Crowds of spectators recently had a rare opportunity to see America’s advanced stealth fighter in action at the Chicago Air and Water Show, where the F-35 Heritage Flight Team put on an impressive show.
The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, a fifth-generation stealth fighter developed by Lockheed Martin, is the most expensive weapons system ever built, but its superior capabilities supposedly make up for its soaring costs.
The supersonic, multi-mission fighter, according to the developer, features unmatched electronic warfare, air-to-surface, air-to-air, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), and stealth capabilities designed to enhance the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. The F-35 program has, however, faced many setbacks.
During the recent airshow in Chicago, Airman 1st Class Alexander Cook captured several stunning photos of Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35 Heritage Flight Team pilot and commander, performing aerial maneuvers in an F-35A. The pictures were posted online by the 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office.
Check them out below…
Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35 Heritage Flight Team pilot and commander, performs a high speed pass in an F-35A Lightning II over Lake Michigan.
There you are, marching in a perfectly structured formation when you hear the command to halt. Along with the rest of your platoon, you stop on a dime. The whole unit looks well-disciplined as each service member stands up straight, assuming the position of attention.
You stand proudly in front of all your friends and family with your chest out and eyes forward. Then, suddenly, something weird begins to happen. You start to feel weak and your legs give out. You fall directly to the ground like a sack of potatoes.
The next thing you know, your eyes open, you see the medic, and you realize you just passed the f*ck out in front of everyone. How freakin’ embarrassing, right?
Well, you just experienced what medical professionals call “syncope,” which is the loss of consciousness due to decreased blood pressure. During bouts of hypotension (lowered blood pressure), our brains aren’t getting the oxygen or glucose they need, so it shuts down as it tries to recover.
So, why would someone pass out in formation? Well, it could be one of several happenings within the body.
Fainting can be a reaction to intense stress triggers, like seeing something crazy, being exposed to heat, or standing for long periods of time. This is called a vasovagal syncope, and it occurs when the part of your brain that governs heart rate malfunctions in response to an external trigger. So, if you’re standing completely still in the heat for long enough and you start to feel lightheaded, this might be what’s happening behind the scenes.
A sudden change of position may also be to blame. Our blood vessels change width to make sure every part of our body is getting the supply it needs. Sometimes, however, our vessels can’t keep up with the rapid changes to the body’s position. If you’re laying or sitting down, our heart rates are low. If we then quickly stand, our hearts have to speed themselves up in mere moments — sending blood rushing to the brain. This can cause momentary lightheadedness — and, in extreme cases, you might pass out.
Hunger may also be a factor in why your body shuts down. Your brain needs glucose to function — and glucose comes from eating. So, remember to snack before you take on those high-impact activities you like to do on the weekends.
Lastly, not properly hydrating is also to blame. Without enough water, your blood becomes thicker than usual. This causes your heart to work overtime to supply your brain with the oxygen and glucose it continually needs to sustain itself.
In general, some people are prone to passing out due to poor circulation while others may sometimes experience episodes of vasovagal syncopes. Unless injured by the fall, typically, no treatment is required. Most cases of syncope only last a few seconds, but if this event begins to happen more frequently, that person might have a cardiac condition.
The most interesting thing about pleading guilty to a capital crime in a military court is the defendant needs to be able to convince the presiding judge that he or she is actually guilty of the crime, and not just taking the deal to avoid the death penalty. Another interesting tidbit is that defense lawyers can only allow the defendant to make such a plea if they truly believe he or she is guilty.
So when Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez offered to plead guilty to avoid the death penalty for murdering two of his officers in Iraq, you’d think that would be a gift to the prosecution. You’d think that, you really would.
Lt. Allen left behind four children with his wife.
Martinez convinced his lawyers of his guilt and offered to plead guilty to premeditated murder, convince the judge, and avoid the death penalty. He was willing to testify that he threw a claymore mine into the window of a CHU occupied by his commanding officers, Capt. Phillip T. Esposito and First Lt. Louis E. Allen on a U.S. military base near Tikrit, Iraq in 2005.
The claymore exploded and tore the two sleeping officers to shreds, as it was designed to do. It was the first fragging accusation of the Global War on Terror. Witnesses told the 14-member jury that Esposito derided Martinez for his lax operation of the unit’s supply room. Another witness testified that she had delivered the murder weapon to Martinez a month prior. Another witness said Martinez simply watched the explosion happen, unconcerned about a follow-on attack. It was a well-known fact that Martinez and Esposito did not get along.
A temporary memorial for US Army officers Phillip Esposito and Louis Allen erected in Tikrit, Iraq in June 2005 after both officers were killed in an alleged fragging incident at Forward Operating Base Danger on June 7, 2005.
Martinez was arrested and transferred to Fort Bragg for trial. A New York Times investigation revealed that Martinez offered the guilty plea two full years before his trial ever took place – but the offer was rejected by the prosecution, who wanted to send Martinez to death row.
If the defense offered it to the prosecution, it means they truly believed their client was guilty, as per Army regulations. Then Martinez would have to convince the judge of his guilt. The judge could then accept or reject the plea. Martinez never made it to the judge. The Army took it to trial and lost their case against Martinez in just six weeks.
Esposito with his daughter Madeline before deploying in 2005.
The defense argued that all the evidence and witness accounts were purely circumstantial and since no one took receipt of the claymores, which was usual for the Army then, it can’t be proven that Martinez had access to them or even knew the rarely-used mines were available.
Martinez was cleared of the charges, released from prison, and honorably discharged from the Army. He died in January 2017 of unknown causes, and no charges have ever been filed for the deaths of Capt. Esposito and Lt. Allen.
An Air Force Research Laboratory team recently delivered version 2.0 of the Survival Health Awareness Responders Kit to instructors at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, a 28,000-acre site used to train survival, evasion, resistance, and escape specialists.
