Fortnite, the wildly popular (and highly addictive) video game of 2018, is back — with a new line of themed toys just in time for summer 2019. Hasbro revealed that it’s teaming up with the gaming brand on eight different Nerf dart blasters and super soakers that will be released on March 22, 2019.
Announced at the New York Toy Fair 2019, the Fortnite x Nerf line is inspired by the same weapons used by the characters in Fortnite, imitating the same style and color scheme. There are five types of dart blasters and three types of super soakers that kids and parents can choose from.
In terms of dart blasters, there are some smaller versions that shoot micro-darts and another one that’s shaped like the Loot Llama. However, the real highlight is likely the AR-L Elite Dart Blaster. Equipped with a motorized shooting system and a 10-dart clip, it retails for .99, the most expensive of the bunch.
As for the water guns, you can select the standard super soaker, the pump action model, or the colorful rocket launcher. Of the three, the TS-R Super Soaker Water Blaster Pump Action is the largest, holding up to 36 fluid ounces (1 liter) of water.
The Navy has recently wanted to end ballistic missile defense (BMD) patrols. This mission, usually carried out by Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers equipped with RIM-161 Standard SM-3 surface-to-air missiles, has been to protect American allies from ballistic missiles from rogue states like Iran and North Korea, or from hostile peers or near-peers like Russia and China.
In June 2018 though, the Navy wanted to get away from this mission. The reason? They want to shift this to shore installations to free up the destroyers for other missions. Well, the ballistic missile defense mission is not going to go away any time soon. Here’s why:
A RIM-161 Standard SM-3 missile is launched from the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70).
(U.S. Navy photo)
4. It will cost money to remove the capability
Even if there are shore installations handling the ballistic-missile defense mission, these Burke-class destroyers are not going to lose their capability to carry out the ballistic missile defense role. Maybe they won’t carry as many RIM-161s as they used to, but the capability will be preserved. The Navy has better things to do than to spend money to remove a capability from a ship.
The Kongo-class guided-missile destroyer Kirishima launches a RIM-161 Standard SM-3 missile during a joint exercise with the United States.
(U.S. Navy photo)
3. There is China’s anti-ship ballistic missile program to beat
China’s DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missile could be more than a cause of virtual attrition if China were able to figure out how to locate American carriers. In that case, the best option to stop a DF-21 could very well be the SM-3s on the escorts of a carrier. After all, the land bases will be too far away to cover the carrier.
Sea-based ballistic-missile defense assets have advantages of mobility and security over land-based ballistic-missile defense assets. Just try and find a ship like USS Decatur (DDG 73).
(U.S. Navy photo)
2. Land bases are vulnerable
Land bases are easy to support. You also have plenty of space, compared to a ship. Getting sufficient power and resources is also easy. The accommodations of the crew operating it are far more comfortable. But they don’t move, and everyone and their kid sister knows where they are or can find them on Google Earth. This makes them vulnerable to attacks from planes, missiles, special operations units… you get the idea.
Since war is unpredictable, one will always need the means to get ballistic-missile defense assets to a location — and the best method is a ship like USS Lake Erie (CG 70), pictured here.
(U.S. Navy photo)
1. You never know where you will fight
We think we know where the next war will start. But can we ever be sure? In his memoirs, Norman Schwarzkopf admitted he never thought he’d be fighting in Vietnam, Grenada, or Kuwait. If American troops needed to fight somewhere unexpected (say, a war breaks out in Mozambique), the initial BMD will have to come from ships, not land based units.
The fact is, the Navy may want to dump BMD patrols, but they will be sailing around to carry out this mission for a long time.
Deployments quickly turn into the movie Groundhog Day. You see the same people, do the same missions, and eat the same chow. You’ve got nowhere to go and nothing to do. As you might imagine, things get real weird real fast.
At about month six, you’ll see things like troops singing Disney songs to each other or guys starting fights with traffic cones as arms. If you don’t join in, you’d better be filming it.
Our deployment videos always kill on YouTube because people think we’re super serious all the time.
7. Wanting personal space
One unexpected advantage of Big Military cramming as many troops into as small of a space as possible is that we get close to one another. There’s nowhere to go, especially on a deployment, so you might as well get to know everyone who shares your space.
Civilians might be surprised at the level of closeness between troops in a platoon, especially when it’s snowing outside and everyone is wearing summer PTs.
“Here, we see a bunch of soldiers waiting for morning PT…” (Screengrab via BBC’s Planet Earth)
6. Mentioning it’s your birthday
For better or worse, hazing is highly frowned upon in the military. Any type of initiation or harassment directed toward fellow troops is a major offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. No commander would dare allow their troops to partake in any form of hazing — unless it’s someone’s birthday, of course!
If the unit finds out on their own, you’re in for a terrible surprise. If you’re the idiot who brings it up, don’t expect cake and ice cream from the guys.
5. Being gentle
To the normal person, this would contradict the earlier rules of “embrace silliness” and “forget personal space,” but this is different in its own weird way.
We tell ourselves that we’re hardened, ass-kicking, life-taking, warfighting machines. The truth is, we just don’t have the time or desire for little things, like talking about our feelings or establishing emotional safe spaces. If you just really need a hug, you’ll have to either disguise it as a joke or go and see the chaplain — and even they probably won’t give you a hug, wimp.
4. Asking questions
Normal people would try to figure out the little things, like “why are we doing this exact same, mundane task for the ninth time this month?” Troops, on the other hand, just give up hope after a while and do it.
This is so ingrained that when someone does ask a question, it’s treated like a joke.
3. Taking care of your body
Troops work out constantly. Once for morning PT and probably again when they go to the gym.
All that effort totally negates all of the coffee, energy drinks, beer, pounds of bacon, burgers, pizza, and cartons of cigarettes that an average troop goes through… right?
