In the Air Force, few names ring as many bells as John L. Levitow. He’s had awards named after him, as well as dorm halls and roads. Levitow’s name is about as close to U.S. Air Force royalty as you’ll get.
Oddly, even though his name is emblazoned across every corner of every Air Force base in the world, many airmen have scant knowledge of Levitow’s actions. Many are more well informed of his mysterious separation than of his heroic actions. The legend of his separation is still shared by many higher-ups during various briefings as a cautionary tale, but I digress.
As the Air Force leads the way into the future, it’s important to remember who paved the way and how exactly they did it. This is how John L. Levitow became the lowest ranking Medal of Honor recipient in Air Force history.
Airman First Class Levitow cross-trained into the Loadmaster career field after a couple of years in the Air Force. This cross-train is what ultimately placed Levitow on board the Spooky 71, an AC-47 gunship, during that fateful night.
A legend born
On Feb. 24, 1969, Levitow was aboard the Spooky 71 AC-47 gunship flying missions in South Vietnam. During the flight, a mortar round struck the side of the aircraft, ripping holes all across the plane, including an approximately two-foot puncture in the wing.
After impact, Levitow, while suffering from over 40 fragment wounds, helped a fellow wounded airman away from the now-open cargo door. As he moved his comrade to relative safety, he spotted a Mark 24 flare that was seconds from igniting.
Mind you, the Mark 24 flare is a three-foot metal tube weighing roughly 27 pounds that, once ignited, generates the light of 2,000,000 candlepower and burns at 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Levitow dragged himself towards the flare, which was rolling to and fro as the Spooky 71 pilots fought to regain control, hurled himself atop of it, pushed the flare towards the cargo door, and flung it out into the Vietnam sky just before ignition.
This really happened. It is not an exaggeration or poorly documented folk tale. Levitow literally placed his body atop a flare powerful enough to turn the Spooky 71 into a crisp with no real idea of how long he had until the flare ignited. This is one of the most selfless acts ever documented.
After the amazing feats he accomplished that night, he would return to Vietnam after recuperating to fly another 20 missions.
Awarded the Medal of Honor
Levitow was awarded the nation’s highest military honor on May 14, 1970 by President Richard Nixon. Levitow separated from the Air Force in 1970.
Following his separation, Levitow worked diligently with the veteran community, showing up to events that honored or featured veterans. On Nov. 8, 2000, John Lee Levitow passed away after a year-and-a-half battle with an unspecified cancer. He was 55 years young.
Anyone who’s ever watched pretty much any movie in the history of ever or otherwise watched professional pugilists spar words with one another in a media session knows that those trained in the art of kicking ass are required to register their hands as deadly weapons in the United States. Further, if they use their fists of fury against the general public, not only will they get thrown in the slammer for a rather long time for assault with a deadly weapon, but afterwards they’ll go on a high flying adventure with the likes of Cyrus The Virus Grissom and his band of lovable ragamuffins. But is any of this actually true in reality? Well, as the universe hates simplicity and basically nothing is black and white- no, and also yes, and then nuance.
As to the easiest part of this particular topic to address- are those highly trained in hand to hand combat required to register their hands as deadly weapons in the U.S.? Nope… except for in one U.S. territory- Guam. There, in Title 10- Health & Safety Division 3- Public Safety, Chapter 62, it states,
Any person who is an expert in the art of karate or judo, or any similar physical in which the hands and feet are used as deadly weapons, is required to register with the Department of Revenue and Taxation…
An exception to this is that U.S. military members, as well as law enforcement, are not required to register. The fee for such a registration is a mere and does not ever need to be renewed. Should such an expert fail to register and this is discovered by the authorities, said individual will be found guilty of a misdemeanor crime.
As to the end result of such a registration, in a nutshell the Department of Revenue and Taxation keeps a database of those registered and it further states in section 62106, “Any registered… who thereafter is charged with having used his art in a physical assault on some other person, shall upon conviction thereof, be deemed guilty of aggravated assault.”
Interestingly, no part of this section of the law seems to give any guidelines about how long you have from entering Guam to register yourself. And it does seem to require you show up in person to register, so there will always be a period between entering Guam, or reaching “expert” status while living there, and when you actually register.
And if you’re wondering, they define “expert” as “a person trained in the arts of karate, judo or other hand-to-hand fighting technique, whereby the hands, feet or other parts of the body are used as weapons, who shall have completed at least one level of training therein and shall have been issued a belt or other symbol showing proficiency in such art.”
As a brief aside, we’re just saying, but if Guam really wanted to make some nice side money for their Treasury, they’d allow this registration and issuance of such a certificate to be done via the internet and then raise the price considerably, as well as offer worldwide shipping on officially embossed and laminated registration cards. With some good word of mouth marketing, this would be an extremely popular gift to get martial arts students the world over who reach certain proficiency levels, whether they ever have any plans to visit Guam or not.
On that note, other than Guam, the only places where you can even try to register your deadly hands as such are in various fighting schools we could find who sell novelty certificates to students who reach a certain threshold in their training.
So that’s the yes and no. What about the nuance?
While it is true that in most of the world you do not have to register your deadly hands, it turns out the fact that you do have that training is extremely likely to come up in any court case in which you used your skills in a fight, with potentially very serious consequences, as we’ll illustrate later in the famous Con Air Cameron Poe fight, among some real world examples.
But before we get into that, this might all have you wondering how the myth that expert fighters do have to register their hands as deadly weapons became established and so prevalent. While nobody is sure who first got the bright idea, it is the case that professional fighters in the past have occasionally claimed they had to do this. Most notably, for a time it was all the rage for boxers. In these cases, the boxer might, for example, hold up their fists during a press conference and proclaim they had to register said extremities as deadly weapons upon arrival into town and come SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY their opponent will find out just how valid that registration is.
Beyond publicity stunts spreading the myth, Taekwondo 7th Dan Grandmaster and former police officer Darwin J Eisenhart states that some among the particularly well trained actually find getting or making these novelty certificates very practical. It would seem a side effect of being a relatively high profile fighter is that random drunk or “tough guys” at bars like to challenge said fighters to fights, similar to what frequently happened to Abraham Lincoln once he gained the reputation as an expert fighter.
Such official-looking certificates help forestall these conflicts via the fighter flashing the certificate or card they made and explaining to the individual suffering from small penis syndrome that the fighter cannot engage in such a contest of manhood because it could result in said fighter getting charged with assault with a deadly weapon, regardless of the outcome of the fight.
As Eisenhart elaborates, “There was no legal standing for these claims, and no one was actually ‘officially’ registered or required to announce in advance that they had training, but most of them did this to avoid fights rather than state it as a brag or boast…”
Hollywood, of course, has done a great job further spreading the myth as well.
Now, all that said, it turns out that while the cards themselves weren’t official, the reasoning these fighters were stating it wouldn’t be a good idea for them to get into such a fight was completely valid.
You see, much like as you’re not required to register a walking stick, car, steak knife, or a dog as a deadly weapon, all four can unequivocally be considered such by the courts in the right set of circumstances. Similarly, regardless of whether you’re an expert fighter, pretty much every part of your body can be considered by the courts to be a deadly weapon in the right set of circumstances, depending on how you use said body part. For example, in the past, U.S. courts have found everything from knees to elbows to teeth to be deadly weapons in court cases.
A very important thing to note about all this is that, again, in many regions of the world, those who are highly trained in hand to hand combat will often have a much greater chance of having a court decide that the person’s body parts are to be considered deadly weapons.
The result of this is that it’s much easier for that person to be found guilty of a criminal or felony assault than a normal person who might be charged with a simple misdemeanor assault for the same set of actions and events.
On top of that, in some regions and sets of circumstances, it doesn’t even matter if you were the one being attacked and simply were defending yourself, as we’ll get into in a bit.
