One of the enduring images of the Vietnam War is one of the Army or Marine Corps’ infantry troops, sitting out in the jungle or around a rice paddy, wearing a helmet covered in graffiti. Maybe it’s ticking off the number of days he’s been in country. Maybe it’s announcing to the world that the wearer is a bad motherf*cker. Or it could be simply the troop’s blood type and drug allergies.
Truth be told, troops in Vietnam didn’t “get away” with writing on their issued helmets, and neither do the troops who do it today.
As one might imagine, it would be considered counter to good order and discipline to write on one’s helmet cover. The helmet is, after all, a uniform item, usually owned by the government. To deface it would be defacing government property while at the same time violating the rules of wearing your uniform properly. But none of this ever prevented the troops from doing it.
Some troops in Vietnam only ever wore their helmets when doing perimeter duty or moving materiel from one area to another and didn’t really have the downtime with their helmets to make any sort of writing on it. For those who did write on their helmet covers, they’ll tell you there were more important things happening than worrying about what was written on their helmets.
Of course, the difference between troops back then and troops today is that yesteryear’s combat troops could be draftees, which means they’re not the professional army the United States uses as the backbone of its military power. Even so, those who wrote on their helmets were not allowed to wear the helmet with its cover on while in the rear. The MPs would make sure of that. In any case, soldiers were required to wear a cap while in the rear, and the helmet would go back on only when they went back into the sh*t, where no one cared what they wrote anyway.
Vietnam veterans say the graffiti depended on which outfit you were moving with, and was usually okay as long as it didn’t defeat the purpose of camouflage in combat. Others say that as long as the graffiti didn’t disparage the Army, the United States, or the chain of command, it didn’t matter what you wrote or how you wrote it.
If a new NCO or lieutenant was coming into Vietnam for the first time and all he cared about was helmet covers, his troops would call him “dinky dao” anyway.
On a cold afternoon in early January, 1948, control tower operators at Godman Army Airfield in Fort Knox, Kentucky, became aware of the presence of a mysterious object floating in the skies of the base. Reports from nearby highway patrol officers who also saw the UFO were enough to prove to the controllers that they weren’t just seeing things.
After a number of senior officers, including the base’s commanding officer, were called up to the tower in an attempt to make sense of what they were seeing, though none were able to actually clarify what exactly they saw through their binoculars. Military personnel at bases in southern Ohio were also able to see the UFO, which remained hovering over a spot before descending to the earth and the rapidly rising out of sight.
Around the same time of the UFO sighting, a four-ship flight of F-51 Mustangs led by Capt. Thomas Mantell of the Kentucky Air National Guard were on their way to Godman. Mantell, a decorated former Army Air Corps transport pilot with combat time during D-Day in 1944, was notified by the control tower about the UFO, and was soon ordered to fly over and identify the peculiar floating object.
Three of the four Mustangs in the flight banked towards the UFO, while one returned to base thanks to a low fuel readout. Pushing their throttles forward, the three F-51 pilots with Mantell in the lead raced to the object.
One F-51 had to break off the pursuit, due to low oxygen levels. The second remaining F-51 pilot from the flight was also unable to continue with the chase, ending his run at 22,500 ft before returning to base. Mantell doggedly carried onwards, punching through the clouds.
Controllers attempted to communicate with the 25-year-old fighter pilot, but to no avail. Mantell’s Mustang was last seen in a death spiral, dropping from the clouds like a rock until it impacted earth, shattering into pieces. The young captain was killed on impact, his wristwatch stopped at precisely the time of his demise.
The Air Force’s investigation into the incident was immediate. The UFO had disappeared, and a fighter pilot had been killed — the general public was already frenzied at the prospect of malignant extraterrestrials from other worlds attacking the one they lived in.
Initially, investigators theorized that Mantell was killed “trying to reach the planet Venus.” As crazy as that sounds, the theory held some weight. F-51 pilots had been fooled into thinking that the planet Venus, unusually bright in the night sky at that time of year, was a UFO and had given chase just weeks prior to the Mantell incident.
Though this was the official explanation after Mantell’s crash, astronomers at the Ohio State University disproved this hypothesis in the years after, as the sky was still too bright and hazy in the day for Venus to be clearly observed and followed by the four F-51s of the Kentucky air guard.
A second, more plausible theory, was put forward. Mantell might have actually been pursuing a Navy Skyhook weather balloon. At the time, the Skyhook was part of a highly-classified observation program which neither Mantell and his fellow F-51 pilots nor the Godman airfield controllers would have been read into.
The shape, size and general look of a Skyhook with sunlight glinting off its surfaces would have been similar to what the controllers and pilots saw that fateful day in 1948. Mantell’s loss was partially blamed on his inexperience with the Mustang, though he had accumulated over 2,000 flight hours during his service as a military pilot.
