In February 1988, the American cruiser USS Yorktown was on a Freedom of Navigation mission in the Black Sea, just south of Crimea. With her was the USS Caron. Though outside of traditional sea lanes, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea allows for warships to leave sea lanes — even in another country’s territorial waters — as long as those warships were on “innocent passage.”
The Soviet Union disagreed.
Though the Russians routinely used their own naval vessels to shadow the Americans in the region, the case of the Yorktown and Caron was different. The Russians held that the two American ships were armed with more firepower than previous treaties allowed while in their territory. They also believed that they had the authority to clear ships entering their waters.
That’s why the Soviet frigate Bezzavetnyi warned the Yorktown it would “strike their ship with own” if the Americans entered Soviet territory. Meanwhile, another Soviet frigate confronted the Caron. The Americans blew off the threat, with the Caron responding: “I am engaged in innocent passage consistent with international law.”
That’s when the second Russian frigate slammed into the Caron’s port side aft. There was no damage except some paint scraping. The Caron pressed on and exited Soviet waters almost two full hours later.
Also in Soviet territory, the Yorktown was being shadowed by the Russian Bezzavetnyi. The Russian closed to within 50 feet of the Yorktown when it turned into the American ship, slamming into its port side. Bezzavetnyi’s anchor fell away, while Yorktown suffered minor hull damage, though with no breaches. The ship’s rear Harpoon missile launchers were damaged and unusable.
Yorktown completed her mission and left in a similar two-hour time frame.
The Russians had no intention of sinking either ship and no weapons were ever cleared for action. In after action interviews, the skipper of the Bezzavetnyi said:
“To be honest, no one in the in the command center put on his lifejacket, although the order had been given… Many members of the crew of Yorktown were on the upper deck, smiling and waving, taking pictures of us with cameras and videocameras. And the commanding officer of Yorktown, for example, appeared on the bridge in parade uniform. In a word, the Americans behaved as if they were participating in a show for entertainment.”
“Are you not entertained?” (U.S. Navy photo)
“Our view is that unless you exercise the right of freedom of navigation, inevitably you lose it,” said then-Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the incident. “If we start backing off we will eventually lose some of the rights that are absolutely essential for our freedom of navigation.”
Freedom of Navigation missions have been a cornerstone of the US Navy mission and of American foreign policy since 1979. The resolve of the Yorktown and Caron to press on are testament to the dedication to the mission.
Military photographers in all the branches of the armed forces are constantly taking awesome shots of training, combat, and stateside events. We looked among the military’s official channels, Flickr, Facebook, and elsewhere and picked our favorites over the past week. Here’s what we found:
A B-52H Stratofortress flies during Cope North 15, Feb. 17, 2015, off the coast of Guam. During the exercise, the U.S., Japan and Australia air forces worked on developing combat capabilities enhancing air superiority, electronic warfare, air interdiction, tactical airlift and aerial refueling. The B-52H is assigned to the 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron.
Exercise Cope North 15 participants and aircraft from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, Japan Air Self-Defense Force, Royal Australian Air Force, Republic of Korea Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force and Philippine Air Force take a group photo Feb. 13, 2015, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.
SASEBO, Japan (Feb. 26, 2015) Lt. j.g. Weston Floyd, ballistic missile defense officer, Cmdr. Chad Graham, executive officer, and Chief Operations Specialist Chris Ford prepare to participate in a fleet synthetic training joint exercise aboard the Arleigh-burke class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56).
PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 26, 2015) Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Carl E. Mundy III, commander of Task Force (CTF) 51, addresses Sailors and Marines during an all-hands call on the flight deck of Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2).
Soldiers train with multinational soldiers at the International Special Training Center Advanced Medical First Responder Course (ISTC), conducted by the ISTC Medical Branch, in Pfullendorf, Germany, Feb. 17-19, 2015.
Soldiers participate in the chin up portion of the Ranger Physical Fitness Assessment (RPFA) on Fort Benning, Ga., Feb. 7, 2015, as part of the Ranger Training Assessment Course. In order to pass the RPFA, Soldiers must successfully do 49 push ups, 59 sit ups, a 2.5-mile run within 20 minutes, and six chin ups.
An AV-8B Harrier with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161 (Reinforced), 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, prepares to take off aboard the USS Essex (LHD 2) during Amphibious Squadron/Marine Expeditionary Unit Integration Training (PMINT) off the coast of San Diego, Feb. 24, 2015.
