How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

During the launch of Operation Market Garden, a young Nelson Bryant and thousands of fellow paratroopers from the 82d Airborne parachuted into occupied Holland in an attempt to dislodge its Nazi occupiers. Bryant, wounded in a previous mission, took shrapnel to the leg as he fell to Earth. After landing, he began freeing himself from his harness. Under fire from nearby German positions, he was forced to cut it off.

Without thinking, he dropped his knife as he scrambled for cover. It seemed to be lost forever — but it was actually only 73 years.


“There were some Germans shooting at me from about 150 yards away, and they were getting damn close,” he told the local Martha’s Vineyard newspaper, the Vineyard Gazette. “As near as I can tell, what happened was I was pretty excited, and a little upset. I remember I cut some of my clothes I was so nervous. I cut out of the harness. What I think I did, I simply forgot my knife and left it there on the ground in its sheath.”
How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

An American paratrooper makes a hard landing in a Dutch field during the airborne phase of Operation Market Garden, September, 1944.

More than 40,000 paratroopers from the 101st and 82d Airborne divisions were dropped into Holland to support Market Garden in 1944. The 82d was supposed to capture and defend the heights over Groesbeek, outside the city of Nijmegen. They were successful in taking the position, but were forced to defend the area from repeated, powerful German counterattacks.

The 82d was also tasked with dropping on either side of the Nijmegen Bridge to hit the bridge’s defenders from both sides and keep it operational for use by Allied forces. Unfortunately, as was the story with Market Garden, things did not go as planned. The entire strike force was dropped to the south of the bridge and would have to assault it from one side, during the day.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

After D-Day in Normandy, in June, 1944, Nelson Bryant reluctantly strikes a pose.

(Nelson Bryant)

The fighting men of the U.S. Army is the stuff of legend in Groesbeek. One day in 2017, 56-year-old André Duijghuisen was looking through his father’s attic when he came across a very different kind of knife. There was clearly something extraordinary about it. It was still in its sheath – and carved into that sheath was a name, “Bryant.”

Duijghuisen did some digging and found a Bryant registered with the 82d Airbone, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He found that this Bryant not only survived the war but later became a reporter, and even wrote for the New York Times. Most importantly, he was still alive.

Bryant almost didn’t make to Holland at all.

Nelson Bryant was a student at Dartmouth College in 1943. As a college man, he was exempt from the draft but seeing so many friends and peers go over to fight the Nazis inspired him. He volunteered to join the Army. Unhappy with his stateside supply job, he soon volunteered for the 82d Airborne. He arrived in England just in time to jump into Hitler’s Fortress Europe in the wee hours before the D-Day landings.

It was there, during a reconnaissance mission, that he was shot in the chest by a .50-caliber bullet.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Nelson Bryant)

“I heard machine gun fire, the next thing I know, bam,” said Mr. Bryant. “It went in the front, came out the back, 50 caliber. I thought, is this it? I could hear distant gunfire, I could hear cows mooing in the pasture.”

Bryant laid in a hedgerow for four days before making it back to a field hospital in Wales. He worked to recuperate there, first walking on his own, then running. When he found out the 82d was making another jump into occupied Europe, he asked doctors if he would be able to go with them. They thought he was nuts. He wasn’t crazy, he was just determined to finish what he started. Not even a hospital could hold him back.

“When no one was looking, I got my clothes and put them on, walked out of the hospital, and thumbed rides on U.S. military vehicles back to Nottingham, England, and got there a week before we made the jump into Holland,” he said.
How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

Duijghuisen reached out to Bryant and told him that he had his “bayonet” and asked if he would like it returned.

“He said bayonet, and I knew something was wrong because I knew the gun I carried you couldn’t use a bayonet,” Bryant said of the exchange. “Then I realized I was talking to a civilian and he wouldn’t know a bayonet from a trench knife. When he said there was a leather sheath, that was a clue.”

At 56, Duijghusen wasn’t even born during World War II, but the legacy of the men who liberated Holland is still important to the people there.

“The name on the bayonet, it made, for me, something personal,” said Duijghuisen before making the visit to Martha’s Vineyard. “Because of what he did in 1944, and because we are now living in a free world. I think a lot about that. He fought in Holland for our freedom. I’m very excited about that, it will be nice to see him.”

Duijghuisen and his wife traveled to see Bryant in 2017, 73 years after the old veteran jumped into Holland, just to return the trench knife Bryant used to free himself while helping free the Netherlands.

Military Life

3 tips for picking out a ‘spouse’ right before a deployment

It’s no secret that both male and female troops tend to get married right before a long deployment to collect and save some extra cash. Although contract marriages are illegal in the military, that doesn’t stop many troops from heading down to City Hall or finding a justice of the peace to recite a few words and signing their names on a marriage license.


If you have the money and a potential spouse, you can plan a cheap wedding within an hour — depending on your location. Since most contract marriages end in divorce (go figure), it’s important to cover your own six when you’re out and about looking for that year-long husband or wife.

But, before you head out and find that special someone, read these tips — they just might save your ass later on.

Should I or shouldn’t I just marry a stripper?

Countless troops have gone out to their local boobie-bars to do exactly this. That fact is, strippers are humans, too, and they’re just trying to make ends meet like you, so that extra cash seems pretty good. However, never go after one that works near a military base, especially your military base.

Other service members are nosy and command “red flags” those types of relationship behaviors. So, if you’re going to marry a stripper, don’t go next door and do it a few months prior to deployment to give it some buffering time. It looks better on paper that way.

Use that dating app on your phone

Like they say, “there are plenty of fish in the sea.”

Now, we’re not saying you have the right to play games with peoples’ minds and hearts, but they, too, might be in a financial bind and you can bring the marriage idea up to them when the time is right.

Get in touch with an ex back in your home town

The best way to keep your fake marriage under wraps is to keep your new spouse far, far away from anything that resembles a military base. You’re still in contact with your family back home anyway, so you might as well drop a “hey” to your single ex that isn’t yet sure what they want out of life.

We all personally know someone who’s married their ex. There’s a history there behind the happy couple, which validates the union and lowers your chances of getting caught.

Think about it.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how World War II pilots flew the famous C-47 Skytrain

The C-47 Skytrain is arguably one of the greatest planes of all time. When you look at the complete picture surrounding this aircraft — how many were built, how many still fly, and the effect they had on a war — one could argue that the C-47 is the best transport ever built (not to slight other fantastic planes, like the C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemaster III, and the C-5 Galaxy).

