After joining the RAF in 1928, Douglas Bader was assigned to a flight squadron flying Bristol Bulldogs at Wrigley Airfield. During one of his flights, Bader was reportedly ordered not to perform any aerial acrobatics maneuvers or fly below 2,000 feet.
He didn’t listen.
While trying to show off his unique skills, Bader accidentally crashed his plane and ended up crushing both of his legs. The downed pilot was rescued and later fitted with prosthetic legs and had to relearn how to walk.
Reportedly, doctors determined he’d probably never fly again — they were wrong.
Now grounded, Bader learned new skills, like dancing and playing tennis and golf. His rehabilitation was going well, but he wanted to get back into the air and fly.
For the next few years, Bader requested piloting roles in the RAF but kept getting denied. It was recommended he go to the Center Flying School to test his abilities with the new, modern planes. The biplanes he once flew were “out of the fight” and had since been replaced by the more modern fighters, like the Hurricane and Spitfire.
He passed the tests with flying colors.
By 1940, Bader was assigned to the 19th Squadron and was given a Spitfire to undertake flying patrol missions. Soon after, he finally saw action over Dunkirk as he provided overwatch during the evacuation and took down two German planes in the process.
While flying his plane, Bader discovered a shocking new advantage. Since he didn’t have legs, he was unlikely to black out from the effects of G-force.
When a pilot conducts aggressive maneuvering, blood flows out of the brain and travels downward, toward the legs. Since Bader was a double amputee, he managed to stay in the fight much longer than his enemies — his blood had nowhere to go.
After the conflict at Dunkirk, the now-experienced pilot was promoted to squadron leader.
The squadron mainly consisted of Canadians, and their morale appeared to be low due to a high casualty rate. As Bader began racking up kills once again, the men’s confidence quickly rose.
Bader managed to tally 25 confirmed kills before taking too much damage and crash landing once again.
The solemnity of Taps and smoke from the rifle volley filled the air as Steward Mate 1st Class Ignacio Camacho Farfan’s casket was lowered into the ground to his final resting place at the Guam Veterans Cemetery in Piti Nov. 8, 2018.
Nearly 80 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, and years of temporary internment, Farfan’s recently identified remains were returned to his island of Guam where he was born and raised.
“Petty Officer Farfan, this veteran’s cemetery will welcome you home today to your final resting place, carried on the arms of your Navy brothers and sisters, your coffin swathed in an American flag, escorted by the decendents of your family’s blood line, surrounded today by an entire community,” said Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield, commander, Joint Region Marianas. “This is where you belong, where you will be visited, where you will be revered. Petty Officer Farfan, rest easy shipmate, we have the watch.”
Farfan was from the village of Hagåtña and worked for Capt. Henry B. Price Elementary School in Mangilao before enlisting in the U.S. Navy in September 1939 at 19-years old.
The Guam National Guard funeral honor detail renders a 21-gun salute at the funeral Steward Mate 1st Class Ignacio Camacho Farfan at the Guam Veterans Cemetery in Piti Nov. 8, 2018.
He was killed in action at the age of 21 while serving aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma (BB 37) during the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was interred with 429 of his shipmates in unknown graves at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.
“To the Ignacio family, to all the people of Guam, our lost sheep has been found,” said Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo said in reference to Biblical scripture. “It is now time to celebrate and welcome him home, and to give thanks to him and to so many who’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice for the paradise we live in. Eternal rest be granted onto Ignacio.”
Following remarks from military and local leadership, Sen. Therese Terlaje, speaker of Guam’s 34th Legislature, and her colleagues presented a legislative resolution to Farfan’s family, and a final salute was rendered by the Guam Air Force Veterans Association.
As the memorial service ended, six sailors from the JRM honor detail donned in dress whites carried Farfan’s casket to his final resting place as a CHamoru blessing was offered.
Members of the Joint Region Marianas funeral honor detail fold the American flag during a memorial service for Steward Mate 1st Class Ignacio Camacho Farfan at the Guam Veterans Cemetery in Piti Nov. 8, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Alana Chargualaf)
The Guam National Guard funeral detail rendered military honors with a 21-gun salute and a bugler who performed the eight notes of Taps.
