Thirteenth Floor is an Akron, Ohio art and clothing store whose run by Billy Ludwig, an artist working under the name Impale Design.
“All of the artwork is my own, Ludwig says. “Although my work can take on different styles and personalities, the majority of my work revolves around the paranormal and macabre.”
He has a small staff who runs his Akron-based warehouse, from where they run their online store. Ludwig and Thirteenth Floor also sets up shop at Comic-Cons and horror conventions throughout the United States.
“I was renting an old store front in Massillon, Ohio, our original location,” Ludwig recalls. “[It was] as a rehearsal studio, and I decided to convert it into an art gallery to sell my artwork along with other regional artists.”
Ludwig has been a Star Wars fan since he was able to say the word “Star Wars.” He was inspired to create a signature poster series, merging World War II imagery with imagery from Star Wars.
“Many of George Lucas’ concepts for Star Wars came from WWII,” he says. “I thought it would be interesting to combine the two. It was just something I did for fun, and over time has gained quite a large following.”
Ludwig is currently creating a fourth series of posters, and plans to create some interesting surprises for his series and for the fans who frequent his work.
Check out Thirteenth Floor’s Instagram and Website for more beyond the “SWVSWWII” Series.
Spy novels are filled with over-the-top missions and unlikely operations, but some of the wildest spy stories are the real ones.
1. A Polish spy bluffs her way into a Gestapo prison while surrounded by her own wanted posters.
Christine Granville was known for a bunch of exploits in World War II, but her ballsiest was a rescue mission. She walked into a Gestapo-controlled prison in France and secured the release of three other spies scheduled for execution. At the time, her face was on wanted posters spread across the country.
2. Operation Mincemeat fooled the Nazis with a corpse.
When the Allies needed to invade Sicily in 1943, they knew the Germans would be rapidly reinforcing it. So, they procured the body of a dead vagrant, dressed him up in a uniform, chained a briefcase of fake invasion plans for Greece to his wrist, and floated him on ocean currents to “neutral” Spain.
As the British expected, the documents were handed over to the Nazis and assumed to be genuine. The Germans prepared for an invasion in the wrong place, saving thousands of Allied lives during the invasion of Sicily.
3. A famed jazz singer smuggled information through sheet music and her underwear.
Josephine Baker was a famous singer and dancer born in America. She became a French citizen in 1937 and, when France fell to the Germans, she convinced the Axis she was on their side. Baker spent the next few years spying for the Allies in high-culture parties with senior Axis leaders.
To smuggle intelligence out, she would plan performances in neutral countries and hand over her sheet music, covered in invisible ink, to Allied handlers. When she needed to smuggle out photos, she’d pin them to her underwear.
4. A Navy commando ran weapons, spies, and explosives through Greece and the Balkan Peninsula.
Lt. j.g. Jack Taylor — sometimes called America’s first SEAL because he was the first American commando to infiltrate by sea, air, and land in his career — served in the OSS in the Balkan Peninsula behind enemy lines from Sep. 1943 to March 1944.
During this time, he and his men reconnoitered enemy troop and supply positions, resupplied friendly forces, and conducted night time raids. They were nearly caught in three different incidents but escaped each time. The famed Maj. Gen. William “Wild Bill” Donovan recommended Taylor for a service cross for the mission.
5. Agent Fifi tested new British agents by being hot and charming.
“Agent Fifi” was Marie Chilver, an English-born woman who was raised throughout Europe. She was jailed in an internment camp in 1940 but escaped to England in 1941.
She tried to get sent back to France as a spy, but wasn’t allowed. Instead, she became the beautiful, seductive final exam for British spy trainees. British agents would be approached by Chilvers during their mission and she tried and get secrets out of them. Any who divulged information were dropped from the program.
6. Virginia Hall led a resistance group despite having only one foot.
Virginia Hall lost her foot prior to World War II, an injury that ended her hopes for a career in the foreign service. So, instead she became a spy.
Her largest contributions to the war probably came when she slipped into France via a British torpedo boat, trained three battalions of French resistance, and led sabotage and intelligence-gathering missions. Her team killed 150 Germans and captured 500 more. They also destroyed four bridges and multiple trains and rail lines.
There are some projects that the Kremlin would love us to forget.
The Russian military has long been a bogeyman for the West, with Cold War memories lingering even after the fall of the Soviet Union.
However, over the years Russia’s fierce competition has produced a number of duds alongside its successes, as the country has scrambled to stay one step ahead of its geopolitical rivals.
The following is a collection of some of the most ambitious military projects that resulted in spectacular failures.
The Tsar tank has achieved almost mythical status since the unusual vehicle was first tested in 1914. Due to weight miscalculations, its tricycle design often resulted in its back wheel getting stuck and its lack of armor left its operators exposed to artillery fire.
Photo: Wiki Commons
But it wasn’t Russia’s only tank failure. The Soviet Union’s T-80 was the first production tank to be equipped with a gas turbine engine when it was introduced in 1976.
Photo: Wiki Commons
However, when it was used during the First Chechen War it was discovered that when the tanks got hit on their side armor, its unused ammunition exploded. The performance was so poor that the Ministry of Defense cancelled all orders for the tanks.
