The military is full of individuals from all cultures who come together under one roof to workout and better themselves, both physically and mentally. Over the past few decades, the government has spent vast amounts of cash in designing and building some amazing and well-equipped fitness centers for the troops.
Now, joining a military gym isn’t as easy as getting roped into a monthly subscription by someone at the front desk — first, you’ll have to go through boot camp. But once you do become a member, you can use any fitness center run by the military. But no matter where you are, the very first time you use these workout facilities, you’re going to encounter some interesting gym-goers.
You’ll probably catch a guy or girl peeking at you in the mirror when you’re not looking. We’ve got a name for people like that: “creepers.” Most of the time, they’re completely harmless — they’re just admiring your figure, but it can get annoying after a while.
Now, when you’re stationed in the infantry, having a girl show up to a predominately male gym is like finding the Holy Grail. It doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, many a gym-goer is guilty of becoming a creeper.
Well, well. Look who’s here again?
(U.S. Marine photo by Lance Cpl. John Robbart III)
The gym rat
It doesn’t matter what time of day you go to the gym — you’ll see this person when you enter and they’ll still be there working out as you leave. They’re so jacked that it seems like they live at the gym. Seeing these guys will leave you wondering, “do these guys ever go to work?”
The popular one
Everyone loves this guy or gal. They’ve got a winning smile and they say hello to everybody else in the gym. You know what? We like this stereotype, too, so we’re not going to hate on them. We’re just going to move on.
Now, there’s no proof he’s grunting, but it looks like he should be.
(Army photo by Spc. Cassandra Monroe)
When you’ve got your earphones in and you’re listening to some great tunes, its tough to hear the sounds you’re making as you lift those heavy weights. Unfortunately, everyone else in the gym totally hear you.
We get it — that leg press looked extremely hard to push out, but when you’re screaming louder than a woman in the throes of childbirth, it gets distracting. Grunting is a way many people motivate themselves, but nobody wants to hear your bellows while they’re trying to concentrate.
The ab checker
Most gym walls are plastered with mirrors. We use these mirrors to check our form, gawk look at other people, and monitor our physical progress. Some people take it a step further, though, periodically lifting up their shirts to check out their abs as if they might disappear somehow.
Nothing motivates you to workout harder than focusing on a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
This brave trooper doesn’t mind twisting his or her body into some interesting positions in order to get their pump on. You’ll see the “daredevil” doing handstands, muscle-ups, and clapper push-ups in the middle of the gym and they don’t care what kind risk is involved.
One of the most arduous parts of Marine Corps life and training has to be the long-distance rucks. Covering a lot of miles with a lot of weight on your back may seem like a simple enough proposition, but as time goes by, you start to pick up on a few things that can make an otherwise grueling hike just a bit more pleasant–or at least, a bit less likely to cause you the sort of nuisance injuries that can really make a week in the field feel more like a week in hell.
While the nuts and bolts of a long distance hike are simple enough (bring adequate food, water, and appropriate emergency gear, then just put one foot in front of the other until you’re finished) there are some things you can do before you set out or carry with you on the hike that will pay dividends throughout the hump and after, as your body recovers.
It doesn’t matter if it’s made for a man or a woman, all that matters is that it works.
(Courtesy of the author)
Use dry deodorant to manage chafing
Despite how much I’ve worked out throughout my adult life, I somehow never quite managed to get one of those “thigh gaps” all the girls on Instagram keep talking about, and as such, chafing in my groin and between my thighs has always been a concern on long-distance hikes. The combination of sweat, the seams of my pants, and my rubbing thunder thighs always conspire to leave my undercarriage raw, which quickly becomes a constant source of pain as I log the miles.
Even with spandex undergarments and an industrial supply of baby powder, chafing can rear its head and ruin your day, but you can relieve a lot of that heartache (or, I suppose, crotch-ache) by rubbing your dry stick deodorant all over the affected area. The deodorant creates a water-resistant barrier that protects the raw skin as you keep on trucking. This trick has worked for me in the savannas of Africa, the busy streets of Rome, and even in the relentlessly humid Georgia woods. Remember–it’s got to be dry stick deodorant. Gel stuff just won’t do the trick.