But what’s a plane without a pilot? For every C-47 built, the US needed an able aviator — and there were many built. So, the US developed a massive pipeline to continually train pilots and keep those birds flying.

It make look like a docile floater from afar, but flying a C-47 is a lot harder than you might think. Sure, you’re not pulling Gs and trying to blow away some Nazi in a dogfight. In fact, by comparison, flying materiel from point A to point B looks simple, but cargo planes have their own problems that make piloting them very hard work.

And by very hard work, we mean if you screw up, you’ll crash and burn.


How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

C-47s performing a simple job — easy flying, right? Wrong. There was a lot that pilots had to keep in mind.

(U.S. Air Force)

Why is that? Well, the big reason is because transport planes haul cargo, which comes with its own hazards. When you load up a plane, it affects the center of gravity and, if the load shifts, the plane can end up in a very bad situation.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

This is what happens when it goes wrong – this particular C-47 was hit by flak, but you could crash and burn from shifting cargo or just by messing up.

(Imperial War Museum)

The United States Army Air Force used films to give the thousands of trainees the information needed to fly the over 8,000 C-47s produced by Douglas — and this number doesn’t include at least 5,000 built by the Soviet Union under license.

Learn how to handle operations in the cockpit of a C-47 by watching the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mln9T6OW3A4

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY HISTORY

Delta Daze: The ‘ghosts’ Delta Force saw after the Cold War

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.

“Well, they sure favor their Earth tone clothing over here; every color is … dark, dingy, and just… gray. It’s like this whole city is trapped inside a gray balloon,” my brother observed and commented. “What the hell is with all the dark clothing, seriously?” he puzzled. “I mean is there some kind of extra import tariff on $hit that is red, yellow, or orange — the longer wavelength colors — always with the shorter waves, Moriarity; ALWAYS WITH THE SHORTER WAVES!”


Sarajevo is the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina in former Yugoslavia. The boys and I came here shortly after a United Nations (UN)-induced cease-fire. The tide of homicide, genocide, fratricide, and suicide along the countryside… had all just become so, so, so over the top for the world theater’s pallet.

The suffering on the ground was hellish but what the real world didn’t know and we only learned on the ground was that we were here because of a doll. Yep, that’s right journalists were placing dolls in the scenes of carnage which when seen by coffee-talkers around the world sparked global outrage — time to send in some troops!

“They’re ripping babies out of mothers’ arms and then gunning both down right there in the streets… and I think that’s just wrong, you know?” bleat the crestfallen Gladys Pumpernick of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. “Oh, but what of the children??”

And so it went; that’s how me and the boys ended up in a C-130 Herc out of Germany, junked-up with body armor and helmets. Ground fire was an indeed thing in and around the Sarajevo airport. No slow shallow glide to the flight line; that would lend undue exposure of the aircraft to ground fire. Ours was a fast approach with a sudden steep dive and flare onto the tarmac.

Air Force likes to tell you that a dive gives you a chance. The Army tells you to throw on body armor. Despite both schools of wisdom, you’re still stuck in a metal tube with absolutely nothing you can do. We looked and felt stupid in our armor, with nothing protecting us from bullets coming up through the floor of the aircraft.

“In Nam the Air Cavalry sat on their steel pots!” recalled a brother, and we all quickly removed our armored vests and helmets. We lay our vests on our red nylon seats, the K-Pot helmets on the vests, then sat on top of the combo, grinning back and forth at each other the grin you grin when you have saved your testicles for yet another day.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

Once on the ground, were attached to the in-country commanding general’s group of the UN-titled Implementation Force (IFOR). All soldiers from all nations wore the IFOR badge on their uniforms. Our badges, being with the command element read “ComIFOR” the Command of IFOR, a title that lent prestige in countless areas as well as free parking spots.

We wore only functionally rugged civilian clothes and carried a concealed M-1911 pistol on our person. Parking along a curb on our first day we were immediately approached by a fireplug of a hateful U.S. Military Police person. She huffed and she puffed and sought to blow us down:

“You can’t park there!”

Our team lead, D-man, neatly closed the driver’s door of our SUV as he replied: “Yes we can.”

“No you can’t — IFOR!” huffed the MP as she jammed an indicating index finger into the IFOR badge on her chest.

D-Man tapped his badge on his chest: “Yes we can — ComIFOR.”

The MP’s eyes flashed a “been-got” flash, and she stewed momentarily. “Well, don’t take all damned day!” was all she had.

“Yeah, we’ll be sure and not take all damned day, sweetheart,” was how D-Man dismissed our host.

I can tell you that it was dark in Sarajevo at night, so dark. My first night there I counted from up high a grand total of five lights coming from some sources in the city, not even bright ones. Two of them were traffic lights… just two traffic lights on main street in the entire city. It was dark in Sarajevo at night, yeah.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

Night in a shopping district of modern-day Sarajevo

The country’s infrastructure was simply destroyed from the years of bombing and shelling. There was no dependable electric grid, fuel or transportation was rare. People were forced to spend long days well into night, mostly on foot just trying to take care of their basic needs.

And at night our headlights revealed the ghost people as they moved through the streets. Clad mostly in black; light black and dark black. A splash of gray to compliment the dark something-or-other, an ensemble pulled together with a black pleather jacket.

And the women, dark on dark with pallid skin, long raven hair, black lipstick, and dark eyeshadow… looking like a hoard of listless Morticia Addams’ sulking their way to somewhere. They shuffled as singletons or couples arm in pleather arm. Goth was just the untimely trend for the young there. It just made for an even more macabre ambiance in the city at night.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

The original Morticia Addams

Back at our little compound, I had a chance to meet one of the ghost people face to face: Rado, short for Radovan, had been a newspaper editor before the war in just his early 20s. He was since rounded up by Serbian troops and held for many months in a barn with the other men of his neighborhood and tortured beyond logical description, to the brink of a ghost person.

Subject to his calamity he became as simple as a little child in both thought and action. He did odd jobs around the American Embassy for food and pennies. He smoked like a meat house and wore the same unlaundered pullover sweater the entire three months I was there.

The team and I really came to question the ghost people: why were they walking in the street at night in dark clothes, in the middle of the street even?! It’s like they’re begging to be killed… they’re stoned freaking crazy — all of them! Yes, it sure seemed that way to me too. I have to reckon that after all they have been through these last years nothing really lights their fuses.

