5 things astronauts do for fun while in space - We Are The Mighty
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5 things astronauts do for fun while in space

A regular deployment for our troops down here on Earth gets pretty boring while you’re off-mission. It becomes challenging to find new ways to fill your downtime. Maybe you’ll swing by the MWR and play some video games. Maybe you’ll watch a movie or two — that is until you’ve watched everything on the deployment hard drive twice.

Realistically speaking, the life of a astronaut in space is probably similar. Even the whole zero-G’s thing and watching the Big Blue Marble has got to get boring after a while…


Thankfully, through the power of social media, astronauts can record themselves and upload their shenanigans to the internet for the world (and beyond) to see. No judgment here; whatever takes the edge off while being stuck in the same, tight confinements for nine months at a time…

Playing music

The great musicians here on Earth have written countless tunes about space and astronauts. These songs are then copied and repeated ad nauseam by that one guy at the party who thinks he can play.

But when David Bowie’s Space Oddity is played by someone who’s actually in space… It doesn’t matter if he’s not on the level of the late, great Ziggy Stardust — it’s awesome on its own level.

Play with toys

There was a challenge a few years back for gifted children to design toys usable in space. The constraints were simple: It had to be fun and not involve plenty of lose pieces that could float around and potentially cause a Homer-Simpson-level disaster.

Since astronauts are generally pretty stand-up people, we can assume they actually accepted the toys and used them instead of letting the kids’ efforts go to waste.

Exercising in zero gravity

As awesome as it is to live in weightlessness for an extended period of time, it can wreak havoc on your body. Your bones will deteriorate and your muscle mass will shrink.

To make sure that their bodies aren’t completely crushed by an inevitable return to normal gravity, astronauts need to exercise a minimum of two hours per day. That’s when things get interesting since they can’t just hop on a normal treadmill or grab some free weights.

Fun experiments (for science, of course)

Although space tourism has expanded in recent years, for the most part, astronauts who were sent up by their respective countries are there to do science. They’ll plan objectives for years, like maintaining the Hubble Telescope in case of emergency or documenting the effects of micro-gravity on an extremely fast spacecraft.

But, sometimes, astronauts get bored writing the same equations and the same formulas only to yield nearly identical outcomes. Sometimes, they just want to see how many zero-G backflips they can do before throwing up. I mean, who could resist a few childish experiments if you spent all those years dreaming of going to space?

Watch movies

For the most part, you have to be pretty nerdy to make it far in NASA’s space program. And there’s nothing nerds love more than some nerdy pop culture.

Astronauts watch everything from Gravity (which I assume they critique like soldiers did The Hurt Locker) to The Simpsons to even Star Wars.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Trump’s Iran summit was rejected by the Iranians

President Donald Trump has set out on a puzzling and ambitious policy towards Iran that looks increasingly focused on a summit that would deeply humiliate the Islamic Republic’s leadership.

Trump’s new Iran policy calls for an economic crackdown following the withdrawal from the Iran deal, a buildup of anti-Iran military alliances with the US’s regional partners, and a media campaign to heat up already simmering civil unrest in the country.


But, while the circumspect approach mirrors Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign that helped force North Korea and China to change their tunes, this time he’s opened with an offer for a summit.

“I’m ready to meet anytime they want to,” Trump said of Iran during a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on July 30, 2018. “No preconditions. They want to meet? I’ll meet.”

Later, Trump’s Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, laid out some preconditions , but the offer remained extended.

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Iran, theoretically, has a lot to gain from improved relations with the US. Since the US withdrawal from the Iran deal, Iran’s currency has taken a nosedive, soaring up to around 120,000 rials to a dollar. In August and November 2018 Iran faces two new waves of sanctions that will shut off their access to US banking and oil exports.

Though the US sanctions post-deal will be unilateral and not as strong as the pre-deal UN-imposed sanctions, fear angering the US, the world’s largest economy, will likely scare off Europeans who are otherwise committed to the deal.

In short, Trump withdrew from the Iran deal, likely imposed tremendous cost and stress on Tehran’s economy, and Iran has responded by staying in the deal and trying to portray itself as a good actor worthy of the world’s support against US hegemony. For the moment, Trump is having his cake and eating it too.

A ‘kiss the ring’ moment from Trump to Iran would be deeply humiliating

Iran’s parliament, for the first time ever, has called up Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to grill him on the foreboding economic downturn. Iran watchers consider Rouhani a moderate who spent considerable political capital in negotiating with the US and the West to cast the Iran deal.

But now, Iran finds itself having signed away its nuclear ambitions for almost none of the economic rewards promised by the west.

Ali Motahari, the deputy speaker of Iran’s parliament who is seen as part of Iran’s moderate camp, said that to negotiate with Trump now ” would be a humiliation .”

Other figures in Iran’s government dismissed the idea as non starter, saying the nuclear deal represented the talks they supported, and having that ripped up made future conversations untenable.

Instead, Iran hopes to improve relations with Europe, who it hopes will brave US sanctions to continue to buy its oil. But as many of Europe’s businesses are exposed to the US’s massive financial reach, it’s hard to imagine Iran doesn’t take a haircut on its potential future earnings.

Meanwhile, Trump has, in short order, laid down a remarkable track record with summits, especially with US adversaries. “I’ll meet with anybody. I believe in meetings,” Trump said on July 30, 2018.

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space

If Trump helped North Korea’s image, imagine what he could do for Iran.

A Trump summit has its appeal

Trump became the first US leader to meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, the world’s worst human rights violator. Kim agreed to only vague, symbolic or non-binding moves to help the US while Trump heaped praise on the leader and defended his brutal regime.

Trump also praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and appeared to take his word for it that Moscow did not meddle in the US’s 2016 election, earning himself a stinging rebuke from his own party andtop intelligence experts .

Neither one of these summits produced anything of real substance for the US public. So far, the US has reaped the reward of some repatriated war dead from the Korean War and a soccer ball from Putin .

Iran, similarly, could hold a summit with Trump, but its political culture forbids such a thing. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran has cast itself as standing up to the US with fierce opposition. Its senior government figures chant “death to America.” Iran’s navy holds the dubious operational goal of destroying the US Navy . Domestically, Rouhani already stuck his neck out for the US with the Iran deal.

For Iranian leaders to smile and shake Trump’s hand would symbolize a deep capitulation and recognition that the US holds tremendous power over Tehran, and that their values of opposing US hegemony stand subordinate to their will to survive economically, for which they’ll need a benevolent Trump.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Spread facts, not fear

This is a moment when words matter.

All of us want answers. Within our hands we hold the gateway to all sorts of answers to every question we could think to ask, and even some questions better left unasked.

Can I gently implore you to resist the urge to spend the day on search engines or scrolling madly through social media as the source of information?


Here is the most important point you need to know today:

This is a dynamic situation.

Facts are evolving daily. Leaders are assessing every situation, every nuance and every facet of this public health situation, hourly.

Consequently, the biggest challenge they face is communicating in a timely manner with as much information as possible, without overstating the concerns and without underestimating the challenge.

If you feel an information delay, do not fill the vacuum with conjecture and hyperbole.

Do not add to the swirl.

Do not repeat as fact something offered as opinion.

Do not accept information from non-credible sources.

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Stick to the facts you know, from sources you trust.

Community Chat pages are not credible sources.

Private Facebook groups administered by private citizens with no official government or health training are not credible sources.

For our military families: Your first and most credible source of information will be official guidance offered through the chain of command – from the SECDEF to the Chief of Staff for your branch of service to MAJCOM to Installation leadership to unit commanders, etc.

