In the military, practical jokes help pass time, generate camaraderie, and send a message of where you rank socially. The truth is, practical jokes are the reason for some of a troop’s most ingenious uses of time.
If you think about it, it can take a considerable amount of time to come up with various ways to prank somebody when they least expect it and get them to laugh about it afterward.
So, what kind of practical jokes do service members play on one another? Well, the list is long, but here are a few common ones that are easy to pull off.
You know, the fluid that keeps your blinker lights shining bright? It’s an essential fluid that powers the electrical current of the blinker. So, when your sergeant or corporal tells you to go locate a bottle of blinker fluid and top off the Humvee — you better do it most ricky-freakin’-tick.
Below is a tutorial video on how to accomplish such an easy task.
Getting your mattress stamped at the quarterdeck
When you check in to your first training school or unit, it’s written in some rule book somewhere that you must get your mattress stamped at the quarterdeck before you sleep on it. This means you’ll have to haul the bed to the quarterdeck, locate the Watch, and have them whip out their “mattress stamp.”
Note: The Watch may give you a dirty look when you ask for the stamp, but that’s normal.
This is one of the most critical forms that every FNG is required to get signed by everyone in their chain of command. First, head to the personnel office and ask for it. They may give you a hard time, but it’s all apart of their SOP.
Like they say, “you’ll have time to sleep when you’re dead.” As a newbie in the field, falling asleep with your mouth open just isn’t a good idea — like ever.
Tossing a training grenade into the berthing areas
It’s only funny to the guy tossing the training grenade inside. And usually nobody ever gets hurt… for the most part. Although the act seems dangerous and childish, it’s a solid way to train your troops never to let their guard down.
Service members love to spin their shenanigan bullsh*t and make it sound like legit training. It’s our unique talent.
Just like many memers, I woke up to nothing exciting this morning. Not a single person out of the millions who clicked “going” on the “Storm Area 51, The Can’t Stop All of Us” raid did a damn thing. I expected nothing and yet I’m still disappointed.
No one Naruto ran onto the compound. No one got to test their new alien weaponry. And no alien cheeks were clapped. The music festival that was supposed to take its place didn’t even go anywhere because no one thought to do even the slightest amount of logistics.
Well. I think we all kind of saw this coming. Anyways, here are some memes.
(Meme via Call for Fire)
(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)
(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)
(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)
(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)
Anyone else notice that kids these days have much cooler toys than we did, but all they’ll ever do is just play on the iPad their parents gave them?
I feel rather insulted that we just got the dinky ass Nerf guns and a handful of Legos and they don’t even appreciate this bad boy.
You’ve probably heard about Japan’s Kamikaze tactics, and maybe you’ve even heard about Japan’s manned rockets and torpedoes. But, oddly enough, Japan wasn’t the only combatant in World War II that had manned torpedoes. Britain used manned torpedoes and did so years before Japan.
For Britain, it all started in December 1941. Less than two weeks after Pearl Harbor, Britain suffered its own surprise naval raid on December 19. Two British battleships and a tanker suffered serious damage in the Port of Alexandria in Egypt when large explosions ripped through their hulls from outside.
But the captain of the HMS Valiant had captured two Italian divers just before the explosions, and one of them had asked to meet with him just before the blasts. Coincidentally, they had been detained in the room just above the damage to the hull. So he summoned those dudes again and asked what, exactly, had happened to his ship and the two others. (A fourth ship was damaged by the blasts, even though the Italian teams had only hit three targets.)
Four other divers were captured by Egyptian police in the following days, and Britain pieced together how the attacks were carried out. The men had launched from an Italian submarine on a torpedo modified to propel the divers through the water. These torpedoes not only had warheads, but they also had two little seats for the divers.
Basically, imagine a two-person motorcycle, but shaped to fit in a large torpedo tube and propelled by a propeller instead of wheels. Now attach a mine to the front. Or you could’ve just looked at the picture above, but whatever. Let’s keep going.
Britain saw this and was all, “Hey, Brits can be strapped to metal tubes, too! We should strap dudes to metal tubes.” So they developed the Chariot starting in April 1942 and attempted the first manned torpedo mission that October.
The British Chariot Mk. I was about 22 feet long, 3 feet wide, and weighed over 1.75 tons and had a 600-pound Torpex warhead, equal to almost a 1,000 pounds of TNT. The plan was that divers would get onto the torpedo and steer it through the water to a target. Then the divers would remove the warhead from the torpedo and place it on the target ship’s hull with a timer, and then pilot the submersible away.
If all went to plan, the 600 pounds of high explosive would then blow a large hole in the target.
The first Chariot mission failed after the torpedoes were lost at sea as a ship delivered them into range of their target. Their target, by the way, was the German battleship Tirpitz, which would’ve made for an epic combat debut if it had succeeded.
But Britain modified submarines to carry the new torpedo and began sending the Chariot into combat.
But yeah, manned torpedoes have mostly given way to submersibles and mini-subs because manned torpedoes were really valuable for delivering divers. When it comes to delivering warheads, even during World War II, it made more sense to fire conventional torpedoes.
Today, guided torpedoes make the use of manned torpedoes for explosive delivery completely unnecessary.
The Marine Corps is a very tough and flexible force.
