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This Naval Academy grad is trying to become one of America’s newest astronauts

On Day 1 of her training as an astronaut, Navy Lt. Kayla Barron walked out of NASA’s Johnson Space Center and watched with her new colleagues as the moon partially blotted out the sun.


Eclipse glasses in hand, the Naval Academy graduate said she began to get a sense of her place in at the agency. The astronauts are some of NASA’s highest-profile employees, but Barron said they’re just one part of the team.

“Everybody here is really excited about what they’re doing and doing really interesting things,” Barron said August 22 in an interview. “In a big-picture sense, everybody comes to work for the same reason.”

Barron, 29, was working as an aide at the academy in Annapolis when she was selected earlier in the summer to become an astronaut. She’ll now embark on two years of training with 11 other NASA candidates and two Canadians.

2017 NASA Astronaut Class. (from left) Zena Cardman, Jasmin Moghbeli, Jonny Kim, Frank Rubio, Matthew Dominick, Warren Hoburg, Robb Kulin, Kayla Barron, Bob Hines, Raji Chari, Loral O’ Hara and Jessica Watkins. NASA photo by Robert Markowitz.

Many of the lessons will focus on the workings of the International Space Station, but there is a chance that members of the 2017 class — the agency’s largest in years — could end up on a mission to Mars.

“There’s a lot for us to learn, a lot of new things to master,” Barron said.

Among them: working from the back seat of a training jet, practicing spacewalks in a pool, and getting to grips with speaking Russian.

Barron was initially interested in pursuing a career as a naval aviator, but couldn’t meet the eyesight requirements. But now NASA will train her on its supersonic T-38 jets, working alongside a pilot and learning about making quick decisions and communicating clearly and getting used to extreme G-forces.

A T-38 Talon. Photo from USAF.

Barron will keep her Navy rank but said NASA’s astronaut office blends military and civilian cultures — a reflection of the varied backgrounds of the trainees.

“It’s an interesting kind of melting pot,” she said.

The trainees are expected to bring their own ideas to the class and learn from one another.

Barron, who has a master’s degree from the University of Cambridge and served as one of the first female officers on a submarine, said her military experience taught her about working as an engineer under extreme conditions.

An astronaut performing a spacewalk. Photo from NASA.

“I think that gives me a bit of perspective on how you can keep your equipment and team running when you’re in a hostile place with limited resources,” Barron said.

During a question-and-answer session between the trainees and three astronauts on the International Space Station, biochemist Peggy Whitson said being able to fix things is one of the most important parts of the job.

“You can’t be hesitant about taking something apart and putting it back together,” Whitson said.

Barron, who said she’s both excited and nervous about learning Russian, asked the astronauts what advice they had about working with crew members from other nations.

The International Space Station. Photo from NASA.

Col. Jack Fischer said that it was important not just to learn the language but to gain an understanding of the other culture.

“It’s no different from how you would figure out how to get along with anyone in a small-group dynamic,” he said.

Barron is originally from Richland, Wash., but will now be living in Houston near the space center.

“We all live out in town,” she said. “We have a real life outside of work.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

A US civilian tried to get revenge in Afghanistan with a sword

Gary Brooks Faulkner, a construction worker from Colorado, was detained by police with a pistol and a sword. Except for the sword, this would not be unusual in Colorado. But he wasn’t in Colorado. He was in Pakistan, and he was there to avenge the 9/11 terrorist attacks by taking a sword to the world’s most wanted man.


When the U.S. Army adopted the motto “Army of One,” a lot of soldiers laughed. But one American civilian seemed to have taken it to heart. He wasn’t ashamed of his self-imposed mission. He was proud of it. Even when he was arrested in the Chitral District of Pakistan while trying to cross into Afghanistan, he didn’t hide it.

“He told the investigating officer he was going to Afghanistan to get Osama. At first we thought he was mentally deranged,” said Muhammad Jaffar Khan, the Chitral police chief. But the gun-toting, sword-wielding Californian was totally serious. He even brought along night vision goggles. The American was even under armed guard while staying in Pakistan under the guise of being an everyday tourist. One night, he slipped away from his guard and made a run for the border.