Machinist’s Mate (Weapons) 1st Class Niels Gimenez, assigned to the Los Angeles-class submarine USS Oklahoma City (SSN 723), held the national ensign to his heart as he approached Farfan’s niece Julia Farfan Tedtaotao, to present her with the American flag as a symbol of gratitude for her uncle’s service and sacrifice.
“This is where he belongs,” Tedtaotao said. “God knows that he served his country well. He died for his country because he loved his country. He’s really a brave man. All the good ones go first. When the time comes, we’ll be there. We love you.”
Farfan’s remains were identified in 2018 as part of a Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency project, which sought to identify the service members who died during the Dec. 7 attack. He returned home on the evening of Nov. 5, 2018, escorted by Tedtaotao, and her son and daughter.
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley have once again helped make history for SpaceX, the rocket company founded by Elon Musk, by docking to a football field-size laboratory above Earth.
After careening into space on Saturday atop a Falcon 9 rocket, the astronauts’ spaceship — a Crew Dragon capsule they later named “Endeavour” — disconnected from its launcher and entered orbit. The ship then completed a series of engine burns to catch up to the International Space Station (ISS), which orbits about 250 miles above the planet’s surface while traveling 17,500 mph.
On Sunday morning, Behnken and Hurley finally caught up to their target. Endeavour flew below the 0 billion orbiting laboratory, later pulling up to a stopping point about 220 meters in front of the space station.
“It flew just about like the [simulator], so my congratulations to the folks in Hawthorne. It flew really well, very really crisp,” Hurley said during a live webcast, adding that its handling was “a little sloppier” in an up-down direction, though as expected.
The ship’s docking mechanism connected to the node at 10:16 a.m. ET while flying over northern China and Mongolia. Latches on the ship then tightly sealed Endeavour to the ISS, allowing the crews to begin a roughly two-hour-long hatch-opening procedure.
The last time an American spaceship attached to the space station was July 2011 — the flight of space shuttle Atlantis, a mission that Hurley flew on.
“It’s been a real honor to be a super-small part of this nine-year endeavor, since the last time a United States spaceship has docked with the International Space Station,” Hurley said shortly after docking. “We have to congratulate the men and women of SpaceX at Hawthorne, McGregor, and at Kennedy Space Center. Their incredible efforts over the last several years to make this possible cannot go overstated.”
Hurley then thanked NASA’s staff, after which the ISS commander and astronaut Chris Cassidy rang a ceremonial bell while welcoming Behnken and Hurley.
NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where US mission control for the ISS is based, then chimed in with its own congratulations.
“Endeavour this is Houston. Bob and Doug, welcome to the International Space Station,” said Joshua Kutryk, a Canadian Space Agency astronaut in the control room, calling the crew’s flight a “historic ride” and a “magnificent moment in spaceflight history.”
“You have opened up a new chapter in human space exploration,” he added.
An historic 110-day test mission begins in earnest
After docking, the crews of Endeavour and the ISS prepared to open their hatches, which they did at 1:02 p.m. ET. After about 20 minutes of safety checks, Behnken and Hurley soared through Endeavour’s hatch and into the waiting arms of commander Cassidy, cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin, and cosmonaut Ivan Vagner.
The crews then grabbed a mic to talk to mission control in Houston, where NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and Rep. Brian Babin of Texas awaited a chance to speak.
“The whole world saw this mission, and we are so, so proud of everything you have done for our country and, in fact, to inspire the world,” Bridenstine said.
“It’s great to get the United States back in the crewed launch business,” Hurley responded. “We’re just really glad to be on board this magnificent complex.”
Bridenstine also asked if the two astronauts got any sleep: “We did get probably a good seven hours or so,” Behnken said.
Cruz asked about the handling of the Crew Dragon: “It flew just like it was supposed to,” Hurley said.
The junior senator also asked the astronauts what Americans could learn about coming together from their test mission, called Demo-2, during a “tough week” for the country — a reference to protests that have erupted across the US in response to a white police officer’s killing of George Floyd, a black man. Hurley spoke about SpaceX and NASA working together through years of sacrifice to restore the US’ ability to launch people into orbit.
