The Mass Effect series has had its share of ups and downs, but one thing is undeniable — the world-building was done insanely well. One such piece of world-building that is worth mentioning is the existence of the Special Tactics and Reconnaissance agents. For those who don’t know, SPECTREs are special agents, granted authority by a government council to essentially carry out special missions that standard military cannot. This authority also gives them an insane amount of freedom.
If there is any unit, fictional or otherwise, to live up to the “Own F***ing Program” mantra, it’s definitely SPECTREs. Why? Because they’re rarely even assigned tasks; often times they just find their own and occasionally check in with the council that granted them their authority in the first place.
So, here are the biggest reasons being a SPECTRE would be awesome:
Although, you may still have to answer to military and government officials when the time comes.
You can choose your missions
You can also decide which ones take the most precedence. Do you want to rescue colonists before defeating a rogue who’s threatening life in the galaxy? Have at it. For the most part, military officials won’t breathe down your neck about what you’re doing — you just do you.
This allows you to put together your own personal A-team.
You choose your crew
You don’t have to go planet-side with a team that was assigned to you. You can essentially recruit whoever you want, including mercenaries, to watch your back.
Like signing out a duty van — just make sure you fill up the tank.
You get your own ship
Who doesn’t want their own ship to travel where and when as they please at the expense of their government? That ship is basically yours to do with as you please and go where you see fit, even if there aren’t any missions tied to that distant moon you just dropped in on.
Or you can just go with what they give you.
You get the best weapons and gear
“Military grade” doesn’t apply to you. In fact, you can buy whatever you need for your missions, and no higher-up is going to yell at you for it. You want that scope for your rifle? Cool. Do you want to use that alien’s blaster that they just dropped? Go for it. Is the military issued armor not best on the market? Pick up your own.
No more relying on that government salary.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
You can get paid by whoever you want
One thing that may not have been covered is whether SPECTREs earn a salary or not. But, one thing’s for sure — if someone offers to pay you credits for a job, you’re allowed to take it. Remember how we said you can pick your own missions? One being more lucrative than another may actually be part of which ones you take.
Next time you step on a LEGO brick in the middle of the night, think twice before you vindictively throw it in the trash. If it’s part of a rare or coveted set, it could be worth enough to dull your pain. In fact, the LEGO collectors market has become its own building block economy, with some sets bringing in thousands of dollars on the brick market.
“Many factors play into a set’s aftermarket value, but demand is the primary factor,” explains Chris Malloy, managing editor for The Brothers Brick, and co-author of Ultimate LEGO Star Wars.“For most of the company’s history, LEGO was viewed as exclusively a children’s toy. So, in the early 2000s, when LEGO began to explore the adult market in a serious way, they began developing a lot of massive sets with high price tags.”
Gerben van IJken, a full time LEGO expert with the EU-based auction platform Catawiki, and a LEGO investor and appraiser, also cites rarity, detail, and demand as reasons for increased value in LEGO collectibles.
“Most high-priced sets are recent, but not that recent. Properties such as Star Wars, for example, benefited from the restart of the movie franchise and the fact that people who loved Star Wars as kids – but didn’t have the money to buy sets that cost hundreds of dollars – are now buying them.”
So what are the most valuable LEGO sets around? That’s what we set out to find. While LEGO lore (get used to that term) tells of employee exclusives, such as a solid gold, 14K LEGO brickvalued between ,000 and ,000, we’ve kept this list to models, sets, and minifigures that are, or once were, available to the general public. So take a look at these sets and see if you have any of them sitting in the attic.
1. #10179 LEGO Ultimate Collector’s Series Millennium Falcon
Highest Sale Price: ,000
The out-of-this-world sale price for this Star Wars set is a bit misleading, because it was a one-time thing influenced by some extraordinary factors. “This sale involved a first edition set, sold in an airtight case,” says van IJken. “It was also sold in Las Vegas, which influenced the markup.”
Despite the galactic inflation, a first edition Millennium Falcon is one of the most — if not the most —valuable Lego sets ever produced. “We’ve sold these sets for prices ranging from ,400 – ,700,” he says. However, a re-released version that came out in 2017 has devalued the set, according to Malloy. “Since the new Millennium Falcon came out, the more recent value is about id=”listicle-2629731824″,679, with only one sold in the last 6 months.” That said, with an original price of about 0, even the more modest sale price still represents a nearly 300 percent increase, making this set a true smuggler’s treasure.
2. #10189 LEGO Taj Mahal, First Edition
Highest Sale Price: ,864
“This set used to trade blows with the Millennium Falcon for the top spot,” explains Malloy. “But it’s a perfect example of why speculating LEGO set values and prices is a very, very risky business.” LEGO re-released the Taj Mahal model a few years ago as part of a different collection, which dropped the price from north of ,000 to a mere 0. Despite the devaluation however, this set is still an architectural masterpiece and first editions once sold for about 10 percent of their highest valued price.
3. #6080 LEGO King’s Castle
Highest Selling Price: ,600
If you’ve got a mint condition, in-the-box 1984 King’s Castle, you might be able to fetch some serious LEGO loot. Part of the reason is that, in general, a sealed LEGO set is worth up to ten times as much as an opened one. Another part is that, for the 80s, this was a HUGE set. “The largest set in a given theme during the 80s and 90s was typically in the 600 piece range,” Malloy explains. “Since the early 2000s, most themes include sets of more than 1,000 pieces. This means that there are a greater number of recent sets with a high starting value than there were from decades past.” Remarkably, the price of LEGOs on a per-piece basis has stayed relatively the same – about .10 per piece – since the 1980s, according to Malloy. So, the larger the set, regardless of its release date, the greater the possible value.
4. #10030 LEGO Ultimate Collector’s Series Imperial Star Destroyer
Highest Sale Price: ,300
According to Malloy and van IJken, the high prices for Star Wars sets has less to do with rarity, and more to do with the enormous demand for all things Light or Dark Side. “Countless fans collect these sets to try and complete the full ‘Ultimate Collector’s Series’, or find every version of their favorite ship,” Malloy says. When fully assembled, this highly-detailed Star Destroyer measures more than three feet long, and is comprised of more than 3,000 pieces. Other versions of the same ship, which are not part of the Ultimate Collector’s Series, can still fetch nearly a grand on the secondary market.
