There are roughly 8,500 U.S. personnel stationed at the Navy’s base in Bahrain. In 1999, one of those, Lance Cpl. Jason Johnson, faced a court-martial and legal battle to wed his beloved girlfriend, a Bahraini local named Meriam. The Marine met Meriam at a local mall and, over the objections of her family, the two continued their love affair.
The biggest problem is that Meriam’s full name is Meriam bint Abdullah al-Khalifa, and she was a member of the royal family’s house of Khalifa. So, when Lance Cpl.Johnson smuggled her out of Bahrain and into the United States, it was kind of a big deal.
It wasn’t just that she was a member of the royal family, her family’s Islamic faith was incompatible with Johnson’s Mormon beliefs. She was forbidden to marry a non-Muslim, by both her religion and her family. There was also an age difference, as Johnson was 23 years old and Meriam al-Khalifa was just 19.
There were a lot of reasons why they shouldn’t have gotten married, but with the help of a friend, they still managed to exchange letters. Their affection for one another only grew.
Until it was time for Johnson to return to the United States.
Undeterred by things like “passports” and “legal documents,” he snuck the girl into the United States with forged documents and a New York Yankees baseball hat. By the time they landed in Chicago, U.S. immigration officials were waiting for Meriam, and took her into custody.
Meriam was held for three days by customs and immigration officials. Eventually, she was granted asylum as she worried about the possibility of honor-related violence if she returned to her family.
“She does not believe that she can go back and be safe at this time,” her lawyer, Jan Bejar said at an official hearing. “All the woman did is try to leave a country that does not allow her to live with the person she wants to live with.”
The couple also made the talk show circuit.
(The Oprah Winfrey Show)
They were married just a few weeks after arriving in the United States. Weeks later, her family sent a letter, forgiving her for eloping, but not mentioning her new husband. For a while, the two lived in base housing on Camp Pendleton, but when the Marines found out what had happened, they were understandably upset with Johnson. He was court-martialed, demoted, and eventually left the Corps.
The two settled down to live their lives together in the Las Vegas area where Johnson got a job as a valet, parking cars for wealthy nightclub patrons — patrons like Meriam’s family. The al-Khalifa family hadn’t forgotten about Meriam or Johnson. The FBI alleged that the family paid an assassin half a million dollars to find Meriam and kill her.
But their married life wasn’t everything it was cracked up to be. Johnson told the Associated Press that al-Khalifa was more interested in partying in Las Vegas than she was in enjoying life with her husband, spending the money they made from selling their story to a made-for-TV movie called, The Princess and the Marine. By 2003, the whirlwind romance came to a dead stop, buried in the Las Vegas desert.
The cast of ‘The Princess and the Marine.’
Johnson filed for divorce in 2004, saying “it was what she wanted.”
Deep down inside, she knows that I loved her more than anything in the world,” Johnson told the AP. “I can say I enjoyed every minute I spent with her.”
A senior official with the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara was killed in a strike on a terrorist camp in Mali involving French warplanes and commandos, the French defense ministry confirmed Aug. 27, 2018.
The lifeless body of Mohamed Ag Almouner, a senior leader for the ISIS affiliate that claimed responsibility for a deadly ambush that left four American Green Berets dead in Niger in 2017, was found on the battlefield by a French-led unit after an airstrike by two Mirage fighter jets Aug. 26, 2018, according to a report from Stars and Stripes, which cited a statement from the French military.
An unidentified member of the group was also killed.
In October 2017, armed Islamic State in the Greater Sahara militants ambushed US and Nigerien troops. Five Nigeriens and four Americans were killed while another ten people were wounded. During the firefight that ensued, US and Nigerien forces managed to kill nearly two dozen terrorists.
The four American special operations soldiers who lost their lives in the fight were: Sgt. La David Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Bryan Black. The US Army Special Forces team leader Capt. Michael Perozeni, who was singled out for blame in an investigation into the ambush during which he was wounded, is reportedly being considered for a silver star, the military’s third-highest valor award for gallantry.
Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Sgt. La David T. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson.
(US Army photos)
The US military maintains a presence in Niger to “provide training and security assistance to the Nigerien Armed Forces, including support for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance efforts, in their efforts to target violent extremist organizations in the region,” US Africa Command spokesman US Navy Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Falvo told CNN after the incident in 2017.
France has deployed thousands of troops to West Africa for Operation Barkhane, an effort to eradicate Islamist militants in the region.
Aug. 26, 2018’s airstrike also ended the lives of two civilians. “The French criteria for opening fire are particularly strict and aim at avoiding civilian casualties,” the French military said in a statement, “The proven presence of civilians near the target would have led to the cancellation of the mission. An investigation is underway to determine how civilians were hit during this strike.”
US Africa Command said that it “routinely works with our French partners in the Sahel region, who provide a bulk of the force with more than 4,000 military forces,” adding that the US remains ” committed to assisting the French-led operations to degrade violent extremist organizations and to build the defense capacity of … Mali and its neighbors.”
Featured image: A French Air Force Mirage F1CR.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Each year, the United States Armed Forces projects the amount of troops that will exit the service and how many new bodies it needs to fill the gaps in formation. This number is distributed accordingly between the branches and then broken down further for each recruiting station, depending on the location, size of the local population, and typical enlistment rates of each area.
This is, at a very basic level, how recruiter quotas work. If the country is at war, the need for more able-bodied recruits rises to meet the demand. When a war is winding down, as we’re seeing today, you would reasonably expect there to be less pressure on recruiters to send Uncle Sam troops — but there’s not. Not by a long shot.
“Come show off at the pull-up bars for the low, low price of taking a business card!”
(Dept. of the Army photo by Ronald A. Reeves)
The most obvious fault with “recruiter goals,” or the quota policy, is that it makes fulfilling the quota the single most important responsibility of the recruiter. So, recruiters will go out and put their best foot forward in the name of their branch in hopes that it’ll inspire someone to enlist — despite all of the other things they need to be doing.
Recruiters generally love going to county fairs or air shows and having loads of civilians flock to their booth — otherwise, they wouldn’t be recruiters. These events give civilians, some of whom may have never interacted with a service member, a friendly one-on-one that could — maybe, just maybe — inspire them to one day serve their country.
At the end of the day, that’s all recruiters can ultimately do to bring in recruits, sow the seeds of military service. Recruiters can’t put a gun to anyone’s head to make them sign on the dotted line and they have to respect a person’s decision to turn down Uncle Sam’s offer.
By all means, we should commend and praise the recruiters who go above and beyond — but the hammer that’s dropped is unjustly cruel.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Daniel Butterfield)
Still, recruiters are expected to enlist a certain amount of recruits into military service — despite the fact that it’s outside the scope of their responsibilities to direct herds of civilians to their offices. They still have to handle all the day-to-day operations of the recruiting station, the plethora of paperwork required by each new recruit, limiting the stress of and mentoring potential recruits, teaching delayed-entry recruits, and acting like a chauffeur between the recruiting depot and MEPS. You could be the most attentive recruiter the military has ever seen, constantly doing everything in your power to best prepare the recruit for military life, but the only metric that matters in the eyes of Big Recruiting is that one, big number.
