Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY GAMING

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

Most experiments in which biologists — or, more accurately, epidemiologists — study how a disease spreads are done theoretically, involving only a pen and paper. They do their best to simulate the spread of various contagions and study outbreaks of the past, but nobody would dare spread a disease simply to study it.

In 2005, however, they were given the perfect test conditions and subjects: World of Warcraft players.


World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game made by Blizzard Entertainment set in a fantasy realm called Azeroth. In September of 2005, a new “raid” encounter — an experience that required 20 players — opened up, called Zul’Gurub. This was, basically, an ancient city loosely based on Mayan culture that belonged to a savage tribe of Trolls.

When players finally fought the final boss, the Serpent God Hakkar, they would contract a temporary “debuff” (or weakness) called “Corrupted Blood” that would slowly drain their health before spreading to another player.

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists
(Blizzard Entertainment)

Once a player was infected, they’d have to wait out the sickness or die in the process. It wasn’t much more than a nuisance to high-level players, as they could simply heal themselves and continue fighting, hoping to pry an epic sword from the Serpent Lord’s cold corpse. But the in-game plague didn’t just affect players.

In the game, you play one of several different fantasy roles, including paladins, druids, rogues, and (most relevant to this scenario) hunters. Hunters specialized in taming beasts that would then fight in their name. If a hunter’s pet contracted Corrupted Blood, the player could “dismiss” their pet, making it effectively disappear. The next time that pet was called to help, however, it would still have the disease — and it would still spread to nearby characters.

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists
Just like what would happen with the swine flu, avian flu, and many others.
(Blizzard Entertainment)

Hunters of the world would (sometimes) inadvertently bring their infected pets back to large population hubs after completing the raid. There, they’d call forth their beast without realizing it was still infected. Then, the Corrupted Blood was transmitted to other players outside of the raid. This time, the infected players weren’t powerful heroes attempting to kill a god, but rather low-level noobies that would quickly die once affected by the plague, causing it to infect others.

This spread just like a real plague. Players, in search of safety, would evacuate large cities, bringing Corrupted Blood to outlying hamlets, just as with real plagues. Some players would knowingly infect themselves just to harass other players, akin to bio-terrorism.

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists
But this was less about spreading terror and more about having fun with your virtual enemies.
(Blizzard Entertainment)

It was fixed within a week and the game developers apologized for the bug (even though they intentionally recreated it a few years afterwards). But this was the perfect scenario that every epidemiologist dreams of recreating without risking their medical license.

Years after the virtual incident, many researchers published documents using information gathered from the digital plague. They tracked how animals that humans keep as pets might be the most prone to infecting others. They monitored how the disease spread through major population centers and how it traveled along pathways towards the outer reaches of the game. It even simulated surprisingly lifelike actions of bio-terrorists and how they can be dealt with.

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists
Contain and control is the key.
(Photo by Jerry Stillwagon)

All in all, it was a mild annoyance to the players but it gave the Center for Disease Control and many researchers a realistic and ethically-sound testing environment.

MIGHTY GAMING

This is why becoming a Spartan from ‘Halo’ would actually suck

When you think about the Halo series of video games, you probably reminisce about a great story, an excellent multiplayer experience, and a slew of badass weaponry that makes us yearn for the future. If you’ve played even a single story mission, then you know about the Spartans: highly trained, augmented super soldiers designed to withstand any condition and defeat any enemy. In theory, it sounds pretty cool to be a Spartan. In reality, however, it’d suck. Majorly.

In the world of Halo, the SPARTAN-II program started as a way to combat insurrectionists and later became a way to stem the advance of the alien empire known as The Covenant. The goal was to pair advanced exoskeleton technology with a mechanically and biologically enhanced soldier.

But the process of creating a Spartan, were it to happen in real life, would be brutal, unethical, and extremely controversial. Here’s what a to-be Spartan would experience:


Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

Still, the procedure was pretty unethical…

(Bungie)

Recruitment

Candidates, typically between the ages of 5 and 6, are kidnapped by Office of Naval Intelligence recruiters. These candidates are then flash cloned and the copy is sent home. Unfortunately, because the science behind flash cloning wasn’t totally sound, these clones would often die a week or two later, leaving parents mystified and grief-stricken.