5. #6399 LEGO Airport Shuttle
Highest Sale Price: ,484
As part of the “Classic Town” line, this set was sought after by 90s kids everywhere. Why? Because it was one of the rare monorail sets that featured a looping track and battery-powered train. Originally selling at 0, this 730-piece model sits alongside other monorail sets such as the Futuron Monorail Transport System (1987, set #6990) and the Monorail Transport Base (1994, set #6991), which each average more than id=”listicle-2629731824″,000 in collector markets. “The monorail is sought after because it was a limited production,” says van IJken. “In fact, LEGO folklore tells us that LEGO outsourced the production of the monorail tracks — just the tracks, not the trains — to a company that went bankrupt. Because of that, the tooling pieces for the tracks were lost, and the monorail sets were abandoned.”
6. #10190 LEGO Market Street
Avg. Sale Price: ,163
Designed by a LEGO fan, this hyper-realistic set is a LEGO Factory exclusive which incorporates intricate design elements such as spiral staircases, awnings, and removable balconies. It’s also part of the sought-after “modular” collection, which allows you to construct it in different ways and supplement it with different sets to create a truly unique LEGO town. The highly-valued “Cafe Corner” set (#10182), is one such set, itself valued at nearly id=”listicle-2629731824″,600.
7. #1952 LEGO Milk Truck
Average Value: id=”listicle-2629731824″,980
Released in 1989, this LEGO vehicle set debuted in Denmark to promote the Danish dairy company MD Foods. While it only contains 133 pieces, it’s niche availability, and subsequent rarity, make it one of the most sought after “oddities” in LEGO land. Don’t be fooled by later, domestic releases, such as this one, which are much less valuable.
8. #71001 LEGO Minifigures Series 10, “Mr. Gold”
Average Sale Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,786
If you have kids, you know the thrill of hunting for the rare, blind-boxed LEGO Minifigures. “This Minifigure was limited to 5,000 pieces,” explains Malloy. “Sold to the public, they were mixed in with the unmarked, blind packs as a ‘treasure hunt’ item.” Minifigures, which are a huge part of LEGO lore can drastically affect the value of whole sets. “It’s common to sell sets without the Minifigures, which will often drop the value by at least 50%,” Malloy adds. And Mr. Gold, because he wasn’t part of a larger set, had a sticker price of only .99 during his release in 2013.
Average Sale Price: 8 (used), id=”listicle-2629731824″,700 (Mint in Same Box [MISB])
“Maersk and LEGO have a long history, and LEGO continues to release Maersk sets,” explains Malloy. “These are both limited sets, and finding accurate listings on them can be tough. I’ve seen a mint, in-box Container Ship listed for id=”listicle-2629731824″,700, a used Truck for ,000, and a new Truck for ,600. But these are asking prices.” Still, both sets are rare enough to command respectable scratch.
10. #10196 LEGO Grand Carousel
Average Sale Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,591
The LEGO Creator series – of which this intricate carousel set is a part – is a recent example of the detail factor that makes certain models so valuable. It’s a work of art that sells for nearly id=”listicle-2629731824″,500.
11. #3450 LEGO Statue of Liberty
Average Sale Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,531
As part of the LEGO Architecture series, this 2,882 piece beauty can fetch up to ,000 in its first edition. There’s even a boxed set on Amazon listed at ,000. (.54 for shipping, though? We’ll pass.) “This set and the Eiffel Tower regularly switch places in the value department, says van IJken. “More recently, the Statue of Liberty has begun to gradually increase in value,” he says. Standing at 30″ tall, it’s likely to tower over your typical toddler — assuming he or she doesn’t swallow the torch pieces first.
12. #10018 LEGO Darth Maul
Average Sale Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,333
Back to the Sarlacc pit we go to retrieve yet another high priced Star Wars LEGO set. This time, it’s a bust of a bust — the majorly underwhelming Darth Maul from 1999’s The Phantom Menace. His 1,800+ piece visage looks incredibly cool, and the hype was strong with this one, having been released less than two years after the film. So, again, a combination of Star Wars buzz, moderate rarity, and a great looking figure created a sought after collectible. If you’re not inclined to pay max Galactic Credits, though, here’s a list of all the pieces needed to build your own for a fraction of the bounty. Instructions too!
13. #6081 LEGO King’s Mountain Fortress
Average Listing Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,326
A key component of LEGO’s 90s Castle line, this 400+ piece stronghold features a realistic drawbridge, landscaping elements, and several badass Minifigure knights. Currently, eBay features a handful of used sets (some complete, some not), which go for nearly 15 percent of the boxed set we’ve listed. “If you want to sell a set like this quickly,” Malloy says, “eBay is the way to go. If you get lucky and there’s a bidding war, it’s likely to bring in the highest price possible. But if you want to have more control over the price but don’t care about selling as quickly, use Bricklink, which is a dedicated community for LEGO collectors.”
14. #4051 LEGO NesQuik Bunny
Average Sale Price: 4
“There are a few increasingly rare LEGO pieces that were available to the public, but this one is the most baffling to me,” says van IJken. “It’s the Nesquik bunny, who is the mascot of the chocolate milk brand. This figure was part of a line that was centered around movie making, and was endorsed by Steven Spielberg.” It came with a yellow sweater and brown pants and was given away with European chocolate milk cartons. Some did hop on over to the US, though, and if you have a mint, bagged one, you can hock it for some modest money. Not bad for what was once a free giveaway.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Super Bowl LIII was the stuff of… well, not legends, exactly — even though the Patriots did become only the second team in NFL history to win six Super Bowls. Whether you were rooting for Brady to cement his GOAT status or hoping the Rams could headbutt him into history, fans from both sides were a little disappointed by the early action in the game.
Here are some of the best memes to come out of the wait, the 4th-quarter fireworks, and the Super Bowl ads:
On the ad side, Bud Light had a few great ones, Stella Artois had an awesome one with Jeff Bridges as The Dude, Harrison Ford and his dog taught everyone about failed Alexa prototypes, and Microsoft showed off their adaptive controllers.