To make matters worse, the pool of eligible recruits is dwindling as the criteria for service keeps getting stricter.
My honest opinion? Scrap the negative consequences for not meeting quota but institute minor, but enjoyable benefits that would encourage recruiters to try harder — like a half a day of leave added to their LES for each recruit they bring in or whatever seems more applicable.
(Photo by Dan Desmet, New York District Public Affairs)
All this being said, the quota isn’t entirely without merit. It lets the higher-ups know, at a glance, that a recruiter is keeping their word to the Pentagon. Some might even say that it motivates recruiters to get out there and keep hustling bodies into their office. But the quota has caused much more undue stress than it should.
To put it as bluntly as possible, recruiters are killing themselves for not reaching an arbitrary number, set outside of their control. Recruiters are forced to work longer hours and weekends (up to 15 hours per day, seven days per week in some cases) when crunch time comes. Recently, recruiters were almost denied holiday time — not as in block leave, but spending Christmas morning with their families — because they didn’t meet numbers.
This is nothing new and the stress military recruiters face has been front and center of national discussion for ages now.
The fact is, there’s no simple solution because the numbers still need to be met — but just because it’s not a simple problem doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to fix it. Perhaps we should shift the focus on strengthening the recruits that willingly walk in the door, or we should bring more troops into recruiting stations to lighten the load of the already-overworked recruiters. Something, anything, needs to be done.
It is completely understandable that the military needs new recruits. Check roger. But we cannot sit idly by without addressing the major stressor that causes recruiters to commit suicide at three times the rate of the rest of the Army — which already has a suicide rating twice of the general population.
“If it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid,” is how the old saying goes. Though it isn’t said much anymore, the meaning behind it still rings true – and has for generations. A tactic that seems so stupid can be useful to the right mind. It can goad an enemy into losing focus and abandoning caution. These tactics can be used to influence an enemy’s thoughts and actions. It can even change the future for millions.
So don’t be so quick to judge.
Napoleon at Austerlitz
In the beginning of the 19th Century, Napoleon was making his presence known across Europe. The end of the old order was at hand as “The Little Corporal” from Corsica took control of the French and dominated the armies and rulers of Europe. But the social order wasn’t the only thing he upended. Napoleon upended the entire doctrine warfare, how battles were fought, forever. Nothing is more obvious than his win at Austerlitz, where a seemingly rookie mistake was the key to victory.
As Napoleon fielded the French to take on a superior Russian-Austrian force outside of Vienna, things looked bleak, and the French were widely expected to lose and be forced to flee Austria. With every passing day, Napoleon’s enemies became stronger. To goad them into a fight in the place of his choosing, he occupied the heights overlooking the town of Austerlitz, basic military strategy since the days of Sun-Tzu. As the combined enemy army approached, they saw the French abandon those heights. The battle was on, and Napoleon used the heights as a psych-out. Once the French took the heights in combat, the battle was over for the Russian-Austrian allies, and Napoleon was Master of Europe.
When the state of Israel was proclaimed in 1948, it was a jubilant day for the Jewish people – and no one else in the region. The Jews of the new nation of Israel were immediately surrounded on all sides by Arab enemies with superior numbers, technology, money, and basically anything else you might need to win a protracted war for independence. What the Israelis had going for them was a ton of World War II veterans and a lot of cunning brainpower. So even when they had to make bombing runs in single-engine prop planes, they managed to win the day even if they didn’t have bombs.
As an advancing Arab army approached Tel Aviv, the Jewish forces in the area were at a loss on how to repel them. They had no bombs to support the Israeli troops in the region, and even if they did, they had no bombers to fly them. They needed an equalizer. Someone with combat experience in WWII remembered that seltzer bottles tend to whistle like bombs when dropped from a height. When full of seltzer, they also explode with a loud bang. So that’s what the nascent IAF used. The Arabs didn’t really have seltzer or those old-timey bottles used to spray it, so they really thought they were being bombed – and disbursed.
The army led by a zombie
Some people are just so necessary for success you can’t afford to let them go. Unfortunately for Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar and the people of Valencia, one such person was missing when Muslim armies from Morocco were marching their way. They must have gotten wind that Rodrigo was no longer with the army of Valencia, which was true. Rodrigo was no longer among those defenders because Rodrigo was also no longer among the living. Since the Christian knight had never lost a battle, his reputation alone was enough to keep invaders at bay.
Luckily for Rodrigo – whom you might know better as El Cid – he had a pretty cunning wife, Jimena. Jimena ordered El Cid’s dead, decomposing body be fully armored and dressed, then lashed to his horse. Jimena then told the army to make a valiant last cavalry charge to break the siege, with El Cid at the head. When the Muslims saw the Spaniards coming at them with El Cid at the head of the attack, they immediately broke ranks and tried to flee but were cut down by the Spanish defenders.
Strong men marry strong women. Remember that.
Island-hopping to fight another day
In 1942, things looked really bad for the allied naval forces in the Pacific. The December 1941 attack on the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor came at the same time of a half dozen other surprise Japanese attacks throughout the region. Attempts to hit the Japanese back at the Java Sea and the Sunda Straits were met with abject failure. After the Japanese Empire captured the Dutch East Indies, the Navy was limping pretty bad. Hong Kong, Malaya, Burma, and more had all fallen to the mighty Japanese initiative. As all allied ships were ordered to retreat to Australia, one was somehow left behind.
That was the HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen, a Dutch minesweeper which was separated after the attacks on the East Indies. Armed with one three-inch gun and two 20mm cannons, the minesweeper was no match for any of the Japanese warships floating around the islands. In order to stay undetected, the Dutch covered the ship in foliage and painted the hull the color of rocks. They moored the ship near islands by day and moved only by night – and it worked. She not only made it to Australia, she survived the war.
(Laughs in Mongol)
Mongols think differently
For much of the Western World in the Middle Ages, a retreat was not a good thing. If a cavalry force appears routed, it might lead to the infantry breaking ranks and running. Even the most orderly of retreats was considered as an option only at the last possible moments. That was not how the Mongols under Genghis Khan thought of a retreat. A retreat was a tactic to be used like any other tactic.
There are many examples of the use of a feigned retreat in this history of the Mongol conquests. The reason for this is because it worked. It worked really really well. Troops from China to Poland would be locked in a life-or-death struggle against the Mongol hordes when suddenly the Mongols would turn tail and run, their spirit to fight seemingly broken. As a chorus of cheers went up from the exhausted defenders, they would inevitably give chase to the invaders – only to watch as the retreating Mongols turn again, in full force, and on ground that supports them.
