This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows - We Are The Mighty
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This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows

Every Fourth of July, I find myself at a fireworks show enjoying the pretty lights and the prettier colors only to be slapped in the face with a muscially-driven grand finale that should be an awe-inspiring feat of Amerigasmic glory.


Except that the music driving that finale often has nothing to do with America. At all.

I’m talking about the 1812 Overture. Here’s the part you definitely know:

I may be an overreacting history nerd. I accept that possibility. But also consider that I want us all to bask in the glory that is the history of the United States. We are f*cking amazing.

We’re back-to-back World War champs, we have the strongest military in the history of ever unless Star Wars turns out to be real, and we don’t need to take other countries’ history as our own.

My (correct) guess is that people think the 1812 Overture is so-named because of the War of 1812, fought between Britain and the United States, often called our second war for independence. That war was fought to a grinding draw.

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
A draw is not a loss. Just sayin’.

They burned Washington. We burned what would become Toronto (only because London was too far to swim, but dammit, we would have). We checked the vaunted Royal Navy in both oceans and the Great Lakes.

We even teamed up with pirates and beat the British at New Orleans. (Side note: we should bring back pirate alliances.)

My other (probably correct) guess is that if an American doesn’t live in New Orleans or upstate New York, the bulk of what they know about the War of 1812 is that it started in 1812. And because the sun obviously revolves around the Earth and the Earth obviously revolves around America, the 1812 Overture must be about our War of 1812.

What else did history have to pay attention to in 1812, other than America toppling the giant again, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2“-style?

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
Pictured: America. Obviously.

(Reminder: a draw is not a loss.)

It turns out, a whole hell of a lot was going on. Namely, 1812 is the year Napoleon’s Grande Armée (minus all the men he lost to disease and lice on the march) captured Moscow. But before they did, the Russians made sure to douse the city in vodka and burn it to the ground.

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows

The French Army spent the winter in Moscow trying to find snails, or whatever it is they ate, in a burned-out city as babushkas laughed at them from the shells of former homes and distilleries.

This is how Tchaikovsky was inspired to write the 1812 Overture, an awesome piece, complete with church bells and cannons and lots of drums and what not.

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
Simpsons did it.

But Tchaikovsky didn’t like it. He called it, “very loud and noisy and completely without artistic merit, obviously written without warmth or love.”

There are a number of clues in the song that should have signaled to us that it — like many things — isn’t about us. For starters, it’s written by a Russian named Tchaikovsky. That should have been our first clue.

Secondly, the Marseillaise — the French National Anthem — is actually played in the 1812 Overture. More than once.

So when I’m watching the fireworks on July Fourth, I’m always quizzically raising an eyebrow as we celebrate our independence with the French National Anthem.

Unlike other Americana that borrows from other countries songs (The Star-Spangled Banner, for example, is the tune of a British drinking song set to Francis Scott Key’s poem about the bombing of Fort McHenry), the 1812 Overture is a piece we will never be able to fully co-opt as uniquely American.

So play something else. I recommend “The Battle of the Kegs,” an American propaganda song about Patriots scaring the sh*t out of British sailors with a bunch of beer kegs during the Revolution.

Special Thanks to Logan Nye for contributing to this post.
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Flying and attacking with the stealthy B-2 Bomber

Air Force pilots of the 1980s-era stealthy B-2 Spirit bomber plan to upgrade and fly the aircraft on attack missions against enemy air defenses well into the 2050s, service officials said.


“It is a dream to fly. It is so smooth,” Maj. Kent Mickelson, director of operations for 394th combat training squadron, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

In a special interview designed to offer a rare look into the technologies and elements of the B-2, Mickelson explained that the platform has held up and remained very effective – given that it was designed and built during the 80s.

Alongside his current role, Mickelson is also a B-2 pilot with experience flying missions and planning stealth bomber attacks, such as the bombing missions over Libya in 2011.

“It is a testament to the engineering team that here we are in 2016 and the B-2 is still able to do its job just as well today as it did in the 80s. While we look forward to modernization, nobody should come away with the thought that the B-2 isn’t ready to deal with the threats that are out there today,” he said.  “It is really an awesome bombing platform and it is just a marvel of technology.”

The B-2 is engineered with avionics, radar and communications technologies designed to identify and destroy enemy targets from high altitudes above hostile territory.

“It is a digital airplane. We are presented with what is commonly referred to as glass cockpit,” Mickelson said.

The glass cockpit includes various digital displays, including one showing Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) information which paints a rendering or picture of the ground below.

“SAR provides the pilots with a realistic display of the ground that they are able to use for targeting,” Mickelson said.

The B-2 has a two-man crew with only two ejection seats. Also, the crew is trained to deal with the rigors of a 40-hour mission.

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
A B-2 Spirit soars after a refueling mission over the Pacific Ocean. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III

“The B-2 represents a huge leap in technology from our legacy platforms such as the B-52 and the B-1 bomber. This involved taking the best of what is available and giving it to the aircrew,” Mickelson said.

The Air Force currently operates 20 B-2 bombers, with the majority of them based at Whiteman AFB in Missouri. The B-2 can reach altitudes of 50,000 feet and carry 40,000 pounds of payload, including both conventional and nuclear weapons.

