If you’re a sheep farmer, dipping your sheep means you’re literally dipping sheep in a bath made to kill insects and fungus. It’s a good way to keep your flock healthy. If you’re in the military and about to be sheep dipped, it means your life is about to get a whole lot more interesting. It’s a term intelligence agencies use when they pretend to boot someone out of the military but secretly turn them into a covert operative.
Don’t worry, you still get your military retirement time. You just can’t tell anyone about it.
A reminder that the CIA has an undetectable heart attack gun.
While “sheep dipping” isn’t the official term for moving a troop from military service to the clandestine service, it’s the term the Agency uses to describe the process of taking a career soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine out of their branch of service on the surface. Instead of really removing the subject, the intelligence agency will just pull their official records, leaving behind their official record, the one which says the troop is retired, separated, or otherwise not in the military anymore.
The agency will take care of your real official record from there but there’s still work to be done on the service member’s part. They will be establishing an entirely new identity for themselves, after all. Their job is to make the move plausible, writing to friends and family telling them why they got out, what they’re going to do after leaving the military, and whatnot.
“And that’s why I decided to leave the Army and pursue my new life of definitely not being in the CIA.”
According to L. Fletcher Prouty, a retired Air Force Colonel who served as the chief of special operations in the Kennedy Administration, the practice started during the Vietnam War, when the Geneva Accords on the neutrality of Laos in 1962. This agreement prevented foreign combat troops from entering Laos. American troops, engaged in combat in neighboring Vietnam, were forced out of the country. The Nixon Administration, not known for honoring international borders when it came to prosecuting the war in Vietnam, decided they would need military support for intelligence agencies in Laos and opted to use “sheep dipping” as a means to get military members into the country.
If this seems implausible to you, remember we’re talking about the guy who decided to bug the Democratic National Committee and then cover it up, even though he was about to win in the country’s biggest landslide.
The North Vietnamese were secretly supporting Laotian Communists in their effort to topple the Lao government, so why shouldn’t the United States do the same thing in order to support the Laotians? Besides, the NVA was still using Laos as a staging point for attacking allied troops in South Vietnam. The United States military decided to sheep dip a number of specially-trained U.S. troops in order to conduct a clandestine war in Laos. Nixon even allowed the Air Force to provide air support for the Secret War in Laos.
The sheep-dipped soldiers of Vietnam were all provided with their full pay and benefits, not to mention regular promotions and their retirement. If a sheep dipped troop were to be killed in the line of fire, that would pose more of a problem. Their family would struggle to get the benefits befitting a widow – but the agency handled each case separately.
Trained snipers are some of the most dangerous warfighters ever to hit the battlefield. The history books have been inked with the legends of the most talented, deadliest snipers. Their methodical, near-surgical approach is the stuff of nightmares for the enemy and many live in constant fear of being placed in their crosshairs.
Snipers will lay still for hours as they stalk their target, waiting for that perfect shot. When you look through a scope for hours at a time, it’s hard not to entertain your brain by coming up with some dark humor. So, we’re here to show the world the humorous side of snipers.
The US’s first test of a missile since withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty has Russia and China rattled, with each nuclear-armed rival warning that the US is igniting a great-power arms race.
Arms-control experts have said that a “new missile race” is underway, arguing that strategic rivals are likely to match US weapons developments “missile for missile.”
The US military on Aug. 18, 2019, conducted its first flight test of a conventional ground-launched cruise missile that would have been banned under the INF Treaty a little over two weeks ago.
The 1987 treaty was a Cold War-era agreement between Washington and Moscow that put restrictions on missile development, prohibiting either side from developing or fielding intermediate-range ground-launched missiles, systems with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. China — never a party to this pact — has been developing missiles in this range for decades.
Accusing Russia of violating the agreement through its work on the Novator 9M729, a missile that NATO refers to as SSC-8, the US said earlier this year that it would “move forward with developing our own military response,” a position supported by NATO.
When the US formally withdrew from the treaty at the start of August 2019, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper explained that the Department of Defense would “fully pursue the development of these ground-launched conventional missiles.”
Sixteen days later, the US tested its first post-INF missile — alarming not only Moscow but Beijing.
“We will not allow ourselves to get drawn into a costly arms race,” Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, told Russian state media, according to The Guardian.
Urging the US to let go of a Cold War mentality, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Geng Shuang, said that the US test and future tests would ultimately “lead to escalated military confrontation” that would harm “international and regional security.”
Russia, which insists it did not violate the INF Treaty, has repeatedly warned the US against deploying intermediate-range missiles in Europe.
The weapon tested Aug. 18, 2019, as The War Zone explains, was a ground-launched BGM-109 Tomahawk, a variant of the BGM-109G Gryphon, a US missile system that together with the Pershing II mid-range ballistic missile comprised the forward-deployed tactical nuclear forces in Europe before the INF Treaty was signed and all relevant weapon systems were destroyed.
