“Kick his ass!” was one of the multiple jeers I heard through the litany of booing as I stepped on the mat at Dragoon Fight Night, the 2d Cavalry Regiment’s combative showcase. A few weeks prior, I had posted a video on social media to over 4,000 Dragoons challenging any Soldier to fight their Command Sergeant Major. My opponent, Sergeant Zach Morrow, stood across the ring, he was 50 pounds heavier, nearly 20 years younger, and had a cage fighting record. I was about to be punched in the face.
Getting punched in the face is exactly what I needed and what the 700 people in attendance and those watching online needed to see. Often young leaders hear, “Never ask Soldiers to do something you are not willing to do,” but how do leaders, echelons above the most junior Soldiers on the front line, demonstrate this?
As NCOs and officers move up in positions the number of opportunities to exhibit leadership by example diminishes. Getting past the fear of failure, identifying opportunities to highlight priorities with action, and understanding Soldiers are always watching their leaders provides us the chance to inspire and positively impact the formation.
As leaders, we cannot be afraid of failure. When Sergeant Morrow approached me about my challenge, I knew the odds were against me. I was overmatched and fully understood I could be twisted into a pretzel or even worse, knocked out in front of my entire formation. But why shouldn’t I step into the ring? I didn’t make it to this position without losing a few battles or failing occasionally. Fear of defeat or failure cannot dissuade leaders from setting the example, it should inspire them to be better!
Recently, two majors in the 2d Cavalry Regiment attempted to get their Expert Soldier Badge (ESB). As they passed event after event the staff buzzed with excitement. Here were two staff primary officers who had taken time out of their schedule, risking failure to earn something they didn’t even need. They accepted risk and delegated responsibilities to ensure they could accept a challenge. Even after they failed on the third day of testing, their peers and subordinates saw them with a level of respect and admiration.
It would have been easier for those officers to avoid a challenge or risk of failure using busy work schedules as an excuse. Their evaluations were already written by their senior rater at that point. But they stepped in the ring and took a punch in the face earning respect and loyalty of their Soldiers even in failure. Any leader taking a risk and puts their reputation on the line is more inspirational than one who just shakes Soldiers’ hands after a fight.
There are many ways officers and NCOs can set the example at all echelons of leadership. As leaders accept challenges, it provides them with an opportunity to highlight command emphasis. Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Fortenberry (United States Army Infantry School) earned his Ranger Tab between battalion and brigade command. It echoed the importance his command team placed on the fundamentals and leadership lessons all Soldiers, regardless of rank, can learn at Ranger School.
Recently, Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Lopez (Brigade Support Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division) earned his ESB. He didn’t need it for a promotion or another badge on his chest. By earning it, he demonstrated to the NCOs and Soldiers the ESB is important and if he is willing to take a figurative punch in the face, so should every subordinate below him.
Soldiers always watch their leaders. They see the ones who “workout on their own” instead of joining them for challenging physical fitness training. Soldiers notice leaders who are always in their office while they face blistering wind during weekly command maintenance in January or scorching heat during tactical drills in July. In addition, senior leaders have fewer chances to lead from the front. They must actively look for opportunities to get punched in the face.
After three brutal rounds, Sergeant Morrow connected with a perfect strike to my upper eye. While the physician assistance superglued my eyebrow back together an unsettling quietness took over the gym. When I stepped back onto the mat the crowd erupted, it wasn’t about the Sergeant Major getting his “ass kicked” it was about a leader who accepted a challenge and wouldn’t quit or accept defeat. A few minutes later, I stood beside Sergeant Morrow, the referee raised his hand. The standing ovation was the loudest of the evening. The audience didn’t care their Command Sergeant Major was defeated, they were excited to see a good fight and a leader enter the ring and take a punch to the face.
U.S. Army uniform officials are working on a lightweight, modular ghillie suit for snipers to replace the current Flame Resistant Ghillie System, or FRGS, that’s known for being too heavy for hot environments.
Program Executive Office Soldier is developing the Improved Ghillie System, or IGS, a modular system that would be worn over the field uniform, Debbie Williams, a systems acquisition expert with Product Manager Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment, said in a recent Army press release posted on PEO Soldier’s website.
The IGS will consist of components such as sleeves, leggings, veil, and cape that can be added or taken off as needed, Williams said.
It will also do away with the ghillie suit accessory kit, which is standard with the FRGS, she said, explaining that soldiers were not using most of the items in the kit.
A 1st Battalion, 175th Infantry, soldier practices camouflage, cover and concealment with the Flame Resistant Ghillie Suit, or FRGS, during training at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., in November 2012.
The Army issued a request for proposal for the IGS on Aug. 28, 2018, according to the release.
The IGS will feature a lighter, more breathable fabric than the material used in the FRGS, said Mary Armacost, a textile technologist with PM SCIE.
The material will offer some flame-resistance, but soldiers will receive most of their protection from their Flame Resistant Combat Uniform, worn underneath the IGS, Army officials said.
If all goes well, the Army plans to buy about 3,500 IGSs to outfit the approximately 3,300 snipers in the service, as well as Army snipers in U.S. Special Operations Command, the release states.
The Army intends to conduct tests that will evaluate the new IGS in both lab and field environments during day and night conditions. A limited user evaluation is being scheduled for next spring, involving instructors from the Sniper School at Fort Benning.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The white-suited Imperial soldiers were spotted patrolling a balcony at Disney Springs, the shopping, dining, and entertainment complex that was the first Disney World property to reopen last week. Following a monthslong COVID-19 closure, the complex implemented lots of new precautionary measures, and the stormtroopers were there to remind guests of what they needed to do to stay safe.