How did ONI find candidates? Well, they gathered genetic information during a vaccination program. But if you’re thinking that’s just another reason not to vaccinate your children, just remember that this is what they got in exchange:

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

It might’ve hurt like a b*tch, but Spartans were nearly unbreakable. Fair trade?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Janessa Pon)

Skeletal augmentation

The first step in enhancing candidates is grafting materials onto bones to increase their strength. The goal is to make the bones of the candidates nearly indestructible, but those who undergo the process say it feels like their bones are all being broken.

The worst part is that this process only covers about 13% of the skeletal system so… maybe they could have just had some milk instead? Or maybe some grape juice?

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

This is nothing for a Spartan.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Darhonda V. Hall)

Muscular augmentation

It’s safe to say that casually flipping over a Scorpion tank requires some insane strength. So, as part of the SPARTAN-II program, all sorts of proteins are injected into candidates’ muscles. Sounds cool, right?

It might… until you hear that it feels like napalm is coursing through your skin and your veins are being ripped out of your body.

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

You have to be a little crazy to try and become a SEAL, but at least it’s your choice.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric S. Logsdon)

Attrition rate

The attrition rate for real-life special operations units is ridiculously high. Many don’t make the cut and, if you don’t, you’re out — but at least you’re not dead.

In the SPARTAN-II program, candidates that survived the augmentation process often died from physical side effects. Out of the 150 children that started out in the program, only 33 made it all the way through to the end, becoming the super soldiers who would go on to kick some serious alien hide.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet

The United States military is testing a new form of surveillance: high-altitude balloons.

The tests, first discovered by The Guardian’s Mark Harris in an FCC filing, are being conducted in South Dakota through the Sierra Nevada Corporation — a defense contractor employed by the US government.

The balloons can float as high as 65,000 feet, and are able to track vehicles day or night, regardless of the weather.

The goal of the balloons, according to the FCC filing, is: “To provide a persistent surveillance system to locate and deter narcotic trafficking and homeland security threats.”


The company named in the filing, Sierra Nevada Corporation, is working on behalf of the United States Department of Defense to test the balloons. The United States Southern Command (Southcom) commissioned the tests; the balloons are scheduled to begin flying in South Dakota and conclude in central Illinois.

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted drone aircraft flies a combat mission.

(Photo by Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt)

Though the technology might sound strange, it’s not the first pairing of balloons with tech hardware to enable surveillance: The Israeli government has repeatedly used surveillance balloons with cameras attached in Israel.

The surveillance balloons in this case, however, are equipped with so-called “synthetic-aperture radar” devices from Artemis Networks — a tech company that makes wireless radar devices. Using an SAR device, users can create high-resolution images using radio pulses, which enables a much higher level of detail in surveillance use.

Neither the Department of Defense nor the Sierra Nevada Corporation responded to requests for comment as of publishing.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Intel

Why CIA analysts are often sent into combat zones

In the first season of Amazon’s Jack Ryan, the eponymous character begins as a low-level financial analyst within the CIA. The series is, essentially, one big prequel, connecting to what will ultimately become Tom Clancy’s Ryanverse, a fictional reality that’s the basis for many great films, like The Hunt for Red October and The Sum of All Fears.

At the series’ start, Ryan is just a lowly desk-jockey, reluctant to embrace danger — he begins the series complaining about being sent into a combat zone. Now, it’s not necessarily a plot hole, but a CIA analyst being reluctant to get into the mix is a lot like a young private complaining that they’re being sent to Afghanistan: It happens so often that they should kind of expect their number to be called.


CIA analysts often provide the Department of Defense with the actionable intelligence they need to conduct their missions. That being said, the life of a CIA analyst isn’t the fun, high-stakes adventure that films often make it out to be. Since information about specific events is rarely released to the public, we often only hear about their missions well after the fact, or in some broad, vague way.

Each analyst is specifically trained in a given field and is sent to a specific region to learn one specific thing. This is fairly well represented in the show — Ryan is sent to Yemen to learn about terrorist spending habits there. Actual analysts would be given more mundane tasks, yes, but their missions would be along those lines.

Even if it’s a tad unrealistic, upping the ante makes for a great show.

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

Hacking in the real world is more like using software to crack passwords than improvising lines of written code, just to demystify that one, too.