Also comes in handy if any of your buddies passes out early at a party.
(Courtesy of the author)
Carry a sharpie to keep tabs on bites
Spider and other insect bites can be a real cause for concern on the trail, and not necessarily for the reasons you think. It’s not all that likely that you’ll get bitten by a spider with the sort of venomous punch to really make you ill, but even an otherwise innocuous spider or insect bite can turn into big problems in a field environment. Bites create a high risk for infection, and not everyone responds to exposure to venoms, bacteria, or stingers in the same way. That’s why it’s imperative that you keep an eye on any questionable bites you accumulate along your hike.
Use a sharpie to draw a circle around the outside perimeter of a bite when you notice it, then note the time and day. As you go about your hike, check on the bite sporadically to see if the swollen, red area is expanding beyond the original perimeter. Add circles with times as you check if the bite continues to grow. If the bite grows quickly beyond that first drawn perimeter, is bright or dark red, and feels warm and firm to the touch, seek medical care for what may be a nasty infection. If you experience any trouble breathing, that’s a strong sign that you may be going into anaphylactic shock due to an allergy, and you need immediate medical care.
One of the best feelings in the world, followed by one of the worst feelings (putting your boots back on)
(Marine Corps Photo By: Cpl. Matthew Brown)
Add moleskin to blister prone spots on your feet before blisters form
If you’ve done any hiking, you’re already familiar with moleskin as a go-to blister treatment, but most people don’t realize how handy moleskin can be for blister prevention as well.
If you know that you tend to get blisters on certain spots on your feet during long hikes (the back of the heel and the inside of the ball of the foot are two common hot spots, for instance) don’t wait for a blister to form to use your moleskin. Instead, cut off a piece and apply it to the trouble spots on your feet ahead of time, adding a protective buffer between the friction points of your boot and your feet themselves.
It helps to replace the moleskin about as often as you replace your socks, to prevent it from peeling off and bunching up on you (causing a different hiking annoyance), but when done properly, you can escape even the longest hikes pretty blister free.
In what a Chinese official deemed a “provocation,” the US sent one of its guided-missile destroyers through Chinese claimed waters on Jan. 7, 2019, as the two nations kicked off trade talks in Beijing.
Reuters reported Jan. 3, 2019, that the talks, held between trade representatives from both countries, are meant to begin “positive and constructive discussions,” ultimately aiming to ease an ongoing and increasingly devastating trade war.
But just as the talks began Jan. 7, 2019, guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell sailed by the Paracel Islands, one of several hotly contested chains in the South China Sea, according to Reuters.
The same day, Chinese media aired a clip depicting a Chinese air force pilot issuing a warning to an unidentified aircraft in the air defense zone they imposed, although it is unclear when the encounter occurred.
Both encounters took place in areas where China has made sovereignty claims that are not internationally recognized. Vietnam, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines have all made competing claims in the South China Sea; the air defense zone was claimed in 2013 in an attempt to justify China’s grasp for control of the East China Sea, which has been disputed by Japan, according to the South China Morning Post.
A still image from footage of a Chinese fighter jet engaging a foreign aircraft over the East China Sea.
(China Central Television/YouTube)
Lu Kang, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said Jan. 7, 2019, that China had sent warships and aircraft in response, calling the McCampbell’s transit a violation of international law.
“We urge the United States to immediately cease this kind of provocation,” he said.
In a statement emailed to Reuters, Rachel McMarr, spokeswoman for the US Pacific Fleet, said the operation was not meant as a political statement or directed at any one country, but designed to “challenge excessive maritime claims.”
Known as “freedom of navigation” operations, ships and aircraft challenging excessive claims is not a new concept, nor one exclusively practiced by the US. In August 2018, a British amphibious ship sailed close to the Paracels, sparking a confrontation by a Chinese frigate and two aircraft. That same month, the US Defense Department published a map showing instances of Chinese vessels operating in established economic zones of other countries.
While US officials said there is no connection between the transit and the trade talks, Chinese spokesman Kang took a different approach.
