Being knocked off a ship is one of the most disorienting and terrifying experiences you can have.
German sailor Arne Murke had this happen when he was knocked off a sailboat in 9 foot waves, and without a life preserver. Fortunately, Murke had the wherewithal to employ a trusted life-saving trick used by Navy SEALs that starts by taking off your pants, and was rescued off New Zealand after over three hours in the water.
The method uses your pants to assist with flotation to stay on the surface and conserve your energy. And unlike a dead man float where your face is in the water, this tactic allows you to rest with your face up so rescuers can more easily find you.
Here’s how to perform this tried-and-true “drown proofing” technique, which is taught to troops from all the military branches.
Step 1: Take off your pants. While you tread water or lie on your back, tie a knot in the ends of the pant legs. The US Navy recommends you tie both pant legs together and tight enough to trap air, as seen in a 2015 video. Oh, remember to zip up the fly.
Step 2: Inflate. Put the waist opening over your shoulder, then in one motion raise the open waist high over your head to scoop in air and then slam it into the water. Close the waist underneath the water to hold in the air.
A US Army soldier sits upright after inflating his pants and putting his head through the legs.
(US Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Pascal Demeuldre)
Step 2.5: If your air pocket isn’t filled enough, repeat the last step. Or you can try to fill the pants by going under water and breathing air into the open waist.
Step 3: Put your head through the inflated pant legs and hold the waist closed and under water. Wait for help and stay calm. If and when the pants deflate, just repeat the steps.
These moves are fairly straightforward, but it’s hard to get the pants to inflate by swinging them over your head. It may take a few tries. Best to practice this in a pool first.
Watch the US Navy video here:
Navy Skills for Life – Water Survival Training – Clothing Inflation
The Blast Pelvic Protector resembles a pair of loose-fitting shorts designed to wear over the Army Combat Uniform trousers. The device is intended to replace earlier attempts at groin protection such as the Protective Under Garment, or PUG, and the Protective Over Garment, or POG.
The PUG resembled a pair of snug-fitting boxers.
“They were underwear that had pockets for ballistics to go into,” Lt. Col. Ginger Whitehead, product manager for Soldier Protective Equipment said recently at a media event.
The POG looked like a tactical diaper.
The Pelvic Protection System: Tier I Protective Under Garment (PUG) and Tier II Protective Outer Garment (POG).
(US Army photo)
“And then there was an outer garment — it felt like a perpetual wedgie; soldiers hated that,” Whitehead said.
“That’s why we moved to the Blast Pelvic Protector and the cool thing about this is … there is a ballistic insert that can stop certain types of rounds, and the rest of this provides fragmentation protection.”
The new protective device features open sides with two straps on either side that connect with quick-release buckles.
Earlier attempts at protecting the groin and femoral arteries on the Improved Outer Tactical Vest, or IOTV, consisted of triangular flap of soft ballistic material that hung in front of the crotch.
In addition to the pelvic protector, soldiers from 3rd BCT will receive the new Integrated Head Protection System, or IHPS, which will replace the Enhanced Combat Helmet in close combat units.
The new helmet offers the same ballistic protection as the ECH, but doubles the amount of protection against blunt impact or trauma to soldier’s head. Each side of the helmet has rail sections, so soldiers can mount lights and other accessories for operating in low-light conditions.
Equipment officials will also field the Modular Scalable Vest, or MSV, to 3rd BCT soldiers. The MSV weighs about 25 pounds with body armor plates. That’s about a five-pound weight reduction compared to the current IOTV.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The U.S. military is awash in regulations, laws, and official traditions. How troops march and salute, what uniform to wear to what event, or what you are supposed to say when greeting a superior are all examples of “on-the-books” behaviors expected of service members.
And then there are the “off-the-books” traditions. They are the unwritten rules: traditions that go back way before the books were printed. These activities — especially the ones involving hazing — are often frowned upon, but still continue to happen, usually without any official recognition.
Here are eight examples.
1. Fighter pilots (or members of flight crew) get hosed down after their final flight.
The “fighter pilot mafia” is definitely a thing in the Air Force and Navy, which is the nickname for the pilot sub-culture within each service. Soon after aviators get to a new unit they will go through an unofficial ceremony of receiving their callsigns, and they usually are not very flattering.