Marines extinguish a fuel fire at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma during live-burn training Feb. 21, 2015. The Marines worked together to contain and extinguish the fire.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Bill Glenn and Petty Officer 1st Class Brian Korte, members of the military dive team aboard Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, are hoisted out of icy water after completing an underwater inspection of the ship while moored at the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station, Antarctica, Jan. 23, 2015.
The crew sees alit of amazing wildlife in Antarctica. We’re going to show you some of our favorite shots today. A seal lay on the ice in front of the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star while the ship is hove-to in the Ross Sea near Antarctica, Jan. 30, 2015.
The final day of work comes upon everyone. Some people take a long lunch with coworkers to hand out gifts and going away mementos. Others choose to quietly go out as they either prepare for retirement or moving on to their next job.
US military pilots take to the skies and soar one last time alongside wingmen from their unit.
Their emotional last day at a unit isn’t just celebrated like a last day at an office. Pilots stick to a tradition that’s as old as the Air Force itself: the final flight, known widely amongst aircrew members as the ‘fini flight.’
The tradition was initially celebrated to accompany milestones in the career of Airmen of all ranks and positions. To find the first documented fini flight, one would have to reach back in history as far as Vietnam, when an aircrew commemorated the completion of 100 missions.
Since then, the way final flights have been celebrated has changed, but the sentiments have remained.
“Traditions such as this are great examples of esprit de corps throughout the Air Force community,” said Steven Frank, 27th Special Operations Wing historian. “It can also help create strong bonds of camaraderie and teamwork among past, current, and future generations of Airmen.”
Today, these final flights are celebrated not for one Airman’s accomplishments but an entire crew’s across the Air Force. They’re used for all ranks and positions to honor their contributions to the unit.
Once the plane lands, it is acknowledged with a formal water salute, where two firetrucks shoot water over the plane creating an arch with plumes of water collapsing down on the plane as it taxis in.
Upon halting the plane, the pilot exits to an immediate barrage of water as their family, friends, and coworkers douse them with fire hoses. Celebratory champagne follows soon after (or whenever their peers decide they had enough water) and thus gives them time to reflect with friends and loved ones on the time they’ve had together at that unit.
Frank says it’s one of the many examples of military cultural institutions that Airmen are proud to participate in.
“Fini flights are just one example of over a hundred years of Air Force traditions and heritage that honors the sacrifices and victories previous generations of Airmen have made to secure our freedoms,” Frank said. “Every Air Force organization continues to make contributions to the Air Force story and the exploration and awareness of each unit’s past can help encourage a sense of increased pride and respect for every Airman’s career field and organization.”
Whether they’re pilots who’ve tallied thousands of hours in a particular aircraft or crew who man weapons that deliver air power, fini flights are a longstanding tradition that remain one of the most exhilarating ways to recognize the very best amongst the Air Force’s ranks.
Navy pilots like to separate themselves from their Air Force brethren with the fact that they land their jets on the limited (and moving) real estate of an aircraft carrier instead of an 11,000-foot runway. Operating around “The Boat” is a unique skill, and over the years many student Naval Aviators have made it most of the way through flight training only to be tripped up when they tried to land on an aircraft carrier.
One extreme example of this happened on October 29, 1989 as a student pilot made his very first approach to the U.S.S. Lexington (CVT 16). The dramatic footage below — shot from cameras at various places around the flight deck — shows the T-2 Buckeye, which was attached to VT-19, a training squadron based in Meridian, Miss., rolling out of its final turn behind the carrier. The pilot “calls the ball,” telling the Landing Signal Officer standing on a platform on the port side near the stern that he sees the glideslope indicator.
The LSO “rogers” the student pilot’s ball call and says, “You were a little long in the groove; next time I want you to turn sooner,” meaning the student wound up too far behind the carrier during his final 180-degree turn. The student replies with a “roger, sir.”
The LSO then tells the student to “work it on speed,” a command for the student to push his throttles forward, adding power, followed quickly by “a little power, you’re underpowered, power” and then an emphatic “wave it off,” which is an order for the student to push the throttles all the way to full power — while maintaining a steady nose position — and go around to try it again.
The flight student doesn’t respond quickly enough, and instead of simply pushing the throttles forward and climbing out, he pulls the stick back — a bad move. As the LSO says, “come left” (as if the student pilot had any control of his jet at that point), the Buckeye rolls onto its back. Someone transmits, “Eject!”
The pilot initiates ejection well out of the seat’s envelope and is killed an instant before the T-2 hits the island and explodes, which kills four more personnel on the flight deck. As sailors immediately go for fire hoses to suppress the flames, other flight students parked adjacent to the island waiting to take off jettison their canopies before unstrapping and quickly climbing out of their jets and getting away from the fire.