It takes time for clear public affairs guidance to be written, approved and disseminated.

As someone who’s been on that side of things in the White House, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State, trust me when I say: you want ACCURATE information. Be patient.

Trust leadership at all levels of government and your military chain of command to move as swiftly as possible.

As someone married to a senior leader on an Air Force base, I promise you – your leadership knows you want information. Their spouses are probably telling them all the questions they need to answer. Believe me, they know and they are working it. Trust them.

Earlier this week I got a message from a friend on base. Her kids go to school with my kids. Neighborhood conversation caused her to wonder about how the news headlines would impact her family specifically.

I suspect there are many spouses and families with similar questions today: spring break travel plans, pending PCS, active duty members overseas and family members stationed abroad.

Rather than participate in the conjecture or begin worrying about how to plan for all the contingencies, my friend sent me a quick text, asking if I knew how her family situation might be affected.

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space

She texted, “I know better than to simply survey my neighbors about what they’ve heard. I’d rather ask someone I trust, who I know can find out what’s true and what’s just rumor.”

You better believe I messaged her right back.

“I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

My very next message was to find out.

In the interim, I told her, “I asked leadership. I suspect the initial answer will be something along the lines of: it’s a dynamic situation and we won’t know specific answers for specific cases until closer to that time. But I’ll get you an ‘official’ answer as soon as possible.”

This is my message for you today, too.

If you have specific questions for specific cases, ask credible sources, like those listed below — not social media. When the answer is incomplete, be patient and trust your leadership.

I promise, we’re on your side – it’s our life too.

www.coronavirus.gov is the official government website with up-to-date information from the White House Coronavirus Task Force. The Task Force includes representation from all federal agencies and is coordinating federal, state and local response to this emerging situation.

On that website, hosted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), you’ll find situation updates as well as symptoms to monitor, answers to common questions and steps to prevent illness, including tips for keeping homes, workplaces, schools or public establishments safe.

You can find DOD specific guidance at https://www.defense.gov/Explore/Spotlight/Coronavirus/

For more information on travel restrictions, visit https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices

Look for branch specific and unit specific guidance issued by official public affairs sources. When in doubt, ask your supervisors and let them know you’re willing to wait for official answers. Then trust them to do their job and get you accurate, actionable information.

At a state and local level, official guidance will be offered by official, sanctioned government websites: Governors, Mayors, state and local public health officials. Those individuals and services will likely be pulling their information from this official CDC resource page for state, local, territorial and tribal health departments.
MIGHTY TRENDING

Apache pilots want to kill you from 15 miles away

Apache helicopters can currently knock out enemy tanks, light bunkers, and personnel from over 7.5 miles away. But the Army is looking at a future world where a new generation of attack and scout helicopters might be engaging Chinese ships and Russian air defenses on islands in the Pacific or mountains across Eurasia. And so they want to increase their range, and a new missile would double it.


Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team

www.youtube.com

The Army’s Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team, an organization named by an old Xerox machine that gained sentience, is testing the Spike-NLOS on an AH-64E Apache attack helicopter.

Right now, the Apache’s longest-range munition is its Hellfire Anti-Tank Guided Missile. This time-tested bad boy can deliver a shaped-charge warhead against a target 7.5 miles away.

But the Russian S-400 can kill targets about 25 miles away. So imagine that first strike of Desert Storm where Apaches conducted a deep raid against Iraqi air defenses. Now imagine them needing to secretly cross 17 miles of desert under enemy radar coverage before they could launch their missiles.

Every foot you can whittle off that vulnerable distance would save pilots’ lives in combat. And those AFVLCFT fellas might have whittled off 7.5 miles (that’s 39,600 feet, for anyone still whittling away).

The AFLCIO’s choice of the Spike-NLOS provides more than just greater range, though. It has a fiber-optic cable that spools out behind it as it flies, allowing the pilot to give new commands while the missile is in the air. Pilots can even fire the missile into a target area before spotting an enemy. As the missile is flying, the pilot can then designate who it should kill. And it has a tandem warhead allowing it to defeat most reactive armor.

The Spike-NLOS is already in production for Israeli forces, so American forces could see it whenever Congress ponies up the cash. Provided, you know, that the AARDVARK recommends it.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

It has been 25 years since the culmination of the so-called Russian constitutional crisis, when the country’s president, Boris Yeltsin, sought to dissolve the parliament and then ordered the military to crush opposition led by the vice president at the time, Aleksandr Rutskoi, and the chairman of parliament, Ruslan Khasbulatov.

I was working in Central Asia when the crisis broke out in September 1993, and heard bits and pieces from Radio Mayak every now and again from the Uzbek village I was working in at the time.

I traveled regularly to Moscow for my job — heading a Central Asian sociology project for the University of Manchester and the Soros International Fund for Cultural Initiative — to hand over material from our Central Asian colleagues, pick up their salaries, and restock my own household supplies for the next period of village life.


By chance, I arrived in the Russian capital on October 1. Friends there explained the rapidly changing situation. (I was more interested in the party that some friends told me was set for the Penta Hotel on Saturday night, October 2.)

I had my first look at the Russian parliament building, known as the White House, on the way to the Penta. It was surrounded by trucks, the Soviet-era tanker trucks that had big letters on the sides showing they carried moloko (milk) or voda (water), or something. There was also barbed wire around the building. Small groups of people were milling about on both sides of the barricade.

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space

Boris Yeltsin.

Sunday, October 3, was shopping day for me. There were always too many people at the Irish store on the Arbat on the weekend, but there was another Irish store on the Ring Road. There was a smaller selection but I was only looking for basic products, like toilet paper.

‘Some snap drill’

Just before I reached the store, a convoy of Russian military trucks full of soldiers drove by. They were moving rather fast. I didn’t think too much of it. I’d seen military convoys drive through cities before, especially in Moscow. “Some snap drill,” I thought.

I hadn’t been back at my accommodation long when the phone rang. It was an Italian friend, Ferrante. He was doing business in Russia and lived not far from the flat I stayed in when I was in Moscow. We knew each other from parties and had seen each other at the Penta on Saturday night.

Our conversation went something like this:

“Are you watching this?” he asked.

“Watching what? I just got back,” I replied, “What’s going on?”

“There’s shooting at Ostankino,” Ferrante said in reference to the TV tower. “It’s on CNN. Come over.”

Now I knew what the military trucks were doing. I hurried over to Ferrante’s place and sat down to watch.

“Here,” Ferrante said, handing me a shot of vodka.

We both downed the shot and watched, then downed another shot, and watched.

We were also listening to a local radio station, and Ferrante was getting calls from people around Moscow. It was clear Ostankino was not the only place where serious events were unfolding.

Ferrante poured us both another shot. We downed it and Ferrante started speaking.

“You know,” and he paused. It seemed like a long pause, then he said exactly what I was thinking: “I always wished I was here in 1991,” a reference to the events that brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union. “Something big is happening. Let’s go out and see.”

Ferrante called his Russian driver to come over and get us, and we headed to the parliament building just as the sun was setting.

And then it got weird

We had trouble reaching the area. Some streets were blocked off. Once, our car turned a corner and there was a group of around 50 men marching toward us carrying sticks and crowbars. “Go back,” Ferrante yelled, though the driver was already trying.

We parked by the Hotel Ukraina, across the Moscow River from the parliament building. The bridge across the river was barricaded on the side near the parliament building but pedestrians could pass easily enough. We walked around watching apparent supporters of Rutskoi and Khasbulatov turn over those tanker trucks, light fires, and rearrange the barbed wire.