The aircraft, which entered service in the 1980s, has flown missions over Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. In fact, given its ability to fly as many as 6,000 nautical miles without need to refuel, the B-2 flew from Missouri all the way to an island off the coast of India called Diego Garcia – before launching bombing missions over Afghanistan.

“Taking off from Whiteman and landing at Diego Garcia was one of the longest combat sorties the B-2 has ever taken. The bomber was very successful in Afghanistan and very successful in the early parts of the wars in Iraq and Libya,” Michelson added.

The B-2 crew uses what’s called a “long-duration kit,” which includes items such as a cot for sleeping and other essentials deemed necessary for a long flight, Mickelson explained.

 B-2 mission

As a stealth bomber engineered during the height of the Cold War, the B-2 was designed to elude Soviet air defenses and strike enemy targets – without an enemy ever knowing the aircraft was even there. This stealthy technological ability is referred to by industry experts as being able to evade air defenses using both high-frequency “engagement” radar, which can target planes, and lower frequency “surveillance” radar which can let enemies know an aircraft is in the vicinity.

The B-2 bomber is described as a platform which can operate undetected over enemy territory and, in effect, “knock down the door” by destroying enemy radar and air defenses so that other aircraft can fly through a radar “corridor” and attack.

However, enemy air defenses are increasingly becoming technologically advanced and more sophisticated; some emerging systems are even able to detect some stealth aircraft using systems which are better networked, using faster computer processors and able to better detect aircraft at longer distances on a greater number of frequencies. The Russian-built S-300 and S-400 air defenses, for example, are among the most advanced in the world today.

The Air Force plans to operate the B-2 alongside its new, now-in-development bomber called the Long Range Strike – Bomber, or LRS-B. well into the 2050s.

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
U.S. Air Force photo

B-2 modernization upgrades – taking the stealth bomber into the 2050s

As a result, the B-2 fleet is undergoing a series of modernization upgrades in order to ensure the aircraft can remain at its ultimate effective capability for the next several decades, Mickelson said.

One of the key upgrades is called the Defensive Management System, a technology which helps inform the B-2 crew about the location of enemy air defenses. Therefore, if there are emerging air defenses equipped with the technology sufficient to detect the B-2, the aircraft will have occasion to maneuver in such a way as to stay outside of their range.

The Defensive Management System is slated to be operational by the mid-2020s, Mickelson added.

“The whole key is to give us better situational awareness so we are able to make sound decisions in the cockpit about where we need to put the aircraft,” he added.

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
U.S. Air Force photo

The B-2 is also moving to an extremely high frequency satellite in order to better facilitate communications with command and control. For instance, the communications upgrade could make it possible for the aircraft crew to receive bombing instructions from the President in the unlikely event of a nuclear detonation.

“This program will help with nuclear and conventional communications. It will provide a very big increase in the bandwidth available for the B-2, which means an increased speed of data flow. We are excited about this upgrade,” Mickelson explained.

The stealth aircraft uses a commonly deployed data link called LINK-16 and both UHF and VHF data links, as well. Michelson explained that the B-2 is capable of communicating with ground control stations, command and control headquarters and is also able to receive information from other manned and unmanned assets such as drones.

Information from nearby drones, however, would at the moment most likely need to first transmit through a ground control station. That being said, emerging technology may soon allow platforms like the B-2 to receive real-time video feeds from nearby drones in the air.

The B-2 is also being engineered with a new flight management control processor designed to expand and modernize the on-board computers and enable the addition of new software.

This involves the re-hosting of the flight management control processors, the brains of the airplane, onto much more capable integrated processing units. This results in the laying-in of some new fiber optic cable as opposed to the mix bus cable being used right now – because the B-2’s computers from the 80s are getting maxed out and overloaded with data, Air Force officials told Scout Warrior.

The new processor increases the performance of the avionics and on-board computer systems by about 1,000-times, he added. The overall flight management control processor effort, slated to field by 2015 and 2016, is expected to cost $542 million.

B-2 weapons upgrades

The comprehensive B-2 upgrades also include efforts to outfit the attack aircraft with next generation digital nuclear weapons such as the B-61 Mod 12 with a tail kit and Long Range Stand-Off weapon or, LRSO, an air-launched, guided nuclear cruise missile, service officials said.

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Val Gempis

The B-61 Mod 12 is an ongoing modernization program which seeks to integrate the B-61 Mods 3, 4, 7 and 10 into a single variant with a guided tail kit. The B-61 Mod 12 is being engineered to rely on an inertial measurement unit for navigation.

In addition to the LRSO, B83 and B-61 Mod 12, the B-2 will also carry the B-61 Mod 11, a nuclear weapon designed with penetration capabilities, Air Force officials said.

The LRSO will replace the Air Launched Cruise Missile, or ALCM, which right now is only carried by the B-52 bomber, officials said.

Alongside its nuclear arsenal, the B-2 will carry a wide range of conventional weapons to include precision-guided 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, 5,000-pound JDAMs, Joint Standoff Weapons, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles and GBU 28 5,000-pound bunker buster weapons, among others.

The platform is also preparing to integrate a long-range conventional air-to-ground standoff weapon called the JASSM-ER, for Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Extended Range.

The B-2 can also carry a 30,000-pound conventional bomb known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, Mickelson added.

“This is a GBU-28 (bunker-buster weapon) on steroids. It will go in and take out deeply buried targets,” he said.

