Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission - We Are The Mighty
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Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

An unmanned US military space plane has landed at NASA’sKennedy Space Center following a mission lasting more than two years.


The , which looks like a miniature space shuttle, touched down May 7, causing a sonic boom as it landed on a runway once used for space shuttles which have been mothballed.

The sonic boom caused dozens of nearby residents to take to Twitter, with one saying her house “shook” and her dog had “gone into a frenzy”.

Exactly what the space plane was doing during its 718 days in orbit is not entirely clear, with the US Air Force saying the orbiters “perform risk reduction, experimentation and concept-of-operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies.”

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
The U.S. Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle 4 landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida May 7, 2017. Managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, the X-37B program is the newest and most advanced re-entry spacecraft that performs risk reduction, experimentation and concept of operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

The cost of the mission – the fourth and longest so far – is classified.

The Secure World Foundation, a non-profit group that promotes the peaceful exploration of space, says the secrecy surrounding the suggests intelligence-related hardware is being tested or evaluated aboard the craft.

At 29 feet-long and with a wingspan of 15 feet, the Boeing-built craft is about a quarter of the size of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s now-retired space shuttles.

This mission began in May 2015, when the plane set off from nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard an Atlas 5 rocket built by United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co.

Its first mission was eight-months-long from April 2010, its second from March the following year lasted 15 months.

A third took off in December 2012 and ended after 22 months.

Another mission is scheduled later this year.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, sonic booms used to be common in the area during the 30 years of NASA’s manned space shuttle programme, with landings at the Kennedy Space Center preceded by a loud double boom.

But the last of those shuttles landed nearly six years ago.

There is also a type of rocket – SpaceX’s Falcon 9 – which produces sonic booms and these were last heard earlier this month.

But officials had refused to confirm the return date for the , so its arrival was not expected by residents.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This new tool shows what nukes would do to your home

Imagine a 150-kiloton nuclear bomb exploded in the city closest to you.


Do you know how the city, its surrounding region, and its inhabitants would be affected? If you can’t think of much more than “a lot of people would die,” you’re not alone.

“We live in a world where nuclear weapons issues are on the front pages of our newspapers on a regular basis, yet most people still have a very bad sense of what an exploding nuclear weapon can actually do,” Alex Wellerstein, a historian of science at Stevens Institute of Technology, wrote on his website, NuclearSecrecy.org.

To help the world understand what might happen if a nuclear weapon exploded, Wellerstein created an interactive browser app called Nukemap.

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
This is what a ground detonation of a nuke like the one North Korea recently tested would look like in NYC, according to Nukemap. (Image Nukemap)

“Some people think they destroy everything in the world all that (sic) once, some people think they are not very different from conventional bombs,” he wrote. “The reality is somewhere in between.”

Also read: These Air Force ‘rods from god’ could hit with the force of a nuclear weapon

To illustrate that, Nukemap lets you build a hypothetical nuclear bomb and drop it anywhere on Earth. The software uses declassified equations and models about nuclear weapons and their effects — fireball size, air-blast radius, radiation zones, and more — to crunch the numbers, then renders the results as graphics inside Google Maps.

Preset options let you pick historic and recent blasts, including North Korea’s latest test explosion and Tsar Bomba, the most powerful nuclear device ever detonated. The tool can even estimate fatalities and injuries for a given weapon yield, altitude, and location.

The first version of Wellerstein’s tool came out in February 2012, but he upgraded it to version 2.5 this month. Users thus far have set off more than 124 million explosions in Nukemap.

Nukemap 2.5’s new features let you see where a cloud of radioactive fallout might drift based on local weather conditions. Fallout refers to the dirt and debris that get sucked up by a nuclear blast, irradiated to dangerous levels, pushed into the atmosphere, and sprinkled over great distances. The updated tool also lets you export your scenarios, load them into mapping software like Google Earth, and explore them in 3D.

“I hope that people will come to understand what a nuclear weapon would do to places they are familiar with, and how the different sizes of nuclear weapons change the results,” Wellerstein wrote on his site.

Picking a bomb and a target

We decided to test Nukemap 2.5 using its preset for the North Korean government’s underground test blast on September 3.

Some experts think that device, perhaps a thermonuclear bomb, yielded an explosion of roughly 150 kilotons’ worth of TNT. This was the country’s most powerful nuclear explosion to date — about 10 times as strong as the Hiroshima bomb blast of 1945, which caused some 150,000 casualties.

We started with San Francisco, since according to Missilemap — Wellerstein’s companion tool to Nukemap — the city is within the estimated range of Hwasong-14, North Korea’s newest and farthest-reaching intercontinental ballistic missile.

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
Nukemap shows the impact of an air detonation over San Francisco, CA. (Image Nukemap)

Blast effects

By default, Nukemap assumed a 150-kiloton-yield warhead would explode 1.03 miles above the city.

An aerial detonation maximizes a nuclear bomb’s destructive power by allowing the blast’s energy to spread. If a bomb were to detonate on the ground, the soil would absorb more of that energy.

More reading: How Ukraine punked North Korea’s nuclear missile scientists

The main effects of the nuclear blast display as four colored zones:

  • Fireball (0.56 miles wide): In the area closest to the bomb’s detonation site, flames incinerate most buildings, objects, and people.
  • Radiation (1.24 miles wide): A nuclear bomb’s gamma and other radiation are so intense in this zone that 50% or more of people die within “several hours to several weeks,” according to Nukemap.
  • Air blast (4.64 miles wide): This shows a blast area of 5 pounds per square inch, which is powerful enough to collapse most residential buildings and rupture eardrums. “Injuries are universal, fatalities are widespread,” Nukemap says.
  • Thermal radiation (6.54 miles wide): This region is flooded with skin-scorching ultraviolet light, burning anyone within view of the blast. “Third-degree burns extend throughout the layers of skin and are often painless because they destroy the pain nerves,” Nukemap says. “They can cause severe scarring or disablement, and can require amputation.”

