himself as a hawk against Russia’s leveraging of geopolitical power to further its influence and a defender of the integrity of Muslim civilians caught up in the US’s Middle Eastern campaign.
As the director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center, McMaster worked on envisioning the Army’s structure in 2025 and beyond, which means countering the growing, multifaceted threat from Russia.
In a 2016 speech to the Virginia Military Institute, McMaster stressed the need for the US to have “strategic vision” in its fight against “hostile revisionist powers” — such as Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran — that “annex territory, intimidate our allies, develop nuclear weapons, and use proxies under the cover of modernized conventional militaries.”
McMaster’s speech framed the issue around geopolitics instead of military strategy or deployments.
“Geopolitics have returned as US rivals from Europe to the greater Middle East to East Asia attempt to collapse the post-WWII economic and security order,” McMaster said.
In McMaster’s view, the US needs to establish what a “win” means when it comes to threats, including nonmilitary sources of leverage.
“Establishing an objective other than winning is not only counterproductive but also irresponsible and wasteful. Under some circumstances, an objective other than winning is unethical,” McMaster said at the VMI, evoking his past criticisms of the Iraq and Vietnam wars.
In 1997, McMaster published “Dereliction of Duty” on the strategic failures of the Vietnam War; the book was part of his Ph.D. thesis at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, said in a tweet that McMaster “wrote the book on importance of standing up” to the president.
McMaster doesn’t fall in line with the hardline view of Muslims held by Flynn and White House chief strategist Steve Bannon that led Trump to issue an executive order banning immigration and travel from seven majority-Muslim nations.
In an interview with NPR, Schiff said McMaster once began “dressing down” a subordinate who suggested that the Afghan military officials the US was working with had an “innate tendency” toward corruption.
At the 2016 VMI speech, McMaster blamed groups like ISIS for “cynically use a perverted version of religion,” to push their hardline beliefs.
This contrasts sharply with Flynn, who once tweeted that “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL” and included a link to a YouTube video that claims the religion of Islam wants “80% of people enslaved or exterminated.”
Ultimately, it was Flynn’s relationship with Russia that brought about his resignation, as he was accused of misleading Vice President Mike Pence about a call with the Russian ambassador to the US in which Flynn had discussed easing of Obama-era sanctions against Moscow.
On the National Security Council, McMaster will have to contend with Bannon and senior adviser Stephen Miller, authors of Trump’s immigration ban.
But at the same time, the F-15 has been facing increasingly better competition. Perhaps the most notable is the from the Flanker family of aircraft (Su-27/Su-30/Su-33/Su-34/Su-35/J-11/J-15/J-16), which has been receiving upgrades over the years.
Boeing, though, hasn’t been standing still, even as it lost the Joint Strike Fighter competition. Instead, it has been pursuing F-15 upgrades.
The Eagle 2040C is one for the F-15C air-superiority fighter, which has been asked to continue soldiering on with the termination of F-22 production after 187 airframes.
In the video, one of the planes is seen carrying 16 AIM-120 AMMRAAMs — enough to splash an entire squadron of enemy planes! (“You get an AMRAAM! You get an AMRAAM! EVERYONE gets an AMRAAM!” a la Oprah)
Check out Boeing’s Eagle 2040C video above. Seems like they missed an opportunity for one hell of a Super Bowl commercial.
Learning to snowshoe, ski and stay warm in the cold might sound like a fun hobby.
But for Soldiers at the Cold Weather Leaders Course at the Northern Warfare Training Center here, learning these things can mean the difference between a failed or successful mission and it could also be the difference between life and death.
Staff Sgt. Jonathan Tanner, an instructor at the NWTC, was deployed twice to Afghanistan, once from 2007 to 2009 and another time from 2014 to 2015.
During one of those tours, he said, he recalls being over 9,000 feet in the mountainous terrain of the eastern part of the country during a heavy snowfall, with snow drifts up to 12 feet tall.
“The snow stopped us dead in our tracks,” he said. “We were trying to remove snow from equipment with our e-tools.”
During a Black Hawk resupply mission, the helicopter had no place to land so it hovered above the snow while the crew chief jumped out, post-holing himself in the snow shoulder high. Post-holing is a term for sinking into the snow waist or chest high when not wearing skis or snowshoes. The crew chief had to grab the struts of the helicopter to be pulled out, Tanner recalled.
No one had skis or snowshoes and “we couldn’t do our jobs.”
Tanner and the other instructors at NWTC say they are professionally and personally invested in ensuring those kinds of situations never happen to Soldiers again.
Sgt. Sarah Valentine, a medic and an instructor, said most Soldiers that come to the school don’t know how to snowshoe, ski or survive in the cold. Instruction begins with baby steps.
First, they learn how to wear their cold weather clothing, she said. Then they learn to walk with snowshoes. A little later they learn to walk on snowshoes carrying a rucksack, and finally, they learn to tow an ahkio, or sled, carrying 200 pounds of tents, heaters, fuel, food and other items.