There’s an old aviation saying that goes something like, “flying is not inherently dangerous but very intolerant of errors.” This footage proves that.
A true warfighting professional knows how to be civilized at armed conflict. And what many military greats learned over the ages is that there’s nothing like a friendly animal by your side to keep you calm and centered when things get kinetic. And when it comes to friendly animals, a dog is hard to beat.
Here are three dogs that did their part keeping their masters focused during World War II:
1. Gen. George S. Patton’s American Bull Terrier Willie
Gen. Omar Bradley talking to Gen. George S. Patton as Patton’s dog Willie takes a snooze in his favorite chair. Photo: U.S. Army)
Patton acquired an American bull terrier in 1944 and named him “William the Conqueror,” although the dog proved to be anything but aggressive and was actually scared of gunfire. But in spite of his timid disposition Patton loved him like few other living things on the planet.
‘My bull pup . . . took to me like a duck to water. He is 15 months old, pure white except for a little lemin [sic] on his tail which to a cursory glance would seem to indicate that he had not used toilet paper,’ Patton wrote in his diary.
2. Commander-in-chief Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Scottie Fala
FDR received his dog Fala from a cousin in 1940 with the idea that a canine companion would keep the commander-in-chief more relaxed during stressful times. The president and his dog became inseparable from that point forward, which arguably made Fala the most famous White House pet of all times.
According to the Daily Mail, the pup was given obedience training before he formally took up residence in the White House in November 1940, where he could be spotted attending press conferences. He even learned how to stand at attention on his hind legs when the national anthem was played.
The adorable Scottie captured the hearts of Americans and became a national symbol as World War II spread across Europe.
3. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Scottie Telek
Like Patton, Ike also relied on a faithful dog during the war. Telek was surrounded by controversy however, as it was rumored that the dog was co-owned by his mistress and driver Kay Summersby.
‘One day when they were driving in the country, Kay mentioned that she wanted a dog,’ according to Dr. Ronnie Elmore, a professor from Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, in an interview with a school publication in 2004 about Ike’s pet.
Though numerous Eisenhower contemporaries have refuted claims of a torrid love affair, Summersby inherited the Scottie after his departure from Europe, further sparking rumors of the intimate bond between the two.
Marie Curie may be one of the world’s best-known scientists, but some of her most important work took place not in the laboratory, but on the front lines of battle during World War One.
Marie Sklodowska Curie started life in 1867 in Warsaw, Poland, but in 1891, she left home to study physics and mathematics at the Sorbonne in Paris and it was in France that her reputation was built. In 1903, she and her husband, Pierre, having discovered the elements radium and polonium, shared the Nobel Prize for Physics with another researcher.
She would win another in 1911, this time for chemistry, but by that time, she was a widow; Pierre was killed in 1906 when he was run over by a horse-drawn carriage while crossing a busy Parisian street.
Curie’s pursuit of science had not been aided by the resentment and distrust of her male peers, who didn’t believe that a woman could possibly be their intellectual equal. The French Academy of Sciences had been unwilling to welcome her as a member for her scientific achievements.
Several year’s after Pierre’s death, she entered into an affair with a fellow scientist who was married. The spurned wife, who had letters that Curie had written to her lover, sent the letters to French newspapers, where they were published, and the public turned against Curie. In 1914, her Radium Institute was completed, but the year also brought the outbreak of World War I, which took her male laboratory workers off to fight.
She had one gram of radium to use for her research, not enough for her to experiment with during the war. She wanted to do something for the war effort. She was willing to have her Nobel Prize medals melted down to provide the gold that the French government needed, but the bank wouldn’t do it. So she donated the prize money she’d received and bought war bonds.
She couldn’t do the research that had made her reputation, so she opted to try something else: X-rays.
Knowing that war inevitably meant injuries that would require medical attention, Curie thought that X-rays could offer a new technology for the soldiers who were destined to be in harm’s way. X-rays on the battlefield could save lives.
She was named the head of the radiological services of the International Red Cross. She studied anatomy books. She learned to drive and how to fix automobiles. She taught herself how to use X-ray machines and trained medical professionals in the usage of the X-rays. She went on a fundraising campaign to raise money and by October, 1914, she had a traveling X-ray unit in a Renault van, the first of 20 that she would outfit.
The “Petites Curies” came with a generator, a hospital bed, and an X-ray machine. But once again, she had to sell the idea to the medical establishment, just as she had had to sell the science establishment on her qualifications as a researcher. Doctors were skeptical that radiology had a place on the battlefield.
