A screenshot of the cockpit video of Thunderbirds performing the flyover on Apr. 11, 2020.
The U.S. Air Force flight demonstration team, the Thunderbirds, performed an inspiring flyover of the greater Las Vegas area on Saturday, April 11, 2020 in honor of healthcare workers and first responders working during the international COVID-19 crisis.
The flight, which included all six of the Thunderbird F-16s in wedge formation along with at least two camera aircraft accompanying the aircraft, took place at 2:30 PM local Las Vegas time and was watched by hundreds of thousands of spectators who were separated all over Las Vegas by social distancing guidelines.
Local media, aviation photographers around Las Vegas, and the Thunderbirds produced some sensational visuals of the event. Interestingly, the team carried out the flyover in 5 instead of 6 jets because, according to local spotters, one of the F-16s experienced a birdstrike shortly after taking off from Nellis Air Force Base.
One fascinating photo featured on the local Las Vegas Review Journal social media pages showed the Thunderbird formation flying over the famous Luxor pyramid-shaped hotel with five “Janet Airlines” Boeing 737s parked at McCarran International Airport. The aircraft, perhaps the “worst kept secret in the world”, fly personnel to several classified test facilities around the western U.S.
A statement on the official Air Force Thunderbirds Twitter page said, “We salute the healthcare workers and first responders who are at the forefront of our nation’s fight against COVID-19. They are an inspiration for the entire country during these challenging times and it was an honor to fly for them today.”
The Thunderbirds shared their flyover time and route across social media before the flight so people in Las Vegas could view the flyover while maintaining social distancing guidelines.
Nellis AFB, just outside Las Vegas, Nevada, has a long history of supporting the community through triumph and tragedy under the leadership of 57th Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Robert G. Novotny. Following the tragic October 1, 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, the 57th Wing honored health care workers, first responders, survivors and memorialized victims of the tragedy with two specially painted aircraft, an F-16 and an F-15, wearing the moniker “Vegas Strong”.
First responders around Las Vegas maintained social distancing while watching the Thunderbird flyover.
Brig. Gen. Novotny and the entire 57th Wing, have consistently led the U.S. military’s effective use of social media not only with the public affairs outreach by the Thunderbirds, but through a host of other initiatives that showcase the Air Force mission and personnel performing the Air Force mission every day at Nellis AFB and around the world.
In the early morning of July 16, 2019, an Army UH-60 Black Hawk rescue crew was alerted to a severely injured hiker who had fallen 500 feet down one of Colorado’s tallest peaks.
The hiker, a retired astronaut, had broken both of his legs and one arm in the fall and needed emergency care fast. But to get to a hospital for his injuries, the former Navy captain had to rely on the Army to pluck him from the unforgiving terrain.
It was the height of summer, a time when hikers flock to the state’s mountain ranges and when operations at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site ramp up.
The site has a dual-hatted role. Primarily, it teaches helicopter crews how to fly and land in high altitudes. It also is a search and rescue outfit with experienced crews that can reach difficult spots where most civilian aircraft cannot.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site drops off a civilian rescue technician near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.
(Photo by Tyler McCready)
Each year, full-time Colorado Guardsmen at the site rescue about 20 people — mainly desperate hikers who have fallen or suffered from altitude sickness or a heart attack.
With two pilots and two crew chiefs, the Black Hawk crews will also pick up two rescue technicians, who are civilian volunteers that they train with, on their way out.
After already topping their annual average for saves, 2019 has proven to be a busy year.
“It’s nice that we’re able to take what we teach, the power management techniques, and apply them on the weekend or during the week when we’re making these critical saves,” said Lt. Col. Britt Reed, the HAATS commander.
For many, the July 16 mission is one of the recent missions that stands out. While climbing La Plata Peak, which pierces the sky at over 14,000 feet near Leadville, Jeff Ashby quickly became in need of help from the air.
The day before, Ashby, 65, who had flown to space three times, had just reached the summit of the mountain. During his descent, he lost his footing and slipped, hurtling down the mountainside before large boulders stopped him.
Hours later, a local search and rescue team member managed to navigate to the former astronaut and stayed with him overnight.
At first light, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Pat Gates and his aircrew, along with two rescue technicians, flew out to Ashby’s location.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site lowers a member of Mountain Rescue Aspen down to an injured hiker near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.
(Photo by Tyler McCready)
Once overhead, the crew used a hoist to lower the technicians, who prepped Ashby before he was pulled up into the helicopter. The aircraft then landed at a transfer site, where Ashby was taken to the hospital in a civilian medical transport helicopter.
