I hope you like fireworks because on July 4, 1776, America declared her independence from Great Britain.
The American Revolutionary War broke out the year before, but the colonies had opposed British policies since 1765. The Tea Act of 1773 became a tipping point, causing the beginning of the resistance.
In 1776, Thomas Paine published a pamphlet called “Common Sense” that argued for independence, an idea that quickly gathered support from the Continental Congress. Thomas Jefferson and a small committee drafted the Declaration of Independence, which was approved on July 2 and formally adopted on July 4.
For those of you who like Americana trivia, Army Commander-In-Chief George Washington did not sign the Declaration of Independence. While the Continental Congress assembled in Philadelphia, Washington and his forces were in New York. He received an official notification letter dated July 6, 1776, from John Hancock with a copy of the declaration. Three days later, on the parade grounds of Lower Manhattan, George Washington notified thousands of Continental soldiers that the country they were fighting for had declared its independence.
The Revolutionary War continued for five more years with over 230 skirmishes and battles fought. Finally in 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed and the United States of America became a free and independent nation.
Featured Image: John Trumbull’s painting, Declaration of Independence, depicting the five-man drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence presenting their work to the Congress. The painting can be found on the back of the U.S. $2 bill. The original hangs in the U.S. Capitol rotunda.
1989 aerial view of the Kowloon Walled City (Wikimedia Commons).
Within the borders of British Hong Kong, Kowloon Walled City was an anarchic and highly inhabited Chinese enclave. Chinese government fortifications were turned into a British enclave in 1898 after China leased the New Territories from China. Due to the Japanese conquest of Hong Kong during World War II, the city’s population exploded. Around 50,000 people lived inside the city in 1990. The area was under the influence of local mafias from the 1950s through the 1970s, when trafficking of women and illegal drugs were common.
Administration intentions to destroy the Walled City of Hong Kong were revealed in January 1987 by Hong Kong’s authorities. The destruction started in March 1993 and was complete in April 1994, following a lengthy evacuation procedure and the handover of sovereignty from China to Britain. Walled City Park was established in December 1995 and encompassed the erstwhile walled city’s landmass. This has allowed for several ancient monuments from the walled city to be conserved. Its yamen structure and fragments of its southern gateway were also preserved.
The City was established as an installation during the Song Dynasty (960–1279) to handle the salt trade. A few security officers were posted in 1668, but little more happened for decades. About 1810, Chinese troops evacuated Tung Lung Fort as well as built a small coastal fort. Hong Kong Island was surrendered to Britain by the Treaty of Nanjing in 1842, under the throne of Daoguang, the Qing Emperor. Therefore, the Qing authorities made it mandatory to upgrade the castle concerning the conduct over the territory and prevent future British influence. The construction of a strong defensive wall and other upgrades were finished in 1847. 1854 saw insurgents conquer the walled city as during Taiping Rebellion, only to be recaptured days prior. It used to be Lai Enjue’s citadel, and is now the “Dapeng Association House” within the walled city.
China proclaimed its intention to recapture the walled city in 1945, following Japan’s capitulation. “Revised Framework Program for Restitution of Governance” was prepared by patriotic Chinese authorities in November 1946. It featured a school, a police department and other services. Regarding the Chinese Civil War, many refugees fled to Hong Kong, then by 1947, the city’s walls were occupied by more than 2,000 people. It was 1948 when the British made an unsuccessful plan to persuade them out of the walled city.
China’s Ruling party decided to send a policy statement to the British ambassador on January 8, 1948. Ashton stated, “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs presently officially recognize to the British Embassy which, in conformity with the terms of such Agreement, China relishes sovereignty well over the City of Kowloon and though they have hardly any willingness of giving up this purview at any time.” The range of options was examined by the British Foreign Office on 4 February 1948, notably converting Kowloon Walled City into a Nationalist Chinese Consulate-General. However, the Chinese have agreed not to seek to execute that authority in practice. Furthermore, the British Foreign Ministry suggested that a public garden administered by the local corporation of Kowloon Leasehold landmass provides such a prospect.
