Blinded by the wind and stung by the cold, we set up our camp as the day grew dark around us. The two of us had snowshoed to Dogsled Pass, deep in the Talkeetna Mountains of south central Alaska. We hoped to explore nearby alpine valleys over the next two days.
Despite the uncooperative weather, we were not disappointed — to see Alaska in the winter is to see the real Alaska.
Snowshoeing is unlike regular hiking. Everything is heavy, from the extra insulating layers to the snowshoes themselves. Movement is slower, more deliberate. And risks like avalanches and hypothermia have to be considered.
But despite the challenges and risks, snowshoeing opens up an entirely new world for outdoors enthusiasts. Terrain considered impassable during the summer — such as muskegs, bogs, and boulder-fields — becomes traversable when everything is frozen or buried in snow.
The author’s cousin, Esther, rests for a moment near Dogsled Pass.
(Photo by Garland Kennedy/Coffee or Die)
While walking in snowshoes is an acquired skill, once you get used to wearing clown-sized shoes, walking over even the deepest, most powdery snow feels like gliding.
Imagine a snow hike without post-holing into snow drifts every few steps. And most modern snowshoes, like the MSRs we wore, have spikes on the bottom, so walking on ice becomes trivial. While modern snowshoes may lack the iconic look of vintage snowshoes, the modern ones are lighter, narrower, and stronger.
The area of the wilderness that my cousin, Esther, and I chose to visit last winter is notoriously rough. In 2018, a Russian hiker went missing, presumably dead, only a few miles from where we set our snow camp. The wilderness is always indifferent to people, and winter adds a new dimension to that calculus.
The Hatcher Pass area is an iconic hiking destination in all seasons. From the Independence Mine State Historical Site to the towering granite peaks that dot the region, the Southern Talkeetnas are a magical place. There’s even a crashed TB-29 Superfortress on a nearby glacier.
Finding shelter from the wind behind a boulder. Staying well-fed and hydrated is even more important when it’s below zero.
(Photo by Garland Kennedy/Coffee or Die)
Our route took us from the Independence Mine over Hatcher Pass (not easy with the full weight of a winter pack!), then north up Craggie Creek. Dogsled Pass, where we camped, separates the headwaters of Craggie and Purches Creeks.
From there we snowshoed the upper rim of Purches Creek to the headwaters of Peters Creek. Here’s a warning: walking in snowshoes is … unique. It forces you to take very wide steps, and doing so repeatedly over so many miles caused me quite a bit of knee pain.
A doctor later informed me that I had managed to pull my patella sideways. It was painful, but not enough to stop me from walking.
The lesson? Ease into snowshoeing. I pushed too hard too fast and got hurt. Build your strength over time, preferably by doing day trips instead of extended expeditions. A day pack weighs little and causes a lot less strain, whereas a pack for a winter overnight trip is quite heavy.
An abandoned mining shack near the headwaters of Craggie Creek. The area experienced a tremendous mining boom in the early 1900s.
(Photo by Garland Kennedy/Coffee or Die)
And as usual for winter excursions, dress in layers, manage your temperature well, and drink lots of water! Proper hydration aids in temperature regulation. I’m a fan of hydration bladders for hiking, just make sure that the outlet hose does not freeze.
As a general safety rule for winter hiking, carry some sort of emergency beacon device, as well as extra layers.
For a new snowshoer, try to find a flat, scenic trail and keep things moderate. Walking with all that extra weight on your feet takes acclimation. As a rule, avoid snowmachine trails (snowmobile trails, in the lower 48) to make sure you don’t get run over. One of the big perks of wearing snowshoes is that you are not forced to stick to the main trail network.
If done right, snowshoeing is a wonderful experience. To see the world draped in snow is something special and very much worth the added effort.
The Liberation of Normandy in WW2 [D-Day 75th Anniversary, Part II]
Looking for a dessert that won’t just impress your houseguests but could impress them years from now? Look no further than the first name in cakes, pies, and other fine desserts: The Pentagon. The Department of Defense has a brownie recipe that is sure to end the clear and present danger to your sweet tooth.
Just imagine being able to whip up some sweet treats for your unborn children, whether you’re currently pregnant or not.
Kinda like this but without all that green sh*t.
The Pentagon’s brownie recipe is (perhaps unsurprisingly) the only recipe that tells you exactly how things are gonna be and does it in the vaguely threatening manner that only the United States military is capable of. The consequences of diverging from the recipe aren’t listed, but you definitely get the feeling there might be consequences:
Shortening shall be a refined, hydrogenated vegetable oil or combination of refined vegetable oils which are in common use by the baking industry. Coconut and palm kernel oils may be used only in the coating. The shortening shall have a stability of not less than 100 hours as determined by the Active Oxygen Method (AOM) in Method Cd 12-57 of the Commercial Fats and Oils chapter in the Official and Tentative Methods of the American Oil Chemists Society. The shortening may contain alpha monoglycerides and an antioxidant or combination of antioxidants, as permitted by the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS), and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and regulations promulgated thereunder.
“And parties found to have added walnuts to said brownies shall pay a 00 fine and serve no less than three years in a federal correctional facility because that sh*t is gross.” That’s not in the recipe, but it should be in every brownie recipe.
But the brownie regulations don’t stop at shortening. Each ingredient has more specific sourcing instructions than a vegan hipster with Celiac Disease. Even adding the eggs is enough to make any baker wonder what a legal chicken is.
“Whole eggs may be liquid or frozen and shall have been processed and labeled in accordance with the Regulations Governing the Inspection of Eggs and Egg Products (7 CFR Part 59).”
The strict regs came about in part because the military needs their baked goods to be edible for much longer than the average baker needs them. The U.S. military’s brownies are said to last up to three years, just in time to bake brownies for the kids currently in high school that will be deploying to Afghanistan by then.
As the holiday season begins to wind down, people are starting to reflect on their resolutions and goals for the new year. 2020 not only marks the beginning of a New Year, but the start of a new decade! Don’t let the hype get you in a frenzy. Here are 5 tips rocking your 2020 military spouse goals.
Listen! Rome wasn’t built in a day. Your enthusiasm to do it all is admirable, but DO NOT set yourself up for failure. Apply the SMART Goals method in your plans for 2020. You want to ensure your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based. What does that mean? Don’t just set a goal to start a million-dollar business. Instead, set a goal to start an online virtual assistant business by Second Quarter 2020. First Quarter, you will have established your LLC, EIN, and business bank account. By the end of Second Quarter, your business will be operating with a goal of at least ten new clients. This example is more realistic and you can actually see if you are meeting your benchmarks for success.
