The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
The Air Force and its mission partners successfully launched the AFSPC-5 mission aboard the Space and Missile Systems Center procured United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, May 20, 2015.
Tech. Sgt. Bruce Ramos, a 1st Special Operations Group Detachment 1 radio operator, raises an American flag from an MC-130P Combat Shadow while it taxis at Hurlburt Field, Fla., May 15, 2015.
The U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, perform a flyover during a graduation and commissioning ceremony for the Naval Academy Class of 2015.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee (DDG 90) departs Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for an independent deployment.
BIG STEP – On Tuesday, May 19, students at the U.S. Army Special Forces Underwater Operations School conducted helocast drills. Helocasting is an airborne insertion technique used by small special operations forces to enter denied areas of operations.
An Army AH-64 Apache air crew, assigned to 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division conducts pre-flight checks prior to an air-assault operation, part of the Network Integration Evaluation 15.2 exercise at Fort Bliss, Texas.
Landing craft air cushion conduct an amphibious assault during the MARFORPAC-hosted U.S. Pacific Command Amphibious Leaders Symposium (PALS) at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows.
An M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank with 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, fires its 120 mm smoothbore cannon during a live-fire event as part of Exercise Eager Lion 2015 in Jordan.
Rescue crews from the Coast Guard 1st District don immersion suits to practice cold water survival in Boston Harbor near the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse.
A Coast Guard crew aboard a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium patrols Boston Harbor near the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse.
The Blue Angels’ high level of precision begins nearly 90 minutes before the six gleaming F/A-18 Hornets take to the skies, and when Blue Angel number one — the commanding officer — announces the start of the preflight brief, banter between the officers ceases and the team puts on the collective game face.
This week the Team is borrowing the hangar spaces of a fleet Hornet squadron that’s currently deployed, but the set-up of the ready room has been modified significantly from that normally seen in a fleet squadron. Instead of having a room full of the classic metal and faux leather chairs arranged theater-style facing a large dry-erase board at one end, the pilots are seated in high backed executive chairs around a large conference table.
The support staff – the supply officer, the maintenance officer, the flight surgeon, and the public affairs officer among others – line the walls (also seated in executive chairs) forming a ring around the core team of jet pilots – Blue Angels 1 through 6. The rest of the pilots scribe imaginary lines along a Google Earth print outs of the airfield and surrounding area while Blue Angel No. 1 – commonly called “The Boss” – goes through the sequence of events from marching to the jets through the four-plane diamond takeoff and into the first moves of the airborne routine.
Without warning the team suddenly pushes back from the conference table and lowers their chairs. Each pilot hunches over, gripping an imaginary stick with his right hand and throttle with his left. Their heads tilt in the same directions they’ll face while flying close formation during the flight. Their eyes narrow in what looks to be a Zen-like trance as the Boss goes through his radio cadence.
“Up . . . we . . . go,” the Boss chants. “A . . . little . . . more . . . pull. Easing . . . power. Easing . . . more . . . power. A . . . little . . . pull. Rolling out.” The atmosphere is generally like that of a church congregation at prayer with the Boss playing the role of priest. Then suddenly the team comes out of the trance, pops up in their chairs, and moves back to the table.
After reviewing the next maneuvers in the show sequence, they push back once again and go back into the role playing – the Zen state – as the Boss again sings his radio commands. The brief ends with other members of the Team briefing items required by their secondary roles. The supply officer briefs the weather. The maintenance officer briefs the field conditions and which runway they’ll most likely use for takeoff. And just like a regular fleet squadron, the pilots review an “emergency procedure of the day” and any other safety of flight items that might be germane.
The main brief ends and the support staff along with the C-130 “Fat Albert” crew files out, but only after shaking each pilot’s hand. One can sense that these traditions aren’t arbitrary. They underwrite the intangibles that surround the Blue Angels’ mission, one that’s not reckless but inherently hazardous nonetheless.
After a short van ride from the hangar to the flight line, the Blue Angels march over to man up, peeling off in front of their respective jets in a 90-degree pivot at each Hornet’s nose. Each gets in without a lot of fanfare. The pilots apply electrical power to their jets, and after a quick radio check the canopies come down. They taxi to the duty runway in numerical order, waving and giving the thumbs up to the enthusiastic crowd as they pass.
