After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight

The trips I’ve made back to Vietnam with Jason, Paul and Andy brought back many memories — some good and some not so good — but one gemstone has been our times at the Caravelle Hotel in Saigon.

I was introduced to the Caravelle and its rooftop bar during my first tour in Vietnam. While traveling to Saigon for debriefings of some of the operations I participated in a good friend took me to the Caravelle’s rooftop bar for beers and to enjoy the scenery. As a young soldier I didn’t feel like I was making history, but felt like I was among those who were. The Caravelle was full of foreign diplomats, senior military personnel, journalists and some who I suspected (right or wrong) were intelligence agents attempting to gather information. It was a heady time for a young sergeant who was a bit full of himself.


There was an air of expectancy surrounding the entire goings on at the bar, as if people expected something to happen at any moment. It was an exciting adventure watching the flow of the crowd, listening to the conversations and hearing the clinking of glasses as everyone enjoyed themselves – as if we were all in another universe. Then off in the far distance I, and many others, heard the crump of incoming mortar shells at the edge of the city and were quickly brought back to reality. I wasn’t sure what to do or how to react, but my friend did – he ordered another beer and the band, sensing the situation upped the volume of their music and we watched “the war”.

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight

Each time I returned to our camp in Ban Me Thuot and reflected on my trip to Saigon the time I spent at the Caravelle seemed like a dream – so out of place with what I knew operationally, but also a perfect counterpoint.

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight

The Caravelle will always be one of my favorite memories and go-to places in the world.

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight

Follow Richard Rice’s 10-part journey:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How this Marine Corps sniper took one of the toughest shots of his life

US military snipers have to be able to make the hard shots, the seemingly impossible shots. They have to be able to push themselves and their weapons.

Staff Sgt. Hunter Bernius, a veteran Marine Corps scout sniper who runs an advanced urban sniper training course, walked INSIDER through his most technically difficult shot — he fired a bullet into a target roughly 2.3 kilometers (1.4 miles) away with a .50 caliber sniper rifle.

The longest confirmed kill shot was taken by a Canadian special forces sniper, who shot an ISIS militant dead at 3,540 meters, or 2.2 miles, in Iraq in 2017. The previous record was held by British sniper Craig Harrison, who shot and killed a Taliban insurgent from 2,475 meters away.


“There are definitely people out there who have done amazing things,” US Army First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran sniper and instructor at the sniper school at Fort Benning, Georgia, told INSIDER. “Anything is possible.”

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight

Weapons Company scout sniper and Lufkin, Texas, native Hunter Bernius takes a shooting position during field training at an undisclosed location.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tommy Huynh)

Snipers are trained to scout the movements of enemy forces often from very exposed positions, and are also used to target enemy leaders and to pin down their forces. These dangerous missions require they become masters of concealment, as well as skilled sharpshooters.

While 2,300 meters may not be a record, it is still a very hard shot to make.

‘Hard math’

US military snipers typically operate at ranges between 600 and 1,200 meters. At extreme ranges, the Marine is pushing his weapon past its limits. The M107 semi-automatic long range sniper rifles used by the Marine Corps can fire accurately out to only about 2,000 meters.

“Shooting on the ground can be easy, especially when you are shooting 600 meters in or 1,000 meters in. That’s almost second nature,” Bernius explained. “But, when you are extending it to the extremes, beyond the capability of the weapon system, you have all kinds of different things to consider.”

At those longer ranges, a sniper has to rely a lot more on “hard math” than just shooter instinct.

Bernius, a Texas native who has deployed to Iraq and other locations across the Middle East, made his most technically difficult shot as a student in the advanced sniper course, a training program for Marine Corps sharpshooters who have already successfully completed basic sniper training.

“When I came through as a student at the course I am running now, my partner and I were shooting at a target at approximately 2,300 meters,” Bernius explained. “We did in fact hit it, but it took approximately 20-25 minutes of planning, thinking of everything we needed to do with calculations, with the readings.”

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight

Sgt. Hunter G. Bernius shoots at a target placed in the water from a UH-1Y Huey during an aerial sniper exercise.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Chance Haworth)

At that distance, it takes the bullet roughly six to eight seconds to reach the target, which means there is a whole lot of time for any number of external factors to affect where it lands.

“You have all kinds of considerations,” Bernius told INSIDER, explaining that snipers have to think about “the rotation of the earth, which direction you are facing, wind at not just your muzzle but at 2,300 meters, at 1,000 meters, you name it.”

Direction and rotation of the earth are considerations that most people might not realize come into play.

Which direction the sniper is facing can affect the way the sun hits the scope, possibly distorting the image inside the scope and throwing off the shot. It also determines how the rotation of the planet affects the bullet, which may hit higher or lower depending on the sniper’s position.

“This is only for extreme long range, shots over 2,000 meters,” Bernius explained.

Other possible considerations include the temperature, the humidity, the time of day, whether or not the sniper is shooting over a body of water (it can create a mirage), the shape of the bullet, and spin drift of the round.

“We ended up hitting it,” Bernius said. “That, to me, was probably the most technically difficult shot.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Mark Zuckerberg’s obsession with Augustus Caesar might explain his haircut

While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was testifying about Libra cryptocurrency before the House Financial Services Committee on Oct. 23, 2019, some viewers were focused on policy — but some were focused on his hair.

One congresswoman, Rep. Katie Porter, even brought up his hair during the hearing.

One person on Twitter pointed out that the short haircut might have something to do with Zuckerberg’s fascination with first century BCE Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar.


In a 2018 New Yorker profile, Zuckerberg revealed his admiration for the emperor — he and his wife even went to Rome for their honeymoon. He told the New Yorker, “My wife was making fun of me, saying she thought there were three people on the honeymoon: me, her, and Augustus. All the photos were different sculptures of Augustus.”

Zuckerberg and his wife even named one of their daughters August, reportedly after Caesar.

All of that admiration may be why Zuckerberg’s hairdo closely resembles “The Caesar” haircut (though the style is actually named after Emperor Julius Caesar, below).

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight

(Hilverd Reker/Flickr)

But Augustus, Julius Caesar’s great-nephew and adopted son, has similar hair in most statues.