Kia’s ad debuted their swimming SUV, for some reason.
To be clear, no, Kia isn’t releasing a swimming SUV. But their ad about the Kia Telluride showed the small town in Georgia that makes the car and then showed someone driving the car into a river like they didn’t want it anymore (and, yes, it more likely be the Coast Guard than Navy).
The screams of a fellow soldier trapped inside his armored vehicle pierced through the radio.
Apparently surrounded by the enemy with no more ammunition, the soldier cried for help saying his crew had all been killed.
But with his radio keyed open and no one able to talk back to him, then-Spc. 4 Dave Garrod and others in Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, could only listen to the desperate pleas.
“It was a knee knocker,” Garrod recalled as his 25th Infantry Division unit raced down to Tan Son Nhut Air Base, which was under siege by enemy forces. “I had no idea what we were driving into.”
On Jan. 30, 1968, the Vietnam War escalated as enemy forces launched surprise attacks during the country’s New Year holiday.
Then-Spc. 5 Dwight Birdwell, middle, seen on top of a tank during the Vietnam War. Birdwell and other Soldiers with the 25th Infantry Division’s 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment helped defend Tan Son Nhut Air Base in a Tet Offensive attack Jan. 31, 1968.
About 85,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army fighters rushed across the border to attack over 100 cities and towns in southern Vietnam in an attempt to break a stalemate in the war.
Weeks of intense fighting ensued causing heavy losses on both sides.
Before they could repel many of the attacks, thousands of U.S. and South Vietnamese troops would die. Tens of thousands of enemy fighters were also killed.
While not largely deemed a victory for the enemy forces, which suffered a greater toll, the attacks did trigger many in America to rethink U.S. involvement in the protracted war.
Tan Son Nhut
One of the enemy’s main targets was Tan Son Nhut, a key airbase near Saigon where the Military Assistance Command Vietnam and the South Vietnamese air force were headquartered.
After reports of Viet Cong fighters attempting to invade the airbase on Jan. 31, 1968, soldiers with 3rd Squadron’s Charlie Troop responded to the call.
As they drove toward the airbase in the early morning hours, then-Spc. 5 Dwight Birdwell remembers seeing no civilians along the highway — typically a bad omen.
Photos of Dwight Birdwell before he deployed to Vietnam.
Birdwell had seen attacks before during his tour, he said, but they were mainly mines or other small arms weapons fired by a hidden enemy. This day would be different.
When they arrived just outside the airbase, his unit’s column of tanks and armored personnel carriers suddenly stopped.
As if on cue, thousands of tracer rounds began to pepper the vehicles in front of his tank from both sides of the highway. Enemy fighters then jumped onto the vehicles, shooting inside of them.
“All hell broke loose,” Birdwell recalled.
A bullet then struck Birdwell’s tank commander right through the head and he collapsed inside the tank. Birdwell pulled him out, he said, and passed him over the side for medical treatment, which kept him alive.
Birdwell took command of the tank. By that time, all the vehicles ahead of him had been wiped out or were unable to return gunfire. Enemy fighters also set some ablaze after they failed to drive off with them.
“There was a lot of confusion and pandemonium,” he said.
His tank fired its 90 mm cannon toward the enemy while he shot off rounds from the .50-caliber machine gun to hold the enemy back.
Birdwell’s unit was stuck in the middle of an enemy invasion as hundreds of fighters had already crossed the highway and penetrated the airbase to his left. On his right side, even more fighters — some just 50 feet away — prepared to join the assault.
“They were getting close,” he recalled. “I could see their faces quite well.”
Around the same time he ran out of ammunition, a U.S. helicopter was hit and made an emergency landing behind his tank.
Spc. 4 Dave Garrod, left, poses for a photo with Spc. 5 Ed McKenna and Spc. 4 Joe Carlton during their tour in the Vietnam War.
“I thought that this is unreal,” Birdwell said. “Somebody is filming a movie.”
He jumped down from the tank and ran toward the helicopter. Once there, he grabbed one of the helicopter’s M-60 machine guns the door gunners had been using and returned to his position.
After a few minutes of firing rounds at the enemy, something hit the machine gun — likely an enemy bullet. The impact, he said, sprayed shrapnel up into his face and chest.
With the M-60 now destroyed, Birdwell said he took cover in a nearby ditch. He and a few soldiers then grabbed some M-16 rifles and grenades and moved to a closer position behind a large tree.
There, they exchanged gunfire and tossed grenades over the road until the enemy started to fire a machine gun at them.
As the barrage of bullets cut into the tree, it sounded like a chainsaw chewing it down.
“We were in a very desperate situation,” he said.
Around that time, Garrod’s Bravo Troop began to roll into the area.
Soldiers in a different platoon within Charlie Troop also arrived to suppress the attack from inside the base.
“After pulling on line we started laying down fire,” Garrod recalled, “and trying to keep it as low as possible so as not to fire on Charlie Troop on the road.”
Garrod and other soldiers were then pulled away to help wounded crewmen near a textile factory from which the enemy had been commanding its attack.
Once there, he ran over to a tank that had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Inside, he could see the tank’s loader who could not move due to his legs being seriously wounded.
“Being a small, skinny guy, I jumped down in the hatch and without thinking put him on my shoulders and stuck him up through the hatch,” he said.
Later that day, the intensity of the battle hit home for Garrod as he rested in the shade of his vehicle.
Dave Garrod, fifth from right, poses for a photo in front of a Vietnam War memorial near where the Tan Son Nhut Air Base attack occurred on Jan. 31, 1968.
He lifted his canteen up to take a drink when an awful smell overcame him.
“When I looked down on my flak jacket, there was a hunk of flesh from that loader,” he recalled. “It’s something that’s etched into your mind forever.”
Almost 20 soldiers from the squadron were killed and many more wounded as they defended the airbase that day. About two dozen South Vietnamese troops were also killed along with hundreds of enemy fighters.
