What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY FIT

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

Some hucksters will have you believe that in order for you to get the best results from your training you need to be taking some combination of pills and powders daily.

That’s not true. There are very few supplements that are worth the plastic tubs that they’re stored in. I’m here to tell you which supplements are worth it and which aren’t.


In order to keep things relatively uncomplicated, the supplements that I talk about here are only those that you don’t require to survive. The vitamins and minerals that we require for life are just that, necessary to survive. Obviously, if you are deficient in one of those, you should be supplementing or changing your diet around.

NO!

What I’m talking about are those supplements that are completely unnecessary for human life that you’re potentially spending greater than 10% of your monthly income on… I’m talking to you Cpl Jones.

I went to bodybuilding.com and searched their top 50 most selling supplements. I’m sure this list is very similar to the sales in your closest Exchange on base, so I’ll just use it as a proxy. Out of those top 50 selling supplements, all fall into the following categories:

  • Protein powder
  • Pre Workout
  • BCAAs
  • Creatine
  • Post-workout
  • Weight loss AKA Fat burner
  • Multivitamin
  • Intra Workout
  • Testosterone ‘support’
  • Omega 3
  • Pump stimulator
  • Mass gainer
How Much Protein To Build Muscle? The TRUTH !

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Protein powder

I don’t fully accept that protein powder is a supplement…because it’s a macronutrient. You need protein. If you aren’t getting enough in your diet from foods, It’s perfectly acceptable to buy and use some form of protein powder.

When should you have it? Literally whenever. There is no significantly important anabolic window. If you are eating somewhere in the ballpark of .8-1.3 grams of protein per lb of body weight per day, then you’re fine. For more on nutrition timing, check this out.

NOW, not all protein powders are created the same. There are generally three factors that you should keep in perspective when you go to buy some protein powder. Here they are in order of importance:

  1. Leucine Content: If a protein powder has less than 11% leucine or if it doesn’t list the exact proportions of amino acids, it’s sh!t protein with useless fillers. You don’t get an adequate muscle protein synthesis response with any dose of protein that has less than 2.5 grams of leucine in it. 11% leucine puts you at just over 2.5g of leucine for a typical serving scoop of powder of 25 grams of protein. This may seem more complicated than it actually is… read more on it here or shoot me an email at michael@composurefitness.com, and I’ll gladly explain it to you in detail.
  2. Ingredients: If you’re supplementing with additional protein, then supplement with protein, not a ‘proprietary blend.’ If there are other ingredients in your preferred brand, the chances are that they are simply trying to distract you from the fact that there’s an inadequate amount of leucine per serving.
  3. Sourcing: This one is simply based on your preferences. If you’re vegan or dairy doesn’t sit well in your stomach, then you’ll want to avoid proteins like whey and casein. Typically worthwhile vegan proteins will be a blend in order to get you the required amount of leucine. That being said if it doesn’t tell you what the blend is or again how much leucine there is per serving then it’s bullshit hippie nonsense made by someone just trying to take advantage of you or that’s too stupid to understand how protein supplementation works; either way, they don’t deserve your money.
How I make my own Pre-Workout to be both more effective and save $$$$$

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Pre-workout

This category is pretty large, mostly I’m talking about those dumb supplements with names like Gnar Pump, NitraFlex, Pre-Kaged, NeuroCore, and Pump Mode. Chances are that if it has a dumb name, it’s a waste of your money.

You’ll see, though, my umbrella recommendation is pretty consistent. If the supplement you’re considering contains any trademarked or patented blend/mix of supplements instead of individually listing the supplements, don’t buy it.

There are plenty of pre-workout supplements that have been shown to help increase performance. Recommendations are varied depending on what type of training session you are walking into and what the rest of your diet looks like.

Caffeine taken with theanine are pretty much always a safe idea to supplement with 30 minutes prior to training. That is my blanket recommendation for pre-workout. I failed to find any pre-workouts on the top 50 purchased supplements on bodybuilding.com that contained solely caffeine and theanine. They pretty much all have nonsense and bullsh!t in them.

If you’re a constant experiment, which you are, and you want to find out what actually impacts your performance, which you do, how can you figure that out if you’re taking a supplement that has 60 ingredients? There’s no way to know what’s working, what’s fluff, and what’s contributing to the tingling side-effect.

If you’ve already Pavlov’s-dogged yourself into needing that tingling sensation in order to get a good workout have no fear, it’s not something dangerous.

  • It’s probably beta-alanine that your favorite blend uses to achieve that feeling, which isn’t harmful and can actually aid in physical efforts over a minute.
Or it’s niacin, which although harmless at low levels, can lead to insulin resistance from prolonged exposure.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CREATINE (Ft. Eric Helms)

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Creatine

Creatine is probably the most highly researched supplement in existence. Yes, it does work, but what it does is probably not what you think it does.

Creatine doesn’t make you stronger or more muscular. It helps increase your power output, which in turn can make you stronger and more muscular.

It’s cheap and effective. If you want to invest in one supplement that will help you in your strength/muscle/health journey, this is the one.

If you want a full rundown on how creatine works exactly, send me an email at michael@composurefitness.com

and I’ll write a future article on the topic.

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

In part 2 I’ll cover BCAAs, Post Workout Supplements, Intra Workout Supplements, and Multivitamins. That’s when things get interesting.

As I mentioned multiple times throughout this article, if you have any questions or alternative opinions on my take on these types of supplements, do not hesitate to email me at michael@composurefitness.com.

As always, when it comes to nutrition, your number one solution to any dietary need or hack should be to alter your diet of real foods to get adequate quantities and proportions of macro and micronutrients. Only after you have that dialed-in like I very explicitly outline in The Ultimate Composure Nutrition Guide should you bother walking down the supplement aisle.

If you made it this far in the article, you clearly care about your health and fitness. Why then have you not joined the Mighty Fit FB group? If you are in the group post in there which category of sports supplements that I covered in this article that you are the most disappointed by.
What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The legendary tanker that refuels planes in flight

While it may sound cliché, it’s a common motto within the tanker community. For more than 60 years of continuous service, the KC-135 Stratotanker has been the core aerial refueling capability for U.S. operations around the world.

The KC-135 provides the Air Force with its primary mission of global reach, but it also supports the Navy, Marine Corps and allied nations in assisting training, combat and humanitarian engagements.


The aircraft is also capable of transporting litters and ambulatory patients using patient support pallets during aeromedical evacuations.

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

A Cold War-era image of B-52D refueling from a KC-135A.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The stratotanker was the Air Force’s first jet-powered refueling tanker, replacing the KC-97 Stratofreighter. It was originally designed and tasked to support strategic bombers, but has been heavily used in all major conflicts since its development, extending the range and endurance of U.S. tactical fighters and bombers.

The KC-135 is a mid-air refueling aircraft with a telescoping “flying boom” tube located on the rear of the plane. A boom operator lays prone and guides the boom insert into a receptacle on the receiving aircraft. With a single boom, aircraft refuel one at a time.

The mid-air refueling capability changed the landscape of air dominance during the Vietnam War and enabled tactical fighter-bombers of the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps to stay on the front lines for hours rather than minutes due to their limited fuel reserves and high fuel consumption.

For bombers, all targets were now within reach without the need of hopping from base to base until striking their targets. No longer are lives at stake to build airstrips to support bombing campaigns, as they were in WWII.

Development and design

The Boeing Company’s model 367-80 jet transport, commonly called the “Dash-80,” was the basic design for the commercial 707 passenger plane as well as the KC-135A Stratotanker.

In 1954, the Air Force purchased the first 29 of its future 803 aerial refueling tanker fleet. The first aircraft flew in August 1956, and the initial production Stratotanker was delivered to Castle Air Force Base, California, in June 1957. The last KC-135 was delivered to the Air Force in 1965.

The aircraft’s KC identifier stands for (K) tanker (C) transport.

The aircraft is powered by four turbofan engines mounted on 35-degree swept wings, has a flight speed of more than 500 mph and a flight range of nearly 1,500 miles when loaded with 150,000 lbs. of fuel.

The KC-135 has been modified and retrofitted through the years with each update providing stronger engines, fuel management and avionics systems. The recent Block 45 update added a new glass cockpit digital display, radio altimeter, digital autopilot, digital flight director and computer updates.

Of the original KC-135As, more than 417 were modified with new CFM-56 engines.

The re-engined tanker, designated either the KC-135R or KC-135T, can offload 50 percent more fuel, is 25 percent more fuel efficient, costs 25 percent less to operate and is 96 percent quieter than the KC-135A.