Photo: Wiki Commons
The Raduga Kh-22 air-to-surface missile was designed as a long-range anti-ship missile to counter the threat of US aircraft carriers and warship battle groups.
Photo: Wiki Commons
What it wasn’t designed to do was hit friendly territory, but that’s exactly what happened in 2002 when one of the rockets misfired during Russian military exercises and struck the Atyrau region of western Kazakhstan to the great embarrassment of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov (pictured below).
Photo: Wiki Commons
The Mikoyan Project 1.44 (MiG 1.44) was the Soviet Union’s answer to the US’s development of its fifth-generation Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) in the 1980s.
Photo: Wiki Commons
Thirty years later and the status of the MiG 1.44 remains something of a mystery after it performed its first and only flight in February, 2000. The only known prototype was put in long-term storage in the hangar of Gromov Flight Research Institute in 2013.
Russia’s flagship, the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, is the only aircraft carrier of its type to enter service after its sister ship was scrapped due to the fall of the Soviet Union.
Photo: Wiki Commons
Unfortunately, it has been beset with problems over the years. Due to problems with its powerplant, tugs used to have to accompany the ship whenever it is deployed to tow it back to port. In 2009, a short circuit aboard the vessel caused a fire that killed one crew member, before an attempt to refuel the vessel at sea a month later caused a large oil spill off the coast of Ireland.
Photo: Wiki Commons
On February 17, 2004, President Vladimir Putin boarded the Arkhangelsk, an Akula-class submarine, to watch the test launch of a newly developed ballistic missile.
Unfortunately, the R-29RMU Sineva missiles failed to launch from the nuclear submarines Novomoskovsk and Karelia because of unspecified technical problems leaving a lot of red faces all around. Putin subsequently ordered his defense minister to conduct an urgent review of the program.
Photo: Wiki Commons
In 2013, shocked sunbathers on Russia’s Baltic coast were confronted with a giant military hovercraft bearing down on them. A spokesperson from Russia’s navy said the beach was supposed to have been cleared for the exercise.
The satellites of Russia’s “Tundra” program, designed to be early-warning system capable of tracking tactical as well as ballistic missiles, were first scheduled for launch in 2013.
Photo: Wiki Commons
Yet due to technical problems the launch has suffered a series of delays forcing the country to rely on its outdated existing satellites. In February two satellites, which were operational for only a few hours each day, finally went offline leaving Russia unable to detect missiles from space.
The T-14 Armata tank was billed as the “world’s first post-war, third-generation tank.” So you can imagine the disappointment when the new, high-tech piece of military hardware broke down during May’s rehearsal for the Victory Day parade in Moscow and had to be towed with ropes by another vehicle.
Every era has its arch-nemesis. The Nazis, the Communists, and the Terrorists all seemed to come in succession. Now, it seems America’s new arch-rivals are making their presence known. After spending a decade or more in its “peaceful rise” era, the People’s Republic of China appears to have switched to “Crouching Tiger.” President Trump has responded in kind, meeting aggression with aggression, which raises the stakes.
But that also means a lot of civilians are gonna get drafted if and when the war comes. The Infographics Show will tell you why.
The video above wargames China mobilizing its forces to invade Taiwan. When it does, the U.S. military would move to DEFCON 3, requiring the U.S. Air Force to be able to mobilize in 15 minutes or less. Once China’s invasion force starts boarding ships to land on Taiwan, the United States will be at DEFCON 2, which requires all the armed forces to be ready for war at the front in six hours. By the time the U.S. Navy engages Chinese Air Forces, Chinese ballistic missiles will have already targeted Naval air assets in the Pacific, killing thousands of American troops.
In the first month of fighting, the casualties will mount, and they will be heavy. The number of killed and wounded will reach the levels last seen in the Vietnam War. In less than a year, it would be the bloodiest war since World War II. And guess what? The military is gonna need replacements.
If it helps any, Beijing doesn’t seem that far away on this map.
The Chinese military numbers some two million or more with another half million in reserve. Since the most likely flashpoint is the tiny but democratic American ally of Taiwan, just off China’s coastline, the fighting will be focused, but intense, and casualties would be enormous. The United States would call on its 860,000-plus reservists to bolster its forces in the area. While that would be enough to counter the Chinese threat to Taiwan, it would not be enough to forcibly topple the Chinese government. That would require an invasion of mainland China, and that would be really, really hard.
To successfully invade China would require so many troops, the United States doesn’t currently have that many. It would have to activate the Selective Service System, instituting a draft for American males between the ages of 18-25, a potential pool of 16 million American troops. While it’s unlikely the U.S. will have to draft the entire 16 million, it will need a lot of troops to get to Beijing.
Being a commo guy doesn’t afford too many opportunities to do fun stuff. Sure, there are the radio operators who are right on the heels of the platoon leader but, nine times out of ten, they’re stuck sitting by the radio in either the vehicle or operations center.
Hours are spent just waiting, listening to a tiny speaker in case anything goes on. You can’t do anything else — you’re just sitting there. If you’re monitoring comms at 0400 and there’s no mission going on, you’re still stuck there. And, of course, the one moment you decide to close your eyes longer than a blink, sh*t gets real.