His unwillingness to give up chasing the UFO, even when faced with the potential for oxygen deprivation and starvation in the unpressurized cockpit, caused the pilot to black out after experiencing hypoxia. Only one F-51 in his flight was equipped with an oxygen system – Mantell’s lacked such gear. His Mustang then fell back to earth without him in control.
As plausible as the official statement on Mantell’s untimely passing was, the general public took what happened with a massive air of suspicion. Details on the F-51’s crash didn’t add up, and the fact that the UFO was visible from other military bases and surrounded locales and roadways led many to believe that it was part of a government cover-up.
Though the Air Force’s official explanation for the Mantell incident has remained unchanged over the years, many still question it today, and have since viewed the service’s mad dash to come up with answers as a sign of the military hiding the existence of alien life forms.
After decades of sustained land operations, the Navy SEAL Teams are pivoting back to their underwater roots. The acquisition of the SEAL Delivery Vehicle Mark 11 has marked this strategic shift.
SEAL Delivery Vehicles are used to clandestinely transport SEAL operators closer to a target. Naval Special Warfare currently uses the venerable SDV Mark 8.
But the Mark 11 is an improvement to the old design. The new mini-submarine comes with better navigational abilities and increased payload capacity. The new vehicle also weighs 4,000 pounds more and is 12 inches longer, 6 inches taller, and 6 inches wider.
SDVs are wet submarines, meaning that water flows in the vehicle. The SEAL operators have to have underwater breathing apparatuses and wetsuits to survive. They are cumbersome and taxing on the operators, but they get the job done. Naval Special Warfare, however, is looking to add dry submarines to its fleet of midget subs – what you would think of a submarine — in the near future.
The new SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) Mark 11 during navigation training in the Pacific Ocean (US Navy).
Last October, the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) awarded Teledyne Brown Engineering a 8 million contract for the ten Mark 11s. The company has delivered five midget subs already, the last one in June. The remaining five are to be spaced out between Fiscal Year 2021 and 2022.
Currently, the Mark 11 is undergoing operational testing. Of particular importance is the landmark test of deploying and recovering a Mark 11 from a submarine.
Expediting the date of initial operational capability is the fact that both the Mark 8s and Mark 11s utilize the same Dry Dock Shelter (DDS) platform. DDS are attached to a submarine and carry the SDVs closer to the target.
A SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) is loaded aboard the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Dallas (SSN 700). A Dry Deck Shelter (DDS) equipped submarine is attached to the submarine’s rear escape trunk to provide a dry environment for Navy Seals to prepare for special warfare exercises or operations. DDS is the primary supporting craft for the SDV (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Journalist Dave Fliesen).
The improved SDV capabilities of Naval Special Warfare are in response to the National Defense Strategy, which has marked the shift from counterinsurgency operations to near-peer warfare and categorized Russia and China as the biggest threats to U.S. national security. China, in particular, seems to be the main focus of that drive for a potent and well-maintained SDV capability.
“After decades of combat superiority across nearly all operating environments, our military now faces a world in which every domain is aggressively contested,” had said Rear Admiral Collin Green, the commanding officer of Naval Special Warfare in a discussion about the future of his force.
To begin with, there is China’s pugnacious and expansionist foreign policy in the South China Sea. The Chinese Navy, moreover, seems to be going through an arms race reminiscent of the Dreadnaught race between the United Kingdom and Germany that adumbrated the First World War. It can field more than 700 ships in the case of a conflict.
“We are adapting to the evolving strategic environment in order to remain the NSW force the nation expects – flexible, agile, networked, sustainable, and lethal. I am proud to lead this incredible force of highly skilled and creative problem solvers. Our strength lies in the diversity of thought, background, race, gender, and experience found throughout our force,” had added RADM Green.
Last year, Naval Special Warfare Command decided to reactivate SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 2 (SDVT-2) as the committed East Coast SDV unit after 11 years, further signaling its commitment to return its underwater special operations roots. SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1 (SDVT-1) is responsible for the West Coast.
Here’s an interesting fact about the SDV Teams: Master Chief Kirby Horrell – the last Vietnam era Navy SEAL to retire from active duty after an astounding 47 years in uniform – went through the three-month-long SDV school at the age of 56 (he was promoted to Master Chief while in the course). Training dives in SDV school and the SDV Teams are no joke. Some last eight hours or even more.
Fans now have one more reason to be excited for the upcoming release of Avengers: Endgame. According to the film’s director, the fourth flick will feature Stan Lee’s final cameo in a Marvel movie.
“It’s his last one committed to film,” Joe Russo told Mashable at a press day in Los Angeles, squelching the rumor that had been going around that Lee’s final appearance would be in July 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Russo went on to add, “I have to say, I think it’s astonishing that this would be his last cameo. It’s just kind of mind-boggling that he made it to the end of this run. I can’t believe it.”
