When you think about the Halo series of video games, you probably reminisce about a great story, an excellent multiplayer experience, and a slew of badass weaponry that makes us yearn for the future. If you’ve played even a single story mission, then you know about the Spartans: highly trained, augmented super soldiers designed to withstand any condition and defeat any enemy. In theory, it sounds pretty cool to be a Spartan. In reality, however, it’d suck. Majorly.
In the world of Halo, the SPARTAN-II program started as a way to combat insurrectionists and later became a way to stem the advance of the alien empire known as The Covenant. The goal was to pair advanced exoskeleton technology with a mechanically and biologically enhanced soldier.
But the process of creating a Spartan, were it to happen in real life, would be brutal, unethical, and extremely controversial. Here’s what a to-be Spartan would experience:
Still, the procedure was pretty unethical…
Candidates, typically between the ages of 5 and 6, are kidnapped by Office of Naval Intelligence recruiters. These candidates are then flash cloned and the copy is sent home. Unfortunately, because the science behind flash cloning wasn’t totally sound, these clones would often die a week or two later, leaving parents mystified and grief-stricken.
How did ONI find candidates? Well, they gathered genetic information during a vaccination program. But if you’re thinking that’s just another reason not to vaccinate your children, just remember that this is what they got in exchange:
It might’ve hurt like a b*tch, but Spartans were nearly unbreakable. Fair trade?
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Janessa Pon)
The first step in enhancing candidates is grafting materials onto bones to increase their strength. The goal is to make the bones of the candidates nearly indestructible, but those who undergo the process say it feels like their bones are all being broken.
The worst part is that this process only covers about 13% of the skeletal system so… maybe they could have just had some milk instead? Or maybe some grape juice?
This is nothing for a Spartan.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Darhonda V. Hall)
It’s safe to say that casually flipping over a Scorpion tank requires some insane strength. So, as part of the SPARTAN-II program, all sorts of proteins are injected into candidates’ muscles. Sounds cool, right?
It might… until you hear that it feels like napalm is coursing through your skin and your veins are being ripped out of your body.
You have to be a little crazy to try and become a SEAL, but at least it’s your choice.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric S. Logsdon)
The attrition rate for real-life special operations units is ridiculously high. Many don’t make the cut and, if you don’t, you’re out — but at least you’re not dead.
In the SPARTAN-II program, candidates that survived the augmentation process often died from physical side effects. Out of the 150 children that started out in the program, only 33 made it all the way through to the end, becoming the super soldiers who would go on to kick some serious alien hide.
The word “Dependa” has often been a derogatory label put on military spouses. The word itself insinuates that they sit on the couch all day collecting the benefits while their service member works hard and risks their lives for this country’s freedoms. There’s an even uglier way of saying that word but that term doesn’t deserve a discussion.
Guess what? The married military member themselves are just as much a “Dependa” as their spouse is. You read that right – turns out in a marriage, it’s supposed to be that way.
The role of a soldier, guardsman, Marine, sailor, airman, or coastie is simple: mission first. The needs of the military will always come before their spouse, children, and really – anything important in their life. This is something that the military family is well aware of and accepts as a part of the military life.
Often the spouse will hear things like, “well, you knew what you signed up for.” Yes, the military spouse is well aware of the sacrifice that comes along with marrying their uniformed service member. But are you?
While the military member is off following orders and doing Uncle Sam’s bidding – the spouse is left with the full weight of managing the home, finances, and carrying the roles of being both parents to the children left behind, waiting. Both depend on each other to make it work – and that’s how it should be. Here are 5 reasons why servicemembers depend on their spouses:
When a married service member deploys, they typically leave behind not only a spouse but children as well. While the service member is off focusing on their mission, for many months on end, life at home doesn’t stop just because they are gone. It’s just taken care of by the spouse. Without the home front being handled by the spouse, the service member cannot remain mission-ready or deploy.
Even when they are home, they aren’t really home
Just because a service member isn’t currently deployed doesn’t mean they are completely present for the family. Between training exercises, TDY’s, and the needs of the service, they are never really guaranteed to be home and of help to the military spouse. Military spouses face a 24% unemployment rate due to a number of factors like frequent moves but also lack of childcare. Did you know 72% of military spouses cannot find reliable childcare for their children?
The PCS struggle is real
The military family will move every 2-3 years, that’s a given. While the military member is busy doing check-outs and ins – the spouse is typically handling all of the things that come along with moving.
Organizing for the PCS
Researching the new duty station area for best places to live, work (if they can even find employment), and good schools for the children
Gathering copies of all the medical records
Finding new providers for the family
Unpacking and starting a whole new life, again
Blanchella Casey, supervisory librarian, reads the book, “Big Smelly Bear” to preschool children at the library as part of Robins Air Force Base’ summer programming.
U.S. Air Force
Many of the support programs for the military are run off the backs of volunteers – the military spouses, to be exact. The Family Readiness Group (Army and Navy), Key Spouse (Air Force) program, or the Ombudsman (Coast Guard) programs are all dependent on the unpaid time of the military spouse. These programs all serve the same purpose – to serve the unit and support families.