While a collection of emergency responders helped out, the HAATS crew had the hoist capability to get Ashby out of danger.
“It’s great knowing that you have that kind of impact on somebody,” Gates said.
After being released from the hospital, Ashby wrote an email to Gates and the rest of the aircrew, thanking them for their efforts.
“He was very appreciative of everything, for the fact that the Army came to help out a Navy guy,” Gates said, smiling. “But, all in all, having a result like that is always the best case.”
Gates estimates he has helped with at least five rescues per year since he came to HAATS in 2009. And the total number of missions continues to increase, he said, almost quadrupling compared to when he first started.
Some of them even test the most experienced pilots, like Gates, who serves as the training site’s senior standardization instructor pilot.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site prepares to lower a civilian rescue technician near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.
(Photo by Tyler McCready)
A hairy rescue he still remembers was in 2015 at Crestone Needle, another mountain over 14,000 feet.
In that one, a hiker also slipped and broke his leg on top of other injuries. Since the hiker was stranded in a tight area, the aircrew had to lower a hoist 200 feet as winds kicked up to 25 knots and a thunderstorm loomed nearby.
“That was very interesting,” he said. “It required a lot that day to get the [helicopter rescue team] all the way down there to the injured party.”
The mission was taxing for the crew since they had to keep the helicopter as still as possible. At that height, Gates said, the hoist can sway about 10 feet on the ground to every 1 foot the aircraft moves in the air.
Pilots may also decide to quickly do a one-wheeled landing, one of which was conducted this summer, if there is enough room that the rotors will not chop into the mountain side.
“If they feel the safest way is to land the aircraft [is] by putting one wheel down or two wheels down or using the hoist,” Reed said, “then we’ll figure out what the best way is and we’ll do it.”
And then there are the “what ifs” every difficult mission presents, Gates said, which can be mentally draining when the crew is trying to prevent them all.
Other than a similar National Guard unit at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, that handles rescues on the front range of the Rocky Mountains, no state entity can replicate the landings and hoists of the HAATS crews.
“If we didn’t have these two organizations, then the [hikers] that got stuck would be in a lot of trouble,” Reed said, “because there is nobody else that can provide the resources that we can provide.”
Civilian rescue technicians treat an injured hiker before he is hoisted up into a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.
(Photo by Tyler McCready)
As a crew chief, Staff Sgt. Greg Yost typically operates the hoist during rescues.
In June 2019, he lowered a hoist about 100 feet to save a skier who suffered cuts and an ankle injury after a small avalanche knocked him down, causing him to hit some rocks.
Hovering above 13,000 feet in that mission, the aircrew had to deal with strong winds in a narrow valley that drastically affected the power margin of the heavy helicopter.
“We were basically at our limit in power,” Yost recalled.
While tough at times, the missions do bring Yost back to a job he never wanted to leave. Before coming to Colorado, he served on a medical evacuation aircrew in Afghanistan, picking up wounded troops in sometimes hot landing zones.
In this video still image, a UH-60 Black Hawk crew from the Colorado National Guard’s High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site perform a one-wheeled landing at or above 13,000 feet to rescue an injured hiker from Maroon Bells, Sept. 21, 2013.
(US Army photo)
“That wasn’t something that I really wanted to give up,” he said. “So the fact that HAATS regularly conducted those kinds of missions was a big driving force in me wanting to come to this unit so I could continue helping people.”
The work HAATS crews have done with hoist operations has led the Army to develop a standardized hoist training program last year, Gates said.
The training site also creates scenario-based evaluations from the rescue flights to teach students during its weeklong course. The lessons even give the students an opportunity to discuss how the flight could have gone smoother.
“That’s one thing we don’t do, is rest on our laurels,” Gates said. “We take information in from everybody that comes through here.”
Last night’s 92nd Academy Awards had most military-connected folks rooting for Adam Driver to win best actor.
Driver, who was nominated for his role in the Netflix film, “The Marriage Story,” served in the Marines as a mortarman. He was previously nominated for his role in Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman.” Unfortunately, Driver didn’t take home the statue (Joaquin Phoenix did for his portrayal of Joker), but we looked to see what other veterans had won an Oscar for best actor.
Turns out, there were quite a few. These 20 veterans have all won entertainment’s most prestigious acting award:
Unlike some in Hollywood that hid behind their status, Stewart signed up right away and joined the Army when the U.S. entered WWII. Serving all the way to 1968, Stewart’s military exploits are an article in and of itself.
