On Mar. 21, 1962 a B-58 Hustler from the U.S. Air Force erupted in flames as a large, bright red capsule shot out of it, carrying a passenger to safety.
But the passenger wasn’t a pilot, and the plane wasn’t crashing. The event was a test of the B-58’s experimental ejection capsules and the occupant of the capsule was a bear.
The Air Force had been struggling to figure out a safe way for pilots to eject at supersonic speeds. Initially, they had tested new ejection seat designs by hiring people they recruited out of unemployment lines to act as test dummies.
The Air Force soon switched to using live animals for the tests, including six bears and a chimpanzee. At first, the bears and other animals tested ejection seats and capsules on rocket sleds. Once the Air Force was relatively sure of the design, they began flying the aircraft and ejecting the animals at altitude.
The animals were given drugs and rigged with sensors before being placed in the ejection capsules.
Most were fine, if a bit loopy, when they landed.
There was one fatality among the animals during testing. One bear had a brain condition that wasn’t detected prior to the flight and the physical strain during the ejection killed the animal. Two other bears suffered minor fractures and bruising during their flights.
Unfortunately, the Air Force needed to be sure that there were no hidden injuries before they returned to human subjects and ordered autopsies, which resulted in the deaths of the animals that had otherwise survived testing.
On April 26, Kristin Beck hopes to realize a dream of Quixotic proportions. The decorated former Navy SEAL and trans-woman aims to unseat entrenched Democratic incumbent Steny Hoyer in the primary for Maryland’s 5th Congressional District in a long-shot bid for a seat in the House.
But on April 21, five days before the vote, she was working to balance press interviews and campaign efforts with the more prosaic tasks of keeping up the farm she lives on with her wife in southern Maryland — including planning for the delivery of four tons of fertilizer the next day.
Beck, 50, began to live openly as a woman around 2013 after retiring from the Navy in 2011 as a senior chief petty officer. Then called Christopher, Beck earned a Bronze Star with valor device and a Purple Heart over the course of 13 deployments and spent time as a member of Naval Special Warfare Development Group, better known as SEAL Team Six.
Since the publication of a ghostwritten memoir in 2013 and a CNN mini-documentary that followed, Beck has achieved public acclaim as a transgender SEAL, even spending time living out of an RV as she traveled between speaking engagements. This run for Congress, however, is not a bid for more publicity, she said, but an effort to speak for others.
“I’m looking at the political machine and I see it leaving me behind,” she said. “If you’re a little bit different, not that Crackerjack box American, we get left out. I fought to defend every person. I fought for justice for all Americans.”
Rather than being daunted by the prospect of challenging Hoyer, the House minority whip who has held his seat since 1981, Beck said she felt compelled to run because of Hoyer’s very insider status.
On her campaign web site, which Beck runs with the aid of campaign manager Mike Phillips, a Marine veteran, she outlines her stance on no fewer than 71 issues ranging from ending the marriage tax penalty to reforming the Affordable Care Act, of which she is highly critical.
Beck said her campaign is most persuasive with those in her district under the age of 30 and her most effective outreach efforts are on social media, adding that her official Facebook page gets upward of 70,000 hits per week.
And while none of her platforms deals directly with the military, Beck has perspectives on many aspects of defense policy and has been closely watching efforts to open ground combat jobs to female troops. In her thinking on this issue, the tension between her former self as a no-nonsense Navy SEAL and her present efforts to promote openness and opportunity are most visible.
Beck said she absolutely stands by earlier statements that she would like to play a role in training the first female sailors to attempt the newly opened Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) courses. But she would do so, she said, only if Defense Department brass maintained their commitment to keeping the same tough physical standards, regardless of political pressure or how well women fare in the course.
“When I was in the SEAL teams, there were women I had working for me, doing UAV and intelligence work. They weren’t SEALS, but they were direct support to SEALs, doing hardcore work,” Beck said, adding that she believed there were women who were capable of completing SEAL training and thriving in the field.