On the flip side is the final flight. Much like a football coach gets a giant cooler of Gatorade dumped over their head at the end of a game, pilots sometimes will get hosed down with water by their comrades. In some cases, they’ll be doused with champagne.
In the case of Maj. Vecchione (shown below), his peers also threw string cheese, flour, and mayonnaise on him. Personally, I would’ve thrown in some ketchup and mustard, but hell, I wasn’t there.
2. At a military wedding with a sword detail, the wife gets a sword-tap to her booty to “welcome her” to the family.
Nothing like a little tradition that allows some dude to tap your brand new wife on the butt. When a service member wants to go through the pageantry of having a “military wedding” — wearing their uniform at the altar and bringing along a sword detail — they can expect that at the end of it all, some random dude will be sexually harassing his wife for the sake of tradition.
It goes like this: On the way out right after the ceremony, the couple passes over an arch of swords on both sides. They go through, kiss, go through, kiss, then they get to the last one. Once they reach the final two and pass, one of the detail will lower their sword, tap the bride, and say “welcome to the Army [or Marine Corps, etc]!”
Here’s the Navy version:
3. When a Navy ship crosses the equator, sailors perform the “crossing the line” ceremony, which frankly, involves a lot of really weird stuff.
The Crossing the Line ceremony goes far back to the days of wooden ships. According to this Navy public affairs story, sailors were put through this hazing ritual designed to test whether they could endure their first time out at sea.
These days, sailors crossing the line for the first time — called Pollywogs or Wogs for short — can expect an initiation into the club of those who have done it before, referred to as Shellbacks. During the two-day event, the “Court of Neptune” inducts the Wogs into “the mysteries of the deep” with activities like having men dress up as women, drink stuff like a wonderful mix of hot sauce and aftershave, or make them crawl on their hands and knees in deference to King Neptune. I swear I’m not making any of this up.
In the modern military that is decidedly against hazing rituals, the events have toned down quite a bit. In 1972 a sailor may have expected to be kissing the “Royal Baby’s belly button,” which again, is totally a real thing.
Nowadays however, there’s much less of that sort of thing, and the Navy stresses that it’s all completely voluntary (ask any sailor, however, and they’ll probably tell you it’s “voluntary” with big air quotes).
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
4. Before going on deployment, Marine infantrymen who have never deployed need to shave their heads.
Don’t ask me where this unwritten rule came from or why — other than to distinguish who the total boots in the platoon were — but Marine grunts who have never done a deployment are often told to shave their heads before they move out.
Again, this is one of those “voluntary” you-don’t-have-to-do-this-if-you-don’t-want-to kind of things, but there were 3 guys in my platoon who decided to keep their hair before deploying to Okinawa in 2003. Interestingly enough, they were put on plenty of cleanup details and other not-so-fun jobs as a result.
5. When achieving the next rank or earning parachute wings or other insignia, a service member may get “blood-pinned,” though it’s rare these days.
Soldiers who get through five successful jumps at Airborne School in the past could expect to get “blood wings,” but that practice has died down in recent years as the public has learned of it. After a superior pinned their wings on, a soldier would get their new badge slammed into their chest, which often draws blood.
This kind of thing is frowned upon — and prohibited under military regulations — but it still sometimes happens. In some cases, it’s considered a rite of passage and kind of an honor. I personally endured pinning ceremonies that I volunteered for when I picked up the ranks of lance corporal and corporal.
6. Some units have mustache-growing contests in training or on deployment to see who can achieve the most terrible-looking ‘stache.
The military regulations on facial hair offer little in the way of good looking when it comes to shaves. Most men are not allowed to grow beards (except for some special operators) and although they are allowed, mustaches are generally frowned upon. Why they are frowned upon usually comes down to how terrible they often look.
Don’t expect any mustache greatness ala Rollie Fingers; troops usually have to keep the mustache neatly trimmed within the corners of their mouth. Those regulations give way to the terribleness derived from the “CAX ‘stache,” which is what Marines refer to as the weird-looking Hitler-like mustache they’ll grow out while training at 29 Palms.
These contests sometimes extend overseas, especially when junior troops are away from the watchful eyes of their senior enlisted leaders. But whenever the sergeant major is around, you might want to police that moostache.
7. First-year West Point cadets have a giant pillow fight to blow off steam after the summer is over.
Before they become the gun-toting leaders of men within the United States Army, first year cadets are beating the crap out of each with pillows in the school’s main courtyard. The annual event is organized by the students and has occurred since at least 1897, according to The New York Times.