What can I tell you? These souls have been treading in Lucifer’s backyard for over four years now, the longest siege of a major city in modern history. Day after day of pacts with the devil to stay alive, scratching and screaming to stay living, promising all and everything to the Creator for just one more day above ground… do we honestly expect them to worry over their dark wardrobe while they stroll the street shoulders of their peace-time home??

An American Colonel gave Rado his used New Balance running shoes the day he signed out; he just walked up and stuffed them in Rado’s chest and walked away. Rado stood stunned, gradually sinking to the ground crying and hugging his now most prized possession, his (used) American shoes. “Even and they are my number!” he cried out in fractured English, meaning they were just his size, “Even and they are my same number!”

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

Driving on patrol or even on the base was always a challenge for us with the Ghost people lurking in the shadows. “I swear to God “Sarajevo” is the Bosnian word for ghost people! They need to move out of the freakin’ way!!” =HONK — HONK — HOOOOOONK= “I’m going to run one of these sons-of-bitches over and it’s not going to be my fault!” Tough talk, but we would continue to always yield to the ghost people, our rage notwithstanding.

Rado got hit by an IFOR HMMWV (hummer) and died on Alipašina Ulica (street). It was night, and the street was dark. Rado was dark and too simple, the driver American and so irate, irate with the ghost people of Sarajevo.

I didn’t see the accident, but I raced there when I heard the news, as it was very close by. Rado lay still where he died, wearing his same rancid pullover sweater, and now the Colonel’s used running shoes, his same number, Rado’s, the simple child… Rado, the ghost of Sarajevo.

Radovan Bozhić served his sentence in Hades. He was finished with his sentence, and now it was time for him to live; it was someone else’s turn to stagger the green mile to death for a fair spell.

Somewhere, somehow, some clerk made an errant entry in the wrong row, the wrong column of a divine dispatch log, and mistakenly put Rado wrongfully back on the mortal path… my, but I did hate it so.

MIGHTY TRENDING

An all-out Saudi attack on a Yemen port city is a real disaster

The Saudi-led coalition launched a major assault on Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah on June 13, 2018, killing 250 Iranian-backed Houthi fighters, according to UPI.

The coalition’s initial assault on Hodeidah, which the UN has warned could end up killing 250,000 civilians and exacerbate the already terrible humanitarian condition, included several airstrikes and also led to the capture of 140 Houthi fighters, UPI reported.

The Houthis at the same time reportedly hit a coalition warship with two missiles, according to Jane’s 360. The Saudis and the United Arab Emirates — the two major actors in the coalition — have not commented on the claim.


Almasirah Live, a Houthi media outlet, has broadcasted purported footage of the coalition ship on fire:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This advanced camo netting could change warfare forever

Whenever the military takes in a new technology, the troops find ways to train and fight with it. If it’s an effective piece of tech, the military will change its entire war-fighting strategy to fully incorporate it.

Sure, it might seem like stating the obvious to say that a new type or version of a vehicle calls for a change in strategy, but even something as small as an updated camo netting can drastically alter the way leaders approach the battlefield.


How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

It’s see-through from the inside while being virtually invisible from the outside. Sound like something that might come in handy for troops?

(Fibrotex USA, Inc.)

It’s called the Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System (or ULCANS) and, according to the manufacturer, Fibrotex USA, Inc., it will act as concealment from ultraviolet, near-infrared, short-wave infrared, thermal, and radar detection while providing a near-perfect visual match to most environments.

With a container that is small by size, compact and very light-weight, the new kit “Sophia” holds within the next generation of 2D, Reversible, ultralight, multispectral, multipurpose net.

Provided with more than 30 running meters of our new “crushed” 2D reversible ultralight net and built-in cutting system, our operators will be able to decide for the first time in the field what size shape of system they need.The United States Army awarded Fibrotex USA, Inc. a 10-year indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract valued at 0 million in 2018. Results so far, have been fantastic.

The product is as good as advertised.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

As awesome as that looks, I can almost assure you that some private is going to mess up the application when they get stuck on a working party to do so.

(Fibrotex USA, Inc.)

The implementations of this netting are limitless. Nearly every unit in the Army could use this technology in one variation or another. The single netting could be made into a shelter-half for snipers and forward observers. Larger netting could be used to conceal vehicles or Tactical Operation Centers.

The netting also comes in a Mobile Camouflage Solution, or MCS, variant that can be applied to the surface of vehicles and remain on them while they’re in motion. This sort of technology offers an unprecedented amount of protection for retrans vehicles that would otherwise need to remain motionless and obvious on tops of mountains.

With the looming possibility of war with a near-peer nation that’s reliant on sophisticated detection technologies, this netting could realistically be used by every soldier in one way or another.

To see Fibrotex’s ULCANS in action, check out the video below.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch these women change from pin-up girls to warriors in this viral video

The “Don’t Rush Challenge” has brought countless fun videos to our social media feeds. Set to the song, “Don’t Rush,” by Young T & Bugsey, a subject is featured wearing an outfit and holding an object. They put the object close to the camera, and when they pull the object away, they reveal they’re wearing something different. We’ve seen doctors change from scrubs and a facemask to sweatpants and a t-shirt, still holding the mask, exhausted. We’ve seen kids go from athletic uniforms and a soccer ball, to still bouncing that ball in a bow tie and khakis. Moms with wine glasses, delivery drivers, you name it.

But if the challenge had a victor, one non-profit featuring female veterans just won the whole damn thing.


How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

With over a million views on Facebook, the Pin-Ups for Vets’ “Don’t Rush Challenge” video has gone viral, and it’s easy to see why. Stunning women dressed as pin-ups hold a red flower, and when the flower is pulled away, you see the same woman who was moments before all dolled up, standing there — just as beautiful — in uniform.

Pin-Ups for Vets was founded in 2006 by Gina Elise. Disheartened by the number of Iraq War veterans returning from overseas in need of medical attention, coupled with the growing number of hospitalized older veterans, Elise wanted to do something to benefit both populations. She wanted to boost morale, provide meaningful opportunities for veterans to give back as well as raise money for veteran care facilities. Thus, Pin-Ups for Vets was born.