But, she said, she fears that high attrition rates for women in BUD/S — which she sees as inevitable — will cause lawmakers to put pressure on the military to relax standards or gender-norm them and push more women through.
“We know that women can’t do pull-ups as well as men. If you’re going to have them gender-norm out pull-ups, what are you going to have them do?” Beck said. “The capability and the readiness of the military is so dependent on our physical abilities and how we apply our physical abilities. If you’re going up a ladder on a ship going 20 knots on eight-foot seas, pull-ups are an indication of how well you can do that.”
Of the roughly 1,000 men who attempt BUD/S each year, about 400 make it through, Beck said.
Assuming a much smaller number of female applicants who want to be SEALs and are physically qualified, Beck estimates between two and eight women will make it each year.
But for those who do make it through, Beck said the cultural challenge of entering an all-male career field might not be as daunting as some believe.
“The professionalism and the mission outweighs so many other things,” she said. “I don’t care if you can bench-press 500 pounds, I need you to bench-press 200 pounds, but do it 40 times … that’s professionalism.”
Beck, who served in the Pentagon before retiring, said she still receives invitations to speak with military brass, most recently briefing the chief of naval operations’ strategic studies group earlier this year.
On transgender troops, she advocates better education and a case-specific approach that considers the needs of the service member and the requirements of the military. She advocates, for example, that troops who opt to start living as a different gender be sent to a new duty station for a fresh start, limiting unnecessary confusion. Those who opt to undergo the lengthy process of medical transition, she suggested, might be temporarily assigned to work in a military hospital, where they could remain on duty and keep easy access to therapy and procedures.
“The biggest advice I gave them is, ‘This is going to happen and you can have a knee-jerk reaction or you can be ready for it,’ ” she said.
Beck’s battles with post-traumatic stress disorder have been documented, and she said the greatest need for other veterans with PTSD is a network of local centers that provide a safe community and companionship, outside of an impersonal institution. Veterans, she said, could meet, see movies together, share a drink, or even do physical labor on a farm like hers.
“It will be a mentoring program, a downtown store front, with a coffee pot, a place for vets to go,” she said. “A totally non-traditional program. By vets, for vets.”
For Beck herself, she sees stability, even if her congressional bid fails. She’s working on a feature film and another book now, she said, though she declined to further describe those projects.
And after decades of deployments and upheaval, she has found some permanence.
“I live here on the farm,” she said. “Win or lose, I’m here on the farm anyway.”
On June 27, the Department of Veterans Affairs released finalized plans to provide emergency mental health coverage to former service members with other-than-honorable administrative discharges.
“Suicide prevention is my top clinical priority,” Secretary David Shulkin, who is also a physician, said in a VA news release. “We want these former service members to know there is someplace they can turn if they are facing a mental health emergency — whether it means urgent care at a VA emergency department, a Vet Center, or through the Veterans Crisis Line.”
This is the first time a VA secretary has implemented an initiative specifically focused on this group of former service members who are in mental health distress, the release stated.
Effective July 5, all Veterans Health Administration medical centers will be prepared to offer emergency stabilization care for former service members who present at the facility with an emergent mental health need.
Under this initiative, former service members with an OTH administrative discharge may receive care for their mental health emergency for an initial period of up to 90 days, which can include inpatient, residential, or outpatient care, the release stated.
During this time, VHA and the Veterans Benefits Administration will work together to determine whether the mental health condition is a result of a service-related injury, making the service member eligible for ongoing coverage for that condition.
Since Shulkin announced his intent in March to expand coverage to service members with OTH administrative discharges, the VA has worked with key internal and external stakeholders, including members of Congress, Veterans Service Organizations and community partners on the issue, the release stated.
Veterans in crisis should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 (press 1), or text 838255.