Clicking the “radioactive fallout” option didn’t produce any exposure zones for this hypothetical explosion. A note toward the bottom of our Nukemap results explained: “Your choice of burst height is too high to produce significant local fallout.”

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
Nukemap’s projection of the impact of a San Francisco ground detonation of a nuke like the one North Korea recently tested. (Image Nukemap)

Casualties and radioactive-fallout zones

When we switched the height to “surface burst,” a very different picture emerged: The thermal and air-blast zones shrank, but the fireball nearly doubled in area, and the radiation zone nearly tripled.

We also enabled the new radioactive-fallout settings based on local weather. And to see the human effects, we ticked the “casualties” option, too.

Luckily, local winds in this hypothetical scenario were moving west-southwest, blowing most radioactive fallout into the Pacific Ocean. If a person were to stand outside in a 100-rad-per-hour zone for four hours, they would get 400 rads of radiation exposure, which is enough to kill 50% of people by acute radiation syndrome.

According to Nukemap’s casualty estimator, however, this blast would still kill about 130,000 people and injure 280,000 over the next 24 hours. The tool says this does not include radioactive-fallout effects, among other caveats.

“Modeling casualties from a nuclear attack is difficult,” it says. “These numbers should be seen as evocative, not definitive.”

Google Earth’s view

We were eager to try the export feature, but it appears to need some work.

For example, the fallout zone appeared in an area different from the in-browser calculation — almost due south of San Francisco, instead of west-southwest.

But it was still useful — in a gut-wrenching way — to see the size of a nuclear fireball (the yellow half-dome in the image below) in 3D as it related to a major city, engulfing entire neighborhoods.

You can create your own nuclear-blast scenario and explore Nukemap 2.5’s options here.

Wellerstein and others at Stevens Institute of Technology — based in Hoboken, New Jersey — are working on a related project, called Reinventing Civil Defense, which aims to “develop new communication strategies regarding nuclear risk that have high potential to resonate with a public audience.” The project was awarded a $500,000 grant and is expected to debut in 2019.

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12 times someone tried — and failed — to kill the US president

Out of 15 U.S. presidents targeted for assassination (that we know of), four were successful. No matter who the “leader of the free world” is, he or she will always have haters. While assassins were successful targeting Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley and John F. Kennedy, here are 12 attempts you may know little about:


1. Andrew Jackson

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
The etching of the 1835 assassination attempt of Andrew Jackson. Image: Public Domain.

Richard Lawrence ambushed Andrew Jackson in front of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Lawrence shot at him, but his gun misfired. Infuriated, the 67-year-old Jackson proceeded to club him with his old hickory cane. Lawrence pulled a second pistol, and it too misfired. Jackson beat Lawrence senseless until his aides wrestled Lawrence away.

2. Theodore Roosevelt

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
Theodore Roosevelt laughing. Photo: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

John Flammang Schrank shot President Roosevelt during a speech in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on October 14, 1912. Roosevelt continued to give his speech after being shot, even joking about it where at one point he said:

Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot, but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose. But fortunately I had my manuscript, so you see I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet — there is where the bullet went through — and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best. — Theodore Roosevelt, Address at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, October 14, 1912

Roosevelt lived with the bullet in him for the rest of his life. Schrank claimed the ghost of William McKinley told him to shoot the President; doctors found him insane.

3. Franklin D. Roosevelt

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
Mug shot of Giuseppe Zangara. Giuseppe Zangara killed the mayor of Chicago and attempted to assassinate Franklin Roosevelt. Photo: Florida Department of Corrections

Italian immigrant Giuseppe Zangara attempted to assassinate President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 15, 1933, during an impromptu speech in Miami, Florida. Five people were hit, including Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak, who later succumbed to his wounds. On the way to the hospital, Cermak allegedly told Roosevelt, “I’m glad it was me instead of you,” which was later inscribed on his tombstone plaque. Some speculated it was a mob hit on the mayor and not Roosevelt.

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
Grave Site Of Assassinated Mayor Anton Cermak. (Photo by Chicago Crime Scenes, Flickr)

“I have the gun in my hand,” confessed Zangara in the Dade County Courthouse jail. “I kill kings and presidents first and next all capitalists.” He was sentenced to death by Circuit Court Judge Uly Thompson.

4. Harry S. Truman

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
Griselio Torresola (left). Oscar Collazo and his wife (right).

Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola — two supporters of the Puerto Rican independence movement — tried to assassinate President Truman while he was napping on the second floor of the Blair House. Truman was staying at the Blair House while the White House was undergoing renovation. The would-be assassins saw their opportunity because unlike the White House, the Blair House was less secure.

In what was described as “the biggest gunfight in Secret Service history”—27 shots fired over 40 seconds—Terresola and a police officer were killed. Collazo was sentenced to death, which President Truman later commuted to a life sentence.

5. Richard Nixon

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

Samuel Byck attempted to assassinate Nixon on February 22, 1974, by hijacking a plane in hopes of crashing it into the White House while the President was there. Byck carried out his plan with .22 caliber revolver he stole from his friend and a suitcase bomb. His plan was foiled, and the plane never left the Baltimore/Washington International Airport gate. He killed a police officer and committed suicide in the process.