“I’d always been a big fan of World War II pin-up art,” Elise told WATM. “Pin-ups painted on the bombers was such a morale booster,” she explained. “I wanted to bring something like that to modern-day veterans.” What started as a pin-up calendar fundraiser featuring female “Ambassadors” has grown over 14 years to an incredibly successful non-profit, resulting in a 50-state hospital tour with the Ambassadors visiting over 14,000 veterans. In addition to donating calendars to these patients, Pin-Ups for Vets has donated ,000 in rehabilitation equipment.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

When asked what prompted the video, Elise shared that she felt everyone could use a little digital morale boost right now. “When we go into these hospitals, the veterans are so excited to see these beautiful women. And when they learn that she also served, there is an immediate, incredible bond. We wanted to provide that to people at home right now, too. It would make more sense chronologically for us to show the women in uniform and then as pin-ups, as that’s how most of them come to our organization. They want to continue serving after their service. But we chose to show them as pin-ups first for that surprise factor that mimics what we see in the hospital. Anyone can be a pin-up, but not everyone can be a veteran. So many people have stereotypes about female veterans; the ladies are often asked if they are the wife of a veteran because when people think of the military, they think of men. We’re proud to show that women serve, too. And we like to say we make volunteering look glamorous.”

Female veterans turned pin-ups!

They certainly do. The comments on the video have been overwhelmingly positive. Mary Moczygemba Stulting said, “Oh my gosh…so lovely as pin ups…so beautiful as warriors!!! #fierce!!!” Tommy Ford said, “Thanks to all you women for keeping my family safe… y’all are all beautiful in or out of Camouflage.” Alex Correa Rodrigues commented, “Amazing! It’s truly amazing to see your commitment to America and everything that you do in and out of uniform. I’m a huge fan of all of you and keep up with the great work.”

The 19 incredible ladies featured:

LeahAnn (USMC Veteran)
Erikka (Army Veteran)
Jennifer (USMC Veteran)
Simone (Army)
Jessica (USAF)
Megan (USMC Veteran)
Liz (USMC Veteran)
Vanessa (USAF Veteran)
Rosario (Army Veteran)
Sianna (USAF Veteran)
Michelle (Army Veteran)
Daphne (USMC Veteran)
Tess (USMC Veteran)
Allie (Navy)
Shannon (Army)
Jovane (USMC Veteran)
Linsay (Army Veteran)
Marceline (Navy Veteran)
Donna (USMC Veteran)

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

Don’t worry, Coast Guard fans, there are plenty of USCG pin-up girls that participate in the organization as Ambassadors, they just weren’t available for the video.

To learn more about Pin-Ups for Vets or to get your 2020 calendar, visit their website. Way to go ladies – we salute you!
MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of January 17th

In case you missed it, a 59-year old OEF veteran is reenlisting after a nearly ten year break in service. It took about a year to get the waivers and to cut the red tape, but Army regulations still require him to go through Basic Training all over again in June. I mean, that is what it is, but his military record kinda shows even more of how pointless that is…

His story begins when he enlisted in the Marines in ’78, got out and became a cop, reenlisted during Desert Storm as an infantryman, stayed in long enough to go to Afghanistan as PSYOPs, got out again to become SWAT, and now he’s looking to do it all over again.

I’m just saying – I know that the drill sergeants probably give him the appropriate amount of guff that’s required in Basic and understand that his knowledge of previous conflicts can be instrumental to teaching the younger troops. But imagine being that young, dumb trainee who thinks they’ve got jokes for the “old dude in his platoon” only to learn that he’s been kicking in door before their parents were born.


If only to be a fly on that wall… Anyways, here’s some memes.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Meme via Vet TV)

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Meme via United States Veteran Network)

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Meme via Call for Fire)

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Meme via Not CID)

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Meme via Leatherneck 4 Life)

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Meme via ASMDSS)

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Medal of Honor recipient was gunned down in a liquor store robbery

It was a day like any other day. Dwight Johnson was on his way to the nearby corner store to get some food for his infant son. When he walked in the store that day in April 1971, he accidentally walked in on the store being robbed. That’s when the storekeeper shot him to death.


While he was in Vietnam, he seemed impervious to bullets. Dwight Hal Johnson wasn’t gunned down until he left his home to go to the nearby liquor store at the wrong time.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

President Lyndon Johnson puts the Medal of Honor around the neck of Sgt. Dwight H. Johnson.

In 1968, Army tank driver Spc. Dwight Johnson was part of a reaction force near Dak To, in Vietnam’s Kontum Province. With his platoon in the middle of fierce combat with North Vietnamese regulars, Johnson’s tank threw a track. It would not move. With friendly forces to his rear, and a heavily entrenched enemy coming at him, a regular person might have told Johnson not to leave the safety of the tank and just wait. That wasn’t Dwight Johnson’s style.

Since Johnson was unable to drive the tank, he figured it was time to stop being a driver. He grabbed his pistol and hopped out of it. He cleared away some of the enemy from the perimeter, and then hopped back into the tank, somehow not getting hit by the hail of enemy gunfire and rockets. He had just run out of ammo.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

He tossed his pistol down and grabbed a submachine gun. Returning to his former position, he began to take out more of the oncoming enemy fighters. Unconcerned with the situation being a well-planned and well-placed ambush, he stayed put, killing the enemy until he ran out of ammo again. After he used the stock of his rifle to kill one more, he moved to his platoon sergeant’s tank, carried a wounded crewman to a nearby armored personnel carrier, then went back to the tank to get a pistol so he could fight his way back to his own tank. Again.

Instead of hopping in, however, he mounted the .50-cal on the back of the tank, using the heavy machine gun to force the enemy back and put an end to the ambush while protecting his wounded comrades in arms. For most of the time he was engaged in close quarters combat, vastly outnumbered by an often-unseen enemy, Spc. Johnson was carrying only a Colt .45 pistol to defend himself.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

Having grown up in some of Detroit’s rough neighborhoods gave Dwight Johnson an edge in keeping his cool under fire. Johnson never quit, never left anyone behind and fought an enemy who outnumbered him ten to one while restoring American dominance to a situation that got out of hand. Sadly, it was those same mean streets that would do him in just a few years after coming home from Vietnam.

He struggled with regular life when he returned home, as most veterans did and still do. He struggled with debt and depression until he walked into the Open Pantry Market on April 30, 1971, just one mile from his home. There are conflicting reports of what happened next – some say Johnson had a gun at his side and was robbing the store, other sources say that Johnson was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. While we can’t be sure what motivated the store owner to open fire, we can say he shot one of America’s heroes four times, killing him. Dwight Hal Johnson was later buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

The value of open source intelligence in a pandemic environment

The extreme and necessary measures taken to restrict the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) have impacted the day-to-day lives of everyone around the globe. From schools and jobs to sports and entertainment such as restaurants, bars and movie theaters – all been closed or impacted. The federal government has not been spared as the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has directed agencies to utilize telework to the maximum extent possible.


