The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator - We Are The Mighty
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The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator
A British Army corporal with a Thompson M1928 submachine gun, 1948. (Photo: Wikipedia)


Despite what many think, the Thompson submachine gun was not the first submachine gun.

But many will argue it was the best submachine gun ever put in the hands of fighting men – whether they were “good guys” or “bad guys.”

Well-made, robust, capable of firing more than 800 rounds a minute in some models and chambered for the man-stopping .45-caliber ACP round, the gun lived up to one of its original names: The Annihilator.

“I knew several soldiers who used Thompsons for special operations in Vietnam,” said Alan Archambault, a retired U.S. Army officer and former supervisory curator for the U.S. Army Center of Military History. “Even in the 1960s, the Thompson was still an iconic weapon for U.S. soldiers. Often when one soldier would rotate to the U.S., he would pass the Thompson on to another soldier in theater.”

The brainchild of Gen. John T. Thompson, a former chief of small arms for the Ordnance Department and firearms designer, the stalemate on the Western Front during The Great War (a.k.a. World War I) convinced him the ordinary infantryman needed a new weapon. Thompson wanted something he called “a trench broom.”

“Our boys in the infantry, now in the trenches, need a small machine gun, a gun that will fire 50 to 100 rounds, so light that he can drag it with him as he crawls on his belly from trench to trench, and wipe out a whole company single-handed,” Thompson wrote in a 1918 memo to firearms designers. “I want a little machine gun you can hold in your hands, fire from the hip and reload in the dark. You must use ammunition now available and I want it right away.”

Designers produced a prototype by 1919, but the first practical models were too late for the war. Still, Thompson convinced Colt to produce 15,000 M1921 submachine guns.

Early observers of the M1921 test-fired on the range were impressed by how much firepower the “little machine gun” delivered.

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator

The problem was Thompson had no steady stream of customers, even when Thompson’s company Auto-Ordnance Corp. released the M1928 – considered by many the definitive Tommy gun model.

True, the U.S. Marine Corps purchased Thompsons and used them effectively in China and during the Latin American “banana wars” of the 1920s. The Postal Service armed its security personnel with Thompsons as well.

But the weapon was expensive – very expensive. Adjusted for inflation, its $200 price tag is roughly equivalent to $2,300 today.

To put things in perspective, consider the contemporary cost of prime, high-end arms like the Fabrique Nationale d’Herstal SCAR 17S 7.62×51 millimeter NATO – it costs about the same as a Tommy Gun did during the Roaring ’20s.

Besides, for better or worse the Thompson gained a “bad boy” reputation. A handful of criminals such as John Dillinger and George “Machine Gun” Kelly gave the weapon a bad name.

At first, potential customers such as the British government considered the Thompson “gangster weapons” and refused to purchase the submachine gun.

But by 1939, all that changed. Great Britain entered World War II starved for armaments.

The War Office eagerly purchased every M1928 it could, and the weapon was a hit with the Tommies – particularly the Commandos.

The weapon’s reliability and ability to bring devastating automatic fire to close quarters combat made the Thompson a favorite of the Commandos.

They even honored the weapon in the design of their unit recognition flash: A stylized Thompson superimposed on an anchor headed by an eagle.

There were also many American G.I.s who even relished the gangster panache of the Tommy Gun. Images of actors like James Cagney in “The Public Enemy” – easily one of the most violent movies of its time – ducking around a corner as a gangster fired on him with a Thompson were unforgettable.

“It was often seen in gangster films that were watched by impressionable young men who came of age during World War II,” Archambault said.  “So, even before its use in World War II, it was an iconic weapon.”

Sure, the M-1 Garand was the basic weapon for the American infantryman. But the Thompson found its way into the hands of officers, squad leaders, paratroopers, U.S. Marines and any soldier lucky enough to grab one.

Also, G.I.s and Marines were fighting all across the globe in battlefield environments that included deserts, jungles and snow. The sheer reliability of the Thompson, particularly in its less-expensive but equally deadly M1A1 model, made it the perfect weapon to endure the lousiest battlefield conditions.

