Sea Story of the Week: How duct tape fixes United States Naval aircraft - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Sea Story of the Week: How duct tape fixes United States Naval aircraft

I can feel the gaze of the maintenance master chief beating down on the back of my neck from a mile away. At that moment, I exist in the paradox of being micromanaged by the front office while working a set schedule, flying sorties, and doing minimal maintenance.

Night check, on the other hand, is a different kind of ass-backwards; catch a couple of late flights in and fix whatever gripes the officers make up, including classics like:

  1. “It smells like burning toast in the back of the aircraft.”
  2. “The rudder sticks when held in position for too long.”
  3. “The seats are uncomfortable.”

Sea Story of the Week: How duct tape fixes United States Naval aircraft

VAW-125 E2C sits on a flight line

(Sung Kim)

A flight rolls in. Unphased, I throw up a salute, welcome the aircrew back, and start my inspection.

Every DET has its ups and downs. Sometimes you’re flying exercises at TOPGUN in the middle of Fallon, Nevada, sometimes you’re drinking double-shot margaritas with a parrot on your shoulder in Key West. This time, it was the latter.

I stroll into the hangar for muster a little disoriented and hungover from exploring the town the night before. Another surprising Navy DET tradition is to drink — and to drink heavily. Detachments are the only time fraternization is brushed under the rug; an E1 sailor and an officer can be seen throwing back a couple shots, calling each other by their first names, but find their military bearing by 0600 the next morning.

Sea Story of the Week: How duct tape fixes United States Naval aircraft

Naval Air Station Key West: Where magic happens.

I check the flight schedule and don my gear as I see my name scribbled on the board. My supervisor yells for me as I’m running out the door to catch my flight.

“Listen Kim, the sooner we get this sh*t done, the sooner we’re off — and the sooner we’re off, the sooner we’re at Cowboy Bill’s!”

Blurry, much like the memory of the night.

Photo by Sung Kim

On Wednesdays, the neon lights of Cowboy Bill’s is a beautiful sight for any metaphorically shipwrecked sailor, marooned far from home and looking for good times, cheap drinks, and morally flexible women. There, they honor a time-old tradition, one that’s highly recommended by the saltier vets in the squadron: topless mechanical bull riding. And it’s every bit of Christmas your six-year-old heart could ever dream of.

Sea Story of the Week: How duct tape fixes United States Naval aircraft

Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” will exist for as long as strip clubs do.

I’m one flight away from having Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” ring in my ears and I’ve already picked up scent of the drunken regret ahead of me when I get the call over the radio: My pilot discovered a hole in one of the stabilizing rudders. Unlike most complaints, this was an actual gripe that downs an aircraft. And if the aircraft is down, pilots can’t get their hours in.

I mourn the loss of the wonderland filled with inebriated bachelorettes slow-grinding on a mechanical bull that I’d built in my foolish imagination.

A quarter-sized divot in the rudder stands between me and my paradise; a quarter-sized problem that’s about to be fixed with a dollar-sized piece of duct tape. I run into the shop, grab a roll of duct tape, patch the hole, and epoxy the sides so that the integrity of the tape stays flush while in flight. My supervisor signs off on it, calls maintenance control, and we’ve got the green light.

Upon pre-flight inspection, my pilot calls me up to the top of the aircraft. “What is that, Kim? Duct tape?” I panic.

“No sir, it’s high-speed aero-tape sir,” I lie, reflexively. What am I doing? Why wouldn’t he know what duct tape looks like?

He’s puzzled because he’s never heard of it, so he summons my supervisor. He hasn’t heard of it because it doesn’t exist, just like my soon-to-be-over naval career.

“High-speed aero-tape?” My supervisor chuckles. “You’re lucky we’re on DET son, as soon as this b*tch comes back, write that sh*t up for day check. We’re going to Cowboy Bill’s.”

I was bailed out. My supervisor had my back like he always did and confirmed that the hardware store duct tape my lieutenant (with an engineering degree) saw, was, in fact, a fictional, quick temporary fix patch substance called, “High-Speed Aero-Tape.”

But hey, if you can’t fix it with duct tape, it can’t be fixed.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Earth’s magnetic north pole is moving too fast for experts to keep up

In the Hollywood blockbuster “The Core,” the planet’s core suddenly stops rotating, causing Earth’s magnetic field to collapse. Then bursts of deadly microwaves cook the Colosseum and melt the Golden Gate Bridge.

While “nearly everything in the movie is wrong,” according to Justin Revenaugh, a seismologist from the University of Minnesota, it is true that Earth’s magnetic field shields the planet from deadly and destructive solar radiation. Without it, solar winds could strip Earth of its oceans and atmosphere.

But the planet’s magnetic field isn’t static.


The Earth’s north magnetic pole (which is not the same as geographic north) has led scientists on something of a goose chase over the past century. Each year, it moves north by an average of about 30 miles.

Sea Story of the Week: How duct tape fixes United States Naval aircraft

The magnetic north pole has shifted north since the 1900s.

That movement made the World Magnetic Model — which tracks the field and informs compasses, smartphone GPS, and navigation systems on planes and ships — inaccurate. Since the next planned update of the WMM wasn’t until 2020, the US military requested an unprecedented early update to account for magnetic north’s accelerated gambol.

Now authors of a new study have gained insight into why magnetic north might be moving — and are learning how to predict these shifts.

Tracking movement in the Earth’s core

Earth’s magnetic field exists thanks to swirling liquid nickel and iron in the planet’s outer core some 1,800 miles beneath the surface. Anchored by the north and south magnetic poles (which tend to shift around and even reverse every million years or so), the field waxes and wanes in strength, undulating based on what’s going on in the core.

Periodic and sometimes random changes in the distribution of that turbulent liquid metal can cause idiosyncrasies in the magnetic field. If you imagine the magnetic field as a series of rubber bands that thread through the magnetic poles and the Earth’s core, then changes in the core essentially tug on different rubber bands in various places.

Those geomagnetic tugs influence the north magnetic pole’s migration and can even cause it to veer wildly from its position.

Sea Story of the Week: How duct tape fixes United States Naval aircraft

A visualization of the interior of the Earth’s core, as represented by a computer simulation.

(Aubert et al./IPGP/CNRS Photo library)

So far, predicting these magnetic-field shifts has been a challenge. But in the new study, the geophysicists Julien Aubert and Christopher Finlay attempted to simulate the physical conditions of Earth’s core by having supercomputers crunch 4 million hours’ worth of calculations.

The researchers knew that the movement of heat from the planet’s interior outward could influence the magnetic field. In general, this happens at 6 miles per year. But they found that sometimes there are pockets of liquid iron in the core that happen to be much warmer and lighter than the surrounding fluid. If the difference between these hot, less dense bits of fluid and their colder, denser counterparts is great enough, the warm liquid can rise very quickly.

That rapid motion then triggers magnetic waves that careen toward the core’s surface, causing geomagnetic jerks.

“Think about these waves like vibrating strings of a musical instrument,” Aubert told Business Insider.

Magnetic north is important for navigational models

Keeping tabs on magnetic north is imperative for European and American militaries because their navigation systems rely on the WMM. So too do commercial airlines and smartphone GPS apps, to help pilots and users pinpoint their locations and navigate accordingly.

That’s why the British Geological Survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration update the WMM every five years. The early update requested by the US military was completed Feb. 4, 2019.

But even with these periodic updates, geomagnetic jerks make it tough to keep the model accurate, Aubert said.

His group’s new model could address that problem by helping to predict how Earth’s magnetic field might evolve.

“Within the next few years, we envision that it should indeed be possible for our groups … to capture past jerks and predict the future ones with improved accuracy,” Aubert said.