For the most part, analysts often only report local happenings to their higher ups. Sure, a deep-undercover operative sent to Afghanistan in 2000 may have been doing all that secret-squirrel stuff and agents sent to Berlin in the 70s could have been living it up like James Bond — but analysts might be sent anywhere for any reason, like to get a feel of the trends in the Kazakh media.

The whole spy world gets demystified when you realize that it’s actually kinda boring. Take the often-misunderstood CIA cyber analysts, for example. Moments where you can flex your super-hacker muscles like they do in the movies probably exists, but you’re mostly just gathering intelligence via social media analysis.

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

Don’t get that twisted, though. They’re still going to be involved with the cool moments you see in spy films — just not very often.

Hamid Karzai with Special Forces and CIA Paramilitary in late 2001.

Then there’re the analysts that get embedded with the troops. On one extreme, they’re working hand-in-hand with the special operations community to collect as much information as possible about any given threat, like on the Abbottabad Compound where Osama Bin Laden hid. Or they could be working with conventional forces to gather whatever the troops learn while deployed.

Everything just comes down to the second word in the CIA’s name — intelligence — and learning what they can from anywhere and everyone.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This blunt Army officer has been nominated for chairman

President Donald Trump took to Twitter Dec. 8, 2018, to announce his nomination of General Mark Milley, 60, as the new chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation’s top military position.

“I am pleased to announce my nomination of four-star General Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the United States Army — as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, replacing General Joe Dunford, who will be retiring,” wrote Trump.

Milley has served as chief of staff of the Army since August 2015.


He reportedly graduated from Princeton before serving as a Green Beret. He would go on to hold leadership roles in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The selection of Milley breaks the unofficial tradition of rotating chairmen by which service they’re a part of. Milley is replacing Dunford, a Marine, who took the reigns from an Army chairman.

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

General Joe Dunford.

(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

The announcement comes surprisingly earlier, considering Dunford’s official tenure doesn’t end until October 2019. Trump went on to tweet, “Date of transition to be determined.”

Trump was expected to make the announcement at Dec. 8, 2018’s Army-Navy game, reportedly telling White House pool reporters on Dec. 7, 2018, “I have another one for tomorrow that I’m going to be announcing at the Army-Navy game, I can give you a little hint: It will have to do with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and succession.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Former Delta Force members jump in honor of Normandy Paratroopers

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is now a master photographer, cartoonist, and storyteller.

How I always got stuck right next to Barticus in every cramped-quarters situation I’ll never know… but I always did! Barticus was the biggest pipe-hitter in my squadron, therefore took up the most room and always left me squashed. But for the value of the man as a hard-fighting warrior, well… I just resigned to remaining squashed.

And squashed I was on an MC-130 Combat Talon aircraft climbing passed 20,000 feet toward… well, it really didn’t matter much past 18,000 feet because we all had to go to breathing pure oxygen though a supply mask. It was night and the stress was piled on. Oh, how I hated jumping, on oxygen, from that height, at night… and oh, how Barticus knew that.


As my stress mounted I began to tolerate less the cramped conditions and the mass of Barticus pressing against me. I started to squirm and fidget more and more. Finally Barticus called to me his baritone voice muffled by the mask:

“George!”

“Yeah, what man?”

“Have I ever told you, that I find you very attractive?”

That’s all it took and I was laughing out loud and coughing into my mask, but I was also chilled out and doing much better. A really good friend knows how to push your buttons sure, but they also know how to hit your funny bone and calm you down.

Barticus made his way into an opportunity of a lifetime recently to jump near the town Sainte-Mère-Église, Normandy, France on the 6th of June in honor of the men who jumped there 75 years ago. There but for the grace of God go I — oh, how I wish I could make that jump too; such an honor!

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

(Barticus W. Ricardo [left] and the author Geo kit up for an assault in South America)

I asked Barticus to please get me a photo of the famous Sainte-Mère-Église paratrooper Private John Marvin Steele’s effigy that the people of the town hung at the base of the bell tower of the church where he “landed”. John’s parachute snagged an outcrop of the church’s architecture and left John hanging for many hours with an injured foot until some German soldiers hiding inside the bell tower cut him loose.