You can write your goals in your planner, but why not get creative? Vision Board or Vision Mapping Parties are a great way to have fun while creating a visual representation of your goals. Vision Board parties are a fun and interactive way to celebrate the coming year. All you need is poster board, old magazines, scissors, glue, and other decorative items to make your board unique. Cut out pictures or words from magazines that represent what you want to accomplish for 2020. Kids can also create their own vision board. While enjoying snacks and drinks, reflect over the past year. Did you meet your 2019 goals? How can you do things differently? What worked for you? What didn’t work?
Goals can sometimes feel overwhelming, especially when looking at the end game. Try deconstructing your goal by working backwards. What are the steps needed to meet your overall goal or vision? How can you focus on smaller tasks to better track your progress? If you have a goal of saving ,000 for a family vacation, don’t let the number intimidate you. Break it down into more manageable parts. How much would you need to save each quarter, each month, each week? What does that look like? Does it mean you pack your lunch more during the week or downgrade to a lower cable package? Saving per week may be less scary than ,000 per year, but the outcome is the same.
This person can be your spouse, best friend, or anyone in your circle that is willing to hold you accountable. Sometimes it’s best to find someone who is also looking for the same type of accountability for themselves. This would be something similar to a Battle Buddy in the Army or Wingman in the Air Force. Your partner will help you stay focused, remind you to keep going, and be an overall support for you.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. The purpose of having clear goals and intentions is so you’re not stressed. If you don’t quite meet all of your goals, it’s okay. Celebrate your wins along the way for additional encouragement. This is where you can really lean on your accountability partner. You may have to adjust some things throughout the year. Take the lessons learned and implement that into your vision to improve your likelihood of success.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
Hollywood is really, really good at killing the bad guys. And even though they haven’t quite gotten to ISIS just yet, there is a trail of bloody, dismembered evil in the wake of action stars like Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone, and everyone else who may have been considered for a part in The Expendables.
Despite Hot Shots! Part Deux and Charlie Sheen’s claim to the contrary, there is an undisputed number one deadliest action star in the annals of Hollywood military history. That title goes to the Terminator: Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Granted, this is before the Expendables 3 and the newest Rambo movie, but unless Rambo kills an entire Colombian drug cartel (which I admit, he might), the winner should still be pretty clear.
Randal Olson, a data scientist at Life Epigenetics, merges cutting edge epigenetics research with advanced machine learning methods to improve life expectancy predictions. He put data collected from MovieBodyCounts.com to put together data visualizations for the deadliest action heroes. At the top, was the star of Predator, Total Recall, and my personal favorite, True Lies.
Thank you, sir.
As of Olson’s 2013 writing, Arnold was at the top of the list with 369 kills. His highest single movie record came in Commando where in the final island scene alone, he managed to off 74 guys, mostly using firearms but featuring the best use of a toolshed. Hey, Alyssa Milano ain’t gonna rescue herself.
Of the 200 actors listed in the data, the top ten include Chow Yun-Fat in second, Sylvester Stallone in third, and then Dolph Lundgren (thanks, Punisher!), Clint Eastwood, Nic Cage, Jet Li, Clive Owen, and Wesley Snipes. In fourth place comes Tomisaburo Wakayama, who got 150 of his 266 onscreen kills in a single movie, 1974’s Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell.
The top 25 deadliest actors, visualized.
Olson notes that the deadliest woman onscreen is Uma Thurman, who has 77 kills because remember: the Crazy 88s only had 40 members.
I know the sh*t has hit the proverbial fan and the world is going through a fairly sh*t time at the moment… But hold the presses because it came to light, via Business Insider, that Gen. James Mattis (Ret.) did some modelling work for a veteran-owned leather jacket company in between his time in the service to his appointment as Secretary of Defense.
Just when you thought the Patron Saint of Chaos could not get any more badass, he can apparently pull off a leather jacket far better than any of us ever could.
After reading that, I just don’t know what to do anymore. Anyway, here’s some memes while I contemplate whether dropping my stimulus check on that $1,300 jacket would be worth the ire of my wife…
It’s all about discipline, according to the Navy SEAL and admiral who led one group of special operators when they captured Saddam Hussein and all of special operations when they killed Osama bin Laden. He wrote the book on special operations, had a successful 37-year career in the military, but says the key to saving the world is making your bed.
U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, visits U.S. troops on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 2013, at Camp McCloskey, Logar province, Afghanistan.
Navy Adm. William McRaven is best known for overseeing Operation Neptune Spear — the raid to kill bin Laden — while he was the commander of Joint Special Operations Command. It was a critical and hotly debated operation, with planners arguing about insertion methods, what aircraft to use, and other details.
In the end, McRaven ordered two specially-equipped Black Hawks as part of the insertion and extraction, and the mission was a roaring success. While it angered an American ally, it also resulted in the death of bin Laden and the seizure of massive amounts of important intelligence.
A German soldier stands guard outside Fort Eben Emael in Belgium in May 1940. The Germans captured the fort with only 87 paratroopers because the special operators seized the initiative in the first moments of the battle.
The book/thesis goes through a detailed examination of eight historic special operations from Germany attacking the Belgians at Fort Eben Emael in 1940 to a 1976 Israeli Raid into Uganda in 1976. McRaven’s assessment of special operations focuses on how successful ones have created and maintained “Relative Superiority,” where operators are able to overcome numerical and defensive shortcomings thanks to creating their own conditions for the fight.
The HMS Campbeltown sits against the drydock in St. Nazaire, France, in the minutes before it blew up and destroyed the docks for the rest of the war. British commandos sacrificed themselves by the hundreds to make the mission successful and cripple Germany in World War II.
This is mainly about creating an imbalance of power and requires initiative. When he explains the concept in his writing, he identifies the moment that a few dozen German paratroopers were able to use shaped charges to knock out the most important defenses on Eben Emael. In the British St. Nazaire Raid, relative superiority was achieved when the commandos were able to get the explosives-laden HMS Campbeltown from the river entrance to the German-held drydocks.
To be clear, achieving relative superiority doesn’t guarantee success, but McRaven maintains that it is necessary for success, and special operations planning should identify what will cause the attackers to achieve relative superiority and how they can protect it during the operation.