Garrod earned an Army Commendation Medal with valor device for his actions and a Purple Heart in another mission a few days later. Birdwell earned a Silver Star and a Purple Heart.
The squadron was also awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
Thirty years later, Garrod and other veterans traveled back to the site on the anniversary of the offensive as a way to find closure for what they saw that day.
They also visited a statue in a nearby park that honors those who were lost or suffered as a result of the battle.
Because of the devastation the war had caused, Garrod expected to see animosity on the faces of the Vietnamese people.
“Instead we found gracious, friendly people,” he said. “Even the veterans from the north whom we met … greeted us with hugs. It was very surprising. They had definitely moved on.”
The United States military gets around. There are the countries with which it’s gone to war – Iraq, Germany, and Japan. There are countries it helps protect – Turkey, Poland, and Bahrain. And there are countries most people don’t even know that America sends troops to, like Thailand, Pakistan, and Antarctica.
There are so many countries.
In fact, there are only three countries in the world America hasn’t invaded or have never seen a U.S. military presence: Andorra, Bhutan, and Liechtenstein.
Americans have been invading other countries since before America was a thing, as early as 1741, when the North American battleground for the War of Austrian Succession was called King George’s War – one of the French and Indian Wars.
That’s a lot of wars.
According to Kelly and Laycock’s book, the United States has invaded or fought in 84 of the 193 countries recognized by the United Nations and has been militarily involved with 191 of 193 – a staggering 98 percent.
The authors pose mixed, apolitical ideas. Without America’s worldwide military involvement, the U.S. would be smaller with less clout, and Mexico would be bigger, with more clout. American invasions checked the spread of totalitarianism in the 20th Century, and without such opposition, the spread could have been much worse.
Finally, despite the image of an “imperial” United States, *only* America can meet some of the transnational challenges faced by the world in the 21st Century.
Andorra has no standing army. Instead, they have a militia ready to take arms if necessary. Since they are landlocked, they have no navy. Still, they were the longest combatant of World War I, technically remaining at war with Germany until 1958.
Bhutan is also landlocked between two countries. Unlike Andorra, the countries surrounding Bhutan would probably roll over the tiny country in the event of a war. Bhutan’s 16,000-strong army is trained by the Indian army, and the country has no navy or air force.
The Nepali Hindus – called Lotshampa –refugees in Beldangi Camp. (used by permission)
Bhutan is a constitutional monarchy with some Buddism sprinkled in – which meant the expulsion of 1/5th of its population of ethnic Nepali Hindus who would not conform.
This little principality is locked between Austria and Switzerland. At just 62 square miles, one of the reasons America has never been here is that they might have trouble finding it on a map, just like two U.S. Marines famously did. They missed Liechtenstein and hit Germany instead.
Gen. David L. Goldfein’s four-year tenure as the 21st U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff is coming to an end. As he takes stock of a period marked by ground-breaking achievements, including birth of the U.S. Space Force, the evolution of Joint All Domain Command and Control, and unprecedented challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic, his most poignant – and treasured – memories are the bonds he forged with Airmen while engaging with them around the force over the years.
CSAF 21 Gen David L. Goldfein – The Exit Interview
“Our Airmen are the most incredible, patriotic and disciplined,” he said in a recent interview. “This might be the next greatest generation. Every one of them joined the service while the nation was at war, and their innovative spirit, and willingness to endure hardships to serve in uniform is really inspiring.”
During his frequent travels, Goldfein gained a reputation for seeking out Airmen – often young in their service – to get a better understanding of who they are and to hear their stories. On one occasion in 2019, after meeting all day with air chiefs from more than a dozen nations about space, he struck up a conversation with a young officer. The officer mentioned that he was a second-generation Airman. Without hesitation, Goldfein asked the officer, “You got your phone? Call your dad.” The father and Goldfein had a 10-minute conversation while the startled officer watched.
“I always ask two questions: tell me your story, and what does it mean to be a part of the squadron they are in,” he said. “I’m asking them deeper questions, questions about the culture of the organization. What we want that answer to be is something along the lines of, It means I’m a valued member of this organization, it’s a high-powered team, the Airman to my right and to my left are some of the best Airmen I have ever worked with in my life, and we are doing something really important that is much bigger than myself. If we get that part right, so many other things are going to go right.”
Gen. David. L. Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, talks to a group of total force recruiters during the Bluegreen Vacations 500 NASCAR race in Phoenix. The general talked to the recruiters and answered any questions prior to the race. (AIR FORCE PHOTO // MASTER SGT. CHANCE BABIN)
The Air Force Chief of Staff position demands expertise in military doctrine and operations, as well as skill for developing policy, crafting priorities and helping assemble the Air Force’s budget request. It also requires acute political awareness since Goldfein represents the Air Force before Congress, influential think tanks and the public.
Goldfein, 61, is responsible for the organization, training and equipping 685,000 active-duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian personnel serving in the United States and overseas. As Chief of Staff, he also held a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As he prepares for his 37-year Air Force career to come to an end as the senior uniformed Air Force officer, Goldfein will take with him an approach to the job that was equal parts cerebral and disciplined.
“When I stepped foot on the Air Force Academy campus, only my wildest dreams would’ve ever allowed me to see myself in this seat,” he said. “It truly is the honor of the lifetime to be able to lead the service that has played such an integral part of my life.
Cadet David L. Goldfein and Dawn Goldfein at the the Air Force Academy.
He is a command pilot with more than 4,200 flying hours including combat missions in Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, and most famously, Operation Allied Force when, in 1999, he was shot down flying a mission over Kosovo. His rescue only reinforced to him the important role – and valor – of combat search and rescue teams. It is also a reason that the naming this year of the Air Force’s newest combat rescue helicopter, the HH-60W as the “Jolly Green II,” carried special meaning.
“We don’t know, as young leaders, especially as young officers, when a young Airman is going to risk everything to pull us out of bad guy land, or a burning truck or an aircraft….and risk everything to save us,” he said. “All we know is on that day, we better be worthy of their risk. And so it is all about character, and what the nation expects of those who were privileged to serve in uniform.”
