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The first man to die in the Space Race cursed the USSR the whole way down

The story of Soyuz I does not have a happy ending. A flight launched by the space program of the Soviet Union, the craft carried Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov in what was the first manned flight of the Soyuz line of spacecraft.


After a series of technical issues with the capsule, it came plummeting back to earth, killing Komarov, who used the time it took for his out of control capsule to make the long trip back to Earth to curse his malfunctioning space ship and the people who put him in it.

A stamp commemorating Vladimir Mikhailovich Komarov’s career.

The Soviet Union wanted to launch Soyuz 1 as part of a more complex space mission. It would link up with another craft, Soyuz 2, exchange crew members, and then return to Earth. But the Soyuz system was full of problems.

Previous, unmanned tests found serious issues with the spacecraft, and Soyuz 1 engineers themselves documented 203 design errors in the days before launch. Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev ordered them to go ahead with the flight anyway, as he wanted it to be part of a celebration of the National Day of Worker Solidarity.

“I’m not going to make it back from this flight,” Koramov told his friend, KGB agent Venyamin Russayev, but he would man the mission anyway because his backup was Soviet hero Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space. If Komarov refused to fly in the craft, Gagarin would be flying in the unsafe craft and would most certainly die.

Gagarin was a close friend of Komarov’s, so he agreed to the flight so Gagarin wouldn’t be put in that position.

Gagarin and Komarov

The mission launched April 23, 1967. There were immediate issues. One of the solar panels did not deploy, so his craft only had half of its needed power supply. The panel in its stuck position disrupted the craft’s guidance system. It blocked a number of necessary instruments, including attitude control, spin stabilization, and engine firing. Frustrated, he even tried kicking it.

After 26 hours, the craft began to return to Earth. With only one panel, the capsule started spinning uncontrollably. Chairman of the Council of Ministers Alexei Kosygin spoke to Komarov and told him he was a hero. Komarov was also able to talk to his wife, say goodbye, and tell her what she should say to their children.

U.S.National Security Agency listening posts in Turkey recorded him crying in a rage, “cursing the people who had put him inside a botched spaceship.”

Soyuz I entered the atmosphere completely out of control, as the malfunctions included the parachutes, which would not deploy even though the parachutes tested perfectly. They didn’t deploy because the chutes were either packed improperly or accidentally glued in. Despite all the other  malfunctions, functioning parachutes might have saved Koramov’s life.

The Soyuz 1 crash site

The capsule landed with the force of a 2.8-ton meteorite and was immediately flattened. The largest, most recognizable piece of the Cosmonaut the Soviets could retrieve was his heel bone.

After the official investigation, Yuri Gagarin’s sadness turned to anger. Rumor has it that Gagarin threw a drink in Brezhnev’s face over the incident. When he died testing a MiG-15 in 1968, conspiracy theorists started a rumor that Brezhnev had ordered Gagarin killed in retaliation or jealousy. Only 40 years later, new evidence emerged indicating that the jet had, in fact, crashed.

Valentina Komarov, the widow of Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov, kisses a photograph of her dead husband during his official funeral, held in Moscow’s Red Square on April 26, 1967. (Soviet Photo)

Koramov was given a state funeral and his name is included on the Fallen Astronauts plaque commemorating the 14 U.S. and Soviet astronauts who died during the Space Race. The plaque was left on the moon by Apollo 15 crew members.

A close-up view of a commemorative plaque left on the Moon at the Hadley-Apennine landing site in memory of 14 NASA astronauts and USSR cosmonauts. (NASA Photo)

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This is what a $17 million investment in laser technology gets the US military

The US Defense Department is making another multi-million dollar investment in high-energy lasers that have the potential to destroy enemy drones and mortars, disrupt communication systems, and provide military forces with other portable, less costly options on the battlefield.


US Senator Martin Heinrich, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and longtime supporter of directed energy research, announced the $17 million investment during a news conference Wednesday inside a Boeing lab where many of the innovations were developed.

The US already has the ability to shoot down enemy rockets and take out other threats with traditional weapons, but Heinrich said it’s expensive.

The Sodium Guidestar at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Starfire Optical Range resides on a 6,240 foot hilltop at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. The Army and Navy is developing its own laser weapons systems. Photo from USAF.

High-energy lasers and microwave systems represent a shift to weapons with essentially endless ammunition and the ability to wipe out multiple threats in a short amount of time, he said.

“This is ready for prime time and getting people to just wrap their head around the fact that you can put a laser on something moving really fast and destroy it … has been the biggest challenge,” said Heinrich, who has an engineering degree.

Boeing has been working on high-energy laser and microwave weapons systems for years. The effort included a billion-dollar project to outfit a 747 with a laser cannon that could shoot down missiles while airborne. The system was complex and filled the entire back half of the massive plane.

With advancements over the past two decades, high-powered laser weapons systems can now fit into a large suitcase for transport across the battlefield or be mounted to a vehicle for targeting something as small as the device that controls the wings of a military drone.

USS Ponce conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research-sponsored Laser Weapon System. Navy photo by John F. Williams.

“Laser technology has moved from science fiction to real life,” said Ron Dauk, head of Boeing’s Albuquerque site.

The company’s compact laser system has undergone testing by the military and engineers are working on a higher-powered version for testing next year.

While the technology has matured, Dauk and Heinrich said the exciting part is that it’s on the verge of moving from the lab to the battlefield.

A target truck disabled by Lockheed’s ATHENA laser. Photo from Lockheed Martin.

Another $200 million has been requested in this year’s defense appropriations bill that would establish a program within the Pentagon for accelerating the transition of directed-energy research to real applications.

Heinrich said continued investment in such projects will help solidify New Mexico’s position as a leading site of directed-energy research and bring more money and high-tech jobs to the state.

Boeing already contributes about $120 million to the state’s economy through its contracts with vendors.

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This former NFL player started a gym to help wounded warriors

It’s hard enough to get motivated to do PT a few times a week. Try doing it when you’re missing a limb . . . or three.


That’s how former NFL player David Vobora found the inspiration to shift away from his lucrative training business and lend a helping hand — and add a little bit of inspiration — to vets and others who face the challenges of life-changing injuries.