“This is just one effort that we can show for the ages in this dark time that we’ve had over the past several months,” Hurley said.
Sen. Babin asked what it was like to rocket to orbit atop a Falcon 9 rocket.
“We were surprised a little bit at how smooth things were off the pad. The space shuttle was a pretty rough ride heading into orbit with the solid rocket boosters,” Behnken said. But he noted the shuttle was “a lot smoother” after its boosters fell off than Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon was for the duration of that flight.
“Dragon was huffin’ and puffin’ all the way into orbit. We were definitely driving and riding a dragon all the way up. So it was not quite the same ride, the smooth ride, as the space shuttle was,” Behnken said, adding that SpaceX’s launch system was “a little bit more alive.”
The successful docking means Behnken and Hurley have a home in space for up to the next 110 days. When their stay ends, the astronauts will climb back into the Endeavour, disembark from the ISS, and careen back to Earth.
The overarching goal of the test mission is to show SpaceX’s ship is safe to fly people.
If NASA determines it is, then the agency can fully staff the space station with astronaut crews and maximize its ability to perform research.
While typically used in medieval warfare, tunnel bombs have made a comeback over the last few years, especially in Syria. This video shared on Twitter on July 16 by researcher Hugo Kaaman shows just how powerful these bombs can be, and this time, in Afghanistan.
Tunnels have seen a resurgence in “popularity” in the last few years, after being a very effective means of warfare utilized throughout history. They are exactly as they sound: bombs placed in sub-terrain under enemy forces. We’ve seen them in every major conflict, but in the middle east, they took a bit of a back burner to the more frequently used roadside IED. There’s an excellent history of the tunnel bomb here.
To see the “inside look,” watch this video uploaded to social media.
Erin Kirk-Cuomo dreamed of being a combat photographer. She interviewed with multiple companies and publications within the civilian world, but none of them were willing to hire a female photographer for that position.
So, she decided to join the military.
She chose to go into the United States Marine Corps. When she opened the doors to the Armed Forces recruitment office in 2004, she was ready to raise her right hand and do just that. But Kirk-Cuomo was told she couldn’t be a combat photographer, because she was female.
At that point, females were not allowed to serve in combat positions. But Kirk-Cuomo knew that the job she wanted wasn’t considered an active combat position, even though she’d be in the thick of things. She knew the recruiter was wrong and told him so. Kirk-Cuomo then demanded that he call a supervisor, which he begrudgingly did. That recruiter later came back and apologized for telling her she couldn’t be a combat photographer. He then asked if she could pass a physical fitness test.
The Marine Corps has the longest boot camp out of all of the armed forces and arguably the toughest to graduate from. In 2004 when she wanted to join, only 6% of enlisted Marines were female. Kirk-Cuomo did part of the physical fitness test right then and there in front of that recruiter.
She shipped out to boot camp on Parris Island two weeks later.
Kirk-Cuomo made it through the still gender-segregated 13 weeks to become a Marine. She vividly remembers that if the female or male platoons came anywhere near each other, the drill instructors would make the males do an about face, away from the females. She recalls a time that the drill instructor yelled at the male recruits, “Don’t you look at those dirty females!”
This wouldn’t be the last time she’d hear those words.
Despite the hardships, she graduated boot camp as a high shooter. Kirk-Cuomo had the highest rifle score, beating out all of the other platoons that graduated boot camp with her. She left for combat training following boot camp and then went on to school to learn how to be a combat photographer. She left as the number one distinguished honor graduate.
Kirk-Cuomo was now a part of combat camera, or COMCAM. “There really weren’t a whole lot of us [females] at the time. Most of the women that were in COMCAM were lithographers or graphics people,” she said.
Kirk-Cuomo reported to her new duty station shortly thereafter – Camp Pendleton, located in San Diego, Calif. A couple of years later, she began deploying. From 2006-2008 she was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where she was the only female in her unit. She was also the only combat photographer for the Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF).