“Both sides have a responsibility to create the necessary positive atmosphere for this,” he told state media, according to Reuters.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Luke Skywalker may have claimed the Millennium Falcon was a “piece of junk” when he first saw it (even though it could, you know, make point-five past lightspeed) — but he probably wouldn’t be saying that about United Airlines’ shiny new Boeing 737-800.
To celebrate the December 2019 theatrical release of “The Rise of Skywalker,” billed as the last film in the nine-film Skywalker saga, the airline has launched a special “Star Wars”-themed plane — and though it can’t travel at lightspeed, it does look pretty spiffy, or at least nothing at all like the heavily modified ship of a certain scruffy-looking nerf herder (sorry, Han Solo).
The plane made its first flight earlier this month, from Houston to Orlando, Florida. Though there were plenty of evil First Order stormtroopers on hand, thankfully no one was taken away for questioning by Kylo Ren.
Here’s what the plane is like inside.
The “Dark Side” portion of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
The “Light Side” portion of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
Exterior detail on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
Exterior details on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
Headrests with the symbol of the Resistance on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
Headrests with the logo of the First Order on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
Amenity kits on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
First Order stormtroopers aboard United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
A First Order stormtrooper confronting a passenger, presumably asking to see some identification.
First Order stormtroopers in the terminal.
First Order stormtroopers at the airport in Orlando, Florida.
The droid BB-8 at the maiden launch of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
The United Airlines “Star Wars”-themed plane as seen on Flight Aware.
United Airlines’ “Star Wars”-themed plane.
Rear detailing on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
The tail of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
The recent, fatal crash of a F-16 Fighting Falcon at Nellis Air Force Base that claimed the life of a Thunderbirds pilot is the latest in a string of accidents. We all know that flying high-performance jets comes with an element of risk — but many don’t realize just how dangerous these powerful vessels truly are.
The same people who denigrate former President George W. Bush’s service with the Texas Air National Guard forget that of the 875 F-102 jets produced, 259 crashed, leading to 70 pilot fatalities. No matter the conditions, flying these high-powered war-fighting tools comes with a great deal of risk.
An ejection seat saves Lieutenant (Junior Grade) William Belden after the brakes on his A-4 Skyhawk failed.
In Top Gun, Goose was killed despite hitting the loud handle in his F-14. Why is that? For the answer, let’s take a look at how ejection seats work. In essence, after the hatch or canopy is blown open, a catapult fires the seat away from the plane. Then, a rocket ignites, further propelling the seat. Then, if all goes well (which can be a big “if”), the seat then separates from the pilot, the chute opens, and the pilot drifts safely down.
A pilot with the Thunderbirds ejects from his F-16C Fighting Falcon during a 2003 air show,
(USAF photo by by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)
Ejection seats have limits
So, why are some pilots still killed in crashes? In some cases, the ejection simply doesn’t go well — as was the case with Goose. Other times, though, it’s a different problem entirely. Ejection seats, like planes, have envelopes. A plane can be going too fast for a seat to reliably work (one F-15 pilot survived ejecting at Mach 1.4 and later returned to flight status). The fact is, it takes a lot of force to get a pilot out of a high-performance fighter, like the F-15, safely.
Other times, pilots are determined to save their plane. Such was the case recently for the crew of an EA-18G, and their superb skills resulted in earning Air Medals for acts of non-combat heroism. Sometimes, however, pilots will try to save their vessel for too long and, by the time the ejection seats get the pilot out, they’re badly injured or even killed.
In a bipartisan move, House Representatives just approved an amendment that would create the new Space Force as a department under the Air Force, moving the new military service one step closer to reality. Reps. Jim Cooper and Mike Rogers say the amendment approved is nearly identical to the Space Corps proposal they made in 2017, something they proposed because they felt the Air Force was underperforming in the realm of space.
The move was part of the week’s blitz to mark up the House’s version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
The NDAA markup process basically determines the size of the Pentagon’s budget for the coming year.
The amendment was approved by the House Armed Services Committee as a better option than a billion plan presented to Congress by former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. The Senate’s vision of the Space Force will run taxpayers .4 million but will have to reconcile in some way with the house version of the branch.
