One hundred seventy-four miles may sound like a lot of ground to cover in one week, but to Lisa Hallett it’s minuscule compared to the 174 women who lost their lives in overseas combat since Sept. 11, 2001.
“I think women in service show an uncommon courage,” said Hallett, co-founder and executive director of wear blue: run to remember — a nonprofit dedicated to honoring the sacrifice of U.S. military members. “Their willingness to step into a man’s world, lead with conviction and have an impact on the success of our armed forces — I’m so in awe of that bravery.”
In conjunction with Women’s History Month and the 399,458 current-serving military women, Hallett and wear blue’s staff launched the inaugural Piestewa Challenge — a worldwide collective effort to pay tribute to the nation’s 174 fallen women. Kicking off Tuesday, March 23, the challenge invites groups of four to eight people to jointly run, walk, swim, kayak, bike or any other motion in completing 174 total team miles by March 30.
“Any movement counts!” Hallett said. “There is so much we can’t control in our lives, especially right now, but we can always do something intentional for ourselves, our communities and these women.”
The Piestewa Challenge is named after Army Spc. Lori Piestewa, the first Native American service member to be killed in combat on foreign soil and the first military woman to be killed in Iraq. March 23, the day the challenge launches, is the 18th anniversary of her passing in Nasiriyah. The symbolic starting line begins near Piestewa Peak in Arizona and ends 174 miles later — a location not far from Piestewa’s hometown of Tuba City on Navajo Nation.
Anyone — man, woman or child — can participate in any location. Hallett, herself a Gold Star wife after losing her husband John in Afghanistan in 2009, recommends joining the challenge not to check off another item on a to-do list, but as “a gift to ourselves and each other.”
“Here is a really simple way we can come together and connect as a military family,” she said. “When we remember the past, say these women’s names, we show the present how we will care for each other in the good and the bad in the future.”
The Piestewa Challenge is free and has already registered more than 1,500 athletes, although Hallett, an ultramarathon runner and Ironman participant, hopes for 5,000. Participants can join teams with names like “Hot Steppers” and “Wild Wicked Women” and log miles through Racery, a virtual race platform. Registration is available online.
The challenge is more than just lonely exercising. Athletes can begin the 174 miles with the “Piestewa Challenge National Circle of Remembrance” online Tuesday morning. The virtual ceremony will specifically honor Piestewa with a blessing from the Hopi people, her tribe, as well as reading aloud the 173 names of her fallen sisters. Additionally, wear blue will send emails throughout the week, each containing stories of soldiers, airmen, Marines, and sailors killed over the last two decades.
Many of the women’s family members are playing active roles in the challenge.
“It means so much that their loved one is not forgotten and that they do not remember alone,” Hallett said. “These women’s families have, in many ways, carried the weight of their service, and there is so much inspiration in witnessing each family’s courage and how they persevere.”
Hallett and her staff will be running on team “Run, Honor, Belong.” With each mile, she says, they will be thinking of each woman in the club of 174.
“This is an opportunity for the nation to turn the words, ‘Thank you for your service’ into tangible, meaningful action,” she said. “We’re going to carry with intention their legacies in our steps.”
If you’re looking to punch the enemy in the gut and demonstrate just how much better you are than them, an ambush is your tactic of choice. In fact, that punch-to-the-gut scenario can be more literal than figurative — if you have some solid intelligence on enemy patrol or supply routes and you want to strike fear in their hearts, surfacing from the shadows to deliver a swift punch from the hand of justice is a good way to do it.
But ambushes are also a delicate strategy. If you screw it up and expose your position before you’re ready, things can take a turn for the worst. Don’t worry, we’re here to help you out. These are some of the most important rules to follow when conducting an ambush — ones that will help you avoid becoming the ambushed.
It seems like the obvious choice, but it may not be the best one…
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl Will Lathrop)
Don’t initiate with an open-bolt weapon
This is mostly a rule for Marine Corps infantry, but the idea is that open-bolt weapons are more likely to jam and the last thing you want when initiating an ambush is for the enemy to suddenly hear the bolt clicking on a misfire. It’s better to leave the initiation to someone with a standard rifle, preferably someone who keeps their weapon clean, so you know the first thing the enemy hears is a gunshot.
Move silently and cautiously.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl Justin Updegraff)
Maintain noise discipline
If the enemy hears you rustling in the bushes and you’re not a squirrel, you’re exposing yourself. An ambush is designed to allow you to capitalize on the element of surprise. You lose that when the enemy figures out where you’re hiding.
Seriously, don’t be that guy.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt Marco Mancha)
Have trigger discipline
Typically, your leader will determine who’s to shoot first (a designated Han Solo, if you will) and, if you aren’t that person, your finger better stay off the trigger until you hear that first shot go off. The gunshot is an implicit command for the rest of the unit to open fire and, once they hear that, it’s open season until your leader calls for a ceasefire.
Don’t be that guy.
Ask your subordinates questions to make sure they know.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl J. Gage Karwick)
Ensure everyone knows their role
Once you’re set into the ambush position, you have to remain silent until it’s time. So, if you’re the leader, make sure everyone knows what their role is and where they’re going to be firing. That way, when the shooting starts, you don’t have to call out many commands.