With SHARK, sensors are embedded into shirts to transmit key metrics including heart rate and estimated core temperature from smartphones to a server. As students undergo physical endurance tests during extended periods of isolation, the system allows instructors to monitor the data in real-time and issues alerts for heart rate spikes and significant increases in temperature. Since the device identifies the user’s location, medical personnel can quickly respond to those in need of care.
Second Lt. Matthew Dickinson, AFRL 711th Human Performance Wing biomechanical engineer, said SHARK 2.0 is user-friendly and more secure. He explained instructors and students are pleased with the streamlined setup process and the new web interface.
Maj. Toby Andrews, 66th Training Squadron, Detachment 3 commander, said he appreciates that SHARK “gives (instructors) real-time alerts on the health and well-being of students.” The system “truly eases my mind as a commander,” he said since it “allows us to provide preventative care (in cases) that could otherwise lead to serious medical situations.”
Staff Sgt. Randall Moss and Master Sgt. William Davis,16th Airlift Squadron loadmasters, sort through survival equipment during a survival, evasion, resistance and escape exercise in North, South Carolina Aug. 21, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)
Prior to SHARK, instructors checked on trainees at regular intervals to ensure their well-being. In certain cases, they administer ice baths to students with elevated body temperatures, said Tech. Sgt. John Garcia, a SERE instructor. However, since the introduction of this monitoring technology, zero ice baths have been required because the system alerts instructors before students reach what they call “the danger zone.”
To develop version 2.0, the SHARK team enlisted the help of Cedarville University students majoring in computer science. Loren Baum, who now works full time at 711th HPW, improved the code for his senior design project. He optimized the software, added functionality, enhanced security measures and streamlined the startup process.
Baum explained the team moved SHARK from the mobile app arena to the web to make the system usable in a wider variety of scenarios. With the new approach, instructors simply log into a website from any computer to monitor students’ health status instead of launching an application, which requires installation and manual upgrades.
The team simplified the startup process with Quick Response codes that automatically input students’ information when scanned, Baum said. This measure reduced the total setup time from one hour to five minutes and makes it easier for students and instructors to begin a new session.
In June 2019, the team traveled to JB San Antonio-Camp Bullis and conducted initial tests with version 2.0. Once the team integrated additional software improvements, SERE instructors officially launched the upgrade in September 2019.
The SHARK team continues to work with other squadron key leaders to address related needs. One such application involves using the included heart rate variability measurement to provide real-time feedback regarding students’ reactions to various training stressors.
This data would enable instructors to evaluate the effectiveness of interrogation techniques and determine the extent to which they affect individuals, said 1st Lt. David Feibus, a former software team lead who is now a student at the Air Force Institute of Technology.
A 437th Operations Support Squadron survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialist walks across a dirt road during a SERE exercise in North, South Carolina Aug. 21, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)
While SHARK is useful in various situations, Air Force instructors currently rely on this tool to offer “strenuous exercises in the safest manner possible,” said Ted Harmer, a 711th HPW engineer who also leads a medical readiness personnel recovery training research team. When administering physical tests, instructors must achieve the purpose of the training and minimize negative impacts, whether they be physical or emotional, he explained.
SHARK technology was born when the U.S. Air Force Survival School at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, opted to include more proactive safety measures in its training programs. Since AFRL had experience with wearable monitoring technology, leadership from 711th HPW offered to develop a solution for the SERE instructors during an immersion visit.
“Going in, we knew we needed a broad range of skill sets,” said Dr. James Christensen, a product line lead within the 711th HPW. He explains that to produce an effective system, the team relied on expertise in wearable devices, electronics, software development, communications, human factors and physiology.
“We pulled together capabilities from several different parts of the organization to assemble the sensors, develop the software to pull sensor data together and then build the communications capability to then send that data and be able to monitor it continuously and remotely.”
Following the initial design and development, the team arranged field tests with end-users. Several team members lived with JBSA-Camp Bullis instructors for one week to test SHARK 1.0 in 2018. Now, a year later, an upgraded system is in the field.
In the meantime, the SHARK team is also working with other groups who are interested in acquiring this technology including firefighters, NASA scientists, and Army special forces. Members are currently exploring a version of the system that the Department of Defense Fire Academy can use under fire protection gear to prevent heat injuries.
Remember when Somali pirates made headlines for seizing an oil tanker? That batch of Somali pirates was pretty smart. Others have managed to be very dumb. How dumb were they? Well, some pirates tried to hijack a pair of U.S. Navy warships.
According to a United States Navy release, on March 18, 2006, the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) were patrolling off the coast of Somalia as part of Task Force 150 to deter piracy. During their patrol, they were approached by a vessel towing a number of skiffs.
A boarding party from the Gonzalez was sent to investigate, but noticed a number of people were brandishing rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
The pirates on board the skiffs then opened fire on the Cape St. George, inflicting minor damage.
The Cape St. George and the Gonzalez, as well as the boarding party, proceeded to return fire, using what a contemporary CNN.com report described as “small arms.” The main pirate vessel was set afire and sank. Two smaller skiffs were captured, along with 12 pirates and one body. A Somali pirate group would claim that 27 “coast guardsmen” had been sent out.
The Virginian-Pilot reported that the wounded were first taken to the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA 4) for treatment. The pirates who survived this near-catastrophic failure in their victim-selection process were eventually released and repatriated back to Somalia.
Four years later, the guided-missile frigate USS Nicholas (FFG 47) also came under attack, according to a CBS News report. The BBC reported that five captured pirates were given life sentences for piracy.
Nintendo’s new version of the Nintendo Switch costs just $200, and it’s scheduled to arrive on Sep. 20, 2019.
The Nintendo Switch Lite, which was revealed on July 10, 2019, after months of rumors, is similar to the flagship $300 Nintendo Switch in many ways — and crucially different in a few ways.
