The Frontiers and Flight air show was held at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas in early September 2018. The crowd was treated to demonstrations of 70 military and civilian aircraft, including B-2 stealth bombers, A-10 Warthogs, KC-135 Stratotankers, and more.
The air show also included a demonstration of six F-16 Thunderbirds.
After the show, the Thunderbirds flew back home to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, soaring over Lake Powell reservoir near the Grand Canyon in Arizona along the way.
And the pictures are stunning.
Check them out below.
The Thunderbirds fly over the Glen Canyon Dam in Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
Thunderbirds fly in formation over Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
Thunderbirds soar over Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
The squadron flies F-16Cs and F-16Ds with unique red, white and blue paint jobs.
Read more about the specifications of F-16Cs and F-16Ds here
Thunderbirds leave contrails behind while flying over Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
But when the Thunderbirds were first activated, they flew F-84s. The squadron then switched to F-100s, and then several others, before adopting the F-16 in 1992.
More specifically, the Thunderbirds first flew F-84F Thunder jets, which were combat-fighter bombers that flew missions during the Korean War.
F-100 Super Sabres, which the Thunderbirds switched to in 1956, were the world’s first supersonic fighter jets.
Thunderbirds fly over a river in Lake Powell on Sept. 10, 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
US Air Force Thunderbirds conduct a photo op over Lake Powell while returning from McConnell Air Force Base, Sept. 10, 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
Thunderbird demonstrations involve about 30 different maneuvers using one or more F-16s.
Janine Stange is looking for a lot of people to acknowledge what a few people have obtained over the past 156 years.
Stange, who, in 2014, became the first person to perform the national anthem in all 50 states, is in her third year of asking people to write letters of appreciation to those who have received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
“I didn’t realize how many people wanted to do this,” Stange said over the telephone from her Baltimore, Maryland, home.
Janine Stange performing the National Anthem for the 2016 National Medal of Honor Day gathering.
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the military.
March 25th is National Medal of Honor Day. During the last week of March, recipients meet for an annual event in Arlington, Virginia. In 2016, Stange was invited to sing the national anthem at that gathering.
In the weeks leading up to the event, she had an idea. “I thought I would ask people if they wanted to write them,” she said.
Just some of the packages and letters Janine has received to pass onto MOH recipients.
The response was encouraging.
During the first two years, Stange and event organizers reminded them of their service years. “We handed the letters out in packages, ‘mail-call style,'” she said.
There are currently 72 living Medal of Honor recipients. The honor was first issued in 1863 and has been bestowed upon 3,505 recipients since. The oldest living recipient is Robert Maxwell, 98, who served in the Army in World War II. The youngest recipient is William Kyle Carpenter, 30, who served in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
“If they didn’t have their medal on, you’d think you were talking to the nice guy in the neighborhood,” Stange said about her moments getting to know the ones who have been honored. “They are so in awe that people take the time to write them. Many take time to write people back.”
Stange said humility is a common trait among the recipients.
“This is an opportunity for people to learn about these selfless acts of valor. They were not thinking of their lives, but their buddies, and something bigger than themselves. They were not concerned about their own life, they were looking at future generations,” Stange said.
Medal of Honor recipient Roger Donolon with some of the mail he’s received via Ms. Stange.
Stange said she doesn’t use the word “win” for a recipient.
“They don’t ‘win’ this. It’s not a contest. I don’t say ‘winner.’ It’s because of their selfless sacrifice.”
In addition to the letters, Stange said people have included small gifts, ranging from pieces of art and carved crosses to postcards from the writers’ homes and pieces of quilts.
“Don’t limit it to letters. These small mementos make it feel very homegrown,” she said.
Stange said the letter writing is open to anyone, from individuals to group leaders (school teachers, community organization leaders, sports coaches, businesses, etc). Those interested in leading a group in this project can go online to www.janinestange.com/moh – recipient(s) will be assigned to ensure an even distribution of letters.
Trump had one question when it came to the War in Afghanistan, according to journalist Bob Woodward’s 2018 book Fear: Trump in the White House: “What the f*ck are we doing there?” And he didn’t just want to know what the generals thought, so he asked the lower ranks.
When Trump took office in 2017 and was presented with options on securing high-value targets and changing the course of the war from the Obama-era policies, Trump changed the conversation, telling then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis that he wanted to talk to some “enlisted guys” about the war.
Mattis rolled his eyes.
The President in the Oval Office with many of his original staff from 2017.
“I want to get some real fighters over here who are not officers,” the President told his advisors, including Mattis, former Gen. H.R. McMaster, White House Chief of Staff Steve Bannon, and others. He wanted their “on the ground views” of the war. While the former officers in the room scoffed at the idea of enlisted troops informing the Commander-in-Chief on the then-16-year-long war in Afghanistan, Trump’s controversial Chief of Staff thought of it more idealistically, relating the idea to President Lincoln talking to Union troops during the Civil War.
On July 18, 2017, almost six months to the day after taking office, the President sat down with three soldiers and an airman who spent significant time in Afghanistan and had lunch in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.
From left, Vice President Mike Pence, President Donald J. Trump, and National Security Advisor Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster talk with service members during a lunch in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, July 18, 2017.
(White House photo by Shealah Craighead)
Trump was joined in the lunch by McMaster, Vice President Mike Pence, Army First Sgt. Michael Wagner, Army Master Sgt. Zachary Bowman, Army Master Sgt. Henry Adames, and Air Force Major Eric Birch. As the lunch began, the President told reporters they were there “to find out why we’ve been there for 17 years, how it’s going and what we should do in terms of additional ideas.”
“We have plenty of ideas from a lot of people,” Trump said, “but I want to hear it from people on the ground.”
The President asked them what they thought the U.S. was doing in Afghanistan, where they thought it was going, and what they should do for additional ideas. Afterward, Woodward writes, Trump told Bannon the ground pounders’ views were unanimous – “we’ve got to figure out how to get the f*ck out of there… Totally corrupt… the people are not worth fighting for… NATO does nothing, they’re a hindrance… it’s all bullsh*t.”