On missions like the capture of Saddam Hussein, this special operations relative superiority is unnecessary, because he was hiding in a hole. The more traditional relative superiority of outnumbering and outgunning your enemy provided the edge there. But when it came to the bin Laden raid, where dozens of SEALs and other operators would insert via helicopters while hiding from air defenses, things were different.
Admiral McRaven addresses the University of Texas at Austin Class of 2014
For that, Operation Neptune Spear needed to attain relative superiority by inserting without triggering Pakistani defenses. Once in control of the perimeter, the SEALs would have relative superiority, easily overcoming the terrorist defenders and bin Laden himself.
The ultimately successful mission capped a highly successful career for McRaven that, ironically, had begun with him being fired from his first SEAL unit. His first leadership position had been leading a squad in SEAL Team 6, but he had clashed with the team commander and was fired. He proceeded to command a platoon in SEAL Team 4 and then all of SEAL Team 3 as he climbed the ranks.
Just months before his official retirement, McRaven gave a commencement speech at The University of Texas at Austin for the graduating class of 2014 where he emphasized the importance of making your bed every morning. That section of his speech focused on how achieving one task at the start of the day allowed a person to build momentum and tackle their other tasks.
But it also tied into his belief that Saddam Hussein had doomed himself and that other rogue leaders, like bin Laden, were doomed. McRaven published Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life … And Maybe the World in 2017. In the book, he discusses going most days to question Hussein when he was a prisoner and seeing the former dictator’s unmade bed.
Not making your bed shows a lack of discipline, and McRaven is all about discipline. He got himself fired from SEAL Team 6 because he pushed for more rigorous discipline, he cites the importance of discipline in two of the case studies in The Theory of Special Operations, and he has discussed the importance of discipline in speeches, addresses, and operations across his career.
So be disciplined, make your bed, and you’ll never find the scary SEAL under it. You might even get to question the next Hussein and help kill the next bin Laden.
The world is full of unwritten rules. Don’t make eye contact over a urinal wall. Order your usual or cheaper food when a friend is picking up the tab. I before E except after C or when sounded as eh as in neighbor and weigh, or when its the word science and a bunch of other exceptions. (That last one is less useful than others.) Here are seven rules that all soldiers pick up:
Yes. You suddenly outrank most people in the room. Congratulations. Now, please recognize that you don’t know anything yet.
(U.S. Army Spc. Isaiah Laster)
The LT absolutely does not outrank the sergeant major or first sergeant
Sure, on paper, all Army officers outrank all enlisted and warrant officers in the military. But new second lieutenants have zero experience in the Army while chief warrant officers 4 and 5 generally have over a decade and platoon sergeants and above have 10-ish or more experience as well. So none of those seasoned veterans are kowtowing to kids because they happen to have a diploma and commission.
Instead, they mentor the lieutenants, sometimes by explaining that the lieutenant needs to shut up and color.
“Hey, POG! Can I get my paycheck?” “No.”
(U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth White)
Finance will get it wrong, but you have to be nice anyways
Every time a group of soldiers goes TDY, deploy, or switch units, it’s pretty much guaranteed that at least a few of them will see screwed up paychecks. Get into an airborne slot and need jump pay? Gonna get screwed up. Per diem from a mission? Gonna get messed up.
You better be nice when you go to finance to get it fixed, though. Sure, they might be the ones who screwed it up. But the people who are rude to finance have a lot more headaches while getting pay fixed. So be polite, be professional, and just dream about beating everyone you meet.
(Caveat: If you’re overpaid, do not spend it. Finance will eventually fix the mistake and garnish your wages.)
Your plane is late. And the pilot is drunk. And the fueler is missing. It’s gonna be a while.
(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Alexandria Lee)
All timelines get worse with time
The initial mission or travel plans for any Army scheme will likely have time built in for breaks, for maintenance, for error. But as D-Day comes closer and closer, tweaks and changes will yank all of that flex time out of the timeline until every soldier has to spend every moment jumping out of their own butt just to keep up.
Count on it.
If it’s in your bag and kit, you have it. If it’s on the logistics plan, you might have it. If you have to request it in the field, you probably won’t have it.
(U.S. Army Spc. John Lytle)
Don’t rely on it being there unless you ruck it in
All big missions will have logistics plans, and they might be filled with all sorts of support that sounds great. You’ll get a bunch more ammo and water seven hours after the mission starts, or trucks will bring in a bunch of concertina wire and HESCO barriers, or maybe you’re supposed to have more men and weapons.
Always make a plan like nothing else will show up, like you’ll have only the people already there, the weapons already there, the water and food already there. Because, there’s always a chance that the trucks, the helicopters, or the troops will be needed somewhere else or won’t get through.
Dropping uniform tops, driving in all-terrain vehicles, and piling up sandbags are all fine. But pulling an umbrella in that same weather will cause some real heartache.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Carroll)
Officers do not carry umbrellas (neither will anyone else)
This one actually comes from a formerly written rule that literally said that male officers couldn’t carry umbrellas. But the sort of weird thing is that the official rule has been withdrawn, but almost no one carries an umbrella in uniform, and you will be struck down by the first sergeant’s lightning bolt if you tried to bring one to formation.
And God help the soldier dumb enough to bring one to the field.
Don’t steal personal items; don’t steal anything from your own unit
Look, no one likes a soldier who jacks gear. But some units like failing hand receipt inspections even less, so there’s often pressure to get the gear needed by hook or by crook. But there are some rules to grabbing gear or property. (Turns out, there is honor among thieves.)
First, you do not steal personal property. If it belongs to an individual soldier, it’s off-limits. And, if it belongs to your own unit, it’s off-limits. You don’t shift gear in your squad, in your platoon, or often in your company. But for some folks, if there are some chock blocks missing from their trucks, and the sister battalion leaves some lying around, that is fair game.
The guy at the front of the formation is a wealth of knowledge, knowledge that most of his students will be told to forget at some point.
(U.S. Army Spc. Tynisha L. Daniel)
Doesn’t matter how your last unit/drill instructor did it
This is possibly the most important. New soldiers go through all sorts of training, and then their first unit does all sorts of finishing work to get them ready for combat.
But that unit doesn’t care how the drill instructors taught anything in training. And other units don’t care how that first unit did business. Every unit has its own tactics, techniques, and procedures. So when you arrive at a new unit, stash everything you learned before that into a corner of your brain to pull out when useful. But fill the rest of the grey matter with the new units techniques.