Soon they’re in position for takeoff. The Boss calls over the radio: “Let’s run ’em up . . . smoke, on . . . off brakes now . . . burners ready now . . .” and 1 through 4 are on their way down the runway. They’re barely off the ground when No. 4 slides from the right wing into the slot as the four airplanes simultaneously raise their landing gear.
Then it’s “up . . . we . . . go” into the vertical for the first part of what they call the “Diamond Half Squirrel Cage” which is basically a four-plane Half Cuban Eight. The weather is beautiful so the team does the “high” version of the show, which allows them to perform all of their vertical moves in their entirety.
The Squirrel Cage is followed by a few other diamond moves: the 360, the roll, the aileron roll, and the dirty (gear down) loop. Then it’s time for some upside down action, what they call the “Double Farvel” – a level pass down the show line with Blue Angels No. 1 and 4 inverted the whole time. The Boss transmits “hit it!” and No. 4 mirrors him in putting the Hornet on its back.
From there the four-plane does some echelon moves – a parade pass followed by a roll. Then Blue Angel No. 5 joins the formation for a line-abreast loop. To this point there has been some G on the airplanes but nothing very taxing. That is about to change with what they call the “break out” maneuvers.
The Low Break Cross, the Fleur De Lis, and the Loop Break Cross all involve the diamond separating, crossing along various axes, and then quickly rendezvousing back into the diamond. The beginning and end of those moves means lots of G. Fighting off the G forces is a lot of work, like the most intense ab workout you can imagine while a giant sits on you.
And G forces are something the Blue Angels train to very seriously. In the spring of 2007 Lieutenant Commander Kevin Davis, then Blue Angel No. 6, was killed after he put himself out while attempting a high G rendezvous towards the end of a show over MCAS Beaufort, SC. He was unable to recover the jet before hitting the tree line.
Now the Blue Angel pilots go through centrifuge training on an annual basis to ensure their anti-G techniques are sound and their G tolerance is the best it can be. The Loop Break Cross is followed by a couple other high G maneuvers – the Delta Break Out, and the Delta Pitch Up Break.
After that the jets land in order. The precision continues as the jets park. The Hornets shut down and open their canopies simultaneously. The crowd cheers as the Blue Angels dismount their fighters and march back to where they started about 45 minutes earlier.
They finish with handshakes all ’round. Another successful show in the books.
After some photos in front of one of the jets with fans, the Blue Angels are back in the ready room for the debrief. The flight may be over, but the Blue Angels aren’t done working.
The pilots hold a kangaroo court of sorts, calling themselves on their transgressions during the event, starting with the Boss. The tone is at once serious and lighthearted. A video review follows, starting with the pilots marching to their jets. They freeze the playback, critiquing minor synchronization flaws as the team went from parade rest to attention or saluted a plane captain as they passed each jet.
The attention to detail grows as the playback rolls to the airborne portion of the show. They run the tape back and forth like a football coach working the clicker. Most of the dings involve discrepancies that are invisible to the untrained (read “average air show attendee”) eye – a hair early on a roll or barely off on a crossing move. The focus is amazing considering these guys have been flying the exact same show for nine months, literally hundreds of times, but they still seem to share a concern that it isn’t quite right.
The conduct of the debrief is the answer – beyond what it takes to fly the jet – to why it’s so hard to be a Blue Angel. Anyone who’s spent time in the carrier aviation world probably knows someone who’s rushed the Blues – someone who seemed perfect for the Team in terms of stick and rudder skills, demeanor, and personal appearance – but who ultimately didn’t get the nod. But watching these guys interact is a study in zero ego in spite of pointed criticism, even that that could have been interpreted as a less-than-totally-positive view of piloting ability. They are earnest to a man. They all want to get better, and they see the next show as an opportunity to do just that.
And maybe that’s the lesson of the Blue Angels: It’s not enough to get it right most of the time; it needs to be all the time.
The M2 .50 caliber machine gun has been a cornerstone of American military firepower for nearly 100 years. Its long range capability coupled with a heavy round combine for a devastating mixture on the battlefield — a weapon powerful enough to destroy a building or shoot down aircraft.
But for troops on the ground, the M2’s advantages come at a severe cost — namely weight. The typical M2 weighs in at a crushing 84 pounds, not to mention the weight of the ammunition itself (which is over 140 pounds for 500 linked rounds). That means despite the M2’s firepower, it’s not a man-portable weapon, requiring a heavy tripod for a mount that makes it more suitable for defensive positions and vehicle-mounted options.