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space

Aleksandr Rutskoi.

There was lots of drinking everywhere.

The crowd was growing. Men in military uniforms had arrived carrying a Soviet flag, and they were trying to form a column of several hundred of the seemingly hard-drinking supporters of Rutskoi and Khasbulatov. It was clear things were about to get ugly.

We noticed and were already talking, in English, about departing. I lit a cigarette, and a Russian man who had obviously had a few shots of vodka himself approached me and asked for a light. After I lit his cigarette, he stared at us and said, “Well guys, are we going, or are we going to sit here taking a piss?”

“Sit here taking a piss,” I replied immediately. “Sorry, we’re foreigners and this isn’t our fight.”

That was enough for him, and he left.

So did we. Back across the river to the Metro, which, amazingly, was working. It was packed, but we were easily able to make it to Tverskoi Boulevard, where the pro-Yeltsin side was assembling. They were drinking, too, but there were places where the atmosphere was more party than political upheaval. I remember a truck lay overturned and there was a guy on top of it playing the accordion and singing with a voice like iconic balladeer Vladimir Vysotsky. A lot of people were just sitting around on the street, drinking and talking.

I got back to my apartment at about 3:00 a.m. “What would daylight bring?” I wondered.

The phone woke me up on Monday, October 4. It was Ferrante again.

“I just got back from the center. I was on the bridge when the tank fired at parliament,” he said quickly.

A lot to digest

It was a lot for me to digest, first thing out of bed. There was an assault on the parliament building, a lot of shooting, people killed…

As I sat at the table drinking tea, more calls came in from friends. Did I know what happened? Had I heard? What had I heard? They told me what they heard.

Several people called just to see where I was, since they knew I was in Moscow but I had not answered the phone all Sunday night.

I remember best the call from my friend Samuel. “Where were you last night?”

When I told him I had been out roaming around in both camps, he screamed, “Are you totally stupid? People are getting killed out there.”

The call ended with me promising I wouldn’t leave my apartment. And I would have kept that promise if I had not run out of sugar for my tea.

I figured the odds of finding someone selling sugar were probably not so good in such times, but I don’t like tea without sugar, so I headed out and got on the subway, which was still running, and went to the Arbat stop.

There was no traffic on the road. I tried walking to where the Irish store on the Arbat was located, but that side of the street was blocked off. On the other side of the street, there was a long line of people behind metal barriers, so I crossed to see. The crowd stretched all the way down the road in the direction of the Moscow River until the about the last 100 meters from the intersection where the Aeroflot globe was. The other side of the intersection was the road that sloped down to the parliament building.

There were several thousand people behind this barrier, and I made my way toward the intersection, where eventually I could see four armored vehicles parked in the center of the road.

I made it to where Dom Knigi (House of Books) used to be. Across the street was that massive block of stores that included, at the time, the Irish store, the Yupiter furniture and appliance store, the Aeroflot office, and dozens of other businesses. Some of the windows were shot out. On top of the building, in plain sight, were OMON, the elite Interior Ministry troops, in their black uniforms gazing down at the streets. There were a lot of police and OMON troops on the other side of the road, at street level also.

Snipers, tracer rounds

But behind the waist-high metal barricades on my side of the street it was a carnival atmosphere. People were talking about snipers where the intersection was, but no one seemed particularly concerned. At least until a sniper finally did take a shot at the armored vehicles.

One of the armored vehicles turned in the direction of a building on the cross street and unloaded. The tracer rounds could be seen flying toward it and dust was kicked up off the side of the building from the bullets.

The crowd roared like it was a sporting event. “Give it to them!” people yelled.

The shooting stopped, the crowd calmed, and then a thoroughly inebriated, shirtless young man jumped over the metal barrier and danced around with his arms outstretched.

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space

Burned facade of the Russian White House after the storming.

Two OMON troops jumped over the barrier on the other side of street, ran to the drunken dancer, and beat him with their clubs, each grabbing one of the now-unconscious drunk’s ankles and dragging him over the curb to their side of the street.

Another shot at the armored vehicles, another volley of return fire, and more cheering from the spectators on my side of the street.

About that time, I was thinking this was too bizarre and decided to leave. But just as I was making my way back, a roar went up from the direction I was headed and the ground started rumbling. A column of armored vehicles, including many tanks, was making its way up the road toward the intersection.

People were calling to the soldiers: “Be careful!” and “There are snipers there.”

I took one last look at the intersection. Two of the armored vehicles were peppering a building with bullets.

The Metro train I took was on a line that briefly emerged from underground to cross a bridge, and everyone looked out the window at the White House, whose upper floors were on fire.

I got my sugar, went home, and had tea. I went to Ferrante’s place that evening to drink more vodka. There were many people there, some with spent shell casings they had gathered after the raid on the parliament building. Everyone had a story to tell.

I packed my bags the next day and by October 6 I was safely back in Central Asia.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Crazy Horse earned his ‘insane’ name as a child

Crazy Horse’s name will be remembered by history for ages to come, but, sadly, his face will not, as he refused to be photographed his entire life. The Oglala Lakota leader made his name famous by participating in the most legendary battles of the Plains Wars, including the Native Tribes’ greatest victory over American troops at Little Bighorn.

How he got that name in the first place is just as interesting.


The man who grew up as “Crazy Horse” was born around 1842 to two members of the Lakota Sioux tribe. His father, an Oglala Lakota who married a Miniconjou Lakota was also named “Crazy Horse.” Neither of the two would keep these names for very long.

Though his mother, Rattling Blanket Woman, died when he was just four years old, she gave him the enduring nickname of “Curly,” used because of his light, curly hair. But his actual name at birth was “In the Wilderness.” As the young man grew in age, however, neither his name or his nickname felt appropriate for the boy. By age 13, he was leading raiding parties against rival tribes of Crow Indians and stealing horses. By 18, he was leading war parties against all tribal enemies.

When it came time to test the young man’s maturity, his father would have to give up his own name. From then on, the young man would be called “Crazy Horse.” His father accepted the name, “Worm.”

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space

Crazy Horse at Fort Laramie.

Though generally considered wise, quiet, and reserved when not in battle, the young man showed signs of craziness throughout his life. After stealing another man’s wife, he was shot in the face. While recovering from that wound, he fell in love again, this time for good. The incident left him with a scar on his face but, Crazy Horse was still not widely known outside the area of what we now know as South Dakota. Then, the U.S. Army showed up.

A lieutenant accused the Lakota of stealing a settler’s livestock. When the local elder, Chief Conquering Bear, attempted to negotiate with the Army officer, he was shot in the back. That settled Crazy Horse’s view of the White Man. They could not be trusted and must be resisted at all costs.

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space

Crazy Horse fighting Col. William Fetterman’s men at Fort Kearny.

Crazy Horse led the Lakota against the Americans on numerous occasions, striking the U.S. Army at its most vulnerable points. He first hit Fort Kearny, a camp commanded by Col. William Fetterman, annihilating Fetterman’s force and giving the Army its worst defeat at the hands of Native tribes at the time.

Just shy of a decade later, the Army returned to try and force Lakota and Cheyenne tribespeople back onto the reservations they were given by burning their villages and killing their people. Crazy Horse retaliated by fighting with Gen. George Crook at the Battle of the Rosebud in 1876. He fought Crook to a draw but forced Crook away from his plan to link up with the U.S. 7th Cavalry, led by George Armstrong Custer.

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space

Crazy Horse leads the fighting at Little Bighorn.