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

(Two aspects of Private Steele’s effigy where it hangs still today from the base of the bell tower)

Traditionally, U.S. military organizations have taken veterans back to Sainte-Mère-Église for another jump back onto the Drop Zone (DZ) that they landed on so many years ago. These days it is highly unlikely that there are still veterans of the campaign who are in conducive physical condition to foot that bill.

Our young generations of fighting men, active duty and retired like Barticus and his crew, will continue to make that jump every year on the day of the anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, as long as there is still ground in Normandy to land on.

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

(The church at Sainte-Mère-Église feature an effigy of paratrooper Private John Marvin Steele who descended into the town and became suspended when his parachute snagged an outcropping of the church structure.)


MIGHTY TRENDING

US F-22 stealth fighters intercept Russian bombers off Alaska

US Air Force F-22 stealth fighters intercepted two sets of two Russian Tupolev Tu-95 bombers, one of which was accompanied by two Su-35 fighter escorts, off the coast of Alaska on May 20, 2019, according to North American Aerospace Defense Command.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced May 21, 2019, that Russian Tu-95MS bombers, which are capable of carrying nuclear missiles, conducted an observation flight May 20, 2019, near the western coast of Alaska, adding that at certain points during the 12-hour flight the bombers and their escort fighters were shadowed by US F-22s, Russia’s state-run TASS News Agency reported.


It is unclear why the Russians sent so many bombers near US air defenses, and NORAD was unable to say whether the Russian bombers were armed. It is also unclear why such bombers were used at all, as observation is not the traditional role of the large, four-engine, propeller-powered bombers, which are essentially heavy cruise-missile platforms.

NORAD sent out four F-22s, two for each intercept, to intercept the Russian aircraft after they entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone. An E-3 Sentry provided surveillance during the intercepts. The Russian bombers remained in international airspace, NORAD said in a statement.

“NORAD’s top priority is defending Canada and the United States,” Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, the commander of NORAD, said. “Our ability to deter and defeat threats to our citizens, vital infrastructure, and national institutions starts with successfully detecting, tracking, and positively identifying aircraft of interest approaching US and Canadian airspace.”

The bomber flights May 20, 2019, came roughly two months after Russia accused the US of unnecessarily stirring up tensions between the countries by flying B-52H Stratofortress bombers near Russia for training with regional partners.

“Such actions by the United States do not lead to a strengthening of an atmosphere of security and stability in the region,” a Kremlin spokesman told reporters at the time.”On the contrary, they create additional tensions.”

The US military, however, stressed that the training missions, which included simulated bombing runs, were necessary to “deter adversaries and assure our allies and partners.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Syria claims it captured a US missile from the latest strike

Russian state media said on April 25, 2018, that Syria had “captured” a US Tomahawk cruise missile from the strike on suspected Syrian chemical weapons sites on April 14, 2018 — and they will study it to advance their own missiles.

The Russian claim comes after Syria said it knocked down 71 out of 105 US, UK, and French missiles fired in the strike — a claim that no solid evidence has backed up yet.


In fact, photos from the strike show Syrian air defenses likely fired blindly, at nothing. The Pentagon maintains that no Syrian missiles intercepted any US or allied missiles, and that most of Syria’s air defenses fired after the strike took place.

Also, the Pentagon says Syria fired 40 interceptors, meaning it’s virtually impossible 71 missiles were downed, as it takes at least one interceptor to down a missile.

Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute told Business Insider that Russia and Syria likely only have fragments of detonated Tomahawks, and that they wouldn’t be much use.

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists
A long-range Kalibr cruise missile is launched from the Krasnodar submarine in the Mediterranean, in an image provided by the Russian Defense Ministry press service on May 31, 2017.

“I don’t know whether Russia or Syria have ‘captured’ at Tomahawk although I’m sure they have plenty of fragments to study from weapons which hit their targets,” Bronk told Business Insider.

Unlike other areas of technology where Russia lags far behind the US, Russia’s cruise missiles are actually pretty capable, according to Bronk. Russia has used cruise missiles fired from navy ships and submarines to strike targets in Syria before, and they displayed a similar range and ability in doing so.