More than 2.5 million United States service members have been deployed overseas since 9/11. Service to this country comes with a lot of personal sacrifice for the military member. Half of them are married, many with children. They leave a lot behind all in the name of freedom. It comes at a heavy price. That service to the country affects every aspect of their lives – including their mental health. Their spouse becomes their secret keeper, counselor, and advocate. 33% of military members and veterans depend on their spouse to be their caregiver.
The military spouse serves their family, community, and are the backbone of support for their military member to have the ability to focus on being mission ready. They are both a “Dependa” to each other and cannot be truly successful without the other’s support – and that’s okay.
One of the most celebrated World War II tank gunners received the bronze star during a surprise award ceremony 74-years in the making.
Clarence Smoyer, 96-year-old former 3rd Armored Division tank gunner, never bragged about the five tanks he destroyed in the war, including an infamous Nazi tank he leveled during a dramatic duel in war-torn Cologne, Germany.
He didn’t ask for anything, either. To Smoyer, he was just doing his job to protect the men he considers family.
(Pictured left) Clarence Smoyer, former 3rd Armored Division tank gunner, and Joe Caserta, World War II veteran of Omaha Beach, Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, attend a Bronze Star award ceremony, with Smoyer as the guest of honor, Sept. 18, 2019, at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Smoyer was nicknamed the “Hero of Cologne” for his efforts destroying a German tank during the battle.
(Thomas Brading, Army News Service)
Duel at the cathedral
It was March 6, 1945, and WWII was winding down, much of Germany was left in ruins.
Cologne, one of the country’s largest cities, was no exception. Once a bustling metropolis, Cologne had been reduced to rubble, with only a few identifiable buildings remaining — including its cathedral.
As the Americans entered Cologne, Smoyer recalls the now-infamous words of his lieutenant, Bill Stillman, who said, “Gentlemen, I give you Cologne, let’s knock the hell out of it.”
Clarence Smoyer (top middle) was a 21-year-old Pennsylvania native when he, and his fellow tank crew members, were photographed in Cologne, Germany, in 1945. This photo, courtesy of the National Archives, was taken moments after the battle of Cologne, Germany, and Smoyer delivered the fatal shots that destroyed a German tank.
“So… we obliged,” Smoyer joked, thinking back to that day.
American forces, before making their way east toward Berlin, had to conquer Cologne first. Their goal was to secure a bridge over the Rhine River, but a nearby Nazi tank had other plans.
“Attacking such a large city gave the enemy plenty of places to hide,” Smoyer said. “Not just in the horizontal plane, but from the basements to the tops of five-story buildings — Cologne put us to the test.”
“We were chosen as the first tank(s) into the city,” he added. “Everyone else followed us in. So, for us, it was constant firing. You fired at anything that moved. That’s when a gunner’s instinct kicked in.”
One street over from Smoyer, the Panther tank, used by the Nazis, took out an American Sherman tank, killing three soldiers inside, including Karl Kellner. The Wisconsin native, and Silver Star recipient, had received a battlefield commission to lieutenant just two weeks prior.
(Pictured left) Clarence Smoyer, receives his long-awaited Bronze Star Sept. 18, 2019, during a ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Smoyer was recognized for his heroic efforts during the battle of Cologne, Germany, where as a tank gunner, he delivered the fatal blows to a German Panther tank and was nicknamed “The Hero of Cologne.”
(Thomas Brading, Army News Service)
After being hit, Kellner’s leg was amputated at the knee. He jumped from the tank and landed on his remaining leg. Smoke lifted from his stump like a ghost fading into the air, witnessed remembered.
Nearby, Stars and Stripes reporter, Sgt. Andy Rooney — the future acclaimed television journalist — along with another man sprinted toward Kellner. He was lying near the destroyed American tank. They moved him to onto a jumble of debris, safely out of the way, and attempted to stop the blood as it flowed from Kellner’s severed limb.
Rooney, the future 60 Minutes newsman, held Kellner in his arms as he died. Later, Rooney would say it was the first time he witnessed death. The other two tankers, both killed by the Germans, never escaped the Sherman tank. Meanwhile, Smoyer and his crew were slowly approaching the battle.
The Panther tank idled quietly in the street, as the Americans approached.
Veterans Clarence Smoyer and Joe Caserta stand near a Pershing tank, similar to the ones they were both crewmembers of during World War II, Sept. 18, 2019, near the National World War II Memorial in Washington. Both men were present in their respective tanks in Cologne, Germany, March 6, 1945, when Smoyer’s tank crew “Eagle 7,” took out a German tank.
(Photo by C. Todd Lopez, DOD)
“Experience taught me it’s impossible to knock out a German tank in one shot,” he said. “So, I worked a plan with our driver. He was to edge into the intersection, I’d shoot, and then he’d back up — fast! When we roared into the intersection to shoot, everything went out the window.”
Instead of “seeing the flank of the Panther in the periscope,” like he planned, Smoyer looked at the Panther’s super velocity muzzle pointed at street level, right at him, he said.
Smoyer added “his heart stopped.” The driver, also staring down the barrel of the German’s muzzle, panicked and “floored the gas.”
“We were totally vulnerable,” Smoyer said. “I snapped off a quick shot and hit him first. I kept yelling for (armor-piercing) rounds and kept hitting him until he caught fire. I could hardly breathe as we backed out of there.”
Smoyer’s finger squeezed the trigger of his tank, and he fired 90mm rounds into the side of the Panther tank, garnishing three direct hits.