Could the magnetic field ever collapse?

Earth’s magnetic field shields its atmosphere, which does “a bulk of the work” of keeping out solar radiation, as Revenaugh put it. If we lost our magnetic field, we’d eventually lose our atmosphere.

But according to Revenaugh, that’s extremely unlikely to happen, since the Earth’s core would never stop rotating.

Even if the field did collapse, the devastating effects depicted in “The Core” — people with pacemakers dropping dead, out-of-control lightning storms, eviscerated national landmarks — wouldn’t follow.

Sea Story of the Week: How duct tape fixes United States Naval aircraft

Without its atmosphere and magnetic field, Earth would constantly be bombarded by cosmic radiation.

(NASA)

A far more likely scenario, Revenaugh suggested, would involve the magnetic poles reversing as they did 780,000 years ago. When such reversals happen (there have been several in Earth’s history), the magnetic field drops to about 30% of its full strength, he said.

Though that’s a far-away scenario, Revenaugh added that it’s still important to improve scientists’ understanding of the magnetic field today.

“The better we can model it, the better we can understand what’s it’s up to,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Avengers: Endgame’ wasted Captain Marvel

Avengers: Endgame has officially come to theaters, destroying every box office record with a ferocity and ruthlessness that would make Thanos proud. And while the movie has received an overwhelmingly positive response from critics and fans alike, the massive movie has also raised a fair amount of pointed questions. Like who was that random teen at Tony’s funeral? Who makes outfits for Hulkified Bruce Banner? And, most importantly, why did Endgame completely waste Captain Marvel? After all, the newest Avenger seemed destined to establish herself as the baddest hero around but instead, she did very little in terms of what actually happened in the movie.


Before we look at Marvel’s surprisingly small role in Endgame, let’s look at why people assumed she would have a big role in the first place. The biggest reason that most of us assumed Captain Marvel would have a massive presence in Endgame‘s endgame was her sudden and mysterious prominence in the larger MCU canon, starting with Nick Fury reaching out to her just as he was about to disintegrate at the end of Infinity War. As the architect of the Avengers, Fury has always prided himself as a man with all the answers and so it stood to reason that if he used what could possibly have been his last moments of existence making sure Captain Marvel returned to earth, she must be pretty fucking essential to saving the day.

Sea Story of the Week: How duct tape fixes United States Naval aircraft

(Marvel)

This line of thinking was only magnified by Captain Marvel coming to theaters a little over a month before Endgame, as well as the movie itself, which made a clear demonstration of the fact that the titular hero had powers that would even make Thor shake in his Asgardian boots. The cherry on top of the speculative cake was Captain Marvel‘s mid-credits scene, where we see Captain America, Black Widow, Bruce Banner, and War Machine in a S.H.I.E.L.D. hideout wondering about the pager when suddenly, Captain Marvel appears and asks where Fury is.

With this mountain of evidence, speculation naturally abound. Some wondered if she would team up with Ant-Man to use the Quantum Realm to travel through time. Others said she is the one strong enough to beat Thanos. But no matter what particular theory you subscribed to, there only seemed to be one logical conclusion: Captain Marvel would prove to be the key to the Avengers undoing Thanos’ unique form of population control.

But it turns out, Marvel’s role in Endgame was pretty cool but mostly inconsequential. She shows up to help the Avengers find Thanos working on his garden, allowing Thor to finish the job and behead the being responsible for wiping out half the universe, which is shown to be little more than a moral victory. After that? Marvel is basically relegated to second-tier status on the Avengers, as she is briefly shown five years later just to let everyone know that she was off helping other planets, taking her completely out of commission during the time travel saga (aka the actual plot of the movie).

Sea Story of the Week: How duct tape fixes United States Naval aircraft
(Marvel)

Marvel does return in time for the massive final showdown against Thanos and his forces and, to be fair, she kicks a whole lot of ass during the super war to end all super wars. But even as she is making her case to take the title of mightiest Avenger from Hulkified Bruce or Thor, she still doesn’t have a hand in the plan to take down Thanos other than participating in the extended game of keep-away with his beloved gauntlet.

Why did Captain Marvel play such a small role? The obvious answer seems to be due to the fact that this is the last ride for Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, so the majority of Endgame was dedicated to the original Avengers. But if that’s the case, why was perennial B-lister Ant-Man so fucking important to the plot? And given Endgame’s three-hour runtime, it’s hard not to feel like Marvel’s overall presence in Endgame was entirely underwhelming and a massive waste of an opportunity by the MCU.

With Tony and Steve officially riding off into the sunset, this was the perfect time to reassure fans that they were still in capable hands with the remaining supers, especially the brand new hero who arguably has the best powers of any of the Avengers and shares the name with the damn franchise. It stands to reason that Captain Marvel’s role in the MCU will only grow with the upcoming Fourth Phase and what better way to understand her place in the Avengers than to actually give her something important to do? Instead, she was forced to mostly sit on the sidelines while Iron Man, Captain America, and the rest of the OG gang got to have all the fun. What a waste.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Civilian contractors receive top valor medal for Afghan gunfight

Three retired soldiers were honored at the Pentagon on Aug. 14, 2018, for exceptional gallantry in action against an armed enemy while serving in Afghanistan as civilian contractors.

Retired Army Master Sgt. William Timothy Nix, retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Michael Anthony Dunne and retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Brandon Ray Seabolt received the Medal of Valor, the Defense Department’s highest civilian award for valor.

Nix was working as a civilian contractor at a coalition base in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 7, 2015, when he heard the massive boom of a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.


“I just grabbed a weapon and ran out,” Nix said.

Insurgents had breached the entrance at Camp Integrity, launching the deadly attack with a vehicle-borne IED and then using direct fire, hand grenades and suicide vests.

Nix and Dunne, a fellow contractor, rushed to the fight, teaming up with military personnel to defend the camp, suppress the enemy and evacuate the wounded.

“[The insurgents] blew the whole front of the camp. The gate came off. It collapsed the guard tower out there,” Dunne said, recalling that a suicide vest exploded 30 feet away from him. He thought he would die, he said, but he kept fighting.

Sea Story of the Week: How duct tape fixes United States Naval aircraft

Mr. Ray Seabolt, Mr. Tony Dunne, and Mr. Tim Nix will be presented the Secretary of Defense Medal for Valor.

(Screenshot from DoD video)

Nix was serving as an irregular warfare analyst for the NATO Special Operations Component Command Afghanistan in support of the Resolute Support mission. Dunne was an operations intelligence integrator there.

Fighting was intense and the situation was chaotic, they recalled. Army 1st Sgt. Peter “Drew” McKenna Jr., who was leading the charge against the terrorists, was killed, as were eight Afghan contractors.

Their citations laud their heroism for exposing themselves to direct enemy fire, hand grenades, suicide vests, and other explosives to suppress insurgents who had breached the camp. Their actions undoubtedly saved countless lives at great risk to their own lives, their citations read.

Bravery During Attack in Helmand

Seabolt received the Medal of Valor for his actions in response to an attack near Helmand on Dec. 17, 2015. He had spent 22 years in the Army and was serving as a civilian contractor and counter-IED expert with the Joint Improvised Threat Defeat Agency.

On a mission with U.S. Special Forces and Afghan commandos, something didn’t add up for Seabolt, he recalled. He knew very well that could be an ominous sign. “We walked inside this compound,” he said. “There was an open door, and I said, ‘That’s not normal.'”

Then, the withering, close range, semi-automatic and automatic fire from the enemy began. “We entered the compound with about 10 people, and there were two of us left in the fight,” he recalled. Two Afghan commandos were killed; the others were wounded.