Next, they advance to skis, learning how to walk uphill, how to turn and stop going downhill, and then how to carry a rifle and rucksack going cross-country.
Staff Sgt. Jason Huffman, a student, said that besides enduring the cold, pulling the ahkio was the most challenging aspect of the school.
For that portion of the training, four of about 10 Soldiers are harnessed to the sled like sled dogs. Huffman said going on level terrain is easy, but most of the terrain near the school isn’t level and it is challenging to pull the ahkio uphill, especially from a dead stop.
Going downhill, the challenge is holding the ahkio back so it doesn’t get away, he said. When the students get tired, they are replaced by other students in the squad, who in turn rotate back out once they’re tired.
Spc. Tamyva Graffree, a student from Newton, Mississippi, said pulling the ahkio uphill was the most challenging part of the course. Of going downhill, she said it would have been nice to pile on and ride it down.
Staff Sgt. Manuel Beza, an instructor and medic here, said the students are not allowed to ride the ahkio downhill. “It will definitely go fast. But if they did that, it would be a bad day. The ahkio has no brakes and no way to steer.”
Beza said he sympathizes with the students’ pain. While the ahkio can be handled almost effortlessly over level terrain, going even 500 feet uphill can tire Soldiers out.
But when roads are nonexistent and vehicles break down from the cold, ahkios give the Soldiers the option to move out with their gear, he said.
Once students demonstrate competence on snowshoes, they are given a set of “White Rocket” skis, which can be used in both downhill as well as cross-country skiing.
The difference between a dedicated downhill or Nordic ski and the White Rocket ski is that the heel in the White Rocket isn’t locked into the ski binding so the foot can move similar to walking, said Sgt. Derrick Bruner, an instructor.
A Soldier can learn to use snowshoes in two hours, but about 40 hours is allotted for ski training at the school.
Because training time is limited, Soldiers learn just the basics, Bruner said. For instance, they learn to stop and turn going downhill using a wedge movement instead of a more advanced technique like turning or stopping with skis parallel.
A wedge consists of bringing the toes of the skis together and the heels of the skis out and carving into the snow on the inner edges of the skis by rotating the ankles inboard.
Skipping the fancy art of parallel skiing cuts down on injuries as well, he said, because there’s less chance of them crossing.
Going uphill involves side-stepping or walking up in herringbone fashion, which is the opposite of the wedge, with toes of the skis outboard, heels in.
To assist with uphill climbing, Soldiers apply special wax to the bottom of their skis.
Sgt. Dustin Danielson, a student, explained that the wax goes on just the middle third of the ski where the person’s weight is. He made hatch marks with the wax on his skis and then took a piece of cork to spread it evenly all around.
After skiing just a few kilometers, the wax tends to come off and more has to be applied, he said.
Sgt. Jessica Bartolotta, a student, said they were not given wax on the first day. On the second day of training, students were allowed to wax their skis. The point, she said, was to illustrate just how important the wax is in providing friction to grip the snow going uphill. She said the wax had no noticeable effect on slowing the skis going downhill.
Another thing the instructor did early on during the first day of ski training was to observe how well the Soldiers were skiing and to break them up into three groups of skill levels so the slow learners wouldn’t hold back the more natural skiers, she said.
Bartolotta said skiing was her favorite part of the course and she plans to take it up as a hobby.
Sgt. Chris Miller, a student from Little Rock, Arkansas, said this was his first time skiing and he fell a lot. “I’m a big guy and it’s hard to keep my balance.”
Miller measured his progress by the number of falls. The first day he said he fell 12 times and just once after three days. He said he’s still trying to perfect the art of stopping using the wedge.
Sgt. Shamere Randolph, another student, said he fell a bunch of times as well, but prefers skis to snowshoes because it’s much faster to get from point A to point B.
Sgt. Bruno Freitas, a student, said that his skis were difficult to use on the last day of training when the temperature rose and the snow turned to slush. In below freezing conditions, the skis work much better than they do in slush, he said.
About four years ago, the Army decided to do away with ski training at the NWTC, said Steven Decker, a training specialist. He said he’s not sure why the decision was made, but said he’s glad that skiing was reintroduced this year.
Canadians and Japanese go everywhere on skis, he said. They find it very relevant to mobility. In fact, “when the Japanese attend the course here, they can ski circles around us.”
The downside to skiing, he said, is that it takes a while to learn. For an entire platoon or company to move out on skis, it might take an entire winter and a lot of training time dedicated to making that happen.
But he and the other instructors all agreed that learning to ski is worth the time and effort.
Sgt. Derrick Bruner, an instructor, said snowshoes are “loud, slow and clunky” to use compared to skis and that skis provide better floatation over the snow. “Skis are a million times better once you get the technique down.”
Staff Sgt. Jack Stacy, an instructor, said when he first arrived at NWTC, he went out into the terrain in a vehicle that broke down. He didn’t have skis or snowshoes with him and ended up having to walk back to headquarters, “post-holing” it back all the way.
“It was the most miserable time I’ve ever had here,” Stacy said. “I’ve always made sure my skis or snowshoes are handy ever since.”