While it’s supposed to be a light-hearted event featuring fluffy pillows filled with things that are, you know, soft, some [blue falcon] cadets have decided to turn the event bloody in recent years. One first-year cadet told The Times in September: “The goal was to have fun, and it ended up some guys just chose to hurt people.”
That quote came from a story that broke months ago after the “fun” pillow fight ended with at least 30 cadets requiring medical attention, 24 of which were concussions.
8. Naval Academy midshipmen climb a lard-covered monument for a hat.
Around the same time that first-year West Point cadets are beating each other and causing concussions, 1,000 screaming Navy midshipmen are charging toward a 21-foot monument covered in lard with a hat on top. The goal: Retrieve the first-year “plebe” hat and replace it with an upperclassmen hat, a task which signifies their transition to their next year at the Academy.
Beforehand, upperclassmen hook up the plebes with about 200 pounds of greasy lard slapped on the sides of the Herndon Monument, making their task a bit more difficult. They need to use teamwork and dedication to climb their way to the top, which can take anywhere from minutes to over four hours (Class of 1995 has the longest time 4 hours, 5 minutes).
According to the Academy’s website, the tradition is that the first guy to make it to the top will likely rise to the rank of admiral first. That is if he or she doesn’t get themselves fired first.
On July 25, 1953, seven Czechoslovakians rolled across one of the most heavily guarded borders in the world to freedom in the West. They rolled over three rows of barbed wire, land mines, and guard towers on their way into West Germany. The Czech border guards didn’t even try to stop them. No one fired a shot. They all just watched in stunned disbelief as the Nazi armored personnel vehicle just tore its way across the Iron Curtain.
The story of Vaclav Uhlik is a success story for American soft power, specifically the Cold War-era broadcasts of Radio Free Europe. Uhlik was an engineer in the new, Soviet-dominated Czechoslovakia following the end of World War II. He was a concentration camp survivor, a fighter for the Czech Underground, and mechanic who hid a big secret from the new Communist authorities in his country: there was an armored vehicle in his backyard – and he was rebuilding it.
For three years, he listened to the broadcasts of Radio Free Europe as he gathered parts and materials needed to get the APC operational again. The broadcasts gave him hope. His progress gave him patience. He was assisted by former Czech soldiers Walter Hora and Vaclav Krejciri in his efforts, and they were rewarded by riding in the vehicle the night it was to drive to the West.
The Czech-West German Border in 1980.
(Photo by Alan Denney)
Starting nearly from scratch, the men slowly reconstructed a battered Nazi Saurer RR-7 Artillery Tractor. Vaclav Uhlik, the engineer, rebuilt the vehicle as an armored personnel carrier. He made it large enough to carry himself, his wife and two children, the two veterans, Josef Pisarik, and Libuse Hrdonkova, a Czech woman who married an American after the war. Since he could only stay with her for three months, she decided to come to him in Iowa.
After years of tinkering and preparation, the modified RR-7, covered in the brush and foliage that hid it from Czechoslovakian authorities for so long, rumbled its way to the West German border. They drove through the Bavarian forest to the Wald-München (near Nuremberg) border crossing. And he did cross the border, except he didn’t go through the gates, instead opting to go right through the rows of barbed wire between guard towers and minefields.
The border guards just watched in awe, as they thought the APC was a friendly army vehicle. The Czechs inside had only what they wore with them, but they were on the right side of the Iron Curtain.
The seven Czechs drove the APC for several miles into West Germany and away from the border until they were stopped by West German police, taken to an American installation to be interviewed by intelligence officers, and then welcomed to their new home in the West. They would eventually be resettled in Springfield, Mass. – all except Hrdonkova. She would move to Sioux City, Iowa, to be with her long-separated husband.
Army Sgt. Joe Kieyoomia was captured by Japanese forces in 1942 as the Philippines fell to the Japanese war machine. Unfortunately for him, that was the start of 43 months of captivity that began with the infamous Bataan Death March and only ended with the surrender of Japan.
When he was captured by the Japanese, Kieyoomia – like tens of thousands of other Filipino and American POWs – was forced to walk some 60-70 miles in the sweltering heat, under constant enemy mistreatment. When he finally arrived at a prison camp, he watched as his captors forced them to dig their own graves and then shot them.