Faulkner was arrested in Pakistan back in 2010 and had no idea – like the rest of the world – that Osama bin Laden wasn’t even in Afghanistan at the time. Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan was just a ten-hour drive from the Kalash Valley, where Faulkner was staying. There wasn’t even a border to cross or policemen to arrest him or take away his samurai sword.

But the American had no idea where he was going. He told police he brought the Bible along with him and that God would guide him to where Osama bin Laden was hiding, and allow him America’s vengeance. Or at least allow him to capture the world’s most wanted terrorist. But of course, we all know how OBL’s story ends.

Faulkner’s ends with a Nic Cage movie.

Gary Brooks Faulkner, however, was turned over to the U.S. State Department in Pakistan and repatriated home to Colorado, where he was a guest on various talk shows, including The View and The Late Show with David Letterman, before going back to a regular life of managing his brother’s apartment complex. Then one day, a tenant who was being evicted tried to break into his apartment with three of her friends. She tried to intimidate a man who hunted Osama bin Laden with a sword.

He fired a shot at his assailants, but that shot brought the police, who confiscated his weapons and discovered he was a convicted felon. That shot eventually landed Faulkner in jail.

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Keanu brings the pain in the newest trailer for ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’

Professional pain-factory John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is back for a sequel, and once again, there’s a whole cadre of well-dressed people who want him dead.


But if this trailer is any indication, they don’t stand a chance.

The star made waves online earlier this year when a video was released showing Reeves practicing his three-gun skills with tactical shooting master Taran Butler. The hard work appears to have paid off, as the trailer shows Wick aerating assailants in a variety of creative styles.

Reeves’ is joined by fellow Matrix star Laurence Fishburne, as well as Common, Bridget Moynahan, John Leguizamo, and Ian McShane.

‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ hits theaters everywhere on February 10th, 2017.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s first-ever homegrown carrier to be in sea trials soon

China’s first domestically made aircraft carrier began sea trials on May 13, 2018.

The Type 001A carrier left its port in the northeastern city of Dalian is undergoing tests of its power system, according to state-run media outlet Xinhua. Further tests are expected to check radar and communication systems as well a leakage.


The ship, which is conventionally powered, has reportedly had weapons and other systems fitted since it was launched in 2017. It is expected to enter service later in 2018, a year ahead of schedule.

China’s first carrier, Liaoning, was a second-hand ship purchased in 1998 from Ukraine. The new ship is an upgrade to the Soviet-era carrier and will be able to carry 35 aircraft.

Aircraft Carrier Liaoning CV-16

The China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation previously confirmed that a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is being developed and expected by 2025.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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F-35 forward deploys to Bulgaria

Two F-35A Lightning IIs and about 20 supporting Airmen arrived at Graf Ignatievo Air Base April 28 from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England.


The F-35As are participating in the first training deployment to Europe. The aircraft and total force Airmen are from the 34th Fighter Squadron, 388th Fighter Wing, and the Air Force Reserve’s 466th Fighter Squadron, 419th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

“The United States and Bulgaria have a strong and enduring relationship,” said Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, the Third Air Force commander, during a press event after the arrival. “We routinely train through joint and combined initiatives like Operation Atlantic Resolve and in flying exercises like Thracian Eagle, Thracian Summer and Thracian Star. Our commitment to Bulgaria is but an example of our unwavering support to all allied nations.”

Similar to the aircraft’s visit to Estonia on April 25, this training deployment has been planned for some time and was conducted in close coordination with Bulgarian allies. It gives F-35A pilots the opportunity to engage in familiarization training within the European theater while reassuring allies and partners of U.S. dedication to the enduring peace and stability of the region.

U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw

“I have to say that for us, this makes us very proud,” said Maj. Gen. Tsanko Stoykov, the Bulgarian Air Force commander. “Our efforts have been appreciated and we are trusted as a reliable ally and it immensely contributes to the development of the bilateral relations between our two counties and our two air forces.”

This is the first overseas flying training deployment of the U.S. Air Force’s F-35As. The deployment provides support to bolster the security of NATO allies and partners in Europe while demonstrating the U.S. commitment to regional and global security.

Related: Israel’s F-35s may have already flown a combat mission against Russian air defenses in Syria

“We are grateful to our Bulgarian friends for their support in making today possible,” Clark said. “Your cooperation helps prepare the F-35 for its invaluable contribution to our alliance. We look forward to many more years of our shared commitment and partnership.”