Marine veteran Brian Aft, left, assists fellow double-amputee Lawrence Green during a workout. (photo by Brandon Thibodeaux) Marine veteran Brian Aft, left, assists fellow double-amputee Lawrence Green during a workout. (photo by Brandon Thibodeaux)

Vobora left the NFL after five seasons when a severe injury scuttled his short career. He then started a personal training business helping serious athletes in Dallas, Texas, dubbed The Performance Vault.

But his life changed when he met former Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills, who was injured by an IED blast in Afghanistan. Mills is one of only five living quadruple amputee vets in the U.S.

“I looked at him and I said, ‘When is the last time you worked out?’ ” Vobora recalled. “He looked down at his prosthetics and said, ‘I don’t want to make you feel like an idiot, but I don’t have any arms and legs.’ ”

That got Vobora thinking.

Not long after his encounter with Mills, Vobora started the Adaptive Training Foundation, which aims to create custom workout programs for amputees that lies somewhere between basic rehabilitation and Paralympic training.

“I realized if Travis is in this position and can’t go to a typical gym … all of these veterans and civilians with physical disabilities — they’ve sort of been sidelined,” Vobora said. “Where do they go … that has this community to push each other?”

The Adaptive Training Foundation is a non-profit organization that’s featured in Starbucks Coffee’s “Upstanders” campaign, which aims to highlight inspiring stories of individuals who go above and beyond to inspire positive change in their communities. Produced by Howard Schultz and author Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the Upstart initiative uses video shorts, podcasts, and stories in hopes of raising awareness for causes like Vobora’s.

Check out the full story of the Adaptive Training Foundation and others at Starbucks Coffee’s Upstanders site.

Watch:

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Robot soldiers are coming! Robot soldiers are coming!

Boston Dynamics has come out with a new version of its Atlas robot that is more mobile, more agile, lighter, quieter, and doesn’t require a power tether.


The new robot was introduced in a YouTube video this morning where it was shown escaping a building and marching through the snow:

GIF: YouTube/Boston Dynamics

Then it stacked boxes like some sort of Robo-POG:

GIF: YouTube/Boston Dynamics

Like other POGs, the Atlas was bullied pretty harshly on the job:

GIF: YouTube/Boston Dynamics

The new generation Atlas weighs only 180 pounds, approximately half the weight of its 330-pound predecessor. It is powered by onboard batteries and can navigate obstacles that tripped up earlier Atlas robots at the DARPA Robotics Challenge.

Boston Dynamics has withdrawn from the DARPA challenge to focus on building commercially-viable robots, meaning they might try to sell the robot to the military or other buyers within the next few years.

Still, the Atlas is far from reaching the battlefield. The new improvements could get it ready to serve behind the lines, but it’s about as noisy as the BigDog robot which was shelved by the Marine Corps for being too loud. And there are no signs that it’s ready to carry its own weapon.

For now, developers will probably continue to target disaster response and similar missions.

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Rob Riggle to host ‘InVETational’ golf tourney to benefit Semper Fi Fund

We Are The Mighty and Marine Corps veteran, actor and comedian Rob Riggle present The Rob Riggle #InVETational Golf Classic. The veteran­/celebrity golf tournament will raise money and awareness for the Semper Fi Fund. The Rob Riggle #InVETational Golf Classic will take place at the world-class Valencia Country Club in Los Angeles on Dec. 5, 2016.


During this high-­octane golf tourney, veteran and celebrity teams will contend for the lowest scores and most laughs to raise funds and awareness for the renowned Semper Fi Fund, one of our nation’s most respected veteran nonprofits. Semper Fi Fund provides immediate and lifetime support to post-­9/11 critically ill and injured service members from all branches of the military. Since inception, Semper Fi Fund has assisted over 16,800 service members and their families totaling more than $133 million in assistance.

“The #InVETational celebrates two of my greatest passions – veterans and golf,” Riggle said. “I am excited to partner with We Are The Mighty, a media brand that veterans love and trust, and Semper Fi Fund, which assists thousands of veterans and their families. It’s truly an honor to serve my fellow veterans with this special event.”

“We are honored to partner with Rob to give serious golfers and entertainers the chance to use their sport to bring attention to the great work of Semper Fi Fund,” said David Gale, WATM’s CEO and co­founder. “We Are The Mighty is committed to sharing the experiences of our nation’s military and will feature the remarkable stories of the veteran athletes participating in this tournament.”

Semper Fi Fund President and Founder Karen Guenther added, “As a Marine veteran, Rob Riggle truly understands the sacrifices our nation’s military heroes make for us every day, and how important it is to be there to support these men, women and their families for a lifetime. We are thrilled to be working with Rob and WATM to bring attention to the many needs of recovering and transitioning veterans and their families.”

Best known for his roles in “The Hangover,” “21 Jump Street,” “The Other Guys,” “Step Brothers,” “Modern Family,” “Dumb and Dumber To,” and “The Daily Show” among other popular movies and TV shows, We Are The Mighty’s InVETational host Rob Riggle served over twenty years in the U.S. Marine Corps and Reserves as a Civil Affairs Officer and Public Affairs Officer across the globe including in Afghanistan. Riggle cares deeply about our veterans and has used his success as a comedian and actor to support those who have served our country.

The Rob Riggle #InVETational Golf Classic will be produced by We Are The Mighty in conjunction with charity golf tournament expert Bob Levey of Independent Events & Media. The tournament will be featured on wearethemighty.com and shared via WATM, Riggle, and Semper Fi Fund social media sites. Celebrity and veteran golfers from Semper Fi Fund’s athletics program will be announced soon.

Visit the #InVETational official website here.

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The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

The final resting place of presidents, bandleaders, war heroes, astronauts, inventors, civil rights leaders, Pulitzer Prize winners, boxers, Supreme Court justices and sports stars, Arlington National Cemetery stands as a memorial to the melting pot of the United States. With connections to some of our nation’s most influential people and pivotal events, its history is as interesting as its denizens.