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfien talks to Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright after touring the new HH-60W combat rescue helicopter at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 27, 2020. During the event, the HH-60W was given the name “Jolly Green II,” following the legendary tradition of the Vietnam-era HH-3E Jolly Green and HH-53 Super Jolly Green crews who pioneered the combat search and rescue mission. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // STAFF SGT. JAMES RICHARDSON)
During his four years as Chief of Staff, Goldfein led multiple initiatives to improve and update the Air Force’s warfighting capability: including enhancing the service’s multi-domain capability, pushing to increase the number of operational squadrons to 386 by 2030, and the birth of the Space Force. He played a major role in bringing the F-35s into the fleet, as well the development of the B-21 strike bomber and the T-7A Red Hawk trainer aircraft, among others. The push to 386 was necessary, he said, to build “the Air Force we need” and to reconfigure the force to address China, Russia and other near-peer nations.
He and other Air Force leaders understood that the National Defense Strategy marked the reemergence of the long-term and strategic competition with China and Russia. The Air Force’s goal is to compete, deter, and win this competition by fielding a force that is lethal, resilient, rapidly adapting and integrates seamlessly with the joint force and its allies and partners. Expanding number of squadrons laid the groundwork to enhance the forces preparedness, and in turn will increase the number of fighting units, he explained.
“Today, we are the best Air Force in the world,” he said in 2018. “Our adversaries know it. They have been studying our way of war, and investing in ways to take away those advantages. This is how we stay in front.”
With an increase in fighting units underway, Goldfein led the way on a new, more universal, approach to communicate and fight: not only across all military branches, but between aircraft, operators and commands as well. He was one of the originators of a new, linked and network-centric approach to warfighting known as Joint All Domain Command and Control in which elements from all services from air, land, sea, space and cyber are seamlessly linked to overwhelm and defeat any adversary.
Members of the 6th Special Operations Squadron, perform a training exercise showcasing the capabilities of the Advanced Battle Management System at Duke Field, Fla., Dec. 17, 2019. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // TECH. SGT. JOSHUA J. GARCIA)
“Victory in future combat will depend less on individual capabilities and more on the integrated strengths of a connected network available for coalition leaders to employ,” he said in 2019. “What I’m talking about is a fully networked force where each platform’s sensors and operators are connected.”
In addition to spearheading the move to Joint All Domain Command and Control operations, Goldfein used his close working relationships with senior leaders, including Department of the Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett and former Secretaries Heather Wilson and Deborah Lee James, to realize some of the most sweeping changes for the Air Force in recent years.
He focused efforts on maintaining bonds with existing allies and partners while developing new global relationships. In 2019, he became the first Air Force Chief of Staff to visit Vietnam since the end of the Vietnam War.
He pushed the Air Force to embrace “agile basing” and to return to a more expeditionary mindset. Both efforts enhanced flexibility and scalability of units to address threats even in harsh, distant and contested areas. Goldfein drove this mindset by getting the wings to “train like they fight.” He also pushed units to deploy together, rather than deploying as aggregations of individuals rounded up from all over the Air Force.
“The next fight, the one we must prepare for as laid out in the National Defense Strategy, may not have fixed bases, infrastructures and established command and control, with leaders already forward, ready to receive follow-on forces,” he said in 2018. So, it’s time to return to our expeditionary roots. The expeditionary Air Force framework Secretary Peters and Gen. Ryan laid out remains valid today. But, it must be adapted and updated to support the Joint All Domain Command and Control operations of the 21st century.”
After initially being uncertain about the need for a separate Space Force, Goldfein reflected on his journey to a different understanding. He now sees himself as one of the Space Force’s strongest advocates.
Goldfein understood the need to shift the Air Force’s culture to make the service more diverse, he and former Secretary James recognized the benefits of diversity and to address problems connected to racial and criminal justice inequity in his first few years in office. This continued to be a focus when Barrett and Goldfein, for example, recently asked the Air Force Inspector General to examine the service’s promotion and military justice record so inequities can be better identified and addressed.
In early 2020 Goldfein also brought about changes to the Air Force’s official anthem to make the lyrics more inclusive. Goldfein didn’t go many places where he didn’t boast on his “best friend, Dawn” and his daughters and granddaughters. He often explained how they kept him grounded, and helped him appreciate the sacrifice our Air Force families endure. Dawn pushed to make improvements for Air Force families when she chaired the “Key Spouse Conference” and was an advocate for universal licensure. Goldfein actively embraced both.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright learn about new innovations being made at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, May 14, 2020. Airmen at Team Minot, in the midst of a global pandemic, demonstrate the ever adapting ability of the Global Strikers to CSAF General Goldfein and CMSAF Wright during their visit to Minot Air Force Base. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // AIRMAN 1ST CLASS JESSE JENNY)
Perhaps the single most influential voice over Goldfein’s four years as chief was that of Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright. The tight bond between the two men was widely understood and often on display. It also was genuine.
“They don’t come any better than Chief Wright,” Goldfein said recently. “He is one of my closest life-long friends…. He’s the guy that I lean on the most.”
Goldfein and Wright took an active approach together to address resiliency, mental health and the overall culture of the force, often appearing side-by-side with Airmen. The close partnership came into clear view recently in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the national call for racial justice. Goldfein and Wright were prominent in their public calls for reform within the Air Force.
“Something broke loose that day, and what broke loose was there shouldn’t be any resistance to making meaningful changes in our United States Air Force to make sure we celebrate all of us, that we are a force that includes and embraces all of us,” he said. “History is not on our side here. If we follow history, we will be pretty excited for a couple of months and will make some marginal changes, we will feel good about ourselves, and then other things will pop up and this will be pushed to the back burner,” he said, referring to past efforts to address racial and criminal justice inequality. “Let’s prove history wrong this time.”
With a goal of a more inclusive Air Force always in mind, Goldfein made a point to show his appreciation and kinship to the Airmen he was able to meet.