It’s not all boredom, though. Some of the things you hear over the net make it all worthwhile.
Don’t worry. No one blames you.
(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Cameron Boyd)
Troops screwing off
When radio operators are certain that no one is listening, they’ll drop all radio etiquette. Suddenly, everyone will just start making jokes to one another. It’s not uncommon to hear a guy in one of the guard towers bluntly ask, “when the f*ck is that chow coming?”
Because, apparently, wars aren’t won by troops with filthy mouths
(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Kap Kim)
Ops Sgt. Major scolding fools
Despite the point above, you’re never completely clear to openly talk like you would on a cell phone. If you try, you’re likely to get a stern reminder from whoever is in the ops center to “please maintain proper radio etiquette.”
If you’re unlucky and the S-3 Sergeant Major is that one that catches you, they’re going to knife-hand you so hard through the hand mic that you’ll start standing at parade rest on-mission. Technically, they break that “oh so precious” radio etiquette when chewing someone out, but no one ever calls them out for it. Probably because it’s damn funny to hear.
“Sir, you want us to what? Are you out of your fu… Roger, out,” said every NCO ever.
(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Cameron Boyd)
There’s a perpetual pissing contest in the military. Each young-buck officer will get a wild hair up his or her ass and insist that things be done their way — regardless of whether its the best idea. This stubbornness will almost always be met by a non-commissioned officer who has the opposite idea.
It’s like witnessing the meeting between an unstoppable force and an immovable object. Thankfully, the hand mics are push-to-talk or else they’d hear us laughing our asses off.
Totally worth it to blast Toto’s ‘Africa’ over and over again.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Josh Cox)
There always seems to be one or two commo guys who figure out how to play music over the net. Some will just hold the tunes right up to the mouthpiece while others will figure out how to splice a W-4 with an auxiliary cord. I’m not going to tell you outright how to do it, but open up a manual and learn which prong connects to outgoing voice — there’s your head start.
Regardless, it’s an appreciated morale boost when someone plays some good music and it turns hilarious when they playing from way out of left field.
It’s hard to say “Splash, out” without a big ol’ grin.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Matt Navarra)
Calls for fire
There are only two words in the military lexicon that can immediately bring excitement to everyone: “Shot, over.”
An inexplicable wave of joy comes over the platoon when a radio guy calls into the mortars, artillery, or air support. Imagine a child on Christmas morning about to open up a present that could obliterate one square kilometer of Earth — oh, boy!
Bullsh*ting is a solid 95 percent of what a lower enlisted does on any given day anyways. Why would that change if you gave them a radio?
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thea Roun Sm)
All of the smack talk
There are channels for every unit. One of them is used to talk to command back at base and others are used to communicate with the vehicles. But if you know which channels your boys are on, you can sh*t talk about everyone else not on it.
This includes people in the command, the unit, other troops, local nationals, allied forces — everyone is fair game.
Recent changes in tax law mean that many in uniform could see big returns when they file their 2018 taxes.
“This last tax year has been quite exciting with all of the changes that occurred to it,” said Army Lt. Col. David Dulaney, executive director of the Armed Forces Tax Council. “The good news is that most of our service members should see a substantial reduction in their overall federal taxes for 2018.”
One way service members can maximize their tax refund is to log onto Military OneSource and take advantage of MilTax, a free suite of services designed specifically for service members. MilTax includes personalized support from tax consultants and easy-to-use tax preparation and e-filing software.
(Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)
• MilTax is available to active-duty, reserve and National Guard service members. Additionally, thanks to new language in the National Defense Authorization Act, “service” has been expanded to included transitioning service members — those who have separated or retired will be able to make use of MilTax for up to a year after leaving the military.
• MilTax is available through www.militaryonesource.mil and includes online tax preparation software designed specifically for military personnel and the unique circumstances that surround military life.
• Through Military OneSource and MilTax, service members have access to expert tax consultants specially trained to address tax issues related to military service. During tax season, consultants are available seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. in the Eastern time zone at 800-342-9647.
• Using MilTax, eligible individuals can file one federal and up to three state tax returns through the Military OneSource website. The service is available now through Oct. 15, 2019, for extended filers.
• At some installations, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, or VITA, allows service members to sit down face to face with a tax professional to help prepare their tax forms.
• All service members are required to pay taxes. Military service doesn’t mean service members don’t have to pay. Fortunately, MilTax is free to those eligible to use it.
“One of the worst things we can hear is a military service member went out and paid for tax services that we provide for free through the DOD,” said Erika R. Slaton, program deputy for Military OneSource. “We want to ensure our service members and families know they are supported and we provide the best possible support for them in completing their tax services.”
More than 400 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters are operating from 17 bases worldwide. From the near-Arctic region of Ørland, Norway, to a recent deployment in the Middle East, the fifth-generation jet is expanding its reach.
But a recent news report shows that weather conditions have some effect on the Pentagon’s stealthy fifth-gen fighter, raising concerns about its performance in extreme climate locations.