Eventually, the cost of the Thompson prompted development of the M-3 “Grease Gun,” which could be produced in greater quantities for far less money than even the M1A1.

But by the Korean War, the Army relegated the Thompson to a secondary role. By Vietnam, the first M-16s were in the hands of GIs and the military considered the Thompson obsolete.

Today, Thompson submachine guns are in high demand among collectors legally authorized to own full-auto weapons. On average, the price for a clean Tommy Gun is about $25,000.

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This is why a Dragon Lady crashed

The cause of a Sept. 20, 2016 crash near Sutter, California, that destroyed a TU-2S Dragon Lady reconnaissance aircraft and killed a pilot has been released.


The Air Force officially reported that the TU-2S was on a training mission. When the trainee — not identified in the Air Force release — finished a stall recovery drill, the plane went into what the release called an “unintentional secondary stall.”

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator
Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris

The release reported that both pilots ejected from the airplane before it inverted and descended below the minimum safe altitude. The instructor, Lt. Col. Ira S. Eadie, was killed when he was struck by the stricken plane’s right wing. The trainee received minor injuries.

The Air Force release noted that nobody was injured on the ground, but the $32 million trainer was completely destroyed in the crash.

“Beale’s Airmen have shown resilience in the months following the crash,” Col. Larry Broadwell, commander of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, said in a separate statement released by Beale Air Force Base.

“This tragedy impacted the Eadie family, Beale, and the local community. We will continue to provide support to those affected and always remember the sacrifice Lt. Col. Eadie made in the line of duty.”

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator
A U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane comes in for a landing. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt Aaron Oelrich)

“The results of the accident investigation were presented to us, affording our family some small degree of closure during this difficult situation,” the Eadie family said in the statement from Beale Air Force Base.

“We would like to thank the entire investigation team for their diligent efforts in helping make sense of this tragedy.  We greatly appreciate the love and support from all who have assisted over the past few months.  We would also like to thank you in advance for respecting our family’s privacy during this current period of grieving.”

An Air Force fact sheet noted that as of September 2015, five TU-2S trainers were on inventory. The first version of the U-2 flew in 1955, and the last U-2 was produced in 1989.

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This is why ‘peaceful nukes’ ended in utter disappointment

When Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956, there were talks of creating a secondary canal. As U.S. and British officials were considering how it could be built, someone in the room must have said something along the lines of, “Why not nukes?”


No matter how it went down, something sparked the testing of Peaceful Nuclear Explosions (PNEs) and Operation Plowshare.

The codename “Operation Plowshare” comes from Isaiah 2:4: “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator
Proposed canal would have connected the Pacific to the Caribbean through Lake Nicaragua (Photo via Rotary Club)

The Suez Crisis ended after nine days and plans for a second canal were abandoned, but the idea of using nuclear warheads for non-military purposes stuck.

Between 1961 and 1973, twenty seven nuclear detonations were used for various purposes. Experiments were done to see if detonations could stimulate the flow of natural gas. They also helped with excavation for aquifers, highways, more canals, and an artificial harbor in Cape Thompson, Alaska, under Project Chariot.

Project Chariot was the most ambitious out of all of the tests. The idea was to detonate five hydrogen bombs to give the population of just over 320 a harbor. It was ultimately scraped — the severe risk and expense couldn’t be justified for how little potential it offered.

The United States didn’t followed through with any of the testing of PNEs, but they weren’t the only nation who played with nuclear experiments. The Soviet Union had their own version in the “Nuclear Explosions for the National Economy.”

The Soviets performed 239 tests between 1965 and 1988. One of the few tests that yielded positive results was the Chagan nuclear test (which created a 100,000 m3 lake that’s still radioactive to this day). Another was the sealing of the Urtabulak gas well that had been blowing for three years.

This was later cited as a possible alternative to sealing the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator
Geiger reading at Lake Chagan. For comparison, the center of the Fukushima disaster was 7.47 microsieverts per hour in 2011 (Photo via Wikimedia)

Peaceful Nuclear Explosions were regulated in 1974 by President Gerald R. Ford and then banned entirely by the multilateral Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty in 1996 by the United Nations. This treaty prohibits all nuclear explosions, peaceful or not.