This training deployment signifies an important milestone and natural progression of the Joint Strike Fighter Program, allowing the U.S. to further demonstrate the operational capabilities of the aircraft. It also assists in refining the beddown requirements for the F-35A at RAF Lakenheath in order to enhance Europe’s ability to host the future capabilities of the Air Force and coalition team. Also, it helps to integrate with NATO’s infrastructure and enhance fifth-generation aircraft interoperability.

The aircraft and Airmen began arriving in Europe on April 15, and are scheduled to remain in Bulgaria for a brief period of time before returning to RAF Lakenheath to continue their training deployment.

The KC-135 is from 459th Air Refueling Wing, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and is providing refueling support for the deployment to Bulgaria.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard details the importance of the service to the nation

The United States Coast Guardsman will wear multiple hats during their service to this nation. They are an armed force, environmental protector, maritime law enforcer and first responder.

Every single day.


“We have eleven statutory missions that we perform for the country with 42,000 active duty, 6,000 reservists, and 8,000 civilians. We don’t get overtime, we are on duty 24/7 and are subject to the uniform code of military justice. We work a lot of hours to get it done,” shared Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, Jason Vanderhaden.

He continued on sharing the differences between those that serve under the Department of Defense and the USCG. He explained that those under DOD leave to fight, and when they get home, they have a chance to recharge and retrain. That’s not the case for those in the USCG. When a ship returns home from deployment, there are continual repairs and work that doesn’t stop. Then – it redeploys again, to continue serving the mission.

The defense readiness aspect of the USCG is unique. They have always had a respected partnership with the United States Navy and have fought in every major war since their inception on Aug. 4, 1790. They are overseas even now, serving in the ongoing middle eastern conflict. It may surprise the public to learn that they are the nations oldest continuing seagoing service.

“I want to paint the picture that we have a very challenging mission set, but at the same time, we do it well,” shared Vanderhaden. He continued on saying that it’s almost as though coasties thrive on that environment, which is evidenced in the retention rate.

It may surprise people to learn that the USCG has an absolutely vital role in America’s anti-terrorism and counter-terrorism battle. As a matter of fact, they are on the front lines of it. On any given day, they are enforcing security zones, conducting law enforcement boardings, and working to detect weapons of mass destruction.

They are also the nation’s first line of defense against drugs entering the country. The USCG’s drug interdictions account for over half of the total seizures of cocaine in the United States.

While patrolling and protecting America, they are also continually serving her water and its marine inhabitants. They partner with multiple organizations and groups to protect the environment. One of the core missions of the USCG involves protecting endangered marine species, stopping unauthorized ocean dumping, and preventing oil or chemical spills.

“You’ll go a lot of places where people don’t know what the Coast Guard does, that’s for sure. We also struggle a little bit because people think they can’t join the Coast Guard because they don’t swim well. If you are in the water – something is probably wrong,” said Vanderhaden with a laugh. This is because there is truly only one rating or MOS where they have to get into the water, and that is the aviation survival technician, most commonly known as the rescue swimmer.

The USCG often conducts search and rescues in extreme weather conditions. This mission involves multi-mission stations, cutters, aircraft, and boats that are all linked by communication networks. Although public references to movies like The Guardian cause eye rolls within the USCG community; it did bring rescue swimming to a higher level of respect within the public. The rescue swimmer motto should give you goosebumps: “so that others may live.”

You’d think that recruiting potential coasties would be easy with the continuous news coverage and more visibility with certain movies, but it isn’t. Vanderhaden shared that only a small percentage of the population will actually qualify to serve in the armed forces, and getting the word out about the USCG is still very challenging. This is because they do not have the recruiting budgets that the DOD has, so you’ll almost never see a USCG commercial. “We rely on people finding us,” said Vanderhaden.

With the world currently being consumed with the coronavirus or COVID-19 spread, Vanderhaden was asked about the USCG’s response and continuing of its missions during the pandemic. “We still have the service that we have to provide to the nation…. We are still doing our job and we have to, we are just taking more precautions,” he shared. There is no stand down for all of the vital operations of the USCG. He continued on saying, “We do need to make sure that we are always ready to respond, and we will continue to do that.”