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight

Augustus

(Wikimedia Commons)

Facebook did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on where Zuckerberg drew inspiration for his ‘do, so while we don’t know for sure, it’s possible the Caesars’ iconic cuts were the source.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the Air Force’s top couple

The Browns are self-proclaimed foodies who explore the DMV restaurant scene and steal time for walks together. It is during these no-tech-allowed strolls when the Air Force’s top couple catch up on their days and feed their relationship. Pun intended. 

And it takes work to maintain, Air Force Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown Jr. said of marriage and a military career. He and his wife, Sharene, met after he was already an airman but she was no stranger to the lifestyle. Her dad served in the military. 

Sharene Brown says the adventurous side of military life has long been a favorite aspect of being a dependent ID cardholder. It is likely the characteristic that kept her “all in” throughout the decades her husband has been building a career.

“First of all, I would describe military life as adventurous. I’m an adventurous person anyway; I like to travel; I like to see different things and what not. Since coming into the military as a spouse, I have found some of the same challenges a lot of our younger spouses have found,” Sharene Brown said.

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight
Sharene Brown takes a tour of Jakarta Intercultural School, Jakarta, Indonesia in 2018. The Browns visited the country ahead of the 70th anniversary of the U.S.-Indonesia relationship, seeking opportunities to enhance cooperation between the two nations. Photo by Staff Sgt. Hailey Haux.

A 2019 survey found the rate of unemployment for military spouses to be 24%, according to Blue Star Families. It is reflective of the old adage that as much as things change, they stay the same. In fact, Sharene Brown said change is the one thing that remains constant throughout the decades for those married to service members. She can also relate to hardships in pursuing and maintaining professional aspirations. 

“There are things that I have experienced that I have grown from, but there are still some circumstances that are not much different. If I go back a few years to when I first came in, I was looking for a job and had a hard time finding one, moving from place to place. Then our family started to grow … our oldest son has some learning challenges, and so the plan was to go back to work after he got into school. It didn’t necessarily work out because of the challenges and I was determined at that point to just make sure he was going to be fine,” she said. “But what I found is when one door closes, another door usually opens.”

Read: Second lieutenant makes history in Air Force program

The connections she built over the years alleviated some of the common stressors she faced. Sharene Brown was not shy to dig in at duty stations, either. She relishes in the couple’s time overseas where they often chose to live off base to get a greater sense of the culture. Her favorite location was at Doha, Qatar, where she participated on a dragon boat team.

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight
Brown with her dragon boat team. Courtesy photo.

Gen. Brown also grew up as a military kid. His dad, who retired from the Army as a colonel, guided Gen. Brown through the process of applying for ROTC scholarships. Ultimately, he said, the Air Force stood out for its opportunities in engineering.

In 1984, Gen. Brown was commissioned as a distinguished graduate at Texas Tech University. He has served in a variety of positions at the squadron and wing levels, including an assignment to the U.S. Air Force Weapons School as an F-16 Fighting Falcon Instructor, according to his official biography. He said it was working with the people at that school that led to a snowball effect of positive career experiences, leading him to contemplate a long-term future with the Air Force. Then, a notable staff tour as Aide-de-Camp to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force opened his world even further.

“I got to see a bigger part of the Air Force. Exciting mission, a lot of responsibility, get to see the world, and get to meet a lot of good people,” he said.

In the summer of 2020, Gen. Brown became the first Black service chief in U.S. military history — an appointment that intersected with a period of heightened racial tension after George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. Gen. Brown says he is keenly aware of the significance of his role, but also emphasizes that he wants to be judged on the merits of his performance rather than the color of his skin. 

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight
Sharene Brown presents the official Air Force Chief of Staff service cap to her husband during the CSAF transition ceremony at Joint Base Andrews in 2020. Photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Trujillo.

“I would say there’s a before and an after: before George Floyd and after George Floyd. Before, I already knew it [my appointment] was historical in the like, and you know I’ve thought about it but I haven’t really. Partly because, a lot of the times in the jobs I’ve been in, I’ve been either the first of or the only one. It’s probably in some cases — I hate to say it this way — it’s a bigger deal for some others than it is maybe for me because I’ve lived this. … I am who I am and I just want to be good at what I do, and be recognized as a good officer. And then after that, be recognized as a good African American officer. Just like any other officer or leader, you just want to be recognized as a good leader. 

“I think after George Floyd, a bit more visibility and pressure was on the fact that I’m coming into this position. I think it adds a bit of extra weight because there’s some expectation that I’m going to be able to do things, but I’m just one person and I have almost 700,000 airmen that will have to buy into whatever good idea I come up with. And so, when we start looking at diversity and inclusion, it has to be things the whole Air Force can buy into and not just happen because I’m sitting in this chair as Chief of Staff of the Air Force,” he said.

In 2020, leaders ordered an independent review focusing specifically on assessing racial disparity in military discipline processes, personnel development, and career opportunities as they pertain to Black airmen and space professionals. The examination included a look at survey findings from more than 123,000 responses, formal interviews, and listening sessions. Results found that “varying degrees of disparity were identified in apprehensions, criminal investigations, military justice, administrative separations, placement into occupational career fields, certain promotion rates, officer and civilian professional military educational development and some leadership opportunities,” according to the report.

The full report can be found at https://www.af.mil/Portals/1/documents/ig/IRDR.pdf

Gen. Brown said small steps have been made, but his priority is to do “the deeper dive” that would include determining the root cause of the problem so recommendations can then be made of how to move forward. One example he cites is getting underrepresented demographics into aviation career fields. 

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight
The Browns conduct an interview with Military Families Magazine at the Pentagon. Photo by Wayne Clark.

“Do some of the tools we have, are they biased in some way? Not purposely but for whatever reason, we may have missed opportunities and that all comes down to exposure. We only aspire to be what we’ve been exposed to, so looking at how we can lay that out earlier for underrepresented groups, whether it’s race, gender, ethnic background,” he said.

At the same time, leaders are grappling with the ongoing pandemic that has placed restrictions on the normal way of doing business. Gen. Brown says an integral part of checking the morale and mental health of the force starts with building relationships. 

“The key part is knowing your people, and you can’t know they’re having a bad day if you don’t know them — because you can’t tell the difference between a good day and a bad day. And some of that has to happen before you get into a crisis. I found just a few minutes goes a long way. It’s building relationships with the people you work with; you got a professional relationship but you also got to have a little bit of a personal relationship — know about them, their family, some of the ups and downs they have, and talk to them about what they do in the evenings, what they do on the weekends. By building relationships, when they do have a problem, they may be more inclined to talk to you, to seek help,” he said.

