As entrepreneurs like SpaceX founder Elon Musk launch increasingly powerful rockets, call for a new space race, and prepare to send astronauts into space for the first time, it’s an exciting time to think of joining NASA’s ranks.
But to even think of applying to be an astronaut, you must first pass a stringent list of requirements, including being a US citizen, having an accredited college degree in science, engineering, or mathematics, and three years of professional experience or 1,000 piloting hours.
Then you have to go through a grueling selection process that is about 74 times harder than getting into Harvard University: NASA selects a new astronaut class once every couple of years, and picked only 12 of 18,300 applicants in 2017.
So how much does NASA compensate its astronauts for their experience, extensive training, and willingness to risk their lives to explore space?
According to a frequently asked questions page on NASA’s website, the annual salary is “based on the Federal Government’s General Schedule pay scale for grades GS-12 through GS-13.”
Such grades are used to determine how much white-collar career employees are paid across many government agencies, and they are further broken down into steps ranging from 1 through 10, which are based on acceptable performance and years of service.
The US Office of Personnel Management is in charge of the base pay and leave figures, and the numbers change each year.
In 2018, according to OPM pay scales, a new astronaut with a GS-12 grade and Step 1 experience and performance would earn $63,600 per year. After several years of excellent performance, the same astronaut might be eligible to make the GS-12’s Step 10 pay: $82,680 per year.
Meanwhile, more-qualified astronauts with a GS-13 pay grade could initially earn $75,628 per year (Step 1) and, after several years, up to $98,317 per year (Step 3).
A US Army Ranger, Tim Abell (Army Ranger) and Harry Humphries (SEAL) at a VETNET event. Photo credit Harry Humphries.
Harry Humphries has lived an amazing life, first as a highly decorated Navy SEAL in the Vietnam War then to partnering alongside fellow SEAL Richard Marcinko in business, and, most recently, to working on Hollywood blockbuster films such as The Rock, Black Hawk Down, The Transformers films, Lone Survivor and most recently Da 5 Bloods. He shares leadership and character traits that have served him across his diverse and storied career.
WATM: Tell me about your family and your life growing up?
Born in New Jersey and raised on the Jersey Shore. The Atlantic Ocean was my playground where I became skilled in most things aquatic. Under the tutelage of strong family leadership, specifically from my grandparents, the concept of Love of nation, Pride of Family and God was deeply instilled in my psyche.
This was during and shortly after World War Two, as with most Americans, my pride of country was deeply instilled. My four uncles fought in Europe — all came home safely….naturally, at this early age in my life I knew I would serve as well.
WATM: What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?
My parental experiences resulting from their divorce was a split upbringing for my sister and myself. Actually, our grandparents filled that role, however, that is not to say that my mother wasn’t a wonderful mom, a very strong woman, and extremely supportive of me through my mistakes and successes. Her remarriage was a blessing, as my stepfather became my first athletic coach and as a former college athlete and 101st Airborne Master Sergeant who made all five combat jumps in Europe became my mentor. Fairness on the athletic field and a pursuit of excellence in athletics was deeply ingrained in me as a result.
WATM: What values were stressed at home?
Faith, pride in self and pride in family, a strong sense of determination, tenacity, whatever you start finish, if it gets dark look towards your faith and most importantly, never quitting and finishing what was started.
WATM: What influenced you to join the US Navy and SEALs, what was your experience and what lessons did you take away from your service?
I joined the Naval Reserve as a Prep School senior, 1st classman at Admiral Farragut Academy in Pine Beach, New Jersey. My goal was to attend the Naval Academy, the reserve program at Farragut guaranteed an appointment, however the goal was not to be achieved. After attending Rutgers and Monmouth College for a few years, my reserve unit was called to active duty. I chose to serve out my two-year active obligation at that time which ultimately led to me extending several years in order to get Underwater Demolition Training UDT/R at Little Creek VA. Class 29 where I graduated as class Honor Man. Clearly my most treasured achievement.
I received orders to Underwater Demolition Team 22, UDT 22, where I made several Platoon deployments to the Caribbean after which a billet became available for an enlisted slot in the new command, SEAL TEAM 2. Again, another excellent achievement which changed my life. Reporting aboard was an experience I shall never forget, the quality of personnel, professionalism, all the attributes of becoming part of this outstanding organization was life changing to me.
The early days of the SEAL program were extremely secretive, not as publicized as today’s teams. One didn’t volunteer to punch a ticket and get out. The incentive was to operate with personnel at a level of professionalism not equaled in most commands.
My period was pre, during and some post-Vietnam. Having made two tours, one with Dick Marcinko’s 8th Platoon, ST2 when we were heavily engaged in the TET Offensive of 68 operating on the Cambodian Border supporting the CHAU DOC PRU led by DREW DIX MEDAL OF HONOR recipient for these actions. The 8th Platoon performed excellently going into the city seeking, engaging with the VC. I went with DREW and a fellow SEAL, Frank Thornton into the city on a “company” vehicle armed with an M-2 HMG in the rear. Our mission was to rescue some USAID Medical Personnel who were held captive in their villa by the insurgent VC. After several intensive firefights, the mission was successful, but unfortunately we lost one of our SEALs later in the day, Ted Risher, Frank and I were with Ted on a rooftop prepping a 57 recoilless rifle position overlooking the VC Command Center when Ted took a round in the head.