A serene image of Arlington National Cemetery in the spring. (Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Ingfbruno)

Arlington is situated on 624 acres overlooking the Potomac River directly across from Washington, D. C. Although today it is surrounded by the nation’s capital, at one time, Arlington was a bucolic estate with a neoclassical mansion, Arlington House. Still presiding over the grounds today, the mansion was built by George Washington’s (yes, that Washington) grandson and marks the beginning of the cemetery’s history.

Before she married George, Martha was married to Daniel Parke Custis. After he died and she wed the “Father” of our Country, George adopted her two surviving children. The oldest, John Parke Custis (JPC), died in 1781 while serving with the Revolutionary Army. He left behind four children, the youngest of which, George Washington Parke Custis (GWPC), was born only shortly before his father’s death.

Related: These ladies attend every funeral at Arlington so no one is buried alone

GWPC and one sister went to live with the Washington’s. When he became of age in 1802, GWPC inherited wealth and property from his deceased father (JPC), including the Arlington land. Hoping to build a home that could also serve as a memorial to his grandfather, George Washington, GWPC hired an architect and built a Greek revival mansion believed by some to be “modeled after the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens.”

The home was built in pieces, with the north wing being completed in 1802, and the south in 1804. These two stood as separate buildings until the central section connected them in 1818. During GWPC’s life, a portion of the mansion was reserved to store George Washington memorabilia, which included portraits, papers and even the tent Washington used while in command at Yorktown.

GWPC and his family lived and died on the property, where many of them were buried.

In 1831, GWPC’s only surviving child, Mary, married Robert E. Lee (yes, that Lee). The Lee’s lived on the property with the Custis’s where they raised their seven children. At her father’s death, Mary inherited Arlington. Robert E. Lee loved the property and once described it as the place “where my attachments are more strongly placed than at any other place in the world.”

Prior to the Civil War, Lee had attended West Point (graduating second in his class) and saw service for the U.S. in the Mexican War (1846-1848). A respected and well-liked officer, Lee struggled with his decision to resign his commission of 36 years in order to take command of Virginia’s confederate forces. When he did in April 1861, this choice was seen as a betrayal of the Union by many of his former friends including Brig. Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs.

As Arlington, on high ground overlooking the capital, was critical to either the defense or defeat of D.C., Union leaders were eager to control it. After Virginia seceded in May 1861, Union troops crossed en masse into Virginia and soon took command of the estate. The grounds were quickly converted into a Union camp.

American flags adorn the graves at Arlington. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

By 1862, Congress had passed a law that imposed a tax on the real property of “insurrectionists.” Mary was unable to pay the tax bill in person, and her proxy’s attempt to satisfy the debt was rebuffed. As a result, Uncle Sam seized Arlington, and at its auction, the federal government purchased the estate for $26,800 (about $607,000 today, far below market value).

Not only a good bargain, Union leaders felt that by seizing the estates of prominent Rebels, they would, in the words of Gen. William T. Sherman: “Make them so sick of war that generations would pass away before they would again appeal to it.”

In 1863, after thousands of former slaves, freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, converged on D.C., a Freedman’s Village was established on the estate “complete with new frame houses, schools, churches and farmlands on which former slaves grew food for the Union war effort.”

As one journalist described it:

One sees more than poetic justice in the fact that its rich lands, so long the domain of the great general of the rebellion, now afford labor and support to hundreds of enfranchised slaves.

As Union casualties began to mount in the spring of 1864, Gen. Meigs suggested burying some of the dead at Arlington. The first, on May 13, 1864, was Pvt. William Christman, a poor soldier whose family could not afford the cost of a burial. Soon, many other indigent soldiers were laid to rest on Arlington’s grounds, near the slave and freedman cemetery that had already been established. Realizing the efficacy of this system, Gen. Meigs urged Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton:

I recommend that  . . . the land surrounding Arlington Mansion . . . be appropriated as a National Military Cemetery, to be properly enclosed, laid out and carefully preserved for that purpose.

Serving the dual goals of paying homage to the dead and making “Arlington uninhabitable for the Lees,” Meigs had prominent Union officers buried near Mrs. Lee’s garden. He also placed a mass grave of over 2000 unknown soldiers, topped with a raised sarcophagus, close to the house.

After the war, the Lee’s tried in vain to regain Arlington. Mary wrote to a friend that the graves: “are planted up to the very door without any regard to common decency.” After Robert E. Lee’s death in 1870, Mary petitioned Congress for the return of her family home, but this proposal was soundly defeated.

Shortly after, other monuments and structures honoring the dead were erected including numerous elaborate Gilded Age tombstones and the large, red McClellan Gate at the entrance to the grounds.

The family was not done, however, and in January 1879, following six days of trial a jury determined that the requirement that Mary Lee had to pay the 1862 tax in person was unconstitutional. On appeal, the Supreme Court concurred, so the property was once again in the hands of the Lee family.

Also read: Arlington National Cemetery is running out of room to bury America’s vets

Rather than disinter graves and move monuments, however, the federal government and Mary Lee’s son, George Washington Custis Lee, agreed on a sale. On March 31, 1883, Uncle Sam purchased Arlington from the Lee family for $150,000 (about $3,638,000 today).

Today, Arlington shelters the remains of over 400,000 souls. In addition to its famous sea of somber, beautiful white headstones, Arlington also hosts numerous monuments including the Tomb of the Unknowns, the Rough Riders Monument, the Pentagon Group Burial Marker and two memorials to the Space Shuttle tragedies Challenger and Columbia.

One of the National Cemetery’s most well known gravesites is that of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy with its eternal flame. Two of his children and Jackie Kennedy are also interred there.

The eternal flame at the grave of John F. Kennedy. (Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Wknight94)

William Howard Taft is the only other U.S. President buried on the grounds, and he along with three other Chief Justices and eight associate justices represent the Supreme Court at Arlington.

Of course, war heroes abound and famous generals buried at Arlington include George C. Marshall (father of the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after WWII) and Omar N. Bradley.

Famous explorers interred at Arlington include Adm. Richard Byrd (the first man to fly over both poles) and Rear Adm. Robert Peary (another arctic explorer). John Wesley Powell (of Lake Powell fame) is also laid to rest at Arlington, as are several astronauts including Lt. Col. Virgil “Gus” Grissom and Capt. Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr. (the third man to walk on the moon).