Under the Cooper-Rogers proposal, the Space Force will be commanded by a Commandant, a four-star Air Force general who will sit on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Their Space Force is less about creating a new system from scratch and more focused on reorganizing existing space assets to clear out the bureaucracy and function in a more efficient, cost-effective way than previous proposals.
Because if the USAF knows anything, it’s cost-effective efficiency, like these 00 coffee mugs.
The White House’s original plan called for the Space Force to be an entirely separate branch of the military but run into significant opposition in both Congress and the Pentagon, due to the potential cost of creating such a force. In February 2019, President Trump signed a directive that called for the formation of the Space Force inside the Air Force, much the same way the Marine Corps is a department of the Navy.
Few in Washington argue that a more robust plan for the United States military’s role in space is necessary, but they do argue about the best way to create such a force, how to operate it, and how much it should cost. The Cooper-Rogers amendment could remove one of the most significant roadblocks to the creation of the service.
President Donald Trump is ordering the Pentagon to create the first new US military service branch in seven decades to establish “American dominance in space,” and while experts quickly knocked the idea as premature — there’s no doubt that space is a warfighting domain.
Satellites power GPS, which powers most civilian navigation and US military equipment. Satellites also time stamp transactions at US stock exchanges. Commercial satellites also relay internet, telephone, and radio communciations. The US, without its space assets, could suffer societal collapse at the hands of its rivals before a single terrestrial battle is fought.
For this reason, experts assess that space absolutely has become a warfighting domain, and one that may soon see lasers on space ships duking it out in a war above the clouds.
How a space war would go down
(U.S. Navy photo)
“If there was a war between a US and a China, for example, each side would likely try to take away the commanding heights of space from each other,” Peter W. Singer, a strategist at non-partisan think tank New America and the author of “Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War,” told Business Insider.
But instead of starships chasing each other in dogfights and “Star Wars” like duels in zero gravity, Singer said that most of a space fight would actually take place on plain old earth, though lasers are on the table.
The US and its adversaries would fire missiles at their adversary’s satellites powering navigation and trade, possibly from traditional land launchers or from ships at sea. The US has plans to streamline the launching of satellites, and hopes any future space attacks can be thwarted by quick, cheap launches of constellations of small satellites.
Singer pointed out that the US has observed Russian “killer or kamikaze satellites” maneuvering out in space in ways that suggest they could attack or block US satellites.
“They also might be using directed energy of some kind to either blind or damage a satellite. That directed energy might be laser, ground based or space based,” said Singer.
The real fighting is still on earth
(U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)
But much of the fighting wouldn’t be as flashy as space-fired lasers knocking out killer satellites, instead, it would likely take place in a “cross between space and cyber” warfare, according to Singer.
US and rival cyber warriors would start “trying to go after the communication links between space and earth on the ground. They might be trying to jam or take control of the satellites,” he said.
Deciding to be a Marine means you have to accept the challenges that you’ll have to face along the way. Earning that Eagle, Globe, and Anchor is no easy task. To become a Marine, you have to be willing to stare every challenge straight in the eye and say, “I got this.” That’s what it means to be a Marine. That is the very quality at the core of every person who becomes one. This is no exception for Michael Campofiori, one of the Corps’ newest Marines — and a survivor of leukemia.
According to the American Cancer Society, patients with childhood leukemia very rarely survive after five years. This disease is a monster of a challenge for anyone to overcome, and it’s a tragedy for any child to have to experience. That didn’t stop Michael Campofiori from wanting to become a Marine, despite being diagnosed at age 11.
This would be his first challenge on a path of many:
Michael Campofiori poses for a photo with Sgt. William Todd, a recruiter with Recruiting Substation Myrtle Beach, and Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Falk, the Staff non-commissioned officer-in-charge of Recruiting Substation Myrtle Beach, after swearing in to the Marine Corps on Aug. 16, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lcpl Jack Rigsby)
Joining the military is difficult when leukemia is a part of your medical history. There’s a special waiver for it, but Campofiori had trouble finding recruiters willing to take on the paperwork and help him realize his dream of becoming a Marine. The journey took him, a native of New Jersey, all the way to South Carolina.