Nuclear energy is still being researched, however, most notably in nuclear pulse propulsion for spacecrafts.

Check out the video below to learn more about Plowshare in a (very campy by today standards) 1960’s atomic science educational film.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0F6HQfzjvA

(YouTube, Tomorrow Always Comes)

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The Air Force is pulling out all the stops to fill its huge pilot shortfall

At the end of fiscal year 2016, the Air Force had 1,555 fewer pilots than it needed, including 1,211 missing fighter pilots.


That shortfall is expected to increase, and the service has considered a number of steps to shore up its ranks, including broader recruiting, changing training requirements, increased bonuses, and even stop-loss policies.

The Air Force is also looking for outside contractors to provide “red air,” or adversary training, support.

According to a release issued on August 25, the Air Force is now looking to have retired pilots return to the service for up to 12 months in positions that require qualified pilots, an initiative called Voluntary Rated Return to Active Duty, or VRRAD.

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator
A T-38 Talon participates in the 2004 Lackland Airfest. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

The service is looking for up to 25 retired fliers of any pilot specialty code — which includes bomber, fighter, helicopter, tanker, and remotely operated aircraft pilots — to fill “critical-rated staff positions” and allow active-duty pilots to stay with units where they are needed to meet mission requirements, the release said.

“Our combat-hardened aircrews are at the tip of the spear for applying airpower against our nation’s enemies,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. “We continue to swing away at this issue and we’re looking at multiple options to improve both quality of life and quality of service for our pilots.”

Two other initiatives were announced on August 25.

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator
Maj. Kurt Wampole, assisted by Capt. Matt Ward, 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron pilots, taxis a C-130H Hercules back to its parking spot. USAF photo by Master Sgt. Ben Bloker.

Pay for officers and enlisted personnel will increase for the first time since 1999.

Incentive pay, also called flight pay, will increase for all officers, with those who have over 12 years of service potentially seeing the biggest boost, up to a maximum of $1,000 a month. Incentive pay will also increase for enlisted aircrew members — up to a maximum of $600 for those with over 14 years of service.

The Air Force will also offer aviation bonuses to more service members in fiscal year 2017, which runs until the end of September.

“The Air Force’s fiscal year 2017 Aviation Bonus take rates have been lower than what the Air Force needs,” Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services, said in the release.

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden

“The bonus is now being offered to a larger pool of pilots that includes those beyond their initial service commitments who have previously declined to sign long-term bonus contracts and those whose contracts have expired,” Grosso added.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson emphasized that the service needed to retain experienced fliers.

“We can’t afford not to compensate our talented aviators at a time when airlines are hiring unprecedented numbers,” Wilson said in the release.

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator
US Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Drew A. Egnoske.

In July 2016, Goldfein and Wilson’s predecessor, Deborah Lee James, identified hiring by commercial airlines, whose pilots face mandatory retirement ages, as a main factor in the Air Force’s loss of pilots.

Previously, Congress authorized the Air Force to increase bonuses from $25,000 to $35,000 for pilots who agreed to extensions, though that was less than the $48,000 the service requested.

With the current five- and nine-year extensions offered, a pilot could earn up to $455,000 in bonuses; the Air Force is also considering one- and two-year extension deals, Grosso said earlier this year.

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43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field

Croaker, Virginia is America’s version of Easter Island. In the grassy field that belongs to a farmer named Howard Hankins sit the crumbling heads of 43 U.S. presidents.

 


The heads are eighteen to twenty feet tall, remnants of President’s Park, an open-air kind of museum. First opened in 2004, the Mount Rushmore-inspired park was the product of Everette Newman, a Virginia native, and Houston-based sculptor David Adickes. It cost $10 million to open the park and a lack of visitors caused its bankruptcy six years later.

Newman enlisted Hankins’ help in destroying the heads. Instead, he moved the heads, weighing eleven to twenty thousand pounds each, to his farm ten miles away.  It took him a week and cost upwards of $50,000. The move also substantially damaged the heads.

“I just feel it was very educational,” Hankins told the Daily Press,. “To destroy that stuff didn’t look right to me.”

