That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning - We Are The Mighty
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That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

Marine Corps Lt. Col. William H. Rankin had flown combat flight operations in both World War II and the Korean War, but it wasn’t enemy fire that came closest to killing him during his military flying career. It was a summer thunderstorm over the east coast of the United States.


On July 26, 1959 Rankin and his wingman, 1st Lt. Herbert Nolan, were flying a pair of F-8 Crusaders from South Weymouth, Mass back to their home base at Beaufort, S.C. when they encountered a line of severe thunderstorms over North Carolina. Shortly after the fighters climbed up to 47,000 feet to go over the growing cumulonimbus clouds, Rankin heard a loud grinding noise followed by a loss of power from the jet’s only engine. About that time the jet’s fire warning light illuminated.

Rankin tried pulling the auxiliary power handle but it came off in his hand. He tried to restart the engine several times but had no luck. At that point, with the fighter in an uncontrollable dive and going nearly supersonic, he knew he only had one option left. He keyed the radio and matter-of-factly told his wingman he “had to eject” and then pulled the handle.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
An F-8 Crusader on the deck of the USS Midway.

The senior Marine pilot wasn’t wearing a pressure suit, so as soon as he hit the surrounding atmosphere at that altitude his body was put through the ringer. The sudden decompression caused his stomach to swell, his ears, nose and mouth to bleed. The ejection tore his left glove from his hand, leaving it exposed to the brutally cold air. His skin immediately froze, which resulted in numbness and severe frostbite.

But things were about to get worse. In his memoir, The Man Who Rode the Thunder, Rankin describes his free fall like this:

I became conscious of my body tumbling, spinning, and cartwheeling through space. I spun like a pinwheel, my limbs trying to go in every possible direction at once. I spun on the vertical, diagonal and horizontal axis. I felt the enormous pulling, stretching effects of g forces. I was a huge stiff blob of helplessness! I recognized that my body was literally spreadeagled and the force was so great I could not move my hands or legs. Several times I tried to bring my arms in to my body but it was like pulling on a stone wall. The effect of the g forces on my arms and legs must have been to multiply their weight many times.

During his fall Rankin managed to strap his oxygen mask to his face, which was a crucial element if he was going to survive his ordeal. From his training he knew that it would take about three and a half minutes to fall from just under 50,000 feet to 10,000 feet where his parachute was designed to automatically deploy. He looked at his watch and saw that more than four minutes had gone by. He figured his ejection seat automatic chute mechanism had malfunctioned, so he manually deployed it.

But Rankin’s seat hadn’t malfunctioned. His descent had simply been slowed by massive updrafts created by the thunderstorm next to him, and as soon as his chute opened another powerful updraft filled it and rocketed him several thousand feet vertically a velocity of nearly 100 mph. Lightning flashed all around in what he later described as “blue blades several feet thick” and the thunder boomed so loudly he feared it would burst his eardrums. Rain pelted him from all directions. He felt like he was going to drown.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

When he reached the top of the thunderstorm the updraft turned into a downdraft. It was totally dark as he was pulled into the center of the thunder cloud, and he plummeted downward at a rate he was sure would prevent his chute from opening. But his chute did open once he was under the storm, and as it did he caught another updraft that catapulted him back to the top of the cloud. Once at the top he was dragged back into the center of the storm and thrown as if by Thor himself toward the ground again.

Rankin was repeatedly buffeted through this cycle . . . a living hell he feared might never end. In The Man Who Rode the Thunder he describes what was going through his mind at that time:

There were times when I felt I might die of sheer exhaustion because it seemed as if either the storm might never end, or I was going to be swept along with it on its insane journey up the coast for as long as that journey might take—hours, days. This feeling was most intense when I decided to look at my watch and glimpsed the time during a flash of lightning. At first I thought what a wonderful thing it was not to have lost my watch all through ejection, decompression, blasts of air, and now this; and, then, what a silly thing, looking at the time! But when I saw that it was twenty minutes past six, I thought: My God, you should have been on the ground at least ten minutes ago! You are really trapped. You are really in the pattern of the storm and a part of it, a speck of human dust, up-over-and-down, up-over-and-down and that’s the way it’s going to be. But how long? For how long?

Finally the storm dissipated enough that he wasn’t dragged back up after shooting through it, and he was unceremoniously blown into a thicket of brush in the middle of a field near Ahoskie, N.C. He was wet and beat to hell and had to draw on his survival skills to make it through the dark to a dirt road where — after being passed by a number of vehicles that refused to stop — someone was finally kind enough to take him to the nearest hospital.