Kieyoomia was eventually sent to the Japanese mainland, because of his looks and his name. The enemy assumed he was Japanese American, but unfortunately for Kieyoomia in this instance, he was a Navajo. When he arrived on the mainland, he was beaten and tortured daily.
“They didn’t believe me,” he told The Deseret News when he was 72 years old. “The only thing they understood about Americans was black and white. I guess they didn’t know about Indians.”
But Kieyoomia wasn’t a code talker. He was deployed to the Philippines with New Mexico’s 200th Coast Artillery. When the Japanese needed to know what the Najavo code was, they came to Kieyoomia – but he didn’t know the code. He didn’t even know about the existence of the code.
The Japanese then had him listen to radio broadcasts – he was surprised to hear his native language. The broadcasts made no sense. His jailers didn’t believe that he couldn’t understand the messages and he was forced to stand naked in six inches of snow on a parade ground in below freezing temperatures.
Kieyoomia’s feet froze to the ground. When he was forced back inside, his skin stuck to the ground and he left a bloody trail on the parade ground. He was tortured for months on end.
“I salute the code talkers,” he said in the interview with Deseret News. “And even if I knew about their code, I wouldn’t tell the Japanese.”
The Japanese came to Kieyoomia with written words, transliterated into English. The Japanese tortured him to learn the Navajo code, but it was very different from mere words from the language. Kieyoomia couldn’t tell them if he wanted to it was gibberish, and it was designed to sound that way, even if someone spoke the language.
The Navajo soldier tried to end his own life with a hunger strike, but that only earned him more beatings from his Japanese captors.
His troubles were only ended by the second atomic bomb dropped on Japan. On Aug. 9, 1945 “Fat Man” detonated over the city, killing 40-75,000 people instantly.
Kieyoomia miraculously survived the nuclear blast because of the way he was sitting next to the concrete wall in his cell. He was abandoned for three days before a Japanese officer freed him.
After the war, Sgt. Joe Kieyoomia returned to the Navajo nation, recovered from his wounds, and lived to age 77. He died in 1997.
Late Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, U.S. military officials identified the Army helicopter pilot who died on Aug. 20, 2018, as a result of wounds received in a crash in Iraq on Aug. 19, 2018 during an undisclosed operation. Official news releases report three additional wounded U.S. personnel have been evacuated to treatment facilities.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Taylor J. Galvin, 34, from Spokane, Washington, died Aug. 20, in Baghdad as a result of injuries sustained when his helicopter crashed in Sinjar, Ninevah Province, according to a Department of Defense news release.
CW3 Galvin was assigned to Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 160th SOAR (Special Operations Aviation Regiment) as an MH-60M Blackhawk helicopter pilot. He was flying in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. Galvin was originally from Phoenix, Arizona. He was 34 years old. Galvin was a combat veteran special operations pilot with nine deployments including two during Iraqi Freedom, three in Operation Enduring Freedom and four more during Operation Inherent Resolve. He was the recipient of the U.S. Army Air Medal (C device) and Air Medal (30LC) for heroism or meritorious achievement while flying in addition to numerous other awards.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Taylor J. Galvin.
In an August 20, 2018 article on Newsweek.com about the fatal crash, journalist James LaPorta reported that, “It is unclear why the MH-60 Blackhawk went down, but U.S. military sources with knowledge of the crash said the helicopter was returning to base after conducting a partnered small-scale raid on Islamic State militants in an undisclosed region as part of ongoing counterterrorism operations.” LaPorta went on to write, “Ten U.S. military personnel were onboard the aircraft being flown by U.S. Army pilots from the elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, known as the Night Stalkers.”
The region near Sinjar (Shingal), Iraq where the crash occurred had been active in supporting cross-border anti-ISIS operations into neighboring Syria for more than a month until U.S. troops were withdrawn from the area in the middle of July 2018 according to a report by Wladimir van Wilgenburg published in the regional Kurdistan 24 online news source. This is also the region where Iraqi Air Force F-16s have conducted their first airstrikes against insurgents during cross-border strikes into Syria.
The crash was reported to have occurred at approximately 10:00 PM local time (2200 hrs, GMT+3). Sunset in the region on Aug. 19, 2018, the date of the accident, occurred at 6:40 PM local time. Weather in the area was hot, 101 degrees Fahrenheit, with light winds and clear skies. Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning told reporters that the crash was not caused by enemy fire.