So Curie headed to the Marne where a battle was raging to prove the value of the X-ray machines.
She was able to detect the presence of bullets and shrapnel in soldiers who came to the van to be X-rayed, making the work of the surgeons on the front lines easier because they knew where to operate.
Curie was galvanized by the need for more X-ray units. In addition to the mobile vans, she wanted to add 200 stationary x-ray units. But the army was as dubious about her idea as they were about the new military technology like the tank and the machine gun.
Once again, Curie wouldn’t take no for an answer. She gave X-ray training to 150 women so that they could provide radiological diagnoses for the soldiers. Over a million French soldiers benefited from the Petites Curies and the accessibility of X-ray machines on the front.
When the war ended in 1918, Curie, like other celebrating Parisians, took to this streets, but with a difference. She was driving a Petite Curie.
For Curie, service in the war was necessary.
“What seemed difficult became easy,” recalled the ground-breaking scientist and French patriot. “All those who did not understand gave in or accepted; those who did not know learned; those who had been indifferent became devoted.”
But ultimately, Curie’s sacrifice for science and for the war proved lethal. She didn’t know that the radiation was deadly and the years of exposure — she had the habit of carrying test tubes in her pockets and although she noticed the way they emitted light in the dark, she didn’t understand that the glow was an indicator of danger — led to health problems and ultimately leukemia, which killed her in 1934.
Even now, her notebooks are so radioactive that anyone wishing to view them where they are stored at the National Library in Paris has to put on protective garments and sign a waiver.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Senior Airman Jordan Webber, a KC-135 Stratotanker boom operator from MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., checks gear is where it needs to be shortly before a refueling mission at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., July 18, 2015, during exercise Red Flag 16-3. The exercise is one of four Red Flag exercises at Nellis AFB, with this iteration focusing on multi-domain operations in air, space and cyberspace.
An HH-60 Pave Hawk returns from an exercise mission July 12, 2016, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., as part of Red Flag 16-3. The exercise is one of four Red Flags at Nellis AFB, with this iteration focusing on air, space and cyberspace operations.
Soldiers assigned to the Massachusetts National Guard — The Nation’s First, use smoke to conceal their movement during an exercise at theJoint Readiness Training Center, Operations Group,Fort Polk, Louisiana, July 15, 2016.
Soldiers, assigned to 25th Infantry Division, load an AH-64 Apache helicopter onto a United States Air Force C-17 Globemaster during an emergency deployment readiness exercise as part of exercise Arctic Anvil at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, July 21, 2016. The exercise was designed to test the readiness of U.S. Army Alaska and their ability to quickly prepare vital air assets for deployment. As emergent demands continue to increase, Army readiness continues to be the Army’s number one priority.
SOUTH CHINA SEA (July 21, 2016) Sailors take a lunch break from the high operational tempo of the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). U.S. Navy Aircraft carriers, like Reagan, serve up to 18,150 meals a day. Ronald Reagan, the Carrier Strike Group Five (CSG 5) flagship, is on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
PACIFIC OCEAN (July 17, 2016) – Marines assigned to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) board an MV-22 Osprey, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163 (Reinforced) on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8). Makin Island is conducting integrated training with Amphibious Squadron Five and the 11th MEU off the coast of southern California in preparation for an upcoming deployment.
A Candidate with Alpha Company, Officer Candidate School conducts the Combat Course at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 20, 2016. The mission of OCS is to educate and train officer candidates in order to evaluate and screen individuals for qualities required for commissioning as a Marine Corps officer.
Marines assigned to Maritime Raid Force, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, conduct a fast rope training exercise during a deployment on the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD-1) July 5, 2016. 22nd MEU is conducting Naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.
The cutter and crew returned to their homeport in Virginia Beach earlier this week after a 55-day deployment through the Eastern Pacific Ocean in support of the Coast Guard’s Western Hemisphere Strategy.
The newest Fast Response Cutter Joseph Tezanos, scheduled to be commissioned in August, took a test run off the coast of Key West, Florida, today. The cutter was named after a WWII hero who became the first Hispanic American to complete the service’s Reserve Officer Training Program.
The father of a Muslim American soldier who was killed in Iraq more than a decade ago joined other military speakers on Thursday at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia to deliver impassioned remarks on diversity.
Khizr Khan, father of the late Army Capt. Humayun S. M. Khan, 27, who was killed in Iraq in 2004, criticized the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for his proposal to bar Muslims from entering the country.