Brittany Boccher, the 2017 Armed Forces Insurance Air Force Spouse of the Year, was named the 2017 AFI Military Spouse of the Year today in a ceremony held in the Hall of Flags at the Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C.
Boccher, who lives with her husband and two children aboard Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas, has been a military spouse for 11 years.
The president of the Little Rock Spouses’ Club and a board member for the LRAFB Thrift Store, Boccher has devoted years to her military spouse community. In 2016, she helped raise $20,000 in funds and donations with her fellow board members, increased LRSC participation by 800 percent, and providing backpacks for over 300 military children, and more.
Boccher was key to the passage of Arkansas’ House Bill 1162, a law designed to offer tax relief to military retirees who settle in Arkansas.
She is the founder and director of the Down Syndrome Advancement Coalition, a non-profit organization that creates a partnership across Arkansas between other Down Syndrome organizations in order to better advocate for children with the disorder.
Boccher was also advocated for changes to playgrounds and commissaries aboard LRAFB, pressing the installation to make the playgrounds ADA accessible and to secure Caroline Carts for special needs patrons of the commissaries.
In addition to her philanthropic work with military spouses and special needs children, Boccher has her Bachelors Degree in Community Health Education and Kinesiology, a Masters Degree in Nonprofit Leadership and Management, and runs two companies, Brittany Boccher Photography and Mason Chix apparel.
According to her nomination acceptance, Boccher hopes to spend her year as the 2017 AFI Military Spouse of the Year advocating for the Exceptional Family Member Program families and to continue empowering military spouses to success.
While 2016 took a lot from us (Carrie Fisher being one of the most recent losses), it also provided us with glimpses into the future.
So, without further ado, here’s a look at some of the new tech of 2016.
1. Carbon Nanomaterials
This article from April outlines the potential of aircraft made in one structure as opposed to many components that have to be assembled. Lockheed Martin made its mark in aviation with its famous Skunk Works in the 20th Century. The nanomaterials could lead to new developments in a wide range of products, from medical applications to building ships.
2. Russia Gets Its LCS Right
Russia began work on the Derzky-class littoral combat ship this year, as WATM reported in November. While the American versions have been in the news with engineering problems, Russia seems to have taken the time to think about what its navy wanted.
Derzky will not be in service until 2021, according to reports. Perhaps, by then, the American LCS will have the kinks worked out of it.
3. New Round for Snipers?
In November, WATM also noted that snipers were taking an interest in the .300 Norma Magnum round. This round offers an improved ballistic coefficient over the .338 Lapua Magnum round currently used by snipers. The round will be used in the Advanced Sniper Rifle that SOCOM is trying to procure.
4. No More “Feeling the Burn”
The Enhanced Fire Resistant Combat Ensemble is slated to help keep Marines and sailors assigned to the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command from “feeling the burn.”
When the Army began testing the Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply Vehicle, comparisons to the speeder bikes used in Return of the Jedi were quick in coming.
This October, WATM noted it was also being eyed for use in combat re-supply missions. While the Marines have used an unmanned K-Max, this is much smaller and could help resupply a platoon in a firefight.
6. A Bird of Prey that hunts subs
This April, WATM reported on the ACTUV, which could make life very difficult for enemy subs. ACTUV, which stands for Antisubmarine warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel, displaces about 140 tons and is 132 feet long.
Equipped with sensors and a datalink, this is a robotic scout that can track submarines or other targets, and it has a sustained speed of 27 knots.
7. Russia’s Killer Robot
On Dec. 3, Russian FSB troops carried out a raid that took out the top dog of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s Dagestan chapter.
Earlier this month, WATM took a closer look at the gear displayed in a video that was released. The star attraction was a little robot packing what appeared to be a PKM machine gun and two RPG-22s. Now, isn’t this robot cooler than BB-8?