Outside of price, here’s how the two Nintendo Switch versions stack up:
1. The Nintendo Switch Lite costs 0 less because it’s a portable-only console.
The Nintendo Switch is named as such for its ability to switchbetween form factors.
You can take it on-the-go, as a handheld console! You can dock it at home and play games on your TV, as a home console! You can even prop it up on its built-in kickstand, detach the two gamepads, and play multiplayer games with a friend, as a standalone screen/console! Madness!
The Nintendo Switch Lite, however, isn’t quite so verstatile. It’s intended for one thing: Handheld gaming.
Like the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, and Nintendo 3DS before it, the Nintendo Switch Lite is a portable game console. It runs the same games as the Nintendo Switch, but it can only be used as a portable game console.
2. The Nintendo Switch Lite is smaller than the flagship Nintendo Switch, in both its body and screen sizes.
On the standard, 0 Nintendo Switch console, the touch screen is 6.2 inches. On the new Nintendo Switch Lite, the touch screen comes in at 5.5 inches.
Similarly, as seen above, the overall size of the Switch Lite’s body is shorter and skinnier than the standard Switch console.
3. The Joy-Con gamepads don’t detach from the Switch Lite.
Another major selling point of the original Nintendo Switch console was its removable gamepads — the so-called “Joy-Con” controllers. A single Nintendo Switch console, with Joy-Cons, is a two-player standalone gaming system! Pretty incredible!
But the Nintendo Switch Lite is a handheld console, intended for a single person to use it as a handheld console. Thus, the Joy-Cons are built directly into the hardware.
Notably, you can pair various other Switch controllers to the Switch Lite — the Joy-Cons, for instance, or the Switch Pro Controller — which is handy if you still want to play multiplayer games like “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” on the itty-bitty screen.
4. The d-pad is an actual d-pad now.
For many, the version of a d-pad on the left Joy-Con was an abomination. Four directional buttons? Instead of a connected d-pad? What?!
The Nintendo Switch Lite solves that issue by putting in a standard d-pad.
5. The battery life is a little better on the Switch Lite.
Are you looking for a whopping half hour increase in battery life? You’ve come to the right place: The Switch Lite is exactly that. Instead of a maximum of 6.5 hours (like the original Switch), the Nintendo Switch Lite has a maximum of 7 hours.
As always, though, battery life will differ based on the game you’re playing: Games with intense graphical needs will chew through your battery faster, as will playing games online. So if you’re playing “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” online with the brightness up, your mileage will very likely vary.
6. The Switch Lite comes in three colors: Yellow, Grey, and Turquoise.
The standard Nintendo Switch has a few different color options based primarily around swapping Joy-Cons of various colors, but the Nintendo Switch Lite is going all-in on color choice.
In addition to the three seen above — the standard colors that the Switch Lite will be offfered in — expect special editions, like the “Pokémon” one that arrives this November with the new game “Pokémon Sword Shield.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The president of the United States never technically takes a day off. Even when they’re ostensibly “on vacation” they are still very much the leader of the country and have many duties to fulfill on a daily basis. For example, even while on vacation, they need to continue to have things like intelligence and national security briefings and other such meetings so that if an emergency does suddenly come up, they can react quickly in an informed way. Because of this, the president, in addition to never technically being able to have a full day off while on vacation, doesn’t get sick days either.
Of course, the president is not only human but also generally speaking a quite old human, and thus they get ill, occasionally seriously. So what happens then? This is where the 25th Amendment potentially comes into effect.
In a nutshell, among other things, it provides that if the president ever gets so ill that they cannot physically perform necessary presidential duties anymore, their vice president can become the “Acting President” on their behalf until they’re able to resume their duties. So, in a way, this is a mechanism for the president to take a sick day if they want it and whenever they want it.
It’s also noteworthy that even if the president does not wish to relinquish the office during a time when they are “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”, the 25th Amendment provides a mechanism for the vice president to simply take the office from the president until such time as the president is once again able to resume duties.
(Amusingly, it’s not fully clear here what the scope of this section of the 25th Amendment is. For example, while the president is sleeping, and thus in an unconscious state, they are most definitely “unable to discharge the powers and duties of [the] office” until someone wakes them up. So technically the vice president and certain others could get together on any given night and temporarily make the vice president acting president until such time as the president wakes up and no doubt sends off the appropriate document to declare that they are, in fact, fit for duty, with Congress no doubt concurring at that point… Or, if I were president and my VP did that, I’d probably just take that rare opportunity to roll back over and sleep in for once, then maybe around noon have a leisurely breakfast before finally sending off the appropriate letter that I’m back in business.)
In the end, this latter rule allowing the vice president to forcibly take over is probably for the best as United States presidents are generally loath to give up the office, even temporarily. Despite many, many presidents having serious health issues and occasionally being incapacitated during their time in office (generally largely kept from the public eye at the time), only two have actually used this power in the over half a century since the 25th Amendment was ratified.
Breaking the trend, the first president to make use of the 25th Amendment was Ronald Reagan on July 13, 1985 when he temporarily officially bestowed the powers of the office onto Vice President George Bush while Reagan underwent surgery for colon cancer. Bush reportedly spent a whole 8 hours being president before Reagan decided he’d recovered enough from his surgery to start being president again.
A thing to note is that prior to handing off the powers of the presidency to Bush at 11:28AM, Reagan spent his morning as he normally did, going about presidential duties, and subsequently spent most of the evening after he became president again at 7:22PM catching up on everything he’d missed during the day. So not really much of a sick day.
The only other president to bestow the powers of the presidency on their vice president was George W. Bush in 2002 and later in 2007, each time so that he could have a colonoscopy. On each occasion, Vice President Dick Cheney was acting president for a little over 2 hours at which point Bush resumed his duties. Or to put it another way, during his 8 years in office, Bush technically had four hours of official time off, most of which he spent with a camera up his butt… (It’s good to be the president?)