“Donald Trump, you’re asking Americans to trust you with their future,” he said. “Let me ask you, have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy,” he added, pulling the document from his breast pocket and raising it in the air.
“In this document, look for the words liberty and equal protection of law,” Khan said. “Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America. You’ll see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”
The younger Khan, of Bristow, Virginia, died June 8, 2004, in Baquabah, Iraq, after a vehicle packed with an improvised explosive device drove into the gate of his compound while he was inspecting soldiers on guard duty, according to a Pentagon release announcing the casualty.
Assigned to Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 201st Forward Support Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, in Vilseck, Germany, Khan was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
Before Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took the stage on the final day of the convention, Khan appeared on the platform with his wife, Ghazala. He was among a few speakers with military connections.
Florent Groberg, a medically retired soldier who received the Medal of Honor for his heroic efforts to stop a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in August 2012, and retired Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, the former commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, both said Clinton would help to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
“Hillary Clinton has been training for this moment for decades,” Groberg said. “In the Senate, she worked across the aisle to support wounded warriors and our families. As president, she will reform the VA, not privatize it,” he added.
Last week at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Trump called the Veterans Affairs Department a “public trust” and vowed to keep it a “public system” but also promoted a plan to allow veterans more access to private health care.
Groberg said Clinton “will help heal the invisible wounds that lead to suicide and as commander in chief, she will defeat ISIS. When Hillary’s moment comes, she will be ready — ready to serve, ready to lead.”
Allen said, “with her as our commander in chief, America will continue to lead the volatile world. We will oppose and resist tyranny and we will defeat evil. America will defeat ISIS and protect the homeland.”
U.S. Army Colonel (ret.) Tony Nadal fought with Hal Moore (of We Were Soldiers fame) at the Battle of Ia Drang in the Vietnam War. In a stunning new documentary short from the team at AARP, Nadal recalls the first heliborne assault against North Vietnamese Army, the battle he’ll never forget.
“I can forget a lot of things about life but I won’t forget the feel, the sense, the smell of LZ-XRAY,” Nadal says. “Colonel Moore immediately realized it was going to be a battle for survival.”
Over the course of three days, 3,500 U.S., South Vietnamese, and North Vietnamese soldiers fought for a contested victory, leaving 308 Americans and 660 NVA dead, with 544 U.S. and 670 NVA wounded. Then-Captain Tony Nadal lost 15 of his men in the first two days of fighting. Sleepless and battered, his command was ordered out before an Air Force bombardment could be launched.
“I feel the loss of all my soldiers,” Nadal recalls. “When you get through all of the bravado, what you’re left with is anguish. They fought for a cause… there was the expectation that when your country calls, you go.”
The soldiers who fought at LZ-XRAY have gathered for the last 22 years at an annual reunion. It’s a way for them all to come together, get to know one another, and heal each other’s invisible wounds.
The legendary battle was depicted in the book “We Were Soldiers Once… and Young” and the 2002 film “We Were Soldiers.” The advocacy group AARP went to the National Archives of the United States and pulled 16mm and 35mm film reels. The ran the reels through a 4K scanner and cleaned up the footage to produce this amazing piece (though it is presented in HD here).
China didn’t just unveil a new tank during a demonstration at a NORINCO-owned range in Inner Mongolia, its military also unveiled a new infantry fighting vehicle. The demonstration of the VN-17 took place alongside that of the VT-5 light tank.
According to a report by Janes.com, the VN-17 is based on the chassis, powerplant, transmission, armored protection, and tracks of the VT-5. This is not a new set-up, as Russia’s Armata family of armored fighting vehicles includes both a tank and infantry fighting vehicle. The VN-17 has a 30mm cannon in an unmanned turret, along with two anti-tank missiles.
According to deagel.com, the VN-17 has a crew of three and weighs about 30 tons. No information is available about the number of dismounted troops it can carry, but other Chinese infantry fighting vehicles in service, like the ZBD04 and ZBD05 carry seven or 10 personnel. Janes noted that the VN-17’s turret is similar to that of the VN-12 infantry fighting vehicle, which according to some sources is an export version of the ZBD04.
While the ZBD04 is lighter, it is reported to have a 100mm main gun, a main weapon similar to that on the Russian BMP-3. Russia’s T-15 Armata infantry fighting vehicle has the Vietnam-era S-60 57mm gun as its primary armament.
IFV turrets can be customized, and many Russian IFVs and armored personnel carriers can be equipped with new turrets featuring a wide variety of weapons.
The United States operates the Stryker family of wheeled armored fighting vehicles using the same concept as the Armata family of vehicles and China’s VT-5/VN-17 combination.
