I’m a Green Beret, US Army Special Forces. Right after I earned my green beret and reported to my unit for this first time, I found out we were going to combat in a few weeks and I would be leading a team of older, battle hardened green berets into battle. My commander told me right before he introduced me to my team, “You’re in command now…. Do something with it.”
Now, I’m a veteran and I find myself wearing a few hats – I’m a business owner, Executive Director of a non-profit, and author. COVID-19 has really hurt my companies – all of my business contracts this year are canceled / postponed. I have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Its forced me to grow my hair out – I look like Moses from the ten commandments.
I’m sure a lot of you are in the same boat.
What do you do? Do you sit and wait for something good to happen? Do you close shop and use COVID-19 as an excuse for why you failed?
Or do you follow my company commander’s advice and do something about it?
Things are tough for everyone.
People are feeling uncomfortable to say the least.
Let’s be honest about who we are and what we are experiencing. That feeling of discomfort isn’t something we should hide or pretend we’re not going through. Let’s embrace this deliberate discomfort and be vulnerable. Most of the time, we put up a front – we fake it until we make it. We’re pretending to be someone we are not. COVID-19 has given us a beautiful gift. This is a time where there’s no more faking. Its just us – stripped down – stressed out – trying to hold it together.
No more pretending that everything is fine.
Here’s what I believe – If COVID-19 is affecting you, I believe that YOU can do something about your situation. I believe you can dare to win by getting comfortable being uncomfortable. I believe that its only through discomfort that we find solutions, learn, grow, and improve. It’s only through deliberate discomfort that you can achieve your full potential.
In the past 8 years, my company has worked with 13 x NFL teams, MLB teams, and numerous corporate clients to identify, assess, and develop the leadership behaviors required to win. We help them to do this by showing them the DELIBERATE DISCOMFORT mindset.
Now I appreciate that you may not have served in the military, but I know that at some point all of you realize that something needs to change. I hope that you don’t wait for something bad to happen to be the person you were destined to be.
There are a million “experts” out there telling you to seek comfort, to look for the easy path. I’m telling you the opposite. I’m telling you to seek discomfort. To take the road less traveled. To be vulnerable. To dare.
I am looking at COVID-19 as a blessing. I took my company commander’s advice and did something. I transitioned my business model to online training. One of the ways we reach our tribe is through our best-selling book, Deliberate Discomfort: How US Special Operations Forces Overcome Fear and Dare to Win By Getting Comfortable Being Uncomfortable.
If you want to learn more, Deliberate Discomfort is available in hardback and e-book on Amazon, Barnes Noble, and other book sellers. This week we are launching our e-book for a limited, one-week only .99 price.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has so far dominated the year 2020. The news cycle is filled with statistics, new restrictions, and a suffering economy. The current pandemic is also causing rising symptoms of depression, anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness. A few women decided to change that narrative. They are encouraging others to live in a space of purpose and love.
Victoria Griggs is an active duty Army spouse living in Seattle, Washington – the area of the United States first impacted by the pandemic. She shared that she has a son with a rare blood disorder which requires frequent hospital visits, despite the shelter in place order. Her mom lovingly made her family masks to utilize during their hospital trips. “I took a quick picture and made a Facebook post thanking my mom for the masks and sharing that more could be made for anyone in need. I never dreamed it would turn into what it did,” said Griggs.
Less than 24 hours later, she was fielding hundreds of requests for masks and offers to help make more. She quickly realized that there would need to be a team to make this work and a nonprofit would need to be formed. Marine spouse Jill Campbell and Army spouse Sophia Eng came on board. Then Becky Blank and Ruthi Nguyen, who are civilians, joined in too. All of them realized they had a unique opportunity to make a difference.
Once established as an official nonprofit, they began receiving monetary donations. All of the money raised goes right into the mask making. They are now supporting multiple groups throughout the country with supplies and shipping costs that are sewing masks. They have made over 7,000 masks to date thanks to the efforts of 400 sewers. We Have Masks also has a group volunteering their time working with 3D printers to make tools for mask makers. Every piece that put We Have Masks together is based on a shared devotion to serving others.
Nurses at Kaiser Redwood City with masks generously donated by We Have Masks
On the other side of the country, Megan Brown was doing the same thing.
Her mask making all started as a way to support her fellow Air Force families at her husband’s base in Georgia. Very quickly it morphed into sewing masks for military families and first responders all over the country. Brown was open in sharing that the original idea for Milspo Mask Makers was Sarah Mainwaring’s and she was “lovingly pushed” into doing it alongside her and then eventually leading the cause. They have now made 1,200 masks to date with no end in sight.
