“Let’s talk about peeing in space.” — Mary Robinette Kowal, Hugo-Award Winning Author
During the space race of the Cold War, NASA scientists were so excited to get a man into space, they failed to come up with elegant means for him to relieve himself. As a result, the first American in space, Alan Shepard, was forced to pee in his spacesuit.
At that point in time, NASA wasn’t even considering female astronauts. In fact, women weren’t admitted into the astronaut program until the late 1970s — and it wasn’t until 1983 that Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. “By this point,” observed Robinette Kowal, “the space program was built around male bodies.”
This exclusion wouldn’t be comical except for the fact that male astronauts literally lied about their penis sizes, causing failures in early pee-sheath engineering.
That’s right, our early heroes of space exploration refused to use “small” condoms and would instead pee all over themselves. I don’t blame men for this. I honestly blame toxic masculinity, penis shaming, and lazy men who refuse to learn how to give sexual pleasure to their female partners — but I digress.
The urine-condom technology developed enough to allow for a vacuum to suction the pee out into space, which apparently not only takes some timing skillz but looks pretty cool. The urine will boil violently, then the vapor passes immediately into the solid state and becomes a cloud of very fine crystals of frozen urine that might even catch the light of the sun…
NASA continued to try to contain men’s pee with condoms and bags. After the accident aboard Apollo 13, the astronauts couldn’t use the regular urine vent but the alternate system caused droplets to float around the ship. Mission Control told the crew to stop dumping pee. According to Robinette Kowal, “it wasn’t meant to be a permanent ban, but the crew didn’t understand that. So they were stashing pee in every bag or container possible.”
The fastest option was to store it in the collection bags they wore in their suits. Poor Fred Haise kept his suit on for hours and got a urinary tract infection and a kidney infection.
Male astronauts switched over to the Maximum Absorbency Garment as well because it was more comfortable and less prone to resulting in pee floating around the cabin. This is a great example of how diversity encourages innovation, folks.
Robinette Kowal’s Twitter thread doesn’t stop there. She goes on to cover modern malfunctions, farting in space, the effect of gravity on urination urges, official and unofficial erections in space, and menstrual periods.
(Apparently NASA engineers tied Sally Ride’s tampons together like a bandolier? Guys, if you have period questions, just ask women.)
Today, the International Space System efficiently collects urine and recycles 80-85% of it to astronaut drinking water. Peggy Whitson, an astronaut who hit her “radiation limit” after logging 665 days in space (an American record), suggests that engineers will find a way to create a closed-loop system and recycle all of their water.
So see some International Space Station innovation in action, check out this video of Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti demonstrating their toilet.
The F-35 Lightning II, designed to be a stealthy sensor platform that can fly and fight nearly anywhere in the world, can now feed its targeting data back to Navy ships, allowing the task force to engage dozens of targets without the F-35 having to fire its own weapons and break stealth.
A Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II takes off from the HMS Queen Elizabeth on October 9, 2018, with inert GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs.
The change comes thanks to an upgrade on the ship side, not on the Lightning II. Basically, the Navy has a communications system known as the Ship Self Defense System. SSDS is typically built into carrier strike groups and the larger amphibious ships, like Landing Helicopter Assault and Landing Helicopter Dock ships.
So, basically anything that an F-35 can take off from. But now, the SSDS on the USS Wasp can accept communications from the F-35’s Link 16 Digital Air Control. This allows the F-35 to directly feed its sensor data into the fleet’s communications.
The most important application of this capability is that commanders can now see what the Lightning II sees and order surface ships to engage targets with missiles, other aircraft, or even naval artillery if it’s in range.
The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) steams through the Mediterranean Sea.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ryan G. Coleman)
This will be a huge boost for the F-35 in a war. F-35s and F-22 Raptors can’t carry many missiles and bombs while remaining stealthy, and firing their weapons can give away their positions.
Additionally, the fleet has many more missiles than the planes can carry — and that can be key during a complex fight. If Marines are landing ashore, they don’t want to hear that their air support is running low on missiles. They want to hear that there’s an endless rain of effects coming their way, and that all of them are going to be digitally targeted against the most dangerous threats.
While the digital communications upgrade is currently only placed on the USS Wasp, the rest of the carrier and LHA/LHD groups will receive it in the near future.
U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Michael Lippert, test pilot with the F-35 Pax River Integrated Test Force, continues First of Class Flight Trials (Fixed Wing) developmental test flights aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth on Sept. 30, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Dane Wiedmann)
In addition to passing targeting data, the F-35 sends back its status information, like fuel and weapon inventories, while receiving information from the mission commander, like assignment information.
There’s just something about two people in a fistfight that’s irresistible to watch. We can’t look away. There’s something about the sound of a sliding barstool, the rising tide of voices shouting, and the sudden rush of action in one spot that is just pure entertainment.
But there shouldn’t be any reason to stop and watch two soldiers fistfight in the middle of war.
That’s why it’s surprising that it actually happened. And all the onlookers were Americans – it was during the Civil War.
In May 1864, Union and Confederate armies clashed in a dense wooded area known as “The Wilderness” over the course of three days. More than 120,000 Yankees fought some 65,000 Rebels to an ultimately inconclusive result. Both sides took tens of thousands of killed and wounded, and the Union Army of the Potomac pushed further into Virginia.
Before anyone knew the outcome of the battle, however, one small skirmish captured everyone’s attention, Union and Confederate.
In the middle of the Wilderness, between the two armies’ centers, was a clearing called Saunders Field. Being the only real clearing in the area between two opposing armies meant that it was full of artillery shells and the holes made by those shells, along with bullets. Just tons of and tons of bullets.
As the two sides clashed near a gully in the field, a Union soldier hid there to avoid being captured by the enemy. Then a Confederate soldier threw himself into the gully to avoid the hail of Union bullets coming toward him. They were the only two in the gully and didn’t even see one another.
Until they did see one another. And then they started “bantering” to one another.
Eventually the two had enough of one another and decided to take it outside…of the gully. They stepped into the road for a good ol’ fashioned “fist and skull fight.” Whoever won would take the other as prisoner.