It was reported on January 14, 1987, that both governments’ officials had agreed to demolish the city’s walls. By March 10, 1987, keeping up with the news that such a walled city would just be turned into park land, the Secretary for District Administration petitioned that the Urban Council offer to assume the responsibility of the land after its destruction. The Urban Resource Center questioned the necessity for it “besides one more park” from a planned and operational standpoint, so this council decided to approve the state’s offer on the provision that the state pay for park establishment.
It took four months to implement. On March 23, 1993, annihilation of the walled city was launched and ended in April 1994. The next month, construction set about on Kowloon Walled City Park.
A look at where the United States has fought in the 21st century:
After al-Qaida attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. led an invasion of Afghanistan that ousted the Taliban. Though the U.S. and NATO formally ended their combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, the war — now in its 16th year — drags on.
Under President George W. Bush, the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 and toppled Saddam Hussein. Bush’s successor, President Barack Obama, pulled U.S. troops out of Iraq in 2011 after failing to reach an agreement with Baghdad to leave a residual U.S. force behind.
Under Obama, the U.S. dramatically increased the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, to launch counterterrorism strikes without the need for a large U.S. military presence on the ground. The CIA and Defense Department have launched strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, some of them covert.
Intense criticism from civil liberties advocates led Obama to create legal parameters for drone use that he hoped future presidents would respect. At least 117 civilians were killed from 2009 to 2016 by drone strikes outside of traditional warzones, the U.S. intelligence community has said. Other estimates place the toll higher.
The U.S. and European allies launched an air campaign in Libya in 2011, aiming to prevent atrocities by strongman Moammar Gadhafi against Arab Spring-inspired opponents. The bombing campaign toppled Gadhafi, but Libya slid into chaos and infighting. The Islamic State group later gained a foothold.
After IS captured a wide swath of Iraq and Syria in 2014, Obama announced the U.S. could target the group “wherever they are.”
The U.S. started sending small numbers of military advisers to help Iraq’s weakened military fight IS. The number has crept up to around 7,500 U.S. troops. IS has lost much of its former territory.
In Syria, the U.S. has conducted airstrikes against IS since 2014. More recently, the U.S. has dispatched growing numbers of special operations forces to assist Kurdish and Arab forces fighting IS. Roughly 500 U.S. fighters are in Syria, plus additional, “temporary” forces that rotate through.
Even while fighting IS in Syria, the U.S. has avoided wading into Syria’s civil war by directly confronting Syrian President Bashar Assad — until now. On April 6, U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea launched some 60 Tomahawk missiles at an air base in response to a chemical weapons attack blamed on Assad’s forces.
The strikes mark the first direct U.S. attack on Syria’s government, which has waged a six-year civil war against opposition groups. It also puts the U.S. into a de facto proxy battle with Russia’s military, which is on the ground in Syria and has propped up Assad.
As president of The Mission Continues, Spencer Kympton knows a thing or 2 about leadership, service, and inspiring the next generation. His nonprofit believes that what military veterans “need most is an opportunity to deploy their skills, experiences, and desire to serve in their community.” Getting veterans to serve on the homeland not only keeps them doing what they love, it gives kids a firsthand view of how real heroes act.
Heroic ass kicking is Kympton’s forte. Since graduating as West Point’s valedictorian, he’s served as a Blackhawk pilot, worked with everyone from the FBI to McKinsey Company, and snagged a Harvard MBA with honors along the way. Now that he has a 6-year-old son, Kympton’s determined to teach service (and ass kicking ) the same way his father taught him.
How does your work with The Mission Continues influence you as a father?
One of the biggest things that I’ve learned is applying the same core values that we have at Mission Continues to my parenting:
Work Hard — Parenting is hard and you got to work at it. It’s something that takes constant effort.
Trust — Trust is at the center of it. The trust your child has in you is one of the most important things that you establish early on.
