Retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills is one of only five quadruple amputees of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now recovered and continuing to live his life despite the physical barriers of having no arms or legs, Mills’ story is an inspiration to all. Especially when he has a philosophy of “Never give up. Never quit.”
“I woke up for the first time on my 25th birthday to find out that I had no arms or legs anymore, and I was a quadruple amputee,” Mills says in this video from NowThis News.
“You’re gonna fall down, but don’t be embarrassed about it. Just get out there and keep going at it,” he says. Mills himself has lived by this advice, keeping positive and even joking about his injuries, while serving other wounded warriors through his non-profit The Travis Mills Foundation.
The M982 Excalibur is the world’s most sophisticated artillery munition designed for a weapons system that was introduced during the Vietnam War: The M109 Howitzer.
This smart munition was co-developed by U.S.-based Raytheon Missile Systems and Swedish BAE Systems Bofors to precisely kill targets from long range and eliminate collateral damage. It gives a projectile the same precision you’d expect from a missile.
“You can aim the gun off target up to 20 degrees off angle and the round will still fly itself back to your target,” said Jim Riley from Raytheon Missile Systems in the video below.
During the mid-1950s, the Soviets fooled the U.S. into believing that they had hundreds of Bison bombers ready to deploy, but in reality they still lacked a way of reaching the U.S. mainland.
Their solution to this problem was the Bartini-57, a long-range strategic bomber that could land on water and refuel by submarine mid-way through its mission. The aircraft was the brainchild of Italian designer Robert Ludvigovich Bartini, who built some of Russia’s most advanced aircraft between the 1920s and 1950s.
But Bartini’s bomber was cancelled when Sputnik was launched in 1957 by his protegé, Sergei Pavlovich Korolev. The Soviets would then set their sights on missiles rather than bombers, which triggered the Space Race, according to this video.
It’s no secret that the U.S. spends more on its military than any other nation and over four times what the second place country, China, spends. So it’s no surprise that the U.S. has the largest presence outside of its borders.
While the rest of the world maintains about 30 overseas bases combined, the U.S. has 800 that we know of. These range from huge installations with thousands of troops to tiny airfields on remote islands.
This Vox video explains how these bases were set up, how they’re funded, and more.
“American Ninja Warrior” built a unique obstacle course inspired by Navy SEAL training for the military edition of their show. Veterans and active military contestants will run, jump, crawl, climb, and hang through crazy obstacles as they compete to earn a spot in the finals.
Set in front of the historic battleship USS Iowa, here’s what the contestants are up against:
The qualifying rounds for the first ever American Ninja Warrior military edition airs tonight at 7 PM CT/8 PM ET on NBC.
Over a decade after Marine Lance Cpl. Antonio “Tony” Sledd was killed in Kuwait — marking the first American casualty of the second Iraq War — the terrorist mastermind who was responsible has been killed.
The Pentagon reports that an aerial drone was used to take out two Kuwait men who were tied to Sledd’s death, according to Time Magazine.
Sledd was 20 years old when he was killed on Fylaka Island in October of 2002, about 20 miles east of the city of Kuwait. He and fellow Marines were training on the island, five months before the official invasion.
Sledd had been creating a makeshift baseball diamond during a break when a white truck driven by two Kuwaitis burst through the training exercise, opening fire with AK-47s. One of the men was Mushin al-Fadhli.
The 34-year-old al-Fhadli was killed in a drone strike on July 8 while he drove his vehicle through northwestern Syria.
“Al-Fadhli was the leader of a network of veteran al-Qaeda operatives, sometimes called the Khorasan Group, who are plotting external attacks against the United States and our allies,” Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement. He added that al-Fadhli also was “involved” in the 2002 attack “against U.S. Marines on Faylaka Island in Kuwait.”
April 2021 marks one year since the Air Force’s first two F-35A Lightning II advanced stealth fighters arrived at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. Twenty-five of the Air Force’s fifth-generation fighters are now at Eielson, part of the service’s overall plan to turn Alaska into a “fifth-gen powerhouse,” according to an Air Force press release.