“Yeah, I’m gonna need you to move…one bantha’s length away please,” the headstrong female stormtrooper says to the clueless male stormtrooper, a reminder to him and the crowds below of the importance of social distancing.
In another bit, he tries to get the attention of someone in the crowd by saying “Hey! You! With the face covering!”
“They all have face coverings,” she replies.
“Well, I made them all look,” he points out, eliciting a groan from his exasperated companion.
Face masks are, of course, a CDC-recommended measure to slow the spread of the coronavirus. They’re also required for all employees and guests at Disney Springs, and thus made great fodder for the stormtroopers’ routine.
“Some nice face coverings down there,” the female stormtrooper said of the tourists’ masks below. “Probably nicer than these helmets.”
“I doubt it,” he replied matter-of-factly. “These helmets have atmospheric processing units with multi-stage filtration, heat dispersion, and vacuum-tolerant oxygen delivery.”
“Do you stand at night reading spec manuals?” she asked incredulously.
“That checks out,” she said, the “you nerd” heavily implied.
The stormtroopers’ repartee was nice because it managed to have some fun with the serious situation without making light of it. Wearing face masks and social distancing is serious, but this performance shows that messages aimed at the public can have some levity and be effective.
As the coronavirus spreads in the US, “tens of thousands” of National Guard troops could be called up to assist efforts to combat the disease, the National Guard chief said Thursday.
There are more than 2,000 National Guard members on state active duty in 27 states, but the number is expected to increase. As of last Friday, only 400 Guard members were active in just six states.
“We anticipate that number going up relatively quickly, in fact doubling by this weekend,” Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said at a Pentagon press briefing.
“It’s hard to tell what the exact requirement will be, but I’m expecting tens of thousands to be used inside the states as this grows,” he told reporters, adding that “this could blossom in the next couple of weeks as governors and states determine their needs.”
The National Guard has a long history of responding to disasters, including public-health emergencies such as disease outbreaks.
“We are involved in a multitude of mission sets,” Lengyel said. “The National Guard is providing medical testing, assessments, facilities, ground transportation, logistics, command and control, planners, liaison officers, and we will continue to adapt as this unfolds.”
As of Tuesday in New York, which has over 3,000 coronavirus cases, there were 900 New York National Guard troops on duty assisting at drive-thru test stations, cleaning public spaces, and distributing food, the Guard said in a statement.
“Going forward, we expect the role of the National Guard will continue to grow and evolve to meet the country’s needs during this historic pandemic,” Lengyel told reporters.
The Guard is having to implement certain force protection measures, however, as six Guard members have already tested positive for the coronavirus.
“My No. 1 priority is taking care of our National Guard soldiers, airmen and their families,” the chief said in a recent statement. “The readiness of our force will be critical to the success of this nation’s COVID-19 response efforts.”
Since 2009, the Call of Duty Endowment has been making strides in helping out the real-life heroes upon which the Call of Duty series is based. Now, the newest installment in the series, Call of Duty: WWII, is once again offering gamers the chance to give back to our nation’s war fighters — and get some really sweet loot in the process.
The deal here isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it is effective. The developers over at Sledgehammer Games, Inc. are again putting out some cosmetic DLC that offers gamers some nifty swag in exchange for putting some cash towards helping veterans find jobs after they leave the service.
They’ve began this trend with Call of Duty:Infinite Warfare when they offered players a sweet red, white, and blue skin for their weapon, giving fans of the series the chance to showcase their commitment to helping veterans. Shortly after the release of Call of Duty: WWII, players once again had a chance to chip in and, in return, receive a helmet with the C.O.D.E. emblem on it.
This time around, the pack is called the “Fear Not Pack.” It comes with a new Monty uniform, two calling cards, two player emblems, a weapon charm that’s a Scottish Terrier wearing Teddy Roosevelt’s glasses, and a green “Viper” weapon skin.
You can pick up this new pack for $4.99. Playstation 4 players can snag an exclusive premium, animated theme for an additional $3.99. Or, you can get it all bundled up with last year’s Bravery pack for a grand total of $9.99. Both packs are now available for players to purchase.
No matter what your stance is on buying in-game cosmetics, remember, it’s all for a good cause. All of the proceeds go towards placing veterans in high-paying, high-quality jobs — and things are going well. The Call of Duty Endowment first set out to place 25,000 veterans in great jobs by the end of 2018. Due to an overwhelmingly positive reception and avid participation from the players, they met that goal two years early. They’ve since revised their goal. Now, they want to place 50,000 veterans by the end of 2019 — and you can help.
Check out the video below to learn a little more about the organization and how they’re helping our nation’s vets.
“The continued support from Sledgehammer Games, PlayStation, and Xbox for Call of Duty® in-game items this year is vital to our mission of helping veterans beat unemployment and underemployment as they transition back into civilian life. Via these programs, we have raised more than $3.8 million toward helping veterans into meaningful careers,” said Dan Goldenberg, Executive Director of the Call of Duty Endowment. “We want to thank Call of Duty gamers and our partners for their continued support, without which we could not be have helped more than 6,000 vets.”
ACTIVISION and CALL OF DUTY are trademarks of Activision Publishing, Inc. All other trademarks and trade names are the properties of their respective owners.
Parachutes, manufactured and packed en masse during World War II to accompany Allied aviators on missions, had a very important job to do: open.
Lucky for me, my grandfather’s did. He was a 23-year-old US Army Air Corps pilot shot down over France a month before D-Day. He bailed out over central France, after his seven crewmates and moments before their B-24 Liberator exploded in the sky.