The US Army has purchased two Iron Dome defense systems, Defense News reports. The missile defense systems are short-range counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar (C-RAM) weapons systems that have been repeatedly tested by Hamas rockets fired into Israeli territory. The system’s radar detects incoming projectiles and tracking them until they get in range for one of the Iron Dome’s Tamir missiles to strike.
Israel has said the system intercepted 85 percent of the rockets fired in a 2012 Gaza operation. One expert assessed that Iron Dome is effective, but not as high as Israel has claimed.
It’s unclear how or where the US is planning to deploy these systems, but Defense News reported that they’ll be used in the military’s interim cruise missile defense capability. A delivery date — and the cost of the system — are not yet known.
Read on to learn more about the Iron Dome system.
The Iron Dome is a counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar (C-RAM) weapons system that can also defend against helicopters and other aircraft, as well as UAVs at very short range, according to its Israeli manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. Ten of the systems are currently in use in Israel.
Iron Dome has different variants — the I-DOME is fully mobile and fits on a single truck, and the C-DOME is the naval version of the system. The US version, called SKYHUNTER, is manufactured by Rafael and Raytheon.
Iron Dome can operate in all weather conditions and at any time; one launcher holds 20 intercept missiles at a given time. The system uses a radar to detect an incoming projectile. The radar tracks the projectile while also alerting the other system components — the battle management and weapons control (BMC) component and the launcher — of the incoming threat. It also estimates where incoming projectiles will hit and only focuses on those threats that will fall in the area the system is meant to protect. Rafael boasts that this strategic targeting makes the system extremely cost-effective.
The system only targets rockets predicted to land in the protected zone, allowing ones that miss to pass by.
Trails are seen in the sky as an Iron Dome anti-missile projectile intercepts a rocket.
Rafael Advanced Defense Systems builds the Israeli Iron Dome defense system; the two US systems will be built by Rafael and Raytheon. Many of the components of Iron Dome’s Tamir missiles are made by Raytheon in the US.
Israel uses the Iron Dome to intercept rocket attacks from Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. It’s had the system in place since 2011.
The US is purchasing two Iron Domes, called Skyhunter in the US, for its interim cruise missile defense capability. It’s unclear when the systems will be delivered, and how and where they will be deployed, but Defense News reported that parts of the system may be integrated into the Indirect Fires Protection Capability program.
The Phalanx close-in weapon system (CIWS) is comparable to the Iron Dome, but instead of missiles, it rapid-fires bullets against incoming threats at sea and on land. The system is manufactured by Raytheon and employs a radar-guided gun that’s controlled by a computer and counters anti-ship missiles at sea. On land, the Phalanx is part of the Army’s C-RAM system. It’s used on all Navy surface combatant ship classes.
A Phalanx close-in weapons system (CIWS) fires from the fantail of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) in the Atlantic Ocean, June 7, 2016.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anderson W. Branch)
Defense News reported on Aug. 12, 2019, that the US had purchased two Iron Dome systems, although it’s unclear how much the Department of Defense paid for them, or where or how they will be deployed.
While the system has been very useful for Israel against more rudimentary Hamas- and Hezbollah-launched projectiles, it would be less so against weapons like hypersonic missiles, which can maneuver midflight.
The 388th Fighter Wing set a speed record for bringing online a newly-delivered aircraft, flying a local sortie less than five hours after accepting delivery of its 68th F-35A Lightning II.
Aircraft 5261 left Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Texas, production facility a little after 8 a.m. Aug. 1, 2019, landed at Hill AFB at 10 a.m., and by 3 p.m. had taken off on its first combat training mission.
“The F-35A program’s production and delivery plan was designed to allow rapid aircraft induction and quick use by the customers,” said Col. Michael Miles, 388th Maintenance Group commander. “We’ve shown the enterprise it’s possible.”
This isn’t just a “gee-whiz” record. In theory, it means that F-35As could be deployed directly from the factory into combat if a large-scale conflict ever drives that need, Miles said.
Crew chiefs with the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit work on an F35A Lightning II at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, July 31, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)
When a new F-35A comes off the line at the production facility, it undergoes several contract and government check flights before the Air Force accepts final delivery. These flights generate data points that are collected in the Autonomic Logistics Information System and then passed on to the gaining unit, in this case the 388th FW.
The previous timeline for inducting new aircraft was measured in days and weeks, but process and system improvements in the data collection and transfer process bodes well for the future, said Chief Master Sgt. Trey Munn, 388th Maintenance Group chief enlisted manager.
A US Air Force F-35A Lightning II of the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base in Utah after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Germany, July 23, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Emerson Nuñez)
“We’ve been working toward this goal as the program has matured and this is great step, and a testament to the work of the folks at Lockheed Martin, the Joint Program Office, and the airmen in the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings,” Munn said.
The 388th and 419th are the Air Force first combat-capable F-35 units. The first operational F-35As arrived at Hill in October 2015. The active duty 388th FW and Air Force Reserve 419th FW fly and maintain the jet in a Total Force partnership, which capitalizes on the strength of both components. By the end of this year, Hill AFB will be home to 78 F-35s.
If there were any one weapons manufacturer that was worthy of being called the “Arsenal of Democracy,” it would be the Springfield Armory. The armory was founded by George Washington in 1777, meaning it’s nearly as old as the country itself. The Springfield, Mass. institution was the nation’s first depot for its weapons of war and has supplied the United States in every war from the War of 1812 to Vietnam.
Today, the nation’s first federal armory is a national historic site, run by the National Parks Service and housing the largest collection of American firearms in the world. Until 1968, however, it was an innovative firearms manufacturer, producing the weapons that won wars for the United States. From the get-go, the site of the Springfield Armory was of critical defensive importance to the young United States. It was the site where New England colonists trained to defend the colony from nearby native tribes. When the time came for revolution, Gen. Washington and his artillery chief, Henry Knox, chose the site for its defensive terrain.
After the revolution, the armory was critical to the defense of the young republic. In putting down Shay’s Rebellion, the defenders of the arsenal proved the United States was capable of maintaining its own stability and security. Later, it produced arms for the War of 1812, despite resistance to the war in the New England states, and it may have been one of the deciding factors in the Union victory in the Civil War.
Union troops with Springfield Armory 1861 rifles.
(National Parks Service)
The mass production techniques used by the armory at Springfield were so advanced for the time that from the start of the war to the end of the war, production increased 25 fold to more than a quarter-million rifles every year. That far outpaced what the Confederates could produce. By the end of the war, the armory wasn’t just a producer, it was designing and testing new arms for the future. It was experimenting with concepts that wouldn’t become widespread for another half-century, including interchangeable parts and even an early assembly line.
Some of the most iconic small arms ever produced by the United States to serve on the foreign battlefields of the 20th Century were produced at the Springfield Armory. The Springfield Model 1903 rifle, the M1917 Enfield Rifle, and Springfield is where John Garand developed the first practical semi-automatic rifle for military use – a weapon Gen. George S. Patton called “the greatest battle implement ever devised.”
You may have heard of the M1 Garand.
