Robin Williams went on six separate USO tours from 2002 to 2013. Williams inspired countless other comedians and performers to pack their bags and head overseas to share their light with the world. There are hundreds of stories that surround the humanity of each and every visit Williams had.
For example, take the time on the 2007 USO Chairman’s Holiday Tour, where Williams saw a group of soldiers waving at him from behind a fence across a grassy berm. A wave and a loud joke across the field would’ve surely made those soldiers day… But according to USO VP of Entertainment Rachel Tischler, “… he jumped across the berm and went running over to them. Obviously, our security team completely freaked out. Again – height of the war here. But he didn’t care. He just wanted to go over and shake their hands and thank them. And that is what he was like.”
That’s the thing with Williams. He didn’t just go overseas and perform a couple of comedy sets and dip out. That, in and of itself, would still be a beautiful act of service. But that wasn’t enough for Williams. He jumped the berm in everything he did.
“What was great about him on tour was that he always took the time to sit down and talk to people about what they were going through, what life on the base was like, about personal experiences,” Tischler said. “And then he’d get on stage and he’d be telling a joke about Mexican Night in the [dining facility].”
Robin Williams as troops “Retreat” at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait
Williams wasn’t just a loose cannon of human decency on USO Tours, either. He was also a respectful observer of military tacit codes. Just watch this video of Williams’s set being cut short by Taps at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
At the first sound of the beagle, you can almost feel his gut lurching to make a joke. Every single time that Williams had gone on stage, he was a comedic amoeba, calling out things happening in the present moment. He had conditioned himself to make a joke there. But he resisted. He pulled against his greater impulses, and respectfully lowered his head.
You can tell it meant something to him, as he said “I’m never going to forget that.” And what happened next is quintessential Robin Williams— he made a joke about the present moment that unified the entire camp.
Holiday Tour, International Airport in Baghdad (2003)
(Mike Theiler. EPA.)
Unity is the central theme of Robin Williams USO tours, and that’s the legacy left behind. Every man and woman stationed who got to see him took a piece of Williams back with them. Williams loved it too, “There’s nothing I enjoy more than traveling with the USO and giving back to our troops in whatever way I can,” he said, “They work hard, sacrifice a lot and deserve to be treated like the heroes they are. The very least I can do is bring a smile to their faces.”
Many comedians have followed in his footsteps of unity since: Lewis Black, Louis CK, Ralphie May, and Stephen Colbert, just to name a few. As our country feels increasingly disjointed, it’s important to focus on the “Robin Williams” moments; we can reach across the aisle and truly connect with each other.
Whenever we feel distant from each other, we don’t have to shout from behind a fence. We can jump the berm.
Most people assume that if they jack up the amount of activity they do, they will be able to “burn” the most calories and lose the most weight.
In reality, the largest factor contributing towards our daily calories burned isn’t our activity, no matter how much we run or how many times we visit our local Box in a day–it’s our resting metabolic rate.
Resting metabolic rate is the amount of calories we burn just from existing. It’s about 75% of all calories burned in a day. By figuring out how to manipulate it, we can have the largest impact on total calories burned and melt the most fat off our frames.
The question then is what type of exercise will impact resting metabolic rate the most?
Squats work nearly every muscle in the body… Including the smile muscles.
When we lift weights, we are causing (healthy) damage to our muscles that requires repair. That repair requires a lot of energy that can take up to 48 hours to complete.
In a properly set-up training plan, each session gets progressively harder and causes more damage than the previous session, which causes the body to work harder to repair it, and therefore, to burn more calories in its resting state.
The repair process also ensures that you are bigger, which requires more energy just to sustain your size. It literally increases your resting metabolic rate!
Your body is like the barracks that young E-dogs live in. Lifting is like Libo. When it occurs, things get messed up and need repair.
The repair process in the barracks gets things back to baseline. But depending on how hard they threw down, sometimes things need to get reinforced, like doors. On the next Libo, it’s going to take a much harder drop kick from LCpl Schmuckatelli to knock in that door.
The repair process in your body reinforces your muscles every time you cause muscular damage through weight training, so that you are always getting stronger and burning more calories.
No one in the history of running has ever started running like that.
If you want to be muscular with a low percentage of body fat, lifting is a better choice than cardio. The primary purpose of cardio is to work your cardiovascular system, NOT to burn fat. The amount of calories that cardio burns is limited to just the moments you are actually running. Unlike lifting, where the body continues burning calories during the repair phase for 48 hours after your training session, for cardio, there is no significant after-effect.