“We are challenging the military community to stand in the gap,” Brown said. She went on to explain that her deep faith pushed her to say yes to this. Brown also shared that she couldn’t just organize this, but believed deeply that she had to be making the masks as well. “True leaders do so from the front,” she said. Brown and all of the Milspo Mask Makers are challenging the military community to make 10,000 masks by the time GivingTuesdayNow rolls around on May 5th, 2020.
Back in Seattle, Griggs was watching Brown and her mask makers. She reached out to her on a whim to connect and tell her how much she admired what she was doing. They both discussed their deep desire to bring joy to those in need and a feeling of purpose to those lost. “This is one of the darkest times in our generation. We are all going through what is essentially a group trauma,” Brown shared. Through community building and serving, they both want to help heal that trauma.
So, they’ve joined forces.
We Have Masks will begin to utilize and adopt the hashtag, #MilSpoMaskMakers to help Brown monitor their targeted goal of 10,000 masks. They are actively seeking more people who are willing to sew and support the mask making efforts. Both women encouraged those who can sew to sign up and onboard through the We Have Masks website. Those in need of masks personally or for their community can also utilize the website to request masks. Those who are able to donate to the cause can safely give there as well.
“I can’t wait to model collaboration to this generation of military spouses. It’s about meeting the need together – publicly, lovingly, and well,” said Brown. Griggs echoed that sentiment, explaining that she feels this is such a great space to be in and truly feels like they are making a difference. Together.
In a world currently filled with scenes of loss and unknowns, there can also be deep love and purpose. All it takes is a willingness to serve and the belief in the power of community.
Imagine waking up one day and feeling as if a hurricane hit — except everything is still standing.
The lights are out, there is no running water, you have no phone signal, no internet, no heating or air conditioning. Food starts rotting in your fridge, hospitals struggle to save their patients, trains and planes are stuck.
There are none of the collapsed buildings or torn-up trees that accompany a hurricane, and no floodwater. But, all the same, the world you take for granted has collapsed.
This is what it would look like if hackers decided to take your country offline.
Business Insider has researched the state of cyberwarfare, and spoken with experts in cyberdefense, to piece together what a large-scale attack on a country like the US could look like.
Nowadays nations have the ability to cause warlike damage to their enemy’s vital infrastructure without launching a military strike, helped along by both new offensive technology and the inexorable drive to connect more and more systems to the internet.
What makes infrastructure systems so vulnerable is that they exist at the crossroads between the digital world and the physical world, said Andrew Tsonchev, the director of technology for the cyberdefense firm Darktrace.
Computers increasingly control operational technologies that were previously in the hands of humans — whether the systems that route electricity through power lines or the mechanism that opens and closes a dam.
“These systems have been connected up to the Wild West of the internet, and there are exponential opportunities to break in to them,” Tsonchev said. This creates a vulnerability experts say is especially acute in the US.
Most US critical infrastructure is owned by private businesses, and the state does not incentivize them to prioritize cyberdefense, according to Phil Neray, an industrial cybersecurity expert for the firm CyberX.
“For most of the utilities in the US that monitoring is not in place right now,” he said.
One of the most obvious vulnerabilities experts identify is the power grid, relied upon by virtually everyone living and working in a developed country.
Researchers for the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are preparing for just that kind of scenario.
They told Business Insider just how painstaking — and slow — a restart would be if the US were to lose control of its power lines.
A DARPA program manager, Walter Weiss, has been simulating a blackout on a secretive island the government primarily uses to study infectious animal diseases.
On the highly restricted Plum Island, Weiss and his team ran a worst-case scenario requiring a “black start,” in which the grid has to be brought back from deactivation.
“What scares us is that once you lose power it’s tough to bring it back online,” Weiss said. “Doing that during a cyberattack is even harder because you can’t trust the devices you need to restore power for that grid.”
In November, DARPA staged what a cyberattack on the US power grid could look like.
(Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)
The exercise requires experts to fight a barrage of cyberthreats while also grappling with the logistics of restarting the power system in what Weiss called a “degraded environment.”
That means coordinating teams across multiple substations without phone or internet access, all while depending on old-fashioned generators that need to be refueled constantly.
Trial runs of this work, Weiss said, showed just how fragile and prone to disruption a recovery effort might be. Substations are often far apart, and minor errors or miscommunications — like forgetting one type of screwdriver — can set an operation back by hours.
A worst-case scenario would require interdependent teams to coordinate these repairs across the entire country, but even an attack on a seemingly less important utility could have a catastrophic impact.
Maritime ports are another prime target — the coastal cities of San Diego and Barcelona, Spain, reported attacks in a single week in 2018.