6. Gerald Ford

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

President Ford had two attempts on his life by two women in California in the same month. One by Charles Manson follower Lynette Fromme, who fired a pistol at him in a crowd in Sacramento on September 5, 1975. The second attempt was by Sara Jane Moore in San Francisco on September 22, 1975 — just 17 days after Fromme. Both women were sentenced to life in prison.

7. Jimmy Carter

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
Jimmy Carter. (US president photo: Executive Office of the President of the United States).

The Secret Service arrested Raymond Lee Harvey ten minutes before President Carter gave a speech at the Civic Center Mall in Los Angeles on May 5, 1979. The Ohio-born drifter was caught with a starter pistol and blank rounds. Although he had a history of mental illness, the police investigated his claims of being part of a four-man operation to assassinate the president. Charges against Harvey were dropped for insufficient of evidence.

8. Ronald Reagan

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
John Hinckley Jr. Photo: By United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI Field Office Washington) [Public domain]. Ronal Reagan (US president photo: Executive Office of the President of the United States).John Hinckley Jr. shot President Reagan outside the Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., on March 30, 1981. He fired six shots from his .22 caliber revolver wounding the president and three others. Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity on June 21. He said the assassination attempt was a love offering to actress Jodie Foster.

Reagan famously joked about it with one-liners to keep the country’s spirits up. “Please tell me you’re Republicans,” he said to the surgeons when he entered the operating room. To an attentive nurse, he said, “does Nancy know about us?”

9. George H.W. Bush

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
Saddam Hussein (Photo: Public Domain). George H.W. Bush (US president photo: Executive Office of the President of the United States).

Three months after President Bush left office, Kuwaiti officials foiled a 16-man assassination ring led by the Iraqi Intelligence Service. The perpetrators planned to assassinate President Bush with a car bomb during a speaking engagement at the Kuwait University.

President Clinton responded in kind with 23 Tomahawk missiles against the Iraqi Intelligence Service headquarters building in Baghdad. In a televised address to the nation, he ordered the attack to convey three messages, “We will combat terrorism. We will deter aggression. We will protect our people.”

10. Bill Clinton

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
Osama bin Laden (Public Domain. Bill Clinton (US president photo: Executive Office of the President of the United States).

Osama bin Laden came close to assassinating President Clinton with a car bomb in the Philippines in 1996. Intelligence agents picked up on the plot via a choppy transmission with the words “bridge” and “wedding” — a terrorist code word for assassination, reported the Telegraph.

The secret service averted the scheme by re-routing the presidential motorcade away from the bridge containing the bomb.

11. George W. Bush

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
Robert Picket (US president photo: Executive Office of the President of the United States).

Robert Pickett — a former Internal Revenue Service accountant — fired his handgun at the White House while President Bush was inside. He was shot in the knee and arrested by secret service agents. Pickett was sentenced to three years in prison.

12. Barack Obama

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez mugshot (Photo: Bonneville County Sheriff Dept. President Barack Obama (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza).

Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez fired his rifle at the White House. The 21-year-old claimed to be the second coming of Christ, and that Obama was the devil. He talked about Nostradamus and receiving a “message through time.” Ortega-Hernandez was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

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Watch an unmanned aerial tanker refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet

First flown on September 19, 2019, the Boeing MQ-25A Stingray is an unmanned aerial refueling drone. On June 4, 2021, the Stingray conducted its first successful refueling test.

The Navy began developing a carrier-based UAV in 2006. Called the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike program, the Navy wanted a stealthy strike aircraft for penetrating enemy air defenses. However, delays in the UCLASS program redirected the Navy’s efforts to other roles. Under the Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System, the Navy sought to bring a Super Hornet-sized carrier-based aerial refueling tanker drone to the fleet. In July 2016, the concept was officially given the name MQ-25A Stingray.

In October 2017, the Navy requested proposals from Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and General Atomics for the Stingray. On August 30, 2018, Boeing was announced the winner of the competition. An $805 million contract was issued for four MQ-25As to be produced by August 2024. Three more aircraft were ordered in 2020.

The successful midair refueling between the Stingray and Super Hornet on June 4 was the first major milestone in the future of unmanned carrier-based aircraft. “During the flight, the receiver Navy F/A-18 [Super] Hornet approached the Boeing-owned MQ-25 T1 test asset, conducted a formation evaluation, wake survey, drogue tracking and then plugged with the unmanned aircraft. T1 then successfully transferred fuel from its Aerial Refueling Store (ARS) to the F/A-18,” said Naval Air Systems Command.

Designated T1, the first Stingray is scheduled to test basic deck handling aboard an in-port aircraft carrier in Norfolk later this year. The Navy is now set to buy 76 MQ-25As at a cost of $1.3 billion. Initial operating capability for the MQ-25A is set for 2025.

Featured photo: MQ-25A T1 refuels an F/A-18 Super Hornet (Boeing)

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Afghan Army-piloted A-29s will soon attack the Taliban

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
Photo by Embraer


Afghan pilots will soon be attacking Taliban forces with machine guns and 20mm cannons firing from airplanes in Afghanistan — flying U.S.-provided A-29 Super Tucano aircraft, Air Force officials said.

Loaded with weapons to attack Taliban forces and engineered for “close air support,” the A-29s are turboprop planes armed with one 20mm cannon below the fuselage able to shoot 650 rounds per minute, one 12.7mm machine gun (FN Herstal) under each wing and up to four 7.62mm Dillion Aero M134 Miniguns able to shoot up to 3,000 rounds per minute.

Super Tucanos are also equipped with 70mm rockets, air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-9L Sidewinder, air-to-ground weapons such as the AGM-65 Maverick and precision-guided bombs. It can also use a laser rangefinder and laser-guided weapons.