In 1981 the KC-10 Extender was introduced to supplement the KC-135. The KC-10 doubles the fuel carrying capacity of the KC-135, which is critical in supporting mobility operations of large cargo aircraft like the C-5 Galaxy and the C-17 Globemaster III.

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

Airmen of the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron perform lifesaving procedures to a patient in a KC-135 Stratotanker, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, March 26, 2015. Aircrew and a KC-135 from Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, spent multiple days at Ramstein performing aerial refueling missions, which also gave AES Airmen the opportunity to train on their mission inside a different airframe.

(Photo by Damon Kasberg)

Through the years, the KC-135 has been altered to do other jobs ranging from flying command post missions to reconnaissance. RC-135s are used for special reconnaissance and Air Force Materiel Command’s NKC-135As are flown in test programs. Air Combat Command operates the OC-135 as an observation platform in compliance with the Open Skies Treaty.

The KC-135R and KC-135T aircraft continue to undergo life-cycle upgrades to expand their capabilities and improve reliability. Among these are improved communications, navigation and surveillance equipment to meet future civil air traffic control needs.

There have been 11 variants or models through the years of the C-135 family.

The aircraft carries a basic crew of three, a pilot, co-pilot and boom operator. Some missions require the addition of a navigator.

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

An A-10C Thunderbolt II receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Afghanistan Oct. 2, 2013. The A-10 is deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., to the 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The KC-135 is assigned to the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron.

(Photo by Stephany Richards)

Nearly all internal fuel can be pumped through the flying boom. A special shuttlecock-shaped drogue attached to and trailing behind the flying boom may be used to refuel aircraft fitted with probes. Some aircraft have been configured with the multipoint refueling system, which consists of special pods mounted on the wingtips. These KC-135s are capable of refueling two receiver aircraft at the same time.

In 2007 the Air Force announced plans for the KC-X tanker replacement program for the KC-135. In 2011, the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus was selected as the winner of the program.

The first 18 combat-ready Pegasus tankers are expected for delivery by 2019.

The KC-135 E and R models are expected to continue service until 2040 when they will be nearly 80 years old.

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

A KC-135 Stratotanker flies through storm clouds on its way to refuel a C-17 Globemaster III off Florida’s east coast, July 12, 2012. The KC-135 was the Air Force’s first jet-powered refueling tanker and replaced the KC-97L Stratofreighter.

(Photo by Jeremy Lock)

Operation and deployment

Air Mobility Command manages the current inventory of 396 Stratotankers, of which the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard fly 243 aircraft in support of AMC’s mission.

While AMC gained the control of the aerial refueling mission, a small number of KC-135s were also assigned directly to U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Pacific Air Forces and the Air Education and Training Command.

All Air Force Reserve Command KC-135s and most of the Air National Guard KC-135 fleet are operationally controlled by AMC, while Alaska Air National Guard and Hawaii Air National Guard KC-135s are operationally controlled by PACAF.

Did you know?

  • The Stratotanker is constructed with almost 500,000 rivets. The installed cost of these rivets range from 14 cents to id=”listicle-2595814234″.50 each.
  • The KC-135 as 23 windows, nearly all of which are heated electrically or with hot air to prevent fogging.
  • The tanker has a cargo area easily capable of holding a bowling alley, with enough room left over for a gallery of spectators. The cargo area is almost 11 feet wide, 86 feet long and 7 feet high: the equivalent of 220 automobile trunks.
  • The KC-135 transfers enough fuel through the refueling boom in one minute to operate the average family car for more than one year.
  • It can transfer more fuel in 8 minutes than a gas station could pump in 24 hours.
What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress leads a formation of aircraft including two Polish air force F-16 Fighting Falcons, four U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, two German Eurofighter Typhoons and four Swedish Gripens over the Baltic Sea, June 9, 2016. The formation was captured from a KC-135 from the 434th Air Refueling Wing, Grissom Air Force Base, Indiana as part of exercise BALTOPS 2016.

(Photo by Erin Babis)

KC-135 Stratotanker fact sheet:

General characteristics

  • Primary function: Aerial refueling and airlift
  • Builder: The Boeing Company
  • Power plant: CFM International CFM-56 turbofan engines
  • Thrust: 21,634 pounds of thrust in each engine
  • Wingspan: 130 feet, 10 inches (39.88 meters)
  • Length: 136 feet, 3 inches (41.53 meters)
  • Height: 41 feet, 8 inches (12.7 meters)
  • Speed: 530 mph at 30,000 feet (9,144)
  • Range: 1,500 miles (2,419 kilometers) with 150,000 pounds (68, 039 kilograms) of transfer fuel; ferry mission, up to 11,015 miles (17,766 kilometers)
  • Ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,240 meters)
  • Maximum takeoff weight: 322,500 pounds (146, 285 kilograms)
  • Maximum Transfer Fuel Load: 200,000 pounds (90,719 kilograms)
  • Maximum Cargo Capability: 83,000 pounds (37,648 kilograms), 37 passengers
  • Crew: 3 (pilot, co-pilot and boom operator. Some KC-135 missions require the addition of a navigator. The Air Force has a limited number of navigator suites that can be installed for unique missions.)
  • Aeromedical Evacuation Crew: A basic crew of five (two flight nurses and three medical technicians) is added for aeromedical evacuation missions. Medical crew may be altered as required by the needs of patients.
  • Initial operating capability: 1956
  • Unit cost: .6 million

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

20 rarely seen 9/11 photos

When we think about September 11, we picture where we were, what we saw and how it felt. Iconic images and video from the moments before, during and after the attacks sit in our hearts and minds.

So maybe that’s why these lesser-seen photos have so much power. They serve as reminders of both what we lost that day and the resolve we gained.

On September 11 we pause and remember where we were, what we saw and how it felt.


Where were you when the towers fell? When the Pentagon burned? When heroes forced the plane to the ground in Pennsylvania, sacrificing themselves and saving others?

These photos are reminders of those moments and the patriotic fervor that welled inside us in the days that followed.

Never forget.

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

President George W. Bush turns around to watch television coverage of the attacks on the World Trade Center Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, as he is briefed in a classroom at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. (Photo by Eric Draper, courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library)

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

The aftermath in Washington of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon, Sept. 11, 2001. (Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Houlihan)

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

An aerial view of the damage at the Pentagon two days after Sept. 11, 2001. On that day, five members of al-Qaida, a group of fundamentalist Islamic Muslims, hijacked American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757-200, from Dulles International Airport just outside Washington and flew the aircraft and its 64 passengers into the side of the Pentagon. (Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Cedric H. Rudisill)

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

View of a damaged office on the fifth floor of the Pentagon. (Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Larry A. Simmons)

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

President George W. Bush talks with Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and other advisors during meetings at the President’s Emergency Operations Center, Sept. 11, 2001. (National Archives)

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

A clock, frozen at the time of impact, inside the Pentagon. (Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Larry A. Simmons)

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

Vice President Dick Cheney sits with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice in the President’s Emergency Operations Center during meetings on the day of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. (National Archives)

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

Smoke rises from the site of the World Trade Center, Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo by Paul Morse, courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library)

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

Burned and melted items sit atop an office desk inside the fifth floor of the Pentagon. (Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Larry A. Simmons)

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

President George W. Bush talks on the telephone Sept. 11, 2001, as senior staff huddle aboard Air Force One. (Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library)

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

Secretary of State Colin Powell gets briefed inside the President’s Emergency Operations Center, Sept. 11, 2001. (National Archives)

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

Wearing a gas mask, a New York National Guard soldier from the “Fighting” 69th Infantry Division pauses amid the rubble at ground zero. (New York National Guard)

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney meet in the President’s Emergency Operations Center during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. (National Archives)

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

New York National Guard soldiers from the 69th Infantry Division and New York City firefighters band together to remove rubble from ground zero at the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. (New York National Guard)

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

President George W. Bush grasps the hand of his father, former President George H. W. Bush, after speaking at the service for America’s National Day of Prayer and Remembrance at the National Cathedral in Washington, Sept. 14, 2001. (Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library)

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

The president greets firefighters, police and rescue personnel, Sept. 14, 2001, while touring the site of the World Trade Center terrorist attack in New York. (Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library)

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice look on inside the President’s Emergency Operations Center during meetings on the day of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. (National Archives)

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

President George W. Bush greets rescue workers, firefighters and military personnel, Sept. 12, 2001, while surveying damage caused by the previous day’s terrorist attacks on the Pentagon. (Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library)

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) render honors as firefighters and rescue workers unfurl a huge American flag over the side of the Pentagon while rescue and recovery efforts continued following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack. The garrison flag, sent from the U.S. Army Band at nearby Fort Myer, Virginia, is the largest authorized flag for the military. (Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Pendergrass)

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

Sandra Dahl, left, is the widow of Jason Dahl, the pilot of United Airlines Flight 93, which went down in Somerset, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 11, 2001. The plane was believed to have been en route to the White House. Here, she holds an American flag along with Air Force Lt. Col. Mike Low after flying in the back seat of his F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter. (Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Darin Overstreet)

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

popular

The longest land battle in US history was a huge mistake

The fight for the Hurtgen Forest was one of the most devastating battles of all World War II Europe and one of few the U.S. Army lost after landing at Normandy on D-Day. The relatively quick advance through France gave Allied commanders the drive to race to enter Germany. The pace was so fast, they outran their supply lines and had to take a pause – a pause that would result in the longest land battle in U.S. military history.