The distinction between these two legal classifications is rather important as, in the U.S. and many other regions, something like a misdemeanor assault might result in only a small fine to pay and/or a little bit of jail time, but not usually significant. In contrast, a Felony assault’s minimums will probably see a fine of at least several thousands dollars and very likely also include lengthy incarceration, even up to life in prison if the assault resulted in a death.
Thus, in all of this, while technically outside of Guam the letter of the law doesn’t distinguish between a random Jimmy Layabout and Bruce Lee, it turns out in criminal and civil proceedings this is most definitely going to be factored in.
As a real world example here, consider the words of Judge John Hurley who was ruling over a road-rage case that included an ex-marine and very skilled mixed martial artist by the name of Fernando Rodrigues. Judge Hurley states, “I’ve always thought that if you are a black belt in karate or you are an expert in martial arts, that your hands and feet would be considered weapons.”
Perhaps it is no surprise from this that said judge ruled, “The court believes at this time that [Rodrigues’] hands and feet are considered, for probable cause, to be deadly weapons.”
Similarly, many a jury member may hold the exact same opinion, ultimately biasing them somewhat against the professional fighter in a given assault case, especially as the opposing attorney will absolutely be shoving this fact down the jurors’ throats.
For yet another real world case, we have an incident involving one Jamal Parks of Texas in 2013. Parks first got in a fight with one of his friends, resulting in the police being called. When police arrived to the scene, Parks beat the crap out of one of the officers as well. In this case, because Parks was a mixed martial arts fighter, the court went ahead and considered his hands to be deadly weapons and he was charged with Felony Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon, rather than going with a lesser charge as would have likely been the case if he was just some Jimmy Crapface. District attorney Bill Vassar noted on this one, “It’s pretty unusual, but in this instance — because he is an MMA fighter — we thought it was appropriate to charge his hands as deadly weapons.”
Jumping across the pond to Merry Ol’ England, we have a rather tragic assault against an 18 year old named Daniel Christie. Christie was walking with friends on New Years’ when they encountered a scuffle where a rather large individual was attacking some much smaller teens, prompting Christie to apparently approach and yell at the man “Why are you hitting kids?”
Well, it turns out the group of teens had offered to sell drugs to the rather muscular man, Shaun McNeil, as well as apparently made some comments about McNeil’s girlfriend which McNeil apparently wasn’t too happy about. The slightly inebriated McNeil declined the offer for drugs, but after the comments about his lady, there was some sort of fight between them, with McNeil knocking one of the teens down.
When Christie and his group approached and Christie yelled his question at McNeil, McNeil subsequently misinterpreted Christie and his friends with being with the other teens and punched Daniel in the face, as well as punched Daniel’s brother, Peter.
Unfortunately for McNeil and the Christie family, while you wouldn’t normally expect a single blow to the face to cause serious long term damage, in this case when Christie hit the ground, said unyielding surface shattered part of his skull. The result was that, 11 days later, Daniel’s family had to say their goodbyes and had the doctors turn off life support.
As to the court case, given McNeil was a highly trained fighter, it was decided to charge him with murder instead of manslaughter, despite it being very questionable that there was any murderous intent.
The court did, in the end, rule McNeil not-guilty of murder. But he wasn’t off the hook. They instead convicted him of manslaughter. As to the ultimate ruling and sentencing, Justice Hulme cited McNeil’s training in MMA and background in body building (thus his hands being more deadly than most), as well as McNeil’s rather large size compared to Daniel’s (thus Daniel could have not possibly posed any real threat to him). On top of that, witnesses claimed that once McNeil approached to punch, Daniel attempted to retreat the situation and put his hands up and said “no”. This, again, demonstrated Daniel had posed no threat to McNeil, despite the somewhat inebriated McNeil allegedly interpreting the situation as him being surrounded by a unified group of drug dealing, potentially hostile teens.
Further going against him, McNeil had something of a history of getting into random, often alcohol induced, fights with his rather deadly hands and seemingly had not learned his lesson from previous more minor run-ins with the authorities over such. Thus, after explaining all his reasoning, for this single punch, Justice Hulme sentenced McNeil to a maximum of 10 years in prison, with the earliest possibility of parole after 7.
The point being in all of this- if one is an expert fighter and is considering attacking anyone, they are in many regions of the world going to be at a higher risk of having the courts level much more severe charges against them than Jimmy Couchpotato.
Now, of course, Jimmy Couchpotato still could potentially have similar charges leveled against him if the court deems he used extreme degrees of force, such as curb stomped someones’ head into the ground or the like- even if that someone had been the one to initially attack. But should Mr. Couchpotato punch someone in the face once and accidentally kill a person with that single blow, they are more likely to face lesser charges than if Bruce Lee did the exact same thing.
So how can Mr. Lee (and indeed your average Joe) help ensure things go smoothly in court when it comes to self defense?
It’s important to note that what constitutes acceptable self-defense is an incredibly nebulous concept with varying laws from region to region, including even varying from state to state in the United States. Beyond varying laws, determining culpability can be extremely difficult, especially when factoring in both civil and criminal courts and often conflicting first hand accounts of what happened and exactly when and how.
That caveat out of the way, while rules differ, there are a handful of things you can do to help yourself out in the general case. First, if evidence shows that you attempted to de-escalate the situation in words or actions, that’s a point in your favor. Further, if it can be shown that you attempted to exit the situation, that’s another point. In fact, there are actually some regions where you are required, if at all possible, to attempt to retreat before defending yourself. (Note even in these regions, if you’re in your home, you usually are not required to attempt to exit the situation. Though, contrary to popular belief, in most regions this still doesn’t give you carte blanche to use whatever force you please to the person who entered your home without your consent. Proportional force to the perceived threat still applies.)
Just another quick note here as well, also contrary to popular belief, in most regions, you are not required to wait for the attacker to throw the first blow. If the attack is very clearly imminent, such as someone running at you and yelling they are going to put a dent in your face, you can strike first and have that be considered self defense. It’s simply that, once again, in many cases it can potentially be another point in your favor if the other person is the one that attempts the first blow.
So you’ve done all that, and the fight starts anyway. What now? Most laws concerning this sort of thing in many parts of the world usually say something like that the person defending themselves is free to use up to the minimum force required to protect themselves from harm.
As you can imagine, what constitutes “minimum force required” can vary considerably from case to case. You can also see from this why an expert fighter might be much more prone to getting into trouble while defending themselves. They are much better at inflicting an awful lot of damage with a single blow compared to most, and, on top of that, have much more experience than most at knowing what kind of damage they will do with a given blow- thus more likely that a judge or jury might deem that inflicting that excessive damage was intentional.
So, for example, if Jimmy Crapface comes at Bruce Lee with his fists, and Lee responds by a quick and decisive kick to the head which then breaks Jimmy’s skull, killing him, there’s a non-zero chance the prosecutor might level some rather serious charges against Lee and leave it up to a judge or jury to sort the matter out. After all, while Jimmy was the attacker- and being Jimmy absolutely deserved death- he only brought fists and being a Grade A asshole to the fight. In contrast, Bruce Lee knowingly brought a deadly weapon- his foot, and then used it in a way that he was expert enough to know could cause deadly damage. Thus, Lee could be deemed to have, essentially, brought a gun to a fist fight, and then used it.
Further, even if the criminal court ultimately decided to let Mr. Lee off (because Lee did the world a favor by offing Jimmy), should Jimmy’s family choose to sue Lee over the death, there’s yet another round of proceedings to contend with where the ruling very much might go against Lee. (That said, on the civil case side of things, this is region dependent as, for example, 22 states in the U.S. have rules against an attacker suing for subsequent injuries, even if excessive force was ultimately used by the defender.)