Colonel Rankin spent about 3 weeks in the hospital recovering from severe decompression shock, welts, bruising, and other superficial wounds. He eventually returned to flight status.

In 2009 he died of natural causes at the age of 89.

Here’s a video about his harrowing ordeal:

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Listen to these D-Day ‘frogmen’ explain their crazy role in the historic battle

Despite a limited number of submarines and other surveillance assets, naval forces in World War II had to find a way to spot enemy obstructions and defenses at fortified islands and beaches.

Into the gap stepped the frogmen and recon swimmers, brave sailors and Marines who swam into enemy waters and surveyed defenses with just snorkels and fins, often with enemy fire raining around them.

On D-Day, these brave men played a critical role ensuring that landing craft could make it to shore and take part in one of the most daring, important assaults of World War II. Hear what it was like to be in the waters at Normandy on that fateful day from the frogmen who were actually there in the interview below:


But the heroics of Naval Combat Demolition Units didn’t stop at D-Day; they played key roles in many defining operations of World War II:

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
Navy and Marine Corps personnel landing at Tarawa had to do so with limited intelligence and with nearly all obstacles in place at the start of the battle. (U.S. Marine Corps painting Sergeant Tom Lovell)

 

Beach landings around the world, but especially the frequent landings in the Pacific during World War II, require good intelligence. Enemy mines and underwater obstacles can cripple a landing force when it’s most vulnerable. To ensure the landing works, attackers have to either avoid or clear such obstacles before the landings are affected.

The Navy learned this lesson the hard way when forces landing at Tarawa just hours after their arrival were forced to fight past a reef, beach obstacles and mines, and machine gun positions that had all been underestimated because no one got eyes directly on them before the fight. The invaders had relied on aerial imagery that couldn’t expose all the hazards.

But when the Navy is short on stealthy assets, like submarines, someone else has to get up close and personal and see where the obstructions are.

“Frogmen,” recon swimmers whose efforts would lead to today’s Navy SEALs, filled this role by jumping out of small boats while wearing just shorts, snorkels, swim masks, and fins. From there, they had to swim along enemy beaches and make mental notes of anywhere they saw natural or man-made obstacles that could hinder a landing.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
A Navy frogman in relatively advanced gear for the time. Many frogmen during World War II, especially in the Pacific, made do with just snorkels, masks, and fins. (National Archives and Records Administration)

 

If the obstacles were thick and foreboding enough, they had to destroy them, swimming up to mines and other countermeasures and dismantling them in place or blowing them up. Most frogmen served in units named for this task, the “Underwater Demolition Teams,” or UDTs.

Worse, if there was any question of the shore composition, the frogmen were tasked with swimming up to the beach itself, gathering sand, and swimming back with their samples.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
Marines landing at Iwo Jima benefited from the swimmers who ensured the approaches were clear of obstacles and checked whether the volcanic sand would allow for the free movement of tracked vehicles. (U.S. Marine Corps)

While Iwo Jima was revealed to be largely bare of obstacles, the swimmers had to collect the volcanic ash of the beach as Japanese defenders in pillboxes were laying down a thick blanket of fire on the swimmers and their fire support ships. The hail of bullets was so thick that the ships frequently had to leave the line to put out fires and repair damage.

The swimmers had no such safe space. When they landed at Utah and Omaha beaches on D-Day, the Utah team suffered 17 casualties and the Omaha team lost 91 killed and wounded. 37 men died on the two beaches to reduce the threat to the follow-on attackers.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
Members of a Naval Combat Demolition Unit hit the beach during training.

 

They had to sneak up to obstacles and place dozens of pounds of explosives on them to prepare them for destruction, sometimes while close enough to German patrols and sentries to hear them speaking to each other.

One swimmer, part of a Naval Combat Demolition Unit, interviewed a few years ago by Stars and Stripes, recalled a woman on the beach waving to him from her beachfront house as the sailor laid the foundation for the invasion that would start in less than an hour.

According to a book review of Iwo Jima Recon by the Marine Corps Association Foundation,

The frogmen avoided mortar and small-arms fire by ducking underwater as they swam into the beach. One diver’s account simply stated, “Bullets drifted down like falling leaves.” Amazingly, all but one of the divers returned safely.

Their sacrifices, while great, saved lives. Have a look at the video at the bottom to learn more about the frogmen on D-Day.