Stewart was nominated five times, winning once for “The Philadelphia Story.” He also received a well-deserved Honorary Oscar in 1985.
Robards served in the Navy and saw a lot of action in his time. He was out at sea when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, where he was stationed. His ship was later sunk in the South Pacific, with Robard treading water for hours until he was rescued. The second ship he served on suffered a kamikaze attack off the coast of the Philippines.
Robards decided to become an actor while serving and had an illustrious career.
He won two Oscars; one for “All the President’s Men” and “Julia.”
Marvin was a badass on screen with his steely-eyed demeanor, a trait no doubt perfected during his time in the Marines during WWII. He fought in the Battle of Saipan, earning a Purple Heart when he was hit by machine-gun fire and then by a sniper.
Marvin later won the Oscar for his role in “Cat Ballou.”
Probably the most famous leading man of them all, Gable served in the Army Air Forces during WWII, seeing combat in the skies over Europe. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal. Legend has it that Hitler was a fan of Gable and offered a reward for him to be captured alive.
Gable earned an Oscar for this role in “It Happened One Night” and surprisingly not for “Gone with the Wind.”
George C. Scott
Another post-WWII Marine, Scott was stationed at 8th and I in Washington D.C. where he served as an honor guard at services held at Arlington National Cemetery.
Nominated several times, Scott famously told the Academy that he would refuse the award if he won for Patton on philosophical grounds. The role was so iconic, he won anyway.
James Earl Jones
Before his voice terrified moviegoers as Darth Vader, James Earl Jones served in the ROTC at the University of Michigan. He then went to become a first lieutenant in the Army.
He received an honorary Oscar in 2011 for his many iconic roles. His filmography is lengthy and includes The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Sandlot, Lion King, Clear and Present Danger, and many more.
He’s made us laugh in Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs, and Young Frankenstein.
Before his life of comedy, Brooks had a more serious role defusing landmines in Germany during World War II.
Brooks won an Academy Award for his screenplay of “The Producers.”
A badass of the silver screen, Eastwood served stateside during the Korean War.
Eastwood is an Oscar legend winning four times against 11 nominations. He won two Best Director Awards and Two Best Picture Awards for “Unforgiven” and “Million Dollar Baby.”
He was also nominated for two amazing military movies, “Letters from Iwo Jima” and “American Sniper.”
Before he “loved the smell of napalm in the morning,” Duvall served stateside during the Korean War.
After his stint in the Army, he went on to achieve greatness in acting with seven Oscar nominations (including for “Apocalypse Now” and “The Great Santini”), winning for “Tender Mercies.”
Known for many military roles, including “McHale’s Navy” and “The Dirty Dozen,” Borgnine served in the U.S. Navy in 1941 and was discharged, only to rush back into service when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
He won an Academy Award for his role in “Marty” in 1955.
Arguably one of the best-looking actors of all time, Newman served in the Navy during World War II. He tried to become a pilot, but color blindness prevented him from doing so. He instead served as a radioman and turret gunner.
Newman also is an Oscar legend with a nomination in 5 different decades. He won an Honorary Oscar in 1985, and had a Best Actor win the next year for The Color of Money.”
Before he portrayed the gladiator turned freedom fighter Spartacus, Douglas served in the Navy during WWII from 1941 – 1944.
He would later be awarded an Honorary Oscar in 1996 after earning three nominations during his illustrious career.
Fonda left acting and enlisted in the Navy during World War II and served in the Pacific, earning a Bronze Star.
When he returned to acting, he would have a legendary career with two nominations, including a win for “On Golden Pond.”
Heston served in the Army Air Forces during WWII as an aerial gunner. He was stationed in Alaska, which was under threat from the Japanese.
Heston had a legendary career with epic roles in “The Ten Commandments,” “Planet of the Apes,” and “El Cid,” and won an Oscar for his role in “Ben-Hur.”
While it is easy to imagine Freeman serving as a radio operator, he actually served in the Air Force as a Radar Repairman.
While earning several nominations, he won for his role in “Million Dollar Baby.”
Before his iconic, “They call me Mr. Tibbs!” line, Poitier served in the U.S. Army, lying about his age in order to serve.
He won the Oscar for his role in “Lilies of the Field.”
Known for many roles, his most famous being the Huron warrior Magua, who cut out the heart of his vanquished foe. Studi enlisted in the Oklahoma National Guard and served in Vietnam.
