In November 1978, 909 members of a fanatical cult died — killing themselves and their children using a cyanide and Valium-laced grape drink — to make a political statement: they would die on their own terms in a “revolutionary suicide.” It would be the largest single loss of civilian life until the September 11th terror attacks.
The People’s Temple, as the cult was called, was founded by Jim Jones, a former monkey salesman and self-ordained minister in 1950s Indianapolis. He later moved the church to California. There, the size of the cult grew to around 20,000.
With that growth, Jones became a public figure and fled to the South American country of Guyana to escape the negative press surrounding the People’s Temple. Jones faced accusations of financial fraud and child abuse and sought to escape what he thought was the persecution from U.S. intelligence agencies.
More than 1,000 members went with him.
Jones and his cult founded Jonestown, an agricultural cooperative on 4,000 acres of poor soil and limited access to fresh water. Temple members worked long days and were punished for disobeying Jones’ orders. They were allowed limited contact with friends and family. Jones even confiscated their passports.
Toward the end of the Jonestown experiment, Jones became inceasingly paranoid as his mental state broke down. Congressman Leo Ryan came to Jonestown to investigate allegations that his contituents’ loved ones were actually hostages there. People’s Temple members asked to return home with the Congressman, who took them back to his plane.
That’s when tragedy struck.
After arriving at the airstrip that took Congressman Ryan to the People’s Temple collective, Jones’ armed thugs gunned down the contingent, along with members of the press and some of the defectors. At the same time, Jones was distributing the poisoned punch (which was actually Flavor-Aid, not Kool-Aid, as the saying goes) to the cult members.
An aerial view of the bodies of the victims of the Jonestown tragedy. U.S. Army personnel from Fort Bragg, North Carolina (NC), are placing the remains into body bags. (Photo by: Staff Sgt. Jose L. Sanchez, Nov. 20, 1978.)
There is evidence that those who didn’t want to imbibe were forced to drink the punch. Jones himself was found dead with a bullet in his head, among the other 900+ bodies.
Within hours of learning about Congressman Ryan’s death, the U.S. State Department received assistance from the 437th Military Airlift Wing at Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina. Charleston C-141 Starlifters led what would be “the most unusual airlift operation since the Berlin Airlift.”
Col. Bruce M. Durvine, vice commander of the 39th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Wing, and members of the 55th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron carry boxes of plastic body bags to an HH-53 Jolly Green Giant helicopter for use in the evacuation of bodies from Jonestown. (Photo by: Staff Sgt. Jose L. Sanchez, Jonestown, Nov. 20, 1978.)
Air Force Combat Controllers were the first American forces on the ground, securing the airstrip area, providing security, and operating the airspace. The Starlifters had to be staged more than 150 miles away from the dirt airstrip where Ryan’s body was found because they were too large for the field.
The military Aeromedical Evacuation Team repatriated eight wounded survivors from the area. It wasn’t until November 20th that Guyanan Defense Forces could reach the Jonestown Compound. The small contingent was overwhelmed by what they found there and asked the Americans to take over.
A U.S. Air Force HH-53 Jolly Green Giant helicopter from the 55th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron stands by to assist in the removal of the remains of the victims of the Jonestown tragedy. (Photo by: Staff Sgt. Jose L. Sanchez, Georgetown, Nov. 20, 1978.)
Jonestown victims’ bodies were to be airlifted to Dover Air Force Base, but first they had to be moved by three HH-53 Jolly Green Giant helicopters to the Starlifter staging area. There were so many bodies, the Air Force ran out of remains transfer cases.
U.S. Army UH-1 Iroquois helicopters are loaded aboard a C-141 Starlifter aircraft for transport back to their home base in the Canal Zone. The helicopters were used during humanitarian relief efforts following the Jonestown tragedy. (Photo by: Staff Sgt. Jose L. Sanchez, Georgetown, Nov. 20, 1978.)
“Stacked like cordwood,” the bodies were in an advanced state of decomposition. It took 30 helicopter sorties carrying 30 bodies each to get the remains to the Starlifters for transport. Each C-141 could handle 81 remains cases — as long as they were stacked on pallets.
The stench of death in the helicopters was so bad, they were deemed medically unsafe. Task Force personnel who handled the bodies burned their clothing on the runway at the end of the mission.
U.S. military personnel place a body bag containing the remains of the victims of the Jonestown tragedy in a coffin for transport to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. (Photo by: Staff Sgt. Pedro J. Gonzalez, Georgetown, Nov. 20, 1978.)
Jeff Brailey, the Army medic who entered Jonestown, wrote a book about his experience, “The Ghosts of November.”
Tommy Diaz was looking to make a career move after graduating community college in 2008, so he joined the U.S. Army. In 2010, he was deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan, where he worked in military intelligence.
“I talked with high-level Taliban members,” Diaz said. “I did over 400 debriefings. The euphemism is debriefings. They’re really interrogations.”
The job was high pressure, but Diaz knew it mattered. He picked up important skills, but he struggled to put those skills to work when he came home to Southern California. He got his first full-time job tracking inventory for an aircraft parts supplier.
“I did that for about 10 months, but I just got bored of it,” Diaz said. “It just felt like a dead end. It wasn’t clicking. I was just hashing out reports, and I wanted to do more.”
So, he left. And Diaz isn’t alone. A 2016 survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation found that 44 percent of veterans left their first post-military job within a year.
The unemployment rate for U.S. military veterans is down from nearly 9 percent back in 2010 to just above 4 percent today. Thanks to a big push from the federal government and a bunch of corporate initiatives, U.S. companies have done a good job hiring veterans in recent years, but keeping them is another story.
Many leave because they have trouble matching military skills to job requirements or finding a sense of purpose in the job. But for many vets, the very experience of being in an office causes problems.