“We have come a long way since the arrival of the first aircraft in April 2020 to now,” Air Force Maj. Jarod DiGeorge of the 354th Fighter Wing said in the release. “Flying 24 sorties in one day barely eight months after first wheels down at Eielson. We are currently on track to achieve initial combat capability this spring and full combat capability next winter.”
Former Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James issued a 2016 “record of decision,” effectively establishing Eielson as the home for the service’s Alaska-based F-35s. Additionally, the measure reactivated the 354th Fighter Wing and placed it at Eielson. The wing is slated to receive 54 F-35As in total and is on track to reach full capacity by March 2022.
A strong deterrent in Alaska is quickly becoming a focal point of a renewed “great power competition” between China, Russia, and the US. In January 2018, Beijing’s so-called Polar Silk Road Arctic strategy declared China to be a “near-Arctic state” — even though China’s nearest territory to the Arctic is some 900 miles away. Additionally, Moscow and Beijing have agreed to connect the Northern Sea Route, claimed by Russia, with China’s Maritime Silk Road.
By 2022, Alaska will be one of most heavily defended airspaces on earth. When Eielson’s F-35 fleet is at full strength, Alaska will have more of America’s advanced, fifth-generation fighters than any other US state.
“America cannot afford to fall behind as other nations devote resources to the Arctic region to secure their national interests. America’s very real interests in the Arctic will only increase in the years to come,” authors Luke Coffey and Daniel Kochis wrote in a March 2020 report for The Heritage Foundation.
As Eielson AFB gets more F-35As, it gets closer to being fully combat capable. “It allows our aircrew to be able to train realistically without limitations and to accomplish their specific airborne requirements to be fully proficient in the mission and fly at a combat mission ready rate,” DiGeorge said. “Each and every aircraft we receive is also a projection of the wing’s airpower and furthers our ability to strike in a moment’s notice.”
NASA announced its target date for the first powered, controlled helicopter flight on Mars as no earlier than April 8, 2021. The 4-pound helicopter, named Ingenuity, is attached to the belly of the Mars Perseverance rover which landed on the Red Planet on February 18, 2021. Perseverance is en route to a designated “airfield” where Ingenuity will attempt the historic flight. Upon successful deployment, Ingenuity will have 30 Martian days (equivalent to 31 Earth days) for its test flight campaign.
“When NASA’s Sojourner rover landed on Mars in 1997, it proved that roving the Red Planet was possible and completely redefined our approach to how we explore Mars. Similarly, we want to learn about the potential Ingenuity has for the future of science research,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. “Aptly named, Ingenuity is a technology demonstration that aims to be the first powered flight on another world and, if successful, could further expand our horizons and broaden the scope of what is possible with Mars exploration.”
Powered, controlled flight on Mars is significantly more difficult than it is on Earth. The Red Planet’s gravitational pull is about one-third of Earth’s and its atmosphere is 1% of what Earth’s is at the surface. Additionally, the surface of the planet receives only half the amount of solar energy that the Earth receives during the day. Conversely, Martian nights can be as cold as -130°F which poses a serious danger to exposed electrical components.
Luckily, the engineers at NASA have designed Ingenuity specifically for the Martian skies. The helicopter had to be small and lightweight in order to hitch a ride on Perseverance. Engineers also fitted it with internal heaters to keep it from freezing during the night. To test its capabilities, Ingenuity’s systems were subjected to performance trials in vacuum chambers and test labs in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory which simulated the conditions the helicopter would face on Mars.
“Every step we have taken since this journey began six years ago has been uncharted territory in the history of aircraft,” said Bob Balaram, JPL’s Mars Helicopter chief engineer. “And while getting deployed to the surface will be a big challenge, surviving that first night on Mars alone, without the rover protecting it and keeping it powered, will be an even bigger one.”
When Ingenuity attempts its historic flight on Mars, it will carry another piece of aviation history with it. On December 17, 1903 the first powered, controlled flight took place on Earth. On the dunes of Kill Devil Hill near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville Wright flew 120 feet in 12 seconds at the controls of Wright Flyer. He was joined by his brother, Wilbur. The Wright brothers made a total of four flights that day, each longer than the last.