World War II veterans Clarence Smoyer, Joe Caserta and Buck Marsh stand for the chaplain’s invocation during a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.
(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)
“People always ask why I fired three times,” Smoyer said. “Some say I was butchering that German crew by not giving them a chance to flee the tank. Any crewman still alive in that Panther could have pulled the trigger and with that powerful of a gun still pointing at us, we’d all be dead.”
But, that wasn’t the case. The Americans won, and Smoyer, the thin, 21-year-old curly blonde haired corporal, earned the nickname “the hero of Cologne.”
Footage of the battle, captured by Tech. Sgt. Jim Bates, a combat cameraman attached to the 165th Photo Signal Company, made its way into movie newsreels worldwide, including back home in Pennsylvania, where Smoyer called home.
“That’s Hon!” Smoyer’s sister-in-law yelled during an airing of the newsreel, Hon was Smoyer’s family nickname.
She later convinced the theater owners to replay the reel, so Smoyer’s parents, who had never been to a movie theater, could see their son was still alive.
Author Adam Makos and World War II veteran Clarence Smoyer walk to a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.
(Photo by James K. Lee)
History in the making
For his actions that day, Smoyer was notified he earned the Bronze Star. However, this was short-lived after Smoyer talked to German children, who were begging the soldier for bubble gum. This small act of charity cost him the medal.
“They wanted bubble gum and I was still searching my pockets when a jeep full of (military police) turned the corner,” Smoyer said. “Fraternization was a no-no.”
Smoyer added, he felt bad for the kids, who had been on the frontlines of war longer than him. The MPs took his name, tank, serial number, and indirectly, his Bronze Star.
Army Maj. Peter Semanoff salutes World War II veteran Clarence Smoyer after awarding him the Bronze Star during a ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.
(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)
“I could have avoided all that if I just had a stick of gum!” He joked.
But, it was never about the medals and glory. As decades passed, the war ended, and Smoyer returned to civilian life. His neighbors in Allentown, Pennsylvania, never knew they lived by a war hero.
That all changed after an author, Adam Makos, who wrote a book on Smoyer’s story, happened upon information that changed everything.
“Smoyer’s tank commander and an Army combat cameraman both received Bronze Stars for their actions that day — yet, Smoyer got nothing,” Makos said.
This inspired the author to change that. He used witnesses to Smoyer’s actions, evidence he collected, including Bates combat camera footage, and contacted the Army.
World War II veterans Joe Caserta and Clarence Smoyer embrace during a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.
(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)
In the end, a military review board agreed with Makos, and Smoyer was awarded the Bronze Star. Three additional Bronze Stars were also awarded to the rest of the tank crew, making Smoyer’s tank crew “one of the most celebrated in Army history,” according to Makos.
To keep the surprise, Smoyer’s loved ones convinced him he was visiting the WWII Memorial as a tourist. The monument was filled with soldiers, fellow WWII veterans, news crews, and onlookers. Then, overwhelmed with emotion, he received the long overdue medal.
With the Bronze Star pinned to his chest, Smoyer promised to, “Wear the medal to remember the ones who lost their lives” that day, nearly 75 years ago.
Investigators probing the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014 say they have recorded phone calls connecting pro-Russian rebels implicated in the missile strike and a senior aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The international Joint Investigation Team, based in the Netherlands, on Nov. 14, 2019, released the calls involving members of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the armed Russian separatist group that has fought against the Ukrainian government for independence in eastern Ukraine.
“Well, your plans are far-reaching. Mine are not,” Alexander Borodai, the former self-proclaimed prime minister of the DPR, said in one call. “I’m carrying out orders and protecting the interests of one and only state, the Russian Federation. That’s the bottom line.”
Members of the DPR have been found responsible for the downing of MH17. All 298 people on board were killed when the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. In June, four people were charged with murder.
“The indications for close ties between leaders of the DPR and Russian government officials raise questions about their possible involvement in the deployment of the BUK TELAR, which brought down flight MH17,” the investigators said, adding that the missile system that downed the aircraft originated from “a unit of the Russian armed forces from Kursk in the Russian Federation.”
The investigators said the phone calls indicated that senior members of the DPR “maintained contact with Russian government officials” — including the senior aide, Vladislav Surkov — “about Russian military support.”
According to the call logs published by the investigators, in a conversation six days before the missile strike, Borodai told Surkov he urgently needed military support from Russia, and Surkov replied that Russian “combat-ready” reinforcements would be arriving.
Other intercepted phone calls also implicate the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, and the FSB, Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, the investigators said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“It’s a week we’ve directly … [inaudible] to Moscow and we get the orders,” one rebel said during a call in July 2014.
“We get the orders from Moscow as well. It’s the same with us,” another person replied.
“But it’s FSB in your case? Right,” the first rebel asked.
“Yes,” the second person said.
“And it’s GRU in our case. That’s the only difference,” the first rebel said.
“I know about it perfectly well,” the second person replied.
Though former DPR rebels testified in the investigation that they received military help from Russia, both the rebel group and Russia have denied any involvement in the missile strike. A Kremlin spokesman said the call logs should be scrutinized, adding that they came amid a trove of “fake news” about the incident, according to Reuters.