The heads and necks cracked as cranes moved them onto trucks. Other damages occurred as well, including a large, eerie hole in the back of Abraham Lincoln’s head.

 

Now, the heads are decaying. Ronald Reagan was struck by lighting and still wears the scar from the strike. The ground around the statues is overgrown with vegetation, and frogs now live inside James Madison. There isn’t even a bust of President Obama because the failing park couldn’t afford the sculptor’s $60,000 fee.

Hankins’ field is not currently open to visitors. It’s not intended to be a tourist attraction at all, but people still manage to sneak onto the farm to snap photos. He hopes to one day recreate the park into something people would like to visit, maybe even merging them with an existing museum.

“I think I can build something the kids and the area can benefit from,” he told the Daily Press.

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That time the Russians rammed US Navy ships in the Black Sea

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.

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator
They usually did. (MGM/UA)

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.”

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator

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.”

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator
“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.

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The Air Force seems to have persuaded Congress to pay up for the A-10

A bit of budgetary gamesmanship by the US Air Force earlier this month seems to have paid off, as the House Armed Services Committee has allotted money to keep the vaunted A-10 Thunderbolt in the air, according to Defense News.


The committee chairman’s draft of the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act includes $103 million for an unfunded requirement related to the A-10 that the Air Force included in its budget request.

The $103 million, plus $20 million from this fiscal year, will go toward restarting production of A-10 wings to upgrade 110 of the Air Force’s 283 Thunderbolts.

Defense experts told CNN earlier this month that the Air Force’s inclusion of the A-10 wing money in its unfunded requirements was likely a ploy to get Congress to add money for the venerable Thunderbolt on top of the money apportioned for the service branch’s budget request.

Members of the House Armed Service Committee looked likely to approve money for the A-10, which is popular among both service members and elected officials like committee member Rep. Marth McSally, herself a former A-10 pilot, and Sen. John McCain.

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator
Photo courtesy of USAF

McSally noted during a hearing earlier this month that the Air Force had committed to retaining just six of its nine squadrons of A-10s and pressed Air Force officials to outline their plans for the fleet.

The Air Force currently plans to keep the A-10 in service over the next five years at minimum, after which point the fleet will need some maintenance. US Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Holmes told Defense News this month that without new wings, those 110 A-10s would have to go out of service, though he did say the Air Force had some leeway with its resources.

“When their current wings expire, we have some flexibility in the depot; we have some old wings that can be repaired or rejuvenated to go on,” he told Defense News. “We can work through that, so there’s some flex in there.”

The Air Force has been looking at whether and how to retire the A-10 for some time, amid pushback from elected officials and increased demand for close air support against ISIS, in which the A-10 specializes.

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator
US A-10s and F-16s | US Air Force photo

The five-year cushion described by Holmes gives the service more time to evaluate the aircraft and whether to replace it with F-35s or another aircraft.

The National Defense Authorization Act only approves a total amount of funding, Defense News notes, which means others in the House and Senate could choose to direct those funds to projects other than the A-10’s refurbishment.

The Air Force’s priorities may change as well.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told Defense News that the service had a defense strategy review in progress, after which the service life of the A-10 — which has been in the air since 1975 — could be extended. Though, Wilson said, the Air Force has a number of platforms that need upgrades.

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How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia

Russia continues to issue threats to countries on its borders — most notably those with significant populations of ethnic Russians like Georgia and Ukraine which have already felt Moscow’s wrath in recent years.


But many European countries have reduced their spending in the decades since World War II, so preparing for a potential war with their aggressive and highly militarized neighbor is not as simple as giving their soldiers MREs, bullets, and marching orders.

And while the U.S. helps guarantee the security of NATO members, a recent analysis by the RAND Corporation indicates that many countries on the eastern front could be swallowed up long before American reinforcements could arrive. Some countries, like Estonia, could be conquered in as little as 60 hours, analysts say.

Here’s what eight countries in Eastern Europe are doing to get ready for the war they hope never comes:

1. Ukrainians are hastily emplacing fixed defenses

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator
Ukrainian soldiers practice clearing trenches on Nov. 2 during an exercise in Ukraine with U.S. soldiers. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tarr)

Ukraine is the one state on the list who is currently engaged in a war with Russia. While their troops have fought limited groups of Russian “volunteers,” Ukraine’s top generals are worried about a full-scale air attack and ground invasion.