He was awarded an Honorary Oscar, the first Native American to be so honored.
Hackman lied about his age and enlisted in the Marines as a radio operator in 1946, rising to the rank of Corporal.
Nominated five times in his illustrious career, he won twice for “the French Connection” and “Unforgiven.”
Lemmon had an amazing and long career showing off his chops in movies like “Glengarry Glen Ross.” Before that, Lemmon served in WWII as a Naval Aviator toward the end of the war.
He later won two Oscars for his roles in “Mister Roberts” and “Save the Tiger.”
Palance was known for his rugged looks, which studio execs claim he got from surgery to repair injuries he suffered when jumping out of a burning bomber while training during WWII.
He was nominated three times and won for City Slickers, which he celebrated by doing one-armed pushups on stage.
More pieces from an F-35 stealth fighter that disappeared in the Pacific have been found, the Japanese defense minister revealed May 7, 2019.
A Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter piloted by Maj. Akinori Hosomi mysteriously vanished from radar on April 9, 2019. The day after the crash, pieces of the tail were found floating on the surface of the water, but the rest of the fifth-generation fighter was nowhere to be found.
The fighter, believed to be lying somewhere on the ocean floor, has been missing for weeks, despite the best efforts of the US and Japanese militaries to find it.
Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya announced May 7, 2019, that parts of the flight recorder and cockpit canopy had been discovered at an unspecified location on the ocean floor, CNN reported. The flight recorder was retrieved by a US Navy salvage team dispatched to assist in the search.
First operational F-35A Lightning II presented to JASDF’s 3rd Air Wing at Misawa Air Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton)
The defense minister said the flight recorder is in “terrible” condition. Critical memory components are reportedly missing, meaning that key data about the crash, the first for an F-35A, may be unavailable. Exactly what happened to the stealth fighter remains a mystery.
The downed F-35, which was built by Lockheed Martin but assembled by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Ltd., is one of a growing fleet of Japanese stealth fighters. In response to the crash, Japan grounded its remaining F-35s. They will remain on the ground while the related investigation is ongoing.
Japan currently has 12 F-35s, but it has another 147 stealth fighters on order. B variants with that need little runway to take off and land are expected to eventually serve on Japanese light aircraft carriers while the A variant will become the primary fighter of the Japanese air force.
The search for the missing fighter and its pilot is expected to continue.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Just as cannabis is gaining traction as a legitimate treatment option for military veterans, the US Food and Drug Administration has given the “breakthrough therapy” designation to MDMA, the main chemical in the club drug Ecstasy, for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The move appears to pave the way for a Santa Cruz, California-based advocacy group to conduct two trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for patients with severe PTSD.
The nonprofit group Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies plans to test out the strategy on 200 to 300 participants in clinical trials this spring.
“For the first time ever, psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy will be evaluated in [advanced] trials for possible prescription use, with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD leading the way,” said Rick Doblin, the group’s founder and executive director.
The FDA says it doesn’t disclose the names of drugs that receive “breakthrough therapy” designation. But if a researcher or drug company chooses to release that information, they are allowed to. In this case, the Psychedelic Studies group is the researcher.
Veterans have pushed for new treatments for PTSD, which some consider the “signature” injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Symptoms include depression, isolation, inability to concentrate and, in the extreme, suicidal thoughts.
At present, the US Drug Enforcement Administration lists the drug as a Schedule I drug, which means there are no currently accepted medical uses and there’s a high potential for abuse.
The drug affects serotonin use in the brain.
It can cause euphoria, increased sensitivity to touch, sensual and sexual arousal, the need to be touched, and the need for stimulation.
Some unwanted psychological effects can include confusion, anxiety, depression, paranoia, sleep problems, and drug craving, according to the DEA.
Clinical studies suggest that MDMA may increase the risk of long-term problems with memory and learning.
Until this week, the Vietnamese government has remained silent about the release of The Vietnam War, which premiered in the U.S. after a big buildup.
In Vietnam’s lively online sphere, many commentators speculated that authorities had remained silent about the series because it presented what the government considered sensitive material about towering Communist Party figures, such as Ho Chi Minh and General Vo Nguyen Giap.
The 10-part documentary film series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, which premiered September 17, covers the war’s main events and focuses on the experiences of Americans and Vietnamese during the war. American broadcaster PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) is streaming it online with Vietnamese subtitles.
On Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang issued a statement saying, “The Anti-America War of the Vietnamese people was a righteous revolution that mobilized the entire nation, and was supported wholeheartedly by friends and people worldwide.