After several days operating in and around Chau Doc with Drew and his PRU, the platoon was ordered back to Can Tho base. The VC had been killed, captured or melded back into the local population. The city was free.
I returned to country, assigned to MACVSOG operating as a detached SEAL working for the CIA’s Phoenix program as The PRU Advisor in CAN THO Province. I remember this assignment as a dream job, working undercover, if you will, as an enlisted guy telling O-5s and 6s how we were going to execute our battle plans. I split my 150-man team into smaller units and spread them around the province. The plan worked very well increasing our operational tempo many fold.
My last action leading my PRU team was on a VIP Capture Kill mission for a high-ranking VC Commander when I was wounded in both legs. I’m here today only because of my troops. We fought our way out of the ambush and coordinated an air assault on the VC forces covered in a tree line. The UH-1 “POP POP” sounds are truly magnificent to hear, and the sight of WP rockets (no longer in the inventory) hitting as directed is beautiful to see in such times as these.
I eventually wound up in YOKOSUKA Naval Hospital recovering from leg wounds. It was during this time I spent weeks in a ward filled with young Marines ages 18 to 21ish. Mostly amputees. As the senior enlisted guy on the floor, I became their Gunny, sometimes maintaining discipline, sometimes feeding those who had no limbs to feed themselves, sometimes coaching those who needed a prod to get up and rehab their abilities to walk. Truth be told here; it was them who gave me the drive to get up and walk from bed to bed initially until I was able to get around to help them.
The lessons I learned here are immense but simply put, all warriors have a mutual respect for one another. I swore I would never forget these troops, a memory which has instilled a burning passion in me to help my fellow veterans, a passion which lives on to this day.
Dick Marcinko (left) and Harry Humphries (right) in Vietnam, 1968. Photo credit unknown.
WATM: What values have you carried over from the SEALs into advising and producing?
Whether factual or fantasy, the characters playing military or law enforcement rolls must be as realistic as possible, we owe that to them.
I see my role as the reality conscience of the Writer, Director, Producer and HODs. Then on to the training of talent enabling them to appropriately play a role in many cases totally unfamiliar to them.
A shot of the SEAL Team (actors and real SEALs) in The Rock. Photo credit IMDB.com.
WATM: What is the most fulfilling project you have done and why?
Without hesitation I can say that BLACK HAWK DOWN was my thesis as an advisor and Co-Producer. My role entailed acquisition of period correct Equipment; Weapons, and to some extent Costume, assisting the departments in accuracy as pertained to their areas. My role as liaisons to DOD was immense. Jerry Bruckheimer and Ridley wanted the training to be as realistic as possible, once we had DOD’s Production Assist Agreement in place all specific training was provided by USASOC components, the commands being portrayed; the 75th Ranger Regiment provided a gentlemen’s RIP program, the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment DELTA actors were trained at Bragg blowing and kicking doors, etc. the 160th SOAR provided UH-60 training on the simulators at FT. Campbell, etc.
USASOC stood up a detachment of Rangers, 160th Black Hawks and Little Birds, AIRSOC provided transport of all personnel and equipment to Morocco. A remarkable support effort, probably never to be repeated.
Most importantly, I was blessed to have Colonels Tom Mathews (OIC of the 160th element in Mogadishu) and Lee Van Arsdale, ( the C Squadron Commander of the CAG unit). As part of the Military department with me.
Bruce Willis, Paul Francis, Cole Hauser, Johnny Messner, and Eamonn Walker in Tears of the Sun. Photo credit IMDB.com
Taylor Kitsch, Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster and Emile Hirsch in Lone Survivor. Photo credit IMDB.com
David Denman, John Krasinski, Pablo Schreiber and Dominic Fumusa in 13 Hours. Photo credit IMDB.com.
Thad Luckinbill, Chris Hemsworth and Navid Negahban in 12 Strong. Photo credit IMDB.com.
Delroy Lindo, Norm Lewis, Clarke Peters, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Jonathan Majors in Da 5 Bloods. Photo credit IMDB.com.
WATM: What was your experience like in working with such talents as Ridley Scott, Michael Bay, Antoine Fuqua, Tony Scott and Dominic Sena on projects like The Rock, Con Air, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Gone in 60 Seconds, Tears of the Sun, GI Jane, Bad Boys 2 and the like?
This is a tough question, all you mention have been great to have worked with. I’d have to say my projects with Ridley Scott all were excellent experiences. Ridley is without question one of the finest gentlemen I have ever known. As a director, few can compare with his talent, to call him friend is a blessing.
Mike Bay is a loyal friend, working with Mike is like an uncle/nephew experience. I understand and respect his drive for excellence, he truly stands out as a master of the work he does in the action genre. Not only is he truly a friend but also the guy who has worked me the most throughout our careers.
Working with Mike, thanks to Jerry Bruckheimer, on The Rock stands out to be more than just my first project but has to be the most enjoyable yet to be surpassed. Additionally, 13 HOURS stands out to me as my second favorite film. It tells an action story that had to be told accurately.
My projects with Tony Scott stand out in my mind as another exceptional talent and friend, may he rest in peace. We truly lost a great one with him leaving us.
Pete Berg, another friend for life. Working with Pete has always been a pleasure. His work on Lone Survivor was outstanding. I was proud to have played a small role in that project as military Liaison, consultant and Co Producer. Pete is the only director I’ve worked with who shoots as fast as Mike Bay, a joy to watch.