In failing to link up with Crook, Custer didn’t have the manpower needed to crush Crazy Horse at Little Bighorn and was slaughtered with his men.

Crazy Horse would successfully evade U.S. attempts to subdue him while delivering blow after blow to American forces in the area. In the end, Crazy Horse turned himself in to try to give what was left of his tribe a better life, only to be bayoneted by a prison guard.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Military dad writes children’s book to explain PTSD to his kids

After sixteen years spent deployed to Qatar, Afghanistan, and Iraq, Army Reserve First Sgt. Seth Kastle retired and returned home to Wakeeney, Kansas. And while he was happy to be back with his wife Julia and daughters Raegan and Kennedy, Kastle struggled with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“When I returned home and began the reintegration process, it was difficult, but I didn’t understand why,” Kastle told Babble. To deal with his feelings and hopefully help his kids understand his PTSD, Kastle sat down at the kitchen table and started writing a story he’d been mulling over for a long time. Half an hour later, the first draft of Why Is Dad So Mad? was complete.


Kastle’s effort is a children’s book is about a family of lions, modeled after Kastle’s own, in which the father is struggling with PTSD. The disorder is represented in the book’s illustrations by a fire raging inside his chest.

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space

(Amazon)

Kastle hopes that his book, which met its initial Kickstarter goal in a matter of hours, helps other veterans and their families, not just his own.

The VA estimates that 11 to 20 percent of veterans of America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have experienced PTSD, but it remains a difficult subject to discuss.

“Reading this book to my daughters was a pretty powerful experience,” Kastle said. “After I read it to my oldest daughter, she told me she was sorry I had a fire inside my chest.

“That is something that will stick with me.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S., India sign deal that will allow them to better hunt subs

The US and India have grown closer over the past decade, and they took another major step forward in September 2018 with the signing of a communications agreement that will improve their ability to coordinate military operations — like hunting down submarines.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with their Indian counterparts, Nirmala Sitharaman and Sushma Swaraj, respectively, on Sept. 6, 2018, for the long-delayed inaugural 2+2 ministerial dialogue.

The meeting produced a raft of agreements. Perhaps the most important was the Communications, Compatibility, and Security Agreement, or COMCASA, which “will facilitate access to advanced defense systems and enable India to optimally utilize its existing US-origin platforms,” according to a joint statement.


The deal — one of several foundational agreements the US and India have been discussing for nearly two decades — took years to negotiate, delayed by political factors in India and concerns about opening Indian communications to the US.

The US wants to ensure sensitive equipment isn’t leaked to other countries — like Russia, with which India has longstanding defense ties — while India wants to ensure its classified information isn’t shared without consent.

But the lack of an agreement limited what the US could share.

“The case that the US has been making to India is that some of the more advanced military platforms that we’ve been selling them, we actually have to remove the advanced communications” systems on them because they can’t be sold to countries that haven’t signed a COMCASA agreement, said Jeff Smith, a research fellow for South Asia at the Heritage Foundation, in an interview in late August 2018.

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space

U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis meet at Modi’s residence, New Delhi, India, Sept. 6, 2018. Mattis, along with U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford and other top U.S. officials met with Modi following the first ever U.S.-India 2+2 ministerial dialogue, where Mattis and Pompeo met with their Indian counterparts.

“So that even when we’re doing joint exercises together, we have to use older, more outdated communications channels when our two militaries are communicating with one another, and it just makes things more difficult,” Smith added.

And it wasn’t just the US. A Japanese official said in 2017 that communications between that country’s navy and the Indian navy were limited to voice transmissions, and there was no satellite link that would allow them to share monitor displays in on-board command centers.

With COMCASA in place, India can now work toward greater interoperability with the US and other partners.

“COMCASA is a legal technology enabler that will facilitate our access to advanced defense systems and enable us to optimally utilize our existing US-origin platforms like C-130J Super Hercules and P-8I Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft,” an official told The Times of India.

Importantly for India, the agreement opens access to new technology and weapons that use secure military communications — like the armed Sea Guardian drone, which India will be the first non-NATO country to get. Sea Guardians come with advanced GPS, an Identification Friend or Foe system, and a VHF radio system, which can thwart jamming or spoofing.

The deal also facilitates information sharing via secure data links and Common Tactical Picture, which would allow Indian forces to share data with the US and other friendly countries during exercises and operations.

Expanding interoperability is particularly important for India in the Indian Ocean region, where increasing Chinese naval activity— especially that of submarines — has worried New Delhi.

“If a US warship or aircraft detects a Chinese submarine in the Indian Ocean, for instance, it can tell us through COMCASA-protected equipment in real-time, and vice-versa,” a source told The Times of India.

‘The bells and whistles … didn’t necessary come with it’

Signing COMCASA has been cast as part of a broader strategic advance by India, binding it closer to the US and facilitating more exchanges with other partner forces. (Some have suggested the deal lowers the likelihood the US will sanction India for purchasing the Russian-made S-400 air-defense system.)

The agreement itself will facilitate more secure communications and data exchanges and opens a path for future improvements, but there are other issues hanging over India’s ability to work with its partners.

Among the US-made hardware India has bought in recent years are variants of the P-8 Poseidon, one of the world’s best maritime patrol aircraft.

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One of India’s P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft, dedicated on Nov. 13, 2015.

(Indian Navy photo)

India purchased the aircraft through direct commercial sales rather than through foreign military sales, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, in an interview at the end of August 2018.

“As a result a lot of the bells and whistles, the extra stuff that goes with a new airplane — the mission systems, like the radio systems, and the radars and the sonobuoys and all the equipment that you’d get with an airplane like that — didn’t necessary come with it, and they’re going to have to buy that separately,” Clark said.

“Signing this agreement means there’s an opportunity to share the same data-transfer protocols or to use the same communications systems,” Clark said. But both sides would need to already have the systems in question in order to take advantage of the new access.

“So the Indians would still have to buy the systems that would enable them to be interoperable,” Clark said.

Smith said a “fundamental change” in the US-India defense-sales relationship was unlikely, but having COMCASA in place would make US-made systems more attractive and allow India to purchase a broader range of gear.

“At least now India can get the full suite of whatever platforms they’re looking at,” he said.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how America prepared for chemical warfare in World War II

One of the biggest threats that never materialized in World War II was the Axis using chemical weapons on the battlefield. This possibility constantly haunted the minds of Allied planners. After all, Germany had widely used chlorine gas, phosgene, and mustard gas on Allied troops in the trench warfare that defined World War I.


As a result, Allied troops were thoroughly trained on what to do in the event of a Nazi gas attacks. However, while the Nazis discovered tabun and sarin, a pair of lethal nerve agents, neither of them were used against Allied troops. The Nazis did make some limited use of chemical weapons in fighting around the Black Sea in 1941, but never used them on a wide scale in combat.

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A number of drums holding chemical weapons are stashed in this shelter. The Allies never used chemical weapons, but did maintain stocks in case they needed to retaliate.

(Imperial War Museum)

One of the big reasons they didn’t use it on a wide scale against the Allies was because there was a good chance that they’d respond in kind. In essence, it was deterrence that prevented poison gas from being used against troops. Instead, it was used against concentration camp prisoners. Adolf Hitler, a World War I veteran who had survived chemical attacks himself, ordered the withdrawal or destruction of chemical weapons after reverses in Italy and the Battle of Stalingrad.