2. Turning down a chance to do dumb things
If a troop gets a call and the person on the other end says, “we need you out here quick. Don’t let Sergeant Jones find out about it,” context doesn’t matter. They’re there and are probably three beers in before anyone can explain what’s happening.
Best case scenario: It’s an epic night. Worst case: It ends up being a “no sh*t, there I was…” story.
1. Showering without flip-flops on
Only two types of people clean off in a community shower without “shower shoes:” Idiots and people trying to catch gangrene.
You have no idea what the person before you did in that shower nor how often that shower has been cleaned. Why on Earth would you dare put your feet on that same spot?
After the Second World War, the Air Force established their version of a LRC, Project X, which would be used as one of the four means to evaluate students of the Squadron Officers Course at Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.
“What we are trying to replicate for the students is being under stress and how you manage people under stress with limited resources, limited time and trying to solve a complex problem with a group of people with different personalities, different ways of leading and ways they want to be followed,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Clayton, Air University assistant professor of leadership.
The primary purposes of the course are to improve the students’ leadership ability by affording the student an opportunity to apply the lessons learned in formal leadership instruction. Secondly, to assess the students by measuring the degree to which certain leadership traits and behaviors are possessed. It’s also used to provide the students with a means of making a self-evaluation to determine more accurately their leadership ability and to provide the opportunity to observe the effects of strengths and weaknesses of others during a team operation.
Most importantly, the LRC is used to develop diverse individuals as future leaders in the Air Force.
Stress plays an important part in the evaluation of each leader as it is through stress the critical leader processes and skills will be observed by the evaluator. To produce a stressful environment for the working team, certain limitations are placed on them.
Officer trainees work together to overcome an obstacle at the Project X leadership reaction course. The course is designed to improve leadership traits to Air-men attending Squadron Officer School, Officer Training School, Air Force Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy and other schools on Maxwell AFB.
According to the LRC standard of operations, the course operation is designed so that each individual will be a leader for a task-one time and serve as a team member or observer the remainder of the time. For each task there is a working team and an observing team. The working team is responsible for completing the mission while the observing team acts as safety personnel, overwatch elements, support elements, or competition.
The tasks themselves vary. For example, one task may be to get personnel and equipment across a simulated land mine without touching the ground by building a makeshift bridge from supplies. Another task may incorporate fear and more physical endurance by getting a team and gear over a high wall. Each task has a time limit and unique problems to solve the mission.
Although completing the mission isn’t the goal of the LRC.
“As a leader, you have to recognize some of these people may be scared to do this task or to move across this task with me. So, how do you motivate those people? Do you have the emotional intelligence to understand that you may be able to get through this task on your own, but other people may be scared to do it, so how do you understand that? How do you communicate to your people, motivate them, lead them by example, inspire them to follow you and get through the task? These tasks are designed to cause that stress and to make you apply the leadership skills you learned in the classroom,” Clayton said.
The whole concept is getting students to identify what type of leader they are as well as understand and identifying leadership traits in others.
CAMP PENDLETON, California — US Marine Corps 60 mm mortar teams can drop explosive rounds on their enemies from over 1,000 meters away, and Insider recently had the opportunity to watch them do it.
During a visit to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Insider observed a mortar crew firing off multiple rounds using an M224 60 mm light mortar, which is a high-angle-of-fire weapon that can be drop- or trigger-fired.
The training was carried out as part of the latest iteration of Iron Fist, an exercise that involves various training evolutions leading up to a large amphibious assault.
Cpl. Kevin Rodriguez, an experienced mortarman who said he chose the mortar because he wanted to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, walked Insider through the ins and outs of firing a mortar and what it takes.
60 mm mortars are typically handled by a crew of Marines.
Mortar crews have a gunner, an assisting gunner (squad leader), and an ammunition man. The crew is often supported by a forward observer and a fire direction center.
When they’re on the move, the three main crew members divide the weapon components, like the gun, the bipod, the sight, and the baseplate, among themselves with no one person carrying the entire weapon.
A crew can set up or tear down a mortar in two minutes.
In combat, the team works together to put fire down range. Standard operating procedure is that the fire direction center first passes range data to the gunner, who puts that into the sight and manipulates the weapon accordingly.
The ammo bearer then hands a prepared round to the assisting gunner, who drops the live round on command. Teams practice every day for months to develop a flawless rhythm.
The 60 mm mortar can be fired on the ground or in a handheld configuration.
A lot of different considerations go into firing this weapon.
There is the gun. “You can breathe on it the wrong way, and it will be completely off,” Rodriguez told Insider.
There is the round. Mortar crews can set it to burst in the air, explode on impact, or detonate a few seconds after impact, giving it the ability to penetrate a bunker.
Then there is figuring out exactly how to get the round to the target, and that involves different range calculations, as well as considerations like temperature, wind speed, and drift, among other things.
Weather is also an important factor. Rain, even light rain, for example, can result in wet charges, making a misfire or the firing of a short round more likely and risking a friendly-fire situation. There are covers to help protect the weapon and the rounds from the elements.
There are two different methods Marine mortar teams use to effectively target an enemy.
Range calculations are estimations at best. An experienced mortarman can eyeball the distance to his target, but it tends to take a few shots to get rounds falling in the right spot.
The quickest and most effective targeting approach is called bracketing. Mortar crews fire behind or in front of a target and then split the distance in half until rounds are coming down on the target.
Or, as Insider watched a crew do at Camp Pendleton, Marine mortar crews can use creeping fire to target an enemy, inching closer to the target with each round. This is not as fast as bracketing and requires more rounds, about five or six.
But creeping fire can be a pretty good option when you’re dealing with a lot of dead space, terrain features that make range estimates harder.
A mortar section usually has three guns delivering damage to a large area.
Mortars set the conditions for other units by keeping bigger threats at bay.
The mortar crews are tasked with “taking out the bigger targets, or at least keeping their heads down long enough for the machine guns to start suppressing enemies,” Rodriguez said. “The [other infantry units] are more the cleanup. They can move from one place to another.”