So when it came time to discuss new policy at the next National Security Council meeting, Trump interrupted McMaster’s briefing, saying his best information came from the “line soldiers” he met that day.
“I don’t care about you guys,” Trump told Mattis, McMaster, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford and the rest of the NSC in a 25-minute dressing down on everyone who informed Afghanistan war policy. “It’s a disaster … the soldiers on the ground could run things much better than you.”
China is aggressively pushing its foreign policy agenda while the world is focused on the coronavirus.
In recent months, as the coronavirus, which originated from Wuhan, China, spreads, the government led by President Xi Jinping has tried to strengthen its position around the world, while trying to dislodge the US from its position as a superpower.
It has done this by enforcing its sovereignty over the South China Sea, asserting control in Hong Kong by cracking down on protesters from last year, and intimidating Taiwan with increasing military measures.
China is also using its wealth to push its agenda. It pledged tens of millions of dollars to the World Health Organization (WHO) after the US government announced it would freeze its own funding, and it is providing relief on loans to African countries in exchange for them putting up national assets like copper mines as collateral, according to Vox.
Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project, a think tank in Washington, DC, told Vox: “When it sees opportunities, China moves to exploit them. And we are in a moment where the Chinese definitely see opportunities.”
On April 18, China struck back at protesters in Hong Kong. More than a dozen key people were arrested for their roles in protests that gripped the city between August and October. According to The New York Times, “The arrests signaled a broader crackdown on the anti-government movement.”
On the same day, China strengthened its position in the South China Sea. China created two new districts for cities on Yongxing Island, which, along with earlier renaming the areas, was part of an attempt to assert its sovereignty, according to The Diplomat.
An island in the South China Sea might not sound like much when it’s only about 12 square miles of land, yet the city covers 1.2 million square miles of sea, and China’s push for sovereignty clashes with other claims made by Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines.
As for Taiwan, on April 23, Al Jazeera reported China was escalating military drills around the island, signaling discontent towards Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen who was reelected earlier in the year.
Throughout April, China increased military exercises, including having five warships sail unusually close by, conducting a 36-hour endurance exercise, and having its air force reportedly conducted its first night mission in the area.
In Africa, China’s using the struggling nations’ debts to gain assets. China is the continent’s largest creditor. According to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studied African governments are indebted to China for about 3 billion.
As debt continues to grow some governments are considering handing over assets to China in exchange for relief, according to the Wall Street Journal. For instance, Zambia was considering handing over its third-largest copper mine.
The most obvious recent occurrence of China moving in on the US was its offer to provide funding to WHO. Business Insider’s Rosie Perper previously reported on its pledge to give WHO million after President Donald Trump announced earlier in April that the US would freeze 0 million in payments, which was previously the largest contribution from a single country.T
John Lee, a former national security adviser to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, told Business Insider the new contribution was not from goodwill but was designed to boost its “superficial credentials” as a “global contributor” dealing with the coronavirus.
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines irony as the following: incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result. It’s like being run over by an ambulance that’s on its way to save you — instead of saving you (the expectation), it’s turned you into roadkill (the ironic twist).
Now, these are not to be confused with just bad moments — if you want examples of those, take pretty much any example listed in Alanis Morissette’s song, Ironic (then again, writing a song entitled Ironic and failing to cite a single example of real irony is kinda ironic…).
Another hilarious example of situational irony stems from the fact nearly every well-known “peace” symbol has a military origin. Sure, they may have been co-opted throughout the years to take on entirely different meanings, but if you go by the original definition of each symbol, you’re effectively intimating the opposite of your intent.
Pretty much every symbol for peace, shy of the Roerich Pact’sThree Jewels, has roots in military culture — in fact, many of them have been used as signals of martial might. You may be familiar with a few of these:
The “V” sign
The simple hand gesture, synonymous with counter-culture hippies, Richard Nixon, and teenage girls, actually has concrete beginnings that can be traced to one man at one moment: Winston Churchill threw up his index and middle fingers to signal a ‘V,’ for “victory,” after the Allies triumphed over the Axis Powers.
I like to think that he knew full well that he was giving everyone the forks, but wanted to see how long it took anyone to say something.
But before that, Belgian Minister of Justice, Victor de Lavaleye, began spreading the use of the finger ‘V’ across Europe. In 1941, he was using it as a quiet protest to say that “victory is coming” or “freedom is coming” in the Netherlands (“freedom” in Dutch is “vrijheid,” which also starts with a “v”). Churchill, upon co-opting the symbol, eventually turned his palm outward to avoid sending the British gesture for “up yours.”
In either case, the symbol that is now known for peace started as a way to signal impending or fresh military victory, depending on your cited origin.
You can go ahead and pick whatever color you like — it all sends the same message.
After WWI, wearing a red poppy on one’s lapel was a sign of respect for fallen troops. It was a direct homage to Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s famous poem, In Flanders Fields. In 1933, the Peace Pledge Union shifted the tradition, imploring people to wear white poppies instead of the red ones to honor the casualties of war without extolling it.
If you really want to be specific, however, the poem never really identifies which color poppy grew at Flanders Field, just that there were poppies. So, if you’re wearing poppies of any color, you’re referencing one of history’s most famous wartime poems. The only reason he chose the red version of the poppy is because it’s eye-catching.
The “peace symbol”
The most famous symbol to come out of the 1960s is actually a clever use of military speak to directly get the military’s attention for a specific issue: nuclear disarmament. Just after the UK had developed their H-Bomb and tested it near Christmas Island, the Direct Action Committee called for a pause on the manufacturing of nuclear weapons. The Committee agreed that outright pacifism wasn’t the solution — but they also agreed that nuclear weapons weren’t the answer to the Cold War, either.
The DAC needed a symbol to rally behind, so designer and DAC board member Gerald Holtom created one, incorporating the flag semaphores for ‘N’ and ‘D’ in the design, for “nuclear disarmament.”
Funnily enough, Joker is using the symbol in its proper context. His pin says that wars shouldn’t be fought by nuclear means, but through conventional warfare.