Kirk-Cuomo shared that being in the field was a dream come true. She credited a male warrant officer for going against the norm. In a time where leadership was hesitant to send female combat photographers anywhere dangerous, he sent her everywhere she wanted to go. It’s because of his inclusiveness and belief in her abilities that she was able to go right into the thick of things just like her male counterparts. He never saw her as “just” a woman; he saw her as a competent Marine.
When asked if serving as a combat photographer was everything she’d hoped for, Kirk-Cuomo smiled sadly. “I wasn’t prepared to stand up for myself as much as I should have,” she said. She recalled her experiences of continuous harassment and even a sexual assault. She feels strongly that the Marine Corp created a toxic environment by first segregating the sexes in boot camp and creating an environment that made females feel as though they were “less than.”
The Marine Corps just graduated its first co-ed company in March of 2019. If Congress has anything to say about, it will be mandatory due to the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which has a provision requiring them to integrate both boot camp locations. The west coast location has never trained female recruits.
“I am horrified that I didn’t stand up for myself just to fit in and get by. We older female Marines really do carry a sense of guilt with that. How much worse did we make it for the generations that came after us because we didn’t stand up and say something?” she asked.
Kirk-Cuomo gives credit for being able to openly share her experiences with the new generation of female Marines that have refused to accept that behavior. “I am just in awe of them – seeing what they’ve done and what they continue to do,” said Kirk-Cuomo. She feels confident in the new wave of female Marines making positive changes.
When she left her last deployment, she became a photographer at Marine Corps Headquarters, assigned to the Commandant. She left the Marines in 2010 and went on to become a photographer for the Secretary of Defense.
After President Obama was elected, she remembers there being a level of high tension among male Marines and heavy discussion about whether Obama would repeal the rule that prohibited females from serving in combat positions. He did.
Kirk-Cuomo was able to photograph the moment the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff signed the repeal. “I remember standing in the briefing room, photographing this momentous thing,” she shared. “I was taking these pictures and just sobbing behind the camera.”
These days Kirk-Cuomo is an active advocate for female Marines and one of their loudest cheerleaders and supporters. When asked if she regrets joining, she didn’t hesitate to say no. But when asked if she would advise females to pick the Marine Corps over other branches of service to enlist in – she immediately said not yet, they still have a lot of work to do.
The trenches of World War I were a vicious place, but it was the No Man’s Land between opposing trenches that became killing fields. Attackers from either side had to cross hundreds of meters of machinegun-swept territory under artillery assault to initiate an offensive against the other.
Invented by Benjamin Holt in 1904, the machine used tracked wheels to cross soft sand, mud, and other obstacles on the farm. Swinton figured that the tractor could be put to better use attacking German machine gun and artillery positions with armor plating and its own mounted artillery.
Soldiers must be ready and capable to conduct the full range of military operations to defeat all enemies regardless of the threats they pose. But bad sanitation can keep them from the mission.
According to a 2010 public health report from the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, “Influenza and pneumonia killed more American soldiers and sailors during the war [World War I] than did enemy weapons.” The pandemic traveled with military personnel from camp to camp and across the Atlantic in 1918, infecting up to 40 percent of soldiers and sailors. In this instance, the enemy came in the form of a communicable disease.
Preventative measures and risk mitigation work to impede history from repeating itself, keeping the Army both ready and resilient. One such preventative measure implemented in Jordan was a week-long Field Sanitation Team (FST) Certification Course last month at Joint Training Center-Jordan.
U.S. Army Spc. Shelby Vermeulen, with 1st Squadron, 303rd Cavalry Regiment, 96th Troop Command, Washington Army National Guard, works through the steps of water purification during a Field Sanitation Team Certification Course.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla Hakeem)
U.S. Army Sgt. Matthew A. Kolenski, with 898th Medical Detachment Preventative Medicine, 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support) “Desert Medics,” has been an Army preventative medicine specialist (68S) for more than seven years. He said 68Ss and FSTs help mitigate unnecessary illnesses, allowing soldiers to focus on their mission.