Their core values are honor, respect, and devotion to duty. These values guide them in all they do, every single day. They willingly don the multiple hats and are prepared to sacrifice it all in the name of preserving this nation. That’s the United States Coast Guard, always ready.

To learn more about the Coast Guard and their missions, click here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Wounded warrior Elizabeth Marks receives the 2016 Pat Tillman Award

Wounded warrior Elizabeth Marks sat down with Army veteran Bryan Anderson from We Are The Mighty to talk about her journey through recovery from her injury in Iraq to eventually becoming a Paralympic swimmer.


After receiving this year’s Pat Tillman Award at the ESPYs, she spoke about the support she has received after her injury and the inspiration she hopes to provide others in their struggles.

If you’re hurting, whether it’s mental or emotional; if ever you think you’re alone, you’re not. If ever you think no one cares, I do. Please come join me behind the blocks.

The Pat Tillman Award for Service honors an individual with a strong connection to sports who has served others in a way that echoes the former Army Ranger and NFL star’s legacy.

MIGHTY TRENDING

One Navy officer and a pink phone prevent all-out war with North Korea

It happens at least twice a day. A pink phone in the U.S.- South Korean part of the Joint Security Area rings. On the other end is North Korea. The phone is an old-timey touchtone phone, and the calls come in at 0930 and 1530 every day. This is the first time since 2013 these calls have been made. Picking up the phone is Lt. Cmdr. Daniel McShane, U.S. Navy, and while he’s not talking to Kim Jong Un, these are the most important talks with the North since President Trump went to Hanoi.


It didn’t hurt, though.

In a piece for the Wall Street Journal, McShane told Timothy W. Martin that he actually has eight people on the other side of the demilitarized zone that he talks to now. While their exchanges are amenable but often brief, the important part is that someone is calling. For the years between 2013 and 2018, they weren’t – and that was a big problem.

“If they’re talking, they’re not shooting,” says McShane, who will speak to his counterparts in either English or Korean. In-between coordinating the return of Korean War dead, removing mines, and coordinating helicopters, the North Koreans have come to know McShane has a Korean girlfriend and that he loves baseball, especially the LA Dodgers. When there is no message, that’s okay too. They still call to tell McShane there is no message to send that day.

Even North and South Korea have begun to coordinate in recent years.

He’s not the only one who answers the phone, according to the Wall Street Journal, but he’s the most widely known. A few others around the office help him manage phone calls. The younger, enlisted people who have picked up the phone at times have marveled at how well the North Koreans speak English

“I worried about a communication barrier, but there are times when I think, ‘Wow, your English is better than mine!’ ” says Air Force Tech. Sgt. Keith Jordan. He and a handful of others help enforce the UN-brokered cease-fire. The two groups have even met face-to-face, the few groups who do so unarmed. For the time being, it seems that casual conversations about choco-pies and the Dodgers will be the limit of U.S.-North Korean interaction. But as long as that interaction is happening, neither side will be mobilizing for war.

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This drummer boy was 12 years old when he became a Civil War hero

“The Drummer Boy of Chickamauga” was 12 years old when he was promoted to sergeant after firing on a Confederate colonel who was attempting to capture him. At that point John Lincoln Clem became the youngest non-commissioned officer in U.S. history and a Civil War hero.


Photo: Library of Congress

Born John Joseph Klem in 1851 to immigrant parents, he later changed his name to John Lincoln Clem out of admiration for Abraham Lincoln and because he thought “Clem” would appear more American than “Klem.” When the Civil War kicked off, the young Ohio native immediately tried to join the Union Army.

Clem was a 9-year-old when he attempted to enlist as a drummer with the 3rd Ohio Regiment but was turned down because, duh, he was 9. He tried to join a few more units before being accepted at the age of 10 by the 22nd Michigan Infantry Regiment whose motto probably wasn’t “What Child Endangerment?”

Despite allowing Clem to march to war with them, the 22nd knew the Army would not agree to pay such a young soldier. Officers of the unit collected donations to keep the kid in juice boxes and bullets until he turned 13 and could officially enlist.