They never trademarked the design, so it was free to use among members of the counter-culture and anti-Vietnam War protesters ran with it.
The olive branch
The most misunderstood signal of peace is the olive branch. The first example of olive branches being used as a symbol dates back to the stories of ancient Greece when Athena was trying to win the patronage of Athens over Poseidon. Legend has it, she threw her spear into the ground and it blossomed into the first olive tree. The new tree was, essentially, a giant “f*ck you” to Poseidon because her olives were more useful than his salt water.
Athenians later gave olive branches out as a symbol of Athena to mighty warriors and Olympians. The olives and their branches represented prosperity after long-fought wars.
During the time of the Romans, Mars, the God of War, was often depicted holding an olive branch. To the Romans, “extending the olive branch” meant to be from a god or ruler and given to their subject. It was something more along the lines of “we fought, now enjoy this peace and prosperity.”
The Romans knew best that si vis pacem, para bellum, or “if you want peace, prepare for war.”
My first impression is that Mat Best is the kind of guy you want to party with. Or at the very least take a shot with. Whether it’s bikini snaps, whiskey or coffee, you can tell within seconds of meeting Mat that he is all about living life to the fullest. For real.
The former Ranger turned contractor is the internet icon behind Article 15 clothing, Leadslingers Whiskey, and most recently Black Rifle Coffee Company. But that’s just the beginning of Mat’s second act. He’s walking into the WATM office as the author of his newly released memoir, Thank You For My Service, and he has something powerful to say to us all…(spoiler alert).
For the first time, Mat’s taken down some walls and opened himself up in his book in a way that even his business partners have never seen. He’s honest. He’s vulnerable, and even better he’s embraced the awkward. Especially when it comes to the most cliche statement in the history of veterans, “Thank you for your service.” A statement that has been awkward and fallen flat to so many veterans is now Mat’s source of strength.
As we mic up for the interview, I am just beginning to realize that my initial impressions don’t even scratch the surface of Mat’s world. This is man and warrior who has garnered billions of views across the internet with his hilarious videos, yet, his humour is the tool that has lifted him from tragedy. This is a very different Mat than we have seen on Youtube or Instagram and for damn sure I am going to listen to what he has to say.
WATM: Can you give us a brief intro about you?
Mat Best:My name is Mat Best. I am an internet influencer. I hate that, just kidding. My name is Mat Best, and I’m the co-founder of Black Rifle Coffee.
WATM: Are you a Navy Seal?
Mat Best: I am not a Navy Seal, although I am taking tips from their hairstylists.
WATM: So if you’re not a Navy Seal, why’d you write a book?
Mat Best:I thought we have to get the message out about the amazing individuals of the 75th Ranger Regiment, which is where I came from and grew up. So that’s the story I wanted to tell.
WATM: I love it. All right, Good.
Mat Best:You were happy with that one. He was like, “I gotta hit the Navy Seal jokes.”
WATM: I didn’t even write that joke but yes, it makes me happy. Ok, let’s go back to when you’re in the Army. What kind of soldier would you say you were?
Mat Best: I would say that I was the team room jokester, but then took my job very serious, and I would like to think of myself as an absolute professional while I’m doing my job.
WATM: Is there anything you’ve learned, especially being in the Ranger Regiment, that’s helped you in business and now writing a book?
Mat Best: Absolutely. I think being in the military, specifically the Ranger Regiment, you consistently solve complex problems. It’s you and your buddies on the ground and you’re presented with all these crazy situations, and you can’t ask for help. It’s up to you and the team to execute and follow through with the mission plan. And I think that is so attributable to business, because no one tells you what to do, what the right answer is. You’re just in a gunfight, and you got to fix it. And sometimes it’s ugly. And so, all those lessons learned in the military directly apply to business. And that’s why at Black Rifle, we try to hire so many veterans, because they come from such a diverse background, that they have so many applicable skills that a lot of civilians don’t have.
WATM: What do you think makes Black Rifle Coffee Company special compared to other companies?
Mat Best:Mainly, I would say what makes Black Rifle Coffee so special is our mission statement and our values. We’re very transparent with what we put out there, and we always say, “Vote with your dollar.” And I think it’s refreshing in American culture to know who you’re supporting when you purchase a good, and not only a good, but a very high quality good. So that’s what we take pride in. When you buy Black Rifle Coffee, you know what our mission statement is, and you know what we’re going to do.
WATM: Was there anything specifically from your time in uniform that transformed you into who you are today?
Mat Best:I’ve had a few tragedies with friends while deployed, and honestly, it just really gave me this profound perspective on life. That it’s insanely short, you never know when it’s going to end, and that only supported my goal to make people laugh, humor through horror. We have one shot at this life, there’s no dress rehearsal, let’s just live it to its fullest. And it’s okay to enjoy life. Have fun, laugh. We don’t know how long we’re going to be here. And so those experiences really helped develop me to who I am today, to not really sweat the small stuff. Let’s focus on the big stuff, health, well-being, and all that.
WATM: Did you ever get an article 15?
Mat Best:No. That’s why I laugh. People will say, “You started a company called Article 15 Clothing.” I’ve got a good conduct medal, man.
WATM: What did that transition look like for you?
Mat Best:Yeah, mainly when I got off active duty, I moved here to Los Angeles, and I had absolutely no clue what I was going to do. I went through a pretty deep and heavy transition and learned a lot about myself, what I wanted to do. Kind of regaining that sense of purpose and what I wanted to devote my life to, which subsequently made me be a contractor, because I really missed the team mentality and the brotherhood. For a while, I thought I really missed war, but what I really missed was the camaraderie and the brotherhood that was enveloped in that experience. And so, once I became a contractor, that made it very clear in my mind that this is what I want to do. I want to live in this community, and I want to provide value in this community.
WATM: How did you decide to go down this route of entrepreneurship, especially on video content and being an influencer?