Both said their core operations stayed intact, but it is easy to imagine how interrupting the complicated logistics and bureaucracy of a modern shipping hub could ravage global trade, 90% of which is ocean-borne.
Itai Sela, the CEO of the cybersecurity firm Naval Dome, told a recent conference that “the shipping industry should be on red alert” because of the cyberthreat.
The world has already seen glimpses of the destruction a multipronged cyberattack could cause.
Besides the attacks on the power grid, the devastating NotPetya malware in 2017 paralyzed Ukrainian utility companies, banks, and government agencies. The malware proved so virulent that it spread to other countries.
Hackers have also caused significant disruption with so-called ransomware, which freezes computer systems unless the users had over large sums of money, often in hard-to-trace cryptocurrency.
An attack on local government services in Baltimore has frozen about 10,000 computers since May 7, 2019, getting in the way of ordinary activities like selling homes and paying the water bill. Again, this is proof of concept for something far larger.
Though the capacity is there, as with most large-scale acts of war, state actors are fearful to pull the trigger.
James Andrew Lewis, a senior vice president and technology director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider the fear of retaliation kept many hackers in check.
“The caveat is how a country like the US would retaliate,” he said. “An attack on this scale would be a major geopolitical move.”
Despite the growing dangers, this uneasy and unspoken truce has kept the threat far from most people’s minds. For that to change, Lewis believes, it would require a real, large-scale attack with real collateral.
“I’m often asked: How many people have died in a cyberattack? Zero,” he said.
“Maybe that’s the threshold. People underappreciate the effects that aren’t immediately visible to them.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
China is sending some of its most advanced fighter jets and bombers to Russia in late July 2018 for a major international military exercise.
“The International Army Games 2018, initiated by the Russian Ministry of Defense, will start on July 28, 2018,” China’s Ministry of Defense said in a press statement last week. “It is co-organized by China, Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Iran.”
“Participation in the International Army Games is an effective way to improve fighting capabilities under real combat conditions,” the press statement added.
Yue Gang, a retired PLA colonel, told the South China Morning Post that the exercises will help the PLA learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of its aircraft and also learn from Russia about hardware and pilot training.
China and Russia’s militaries have grown increasingly close lately, with Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying in early April 2018 that the two nations had forged a “strategic partnership” against a “unipolar” world dominated by the US.
Here’s what China is bringing:
1. H-6K bombers
The H6-K is China’s main strategic bomber, able to carry a variety of land attack and anti-ship cruise missiles and precision-guided munitions, according to The National Interest.
“It will be the first time that H-6K bombers … have gone abroad to take part in military competitions,” China Ministry of Defense said.
Think you have a great idea that will revolutionize Army readiness and resilience? The Army wants to boost your chance at making it happen.
Starting in June 2019, the Army implemented a formal process to capture and evaluate grassroots, personal readiness, and resilience initiatives, before considering the idea for potential Army-wide use.
The new process, outlined in the just released Initiative Evaluation Process technical guide, is designed to ensure ideas can demonstrate results, have applicability Army-wide and avoid duplication or unintended consequences.
“Not every good idea, even if it’s a great idea, may hit the mark,” said Joe Ezell, a Management and Program Analyst at the Army’s G-1 SHARP, Ready and Resilient (SR2) Directorate. “Sometimes people don’t quite understand the second and third order effects associated with their good idea … and the execution of that idea might not quite evolve into what they are looking for.”
(U.S. Army photo)
Previously, the Army may have implemented ideas sent by local installations, but without thorough analysis or resourcing, those initiatives fell by the wayside. The new technical guide, developed jointly by SR2 and the Army Public Health Center (APHC), requires that proposed initiatives undergo a five-step screening process to assess effectiveness and Army-wide applicability.
Army program managers, Army leaders or anyone with a great idea to improve soldier, civilian, and family member personal readiness and resilience can begin the process of fielding it by reaching out to their Commander’s Readiness and Resilient Integrator (CR2I).
This first step in the process provides the individual leader or organization proposing an idea with the backing of a work group that will help them gather effectiveness data, walk them through the other steps in the process and, if the idea has merit, put together the proposal package for submission to the local installation commander. The initiative will then undergo review at several echelons before it is potentially forwarded to the Army G-1 level.
Although the process may seem cumbersome, it is not intended to inhibit innovation, instead it is meant to refine it, said David Collins, Evaluations Branch Chief at SR2.
(U.S. Army photo by Davide Dalla Massara)
“As with any good ideas, it has to be well thought out,” Collins said. “It forces people to think about outcomes. Oftentimes we just think about execution, we never really think about the impact.”
The end result will be that the best ideas will rise to the top and get pushed through up to the highest levels for evaluation and possible implementation Army-wide, Collins said. Other ideas may work better at the local or regional level, and commanders can still count on the IEP process to validate those initiatives.