Having to wait for the Allied supply lines to catch up to the front gave the beleaguered Nazis the chance to regroup and settle down in one of Europe’s most dense and dark forests. It was a place the Army should never have entered.

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1
American troops man a machine gun in a captured German position during the 1944 Battle of Hurtgen Forest.

 

To put it mildly, the forest was the ideal place to defend. As the summer was turning to fall, which would soon see winter, the dense wood would see snow and rain that would churn the dirt to mud. Dense forests, deep ravines, and steep hills also gave the German defenders the advantage in the forest. To top it all off, there were also abandoned and overgrown concrete bunkers, part of the old Siegfried Line of defensive fortifications throughout the forest – and that’s exactly what drove the Americans into the bunker.

So after they gave the Germans time to roll out the barbed wire, booby traps, and minefields, the Americans decided to assault the forest head-on in an attempt to be the first to fight and take the vaunted Siegfried Line and thus be the first to enter Germany.

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1
Not my first choice of target, but okay.

 

The forest itself was 70 square miles and was situated between Aachen, a city under siege that would not surrender, and the Ruhr Dam along the Rhine, one the Allies were afraid the Nazis would just destroy in an attempt to flood the Allied advance. The Americans decided they would assault the forest directly, and swiftly neutralize the threat to the dam while ensuring the fall of Aachen. That did not happen.

American tanks and airpower were ineffective while fighting in the forest and the machine gun – which the Wehrmacht had in spades – was the most effective weapon, especially considering the difficulty seeing for any kind of distance, along with the hills and ravines throughout the forest. The Germans zeroed in their mortars before the Americans ever arrived. The Americans should never have engaged the forest at all.

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1
Even Ernest Hemingway, who feared nothing and no one, opted not to stay at Hurtgen Forest. No joke.

 

The U.S. Army didn’t have to go into the woods. The Siegfried Line was being assaulted all along its perimeter. The debacle at Hurtgen cost anywhere from 30,000-50,000 casualties at a cost of just 28,000 German casualties. To make matters worse, the months slowdown in advancement allowed the Germans to break out in a winter offensive, an advance that would come to be known as the Battle of the Bulge.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why Germany gets blamed for starting World War I

On June 28, 1914, an assassin supplied by terrorists shot and killed the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, igniting an already tense situation between Serbia and the Hapsburg-controlled monarchy in Vienna. By July 1914, a month later, the world was at war, and by the end of the war, Austria-Hungary would no longer exist, and Germany would be punished in the treaty that ended it.

Even though Germany had nothing to do with igniting “the powder keg of Europe.”


What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

A Bosnian terrorist kills an Austrian noble in Serbia so Germany and Russia go to war. Get it?

It’s a little more complicated than who started what but Germany gets the brunt of the blame for the war because of how the fight between Austria and Serbia escalated so fast, and no attempt was made to de-escalate it. The resulting deaths of millions worldwide along with the destruction wrought on European battlefields and the use of poison gas left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth (sometimes literally) throughout the duration of the war.

While Germany didn’t necessarily start World War I, it didn’t do much to stop it, either. In fact, many historians believe Germany actively encouraged the war, despite the systems of alliances in place that should have deterred the European powers from fighting. The Germans knew if Austria-Hungary invaded Serbia, the Russians would intervene on Serbia’s behalf. Then Germany would have to come to Austria’s aid.

That’s what the Germans wanted.

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

Russians were still carrying religious icons into battle instead of modern weapons.

Even though Austria was satisfied with Sarajevo’s attempt to smooth things over, Germany convinced the Hapsburg Emperor that he could not only invade and win against the Serbians, but that Germany would have an easy time against all the other European allies. Germany really, really wanted a war with Russia to acquire new territory in the east, but couldn’t justify it. Going to war to back its Austrian ally was more than enough and Austria had a reason to go to war with Serbia. So Germany kept pushing its ally despite calls for peace from the rest of Europe.

Finally, Austria agreed and attacked Serbia, which caused the Russians to come to Serbia’s aid, which forced Germany to back Austria and France to back Russia. Then the Germans invaded France through Belgium, requiring England to intervene in the war as well. So Austria-Hungary technically started the war, but Germany tried to finish it. For four years.

That’s why Germany takes the blame for World War I.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Army Veteran recalls his time as POW during Vietnam

On Dec. 8, 2020, U.S. Army Veteran David Harker will celebrate his 75th birthday. He may recognize the accomplishment while on his daily five mile walk, or by taking a drive in his 47-year-old car – a 1973 Corvette he’s owned since it was given to him by classmates when he returned from Vietnam after spending more than five years as a prisoner of war.

A native of Lynchburg, Virginia, Harker is the third of seven children. He was an athlete in high school and received his associate’s degree from Bluefield College before transferring to Virginia Tech in 1966. By 1967, however, his fortunes had changed.


David Harker stands next to the 1973 Corvette he received.

Drafted

“I was doing my junior year at Virginia Tech and my grades were low, so I had to take a quarter off in 1967 and during that time, because I wasn’t a full-time student, I had to let the government know. They got me,” he said.

When the draft notice came, Harker’s father, an electrical engineer took the news hard.

“My dad was really upset. He had worked for a power company during World War II and so was exempt from the draft,” Harker recalled. “I didn’t think about the possibility of being killed. My dad’s supervisor said he could get me in the National Guard, but I thought that would be shirking my responsibility. I was called on to serve my country and that’s what I was going to do.”

After basic and advanced infantry training, Harker was approached and offered an opportunity to go to Officer Candidate School.

“I was interested in flying helicopters, but they said I’d have to extend for another year or two, so I said, ‘no, I’ll do my two and go home’.”

Heading to Vietnam

The trip to Vietnam brought Harker through Hawaii, and Guam, before landing in Vietnam Nov. 15, 1967. The recollection of arrival is still fresh even 53 years later.

“There were men on the airstrip who had finished their year and were going to take the plane we had arrived on back home. So, they open the door and it was such a rude awakening when the door opened. The oppressive heat – and I’m sure Vietnam Vets will tell you – the country had a smell of its own.”

The soldiers on their way home watched them deplane and Harker heard them say, ‘there’s my replacement.’

“They wished us well,” Harker said.

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

David Harker stands next to the 1973 Corvette he received.

Although trained on a vehicle-mounted recoilless rifle, Harker was made an infantryman upon arrival in-country and reassigned from the 9th Infantry Division to the 196th Light Infantry Brigade. Six weeks later, he was a POW.

“I was in the 3rd of the 21st in an area of operations at Que Son,” Harker said. “We operated out of a fire base, with one company pulling security while the other three were out doing search and destroy missions. While out, we’d move about 1,000 meters a day and get resupplied every fourth day with c-rations if the helicopters could get through.”

As a 22 year old, Harker was among the older men in his unit. His commanding officer, Capt. Roland Belcher, told the company while they were enjoying in-country RR at brigade headquarters in Chu Lai, that he was proud of the work they were doing.

“Captain Belcher had been in a province southwest of Saigon where we were providing security for elections,” Harker said. “He said it meant a lot to him that we were able to do that – to make sure those people could go to the polls and not get hurt. I remember that because he died in the rice paddies when we were ambushed.”

Harker’s first sergeant, nicknamed Top, was a 41-year old Veteran of World War II and Korea who had earned a Silver Star before joining the company.

“After the ambush, he was the ranking person and he held us together.”