Mat Best: I needed an outlet creatively. So I just started making YouTube videos to make five people laugh, and five turned to a thousand, a thousand turned to 100,000 and it kind of snowballed effect. And what I realized is that there was such a want and need for that style of content that hadn’t been done before. And it’s pretty cool to see a lot of other influencers in the military making people laugh, doing callback jokes to basic training, just creating that military experience so we can not relive it, but have those fond memories of service post-service.
WATM: What do you think about the term ‘influencer?’
Mat Best:I think ‘influencer’ applies to certain people. I think influence means you have influence, you’re not just famous for posting a likable photo. And I think people are finding that out on Instagram, where they have followers, and they have certain engagement metrics, but they’re not able to influence a message or a culture or something like that. It’s a tricky term. Overused.
WATM: What do you feel when somebody says, “Hey Mat, thank you for your service?”
Mat Best: It’s a challenging question when people say, “Thank you for your service,” I think there is a sense of empathy and appreciation in the statement, but I think civilian culture has been so conditioned just to say that. Everybody wants to support veterans until it’s time to support veterans. I think a basic statement of, “Thank you for your service,” isn’t enough. Let’s go work on treatment of individuals that have moral grief and transition issues. Let’s actually impact people rather than just say that. And again, that’s my personal opinion. There are a lot of people out there that really appreciate that statement, but that’s why I named my book. “Thank You for My Service,” because I really, really appreciated being part of the community I was in special operations and doing the job. I mean, taxpayers let me go jump out of planes and fast rope out of helicopters. How cool is that?
WATM: So let’s get into the book, ‘Thank You For My Service.’ Why should we ‘thank YOU for your service?’
Mat Best:We shouldn’t thank me for my service. I want to thank you for your service and my service. No, I thought it was a funny play. Some people read it immediately and go, “Whoa, that’s super douchey.” And they go, “Oh, I get it. What he’s trying to say there.” So it was a play on that whole societal thing of people don’t know if they should thank veterans for their service. And most importantly, what an amazing experience for me to grow up. I would never even be close to the man I am today if I didn’t serve in such an amazing unit, like 75th ranger regiment. So I’m just proud of it, and I want to share that experience that I’m not a victim. It made me a better individual, even with all the stuff I saw. So I want to be a good steward of that community, and hopefully influence people to serve their country, serve their communities, and know that’s a powerful thing.
WATM: So is writing a book. Congrats man, that is a huge step and powerful.
Mat Best: Thank you. And it’s not in crayon. My book’s not in crayon, guys. This is a big moment.
WATM: Obviously, you put a lot of time into doing this.
Mat Best: I don’t think I ever really set out to write a book. It was never a part of that. I had not journal entries, but I guess you could say that I documented some of the worst times in my life, because I didn’t ever want to forget how crappy it felt. And so whenever I’m feeling down, I can look back at transitioning out of the military. I can look back at losing friends and being like, “This is why I’m here. This is what’s going to motivate me. Get off your suck. Wake up, let’s go f*cking work.” And so it really just transcribed into me talking to people, having influence, and people said, “I want to know Mat’s whole story.” And really for me, the only way to tell my entire story is to put it on paper. I mean you can do videos, you can chat about it, but a lot of people just see the extension of my personality through the entertainment and the skits that I do, which I fully enjoy. But that’s a singular perspective on my personality. So, kind of wanted to put it all in there, make people laugh, write something that no one else has ever seen in their life before, because it’s a completely different book than an average military book, that’s for sure.
WATM: In the book, you talk about how you’ve used humor as a way to get through some very tough points in your life. Are there specific instances in the book that [were] very powerful for you?
Mat Best:Yeah, I think that’s a loaded question, but it’s a good one. I think there’s certain aspects and stories in the book that you’ll see where humor, I applied humor in a very dark situation, where people were just trying to kill us, and now we’re cleaning up the aftermath, and you can tell people are a little shook up and rattled. So I just used humor to kind of offset that, get their head in the game, realize we’re here for a mission. This is really messed up. Because when do you expect ever to, as an individual, to just see people blowing up and body parts flying and shooting people? No one sets you up for that experience until it happens. You’ve got to combat it with humor a little bit. Still being a professional, obviously, but easing the moment, I would say.
WATM: Was there ever a moment you looked at the book and said, “I can’t believe I’m writing this right now?”
Mat Best:There were multiple times in the book, absolutely, where it was very challenging for me to relive a few things and I got kind of caught up and almost definitely pretty much cried a few times where I’m like, “I’ll set that down.” And there was definitely other times in the book where I had to go get a shot of whiskey or a glass of wine because I’m like, “I don’t want to be that open about this, you know? And I’m like, “But that’s how I make a good book. I have to be honest and transparent and show my struggles and my successes, because that’s what’s going to influence people to live their own quality of life.” If I just write this top level crap book that’s like, “Look at me, I served the country, I’m awesome. I do business,” what value does that bring?
WATM: We don’t want to give it all away. But do you think there’s something that maybe the audience doesn’t know that they’re going to find in this book?
Mat Best:For sure. Yeah. I put a lot in this book that no one’s ever known. To quote Evan Hafer, my business partner at Black Rifle Coffee, he said, “I didn’t want to read your book. I didn’t want to read it.” And I’m like, “Well, thanks for being honest, man.” He’s like, “Well, I’ve known you for six-plus years. I know your stories.” And then when he finally read it, he went, “Dude, I couldn’t put it down. It was so interesting, and I got to a see side of my friend I didn’t even know.”
WATM: Would you say you’re fully transitioned out? Do you feel like you’re a civilian at this point, or is there always going to be a part of you that’s related to the military?
Mat Best:At least now in the workings of Black Rifle, I’ll always be part of the military for sure. To say that I don’t go look back at old photos or old experiences and miss it and for some reason still wish I was deployed fighting a war when I have a beautiful wife and a successful business, it’s still in there. So it’s always there, and I’ll always be a part of the community for sure, because I just want to see it be successful.
WATM: You offer a lot, especially to veterans out there, but not always just the veterans. Is there any advice or things that you would love your followers or people that read the book to know that you really live by?