The Stryker family includes an infantry fighting vehicle, a mobile gun system, a mortar carrier, a reconnaissance vehicle, an ambulance, and a command vehicle.
“It’s really hard for me to quit anything … I expect to have bad days. I expect to make mistakes and have setbacks. It’s just second nature for me to keep moving.”
Writer, producer and former Navy SEAL Remi Adeleke doesn’t fit into molds. His life has been filled with a gamut of opportunities for which he didn’t qualify. But with help from a recruiter and the voice of his mom in his mind reminding him of excellence, he proved that he would overcome the bad choices he’d made as an at-risk youth to master his future.
Now, he’s passionate about motivating young people of the same background to know what they can accomplish beyond the limitations society has put on them based on their race or what area they’re from.
Adeleke didn’t grow up with hopes of becoming a Navy SEAL. He’d never seen one in person or thought about becoming a member of the highly-trained elite team of special operations forces. They were just the intriguing cool guys in the movies.
His father died when he was a young boy, and his mom was left alone to care for him and his brother Bayo. So, she moved her family from Africa to the Bronx in New York City. Unfortunately, inner-city communities like the Bronx are plagued with crime, high unemployment, inadequate educational opportunities, and extreme poverty, and Adeleke became a product of his surroundings. He was selling drugs and getting into other illegal activities. By the time he tried to join the military, he had two warrants out for his arrest. But Adeleke had an unexpected supporter that changed his life. His recruiter, Tianna Reyes, was a fellow Bronx native who understood his environment and went to bat for him because she knew no one else would give him a chance.
“She really believed in me,” he said. As a result, his record was expunged, and on July 2, 2002, he was sworn into the U.S. Navy.
Adeleke’s first time learning about special operations forces was in boot camp, and he was hooked.
But once again, he didn’t fit the bill.
“I was totally unqualified to go to BUD/S (basic underwater demolition SEAL training) because I didn’t have the academic scores. My ASVAB scores weren’t high enough. I couldn’t swim. I couldn’t run. I was super skinny, and I was not in shape for the program,” Adeleke explained.
But during his first command at Camp Pendleton, he took matters into his own hands.
“I created a regimen and started training. I would run three miles to the pool, jump in the shallow end, and try to figure it out. Over time I began to get better, and I would run three miles back to my barracks,” he said.
He also purchased the book “ASVAB for Dummies” and eventually retook the test.
Adeleke then went even further and asked his leading petty officer to give him a split shift schedule so he could train harder. He qualified for SEAL training within six months, but this still didn’t seal the deal for him. After a year of being in SEAL training, he had failed his aquatic test so many times that he was kicked out.
“I failed a dive test four times and ultimately got kicked out of school,” he added.
Still, he refused to quit after being sent back to the fleet. Adeleke trained for a-year-and-half with the Marines and went back to SEAL training and became a SEAL.
In his book “Transformed,” he documents his life, the challenges he’s faced, and the lessons he’s learned. His driving force now is giving back to communities like the one he grew up in. Acting in a major film — “Transformers: The Last Knight” — and now working as a screenwriter and director aren’t enough if he can’t share the lessons. He attributes this to one thing — his faith.
“This is not about me. It’s about people. How can I serve people? How can I bless people?” he said.
Adeleke emphasizes a desire to expose Black youths to the Navy SEALs, as he was the only Black graduate in his class of SEALs. Since 2012, the U.S. Navy has stated it is actively looking for minority SEALs, yet less than 1% of them are Black. Adeleke says part of the blame goes to Hollywood for the lack of positive Black images they put in the world.
The idea that white people can do anything is normalized and reinforced by Hollywood, while Black children rarely see themselves in strong, affluent roles.
Exposure to proper education is another mission. Not only are the kids not exposed to SEALs, but urban schools also lack essential tools required to join, like access to pools to learn to swim.
“You don’t see educators allowing top tier military professionals such as special operators, pilots, or doctors into their inner-city schools to say you can do this too,” he explained.
To add to the lack of representation, Adeleke has received layers of pushback from inner-city schools and prisons when his team asks if he can speak to the inmates or students.
“The schools that give me the hardest time to get into [to speak] are inner-city, predominantly African American schools,” he said.
His frustration is palpable. The root of the problem is that predominantly white schools are financially backed with an outpouring of community support to expand and better their students’ opportunities. In contrast, minority community schools, which mostly receive funding from property taxes, still fall victim to the American system’s discrimination.