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight
Gen. Brown at his office in the Pentagon. Photo by Wayne Clark.

The line of communication between airman and leader is also important, especially for those junior enlisted members and officers who have certain aspirations in the Air Force. Gen. Brown tells airmen to “take your chances.”

“Always ask for what you want. The worst the Air Force can do is tell you no, but they can’t tell you yes unless you ask,” he said. “I just tell airmen to explore what it is you want to be able to do, and then share that with your leadership so they have an opportunity to help you get to where you want to go. Or, to help you understand you may not be qualified for where you want to go — but you have to have the conversation. If you keep it to yourself, you may miss an opportunity or talk yourself out of it.”

Gen. Brown is adamant that his vision for a successful tour will be the same in years to come as it is today: he wants to make a difference.

“Flying was not the reason why I came into the Air Force or even why I stuck around. I mean, I like to fly, but it’s not the end-all be-all for me. It’s making a difference and that’s the key part; if I can do something that will change the Air Force for the better, make it better for our airmen and families. I would consider myself a failure if I didn’t make a difference in some form or fashion,” he added.

Follow twitter.com/GenCQBrownJr for updates on the 22nd Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force.

You can find this story and more in our February issue of Military Families Magazine. Download it here

MIGHTY CULTURE

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent decision to withdraw from the Visiting Forces Agreement comes after repeated threats to pull out, but his decision to ditch the pact now could undermine the ability of the US and its partners to counter China’s ambitions in the region.


The VFA, signed in 1998, gives legal status to US troops in the Philippines. Duterte, a longtime critic of ties to the US, gave formal notice of withdrawal to the US this month, triggering a 180-day period before the exit is finalized.

Duterte believes the Philippines should be more militarily independent, a spokesman said, quoting the president as saying, “It’s about time we rely on ourselves.”

The decision is “chiefly the product of Duterte’s deep, decades-long anti-US sentiment,” Prashanth Parameswaran, a senior editor at The Diplomat and a Southeast Asian security analyst, said in an email to Business Insider.

Since taking office in 2016, Duterte has “found just about any excuse he can to make threats against the alliance, be it canceling exercises or separating from the United States,” Parameswaran added.

Duterte has spurned the US since he took office and bristled at US criticism of his human-rights record. Both the US and Duterte have high approval ratings among the Philippine public, however, while a large majority there have little or no confidence in China.

Duterte has expressed affinity for President Donald Trump, but he still seeks closer relations with Beijing. Duterte has also been criticized at home as Chinese investments have been slow to arrive and as China acts assertively in the region, pursuing its claims in the South China Sea and drawing allies away from Taiwan.

“It’s a competition. China’s competing,” Chad Sbragia, deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, said Thursday at a US-China Economic and Security Review Commission hearing on Capitol Hill.

“There’s very clear recognition that China is putting pressure and using every tool within its disposal to try to draw those countries” away from cooperation with the US, Sbragia said. “That’s a condition we’re taking head on. That’s very serious for us.”

“I don’t doubt China will relish the deterioration in the US-Philippine alliance,” Parameswaran said. “Beijing has long considered US alliances a relic of the Cold War and a manifestation of US efforts to contain its regional ambitions.”

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5bb8f45dac0a63720f3f4e02%3Fwidth%3D700%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=414&h=60f489b88de6a5d9ebc7c7b14da9914f5276e1998fd0ee8ac1c5e4c6e21fad2c&size=980x&c=872827628 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5bb8f45dac0a63720f3f4e02%253Fwidth%253D700%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D414%26h%3D60f489b88de6a5d9ebc7c7b14da9914f5276e1998fd0ee8ac1c5e4c6e21fad2c%26size%3D980x%26c%3D872827628%22%7D” expand=1]

A US Marine guides a Philippine marine in a combat life-saver drill in the Philippines, October 2, 2018.

US Marine Corps/Pfc. Christian Ayers

‘A US loss is China’s gain’

The US and the Philippines, which the US ruled as a colony during the first half of the 20th century, have a decades-long diplomatic and military relationship.

That relationship and the benefit it offers the Philippine security establishment, as well as US popularity in the Philippines, are among the reasons why Manila may not follow through on withdrawal.

Philippine officials have also hinted that the notice of withdrawal is a starting point for negotiations over the VFA, which some have said are needed “to address matters of sovereignty.” Philippine politicians have also questioned Duterte’s authority to exit the agreement.

But the US shouldn’t assume that Duterte is bluffing or looking for leverage, said Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“He has been anti-American his entire adult life and has been consistently saying he wants to sever the alliance and bring the Philippines into a strategic alignment with China,” Poling said in an email.

“That said, six months is a long time in politics. If Duterte walks this back, it won’t be because a plan to renegotiate with Washington plays out,” Poling added, “it’ll be because of internal pressure, possibly in response to whatever natural disaster, Chinese act of aggression, or terrorist act in Mindanao happens between now and then.”

The VFA allows US troops to operate on Philippine territory, including US Navy crews and Marine Corps units.

Ending the agreement would jeopardize the roughly 300 joint exercises the two countries conduct every year, complicating everything from port calls to the Mutual Defense Treaty, which commits the US to the Philippines’ defense in case of an attack. It would also be harder for the US to provide aid in response to natural disasters.

“It’s basically [changing] the protocols of how you would work together if it actually goes through,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said this month.

Many naval activities will be unaffected because they can be carried out without entering Philippine territory, Poling said.

“But large-scale land and air exercises will be impossible, as they were from 1990-1999,” Poling added, referring to a period when Manila’s failure to renew a mutual basing agreement led to the withdrawal of US forces — including the closure of Naval Base Subic Bay, the largest US base in the Pacific.

Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., Philippine armed forces chief of staff, has said about half of all joint military engagements would be affected by the end the VFA, Poling noted.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has said joint exercises with the US would continue during the 180-day period, including the multinational Balikatan exercise that has taken place in the Philippines every spring for 35 years.