“It just becomes kind of a minefield of how to interact with people,” said Emily King, author of “Field Tested: Recruiting, Managing and Retaining Veterans.”
King has been hired by companies to help integrate veteran employees. She said it’s hard for them to reorient from the military way of doing things.
“An attitude where the mission comes first and interpersonal communication and effectiveness come second is not usually effective in a civilian environment where they tend to pay as much attention to how you do something as to what you do,” King said.
Some veterans’ service providers say the recent push to get companies to hire veterans has actually unwittingly played into the turnover problem.
“They’re looking more into quantity than they are into quality,” said Mark Brenner, of Los Angeles nonprofit Veterans Career XChange. “If you have to put 40 people to work, they’ll put them to work wherever they can.”
So, vets are thrown into jobs they’re not prepared for, or jobs they don’t see a future in. Brenner said if we need people to volunteer to fight wars, helping them find meaningful careers when they get back is crucial.
For America, there’s a pretty clear idea of what our intelligence agencies should do, and it’s mostly about keeping tabs on new enemy weapons, terrorists plots, and counterespionage. But, American technology and innovations are also a coveted target for other countries, especially ones like China that are developing rapidly.
And China has the money and the culture to do something about it. They have proven capable of stealing secrets, partially to support military programs and partially to support the state-run companies that are in charge of keeping the people happy so President Xi Jinping can keep concentrating on wandering the Hundred Acre Wood.
(He reportedly hates being compared to Winnie the Pooh, so that’s just the best)
Here are six targets of Chinese espionage that you probably wouldn’t guess:
The site of some of the most sinister thefts of secret technology.
China needs to feed millions of mouths, but doesn’t want to spend all the time and money to do the research required. Instead, they’ve sent agents across the U.S. and other nations to steal seeds from suppliers, like Monsanto and Pioneer, either illegally purchasing them or straight ripping them out of the ground.
Self-driving cars like, the Waymo, could remake the economy, and China doesn’t want to get left behind.
(Photo by Dllu)
Self-driving cars and other automation
While self-driving cars seem like a luxury more than anything else, the underlying tech is challenging to create and could, potentially, be extremely lucrative. Add to that the fact that deep-learning algorithms for one task can give you a better idea how to create algorithms for another task, and it’s easy to see why nations, especially China, would target the companies making the new vehicles.
Microbes are an important part in the manufacture of some drugs and recently, chemicals. Yeah, China and other countries like those.
(Agricultural Research Service)
Really any important biological discovery, especially medicinal, could go here, but a particular microbe case is instructive. Ching Wang, a man of Chinese descent who discovered an anti-parasitic drug in the 1970s, told the New Yorker that he received a phone call a little after he and his colleagues published their paper.
Universities are centers of learning and research that China would love to rip off.
(Photo by Ulrich Lange)
Speaking of which, universities are a great place for espionage agents, and it’s not about the co-eds. Many advanced projects being done in a country are typically the result of a partnership between governments, corporations, and universities.
And, as you might imagine, universities are typically the weakest links in these partnerships. So, they’re often the target of spies.
Chinese wind farms are often made possible by technology that was stolen from an American company that nearly went bankrupt thanks to the theft.
(Photo by Land Rover Our Planet)
Wind and solar companies
China made a pledge to generate more clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To do so, they apparently decided to just steal a bunch of U.S. secrets. In one high-profile case, American company AMSC sold 0 million in tech to Chinese firm Sinovel, putting safeguards in place that would, hopefully, prevent theft of their intellectual property.
Yeah… Those safeguards failed. China got help from an insider to download source code, reversed engineer the tech, installed it on all of their projects, and then didn’t pay the 0 million. A U.S. court recently decided a case against Sinovel for million.
The lawsuit might have gone better, except the Chinese military allegedly broke into AMSC’s servers to steal their legal strategy against the Chinese firm.
The Chinese Meng Shi, or “Brave Soldier,” is a vehicle that isn’t at all a ripoff of the AM General Humvee that American troops and their allies drive.
(Photo by Morio)
Oddly enough, despite all of China’s thefts, companies are still super eager to do business with state-run corporations and other entities in the country just to keep their foot in the door. Some even give free samples, something China encourages and regularlytakes advantage of.
That’s likely how China was able to domestically produce the Meng Shi, the “Brave Soldier.” AM General tried to sell them a Humvee and left behind a free sample after a visit in the 1980s. Later, China purchased a few for “oil exploration.” Then, the Meng Shi rolled off the line looking distinctly Humvee-like.
For its part, China insists that the appearance is a coincidence stemming from the vehicles’ similar missions. And besides, the Meng Shi is better on every metric, at least according to papers written by military officials and not subjected to peer review.
You’re stuck at home. You’ve watched everything interesting on Netflix, and it’s only been a week. It might be time to do some of those projects you always knew you should but have been putting off… and off… and off… If you can accomplish all of these, you’ll come out of this time of lockdown with a much more organized life and a clearer head.
1. Get your documents in order
Put all of your family’s essential documents in one place. This includes marriage licenses, birth certificates, passports, social security cards, medical files, car titles, a copy of your LES and orders, the deed to your house and insurance documents. Do you have a will? If not, now is a good time to do one, either online or virtually with a lawyer. Make sure you have all the insurance you need – not just auto and health insurance, but pet insurance, disability insurance, cell phone insurance, and flood insurance. Also insure your wedding and engagement rings. These are the ones people typically overlook.
2. Photograph your house
Take a photo of everything in your house for insurance purposes. Make sure you have a photo of each room, and all of your valuables. If you have a prized book collection, photograph the titles – you’ll want to remember what they all are if you have to replace them. Keep the photos on the cloud and on a USB that you keep in your safe.