Poolees with RSS Myrtle Beach posing with the recruiters.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lcpl Jack Rigsby)
The recruiters at Recruiting Substation Myrtle Beach were willing to do the work necessary to get Campofiori in. They felt he had what it took — and they were absolutely right. Not only did his waiver go through, but Campofiori dominated as a Poolee, earning nearly a perfect score on the Initial Strength Test, the prerequisite fitness test for eligibility to join.
Of the maximum 20 pull-ups, 100 crunches, and 9:00 minute run-time, this badass got 29 pull-ups, 121 crunches, and a 9:18 run-time for the mile and a half. He wasn’t even a Marine before he was going above and beyond.
Michael Campofiori, a recruit with Platoon 2020, Company E, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, participates in the Day Movement Course as part of Basic Warrior Training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, Feb. 6, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jack A. E. Rigsby)
Campofiori was sent to boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina on Dec. 10, 2018. Of course, the challenge isn’t over there — boot camp is its own obstacle to overcome. It’s difficult in its own right. But, Campofiori was already slaying dragons.
Welcome to the Corps.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jack A. E. Rigsby)
On February 23, 2019, Michael Campofiori completed the Crucible and received his Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, completing the transformation into a United States Marine. From battling leukemia to earning the title, Campofiori overcame every challenge that he ever had to face. Campofiori embodies the very spirit of being a Marine.
You can watch the video of him receiving his EGA here.
In America, you can do a lot of things at a firing range — for the right price. Shoot a sten gun, a .50-cal, or an AK-47 — you can even drive a Sherman tank over a car. This is America and if there’s anything Americans seem to hate, its limits on firearms. But while America is not alone in their undying love for battlefield firearms there are some limits to what you can do without breaking the law.
That sh*t goes out the window in Cambodia, though. You know Cambodia, right?
Bring your own GoPro.
Cambodia has had gun control laws in place since the 1990s, but unlike countries where guns are tightly regulated, tightly controlled, and tightly monitored, Cambodia hasn’t had the will or political impetus to enforce many of the laws. Citizens once carried an array of assault weapons and explosives.
Cambodia’s civil war killed some 1.7 million people and displaced millions of others from the cities to the countryside. So it’s unsurprising that so many Cambodians are unwilling to part with their lethal protection. Even less surprising is that some Cambodians would choose to turn the large caches of antiquated firearms into a booming tourist attraction.
In recent years, many locals have turned in their weapons, but many others did not. It is still quite easy to get your hands on some of this hardcore hardware. As a tourist, though, you don’t need to acquire your own heat. Just like in America, one can be found for you — for the right price.
At the Cambodia Fire Range Phnom Penh, you can combine tour packages that will take you to Cambodia’s unique historic temples, like Angkor Wat, with massive firepower. They’ll transport you there for free, fill you up with all the free beer you can handle, and then take you back to the range so you can let loose with an RPG aimed at a makeshift grass hut loaded with fuel barrels.
If jungle temples and shoulder-fired rockets aren’t your jam, maybe you’ll be more apt to take in the beautiful, pristine beaches at Sihanoukville with a boat ride to some of Cambodia’s most remote, small islands. Then, once back at the range, you might prefer tossing hand grenades — or launching them with an M70.
When the Navy called on women to volunteer for shore service during World War II to free up men for duty at sea, 102-year-old Melva Dolan Simon was among the first to raise her hand and take the oath.
“I went in so sailors could board ships and go do what they were supposed to be doing,” said Simon. She recalled her military service as “something different” in an era when women traditionally stayed home while men went off to war. “I helped sailors get on their way.”
Simon was the first woman in her hometown of Bridgeport, Pa., to join the WAVES, according to a yellowed clipping of a 1942 newspaper article. She was also among the first in the nation to join the service. It was just three months earlier, on July 30, 1942, that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had signed the law establishing the corps.
“I had a good job with the school, but I felt I would be doing more for my country by being in the service,” said Simon.
The seventh of 12 children, Simon said she chose the Navy because several of her brothers were already serving in the Army, Air Force, and Coast Guard.
WWII Navy WAVES Veteran Melva Dolan Simon’s service memorabilia includes her rank and insignia, photos and official documents.