They all hit the ground on better terms than their plane, thanks to their parachutes (and, in a longer story, they all survived their respective journeys through occupied France, thanks largely to French patriots and resistants who helped them).
And last May, I traveled to his crash site in Mably, France, for a beautiful 75th anniversary commemoration event. A Frenchman came up to me and explained that he’d been a baby in a village near the crash site during the war, and that his mother recovered one of the airman’s parachutes and made it into a swaddle and carrier for him.
He recalled converting the material into a hammock — a swing he played in even after the war, when shortages and hardship from the devastation of the battles, air raids, and Nazi occupation persisted throughout Europe. This is one of many examples of how people made use of the life-saving silk, canvas, and nylon canopy contraptions falling from the sky during World War II everywhere from France and Yugoslavia to Japan and the Philippines.
Here are more ways parachutes’ function and form extended beyond the time they hit the ground.
Hilda Galloway and Robert Ellsworth Wickham at their wedding on October 14, 1945. Ellsworth Wickham flew 22 missions, including one bail out over France in January 1945. He gave pieces of his parachute to the doctors and nurses who helped him after he jumped.
Albert Williamson was a radio operator/gunner with the 384th BG/545th Bomb Squadron. On December 15, 1945 he married his longtime sweetheart, Ruth Glendinning, who walked down the aisle in this gown her cousin sewed using a parachute Williamson brought home.
So began a wave of wedding wear constructed from chutes brought back from war, including ones that fellow American women and men had sewn on the homefront and that had saved their and their enemies’ lives.
There was the commodity in and of itself, along with the meaning and specialness behind it. Used and surplus World War II parachutes were “a wonderful gift to pass along,” Kiser says.
This post was sponsored by Kensington Books. The author’s comments below on the novels are his own.
Most people are never more than an arm-length from civilization. They live in their apartments, suburban homes, or occasionally they live a short drive out of a town. But there are still places out there that are remote and removed enough to truly be considered the frontier. There is civilization of a sort there filled with rougher men and women for whom the questions of past – When will I eat next? Is that figure on the horizon friend or foe? Will I make it through the winter? – are real questions.
It turns out such a setting is also a great setup for a murder mystery.
Stone Cross is a new release and second in the Arliss Cutter series by Marc Cameron. Marc is a former United States Marshal and popular author of multiple series including three novels in the New York Times bestselling Jack Ryan series. Marc is also a resident of Alaska, something which adds verisimilitude to this new entry.
In this new atmospheric thriller, Cutter and his partner get assigned to protect a US Judge traveling to adjudicate a case in a remote Yupik village in western Alaska. Someone in the village has sent a letter threatening the life of the Judge and Cutter has to navigate the suspicions and resentment of the local indigenous people to protect the Judge from harm. Of course, complications ensue and it appears the safety of the Judge is only a secondary story.
The primary conflict of the novel revolves around the murder of a local handyman and the disappearance of a young husband and wife from the lodge the three of them were caretaking. Cameron’s characters have their endurance tested in bringing the case to its resolution.
Stone Cross does an outstanding job of establishing a dark and foreboding place where human beings feel like visitors to something older and more primeval. Everything feels more dangerous in this novel and even the characters begin to take on the stark and sharp-edged characteristics of the setting. It is a case where the simplicity and bleakness reduces each character to primal archetypes where survival is earned rather than given.
Ultimately this book works as a stand-alone but there are strong hints of continued Alaskan adventures ahead for Arliss Cutter. Based on this strength of this novel, one would do well to go back and pick up the first novel Open Carry and be ready for inevitable future entries in this series.
It’s no secret that troops and alcohol go together like a fine whiskey does with a couple of ice cubes. That’s why it’s not uncommon to hear troops talk about drinking heavily on a work night, even when they know they’re about to PT their asses off in just a few hours.
There’s no magical cure to being drunk. No matter the remedy or superstition, whether it’s drinking coffee or taking a hot shower, nothing can immediately sober someone up — only time and a good night’s rest can do that. But there are ways troops can take the sting out of nature’s reminder that alcohol is, technically, a poison and function at the level required by Uncle Sam.
Everyone wants to get swoll but forgets that cardio helps you drink more. Don’t forget to balance the two.
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Heather Redman)
How alcohol is handled by the human body depends greatly on a person’s body type. The larger the person, the less of an effect each drop of alcohol has. The metabolism of a person also determines how quickly the alcohol is cleared through the body. This is exactly why extremely big and fit people, like Andre the Giant, can drink 152 beers in a single sitting and function relatively well the following day.
You, probably, aren’t as massive as he was, but you can still boost your metabolism through rigorous exercise.
Don’t be that idiot who puts alcohol in their Camelback. You need actual water and the alcohol will eat through the plastic lining.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Gloria Lepko)
Hydrate the night before
To understand why everything hurts in the morning, let’s take a look at exactly what’s happening to your body when you’re hungover. In actuality, it’s the same sensation as doing some extreme training in a hot climate: It’s a bad case of self-inflicted dehydration.
Take a tip from your medic or corpsman and take in plenty of regular, old water before the night begins. It should go without saying, but you should be a one or a two on the pee chart before things get crazy.
Which shouldn’t be an issue because they’ll probably be on their way to PT and not stopping by Burger King.
(Photo by Patrick Buffett)
Eat a big meal beforehand
As we said, dehydration is the leading reason why hangovers suck. We can continue to mitigate this by making sure our bodies retain as many fluids as possible throughout the night.