Make sure everyone knows what the plan is.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)
Have a solid egress plan
Ambushes have to be quick, which means you have to spring the trap and leave before anyone really knows what’s happened. You want to hit the enemy hard and fast enough to disorient them, but you want to get out of there before they can muster reinforcements. Otherwise, your short ambush just turned into a lengthy firefight that you’re likely under-equipped for.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Mitchell is used to talking with various people about military careers and the benefits that are offered to those who choose to wear the uniform and serve their country as a soldier. As a recruiter in the Malden, Massachusetts area, he is constantly talking to strangers, even off-duty, according to his wife Eunjee.
“The first year after I moved to America, I knew I needed a car,” Eunjee said. “We went to the car dealership and he recruited the car dealer.”
The couple met in Korea while Staff Sgt. Mitchell was stationed there. Originally meeting online and then they met face-to-face for the first time on New Year’s Day. They married shortly after and Eunjee Mitchell immigrated to the U.S. where her husband became a recruiter. She often would hear the conversations her husband had about joining the military. After two years of listening to her husband, she decided enlisting was the right choice for her.
“He was interviewing other recruiters and one was Korean like me. She told me how the Army helps her a lot to speak (better) English and get her involved in the community,” said Eunjee Mitchell. “The conversation with her gave me the thought that I could try.”
She enlisted as a 92A — Automated Logistical Specialist in the Army Reserves.
“I knew hanging around with me she would be interested in the Army but I didn’t think she would (join),” said Staff Sgt. Mitchell. “I definitely wrote her contract.”
After 10-weeks of South Carolina’s famously hot summer weather, Eunjee Mitchell walked across Fort Jackson’s Hilton Field with the rest of her company as they graduate Basic Combat Training. With three bachelor degrees, she graduated with the rank of specialist.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Mitchell, left, walks with his wife Spc. Eunjee Mitchell during the Fort Jackson Family Day on July 31, 2019.
(Photo by Alexandra Shea)
While she knew her husband would be attending her ceremony, Staff Sgt. Mitchell was able to arrive to the installation early and surprise his wife during the Family Day dress rehearsal.
“While I was waiting behind the trees, I was trying to stay calm. I was very emotional,” said Spc. Mitchell.
She instantly recognized her husband on the parade field and knew “my recruiter is here.”
“I saw him and he was in uniform so I recognized him because he’s so tall,” she said.
Standing at six-feet, five-inches, Staff Sgt. Mitchell is not easily missed. Since immigrating to a new country and culture, Spc. Mitchell has never been separated from her husband, until attending Basic Combat Training.
“I didn’t see her until she was walking out,” said Staff Sgt. Mitchell. “She’s a tough little lady. I’m crazy proud of her.”
The couple were allowed to speak for a short time before Spc. Mitchell had to return to her daily duties. The following day they were reunited for Family Day where they were able to spend an entire day together visiting various parts of the installation and get lunch together.
After the graduation ceremony, Spc. Mitchell traveled back to her home state with her husband. Once there, Spc. Mitchell will rejoin her Reserve unit and attend Advanced Individual Training in the coming months.
When asked what her future might look like now that BCT is complete, Spc. Mitchell said she is excited to begin her new career and possibly a family. She also explained how her experience on Fort Jackson has helped her to understand her husband and brings them closer as a couple.
“The first year we were married I didn’t understand the little things like why he didn’t want to take his boots off in the house,” said Spc. Mitchell. “I understand him more now.”
A dual-military family is adjusting to life under the same roof after almost two years apart.
It’s not uncommon in the military community to have a unique story of how you and your spouse met. But for Army Sgt. Jared Jackson and his wife, Spc. Christina Jackson, their happily–ever after didn’t start with being pronounced husband and wife. They’ve spent their entire courtship and marriage living thousands of miles apart — until now.
When Christina and Jared were introduced by a mutual friend, they hit it off quickly. But the fireworks were strictly plutonic. For three years, they – along with a mutual friend — were inseparable, referring to themselves as “the three amigos.”
“We did everything together,” Christina said.
And becoming a couple wasn’t even a thought. It wasn’t until Jared moved to Hawaii that they entertained the idea of having a romantic relationship.
“We tested the waters and we decided to start dating,” she said.
Having established a strong friendship, the main challenges presented with dating for Jared was the distance and three–hour time difference.
“We communicated well, but trying to find the right time to call would be hard,” he said.
He couldn’t build the consistency he wanted with both Christina and her 8–year old daughter because all they had were phone calls and short visits.
“I wanted to make sure they know I’m here to stay,” Jared said.
The Jacksons both craved stability for their new family. Christina says her daughter, “wanted this father figure. And when she finally got him it was hard on her because he would come and go. He would come see us, then he would leave.”
After dating for a year, they married with the expectation of being stationed together.
“My mindset was thinking that the military was going to put us together and it wouldn’t be that long,” Jared said, but waiting for approval dragged on. “It’s bothering me because I’m married but yet I still feel like I’m kind of a bachelor because I’m here by myself.”
Christine was also losing hope and eventually wanted to get out of the military. She was told by her NCO that she’d get orders right after being married. That didn’t happen. And she was further stressed by all of the paperwork requirements and chasing after people for answers.
Each service branch has a program for assigning married couples to the same duty location or within 100 miles of each other, according to Military OneSource. Couples can look into joint assignments through offerings like the Air Force Joint Spouse Program and the Married Army Couples Program. But for the Jacksons, this wasn’t a smooth process.
After almost a year of not knowing when they could be together, they were finally given orders to the same duty station. Now they had new challenges to tackle.
For the first time in his life, Jared was a full–time parent. Christina’s daughter is adjusting to a two-parent home where they both share an equal role in raising and disciplining her.