Antoine Fuqua, another artist in his field was also a pleasure to work with on Tears of the Sun. Working with Bruce Willis, we had an outstanding time both shooting and training. Hawaii locations weren’t shabby either.
Most recently Kevin Kent, (my #2 and SEAL war hero) and I had the pleasure of working with SPIKE LEE on DA 5 BLOODS, in retrospect, a Vietnam War period film. Spike was the consummate professional knowing what he wanted and how to get it. The recent loss of Chadwick Boseman, the lead, was a shock to us all. His athletic performance always at top speed was no indication of his condition. An excellent actor, another loss to the world.
Ridley Scott on the set of Black Hawk Down. Photo credit directorseries.net.
Eric Bana and Harry on set for Black Hawk Down. Photo credit Harry Humphries.
Mike Moriarty, Harry Humphries and Kevin Kent on set, 13 HOURS. Photo credit IMDB.com
WATM: What leadership lessons in life and from the SEALs have helped you most in your career?
The most important element of leadership is to create a team and to love the members of that team. The rest will follow if you do that right. Without the team there is no success.
Bruce Willis and Harry Humphries on (HS TRUMAN CVN 75) set for Tears of the Sun. Photo credit Wikipedia.
WATM: As a veteran, how do we get more veteran stories told in Hollywood?
Veterans in Media and Entertainment is probably the best source of veterans in the industry. I did a talk with them several years back. Since The Rock I have put over a 100 SEALs, Marines and Rangers as special skills extras or talent in films and projects. I have been able to help a bunch of veterans in the industry.
WATM: What are you most proud of in life and your career?
My greatest pride resides in assisting veterans as with the VETNET program with Jerri Rosen, who started Working Wardrobes in Orange County offering dress clothing and job training for people who couldn’t afford them. Many veterans were coming through Working Wardrobes for suits and/or dress clothes for work and interviews, so VETNET was created to focus more directly on veterans.
Many of the California veterans are poverty stricken or homeless where they need help restarting in the civilian world. With VETNET we help them write resumes and get prepared for job interviews. We focus on the transitioning veterans as well as those that have come upon hard landings. The core of our program stresses that Veterans having fallen on hard times need to remember who they are and where they came from. It is imperative they believe that and then the pride in self returns. It makes no difference if you came from a high-speed combat unit or support. We all took the same oath essentially offering our lives to support and defend The Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic…..
Jerri Rosen, Harry Humphries and the Plank Owners of the VETNET team. Photo credit Harry Humphries.
Republican Sen. Jeff Flake doesn’t want the Pentagon spending any more money on robots that serve beer.
An amendment Flake and fellow Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain submitted to the 2019 Defense Department Appropriations Act would “prohibit the use of funds for the development of beerbots or other robot bartenders.”
Robots have appeared in bars and restaurants in recent years, being used to shake, stir, and garnish drinks — the Makr Shakr robot developed by engineers at MIT was said to be able to mimic a bartender’s movements while mixing drinks to precision.
In late 2014, Royal Caribbean agreed to incorporate the Makr Shakr into a “bionic bar” on one of its cruise ships, where they feature a tablet for customers to order drinks and a robotic arm to make them.
“There are beerbots in the private sector already, so why would we devote resources for this?” Flake told Bloomberg Law.
“There’s just a lot of willy-nilly spending these days,” Flake said. “Why in the world would you spend Department of Defense funding for beerbots?”
Flake’s amendment comes two years after the Defense Department and the National Science Foundation provided million in grants to a project at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT. Those grants were only a part of the total budget.
The project used a double-armed robot to pick up and move beers around, handing them to two other “turtle bots,” equipped with coolers, that acted as waiters. The waiters, which could not communicate with one another unless they were in close proximity, traveled between rooms in an MIT lab, taking orders from people and getting beers from the bartender bot.
The project’s goal was “to control a group of robots interacting with an environment in order to cooperatively solve a problem.”
While Flake’s amendment would prevent money from going to such studies in the future, it was not clear if future studies could swap alcohol out for something else and still qualify for federal money. Nor is it certain the amendment will be included in the final defense appropriation bill.
With two 20mm cannons, a 40mm automatic grenade launcher, five .50-cal. machine guns, and two weapon pods that could carry either 70mm rocket launchers or 7.62mm miniguns, the armored ACH-47A Chinook could fly into the teeth of enemy resistance and fly back out as the only survivor.
The aircraft boasted overlapping fields of fire and 360 degree coverage.
Operating under the call sign “Guns-A-Go-Go,” these behemoths were part of an experimental program during Vietnam to create heavy aerial gunships to support ground troops. Four CH-47s were turned into ACH-47As by adding 2,681 pounds of armor and improved engines to each bird.
The first three birds arrived in Vietnam in 1966 where they engaged in six months of operational testing. They were tasked with supporting the U.S. Army’s 1st Cavalry Division as well as a Royal Australian Task Force.
The Army Pictorial Service covered an early mission flown in support of the Australians where the attack Chinooks were sent to destroy known enemy positions.
Though the gunships performed well in combat, the Army was hesitant to expand the program because of high maintenance costs. Also, conventional CH-47s were proving extremely valuable as troop transports and for moving cargo.
Of the four ACH-47s created, three were lost in Vietnam. The first collided with a standard CH-47 while taxiing on an airfield. Another had a retention pin shake loose on a 20mm cannon and was brought down when its own gun fired through the forward rotor blades. The third was grounded by enemy fire and then destroyed by an enemy mortar attack after the crew escaped.