But perhaps the most versatile Marine unit is the Marine Corps Security Force Regiment — a dedicated security and counter-terrorism unit that’s used for everything from guarding nukes to rescuing diplomats.
In fact, the more famous counter-terror units like Delta Force, SEAL Team Six, the Special Air Service or GSG 9 are young whippersnappers compared to the Marine Corps Security Force Regiment. Tracing its lineage to the 1920s, the Marine Security Force Regiment was around long before the SAS was a gleam in the eye of David Stirling.
When the Navy’s part of America’s nuclear triad is in port, it’s these Marines that defend it.
The Security Forces Marines get the task for one simple reason: America’s SSBN force may be safe when it’s out at sea, but when in port, it is vulnerable to attack. Not only that, the UGM-133 Trident II ballistic missiles are usually not on the submarines and represent a perfect target for those seeking to cripple the sea-based deterrent.
Part of that effort includes the unit’s Recapture Tactics Teams. According to Military.com, these teams specialize in recovering materials, people, and property tied to the strategic inventory.
AmericanSpecialOps.com notes that they are called the CQB Team, and they are trained to act at the squad level.
According to its official webpage, the Security Force Regiment is also tasked with providing “forward deployed, expeditionary antiterrorism and security forces to support designated commanders and protect vital national assets” and “expeditionary antiterrorism and security forces, deployable from the United States, to establish or augment security as directed by the commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command.”
The units sent in those cases are the Fleet Anti-terrorist Security Teams, and the companies in vulnerable commands are called FAST Companies. Platoons from a FAST company could be sent to bolster an embassy or consulate that has come under attack.
In 2012, those were the Marines called on in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack according to USNI News.
To see what FAST Marines can do, check out this video:
While Black Hawks, Apaches, and Chinooks usually get top billing when the Army comes out to play at air shows and sporting events (plus the occasional MH-6 Little Bird when special operation aviators come to play), the service does have another helicopter quietly working behind the scenes to plug crucial gaps: the UH-72 Lakota.
But another reason the Lakota doesn’t usually get on the front page is that it doesn’t deploy. It wasn’t purchased to deploy, and then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told Congress that it couldn’t go overseas as currently configured. It simply doesn’t have the necessary systems to protect itself from enemy fire and keep its pilots alive after crashes.
But the missions the Lakota can do are still important. It’s a workhorse that can fly in rough weather and provide assistance during disaster response. That’s a big part of why it’s primarily flown by National Guard units. It may not be expected to fight and win in the deserts of the Middle East, but it can hoist a family out of hell or high water during a wildfire or flood.
(Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office Scott Sturkol)
And it can do so at a discount. It costs 30 to 50 percent less to fly per flight hour than a Black Hawk according to Sikorsky estimates, partially thanks to the lack of all those protective systems that a Black Hawk has.
This is especially valuable when the UH-72 is used as an air ambulance, which it often is. Litter crews can load a patient in quickly and safely from multiple angles, and the helicopter can carry two litters and a medic per flight. In its utility role, it can carry eight troops instead of the two passengers.
All of this makes the Lakota great for homeland security and disaster response, and the Army has even made it the primary helicopter in its training fleet.
But don’t expect it to become the shiny crown jewel in the Army’s fleet. Modifying the Lakota to take on the Black Hawk’s mission or anything similar would drastically drive up costs and, without upgraded engines, adds little in terms of capability. And the Army is already shopping for more exotic designs like the tilt-rotor V-280 Valor and Sikorsky’s S-97 Raider with its compound rotor and push propeller.
President Donald Trump’s administration for the second time ordered a military strike on the Syrian government without asking for permission from Congress, and it could indicate the legislature has lost its ability to stop the US president from going to war.
The US Constitution, in Article I, Section 8, clearly states that the power to declare war lies with Congress, but since 2001 successive US presidents have used military force in conflicts around the world with increasingly tenuous legality.
Today, the US backs up most of its military activity using broad congressional legislation known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force. The joint resolution, which Congress passed in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, allows the president to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”
This has essentially become a carte blanche for the US president to fight terrorism wherever it rears its head.
But on April 13, 2018, the Trump administration attacked Syrian targets in retaliation for an attack on a Damascus suburb the US says involved chemical weapons. Trump ordered a similar punitive strike a year ago, in April 2017.
At Harvard’s Lawfare blog, the law professors Jack Goldsmith and Oona A. Hathaway summed up all of the Trump administration’s possible arguments for the legality of the Syria strikes in an article titled “Bad Legal Arguments for the Syria Airstrikes.”
The article concludes that the US’s stated legal justification, that Article II of the Constitution allows the US to protect itself from attacks, falls short and that other legal arguments are a stretch at best.
Rep. John Garamendi, a California Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee who spoke with Secretary of Defense James Mattis hours before the strike, told Business Insider the strikes were probably illegal.
“The bottom line is I do not believe he has legal authority to conduct those strikes,” Garamendi said.
Congress ‘derelict in its duty’ as Trump doesn’t even try to get approval
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kallysta Castillo)
Trump “could have and should have come to Congress and said these facilities and the use of poisonous gas is horrific, it is illegal based upon the international conventions, and I want to take military action,” Garamendi said, adding that he thought “a limited authorization to do that would have passed Congress in one day” if it had been written in a concise, limited way.