Greasy foods with high sodium are common go-tos among troops. While these might not be healthy choices in general, the fats and grease line the stomach, decreasing the amount of alcohol absorbed into the bloodstream.
It should be noted, however, that greasy foods are terrible after someone is hungover because the body will reject it, making nausea worse.
If you cut it with a bottle of Gatorade or something, it will go down a lot smoother. But seriously, this stuff tastes like ass.
Hydration solution formulas
Since hangovers are literally just terrible cases of dehydration, it makes sense that products designed for re-hydration are helpful choices. There aren’t many options for name-brand hydration solution formulas, but if you go into the baby-food aisle at most stores, you’ll find something like Pedialyte.
Yes, it’s technically baby formula. Yes, it’s designed for children with stomach and bowel sicknesses. And yes, it’s going to taste like crap. But if you want a quick hit of electrolytes to help you function as an adult, just drink the damn baby formula.
They got pills back there in the Aid Station for every situation and ailment and yet the only thing they give us is Motrin… Just saying…
(Photo by Charles Haymond)
Motrin and water
If you really want to hear what your medic has to say, give ’em a visit. They may hook you up with a saline bag (to quickly replenish your fluids and keep ’em in there) or they’ll just toss you some Motrin and tell you to go away.
Now, the Ibuprofen isn’t going to cure your hangover, but it’s going to lessen the symptoms until your body can handle itself. The water, however, is actually going to help, so drink up. You’ll need it if you’re already dehydrated before a big run.
The world doesn’t give a damn if you’re in pain. So, neither should you.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Samantha Villarreal)
Suck it up, buttercup
If you really want to know how your crusty ol’ first sergeant handledtheir alcohol back duringtheir barracksdays —they just stop caring and moved through the pain.
Being hungover doesn’teven makethe list of the top 10 thingsthat bothera senior NCO. They’ve pushed their bodies to the limit for God-knows-how-many years and they seem to be doing just fine. At the end of the day,they know that complaining about it doesn’t make it anybetter.
While on the campaign trail, President Trump labeled the 2003 invasion of Iraq a “dumb war,” and the “worst decision” in American History. These statements should have received praise from Americans on both sides of the political aisle. Now, however, I’m not so certain that Trump is following through on his promises to avoid the next “dumb” war.
In May 2018, the president announced his intention to pull out of the Iran Deal, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The deal was, no doubt, flawed, but it did provide an inspections regime to limit and delay any Iranian attempts to go nuclear. Perhaps, being a creation of the Obama administration, the JCPOA was doomed from the start.
Iran is a mid-level menace. It aggressively pursues its interests through various proxy forces in the Mid-East — a sign of its weakness as much as power. The Islamic Republic has a burgeoning ballistic missile program (not covered by the JCPOA) and sometimes threatens Israel. This is all cause for concern and requires the U.S. military to balance and, perhaps, contain Iran. However, the Islamic Republic is decidedly not an existential threat to the United States. A more realist foreign policy must take this into account and avoid disastrous war.
Iran is nowhere near able to launch a (non-existent) nuclear weapon at Tel Aviv, let alone New York. Furthermore, as I have previously noted, Iran spends about as much on defense annually as the U.S. does on a single aircraft carrier. Iran’s GDP is about $427 billion, and it spent some $11.5 billion on defense in 2016. U.S. allies, like Saudi Arabia and Israel, spend $66.7 billion, and $19.6 billion, respectively. Standing behind them is the U.S., which plans to spend $716 billion on defense in 2019, or $300 billion more than Iran’s entire GDP.
Moreover, the U.S. military faces two significant problems: Iran presents a formidable obstacle to invasion, and American forces are already desperately overstretched.
Remember back when Americans were assured that the invasion of Iraq would be a “cakewalk?” We all know how that turned out. Iran is larger, more populous, and more mountainous than Iraq. It also has a fiercely nationalistic population, which, not-so-long-ago used human wave attacks to clear Iraqi minefields. Any U.S. invasion of Iran will require more troops and more years of patience than Washington or the populace have on hand.
(Department of Defense photo)
America’s formidable military is already spread thin, deployed in nearly 70 percent of the world’s countries. Our ground and air forces actively engage in combat in Niger, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The U.S. Army is also busy sending brigades to deter Russia in Eastern Europe and to shore up defenses in South Korea. Meanwhile, the Navy is patrolling the South China Sea, and ensuring access to the Persian Gulf and Red Sea. Bottom line: America’s warriors are quite busy.
The last thing Washington should do is take its eye off the ball in some seven ongoing shooting wars to start a new conflict with Iran. ISIS is not yet defeated, Iraq is far from politically stable, and — despite optimistic pleas to the contrary — the war in Afghanistan is failing. The best bet is for the U.S. military to cut its losses, avoid more counterproductive interventions, and cautiously disengage from the region.
The last thing American servicemen and women need is to fight a new, exhaustive war in Iran, with existing enemies to their rear. That would defy just about every sound military maxim on the books. Worse still, if we think Iran’s proxy forces are a problem now, imagine what will happen in the case of war, when Tehran would undoubtedly unleash them against U.S. bases and supply lines across the region.
Personally, this combat veteran trusts President Trump’s instincts more than those of his advisers. Secretary of State Pompeo and National Security Adviser Bolton are well-known Iranophobes with an ax to grind. Ditching the Iran Deal was definitely a win for these two. Still, scuttling the JCPOA does not have to mean war.
Trump eventually saw the invasion and occupation of Iraq for what it was: an unmitigated failure. Let’s hope he applies that instinct and avoids what promises to be an even more costly war with the Islamic Republic.