The proposal package the CR2I puts together is intended to show the quantifiable impact an idea has, and gather objective evidence that will reinforce the value of the idea so that when a new program is presented to senior Army leaders, they will be able to make evidence-based decisions. The IEP will “save time, energy and effort across the board,” Ezell said.
Grassroots efforts have traditionally driven innovation in the ranks, so if you are ready to submit your idea, download the technical guide and reach out to your local CR2I now.
Veterans lined the halls of the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center Nov. 8, 2019 to watch the first ever Inpatient Veterans Parade. The parade is the result of one VA employee’s vision and the patriotic spirit of a community.
The Muskogee High School R.O.T.C. color guard led the way through Primary Care and inpatient wards. The parade also included members of the community and “mini” floats decorated by VA staff.
Honor, the facility dog, acted as grand marshal while parade participants handed out candy, hats and other treats to veterans.
Twenty-five organizations and VA services joined in the event. Muskogee High School provided a marching band, cheerleaders and football players. Korean War veterans, the American Red Cross and over 80 students from the Sadler Arts Academy also participated.
Seeing Color Guard was emotional
Veteran Billy Fuller became emotional when he saw the color guard.
“I really liked the parade,” said Fuller. “I was in the Air Force and seeing the colors and hearing the songs just takes me back. Thank you for doing this for us.”
VA staff from the Intensive Care Unit were one of 25 hospital services and community organizations that participated in the parade.
Sadler students passed out cards and thanked veterans for their service while the band, cheer squad and football players brought the music and patriotic spirit that echoed throughout the facility.
Air Force veteran Merle Smith and Terry Hood were all smiles as the parade passed through the Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit.
“I think this is the greatest thing in the world,” said Smith. “All these young kids bringing cards and thanking veterans. It was just really something special.”
Hood agreed, but added with a big smile, “The candy was my favorite part.”
Volunteer specialist had idea for parade
The idea for the parade came about a year ago when inpatients expressed their disappointment at not being able to attend Veterans Day activities. As a result, Voluntary Service specialist Shantel McJunkins thought of how VA could bring the parade to veterans.
“It was important to me that we bring the parade to the VA this year to celebrate and honor our veterans who are not able to attend Veterans Day parades in their community,” said McJunkins. “It was such a joy to see their faces light up as the parade went through the hospital.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The F-111 Aardvark didn’t have a lot of air-to-air kills – it just wasn’t designed to be in aerial combat. It was a supersonic nuclear bomber and recon plane. But a fighter it was not. What it did have was an electronic warfare variant that could help the Air Force control the skies in a particular battlespace. Unlike their combat-ready counterparts, these EF-111A Ravens didn’t have defenses if they were attacked in the air.
So when the unarmed variant scored the only aerial kills in the history of the F-111, it was a memorable occasion.
Normally, it’s just dropping bombs. Not this time.
(U.S. Air Force)
When the United States and its coalition allies launched Operation Desert Storm in 1991, it’s safe to say it took Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army and Air Force by surprise. The opening minutes surprised a lot of people, and no one more so than USAF pilot James Denton and Electronic Warfare Officer Brent Brandon – as well as the Iraqi Mirage pilot who was trying to shoot their two-seater EF-111A down.
The EF-111A Raven came under attack from an Iraqi Dassault Mirage Fighter in the first minutes of Desert Storm, Jan. 17, 1991. This was troubling for many reasons, most notably because the EF variant of the F-111 didn’t have any means of protecting itself – it wasn’t supposed to be an aerial fighter. But that was going to change, for at least this one and only time.
The EF-111A Raven variant.
(U.S. Air Force)
For the Iraqi, the EF-111A was a great target of opportunity. He had just evaded an F-15C and managed to enter through the screen of F-15 and F-16 fighters that were supposed to be escorting the EF-111A. The Iraqi attempted to shoot the Raven down with missiles, but well-timed chaff and flares took care of the enemy incoming. When missiles didn’t work, the Mirage switched to guns. Brandon switched from countermeasures to piloting skills.
The EF-111A was originally flying just 1,000 feet above the desert floor, so Denton decided to take it lower and use the plane’s terrain-following radar to stay above the desert and not fly into the ground. The Iraqi pilot wasn’t so lucky. As Denton and Brandon tag-teamed their way above the terrain, Denton saw his opportunity, banking hard into a climb that took him well above the desert. The Iraqi, so focused on his target and not the dark terrain below, slammed hard into the ground, exploding into a fireball that lit up the night.
It was the first F-111 aerial kill in the airframe’s history. It would end up being the only aerial kill for the F-111, and it was done without so much as a weapon fired from the American plane.