Dubbed the “Lightweight Medium Machine Gun,” the new weapon is chambered in .338 Norma Magnum — a favorite of some precision shooters for its ability to reach out to targets at extended ranges while still having enough knockout power to take down the enemy.
Now, five years later, the Army is in the market for ways to lighten its soldiers’ load and provide increased firepower with a smaller footprint. So there’s a renewed interest in the LWMMG program.
Weighing in at only 25 pounds, the General Dynamics-designed machine gun has a maximum effective range of more than 1,800 yards and can reach out as far as 6,000, according to company documents. The LWMMG in .338 NM has a lot of advantages over the current 7.62mm M240 machine gun as well, the company says.
“At 1,000 yards the LWMMG is capable of defeating Level III body armor and incapacitating soft skinned vehicles by delivering more than four times the terminal effects of the 7.62mm NATO cartridge,” General Dynamics documents say.
GD has also developed a new “Short Recoil Impulse Averaging” system that the company says delivers the same recoil as an M240 despite the larger .338 NM round.
Some argue that the increased weight of the .338 round cancels out the LWMMG’s advantages for dismounted troops, since 1,000 rounds of 7.62 weigh about as much as only 500 rounds of .338 NM. But new developments in polymer case technology could combine to make the new machine gun a lighter option overall than the M240 while delivering the killer punch at M2 ranges.
As we all know by now, the F-117 Nighthawk was America’s first combat-capable stealth aircraft. According to an Air Force fact sheet, it entered service in 1983, and was retired in 2008. It had a very effective career, serving in Operations Just Cause, Desert Storm, Allied Force, and Iraqi Freedom.
But one reason the F-117 was effective was because the Americans managed to keep it secret for the first five years it was in operation. As a result, many figured America’s stealth fighter would be named the F-19 – and in two techno-thrillers, the F-19 had major roles.
It was best-known as the F-19 Ghostrider in Tom Clancy’s “Red Storm Rising.” In that novel, the planes carry out a daring raid to destroy Soviet Il-76 “Mainstay” radar planes, enabling NATO to secure air superiority in the early stages of the war. One F-19 crew later takes out a Soviet theater commander.
Clancy’s F-19 was very different from the F-117. It had a crew of two, and was capable of breaking Mach 1. It also carried weapons externally, including Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, and had a radar. While some sources, like Combat Aircraft Since 1945, credited the F-117 Nighthawk with the ability to carry the AIM-9 Sidewinder, most sources claim that the F-117 has no air-to-air capability.
The other appearance of the F-19 was in Dale Brown’s “Silver Tower.” This time, it had the right name, Nighthawk, but it also had a crew of two. Brown didn’t go into the detail of his F-19 that Clancy did in Red Storm Rising. Brown’s F-19s had one notable success, where they bluffed their way in to attack a Soviet base in Iran during Silver Tower. Both planes were shot down and their crews killed.
After the F-117’s public reveal, the speculative F-19s were largely forgotten. But the “F-19” speculation helped keep the F-117 secret – and that secrecy was critical to the battlefield success of America’s first stealth fighter.
On Tuesday, the lone pilot out of Naval Air Station Lemoore flew over the University of California campus at at an altitude of roughly 2,500 to 3,000 feet during a training flight, according to a spokesman. On local news site Berkeleyside however, Caleb Linden told the site the jet looked like it “was flying about 300-500 feet off the ground.”
One observer reported the jet as low as 300-500 feet. While radar indicated the plane only dipped to 2500 feet, it should be noted that the Berkeley Hills rise 1754 feet –which could put the pilot closer to the ground than first reported depending on when he began his ascent out of Berkeley’s airspace. UC Berkeley’s campus is mostly below 500 feet, with some buildings higher up on the hill.
While the altitude of the plane was a point of debate, the Navy told CBS the pilot was on a “familiarization flight” that required looking outside the plane, rather than relying on instruments. That didn’t stop some witnesses from losing their minds on social media and elsewhere.
What in the heck was that roaring jet noise over Berkeley just now? Did Dick Cheney just do a flyover? @berkeleyside
Army mariners are a rare breed — soldiers who spend most of their time out on the water, sometimes even transiting open oceans like sailors or something.
While the Army’s boat program is relatively unknown outside of the service, it fills a crucial role in military logistics, allowing commanders to ferry supplies along coastlines and up and down rivers — even when there is little or no Navy support. Here are 14 photos that give a glimpse into the life of Army watercraft operators:
1. Mariners have to train for special emergencies that the rest of the Army rarely thinks about, like man overboard or a capsized vessel.