To prepare, they’re digging trenches and emplacing fixed defenses like tank traps and bunkers. They’ve also practiced maneuvering mobile air defenses and other units. Finally, Ukraine is planning a massive expansion of its navy to replace many some of the ships captured by Russia in the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

2. Estonia is training a guerrilla force to bleed Russian occupiers dry

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator
Estonian soldiers provide cover fire for U.S. paratroopers on Nov. 3, 2016, in Hellenurme, Estonia, during a joint training exercise. (Photo: U.S. Army Pfc. James Dutkavich)

Estonia fields an army of only 6,000 soldiers and fully expects to be overrun within days if attacked by Russia, an outcome that the RAND Corporation agrees with. But Estonia plans to make the Russians regret ever acre they took.

The nation is hosting “military sport” contests and encouraging citizens to keep weapons in their homes. The sports events include 25-mile ruck marches, evasion exercises, plant identification, and others which test skills useful for an insurgent force. Over 25,000 Estonians have joined the weekly drills.

3. Latvia is training up a “home guard” and investing in special operations

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator
Latvian soldiers drive their armored combat vehicles into position during a joint training exercise with U.S. troops on Oct. 31, 2016, in Adazi, Latvia. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Like Estonia, Latvia is bullish on training citizens to resist an invasion. They’re moving forward with plans to allow “home guard” member to keep their weapons and night vision devices in their homes. They’re also betting heavily on special operations forces, tripling the size of the National Armed Force Special Operations Forces.

Like most NATO members, they’re also trying to get more NATO troops on their soil to deter Russian aggression in the first place. Britain is already sending troops for exercises, and Denmark and France have promised forces as well.

4. Lithuania

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator
(Photo: U.S. Army Pfc. James Dutkavich)

Lithuania has distributed a civil defense book to its citizens which details how to survive a Russian invasion that includes a phone number which residents can call to report suspected Russian spies. It is also planning to restart military conscription for men between the ages of 19 and 26.

5. Norway

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator
Norwegian soldiers prepare for a stalking event during the 2016 Best Sniper Squad Competition in Germany. The team went on to win the overall competition. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Emily Houdershieldt)

Norway officially acknowledged that it believes Ukraine was illegally occupied by Russia during a state visit to Ukraine on Oct. 18. Russia later added Norway to its list of targets for “strategic” weapons. Russia uses the word “strategic” to differentiate between conventional and nuclear-capable forces.

Norway has invited more NATO troops, including U.S. Marines, to train there. It’s also stepped up its intercepts of Russian aircraft flying near its shores. Norway’s F-16s now maintain a 24-hour alert. The country is also re-opening Cold War-era bases in the far north.

6. Poland is buying massive amounts of equipment, including new subs

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator
Polish soldiers of 17th Wielkopolska Mechanized Brigade move a simulated wounded soldier during a react to contact scenario during exercise Combined Resolve VII at the U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels Germany, Sept. 12, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Gage Hull)

Poland, which is considered to be one of the more hawkish NATO members, has been warning of a threat from Moscow for some time. For the past few years, it has championed regional security agreements with its neighbors and worked hard to ingrain itself with NATO.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Poland has ramped up the purchase of military hardware such as new, stealthy submarines and Polish-manufactured S-70 helicopters for its special operations soldiers.

7. and 8. Finland and Sweden are securing defense agreements with the U.K. and U.S.

Finland and Sweden are countries which famously prefer to avoid alliances, but Russian aggression has spurred an interest in limited defense agreements which will make it easier for NATO troops to deploy to those countries in the event of war.

The U.K. and U.S. signed two contracts each with Sweden and Norway, and all four agreements have different details. But, the broad strokes are that all four countries will increase their interoperability by holding joint training exercises as well as participating in research, development, and procurement projects.

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These tactical weathermen predict the rain and can bring the pain

Special operations forces are a diverse lot.