Learn and Grow — If you are not walking into parenthood embracing the amount of learning and growing every day, then you’re behind the 8-ball from the start.
Respect — Demonstrate respect for you kid and the struggles, challenges, and things they deal with.
Have Fun — Parenting ultimately is fun, and there’s not a day that goes by — even through challenges and struggles — when there’s not something tremendously fun about my relationship with my son.
Does being a father affect your work at The Mission Continues?
We have quite a few fathers on staff. In fact, even though we are a veterans organization in the people we work with, the reason we exist is to inspire kids. If you listened to some of our internal conversations, the reason we do projects in communities and put veterans into community-facing organizations is ultimately to demonstrate to my son’s generation that service in the military or in the community is what makes this country strong. The more ways that we can get veterans out into communities and those stories in front of children the better. That’s success for us.
Out of curiosity, how many demerits did you receive as a West Point cadet and why?
At West Point there were things called “hours.” An hour was quite literally an hour of marching back and forth in full uniform with a weapon on the weekend. There were certain infractions that got you lots of hours, and the biggest issue was you weren’t allowed to go anywhere if you had to stay and march hours. I got a little crazy at a tailgate my sophomore year and broke a couple of rules and ended up walking 48 hours over the fall/winter of my sophomore year. I learned a lot from that, and I was taught respect for some of the rules at West Point. Didn’t make that mistake again.
What are some lessons you learned as a Blackhawk pilot that you apply in your work and family today?
One of the things that impacted me most as a Blackhawk pilot was when I was stationed in Honduras in the mid-90s. In one case, we spent a couple of weeks flying doctors, dentists, and veterinarians into the Mosquito Coast of east Nicaragua — villages with no roads that got to them. They quite literally had never seen a car or motorcycle, much less this big hulking helicopter that flew in. When we landed, hundreds of kids ran out fascinated. We watched these doctors and dentists issue inoculations, prenatal vitamins, pull back teeth, or just do basic humanitarian care.
What I took away from that is the magnitude of challenges some kids in this world face. I also realized how important it is to ensure my son knows how fortunate he is. Life shouldn’t be about making his piece of the pie bigger but making sure the pie itself is bigger and more people are able to come to the party to have some of the pie.
That time in Honduras, seeing the conditions that other cultures have to raise their kids in, was very eye-opening.
What did your father teach you that you draw on as president of The Mission Continues?
My dad went to West Point as well. I grew up in a family that places value on service to country, particularly through the military as a starting point. My dad didn’t stay his full career in the military, but I learned service in the military can be the start of the arch of service to country that lasts your entire life. It can show up in various ways: military service, service in the community, school systems, and public service, whether local, municipal, or national government. Service can pop up in a lot of ways throughout your career. It’s the glue that sticks it all together.
How do you inspire your son to follow a similar path?
My wife and I plan to expose him to as many opportunities to serve others as possible. That may involve going to service projects with The Mission Continues, which he’s done. It may involve ensuring every time he gets an allowance a portion goes to some endeavor that helps serve others. He gets to do this because we involve him in that selection process and understanding the organization and the endeavor he’s giving that money to.
One thing I don’t want to do is force my son into anything that doesn’t feel natural or inspiring to him.
Army soldiers count on the elite medics assigned to air ambulance crews to pull them out of combat when they are wounded. These crews, called, “Dustoff,” fly unarmed choppers into combat and provide medical care to patients en route to US field hospitals. This air medical evacuation saves lives and bolsters the confidence of soldiers in the field.
When the terrain is too rough for even a helicopter to land, hoists are used to lower medics or raise patients.
US Army Dustoff crews typically consist of a pilot, copilot, flight medic, and crew chief. Some teams, especially those on the newer UH-72A aircraft, will have a firefighter/paramedic in place of the crew chief unless a hoist operation is expected.
Flight medics will train other soldiers on how to properly transfer patients to a medevac helicopter.
When possible, the crew chief or flight medic will leave the bird to approach the patient, taking over care and supervising the move to the chopper.