Of course, if you feel your life is in danger for some reason, such as if the attacker is coming at you with a knife, you are free to use deadly force to a point. As to the limits, let’s say the attacker comes at you, tries to stab you, and you then deflect the blow. In so doing, you cause the attacker to drop their knife. After the knife is dropped, you then use a severe blow that has the possibility of causing deadly damage. Unfortunately for you, given that the attacker no longer offers a deadly threat to you, having just dropped the knife, you once again are in danger of the court ruling that you used excessive force and, given you are an expert fighter, more likely they’ll also rule that your hands be deemed deadly weapons.
Of course, in all of this, a variety of factors are also considered including, among many other things, your size relative to your opponent (such as was brought up in the aforementioned Daniel Christie case), whether there are multiple attackers, whether it was likely that the attacker might recover the knife and try to use it against you, if the attacker seemed to be on some sort of drugs that might require deadly force to get them to stop, even if they are unarmed themselves, etc. etc. And, of course, what the exact sequence of events were in the fight is going to be closely looked at, though is a rather difficult thing to accurately determine in many cases, further muddying the waters.
So let’s now look at the Con Air fight which illustrates many of these points. In it, at no point did Cameron Poe try to de-escalate the situation with words, nor try to exit the approaching fight. In fact, when the attackers first started to approach from a distance, Poe was standing right next to his open car door with no imminent threat present. Thus, he could have simply got in and drove away, as his wife was begging him to do. Instead, he stepped away from the car towards the attackers, actually purposefully escalating the situation. The group of “hounddogs” then attacked and Poe defended himself against all of them but one in a perfectly reasonable way that would have caused him no issue in court.
But, of course, there was the matter of the person he killed. Unfortunately for him, there were no witnesses other than the combatants to that part of the fight. It was simply his word against the remaining attackers that the one he killed tried to use a knife against him. With no physical evidence that the attacker posed a deadly threat, as the knife was taken (and presumably the other attackers claiming no such knife existed), it is not out of the question for the court to rule both that Poe used excessive force to defend himself, and that he intentionally brought and used a deadly weapon to a fight where the attackers only brought fists.
Granted, there were multiple attackers and one Cameron Poe, so it might have been possible for Poe’s lawyer to try to argue that even without evidence of a knife, Poe feared for his life given he was surrounded- as ever nothing is black and white. However, given Poe more or less willingly entered the fight, arguing that he was afraid for his life is a bit of a stretch. Further, at the point he killed the attacker, he had already incapacitated everyone else. So it was just one on one. So that argument probably wouldn’t have gone far.
Thus, given all the pertinent facts that the court was aware of (including, again, no evidence of a knife outside of Poe saying there was), the ultimate ruling was perfectly reasonable given the letter of the law. Just because someone attacks you doesn’t give you the right to intentionally use deadly force against them, and the court is especially not going to be on your side if they know you had a chance to leave the situation and, rather than doing that, actually willingly entered it.
Granted, what the Judge said in his ruling about Poe not being subject to the same laws as a normal person was all a bunch of crap, and his lawyer seemingly screwed him over to boot, but the ultimate ruling even if he hadn’t plead guilty wasn’t unrealistic.
At least one thing Poe did have in his favor was that Alabama law does not allow attackers to sue for damages should the one they are attacking inflict such. So while he was convicted in the criminal court, he at least wouldn’t have faced any civil suits later.
But to sum up, while outside of Guam nobody is actually registering their hands as deadly weapons, should you actually be highly trained in hand to hand combat, you still want to approach any fight as if the courts will consider your body parts deadly weapons, whether you are attacking or are the one being attacked.
If being attacked- attempt to de-escalate the situation with words and/or leave. If that fails, then use the absolute minimum force possible to end the fight, and then resist the urge to do anything else after your opponent is incapacitated. Even a single blow after they are no longer a threat to you could be awfully expensive for you in a civil court proceeding, and may have very serious criminal ramifications on top of it.
The plus side of all of this is that, while you the expert fighter might not be able to use “my hands are registered as deadly weapons” as a pick up line for the ladies, you could technically rephrase it a bit for the same effect- “Parts of my body are more likely to be considered a deadly weapon in court given the right set of circumstances, varying based on region and exactly what I do with them in the fight. And baby, I know what to do with my body parts.”
And when that doesn’t work. Well, move to Guam. No doubt the ladies will throw themselves at you when you have the official certificate.
As an exercise, the plank has some crazy lore surrounding it. If you were an alien from another planet and came to earth to study human society, you would think that planks have replaced the, now extinct, fire-breathing dragon as enemy #1 to Homo sapien survival.
The plank isn’t going to kill you. In fact, it may be unrivaled in its ability to engage a large number of muscle groups in an isometric contraction. So much so that you actually become harder to kill when the plank is trained properly.
That being said, you can’t plank all day and all night. so I’m going to give you four alternative exercises to add to your training program in lieu or in addition to planks.
The straight leg lift has gotten more attention thanks to gymnastics strength training picking up popularity in the last few years.
It’s pretty simple you sit up straight, with your legs out straight in front of you, and alternate raising each leg for a set number of reps or seconds. It seems simple, but it lights up your quads (especially the rectus femoris) like no other.
If you find your hips sagging quickly when planking or you know that your quads are a weak point of yours in general, I strongly recommend adding two sets of straight leg lifts to your leg day.
This exercise will help with your plank, the ACFT’s leg tucks, as well as building strength for sprinting and running distances under a mile where you’re pushing for speed.
This is the poor man’s ab wheel exercise. Don’t let that fool you though, at first glance, it may seem easier than a roll-out, but when you focus on the right muscles, you’ll find that it brings a whole new level of muscle recruitment to your core.
Start on all-fours, with your knees under your hips and your wrists under your shoulders. Alternate walking each hand out about a ½ a hands length away from your body. Try to open your hips and your shoulders simultaneously as you walk out. The tendency is to allow the hands to walk away from under your shoulders faster than having the hips move past their starting position, directly above the knees.
Here’s the hard part. Step your hands slowly, and DON’T allow your hips, core, or shoulders to shift from side-to-side as you walk. Instead, keep your core so tightly contracted that it allows you to hold in a balanced position even when you only have one hand supporting you on the ground, while the other is in the air changing position. Walk your hands out as far as you can and then simply walk back.
When doing this exercise, go for time instead of reps. For whatever reason, when people go for reps, they tend to cheat a lot more. Just set your timer for 30 seconds and perform 30 seconds worth of perfect and deliberate movement.
The ab wheel is basically moving you from a position that’s easier than holding a plank to a position that’s harder than holding a plank. When performing this one, really focus on that position in the middle of the movement that most closely mimics the plank.
The ab wheel has the ability to work every core muscle fully, if you do it correctly. The common cue I give is to “Stay out of your lower back!” meaning that you shouldn’t allow your low back to hyperextend. Instead, I’d rather see you hold a constant position of mild flexion, that doesn’t change throughout the entire movement. When you hyperextend in your low back, you’re basically losing all core tightness and relying on your vertebrae to stop you from arching any further. If that sentence seemed painful to read…imagine how your back feels.
Similar to the previous exercise, I prefer to do the ab wheel for time instead of reps. It prevents cheating and allows you to focus on perfect form rather than trying to hit some arbitrary number of reps that will undoubtedly cause you to throw form out the metaphoric window.
I like to think of the hollow body hold as pull-up junior. The engagement of muscles that a properly performed hollow body hold can achieve is exactly the same as a pull-up minus the lat engagement of pulling yourself to the bar. If that sounds crazy to you, I’m willing to bet you rarely perform beautiful pull-ups.
Yes, your core is the primary muscle of the hollow body hold, but it’s not the same “core” as the one that gets worked during crunches or other dated ab exercises. The hollow body hold allows you to isometrically contract your quads, pelvic floor, transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, obliques, lats, seratus, erector spinae (if you’re really good), neck muscles, pecs, psoas, and calves. Basically, every muscle of the front of the body and then some.
I highly encourage you to actively mentally walk through every muscle group I just mentioned the next time you attempt the hollow body hold. If you do, you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. A few sets of a solidly executed hollow body hold, and you’ll be begging to just do planks instead.