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY CULTURE

Top US Marine says young troops should not be blamed for using TikTok

Gen. David Berger, the US Marine Corps commandant, suggested the concerns surrounding a service members’ use of questionable Chinese-owned apps like TikTok should be directed against the military’s leadership, rather than the individual troops.

Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, on Saturday morning, Berger said the younger generation of troops had a “clearer view” of the technology “than most people give them credit for.”

“That said, I’d give us a ‘C-minus’ or a ‘D’ in educating the force on the threat of even technology,” Berger said. “Because they view it as two pieces of gear, ‘I don’t see what the big deal is.'”


“That’s not their fault. That’s on us,” Berger added. “Once they begin to understand the risks, what the impact to them is tactically … then it becomes clear. I don’t blame them for that. This is a training and education that we have to do.”

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps Gen. David Berger speaks with Marines during a town hall gathering at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, July 31, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Micha Pierce)

Foreign-owned apps like TikTok have prompted concern from lawmakers and the military in recent months. TikTok, the viral video-sharing app from China, was investigated by intelligence agencies and the military for concerns on the “operational security risks posed … and other China-owned social media platforms that can access massive amounts of US users’ personal data,” according to a letter by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in November.

“National security experts have raised concerns about TikTok’s collection and handling of user data, including user content and communications, IP addresses, location-related data, metadata, and other sensitive personal information,” Schumer added in the letter.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

To “err on the side of caution,” US Army cadets throughout high school and university were banned from using TikTok while in uniform to represent the military, a spokeswoman said in November. The act does not ban them from using it for personal use.

The app, which was formerly Musical.ly, exploded in popularity and boasted 1 billion monthly active users earlier this year. TikTok and its owner, Beijing ByteDance Technology, claims that American user data is not stored in China, nor is it politically influenced by the country.

“Let us be very clear: TikTok does not remove content based on sensitivities related to China,” the company said in a statement in October. “We have never been asked by the Chinese government to remove any content and we would not do so if asked. Period.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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The ‘Trek and the Furious’ trailer just dropped and all anyone can talk about is ‘Sabotage’

For months leading up to this week’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens premiere, the universe created by George Lucas, purchased by Disney, and boosted by Sci-Fi mastermind JJ Abrams has been central in our cultural consciousness. But remember that other franchise Abrams revived from the mothballs film and television history, the one whose crew boldly goes where no one has gone before?


That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
No, not that Enterprise. Unless you think it’s bold to be stuck in Mombasa for the third time.

A trailer for the third installment of the rebooted Star Trek franchise, Star Trek Beyond, just popped up without warning, to what appears to be mixed applause from the trekkie-trekker community. Why, you might ask? The trailer clearly shows a significant reduction in lens flare over the previous two installments. No, the people either love or hate the choice of music for the trailer. Judge for yourselves.

There’s not much discussion about what’s new or even what the plot is, except that the cast of the previous two films have returned, with the notable addition of Idris Elba joining them as this guy. I think. Maybe not.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
Who knows. They’ve been pretty hush-hush about this ever since production began.

This time it seems, things will be different. Where Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek immediately turned the canon of Star Trek on its head, director Justin Lin’s vision for the franchise is more to the heart of the “wild west in space” spirit of the original series (also, Lin probably watched more than just the Wrath of Khan for background research). And of course, Captain Kirk somehow gets on a motorcycle because Lin’s previous credits include three Fast Furious movies.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY

But he is responsible for the epic “Modern Warfare” episode of Community… so there’s hope.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUTZj1eZmto

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why Coast Guard snipers are the real deal

Each branch of the United States Armed Forces has their own elite troop, proficient in using a sniper rifle — and the Coast Guard is no different. Surprised? You’re not alone. One of the only times troops sing their praises is when they “come out of nowhere” and beat most branches’ snipers in competition, year after year.

Sure, it’s always hilarious to poke fun at our tiniest brother branch for being puddle pirates, but when it comes down to it, mission after mission, the Coast Guard has continuously proven themselves as cut from the same cloth. Okay, maybe just the MSRT guys — but still.


That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

Everyone wants to mock the coasties until they realize what the coasties actually do…

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Daniel Lavinder)

The Coast Guard equivalent to special operations is the Maritime Security Response Team, or MSRT. They’re the front line troops shouldering the burden of the War on Drugs. And they’re not just busting college frat boys who’re smoking a bit of weed on their daddy’s yacht either. These guys are constantly going toe-to-toe with some of the deadliest cartels in the world. These are the guys that are bringing billion-dollar criminal enterprises to their knees.