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College poll convinces thousands of Americans that the F-35 is a waste of money

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
Big and Little Brother: An F-35A sits in a run station on the Fort Worth, Texas, flight line, while an F-16 Fighting Falcon, also produced at the Fort Worth plant, takes off in the background. | Lockheed Martin


A new poll from the University of Maryland indicates that the majority of Americans favor of cutting funding from the U.S. defense budget in five out of seven major areas.

Specifically, they favor defunding one of the U.S.’ 11 aircraft carriers, and the F-35 Lightning II, DefenseNews.com reports.

“Given all the talk about increasing the defense budget, we were surprised to find how much Americans are not sold on increases, including a majority of Republicans nationwide,” said Steven Kull, director of the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation.

Indeed the survey, which polled more than 7,000 U.S. voters across the nation, shows that a majority of Republicans would prefer to keep defense spending where it is, a majority of Independents favor reducing the defense budget by $20 billion, and Democrats favor slashing the budget by $36 billion.

The survey presented 2015 figures on spending and offered alternatives. For example, when informed that cutting funding to the F-35 program would save $6 billion this year, and $97 billion through 2037, 54 percent of citizens polled supported cutting the program.

Though the desire to save money and be fiscally responsible is admirable and understandable, top brass in nearly all U.S. military services have expressed concern that nations like Russia and China threaten the U.S.’ foreign interests, and some have even gone as far as to call them existential threats.

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
Russia is in the middle of a massive overhaul of it’s aged, but still dangerous navy. | Photo by Mitsuo Shibata via Wikimedia Commons

Military leaders have stressed the need for progress and innovation to rise to the task of countering a resurgent Russia and a burgeoning China. Recently, the U.S. Air Force chief-of-staff warned that China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force will be poised to overtake the US Air Force by 2030, and a RAND Corp. report found that Russia could overtake NATO forces in the Baltics in 36 to 60 hours, should they choose to do so.

On Tuesday, top Air Force acquisitions personnel took to Congress and re-asserted the need for the U.S.’ fifth generation fighter planes. “We’ve seen both Russia and China develop airplanes faster than was anticipated,” said Lt. Gen. James “Mike” Holmes, according to the Air Force Times.

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
USS Wasp Night Ops: An F-35B off on the flight deck of USS Wasp (LHD-1) during operations, a part of Operational Test 1, or OT-1. | US Marine Corps photo

The survey suggested that Americans supported cutting the number of U.S. aircraft carriers to 10 from 11.

Surprisingly, nationally, the majority of Americans did not support shrinking the submarine fleet from 12 to eight, nor did they want to cut funding to development of a new long range strike bomber.

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‘The last great tank battle’ was a slugfest of epic proportions

The men of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment spearheaded one of the American columns that invaded Iraq on Feb. 23, 1991. After three days of light fighting they stumbled into one of the largest Iraqi armored formations and annihilated it with cannons, TOW missiles and mortars in the Battle of 73 Easting, often called “the last great tank battle of the 20th century.”


This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
Photo: US Navy D. W. Holmes II

Then-Capt. (now Lt. Gen.) H.R. McMaster, commander of Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd ACR, literally wrote the book on the battle and commanded one of the lead elements in the fight.

Helicopters buzzed over Eagle Troop as the ground invasion of Iraq began on Feb. 23. The mission of the 2nd ACR was simple in theory but would be challenging to achieve. They were to cut off Iraqi retreat routes out of Kuwait and destroy the large armored formations thought to be hiding in the flat, featureless desert.

The empty desert could be challenging to navigate since there were no features to use for direction. Heavy rains and windstorms limited visibility as the tanks and other vehicles felt their way through the desert.

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
Photo: US Army

Fox troop made contact first, destroying a few enemy tanks. Over the next couple of days, 2nd Squadron tanks and vehicles would encounter enemy observation and scout vehicles and destroy them with missiles and cannons, but they couldn’t find the Iraqi Republican Guard divisions they knew were dug somewhere into the desert.

In the afternoon of Feb. 26, 1991, McMaster was pushing his troop through a sandstorm when he crested a rise and there, directly in front of him, was an entire division of Iraqi tanks with elite crews. Finding himself already in range of the enemy, he immediately gave the order to fire.

The enemy had parked themselves away from the slight rise so that they would be hidden and so incoming American tanks would be forced to drive down the hill towards them. This exposed the relatively weak top armor of the tank to the Iraqi guns.

But the Iraqis had lost most of their scout vehicles and so were just as surprised as the U.S. commanders when the two armored forces clashed, leaving them unable to capitalize on their position.

McMaster’s opening salvo set the tone for the battle. His first shot was a HEAT round that destroyed a tank cowering behind a berm. His second shot, a depleted uranium sabot shell, shot through an Iraqi tank that was swiveling to fire on him. As his crew targeted a third enemy, the driver realized they were driving through a minefield and began taking evasive action.

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
Photo: Public Domain via Wikipedia

Enemy rounds began falling around the lead tank as the two tank platoons in Eagle Troop got on line to join the fight. Nine American tanks were now bearing down on the Iraqi positions, destroying enemy T-72s and armored vehicles. As McMaster described it in his first summary of the battle:

The few seconds of surprise was all we had needed. Enemy tanks and BMP’s (Soviet-made armored personnel carriers) erupted in innumerable fire balls. The Troop was cutting a five kilometer wide swath of destruction through the enemy’s defense.