Many Federal agencies are able to adapt to this new paradigm and can provide provisions for their employees to access the necessary government networks from home using government furnished laptops and sensible security protocols. Not to say there won’t be hiccups in this process. The scale and speed of this shift to telework are unprecedented, and there will certainly be challenges as government workers and contractors shift to this new reality. What is certain is that the nature of work has changed for the foreseeable future.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

What has not changed is our adversaries attempts to leverage and exploit this vulnerable situation for their own gain. Recently, a cyber-attack on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by a presumed state actor attempted to overload the Department’s cyberinfrastructure. As the lead agency in the pandemic response, HHS is the trusted source for the latest pandemic information. When trust in the source is compromised or threatened, the public loses confidence and the results can be confusion at best, panic at worst.

The need for keeping our government networks secure is vital for agencies to accomplish their missions.

While many government workers and contractors are adjusting to remote work, there are several groups of workers that cannot. These include our first responders, military members, medical staff and other critical roles that are essential to the day-to-day security of our nation.

Another large group that must continue onsite work are those in the intelligence community. The critical work they carry out every day, often unseen and unheralded, must continue regardless of pandemics, natural disasters, or other events. This work goes on in secure facilities and on secure networks that keep the information safe and to prevent such events as those faced by HHS. As noted by Thomas Muir, the Pentagon’s acting director of administration, and director of Washington Headquarters Services, “You will not have the capacity, obviously, to log on to a classified system from your home, you will be required to perform those duties at the workplace.”

However, with these challenges comes an opportunity for our IC leaders. How much of the work conducted in our nation’s most secure facilities must be classified? Gen Hyten, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was addressing this question even before the pandemic by saying, “In many cases in the department, we’re just so overclassified it’s ridiculous, just unbelievably ridiculous.”

Case in point, at the agency I support, I needed a parking pass for the visitor’s parking lot. This would allow me to park my vehicle a little closer to the building until my permanent parking pass became available. I searched the unclassified or “low side” systems on the building’s operations site but could not find an option to request or print a pass. I asked a colleague if they could point me in the right direction, and she pointed me to the classified or “high side” system. I must have had a perplexed look on my face because she just rolled her eyes and shrugged. Keep in mind, this pass would not allow me access into the building, I would still need to pass multiple other security measures before I could get to my desk.

The path of least resistance in the name of security has caused simple items to become overly secured. The still secure networks of the unclassified systems provide adequate security for mundane administrative tasks such as parking passes and numerous other similar items. While this is a small example and only represents a minor inconvenience to me, it is indicative of a larger problem across the IC to default to classifying all information out of routine, on the side of extreme caution, or in some cases, simply convenience. Of course, the challenges with over-classification are not new and have been documented in the past.

But what if it didn’t have to be this way?

With the explosion of publicly available information, there is more data available today than ever before and growing at an exponential rate. Leaders and organizations are no longer looking for needles in haystacks, they are looking for specific needles in mountains of other needles. Sifting through this data requires the assistance of computers through machine learning and artificial intelligence to find patterns and insights that were previously only available in the most classified environments.

This is not your father’s open-source intelligence or OSINT. The days of the Early Bird emails and newspaper clippings are long gone. The data available includes everything from shipping to industry financials to overhead imagery. All of this is available to commercial companies that are able to pay subscriptions to data providers. Hedge funds, insurance companies, and other industries that are assessing risk use this data on a daily basis to make financial decisions. Our adversaries have much of the same or similar data available to them and are using it to make informed decisions about us.

Not only is this information readily available, but it is also accessible from outside secured classified environments. Work in the open-source community continues unabated as long as there is a reliable internet connection with sensible security precautions enabled and information from data providers.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

Many long-time IC members will immediately scoff at the use of OSINT and say that it does not meet the rigor of the classified environment. That may have been true years ago – however, with the speed of social media and availability of technology, events that used to take weeks to assess are now unfolding in the public eye instantaneously, and in some cases, real-time. One only has to look at the Iranian shootdown of Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 as a good example. Iran denied the aircraft was shot down and challenged Western governments to provide proof. Within just a few days, a Twitter user shared a video of what was clearly a missile hitting the plane, and the Iranian government quickly backpedaled and admitted they had made a mistake.

This type of definitive proof was not something that was widely available even 10 years ago, yet is nearly ubiquitous today. There must be a change in culture in the IC as new methods are adopted to supplement traditional methods and sources. In his article “Open Sources for the Information Age,” James Davitch succinctly captured these challenges, “As breaking the current paradigm is difficult, but essential, if the IC is to assume a more proactive posture. Barriers to this goal include organizational inertia, the fear of untested alternative methods, and the satisfaction of answering simpler questions, no matter how illusory their utility.”

In addition to the cultural challenges, there are logistical and financial considerations that must be addressed. A recent RAND study titled “Moving to the Unclassified, How the Intelligence Community Can Work from Unclassified Facilities” addresses many of the pros and cons of the tactical considerations and how leaders might address them. Perhaps the most significant advantages are the intangibles that the RAND authors noted, “The advantages of remote-work programs include greater access to outside expertise, continuity of operations, and increased work-life offerings for recruitment and retention.”

While OSINT is not the panacea for all intelligence challenges, it is a worthwhile tool for a leader to exploit this INT to its fullest potential. As we adapt to the new realities of telework and ways of operating, it is a good time for our IC leaders to advocate for a new way to operate outside of the secure environment.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

How soldiers push their limits to stay fit

Some soldiers physically push themselves, compete against who they were yesterday, and train above and beyond meeting the minimum requirements of an Army physical fitness test. As motivation to be physically active can vary, some Maryland Army National Guard soldiers conduct their regular exercise routines in innovative ways.

Soldiers like Capt. Meghan Landymore, an ultra-marathoner and member of the All Guard Marathon Team; Sgt. Donita Adams, a basketball coach and All-Army Women’s Basketball team member; and Capt. Ben Smith, an avid obstacle course racer and American Ninja Warrior participant, are passionately competing in high levels of sports and maintaining their personal fitness.