“You’ve got to go through all this red tape. But when you go to these schools in suburbia, it’s, ‘Hey, you want to come speak? Come!’ I’ve got an open-door policy to so many schools in suburban areas, but I don’t in urban areas,” Adeleke shared.
And when asking the reason, he is told it’s the city officials and their rules. But Adeleke has a knack for breaking down barriers.
“Overcoming adversity has become second nature to me,” he said. “I kind of learned that through osmosis by living with my mother.”
During 2020, as big brands claimed they would actively diversify and seek out Black creators, one major studio stuck to their word and sought Adeleke out to produce a show.
“In the Hollywood side, I have seen some things change,” he said.
As his weight in Hollywood grows, Adeleke hopes to help give minority youth more exposure and experiences through the imprint of his future television and film work.
The US Army has now produced at least 117,000 battle-tested, upgraded M4A1 rifles engineered to more quickly identify, attack and destroy enemy targets with full auto-capability, consistent trigger-pull and a slightly heavier barrel, service officials said.
The service’s so-called M4 Product Improvement Program, or PIP, is a far-reaching initiative to upgrade the Army’s entire current inventory of M4 rifles into higher-tech, durable and more lethal M4A1 weapons, Army spokesman Pete Rowland, spokesman for PM Soldier Weapons, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“The heavier barrel is more durable and has greater capacity to maintain accuracy and zero while withstanding the heat produced by high volumes of fire. New and upgraded M4A1s will also receive ambidextrous fire control,” an Army statement said.
To date, the Army has completed 117,000 M4A1 upgrades on the way to the eventual transformation of more than 48,000 M4 rifles. The service recently marked a milestone of having completed one-fourth of its intended upgrades to benefit Soldiers in combat.
The Army is planning to convert all currently fielded M4 carbines to M4A1 carbines; approximately 483,000,” Rowland said. “Most of the enhancements resulted from Soldier surveys conducted over time.”
Rowland explained that the PIP involves a two-pronged effort; one part involves depot work to quickly transform existing M4s into M4A1s alongside a commensurate effort to acquire new M4A1 weapons from FN Herstal and Colt.
Army developers explain that conversions to the M4A1 represents the latest iteration in a long-standing service effort to improve the weapon.
“We continuously perform market research and maintain communications with the user for continuous improvements and to meet emerging requirements,” Army statements said.
The Army has already made more than 90 performance “Engineering Change Proposals” to the M4 Carbine since its introduction, an Army document describes.
“Improvements have been made to the trigger assembly, extractor spring, recoil buffer, barrel chamber, magazine and bolt, as well as ergonomic changes to allow Soldiers to tailor the system to meet their needs,” and Army statement said.
Today’s M4 is quite different “under the hood” than its predecessors and tomorrow’s M4A1 will be even further refined to provide Soldiers with an even more effective and reliable weapon system, Army statements said.
The M4A1 is also engineered to fire the emerging M885A1 Enhanced Performance Round, .556 ammunition designed with new, better penetrating and more lethal contours to exact more damage upon enemy targets.
“The M4A1 has improvements which take advantage of the M885A1. The round is better performing and is effective against light armor,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.
Prior to the emergence of the M4A1 program, the Army had planned to acquire a new M4; numerous tests, industry demonstrations and requirements development exercises informed this effort, including a “shoot off” among potential suppliers.
Before its conversion into the M4A1, the M4 – while a battle tested weapon and known for many success – had become controversial due to combat Soldier complaints, such as reports of the weapon “jamming.”
Future M4 Rifle Improvements?
While Army officials are not yet discussing any additional improvements to the M1A4 or planning to launch a new program of any kind, service officials do acknowledge ongoing conceptual discussion regarding ways to further integrate emerging technology into the weapon.
Within the last few years, the Army did conduct a “market survey” with which to explore a host of additional upgrades to the M4A1; These previous considerations, called the M4A1+ effort, analyzed by Army developers and then shelved. Among the options explored by the Army and industry included the use of a “flash suppressor,” camouflage, removable iron sights and a single-stage trigger, according to numerous news reports and a formal government solicitation.The M4A1+ effort was designed to look for add-on components that will “seamlessly integrate with the current M4A1 Carbine … without negatively impacting or affecting the performance or operation of the M4A1 weapon,” a FedBizOpps document states.
The M4A1+ effort was designed to look for add-on components that will “seamlessly integrate with the current M4A1 Carbine … without negatively impacting or affecting the performance or operation of the M4A1 weapon,” a FedBizOpps document states.
Additional details of the M4A1+ effort were outlined in a report from Military.com’s Matt Cox.