Since the gunships were designed to work in pairs, one providing security while the other attacked, the Army ordered the fourth and final helicopter back to the states. It was used as a maintenance trainer by the Army until 1997, when it was restored. It is now on display at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.
The call sign “Guns-A-Go-Go” was recently passed off to Company A of the Army’s new 4th Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord will celebrate the diversity and honor of its service members, including Sgt. Maj. El Sar, I Corps command chaplain sergeant major, a Cambodian-born American who lived through atrocities as a child in his homeland and is now proud to call America home.
More than 1 million people reportedly died as a result of the Khmer Rogue communist regime’s Cambodian genocide from 1975 to 1979, at the end of the Cambodian civil war. A 1984 British film, “The Killing Fields,” documented the experiences of two journalists who lived through the horrific murders of anyone connected with Cambodia’s prior government.
It was more than a film for Sar, who lost several family members to the horrific killings. He spent time in refugee camps and prisons before arriving in America as a 12-year-old refugee with his mother and siblings.
“I’m proud to be an Asian American,” Sar said. “I don’t forget my heritage — but I’m glad to be an American.”
As a child, Sar grew up in the jungles of Cambodia. He lived through the Vietnam War, Cambodian civil war, Khmer Rogues’ Killing Fields, the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia and Thai refugee camps and housing projects, he said.
“I was slapped, thrown in prison, hands tied behind my back, shot at, nearly drowned in a river, walked three days and nights through the thick jungles of Cambodia and evaded Vietnamese troops, the Khmer Rouge, pirates, criminals, Thai security forces and (avoided) more than 11 million landmines,” Sar wrote in a Northwest Guardian commentary published in February 2018.
He told of the deaths of his grandparents, father, a brother, uncles, aunts and other relatives. His remaining family members were robbed by Thai security forces.
Sar and his mother, Touch Sar, older sisters, Sopheak and Phon, and younger brothers, Ath and Ann, came to America as refugees. They arrived in Houston, Texas, June 26, 1981.
At that point, Sar had never been to school and had “zero knowledge, skills, abilities or understanding of life,” he said; however, “Coming to America was like arriving in Heaven.”
He learned English by watching television.
“I watched a lot of commercials, like for Jack in the Box and (Burger King) ‘Where’s the beef?'” he said, with a laugh.
In 1989, Sar graduated from Westbury High School in Houston and earned a criminal justice degree from the University of Houston in 1994. Next, he graduated from the Houston Police Academy in 1995.
Although Sar had long wanted to become a police officer, he realized a stronger passion and joined the Army in August 1996.
“I followed my dream to serve my country,” he said.
After basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Sar began a 21-year military career that included multiple deployments and duty stations. He has been at JBLM since June 2017.
“I like travel; I like deployment, and I love serving my country,” he said.
Sar initially wanted to be in the Infantry, but he was told he is color blind, to which he adamantly disagrees. Testing revealed he’d make a good chaplain’s assistant, he said.
Sar became a Christian while watching a film about Jesus while in a refugee camp in Houston.
“I learned about Jesus and how he sacrificed and died for me,” Sar said.
Being a military chaplain is the perfect fit for Sar, he said.
“I can go in the field shooting and spend time helping people,” he said. “I love taking care of America’s sons and daughters.”
Sar and his wife, Lyna, have three children ranging from 9 years old to 11 months.
The couple met through his aunt in Cambodia, who lived in the same village as Lyna.
“One year later, I asked God and he gave me the go ahead,” Sar said. “We’ve been married 15 years. She is a wonderful woman.”
Comedian Rob Riggle accepted a commission in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1990 with the intent of earning a pilot’s Wings of Gold, but once he got to flight school in Pensacola it hit him that the lengthy commitment was going to keep him from realizing his dream of doing stand up.
“If I had continued flying I didn’t see how I would be able to take my shot at comedy,” Riggle says. “I left flight school and became a public affairs officer.”
After nine years on active duty that included stateside tours at Cherry Point, Camp Lejeune, and Corpus Christi and overseas tours in Liberia and Albania (where he helped build refugee camps for those displaced by the fighting in Kosovo), Riggle transferred to the Marine Corps Reserve. He moved to New York City to pursue his comedy career and drilled with Marine Training Unit 17 — the only reserve unit in Manhattan.
And then 9/11 happened.
“I got a call from my CO and was ordered to report to One Police Plaza first thing in the morning on Sept. 12,” Riggle says. “I worked on the bucket brigades moving rubble by hand.”
For a week he worked 12-on-12-off, clearing the twisted wreckage that was piled six stories high around where the twin towers of the World Trade Center had proudly stood just days before. On the seventh day, the operation was changed from search-and-rescue to search-and-recovery. With all hope gone that more victims might be found alive among the concrete and steel and with the danger of more collapses gone, the heavy machinery was brought in to remove the rest.
Riggle was exhausted and emotionally spent. He’d seen enough.
“Like most Americans, I was pissed off,” he says. “But as a Marine captain, I could do something about it. I put my hand in the air and told my commanding officer, ‘put me in this thing.’ And so he did.”
Now watch Rob Riggle fly with the Blue Angels:
Riggle received orders on Nov. 10 — the Marine Corps birthday — and a week later he reported to CENTCOM in Tampa for training and two weeks after that he was on his way to the war.
