There’s always at least one in every unit. That one idiot who ruins everything for the rest of us. In the military, these clowns are given the moniker of “Blue Falcon.” Essentially, it’s a more professional way of calling someone a “buddy f*cker.”
But, no matter how much of a screw-up they are, you’re going to be stuck with them until they ETS or PCS out of the unit, so it’s best if you just learn how to deal with them in one way or another.
Of course, there are varying degrees of buddy f*cking. So, think of the following guidelines as an escalation of force for handling douchebags.
Learning the art of “NMFP,” or “Not My F*cking Problem,” will take you far.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron Henson)
1. Walk away from problematic Blue Falcons
Nine times out of ten, it’s best to just move on. It’s not worth the time nor the effort to deal with some people. That’s not to say you should quickly forgive and forget (if it was a case of accidental Blue Falconing, maybe), but, in general, you should just brush it off and carry on with your day.
There’s literally ten thousand other things to worry about in the military. Don’t worry about what some jerk is doing — let their NCO handle it.
How polite that conversation is depends on you.
(U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Virginia Lang)
2. Talk it out
Rarely do troops actually try to be a Blue Falcon. Screwing over the people who’re supposed to have your back in combat is never a good idea. If someone you’ve known for years starts dabbling in Falconry, settle it like adults. Talk to them and find out what’s really going on — and why they f*cked you over.
You’ll find that, most times, it’s unintentional and being the bigger person in the situation will help everyone move on.
Demonstrate your salt by leaving them high and dry during a working party.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexis B. Betances)
3. Shun them
This level of punishment is reserved for the perpetual Blue Falcon. The dude who has proved time and time again that they just can’t get right. The dude who’s still living the “Army of One” mentality. The dude who’s constantly complaining like it’d have any kind of effect on the level of suck that’s in store. Ignore them at every corner.
Psychologically speaking, people can’t stand being ignored and shunning them, as passive as it may seem, is actually a good way to instill social norms. When they get right, you can welcome them back into the fold. Until then, you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life or the unit.
You can enjoy it, but don’t take it too far and Blue Falcon someone else in the process.
(National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy McGuire, JTF-DC)
4. Play the Blue Falcon game
“Two can play at that game.” If they haven’t been doing anything that is strictly forbidden by the UCMJ but is still annoying or inconvenient, give ’em a taste of their own medicine.
If they want to rat on you for swinging by the gas station before going to motor pool, get them when they do the same. If they want to show up 10 minutes late for a working party and you have to pick up the slack, put about ten minutes of your time on their plate.
Then again, this only works if they’re actually breaking any rules.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Hughes)
5. Administrative action
Not ratting on your boys is one thing — but this dude isn’t your boy. The first handful of cases, keep it in house, but if they continually demonstrate behaviors detrimental to the unit, you could face UCMJ action for not speaking up.
Don’t get caught up in whatever sh*tstorm avalanche is about to hit the Blue Falcon of the bunch. Toss that responsibility up the chain of command at least one level to save your own skin when that moment inevitably comes.
Whether you actually get your NCO’s approval before putting that sucker in an armbar is on you…
(U.S Army photo by Sgt. Leo Jenkins)
6. Feed Blue Falcons their teeth
Do this in an appropriate manner, of course — it’d be irresponsible for us to advocate the ass kicking of anyone, no matter how much they deserve it. Just because someone could desperately use a swift, stern reminder of how to act, you shouldn’t face administrative actions to make it happen.
For obvious reasons, this one should be a final resort.
Convince an NCO to set up a combatives or MCMAP class for PT and take your frustrations out on that buddy f*cker. If you’re going this far, there’ll probably even be a line…
Bass, a Belgian Malinois, served more than six years in Marine Corps special operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia. During his time in Iraq, Bass conducted more than 350 explosive detections with his handler, Staff Sgt. Alex Schnell.
On Nov. 14, 2019, Bass was awarded the Medal of Bravery on Capitol Hill for his work with the Marines. The award, the first of its kind, was issued by Angels Without Wings, a nonprofit aiming to formally acknowledge valor of working animals at home and abroad. The Medal of Bravery was inspired by the Dickin Medal, a British award introduced in WWII to honor brave animals who served in combat.
The efforts of dogs in the military has received greater attention in recent weeks since Conan, another Belgian Malinois, helped hunt down Islamic State leader Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi — the most wanted terrorist in the world. But Bass and Conan are two of many military working dogs who sniff out bombs, track down bad guys and assist troops on a wide range of missions overseas. Dogs and other animals have always supported troops in combat.
Staff Sgt. Alex Schnell, with Bass on patrol in Somalia.
Bass was joined Thursday by Bucca, a dog that served with the New York City Fire Department. Bucca also received the Medal of Bravery and six posthumous medals were awarded to Cher Ami, a pigeon [WWI]; Chips, a dog, and GI Joe, a pigeon [WWII]; Sgt. Reckless, a horse [Korean War]; Stormy, a dog [Vietnam War], and Lucca, a dog [Iraq and Afghanistan wars].
In Somalia, Bass was involved in at least a dozen operations for high-value targets. Special operations units relied heavily on Bass to detect explosives. In Afghanistan, Bass was used to conduct 34 raids for high-profile individuals and lead troops during dangerous building clearings. Through Bass’ four deployments across three countries, there were no Marine fatalities on his missions, according to the dog’s award citation.
When special operators clear a building, the dog can be the first one through the door to attack and make it safer for troops to enter quickly to kill or detain enemies.
Staff Sgt. Alex Schnell kneels next to Bass, after the dog was awarded the Medal of Bravery for valor in combat.
(Steve Beynon/Stars and Stripes)
“The dog is often used like a flashbang,” Schnell said. “The dog will enter first because a lot of times it’ll distract the enemy. Especially if it’s dark, it’s hard for them [the enemy] to pick up on the dog. It gives you those seconds that are really valuable in that dangerous situation.”
Beyond attacking terrorists, Bass has also routed out enemy fighters from hiding spots.
“His nose isn’t just for finding stuff [explosives, drugs], it’s for finding personnel,” Schnell said. “They [enemies] have hiding holes and tunnels in these buildings. It’s an awesome capability.”