Perhaps the worst damage inflicted on American troops with chemical weapons came when the merchant ship John Harvey, which carried mustard gas for use if the Germans had crossed the chemical threshold, was sunk. The gas was released and caused over 600 casualties, of whom 69 died. Many of the losses were due to the fact that medical personnel weren’t told about the presence of the gas.

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space

The ruthlessness of the Nazis led the Allies to thoroughly prepare for chemical weapons attacks.

(Imperial War Museum)

Allied troops were also trained in procedures to protect themselves from chemical weapons. The technology you’ll see in the video below isn’t quite up to today’s MOPP suits, but some of the stuff is still informative and, unfortunately, relevant. After all, chlorine gas and sarin have been used in Syria recently.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFvsridvwL8

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY CULTURE

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world

Not too long ago at Thule Air Base, Greenland located in the Arctic, a change of command ceremony was taking place.

Outgoing 821st Air Base Group US Air Force Commander — Col. Mafwa Kuvibidila — passed the flag to her successor Col. Timothy J. Bos.

In her outgoing speech, Kuvibidila thanked everyone in the audience for supporting her during her command. This included members of the US Army Corps of Engineers, New York District.


These ceremonies happen every few years, but what’s been consistent at the base is the Army Corps’ presence. For over half a century, the Army Corps has performed construction for the base. Presently, it’s consolidating the base by 40% to save energy, tax-payer money and to sustain its readiness.

Kuvibidila, who managed the base for the past year, understands the importance of consolidation.

She said, “For Thule it’s a matter of looking at the best way to use the infrastructure currently on base, and what is needed to support it to maximize resources.”

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Thule Air Base in Greenland.

(US Army Corps of Engineers)

Thule, Air Base Mission

Thule pronounced “Two Lee” is Latin for northernmost part of the inhabitable world. Thule Air Base is located in the northwestern corner of Greenland, in a coastal valley 700 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 950 miles south of the North Pole.

The base is the United States’ northern most military installation that has the responsibility of monitoring the skies for missiles in defense of the United States and its allies.

For over half a century, the base has been home to active-duty Air Force members who live and work in this remote Arctic environment to perform National security.

Throughout this time, the Army Corps under extreme weather conditions and less daylight hours, has helped the base fulfill its mission by constructing many structures including several dormitories, an aircraft runway and surrounding apron and taxiways, and a medical facility.

Now the Army Corps is helping once again, by consolidating and modernizing the base’s infrastructure.

In the early 1950s, the base’s main mission was to be an aircraft refueling stop. It was home to 10,000 personnel, US military troops, as well as a support staff comprised of Danish and Greenlandic national people.

During the Cold War Era, the base’s mission changed and it is now home to less personnel that are mainly performing early missile warnings and space surveillance for the United States.

The base has many buildings spread out over the entire base. Many of these buildings are still in use, but have become severely weatherworn and energy and fuel is being wasted to heat them. They are also a distance from the base’s central power plant that requires maintaining long pipes to transport heat to them.

Many of these old buildings are being demolished and new buildings are being constructed closer together to make them easier to reach and to save energy.

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A contingency dorm that will provide living quarters for the over-flow of visitors at Thule Air Base, June 2019.

(US Army Corps of Engineers/JoAnne Castagna)

Base Consolidation

The US Military has been on a mission to save energy and costs. Because of this, the U.S. Air Force tapped into the expertise of the Army Corps to consolidate the base. “This includes demolishing old facilities and constructing new ones that will be situated or consolidated more centrally near the hub of the base where the airfield, hangars, dining facility, hospital and runway are located,” said Stella Marco, project manager, New York District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Army Corps is performing this work in partnership with two Army Corps agencies that have expertise in performing construction in an Arctic environment — the Cold Regions Research Engineering Lab and the US Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Research Development Center.

Kuvibidila recalls the consolidation work that she witnessed during her command. “There were multiple projects being worked on during my time at Thule from a new dorm, to finalizing new consolidated facilities for vehicle maintenance and supplies, along with various power projects,” she said.

The main structures that are being constructed are dormitories for non-commissioned officers who are on temporary duty and contingency lodging for the overflow of visitors, scientists, re-fueling operation crews, contractors, maintenance operations specialists and temporary duty personnel.

Recently, the Army Corps completed the construction of three, multi-story high rise dormitories for non-commissioned officers. Currently, construction is ongoing on the upgrade and renovation of two additional dormitories and 636 existing dorm rooms.

Marco said that the older dorms were the “gang-latrine” types, where a person staying at Thule would be assigned an individual room that contained the amenities of a bed, television, desk and a closet, however, all showers and toilet areas were located down a hall, in one area, that would require the guest to walk down through a public hallway to use.

She said the new dorms were constructed more into suites or modular units and are more conducive to privacy and to providing proper rest, relaxation and personal well-being.

A module consists of two or four individual bedrooms that lead into a centralized living area along with a partially shared bathroom. Modules provide some degree of privacy for the officers. Additionally, each floor has a common kitchen and dining area for residents to gather in.

Also contingency lodging is also being renovated to provide living quarters for the over-flow of visitors.

This involves renovating some of the existing old fashioned, trailer-like living quarters named “flat-tops” currently occupied by Danish and Greenlandic support staff and contractors that work on the installation.

In addition to new living quarters being constructed and renovated, the aircraft runway was just reconstructed and repaved in asphalt as were the surrounding aprons and taxiways.

“The runway is the lifeline to Thule Air Base since the waterways are only passable by sealift from July to mid-September,” said Marco.

“By using lessons learned of Arctic construction, the latest knowledge of constructing in permanently frozen ground called permafrost, along with the latest construction and paving practices, has allowed the Army Corps to build the best new runway possible,” said Marco.

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Thule Air Base from the top of a nearby mountain, June 2019.

(US Army Corps of Engineers/JoAnne Castagna)

Working on the runway was challenging due to the extreme weather conditions.

Paving the 10,000 foot long runway was performed in three phases — one each year — because the construction season was limited from June through mid-September. Half the runway was paved one year and the other half was paved a second year.

“Since only half the runway was available each year for pilots to use, they had to be able to land and stop their aircraft on 4,000 feet of paved area. During this time, mainly C-130 Aircraft were used because of its ability to stop in such a short span,” said Marco.

Another challenge was to lay the asphalt during the warmest temperatures possible. Asphalt cannot be paved in cold temperature because it will not adhere properly and will fail. To read more about constructing in the Arctic, please see the sidebar “Construction Challenges in the Arctic.”

Other facilities constructed to consolidate the base include a consolidated base supply and civil engineering facility to house the maintenance shops, including sheet metal, painting and carpentry, and a new vehicle maintenance equipment storage facility.

These new and renovated buildings are going to be heated with an upgraded heating system.

Thule’s central power plant provides the base’s electricity and heating. Over the last few years, the Army Corps has provided the plant new energy-efficient exhaust gas heat recovery boilers and engines.

With this new equipment, the Army Corps is creating a new steam distribution system that will provide heat to most of the base.

These new engines create substantial surplus heat. This excess heat is going to be turned into steam that will be piped — by new pipes — to other buildings on the base. When the steam reaches the other buildings, it will be converted into hot water to be used for heat.

All of this consolidation work is needed to maintain readiness on the base. Kuvibidila said it is more important than ever before to improve base readiness. She said, “The current primary focus of the base is to support space, science, and allied operations and being able to continue that support will be critical.”

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A window view from one of the dormitories at Thule Air Force Base, June 2019. Mount Dundas is in the distance.

(US Army Corps of Engineers/JoAnne Castagna)

Side Bar: Construction challenges in the Arctic

Arctic construction can be challenging due to severe weather and limited daylight, which requires the use of unique building materials, techniques and fast-paced construction.