Mat Best: Yeah, I would say as far as the transition piece, it’d be proper planning prevents piss poor performance. You have to have a mission plan going into anything. It’s just like when you’re going to the grocery store, and you have kids, all right, I need the car seat. You’re planning, you’re in that planning phase. And I think what I didn’t do when I got out, I didn’t plan for anything. I’m like, “I’ll figure it out,” in my absolute stubborn ways. And that set me up for a nosedive. And so going forward, I’ve always tried to plan, plan for the worst, expect the best, kind of thing. I know I’m just saying catchphrases, but they actually are applicable if you follow them. I mean, anybody can read a Pinterest quote, right? But if you live it, that’s a different story.
Blackhawk is in the midst of reinventing itself. Josh Waldron, who founded and ran SilencerCo, took the reins as president last year.
No more yelling
Note in particular that we’re no longer yelling “Blackhawk!” — as the exclamation point has been excised from the over two-decades old brand. It’s emblematic of the new leadership at Blackhawk and the revitalization they wish to propagate throughout the company. Waldron’s been pushing hard to transform the company’s culture and brand, build a passionate team, and release innovative products.
So it’s fitting that the first full-scale product launch from the new team is the Blackhawk T-Series, a new line of retention holsters and successor to Blackhawk’s ubiquitous and controversial Serpa holsters.
The type of retention provided by holsters is commonly referred to as ranging from level 1 to 3 (or 4). A level 1 holster only has passive retention, whereby friction keeps the pistol in place in the holster. Most concealed carry holsters are in this category. Level 2 holsters add active retention on top of friction, using some sort of mechanism that the user must actively disengage before they can draw their weapon. This could be a thumb break snap, as you might find on a leather holster, or some sort of button or lever. A typical application for this type of holster is law enforcement or open carry, as it provides additional security against someone accessing your sidearm. A level 3 holster adds yet another retention mechanism, such as a hood; these in particular are commonly used by uniformed law enforcement officers.
The highlight of the new T-Series system is its thumb-actuated retention release. By simply acquiring your master grip on the gun, your thumb naturally falls on the release lever. Pushing inward toward the gun with your thumb, as you would as you acquire your grip anyway, releases a spring-loaded trigger guard lock and allows you to draw the weapon. The release lever can only be accessed from directly above, making it more secure in a potential scuffle.
The level 3 duty holster version features a secondary retention mechanism, a spring-loaded rotating strap that loops behind the pistol’s slide. Whereas some other holster systems require two separate motions to clear the first and second retention, the T-Series releases both the trigger guard lock and the strap in one fell swoop by pressing the thumb lever.
The polymer holster benefits from a two-stage manufacturing process that results in a strong Nylon exoskeleton with a soft-touch elastomeric inner liner that’s waterproof, slippery, and noise-dampening.
As commonly found on concealment holsters, a screw adjusts the friction provided for passive retention. It tightens or loosens the holster to your preference. The backside of the holster features Blackhawk’s three-hole pattern to attach belt loops, spacers, and quick detach attachments. The hole pattern allows you to configure the holster vertically or with a forward or backward rake. The offset belt loop on our sample was robust (much more so than Blackhawk’s mass market belt loops and paddles) and can be screwed down to bite into a belt rig.
Removing the derp from the Serpa situation
In our range session with the T-Series holster, we found the thumb-actuated release to work well and to be very intuitive. The primary adjustment we had to make was to make sure to keep our thumb vertical when grabbing the gun rather than sweeping the thumb into place; the latter would result in hitting the shields around the lever and fumbling the draw. Additionally, we also had to adjust to the lack of a speed cut on the front of the sample holster, which fully shields the entire slide and rear sights.
The new system addresses key complaints about the Serpa system. First, the trigger finger isn’t tasked with any other job than simply being a trigger finger. There’s even a relief molded into the outside of the holster to guide your trigger finger safely. Instead, the thumb releases the retention, and it does so in a very intuitive motion for quick and efficient draws. Second, if you pull up on your gun before depressing the release on a Serpa, it stays locked. The T-Series will release the retention when the lever is pressed whether or not you’re yanking on it like a teenage boy. Finally, the Serpa’s retention latch is susceptible to locking up when clogged with debris. We’ve observed this ourselves during some training evolutions years ago. Blackhawk says the new T-Series has additional clearance specifically for debris and a different spring design to avoid this problem.
We also noticed that the new materials did mute the distinctive sounds of holstering and unholstering. It was by no means ninja-quiet, but certainly wasn’t as loud as typical kydex or polymer holsters.
Blackhawk put a lot of thought and attention to detail into the design and manufacturing of the T-Series. This bodes well for the new Blackhawk, with or without an exclamation point.
The T-Series will initially be available for Glocks and in black, with support for additional pistols to come later in the year as well as variants with a speed cut that will be red dot compatible and options for weapon-mounted lights.
In the social media age, U.S. military planners know it is near impossible to move large equipment, like ships and aircraft, without being spotted and having the activity broadcast to the world.
As the Defense Department continues to posture itself to counter China and Russia, one Air Force command is strategizing ways to throw off the enemy by doing everything in plain sight, according to the top general for the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command.
“That may mean not going into the predictable places or setting up new predictable places,” Gen. Maryanne Miller said. Miller spoke with Military.com during a trip with Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein to the base here.
Executing that strategy could be as simple as sending a C-5 Supergalaxy aircraft instead of a C-17 Globemaster III, on a cargo mission, or by placing cargo in spots the U.S. typically doesn’t operate in, making movements more difficult for observers to interpret.
US Air Force C-5 in flight.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Brett Snow)
“An example is, if you drive by a 7-11 [store], is that really a 7-11, or what’s really going on in there?” Miller said. “We land places all the time. You can land at MidAmerica [St. Louis] Airport and there may be some customers that are using some of those hangars that do some very special things. But yet when you see that place operate every day, it looks normal.”
She continued, “We need the capacity and the capability to just get to where we need to get to, [and that may be] off the beaten track sometimes.”