3. Clean your car
Now is the perfect time to clean your car! Like, really clean it. Take everything out – all the car seats, trash, reusable shopping bags, first aid kit, etc. Wipe down everything with a leather or car cleaner. Vacuum everything – get into the nooks and crannies. Clean the inside of the glass and all the crevices of the vents. Then tackle the outside of the car. Get a full tank of gas. You’ll feel SO much better.
4. Go over your finances
First, if you don’t have a budget, make one. It’s especially important now to stick to one and to know what you’re spending (and not spending). If you’re married, do this as a couple. Next, go over all of your bank accounts and make sure both you and your spouse know how to access all funds and what the passwords are (so military spouses don’t know the passwords to pay their bills until a deployment happens). Go over all of your investment accounts. If you have kids, consider setting up a 529 for them. If you haven’t yet, set up an IRA or Roth IRA. Put contributions on auto-debit if you tend to forget. Another tip to consider is splitting your savings accounts into different accounts. For example, have one for “vacation,” one for “auto tax (which usually is billed all at once every year), one for “utilities” or any quarterly bills, one for “auto maintenance fund,” etc. This will make it easier to see what you have in each.
5. Get rid of stuff
Go through every room and every closet and see what you have that you can either sell online, donate or save for a garage sale this summer (hopefully we’ll be able to have these this summer). This will help free up some extra cash if you need it, and it will also help you see what you have and what you don’t use. You’ll be surprised what you find. Commit to doing one room of the house each week.
6. Home improvement projects
Now is the perfect time to tackle those home improvement projects you’ve always wanted to do. Change out the hardware in your doors and outlets – it will make a big difference. Paint. Change out light fixtures. Replace your faucet or backsplash. Paint your front door. These are simple fixes that have big impact.
7. Make a list of grocery staples and meals
Write down all of the things you regularly buy at the grocery store – this will make your life so much easier when you’re shopping. Identify a place in your fridge or pantry for each of these items and always put them there; that way, you can see when you’re out. Also, put together a list of five to ten meals and recipes your make regularly. That’s the first step to meal planning, which is the first step to a much more organized dinner life.
8. Back up your files
Make sure all of your computer files are backed up. Clean out any unnecessary computer programs. Print out your favorite photos and put them in an album too, which will give you extra security.
9. Zero-out your inbox
This may be the most difficult, but it’s so important for your productivity. If you have thousands of emails (too many to sort through), I recommend creating a folder called “Emails until January 2020” and putting them all in there. Then create either work folders or folders for your person emails like “Online orders,” “Kids school,” “House,” “Military,” etc. Go through the last several months and start a new system of filing everything away (or deleting it) once you read it.
10. Talk about your future
Talk about your goals for the future with your spouse, or, if youre single, journal about them. Where do you see yourself in five years? In twenty? What is the one thing you’ve always wanted to do? What is that trip you always wanted to take? If you identify what’s important to you now, you can do the steps necessary to get there.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
(Featured cartoon: The unfortunate Christmas fire started by the Grinch here is likened to the great Chicago Fire of 1871, when a cow being milked by owner Catherine “Cate” O’Leary kicked over an oil lantern that started a hay fire in the barn they were in. The fire killed 300 people and destroyed over 17,000 structures)
Quite a lot of the nation tends to kick back and cut slack during the holidays. Some functions cannot do that by sheer nature of the importance of their contribution. Others will not simply because…they don’t want to.
That was the attitude of my Special Mission Unit. It was a year that we felt we needed to train more, but were just running out of days in the year to do it. It was then that we ran our live-fire urban combat training all the way up to the 24th of December.
Not even Christmas was a candidate to compromise our resolve to train to standard.
Our urban combat training site was an abandoned neighborhood just off the far end of the runway of a major American airport. The property values had sunk out of sight due to the constant roar of the aircraft overhead. The houses were pretty old, but I don’t think they were older than the airport. It begged the question: “why would anyone think it was a good idea to build a community so close to the flight path of such a large airport?”
An abandoned hood such as this makes an excellent complicated urban target
[David Lohr, Huffington Post]
While some real estate investor had come up bust, Delta had gained a 360-degree free-fire city where anything could go into the tactical fight. Our operations cell had worked on the hood for weeks preparing it with modifications: pop-up targets in windows and doors, on roofs, and even behind bushes. Some of the targets moved across streets mounted on rollers that ran along the tops of cables. There simply was just no way to even modestly know what to expect.
The keyword there is what lends the greatest to the realism of the training venue — not knowing what to expect; to be coaxed into expecting the unexpected. The whole ambiance of the scenario begged every man to constantly scan overhead and wonder just what might burst forth from out of the ground. Therein lies a formidable test of our true live-fire marksman skill.
The Grinch was our Bravo Assault Team Leader. He was a painfully no-nonsense one-man wrecking machine with combat experience in Lebanon, Somalia, the Iraqi Wars, and Afghanistan. “Asscrackistan,” the Grinch would say, “is no place for a fatherless boy.” Yes, just what exactly he meant by that no sane man knew, but it was his version of humor, and knowing that we all laughed each time he said it.
Another famous Grinch-ism: he was once formally quoted to have said to a man: “Well, that’s your opinion, and it’s wrong!” Any attempt to explain the absence of degrees of right or wrong of an opinion was in danger of being met with a lung-collapsing blow to the chest; that’s just how the Grinch rolled. Ours was never to reason why with the Grinch, ours was to pop the snot bubble and move out.
We spent half days planning our assaults on our “Slim City” as we called it: methods of infiltrations onto target, exit strategies, routes of movement to objectives, and contingency plans. The second halves of the days we executed our assaults on targets.