2. Watercraft operators and other mariners can be assigned to a number of different ships, but logistics vessels like these Landing Craft Utility 2000s are the most common.
3. The LCU 2000s, Logistics Support Vessels, and other craft are designed to deploy heavy Army equipment to unimproved beaches.
4. Different vessel types have different lift capabilities, and the largest can carry over a dozen M1 tanks per lift.
5. While the boats are made to operate in as little water as possible — 12 feet for the LSV and as little as five feet for the Landing Craft, Mechanized 8 — most of them are capable of crossing open ocean when necessary.
6. The boys in blue may look like Coast Guardsmen, but they’re actually the soldiers who crew these small vessels.
7. Watercraft engineers maintain the boats. Because there are no specialty fields for watercraft engineers, they have to learn the ins and outs of each vessel type.
8. Watercraft operators pilot the ships and work the decks. Other soldiers, like medics and cooks, are also assigned to Army vessel crews.
9. Most army boats have ramps that allow vehicles to be driven on and off.
10. But cranes are often used to move pallets and machines onto and off of the vessels.
11. Everything from Humvees to tankers to armored vehicles can be loaded this way.
12. In addition to the sealift vessels, the Army maintains a small fleet of tugboats and engineering vessels like dredges and cranes.
13. Army boats are deployed all around the globe, supporting operations from the American coast to the Middle East and Asia.
14. Just remember, the crews are soldiers and mariners, not sailors or Marines.
China is preparing to launch a new ballistic missile submarine that could potentially target any part of the United States by the end of 2015, Anthony Capaccio and David Tweed report for Bloomberg Business.
The deployment of the new Jin-class ballistic missile submarine will mark a substantial increase in China’s potential nuclear ability. The Jin-class submarines will be armed with the new JL-2 ballistic missile. This missile has a range of 4,000 nautical miles, which would allow the submarine to target Hawaii, Alaska, and portions of the west coast of the US from the waters off of East Asia.
Should the Jin-class submarine be capable of positioning itself to the east of Hawaii, it would be able to target the any part of the continental United States for a hypothetical ballistic missile strike, Bloomberg notes.
The Department of Defense’s 2015 report on the Chinese military notes that the JL-2 missile will function as an extremely capable nuclear deterrent against potential nuclear first strikes or invasions against the Chinese mainland. China has commissioned four JIN-class submarines, with a fifth one under construction.
Beijing is well aware of the capabilities of its new submarine and is eager to play up the Jin’s abilities. The submarine, armed with the JL-2, is “a trump card that makes our motherland proud and our adversaries terrified,” Bloomberg reports Admiral Wu Shengli, commander of the Chinese navy, as having said.
China’s deployment of the Jin and JL-2 combination comes as the country radically overhauls its ballistic missile capabilities. Beijing’s longest-range missile, the CSS-4, has the potential to target any part of the US except for southern Florida.
The missile is nuclear-capable, according to the DoD report, and is housed in silos across the Chinese countryside. Beijing is estimated to have 50 to 60 silo-based ICBMs.
Beijing also has a road-mobile nuclear-capable ballistic missile that is capable of hitting most of the western coast of the US and parts of the Midwest from China. As the missile is road-mobile, China can move it throughout the country to better target various locations and avoid possible incoming strikes.
China’s development of intercontinental ballistic missiles reflects the country’s attempts to position itself as a respected international power that is not content with merely being a regional player.
While hiding in a fortified two level 3,000-square-foot underground bunker, one of history’s most brutal tyrants promised the world that his empire would reign for 1,000 years.
Hitler’s Third Reich lasted 12 years, and officially ended on April 30, 1945, when the Führer committed suicide in his bunker with his new wife after learning Allied Forces had surrounded Berlin.
Hitler’s last hours
The day before his death, 56-year-old Hitler married his long-term mistress, 33-year-old Eva Braun.
After his brief wedding ceremony Hitler began preparing his last will and political statement with his secretary Traudl Junge at approximately 4:00 p.m.
“What I possess belongs – in so far as it has any value, to the Party. Should this no longer exist, to the State; should the State also be destroyed, no further decision of mine is necessary,” Hitler’s will stated.
“I myself and my wife, in order to escape the disgrace of deposition or capitulation, choose death. It is our wish to be burnt immediately on the spot where I have carried out the greatest part of my daily work in the course of a twelve years’ service to my people.”
