Not all deployments are created equal. Some troops primarily work at a desk performing critical operational tasks, while others are out and about undertaking various missions in the bush. Regardless, both schedules usually consist of long hours and a heavy workload which can run anybody down.
No matter the nature of the mission, staying in the fight and being alert is the key for any personnel deployed.
So if you’re worried about falling asleep when you need to be at your best, check out these simple tricks of the trade to stay awake whole on deployment.
1. Bangin energy drinks
May seem obvious to the average population that drinking a Redbull or pounding a Monster will get their minds firing on all cylinders. But in most cases, deployed troops just don’t sip a single energy drink — they take it to a whole new level by chugging multiple cans of the all mighty Rip-it.
One ration the military never seems to ever run off of is coffee.
When you’re occupying a patrol base or sitting in a fighting hole, coffee machines will be scarce. So instead of filtering water through the grounds, pack a solid pinch of instant coffee from the ole handy dandy MREs into your lip. It tastes like sh*t, but it can help you keep shuteye at bay.
3. “Spicy eyes”
This doesn’t refer to “the look” that civilian reporter who came by the FOB to interview the colonel gave everyone. It means sprinkling a small amount of Tabasco sauce onto your finger and rubbing the contents under your eyes. Spicy!
If it burns a little and wakes you back up, you’re doing it right.
There’s nothing worse than drifting off while on post.
In fact, if you get caught sleeping, that’s a crucial offense. The human body has a natural way of rejuvenating itself by excreting adrenaline into the blood stream. You can accomplish this by pinching yourself, or if that doesn’t work, delivering a light love tap across your cheek.
It might seem a bit extreme, but it could also save your life and the lives of your comrades.
Can you think of any others? Comment below.
Feature image: U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Charles Dickens
Training has evolved over the years but the core elements have always remained the same. There’s an instructor and a bunch of students. They go over material, both in theory and in practice, mastering the skills required by the job. But no matter how good the teacher, students will always need a refresher from time to time. So, that means it’s time to go back to school — or does it?
Now, mixed-reality technology — including smart glasses — could change the way sailors learn the skills they need to serve.
At the 2018 SeaAirSpace Expo in Maryland, we got a chance to see the glasses that just might change the face of training for sailors — and, eventually, all other military personnel.
Sailors remove a steam-powered catapult chamber on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). Augmented reality could help train sailors to perform such maintenance tasks.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Jahnke)
A demo program showed how (in real-time) to disassemble a diesel engine. All nineteen steps were shown on the glasses, which rested (a bit heavily) on the nose. The smart glasses in use were Microsoft HoloLens, which work with Windows 10. As the operator worked on the engine, they used voice commands to cycle through the steps displayed, easily allowing trainees to learn as they work.
This new technology, known as Augmented Reality Training, could go far beyond just training sailors on maintenance tasks. Having a few pairs of goggles available while doing maintenance, however, will help keep every single step of a complicated process fresh in the mind of the technician. Anyone who’s dealt with assembling IKEA furniture can relate — wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to drop everything to reference the manual every step? Cheap furniture is one thing, but forgetting a step when doing work on an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer in the middle of the Indian Ocean can lead to disaster.
Gas Turbine System Technician (Mechanical) 1st Class Jordan Urie, assigned to Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 5, performs corrective maintenance on the aft transmission system of Landing Craft, Air Cushion 31. Imagine if he could see how to disassemble and re-assemble the system while working.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adam Brock)
With Augmented Reality Training, the classroom can be taken out to sea. Even though most ships have the manuals nearby, this technology is a huge step forward in blending theoretical and practical education.
In short, technology could very well make it easier not only to train sailors before they go out to sea, but it may also help them keep their skills fresh at sea. That is a very good thing.
There are 640 muscles in the human body. The primary functions of these critical, fibrous structures are to support movement and help circulate blood throughout our anatomy. Everyone has three different types of muscles: smooth (or visceral), cardiac, and skeletal.
Smooth muscles, like our esophagus and intestines, push the food we eat through our digestive system. Cardiac muscles, also known as myocardium (your heart), contract and relax to move through the body’s vessels. Skeletal muscles layer on top of our bones, connect to the osseous matter via tendons, and move our limbs around.
Although each type of muscle can be damaged in various ways, our skeletal muscles are most often damaged. The leading cause for most of our muscular lacerations — also known as “strains” or “muscle pulls” — is the moving an unprepared set of muscles.