This training is sometimes done with foreign militaries to ensure that, should the need arise in combat, the US and other militaries will be able to move patients together. Here, Republic of Korea soldiers train with US medics.
Medics going down on a hoist are supported by the crew chief, an aviation soldier who maintains the aircraft and specializes in the equipment on the bird.
Of course, not all injuries happen during calm weather in sunny climes. Medevac soldiers train to perform their job in harsh weather.
The crews also train to rescue wounded soldiers at any hour, day or night.
Some medevac pilots even train to land on ships for when that is the closest or best equipped hospital to treat a patient.
Dustoff crews also care for service members who aren’t human. The most common of these patients are the military working dogs.
The Dustoff helicopters are launched when a “nine line” is called. When this specially formatted radio call goes out, medevac crews sprint to ready the choppers and take off.
The medevac is eagerly awaited by the troops on the ground who request it.
The flight medics can provide a lot of care even as they move a casualty in the air. Most patients will get a saline lock or an intravenous drip to replace fluids.
Flight medics have to deal with turbulence, loud noises, and possible attacks from the ground while they treat their patients.
Another challenge flight medics often face is providing treatment in low light or no light conditions.
No light conditions require the use of NVGs, or night vision goggles.
Medical evacuation helicopters also face challenges while picking up their patients. The tactical situation can be dangerous where these birds operate.
Ground soldiers have to secure the landing zone.
When the medevac bird returns to the base, the casualty is rushed into the hospital so they can be treated.
If a soldier’s injuries are severe enough, they’ll be stabilized and prepped again for transport to hospitals outside of the deployment zone.
The mission of those under the Dustoff call sign can be challenging, but it provides great comfort to the troops on the ground.
A lot of popular music artists have attempted to capture the military experience over the years, but only a small percentage of them have gotten it right in the eyes of the community. Here are the 9 that did it best:
1. “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy Of Company B,” The Andrews Sisters (1941)
A fast-living jazz musician from Chicago gets drafted and winds up in the heat of the action with Bravo Company. But his CO is a music fan who uses his power and influence to get the rest of the guy’s band drafted and assigned to the same unit. They all wind up hated by their fellow soldiers because they’re the ones who play reveille every morning, never mind whether or not it’s a hip version of it. As classic a military tale as there is.
2. “Billy, Don’t be a Hero,” Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods (1974)
A young patriot goes to war against his fiancees’ wishes and gets killed because he didn’t follow her sage guidance. And in the end she tears up the letter that documents his heroism because she feels like his service and sacrifice were a waste. This classic by these one-hit wonders may qualify as “bubblegum pop,” but its subject matter is super intense.
3. “Ballad of the Green Beret,” Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler, U.S. Army (1966)
“Silver wings, upon his chest . . .” This song was written by author Robin Moore and SSgt. Sadler while Sadler was recovering from wounds he sustained while serving as a medic in Vietnam, a fact that kept him from getting grief from fellow soldiers for going on TV in full uniform and singing with kind of a high voice. “Ballad of the Green Beret” became a no. 1 hit — amazing considering how the American public was rapidly going south about the war in Vietnam and pro-military sentiments were already hard to find.
4. I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag, Country Joe McDonald (1968)
Country Joe was a counterculture crooner from the Bay Area who walked on stage at Woodstock after Richie Havens’ opening set basically to kill some time. He played two songs with little response from the massive crowd and walked off. He thought better of it and walked back on and did what was commonly known as “the FISH cheer” (that actually spells something else). The crowd came alive, so he launched into “Fixin’ to Die Rag,” a satire of the military-industrial complex and the impact of the war on suburbia, which was included in the “Woodstock” movie and, as a result, became a classic hit of the Vietnam era.