Later on that day Hitler learned his Italian counterpart Benito Mussolini was executed by a mob of anti-fascist partisans.
Here’s a summary of Hitler’s last day as reported by MentalFloss:
1 a.m.: Field Marshal William Keitel reports that the entire Ninth Army is encircled and that reinforcements will not be able to reach Berlin.
4 a.m.: Major Otto Günsche heads for the bathroom, only to find Dr. Haase and Hitler’s dog handler, Fritz Tornow, feeding cyanide pills to Hitler’s beloved German Shepherd, Blondi. Haase is apparently testing the efficacy of the cyanide pills that Hitler’s former ally Himmler had provided him. The capsule works and the dog dies almost immediately.
10:30 a.m.: Hitler meets with General Helmuth Weidling, who tells him that the end is near. Russians are attacking the nearby Reichstag. Weidling asks what to do when troops run out of ammunition. Hitler responds that he’ll never surrender Berlin, so Weidling asks for permission to allow his troops to break out of the city as long as their intention never to surrender remains clear.
2:00 p.m.: Hitler and the women of the bunker—Eva Braun, Traudl Junge, and other secretaries—sit down for lunch. Hitler promises them that he’ll give them vials of cyanide if they wish to use them. He apologizes for being unable to give them a better farewell present.
3:30 p.m.: Roused by the sound of a loud gunshot, Heinz Linge, who has served as Hitler’s valet for a decade, opens the door to the study. The smell of burnt almonds—a harbinger of cyanide—wafts through the door. Braun and Hitler sit side by side. They are both dead. Braun has apparently taken the cyanide, while Hitler has done the deed with his Walther pistol.
4:00 p.m.: Linge and the other residents of the bunker wrap the bodies in blankets and carry them upstairs to the garden. As shells fall, they douse the bodies in gas. Joseph Goebbels, minister of propaganda, will kill himself tomorrow. Meanwhile, he holds out a box of matches. The survivors fumble and finally light the corpses on fire. They head down to the bunker as they burn.
itting on a sofa next to each other in the living room of the Führerbunker, Hitler and his new bride Braun poisoned themselves with cyanide pills and then for good measure, the Nazi leader reportedly shot himself in the head.
While various historians dispute the scenario of Hitler actually ending his life with a gunshot, the Russian government claimed they had a portion of Hitler’s alleged skull complete with a bullet hole, The Guardian reports.
The fractured skull, which was reportedly taken from the bunker went on public display in Moscow in 2000. Paired with the skull was what Russian intelligence said is Hitler’s jawbone.
Almost a decade later, American researchers claimed by way of DNA testing that the cranial fragment actually belonged to a woman approximately 40 years old, The Guardian reports.
The orders to be “burnt immediately” were reportedly followed when SS officers wrapped the bodies of the Führer and Braun in blankets and then placed them on a small pyre where SS officer Otto Günsche set the remains ablaze.
When you look at the Iowa-class battleships, in a way, you are looking at the ultimate in a surface combat platform. They are huge – about 45,000 tons — they carry nine 16-inch guns and have an array of other weapons, too, from Tomahawk cruise missiles to Phalanx close-in weapon systems.
Looking at them, could you imagine diluting that surface-combat firepower for some Harriers? Well, the U.S. Navy did.
According to the 13th Edition of “The Naval Institute Guide to the Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet,” the Navy kicked around the idea of turning the Iowa and her three sisters into a combination battleship-carrier. The after turret would be removed, and the space would be turned into a flight deck. WarisBoring.com noted that the plan called for as many as 20 AV-8B Harriers to be carried on the ship.
There was also a consideration for adding vertical launch systems for Tomahawks and Standard surface-to-air missiles.
It wasn’t as if the battleships hadn’t operated planes before, as in World War II the battleships operated floatplanes – usually for gunfire spotting. The Iowas kept their planes in an on-board hanger in the aft section of the ship.
That section was later used to land helicopters when they were in service during the 1980s. The New Jersey even operated a UCAV, the QH-50 Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter, while blasting Viet Cong and North Vietnamese positions during her one deployment in the Vietnam War.
That said, the project never went forward. One big reason was at the end of the Cold War, the Iowa-class ships were quick to go on the chopping block — even as the USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin provided outstanding fire support to the Marines during Operation Desert Storm.
Another can be ascribed to history. Late in World War II, Japan was desperate for carriers. And when they tried to convert the battleships Ise and Hyuga to carrier, the effort wasn’t successful.