Soldiers are required to maintain a certain standard of physical fitness. The annual Army Physical Fitness Test requirement for soldiers gives commanders an indication of the overall fitness of the soldier. The Army is now transitioning to the Army Combat Fitness Test, a six-event, age and gender neutral test, designed to assess a soldier’s physical fitness and readiness for physically demanding combat situations. Staying active can help prepare individuals to maintain a level of fitness for the physical demands of military service.


Runner for life

Capt. Meghan Landymore, a Joint Force Headquarters Medical Detachment physician assistant, is an accomplished ultra-marathon runner and member of the All Guard Marathon team. Each year, Army and Air guardsmen compete for a position on the All Guard Marathon Team during the National Guard Marathon Trials. The trials take place during the Lincoln Marathon, a traditional 26.2 mile marathon race, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Landymore placed third in her age group, sixth overall, and qualified for the national team with a time of 3:23:09.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

Army Capt. Meghan Landymore, a Joint Force Headquarters Medical Detachment physician assistant, poses for a photo July 9, 2019, at the Fifth Regiment Armory, Baltimore. Landymore is an accomplished ultra-marathon runner and member of the All Guard Marathon Team.

(Photo by Senior Airman Sarah McClanahan)

Landymore first moved off the starting block as a competitive runner in high school, where she was required to participate in a sport. As a kid who grew up performing gymnastics, running wasn’t her initial choice. However, after some encouragement from her father, she found her path – cross country.

On her first day of practice where every single person raised their hand in response to the question “who trained over the summer?” Every person except for her. The feeling of being behind the curve wasn’t something she was comfortable with. But, after working hard with her new coach, Landymore quickly became one of the top athletes on the team after just a couple short months.

Once she started, no one could stop her stride. Landymore ran all throughout her years in college and ran her first marathon, the 2010 New York City Marathon, while in graduate school. In 2012, she placed ninth overall for her first ultra-marathon, the Golden Gate Trail Run Winter 50K, with a time of 5:02:34. Ultra-marathons are anything over the traditional 26.2 mile marathon and sometimes through challenging trails that require hiking or climbing. With more than 30 ultra-marathons under her belt, this July she competed in the 106-mile North Dakota Maah Daah Hey Trail Run with the All Guard Marathon Team.

For ultra-marathon athletes like Landymore, training for a race becomes more than just a form of physical fitness, it becomes a lifestyle.

“It affects everything,” said Landymore. “It becomes your personality and becomes what you talk about, and who you hang out with.”

Training includes a combination of all types of running, from lengthy distances, overnight trail runs, tempo runs on a track, to hitting a strength training session in the weight room. However, training extends beyond the track or gym, needing to balance nutrition and family life can be a challenging task.

“It takes a lot to try and eat enough calories that are not junk calories,” says Landymore. “Other than nutrition, you’re fatigued. Just getting through daily life is actually really hard as an ultra-runner. I think we overlook it because it’s just what we do. It’s exhausting, I have two young kids. It affects my husband. Though they are supportive and understanding as much as they can be.”

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

Capt. Ben Smith, 32nd Civil Support Team survey team leader, poses in for a photo in front of a sign for the American Ninja Warrior 2019 television show. Smith is an avid obstacle course runner and was a participant in the 2019 Baltimore Maryland City Qualifiers for this year’s ANW.

(Photo by Senior Airman Sarah McClanahan)

On race day, her family often plays an impactful role of supporting her through the experience. Her husband will sometimes pace her for portions of her runs or act as a support crew providing various supplies like dry shoes or socks at each stop throughout the race. Her 4-year old son even ran with her through the finish line during the 2017 Patapsco Valley 50K.

Landymore explains that the supportive community of ultra-marathoning is what the experience is all about. Ultra-marathon racing is more than simply running, it gives other invaluable attributes.

“I think a big part of people [competing in any sport] is being able to be in pain and to handle it for any given time whether that’s a few seconds or few minutes,” says Landymore. “You have to know how to be uncomfortable. I think that’s necessary for most of life.

Nothing but net

Sgt. Donita Adams, a MDNG chaplain’s assistant and All-Army Women’s Basketball team member, connects her faith and the love she has for the game of basketball. She is the only National Guard member selected for an all-star team to compete at the 2016 Conseil-International-Du-Sport-Militaire World Military Women’s Basketball Championship.

“Basketball is a way that I can cope with a lot of things,” says Adams. “If I’m stressed out, I know I can go play basketball and clear my mind from anything. It’s my peace. God has given me a way to escape and go into an element where him and I can connect. Basketball is almost like that connection that I have with God. It ties us together because it’s something that I’m passionate about.”

Both basketball and her faith have been pivotal elements in Adams’ life. At 5-years old she picked up a basketball for the first time and by 8-years old started playing on a team. It wasn’t until high school that Adams found her love for coaching.

At 16, Adams landed her first coaching gig at a summer camp. Unbeknownst to her, one of the girls she would coach that summer was the daughter of an inspiring teacher Adams had in the sixth grade. This teacher saw the potential in Adams and made a point to push her to succeed. It was at this camp that her passion for mentorship and coaching ignited.

“My Amateur Athletic Union coach was a big influence in my life, a father that I didn’t have,” said Adams. “I knew that I wanted to give back to my community and this [coaching] was my way to give back.”

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

Army Capt. Meghan Landymore, a Joint Force Headquarters Medical Detachment physician assistant, poses for a photo July 9, 2019, at the Fifth Regiment Armory, Baltimore. Landymore is an accomplished ultra-marathon runner and member of the All Guard Marathon Team.

(Photo by Senior Airman Sarah McClanahan)

Prior to enlisting in the Army, Adams took on a head coaching job at Watkins Mill High School, the school she attended prior to transferring to Damascus High School. For four years, she taught and developed nearly 100 female student athletes on and off the basketball court. She taught the importance of mentorship and being a role model as an athlete.

“Sometimes you don’t sign up for this stuff,” said Adams. “But when you put on that jersey, or when you sign up for a sport, it comes along with it.”

Adams recently resigned from her head coaching position to give herself the opportunity to impact young athletes beyond the walls of Watkins Mill High School. Now she coaches the young men and women of Truth Basketball, a personal venture dedicated to teaching, coaching, and mentoring young athletes. Truth Basketball holds fundraisers to cover much of the fees associated with playing basketball. Adams hopes to turn the venture into a non-profit in the future to continue making basketball accessible and providing more resources to young men and women.