Other famous Americans buried at the National Cemetery include Abner Doubleday (who, in fact, had nothing to do with baseball contrary to legend), big bandleader Maj. Glenn Miller (who went missing in action on Dec. 15, 1944, so he really just has a headstone there), boxing’s Joe Louis, inventor George Westinghouse and civil rights leader Medgar Evers.

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13 funniest military memes for the week of Dec. 9

So … a certain writer and content curator took two weeks of hard-earned vacation and forgot to ask anyone to fall in on the military memes rundown.


Sorry about that. I’m back now, so here are 13 of the funniest military memes we saw this week (plus two secret bonus ones hidden at the end):

1. After all, if you stay in then you can have all the joy and happiness of first sergeant.

If the military is the best job I’ll ever have, it might be time to look at an ultra-early retirement.

2. Don’t let them catch you with morale, they’ll steal it immediately.

Leadership is like a bunch of wet blankets.

3. “Hey, guys. Ready to have some fun?”

The best part is that the Coast Guard’s sailing ship is a former Nazi vessel, so those cadets are likely vomiting where Hitler once walked. History!

4. “Just gonna keep sleeping. Thanks.”

This tactic only works until the sergeant of the guard gets involved.

5. That Central Issue Facility logic:

6. My biggest concern is that it appears that wrench is way too large for that nut.

Like, I get that isn’t the point, but I feel like any craftsman should be able to eye wrench v. bolt/nut sizes better than that.

7. Look, it’s not that we don’t want to reward you for finding Taliban for us …

… but if we give you a commission, we’ll eventually have to give you a platoon. And there’s no way we’re finding 40 Joes who will follow you.

8. The greatest generation is still trying to get their disability ratings.

Pretty nice of the VA to set up shop inside their 1940s camp, though.

9. Honoring the flag waits for no paint job, not even haze gray.

Of course, left-handed salutes may be worse than missing colors.

10. They’re really cute and adorable poop factories:

Wish they would use those cutesy paws to clean up their mess.

11. Not sure why he doesn’t melt with all that salt.

The heat of combat is more dangerous for him than any other soldier.

12. Probably a soldier with an unfortunate name …

… but possibly a military fan with no idea what is going on.

13. Grumpy cat if it was an airman with a shaving profile:

Mandatory fun isn’t (unless it’s the podcast).

Secret squirrel bonus 1:

Secret squirrel bonus 2:

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This epic British glider attack is getting the movie treatment it deserves

Operation Deadstick was the first engagement of D-Day but many people don’t know the awesome story of how a small group of British glider soldiers captured two bridges intact and held them against German counterattacks. Now, the epic fight is becoming a movie.


The idea was that holding these two vital bridges over the Caen Canal and a nearby river would give the Allies a route inland and would prevent a German counterattack on the Normandy beaches.

So, on Jun. 6, 1944, the men of D Company, 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry crash-landed in gliders at only 16 minutes past midnight. A brilliant performance by pilots put the closest group of paratroopers only 47 yards from the first objective while avoiding anti-glider poles that were still being emplaced around the bridges.

When we say the gliders crash-landed, we mean it. Photos: British Army Sgt. Johnson

The British commander had a fright when thought he had gone blind, but he realized the crash had dislodged his helmet and slid it over his eyes. He put it on right and led his men up the nearby embankment and onto the first bridge.

There, Lt. Den Brotheridge led First platoon across the Caen Canal Bridge, firing from the hip. Brotheridge gunned down a German soldier on the bridges who fired a flare, achieving the first ground kill of D-Day. Tragically, he himself was shot just moments later and became the first Allied casualty of the day.

Still, the company was able to complete the assault only 10 minutes after landing, grabbing both bridges before the Germans could detonate the explosives on them. Sappers immediately got to work cutting wires and fuses to make sure a German counterattack would not be able to easily destroy them.

It turns out, the reason the bridges weren’t destroyed was two-fold.

First, the German commander had ordered the bridge wired to explode, but that the actual charges be stored nearby so that French partisans or an accident could not destroy the bridges unnecessarily. He had reasoned that the explosives could be placed and destroyed faster than a paratrooper assault could capture the bridges. He was wrong.

Second, only he could order the charges put into place and the bridges destroyed and he was busy visiting his girlfriend in the nearby village. He was drinking wine and eating cheese with her when he heard all the gunfire coming from the direction of the bridges.

Glider troops pose with a French girl on a captured German motorcycle in Jun. 1944. Apparently, both sides thought anytime was a good time to hit on French women.

He decided to investigate the noises but apparently thought an attack was unlikely because he packed a picnic basket and tried to bring his girlfriend. He ended up dropping her off when she begged and cried, but he continued to the bridge with little caution.

His driver approached the bridge so fast that the two Germans actually blew past the British lines and were on the bridge before they realized that the German defenders had been killed. The British quickly captured both Germans and the picnic basket while the commander started crying about having let down his fuhrer.

The British then got ready for the inevitable counterattacks. The first came quickly as a German tank made its way to a nearby intersection in an attempt on the bridges. One of the glider troops engaged it with a Piat anti-tank grenade launcher, killing it with a single hit.

Soldiers fire a Piat in Tunisia in 1943. Photo: British Army Sgt. Loughlin

Luckily for the British, larger counterattacks wouldn’t come for some time. While Lt. Col. Hans von Luck, the Panzer commander who would lead the counter assault, had his entire formation ready to go by 3 a.m., he wasn’t allowed to move forward without Hitler’s say-so. And Hitler slept in on D-Day.

Von Luck sent his grenadiers, one of the few units he could move forward without authorization, to the bridges but the British had been reinforced with paratroopers by that point. The British were able to stop the grenadiers’ advance and the Germans dug in, sure that armored support would be coming soon.

Forward German units did come to assist and were able to begin pushing the British back. The British were picked at by snipers and German rocket fire and were slowly surrounded, but they managed to hold out until the afternoon despite dwindling ammo and a limited number of men.