Capture

Harker and his company were on patrol when they broke contact with the enemy in a creek bed. The North Vietnamese unloaded on the unit and killed two men. As the most forward man, Harker was pinned down.

“I’m thinking, ‘I’m going to die.’ Top is behind me telling me to switch to auto and fire. They tried to get behind us and eventually I hear a Vietnamese voice and do a 90 degree and within arm’s reach at the top of this creek bank is an NVA soldier with a pith helmet and Top is there with no helmet. There’s a guy with a rifle telling me to get up. The NVA are stripping everything off us – anything they can use. I tried to bury my M-16 in the creek bed but I think they got it.”

After being taken, Harker was left with a soldier with a sidearm who walked in front of him, leading him away from the creek.

“I thought it was odd he was in front of me and I had been taught that you always try to escape. Next thing I know my hand is over his mouth and I have his arm at his side. I know I have to kill him and do it silently, but his bayonet won’t come out of the scabbard, and by that time my hand has come off his mouth and he’s yelling bloody murder. Before I could get his .45, he stabs me in the side with his bayonet. By that time there are a bunch of rifles pointing at me. I’m surprised they didn’t just shoot me, but they took some commo wire and duck-winged me that night.”

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

A newspaper clipping from the time shows support from his hometown.

Of the 15 men who entered the rice paddy that evening, only four made it out. More men would join Harker in his prison in the Trung Son Mountain Range where he would spend the first three years of captivity. By Harker’s estimation only about 150 U.S. soldiers were captured in South Vietnam – most of whom were taken during the Tet Offensive.

Harker’s first prison was in Quang Nam Province, a difficult, mountainous country that made food scarce and meant deplorable living conditions for the POWs.

“We buried nine Americans there,” Harker said. “That’s how horrific our living conditions were. We had very little to eat so people died from starvation, infectious diseases – malaria was rampant – dysentery. Between September of 1968 and Jan. 4, 1969, we buried six, including the youngest person we had there, a 19-year-old Marine.

“That first year of adjustment to jungle life was really hard on us. You didn’t know what to do. At first you looked out for yourself, but as time went on, you got more altruistic – you realize, it’s not about me, but about the guy next door and you realize you had to take care of each other. We came together really well in that respect.”

During the Vietnam War only one American doctor was ever taken prisoner. Hal Kushner, who grew up in Danville, Virginia, was injured in a helicopter crash in late November. By Dec. 4, North Vietnamese forces found him and marched him toward the camp where he found, according to a speech he gave in February 2018, “four of the saddest looking American creatures I had ever seen in my life.”

“They wouldn’t let him practice medicine,” Harker said of Kushner. “We couldn’t call him doc, but he was a big source of information and help to us. He led the way and showed us how to nurse and take care of men, and that became our goal – to make people in their last hours and days as comfortable as possible – it was our mission, and he was a big inspiration to us.”

In the mountains the men had to forage for food, mostly the manioc root, also known as kasava root.

“There wasn’t a place to grow food, so most of our calories came from manioc,” Harker said. “We were under a 1-to-1 prisoner-to-guard ratio, and the guards would trade manioc and so we would put baskets on our backs and go back and forth over miles of mountain trails carrying 70-80 pounds of root. It’s amazing to think that we could even do it, but we did what we had to do. The little bit of rice they gave us as a ration wasn’t enough to keep a bird flying, so the roots kept us going.”

The guards of Trung Son didn’t physically abuse their prisoners. They didn’t need to.

“We were separated from civilization in the middle of nowhere and we couldn’t communicate; had no food, and no medical attention – that’s torture enough for an individual. We were interrogated when we were captured,” Harker said, “but we knew the Code of Conduct and so we’d give that information. But they’d have a guy with a lantern and they’re asking for information about your unit, it’s size, and I just kept repeating. They didn’t pursue it much. They wanted to get us away from the battlefield but a few days later they did it again. When you have a rifle and you’re in front of the enemy, it’s different. But if they put a blindfold on you and all you can hear is round being chambered – that’s different too. In the north they beat pilots and used a lot of torture techniques.”

Moving day

On Feb. 1, 1971 there were a dozen men still alive in the mountains and they were taken in groups of six to begin their march north up the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Harker watched battalions of Vietnamese troops heading south during the 60-day march, as they ground out 10 to 15 miles a day. During the journey an interpreter would give them extra rice.

“He was a military guy who had fought in Laos as a 17-year old in the early 1960s, and he looked out for us. I think he understood the condition – there was a common situation and appreciation among soldiers.”

“We’d get to a camp every day where we got hot white rice – better than we had at the mountain camp. The next morning they’d put a ball of rice on a banana leaf and we’d carry that with us for lunch as we moved. Eventually we were put on a train, in a box car, and taken to Hanoi, to Plantation Garden, an old French plantation with bars in the walls. We were kept in a 15×17 warehouse – six of us on a wooden pallet. Unlike the mountain camp we couldn’t roam around, and the boredom would overtake you and the heat was oppressive, but we had plenty to eat compared to the south. We also had better medical care there as they had a doctor to attend to us.”

In October of 1972 the Vietnamese allowed prisoners to be outside together for the first time since they arrived, and it looked like the war might be over.

“We had a communication system where we’d put a note on the lid of the waste bucket, or use the tap code, and we had to do that because we were only allowed out of our cell for about an hour a day, and never more than one cell was let out at a time. So, when they let everyone out, and then gave us reading material, they knew it was over. Or they thought it was, because before you know it, the doors are all slammed shut again.”

Soon after, Linebacker II started. From Dec. 18-29, 1972, the U.S. Air Force conducted an operation called Linebacker II, a ‘maximum effort’ campaign to destroy targets using B-52 heavy bombers that dropped more than 15,000 tons of ordnance on more than 30 targets.

“B-52s bombed all night long after talks broke down. The SAMs (surface-to-air missiles) shot down a bunch of planes on the third night, after they figured out the flight patterns, and one night they pulled up a deuce and a half and told us to crawl in the back. We thought we were being taken to China.”

Harker would spend his last three months as a prisoner at the Hanoi Hilton.

Repatriation

Half a world away, in Paris, a peace accord was signed January 27, 1973, and soon after Harker and other American POWs heard the news they had longed to hear.

“We were ecstatic,” Harker said. “We’d hear doors open and activity and they came and said, ‘you’re going, and you’re going, and you’re going’ dividing us up into groups that would be repatriated. They gave us western clothing and a travel bag and when they pulled us out of a holding cell wearing our red-striped pajamas we were given the clothes. By noon, nothing had happened. They gave us food and told us the peace agreement was broken – and we were right back down in the depths of despair. But a few days later we got out.

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

A newspaper clipping shows when David Harker returned home.

“I remember saluting an Air Force general who was sitting with a North Vietnamese officer, and when we saluted, we had been officially repatriated. On the plane home, the pilot told us when we had entered international airspace and there was a great cheer.”

The cheers continued when they landed in the Philippines, Hawaii, and Andrews AFB, Maryland. From Maryland, Harker went to Valley Forge in Pennsylvania where he went through medical treatment and rehabilitation, and he was reunited with his family.

“It was different,” Harker said. “I had brothers who were married, and children had been born, but it was exciting coming home. A private airline flew me and my father back and the local TV station had sent a reporter who interviewed me all the way back. There must have been 10,000 people at the Lynchburg airport when we arrived – I had no idea there would be that welcome and response – my big extended family – the high school band was there. It was a long journey and I was glad to be home and for them to be there for me meant so much. I was led to a blue 1973 Corvette and handed the keys. A group of school mates had gotten together and sold bumper stickers for a dollar each to buy me a car and they handed me the keys and a check for id=”listicle-2647726394″,100.”

Being home with his family, Harker said he learned how much anxiety and frustration and worry his parents went through while he was captive.

“Every POW gets a casualty assistance officer whose job it is to let the family know when they hear something – anything – about their son,” Harker said. “My family never heard anything from their CAO. It wasn’t until 1969, when three prisoners were released that they knew I was alive. My parents found out that a couple of those who were released were at Fort Jackson, and so they went there and got onto base and met with them and heard from them that I was alive. That’s all the knew for five years. So they became involved in the National League of Families who organized and tried to have some involvement with North Vietnam to get information about prisoners and try to make the process more transparent as far as information was concerned.”

Life after war

After he returned from Vietnam, Harker took some time off, but eventually returned to Blacksburg and finished his business degree from Virginia Tech in 1976 and found his way to work as a probation and parole officer. In 1977 he married Linda, his high school sweetheart whom he had dated since 1962.