When the Coast Guard goes out to stomp narcoterrorists, they send the MSRT to interdict them. Among them are the often-forgotten snipers.

Snipers across the Department of Defense focus their training on several factors, depending on the role they play. A Marine recon sniper, for example, must train in camouflaging themselves and moving without being seen — often through miles of difficult terrain for weeks at a time. Coast Guard snipers don’t worry about because that’s not in their area of operations — there’s no hiding on the open ocean.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

There’s very little technological assistance — that’s all skill from the sniper.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

Instead, they focus their entire training on balancing the perfect shot — often from a helicopter or vessel, compensating for the ebb and flow of the waves, into another speeding vessel. It is an art form that they’ve definitely mastered.

Another key difference between Department of Defense snipers and the coasties is that they’re rarely aiming for individual enemies. They are armed with a Robar RC-50 anti-material rifle and their goal is to disable the engines of speeding boats. They need to capture and imprison the drug traffickers, after all.

When the engine is disabled, the interdiction team boards, and the enemy fights back, well, the rifle is meant to disintegrate reinforced steel. Even criminals aren’t dumb enough to keep fighting when they see what it can do to a comparatively squishy human being.

Last year, the snipers of the Coast Guard’s HITRON (Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron), successfully made their 500th interdiction (or drug bust) since their founding in 1998. Check out the video below that celebrates hitting this milestone.

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Heroic Coast Guard ship from ‘Perfect Storm’ sunk for reef

The ship made famous in the book and subsequent film “The Perfect Storm” has been intentionally sunk off the New Jersey and Delaware coasts so it can become part of an artificial reef.


The sinking of the Tamaroa, a 205-foot (62-meter) Coast Guard vessel, took place May 10. The sinking initially was scheduled to occur several months ago, but was repeatedly delayed by rough seas and other related issues.

The vessel was sent down about 33 nautical miles (61 kilometers) off the coast of Cape May, New Jersey. It was deployed in water more than 120 feet (36.5 meters) deep after patches were removed from holes that were pre-cut into its hull, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

The pre-cut holes were part of the extensive work that had to be done before the ship could be sunk, including the removal of interior paneling and insulation as well as emptying and cleaning the vessel of all fuel and fluids.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

The ship turned on its side as it slowly went down in the calm water, then turned straight up as the bulk of the vessel went under water. It then disappeared from view as a person on board a neighboring vessel thanked the Tamaroa for its long service.

A tugboat had started hauling the Tamaroa from a Norfolk, Virginia, shipyard on Monday afternoon and it slowly made its way up the Eastern Seaboard on Tuesday without any issues.

The Tamaroa was first commissioned by the U.S. Navy in 1934 under the name Zuni and saw action during World War II when it helped tow damaged vessels across the war-torn Pacific Ocean. It was transferred to the Coast Guard and renamed in 1946, then continued to serve until it eventually was decommissioned in 1994.

The vessel’s most notable mission came in October 1991, when three strong storm systems came together off the New England coast, generating 40-foot (12-meter) waves and wind gusts of more than 70 mph.

The Tamaroa’s crew helped save three people aboard a sailboat that was caught in the storm. They also rescued four of five crewmen of an Air National Guard helicopter that ran out of fuel during a similar rescue mission and had to be ditched in the ocean.

Both events were documented in Sebastian Junger’s 1997 book, “The Perfect Storm,” and a movie of the same name starring George Clooney.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Special Forces veterans were the most important part of ‘Triple Frontier’

If you haven’t given Triple Frontier a go on Netflix, you definitely should. If you’re unfamiliar, the story follows five Special Forces veterans who travel to a multi-bordered region of South America to take money from a drug lord. It stars Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Pedro Pascal, and Garrett Hedlund, who all do a fantastic job capturing the attitudes of their characters. But one thing especially helped make this film feel realistic: the presence of Special Forces veterans.

While Hollywood productions generally do have military advisors, it isn’t necessarily common that those advisors take the time to work with the cast to really nail down things like tactics and weapons handling. In this case, J.C. Chandor had two Special Forces veterans who did just that — Nick John and Kevin Vance.

Here’s why they were the most important part of the production:


That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

This may not seem like a big deal but nicknames are a huge part of military culture and knowing how service members earn their nicknames can help you really understand the culture itself.