Seabolt’s citation lauds his exceptional actions in exposing himself to enemy fire and suppressing the insurgents so Afghan commandos and U.S. Special Forces could move forward. He single-handedly fended off the insurgent onslaught until the return of other team members, it reads.

“Mr. Seabolt’s bravery and confidence instilled courage among the entire force, resulting in effective fires on the target, softening the objective and allowing the recovery force to approach with little resistance,” according to the citation.

Honoring Citizen-Warriors

Army Lt. Gen. Darsie Rogers, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency‘s deputy director for combat support, said he is honored and humbled to call the men Americans heroes and partners and colleagues in service to the nation.

“We honor these three men for the remarkable valor they exhibited on the battlefield, for reminding us of the awesome power of the human spirit and for symbolizing the fearless determination of great warfighters,” he said.

The men, who are all former special operators, exhibited the very best of what it means to be a servant and a citizen-warfighter, he said.

“Each of these award citations serves as a moving testament — and a fitting reminder — that the work being done by those who fight on the front lines and protect us all is exceptional, essential and extraordinary,” Rogers said.

Featured image: Left to right: Army Lt. Gen. Darsie Rogers, Defense Threat Reduction Agency deputy director for combat support, applauds after awarding the Medal of Valor to Michael Anthony Dunne, William Timothy Nix and Brandon Ray Seabolt at the Pentagon, Aug. 14, 2018. The men, retired military special operators, were recognized for their actions against an armed enemy while serving as civilian contractors in Afghanistan.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

From Generation Kill to This Is Us, Jon Huertas talks family, career and life in the Air Force

Jon Huertas is one of the most successful Latino actors of today. Having been a lead on shows such as Generation Kill, Castle, This Is Us, and in the military film The Objective, Huertas is well-known for the depth of his talent. Perhaps lesser known: He’s an Air Force veteran. Huertas served in the Air Force before transitioning over to acting where he comes at his craft and profession from a much deeper perspective than one might recognize at a quick glance. He shares his stories here about where he has been, where he wants to go and changes he believes are necessary in the Entertainment industry.


Sea Story of the Week: How duct tape fixes United States Naval aircraft

Photo credit IMDB.com

WATM: Tell me about your family and your life growing up?

My upbringing was sometimes tough at times, although my mom and grandparents tried their best to make family life easier. You are born what you’re born into, where you try to come out with a smile on your face.

WATM: What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?

My mother worked very hard and the best as she could for her family. I grew up with my grandparents where my grandfather was adamant about studying effectively and always being a student of life. You never really master anything and need to keep an open mind because nothing is solid and everything in life tends to be fluid. So, I always try to learn something new to be ready for life’s many changes. My grandmother had a good sense of humor and she didn’t take herself too seriously. She was always laughing and always having fun. Our life on this planet is super short, with how small of creatures we truly are in the universe. And in retrospect to how long the earth has been here.

WATM: What values were stressed at home?

In many ways I raised myself and made mistakes where I could have landed on a completely different path in life. I had a dream to be an actor and also a hero complex with a developing desire to also serve my country. These desires mostly kept me out of trouble growing up…”mostly,” but getting in trouble a few times steered me in the right direction. My goals kept me focused and not ending up in situations where I shouldn’t be. It was like I would have internal conversations with myself about my goals and which forced me to grow up.

WATM: What influenced you to join the US Air Force, what was your experience and what lessons did you take away from your service?

A lot of men in my family served, including my grandfather who was in the Navy, my uncle was in the Navy and I had several uncles that served in the Marine Corps as well. I saw pictures of them, especially the black and white picture of my grandfather in uniform, where I actually saw myself in that photo. I went to the Navy recruiter first then off to MEPS but then joined the Air Force after a conversation with a family member. I’d always loved flying, I loved airplanes and helicopters, so it was only natural that I joined the AF instead.

Serving your country is one of the last rites of passage in our country. And while I served, I identified and followed good leaders so I could aspire to one day become one myself. That’s my biggest take away from my time in the AF. You can find your family anywhere and when you’re in the military, you create this family around you at your duty stations. When you leave that one, you then have to find your new family at your next duty station. It’s actually fairly easy for humans to adapt in a situation where you have to find “your people”. I learned that I needed to surround myself with the people that were going to help me attain my goals. I got this from the AF, but I feel it can work for anyone whether the serve or not.

WATM: What values have you carried over from the USAF into acting?

The two most valuable things I took away from the AF is having a strong sense of initiative and discipline. It takes initiative to get your career started. Becoming an actor is one of the hardest careers. It is not even really a career; it is a lifestyle. So having the initiative to figure it all out was huge for me. And you have to have the discipline to stick with it and not give up. Knowing that being in constant training will keep you sharp and ready. In the military we are always improving on our training. It is the same with acting, I am constantly training. There are wonderful acting classes, books to read and films to watch. When you get the opportunity to finally go in for an audition, you should feel like you are the best that you think you can be, then show them that you are the best one for that job.

WATM: What is the most fulfilling project you have done and why?

My most fulfilling role is definitely in “Generation Kill” as Sgt. Tony Espera. This was because they had developed a wonderfully complex Latino character. It was unlike any other show that I had worked on. My character, Espera, wasn’t a narco trafficker or a low-level thug, he was someone who had chosen to serve his country. Probably the most developed Latino character I have ever played. HBO, David Simon, Ed Burns and Evan Wright showed gumption by making Espera one of the leads in the show. And it was so gratifying to portray a character like him — to tell an authentic story to the men and women who serve our country and to stay truthful to what happened during the invasion. The writer of the book, Evan Wright, was on set and would provide key advice. Evan had a micro recorder that he always had on him to where if we questioned some of the dialogue, he would pull out the recorder and we could hear our dialog being said, as it happened, by the real guys we were portraying. For advisors on the story, we had the real Rudy Reyes playing himself, with Jeff Carazales and Erick Kocher, also there but being portrayed by actors. Of course, we would them if, in these scripts, it was the way that it really happened, and they let us know it was.

The two biggest compliments I’ve ever received as an actor was when Tony Espera’s wife saw GK at the Camp Pendleton premiere and she asked me, “How was I able to be Tony?” and the other was Tony himself telling me, “I felt like I was watching memories, not a TV show.” Because of that, Generation Kill is the pinnacle of my career.

Sea Story of the Week: How duct tape fixes United States Naval aircraft

Jon Huertas, Alexander Skarsgard, and Lee Tergeson in “Generation Kill”. Photo credit IMDB.com

WATM: What was your experience like in working with such talents as Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Rob Bowman, Alex Skarsgard, Susana White, Simon Cellan Jones, Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Dan Fogelman, and the like?

Castle is something that I had never experienced before. It is probably the most collaborative show I have ever worked on. They let me help develop Esposito, the character I played. He wasn’t a veteran in the pilot. I asked the producers if I could make him an Army veteran and they let me do it. The relationship I had with Nathan Fillion and Seamus Dever, where our characters, were normally the looser part of the story when compared with the Beckett character played by Stana Katic. We could play around a little more and Stana usually played the straight woman, mirroring the audience’s perspective. She was so good at portraying that character and bringing the three of us back to a more grounded place for the procedural aspect of the show. We were able to figure out how to play, what could’ve been repetitive tropes, differently by infusing character and humor into it that made us stick out. Rob Bowman directed our pilot and he is a mentor to me. He was my first teacher as a director, and he was so encouraging for us to bring more humor. He loved to laugh and wanted us to improve the story by having us not take ourselves too seriously which I think allowed the audience to root for us.