His family now includes his two children, Megan and husband Mike, and Adam and his wife Anza. David and Linda also enjoy their grandchildren: 13-year old Emily, 11-year old Ethan, and 6-year old Eli, children of Megan; and Adam’s 23-month old daughter Ava.

While Harker is open to discussing his time in Vietnam to serve as an education for younger people, he said it was a part of his life that he’s put behind him.

“Kush and I talk about that all the time – we’re not professional POWs. By the grace of God and the help of other men, we made it out. We all serve our country one way or another. This country is what we love. My life has been a real blessing since then, and the staff at the VA hospital, what they do is marvelous, and I appreciate each one of them. I know they have a heart for those Veterans, or they wouldn’t work there,” Harker said. “I love the Veterans, too, and appreciate their service, and institutions like the VA are a great service to our country.”

In the early 2010s Harker had the Corvette he received in 1973 – the car he and his youngest brother Louie drove across the country after his return – restored. He still drives it today.

“I think of all the love behind it every time I drive it.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

Is that energy drink getting you closer to your fitness goal?

The main reason most people cite for their energy drink consumption is to get enough caffeine to get through the day. Been there, done that. I’m pretty sure there are more soul-sucking jobs in existence than fulfilling ones–we can’t all write for We Are The Mighty and spend the rest of our time surfing… the waves are getting crowded and that’s my job, you can’t have it.

Let’s look at the math for exactly how much caffeine is in the average energy drink versus a cup of coffee.


What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

Does he look cool or just tired? Hand tattoo optional…

(Photo by thom masat on Unsplash)

  • The average cup of coffee contains up to 170 mg of caffeine. In some cases, like a 20 oz venti from Starbucks, it could contain up to 415 mg of caffeine.
  • The caffeine content in energy drinks is anywhere between 47 to 207 mg.

With the recommended intake of caffeine per day maxing at 400 mg/day, it seems like you could easily get your caffeine fix from either drink. So what is the real case for spending over .00 on a can of what looks like nuclear reactor run-off?

Many energy drink companies associate themselves with athletics and extremely fit people. The insinuation is that if you drink this product, you’ll become a freak athlete, you’ll look great with your shirt off, and you’ll be jumping from balloons way up in the stratosphere in no time flat.

Well, my friends, let’s see if the research on energy drinks supports their subliminal messaging.

shotgunning a monster bfc

youtu.be

Good for you in the short term

Before I poop all over your favorite energy drink, I will happily admit that they have been shown to increase alertness and performance if consumed immediately before a test or training session.

This makes sense, since the most popular pre-workout ingredient is caffeine, and these things are loaded with caffeine. But is that caffeine enough to carry someone through months and years of training to reach their true fitness goal?

Scientists have shown that energy drinks increase jump height, muscular endurance in the bench press, and performance in tennis and volleyball.

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

Real subtle…almost accurate, very bombastic.

(Photo by Sharon McPeak)

The bad and the toothless

However, a recent meta-analysis on energy drinks has shown that people who consume energy drinks have:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased risk of obesity
  • Increased risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Increased dental decay
  • Increased kidney issues
  • Increased sleep dissatisfaction
  • Headaches
  • Stomachaches
  • Increased stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms
  • AND low academic achievement

Before you call bullshit, let me rein in these findings for you. Correlation does not equal causation. No one, even the scientists who conduct the cited studies, is saying that energy drinks in and of themselves cause all of these issues.

What is being said is that people who drink energy drinks also have these other issues. They are describing the profile of someone who tends to drink energy drinks.

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

There’s coffee and then there’s this shit.

(media.giphy.com)

This is similar to any other demonized substance or habit. Take for instance red meat eaters, or people who don’t exercise. Many of the same conclusions can be drawn for people that fall into these categories. This is just how science works.

What is true though is that if you are a fan of energy drinks, you probably have other crappy habits that will also contribute to you developing some of the above conditions.

We don’t see the same with coffee drinkers because nearly everyone, except Mormons, drink coffee. We can see similar effects on people who only drink double mocha f*ckaccinos though, because that’s an irresponsible decision.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/Bg8yXjkg1-z/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link expand=1]Michael Gregory on Instagram: “I tend to forget about my teeth when considering the nutritional content of various foods. ? Found this bad boy at my first dentist visit…”

www.instagram.com

Energy drinks and your habits

Long-term studies on energy drink drinkers show only negative effects. Some of these effects are directly related to the actual consumption of energy drinks, like dental decay, but many of them are due to a whole host of combined factors. And that is where the real devil is in these products.

Although they promote active lifestyles, they actually create a vicious cycle that leads to a sedentary lifestyle.

Energy drinks after 3 p.m. disrupt sleep.

Disrupted sleep leads to increased daily fatigue and tiredness.

Tired people are masters at coming up with excuses to not work out.

You can kiss any fitness goal you may have goodbye if you fall into this cycle. Period.

Used properly, energy drinks could be a force multiplier for you in the gym. Used irresponsibly, they will lead you to a slow decline into inactivity, a gross body, and loads of tearful regret about what could have been.

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1
popular

Former FBI agent explains how to read body language

“My job was to catch spies,” shared former FBI agent Joe Navarro. He was straight up recruited to the FBI when he was a 23-year-old cop and he spent the next 25 years with the Bureau, working in counterintelligence and counterterrorism.

He specialized in the science of nonverbal communication — reading the unspoken clues about a person just by observing their body language and behavior.

“Most of my career I spent within the National Security Division. A lot of it had to do with looking at specific targets and then it was about, ‘How do I get in their heads and neutralize them?'”

There are a lot of myths out there. Take crossing your arms; Navarro says many people think of this as a “blocking behavior,” but crossed arms are actually known as “self-soothing” — the action of calming or comforting oneself when unhappy or distressed. “It’s a self hug,” he asserts.

“We are never in a state where we’re not transmitting information,” Navarro says with confidence. Check out the video to see precisely what that means:


Former FBI Agent Explains How to Read Body Language | Tradecraft | WIRED

www.youtube.com

“We humans are lousy at detecting deception,” he claims — and if you’ve ever wondered if you’re getting away with that lie, read on…

As in his book, Navarro breaks down different features on the face: the forehead can reveal stress; the nose might crinkle when someone is upset and similarly people compress the lips when upset.

Even the cheeks and the jaw can alert an expert that someone is attempting “perception management,” and then Navarro is on the hunt.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FH00y8elMrI0n88cKul4WjvNCFiVCKaBLjdhCn-k44GW_aukvrBVGdq-7IR6yGuyonrOmbaOSyfy-IwBkUHz1Tua7vgJTiII9YSu7C9znvlcYMwnu8kOOir9hQmL1fkCstDWK08gd&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh6.googleusercontent.com&s=193&h=499fa422b938affec432b4b19d485036fbe3e88af5c67c042306fe2efec9ee9b&size=980x&c=529212945 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FH00y8elMrI0n88cKul4WjvNCFiVCKaBLjdhCn-k44GW_aukvrBVGdq-7IR6yGuyonrOmbaOSyfy-IwBkUHz1Tua7vgJTiII9YSu7C9znvlcYMwnu8kOOir9hQmL1fkCstDWK08gd%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh6.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D193%26h%3D499fa422b938affec432b4b19d485036fbe3e88af5c67c042306fe2efec9ee9b%26size%3D980x%26c%3D529212945%22%7D” expand=1]

(YouTube screenshot | Wired)

Even body posturing in the stance Navarro calls “arms akimbo” can communicate different behavior based on the placement of the fingers. On the left, the fingers forward might indicate territorial behavior. It changes to a more inquisitive stance when the thumbs are forward.

Navarro can discern meaning from hand placement to foot activity.

“It really is looking at an individual and saying, ‘What are they transmitting?'” From walking pace to blink-rate, agents like Navarro will determine whether they should marshall resources to monitor or question an individual.

In the video, Navarro goes on to describe the effect a handshake can have on people, down to the very bonding chemicals that may or may not be produced by the body. He also unsettles a pair of strangers and describes the ramifications that action has on their interaction.

Then the video gets interesting, that is, if you’re a poker fan.