We’re here today to learn what happens to your muscles when they’re pulled. It just might make you rethink how you warm up before your next exercise.
Picture your pre-workout muscles like a frozen rubber band. If you stretch it out fast and far enough, it’ll break. Once we strain a muscle, the neuroreceptors will send a message to our brains, letting it know something’s wrong. These muscular injuries usually feel like a shock and cause our bodies to immediate jerk back into its starting position — protecting the structure. Unfortunately, by the time you feel the pain and your body reacts, the damage might already be done.
The amount of damage the muscle structure sustains helps catalog these injuries into three different categories, based on severity. The lower end of injury is called a “pull,” which means around 5 percent of the muscle was torn. Treatment for these minor injuries typically consists of painkillers and rest.
A “sprain” is the next tier up. Here, a significant percentage of the muscle fibers, greater than 5 percent, are damaged. This type of injury usually requires several weeks of recovery before the person is back to fully functioning.
The diagnosis that no one wants to hear is a “rupture.” This means every fiber in the muscle group has been torn. These injuries are severe and typically require immediate surgery. For many athletes, hamstrings, groin, and quadriceps are the muscle groups most at risk.
Let the long road to recovery begin…
To avoid becoming a victim of a nasty muscle pull, be sure to warm up properly before exercising and stretch afterward.
For more information about the muscles in your body and the injuries they can sustain, check out Tech Insider’s video below.
The US Air Force’s F-22 Raptor stealth fighter is playing a crucial yet evolving role in air operations over Syria and Iraq.
With advanced stealth technology and powerful sensors, the aircraft is the first coalition plane back in Syrian airspace after a major incident. Such was the case after the US downings of Syrian aircraft this month, as well as the US Navy’s Tomahawk missile strike on al Shayrat air base in April.
Notably missing from the high-profile shoot-downs, the fifth-generation aircraft made by Lockheed Martin Corp. isn’t necessarily showcasing its role as an air-to-air fighter in the conflict. Instead, the twin-engine jet is doing more deconflicting of airspace than dog-fighting, officials said.
“This is a counter-ISIS fight,” said Lt. Col. “Shell,” an F-22 pilot and commander of the 27th Squadron on rotation at a base in an undisclosed location, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. He spoke to Military.com on the condition that he be identified by his callsign.
“ISIS doesn’t have advanced surface-to-air missiles, they don’t have an air force … but we are deconflicting the air space,” Shell said. “Not everyone is on the same frequencies,” he said, referring to the US, Russian, Syrian, and coalition aircraft operating over Syria. “Deconfliction with the Russian air force — that is one of the big things that we do.”
The pilot said the F-22’s ability to identify other aircraft — down to the airframe — and detect surface-to-air missiles and relay their existence to other friendly forces while remaining a low-observable radar profile makes it critical for the fight.
The Raptor is typically flying above other aircraft, though not as high as drones such as the MQ-9 Reaper and other intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft, Shell said.
The F-22, along with the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System, “has really high fidelity sensors that we can detect when non-coalition aircraft are getting close,” he said, “and we can move the coalition aircraft around at altitude laterally, so that, for example, if a Russian formation or Syrian formation going into the same battlespace to counter ISIS, [they are] not at conflict with our fighters.”
Weapon of Choice: Small Diameter Bomb
Even so, to defend itself in the air and strike targets on the ground, “we carry a mixed load out,” Shell said.
The F-22 wields the AIM-9X Sidewinder missile, the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, the laser-guided GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb, and the GPS-guided GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition.
The Small Diameter Bomb is more likely to be used, especially in the counter-ISIS fight in urban areas where the Raptor is conducting precision strikes, Shell said.
“We carry the low collateral damage weapon, the Small Diameter Bomb GBU-39, to precisely strike enemy combatants while protecting the civilian population,” he said. “We also can carry the 1,000-pound JDAM GBU-32 used for targets where there is less-to-little collateral damage concern,” meaning a larger blast for attack.
Location Isn’t ‘Scramble-able’
The Combined Air Operations Center, or CAOC, based in another location, develop the F-22’s mission tasking typically three days out, Shell said. For logistical purposes, all aircraft in theater don’t fly unless the mission is deemed critical, he said.
“Typical maintenance practices will not have every airplane airborne at once,” he said.
In addition, “We’re not in a scramble-able location,” he said. “We’re not [a dozen or so] miles away from the OIR fight — we have to drive.”