Perhaps John Fogarty’s best recorded vocal performance, “Fortunate Son” hit the airwaves at a time when the Vietnam-era draft was starting to feel like class warfare and the hypocrisy of the ruling elite was revealing itself. With a driving beat, a searing guitar riff, and Forgarty singing lyrics like “I ain’t no senator’s son, no no,” the song resonated with those doing their duty while their richer and better-placed peers didn’t. “Fortunate Son” made it to no. 3 on the charts.
6. “The Star Spangled Banner (live at Woodstock),” Jimi Hendrix (1969)
Jimi Hendrix was not that well known in America when he took the stage at Woodstock on the morning of August 18, 1969. It was a Monday morning and all but several thousand of the nearly 1 million attendees had left the festival. Hendrix, an Army vet, surprised the audience (and his band) by launching into his rendition of the National Anthem, a version that many conservatives at the time criticized as unpatriotic. But history has shown it to be perhaps the most accurate musical portrayal of the state of America at the time and, beyond that, a timeless reading of the chaos of war. In 2011, the editors of Guitar World placed his rendition at number one in their list of his 100 greatest performances.
7. “War Pigs,” Black Sabbath (1970)
With an ominous air raid siren opening and lyrics like “generals gathered in their masses, just like witches at black masses,” this track from Sabbath’s classic second album “Paranoid” was heavy metal before anyone even knew there was such a thing. And in Ozzy’s shallow metaphor lives the sentiments of millions who have gone in harm’s way since man first took up arms.
8. “99 Luftballoons,” Nena (1983)
The oldest military story ever told: 99 balloons are mistaken for UFOs, causing a general to send pilots to investigate. Finding nothing but child’s balloons, the pilots decide to put on a show and shoot them down. The display of force worries the nations along the borders and the war ministers on each side bang the drums of conflict to grab power for themselves. In the end, a 99-year war results from the otherwise harmless flight of balloons, causing devastation on all sides without a victor. (Wikipedia)
9. “Bodies,” Drowning Pool (2001)
The song that launched thousands of patrols out of the FOBs and into the dirty streets of Iraq and Afghanistan. “Bodies” may not have been written with the military in mind, but it’s urgent beat and overall atmosphere of brutality worked for those who answered the call after 9-11, and they adopted it as their own. Also of note is that the song was used by interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay detention camps in 2003, including over a 10-day period during the “questioning” of terror suspect Mohamedou Ould Slahi.
Berlin is known as the techno music capital of the world. Much to the chagrin of Detroit, where the style originated, the German city took the style and baked it right into their up-and-coming ’90s culture. How that happened has a unique history, including political events that allowed the city to flourish with its own thriving music scene.
Techno music as we know it wouldn’t exist today without the fall of the Berlin Wall and the German Democratic Republic. Here’s why:
When East Germany reunified with the West, there was a lull. A lull in government jurisdiction, in law enforcement, and in collecting assets. For years, large buildings that had disputed ownerships sat empty with no one keeping an eye on them and no one enforcing what took place within their walls. Because of this lack of order, young music fans were given the chance to thrive.
They would host parties in these abandoned buildings, illegally, but with little consequence. An underground movement began where locations spread by word of mouth. The were multiple-day parties in industrial settings where there were basically no rules — sex, drugs, and dancing were all welcome. The only rule? Remain respectful to those around you.
Parties were first held through an underground scene, radios or flyers would provide instructions to call a number at a certain time, and the person receiving the call would provide the location of the party. Usually, a single party was held for a day or two at a location, then it was off to the next spot to avoid attracting too much attention.
Techno enthusiasts explored and found empty buildings across East Berlin where they could throw their parties. Factories, empty apartment buildings, former military sites, even condemned buildings. Most locations had been confiscated by Nazis, then sat empty while legal battles determined the property’s rightful owner. In the meantime, they fell into disrepair and served as the perfect locations for multi-day techno raves.
Before the fall
Before the fall of the wall, East Germans had their radio censored. Young people would travel near the wall where they could, on occasion, pick up radio signals from West Berlin’s freeform waves, including disco parties that were often broadcast. Some dance parties, few and far between, were hosted in East Germany. That, however, required an appeal to the government, which took months of red tape to become approved.