(Library of Congress)
The last weapon the armory developed and produced was the M14, a version of the M1, but eventually, the M1 family was replaced by the M16 family of rifles as the U.S. military’s standard-issue infantry weapon in 1964. By 1968, the legendary facility would be shuttered despite producing other arms for use in the Vietnam War. When the armory refused to build the new M16, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara had the armory closed.
In the years that followed, the buildings of the Springfield Armory complex were restored and the place was turned into a museum, run by the Parks Service.
As the nation mourns the passing of one its finest patriots, current and former members of the Marine Band remember President George H. W. Bush as a man whose love of music and uncommon graciousness elevated the unique relationship between the Chief Executive and “The President’s Own.”
“Although President Bush served as our Commander-in-Chief before my time in ‘The President’s Own,’ the close relationship he developed with the Marine Band is well-known,” Music Adviser to the White House and Marine Band Col. Jason K. Fettig said. “We have been fortunate to have had wonderful moments with every president we serve, but President and Mrs. Bush’s gratitude for our Marines and for the special music we provide in The People’s House was especially warm and always engaging. He never missed an opportunity to connect with those around him and thank them for their contributions, and the men and women in the band who got to know President Bush both during his administration and in the many years beyond will always remember his ever-present appreciation and admiration for all those who served our nation alongside him.”
Col. John R. Bourgeois, USMC (Ret.), Marine Band Director from 1979-96, recalled memories of President Bush with great ease. “Of all the presidents I served, he was the most conversive and was the kindest man in the world,” he said. He recounted how the president would make a point to bring the guest of honor from each state dinner over to Bourgeois and the Marine Chamber Orchestra to make introductions. “It was very much like being a part of the family,” Bourgeois said. It was during President Bush’s administration, in February 1990, when Bourgeois led the Marine Band on an historic 18-day concert tour of the former Soviet Union as part of the first ever U.S.-U.S.S.R. Armed Forces band exchange. “The president was integral to making that tour happen and while we were there we saw the end of the Soviet Union,” he said.
“The President’s Own” remembers and honors George H. W. Bush, 41st President of the United States of America.
(Official White House Photo)
On a more light-hearted note, Bourgeois recollected an event on Dec. 7, 1992, when the Marine Band performed Hail to the Chief at a White House holiday reception for the president’s staff. At the end of the fanfare, an unlikely gentleman made his way through the crowd and took the podium: comedian Dana Carvey, known for his uncanny impression of the president. But it was the annual Gridiron Club dinner where Bourgeois witnessed President Bush in a truly nostalgic moment. It was March 1993 and Gridiron president, Los Angeles Times bureau chief Jack Nelson, sat at the center of the head table with newly-inaugurated President Bill Clinton on one side of him and former President George H. W. Bush on the other. As Bourgeois led the Marine Band to the dais for The Star-Spangled Banner, he saw both Clinton and Bush lean over to whisper to Nelson. Nelson later told Bourgeois that President Bush commented that there are many things he won’t miss about being president but the Marine Band isn’t one of them.
Few members of the Marine Band can boast of a better first performance at the White House than former Marine Band pianist Master Gunnery Sgt. Robert Boguslaw, USMC (Ret.). Although he had performed at the White House before May 14, 1992, this was the first time he performed solo in the private residence. As he played a medley of Broadway show tunes from “Carousel” and “Oklahoma,” President Bush and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev stood in the well of his piano where he overheard the two leaders discuss perestroika and the fall of the Berlin Wall. “President Bush was always a gentleman and always came over to shake my hand and thank me,” he said.
Inaugural Parade of George H.W. Bush.
(George H.W. Bush Presidential Library)
Master Gunnery Sgt. Peter Wilson, violinist and current string section commander, joined the Marine Chamber Orchestra in 1990, halfway through President Bush’s term. What impressed him about the president was that he always made a point to go out of his way to acknowledge and thank the musicians for their participation at assorted events, even if it meant shaking off his handlers to seek out the orchestra. It was during President Bush’s tenure that Wilson and several other musicians founded the Free Country ensemble and one of their early performances was at President Bush’s daughter Dorothy Bush’s wedding to Robert P. Koch at Camp David on June 27, 1992. In addition to Free Country, the Marine Band provided a brass quintet in the chapel for the ceremony and a dance band for cocktail hour. After the event, as the musicians packed up their instruments to leave, President and Barbara Bush found them to shake each of their hands, ask their names, and thank them for their music. Wilson said from that day forward, President Bush remembered his name and called him Pete each time he saw him at the White House. “He had an amazing ability with names and people,” Wilson said.
At a congressional picnic Wilson was singing with Free Country and he recalled President Bush seemed to appear from out of nowhere and shook hands with each of the musicians as they performed. Wilson considers it a point of pride that he was able to greet Bush and not lose a beat during the fast-moving lyrics of Billy Joel’s “Travelin’ Prayer.” It was another event, however, that Wilson can never forget. The Marine Chamber Orchestra was performing at the White House on Jan. 16, 1991 and President and Mrs. Bush were greeting visitors in a receiving line. Wilson noticed then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell walk up to the president in his green service uniform to pull him away. Bush didn’t come back to the event. When Wilson returned to Marine Barracks Washington, the news on the television in the lounge was reporting the first bombing attacks on Baghdad and the beginning of Operation Desert Storm.
President Bush is accosted by a gorilla carrying mylar balloons in celebration of the President’s 65th birthday, South Lawn of the White House, June 12, 1989.
“We all recall how very kind and appreciative he was of everything the band did at the White House,” said Former Executive Assistant to the Director Capt. Frank Byrne, USMC (Ret.). “Mrs. Bush was also wonderful. I do especially recall the two Desert Storm victory parades, one in New York City and one in Washington. I marched and played in both. In NYC the crowds were so big that we hardly had room to get the band through the streets at certain points. There was ticker tape, but also all kinds of paper, including big stacks of continuous feed letter sized paper that were a challenge to get through. President Bush and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf were in the reviewing stand and were so happy and proud. It’s not often the band gets to do a big street parade in good, not freezing, weather and it was a thrill to participate.”
“I remember several occasions at the White House that President Bush, upon seeing members of the Marine Band, would pause his entourage just long enough to personally thank the members of the Marine Band and relay how much he, the First Lady and the staff appreciate our musical contribution,” said former bassoon player Master Sgt. Dyane Wright, USMC (Ret.). “He stated that the music by members of the U.S. Marine Band is what they enjoyed the most about their White House events.”
“I will always remember President and Mrs. Bush as being unfailingly gracious, kindhearted and appreciative toward the members of the Marine Band,” recalled Former Director Col. Timothy W. Foley, USMC (Ret.).
The late Marine Band pianist Master Gunnery Sgt. Charles Corrado, USMC (Ret.), served ten presidents from 1958-2003. His wife Martha reflected on “Charlie’s” many, many encounters with President Bush and recalled in particular when the president requested Corrado to perform at his residence at Kennebunkport, Maine, on July 10, 1991, while he and Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu of Japan prepared for the upcoming Economic Summit of the Industrialized Nations in London. “I was jealous that he got to go!” she said. “He played in the sunroom while the meetings took place and the family was very appreciative of him being there.”