It’s a general call to action. The formation snaps to attention and the unit shouts out their branch’s battle cry. It gets used as a general stand-in for regular words and the listener can often pick up context clues to infer what the word replaces. Soldiers can respond to most things with a simple “hooah” and their leader can assume they’re saying either “yes,” “no,” “I don’t really want to, but whatever,” or “screw you,” all from a single, guttural grunt.
Though each branch’s battle cry sounds similar, they different meanings and vastly different origins. Because there are no official records of the exact moment a word was first uttered, many of these have multiple origins. What follows are the most agreed upon.
Before we dive in, you’ll probably notice that the Air Force doesn’t really have one. Some civilian sites say that airmen use the Army’s “Hooah” and most vets will joke that it’s actually something silly like, “hip-hip-hooray!” To be honest, for all intents and purposes, the Air Force doesn’t really need one. Besides, they’ve always been the ones to side-step military tradition in favor of modelling themselves after the civilian workforce.
And now it’s the name of an energy bar…
(Photo by Beatrice Murch)
“Hooah” — U.S. Army
There are many conflicting accounts of the origins of “Hooah.” Some say that it originates from the Second Seminole War in 1841 when the peace agreement was made between the 2nd Dragoons and the Seminole Chief. The chief, who spoke little English, offered them a toast and said “Hough” — which was misinterpreted to mean “How d’ye do.”
The term also has roots in the jump just before D-Day when General Cota, the 29th Division’s commander, asked a 2nd Bat. Ranger where their commanding officer was. In response, the confused ranger shouted, “Who? Us?” The general could only hear “Hooah” through all the loud wind buzzing past them. Cota thought it was some cool Ranger saying and it kind of stuck.
But the most accepted origin is that it’s simply the acronym for “Heard, Understood, Acknowledged.”
The term was solidified when the late, great Gunny Ermey used it and it became a pop culture staple of the Marine Corps.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
“Oorah” — U.S. Marine Corps
Again, people offer all kinds of origin stories for the word, “oorah.” Some say it’s a butchering of the 16th century German word for “hurry.” Other say it’s an adaptation of the Turkish word for “kill.” Others say it comes from WWII, when injured Marines were treated in northern Australia. There, they’d spend a lot of time around the locals as they healed. That part of Australia used, “Ohh, rah.” as slang for “goodbye.”
However, according to Marine Corps lore, it is credited to Former Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps John Massaro who imitated a submarine’s dive siren of “Aarugha.” He later became a drill instructor and used it with his recruits who then passed it on to the rest of the Corps.
Even today, it’s only really Naval officers who unabashedly use it.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lenny LaCrosse)
“Hooyah” — U.S. Navy
The Navy’s “hooyah” is the onomatopoeia for a siren going off. It’s that loud, obnoxious “gaHooyuh” that sailors would hear before manning battle stations.
As much as conventional sailors have tried to hijack the saying in the 90s, it actually belonged to the SEALs, Navy EOD, and deep-sea divers at first — but mostly the SEALs. This still leads to some awkwardness from regular sailors who aren’t sure if they’re allowed to shout it or not.
“Hoorah” really is filled more symbolism befitting the seabees’ and corpsmen’s role to the Marine Corps.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Owen Kimbrel)
“Hoorah” — U.S. Navy Corpsman, Master-at-Arms, Seabees (and, occasionally, Marines)
Despite how most soldiers, airmen, and the occasional Marine think, “Hoorah” is more of a green-side Navy thing and not exactly a Marine thing — note the distinctive lack of an “H,” as found in the standard Marines’ version.
It’s a mix of the Marine’s “Oorah” and the sailor’s “Hooyah” all rolled into one. It’s a fitting battle cry seeing as how Seabees and Corpsman spend most of their time working side-by-side with Marines, but are still sailors. Some say it’s an acronym for “heard, understood, recognized, and acknowledged,” but this could also be a backronym, modeled after the Army’s version.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
There is a saying among the airborne forces (words to the effect): “The sky, even more so than the land or the sea, is terribly unforgiving to even the slightest mistake.”
I have been in ground combat units, airborne units both low and high-altitude operational in nature, and have extensive experience in both maritime undersea and surface operations. I agree that airborne operations are likely more dangerous than those maritime, but I insist that the land is by far the safest of all; in fact, I’m conducting a fairly safe land operation right this very minute!
Combat diving puts one in many claustrophobic situations. I happen to be mildly claustrophobic; I think a great percentage of us are, but I also happen to be clinically horrified of heights to the point of near incapacitation. For me, therefore, parachute training was the most stressful. That notwithstanding, I have ~800 parachute jumps to boast of.
While I know of many deaths, near deaths, and injuries from parachute operations (mostly broken limbs from landing and spinal injuries from hard parachute openings), I also have personal experience with two fatalities just in the basic training course for Special Forces underwater operations. In both cases the deaths were attributed to heart attacks. I should mention that the Army’s diving school is one of the most stressful, mentally and physically, in the world.
One of the concerns in airborne operations are early or late exits from the jump aircraft. As you may know, paratroopers try to land in a pre-designated area of land know as a Drop Zone (DZ) that is largely devoid of structures and obstacles like trees and communications lines. Therefore urban areas are avoided and deserts make for great DZs indeed. High altitude jumpers with highly maneuverable parachutes fancy the motto: “The whole world is a Drop Zone.”
In a jump aircraft, the pilot turns over control of the jump to the Jump Master in charge by way of a simple pair of lights located at the jump doors; one is red and the other green. Minutes from the DZ, the pilot will illuminate the red light indicating “no jump”. Once the pilot feels he is safely over the DZ, he will illuminate the green light indicating “safe for jump.”
(Sweet shot of a paratrooper just out the jump door with the green “Go” light illuminated.)
Paratroopers exiting on a red light is considered a major safety violation and is not tolerated across the community. Each incident warrants some measure of investigation to determine fault and safety conditions at the time. Such was the case of Red Light Randy.
Delta does very few if any low-level static lines drops, favoring the greater potential of drops from altitudes of 12,500 feet Above Ground Level (AGL) and above. Red Light Randy had a mission for which a low-level drop was needed, so he set out for a couple of rehearsal jumps prior to the mission.