They were halfway between both sides of the battle, in full view of everyone in each opposing army. And the men in each of those armies stopped fighting the Civil War to watch a fistfight. All the other soldiers even ran up to get a better view of the fight.
Did I mention the Civil War stopped to watch this fight?
The account, written by a cavalryman of the Virginia Infantry, doesn’t mention how long the fight lasted, only that “Johnny [Reb] soon had the Yank down.” The Union soldier, true to his word, surrendered. They both returned to the gully, fighting resumed, and the man was taken back to Confederate lines.
Almost everyone gets email forwards from their family. In the days before social media, people emailed the jokes, memes, and urban legends that populate Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest today. These days, it’s mostly older people that stick to forwarding emails instead of sharing via social media.
Loved ones forward things to veterans wanting to know if something about the military or life in the military is true.
This one has been circulating around the internet for a while. Its origins are hard to trace, but the authors — whomever they may be — pinpointed some of the more bizarre aspects of military life by trying to find a civilian equivalent. It’s funny to look back at things military personnel and veterans accept as a part of life, no matter how strange it may seem from the outside looking in.
65 ways civilians can simulate military life:
1. Dig a big hole in your back yard and live in it for 30 days straight.
2. Go inside only to clean the house. On weekends, you can eat in the house, but you can’t talk.
3. Pour 10 inches of nasty, crappy water into your hole, then shovel it out, stack sandbags around it and cover it with a sheet of old plywood.
4. Fill a backpack with 50 pounds of kitty litter. Never take it off outdoors. Jog everywhere you go.
5. Every couple of weeks, dress up in your best clothes and go the scummiest part of town, find the most run down trashy bar you can, pay $10 per beer until you’re hammered, then walk home in the freezing cold.
6. Perform a weekly disassembly and inspection of your lawnmower.
7. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, turn the water pressure in your shower down to a trickle, then on Tuesdays and Thursdays, turn it up so hard it peels skin. On Saturdays and Sundays, declare to your entire family that they can’t use the shower in order to keep it clean for inspection.
8. Go inside and make your bed every morning. Have your wife tear the blankets off at random during the day. Re-make the bed each time until it is time to go back outside and sleep in your hole.
9. Have your next door neighbor come over each day at 5am, and blow a whistle so loud that Helen Keller could hear it and shout “Get up! Get up! You are moving too slow! Get down and do push-ups!”
10. Have your mother-in-law write down everything she’s going to do the following day, then have her make you stand in the back yard at 6am and read it to you.
11. Eat the raunchiest Mexican food you can find for three days straight, then lock yourself out of the bathroom for 12 hours. Hang a sign on the bathroom door that says, “Unserviceable.”
12. Submit a request form to your father-in-law, asking if it’s ok for you to leave your house before 5pm.
13. Invite 200 of your not-so-closest friends to come over. Have them all dig holes in your yard to live in. After 30 days, fill in the holes and wave at your friends and family through the front window of your home as you set out for a 25 mile walk and After-Action-Review.
14. Shower with above-mentioned friends.
15. Make your family qualify to operate all the appliances in your home (i.e. Dishwasher operator, blender technician, etc.).
16. Walk around your car for 4 hours checking the tire pressure every 15 minutes. Write down on a piece of paper everything you want the shop to fix the next time you bring the car in. Give your wife the list to throw away.
17. Sit in your car and let it run for 4 hours with the windows down before going anywhere. Tune the radio to static and monitor it while letting the car run. If it is cold outside, don’t run the heat. Sleep on the hood or roof of your car.
18. Empty all the garbage bins in your house, and sweep your driveway 3 times a day, whether they need it or not.
19. Repaint your entire house once a month. Paint white rings around all the trees in your neighborhood. Paint all curbs yellow. Paint all rocks red.
20. Cook all of your food blindfolded, groping for any spice and seasoning you can get your hands on.
21. Use eighteen scoops of budget coffee grounds per pot, and allow each pot to sit 5 hours before drinking.
22. Have your neighbor collect all your mail for a month, read your magazines, and randomly lose every 5th item.
23. Spend $20,000 on a satellite system for your TV, but only watch CNN and the Weather Channel when you are inside to eat. Tune the tint on the TV to green.
24. Avoid watching your green tinted TV with the exception of movies which are played in the middle of the night. Have the family vote on which movie to watch and then show a different one.
25. Have your 5-year-old cousin give you a haircut with goat shears.
26. Sew big pockets to the legs of your pants. Don’t use them.
27. Spend 2 weeks sleeping in holes in your neighbor’s lawns and call it a deployment.
28. Spend a year sleeping in holes in your local area and call it world travel.
29. Attempt to spend 5 years working at McDonald’s and NOT get promoted.
30. Ensure that any promotions you do get are from stepping on the dead bodies of your co-workers.
31. Blast heavy metal music on your stereo and conduct Ranger PT, grass drills, and sprints on your front lawn after your neighbors have gone to bed.
32. When your children are in bed, run into their room with a megaphone and shout at the top of your lungs that your home is under attack, and order them to man their fighting positions. Don’t let them eat or sleep again for two days.
33. Make your family menu a week ahead of time and do so without checking the pantry and refrigerator.
34. Post a menu on the refrigerator door informing your family that you are having steak for dinner. Then make them wait in line for at least an hour. When they finally get to the kitchen, tell them that you are out of steak, but you have dried ham or hot dogs. Repeat daily until they don’t pay attention to the menu anymore so they just ask for hot dogs.
35. When baking a cake, prop up one side of the pan while it is in the oven. Spread icing on real thick to level it off.
36. In the middle of January, place a gate at the end of your street. Have your family stand watches at the gate, rotating at 4-hour intervals.
37. Make your family live with you in your hole for 6 weeks. Then tell them that at the end of the 6th week you’re going to take them to Disneyland for “block leave.” When the end of the 6th week rolls around, inform them that Disneyland has been canceled due to the fact that they need to get ready for Individual Skill Certification, and that it will be another week before they can go back into the house.
38. In your hole (refer to #1), with 200 of your not-so-closest friends (see para. 13), get the flu.
39. Sleep in a thicket of blackberries or rose bushes. Tie a string to your foot that runs to the house. Have your wife yank on the string about 3 hours after you go to sleep. Crawl out of the bushes and go to the house to see what she wants. She should then shine a flashlight in your eyes and mumble, “Just making sure you’re okay.”