“One of the upgrades is an improved extended forward rail that will ‘provide for a hand guard allowing for a free-floated barrel’ for improved accuracy. The improved rail will also have to include a low-profile gas block that could spell the end of the M16/M4 design’s traditional gas block and triangular fixed front sight,” the report says.Despite the fact that the particular M4A1+ effort did not move forward, Army officials explain that market surveys regarding improvements to the weapon will continue; in addition, Army developers explain that the service is consistently immersed in
Despite the fact that the particular M4A1+ effort did not move forward, Army officials explain that market surveys regarding improvements to the weapon will continue; in addition, Army developers explain that the service is consistently immersed in effort to identify and integrate emerging technologies into the rifle as they become available. As a result, it is entirely conceivable that the Army will explore new requirements and technologies for the M4A1 as time goes on.
Shortly after the end of World War II, the scientists who developed the atomic bombs dropped on Japan tried to envision the kind of nuclear event that could lead to the destruction of not just cities, but the entire world.
A declassified document shared by nuclear historian Alex Wellerstein gives the verdict that scientists at the Los Alamos laboratory and test site reached in 1945. They found that “it would require only in the neighborhood of 10 to 100 Supers of this type” to put the human race in peril.
In 1945, the Los Alamos scientists concluded it would only take between 10 and 100 “Super” bombs to end the world. pic.twitter.com/01I8ypmIP0
They reached this conclusion at a very early point in the development of nuclear weapons, before highly destructive multi-stage or thermonuclear devices had been built. But the scientists had an idea of the technology’s grim potential. “The ‘Super’ they had in mind was what we would now call a hydrogen bomb,” Wellerstein wrote in an email to Business Insider.
At the time, the scientists speculated they could make a bomb with as much deuterium — a nuclear variant of hydrogen — as they liked to give the weapon an explosive yield between 10 and 100 megatons (or millions of tons’ worth of TNT).
For perspective, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had a yield of around 15 kilotons, or 0.015 megatons. These theorized bombs were several orders of magnitude more powerful than those that wrought destruction on Japan earlier that year.
The apocalypse brought on by these 10-100 super bombs wouldn’t be all fire and brimstone. The scientists posited that “the most world-wide destruction could come from radioactive poisons” unleashed on the Earth’s atmosphere by the bombs’ weaponized uranium. Radiation exposure leads to skyrocketing rates of cancer, birth defects, and genetic anomalies.
The Los Alamos scientists understood the threat that airborne radiation would pose in the event of nuclear war. “Atmospheric poisoning is basically making it so that the background level of radioactivity would be greatly increased, to the point that it would interfere with human life (e.g. cancers and birth defects) and reproduction (e.g. genetic anomalies),” says Wellerstein. “So they are imagining a scenario in which radioactive byproducts have gotten into the atmosphere and are spreading everywhere.”
Wellerstein says that this fear of widespread nuclear fallout was hardly irrational and that concerns over the atmospheric effects of nuclear detonations were “one of the reasons that we stopped testing nuclear weapons aboveground in 1963, as part of the Limited Test Ban Treaty.”
Taking both of the estimated scales to the extreme — 100 superbombs yielding 100 megatons of fission each — would result in a total yield of 10,000 megatons. As Wellerstein notes, that’s the same amount of fission that Project SUNSHINE determined was enough to “raise the background radioactivity to highly dangerous levels” in a 1953 study.
That degree of nuclear power — though not necessarily accompanied by the radioactive component critical to meeting the fears documented here — rested in the hands of both the U.S. and Russia during the Cold War.
A deactivated Soviet-era SS-4 medium range nuclear capable ballistic missile displayed at La Cabana fortress in Havana, on Oct. 13, 2012. (Photo: Desmond Boylan/Reuters)
In recent decades the total yield of U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons has fallen, such that “the threat of over-irradiating the planet is probably not a real one, even with a full nuclear exchange,” Wellerstein wrote. “A bigger concern is the amount of carbon that would be thrown up in even a limited nuclear exchange (say, between India and Pakistan), which could have detrimental global effects on the climate.”
Back in 1945 the Pentagon had speculated that it would take a few hundred atomic bombs to subdue Russia.
That thought experiment had a strategic bent. But the 1945 estimate seems to have advised caution in the new, uncertain nuclear age.
The scientific push to learn more about the destructive weapons that were so hastily researched and used in the 1940s resulted in important insights as to the consequence of their use. Nuclear weapons aren’t just horrific on the intended, local scale. They can carry consequences on the planet’s ability to foster human life, whether that’s by contributing to the greenhouse effect or irradiating it beyond habitability.