“Positive developments in the comprehensive partnership between Vietnam and the United States are the results of great efforts by the two counties,” Hang continued. “The policy of Vietnam is to put the past behind us, overcome differences, promote our mutual interests and look forward to the future.”
She added, “I personally hope that American people and filmmakers understand the righteousness of the revolution as well as Vietnam’s goodwill.”
Like the government, the Vietnamese press has remained muted in its response to the well-reviewed documentary that has been a major event in the United States.
Only the Thanh Nien newspaper has covered the effort by Burns and Novick, reporting last month that the “U.S. consulate general in Ho Chi Minh City would hold a screening and discussion session” based on a 90-minute synopsis of the documentary. Vietnam’s top daily added that “film director and producer Lynn Novick is here in Vietnam to meet and discuss with the guests and the audience during the screening.”
One of the people who attended the screening, a former journalist, wrote on Facebook that after the screening, another attendee, a young woman, asked Novick why in the excerpts “do I only see characters from North Vietnam being interviewed? Will people from the South be interviewed?”
The journalist noted that Novick said people from the South had been interviewed and “that will be evident when you see the complete documentary being shown on the PBS website.”
The former journalist, who once worked for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), added on Facebook, “Lynn’s answer raised an uneasy suspicion about whether the shown clip was heavily censored before it was screened to young people, who really wanted to understand the Vietnam War beyond the simple division over red and yellow flags [of the current and former regime respectively].”
About 70 percent of Vietnam’s 96.1 million citizens were born after the April 1975 fall of Saigon.
Brian Moriarty, the press spokesman for the filmmaking team, told VOA Vietnamese, “There have been two successful screenings in Vietnam, and the clips can be shown to those interviewed in the movie.”
Moriarty added he “could not comment” on the Facebook posts in Vietnam that Hanoi’s Central Department of Propaganda, the media watchdog, has forbidden “media coverage” because The Vietnam War documentary has “sensitive details about the 1968 Tet Offensive, about Ho Chi Minh, Le Duan or Vo Nguyen Giap.”
The Tet Offensive is widely considered to be the turning point of the Vietnam War. While communist forces ultimately lost the Tet Offensive, they won a propaganda victory that prompted Americans to lose support for the conflict.
Revered CBS-TV anchorman Walter Cronkite, after reporting on one of the Tet Offensive battles, in Hue, broadcast an editorial calling for a negotiated end to the war.
Vietnam’s Central Propaganda Department could not be reached for comment.
Moriarty added that people in Vietnam “can still watch the Vietnamese documentary film with Vietnamese subtitles” on the PBS website. He also said they have “people in Vietnam [who] have checked and confirmed this.”
But there have been hiccups, according to Facebook posts speculating that the sensitive material in the work makes the current Vietnamese government uncomfortable.
Ho, a founding member of the Indo-Chinese Communist Party, was president of North Vietnam from 1954 until his death in 1969. He abstained from a Politburo vote to approve the Tet Offensive, widely seen as the bloody turning point in growing U.S. opposition to the war.
Le Duan, head of the Vietnamese Communist Party, presided over a severe postwar economic slump, and took an anti-Chinese stance that included border clashes as well as the expulsion of ethnic Chinese-Vietnamese citizens, before his death in 1986.
Lê Duẩn. Wikipedia image.
Vietnam today looks to China as its primary trading partner, even though the two communist countries have a long-running dispute over the South China Sea that has pushed their relationship to a new low.
Giap, a general who defeated the French and the U.S. in Vietnam, came to support economic reform before his death in 2013. He “fell into disfavor and became sensitive to the Communist Party of Vietnam because of his anti-China point of view and the disapproval of an all-in attack [on] the South in 1968,” said Bui Tin, a former party member and colonel in the People’s Army of Vietnam who is now a dissident living in France.
Giap presided over the 1968 Tet Offensive and at least 2,800 Vietnamese civilians were believed to have been massacred by communist troops during the battle fought over Hue.
On Facebook on September 17, the day the film was shown on public television in the U.S. and available for streaming in Vietnam, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius wrote: “In order to build a just and bright future, we must acknowledge and be honest about the past. While many of you will not agree with all that is featured in the film, it’s important to consider that, as the film says, ‘There is no single truth in war.’ Once we accept this, we can move forward from the past, deepen ties between our two peoples, and build a brighter future for all.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling Iran the “most potent force of militant Islam,” says he has warned Europe of possible Iranian attacks on its soil.