During the training at Camp Pendleton, the mortars practiced pinning down light armor while crews with M240 machine guns put fire on targets from a nearby ridge.
The mortars and the machine guns cleared the way for several infantry squads to maneuver into position. Each mortar round has a casualty radius of about 25 meters.
We’re spending a lot of time on the internet these days watching plenty of useless information — cat videos, TikToks, Tiger King all the Netflix in the land. Finally, here’s something useful, with a heart-stopping, compelling element: an EOD badass dismantling IEDs with only a pickaxe and pliers and no protective equipment. DISCLAIMER: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. OR ANYWHERE.
Forget everything you thought you knew about dismantling IEDs. As this Peshmerga EOD guy clearly shows, all you need is a pickaxe and a pair of pliers.pic.twitter.com/hZOoP9m291
Researcher Hugo Kaaman posted a clip of a “Peshmerga EOD guy” dismantling IEDs with only a pickaxe and a pair of pliers (Did we mention? Do not try this!). After a little more digging, another Twitter user cited that the subject was Major Jamal Bawari who is/was a part of a Peshmerga EOD unit.
BBC Four, Storyville did a documentary on ‘Crazy Fakhir’, a Kurdish colonel in the Iraqi army and legendary bomb disposal expert, who was in the same unit as Jamal, titled “Hurt Locker Hero” in 2018.
The description of the documentary on BBC Four is: The heart-stopping story of ‘Crazy Fakhir’, a Kurdish colonel in the Iraqi army and legendary bomb disposal expert who single-handedly disarmed thousands of landmines across the country with just a pocket knife and a pair of wire clippers.
Between the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the chaos and destruction wreaked by IS ten years later, Fahkir’s unwavering bravery saved thousands of lives throughout Iraq. ‘Hurt Locker Hero’ tells Fakhir’s story through the raw and visceral amateur footage captured by his soldiers on a camcorder intended for filming family occasions. Instead, it records Fakhir endlessly snipping wires, searching family homes and digging out roadside IEDs, insisting it’s too dangerous to wait hours for the highly trained American bomb disposal teams to arrive.
Whilst their father and husband becomes a hero, Fahkir’s wife and eight children struggle to make ends meet and worry endlessly about his safety. Fakhir will be remembered as the man who risked his life to save others -‘If I fail, only I die, but if I succeed, I can save hundreds of people.’.
As young America faces a draft panic, let us consider the example of Elvis Presley. At the height of his run as the King of Rock and Roll, the world’s biggest pop star received his induction notice from Uncle Sam and did a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, beginning in 1958.
Not only did he leave millions of dollars on the table during his two-year stint, he turned down sweet offers from both the Army and the Navy that would’ve allowed him to serve as an entertainer instead of a grunt.
If Elvis hadn’t embraced a fried-food-and-pharmaceuticals diet in the ’70s, he might have lived long enough to celebrate his 85th birthday on Jan. 8, 2020. Instead, he died on the toilet on Aug. 16, 1977, at the age of 42. It’s true, Elvis fans: The King has now been gone longer than he was with us here on Earth.
Elvis asked for (and got) an extension so he could make “King Creole” before induction. Since this is arguably Presley’s best movie, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the Memphis Draft Board for allowing him to finish it before reporting to boot camp at Fort Hood, Texas.
Presley was assigned to the 3rd Armored Division at Freidberg, Germany. Over the next 16 months, he was allowed to live off base with his recently widowed father but otherwise enjoyed a standard-issue service. He was promoted to sergeant in January 1960.
While in Germany, Elvis picked up three habits that would define the rest of his life and career: pills, Priscilla and karate. Pvt. Presley first took amphetamines while on maneuvers and was a fervent evangelist on the subject for the rest of his life. Fourteen-year-old milkid Priscilla Beaulieu turned out to be the love of his life. He later moved her family to Memphis and eventually married the girl he called “Satnin” when she turned 21. While the King never mastered the martial art, he continued to study it, and his future live shows were peppered with random karate kicks onstage.
Presley was discharged in March 1960 and returned to show biz with the movie “G.I. Blues.” Fans were excited to see Elvis in uniform on-screen but, unfortunately, the movie set the tone for the turkeys that were to dominate the rest of his movie career.
Most of today’s biggest pop stars already have too much ink to be eligible to serve, but the ghost of Elvis will be eager to see which teen idols step up to serve if things escalate this week in the Middle East.
Happy birthday to the King.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
After 18 years of fighting, the Afghan war is at a deadly stalemate.
Afghanistan is divided among government forces backed by international troops, the Taliban and its militant allies, the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, and a collection of smaller foreign terrorist groups.
The United States and the Taliban signed a landmark agreement in February aimed at “bringing peace to Afghanistan.” That deal foresees a power-sharing arrangement between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and the full withdrawal of all foreign troops.
As a Taliban delegation arrived in Kabul for talks on prisoner releases and the Afghan government and the Taliban prepare to launch direct peace talks, most of the country is fiercely contested and ravaged by violence, with warring factions pursuing a “fight-and-talk” strategy.
WATCH: Some 900 Taliban members were freed from Afghanistan’s largest prison outside Kabul as part of a prisoner swap under a cease-fire deal on May 26.
The Afghan government controls the capital, Kabul, provincial capitals, major population centers, and most district centers, according to Resolute Support, the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.
Around 30 percent of Afghanistan’s 407 districts are in government hands, the Taliban commands some 20 percent, and the rest of the country is contested, according to Long War Journal (LWJ), a project run by the Foundation for Defense Of Democracies, a Washington-based think tank.
The LWJ’s “living map,” based mostly on media reports, is the only publicly available source that tracks district control in Afghanistan, after Resolute Support stopped assessing territorial control and enemy-initiated attacks over the past two years.
Afghan security forces have been on the defensive since NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan ended in 2014, losing much-needed assistance with logistics, air support, and intelligence.