Bass retired from active duty in October 2019 and was adopted by Schnell. However, bringing a military working dog home isn’t for everyone, and Belgian Malinois is a tough high energy breed that Schnell doesn’t recommend as a family pet.
“They are definitely not chihuahuas,” he said. “They are not for your average homeowners, especially for those that don’t know anything about dog training. If you’re going to buy one of these animals definitely research fully trained ones and that you know a bit about dog training yourself, or these dogs will control your whole life and possibly lead you to euthanize or get rid of them. That isn’t good for anyone or the dog.”
Here are some of the efforts of the military animals who received awards other than dogs:
During World War I, hundreds of American troops were trapped behind enemy lines without food or ammunition and were beginning to receive friendly fire from artillery units that didn’t know their location. A pigeon named Cher Ami was able to carry a message to stop the artillery despite being shot by German troops. The bird was blinded in one eye and lost a leg.
During World War II, another pigeon known as GI Joe carried a message that prevented a potentially devastating friendly fire tragedy. Allied forces planned a bombing campaign on an Italian town. However, it was occupied by British troops. GI Joe flew 20 miles in about 20 minutes to rely the message friendly forces occupied the town just before bombing planes took off.
Staff Sgt. Reckless, a pack horse for Marines during the Korean War, quickly became as well treated as the troops. She roamed freely around camp and would even sleep in tents with Marines on cold nights. In one battle, the horse made 51 solo trips, covering more than 30 miles, to resupply front-line units with ammunition. Reckless was wounded twice by shrapnel.
This article originally appeared on Stars and Stripes. Follow @starsandstripes on Twitter.
Ask anyone who plays a team sport and they’ll tell you it’s impossible to win every game. Even professional athletes don’t perform as well as you’d hope each time they step foot on the field. It’s the same with enlisted troops. In a perfect world, every single troop would show up, try their best, and complete tasks with a ten-star rating. Unfortunately, such a world doesn’t exist.
Instead, the real world is filled with flawed human beings who, no matter how much training they receive, are bound to f*ck up from time to time.
We’re betting he can’t see very well.
When troops look like a ‘soup sandwich’ in uniform
Having a spec of dirt on your tie or a slightly lopsided ribbon rack is one thing, but forgetting how to wear a uniform altogether is another story.
When you get a call at 0300 informing you that one of your troops got a DUI
We’ve heard stories of some leadership informing local authorities to not call them until right before formation if one of their troops is in trouble. True story.
When they ask a dumb question during a Q&A with the battalion commander
Every unit has “that guy.” You know, the one who doesn’t have a working brain or, worse, a working filter? For some reason, they always ask the dumbest questions. We’ve got scientists working around the clock to figure out why.
When troops fall out of PT
On the flip side, this one makes everyone else look great — except leadership.
When the short-timer shows up wearing the wrong uniform
It happens. And while seeing a trooper show up wearing the wrong uniform is a little funny, it also shows everybody that there might be a communication breakdown somewhere.
When they fall out of a hike
A troop falling out is embarrassing for the entire unit, especially when its done in a public setting, like a company hike.
When they cut unnecessary corners
The military prides itself on producing solid work and getting the job done right. So, when a troop gets lazy and decides to cut corners, the final product probably won’t be worth sh*t. Don’t get us wrong, we all enjoy shortcuts, but there’s a time and a place for that.
(Photo by Sgt. Brian Calhoun)
When they break something very expensive
This should be pretty obvious because their seniors are going to have to explain why a troop even had the expensive equipment at their disposal in the first place.
We brought you the best COVID-19 memes on the internet… and just when we thought we couldn’t make any more memes, or laugh at them for that matter, we realized the absurdity of trying to homeschool and work and exist and teach and cook and Zoom and do it all for the foreseeable future.
May the odds be ever in your favor, homeschooling parents. We’re sending you all our virtual vibes. And drink of choice.
1. I dunno
Fake it ’til you make it, bud.
2. All the options
Sometimes there are no good options.
3. Scribble scrabble
Wear masks. But maybe not outside at recess. But maybe at recess. But not if you’re eating at your desk. But what if you’re eating at recess?
4. Hold your breath
You’ll probably only lose your voice though if the kids stay home.
5. Poor Billy Madison
Nah, just put on Hamilton.
6. Screen time
To be fair, Netflix has some great educational programs. I mean how else would you teach business practices other than letting your kids watch Narcos?
7. Schedules are important
7:00: Kids console crying parents.
No really, everything is fine!
9. 90s kids
To be fair, Zack Morris practically babysat us.
Hilarious but DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!
At least this kid has on pants.
12. Wishes for fishes
Pour all your money into the fountains, people.
Make sure your kids have a red stapler…
We’ll never forget 2020. As much as we’d like to.
Be careful what you make fun of!
There’s that growth mindset…
Nothing to see here.
Where’s Jenny when you need her?
Homeschooling parents: Really putting the “win” in wine.
It’s been a long five months. No judgement here, Marge.
21. Tiger King
We wanted to love it. We really did.
But to be fair… who does?
Well at least your kids will learn something about science as they watch you age…
Whether you’re sending your kids back in person in full PPE or prepping for virtual learning, we’re wishing all of your kids (and all of our teachers!) a great school year… and fast internet, well-lit makeshift classrooms and lots of patience. Here’s to you, parents and educators!
Two ranks occupy the same pay grade in the U.S. Army, the specialist and the corporal. The difference between the two isn’t always as clear to other members of the military from other branches.
In short, the difference between the two E-4 grades is that one is considered a non-commissioned officer while the other is not. The corporal will go to the NCO training school while the specialist might not. In practice, the corporal outranks a specialist and will be treated as an NCO by the soldiers below him or her. The specialist is still an E-4 level expert at his or her MOS.
That’s why a specialist is also known as a “sham shield” — all the responsibility of a private grade with all the pay of a corporal. Now that you know the gist of the difference, you’ll see why this Quora response is the best response ever — and why only a veteran of the U.S. Army could have written it.
When someone on Quora asked about the difference between these two ranks that share a pay grade, one user, Christopher Aeneadas, gave the most hilarious response I’ve ever seen. He served in the Army from 1999-2003 in signals intelligence. Having once been both a specialist and a corporal, he had firsthand knowledge of the difference, which he describes in detail:
A Full Bird Private has reached the full maturity of a Junior Enlisted Soldier. That magnificent specimen is the envy of superiors and subordinates alike.