40. Do not sleep from 1:00 a.m. Monday mornings until 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoons. Tie a branch around your neck and chew on sand to stay awake.
41. When there is a thunderstorm in your area, dig a trench into your hole so that it fills up with water. During the worst part of the storm, get out of your hole and go for a 12 mile walk.
42. Don’t change your socks for a week. After they disintegrate off with pieces of your feet, put on an unbroken pair of new boots and go for a 12-mile walk.
43. For mechanized infantry or armor types: leave the lawn mower running next to your hole 24 hours a day. When you get an opportunity to sleep in your house, put lube oil in your humidifier and set it on high.
44. Have the paperboy give you a haircut.
45. Set up a port-a-potty in the corner of your yard. Once a week, have the service truck back into your yard and pump it out. Make sure the wind carries the smell into your neighbor’s house. Ignore his complaints.
46. Every other month pull every single possession you own out of your house and line everything up on your lawn from smallest to largest, front to back. Count everything and write it down to file with your insurance company. Give your wife the list to throw away.
47. Lock wire the lug nuts on your car.
48. Buy a trash can, but don’t use it. Store the garbage in your hole.
49. Get up every night around midnight and stroll around your yard to “check the perimeter.”
50. Run the garden hose to your hole and turn it on. Set your alarm clock to go off at random during the night. Jump up and get dressed as fast as you can. Run out into the backyard and get in your hole.
51. Once a month, take apart every major appliance in your home and put them back together again.
52. Build a scale model of your yard. Make your children draw sketches of it including little arrows indicating what they are going to do when they go out to play. Post these sketches on a bulletin board for reference.
53. Remove the insulation and widen the frames of your front and back doors so that no matter how tight you shut the door, the weather will still get inside.
54. Every so often, throw the cat in front of your hole and shout “Enemy in the wire! Fire Claymores!” Then run into the house cut off the circuit breaker. Yell at the wife and kids for violating security and not maintaining good noise and light discipline.
55. Put on the headphones from your stereo set, but don’t plug them in. Hang a paper cup around your neck with string. Go sit in your car. Say to no one in particular “Lost-One, this is Lost-Three, are you lost too, over?” Sit there for three or four hours with the engine running. Say again to no one in particular “Negative contact, Lost-Three out.” Roll up your headphones and paper cup and place them in a box.
56. Cook a gourmet meal then eat it in the middle of a McDonald’s play place.
57. Receive 500 gallons of purified water. Only eat snow.
58. Find out your house was built on an erosion point. Burn your house down. Build new one 3 feet away.
59. Buy 10 pairs of sunglasses for your neighbors to steal.
60. When you catch above mentioned neighbors, only blame the neighbors that just moved in.
61. Dig a new hole in your front yard for a bathroom next to your original hole. Only piss in Powerade bottles.
62. When above-mentioned hole is washed away, dig a new bathroom hole 6 inches from your fresh water supply.
63. Every 2 or 3 days take your closest not-so-close friends camping across the street.
64. Shower semi-annually.
65. Have your parents take away your allowance on weekends that were a part of your vacation.
Everyone knows about the famous crossing of the Delaware, where General Washington surprised the Hessians in the darkness of late Christmas Day. But who were the infamous Hessians that Washington and his men killed and wounded by the score? And what happened to the ones who didn’t get killed by the Continental Army? As it turns out, Hessian mercenaries liked freedom as much as any other colonial immigrant, because many just stuck around.
Which was fine after the war, but during the war they were very unwelcome – because looting people’s homes is a real turn off.
Not the first time Americans would have to put Germans in their place. And not the last.
The Hessians were not technically mercenaries but contract armies fighting for Britain from the German states of Hesse- Cassel and Hesse-Hanau. Though German troops contracted under British control came from other principalities, they were referred to as “Hessians” as a whole by the colonists. Britain used Hessian troops to control large populations, especially in Ireland and the American Colonies. The use of these troops was one of the reasons the Americans would declare their independence from the crown. Though more than capable fighters, the British used them as guards and garrison troops, which is how they found themselves when Washington surprised them that Christmas night.
When Hessians were captured, especially after the Battle of Trenton, they would be paraded through the streets. The colonists’ anger toward their mother country using “foreign mercenaries” to subdue them was infuriating and increased military enlistments for the Continental Army. They would then be used as a source of labor while they were prisoners of war, often working on farms. The Continental Congress also offered each Hessian who would defect to the American cause 50 acres of land for their effort.
What Hessians see when they aren’t defecting.
Many German troops ended up in Lancaster, Penn. working alongside the Pennsylvania Dutch, who, by nature, treated the Germans very well. In all, German POWs had such a great experience in American farms and fields that they would sometimes join the Continental Army. Some 30,000 men came from German states to fight against the American Revolution. While more than 7,500 of them died in the fighting, the rest did not and when it came time to go home, many didn’t want to go.
So they stayed.
Only an estimated 17,300 of the original 30,000 Hessian soldiers opted to return to their principalities in the German states. The rest decided to make their way in the new United States or head to Canada to try out a new life up there. Life in the armies of German princes was not always so good and the troops were not always well-paid for their efforts. Starting a new life in a country where their future was their own to make was a natural step for many of the well-trained, hardworking Germans.
They could finally celebrate Christmas without worrying about Americans surprising them in their sleep.
Soldiers and commanders are usually stuck with whatever equipment the procurement officers and civilian leaders are willing to buy for them, sometimes forcing troops to go into combat with outdated and inferior equipment.
But sometimes, those “outdated” weapons are actually just perfect for the fight. Here are five times that a supposedly obsolete weapon system saved the lives of its users:
1. Bayonets in Afghanistan and Iraq
Bayonets, most often associated with fighting in the Civil and Revolutionary Wars, actually played a key role in battles during the modern Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
But the A-10, a low and slow platform, made its operational debut in 1976, three years after the Yom Kippur War supposedly closed the books on them. Despite that, the A-10 has fought and survived in a number of contested environments, most notably Iraq where it has twice been a key part of American forces breaking the back of armored and anti-aircraft ground forces.