Resolute Support is training, advising, and assisting the 273,000-strong Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. Additionally, the Afghan government employs around 20,000 militiamen who are part of the Afghan Local Police.
Meanwhile, a separate U.S. counterterrorism force is combating foreign terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and the IS group and also elements of the Taliban. The United States also funds and supports special Afghan paramilitary units.
The Afghan forces have a large numerical advantage: There are an estimated 60,000 full-time Taliban militants and some 90,000 seasonal fighters.
But government forces are suffering from record casualties, high attrition, and low morale. That is widely blamed on a resurgent Taliban, ineffective leadership in the armed forces, and chronic corruption.
President Ashraf Ghani said in January 2019 that about 45,000 Afghan soldiers and policemen had been killed since he took office in September 2014 — or a staggering 849 per month. In 2018, the government stopped publicizing fatalities.
“The internationally recognized and elected government doesn’t have a monopoly on the use of force nor control over the majority of the country,” says Jonathan Schroden, a security expert with the U.S.-based nonprofit research and analysis organization CNA, who has provided assessments on the security situation in Afghanistan to the U.S. military and Congress.
The Taliban, which claims to be a government in exile, “has eroded much of the government’s control but cannot do so to the point of becoming the recognized government,” Schroden says.
The result, he says, is a “strategic stalemate.”
Government forces had been in an active defensive mode since a weeklong reduction-of-violence agreement preceding the U.S.-Taliban deal. But after two devastating terrorist attacks this month that the government blamed on the Taliban, Ghani ordered government forces to go on the offensive.
The political crisis over the disputed presidential election in September also affected the government’s military posture. There were fears of civil war after Ghani’s leading challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, threatened to form a parallel government and proclaimed himself the president, a scenario that threatened the cohesion of the security forces.
The standoff was resolved after Ghani and Abdullah signed a power-sharing deal — their second after consecutive elections — on May 17.
“The government faced serious challenges for months,” says Obaid Ali, an expert on the insurgency at the Afghanistan Analysts Network, an independent think tank in Kabul. “The government didn’t have a military strategy because the leadership was focused on the internal crisis after the presidential election’s outcome and the U.S.-Taliban talks.”
Ali says the months-long political feud sank morale and complicated logistics within the security forces.
The Taliban controls more territory than at any time since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 toppled the fundamentalist group from power.
The fundamentalist militant group’s leadership fled to neighboring Pakistan, where it allegedly received sanctuary, training, and arms, an accusation Islamabad has denied. From its safe havens in Pakistan, the Taliban has waged a deadly insurgency against Afghan and international troops.
The Taliban has been following what security experts call an “outside-in” strategy that was effectively employed by other insurgencies in Afghanistan, including the mujahedin who fought Soviet and Afghan government forces in the 1980s.
From its sanctuaries in Pakistan, the Taliban captured rural areas of Afghanistan and consolidated control over larger swaths of the countryside while generating recruits and resources. In recent years, the Taliban has encroached on more populated areas with the aim of isolating and then seizing them.
The militants have twice briefly seized control of the northern city of Kunduz, the country’s fifth-most populous.
“The Taliban has so far been successful in seizing and contesting ever larger swaths of rural territory, to the point where they have now almost encircled six to eight of the country’s major cities and are able to routinely sever connections via major roads,” Schroden says.
“The major thing holding the Taliban back at this point is the government’s supremacy of the air and its superior strike forces in the form of the commandos and special police units. But those units are being worn down and the Afghan Army has been slowly failing as an institution for the past five years.”
The Taliban insurgency has been a unifying cause for some smaller foreign militant groups.
Around 20 foreign militant groups are active in Afghanistan, including Pakistani extremist groups like the Pakistani Taliban, Lashkar-e Jhangvi, Lashkar-e Taiba, Jaish-e Muhammad, and Central Asian militant groups including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic Jihad Union, and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a militant group fighting for Uyghur independence in China.
Ali says the Taliban has ties to some of these foreign militant groups. “Some of these groups operate under the Taliban umbrella,” he says. “They can’t operate in Afghanistan without the Taliban’s permission. Each of these groups has a unique relationship with the Taliban — operationally, ideologically, or economically.”
Al-Qaeda is a largely diminished force, with only several hundred fighters in Afghanistan. But it remains a crucial part of the Taliban insurgency. The two groups have been longtime partners and are co-dependent, according to experts.
According to the U.S. State Department, the “implementation of the U.S.-Taliban agreement will require extensive long-term monitoring to ensure Taliban compliance, as the group’s leadership has been reluctant to publicly break with Al-Qaeda.”
Under that deal, the Taliban committed to “preventing any group or individual, including Al-Qaeda, from using the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.”
A January report from the UN’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team stated that ties between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban “continue to be close and mutually beneficial, with Al-Qaeda supplying resources and training in exchange for protection.”
Afghan security forces said on May 11 that they had captured the IS group’s regional leader for South Asia, Abu Omar Khorasani, in an operation in Kabul.
This was the latest in a string of recent setbacks for the group.
In April, Afghan security forces in the southern city of Kandahar captured the leader of the IS branch in Afghanistan, Abdullah Orakzai, along with several other militants.
According to the United Nations, since October 2019, over 1,400 IS fighters and affiliates have surrendered to Afghan or U.S. forces.
The U.S. military said the IS group’s stronghold in the eastern province of Nangarhar was “dismantled” in November 2019 due to U.S. air strikes, operations by Afghan forces, and fighting between the Taliban and IS militants.
The U.S. military said around 300 IS fighters and 1,000 of their family members surrendered.
The fighters and family members who did not surrender have relocated to Pakistan or the neighboring province of Kunar, a remote, mountainous region along the border with Pakistan, it added.
The U.S. military estimates that there are between 2,000 and 2,500 IS fighters active in Afghanistan.