Work smarter, not harder…even when you’re trying to work hard do it smart.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Andy O. Martinez)
Go train your core. Before you go though…
Join the Mighty Fit FB group and get in on the conversation. Join the Mighty Fit FB group and get in on the conversation. Everyone there is trying to achieve something new and bigger than they ever have before. If that’s the type of person you want to be surrounded by, I suggest you get in there ASAP.
The New Might Fit Plan is coming soon. Sign up for it here and become one of the few to put the “We” in We Are The Mighty.
Send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org if you hate these core exercises or want to know if you’re doing them right. I get a kick out of hearing gripes from those of you bold enough to message me directly, rather than just screaming into the void that is Facebook comments… or you know, just tell me how you’re training is going and what your goals are. Bringing others in on your challenges and goals is a sure-fire way to ensure you actually overcome and accomplish them.
An essential part of filmmaking is acknowledging the audience’s familiarity with the subject matter and the themes common to the genre.
Unfortunately for screenwriters, dialogue that may have once been clever and poignant becomes cliche and induces eye-rolling laughter when we hear the same lines repeated ad nauseam from one movie to the next.
Well, yeah, no sh*t. We’re fighting a war. Plus, the word “company” evokes the same feelings as the arrival of a house guest. Try something like, “We’ve got opposing forces! Ahhhh!” I’m just spit-balling here.
(Warner Brothers’ Dunkirk)
6. “You just don’t get it, do you?”
This line typically precedes some terribly narrated flashback or montage.
It’s an excuse for one character to plainly explain to movie-goers what they already know because the studio doesn’t respect the intelligence of its audience. When you hear this line, brace yourself while some secondary character inanely spews out backstory.
5. Some variation of, “We can do this the easy way — or the hard way.”
This one happens a lot… but I’ll admit it is a little fun watching various directors reimagine this trope.
4. “You look like sh*t.”
What? Yeah, well, maybe you look like sh*t, too!
(Sony Pictures’ Black Hawk Down)
3. “Is that all you’ve got?”
The character who drops this line almost always immediately dies or watches the opposing force bust out their biggest gun. It’s like a curse.
2. “I got a bad feeling about this.”
Do you really? Was there something unsettling about the fact that you’re about to go to shoot at guys who are shooting at you?
U.S. Army uniform officials are working on a lightweight, modular ghillie suit for snipers to replace the current Flame Resistant Ghillie System, or FRGS, that’s known for being too heavy for hot environments.
Program Executive Office Soldier is developing the Improved Ghillie System, or IGS, a modular system that would be worn over the field uniform, Debbie Williams, a systems acquisition expert with Product Manager Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment, said in a recent Army press release posted on PEO Soldier’s website.
The IGS will consist of components such as sleeves, leggings, veil, and cape that can be added or taken off as needed, Williams said.
It will also do away with the ghillie suit accessory kit, which is standard with the FRGS, she said, explaining that soldiers were not using most of the items in the kit.
A 1st Battalion, 175th Infantry, soldier practices camouflage, cover and concealment with the Flame Resistant Ghillie Suit, or FRGS, during training at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., in November 2012.
The Army issued a request for proposal for the IGS on Aug. 28, 2018, according to the release.
The IGS will feature a lighter, more breathable fabric than the material used in the FRGS, said Mary Armacost, a textile technologist with PM SCIE.
The material will offer some flame-resistance, but soldiers will receive most of their protection from their Flame Resistant Combat Uniform, worn underneath the IGS, Army officials said.
If all goes well, the Army plans to buy about 3,500 IGSs to outfit the approximately 3,300 snipers in the service, as well as Army snipers in U.S. Special Operations Command, the release states.
The Army intends to conduct tests that will evaluate the new IGS in both lab and field environments during day and night conditions. A limited user evaluation is being scheduled for next spring, involving instructors from the Sniper School at Fort Benning.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Following the rulebook isn’t always a necessity. Well, that’s how the Marine Corps infantry feels about doctrine, anyway. Sure, there are hundreds of people who put their great minds together to come up with standard procedures for everything relating to warfare, but even still, us grunts take those “procedures” as suggestions. Why? Simple. We recognize that what may work for one unit doesn’t work for everyone.
This is the case with the fire team billet of “automatic rifleman.” The position is supposed to be held by the team leader’s second in command, usually a trusted advisor who can help run the team. But, over the years, Marines thought of a better person to hold the billet: boots. New guys. The FNGs. While some higher-ups might see this as hazing, the down-and-dirty, crayon-eating grunts disagree.
We argue that being an automatic rifleman teaches you these valuable lessons:
Accuracy is key. Pay attention and you might even score higher on the next qualification range.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos)
Some battalions have what’s called a “Squad-Level Advanced Marksmanship Course,” which is a fancy, Marine Corps way of saying, “automatic rifleman course.” That’s essentially what it is. But the focus is, as the name suggests, on marksmanship. Why? Because to be a good automatic rifleman, you must first be a good rifleman.
Learning how to engage accurately with an automatic weapon also teaches you how to be a substantially more effective rifleman. After all, you’re firing a high volume of bullets and, the more accurate you are, the more devastating to the enemy you are.
You’ll want to let the rounds fly, but each one is important. Always be mindful of that.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alicia R. Leaders)
It’s no secret that you get a lot of ammo as an automatic rifleman — around 18-22 magazines, to be exact, most of which you’ll be responsible for lugging around. But while learning about accuracy, you might also learn about conserving ammo.
The idea is this: You need to have enough ammo at the end of the fight to move on to the next fight. Especially if you’re the automatic rifleman, your fire team needs you.
This lesson of control can even help you as a leader, telling your automatic rifleman what you want them to do.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron Henson)
Quickly, you’ll learn that an automatic rifleman shouldn’t just unleash a barrage of bullets. You’ll learn when it’s appropriate to fire on full auto and when it’s appropriate to fire in 5-6 round bursts into large groups of enemies. This is important because, as you move up in rank and experience, you’ll be able to teach the next automatic rifleman about control.
This same control will help you with ammo conservation. More importantly, all these lessons will follow you into other fire team positions. In fact, if you become a squad leader, knowing how to use your automatic riflemen will be easier if you’ve been one.
For the first time, the 9th Reconnaissance Wing will open its aperture for recruiting Air Force pilots into the U-2 Dragon Lady through an experimental program beginning in the fall of 2018.
Through the newly established U-2 First Assignment Companion Trainer, or FACT, program, the 9th RW’s 1st Reconnaissance Squadron will broaden its scope of pilots eligible to fly the U-2 by allowing Air Force student pilots in Undergraduate Pilot Training the opportunity to enter a direct pipeline to flying the U-2.
“Our focus is modernizing and sustaining the U-2 well into the future to meet the needs of our nation at the speed of relevance,” said Col. Andy Clark, 9th RW commander. “This new program is an initiative that delivers a new reconnaissance career path for young, highly qualified aviators eager to shape the next generation of (reconnaissance) warfighting capabilities.”
The FACT pipeline
Every undergraduate pilot training student from Air Education and Training Command’s flying training locations, during the designated assignment window, is eligible for the FACT program.
A U-2 Dragon Lady pilot, assigned to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, pilots the high-altitude reconnaissance platform at approximately 70,000 feet above an undisclosed location.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Ross Franquemont)
UPT students will now have the opportunity to select the U-2 airframe on their dream sheets just like any other airframe.
The first FACT selectee is planned for the fall 2018 UPT assignment cycle and the next selection will happen about six months later.
After selection, the FACT pilot attends the T-38 Pilot Instructor Training Course at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, before a permanent change in station to Beale Air Force Base, Calif.
For the next two years, the selectee will serve as a T-38 Talon instructor pilot for the U-2 Companion Trainer Program.