Sea Story of the Week: How duct tape fixes United States Naval aircraft

Jon Huertas and Seamus Dever in “Castle”. Photo credit IMDB.com

I can’t say enough about Seamus Dever who played my partner on the show. He is not only a loyal actor but an even more loyal friend. He was always protective of me and our work. He made my time on Castle the best time I could have had. Nathan is such a giving person and super generous. He wasn’t always trying to be the center of the show, he loved highlighting what the rest of us did. The most fun I had was trying to make Nathan laugh during a take, which I reprised when I got to guest with Nathan on The Rookie last year.

Sea Story of the Week: How duct tape fixes United States Naval aircraft

Stana Katic, Nathan Fillion, and Jon Huertas in “Castle”. Photo credit IMDB.com

After working on Generation Kill, it was amazing to see so many of the guys go off and do such wonderful work after the show. Alexander Skarsgard’s career has been amazing, from doing True Blood to Tarzan and tons of other amazing gigs. And to think he was thinking about quitting acting right before the GK?! Brad “Iceman” Colbert, who Alexander portrayed in Generation Kill, was super proud of Alexander’s work portraying him. Alex and I are still tight as well as most everyone from the show like, James Ransone, Stark Sands, Wilson Bethel, Michael Kelley, and many others. We’re all like brothers now. Almost every single guy from Generation Kill was at my wedding and it was a destination wedding in Mexico, I still can’t believe they all came there for me. I even flew with guys from Generation Kill to England to go to Stark Sands’ wedding. There have been several destination weddings from guys on that show. Everyone on Generation Kill was such a joy to work with, they pushed me, and I pushed them and their dedication in getting the story right made me very proud.

Sea Story of the Week: How duct tape fixes United States Naval aircraft

Kellan Lutz, Sal Alvarez, Jon Huertas, Pawel Szajda, and Stefan Otto in Generation Kill.

The experience was almost like being deployed. We shot for nearly eight months in Africa in the countries of Namibia, South Africa’s and in Mozambique. We were a cast made up of almost all guys and for Susana White to not only keep us all from killing each other, she did such an amazing job with the subject matter and was so open to getting the story right. She ended up nominated for Emmy for GK and, in fact, the show was nominated for eleven Emmys. Simon Kellan Jones is a blast to work with and made the set such a fun place to be. Even though we were telling a story that sometimes had us calling in an air strike on the civilian populace, Simon helped us process it so we didn’t bring in too much darkness where people may not watch it.

Now, This Is Us is a family show with no guns like a lot of shows I’ve done in the past. It does feel like a family and all that trickles down through Dan Fogelman. He sets the tone for the show. It is rare to be part of a show that has the impact that this show has. It’s another once in a lifetime experience to be on a show that has touched so many people in so many profound ways.
Sea Story of the Week: How duct tape fixes United States Naval aircraft

Jon Huertas, Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore and Wynn Everett in “This Is Us”. Photo credit IMDB.com

All of the projects I’ve been a part of have been amazing in their own way. But working in this industry for the past 25 years, I’ve seen a lack of people behind the scenes that I can say have had similar experiences as an adult male Latino. Meaning…I’ve been working a lot of episodes of television from guest stars to series regulars to leads and I’ve only been directed by one adult male Latino. That is one a hole that still needs to be filled as well as TV writers, Show Runners, Producers and Executives.

After This Is Us ends, I’d like to spend more time behind the camera in the director’s chair and in writing. With the lack of Latino writers in TV, so many characters and storylines featuring Latinos are in roles of a negative stereotype or in menial roles like the gardener or cook instead of as heroes, champions, romantics and role models. So, until you can get people that are writing about it, producing it, developing it, greenlighting it or directing it you are not going to see it. I feel a responsibility to be a part of pushing that message forward. I see a lack of representation at the network, studio and production level for Latinos and I hope to be a part of changing that as well.

As a little kid I had this hero complex. I watched TV and movies, but rarely did I see anyone who looked or talked like me. I watched the old “Batman” TV series with Adam West and I loved Adam West but… he didn’t look like me. So in the back of my mind, I thought that I couldn’t be Batman because he was white. Marvel still hasn’t stepped up with Latino representation. In the TV world there was a recurring character called, Ghost Rider on Agents of Shield but for 20 plus years of doing Marvel in the cinematic universe, they’ve yet to have one adult male Latino as a superhero in his own title.

Erik Estrada was an influential to me while growing up as well as Esai Morales, who was another mentor of mine. I saw him for the first time in a Sean Penn movie called Bad Boys and I think that was the first time I saw someone who really looked like me. It took me seeing someone like me to have the confidence to aspire to become an actor. Latino characters need to be portrayed as the hero, the guy that gets the girl, and the wealthy guy. We have to force ourselves to tell stories that are an equal slice of life. The best bite of a stew is one with all of the pieces of the stew, not just the same three or four pieces.

WATM: What leadership lessons in life and from the USAF have helped you most in your career?

Instead of making emotional decisions allow your emotions to inspire a calculated decision. That is what shows a true leader: You are not letting your emotions speak for you are letting your emotions inspire you to make the best decision. Emotional decisions can be like gut punches where you just react. A person may not think a certain way where they lash out after being hurt.

As an actor your job is to convey an emotion so you can get an emotional response from your audience. If a director and another actor come in and they’re trying to guide your personal choices to benefit them and you feel they’re trying to manipulate your artistic vision for your character, you could become emotional. If you let your emotion take over, you might regret reacting the way you do and end up looking like the problem in the moment. Now there’s tension between actor and director or actor and actor. If you take just a moment and think internally, “How do I get what I want?” You say, “I see where you are coming from, but does this have any value?”You may get them to see it from your perspective and you help them make your decision for you. Now that is, “if” your decision does have value. If so, how can they deny it?

Good decision-making trickles down from the top. From the president to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the Pentagon. Even on the unit level from the battalion commander to the platoon commander and on down.

WATM: As a veteran, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood and stage arena?

Think back to It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart where he was a WWII veteran. Stories are already being told that veterans like to watch but we need to encourage veterans to step up and write, direct, produce stories that speak not only to veteran audiences but also the general market. Veterans a lot of times make the focus of their stories completely from a veteran POV but instead need to create a story everyone will be into and then just happen to make the characters veterans. It’s almost like when you are laying out your characters and mark one with a green dot “veteran”. Back in the day, we just wouldn’t watch a lot of the TV shows or films that centered on veterans because Hollywood usually got it wrong. But now that’s changed. Some bars have been set high because some of the more recent military based projects, especially the higher quality ones, have hired advisors and/or worked with veterans from the inception of the projects. Just like I have to step out as a Latino and encourage others to do so, we need to encourage veterans to step out as well to write the stories.

Just like what I shared about training, not only when serving, when starting out as an actor but also veterans who want to tell their stories need to study creative writing and learn how to write a, treatments, out lines, pitches, log-lines and eventually an amazing screenplay. You have to write something that is not only a great story, but that is produce-able. The hope is that you can sell it somewhere and it’s given a proper budget so the integrity and authenticity can be upheld. As a veteran that wants to write a series about a veteran you may have to work as a staff writer on a show that is not about veterans, so you have to have an open mind. You have to have the skills to write a good script and then after a season or so you can talk to the producers about trying to introduce a character that is a veteran. You have to get into that writer’s room and win hearts and minds. Invest in the writer’s room and then move to the director’s chair and the executive’s chair at the studio, be in charge of what is getting made. You might be able to get into a position to inspire every project created at the studio level, who knows.

WATM: What are you most proud of in life and your career?

I’m proud to have been a working actor who happens to be Latino and also proud to be veterans who has represented veterans truthfully on screen. Portraying veteran and Latino characters positively has hopefully affected someone out there positively as well.