His early battlefield biography is hazy, with some histories putting him at the Battle of Shiloh in the 22nd Michigan Infantry. The 22nd did not yet exist when that battle was fought.

The Battle of Chickamauga raged from Sep. 19-20, 1863. Painting: Library of Congress

Regardless, Clem participated at the Battle of Chickamauga from Sep. 19-20, 1863 where he was nearly captured before using his sawed-off musket, a custom gift from unit officers, to shoot down the mounted Confederate colonel who was chasing him. His hat was reportedly shot through three times during the battle and his escape from Confederate pursuers.

He made it back to Union lines and received a promotion to sergeant, making him the youngest ever.

His actions at Chickamauga were published in newspapers around the North and he became a celebrity. Unfortunately, his celebrity status worked against him a month later when he was captured by Confederate cavalry who took away his hat with the three bullet holes.

Clem was swapped in a prisoner exchange and sent to serve as a mounted orderly for Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas. He saw action at Perryville, Murfreesboro, Kennesaw, and Atlanta. In the Battle of Atlanta, he was wounded twice. He was initially discharged at the age of 13 in 1864.

2nd Lt. John Lincoln Clem Photo: Library of Congress

In 1870, Clem attempted to enter West Point but failed the entrance exam multiple times. President Ulysses S. Grant commissioned Clem as a second lieutenant in 1871, ignoring the fact that Clem couldn’t pass the tests.

Clem went on to serve until 1915, mostly as an Army quartermaster. He was the last Civil War vet still on active duty when he retired as a brigadier general.

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These Are The US Army’s Top Five Photos Of 2014

The U.S. Army announced Friday the top five photos its photographers took in 2014, and the decision for which shot earned the top honor was left to the public on Facebook.


The process of selecting the best pictures “involved a yearlong photo search and compilation” by Army public affairs, according to the news release. The Army then put the images out to the public on Facebook where they counted up “likes” and “shares.”

With a Facebook “like” count of 2,600, this photo from Christopher Bodin of a 25-Black Hawk helicopter convoy is the best of 2014.

Pilots, from 2nd Battalion (Assault), 2nd Aviation Regiment and 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, flew in more than 300 Republic of Korea and U.S. Marines on 25 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for an air assault, March 13, 2014, on the multipurpose range complex.

Coming in a close second with 2,300 Facebook “likes,” this shot from Sgt. 1st Class Abram Pinnington is a powerful reminder of the sacrifices soldiers made on Omaha Beach in World War II.

A French child, dressed as an American World War II Soldier stands tall, June 6, 2014, while saluting the sands of Omaha Beach, France. The boy, never breaking composure, stood for more than two hours during a 1st Infantry Division ceremony that helped commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

This shot that show’s CH-47F Chinook helicopters transporting Humvees, taken by Staff Sgt. Joel Salgado, garnered 1,300 Facebook “likes.”

This photo taken in October by Sgt. Mark Brejcha highlights soldiers training at the Leaders Reaction Course at Fort Hood. It received 1,200 Facebook “likes.”

Warrior Diplomat Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 85th Civil Affairs Brigade, work as teams to negotiate obstacles at the Leaders Reaction Course on Fort Hood, Texas, Oct. 9, 2014.

The photo taken by Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire, which received 1,100 Facebook “likes,” depicts a somber milestone for the Army. It was taken in March 2014 at the funeral of Walter D. Ehlers, the last surviving recipient of the Medal of Honor during the D-Day invasion of World War II.

Walter D. Ehlers, the last surviving recipient of the Medal of Honor to participate in the D-Day invasion of Normandy during World War II, passes away at 92 years old. Soldiers, with 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, fold the Medal of Honor flag next to Walter D. Ehlers’ casket during a memorial service, March 8, 2014, at the Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, Calif.

NOW: Check out many more incredible photos the Army took in 2014

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Marines will get upgraded personal water filters

The Marine Corps is investing in a next-generation water purification system that will allow individual Marines to get safe, drinkable water straight from the source.


The Individual Water Purification System Block II is an upgrade to the current version issued to all Marines.

“With IWPS II, Marines are able to quickly purify fresh bodies of water on the go,” said Jonathan York, team lead for Expeditionary Energy Systems at Marine Corps Systems Command. “This allows them to travel farther to do their mission.”