In the early afternoon, reinforcements in the form of British commandos finally came and the combined force held off German armored attacks, killing 13 of 17 tanks and plenty of German soldiers. They also had to fight off a German gunboat that attacked from the river.

British forces move across the Caen Canal Bridge, later renamed Pegasus Bridge. Photo: British Army Sgt. Christie

The successful capture and defense of the bridges is a major part of British airborne history. Both bridges were renamed in honor of the British. The Caen Canal Bridge was renamed Pegasus Bridge after the symbol of the British airborne soldiers. The nearby river bridge was renamed Horsa Bridge after the Horsa gliders the first troops rode in on.

Now, Eagles Dare Films is creating a movie that covers the efforts of the British soldiers from the assault through their eventual relief on the battlefield. Their Facebook feed is full of behind the scenes photos and a few images from their recent test shoot with re-enactors in full kit. The movie is slated for release in 2017.

(h/t to Stephen Ambrose of “Band of Brothers” fame for his book on Operation Deadstick, “Pegasus Bridge.” Check it out for much more information on the battle.)

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Recruit’s suicide sheds light on hazing at Marine boot camp

Recruits of India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, crawl through a simulated battlefield J on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. An incident there on March 18 that involved the death of a recruit is being investigated by NCIS. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Caitlin Brink


The March 18 suicide of Muslim-American recruit Raheel Siddiqui days after he began boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, highlighted allegations of hazing and resulted in the firings of several senior officers and leaders at the depot.

But abuse and maltreatment of recruits did not begin or end with Siddiqui, Military.com has learned.

In all, three different investigations into training inside one Parris Island battalion reveal a culture of hazing and violence that did not end until one recruit’s family sent an anonymous letter to President Barack Obama in April.

The investigations also reveal that drill instructors within 3rd Recruit Training Battalion had a history of singling out recruits based on their ethnicity and religion, and that another Muslim recruit had been subjected to severe hazing in 2015 when a drill instructor repeatedly shoved him into a clothes dryer and turned it on, and forced him to shout “Allah Akbar” loud enough to wake other recruits.

That same drill instructor would become a supervisory drill instructor in Siddiqui’s unit, the investigation found, and his treatment of the recruit, including forcing him to complete “incentive training” and physically assaulting and slapping him immediately prior to his death, provided impetus for the suicide, investigators found.

Punitive action

In all, 20 drill instructors and senior leaders from Parris Island’s Recruit Training Regiment face punitive action or separation from the Marine Corps for participating in or enabling mistreatment of recruits. Several drill instructors at the heart of the abuse allegations are likely to face court-martial for their actions.

The contents of the three investigations have not been released publicly as the findings have yet to be endorsed by Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command. But Marine officials discussed the contents of the investigations and the recommendations of the investigating officers in response to a public records request.

Marine officials said Thursday that the incidents of hazing and abuse were confined to 3rd Recruit Training Battalion and not indicative of the culture within the Corps’ boot camps at Parris Island and San Diego.

“When America’s men and women commit to becoming Marines, we make a promise to them. We pledge to train them with firmness, fairness, dignity and compassion,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in a statement. “Simply stated, the manner in which we make Marines is as important as the finished product. Recruit training is, and will remain, physically and mentally challenging so that we can produce disciplined, ethical, basically trained Marines.”

A lengthy investigation into the death of 20-year-old Siddiqui found the recruit had died by suicide, jumping from the third floor of the Company K recruit training barracks, slamming his chest against a railing at the bottom of the stairs.

Siddiqui had threatened to kill himself five days before, prior to the first full day of recruit training. He described a plan to jump out a squad bay window, investigators found, but later recanted and was allowed to remain in training.

Singled out

In the short time Siddiqui was at the unit, investigators found he was repeatedly referred to as a “terrorist,” presumably in reference to his Muslim background. One drill instructor also asked the recruit if he needed his turban, officials said.

Findings show recruits were routinely singled out on account of their backgrounds and ethnicity. Drill instructors referred to one recruit born in Russia as “the Russian” and “cosmonaut” and asked him if he was a communist spy, investigators found.

In Siddiqui’s unit, recruits were subjected to unauthorized incentive training, in which they would lift footlockers, day packs and other heavy items and clean the squad bay in uncomfortable positions using small scrub brushes for hours. Drill instructors would also push and shove recruits and use Marine Corps Martial Arts Program training as an opportunity to pit recruits against each other, sometimes in physically unfair matchups.

Drill instructors told investigators that a more experienced drill instructor taught subordinates they needed to “hate” recruits to be successful at training them.

On March 13, Siddiqui, who previously had received a clean mental health evaluation, expressed a desire to kill himself. He was interviewed at the scene and turned over the the depot’s mental health unit, where he recanted and expressed a wish to return to training.

He was given a clean bill of health, described as “highly motivated to continue training,” and returned to his unit with no follow-up requested, investigators found.

Drill instructors would tell investigators that recruits frequently express suicidal ideations as an excuse to get out of training, and thus no serious incident report was made about Siddiqui’s threat. While drill instructors were told to ease Siddiqui back into training, they were not made aware of his suicidal ideations.

The morning of Siddiqui’s death, the recruit presented drill instructors with a note asking to go to medical with a severely swollen throat. He claimed he had lost his voice and coughed up blood overnight and was in significant pain. In response, he was told to do “get-backs” — to sprint back-and-forth the nearly 150 feet between the entrance to the bathroom, the back of the squad bay and the front of the squad bay.

“I don’t care what’s wrong with you; you’re going to say something back to me,” a drill instructor yelled as Siddiqui began to cry.

Shortly after, the recruit dropped to the floor clutching his throat, though it’s not clear if he became unconscious or was feigning to deflect the drill instructor’s abuse.

In an effort to wake him, the drill instructor slapped Siddiqui on the face hard enough to echo through the squad bay. The recruit became alert, ran out of the squad bay, and vaulted over the stairwell railing, sustaining severe injuries in the fall.

Drill instructors called 911. Siddiqui would be taken to Beaufort Memorial Hospital, then airlifted to Charleston, where he would receive blood transfusions and emergency surgery in an unsuccessful effort to save his life. He died just after 10 a.m.