On Aug. 18, 2019, at 2:30 p.m. PT, the Defense Department conducted a flight test of a conventionally configured ground-launched cruise missile at San Nicolas Island, California.
(DoD photo by Scott Howe)
In an apparent response to Moscow, the US said it had no plans to put post-INF Treaty missiles in Europe. Beijing may actually have more reason to worry.
The Pentagon — and specifically the new secretary of defense — has expressed an interest in positioning new intermediate-range missiles in the Pacific to counter regional threats like China.
Esper told reporters recently that at least 80% of China’s inventory “is intermediate-range systems,” adding that it shouldn’t surprise China “that we would want to have a like capability.”
The US has not announced where any of these missiles would be deployed.
While some observers see the US wading into a major arms race as it focuses more on great-power competition, others see this as a reasonable strategic evolution in US military capabilities.
“We want China’s leadership to wake up every morning and think ‘This is not a good day to pick a fight with the United States or its allies,'” Tom Karako, a missile-defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Insider.
Over the years, China has developed increasingly capable missiles designed to target US bases across the Pacific and sink US carriers at sea, while the US has expressed an interest in deploying new capabilities to tilt the scales back the other way.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Navy has now issued at least one-fourth of the design work and begun further advancing work on systems such as a stealthy “electric drive” propulsion system for the emerging nuclear-armed Columbia-Class ballistic missile submarines by 2021.
“Of the required design disclosures (drawings), 26-percent have been issued, and the program is on a path to have 83-percent issued by construction start,” Bill Couch, spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Warrior Maven.
The Columbia class is to be equipped with an electric-drive propulsion train, as opposed to the mechanical-drive propulsion train used on other Navy submarines.
In today’s Ohio-class submarines, a reactor plant generates heat which creates steam, Navy officials explained. The steam then turns turbines which produce electricity and also propel the ship forward through “reduction gears” which are able to translate the high-speed energy from a turbine into the shaft RPMs needed to move a boat propeller.
“The electric-drive system is expected to be quieter (i.e., stealthier) than a mechanical-drive system,” a Congressional Research Service report on Columbia-Class submarines from early 2018 states.
Designed to be 560-feet–long and house 16 Trident II D5 missiles fired from 44-foot-long missile tubes, Columbia-Class submarines will use a quieting X-shaped stern configuration.
The “X”-shaped stern will restore maneuverability to submarines; as submarine designs progressed from using a propeller to using a propulsor to improve quieting, submarines lost some surface maneuverability, Navy officials explained.
Navy developers explain that electric-drive propulsion technology still relies on a nuclear reactor to generate heat and create steam to power turbines. However, the electricity produced is transferred to an electric motor rather than so-called reduction gears to spin the boat’s propellers.
The use of an electric motor brings other advantages as well, according to an MIT essay written years ago when electric drive was being evaluated for submarine propulsion.
Using an electric motor optimizes use of installed reactor power in a more efficient way compared with mechanical drive submarines, making more on-board power available for other uses, according to an essay called “Evaluation and Comparison of Electric Propulsion Motors for Submarines.” Author Joel Harbour says that on mechanical drive submarine, 80-percent of the total reactor power is used exclusively for propulsion.
“With an electric drive submarine, the installed reactor power of the submarine is first converted into electrical power and then delivered to an electric propulsion motor. The now available electrical potential not being used for propulsion could easily be tapped into for other uses,” he writes.
Research, science, and technology work and initial missile tube construction on Columbia-Class submarines has been underway for several years. One key exercise, called tube-and-hull forging, involves building four-packs of missile tubes to assess welding and construction methods. These structures are intended to load into the boat’s modules as construction advances.
“Early procurement of missile tubes and prototyping of the first assembly of four missile tubes are supporting the proving out of production planning,” Couch said.
While the Columbia-Class is intended to replace the existing fleet of Ohio-Class ballistic missile submarines, the new boats include a number of not-yet-seen technologies as well as different configurations when compared with the Ohio-Class. The Columbia-Class will have 16 launch tubes rather than the 24 tubes current on Ohio boats, yet the Columbias will also be about 2-tons larger, according to Navy information.
The Columbia-Class, to be operational by the 2028, is a new generation of technically advanced submarines intended to quietly patrol the undersea realm around the world to ensure second-strike ability should the US be hit with a catastrophic nuclear attack.
Formal production is scheduled for 2021 as a key step toward fielding of a new generation of nuclear-armed submarines to serve all the way into and beyond the 2080s.
General Dynamics Electric Boat has begun acquiring long-lead items in anticipation of beginning construction; the process involves acquiring metals, electronics, sonar arrays and other key components necessary to build the submarines.
Both the Pentagon and the Navy are approaching this program with a sense of urgency, given the escalation of the current global threat environment. Many senior DoD officials have called the Columbia-Class program as a number one priority across all the services.