In addition to coaching, Adams is in her third year of playing for the All-Army Women’s Basketball team. October 2019, she’s headed to Wuhan, China to play with Team USA in the Military World Cup Games. For the second time, Adams will have the opportunity to play with Team USA representing the Maryland Army National Guard on an international stage. However, this will be the first time she will play in an Olympic-level event.

Leaping over obstacles

Capt. Ben Smith, 32nd Civil Support Team survey team leader, an avid obstacle course runner and a participant in the 2019 Baltimore Maryland City Qualifiers for American Ninja Warrior, a show where contestants demonstrate their agility and strength through challenging obstacle courses.

Through his training for the Toughest Mudder races, an overnight, eight-hour version of the Tough Mudder races, Smith realized while he was adequately conditioned to run the course, his technique work in tackling obstacles needed to be strengthened. This is where Smith was introduced to the world of American Ninja Warrior.

“I began Ninja Warrior training to increase obstacle course proficiency,” said Smith. “From there, I fell in love with the sport.”

Each year, ANW hosts city qualifying and final competitions in different cities throughout the nation including Baltimore. Each qualifier race consists of six obstacles testing competitors’ ninja skills including grip strength, lateral transversing, static or dynamic balance, and explosive movement. Competitors will need to efficiently and cohesively use all of these skills to complete an ANW course.

“The principles are the same as the preparation for any school, task, or mission,” explains Smith. “I worked through minor obstacles and adjusted my plan for major ones. The first key was to assess the skills I would need to develop. This is a challenge as no two ninja courses are the same. I set out a plan to identify weaknesses and train them in lieu of improving only my strengths.”

To be selected, Smith competed for one of around 600 slots against about 60,000 applicants. The selection decision rested entirely on his submission video. Once he was selected, his ANW training began.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

Capt. Ben Smith, 32nd Civil Support Team survey team leader, poses in for a photo in front of a sign for the American Ninja Warrior 2019 television show. Smith is an avid obstacle course runner and was a participant in the 2019 Baltimore Maryland City Qualifiers for this year’s ANW.

(Photo by Senior Airman Sarah McClanahan)

Smith explains simply being physically fit will not carry an athlete far in ANW and a more well-rounded approach to training is required. To prepare for his competition, Smith’s physical training and conditioning focused on improving endurance, speed work, functional strength, balance, and active recovery. This often resulted in late nights at his obstacle course gym multiple times a week. Smith would also incorporate ninja training into his regular physical training for the Army by including exercises focused on grip strength, balance, or running on curbsides for portions of his regular runs.

However, the biggest obstacle for Smith’s training was the unknown. The day prior to the competition he was able to see the course but wasn’t able to touch any of the obstacles prior to competing.

Though challenging, tackling the ANW course helped Smith identify areas he could improve upon including his speed and fluidity between the different obstacles. His training leading up to the race focused on individual skills. In practice, it was a struggle to apply them cohesively on the course.

Unfortunately, Smith did not successfully complete his run of the Baltimore Maryland City Qualifiers and was stopped short at the second obstacle of the race, the double twister. This obstacle involves two free-spinning pendulums where competitors must leap from a springboard to the first pendulum and use their momentum to move from each pendulum and finally to the landing platform. An unexpected stopper restricting the movement of the second pendulum caused Smith to ultimately plummet into the water.

While his run was not aired on this episode of ANW, a short clip of his entrance was aired of Smith ripping off of a modified level A vapor protection suit. Vapor protection suits are crucial for protection against dangerous chemicals encountered in Smith’s job with the 32nd Civil Support Team.

Despite recently sustaining a broken ankle, he is determined to work through his injury and get back to training and sharpening his ninja skills for the next round of applications.

The MDNG athlete

For every Maryland National Guard soldier, “game day” may not come in the form of an ultra-marathon, basketball game, or obstacle course race. Instead, the training, conditioning, and physical readiness of each and every soldier is tested by the APFT or fast-approaching ACFT.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

U.S. Army Sgt. Donita Adams, assigned to the Md. Army National Guard attempts to score during a basketball game. The 2017 Armed Forces Basketball Championship is held at Joint Base San Antonio, Lackland Air Force Base.The best two teams during the double round robin will face each other for the 2017 Armed Forces crown.

(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Emiline Senn)

It’s important to note that the ACFT will not be an easy test and must be approached with a well-rounded training program personalized for each individual soldier to build them up from where they are starting to where they need to be, explained Landymore.

Competing at a higher level of sports is not the only option for soldiers preparing for the ACFT. A voluntary program called “Fit to Serve” is available to soldiers for coaching in fitness and offers technology to track physical activity and sleeping habits. The program also provides physical therapy resources which focus on overall health wellness and resiliency.

“The best advice I can give is to use the resources around you,” says Adams. “There are people in your circle or even in your unit who are experts, like trainers or athletes, so use those resources. They are very knowledgeable. Take time during your drill weekend to do the exercises and workouts because it’s going to help you. Because as soon as it’s implemented we are expected to perform.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How US uranium imports may threaten national security

The United States has begun investigating whether uranium imports threaten national security, launching a process that could lead to more tariffs being imposed on imports from Russia and Central Asian countries.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the probe on July 18, 2018, and said it would cover the entire uranium sector, including mining and enrichment, as well as both defense and industrial uses of the radioactive metal.


“Our production of uranium necessary for military and electric power has dropped from 49 percent of our consumption to 5 percent,” Ross said, suggesting that to be so overwhelmingly dependent on imports could jeopardize U.S. security.

He pledged a thorough, fair, and transparent investigation of the matter.

The United States imported id=”listicle-2588064431″.4 billion worth of enriched uranium in 2017, along with 0 million in uranium ores and id=”listicle-2588064431″.8 billion in uranium compounds and alloys, according to Commerce Department data.

In addition to being used in nuclear weapons, uranium fuels about 20 percent of U.S. electricity generation and is used to power nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers.

Canada and Kazakhstan account for about half of the imported uranium used in U.S. power generation, according to the Energy Department.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

Cascade of gas centrifuges used to produce enriched uranium.

(U.S. Department of Energy)

Former Soviet republics provided more than one-third: Kazakhstan 24 percent, Russia 14 percent, and Uzbekistan 4 percent. About 10 percent came from four African countries.