A meeting with the City Mayor’s office and Police Chief was required to secure the use of the abandoned neighborhood that was scheduled for demolition. After presenting a description of the training we planned to do, the Mayor asked our senior officer: “What guarantee can you give me that your men will not miss some of these targets and send bullets whizzing through my city?”
The response: “Because they’ll be told not to,” the senior officer replied — sold!
During the last assault (it’s always on the last assault) the Grinch skillfully maneuvered his pipe-hitters from building to building. The booming of flash-bang grenades and the quick staccato of double-tap* rifle shots was almost rhythmic, to the extent that we could pretty much tell how far through the buildings he was.
Then “it” happened…
The Grinch slammed a flash-bang in a room. It bounced off a wall and came to rest near the open entrance door. When it exploded it shoved the locked door shut. It was a metal door that did not respond to mule kicks from the powerful Grinch: “put a man on it and the rest of us by-pass it!” the Grinch instructed. When they finished clearing the structure, it had become filled with smoke that was coming from the locked room.
“BLOW IT!!” the Grinch called out, and a man immediately slapped a full 80-inch high explosive charge on the door and fired it. With an Earth-rocking explosion, the door was pushed inside the room…but immense flames shot out of the doorway. The Grinch keyed his microphone and called in the situation as structural fire out of control. The Command and Control element had the city fire department alerted.
It became painfully clear that most the the neighborhood was going to burn.
The old building was consumed totally and in short order by flames which spread from building to building. Soon an entire block was a raging inferno of flame and choking smoke. The pumper trucks from the local fire department showed up. The boys were there to meet the trucks:
“Thanks, we’ll take it from here,” the boys told the fire crews, who stood stunned for many moments, then ultimately had to concede the pipe-hitters who bore no grins upon their faces. It was no joke.
“They… they took our trucks.
The fire crews huddled at the hood entrance while the boys fought the fires, knocking them down with high-pressure hoses and water canons. The assault tactics on fire were the status quo for any assault, just that water was now being launched. The last of the flames succumbed to the deluge with a small number of structures hardly worth the count.
The brothers knocked down the flames with high pressure water the best they could.
“Who on God’s Earth is responsible for this?” demanded our ranking officer later into the night where he addressed the balance of the men. The mighty Grinch, offering no sugar coating, took a mighty step forward.
Saying nothing as he stood with hands on hips, and stared the Major down.
“Ok… we’re all tired from a very long day and night; let’s knock it off and get some sleep!” the major conceded.
*Double-tap: two shots of rifle or pistol that are fired very quickly to the chest area of a threat target. Often time they are fired so fast as to be barely discernible as two separate shots fired. Double-taps are often fired with a slower third “clean up” shot to the head. The meter of the event will “sound” like this: “Ba-Bam… bam, Ba-Bam… Bam.”
Britain’s Special Air Service is full of elite special operators who know how to get the job done. In World War II, one of their tasks was breaking the back of the Luftwaffe in North Africa, and they did so in spectacular fashion.
The top-tier warriors of the SAS bolted a bunch of weapons, sometimes as many as 10 Vickers machine guns with a .50-cal. kicker, to Willy Jeeps and then conducted lightning raids through German airfields, hitting grounded planes with incendiary rounds.
In October of 1942, Charles Mason took one last look at the hulking gray warship the US Navy had entrusted to his command, ensuring that all other personnel had been accounted for and evacuated from its massive long decks. Seconds later, Mason jumped into the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean to be picked up by nearby American destroyers, leaving his now-empty and thoroughly damaged aircraft carrier — the USS Hornet — to its fate.
While Mason passed away in 1971, a retired Vice Admiral with numerous honors and service distinctions to his name, neither he nor the 2000-plus survivors of the Hornet would ever see their ship again, as they steamed away from an inbound Japanese flotilla on the destroyers and frigates which had picked them up.
An aircraft tug still chained to the flight deck of the Hornet (R/V Petrel photograph)
Last month, the Petrel’s remotely-operated vehicles (essentially underwater drones) found the lost ship — (the last American fleet carrier to have been sunk by enemy fire) — by triangulating its approximate location through researching and poring through old ships logs from the last Navy surface vessels to see her.
The R/V Petrel, owned by the estate of the deceased co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen, has led the way in rediscovering the wrecks of a number of warships once thought eternally lost to the depths of the world’s largest ocean. Among the many finds to its name are the USS Indianapolis, the USS Juneau, and the Japanese battleship Musashi — sister ship of the infamous behemoth Yamato.
The Hornet, one of the most beloved boats in the Navy at the time of its sinking, was a veteran of the Doolittle Raid, having participated in delivering a joint forces comeback punch to Japan in the wake of the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. It would quickly rearm and resupply for the Battle of Midway in May 1942, where it helped turn the tide of the war against the juggernaut Imperial Japanese Navy.
One of the Hornet’s anti-aircraft guns (R/V Petrel photograph)
Then, just over five months after Midway, Hornet was lost during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. Alongside the USS Enterprise, Hornet’s fighters and bombers dished out a heavy beating to nearby Japanese warships, including the Shōkaku, one of several aircraft carriers which had participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor the previous year.
Japanese aircraft responded in kind, crippling the Hornet and preventing it from launching and recovering its aircraft. Attempts to repair the carrier and get it back in the fight proved to be futile against the Japanese onslaught, and the order was begrudgingly given to abandon ship. To prevent the carrier from falling into enemy hands, nearby American frigates and destroyers began shelling the Midway veteran after picking up its crew, but despite being considerably damaged, it refused to sink.
An advancing Japanese battle group engaged the Hornet, not knowing that it was emptied of its crew and aircraft, and sank it with a barrage of torpedoes. The ship would not to be seen again until early 2019 when the R/V Petrel rediscovered it not too far off the coast of the Solomon Islands. Of the 2200-strong crew aboard the Hornet, 140 were killed in action.