The Bradley fighting vehicles joined the tanks, firing TOW missiles at the enemy armor and using their guns to cut down Iraqi infantry. Mortar and artillery support opened up, raining fire onto the remaining Iraqi positions.

The American forces cut down 30 tanks, 14 armored vehicles, and hundreds of infantrymen before reaching their limit of advance, the line they were originally told to halt at. But McMaster ordered the troop to continue attacking, fearful that the Iraqis would be able to regroup and wage a strong counterattack.

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
Photo: Sgt. Devin Nichols

At 23 minutes since first contact, McMaster declared it safe to halt his troop’s advance. The single armored troop had crippled the Iraqi flank with zero casualties. One American tank from the 2nd Squadron headquarters had received light damage from a mine.

Near the Eagle Troop position, Ghost, Killer, and Iron troops were mixing it up other Iraqi units and trying to catch up to Eagle. The enemy made a few half-hearted attempts at counter-attacking the U.S. tanks, but they were quickly rebuffed.

That night, the U.S. called on the Iraqi’s to surrender and it was answered by droves of troops. About 250 survivors surrendered to Eagle Troop.

Up and down the U.S. lines, the story was similar to that of Eagle Troop. The Iraqis suffered nearly 1,000 casualties, 85 tanks destroyed, 40 armored vehicles destroyed, 30 wheeled-vehicles lost, and two artillery batteries annihilated. The U.S. suffered 12 men killed, 57 men wounded, and 32 vehicles destroyed or damaged.

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This American comedy legend defused land mines in World War II

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows


Long before he was making everyone laugh with classic films like “Blazing Saddles” and “Spaceballs,” comedy legend Mel Brooks was defusing land mines in World War II.

After graduating high school in 1944, Brooks — real name Melvin Kaminsky — enlisted in the Army Reserve, where he was picked for the Army Specialized Training Program at the Virginia Military Institute. There he learned electrical engineering, later explaining to Marc Maron on his WTF Podcast, “I figured if the army was going to make me an electrical engineer, I wouldn’t be blown up.”

It didn’t quite go as he planned.

“When I got to Fort Dix after VMI and all of that, they saw engineer, so they put me in the combat engineers [and said] ‘you’re ahead of the infantry!’ You’re ahead of the infantry! You’re clearing minefields.”

Brooks was shipped to Europe in late 1944 and assigned to the 1104th Engineer Combat Group, according to the Army. He started out as a forward observer for artillery in the Battle of the Bulge, and then later, was tasked with deactivating enemy land mines.

“I was a Combat Engineer. Isn’t that ridiculous? The two things I hate most in the world are combat and engineering,” Brooks later joked.

Since he got to the battlefield late in the war, he only saw three months of combat before the war ended.

From the Army:

Discharged as a corporal, he soon found work as a comedy writer in the infant medium of television and adopted the name Mel Brooks. His career expanded into acting, directing, and producing. His achievements include classic films such as Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and The Producers – in which he skewered his old foes Hitler and the Nazis

“I became a corporal. I felt a great sense of achievement, two stripes. … I still have my uniform. I have it at home, have my ribbons. Just in case I have to go in, at least I’ll have some rank.”

Listen to Brooks talk about his time in the Army on the WTF Podcast:

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

NOW: The 5 coolest things in the Army’s massive treasure room

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US Air Force pilots donned Santa hats during Christmas Day airstrike on ISIS

The US-led coalition air campaign against ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria has dragged on for months, but the US airmen mounting the raids haven’t lost track of time.


During Christmas Day airstrikes against the terrorist group, some US pilot donned Santa hats, photos of which were shared by the US Air Force, as first spotted by international monitoring group Airwars.

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
A US F-16 pilot over Iraq wears a Santa hat during strikes against ISIS on Christmas Day, December 25, 2016. US Defense Department photo.

Coalition air forces mounted 18 strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq in Syria on December 25.

Near Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital city in Syria, 11 strikes were directed at ISIS tactical units, fighting positions, vehicles, and weapons, including ISIS’ apparent go-to of late: A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.

Near Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq and the terror group’s last stronghold in that country, two strikes were directed at ISIS tactical units, fighting positions, vehicles, weapons, and infrastructure.

According to a release from Operation Inherent Resolve, all aircraft involved in Christmas Day strikes returned to base safely.

The US-led coalition has mounted hundreds of strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, targeting the terror group’s vehicles, weapons, buildings, fighting positions, resources, and tunnel networks.

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
An F-16 pilot over Iraq can been seen wearing a Santa hat during a Christmas Day operation, December 25, 2016. US Defense Department photo.

Progress against ISIS in Syria appears to have been set back by the Syrian and Russian governments’ concentration on Aleppo, which fell earlier this month after years of resistance.

Moscow and Damascus’ focus on the city reportedly allowed the terrorist group to make progress elsewhere in the country, while a campaign against Raqqa in the east is still in its early stages.

The six-week-old offensive against Mosul, led by Iraqi government forces, appears to have been paused, holding in what one US official called an “operational refit” period earlier this month.

Progress against ISIS in Mosul has been slow, as the confines of the city and the immense number of civilians still in it make military advances hard to come by.

Iraq forces have only retaken about one-quarter of the city since launching their offensive in mid-October.