Ali says that the IS group has bases in a few districts of Kunar Province, and they are also likely present in parts of neighboring Nuristan Province, another remote, mountainous province. But he says recent reports that IS militants were active in northern Afghanistan are “unreliable.”
“The group has lost most of the territory it held in eastern Afghanistan,” Ali says. “The recent operations against IS have severely weakened them and most have gone underground.”
But he says the recent arrests of IS fighters and leaders in major urban areas shows that there are still IS “sleeper cells” in the country.
Most IS fighters are thought to be former members of Pakistani militant groups, especially the Pakistani Taliban.
“There are a smaller number of Afghans, Central Asians, and even fewer from other regional countries,” Ali adds.
If a pilot gets shot down behind enemy lines, their ultimate goal is to survive and make it back to friendly lines. Downed pilots are still considered combatants and allowed to carry weapons under the Geneva Conventions. However, due to the limitations of carrying gear in an aircraft, pilots were generally only equipped with a pistol and a survival knife. In 1952, the Air Force introduced the M6 Aircrew Survival Weapon. The folding weapon had a .22 Hornet barrel and a .410 bore. However, it was really only suitable for hunting animals for food. Pilots needed something with more punch to defend themselves. That’s where the GAU-5A comes in.
In the 1960s, the Air Force introduced the Model 608 CAR-15 Survival Rifle. Modified from the existing CAR-15, a compact version of the M16 similar to a modern M4, the Model 608 had a 10-inch 5.56x45mm barrel. It had a minimalist stock, a very thin handguard, a chopped pistol grip, and a conical flash hider. The rifle was broken down between its upper and lower receiver for easier storage and was stowed in the pilot’s seat pack with four 20-round magazines. With modern firearm technological evolutions, the Model 608 was improved upon for today’s pilots.
In June 2018, the Air Force announced the new Aircrew Self Defense Weapon. Different from the previous survival weapons, the ASDW is designed to give pilots as much firepower as possible if they have to defend themselves behind enemy lines. Designated the GAU-5A, it is based on the standard-issue M4 carbine. However, the rifle weighs less than 7 pounds and can be stowed in the seat kit of the modern ACES 2 ejection seat.
The GAU-5A utilizes a 12.5-inch barrel instead of the M4’s 14.5-inch barrel. It also uses flip-up front and rear sights to do away with the M4’s bulky triangular front sight and gas assembly. The GAU-5A’s pistol grip also folds back and locks against the collapsible buttstock which is unmodified from the M4. Unlike the Model 608, the GAU-5A features a quick-detach barrel to reduce its footprint in storage. The Cry Havoc Tactical Quick Release Barrel allows the barrel and handguard to attach and detach from the receiver in a matter of seconds. In total, the deployment of the GAU-5A from storage takes just 30 seconds.
With a complement of four 3-round magazines, the GAU-5A puts more firepower in the hands of a downed pilot than ever before. “We were asked to design a stand-off weapon that was capable of hitting a man-size target at 200 meters,” said Air Force Gunsmith Shop chief Richard Shelton. While the GAU-5A itself is only available to the military, there is a civilian version of the rifle.
The Midwest Industries MI-GAU5A-P is a pistol clone of the Air Force’s GAU-5A. It uses the same QRB system from Cry Havoc, a set of flip-up Magpul MBUS Pro iron sights, a FAB Defense folding pistol grip, and an SBA3 pistol brace. Due to the 12.5-inch barrel, the MI-GAU5A-P is built and sold as a braced pistol rather than a rifle with a stock. It is possible to file it as an SBR in order to use the proper Mil-Spec stock. Of course, the biggest difference is that the pistol clone is restricted to semi-auto fire. “THIS IS NOT FULL AUTO, STOP CALLING AND ASKING IF THIS IS FULL AUTO,” Midwest Industries notes on its product page. Whether you’re looking for an easy-to-pack 5.56mm truck or bugout bag gun, or want to get as close as you can to what Air Force pilots carry in their ejection seat, the MI-GAU5A-P comes with a lifetime warranty and is proudly 100% made in the U.S.A.
Retiring from the armed forces can be a very stressful transition because there is no magic crystal ball that allows you to see into your future as a civilian. Veterans often have strong networks built over the course of their military service, but as useful as these networks are, they are also apt to keep you from branching out into something new, or taking time off to pursue uncharted possibilities. You don’t know what you don’t know, so it is easy to fall into a trap where income becomes the driving force behind career decisions rather than a deep introspective look into what you really want out of life. This leads to a pursuit of employment rather than fulfillment, and ends in a contract that forces you to trade more of your precious time for money. After giving so much to your country, and asking your family to sacrifice just as much or more, taking time to reconnect with them and yourself before a second career is worth your consideration. You might be pleasantly surprised where it will lead.
Consider the following in your calculus:
Military service didn’t leave much room for hobbies and passions. Do you have any languishing in the recesses of your life?
Military regulations and culture compelled you to identify yourself by an all-consuming job title, which in turn suppressed your identity as an individual. You were the Admiral, the Colonel, Skipper, Warrant, Chief, Senior, Top, OPSO, COS, the LPO, the First Sergeant. Do you really know who you are anymore without a job title to define you?
Time keeps ticking, but money comes and goes. Is time more valuable than money when you realize that you can bank one but not the other?
This last thought is the one that gave me the most pause. If you are shackled to a life dictated by consumerism and workism, your “one day” list becomes less and less achievable. This is paradoxical, because chances are you might be making a decent salary on top of your retirement income, but you don’t have time for you, your spouse, your kids, your dog, your forgotten hobbies, or your wild and crazy ambitions. Why? Because your new job might provide a comfortable existence and a title to impress your friends, but it doesn’t guarantee you will have time for anything on your bucket list. How many successful people have all the toys in the world but no time to use them? More than you think. In this article, I will argue that as a veteran, you have been given all the resources you need to thrive in a life of your choosing. To be clear, I am not suggesting that you become completely “checked out” and retreat from society never to work again. Instead, I am advocating for a period of time that prevents you from rushing headlong into a second career. This will give you some “maneuver space” to sort through the stress, the noise, and the pressure that is screaming at you to immediately get a job and keep slogging forward. That space might be a few months, or it might be a few years, but either way, it is time well-spent.