The women of Soviet Russia’s 588th Night Bomber Regiment, the Night Witches, flew in plywood and canvas biplanes through the best defenses that Nazi Germany had to offer, conducting multiple bombing missions per night to break up attacks against Soviet ground forces.
Their planes, the Polikarpov U-2 biplane, were underpowered and outgunned compared to the Luftwaffe’s modern air force. But the Night Witches used the biplanes to fly over German defenses nearly silently and drop bombs — they could only carry two at a time per plane — on Nazi positions.
It’s pouring rain as the photographer and I run through the cobbled streets of Philadelphia. You can see it in the locals’ faces and the Colonial buildings still standing strong just blocks from the Liberty Bell that this city is tough. For over 300 years, Philly has been the home of patriots, presidents and even movie characters such as Rocky Balboa. Yet, there is one theme that continues to define Philadelphians. No matter how much they struggle, get kicked around or scarred, there will be a moment when they rise, gritty and determined, and GO on with their mission.
We arrive at the Union League, a brick and brownstone club, which has supported the military and veterans since 1862. As we pass two statues of soldiers marching off to war, I receive a text, “Finishing a board meeting. Use the side entrance. You won’t be allowed in unless you are in a jacket. Which I assume you are not.” The subject of our next interview is 100% correct and I instantly know we are in the place where Ryan Manion and her team hold court each December.
Ryan is the President of the Travis Manion Foundation, co-author of the Knock at the Door, mother, Gold Star sister and marathon runner. She’s busy. Always on the go, and the second week of December is her Super Bowl.
The night before our interview, she led the annual If Not Me, Then Who gala, which honors fallen heroes, veterans, active-duty troops and military families. Today, she’s leading the TMF board meeting, which includes current CEOs and former generals. Tomorrow, she’ll go on Fox Sports to represent TMF at the Army-Navy game where Navy will take home the win (but we don’t know that yet). Ryan has thankfully given us thirty minutes of her downtime for a one-on-one interview which she tells me is “no big deal” after I thank her again.
The Travis Manion Foundation is a big deal. The non-profit, which started as a small family effort, is now an organization that coordinates thousands of community volunteers across the nation. Ryan, who lost her brother, 1st Lieutenant Travis Manion, and her team are driven by the mission to “empower veterans and families of fallen heroes to develop character in future generations.”
The most amazing thing about Ryan Manion is not only all that she and her team have accomplished since 2007 but the fact that she is still going, and going strong. Ryan, who grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, is a former smoker who now runs marathons and does ruck marches. She talks fast and moves faster. “Come on, let’s GO,” she tells us when we see her. I follow, knowing without a doubt that Ryan is the next generation of tough as nails leader that Philly is known for.
WATM: How’s your Army-Navy week going?
Ryan’s phone rings. It’s a family call. She answers while we start taking photos. Then she’s back.
Ryan Manion: It’s been a little heavy this week. We started off Tuesday with a meeting for all our senior TMF leadership, which we did for the first time. They flew in from all over the country. Then Tuesday night, we had a huge book event here in Philly, and my son has pneumonia.
WATM: OMG, that is a lot.
Ryan: He’s fine. Home with the family. He had a cold for three days. It didn’t even seem like a big cold. You know, it’s been kind of crazy.
WATM: How do you manage everything on your plate?
Ryan: I love what I do, and I get to work on wonderful things. We’ve been working on a project for tomorrow’s Army-Navy Game. We’re bringing 30 wounded warriors and their families to meet the President during the third quarter.
WATM: Wow, that is amazing. Did you ever see yourself doing this kind of work? Especially leading an organization such as the Travis Manion Foundation?
Ryan: Today, one of our board members said it best, “It all just gets back to Travis, saying, if not me, then who?” And that kind of simplified the journey for me. I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God. I’m sitting here with all these people because of my brother.’
WATM: You and your family established the organization as a way to carry on Travis’s legacy. Does it still feel that way a decade later?
Ryan and her brother Travis at the Army-Navy Game.
Ryan: Last night, somebody at the gala who was a Marine that served with Travis came up to me and said, “You know, I’ve been at this gala for eight years now, and every year gets better and better. It’s unbelievable. But I got to tell you, I was sitting there thinking, these people don’t know who Travis Manion was.”
WATM: How did that make you feel?
Ryan: Travis is my personal driver, but this organization is bigger than one person. I am excited for so many to see the fruits of what he stood for through this organization.
WATM: If Not Me, Then Who?
Ryan: Exactly. My brother wrote those words before he deployed to Iraq, and they represent the character, leadership and selfless service that is the backbone of all our programs. Whether it is our strength-building seminars, expeditions, fitness events or service projects, we unite our volunteers, both civilian and veteran, in the common cause to better their communities by living the mantra of “If Not Me, Then Who…”
WATM: What do you think draws people to the foundation and your work?
Ryan: It’s funny because our board was just asking me the same thing.
Ryan: I have to tell you, the thing about our organization is that it’s like the feeling you get when you’re around your family. It started out as a family affair. It was a small family that was grieving the loss of their loved one. But even as we’ve grown, it doesn’t matter what event you’re at or how many show up. You know, tomorrow there will be a thousand people at our tailgate, everyone’s going to feel like they’re part of a team, a family.
WATM: Was that the plan from the beginning?
Ryan laughs. I’ve been to a few TMF tailgates, and we both know the answer.
Ryan: I can’t articulate in words why that is. But you’ve been around it, you see it, and I don’t know what drives that. We come from a very different place from a lot of other traditional veterans service organizations, especially those in the post 9/11 world. I think they’re all doing great work. They came with an idea, “Ok, this is the problem, and this is how we’re going to solve it.”
We came with, “I just lost my brother, my mom and dad just lost their son. And we want to make sure that we continue his legacy.” So when you come at it from that place, there’s no chance that it’s gonna be anything but super authentic in what you’re doing. Since then, it’s been, “Ok, we’re going to do this. Oh, people are into it. Ok? Let’s keep doing it. Oh, wow. We’re really doing something here now.” That’s the plan.
Ryan Manion with a copy of her book, The Knock at the Door.