When we run, we are working out our hearts. As a result, when we run at a long slow pace, cardio forces the rest of our body to become more efficient at moving by doing things like improving our form and shedding excess body weight indiscriminately, which often means shedding muscle. Cardio prefers to make the muscle it doesn’t shed more efficient and thrifty, rather than larger, stronger, and hungrier for energy.
Essentially, running just makes you a more efficient runner, as the body optimizes its processes so that you actually use as little energy as possible, rather than burning more calories. It’s common for people doing cardio for weight loss to completely plateau after awhile, because their body’s gotten really good at doing cardio. They might spend an hour on the elliptical machine and burn almost no fat at all.
Running makes you more efficient at using the energy you already have.
If you’re a runner, running a mile at your current weight burns fewer calories than it did when you were obese and had terrible running form.
In our barracks analogy, cardio is the new Commanding Officer that takes away Libo. What that CO is really doing is taking away the opportunity for the repair process to make the barracks more resilient against drop kicks.
Over time, not only are you burning fewer calories while running than you used to, but you are burning fewer calories in general because you have less muscle mass.
Worse yet, if you don’t compensate for this change in body weight and total calories burned in your diet, cardio can potentially cause you to actually GAIN FAT.
It takes a lot more than just weightlifting to look like this. Gains like this are made in a lab…
When training, if you aren’t causing damage to your muscles through resistance training, your body is instead trying to figure out how to do that training more efficiently. That efficiency will come with less fat burned over time.
The most effective way to increase the amount of energy you burn in order to facilitate fat loss is by resistance training.
The alternative, cardio, comes with the negative side effect of indiscriminately targeting muscle as well as fat in its purge towards efficiency.
If you want a more in-depth explanation of how these two types of exercise work, check out this article on the topic.
Chinese officials have touted their progress with a new type of rocket propulsion that they say could give them an advantage in a potential conflict around the Tibetan Plateau and Himalayan mountains.
The project reportedly intends to add electromagnetic force to the launch of traditional rocket artillery, which is typically cheaper than missiles and can be fired in larger quantities.
Han Junli, lead researcher on the project, told the state-run Science and Technology Daily that an electromagnetic launch “can give the rocket a very high initial speed on its launching state.”
Zhou Chenming, a Beijing-based military expert, told the South China Morning Post that an electromagnetic catapult “may also be able to help stabilize the rocket during launch and improve its accuracy.”
Han, who researches the use of China’s ground forces, called the project the first of its kind and said work on it had been progressing steadily “with great breakthroughs.”
Chinese Type PHZ-89 122 mm 40-tube self-propelled multiple rocket launchers assigned to an army artillery regiment during a live-fire exercise in Jiangxi Province, Aug. 21, 2016.
(Wang Liang/Central Military Commission of the People’s Republic of China)
Han’s work has reportedly involved gathering data from the Tibetan Plateau, which has an altitude of about 13,000 to 15,000 feet and is surrounded by mountains that reach higher.
Han told Science and Technology Daily that the greater range of electromagnetically launched rockets would mean they don’t need to deploy to the front lines — a challenging task in the region’s rough terrain.
Thinner air at higher elections, which may hinder traditional rockets, would also not be as big an obstacle for electromagnetically launched rockets. Reduced friction from thinner air may also allow such rockets to hit higher speeds, though thinner air may mean less precision.
“Conventional artillery that uses powder may suffer from lack of oxygen on plateaus,” Song Zhongping, a military expert, told the state-run Global Times in early August 2018.
Electromagnetically launched rockets — which Song said could reach distances of 200 kilometers, or roughly 125 miles — would not face that issue, which “makes [them] very valuable in warfare on plateaus.”
“The plateau covers 26 per cent of China’s entire land territory,” Han was quoted as saying. “Rockets deployed in the field can cause severe damage to any invader in hundreds of square kilometres.”
“It is like in boxing,” he reportedly said. “The person who has longer arms and harder fists enjoys the advantage.”
Details about electromagnetic rocket artillery, like its range and how far along work on it is, remain unclear, but it is not the only potential venue for such technology.
Electromagnetic force is used in rail guns to fire projectiles with more precision and greater range that typical propulsion systems, and China’s military may include electromagnetic catapults on its next aircraft carrier.
China’s progress may be overstated, however.
While the rail gun appeared to be undergoing testing on a Chinese navy ship, sources told the Post that the vessel was a landing ship repurposed to hold the bulky electrical equipment needed to power the expensive-to-use weapon and that the new destroyers on which the rail gun is supposed to be deployed are not well suited for it.
A possible rail gun mounted on the Chinese Navy Type 072III-class landing ship Haiyang Shan.
Electromagnetic catapults for aircraft, which China is said to be considering for its next aircraft carrier, may not yet be viable either.