The Green Berets can bring in engineers, comms specialists, and even weapons specialists. The Navy SEALs bring their own lethal skills, as do Navy EOD personnel. The Air Force, though, has shown it can deploy surgical teams that can operate in remote conditions, combat controllers, pararescuemen, and other specialists.

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator
A Special Operations Weatherman with the 125th Special Tactics Squadron takes readings during training at Fort Carson, Colo., April 21, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. John Hughel, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

Perhaps the most interesting of those other specialists are the Special Operations Weathermen. Yeah, that’s right – the Air Force has trained meteorologists who can go in with other special operations personnel. Now, you can understand a unit like a special operations surgical team, but why a weatherman? At first glance, that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator
Members of Air Force Special Operations weather teams participate in a training scenario on a CH-47 Chinook during Emerald Warrior at Hurlburt Field, Fla., on March 7, 2012. (USAF photo)

Believe it or not, weather matters in military operations. Air drops in Sicily in 1943 and during the invasion of Normandy on D-Day were greatly affected by the wind. Today, even with GPS, air-dropping supplies depends on knowing what the wind will be like. While the “little groups of paratroopers” are legendary, the better outcome is to have most of the troops and supplies land together.

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator
Staff Sgt. Stephen Petche, 10th Combat Weather Squadron, takes observations after releasing a weather balloon during a training exercise July 31, 2013 at the Eglin Range, Fla. SOWTs provide immediate and accurate weather information and forecasts deep behind enemy lines. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Victoria Porto)

These “weather commandos” need to attend eight schools from across the country to earn their gray beret, and spend 61 weeks in training. This involves everything from learning how to forecast the weather and to take the observations to learning small unit tactics to handling both water survival and underwater egress training. These personnel even attend the Airborne School at Fort Benning.

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator
Staff Sgt. Christopher Allen, a special operations weather specialist from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron, scans Sendai Airport prior to conducting a weather observation here March 16. Sudden snow and low visibility threatened to prevent aircraft from landing at the airfield. A team from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron out of Kadena Air Base, along with Japanese emergency management organizations, cleared a section of the runway and re-established the control tower to direct flights in and out of the airfield. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse)

Even after those 61 weeks, when they become Special Operations Weathermen, these “Weather Warriors” will spend a year in further training before they deploy.

They will head out, not only to help predict the wind and rain, but to help bring the pain on the bad guys.

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There was lots of buzz at Sundance for this dramatic slave story

Nate Parker’s film The Birth of a Nation won Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury and Audience prizes for a drama, just days after the production company signed a record $17.5 million distribution deal with Fox Searchlight. The film is about what happens to a former slave after he leads a liberation movement to free other slaves.


The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator

The movie is based on actual events, and the uprising did not end well for the slaves or Nat Turner, the man who led it.

Turner was a slave from Southampton County, Virginia. He could read and write, which was unusual for slaves.  He was also deeply religious, devoted to fasting and prayer.

Turner would have visions that guided him through his life. He conducted Baptist church services and was dubbed “The Prophet” by his fellow slaves. While working in his owner’s fields one day, Turner heard “a loud noise in the heavens, and the Spirit instantly appeared to me and said the Serpent was loosened, and Christ had laid down the yoke he had borne for the sins of men, and that I should take it on and fight against the Serpent, for the time was fast approaching when the first should be last and the last should be first.”

In 1830, a man named Joseph Travis purchased Turner. It was while under Travis’ ownership Turner would make his move. The next year, an atmospheric disturbance made the sun appear bluish-green in Virginia. Turner took this as a sign, and prepared to start his rebellion.

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator

On August 22, 1831, thirty years before the Civil War, Turner and an inner circle of trusted slaves gathered. They killed the Travis family as they slept, then went house-to-house freeing slaves and killing white people. His number soon grew to over 40 slaves, most on horseback.

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator

Sixty whites were killed before Turner’s rebellion was put down. Even then, it took twice the number of men in the responding Federal and Virginia militias, along with three artillery companies to defeat the uprising. His rebellion crushed, Turner hid around the Travis farm until his capture on October 30. He was quickly tried, convicted, hanged, and skinned.