In a recent Defense News report series, the outlet obtained documents showing that cold weather triggered a battery sensor in an F-35 Lightning II in Alaska. While the battery was not affected, the weather “overwhelm[ed] the battery heater blanket” that protects it, prompting the sensor to issue a warning and causing the pilot to abort his mission and land immediately, Defense News said.
“We have already developed an update to the software and the battery’s heater control system to resolve this issue, and this updated software is available for users today to load on their aircraft in the event they will be conducting extreme cold weather operations,” Greg Ulmer, vice president of Lockheed’s F-35 aircraft production business, said in an interview with Military.com at the Paris Air Show, adding the update will be in new planes by 2021.
A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II takes off during pre-Initial Operational Testing and Evaluation.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson)
The U.S. military anticipated taking the Lockheed Martin-made F-35 around the world, with partners and allies flying the plane in both hot and cold regions, including some that are changing.
“The [F-22 Raptor] and plenty of other aircraft have flown out [to Alaska] just fine for decades,” Rebecca Grant of IRIS Independent Research told Defense News. Grant is a former director of the Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies at the Air Force Association. “The F-35 should have had all that sorted out in the climatic lab.”
Ulmer, however, said all necessary steps were taken in lab testing, and the issue identified was a normal part of the design and development process.
“You do the best you can relative to the engineering, understanding of the environment, to design the part. And then you actually perform, and [you realize] your model was off a little bit, so you have to tweak the design … to account for it,” Ulmer said. An F-35A from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, was on static display here during the show.
“We’re confident in the F-35s performance in all weather conditions,” he said.
The battery issue was first discovered during extreme cold weather testing at -30 degrees and below at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, in February 2018, he added.
Ulmer explained there are various tests points done before the plane heads to the McKinley Lab at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, for robust experiments. The lab is responsible for high-range weather testing of military and commercial aircraft, munitions and weapons.
A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II from Eglin Air Force Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Fox Echols III)
The lab’s refrigeration chamber can go as low as -70 degrees, lab chief Dwayne Bell told Military.com during a visit to the facility in 2017. He said at the time that the F-35 program had been one of the most expensive programs tested in the lab to date. There’s a wide range of testing costs, but they average roughly ,000 a day, he said.
It cost about million to test the Marine Corps’ B-model from the Patuxent River Integrated Test Force, Maryland, over a six-month period, Bell said.
The Lightning II was put through major weather testing — the lab can do everything but lightning strikes and tornadoes — such as wind, solar radiation, fog, humidity, rain intrusion/ingestion, freezing rain, icing cloud, icing build-up, vortex icing and snow. It handled temperatures ranging from 120 degrees Fahrenheit to -40 degrees, officials said in 2017.
But even testing at McKinley is limiting, Ulmer said.
“What doesn’t happen is that they don’t stay there a long time, so once we released [Block] 3F [software] capability, now the operational fleet can actually” test new extremes, he said, referring to both speed and temperature changes.
Defense News also found that supersonic speeds caused “bubbling and blistering” on the JSF’s low-observable stealth coating, and that hot environments impeded sufficient engine thrust to vertically land the Marine variant.
“So they take it” to new environments “and they expose it more than flight test exposed the airplane. I’m an old flight test guy. You expect to learn in the operational environment more than you do in the [developmental test] environment because you don’t necessarily fly the airplane [in that environment] all the time,” Ulmer said.
“So we learned a little bit, and you refine the design, and you solve it,” he said, adding that the design and maintenance tweaks are ongoing. “The probability of the issue reoccurring on aircraft in the operational fleet is very low and with minimal impact to safety of flight or operational performance.”
Two U.S. Navy F-35C Lightning II 5th-generation fighters sit on the flight line during pre-initial Operational Testing and Evaluation.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson)
Thirteen Category 1 deficiencies were found and reported by operators, according to the for-official-use-only documents Defense News obtained. Cat 1 is a label for problems that would directly impact safety or the mission. Those ranged from coating fixes; pressure anomalies in the cockpit that gave pilots ear and sinus pain; and washed-out imagery in the helmet-mounted display, among others.
The Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps each fly a variant of the aircraft designed for different scenarios, from landing on conventional runways on land, to catching arresting cables on aircraft carriers, to landing like a helicopter on amphibious assault ships.
Responding to the Defense News article series, Lockheed Martin said each deficiency “is well understood, already resolved or on a near-term path to resolution.”
“We’ve worked collaboratively with our customers, and we are fully confident in the F-35’s performance and the solutions in place to address each of the items identified,” the company said in a statement June 12, 2019.
Growing pains with new planes and weapons programs are common. But the F-35 program has been under scrutiny since its inception, mainly for cost-effectiveness and functionality. A new estimate suggests that operating and supporting fighters for the next 60-plus years will cost the government id=”listicle-2638937142″.196 trillion.
The older F-22 Raptor has had similar issues, especially with its stealth coating, which officials have said is more cumbersome to fix than the F-35, which was built with a more functional and durable coating in mind.
“The [low-observable] system has significantly improved on the F-35 when compared to the F-22,” Ulmer said June 18, 2019. “That’s all lessons learned from F-22, applied to F-35.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
No matter how hard you try and avoid it, vehicles get stuck in the mud. It can even happen to an Abrams tank. Sometimes, as with the case of the Abrams, the vehicle is able to escape the sticky situation on its own, but what happens when the vehicle can’t manage to get free on its own devices?