It is open to debate whether 20 Harriers would have been a fair trade for a third of an Iowa’s 16-inch firepower. What isn’t open for debate is that the Iowa-class fast battleship has never truly been replaced a quarter-century after their decommissioning.
The elite U.S. Coast Guardsmen of the specialized forces deploy around the globe to fight terrorism and prevent attacks.
The Coast Guard anti-terrorism mission is most perfectly exemplified by two groups: the Maritime Safety and Security Teams and the Maritime Security Response Team. The MSRT and the MSSTs were part of the Coast Guard Deployable Operations Groups before the DOG was dissolved in 2013.
The Maritime Security Response Team is the group that answers the 911 call and rapidly deploys when an impending terrorist attack is suspected or underway at an American port or waterway. They’re also charged with conducting higher risk law enforcement missions.
Like the MSRT, the Maritime Safety and Security Teams can rapidly deploy when necessary — they secured sensitive areas in Boston within hours of the Boston Marathon bombings — but they focus on longer missions, deploying to American and friendly ports that are at increased risk of attack and establishing a semi-permanent presence.
Twelve MSSTs provide security at ports from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to New York Harbor, from San Diego to Anchorage, Alaska and Honolulu.
“Special operations” technically covers only Department of Defense assets. The Coast Guard, operating under the Department of Homeland Security, classifies its elite operators as Deployable Specialized Forces.
See more photos of them below:
A Maritime Security Response Team member pulls security during a ferry boarding in an exercise Oct. 22, 2015.
The MSRT members quickly gained control of the ferry and searched it for radiological threats.
A military working dog with the MSRT was brought in to search the vessel while his human counterparts controlled it.
A member of a Maritime Safety and Security team patrols New York waterways in Nov. 2003.
Imagine a priesthood where they wear uniforms like the Navy’s, are disciplined like Marines, do as much real work to advance a mission as any nonner in the Air Force, and are worked like Army privates with none of the pay and benefits. If that sounds appealing, you’re ready for Scientology’s Sea Org, a paramilitary “fraternal organization” comprised of the most devoted Scientology has to offer.
With a reported 6,000 members, the Sea Org is Scientology’s version of a religious order. The symbol of two palm fronds around a star is supposedly the emblem of the Galactic Confederacy seventy-five million years ago. Led by the space lord Xenu, the Galactic Confederacy killed a bunch of people with hydrogen bombs in a volcano. Or something. Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but so do a lot of religions if you think about it. We’re not here to make fun of religion, we’re here to talk about this particular one’s Xenu-damned Navy.
Where would any service be without its creation story? The wild blue yonder, the halls of Montezuma, Valley Forge, Custer’s Ranks, Last night on shore, drinking to the foam and all that. No service is complete without its mythology. Keep in mind, the Sea Org is only twenty years younger than the Air Force and probably richer, since Scientology isn’t developing a trillion dollar fighter that ignites on takeoff.
The Sea Org began in 1967 when founder L. Ron Hubbard (or LRH to his followers), science fiction writer and Navy veteran (like his father) who served during World War II, launched his own private naval force and declared himself commodore. The Church of Scientology was founded just 13 years prior, and Hubbard staffed his ships with volunteer Scientologists, reportedly looking for buried treasure from one of LRH’s previous lifetimes.
Physical fitness was clearly not a central tenet of his new Navy.
Scientology defector Janis Grady, a former Sea Org member, told the New Yorker, “I was on the bridge with him, sailing past Greek islands. There were crosses lining one island. He told me that under each cross is buried treasure.” Hubbard commanded four ships, the Diana, Athena, Apollo, and Excalibur for eight years, cruising the Mediterranean, either existing on a diet of a lot of drugs, evading UK taxes, or looking for a safe haven for his beliefs, depending on who you ask.
The Sea Org actively seeks young, able-bodied individuals to fill its ranks. In her book Troublemaker, actress Leah Remini, who was born into Scientology, notes she was recruited into the Sea Org at age thirteen. According to Remini, Scientologists consider minors to be spiritual beings responsible for their own condition in life and can make decisions for themselves. As a result, many don’t go to traditional schools and instead attend Scientology schools. This might not be so bad, if a Sea Org member could retire after doing their twenty, but they don’t. Ever. Retire at all.
Sea Org members don’t do just twenty years. Remember how incensed some people in basic training were complaining how their recruiters lied to them? Sea Org recruiters at least have the decency to tell you the truth when you sign a billion-year enlistment contract. Since Sea Org members are expected to reincarnate, they owe all their next lives to the Sea Org for the next billion years. Way to Blue Falcon your future selves. I hope the reenlistment bonus is worth it.