“They were all enlisted, and I thought, well, what’s wrong with joining the Navy?” said Simon. “I decided I wanted to go, and I was accepted.”
“That’s where we learned the basics of the Navy,” said Simon. “We were trained to march, we studied hard, and they drilled into us how important what we were doing was.”
After completing basic, many of the WAVES trainees spent another 12 weeks at the college for advanced training in secretarial duties.
From Oklahoma, Simon was assigned to active duty at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, which during World War II employed 40,000, built 53 warships and repaired another 1,218. She and her fellow yeomen earned anywhere from to 5 in basic pay per month, depending on their rank, plus food and quarters allowance, unless provided by the Navy.
Simon lived on the all-female fourth floor of the Benjamin Franklin Hotel in Philadelphia. WAVES personnel were under strict orders not to visit any other floors of the hotel – an order Simon said she followed.
“I didn’t go on the other floors,” said Simon, sternly. “It was none of my business.”
Simon’s military responsibilities included taking dictation from the officer in charge, performing clerical duties and driving officers around the base.
“They gave me a driver’s license for the Navy, and I would drive these officers, sometimes just very short distances,” Simon said, smiling as she motioned from her seat at a dining room table to the far side of her kitchen. “I thought that was interesting because it would have done them some good if they’d just walked.”
Simon wrote letters home to her family at first, then sent her parents money to have a home phone installed. Simon said that home phones were a luxury at the time. Before they installed the phone, her family used a telephone at a nearby store to call her.
“I sent them money every payday to keep the phone bill paid,” Simon said. “It was much easier to call than to sit down and write, especially since I was writing all day at the office.”
The phone also allowed her future husband, Joseph “Joe” Simon, to keep in touch with her. The two had met at the high school where Joe Simon worked as an agriculture teacher, and he’d visit with her when she was home on leave. They married in July 1945, just a few weeks before Melva Simon received an honorable discharge from the Navy in August 1945.
WAVES standing in formation.
The couple purchased a 22-acre farm in 1947 in Mt. Pleasant Township, Pa., where they supplemented Joe’s teacher’s salary by growing and selling sweet corn.
“It sold like hot fire because it was good sweet corn,” Melva Simon said. “Then Joe planted apple trees, and that’s what we decided to do.”
The couple started an apple orchard — Simon’s Apple Orchard — that remains family-run today. The orchard opens its doors to customers every fall, offering everything from pure sweet cider still made using the Simons’ original recipe to bags of fresh McIntosh, Stayman, Rome, Jonathan, red and yellow delicious, and other apple varieties.
At the VA
Melva Simon worked the orchard alongside her husband, then took over when he died in 2004 at the age of 88. Still spry at 102, she drove tractors, harvested apples, made cider and worked the counter at a small shop on the property until just a few years ago.
Blessed with a lifetime of good health, Melva Simon only recently discovered she is eligible for health care benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. With the help of her daughter, Melvajo Bennett, the World War II veteran has, since August, received care through VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System’s Westmoreland County VA Outpatient Clinic.
“It didn’t dawn on her to go to the VA because she’s always had such good health and never really had to see the doctor,” said Bennett. “But they’ve been wonderful with how they are treating her.”
Asked for the secret to good health and a long life, Melva Simon gave a simple answer.
“There is no secret,” she said. “All it takes is simple living. I eat simple food. I don’t drink, and I don’t smoke.”
As for her military service, Melva Simon said she’d do it all over again.
“That was all I ever wanted to do, was to do something for the government and the country,” she said. “I’d do it again.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
This inconspicuous building just off the Dixie Highway may not seem too tough — until you realize it’s one of the most secure locations in the world. There’s a reason why “Fort Knox” is synonymous with high-end security.
The U.S. Army post around the U.S. Bullion Depository, Fort Knox, isn’t that much different from any other military installation. To gain entry, a civilian can sign onto post at the visitor’s center. But even troops stationed there can’t just casually swing by the depository.
Not much is truly known about the inner-workings of the depository; there certainly are no photographs or schematics available. What is public knowledge is only what’s visible from the outside, interviews resulting from the 1974 tour, and first-hand accounts from the former, extremely-select handful who’ve set foot inside.