The US Navy — which has struggled with its own rail-gun research — has an electromagnetic catapult aboard its newest carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, but a Pentagon report released in early 2018 called into question that system’s ability “to conduct the type of high-intensity flight operations expected during wartime.”
A ‘win’ over a ‘bullying neighbor’
Han told Science and Technology Daily in early August 2018 that the necessity of rocket artillery was illustrated by a “military incident” that took place in a border region on a plateau in southwest China.
He did not specify what he was referring to, though he may have meant the 73-day border standoff between China and India in summer 2017 in the Doklam region where China, India, and Bhutan’s borders meet. After that incident, Han reportedly started making plans to target an unnamed opponent’s military installations in the area.
Chinese and Indian forces both backed away in late August that year, though troops from both sides have remained in the area and are believed to be reinforcing their positions, including upgrades to Chinese airbases in Lhasa and Shigatse and increased deployments to Indian airbases at Siliguri Bagdogra and Hasimara.
India has also moved forward with its purchase of Russia’s S-400 air-defense system, which is designed to intercept targets at greater distances and altitudes.
In the year since, Beijing and New Dehli have worked to mend relations, including the Chinese defense minister’s first visit since the standoff, during which he hailed their friendship as one dating to ancient times.
The two sides also agreed to “expand the engagement between their armed forces relating to training, joint exercises and other professional interactions” and to implement “confidence-building measures” along their border, including a hotline between armed forces there.
But China is reportedly still smarting from the incident. In the months since, Indian commentary has described the incident as a “win” for Dehli over a “bullying neighbor.” Comments this spring by India’s ambassador to China that attributed the standoff to Chinese actions drew a rebuke from Beijing.
“I imagine the Chinese are not pleased with how events unfolded last year, and there are some who felt like they were somewhat embarrassed by India,” Jeff Smith, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, said in an August 2018 interview. “So I’m sure they’re redoubling their efforts down there to ensure that something like that doesn’t happen again.”
Featured image: Two M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems assigned to the 41st Fires Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas, fire rockets during a live fire at the Udairi Range Complex, Camp Buehring, Kuwait, March 13, 2014.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Norway summoned the Iranian ambassador in Oslo on Nov. 1, 2018, to protest a suspected assassination plot against an Iranian Arab opposition figure in Denmark that allegedly involved a Norwegian citizen of Iranian origin.
Denmark said on Oct. 30, 2018, that it suspects the Iranian intelligence service tried to carry out an assassination on its soil. It is now calling for new European Union-wide sanctions against Tehran.
A Norwegian citizen of Iranian background was arrested in Sweden on Oct. 21, 2018, in connection with the plot and extradited to Denmark, Swedish police have said.
“We see the situation that has arisen in Denmark as very serious and that a Norwegian citizen of Iranian background is suspected in this case,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide said.
She said that during her meeting with Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Hassan Habibollah Zadeh, “we underlined that the activity that has come to light through the investigation in Denmark is unacceptable.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
The target of the alleged plot was the leader of the Danish branch of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA), Danish authorities said.
Danish police said they temporarily closed bridges and halted ferry services to neighboring Germany and Sweden at the end of September 2018 as part of their attempts to foil the plot.
ASMLA seeks a separate state for ethnic Arabs in Iran’s oil-producing southwestern province of Khuzestan. Arabs are a minority in Iran, and some see themselves as under Persian occupation and want independence or autonomy.
The Norwegian citizen has denied the charges, and the Iranian government has also denied the alleged plot.
Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen on Oct. 31, 2018, met with other Nordic prime ministers in Norway and said he hoped to secure broader support for a unified response to Iran.
The U.S. military had a long tradition of glorious beards — until WWI when the need for properly sealed gas masks outweighed the benefits of intimidation through superior facial hair. Today, deployed special-operations troops and troops in outlying FOBs or submarines have some leniency, but it all depends on what your rank and unit can afford. Exceptions can be made for religious or medical reasons, but the average Joe will need to shave every day.
The salt sprinkled on the wound is watching our allies grow beards that put every hipster to shame. But just because they can grow a beard, doesn’t mean that they don’t have a standard to follow. Every nation’s armed force has a different policy.
Some only allow a neatly trimmed pencil mustache, like the Americans, while others only allow their Navy to sport beards. Some only allow neatly trimmed beards if they’re properly cared for and remain a certain length and others just say, “f*ck it,” and let their boys look like lumberjacks.
The Brits have a policy on facial hair very similar to the Americans’. Mustaches are fine, but you can’t grow anything else. This goes for everyone except the Royal Navy, which allows beards but forbids mustaches alone.
There is an awesome exception for Pioneer sergeants, however, who grow out beards for ceremonial purposes. Historically, these sergeants were the blacksmiths of the unit and the beard protected their faces from forge flames.