Retaliatory attacks from white mobs killed 200 more slave and free black men, women, and children. The state legislature of Virginia considered abolishing slavery, but decided instead to keep it and its repressive policy against all black people in the state, especially enforced illiteracy among slaves.

The Turner Rebellion is one of the defining events in the lead up to the American Civil War, on par with John Brown’s raid on the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry.

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Obama says climate change is a bigger threat than ISIS

The White House released Sept. 21 a new presidential memorandum that orders federal agencies — including the Pentagon and CIA — to devote its defense and intelligence resources to fighting the impact of global warming.


The Obama administration order comes on the heels of a recent report from an environmental group that climate change is a significant and growing threat to national security.

“Climate change and associated impacts on U.S. military and other national security-related missions and operations could adversely affect readiness, negatively affect military facilities and training, increase demands for Federal support to non-federal civil authorities, and increase response requirements to support international stability and humanitarian assistance needs,” Obama wrote. “The United States must take a comprehensive approach to identifying and acting on climate change-related impacts on national security interests, including by maintaining its international leadership on climate issues.”

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator
Mitchell Zuckoff, an author embedded with the Joint Recovery Mission – Greenland, signals to helicopter pilot Tom Andreassen, of Air Greenland, where to land near the nunatak on a glacier near Koge Bay, Greenland, Aug. 16, 2013. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jetta H. Disco.)

So what could the order mean for American troops and intelligence operators?

The military has faced several years of budget cuts, and several major programs, like the littoral combat ship, the Zumwalt-class destroyers, and the Gerald R. Ford-class carriers, are having some real problems. The F-35 Lightning II is also having its teething problems (albeit those are resolving themselves).

A briefing document issued alongside the memorandum added that climate change is more of a threat to American security than cyber attacks or terrorism.

“For all the challenges and threats we face as a nation — from terrorist groups like ISIL and al Qaeda to increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks, from diseases like Ebola and Zika to Russian aggression in Ukraine — no threat is more terrifying in its global reach or more potentially destructive and destabilizing than climate change,” the memorandum said.

Despite painting the grim picture, the briefing, conducted by National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Senior Advisor Brian Deese ended on a hopeful note.

“Just as we work to defeat any adversary before they have the ability to attack, we must similarly prepare for and mitigate the impacts of climate change,” the briefing document says.

The move has drawn criticism from some. Elaine Donnelly, President of the Center for Military Readiness, said that the briefing document “reflects delusional group-think substituting for sound policy in the White House and Pentagon.”

“Preparations for bad weather and extreme events such as hurricanes are always prudent, but normal and even abnormal seasonal changes cannot be compared to deliberate attacks from armed human adversaries,” she said. “Furthermore, there is no way that our government or other governments can ‘mitigate’ dangerous weather, or even normal weather. It is unsettling to see high-level officials in the White House buying into narratives such as this.”

Alternate energy projects have been a priority in the Department of the Navy since President Obama took office in 2009. A Washington Free Beacon report last month noted that three of the major projects pushed by Navy Sec. Ray Mabus had not been cost-effective.

Donnelly also expressed concern that “the two documents appear to authorize a power grab on the part of unelected officials who would use ‘national security’ as an excuse to act upon unsupported theories of climate change.”

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Navy SEALs team up with Israeli special forces

Elite soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces’ Shayetet 13 special operations unit joined forces with U.S. Navy SEALS in late March for a joint exercise between the two allies.


According to an IDF statement, the exercise was designed to improve upon the operational capabilities of the special forces of the IDF and of the militaries of Israel’s allies, such as the United States. The drill also included knowledge sharing between fleets, strengthening of common language, and operational cooperation in the field.

On the Israeli side, a Saar 5 missile ship (Eilat), Naval Special Warfare vessels, and other navy crafts took part in the training event. Troops practiced parachuting over the sea and carrying out a nighttime raid on a ship and rescuing hostages in enclosed areas.