(Netflix)

They taught the actors about nicknames

Charlie Hunnam plays William Miller who goes by the nickname “Ironhead,” and, of course, he wanted to know why, so he asked one of the advisors who explained that the nickname likely comes from the character having survived a gunshot to the head.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

This film will have you saying, “Wow, these actors actually know what they’re doing with that weapon.”

(Netflix)

They taught the actors how to handle weapons

Most of us who spent a lot of time training in tactics can really tell when the actors on screen haven’t had enough training, if any at all. It’s probably most evident in the way they handle weapons. In the case of Triple Frontier, Nick John and Kevin Vance really took the time to train the actors, and it shows.

They trained the actors with live ammunition

When learning how to handle a weapon, it helps to shoot live ammunition. Well, at the end of the first day of the two-week training, Nick John felt the actors were prepared to handle it. So, they gave them live ammunition and let them shoot real bullets, which is not standard for a film production, but it really pays off in this film.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

The way these actors clear buildings is very smooth and convincing.

(Netflix)

They taught tactics

After trusting the actors with live ammunition, Nick John and Kevin Vance ran them through tactics. From ambushes to moving with cover fire, the actors learned the basic essentials to sell their characters on screen, and they do so extremely well.

Actor Charlie Hunnam said, “It was amazing. I was shocked by how much trust they put in us. Very, very quickly, they allowed us to be on the range with live fire, doing increasingly complex maneuvers. We started ambush scenarios, shooting through windows and panes of glass, doing cover fire, and operating movements I’ve never done before.”

Triple Frontier | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

www.youtube.com

They made this movie feel realistic

Veterans have a tendency to spot inaccuracies immediately. But, what Triple Frontier brings to the table is realism. While not perfect, it does a great job of really making you believe these characters are real and all the work Nick John and Kevin Vance put into teaching the actors really pays off.

If you haven’t checked out Triple Frontier on Netflix yet, you definitely should.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why North Korea’s dictator travels by train

A flight from Pyongyang to Hanoi is just 13 hours and 15 minutes. But no one wants to sit on a plane that long, least of all Kim Jong Un, Marshal and Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army. He prefers the 70-hour train ride, just like his father and grandfather before him – although for vastly different reasons.


That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

Who doesn’t enjoy a good smoke break?

Kim’s grandfather was Kim Il-Sung, architect of the Korean War and still-ruling President of North Korea, despite being dead for more than 25 years. Kim Il-Sung first caught a taste for train travel during the Korean War, when every hardened structure he ever set foot in was probably bombed to smithereens within hours of the UN forces realizing there were still structures to bomb in North Korea.

Even after the war ended, he enjoyed the security of a private, armored train and built his palaces to be accessible only by rail. The grandfather Kim even toured all of Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe via rail. It doesn’t hurt that the North Korean railway system is the most reliable way to get around, either. How else are you going to randomly give advice to farmers when you know nothing about growing wheat?

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

“Look at all this magnificent grain we photoshopped in.”

His son and Kim Jong Un’s dad, Kim Jong-Il had a different reason. Kim Jong-Il was deathly afraid of flying and never traveled anywhere via air. Kim, the father, had a luxury armored train with some 22 different cars, each carrying an important detail, including equipment to allow for the train to travel on different countries’ railway gauges.

Kim’s trains ran in groups of three: the first train ran twenty minutes ahead of the others to ensure the safety of the rail line and maybe take the brunt of an assassination attempt. The second carried the Dear Leader and his closest entourage, along with everything he might need, including lobsters and Hennessey. The last train had his communications, his staff, and the things he actually needed to run the government.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

Which is probably just more cases of Hennessy.

For Kim Jong Un, much of his new life has been maintaining his grip on power. In this respect, he has decided to emulate his grandfather in many ways that are recognizable to the North Korean public – from the way he dresses, to the hats he wears, to the way he visits farmers for his “on the spot guidance.” His father was never as popular as his grandfather. Kim Jong-Il came to power after the fall of the Soviet Union when subsidies to the North Koreans ended and created a famine. Life for the average North Korean suffered under Kim Jong-Il.

So it’s no surprise he makes his visits to the populace via rail, just like Kim Il-Sung did.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

Kim Jong Un comes in to Hanoi like a very, very slow wrecking ball

The trains still reportedly travel in groups, with many on the train reporting no loss in luxury from when his father was alive, despite an increase in international sanctions. The train’s armor means it can only crawl from one stop to another, at a maximum speed of 37 miles per hour.