U.S. Army Spc. Shelby Vermeulen, with 1st Squadron, 303rd Cavalry Regiment, 96th Troop Command, Washington Army National Guard, drops a chlorine tablet into water during a Field Sanitation Team Certification Course.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla Hakeem)
Army regulations require certain units to be equipped with an FST, preferably a combat medic (68W), but any military occupational specialty can fill this position. The 40-hour certification covered areas such as improvised sanitary devices, testing water quality, identifying appropriate food storage areas, placement of restrooms, controlling communicable diseases, proper waste disposal, dealing with toxic industrial materials and combating insect-borne diseases.
U.S. Army Spc. Shelby Vermeulen (center), with 1st Squadron, 303rd Cavalry Regiment, 96th Troop Command, Washington Army National Guard, tests a water sample for chlorine residuals during a Field Sanitation Team Certification Course.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla Hakeem)
The goal of the course was to “enable soldiers to maintain combat readiness and effectiveness by implementing controls to mitigate DNBI [disease non-battle injury],” said Kolenski.
He said environmental testing and figuring out how to mitigate problems before they start can drastically decrease DNBIs. These injuries can include heat stroke, frostbite, trench foot, malnutrition, diarrheal disease — anything that can take a service member out of the fight. Sometimes reducing risk can be as simple as washing hands or taking out the trash.
“If you reduce the trash, you’ll mitigate the flies, which reduces the chance that you’ll get a gastrointestinal issue,” explained Kolenski, “Because you can’t fight if you’re in the latrine [restroom].”
A week-long Field Sanitation Team Certification Course, spearheaded by U.S. Army Sgt. Matthew A. Kolenski (far right), with 898th Medical Detachment Preventative Medicine, 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support) “Desert Medics,” was held from Dec. 9 – 13, 2019 at Joint Training Center-Jordan.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla Hakeem)
Hazards are identified by sampling air, water, bacteria, pH levels, chlorine residue in water and bugs in the area.
“It was interesting to learn about the different standards for food facilities and rules on the preparation of the food,” said U.S. Army Spc. Shelby Vermeulen, with 1st Squadron, 303rd Cavalry Regiment, 96th Troop Command, Washington Army National Guard, who serves as a combat medic at JTC-J.
The photograph in this post shows a U.S. Navy Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) “Salty Dogs” during a test flight. Released by the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, the image was taken as the stealth aircraft, carrying external AIM-9X Sidewinder AAMs (Air-to-Air Missiles), flies transonic: indeed, what makes the shot particularly interesting are the schlieren shock waves that flight test photographers captured as the JSF transitioned from sub-sonic to supersonic.
Schlieren imagery is a modern version of a 150-year-old German photography technique, used to visualize supersonic flow phenomena: a clear understanding of the location and strength of shock waves is essential for determining aerodynamic performance of aircraft flying at supersonic speed in different configurations, for improving performance as well as designing future jets.
“Schlieren imaging reveals shock waves due to air density gradient and the accompanying change in refractive index,” says the NASA website that published an extensive article about this particular kind of photography few years ago. “This typically requires the use of fairly complex optics and a bright light source, and until recently most of the available schlieren imagery of airplanes was obtained from scale model testing in wind tunnels. Acquiring schlieren images of an aircraft in flight is much more challenging. Ground-based systems, using the sun as a light source, have produced good results but because of the distances involved did not have the desired spatial resolution to resolve small-scale shock structures near the aircraft.”
This schlieren image of a VX-23 F-35C flying transonic shows the shock waves generated by the stealth aircraft.
(US Navy photo by Liz Wolter)
Noteworthy, while schlieren imaging dramatically displays the shock wave of a supersonic jet (image processing software removes the background then combines multiple frames to produce a clear picture of the shock waves) change in refractive index caused by shock waves can also become visible when aircraft move at speed much lowen than transonic, as shown in photographs taken in 2018.
A T-38C passing in front of the sun at supersonic speed, generating shockwaves.