Goldfein concedes that many people and events shaped his tenure. But, aside from his wife Dawn and Wright, none was more influential than his countless interactions with Airmen of all ranks and capabilities across the Air Force. It was shaped as well by a separate and tragic moment, the death of Air Force Master Sgt. John A. Chapman in 2002, and in 2018 when Chapman was awarded the Medal of Honor.
“While I never met John, I feel like I know him because his picture hangs in my office, as it has for the past two years,” Goldfein said in 2018. “… At difficult times and when faced with hard decisions, I can look at that picture and find strength in his strength, and I’m reminded that leading and representing Airmen like John Chapman remains the honor of a lifetime.”
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Chief of Staff of the Air Force David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright present a plaque to Valerie Nessel, wife of Medal of Honor recipient Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, during the Hall of Heroes Induction Ceremony at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Va., Aug. 23, 2018. Sergeant Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions on Takur Ghar mountain in Afghanistan on March 4, 2002, an elite special operations team was ambushed by the enemy and came under heavy fire from multiple directions. Chapman immediately charged an enemy bunker through high-deep snow and killed all enemy occupants. Courageously moving from cover to assault a second machine gun bunker, he was injured by enemy fire. Despite severe wounds, he fought relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice. With his last actions he saved the lives of his teammates. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // STAFF SGT. RUSTY FRANK)
That realization, Goldfein would often say, was his North Star.
As Goldfein’s time as Air Force Chief of staff comes to an end, he feels confident in the selection of the next Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.
“I feel closure. I didn’t get everything done, I wanted to get done, but we certainly got a lot done, and I’m feeling so good,” he said. “I’ve been watching Gen. Brown for years, I got to see his intellect, his mind and work. He’s a brilliant, operational and strategic thinker. I’ve seen him interact with Airmen, and he’s just absolutely phenomenal. So, I’m feeling great about this opportunity to hand the Air Force over to a guy that I admire, and a good friend as well.”
In keeping with technological advancements and modernization, a Corpus Christi Army Depot (CCAD) Induction ceremony was held Jan. 9, 2019, to mark the beginning of the newest upgrades to the UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter.
According to Jackie Allen, industrial engineer, CCAD, the modernization process of the Lima-model helicopters is twofold: To introduce an affordable and relevant technological upgrades, and to improve the aviation community’s requirements for such a helicopter.
The Corpus Christi Army Depot will begin the nine-step recapitalization process on the Black Hawk, with six more to follow this fiscal year, said Allen. The final end state scheduled for the Corpus Christi Army Depot is 760 converted Victor-model Black Hawks.
Specifics to the modification are focused on the cockpit and the electronic components within, said Don Dawson, director of aircraft production, CCAD.
Col. Gail Atkins, commander, CCAD, speaks to Lt. Col. Andrew Duus (right), product manager, Program Executive Office, Aviation, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, and depot employees about the significance of CCAD having the opportunity to be selected to lead the UH-60V (Victor model) Black Hawk helicopter project during the CCAD UH-60V Induction Ceremony
(Photo by Quentin Johnson)
“[Lima models] have an old analog dial instrumentation,” said Dawson. “What this [upgrade] does is gives [the Victor model] a full glass cockpit,” which is similar to the Mike model.
A glass cockpit is a digital suite that streamlines an enhanced management system allowing for better Pilot-Vehicle Interface — or PVI — added Allen.
Many advantages to a better PVI, include using a moving map, enhanced messaging between the pilots and commands, and the best navigation system available, which is part of an open system architecture, said Lt. Col. Andrew Duus, product manager, Program Executive Office, Aviation, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.
“The open system architecture will significantly minimize the time getting new technology uploaded into the aircraft,” said Duus.
The upgrade goes further than implementing an infrastructure to improving pilot interaction and training efforts. Dawson said, the upgrade will “help the pilots with all the information flow coming to them … it synergizes the information and gives it to them in bite-size pieces.”
CCAD leaders, employees and visitors pose for a photo in front of a UH-60L (Lima model) Black Hawk helicopter immediately following the CCAD UH-60V Induction Ceremony.
(Photo by Quentin Johnson)
Additionally, the upgrade will help to train pilots, as most are learning on Mike models that are already equipped with the digital cockpit. “[The upgrade] will speed up the cost of training for new pilots, because they now can learn, essentially, one cockpit instead of two,” added Dawson.
The CCAD is prepared for this project, which is considered a “significant responsibility” given the depot’s position to produce such a “phenomenal helicopter for our [Army],” said Col. Gail Atkins, commander, Corpus Christi Army Depot.
Duus said he and PEO leadership are thankful for the Depot’s commitment to this project and are confident in the work they perform.
“The legacy and trust that has been established by [CCAD] is what has got us here … I look forward to working with all of you and harness the value you provide,” said Duus.
The U.S. Army has utilized the Black Hawk since the 1970s. They are offered in multiple airframe configurations, including the Alpha, Lima, Mike and Victor models, all used to provide air assault, general support, aeromedical evacuation, command and control, and special operations support to combat, stability and support operations.
Dropping an album on iTunes in 2017 is a far cry from releasing a single on vinyl in 1936, but at least one person has done both. Vera Lynn, the acclaimed singer of pop standards, from “We’ll Meet Again” to “The White Cliffs of Dover,” entertained Allied troops from England to Burma, but also sang at the Diamond Jubilee anniversary celebration of Victory in Europe Day in 2005.
Her long, storied career began with her being dubbed “The Forces’ Sweetheart” and is still ongoing, as Vera Lynn also is the oldest living musical artist to make it to number one on the British music charts. And while she may be more of a big deal in the UK, American military aficionados have most definitely heard her voice.
Lynn supporting British troops in World War II.
During World War II, Lynn had her own BBC music show, Sincerely Yours. As the Forces’ Sweetheart, it was an instant hit with Britain’s fighting men. Lynn, determined to do her duty as the rest of Britain was doing in WWII, deployed to support the troops in places like Egypt, India, and Burma.
Like many of the greatest generation, she took the deployment with a stiff upper lip, recalling that she stayed in dirt and grass huts, using a bucket of water to clean herself in those remote locations. She never charged the government a dime for her effort. She even criticized former Spice Girl, Geri Halliwell, who performed for UK troops in Oman in 2001. Halliwell demanded a fridge full of soy milk for her performance and was paid “tens of thousands of pounds” by the Ministry of Defence.