The Sham Shield is the mark of the one who has taken the first steps toward enlightenment.
The Specialist knows all and does nothing.
The first two Noble Truths of Buddhism are:
The First Noble Truth – Unsatisfactoriness and suffering exist and are universally experienced.
The Second Noble Truth – Desire and attachment are the causes of unsatisfactoriness and suffering.
The Full Bird Private understands that to cease suffering, one must give up the desire to attend the Basic Leader Course (BLC).
A soldier can live for many years in harmony with his squad and his command if he simply forgets his attachment to promotion. There is wisdom in this.
In the distant past, there were even greater enlighted souls. Specialist ranks only whispered of today: Spec-5s and Spec-6s. Some even reached the apotheosis of Specialist E-7!
Mourn with me that their quiet, dignified path is lost to soldiers today.
The Corporal is a soldier of ambition.
They have accepted pain without pay.
They have taken duty without distinction.
Whether they are to be pitied or admired is an open question. I take it on a case-by-case basis.
They hung those damned chevrons on me unofficially for a time. I guess they caught on that I liked my Specialist rank a bit much.
Service members often encounter physical, psychological, and emotional adversity when protecting the freedoms this country was founded on. The injuries sustained both on and off duty require recovery in many forms – including physical competitions, religious programs, community outreach opportunities, behavioral health, and more. Some may only need a surfboard and a wave to ride.
Veterans, recovering service members and their loved ones attended the 12th Annual Operation Amped Surf Camp at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Aug. 17-19, 2018. Operation Amped is a non-profit organization that promotes surf therapy to aid in the recovery of wounded, ill and injured veterans, and active-duty service members.
According to Joseph Gabunilas, Operation Amped co-founder, this program exists to provide a positive change in a participant’s future. Operation Amped accomplishes this by providing surf training once a year to wounded warriors, family members and veterans.
“It’s a good way to keep that negative stuff out of your mind while catching a wave,” said retired U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. David Simons, participant at Operation Amped. “Surfing has given me a goal, something to work towards and keep my focus straight.”
Recovering service members, veterans, volunteers, and their loved ones surf during the 12th Annual Operation Amped Surf Camp at San Onofre Beach at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Aug. 18, 2018.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Noah Rudash)
The organization, which began in September 2006, had helped nearly 300 recovering service members, veterans, and their loved ones. Along with the support and attendance of family members and friends, that number has now reached the thousands, said Gabunilas, who served in the U.S. Army. Having both the recovering service members and their loved ones in attendance, can provide the therapy needed to overcome the trials and tribulations they may be experiencing.
“Ocean therapy is good for the mindset,” said Simons. “It’s good for those that have difficult issues they’re dealing with.”
Recovering service members, veterans, volunteers, and their loved ones prepare to surf during the 12th Annual Operation Amped Surf Camp at San Onofre Beach at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Aug. 18, 2018.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Noah Rudash)
Some of the adversity these warriors face include the loss of fellow service members in and out of combat, overcoming pain and physical injury. For three days each year, with the support of organizations such as this one, participants move closer to recovery one wave at a time.
Provisions come from volunteers and supporters who donate surfboards, wetsuits, food, tents, and tables. Most importantly, they donate their time.
“This is my way of giving back,” said Gabunilas. “I served 21 years and this is another way I can give back to the brave men and women fighting for our country.”
This annual event drives a passion for surfing for some and provides a recreational outlet for warriors and their family members to enjoy while physically and mentally challenging themselves in the water. The next clinic is scheduled for summer 2019.
We love the commissary for so many things: their low, low prices, the friendly baggers who maintain an excellent poker face when you can’t find your car, the guarantee that if you’re wearing something nice you’ll run into no one and the day you have on sweatpants while your kids are losing their shit, you’ll see everyone you know. Ah, the commissary.
And now, here are 10 more reasons to love this perk. They have game day recipes.
Set it and forget it with this easy recipe that will surely impress your guests as much as a Mahomes comeback. Cook on low for seven hours or high for four, these lovely three pounds of meat are a gift that will keep on giving throughout the night.
If you’re feeling extra fancy, skip the store bought salsa and make your own. Since tortilla chips will almost definitely be on sale this weekend, give them the love they deserve with this easy to whip up dish.
We love a good casserole. It says “I tried and I love you, but I just didn’t really have time to roll individual enchiladas.” This is a classic with enough spice to keep it entertaining but mild enough that even the whiny nephew who always seems to be there, will eat it.
Tomatos, mozzarella, basil. These look fancy but they are something your 2nd grader could put together (from experience). The nice pop of color adds a little balance and nutrition to all of the cheese things you’re going to have.
No matter what branch you served in, this salsa is something you can get behind. With a sweetness from the peach but the spice from the jalapeños, you can eat this with as a dip, a topping on a steak or in your bed with a spoon like it’s ice cream. Like the baggers, we’re not here to judge.
What game would be complete without chili? Put it on your hot dogs if you like the meat sweats or eat it topped with cheese and Fritos and sour cream. You can’t go wrong with chili and this is a winner.
For many Americans, Memorial Day is a three-day weekend that kicks off the summer season with BBQs and parties — and it should be. Gathering with friends and loved ones is a special privilege we are fortunate enough to enjoy.
For many service members, veterans, and Gold Star Families, however, the weekend can carry some sadness. Memorial Day is, after all, a day to remember the fallen men and women who gave their lives in military service.
We all honor those we’ve lost in our own way. For U.S. Marine JP Guhns, it’s through music.
JP is no stranger to We Are The Mighty. He first landed on our radar as a finalist in our Mission: Music talent search. He also has four combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan under his belt, which significantly impacted his music.
“I’ve been a victim to suicide, said the Lord’s Prayer as we carried one of my Marine brothers to aid, been heartbroken by life, and prayed to pay the bills. I’ve fought the hard battles. I’ve cried through the nights of memories. Thank God I had friends and family to bring me through,” he shared on the Facebook launch of Good Friends and Whiskey (see video above).