Here what I wrote last year about a crazy cool image of an F-35 flying through the famous Star Wars canyon taken by photographer Jim Mumaw:
At speed lower than the transonic region, air flows smoothly around the airframe; in the transonic region, airflow begins to reach the speed of sound in localized areas on the aircraft, including the upper surface of the wing and the fuselage: shock waves, generated by pressure gradient resulting from the formation of supersonic flow regions, represent the location where the air moving at supersonic speed transitions to subsonic. When the density of the air changes (in this case as a consequence of shock waves) there is a change in its refractive index, resulting in light distortion.
Generally speaking, shock waves are generated by the interaction of two bodies of gas at different pressure, with a shock wave propagating into the lower pressure gas and an expansion wave propagating into the higher pressure gas: while the pressure gradient is significant in the transonic region, an aircraft maneuvering at high-speed through the air also creates a pressure gradient that generates shock waves at speed much lower than the speed of sound.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
The good news is that part of Congress actually did its job as the legislative branch of government. The House of Representatives passed a law, specifically, the latest National Defense Authorization Act, which specifies the budget for the Department of Defense, and allows for its expenditures. It also lays out some provisions for the Pentagon and its five branches to follow. This year’s NDAA is no different, but it has some new, noteworthy provisions.
And yes, there’s a 3.1 percent pay raise for U.S. troops. Glad we can all agree on something.
The Space Force
The NDAA allowed for the creation of the U.S. Space Force and the position of the Chief of Space Operations at the level of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but reporting to the Secretary of the Air Force. The new branch’s structure will be similar to the way the U.S. Marine Corps is housed inside the department of the Navy, so expect a lot of jokes about how the Space Force is the men’s department inside the Department of the Air Force.
The Space Force will replace the current space command at the cost of .4 million.
Sadly, some still don’t have faces.
Paid Parental Leave for Federal Workers
The new compromise defense authorization bill will allow federal employees 12 full weeks of parental leave after having a child. The 8 billion bill allows the new provision for all 2.1 million federal workers. Starting Oct. 1, 2020, any adoption, birth, or fostering will receive the benefit. Employees must be employed for at least one year and stay for at least 12 weeks after taking the leave.
Don’t read the comments, it’s already been happening.
Desegregating Marine Corps Boot Camp
Women training at the Marine Corps’ Parris Island facilities will no longer be separated by gender, according to the new NDAA. The Corps is one of the last areas of gender segregation in the Armed Forces. Due to low volumes of female recruits, the Corps has already desegregated some basic training classes in South Carolina, but San Diego will remain segregated for a couple more years.
Next week is the Fourth of July and there’s countless celebrations planned all around the country. Of course, there’s the fireworks and the air shows, but we can’t forget about all the military parades. Speaking from personal experience, military parades for the general public are the worst.
You get there five hours in advance and your NCO is hounding you not to even make the slightest wrong move. Then when you’re actually marching in formation through the designated route, there’s always going to be those people in the crowds that try to jump to the “join” the formation.
I get it, if it’s a kid – I’ll smile down at them, tell them they’re getting it (regardless if they are or not) and keep moving. My problem is when the douche bag bros hop in the back and say some sh*t like “I’m just like you guys!” If this was just a one time thing, I would chalk it up as a bad encounter. But this happened three different times to me outside two different Army posts.
Anyways, here’s some memes while I wrap myself in my DD-214 blanket to forget about douchey civilians.
Russia has rejected a British suggestion that it might use a former U.S. Marine detained in December 2018 in Russia on espionage charges as a pawn in a diplomatic game, saying that Moscow reserves the right to conduct counterintelligence activities.
Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who also holds British, Canadian, and Irish citizenship. was detained by Russia’s Federal Security Service on Dec. 28, 2018.
His family have said he is innocent and that he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said, in remarks about the case, that individuals should not be used as pawns of diplomatic leverage.
Asked about Hunt’s comment, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “In Russia we never use people as pawns in diplomatic games. In Russia we conduct counterintelligence activity against those suspected of espionage. That is done regularly.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Peskov also said that he was not aware of statements on a possible swap of Whelan in exchange for Russian citizen Maria Butina, held in the United States.
Butina has pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to acting as an agent for the Kremlin and has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, leading to speculation of a possible swap.