Once termination is final, however, the Philippines would “cease to have exercises” with the US, Lorenzana said.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5da72ccacc4a0a4b624047e5%3Fwidth%3D700%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=578&h=578b179bebd99473bb6d4272b437c25bd70eb5df4cd00791160a83b5c703edc8&size=980x&c=3144695644 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5da72ccacc4a0a4b624047e5%253Fwidth%253D700%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D578%26h%3D578b179bebd99473bb6d4272b437c25bd70eb5df4cd00791160a83b5c703edc8%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3144695644%22%7D” expand=1]

US Marines, Philippine marines, and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members after an amphibious exercise in the Philippines, October 12, 2019.

US Marine Corps/Cpl. Harrison Rakhshani

Santos Jr. has downplayed the effects of withdrawal, saying it will make the Philippines “self-reliant” and that Manila would expand bilateral exercises it has with other in the region, including Australia and Japan.

But there are legal and logistical limits on the military activities those countries can undertake with the Philippines, which has one of the weakest militaries in the Asia-Pacific.

The erosion of the US-Philippine military relationship raises the prospect of Beijing making moves like those it made in the South China Sea in the 1990s, when it occupied Mischief Reef — first with small wooden structures and then, a few months before the VFA went into force in 1999, with fort-like structures made of concrete.

In the years since, China has expanded and reinforced its presence in the South China Sea, building military structures on man-made islands there. Mischief Reef is now Beijing’s biggest outpost in the disputed waters.

“Beijing will work to make sure that a US loss is China’s gain” and build on inroads made with Duterte, Parameswaran said.

“These gains may include those that are not in the security realm, such as tightening economic ties or helping Duterte deliver on some of his domestic political goals,” Parameswaran added. “But they will nonetheless be consequential, because the broader objective is to move Duterte’s Philippines closer to China and away from the United States.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Marines and sailors prepare for chemical emergencies

U.S. Marines, sailors, and civilians participated in the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response course at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan from Sept. 16 to Sept. 20, 2019.

The class is meant to teach students how to both fully understand and effectively respond to emergency situations where dangerous chemicals, substances, and materials are found on military installations.

The week-long class consisted mostly of classroom lectures in addition to an entire day devoted to practical application training exercises where the students worked together to solve applicable, but difficult scenarios.


“I think this class is a big learning curve for a lot of the students here,” says Ashley Hoshihara Cruz, the Camp Foster chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive specialist. “However, the students are really putting in the resources, time, and effort to make this a quality class.”

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight

U.S. Marines prepare to enter a mock-contamination site during the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response course at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, Sept. 19, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ryan Pulliam)

To encourage teamwork and strengthen leadership capabilities in the class, Wood said that the junior Marines in the class may be placed in leadership roles and find themselves guiding officers and staff noncommissioned officers through tasks the senior Marines may primarily fill.

“It’s really rewarding,” Wood said. “To see these students take the information we, as instructors, gave to them and extract that out to things that we have not talked about, but figured out, nonetheless.”

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight

U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Nathan Hale, a native of Washington D.C. and an explosive ordnance and disposal chief for U.S. Fleet Activities Yokosuka, attaches an oxygen tank to a fellow student during the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response course at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, Sept. 19, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ryan Pulliam)

The HAZWOPER class is conducted on behalf of the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps Officer School and has been taught in Okinawa for the past eight years.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This charity paid the mortgage for a fallen Coastie’s family

The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation may not be as recognizable as the Wounded Warrior Project or have a famous person attached to them, but the effect it can have on a family is just as powerful – and just as immediate. Just ask the family of recently deceased Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Michael Kozloski, who no longer have to worry about their house payment every month.


After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight

Michael Kozloski and his family.

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation is named for Stephen Siller, a New York City Firefighter who was killed at Ground Zero during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center. To honor Siller and his sacrifice, the Tunnel to Towers Foundation uses its 5 million endowment to pay off the mortgages of families related to military personnel and first responders who are killed in the line of duty. Sadly, that’s how Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Michael Kozloski died.

Kozloski was killed in a crane accident in Homer, Alaska, in early 2019. The Upstate New York native joined the Coast Guard at age 18 and was 35 when he was killed. His wife and four children would be forever without his love and guidance, unsure of how they would be able to stay in their Port St. Lucie, Fla. home. That’s where the Tunnel to Towers Foundation stepped in.

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight

Stephen Siller, an FDNY firefighter killed on 9/11, who’s memory is changing lives nationwide.

“I was left wondering how I was going to provide for our four kids and give them the life they deserve,” Brienne Kozloski, Michael’s wife, said in a statement. “The outpouring of support we received from the Coast Guard, family, friends, and many organizations that help Gold Star families was amazing. When I heard from Frank Siller that Tunnel to Towers was going to pay the mortgage on our new home, I was overwhelmed… I will forever be grateful for this.”

Kozloski’s home is the 15th home the Tunnel to Towers Foundation has purchased this season alone. From Massachusetts to Iowa and beyond the Stephen Siller Tunnels to Tower Foundation has an incredible record of supporting military, veteran, and first responder families when a loved one is killed in the line of duty. Even victims of the Parkland, Fla. School Shootings were recognized by the foundation – teachers killed while protecting their students. Chief Warrant Officer Kozloski is one more in a line of brave, hardworking public servants who lost it all while doing their every day jobs.

To learn more about the Stephen Siller Tunnels to Towers Foundation, see who the foundation has helped with its Fallen First Responders Home Program, or to donate, visit the Tunnels to Towers website.

MIGHTY CULTURE

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

When most of us join the Navy, we don’t expect to be put into positions where our lives are in danger. For sure, we know it’s a possibility; as is joining any branch of the Armed Forces, but not as probable as our USMC and Army brothers-in-arms.

But now that a sailor has fallen to the virus, it’s apparent just how potent and diverse enemy combatants can be.


I served four years on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, from 2006 to 2010. The crew aboard CVN-71 refer to their ship as The Big Stick, personifying the ship as the US’s show of force to allow us to “Walk Softly” throughout the world. My job was to safely and efficiently maintain the electrical and steam plant systems within the two powerful Nuclear Reactor plants that power and propel the ship.

We steamed everywhere from South Africa to England to the middle of nowhere deep in the Atlantic ocean. We also spent six months sending F-18 Super Hornets to Afghanistan to provide Close Air Support for ISAF forces on the ground.