“Taking on the task of developing a small portion of our future leaders from the onset of his or her aviation career is something we’re extremely excited about,” said Lt. Col. Carl Maymi, 1st RS commander. “U-2 FACT pilots will have an opportunity to learn from highly qualified and experienced pilots while in turn teaching them to fly T-38s in Northern California. I expect rapid maturation as an aviator and officer for all that get this unique opportunity.”
After the selectee gains an appropriate amount of experience as an instructor pilot, they will perform the standard two-week U-2 interview process, and if hired, begin Basic Qualification Training.
After the first two UPT students are selected and enter the program, the overall direction of the FACT assignment process will be assessed to determine the sustainability of this experimental pilot pipeline.
Broadening candidate diversity
Due to the uniquely difficult reconnaissance mission of the U-2, as well as it’s challenging flying characteristics, U-2 pilots are competitively selected from a pool of highly qualified and experienced aviators from airframes across the Department of Defense inventory.
A mobile chase car pursues a TU-2S Dragon Lady at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 22, 2014.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings)
The selection process includes a two-week interview where candidates’ self-confidence, professionalism, and airmanship are evaluated on the ground and in the air while flying three TU-2 sorties.
Traditionally, a U-2 pilot will spend a minimum of six years gaining experience outside of the U-2’s reconnaissance mission before submitting an application.
As modernization efforts continue for the U-2 airframe and its mission sets, pilot acquisition and development efforts are also changing to help advance the next generation of reconnaissance warfighters. The FACT program will advance the next generation through accelerating pilots directly from the UPT programs into the reconnaissance community, mitigating the six years of minimum experience that current U-2 pilots have obtained.
“The well-established path to the U-2 has proven effective for over 60 years,” Maymi, said. “However, we need access to young, talented officers earlier in their careers. I believe we can do this while still maintaining the integrity of our selection process through the U-2 FACT program.”
Developing the legacy for the future
FACT aims to place future U-2 warfighters in line with the rest of the combat Air Force’s career development timelines to include potential avenues of professional military education and leadership roles. One example would include an opportunity to attend the new reconnaissance weapons instructors course, also known as reconnaissance WIC, which was recently approved to begin the process to be established as first-ever reconnaissance-focused WIC at the U.S. Air Force Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
U-2 pilots prepare to land a TU-2S Dragon Lady at sunset on Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 22, 2014.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings)
“This program offers FACT-selected pilots enhanced developmental experience and prepares them for diverse leadership opportunities, including squadron and senior leadership roles within the reconnaissance community,” Clark said.
The FACT program highlights only one of the many ways the Airmen at Beale AFB work to innovate for the future.
“Beale (AFB) Airmen are the beating heart of reconnaissance; they are always looking for innovative ways to keep Recce Town flexible, adaptable, and absolutely ready to defend our nation and its allies,” Clark said. “(Senior leaders) tasked Airmen to bring the future faster and maximize our lethality — to maintain our tactical and strategic edge over our adversaries. This program is one practical example of (reconnaissance) professionals understanding and supporting the priorities of our senior leaders — and it won’t stop here.”
President Donald Trump on Oct. 1, 2018, awarded the Medal of Honor to former Army Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II, a Secret Service agent who is now fighting a battle with cancer.
“Today is a truly proud and special day for those of us here in the White House because Ron works right here alongside of us on the Secret Service counter-assault team; these are incredible people,” Trump told a crowded room filled with Shurer’s family, fellow soldiers and Army senior leaders.
Trump then told the story of Shurer’s bravery as a Green Beret on a daring April 6, 2008, mission in the Shok Valley of Afghanistan to “hunt down a deadly terrorist, a leader in that world … [who] was in a remote mountain village.”
“Ron was among two dozen Special Forces soldiers and 100 Afghan commandos who dropped off by helicopter into Shok Valley, a rocky barren valley, far away from reinforcements,” Trump said.
The assault force encountered no enemy activity during the 1,000-foot climb to their objective, but as the lead element approached the target village, “roughly 200 well-trained and well-armed terrorists ambushed the American and Afghan forces,” he said.
Shurer, the mission’s only medic, immediately began treating wounded. He then sprinted and climbed through enemy fire to reach several of his teammates who were pinned down on a cliff above.
“There was blood all over the place,” Trump said. “It was a tough, tough situation to be in. Immediately, Ron climbed the rocky mountain, all the while fighting back against the enemy and dodging gun fire left and right. Rockets were shot at him, everything was shot at him.”
After treating and stabilizing two more soldiers, Shurer was struck in the helmet by a bullet that had passed through another soldier’s arm. He was stunned by the blow but quickly bandaged the soldier’s arm.
“He continued to brave withering enemy fire to get to [another] soldier’s location to treat his lower leg, which had been almost completely severed by a high-caliber sniper round,” according to the award citation.
Shurer then helped evacuate the wounded down the mountainside so they could be loaded aboard helicopters.
He rejoined his commando squad and “continued to lead his troops and emplace security elements” until it was time to leave the area, the citation states.
“For more than six hours, Ron bravely faced down the enemy; not a single American died in that brutal battle thanks in great measure to Ron’s heroic actions,” Trump said.
A decade later, Shurer is fighting another battle — this time with stage 4 lung cancer. More than 500 people have joined his cause and are attempting to raise 0,000 for his family through a GoFundMe account.
Shurer with his family, President Trump, and Vice President Mike Pence.
“A year and a half ago, Ron was diagnosed with cancer — tough cancer, rough cancer,” Trump said. “But he’s braved, battled, worked; he’s done everything he can … he’s been fighting it every single day with courage and with strength. And he is a warrior.”
Shurer was initially awarded a Silver Star for performing heroic feats in 2008. Trump described how he upgraded that award to the Medal of Honor after hearing his story.
“Several weeks ago, my staff invited Ron and his wife Miranda to a meeting in the West Wing,” the president recounted, as Shurer sat in his Army dress blue uniform. “They didn’t know what it was about. They walked into the Oval Office, and I told Ron that he was going to receive our nation’s highest military honor.”
It was a moment Trump said he will never forget.
“Ron, our hearts are filled with gratitude as we prepare to engrave your name alongside of America’s greatest heroes,” he said. “Ron is an inspiration to everyone in this room and to every citizen all across our great land.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The US military is developing a new, longer-range air-to-air missile amid growing concerns that China’s advanced missiles outrange those carried by US fighters.
The AIM-260 air-to-air missile, also known as the Joint Air Tactical Missile (JATM), is intended to replace the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) currently carried by US fighters, which has been a go-to weapon for aerial engagements. It “is meant to be the next air-to-air air dominance weapon for our air-to-air fighters,” Brig. Gen. Anthony Genatempo, Air Force Weapons Program Executive Officer, told Air Force Magazine.
“It has a range greater than AMRAAM,” he further explained, adding that the missile has “different capabilities onboard to go after that specific [next-generation air-dominance] threat set.”
Russia and China are developing their own fifth-generation fighters, the Su-57 and J-20 respectively, to compete against the US F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, and these two powerful rivals are also developing new, long-range air-to-air missiles.
The Sukhoi Su-57.
In particular, the US military is deeply concerned about the Chinese PL-15, an active radar-guided very long range air-to-air missile (VLRAAM) with a suspected range of about 200 km. The Chinese military is also developing another weapon known as the PL-21, which is believed to have a range in excess of 300 km, or about 125 miles.
The PL-15, which has a greater range than the AIM-120D AMRAAM, entered service in 2016, and last year, Chinese J-20 stealth fighters did a air show flyover, during which they showed off their weapons bays loaded with suspected PL-15 missiles.
J-20 stealth fighters of PLA Air Force.
Genatempo told reporters that the PL-15 was the motivation for the development of the JATM.
The AIM-260, a US Air Force project being carried out in coordination with the Army, the Navy, and Lockheed Martin, will initially be fielded on F-22 Raptors and F/A-18 Hornets and will later arm the F-35. Flight tests will begin in 2021, and the weapon is expected to achieve operational capability the following year.