Most of northern Greenland is covered with permafrost, which is permanently frozen ground — ranging from 6 feet to 1,600 feet in depth.

This requires structures to be constructed with a special elevated Arctic foundation. If buildings are not constructed off of the ground, the heat from inside the building can melt the permafrost, making the ground unstable and causing buildings to sink.

Buildings are elevated 3 feet from the ground with the use of spread footings that go down about 10 feet deep and concrete columns that come up and support the floor system above the ground.

Construction takes place during the summer and autumn months when the temperature is a “balmy” 40 degrees Fahrenheit. In the winter, temperatures can be as low as minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is also during the summer and autumn months that there is sufficient daylight.

Because of Thule’s proximity to the North Pole, the region has 24 hours of sunlight from May through August and 24 hours of darkness from November through February.

The less cold temperatures make it possible to break up the iced shipping lanes. This allows cargo ships into port supplied with fuel and construction materials.

Building materials include concrete foundations, insulated steel and metal walls, roof panels and prefabricated parts so that the workers can perform construction rapidly.

When the winter season begins, workers begin interior construction. This work includes constructing mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection systems that are designed to withstand extreme frigid sub-zero temperatures.

Articles

21 of the US military’s most-overused clichés

There are certain phrases military service members hear on the regular, and by regular, we mean they are over-used like crazy.


While every workplace has its own cliche buzzwords — we’re talking about you there, “corporate synergy” — the military has plenty to choose from. The WATM team put its collective heads together and came up with this list of the cliche phrases we’ve heard way too many times in the military.

1. “All this and a paycheck too!”

Usually uttered by a staff NCO at the moment of a 20-mile hike where you wish you could just pass out on the side of the road.

2. “If you’re on time, you’re late.”

Military members are well aware of the unwritten rule of arriving 15 minutes prior to the time they are supposed to be somewhere. Of course, if there’s a senior officer involved, that might even mean 15 minutes prior to 15 minutes prior.

3. “We get more done before 6 a.m. than most people do all day.”

The time can always be changed, but the phrase remains the same. Military members across the world are usually waking up way earlier than most, and as the saying goes, it probably means they have done personal hygiene, conducted an insane workout, ate breakfast, and started training before average Joe hit the snooze button on the alarm clock.

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4. “Don’t call me sir. I work for a living.”

Among the enlisted ranks, it’s a common cliche that officers don’t do any real work. “There’s a reason why they have office in their name” is a popular saying. So when an enlisted service-member is incorrectly addressed as “sir,” this is one of the most popular responses.

5. “If it ain’t raining, we ain’t training.”

No matter what the weather, the U.S. military is guaranteed to be training or conducting some sort of exercise. But this cliche phrase is guaranteed to come out when a torrential downpour hits your unit.

6. “This ain’t my first rodeo there, cowboy.”

Let’s not ask the sergeant any stupid questions. He knows what he’s doing, because he’s done this a million times before. Cowboy.

7. “Best job in the world!”

Calling your particular field in the military “the best job in the world” usually happens during the times when you would never think it’s the best time in the world. These times include freezing cold on patrol in Afghanistan, running out of water while training in Thailand, and/or not showering for a month-and-a-half.

8. “Complacency kills.”

You’ll find this phrase spray-painted to every other Hesco barrier on the forward operating base, on a sign outside the chow hall, and on the lips of every sergeant major in a half-mile radius. Troops need to stay alert while they are out in combat, and this one gets drilled into the dirt.

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9. “Keep your head on a swivel.”

This one is similar to “complacency kills” but is often said to troops about to go into dangerous situations. Before heading out on patrol, a squad leader might tell his troops to “keep their head on swivel,” meaning: keep alert and look everywhere for potential threats.

10. “Got any saved rounds?” or “Any alibis?”

At the end of a briefing, you’ll usually hear either of these phrases. “Any questions?” just doesn’t pack the same punch as using terminology straight off the rifle range.

11. “Another glorious day in the Corps!”

It could be the Corps, the Army, the Navy, or the Air Force, but it’s always a glorious day there, according to whoever utters this phrase. This is meant to motivate but it’s usually met with eye-rolls.

12. “This is just for your SA.”

This is another way of saying FYI, but with a military spin. SA, or situational awareness, is all about being aware of what’s happening around you, so this is often said by a subordinate to a leader so they know what’s going on.

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space

13. “We’re putting on another dog and pony show.”

We’ve never actually been to a real dog and pony show, but we have put on plenty of them in the military. A military “dog and pony show” is usually some sort of ceremony or traditional event for troops to show off their weaponry and other stuff. For example, Marines may put one on by standing around and answering questions about their machine-guns, rocket launchers, and other gear for civilians who are visiting the base for an event.

14. “Roger that.”

This is a phrase that should be uttered only over the radio (it’s actually just “roger, over” and “roger, out,” respectively), but troops often say this instead of saying “I understand.”

15. “Bravo Zulu.”

Bravo Zulu is a naval signal that can be conveyed via flag or over the radio, and it means “well done.” But plenty of troops will use this as a way of saying good job or congratulations.

16. “Like a monkey f–king a football.”

A favorite of NCOs and staff NCOs, this comes out when junior troops have screwed something up pretty bad. As you can probably guess, a football is not a good object for a monkey’s sexual relations.

17. “Let’s pop smoke.”

Smoke grenades are used for signaling and/or screening movements. When under fire, troops may want to pop smoke so the enemy can’t really see where they are headed. On the flip side, troops at a lame bar may want to “pop smoke” and go somewhere else.

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18. “Let’s break it down, Barney style.”

Barney the dinosaur loves you, and some military members like to invoke his name to explain things. When a task is complicated, a leader may explain it “Barney style,” or so simply that a child could understand it.

19. “Look at this soup sandwich.”

This refers to someone who has usually screwed up the wear of their uniform in some way.

20. “Ok, gents, we need to be heads down on this.”

A favorite of WATM’s own ex-naval aviator Ward, this is actually a twofer. First, the use of “gents” (oh Lord please make it stop), and then referring to working hard as heads down. Apparently we’ll be more productive as long as our heads are not up or to the side.

21. “You are lost in the sauce.”

This will often be said of someone who has no idea what the hell is going on. In order to rectify, a leader will probably break things down “Barney Style.”

Got any to add to the list? Leave a comment.

NOW: 11 Vets with some of the coolest jobs in Hollywood

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Report: Ukrainian snipers find themselves outgunned, outmatched by enemy

Russian snipers and separatist marksmen trained in Russian military camps outmatch their Ukrainian counterparts in the Donbas conflict with better rifles, equipment, and ammunition, an analysis by the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation says.


Given that the conflict in eastern Ukraine has entered a positional phase of trench warfare, the role of snipers and the advantages Russia-backed forces have in this area is more acute, the think tank said on February 25.

In these conditions, snipers are “an effective multiplier on the battlefield, able to precisely strike long-range enemy targets, conduct indispensable reconnaissance of enemy movements and positions, as well as demoralize enemy troops,” the analysis said.

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cdn.pixabay.com

When the war broke out in April 2014, Ukraine was using Soviet-era Dragunov (SVD) rifles, while their better-funded and technologically more advanced adversary was using the same rifles but with new barrels, scopes, and high-quality rounds.

“Russian professional snipers at the middle and rear lines” were using bolt-action rifles that “fire three times farther than the SVD rifles.”