The lawyer for the Siddiqui family, Nabih Ayad, did not immediately respond to requests for comment regarding the investigations’ findings.

Leaders relieved

In the wake of Siddiqui’s death, multiple leaders have been relieved for failing to prevent the culture of recruit abuse. On March 31, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon was fired in connection with the investigation of prior allegations of recruit mistreatment, including the hazing and assault of another, unnamed, Muslim recruit.

Notably, the Marine Corps’ investigations stopped short of finding that drill instructors’ hazing of Siddiqui and other recruits was motivated by racial bias. They did find evidence that some drill instructors made a practice of exploiting recruits’ ethnicities as a way to harass them.

On June 6, Parris Island officials announced that Recruit Training Regiment’s commander, Col. Paul Cucinotta, and its senior enlisted leader, Sgt. Maj. Nicholas Dabreau, had been relieved in connection with the Siddiqui investigation.

Fifteen drill instructors have been sidelined since April amid allegations of recruit hazing and maltreatment, and two captains may also face punishment for failing to properly supervise drill instructors.

Marine officials said it may be one to three months before disciplinary decisions are made, including possible charges filed, regarding these 20 Marines.

Officials with Marine Corps Training and Education Command have also set in motion a host of new policies designed to prevent future mistreatment of recruits, said Maj. Christian Devine, a Marine Corps spokesman.

These include increased officer presence and supervision of recruit training; mandatory suspension of personnel being investigated for recruit hazing or mistreatment; better visibility of investigations above the regiment level, changes to the drill instructor assignment process to prevent chain-of-command loyalty from affecting leadership; creation of a zero-tolerance policy for hazing among drill instructors; and a review of mental health processes and procedures for suicide prevention.

“We mourn the loss of Recruit Siddiqui,” Neller said. “And we will take every step necessary to prevent tragic events like this from happening again.”

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6 tips to live the best life ever from USAF vet Bob Ross

With his soothing voice and famous catchphrases, Robert Norman “Bob” Ross inspired many Americans to pick up a paintbrush and put it to canvas.  


The famed oil painter brought “Happy Little Trees” and “Mystic Mountains” to our television screens for many years with his show “The Joy of Painting”, which aired from 1983 until 1994 on PBS. What many people may not know about Ross is that prior to being an instructional painter, he was a military man.

Bob Ross before and after…

In fact, Mr. Ross served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years, 1961-1981, where he would achieve the rank of Master Sergeant. Ross held main leadership positions, which included serving as a first sergeant.

Ross said in a 1990 interview with the Orlando Sentinel that he had jobs in the Air Force that required him to be “tough and mean;” however, it did not fit his personality and he vowed to change when he left the service.

“I was the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work,” he said. ”The job requires you to be a mean, tough person. And I was fed up with it. I promised myself that if I ever got away from it, it wasn’t going to be that way anymore.”

While some aspects of military life could be rough and not appealing to him, it did play a part in his success following his post-military career.

Unfortunately, the world lost Bob Ross way too soon in 1995 after a long battle with lymphoma. He was only 52 years old.

Along with his paintings, Bob Ross left us so many incredible life lessons that we can all learn from. Here are 6 of those lessons:  

1. Inspiration can come from anywhere

It was his time while stationed in Alaska that inspired much of his work. Many of his paintings feature mountains covered in snow as well as open landscapes. While he may have not always liked the military lifestyle, he found peace living in the “Last Frontier.”

Along with his time in Alaska, the rapid speed in which he painted was also inspired by his military background. Ross leveraged his work pace in his military career to translate it to his painting technique. Aspects in your everyday life can serve as moments of inspiration.

2. Do not set limitations

Bob Ross was never one to set rules when he was painting. He would typically tell his viewers “paint what you want,” or “do what you feel.” Many art teachers may follow the traditional rules of painting but Bob Ross likes to throw out the rule book.   

3. Staying calm

Bob Ross was one cool individual. He never seemed to get stressed out or frustrated when he was painting. His tone was always so relaxing, and he always seemed to put life into perspective when his was painting. Ross remained calm on a consistent basis, which had a direct link to his performance. This cool demeanor allowed him to complete thousands of paintings throughout his career making him not only a great painter but a successful TV personality and businessman.

4. Follow your passion

Following his military career, Bob Ross could have easily taken the conservative route working a regular job. Instead he took a risk by following his passion for painting, and he devoted his life to it. In the process of following his dreams, he helped others discover a love for the arts. It is an accomplished that only a few of us dare to do because many of us have a fear of failure.

5. Stay positive

Having a great attitude in life is not always easy. Let’s face it life is hectic. However, Bob Ross always seem to have an optimistic viewpoint. Even when he made a mistake, he would say “there are no mistakes, just happy accidents”

6. Believe in yourself

At the 2:29 mark of this clip Bob Ross gives us his best advice saying the following “The secret to doing anything is believing that you can do it. Anything that you believe you can do strong enough, you can do. Anything. As long as you believe.” If you ever start to doubt yourself just remember these words.

Bob Ross’ influence and legacy is enduring to this day. Luckily for us, Netflix announced this past June that it is now streaming his other show “Beauty is Everywhere” on its service giving a whole new generation of people the chance to discover his great work, positive vibes and of course his glorious afro.

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Here’s how to find your ‘tribe’ once you leave the military

You’re 11 years old, standing in the middle of the school lunchroom with your meal tray. As you gaze over top of your sandwich, anemic vegetables, and cookie snack pack, you anxiously wonder who will make room for you at their table.


Whether we’re 11, 27, or 80, our human bodies read social anxiety like a physical threat. Will you be able to find and keep food? Experience physical safety? Find meaning in work and life? Throughout history, all of these things have been made exponentially more difficult without a tribe or group.

Today, we know that being disconnected from others and feeling lonely is extremely dangerous to your health. In fact, it’s even more dangerous than smoking.

Think Sparta, Not Lone Wolf

Stress hormones surge when you’re feeling lonely or rejected, and when they’re elevated too long, you may begin to have difficulty communicating, displaying empathy, or engaging in high-level thinking. This makes connecting with others even more challenging, and your isolation can easily become self-perpetuating.