Since Iron Man in 2008, the comic book legend, who passed away in 2018 at the age of 95, has found his way into every installment of the Marvel franchise, even after his death. His most recent cameo was in Captain Marvel, which came out in March 2019. In the brief clip, Lee plays himself as a passenger on a train, rehearsing lines from a script.
And while the upcoming film will be the last time viewers get to see Lee on-screen, some wonder whether the Avengers movie will contain more than one cameo due to its three-hour length. After all, at just over two hours long, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2had not one but two appearances from Lee.
Regardless, fans of the superhero series don’t have to wait much longer to find out. Avengers: Endgames is set to be released in theaters nationwide on April 26 2019.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
“The Hero Of The Game program is a season long commitment made by the LA Kings to pay tribute to local military personnel and their families. The LA Kings host one military family at each home game to show our gratitude for their continued commitment and sacrifice. As the Hero Of The Game, honorees are treated to dinner in the Lexus Club prior to the game and are recognized on ice during the National Anthem and again during the second period.” — The Official Site of the LA Kings
On March 18, 2019, I was honored by the LA Kings — and it was one of the most patriotic moments of my life.
Being the ‘Hero of the Game’ really wasn’t about me — it was about the service of our nation’s military. The truth is, most of the veterans I’ve spoken with have an uncomfortable relationship with the word “hero.” Few of us personally feel like we live up to the title.
What I tell every veteran who carries survivor’s guilt or who feels like they didn’t do enough is this: you answered your nation’s call. You volunteered, you took an oath, and you were ready to give your life to protect and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies. That’s pretty heroic.
Still, deep down, I don’t personally feel heroic.
I think most of us struggle with this, so when I was informed by a representative of the L.A. Kings that they would like to honor me, I wasn’t really sure what to expect — and honestly, I wasn’t really sure if I deserved it.
Here’s what the night entails:
From left to right: Pin-Ups for Vets founder Gina Elise, U.S. Air Force veteran Shannon Corbeil, Forest Corbeil, Monica Kay
The L.A. Kings have this process down. I was given a very clean itinerary for the evening, including details about complimentary parking, when to pick up my tickets (for myself and three guests), and where to meet a rep from the L.A. Kings who would escort my group to dinner.
In fact, the process is so streamlined that Kings fans know about it and wait to greet that night’s Hero. One woman with season tickets likes to meet the service members and take photos before the game with a touching art print of what it means to be a hero.
Before we even made it inside the Staples Center, patriotic fans were eager to meet me and thank me for my service.
We had no idea what was in store.
The Kings treated us to a delicious (and customized) dinner at the Lexus Club with a great view of L.A. Live and Downtown Los Angeles. We had an hour to eat (and grab some candy) before our rep came back for us and brought me to the ice.
I was informed ahead of time that I would stand on the ice during the National Anthem — and as the Kings were playing the Winnipeg Jets, both the Canadian National Anthem and the U.S. National Anthem would be performed.
The National Anthem during the opening ceremony of the Kings vs Jets.
(Photo by Simone Lara, California Army National Guard)
I don’t know if I should admit this, but I probably cared more about proper protocol and uniform standards during this event than I ever did while on active duty. It was very important to me to reflect well upon my branch and the military as a whole. Strangely, Air Force Instruction 34-1201 doesn’t expressly state uniform guidance for the Hero of the Game — an indoor event with a formation of…me…so I was left to interpret the manual for myself (with the help of previous honorees).
I decided to wear my cover so I could salute the flags during both anthems — and I found myself proud that it is tradition in the United States to infuse a moment of patriotism into our sporting events.
I had been nominated for my work in the veteran community — and specifically for my volunteer efforts with Pin-Ups for Vets, a non-profit organization that helps hospitalized and deployed service members and their families. To make the night even more special, the Kings offered Pin-Ups for Vets ambassadors and their guests free tickets, so after this high-visibility moment, I started receiving messages from fellow vets in the crowd.
Then we were escorted to our holy sh** seats.
One of our neighbors said we were in Eric Stonestreet’s seats — and if this is true, someone please thank him for me.
Seats for the Hero of the Game are graciously donated by a patriotic donor for the season. We got lucky that night because our seats were upgraded further — right up against the glass. That’s how we discovered that hockey is exhilarating and completely vicious.
If it wasn’t the puck flying at my face and ricocheting off the glass, it was the players slamming each other into the wall twelve inches from where we were sitting. Most of the other fans seated next to us held season tickets, so this was normal for them — but for us, it was thrilling.
Oh — and you’re allowed to bang on the glass. I highly recommend it.