But Trump did not ask for permission, and it shows the incredible power of today’s US presidents to start wars.
“I think that Congress was derelict in its duty,” Garamendi said. “Congress clearly has abdicated one of its most crucial functions, and that is the power to take the US into a war. The Constitution is absolutely clear, and it’s for a very important reason.”
Fred Hof, a former US ambassador to Syria who is now at the Atlantic Council, said that while there was some reason for Congress to allow the president leverage in where and when he strikes, the two branches of government still needed to coordinate.
“Most, maybe all, in Congress would concede there are circumstances in which the commander-in-chief must act quickly and unilaterally,” Hof wrote to Business Insider. “But there are reasons why the Constitution enumerates the duties of the Congress in Article One, as opposed to subsequent Articles. I really do believe it’s incumbent on the executive branch to consult fully with the Congress and take the initiative in getting on the same page with the people’s representatives.”
Lawrence Brennan, a former US Navy captain who is an expert on maritime law, told Business Insider “the last declaration of war was in the course of World War II,” adding that Congress had “absolutely” given the president increased powers to wage war unilaterally.
Possibly illegal strikes create a ‘window’ for the US’s adversaries
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
The US missile attack had questionable legality, but it wasn’t even Trump’s first time ordering strikes against Syria’s government, as a salvo of 59 cruise missiles targeted a Syrian air base in April 2017.
Before that, the US attacked Libya’s government forces in 2011. The US is also using the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force as justification for attacking Islamist militants in the Philippines, among other countries.
Garamendi said that by neglecting to request congressional approval, Trump had “given Syria, Russia, and Iran an argument that never should have happened.” He said by opening an internal US argument over whether the strike was legal, Trump had committed a “very serious error” and “opened a diplomatic attack that could easily have been avoided.”
Trump certainly did not start the trend of presidents ordering military action without congressional approval, and he has enjoyed wide support for his actions against chemical weapons use, but the move indicates a jarring reality — that the US president can go to war with thin legal justification and without even bothering to ask Congress.
It’s not often you see those three-letter titles A1C and Ph.D. used to refer to the same person. As a matter of fact, only one-hundredth of one percent of the Air Force’s enlisted force from E-1 through E-9 possess a doctor of philosophy degree, one of 33 enlisted airmen in the Air Force with a doctorate degree.
Yet one woman with a doctorate in chemistry found herself signing on the proverbial dotted line, completing basic training, and is now assigned to the Department of Defense’s sole nuclear treaty monitoring center.
Airman 1st Class Cynthia A. Schroll enlisted in the Air Force in December 2017, though her unique career journey began much earlier, soon after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“I was in my senior year of high school in 2001, and after 9/11 happened, I told my parents I wanted to enlist,” Schroll said. “During the discussion, my mother said something that struck me even using the word ‘please’ and asking me to do something for the first time in my life instead of telling me to. She said, ‘please don’t enlist. I’ve been saving your whole life for you to go to college.’ I knew how much it meant to her and I respect my parents deeply, so I went to college.”
Airman 1st Class Cynthia A. Schroll, a radiochemistry technician at the Air Force Radiochemistry Laboratory, Air Force Technical Applications Center, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., pours solution from a test tube as she prepares reagent kits for AFTAC’s precious metals program.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Susan A. Romano)
Schroll attended Morehead State University in Kentucky and earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 2006. She bypassed the traditional path after her undergraduate studies and went straight into the doctoral program at the University of Cincinnati.
“It’s not uncommon for people looking into science degrees to forego a master’s program and go straight into a doctoral studies,” Schroll explained. “Most universities that offer a Ph.D. will let you obtain a master’s degree if you find yourself struggling with the Ph.D. work load.”
She joked, “someone once told me that the difference between a Ph.D. and a master’s degree is the Ph.D. project has to work in the end, while a master’s student can write up all the ways the project didn’t work!”
Upon completion of her doctorate in analytical chemistry with an emphasis in spectroelectrochemical detection of f-block elements, she went straight into the work force doing environmental sample preparation, product management and worked as a contract research assistant at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. She also taught general chemistry at the University of Cincinnati for two years. It was an enjoyable career, Schroll said, but military service was still on her mind.
“I had everything going for me: a great education, good job, supportive family, everything, yet I was still thinking about enlisting,” she said. “But I had some significant hurdles to overcome. I was overweight and knew that was going to be a factor as to whether I’d qualify or not. I had pets. I had a house and in 2014, I lost my mother to multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer. It was devastating to my family and me. I took it quite hard and was lost without her influence.”
Air Force Basic Training graduation photo of Airman 1st Class Cynthia A. Schroll.
From that tragedy, however, came the realization that she still wanted to serve her country and thought it would be a lasting tribute to her beloved mother.
“I knew deep down from the beginning she didn’t want me to join the service, but through all the grief I was experiencing, I had to find a path that would bring me greater reward,” she explained.
So after several months of careful thought, consideration and a solid work-out program, Schroll paid a visit to her local recruiter to change her title from ‘Doctor’ to ‘Airman.’
“Before I left for basic, I had several lengthy conversations with my sister who served in the Army for almost 10 years and I spoke to several other female friends who had also gone through the experience,” she said. “They all told me about the mind games I should expect from the military training instructors and some of the difficulties that arise when you put 40 women together in small quarters for several weeks at a time. Needless to say, I found basic training quite entertaining!”