George H.W. Bush poses with Marine Band Drum Major MSgt Gary Peterson at the annual Alfalfa Club Dinner.
Former principal cello Master Gunnery Sgt. Marcio Botelho, USMC (Ret.), remembered an equally memorable performance for President Bush: “It was my first year in the band and sometime between April and June I was at home when I got a call from work. The question was, ‘How quickly can you get to the Barracks? Because we have to go to the White House.’ I came in right away and we immediately departed to the White House. Only three of us went, since we were the only available musicians: concertmaster Master Sgt. Bruce Myers, violinist Gunnery Sgt. Jim Diehl, and myself. President Bush was having a working lunch with Lothar de Maizière, the newly-elected prime minister of the old GDR (East Germany) and the White House staff had discovered that the PM had been a musician. At the time we were told he had been a cellist. Anyway, we rushed in to the house, put our cases in the mezzanine level holding room and went up to the state floor. President Bush and the PM had dined in the state dining room and we set up in the Blue Room. No sooner had we set up, the president and his guest walked in and took a seat about six feet from us. Bruce called out a tune: Haydn’s London Trio No. 3, 1st movement. We played it, they thanked us, we returned to the barracks. Possibly the shortest performance I ever played at the White House.” Botelho was also quoted in a Dec. 1989-Jan. 1990 issue of the Marine Band’s newsletter Notes saying, “It’s surprising because even though we are performing background music, people often make it a point to compliment us. In fact, at all of the state dinners the President and Mrs. Bush have greeted us and thanked us at the end.”
President George H.W. Bush escorts Queen Elizabeth II of England during a State Dinner at the White House on May 14, 1991.
(Official White House Photo)
In 2011, the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library requested a Marine Band uniform for a new exhibit featuring a baby grand piano from the Bush’s collection. Then-Drum Major Master Gunnery Sgt. William L. Browne, USMC (Ret.) prepared the uniform and personally fitted the mannequin that would wear it. After Browne took the uniform to the tailor for alterations and cleaning, he carefully packed it in his carry-on luggage and traveled to College Station in December 2011 to ensure that it was installed correctly. He arrived to find the mannequin sitting at the piano with permanently bent legs that presented some technical challenges. He assisted curator Susanne Cox in putting the mannequin in place on the bench at the piano and made last minute adjustments to the fit and appearance. One thing he couldn’t adjust, however, was the length of the mannequin’s hair. “I know how hard it is to give a mannequin a haircut so I made an exception just this once,” he said with a wry smile. Browne was honored to participate in this exhibit for the senior former President Bush. “Every time I’ve seen him at an event, he and Mrs. Bush always made a point to come over to thank the band,” he said. “At my very first presidential event as Drum Major in 2008, President Bush stopped me in the hallway to say how much he appreciated the band and how good it was to hear us.”
The Marine Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Col. Fettig, will perform one last time for President Bush at his funeral service at 11 a.m., Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Selections include Gustav Holst’s Nocturne from A Moorside Suite, Kevin Siegfried’s arrangement of “Lay Me Low” from Shaker Songs, Aaron Copland’s Our Town, Paul Christiansen’s arrangement of “My Song in the Night,” John Williams’ Hymn to the Fallen, and Samuel Augustus Ward’s “America, the Beautiful.”
The horrors of war are probably only fully appreciated by those who have served their countries in battles on land, at sea, or in the air. Nearly every history buff has watched Saving Private Ryan or read Unbroken, from which we glean a taste of what it might be like to kill or be killed for a cause–or to simply survive.
It’s all too easy to forget about the pure hell and random misfortunes that men and women are subjected to so that the rest of us can live free and safe. Sometimes, historical accounts from people who have experienced the burden of combat help us understand the sacrifices those soldiers and others have made. I am in possession of photocopies from a journal written by one of my wife’s relatives, a soldier who served at the end of World War I. He died in France on Armistice Day — November 11, 1918. He may well have been the last American killed in the Great War.
Private Joseph Sommers was born in Springfield, Illinois. After boot camp at Camp Logan in Houston, Texas, he was sent to fight for America and her allies on the front lines in France during the summer of 1918. What you are about to read are excerpts from Private Sommers’s journal: The soldier was my wife’s great-great uncle. Most of the spelling and grammar is presented as written, though some capitalization and periods have been added to improve readability. The images described within the 5000-word manuscript and the emotions they elicit might leave an indelible impression upon your mind, heart, and soul–they are deeply affecting.
While you read the following, try to place yourself in the French countryside walking along battle-scarred roads on a journey situated somewhere between beautiful and truly horrific. Become the imaginary comrade of Private Joseph Sommers, Company C, 124th Machine Gun Battalion, 23rd Division. A young soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice, so that others might live free.
Left Camp Logan 5/4/18. Sunday. We always leave on Sunday.
Arrived in Hoboken, NY. 5/16/18. Sailed on SS Mount Vernon ship, formerly the pride of the Kaiser. Ship very crowded. Mess was bad. 132nd Infantry Wolves hogged the boat.
Arrived in Brest, France on 5/24/18 and debarked.
5/26/18 Harbor filled with transports. A beautiful site coming into the harbor. Hills studded with guns. Airplanes and dirigibles guard harbor from subs. Very hot, overcoats on.
Oisemont 5/29/18. Arrived at our present camp. We are expected to be called to the front most any time. Anti-aircraft guns fired at airplanes. White puffs of shrapnel. Elusive planes. The rumble of guns very plainly heard, never ceasing, 25 miles back of the line. Bombing of towns close by continues nightly. I expect ours to be bombed most any time.
6/18/18 Going to machine gun school today for 12 days. Boche [German] planes, 10 in one bunch, 11 another bunch. Antiaircraft guns firing, very few hits made. We are now attached to the British Army.A visit to the lines on the night of July 3. We approached within 3 miles of the front line. Shells began to burst and I wished at the moment that our helmets was large as umbrellas. It is surprising how small you can make yourself when shells are bursting all around you. Ammunition dump struck by airplane bomb near Amiens. The whole heavens lighted with red flare, a wonderful thing.
7/7/18 An observation balloon high in the air, a cigar shaped affair with elephant ears, sways with the wind. It is held in position by a big cable which is attached to a motor car weighing 6 tons. The cable winds around a drum, and the balloon is either brought down or rises in the sky. The observer cuts loose his parachute, it drops. It fails to open like an umbrella. He is finished.
7/20/18 A doctor was found at the operating table standing over a patient in the act of operating on him when the gas struck both and they died. The graveyard at Biere was shelled so much by the Germans that the caskets and bodies and tombstones were scattered all over. There are quite a few soldiers graves here, from all regiments.