Spanish troops are held to the most relaxed facial hair standards. If you can grow a beard, go for it. If your little whiskers are trying to poke through, keep at it.
The only restriction is that it must be a full beard. No goatees or muttonchops — it’s all or nothing.
German troops are allowed to grow their beards as long as they are trimmed, unobtrusive, and well-kept. As long as a troop can still wear a gas mask, they can keep the beard. What makes German troops stand out is that they are not allowed to have stubble.
So, the only way to keep facial hair is if you can grow a majestic enough beard while on leave. If their command approves of the beard upon return, they can keep it. If not…
The French allow their troops to grow beards off duty or on leave, but never in uniform. That is, except for the Sappers — they must grow a beard.
The French Foreign Legion’s Sappers are encouraged to grow a long, beautiful beard. If they are chosen to participate in the Bastille Day parade, they must not shave and let their fully decorated chins march down the Champs-Élysées.
The Viking-blooded troops also rock their beards under a few conditions: They mustn’t be in the Royal Guard, they must get express permission to grow one, or they can grow one on deployment.
If you enlisted in the Norwegian Armed Forces with an outstanding beard, however, you may request to keep it. The beard must stay at the length it is on your ID for its lifespan.
Narrator: If you’re not sure what kind of car this is, you’re not alone. These tiny metal capsules with wheels are called belly tanks, or lakesters, and they’re a major part of hot rod culture.
So where does that strange-looking ‘bodywork’ come from? The short answer? The sky. Following World War II, US junkyards and surplus stores were filled with an abundance of leftover warplane parts, which included plenty of drop tanks, or belly tanks. Belly tanks were supplemental gas tanks strapped to World War II fighter planes to help boost their notoriously poor range. However, after the war, racers found another use for them. America’s gearheads quickly began transforming these discarded fuel cells into miniature speed demons and racing them out on dry lake beds, hence the name lakesters.
Bruce Meyer: The belly tank was a natural because it was an extra fuel tank attached to the bottom of a P-38 fighter plane. So it was already proven to to be aerodynamic. So it was the perfect shape for land speed racing.
Narrator: One of the most famous belly tankers belonged to Alex Xydias, founder of the iconic So-Cal Speed Shop. Owned today by rare car collector and enthusiast Bruce Meyer, this legendary lakester still looks just as good now as it ever did.
Bruce: The top speed that this car attained was 198 mph, and that was piloted by Alex Xydias. When we found the belly tank, it was very much complete. It had the original interior, original dash, all the original metal and suspension. So it was all there. Nothing had to be fabricated, but it still took a year of research with Alex Xydias and Wally Parks working with Pete Chapouris, who restored the car, to make it what you see today and as accurate as it is. It is 100% the original car.
Finding a belly tank in the ’40s and ’50s was very, very easy. Today, not so much.
Narrator: That hasn’t stopped plenty of car builders in shops and garages today.
Sundeep Koneru: Sunrise Racing Division is our take on preserving vintage hot rods, especially the different eras of racing. Building our car took us about eight months. The process was first finding these tanks, which are becoming harder and harder to find. Next step was sending it to Steve Pugner, my buddy in Virginia. He does great metalwork, and he’s the one who did all the metalwork on this car. Next was finding a motor.
The biggest challenge we faced was one, me and Steve are pretty tall guys, so trying to fit us in the back of that tank was a challenge. And of course fitting a big motor which ends up sticking out was a bit of a challenge too.
I think belly tankers are still as popular as they’ve ever been. There’s more and more guys in their garages building belly tanks than I’ve ever seen before. Some of the big events you can go and see these are Bonneville during Speed Week or even El Mirage during their time trials.
Bruce: Belly tanks were prolific back then, and some people used them to build land speed records. Today, it’s not so easy. You don’t see belly tanks just laying around, and the few that were used for land speed racing are few and far between. But they do exist and are being held by enthusiasts and people who understand the importance of them.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Jan. 29, 2019, CIA Director Gina Haspel was asked point blank if she trusts the Taliban to uphold promises they made to work with the Afghan government and never allow the country to again be a safe haven for terrorists.
“If there were an eventual peace agreement, a very robust monitoring regime would be critical,” she responded. “We would still need the capability to act in our national interest if we needed to.”
The peace talks, which began Jan. 21, 2019, are focused on settling the terms for a complete withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has said that significant progress has been made during the negotiations, according to the Associated Press.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
On Jan. 30, 2019, the Taliban said in a recorded statement to AP that it had no intentions of creating a monopoly on Afghan institutions.
“After the end of the occupation, Afghans should forget their past and tolerate one another and start life like brothers,” Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman said in the statement.