(United Artists and Eon Productions)
From the outside, you can see the many fences that lay between the building and the highway. Several of them are said to be electrified. Each corner of the building has a guard tower manned by an unspecified amount of security guards who watch over each sector. The land between the fences is also said to be mined.
Construction on the building itself was completed in December, 1936, and the known building materials include 16,000 cubic feet of granite, 4,200 cubic yards of concrete, 750 tons of reinforced steel, and 670 tons of structural steel. All of this for a 2-story-tall building with a 1-story basement — sounds pretty secure, right?
In addition thousands of pounds of steel and stone, there’s an entire battalion of U.S. Mint Police that cover the place.
The politicians and journalists who were granted access to the building in 1974 entered through the 20-ton steel door and got to look into one of the many compartments. That compartment held 36,236 gold bars, stacked from floor to ceiling. At the time, the gold was valued at $42,222 per Troy oz., which meant they got to see $499.8 million of gold.
The rest of the security measures are up for speculation. The Fort is rumored to be outfitted with laser wire and seismographic sensors to ensure no one approached undetected. The corridors can, apparently, be flooded at a moment’s notice. And security measures are constantly re-worked to improve and re-improve before anyone knows better.
Fantastic week, everyone! Plenty of hard-won success within the veteran and military community! The doctors at Johns Hopkins fought to give a wounded warrior a new penis, one of our own fought hard for his right to have a beard, and we fought to get tax exemption for disabled veterans with student loan forgiveness.
All this and no one fractured the community with a t-rex puppet or an article about how “millennials are killing the iron sight industry.” Your weekly meme brief is simple. Don’t do dumb sh*t; just keep making the vet and military community proud. Have a drink, you earned it.
(Meme via Air Force Nation)
(Meme by WATM)
(Meme via Dysfunctional Veterans)
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
(Meme via Infantry Army)
Friend: “Is that a gun in your pants or are you just happy to see me?”
Me, a 2A supporter: “Both”
This one got dark. We Are The Mighty does not condone the humanitarian catastrophes in Syria, but the U.S. cannot condone the use of chemical warfare…anyway…back to the memes…
The U.S. Air Force plans to double the number of Combat Aviation Advisors it sends to train partners on special operations missions at a time when the Defense Department’s footprint in austere environments has come under scrutiny.
Under guidance in the National Defense Strategy, Air Force Special Operations Command is preparing to grow each of its teams, developing a planned total of 352 total force integration advisors over the next few years, officials said. The CAA mission, under Special Operations Command, has about half that now.
“This is really a second line of effort for [Defense] Secretary [Jim] Mattis,” said Lt. Col. Steve Hreczkosij, deputy director of Air Advisor operations at AFSOC.
Military.com spoke with Combat Aviation Advisors here during a trip to the base in May 2018, accompanying Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.
“This is AFSOC’s foreign internal defense force,” Hreczkosij said, referring to the U.S. mission to provide support to other governments fighting internal threats such as terrorists, lawlessness or drug activity.
The goal is to sustain five year-round advisory sites around the world by fiscal 2023, Hreczkosij said.
“That might mean five countries, that might mean five major lines of effort … but that is our resourcing strategy goal to influence five locations,” he said.
Still, officials know it takes time to train partners and allies, such as the Afghan National Security Forces, who are employing A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft as well as Pilatus PC-12NG planes converted into intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb)
While Air Combat Command and Air Mobility Command work with partner nations in similar ways, Combat Aviation Advisors are the U.S. military’s most advanced team to train foreign partners battling tough scenarios, said Lt. Col. Cheree Kochen, who is assigned to the Irregular Warfare Plans division at the Air Force Special Operations Warfare Center.
“This is the advanced flying — flying on night-vision goggles, airdrop, infiltration and exfiltration” as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, she said.
“We are authorized to get in partner nation aircraft and fly on their missions,” Hreczkosij said. “We integrate, we embed. We live in their squadron building. Our approach is an enduring and integrated approach to make sure they really embed this technique, mission or equipment into how they do business.”
The air commando unit also sets the agenda for how host nation troops should learn and equip themselves based on U.S. and host nation goals.