7/29/18 Our home in the woods was visited by Fritz’s [German] planes. He dropped about 12 bombs, luckily no one was hit. I would rather dodge 100 shells then hear one bomb whistle through the air.
8/7/18 Arrived at our positions at 12:45 A.M. On our way to this place we met some trucks and ambulances loaded with wounded and gassed, also many wounded walking to the first aid station.
8/7/18, 4:30 A.M. The British opened a terrible barrage. The sound was deafening. The shells were bursting through the air with such speed as to liken the sound of Niagara Falls. Previous to that time Fritz had been sending over gas shells by the hundreds, Mustard Gas which is one of the worst gases Jerry [Germans] uses. We had to wear our gas mask for over two hours.
9/18/18 The trees split as under their naked trunks against the skyline. Nature itself seems to be dead. In that dreary space not a living thing moves, save an occasional bird. “Dead Man’s Hill” is close by. The bones, skulls of men still thickly cover the ground. The rats are tame enough in our dugout to eat out of your hand. They sit and wink at you.
9/24/18 Turned in all our surplus stuff in the A.M. We are now traveling light. The Stunt is near being pulled off and by the looks of things it is going to be a big one. The Germans dropped some Gas and High Explosives pretty close today. We are bringing up ammunition in great quantities. We are waiting for zero hour.
9/26/18, 2:15 A.M. Gen. Jack Pershing and our Captain bid us God Speed and good luck. Up and among them soon. We opened our barrage which lasted for one hour starting at 5:30 AM. We hopped over the top amid the hell of machine gun bullets and ducking big shells. We saw plenty of dead lying on the battlefield which had been a battlefield for four different battles.
9/27/18 We advanced three and half miles yesterday. The Germans left in a hurry. The water was still in the stoves that they were making coffee. Water was still hot. The Meuse River is about 800 yards in front of us.
10/2/18 Great artillery this A.M. on both sides. It was a little stronger than the usual morning song. Heard tonight that Bulgaria and Austria had surrendered.
10/5/18 Still in the line. Artillery still hammering away and also some machine gun firing.
10/9/18 Orders to move forward. Fired a machine gun barrage and orders came to remove guns and seek shelter in a deep dugout. Still waiting for orders to go forward.
10/10/18 Still in reverse. Got mail from Sister. Beautiful day, sun shining. The sky was full of airplanes, never saw so many. The sky was full of them just like birds. Have been in the line, for five weeks now. Still looking every day for relief.
This entry on October 10, 1918 was Private Sommers’s last. He died on November 11, Armistice Day, during an attack near Bougainville, France. While the armistice took effect at 11 a.m. on November 11, family lore has it that Sommers was actually killed later that day. I’ve thought about trying to help prove he was in fact the last American killed in the Great War. I struggle with whether that matters.
Eugene Taylor remembers how eager enlisted airmen like him were to fly.
Taylor, who enlisted in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam, first worked as an avionics technician. Nearly a decade later, Taylor, a tech sergeant, became a T-37 and T-38 flight simulator instructor with the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. He became so adept that he was occasionally given the chance to fly the T-38, with permission from the pilot, during stateside flights.
It has been decades since enlisted airmen had the chance to sit in the cockpit. But as the Air Force faces the greatest pilot shortages since its inception, service leaders are contemplating a return to a model that includes enlisted pilots. A Rand Corp. study, set to be completed this month, is exploring the feasibility of bringing back a warrant officer corps for that purpose. And another, separate Air Force study is examining, in part, whether enlisted pilots could benefit from new high-tech training that leverages artificial intelligence and simulation.
With these moves, the Air Force is inching just a few steps closer to someday getting enlisted airmen back in the cockpit, on a formal basis, for the first time since World War II.
“We have enlisted airmen in our Guard and reserve component who have private pilot’s licenses and fly for the airlines. So it’s not a matter of can they do it, or hav[ing] the smarts or the capability, it’s just a matter of us, as an Air Force, deciding that that’s a route that we want to take,” said Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth O. Wright, the 18th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.
Military.com sat down with the service’s top enlisted leader in February 2018, to talk about enlisted aviators and reinstituting the warrant officer program.
“It’s something we walked away from years ago, and I won’t say that we haven’t been willing to relook at [it],” Wright said, of having enlisted pilots. “It’s nothing that we can’t overcome.”
Creating a Cadre
Wright noted there may be a few bumps in the road before an enlisted cadre could be instituted.
The main challenge would be to structure an appropriate career development path for the airmen, answering questions regarding when and how they would promote and when they would rotate to a new squadron. Wright said thus far officers “naturally float” to a flight commander or squadron commander from base to base, according to a system that has been in place for decades, but questioned whether the same system would work for enlisted pilots.
Additionally, the service would have to study whether enlisted airmen should be granted the right to employ weapons from an aircraft.
“Whether it’s manned or unmanned, if there’s an enlisted airman that’s going to be flying and employing weapons, it requires certain authorities we would have to get by,” Wright said.
For example, enlisted airmen are currently only authorized to be remotely piloted aircraft pilots on the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone, a surveillance-only platform.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Taylor
“That’s just part of our age-old doctrine, that the employment of weapons, that the authority and responsibility lies with officers,” he said.
Reinstituting the warrant officer program could also help leaders decide on acceptable policies that would “determine if it makes us a more lethal and ready fighting force,” Wright said.
“What this is about is not just aviation or flying — it’s about maintaining the technical expertise,” Wright said. “In some cases, having warrant officers will allow us retain that talent and keep those folks doing what they love.”
The Air Force in the past has commissioned studies to look into bringing back warrant officers, with another study from RAND, a nonprofit institution that provides research and analysis studies on public policy, on the way.
“The Air Force is partnering with RAND for a study on the feasibility of warrant officers and we are projecting a completion by the end of March 2018,” Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Kathleen Atanasoff told Military.com.
February 2018, the Air Force began a separate study on whether it could benefit from someday allowing enlisted pilots.
Air Education and Training Command said the study, called the pilot training next initiative, explores how pilots can learn and train faster “by using existing and emerging technologies that can decrease the time and cost of training,” but with the same depth of understanding to produce quality pilots.
That includes using virtual reality simulation and A.I. to get airmen in an aircraft faster, with the potential of expanding the streamlined training.
The study is expected to conclude in August, in hopes of advancing all 20 students in the program: 15 officers and five enlisted airmen.
Foundation of Skills
Taylor, the Vietnam-era airman, served in the 341X1 career field for T-37 and T-38 trainers, which would quickly disappear once the Air Force reasoned enlisted personnel were needed elsewhere.
Once airmen were taught scenarios in a classroom, they would go to him to practice the maneuvers in the simulator.
“I was one of those people as an enlisted instructor, and it was the best job I ever had,” Taylor said in a recent interview with Military.com.
Through months of simulation tech school paired with his past experience working on planes, Taylor had gained the skills he needed to know the aircraft. Taylor’s instructor career field, however, dissolved only a year later, and he moved back into avionics at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. But he remembers his “flight time” and experience with the T-37 and T-38 fondly.