But once the wall was taken down, all bets were off. East Germans were now free to attend techno dance scenes. But they were soon outgrown, with the ability to only hold about 100 people at a time. A need emerged, and techno fans began creating their own parties. Finding bigger and bigger venues to fit their growing fan base.
A legal venture
Over time, these industrial buildings were transformed and turned into actual dance and music clubs. Eventually, it became a business, owned by the same people who were previously throwing parties illegally. Techno events were no longer on a pop-up schedule, but a certified brand. It’s worth noting that liquor or attendance permits weren’t yet enforced; the government was still working on regulating. There simply wasn’t infrastructure in place to check on a business’ paperwork. This allowed these non-experienced entrepreneurs to roll in more money early on, and brush up on their business chops as regulations were put into place.
Of course, over time, the disco scene in Germany became more regulated. With the government seeing it as an important part of tourism and city revenue, it provided support, allowing the town’s techno business to grow far quicker than in other countries (like Detroit). To account for a growing club scene, Germany did away with things like closing times (the clubs stay open all weekend) and dress codes (you might just a naked person dancing. Don’t be alarmed). There was also no “last call” for alcohol. Today, it continues to offer thriving nightlife opportunities to citizens and visitors alike, as well as providing huge profits for the city as a whole.
Nuclear technology for power is not a new concept; we’ve been doing it for decades through fission. Fission occurs when an atom is split into smaller fragments, creating small explosions resulting in the release of heat energy. Fusion, on the other hand, is the process by which gas is heated up and separated into its ions and electrons. When the ions get hot enough, they can overcome their mutual repulsion and collide, fusing together, hence its name — fusion. When this happens, the energy released is three to four times more than that of a fission reaction, according to Lockheed Martin.
Lockheed Martin aims to mimic the fusion process within a small magnetic container designed to release its hundreds of millions of degrees of heat in a controlled fashion. These devices will be small enough to be used on planes and other vehicles.
Its compact size is the reason for which the engineers and scientists at Lockheed Martin believe they can achieve this technology so quickly. A small device size allows them to test and fail quickly under budget.
In this video Tom McGuire, a research engineer and scientist at Lockheed Martin explains how they plan to bottle the power of the sun within a decade:
A United States Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian government Su-22 Fitter near the village of Ja’Din. The incident was first reported by a Kurdish official on Twitter.
Tom Cooper, a freelance military aviation analyst and historian, told WATM that it would mark the first kill for the Super Hornet and the first Navy kill since Operation Desert Storm in 1991 “if I didn’t miss any UAV-kills.” In 1981, the F-14 scored its first kills for the United States Navy by shooting down Libyan Su-22 Fitters.
According to a release by Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, the incident occurred roughly two hours after Syrian government forces had fired on pro-democracy rebels, driving them from Ja’Din. Coalition aircraft carried out “show of force” missions to halt the firing. The coalition contacted Russian forces through a de-confliction line in the wake of that incident.
Roughly two hours later, the Syrian Su-22 Fitter attacked, dropping bombs near the position. A Navy F/A-18E responded by shooting down the Syrian plane. The Syrian Ministry of Defense admitted to the loss of the plane, calling it an “act of aggression” by the United States on behalf of Israel.
There have been past incidents where American forces have fired on pro-government forces to protect pro-democratic rebels. One notable incident took place June 8, when an F-15E Strike Eagle shot down an Iranian drone after it attacked pro-democracy rebels.
The Su-22 was the primary target of a Tomahawk strike on Shayrat air base this past April after the Syrian government used chemical weapons. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Porter (DDG 78) and USS Ross (DDG 71) fired 59 missiles in the strike.
According to a United States Navy fact sheet, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet entered service in 2001 with Strike Fighter Squadron 115. It has a top speed in excess of Mach 1.8, a range of 1,275 nautical miles, and can carry a wide variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions.