The Hornet currently sits at a depth of 17,000 feet in fairly decent condition. Pictures from the wreck site show barnacle-encrusted surfaces and hardware, rusting away in the salty and murky depths of the ocean.
Given that a number of the Hornet’s crew perished aboard the ship, it’s almost certain that the wreck is also their final resting site, making it a war grave. Thus, the Hornet will remain untouched and a protected site, as the Navy considers it hallowed ground. R/V Petrel is currently still operating in the South Pacific near the Solomon Islands as it continues its search for other lost warships in the area, including the Japanese battleship Hiei.
Apollo 11 Command Module pilot Michael Collins died Wednesday. He was one of 24 American astronauts who flew to the moon between 1968 and 1972. Collins was occasionally referred to as “the loneliest man in history” because while Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin descended to the lunar surface, he stayed in orbit around the moon in the Apollo command module, more isolated and alone in those few hours than any person on earth had ever been in history.
Though 24 American astronauts have orbited the moon — and three have made two trips there — only 12 have walked on its surface. Of that dozen, four remain alive today.
Neil Armstrong became the first human being to walk on the moon July 20, 1969. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” he famously said upon stepping down onto the moon’s surface. But before his 17-year career as an astronaut with NASA, Armstrong served as a combat naval aviator, flying 78 missions in the Korean War. He even had to bail out of his F-9F Panther jet after it became disabled on a low bombing run in August 1951. Fortunately, he was rescued. He flew 200 different models of aircraft, including jets, rockets, helicopters, and gliders, throughout his career. Armstrong died Aug. 25, 2012, at age 82.
Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin
Born in the same year as fellow-moonwalker Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the second person to walk on the moon while on the Apollo 11 mission. The pair spent 21 hours on the moon and collected 46 pounds of moon rocks. Like Armstrong, Aldrin flew combat missions in the Korean War with the Air Force. He flew 66 combat missions in his F-86 Sabre, shot down two MiG-15s, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Three years before walking on the moon, Aldrin made history by performing the world’s first successful spacewalk, or extravehicular activity (EVA), and took the first “space selfie.” In recent years, Aldrin has been known not to put up with moon landing conspiracies. When a denier confronted Aldrin in 2002, Aldrin punched the man in the face.
Charles “Pete” Conrad Jr.
Conrad retired from the US Navy as a captain in 1973 after 20 years of service, 11 of which were with NASA’s space program. The young officer became a naval aviator in 1953 following his graduation from Princeton University and was a flight instructor at the Test Pilot School, among other locations. As an astronaut, he set the space endurance record and put the US in the lead for man-hours in space following his flight with Gemini 5 in August 1965. He also helped set a world altitude record and served as commander on Apollo 12, which completed the second lunar landing Nov. 19, 1969. He flew his final mission with the Skylab II, the first US Space Station.
Conrad died July 8, 1999, at age 69 from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.
Bean had three accomplished careers: He was a naval aviator, an astronaut, and an artist. On Nov. 19, 1969, Bean and Charles Conrad completed the second lunar landing, and Bean became the fourth human to walk on the moon. During his two moonwalks, he helped conduct several surface experiments and installed the first nuclear-powered generation station to put a power source on the moon. The pair used a robotic Surveyor spacecraft and collected 75 pounds of moon rocks and soil to study back on Earth. Bean later served aboard Skylab II, the first US Space Station, where he said, “Going outside a spaceship in earth orbit is scarier than walking on the moon.”
“I was fortunate to be the first artist with the opportunity to be in the center of the action to capture what I saw and felt, and bring it back to earth to share with generations to come,” Bean later said regarding his post-astronaut life as an artist. “It is my dream that on the wings of my paintbrush many people will see what I saw and feel what I felt, walking on another world some 240,000 miles from my studio here on planet earth.”
Alan Shepard is every golfer’s favorite astronaut. The first American in space and the oldest astronaut to walk on the moon at age 47, Shepard also became the first human to hit a golf ball on the moon. It was during the Apollo 14 mission, the third manned lunar landing, when Shepard and Edgar Mitchell landed Feb. 5, 1971, and completed two moonwalks.
The astronaut, who started his career aboard a ship during World War II and later became a test pilot, hit three golf balls in four shots on the moon. In his spacesuit and with one hand, Shepard got “more dirt than ball” on his first shot, sliced the second, retrieved it for a third shot, and then sent the final golf ball “miles and miles and miles” on his fourth shot. That statement isn’t entirely hyperbole — because of the moon’s low gravity and lack of atmosphere, the ball could have traveled up to a mile, more than four times the average professional drive. Shepard died July 21, 1998, at age 74.
Edgar D. Mitchell
While Shepard is remembered for his golf skills on the moon, Edgar D. Mitchell is remembered for his quick thinking that saved Apollo 14 from disaster. When the lunar module encountered two failures, he had to manually punch 80 lines of code into a computer so they wouldn’t have a hard landing on the moon. The former naval aviator was the sixth human being to walk on the moon. He and Shepard set mission records at the time for the longest distance traveled on the moon, largest payload returned from the lunar surface, and longest stay (33 hours). They were also the first to transmit color TV from the moon. In his later years, Mitchell voiced his unusual opinions about extraterrestrial life and UFOs. He died on Feb. 4, 2016, at age 85.
David R. Scott
Of the 12 men who walked on the moon, David R. Scott is one of the four still living. He flew in space three times, piloted the command module on Apollo 9 for the first docking of the command module and lunar module, and made history during the Apollo 15 mission by driving the lunar rover on the moon for the first time. He also survived a terrifying spin aboard Gemini 8 with Neil Armstrong in March 1966. They were attempting to dock the Atlas Agena target vehicle to complete the world’s first linkup between two spacecraft in orbit when they started to tumble.