(US Army photo)
Reports about the aircraft and the personnel on board may contradict official assertions that the U.S. role in the region is predominantly in an advisory capacity. The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the “Night Stalkers”, is a highly-specialized combat aviation unit headquartered at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky that supports elite U.S. and coalition combat units like Army Special Forces, Naval Special Warfare (SEALs) and other special operations units.
The 160th SOAR, the “Night Stalkers”, are most famous for the raid to capture Osama bin Laden, Operation Neptune’s Spear, on May 1, 2011. During that raid, the unit flew a classified, low-observable variant of the Blackhawk helicopter that has since been popularly referred to in speculation as the “MH-X Stealth Black Hawk” or “Silent Hawk”. Images of part of the secret helicopter were seen around the world when one of them crashed inside Bin Laden’s compound during the raid, leaving the tail section visible. Books and media accounts suggest only two of the aircraft were ever produced.
As North Korean soldiers from the adjacent guard tower ran toward the vehicle, the defector quickly got out and ran south across the MDL. In the video, several North Korean soldiers can be seen firing their weapons at the defector, who appears to be only a few feet away.
One North Korean soldier appeared to cross the MDL for a few seconds, then run back toward it. The UNC said it found that North Korea had breached the 1953 armistice agreement that ended the Korean War.
The Korean People’s Army “violated the armistice agreement by one, firing weapons across the MDL, and two, by actually crossing the MDL,” a spokesman said during a news conference Tuesday.
During multiple surgical procedures, doctors found dozens of parasites in the defector’s digestive tract, which they say sheds light on a humanitarian crisis in North Korea. He is reportedly in stable condition.
Sources told the South Korean newspaper The Dong-a Ilbo that as he received medical care, the defector asked, “Is this South Korea?”
After he received confirmation that he was, in fact, in South Korea, he said he would “like to listen to South Korean songs,” The Ilbo reported.
It seems like so many dictators just love movies. We all do, but absolute power takes it to a whole new level. Gaddafi had a channel set up just to play his favorite movie – his one favorite movie. Kim Jong-Il kidnapped his favorite actors and actresses to star in North Korea’s movies. Then, of course, the next natural step for these guys is directing movies.
Kim Jong-Il made several films. Benito Mussolini pitched to Columbia pictures. And even Saddam Hussein made a $30 million war epic. But Joseph Stalin was the Soviet Union’s “ultimate censor.”
At the time, global Communism was still very much a growing threat, one Stalin wanted to continue to spread around the world – under Soviet leadership.
He saw how much power and influence films – and the stars in them – held over large audiences. He saw it in Nazi German propaganda during the Second World War and he used it effectively himself to further his own personality cult.
So when he saw John Wayne’s power as an virulent anti-Communist on the rise, he ordered the actor killed and then sent (allegedly) more than one hit squad to do the job. He saw the Duke as a threat to the spread of Communism around the world – and especially in America.
Obviously not one to let a thing like Communist assassins get him down, Wayne and his scriptwriter Jimmy Grant allegedly abducted the hitmen, took them to the beach, and staged a mock execution. No one knows exactly what happened after that, but Wayne’s friends say the Soviet agents began to work for the FBI from that day on.
But there were other incidents. The book also alleges KGB agents tried to take the actor out on the set of 1953’s Hondo in Mexico. A captured sniper in Vietnam claimed that he was hired by Chairman Mao to take the actor out on a visit to troops there.
Stalin died in 1953. His successor, Nikita Khrushchev, met privately with John Wayne in 1958 and informed him that the order had been rescinded. Wayne told his friends Khrushchev called Stalin’s last years his “mad years” and apologized.
The entire time Wayne knew there was a price on his head, he refused the FBI’s offer of federal protection and didn’t even tell his family. He just moved into a house with a big wall around it. Once word got out, though, Hollywood stuntmen loyal to the Duke began to infiltrate Communist Party cells around the country and expose plots against him.
Pvt. Carlos Mora, 21, and Spc. Juan Guajardo, 36, recently graduated Basic Combat Training May 14 at Fort Jackson, S.C. after overcoming the COVID-19 virus. (U.S. Army/ Alexandra Shea)
Two of the U.S. Army newest soldiers recently earned bragging rights by completing Basic Combat Training after surviving bouts with the novel coronavirus.