MIGHTY CULTURE

EXCLUSIVE: What Iran’s military training is like, according to an Iranian

Author’s note: The Islamic Republic of Iran doesn’t have diplomatic relations with the United States. In Iran, the media and the internet are closely monitored by the government. However, it’s impossible to keep track of everyone. And sometimes, despite the tremendous risk involved, an Iranian is eager to share their story and hit back at the pervasive propaganda that Iran’s government uses to control its people.

The vast military camp was on the outskirts of a small city. The soil was nearly frozen. There wasn’t a tree or any greenery in sight. Concrete buildings made up the complex where Farhad (a pseudonym for his real name) would receive his two months of mandatory military training. He wore light brown and dark green fatigues, a belt, and a pair of poorly manufactured combat boots.


First, Farhad marched for a while. After that, his picture was taken, along with the other conscripts. He then was shown to his barracks and bunk. While many training camps in Iran don’t permit leaving the base, he was allowed to go home every weekend.

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Iranian soldier in basic training barracks.

(Screenshot of video posted on Youtube by Persian_boy.)

“Soldiers need food. Their food was shitty — rice with little pieces of meat — and this helped to lessen expenses,” he said.

The food may have been bad but remaining connected to his family was one of the benefits. He and the others there were allowed to call home anytime after 5 PM using the phone booths set up on the grounds of the camp.

As for the training he received, Farhad called it a “joke,” especially the shooting portion.

The firearm he was issued — a Heckler Koch G3 — has been around since 1959. If he would have been part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC, or Sepâh), he would have been issued an AK-47 instead. According to Farhad, you go out on the range one time and shoot a dozen bullets. Your results are written on a scorecard, and then it’s back to marching. “You march a lot,” he recalled.

Farhad further described what he learned about weapons: “Not much. Effective range. Pure fire range. Caliber. Rate of fire. Weight. How many bullets they take. How to discharge. How to aim. How to safely check a weapon. How to clean your weapon. How to carry it. How many ways there are to carry it. Different types of weapons in the military. Things like that.”

In addition, he didn’t receive any combatives or medical training. “They aren’t trying to make soldiers. They want a work force,” Farhad said.

More so than actually training in combat or tactics, the Islamic Republic of Iran is interested in creating soldiers submissive to its religious ideology. Farhad said that religious indoctrination was a major part of his training experience, but he and many others didn’t take the sermons seriously. In fact, they would question and mock the mullah’s lecture whenever they had the chance.

“The mullahs really got frustrated with us,” Farhad said. “No one cared about them and made fun of them when they could and laughed and argued with them and put holes in their arguments all the time.”

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Iranian soldiers marching.

(Screenshot of video posted on Youtube by Persian_boy.)

When asked if this resulted in a consequence for him or anyone else involved, Farhad said no. “We didn’t get in trouble. Pretty much everyone was doing it.”

Even the non-commissioned officers (NCOs) in the camp didn’t follow the written rules that governed it.

One night on watch duty, Farhad smelled something weird. There was a little place outside of the chow hall that was mostly blocked from view, and when he looked out there, he saw two NCOs smoking. It didn’t take long to figure out they were smoking marijuana, which is a felony for a soldier in the Iranian military. He investigated further in the morning, finding remnants from dozens of marijuana cigars on the ground.

Farhad’s boots and the frigid cold gave him the biggest problems, though. In addition to the blisters all over his feet from marching, he also had an infection to keep at bay. And despite how cold it was, the military didn’t provide their conscripts with warm enough clothing. During a particularly cold watch duty assignment, he and the others on duty passed around a poncho, each using it for a few minutes to keep warm.

When training concluded, there was a ceremony where everyone dressed their best, but, unlike basic training graduation in America, family and friends were not permitted to attend. To his recollection, only one conscript failed to complete the training.

Farhad then spent two years in the Iranian military, which only solidified the negative impression he started with.

“It’s such a shitty, unreliable, broken system,” he said. “Whenever I see these websites talking about Iran’s military might, it makes laugh. They have no idea what they are talking about.”

Resistance Radio: Fighting ISIS Over the Airwaves

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This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time a Boy Scout built a nuclear reactor out of common household items

Imagine looking out your window to see an eerie green glow resonating from your neighbor’s shed. Or seeing government trucks being loaded with barrels marked radioactive by men dressed in hazmat suits outside your home.


The residents of Golf Manor, Michigan, don’t have to imagine it, because in 1995, a young teenage boy built a nuclear breeder reactor in his mother’s potting shed, an idea he came up with while working on his Atomic Energy merit badge in attempt to earn Eagle Scout status.

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Offering an Atomic Energy badge seems like a bad idea.

It wasn’t until David was interviewed for an article in Harper’s Magazine that the entire story was told. Even investigators from various federal agencies were shocked to find out some of the details.

At an age when most adolescents are consumed with sports, friends, or dating, Hahn spent his free time conducting chemical experiments. Much to the chagrin of his parents, he had several chemical spills and even created an explosion that rocked their tiny house and left David “lying semi-conscious on the floor, his eyebrows smoking.”

Even his scout troop was not immune to his scientific curiosity. David once appeared at a scout meeting, “with a bright orange face caused by an overdose of canthaxanthin, which he was taking to test methods of artificial tanning.” Then there was the night at camp where his fellow scouts accidentally ignited a pile of powdered magnesium he had brought to make fireworks.

There’s no question that David was increasingly bold in his attempts to learn more about the chemical compounds of our world, but even with the goal in mind to build a nuclear breeder reactor, you have to wonder how he obtained the radioactive elements.

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David worked a series of jobs at fast-food joints and grocery stores after school to finance his experiments. He admitted to Harper’s that he used several aliases and a string of mail communications with individuals working for agencies that control nuclear elements. None were as helpful as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, where David was able to engage the agency’s director, Donald Erb.

Erb provided David with a list of contacts who provide commercial sale of some elements and how to harvest others. David broke apart smoke detectors to obtain americium-241, commercial gas lanterns provided him thorium-232, and with the help of a Geiger counter, he found an antique luminous clock that contained a vial of radium paint used to keep the clock face glowing. He even purchased $1000 worth of batteries to extract the lithium.

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After several attempts to create energy, David was finally successful but he soon learned that his small reactor was producing so much radiation that it was spreading through his neighborhood. Unfortunately, his safety precautions only consisted of wearing a makeshift lead poncho and throwing away his clothes and shoes following a session in the potting shed. So he took apart the reactor.

Stashing some of the more radioactive elements in his house and the rest in his car, he was later found by the police after a call was made about a young man trying to steal tires. The police opened his trunk to find an array of scientific materials and a tool box locked with a padlock and sealed with duct tape. The police were rightly concerned about the box, and after David advised that it was radioactive, they were worried he had a nuclear bomb.

While being questioned by the police, David’s parents became afraid that they would lose their house, so they ransacked his room and his “laboratory” and tossed everything they could find. This left the authorities with nothing but what was in the car.

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Looks like he got that atomic energy badge (top left).

“The funny thing is, they only got the garbage, and the garbage got all the good stuff,” Hahn told Harper’s.

David never went back to his experiments and later served four years in the U.S. Navy – including service aboard the USS Enterprise, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. He also briefly served in the Marine Corps before returning home to Michigan. In 2016, David died from alcohol poisoning – not from exposure to radiation.