Thankfully, there’s a way to handle that situation. The United States Army (and the United States Marine Corps) has a vehicle designed to help others get out of the mud and get the supplies it is hauling to the troops. That vehicle is the M984 Wrecker, part of the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck family.
According to OshKosh Defense, the latest version of this tactical tow truck is the M984A4. It has a crew of two, a top speed of 62 miles per hour, and can go 300 miles on a 155-gallon tank of gas. You read that right; it gets really sucky gas mileage — a bit less than two miles per gallon.
But here’s the capability that you get in exchange for guzzling gas: The M984A4’s recovery winch can haul 30 tons, which is enough to get most vehicles out of a muddy situation. Its crane hauls seven tons. It can retrieve objects weighing up to 25,000 pounds. This truck is a tactical, AAA-roadside-assistance machine, and it weighs less than 55,000 pounds, meaning it can be hauled by C-130 Hercules transport planes.
Check out the video below to watch an M984 crew practice getting a vehicle out of the mud at Fort McCoy:
We’re spending a lot of time on the internet these days watching plenty of useless information — cat videos, TikToks, Tiger King all the Netflix in the land. Finally, here’s something useful, with a heart-stopping, compelling element: an EOD badass dismantling IEDs with only a pickaxe and pliers and no protective equipment. DISCLAIMER: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. OR ANYWHERE.
Forget everything you thought you knew about dismantling IEDs. As this Peshmerga EOD guy clearly shows, all you need is a pickaxe and a pair of pliers.pic.twitter.com/hZOoP9m291
Researcher Hugo Kaaman posted a clip of a “Peshmerga EOD guy” dismantling IEDs with only a pickaxe and a pair of pliers (Did we mention? Do not try this!). After a little more digging, another Twitter user cited that the subject was Major Jamal Bawari who is/was a part of a Peshmerga EOD unit.
BBC Four, Storyville did a documentary on ‘Crazy Fakhir’, a Kurdish colonel in the Iraqi army and legendary bomb disposal expert, who was in the same unit as Jamal, titled “Hurt Locker Hero” in 2018.
The description of the documentary on BBC Four is: The heart-stopping story of ‘Crazy Fakhir’, a Kurdish colonel in the Iraqi army and legendary bomb disposal expert who single-handedly disarmed thousands of landmines across the country with just a pocket knife and a pair of wire clippers.
Between the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the chaos and destruction wreaked by IS ten years later, Fahkir’s unwavering bravery saved thousands of lives throughout Iraq. ‘Hurt Locker Hero’ tells Fakhir’s story through the raw and visceral amateur footage captured by his soldiers on a camcorder intended for filming family occasions. Instead, it records Fakhir endlessly snipping wires, searching family homes and digging out roadside IEDs, insisting it’s too dangerous to wait hours for the highly trained American bomb disposal teams to arrive.
Whilst their father and husband becomes a hero, Fahkir’s wife and eight children struggle to make ends meet and worry endlessly about his safety. Fakhir will be remembered as the man who risked his life to save others -‘If I fail, only I die, but if I succeed, I can save hundreds of people.’.
Just imagine the shocking scenario where the U.S. angered China, Russia, Iran, and its traditional allies like the UK and France. Now imagine if these countries formed a unified coalition to attack the U.S. How long would the U.S. be able to hold them off? Which tactics would it deploy? What role will its citizens play?
In this debut episode of the WATM podcast, the boys of the editorial team discuss how this idea might play out.
The podcast is hosted by bunch of vets who live and breathe all things weapons, tactics, and mil-tech. Here’s who they are:
This article is sponsored by MIPS, pioneers in brain protection systems.
There’s no amount of science that will protect you from a .50 cal round to the head. As of today, that’s a simple fact.
Here’s another simple fact: There have been over 350,000 documented cases of traumatic brain injury (TBI) among post-9/11 veterans as of 2017. Very, very few of those cases have been as extreme as a bullet to the brain (less than 7%). Over 45% of those injuries were the result of blunt force — either debris colliding with a helmet or the result of a fall — not a bullet.
Unfortunately, the helmets we put on our troops are not protecting them from these types of collisions as well as they could. Why? We have the technology and it’s ready for implementation today. Truly, it’s just a matter of understanding.
So, let’s fix that problem.
Here are the two most important words in understanding why we’re not protecting our brains in the right way: rotational movement.
Let’s illustrate this. First, imagine your skull is a snow globe — your cerebrospinal fluid is the water contained therein and your brain is the collection of floaty bits. Now, watch what happens when we bring that snow globe straight down onto a flat surface.
Linear Movement — Well, about as linear as my imperfect, human brain could get it.
Not that interesting. Now, watch what happens when we give that same snow globe a light twist.
Rotational Movement — Come on, baby. Do the twist.
Looks a little more like New Year’s at Times Square, right? But this isn’t a cause for celebration — it’s a cause of traumatic brain injury.
That first example is a demonstration of linear force. The amount of linear force a helmet can withstand is currently the primarystandard to which the helmets we put on our troops are held up against — and, if you think about it, how often does a troop fall directly onto the top of their head? Not very often.