WATM: So let’s talk about the book. First of all, congratulations.
Ryan: Thank you. Yes, it’s pretty awesome.
WATM: What’s the feedback you’re getting so far?
Ryan: The feedback has been tremendous. We’ve found that this book, to some degree, breaks down the wedge between the civilian and military worlds because everyone receives some type of knock at the door. We all have challenges that we weren’t expecting to appear in our lives.
The Knock At the Door shows what a military family goes through when they lose someone. But this story doesn’t end there. Our story just begins there. So it’s set in a much different context. The Knock At the Door empowered me and my co-authors into another chapter of our lives. We all had different journeys from shock to finding purpose.
WATM: In the book, you describe how physical fitness helped you find focus. Specifically moving from smoking to running the Marine Corps Marathon?
Ryan: I totally recognize the extreme of it all. Physical fitness is huge both in general and in times of grief. It was truly eye-opening when I discovered the effect it had on my daily psyche. I mean, people say, exercise is a little bit of a drug and they’re right. That’s why I had to write about my physical journey alongside my emotional one. I went through some dark times after I lost my brother. I struggled with anxiety and depression and was ultimately diagnosed with PTSD. It was realization that I was not ok that helped me to pick up the pieces.
WATM: Is there anything that people are really responding to or the people are coming to you afterwards and saying, I love this. That you’re finding people are really resonating with?
Ryan: I think for me, people were surprised about how vulnerable I was in the book. You know, I’ve been given the opportunity to run a veteran serving organization that requires a lot of professional appearances and public speaking. People get to meet me as the President of the Travis Manion Foundation, but this book showed a whole different side of me.
WATM: Was it scary to be that vulnerable and open?
Ryan: Yes. You know, the other thing that’s been really great about the book is the response from the Gold Star community. If you would have asked me before I wrote, what’s your biggest fear? It would be that like the Gold Star community doesn’t connect with this. And they have.
Ryan with her TMF GORUCK.
WATM: What do you think Travis would say about all of this?
Ryan: I don’t know what Travis would be doing now. I don’t know if he’d still be in the Marine Corps, if he’d be out and working in corporate America or doing something less traditional. I have no idea. But I know that he would be involved in this world. He would not be the veteran that takes off the uniform, goes away and is unconnected to what’s happening in their community. But would I be connected to this world? Probably not, because my brother would have been. I think he would be proud that I am involved and active with the Travis Manion Foundation, but he would have hated that it’s named after him.
WATM: I think I can understand that.
Ryan: We were years into this thing, and my dad’s like, “I just feel like I don’t think Travis would like that his name is everywhere. It’s nameless, maybe we should change the name?” And my response was something like, “Dad, you’re kidding. We’re in too deep. Travis’s name represents this generation.” And so, that’s my rebuttal. I think Travis would be super proud of what’s happening in his name.
WATM: Is there anything that you’re looking forward to in 2020? Maybe something you’re scared about or something we should keep on our radar?
Ryan: The next big thing I’m doing is going to Puerto Rico at the end of January for one of our service expeditions. We have eight or nine of these service expeditions a year, but this one is special. I will be traveling with a Marine who was with Travis when he was killed. We will be doing rehab projects for veterans’ homes effected by the hurricane a couple of years ago. I am looking forward to that.
WATM: Will you keep us updated on the trip?
Ryan: Of course.
WATM: Last question. Who do you think will win the Army-Navy Game tomorrow?
I loved “Aliens” and think it is the best film of the franchise. It’s an action-packed sequel to the original that establishes Lt. Ripley as a certifiable badass by the closing credits. But it is also, in my opinion, one of the better depictions of Marine infantry life.
Despite it being set far in the future and their name being “Colonial Marines” the second of the “Alien” franchise gives a good look inside the grunt life dynamic. Here’s why:
1. All they really care about is finding the aliens and killing them.
Marines can conduct humanitarian, peacekeeping, and ceremonial duties, but infantry Marines train year-round for just one thing: combat. Understandably, grunts want to test that training in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Colonial Marines heading to LV-426 think the exact same way. While being briefed before the mission by their lieutenant, they are completely uninterested in the details of rescuing colonists.
The sentiment is summed up in what Vasquez tells Ripley: “I only want to know one thing [about the aliens],” she says, while imitating firing a gun with her fingers. “Where. They. Are.”
2. They know how to pull pranks.
If you put grunts together for any extended period of time, they will inevitably pull pranks on each other. As part of the bonding and camaraderie of being close, Marine infantrymen will mess with each other’s uniforms, food, or build MRE-powered tear gas. In the movie “Aliens,” there’s no better example of this than when Drake holds down Pvt. Hudson’s hand as Bishop stabs the table in between his fingers.
He’s shocked, terrified, and he didn’t think the prank was very funny. To the rest of the grunts watching, it was very, very funny.
3. There’s at least one whiny private who won’t shut the hell up.
There’s at least one in every platoon. No matter what is going on, this junior-ranking grunt is guaranteed to complain about something. There’s a reason why “Man this floor is freezing,” is the first line uttered by Pvt. Hudson. It sets the tone for what will be a constant theme throughout the movie.
Hudson’s brain knows only that his recruiter lied, the food here is terrible, he should’ve joined the Coast Guard, and we’re never going to make it out of here. “Game over, man! Game over!” You know he’s super annoying when even the civilian embedded with the platoon thinks he needs to shut up.
4. They are experts at talking crap to each other.
Marine grunts know how to talk smack to each other. Even worse, if someone shows any sign of weakness, the rest of the platoon will just pile on with more insults. But it’s all good: They do it only because they love them.
The grunts in “Aliens” play this part very well, and there are many great zingers and insults thrown out throughout the movie. Upon waking up, Drake says, “They ain’t paying us enough for this man,” to which Vasquez quickly responds: “Not enough to have to wake up to your face, Drake.”
And there are many others. Here’s a sampling:
Drake: “Hey Hicks, you look just like I feel.”
Hudson (to Vasquez): “Hey Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?” Her response: “No. Have you?”
Frost (to Lt. Gorman): “What are we supposed to use man, harsh language?”