A piece of the material that covered the Wright Flyer’s wing is now carried aboard Ingenuity. The small swatch of fabric is wrapped around a cable with insulative tape underneath the helicopter’s solar panel. Another piece of Wright Flyer material was carried by the Apollo 11 crew on their historic flight to the Moon in July 1969. The astronauts also brought a splinter of wood from the Wright Flyer with them.
“Ingenuity is an experimental engineering flight test – we want to see if we can fly at Mars,” said MiMi Aung, project manager for Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. “There are no science instruments onboard and no goals to obtain scientific information. We are confident that all the engineering data we want to obtain both on the surface of Mars and aloft can be done within this 30-sol window.” Stay tuned to NASA’s social media for updates on Ingenuity’s historic flight.
Each empire seemed unstoppable for an age, but they all crumbled in the end.
Indeed, the age of empires may have ended with World War II, as world powers have moved on from colonization and conquest in favor of geopolitical and commercial influence.
We’ve ranked the 19 greatest empires of all time by the number of square miles each had conquered at their peak.
The Turkic Khaganate spanned 2.32 million square miles at its height in 557 until a civil war contributed to its collapse in 581.
The Han imperial dynasty spanned 2.51 million square miles at its peak in 100 B.C. It collapsed by A.D. 220 after a series of coups and revolutions.
The Ming Dynasty spanned 2.51 million square miles at its height in 1450, but economic breakdown and natural disasters contributed to its collapse in the early 17th century.
The Sasanian Empire spanned 2.55 million square miles at its peak in 621 and was the last Iranian empire before the rise of Islam. It fell around 651 following economic decline and conquest by the Islamic caliphate.
The Empire of Japan was one of the largest maritime empires in history, spanning 2.86 million square miles at its peak in 1942 before surrendering to the Allies on September 2, 1945.
The Achaemenid Empire, also known as the First Persian Empire, spanned 3.08 million square miles at its peak in 480 B.C. before falling to Alexander the Great in 330 B.C.
The First French Colonial Empire spanned 3.12 million square miles at its height in 1754, before a series of wars with Great Britain resulted in both countries losing most of their New World colonies.
After declaring independence from Portugal, the empire of Brazil spanned 3.28 million square miles at its height in 1822, but it would soon lose the territories that make up modern Uruguay, and the empire would fall in an 1889 coup.
The Rashidun Caliphate spanned 3.6 million square miles at its peak in 654, before being followed by another Islamic Caliphate. It was the largest empire by land area ever at that point in history.
The Portuguese Empire reached 4 million square miles at its height in 1815, before losing Brazil and most of the rest in the next 150 years.
The Abbasid Caliphate covered 4.29 million square miles at its height in 850 before losing ground to the Ottomans, who captured the capital city, Cairo, in 1517.
The French bounced back with second colonial empire that covered 5 million square miles at its peak in 1938, before shedding territories in the post-World War II decolonization movement.
The Yuan Dynasty, the first dynasty to rule all of China, extended 5.4 million square miles at its peak in 1310, before being overthrown by the Ming Dynasty in 1368.
The Qing Dynasty, the last imperial dynasty of China, controlled 5.68 million square miles in 1790 at its greatest point. It fell in 1912 following defeat by foreign powers in the Boxer Rebellion and many local uprisings.
The Umayyad Caliphate spanned 5.79 million square miles at its height in the 7th century, before it was defeated by the Abbasids in 750.
The Spanish Empire governed 13% of the world’s land — 7.5 million square miles — at its height in the 18th century before losing much territory in the 19th century Spanish-American wars of independence.
The Russian Empire spanned 8.8 million square miles at its peak in 1866. It was overthrown by the February Revolution in 1917 and was replaced by the Soviet Union.
The Mongol Empire spanned 12.7 million square miles at its peak in 1279, spanning from the Sea of Japan to Eastern Europe, but it disintegrated into competing entities at about 1368.