“The Columbia-Class submarine program is leveraging enhanced acquisition authorities provided by Congress such as advanced procurement, advanced construction and multi-year continuous production of missile tubes,” Couch added.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
The US Air Force needs more tanker aircraft to ensure that America’s heavy hitters can take the fight to China should a conflict arise, according to the service’s senior leadership.
“The challenge in the Pacific is the tyranny of distance, and that means tanker squadrons are very important,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told Congress in October 2018, Voice of America reported, noting that the Air Force plans to increase the number of tanker squadrons from 40 to 54 by 2030.
“When we project into the 2025, 2030 timeframe, our pacing threat, we believe, is China,” Wilson further explained to Congress. The tanker plans are part of a larger initiative to boost the overall strength of the Air Force.
The Air Force secretary announced in September 2018 that the service intends to increase the total number of force operational squadrons by nearly 25%, raising the number by 74 to a total of 386 squadrons. The expansion is in service of the National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy, which point to great power competition as the greatest threat.
In response to criticism about the potential costs, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis argued, “It’s expensive. We recognize that. But it’s less expensive than fighting a war with somebody who thought that we were weak enough that they could take advantage.”
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis.
Aerial refueling aircraft play a critical role in extending the operational range of America’s fighter and bomber aircraft.
In recent months, as tensions between Washington and Beijing have soared to “dangerous” levels, the US has increasingly sent B-52H heavy long-range bombers through the East and South China Seas. There have been over half a dozen flights since August 2018, with the most recent flight taking place on Oct. 10, 2018, a spokesperson for Pacific Air Forces told Business Insider on Oct. 12, 2018.
Tankers have typically accompanied the bombers on these flights, which China has characterized as “provocative.”
While the Air Force is upping its game, China is believed to be doing the same through intense research into advanced anti-access, area-denial (A2/AD) weapons systems, including a new very long-range air-to-air missiles designed to cripple slower, more vulnerable support aircraft in the rear, such as tankers and airborne early warning aircraft.
The missile is suspected to have a range of around 186 miles, farther than US air-to-air missiles.
China does not necessarily need to defeat elite planes like the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter in battle. It only needs to keep them out of the fight. China has also invested heavily in integrated air defense systems relying on indigenous and foreign combat platforms.
Some of the weapons systems China is looking at have made appearances in military exercises, but it is unclear how close China is to actually fielding these systems.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
US Naval Academy (USNA) Midshipmen (MIDN) march onto the Lincoln Financial football field as part of the pre-game ceremonies starting the 105th playing of the Army vs. Navy game.
The US Naval Academy is located just outside Annapolis, Maryland. It began in 1845 and trains officers for their posts in the US Navy and US Marine Corps. Competition to get into the Academy is fierce – and it doesn’t end at Admission. Getting accepted into the Naval Academy is tough, which makes for an extra-competitive environment inside the Academy. Then, during exam time, the students turn even more competitive than usual (yes, that’s possible). Many students exhaust themselves studying so much they end up losing sleep, and it’s all because of that competitive spirit. Everyone wants to be the best.
A Naval Academy Freshman’s Ideal Trainer
Freshmen at the Naval Academy have it especially rough. They start in late June, but not with regular classes. Instead, it’s just 50 days of hard training. That might sound like par for the course at a Military training institution, but here’s the kicker. The freshmen’s trainers are the upperclassmen at the Academy. It’s their job to teach the newbies how to be in the Navy, and they sure do take it seriously. Picture a lot of yelling. It’s for a good cause though. Otherwise, many of those freshmen probably wouldn’t make it past the first year.
Then, when school starts in the fall, freshmen have to wake up early for 5:30 am physical training several times a week. Once again, their trainers are upperclassmen whose only goal is to whip the newcomers into shape. To make matters even worse, winters in Annapolis are cold and dark. Waking up in the dark, before the break of dawn, to work out in the cold under the command of upperclassmen can be brutal. One student recalls even having to roll in the freezing mud. Luckily, after freshman year, Naval Academy students no longer have to endure that crack-of-dawn training.
Your Grades Control Your Life
The Naval Academy also has some pretty strict rules around academic success. Any student who falls below a 2.0 GPA their first semester of the year spends the second semester on punishment. And what is the punishment? They are not allowed to go out on the weekends, which means no dates. For a person in their early 20s, that’s a miserable existence, that’s for sure.
It’s not all bad surprises at the US Naval Academy though. If you keep your grades high, you may get to travel to amazing places for free. All of it is part of education, but traveling in the Alaskan wilderness to learn wilderness training is a lot cooler than taking a field trip near home, right? Traveling to Cambodia and Vietnam to learn about military history is a lot more interesting than learning it from a book.
Preparation is the First Step to Success
The US Naval Academy is the best training you’re going to get if you want to join the Navy or Marine Corps. The rules in place are precisely what make it the best. These secrets from Naval Academy insiders might sound intimidating, but they’re not meant to scare anyone off. Instead, the idea is to prepare students for what they’re getting themselves into. Being prepared is the first step to success, after all.