This lack of leave taken for ill health is a surprising fact given, as previously alluded to, the large percentage of presidents who have suffered through various serious illnesses during their time in office.
Most infamously, Woodrow Wilson had a massive stroke in 1919 resulting in the temporary loss of use of the left side of his body, as well as him becoming blind in the left eye and with diminished vision in his right. What his cognitive state was at this time isn’t fully known, as this was all kept from the public by his wife, Edith, and his physician, Dr. Cary Grayson.
So how was he able to run the country in this state? Well, he wasn’t really. His wife took over handling what information was passed to him and what issues she simply delegated out for other people to handle. She also barred any direct access to the president for several weeks after the stroke, with the lone exception being that Dr. Grayson was allowed to attend him (and we’re speculating nurses, though this is never mentioned anywhere we could find).
As Edith herself would later write,
So began my stewardship, I studied every paper, sent from the different Secretaries or Senators, and tried to digest and present in tabloid form the things that, despite my vigilance, had to go to the President. I, myself, never made a single decision regarding the disposition of public affairs. The only decision that was mine was what was important and what was not, and the very important decision of when to present matters to my husband.
That said, it is thought by many historians that her claim that she never made direct presidential decisions herself is at best stretching the truth and at worst a blatant lie. That’s not to mention completely controlling the information that went to the president and what tasks (and to whom) were delegated out is questionable for a person not elected to office to do, even for a day, let alone an extended period.
While Wilson did recover somewhat over the next year and a half or so of his presidency, in the interim there was much question over whether he was actually still mentally and physically fit enough to continue on as president. Despite this and certain very pressing and far reaching matters being decided, like whether the United States should join the League of Nations, he refused to give up his position- a key point discussed when the 25th Amendment was being drafted a few decades later.
While other presidents had before and after Wilson suffered from various ailments, most notable to the development of the 25th Amendment was Dwight D. Eisenhower. While in office, he suffered a severe heart attack and then a subsequent stroke. He also had to have surgery to remove about ten inches of his small intestine as a result of complications owing to Crohn’s disease.
During these times, he did attempt to take sick days by having Attorney General Herbert Brownell Jr write up a document passing off some of the powers and duties of the president to Vice President Richard Nixon. Other presidents had more or less done similar things before when necessary, but always in secret, so as not to publicly reveal their medical issues. Eisenhower was essentially bucking the trend of keeping it secret and trying to set a precedent to make the whole thing official.
And, indeed, from a practical standpoint, Nixon and Eisenhower’s cabinet did take over his duties when he was incapacitated. It also could be interpreted that Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the U.S. Constitution did allow for such when the president was unable “to discharge the powers and duties of the… office”.
The matter finally came to a head with a president most considered the picture of robust, youthful, health — John F. Kennedy.
It turns out, Kennedy essentially needed his own pharmacy and team of doctors to keep him functioning semi-normally throughout his presidency — a fact only quite recently made publicly known.
The medical issues Kennedy suffered from were many and serious (some of which may in turn have been caused by the extensive medication he regularly took). First up was a potentially life threatening problem in Addison’s disease, where the adrenal glands don’t produce enough of certain essential hormones.
Next he suffered from osteoporosis resulting in three fractured vertebrae in his back. He also suffered from irritable bowel syndrome that saw him dealing with severe abdominal pain and occasional dangerous bouts of diarrhea. Then there was his hypothyroidism. And, just for fun, likely because of some of the medications he was on, he seemed particularly prone to infections.
Notably, many of these medications could potentially effect mood and his decision making ability. But without some of them, Kennedy would have been crippled by pain. Even with them, as Kennedy’s political advisor, Dave Powers, once noted, Kennedy always traveled “with crutches”. Further, when he was out of the public eye, he walked
gritting his teeth…but then when he came into the room where the crowd was gathered, he was erect and smiling, looking as fit and healthy as the light-heavyweight champion of the world. Then after he finished his speech and answered questions from the floor and shook hands with everyone, we would help him into the car and he would lean back on the seat and close his eyes in pain.
Kennedy’s many maladies were not, however, what helped spur the creation of the 25th Amendment, though may have been had they been widely known. Rather, it was when Kennedy was shot that everything finally came to a head, with the question being asked, “What would have happened had Kennedy lived, but been in a brain-dead state?”
As previously noted, while one could interpret Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the Constitution in such a way as to provide for the vice president to take over almost immediately in such cases, the wording wasn’t concrete enough on this or for many other such scenarios in which the vice president might need to become Acting President. It wasn’t even clear in these cases if the vice president did take over if the original president should get the job back if they were once again fit for office later during the allotted term.
This ambiguity is a major issue if, say, a nuclear strike was launched against the United States in the interim from when the president was no longer fit for office and when the government finally got around to deciding the vice president should indeed take over.
Thus, about a year and a half after Kennedy’s assassination, in July of 1965, congress sent the 25th Amendment out to the states to ratify, which it finally was on February 10, 1967, clarifying what should be done in many of these scenarios.
So to sum up, the president is not given any allotment of sick days, but the 25th Amendment does provide them a mechanism to take such if they feel like they’re unable to perform the duties of the office. But, for reasons like that it’s not politically couth for the president to show any weakness, only two presidents in history have ever done this since it became an option- both of whom were having something done to their colon at the time…
For the rest, when they were medically incapacitated, they seem to generally try to hide this from the public whenever possible and to delegate tasks and rearrange their work schedule as best they could to take a little time off. And, where they couldn’t do such, they simply muscled through the rest of their duties.
It’s noteworthy that before the ratification of the 25th Amendment, the office of the vice president was vacant for various reasons about 1/5th of the history of the United States up to that point. Nobody much concerned themselves with this until more recent history when the vice president more or less became the “deputy president”. Since then, and thanks to the 25th Amendment clarifying such, the office of Vice President is obviously meticulously kept filled.