“About 20 days from the time I got my orders I was on my way to Afghanistan,” Riggle recalls. “That’s why you have reserves.”
He did two rotations into Afghanistan during his year back on active duty, working out of the Joint Operations Center because he had top secret security clearance. He was part of Operation Anaconda — the first major offensive using a large number of conventional troops — and other major campaigns during that time.
“When my year was up I moved back to New York City and ran the marathon,” he recalls.
The year after that he was added to the cast of “Saturday Night Live.” And the rest is American comedy history.
“I earned the title Marine, no one gave it to me,” Riggle says when asked to sum up his military career. “I’ll be proud of that as long as I’m alive.”
Russia claims to be developing an unstoppable nuclear-powered cruise missile, a weapon with roots in technology the US considered too expensive, too complicated, too dangerous, and too unnecessary to pursue.
Little is known about Russia’s doomsday weapon, as it has been described, but the missile has links to systems the Americans and Soviets looked at during the Cold War, systems that both sides eventually gave up on.
During the Cold War, both the US and the Soviet Union “were looking at every possible idea for how to solve this problem of assured destruction,” John Pike, founder of GlobalSecurity.org, told Insider, explaining that they pursued ideas that while theoretically possible sometimes failed to close the important gap between possible and militarily useful.
In a time of renewed great power competition, the US and Russia, as nonproliferation expert Jeffrey Lewis wrote recently, “seem to be drifting into a new arms race, either out of some bizarre nostalgia or because no one can think of anything better to do.”
Last year, Putin revealed a handful of weapons, some of which have been described as “doomsday weapons.” Among them was the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, which NATO calls the SSC-X-9 Skyfall. The Russian president has stated that the aim is to defeat American missile defense systems.
“A nuclear-powered cruise missile is an outrageous idea, one the United States long ago considered and rejected as a technical, strategic, and environmental nightmare,” Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program for the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, wrote in an article for Foreign Policy.
In the 1960s, the US looked at developing its own nuclear-powered cruise missiles, but Project Pluto, as the program was called, was ultimately abandoned. “It’s a bad idea,” Pike, a leading expert on defense, space, and intelligence policy, said. “It’s a stupid idea,” he added, further explaining that traditional ICBMs, like the Minuteman, were a “much simpler, much cheaper, and much more effective way to incinerate” an adversary.
Pike, who is deeply skeptical of Russia’s claims, characterized a nuclear-powered cruise missile as “an act of desperation.”
‘Expensive, complicated, dangerous, unnecessary.’
Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, told Task Purpose recently that the US gave up on developing a nuclear-powered cruise missile because “it was too difficult, too dangerous, and too expensive.”
The Americans and the Soviets also looked at the development of nuclear-powered aircraft in hopes of fielding bombers with unprecedented endurance, but these projects never panned out. For the US, these planes were going to be the Air Force equivalent of a ballistic missile submarine, Pike explained, noting that “these things could be on continuous patrol.”
In the 1950s, the US tested the NB-36H Crusader that carried an onboard nuclear reactor, but decided against this technology.
(US Air Force)
The problem was that nuclear-powered aircraft, like nuclear-powered cruise missiles, were “expensive, complicated, dangerous, unnecessary,” Pike said, calling such technology “hazardous.” He told Insider that mid-air refueling eventually made this project pointless.
Yet, here Russia is purportedly trying to revive this troubled idea to threaten the US. “A lot of technology has developed,” Kristensen told TP. “It could be some of what the Russian technicians are taking advantage of, but so far it seems like they’re not doing a good job.”
Indeed, testing hasn’t gone very well. There have been around a dozen tests, and in each case the weapon has not worked as intended. A recent explosion at the Nyonoksa military weapons testing range that killed a handful of people is suspected to be linked to the Burevestnik, although Russia has not been particularly forthcoming with the details of what exactly happened.
Russia has indicated that it was working with new weapons, and recently-released data on the cloud of inert radioactive gases created by the blast suggests that a nuclear reactor was likely involved, giving support to the theory that this may have been part of testing for a nuclear-powered cruise missile.
As for Russia’s Skyfall, expert observers suspect that Russia is either bluffing and that the weapon’s stated development is a deception or that Russia is covering up its failings as it tries to get a Cold War-era bad idea to fly.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The black-hatted redcoats who guard royal residences in London and beyond, including Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London, are the Queen’s Guard. While you might think it’s fun to get in their way and try to make them laugh, the reality is these guys will straight up break you if it comes down to it. This all starts with the overly large hat on their head.
The hat – a bearskin – is a symbol of what it takes to be the best.
(Ministry of Defence)
While the Guard date all the way back to 1656, their trademark bearskin shakos date back to the Napoleonic Wars, the end of the Napoleonic Wars. As its name suggests, this is the series of conflicts fought between Imperial France, led by Napoleon and his various allies against the United Kingdom and the Coalitions it formed to counter the rise of the little emperor. The Guards were part of the First Regiment of Foot that finally ended the Napoleonic Wars at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. That’s also when their uniforms picked up the now-iconic bearskin hats.
Specifically, the British picked the hats up from the dead bodies of fallen Frenchmen.