The investigators said the FSB provided telephones that could not be wiretapped.
“How are you about those special communication telephones, you know, that we have? Those that go through the internet, do you know? Secure,” Sergey Dubinsky, a former GRU officer and a member of the DPR, said on a call on July 3, 2014.
He added: “Those are special phones, you cannot buy them. They are gotten through Moscow. Through FSB.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
An Army cadet from Michigan State University recently set a Guinness World Record for the most chest-to-ground burpees completed in 12 hours, an effort that helped him raise more than $7,800 for his nonprofit group for wounded veterans.
4,689. That’s the number of burpees Bryan Abell, a 23-year-old ROTC cadet, accomplished July 7, 2019, in his hometown of Milford, Michigan. His original goal was 4,500, the minimum number required by Guinness to set the record, but Abell kept going when there was time to spare.
Abell’s drive to push forward is rooted in the Army’s core values, he said. Before becoming an ROTC cadet his sophomore year, Abell originally enlisted as a National Guard infantryman in 2015, assigned to the 126th Infantry Regiment for the Michigan National Guard.
“If I wasn’t in the military, I wouldn’t have broken the record,” he said. The Army has taught me “to be proud of what you’re doing and to keep moving forward. I wanted to prove to myself I could do it.”
Abell not only proved it to himself, he proved it to the world.
Cadet Bryan Abell, Michigan State University ROTC, rests during a work out Aug. 16, 2019, at Fort Knox, Ky.
(Photo by Reagan Zimmerman)
Guinness officially certified his record shortly before he started Cadet Summer Training-Advanced Camp at Fort Knox, Kentucky, last month. CST is a must-pass field training program for cadets and a stepping stone in becoming an officer in the Army.
Training for a world record
No stranger to physical activity, Abell is a veteran of multiple ultra-marathons, often running more than 50 miles through the winding wooded trails of Michigan’s countryside.
At first, Abell planned to vie for the record of “most burpees in an hour,” but after seeing nobody had accomplished the 12-hour record, he changed his mind.
After planning his record setting goal, Abell started a training regimen in his parents’ backyard. He initiated training by doing more than 500 burpees a day and over time he increased his daily total to more than 1,500. During the six weeks he trained, Abell did nearly 33,000 total burpees.
A dirt hole, where Abell trained, formed in the grass of his parents’ backyard. As the hole became deeper, it served as a testament to his will to set the world record. Although Abell was stronger with each passing day, his dad “wasn’t very happy with the hole,” he joked.
Today, the yard is back in the pristine condition his dad generally maintains it at, and the once deep, dirt hole has become a faded memory.
Burpees for a purpose
Milford, a Detroit suburb with a population of more than 6,000, was handpicked by Abell as the location for the world record attempt. The reason was simple — Abell said “it was home,” and he “just wanted to see it in the record books.”
That said, the clerical tasks of setting a world record weren’t as simple. Breaking a record can be a tedious job, he admitted, “It became pretty stressful. I didn’t realize how much time would go into (filling out paperwork).”
In addition, with CST on the horizon, Abell needed to speed up the application and training process. Luckily, Guinness offered two options: 12-week review or a priority, five-day application review. Abell opted for the quicker option.
“I chose the priority option because I didn’t have much time,” Abell said. “I wanted to (attempt the record) before I came to advanced camp. The application came back within five days and basically from there, I had to set a date.”
After establishing the application process, the next step was his favorite part: gunning for the record books.
Cadet Bryan Abell, Michigan State University ROTC, shows off his Guinness World Record plaque at his home in Milford, Michigan.
“I just wanted to do the burpees,” Abell joked.
With hometown pride, the day finally came. From 7:05 a.m. to 7:05 p.m., and only resting periodically, Abell averaged at least six to seven chest-to-ground burpees a minute.
“I could only rest for 20-30 seconds,” said Abell, who also took short restroom breaks during the timed event.
In lieu of a witness from Guinness, Abell took a different route to provide proof of his record. He set up multiple cameras from different angles to watch his proper form, and he had six individuals working two-person, four-hour shifts while he contended for the world record at the Carls Family YMCA.
At least one of the witnesses, at any given time, was required to have a fitness-related certification.
The event was live streamed on social media from his nonprofit organization’s page, Stronger Warrior Foundation, where he also received donations.
A good cause
Stronger Warrior Foundation, officially incorporated in January, is a nonprofit Abell founded with his sister, Katelyn, during his sophomore year in college.
The siblings started “from the ground up”, he said, and their main purpose is to help servicemembers and veterans who have been wounded or have suffered disabilities from combat-related service.
The live streamed, half-day challenge raised more than id=”listicle-2639958942″,300, with more donations generated after he set the world record.
Abell doesn’t plan to give up his record anytime soon.
When asked what he’d do if someone does 5,000 chest-to-ground burpees and breaks it, he laughed and said, “Then I’d have to do 5,001.”
The SR-71 Blackbird was developed by Lockheed Martin as a long-range reconnaissance aircraft that could hit air speeds over Mach 3.2 ( 2,455 mph) and climb to an altitude of 85,000 feet.
In March 1968, the first operational Blackbird was flown out of Kadena AFB in Japan. With the Vietnam war in full swing, the intent was to conduct stealth missions by gathering photographs and electronic intelligence against the enemy. The crew would fly daily missions into sensitive areas where one slight mishap could spark an international incident.