Which is why the leader took 70 hours to arrive at his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump to talk denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

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Senate committee renews medical marijuana provision in VA Bill

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning


Senate lawmakers on Thursday once again signaled to the Veterans Affairs Department they want VA doctors able to talk to patients about use of medical marijuana.

By a 20-10 bipartisan vote, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to the military construction and veterans legislation allowing agency doctors to make recommendations to vets on the use of medical marijuana — something they can’t do now even in states where cannabis prescriptions are legal.

“We should be doing everything we can to make life easier for our veterans,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, said in a statement. “Prohibiting VA doctors from talking to their patients about medical marijuana just doesn’t make sense. The VA shouldn’t be taking legal treatment options off the table for veterans.”

Medical marijuana is being prescribed in some states for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, even though its effectiveness remains questionable.

The legislative amendment was sponsored by Merkley and Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana, who successfully got the same amendment through the committee in November, only to see it stripped from the bill by House lawmakers a month later.

The latest language still has to be considered by the full Senate and then be sent once more to the House for approval.

The VA won’t comment on the lawmakers’ actions on medical marijuana, but its website quotes a report by Marcel Bonn-Miller of the National Center for PTSD at the VA Medical Center in Palo Alto, California, and Glenna Rousseau of the VA Medical Center in White River Junction, Vermont, dismissing marijuana as useful in treating veterans.

“Controlled studies have not been conducted to evaluate the safety or effectiveness of medical marijuana for PTSD,” the report states. “Thus, there is no evidence at this time that marijuana is an effective treatment for PTSD. In fact, research suggests that marijuana can be harmful to individuals with PTSD.”

The federal government in 2014 approved a study on medical marijuana to be conducted by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a California-based nonprofit research center. But the research hasn’t yet been completed.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee

Full of fear and anxiety, a 10-year-old Vietnamese boy sailed across the South China Sea for 10 days, in 1986, with the expectation that a better life awaited him across the ocean.

In his mind, the only way he could live a full and prosperous life was by coming to the United States.

“If it was not for America, I probably would be dead long ago,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Thinh Huynh, the senior enlisted advisor of 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. “If I didn’t escape, my life wouldn’t be like this.”


Born in a small village in Southern Vietnam, Huynh and his siblings lived most of their youth in poverty fighting for survival daily.

“We were so poor that we used to watch people eat,” he said. “We were barely eating. We would eat only two or three times a week.”

While recalling the struggles he faced growing up during post-Vietnam War conditions, the infantryman relates to images of children suffering from chronic malnutrition.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

Command Sgt. Maj. Thinh Huynh, the senior enlisted advisor of 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, prepares to conduct pre-jump training during Operation Devil Storm at Green Ramp, Fort Bragg, N.C., July 17, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alleea Oliver)

“When I see those TV commercials where they show the kids that have bloated bellies, to me, that was how I grew up in Vietnam at that time,” he said.

Huynh believes the Vietnam War, along with other wars, determined the outcome of his family’s future. Before the war, they were rice farmers and after the war they were forced to share their harvest with the communists, he said.

“Not only that, but they took away our home,” he said.

It was then that his family decided to escape Vietnam in hopes of a better life. Packed like sardines in a tiny fishing boat, Huynh and his family sailed across the South China Sea.

“I looked at old slave-boat drawings and I would compare us to that,” he said. “We were all packed in tight with no space to spare.”

Being hungry, thirsty and tired for an extensive amount of time altered the other passengers’ character.

“When people think they are about to die, they will do just about anything to survive,” Huynh said. “This brought out some of the worse behavior from people that I ever witnessed.”

Huynh said he observed a lot of things that kids shouldn’t have seen. “I saw greed, fear and anger,” he said. “Some people were so greedy they would drink as much water as they could while the rest of us had about a shot glass per day.”

After ten days of sharing the small space with 86 others, they arrived at a refugee camp on Pulau Bidong Island. Huynh’s hope finally had became his reality.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

Command Sgt. Maj. Thinh Huynh, the senior enlisted advisor of 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, holds a static line while conducting pre-jump training during Operation Devil Storm at Green Ramp, Fort Bragg, N.C., July 17, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alleea Oliver)

“One of the happiest days of my life was the day I escaped out of Vietnam,” he said. “I didn’t know if I was going to make it or not, but I was happy and very excited.”

Huynh and his family lived in the camp for nearly two years before coming to the United States, where he learned how to read and write, and studied America’s culture.