Finding ways to make small units more sustainable to allow for distributed operations across the battlefield is a key enabler to the Marine Corps becoming more expeditionary. Developing water purification systems that can be easily carried while still purifying substantial amounts of water is part of that focus.

Master Sgt. Kevin Morris prepares the Individual Water Purification System II for safe, drinkable water straight from the source. IWPS II is an upgrade to the current IWPS issued to all Marines. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

The current system filters bacteria and cysts, but Marines still have to use purification tablets to remove viruses. That takes time – as long as 15 minutes for the chemical process to work before it is safe to drink. IWPS II uses an internal cartridge that effectively filters micro pathogens, providing better protection from bacterial and viral waterborne diseases.

“IWPS II will remove all three pathogens, filtering all the way down to the smallest virus that can be found,” said Capt. Jeremy Walker, project officer for Water Systems. “We have removed the chemical treatment process, so they can drink directly from the fresh water source.”

IWPS II can also connect to Marines’ man-packable hydration packs.

“The system is quite simple and easy to use,” said Walker. “The small filter connects directly with the existing Marine Corps Hydration System/Pouch or can be used like a straw directly from the source water.  The system has a means to backflush and clean the filter membrane, extending the service life. The system does not require power, just suction.”

The current system was fielded in 2004 and used by small raids and reconnaissance units in remote environments where routine distilled water was unavailable. Since then, the system has been used in combat and disaster relief missions.

Also read: Here’s the Army’s awesome new gear to protect soldiers

IWPS II is expected to be fielded to Marines in fiscal year 2018.

“IWPS II will be especially helpful for deployed Marines in emergency situations when they are far from their base to ensure they have a source of water without resupply,” said Walker.

IWPS is one of the many water systems fielded by MCSC’s Combat Support Systems. To read more about the capabilities fielded by CSS click here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Was your enlistment ceremony this cool?

World History was made yesterday at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas where the U.S. Army and NASA utilized state of the art technology to provide the most unique Oath of Enlistment ceremony for new soldiers.

“We have an incredible opportunity to experience a dream all of us grew up with – the opportunity to touch the stars… Right now… 250 miles above us… flies the International Space Station, traveling at speeds that defy imagination, circling the planet every 90 minutes. Simply amazing,” said Brigadier General Patrick Michaelis, USAREC Deputy Commanding General. “Though NASA and the U.S. Army have been working together for the past 60 years, this is the first time to host a nationwide Oath of Enlistment from space for over 1000 soldiers in 150 different locations, where they will launch; no pun intended, their careers.”


U.S. Army Recruiting Command

Twenty five recruits and their families came to celebrate the new soldiers embarking on their new careers via a live video stream from the International Space Station. Recruits got to ask questions to Army Astronaut Colonel Andrew R. Morgan, who has been in space since July 2019 and was selected as an astronaut in 2013. Morgan, a special operations physician, is the commander of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s Army Astronaut Detachment at Johnson Space Center, Texas, and the space station’s flight engineer. Morgan is part of the U.S. Army Astronaut Detachment, which supports NASA with flight crew and provides engineering expertise for human interface with space systems. Additionally, Morgan is a combat veteran with airborne and ranger tabs and has also served as a combat diver. As an astronaut, he has completed seven spacewalks and one space flight to the International Space Station.

U.S. Army Recruiting Command

The recruits tuned in from all over the United States and were able to ask Morgan questions via the video link at the Johnson Space Center. Impressively, it did not take long for the video connection to happen and it was less painful than the time it takes conference calls that occur within the domestic U.S. to get connected. There was a brief lag after each sentence, but nothing different than what a VOIP user experiences via Skype or Facetime.

Morgan welcomed everyone aboard the ISS. When asked if there was recruiting going on for new astronauts, he informed the recruits what standards are needed and shared with them that a strong STEM, science and engineering background with a Master’s Degree was necessary and that they need well-rounded individuals who have the education, but also other qualities.

Morgan opened his uniform zipper to reveal an Army Strong t-shirt, much to the cheers of the recruits. He later displayed all of the US military branch flags and allowed them to float across the screen. He also did a few somersaults.