Other major concessions to the US include promises that the group would not allow terrorist groups to plan attacks from Afghanistan, according to the Wall Street Journal.
But Haspel’s comments Jan. 29, 2019, reflect a troubling concern that a complete withdrawal of the 22,000 troops in the US-led coalition will allow the Taliban to regain control — a concern shared by former US ambassador Ryan Crocker.
“You will simply see the Taliban move in and retake the country,” Crocker told Foreign Policy. Even as the peace talks began, the Taliban claimed responsibility for a devastating attack against Afghan forces, giving credence to the concerns over the group’s sincerity.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Now you can do the Mario saves Princess Peach workout on a daily basis, thanks to Boston-based computer programmer Ian Albert and Mental Flossmagazine. After a reader asked the magazine how many miles the Italian duo had to run, jump, and swim to get to the Princess, they were actually able to calculate it using some simple standard measurements.
There are some ground pounders out there who probably do harder workouts for fun.
Not to take anything away from your childhood or anything.
Mental Floss’ Nick Green took the maps created through Ian Alberts screenshots of the game, calculated how large Mario and Luigi would be as normal human beings – that is, using their pre-mushroom growth hormone size – a human with their feet slightly more than shoulder width apart, an average of 26 inches.
Then, using no bonus areas or warp tunnels, Green calculated the distance from Mario’s starting point to saving the princess, relative to that 26 inches between his feet. The final tally comes to 17,835 feet – 3.4 miles. Barely more than running a 5K fun run, though this number increases to 3.7 miles if you also calculate running all the bonus areas.
Super Mario PT will not be coming to your console anytime soon.
If we were going to make this a partial triathlon, then calculating the swimming distance would be 371 feet, roughly eight laps in an Olympic-sized pool, and another 344 feet with the bonus areas, so around 15 laps.
Keep in mind this is just running and swimming straight through, without calculating the physical toll of jumping, climbing stairs, crawling in tubes, and murdering birds and turtles or of running in a lava-filled enclosed castle. There’s no doubt that rescuing the princess would be a little more difficult than we’re making it out to be, but the Princess Rescue Workout would still be short work for many military members.
Army instructors at Fort Benning, Georgia recently opened a new drone training school to teach young soldiers to become as familiar with these tiny flying devices as they are handling M4 carbines.
The 3rd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment, 316th Cavalry Brigade opened its new small unmanned aerial system, or SUAS, course facility June 11, 2018, and recently began giving classes to basic trainees “so they can become familiar with drones before they show up to their units,” Sgt. 1st Class Hilario Dominguez, the lead instructor for the class, said in a recent Defense Department news release.
Students at the SUAS course showed basic trainees how the drones fly and how to describe them if they see one flying over their formation.
Capt. Sean Minton, commander of D Company, 2nd Battalion, 58th Infantry Regiment, said his recruits learn how to fill out a seven-line report when they spot a drone and send the information to higher headquarters by radio.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)
Trainees also learn how to hide from an enemy drone and disperse to avoid heavy casualties from drone-directed field artillery.
“Our enemies have drones now,” Minton said. “And we don’t always own the air.”
Instructors teach Raven and Puma fixed-wing remote-controlled drones and a variety of helicopters, including the tiny InstantEye copter, which flies as quietly as a humming bird, according to the release.
The students who attend the SUAS course are typically infantry soldiers and cavalry scouts who go back to their units to be brigade or battalion-level master trainers, Dominguez said.
Having trained and certified experts from the course builds trust among company and troop-level commanders so they worry less about losing drones because they distrust their drone pilots’ skills, Dominguez said.
Staff Sgt. Arturo Saucedo teaches precision flying at the course. He tells his students to think of the small helicopters as a way to chase down armed enemy soldiers.
“Instead of chasing him through a booby hole, you just track him,” he said. “Now you have a grid of his location, and you can do what you need to do.”
The new drone schoolhouse was created inside a former convenience store.
“This building represents an incredible new opportunity to the small unmanned aerial system course,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Barta, 3-16 commander, during the SUAS building opening event.
“For several years now it was operating in small, cramped classrooms insufficient to meet program instruction requirements. Thanks to the work many on the squadron staff, the 316th Brigade S4 shop, and the garrison Directorate of Public Works and Network Enterprise Center, we were able to turn the vacant structure into a vibrant classroom, training leaders to make the Army better.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
While the Pentagon has been very adamant with claims that none of the 4,000+ American troops in Iraq are involved in “combat,” American jets have been flying attack sorties against Islamic State (IS) militants. But what exactly goes into getting bombs on the bad guys? Here’s what a day in the life of an aircraft carrier-based crew is like:
The mission cycle begins with CENTCOM’s Joint Task Force sending the tasking order to the intelligence center on the aircraft carrier. From there, the air wing operations cell assigns sorties to the appropriate squadrons, and those squadrons in turn assign aircrews to fly the sorties. At that point aircrews get to work with intel officers and start planning every detail of the sortie.