JP isn’t the only veteran who shares military experiences through the arts — and he’s definitely not the only one who has been impacted by the loss of service members’ lives, home or overseas. This Memorial Day, as you enjoy some downtime and celebrate, maybe also take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices of the military, contribute to a veteran non-profit, or support troops like JP by checking out their art and hearing their stories.
In 2017, USAA invited five talented military musicians to Nashville to record at the legendary Ocean Way Studios. JP was one of those artists — and he really made the most of the opportunity. His latest song is both a tribute to the people who have been there for him as well as a message to anyone else out there who needs to know that they are not alone.
“To all my brothers and sisters in arms, rejoice the memories of our fallen, and let’s get back to living again.”
Attending military balls is one of those things that everyone has to do. Sure, they’re occasionally mandatory, but it’s great to see everyone in the unit unwind for a single night. Your first sergeant can get roaring drunk and tell everyone stories of when they were a young, dumb private and the specialist can flex on the butterbar for their lack of medals.
The one thing that everyone secretly dreads, however, is the grog bowl. It’s hilarious watching everyone in the unit have to stomach what is, essentially, the bottom-dwelling juices of a trash compactor, but no one actually wants to be the person next in line to grab a glass.
In essence, it’s a concoction of random things that are poured into a giant punch bowl (or, occasionally, an unused toilet). The chain of command usually grabs some random thing off the shelf and pours it in. Each addition is followed by some BS excuse — there’s a symbolic reasoning behind every addition.
For example, a unit at Fort Campbell might add in some Jack Daniel’s because the distillery isn’t too far from post and it’s kind of the unofficial drink of the 101st Airborne. You might also see someone throw coffee into the mix because of the many sleepless nights endured by troops in the unit. Those are awesome, fun additions — but you’ll you have to bite your tongue when something gross gets tossed in.
That’s all you, buddy.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Robin Cresswell)
Tabasco — to represent the blood shed by troops
This is the go-to mixer that seems to find a place in every unit’s grog bowl. If you’re a fan of spicy foods, it’s not that bad… in small doses, that is.
Unfortunately, the person adding the Tabasco won’t just add a few drops like they’re making a Bloody Mary. It’s almost always the entire bottle. Thankfully, just as it does with undesirable MREs, the taste of Tabasco will overpower the taste of the rest of the garbage — that’s why Tabasco is the best of the worst things in the grog.
Yep. It tastes like nothing.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jacob Massey)
Water — to represent the seas
On one hand, it’s great because the water is going to dilute whatever crap is in the bowl already. Each ounce of water offsets an ounce of garbage. On the other hand, it’s freakin’ water. It’s also going to dilute the good stuff that kind souls put in there.
There are kind souls out there that take pity on everyone who has to drink from the bowl and you’ll, on rare occasions, get a grog bowl that isn’t going to unintentionally poison the unit. Putting water in there is just going to ruin what was otherwise a reasonable sip.
Everything is forgiven if the salt is added in the style of Salt Bae.
A bunch of salt — to represent sweat
Just like Tabasco, salt would be fine in small doses but, just like Tabasco, salt is almost always poured in en masse. And, as you’ve probably guessed, it just makes everything salty.
This one is just lazy. At least you have to go to the store to buy a bottle of Tabasco. Usually, people just grab the salt shaker off the table in front of them and head up to the bowl.
Just because we ate our fair share of sand while deployed doesn’t mean we want to eat more of it stateside.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lt. Dave Hecht)
Sand — to represent the wars in the deserts
The rules dictating what kind of garbage you can put in the grog bowl typically limits the selection to things you’re willing to actually drink. This rules out, thankfully, things like battery acid. However, for some reason, this same logic doesn’t rule out sand.
Why? Because in the sandstorms of Iraq and Afghanistan, you’re going to unintentionally eat a lot of sand. Therefore, it must be okay to just drink sand, right? Wrong. Thankfully, if you’re just trying to screw everyone over, know that the sand will just sink to the bottom of the bowl and nobody will actually have to drink it.
At least pretend like you’re making an effort to be an asshole.
(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jacob Andrew Goff)
Milk — to represent… who knows, f*ck it.
There’s rarely any actual reasoning behind adding milk to the bowl. Now, if anyone were to say something along the lines of, “this is for the mothers that are waiting for us,” it’d make a little sense — but I just made that one up on the spot and have never heard it actually uttered at a ball.
It’s typically just tossed in because it’s readily available and someone didn’t want to spend time and effort on screwing everyone else over.
Same goes for putting old socks in it… jerk.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Adelita Mead)
A boot — to represent… hard work?
Come on. This one is just plain unhygienic. It’s rare that someone will spend the effort (or cash) to buy a fresh, never-worn, boot just to plop it in the grog bowl.
Sometimes, justice intervenes and whoever put their boot in the bowl will have to drink from their own footwear. Believe me, when that jerk ends up at sick call the next week, nobody’s shedding a tear.
The art of sniping is more than just proper cover, concealment and sight alignment; it demands vigilant situational awareness, flawless timing and solid arithmetic skills.
U.S. soldiers had a five-day Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) with Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers at a base outside of Amman, Jordan, in October 2019. The Military Engagement Team-Jordan (MET-J), 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard; in collaboration with Jordan Operational Engagement Program (JOEP) soldiers; 1st Squadron, 102nd Cavalry Regiment, 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 42nd Infantry Division, New Jersey National Guard.
“As a group, we [MET-J, JOEP] were able to collaborate and come up with a good exchange,” said U.S. Army Master Sgt. Johnny Vidrio, with MET-J, 158th MEB, AZANG, “The sniper field is a perishable skill so you have to use it a lot to retain it. We are working with the JAF to keep our exchanges going.”
A U.S. Army soldier, with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, adjusts the scope of a Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers’ rifle during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
Snipers are known for their specialization in shooting targets from long-range distances with a modified weapon, as well as their reconnaissance abilities. Vidrio, who served as the Sniper SMEE team lead, has more than 20 years’ experience with various weapons systems through his civilian and military occupations.