The practice jumps went well, but on the night of the actual mission, the pilot failed to put the red light to green once over the DZ. Randy had positive visual recognition of his DZ reception party below, but had no jump authority. Frustrated at the sight of his DZ wasting away below him, he stuffed his team out the door with a frustrated enthusiasm. At a point along the exit the green light finally came on.
(A low-level drop has a much greater penchant to keep men less dispersed ever ground than a high-level drop.)
There was never a decent explanation given by the pilot for the late green light that caused Randy, the last to exit, to come down in some modest scrub past the far edge of the drop zone. There were no injuries or loss of equipment, and Randy and his men enjoyed a mission success for the night.
The Air Force reported the “incident” as an early exit on a red light, but the swift and efficient investigation that ensued determined that the pilot gave a late green, threatening a separation in Randy’s team. In combat it is not the prerogative to circle back and drop the rest of the team, so inevitably the loss of so many men of Randy’s team would have monumentally jeopardized mission success.
So the early red light incident was over… or was it? The “potential ball-breaking” alarm sounded. The details of the event were rocketed off to me, and I got to work straight away producing the feature cartoon:
The drop aircraft is depicted still on departure field runway with Randy announcing the command to jump, The first man exits only to splat face-down on the tarmac. Early exit on red for Red Light Randy!
It’s 7:12 p.m. You’ve got a soggy McDonalds cup sweating sweet tea in your cup holder. You’re driving home after a long day, and the sun is dropping golden light on the horizon. Your sore right foot is pinning down the gas pedal. The fuzzy country FM radio station sharpens a bit, and you hear the beginning chords of a song you know every single syllable of. Maybe it reminds you of your brother overseas. Maybe it reminds you of your spouse’s deployment. Maybe they’re with you listening to it. Maybe they’re not. Chances are, if you have any ties to military service, you’ve had one of these still car ride moments, and been caught off-guard by misty eyes and a head full of thoughts about our nation’s heroes, while a solemn guitar and Southern twang underscore your drive home.
This is about the letter many have written, and fewer have had to read. Tim McGraw sings, from the perspective of a soldier, writing a potential farewell letter. We don’t know if the soldier comes home. All we know is he wrote it to his wife. Like so many others have done, and will continue to do. It’s a testament to those who have been willing to make the sacrifice for those they love, as much as it is a testament to those loved ones who hopefully won’t have to read. “So lay me down, in that open field out on the edge of town/ And know my soul, is always where my momma always prayed that it would be.”
John Michael Montgomery – Letters from Home Official Music Video
The first time you hear this song, it catches you by the throat in the third verse. John Michael Montgomery builds us in the walls of a world that feels gritty but perseverant in the first two verses. We hear of men finding gallows humor overseas. Then comes a letter from the old man… “But no one laughs, cause there ain’t nothin funny when a soldier cries.”
Tracy Lawrence paints the picture of a soldier talking to his buddies. These aren’t necessarily family members, they feel somehow more intimate to the solider in the story. They share beer together, he jokes, and they laugh. He doesn’t ever want to get his buddies down, he wants them to raise hell and drink and remember him with love, not with sadness. We can all remember a conversation over a couple dozen beers ending with the same altruistic, tough, sentiment. Plus—high school football. “On Friday night sit on the visitor side, and cheer for the home team.”
This song was actually written and performed by Bruce Robison first. The song was then optioned and made famous by the Dixie Chicks. Although the Dixie Chicks politically polarized country music fans in 2003, the rendition of the song is unquestionably impactful. There is a vulnerable broken to its performance. The female vocals also lend another layer to the song, as the song is about a high school girl after all. “Our love will never end/ Waitin’ for the soldier to come back again.”
David Ball’s tone feels a little bit lighter than the other songs on the list in “Riding with Private Malone.” In that lightness though, there is deep feeling. The casual nature that he delivers the story of a soldier knowingly bestowing his ride to whoever picked it up next, shadows how selfless the act of service can be. It’s discreet. It’s quiet, it’s between two people. It has gas pumping through it, and life, and it is passed down from generation to generation. “Though you may take her and make your own, you’ll always be ridin’ with Private Malone.”
Lee Brice – I Drive Your Truck (Official Music Video)
Lee Brice belts onto our list with the most recent entry into tearjerking country ballads. Here we find a brother left to find meaning and reason to his life after his brother makes the ultimate sacrifice. He connects with him by tearing up fields and peeling out in his old truck, blaring the same country station he left it on, highlighting the connective power of country music in the lives of people around the military. “People got their ways of coping, Oh and I’ve got mine/ I drive your truck.”
One thing that has always struck me as disappointing in songs about soldiers is that the survivors get forgotten somewhere along the line. This ain’t the case with Toby Keith’s “American Soldier.” It captures perfectly the duty that soldiers are responsible for. It brings to mind the simple, tough, resiliency of the military life, and it exalts those who answer its call. “And I can’t call in sick on Mondays/ When the weekend’s been too strong.”
The late Merle Haggard knew his way around storytelling. A soldier telling his momma not to scold him for having shaky handwriting on a battlefield is a tragically human moment. We can guess how young the soldier is. We can guess how long he’s been overseas. We can’t guess how desperate his momma felt. It captured the feeling of an era, the generation of young boys lost in Vietnam, and the hole that was left back home in their wake. “Then the mother knelt down by her bedside/ And she prayed Lord above hear my plea/ And protect all the sons who are fighting tonight/ and Dear God, keep America free.”
Gen. David L. Goldfein’s four-year tenure as the 21st U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff is coming to an end. As he takes stock of a period marked by ground-breaking achievements, including birth of the U.S. Space Force, the evolution of Joint All Domain Command and Control, and unprecedented challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic, his most poignant – and treasured – memories are the bonds he forged with Airmen while engaging with them around the force over the years.
CSAF 21 Gen David L. Goldfein – The Exit Interview
“Our Airmen are the most incredible, patriotic and disciplined,” he said in a recent interview. “This might be the next greatest generation. Every one of them joined the service while the nation was at war, and their innovative spirit, and willingness to endure hardships to serve in uniform is really inspiring.”
During his frequent travels, Goldfein gained a reputation for seeking out Airmen – often young in their service – to get a better understanding of who they are and to hear their stories. On one occasion in 2019, after meeting all day with air chiefs from more than a dozen nations about space, he struck up a conversation with a young officer. The officer mentioned that he was a second-generation Airman. Without hesitation, Goldfein asked the officer, “You got your phone? Call your dad.” The father and Goldfein had a 10-minute conversation while the startled officer watched.