Though David Hahn is gone, the small town of Golf Manor will never forget their “Radioactive Boy.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

Final ‘Joker’ trailer teases Batman connection

The final trailer for Joker debuted online Aug. 28, 2019, giving viewers more information about the plot, introducing several new characters (including Robert De Niro as a talk show host), and taking a deeper look into the mind of Arthur Fleck as he transforms into the titular villain. The trailer is already drumming up Oscar buzz for Joaquin Phoenix and is getting a positive response across the board. But there is still one thing fans may be asking after watching: Where is Batman?

Since the movie was first announced, people have wondered if it would be connected to the Batman universe or function as a standalone film just focusing on the Joker. Based on the final trailer, it initially seems Joker may be the latter, as there is no sign of the caped crusader.


However, while Bruce Wayne may be nowhere to be found, we do meet a character who has a clear connection to the crime-fighting billionaire: Bruce’s dad Thomas (played by Edward Cullen). He is only in the trailer for a brief moment but his screen time is memorable.

“Is this a joke to you?” Thomas asks a laughing Fleck before punching him in the face.

JOKER – Final Trailer

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It’s an interesting choice to potentially have the Joker exist long before Batman because, in the comics and movies, the Joker is often depicted as a direct reaction to Batman. A destructive force of chaos that fights against Bruce Wayne’s never-ending fight for order and justice. Instead, the trailer implies that this version of the character emerges as a response to the bitter, cruel world that laughs at his miserable existence.

Or maybe the real twist will be that when Fleck finally reaches the point of no return, his first act as the Joker will be killing Thomas and Martha Wayne, unknowingly creating his future nemesis. It would be a clever callback to Tim Burton’s Batman movie and a nice way to set up a potential larger cinematic universe.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

popular

11 best-ever nicknames of military leaders

A lot of people get nicknames in the military, usually something derogatory. But not these guys. These 11 military leaders got awesome nicknames by doing awesome stuff.


Here’s what they are and how they got them:

1. Group Capt. Sir Douglas “Tin Legs” Bader

 

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(Photo: Royal Air Force photographer Devon S A)

Group Capt. Sir Douglas Bader was a Royal Air Force hero of the second World War known for his exploits in the air and frequent escape attempts as a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany. He did all of this despite the fact that he lost his legs in 1931 in an air show accident. He was drummed out of the service due to disability but returned when Britain entered World War II. He wore two prosthetic legs and earned his insensitive but inarguably awesome nickname.

2. Capt. Michael “Black Baron” Wittmann

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Capt. Michael Wittman was an evil Nazi with an awesome nickname. (Photo: German military archives)

Michael Wittman was an SS-Hauptsturmführer, the SS equivalent of an army captain, in command of a tank crew in World War II. From his time as a young enlisted man to his death as a captain, he was known for his skill in tanks and scout cars. As the war ground on, Wittman became one of the war’s greatest tank aces, scoring 138 tank kills and 132 anti-tank gun kills.

He was recognized with medals and a message of congratulations from Adolph Hitler. He was giving the nickname “The Black Baron” as an homage to the World War I flying ace, “The Red Baron,” Manfred Von Richtofen.

3. General of the Armies John “Black Jack” Pershing

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(Photo: US Army)

General of the Armies John “Black Jack” Pershing led the American Expeditionary Forces through World War I and became one of America’s highest ranked officers in history, second only to President George Washington.

Pershing’s nickname was originally a horrible epithet given to him by students while he instructed at West Point. They angrily called him “[N-word] Jack” in reference to his time commanding a segregated unit. The name was softened to “Black Jack” and has become a part of his legacy.

4. Gen. Norman “The Bear” Schwarzkopf

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(Photo: US Army)

Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf is probably best known for his leadership of Desert Storm. He sported two colorful nicknames. He didn’t like the most famous one, “Stormin’ Norman,” probably because it alluded to his volatile temper. But he seemed to have a fondness for his second, “The Bear,” an allusion to his 6ft., 4in. height and nearly 240-pound size.

In his autobiography, he described his wife as “Mrs. Bear” and he named one of his dogs “Bear” as well.

5. Lt. Gen. James “Jumpin’ Jim” Gavin

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Lt. Gen. James Gavin is probably best known for the same achievement that gave him his nickname, commanding one of America’s first airborne units and literally writing the book on airborne operations, FM 31-30: Tactics and Technique of the Air-Borne Troops.

Even after he rose to the rank of general officer ranks, he kept conducting combat jumps with his men. He landed in Normandy as a brigadier general and jumped in Operation Market Garden as a major general, earning him another nickname, “The Jumping General.”

6. Gen. Sir Frank “The Bearded Man” Messervy

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Gen. Sir Frank Messervy was a successful cavalry officer in the British Indian Army in both World Wars and later served as the first commander of the Pakistan Army. In garrison, he had the appearance of a stereotypical, well-groomed Englishman. But he famously neglected to shave during battles, leading to a thick beard when he was engaged for more than a few days.

7. Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller

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One of the greatest heroes of the Korean War, Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller tried to join World War I but the conflict ended just before he could ship out. Instead, he fought in anti-guerilla wars, World War II, and the Korean War. But for all of his battlefield exploits, he received a nickname for his physical appearance. His impeccable posture and large frame made him look “chesty,” so that became his name.

8. Maj. Gen. Smedley “The Fighting Quaker” Butler

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Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler was born into a Quaker family in Pennsylvania in 1881. Despite the Quakers’ aversion to violence, Butler lied about his age to become a Marine Corps second lieutenant in 1898, developed a reputation for being fierce in a fight, and made his way to major general while receiving two Medals of Honor in his career.

Butler also received a brevet promotion to captain when he was 19 for valorous action conducted before officers were eligible for the Medal of Honor. In recognition of his huge brass ones, his men started calling him “The Fighting Quaker.”

9. “The Constable” Gen. Charles de Gaulle

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Gen. Charles de Gaulle was the highest ranking member of France’s military in World War II and led Free French Forces against the Nazis after the fall of France.

De Gaulle gained the nickname “The Constable” on two occasions. First, in school where he was known as the “Grand Constable.” After the fall of France, the nickname was bestowed anew when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called him “The Constable of France,” the job title of ancient French warriors who served Capetian Kings until the 10th century.

10. Staff Sgt. William “Wild Bill” Guarnere

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Photo: US Army

Staff Sgt. William Guarnere fought viciously against the Germans as a paratrooper in Europe and gained a reputation for it, leading to his nickname “Wild Bill” and his portrayal in Band of Brothers.

Because of his exotic last name, he also gained the unfortunate nickname of “gonorrhea.”

11. Francis “The Swamp Fox” Marion

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Brig. Gen. Francis Marion was best known for leading guerilla fighters through the woods and swamps of the southern colonies during the American Revolution. After repeatedly being harassed by Marion and his men, the British sent Col. Banastre Tarleton to hunt him down.

Marion evaded Tarleton over and over again. When a 26-mile chase through the swamps game up empty, Tarleton complained that he would never find that “swamp fox” and the name stuck.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Dutch intelligence agents fooled Communists for almost 40 years

By 1968, global Communism was very much a threat to Western Europe. In Czechoslovakia, a massive invasion of Warsaw Pact forces saw a revolution crushed under the communist boot. Eurocommunist parties were popping up in Spain, Finland, and Italy. In China, Mao Zedong had rejected reforms enacted by Deng Xiaoping and re-enacted the repressive policies that led to the Cultural Revolution there. Unlike the Americans, who faced the spread of global Communism with force, the Dutch decided to found the Marxist-Leninist Party of the Netherlands – a group with which China cooperated.

The Chinese didn’t know its pro-China party in the Netherlands was a run entirely by Dutch spies who just wanted information on Chinese intentions.


Sea Story of the Week: How duct tape fixes United States Naval aircraft

Beijing even paid for the party newspaper, also run by Dutch spies.