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight

PHILIPPINE SEA (March 18, 2020) An F/A-18F Super Hornet, assigned to the “Black Knights” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 154, lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) March 18, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas V. Huynh)

Sailing a warship is inherently dangerous. There are cables with thousands of volts of heart-stopping power running through them, manifolds of high-pressure steam harnessing enough force to easily cut a person in half and thousands of people carrying-out dynamic operations both above and below-deck. Not to mention the mighty (and oftentimes unpredictable) sea, rocking and listing the ship with sometimes violent and turbulent waves.

In my four years on The Big Stick I lost three fellow shipmates to these various dangers. Now that the world is fighting a new, global enemy, unconventional deaths like losing a sailor to COVID-19 are becoming a new normal for families all across the world. And now, we see that active duty military members are just as susceptible as anyone else.

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight

Photo courtesy of August Dannehl

Part of the allure of joining the Navy is being able to see the world. The main mission of the Navy is to bring US sovereign territory, in the form of floating cities like the Roosevelt, to any corner of the planet in just a matter of hours. This allows sailors to enjoy the perks of visiting ports in places like Cape Town, Tokyo and Da Nang. Unfortunately, now, that perk also led to the death of one of my fellow Rough Riders.

The virus likely infiltrated the ship during a port visit to Vietnam’s fifth largest city. Da Nang offered its sandy beaches and opulent hotels to provide some RR for the crew of the TR but before long, the crew was ordered back to the ship, underway early and restricted to “River City” communications (meaning no phone calls or internet access).

Back in 2008, steaming off the coast of Iran, River City was set pretty much all the time (and we hated it) but we knew it was necessary. Recently, this order meant something very serious was unfolding and the sailors aboard knew it.

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight

Photo courtesy of August Dannehl

When that first River City was set just weeks ago, it was hard to imagine just how serious this situation would be. No one could have predicted then that over 500 Rough Riders would test positive for the coronavirus, a Navy Captain with 30 years of military experience would be fired, a Trump-appointed official would resign and one sailor would ultimately die in the line of duty from this silent, unpredictable enemy.

Living for months at a time on a carrier out to sea, confined to extremely small and cramped spaces, living and working alongside fellow Sailors in close proximity; these truths have always been the downsides of Navy service. Now, in the age of COVID-19, they have proven deadly.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The dopest generation of soldiers are clearly kids of the ’90s

What do you get when you combine a ’90s childhood with military training? The best damn generation of soldiers, that’s what. Written by an elder millennial, this is the completely unbiased reasoning behind that statement.


Raised with an abundance of empathetic statements like “get out of the house and don’t return until the streetlights are on” gave future service members eighteen years to prepare for the nuances of military life. What exactly did an eight-year-old do with a 12-hour Saturday? They figured it out, and not with GPS, cell phones or viral videos to stream.

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight
Lima Co. Pugil Sticks and Confidence Course

media.defense.gov

Military life aims to sharpen core human skills like navigation, an awareness of terrain, and stamina. ’90’s kids roamed in the back 40, hopped fences, dug foxholes (just for fun) and played the rudimentary version of land navigation-hide and go seek. Yes, the last generation outside became the last generation with an abundance of experience honing this primal skillset. Weekends were for pushing the limits of both physical boundaries, the body, and the mind. Getting lost made you better made you distinctly aware of how important it was to pay attention, because no one was coming to find you until well after dark.

Nicknames were so brutal, you longed for the days where the military would rebrand you into something (hopefully) better. Feelings were completely unacceptable in the ’90’s. The closer you became to a human Terminator, the emotionless badass who knew and did everything right, the better chance you stood at surviving childhood without the need for therapy.

If you’ve ever wondered why your current Staff Sergeant lacks empathy or seemingly takes joy in the majestic poems of correction spewing from his mouth, it’s because that was affection that was displayed. The harsher the nickname, the greater the chance some sort of affection was behind its origination.

’90’s kids firmly believe in coming in first. Competition flows through their veins, and the flashbacks to being pointed at and laughed off the dodgeball courts in gym class ensures they will do everything in their power to crush you and anyone else standing in their way. Participation ribbons did not exist, and even if the rare ones did, it would have been too embarrassing to ever admit they owned any. Trying is failing unless of course, you win.

Not only will they do whatever it takes to win, they will wait…patiently plotting, as dial-up internet taught them to. While newer generations become disgusted with anything less than instantaneous results or satisfaction, service members with ’90’s childhoods are the last to be taught patience through the agonizing experiences of rewinding videotapes, gluing their fingers together (for fun), or waiting until the show aired on prime time. The enemy can hide, but they are trained to wait.

Generation Y (elder millennials) was raised in a deeply patriotic time. G.I. Joe’s appeal hadn’t faded within the early years of this crop, instilling the message that military service was something to not just admire, but aspire to. Their grandparents remembered the Depression and World War II. Their parents lived through or served in Vietnam or the Gulf War. At every turn, the sacrifice of serving was remembered and valued.

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight
India Company Pugil Sticks Mar. 15, 2019

media.defense.gov

If a history of roaming free or honing early marksmanship skills via NERF or BB guns hadn’t tipped the scales in Uncle Sam’s favor, witnessing 9/11 through their innocent eyes did. American flags flew abundantly in yards, while many awaited the day they became eligible to enlist, to do their part and keep their hometowns safe.

’90’s culture still reigns king with sitcoms and music, which has yet to go out of style. This space in time produced a “fly” crop of service members if you ask us.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How this soldier is finding his dream job through the US Army

Sit across the table from Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili for just a few seconds and you’ll see a basic outline emerge fairly quickly. His manners and easy smile, the way he leans forward when he talks, and — not least of all, of course — his affection for Starbucks Doubleshot energy drinks make him the typical — almost archetypal — 30-year-old soldier; busy, eager, and always ready for the next task, the next challenge. But dig a little deeper and you will see, quite clearly, the details that color the world inside that simple sketch. To map the entire terrain, however, you’ll need to travel some 15,000 miles.

“I always wanted to be a soldier,” says Dzamashvili, sitting in the offices of the 21st Signal Brigade on a warm September morning. “When I was a kid that was always something I thought would be cool, being a soldier for the American Army.”


Those words, and indeed his affinity for the Army and America as a whole, are repeated so often and with such calm conviction that he could almost double as a motivational speaker; one specializing, perhaps, in writing simple daily mantras for busy professionals to read on their daily commutes. Instead, Dzamashvili is a board-certified medical doctor who enlisted in the Army just last year, in early 2018. It’s a commitment, he says, that doubles as a gift to the country that gave him opportunities he never would have had in his native Georgia — a tiny, still-emerging country located at the intersection of Western Asia and Eastern Europe.