“I always ask two questions: tell me your story, and what does it mean to be a part of the squadron they are in,” he said. “I’m asking them deeper questions, questions about the culture of the organization. What we want that answer to be is something along the lines of, It means I’m a valued member of this organization, it’s a high-powered team, the Airman to my right and to my left are some of the best Airmen I have ever worked with in my life, and we are doing something really important that is much bigger than myself. If we get that part right, so many other things are going to go right.”
Gen. David. L. Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, talks to a group of total force recruiters during the Bluegreen Vacations 500 NASCAR race in Phoenix. The general talked to the recruiters and answered any questions prior to the race. (AIR FORCE PHOTO // MASTER SGT. CHANCE BABIN)
The Air Force Chief of Staff position demands expertise in military doctrine and operations, as well as skill for developing policy, crafting priorities and helping assemble the Air Force’s budget request. It also requires acute political awareness since Goldfein represents the Air Force before Congress, influential think tanks and the public.
Goldfein, 61, is responsible for the organization, training and equipping 685,000 active-duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian personnel serving in the United States and overseas. As Chief of Staff, he also held a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As he prepares for his 37-year Air Force career to come to an end as the senior uniformed Air Force officer, Goldfein will take with him an approach to the job that was equal parts cerebral and disciplined.
“When I stepped foot on the Air Force Academy campus, only my wildest dreams would’ve ever allowed me to see myself in this seat,” he said. “It truly is the honor of the lifetime to be able to lead the service that has played such an integral part of my life.
Cadet David L. Goldfein and Dawn Goldfein at the the Air Force Academy.
He is a command pilot with more than 4,200 flying hours including combat missions in Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, and most famously, Operation Allied Force when, in 1999, he was shot down flying a mission over Kosovo. His rescue only reinforced to him the important role – and valor – of combat search and rescue teams. It is also a reason that the naming this year of the Air Force’s newest combat rescue helicopter, the HH-60W as the “Jolly Green II,” carried special meaning.
“We don’t know, as young leaders, especially as young officers, when a young Airman is going to risk everything to pull us out of bad guy land, or a burning truck or an aircraft….and risk everything to save us,” he said. “All we know is on that day, we better be worthy of their risk. And so it is all about character, and what the nation expects of those who were privileged to serve in uniform.”
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfien talks to Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright after touring the new HH-60W combat rescue helicopter at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 27, 2020. During the event, the HH-60W was given the name “Jolly Green II,” following the legendary tradition of the Vietnam-era HH-3E Jolly Green and HH-53 Super Jolly Green crews who pioneered the combat search and rescue mission. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // STAFF SGT. JAMES RICHARDSON)
During his four years as Chief of Staff, Goldfein led multiple initiatives to improve and update the Air Force’s warfighting capability: including enhancing the service’s multi-domain capability, pushing to increase the number of operational squadrons to 386 by 2030, and the birth of the Space Force. He played a major role in bringing the F-35s into the fleet, as well the development of the B-21 strike bomber and the T-7A Red Hawk trainer aircraft, among others. The push to 386 was necessary, he said, to build “the Air Force we need” and to reconfigure the force to address China, Russia and other near-peer nations.
He and other Air Force leaders understood that the National Defense Strategy marked the reemergence of the long-term and strategic competition with China and Russia. The Air Force’s goal is to compete, deter, and win this competition by fielding a force that is lethal, resilient, rapidly adapting and integrates seamlessly with the joint force and its allies and partners. Expanding number of squadrons laid the groundwork to enhance the forces preparedness, and in turn will increase the number of fighting units, he explained.
“Today, we are the best Air Force in the world,” he said in 2018. “Our adversaries know it. They have been studying our way of war, and investing in ways to take away those advantages. This is how we stay in front.”
With an increase in fighting units underway, Goldfein led the way on a new, more universal, approach to communicate and fight: not only across all military branches, but between aircraft, operators and commands as well. He was one of the originators of a new, linked and network-centric approach to warfighting known as Joint All Domain Command and Control in which elements from all services from air, land, sea, space and cyber are seamlessly linked to overwhelm and defeat any adversary.
Members of the 6th Special Operations Squadron, perform a training exercise showcasing the capabilities of the Advanced Battle Management System at Duke Field, Fla., Dec. 17, 2019. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // TECH. SGT. JOSHUA J. GARCIA)
“Victory in future combat will depend less on individual capabilities and more on the integrated strengths of a connected network available for coalition leaders to employ,” he said in 2019. “What I’m talking about is a fully networked force where each platform’s sensors and operators are connected.”
In addition to spearheading the move to Joint All Domain Command and Control operations, Goldfein used his close working relationships with senior leaders, including Department of the Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett and former Secretaries Heather Wilson and Deborah Lee James, to realize some of the most sweeping changes for the Air Force in recent years.
He focused efforts on maintaining bonds with existing allies and partners while developing new global relationships. In 2019, he became the first Air Force Chief of Staff to visit Vietnam since the end of the Vietnam War.
He pushed the Air Force to embrace “agile basing” and to return to a more expeditionary mindset. Both efforts enhanced flexibility and scalability of units to address threats even in harsh, distant and contested areas. Goldfein drove this mindset by getting the wings to “train like they fight.” He also pushed units to deploy together, rather than deploying as aggregations of individuals rounded up from all over the Air Force.
“The next fight, the one we must prepare for as laid out in the National Defense Strategy, may not have fixed bases, infrastructures and established command and control, with leaders already forward, ready to receive follow-on forces,” he said in 2018. So, it’s time to return to our expeditionary roots. The expeditionary Air Force framework Secretary Peters and Gen. Ryan laid out remains valid today. But, it must be adapted and updated to support the Joint All Domain Command and Control operations of the 21st century.”
After initially being uncertain about the need for a separate Space Force, Goldfein reflected on his journey to a different understanding. He now sees himself as one of the Space Force’s strongest advocates.
Goldfein understood the need to shift the Air Force’s culture to make the service more diverse, he and former Secretary James recognized the benefits of diversity and to address problems connected to racial and criminal justice inequity in his first few years in office. This continued to be a focus when Barrett and Goldfein, for example, recently asked the Air Force Inspector General to examine the service’s promotion and military justice record so inequities can be better identified and addressed.