Navarro breaks down the body language of a poker table. “This is a great opportunity to be looking for behaviors indicative of discomfort,” he explains. “Even before the game starts this is an opportunity to collect ‘poker intelligence.'” If you think you’ve got a killer poker face, you may want to check out the video above! You’ll never look at your thumbs the same way again…

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FWfHek3HobfqkPyjPNkksSCENL3vDetFoe0g-aRyLNnQ2OEAE3Wq-j6OeaDo4SShKeGhAD9avXhX4DS00K-PpLqBZYccukN3rW7U_29jH708DVLVLVnY-iyhTQClLqc5T3NweySbR&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh4.googleusercontent.com&s=510&h=3ac3d8e9d8e950b9fbe2ae9ee2cf76becb14653157e499cba3d3a8fac30c04ca&size=980x&c=2843847433 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FWfHek3HobfqkPyjPNkksSCENL3vDetFoe0g-aRyLNnQ2OEAE3Wq-j6OeaDo4SShKeGhAD9avXhX4DS00K-PpLqBZYccukN3rW7U_29jH708DVLVLVnY-iyhTQClLqc5T3NweySbR%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh4.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D510%26h%3D3ac3d8e9d8e950b9fbe2ae9ee2cf76becb14653157e499cba3d3a8fac30c04ca%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2843847433%22%7D” expand=1]

As always, the comments are where it’s at.

(YouTube screenshot from Navarro’s comment thread | Wired.)

MIGHTY HISTORY

This top-secret supersonic drone was found in the Arizona desert

Most of what is lying around in the dusty expanse of the aircraft graveyards around Tucson, Arizona is readily identifiable and not entirely remarkable.

Ejection seats from old F-4 Phantoms. An old CH-53 helicopter hulk. An interesting find over there is a fuselage section of a Soviet-era MiG-23 Flogger. No idea how it got here. Other than that, it’s just long rows of old, broken, silent airplanes inside high fences surrounded by cactus, dust, sand and more sand. An errant aileron on a dead wing clunks quietly against the hot afternoon breeze as if willing itself back into the air. But like everything here, its days of flying are over.


But there… What is that strange, manta-ray shaped, dusty black thing lying at an angle just on the other side of that fence? It may be an old airfield wind vane or radar test model. But it also may be…

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1
Lockheed D-21B at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

I had only read about it and seen grainy photos of it. I know it’s impossible. The project was so secret not much information exists about the details even today. But I stand there gawking through the chain link fence as the ruins of the other planes bear silent witness. It’ like the corpses of the other airplanes are urging me to look closer. To not leave. Their silent dignity begs me to tell this story.

After nearly a minute of studying it through the fence I realize; I am right. It is right before my eyes. Ten feet away. Despite the 100-degree heat I get goosebumps. And I start running.

I quickly locate a spot where the entire fence line opens up. I skirt the fence and in a couple minutes running around the sandy airplane corpses I’m inside. There, sitting right in front of me on its decrepit transport cart and dusted with windblown sand, abandoned in the Sonoran Desert, is one of Kelly Johnson and Ben Rich’s most ambitious classified projects from the fabled Lockheed Skunk Works.

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1
A previously classified photo of the Lockheed D-21 drone at the Skunkworks manufacturing facility.
(Lockheed Martin photo)

I just found the CIA’s ultra-secret Mach 3.3+ D-21 long-range reconnaissance drone. The D-21 was so weird, so ambitious, so unlikely it remains one of the most improbable concepts in the history of the often-bizarre world of ultra-secret “black” aviation projects. And now it lies discarded in the desert. The story behind it is so bizarre it is difficult to believe, but it is true.

July 30, 1966: Flight Level 920 (92,000 ft.), Mach 3.25, Above Point Mugu Naval Air Missile Test Center, Off Oxnard, California.

Only an SR-71 Blackbird is fast enough and can fly high enough to photograph this, the most classified of national security tests. Traveling faster than a rifle bullet at 91,000 feet, near inner-space altitude, one of the most ambitious and bizarre contraptions in the history of mankind is about to be tested.

“Tagboard” is its codename. Because of the catastrophic May, 1960 shoot-down of Francis Gary Powers’ Lockheed U-2 high altitude spy plane over the Soviet Union the CIA and is in desperate need of another way to spy on the rising threat of communist nuclear tests. Even worse, the other “Red Menace”, the Chinese, are testing massive hydrogen bombs in a remote location of the Gobi Desert near the Mongolian/Chinese border. It would be easier to observe the tests if the Chinese did them on the moon.

The goal is simple, but the problem is titanic. Get photos of the top-secret Red Chinese hydrogen bomb tests near the Mongolian border deep inside Asia, then get them back, without being detected.

Lockheed Skunkworks boss Kelly Johnson and an elite, ultra-classified small team of aerospace engineers have built an aircraft so far ahead of its time that even a vivid imagination has difficulty envisioning it.

Flat, triangular, black, featureless except for its odd plan form as viewed from above, like a demon’s cloak, it has a sharply pointed nose recessed into a forward-facing orifice. That’s it. No canopy, no cockpit, no weapons. Nothing attached to the outside. Even more so than a rifle bullet its shape is smooth and simple. This is the ultra-secret D-21 drone.

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1
An Air Force photo of the D-21 mounted on the M-21 launch aircraft. The M-21 launch aircraft was a special variant of the SR-71 Blackbird. Only two were produced.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

The D-21 is truly a “drone”, not a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA). Its flight plan is programmed into a guidance system. It is launched from a mothership launch aircraft at speed and altitude. It flies a predetermined spy mission from 17 miles above the ground and flashes over at three times the speed of sound. It photographs massive swaths of land with incredible detail and resolution. And because of its remarkably stealthy shape, no one will ever know it was there.

Today the D-21 rides on the back of a Lockheed M-21, a specialized variant of the SR-71 Blackbird, the famous Mach 3+ high altitude spy plane. The M-21 version of the SR-71 carries the D-21 drone on its back up to launch speed and altitude. The it ignites the D-21’s unique RJ43-MA20S-4 ramjet engine and releases it on its pre-programmed flight.

Chasing the M-21 and D-21 combination today is a Lockheed SR-71, the only thing that can keep up with this combination of aircraft. It is the SR-71’s job to photograph and film the test launch of the D-21 drone from the M-21 launch aircraft.

There have been three successful launch separations of the D-21 from the M-21 launch aircraft so far. In each of these flights, even though the launch was successful, the D-21 drone fell victim to some minor mechanical failure that destroyed the drone, because, at over Mach 3 and 90,000 feet, there really are no “minor” failures.

Today Bill Park and Ray Torick are the flight crew on board the M-21 launch aircraft. They sit inside the M-21 launch aircraft dressed in pressurized high altitude flight suits that resemble space suits.

Once at predetermined launch speed and altitude the M-21/D-21 combination flies next to the SR-71 camera plane. Keith Beswick is filming the launch test from the SR-71 camera plane. Ray Torick, the drone launch controller sitting in the back seat of the tandem M-21, launches the D-21 from its position on top of the M-21’s fuselage between the massive engines.

Something goes wrong.

The D-21 drone separates and rolls slightly to its left side. It strikes the left vertical stabilizer of the M-21 mother ship. Then it caroms back into the M-21’s upper fuselage, exerting massive triple supersonic forces downward on the M-21 aircraft. The M-21 begins to pitch up and physics takes over as Bill Park and Ray Torick make the split-second transition from test pilots to helpless passengers to crash victims.

The triple supersonic forces rip both aircraft apart in the thin, freezing air. Shards of titanium and shrapnel from engine parts trail smoke and frozen vapor as they disintegrate in the upper atmosphere. There is no such thing as a minor accident at Mach 3+ and 92,000 feet.

Miraculously, both Bill Park and Ray Torick eject from the shattered M-21 mother ship. Even more remarkably, they actually survive the ejection. The pair splash down in the Pacific 150 miles off the California coast. Bill Park successfully deploys the small life raft attached to his ejection seat. Ray Torick lands in the ocean but opens the visor on his spacesuit-like helmet attached to his pressurized flight suit. The suit floods through the face opening in his helmet. Torick drowns before he can be rescued. Keith Beswick, the pilot filming the accident from the SR-71 chase plane, has to go to the mortuary to cut Ray Torick’s body out of the pressurized high-altitude flight suit before he can be buried.

The ultra-secret test program to launch a D-21 drone from the top of an M-21 launch aircraft at over Mach 3 and 90,000 feet, is cancelled.

The D-21 program does move forward on its own. Now the drone is dropped from a lumbering B-52 mothership. The D-21 is then boosted to high altitude and Mach 3+ with a rocket booster. Once at speed and altitude the booster unit drops off and the D-21 drone begins its spy mission.