The initiative is part of a larger effort to actually shrink the Air Force’s footprint while expanding its reach, added Goldfein. The service has been working on modular bases that would act as small hubs designed to house a quick-reaction force. The Air Force has conducted exercises in Eastern Europe in recent months to see how effectively it can build up, tear down and move to get closer to a potential crisis.
The Air Force may also be able to make use of positions and infrastructure not designed for military purposes.
US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III.
(US Air Force photo)
“For me, the number one [thing] is, ‘Do we have the right amount of basing and access to be able to perform the global mobility mission?'” Goldfein said. “The global mobility mission requires a number of bases … military and civilian, that we routinely exercise and use. Because in a time of crisis or conflict, you don’t want to start building your basing access at that point. You actually have to have it.”
The Defense Logistics Agency, for example, is working fuel contracts with civilian ports to get more fuel access for Air Force planes, he said.
“We’re going to all these different places all the time to make sure that we can move an airplane; every three minutes, there’s somebody taking off or landing to do that,” Goldfein said.
There are also lessons to be learned from close international partners, Goldfein said.
For example, “India, in the global mobility business, actually operates the highest-altitude C-17 operations on the planet,” Goldfein said.
“We have a lot to learn from India in high altitude and mobility operations. And we have a lot to offer India when it comes to global mobility and how we operate back and forth. So that’s one example where … we’re more competitive because we … build trust and confidence at a different level,” Goldfein said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Days later, another Flanker mimicked the move over the same waters, zooming in front of a P-8 and exposing the sub hunter aircraft to its jet exhaust.
Top U.S. officials in Europe and the Defense Department said the incidents involved Russian pilots behaving in an unsafe, unprofessional manner. Experts argue that, while the intercepts expose a pattern of behavior from the Russian military, they also show that Russia is willing to capitalize on the publicity the aerial maneuvers bring, even during a global pandemic.
The Russian military “feels as if it’s necessary to let everybody know that they’re still on the world stage, that they’re still on the scene, and that they have pretty good military power,” said retired Gen. Frank Gorenc, the former commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe. Gorenc, an F-15 Eagle pilot, headed the command during Russia’s annexation of Crimea, when the U.S. sent sophisticated aircraft such as the F-22 Raptor to the theater in show-of-force missions to deter Russian aggression.
“It’s not only the pandemic, which obviously is keeping the western countries occupied, but also the oil [crash] too,” he said in an interview this week.
In recent weeks, Russia, one of the world’s leading oil exporters, was also hit by the unprecedented collapse in the market for crude oil.
“Declining powers have to do [something],” Gorenc said.
Opportunity to Go Viral
Unlike the Cold War, when pilots would return to their squadron and file a debrief of an aerial intercept, then simply move along to their next mission, being buzzed or barrel-rolled is gaining more visibility with the help of social media, said Doug Barrie, senior fellow for military aerospace for the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London-based think tank.
“You know, it goes kind of viral,” Barrie said. “So you wonder if there’s an element of that, of how it plays on social media and in wider Western media, whether or not if it’s valuable.”
Notably, the recent incidents involved Russia’s multi-role Su-35 fighter jet, which has received improvements over the last few years — a significant upgrade from other aircraft used in past intercepts, such as the Su-27 Flanker or the Su-24 Fencer, Barrie said.
“It’s perhaps unsurprising that these aircraft have been bumped into [the rotation] more often than we’ve previously seen them; the imagery of the Flanker is great,” he said.
“The Su-35 is a highly capable airplane that they produce,” Gorenc added. “They’re obviously … trying to sell it. And this is a good way to show it off.”
Gorenc stressed that, while these incidents tend to flare up once in a while, pilots need to stick to the rules of engagement and try to be as predictable as possible.
The 1972 bilateral Russia-U.S. agreement “Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas,” followed by Incidents at Sea Agreement (INCSEA), are accords that establish basic “rules of the road” for both countries to safely navigate near one another.
Holding Russia accountable for its behavior in international airspace can be tricky, Barrie explained. “To some extent, these things are difficult to kind of legislate around because it really comes down to the units, the pilots [and their behavior],” he said.
More often than not, intercepts are conducted in a safe manner, but errors happen because of a loss of communication or a human or technical mistake, officials have said.
For example, then-Gen. Petr Pavel, the former chairman of the NATO Military Committee, told reporters in 2018 that most aerial scrambles are seen as “routine.”
“From time to time, we can see some measures as provocative, especially in the areas that we exercise … both to the ships and in the air,” he said. “But it’s up to the captain [or pilot] to judge if it’s dangerous or not.”
Last week, Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, NATO supreme commander and head of U.S. European Command, described the first incident on April 15 as the result of “unprofessional” conduct by a Russian fighter pilot acting on his own, rather than a deliberate attempt by Moscow to provoke an incident.
“My conclusion at this point is that it was probably something more along the lines of unprofessional as opposed to deliberate,” Wolters said April 16.
“Given the unpredictability, you have to make sure that you maintain a safe distance and don’t assume anything. Don’t assume that they even see you, because they may not see you,” Gorenc said.
Not Backing Down
Like the U.S., it’s unlikely that Russia will back down from what it sees as military priorities despite the pandemic, Barrie said.
“We’re not completely dissimilar. … You can see the messaging coming out of these NATO nations, including the U.S., which says, ‘OK, we recognize a pandemic is an enormous problem … but [we’re still] taking care of the day-to-day national security needs,'” he said.
Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, head of U.S. Northern Command, told reporters Tuesday that the U.S. military should be mindful that rivals like Russia will look to test any weaknesses among the U.S. and its allies during the coronavirus crisis.
“We are postured and maintain that ability to respond at a moment’s notice,” he said.
On Friday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper renewed the message. “Our adversaries are not standing down,” he said. “We will continue to make sure that the [Defense Department] is ready to protect the USA.”
Barrie added: “The Russian Su-35 incident, in part, is simply a reflection of that [response]. It is simply a reflection of Russia doing what it does.”