On Sept. 28, 1989, Huynh and his family moved from the refugee camp to a small town in Iowa.

Being interested in the military throughout grade school, he chose to focus his first American homework project on the U.S. Army.

At the age of 22, Huynh joined the U.S. Army in 1996, but waited to tell his loved ones because of his fear of disappointing his mother.

“When I joined the Army, I didn’t tell my parents until two days before I went to basic,” he said.

“My mom was really upset, because I was in college at the time. Nobody wanted their kid to escape out of Vietnam and go through all that just to join the military. “

In spite of their fears, he believed there wasn’t anything better than serving the country he now calls home.

“Ever since I was in the refugee camp, I wanted to be a U.S soldier,” he said. “Every day I would say, I need to be in the Army. So that’s what I did. I joined the Army. I don’t have any regrets.”

Twenty one years and six combat deployments later, the paratrooper says he’s gained resilience, honor and a profound love for the United States.

Although he has led many soldiers, Huynh never predicted he would become a command sergeant major within the 82nd Airborne Division.

“I never had the goal of being a command sergeant major,” he said. “My goals were to always take care of my soldiers. Now that I’m a command sergeant major of an Airborne Infantry battalion in the 82nd, I’m enjoying every minute of it. It is such an honor to be in a unit that is filled with so much history, pride, tradition and some of the best soldiers and leaders in the Army.”

According to his youngest sister, Thanh Huynh, he always possessed the qualities and had the desire to be a soldier.

“The characteristics that helped him become a command sergeant major are leadership, loyalty, initiative and courageousness,” she said. “Growing up, that’s all he ever wanted to be.”

At a young age, he demonstrated selfless service by putting Thanh first in every situation. “When we would come across a river while going fishing, he would always make sure I got across safely by finding anything that would float because I can’t swim,” she said.

Huynh believes his experiences in Vietnam developed his gratitude toward the freedoms he has as a U.S. citizen.

“I would never take America, or the freedom I have here, for granted,” he said. “I know what it’s like growing up without freedom [and] fearing for your life on a daily basis.”

Nearly 30 years ago, Huynh left Vietnam and found a place he could call home.

“I realized once I set foot in this country, that this was now my country,” he said. “I was born in
Vietnam, but I escaped. America is now my country.”

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

Articles

This is the proper way to roll ‘camo-out’ sleeves

The U.S. Army has re-embraced sleeve rolling to the rejoicing of soldiers around the world.


But many soldiers have never rolled their uniform sleeves, and none have done it in the past few years. Plus, the current uniforms have pockets and pen holders that make it difficult to roll the sleeve in a neat manner.

Luckily, the Army spotted the problem and released a video through the Defense Media Activity that shows exactly how modern troops should roll camo-out sleeves.

If you’re currently logged into Facebook, you can check it out below. If not, click on this link to see it on Soldiers Magazine’s page.

(Video by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jose Ibarra, Defense Media Activity. H/t Soldiers Magazine)

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why being in the field is still better than civilian camping

It’s an inevitability for every veteran once they’re out and making friends in the civilian world. Eventually, you’ll hear about one of your of new friend’s grandiose plan to go out into nature for the weekend to go camping with family and friends.

In my personal opinion, one of the weirdest questions civilians ask with the best of intentions is, “when you were in the Army, did you guys ever go camping?” This question is met with laughter — sorry, can’t help it.

Of course we went out into the middle of f*ckin’ nowhere and set up a camp, but it’s hard to describe the amount of suck that comes with being in the field without sounding like you’re conjuring up some kind of story to scare the civilians.


But, despite all the obvious drawbacks of being in the field, civilian camping just doesn’t hold a candle up against our experiences. They might have comfortable sleeping bags and marshmallows and heated blankets, but here’s where they can’t compete:

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

On the other hand, if they believe that it’s not going to rain in the field… they’re an idiot.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

1. You only take what you need

It’s kind of hard to feel like you’re going out to test your survival skills when most civilian campers pack enough gear to qualify their tent as a three-star resort.

When you’re getting ready to go to the field, your platoon will give you a specific packing list… which will immediately get tossed aside in favor of bringing the essentials. You know someone’s got experience when they decide to scrap the four different versions of wet weather gear in favor of a single rain poncho to save a bit more room for more changes of uniform.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

It may seem like busy work, but it’s actually very valuable for the next reason…

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo)

2. You’re doing something at all hours of the day

Shy of hunting or fishing trips, which are usually just called hunting or fishing trips, you’re not really doing much when you go camping. Yeah, you might go hiking during the day and sit by a bonfire, roasting marshmallows at night, but that’s about it.