A much more likely scenario is that force comes at you from some sort of angle. Whether it’s a piece of concrete blasting toward you from an exploded building, getting ejected from your seat and into the roof of the Humvee after running over an IED, or even something as simple as tripping and eating a nasty fall. When your helmet comes in contact with something from an angle, rotational movement is sent from the shell of the helmet, through the protective layers of Kevlar and foam, through your skull, and what’s left is absorbed by the brain – the snow globe’s floating bits. Unfortunately, our brains aren’t very good at handling the shearing movement caused by rotation.
A look at the effects of linear (left) and rotational (right) movement on the brain. The images above were generated using the FE Model, a computational model that represents the most critical parts of the human head. Learn more about the model here.
But technology exists today that is designed to diffuse some of that rotational force within the helmet before it reaches your most important organ — yes, we’re still talking about the brain.
Recently, I took the trek out to Sweden to meet the people dedicated to putting that technology in today’s helmets — they’re called MIPS, named after their technology: the Multi-directional Impact Protection System.
As I walked into the building (the whole thing is shaped like a helmet, by the way), the passion for creating protective headwear was palpable. These people are doers — whether it’s mountain biking, skiing, motocross, or battling it out on the gridiron. They know that all good things come with an inherent level of risk, and they’re passionate about doing what they can to mitigate that risk; especially when something like a TBI can cause a lifetime of complications for both the afflicted and their loved ones.
There, I spoke with MIPS founders Dr. Hans von Holst and Dr. Peter Halldin. Between the two of them, they boast an impressive 60 years of experience in neuroscience and biomechanics — which they distilled down into an hour-long frenzy of science, analogy, and visuals. That one-hour lesson didn’t make me a neurosurgeon, but it certainly highlighted a fundamental problem in the way we evaluate (and later, equip troops with) head protection.
The current U.S. Army blunt impact test methodology is borrowed from the U.S. Department of Transportation Laboratory Test Procedure for Motorcycle Helmets. To break it down Barney-style, we test helmets by dropping them from various, set heights at various angles onto a flat surface and measuring the results of impact. These tests are designed to be repeatable and cost effective — the problem is, however, that all of these tests are very good at measuring linear impact — and if you think back to the snow globes, that impact isn’t always very eventful.
MIPS twists the formula here in a small but very important way. Instead of dropping a helmet onto a flat surface, they drop it on to an angle surface. This small adjustment to the test methodology allows them to analyze collisions more in-line with real world examples — ones that involve rotational motion.
But enough about types of force — what does MIPS’ technology actually do to protect your brain? Well, the genius is in the simplicity, here — and it’s best described with visuals.
In short, MIPS is a low friction layer that sits between the inner side of the helmet and the comfort padding, custom fit to each helmet shape and size. That low friction layer lives somewhere between the helmet’s shell and your head and allows for a 10-15mm range of motion in any direction. This relatively tiny movement allows your head to move independently of your helmet, acting like a second layer of cerebrospinal fluid when it comes to protecting your brain in the crucial milliseconds of impact.
This technology hasn’t been introduced into military helmets just yet, but it’s coming soon. In fact, right now, MIPS is partnering with a Swedish manufacturer, SAFE4U, to better equip special operators that need lightweight protection. The two companies worked together to create a helmet that is stable enough to work with attached NVGs, but still protects from oblique impacts.
Check out the brief video below to learn a little more about the multiple layers of protection involved:
While the technology is sound (and proven to work), here’s the thing that really impressed me: When I finished talking with the team about their product, I asked them what they were looking to get out of the article you’re reading right now. They wanted just one thing: to educate. They want you, our readers, to know why you’re not getting your brain the protection it needs and what you can do to rectify that problem.
Yes, one way is to find yourself a helmet that’s equipped with MIPS’ technology (currently, you’ll find MIPS’ protection system in 448 different models of helmets), but it’s not the only way. Whatever you do, make sure that the helmets you use (when you have a choice) are equipped to deal with the dangers of rotational movement and protect your thinkin’ meat.
This article is sponsored by MIPS, pioneers in brain protection systems.
For the past two months, Venezuela has been locked in a dramatic political crisis, which has seen countries around the world disavow its president and back an upstart politician in his bid to depose him.
In less than two months, Venezuela’s Juan Guaidó went from being a little-known lawmaker to the opposition leader posing one of the greatest threats to President Nicolás Maduro’s socialist rule in recent years.
But the tensions between the socialist government and the opposition party dates back more than a decade, spanning over accusations of vote rigging, violent protests, and a humanitarian crisis.
Here are the events that culminated in the current crisis.
• Socialist leader Hugo Chavez died in 2013, when his vice president Nicolas Maduro stepped in to take over. Chavez had been in charge for 14 years.
• Soon after, shortages and crime ravaged the country. Anti-Maduro mass protests broke out, and 43 people died.
• Leopoldo Lopez, the most prominent opposition leader, was charged for fomenting unrest in the 2014 protests. He spent three years in prison and is now under house arrest.
Leopoldo Lopez speaking to a crowd.