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight

U.S. Army Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili speaks with a coworker at his desk located in the offices of the 21st Signal Brigade.

(Photo by Mr. Ramin A. Khalili)

“Honestly,” says Dzamashvili, “the reason I wanted to become an American soldier is because America has given my family everything.”

The first 5,000 miles

“When I was born in Georgia,” says Dzamashvili, reaching back to the late 1980s, “it was still part of the U.S.S.R. This was just before the U.S.S.R. split up, and so there was instability and there was upheaval … there was an ongoing fight for power.”

It was that atmosphere of decline that Dzamashvili’s father, Konstantin, sought to flee when he reached out to a friend living in Chicago for help in the early 1990s. Political and cultural strife in the country of — at the time — barely more than four million people had led to the breakdown of living conditions and, in some cases, the basic application of law. And so Konstantin, a neurologist by trade, was hoping America could provide safety for his wife, son, and young twin daughters.

“My father was waiting in breadlines for hours just to feed the family,” says Dzamashvili. “So when he came here, it was for a better life.”

But that opportunity came with a catch. In order to pay for his family’s move to America, Konstantin had to travel to the U.S. alone first in order to save up enough money. He wound up bunking with that same buddy in Chicago for a year —eventually re-starting his medical career at 40-years old — before bringing the rest of the family to Illinois.

Says Dzamashvili of his father, “He was out there for a year, alone, while we were still in Georgia, until he had passed all his boards and started his residency program, which would then fund us coming over here.”

And so at age five, Sergo was finally in the place he wanted to be all along … for a little while, at least.

Return to Georgia

For Sergo, it all started with his grandfather — his father’s father. He was the catalyst, the inception point. He passed away when Konstantin was in his late teens and so Sergo never got a chance to meet him, but he did have pictures — volumes of mementos from Georgia.

“I would always hear stories about his bravery,” says Sergo, “about what kind of man he was. From early on, I was always intrigued — the way he was standing there in his [military] uniform with all these medals.”

Those pictures, coupled with Sergo’s newfound affinity for the United States, stuck with him during his formative years and carried through to his entrance into medical school — which he ultimately chose to attend at David Tvildiani Medical University back in Georgia.

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight

U.S. Army Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili (foreground, right) conducts Army Warrior Tasks (AWT) drills during the 21st Signal Brigade Best Warrior Competition 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Raul Pacheco)

The decision to both leave home (to leave again, in a manner of speaking) and reconnect with family roots was daunting to say the least, as Georgia had been rife with the same political instability from Dzamashvili’s youth up until pro-democratic forces rose to power in the mid-2000s. The tiny, burgeoning country was still — much like Sergo at the time — moving through its adolescent years.

There was contrasting comfort, however, in the medical training itself. Turns out Dzamashvili’s chosen university not only came highly recommended from family friends practicing medicine in Chicago, it was designed specifically to cater to regional students who wanted to ultimately enter U.S.-based medical professions. To that end, all university textbooks were written in English and, further, the overall cost of schooling was substantially less than a U.S.-based medical education — all perks unavailable to his father just a decade-or-so earlier. Ironically, Georgia would eventually, in 2014, become home to the U.S. Army Medical Research Directorate-Georgia, a subordinate command of the USAMRDC’s Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

“Going back to Georgia really brought me that perspective,” says Dzamashvili. “There was a long time where my family wouldn’t go back, even though we had a chance to go back in the 90s.”

Just twelve years after touching down in America’s Heartland — and just a few years after becoming an American citizen — Sergo was back on a plane at age 17 for a new and different journey.

Homecoming, part II

When you ask him how Georgians speak — ask about the language they use, the way they talk, the casual slang terms they use, even — Dzamashvili is quick to make it clear that Georgia is a singular and unique entity; a hard-fought identity that he clearly still respects.

“Georgians have their own language,” he says quickly, almost as a sly-but-gentle rebuke to those who think the country may still be hindered by its turbulent past in any way. “They have their own alphabet, everything — and so I had to re-learn how to read and write, essentially, when I went back for school.”

Dzamashvili’s university stay would last for six years until his graduation in 2013; at which point he’d not only navigated the rigors of initial medical training, but had reached a poignant understanding of the country of his birth (“people there are very hospitable,” he says), gained a greater understanding of the government’s democratic efforts (“I see hope,” he says), and, with regards to cultural differences, had also determined that Georgia had substantial culinary shortcomings as compared to the U.S. (“I did miss burritos over there,” he says).

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight

U.S. Army Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili assigned to HHC, 21st Signal Brigade, conducts M9 weapons qualification as part of the 21st Signal Brigade Best Warrior Competition 2019.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Raul Pacheco)

Touching back down in Illinois, Dzamashvili eventually passed his medical board examinations, shadowed professional doctors, and even performed clinical research at Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital. But when it came time for residency training, instead of waiting a year to attend either Loyola University of Chicago or the University of Illinois at Chicago, he opted for a different path: the U.S. Army.

“Screw waiting,” says Dzamashvili of his mindset at the time. “I’m going to join the Army. I was always told the fastest way to get into the Army was to just go and enlist anyways, so that didn’t bother me to go enlist for a couple of years as long as I got into the medical field.”

Desire, meet destiny

Now, after thirty years and medical training efforts on two different continents, Sergo Dzamashvili is both a medical doctor and a member of the U.S. Army; his first assignment is here at Fort Detrick. His unique qualifications have bred an understandable eagerness to move forward — a chomping at the bit, of sorts — as, indeed, he’s already started the process of entering the Army’s medical occupation; taking the steps required to become a physician. But if you think the man who’s waited nearly three decades to realize his dream is put off by a little time in the waiting room, then you don’t know Sergo.

“My ultimate goal is to practice medicine in the Army,” says Dzamashvili. “That’s what I want, to give back. I’d like to serve for at least eight years, to give back that entire time in service.”

Just how long it will take to reach that goal is yet to be seen, though it should come as no surprise that Dzamashvili has already attempted to plot the arc of his military medical career even before his training has been completed. Even now, serving as a Human Resources Specialist in the S-1 Office until his next assignment, he finds in each day’s shift what so many others would gladly welcome into their own lives: a sense of purpose, the feeling of belonging, and the satisfaction of a job that truly has meaning.