Military Working Dog Gabe started his Army career in a rare way, escaping near-euthanasia in a Texas shelter before becoming a remarkably successful working dog and a celebrity loved by famous humans, like Betty White and Jay Leno.
Gabe is credited with going on 210 combat missions and finding 26 caches of weapons and explosives before retiring to live with his handler in 2009 as a sergeant first class. He passed away in his handler’s arms in 2013.
He had been sitting in a shelter where he was reportedly a day away from euthanasia when the Southeast Texas Labrador Retriever Rescue Organization pulled him out. The Army found him then and tested him for potential as a military working dog. He passed and was assigned to Army Staff Sgt. Charles Shuck.
They find bombs. They find them in combat, in the burning desert, and sometimes under fire. Gabe finished a five-month training iteration and was the rock star of the class. After they graduated, Shuck’s commander asked if they could deploy to Iraq. They needed Gabe in the show.
And so he went, and Gabe and Shuck were quickly favorites with troops on the ground. They rolled out often, 210 times in a single deployment. Of those missions, 170 were combat patrols where they led columns of soldiers through dangerous areas, smelling for the tell-tale scents of IEDs.
And Gabe was able to find the goods. In one case, he hit on 36 mortar rounds stashed by insurgents. Mortar rounds are popular tools for bomb makers because their explosives are reliable and powerful. Recovering them saves lives. Gabe also visited soldiers during his deployment, improving morale.
Gabe would eventually garner three Army Commendation Medals, an Army Achievement Medal, and dozens of military coins and other awards. In 2008, he received the Heroic Military Working Dog Award Medal from the American Kennel Club.
Gabe visiting with children in a school.
But Gabe was senior and needed to retire soon after the deployment, something he did in 2009. The Army allowed Shuck, Gabe’s only handler, to adopt him. He visited schools and hospitals and became a celebrity, appearing in photos with Betty White and Jay Leno.
The heroic dog enjoyed almost four years of retirement, but cancer had stealthily crept through his liver and spleen. It was discovered in February 2013, but it was far too late to operate.
Shuck made the decision to have Gabe put to sleep and cradled him as he passed.
In 1961, 158 Irish soldiers with no combat experience came under determined attack from 3,000-5,000 African rebels and European mercenaries, surviving five days of airstrikes, mortar barrages, and frontal assaults while on a U.N. peacekeeping mission that went horribly wrong.
The men of Company A were sent to the Republic of the Congo shortly after the country received independence from Belgium in June 1960. A wave of violence had swept the country in the weeks and months following independence, and a local politician and businessman saw serious potential.
See, Congo is rich in natural resources, but a lot of those resources are concentrated in the Katanga region in the country’s southeast. Moise Tshombe thought he could cobble together a coalition of local forces from Katanga and mercenaries supported by European companies, and so he got Katanga to secede from the DRC.
Suddenly, the country’s racial and political unrest was a full-on civil war, and the young United Nations resolved to keep the peace. Troops were dispatched, and Congolese leaders were so happy with the first wave of troops that they asked for more, leading to the Irish deployment.
As the Irish got their major weapons systems into operations, they were surprised by an enemy mortar round that shook the buildings. That was when they knew they were outgunned, and it would quickly become apparent that they were outnumbered. There were between 3,000 and 5,000 men attacking the 158 defenders.
Quinlan had ordered his men to stockpile water before the attack, but as the fighting dragged on day after day, it became clear that there wasn’t enough water and ammunition to sustain the defense. And the rebels had taken control of a nearby river crossing, cutting off potential reinforcements or resupply.
One brave helicopter pilot did manage to fly in some water, but it turned out to be contaminated.
So, from Sept. 13-17, the Irish suffered strafing attacks with limited ability to defend themselves, but wreaked havoc on their enemies on the ground, killing 300 of the attackers while suffering zero deaths and only five major injuries.
Yes, outgunned, vastly outnumbered, and under concerted attack, the Irish held their own for five days. But, by Sept. 17, out of water and ammunition, it was clear to Quinlan that the compound was lost. He could order is men to resist with knives as their enemy attacked with machine guns and mortars, or he could surrender.
And so, the Irishmen surrendered and were taken as hostages by the rebels who tried to use them as a bargaining chip with the U.N. in a bid for independence. But the rebels ended up releasing all 158 soldiers just five weeks later.
For decades, the men were treated as cowards and embarrassments, but a 2016 movie named The Siege of Jadotville about the battle treated the men as heroes and has helped cast a light on the men’s heroism. Before the premiere of the movie, the Irish government agreed with lobbying by Quinlan’s son to award a unit citation for Company A and individuals were awarded Jadotville medals until 1917.
A White House official on Nov. 25, 2019, said that Conan, the military working dog that helped take down ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in northwest Syria in October 2019, was a female.
However, a few hours later, a White House official said the dog was in fact a male, adding to a debate that developed after President Donald Trump tweeted a photo of the dog after the raid.