The good news is, you can increase your health and performance at work and home by finding or building a tribe.

Strong Spartans

The strange but true fact is that there’s nothing more important to your physical health than community. This is true even if you’re an introvert. It’s true even if your tribe embraces unhealthy behaviors like smoking, high rates of divorce, alcohol abuse and more.

Staff Sgt. Robert George, a military training instructor at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, marches his unit following the issuance of uniforms and gear. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)

In the military, your tribe is easy to identify. Your tribe may be your branch of service, unit, platoon, or even fireteam. From the first day of training, you and other members of your tribe are working to overcome challenges together. Camaraderie continues as you train, deploy, and socialize together in the coming years.

In Gates of Fire, his epic novel about the Spartan 300, Steven Pressfield writes:

“War, and preparation for war, call forth all that is noble and honorable in a man. It unites him with his brothers and binds them in selfless love…There in the holy mill of murder the meanest of men may seek and find that part of himself, concealed beneath the corrupt, which shines forth brilliant and virtuous, worthy of honor before the gods.

For many, military service offers the kind of community they’ve never experienced. In this community, we may find purpose, self-knowledge, identity, and so much more. Challenged by our tribe, we grow stronger, faster, and ideally into better leaders.

However, when we inevitably leave the military, we may find ourselves unmoored – adrift in a sea of isolation and alienation that threatens to sink us into depression, stress, and declining performance at work and home.

Crossing the Chasm

In the age of an all-volunteer military, we often hear about the military-civilian divide. It’s not just a divide, though – it’s a chasm.

If you’re a male veteran, only about 12 percent of peers in your age group have served in the military. If you’re a woman who served, that number drops to 3 percent.

Female soldiers negotiate obstacles during the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s cultural support program which prepares all-female Soldier teams to serve as enablers supporting Army special operations combat forces. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Klika)

When you leave the military you’ll likely struggle to find people who have a deep understanding of your service, experiences, and the unique culture and traditions of military life. Data shows us that alienation – or feeling out of place – is strongly correlated with PTSD and other stress injuries. Finding or building a tribe is critical to good physical, relational, and mental health.

When you’re part of a group and have a deep sense of belonging, a relaxation response takes place in your body and brain. In fact, every system of your body works better when your relaxation response firing. For example, when you’re relaxed and eating a salad, your body absorbs 17 percent more iron than when you’re stressed and eating a salad. Being part of a community results in a positive cycle.

So how do I find a tribe?

As you begin your search for a tribe, one of the most important things you can do is stay humble. Don’t let your veteran status, and all the good things that come with it, become a limiting factor as you build new relationships. Build relationships with veterans and civilians alike.

On the veteran front, give yourself permission to be around people who understand what you’ve just lived through. A great starting place is any post-9/11 veteran organization – they’ll get you connected with veterans who are in a healthy place.

Team Rubicon volunteers on assignment (TeamRubiconUSA.org). Photo: Kirk Jackson, Team Rubicon

Team Red White and Blue’s entire mission is to build social community at the local level – to bring people together. Team Rubicon and The Mission Continues can help you discover purpose through service.

Purpose is also key. Ask yourself what your passion, ideal volunteer work, or dream venture looks like, then get to work. You may find your civilian tribe doing volunteer work, as part of a faith group, or while living your purpose-driven life.

Finding your tribe may feel tough at first, but like most things it gets easier with practice.

CHECK OUT THESE TRIBES

  • Volunteer with Team Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster response nonprofit, to rebuild communities around the nation after natural disasters.
  • Meet up with civilians and fellow veterans for a hike, run, or yoga class with Team Red White Blue.
  • Put your unique skills to use for a local non-profit, and get paid doing it, as part of The Mission Continues.
  • Check out a faith community of your choosing
  • Sign up for a local sports league or class

About the Author

Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, “Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance”, here.

 

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The US military took these incredible photos this week

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:


AIR FORCE:

A member of the 100th Logistics Readiness Squadron refuels a 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10C Thunderbolt II during forward area refueling point training at Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Feb. 11, 2016. A single A-10 usually receives approximately 2,000 pounds of fuel in a four- to five-minute span during FARP training but the C-130 Hercules can provide tens of thousands of pounds of fuel if needed.

U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman

A B-2 Spirit bomber sits on the flightline prior to takeoff at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., for Red Flag 16-1 Feb. 2, 2016. Established in 1975, Red Flag includes command, control, intelligence and electronic warfare exercises to better prepare forces for combat.

U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Michaela R. Slanchik

Ohio Air National Guard members work in the early morning of Feb. 16, 2016, to remove snow from the flightline and fleet of C-130H Hercules at the 179th Airlift Wing, Mansfield, Ohio. The Ohio ANG unit is always on mission to respond with highly qualified citizen Airmen to execute federal, state and community missions.

U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Joe Harwood

Royal Australian Air Force Sgt. Angus Shaw, a 37th Squadron loadmaster, left, talks with two 4th Squadron combat controllers aboard a C-130J Super Hercules during Exercise Cope North 2016 over Rota, Northern Mariana Islands, Feb. 12, 2016. Exercise The exercise includes 22 total flying units and nearly 3,000 personnel from six countries and continues the growth of strong, interoperable and beneficial relationships within the Asia-Pacific region through integration of airborne and land-based command and control assets.

U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Matthew B. Fredericks

ARMY:

A U.S. Army paratrooper, assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, conducts airborne operations at Fort Hood, Texas, Feb. 9, 2016.

U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Javier Orona

A soldier, assigned to 3d Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, pulls security during a convoy halt at the Operations Group, National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., Feb. 12, 2016.

U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne

Army pilots, assigned to 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division train with members of the U.S. Coast Guard rescue team off the coast of Honolulu, Hawaii, Feb. 16, 2016.