Try this little exercise. Mentally fast forward to the end of your life. You are looking back on your experiences wondering why you worked your whole life, yet missed out on so much living. Maybe you wanted to take a year and surf the south Pacific, or fish the great rivers in Alaska, or hike the Appalachian Trail, or follow the Tour de France, or start a business, or write a novel, or raise alpacas, or sell it all and buy a sailboat…but you didn’t, and now you are too old and tired to do anything but look back with sadness and regret. You realize there was always something standing in the way; there were always reasons why you couldn’t. So, instead of doing, you resigned yourself to watching others as you scrolled through your social media feeds and groused about your boss, staff meetings, the person who chews their food too loudly in their cubicle, the jerk who cut you off on your commute, and the endless mundane aspects of life in “The Matrix.”
As you contemplate those lost dreams, you might be asking yourself with a twinge of frustration, “Why didn’t I go for it? What was I afraid of? What was the worst thing that could have happened to me if I had unshackled myself from the ‘golden handcuffs,’ put down the electronic tether, and lived the life I always imagined?” You might be surprised to learn the worst thing that could have happened was nothing from which you could not have quickly recovered.
Now, rewind to the present. Ask yourself this question, “Have I ever allowed myself to fail?” If you made it all the way through a 20-year (or more) career, chances are the answer is a resounding no! So why do you think you will start failing now? I’ll let you in on a little secret…you won’t. You already know how to succeed. The sad truth, however, is that many of us never take a chance, because we focus on the reasons we shouldn’t…the fears…rather than the reasons we should…the inspiration.
Every military member goes through transition class on their way out of the service. You learn that it is possible to reinvent yourself, but it isn’t easy. You are instructed to make a list of your assets, your liabilities, and any gaps you have in your skill set, then cross-reference it against what you need to break into a sector outside of what you have been doing for the past twenty-plus years. You are told to be willing to move to an area where that sector has a presence, be patient, be willing to evangelize yourself, build a network in your new community, use your hard-earned benefits to get the education or certifications you need to fill in any gaps, and be willing to start at the bottom. If you do these things while exhibiting all the qualities that made you successful on active duty, you will succeed.
What if I told you that same blueprint for reinventing yourself professionally is just as useful for reinventing yourself personally, and going after those “one day” dreams before you blindly (or deliberately) trade one overlord for another. With a little bit of planning and foresight, you can do it, and if I haven’t made my position clear, I think you should. When else will you get a planned break in your professional life to do something crazy?
I started my transition playing by the rules. I spent hours…no, weeks…working on a resume. I went to career fairs. I interviewed for jobs. I received job offers. None of it felt right in my gut. I started terminal leave in June 2018 in a panic-stricken state, grasping for a lifeline. At my wife’s urging I had been exploring the idea of trade school using my GI Bill benefits, but I was afraid to commit. “It’s not what I am expected to do,” was my typical reason, which was ridiculous. I was afraid of the unknown and everything that came with it. That was the truth. I had reached the first portal of fear, and with my wife’s encouragement, I stepped through it.
Once again, I found myself grasping for the familiar and hiding from my fears. I applied for a government job overseas, knowing it wasn’t what I really wanted. A friend was recruiting me to come back to the staff I had left a year and a half earlier, but after I submitted my resume, there were knots in my stomach. “What am I doing,” I asked myself. “Is this what I really want?” I wasn’t ready for staff meetings and point papers again. I wasn’t ready for days when I went to work at dawn and came home after dinner just to get up and do it all over again while my life ticked away a second at a time.
My wife had a dream that we could sell it all and go sailing. I was adamantly opposed. “If there is one thing I learned at the marine trade and technology school,” I joked, “it is don’t buy a boat!” The truth of the matter is I was terrified of selling everything and buying a boat. There were too many voices in my head telling me it would be our ruination…MY ruination. I hid behind my biggest fear – money. We couldn’t afford it. End of story.
But, it wasn’t.
It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it. As I tell my children, there is a solution to every problem, we only need to outthink it. So we looked at the problem again and realized we could afford it. But, I still wasn’t ready to commit. I needed a push.
Fate intervened on my behalf. Much to my surprise, my resume never made it through the initial screening for the civil servant position, so I never got the job interview on the staff overseas. Despite my ego being bruised, I actually breathed a sigh of relief. I was a free man again. A few weeks later, after some long, introspective conversations with my wife, I agreed to the sailing adventure. Failure had somehow opened a pathway to an outcome I did not think possible. That was in March 2019. Four months later, we would be boat owners after an exhausting push to sell, donate, or repurpose just about everything we owned. Three months after that, we would be getting underway from Hampton, VA for a 1,600 nautical mile ocean passage to Antigua.
How did we go from “normal life” to “boat life” so quickly? We followed the same blueprint I received in the transition seminar. We laid out a plan, prioritized our resources, and focused everything we had on the achievement of our goal. I had already filled in the knowledge gaps by becoming a certified marine mechanic. Anyone who knows boats will tell you that 90% of boat ownership is boat maintenance, so I felt confident I could handle that responsibility with my new skills. I grew up sailing, so that wasn’t an issue, but living aboard a boat full-time was another story. We hired a couple who had twice circumnavigated with their kids as “cruising coaches.” We built a network by talking about our plans with people who could help and guide us. We made sure we were able to fund our dream by paying cash for a boat and living within the means of my retirement income. Using our new and growing network, we found a boat, brokered the deal, and moved aboard on July 31, 2019.