Cruise missiles are “not exactly an area where Moscow desperately needs access to Western technology,” said Bronk, though Russia would “would love to examine an intact Block 4 Tomahawk to have a look at the sensor and guidance package nonetheless.”

Overall, if Russia or Syria had actually found an intact Tomahawk missile, that flew at hundreds of miles an hour armed with a large explosive and yet somehow managed to land on the ground without breaking up, they could have shown it off by now to back up their claims that the US strike partly failed.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How Marine snipers train to kill from helicopters

Marine scout snipers are often described more like a force of nature than a group of warfighters. The Corps has recently had just a few hundred of them at a time, but a massive mission rests on their shoulders. They’re true scouts, acting as the commander’s eyes and ears, but they’re also trained to take careful shots at foes. And they even train to hit targets from moving platforms like helicopters.


The big difference between scouts and scout snipers is right in the name. It’s also in the Corps’ definition of the job:

The scout sniper is a Marine highly skilled in fieldcraft and marksmanship who delivers long range, precision fire at selected targets from concealed positions.

But the Marine Corps is very specific that scout snipers are shooters, even going so far as to define the snipers’ primary mission as that “precision fire” and the secondary mission as “gathering information for intelligence purposes.”

So, they’re really highly observant snipers rather than scouts who have become more lethal. And being a top-tier sniper requires a certain amount of flexibility, especially in the Marine Corps where they pride themselves on their “Semper Gumby” mentality.

And so these Marines train on not just riding into battle on helicopters, but on shooting enemies from them with their precise fires. To practice, the Marines hop into Super Hueys and spit fire at targets floating in the ocean or staged on land. The shifting helicopters provide an increased level of challenge, but also allows the snipers to take out threats while inserting into the battlefield or while providing cover for infantrymen hitting the deck.

The two-man teams work together to watch over friendlies, engage enemy forces, and send targeting data and other intelligence back to the headquarters, whether they’re working from a helicopter, a ship, or a secluded ridge or rooftop on the battlefield.

A video from the aerial sniper training is available above.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

6 military technology breakthroughs to look for in 2019

2018 was a pretty good year for military innovation, but 2019 is shaping up to be even better. The Pentagon and DARPA are experimenting with virtual and augmented reality, developing new aircraft and vehicles, and expanding their robotics and hypersonic offerings.

Get the skinny on what will likely break next year in the six entries below:


Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

Gen. Robert B. Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, uses a HoloLens to manipulate virtual objects April 4 at the Marine Corps Installations Pacific Innovation Lab aboard Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Tayler Schwamb)

Augmented reality headsets

The Army signed a contract for 100,000 HoloLens headsets from Microsoft for 9 million in late 2018 and they should start reaching combat units within the next year or so, once the Army figures out exactly how to use them. The idea is to give infantrymen and other troops true heads-up displays. Tankers could even see through their armor to better track enemy vehicles.

The Army and other branches have researched augmented reality before, so there’s plenty of groundwork already done. Once the HoloLens is incorporated, infantry could just glance around and see where their fire support is, how far it is to their objective, and where their squad support robot is. Speaking of which…

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

DARPA’s Squad X competition aims to better incorporate robots into infantry squads.

(DARPA)

Robots joining human squads

Yeah, one of the other additions to infantry squads and other maneuver units could be robots to carry gear, sensors, and electronic warfare modules. It’s all part of DARPA Squad X Experimentation Program. The idea is to nest robots into Army and Marine units, especially infantry squads.

Test runs have begun, and Lockheed Martin and CACI are each providing capabilities. The system brings in capabilities from all sorts of robots and drones already on the market. The Marines were able to use the robots to detect enemies and plan their assault before the simulated enemy even knew the Marines were there.

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

DARPA wants new materials to make hypersonic missiles more stable and reliable.

(DARPA graphic)

U.S. hypersonic missiles get faster, more operable 

Hypersonic missiles are the ultimate first-strike weapon. They fly at five times the speed of sound or faster, making it nearly impossible for ballistic missile interceptors to catch them. And reporting in the open seems to indicate that Russia and China are further along than the U.S.

But DARPA is working to change that with a call for new materials that can withstand the forces at Mach 5, especially the extreme heat from friction with the air. That would be a huge breakthrough for the U.S., and it might allow America to leapfrog its rivals.