After more than a year of test launches from the B-52 mothership the D-21 drone was ready for its first operational missions over Red China. President Nixon approved the first reconnaissance flight for November 9, 1969. The mission was launched from Beale AFB in California.

Despite a successful launch the D-21 drone was lost. In the middle of 1972, after four attempts at overflying Red China with the D-21 drone and four mission failures, the program was cancelled. It was imaginative. It was innovative. It was ingenious. But it was impossible.

So ended one of the most ambitious and outrageous espionage projects in history.

1604 Hrs. December 20, 2009. In the Back Storage Yard of the Pima Air Space Museum Outside Tucson, Arizona.

I pet airplanes when I can. I’m not exactly sure why, maybe to be able to say I did. Maybe to try to gain some tactile sense of their history. Maybe to absorb something from them, if such a thing is possible. Maybe so that, when I am old and dying, I can reflect back on what it felt like to stand next to them and touch them. I don’t know why I touch them and stroke them, but I do.

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1


The fully restored Lockheed D-21 drone at the Pima Air Space Museum outside Tucson, Arizona.

(Pima Air Space Museum photo)

The D-21 is dusty and warm in the late afternoon Arizona sun. Its titanium skin is hard, not slightly forgiving like an aluminum airplane. It gives away nothing. Silent. Brooding. After I touch it my hand came away with some of the dust from it. I don’t wipe it off.

Sometime later in the coming years, the D-21B drone, number 90-0533, is brought inside the vast restoration facility at the Pima Air Space Museum and beautifully restored. Now it lies in state, on display inside the museum.

But when I first found it sitting abandoned in the storage yard, dusty and baking in the Sonoran Desert sun, it felt like its warm titanium skin still had some secret life left in it.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 things you’ll have to learn when you first take a leadership position

Congratulations! You’ve either finally been pinned or you’ve been laterally transferred to a position where you’re placed over someone else. You’ve either worked your ass off to finally accrue the dreaded 798 promotion points… or you’ve been “hey, you”ed into it. Either way, from here on out, your entire career will change for the better.

You stand now at a crossroads and your very first act as a leader will determine which road you move down.

Some days, you’ll have to be the bad guy. You’ll be responsible for breaking the bad news, like the fact that no one is leaving until those NVGs are found. But on the flip side, there’s no greater feeling than the moment you train a troop up, they achieve a goal once thought to be impossible, and they sincerely thank you for getting them there.

For all you new leaders out there, listen up — these are the lessons you’ll need to learn.


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Don’t get that twisted — NCO academies teach you a lot about being an NCO. It’s just that the best way to learn to lead troops is, well, leading troops.

(U.S. Army photo by KATUSA Pvt. Seung Ho Park 2ID/RUCD Public Affairs)

You’ll appreciate everything your previous leaders have done for you

No amount of leadership schools can fully train you for actually leading troops. All of that fancy book-learning will be tossed out the window as soon as you’re signing your first initial counseling statement. There’re just so many minor things that you can’t possible be prepared for — the only reference you’ll have is what your NCO did.

If they were fantastic leaders, emulate them. Take them aside and ask for pointers. There’s no shame in asking for advice, and I’m willing to bet they’d be happy to help you out.

But even bad leaders can teach you something. Mostly, they serve as examples of what not to do. Learn from those that came before you.

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How it feels when your toxic leadership calls everyone into the training meeting.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Capt. Paul Stennett)

You’ll have to sidestep the pitfalls that every toxic leader has fallen into

As much as it’s painful to admit, there’s toxicity in military leadership. From the bottom of your heart, you should despise each and every one of those so-called “leaders” that give the NCO corps and officers a bad name. Ask anyone who blew off the retention NCO why they’re getting out and you’ll see a staggering amount of outstanding troops leaving the military because of terrible leadership. It sucks, but it’s reality — and it should be a call-to-action for every leader to do their part in weeding out this toxicity.

The first step in not becoming a toxic leader is managing one simple distinction: which is the easy path and which is the right path. It’s hard to jump into the 110 degree Connex and finish a layout when you could more easily hold a clipboard and simply supervise. It’s hard to take an asschewing from higher up when you could just let your troop deal with it. It’s hard to not care about your own ribbon rack when you could recommend others for rightfully earning it.

Unfortunately, the right path is often the hardest path, but it’s the one you must walk.

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Now, if only there was a reading list compiled by one of the greatest minds the military has seen in ages… Oh wait, there is.

(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)

You’ll have to study just enough of everything to have (at least) a slight understanding

There is a metric f*ck-ton of regulations that you’ll need to be well-versed in and follow. Not only that, but you’ll also need to make sure that your guys are following them, too. Sure, you’re never going to need to know the Army regulation on non-appropriated contracting funds — until, one day, you do.

You don’t need to know everything about every subject, just enough — or where to find that info. As long as you get the gist of things, like keeping good order, discipline, and appearance down, you can take it from there.

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It’s much easier, legally in the clear, and more rewarding if you just invite everyone to go drinking. If the guy that you don’t want to come doesn’t show up, oh well…

(U.S. Army photo by Maj. Matthew Fontaine)

You’ll find the line between friendship and authority

There’s a reason that the “fraternization between the ranks” rule is a thing. Normally, the rule is reserved for people in power that try to sleep with their troops, but it’s also enforced for squad leaders who elect to go to the bar with just one or two of their squad and not everyone.

You can never, ever, ever show any sign of preferential treatment towards any of your guys. That is the single fastest way to immediately lose the respect of everyone else not given said treatment. Every order you’ll give will be met with, “well, why isn’t Specialist So-and-so doing it?”

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Your opinion does matter if something makes its way up to a court martial, after all.

(Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Katherine Dowd.)

You’ll learn which rules are worth enforcing

No one wants to drop the hammer of the UCMJ — not even leaders. One day, you may have to counsel your Joe because they got caught doing something you thought you’d never have remind a grown-ass adult not to do. They played stupid games and, surprise, won stupid prizes. (We’re not naming names, but get ready for people to get roaring drunk, rip barracks doors down at 0200, use them as sleds to slide down the company area, and, somehow, manage to hit the staff duty van).

Regardless of their stupidity, you are now going to have to enforce the rules. If what they did warrants needing to put them on the chopping block, so be it. But you don’t always have to bring the ax down — especially if someone was just 2 minutes late to work call and they had a valid excuse.

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You can never let them see you hurt. They’ll believe you if you say the impossible is possible.

(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Andrew Kosterman)

You’ll figure out how to hide your faults so no one can ever see them

No one is perfect, but now that you’re a leader, you have seem like it. The slightest mistake will be remembered by your guys from now until the end of time. If they see that you can’t meet the standard or you don’t keep in regulation — neither will they.

This means that there will be days off-duty where you do nothing but train. If you fail a PT test, they won’t take PT seriously. If you don’t know how first aid, they won’t see it as important either. Give everything 110 percent and your troops will subconsciously try to do the same.

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We’ll leave this on a quote from the great General Patton. “If you can’t get them to salute when they should salute and wear the clothes you tell them to wear, how are you going to get them to die for their country?”

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Candace Mundt)

You’ll place your troops’ needs above your own.

This rule is baked into the Army’s NCO Creed, but it’s something that everyone from every branch has to come to terms with eventually. This is why something as small as, say, letting your Joe’s cut in front of you at the chow hall separates you as a leader from the so-called “bosses.”

Small gestures are important, but the biggest piece of advice I can offer is that you must be the shield when sh*t rolls downhill. Take the brunt of the First Sergeant’s asschewing. Let them focus on the mission while you bounce between the front line and training meetings that the good idea fairy insisted on starting. The best leaders I’ve had the honor of serving under have all shared a single, collective mentality: The only people that should matter in the chain of command are the little guys at the very end. Embody this.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How women served in the Navy and Marines during WWII

The United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was authorized by Congress and signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt on July 30, 1942. Like their female counterparts servicing in other branches of the military, the primary function of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was to release men for combat duty. The jobs available to them were also very similar. Members served in occupations classified as professional, semi-professional, clerical, skilled trades, services, and sales. While over 200 job categories were made available to members of the Women’s Reserve, over half of members worked in clerical positions. Only Caucasian and Native American Women were accepted into service, the Marine Corps barred African American and Japanese American women from its ranks.