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator
Members of U.S. and Israeli Special Operations Forces prepare rigid-hulled inflatable boats prior to participating in a water jump training exercise in the Mediterranean Sea as part of Juniper Falcon 17, on March 27, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by SSG Russell Gilchrest)

Following the drill, the head of operations of the Israeli Navy, Rear Adm. Ido Ben Moshe, said that “the cooperation between the two fleets is reflected in annual drills, reciprocal visits and operational mutuality. During the joint exercises, professional relations are created that contribute to both sides on the strategic level.”

In 2016, IDF Special Forces and U.S. Marines held a joint military exercise in the Negev Desert in part aimed at coordinating techniques for combating terrorist activities. Dubbed ‘Noble Shirley,’ the drill involved special units from the Israeli Air Force and Navy, and ground forces.

During the drill, the troops practiced simulating helicopter landings behind enemy lines, urban warfare both above and below ground, as well as close-range combat and military takeover techniques. The troops also held exercises concentrating on medical response to injured troops in hostile territory as well as the coordination of U.S. and Israeli medical networks.

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Here are 5 healthy habits to work into your busy military lifestyle

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator
(Photo: Military.com)


“I don’t have time” is the number one phrase that I hear from people when we discuss their health lifestyle. One thing I’ve never had was a bunch of extra time on my hands. Most of my extreme time management started at the U.S. Air Force Academy, where wasted moments can result in some bad situations. During medical school, and currently, as I resident, I continually find ways to get more done in a limited amount of time. Most of this I attribute to desire and discipline, but the other piece is planning.

I’ve summarized 5 things I’ve incorporated into my busy schedule that I think have contributed a huge amount to my health and fitness goals.

1. Keep water easily accessible

You can store water bottles in the trunk of your car for quick, easy access. You can also carry a plastic or glass water bottle. Carrying a large amount of water at one time not only limits the number of times you have to grab another bottle or refill, but it’s also psychological and continually reminds you to drink up. I’ve used a one liter Nalgene bottle since college. It’s not too small but also professional enough to carry around to meetings and around patients, if need be. It’s my habit to refill it 3 times in a day – that way I drink about 1 gallon a day without overthinking it.

2. Keep convenient protein sources on hand

The hardest macronutrient to access quickly is usually protein. It’s quite easy to grab carbohydrate and fat sources, but protein can be difficult to find and pricey. One way to avoid this issue is to keep high protein sources at work or in your car. Some sources I recommend are protein powder (keep it in the huge container and keep a protein shaker nearby it), protein bars (by the box), or tuna in the pre-drained packs (by the box). I’m up walking around a lot so I stuff one of these in my white coat so I’m never without food when things get hectic.

3. If traveling, plan to stay near a gym

If going out of town on business, and you have the opportunity to choose where you’ll be staying, scout out the gym options beforehand. If you are going to stay in a hotel, find out if the hotel has a gym that’s adequate for your workouts. If not, then do a quick internet search on gyms nearby and find out if you can do a day pass. For military members, with ID card, they will typically cut you a break on paying a fee. If there are no gyms nearby, don’t give up. Opt for the bodyweight exercises right there in your room.

4. Incorporate active breaks into your routine

If working at a desk, get up and move as often as possible. If the building has an elevator, choose the stairs most of the time. If staying in a hotel, choose a room on an upper floor and use the stairs. You can also use small weights and bands at work when taking breaks. My co-workers and I use a push-up count system for various events that occur at work, so it’s a fun way of incorporating fitness into our daily workload.

5. Prep meals ahead of time

This one takes a little more time but is the major key to success if you can make it happen. Choose one or two days out of the week to cook all your food for the week. The best day might be when you go to the grocery store. Right after your grocery run, start up your stove. The key is to be creative with the way you cook different items so many things can cook at the same time (i.e. what can go in the oven while the stove top is busy?). If your budget allows, buy certain things pre-cooked. If you like certain vegetables, then stick with those. Once all the foods are cooked up, separate them into separate meal containers and store in the fridge. As each day comes grab what you need and stick it in a ready-to-go meal container (like the ones from Isolator Fitness).

Simone is an Air Force Academy graduate, doctor, and fitness model. You can contact/follow her here: email:simone.maybin@gmail.com, Instagram: @simonemaybin, Snapchat: @simoneyroney, Facebook: Simone Maybin, or Twitter: @simonemaybin.