Trainees are sent to the Estates Project Force, or EPF, at a dumpy motel in Clearwater, Florida (called “Flag”), doing 12 hours of manual labor a day and two and a half hours of Scientology study until they complete the courses. They eat rice and beans or liquid eggs every day.
Leah Remini recalled having to steal food because she wasn’t fed enough. Twenty years later, she would admit it in a “transgression session” (which is way less fun than it sounds), and was voluntold to repay three months of custard and hamburgers to the tune of $40,000 so she could level up. So just like Uncle Sam, when you owe Scientology, they take what you owe them without mercy. It’s called a “Freeloader’s Debt.” Nothing beats a Leave and Earnings Statement (or LES — a military pay stub) with fifty cents on it.
Imagine spending three months cleaning and managing a Days Inn you don’t own with people you hate while going to night school the rest of the time and being forced to do things like “scrubbing a dumpster with a toothbrush till late at night,” then “getting up at six to do laundry.”
With the exception of Sea Org pay being a far cry from E-1 pay (around $50 a week), Sea Org basic training may still sound a little familiar, except it sometimes never ends. One defector describes the order as “pseduo-military butlers.”
But seriously, the only reason it isn’t slavery is because they volunteered. For a billion years. The good news is there are plenty of ranks to move up to. It’s unclear just how one moves up in rank, except for the obvious Scientology method of paying a ton of money for the privilege.
Remini, like many others, say they joined the Sea Org to help “clear the planet.” Or save the world. They’re young and idealistic. They believe LRH has secrets to save the world and the Sea Org is central to those secrets and they really want to help you. They come in to the Sea Org and start learning right away. Unlike the real Navy, no one ever gets to become a “salty” NCO.
But if the Sea Org has “boot as f*ck” recruits, this is one of them.
Since members of the Sea Org get very little in the way of education and are entirely devoted to the Church and its functions, those who leave (or “blow”) find themselves unable to manage even the most basic of adult tasks, like keeping a job or paying their bills. Many have little to no formal education or skills with which to get a job in the first place.
In her book, Remini reminisced about playing pranks on other Sea Org members. I wonder if they ever sent a recruit out to get a box of grid squares, to get some prop wash, or to find Shelly Miscavige.
Sea Org Members are not allowed to have premarital sex. They can marry but if they want to have kids, they have to leave the Sea Org, because if LRH wanted you to have a family, he would have issued you one.
They have medals
In 2004, Tom Cruise was awarded the Freedom Medal of Valor, which sounds stupid the first time you hear it. And also the second.
They have their own slang and acronyms
Scientology doesn’t have POGs, but they have their own version of it. According to Remini, Tom Cruise was once served a chipped tea cup. His response: “‘You served me tea in a chipped mug? Do you know who gets served with a mug that’s chipped? F*cking DBs.” DB, in Scientology parlance, means Degraded Being, Someone so infested with Body Thetans, evil spirits, as to be unauditable or insane.
Cruise’s ex-wife Nicole Kidman, and now Remini, along with many others, and probably myself now too, are called SPs, or Suppressive Persons, which is funny because in the actual military, if being openly hostile to the service or to the people with whom you serve gets you declared a social outcast, then everyone in the military would have to ignore each other for the next billion years.
This is how they see themselves. (In a weird way, you have to respect the only guy who decided to wear enlisted stripes in the back row, all the way to the right.)
The Sea Org developed its own acronyms over the years, you know, to keep things simple. There are thing like: KSW – Keeping Scientology Working, LRH – L. Ron Hubbard, PTS – Potential Trouble Source, COB – Chairman of the Board (David Miscavige), RPF – Rehabilitation Project Force, MAA – Master at Arms, etc.
For example, if an EPF member messes up bad enough, the MAA will send them to RPF, where they’ll do MEST (Matter, Energy, Space, and Time) work. Did you find that sentence confusing? That’s what you sound like to civilians.
The RPF is a punitive re-education camp for spiritual rehabilitation. Like cleaning grease traps. Hallelujah!
The only ship left in Scientology’s fleet is the Freewinds, an asbestos-ridden heap anchored at Curacao, causing irreparable environmental damage. Unfortunately for the locals there, the Freewinds is the only place a Scientologist can learn Operating Thetan Level VIII, the highest operating level. This is where you can reportedly drop thoughts into people’s heads and talk to plants and animals.