Mr. President, hundreds of thousands of us, overstretched veterans of 17 years of perpetual war in the Mid-East, are counting on a new deal.
June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month. Both women Veterans and Veterans with LGBT and related identities underuse VA care. That makes now an important time to bring attention to the unique needs of Veterans with LGBT and related identities.
VA proudly welcomes all Veterans. VA’s Women’s Health Services and the LGBT Health Program offer resources that can help.
There are more than two million women Veterans and an estimated one million lesbian, gay and bisexual Veterans in the United States.
Veterans with LGBT and related identities are less likely to seek out routine health care, largely due to fear of discrimination. This can lead to long-term health problems. Examples include a higher risk for mental health issues and suicidal thoughts than their non-LGBT peers.
VA is working to create an environment where Veterans with LGBT or related identities feel comfortable talking openly with providers about sexual orientation, gender identity, and mental and physical health challenges.
Safe to share your information
VA’s health care professionals have been trained to keep your information confidential. It is always safe to share your sexual orientation and gender identity with your provider. This is true, even if you have not come out to family or friends.
Being open with your provider about your identity helps VA offer you the best care possible.
If you are not comfortable speaking with your provider about sexual orientation or gender identity, or you think your provider is uncomfortable with these topics, there are ways VA can help.
Four words my father NEVER expected to hear come out of my mouth. Even more surprising because I was 26 years old when I said them. But come on, I was a proud BRAT, all too happy to follow in the family footsteps.
Once the shock wore off, the conversations began, and I have never been so thankful to come from such a strong military family as I was during the enlistment process. My father served 26 years in the Navy. My grandfather was in for 4. One uncle was in 20 years while another was in for 30! Add in my cousins (1 Navy, 1 Army, 2 Air Force) and I had a wealth of knowledge to pull from as I started my journey into service. But even with all that, nothing could prepare me for what I was going to face as I tried to enlist.
Enlisting Is Not As Easy As It Looks
In every TV show and movie, they show the young, bright-eyed kid going into a recruiter’s office and then walking out the same day with a ship date. For me, it was more like the scene from Sex in the City where Charlotte had to knock on the temple doors three times before the rabbi would talk to her about converting to the Jewish faith.
From the day I decided I wanted to enlist until I shipped off to Chicago for Boot Camp was two years and three days. Yes, you read that right. For two years I fought to enlist. Most people would have given up. Decided that the universe was saying the military was not their path and walked away. But not me. I knew that to achieve the goals I had set for myself and the military was the way to get there.
For someone looking to enlist and leave tomorrow, keep in mind that there is paperwork, and more paperwork, and even more paperwork that must be done. Waiver to sign (especially if you are older and have lived a little). ASVAB to take, jobs to pick, and quotas to be filled at specific times. Make sure that you go in with a realistic expectation of when you may ship out.
Don’t Buy The First Car You Test Drive
I got lucky. Because I am a military BRAT, I knew that the recruiter was essentially a military car salesman. If you’re anything like me you just pictured a guy in a cheap suit with too much cologne on trying to convince you that the neon yellow 1980’s vehicle sitting on the lot is a *classic* and not a lemon. That’s not exactly what I mean when I say that recruiters are salesmen. But it can be close.
The whole job of a recruiter is to hit a goal number of new recruits put into boot camp each month. They have jobs that are easier to fill (an example being an undesignated Sailor) and some that are harder to fill (a Navy nuke for example). They know when there will be lulls in numbers for the year and when high recruiting time is (right before high school graduations is a peek time!) A savvy recruiter is going to word their pitch to entice new recruits to sign up for the window that works for their quotas more than what will work for the recruit because many do not know enough about the process to know how to question what is being said.
If you walk into the recruiting office and things sound too good to be true, use the same line I did, “May I please take this paperwork to read over with my father/uncle? I would like them to help me understand some of the military terminology since they are both in/veterans.” Don’t be afraid to use the resources available to you in a military family to make sure you’re not being worked over. This will let your recruiter know that you’re taking the process seriously, that you have someone to walk you through the grey language they may use, and that you’re not going to be an easy tick on their number sheet.
Do Your Research
Remember when I said it took me 2+ years to leave for boot camp? Well, it was 1 year and 6 months from, “Hi, I want to enlist,” to me picking a job and signing a contract. Then another 6 months until I was able to ship out because the quotas for October were open while the ones for April were not. Part of the long wait for me was that I was not willing to sign a contract that I didn’t agree with. Prior to ever walking into their office I had researched the jobs I would take, the ASVAB scores that it would require to get them, and what jobs would require a 5-year vs 4-year commitment.
My entire goal for enlisting was that I wanted to go back to school to get a degree in education and eventually get my teaching license. I knew that I was a “one and done” Sailor. For me to have the career outside the military that I wanted, I needed a job that was a bit more desk duty that flightline chaos. Growing up in such a military family I was able to grill everyone on which jobs would allow for more personal time and which were 24/7 on-call positions. The fact that I am not at all mechanically-inclined (I blew up a car engine because I didn’t know to change the oil) meant I was not going to be working on planes or helicopters any time soon. And I am not good with blood and guts so medical was not for me. But paperwork, heck yeah! I love the meticulous nature of keeping files and writing awards and all the tasks that would drive a less organized person batty. Add to that my intention to focus on English teaching after the Navy and an administrative position was perfect for me.