After climbing to 60,000 feet, the crew switched off its communication system so that only a select few would know the mission’s target. The aircraft didn’t always rely on its speed for defense; it was equipped with a jammer that would interrupt the enemy’s communication between the radar site and the missile itself.
On occasion, the enemy would fire missiles without radar guidance, which would sometimes get so close that the pilots could spot the passing missiles 150-yards away from inside the cockpit.
When reaching its target area, The SR-71’s RSO (reconnaissance systems officer) would engage the high-tech surveillance equipment consisting of six different cameras mounted throughout various locations on the Blackbird.
The system could survey 100,000 square miles in an hour, with images so clear analysts could see a car’s license plate.
With so many successful missions, enemy nations did their best to blow the SR-71 Blackbird right out of the skies. Five countries attempted that near impossible feat.
Over the years, the varied iterations of the Star Trek franchise have inspired countless young men and women to pursue careers in cutting edge technologies, space sciences, and the like. As a kid growing up on a steady diet of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” however, I saw something else that spoke to me: a command structure that each and every crewmember had the utmost faith in.
The crew of the Enterprise each knew where they fell within the decision-making hierarchy, what their role and responsibilities were, and most importantly, who to look to when it came time to make hard decisions.
Breaking the chain of command or violating direct orders, of course, played a pivotal role in a number of episodes and movies–but in my young mind, that only further emphasized the importance of command: where starship captains were forced to decide between their orders and what they knew to be right. Almost universally, the captain that erred on the side of ethics got off scot-free, no matter how egregious their crimes. Good leadership, I learned, is about looking failure in the eye, accepting the consequences, and doing what has to be done.
Leadership in Starfleet, like in today’s real-world military, is a near constant life-or-death matter. Fortunately for the Star Trek universe, they have a test to see if you have what it takes to lead in such an environment.
The Kobayashi Maru test was first shown on screen in 1982’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” The premise is simple: a cadet is placed in command of a starship simulator and tasked with responding to the distress call of a damaged fuel carrier: the Kobayashi Maru. The stranded vessel is adrift in the neutral zone dividing Starfleet’s Federation Space from the Klingon Empire. The cadet-turned-captain has to make a hard decision: do you risk war with Star Trek’s Cold War Russian stand-ins, the Klingons… or do you allow the civilians to die?
The right thing to do, of course, is rescue the civilians–but the moment a cadet issues that order, things go bad. Communications with the civilian vessel are immediately lost just as multiple Klingon warships appear in pursuit. In clear violation of the treaty between their peoples, the cadet-in-command can try to talk their way out of trouble, turn and fight, or leave the civilians to their fate and run, but it doesn’t matter. The cadet’s ship is invariably destroyed. All crew members are lost. It’s a failure that’s spectacular in measure, both in terms of the lost vessel and in terms of lost lives. For an aspiring Starfleet captain, it’s a living nightmare… and that’s the point.
The “no win scenario”
No matter how long you serve in the military or how competent a leader you are, failure comes for us all. If you’re fortunate, your most egregious failures will all come in training environments, and you’ll never have to go home with the weight of lost brothers or sisters on your conscience. In the worst of scenarios, victory or failure may be entirely outside of your control, but the burden of loss remains. When someone dies under your command, be it in combat or otherwise, it sticks with you.
You’ll keep moving, you’ll keep working, but late at night, when you’re alone with yourself, you can feel the weight of it bearing down. Good leaders know they’re going to hurt, but importantly, know how to get the job done anyway. They know that sometimes failure is unavoidable… often because they’ve faced their own Kobayashi Maru somewhere along the way.
The measure of a good leader
I lost a Marine to suicide only weeks after being given my own squad. It tore our team apart and reshaped my approach to leadership and service. If I could be called a good leader after that, it wasn’t because I was born with an innate ability to rally the troops or because I had the decision making prowess of Jean Luc Picard. It was because I’d already felt the crushing weight of failure pulling me down into the darkness. I’d already been up at night, assessing what I did wrong. I’d already looked a grieving mother in the eyes and choked as I stammered an apology.
Failure is an unavoidable part of any military operation, but good leaders know how to roll with even the most crushing of punches. Some may come to the table with that ability, others, like me, have to learn it the hard way–by failing. The measure of a leader is their ability to recover from those failures, their ability to lead in adverse conditions, and their ability to shoulder the weight of their conscience without compromising the task at hand.
Every military leader needs to face the Kobayashi Maru sooner or later. Starfleet is just smart enough to add it to the training schedule.
The Air Force Uniform Office has begun surveying female Airmen to collect feedback on Air Force maternity uniform items.
All Air Force women will receive an email message from the Air Force Survey Office with a unique link inviting them to take the survey. To determine who should take the full survey, the Uniform Office is asking participants to respond to the first survey question.
“Getting feedback on maternity uniform items is important,” Tracy Roan, Uniform Office chief said. “Our goal is to make uniforms more comfortable and provide a uniform that will sustain Airmen through their entire pregnancy.”
Since Sept. 1, 2019, when Zurich police published a photo on social media of two officers lying on the ground, surrounded by the contents of their car, laid out in a geometric pattern and pictured from above, police departments, firefighters, first responders as well as air force squadrons and other military units from all around the world have joined in, photographing their work equipment (and even service members) in this peculiar way.