A Dutch intelligence agent named Pieter Boevé set up the MLPN in 1968, gaining the trust of its Chinese Communist allies through the publication of its newspaper. Its timing was also fortuitous, as China and the Soviet Union had long before began to split in their view of what global Communism should look like. Since the MLPN embraced Maoist China and rejected the Soviet Union, that was even better for the Chairman. Using his MLPN, Boevé was able to expand his influence deeper into the party in Beijing.

His supposedly 600-member Communist party in a deeply capitalist society was the toast of the Communist world while Boevé ran the MLPN. In truth, there were only 12 members, but no one in the party or in the rest of the world knew that. Boevé could go anywhere in the Eastern Bloc, and China welcomed him with open arms so much, Zhou Enlai even threw a banquet in his honor. More importantly, they would brief him on the inner workings of the Chinese mission at the Hague.

Sea Story of the Week: How duct tape fixes United States Naval aircraft

The math teacher who outsmarted global Communism.

After attending a Communist youth seminar in Moscow in 1955, Boevé was recruited by the BVD, the Dutch intelligence service, to play up his Communist bona fides. He accepted and soon visited Beijing for a similar congress. The Sino-Soviet Split played right into the BVD’s hands, and after he embraced Maoism, his fake party practically built itself. The Dutch were able to know everything about China’s secret workings inside their country, and the Chinese paid for it, all of it orchestrated by Boevé, who was never paid as a spy. He was a math teacher at an elementary school.

“I was invited to all the big events – Army Days, Anniversaries of the Republic, everything,” Boevé told the Guardian in 2004. “There were feasts in the Great Hall of the People and long articles in the People’s Daily. And they gave us lots of money.”

The secret was kept until after 2001, when a former BVD agent wrote a book about the agency’s secret operations. Boevé and his fake party were outed.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China debuts stunning missile that could nuke US cities

China has successfully tested a new hypersonic aircraft, a potential “hypersonic strike weapon” that could one day be capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads and evading all existing defense networks like the US missile shields, according to Chinese state-run and state-affiliated media, citing experts and the domestic designers.


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The Xingkong-2 (Starry Sky-2) hypersonic experimental waverider vehicle designed by the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics in Beijing can reportedly achieve a top speed six times the velocity of sound.

During the recent test, conducted Aug 3, 2018, at an unspecified location in northwestern China, the aircraft was first carried by a multistage solid-fueled rocket before it separated to rely on independent propulsion — it is said to have maintained speeds above Mach 5.5 for 400 seconds. The max speed was reportedly Mach 6 or 4,600 miles per hour, according to the state-run China Daily.

The wedge-shaped vehicle made several high-altitude and large-angle maneuvers at a maximum altitude of a little over 18 miles. The aircraft then landed in the targeted area as intended, with observers touting the test as a “huge success.”

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This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

What it’s like living off the grid during Covid-19

Living off the grid can feel like a dream. The water is fresh, the grass is green; hard work is rewarding, and mistakes are taken in stride. As the threat of Covid-19 has pushed urban families inside, and made crowded suburbs feel even more crowded, the idea of living on the side of a mountain in the middle of nowhere has taken on new appeal.

My family and I lived off-grid for years, drawing water from a mountain spring, power from the sun, and wood from the forest for heat. Today, our daughter is eight, and we live a little closer to town. We still take in plenty of the raw beauty of the mountain, but we’ve found living off the grid to be a different kind of social distancing. As our daughter aged, we wanted her to have rich friendships, and the long drives became taxing. This is something almost no one thinks about, and we’ve seen it happen to many urban transplants like us, young men and women who forged into the mountains, made love, had kids, then realized they were alone.


Fortunately, we still live in New Mexico, where even the towns are largely populated with wildness. Within a short walk from our door is a protected wilderness with rivers, canyons, forests, and geothermal hot springs. We spend a great deal of time outside, and I even teach a tiny school – an independent group of 1st through 3rd graders – within this wilderness zone. The land is an immense part of our life and education.

When news of the pandemic first struck, and public schools were shut down, many of us were slow to appreciate the impact it would have on rural communities like ours. But the stress quickly caught up with us. As of this writing, we have 31 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in our county and zero deaths. New Mexico as a whole has been a national cool spot, but the impacts of the disease are visible everywhere – from the obvious, like masks and protocols in the grocery store, to the curious, like the out of state cars and vans camped along the river. The impact on our health has been minimal, but the impact on our well-being — and that of our children — has been palpable.

What is it like for families living off the grid in other communities? I recently reached out to my network of off-grid parents across the U.S. to ask how the pandemic is affecting them. This is what life is like for them during Covid-19.

We’re Grateful for a Simple Life

“A year before the world changed, we piled our family of five into an RV seeking a simpler life. We eventually settled on six acres in rural New Hampshire — a decision I am profoundly grateful for every day. Once it became apparent that the pandemic would change our lives for the near future, it was easy to make the most of our situation. My husband cut a trail through our wooded lot for nature hikes. It provides ample opportunities for educating our three little adventure seekers. And since we were already homeschooling our eldest before the schools were closed, we were prepared. We’re learning to grow vegetables. Next come the chickens. Every time I run on our dirt road – without a soul in sight – I thank the canopy of trees for cleaning our air and keeping us healthy.”

Katherine, 40, New Hampshire

Forest Kindergarten Made a Difference

“I started a forest kindergarten four years ago, after 25 years in the classroom. I wanted a shift in my life, and also felt the need to reintroduce children to the simple classroom of nature. But when the pandemic hit, it put everything in a new light. The kids and I have been stuck in rain and snow many times, and we have learned to help each other in all manner of circumstances. The children learned how to use what we had, not to wish for what we did not. During the pandemic, the children stayed home, and I sent parents activities, recorded songs and stories.

It has been a challenging time, but at graduation I decided to make individual home visits, outside the house, with social distancing. One girl led me to a stream and we sang a song together to the water, and gave thanks. She proudly showed me her garden. On another visit, we gathered around a fire outdoors and sang a song about the heartbeat of the universe. The child showed me his lost tooth with pride. Another boy met me in the woods where we had gathered before, and led me to a familiar spot. I pretended to have grown old and forgetful. “Don’t worry,” he said, “I will lead you on a good path!” My heart sang. For these children, our connecting point has been nature, and weathering the storm.” — Silke, 54, New Mexico

We Have Not Been Stressed

“We have been working the whole time. We’ve been biking, walking the dogs, playing board games, and cleaning up trash in the forest. We even taught the kids how to cook and bake. We have taken precautions, but rarely wear masks except at our jobs. No, we are not stressed – we’re fortunate. Covid-19 hasn’t impacted us very much.” — Shaniqua, 51, Michigan

It’s Mentally Exhausting

“We haven’t had much impact from the disease itself, but we do have many friends reacting with different levels of precautions. There’s little consistency. We don’t want our daughter to be isolated at home, and we think it’s okay for her to see friends on a one-on-one basis, outside, with basic precautions. Lots of others seem to think so too, but not everyone agrees. Some people laugh at our precautions and want to give us a hug, others think we are far too easygoing. The constant conversation – who is seeing who, on what terms – is mentally exhausting.” — Daniel, 40, New Mexico

We’ve Realized That Parenting Is Never Finished

“Our kids are in their early 20’s. Both lost their jobs and came to stay with us to wait out the most intense phase of the virus. Having them back in our immediate lives has been both glorious and challenging. Unable to be with friends, the four of us have had the chance to live deeply in each other’s lives. Breakfast, lunch, dinner; problems, joys, ideas, blather – we’re all in it together. This often includes sitting endlessly around the kitchen table and discussing current social problems – from this nation’s entrenched racism to how communities can reopen in a safe manner. I love listening to my kids’ insights. Living with them during the pandemic has been a powerful reconnection and important education.” — Paul, 61, New Mexico