As I walked around, people approached to greet me and thank me for my service or, my favorite, tell me about their own time in the military or their family’s service. It was great to connect with people who were excited about the military. It made me realize how far our country has come.
Then, during the first period I really learned what it meant to be the Hero of the Game.
My name came up on the Jumbotron and I looked up, a bit embarrassed, as pictures of me in uniform flashed across the screen. I turned to give my sister a disparaging look and realized she was standing.
The entire arena was standing.
At that moment, I didn’t feel like me, Shannon — I felt like a veteran of the United States Air Force.
As someone who shares military stories on We Are The Mighty, I’m well-versed in how poorly our country treated our Vietnam War Veterans. I have stood witness to the devastation that has been inflicted upon the men and women who have worn the uniform throughout history. I’ve watched my fellow veterans struggle with seen and unseen wounds. I’ve experienced them myself.
Yet that night, as thousands of people stood to honor the Hero of the Game, I felt a deep sense of gratitude and hope. I’m thankful that our countrymen and women support the troops and that Americans recognize and appreciate the sacrifices of our military and want to give back.
I felt so grateful that there are advocates for veterans and that there are non-profits serving them. It was as if I was in a room of people who want the best for each other, which is why we have a military in the first place.
The military stands for the best in the American people, and that night, the American people were standing for the military.
Thank you to the LA Kings, not just for the incredible experience you gave me, but for supporting the military all season long. It means more than you know.
You can nominate a deserving service member as Hero of the Game right here.
Being deployed on a FOB or patrol base means you probably have little contact with the world outside the wire for the better part of a year. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a USO nearby where you can log onto Facebook for 20 minutes at a time until you have to rotate off.
Depending what part of the world you’re in, it might be in the middle of the night back home, and nobody is online — which sucks.
So what can you do to pass the time if you’re stuck in a sh*t hole?
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
1. Hit the gym or freakin’ build an improvised one.
Wood, engineer stakes, and sandbags are just a few key ingredients every FOB has on hand. With some ingenuity and elbow grease, you can construct a new gym or modify an existing one.
Either way, working out is a great way to kill time.
2. Catch up on your movies
Before shipping out, you probably didn’t have much free time during your pre-deployment work up. Now that you’re stuck on a FOB with plenty of down time, break out that portable hard drive you put all those movies on and play cinema catch up.
Your brain and morale will thank you.
You could also learn how to construct a movie theater from a few scraps by following these simple steps.
3. Create new MRE recipes
Let’s face it, the box where the MREs are stored have been completely rat f*cked — it happens all the time. Consider tugging on your creative strings and make something delicious from MRE items no one seems to want.
4. Playing card or board games
Since the military is a competitive world, play a game like Risk that takes a lot of brain power to strategize and beat your opposition. You may even learn something you can use to beat the bad guys in a firefight — you never know.
5. Sleep and then sleep some more — whenever you can
Need we say more?
6. Create a journal
Write down your unique deployment experiences and self-reflection in a journal. You never know, that sh*t could get published later on down the line.
7. Master a video game or two
If you’re lucky enough to have electricity where ever you get sent to, you can recharge that compact gaming system you loaded up with your favorite games. Video games are a nice way to zone out and relax.
It may surprise the younger counterterrorism buffs out there to know that France maintains one of the oldest and most experienced counterterror units in the world, the Group D’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale. If you don’t speak French, all you need to know is that they’re gendarmes, soldiers who can arrest you and – when asked – will come to find you outside of France to arrest you.
This is not something you want to happen to you, as some foolish terrorists found out when they seized the holiest site in Islam at gunpoint.
Islam’s version of the end of the world has a number of minor and major signs to look out for. The major part begins with the appearance of the Mahdi, Islam’s redeemer, who brings the world’s Muslim community back to the religion, helps kill the anti-Christ, and paves the way for the rule of Jesus (yes, Christianity’s Jesus, same guy) on Earth.
Over the years, many people have come forward claiming to be the Mahdi. There was Dia Abdul Zahra Kadim, the leader of an Iraqi insurgent group, killed near Najaf in 2003. The founder of the Nation of Islam, W. Fard Mohammed, claimed to be the Mahdi as many of the Nation’s followers do. Others have followers make the claim for them, like a leader of a Turkish sex cult.
“Listen, I never said I am the redeemer of Islam, I just didn’t say you were wrong to say I am.”
But no one in recent memory left quite the impression on history like Muhammad bin abd Allah al-Qahtani, who led his personal army, al-Ikhwan, to capture the Grand Mosque in Mecca at gunpoint. The Grand Mosque is home to the Kabaa, the holiest site in Islam and destination for all the world’s Islamic pilgrims, a voyage every Muslim must make once in their lifetime. There are a number of other important holy sites contained within.