The British Empire stretched over 13 million square miles across several continents — 23% of the world’s land — at its height in 1922, until decolonization began after World War II.
The 2010 smash-hit video game Call of Duty: Black Ops featured many of the conspiracy theories surrounding the Cold War. While some of them have been proven false, others are impossible to debunk — but a select few are very much true. One such example is the true-to-life way in which the protagonist receives orders throughout the campaign: through a “numbers station.”
In the game, your character, Alex Mason, listens to a shortwave radio station transmitting from a boat off the coast of Cuba that intends to send a message to Soviet sleeper agents in the States. Unlike the more fantastical elements of the game, there is historical precedent for remote numbers stations being used by spy agencies of the time.
Before the era of radio encryption, anyone with a radio receiver could listen in on any conversation. Single-channel military radios operate much like the radio in your car, just at a much lower frequency — one that car radios can’t receive. To make sure a secret message wasn’t intercepted by a random person with a radio, agencies used cryptic codes. A well-known example of such secret speech is the American military’s use of Code Talkers.
The other, equally ingenious method was the use of numbers stations. At a given moment and on a known frequency, a one-way message was sent. That message could be, as the name implies, just a string of numbers, either simply spoken or hidden within a specific song or Morse code. The listener would then use a cipher to translate what those numbers meant.
An outed numbers station transmission, The Swedish Rhapsody, sounded like this.
Someone could, for instance, turn on their car radio at exactly 12:34 PM and tune to a station that’s normally just static and hear a person call off a string of numbers, which could then translate into something like, “continue the mission.”
In the case of the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops, this method was used for espionage purposes. The radio station from which these messages were broadcast roamed the Gulf of Mexico, avoiding detection.
The use of open radio frequencies meant that more than one spy could listen in at the same time. Although never officially confirmed, many spy agencies from around the world have alluded to using them in such a manner.
Numbers stations are, allegedly, still in use. The confirmed Cuban numbers station, Atención, was at the center of an espionage case in the late 90s. Cryptic messages are still broadcast in Cuba at random times to this day.
A former Islamic State militant spoke with NBC news about his experience fighting with ISIS in Syria — and why he surrendered after just three days on the frontlines.
The man, a 24-year-old single father and college dropout who traveled from New York back to his native Turkey, told NBC what has become a familiar story. Socially isolated and lacking meaning in his life, he was seduced by the jihadis’ promise of a salary, a house, and a wife.
“My life was hard and nobody liked me,” the man, who insisted on anonymity, said while crying. “I didn’t have many friends. I was on the internet a lot and playing games.”
This is a common profile among those recruited by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, who are often young men (and women) seeking purpose and identity. They are drawn to ISIS’ promise of community, along with the glory of potential martyrdom. ISIS’ inclusive rhetoric, combined with its social-media prowess, has allowed the group to recruit more foreigners to its ranks than any other modern jihadist group.
Firsthand accounts of the militants’ brutality from those who have fought with ISIS, such as the one given by the Turkish-American recruit, are still relatively rare, even though an estimated 20,000 foreign fighters have joined the group.
“They told us, ‘When you capture someone, you will behead them,'” he said. “But as for me, I have never even beheaded a chicken … It is not easy … I can’t do that.”
He said he was also instructed to throw homosexuals off of tall buildings and kill female adulterers. He said he decided to leave ISIS after an airstrike killed six of his fellow fighters in the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad.
“I got scared because in my whole life I hadn’t seen anything like this,” he told NBC. “And since I was scared, I threw my pistol away and my legs couldn’t hold me.”
The online radicalization of Muslims has become a security threat for the West: An estimated 4,000 ISIS recruits come from Western countries, and foreigners now make up at least half of ISIS’ fighting force, The New York Times reported in April.
Many disgruntled recruits have tried to return to their home country after traveling to join ISIS and finding that life with the group is less glamorous than advertised, The Independent reported.
“I’ve done hardly anything but hand out clothes and food,” a French recruit wrote in a letter home obtained by Le Figaro. “I’ve also cleaned weapons and moved the bodies of killed fighters. Winter is beginning. It’s starting to get tough.”