The US military will stop buying AMRAAMs in 2026, phasing out the weapon that first entered service in the early 1990s for firepower with “longer legs,” the general explained.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It started out as an average Sunday. He was at the gym in his North Kansas City apartment building working out with his girlfriend. His headphones were in, he had just finished lifting weights and was getting ready to start his cardio workout on the treadmill next to her. The music was playing and the sweat was running.
He looked up as he heard somebody yell something and saw his girlfriend and the three people working out suddenly stop in their tracks and look at the man who just ran into the gym. Pulling out his headphones, he looked around curiously as nervous apprehension filled the room. Everyone stood rooted to the spot, listening intently as the man told them that somebody out front had just been shot.
The first thing that went through his mind was “he’s probably overreacting.” Somebody probably got hurt out in the parking lot or in the grocery store nearby.
“There’s probably nobody in the area who can immediately help someone who’s hurt,” he thought to himself. “Even though I’m not an EMT or a combat medic I can evaluate a casualty and provide immediate care.”
He decided to check it out.
Maj. Karl D. Buckingham, a Command and General Staff Officer’s Course student.
(Photo by Dan Neal)
“I immediately left the gym, with my girlfriend following close behind me, and when I turned the corner into the lobby I noticed the broken glass and the obvious bullet holes in the glass entrance,” he said.
“I realized then that this was a bad situation.”
He turned around and urged his girlfriend to go upstairs to the apartment.
Time seemed to slow down and as he made his way closer he saw a man outside near the entrance at the top of the stairs holding a small compact pistol kneeling over a second man lying face down in a spreading pool of blood. A third man, the alleged shooter, lay on the ground at the bottom of the stairs with his hands spread and a pistol nearby.
The situation was tense.
At that time, a fourth individual with a weapon joined the scene. An older man with a holstered pistol. He had been waiting in his car in the parking lot while his wife shopped in the grocery store and had decided to step in to help. He urged everyone to stay calm and was instrumental in defusing the tense situation.
“I thought at this point that there were way too many people out here with guns,” he said.
The bleeding man was probably dead but when he saw the man’s back rise and fall he knew he was still alive and trying to breathe.
He saw the older man kick the pistol away from near the alleged shooter’s hand and decided to run to his truck for his Individual First Aid Kit, which had a tourniquet, an Israeli bandage (a first-aid device used to stop blood flow from traumatic wounds), chest seals, gauze and plastic gloves.
He had put the kit together and kept it in his truck just in case something happened … and something just had.
On that cold and overcast Sunday afternoon on Feb. 24, 2019, Maj. Karl D. Buckingham, 35, a Command and General Staff Officer’s Course student, found himself in an unusual situation. A stressful situation that was not completely unfamiliar to a veteran of five combat deployments to the Middle East. He found himself providing first aid to a gunshot victim.
Buckingham, a Civil Affairs officer, rushed back to the wounded man and made every effort to keep the airway open and stop the bleeding.
According to Buckingham, a native of Camdenton, Missouri, the basics of evaluating a casualty kicked in. Check the airway. Is he bleeding and where from? What can be done to treat the problems as they’re found? The training was there. After 18 years in the Army it was almost instinctual, he knew what to grab, what to look for, and how to react to what he was seeing.
“I went to roll the individual over and noticed an exit wound in his back but it looked like a lot of the bleeding was coming from the front,” he said. “When I pulled his shirt up I realized he had three bullet wounds, two in the abdomen and one in the upper chest.”
In an attempt to stop the bleeding, he bandaged the wounds with gauze and used the Israeli bandage.
Once the police decided the scene was safe, an officer helped Buckingham determine the man also had a sucking chest wound, a hole in the chest that makes a pathway for air to travel into the chest cavity.
Buckingham continued to provide first aid, making every attempt to treat the wounded man until an emergency medical team arrived on scene and took over life-saving efforts.
Buckingham, who graduated from Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science in 2007 and is currently working on a Master of Science degree in Administration from Central Michigan University, said his father is a retired soldier and there’s one thing he always told him “never skimp out on first aid training because there’s always something more to learn.”
Central Michigan University.
Though he did not speak of a specific situation, Buckingham said he had experience with gunshot wounds in the course of his five combat deployments. It was not something new, he had dealt with wounded soldiers before.
However, he admitted that this situation was different.
“When you’re deployed, whether on patrol or at the [Forward Operating Base], there’s always a sense that something can happen, you’re in a hyper vigilant state, everything seems like it’s dangerous to you and you’re ready to respond at a moment’s notice,” Buckingham explained. “What was different here is that I didn’t wake up that Sunday morning expecting to be treating gunshot wounds in the afternoon right outside my apartment building.”
He said that at one point the switch did flip and then it was time to act.
“I’ve been here before. I’ve seen this. I’ve trained on this. Let me get after this,” he said.
His training as a soldier helped him act confidently and decisively in an unusually tense circumstance.
“In a situation like this, I don’t think being an officer or enlisted makes any difference, it was my first aid training as a soldier that counted,” Buckingham said. “I would hope that anyone who comes into a similar situation can keep a cool level head, evaluate the situation, make appropriate decisions and act on them.”
Buckingham said he went through an emotional rollercoaster after it was all over. He experienced what he called an “adrenaline dump” and did not sleep at all that night. He kept thinking about what he could have done differently.
“Knowing the individual didn’t survive, a lot of things went through my mind. Should I have moved faster? Should I have sealed the front wound instead of the back wound?” he said. “At the end of the day I can honestly say that I did the best that I could. I like to hope that I gave him a better chance of survival.”
Buckingham has words of advice for fellow soldiers.
“The number one point I have for my fellow soldiers is to be prepared. Something as little as having a first aid kit in your car can make a difference,” he said.
Pay attention to TCCC, tactical combat casualty care, the Army’s name for first aid. You’ll never know when you’ll need it, he continued.
“I never once thought that I would ever be treating gunshot wounds on the front steps to my apartment complex but I did pack my [Individual First Aid Kit] in my truck just in case I came up on an accident, at least I would have something to help out with first aid,” Buckingham said.
Buckingham also said that it is not a sign of weakness to admit that a difficult situation shook you up or that you need someone to talk to about your experience.
“We tell ourselves, ‘I’m okay.’ ‘I can tough this out,'” he said. “There’s really no need for that. It’s okay to ask for help. Let’s not turn a blind eye, there are a lot of veteran suicides, there’s no reason you can’t come up and admit that you’re shook up or having a bad time because you think you’re tough and can handle it. As soldiers we tend to put a stigma on ourselves.”
Buckingham was recommended for a soldier’s Medal for his actions on that cold Sunday afternoon.
It may have started out as an average Sunday, but it didn’t end that way.
One of Russia’s most advanced warships is sailing around in the Caribbean, but it’s not alone, as the US Navy has dispatched a destroyer to keep a close eye on it.
The Admiral Gorshkov, the first of a new class of Russian frigates built for power projection, arrived in Havana on June 24, 2019, accompanied by the multipurpose logistics vessel Elbrus, the sea tanker Kama, and the rescue tug Nikolai Chiker, The Associated Press reported.
The Russian warship made headlines earlier this year when Russia reported that it was arming the vessel with a new weapon — the electro-optic Filin 5P-42 — that emits an oscillating beam of high-intensity light designed to cause temporary blindness, disorientation, and even nausea.
The US military said on June 26, 2019, it was monitoring the Russian ship’s activities.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham was operating roughly 50 miles north of Havana as of June 25, 2019, USNI News reported, citing ship-tracking data. The Navy told the outlet that it was monitoring the situation.
The Admiral Gorshkov entered the Caribbean Sea via the Panama Canal on June 18, 2019. The ship departed its homeport of Severomorsk in February 2019 and has since traveled more than 28,000 nautical miles, making stops in China, Djibouti, Sri Lanka, Colombia, and now Cuba.