“As a master avionics superintendent, I did get to fly in the back seat of the [T-38] aircraft six times to perform aircraft maintenance at off-station sites,” he said. “I told the pilot that I was a flight simulator instructor pilot at Vance. And when I flew, the pilot would say, ‘You know how to fly this, you do it.’ So, I would,” Taylor said.
Taylor recalled flying the aircraft from Columbus to MacDill Air Force Base,Florida.
“I [then] repaired another T-38 from our base and flew the aircraft back to Columbus. The pilot made the takeoff and landing on both legs of the flight, but I did all radio calls, and navigation,” he said.
Taylor would fly similar routes twice more with the same pilot.
“So yes, enlisted people can definitely perform the job,” he said.
According to a1992 paper for the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Research Institute, the 341X1 and 341X2 career fields, born out of very early service ideals that enlisted members should work side-by-side with officer pilots, were Analog and Digital Trainer Specialists. The fields were part of the larger Aircrew Training Devices 34XXX specialty.
“The contributions of the enlisted men and women in the training devices career field were great,” noted the paper, written by Air Force student Senior Master Sgt. G. A. Werhs of the Senior Noncomissioned Officer Academy. “From its very beginning in 1939 until its end in the late 80s, [the 34XXX] was [an] entirely enlisted career field. All maintenance and operations were performed by highly skilled personnel. Every aircraft in the Air Force inventory had a simulator associated with it and enlisted members were there to operate and maintain it.
“[H]ow many people realize that for nearly 50 years those pilots received much of the initial training on the ground from enlisted soldiers and airmen[?]” Werhs asked.
Taylor suggested the career field closed because the service didn’t want enlisted troops to get to that next level: flying among officers. The service, he said, also had an abundance of pilots at the time.
“The Vietnam War had wound down, so they had more pilots than the Air Force needed,” Taylor said. “By taking away the enlisted instructors, it let them use the pilots that were qualified to fly the T-38 instead of kicking them out of the service.”
But there are many who believe that enlisted airmen, in some capacity, deserve the chance to once again get up in the air.
Rooted in History
Before the Air Force became a breakout service independent of the Army, enlisted pilots were known as “flying sergeants,” receiving a promotion to staff sergeant once they completed pilot training.
Enlisted pilots, in one form or another, date back to 1912. But it wasn’t until 1941, when Congress passed the the Air Corps Act of 1926 and Public Law 99, that enlisted troops were able to receive qualified training.
“We never thought about whether we wanted to be an enlisted pilot or an officer pilot,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward Wenglar, a former enlisted pilot. “We just wanted to be pilots, and we would gladly have stayed privates forever just to have the chance to fly,” Wenglar said in a 2003 service release.
Wenglar, who served overseas during World War II, holds the distinction of “achieving the highest rank of any former enlisted pilot,” according to the Air Force. He died in 2011.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Taylor
During World War II, whoever was in the cockpit got grandfathered in and could remain flying. But in 1942, the passage of the Flight Officer Act meant new enlisted recruits no longer got the chance to fly.
The act, Public Law 658, replaced the program’s sergeant pilot rank with the warrant officer rank.
When the Air Force was created in 1947 out of the Army Air Forces, it would bring more than 1,000 legacy warrant officers in. The service stopped the program in 1959, the same year it created the senior and chief master sergeant ranks. The last warrant officer would retire from active duty in 1980.
With more than 3,000 enlisted sergeant pilots throughout the service’s history, 11 of them would become generals and 17 would become flying aces, according to information from the Air Force. More than 150 enlisted pilots would be killed in action.
“Our careers as enlisted pilots made us better men and gave us opportunities later in the civilian world that we never would have been offered,” Wenglar said in 2003.
New Focus on Warrant Officers
“If the Air Force is so very concerned about the pilot shortage, they should consider warrant officers in … the transport pilot, flight engineer, boom operator and drone pilot fields,” said Will Stafford, a former staff sergeant with similar maintenance, tech and simulator experiences as Taylor.
While in the Air Force in the 1970s and 80s, Stafford, outside of his military duties, would fly smaller aircraft such as Cessna 310s, Beechcraft Model 18s and some Douglas DC-3s. On his own, he would eventually become qualified “on 25 different makes and models of fixed-wing aircraft,” he told Military.com.
“If the [Air Force] wants their veteran airmen and airwomen to return, then they had better look at how it has squandered the talent, training and dedication that many of us had, and make some serious changes, beginning with the restart of the warrant officer corps,” Stafford said, referencing the Air Force’s initiative to bring back retirees into staff-rated positions to balance out the ongoing pilot shortage.
“This is cost-effective, and many professional fully-rated civilian pilots who have military experience would have no problem,” he said.
Stafford has tried, unsuccessfully, to start a White House petition on Whitehouse.org to get the administration’s attention about reinstituting the warrant officer corps. He has even tried to petition the Air Force directly by writing to then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, who Stafford got the chance to meet and work with when Schwartz was just a captain.
Schwartz told Stafford it just wasn’t in the Air Force’s plans.
Key Decisions Ahead
Wright says the new RAND study may give him and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein fresh perspectives.
“We have to be smart about this, right?” Wright said. “This can’t just be, ‘Oh, this is nice to have.’ We have to know exactly what we’re buying [into] and we have a plan to implement it.”
Wright said cost-benefit analysis would play into the decision.
“I’m looking to learn, and the boss [Goldfein] is looking to learn, again, that simple question: Will this make us a more lethal force? Will it make us more efficient?” Wright said.
“There is a chance through the RAND study and through some of our internal studies that the evidence reveals and the analysis reveals that warrant officers won’t move the needle that much,” he said.
While Wright said it’s hard to say when enlisted pilots or a warrant officer program may come back into the Air Force’s ranks, he believes the feat can be achieved in roughly five to 10 years.
“I think it would help would shortages in career fields, I think it would help with retention, I think it would help with career development.
“Now there’s nothing that says that, within our current system we can’t do that same thing. But if you’re asking me what the obvious benefits are,” he said, ” … I think it’s a good thing.”
Life imitates art once more, this time in the form of former Royal Marine-turned inventor-turned entrepreneur Richard Browning. Working from his Salisbury, UK garage, the inventor founded a startup that invented, built, and patented an individual human flight engine that comes as close to Iron Man as anything the world has ever seen – and Richard Browning is as close to Tony Stark as anyone the world has ever encountered.
Browning set out to reimagine what human-powered flight meant, and came out creating a high-speed, high-altitude flight system that has the whole world talking.
In the video above, Browning visits the United States’ East Coast aboard the Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth, the largest aircraft carrier in the fleet. Technically, he gets to the coast first, departing the carrier via Gravity’s Daedalus system, the name given to what the world has dubbed “the Iron Man suit.”