8. Bigger guns on Stryker and JLTV
Since relations between the Russians and Americans seem to be heading south, two vehicles are getting bigger guns. In October, the Stryker got a 30mm turret, and became the XM1296 Dragoon. But this September, WATM reported that the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle got a bigger gun in the form of a modified M230. Now, these vehicles can take out BMPs.
So, those are some of the big tech stories out there for 2016. Which military tech story from 2016 is your favorite?
The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan revealed July 12 he’s been using new rules of engagement that allow his command to deploy American and NATO forces to aid Afghan troops who are on the attack.
The new policy marks a sharp departure from previous authorities for the use of force that restricted U.S. and allied combat power to last ditch efforts to save Afghan troops from defeat.
Afghan mission commander U.S. Army Gen. John Nicholson said in a press briefing in Kabul that now U.S. and NATO forces can use airpower and other troops “so that the Afghan Army can assume the offensive against the enemy.”
“As we focused on it this year, we used our in-extremis authorities that we had at the time to help prevent a strategic defeat. … It was in a defensive, reactive kind of manner,” Nicholson said. “With the new authorities that we have now, as of June, we’re able to then provide combat enablers to assist the Afghans … taking the initiative against the enemy and their staging areas.”
The new authority comes on the heels of a stinging Pentagon report that showed special operations forces trying to help Afghan troops fight off a Taliban takeover of Kunduz in 2015 were hamstrung over rules of engagement that left them confused over when they could fight.
According to the report obtained by Reuters, commandos who radioed back for clarification of the ROEs were left hanging by superiors in the rear.
“Sadly, the only sounds audible were the sounds of crickets … though those were hard to hear over the gunfire,” one special operator said in the Pentagon report, according to Reuters.
Nicholson launched a reassessment of the Afghanistan operation, dubbed “Resolute Support Mission,” when he assumed command in February. And in June he was given new authority to help Afghan troops on offense.
In one battle, Nicholson explained he was able to sortie F-16s to strike Taliban positions outside Tarin Kowt to help Afghan forces clear roads cut off by insurgents.
“Since that operation … we’re using our new authorities so that the Afghan army can assume the offensive against the enemy in Maiwand District, Band-e-Timor area, which is a well-known staging area. So it’s offensive,” Nicholson said.
President Obama announced last week he would keep about 8,500 American troops assigned to Afghanistan to fight the continued Taliban insurgency and fight terrorist groups.
Nicholson said during his press conference that about 3,000 U.S. troops would be assigned to continue training and advising Afghan troops, with another 3,300 “enablers,” including helicopter and fixed wing aircraft crews, assigned to give the Afghans a little extra combat punch.
The force also includes about 2,150 troops dedicated to the counterterrorism mission and about 400 troops based in other countries but helping with the Resolute Support mission.
Halloween is coming up, so we hope everyone has a great costume lined up, unlike most years when everyone just trades uniforms with a member of a different service for the night. Soldiers going as airmen, sailors going as Marines. It’s all cutting edge stuff.
Before you head into the housing areas to beg your first sergeants for candy, check out these 13 funny military memes:
A dramatic rescue of a little girl trapped by ISIS gunfire was captured Friday on video.
David Eubank, a former Special Forces soldier-turned-aid worker, was filmed as he ran out in the open amid ISIS sniper fire to rescue the girl as two other men covered him with rifle fire.
“I thought, ‘If I die doing this, my wife and kids would understand,” Eubank told the Los Angeles Times.
According to the Times, Eubank’s dramatic rescue played out on a street in the Iraqi city of Mosul, where ISIS snipers were firing at civilians that were attempting to flee. Wearing only a t-shirt, bulletproof vest, and helmet, Eubank is seen running out into the street approximately 150 yards where he picks up the girl and brings her back safely behind a tank.
Eubank, 56, served for a decade with the US Army Special Forces. After leaving the military, he founded an aid group called the Free Burma Rangers, which seeks to bring “hope and love to people in the conflict zones of Burma, Iraq, and Sudan,” according to its website.