It’s about the most useful item the U.S. military has ever issued and has earned a soft spot in every servicemember’s heart for its versatility and the cozy comfort it delivers when Mother Nature turns against you.
But while the success of the elegant square of quilted heaven rests largely on its simplicity, it has recently received a much-needed update that’ll deepen a trooper’s smile.
Enter the Woobie 2.0.
Marines are now being issued the so-called “enhanced poncho liner,” which to most of those who’ve cuddled up to its synthetic-filled goodness will notice has a huge upgrade that many a servicemember has been clamoring for for years. The new version of the woobie keeps its various tie down points and parachute chord loops, but adds a heavy-duty reversible zipper to turn the thing into a no joke cammo cocoon.
One of the most logical moves in the poncho liner’s redesign is the addition of a reversible, heavy-duty zipper to turn it into a lightweight sleeping bag. (Photo from Breach Bang Clear)
“They added the zipper because most people like to use these as a really lightweight sleeping bag,” said Brian Emanuel, general manager at Climashield, which make the insulation that gives the woobie its magical warmth.
The changes to the new poncho liner are more than skin deep, with the old insulation being replaced by the more durable Climashield insulation that can be compacted tighter, is lighter than the old version but delivers more insulated goodness than the poncho liner of old.
“Basically you now have the same weight and 50 percent more warmth,” Emanuel said.
The insulation is so tough, the new woobie doesn’t need to have as much stitching (the old version had what’s called “dumbbell quilting” in order to keep the insulation in place). In fact, the insulation and new shell materials are so tough, there didn’t need to be any stitching at all — typically a major contributor to cold spots when the mercury dips.
But the Corps was worried about large rips, so developers kept some stitches running down the liner’s length.
While the Marine Corps has outfitted the enhanced poncho liner to its Leathernecks, the Army is still tweaking the design for its own use, Emanuel said.
“They tried to entice the Army to adopt this system as is, but they’ve decided to change the dimensions so it’s the exact same size as their tarp, which is significantly larger than what the Marines have,” Emanuel explained.
So Climashield is trying to work with the Army to decrease the weight of their poncho liner by reducing the amount of insulation with the larger size.
“We’ve said we can reduce the weight by 10 percent from what you’re using today and deliver 30 percent more warmth,” he added.
We Are The Mighty has teamed up with Grunt Style to launch a new online merch store. Grunt Style is a veteran-owned and operated clothing brand founded by Army veteran and drill sergeant Dan Alarik.
Started as a small custom t-shirt operation at Fort Benning, Grunt Style has evolved into a multi-million dollar business that employs nearly 70 veterans and embraces military themes and values in its company culture.
Here’s what happened when Grunt Style visited the WATM offices:
The sun has set over the scrubby Savannah. The moon is full. It is time for Ryan Tate and his men to go to work. In camouflage fatigues, they check their weapons and head to the vehicles.
Somewhere beyond the ring of light cast by the campfire, out in the vast dark expanse of thornbushes, baobab trees, rocks and grass, are the rhinos. Somewhere, too, may be the poachers who will kill them to get their precious horns.
The job of Tate, a 32-year-old former US Marine, and the group of US military veterans he has assembled in a remote private reserve in the far north of South Africa is simple: keep the rhinos and the rest of the game in the bush around their remote base alive.
The men are not mercenaries, or park rangers –they work for Tate’s Veterans Empowered To Protect African Wildlife (Vetpaw), a US-based nonprofit organization funded by private donations. All have seen combat, often with elite military units, in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Though equipped with vehicles, trail bikes, assault rifles, sniper suits, and radios, the most important weapons in the war against poaching, Tate believes, are the skills and experiences his team gained on successive deployments in conflict zones over the last decade and a half.
“We are here for free. We are not going anywhere. Whether it is cold or hot, day or night… we want to work with anyone who needs help,” Tate says.
The initiative is not without controversy. Some experts fear “green militarization” and an arms race between poachers and gamekeepers. Others believe deploying American former soldiers to fight criminals in South Africa undermines the troubled country’s already fragile state.