Hudson (to Vasquez): “Right right, somebody said alien, she thought they said ‘illegal alien’ and signed up.”
5. Their gear doesn’t work very well.
I’m going to go out on a limb here, but my guess is that much like the U.S. Marine Corps, the Colonial Marine Corps is underfunded and gets hand-me-down gear from the Colonial Army. They should be outfitted with high-speed futuristic gear but instead they get helmet cams that send back grainy pictures, and their radios work intermittently right when they need them the most.
And then there are the motion sensors. These things seem like a really cool piece of gear, giving the Marines the ability to sense movement around them and respond to threats. But the sensors include fatal flaws: They capture all movement — even little mice — and there is no way of distinguishing on what level of the complex it is coming from. The Marines think something is right in front of them, but it could be three levels above them.
“Movement! Multiple signals!” Hudson says, to which Apone asks, “what’s the position?”
He says he can’t lock in. Of course! Of course he can’t lock in. You just know the Army version gives all this information and you can probably click a button to vaporize the aliens. But hey, Marines make do.
6. The platoon sergeant is a crusty old-timer who doesn’t take any crap.
Marine infantry platoons are usually led by a staff sergeant or gunnery sergeant who simultaneously commands the respect of his commander and the platoon. In Sgt. Apone, “Aliens” excels in bringing to life a character grunts know well in real life. Just like an old platoon sergeant of mine throwing in a wad of Copenhagen right after he brushes his teeth (what, why?!?), Apone puts a cigar in his mouth seconds after he wakes up.
And then there’s his “another glorious day in the Corps” speech, his use of the phrase “assholes and elbows,” and his wonderful way of chewing out Pvt. Hudson. There’s some added realism to this one: Al Matthews, who played Apone in the film, served in the Marine Corps during Vietnam.
7. They are pretty much pissed off all the time.
Among outsiders, grunts pretend like they love their job and it’s the greatest thing in the world. Meanwhile, they are really thinking that it’s pretty annoying that higher isn’t telling them anything. Lance Cpl. Smith over there thinks this mission is total B.S. And the rest of the platoon can’t wait to get out of this hellhole of Afghanistan and get back to important stuff, like drinking beer.
A similar sentiment permeates among the Colonial Marines, which Frost sums up pretty well after he wakes up and proclaims, “I hate this job.”
8. The boot lieutenant has no clue what he’s doing, and everyone knows it.
Brand new Marine second lieutenants are assigned to their own infantry platoons soon after they finish Infantry Officer Course, and “Aliens” captures this perfectly in Lt. Gorman, a super-boot (Marine-speak for total new guy) officer who has very little experience. While officers are treated with courtesy, it takes time and experience before they earn the respect of their platoon.
Gorman doesn’t do too well in the respect department right off the bat, opting not to sit with his men at chow: “Looks like he’s too good to sit with the rest of us grunts,” says Cpl. Hicks.
When asked how many drops he had been on while enroute to LV-426, Gorman says (while looking totally freaked out): “38. Simulated.” As for combat drops, he says, “Uhh, two. Including this one.” The grunts onscreen and in the audience react similarly in thinking, “Oh no.”
Later on in the movie, he completely loses communication with his men, then he freaks out and loses control. And like any good second lieutenant, he ends up getting lost (and then cornered by a bunch of aliens). You just know his story is now a tactical decision game (TDG) at the Colonial Marine Infantry Officer Course.
It is a truth universally acknowledged amongst the milspouse community that this lifestyle can be downright crazy – but is this experience one that has always been true of military families?
Does our modern world – the age of technology, the era of constant communication – assist or exacerbate the nuances of military life? We spoke to Stephanie Bates, a Marine Corps spouse of thirty-three years, to find out!
MS: So – let’s talk about you! What does your background look like? Did you have any experience of the military lifestyle before your marriage?
SB: I am 68 years old and I was a military spouse for 33 of those years while John was on active duty. I still feel I am a military spouse – that feeling never goes away, retired or not. It’s a very special community and one I have ALWAYS been proud to be part of! I can honestly say, looking back through the years, I would not change ONE thing about our life in the USMC. We have one son who is a LtCol in the Marine Corps and actually stationed here in Hawaii now which has been wonderful. He and his wife will be retiring here in a year and staying put, which of course pleases us immensely!
MS: How did you and your husband meet?
SB: John and I met in college, where he was just returning from the Vietnam war. We were married in 1972, and although I knew he had been in the Marine Corps previously, I also knew he had been medically discharged (3 Purple Hearts later) and just assumed that part of life was over. We dated for a year, got married my senior year of college in Arkansas and started our life together. Never in a million years did I think we would spend the next 33 years, moving 22 times around the world, back in the Marine Corps. I knew John loved his beloved Corps and unbeknownst to me spent the first 3 years of our married life petitioning the USMC to come back in as an officer. He finally wore them down, gave up his disability and took off for OCS. When this news was presented to me I was devastated! Until I met John I had no experience with any connections to the military. I knew my father and uncles all served but that was it..now he’s telling me he is taking off for 6 months and re joining the Corps! I was at a complete loss, but I knew this was what he lived for. All I could imagine was he would be sent off to war and killed. Didn’t stop to think there was no war going on at the time, but that comes later…
MS: Did you have any preconceptions about what military life would look like before you got married?
SB: I’m not sure what I expected having had no connections with anyone in the military before this, but it exceeded my expectations. Not to say there weren’t some “hard” moments. I remember crying when we were trying to save enough money to buy a mattress for our bed and instead the money had to go for uniforms and a sword! They were pretty lean times, but we had made so many new friends all in the same boat with us, that you could never ever have a pity party for yourself! It was a different time then and not a lot of the wives worked outside the home so there was always something going on. I never felt lonely although I missed our friends and family back home.
MS: When your spouse deployed (or went away for training) in the ’80s, how did that feel? I ask this in light of our age of instant communication – it’s an easy thing to take for granted, after all!