Three days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Capt. Colin Kelly, Jr. was set to fly over Taiwan in his B-17 Flying Fortress in one of the first American counter attacks of World War II. Kelly was stationed on Luzon, in the Philippines and survived the massive Japanese attack on that island nation as well. Kelly died after attacking a Japanese heavy cruiser, one of the first casualties of the Pacific War and the first graduate of the United States Military Academy to die in combat.
He was also one of the first heroes of the Army Air Corps in World War II – and President Roosevelt would not forget him.
Instead of Taiwan, the 26-year-old pilot dropped a bomb load on the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Ashigara as it supported the landing invasion forces on Luzon. He was immediately swarmed by Japanese Zeros. The B-17 pilot never had a chance. Before he could bail out, the plane exploded with Kelly inside. He stayed at the controls so his crew could bail out.
This painting of Colin Kelly, Jr. hangs in the Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
“Out of ammunition, I flew alongside the B-17 and saw the pilot trying to save the burning aircraft after allowing his crew to escape,” a Japanese pilot who was over Luzon that day remembered. “I have tremendous respect for him.” Kelly was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross
Americans responded to the news of Colin Kelly’s death by setting up a fund for his son’s education, once he reached college age. But one person in particular wanted to make sure the son of America’s first World War II hero had the chance to do whatever he wanted in life.
That person was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
When watching a movie like Saving Private Ryan for the first time, I scoffed at the idea that someone so high up in the government would be able to watch a situation like World War II from the ivory tower of the White House and have such a granular effect on the individuals affected by the war. And maybe President Roosevelt didn’t have time for everyone, but for Colin Kelly III, Capt. Kelly’s son, he sure did.
Roosevelt penned a letter to the future, specifically, to the future President of the United States in 1956. That would be the year Colin Kelly III would start looking for a university and Roosevelt want to ensure he did everything he could for the boy.
I am writing this letter as an act of faith in the destiny of our country. I desire to make a request which I make in full confidence that we shall achieve a glorious victory in the war we now are waging to preserve our democratic way of life.
My request is that you consider the merits of a young American youth of goodly heritage—Colin P. Kelly, III—for appointment as a Cadet in the United States Military Academy at West Point. I make this appeal in behalf of this youth as a token of the Nation’s appreciation of the heroic services of his father, who met death in line of duty at the very outset of the struggle which was thrust upon us by the perfidy of a professed friend.
In the conviction that the service and example of Captain Colin P. Kelly, Jr., will be long remembered, I ask for this consideration in behalf of Colin P. Kelly, III.
1956 just so happened to be Ike’s re-election year.
“Most people in my parents’ generation or a bit older or younger seem readily to remember being deeply touched by what President Roosevelt did for the infant son of the young pilot killed in the Pacific,” Colin Kelly III later wrote for theNew York Times. “It was one of the first actions of F.D.R. as the wartime President, a special White House ceremony in which he personally signed the papers appointing me to the Academy.”
In 1956, that future President was President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Ike received FDR’s letter, read it, and honored the request of his Presidential predecessor – but Colin Kelly III didn’t accept the appointment, he decided to earn his place at West Point, competing with the other potential plebes and graduating in the class of 1963.
The younger Kelly spent his time in the Army as a tank commander in West Germany. After his time in the service was up, he left and went to divinity school, only to return to the U.S. Army as a chaplain, saying
“The Lord called me when I was 14, but I believed I was called to complete my West Point opportunity first.”
Like father, like son. West Point graduates and U.S. Army Captains Colin P. Kelly.
Kelly was too young to remember his heroic father, but his memory lived on through the people that knew him best: neighbors, relatives, and close friends. Over the years, Colin Kelly got to know his father through their eyes while making his own way through life, still following in his father’s footsteps.
The United Nations has introduced a treaty that it believes will eventually lead to the total elimination of nuclear weapons. A recent watchdog report said the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is a historically significant effort that’s gaining traction, which highlights the profound power imbalance between the few nuclear powers and the many countries without the devastating weapons.
“The rate of adherence to the TPNW is faster than for any other weapons-of-mass-destruction (WMD) treaty,” the report says.
But with an estimated 14,485 extant nuclear weapons, total elimination is more of a long-term goal.
This is an overview of the nine nuclear-armed states and the 31 nuclear-weapon-endorsing states — countries that do not develop or possess nuclear weapons but rely on another nuclear-armed state for protection.
All of these countries would need to make profound changes to reach the UN goal of a nuclear-weapons-free world.
The Russian Federation has an estimated 6,850 nuclear weapons in its arsenal.
Armenia and Belarus, who both rely on Russia’s arsenal for “umbrella” protections, stand in violation of TPNW.
Russia is also only one of three nations to possess a nuclear “triad,” which includes intercontinental ballistic-missile delivery.
A nuclear “triad” refers to a nation’s ability to deploy its nuclear arsenal through intercontinental ballistic missiles, sea-launched ballistic missiles, and strategic bombers, as defined by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, an advisory board that conducts research and provides analysis to encourage diplomacy.
The US is the only country to detonate nuclear weapons against an enemy, as it did in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks against Japan in August 1945.
The US has agreed to potentially use its nuclear weapons to protect NATO member states, as well as Japan, Australia and South Korea.
Because of these agreements, all 29 NATO member states, and the three who hold bilateral protection agreements with the US, are in violation of TPNW.
The US, which has a nuclear arsenal that’s nearly the size of Russia’s, is the only nation in the western hemisphere that possesses nuclear weapons, and one of three countries to possess the nuclear “triad.”
The US is also the only nation in the world to store nuclear weapons in other countries.
According to the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor, the US is believed to store some 180 nuclear weapons in other countries.
This number has been “significantly reduced since the Cold War,” according to the report.
The United Kingdom can only launch its nuclear weapons from its four Vanguard-class submarines.
The United Kingdom is a NATO member state and shares in the umbrella protections of the alliance.
The kingdom maintains at least one nuclear-armed submarine on patrol at all times, under a Continuous at Sea Defense Posture, according to NWBM.