It was not an easy transition from land life to sea life. In fact, it was harder than anything we had ever done. Being a military family, we were used to relocating and starting over every couple years, so we put all that experience to good use. But, this time it was different. It was all on us to get it done. There were at least three distinct points when we wanted to quit. We didn’t, largely due to the encouragement and instruction we received from people who had walked the same path. The rewards for persevering are too many to list. Suffice it to say, I answer to no master. I have learned more about myself and my family in six months than I have in six years. I have swum with a whale in 19,000 feet of water halfway between Bermuda and the Leeward Islands. We have sailed our way through 50-knot squalls and come out the other side stronger and more resilient. I have made lifelong friendships with people I would never have met had I stayed in my “safe” bubble. I have gained valuable perspective by using this time away from the rat race to sort myself; to be a better husband, father, and friend.
A good counterargument to this conversation would go something like this – “My professional stock is highest immediately after I retire. It will be irresponsible for me not to take advantage of that transition point and start building my professional resume in the real world. Statistics support the fact that I most likely will change jobs several times as I find my niche, so it doesn’t matter what I do. The important thing is to get into the ring and make a name for myself.” So you get a job and a fancy-sounding title that you eagerly post on LinkedIn. You beef up your profile with a power photo that has you leaning into the camera with a smile that says, “I’m a go-getter!” You add a description underneath that says something like, “I’m a results-oriented leader with a proven track record of astonishing accomplishments, fiscal maturity, operational prowess, cunning initiative, etc, etc, etc.” It becomes your identity, and it is the right thing to do, isn’t it? I certainly thought it was. But for me, at least, it wasn’t. I am not getting any younger. Neither are you. The counterargument doesn’t hold up, in my opinion. You can always get a job and make money, but you can’t make more time. Another aspect of this counterargument is that your network will abandon you if you take time for yourself and your family. I also believe that this is invalid, and would go so far as to suggest that your network will respect you more for leading in this manner.
We as Americans have it all backwards. We work and work and work until we hit the “golden years,” then we retire with the idea that we are going to take off from our empty nest and explore the world. I have heard so many tragic stories about people who FINALLY get some time to do the things they have always wanted to do only to be sidelined by unexpected health crises that leave them debilitated or worse. Derek Thompson, a senior staff writer for The Atlantic wrote a compelling article in February 2019 titled, “Workism is Making Americans Miserable,” where he argues that work has become, unfortunately, the, “centerpiece of one’s identity and purpose.” It’s an excellent, thought-provoking read.
Work, pay taxes, then die.
As a retiring military member, you have the resources to do what you want – healthcare, education opportunities, steady income, and many more benefits to jumpstart your second life. You only need to face down your fears and embrace the possibilities that lay before you. I am not done working, but I guarantee whatever employment I pursue in the future will be far different than what I thought I had to shoehorn myself into when I first transitioned from service. We have had a lot of people tell us how amazing our life is…how lucky we are…how courageous we are to be out sailing with our kids full time. We don’t see ourselves as different or special. We are just us, living a life of our choosing. We realized in hindsight that fear had been holding us back, not resources. Once we made our decision, we were flabbergasted by how everything suddenly seemed to align behind us. It was all there to begin with, but we were blinded by our fears of the unknown, and therefore too afraid to take a chance.
Fear is paralyzing, and in the weeks surrounding my transition there were days when I didn’t want to get out of bed and face reality. In the middle of those dark moments, a very wise friend of mine asked me to stretch my hands out in front of myself palms up, then she had me clench my fists. She looked at me and said, “There won’t be room for anything new in your life if you are holding onto everything so tightly, afraid to let go. You have to open your hands and be willing to release – toxic relationships, needless possessions, clutter, the wrong career, convenience, the safe and easy path, money. But more importantly, you have to open your hands so what you really want has a place to land.”
I stood there for a moment clenching and unclenching my upturned hands. I am not a particularly spiritual person, but I was shocked at how profoundly her simple exercise struck a chord. “Money comes and money goes, and it should,” she concluded, “but even though we have had our backs to the wall a number of times, we always believed we would be fine because we kept our hands, figuratively of course, upturned and open.” She and her husband are better now than ever after launching their own business nearly twenty years ago. They had been let go from their previous jobs at the same time, when their kids were still young, and their stress levels already high. In that moment of darkness, they chose to open their own business and live life according to their own terms. It wasn’t easy, but looking back, they wouldn’t want it any other way.
In the final analysis, it’s not about how much you have, but what you do with it. Achieving your ambitions means making decisions, prioritizing and leveraging resources, and aligning efforts. Do you want to be linked in right away, or checked out to gain some perspective and clarity? The choice is yours, and it doesn’t matter how big your proverbial or actual boat is. It only matters that you believe in yourself and face down your fears. Trust me, someone always has a bigger boat. You can find dozens of YouTube channels where people are sailing the world on every manner of boat imaginable. I used to watch some of them and say, “Look at their boat. It’s so ugly, or small, or dilapidated.” My wife would answer, “Yeah, sure is…but they are doing it!” How true. Would you rather be sitting in a staff meeting wishing you were doing it, or actually doing it?
I’ll close with this final thought. Many, if not all of us, who are retiring from a career in the service lost shipmates, close friends, and comrades in training and combat. A few years ago, standing on a beach in Italy looking out into the Adriatic Sea, where a friend in Air Wing 17 had perished during a nighttime training flight off the USS George Washington (CVN-73) in 2002, I made a promise that if I somehow made it through my military career, I would not squander the opportunity to fulfill dreams and live an amazing life. I felt like I owed that to those who couldn’t. Life is short, and precious. Don’t let fear hold you back. Don’t let a false sense of obligation keep you from doing the things on your “one day” list. If you do, that list will go unfulfilled.
We keep a sign on our boat that reads, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” It is a constant reminder for us to keep pushing forward. You can, too.
Glenn Robbins is a retired Naval Officer cruising full-time on a 46-foot catamaran named FEARLESS with his wife Andi and their two children, Gavin and Alexis.