Once the long hours of mission planning are done, crews attempt a few hours of sleep. (The regs call for 8 hours of sleep before a hop, but that seldom happens.)
After quick showers and putting on “zoom bags” (flight suits), aviators hit the chow line before the mission brief.
All the crews involved with the mission gather for the “mass gaggle” brief, usually two and a half hours before launch time. After that elements break off for more detailed mission discussions.
Meanwhile, on the flight deck maintainers fix gripes and make sure jets are FMC — “fully mission capable.”
At the same time ordnance crews strap bombs onto jets according to the load plan published by Strike Operations.
Forty-five minutes before launch, crews head to the paraloft and put on their flight gear — G-suits, survival vests, and helmets. They also strap on a 9mm pistol in case they go down in enemy territory.
Aviators walk to the flight deck and conduct a thorough preflight of their jets, including verifying that their loadouts are correct.
Once satisfied that the jet is ready, crews climb in and wait for the Air Boss in the tower to give them the signal to start ’em up.
While lining up with the catapult for launch, pilots verify that the weight board is accurate.
With the throttles pushed to full power and the controls cycled to make sure they’re moving properly, the pilot salutes the cat officer. The cat officer touches the deck, signaling the operator in the catwalk to fire the catapult.
Zero to 160 MPH in 2.2 seconds. Airborne! (Airplanes launching on Cats 1 and 2 turn right; those on Cats 3 and 4 turn left.)
Overhead the carrier, Super Hornets top off their gas from another Super Hornet configured as a tanker.
Wingmen join flight leads and the strike elements ingress “feet dry” over hostile territory.
The flight hits the tanker again, this time an Air Force KC-135.
At that point the mission lead checks in with “Big Eye” — the AWACS — to get an updated threat status and any other late-breaking info that might be relevant.
E/F-18 Growlers — electronic warfare versions of the Super Hornet — are part of the strike package in the event of any pop-up surface-to-air missile threats.
The AWACS hands the flight off to the forward air controller in company with Iraqi forces. The FAC gives the aviators a “nine-line brief” that lays out the details of the target and any threats surrounding it and the proximity of friendlies.
The enemy has no idea what’s about to happen . . .
Target in the cross-hairs of the Super Hornet’s forward looking infrared pod.
Ground view . . .
Mission complete, the jets head back “feet wet,” stopping at the tanker once again along the way.
Jets hold over the carrier until it’s time to come into the break and enter the landing pattern. The aircraft from the event attempt to hit the arresting wires every 45 seconds or so.
Once the planes are shut down on the flight deck, aircrews head straight to CVIC with their FLIR tapes for battle damage assessment or “BDA.”
At that point everybody waits for the word to start the process all over again . . .
One of the most legendary successes of the Royal Air Force in World War II was a bombing raid that was written off for decades as a largely symbolic victory, but was actually a technically challenging operation that choked Nazi industry in 1943 and helped ensure that German factories couldn’t produce the materiel necessary to win.
A Lancaster bomber with the special Upkeep bomb bay and bomb used in Operation Chastise in May, 1943.
(Royal Air Force)
The Dam Busters Raid, officially known as Operation Chastise, was the result of a series of bombing raids that hit target after target in the Ruhr region of Germany, but failed to significantly slow German industrial output. Planners needed a way to cripple German industry, and large-scale bombing wasn’t getting the job done.
So, they presented an alternative: Instead of attacking individual factories and areas, they’d wipe out an entire productive region with the destruction of key infrastructure. Some of the best and most obvious targets were the dams in the Ruhr region.
The dams fulfilled a few key roles. They channeled water to where it was needed, provided hydroelectric power, and kept thousands of acres of farmland protected for regular cultivation.
Workers construct tanks in factories in Germany during World War II. Factories like this one, and the factories that fed them raw materials, were targeted during Operation Chastise, the “Dam Busters Raid.”
Destroying the dam would wreak worse havoc, allowing flood waters to damage dozens of factories essential for everything from coke production to tank assembly as well as additional farmland. The raid would tip the scales of 1943 and 1944 — provided they could figure out how to pull it off.
And figuring it out would prove tough. This was before England’s “earthquake” bombs, so the weapons available at the outset of the raid were basically just normal gravity bombs. But hitting a narrow dam with a bomb is challenging, and even a direct hit on the top of the dam would be unlikely to actually cause any sort of breach.