On Jan. 5, 2019, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that discussing a swap involving Whelan would be premature because Whelan hasn’t been formally charged.
“As to the possibility of exchanges of one sort or another, it’s impossible and incorrect to consider the question now when an official charge hasn’t even been presented,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying by the state-run RIA-Novosti news agency.
The Russian outlet earlier reported that Whelan had been indicted on spying charges that carry a possible prison sentence of up to 20 years.
Each week during the season, Army West Point Football players wear a decal on the back of their helmet honoring an Army division the current cadets may one day serve with.
During Aug. 30, 2019’s season opener against Rice, the team honored the soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division with the red, white, and blue AA decal proudly displayed on the back of their helmets along with the American flag.
The commanding general and command sergeant major of the 82nd Airborne Division attended the game, the division’s chorus performed before the review parade and has become the norm over the last couple years soldiers from the division who are eligible to attend the U.S. Military Academy were invited to visit for the game.
This season marks the third year of the Soldier Visit Program where five to 10 West Point eligible soldiers from the honored division for home games are invited to attend the game and learn more about West Point.
Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division pose for a photo with their host cadets from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point after the Army vs. Rice football game at Michie Stadium Aug. 30, 2019, at West Point, N.Y.
(Photo by Cadet Samuel Wehrli)
The visits are structured much in the same way as an official visit for an athlete being recruited by one of West Point’s corps squad teams. The soldiers arrive the Thursday before the game and are paired with a prior-service cadet currently attending West Point who hosts them for the weekend. The soldiers stay in the barracks with their host cadet, attend classes and eat in the cadet mess hall.
They are also given a tour of both West Point and the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School and the chance to meet with leadership from both West Point and USMAPS.
They then attend the football game with the corps of cadets and are honored along with division leadership on the field during a break in the game.
The goal of the program is to introduce eligible soldiers, meaning those who are under 23 years old, unmarried and have no dependents, to the possibility of applying to attend West Point.
“I go out to the Army a lot and I’ll talk to command sergeant majors or sergeant first classes who are senior noncommissioned officers and they’ll be like, ‘I had no idea that West Point was an option as a soldier.’ It blows my mind,” Capt. David Mason, the soldiers regional commander and founder of the Soldier Visit Program, said.
As part of each year’s incoming class, West Point has available slots for 85 current active duty soldiers and 85 Reserve/National Guard soldiers. Typically, the full allotment of Reserve/National Guard soldiers are admitted, but less than 50 of the spots for active duty soldiers are filled, Mason said. There are also additional spots available for soldiers to attend the prep school for a year.
According to Capt. Brian Gaudette, an officer in the West Point Directorate of Admissions, on average 53% of prior service applicants are admitted to the academy, a much higher percentage than applicants coming directly from high school.
“They see it as more attainable,” Mason said of the soldiers’ reactions after visiting for a football game. “They learn more about USMAPS because people have this pie in the sky view of what a West Point cadet is, and that it is the all-star captain of the football team, and they’re on all-state and they do all these things. They don’t see themselves as that mold. I think it definitely opens their eyes.”
Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division talk to Command Sgt. Maj. Jack Love, West Point senior enlisted leader during their visit before the Army vs. Rice football game Aug. 30, 2019, at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
(Photo by Robert Luna)
Once the soldiers return to their division, even if they don’t end up applying to West Point, the academy still gains a benefit from them telling their friends about the program and spreading the word that West Point is an option for soldiers on active duty.
Pfc. Abdiel Leon was one of 10 soldiers from the 82nd airborne Division to visit for the Rice game. Prior to being invited on the trip, he said he had heard of the prior-service program at West Point but knew next to nothing about it. In the month since being invited, and even before arriving at West Point for the visit, he’d done enough research to compel him to go ahead and apply to the academy.
“So far, after seeing all the things that I saw and all the good opportunities and the things I could do here, I’m definitely going to go through and finish that application,” Leon said. “I never even thought about West Point. I never even thought that I would be given the opportunity. So, now that I was given the opportunity just to even come here, it has definitely changed my mind a lot.”