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

The S-97 Raider is the basis of Sikorsky’s SB-1 Defiant, the company’s proposed aircraft for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift helicopter.

(Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky)

The SB-1 Defiant and V-280 Valor will show their stripes

The Army wants a whole new family of vertical-lift aircraft, starting with a bird to replace Black Hawks. The two top prototypes are going through trials now, and each has some exciting milestones scheduled for 2019. The biggest and earliest is the imminent first flight of the SB-1 Defiant, a compound helicopter that is thought capable of almost 290 mph in flight.

Bell Helicopters, meanwhile, is promising that their tilt-rotor offering, the V-280 Valor, still has a lot more skills to show off, and it’s already hit over 120 mph in forward flight and shown off its agility in hover mode. If Bell Helicopters wins the competition, the Army’s first order will likely be the largest tilt-rotor sale in military history.

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

One of the leading contenders for the Army’s new light tank is the AJAX armoured fighting vehicle from Britain, but with a beefed up gun to destroy enemy gun emplacements. The resulting vehicle would be known as the Griffin.

(British Ministry of Defence)

Light tank prototypes will be unveiled

Over the next 14 months, BAE and General Dynamics will produce 12 examples of their light tanks, a modified Griffin and an updated version of the M8 Buford. Once the final prototypes roll off the line, the Army will test them side-by-side in exercises and trials, and then choose one design to purchase.

It’ll be sweet to see the first prototypes in 2019, but it’ll be even greater at the end of 2019 or start of 2020 when the Army starts actually putting them through their paces. No matter which design is chosen, it’ll be a big capability upgrade for the infantry.

US Army Pilot Tests ALIAS’ Autonomy Capabilities in Demonstration Flight

www.youtube.com

More autonomous aircraft, especially Army helicopters

It seems like the civilian market rolls out a new drone every weeks, and drone designs come around every few months. But the Army is trying to get a kit made that would actually change military aviation: a software and hardware suite that could make every Black Hawk — and other helicopters — into an optionally piloted drone.

The ALIAS program is currently limited to a Sikorsky demonstrator, but if it reaches full production, any and all Army helicopters could be controlled via some commands typed into a tablet. They can even pick their own landing zones and fly at near ground lever, usually better than human pilots.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Meet the first enlisted soldier to max out the ACFT

The new Army Combat Fitness Test is scheduled to replace the current Army Physical Fitness Test by October of 2020, but units across the Army are preparing for it now. Out of all formations the Army has across the world, only one can claim an enlisted soldier who has maxed the test: 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), the “Frozen Chosin.”


All Army units have that “one” soldier. The PT-master. Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-32IN takes physical fitness very seriously. He regularly maxes out the APFT (a score of 300), and recently maxed out the ACFT (a score of 600), making him the second soldier in the Army to achieve such a goal.

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), poses for a photo at the 1-32IN 24-hour gym where Gonzalez trained hard enough to become the 1st enlisted Soldier to max out the new Army Combat Fitness Test with a score of 600.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Avery)

“It all started in high school where I wrestled and weight-lifted. Then I got into power lifting for a few years and cross-fit where I competed a lot.” Gonzalez said. “Then I drifted off into solely Olympic lifting and went to Nationals where I placed in the top 20. After that I joined the Army.”

Like many soldiers who joined the Army later in life, Gonzalez has seen his share of life outside of a military career, and saw joining as a way to straighten out and get on track.

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), performs a kettle bell lap at the Atkins Functional Fitness 24-hour Gym where Gonzalez trained hard enough to become the 1st enlisted Soldier to max out the new Army Combat Fitness Test with a score of 600.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Avery)

“It’s been the story of my life. I never felt like I had a career. I’m very athletic and competitive, but a little old to be trying out for the Olympic team at 29. I went to college a few times, but the structure the Army offered has helped me stick to things and get them done.”

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), prepares to perform T-pushups at the Atkins Functional Fitness 24-hour gym where Gonzalez trained hard enough to become the 1st enlisted Soldier to max out the new Army Combat Fitness Test with a score of 600.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Avery)

Like his Army career, Gonzalez has a habit of finding a path to success and running it to ground with tenacity. When he found out just how much the ACFT incorporated into what he already knew about cross-fit, he made it his mission be on top and help others get there with him.