Four A-29s have been delivered so far as part of an effort to equip the Afghan Army with up to 20 aircraft, Heidi Grant, Under Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“Afghan pilots have been training here and learning English in the U.S. A class of eight pilots recently graduated a class at Moody AFB. They are back in Afghanistan. My hope is that in the next month or so you are going to see them doing some close air support for their Army,” Grant added.

Close air support will enable the Afghan Army to better target and destroy groups of Taliban fighters in close-proximity to their forces, giving them a decisive lethal advantage from the air.

The Super Tucano is a highly maneuverable light attack aircraft able to operate in high temperatures and rugged terrain. It is 11.38 meters long and has a wingspan of 11.14 meters; its maximum take-off weight is 5,400 kilograms. The aircraft has a combat radius of 300 nautical miles, can reach speeds up to 367 mph and hits ranges up to 720 nautical miles.

The U.S. is buying them for the Afghans through a special Afghan Security Forces fund that Congress has appropriated, she explained. They are being built by Sierra Nevada out of Jacksonville, Fla. – an effort which brings jobs to the U.S., she added.

“They are right now doing top off tactics training. They trained here in the U.S. but they needed to get into country to do the top-off tactics training,” Grant said.

The presence of armed “close air support” aircraft for the Afghan Army could have a substantial combat impact upon ongoing war with the Taliban – who have no aircraft.

Also, the arrival of the air support comes at a time when some observers, military leaders and lawmakers are concerned about combat progress in Afghanistan, openly questioning President Obama’s plan to reduce U.S. forces from 9,800 to 5,500 by 2017.  Outgoing CentCom Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin III and Sen. John McCain have been among those expressing concern.

At the same time, the presence of combat-changing air-attack ability for Afghan forces could engender a circumstance wherein the U.S. could reduce its presence without compromising ongoing progress in the war against the Taliban.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’

The 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade deployed in March 2018 to Afghanistan to carry out the inaugural mission for the newly-created SFAB concept. The brigade returned in November 2018, and leaders say their experience there has proven successful what the Army hoped to accomplish with the new kind of training unit.

Army Brig. Gen. Scott Jackson, 1st SFAB commander, spoke May 8, 2019, at the Pentagon as part of an Army Current Operations Engagement Tour. He said the Army’s concept for the new unit — one earmarked exclusively for advise and assist missions — was spot on.

During their nine-month deployment to Afghanistan, Jackson said the 800-person brigade ran 58 advisory teams and partnered with more than 30 Afghan battalions, 15 brigades, multiple regional training centers, a corps headquarters and a capital division headquarters.


“That’s nearly half of the Afghan National Army,” he said. “I believe we could only accomplish our mission and reach these milestones and validate the effectiveness of an SFAB because the Army got it right — the Army issued us the right equipment, and provided us the right training to be successful. But most importantly, we selected the people for this mission . . . the key to our success is the talented, adaptable, and experienced volunteers who served in this brigade.”

Lessons learned

Jackson outlined two key lessons learned from the unit’s time in Afghanistan. First, they learned their ability to affect change within those they advise and assist was greater than they thought.

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Velez, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron, interacts with Afghan Command Sgt. Maj. Abdul Rahman Rangakhil, left, the senior enlisted leader of 1st Kandak, 4th Brigade, 203rd Corps, during a routine fly-to-advise mission at Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

“As our Afghan partners began to understand the value of 1st SFAB advisors, they asked us for more,” Jackson said. “So our teams partnered with more and more Afghan units as the deployment progressed.”

Another lesson, he said, was that persistent presence with partners pays off.

“Units with persistent partners made more progress in planning and conducting offensive operations and in integrating organic Afghan enablers like field artillery and the Afghan air force than unpersistent partnered units,” Jackson said.

Those lessons and others were passed to the follow-on unit, the 2nd SFAB, as well as to the Security Force Assistance Command.

Another observation: the Afghan military is doing just fine. They’re in charge of their own operations. And while U.S. presence can provide guidance when needed — and it is asked for — the Afghans were proving successful at doing their own security missions without U.S. soldiers running alongside them. It turns out that just having an SFAB advise and assist presence has emboldened Afghan security to success.

“We saw enormous offensive maneuver generated, and not just at the brigade level,” said Army Lt. Col. Brain Ducote, commander of the 1st Battalion, 1st SFAB. “They weren’t overdependent. They were able to execute offensive operations themselves. It was a huge confidence builder when we were sometimes just present. Even if we didn’t support them, just us being there gave them the confidence to execute on independent offensive operations.”

Confidence is contagious

Ducote said that the confidence moved from brigade level down to battalion, or “kandak” level. Commanders there also began running their own offensive operations, he said.

“They believe in themselves,” the lieutenant colonel said. “The Afghan army has tremendous freedom of maneuver and access to areas where they want to go. If they put their mind to it and they say we’re going to move to this area to clear it . . . they are good at it. And they can do it. Would they, given the choice, want advisors with them? Absolutely. Why not? But let there be no mistake: the Afghans are in the lead, and the Afghans can do this.”

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

Advisors with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron and their 3rd Infantry Division security element exit UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters during a routine fly-to-advise mission at Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Ducote said Afghan success is evident by their expansion of the footprint they protect, such as in Kunar and Kapisa provinces, for instance.

“[There are] all sorts of provinces where they expanded their footprint and influence,” he said. “And the people absolutely support their security forces.”

Also a critical takeaway from Afghanistan and an indicator of the value of the SFAB mission there is the authenticity of relationships between SFAB advisors and Afghans.

Building real relationships

During their nine months in theater, the 1st SFAB lost two soldiers to insider threats. Army Capt. Gerard T. Spinney, team leader for 1st Battalion, 1st SFAB, said that what happened after the attacks revealed the strength and sincerity of the relationship between Afghan leadership and SFAB leadership.