Some of Napoleon’s most elite troops and diehard supporters were the French Imperial Guard. These were troops that had been with Napoleon from the very beginning and were with him to retake power when l’empereur returned from exile on Elba. That’s how they ended up at Waterloo in the first place. They were the (arguably) the world’s best soldiers, and definitely some of the most fearsome in the world. The grenade-throwing grenadiers wore large bearskin shakos to make themselves appear taller and more fearsome. They received better pay, rations, quarters, and equipment, and all guardsmen ranked one grade higher than all non-Imperial Guard soldiers.
At Waterloo, the decisive engagement that determined if Napoleon would once again be master of Europe, the emperor committed his Imperial Guard against the First Regiment of Foot. The outcome of that battle would change history, as for Napoleon, it was a huge gamble that, if successful, could totally break the British and win the battle for the French. That’s why he committed his best.
As the First Regiment of Foot stood up to a punishing French artillery barrage and then a charge from the vaunted Imperial Guard, the British tore into the Frenchmen with repeated musket volleys, dropping hundreds of them before Napoleon’s best broke and ran. With the fall of some of Napoleon’s finest Imperial Guards, the outcome of the battle was all but assured.
With their stunning defeat of France’s best in frontline fighting with relatively few casualties, the British 1st Foot adopted the tall bearskins, a trophy to celebrate their stunning victory over the emperor, reminding the world of what it means to be elite. The bearskins have been on their uniform ever since.
U.S. and Taliban officials have agreed in principle to the “framework” of a peace deal, The New York Times quotes U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad as saying after five days of talks between the militant group and the United States in Qatar.
Both sides have said “progress” had been made in the talks aimed at ending the 17-year conflict in Afghanistan.
“We have a draft of the framework that has to be fleshed out before it becomes an agreement,” The New York Times quoted Khalilzad as saying on Jan. 28, 2019, in an interview in Kabul.
In the framework, the militants agree to prevent Afghan territory from being used by groups such as Al-Qaeda to stage terrorist attacks.
That could lead to a full pullout of U.S. combat troops, but only in return for the Taliban entering talks with the Afghan government and agreeing to a lasting cease-fire.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
The Taliban “committed, to our satisfaction, to do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals,” Khalilzad was quoted as saying.
“We felt enough confidence that we said we need to get this fleshed out, and details need to be worked out,” he added, according to The New York Times.
The Western-backed government in Kabul has struggled to fend off a resurgent Taliban and other militant groups.
The Taliban has so far refused to hold direct negotiations with Afghan government officials, whom they dismiss as “puppets.”
In separate comments made at a meeting with the Afghan media in Kabul on Jan. 28, 2019, Khalilzad said, “I have encouraged the Taliban to engage in direct talks with the Afghan government. It is our policy to get to intra-Afghan talks.”
The militants have said they will only begin talks with the government once a firm date for the withdrawal of U.S. troops has been agreed.
In a televised address on Jan. 28, 2019, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called on the Taliban to enter “serious” negotiations with the government in Kabul and “accept Afghans’ demand for peace.”
“Either they join the great nation of Afghanistan with a united voice, or be the tool of foreign objectives,” he told the militant group.
Ghani spoke after Khalilzad briefed him and other Afghan officials in Kabul on the six-day talks he held with Taliban representatives in the Qatari capital, Doha, January 2019.
The president’s office quoted Khalilzad as saying he had held talks about the withdrawal of foreign troops and a possible cease-fire, but nothing was agreed upon.
“The U.S. insisted in their talks with the Taliban that the only solution for lasting peace in Afghanistan is intra-Afghan talks,” Khalilzad said, according to a statement.
“My role is to facilitate” such talks between the insurgents and Kabul, Khalilzad was quoted as saying.
The U.S. envoy said on Jan. 26, 2019, that the United States and the Taliban had made “significant progress,” adding that the Doha talks were “more productive than they have been in the past.”
He also emphasized that the sides “have a number of issues left to work out,” and that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that while there was “progress” at the meetings, reports of an agreement on a cease-fire were “not true.”
Mujahid also said in a statement that talks about “unresolved matters” will continue.
Until the withdrawal of international troops was hammered out, “progress in other issues is impossible,” he insisted.
Another round of peace talks between the Taliban and the United States was tentatively set for Feb. 25, 2019, the Reuters news agency quoted a Qatari Foreign Ministry official as saying on Jan. 28, 2019.
Not everyone is into football — or sports. But when the cadets of West Point’s U.S. Military Academy meet the midshipmen of Annapolis’ U.S. Naval Academy in Philadelphia, they aren’t always playing football.
In a room just off the main hallway from where the press is set up to interview celebrities and military VIPs visiting the big game, a debate rages on: Should the United States implement a policy of nuclear non-first use?
The West Point team calmly lays out exact information from reputable sources to support its argument.
“Unclear policy leads to unnecessary risk,” says Cadet Carter McKaughan “the US government should implement a policy against nuclear first use.“
Debate teams from the two service academies are meeting each other head-on to argue the finer points of this question. Of course, in the spirit of the debate, the views expressed don’t necessarily represent the views of the speakers, the school, or the Department of Defense.
Just like the rhetoric for the football game, the rhetoric in the debate competition is heated, but respectful. The Annapolis team argues that West Point’s nuclear non-first use policy proposal will only lead to an increased need for conventional forces and that a nuclear option will be more efficient.