“We have serious problems here,” Scott said. “We’re tumbling end over end. We’re disengaged from the Agena.” They were spinning so fast their vision blurred when the craft reached one revolution per second. Armstrong used almost 75% of the reentry maneuvering propellant to stop the spin and was ordered to return to Earth.
James B. Irwin
James B. Irwin retired a year after exploring the moon on the Apollo 15 mission in July 1971 and founded an evangelical religious organization called the High Flight Foundation. He said his experience on the moon inspired him to devote the rest of his life to “spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.” He even quoted a Psalms passage to Mission Control in Houston: “I’ll look unto the hills from whence cometh my help,” Irwin said, according to The New York Times, “but, of course, we get quite a bit from Houston, too.”
The Air Force colonel and David Scott became the eighth and seventh American astronauts to walk on the moon, respectively. Irwin’s moonwalk was his only space mission. Irwin died from a heart attack Aug. 8, 1991, at age 61.
John W. Young
“It would be hard to overstate the impact that John Young had on human space flight,” Johnson Space Center Director Ellen Ochoa, also a former astronaut, said. “Beyond his well-known and groundbreaking six missions through three programs, he worked tirelessly for decades to understand and mitigate the risks that NASA astronauts face. He had our backs.”
Young landed on the moon with the Apollo 16 mission and is the only person to have gone into space as part of the Gemini, Apollo, and space shuttle programs. After serving in the US Navy as a fighter pilot, he joined NASA in 1962. He drove 16 miles in a lunar rover through the moon’s highlands and spent three nights on the lunar surface. He retired in 2004 after 42 years with NASA and had acquired more than 80 major honors and awards, including an induction into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1988. On Jan. 5, 2018, Young died at 87 after suffering complications from pneumonia.
Charles M. Duke Jr.
“As an American, it was my honor to serve my country by going aboard Apollo 16 and becoming the 10th man to walk on the lunar surface,” Charles Duke said. Gen. Duke received his commission to the US Air Force and earned his pilot’s wings in 1958. He served both as a fighter-interceptor pilot and as a test pilot during his time in the US military before being selected by NASA in 1966 to join the astronaut program. Duke served in five different Apollo missions to the moon, and since his retirement in 1975, he has toured worldwide, giving keynote and motivational speeches.
Eugene Cernan was a captain in the Navy, serving for 20 years (13 of which were with NASA) and flying three historic missions as a pilot of Gemini 9, the lunar module pilot of Apollo 10, and the commander of Apollo 17. Cernan flew to the moon twice and held the distinction of being the second American to walk in space and the last man to leave his footprints on the lunar surface.
“I keep telling Neil Armstrong that we painted that white line in the sky all the way to the Moon down to 47,000 feet so he wouldn’t get lost, and all he had to do was land,” Cernan famously joked in an interview with NASA in 2007. “Made it sort of easy for him.”
Cernan, sometimes referred to as “the last man on the moon,” died Jan. 16, 2017, at age 82.
Harrison H. Schmitt
Harrison Schmitt joined the US Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Branch in 1964, leading the development of early lunar field geological methods for NASA. A year later, he was selected to become a scientist-astronaut and earned his T-38 jet pilot wings with the Air Force in 1966 and his H-13 helicopter wings with the Navy in 1967. Schmitt became the last of 12 men to have stepped on the moon while he was on the Apollo 17 mission, NASA’s final moon-landing mission. He is the only scientist to have walked on the moon.
Many military members are familiar with the sight of a shift change at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Only the U.S. Army’s finest can join the Old Guard and walk the carpet as a tomb sentinel, so the highlight of any visit to Arlington is catching the Changing of the Guard, where the guard’s M-14 rifle is famously inspected during the ceremony.
What you might not notice is the duty NCO’s sidearm, holstered but clearly ready for use. This weapon is as clean as the rifle the NCO inspects, with one important difference for the guards.
The M-14 rifles used by the Tomb Sentinels are fully functional, the Old Guard says. While the unit would not discuss further security measures due to the sensitive nature of what they do, it’s clear the rifle isn’t loaded when it’s carried by the men walking the line in front of the Tomb. An M-14 with a magazine is distinctly different than one without. Furthermore, when the rifle is inspected during the Changing of the Guard, the inspection would eject a round from the rifle, were there a round in the chamber.
No one really knows if there are live rounds in the nearby tent or another means for the sentinels to defend themselves in case of an active shooter. But the NCOs are packing.
When an NCO of the Old Guard attends to the Changing of the Guard, the NCO is equipped with a custom, U.S. Army-issued weapon, the Sig-Sauer M17. The weapon was built by the gunmaker specifically for the Tomb Sentinels and comes with a number of beautiful features. There are only four like them ever created, and all are carried exclusively by NCOs in the Old Guard.
The hardwood in the grip of these special pistols comes from the deck of the USS Olympia, a cruiser first laid in 1895 and seeing service in the Spanish-American War and World War I. Marble from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is superheated, converted into glass, and added to the weapon’s sights, making for one of the most unique weapons created for the military anywhere.
Since things are so tight at the Pentagon in terms of operational security, it’s not known whether the NCOs are carrying ammunition for the sidearms, but since there is a magazine in the weapon, they certainly could be. After the 2014 shootings at Canada’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and subsequent spree on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill, they certainly should be.
US military forces seem poised to take a prominent role in the long-awaited battle to take down Raqqa, Syria, the capital of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
Though the Pentagon has long downplayed the role of US ground troops in the fight against the ISIS terror group in Iraq and Syria, recent deployments of many more “boots on the ground” suggest they may be front-and-center in the coming months.
Earlier this week, a convoy of US Army Rangers riding in armored Stryker combat vehicles was seen crossing the border into Syria to support Kurdish military forces in Manbij. The convoy, identified by SOFREP as being from 3rd Ranger Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, was the most overt use of US troops in the region thus far.