In early 2020 Goldfein also brought about changes to the Air Force’s official anthem to make the lyrics more inclusive. Goldfein didn’t go many places where he didn’t boast on his “best friend, Dawn” and his daughters and granddaughters. He often explained how they kept him grounded, and helped him appreciate the sacrifice our Air Force families endure. Dawn pushed to make improvements for Air Force families when she chaired the “Key Spouse Conference” and was an advocate for universal licensure. Goldfein actively embraced both.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright learn about new innovations being made at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, May 14, 2020. Airmen at Team Minot, in the midst of a global pandemic, demonstrate the ever adapting ability of the Global Strikers to CSAF General Goldfein and CMSAF Wright during their visit to Minot Air Force Base. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // AIRMAN 1ST CLASS JESSE JENNY)
Perhaps the single most influential voice over Goldfein’s four years as chief was that of Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright. The tight bond between the two men was widely understood and often on display. It also was genuine.
“They don’t come any better than Chief Wright,” Goldfein said recently. “He is one of my closest life-long friends…. He’s the guy that I lean on the most.”
Goldfein and Wright took an active approach together to address resiliency, mental health and the overall culture of the force, often appearing side-by-side with Airmen. The close partnership came into clear view recently in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the national call for racial justice. Goldfein and Wright were prominent in their public calls for reform within the Air Force.
“Something broke loose that day, and what broke loose was there shouldn’t be any resistance to making meaningful changes in our United States Air Force to make sure we celebrate all of us, that we are a force that includes and embraces all of us,” he said. “History is not on our side here. If we follow history, we will be pretty excited for a couple of months and will make some marginal changes, we will feel good about ourselves, and then other things will pop up and this will be pushed to the back burner,” he said, referring to past efforts to address racial and criminal justice inequality. “Let’s prove history wrong this time.”
With a goal of a more inclusive Air Force always in mind, Goldfein made a point to show his appreciation and kinship to the Airmen he was able to meet.
Goldfein concedes that many people and events shaped his tenure. But, aside from his wife Dawn and Wright, none was more influential than his countless interactions with Airmen of all ranks and capabilities across the Air Force. It was shaped as well by a separate and tragic moment, the death of Air Force Master Sgt. John A. Chapman in 2002, and in 2018 when Chapman was awarded the Medal of Honor.
“While I never met John, I feel like I know him because his picture hangs in my office, as it has for the past two years,” Goldfein said in 2018. “… At difficult times and when faced with hard decisions, I can look at that picture and find strength in his strength, and I’m reminded that leading and representing Airmen like John Chapman remains the honor of a lifetime.”
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Chief of Staff of the Air Force David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright present a plaque to Valerie Nessel, wife of Medal of Honor recipient Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, during the Hall of Heroes Induction Ceremony at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Va., Aug. 23, 2018. Sergeant Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions on Takur Ghar mountain in Afghanistan on March 4, 2002, an elite special operations team was ambushed by the enemy and came under heavy fire from multiple directions. Chapman immediately charged an enemy bunker through high-deep snow and killed all enemy occupants. Courageously moving from cover to assault a second machine gun bunker, he was injured by enemy fire. Despite severe wounds, he fought relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice. With his last actions he saved the lives of his teammates. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // STAFF SGT. RUSTY FRANK)
That realization, Goldfein would often say, was his North Star.
As Goldfein’s time as Air Force Chief of staff comes to an end, he feels confident in the selection of the next Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.
“I feel closure. I didn’t get everything done, I wanted to get done, but we certainly got a lot done, and I’m feeling so good,” he said. “I’ve been watching Gen. Brown for years, I got to see his intellect, his mind and work. He’s a brilliant, operational and strategic thinker. I’ve seen him interact with Airmen, and he’s just absolutely phenomenal. So, I’m feeling great about this opportunity to hand the Air Force over to a guy that I admire, and a good friend as well.”
The U.S. Military prides itself on serving our country in all situations, foreign and domestic. The Military coordinates with government agencies to issue out destruction to the enemies of freedom, but it also focuses on preserving this beautiful land of ours. Researchers routinely find rare or endangered species of plants and animals on bases because of the way we preserve training areas.
The cohesion between military and civilian organizations, coming together to preserve our wildlife, has grown stronger over the last decade. All branches take painstaking care to protect nature; the inheritance of generations yet to come. Here’s how:
“Many years ago, [red-cockaded woodpeckers] decided to plant themselves in our training area and we decided that we wanted to help save these birds,” – Colonel Scalise
The Marine Corps plants trees to save woodpeckers
In April, 2018, Col. Michael Scalise, Deputy Commander of MCI East, Camp Lejeune, met with Representative Walter Jones to plant Longleaf Pine Seedlings at Stones Creek Game Land. The Longleaf tree is a favorite of the red-cockaded woodpecker, a species that has made nests under the protection of the Marine Corps for generations. Camp Lejeune shares land with a nature preserve that further protects the woodpecker and other endangered species alike.
The ceremony of planting new trees was the culmination of state and federal conservation agencies, such as the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Recovery and Sustainment Program partnership (RASP), to encourage the species to relocate their nesting grounds off ranges and onto safer areas. Training schedules are adjusted regularly to accommodate the woodpeckers’ preservation.
The Coast Guard battles the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Provide guidance, policy, and tools for Coast Guard Marine Environmental Response planning, preparedness, and operations to prevent, enforce, investigate, respond to, and to mitigate the threat, frequency, and consequences of oil discharges and hazardous substance releases into the navigable waters of the United States.
They are the first line of defense against oil spills that threaten the health of our citizens and wildlife. Coast Guardsmen are the first responders in the event of a hazardous substance release polluting our waters on a very real, catastrophic scale. Coasties are the stewards of our oceans, the most precious of national treasures, and risk their lives in the name of public health, national security, and U.S. economic interests.
Rare butterfly thrives on, and because of, US military bases
The Army saves endangered butterflies with controlled burns
Across many Army Installations, a variety of endangered butterflies would rather take their chances living on artillery impact areas due to habitat destruction. Species such as the St. Francis Satyrneed disturbance to keep their populations at a thriving level. The fires set by explosions burn across forests and wetlands that benefit the frail little ones. Even if an impact kills some butterflies, even more are able to take their place. At least three of the world’s rarest butterflies have found safety among the howitzer shells of Fort Bragg, NC.