• In December 2015, the opposition party won a majority of seats in the National Assembly for the first time since Chavez took power in 1999.
• As oil prices continued plummeting, the oil-dependent economy tanked, and the government could not afford to import many foods. Maduro declared a state of “economic emergency” in January 2016.
• Maduro’s government faced significant protests in 2017 as it created the Constituent Assembly, which took over most important legislative functions. The Supreme Court also tried taking over the functions of the opposition-led National Assembly, but failed.
• On Jan. 5, 2019, the little-known lawmaker Juan Guaidó was appointed the head of the National Assembly, shorn of most of its power.
• Just five days later, Maduro started a second presidential term. His election win was dogged by accusations of vote-rigging. Domestic opposition parties, the US, and 13 other countries in the Americas do not recognize the result.
Juan Guaidó speaking at a demonstration.
• Tens of thousands of people around the country staged protests saying that Maduro’s presidency was unconstitutional and fraudulent, and told him to resign. They were met with pro-government rallies.
• On Jan. 23, 2019, Guaidó declared himself Venezuela’s interim president, on the basis that there is no legitimate president of Venezuela, and called for free elections.
• With opposition leader Lopez still under house arrest, Guaidó emerged as the new face of the anti-Maduro movement.
• The US, Canada, and most Latin American nations immediately recognized Guaidó as interim president. Maduro severed diplomatic ties with the US in response.
• Guaidó began to urge soldiers, especially high-ranking ones, to join the opposition. The military is the backbone of Maduro’s power, with generals holding important government positions. The national guard is frequently deployed against protesters.
• In an op-ed for The New York Times, Guaidó offered amnesty to everyone opposing Maduro’s government, and members of the armed forces who haven’t committed crimes against humanity. Many members of Venezuela’s military — a solid power base for Maduro — are implicated in human rights abuses and drug trafficking, according to The Associated Press.
• Venezuela’s Supreme Court imposed a travel ban for Guaidó and froze his assets on Jan. 30, 2019, saying he is being investigated for “usurping” power.
Maikel Moreno, the president of Venezuela’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice.
(Maikel Moreno Twitter via TSJ Noticias)
• Some of Europe’s most important nations, such as Germany, France, Britain, and Spain, backed Guaidó on Feb. 4, 2019.
• On Feb. 22, 2019, Guaidó defied his travel ban. He left Venezuela to attend the “Venezuela Live Aid” concert in Colombia, organized by British billionaire Richard Branson.
• The following weekend, opposition supporters tried to bring in US-backed humanitarian aid over the Colombian and Brazilian borders, which the government closed. The armed forces barred their entry, killing two and injuring more than 300. The Venezuelan government shut the country’s bridge to Brazil on Feb. 21, 2019, and to Colombia on Feb. 23, 2019.
• International leaders rejected the possibility of sending their militaries into Venezuela to take over control. Guaidó had tweeted that “all options are open” after Maduro barred US-backed aid to enter.
• Guaidó traveled around South America to meet world leaders who back him, including US Vice President Mike Pence and the presidents of Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Ecuador.
Guaidó, Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez, and US Vice President Mike Pence meet in Colombia.
(Official White House Photo by D. Myles)
• Guaidó announced March 4, 2019, as his definitive return date to Venezuela, risking arrest and imprisonment for going against the travel ban.
Guaidó announces his return on a livestream.
(Juan Guaido’s Periscope)
• Guaidó arrived in Venezuela and passed through immigration on March 4, 2019, he said on Twitter. He was met by European diplomats.
• Thousands of supporters welcomed him at a rally where he called for a new round of protests on March 9, 2019.
• On March 5, 2019, Guaidó met with unions to win their support, he tweeted. He is planning to organize a public sector strike, but the details have yet to be confirmed. On the same day, Maduro announced an “anti-imperialist” march to rival Guaidó’s
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It is a truth universally acknowledged amongst the milspouse community that this lifestyle can be downright crazy – but is this experience one that has always been true of military families?
Does our modern world – the age of technology, the era of constant communication – assist or exacerbate the nuances of military life? We spoke to Stephanie Bates, a Marine Corps spouse of thirty-three years, to find out!
MS: So – let’s talk about you! What does your background look like? Did you have any experience of the military lifestyle before your marriage?
SB: I am 68 years old and I was a military spouse for 33 of those years while John was on active duty. I still feel I am a military spouse – that feeling never goes away, retired or not. It’s a very special community and one I have ALWAYS been proud to be part of! I can honestly say, looking back through the years, I would not change ONE thing about our life in the USMC. We have one son who is a LtCol in the Marine Corps and actually stationed here in Hawaii now which has been wonderful. He and his wife will be retiring here in a year and staying put, which of course pleases us immensely!
MS: How did you and your husband meet?