Until this most recent Ranger deployment, the Pentagon had adamantly stuck to the line that its “regional partners” — Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga for the most part — were bearing the brunt of the battle.
But on Wednesday, another curious deployment seemed to counter that narrative. According to The Washington Post, US Marines from the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine regiment had left their ships to establish a combat outpost inside Syria that is apparently within striking distance of Raqqa.
“For the base in Syria to be useful, it must be within about 20 miles of the operations US-backed forces are carrying out,” the Post wrote.
The unit, part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, recently finished conducting training exercises in Oman and Djibouti. Its new outpost inside Syria has M777 Howitzers that fire 155mm projectiles, which are likely guarded by additional infantrymen at the site, according to The Post.
U.S. Marines fire artillery to break up ISIS fighters attacking Kurdish and Peshmerga forces. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andre Dakis
Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, told the Fayetteville Observer last year that most US troops were in Iraq or Kuwait, though “some” were operating inside Syria.
Meanwhile, US special operations forces, who are said to be taking a training and advisory role with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, were quietly given more latitude to call in precision airstrikes and artillery. As the AP reported in February, advisors are now able to call in airstrikes without seeking approval from an operations center in Baghdad.
Additionally, advisors were embedded at lower echelons of Iraqi security forces at the brigade and battalion level, rather than division — meaning that US forces are increasingly getting closer to direct combat.
Though the new directives were lauded by the Pentagon as “adding ‘precision’ to ground operations,” wrote The Institute for the Study of War, “it also underscores that US personnel are increasingly at the frontlines of the operation. Indicators from the new US Administration, including a proposed 10% budget increase for the Department of Defense, suggest that it may expand the level of US involvement in Iraq, beyond the Mosul operation.”
A spokesperson for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit did not respond to a request for comment.
Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for OIR, said the moves into Syria were to pre-position US forces so they can provide logistical and fire support to “Syrian partnered forces” who will eventually assault Raqqa.
The Marines and Rangers will provide the “commander greater agility to expedite the destruction of ISIS in Raqqah. The exact numbers and locations of these forces are sensitive in order to protect our forces, but there will be approximately an additional 400 enabling forces deployed for a temporary period to enable our Syrian partnered forces to defeat ISIS,” Dorrian told Business Insider.
He added: “The deployment of these additional key enabling capabilities allows the Coalition to provide flexible all weather fire support, training and protection from IEDs, and additional air support to our Syrian partners.”
The White House is considering whether to send another 1,000 American soldiers to Kuwait to serve as a “reserve force” for the Raqqa offensive, Reuters reported Wednesday. Officials who spoke with Reuters said there were about 6,000 US troops currently deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, up from the 5,000 that was reported in January.
The presence of additional US ground troops inside Syria — even miles from the frontline — would bring with it considerable risk. Combat outposts often draw rocket and mortar fire, in addition to small arms. Last March, a Marine outpost established to support the operation to retake Mosul, Iraq came under rocket attack by ISIS militants, killing Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin.
A total of nine American service members have been killed in OIR combat operations, while 33 have been wounded, according to Pentagon statistics.
The 48th Fighter Wing held an inter-fighter squadron “Turkey Shoot,” at RAF Lakenheath, England, on Sept. 26, 2019.
The Turkey Shoot is an operational competition that tests the preparation and performance of fighter pilots, intelligence professionals, aircraft maintainers, and air battle managers.
“The event takes the newest flight leads, instructors and wingmen from each squadron, puts them together into one four-ship formation to represent that squadron, and then hands them a demanding tactical problem to solve,” said Capt. Sam Wozniak, 492nd Fighter Squadron weapons system operator flight lead.
The competition is executed as a Defensive Counter Air mission. Competition planners, known as “White Forces,” set the parameters for each fighter squadron’s “blue air” team.
“The White Forces provided the special instructions, rules of the competition, and a point system matrix,” Wozniak said. “For example, successful target defense equated 20 points and achieving missile kills equated 5 points and the team with the most points at the end wins.”
The scenario pitted four blue air F-15s against 14 “red air” F-15s to defend specified targets.
In preparation, blue players had to determine the desired combat air patrol locations, distance triggers to advancing enemy forces, and inter-flight contacts for each formation to optimize mission success.
An F-15C Eagle from the 493rd Fighter Squadron prepares for takeoff in support of an inter-fighter squadron “Turkey Shoot” competition at RAF Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)
“From the mass brief, each formation splits off for flight-specific briefs to discuss the execution plan and expectations/responsibilities for each flight member during the fight,” Wozniak said.
In this iteration of the Turkey Shoot, the squadrons had the opportunity to incorporate interoperability tactics to enhance the effectiveness of their pre-coordinated strategy.
An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 492nd Fighter Squadron kicks off the Turkey Shoot competition at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)
An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 494th Fighter Squadron, takes flight in support of an inter-fighter squadron “Turkey Shoot” competition at RAF Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)
An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 494th Fighter Squadron, launches in support of an inter-fighter squadron “Turkey Shoot” competition at RAF Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)
“Broadly speaking, fighter pilots and fighter weapons systems officers need three things to survive and thrive … readiness, competition, and camaraderie,” said Col. Jason Camilletti, 48th Operations Group commander.
“Turkey shoots advance our wing’s readiness by stressing our newest flight leads and wingmen in a very challenging high-end scenario, and the adrenaline rush of competing to win is the closest thing we can do short of actual combat,” Camilletti said.
An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 494th Fighter Squadron, launches in support of an inter-fighter squadron “Turkey Shoot” competition at RAF Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)
As US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa’s premier combat wing, complex exercises such as this ensure the 48th Fighter Wing remains ready to defend sovereign skies and deter any aggressor.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The fact that there are some private air forces out there flying fighters to train American (and other) pilots may be a surprise. But did you know that there’s also a company that built its own tanker fleet?