Some interesting implications are on the line with the success of new military robots. The U.S. Army has been experimenting with robots in hopes of creating a more competent unmanned instrument for battle. The robots took on a variety of complex tasks, each associated with a real-world battlefield application—like sorting through minefields and clearing anti-tank trenches. Not only were the robots successful, but they actually began to complete the tasks faster with each successive attempt. The exercises took place at Yakima Air Base (WA).
Some military robots have mundane uses like these LS3 “robot mules” designed to carry heavy gear and cargo.
The Yakima Air Base exercises were spearheaded by Lt. Col. Jonathan Fursman and Capt. Nichole Rotte of the 23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion. The team was tasked with creating complicated breach obstacles (within the context of “a realistic and plausible scenario”) for the robots to overcome.
According to Defense News, these breaches included: anti-tank trenches, minefields, and razor wire. The robots also had to breach all of the obstacles while under fire while paving the way for a counterattack into enemy lines.
The exercise was also monitored by a quadcopter, deployed under the watch of the Alabama National Guard, to monitor the use of any chemical, nuclear, or biological agents used. Another separate unit, using an unmanned Polaris MRZR vehicle, shrouded the breach with a smokescreen that clouded the field and heavily impaired (human) vision.
A “battlefield extraction assist” bot prototype designed to transport wounded soldiers.
At the very start of the breach, the U.S. Army robots used two NGCVs to lay down clear lines of suppression fire at the “enemy.” In a bizarre backward glimpse into the future of warfare, a humvee controlling yet another humvee—was equipped with a 7.62mm gun. This robot-meta suppression fire humvee (I’m sure the Army will come up with another alphabet soup acronym for these in the coming years) was accompanied by an M113 armored personnel carrier (actually controlled by a human).
While the “enemy” was hunkered down by suppression fire, two ABVs (assault breacher vehicles) took on the actual obstacles laid out by Fursman and Rotte. These ABVs were controlled by the Marines Corps (as it is quickly becoming apparent that manned robots should be clarified).
The initial ABV led the way and cleared a safe path through the minefield—leaving stakes in the ground to highlight a path of safety through the exercise for the other ABV.
Could we see robot infantry within the decade?
The second ABV used a blade to fill a tank trench and, once filled, led a clean path for allied forces to form an assault on the “enemy.”
According to Defense News, via Rotte, the initial breach exercise took “two and a half hours,” but the subsequent attempt took only two hours. The second, faster, attempt matches the same time frame it would take human soldiers to complete the same task. This leads us to the important question: are we on the brink of seeing robotic warfare replace boots on the ground?
The answer lies only in how quickly these machines can begin to operate efficiently and be productive on a mass scale. There were some hangups in the exercise, such as latency issues (lag, as gamers would call it), camera feed problems, and other hiccups. Reports indicate that none of these posed too much of an issue.
The unmanned machines were easy to control. Finding human soldiers to operate the machines isn’t necessarily a problem, as the machines in this exercise were all operated with a standard Xbox One controller—seeing as most members of the armed forces have trained themselves with the intricacies of an Xbox controller in their spare time.
So as unmanned operations become simultaneously more efficient logistically, and more simple practically—the idea of taking boots off the ground in place of robots isn’t a matter of if but a matter of when. If these exercises are any indication of the nearing of that all-important when—then we are well on our way to seeing a new era of battle in which casualties will be measured in gears and bolts.
From initial pilot training to mission qualification training, US Air Force pilots complete intensive training and preparation to learn critical skills to fly, fight and win, as well as prevent mishaps.
However, F-35 and F-16 trainees in the 56th Fighter Wing also receive cutting edge human performance optimization training across physical, mental, and emotional domains.
In May 2019, Capt. Robert Larson, a 61st Fighter Squadron student pilot, was on a training mission when he found himself faced with an in-flight emergency. Larson called upon his human performance optimization training and saved not only himself but the F-35A Lightning II he was flying from any damage.
“I was pretty high up, about 34,000 feet, and all of a sudden everything got really quiet,” said Larson. “I tried to call my flight lead and realized I couldn’t talk to anybody. I started descending, working through my checklist and rocking my wings to try and let my flight lead know that I didn’t have a radio. As I got further into the checklist I realized I had lost one of the flight computers that was responsible for controlling oxygen, pressurization, and some parts of communication.”
Crew chiefs with the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit work on an F35A Lightning II returning to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, after a two-month European deployment, July 31, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)
Larson eventually visually communicated with his flight lead to relay the situation and decided to return to the base. As he worked through multiple checklists with additional failures, he determined that the aircraft’s landing gear could possibly collapse upon landing.