It turns out most of the modern Sea Org doesn’t even serve on the ocean. When researching their training regimen, “sailing” or “seamanship” or “ships” never really came up. The only time “water” appears is when the Sea Org is trying to discipline people, they throw them into the ocean. That’s esprit de corps right there.
So, potential Sea Org cadet, until we meet once more, here’s wishing you a happy voyage home… Now go clean my toilet and get me a new coffee mug, you f*cking DB, before I have you sent to Gold Base so fast you’ll wish the COB would just RPF you to death.
Osama bin Laden’s undated letter to the American people is one of 113 documents declassified by the Director of National Intelligence on Tuesday.
The letter, seized in the May 2, 2011, raid on bin Laden’s Abbottabad hideout, begins: “To the American people, peace be upon those who follow the righteous track.”
The document is part of a second batch translated and released by U.S. intelligence agencies.
The first set of papers was declassified in May 2015.
In the four-page letter, bin Laden writes:
The way for change and freeing yourselves from the pressure of lobbyists is not through the Republican or the Democratic parties, but through undertaking a great revolution for freedom … It does not only include improvement of your economic situation and ensure your security, but more importantly, helps him in making a rational decision to save humanity from the harmful [greenhouse] gases that threaten its destiny.
Although the F-35 Lightning II regularly makes headlines for all the wrong reasons, Air Force pilots at Edwards Air Force Base in California have begun weighing in on the jet’s capabilities, and it’s good news.
US Air Force Lt. Col. Raja Chari, director of the F-35 integrated test force and commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron, said that the F-35’s automated systems free up the pilot to focus on mission planning in an interview with Defense News.
“Each plane is its own command and control platform,” said Chari, who also has experience flying a legacy platform, the F-15.
“You don’t have to do as much stick and rudder, just getting to and from, because there are so many automated modes to use on the F-35 … [It] is almost as easy as breathing.”
US Air Force Maj. Raven LeClair, also of the 461st flight test squadron, raved about another unique aspect of the Joint Strike Fighter, the “glass” or dual touch-screen display which is highly customizable by individual pilots.
“It’s the Burger King jet,” Chari said of the F-35’s versatile setups. “You can have it however you want, your way.”
Combined with the F-35’s helmet, which employs six infrared cameras positioned around the plane to allow pilots to see through the jets’ airframe, F-35 pilots have an unprecedented awareness of the entire battle space.
“In this plane it’s 360 degrees and a much larger range of stuff that you are looking at so that you are not just thinking about what your particular jets doing, but now you are looking at other elements in a national strike package,” said Chari.
“So whether that’s looking at ground targets or emitters or air targets, you are building a much bigger picture than the traditional planes.”
Chari also spoke highly of the F-35’s ability to fly at a high angle of attack, or with its nose pointed up, saying that pilots are learning to use this quality to perform close-in flight maneuvers.
Not only are pilots touting the F-35’s next-gen capacities, maintainers are big on the plane’s internal diagnostic system.
Though critics have claimed that the Joint Strike Fighter’s Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS), a system that internally tracks and diagnoses problems with each part of each plane worldwide, could be wiped out by a single server failure, maintainers told Defense News that the claim is ludicrous.
“We’ve had that happen multiple times, and we can still use ALIS,” said RJ Vernon, supervisor of the Third Air Force about server failures affecting the F-35. In the event of a long-term server failure, the worst-case scenario would be that maintainers have to track the parts manually, which they already do with legacy fighters.
On the whole, Lockheed Martin contractors and Air Force technicians agree, the ALIS is a big help.
“It tells you everything you need to know instantly,” Vernon said. “ALIS reduces our troubleshooting drastically, it makes my job very easy.”
Air Force Staff Sgt. Cody Patters, who as worked on the A-10 and F-16s, said the F-35 was far easier to work on. His only complaint was waiting on the computer to load new tasks.
“We could teach you in 15 minutes,” Patters said of the user-friendly interface.
Additionally, the F-35 was built with maintainers in mind. The time they save working on the plane will translate to millions of dollars in savings over the life of the program.
For example, the panels of the plane allow easy access to maintainers, like the nose that comes off in a single piece. Also, the weapons bay doesn’t require cleaning, because the missiles are launched with air pressure instead of explosives that leave behind residue.
“Our jobs are drastically easier because of the way the jet takes care of itself,” concluded Patters.