Of course, my recruiter and the Sailors at MEPS doing my paperwork didn’t see it that way. They saw my ASVAB scores and my prior college experience as a way to earn their version of bonus points. They wanted me to enlist in as a nuke. Their pitch included telling me that I would earn enlistment bonuses since it was such a selective process to get the job, that A-School was in my favorite city of Charleston, SC and I would have time to explore while I was there for a year, and that I would have my pick of bases on both coasts and Japan.
Sounds great right? I mean, what smart person would turn down that offer?
One that has done their research!
I knew that as great as a year in Charleston sounded, nuke school had a nearly 90% fail rate. Meaning, if I did not pass, I would enter the fleet as an undesignated Sailor with no official job and be at the mercy of the military where I ended up. And even if I did do well in school, with only a 10% pass rate I was going to have to spend most of my time studying, not enjoying shrimp and grits at Poogan’s Porch. Oh, and that pick of bases? They didn’t mean ALL Navy bases. They meant ones with the right ships for the stand I picked up. And once on said ship, I would have to wear a pretty device that would alert me if I was picking up too much radiation and might start to glow in the dark.
Take your time and DO THE RESEARCH! Come in with documents to let your recruiter know you’ve look into the options, you understand why that branch of the military is the best fit for you, and you know what you want to get out of your time in service, whether it is 4 years or 30. And it allows you to really understand what it means to be committing to your enlistment. It is much easier to make the best out of a strange new situation (which it is no matter how much military you have in your family) when you have prepared yourself before getting to boot camp. Oh, and don’t let your pride get in the way when doing your research either. If the job you want requires a high ASVAB score, study, study, study! Hire a tutor. Bust your butt to do well because as much as I hate saying that a test can decide your military fate, it has a big role in what opportunities are available to you. Knowing what score you need on a test is just as important as knowing how many pull-ups you will be required to do in a fitness test when it comes to background research.
Tackle The Tough Stuff Before Leaving
To enlist, I faced some challenged. The biggest one was my weight. I have never been a skinny girl and I certainly wasn’t when I walked into the recruiter’s office. I knew I was going to have to lose weight and get into better shape before Boot Camp, but I didn’t expect that recruiters wouldn’t even speak to me because they didn’t think I had the ability to do that. A personal trainer, new cooking skills, and a half-marathon to keep me motivated had the weight off before they knew what hit them. But it was an eye opener from that point as to just how much physical standards were going to rule my life while I was enlisted. I was able to get a crash course in nutrition and fitness before shipping out when I had always assumed that boot camp would be where I was whipped into shape. The stamina I had to complete every task, and the pallet to deal with boot camp food, were built in the months before I left and it made those challenges something I didn’t have to face and be ridiculed for while I was being turned into a Sailor.
And I’ll admit, I had a very weird fear about boot camp. I’m pretty modest. I lied. I’m very modest. And no matter who I asked, everyone told me that showering with others was just part of the deal. No way around it, I was going to have to get over my modesty and wash up just like everyone else. So, what did I do? Well, not what most people may do but it certainly helped me! I found a local art class that needed figure models. Yup. I bared all for about 10 art students to tackle my debilitating fear of having to do the same in front of a bunch of strangers on my first day at boot camp. While it didn’t make me want to strut my stuff in front of 40 women I’d never met before, it certainly made it less awkward. Then again, by the time I got a shower for the first time in boot camp it had been almost 48 hour since my last one, I was exhausted, fighting a migraine from lack of sleep and would have been ok if the male recruits hopped in with me as long as I was allowed to get clean finally!
I know everyone has a different fear, different challenge they are facing, prior to heading out to boot camp. I do get that. However, I will say boot camp is not the place to face it. Do everything you can prior to leaving the comfort of your home to prepare you for what is to come. Boot camp is new for everyone. No matter how much the military is a family tradition, your boot camp experience will take you out of your comfort zone, put you with people you never would have met otherwise and test you in ways you never imagined, physically and mentally.
So, go in ready and willing to learn, leave your hang-ups at home, and keep your eyes on the end of the situation, not the tough day you are in at the moment. Before you know it all the preparation, the researching, will pay off and you will be able to proudly wear the uniform you worked so hard to earn. There is no feeling like graduation day when you realize you are now part of an elite group of people that are willing to put their lives on the line to protect their country.
Most of what is lying around in the dusty expanse of the aircraft graveyards around Tucson, Arizona is readily identifiable and not entirely remarkable.
Ejection seats from old F-4 Phantoms. An old CH-53 helicopter hulk. An interesting find over there is a fuselage section of a Soviet-era MiG-23 Flogger. No idea how it got here. Other than that, it’s just long rows of old, broken, silent airplanes inside high fences surrounded by cactus, dust, sand and more sand. An errant aileron on a dead wing clunks quietly against the hot afternoon breeze as if willing itself back into the air. But like everything here, its days of flying are over.
But there… What is that strange, manta-ray shaped, dusty black thing lying at an angle just on the other side of that fence? It may be an old airfield wind vane or radar test model. But it also may be…
(U.S. Air Force photo)
I had only read about it and seen grainy photos of it. I know it’s impossible. The project was so secret not much information exists about the details even today. But I stand there gawking through the chain link fence as the ruins of the other planes bear silent witness. It’ like the corpses of the other airplanes are urging me to look closer. To not leave. Their silent dignity begs me to tell this story.
After nearly a minute of studying it through the fence I realize; I am right. It is right before my eyes. Ten feet away. Despite the 100-degree heat I get goosebumps. And I start running.
I quickly locate a spot where the entire fence line opens up. I skirt the fence and in a couple minutes running around the sandy airplane corpses I’m inside. There, sitting right in front of me on its decrepit transport cart and dusted with windblown sand, abandoned in the Sonoran Desert, is one of Kelly Johnson and Ben Rich’s most ambitious classified projects from the fabled Lockheed Skunk Works.