“I’m looking at getting to Ranger school soon, and going Special Forces would be awesome. I want to be the best I can be. Me and a lot of other soldiers are in the gym countless nights, working on strength and speed. It feels good,” Gonzalez said.

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), performs a ball toss at the Atkins Functional Fitness 24-hour Gym where Gonzalez trained hard enough to become the 1st enlisted Soldier to max out the new Army Combat Fitness Test with a score of 600.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Avery)

When the ACFT hits Army Ranks in 2020, it will be the first time all soldiers, male and female, will be held to the same standard of fitness and accomplishment. It levels the playing field dramatically by introducing events specifically designed to test fitness levels and push soldiers to the edge of burnout.

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), performs a leg tuck at the Atkins Functional Fitness 24-hour Gym where Gonzalez trained hard enough to become the 1st enlisted Soldier to max out the new Army Combat Fitness Test with a score of 600.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Avery)

It will be difficult. It will be stressful. But it’s meant to be. Thankfully, with soldiers like Spc. Gonzalez in our formations, motivating and supporting the troops, we can all aspire to be the tip of the spear.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Army Chief learned about Pearl Harbor in 14 words

December 7, 1941, is a day which lives in infamy. But it dawned normally at 7:13 a.m. in Washington, D.C., and the attack on Pearl Harbor didn’t begin until the afternoon in Washington. For leaders like Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall, the expectation would have been that it would be another tense day of preparing for war, at least until a single note was presented to him.


Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

Then-Lt. Col. George C. Marshall in World War I.

(National Archives and Records Administration)

Marshall had spent years growing as an Army officer before he was tapped in 1939 to become the chief of staff. By that time, he had 37 years of experience in the military and had served in the mud of the Philippine-American War and of France in World War I, rising to colonel and serving as the chief of staff to then-chief of staff Gen. John J. Pershing.

After World War I, he led a number of units before taking over the Army as a whole, and he was experienced in making do with short spending. But it was probably by late 1939 that the growing regional wars would become a world war. (In an odd twist of history, Marshall’s first day as chief of staff was September 1, 1939, the same day Germany invaded Poland.)

And so Marshall oversaw a large increase in military spending and re-armament. His role included deciding where the most direly needed equipment would be sent. And Marshall believed Oahu was nearly impregnable. So while he promised certain new weapons and reinforcements to Lt. Gen. Walter Short at Pearl Harbor, he also took back heavy bombers and other assets that he moved to places like the Philippines.

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall in 1944.

(U.S. Army Military History Institute)

Marshall was the only high official eligible to see “Magic” intercepts who was not alerted on the night of December 6 that Japan was going to reject a U.S. proposal that Japan withdraw its troops from China and Indochina. And so he didn’t know until he entered his office at 11:25, after his morning horseback ride, how closely America had come to an active war. He immediately ordered that the intelligence be passed to commanders in the field.

Even though the president, secretaries of State, Navy, and War, and the chiefs of Army and Navy war plans and Chief of Naval Operations had all known for hours about the building intelligence signaling war, Marshall was the first one to order the likelihood of war be briefed to the commanders in the trenches. Unfortunately, transmitting that intelligence would take over 8 hours, and Short wouldn’t receive it until seven hours after the attack began.

So when the day dawned on December 7, Marshall was likely hoping that he could keep shifting resources to where he thought they were needed most, that he had a little more time to reinforce and improve positions across the Atlantic and Pacific. By noon, he knew he was likely out of time and that December 7 would be the day.

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

A digital scan of the actual note given to Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George C. Marshall.

(U.S. Army War College)

Within hours, he would receive a message. It was not addressed to him, though most papers destined for the chief of staff’s desk were laboriously drafted and then addressed to him. It was not typewritten or printed. It wasn’t even written with particularly good handwriting.

But it likely made Marshall’s blood run cold. In just 14 words, it confirmed that the suspected attack was underway.

To all ships Hawaiian area
Air raid on PH
This is no drill.
Urgent

Marshall would learn over the following weeks that over 2,300 Americans had died. He likely second-guessed some of his own decisions about Pearl Harbor after the stunning losses there, though it’s unclear that any of the assets he removed from the island base would have made a difference.