Between flying in Iraq and Syria, “there are different rules based on where we’re flying,” Shell said, stopping short of detailing each country’s rules of engagement and flight restrictions. “They’re minor in the technical details.”
‘The Only Thing That Can Survive’
During the Navy’s TLAM strike, “serendipitously,” there were more F-22s in the area of responsibility because some were getting ready to fly home while others were coming in, according to Brig. Gen. Charles Corcoran, commander of the 380th Expeditionary Wing, which houses the F-22 mission in an undisclosed location for Operation Inherent Resolve, the Pentagon’s name for the anti-ISIS campaign.
After incidents like that, “We kind of go to F-22s only — fifth gen only” because “it’s the only thing that can survive in there,” he said, referring to the plane’s ability to fly in contested airspace despite the presence of anti-access aerial denial weapons.
Should Russia paint coalition aircraft with surface-to-air missile systems, “the only thing we’ll put in there is F-22s,” Corcoran said. Leaders will then decide which types of fourth-generation fighter — like an F-16 Fighting Falcon with capable radars — and/or drone can return to the fight, he said. Only later would they allow “defenseless aircraft” such as tankers to circle back through taskings, he said.
“If an F-15 or an F-18 — which is really more of a ground-attack airplane — is busy doing this, they’re not available to do the close air support stuff, so if we [have] got to keep this up, we’re probably going to need some more forces over here that can do their dedicated jobs,” Corcoran said. That includes more “defensive counter air” assets like F-22s so the tactical fighters can drop more bombs “and get after ISIS,” he said.
‘We Can Bring More’
Given the nature of how the US air operation against ISIS has evolved in recent months, Shell acknowledged the possibility that commanders may decide to deploy more F-22s to the area of responsibility.
“The airplanes that we have here, it’s not the maximum we can bring, we can bring more if directed,” he said. With more Raptors in theater, “they would obviously task us more,” he said.
Shell said, “People often call us the quarterback [in the air]. I don’t like that because we’re not always in charge — there is a mission hierarchy … and most of the time it is not the F-22. We enhance the mission commander’s situational awareness by feeding him information based on off our sensors for him or her to make a decision.”
When asked if that meant the stealth fighter works as a “silent partner” gathering intel, he said, “We’re not really silent. We’re pretty vocal.”
Former NBA bad boy Dennis Rodman said Tuesday that he is “just trying to open a door” by going to North Korea in his first visit since President Donald Trump took office.
Rodman, who has made several trips to the country, sported a black T-shirt advertising a marijuana cybercurrency as he headed toward immigration at Beijing airport, from where he is expected to fly to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.
Asked if he had spoken to Trump about his trip, he said, “Well, I’m pretty sure he’s pretty much happy with the fact that I’m over here trying to accomplish something that we both need.”
Rodman has received the red-carpet treatment on four past trips since 2013, but has been roundly criticized for visiting during a time of high tensions between the U.S. and North Korea over its weapons programs.
His entourage included Joseph Terwilliger, a professor who has accompanied Rodman on previous trips to North Korea.
Rodman said the issue of several Americans currently detained by North Korea is “not my purpose right now.”
In Tokyo, a visiting senior U.S. official said Rodman’s trip is as a private citizen.
“We are aware of his visit. We wish him well, but we have issued travel warnings to Americans suggested they not travel to North Korea for their own safety,” U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon told reporters after discussing the North Korean missile threat and other issues with Japanese counterparts.
In 2014, Rodman arranged a basketball game with other former NBA players and North Koreans and regaled leader Kim Jong Un with a rendition of “Happy Birthday.” On the same trip, he suggested that an American missionary was at fault for his own imprisonment in North Korea, remarks for which he later apologized.
A foreign ministry official who spoke to The Associated Press in Pyongyang confirmed that Rodman was expected to arrive Tuesday but could not provide details. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the ministry had not issued a formal statement.
Any visit to North Korea by a high-profile American is a political minefield, and Rodman has been criticized for failing to use his influence on leaders who are otherwise isolated diplomatically from the rest of the world.
Americans are regarded as enemies in North Korea because the two countries never signed a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War. Thousands of U.S. troops are based in South Korea, and the Demilitarized Zone between the North and South is one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world.
A statement issued in New York by a Rodman publicist said the former NBA player is in the rare position of being friends with the leaders of both North Korea and the United States. Rodman was a cast member on two seasons of Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice.”