Conan was awarded a medal and a plaque by Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at the White House on Nov. 25, 2019. Trump, Pence, and Conan walked out to the White House lawn, where the president described Conan as “the world’s most famous dog” who had an “incredible story.”
President Trump Brings Conan, Military Dog Injured In al-Baghdadi Raid, To White House | TIME
Trump, who referred to the dog with male pronouns several times, said he thought it was a good idea to “put a muzzle on the dog” because of its “violent” tendencies, though it was unmuzzled throughout the ceremony. The president’s remarks did not deter Pence, who petted Conan several times on her head.
There was speculation over Conan’s gender after Trump released her name and a photo of her in an abrupt tweet after the raid. But former military dog handlers and canine experts were still at an impasse, with some intensely examining the photo.
“I’ve seen the photo of the dog,” a former military dog handler told Business Insider after the raid. “And if you blow up that photo, it’s not a female dog — it’s a male dog.”
“Conan was very badly hurt as you know, and they thought maybe he was not to recover,” Trump said Nov. 25, 2019, referring to injuries the dog received when she touched exposed electrical wires during the raid. “Recovered very quickly and has since gone on very important raids.”
Conan is a Belgian Malinois, the same breed used in the 2011 raid against al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The dog is named after comedian Conan O’Brien, according to a Newsweek report.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
On Feb. 28, 2015, Staff Sgt. Sebastiana Lopez stepped out of her apartment on an early Saturday morning in Charleston, South Carolina. The humidity was low, making a good day for a motorcycle ride. As she went back into her apartment to swap her car keys for motorcycle keys, she didn’t know it was the first step toward a life-changing moment.
Lopez’s four older siblings served in the US military in different branches. She looked up to them, eventually joining the US Air Force. She served for seven years as a crew chief on C-17s. Lopez’s parents immigrated to the US illegally, and she felt that she owed her country for the new opportunities afforded to her. Joining the military was her way of saying thank you.
As Lopez was coming around a corner of the road on her motorcycle, an armadillo was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her motorcycle and the armadillo collided causing her to crash into the curb, ejecting her from the bike and directly into a tree. She remembers bear hugging a tree and her leg kicking her in the face, breaking the motorcycle helmet visor. She fell to the ground and a plume of dust erupted. She never lost consciousness.
Lopez was dazed but immediately started thinking about how to survive. She tried to do blood sweeps, but her arms wouldn’t move. She saw that her leg was positioned at an unnatural angle and thought, “Well, that sucks. I probably need to put a tourniquet or something on that.” No matter how she looked at it, she wasn’t able to self-administer aid due to the extent of her injuries.
Her lung was punctured by a broken rib, she had several broken bones, an amputated (above the knee) right leg, lacerated liver, ruptured spleen, and many other internal and external injuries. Lopez was losing blood fast, and every breath felt like a million stab wounds, but she maintained a goal.
Sebastiana with her family after her accident. Photo courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.
“So I kind of looked up at the sky, and I’m like, there’s nothing I can do about this except for — keep breathing,” Lopez said.
She focused on each breath, counting in her head while she held her breath to minimize the pain. Then panic crept into her mind: It was a Saturday morning, people were up partying the night before, and it’s unlikely anyone will be awake to find her. Lopez stayed calm but couldn’t help thinking that this might be the end.
“I was pretty happy with the life I had already lived — even though it was very short, 24 years old at the time,” Lopez said. She accomplished what she had always wanted to do, giving back to her country by joining the Air Force. As she settled into being okay with the fact that she was dying, a car drove past.
She said that the first thought that popped into her head was, “That’s a stupid-looking car.” Then she realized that the person driving that car might be her ticket out of there. Luckily, her motorcycle had come to a stop up the road. The bystander saw it and immediately threw his vehicle into reverse. He found Lopez lying next to the tree, and the fear on his face was evident. He panicked, and the first thing he asked her was, “Do you want me to call an ambulance?”
Side by side (right photo showing initial recovery, left showing extensive recovery) comparison showing just how much Sebastiana has recovered since her crash. Photo courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.
The ambulance arrived, and even though Lopez couldn’t see him, she recognized the voice of one of the responders. He was an Air Force reserve pilot she had flown with during an operation in Malaysia when they were designated as a backup C-17 for the president while he toured that area of the world. Hearing a familiar voice, especially someone she knew from the military, immediately put her mind at ease. I might make it through this, she thought.
Despite the massive amount of blood loss, Lopez can recall up until the point when the hospital staff wheeled her into the OR. Her heart stopped not long after her arrival at the hospital, but they managed to get her back. She woke up a month later surrounded by her family, and she felt like she might have been in purgatory. A priest was close by and had been waiting to give Lopez her last rites in coordination with her Catholic beliefs.
“They knew telling me the news that, hey, you don’t have a leg anymore, was going to just tear me apart,” Lopez said. “To be quite honest, it didn’t. At least initially because I was just happy to wake up. It didn’t really hit me until a few months later that life was going to get pretty shitty and pretty hard, especially when I lost my hand function in both hands.”