Speaking to reporters on Nov. 1, 2018, after talks with his Bulgarian counterpart in Sofia, Netanyahu said radical Islam is a threat to the world and that Israel has recently revealed a number of Iranian plots to carry out attacks on European soil.
Netanyahu did not provide details, but cases involving alleged Iranian plots to attack Iranian opposition groups or figures in both France and Denmark have emerged in recent months.
The Israeli premier’s warnings about Iranian plots in Europe have been part of his campaign to pressure European nations to take a tougher stance toward Tehran.
Israel was one of the only countries to side with the United States in its decision to pull out of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and reimpose sanctions.
The ministers of foreign affairs of France, Germany, the European Union, Iran, the United Kingdom, and the United States as well as Chinese and Russian diplomats announcing the framework for a Comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, April 2, 2015.
European countries refused to follow suit, and European powers Germany, France, and Britain have been working with Iran to keep the nuclear agreement in place and circumvent U.S. sanctions.
Ahead of his trip to Bulgaria, Netanyahu said his goal is to “change the hostile and hypocritical approach of the European Union” on matters like Iran and the Palestinian question.
Netanyahu is meeting on Nov. 2, 2018, in Bulgaria’s Black Sea city of Varna with European leaders he views as more “friendly” in the Craiova Forum, which includes the prime ministers of Bulgaria, Greece, and Romania, as well as the president of Serbia.
“This is not just a meeting of friends,” Netanyahu said. “It is also a bloc of countries with whom I want to promote my policy, to change the hypocritical and hostile attitude of the EU.”
Army researchers recently tested ground robots performing military-style exercises, much like soldier counterparts, at a robotics testing site in Pennsylvania recently as part of a 10-year research project designed to push the research boundaries in robotics and autonomy.
RoMan, short for Robotic Manipulator, is a tracked robot that is easily recognized by its robotic arms and hands — necessary appendages to remove heavy objects and other road debris from military vehicles’ paths. What’s harder to detect is the amount of effort that went into programming the robot to manipulate complex environments.
The exercise was one of several recent integration events involving a decade of research led by scientists and engineers at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory who teamed with counterparts from the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, University of Washington, University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University and General Dynamics Land Systems.
As part of ARL’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance, the work focused on state-of-the-art basic and applied research related to ground robotics technologies with an overarching goal of developing autonomy in support of manned-unmanned teaming. Research within the RCTA program serves as foundational research in support of future combat ground vehicles.
An Army robot plans what to do to address a debris pile, full of objects.
(U.S. Army photo)
The recent robot exercise was the culmination of research to develop a robot that reasons about unknown objects and their physical properties, and decides how to best interact with different objects to achieve a specific task.
“Given a task like ‘clear a path’, the robot needs to identify potentially relevant objects, figure out how objects can be grasped by determining where and with what hand shape, and decide what type of interaction to use, whether that’s lifting, moving, pushing or pulling to achieve its task,” said CCDC ARL’s Dr. Chad Kessens, Robotic Manipulation researcher.
During the recent exercise, RoMan successfully completed such as multi-object debris clearing, dragging a heavy object (e.g., tree limb), and opening a container to remove a bag.
Kessens said soldier teammates are able to give verbal commands to the robot using natural human language in a scenario.
“Planning and learning and their integration cut across all these problems. The ability of the robot to improve its performance over time and to adapt to new scenarios by building models on-the-fly while incorporating the power of model-based reasoning will be important to achieving the kinds of unstructured tasks we want to be able to do without putting soldiers in harm’s way,” Kessens said.
Stokes said he chose to include Henline alongside amputee vets in response to Facebook comments he received about his earlier work, “Always Loyal.”
“One comment I got was ‘Hey, you’re hand-picking these gorgeous men [for the photos], why don’t you feature someone who’s burned?’ ” Stokes said. “Bobby and I had already been talking for six months at that point, so I thought it was a great opportunity to follow up and … do something a bit different.”
Check out Henline’s pose below:
“Bobby is very popular and is able to stand alongside any of these guys and pull off the photo shoot,” Stokes said. “He pulls off sexy. He looks great.”
Stokes said that the goal of projects like “Invictus” is to give veterans a platform that could jumpstart modeling careers and lead to mainstream campaigns.
This dream came true for double-amputee veteran and “Always Loyal” alum Chris Van Etten, who recently landed a Jockey underwear campaign after a Stokes photo shoot.