And in 1979, Mohammed Abdullah al-Qahtani and an estimated 300-600 followers took it over, along with the tens of thousands of people inside. They actually let most of them go, but not before killing the poorly-armed security guards, cutting the phone lines, and sealing themselves in. They were well-armed, well-trained, and well-funded. The Saudis were going to need some help.
“I choose Pierre.”
That’s where GIGN comes in. While the truly ignorant can laugh about how “French commandos” sounds when the only history they know is from World War II, the rest of you need to know these guys wear ski masks and carry .357 Magnums as their sidearm. When the GIGN come to kill you, they want to make sure the job is done. Their training course has an astonishing 95 percent washout rate. While the US was toying with the idea of a special counterterrorism force, GIGN was probably retaking a cargo container ship somewhere.
Their job in Saudi Arabia would be no different, except they would also be training the Saudi and Pakistani special forces who would be going into the Grand Mosque with them.
Somewhere out there is a group of Pakistani commandos who pronounce “flashbang” with a little French accent. Fear those people.
The terrorists weren’t a bunch of desperate weirdos with a fundamentalist ideology. These guys were prepared to bring down the entire Saudi Kingdom while inciting other anti-Saud citizens to do the same. The terrorists immediately repelled the government’s counterattack and waited for whatever the King would throw at them next. GIGN is what came next. France sent three of their finest GIGN men who immediately began training their counterparts on how to effectively clear buildings of pesky terrorists. When the men were ready, they all prepared to storm the gates.
But there was a hitch. Muslim Saudi and Pakistani troops would be going in there alone because the Grand Mosque is forbidden to non-Muslims. Even when they’re trying to retake the mosque. Their GIGN mentors would have to sit back and wait to see how well they trained these men.
This photo of the captured militants doesn’t do justice to how well-trained they were.
Some 50 Pakistani SSG commandos and 10,000 Saudi National Guardsmen stormed the Grand Mosque after two weeks or so of being held by the terrorists. On Dec. 4, 1979, the militants were disbursed from the mosque and forced to hide about in the now-evacuated city of Mecca. The guardsmen and SSG men fared well against the terrorists, killing roughly 560 of them while others fled the scene into Mecca and the countryside, where most were captured.
After the Frenchmen left Saudi Arabia, the hubbub surrounding the Grand Mosque seizure didn’t die. Instead of crackdowns of unruly citizens, the King of Saudi Arabia opted instead to implement many the famous “sharia” laws Saudi Arabia suffered through for decades; the restrictions on women, powerful religious police, and more. Only in the 2010s has the kingdom seen a loosening of these religious laws.
The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a low-cost unmanned air vehicle, successfully completed all test objectives during a 71-minute flight, June 11, 2019, at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona.
The test marked the second successful flight for the aircraft this year. The inaugural 72-minute flight was recorded in March 2019.
The Air Force Research Laboratory developed the low-cost unmanned air vehicle together with Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc. The joint effort falls within AFRL’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology portfolio, which has the goal to break the escalating cost trajectory of tactically relevant aircraft.
“The XQ-58A is the first Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology flight demonstrator with (unmanned aircraft systems) technology to change the way we fly and fight, and build and buy,” said Doug Szczublewski, program manager.
US Air Force Releases Video of New Combat Drone: XQ-58A Valkyrie
There are a total of five planned test flights for the XQ-58A, with objectives that include evaluating system functionality, aerodynamic performance, and launch and recovery systems.
The Air Force Research Laboratory is the primary scientific research and development center for the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development.
A special operations airman from the Kentucky Air National Guard will receive the nation’s second-highest medal for combat valor for his actions on an Afghanistan battlefield.
Gen. David L. Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff, will present the Air Force Cross to Tech. Sgt Daniel P. Keller, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, in a ceremony Ept. 13, 2019. The award — second only to the Medal of Honor — is given to members of the armed forces who display extraordinary heroism while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States.
Keller earned the Air Force Cross on Aug. 16, 2017, while assigned as a joint terminal attack controller for Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component Afghanistan during Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Keller was on a clearance mission in Nangarhar Province against 350 Islamic state fighters, according to the award citation. After 15 hours of sustained contact, the assault force struck an improvised explosive device, killing four personnel and wounding 31. Injured and struggling to his feet, Keller executed air-to-ground engagements while returning fire, repulsing an enemy assault less than 150 meters away.
Staff Sgt. Daniel P. Keller, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, receives the Air Force Cross, the nation’s second-highest medal for combat valor for his actions on an Afghanistan battlefield.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Vicky Spesard)
Keller then helped move 13 critically wounded casualties to a helicopter landing zone “under a hail of enemy fire,” the citation said. “When medical evacuation helicopters were unable to identify the landing zone, he sprinted to the center of the field, exposing himself to enemy fire in order to marshal in both aircraft and aid in loading causalities.”