U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel K. Johnson

NAVY:

PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 16, 2016) U.S. Navy Sailors with the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group prepare MV-22B Ospreys with Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron 166 Reinforced to take off from the USS New Orleans. The Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit will be operating in the Pacific and central Commands area of responsibilities during their western pacific deployment 16-1.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tyler C. Gregory

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Feb. 15, 2016) Members of the U.S. Navy Parachute Team, the Leap Frogs, perform a tethered flag during a training demonstration. The Navy Parachute Team is based in San Diego and performs aerial parachute demonstrations around the nation in support of Naval Special Warfare and Navy recruiting.

U.S. Navy photo by James Woods

MARINE CORPS:

A Marine provides security for his team during the night portion of a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel, or TRAP, training scenario at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 18, 2016. TRAP is used to tactically recover personnel, equipment or aircraft by inserting the recovery force to the objective location. The Marine is with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

U.S. Marine Corp photo by Lance Cpl. Devan K. Gowans

Lance Cpl. Jarod L. Smith, a crew chief with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365, fires a mounted M2 Browning .50-caliber machine gun from the back of the MV-22B Osprey during a live fire training session off the coast of Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., Feb 10, 2016. Marines with VMM-365 flew to a landing zone, which allowed pilots to pratice CALs in their Osprey’s and then flew several miles off the coast to practice their proficiency with the .50-caliber machine gun.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron Fiala

COAST GUARD:

Coast Guardsmen stationed aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Munro from Kodiak, Alaska, conduct helicopter in-flight refueling while on patrol in the Bering Sea, Feb. 15, 2016.

USCG photo

U.S. Coast Guard Station New York is helping theU.S. Coast Guard Reserve celebrate their 75th anniversary in style!

From the beaches of France and Iwo Jima in World War II, to the shores of the U.S. gulf coast for Deepwater Horizon, the USCG Reserve has been always ready.

Photo by Petty Officer LaNola Stone

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These are the airmen who fly to the coldest places on Earth

“Pole to pole.”


These three words are the motto of the 109th Airlift Wing – at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia, New York – and though short, it is an accurate synopsis of the unit’s mission.

“We fly missions to Greenland, which is near the North Pole, and Antarctica, which is the South Pole,” said Maj. Emery Jankford, the wing’s chief of training. “So, we literally fly pole to pole.”

During the spring and summer months, the 109th AW operates out of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, and flies scientific researchers with the National Science Foundation and their materiel to remote field camps across the Arctic Ice Cap. In the fall and winter months, the unit conducts similar missions out of McMurdo Station, Antarctica, as part of Operation Deep Freeze.

Antarctica and Greenland are among the coldest, windiest, and most inhospitable places on the globe and they provide a challenging opportunity to demonstrate the reach and flexibility of airpower, the capabilities of the joint force, and the integrated support of active-duty, Guard, and Reserve military personnel.

“Basically, we go from cold to really cold,” Jankford said. “The Greenland operating season helps us train and prepare for when we operate in Antarctica.”

Each year, the 109th AW flies more than 800 hours during the Greenland support season and transports 2.1 million pounds of cargo, 49,000 pounds of fuel, and nearly 2,000 passengers.

“If it got there, we brought it,” said Maj. Justin Garren, the wing’s chief of Greenland Operations.

Air Force aircrews assigned to the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing conduct a combat offload of cargo off a 109th Airlift Wing LC-130 Skibird transported to the East Greenland Ice Core Project. US Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. William Gizara

To accomplish this, the unit flies the world’s only ski-equipped LC-130s, called “skibirds,” which allows the planes to land on and take off from ice and compacted snow runways.

“We do have some traditional “wheelbirds” in our unit, but the LC-130s give us the unique capability of being able to land in snowy arctic areas,” Garren said.

While the LC-130s are able to operate without a traditional runway, the arctic environment does present challenges the crews must overcome long before the planes’ skis touch down on the ice.

“Our biggest challenges are weather and navigation,” said Capt. Zach McCreary, a C-130 pilot with the 109th AW.

Because most of Greenland is within the Arctic Circle near the North Pole and Antarctica surrounds the South Pole, there is a lot of magnetic interference when flying in these areas. This interference makes GPS navigation difficult, so the aircrews have to resort to old-school tactics.

Airmen approach DYE-2, an abandoned radar site near Raven Camp that was one of 60 set up during the Cold War as part of an early-warning system that stretched across the far north of Alaska, Canada and Greenland. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Greg C. Biondo.

“Our navigators are some of the only ones in the military who still use celestial navigation,” Jankford said. “We still break out the charts and formulas to determine our positions and headings.”

Weather is another challenge. It can change quickly and it can get nasty, so aircrews try to stay as up to date as possible when flying missions.

“We receive regular weather briefings, before we leave and while we’re in the air,” McCreary said. “But there are times the weather changes quickly and you have to react and adapt to it on the fly.”

In some cases, usually with cloud cover, this means landing with limited to no visibility. At times the land and sky blend together with no visible horizon line.

“It’s like flying inside of a ping pong ball,” McCreary said. “Everything is white and it all looks the same.”Capt. Zach McCreary, C-130 pilot, 109th AW

In these situations, the aircrew uses a spotting technique where the copilot and loadmasters will look for flags lining the runway and help the pilot line up the aircraft during its approach.

“It’s a very unique airlift wing,” Garren said. “We’re landing on snow and ice, we’re using the sun and stars to navigate, and we’re using our eyeballs to land – I’m not sure there’s another unit that flies like this.”

Because the 109th AW operates in such unique environments, utilizing dated techniques, effective training is only possible within the areas of operation.

“We can only train for these missions when we’re in Greenland and Antarctica,” Garren said. “We can’t train at home, so new crewmembers are learning and being signed off on tasks while they’re landing and taking off from the ice.”

The uniqueness of the polar mission is one reason it was given to the 109th AW. Being a guard unit, its members stay in place longer and are able to train, develop, and enhance their skills and experience without having to move or relocate every few years like their active duty counterparts.

“We have guys here who have been flying this mission for 30 years,” Garren said. “That amount of experience is invaluable and the knowledge they pass on to the junior guys is irreplaceable.”

Also irreplaceable are the capabilities of the wing’s unique “skibirds.”

“We can fly into an austere area and land with our skis with no runway somewhere no one has ever been,” Garren said. “That’s why we’re here and that’s what we train to do.”