“I’ve been trying to give him more of that responsibility in that role and just say whatever he says goes,” Christina said.
Jared wants to establish a good father/daughter relationship, with Christina’s support of his role helping to ease the adjustment.
“I appreciate that Christina always validates me and tells me ‘you’re doing a good job.’ It keeps me motivated,” he said.
One thing they did not do was leave their family cohesiveness to chance, so they attended premarital counseling.
“We went into this already knowing how we both wanted to parent. He knew what I expected and I knew what he expected,” Christina said.
And now the family will be adding a new member, a son, in July.
Throughout their time apart, they kept communication fluid and honest, sharing their hopes and frustrations without hesitation. This put the relationship in a healthy place during their entire transition.
Christina says for help and support if you’re are dealing with a similar situation, to find a military spouses club. Share your experiences and find others who have gone through the same thing.
Jared advises, above all, make sure that even when you get discouraged keep the communication strong. Also do your research so that you know what should be happening with job assignments.
When it comes to their parenting advice on blending a family, they simultaneously agree that the answer is patience.
America has one dedicated attack helicopter, the AH-64 Apache. But our rivals in Russia have a much more diverse set of offerings with Hinds, Alligators, Black Sharks, and more all flying in concert with one another. Here are eight photos of them from some recent events in Russia:
(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
The Mi-28 Havoc attack helicopter sports a 30mm cannon in the nose and four hardpoints for carrying a mix of gun pods, rockets, anti-armor, and anti-air missiles. The pilot sits in a back seat while the weapons officer sits in the front, similar to the pilot and gunner in the American-made AH-64 Apache.
(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
The pilots sit in an armored cockpit and, at first, could only fight during the day due to sensor limitations. Those limitations were fixed with the Mi-28N, allowing these bad boys to tackle Russia’s enemies in low light and night conditions thanks to a radome installed above the rotor.
(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
Interestingly, the Mi-28 was pitted against the Ka-50 in trials, and the Mil-28 lost. But it performed well enough to keep flying anyway and eventually entered the main arsenal. Then, defense priority changes led to the Mi-28 becoming a rival to the Ka-50. Now, the Mi-28 regularly flies alongside the Ka-50s and Ka-52s in combat and training.
(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
The Ka-52 Alligator is a successor to, and two-seater version of, the Ka-50 Black Shark. The attack helicopter has six weapons hardpoints that can carry everything from anti-tank missiles to rockets to a massive anti-ship missile capable of taking down tanker ships.
(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
The Alligator uses a coaxial rotor where the two sets of blades spin in opposite directions, making it more stable than traditional helicopters and eliminating the need for an anti-torque tail rotor.
(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
Mi-35 Hinds are a very special kind of beast. They’re often classified as an attack helicopter, but the alternate description is “heavy assault gunship,” which might be a better description. The Hind can not only tear apart enemy troops on the ground, it can also drop off an infantry squad to take control of the ground after.
(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
The Mi-35s have an ungainly look on the ground but are vicious in the air, sort of like a fat duck on PCP.
(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
When they fly in large formations, they can drop entire infantry platoons or companies into the fight and provide close combat attack support to keep those infantrymen alive and lethal. They’re expensive and ungainly, but there’s a lot of value in its capability.
The Green Beret Foundation is the premiere benevolent organization dedicated to the Special Forces soldiers and their families. The organization is now poised to do even more thanks to its newly announced Veterans Services Organization accreditation by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Green Beret Foundation’s accreditation by Veterans Affairs is an accomplishment that GBF is extremely proud of. At this time, it is the only special operations charity to hold the distinction. The organization recognizes the deep impact and importance the accreditation offers and leadership states that they look forward to being able to greatly expand their ability to serve.
“The overall health and wellness of a Green Beret and their family is our priority, and this accreditation is a testament to our expertise and level of support as the premier benevolent organization in the Special Forces community,” Brent Cooper, Executive Director of GBF shared.
While the GBF has been supporting its Special Forces soldiers with their needs from the VA for some time, its hands were tied with how much help they could give in many areas. With the new accreditation, the GBF can now walk alongside its soldiers throughout the entirety of the VA claims process, which is known to be cumbersome and difficult to navigate even with support.
John Armezzani is the Veterans Services Director for the claims process with the VA. In a statement posted to the GBF website, Armezzani shared that, “This process, which may range from initiating claims to carrying them through VA and Board of Veterans Appeals hearings when necessary, will greatly enhance the capability of the GBF and its Next Ridgeline program to provide unique assistance throughout the life of our Special Forces veterans.”
One deeply impactful way the Green Beret Foundation’s accreditation will help is by being able to more fully support its soldiers as they leave the military. “This [accreditation] allows the GBF to expand it’s Transition Assistance Program from providing general informational briefings on benefits to filing the benefits claims for those separating service members,” Armezzani explained.
Not only will the organization be doing more to ensure its Special Forces soldiers receive the support they may need as they get out, but it will be able to be there throughout issues of hardship too. “GBF now has the ability to provide benefits assistance to Green Berets with life events such as change of career or in the event of a catastrophic health event. This includes dependents too,” Armezzani stated.
As the Special Forces soldiers from the Vietnam War era continue to age, their needs will most likely increase. The VSO accreditation will allow the GBF to step in and support these honored veterans by being their voices in the benefits claims process. “Inherent in this accreditation is the ability to provide benefits assistance to our legacy holders from the Vietnam era as they enter into the twilight of their lives,” Armezzani said.