Washington outraged major U.S. trading partners, including Canada, China, and the European Union, by citing national security concerns as justification to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Those tariffs, which hit Russia’s steel and aluminum industries hard, touched off a wave of countermeasures against U.S. agriculture and other goods, alarming many U.S. businesses and lawmakers.

The announcement that Washington is now targeting uranium comes after the Commerce Department said it was investigating hundreds of billions of dollars worth of cars and auto parts imported every year to determine whether that undermines U.S. national security.

The probe of uranium imports is in response to petitions for an investigation filed in January 2018 by two U.S. mining companies: Ur-Energy and Energy Fuels. They called for a quota that reserves 25 percent of U.S. demand for domestic production.

“Increasing levels of state-subsidized nuclear fuel are expected to be imported from Russia and China in the coming years, which would likely further displace U.S. uranium production,” the mining companies said in their petition.

“If Russia and its allies take control of this critical fuel, the threat to U.S. national and energy security would be incalculable,” they said.

According to the Energy Department, as uranium prices tumbled to just over per pound between 2009 and 2015, employment in the U.S. uranium sector fell more than 60 percent, to just over 600 workers.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Record-breaking NASA sun probe could change Earth’s electric grid

NASA’s record-breaking solar probe has discovered new, mysterious phenomena at the edge of the sun.

Since it launched in August 2018, the Parker Solar Probe has rocketed around the sun three times, getting closer than any spacecraft before it and traveling faster than any other human-made object in history.

On Wednesday, NASA scientists announced the probe’s biggest discoveries so far, in four papers published in the journal Nature.

The research revealed never-before-seen activity in the plasma and energy at the edges of the sun’s atmosphere, including reversals of the sun’s magnetic field and “bursts” in its stream of electrically charged particles, called solar wind.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

A sunrise near the International Space Station on December 25, 2017.

NASA image

‘Bursty’ solar wind bends the sun’s magnetic field

This wind surges into space and washes over Earth, so studying its source could help scientists figure out how to protect astronauts and Earth’s electric grid from unpredictable, violent solar explosions.

By sending the Parker probe to the sun, NASA is studying this dangerous wind in more detail than scientists could from Earth.

“Imagine that we live halfway down a waterfall, and the water is always flowing past us. It’s very turbulent, chaotic, unstructured, and we want to know what is the source of the waterfall up at the top,” Stuart Bale, a physicist who leads the team that investigates the probe’s solar-wind data, said in a press call. “It’s very hard to tell from halfway down.”

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

The Parker Solar Probe observed a slow solar wind flowing out from the small coronal hole — the long, thin black spot seen on the left side of the sun in this image captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory — on October 27, 2018.

NASA/SDO image

NASA scientists are seeking answers to two major questions about the sun: What causes solar wind to accelerate as it shoots out into space? And why is the sun’s outer layer, called the corona, up to 500 times as hot as its inner layers?

The new data offers some initial clues. For the first time, Parker identified a clear source of a stream of slow, steady wind flowing out from the sun. It came from a hole in the corona — a spot where the gas is cooler and less dense.

Scientists knew that wind coming from the sun’s poles moves faster, but this was the first time they detected an origin point for the slow wind coming from its equator.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

The sun blowing out a coronal mass ejection.

NASA/GSFC image

The Parker probe also detected rogue waves of magnetic energy rushing through the solar wind. As those magnetic waves washed over the spacecraft, the probe detected huge spikes in the speed of the solar wind — sometimes it jumped over 300,000 mph in seconds. Then just as quickly, the rapid winds were gone.

“We see that the solar wind is very bursty,” Bale said. “It’s bubbly. It’s unstable. And this is not how it is near Earth.”

The bursts could explain why the corona is so hot.

“We think it tells us, possibly, a path towards understanding how energy is getting from the sun into the atmosphere and heating it,” Justin Kasper, another physicist who studied Parker’s observations of solar wind, said in the call.

Scientists had never observed these bursts and bubbles before, but they seem to be common; the Parker spacecraft observed about 1,000 of them in 11 days.

The rogue spikes of energy also delivered an additional surprise: The bursts were so strong that they flipped the sun’s magnetic field.

The scientists call these events “switchbacks” because in the affected area the sun’s magnetic field whips backward so that it’s almost pointing directly at the sun.

The switchbacks seem to occur only close to the sun (within Mercury’s orbit), so scientists could never have observed them without the Parker probe.

“These are great clues, and now we can go look at the surface of the sun and figure out what’s causing those [bursts] and launching them up into space,” Kasper said.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

An illustration of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe as it flies toward the sun.

NASA/JHU/APL image

Parker confirmed that there’s a dust-free zone around the sun

Scientists have long suspected that the sun is surrounded by an area without cosmic dust, the tiny crumbs of planets and asteroids that float through space and fall into stars’ orbits. That’s because the sun’s heat should vaporize any solid dust that gets too close.

For the first time, Parker flew close enough to the sun to provide evidence that such a dust-free zone exists. It observed that the dust did indeed get thinner closer to the sun.

Still, this zone wasn’t quite what scientists expected.

“What was a bit of a surprise is that the dust decrease is very smooth,” Russell Howard, another astrophysicist working with the probe, said in the call. “We don’t see any sudden decreases indicating that some material has evaporated.”

That will be another mystery to prod as the spacecraft gets closer to the sun.

6 more years and 21 more flybys

More knowledge about solar wind and the sun’s magnetic field could help scientists better protect astronauts and spacecraft from two types of violent space weather: energetic-particle storms and coronal mass ejections.

In energetic-particle storms, events on the sun send out floods of the ions and electrons that make up solar wind. These particles travel almost at the speed of light, which makes them nearly impossible to foresee. They can reach Earth in under half an hour and damage spacecraft electronics. This can be especially dangerous to astronauts traveling far from Earth.

In a coronal mass ejection, the sun sends billions of tons of coronal material hurtling into space. Such an explosion could massively damage Earth’s power grids and pipelines.

Over the next six years, Parker is set to approach the sun 21 more times, getting closer and closer. In its final pass, it should fly within 4 million miles of the sun’s surface.

During each flyby, the probe will gather more data that could answer physicists’ questions about the sun’s corona and solar wind.

“As we get closer, we’ll be right in the sources of the heat, the sources of the acceleration of particles, and of course those amazing eruptions,” Nicola Fox, NASA’s director of heliophysics, said in the call. “Even with what we have now, we already know that we will need to adjust the model used to understand the sun.”

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