In the end — if these kinds of stories can have an end — the service career of Sergo Dzamashvili is, in reality, just beginning. It would be an exaggeration, perhaps, to say that Dzamashvili has already lived multiple lives; though it wouldn’t be such a stretch to say that’s the truth, either. In any capacity, his life’s work as currently constructed already stands as an impressive feat; a soldier coupling the desire to serve America with the talent required to make a lasting impact.

Not too bad for a typical 30-year-old.

Says Dzamashvili, “If there’s nothing else I do in my life, I can always say I was a soldier. That’s the way I look at it. If there’s nothing else that I accomplish, I will always know that I served my country.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

PBS Memorial Day Concert to air May 24, 2020

Capital Concerts announced that a special presentation of the NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT, hosted by Tony Award-winner Joe Mantegna and Emmy Award-winner Gary Sinise, will air on PBS and feature new performances and tributes filmed around the country to honor all of our American heroes.

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the traditional live concert on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol will not be held – to ensure the health and safety of all involved.

The special 90-minute presentation of the NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT will air on Sunday, May 24, 2020, as a celebration to the heroes currently fighting COVID-19. This year marks its 31st year as a way to honor and remember our troops, Veterans, wounded warriors, all those who have given their lives for our nation and their families.


“In this unprecedented time, when the nation needs it most, we will bring Americans together as one family to honor our heroes,” said Executive Producer Michael Colbert. “This has been the mission of the NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT for 30 years, and we look forward to sharing stories and music of support, hope, resilience, and patriotism.”

America’s national night of remembrance will feature new appearances and performances by distinguished American statesman, including: General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret); Tony, Emmy and Grammy winner and two-time Oscar nominee, Cynthia Erivo; world-renowned four-time Grammy Award-winning soprano superstar Renée Fleming; country music star and Grammy-nominated member of the Grand Ole Opry, Trace Adkins; Grammy Award-winning gospel legend CeCe Winans; Tony Award-winning Broadway star Kelli O’Hara; Tony Award-nominated actress Mary McCormack; members of the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of top pops conductor Jack Everly; and a special message from General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Broadway and television star Christopher Jackson will open the show with a performance of the national anthem. The broadcast will also feature performances from previous concerts by Academy Award-nominated actor Sam Elliott; Oscar nominee and Emmy and Tony-Award winner Laurence Fishburne; and actor/producer/director Esai Morales.

Woven throughout the program will be messages of thanks and support from prominent guest artists for active-duty military, National Guard and Reserve and their families, Veterans, and Gold Star families; the messages include gratitude for for first responders, doctors, nurses, grocery clerks, truck drivers, postal workers – all those who are on the front lines, putting their lives at risk now in the fight against this virus.

Hosts Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise will also share several powerful segments that highlight stories of generations of ordinary Americans who stepped forward and served our country with extraordinary valor in its most challenging times.

The NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT airs on PBS Sunday, May 24, 2020, from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m. E.T., as well as to our troops serving around the world on the American Forces Network. The concert will also be streaming on Facebook, YouTube and www.pbs.org/national-memorial-day-concert and available as Video on Demand, May 24 to June 7, 2020.

Other participants

Also participating in new and some past selected performances are members from the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, the U.S. Army Chorus, the U.S. Army Voices and Downrange, the Soldiers’ Chorus of the U.S. Army Field Band, the U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters, the U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants, and Service Color Teams provided by the Military District of Washington, D.C.

The program is a co-production of Michael Colbert of Capital Concerts and WETA, Washington, D.C. Executive producer Michael Colbert has assembled an award-winning production team that features the top Hollywood talent behind some of television’s most prestigious entertainment awards shows, including the ACADEMY AWARDS, GRAMMY AWARDS, COUNTRY MUSIC AWARDS, TONY AWARDS, and more.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What happens if you commit a crime in space?

Milesperawesome asks: Could you get in trouble legally if you murdered someone in space? Asking for a friend.

While it might seem like something out of science fiction, given that humans are presently in space and soon enough mass space tourism is going to open up the possibility for many, many more, it’s only a matter of time before someone commits a crime in space, with it being alleged the first already occurred in 2019, which we’ll get to shortly. So what exactly happens if someone does break the law in space? Could you, say, commit murder and get away scot-free?

To begin with, while you might think it can’t actually be possible to commit a crime in space because no country seemingly has jurisdiction there, you’d be wrong. Much like the myth that you can do whatever you want in international waters because no country holds sway, it turns out, among other agreements and rules, International laws are a thing.


On that note, while aboard a given vessel, the ship you’re on officially hails and is registered from some nation or group of nations (like the European Union) and the laws from said entities are binding aboard it in most cases while it’s out at sea. This is outlined in the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea, “every State shall effectively exercise its jurisdiction and control in administrative, technical and social matters over ships flying its flag.”

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight

Mare Liberum (1609) by Hugo Grotius is one of the earliest works on law of the sea.

(Public domain)

While obviously there isn’t exactly a court case history to back this up, the general consensus is that the same basic idea will hold true for ships in space, and certain agreements to date concerning space ships do seem to bear that out, as well as help give a partial framework for judges to work with.

For example, in the Outer Space Treaty, beyond more or less attempting to ensure space stays free from any claim of national sovereignty, most pertinent to the topic at hand, it notes,

State Party to the Treaty on whose registry an object launched into outerspace is carried shall retain jurisdiction and control over such object, and over any personnel thereof, while in outer space or on a celestial body.

More or less mirroring this idea, on the International Space Station, the partnered nations came up with the Intergovernmental Agreement on Space Station Cooperation, which states, in part, the nations, “may exercise criminal jurisdiction over personnel in or on any flight element who are their respective nationals.”

As Joanne Gabrynowicz, the editor of Journal of Space Law- which is totally a thing by the way- elaborates, “The law of the nation that contributed and registered the module applies to that module… Further, each astronaut is governed by the law of the nation they represent. Therefore, which nation’s criminal jurisdiction will apply depends on which nation’s module the alleged crime was committed and which nation the alleged perpetrator is from.”