A reliable Trump surrogate on the campaign trail, Flynn is seen as a likely choice for the top spot at the Pentagon. He previously served as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency,retiring in 2014 after 33 years in uniform. Flynn was a career military intelligence officer who served during the Cold War, Operations Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom, and others.
“He’s about leading from the front. He’s about taking the hard jobs. He’s about driving change,” Adm. Michael Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, said of him in 2014. “He’s always about the men and women around him.”
There’s just one problem for Flynn, however. Since he’s only been out of uniform for two years, he’d require a waiver from Congress to serve as Defense Secretary, since the law requires a seven year gap for military officers who want to serve as the Pentagon’s civilian leader. He could still serve in some other spot, such as national security advisor.
Former Secretary of State and retired four-star Gen. Colin Powell is not a fan, however. In leaked personal emails reported by BuzzFeed News, Powell described Flynn as “abusive with staff, didn’t listen, worked against policy” and called him “right-wing nutty.”
Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)
Another name being floated is Jeff Sessions, a Republican senator who has been in office since 1996. He supported the 2003 Iraq War and opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the lifting of the ban on women serving in combat roles, foreshadowing major policy reversals he could potentially implement as Defense Secretary.
Sessions has personal military experience, having served as a Captain in the US Army Reserve for 13 years. He currently sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee and has been advising Trump on national security since March. “He would obviously be a very strong fit” for Defense Secretary, said Joe Kasper, the chief of staff for Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.).
President George W. Bush’s former national security advisor may reprise that role in a Trump administration, or be tapped to lead the Pentagon as Defense Secretary.
Right now he chairs the United States Institute of Peace, a federally-funded think tank that promotes conflict resolution around the world. He’s also a principal of RiceHadleyGates LLC, a consulting firm he founded with former national security advisor Condoleeza Rice, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Anja Manuel, a former State Department official.
Hadley is a controversial figure. The false allegation that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger prior to the invasion made its way into President Bush’s State of the Union speech in 2003, which Hadley later apologized for.
He also sits on the board of defense contractor Raytheon, a potential conflict-of-interest he’d have to remedy should he be tapped by Trump.
Last but not least is former Sen. Jim Talent. Talent served in the Senate for much of the Bush administration, finally losing to Sen. Claire McCaskill in 2006. He currently serves on the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a group created by Congress that examines the US-China relationship and prepares an annual report on its national security implications.
Like Hadley, Talent is also an Iraq War hawk. Though he wasn’t in Congress for the 2002 vote to go to war, he said in 2006 that he still would have invaded Iraq even with the knowledge there were no weapons of mass destruction.
He wants to enlarge the size of the Army, and opposes the release of detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He has been critical of Trump’s approach to NATO — setting conditions to automatic defense of NATO countries — writing that such a move could isolate America from its allies.
What they face
Whoever gets picked, the next Defense Secretary will face myriad challenges, from the ongoing fight against ISIS and China’s moves in the South China Sea to the ongoing stress on the military imposed by sequestration.
A number of defense secretaries who served under Obama have criticized him for “micromanagement.” Trump, it appears, seems to be more of a delegator who will let the Pentagon chief take the reins of the military.
“He will empower his SecDef to lead the way,” Kasper said.
The next Defense Secretary may also end up dealing with a nuclear-armed North Korea, and Russia is very likely to test the limits of the next President in eastern Europe. He or she also needs to reinvigorate a military plagued by low morale.
Trump will also make appointments for many other positions in the Pentagon and the military services, such as service secretaries, policy undersecretaries, and advisors. Those spots may be filled from his list of retired military officers or outsiders. The current leadership at the Pentagon is already preparing for that transition.
“USA wonder why Russia would want to carry the S-300 to Syria,” read the meme’s text. “Because you never really know what kind of assistance terrorists might get.”
“All jokes aside, #Russia will take every defensive measure necessary to protect its personnel stationed in #Syria from terrorist threat,” said the embassy’s tweet.