“At that point my plan was to land and if the gear collapsed as I was landing I was going to eject,” said Larson. “Luckily it didn’t and I was able to pull off to the end of the runway and shut down there and wait for maintenance.”
Larson succeeded due to his ability to keep a level head during a high-stakes emergency, and his training helped prepare him for it. Unique to Luke AFB, student pilots receive holistic performance training and support to optimize their physical and mental skills for the stress of flying and coping with an emergency situation.
The Human Performance Team’s Fighter Tactical Strengthening and Sustainment (FiTSS) program is normal part of the F-16 and F-35 Basic Course training, and also available to all Luke AFB instructors and student at all levels.
“We have an academic portion that covers mindfulness, awareness, intensity regulation, focus and attention, self-talk, goal setting, confidence, motivation and team cohesion,” said Dr. John Gassaway, Clinical Sports Psychologist with the Human Performance Team. “Then we meet one-on-one about twice a month to talk about how they are implementing these strategies.”
An F-35A Lightning II.
(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)
In an advanced, fifth-generation fighter like the F-35 serious malfunctions are extremely rare. For Larson, the incident was solved not only by his knowledge of the jet’s systems but his ability to assess the situation with composure.
“I had practiced for all this time and it worked in a way where I was able to stay calm, successfully work through everything, bring the jet back and land safely,” said Larson. “All those mental skills helped so much, and it’s not until you have the time to reflect that you realize how useful and necessary they are.”
Emergencies or life threatening situations are never ideal when flying; however, Larson believes the experience reinforced the importance of his training.
“It’s not what your hands and feet are doing to fly the jet but what you’re doing mentally to process what you’re going through,” said Larson. “How you can improve that whole process has been my biggest take away for it.”
For Gassaway, the incident emphasized the importance of practicing and improving mental skills.
“The thing that was so impressive with Larson, and the thing that I really take the greatest amount of pride in, was the fact that when he was flying, he didn’t think about any of these skills until he landed,” said Gassaway. “That showed me he was aware he had used the skills, but they were automated, ultimately that is the optimization of these skills.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The first time Changiz Lahidji joined a Special Forces unit, his loyalty was to Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. But he found himself guarding lavish parties in the middle of the desert, protecting the opulent ruler of Imperial Iran and his guests. It wasn’t exactly the life of adventure that John Wayne movies led him to believe he could have.
He didn’t stay in service to the Shah for very long. It seemed like a waste. So, he moved to California, working in family-owned gas stations until November, 1978. That’s when he joined the Army and became an instrument of destruction — for the United States.
Master Sergeant Changiz Lahidji in Afghanistan in the early 2000s. He was the first Muslim Green Beret and longest-serving Special Forces soldier in history with 24 years of active service.
The late 1970s were not a good time to be from the Middle East and living in the U.S., even if you’re in the Army. He had to constantly endure racism from his fellow soldiers, even though they couldn’t tell the difference between an Arab and a Persian. It didn’t matter, Lahidji pressed on and finished Special Forces training. Less than a year later, he was wearing the coveted Green Beret and by December 1979, he was on his first mission.
He was on his way back to Iran.
Changiz Lahidji standing guard during the Shah’s celebration of the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire.
In November, 1979, students in Tehran seized the U.S. embassy there, taking 52 federal employees and U.S. troops hostage. Lahidji wasn’t about to wait for the military to get around to assigning him to help. He wrote a letter to President Jimmy Carter, offering his unique skills, knowledge of Tehran, and native Farsi to the task. He wanted to choose his A-Team and get to Iran as soon as possible.
The U.S. military was happy to oblige. He wasn’t going to lead an A-Team, but he had an Iranian passport and he went into Tehran ahead of Operation Eagle Claw in order to get advance knowledge of the situation on the ground and to rent a bus to drive hostages and operators out after they retook the embassy. After the disaster at Desert One, he was forced to smuggle himself out aboard a fishing boat.
Master Sgt. Changiz Lahidji, U.S. Army.
After Iran, he didn’t have to worry about being accepted by his fellow Green Berets. He was one of them by then.
But it wasn’t the only time his Iranian background would come to the aid of U.S. forces. In 2003, some 24 years after the failure of Eagle Claw, Lahidji was in Tora Bora, dressed as a farmer and working for a U.S. private contractor. There, he would personally identify Osama bin Laden. When he went to the American embassy to report his finding, the U.S. seemed to take no action.
Lahidji does a lot of private contractor work these days. After spending so much time traveling and in service to the United States — he’s done more than 100 missions in Afghanistan alone — he looks back on his time in the service as a privilege. Army Special Forces gave Changiz Lahidji the brotherhood and adventure he always dreamed of as a secular, middle-class child growing up in Iran.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet made its initial flight after receiving the first US Air Force “Ghost” paint scheme, May 23, 2019.