A U.S. Army Soldier, with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, discusses a mathematical equation with Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) Soldiers during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
Vidrio explained how the MET-J shared information on how the U.S. Army executes sniper tasks and in turn, the Jordanians shared their way of doing the same task. The exchange not only reviewed basic sniper skills but incorporated different approaches to instruct the material to other soldiers. The two nations were able to work through the Jordanians’ Basic Sniper Manuel which provided a platform for the Jordanian snipers to hone their basic skills and enhance their teaching techniques.
A rifle faces downrange during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange between Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, and the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
“The more you teach with a group, the more comfortable you will feel teaching by yourself,” explained Vidrio, “That’s what we were doing, helping them feel comfortable about teaching.”
MET-J facilitates and conducts military-to-military engagements with regional partners within the U.S. Army Central area of responsibility in order to build military partner capability and capacity, enhance interoperability and build relationships.
A Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) sniper looks downrange through a tactical monocular during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
Areas covered during the Sniper SMEE included setting up a comfortable firing position, weapons maintenance, correcting malfunctions, zeroing and determining wind values, to name a few. The snipers discussed how half value, full value, tail and headwinds affect the drift of a bullet. They examined techniques to find the directional movement of wind, such as observing the path of dust, smoke, trash or mirage waves, that are near an intended target. Target range estimation was calculated through a mathematical equation, but each nation used a different formula.
Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers practice setting up firing positions during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
“They [JAF] have a different calculation for range estimation, this was new to American snipers,” said Vidrio “We learned a whole new way of estimating distance and ranges.”
SMEEs allow open information flow and an opportunity for coalition soldiers to work together, learn and grow from one another, which is beneficial to both counties. The United States is committed to the security of Jordan and to partnering closely with the JAF to meet common security challenges.
Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers hold certificates of appreciation given to them by U.S. Army Soldiers after the completion of a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
One soldier who expressed favor in ongoing SMEEs with U.S. Army was JAF Sgt. 1st Class Ghareeb Alaomary, sniper instructor and logistics coordinator. He too specifically found value in the transfer of knowledge with the arithmetical equation calculations for target distance and range. “The mathematic equation formulas given [by the U.S.] were new information for us,” explained Alaomary, “It added to their [JAF snipers] knowledge to help make more accurate calculations.”
Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers pose for a photo after the completion of a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at Joint Training Center-Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
According to Alaomary, the exchange between the two countries was engaging and an abundance of wisdom was shared, which resulted in a successful exchange. They plan to take the knowledge gained through the Sniper SMEE back to their individual units to cross-train with their comrades.
“I would like to give a special thanks for the effort you [U.S. Army] have dedicated to the students and the valuable information you have provided,” said Alaomary.
A U.S. Army Soldier, with 1st Squadron, 102nd Cavalry Regiment, 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 42nd Infantry Division, New Jersey National Guard, looks downrange through a tactical monocular during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange between the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) and Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
The U.S. military has a long-standing relationship with Jordan to support our mutual objectives by providing military assistance to the JAF consistent with our national interests. Our people and governments have a historic, unbreakable, strategic relationship that spans decades and different administrations. Jordan is not only one of the United States’ closest allies in the region but in the world as a whole. This isn’t going to change.
The most popular origin story of the modern military salute dates back to the Roman Republic in 509 BCE. It’s a very compelling theory, but is it true? Let’s break it down.
It is said that during antiquity — sorry, the olden days — assassinations were common, so citizens and subordinates were required to approach officials with their fighting hand, the right hand, raised to demonstrate that it was not carrying a weapon. Others say that the Romans would slap their chest and raise their arm in tribute to demonstrate allegiance.
Not that this rules out the theories — they do make sense. Still, it wasn’t until the 1600s that English military records mention the salute, calling it a formal act that “was to be by removal of headdress.” In 1745, the procedure was amended to simply have troops “clap their hands to their hats and bow as they pass by.”
The British Army and, later, the Royal Air Force, would develop a salute with the palm facing outwards, but the Royal Navy began to turn their palm downwards, allegedly because the men working on ships had dirty palms and it was considered disrespectful to display them. One popular tale cites Queen Victoria as the one behind the downward-facing-palm, after she was saluted with a grimy hand.
When the United States declared its independence from the throne, we brought military customs across the Atlantic, and by the time of the Revolutionary War, the salute became the most expedient form of protocol. The USO reported that, according to the Armed Forces History Museum, today’s standard salute was in place by 1820.
That’s actually pretty solid, Angel.
Though there are a few variations between branches, overall, the United States military still maintains this salute today: right arm parallel with the floor, straight wrist and hand, middle finger touching the brim of the hat or the corner of the eyebrow, and palm facing downward or even inward.
The salute should be a smooth motion up and down the gigline, with the individual of lower rank raising their salute first and lowering it last. Oh, and remember, “any flourish in the salute is improper.”
In addition to superior commissioned and warrant officers, the following individuals are always entitled to a military salute: The President of the United States, officers of allied foreign countries (good luck learning their rank system), and Medal of Honor recipients — I actually didn’t know that one.
In America, the military salute is protected by the First Amendment. Anyone can salute anyone, really. You can salute a veteran when they’re in civilian attire… it’s just not mandatory or even customary. And it can actually be a little awkward if they’re not expecting it.
But in other countries, there are legal ramifications behind certain salutes. In Germany, for example, the straight-arm “Heil Hitler” salute is illegal and punishable by up to three years in jail. It’s not uncommon for tourists to be detained for performing the salute for photos, and one man was sentenced to jail for teaching his dog Adolf to give the Hitlergruss on command. …Yeah.
Today, the salute is a gesture of mutual respect, given and reciprocated, and whether the origin stories are true, the salute nonetheless remains a symbol of honor — and reassurance that you’re not holding a weapon.
Comfort is one of the last things in mind when the U.S. Navy designs a submarine. There’s little room to walk around, restrooms and showers are kept as cramped as possible to make room for ordnance and mechanics, and the perpetual lack of sunlight and fresh air will make you forget what time of the day it is.
Add all that up and you’ll quickly realize being deployed for months on end on a submarine is enough to make most people go crazy with cabin fever — but the submariners of the United States Navy are legitimate badasses, so they make due.
We Are The Mighty is proud to support the release of ‘Hunter Killer,’ a submarine thriller starring Gerard Butler and Gary Oldman that hits theaters on October 26, 2018.