US forces on the ground in Iraq appear to be stepping up their involvement in the fight for Mosul.

As a recent Reuters report quotes the commander of the main US unit on the ground in Iraq:

“We have always had opportunities to work side-by-side, but we have never been embedded to this degree … That was always a smaller niche mission. Well, this is our mission now and it is big and we are embedded inside their formations.”

Many civilians have found themselves in the cross-fire, especially in Iraq, where they have been caught between ISIS and Iraqi fighters on the ground as well as in the path of ongoing airstrikes.

In the 10 days before Christmas, Airwars documented reports — some of them contested — indicating that more than 50 civilians were killed by air and ground fire from coalition and Iraqi forces.

ISIS continues to menace civilians as well.

The terrorist group has fired on civilian areas of Mosul, including liberated sections of the city, and a Human Rights Watch report issued on Tuesday states that the terror group executed at least 13 people — including two boys — in villages south of Mosul where locals mounted an effort to expel the group’s fighters.

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Top military doc is open to changing obesity standards

The Army is likely catching a lot of grief lately, after a news story reported that Pentagon data showed Joes are fatter than their brethren in other services.


But are they really?

According to the head of the new Defense Health Agency, the way the military measures obesity using the so-called Body Mass Index might be a bit behind the times.

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Senna, assigned to Joint Multinational Training Command, performs push-ups during the Army Physical Fitness Test at U.S. Army Europe’s Best Warrior Competition in Grafenwoehr, Germany, July 30, 2012. (Photo from U.S. Army)

“I know that Navy has looked at this in terms of modifying what they say is a healthy weight and a healthy body mass and I think that’s appropriate,” said Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, Director of the Defense Health Agency told WATM during a breakfast meeting with reporters Oct. 20.

“Do I have any indication that [obesity] is hurting readiness? No,” Bono added. “But I would actually say that is one of the hallmarks of being in the military is that we’re always ready.”

According to the services, a Body Mass Index of 25 or over is considered unsat (the BMI is determined by a simple calculation of height and weight). The National Institutes of Health define obesity as a BMI of 30 or over.

A 44 year-old male who weights 215 pounds and is 74-inches tall has a BMI of 27.6, for example. That’d be considered “clinically obese” to the DoD.

Some in the services argue measuring weight standards using the BMI is a blunt instrument, putting perfectly fit and healthy servicemembers on notice for not being up to snuff.

And while she’s all in favor of modifying how the level of fitness to serve is calculated, Bono is concerned about the overall trend on obesity, with the Pentagon reporting nearly 10 percent of its troops are overweight. And Bono recommended healthier choices in chow halls, regular exercise (not just for the PFT), and stopping smoking.

“My job is to make sure I’m enabling the department to have the healthiest troops possible,” Bono said. “I struggle with encouraging troops to make healthier choices — even when we activate servicemembers with health data or scary pictures of what smoking can do to you they still persist in those behaviors. I don’t know what the right answer is.”

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The Coast Guard and Navy just saved real-life castaways from a desert island

It’s not a movie this time.


The U.S. embassy in the Federated States of Micronesia’s city of Kolonia reported via Facebook that two castaways were rescued on the remote Pacific island of East Fayu after being lost at sea for 11 days.

The merchant vessel British Mariner reported seeing a flashlight signal them as they passed the otherwise uninhabited island on August 24.

The U.S. Navy overflew the island the next day in P-8A Poseidon aircraft. The Navy reported seeing a help message from castaways to the U.S. Coast Guard at the Guam Command Center.

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
(U.S. Navy photo)

Navy observers saw “SOS” written in the beach sands by Linus and Sabina Jack, who left nearby Wenu Island on an 18-foot boat with limited supplies and no emergency equipment. They never reached their reported destination.


 

The pair left on August 17th and the Coast Guard began its search two days later when they failed to arrive at Tamtam Island. The multi-agency team searched some 16,571 square miles before the British Mariner saw their flashlight.

A patrol boat picked the castaways up on August 26.

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
(U.S. Navy photo)

The international search for the couple lasted seven days and used a Coast Guard-sponsored ship reporting system designed to assist vessels under these exact conditions. Called AMVER, the Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue System, the network is voluntary but is used worldwide. With AMVER, users can identify ships in the area of distress and ask them to respond or assist.

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It’s not a scandal; it’s sexual harassment — Marines investigated after sharing nude photos without consent

In the wake of the revelation that a large group of active-duty Marines is under investigation for sharing nude photos of female troops without their consent, a senior congressman is calling on the Marine Corps to take swift and decisive action.


Rep. Adam Smith, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, released a statement Sunday calling the alleged behavior by Marines and Marine Corps veterans “degrading, dangerous, and completely unacceptable.”

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
A 2014 study revealed the U.S. Marine Corps has the highest rate of sexual assault against women in the military (8% of female Marines were sexually assaulted in the year the study was conducted). (U.S. Marine Corps Photo: Cpl. Adam Korolev)

“I expect that the Marine Corps Commandant, General Neller, will use his resources to fully investigate these acts and bring to justice any individuals who have broken the law and violated the rights of other servicemembers,” the Washington Democrat said.

“He must also ensure that the victims are taken care of. The military men and women who proudly volunteer to serve their country should not have to deal with this kind of reprehensible conduct,” Smith added.