(Lockheed Martin photo)
I just found the CIA’s ultra-secret Mach 3.3+ D-21 long-range reconnaissance drone. The D-21 was so weird, so ambitious, so unlikely it remains one of the most improbable concepts in the history of the often-bizarre world of ultra-secret “black” aviation projects. And now it lies discarded in the desert. The story behind it is so bizarre it is difficult to believe, but it is true.
July 30, 1966: Flight Level 920 (92,000 ft.), Mach 3.25, Above Point Mugu Naval Air Missile Test Center, Off Oxnard, California.
Only an SR-71 Blackbird is fast enough and can fly high enough to photograph this, the most classified of national security tests. Traveling faster than a rifle bullet at 91,000 feet, near inner-space altitude, one of the most ambitious and bizarre contraptions in the history of mankind is about to be tested.
“Tagboard” is its codename. Because of the catastrophic May, 1960 shoot-down of Francis Gary Powers’ Lockheed U-2 high altitude spy plane over the Soviet Union the CIA and is in desperate need of another way to spy on the rising threat of communist nuclear tests. Even worse, the other “Red Menace”, the Chinese, are testing massive hydrogen bombs in a remote location of the Gobi Desert near the Mongolian/Chinese border. It would be easier to observe the tests if the Chinese did them on the moon.
The goal is simple, but the problem is titanic. Get photos of the top-secret Red Chinese hydrogen bomb tests near the Mongolian border deep inside Asia, then get them back, without being detected.
Lockheed Skunkworks boss Kelly Johnson and an elite, ultra-classified small team of aerospace engineers have built an aircraft so far ahead of its time that even a vivid imagination has difficulty envisioning it.
Flat, triangular, black, featureless except for its odd plan form as viewed from above, like a demon’s cloak, it has a sharply pointed nose recessed into a forward-facing orifice. That’s it. No canopy, no cockpit, no weapons. Nothing attached to the outside. Even more so than a rifle bullet its shape is smooth and simple. This is the ultra-secret D-21 drone.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
The D-21 is truly a “drone”, not a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA). Its flight plan is programmed into a guidance system. It is launched from a mothership launch aircraft at speed and altitude. It flies a predetermined spy mission from 17 miles above the ground and flashes over at three times the speed of sound. It photographs massive swaths of land with incredible detail and resolution. And because of its remarkably stealthy shape, no one will ever know it was there.
Today the D-21 rides on the back of a Lockheed M-21, a specialized variant of the SR-71 Blackbird, the famous Mach 3+ high altitude spy plane. The M-21 version of the SR-71 carries the D-21 drone on its back up to launch speed and altitude. The it ignites the D-21’s unique RJ43-MA20S-4 ramjet engine and releases it on its pre-programmed flight.
Chasing the M-21 and D-21 combination today is a Lockheed SR-71, the only thing that can keep up with this combination of aircraft. It is the SR-71’s job to photograph and film the test launch of the D-21 drone from the M-21 launch aircraft.
There have been three successful launch separations of the D-21 from the M-21 launch aircraft so far. In each of these flights, even though the launch was successful, the D-21 drone fell victim to some minor mechanical failure that destroyed the drone, because, at over Mach 3 and 90,000 feet, there really are no “minor” failures.
Today Bill Park and Ray Torick are the flight crew on board the M-21 launch aircraft. They sit inside the M-21 launch aircraft dressed in pressurized high altitude flight suits that resemble space suits.
Once at predetermined launch speed and altitude the M-21/D-21 combination flies next to the SR-71 camera plane. Keith Beswick is filming the launch test from the SR-71 camera plane. Ray Torick, the drone launch controller sitting in the back seat of the tandem M-21, launches the D-21 from its position on top of the M-21’s fuselage between the massive engines.
Something goes wrong.
The D-21 drone separates and rolls slightly to its left side. It strikes the left vertical stabilizer of the M-21 mother ship. Then it caroms back into the M-21’s upper fuselage, exerting massive triple supersonic forces downward on the M-21 aircraft. The M-21 begins to pitch up and physics takes over as Bill Park and Ray Torick make the split-second transition from test pilots to helpless passengers to crash victims.
The triple supersonic forces rip both aircraft apart in the thin, freezing air. Shards of titanium and shrapnel from engine parts trail smoke and frozen vapor as they disintegrate in the upper atmosphere. There is no such thing as a minor accident at Mach 3+ and 92,000 feet.
Miraculously, both Bill Park and Ray Torick eject from the shattered M-21 mother ship. Even more remarkably, they actually survive the ejection. The pair splash down in the Pacific 150 miles off the California coast. Bill Park successfully deploys the small life raft attached to his ejection seat. Ray Torick lands in the ocean but opens the visor on his spacesuit-like helmet attached to his pressurized flight suit. The suit floods through the face opening in his helmet. Torick drowns before he can be rescued. Keith Beswick, the pilot filming the accident from the SR-71 chase plane, has to go to the mortuary to cut Ray Torick’s body out of the pressurized high-altitude flight suit before he can be buried.
The ultra-secret test program to launch a D-21 drone from the top of an M-21 launch aircraft at over Mach 3 and 90,000 feet, is cancelled.
The D-21 program does move forward on its own. Now the drone is dropped from a lumbering B-52 mothership. The D-21 is then boosted to high altitude and Mach 3+ with a rocket booster. Once at speed and altitude the booster unit drops off and the D-21 drone begins its spy mission.