The Tetris Challenge has since then conquered the Internet, making the rounds across all the social networks. The challenge is inspired by “knolling.” a term that dates back to 1987, and it involves organizing objects and tools on the floor at right angles, allowing you to see every item clearly in a photograph. This has often been done ahead of travels, by photographers and journalists, collecting all their stuff in the same place to organize the trip. In the last few weeks, Tetris Challenge has become a way to showcase all the pieces of hardware (and personnel) that make up a service or system.
If you google “Tetris Challenge”, you will find many examples of interesting shots taken from the above. Here you can find an interesting post by our friend Tyler Rogoway at The War Zone.
But, the Challenge, when it deals with military aviation stuff, has probably a brand new winner: the Israeli Air Force.
The IAF has published on Twitter a shot taken by Rotem Rogovsky and Daniel Levatovsky from SKYPRO at Hatzerim Air Base with a Tetris Challenge image that gathers the F-15I Ra’am of the 69 Sq; the F-16I Sufa of the 107 Sq, the M-346 Lavi of the 102 Sq, as well as the G-120A Snunit, the OH-58B Saifan and the T-6A Efroni of the Flight Training Shool. Not only are the aircraft worth a look, but also their accompanying weapons, including the Israeli-developed, SPICE 2000 EO/GPS-guided bombs. Interestingly, even the only airworthy PT-17 (Stearman Model 75) of the Israeli Air Force maintained at the museum in Hatzerim can be seen in the photo.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
A flight from Pyongyang to Hanoi is just 13 hours and 15 minutes. But no one wants to sit on a plane that long, least of all Kim Jong Un, Marshal and Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army. He prefers the 70-hour train ride, just like his father and grandfather before him – although for vastly different reasons.
Who doesn’t enjoy a good smoke break?
Kim’s grandfather was Kim Il-Sung, architect of the Korean War and still-ruling President of North Korea, despite being dead for more than 25 years. Kim Il-Sung first caught a taste for train travel during the Korean War, when every hardened structure he ever set foot in was probably bombed to smithereens within hours of the UN forces realizing there were still structures to bomb in North Korea.
Even after the war ended, he enjoyed the security of a private, armored train and built his palaces to be accessible only by rail. The grandfather Kim even toured all of Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe via rail. It doesn’t hurt that the North Korean railway system is the most reliable way to get around, either. How else are you going to randomly give advice to farmers when you know nothing about growing wheat?
“Look at all this magnificent grain we photoshopped in.”
His son and Kim Jong Un’s dad, Kim Jong-Il had a different reason. Kim Jong-Il was deathly afraid of flying and never traveled anywhere via air. Kim, the father, had a luxury armored train with some 22 different cars, each carrying an important detail, including equipment to allow for the train to travel on different countries’ railway gauges.
Kim’s trains ran in groups of three: the first train ran twenty minutes ahead of the others to ensure the safety of the rail line and maybe take the brunt of an assassination attempt. The second carried the Dear Leader and his closest entourage, along with everything he might need, including lobsters and Hennessey. The last train had his communications, his staff, and the things he actually needed to run the government.
Which is probably just more cases of Hennessy.
For Kim Jong Un, much of his new life has been maintaining his grip on power. In this respect, he has decided to emulate his grandfather in many ways that are recognizable to the North Korean public – from the way he dresses, to the hats he wears, to the way he visits farmers for his “on the spot guidance.” His father was never as popular as his grandfather. Kim Jong-Il came to power after the fall of the Soviet Union when subsidies to the North Koreans ended and created a famine. Life for the average North Korean suffered under Kim Jong-Il.
So it’s no surprise he makes his visits to the populace via rail, just like Kim Il-Sung did.
Kim Jong Un comes in to Hanoi like a very, very slow wrecking ball
The trains still reportedly travel in groups, with many on the train reporting no loss in luxury from when his father was alive, despite an increase in international sanctions. The train’s armor means it can only crawl from one stop to another, at a maximum speed of 37 miles per hour.
Which is why the leader took 70 hours to arrive at his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump to talk denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
As an exercise, the plank has some crazy lore surrounding it. If you were an alien from another planet and came to earth to study human society, you would think that planks have replaced the, now extinct, fire-breathing dragon as enemy #1 to Homo sapien survival.
The plank isn’t going to kill you. In fact, it may be unrivaled in its ability to engage a large number of muscle groups in an isometric contraction. So much so that you actually become harder to kill when the plank is trained properly.
That being said, you can’t plank all day and all night. so I’m going to give you four alternative exercises to add to your training program in lieu or in addition to planks.
The straight leg lift has gotten more attention thanks to gymnastics strength training picking up popularity in the last few years.
It’s pretty simple you sit up straight, with your legs out straight in front of you, and alternate raising each leg for a set number of reps or seconds. It seems simple, but it lights up your quads (especially the rectus femoris) like no other.
If you find your hips sagging quickly when planking or you know that your quads are a weak point of yours in general, I strongly recommend adding two sets of straight leg lifts to your leg day.
This exercise will help with your plank, the ACFT’s leg tucks, as well as building strength for sprinting and running distances under a mile where you’re pushing for speed.