“We also do security force assistance, which is kind of the catch-all term for mil-to-mil partnerships,” Hreczkosij said. “We provide that last tactical mile.”
The support is “about SOF mobility, ISR advising and armed reconnaissance. We’re certainly not dropping bombs,” he said, adding, “it’s not an attacking sort of mission. It’s more of a ‘target of opportunity,’ then you can see it.”
Why not contractors?
Not all partnerships are the same. NATO special operations forces and those in more austere environments vary in training, skill level and mission set, officials said.
Countries CAA troops regularly deal with include Afghanistan, Cameroon, Uganda, Kenya, Mauritania, Mali, Tunisia, Chad, and the Philippines.
“We don’t care what type of airplane our partners are flying,” Hreczkosij said.
The unit is, however, looking to acquire more C-208s, dubbed AC-208s when equipped with Hellfire missiles, here at Hurlburt to practice on and or take as trainer aircraft to countries eager to build a force of their own.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Weston A. Mohr)
The unit commonly uses PC-6, C-208 and PC-12NG ISR aircraft; C-145/M-28, BT-67 and C-308 mobility aircraft; and AT-802, AC-235, and AC-208 armed recon aircraft.
Kochen said an upcoming project includes operations in Nepal, in which advisers are taking C-145 Skytrucks retired from nearby Duke Field in Florida and giving members maintenance training before aerial operations begin.
It isn’t uncommon for contractors to have a role in host nation troops’ basic pilot training either in the U.S. or overseas, she said.
Hreczkosij agreed. “Contractors aren’t in the current fight, so they don’t get the current [tactics, techniques, and procedures] with other forces in the field, and they don’t always have the trust of the partner nation,” he said. “If I’m sitting across from, say, an airman in sub-Saharan Africa … and we’re both wearing a uniform, we have a common understanding.”
Without naming the region, Kochen discussed a case in which contractors were overly bullish about their training, sometimes anticipating that the foreign trainees could learn faster on an aircraft than they actually could. It’s led to a few crashes in recent years because “the country was doing tactics that were a little bit dangerous for them for their skill level,” she said.
Hreczkosij added, “There’s a place for contractors. It’s just not in this place.”
Standing on their own
AFSOC’s 6th Special Operations Squadron, along with the Reserve’s 711th Special Operations Squadron out of Duke Field, make up the only Combat Aviation Advisor mission in the Air Force.
There are 16 Air Force Specialty Codes within the mission, including instructors, pilots, maintainers, and Tactical Air Control Party airmen, among others. Team members can speak more than a dozen different languages.
While the job dates back to World War II, the unit’s true genesis dates to Vietnam, Hreczkosij said, when the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron was dispatched to Southeast Asia to train the Vietnamese and Cambodian air forces to leverage older aircraft in counter-insurgency and military assistance during the war.
It wasn’t until the 1990s when the Air Force would again start using air commandos as a foreign internal defense force for operations across the globe.
Both Hreczkosij and Kochen were part of the 6th SOS before moving to the Air Force Special Operations Warfare Center headquarters and have been in the mission for more than a decade.
Kochen said CAAs want to work with as many countries as they can, but are turning away work due to demand.
“We get a long list, and we can only do one-third of what we’re being asked to do,” she said.
The dwell-deployment rate, however, is on par with the Air Force’s current deployment schedule, Hreczkosij said, adding the units are not overtasked at this time.
Kochen reiterated that their work goes only so far before the foreign partner has to step in and take over. “There’s no point in sending guys over” to a country they’ve been working with for a while, such as Afghanistan, because “our guys would only be getting in their way,” she said, referring to training the Afghan Special Mission Wing on PC-12NG ISR operations.
“Thirty months later here, they are doing 15 sorties per day and night, providing a combat effect to the organic larger Afghan air force,” Hreczkosij said of the Afghan ISR unit.
“They’re able to give their guys check rides without us being there anymore,” Kochen said. “We give them a capability that we can just leave and hopefully they can just fight their own wars.
“That’s the goal. That we don’t have to send U.S. forces over there. The goal is to set up a sustaining, capable unit that can continue doing that same mission,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.