As noted, even when a president is “on vacation” they’re still expected to work and most modern presidents have typically travelled with an entourage of hundreds, including military advisers and even the press to ensure they’re remain briefed and aware of any relevant information they may need. To quote Nancy Reagan about the matter, “presidents don’t get vacations — they just get a change of scenery”.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter
As the Nord Stream II pipeline is beginning construction in the Baltic Sea, President Donald Trump warned that Germany has become “captive to Russia.” Representatives in Congress are also worried about European dependence on Russian energy. To ensure stable operation of critical sites, especially military assets abroad, backup power solutions should be an imperative.
In the first quarter of 2018, Russian pipelines supplied 41% of Europe’s gas. Russian natural gas is cheaper for much of Europe because it does not need to undergo the liquification process. Countries that ship gas long distances have to transform it into liquefied natural gas (LNG) by cooling it to -260 degrees Fahrenheit. This shrinks the gas’ volume, making it easier to store and ship. When LNG reaches its destination, it is changed back to a gas and piped to homes and businesses to generate electricity.
Many policymakers find European dependence on Russian gas concerning. In fact, a letter was recently sent to Secretary of Defense James Mattis from Senator Pat Toomey and other representatives highlighting the importance of lessening the dependence on Russian energy for the U.S. Armed Forces in Europe. Some consider American LNG to be more reliable and promote U.S. energy exports as a replacement for Nord Stream 2.
Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany is a large and strategic American defense transport facility with 56,000 American troops. The base serves as headquarters for the U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Air Forces Africa, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Allied Air Command. According to the Defense Logistics Agency, nearly 40% of oil used at military sites in Germany is from Russia.
Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by TSGT David D. Underwood, Jr.)
Thus, American defense installations in Europe are dependent on Russian energy to operate. If Russia were to hold its energy supply hostage, as it already has done to Ukraine in 2006 and 2008, not only would Germany’s power grid struggle to provide electricity to its citizens, but American installations and operations would also be compromised.
The Nord Stream II pipeline, in essence, boosts Moscow’s geopolitical strength and doubles the European Union’s reliance on Russian energy. Funds from selling gas also provide Russia with more resources to accomplish hostile goals, such as the recent annexation of Crimea and the cyber campaign on the U.S. electric grid. Increased energy dependence on Russia could also be used as leverage to extort the European Union and drive a wedge between NATO allies.
U.S. lawmakers in particular worry that Europe’s reliance on Russian energy could give Moscow more leverage. Congress attempted to pursue a safer energy supply in the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The law directed the secretary of defense to provide measures for modern energy acquisition policy for overseas installations, reduce the military’s dependence on Russian energy and ensure the ability to sustain operations in the event of a supply disruption.
In the recent Fiscal Year 2019 NDAA passed in the House, Congressman Don Bacon of Nebraska advanced a bipartisan amendment to direct an energy security policy for a new id=”listicle-2591231597″ billion Army medical complex and significantly reduce the need for natural gas.
To reduces reliance on Russian energy, microgrids could be deployed at American military assets. Microgrids are capable of operating on or off the main grid and ensure electricity is available to locations if an outage occurs. These power systems would serve as a great backup to avoid an external country from controlling the energy supply to military sites.
Congressman Don Bacon of Nebraska.
Some American utilities have built microgrids to ensure electricity is available to critical locations, such as power generating stations and airports. For instance, the SPIDERS Phase III microgrid project is deployed at Camp H.M. Smith, a U.S. Marine Corps installation in Hawaii, and includes battery storage, demand response, renewables and diesel generation.
Nuclear power can also be used to fuel microgrids with onsite fuel for long periods of time. Companies such as BWX Technologies, Inc. (BWXT) have the unique capability to support the design, testing and manufacturing of Gen IV advanced reactors that can be used for this purpose.
In addition, reliable bulk energy storage could provide backup power in the event the energy supply is compromised. Batteries in electric vehicles on military bases could also be used to supply power during an outage, especially considering these cars are popular in Europe. For instance, Nissan unveiled a system that allows the Leaf electric car to connect with a home and provide electricity for about two days.
As Russia provides more gas to Europe with the development of the new pipeline, it is critical for backup power to be available at American military sites abroad. Congress should consider equipping military sites with microgrids, storage, and even electric vehicles to ensure power is available in the event the energy supply is ever compromised.
It might surprise the casual student of history to learn that the United States was not alone in supporting South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. America’s traditional list of allies joined us in trying to contain the spread of Communism in South East Asia, including Taiwan, South Korea, and Australia. Each one of them brought the pain to the enemy in their own way.
South Koreans were so zealous in their fight against Communism that everyone else actually had to restrain them at times. Aside from the powerful bombing campaigns, America employed precision special operations units, which North Vietnamese called “the men with green faces.” It was the Australians they feared most, however.
At any given moment, everything would be fine and then, suddenly, you’d see all your men killed in the blink of an eye. That’s how they knew the Aussies were in the area.
Even though Aussies had been in Vietnam since 1962, the Australian Special Air Service Regiment first arrived in Vietnam in April 1966 with the mission of conducting long-range reconnaissance patrols in the dense Vietnamese jungles.
They were so effective in the field, the NVA called the Australians the “Ghosts of the Jungle.” They even provided instructors to the United States’ Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol school. They would operate on 24-hour missions in the areas surrounding friendly bases.
Small fire teams of four to six men moved much more slowly than any other unit, even other special operations units. But once in contact with the enemy, the Australians unleashed a barrage of fire, designed to make the enemy believe there were more men on the opposing side than there really were.
The slow, quiet movement and hellish raking fire the Australians brought to the NVA and VC made them the most feared enemy unit in the areas of South Vietnam. Even the most quiet VC infiltrators could easily walk into a devastating Aussie ambush.
An SASR patrol during Operation Coburg, South Vietnam 1968.