The investigation was made public Saturday evening by reporter Thomas James Brennan, who reported for Reveal News that members of the private Facebook group Marines United had shared dozens of nude photos of female service members, identifying them by name, rank and duty station. Group members also linked out to a Google Drive folder containing more compromising photos and information, Brennan reported.

A Marine Corps official confirmed an investigation was ongoing, but could not confirm that hundreds of Marines were caught up in it, as Brennan reported. The official referred queries about specifics to Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which did not immediately respond Sunday.

“The Marine Corps is deeply concerned about allegations regarding the derogatory online comments and sharing of salacious photographs in a closed website,” Marine Corps spokeswoman Capt. Ryan Alvis said in a statement provided to Military.com. “This behavior destroys morale, erodes trust, and degrades the individual.”

Of allegations are substantiated, active-duty Marines involved in the photo-sharing ring could be charged with violating UCMJ Article 134, general misconduct, for enlisted troops, and Article 133, conduct unbecoming, for officers, Alvis said. If Marines shared a photo taken without the subject’s consent and under circumstances for which there was a reasonable expectation of privacy, they may be charged with Article 120, broadcasting or distribution of indecent visual recording, she said.

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
The Marine Corps takes measures to educate and train Marines on sexual assault prevention and response and its effect on our brothers and sisters in arms. The frontline representatives for this effort are known as uniformed victim advocates, or UVAs.Advocates not only provide support, education, and training to Marines, they also play a large part in preventing sexual assault. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“A Marine who directly participates in, encourages, or condones such actions could also be subjected to criminal proceedings or adverse administrative actions,” Alvis said.

To underscore the significance of the allegations to Marine Corps leadership, both Neller and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green released statements condemning the alleged behavior.

“I am not going to comment specifically about an ongoing investigation, but I will say this: For anyone to target one of our Marines, online or otherwise, in an inappropriate manner, is distasteful and shows an absence of respect,” Neller said in a statement provided to Military.com. “The success of every Marine, every team, every unit and command throughout our Corps is based on mutual trust and respect.”

Green went further, releasing a 319-word statement in the form of an open letter calling the online photo-sharing “demeaning” and “degrading” and adding there was no place for it in the Corps.

“We need to be brutally honest with ourselves and each other. This behavior hurts fellow Marines, family members, and civilians. It is a direct attack on our ethos and legacy,” he said. “As Marines, as human beings, you should be angry for the actions of a few. These negative behaviors are absolutely contrary to what we represent. It breaks the bond that hold us together; without trust, our family falters.”

Messages Brennan shared with Military.com show that some members of the group responded to his report by threatening him and his family and attempting to publish information about where he lived.

“‘Amber Alert: Thomas J. Brennan,'” wrote one user, referring to the child abduction emergency system. “500.00 $ for nudes of this guys girl,” wrote another.

Brennan is a former infantry Marine and combat veteran.

This is not the first time the bad behavior of Marines online has captured the attention of Congress.

In 2013, the harassment of civilian women and female troops on several so-called “humor” Facebook pages with Marine Corps members prompted Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California, to call on then defense secretary Chuck Hagel and then-commandant Gen. Jim Amos to intervene.

But in that instance, Marine Corps leadership opted to address the behavior privately, and on a case-by-case basis. No criminal prosecutions of Marines connected to the Facebook pages were ever publicized.

A later 2014 report on similar behavior resulted in investigations into 12 Marines, according to internal public affairs guidance published by Marine Corps Times.

As the first female Marines join infantry units in the wake of a 2015 Pentagon mandate opening all ground combat jobs to women, it’s possible service leaders now feel an additional mandate to quell the online exploitation of female service members by their colleagues publicly and decisively.

“Standup, speak out, and be a voice of change for the better. Hold those who misstep accountable,” Green said. “We need to realize that silence is consent–do not be silent. It is your duty to protect one another, not just for the Marine Corps, but for humanity.”

— Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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13 lessons every new sailor learns the hard way

Being a “NUB” or “boot” in the Navy usually involves a fair amount of pride swallowing and large doses of embarrassment. Old salts get their jollies by giving their fresh-caught shipmates impossible or fallacious tasks. Here are 13 fool’s errands unsuspecting sailors receive on their way toward becoming fleet players:


1. “Go ask Boats for a boatswain’s punch.”

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Elliott Fabrizio/USN

‘Boats’ is short for boatswain’s mate. If you ask him for a punch, Boats will gladly oblige.

2. “Go to HAZMAT and get me some bulkhead remover.”

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows

A bulkhead is a ship’s wall, and it would take a lot of elbow grease to remove it.

3. “Go down to the ship’s store and get me some batteries for the sound-powered phone.”

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Sound-powered phones are  . . . wait for it . . . power by sound. No batteries required.

4. “Go get me the keys to the airplane.”

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Rosa A. Arzola/USN

Silly newbie, Navy planes don’t have keys. Starting a plane involves flicking switches and moving throttles.

5. “Go bring me a bucket of prop wash.”

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James R. Evans/USN

There’s practically a chemical or special product for every job, so this doesn’t seem like an odd request until you realize that prop wash is the water turbulence created by the ship’s propeller.

6. “Go get 20 feet of chow line.”

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Anthony N. Hilkowski/US Navy

This one also sounds reasonable. After all, every piece of rope in the Navy has a name — mooring line, heaving line, tie line, etc. Chow line seems logical until you figure out it’s the line coming out of the galley.