The man interviewed by NBC may have escaped the Islamic State. But the interview was conducted in a Syrian prison where he was being held captive by Kurdish forces.
He will only be free in death, the ex-fighter told reporters.
“They burn your life, they leave nothing,” he said. “I can’t do anything now. If I go to them [ISIS], they will kill me. If I go to Turkey, they will arrest me. If I stay here, I will go to prison. I have nothing. The only escape for me is death.”
President Joe Biden has renewed President Barack Obama’s pledge to draw down the number of detainees currently being held at a secure facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There are now nine detainees set to be released out of the 40 still held there after 20 years.
According to the New York Times, the United States is set to release 73-year-old Saifullah Paracha, 54-year-old Abdul Rabbani and 40-year-old Uthman Abdul al-Rahim Uthman. Uthman is a citizen of Yemen. The other two detainees are from Pakistan.
None of the men have ever been charged with a crime. When releasing “Gitmo” detainees, the U.S. usually asks the receiving country to place special security precautions and travel restrictions on them, but the United States isn’t sure where to send the recent list of soon-to-be-freed prisoners. A total of nine are set to be transferred to other countries.
Some of the previously cleared prisoners have waited for more than a decade for some other country to take them in. The other 31 prisoners have either been charged with war crimes, are considered too dangerous for release or have been convicted on charges.
Paracha, Rabbani, and Uthman were approved for release in a joint decision from the attorney general, the director of national intelligence, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the secretaries of state, defense and homeland security. These offices maintain seats on the Periodic Review Secretariat, a kind of parole board that reviews the records of detained persons in the camp.
A total of 775 detainees were brought to the U.S. Navy installation on Cuba in the years following the September 11 attacks. Most of these prisoners were released without charges, after being held for years on end. The last time a prisoner was transferred out of the camp prison was 2008, when one of the former detainees was returned to Pakistan.
After 20 years of detention, the stigma of being held in one of the world’s most notorious prisons and the ailing health of Saifullah Paracha, it’s unlikely for them to find a new home anytime soon.
In 2003, Paracha flew from his home in Karachi, Pakistan to Thailand by FBI agents who believed he helped the September 11th plotters make financial transactions in the wake of the attacks. He admitted he held money for them, but denied knowing who they were or what the money was for.
Rabbani was captured by Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence in a 2002 raid along with his brother. Both were accused of being members of al-Qaeda, of staying in al-Qaeda safehouses, undergoing military training in Afghanistan, and becoming an al-Qaeda operative.
The two brothers were held by the CIA for more than 500 days before being sent to Guantanamo Bay. They were also held at the CIA black site code named “Cobalt” – also known as “The Salt Pit” – and may have endured the torture experienced by many of the site’s detainees.
Uthman was brought to Camp X-Ray in 2002, captured and held on charges of being one of Osama Bin Laden’s many bodyguards.
None of the men have any future plans for how they can support themselves once released, and no country has stepped forward to take them in.
The Periodic Review Secretariat published its rationale for releases, security assurances, and recommendations for future resettlement for all released detainees on its public website.
In his last few weeks in office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower severed diplomatic relations with Cuba, and the U.S. Embassy in Havana was shut down.
On Jan. 4, 1961, three U.S. Marine security guards were there, lowering the American flag for the last time over the embassy grounds. After 54 years, these same Marines will be with Secretary of State John Kerry to raise the flag once more on Friday.
The re-raising of the flag comes after President Obama ordered the restoration of full diplomatic relations with the island nation, a historic deal that would reopen the embassy and bring home an American government contractor who had been imprisoned since 2009, The New York Times reported.
In a video produced by the Department of State, the three Marines talk about serving in Cuba on that day, and how they felt about the Cuban people.
“That was a touching moment,” said Gunnery Sgt. F.W. Mike East. “To see ‘Old Glory’ flying the last time in Cuba, that just didn’t seem right. It just seemed like something was wrong, something was missing.”