As U.S. forces departed, Keller fought off a three-sided enemy attack by returning fire and passing enemy positions on to another joint terminal attack controller.
“His courage, quick actions and tactical expertise … under fire directly contributed to the survival of the 130 members of his assault force, including 31 wounded in action,” the citation concluded.
A Silver Star medal for the same operation was presented at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Sept. 6, 2019, to Air Force Staff Sgt. Pete Dinich, an active-duty pararescueman assigned to the 24th Special Operations Wing.
Special Tactics is the Air Force and Air National Guard’s special operations cadre, leading personnel recovery, global access, precision-strike missions and battlefield medical care.
This article originally appeared on National Guard. Follow @USNationalGuard on Twitter.
On April 6, 2008, two Special Forces operational detachments and more than 100 Afghan commandos began an air assault into a mountain fortress above the Shok Valley.
Six and a half hours later, two members of the assault were killed and nine seriously wounded, over 100 enemy fighters were dead or captured, and eleven men had earned some of the nation’s highest awards for valor. This is what happened.
Entering Shok Valley
The assault was to capture leaders in Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin, a regional insurgent group in Afghanistan. The targets were holed up in a mountain top village surrounded by farm terraces and tall cliffs, providing tough ground for an assaulting force to cover. The village itself was made of strong, multistory buildings that would provide defenders cover while allowing them to fire out.
The American and Afghan force flew to the valley in helicopters. Their initial plan called for a quick insertion close to the village so they could assault while they still had the element of surprise. Their first landing zone was no good though, and so they were dropped into a nearby river and forced to climb up from there. The delay allowed insurgent forces to set up an ambush from the high ground.
Combat breaks out
After the helicopters departed, enemy fighters directed automatic weapon and rocket fire on the American and Afghan National Army soldiers. Their interpreter was killed almost immediately and the communications sergeant, Staff Sgt. Dillon Behr, received a life-threatening wound to his leg. He continued fighting, attempting to suppress some of the incoming fire.
Meanwhile, the assault team had already reached the village, and so found themselves cut off when the forces behind them began taking fire. Despite the precarious position he and the lead Afghan commandos were in, Sgt. David Sanders began relaying the sources of incoming fire to the Air Force joint tactical air controller on the mission.
The mission commander, Capt. Kyle Walton, told an Army journalist later that year about the initial bombings on the target. They were all danger close, meaning friendly forces were within range of the bombs’ blast.
“I was standing next to the combat controller, and when we got to a place where we could talk, he called in close air support, and the F-15s rolled in immediately. I knew my guys were up there, and I know that when you call in danger close air, you are probably going to get injured or killed. I called back to Sanders and asked if he was too close. He said, ‘Bring it anyway.’ Bombs started exploding everywhere. When I called to see if he was still alive, all I could hear him saying was, ‘Hit them again.’ ”
The Air Force JTAC, Airman Zachary Rhyner, would go on to call over 70 danger close missions that day, using eight Air Force planes and four Army attack helicopters to achieve effects on the target.
Three-story explosion and sniper warfare
As the battle continued to rage, both sides were using controlled, focused fire to wound and kill enemies. But a massive explosion after an American bomb hit a three-story building in the village brought on a brief lull in the fighting.
“Good guy or bad guy, you’re going to stop when you see that,” Staff Sgt. Luis Morales, a Special Forces intelligence sergeant, told the Army. “It reminded me of the videos from 9/11 — everything starts flushing at you, debris starts falling — and everything gets darker.”
The Americans and Afghan commandos used this time to consolidate some of their forces.
Both before and after the explosion, snipers on each side were playing a key role. For the Americans, one of their top assets was Staff Sgt. Seth E. Howard, a Special Forces weapons sergeant.
Near the command node, Howard was well-positioned to see the enemy fighters draw close to Walton and the JTAC. To prevent them being killed or captured, Walton stepped away from his position and moved into the open to engage the advancing fighters. He halted their advance, allowing Rhyner to continue calling in bombs.
Rhyner’s bombs would also be instrumental in protecting the command node. He sometimes had to order bombs within 100 meters of his and Walton’s position.
Planning to leave
American forces and Afghan commandos had more problems as the day wore on. The weather at the outset of the mission had been tricky, but the team was getting reports that a dust storm was getting worse and would stop air support before nightfall. That would leave them without bombs, helicopters, or an exit strategy. Meanwhile, surveillance platforms showed another 200 enemy fighters moving to the battlefield.
Walton had requested medical evacuation multiple times, but enemy fire made it impossible. And with six seriously wounded men, a closing window to exit the battlefield, and the serious danger of being overrun, Walton began looking at pulling the team out. But there was a problem. The initial plans had called for the team to leave by descending back down the terraces, a route now closed due to intense enemy fire.