7. “Go get me 10 feet of shoreline.”

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A variation of the task above. You want shoreline? Wait for liberty call.

8. “Go ask the yeoman for an ‘ID-10-T’ chit.”

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Justin R. Pacheco/USN

Write it down and see what you get. Yeomen describe newbies asking for this chit like Christmas at sea — a gift filled with laughter (and pointing).

9. “Go get me some portable pad eyes.”

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
Photo: U.S. Navy

Pad eyes are permanent fixtures on the flight deck that aircraft tie downs attach to. They’re anything but portable.

10. “Go turn on the cooling water for the hand rails.”

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Will Tyndall/USN

Searching for this imaginary valve can take all day. The bulkheads and overhead have miles of pipes and wiring. An unsuspecting sailor can go from one end of the ship to the other without success. Hilarity ensues.

11. “Go ask the supply chief for a can of A1R or A.I.R.”

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
Photo: YouTube

Smart newbies will offer up an empty can, but history shows there aren’t that many smart newbies.

12. “Go get some hangers and tin foil, we need to calibrate the radar.”

Dress the newbie in tin foil with a matching hat and gloves and ask him or her to move slowly to get a good signal. Make sure you bring a camera; the tin man makes for great pictures.

13. “Go practice some touch and goes in the ship’s flight simulator.”

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
Photo: Department of Defense

This one is usually reserved for new aviators. (There are no flight simulators on the ship.)

OR: See what life is like on a U.S. Navy Carrier:

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The latest Medal of Honor is the 11th to come from Afghanistan’s ‘Wild East’

“It’s a kinetic place,” Army Capt. Florent Groberg said Wednesday of Afghanistan’s Kunar province, where his instinctive tackling of a suicide bomber in 2012 earned him the Medal of Honor.


This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
Photo: US Army

Of the 13 Medals of Honor awarded during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, 11 have come from actions in either Kunar or neighboring Nuristan province, collectively dubbed the “Wild East” by the troops.

Seven were awarded for combat in Kunar, and four came in Nuristan. The other two were awarded to Marine Lance Corp. William Kyle Carpenter for his actions in southwestern Helmand province and Army Staff Sgt. Leroy A. Petry for combat in southeastern Paktia province.

“It’s just kinetic, they fight as we fight” along the rugged ridges and slot canyons of Kunar, Groberg said. “Kunar’s a tough place, if not the most kinetic place in the world,” he said. “There’s no specific explanation for it. It’s kinetic.”

Before President Obama began the troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and the combat mission was ended, successive U.S. and NATO commanders had wavered over the years on whether to maintain combat outposts that came under constant attack from a hostile population in Kunar and Nuristan, or simply to abandon the area.

On Thursday, the 32-year-old Groberg, who grew up in a Paris suburb and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, will become the 10th living American to receive the nation’s highest award for valor since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks when President Obama makes the formal presentation at a White House ceremony.

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
Photo: US Army courtesy photo

At a roundtable session with reporters Wednesday, Groberg was joined by three members of his unit who witnessed his sprint to get at the suicide bomber near a bridge in the Kunar village of Assadabad on Aug. 8, 2012 — Staff Sgt. Brian Brink, the platoon Sergeant; Sgt. Andrew Mahoney, the communications specialist; and Spc. Daniel Balderrama, the medic.

All said they felt uneasy as they approached on foot along a paved road to a bridge as the personal security detail for then-Col. James Mingus, now a brigadier general assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado. Mingus was headed to a meeting with an Afghan provincial governor.

“That day, it just felt a little different when we got on the ground,” Groberg said. Brink echoed him: “Everything felt a little different that day. It was a gut feeling. We all felt it. Nobody had to say it. Things just didn’t set right with us.”

In the rear, they heard a car revving its engine. Brink radioed back — “Get him off us, get him off us.” They later concluded that the revving engine was the signal for two men on motorcycles to approach from the front. Brink and others raised their weapons. The men dismounted and backed off.

The road narrowed near the bridge. To the right was a stone wall, to the left a drainage culvert.

Two other men appeared, walking backwards in parallel to the unit. Brink said the man closest to the unit had a bulge on his hip, with his right hand resting on the bulge. Brink raised his weapon again and just as he readied to pull the trigger, Groberg ran at the man, followed by Mahoney.

“You face a threat, you go towards the threat,” Groberg said. For an instant, the man made eye contact. “He had a blank stare,” Groberg said. “He did a 180 and cut directly toward the patrol. I hit him, then we grabbed him and threw him to the ground. He detonated at our feet.”

The second man also set off his explosive device but the force of the blast mainly went into the stone wall.

Groberg was knocked unconscious. About half of his left calf had been torn away. He also suffered a blown eardrum and a mild traumatic brain injury.

Balderrama, the medic, had also been knocked unconscious and suffered shrapnel wounds to his legs. The force of the blast had thrown him into the culvert.

“The first thing when I woke up in that ditch, I was so thankful. He (Groberg) was calling for me, yelling ‘Doc, Doc save my leg.’ I remember seeing his boots covered in blood, his legs covered in blood,” Balderrama said.

Balderrama tried to stand to get to his captain. He couldn’t. “I recall trying to stand up and falling down. I couldn’t put weight on my legs. I kind of shimmied over, I think on my knees or something,” he said.