Perhaps one of the most impactful parts of the announcement is the ability for the GBF to now represent its Special Forces Soldiers in the appeal process. “We will be able to represent Green Berets in appellate actions before the Board of Veterans Appeals when they disagree with a VA decision,” Armezzani said. No longer will they have to fight appeals without support, the GBF will be right there with them and will fight to ensure they are heard.
The ultimate goal of this newly-expanded program is to be able to install a representative at each location where a Special Forces Group is located. This will all be made possible through the generosity of donors and future fundraising efforts.
The Green Beret Foundation remains committed to ensuring that every single Special Forces soldier is not only honored for their service to this nation but also cared for the way they deserve. Although the VA VSO accreditation is an impressive and important feat to have achieved, GBF is ready to do even more.
NASA has selected two new missions to advance our understanding of the Sun and its dynamic effects on space. One of the selected missions will study how the Sun drives particles and energy into the solar system and a second will study Earth’s response.
The Sun generates a vast outpouring of solar particles known as the solar wind, which can create a dynamic system of radiation in space called space weather. Near Earth, where such particles interact with our planet’s magnetic field, the space weather system can lead to profound impacts on human interests, such as astronauts’ safety, radio communications, GPS signals, and utility grids on the ground. The more we understand what drives space weather and its interaction with the Earth and lunar systems, the more we can mitigate its effects — including safeguarding astronauts and technology crucial to NASA’s Artemis program to the Moon.
“We carefully selected these two missions not only because of the high-class science they can do in their own right, but because they will work well together with the other heliophysics spacecraft advancing NASA’s mission to protect astronauts, space technology and life down here on Earth,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “These missions will do big science, but they’re also special because they come in small packages, which means that we can launch them together and get more research for the price of a single launch.”
The Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere, or PUNCH, mission will focus directly on the Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, and how it generates the solar wind. Composed of four suitcase-sized satellites, PUNCH will image and track the solar wind as it leaves the Sun. The spacecraft also will track coronal mass ejections – large eruptions of solar material that can drive large space weather events near Earth – to better understand their evolution and develop new techniques for predicting such eruptions.
A constant outflow of solar material streams out from the Sun, depicted here in an artist’s rendering.
These observations will enhance national and international research by other NASA missions such as Parker Solar Probe, and the upcoming ESA (European Space Agency)/NASA Solar Orbiter, due to launch in 2020. PUNCH will be able to image, in real time, the structures in the solar atmosphere that these missions encounter by blocking out the bright light of the Sun and examining the much fainter atmosphere.
Together, these missions will investigate how the star we live with drives radiation in space. PUNCH is led by Craig DeForest at the Southwest Research institute in Boulder, Colorado. Including launch costs, PUNCH is being funded for no more than 5 million.
The second mission is Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites, or TRACERS. The TRACERS investigation was partially selected as a NASA-launched rideshare mission, meaning it will be launched as a secondary payload with PUNCH. NASA’s Science Mission Directorate is emphasizing secondary payload missions as a way to obtain greater science return. TRACERS will observe particles and fields at the Earth’s northern magnetic cusp region – the region encircling Earth’s pole, where our planet’s magnetic field lines curve down toward Earth. Here, the field lines guide particles from the boundary between Earth’s magnetic field and interplanetary space down into the atmosphere.
In the cusp area, with its easy access to our boundary with interplanetary space, TRACERS will study how magnetic fields around Earth interact with those from the Sun. In a process known as magnetic reconnection, the field lines explosively reconfigure, sending particles out at speeds that can approach the speed of light. Some of these particles will be guided by the Earth’s field into the region where TRACERS can observe them.
Artist concept of MMS, a mission to study how magnetic fields release energy in a process known as magnetic reconnection.
Magnetic reconnection drives energetic events all over the universe, including coronal mass ejections and solar flares on the Sun. It also allows particles from the solar wind to push into near-Earth space, driving space weather there. TRACERS will be the first space mission to explore this process in the cusp with two spacecraft, providing observations of how processes change over both space and time. The cusp vantage point also permits simultaneous observations of reconnection throughout near-Earth space. Thus, it can provide important context for NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, which gathers detailed, high-speed observations as it flies through single reconnection events at a time.
TRACERS’ unique measurements will help with NASA’s mission to safeguard our technology and astronauts in space. The mission is led by Craig Kletzing at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Not including rideshare costs, TRACERS is funded for no more than 5 million.
Launch date for the two missions is no later than August 2022. Both programs will be managed by the Explorers Program Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The Explorers Program, the oldest continuous NASA program, is designed to provide frequent, low-cost access to space using principal investigator-led space science investigations relevant to the work of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in astrophysics and heliophysics. The program is managed by Goddard for the Science Mission Directorate, which conducts a wide variety of research and scientific exploration programs for Earth studies, space weather, the solar system and universe.
This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.
The sand invades every crevice and fold in your skin and clothing like a kind of unfinished cement mixture hellbent on rubbing your exposed patches of water-softened skin until they chafe and bleed. Just when the bright southern California sunshine dries you out, and you feel that blessed warmth that you remember so well from before you started Navy SEAL training, the BUD/S instructors once again order you into the surf zone like maniacal dads gleefully throwing their children into a pool for the first time. Learn to swim, or die.
“This will make you hard, gents,” they growl, tongues firmly in cheeks. They know they are making a bad pun while also telling us that all of this, in effect, is for our own good. We do it grim-faced and resigned to another onslaught of sandy wetness because we want to make it through the training. And the training is designed to figure out which of us will not quit, even when our physical selves want nothing more than warmth, blessed dryness, and physical comfort.
Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, San Diego, Calif. (Jan. 31, 2003) – As an instructor monitors a training evolution, Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUDS) Class 244 receives instructions on their next exercise as they lay in the surf. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class John DeCoursey.)
Some will eventually give in to the effect of this relentless physical tribulation. Those that make it through do so because they find their way to that state of consciousness in which the brain overrides the assault on the body, and that all-powerful and mysterious mass of grey matter residing inside our skulls takes over and drives the machine of blood and bone known as our bodies forward in a state of semi-autonomy. That is the mental state one must achieve to make it through the training; that state in which the primeval mind overcomes the objections and weaknesses of the fragile body.
Three of my blood relatives made it through BUD/S before me. One made it through after me. Five of us in total. Each of us set out not knowing if we had that ability to put mind over body. We hoped we did. We suspected we did, since we had the same genetic make-up as those who had come before us. We each knew that if our father, brother, and cousin could do it, we could do it too. Still, you never really know until you do it. Until you face it.
SEAL candidates for basic underwater demolition cover themselves in sand during surf passage on Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, Calif. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Russell)
The physical preparation is important — critical, even. You have to reach a certain level of physical preparedness to allow your body to complete that journey. That is a necessary condition to making it through, but not a sufficient condition. The physical preparation alone will not guarantee you success. The mindset is the thing. You have to get your mind to that place in which quitting is an impossibility.
Sure, you might fail or be ejected from the training for some performance inadequacy. That happens even to the most physically prepared of us. I saw it happen in my own class on multiple occasions. But you have to get to the state of mind in which they will have to kill you or fail you to stop you from making it. Never quit. Never contemplate quitting. Never allow that thought to worm its way into your head. Once it does, all is lost.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trevor Welsh/Released)
That is the one piece of advice I give, and have given, to all those who have asked over the years about making it through BUD/S: just tell yourself you will never quit. Tell yourself that you will prepare the best you can by swimming, running in boots and pants in the sand, doing thousands of push-ups and pull-ups and flutter kicks, and practicing all of the breath holding.
Once you reach that threshold of preparedness, you must then fortify your mind. Obsess over making it. Find your inner demon. Harness it, and hold on tight and ride that supernatural force straight through to the end. The human brain and the power it wields is a force of nature. You have to channel that power — all of it — to propel you forward to the end.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anthony W. Walker)
It will end, after all. At some point, you know that about 20 out of 100 of you will be left standing at graduation. They will have thrown everything they have at you to get you to quit. They will make it their mission to break you. It is up to you to stand fast and repel that assault. If I can do it, then you can do it too.
Get ready for a new A-10 budget fight. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein wants to fund new initiatives in connectivity, space, combat power projection, and logistics starting in 2021 – to the tune of $30 billion on top of what it is already using. One way to do that, says Todd Harrison, a defense budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is to retire $30 billion worth of legacy aircraft.
That is, get rid of the old stuff to make room for the new.
While getting rid of these aircraft isn’t the only way to make room for the new initiatives and save $30 billion, it is the fastest route to get there, and many of the retirements make sense. Some of the planes’ missions are obsolete, some of the airframes are currently being updated with newer models, and at least one can’t even fly its primary mission due to treaty obligations.
The B-1B is already scheduled for retirement in the 2030s, but retiring the program early could save up to .8 billion. At 32 years old, the Lancers are already struggling with a 50 percent mission-capable rate. It can’t even complete the missions for which it was designed as a nuclear deterrent. The Air Force’s fastest bomber, the one that carries the biggest bomb loads, can’t carry nuclear weapons under the terms of the 1994 START I agreement with Russia.
Also scheduled for retirement in the 2030s, the B-2 Spirit has a mission-capable rate of 61 percent and is scheduled to be replaced by the new B-21 Bomber in the late 2020s. Retiring the B-2 early could save as much as .9 billion.
A-10 Thunderbolt II
The Air Force’s 281 A-10s are mission capable 73 percent of the time and are its primary close-air support craft. The average A-10 is 38 years old, and even though the bulk of the A-10 fleet has just been scheduled to get new wings, canceling the re-winging and retiring the Warthog could save as much as .7 billion.
Retiring the 59 heavy tankers in the U.S. Air Force fleet would save the service billion if they do it before 2024 – when they’re scheduled for retirement anyway. This may create a tanker shortage because the new Boeing KC-46 Pegasus tanker isn’t quite ready for prime time.
RC-135V/W Rivet Joint
This signals intelligence and optical and electronic reconnaissance aircraft is more than 56 years old but still kicking around the Air Force waiting for a yet-undeveloped Advanced Battle Management System to replace its old tech. While retiring it before 2023 would save .5 billion, it would create a gap in electronic and signals intelligence capacity.
E-3 Sentry AWACS
These 39-year-old planes are mission-ready just 66 percent of the time and are undergoing modernization upgrades. If the Air Force scraps its modernization along with the rest of the airframe before 2023, it could save billion.
U-2 Dragon Lady
Getting rid of the 37-year-old U-2 would save some billion for the Air Force. The Air Force could then rely on the much more efficient RQ-4 Global Hawk drone for ISR.
Also waiting for the unknown advanced battle management system, the 16 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar aircraft in the Air Force are already scheduled for retirement. But actually retiring the aircraft would save the USAF .7 billion.
Days after winning the prestigious Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, the excitement had not left John Cruise’s voice.