Rodman tweeted that his trip was being sponsored by Potcoin, one of a growing number of cybercurrencies used to buy and sell marijuana in state-regulated markets.
North Korea has been hailed by marijuana news outlets and British tabloids as a pothead paradise and maybe even the next Amsterdam of pot tourism. But the claim that marijuana is legal in North Korea is not true: The penal code lists it as a controlled substance in the same category as cocaine and heroin.
Americans have been sentenced to years in North Korean prisons for such seemingly minor offences as stealing a political banner and likely could not expect leniency if the country’s drug laws were violated.
The Chinese government has finally let out a few details about its new aircraft carrier, currently under construction in the port city of Dalian. According to China Central Television News, the carrier will be conventionally-powered, which is a sharp reversal on Chinese ambitions for a nuclear-powered vessel, and will primarily host Shenyang J-15 “Flying Shark” multirole strike fighters. The lack of a nuclear powerplant inhibit’s the carrier’s range, though the potential to eventually refit the carrier with such power generation facilities does exist.
The J-15, based on the Russian Sukhoi Su-33, was (hilariously) criticized in previous years in the Chinese media for its inability to meet the standards set by Western and Russian aircraft of comparable roles and functionality. Additionally, the carrier will use the STOBAR (Short Take Off But Arrested Recovery) configuration to launch and recover fixed wing aircraft. Going into the future, electromagnetic catapults could possibly be added to the angled-deck. Unknown “upgrades” were also spoken of in the press conference held by the Chinese government. This will be China’s first domestically-produced carrier.
The U.S. Army has been defending our nation for nearly two-and-a-half centuries. Here are 7 quotes that capture the soldier’s spirit:
1. “The soldier is the Army. No army is better than its soldiers. The soldier is also a citizen. In fact, the highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one’s country.” – Gen. George S. Patton Jr.
The Army, the soldiers, and the citizens are all inextricably linked. The U.S. Army is a reflection of the best that American citizens have to offer.
2. “They’ve got us surrounded again, the poor bastards.” – Gen. Creighton Abrams
America’s enemies shouldn’t count the battle won just because they’ve gained the good ground. Gen. Creighton Abrams said this quote while surrounded by Nazis at the Battle of the Bulge. He and his men didn’t die, but many of the German soldiers surrounding them did.
3. “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” – Richard Grenier while discussing the works of George Orwell
This quote is often misattributed to George Orwell, but it’s actually a summary written by Richard Grenier of key points made in Orwell’s writings. It is loved by soldiers for how it describes their chosen profession.
4. “Nuts.” – Gen. Anthony MacAuliffe, said while replying to a request for his surrender
U.S. Army commanders aren’t always great orators, but they get their point across quickly.
5. “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country.” – Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.
Dying for your country is noble, but America would much rather let you be noble while its soldiers concentrate on being victorious.
6. “There were only a handful of Americans there but they fought like wildmen.” Antone Fuhrmann of Mayschoss while discussing Americans in World War I
When U.S. soldiers arrive, they do so violently.
7. Front toward enemy
(Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger)
Look, sometimes soldiers need a little help knowing which end of a weapon is the deadly part. Our mines carry instructions that reflect this reality.
Imagine a Michigan student spending a semester at Ohio State. Or a UT student going to Oklahoma University. Getting sent to a rival should would be intense – and that’s exactly what Army and Navy have been doing for decades.
Every year, juniors at West Point and the Naval Academy switch places, spending an entire semester in enemy territory. Before they go back to their respective institutions, they go through the “prisoner exchange” at the annual Army-Navy Game.
Rivalries exist between all branches of the military – and college students are no different. The Army-Navy rivalry is so intense because it’s so old, but like all those other rivalries, it’s all in good fun. At the end of the day, the Cadets and Mids are still U.S. troops and we all fight on the same team.
That doesn’t mean they don’t get to have fun. The “Prisoner Exchange” is a time-honored tradition – one of many.
As for the differences between the academies, Cadet Tyrus Jones said it’s all about academy culture.
“Life is different because everything is centered around the Navy,” Jones told Army Public Affairs. “It’s a little bit of a different lifestyle and culture between the two services. It has to do with our history and how it’s evolved over the years.”
On May 14, 2020, America lost one of her heroes to a deadly enemy: cancer. He was only 41 years old. But in those 41 years, Shurer accomplished more than most do in a much longer lifetime. His life was one of unwavering service – to his family, his friends and the nation he swore to protect, at all costs.