Army Cpl. Joseph Maciel was working for Spinney in Tarin Kowt District, Afghanistan. He was killed there by an Afghan soldier in July 2018 — a “green on blue” threat.

“His sacrifice will never be forgotten,” Spinney said. “But we still had to continue advising afterward. That day, my partner, a kandak commander . . . wanted to come see me.”

Spinney said the Afghan soldier who had killed Maciel didn’t belong to this commander — but that commander still wanted to meet with him.

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

Afghan soldiers listen to a map reading class taught by Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Davis, an advisor with 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, Sept. 18, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

“He was very adamant coming to see me,” Spinney said. “He was angry. He was embarrassed. He was determined to rid [his own] unit of anything like this. And it was sincere. During the deployment he lost many soldiers. I had to sit with him and almost echo the same sympathies. I think the relationship got stronger.”

“You have to be there with them, good times and bad times, successes and failures,” the captain said. “That’s how you build trust, that’s how you show you care. He was there for us that day. Our relationship survived. And I’d say from that point on he wanted to make us feel safer. From that point on we saw differences in security . . . they took care of us because they wanted us there.”

Jackson said that insider threat might have derailed the 1st SFAB mission. In fact, he said, he suspects that was the intent of the enemy that carried out those threats. But it didn’t happen that way, he said.

“It didn’t derail the mission,” Jackson said. “Despite a brief pause maybe, as we reassessed what happened and what we needed to do both on the Afghan side and the American side, in the end our relationship was stronger.”

Ensuring success

The SFAB concept was first proposed by Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley. And since then, Jackson said, the Army has put a lot of effort into ensuring the success of the SFAB mission. That includes, among other things, training, people and gear.

Ducote said the equipment provided to 1st SFAB was critical to its success in Afghanistan.

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Davis, an advisor with 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, teaches a map reading class to Afghan soldiers Sept. 18, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

“These teams are operating at distance, in austere environments,” Ducote said. “In some cases without electricity. We need the right equipment to be able to extend the trust that we give to them, and the trust that we extend to them. We want that to be manifested through the right equipment — communications specifically.”

He said the gear that proved essential to SFAB success included medical, communications and vehicles — and all were adequately provided for by the Army.

“The Army got it right what they gave us,” Ducote said. “We were able to do that mission, at distance.”

Home again

Back home now for six months, Jackson said the brigade is back to repairing equipment, replacing teammates and conducting individual and small-unit training to prepare for its next mission. He said their goal is to provide the Army a unit ready for the next deployment, though orders for that next mission have not yet come down.

The advise and assist mission is one the Army has done for years, but it’s something the Army had previously done in an ad hoc fashion. Brigade combat teams, for instance, had in the past been tasked to send some of their own overseas as part of security transition teams or security force assistance teams to conduct training missions with foreign militaries. Sometimes, however, the manner in which these teams were created may not have consistently facilitated the highest quality of preparation.

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Velez, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron, flies in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter on his way to Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

The SFAB units, on the other hand, are exclusively designated to conduct advise and assist missions overseas. And they are extensively trained to conduct those missions before they go. Additionally, the new SFABs mean regular BCTs will no longer need to conduct advise and assist missions.

The Army plans to have one National Guard and five active-duty SFABs. The 1st SFAB stood up at Fort Benning, Georgia, in early 2018. The 2nd SFAB is based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, but is now deployed to Afghanistan. The 3rd SFAB, based at Fort Hood, Texas, is now gearing up for its own first deployment. The 4th SFAB, based at Fort Carson, Colorado, is standing up, as is the 54th SFAB, a National Guard unit that will be spread across six states. The 5th SFAB, to be based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, is still being planned.

“As subsequent SFABs come online, it creates a huge capacity for the rest of the combatant commands in the world,” Jackson said. “I would be confident to say that there are assessments ongoing to see where else you could apply SFABs besides Afghanistan.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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Dog paratroopers jumped into combat on D-Day

Brian (military callsign “Bing”) entered service in World War II as a young family dog loaned to the British government; he served for about 18 months, jumping into Normandy and leading his fellow paratroopers across Nazi-held Europe and the Rhine River before returning to his civilian family after Germany’s surrender.


Bing jumped into Normandy on D-Day with the British 13th Parachute Battalion and two other airborne canines, Monty and Ranee. Bing, Montee, and Ranee were specially chosen and trained to jump from planes wearing parachutes designed for bicycles.

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
Bing the dog joined the British service in 1944 and jumped into Normandy later that year. (Photo: Jack1956 CC BY 3.0)

But Bing actually stumbled on his combat jump. He was supposed to be the “stick pusher,” the last one out of the plane. But he refused to jump into the flak-filled clouds over Normandy and one of the onboard jumpmasters had to throw him from the plane.

The 13th Parachute Battalion later found their dog hanging from a tree with two deep cuts to his face that they estimated were from German mortar fire.

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
Salvo the U.S. parachuting dog executes a jump during training in 1943. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Force)

Worse, Monty suffered severe wounds on D-Day that ended his involvement in the war and Ranee was lost soon after the jump. Bing stayed with the paratroopers and two captured German Shepherds (German by both breed and national service) who replaced Monty and Ranee.

Together, the dogs led the paratroopers during their advance across Europe, sniffing for minefields and other traps and pointing out probable ambushes.

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
Rob the Paradog was another heroic parachuting dog of World War II awarded the Dickin Medal. (Photo: Imperial War Museum)

Just like a pointer drawing a hunter’s attention to game, Bing would freeze up and point with his nose when he found a potential batch of Germans expected to make trouble for his paratroopers.