(Australian Defense Ministry)
Each Aussie SASR unit operated with an attached New Zealand SAS trooper and each of the three “Sabre” squadrons did, at least, a one-year tour in Vietnam, operating throughout Phuoc Tuy province as well as in Bien Hoa, Long Khanh, and Binh Tuy provinces. They also deployed with American Special Forces and Navy SEALs throughout the country.
The Australian SASR first came in contact with the enemy in May, 1966, when they met a Viet Cong force in the area around Nui Dat. It did not go well for the VC. From there, the Aussies spread their recon patrol range by several kilometers. By the end of their time in Vietnam, the unit performed 1,200 combat patrols with one killed in action, one dead from wounds, three accidentally killed, one missing, and one death from illness. Another 28 men were wounded in action.
Before leaving in 1971, the ANZACs killed 600 enemy troops, the highest kill ratio of the entire war.
In Ray Bradbury’s non-fiction book Zen and the Art of Writing, he reveals how he once tried to write in his garage during the summer but quickly became distracted by his kids wanting to play with him all the time. Bradbury was a good dad, and so, he played with his kids when they came to bother him in the garage, even if it meant his writing didn’t get done. In the essay “Investing Dimes,” Bradbury reveals his solution was to create a kind of office for himself away from home where he could get some work done. And so, he retreated to a library where he could rent typewriters by the hour by popping in a dime. The result was the novel Fahrenheit: 451.
I’m no Ray Bradbury, but I am a writer, and writing for the internet is my job. I’ve been working from home on and off since my daughter was born in 2017, and before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, I also faced this problem: Writing in the garage just doesn’t work because my kid is just too damn cute. And so, I started renting a desk at a local co-working space. But then, COVID-19 happened. And now, like so many working parents across a variety of professions, I’m back to working at home, which means the work I’m doing is constantly being put in conflict with my parenting. In a new piece for the New York Times, writer Deb Perelman puts it like this: “In the COVID-19 Economy, You Can Have a Kid or a Job. You Can’t Have Both.”
That’s a headline that captures the story — the story of parents right now — and it started a huge trend on social media the second it was published. It’s so obviously true it’s not even funny. People like Perleman, myself, and the late Ray Bradbury are somewhat lucky compared to most American parents insofar as I can type this little essay out on the back steps of my house, hunched over, while my toddler is sleeping and my wife is getting some much-needed downtime. But my working hours are all over the place. There’s never really a time I’m not working and that also means there’s never really a time when I’m being present for my kid either. This is what the COVID-19 economy has done for parents in all kinds of professions. It’s turned us into people desperate to hold onto our jobs, but unsure how we’re going to do it.
As Perelman points out, when and if public schools re-open, it won’t be easy on parents to make decisions, and yet, the outrage is almost non-existent. “Why isn’t anyone talking about this?” she writes “Why are we not hearing a primal scream so deafening that no plodding policy can be implemented without addressing the people buried by it?”
Why not indeed? Perelman’s main points are familiar to most parents. While there’s a giant public debate over how one should behave, there’s a reality edging closer to parents’ viewpoint; which isn’t about what should happen, it’s more about what will happen. “I resent articles that view the struggle of working parents this year as an emotional concern,” she writes. “We are not burned out because life is hard this year. We are burned out because we are being rolled over by the wheels of an economy that has bafflingly declared working parents inessential.”
Which is pretty much what has happened at this point. Parents need to keep making money to keep their families going, to keep their kids safe. But there’s no real infrastructure from our governments and institutions to help us figure that out. Despite centuries of so-called “progress,” families are essentially still on their own when it comes to figuring out how to fend for their kids. On some level, we know this, and it’s what we signed up for. But what the world seems to have forgotten is that it’s very obviously not even remotely fair. The economy has always been situated to basically scam American families, but what the pandemic has revealed is just how deep that scam goes.
Everyone who is living now had parents of some kind. The kids of today, the kids we are fighting for in this pandemic have an uncertain future. And that’s because parents are invisible workers. Relatively speaking, Bradbury had it easy. This generation of parents has it bad. And it’s only when everyone admits it that things will get better.
I’m currently waging a losing battle. It’s a fight against time and nature and after nearly two months of self-isolation, I stink. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have showered and shaved along the way but there is just something else lingering around, like the sand that still cakes my boonie cover ten years after a deployment. I just can’t shake off the stink of mediocrity that comes from doing the same thing day in and day out.
You don’t have to deploy or self-isolate during a pandemic to understand the basics of hygiene. Cleanliness is not only an amazing feeling but also a state of being. From boot camp to deployments, in the military, we learn that a clean mind, body and equipment is key to mission success in any environment. It’s that logic that drives the team at BRAVO SIERRA. The team is comprised of Special Operations veterans and a team of rockstar personal care product gurus that have led brands such as Kiehl’s and Harmless Harvest, BRAVO SIERRA is a company that believes in achieving peak human performance through hygiene and their products are held to a pretty high standard.
Field testing is the backbone of BRAVO SIERRA’s model and it’s a process that is rooted in their numerous deployments overseas. Simply, you test your equipment before you go into battle. So when BRAVO SIERRA was setting up shop to design a list of products ranging from body wash to hair gel to deodorant and even moist wipes for some of the most high performing people on earth (military, law enforcement, athletes, etc), it only makes sense that they would go back to the tribe.
In that spirit, I decided to sign up for the field testing trial but instead of testing these products on some mission overseas, I am going to test them in the comfort (not really) of social isolation. After a detailed scrub and shave, which I will not detail, I walked away not only feeling clean but also thinking clean. As I am about to exit the bathroom, my wife casually mentions, “you smell nice.” As I look in the mirror, I have something back… Confidence.