It would take multiple strikes, potentially dozens, in almost the exact same spot to really break a dam from the top.
An inert, practice bouncing bomb skips along the water in this video still from training drops by the Royal Air Force 617 Squadron. The bomb is one of the “Upkeep” munitions, the barrel-form of the weapon aimed at destroying German dams.
(Imperial War Museums)
But if the bomb could strike the dam, that would be much different. A bomb strike against the air-exposed side of the dam could heavily damage it, and a bomb in the right spot on the water side of the dam would cause the whole thing to shatter under the combined pressure of the blast and the water.
So, Britain went shopping for options, and they found a weapon under development by British engineer Barnes Wallis, who wanted to create a better bomb for taking out destroyers.
His thought was fairly simple: A bomb with the right shape and spin could skip across the water until it struck a ship. Then, the spin would drive the bomb underwater as it basically rolled itself down the outside of the ship. It would explode under the waterline with a payload much larger than a torpedo, dooming the ship. These became known as the “Bouncing Bombs.”
One of the flight crews from the Dam Busters Raid pose in July 1943. Their successful attack made the brand new 617 Squadron world-famous overnight and crippled German infrastructure.
(Royal Air Force)
His weapon was adapted slightly for Operation Chastise. The original “High Ball” design, basically a sphere, evolved into the “Upkeep” bomb, a more barrel-shaped weapon.
The British created an all-new squadron to conduct the mission, the 617. Pilots from across the Western Allies, including U.S., British Canadian, Australian, and Kiwi personnel, were assigned. The plan was for a low-level, nighttime raid targeting three dams in the valley. The squadron began intense training with the special bombs.
The most successful method they found was flying 60 feet above the water at 232 mph ground speed. While this gave the greatest chances of success and minimized the likelihood that surprised, tired anti-aircraft crews would get a shot at them, it also made for spectacularly dangerous and tricky flying.
The dam at Edertalsperre in Germany after the Dam Buster raid. The hole in the dam was estimated to be 230 feet wide and 72 feet high.
At 9:28 p.m. on May 16, 1943, the 133 men took off in 19 bombers aimed at three separate and challenging targets. They flew in three waves and successfully breached two of the dams while damaging the third.
The next morning, the attacks were reported in Germany and England. Germany tried to downplay the results, and Britain played up the success. For a generation, the exact results were in controversy. Even British historians would claim that the attack was over-hyped.
The English King George VI inspects the airmen of the 617 Squadron, the Dambusters, on May 27, 1943, after their widly successful mission.
(Royal Air Force)
The workers had to repair the physical dam before the fall rains or risk the region running low on water and electricity — even after the dam was repaired. They had to repair 100 damaged factories, not counting the 12 factories completely destroyed. Thousands of acres of farmland, necessary to feed the armies on the march, were ruined.
And, all of this came while the German army was desperately trying to stave off Soviet advances and just a year before the Normandy landings, increasing the chances of success there.
In other words, the mission was a stunning success. But it didn’t come without cost. Two bombers were lost on their way to the target. One struck the water’s surface and another hit electrical wires. Eight bombers were shot down.
53 Allied personnel were killed and another three captured.
In the first full trailer for Snowden, Oliver Stone’s biopic of the NSA contractor who leaked classified documents to the media in 2013, the director makes clear that he thinks Edward Snowden is an American hero.
The movie version of Snowden (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a good soldier who trains on broken legs without complaint for two weeks, aspired to serve in special forces and wants to join the CIA to serve his country. He is shocked by what he sees at the NSA and wants the rest of America to make an informed decision in the privacy versus security debate.
All of this matches up perfectly with Vietnam veteran Stone’s long-time movie obsessions with shadowy government figures and national security. After getting delayed twice, the movie finally opens in theaters on September 16.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
My Delta Selection class gifted the Unit with ten U.S. Army Rangers. K2 was one of the ten. He spoke very little, but his Ranger brothers spoke for him:
“Yeah, well, there’s strong and then there’s K2 strong,” was a catchphrase among the men. I guess so… or, I mean I just didn’t get it. He was medium in every way as I saw it; medium build, personality, intelligence, spirit… I just didn’t see where the super strength part came into play.
Perhaps I would eventually.
In my day, the Unit was a very evenly split down center with 50% of the operators from the Rangers and the other half, including me, from the Green Beret groups. To us, the Rangers were rigid meatheads; to them, we were lazy cheaters. I resented but agreed with the Rangers’ assessment of us Green Beanies — in fact, it is the very reason why I left the groups to seek out Delta.
K2 and I rarely spoke at first. I remember the first time during our Selection and Assessment course. It was the night before our final test of strength and endurance. We were given a chance to sleep for almost three hours.