“The biggest fish I caught before this tournament was an 849-pound giant Atlantic bluefin tuna,” said Cruise, a major in the Marines. “I’ve caught many bluefin in the 600- to 700-pound range over the years, but that marlin is a special breed. What a feat, I’ll leave it at that.”
Cruise, 47, is the captain of the Pelagic Hunter II, a 35-foot outboard. He and mates Riley Adkins and Kyle Kirkpatrick won with a 495.2-pound marlin that they battled for 5½ hours Friday. That catch was only two-tenths of a pound heavier than the second-place fish and earned Cruise’s boat more than $223,000 in winnings.
The Big Rock tournament began June 8 and concluded Saturday in Morehead City, North Carolina. It attracted more than 200 entrants, including Catch 23 — a yacht owned by Michael Jordan. The Hall of Fame basketball player’s crew brought in a 442.3-pound marlin early in the tournament.
The Pelagic Hunter II was one of the smaller boats in the field.
“We have boats up to 85, 90, 100 feet that fish the tournament that have crews of eight or 10 people,” said Crystal Hesmer, the tournament’s executive director. “For a 35-foot boat … to bring the winning fish to the dock is just heartwarming and wonderful.”
Cruise, a major stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, has run a charter-boat company for 12 years. He followed his father, who fought in the Vietnam War, and his uncle into the Marines and has served for 22 years.
Growing up in New Jersey, his love of fishing was sealed about the time he received his first rod when he was 5 years old.
“The buzz has been beyond belief,” Cruise said of winning Big Rock.
The Pelagic Hunter II competed against boats with far wealthier owners, larger crews and access to greater technology. Because of their sheer size, bigger vessels can handle unfavorable weather or ocean conditions better.
Still, despite being a first-time entrant who said he had not fished for marlin before the tournament, Cruise did not lower his crew’s expectations. He told Adkins and Kirkpatrick that he expected to win.
“I don’t play around, man,” he said.
Shortly after the winning marlin hit the lure, Cruise said it jumped between seven and 10 times. The big fish was on the surface, about 50 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean, when another boat almost ran over it. Just as the crew got the marlin close to the boat, it suddenly turned and went deep underneath the water.
The fish came up and went down a few times before the Pelagic Hunter II boated her.
“It was an exciting battle,” Cruise said.
Cruise said his crew lost a much larger fish earlier in the tournament when it snapped the line. They measured the marlin they brought to the docks and knew it did not meet the tournament’s 110-inch requirement to qualify.
They were unsure whether it would exceed the 400-pound minimum until the official weight was announced.
“She looked thick,” Cruise said. “She looked big, but we weren’t sure.
“We were just in shock, and we’re still on Cloud 9. We’re stunned, and we’re enjoying the moment.”
Every year, the United States goes through some 46 million turkeys, many of them going toward Thanksgiving dinners around the country. Meanwhile, no one sits down to eat American Bald Eagles.
There are many reasons for this; the most important is that it’s illegal because it’s the United States’ official bird. But it didn’t have to be that way. Founding Father and First American Benjamin Franklin thought the Bald Eagle had a “low moral character.” Instead, he believed it should have been the wild turkey, which he called a “bird of courage.”
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1. The turkey is a stone cold killer
Wild turkeys have a very rigid social structure. The term “pecking order” likely originated with turkeys – and turkeys don’t care what species you are. If you’re lower on the pecking order, they will let you know.
And that’s no joke. A turkey has 270 degree vision and can see better in the daytime than most other animals. To top it off, we’re talking about a 20 lb+ bird that can fly up to 60 miles per hour.
So, get some turkey before they get you.
2. They’re delicious and plentiful
As far as a food bird goes, you can’t get better than a turkey. The same 20-pound frame that makes a turkey a formidable adversary also makes it a rich prize.
Simply put, a turkey yields a lot of food. And like the Bald Eagle, its conservation status is of “least concern” to environmentalists. It wasn’t always this way. By the early 20th century, the American wild turkey was almost extinct. It bounced back in a big way, though.
Unlike the Bald Eagle, they are still legal to eat. By the 1950s, turkey was one of America’s favorite foods.
3. They were probably velociraptors
Despite what some incredibly popular movies would have you believe, the Velociraptor was likely not any bigger than a wild turkey. 65 million years ago, the raptor was a bizarre, bird-looking creature, even back then. With feathers and its signature longclaw, it would have been a fearsome creature.
Given the temperament of today’s wild turkeys, they can’t be too far removed from their dinosaur ancestors, can they?
4. Turkeys are meat-eaters
The wild turkey isn’t going around pecking at corn and feed like a chicken. When it comes to eating, turkeys don’t really hold back. Sure, they will indulge in what’s provided like any other bird, but turkeys won’t stop there. They will even eat small reptiles.
5. Mayans worshipped turkeys as gods
Even if the rest of America didn’t share Benjamin Franklin’s vision of the turkey, Franklin wasn’t alone. Centuries before Franklin started going around inventing stoves and bifocals, the Mayans of Central America were domesticating turkeys for religious reasons.
Mayans believed the bird had special powers, and could only be owned by the rich and powerful among them.
Beat that, eagle.
6. The tryptophan thing is a myth
Every Thanksgiving, without fail, someone perpetuates the myth that turkey contains an abundance of the amino acid L-tryptophan, which is the reason we fall asleep so fast after eating it. This is fake news. In fact, it sounds like something someone over at Big Chicken made up to muscle in on turkey’s Thanksgiving monopoly.