“What has been sustainable for 73 years will continue to be sustainable,” Midshipman William Lewis argues. “Such a policy is not justified today… First-use is 73-0 in preventing great power conflict.“
The debate has three parts. Each team gets two six-minute speeches to lay out their most pertinent points. The opposition gets two minutes of cross-examination questions. Back and forth, back and forth, for just under an hour.
“Russia doesn’t want to face economic ruin to get Estonia,” says Cadet Tommy Hall. “First-use nuclear policy doesn’t deter them. Mutually-assured destruction keeps countries like China and the United States from a nuclear exchange, not policy.“
Midshipmen and Cadet debate nuclear first-use policy.
Each side gets a five-minute rebuttal, and even the audience gets a chance to ask questions. Midshipman Nicholas Gutierrez cracks his knuckles before he begins his six-minute speech. He talks about how the nuclear deterrent and first-strike policy actually prevents armed conflict.
“A first-use policy not only works, it’s the best thing we’ve had in place to save lives in all of human history,” he says.
Admittedly, it didn’t look good for Navy for much of the debate. The Army team was well-spoken and calmly laid out their salient points. In the closing minutes of the debate, Navy came out with a five-minute rebuttal that was passionate and rebuked all of Army’s points.
Like a last-minute drive down the field in the fourth quarter, Navy made its stand. Both teams were impressive in their rhetoric and passion on the subject, but Navy won the day.
The Army-Navy Debate will likely never have the sponsorships and merchandising of the Army-Navy Game. We may never see debate swag or a pair of seasoned debaters providing color commentary. But if you ever want to see the quality of education the future leaders of the U.S. military are getting at West Point an Annapolis, it’s worth a trip to the room just off the main hallway.
Sam Mendes, the Oscar®-winning director of Skyfall, is bringing his World War I epic to the big screen this winter in 1917, the story of two young British soldiers (Game of Thrones‘ Dean-Charles Chapman and Captain Fantastic’s George MacKay) who are given the seemingly impossible mission of saving 1600 Allied men.
“In a race against time, they must cross enemy territory and deliver a message that will stop a deadly attack on hundreds of soldiers—Blake’s own brother among them,” Universal Pictures describes.
Check out the rather Dunkirk-esque trailer right here:
“If you fail, it will be a massacre,” warns Colin Firth, who tasks the young soldiers on their mission. One of them, Blake, has a brother serving in the 2nd Battalion, who are walking into a trap.
“Your orders are to deliver a message calling off tomorrow morning’s attack. If you don’t, we will lose sixteen hundred men, your brother among them,” states Firth.
Mustache March dates back to the Vietnam War, but Cumberbatch knows WW1 troops were the OG stachers.
(Universal Pictures image)
“There is only one way this war ends,” declares Benedict Cumberbatch, another high-ranking officer.. “Last man standing.”
We know, of course, who wins the war, but what is great about war epics is that they show us what it was like for the men who fought them. This trailer shows trench warfare, battlefield attacks, explosions within buildings, and other horrors of the Great War.
Kid, I’m gonna need you to put your helmet back on…
(Universal Pictures image)
Written by Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns (Penny Dreadful), the film is Mendes’ first return to the war genre since 2005’s Jarhead. Shot by Oscar®-winning Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049) and edited by another Oscar®-winner, Lee Smith (Dunkirk), the film promises to be a cinematic achievement.
(Universal Pictures image)
1917 will open domestically in limited release on Dec. 25, 2019 and wide on Jan. 10, 2020.
In the early morning of July 16, 2019, an Army UH-60 Black Hawk rescue crew was alerted to a severely injured hiker who had fallen 500 feet down one of Colorado’s tallest peaks.
The hiker, a retired astronaut, had broken both of his legs and one arm in the fall and needed emergency care fast. But to get to a hospital for his injuries, the former Navy captain had to rely on the Army to pluck him from the unforgiving terrain.
It was the height of summer, a time when hikers flock to the state’s mountain ranges and when operations at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site ramp up.
The site has a dual-hatted role. Primarily, it teaches helicopter crews how to fly and land in high altitudes. It also is a search and rescue outfit with experienced crews that can reach difficult spots where most civilian aircraft cannot.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site drops off a civilian rescue technician near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.
(Photo by Tyler McCready)
Each year, full-time Colorado Guardsmen at the site rescue about 20 people — mainly desperate hikers who have fallen or suffered from altitude sickness or a heart attack.
With two pilots and two crew chiefs, the Black Hawk crews will also pick up two rescue technicians, who are civilian volunteers that they train with, on their way out.
After already topping their annual average for saves, 2019 has proven to be a busy year.
“It’s nice that we’re able to take what we teach, the power management techniques, and apply them on the weekend or during the week when we’re making these critical saves,” said Lt. Col. Britt Reed, the HAATS commander.
For many, the July 16 mission is one of the recent missions that stands out. While climbing La Plata Peak, which pierces the sky at over 14,000 feet near Leadville, Jeff Ashby quickly became in need of help from the air.
The day before, Ashby, 65, who had flown to space three times, had just reached the summit of the mountain. During his descent, he lost his footing and slipped, hurtling down the mountainside before large boulders stopped him.
Hours later, a local search and rescue team member managed to navigate to the former astronaut and stayed with him overnight.
At first light, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Pat Gates and his aircrew, along with two rescue technicians, flew out to Ashby’s location.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site lowers a member of Mountain Rescue Aspen down to an injured hiker near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.