Balderrama managed to get a tourniquet on Groberg’s leg. “I just wanted to get him to the next level of care,” he said.

The suicide bomber had taken a heavy toll. In addition to the wounded, four had been killed — Army Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Griffin, 46; Army Maj. Thomas E. Kennedy, 35; Air Force Maj. Walter D. Gray, 38; and Ragaei Abdelfattah, 43, a Foreign Service officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Thinking back on it, Brink said the enemy had planned well for that day. “As we approached the bridge, we were attacked just short of the bridge. It was an absolute choke point. There’s no doubt in my mind, looking back in my mind, that it was well planned, coordinated.  They knew we would have to constrict our formation into a smaller group and they took advantage.”

Groberg never stops thinking back on it. “We all fought those demons of ‘why me.’ Why not me? And in the end, you know, it’s combat,” he said. “All we can do now is honor those guys and their families. And make sure that we are better people, that we live our lives for them. And every day when we wake up, we remember. And when it gets tough, we remember.”

“They made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said of the four who were killed. “We’re here to tell you this. I’m so blessed and honored for the medal, but it doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to them.”

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Here’s why flamethrowers were so deadly on the battlefield for both sides

Used as the ultimate weapon to clear out enemy trenches, the flamethrower made its first major war debut during the early days of WWI, unleashing terror upon British and French forces.


The flamethrower dates back to the 5th century B.C. when elongated tubes were filled with burning coal or sulfur to create a “blowgun” that could be propelled by a warrior’s breath.

Considered one of the most devastating weapons on the battlefield, the modern day flamethrower was often considered just as dangerous for the trooper wielding it as it was for the enemy it faced.

Related: The 7 deadliest weapons of the Crusades

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
This Marine sprays his deadly flamethrower at an enemy building. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

At first, the German army tested two types of flamethrowers — a Flammenwerfer (a large version) and the Kleinflammenwerfer (designed for portable use). Using pressurized air or nitrogen, the thrower managed to launch the stream of fire as far as 18 meters (the larger version shot twice as far).

The weapon consisted mainly of two triggers, one to shoot the fuel as the other ignited the propellant.

As American forces adopted the weapon, its popularity grew during the island hopping campaigns of WWII since the Japanese commonly use bunkers or “pillboxes” as defensive positions.

Although the flamethrower was a highly effective killing tool, the operator was at a total disadvantage as the supply tank only allowed the weapon to spread its deadly incendiary for about 10 seconds before running out of fuel — leaving the operator somewhat defenseless.

According to retired Marine Willie Woody, the average life expectancy of a flamethrower trooper on the battlefield was five minutes. Since the fuel tanks weren’t constructed of bulletproof materials, the tanks just made bigger targets.

If struck by a hot round in the right spot, the result could be a massive explosion.

Also Read: The British and Germans built these deadly hollowed-out trees in WWI

Check out the Lightning War 1941‘s video below to see the flamethrowers effectiveness during battle.

(Lightning War 1941, YouTube)
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This Special Forces legend was saved by his beard

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows


Col. James “Nick” Rowe played a large role in designing the modern training programs for Special Forces soldiers, especially the school that prepares troops to survive being taken captive.

Rowe graduated West Point in 1960 and was eventually sent to South Vietnam as a military advisor. In 1963, then-1st Lt. Rowe was captured in a Viet Cong ambush and taken to a prison camp.Rowe’s intimate knowledge of how to survive captivity came from the more than five years he spent as a captive of the Viet Cong before successfully escaping, something he likely wouldn’t have accomplished without his beard.

For five years, the young Special Forces officer spent most of his time in a cage and wasn’t allowed more than 40 yards from it. Limited to two cans of rice per day, Rowe and fellow prisoners would capture snakes and rats whenever they could. Rowe also tried to escape three times.

In order to convince his guards that he wasn’t a threat, Rowe told them that he was an engineer drafted into the Army. They still tortured him, but he stuck to his story until anti-war activists in America released his bio and the North Vietnamese government learned he was Special Forces.

Angry at his deceit and the training he had provided South Vietnamese soldiers, the North Vietnamese sentenced Rowe to death. A Viet Cong patrol took Rowe into the jungle for the execution.

As they were heading to the execution point though, Rowe heard a flight of helicopters. He shoved a guard to the ground and sprinted into a nearby clearing, waving his arms to get the pilots’ attention.

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class James K. F. Dung

They were American helicopters, but the first pilot to spot Rowe saw his black pajamas and nearly fired on him. Then he noticed Rowe’s beard that had grown out during his captivity. After realizing that Vietnamese men were incapable of growing a thick beard, the helicopter scooped Rowe up and carried him to safety.

Rowe returned to the states as a major. He left the military for a short period before returning in 1981 as a lieutenant colonel stationed at Fort Bragg. There, he developed the Army’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape Course using the lessons he learned in captivity.

Rowe later deployed to the Philippines as the ground forces director for the Joint U.S. Military Advisory group for the Philippines where he provided counterinsurgency training for Philippine forces.

On Apr. 21, 1989, he was on his way to the advisory group headquarters when his vehicle came under fire and he was killed.

Rowe wrote a book about his time in the prison camp, “Five Years to Freedom: The True Story of a Vietnam POW.”