This is the poor man’s ab wheel exercise. Don’t let that fool you though, at first glance, it may seem easier than a roll-out, but when you focus on the right muscles, you’ll find that it brings a whole new level of muscle recruitment to your core.
Start on all-fours, with your knees under your hips and your wrists under your shoulders. Alternate walking each hand out about a ½ a hands length away from your body. Try to open your hips and your shoulders simultaneously as you walk out. The tendency is to allow the hands to walk away from under your shoulders faster than having the hips move past their starting position, directly above the knees.
Here’s the hard part. Step your hands slowly, and DON’T allow your hips, core, or shoulders to shift from side-to-side as you walk. Instead, keep your core so tightly contracted that it allows you to hold in a balanced position even when you only have one hand supporting you on the ground, while the other is in the air changing position. Walk your hands out as far as you can and then simply walk back.
When doing this exercise, go for time instead of reps. For whatever reason, when people go for reps, they tend to cheat a lot more. Just set your timer for 30 seconds and perform 30 seconds worth of perfect and deliberate movement.
The ab wheel is basically moving you from a position that’s easier than holding a plank to a position that’s harder than holding a plank. When performing this one, really focus on that position in the middle of the movement that most closely mimics the plank.
The ab wheel has the ability to work every core muscle fully, if you do it correctly. The common cue I give is to “Stay out of your lower back!” meaning that you shouldn’t allow your low back to hyperextend. Instead, I’d rather see you hold a constant position of mild flexion, that doesn’t change throughout the entire movement. When you hyperextend in your low back, you’re basically losing all core tightness and relying on your vertebrae to stop you from arching any further. If that sentence seemed painful to read…imagine how your back feels.
Similar to the previous exercise, I prefer to do the ab wheel for time instead of reps. It prevents cheating and allows you to focus on perfect form rather than trying to hit some arbitrary number of reps that will undoubtedly cause you to throw form out the metaphoric window.
I like to think of the hollow body hold as pull-up junior. The engagement of muscles that a properly performed hollow body hold can achieve is exactly the same as a pull-up minus the lat engagement of pulling yourself to the bar. If that sounds crazy to you, I’m willing to bet you rarely perform beautiful pull-ups.
Yes, your core is the primary muscle of the hollow body hold, but it’s not the same “core” as the one that gets worked during crunches or other dated ab exercises. The hollow body hold allows you to isometrically contract your quads, pelvic floor, transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, obliques, lats, seratus, erector spinae (if you’re really good), neck muscles, pecs, psoas, and calves. Basically, every muscle of the front of the body and then some.
I highly encourage you to actively mentally walk through every muscle group I just mentioned the next time you attempt the hollow body hold. If you do, you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. A few sets of a solidly executed hollow body hold, and you’ll be begging to just do planks instead.
Work smarter, not harder…even when you’re trying to work hard do it smart.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Andy O. Martinez)
Go train your core. Before you go though…
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On the day after Thanksgiving 1984, a Soviet citizen on a tour of the DMZ suddenly abandoned his group and sprinted to freedom in South Korea.
Vasilii Matuzok long dreamed of fleeing the oppression of Communism. He even obtained a job in Pyongyang as a means of making his escape attempt.
But despite its name, the Demilitarized Zone is anything but. The four-kilometer wide area is heavily mined and guarded by armed soldiers from each side. A crossing there was as near suicidal during the Cold War as it is today.
However, at a small village named Panmunjom (the site of the Korean War Armistice signing), the North and South created a Joint Security Area. This area is heavily guarded but it contains no minefields or other the deterrents to crossing that can’t be said for the rest of the DMZ.
When Matuzok’s tour group was distracted, he made a break for it.
Immediately realizing what was happening, some 30 North Korean soldiers pursued him and fired wildly in the hopes of bringing him down before he could reach the other side.
This immediately created a significant incident. As the two sides were still technically at war – having never signed a peace agreement – the North Korean soldiers pursuing Matuzok instantaneously became an armed incursion. The UN guards quickly alerted the United Nations Quick Reaction Force at nearby Camp Kitty Hawk.
The United Nations had a Joint Security Force company comprised of Americans and Koreans stationed at Camp Kitty Hawk to respond to any incidents at the Joint Security Area and provide the guard detail.
As the incident developed into a full-on firefight between the North Korean soldiers and the UN’s JSA guards, Capt. Bert Mizusawa got the call at Camp Kitty Hawk. He told his men to load up while he got as much information as he could from the Tactical Operations Center.
As his group sped the quarter mile to the JSA, Mizusawa was unaware of the defection. His sole purpose was to restore the Armistice conditions. The North Korean soldiers, invaders at this point, had to be turned back, he said, “with no concern for proportionality… we were going to win no matter what.”
When Mizusawa and the QRF arrived with three infantry squads augmented with three machine gun teams, the UN guards at the JSA had the intruding North Koreans pinned down in an area known as the “Sunken Garden.” It had been only fifteen minutes since Matuzok defected.
Mizusawa sent one squad east to reinforce the men at Checkpoint 4, who were engaged against the North Koreans there while he personally led the other two squads on a flanking maneuver to the southwest. During their movement, the men came across Matuzok hiding in the bushes.