After more than a year of test launches from the B-52 mothership the D-21 drone was ready for its first operational missions over Red China. President Nixon approved the first reconnaissance flight for November 9, 1969. The mission was launched from Beale AFB in California.
Despite a successful launch the D-21 drone was lost. In the middle of 1972, after four attempts at overflying Red China with the D-21 drone and four mission failures, the program was cancelled. It was imaginative. It was innovative. It was ingenious. But it was impossible.
So ended one of the most ambitious and outrageous espionage projects in history.
1604 Hrs. December 20, 2009. In the Back Storage Yard of the Pima Air Space Museum Outside Tucson, Arizona.
I pet airplanes when I can. I’m not exactly sure why, maybe to be able to say I did. Maybe to try to gain some tactile sense of their history. Maybe to absorb something from them, if such a thing is possible. Maybe so that, when I am old and dying, I can reflect back on what it felt like to stand next to them and touch them. I don’t know why I touch them and stroke them, but I do.
The fully restored Lockheed D-21 drone at the Pima Air Space Museum outside Tucson, Arizona.
(Pima Air Space Museum photo)
The D-21 is dusty and warm in the late afternoon Arizona sun. Its titanium skin is hard, not slightly forgiving like an aluminum airplane. It gives away nothing. Silent. Brooding. After I touch it my hand came away with some of the dust from it. I don’t wipe it off.
Sometime later in the coming years, the D-21B drone, number 90-0533, is brought inside the vast restoration facility at the Pima Air Space Museum and beautifully restored. Now it lies in state, on display inside the museum.
But when I first found it sitting abandoned in the storage yard, dusty and baking in the Sonoran Desert sun, it felt like its warm titanium skin still had some secret life left in it.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Criticizing Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is widely seen as among Iran’s so-called red lines. Dozens of intellectuals, activists, and politicians have been sidelined, harassed, or jailed for challenging the man who holds the final political and religious say in the Islamic republic.
Yet in late May 2018, a female student rose in Khamenei’s presence to harshly criticize the state of affairs in the country, including actions by powerful bodies controlled by the Iranian leader that have been cited by critics as major barriers to reform.
Sahar Mehrabi called for “deepening democracy” in Iran in the May 28, 2018 speech, delivered at an annual Iftar gathering that Khamenei holds to celebrate the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.
Mehrabi offered a list of “numerous crises” facing the country, including increasing social inequality, declining public trust, environmental problems, and discrimination against minorities. She asked Khamenei what he would do to tackle those issues.
She indirectly pointed the finger at the supreme leader, noting that the bodies under his watch are virtually untouchable. “The impossibility of conducting investigations into the work of some of the institutions under the supervision of Your Excellency, such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the judiciary, the state broadcaster, and the Mostazafan Foundation” — a reference to one of Iran’s largest foundations — “is in itself problematic,” Mehrabi said.
Mehrabi offered a list of “numerous crises” facing the country, including increasing social inequality, declining public trust, environmental problems, and discrimination against minorities. She asked Khamenei what he would do to tackle those issues.
At the meeting, Khamenei responded that while he appoints the heads of some of those powerful bodies, including the judiciary and the state broadcasters, he does not specifically manage their work. “For example, regarding the state broadcaster, I’ve always had and still have a critical position vis-a-vis both current and past managements,” he said.
Seemingly acknowledging other problems, Khamenei added that “taking all issues into consideration, I believe the Islamic establishment has made progress in the past 40 years in all its ideals.”
Mehrabi also echoed some of the positions espoused by relative moderate President Hassan Rohani, criticizing Iran’s aggressive Internet censorship, pressure on the press, the arrest of students, what she described as a crackdown on women “under the pretense of guiding them,” and the situation of opposition figures Mir Hossein Musavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, along with reformist cleric Mehdi Karrubi, who have been under house arrest since 2011 for challenging the Iranian establishment.
“What answer does Your Excellency have in response to questions, criticisms, and protests?” Mehrabi asked.
She suggested that the only way forward is a return to law and the country’s constitution “with all its articles.” “The solution is to accept the right of the people to determine their fate and to be allowed to participate in their political, social, and economic life,” Mehrabi said.
Mehrabi added that no hope lies in the Iranian expat groups calling for regime change in Iran.
Regime Change Needed?
Monarchists and others have intensified their demand for an end to Islamic rule in Iran just as the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has pushed a tougher line toward Iran, including by abandoning the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers trading curbs on Iran’s atomic activities for an easing of international sanctions.
Some analysts interpreted a recent speech by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in which he made 12 demands on Tehran, including ending all nuclear enrichment and ending its support for proxy groups, as a return to U.S. calls for regime change in Iran.
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In her speech, Mehrabi said the answers to Iran’s problem lie “within the Islamic republic.” “In our view, the solution is the deepening of democracy — democracy based on all people, all minority, workers, teachers, students, the forgotten layers of society,… and the poor,” she said.
Khamenei later added via Twitter: “I [understand] the feelings of that young person who says the situation is very bad. But I don’t support her comments at all.”
Mehrabi’s speech was praised by an editor of the hard-line Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, as “the peak of democracy” in Iran.
Others challenged such a claim, complaining that so long as media outlets are being shuttered, students banned from studies, and state broadcasters made to reflect the views of hard-liners, there cannot be talk of genuine democracy in Iran.
Mehrabi’s criticisms came amid frustration over the state of the economy, which sparked nationwide protests in December 2017, and January 2018, that quickly turned into protests against the Iranian establishment and the 78-year-old Khamenei himself.