Other British forces, including the SAS (Special Air Service), took dogs on airborne operations — as did a small number of American troops.

After the war, Bing returned to his civilian life as Brian the family dog, but was recognized in 1947 with a Dickin Medal — an award for animal valor — bestowed by Air Chief Marshall Sir Frederick Bowhill. He lived to the age of 13 before dying in 1955.

MIGHTY TRENDING

European court rules in favor of Russian opposition leader

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Russia violated opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s rights over numerous arrests and jailings, calling them “unlawful and arbitrary” and “politically motivated.”

The human rights court in Strasbourg, France, on Nov. 15, 2018, delivered its ruling, rejecting an appeal filed by Russia over a previous judgment favoring Navalny.

The court upheld its previous decision that found Navalny’s seven arrests and two instances of pretrial detentions by Russian authorities between 2012-14 violated his rights, “lacked a legitimate aim,” and “had not been necessary in a democratic society.”


He immediately hailed the decision, writing on Twitter, “Won. Fully. The government is crushed…Hooray!”

He also told reporters that the ruling was an example of “genuine justice” and was “very important not just for me but for other people all over Russia who are arrested every day.”

As part of the ruling, the court ordered Russia to pay Navalny about 64,000 euros in compensation, costs, and expenses and said its decision was final and binding.

Moscow did not immediately comment on the court’s ruling.

Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critics, attended the hearing, along with his brother Oleg, and posted a photograph of the two of them at the ECHR on Instragram.

Russia’s Constitutional Court has previously ruled that officials can ignore judgments by the ECHR if they are found to contravene the Russian Constitution.

Russia has lost a number of high-profile cases in Strasbourg and been ordered to pay out hefty compensation in scores of politically embarrassing cases.

Navalny was originally prevented from boarding a flight out of Moscow on Nov. 13, 2018, to attend the hearing.

The Federal Bailiffs Service (FSSP) said he was barred from leaving due to what it said was debt he owed Kirovles, a state timber company at the center of a politically charged criminal case in which he has now been convicted twice.

The FSSP later said the fine was paid and that restrictions on Navalny’s travel abroad had been lifted.

He said he would sue the FSSP over what he called “illegal activities” and demand compensation for the 29,542 rubles (6) in financial losses he said he and his lawyer sustained due to the FSSP’s decision to bar him from leaving.

The ECHR ruling was on an appeal filed by Russia over a court decision in February 2017 that ruled in favor of Navalny, but Russia filed an appeal to challenge the decision.

Navalny, 42, has organized large street protests on several occasions since 2011 and has published a series of reports alleging corruption in Putin’s circle.

He has repeatedly been jailed for periods ranging from 10 days to a few weeks, usually for alleged infractions of laws governing public demonstrations.

Navalny had spent nearly 200 days in jail since 2011, including 140 days since the start of his attempt to challenge Putin in the March 2018 presidential election, his spokeswoman has said.

Electoral authorities barred Navalny from the ballot, citing convictions in two financial-crimes cases he and his supporters contend were Kremlin-orchestrated efforts to punish him for his opposition activity and for the reports alleging corruption.

Navalny was convicted in 2013 of stealing money from Kirovles and was sentenced to five years in prison. But the sentence was later suspended, sparing him from serving time in prison.

In 2016, the ECHR ruled that the Kirovles trial was unfair and that the two men had been convicted of actions “indistinguishable from regular commercial activity.”

The Russian Supreme Court then threw out the 2013 convictions and ordered a new trial.

In February 2017, the lower court again convicted the two men and handed down the same suspended prison sentence.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How to ask what kids are feeling during stressful times

No school. No playdates. No camps. No pool outings. The world as kids know it has been thoroughly upended and they are justifiably anxious, whether they show it or not. It’s up to the adults in the room to get them to open up about those feelings so that they can be addressed. Doing so takes finesse, curiosity, and a very light touch.

“Our job as parents isn’t to provide certainty in a time of uncertainty. Our job is to help kids tolerate the uncertainty,” explains Dr. Jerry Bubrick, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute.


Kids aren’t stupid. Nor are they obtuse. They hear you discussing the increasingly dire COVID-19 news, they see headlines on your social media feed, and they understand that to a large extent, the stuff they once enjoyed doing is no longer in play. Playing epidemiologist isn’t going to work. Kids don’t need specific answers, they need broader certitude that they are loved and will be taken care of — certitude that makes the ambiguity of the moment manageable.

“We want to teach them how to tolerate not knowing. You should let them explain how they’re feeling and why, and you can help them validate those feeling by saying things like, ‘I have similar worries. Let’s brainstorm ideas on how we can make things better.’ Instead of just giving answers, you want to have a conversation and compare notes,” says Bubrick.

Getting kids, regardless of age, involved in problem-solving makes them feel empowered and like they’re part of the solution. But as Bubrick points out, if you ask vague questions, you’ll get vague answers, including the dreaded “I’m fine” (the quintessential conversational dead end). Bubrick’s advice is to lead with curiosity and ask open-ended yet specific questions:

  • What did you learn about today?
  • What is something interesting or funny you heard about today?
  • What was the most fun thing you did today?
  • What are you most looking forward to tomorrow?
  • What was the toughest part of your day today?
  • What was something you didn’t like about your day?
  • What got in the way today of you having a fun day?
  • What can we do together to make it better?
  • I read something interesting today and wanted to know if you had a reaction to it?

As with most things in life, timing is everything.

“Bedtime is not the right time. Kids are starting to wind down for the day. Anxious kids have more worries at night. Don’t lead them down the path of more worry. And don’t talk to them about this when they first wake up. Find a time, a neutral time, when there hasn’t been a big argument. Look for a calm moment,” says Bubrick.