Some of the most treasured rituals involved in end-of-life care have become out of reach as we put in place the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 illness.
To protect our most vulnerable Veterans, the Community Living Center at VA Black Hills was the first ward to close to visitors. Even with compassionate exceptions, hospice visitation had a time limit and families could only visit one at a time. The policy required families to nearly give up the experience of physical touch, sharing memories and long goodbyes.
Dr. Mary Clark knew these protective measures were difficult for grieving families to accept. Hospice services aim to relieve suffering and provide bereavement support to families. Under normal circumstances, hospice care provides a comforting environment for families to share uninterrupted, quality time with their loved one. Clark is the Rehabilitation and Extended Care associate chief of staff.
Social worker Renee Radermacher works closely with Veterans and their families on the CLC. She thought of a way to give back some of what some families lost. She recommended converting one of the family rooms adjacent to the patient hospice room to a negative pressure room. This would provide an additional safety measure allowing up to three family members to visit for one hour each day.
VA Black Hills Hospice Family Room
A multi-disciplinary team addressed engineering, infection prevention, clinical considerations and social work. The team quickly added a reverse air flow machine and ready the room to receive families. Negative air flow is effective to reduce the transmission of dangerous infectious diseases. Along with good hygiene and masking, it allows families to spend more time with their loved ones, providing relief to the family
“The families are relieved” Dr. Clark said.
“Dr. Clark deserves all the credit for the hospice patients’ family visits. If not for her sensitivity and concern there would be no family visits and the patients would pass away alone,” added Brett Krout, safety manager and workgroup team member.
Providing compassionate patient care during this pandemic requires us to focus on safety while never forgetting the experience of the patient and their loved ones.
At the end of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Luke Skywalker said: “see ya around, kid.” And now, it seems like Luke and is real world alter-ego, Mark Hamill, weren’t kidding around. It’s not exactly confirmed yet, but Mark Hamill is strongly suggesting that he will return to the role of Luke Skywalker for the final installment of the newest Star Wars trilogy, the yet-untitled Star Wars Episode IX, debuting on Dec. 20, 2019.
On July 5, 2018, Hamill posted a countdown to Episode IX on Twitter with the words “Who’s counting? #9WillBeFineAllInGoodTime.”
Although Hamill is an expert at lovingly messing with Star Wars fans online, posting this reminder that the next Star Wars film is over a year away seems pointed. Ask yourself this question: why would Mark Hamill be posting about Star Wars: Episode IX on Twitter if he had absolutely nothing to do with it? Then, ask yourself another question: because Episode IX is possibly the very last installment of numbered Star Wars films in the main “saga,” would J.J. Abrams really not include the most beloved and famous character of all time for the grand finale? Search your feelings, you know it to be true! Mark Hamill is will return as Luke Skywalker, and if he doesn’t then he’s trolled people on Twitter harder than usual, and the powers-that-be at Disney and Lucasfilm have really dropped the lightsaber.
From a canonical, nerdy standpoint, one might wonder how Luke Skywalker could return in Episode IX since he clearly became one with the Force at the end of The Last Jedi. But, that question answers itself. We all saw Luke fade away into the Force, just like Yoda and Obi-Wan did, meaning his spirit will doubtlessly live on and guide Rey, and maybe even Ben Solo, from beyond the grave.
To put it another way, if Luke could project his image halfway across the universe just to play mind games with Kylo Ren, then it stands to reason his ghost will show up in Episode IX. And if Mark Hamill can play mind games with Star Wars fans on Twitter, then it also stands to reason he’s full of more than just a few surprises.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The US Navy has some of the world’s most advanced ships with electronics and automated systems that handle much of the manual tasks involved in the millenias-old craft of sailing — but that same technological strength may be its downfall in a fight against Russia or China.
“Reliance on digital technologies is particularly acute in the realms of communications, propulsion systems, and navigation and has produced a fleet that may not survive the first missile hit or hack,” Panter writes.
Panter’s comments follow a 2017 incident that saw two US Navy destroyers suffer massive collisions with container ships. These ships are among the world’s best at tracking and defending against incoming missiles flying at hundreds of miles an hour, yet they failed to steer well enough to avoid getting hit by a relatively slow container ship the size of a small neighborhood.
“Navigation and seamanship, these are the fundamental capabilities which every surface warfare officer should have, but I suspect if called to war, we’ll be required to do a lot more than safely navigate the Singapore strait,” US Navy Capt. Kevin Eyer, former skipper of the cruisers Shiloh, Chancellorsville, and Thomas Gates said in December 2017. Eyer was speaking in reference to the USS John McCain’s crash with a container ship in the Singapore strait, as Breaking Defense noted at the time.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Gavin Shields)
“If our surface forces are unable to successfully execute these fundamental blocking and tackling tasks, how can it be possibly be expected that they are also able to do the much more complex warfighting tasks?” Eyer asked.
The Navy responded to the two major crashes by replacing the commander of its Pacific fleet, but concerns about its reliance on mutable, fallible electronic and automated systems remains an issue. Additionally, the Navy has begun teaching navigation based on the stars to its sailors in an effort to mitigate over-relaince on technology.
Navigation, that quiet background endeavor without which missiles cannot be launched or guns fired, is similarly teetering one casualty away from disaster. For a loss of GPS, you switch to another; for a loss of a VMS console, you switch to another. But what happens in a total loss-of-power casualty? Wait until the 30-minute batteries on the GPS and VMS wind down, then switch to a laptop version—also battery-powered. The assumption, of course, is that help will be on the way.
Russia operates a more analog fleet than the US in both at sea and in the air, and China’s sea power is concentrated near its own shores where ground assets can back it up.
Through electronic warfare and a misstep in US Navy strategy, the world’s biggest, most powerful Navy could lose its next war as its strengths turn to weaknesses in the face of technological over-reliance.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.