Roughly eight weeks ago, 21-year-old Pvt. Carlos Mora and 36-year-old Spc. Juan Guajardo began suffering from COVID-19 symptoms while going through Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
“I woke up in the morning and felt horrible,” Mora said in a recent Army news release. “I had a high fever, and I had slight pain. I told the drill sergeants, and they took me to the hospital.”
Guajardo said he has no idea how he got the virus.
“I got a fever, really weak and I had aches,” he said. “I coughed a lot and, when I blew my nose, I had red spots. I went to the hospital, and they did the test. I was positive.”
Army leaders halted the shipment of recruits to BCT for two weeks in early April to beef up testing protocols at the training centers. The Center for Initial Military Training (CIMT) had already taken several aggressive steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — ranging from multiple screenings to separating new arrivals at BCT from the main population during the first two weeks of training.
So far, there have been 6,118 cases of COVID-19 among uniformed members of the U.S. military. Of those, 3,460 service members have recovered and three have died, according to Pentagon figures released May 26.
Mora and Guajardo were both assigned to Jackson’s 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment, when they began feeling ill, according to the release.
It’s not clear how severely the virus affected Mora or Guajardo since the Army would not release specific details about their condition or individual treatment, citing patient-privacy restrictions under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Meg Reed, spokeswoman for CIMT, told Military.com.
“I wasn’t too bad. I was out of breath and had a cough,” Mora said in the release. “Others had it worse. It scared me because they were about my age too.”
Guarjardo said he was more worried about his mother, who was concerned that she hadn’t heard from him.
“She was very worried about me,” Guajardo said in the release. “She’s in Mexico, and it’s bad there. I’m scared for her, but she is staying inside and away from people.”
After two weeks, both Mora and Guajardo were feeling better and soon tested negative at Moncrief Army Health Clinic, according to the release.
Overall, both missed about three weeks of training, so they had to be reassigned to the 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment.
On May 14, Mora and Guajardo walked across Jackson’s Hilton Field with fellow BCT graduates in a ceremony that was streamed on Facebook for friends and family members, according to the release.
“It took me an extra week to breathe right again,” Mora said of his return to training. “I made it, though.”
Mora is scheduled to take advanced individual training at Fort Lee, Virginia, to become a wheeled vehicle mechanic.
Guajardo said he “really wanted to graduate with my old company,” but the Army Reserve soldier is looking forward to going to AIT at Fort Gordon, Georgia, to become an information technology specialist and “being able to talk to my family every day again,” the release states.
One of the joys of reading is the long-running book series. One-off stories are well and good but there is great joy in reading a multiple book series featuring the same cast of characters and watching them grow and deal with increasingly severe situations. Serialized fiction is not for everyone but if it is your jam, there are few literary joys equivalent to a good series.
One long running series is the Jonathan Grave series of books by John Gilstrap. Twelve books and counting, it is the sort of thing that can excite an appreciator of serial fiction. I conducted an interview with the author of the book so he can talk about his latest offering.
This interview has been lightly edited for formatting and presentation purposes.
Hi, John! Thanks for taking time to talk to us today. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is John Gilstrap. I am a lifelong resident of Northern Virginia, as is my bride of 36 years. Since 1995, I have penned 21 thrillers and one nonfiction book. My passion has always been writing. In fact, I am one of precious few people I know who, in my sixth decade on the planet, is doing exactly what I would have told you I wanted to do when I was a teenager.
Hellfire is the latest novel in your long-running Jonathan Grave series of books. Please tell us a bit about this series and its protagonist.
Long-running indeed! Hellfire is the 12th entry in the series. I never dreamed that the series would have that kind of legs. What an honor!
Jonathan Grave and his team are freelance hostage rescue specialists. As a team, they often work outside of the law, but never on the wrong side of it. When the police run a hostage rescue operation, their primary objective is to make sure that the bad guys go to jail. When Security Solutions, Jonathan’s team, run a rescue, their sole focus is to save the good guys. What happens to the bad guys is not their concern.
Uncle Sam is aware of what the team is capable of, and it is not uncommon for the director of the FBI to engage them to do things that governments simply cannot do.
I don’t think of the Grave books as a series, though. They are standalone thrillers with recurring characters. I work hard to make sure that each book can stand on its own without confusing readers, while including treats for the benefit of fans who have come along for the whole ride.