The Army partners with biologists to retrieve females and relocate them to a greenhouse the Army built. The butterflies are bred and released into new areas for the population to continue to grow. Biologists and the Army recreate zones that resemble the impact areas to ensure the population won’t have to resort to living amongst unexploded ordinance.
Other species, such as the one in the video below, also call Army bases home.
It’s as if the military was never here…
(USAF Civil Engineer Center)
The Air Force prevents the contamination of wildlife after training
The Air Force has a division that specializes in Restoration Systems and Strategies. Their mission is to promote efficient and effective restoration of contaminated sites. They provide expertise on clean-up exit strategies and implementation of effective remediation using science and engineering. They ensure that the Air Force keeps up with their environmental responsibilities and tracks progress to prevent adverse long-term effects of training.
Performance-based remediation has become the standard for the Environmental Restoration Technical Support Branch that keeps the homes of wildlife clean.
The Navy shares their data with marine researchers
The Navy has a program called Marine Species Research and Monitoring and has invested over 0 million dollars to better understand marine species and the location of important habitat areas. Civilian researchers have access to the Navy’s data about the migratory patterns of whales, sea turtles, and birds that can aid them when their work is peer-reviewed.
The benefit is mutually beneficial because the published works can then be used by the Navy to develop tools to better estimate the potential effects of underwater sound. The program empowers scientists with research they otherwise would never have had access to independently, and the Navy can safeguard marine protected species.
NASA is pressing to return astronauts to the moon in just five years, then launch the first crew to Mars in the 2030s.
The latter journey may cost the US hundreds of billions of dollars. But an agency executive says the US has no plans to share the hefty cost — and the immortal glory — of such a feat with China, a nation that has similar ambition and resources to put people on the red planet.
“There is still a space race where we want our country to do it first,” Jeff DeWit, NASA’s chief financial officer, recently told “Business Insider Today,” a top daily news show on Facebook, in July 201.
Right now, at the direction of the Trump administration, NASA is focusing on sending people back to the moon for the first time since 1972 . The agency’s current goal is to land the Artemis mission, as it’s known, in 2024.
But as NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine reminded President Trump on the eve of the Apollo 11 lunar landing’s 50th anniversary, the agency sees the moon as a “proving ground” for longer, harder crewed missions to Mars.
“When we go to Mars, we’re going to have to be there for a long period of time,” Bridenstine told Trump on July 19, 2019, in the Oval Office. “So we need to learn how to live and work on another world.”
That is, assuming NASA and its international partners can scrounge up the cash required to make an interplanetary journey a reality.
‘I want to see an American flag’ on Mars
A 2014 National Research Council report suggests the first human journey to Mars before 2050 may cost NASA as much as 0 billion. Sending multiple missions to explore the red planet in a sustained, meaningful way could raise the bill to more than trillion, according another estimate.
Cost sharing with other nations has proven an effective way for NASA to achieve its goals in space without footing the entire bill. The International Space Station (ISS): a roughly 0 billion laboratory involving more than 15 nations, is a shining and still-current example. Even Russia, an increasingly adversarial partner, continues to collaborate with the US in orbit.
“They’re going to help us with going to the moon,” DeWit said of Canada and Japan, two other ISS partners. “We have some great partnerships right now and that cost-sharing has been great.”
Meanwhile, though, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) is landing probes on the far side of the moon, scouting for permanent outpost locations, planning Mars-sample return missions, and more.
An illustration of China’s planned Mars Global Remote Sensing Orbiter and Small Rover mission, or HX-1. Here a rover is shown leaving a lander to explore the Martian surface.
Its timeline is not as aggressive as NASA’s, but the CNSA appears intent on launching people to Mars as soon as the 2040s.
Teaming up with China, then, might make sense for the US from a budgetary perspective. The space agencies of both nations have tried thawing relations in recent years, and with some success. In January, for instance, NASA held discussions with China about collaborating on part of its Chang’e-4 robotic moon landing.
There might be more collaboration, but it requires permission from Congress. That’s because, in 2011, US lawmakers voted to greatly restrict NASA-CNSA collaboration over espionage risks.
“There are rules in place of which countries we can’t partner with, and China’s one of those,” DeWit said.
Still, DeWit seemed to have no qualms about the restrictions and NASA aiming for Mars with limited outside help.
“One thing I want to make sure is when we land on Mars, that’s an American flag we’re planting,” DeWit said. “That’s important to everybody. It’s American taxpayers paying for it. You want an American flag planted. That’s a big thing.”
A NASA artist’s concept depicts astronauts and human habitats on Mars.
‘A race to Mars will be a waste of taxpayers’ money’
Zong Qiugang, an astrophysicist at Peking University who’s previously worked NASA and other space agencies, told the South China Morning Post in 2016 that “a race to Mars will be a waste of taxpayers’ money” because it’s exceedingly difficult.
“If we are going to Mars, to send the first human visitors there and bring them back, it will go beyond the capability of any single nation,” he said.
For NASA’s part, getting back to the moon in 2024 is already proving a challenge. Key members of Congress are balking at raising NASA’s budget by another id=”listicle-2639896983″.6 billion for what Bridenstine and DeWit call a “down payment” to jump-start Artemis — in particular to start building necessary spaceflight hardware.
“What we really need, if we want to hit the target of 2024, is we’ve got to start securing a lander. We don’t have a lander right now,” DeWit said. “Part of that’s going to be a down payment on getting the lander started — it’s going to take time to get that. So the trade-off is going to be, if we don’t get the id=”listicle-2639896983″.6 billion, it’s going to make the target of 2024 harder to hit.”
An illustration of SpaceX’s Starship vehicle on the surface of the moon, with Earth in the distance.
NASA is currently grooming private companies for lower-cost help. One is Blue Origin, headed by Jeff Bezos, who debuted a “Blue Moon” lander design for Artemis in May 2019. Another is SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, which is developing a towering and fully reusable launch system called Starship.
If Musk has his way, though, SpaceX may one-up its competition — and NASA itself — by setting down an uncrewed Starship on the lunar surface in 2021.
“It may literally be easier to just land Starship on the moon than try to convince NASA that we can,” Musk told “CBS Sunday Morning” in July 2019 adding: “‘Hey, look. Here’s a picture of landing there right now!’ That might be the better way to do it.”
DeWit told Business Insider he was skeptical about that ambition, but was also encouraging.
“More power to him. I hope he does it,” DeWit said. “If he can do it, we’ll partner with them, and we’ll get there faster.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.