SB: Long distance phone calls were expensive, but that was the only way to keep in touch and that was only when they could get to a phone…No cell phones that’s for sure! And certainly not computers so therefore NO emails or social media. 6 month deployments at that time meant a lot of letter writing and to keep track of letters, we would number them so if they arrived out of sequence, which they did a lot!, you could make sense of them. And a lot of times I would get a letter written on whatever scrap of paper he could find. The back of MRE boxes etc…. Toward the end of our career in the Corps I can’t believe how much easier military life is with the invention of cell phones and computers. It’s the communication that makes all the difference in the world. I have reservations about social media, but that’s another subject. Just being able to talk while your spouse is deployed or knowing that you can get in touch with him in an emergency without having to go through the Red Cross or any other red tape is a game changer. It eliminates so much of the worrying…you know what is going on and don’t have to speculate and think the worst possible scenario.
MS: Have you found that the sense of community in on-base/spouse/family environments has changed at all over the years? If so, how?
SB: In the 80’s there were not a lot of wives who worked outside of the home, so the wives’ clubs and social groups and volunteering groups ( Navy, Marine Corps Relief Society, Red Cross, Omsbudsman) were a lot more active. More spouses work now and this has changed things. Towards the end of our career I could sense the change. The wives clubs became smaller and smaller and did less and less. Volunteerism was down a lot also but this is life as we know it now. The world wide web has made it easier for wives to take their job and career with them. I was a teacher and mainly had to rely on working as a substitute teacher at each duty station. Although they would never come out and say it, teaching jobs were hard to come by as they knew if they hired you in a couple of years you would be gone.
MS: The age-old question – does PCS-ing ever become easier?!
SB: PCSing…no it never gets easier, but it can still be a fun adventure…Of course, as every spouse I know, can tell you they have had at least one move where their spouse is not available to be there for pickup or delivery etc etc…but somehow we get through it, our military spouse friends will always step in to help check off the inventory list while you tell the movers where to put what…nothing ever goes as planned, dates change, orders change but that’s life! I was never one not to add to our household inventory so we always moved with whatever the max allowance we were given, which I’m sure did not please our packers. We even had one packer walk down our driveway and off the job after doing the walkthrough! I did have friends whose philosophy was we will just wait till were are retired then buy what we want…not me, my life was now not later so our moves were a lot of boxes that’s for sure!
MS: What are some ways in which military family culture has changed that you think might be useful for new milspouses to consider? The good, the bad, and the ugly!
SB: The one big difference between life in the Marine Corps today as opposed to the 80’s is that the Marine Corps is so much more family “friendly”! And I’m sure that spouses from the much earlier years would think we had it perfect in the 80’s. The good news is things keep getting better…I know everyone has heard the old adage, “If the Marine Corps wanted you to have a wife they would have issued you one,” but that wasn’t far from the truth in the olden days….There was no thought given to how to make life better for spouses until one day they realized that a happy wife makes a happy life and a much better Marine. I was in on the ground floor with Sandy Krulak and others when the L.I.N.K.S program started. The goal was to help a new wife adjust to life as a military spouse. It was the thought that marrying into the military was like moving to a different country where you didn’t know how to navigate or speak the language. Programs like this have paved the way to helping adjust to military life so much easier.
MS: What would you tell yourself as a young milspouse, with all of the experience that you now have?
SB: There’s not too much I would have done differently if I could go back and give my younger self any words of wisdom but I am forever grateful that the wife of one of my husband’s first commanders told me at our first duty station, “Stephanie, always bloom where you are planted and make the most of every duty station you are sent to.” She was so right, it paid off in so many ways. Wonderful lifetime friends, and memories.
Looking back , all I can say is , that although I went into this with so many trepidations and worries as a young 22 year old, I wouldn’t have traded this life for anything else…it’s been a wild ride. And I also have the Marine Corps to thank for honoring me with the Dickie Chapel Award in 1999, it meant so much to me and still does to this day.
The U.S. military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) has rejected Russia’s claim that Moscow did not deploy fighter jets to Libya, saying on May 29 that the aircraft reflected Russia’s goal to establish a foothold in the oil-rich country.
Brigadier General Gregory Hadfield, deputy director for intelligence at ARFICOM, said the U.S. military tracked the 14 MiG-29 fighter jets and SU-24 fighter bombers that were flown in by the Russian military, landing at Libya’s Jufra air base.
The base is the main forward airfield for Khalifa Haftar and his eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), which has been waging an offensive to capture Tripoli.
Hadfield said Russia’s activities in Libya gave it access to that country’s oil and a military base in striking distance of Europe.
“Backing the LNA and backing Field Marshal Haftar — it really isn’t about winning the war, it’s about developing strongholds,” Hadfield said in an interview on May 29 with a small group of reporters.
A big U.S. concern would be if Russia placed missiles in such a location, he added.
“If Russia secures a permanent position in Libya and, worse, deploys long-range missile systems, it will be a game changer for Europe, NATO, and many Western nations,” Hadfield said.
Russia has denied links to the aircraft, calling the claim “stupidity.” Viktor Bondarev, the former Russian Air Force chief who heads the Defense Committee in the upper house of parliament, said the planes were not Russian, but could be Soviet-era aircraft owned by other African countries.
Hadfield disputed that, saying there were none of those aircraft in that part of Africa. And, he said, “not only did we watch them fly from Russia by way of Iran and Syria to Libya, we were able to photograph them at multiple points.”
AFRICOM first released information about the arrival of the Russian aircraft in Libya on May 26. It provided more details on May 27, saying Moscow deployed the jets and bombers to provide support for Russian mercenaries helping Haftar battle forces of the Government of National Accord (GNA), which is recognized by the United Nations.
AFRICOM said that MiG-29s and Su-24s bearing Russian Federation Air Force markings departed Russia “over multiple days in May.”
After the aircraft landed at the Russian military base of Hmeimim in western Syria, the MiG-29s “are repainted and emerge with no national markings.”
Hadfield said the fighter aircraft will likely provide close air support and offensive strikes for the Vagner Group, a private military contractor believed to be close to the Kremlin that has been helping Hafter’s forces.
The aircraft have not yet been used, but he said they will have to be flown either by pilots from Russia or contractors employed by Vagner.
Also on May 29 the U.S. State Department announced that Malta on May 26 seized id=”listicle-2646139035″.1 billion worth of counterfeit Libyan currency that it said was printed by a Russian state-owned company.