Like a well-oiled weapon before the rifle range, cleanliness really is the basis for peak performance. So I reached out to Charles Kim, Co-Founder of BRAVO SIERRA and former officer with the elite 75th Ranger Regiment, to understand more about how the hygiene and military worlds really do collide in a positive way at BRAVO SIERRA.
Bravo Sierra team, Charles Kim in lower left. (Courtesy of Charles Kim)
WATM: Most people don’t normally think about high-tech hygiene/personal care products in a Special Ops kit bag, but BRAVO SIERRA has cracked the code. How did you guys come up with the idea that crosses between two worlds?
Charles: We’re a Human-Centric Company first. We think about the things you put on and in your body, and how that affects your performance. We launched our hygiene products because it’s the simplest way to demonstrate who you are.
WATM: How so?
Charles: How you present yourself is actually the best way to exemplify your values and the first building block is hygiene. Think about going to an NCO board. What’s the first thing they look at? Hygiene, the way you present yourself. Whether you’re going to a board, an interview or a first date, we want our products to highlight the respect and values you have for yourself.
Bravo Sierra team, Charles Kim in lower left. (Courtesy of Charles Kim)
WATM: Does that focus on values and respect come for your military service?
Charles:Military values inspire our company values, but we believe these values should go beyond to the broader population. For me, having that military DNA is a part of who we are but not all. Take my relationship with Justin and Benjamin, the founders and co-CEOs. We come from completely different worlds. They’re leaders in the consumer goods world with decades of experience in the food, beverage, and personal care industry, but they wanted to create a brand that is built off unifying values – and there’s nothing more unifying than the values of integrity, respect, and selflessness. And we believe in this mission.
WATM: Everything is in a name. Why BRAVO SIERRA?
Charles: I’ll be the first to admit I had some reservations about the name because it can be reduced to BS or bullshit, right? But that’s exactly the point…I think it’s beautiful because it’s all just tongue and cheek. If you really think about what’s in a brand’s name like Nike, Adidas, Apple and all these companies, it’s essentially just a marketing tool. So we said let’s just focus on the people and the values that we care about in the high performance community first. There’s no BS in that.
WATM: Fair enough. So my next question is all about you. How did you go from the Ranger Regiment to becoming an entrepreneur?
Charles:It’s funny, I haven’t talked about this in a really long time. I think I went through what most veterans do: you get out, look at what your peers do, find something that sounds interesting and go try it out. So I worked for two software startups prior to this. It was really fascinating, and I learned a lot around how technology can help us do things better, faster, and more efficiently. At BRAVO SIERRA, we’re using the same agile development principles used in building software to rapidly engineer value-based products for our community. We validated this with our hygiene products and are leveraging that same framework to launch our food and nutrition products later this year.
WATM: Anything that you learned in the military that’s helped you?
Charles: I’ve worked for some pretty amazing people and I’ve also worked for some pretty horrible ones. We all have right? I look at leadership as a way to develop and cultivate people to find certain areas where they can thrive. For me, it was always about using data to improve the process of building something in industries that can use some change, and using this information to make decisions- smarter and faster. But as a leader I knew not everyone would have the same interests so I had to find what each of my team members were passionate about and invest time developing their skills that will ultimately make them successful. It’s really that simple. Take care of your people. It’s cheesy, but it’s true.
WATM: You’ve made it your mission to test every BRAVO SIERRA product with operators both in the field and in daily life (like me at home). Why was this so important to you/your team?
Charles: We didn’t want to make products like how it’s been done before. That is, in a vacuum, where the consumer has to discover what they like. Instead, we knew the community we were trying to serve so we thought let’s send our products out to the people who will use it and they can validate whether or not the stuff makes sense. So I sent prototypes of our hygiene products to a few former colleagues across the military that I worked with and said let me know what you guys think. It snowballed from there, they shared the products with a few others and few others and we had so much feedback that we had to build a technology loop into our field testing. Now, people can sign up on our website and test our products, from new hygiene products to our flagship nutrition line.
WATM: Who are the primary testers? Are they all military?
Charles: We’ve reached out to everyone from road bikers, CrossFitters, kayakers, hunters to the first responder community, ie. EMT, police and firefighters – really anyone we think pushes themselves to be a better version of themselves every day. Our platform has helped us democratize the process so we can work faster with all this information coming in real time. We’re actually flipping the model on its head. We are committed to the mantra that the product you buy tomorrow is going to be better than the one you buy today.
WATM: Any field test success stories?
Charles: Yes! The cleansing bar that we launched in partnership with the Navy SEAL Foundation. It’s literally a four-in-one for your entire body – hair, beard, skin and face. When we first sent out our 4-in-1 gel to a lot of the guys deployed overseas, we got the feedback that they had limited water and a gel doesn’t really work. I reviewed this information with Benjamin, one of the founders and co-CEOs, and confirmed the data points validated the need for a solid version of the gel. And he was like, ‘all right, let’s make it right now.” Within six months, we identified that there was a market need and we launched the solid cleansing bar.
WATM: You offer 5% of your Revenue (Not Profit) to the MWR and Community Services. Why? What was the story here?
Charles:I’m forever indebted to the military for providing me lifelong friends. And as a company, the military field-testing program – what we call BATTALION – has been crucial to getting us to this point. For us, we always knew we needed to figure out a way to give back to an organization and picked what we believe is universal for the military – the MWR and community services on bases all across the world. My first deployment was as an infantry platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division and the MWR was where everyone went to watch TV, go to the gym or to call their families. It also represents what BRAVO SIERRA is all about at the core; we want to support outlets that support the military community with resources to exercise or to go outside with their family and have fun.
WATM: Where do you see BRAVO SIERRA in 5 years?
Charles:Our motto is that the we believe the human body is our most important system, and our mission is to make products that improve performance potential. In 5 years, I hope that we are known as the de-facto leader in delivering products with purpose – better and faster- ranging from hygiene to food and nutrition, alongside our community of high-performers.
For more information or to sign up as a field tester, click here!