Lack of funding made it challenging to buy Ukrainian shooters night-vision devices, camouflage, rangefinders, ammunition, thermal sights, and silencers, something the Russia-backed forces are in no shortage of, it said.

Therefore, Jamestown Foundation wrote, Kyiv is still playing catch-up.

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26th MEU sniper platoon trains during Eager Lion

media.defense.gov

Ukraine has started a sniper program with foreign instructors. More effective, lighter-weight rifles were procured from abroad and from the homegrown Zbroyar company.

Now, Ukrainian sniper teams are attached to each battalion, not just special forces.

Still, “poor funding, army bureaucracy, and ammunition shortages preclude Ukrainian snipers from reaching their potential today,” the think tank wrote.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Lists

8 post-9/11 heroes who should have received the Medal Of Honor — but didn’t

In the wars since Sept. 11, 2001, there have been sixteen Medals of Honor conferred, but ask any military member and they’ll likely bring up some other heroes who deserved the nation’s highest award but didn’t receive it.


Whether it be the chaos of battle, lack of witnesses, or that they were not recommended for the Medal of Honor although they almost certainly should have been, some troops never got the recognition they really deserved.

As articles in The Washington Post and Army Times have pointed out, the standards for military awards are rather inconsistent. The muddled process of which actions earn the nation’s highest award has resulted in a generation of “forgotten heroes” in the War on Terror, as I wrote previously at Business Insider.

Here are seven of those heroes who arguably should have received the Medal of Honor.

1. Marine Pfc. Christopher Adlesberger cleared part of an insurgent-filled house in Fallujah all by himself.

 

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Christopher Adlesperger

During the second battle of Fallujah, then-Marine Pfc. Christopher Adlesperger singlehandedly cleared part of a house filled with insurgents in a heroic action that was recommended for the nation’s highest military award.

Upon entering an insurgent-infested house in Fallujah on Nov. 10, 2004, Adlesperger pushed forward despite the death of his point man and the wounding of two others. Adlesperger, wounded in the face by grenade fragments, then single-handedly cleared a stairway and a rooftop, throwing grenades and shooting at insurgents while under blistering fire.

“Adlesperger was killing insurgents so they couldn’t make it up the roof,” said platoon corpsman Alonso Rogero, in his written statement of events. “The insurgents tried to run up the ladder well, but Pfc. Adlesperger kept shooting them and throwing grenades on top of them.”

From Defense.gov:

Finally, an assault vehicle broke through a wall on the main floor. Adlesperger rejoined his platoon and demanded to take point for the final attack on the entrenched machine gun. He entered the courtyard first, and eliminated the final enemy at close range. By the end of the battle, Adlesperger was credited with having killed at least 11 insurgents.

He died a month after his heroics in that Fallujah house, but Adlesperger was posthumously promoted to lance corporal and recommended for the Medal of Honor. The award recommendation from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines originated with 1st Lt. Dong Yi and moved up the chain of command, with concurrence from Adlesperger’s battalion commander, regimental commander, and division commander.

Two years later, when his recommendation reached the MEF Commander, Lt. Gen. John Sattler, it was downgraded to the Navy Cross, the nation’s second highest award. His award recommendation did not include any comments or reasons as to why. He was awarded the Navy Cross on April 13, 2007.

2. Army Master Sgt. Thomas Ballard led a 12-man team of soldiers against an overwhelming enemy force. Three hours later, more than 265 insurgents would be dead.

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Photo: Army.mil

After receiving a call for support from Iraqi Army soldiers being attacked by insurgents on Jan. 28, 2007, a small team of soldiers with Master Sgt. Thomas Ballard — believing the enemy strength was only around 15 to 20 militants — went out to help them.

As they neared the beleaguered Iraqis, an AH-64 Apache helicopter providing air cover crashed. “When I saw the Apache go down, it immediately changed everything,” Ballard, the non-commissioned officer in charge of Military Transition Team 0810, told Army Public Affairs. “Everything was focused on that crash site; nothing else mattered. That’s where we had to go and that’s what we did.”

Once they got to the crash site, the soldiers quickly realized the insurgent force was much larger than 20. The vehicle of Ballard’s commander started getting slammed by machine-gun and RPG fire and a major firefight broke out.

“We began engaging, and continued engaging. There were 265 bodies reported at the end, but I can tell you, there was more than that,” Ballard told Army Public Affairs. “Everything we shot was targets and collectively, we burned up about 11,000 rounds of machine gun ammo, M4 ammo, M203 grenade launcher ammo and 10 air strikes.”

The team of 12 soldiers had apparently fought nearly 1,000 insurgents, according to Ballard. The entire team received the Army Commendation Medal and two others received the Bronze Star. Ballard was awarded the Silver Star.

3. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez kept calling in crucial air strikes on enemy positions, even after he was shot in the chest and believed he would die in minutes.

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Photo: US Air Force

As the lone combat controller assigned to an Army Special Forces team, Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez brought critical skills of directing accurate air strikes on enemy positions in past battles. On Oct. 5, 2009 while on a mission to find a high-value target in Afghanistan, those skills would be put to the test again — this time while he was seriously wounded.

The team was ambushed, and after a fellow soldier’s weapon had jammed, Gutierrez began firing at enemy fighters until he was struck in the upper chest. The enemy bullet just missed his heart, collapsed his lung and he began to cough up blood, according to Fox News.

“I thought about [my job], what I would do before I bled out,” Gutierrez later told Fox News. “That I would change the world in those three minutes, I’d do everything I could to get my guys out safely before I died.”

Ignoring his injuries and refusing to take off his body armor, Gutierrez remained calm and stayed on the radio to call in gun runs. Enemy fighters were lined up on a wall just 30 feet from him at one point in the battle, but the staff sergeant called in three A-10 strikes at “danger close” range to take them out.

As Robert Johnson wrote at Business Insider:

The A-10 pilot talking to him on the ground said he had no idea Gutierrez was wounded, that his voice was calm the whole time, and only realized the man was injured when his team moved to the medical landing zone.

“He said he would be off of the mic for a few to handle his gunshot wounds,” Air Force Capt. Ethan Sabin said. “Until that point he was calm, cool and collected.”

After losing nearly half his blood, Gutierrez was medically evacuated from the battlefield after four hours of fighting. He received the Air Force Cross for his heroism in 2011.

4. Marine Cpl. Brady Gustafson kept directing heavy fire on insurgents despite an RPG partially amputating his leg.

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space
Lance Cpl. Brady Gustafson, a machine gunner with Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, stands in from of the battalion at perfect parade rest, despite the amputation of his right leg below the knee. Gustafson received the Navy Cross and a meritorious promotion to corporal during a ceremony March 27 at Lance Cpl. Torrey Grey Field. Photo: Pfc. Michael T. Gams/USMC

On July 21, 2008 while manning the turret atop an MRAP in Afghanistan, Lance Cpl. Brady Gustafson continued to engage enemy fighters despite a devastating wound to his right leg.

Ambushed from multiple directions with rocket-propelled grenades and machine-guns, Gustafson’s vehicle took a hit from an RPG that partially severed his leg and knocked his driver unconscious, according to The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe.

“I looked down, and a lot of my right leg wasn’t there,” he told Time Magazine. “I could see muscle and bone, and I was bleeding pretty hard.” Still, he remained calm and unleashed hell from his machine-gun.

The North-Shore Journal has more:

Despite his injuries, Gustafson remained vigilant on his M240B machine gun, locating and accurately firing on several insurgent positions, some as close as 20 meters from the vehicle.