An extra two hours of duty is nothing if it means not losing your freakin’ mind.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeffrey M. Richardson)
There’s a certain flow that gets developed while underway. The lack of sunlight actually makes it easier on the human body to adapt to a new circadian rhythm, which makes splitting shifts a little easier. There’s a running joke among submariners that the only reliable way to tell the time it is by what the mess hall is cooking. If it’s waffles, it’s probably morning. If it’s leftovers, it’s definitely midnight.
The crew takes turns cycling through three eight-hour shifts: eight hours of sleep, eight hours of duty, and eight hours of free-time. Prior to 2014, submariners endured an 18-hour day that was split into three sections of six hours of each, but it was decided by the powers that be that shifting people off of a 24-hour cycle was a terrible idea for everyone’s sanity.
This 15 sq. foot rack can be all yours for the low, low price of a one enlistment contract!
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeffrey M. Richardson)
When it comes to sleeping, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the racks resemble coffins. Stacked two high and barely arms-width apart, the only way you can get any kind of privacy is via a tiny, little curtain. If you can get used to that, great. If you can’t, well, sucks to be you…
The space for your personal belongings amounts to all of a single drawer under your rack and a cabinet above your pillow. To everyone else in the military, that’s about a duffel bag’s load of stuff to last you an average of 90 days. What this means is that you’ll usually take changes of uniforms, the occasional personal memento, and that’s about it.
Slackers, rejoice! You probably won’t be PTing that much while you’re underway. Just remember that PT standards still apply when you’re back on land, so there’s that…
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Steven Khor)
After the submariner finishes their assigned watch, their time is their own until they head back to bed. They’ll often get called back for work or get stuck on some mind-numbing detail — but sometimes, it’s a nice break in the monotony.
Since you can’t really chill out in the living quarters if you’re lower rank, the preferred way to relax is to crowd into the mess hall and watch TV. New submarines are being fitted with internet access to give submariners something to do — but don’t expect speeds greater than old-school dial-up all the way down there. There are gyms on board, but you’ll have to stretch your definition of “gym” to mean two machines that are shared among the crew.
Life isn’t easy on a submarine. It’s not for everyone. But if you can endure the extensive training to earn your Submarine Warfare Insignia and knock out a deployment-at-sea in a cramped tin can, you’ve earned the right to be objectively cooler than (nearly) everyone else in the Navy.
We Are The Mighty is proud to support the release of ‘Hunter Killer,’ a submarine thriller starring Gerard Butler and Gary Oldman that hits theaters on October 26, 2018.
NASA astronaut Col. Tyler N. “Nick” Hague waits to be lowered into the pool containing a mockup of the International Space Station at the Johnson Space Flight Center’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory for Extravehicular Activity training in Houston, Tex., Apr. 27, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
(Editor’s note: The following is a reposting of an Airman magazine story and an episode of BLUE, which aired in 2017 on AFTV, about Air Force astronauts assigned to NASA. Additional information from NASA is added to mark the culmination of a nearly decade-long goal to once again launch American astronauts from U.S. soil via NASA’s Commercial Crew Program with SpaceX and Boeing. On Wednesday, May 27, 2020, Air Force Col. Robert Behnken and retired Marine Col. Douglas Hurley are scheduled to pilot the inaugural, manned mission of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.)
A new era of human spaceflight is set to begin as American astronauts once again launch on an American rocket from American soil to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, scheduled to lift off on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:33 p.m. EDT May 27, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida, for an extended stay at the space station for the Demo-2 mission.
As the final flight test for SpaceX, this mission will validate the company’s crew transportation system, including the launch pad, rocket, spacecraft, and operational capabilities. This also will be the first time NASA astronauts will test the spacecraft systems in orbit.
Behnken and Hurley were among the first astronauts to begin working and training on SpaceX’s next-generation human space vehicle and were selected for their extensive test pilot and flight experience, including several missions on the space shuttle.
Behnken will be the joint operations commander for the mission, responsible for activities such as rendezvous, docking and undocking, as well as Demo-2 activities while the spacecraft is docked to the space station. He was selected as a NASA astronaut in 2000 and has completed two space shuttle flights.
It is a career in space that had its beginnings in the Air Force ROTC program at Washington University in St. Louis.
“The Air Force felt strongly that I should get a physics degree, and so I did that. But I was interested in engineering, and I did a mechanical engineering degree as well,” Behnken said in a 2017 interview with Airman magazine.
“It was a time, in 1992, that the Air Force was not bringing everybody immediately on active duty… I had a pretty long wait, so I applied for graduate school and an educational delay, and the Air Force looked kindly on that. I got that opportunity and picked up a National Science Foundation fellowship in the process, so I had a way to pay for school; the Air Force let me take advantage of that until I had earned my PhD at Caltech.”
Behnken’s first assignment was as a mechanical engineer at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, working on new development programs at the Air Force Research Laboratory. It was there that his commanders, both test pilot school graduates, suggested he plot a similar career course.
“The lieutenant colonel and the colonel said, ‘Hey, you should think about test pilot school,'” Behnken said. “I applied and was accepted, and ended up out at Edwards Air Force Base (California) doing some flight tests on an F-22 when it was very early in its development process before being selected as an astronaut and moving to Houston.”
Behnken flew two Space Shuttle missions; STS-123, in March 2008, and STS-130, in February 2010. He performed three spacewalks during each mission.
His training for the Crew Dragon mission has been unique among recent astronauts.
“Training for these missions is really wrapped into the development process. We’re learning the vehicles as they’re designed and built, and then that will be part of our training material,” Behnken said.
“All of us are Air Force and Navy test pilot school graduates and we’re really participating in a development process so that we can then kind of bring our space flight experience to the designs as they come to the table. If there’s something that needs to be changed, we give them that feedback, and then they figure out what the cost impact is and decide how well they can incorporate our feedback into their design.”
Lifting off from Launch Pad 39A atop a specially instrumented Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon will accelerate its two passengers to approximately 17,000 mph and put it on an intercept course with the International Space Station.