He suggests having laid-back discussions either during dinner, or while taking a family walk. And he relies on a simple yet clever approach that gets people to open up.

“With my kids, I suggest a game: Like a rose. It’s an icebreaker and it’s our thing. You start and model the game. There are three components to the rose. The petal: ‘Tell me something you liked about today.’ The thorn: ‘Tell me something you didn’t like.’ The bud: ‘Tell me something you’re looking forward to in the future.’ You have to model it to get a response.”

If your children aren’t able to articulate how they’re feeling, use a feelings chart and work your way from there. Some 5-year-olds can explain, with total clarity, what upended their emotions and why. Some teens, meanwhile, can barely manage a two-word response and won’t dig deeper without gentle prodding. You want to have children be as specific as possible about what exactly they’re feeling.

“If you can name it, you can tame it,” says Bubrick.

His final note is just as applicable to kids as to their adult minders. Don’t spin out. Don’t catastrophize. And remind kids that no, their friends aren’t having secret sleepovers or hitting the playground. We’re all stuck at home together.

“We want to help kids stay in the moment. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the unknown. All we know is what’s happening to us right now. We have each other. We’re connected to our friends. Let’s focus on that. We’ll deal with tomorrow, tomorrow,” he says.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Inside the Taliban’s 13-hour siege of a Kabul hotel

Survivors of the Taliban attack on Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel gave harrowing accounts on Jan. 22 of the 13-hour weekend standoff that claimed 18 lives, including 14 foreigners.


The siege ended on Jan. 21 with Afghan Security Forces saying they had killed the last of six Taliban militants who stormed the hotel in suicide vests late the previous night, looking for foreigners and Afghan officials to kill.

More than 150 people were rescued or managed to escape, including 41 foreigners. Eleven of the 14 foreigners killed were pilots and employees of KamAir, a private Afghan airline. A statement by KamAir later said some of its flights were disrupted because of the attack.

Six Ukrainians, two Venezuelan pilots for KamAir, and a citizen of Kazakhstan were among those killed in the attack. German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr confirmed that a German was among those killed, without providing further details.

Mohammad Humayun Shams, the telecommunications director of eastern Laghman province, who was visiting Kabul and staying at the hotel, said he was able to escape by jumping into a tree from a hotel window as the attackers roamed the hallways, killing people.

“It was the worst night of my life,” Shams said, adding that as he ran, he couldn’t tell the attackers apart from the police because they were all wearing the same uniforms.

Two Greek pilots who were in Afghanistan to train local airline pilots said they survived the attack by hiding in their rooms — one inside a hollow he had cut in his mattress and the other in his bathtub.

Vassilis Vassiliou and Michalis Poulikakos were in the hotel restaurant when gunmen burst in through a kitchen service door. They dashed up to their rooms and hid, following emergency instructions they had been given.

“We overturned the mattresses and messed up the rooms, then opened the balcony doors to make it look as if we had escaped that way,” Poulikakos told Greece’s private Skai TV on Jan. 21.

Also Read: US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack

“I hid in the bathtub. Nobody entered my room, I was very lucky and it all ended after nine hours,” he said. “I was on the fourth floor. Vassilis was on the fifth and he was the only survivor on that floor, there were many more survivors on my floor.”

Vassiliou said he spent 13 hours hidden under — and inside — his mattress, and managed to stay undiscovered even as gunmen used his balcony as a firing position.

“They broke down my door and burst in. I had managed to slip under the bed. There were three of them in the room, one went onto the balcony, the other shot at the other bed and lifted it up,” he said.

When the gunmen had used up their ammunition, they set fire to the fifth floor and disappeared for about an hour and a half. Vassiliou went out to the balcony and realized that there was no escape there — he even came under fire from forces besieging the hotel.

“So I went back into the room and used a small pair of scissors to cut an opening for myself inside the mattress and remained there,” he said. That protected him from the heat and the smoke from the fire burning outside his room.

“I don’t know why but I was very calm. It was as if something told me that I would live,” Vassiliou said.

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

He said he had shut down both his mobile phones to avoid being betrayed by their ringing, which led authorities to believe he had been killed. He remained in the room from about 9 p.m. to noon the next day, when the gunmen finally ran out of ammunition and left.

“I heard English being spoken and came out of my mattress,” he said.

Vassiliou added that security forces took an inexplicably long time to reach his floor.

“Between 6 and 9 (a.m.), on the fifth floor, these four or five people were having fun, joking around,” he said, referring to the attackers. “They would open every door, I heard voices, a couple of shots, and then laughter. They were undisturbed, nobody tried to stop them, and I think that was a big mistake.”

On Jan. 21, Afghan Security Forces remained positioned on all the roads leading to the hotel, barring everyone from the area.

Among Afghans killed in the attack was a telecommunications official from western Farah province, Afghanistan’s newly appointed consul general to the Pakistani city of Karachi and an employee of the High Peace Council, a commission created to facilitate peace talks.

Related: This is how much of Afghanistan the Taliban reportedly control

Friedhelm Kraemer, the head of the Marianne and Emil Lux Foundation, a German charitable group, confirmed in an email that the woman killed was the head of an aid project. German regional newspaper Boeblinger Bote named her as 65-year-old Brigitte Weiler.

In an email to AP, Kraemer said she was a former German navy officer and nurse who would travel to Kabul at her own expense to deliver medicine, food and clothes to families in remote mountain villages in northern Afghanistan.

“Her tragic death tears a hole in the humanitarian aid work for people whom nobody else is helping,” said Kraemer, whose organization supported the project.