“When the Jockey campaign launched, I had all of these people tagging me on Facebook saying ‘You made this possible, you led the way on this, you broke the ice on this.,’ ” Stokes said. “And all of these people were giving me credit for making it not taboo for a corporation to do a campaign and photo shoots like this.”
“This is evidence that people are happy that these guys are getting exposure and getting mainstream gigs,” he added.
Despite enthusiasm from both within and outside of the military community, Stokes said there are still those who are uncomfortable with his “cheeky” shots of wounded vets.
“When you have a photo that goes viral, that’s when you hear negative comments,” Stokes said. “Some people have said things like ‘This is not respectful to the uniform; this is not dignified.’ … [But] they’re definitely the minority voice.”
Stokes said he doesn’t focus on his critics, but on the experience of his models in front of the camera.
The photo shoot “is different with each model,” Stokes said.
“One of the models is a double amputee — and way high up. And during the shoot he said ‘I didn’t know I looked like that from behind,’ ” Stokes explained. “He’s missing part of his hip … and he didn’t know he had such a nice butt.”
Stokes hopes “Invictus” will continue to change public perceptions and normalize glamour shots of amputee models.
Clouds make way for the first pass of combat controllers from the U.S. and Polish forces as they free fall out of an MC130J Commando during a culmination exercise near Krakow, Poland recently. The joint team is determined to put all their recent training into action as they steer their parachutes onto the calculated target.
“We are in Poland to strengthen our already capable POLSOF allies by advising them on how we conduct special operations air land integration,” said the 321st Special Tactics Squadron commander, assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing, based in the United Kingdom. “This will give our Polish allies the ability to survey, secure and control an austere airfield anywhere in Poland.”
The exercise was based on a real-world scenario which featured jumping into and seizing an unimproved airfield, where they completed tasks such as deploying undetected into hostile combat and austere environments, while simultaneously conducting air traffic control and command and control.
Pararescuemen from the U.S. Air Force’s 321st Special Tactics Squadron assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing in England, conduct a medic response scenario during a culmination exercise near Krakow.
(Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
“The CULMEX was our final chance to see everything we’ve trained with our Polish counterparts,” said the 321st STS mission commander. “The 321 STS is extremely impressed with the high level of partnership and competency demonstrated by the soldiers of the Polish Special Operations Forces from Military Unit NIL.”
By sharing methods and developing best practices, U.S. and NATO partners around the world remain ready to respond to any potential real-world contingencies in Eastern Europe.
The team deployed to Poland months prior, in order to build upon Polish Special Operations Command’s ability to conduct special operations air-to-land integration.
“We’ve been planning for two months,” said a 321st STS combat controller. “We’ve practiced basics of assault zones, air traffic control, completing surveys and what we call the global-access piece; our capability to find airfields anywhere in the world to forward project highly trained manpower and equipment whenever needed.”
Along with developing joint leaders, this deployment gave the units the opportunity to establish professional development at the tactical level.
A combat controller from U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command’s 321st Special Tactics Squadron assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing in England, prepares to free fall out of an MC130J during a culmination exercise near Krakow.
(Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
“It helped us to learn our job better too; I feel like anytime you’re training with another unit, it makes you that much better at your own skills. It allowed some of our younger guys to become leaders and put them in positions where they may not have been before,” said a 321st STS combat controller.
“We are very proud of our relationship with POLSOF and other NATO allies,” said the 321st STS commander. “We look forward to building and maintaining our abilities to conduct special operations (air-to-land) integration in Europe as a joint and ready force.”
Through these types of joint training exercises, special operation commands across the force stand ready to operate anytime, anyplace.
“This will ultimately increase the reach and the responsiveness of U.S. and NATO forces, deterring enemy aggression in Eastern Europe,” said the 321st STS commander. “Should the day come where we have to fight together in combat, I am confident in our joint capabilities.”
The Marines’ top officer has sent a “White Letter” to all senior leaders in the service ordering them to support self-identified victims of Facebook harassment and illicit photo sharing, and to educate troops on what is expected of them in their conduct online. Sent out March 10, nearly a week after news broke that Marines had been sharing nude and compromising photos of female colleagues on a 30,000-member Facebook page called Marines United, the message also promises new guidance to Marines concerning the boundaries of appropriate online behavior.
The two-page letter, sent by Commandant Gen. Robert Neller to all commanding generals, unit commanding officers, and senior enlisted leaders across the Corps and obtained by Military.com, does not mince words.