SB: John and I met in college, where he was just returning from the Vietnam war. We were married in 1972, and although I knew he had been in the Marine Corps previously, I also knew he had been medically discharged (3 Purple Hearts later) and just assumed that part of life was over. We dated for a year, got married my senior year of college in Arkansas and started our life together. Never in a million years did I think we would spend the next 33 years, moving 22 times around the world, back in the Marine Corps. I knew John loved his beloved Corps and unbeknownst to me spent the first 3 years of our married life petitioning the USMC to come back in as an officer. He finally wore them down, gave up his disability and took off for OCS. When this news was presented to me I was devastated! Until I met John I had no experience with any connections to the military. I knew my father and uncles all served but that was it..now he’s telling me he is taking off for 6 months and re joining the Corps! I was at a complete loss, but I knew this was what he lived for. All I could imagine was he would be sent off to war and killed. Didn’t stop to think there was no war going on at the time, but that comes later…
MS: Did you have any preconceptions about what military life would look like before you got married?
SB: I’m not sure what I expected having had no connections with anyone in the military before this, but it exceeded my expectations. Not to say there weren’t some “hard” moments. I remember crying when we were trying to save enough money to buy a mattress for our bed and instead the money had to go for uniforms and a sword! They were pretty lean times, but we had made so many new friends all in the same boat with us, that you could never ever have a pity party for yourself! It was a different time then and not a lot of the wives worked outside the home so there was always something going on. I never felt lonely although I missed our friends and family back home.
MS: When your spouse deployed (or went away for training) in the ’80s, how did that feel? I ask this in light of our age of instant communication – it’s an easy thing to take for granted, after all!
SB: Long distance phone calls were expensive, but that was the only way to keep in touch and that was only when they could get to a phone…No cell phones that’s for sure! And certainly not computers so therefore NO emails or social media. 6 month deployments at that time meant a lot of letter writing and to keep track of letters, we would number them so if they arrived out of sequence, which they did a lot!, you could make sense of them. And a lot of times I would get a letter written on whatever scrap of paper he could find. The back of MRE boxes etc…. Toward the end of our career in the Corps I can’t believe how much easier military life is with the invention of cell phones and computers. It’s the communication that makes all the difference in the world. I have reservations about social media, but that’s another subject. Just being able to talk while your spouse is deployed or knowing that you can get in touch with him in an emergency without having to go through the Red Cross or any other red tape is a game changer. It eliminates so much of the worrying…you know what is going on and don’t have to speculate and think the worst possible scenario.
MS: Have you found that the sense of community in on-base/spouse/family environments has changed at all over the years? If so, how?
SB: In the 80’s there were not a lot of wives who worked outside of the home, so the wives’ clubs and social groups and volunteering groups ( Navy, Marine Corps Relief Society, Red Cross, Omsbudsman) were a lot more active. More spouses work now and this has changed things. Towards the end of our career I could sense the change. The wives clubs became smaller and smaller and did less and less. Volunteerism was down a lot also but this is life as we know it now. The world wide web has made it easier for wives to take their job and career with them. I was a teacher and mainly had to rely on working as a substitute teacher at each duty station. Although they would never come out and say it, teaching jobs were hard to come by as they knew if they hired you in a couple of years you would be gone.
MS: The age-old question – does PCS-ing ever become easier?!
SB: PCSing…no it never gets easier, but it can still be a fun adventure…Of course, as every spouse I know, can tell you they have had at least one move where their spouse is not available to be there for pickup or delivery etc etc…but somehow we get through it, our military spouse friends will always step in to help check off the inventory list while you tell the movers where to put what…nothing ever goes as planned, dates change, orders change but that’s life! I was never one not to add to our household inventory so we always moved with whatever the max allowance we were given, which I’m sure did not please our packers. We even had one packer walk down our driveway and off the job after doing the walkthrough! I did have friends whose philosophy was we will just wait till were are retired then buy what we want…not me, my life was now not later so our moves were a lot of boxes that’s for sure!
MS: What are some ways in which military family culture has changed that you think might be useful for new milspouses to consider? The good, the bad, and the ugly!
SB: The one big difference between life in the Marine Corps today as opposed to the 80’s is that the Marine Corps is so much more family “friendly”! And I’m sure that spouses from the much earlier years would think we had it perfect in the 80’s. The good news is things keep getting better…I know everyone has heard the old adage, “If the Marine Corps wanted you to have a wife they would have issued you one,” but that wasn’t far from the truth in the olden days….There was no thought given to how to make life better for spouses until one day they realized that a happy wife makes a happy life and a much better Marine. I was in on the ground floor with Sandy Krulak and others when the L.I.N.K.S program started. The goal was to help a new wife adjust to life as a military spouse. It was the thought that marrying into the military was like moving to a different country where you didn’t know how to navigate or speak the language. Programs like this have paved the way to helping adjust to military life so much easier.
MS: What would you tell yourself as a young milspouse, with all of the experience that you now have?
SB: There’s not too much I would have done differently if I could go back and give my younger self any words of wisdom but I am forever grateful that the wife of one of my husband’s first commanders told me at our first duty station, “Stephanie, always bloom where you are planted and make the most of every duty station you are sent to.” She was so right, it paid off in so many ways. Wonderful lifetime friends, and memories.
Looking back , all I can say is , that although I went into this with so many trepidations and worries as a young 22 year old, I wouldn’t have traded this life for anything else…it’s been a wild ride. And I also have the Marine Corps to thank for honoring me with the Dickie Chapel Award in 1999, it meant so much to me and still does to this day.