The design was chosen by a poll held by Brig. Gen. Robert Novotny, 57th Wing commander, on his social media account to add a new look to the 64th Aggressor Squadron (AGRS).
“I love this job, and I love what we do at Nellis Air Force Base, so I want to take any opportunity to boast about our fine men and women who do great work for their nation,” said Novotny.
“Social Media gives me a chance to connect directly with the folks who have a similar passion for military aviation.”
Aircraft painters for Mission First (M1) assigned to the 57th Aircraft Maintenance Group sand the tail of an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet assigned to the 64th Aggressor Squadron inside the corrosion shop on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 1, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)
Jesus Yanez, 57th Maintenance Group Mission First (M1) aircraft painter, sprays the underside of an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet assigned to the 64th Aggressor Squadron inside the corrosion shop on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 8, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)
Troy Blaschko, 57th Maintenance Group Mission First (M1) aircraft painter, peels off letters for the masking, inside the corrosion shop on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 7, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)
An F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet assigned to the 64th Aggressor Squadron (AGRS) received new decals and stenciling inside the corrosion shop on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 16, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)
Peter Mossudo and Troy Blaschko, both 57th Maintenance Group Mission First (M1) aircraft painters, place masking for stenciling on an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet inside the corrosion shop on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 16, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)
An F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet assigned to the 64th Aggressors Squadron Viper Aircraft Maintenance Unit on the flight line at Nellis Air Force base, Nevada, May 21, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)
Senior Airman Rodolfo Aguayo-Santacruz, 926th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (AMXS) crew chief, prepares to control an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet getting towed out of the corrosion shop on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 20, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)
A US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon with the “Ghost” paint scheme at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.
The military loves its rules and regulations. There are books upon books upon books filled with governance on everything from how to dress to how to stay alive. It’s a good thing, even if it is really obnoxious. The military is supposed to be a standardized, uniformed, disciplined unit, after all.
If someone told me to PT in the grass, my first reaction would be to wonder if it was a trap.
1. “Don’t walk on the grass.”
Sometimes, when humans and other animals take a shortcut over vegetation, they wear it down, eventually killing what’s underfoot and making a trail. This looks unsightly on a well-groomed lawn. If that were the reason troops are prohibited from walking on the grass, I could get on board. Seems logical enough: Don’t ruin the foliage.
But that’s not what this is about.
I once saw a guy get ripped apart because he stepped off the walkway to tie his shoe. He made the logical choice to not block foot traffic and correct a safety concern and some first sergeant took it upon himself to stomp over and start screaming at the guy for “walking on the commander’s grass.”
The military doesn’t really issue explanations along with their rules, so everyone has a different explanation as to why troops can’t walk on the grass on base. The consensus seems to be that it’s unbecoming. Some say that taking a shortcut is symbolic and antithetical to military motivation and commitment.
There’s also a “shut up and color” mentality in the military — follow orders and don’t ask questions. I get that troops need to follow orders during combat, but there has to be some flexibility when it comes to the military environment. We also need troops to be problem-solvers, critical thinkers, and, you know, confident, mentally-sound human beings.
Yelling in someone’s face over an understandable train of thought? Dumb.
“…unless you’re Dwight D. Eisenhower.”
2. “Keep your hands out of your pockets.”
According to the Navy, “While in uniform, it is inappropriate and detracts from military smartness for personnel to have their hands in their pockets.”
That sounds like an opinion to me — a dumb opinion.
You know what detracts from military smartness? Cold hands.
“But Shannon, you could wear gloves!”
It’s not that f***ing cold. It’s just kinda cold.
Or maybe it isn’t cold at all. It’s just comfortable to stand with your hands in your pockets. It allows you to roll your shoulders back and open your chest and lung cavity with minimal effort. Sure, it’s more casual. And I’m not condoning a formation of warriors shoving their hands in their pockets before battle, but on a lazy Tuesday afternoon in the middle of Oklahoma, why not I say?!
Air Force Master Sgt. Vincent Brass, a first sergeant at the time, made the argument that there should be no standard too small to enforce because there is a danger in picking and choosing which standards are mandatory.
I will grant Sgt. Brass this but I would argue that this is why it’s so important to stay mindful about the rules we create — and why it’s important to evolve as a service.
The Thunderbirds: proving you can be professional, awesome, and standardized — even if you’re protecting your vision.
3. “No ear or eye protection in formation.”
This one really pisses me off: regulating ear and eye protection in formation.
You know why humans wear ear muffs in cold weather? Because lower temperatures can decrease blood circulation and cause ear pain and headaches.