The money was printed by Joint Stock Company Goznak and ordered by “an illegitimate parallel entity,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in the statement.
The statement said the influx of Russian-printed Libyan currency in recent years “has exacerbated Libya’s economic challenges,” adding that the United States remained committed to working with the United Nations and international partners to deter illicit activities in Libya.
“This incident once again highlights the need for Russia to cease its malign and destabilizing actions in Libya,” Ortagus said.
Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. The country is now split between a government in the east allied with Hafter and the UN-backed GNA in Tripoli.
The Russian Foreign Ministry says the situation in Libya is continuing to deteriorate and that a cease-fire announced in January is in tatters.
The cease-fire “has definitively collapsed, and hostilities have resumed in full,” ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on May 29, according to Interfax.
The balance of power differs significantly from what it was when the cease-fire came into effect due to “massive foreign assistance,” she said.
Russia is in contact with all sides in the conflict and will insist it is resolved through diplomatic means, she said.
You make your best effort to pick up the kettlebells or go for a run as often as you can, but there are those days (or, let’s face it, weeks), when you can barely make it home in time for dinner, let alone heading out to a workout class. The thing is, your body doesn’t care where you sweat. And to a certain extent, it doesn’t care how long you sweat for. Sure, a 30-minute bodyweight workout burns more calories than 10, but research suggests even just a handful of minutes a day devoted to elevating your heart rate can have measurable results.
A University of Utah study, for instance, found that people who exercised less than 10 minutes but at a high intensity had a lower BMI than those who worked out for more than 10 minutes at moderate intensity. And a report in the medical journal Obesityfound that people who split an hour of daily exercise into 5-minute chunks were better able to control their appetite and eating compared to those who did a traditional-length workout.
So how do you work out in 5 minutes? What you need is a super-intense, Tabata-style routine that pushes your heart rate through the roof and makes your muscles beg for mercy by the time five minutes is up. We’ve got you covered with this all-in workout.
Start with a brief warmup (stretch arms overhead, touch your toes, open legs wide and lower into a gentle squat, stand and twist right, then left).
Minute 1: Jump rope as fast as you can for 50 seconds. Rest 10.
Minute 2: Run in place as fast as you can (like a lineman drill), raising your knees so high you hit your chest for 50 seconds. Rest 10.
Minute 3: Drop and do 20 pushups; flip and do 20 situps; flip and do 20 hand-clap pushups (push off floor with enough force that you can clap hands together in the air between reps).
Minute 4: Squat jumps for 15 seconds (squat and jump in the air vertically, landing back in a squat); box jumps for 15 seconds (stand in front of a sturdy bench or chair, bend knees and spring up onto it, then jump back down); squat jumps again for 20 seconds. Rest 10.
Minute 5: 15 burpees in 30 seconds; 30 jumping jacks in 30 seconds.
Grab some water and take a short walk when you’re done to allow your heart rate a few minutes to return to normal.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Ever since the first UH-60 took off in 1974, America’s Black Hawk helicopter has done a lot for the United States military. But let’s face it, even with the upgrades it has received over the years, it’s still been 43 years, and technology hasn’t been standing still.
Sikorsky, though, has been teaming up with Boeing to develop a replacement, the SB1 Defiant. In some ways, this helicopter looks familiar. That’s because it is a scaled-up version of the S-97 Raider, a technology demonstrator that’s been flying for a couple of years.
The S-97 has a top speed of at least 253 miles per hour and can carry six troops. It also has a number of options to haul a fair bit of firepower, including AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, 2.75-inch rockets, 7.62mm machine guns, and .50-caliber machine guns. The S-97 uses X2 technology – in essence, a pair of contra-rotating rotors (much like the Kamov helicopters) with a push propeller. This allows it to hover 10,000 feet above the ground when the temperature is 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Defiant adds the X2 technology to an airframe roughly the size of the UH-60. The Defiant would be able to haul at least a dozen troops in its cabin, as well as a crew of four. It also features retractable landing gear (to reduce drag), fly-by-wire controls, a composite fuselage, and advanced rotor system.
The concept of a push propeller has been tested before by the United States military. The AH-56 Cheyenne attack helicopter also used a push propeller to achieve high speed — up to 245 miles per hour, according to MilitaryFactory.com.
The Army is reportedly going to ask for proposals from industry for a medium-lift aircraft in 2019. The SB1 Defiant will likely form the basis for one of the responses.
The Lockheed F-16 Fighting Falcon has become a legend. It was the star of the 1986 movie, Iron Eagle, in which Doug Masters proved he was a better pilot than Maverick. It serves in many air forces the world over, but one in particular has shown the F-16 a lot of combat action. That’s Israel. All of that combat experience — which includes 47 kills — has lead Israel to make some modifications.
Ilan Ramon’s IAF F-16A Netz 243, which took part in the 1981 Osirak raid. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Zachi Evenor)
This is not a new phenomenon. In 1981, three years after getting their first F-16s, Israel used some Fighting Falcons to take out the Osirak reactor near Baghdad. The flight of almost 700 miles was supposedly beyond the range of the F-16, yet eight Falcons placed 2,000-pound bombs on the target, setting back Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program.
So, just how many Falcons does Israel have? Recent counts state that Israel has 224 F-16C/D/I Fighting Falcons on inventory. This is a substantial force — and these are not stock F-16s. Israel’s hacked the F-16 to make it much better than you might expect.
For instance, while the United States Air Force only uses 370-gallon drop tanks on the F-16, the Israelis use 600-gallon tanks, adding 62 percent more fuel to the external tankage. The Israelis also turned the F-16Ds, normally used as conversion trainers, into precision-strike specialist planes. Israeli planes are also equipped with a lot of Israeli-designed electronic gear, usually for electronic warfare. These hacks have a price – Israeli Vipers are heavier and require modifications to their landing gear.
Despite buying a custom version of the F-15E Strike Eagle, called the F-15I, Israel has opted to stick with their own F-16I won, and not just because its capabilities have been forged by combat use. The F-16I is significantly cheaper than the F-15I. Although Israel is among the countries that will acquire the F-35 Lightning, the F-16 will be around for a long time as a key asset for the Israeli Defense Force.