Also joining in the celebration was the newest Army Astronaut, Lieutenant Colonel Frank Rubio. Rubio entertained live questions from the audience at the Johnson Space Center and gave them lots of advice when facing difficulties in their lives.

Aim high, recruits! Congratulations on your new careers. The sky is literally the limit.

U.S. Army Recruiting Command

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‘Ant-Man’: shrinkable hero on a jumbo-sized romp

(Photo: Marvel Studios)


From “Spider-man” through “Iron Man” and the Avengers series, Marvel Studios has created its own brand of action/adventure movies, bringing audiences a proprietary mix of world-on-the-brink plots, stunning visuals, likable heroes and hate-able villains with complex relationships between them, humor, and – perhaps most signature of all – seamless tie-ins to other parts of the Marvel franchise.

Marvel’s latest release, “Ant-Man,” is no exception. Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang, a white-collar criminal freshly released from San Quentin desperately trying to reconnect with his daughter (a first for a Marvel movie, hero motivation-wise, as director Peyton Reed emphasized at a pre-launch press conference) who lives with his ex and her pushy cop boyfriend. Lang tries to stay out of the burglary (not stealing) business – even taking a job at Baskin-Robbins – but ultimately he falls prey to the temptations of follow-on “jobs” offered by his former cellmates (one of whom is a guy named Luis played by the always-hilarious Michael Pena) who are now his roommates.

Meanwhile industrial technologist Hank Pym, played by Michael Douglas, is trying to keep his former protégé, Darren Cross, played by Corey Stoll of “House of Cards” doomed drug addict congressman fame, from selling his shrinking technology to the highest bidder to destroy the world. Pym shelved the technology after losing his wife to it, a move Stoll views as a slight to his career potential. Stoll has been developing his own suit in parallel but – as the grizzly molecular deconstruction of a couple of baby lambs shows – he hasn’t quite mastered the ability to shrink life forms.

But he’s close, and Pym knows this. Pym needs a guinea pig to wear his suit, somebody with nothing to lose and everything to gain by carrying out a mission to save the world, and he finds Lang by synthesizing a can’t-miss burglary. Lang breaks into Pym’s house, cracks the ancient safe in his basement where he finds – not money – the Ant-Man suit, which, of course, he puts on.

Lang has a wild first ride in the suit, and he’s freaked out by the technology so much that he tries to put it back. But as he does, he’s arrested and thrown in jail – by his ex’s boyfriend, no less. Pym shows up as his “lawyer” and challenges him to fix his life by being Ant-Man.

Ant-Man training is intense, even tougher than Ranger School or BUDS because it involves learning to shrink at the right time, coordinating ops with a variety of ant species that are really big once you’re shrunk, and getting your ass kicked by a beautiful woman who happens to be Pym’s daughter.

The first training mission unintentionally morphs into a raid on the Avengers’ headquarters – a neat connection to another part of the franchise – where Ant-Man tangles with Hawkman, who apparently was the Avengers’ duty officer that day. After a scrap, Ant-Man emerges with a piece of key tech the team needs to move forward.

Lang’s criminal buds are read-in for the final mission – an all-out assault on Cross’ complex – and at that point the Marvel formula is in full gear. Over-the-top action is punctuated by LOL-level humor – one scene involving Thomas the Tank Engine is especially side-splitting – and other tongue-in-cheek asides that show the brand knows exactly how not to take itself too seriously while dealing out the serious pyro-laced slugfests.

In typical Marvel fashion, the movie ends with a teaser – this one involving Hawkman, a nice tie-in to his previous cameo – that hints at a sequel.

“Ant-Man” is a great addition to the Marvel movie collection, at once unorthodox and in keeping with the studio’s formula. The choice of Rudd in the lead role is inspired and ultimately differentiates the movie from others in the genre, and Douglas is in top form. (At a Marvel junket in Burbank a few weeks before the release both actors quipped that they’d gone up a few notches on the “cool” scale with their kids as a result of taking these roles.) The supporting characters are pitch perfect.

From a military point of view, the ability to control the sub-atomic and gamma realm is certainly something DARPA has toyed with, but until they master it, let’s enjoy “Ant-Man” – the perfect summer flick, a blockbuster that both thrills and entertains.

Now: America’s most beloved military veterans