Sanders had managed to break out of his besieged position in the village when another green beret forced a route open. Now, Walton asked him to recon a route down the sheer cliffs to the north of the village.
Sanders told the commander that the route was bad and it was possible that some climbers might break their backs or necks attempting it, but they’d probably live. The situation was so dire, Walton approved it as an exit strategy.
Leaving Shok Valley under heavy fire
Team Sergeant Master Sgt. Scott Ford led the organization at the top of the cliffs. He had less wounded team members carry the more seriously wounded down. One team member made the climb while carrying his leg that had been amputated by a sniper round early in the battle. Others were nursing wounds sustained from both insurgent fire and the effects of all the “danger close” bomb drops.
Ford was defending the top of the cliff other soldiers were climbing down when he was struck in the chest plate by a sniper round. He jumped up and continued fighting, but he was struck again. This time, his left arm was nearly amputated. Ford then finally began his own climb down the mountain, continuing to lead his men as he did so.
Howard, the sniper from above, stayed until all the other Americans and the Afghan commandos had left the mountain. He defended the top of the cliffs with his last magazine before pulling out.
One Afghan commando and an interpreter died, but all of the Americans survived the battle. The Army estimated the insurgents suffered over 150 dead and an untold number of wounded, according to an Army article. Eight insurgents were captured.
After the battle
Many of the wounded members of the team returned to service, including Ford and Sgt. 1st Class John Walding, the team member who lost his leg early on and carried it down the cliffs. Walding is attempting to return to his team, an ambition he describes near the end of this Army video about the battle. He later became the first amputee to graduate the Special Forces Sniper Course.
In a ceremony on Dec. 12, 2008, 10 members of the team were awarded Silver Stars. Rhyner was awarded the Air Force Cross during a separate ceremony in 2009.
Do some people call you a Space Cowboy? Or do they call you a Gangster of Love?
Well, if they do, have we got the job for you!
NASA recently announced that it is accepting candidates for its next astronaut class. The goal is to have humans on the Moon by 2024 with the next step of setting foot on Mars by the mid-2030s.
Dubbed the Artemis Generation, this new class of space cadets will make up the core of what should be the most historic period of space exploration since the Apollo Program.
“America is closer than any other time in history since the Apollo program to returning astronauts to the Moon. We will send the first woman and next man to the lunar South Pole by 2024, and we need more astronauts to follow suit on the Moon, and then Mars,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We’re looking for talented men and women from diverse backgrounds and every walk of life to join us in this new era of human exploration that begins with the Artemis program to the Moon. If you have always dreamed of being an astronaut, apply now.”
The last time NASA took applications, over 18,000 people applied for what would end up being 11 spots.
The odds are against you right?
Probably! (Successfully applying through USAJobs is the first difficult hurdle. View the job here.)
You may be a genius when it comes to knowing everything during comment wars on Facebook, but to be an astronaut, you have to be educated in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) field with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. (the University of Hard Knocks doesn’t count sorry) plus at least three years of proficiency in your field. Advanced degrees go a long way.
If you want to be a pilot (the new Orion might be the new transport for Americans), you must have over 1,000 hours of command pilot experience under your belt.
People usually focus on the science and education portion of being an astronaut without realizing that physical fitness is a major part of being accepted. Astronauts used to be only military men, but with the expansion of applicants into the civilian side, NASA makes sure that everyone that makes it into the interview stage (by this time down to 120 from 18,000) can pass a strenuous physical and medical exam.
It will probably be a bit more complicated than this.
As a civilian, you get paid GS11 to GS14 wages. If you are in the military still, you will get your typical military pay based on your rank and time in service.
If you made it past the initial selection, interviews and physical and medical exams, then you have to go through nearly two years of Astronaut training. What does that entail?
Here are some of the things you will have to learn and show proficiency in:
Candidates must complete military water survival and become SCUBA qualified to prepare them for spacewalk training. Astronaut Candidates must pass a swimming test in their first month of training. They must swim three lengths of a 25-meter pool without stopping, and then swim three lengths of the pool in a flight suit and sneakers. They also have to tread water for 10 minutes wearing a flight suit.
Candidates are exposed to problems associated with high (hyperbaric) and low (hypobaric) atmospheric pressures in the altitude chambers and learn to deal with emergencies associated with these conditions.
Additionally, candidates are given exposure to space flight during training in modified jet aircraft (the Vomit Comet) as it performs maneuvers that produce weightlessness for about 20 seconds. This sequence is repeated up to 40 times in a day.
Finally, Astronaut Candidate Program will require successful completion of the following:
International Space Station systems training
Extravehicular Activity skills training
Robotics skills training
Russian Language training (We beat the Ruskies to the Moon but now have to ask them for a ride…. Until the Orion is ready)
Russia is (by land mass), the largest country in the world. At one point in its history, it was home to the largest army in the world, the largest stockpile of nuclear warheads, and… the largest submarines ever built.