“She’s lucky to be somewhere there is a fridge,” Lynn told The Guardian. “If she can’t give up her time free for troops who are there to defend her and her way of life, that is very sad.”
Jenkins supporting British troops in Iraq.
Of course, even the most striking rendition of “The White Cliffs of Dover” isn’t going to draw a crowd of 18-25 year old service members these days. Dame Vera Lynn spent her postwar career still supporting the troops, lending her voice to the 1970s documentary, The World at War.
At the 60th Anniversary of VE Day, Lynn passed the mantle of “Forces’ Sweetheart” to Welsh Singer Katherine Jenkins, who was singing a rendition of “We’ll Meet Again” when she pulled Lynn onstage to duet for a few bars. Jenkins promised to go entertain British troops deployed to Iraq — and Jenkins did the very next year.
Dame Vera Lynn is 101 years old as of 2018, but she just released two albums the last year, and is the only centenarian to have an album top the charts. She beat out Bob Dylan as the oldest artist to chart in the UK and beat both the Arctic Monkeys and the Beatles in the pop charts that year.
Vera Lynn 100 and Her Greatest From Abbey Road were released in 2017, the latter containing previously unreleased recordings of Lynn in her prime.
If you’re lucky enough to have a budget that allows you to spend hundreds of dollars on fancy board games, you’d better act quickly — the collection will only be available until June 29, 2018, according to the website.
But if you don’t have a spare $1,500 lying around, you can always indulge your nostalgia with the classic Hasbro version of Connect Four that sells on Amazon for $8.77.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
A Minnesota-based Army recruiter recently helped police arrest four suspected shoplifters while shopping at a local mall with his 10-month-old daughter.
Staff Sgt. Sean Oliva had been pushing his daughter in a stroller Feb. 24, 2019, inside the Southdale Mall in Edina, a Minneapolis suburb, when he saw a group of suspicious men leave an electronics store with several boxes of headphones worth thousands of dollars.
Store employees, he said, told the four men to stop, but they walked away toward the mall’s exit. Oliva said he pursued the men as the employees remained in the store to presumably call the police.
“I stayed at a safe enough distance, because I didn’t know if they had weapons,” said Oliva, the operations sergeant for the Minneapolis Army Recruiting Company.
Since the men were not running, Oliva was able to keep an eye on them the entire time without putting his daughter in harm’s way, the father of two said.
The suspects’ vehicle is seen here surrounded by police outside Southdale Mall.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Sean Oliva)
But when the men exited the mall, Oliva thought they would get away. A friend of Oliva’s then offered to watch his daughter while he and her husband followed the men out into the parking lot to get a vehicle description for police.
“I ended up getting my phone out and was able to get pictures of the vehicle’s license plate and of the suspects,” said Oliva, who has previously deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as a field artillery surveyor.
As the suspects’ vehicle began to flee the scene, Oliva flagged down a nearby police patrol car and a brief chase ensued. Another patrol car quickly intervened, he said, and cut off the escape route for the suspects’ car after it nearly hit two other moving vehicles in the parking lot.
Officers arrested four men aged 19 to 21 years old and charged them with felony shoplifting of nearly ,300 worth of electronics, according to Edina police records. One of the men was also charged with another felony for fleeing from police in a motor vehicle.
Staff Sgt. Sean Oliva with his wife, Jamie, at a recruiter training conference.
Police later told Oliva the electronics store had recently been targeted by shoplifters several times before.
“It was just like a duty for me,” Oliva said March 4, 2019. “Living the Army values is important to me. To be taught those values and to not intervene would have been going against them.”
Oliva, who became a recruiter in 2012, also tries to assist local youth in finding their future career path whether it be in the Army or elsewhere.
“It’s good to help others who either need direction or not sure what they want to do with their lives yet,” the sergeant said. ‘We kind of get to play a big role in helping them achieve their goals.”
His company commander, Capt. Michael Beck, said he was proud of the sergeant’s actions that day.
“More than anything, I think the fact that he’s representing the Army values in a public setting really shows the type of character of all the soldiers in the Army today,” he said.
Many other people, Beck said, may not have done anything to help apprehend the suspects.
“I think more and more frequently there are people who are just comfortable with being bystanders,” he said. “They don’t necessarily feel comfortable for standing up for what’s right.
“Sergeant Oliva didn’t really hesitant. He saw the opportunity to do the right thing.”
The US has committed to pulling its forces, as well as NATO forces, out of Afghanistan in a serious bid to stop the 17-year-long war that’s claimed tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of US tax dollars.
Citing “significant progress” in peace talks with the Taliban, the hardline Islamist group that harbored Osama Bin Laden and became the US’s first target after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, a US official told Reuters the US was working on a ceasefire and the timing of a pull out.
“Of course we don’t seek a permanent military presence in Afghanistan,” the official told Reuters on the same day Afghan President Ashraf Ghani gave a televised address saying: “No Afghans want foreign forces in their country for the long term.”
“Our priority is to end the war in Afghanistan and ensure there is never a base for terrorism in Afghanistan,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a press briefing on Jan. 28, 2019.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani
(Photo by Patrick Tsui)
“Our goal is to help bring peace in Afghanistan and we would like a future partnership, newly defined with a post-peace government,” the official said. “We would like to leave a good legacy.”
President Donald Trump reportedly pushed for a troop withdrawal in Afghanistan at the same time he announced a troop pull out from Syria, which sparked widespread controversy, criticism, and the resignation of his defense secretary and top official in charge of fighting ISIS.
The US and NATO have fought in Afghanistan since 2001, when they toppled the ruling government that had harbored the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The US and NATO have lost about 3,500 troops in the battle that’s killed tens of thousands of Afghans and nearly 10,000 Afghan security forces fighters a year since 2014.
The Pentagon currently spends about billion a year on the Afghanistan war while other parts of the government contribute additional money to secure the country, build infrastructure, and fund essential programs as the government struggles to control all of its territory.