It’s also noteworthy that this Space Station Agreement has already anticipated countless other things that may happen in space and how various nations can work together amicably to resolve them, leading many space lawyers- which are also totally a thing- to speculate that elements of this agreement are likely to get adopted into a more general, universal agreement at some point down the line. And in the meantime, judges may well lean on it, among other existing agreements and analogous cases here on Earth, when attempting to decide legal matters as they begin happening outside of the ISS.

Speaking of these analogous cases, much like when a person travels to another nation and then commits a crime, there are plenty of existing agreements and fodder for authorities to draw from when crimes are committed in space. While there certainly will be the occasional dispute, as even happens between nations on Earth over such matters today, there is a pretty good outline already in place as to how it will probably be sorted out.

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight

On top of this, even should you renounce your citizenship and be aboard your own vessel that likewise has no ties to any nation (perhaps even with you declaring said ship a nation of its own), it is likely if you did anything serious, especially against someone who does still have citizenship with some nation, you would still face prosecution for any crimes, perhaps via an International Criminal Court or even a special tribunal. (Although, in this case, we’re hoping such a court will be given the new, much cooler moniker of Galactic Criminal Court at some point.)

As the director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, Henry Hertzfeld, states,

Although there is no sovereignty outside a spacecraft, there are analogies to the law on ships in international waters and also to issues that might occur in Antarctica; both places with no national sovereignty. So, although this is not a settled issue, my reading is that being in space and technically outside of any nation’s sovereignty or jurisdiction is not sufficient to avoid being charged with a crime…

Of course, even then there still is a lot of potential for gray area. For example, one of the world’s leading space lawyers, Joanne Gabrynowicz, outlines one such scenario for people on the International Space Station, which has a pretty well defined set of rules as previously noted,

Each of the modules is registered by a different country, so that means that if you’re in the US laboratory, you’re on a piece of US territory… If you mosey over to the Japanese module, you are now in Japan. So, it’s like an embassy. It’s national territory….What happens if it’s been a long hard day at the American lab, and a European astronaut punches a Canadian in the American module, but then runs over to the Japanese module? Who has jurisdiction over that? …

But, of course, that is just a jurisdictional issue. If a serious enough crime was committed, the person’s going to get prosecuted somewhere. It just might be a bit of a bureaucratic nightmare in some cases to sort out where.

When moving over to scenarios like actual colonization of places like Mars, once a colony is setup, it will no doubt enact its own laws, which those living there will have to agree to, whether explicitly or implicitly, not too dissimilar to moving to a new country on Earth. And likewise it is probable that extradition agreements and the like will be setup little different from agreements between nations on Earth.

Coming back around to the question of if there has ever yet been a crime committed in space, this allegedly occurred during astronaut Anne McClain’s six month stint on the ISS in 2019. During that span, she supposedly accessed her recently ex-wife’s bank account several times, allegedly to double check there was enough money in the accounts to cover bills and to care for the pair’s son. On the other hand, her ex, Summer Worden, took the matter more seriously, viewing it as illegal access to her accounts, thus potentially subjecting McClain to certain identity theft laws.

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight

NASA astronaut Anne McClain.

(Public domain)

Because McClain is an American citizen, was aboard the American module of the International Space Station when she allegedly committed the crime, was using one of NASA’s computers at the time, and her supposed victim is likewise American, she was very clearly under the jurisdiction of the United States. However, as far as we can find, nothing ever came of these accusations other than a NASA investigation and a whole lot of news reports. McClain is still an astronaut for NASA and otherwise no further updates on the matter have ever been made public, so presumably either it was decided no crime was actually committed or the former couple settled the matter amicably and the investigation was dropped.

But to sum up, no matter where you are in the universe, you can be fairly sure that judges the world over will be happy to cite similar type scenarios that have happened on Earth and existing agreements in making sure you are prosecuted for crimes, assuming said crimes were serious enough to be worth the effort involved, or someone kicks up enough of a stink about it. And while there still is plenty of gray area, as soon as space tourism becomes a relatively common thing and people start committing crimes in space, it seems likely that the various nations the world over will quickly develop a comprehensive and more definitive set of rules to govern such things when the need arises.

All that said, there are an awful lot of ways a seemingly innocuous sequence of events can lead to someone’s death in space. Accidents happen- a faulty valve isn’t necessarily proof someone murdered someone else, even if they loathed each other. In some such ways someone could die in space, any halfway decent lawyer could instill reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors, especially if hard evidence couldn’t be attained. After all, the expense of investigating such a crime thoroughly may well be enormous in some cases, thus making it so such a detailed investigation may not be done, or even possible.

So let’s just say in many cases it’s going to be a lot more difficult to tell if there was someone behind such an event, or if it was just an accident… Leading us to perhaps one of the cooler new jobs that are going to be a thing in the coming decades- space detectives.

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part eight

(Photo by João Silas)

Bonus Fact:

Ever wonder what the longest prison sentence ever given out is? Well, wonder no more. This was a whopping 141,078 years. It was given in 1989 in Thailand to Chamoy Thipyaso and each of her seven accomplices for defrauding more than 16,000 Chinese investors as a part of a massive Ponzi scheme.

If you’re wondering, in the United States, the longest sentence for some form of corporate fraud was only 845 years. This was handed down in 2000 to Sholam Weiss, for his role in the collapse of National Heritage Life Insurance. By contrast, Bernie Madoff was only given 150 years for his 2009 conviction of defrauding thousands in a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme.

The second and third longest prison sentences (for any crime), globally, were given to Jamal Zougam (42,924 years) and Emilio Suárez Trashorras (49,922 years) for their roles in the 2004 train bombings in Madrid.

As for the longest prison term overall in the United States, it was given in 1994 to Charles Schott Robinson who was convicted of six counts of rape garnering him 5,000 years in prison each- a whopping 30,000 year sentence.

Also in Oklahoma, Darron B. Anderson and Allan W. McLaurin each had in the thousands of years ranges of prison time imposed for the kidnapping, robbery and rape of an elderly woman. Anderson was initially only sentenced to 2,200 years, but upon his second trial (he appealed and won a new one), that second jury imposed a sentence of 11,250 years. McLaurin was initially sentenced to 21,250 years, but the appellate court reduced it to a mere 500 years.

The longest prison sentence imposed in Australia was given to Martin Bryant in 1996 for the Port Arthur, Tasmania massacre where he killed 35 and injured 23 others. His sentence included 1,035 years without parole plus 35 life sentences, one for each life he took.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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