While turkey has a lot of the amino acid, it’s not what’s putting us to sleep. We fall asleep because we just stuffed our faces with butter, sugar and carbohydrates.
7. The eggs are even more delicious
Why don’t humans eat more turkey eggs? Because turkeys require more food and space to lay eggs, and when they do, they don’t lay quite as many as chickens. So acquiring eggs from turkeys can be much more expensive than the chicken. A turkey egg can cost twice as much as a dozen chicken eggs.
But when you taste the difference between chicken and turkey eggs, you’ll understand why it’s worth $3.00 per egg.
BONUS — 8. Without turkeys, Thanksgiving gets weird
While no one ever thought to go around eating bald eagles for Thanksgiving (yet), the Thanksgiving dinner table in America was a very different place before we accepted turkey as our bird and savior.
For example, the pilgrims likely ate seals for the first Thanksgiving, which shows why England was right to persecute them. Just drawing on presidential Thanksgiving menus, things didn’t exactly get better from there. President William Howard Taft had a possum for Thanksgiving one year and Calvin Coolidge ate a raccoon.
We can thank the turkey for not having to have Thanksgiving dinners we likely hunted with our cars.
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Civilians and members of other military branches might have been surprised to see Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, drinking from a fountain during World War I commemoration ceremonies in France. Well, it wasn’t just a case of Marines being Marines at any rank — that fountain is a part one of the Corps’ most time-honored traditions.
Veterans Day 2018 was the centennial anniversary of the end of World War I. The day before it was the Marine Corps’ 243rd birthday, that’s when Dunford and retired-Marine-turned-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly walked the grounds of the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, where nearly 3,000 U.S. troops are buried – many of those interred there are Marines killed at the WWI Battle of Belleau Wood.
You might have heard of it — the Germans sure did.
Marine Corps lore says the brutal fighting against the Germans at Belleau Wood is where the Marines earned the nickname “Devil Dogs” from the German enemy, who sent wave after wave of infantry attacks into the dense wood in an attempt to take it from the U.S. Marines, to no avail, of course.
German high command, flush with a full 50 fresh divisions from the east after the capitulation of the Soviet Union, planned to overwhelm the Entente powers on the Western Front. They wanted to end the war before the United States could bring the full power of its men and materiel to bear. By May, 1918, it was too late. The Germans were facing American units in combat already. By June, 1918, five German infantry divisions faced off against the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Brigade and the Marines’ 4th Marine Brigade.
The Marines stopped the German advance and forced them back into the Woods. To follow them meant facing thousands of entrenched and hidden veteran German troops. The battle lasted a full month and was defined by bloody slaughter, using everything from poison gas to hand-to-hand combat and featured some of the Corps most legendary names, like Capt. Lloyd Williams, Gunnery Sgt. Dan Daley, and future Commandant of the Marine Corps, John Lejeune.
Lance Cpl. Seth H. Capps, a member of the United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, drinks out of Devil Dog Fountain following the 93rd anniversary of the Battle of Belleau Wood May 30, 2010.
(Photo By Cpl. Bobby J. Yarbrough)
As one might imagine, winning a battle that couldn’t be won against all odds is going to be remembered as one of the most heroic feats in Marine Corps history. France later renamed the forest Bois de la Brigade de Marine and, according to lore, the name the Germans gave the Marines – Teufel Hunden or “Devil Dogs” – is how bulldogs became the Corps mascot.
For Marines, a visit to the battlefield and the cemetery is a pilgrimage, a rite of passage. This trip includes a visit to the nearby village of Belleau and its bulldog fountain, continuously spitting water from its mouth. Marines like Dunford and Gen. Robert Neller all the way down to the lowest Lance Corporal will drink from the fountain to remember the Battle of Belleau Wood and the Marines who never left.
Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert B. Neller, gets water from the Devil Dog fountain after the American Memorial Day ceremony at the Aisne-Marne American Memorial Cemetery, Belleau Wood, France, May 29, 2016. Each Memorial Day weekend, U.S. Marines, French service members, family members, and locals gather to honor the memory of the Marines killed during the battle of Belleau Wood.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Gabriela Garcia)
My grandparents valued our nation’s history, and they did everything they could to ensure they passed down their knowledge and understanding of that history to the next generation. So, each summer from 5th Grade through my freshman year of high school, they took my cousins and I on road trips across the United States. Every trip ranged from two weeks to a month, traveling everywhere from the old Civil War battlefields in North Carolina to the cobblestone roads of River Street in Savannah, Georgia.
Even though we were just kids, we soaked up every bit of information we could about our nation’s convoluted and conflicted history. We learned to value our past, and the men and women who made our nation what it is today. For me, those trips laid a foundation I wouldn’t come to fully appreciate until years later … riding shotgun through Afghanistan.
My Grandfather was born in September 1939, too young for World War II or Korea, and too old for Vietnam by the time it came around. Grandpa was a model American though, at least as far as I was concerned. He worked a 30-year career with the phone company, raised three beautiful children, and married his high school sweetheart. He was eventually diagnosed with throat cancer; within a few years of diagnosis they removed all the cancer cells as well as his voice box.
But that didn’t stop him from doing what he thought was right.
Speaking with a mechanized voice box, he told his kids — including my mom — that he wanted to take the grandkids on a road trip to travel and explore our nation that summer. That led to many days and late nights in the passenger seat of my grandparents’ motorhome holding a Rand McNally road atlas while listening to my grandpa speak about his family’s legacy of military service with genuine admiration.