Omega Air Refueling has been around for nearly 20 years and claims to be the only company that does commercial aerial refueling. The company was formed in 1999 as a subsidiary of Flight International prior to becoming independent in 2004, and has flown over 5,000 refueling missions since its formation.
According to company reps at the 2017 AirSpaceCyber expo at National Harbor, Maryland, those 5,000 missions have included over 21,000 “plugs” involving over 12 million gallons of fuel.
The first plane the company acquired was a Boeing 707-300 that used to fly for Pan Am. Since then, it acquired two other 707s (losing one in a 2012 crash), and a DC-10. The company has not only provided commercial aerial refueling services to the United States Navy, but it also has helped Australian and British forces make long-range deployments.
All of Omega’s tankers use the probe-and-drogue system. The 707s and the DC-10 trail drogues at the end of hoses. Planes equipped with a refueling probe then fly in, and plug the probe into the drogue to refuel. This can lead to close calls, like some that WATM reported on.
The company’s planes were used to help certify the Navy’s X-47 unmanned combat air vehicle for mid-air refueling. In 2010, Omega helped to fill in when Airbus missed a deadline to deliver KC-30s to the Royal Australian Air Force (the company also turned to the United States Air Force).
Ironically, while the company was founded to help support the Navy and Marine Corps, many of its tanker pilots come from the United States Air Force, which operates KC-135 and KC-10 tankers.
When Michael Oulavong came home from the Marine Corps, he wasn’t able to make the same transition as some of his peers. Initially, he found success training as an EMT and firefighter, but ran into troubles when old Marine Corps injuries derailed his plans.
He sank further into his mental funk and started experiencing more symptoms of his PTSD. He needed a change and he needed a friend. That’s when he met Zoe.
Marine veteran Michael Oulavong deployed.
“My plan literally just fell apart and, being a Marine, I need to prepare for everything,” he said. “I have everything planned out… …I didn’t plan for this injury and for this doctor to be like, ‘You shouldn’t be a firefighter.’ That’s when I was like, ‘Well, crap. I’m in this black hole right now. I’m just stuck. I don’t know what to do.’ …I was in a rut. I was dealing with depression, suicidal thoughts. I was lonely.”
Oulavong knew that he needed a change, and he heard about Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation’s program to pair rescue dogs with veterans and teach the veteran to train the animal to be a service dog. It meant that Oulavong could get a service dog to help with his symptoms nearly for free.
And that’s a huge deal. Service dogs can change the trajectory of a veteran’s life, but costs can also top ,000 for a single animal.
Oulavong signed up and was surprised by how quickly he was paired with Zoe, a mixed-breed dog that clearly has a lot of German Shepherd blood.
“… the day that I first met her, it was, to be honest, it was just kind of like meeting a stranger,” he said “It was just like, ‘Hey, there’s a dog. Shoot, I guess this is my dog.’ It was kind of overwhelming when I initially met her because it was like, ‘Okay, now I have another living thing to take care of.'”
Michael Oulavong and service dog, Zoe, at the pet store.
Zoe and Oulavong met just two weeks after he signed up for the program, but he quickly became worried about the financial obligations of owning a dog. Even though he had received Zoe for free, he knew that taking care of animals can get expensive. That’s when Purina Dog Chow, which partners with the Animal Rescue Fondation to help cover some of the costs of the program and of the individual animals, stepped in.
“I was like, ‘I can’t afford this type of thing, but thank you,'” he said. “Thanks to Merritt [Rollins, ARF Veterans program manager] and to ARF and Purina, everything, they calmed those nerves down pretty quickly. You get free food for the rest of your dog’s life. They take me to Pet Food Express, and the program paid for everything the dog needed, from their poop bags to its crate to her food to everything else.”
And so Zoe and Oulavong started training. Luckily for him, Zoe stood out during training for her calm and for ability to learn quickly.
Michael Oulavong and Zoe on the day of their graduation from Basic Manners I.
“It was easy to train her,” Oulavong said. “It took work. I spent every day doing it, but compared to the other dogs in the program — not trying to talk bad about them — Zoe really made them look, seriously, she made them look like kids, but she was the adult.”
Some of the training is basic obedience work, but dogs and veterans who stick with the program will graduate to full-on service dog status, with the dogs properly trained to identify and interrupt panic attacks and other episodes in their nascent stages.
“When I do have those instances of having a panic attack or feeling very anxious and everything, I have certain tells in my body,” Oulavong explained. “So, that’s what the program has been training us to do. Say it was shaking my leg, or punching my fist, or grinding my teeth, or what not, she’ll sense that and she’ll come up and dig her head under me, or lick me, or kiss me.”
With Zoe around, Oulavong has someone protecting him from descending into a dark spiral, and someone to take care of, giving him a purpose that he compares to his time as a Marine. Between those two factors, he’s been able to better transition into the civilian world, getting a job at a Japanese restaurant as a bartender and server.
Michael Oulavong and Zoe
“…everyday I PT with Zoe every morning,” Oulavong explained. “We go for about anywhere between a mile and three mile walk, depending on how I feel that morning. She helps me keep active. I go for a walk with her every day. I just spend time with her. Five times a day, I do at least five to ten minutes simple, basic training with her, just to keep her refreshed.”
Right now, Purina is holding a fundraiser it calls the “Service Dog Salute.” As part of the fundraiser, for every bag of specially marked Dog Chow sold, including bags that feature Michael and Zoe, Purina will donate the Animal Rescue Foundation, giving up to 0,000. They’ll be giving up to another 0,000 based on how many people share the Buzzfeed video above.