During basic, trainees are selected to fill certain jobs and responsibilities given to each flight: dorm chief, element leader, chow runner, and entry controller, just to name a few. Schroll volunteered to be the flight’s academic monitor. When the MTI asked what made her qualified for the job, she nonchalantly mentioned she had taught classes before. The MTI did some digging and learned that Schroll had a Ph.D.
“It all came out from there,” she said. “I tried to downplay it as much as I could, and I offered to help any of my flight mates with their study techniques, because we were all in this together. We had one trainee who had such bad test anxiety and we were all worried she was going to run out of the classroom before she finished the end-of-course exam. When our MTI started reading off our test scores, we collectively held our breath when hers was read and we cheered like mad when it was a passing score. A few of us even cried. By far my proudest moment as the academic monitor was the fact we all passed our exams the first time through.”
U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Daniel Stein, 17th Training Group superintendent, presents the 312th Training Squadron Student of the Month award to Airman 1st Class Cynthia Schroll, 312th TRS trainee, at Brandenburg Hall on Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, June 1, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Chapman)
She graduated basic training in February 2018 and was sent to Goodfellow AFB, Texas, to undergo special instruments training. While there, she became friends with a large contingent of Air Force firefighters.
“Our tech school was housed with the airmen who undergo firefighting training, and it was so much fun,” Schroll recalled. “I was selected to be a red rope, the person who oversees dorm activities, and they kept me so grounded. I had so much respect for them that on my last day I woke up at 3:30 a.m. to go to their daily formation so I could shake every single hand and say thanks. I love and respect them all so much.”
During her tenure at Goodfellow, she received a special visitor who requested to meet with her. She was surprised to learn it was a command chief master sergeant who made the trip to speak directly with her.
“I was pretty floored when I found out Chief Master Sgt. Michael Joseph came to the schoolhouse to discuss career options with me,” she said. “He introduced himself as the command chief for the Air Force Technical Applications Center, and said his commander was very interested in having me on his team at Patrick AFB. I can’t put my finger on it, but during my conversation with Chief Joseph, I realized this was my chance to live out my desire to serve, especially in the capacity of a scientist. I thought to myself, ‘These folks who have so much experience would know how best to use my skills,’ so I put my trust in them.”
Joseph was highly impressed when he met with Schroll.
“I heard about A1C Schroll as she was coming through the pipeline since AFTAC has a majority of the 9S100 airmen in the Air Force,” said Joseph. “Every airman has a story, and I wanted to hear hers. Her background was impressive — she had written two books and has a patent to her name, but it was her desire to serve that impressed me the most. With her chemistry background and our operational need for highly-skilled chemists, it seemed like a natural fit for her to come to AFTAC.”
Recruiting personnel who possess highly-technical scientific degrees and experience has been a challenge for the nuclear treaty monitoring center, but AFTAC’s senior enlisted advisor believes they’re seeking out ways to overcome that challenge.
Schroll is assigned to AFTAC’s radiochemistry laboratory working as a radiochemistry technician. She is responsible for preparing reagent kits in the lab’s tech room as well as co-managing the precious metals program.
“I love the responsibility that comes from knowing our chemists are counting on me to prep their reagents properly and in a timely manner,” said Schroll. “If anything goes wrong with the chemistry, the first place that is looked at is the reagent, so I want them to have confidence when they see my initials on the label that they were prepared correctly.”
When asked if she was looking at becoming a commissioned officer someday, Schroll said it’s not out of the question, but it’s not her immediate focus.
“Right now, I’m still brand new to the Air Force, so I am learning as much about it as possible. I’m an airman first class, and with that comes the responsibility of being the best A1C I can be. My focus is on doing the job I am fortunate to have, and doing it as best I can. When I look to the future, I only see broad opportunities. But I’ve never been one to look too far ahead because all too often we make this grand dream or goal, only to forget to focus on the little steps to get there. I’m focusing on the little steps right now.”
Before we get into why the fight would be so funny, let’s just take a moment to say that there’s almost no chance that a war would break out. The whole argument centers over a mislabeled batch of trash that Canada paid to send to the Philippines. It was supposed to be filled with recyclables, but someone lied on the paperwork and filled it with municipal trash, including food and used diapers, instead.
That meant that it was hazardous waste, and there are all sorts of rules about shipping that stuff. Canada is working with diplomatic staff from the Philippines on how to bring the material back to Canada. But, for obvious reasons, the people on the islands are angry that Canadian trash has sat in the port for years as Canada tried to ship it back.
But the process is underway, Canada has said it will take the trash back, and there would be no good reason to go to war over the trash even if it was destined to stay there. But Duterte is not that logical of a leader, and he threatened war over the issue even though his staff was already working a fix. His military is, to put it mildly, not ready for that conflict.
Philippine Marines storm the shore during an exercise.
(Petty Officer 1st Class Nardel Gervacio)
First, let’s just look at what forces the two countries can bring to bear. Assuming that both countries were to meet at some unassuming, neutral field, Duterte would still struggle to even blacken Canada’s eye.
Canada is not the military power it once was, but it still has serious assets. Its military is comprised of about 94,000 personnel that operate 384 aircraft; about 2,240 tanks, armored vehicles, and artillery pieces; and 63 ships and boats including 12 frigates, 4 submarines, and 20 patrol vessels.