British policy also states that the country will not threaten the use of nuclear weapons against any “non-nuclear weapons state.”
A French Air Force Dassault Rafale fighter jet.
The French Dassault Rafale fighter jet can deploy a nuclear weapon with a warhead 20 times the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
France, also a NATO member state, can only deliver its nuclear weapons via aircraft and submarines.
The ASMP-A is a 300-kiloton warhead, approximately 20 times the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, at the end of World War II.
If a warhead of that size were to drop over Washington, DC, it would result in approximately 280,000 casualties.
Israel maintains a policy of “opacity,” while other nations promise not to use their nukes against countries that don’t have them.
China possesses a nuclear “triad,” but has agreed not to employ nuclear weapons against any nation in a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone, which include Latin American and Caribbean nations, as well as some in Africa, the South Pacific and Central Asia.
US-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies reported 13 undeclared missile bases in North Korea.
Although North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has publicly proclaimed a desire to denuclearize the entire Korean peninsula, there is no evidence that he has made any attempt to do so.
Reports vary as to the size of the North Korean nuclear arsenal. While the monitor follows conventional views that the country possesses 10 to 20 nukes, The Washington Post has previously reported that it may hold up to 60, citing confidential US assessments.
Negev Nuclear Research Center in Israel is said to have produced enough plutonium for 100 to 200 nuclear warheads.
Israel has never publicly admitted to possession of nuclear weapons.
Nevertheless, the international community operates on the assumption that since its inception, Israel has developed and maintained a nuclear arsenal.
The size of Israel’s cache remains unclear, and though it is possible that the nation holds enough enriched plutonium for 100 to 200 warheads, the NWBM accepts estimates from the Federation of American Scientists, which show that Israel possesses approximately 80 nuclear weapons.
The next Cold War may be between India and Pakistan, neither of which will back down its nuclear stance.
Attempts to develop intercontinental and submarine-launched nuclear missiles indicate that India may soon possess the nuclear “triad.”
Mainly due to tensions with Pakistan, some experts have questioned whether India’s “no first-use” posture will endure.
Pakistan can deliver its nuclear weapons from the ground and air and is allegedly developing methods of sea-based delivery to complete the nuclear “triad.”
Despite facing sanctions, Pakistan is reportedly expanding its nuclear arsenal faster than any other nation.
Similar to British policy, Pakistan claims it will not use or threaten to use its nuclear arsenal against any “non-nuclear” state, leaving many questions unanswered on the potential use against neighbor India, which also maintains nuclear weapons.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Helicopters have long been valuable to the military for a bevy of reasons — perhaps most importantly because they expand where you can put troops down. For these versatile aircraft, landing zones can be just about any clearing that a helicopter can fit.
Sometimes, however, the best option may not be to land the helicopter at all. Why? For one thing, when a helicopter is touching down to drop off troops, it’s vulnerable. As it hovers in place, it is, for all intents and purposes, a sitting duck. So, when it’s time to put boots on the ground, a bird is sometimes better off delivering paratroopers.
The CH-47 Chinook is a very good fit for that mission. Boeing notes that this helicopter has a mission radius of 200 nautical miles, far enough to get some Rangers or Green Berets well behind enemy lines. A single helicopter can hold up to 55 troops (or 12 tons of cargo). And, to top it all off, its rear ramp is similar to those on the C-130 and C-17, both planes used by paratroopers
U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade, along with British, French, Spanish and Italian Paratroopers, board a 12th Combat Aviation Brigade CH-47 Chinook helicopter for an airborne operation at Juliet Drop Zone in Pordenone, Aviano, Italy.
(U.S Army photo by Graigg Faggionato)
One reason this is so valuable is that America has a lot of Chinooks. Between CH-47D/F and MH-47G helicopters, the United States Army has 483 Chinooks on hand with another 40 on order, making for a grand total of 523 airframes. By comparison, the United States Air Force has a total of 204 C-130H and 115 C-130J airframes on hand, with another 62 C-130Js on order. These accompany 60 MC-130H/Js on hand with another 43 on order. That’s a total of 484 C-130s.
For those unfamiliar with the whole “math” thing, 523 is greater than 484.
From a C-130? No, these paratroopers came from a Chinook.
(U.S Army photo by Graigg Faggionato)
But how does one make a successful jump from a Chinook? Well, it’s actually not much different than jumping from a fixed-wing plane. Normal paratroopers will hook up a static line that will automatically open their parachutes. Free-fall parachutists can just run out the back ramp (again, just as you would from a fixed-wing plane).
Watch the video to below to see troops from the 173rd Airborne Brigade carry out some practice jumps from a Chinook!
Love them or hate them, military balls are a right of passage for each member and their significant other. Dressing up, eating the food (and then grabbing McDonalds on your way home) and awkwardly making small talk with those at your table — this is a sacred and honored tradition that still reigns throughout military branches today. Whether you embrace each ball and plan it for months in advance, or show up last minute, kicking and screaming, it’s a common tradition we know all too well.
Take a look at these memes that outline just how the night will likely play out.
When being voluntold gets pricey.
Don’t forget about the cash bar.
Be on the lookout for cadets, errr ummm, privates at all times.
When their jam comes on, get OUT of the way.
Spouses are thankful to get their glam on.
Tomorrow, back to look one.
The crew who should’ve double checked their look.
But the people watching is excellent.
As are the conversations overheard in the bathroom.
For their sake, you’re hoping that’s true.
And then there’s things that make you say, “But whyyy??”
Also, is this legal?
The crew who takes tipsy to a whole new level.
Bless them and their Sunday hangovers.
You might not be sure about your choice of dinner.
Snack before you go. No matter what.
It’s a look.
We aren’t sure if he likes it or not.
But you’re sure to have good stories in the morning.
Just remember, on Monday, they never happened.
Military balls are bound to be a night for the books. Whatever your favorite part about the event, remember to keep it classy. While technically it’s a party, it’s also a work party, with bosses in tow.
What’s your most memorable event about a past military ball? Let us know below.