The warship is preparing to make port calls at several locations across the Caribbean, the AP reported, citing the Russian Navy, which has not disclosed the purpose of the trip.
Over the past decade, Russia has occasionally sent warships into the Caribbean. While these deployments are typically perceived as power plays, Russia characterizes them as routine. Russia has also sent Tu-160 strategic bombers into the area, most recently in December 2018.
Russian Tupolev Tu-160.
(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
While Russian ships have made visits to the Caribbean in the past, this trip comes at a time when the US militaries are finding themselves in close proximity. For instance, earlier this month, a Russian destroyer nearly collided with a US cruiser in the Pacific, an incident that came just a few days after a Russian fighter jet aggressively buzzed a Navy aircraft over the Mediterranean Sea.
Russia also sent ships from its Baltic Fleet to monitor the NATO Baltops 2019 exercises held in mid-June 2019 near Russia. These exercises involved ships and aircraft from 16 NATO allies and two partner countries.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Just as dust gathers in corners and along bookshelves in our homes, dust piles up in space too. But when the dust settles in the solar system, it’s often in rings. Several dust rings circle the Sun. The rings trace the orbits of planets, whose gravity tugs dust into place around the Sun, as it drifts by on its way to the center of the solar system.
The dust consists of crushed-up remains from the formation of the solar system, some 4.6 billion years ago — rubble from asteroid collisions or crumbs from blazing comets. Dust is dispersed throughout the entire solar system, but it collects at grainy rings overlying the orbits of Earth and Venus, rings that can be seen with telescopes on Earth. By studying this dust — what it’s made of, where it comes from, and how it moves through space — scientists seek clues to understanding the birth of planets and the composition of all that we see in the solar system.
Two recent studies report new discoveries of dust rings in the inner solar system. One study uses NASA data to outline evidence for a dust ring around the Sun at Mercury’s orbit. A second study from NASA identifies the likely source of the dust ring at Venus’ orbit: a group of never-before-detected asteroids co-orbiting with the planet.
“It’s not every day you get to discover something new in the inner solar system,” said Marc Kuchner, an author on the Venus study and astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This is right in our neighborhood.”
In this illustration, several dust rings circle the Sun. These rings form when planets’ gravities tug dust grains into orbit around the Sun. Recently, scientists have detected a dust ring at Mercury’s orbit. Others hypothesize the source of Venus’ dust ring is a group of never-before-detected co-orbital asteroids.
(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Mary Pat Hrybyk-Keith)
Another ring around the Sun
Guillermo Stenborg and Russell Howard, both solar scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., did not set out to find a dust ring. “We found it by chance,” Stenborg said, laughing. The scientists summarized their findings in a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal on Nov. 21, 2018.
They describe evidence of a fine haze of cosmic dust over Mercury’s orbit, forming a ring some 9.3 million miles wide. Mercury — 3,030 miles wide, just big enough for the continental United States to stretch across — wades through this vast dust trail as it circles the Sun.
Ironically, the two scientists stumbled upon the dust ring while searching for evidence of a dust-free region close to the Sun. At some distance from the Sun, according to a decades-old prediction, the star’s mighty heat should vaporize dust, sweeping clean an entire stretch of space. Knowing where this boundary is can tell scientists about the composition of the dust itself, and hint at how planets formed in the young solar system.
So far, no evidence has been found of dust-free space, but that’s partly because it would be difficult to detect from Earth. No matter how scientists look from Earth, all the dust in between us and the Sun gets in the way, tricking them into thinking perhaps space near the Sun is dustier than it really is.
Stenborg and Howard figured they could work around this problem by building a model based on pictures of interplanetary space from NASA’s STEREO satellite — short for Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory.
Scientists think planets start off as mere grains of dust. They emerge from giant disks of gas and dust that circle young stars. Gravity and other forces cause material within the disk to collide and coalesce.
(NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
Ultimately, the two wanted to test their new model in preparation for NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which is currently flying a highly elliptic orbit around the Sun, swinging closer and closer to the star over the next seven years. They wanted to apply their technique to the images Parker will send back to Earth and see how dust near the Sun behaves.
Scientists have never worked with data collected in this unexplored territory, so close to the Sun. Models like Stenborg and Howard’s provide crucial context for understanding Parker Solar Probe’s observations, as well as hinting at what kind of space environment the spacecraft will find itself in — sooty or sparkling clean.
Two kinds of light show up in STEREO images: light from the Sun’s blazing outer atmosphere — called the corona — and light reflected off all the dust floating through space. The sunlight reflected off this dust, which slowly orbits the Sun, is about 100 times brighter than coronal light.
“We’re not really dust people,” said Howard, who is also the lead scientist for the cameras on STEREO and Parker Solar Probe that take pictures of the corona. “The dust close to the Sun just shows up in our observations, and generally, we have thrown it away.” Solar scientists like Howard — who study solar activity for purposes such as forecasting imminent space weather, including giant explosions of solar material that the Sun can sometimes send our way — have spent years developing techniques to remove the effect of this dust. Only after removing light contamination from dust can they clearly see what the corona is doing.
The two scientists built their model as a tool for others to get rid of the pesky dust in STEREO — and eventually Parker Solar Probe — images, but the prediction of dust-free space lingered in the back of their minds. If they could devise a way of separating the two kinds of light and isolate the dust-shine, they could figure out how much dust was really there. Finding that all the light in an image came from the corona alone, for example, could indicate they’d found dust-free space at last.
Mercury’s dust ring was a lucky find, a side discovery Stenborg and Howard made while they were working on their model. When they used their new technique on the STEREO images, they noticed a pattern of enhanced brightness along Mercury’s orbit — more dust, that is — in the light they’d otherwise planned to discard.
“It wasn’t an isolated thing,” Howard said. “All around the Sun, regardless of the spacecraft’s position, we could see the same five percent increase in dust brightness, or density. That said something was there, and it’s something that extends all around the Sun.”
Scientists never considered that a ring might exist along Mercury’s orbit, which is maybe why it’s gone undetected until now, Stenborg said. “People thought that Mercury, unlike Earth or Venus, is too small and too close to the Sun to capture a dust ring,” he said. “They expected that the solar wind and magnetic forces from the Sun would blow any excess dust at Mercury’s orbit away.”
With an unexpected discovery and sensitive new tool under their belt, the researchers are still interested in the dust-free zone. As Parker Solar Probe continues its exploration of the corona, their model can help others reveal any other dust bunnies lurking near the Sun.
Asteroids hiding in Venus’ orbit
This isn’t the first time scientists have found a dust ring in the inner solar system. Twenty-five years ago, scientists discovered that Earth orbits the Sun within a giant ring of dust. Others uncovered a similar ring near Venus’ orbit, first using archival data from the German-American Helios space probes in 2007, and then confirming it in 2013, with STEREO data.
Since then, scientists determined the dust ring in Earth’s orbit comes largely from the asteroid belt, the vast, doughnut-shaped region between Mars and Jupiter where most of the solar system’s asteroids live. These rocky asteroids constantly crash against each other, sloughing dust that drifts deeper into the Sun’s gravity, unless Earth’s gravity pulls the dust aside, into our planet’s orbit.
At first, it seemed likely that Venus’ dust ring formed like Earth’s, from dust produced elsewhere in the solar system. But when Goddard astrophysicist Petr Pokorny modeled dust spiraling toward the Sun from the asteroid belt, his simulations produced a ring that matched observations of Earth’s ring — but not Venus’.
This discrepancy made him wonder if not the asteroid belt, where else does the dust in Venus’ orbit come from? After a series of simulations, Pokorny and his research partner Marc Kuchner hypothesized it comes from a group of never-before-detected asteroids that orbit the Sun alongside Venus. They published their work in The Astrophysical Journal Letters on March 12, 2019.