Trump campaigned explicitly against the war in Afghanistan, calling it a big mistake that left US soldiers fighting without purpose.
United States President Donald Trump.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Anna Pol)
The Taliban recently agreed to a landmark concession, saying it would oppose “any attempts by militant groups to use Afghanistan to stage terrorist attacks abroad,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Talks in Qatar, now lasting over a week, have produced results that Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan called “encouraging.”
Afghanistan, sometimes called the “graveyard of empires” for its historic ability to resist outside rule from Alexander the Great, to Britain, to the Soviets, has proven a stalemate for the US, which has failed to lock down the entire country from Islamist control.
In 1979, American Vela Hotel satellites detected a bright double flash near the Prince Edward Islands of Antarctica. A double-flash is a clear indication of a nuclear explosion in the atmosphere, as all 41 of the previous double flashes turned out to be. The only thing was this time, no one was claiming this unannounced nuclear test.
A Soviet spy later announced the flashes were caused by a joint Israeli-South African nuclear test.
The South Africans had been researching atomic energy since at least 1965, with the delivery of a U.S.-made nuclear research reactor and a supply of highly enriched uranium fuel. The country soon began to pour its resources into its own uranium enrichment programs and by 1969, was able to produce weapons-grade uranium on its own. By the 1970s, South Africa was developing nuclear explosions for use in mining, but that program quickly became a weapons development program. By the 1980s, South Africa was a nuclear weapons state.
In the 1980s, South Africa was also developing missiles that could be used with the six warheads they constructed, based on the Israeli designs for its Shavit rockets.
Israel’s Shavit rockets delivers satellites into space for the Jewish state.
It’s important to note that during this entire process, South Africa was fighting a prolonged border insurrection with its breakaway state of South West Africa and its allies in Angola and Cuba. Between 1966 and 1989, the Cold War raged hot in the southern tip of the continent as the South West African People’s Organisation wrested control of the region against the South African Defence Forces. At the same time, the South Africans were fighting Angolan and Cuban intervention, as well as insurgent groups from nearby Zambia, especially the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia.
The extended fighting at their borders gave South Africa a big incentive to develop nuclear weapons to bring leverage to their position at the negotiating table. When the Western powers and the Soviet Union got wind of potential South African nuclear tests in the late 80s, they were horrified and pressured the South Africans to abort the test. But South Africa never had any intention of putting warheads on the missiles; they didn’t fit anyway. South Africa wanted the world to think they did, however.
A South African armored column in Ohangwena, Ovamboland in the 1970s.
Instead, the South Africans did the opposite. They signed a peace accord with all the belligerents they had been fighting for more than 20 years, withdrew their troops from South West Africa, and allowed the region to declare its independence as the new country of Namibia. The very next year, South Africa ended its nuclear program. Since then, it helped establish the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone and became party to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, ending more than 40 years of nuclear weapons research.
Trump’s new Iran policy calls for an economic crackdown following the withdrawal from the Iran deal, a buildup of anti-Iran military alliances with the US’s regional partners, and a media campaign to heat up already simmering civil unrest in the country.
But, while the circumspect approach mirrors Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign that helped force North Korea and China to change their tunes, this time he’s opened with an offer for a summit.
“I’m ready to meet anytime they want to,” Trump said of Iran during a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on July 30, 2018. “No preconditions. They want to meet? I’ll meet.”
Iran, theoretically, has a lot to gain from improved relations with the US. Since the US withdrawal from the Iran deal, Iran’s currency has taken a nosedive, soaring up to around 120,000 rials to a dollar. In August and November 2018 Iran faces two new waves of sanctions that will shut off their access to US banking and oil exports.
Though the US sanctions post-deal will be unilateral and not as strong as the pre-deal UN-imposed sanctions, fear angering the US, the world’s largest economy, will likely scare off Europeans who are otherwise committed to the deal.
In short, Trump withdrew from the Iran deal, likely imposed tremendous cost and stress on Tehran’s economy, and Iran has responded by staying in the deal and trying to portray itself as a good actor worthy of the world’s support against US hegemony. For the moment, Trump is having his cake and eating it too.
A ‘kiss the ring’ moment from Trump to Iran would be deeply humiliating
Iran’s parliament, for the first time ever, has called up Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to grill him on the foreboding economic downturn. Iran watchers consider Rouhani a moderate who spent considerable political capital in negotiating with the US and the West to cast the Iran deal.
But now, Iran finds itself having signed away its nuclear ambitions for almost none of the economic rewards promised by the west.
Ali Motahari, the deputy speaker of Iran’s parliament who is seen as part of Iran’s moderate camp, said that to negotiate with Trump now ” would be a humiliation .”
Other figures in Iran’s government dismissed the idea as non starter, saying the nuclear deal represented the talks they supported, and having that ripped up made future conversations untenable.
Instead, Iran hopes to improve relations with Europe, who it hopes will brave US sanctions to continue to buy its oil. But as many of Europe’s businesses are exposed to the US’s massive financial reach, it’s hard to imagine Iran doesn’t take a haircut on its potential future earnings.
Meanwhile, Trump has, in short order, laid down a remarkable track record with summits, especially with US adversaries. “I’ll meet with anybody. I believe in meetings,” Trump said on July 30, 2018.
If Trump helped North Korea’s image, imagine what he could do for Iran.
A Trump summit has its appeal
Trump became the first US leader to meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, the world’s worst human rights violator. Kim agreed to only vague, symbolic or non-binding moves to help the US while Trump heaped praise on the leader and defended his brutal regime.
Iran, similarly, could hold a summit with Trump, but its political culture forbids such a thing. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran has cast itself as standing up to the US with fierce opposition. Its senior government figures chant “death to America.” Iran’s navy holds the dubious operational goal of destroying the US Navy . Domestically, Rouhani already stuck his neck out for the US with the Iran deal.
For Iranian leaders to smile and shake Trump’s hand would symbolize a deep capitulation and recognition that the US holds tremendous power over Tehran, and that their values of opposing US hegemony stand subordinate to their will to survive economically, for which they’ll need a benevolent Trump.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.