(Photo by Tyler McCready)
Once overhead, the crew used a hoist to lower the technicians, who prepped Ashby before he was pulled up into the helicopter. The aircraft then landed at a transfer site, where Ashby was taken to the hospital in a civilian medical transport helicopter.
While a collection of emergency responders helped out, the HAATS crew had the hoist capability to get Ashby out of danger.
“It’s great knowing that you have that kind of impact on somebody,” Gates said.
After being released from the hospital, Ashby wrote an email to Gates and the rest of the aircrew, thanking them for their efforts.
“He was very appreciative of everything, for the fact that the Army came to help out a Navy guy,” Gates said, smiling. “But, all in all, having a result like that is always the best case.”
Gates estimates he has helped with at least five rescues per year since he came to HAATS in 2009. And the total number of missions continues to increase, he said, almost quadrupling compared to when he first started.
Some of them even test the most experienced pilots, like Gates, who serves as the training site’s senior standardization instructor pilot.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site prepares to lower a civilian rescue technician near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.
(Photo by Tyler McCready)
A hairy rescue he still remembers was in 2015 at Crestone Needle, another mountain over 14,000 feet.
In that one, a hiker also slipped and broke his leg on top of other injuries. Since the hiker was stranded in a tight area, the aircrew had to lower a hoist 200 feet as winds kicked up to 25 knots and a thunderstorm loomed nearby.
“That was very interesting,” he said. “It required a lot that day to get the [helicopter rescue team] all the way down there to the injured party.”
The mission was taxing for the crew since they had to keep the helicopter as still as possible. At that height, Gates said, the hoist can sway about 10 feet on the ground to every 1 foot the aircraft moves in the air.
Pilots may also decide to quickly do a one-wheeled landing, one of which was conducted this summer, if there is enough room that the rotors will not chop into the mountain side.
“If they feel the safest way is to land the aircraft [is] by putting one wheel down or two wheels down or using the hoist,” Reed said, “then we’ll figure out what the best way is and we’ll do it.”
And then there are the “what ifs” every difficult mission presents, Gates said, which can be mentally draining when the crew is trying to prevent them all.
Other than a similar National Guard unit at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, that handles rescues on the front range of the Rocky Mountains, no state entity can replicate the landings and hoists of the HAATS crews.
“If we didn’t have these two organizations, then the [hikers] that got stuck would be in a lot of trouble,” Reed said, “because there is nobody else that can provide the resources that we can provide.”
Civilian rescue technicians treat an injured hiker before he is hoisted up into a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.
(Photo by Tyler McCready)
As a crew chief, Staff Sgt. Greg Yost typically operates the hoist during rescues.
In June 2019, he lowered a hoist about 100 feet to save a skier who suffered cuts and an ankle injury after a small avalanche knocked him down, causing him to hit some rocks.
Hovering above 13,000 feet in that mission, the aircrew had to deal with strong winds in a narrow valley that drastically affected the power margin of the heavy helicopter.
“We were basically at our limit in power,” Yost recalled.
While tough at times, the missions do bring Yost back to a job he never wanted to leave. Before coming to Colorado, he served on a medical evacuation aircrew in Afghanistan, picking up wounded troops in sometimes hot landing zones.
In this video still image, a UH-60 Black Hawk crew from the Colorado National Guard’s High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site perform a one-wheeled landing at or above 13,000 feet to rescue an injured hiker from Maroon Bells, Sept. 21, 2013.
(US Army photo)
“That wasn’t something that I really wanted to give up,” he said. “So the fact that HAATS regularly conducted those kinds of missions was a big driving force in me wanting to come to this unit so I could continue helping people.”
The work HAATS crews have done with hoist operations has led the Army to develop a standardized hoist training program last year, Gates said.
The training site also creates scenario-based evaluations from the rescue flights to teach students during its weeklong course. The lessons even give the students an opportunity to discuss how the flight could have gone smoother.
“That’s one thing we don’t do, is rest on our laurels,” Gates said. “We take information in from everybody that comes through here.”
The U.S. defense secretary has again accused Russia of violating a key Cold War arms control treaty, calling the unresolved and increasingly tense dispute with Moscow “untenable.”
Jim Mattis’s remarks on Oct. 4, 2018 after a meeting of NATO military leaders were the latest in a series of increasingly blunt statements by U.S. officials regarding the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty.
Russia has repeatedly denied U.S. assertions, first made publicly in 2014, that a ground-launched cruise missile Moscow has developed, and reportedly deployed, is in violation of the agreement, known as the INF treaty.
After years of public criticism of Moscow, U.S. officials in 2017 started becoming more aggressive in their approach. And Russia acknowledged the existence of a missile identified by Washington, but denied that it had violated the treaty.
In early October 2018, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, said U.S. forces might have to “take out” the Russian missiles if the dispute continues. She later clarified that she wasn’t referring to an actual U.S. military attack.
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis speaks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, the U.S. Ambassador to NATO at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 14, 2018.
“Russia must return to compliance with the INF treaty or the U.S. will need to respond to its cavalier disregard for the treaty’s specific limits,” Mattis said in Brussels.
“The current situation with Russia in blatant violation of this treaty is untenable,” he said.
Congress has backed funding for a new missile program to counter the Russian weapon, and Mattis said in early 2018 that defense planners were working on new low-yield nuclear weapons to force Russia back into compliance.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg echoed Mattis’s comments, saying Russia was imperiling the treaty, which is widely considered a “cornerstone” of European security.