Once in orbit, the crew and SpaceX mission control will verify the spacecraft is performing as intended by testing the environmental control system, the displays and control system and the maneuvering thrusters, among other things. In about 24 hours, Crew Dragon will be in position to rendezvous and dock with the space station. The spacecraft is designed to do this autonomously but astronauts aboard the spacecraft and the station will be diligently monitoring approach and docking and can take control of the spacecraft if necessary.
After successfully docking, Behnken and Hurley will be welcomed aboard the station and will become members of the Expedition 63 crew. They will perform tests on Crew Dragon in addition to conducting research and other tasks with the space station crew.
Although the Crew Dragon being used for this flight test can stay in orbit about 110 days, the specific mission duration will be determined once on station based on the readiness of the next commercial crew launch. The operational Crew Dragon spacecraft will be capable of staying in orbit for at least 210 days as a NASA requirement.
Upon conclusion of the mission, Crew Dragon will autonomously undock with the two astronauts on board, depart the space station and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Upon splashdown just off Florida’s Atlantic Coast, the crew will be picked up at sea by SpaceX’s Go Navigator recovery vessel and return to Cape Canaveral.
The Demo-2 mission will be the final major step before NASA’s Commercial Crew Program certifies Crew Dragon for operational, long-duration missions to the space station. This certification and regular operation of Crew Dragon will enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place onboard the station, which benefits people on Earth and lays the groundwork for future exploration of the Moon and Mars starting with the agency’s Artemis program, which will land the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface in 2024.
“It’s a pretty exciting job. As a test pilot, the thing that we all hope is that we might get a chance to test a new airplane. We’re getting to test a new spacecraft. We’ll be the first people to fly on this vehicle, so we’re really the space test pilots for a brand-new spaceship, which is pretty cool,” Behnken said.
(Editor’s Note: Originally posted July 24, 2017, this article concentrated on the training of Air Force Col. Tyler Nicklaus “Nick” Hague, as he was the next of the Air Force astronauts scheduled to fly to the International Space Station. His first launch was on Soyuz MS-10, which aborted shortly after take-off on October 11, 2018. His second launch, on March 14, 2019, was successful, taking him and his fellow Soyuz MS-12 crew members to join ISS Expedition 59/60. He would spend just more than 202 days in space and completed nearly 20 hours of extravehicular activities, or space walks, before returning to Earth in October of 2019.)
On the rare instances when Col. Tyler N. “Nick” Hague returns from a day at the office and walks through the door of his own home, the oldest of his two boys occasionally asks, “Daddy, were you in space today?”
Not such a childish question when you consider the actual distance and travel time when Hague finally rides into space aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket in September of 2018.
It will only take him about 12 minutes to arrive in low-Earth orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, only 249 miles above the planet’s surface. In comparison, Hague traveled two miles farther when he was just a boy of 12; a total of 251 miles from his home in Hoxie, Kansas, to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he first laid eyes on the place where his journey into space would actually begin – the United States Air Force Academy.
“Growing up in western Kansas, staring up at the sky at night, seeing all those stars, I’ve always wanted to do something involved with space,” said Hague. “I couldn’t find a better program in terms of being able to study astronautical engineering with building actual satellites and doing all that hands on work at an undergraduate level. That just didn’t exist anywhere else at that time and so that was the place I wanted to go.”
He graduated from the academy and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1998 and began a 20-year journey that would bring him to the International Space Station to begin a six-month mission as flight engineer on ISS Expedition 57/58.
During this journey, Hague earned a masters degree in engineering from MIT, worked on advanced spacecraft technologies at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, flight tested at Edwards AFB, California, completed a five-month deployment to Iraq to conduct experimental airborne reconnaissance in 2004, returned to the Air Force Academy to teach astronautics, became an advisor for the U.S. Senate on national defense and foreign policy, served as a congressional appropriations liaison for United States Central Command at the Pentagon and finally as deputy division chief for research and development at the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization before being selected for astronaut training in 2013.
“I applied the first time (to the astronaut training program) in 2003, so it took 10 years and three applications in order to finally get selected,” said Hague. “Twenty years ago could I look at what was going to lie before me and map all of that out that would connect that point to this point? There are all these different opportunities that I would have never been able to line up on my own, but the service in the Air Force has made it possible.”
When he finally received his crew assignment, Hague quickly learned that being an astronaut still means racking up a lot of miles on earth.
In this calendar year of mission training, Hague has logged five flights from Houston to Star City, Russia, where he has spent 33 weeks training on the Russian ISS modules – which make up half of the station – and the Soyuz launch vehicle.
When combined with flights to the European Space Agency training facility in Colon, Germany, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Tsukuba Space Center north of Tokyo for eight more weeks of training on those agency’s modules this year, Hague is closing on 100,000 miles of travel within the Earth’s atmosphere to prepare for the relatively short commute to ISS.
Much of Hague’s time in Star City is spent training for that 12-minute trip aboard Soyuz into space and the corresponding return trip six months later. A training emphasis that fellow Air Force astronaut Col. Michael Hopkins explains exists for a very good reason.
“The majority of your training will be associated with the ride up and the ride home. We have a two-year training flow and as much as a year of your time during that two years will be spent over in Russia and your time in Russia the majority of that time is being spent on the Soyuz vehicle,” said Hopkins, who has already spent six months aboard ISS in 2013-2014. “But just like airplanes, the critical phase of flight is take off and landing. That’s when if anything goes wrong, when you don’t have that much time to deal with it. Aboard the ISS you usually have days if not weeks to assess and correct a problem.”
The overseas travel has two-week breaks when Hague returns to Houston for training on the US systems and for extravehicular activity (EVA), or spacewalks, and an opportunity to sleep in his own bed for a change. This fierce training and travel tempo is one of the drawbacks for astronauts, as well as their spouses and children.
NASA astronaut Robert Behnken, STS-130 mission specialist, takes a break in the mission’s second session of extravehicular activity (EVA) for construction and maintenance on the International Space Station in February of 2010 to allow air scrubbers to remove CO2 that had built up in his space suit. During the five-hour, 54-minute spacewalk, Behnken and astronaut Nicholas Patrick connected two ammonia coolant loops, installed thermal covers around the ammonia hoses, outfitted the Earth-facing port on the Tranquility node for the relocation of its Cupola, and installed handrails and a vent valve on the new module. (Photo/NASA)
“I spend six weeks in Star City, and then come back for a couple weeks, and then I’ll go back for six weeks,” said Hague. “There is a stress on the family, and they miss out on the things that I could be doing with them at home, and on the weekends. I’m TDY a lot, but my family’s making the same kinds of sacrifices that I see service families making day in and day out. I think that, that’s something that everybody that wears a uniform can appreciate.”