Vining’s full list of military accolades, including his DD-214, career timeline, and pictures of him serving, are included in his Together We Served profile.
Most noticeably, Vining was a 1st SFOD-D — Delta Force — operator during his three decade Army career. Under the “Reflections on SGM Vining’s US Army Service” section he comments about his decision to join Delta Force:
In 1978, I decided I wanted something more challenging, so I volunteered to join a new unit that was forming up at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. They wanted people with an EOD background. The unit was 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta (Airborne). I spent the next 21 years in Delta and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), except for a year in a EOD unit in Alaska. In 1988, I transferred from EOD to Infantry. I figured I stood a better chance making Sergeant Major in Infantry, which worked out for me.
Like most who served, he also had unforgettable buddies. When asked to recount a particular incident from his service that may or may not have been funny at the time — but still makes him laugh — he said:
It would be SFC Donald L. “Don” Briere. At times he reminded me of the cartoon character Wiley Coyote. We were in New Zealand in 1980 on a joint-country special operations exercise. We were on a recon mission to scout out a target site. It was just Don and I on the recon team. We had a tall steep muddy embankment that we needed to negotiate. I looked at it and thought, no way. Don thought we could do it. As he moved across it, you could see his hands and feet sliding down. He clawed up and slid down some more. Finally he slid all the way down the slope into the water. I was rolling with laughter and said, “You want me to follow you?” I found another way around the obstacle.
Vining continues to be involved with the military and veteran community, he’s a member of several organizations, including the VFW, National EOD Association, and others, according to his profile.
After exploring his incredible career, Vining is someone we’d definitely love to have a drink with.
In 1999, writer/director Todd Robinson was at Kirtland Air Force Base to attend a PJ graduation ceremony. In attendance was William F. Pitsenbarger, the father of Airman 1st Class William H. Pitsenbarger, a PJ who was killed in action on April 11, 1966, when he volunteered to stay behind with the soldiers of the Big Red One during Operation Abilene.
During his speech, Mr. Pitsenbarger lamented the things his son, who died at the age of 21, would never do: fall in love and have a son of his own, and in doing so, understand his father’s love for him.
“I was floored,” recalled Robinson, “I remembered my own father’s fear for me during the Vietnam War and I thought about my own son.” He reflected on the brutality of the draft during the Vietnam War and what the experience was like for the veterans who were called to serve — and their families they left behind.
Robinson didn’t know if he wanted to make a war film until that moment. He became committed to the veterans. “If I could make a small contribution by looking into what the personal experiences were like for these men, it would be the least I could do,” he shared.
“I began to interview the veterans of that battle. Their stories were just so tragic, brutal, moving, unrequited…and they were looking for purpose: it was so important to them to see that this man’s valor was recognized before his father passed.”
He spent the next 20 years creating The Last Full Measure, a powerful retelling of the courageous acts of Airman 1st Class Pitsenbarger and the men who fought for his Medal of Honor.The Last Full Measure – Arrives on Digital 4/7 and on Blu-ray, DVD, and On Demand 4/21
The Last Full Measure is best described as a military movie made by a director who “gets it” — who understands that war is chaotic and that the complexities of PTSD for combat veterans require a conversation from our society as a whole.
One of the biggest takeaways he gained about the military community through the making and screening of this film was the notion of “service greater than self,” Robinson told WATM. Screening the film for veterans across the country, Robinson saw the spirit of Pitsenbarger’s sacrifice reflected in the men and women in uniform today. When it comes down to the wire, service members are there for the person at their side.
He also noticed that the film triggered a real need to have a conversation about the wellness of veterans — especially combat vets.
“We, as civilians, the people who benefit from the service of these people, don’t understand what they’ve been through. We don’t always embrace our own complicity in sending service members overseas. If you’re a taxpayer or voter, whether you agree with the policy or not, you’re responsible. We’re also responsible for bringing them home. They need to be given more attention than just a pat on the head, a business-class trip home, and some medication from the VA. We need to embrace our military community when they come home. We need to employ them. And we need to say, ‘You’re not alone,'” Robinson affirmed.
Robinson felt like he owed something back and this film was part of what he could give. Of course, it came with many challenges. In his own words, “Making a movie is organized chaos.” Robinson and his producing partner Signey Sherman, noticed a uniform error in one scene and a folded flag that was coming undone in another. They spent ,000 out of pocket to correct the errors in post-production. “It just looked disrespectful to me,” Robinson lamented.
Somehow a bootleg copy was released overseas containing the original errors and viewers complained. “Those kinds of things pop up. I suppose the real challenge is trying to explain to an audience, without feeling too sensitive, that a film is an impression of a story. My job was to identify the metaphor of the story and what we could say about the men who fought in Operation Abilene. It always came back to service before self.”
To help accomplish that goal, Robinson hired veterans on and off camera. In the Medal of Honor ceremony scene, real PJs wear their maroon berets while veterans of Charlie Company fill the audience. There that day was retired Air Force Senior Master Sergeant John Pighini, a decorated Vietnam War-era PJ and active member of the Pararescue community.
After that scene, Pighini came on-board as a technical advisor for the shoot on location in Thailand, where Robinson and his cast and crew had six days to shoot the entirety of the Vietnam scenes for the film — no small undertaking.
He had a crew of 300 with battle scenes featuring helicopters and explosions. There was no luxury of time. He gives credit to his editor, Richard Nord, and the expertise of his cast and crew. At the end of the day, the film, decades in the making, wasn’t done for financial profit or gain.
“We made this film for our veteran community. We tried to reflect back and let them know that people see them and we want to be part of the solution to whatever problems they face when they come home.”
The Last Full Measure is available now on Blu-ray/DVD and Digital from Lionsgate and features several special features such as a “Medal of Honor Ceremony Shoot” featurette and “The Others May Live: Remembering Operation Abilene” featurette.