Captain Mizusawa immediately realized the urgency of the situation. If the North Koreans were able to kill or recapture Matuzok, they controlled the narrative of the day’s events.
After confirming Matuzok’s intention to defect, Mizusawa put him in the personal custody of the QRF Platoon Sergeant who raced him to safety at Camp Kitty Hawk.
With the defector now secured Mizasawa was in a tactically perfect situation. He had his enemy pinned down on low ground and was in position to move in from the flank. The Americans executed a textbook example of Battle Drill 1A. As the lead fire team bounded into the Sunken Garden under accurate suppressive fire, the North Koreans attempted to flee.
Caught in the open, they chose to surrender rather than be gunned down.
The elapsed time since the defection was approximately 20 minutes. It only took six minutes after the arrival of the QRF platoon to defeat the North Korean threat.
During the fighting, a South Korean KATUSA soldier was killed and an American soldier wounded when they drew heavy fire from the North Koreans protecting the escape of Matuzok.
The North Koreans lost three killed, five wounded, and eight captured during the incident.
However, for the North Korean soldiers, failure in this situation would be costly. It is believed that the leader of the North Korean troops and his subordinate were summarily executed immediately after the incident.
Despite being one of the worst instances of violence on the DMZ in some time, further bloodshed was avoided.
Hoping to keep the incident quiet, the Army choose to withhold some awards immediately after the firefight. It would not be until the year 2000 that the Army recognized the service and awarded or upgraded seventeen decorations to participants on that day.
Matuzok, the defector that started everything, eventually was allowed to resettle in the U.S. as a refugee under an assumed name.
Just a few feet away from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., is a life-size statue called “Three Soldiers.”
Crafted in bronze by sculptor Frederick Hart, he portrayed the men garbed in uniforms representative of the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps, carrying weapons of the Vietnam War era and facing the memorial wall. The man on the left, his body draped with ammo belts, carries an M-60 general purpose machine gun.
Other than the M-16 rifle, perhaps no other firearm is as closely associated with the Vietnam War as the M-60. Portrayals of the M-60 in the hands of Vietnam War soldiers range from the sublime dignity expressed by the “Three Soldiers” statue to the over-the-top destruction of the fictional town of Hope, Washington, by Sylvester Stallone’s character, John Rambo, in the film “First Blood.”
The M-60 is a weapon that has faithfully served American soldiers in many battles since 1957. Far from perfect, the early model of the M-60 had so many design flaws that soldiers jerry-rigged fixes using everything from wire coat hangers to empty C-ration cans. The M-60 is also heavy — the machine gun weighs about 23 pounds, and those belts of ammo aren’t exactly lightweight, either.
No wonder the M-60 earned an unflattering nickname: The Pig.
But one thing is certain. Even with its flaws, a soldier armed with an M-60 can lay down a lot of lead, whether he is fighting in the jungles of Southeast Asia or the badlands of Afghanistan.
The M-60 is an air-cooled, disintegrating belt-fed, gas-operated general purpose machine gun. It fires the 7.62 mm round with a cyclic rate of about 550 rounds a minute — a rate of fire that requires the crew to change the M-60’s barrel about every minute. In addition, the M-60 has an integral, folding bipod, but it can also be mounted on a folding tripod.
The M-60 was — and is — a fixture in the U.S. armed forces, serving as a squad support weapon, vehicle-mounted machine gun and as a “flex gun” mounted in the doors of helicopters like the UH-1 Huey and the CH-47 Chinook.
Development of the M-60 started after World War II. American generals held a grudging admiration for the German MG-42, a machine gun so powerful that it was nicknamed “Hitler’s Bone Saw” by the Wehrmacht troops that fired it. The MG-42 had a blinding rate of fire and was belt fed—both qualities were considered desirable by weapons designers. The Fallschirmjägergewehr 42, or FG 42 battle rifle, also had equally desirable qualities, such as a gas-operated bolt, which were closely scrutinized by the Americans.
Ordnance experts took the best Germany had to offer and developed a prototype machine gun. Some argued it wasn’t an ideal machine gun compared to foreign models such as the FN MAG—but it could be domestically produced, which made congressmen with defense industries in their districts very happy.
In 1957, the Defense Department adopted the machine gun and dubbed it the United States Machine Gun, Caliber 7.62 mm, M60. It’s been in the arsenal ever since.
But the three-man crews who served the M-60 during the Vietnam War discovered the machine gun had its idiosyncrasies.
First of all, no one designing the M-60 remembered to put a wire carrying handle on the barrel. That made barrel changes an agonizing affair—in order to remove the red-hot steel, an assistant gunner was expected in the heat of battle to don asbestos gloves that looked like oven mitts. Also, ammo belts would sometimes bind in the weapon. Then, some G.I. got a brilliant idea: just lash an empty C-ration can to the left side of the receiver so the belt would flow smoothly over the curved surface.
By the 1980s, the military adopted the M-60E3, a version of the machine gun with added improvements and (most of) the bugs worked out.
Although the Defense Department ordered the phase-out of the M-60, it is still used by U.S. armed forces personnel. SEALs favor the M-60, the Navy and the Coast Guard often have it on board their ships, and Army reserve units frequently have an M-60 in the weapons room.
And 45 nations — many of them NATO or East Asia allies — continue to use the M-60 as their heavy-hitting general purpose machine gun.