To me, one of the interesting things about this novel is the cast of characters at Grave’s company Security Solutions and his contact at the FBI. Please tell me about them and how they have evolved as the series has progressed.
Thank you. Jonathan does not suffer fools. He surrounds himself with a team that is extraordinarily competent, and they are 100% committed to each other. Of the three main operators, Jonathan and Boxers are former Delta Force operators, and Gail Bonneville was part of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT). The fourth member of the team, Venice Alexander, is a world-class hacker who can work wonders in cyberspace.
Jonathan has a special relationship with Irene Rivers, director of the FBI. Back in the day, when Irene was still a special agent for the FBI and Jonathan was still in the Army, Jonathan and Boxers broke more than a few laws to save Irene’s young daughters from a predator. That’s their special secret and their special bond. After Irene was named FBI director, that bond took on special importance.
Jonathan’s team is the only family he has.
A lot of thriller books in this genre seem dominated by former military or law enforcement writers. But I learned in preparing the review for another of your books, Nathan’s Run, your background was as a firefighter and safety engineer. How has that informed your writing style?
Beginning when I was 23 years old, I entered the worst moments of strangers’ lives and brought order to chaos. Over the next fifteen years, over thousands of emergency responses, I delivered two babies and counseled countless grieving spouses, parents and children. I was burned, shot at, and threatened with one very large knife. Along the way, I saved far more lives than I lost and formed deep bonds with some fine public servants. And I did all of that without being paid a dime. Those experiences affect everything that I think and do. How can it not?
Professionally, my safety engineering dealt mainly with explosives and other hazardous materials. I conducted well over 1,000 accident investigations, from minor cuts to fatalities; from small fires to major explosions.
I don’t know exactly how that all informs my writing style, but I figure it must. Again, how could it not?
I was interested to learn that your one non-fiction book was about the rescue of Kurt Muse during the Panamanian Invasion. Did the people you meet researching that book help build your portrayal of Jonathan Grave?
The people I met doing the research for Six Minutes to Freedom serve as the models for both Jonathan and Boxers. The men and women of the American Special Forces are a breed unlike any other. They are dedicated not just to God and country, but also to each other and to their mission. Those are all traits and principles that drive Jonathan Grave and his team.
As with any long running series, one often wonders ‘What next?’ What is next for Grave and his company of Hostage Rescue professionals?
The 13th entry in the Grave series will be Stealth Attack. It is still too deeply in the development phase to describe it.
After the end of this book, there was a sample chapter for a new series you are writing called Crimson Phoenix. Could you take a moment to tell us about it?
The Crimson Phoenix series takes my work in an entirely new direction. In it, World War III lasts about eight hours, and when it is done, the United States is left in ruins. With all the infrastructure gone, and elected leaders unable to communicate with people outside of the bunkers that protected official Washington, it falls to individual citizens to figure out a way to continue living. It doesn’t take long for the weak to turn feral. In one corner of West Virginia, though, a single mom named Victoria Emerson turns out to be the leader that everyone’s been looking for.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today!
The good news is that part of Congress actually did its job as the legislative branch of government. The House of Representatives passed a law, specifically, the latest National Defense Authorization Act, which specifies the budget for the Department of Defense, and allows for its expenditures. It also lays out some provisions for the Pentagon and its five branches to follow. This year’s NDAA is no different, but it has some new, noteworthy provisions.
And yes, there’s a 3.1 percent pay raise for U.S. troops. Glad we can all agree on something.
The Space Force
The NDAA allowed for the creation of the U.S. Space Force and the position of the Chief of Space Operations at the level of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but reporting to the Secretary of the Air Force. The new branch’s structure will be similar to the way the U.S. Marine Corps is housed inside the department of the Navy, so expect a lot of jokes about how the Space Force is the men’s department inside the Department of the Air Force.
The Space Force will replace the current space command at the cost of .4 million.
Sadly, some still don’t have faces.
Paid Parental Leave for Federal Workers
The new compromise defense authorization bill will allow federal employees 12 full weeks of parental leave after having a child. The 8 billion bill allows the new provision for all 2.1 million federal workers. Starting Oct. 1, 2020, any adoption, birth, or fostering will receive the benefit. Employees must be employed for at least one year and stay for at least 12 weeks after taking the leave.
Don’t read the comments, it’s already been happening.