He remained in the turret, reloading twice and firing over 600 rounds, while Lance Cpl. Cody Comstock, an Anderson, Ind. native, applied a tourniquet to his leg.

Gustafson was recommended for the Silver Star and ended up receiving the Navy Cross in 2009. But his battalion commander, Col. Richard Hall, later told The Marine Times that he regretted not putting him up for the nation’s highest award.

“When you consider that his leg is taken off, his driver is unconscious and he’s shouting to his driver to get him out of the kill zone. Meanwhile, he’s maintaining the presence of mind to keep returning fire on the enemy and to try to suppress them overwhelming that four-vehicle convoy, or patrol,” Hall told the paper. “The vehicle behind them was stuck, and Gustafson reloads no less than two times and wakes up his driver, tells him to push the burning vehicle behind them out of the kill zone, all while bleeding out and refusing medical aid for his severed leg.”

5. Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe pulled six soldiers from a burning Bradley fighting vehicle even though he was drenched in fuel.

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Following a devastating improvised explosive device strike under his Bradley Fighting Vehicle in Daliaya, Iraq on Oct. 17, 2005, Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe managed to escape from the burning vehicle, out of his spot in the gunner’s hatch.

Then he went back in under enemy fire to save his fellow soldiers three times, all while he was drenched in fuel.

From The Los Angeles Times:

Cashe rescued six badly burned soldiers while under enemy small-arms fire. His own uniform caught fire, engulfing him in flames. Even with second- and-third degree burns over three-fourths of his body, Cashe continue to pull soldiers out of a vehicle set ablaze when a roadside bomb ruptured a fuel tank.

“I told him, ‘Don’t go over there playing a hero. You learn how to duck and come home,”‘ his sister, Kasinal Cashe White told the Orlando Sentinel. “He said, ‘I’m doing the job I was trained to do. I have to take care of my boys.”‘

Cashe held on until Nov. 8, when he succumbed to his wounds at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas. According to his sister Kasinal, who spoke with the Los Angeles Times, his first words when he was able to speak at the hospital were “how are my boys?”

The full extent of Cashe’s heroism became muddled in the chaos of war, and the soldiers he rescued were unable to provide details since they were hospitalized with severe wounds, The Times reported. He was recommended for, and posthumously received the Silver Star for his incredible bravery.

But many have advocated for Cashe to receive the nation’s highest award, including his former battalion commander.

“You don’t often find truly selfless sacrifice where someone put his soldiers’ welfare before his own,” Brig. Gen. Gary Brito told The Los Angeles Times. “Sgt. Cashe was horribly wounded and continued to fight to save his men.”

6. After being ambushed, 1st Lt. Brian Chontosh ordered his driver towards an enemy trench-line. Then he cleared much of it himself using his own weapons — and the enemy’s.

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As a platoon leader in the opening stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom on March 25, 2003, then-1st Lt. Brian Chontosh was ambushed and couldn’t escape the kill zone. So he ordered his driver to move right into the Iraqi trench-line as the turret gunner laid down fire with the .50 cal.

Corey Adwar writes at Task Purpose:

It was the first major firefight of the war for the anti-armor platoon Chontosh led, belonging to Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division. Moments after the ambush began, Iraqi troops had already hit two vehicles with machine-gun, rocket-propelled grenade, and mortar fire, killing one soldier and severely wounding another.

Once his Humvee reached the enemy position, “Tosh” (as he calls himself) got out of the vehicle and jumped into the trench, mowing down enemy soldiers with his rifle until he ran out of ammo.

“I shot my pistol dry twice,” then grabbed an AK off a dead Iraqi, shot every bullet in it, picked up another AK and emptied it, too. “It’s just crazy,” he recalled to Phil Zabriskie for his book “The Kill Switch.”

When it was all over, Chontosh had cleared 200 meters of the enemy trench, killed more than 20 enemy soldiers, and wounded several others. He had used up all of his rifle and pistol ammo, along with two enemy AK-47s, and an RPG.

He was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions, but he didn’t want to take all the credit, and instead commended the Marines with him that day for saving his life.

“They saved my life, multiple times that day, during the ambush,” Chontosh told Stars and Stripes. “That’s all them. If it wasn’t for them, I would be the lieutenant who would be reported as … a case of what not to do.”

7. Despite heavy enemy fire, Cpl. Jeremiah Workman ran into a house multiple times to save Marines who were trapped inside.

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Retired Gen. James Mattis is presented the Freedom Award by Marine veteran Jeremiah Workman at the No Greater Sacrifice 2014 Freedom Award Family Day, Washington D.C., September 13, 2014. The Freedom Award is awarded to a service member who gives in selfless service to their nation. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Karnath/Released)

On Dec. 23, 2004, Cpl. Jeremiah Workman was leading one squad of Marines while his friend Sgt. Jarrett Kraft had another. Searching houses in Fallujah, Kraft took the left side of the street while Workman took the right.

On the third house they entered that day, Kraft’s squad came under heavy fire on the second floor. Workman immediately rallied his squad to rescue his fellow Marines.

“I was scared,” Workman told The Washington Post. “I really was … when you get caught in a situation like that, it’s a real man check. For two seconds, you have to look in that invisible mirror that’s not there and look at yourself and question yourself as a man. And say, ‘Okay, I’m a corporal in the Marine Corps and I have guys that are looking up to me for leadership. What am I going to do?’ … So I grabbed everybody in the house and we come running.”

The Marine Times has more:

Dreading the worst, Workman organized his squad to enter the building. A corporal at the time, he and his Marines faced a maelstrom of small-arms fire and grenades. Three times, he sprinted up a stairwell under fire to fight the insurgents and help the pinned down Marines, who eventually escaped through the roof. At times, the Marines were close enough to see the insurgents’ faces amid the smoke and flashes of gunfire.

Two Marines — Cpl. Raleigh Smith and Lance Cpl. James Phillips, both 21 — were mortally wounded in the house, while several others were hurt but survived. Lance Cpl. Eric Hillenburg, 21, was killed nearby, cut down by enemy sniper fire as he and his fire team raced to the house to help. Workman sustained multiple shrapnel wounds from grenade explosions, but escaped without being seriously hurt.

Workman and his fellow squad leader Kraft were awarded the Navy Cross for their actions that day. Workman’s citation credited him with the “elimination of 24 insurgents.”

“I accepted this medal for three guys who didn’t make it back,” Workman told The Post. “So it’s really theirs.”

8. Sgt. Maj. Brad Kasal took 43 pieces of shrapnel while shielding another Marine from a grenade blast.

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On Nov. 13, 2004 while serving in Fallujah as the company first sergeant for Weapons Co., 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, Brad Kasal joined up with a squad entering a house to rescue Marines inside.

Soon after he found a wounded Marine inside, Kasal and another Marine were both severely wounded in the legs by enemy fire. Then the insurgents threw grenades at them. The bleeding first sergeant rolled on top of the wounded Marine with him and absorbed the shrapnel.

Kasal took 43 pieces of shrapnel and was shot seven times inside the “House of Hell.” He lost roughly 60 percent of his blood, according to an article in VFW Magazine.

“When First Sergeant Kasal was offered medical attention and extraction, he refused until the other Marines were given medical attention. Although severely wounded himself, he shouted encouragement to his fellow Marines as they continued to clear the structure,” reads his citation. He was awarded the Navy Cross.

As Kasal was carried out of the house by two of his Marines — covered in blood and still clutching his pistol — Lucian Reed captured the scene, in what was perhaps one of the most iconic photographs to come out of the Battle of Fallujah.

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