Along with Shams, five other hotel guests, including a foreigner, managed to jump into the tree. From there, they climbed down to the ground and Shams called the police with his mobile.

They were told to stay put until the police came to take them away, hours later.

“I am still in shock … in fact can’t believe I am alive” he added.

Articles

Starbucks Donated Free Coffee To Every US Service Member In Afghanistan

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
Photo Credit: Starbucks


Starbucks hooked up the joes in Afghanistan with a ton of free coffee over the December holiday season, though security precautions prevented the gesture from being disclosed until now.

Also Read: This Dying Vietnam Veteran Is Giving Away Everything He Owns To Charity 

Along with the USO, the company delivered 32,000 three-pack servings of its ready-brew coffee to Bagram Airfield, where it could then be further distributed to the approximately 9,800 service members stationed throughout the country.

“Getting a cup of coffee is something your average American takes for granted. But for our troops a cup of coffee is a special taste of home,” Alan Reyes, USO Senior Vice President of Operations, said in a statement. “Imagine a soldier coming off an arduous patrol or hostile fire, and then seeing that Starbucks logo – it takes their minds out of the war zone, even for a few minutes.”

The coffee giant is providing much more than just free coffee for U.S. troops. In March 2014, the company donated $30 million for research into post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, and promised to hire 10,000 veterans or their spouses over the next five years.

“This is not charity, this is not pity. This is the right thing to do for them and for us,” Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, told NPR’s Marketplace.

Schultz recently wrote a book with Washington Post reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran that highlights the courage and sacrifices of Post 9/11 troops entitled “For Love of Country: What Our Veterans Can Teach Us About Citizenship, Heroism, and Sacrifice.”

NOW: 27 Incredible Photos Of Life On A US Navy Submarine 

OR: Take the quiz: What Color Flight Deck Jersey Are You? 

Articles

This VA hospital could have infected hundreds of vets with deadly diseases

A VA hospital in Wisconsin is under scrutiny for potentially exposing hundreds of veterans to blood-borne diseases like hepatitis and HIV. The infections are being blamed on a dentist at the Tomah VA hospital.


Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
Tomah VA Medical Center Building 400. (Photo from Tomah VA Flickr)

According to a report by WEAU.com, 592 veterans are in the process of being informed about the potential exposure, brought about by the re-use of equipment from October 2015 to October 2016. A substitute for the dentist’s regular assistant noted the unidentified dentist’s actions and reported him.

The dentist has since been re-assigned to an administrative position. VA regulations require that equipment not be re-used.

“It was purposeful that he was violating VA regulations,” Victoria Brahm, the acting director of the medical center, told WEAU.com. “During all of the orientation, he used all of our equipment. He used it appropriately, so it was very purposeful from what we found in our investigation that he knew exactly what he was doing, and preferred to use his own equipment against procedure.”

The Tomah VA hospital came under fire in the past for allegedly over-prescribing painkillers. The hospital is providing free medical screenings and will also provide free treatment of any infections. The VA Inspector General has been notified and will be investigating to determine if criminal charges should be filed.

“We have clear evidence that we are moving forward and the people that remain here are very vested and here for the mission of taking care of veterans,” Brahm told WEAU.com. “There are pockets of improvement that need to occur they still need to I’ll be honest, and we are aware of where they are and we are dealing with them as quickly as we can.”

This is not the first VA medical center to have issues. A VA medical center in Phoenix, Arizona, used “separate waiting lists” to hide a backlog of cases, leading to at least 200 deaths. A VA center in Chicago reportedly had a cockroach infestation that was so bad, some of the bugs got into food intended for the patients.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of May 4th

Still no news about Kim Jong Un – even after TMZ reported (yet didn’t confirm) his death on April 25 and everyone outside the Intelligence community has been coming up with their own theories, whether he died during a botched heart surgery to whatever because he missed two major holiday appearances.

I don’t know. The logical side of my brain says that he’s probably smart enough to know that being a dictator of the country with rampant malnutrition, horrid living conditions and legalized crystal meth is doing far worse when their only trading partner is the epicenter of a deadly pandemic. He’s probably been self-isolating like everyone else in the world (except his countrymen).

But I’m still hoping the methed-out cardiothoracic surgeon did him in. Anyways, here are some memes…


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(Meme via Army as F*ck)

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(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

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(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

(Meme via Call for Fire)

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(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

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(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FuVvTLoPfSJaLE2lpSTdu9ua1LFJKmklEXjI-AultsLctRtLeJxSXHUEQSY3p-YAFSNKPdCanCAHyIE0sCjM71pU_8oOt5Ego3frR8FFtoztRrGwIMm04UQszt1d-kqy6kDmpq14vobJ1QDlcFA&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh6.googleusercontent.com&s=9&h=ee9ce776a481645a6f1d0440301b4419a238b5a56a17a7b8ffa07cd906d2714e&size=980x&c=3573263540 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FuVvTLoPfSJaLE2lpSTdu9ua1LFJKmklEXjI-AultsLctRtLeJxSXHUEQSY3p-YAFSNKPdCanCAHyIE0sCjM71pU_8oOt5Ego3frR8FFtoztRrGwIMm04UQszt1d-kqy6kDmpq14vobJ1QDlcFA%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh6.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D9%26h%3Dee9ce776a481645a6f1d0440301b4419a238b5a56a17a7b8ffa07cd906d2714e%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3573263540%22%7D” expand=1]

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

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(Tweet via the Madlad himself, Gen. Jay Raymond)

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

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(Meme via VET Tv)

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(Meme via Uniform Humor)

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

(Meme via Private News Network)

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(Meme via Pop Smoke)

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