In the field, you’re actually trying to accomplish something. Even if it’s something lame, like protecting an area from the fictional Atropian militia, at least you have an agenda that your platoon is sticking to.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

You learn valuable things in the field, like creating an impromptu shelter, immediate casualty care, and how to clear a room using live ammunition. Only two of those skills are taught by the Boy Scouts.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Scott Walters, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division)

3. You actually learn things

While there are countless books and instructional videos on how to go out into the wilderness and become “one with nature.” Most people, however, opt to forego scavenging up some edible flora in favor of the vacuum-sealed trail mix in their pocket.

Troops, on the other hand, have their platoon sergeant, who is usually a wellspring of information on the subject of survival. They’re out to teach troops how to do things. You come back having learned something.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

…the operative word here being “special.”

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Leynard Kyle Plazo)

4. You’re with your platoon

Civilians pick their camping buddies based almost entirely around who will be the most fun to have around for an entire weekend — which makes a whole lot of sense when the goal is to have a good time.

The platoon, however, is structured in a way that ensures everyone has a specific purpose for being there — whether it’s the platoon sergeant who leads the unit, the medic who takes care of any medical issues, or the privates who do most of the manual labor. Everyone’s useful in their own special way!

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

I’d still take this any day over roasting marshmallows outside of a cabin.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ammon W. Carter, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit Combat Camera)

5. You’re objectively more of a badass

When civilians pack up their campsite and return to work the following Monday, their coworkers will usually respond to camping stories with an, “oh man, that sounds like fun! I should go next time!” They’ll regale friends with funny stories and re-tell some choice jokes.

Tell them about your time spent in the field and you’ll get a different response. How does getting stuck in the rain for an entire week, eating nothing but MREs and stale mermite eggs, getting lost in the middle of f*ckin’ nowhere for a few hours because our Lt. thought he saw the land nav marker, having to sleep in a half-shelter that was poorly made at 0400 out of a poncho, and getting bit and stung by god knows how many bugs sound to you? It might not have been the best of times, but your story will certainly turn some heads.

Articles

Shopping malls were created with nuclear war in mind

Ah, the American shopping mall — filled with department stores, gag gifts, and five or six pretzel shops per floor. It’s hard to imagine a United States that isn’t anchored around these retail utopias.


But the shopping mall is only 60 years old, and — while they were partially envisioned as a way to get people to stay near stores and spend money — they were designed to spread the American population away from industrial centers and provide shelter in case of nuclear war.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
Southdale Mall, designed to entice shoppers and shelter survivors in the 1950s, still exists as Southdale Center. Photo: Wikipedia/Bobak Ha’Eri

The first was Southdale Mall near Minneapolis, Minnesota. Southdale and many of the malls that followed were designed by Victor Gruen, an Austrian immigrant who fled Nazi Germany in 1938.

Gruen’s main goal when designing malls was that they should act as self-contained downtown areas. All the best parts of 1950 cities without any of the cars, crime, and unrest that he loathed. Climate-controlled to an eternal spring, his designs featured green space and were surrounded by apartments and office centers.

When Gruen began proposing his indoor malls to civic and business leaders, he packaged it as a civil defense measure. It was to be a perfect cornerstone of the “life belts” around major cities.

The idea for “life belts” had been gaining traction since 1950. It called for a circle of civil defense infrastructure, like shelters and hospitals, to be built just far enough from city centers that they would survive a nuclear bomb strike on the city.

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning
Civil defense in the 1950s called for people to take what shelter they could. Photo: Wikipedia/Library of Congress

When plans were made for Southdale Mall, civic leaders asked for it to be built at a location 10 miles from Minneapolis’s city center, two miles from the edge of an expected blast. It was nestled between two highways so people could arrive quickly during an attack.

It was constructed of steel and reinforced concrete. A large fallout shelter and a 10,000-kilowatt generator sat underground in case they were needed for an emergency. Plans were drawn to turn shops into food production centers during a crisis.

Other malls, like Randhurst Mall near Chicago and Park Lane Mall in Reno, incorporated shelters and other aspects of Gruens’s designs. But the shopping center as fallout shelter concept didn’t really catch on.

As the Cold War progressed civil defense leaders instead called for shelters beneath other types of buildings. Schools, fire and police stations, and even churches were designed and constructed with built-in shelters.

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