Of course, the suit is far from the arc reactor-powered repulsor engines that double as energy weapons featured in the comics, but the Daedalus flight system is still a marvel of engineering that has set the world record for fastest speed in a body-controlled jet engine powered suit. That record was set two years ago, and by 2019, Browning made real improvements to the system. The first system was a lightweight exoskeleton attached to six kerosene-powered microturbines. He flew 32 miles per hour to break that record in 2017. In 2019, he flew the suit at 85 miles per hour.
Today, the suit is entirely 3D-printed, making it lighter, stronger, and faster.
“It truly feels like that dream of flying you have sometimes in your sleep,” Browning said. “You are entirely and completely free to move effortlessly in three dimensional space and you shed the ties of gravity.”
In November 2019, Browning flew the suit from the south coast of England to the Isle of Wright, some 1.2 km. This may not sound like much, but it broke another world record, this time for distance in a body-controlled jet engine powered suit. He says the suit can fly at speeds up to 200 miles per hour, but it’s just not yet safe to attempt those speeds. It turns out, it’s just not so easy to control the suit. It takes a massive amount of sustained physical effort to counter the thrust created by the arm engines.
Browning himself is an ultramarathon runner, triathlete, and endurance canoeist. He cycles almost 100 miles a week, including a 25-mile run every Saturday morning, as well as three “intense” calisthenics sessions every week just for the strength and endurance to fly his invention.
One of the biggest threats that never materialized in World War II was the Axis using chemical weapons on the battlefield. This possibility constantly haunted the minds of Allied planners. After all, Germany had widely used chlorine gas, phosgene, and mustard gas on Allied troops in the trench warfare that defined World War I.
As a result, Allied troops were thoroughly trained on what to do in the event of a Nazi gas attacks. However, while the Nazis discovered tabun and sarin, a pair of lethal nerve agents, neither of them were used against Allied troops. The Nazis did make some limited use of chemical weapons in fighting around the Black Sea in 1941, but never used them on a wide scale in combat.
A number of drums holding chemical weapons are stashed in this shelter. The Allies never used chemical weapons, but did maintain stocks in case they needed to retaliate.
(Imperial War Museum)
One of the big reasons they didn’t use it on a wide scale against the Allies was because there was a good chance that they’d respond in kind. In essence, it was deterrence that prevented poison gas from being used against troops. Instead, it was used against concentration camp prisoners. Adolf Hitler, a World War I veteran who had survived chemical attacks himself, ordered the withdrawal or destruction of chemical weapons after reverses in Italy and the Battle of Stalingrad.
Perhaps the worst damage inflicted on American troops with chemical weapons came when the merchant ship John Harvey, which carried mustard gas for use if the Germans had crossed the chemical threshold, was sunk. The gas was released and caused over 600 casualties, of whom 69 died. Many of the losses were due to the fact that medical personnel weren’t told about the presence of the gas.
The ruthlessness of the Nazis led the Allies to thoroughly prepare for chemical weapons attacks.
Allied troops were also trained in procedures to protect themselves from chemical weapons. The technology you’ll see in the video below isn’t quite up to today’s MOPP suits, but some of the stuff is still informative and, unfortunately, relevant. After all, chlorine gas and sarin have been used in Syria recently.
After several years of increases, Coast Guard seizures of cocaine at sea declined slightly during fiscal year 2019, but that fiscal year ended and the 2020 fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, 2019, and runs to Sept. 30, 2020, began with major busts.
During the 2018 fiscal year, Coast Guard personnel removed 207,907.6 kilograms, or just under 208 metric tons, of cocaine worth an estimated $6.14 billion, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Barry Lane said in an email.
The amount of cocaine removed by the Coast Guard is the sum of all cocaine physically seized by Coast Guard personnel and all cocaine lost by smugglers due to Coast Guard actions, according to a Homeland Security Department Inspector General report for fiscal year 2018.
US Coast Guard personnel unload bales of cocaine from a “narco sub” in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 23, 2019.
(US Coast Guard)
The amount of cocaine lost by smugglers is at times “an intelligence-based estimate of the quantity of cocaine onboard a given vessel that is burned, jettisoned, or scuttled in an attempt to destroy evidence when Coast Guard presence is detected,” according to the report.
The 2019 total is the second year of decline, following the 209.6 metric tons seized in 2018, according to the Inspector General report. The 223.8 metric tons seized in 2017 was up from 201.3 metric tons in 2016 and 144.8 metric tons in 2015.
The Coast Guard has led efforts to intercept narcotics coming to the US by sea from South and Central America, working with partners in the region through Operation Martillo, which involves ships and aircraft scouring the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific.
High-seas busts happen regularly, yielding not only drugs and drug smugglers but also intelligence on the groups behind the shipments.
In July 2019, the Coast Guard’s newest cutter, Midgett, caught a “narco sub” carrying 2,100 pounds of cocaine and three crew in the Eastern Pacific Ocean as the cutter made its first trip to its homeport in Hawaii.
US Coast Guard personnel unload bales of cocaine seized from a “narco sub” in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 23, 2019.
(US Coast Guard)
“Narco sub” is often used as a catch-all term, sometimes describing true submarines or semi-submersibles but usually referring to low-profile vessels.
They are all typically hard to spot in the open ocean, but the Coast Guard has seen a resurgence of them.
In September 2019, Coast Guard cutter Valiant tracked down another narco sub in the eastern Pacific, pursuing the 40-foot vessel over night and into the early morning. It was stopped with 12,000 pounds of cocaine aboard, but Coast Guard personnel were only able to offload about 1,100 pounds because of concerns about its stability.
Boarding teams from the Harriet Lane got to the smuggling vessel just before midnight, taking control of it before four suspected smugglers aboard could sink it using scuttling valves.
US Coast Guard personnel aboard a “narco sub” stopped in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 23, 2019.
(US Coast Guard)
‘A mission enabler’
Coast Guard officials have pointed to narco subs as a sign of smugglers’ ability to adapt to pressure.
The service has pursued what Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz has called a “push-out-the-border strategy,” sending ships into the Pacific to bust drugs at the point in the smuggling process when the loads are the largest.
But Schultz and other officials have cautioned that the service can see more than it can catch.
In the eastern Pacific, where about 85% of the cocaine smuggling between South America and the US takes place, the Coast Guard has “visibility on about 85% of that activity,” Schultz told Business Insider in November 2018. “Because of the capacity — the number of ships, the number of aircraft — [we act on] about 25% to 30% of that.”
Stopping drugs, as well as the Coast Guard’s other missions, are opportunities to employ new technology, Schultz said in October 2019.
“That counter-drug mission, where you’re trying to surveil the eastern Pacific Ocean … you can take the entire United States and turn it on a 45-degree axis and drop it there, it’s the equivalent of patrolling North America with five or six police cars out of Columbus,” Schultz said during an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“You’ve got to bring some technologies in … We’ve fielded small unmanned systems, the Scan Eagle, on the back of our national-security cutters,” Schultz added. “We haven’t fielded them all out yet, but hopefully by the end of next year every national-security cutter will have a Scan Eagle. That’s a mission enabler.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.