“In the past week, our core values have come under attack,” Neller wrote. “… This inappropriate, disrespectful, and in some cases criminal behavior has a corrosive and negative effect on our Marines and on the Marine Corps.”
To prevent future social media fallout, Neller said Marines must be educated, not only on the service’s expectations for their online behavior, but also on the dangers and vulnerabilities inherent in online activity. The Marine Corps will soon publish an update to its 2010 guidance governing Marines’ social media activity to further this goal, Neller said.
The current guidance dictates the Marines should use their “best judgment at all times and avoid inappropriate behavior” when using social media, adding that defamatory, libelous, abusive, threatening or hateful posts may result in disciplinary action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. While the White Letter does not make clear how the guidance will be updated and to what extent, the new guidance will likely provide additional specifics on what behavior is out-of-bounds and how violations will be addressed.
“Leaders should remind our Marines they are not anonymous in the virtual world and remain accountable for their actions,” Neller wrote. “Where we find criminal behavior, we will take appropriate action.”
For Marine victims of photo sharing and other online harassment, who, Neller noted, are primarily female, he gives an order to Marine leaders: support them at every level. Commanders and senior enlisted leaders are tasked with communicating with the Marines under them and encouraging victims of online attacks to come forward. Witnesses to online misconduct should report it as well, the letter states.
“When Marines do report, they must have the full support of their leadership, from NCOs up to the commanding officers and commanding general,” Neller wrote. “They must have a viable means to report and have immediate resources available to support them.”
These resources, the letter states, includes chaplains, attorneys through the victim legal counsel program, uniformed victim advocates, equal opportunity advisers and Sexual Assault Prevention and Response resources and personnel.
“Technical assistance is also available to help remedy or mitigate the harm they have suffered,” Neller notes.
BorgWarner said in a statement sent to RFE/RL on Jan. 1, 2019, that Paul Whelan was the company’s global security director. It added that he is responsible for overseeing the company’s facilities in Auburn Hills, Michigan, “and at other company locations around the world.”
A spokeswoman for BorgWarner told RFE/RL that the company “does not have any facilities in Russia.”
Russia’s state-owned conglomerate Rostec said in 2013 that its truckmaker, KamAz, had a long record of collaboration with a subsidiary of BorgWarner known as BorgWarnerTurboSystems.
David Whelan told AP in a Jan. 1, 2019 interview that his brother had been to Russia “several times” before and was helping a former U.S. Marine friend of his plan a wedding with a Russian woman.
On the morning of the day he was detained, Paul Whelan had given a tour of the Kremlin museums to a group of wedding guests, his brother said. He failed to show up for the wedding on the evening of Dec. 28, 2018.
David Whelan said his absence led the family to fear he had been in a car accident or perhaps mugged, and were searching the Internet for news about “dead Americans in Moscow.”
The U.S. State Department has said it knows about “the detention of a U.S. citizen by Russian authorities” and had been formally notified by the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The State Department said on Dec. 31, 2018, that it had requested consular access to Paul Whelan and expected “Russian authorities to provide it.”
David Whelan said in the AP interview that his family was told by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow that it has been unable to speak with Paul Whelan.
David Whelan said his brother had previously worked for Kelly Services, an international office-staffing company that does have offices in Moscow, and had been to Russia on business and to visit friends he had met on social-media networks.
Paul Whelan reportedly had a page on the Russian social-media site VKontakte on which he writes messages in basic Russian.
David Whelan said his brother was stationed in Iraq several times with the U.S. Marines and has been living in Novi, Michigan.
The announcement of Whelan’s detainment came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow remains open to dialogue with Washington in a New Year’s greeting to U.S. President Donald Trump.
Relations between the United States and Russia remain strained over a raft of issues including Russia’s role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, its alleged meddling in elections in the United States and elsewhere, and the poisoning of a Russian double agent in Britain.
At the end of November 2018, Trump abruptly canceled a planned meeting with Putin on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Argentina, citing tensions after Russian forces opened fire on Ukrainian Navy boats before seizing them and capturing 24 Ukrainian sailors.
The detention of Whelan comes weeks after Russian Maria Butina pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to acting as an agent for the Kremlin.
The Kremlin has denied that Butina is a Russian agent and has organized a social-media campaign to secure her release.
In the past, Russia has arrested foreigners with the aim of trading prisoners with other countries.
In his annual year-end news conference on Dec. 20, 2018, Putin said Russia would “not arrest innocent people simply to exchange them for someone else later on.”