But the scale of the challenge of protecting South Africa’s rhinos is clear to everyone, with a rise in poaching in recent years threatening to reverse conservation gains made over decades.
Though rhino horns are made of keratin, the same substance as fingernails, a kilo is worth up to $65,000. The demand comes from East Asia, where rhino horn is seen as a potent natural medicine and status symbol, and is met by international networks linking dirt-poor villages in southern Africa with traffickers and eventually buyers. Patchy law enforcement, corruption and poverty combine to exacerbate the problem.
In South Africa, home to 80% of the world’s wild rhinos, only 13 were poached in 2007. In 2015, the total was nearly 1,200, though losses have declined slightly since.
“These criminal gangs are armed to the teeth, well-funded and part of transnational syndicates who will stop at nothing,” a South African government spokesman said in February.
Tate founded Vetpaw after seeing a documentary about poaching and the deaths of park rangers in Africa. His team now works on a dozen private game reserves covering a total of around 200,000 hectares in Limpopo, the country’s northernmost province. One advantage for local landowners is the protection heavily armed combat veterans provide against the violent break-ins feared by so many South Africans, particularly on isolated rural farmsteads. The team has also run training courses for local guides and security staff.
But if one aim of Vetpaw is to counter poaching, another is to help combat veterans in the US, where former servicemen suffer high levels of unemployment and mental illness.
“Everyone gets PTSD when they come back from war … you are never going to get the brotherhood, the intensity again … [There are] all these veterans with billions of dollars of training and the government doesn’t use them. I saw a need in two places and just put them together,” says Tate.
The Vetpaw base in the bush in Limpopo, though considerably less spartan than most “forward operating bases”, is familiar to anyone who has spent time with US forces. There is a rack of helmets and body armor, a detailed map pinned to the wall, and banners with the insignia of US Special Forces hung above a dining table. There is the banter, and the jargon. The team talks of tactical missions, intel, and “bad guys”.
Despite lines on a whiteboard reading, “In the absence of a plan move towards the sound of gunfire and kill everything,” Tate says he has selected combat veterans because they will resist the temptation to use lethal force. Poachers are told to put down their arms, and then handed over to the police.
“This is textbook counterinsurgency here. It’s unconventional warfare,” says Kevin, a British-born veteran who quit US Elite Special Forces last year after a decade and a half largely on active duty, frequently in close quarter combat. “Shooting and killing is easy. The hardest thing is not shooting but figuring stuff out… if you kill someone do you turn a family, a village against you?” Like other members of Vetpaw, Kevin did not want to be identified by his full name.
The thinking is rooted in the “hearts and minds” approach developed by the US military a decade ago when senior officers realized their massive firepower was winning battles, but not campaigns.
Tate says poachers coerce local communities into providing safe houses or other support – much as US army officers once explained assistance given to insurgents in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Francois Meyer, who grew up in northern Limpopo and runs a local conservation NGO that works with Vetpaw, says villages vary. “In some, the poachers are seen as heroes. They give out money. There is a kind of Robin Hood syndrome. Taking from the rich white man to give to the poor. But in others, the poachers get the living shit kicked out of them,” Meyer said.
There is little consensus on what response to the problem of poaching might work best, and fierce debate rages among conservationists, farmers, and officials.
A moratorium on the domestic trade in rhino horn in South Africa implemented in 2009 was controversially overturned by a court in April. Though there has been an increase in arrest of poachers, there are few convictions and “a lack of political will” means many of the “kingpins” remain untouched.
The complexities of the issue seem distant to the veterans out on patrol in remote northern Limpopo, high on a rocky crag, listening to the grunt of a leopard or the cough of the baboons in the gathering night.
“After what I’ve done, I couldn’t just go and do a nine to five. I’ve never had nightmares or flashbacks or anything … [but] after years of doing what I’ve done, this is good for the soul,” says Kevin, the former Green Beret. “It’s in a good cause and you get to watch the African sunset.”