(One of the biggest redeployments from Pearl was nine heavy bombers which, if they had survived the attack, would have been used in the hunt for the Japanese fleet and vengeance on December 7, but American hunters had almost no idea where the Japanese carriers were.)

The air raid pulled America firmly into World War II, awakening the “Sleeping Giant.” America would chase Japanese forces all the way back across the Pacific and would pummel the island nation’s allies in Europe.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why it’s not worth vets hunting down ‘stolen valor’ offenders

It is now officially time we all had a talk about this ‘Stolen Valor’ craziness.


A while back, I was at the airport in Chicago passing through on business and I had just finished dinner and was standing up in the process of paying my bill. I was a middle aged guy with a heavy five o’clock shadow, physically fit without looking super athletic, and wearing civilian clothes – honestly, I didn’t much look like a soldier.

As I turned to go, this huge kid reeking of beer and at least a few percentage points over his tape test walked right up on me and blocked me from leaving, ’10th MTN, huh?’ It took me a few seconds to register I had a tiny 10th MTN pin on my backpack which I had forgotten about. Before I could answer, he jabbed his finger at the pin and got super aggressive, ‘What Battalion were you in? Who was your Commander?” I already had my wallet out and I pulled my ID card and held it out and told him to ‘back’ off. He took a look, apologized and he left.

My encounter ended well for me but it didn’t end so well for Marine veteran Michael Deflin. This Fallujah vet couldn’t produce an active duty CAC card on request from some Air Force dude and therefore he got the crap kicked out of him. He suffered a broken leg and jaw in the process. Prior to him and his friend beating Deflin down, the USAF guy accused him of ‘Stolen Valor’.

Congratulations, we have now started conducting fratricide on our own.

Stolen Valor is a real problem but not a new one – folks have lied about their service for personal and political gain after the Civil War and after both World Wars. It should be exposed when it is found. But the whole business of exposing those who lie about their service has become increasingly sordid with legions of veterans self-appointing themselves as ‘Valor Custodians’ fighting the good fight trying to find the next sad sack guy lying about being a SEAL cyber-ninja at the local Mall food-court.

I use to roll my eyes at these antics but now they have gotten dangerous. Stolen Valor fratricide folks: you’re the reason why we can’t have nice things.

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

Part of what makes this so laughable is that some of the loudest members of the mob are people who were FOB warriors downrange. They are the dudes you see at the PX or the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport wearing their absolutely pristine condition 400 dollar tactical packs with the ‘Major League Infidel’ patch, the always ridiculous camo cap with a subdued American flag on the velcro, and drinking a giant Monster while telling everyone who will listen about that ‘one time in Iraq, I did xxxxxx and I’m totally not making it up!’

The truth is they never left the wire on their one OIF/OEF tour – but I sure as hell hear them lying…oops, I mean exaggerating about what they have done downrange in the orderly rooms, at the PX food court, on social media, and in the customs line at Ali al Salim Air Base. Come on, guys, you don’t think we notice? You don’t think we haven’t heard multiple variations of the same story our entire career?

For many of you out there in the mob, I would say check your own shot group before you starting calling out others.

It is time to stop the nonsense. Your service makes you part of a unique grouping of Americans, but it doesn’t make anyone a hero despite what John Cena told you when you saw him on the USO tour at the Bagram Clamshell, you know, right before salsa night – the real heroes are at Arlington or Walter Reed.

Nor does it give you a right to be a jerk to others. If you think someone is lying about their service, the first thing you should do is chill and regard the situation. Separate the innocuous from the consequential. Tall tales and ‘war stories’ have been around since the beginning of time and mostly they are harmless. I would be lying if I told you I haven’t told one in my life. Unless it involves decorations, tabs, or awards which they didn’t receive, the stories generally aren’t worth your time to correct or worry about.

If you are still convinced they are rotten and they are truly disgracing the service of others like the civilian who wears a uniform and misrepresents himself at a public event or the guy who wears a Purple Heart or Silver Star they didn’t earn, then don’t confront them – the proper course of action is call Law Enforcement, local FBI field office, your chain of command, or the service investigative offices (CID, NCIS, OSI). They are the trained professionals who know how to handle these sorts of cases. It is becoming increasingly obvious many folks don’t.

And for God’s sake, take off the subdued velcro flag hats.