We’re Grateful for Our Lifestyle

“Our town was hit with a big wind storm at the beginning of the pandemic, so most of our neighbors went without power for nine days. We had solar and propane appliances. Living off grid during the pandemic has been the same as it always is – a little more tiring and a little more rewarding than “normal” life. Our son is two. We handwash most of his clothes by the river, tend a large garden, and appreciate the house we built together. The only bill we pay is our cell phone bill. I’ll admit that some days I have thought to myself, “you’re insane for doing this,” but the pandemic has made me nothing short of grateful for our chosen lifestyle.” — Ashley, 26, Maine

We’ve Had a Lot More Quality Time at Home

“This pause has given us time to be more firmly rooted in our life off grid in the mountains. Before, we were spending hours in the car driving to town for this or that. Now, we keep looking at each other and wondering how we would have had the time to build the horse corral, expand the garden, mend the fences, and tend to the details of homeschooling 4 children. We had long suspected something like this pandemic was coming, so we were prepared with lots of seeds, a grip of hens, beans, and tons of potatoes. I think we ate 50 pounds of potatoes just in April! The kids got creative with forts, fairy houses, sword fights. They have been reading lots of books and listening to podcasts. We adults have been more challenged. The heavy news in our world is a lot to bear without community. But projects and lots of space has kept us somewhat sane.” — Lindsy, 46, New Mexico

We’re Scared

I had life threatening pneumonia in 2002 and was on a ventilator for 3 days. My husband is 75 years old, has muscular dystrophy and diabetes, and is in a wheelchair. We decided our only option was to socially isolate on March 13th. We have cut ourselves off from any personal contacts. Generous friends leave groceries and packages outside our home in an old cooler. We are blessed to have friends like them. Isolation is difficult, but it is easier with my loving companion of 31 years. This time has brought us closer together. Now, we are considering leaving the safety of our home, the safe cocoon we have created. I am scared. How do we negotiate the complexities of social distancing while keeping ourselves safe?” — Lisa, 64, New Mexico

We’ve Been Less Busy and More Playful

“We’ve been less busy due to social restrictions. In the beginning of the pandemic, when we were very strict about isolation, I was my daughter’s only playmate. She turned our hikes into stories and games. Often we were either two Olympic gymnasts taking a walk before our performances, or 2 princesses of different countries chatting about what it means to be a princess. It was a gift to become a more connected part of her play, and get more insight into what types of stories and themes are alive for her.” — Megan, 41, New Mexico

Part of Me Doesn’t Want to Return to “Normal Life”

“My family and I live in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. We live on two acres surrounded mostly by national forest, and our nearest neighbors are acres away. This pastoral setting has been a tremendous blessing in our lives and especially so since the onset of the pandemic. Needless to say, it is not difficult to social distance here. We spend quite a bit of time outdoors – hiking, biking, playing in our pond, gardening, and eating meals out on our deck. As parents of a six year old boy with lots of energy, the most challenging aspect of the pandemic has been the closure of his school and lack of playtime with other children his age. Since he doesn’t have siblings, his mother and I have become his primary sources of play and social interaction.

While we certainly spend time playing with him under normal circumstances, the amount of time and effort spent trying to keep him engaged in developmentally appropriate activities has increased dramatically and taken its toll on us as parents. On the other hand, the pandemic has had unexpected positive impacts in our daily lives as well. My wife and I are working less, which means we are spending more time at home and less time in town. Being at home allows us to give more attention to our son, the care of our home, and the land. Our garden is much larger this year. Part of me doesn’t want to return to “normal life” and would much rather continue as it is, without the pandemic of course. The question is whether we can take the lessons of this time and redesign our lives with more balance. I have hope that there are many parents out there asking the same questions. After all, crises give rise to new ideas and I know there are grassroots movements sprouting up even as I write this. Change will come.” — Brock, 43, New Mexic0

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time some guy seized power in Montenegro and won a full-scale war

There’s been a lot of attention on the tiny Balkan country of Montenegro in recent days — are they an aggressive people? Are they any more or less aggressive than any other people? What’s the metric to use for aggression? That equation changes when you combine Serbia with Montenegro, like the rest of the world did until 2006.

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In that case, you can measure aggression by the number of World Wars started.

But there is one story in Montenegro’s military history that stands out above all others. In 1767, a man dressed in the rags of the monastery in which he lived arrived in the country’s capital of Cetinje, claiming to be the long-thought-dead Tsar Peter III of Russia. And everyone believed it.

He became Šćepan Mali — known in the West as Stephen the Small.


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Ah, the days before Google.

Today, no one knows who he really was before he became the absolute ruler of Montenegro and no one knows his real name. All we know is that the little country was in a full-on war with the Ottoman Empire, then a major world power, who was not thrilled to have a Russian Tsar next door. The tiny, mostly Eastern Orthodox Christian country sought support from mighty Orthodox Russia for its rescue from an Islamic invasion, but Russia was not about to lend help to this pretender to the Montenegrin throne.

They knew Tsar Peter was dead. In his place, Catherine II ascended to the throne. She would later be honored as Catherine the Great and her first step toward greatness was having her husband Peter murdered.

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Catherine the Great pictured with all the f*cks she gives.

While most people might think a homeless, religious nut taking control of their country and immediately getting invaded by their larger neighbor would be an absolute disaster, Montenegrins’ fears were put to rest in a hurry. It turns out Stephen was really, really good at this whole “Tsar” thing.

With 50,000 Turkish soldiers marching into a country the size of the greater Los Angeles area in 2018, Stephen managed to silence his naysayers (one bishop who had actually met Tsar Peter III tried to sound the alarm, but no one listened), use his natural charm to win the support of the country’s religious establishment, and then unite the country’s tribes for the first time in centuries.

He’s like a Montenegrin Ronald Reagan.

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Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem… specifically, every government but me.”

The first thing Stephen did was send the Turks packing. With his outdated and outnumbered Montenegrin forces, he routed the Turks just south of Montenegro’s capital and took to the internal matters of his small but new job.

By this time, Catherine sent a delegation of Russians to Montenegro to out the impostor as a fake or kill him, but one of the things she didn’t know about Stephen (which was actually a lot) is that he was really, really likable. So likable, in fact, that when the Montenegrins learned he wasn’t actually Tsar Peter III (for real, though), they shrugged and declared him Tsar Šćepan. Most importantly, no one killed him — they enjoyed his company instead.

The Russians now accepted that there was no getting rid of Stephen and that his strict control of the country actually reduced instability there. And so, they began to help him. They sent the supplies and cash he needed to upgrade his military.

Just in time to fend off another invasion of Montenegro. This time, 10,000 Venetians landed in Montenegro to avenge their Ottoman allies’ crushing defeat, only to be defeated themselves near Kotor. Venice was forced to retreat, taking heavier casualties, having to pay Stephen for permission to leave, and being forced to leave their weapons behind.

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Montenegrins don’t take kindly to sucker punches, as it turns out.

This particular victory was so great, even Catherine sent Stephen a medal, a Lieutenant General’s rank, and the uniform to go along with it.

But Montenegro’s glory was short-lived. The Tsar was murdered in his sleep by his barber, whose family was taken hostage by the Ottoman Turks. The Ottomans threatened horrible things unless the Greek barber did their bidding. Sadly for his country, the peace enforced among its tribes by their Little Tsar quickly fell apart without him. The Turks invaded again while they were distracted by infighting.

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