Known to the West as the Typhoon class, and to Russians as “Akula” (shark), these black and red beasts were created as a counter to the American Ohio class, carrying dozens of nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles as a deterrent during the Cold War.
At 574 feet long and 75 feet in breadth, these these 25,000 ton monsters were actually larger and wider than the American vessels they were created to compete with.
Essentially tasked with inflicting a nuclear apocalypse upon the West if the Cold War got hot, the Typhoons were given a fairly unique design to keep the boats rugged and survivable — should either an accident or an anti-submarine attack occur — so that they could still carry out their incredibly destructive mission.
Inside the Typhoon’s hulking mass existed a pair of longer pressure hulls from older Delta-class ballistic missile submarines and three more smaller hulls placed around the boat to protect other critical points like engineering spaces and the torpedo rooms. Should a breach occur — whether by collision or attack — the crew inside the other pressure hulls would be safe and the sub would still be operational.
Typhoons carry their missiles in front of their gigantic (and almost comically oversized) sail instead of behind it, as Delta-class and American Ohio-class boats do.
Two nuclear reactors give these warships the power they need to operate, allowing for a maximum speed of around 27 knots underwater (31 mph).
Instead of constantly traversing the world’s oceans, Typhoons were built to sit under the Arctic Circle for months at a time, waiting to punch through the ice in order to launch their deadly payloads of nuclear-tipped missiles.
Because of their designated operating locations, these subs could often escape harassment by American and British hunter/killer submarines constantly prowling around the Atlantic Ocean looking for Soviet warships to mess with.
Because of the length and duration of their missions, Typhoons were designed with crew comfort in mind. In fact, the accommodations aboard a Typhoon were so luxurious that sailors in the Soviet (and later, Russian) navy nicknamed these gargantuan vessels “floating Hiltons.”
Instead of utilitarian steel furniture with minimal padding, a Typhoon’s interior features wooden-paneled walls, comfortable padded chairs, raised ceilings and full-sized doorways, and a fully-stocked gym. Unlike any other submarine ever built, each Typhoon also came with a unique and somewhat enviable feature – a lounge for sailors, including a swimming pool and a sauna.
You didn’t misread that – Typhoons were actually built with small two-foot-deep swimming pools to improve crew morale on long deployments, along with saunas and a lounge area with plush rocking chairs. Televisions (a luxury in the Soviet Navy) were also set up throughout the boat, playing Soviet movies, television shows and propaganda for the crew’s entertainment.
But just as these behemoth war machines entered service with the Soviet Navy, their time rapidly began to wind down. Of the seven planned Typhoons, six were built throughout the 1980s and retired less than 10 years later in the 1990s.
The Russian government simply couldn’t afford to keep fielding the largest missile submarines they (or any other country in the world) had ever built.
In the 1990s, the US and Canadian governments began offering financial incentives to Russia, after the fall of the Soviet Union, to retire a number of their nuclear deterrent warships. Among the many sent to the wreckers were three of the six Typhoons, with the other three staying in service.
Today, only one Typhoon remains active while two others have been placed in reserve. The sole active sub, the Dmitriy Donskoy, serves as a test platform for Russia’s newest submarine-launched cruise missiles, though its days are also numbered with the advent of newer Russian Borei-class ballistic missile subs.
The other two Typhoons currently held in reserve — the Arkhangelsk and the Severstal — will likely be scrapped between 2018 and 2019, with the Donskoy following not too long after, ending the story of the largest nuclear ballistic missile submarines ever built.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has defended his company’s work with the American military, saying “this is a great country and it does need to be defended” — an implicit rebuke of Google over its decision to ditch US military contracts.
Speaking at the Wired 25 conference in San Francisco, California on Oct. 15, 2018, the online retail giant’s chief exec strongly spoke out in support of the technology industry’s work for the American military even as some companies reconsider their stance on the practice.
“If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the US Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble,” he said.
Amazon is also bidding for the JEDI contract — and unlike some of the other tech giants, it has no intention of backing out. When asked about the actions taken by Google and others, Bezos did not mention the rival company by name — but his remarks can be seen as a criticism of the company.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai.
“We are going to continue to support the [Department of Defense]. And I think we should,” Bezos said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me… One of the jobs of the senior leadership team is to make the right decision even when it’s unpopular. If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the US Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble.”
He added: “I like this country … know everybody is very conflicted about the current politics in this country and so on — this country is a gem. And it’s amazing. It’s the best place in the world. It’s the place where people want to come. There aren’t other countries where everyone is trying to get in. I’d let them in if it were up to me. I like them. I want all of them in.
“This is a great country and it does need to be defended. “
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.