Shortly after waking up from the coma, Lopez sustained a stroke and lost her speech. Her family added a degree of frustration when they unknowingly talked slowly and loudly to her, thinking she had lost the ability to process information as well. This was one more blow, but it didn’t shake Lopez — it was just another speed bump.
“I was like, Motherfuckers, I understand what y’all are saying — I just can’t verbalize my answer or write it even,” she said, adding that she felt trapped, much like when she was lying on the ground after her crash.
Lopez loves sports, and the driving force to compete again kept her internal fire blazing. As she completed her speech therapy and regained the ability to speak, she started to feel better about herself. Her first steps with her prosthetic leg brought even more confidence.
Even while Lopez completed speech therapy and physical rehabilitation, another battle loomed under the surface. One of the first movements she had to do was rolling from side to side, and whenever she did, the incision from her abdominal surgery would start bleeding. The hospital staff was growing concerned and asked her if she wanted to stop.
“I was like, ‘Hell no, I need to start moving!'” she said.
She recovered to an extent while staying at the Medical University of South Carolina hospital. She described it as similar to a scene out of Kill Bill when Uma Thurman’s character wills herself out of paralysis by saying, “Wiggle your big toe.”
Sebastiana competing in the Invictus Games. Photo courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.
Lopez aggressively pursued her exercises while running a consistent temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit. From rolling side to side to putting on her socks by herself, she was making progress. But then she started losing energy again and didn’t feel well. Her recovery was coming along, but she lost function in her right arm. She was scheduled to be transferred to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for a higher level of physical rehabilitation.
Her new doctors ran tests and found out that Lopez was septic, which is a widespread, serious infection within the body that can have lethal consequences. She was transferred directly into the ICU.
Once recovered, Walter Reed brought on even harder rehabilitation training — and the results were even better. Lopez worked hard and rep after rep moved closer to her goal of competing again.
She spent hours every day sending signals to her hands and any other part of her body that wouldn’t readily move with her internal instructions. She eventually regained some command over the movement of her fingers.
Sebastiana Lopez Arellano powers a hand cycle during the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando. May 9, 2016. DoD News photo by EJ Hersom, courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.
After her incident, the Air Force enrolled Lopez in what’s called the Casualty Care Program and the Recovery Care Program. She was assigned a Recovery Care Coordinator (RCC). Lopez transferred to outpatient physical rehab, and one day while she was working on different exercises, her RCC walked up to her. She asked Lopez what she thought about doing an adaptive sports camp.
“No, I’m not ready. I’m still rehabbing my hand — I want to be able to wipe my butt first before I go compete or learn a sport,” Lopez responded. Her RCC told her a white lie: “You’re still in the US Air Force, you kind of have to.”
Lopez later found out that wasn’t the case, but she felt that the RCC knew she needed a little push. The RCC signed up Lopez, unbeknownst to her, for a beginner’s adaptive sports camp through the Air Force Wounded Warrior program.
What her RCC said was a beginners camp was actually the tryouts for the Air Force’s Wounded Warrior Games team. Lopez found out once she arrived at the “camp,” but with her no-quit spirit, she persevered and made it onto the team.
Within a year of her accident, Lopez competed in the Wounded Warrior Games and earned five gold medals for two-hand cycling races, shot put, discus, and sitting volleyball.
“The funny thing about the 2016 Warrior Games, I broke my arm the first day we got there,” she said, laughing. “So I competed the entire week with a broken arm.”
From that first Warrior Games to her most recent competition performance in the 2019 Team USA Parapan American Games, Lopez has achieved her goal of competing again — and then some. In addition to the medals from the 2016 Warrior Games, she went on to medal over 19 times in different events over the course of the next few years, and she even established a world record in discus.
Lopez has defied the physical disabilities that the armadillo caused that fateful Saturday morning in February 2015.
“I might still pursue [Team USA] in the future, between school and everything else — I’m kind of looking into starting a family soon, and I want to focus on that,” Lopez said. “I’m not saying that’s the end of the world for me. I probably will try to pursue it, but maybe 2024 for me.”
The German Wehrmacht and Adolf Hitler’s panzer corps devastated the British military through France and Belgium. Hitler twice stopped his forces from delivering the kill shot on British troops at the French port known as Dunkirk — the location of one of the largest naval evacuations in history. Historians predict that Hitler’s decision to halt his army for three days in May 1940 was to give Winston Churchill, Britain’s new prime minister at the time, “a sporting chance” — despite having them completely surrounded.
While Hitler and Churchill were making strategic moves far and away from front-line combat on the battlefield, another Churchill was gaining near-mythical status for his otherworldly tactics, brazen leadership, and his mystifying ability to confuse the enemy and inspire his peers. On May 27, 1940, Lt. Col. John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill stood at the base of a tower and watched a German patrol approach a hill overlooking the French village of L’Epinette.