“I think the most exciting thing about this result is it suggests a new population of asteroids that probably holds clues to how the solar system formed,” Kuchner said. If Pokorny and Kuchner can observe them, this family of asteroids could shed light on Earth and Venus’ early histories. Viewed with the right tools, the asteroids could also unlock clues to the chemical diversity of the solar system.
Because it’s dispersed over a larger orbit, Venus’ dust ring is much larger than the newly detected ring at Mercury’s. About 16 million miles from top to bottom and 6 million miles wide, the ring is littered with dust whose largest grains are roughly the size of those in coarse sandpaper. It’s about 10 percent denser with dust than surrounding space. Still, it’s diffuse — pack all the dust in the ring together, and all you’d get is an asteroid two miles across.
Using a dozen different modeling tools to simulate how dust moves around the solar system, Pokorny modeled all the dust sources he could think of, looking for a simulated Venus ring that matched the observations. The list of all the sources he tried sounds like a roll call of all the rocky objects in the solar system: Main Belt asteroids, Oort Cloud comets, Halley-type comets, Jupiter-family comets, recent collisions in the asteroid belt.
“But none of them worked,” Kuchner said. “So, we started making up our own sources of dust.”
Perhaps, the two scientists thought, the dust came from asteroids much closer to Venus than the asteroid belt. There could be a group of asteroids co-orbiting the Sun with Venus — meaning they share Venus’ orbit, but stay far away from the planet, often on the other side of the Sun. Pokorny and Kuchner reasoned a group of asteroids in Venus’ orbit could have gone undetected until now because it’s difficult to point earthbound telescopes in that direction, so close to the Sun, without light interference from the Sun.
Asteroids represent building blocks of the solar system’s rocky planets. When they collide in the asteroid belt, they shed dust that scatters throughout the solar system, which scientists can study for clues to the early history of planets.
(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab)
Co-orbiting asteroids are an example of what’s called a resonance, an orbital pattern that locks different orbits together, depending on how their gravitational influences meet. Pokorny and Kuchner modeled many potential resonances: asteroids that circle the Sun twice for every three of Venus’ orbits, for example, or nine times for Venus’ ten, and one for one. Of all the possibilities, one group alone produced a realistic simulation of the Venus dust ring: a pack of asteroids that occupies Venus’ orbit, matching Venus’ trips around the Sun one for one.
But the scientists couldn’t just call it a day after finding a hypothetical solution that worked. “We thought we’d discovered this population of asteroids, but then had to prove it and show it works,” Pokorny said. “We got excited, but then you realize, ‘Oh, there’s so much work to do.'”
They needed to show that the very existence of the asteroids makes sense in the solar system. It would be unlikely, they realized, that asteroids in these special, circular orbits near Venus arrived there from somewhere else like the asteroid belt. Their hypothesis would make more sense if the asteroids had been there since the very beginning of the solar system.
The scientists built another model, this time starting with a throng of 10,000 asteroids neighboring Venus. They let the simulation fast forward through 4.5 billion years of solar system history, incorporating all the gravitational effects from each of the planets. When the model reached present-day, about 800 of their test asteroids survived the test of time.
Pokorny considers this an optimistic survival rate. It indicates that asteroids could have formed near Venus’ orbit in the chaos of the early solar system, and some could remain there today, feeding the dust ring nearby.
The next step is actually pinning down and observing the elusive asteroids. “If there’s something there, we should be able to find it,” Pokorny said. Their existence could be verified with space-based telescopes like Hubble, or perhaps interplanetary space-imagers similar to STEREO’s. Then, the scientists will have more questions to answer: How many of them are there, and how big are they? Are they continuously shedding dust, or was there just one break-up event?
In this illustration, an asteroid breaks apart under the powerful gravity of LSPM J0207+3331, a white dwarf star located around 145 light-years away. Scientists think crumbling asteroids supply the dust rings surrounding this old star.
(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Scott Wiessinger)
Dust rings around other stars
The dust rings that Mercury and Venus shepherd are just a planet or two away, but scientists have spotted many other dust rings in distant star systems. Vast dust rings can be easier to spot than exoplanets, and could be used to infer the existence of otherwise hidden planets, and even their orbital properties.
But interpreting extrasolar dust rings isn’t straightforward. “In order to model and accurately read the dust rings around other stars, we first have to understand the physics of the dust in our own backyard,” Kuchner said. By studying neighboring dust rings at Mercury, Venus and Earth, where dust traces out the enduring effects of gravity in the solar system, scientists can develop techniques for reading between the dust rings both near and far.
This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.
The popularity of podcasts is soaring exponentially. It is a radio renaissance. With over 500,000 podcasts on just the Apple store alone, it’s obvious that with rising popularity comes oversaturation. But have no fear—We Are The Mighty is here—to help clear the mist and show you the best podcasts for anyone with a military background. Whether you’re a veteran with a long morning commute, an on-base active serviceman with duty that could use some spicing up, or simply a prospective enlistee, at least one of these podcasts will be just right for you.
This podcast flat out kicks ass. The host, Jack Murphy (Army Ranger/Green Beret) talk with experts across every aspect of military life. He’s straight, to the point, no bulls**t. The podcast focuses on ways of cultivating mental and physical toughness with respect to special operations. With over 400 episodes already out, there is plenty to dive in and catch up on. This is the premier military podcast.
War College explores weapons, tech, and various military stories related to the instruments of war that soldiers need to be familiar with. One week they’ll talk about Navy pilots experiencing UFOs, and the next they’ll break down the Air Forces’ new “Frozen Chicken Gun.” Highly informative.
The Joe Rogan Experience
The Joe Rogan Podcast has become a cultural phenomenon. The premise for one of the most popular podcasts of all-time is simple: Joe Rogan sits across from a guest and has an intelligent back and forth conversation for about 3 hours. His guests range massively in scope: Elon Musk, UFC fighters, fellow comedians, scientists, psychologists, authors, and more. Joe Rogan’s centrist sweep highly appeals to people in the military sphere, and the topics covered on here would be interesting to anybody. It’s not just an internet meme, it’s a great listen.
American Military History Podcast
For all the military history buffs out there—look no further. This podcast goes deeper than the surface facts we usually associate with historical events. I found myself surprised to learn contextual facts about historical battles I thought I knew. The key aspect of this podcast that sets it apart from other military history podcasts is the context. It gives perspective and crafts interesting narratives out of that context.
Mind of the Warrior
In this podcast, Dr. Mike Simpson (former Special Forces Operator and highly regarded expert on both combat trauma and combat sports medicine), delves into the psychology of what it takes to be a modern day “warrior.” He talks with top-ranking policemen, to combat veterans, to MMA experts, and many more—all in pursuit of talking about combat and the common threads that loom warriors to the same fabric.
This Past Weekend with Theo Von
Every military service member needs some laughter in their life, too. Theo Von and his hilarious podcast “This Past Weekend” have just the right flavor for a military background listener. In case you don’t know, Theo Von is a rising comedic voice and one of the absolute funniest dudes in the country. His Louisiana drawl contrasts his bizarre shoehorning of the English language and, when combined with some downright brilliant joke writing, becomes a really easy recipe for some deep belly laughs on your commute. The only downside is you can’t see his glorious mullet through your headphones.
War on the Rocks
Ryan Evans swills some drinks and talks policy, life, and security on this well-produced podcast. The issues span from diplomacy to economic to domestic. Ryan has a really contagious charisma which makes for a lot of vehement nodding in agreement while listening. A must listen for anyone interested in geopolitics.
Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast
And finally, we have the legendary Bill Burr, in one of the longest-running comedic podcasts out there. If you have served in the military, and you haven’t heard of Bill Burr, just listen to a single episode. All of your internal frustrations will be hilariously articulated right before your eyes as Bill Burr rants to himself (and a 1,000,000+ listeners) about issues small and large. His clear cut, no-nonsense approach is really sobering and refreshing. His east-coast Boston accent layers his precisely supported rants with an authentic edginess. Feels kinda like an audio shot of whisky on your way to work.