Furthermore, you can get develop frostbite in 40-degree Fahrenheit weather, depending on the wind.
So, let’s say it’s, oh I don’t know, 0700 on a chilly January morning in South Korea. Outside, you’re looking at an average temperature of 15 degrees. Even if the wind is only blowing a paltry 5 miles an hour, you can develop frostbite in under 10 minutes. Meanwhile, you’re standing in formation waiting for some general to show up for the “fun run” when your Deputy Squadron Commander yells at you for wearing ear protection, saying you’re a disappointing officer and a bad leader.
Well you know what, Colonel? You’re a disappointing officer and a bad leader because you don’t take care of your people! Sorry no one else brought ear muffs and we aren’t all gonna look the same for the general. Maybe the rest of the formation is more afraid of getting yelled at by you than they are concerned about taking care of themselves — but that’s not me.
The United States Department of Defense knows this, which is why service members are allowed to wear sunglasses that meet regulation while in uniform. But some commanders still don’t think they should wear them in formation. Air Force regulations AFI 36-2903 specifically prohibits wearing sunglasses in formation unless someone has a note from a doctor.
Well, I think it’s clear by now that I think it’s more important to protect people than it is to maintain uniformity, but hey, I get that standing in straight lines is an ancient if antiquated thing for the military to do — so why not just make it mandatory to protect yourself outdoors?
The bottom line is that it is dumb to reprimand someone for protecting themselves when there is no legitimate downside to it.
May as well be terrorists.
Bonus: “Don’t walk and talk on the phone in uniform.”
Swedish submarines have proven themselves in exercises against the U.S. One of their subs successfully lodged a kill against the USS Ronald Reagan as the carrier’s protectors stood idly by, incapable of detecting the silent and stealthy Swedish boat. Oddly, the Swedish forces succeeded while using an engine based on a 200-year-old design.
The USS Ronald Reagan was sailing with its task force for protection when a single Gotland-class submarine snuck up, simulated killing it, and sailed away without damage.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart)
First, a quick background on what engines were available to Sweden when it was looking to upgrade its submarine fleet in the 1980s. They weren’t on great terms with the U.S. and they were on worse terms with the Soviets, so getting one of those sweet nuclear submarines that France and England had was unlikely.
Nor was it necessarily the right option for Sweden. Their submarines largely work to protect their home shores. Nuclear boats can operate for weeks or months underwater, but they’re noisier than diesel subs running on battery power. Sweden needed to prioritize stealth over range.
But diesel subs, while they can run more quietly under the surface, have a severe range problem. Patrols entirely underwater are measured in days, and surfacing in the modern world was getting riskier by the day as satellites kept popping up in space, potentially allowing the U.S. and Soviet Union to spot diesel subs when they came up for air.
So, the Swedish government took a look at an engine originally patented in 1816 as the “Stirling Hot Air Engine.” Stirling engines, as simply as we can put it, rely on the changes in pressure of a fluid as it is heated and cooled to drive engine movement.
That probably sounded like gobbledygook, but the important aspects of a Stirling engine for submarine development are simple enough.
They can work with any fuel or heat source.
They generate very little vibration or noise.
They’re very efficient, achieving efficiency rates as high as 50 percent while gas and diesel engines are typically 30-45 percent efficient.
An officer from the HMS Gotland watches the crew of a U.S. patrol plane track his sub during war games near Sweden in 2017.
And it’s easy to see why the Swedes chose it once the technology was proven. Their Stirling engines are capable of air-independent propulsion, meaning the engines can run and charge the batteries while the sub is completely submerged. So, the boats have a underwater mission endurance measured in weeks instead of days.
But they’re still stealthy, much more quiet than nuclear subs, which must constantly pump coolant over their reactors to prevent meltdowns.
The HMS Gotland sails with other NATO ships during exercise Dynamic Mongoose off the coast of Norway in 2015.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amanda S. Kitchner)
So much more stealthy, in fact, that when a single Swedish Gotland-class submarine was tasked during war games to attack the USS Ronald Reagan, it was able to slip undetected past the passive sonars of the carriers, simulate firing its torpedoes, and then slip away.
So, for the U.S., getting a chance to test their mettle against them could save lives in a future war. And, if it saves a carrier, that alone would save thousands of lives and preserve tons of firepower.
For its part, Sweden is ordering two new submarines in their Type A26 program that will also feature Stirling engines, hopefully providing the stealth necessary to catch Russian subs next time their waters are violated. Surprisingly, these advanced subs are also cheap. The bill to develop and build two A26s and provide the midlife upgrades for two Gotland-Class submarines is less than id=”listicle-2589628522″ billion USD.