The first Nazi officer who appeared in sight was hit center mass from 30 yards — sparking the signal for the ambush. The German’s deadly wound was not from a gunshot but from an arrow fired from a longbow. Alongside two infantrymen from the Manchester Regiment, Churchill unsheathed his basket-hilted claymore medieval sword and commanded orders to maneuvering elements to take out the remaining German patrol. The British officer’s legend leading men in combat armed with a bow and arrow was born, and throughout World War II he repeatedly proved the worth of his nicknames — “Mad Jack” and “Fighting Jack.”
But who exactly was “Mad Jack” Churchill, and what emboldened him to carry medieval weapons into modern combat?
Churchill was born in British-controlled Hong Kong and raised among Anglo-Scottish parents in England alongside his two brothers, Thomas and Robert (both would also have stellar World War II exploits). He received his education at a private institution called King William’s College on the Isle of Man and Royal Military College in Sandhurst, England. Here he fostered a passion for history and poetry and had a romanticism toward adventure that birthed a broader fascination for castles, plants, animals, and insects.
He was commissioned into the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in 1926 and arrived in Rangoon, Burma, to receive further training. He rode a Zenith motorcycle 1,500 miles from his signals course in Poona, India, mistakenly crashing into a water buffalo along the way. In Burma, he balanced his motorcycle on railroad ties as he listened for any signs of oncoming trains. While on duty he participated in flag marches traveling down the Irrawaddy River, Burma’s largest and most frequented commercial highway, to visit villages to collect intelligence on suspected bandits.
Before he left Burma and later the Army with a decade of service in 1936, he learned to play the bagpipes in Maymyo — now known as Pyin Oo Lwin — Mayanmar, an interest piqued by his Scottish heritage. He worked as a newspaper editor in Nairobi, Kenya, and his chiseled jawline led to gigs in male modeling. The adventurer gained attention in England as an entertainer, took a small role in the 1924 film The Thief of Baghdad to advise on archery techniques, and even showcased those skills from 200 yards at the World Archery Championships held in Oslo, Norway, in 1939.
After earning the statistic for the last bow and arrow kill by a British officer in combat, Churchill volunteered for No. 2 Commando, a special operations unit that gained notorious status for daring coastal raids. Dressed in a kilt and holding a set of bagpipes, Churchill played an impressive rendition of the tune March of the Cameron Men before the commandos took part in the ironically named Operation Archery (sometimes called the Måløy Raid), against German positions on the island of Vågsøy, Norway.
During the Italian amphibious landings in Sicily and Salerno he personally captured 42 German soldiers and an 81mm mortar team armed with only his sword. “In my opinion, any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed,” Churchill later reasoned. During a nighttime commando raid in Yugoslavia on the island of Brac, Churchill was wounded, captured, and imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin. He tunneled a route out of the prison camp with another Royal Air Force prisoner but was captured and transferred to a more secure location in Austria, where he successfully escaped once more.
He was found by an American reconnaissance unit eight days later walking on a busted ankle after train hopping 150 miles across the Swiss Alps near Brenner pass. Following the war and into his 40s, he rescued an estimated 500 Jewish doctors and patients held hostage at a hospital in Jerusalem after the Hadassah Convoy Massacre in 1948.
“People are less likely to shoot at you if you are smiling at them,” he quipped while holding his blackthorn cane. In the 1950s, “Mad Jack” retired from military service with two Distinguished Service Order awards and found a passion for refurbished steamboats along the Thames. He also participated in motorcycle speed trials to quench his thirst for excitement.
“He didn’t brag about these things at all, but he would be happy to talk to anyone who asked, particularly if it was over a couple of nice glasses of wine in the evening,” his son Malcolm later said. Churchill was a humble warrior beyond what history proclaimed. He died in 1996 at age 89.
It was another assignment for Pfcs. Marco Garcia and Jovany Castillo, two soldiers inching toward completing the second phase of the Army’s Practical Nurse Course at William Beaumont Army Medical Center. The basic task of measuring vital signs of patients at a local hospital was the assignment, an important but mundane task for health care professionals. Little did they know, their training would be tested in an unforeseen way.
Castillo and Garcia had been together throughout their Army journey since enlisting in October 2017. Together they had endured Army basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, went on to Advanced Individual Training for the first phase of the Practical Nurse Course at Fort Sam Houston, Texas and ended up at Fort Bliss, Texas for the final phase of the course before arriving to their first permanent assignment.
Working alongside each other, the two soldiers made their rounds through patients, mostly children, checking temperatures, blood pressure and pulses.
“We were going around the department, and went into one room where a [toddler] was sitting up in a chair, watching TV eating cereal,” explained Castillo, 25 and native of Huntington Beach, California. “Mom was right behind her on her phone, so we asked if it was alright to get the [patient’s] vitals.”
After consenting, the two began recording the patient’s vitals as they had practiced dozens of times before.