During the trip, the 82nd Airborne Division soldiers had the chance to spend time with prior-service cadets, meet with Command Sgt. Maj. Jack Love, the senior enlisted Leader at West Point, and attend a spirit dinner in the cadet mess hall along with going to the season opener for the Black Knights.
“I plan on staying in the Army for 20 years, and there’s no better place to try to stay in than USMA,” Sgt. Levi Aslani said of why he is interested in West Point. “The connections you make here, the opportunities you make, or are given to you, no other place compares.”
Aslani applied to West Point for the Class of 2023 and after not getting in on his first try he is taking this year to improve his application with the hope of being accepted to the prep school for the next academic year. After visiting West Point for the first time, he said his desire to attend West Point has only increased.
“I paired up with a prior service E-5 as well,” Aslani said. “He was in the boat of either staying enlisted or being an officer and he chose the officer route and he’s really reaping the benefits from it.”
The visits are a chance for the soldiers to meet with current cadets who have taken the same path as them and ask questions they couldn’t get answered elsewhere. After being invited to take part in the visit, Pfc. Mackenzie Hochstetler said she talked with officers who are West Point graduates to learn more about the academy. But it was not until she arrived at the academy that she has come to realize why it is special.
“It’s definitely a place that you see a lot of competitiveness,” Hochstetler said. “A lot of times, you don’t really see that in the regular Army, but everyone wants to be the best. I think that’s a really cool atmosphere. I think that’s really important, especially being at West Point and that reputation of being a West Point grad, I kind of understand it now. Because it’s a pretty big deal. It’s pretty prestigious.”
Time marches on and with it goes some of history’s greatest heroes. The history of World War II reached a sad but inevitable milestone in June 2021. The last surviving soldier who liberated the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz has died at age 98. The Munich Jewish Community Organization that confirmed his death gave no cause.
David Aleksandrovich Dushman drove his Soviet T-34 tank through the electrified fence of the concentration camp on January 27, 1945. He was a soldier of the Soviet Union’s Red Army, part of a force moving through Poland on its way to Berlin.
Like much of the world, the Soviet troops knew little of the camps set up by the Germans who occupied Poland or what happened in the camps. But unlike much of the world, they found out very quickly. In a 2015 interview with a German newspaper, he described seeing skeletons everywhere.
Still, he only saw what was in front of him and the rumors he heard among his fellow soldiers. It was only after the end of the war that he learned the magnitude of what happened in the string of Nazi camps across Europe.
“They staggered out of the barracks, sat and lay among the dead. Terrible. We threw them all our canned food and immediately went on to hunt down the fascists,” he said.
Dushman was a Russian Jew from the Free City of Danzig, later a Polish possession. He was just 21 years old that day but he knew all too well what Jewish people faced, even inside the Soviet Union.
Auschwitz-Birkenau was one of the most notorious death camps in Germany and its occupied territories, famous for its gas chambers that ended the lives of an estimated one million Jewish prisoners from across Europe. But Jews weren’t the only ones sent there to die.
The death camps at Auschwitz were the final destination for many of Europe’s homosexuals, much of its Roma population and Soviet prisoners of war. If captured by the Wehrmacht, it’s very likely Dushman would have met his end there.
Instead, he was the first liberator to enter the grounds (if you don’t count his T-34 as a liberator).
Dushman was only one of 69 Red Army soldiers from his unit who survived World War II, from a unit of 12,000. He was wounded at least three times on the brutal Eastern Front, but it could have been worse for him– much worse. He and his comrades fought in some of the most intense battles of World War II, including the battles of Stalingrad and Kursk.
After the war, Dushman became a doctor at the behest of his mother, carrying on the family profession. But he really wanted to be a champion fencer and studied the sport intensely. He became one of the USSR’s top fencing athletes.
The Soviet team, along with Dushman went on to win Olympic gold in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. The decorated World War II veteran would later urge the International Olympic Committee to use its games as an instrument of international peace.
“My biggest dream and hope for future generations is to live in a world where there is no war,” Dushman said “… use sport as a way to spread peace and reconciliation around the world. War is something that should never happen again.”