Grandpa told us about his oldest brother — they called him C.F. — who was an Infantryman that stormed Normandy’s beaches on D-Day. His brother Byron drove a tank through Italy, France, and Germany before almost being sent to Okinawa after the war in Europe had ended.
Against all odds, they somehow stumbled across each other during the war. Bryon was sitting on his tank as C.F. walked by with his unit; they were shocked at the sight of each other and took a moment to shower each other with questions before saying their good-byes and good lucks. That story stayed with me for a long time.
And then there was grandpa’s brother-in-law, Curtis. He rode on horseback behind enemy lines to establish communication lines in France during the war.
My grandpa spoke briefly but highly of his father-in-law — my great-grandfather, saying he served in World War I as an artilleryman. He struggled with shell shock; we call that PTSD these days. He’s standing next to an artillery cannon in France in the only picture we have of him.
My mind was doused in imagination; these men … these giants were the igniter. I had known them as kind, old southern gentlemen my entire childhood; my grandfather’s stories forced me to re-envision them as gigantic, unstoppable figures who changed the course of the world. These men were my heroes.
I still cherish every moment we spent together on the road discussing how our robust nation came to fruition, how our 16th President is revered as one of the best Presidents given the circumstances, and how FDR handled one of the greatest conflicts the world has ever experienced. My grandfather spent the waning years of his life passing down this historical knowledge to my cousins and me, and for that he will always be my hero.
From a very young age, I understood that our nation and livelihood was only attainable and sustained because of men like my relatives. Whether it was the moment Japan bombed Pearl Harbor or when Wilson brought us into WW1, these men answered the call willingly and selflessly. They understood what needed to be done to keep our nation’s virtues safe and guarded.
I was born in 1989, so a world-changing event like Pearl Harbor wouldn’t come into my life until a fall morning in 2001. I was in my 7th grade social studies class. Our teacher frantically rolled in the television and turned on the news. We sat as a class and watched one of the two towers burn in front of our eyes. A second plane came into frame, flying directly into the second tower. The gasps and cries in the room that day have never left my mind.
After about thirty minutes, the principal came over the intercom and cancelled classes for the day. I rushed to my bicycle, unlocked it, and pedaled home as fast as I could while images of the second plane crashing into the building devoured my thoughts. The front door of my house didn’t stand a chance; I unlocked it faster than I unlocked my bike, turned on the news and didn’t leave the living room until my mother got home from work.
She asked me if I’d been watching the tragic news all day. “Of course,” I told her. “If whatever happens is still happening when I turn eighteen, then I’m going to go and fight.” It was 2001 and 18 (the minimum age to go to war) was so far off in the distance that my mother didn’t argue. She knew I had a passionate love for this nation and respected the military tradition that our nation, and our family had cultivated.
Time went by. Days became months, months became years, and 2001 became 2005. My grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at the same time my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. On October 31, 2007, Julean Hatcher, my beloved grandmother who was the rock for all of us, passed away.
My life had not amounted to anything by that point. I wasn’t actively trying to pursue college … or anything to better myself for that matter. I finally held myself accountable for the oath I made to my mother as a 7th grader in 2001 and signed a contract with the Marine Corps. On Mother’s Day 2008, I left for Parris Island, South Carolina to begin my journey toward becoming a U.S. Marine.
Over the course of recruit training we were told numerous times we weren’t going to go anywhere, that we would go to Iraq if we were lucky. Would I follow in Grandpa’s footsteps and miss the war?
The war in Iraq was nearing its end (or so we thought), but what no one saw coming was President Obama taking office and ordering 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. That changed my life and the course of hundreds of thousands of lives. From my great-uncles to my great-grandfather, to every single man and woman that ever served this nation prior to this moment, I could feel our history was about to be written.
In January 2010, I was sent to Afghanistan as a combat replacement to Route Clearance Platoon 2. I spent the next four months operating in and out of Marjah, Afghanistan looking for and disposing of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
Department of Defense
In April 2011, we deployed again to Helmand Province. But this time we were pushing into the now-infamous Sangin Valley, where we met heavy resistance. I spent so many days covered in a salt stained F.R.O.G. top wondering if my lineage would be proud of what we were doing, if they would be proud of the men and women who came after them to fight the good fight. I guess I’ll never truly know, but I’m confident they would be proud of every single one of us who raised our hands, recited that oath, and waved goodbye to family members as we loaded busses headed for war — just like they did.
I spent many days and late nights in the vehicle commander’s seat of a 4X4 MRAP truck building overlays on my map, marking the IED hits, SAF locations, and crater positions for hours on end. I sat there, navigating our platoon all throughout our area of operations, while reflecting on the times I spent with my grandfather learning about C.F. running through a curtain of steel while fighting his way up the Norman beaches. Thinking about Byron maneuvering his tank in just the right way to survive in the throes of battle. Imagining Curtis on horseback, evading the Nazis while setting up communications.
And my great-grandfather in France fighting against some of the worst evil the world had seen.
I couldn’t help but draw inspiration, motivation, and reasoning from my family’s history while fighting my generation’s war. They pushed me to excel and pursue becoming the type of American that might be somewhere … anywhere near the caliber of men they were.
I will always admire my grandfather for teaching me and captivating me with these stories of giant men and women who made a real impact on the world with their actions, all while leaving an impact that resonated to my core, shaped my thought process, and guided me to where I am today. We stand on the shoulders of giants, becoming giants for our children and their children to climb.