“One thing we’re taught is to interact with the patient, even if it’s an infant,” said Garcia, 26 and native of Spring, Texas. “[The patient] was placing a lot of cereal in their mouth, so we let the mom know but said [the toddler] was okay.”
Moments later, while the two soldiers were still checking the patient, the child began to gasp for air, as the excess cereal had apparently obstructed her airway, springing the two soldiers to action.
“For a second I thought ‘Is this really happening?’ but right away I went to the baby, while [Garcia] went to go get help,” said Castillo. “I was in shock a little, but got over it right away.”
“We looked at each other and [Castillo] went over to help,” said Garcia. “Since he was helping, I went to get a nurse. I trusted him, I knew he was going to do what he needed to do.”
According to Castillo, the patient’s mother had picked up the patient and began tapping the back of the patient in a manner that would have further lodged the obstruction into the trachea, so he instructed her on proper infant choking procedures while assisting the child.
“[The mother] had the baby, I just adjusted her hands and showed her the correct position, then I started tapping the baby’s back,” said Castillo. “Honestly, those were the longest three or four seconds of my life because I was so scared for the little baby. I kept on [patting her back] until I finally heard her take a breath and that’s when I was relieved.”
“When I got back the baby was crying the nurses checked on the baby and made sure everything was okay,” said Garcia.
“It was quick thinking on [the soldiers’] part,” said Robyn Gerbitz, a Registered Nurse and one of the Practical Nurse Course Instructors at WBAMC. “They took the initiative immediately, we could have had a very bad [outcome].”
One of Gerbitz’ lessons for new soldiers includes introducing them to the mantra, “respiratory leads to cardiac,” defining the link between pulmonary and cardiac arrests due to buildup of carbonic acid and lowered oxygen levels in the bloodstream.
“We do a lot of hands-on work in clinical rotations,” said Gerbitz. “These guys are quick thinkers, I’m very proud of them.”
Whether Garcia and Castillo’s quick reaction was a reflection of their medical training kicking in is not certain, since the two soldiers are still weeks away from completing the rigorous 58-week curriculum.
“Instructors make sure we understand and are well equipped to deal with such situations,” said Castillo. “For me, it kind of just happened and I’m happy the way things turned out, it was a rush.”
Before joining the Army, Castillo was going to college while working at a fast food restaurant and Garcia worked with produce at a grocery store. Neither soldier ever thought they would be saving someone’s life just a year into their military service.
“It’s definitely something I joined to do, to help people,” said Garcia. “You learn something new every day. This is a stepping stone for sure.”
After ensuring the baby was stable, the pair just went about their duties and continued checking other patients’ vitals.
“I had just walked in and the nurses told me about the situation,” said Gerbitz. “The director [of the local hospital] recognized the Soldiers right then and there. They reacted humbly, went about their duties. I believe wherever they go, they’re going to make good nurses.”
The Mass Effect series has had its share of ups and downs, but one thing is undeniable — the world-building was done insanely well. One such piece of world-building that is worth mentioning is the existence of the Special Tactics and Reconnaissance agents. For those who don’t know, SPECTREs are special agents, granted authority by a government council to essentially carry out special missions that standard military cannot. This authority also gives them an insane amount of freedom.
If there is any unit, fictional or otherwise, to live up to the “Own F***ing Program” mantra, it’s definitely SPECTREs. Why? Because they’re rarely even assigned tasks; often times they just find their own and occasionally check in with the council that granted them their authority in the first place.
So, here are the biggest reasons being a SPECTRE would be awesome:
Although, you may still have to answer to military and government officials when the time comes.
You can choose your missions
You can also decide which ones take the most precedence. Do you want to rescue colonists before defeating a rogue who’s threatening life in the galaxy? Have at it. For the most part, military officials won’t breathe down your neck about what you’re doing — you just do you.
This allows you to put together your own personal A-team.
You choose your crew
You don’t have to go planet-side with a team that was assigned to you. You can essentially recruit whoever you want, including mercenaries, to watch your back.
Like signing out a duty van — just make sure you fill up the tank.
You get your own ship
Who doesn’t want their own ship to travel where and when as they please at the expense of their government? That ship is basically yours to do with as you please and go where you see fit, even if there aren’t any missions tied to that distant moon you just dropped in on.
Or you can just go with what they give you.
You get the best weapons and gear
“Military grade” doesn’t apply to you. In fact, you can buy whatever you need for your missions, and no higher-up is going to yell at you for it. You want that scope for your rifle? Cool. Do you want to use that alien’s blaster that they just dropped? Go for it. Is the military issued armor not best on the market? Pick up your own.
No more relying on that government salary.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
You can get paid by whoever you want
One thing that may not have been covered is whether SPECTREs earn a salary or not. But, one thing’s for sure — if someone offers to pay you credits for a job, you’re allowed to take it. Remember how we said you can pick your own missions? One being more lucrative than another may actually be part of which ones you take.