So, yeah, the top six state National Guards would outnumber them and have similar amounts of modern equipment, but Canada’s military is still nothing to scoff at.
The Philippines, on the other hand, has a larger but much less modern military. Its 305,000 troops operate only 171 aircraft of which zero are modern fighters, 834 armored vehicles and towed artillery pieces, and 39 patrol vessels that work with three frigates, 10 corvettes, and 67 auxiliary vessels.
So, you don’t want to get in a bar brawl with the Philippine military, but you’d probably be fine in a battle as long as you remembered to bring your airplanes and helicopters.
Canada has pretty good fighters, CF-18 Hornets based on America’s F/A-18 Hornet. So we would expect their unopposed fighter sweeps against Philippine forces to go well, allowing them to progress to hitting artillery pieces pretty quickly.
And Canadian ground forces, while small, are not filled with slouches. Their snipers are some of the best in the world, and their infantry gets the job done.
It sort of seems odd that Duterte thinks this would be a good idea. But, if war between two American allies seems scary to you, even if the closer ally is very likely to win, we have more good news for you.
There is essentially no way that Canada and the Philippines can effectively go to war against each other.
We’ll grant that the Republic of the Philippines Navy ship BRP Apolinario Mabini looks cool sailing in an exercise, but if it shows up off your shore, you just remove its batteries and wait it out.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mark R. Alvarez)
The Philippines are the ones threatening the war, so they would most likely be the ones who would need to project their military across the Pacific.
They, charitably, do not have the ability to deploy significant numbers of their troops across the ocean to Canada, let alone to open a beachhead against Canadian defenders.
And if Canada decided to launch a preemptive strike against the Philippines after Duterte declared war, even it would be hard pressed to do so. Those 63 boats and ships Canada has? None of those are carriers or amphibious assault ships. None of them are designed to project significant force ashore.
And all of this is without getting into the fact that Canada is a member of NATO. No one in NATO really wants to go to war against the Philippines, but, in theory, Canada could invoke Article 5 and call on the rest of the alliance.
Since the world’s most powerful military is part of that alliance, NATO would probably win a larger war against the Philippines.
Kelly Johnson wasn’t the first man to build an airplane, nor was he the first to push the limits of what an airplane could do, but few men have played a more vital role in shaping mankind’s ascent into the skies.
According to the latest expert estimates, human beings just like you and I have been walking on earth for over 200,000 years. That figure gets even tougher to wrap your head around when you consider that a mere 200 years ago, mankind had yet to develop matches or typewriters. A century ago, we didn’t have antibiotics or movies with sound. These, along with countless other advancements, played a roll in a technological revolution that continues to this day, like a snowball rolling down hill, enveloping everything in its path.
Of course, mankind didn’t come by these incredible advancements by accident (most often, anyway) and behind each groundbreaking technology is a man or woman, dedicated to solving the problems of their day, and to getting out in front of those coming tomorrow. Nowhere is this human-driven rapid advancement of technology more prevalent than in one of our species most recent civilization-altering breakthroughs: aviation.
Lockheed engineer Kelly Johnson with famed aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart. (Lockheed Martin)
In 1903, the Wright Brothers first took flight in Kitty Hawk. Less than forty years later, the first B-29 took to the skies with a pressurized cabin and a wingspan that stretched further than the length of Orville Wright’s entire first flight. A mere 19 years after that, Yuri Gagarin flew in space.
There’s no doubt that countless hands, hearts, and minds played vital roles in our rapid progression from the steam engine to the SpaceX Starship, but even amid this sea of engineers and aviation pioneers, some names stick out. Because while millions may have helped mankind reach the sky, some men’s contributions stand head and shoulders above the rest; Men, like Kelly Johnson.
Forged in the fires of World War II
Clarence Leonard “Kelly” Johnson was born in 1910, seven years after the Wright Brothers changed the world in Kitty Hawk. The son of Swedish immigrants, Johnson would win his first prize for aircraft design at the age of 13. By the time he was 22 years old, he was working as an engineer at the legendary aviation firm Lockheed.
At 28, Kelly Johnson’s role at Lockheed would bring him to London, where the island nation was preparing for the onslaught of Nazi Luftwaffe fighters and bombers that were to come just three years later in the Battle of Britain. The British were unconvinced that such a young man could produce an aircraft that could turn the tides of an air war, but the fruit of Kelly Johnson’s labor, dubbed the P-38 Lightning, would go on to become one of the most iconic airframes of the entire war.
Steve Hinton flies “Glacier Girl,” a P-38 Lightning dug out from 268 feet of ice in eastern Greenland in 1992. The aircraft was part of a heritage flight during an air show at Langley Air Force Base, Va., on May 21. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker)
At the start of the fighting in Europe, many Allied air units were still operating bi-planes. By the end of World War II, Kelly Johnson and his team delivered the United States its first ever operational jet-powered fighter, the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star. Johnson had been tasked with building an aircraft around the new Halford H.1B turbojet engine that could compete with Germany’s Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe. In just an astonishing 143 days, Kelly had gone from the drawing board to delivering the first operational P-80s.
Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star (WikiMedia Commons)
The original Skunk Works
It was during World War II that Kelly Johnson and fellow engineer Ben Rich first established what was to become the legendary Lockheed Skunk Works. Today, the Skunk Works name is synonymous with some of the most advanced aircraft ever to take to the skies, but its earliest iteration was nothing more than a walled-off portion of a factory in which Johnson and his team experimented with new technologies for the P-38, developing the first 400 mile-per-hour fighter in the world for their trouble, in the XP-38.
XP-38 (San Diego Air and Space Museum)
Later, Kelly’s secretive team again came through with the P-80, and again with the design and production of the C-130 Hercules, which remains in service for the U.S. and a number of other Air Forces around the world today. Then, in 1955, they received yet another seemingly impossible assignment: The United States needed an aircraft that could fly so high it could avoid being shot down, or potentially even detected.
Soviet Radar and intercept fighters of the era were limited to altitudes below 65,000 feet, and the highest any American aircraft could reach was just 48,000. In order to continue keeping tabs on the Soviets, the Air Force solicited requests for an airplane that could fly at an astonishing 70,000 feet with a long 1,500 mile fuel range.
Clarence L. Kelly Johnson, chief designer at Lockheeds secret Skunk Works facility, initially designed the U-2 around the F-104 Starfighter fuselage. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Kelly Johnson’s Skunk Works responded with a design that they claimed could fly as high as 73,000 feet with a range of 1,600 miles, based on the Lockheed XF-104 Starfighter, a slender and supersonic intercept fighter. The Air Force rejected his design… but it caught the attention of America’s secretive spy agency, the CIA.
President Eisenhower wanted eyes on the Soviet nuclear program, and Johnson’s unusual aircraft design with long slender wings and no retractable landing gear seemed like it could do the job, despite its shortcomings. Johnson and his team were given a contract to design and build their high-flying spy plane, and in just eight months, they delivered the U-2 Dragon Lady.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)
In order to test this incredible new aircraft, Kelly Johnson needed a remote air strip, far from the prying eyes of the American public. He chose a dry lake bed in Nevada for the job, and it proved particularly well suited for testing classified aircraft. Eventually, that little airstrip and accompanying hangars and office buildings would come to be known popularly as Area 51.
Taking spy planes to the next level
The U-2 may have been an immense success, but just as aviation advancements were coming quickly, so too were air defenses. In 1960, Soviet surface-to-air missiles finally managed to get a piece of a CIA operated U-2 flown by pilot Gary Powers. The aircraft was flying at 70,000 feet, higher than the Americans thought could be spotted or targeted by Soviet radar, when it was struck by an SA-2 Guideline missile. Powers had to ride the Dragon Lady down from 70,000 feet to 30,000 feet before he could safely eject, and as the secretive spy plane plummeted to the ground, Kelly Johnson and his team at Skunk Works were already developing a platform to replace it.
With spy satellites still more than a decade away, the United States needed a new aircraft it could rely on to keep tabs on the Soviets. It would need to not only fly higher than the U-2, but faster–much faster, so even if it was detected, no missile could reach it.
SR-71 Blackbird (NASA)
Johnson and his team designed a twin-engine aircraft with astonishing capabilities in the A-12, which then led to the operational SR-71 Blackbird — an aircraft that retains the title of fastest operational plane in history to this very day. Lockheed’s SR-71 could sustain speeds in excess of Mach 3.2, flying at altitudes higher than 78,000 feet. During its 43 years in service, the SR-71 had over 4,000 missiles fired at it from ground assets and other aircraft. Not a single one ever found its target.
Another aviation revolution
Kelly Johnson and the team at Skunk Works were on the cutting edge of speed and power, but as the Cold War raged on, it was Johnson and his team that recognized how the battle space was shifting. For years, the United States had focused on developing aircraft that could fly ever faster and ever higher, but with the advent of computer-aided engineering, yet another technological leap was within Lockheed’s grasp.
Johnson and his team needed to develop an aircraft that could defeat detection from not only enemy radar, but also other common forms of detection and targeting, like infrared. Using the most advanced computers available at the time, Skunk Works first developed an unusual angular design they dubbed “the hopeless diamond,” as it seemed unlikely that such a shape could ever produce aerodynamic lift.
Undaunted, development continued and by 1976, they had built a flyable prototype. The aircraft was called Have Blue, and it would lead to the first operational stealth aircraft ever in service to any nation, the legendary F-117 Nighthawk.
Have Blue flying in testing (WikiMedia Commons)
The F-117, or “stealth fighter” as it would come to be known, played a vital role in America’s combat operations over Iraq in Desert Storm and elsewhere, but this program produced more than battlefield engagements. The technology developed for the F-117 directly led to America’s premier stealth fighters of today: the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The latter of those two is expected to serve as the backbone of America’s air superiority strategy for decades to come.
Kelly Johnson (Lockheed Martin)
“The damn Swede can actually see air.”
In total, Kelly Johnson had a hand in the design and development of some 40 aircraft for commercial and military purposes, with seemingly countless awards and credits to his name for his engineering prowess. The man had a genuine affection for his work, to the degree that he turned down the presidency of Lockheed on three separate occasions to retain his role within the Skunk Works he helped to found.