Desegregating Marine Corps Boot Camp
Women training at the Marine Corps’ Parris Island facilities will no longer be separated by gender, according to the new NDAA. The Corps is one of the last areas of gender segregation in the Armed Forces. Due to low volumes of female recruits, the Corps has already desegregated some basic training classes in South Carolina, but San Diego will remain segregated for a couple more years.
Veterans with heart conditions will soon be able to hold a 3D model of their own heart while talking with their doctor about possible treatments, thanks to 3D printing.
VA Puget Sound Health Care System doctors, researchers and engineers are working with their counterparts at the University of Washington (UW) School of Medicine to use 3D printing to diagnose and treat complex heart conditions.
Hold your heart in your hands
“Imagine the power of holding a life-sized 3D model of your own heart in your hands while your cardiologist discusses your treatment plan and walks you through your upcoming procedure step by step. This is the reality that we want for all of our patients,” said VA Puget Sound radiologist Dr. Beth Ripley.
3D models of aortic valve helps doctor plan surgery.
Currently, without a 3D model, a surgeon creates a plan for surgery by looking through hundreds or thousands of CT or MRI scans, putting together a rough picture of the actual organ from a series of flat images. To create a model, a radiologist uses those same images to make a 3D blueprint, which is then sent to a 3D printer. The result is an almost perfect copy of the patient’s body part.
Reducing costs and shortening surgery times
Three-dimensional heart models will come in handy for a procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement, in which the surgeon replaces a narrow heart valve that no longer opens properly.
“Beyond improving our understanding of a patient’s anatomy, it allows us to know which catheters and replacement valves will fit, and how best to approach the particular structure,” said UW research scientist Dmitry Levin. In turn, he said, that knowledge helps reduce the cost of devices and shorten the length of surgery.
VA Puget Sound doctors already print 3D kidney models that they use for planning kidney surgery. They also print 3D foot orthotics that prevent amputations for veterans with type 2 diabetes.
The VA-UW team expects the partnership to result in new techniques and treatment approaches. As a result, it could eventually help heart patients worldwide.
Ripley said the next frontier is 3D printing of living tissue. “In the near future, we will be able to make living bone,” complete with blood vessels, she said.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Long gone are the days where the United States Navy roamed the seas with heavily-armed battleships as its primary capital ships. Not everyone who talks naval warfare entirely agrees with mothballing the biggest guns of the American Navy, but there’s a reason the old battleships are gone – and a reason they’re never coming back.
“Come at me, bro.”
There was a time when ship-to-ship fighting was the way of war on the world’s oceans. It made sense to create the biggest, baddest ship technology would allow, then arm it with as many weapons as it took to tear the enemy to shreds. If there was any way you could also prevent yourself from getting torn to shreds with some heavy armor, that was great too. Imagine how great it felt to watch British cannonballs bounce off the sides of the USS Constitution as you watched your shipmates take down part of the “world’s most powerful navy.”
As time wore on, the technology only got better. By the Civil War, “Ironsides” was more than a nickname. It was a must-have feature on American ships, made famous by the confrontation of the USS Monitor’s and the CSS Virginia’s epic shootout at Hampton Roads. By the 20th Century, naval powers were churning out ships with speed, firepower, and armor in a race to be able to sink the other side’s seafaring battleships.
Once the two sides saw each other, it was on.
Kinda like that.
In modern naval warfare, however, two sides don’t need to see each other. As a matter of fact, one side is better off being able to strike the other without warning – and without one side being able to return fire. These days, satellite technology, radars, and other long-range sensor technologies mean an attacker can see its target without ever needing to go looking for them. More importantly, a battleship (or battleship fleet) can be hit and destroyed without ever seeing where the shots were fired.
And while the battleship would be searching to take down its seaborne opponent, land-based ballistic missiles and anti-ship missiles fired from aircraft would be on its way to put 2,500-plus battleship sailors at the bottom of the ocean.
That last hit made Tommy remember his shipmates on the Lexington and the night took a dark turn.
What battleships are still effective for is supporting ground forces with its guns, using them as support artillery for landing Marines. This is the main reason pro-battleship advocates argue for recommissioning the Iowa-class battleships currently being used as museums. But even the Iowa-class still uses a lot of sailors to fire so-called “dumb” weapons at a potentially civilian-filled environment, while a more precision close air support strike would be more effective and lower the risk of civilian casualties.
Not to mention lowering the risk of a counterattack killing the 2,500 sailors that might be manning the guns.