Ronald J. Shurer II was born in Alaska to parents actively serving in the United States Air Force. He spent his formative years in Washington state, eventually graduating from Washington State University with his bachelor’s degree in business administration. After graduating, he hoped to become a marine. A previous diagnosis of pancreatitis prevented that dream from coming to fruition. In September of 2001 he was a graduate student with big plans.
9/11 changed them.
In 2002, Shurer enlisted in the United States Army and became a medic, eventually qualifying to be a part of the Special Forces. He completed his training, which included the national paramedic program and an internship in a hospital emergency room. In a previous interview with Military.com, he shared that he became a medic because he wanted to not only help during the war, but take care of the guys fighting it.
Shurer promoted to staff sergeant within the 3rd Special Forces Group in 2006. By November of 2007, he was deployed with Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. That deployment would change the trajectory of his entire life.
On April 6, 2008 he was a part of a joint forces raid that was aiming to capture or kill Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in the Shok Valley of the Nuristan Province of Afghanistan. As he and his team worked their way through the valley, they came under enemy attack.
The Special Forces team was under fire from snipers, machine guns and rocket propelled grenades. Almost immediately they suffered several casualties and were trapped. Despite the overwhelming danger, Shurer ran through the bullets to reach an injured soldier. He worked quickly to stabilize him and then joined in the firefight for over an hour, trying to make his way to more injured soldiers. He made it to four others and worked hard to save them. He was wounded in the arm and sustained a bullet to his helmet.
But he didn’t stop.
Shurer continued fighting to save the injured men until he got them evacuated. Reports indicate he even utilized his own body to shield them and keep them safe. He and other members of his team were awarded the silver star for their bravery and dedication during that fight.
He was honorably discharged in 2009 after returning home and went on to become a special agent in the United States Secret Service. Eventually, he was selected to be a part of the Counter Assault Team under the Special Operations Division.
In 2016, the Pentagon began conducting reviews of valor medal recipients. His story of service stood out. During the investigations in 2017, Shurer began to fight another enemy. Stage four lung cancer.
On October 1, 2018 he received the Medal of Honor from President Donald Trump, with a beard. Although many would go on to assume he was sporting in protest to the shaving rules, the truth was he couldn’t shave. The chemo caused painful rashes anytime he shaved.
On his award record, it states that he was given the recognition “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.” He would carry this devotion and bravery into his next fight.
Shurer brought the world into his cancer treatments, often posting updates on Instagram. On May 12, 2020 he shared on Instagram that he had been unconscious for a week and on a ventilator. The post stated that the medical team was going to attempt to take him off but didn’t know how it would go. It was shared with a picture of him with a peace sign and his smiling wife, Miranda.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/CAIrKpypdQC/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link expand=1]Ronald J Shurer II on Instagram: “Very upset to write this…. been unconscious for a week. They are going to try and take it out in a couple hours, they can’t tell me if it…”
Dr. Randy Lovelace was a Harvard-educated flight surgeon with the U.S. Army who became a pioneer in aeromedicine and aviation physiology — particularly with the issues surrounding high-altitude flight. He was instrumental in developing the first oxygen masks and other adaptive equipment that allowed aviators to survive in low space.
In 1940 Lovelace met Jackie Cochran, a record-holding air racer who petitioned First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to use women as pilots on the homefront in a variety of non-combat missions. That idea turned into the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, better known as “WASPs,” during World War II. These female aviators served in crucial roles — test pilots, ferry pilots and maintenance check pilots — that freed up more male pilots to fight the battles that were raging across the globe. A few years later Cochran, by virtue of her friendship with Chuck Yeager, became the first woman to break the sound barrier. After that, she became the first woman to land an airplane on an aircraft carrier.
So when NASA started fielding candidates for what would eventually become the Mercury 7 astronauts, Lovelace and Cochran started a parallel effort that mirrored NASA’s rigorous testing — doable because Lovelace was a key player in designing the official program for the space agency. Along the way they asked another record-breaking female aviator, Jerrie Cobb, to join the effort. The three of them scrubbed the veteran WASP community — a population of over 700 pilots — and came up with 13 qualified females willing and able to go through their NASA-like testing.