However, NASA has embarked on a new collaborative mission with commercial partners SpaceX and Boeing to provide an alternative to Soyuz for manned trips to and from the ISS. Cooperation in the development of new low-orbit launch vehicles by these commercial companies based in the United States will provide the Air Force with more orbital lift options and will also bring astronauts closer to home for training and for longer periods of time.
“It’s important for us to be able to return launch to Florida. You know, from a crew perspective, I can tell you that it makes it a whole lot easier on the crew, because you stop having to send people (to Star City, Russia) for six weeks at a shot over, and over, and over again and reduce the strain on the families,” said Hague.
“It’s also important from a redundancy perspective. Right now it’s Soyuz only, so if something happened with the Soyuz, now we’re looking for a way to get astronauts up there. It’ll provide us that flexibility to continue to fly Soyuz, and fly out of Florida and for the Russians to do the same.”
Once again the Air Force is a lynchpin in the development of a barrier breaking technology as astronaut Col. Robert Behnken is one of four test pilots for the commercial spacecraft and Hopkins is part of the team developing communications, displays and procedures for the new launch vehicles.
“Currently, my major focus is on one of those commercial crewed vehicles. It’s the Boeing CST-100 Starliner. I’m working as one of the CAPCOMs for that program; the communicator who would be talking to the astronauts in the vehicle as they’re going uphill and docking to the station,” said Hopkins. “There’s a lot of new material that we have to learn and figure out what the launch day is going to look like and what docking is going to look like and what the landing is going to look like.”
After one unmanned test of both the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, two-astronaut crews will fly subsequent tests before operational flights will begin taking six astronauts per flight to the ISS. Astronauts, such as Behnken, will not only flight-test the vehicles, but they are deeply involved in the design and development phase of the vehicles that is currently underway.
“The training for these missions is really wrapped into the development process. So we’re learning the vehicles as they’re designed and built, ” said Behnken, veteran of two of the Space Shuttle missions that built the ISS and the only active-duty member of the test crews. “(The test crews are) Air Force and Navy test pilot school graduates, and we’re really participating in a development process so that we can bring our space flight experience to the designs as they come to the table… that should wrap up around mid-2018 for both vehicles, and hopefully if the schedules hold, that’s when we’ll fly in space.”
These astronauts are the most recent in a continuing legacy of Air Force support of NASA and space exploration since the space program’s inception.
A total of eighty-five Air Force astronauts have traveled into space, from three of the first NASA astronauts, the Mercury Seven, Lt. Col. Gus Grissom, Col. Gordon Cooper and Major Deke Slayton, to two of the crew of Apollo 11, the first humans to set foot on the Moon, Col. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Maj. Gen. Michael Collins to Col. Jack Fischer, flight engineer for ISS Expedition 51/52, currently traveling at over 17,000 miles per hour (5 miles per second) for 25,000 miles on each of his 15.5 orbits per day aboard ISS.
Still more, like Hague, are in training for upcoming flights, and numerous Air Force personnel support both manned and unmanned NASA missions.
“The Air Force is supporting the mission on a daily basis,” said Hague. “It’s flight docs assigned here, search and rescue crews that are helping bring us home, we’ve got the range support for launching cargo and soon we’re going to be launching Americans back out of Florida. There’s also guys that are looking at all the radar coming back down from space trying to track space debris and they help us prevent things from flying into the Space Station, so they’re protecting us on a daily basis.”
Of course, participation in the civilian space program reaps great benefits for the Air Force from supporting space exploration and research. “The Air Force gets access to space, and so from an expense standpoint, NASA’s already paid for that, now all you have to do is develop your experiment, and then we can get it onboard,” said Hopkins. “Then you get the astronaut’s time. We don’t go and charge the Air Force for the time of the astronaut on board that’s executing their experiment. You’re getting access to a microgravity laboratory, right? It’s a very unique laboratory, in fact the only one in existence.”
The Soyuz TMA-04M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 carrying Expedition 31 Soyuz Commander Gennady Padalka, NASA Flight Engineer Joseph Acaba and Flight Engineer Sergei Revin to the International Space Station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
The partnership between the Air Force and NASA is a collaborative research relationship that fills gaps in each other’s research and facilities.
According to Dr. Morley Stone, chief technology officer of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, the Air Force benefits from NASA’s experience with human performance in microgravity environments, as NASA benefits from the Air Force’s research in the macrogravity realm of high sustained G-forces.
Both are participating in research on hypersonics, autonomous systems, artificial intelligence and materials that can survive extreme environments.
“I would say certainly NASA is up near the top, as probably our most important federal partnership,” said Stone.
Life aboard the ISS is tightly scheduled to accommodate the necessary daily planning conference with ground controllers, two hours of exercise necessary to maintain the astronauts’ bodies in a microgravity environment, performing EVA for scheduled station maintenance or repairs and conducting the experiments sent to ISS by researchers on the ground, military and civilian.
However, on occasion, there are small gaps where astronauts can indulge the kid inside that still looks upon the cosmos in wonder. Behnken had such an opportunity on his second STS mission to install components on the ISS. During an EVA to install the cupola observation window for Earth observation and photography, Behnken and a crewmate exerted themselves to the point that exhaled carbon dioxide was building up inside their suits faster than the air scrubbers could eliminate it.
“My partner and I had both worked harder than the suit could keep up with, and we got the chance to take about a 15-minute break,” said Behnken.
“They told us to “Attach yourself to the space station, and sit there, and look around. And don’t breathe too hard, because we’re trying to catch up with the scrubbing that’s on the suit.
“When you’re outside on a spacewalk, you get a panorama view that just can’t be captured with any of the windows … You get to see sunrises, and sunset, and that angular view of the atmosphere with thunderstorms lightning themselves up,” said Behnken.
“It’s of the whole majesty of the Earth, which is just awesome.”