Kelly’s boss at Lockheed, Hall Hibbard, once exclaimed, “The damn Swede can actually see air,” as he tried to understand how one man managed to play such a pivotal role in so many aircraft, and in turn, in how the Cold War unfolded. Finally, Kelly retired in 1975, but remained a senior advisor to Skunk Works for years thereafter.
He passed away in 1990 at age 80, just one year before the United States, with all its incredible military technology, would emerge the victor of the Cold War.
Known as one of America’s greatest war heroes, Alvin York was a profoundly religious man who found himself plenty conflicted when he learned he’d been drafted into the U.S. Army. Although very worried at the prospect of taking another man’s life, the Tennessee native chose to honor his military obligation and shipped off.
Although York saved many lives, killed many enemy troops, and earned the Medal of Honor, he gained true nationwide notoriety after Sergeant York, a film about his life, debuted in cinemas.
(Warner Brother Pictures)
Not only did the 1941 classic secure York a spot in the history books, it preserved his story and legacy for generations to come. The movie does a great job of showing us the highlights of his wartime heroics, but there are a few things about this humble hero that you probably didn’t know.
Alvin York (as played by Gary Cooper) at a local “Blind Tiger.’
(Warner Brothers Pictures)
Before shipping out to the frontlines to fight, York was considered somewhat of a troublemaker. Although he was known for his marksmanship as a youngster, he was also known to drink and gamble at various bars, known as “Blind Tigers.”
He wasn’t good with money
In his youth, York only attended nine months of a subscription school. In his hometown, education wasn’t a priority and he found work as a semi-skilled laborer at a nearby railroad. This lack of education is likely the reason for his poor money-managing skills.
York was known for spending money as he earned it and giving what he had away to those he felt needed it more.
York’s personal diary.
York kept a detailed diary
York frequently made entries about his time during World War I, and, in great detail, wrote about what it was like being pinned down by the enemy in attempts to capture a narrow-gauge railroad. The Medal of Honor recipient’s diary gives us a glimpse directly into his mind as he explored a range of subjects, from his emotional childhood through to the perils of war.
Representative Cordell Hull, Sergeant Alvin C. York, Senator Kenneth McKellar, and Senator George E. Chamberlain
He avoided profiting off his fame
After York’s deployment ended, he returned home and his story was published in the Saturday Evening Post — which had an audience of approximately two-million readers. He met with members of Congress who gave him a standing ovation.
As York’s name became more famous, he received offers for his movies rights — and he denied them all.
It took many years for Sgt. York to allow for the film’s production, Finally, it was released in 1941. York used his earnings to finance a bible school.
Three retired soldiers were honored at the Pentagon on Aug. 14, 2018, for exceptional gallantry in action against an armed enemy while serving in Afghanistan as civilian contractors.
Retired Army Master Sgt. William Timothy Nix, retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Michael Anthony Dunne and retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Brandon Ray Seabolt received the Medal of Valor, the Defense Department’s highest civilian award for valor.
Nix was working as a civilian contractor at a coalition base in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 7, 2015, when he heard the massive boom of a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.
“I just grabbed a weapon and ran out,” Nix said.
Insurgents had breached the entrance at Camp Integrity, launching the deadly attack with a vehicle-borne IED and then using direct fire, hand grenades and suicide vests.
Nix and Dunne, a fellow contractor, rushed to the fight, teaming up with military personnel to defend the camp, suppress the enemy and evacuate the wounded.
“[The insurgents] blew the whole front of the camp. The gate came off. It collapsed the guard tower out there,” Dunne said, recalling that a suicide vest exploded 30 feet away from him. He thought he would die, he said, but he kept fighting.
Mr. Ray Seabolt, Mr. Tony Dunne, and Mr. Tim Nix will be presented the Secretary of Defense Medal for Valor.
(Screenshot from DoD video)
Nix was serving as an irregular warfare analyst for the NATO Special Operations Component Command Afghanistan in support of the Resolute Support mission. Dunne was an operations intelligence integrator there.
Fighting was intense and the situation was chaotic, they recalled. Army 1st Sgt. Peter “Drew” McKenna Jr., who was leading the charge against the terrorists, was killed, as were eight Afghan contractors.
Their citations laud their heroism for exposing themselves to direct enemy fire, hand grenades, suicide vests, and other explosives to suppress insurgents who had breached the camp. Their actions undoubtedly saved countless lives at great risk to their own lives, their citations read.
Bravery During Attack in Helmand
Seabolt received the Medal of Valor for his actions in response to an attack near Helmand on Dec. 17, 2015. He had spent 22 years in the Army and was serving as a civilian contractor and counter-IED expert with the Joint Improvised Threat Defeat Agency.
On a mission with U.S. Special Forces and Afghan commandos, something didn’t add up for Seabolt, he recalled. He knew very well that could be an ominous sign. “We walked inside this compound,” he said. “There was an open door, and I said, ‘That’s not normal.'”
Then, the withering, close range, semi-automatic and automatic fire from the enemy began. “We entered the compound with about 10 people, and there were two of us left in the fight,” he recalled. Two Afghan commandos were killed; the others were wounded.
Seabolt’s citation lauds his exceptional actions in exposing himself to enemy fire and suppressing the insurgents so Afghan commandos and U.S. Special Forces could move forward. He single-handedly fended off the insurgent onslaught until the return of other team members, it reads.