Cobb dubbed the group “Fellow Lady Astronaut Trainees” or “FLATs.” The 13 went through a series of stressful evaluations designed to see if they could hold up under the conditions in space. Ice water was injected into their ears to induce vertigo. Painful electric shocks were administered to test reflexes. Weighted stationary bicycles were used to rapidly push candidates to exhaustion. And that was just Phase I of the testing.
All 13 of the women passed Phase I, but because of family and job commitments, only three of them — Jerrie Cobb, Rhea Hurrle, and Wally Funk — were able to travel to Oklahoma City for Phase II. Phase II involved psychological evaluations — including one that had them sit in an isolation tank for an extended period. All three woman passed.
After Jerrie Cobb passed Phase III, which included actual flights in military jet aircraft, the rest of the FLATs were invited to follow suit. But before they could gather at Naval Air Station Pensacola, the designated location, U.S. Navy officials at the base sent a telegram to the candidates that informed them that support for the project had been withdrawn because the request hadn’t come through NASA channels.
That ruling infuriated Cobb, and in 1962 she flew to Washington, D.C., to petition lawmakers to make the FLATs program an official part of NASA. Her efforts led to Rep. Victor Anfuso, R-NY, convening public hearings before a special Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics. Cobb’s testimony introduced gender discrimination into the Hill’s conversation well before the Civil Right Act of 1964 made it illegal.
But the way forward for the FLATs was plagued by infighting among the principals more than unresponsive congressmen. Jackie Cochran, of all people, sensing she was losing clout among her peers, testified that setting up a special program to help women would hurt NASA. Cochran’s negative view was multiplied by the opinions of a handful of Mercury 7 astronauts, including John Glenn, who said that the absence of women in the program was “a fact of our social order.”
Glenn also pointed out that astronaut candidates were required to be graduates of one of the military’s test pilot schools, something women were not qualified to apply for in 1962, and NASA had already indicated it had no desire to waive the requirement by giving females credit for the massive amount of flight experience they had — in some cases many more flight hours than the Mercury 7 selectees. Although some in congress were sympathetic to the FLATs’ plight, Cobb’s Capitol Hill visit didn’t result in any meaningful support.
Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space on June 16, 1963. In response, “Life” magazine published an article criticizing NASA and American decision makers. The article included photographs of all 13 FLATs, which made the entire group of women public for the first time.
NASA did not select any female astronaut candidates until 1978. Astronaut Sally Ride became the first American woman in space in 1983, and in 1995 Eileen Collins was the first woman to pilot the Space Shuttle. At Collins’ invitation, seven of the surviving FLATs attended her launch.
In 1995, while working on a film adaptation of the FLATs’ story, Hollywood producer James Cross coined the label “Mercury 13” for the FLATs. (Look for that title in a theater near you in the years to come.)
Early on the morning of December, 5 NASA launched the Orion rocket — the first American spacecraft designed for manned space exploration since the Saturn V rocket powered the Apollo missions to the moon. According to NASA, the Orion spacecraft – unmanned for this first mission – orbited Earth twice, reaching an altitude of approximately 3,600 miles above Earth before landing in the Pacific Ocean.
“[This mission was] a huge step for NASA and a really critical part of our work to pioneer deep space on our Journey to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “The teams did a tremendous job putting Orion through its paces in the real environment it will endure as we push the boundary of human exploration in the coming years.”
And with the success of this mission astronauts once again think about going into space instead of hanging around Houston like a bunch of glorified academics. The sense of purpose that evaporated with the last Shuttle flight is back, and in a big way. We’re on our way to Mars!
You remember Mars, right?
So do you want a chance to be among the first to walk on the Red Planet? Then you need to be an astronaut. And there are two surefire ways to be selected: You can get a Ph.D. in astrophysics or something else equally boring and be selected by NASA as an astronaut mission specialist or you can join the military and go to flight school on the government’s dime and earn your pilot’s wings and be selected as an astronaut pilot.
But there’s more to it than just being a military pilot. According to NASA’s website, candidates must have at least 1,000 hours pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. The website also states that “flight test experience is highly desirable,” which undersells the requirement a little bit in that the fact is that the large majority of the pilots who have ever been selected to become NASA astronauts have been test pilot school graduates.
There are only three sanctioned military test pilot schools in the world: U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California, U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland, and Empire Test Pilot School at Boscombe Down in the U.K.
Here’s a video produced by the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School that gives an overview of the command:
Military pilots of various branches and nationalities attend each of these schools, but generally pilots prefer to stick with the school that fully focuses on their warfare specialty, for instance, flying off of aircraft carriers.