Twenty men hit the ground in their bags to saw logs. Another man from the groups and I sat and chatted up a host of disparate nonsense.
K2 sat up looking like a mummy in his bag, unzipped, and revealed a disenchanted expression:
“You guys mind shutting the phuq up? We’re trying to sleep here.”
He zipped and lay back down.
Army Green Berets are respected for their flexibility, broad reach, and extraordinary
ability to improvise.
“That’s the first thing he’s said to me this whole month!” I whispered to my bro. “Same here!” my bud whispered back… ah, but we whispered! You see, us lazy cheaters still caught on to the fact that we were asses for talking while the men tried to sleep, and we both felt a distinct aura coming from the man whose strength wrought an aphoristic statement from his brethren: the night is as long as K2 is strong.
We graduated and moved on to the next training phase in Delta, the advanced skill training course, one that would last for some six months. The heavy lift subject for us was Close Quarters Combat (CQB), a subject for which Delta has no known peer. It’s a subject that I claim total immersion for myself. I ran through CQB scenarios in my mind even as I walked to the restroom at Taco Bell; I didn’t just enter the restroom, I cleared it first.
Countless days and the thousands of bullets whizzing by inches from everyman rendered a couple of holes through pant legs. That was cringeworthy… but so far nobody was getting hit. That is, up until the day K2 got hit squarely in the leg from a 9 x 19mm round from a Heckler and Koch MP5 submachine gun. The stray round had rabbited along a wall and punched through K2’s leg.
9x19mm Heckler and Koch MP5 submachine gun.
“I’m hit,” he stated as flatly as he stated his name the first day of training.
K2 was hit with a flyer shot that missed its target. It was a good thing it happened in training, as a “thrown round” once assigned to a Sabre Squadron could get a man getting reassigned from the Unit. K2 looked instantly worried, not about his injury… rather his ability to remain with the class.
We returned to training K2-less, as he was taken to the compound clinic for treatment in-house. To take him to the main post hospital would raise unnecessary attention. His wound was a through-and-through one; no bone was broken, though the bullet did spank a long bone good as it passed.
Word was that K2 would remain in training for as long as he felt he could continue. That was great news — except for the bad news, which was we had a ten mile run scheduled for that Friday. It would not be possible for K2 to finish that. The collective question from the class was couldn’t K2 skip, or at least defer that run?
The answer was he had to complete all events with the class.
Bullet wound as seen from the compound clinic.
(Courtesy of MSG Carlos Sanchez)
Friday was a gloomy morning where we collected to start the run.
“How’s it going, K2?” I asked.
“Not so good, Geo… those twinkies and raisin vinegar I had for breakfast this morning are really talking to me,” the K2 responded. I laughed and slapped him on the back.
We ran, and K2 ran. He ran in the middle of the pack with his head up; he had an almost-indiscernible limp. We whispered back and forth that K2 looked great and how great it was that he looked so great…
At perhaps the six mile mark, K2 slipped to the back of the pack slowly. His head was bowed low and he was no longer paying attention to his surroundings. He ran the next couple of miles in an intermittent skip, as if he were trying to hop on his good leg. We stressed for him.
Eight miles in, K2 fell back behind the pack. Falling back is not falling out, we postured; he’s still in the run. Two men fell back to run with K2 to encourage or even pull him along.
“Get back up in formation!” warned the cadre. That was certainly the end of it, as nobody dared to disobey ANYTHING at this point long into training. The two men stayed back with K2. Another man fell back and then I stuttered my step to join the pull for K2.
“If you don’t finish with the formation you will not pass the event!” the cadre cautioned.
K2’s shoe was soaked in blood from where his wound had begun to seep. It made a wet splatting noise with each step. K2 regarded our staying back with him with pain and disbelief… and more pain still. He couldn’t run any faster; he just couldn’t do it, but we weren’t going to leave him.
And then a thing happened.
Ahead of us, the Delta cadre sergeant looped his formation back, back around and brought it up behind the K2 clan at a reduced speed. We, the mighty, ran with our heads up over the finish line. The sergeant disappeared.
In the mingling sea of back-pats and handshakes, K2 grabbed a shake from me, thanking me for what I had done. I “confessed” to him that I was lazy and a cheat and used him as an excuse to fall back and take a gravely-needed rest… a thing that made him grin a powerful K2 grin.
“Good luck in training today, Geo,” K2 bid me as we parted.
“RGR, K2… break a leg!”
K2’s run diet: vinegar and twinkies.
George Hand is a retired Master Sergeant from the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, and the Seventh Special Forces Groups (Airborne). The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own.