“Mr. Seabolt’s bravery and confidence instilled courage among the entire force, resulting in effective fires on the target, softening the objective and allowing the recovery force to approach with little resistance,” according to the citation.
Army Lt. Gen. Darsie Rogers, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency‘s deputy director for combat support, said he is honored and humbled to call the men Americans heroes and partners and colleagues in service to the nation.
“We honor these three men for the remarkable valor they exhibited on the battlefield, for reminding us of the awesome power of the human spirit and for symbolizing the fearless determination of great warfighters,” he said.
The men, who are all former special operators, exhibited the very best of what it means to be a servant and a citizen-warfighter, he said.
“Each of these award citations serves as a moving testament — and a fitting reminder — that the work being done by those who fight on the front lines and protect us all is exceptional, essential and extraordinary,” Rogers said.
Featured image: Left to right: Army Lt. Gen. Darsie Rogers, Defense Threat Reduction Agency deputy director for combat support, applauds after awarding the Medal of Valor to Michael Anthony Dunne, William Timothy Nix and Brandon Ray Seabolt at the Pentagon, Aug. 14, 2018. The men, retired military special operators, were recognized for their actions against an armed enemy while serving as civilian contractors in Afghanistan.
Speaking Jan. 10, 2019, at a forum on maritime priorities in Washington, D.C., Sgt. Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green said the service doesn’t “do things as a one-time deal” and is assessing the integration of an all-female platoon within one of the battalion’s companies to determine whether it is a model the Corps should continue, rather than training female recruits in a single battalion, as is current protocol.
“The assessment is to see how we can more closely align integration,” Green said.
But completely integrating platoons, with men training side-by-side with women, is not likely to occur anytime soon, he added.
“What we ask individuals to do at recruit training is a lot more physical and challenging than any other service. We all know that. Who we recruit, we must take them and transform them into Marines. We want to give every individual the greatest opportunity for success,” Green said at a forum hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute at the Center for International and Strategic Studies.
U.S. Marines with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, and Oscar Company, 4th Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, take part in Tug-of-War during the Field Meet at 4th Recruit Training Battalion physical training field on Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., April 21, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Sarah Stegall)
A platoon of 50 female Marine recruits began training Jan. 5, 2019, in 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, marking the first time women have trained outside the all-female 4th Recruit Training Battalion.
The service decided to integrate the women as a single platoon in a traditionally male company rather than make them wait until later in the year, when there would be enough women to activate 4th Recruit Training Battalion.
Women now make up 8.9 percent of Marine recruits, Green said. Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller has said he’d like to grow the Marine Corps to 10 percent female.
Marine officials say they are increasing outreach to potential female recruits. But Green said Jan. 10, 2019, that a challenge to recruiting both men and women has been high schools nationwide that block military recruiters from approaching students.
The 2001 No Child Left Behind Act required public high schools to give military recruiters as much access to campuses as is given to any other recruiter. But some school districts have blocked access to military personnel, Green said.
“It’s difficult to get into some schools. I’d like to see a more open-door process but, in some schools, there’s no entry point. We are protecting the people in these high schools, and there are people in these high schools who want to serve. The door shouldn’t be slammed shut and closed,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Making friends has never been a challenge for me. Among my siblings, they call me the “outgoing one who always ends up with a new friend.” So why should now — after transitioning back to civilian life — be any different?
Well, it’s been 13 months since my husband retired and we relocated back to our hometown. I am still struggling to make connections. Most of my previous friends have moved away, but that’s not the main issue. It’s finding people who share commonalities and a similar lifestyle.
The military community gave me that!
There’s a pattern to moving to a new duty station. First you sulk a bit because of the friends you left behind. Next you get your goods and do your best to make your new living space feel like home. Then you find out about the surrounding areas and activities nearby. Finally, you find someone awesome who you can join up with to explore those activities. You find your person(s).
Now I’m back home. But I have NO pattern to follow.
Returning home does have many other benefits. Home means Florida sunshine, frequent gatherings with our extended family, reuniting with homegrown friendships, and putting down new roots. It means settling…finally!
But something is definitely missing, and it’s a sense of belonging.
Being a military spouse put us in the trenches together. Basically saying, “My husband is working and I’m lonely. Be my friend!” Now my conversations are more like,
“Babe, I have NO FRIENDS! Everybody is busy and has their regularly scheduled programs to attend. I miss my military home girls,” (Insert sad face and whiny voice).
I want fuzzy socks and belly laughs! Don’t we all deserve that?
For some people, having a j-o-b fixes the need to belong. For others, they are lucky enough to find friends who are in a similar phase of life. And some people are introverts who ache at the thought of having to put themselves out there…again.
No matter what I’ve done so far, no one has hit the sweet friendship spot! I’ve chatted with neighbors, joined a church, gone on lunch dates, collaborated with other women in my field of expertise, but NADA!
One thing I WILL NOT do, is force a friendship. If it clicks, then go with it. If not, it was nice to meet you, bye.
I have decided to take my time and focus on my family while making our new life cozy. My husband and I work together on establishing our business, and I’m adjusting and getting better at being me, minus the constant life interruption that comes with uprooting over and over again.
So, yea…I’ve flipped it to see the glowing opportunity while knowing that I will find my person one day. OR, one of my military persons will retire to my hometown (HAPPY DANCE).
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.