Test pilot school is about a year long and very rigorous both in the classroom and airborne. The instruction is designed to teach students how to take the principles of science, math, and engineering into the cockpit and then back again in order that they can quickly and effectively analyze performance characteristics and assist in creating better designs if required. At test pilot school you’ll learn how to take an airplane beyond its design limits without destroying it, and you’ll also learn how to write accurate reports
Like everything else cool and kick-ass, getting into test pilot school is very competitive. Applicants need fleet experience, and they also need to have been graded at the top of their peer group every step of the way. And it’s not a “hard” requirement, but because of the intensity of the syllabus most test pilots schools look for candidates with engineering degrees.
Classes convene twice a year and each class is only comprised of about 20 students.
For more on what being a test pilot is all about read Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff. Unlike the movie based on the book, the first half of the book provides great insights into the history of what life is like in the world of military test and evaluation.
And here’s a video from World War II era that describes some spin recovery techniques . . . techniques developed by test pilots:
A U.S. Marine stationed aboard any Naval vessel enjoys a lifestyle very similar to that of cargo. Marines are often sequestered to their color coordinated quarters (ours were red) where they sleep in coffin racks, are given a small window of time to utilize the gym, and in some cases even have separate hours for chow.
All of these measures actually have a purpose, and that is to keep green side (Marines) and blue side (Navy) separate.
However, there are jobs Marines can be volunteered for, jobs involving laundry, trash, and foodservice. Lucky enough for this young leatherneck, having a culinary degree puts you to work aboard the U.S.S. New Orleans in the galley.
So there I was, a twenty-two year old Corporal with a culinary degree being put to work as leader of the night shift aboard a navy vessel. There were no sailors under my charge, which I found to be slightly condescending, but that’s of no consequence. On my team there were no less than three infantry Marines with zero cooking experience and one supply Marine from Baton Rouge, LA, which is plenty of cooking experience on its own. We were tasked with prepping the next days lunch and dinner meals, baking fresh bread, and preparing and serving breakfast.
Unbeknownst to my crew and me, a U.S. submarine submerged at periscope depth in the straight of Hormuz was soon to make its move. The U.S.S. Hartford is a Los Angeles class Navy submarine that had a date with destiny in the form of a San Antonio class amphibious transport dock ship, the U.S.S. New Orleans. After 63 days at sea, it would seem that the crew of the Hartford had had enough and decided to break up the monotony with a little fender bender.
Meanwhile aboard the New Orleans in the ship’s galley were five Marines working diligently. I remember quite vividly the jarring vibration of a f**king submarine crashing into a war ship, causing a mess. I was making pancakes at the time (and none were lost — not bragging just saying).
An infantry Corporal came running in asking if I could spare one of my guys, who happened to be one of his junior Marines. I calmly approved and the Corporal decided to start screaming at his young troop to get his weapon and gear because we were under attack. The young Marine yelled back, “Yes Corporal!” before running to his quarters.
He soon returned, showcasing his, “I thought I was finally going to get to shoot my rifle in combat” face of disappointment. The rest of the crew replied with laughter and taunts.
One of our battalion’s intel Marines informed us that our theories — we hit a whale, we ran aground, we were attacked by pirates — were not only incorrect, but the hapless ramblings of the simple-minded. He then told us we would not be allowed to call out or use the internet, that all coms were being controlled, and that we were hit by our own submarine. We took him seriously until that last part.
After breakfast was ready and the crew sat down to eat in the ship’s mess area, we turned on the television for some news. We were surprised to see that not only was everything intel said true, but also that we had leaked around 25,000 gallons of diesel fuel into the straights. We ended up dry-docking the ship on an island off the coast of Saudi Arabia known as Bahrain.
Beautiful location, lots of black flags — if you’ve never been, I don’t recommend it.
After six weeks of dry dock repairs, the New Orleans was back in the ocean ready for duty. It was determined that the incident was solely the fault of the Hartford and its Captain, who was relieved of command along with others. Damages to the New Orleans totaled $2.3 million dollars, which may seem like a lot until compared with the $120 million dollar price tag attached to the Hartford repairs.
I actually had a beer with one of the crew of the U.S.S. Hartford. We compared stories of the incident in which he shared with me that the submarine spun like a football — nearly 90 degrees in the water (a lot for a sub). The collision trashed the entire ship and administered one of the most jarring wake-up calls in U.S. naval history.