At its height, the Women’s Reserve had recruited more than 17,000 members. As was discussed in Part I, the military used a variety of tactics to recruit female members. Films such as Lady Marines, were used to provide a look at the life of a female military recruit in an effort to make new recruits more comfortable with the process. The film, shot at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, follows a class of recruits from their arrival, to graduation, highlighting their training and job opportunities.

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What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 1

The United States Navy also recognized the importance of allowing females to serve in their ranks. The United States Naval Reserve (WAVES), was established and signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt on July 30, 1942, the same day the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve. Women were accepted into the WAVES as commissioned officers as well as at the enlisted level in order to release men for sea duty. They served at 900 shore stations in the United States and included over 85,000 members. While primarily comprised of white women, 74 African-American women were allowed to serve during the program’s existence.

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The color film, WAVES at Work, highlights the variety of jobs made available to members of the WAVES. Women wanting to serve in the medical, clerical, communication, and culinary fields were able to do so as a member of the WAVES. One of the most interesting jobs highlighted in the film is that of the Air Controlman. Those serving in this capacity would direct planes and ground crews from a control tower at naval air stations.

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Both films, Lady Marines and WAVES at Work, touch on the values discussed in Part I femininity, benefits of joining the military, and the importance of the work needing done. These films also make it a point to highlight the opportunities made available to women in the military. Female recruits were provided with job training in non-traditional areas, training that was not widely available to their civilian counterparts . You can view both films in their entirety below.

This article originally appeared on The National Archives. Follow @USNatArchives on Twitter.

popular

This was the Air Force’s plan to turn a Boeing 747 into an airborne aircraft carrier

We’ve all see the Avengers movie featuring SHIELD’s massive flying aircraft carrier — you know, the one with the gigantic fans and stealth cloaking?


But what you may not know is that the concept of an actual flying carrier isn’t really anything new, and the US military has investigated it time and time again throughout its history. The most recent proposal for such a vehicle came in the form of a highly modified Boeing 747 called the Airborne Aircraft Carrier.

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The concept of a flying aircraft carrier isn’t as far fetched as it seems. (Walt Disney Television/ Photo via AgentsofShield WIKIA)

 

While oceangoing aircraft carriers can bring their complements of fighter and attack aircraft quite literally anywhere around the seven seas, areas deeper inland are far less accessible and sometimes require the use of larger numbers of support assets like refueling tankers, which aren’t always available for a variety of reasons.

The AAC concept tried to solve that problem by using a larger aircraft to fly smaller aircraft above or near deployment zones, where it would release its fighters to carry out their missions.

 

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A Sparrowhawk fighter hanging underneath the USS Macon airship during testing (US Navy)

 

In the 1930s, the US Navy first began exploring the idea of an airborne carrier by outfitting two dirigible airships, the USS Akron and the USS Macon, with a trapeze mechanism for recovering and launching small propeller fighter planes, along with an internal hangar for storage.

Both the Akron and Macon were lost in storms that decade, but not before they were able to successfully demonstrate that with enough practice and patience, aircraft could be deployed from airbases in the sky.

The onset of World War II made the Navy forget about this idea. But during the Cold War, the notion of having an airborne carrier was resurrected — this time by the Air Force.

At first, the Fighter Conveyor project attempted to put a Republic F-84 “parasite” fighter in the belly of a B-36 Peacemaker nuclear bomber, launched in-flight for reconnaissance operations. The creation of the U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane made the FICON project a moot point, sending it to the graveyard after four years of testing.

 

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A B-36 Peacemaker launching an F-84 parasite fighter as part of a FICON test (USAF)

Later on, famed defense contractor Lockheed proposed a gigantic nuclear-powered flying mothership with a crew of over 850 and an aerial endurance of 40+ days. The Air Force, by 1973, decided to go a slightly more conventional route instead.

At the time, the Boeing 747 was easily the largest civilian aircraft in the world, serving as a long-range passenger airliner and a cargo transport for a number of freight companies. It wasn’t wholly unreasonable to suggest that such an aircraft could be converted for use as an airborne carrier, fielding a small group of aircraft inside its cavernous interior.

The Air Force’s Flight Dynamics Laboratory, based out of Wright-Patterson AFB, was put on the case to determine the feasibility of such an experiment.

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Depictions of the microfighters the AAC would carry by the Flight Dynamics Laboratory (Photo from USAF)

The AAC project called for a Boeing 747-200 to be hollowed out and refitted with a two-level internal hangar that would hold “micro fighters”, small short-range fighter aircraft that could fight air-to-air and air-to-ground sorties after being dropped out of the underside of the jumbo jet. Should the fighters need an extension on their range, the AAC mothership could refuel them as needed from a rotating boom on its rear. Upon concluding their sorties, the micro fighters would simply fly underneath the AAC and be picked up by a mechanism, bringing them back into the hangar.

The AAC would also contain storage for extra fuel, spares and parts, as well as a magazine for missiles and bombs for the microfighters. In addition, sleeping quarters for the crew and pilots, and a small crew lounge for breaks in-between missions was also to be part of the hypothetical flying carrier.

All in all, the concept seemed to be absolutely doable and certainly something the Air Force seemed interested in pursuing, given that the report also projected that conventional Navy aircraft carriers would apparently be obsolete by the year 2000.

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The interior layout of the AAC proposal (Photo from USAF)

 

However, the project was stalled when research into the design and development of the AAC’s necessary microfighters went nowhere. An airborne warning and control version of the AAC was also proposed, replete with a pair of reconnaissance micro aircraft for surveillance missions; this was also shot down.

Eventually, the Air Force shelved the concept altogether not long after the Flight Dynamics Laboratory claimed it was possible.

While the US military hasn’t done much, if anything at all, to investigate flying aircraft carriers in the four and a half decades since, this seems to be an idea that just won’t go away. Maybe, just maybe, we might see these bizarre vehicles in the not-so-distant future, as technology advances and mission types evolve!

MIGHTY CULTURE

US soldier in Afghanistan aims to be first-generation American

Spc. Mohamed Sullaiman joined the U.S. Army from Freetown, Sierra Leone, in 2015. He cites that he was, “inspired as an old man,” but Sullaiman chose to serve not just for himself, he also knew it could give his family a better life.

“I am here working for my family,” said Sullaiman, who deployed to Afghanistan with the Rock Battalion in early spring 2018 to fight for the country he now calls his own.

Three years ago, Sullaiman graduated from basic training with more than just a rank, he earned the right to become a U.S. citizen. Since then, he has excelled as a soldier and a leader.


“Spc. Sullaiman is a fit, inspired, disciplined train and truly inspirational soldier,” said 1st Lt. Gerald Prater, Sullaiman’s platoon leader, “He is an outstanding contributor to the organization.”

A large part of his motivation to be a standout soldier is the hope to one day bring his whole family to the United States. While Sullaiman has served on active duty for the last three years, his wife and two children still live in Freetown. His wife is raising their two children since Sullaiman joined the Army in 2015.

Sullaiman hopes the opportunities available to Americans will open new doors for his wife and children — opportunities to escape poverty and tribal rivalry and exchange them for security and freedom.

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Spc. Mohamed Sullaiman, an infantryman, from 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division returns from conducting combat operations in Kabul Province, Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army courtesy photo by 1st. Stryker Brigade Combat Team)

Having been away from his family for three years, most recently in Afghanistan, Sullaiman understands the importance of constant communication, “I try hard to talk to them every night so they know that everything is okay. That I’m alright.” He also contacts the State Department regularly to keep in step with the process for his family’s permanent resident visa.

Sullaiman has kept his spirits high despite the separation, “I have a special prayer every night at midnight for an hour to ask help from Allah to guide me in the right way. He’s helping me not lose faith. It’s just a matter of time. I’m still going to keep praying until it finally happens.”

A devout Muslim, Sullaiman fasted during Ramadan despite patrolling daily in the July heat. “It wasn’t really easy. There were a lot of challenges but I overcame them.”

His determination is evident whether he’s serving overseas or in the United States. While it’s easy to save money for his family while deployed, Sullaiman, who turned 36 in June 2018, lives in the barracks and stays within his paycheck so he can send money to his family every month. He doesn’t own a car and visits his family once a year, “Depending on how much money I save,” he says.

Sullaiman exudes optimism, and plans on taking three weeks off after deployment to visit his family. His goal, with full support from his leadership, is to return with his family after his much deserved leave. When asked about what it will be like when his family joins him in the United States, “I’ll be one of the happiest men. I will say thanks to Allah for everything.”

Sullaiman continues to work alongside his chain of command to bring his family to the United States.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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