U.S.-Russian relations have diminished significantly in the last week. The veiled threat is the latest in a series of provocative actions and statements Russia is making concerning U.S. involvement in Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Monday that the U.S. would be suspending talks regarding the Syrian conflict after Russia’s failure to abide by a mutually agreed ceasefire in September.
Diplomatic failures regarding Syria are forcing the Obama administration to reconsider its options in the five-year-long conflict, including “staff level”discussions that could include military strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a key Russian ally. Russia responded to reports of the talks by warning that removal of Assad would cause “terrible tectonic shifts” in the Middle East.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced its deployment of the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to its naval base in Tartus, Syria, Tuesday. A statement from the ministry claimed that the missile system, which can target both ballistic missiles and aircraft, was deployed in order to ensure the safety of the naval base.
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42-year-old Isao Machii is a Japanese Iaidoka, master of Iaido. Iaido is martial art focused on controlled movements in drawing a sword, striking an opponent, cleaning the blood from the blade, and then re-sheathing the sword. Iaido started during the Japanese feudal system and is the foundation of modern Japanese swordsmanship.
Machii holds Guinness World Records for the most martial arts sword cuts to one mat (suegiri), the fastest 1,000 martial arts sword cuts, the most sword cuts to straw mats in three minutes, and the fastest tennis ball (820 km/h) cut by sword.
“This is about processing it at an entirely different sensory level because he is not visually processing it,” said Dr. Ramani Durvasula, who was on hand for the BB pellet event. “This is a different level of anticipatory processing. Something so procedural, something so fluid for him.” Machii agreed, saying he doesn’t use his eyes, but can instantly visualize the trajectory of the object in his mind.
He is now headmaster of his own samurai school. See more of his swordsmanship, and enjoy the reactions of people watching him:
In 1971, Pakistan launched a preemptive air strike against 11 Indian airbases, touching off that year’s Indo-Pakistani War. The air attacks failed but dragged India into Bangladesh’s (then called East Pakistan) Independence War from Pakistan. The Indo-Pakistan War was one of the shortest wars in history, lasting less than two weeks.
The day after its surprise air attack, Pakistan moved 2,000 troops, a mobile infantry brigade, and 45 tanks to an Indian border post at Longewala. The post was manned by 120 Indian troops with an M-40 recoilless rifle – and access to strike aircraft.
The Indians were heavily outnumbered, outgunned, and surrounded. The Air Force couldn’t help until dawn because the pilots didn’t fly at night. The defenders were given the choice between abandoning the post or making a gutsy stand at their position. They decided to stay and fight. It was just after midnight, and dawn was at least six hours away.
It was going to be a long night.
Pakistan’s artillery opened up on the Indians immediately. As the enemy infantry approached the Longewala outpost, the defenders held their fire until the tanks were 40-100 feet away.
They fired on the thinly-armored tanks with the 106mm recoilless rifle, which turned out to be a devastating weapon. Advancing infantry ran into the Indian’s barbed wire and — believing they had walked into a minefield — freaked out.
The burning and exploding tanks lit the battlefield for the defenders while the smoke added to the Pakistani’s confusion on the ground. They wasted two hours waiting for sappers to clear mines that didn’t exist.
With the field lit up and a full moon overhead, the tanks attempted to encircle the defenders but found themselves stuck in the soft sand — east targets for the Indian M40.
The attackers were routed and their armored column became a turkey shoot for Indian pilots. They lost 500 vehicles, 34 of those were tanks. The infantry lost 200 troops. Indian armor soon launched their counteroffensive to relieve Longewala. The defenders lost only two men.
After two weeks, Pakistan was forced to surrender to India, which led to the formation of an independent Bangladesh. Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri was awarded India’s second highest medal for gallantry for directing the defense of Longewala. The actions of the men in at Longewala were portrayed in the (slightly stylized) Bollywood film, “Border.”