MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

Artificial Intelligence refers to the ability of machines to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, for example — recognizing patterns, learning from experience, drawing conclusions, making predictions, or taking action — whether digitally or as the smart software behind autonomous physical systems.

The Air Force is utilizing AI in multiple efforts and products tackling aspects of operations from intelligence fusion to Joint All Domain Command and Control, enabling autonomous and swarming systems and speeding the processes of deciding on targets and acting on information gleaned from sensors.


The AI Advantage

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An illustration depicting the future integration of the Air Force enabling fusion warfare, where huge sets of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data are collected, analyzed by artificial intelligence and utilized by Airmen and the joint force in a seamless process to stay many steps ahead of an adversary. Illustration // AFRL

Sensors are data collection points, which could be anything from a wearable device or vehicle, all the way up to an unmanned aerial vehicle or satellite. Anything that collects information, across all domains, helps comprise the “Internet of Battlefield Things.”

This mass amount of data is processed and analyzed using AI, which has the ability to speed up the decision-making process at the operational, tactical and strategic levels for the Air Force.

Dr. Mark Draper, a principal engineering research psychologist with the 711th Human Performance Wing at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, stands in the Human Autonomy Lab where research focuses on how to better interconnect human intelligence with machine intelligence.

“The world around us is changing at a pace faster than ever before. New technologies are emerging that are fundamentally altering how we think about, plan and prepare for war,” said Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper. “Whichever nation harnesses AI first will have a decisive advantage on the battlefield for many, many years. We have to get there first.”

In 2019, the Air Force released its Annex to the Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Strategy, highlighting the importance of artificial intelligence capabilities to 21st century missions.

TACE: Can We Trust A.I.?

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The strategy serves as the framework for aligning Air Force efforts with the National Defense Strategy and the Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Strategy as executed by the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. It details the fundamental principles, enabling functions and objectives necessary to effectively manage, maneuver and lead in the digital age.

“In this return to great power competition, the United States Air Force will harness and wield the most representative forms of AI across all mission-sets, to better enable outcomes with greater speed and accuracy, while optimizing the abilities of each and every Airman,” wrote then-Acting Secretary of the Air Force Donovan and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein in the annex. “We do this to best protect and defend our nation and its vital interests, while always remaining accountable to the American public.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.


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5 things you shouldn’t say to someone getting out of the military

Transitioning out of the military is a stressful time in any service member’s life. There are thousands of steps a troop can take to make the process as smooth as possible. Sometimes, however, life comes at you fast and before you’re ready, you’re being told to pack your bags. Your service is no longer needed.


Suddenly, a lifestyle that is strictly regulated, day-in and day-out, is coming to its end — and sooner than expected. Many troops aren’t sure what, exactly, they’re going to do once they receive their DD-214 and the uncertainty puts them on edge.

Words of encouragement are helpful to hear, but many people, for some reason, just don’t have a filter and blurt out random crap. Here’s what you definitely shouldn’t say to a troop getting out.

1. “What would you rather do, become homeless or join the reserves?”

Gee, this is a tough one… Let me think about it.

In all seriousness, there are, unfortunately, a lot of homeless veterans out there. The idea of joining that club shouldn’t rank high on anyone’s list.

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Learn to become a civilian again, then decide later.

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2. “You’ll be back soon enough.”

The fact is, many veterans miss the idea of serving and do join with other branches of service for various reasons. We give those men and women a tip of the hat for continuing their military badassery.

3. “Are you really just getting kicked out?”

Sure, some troops do intentionally mask the fact that they’re getting kicked out — but it’s still a d*ck move to ask somebody that question.

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You tell them, Arnold. It’s a dumb stigma.

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4. “Are you planning on being a cop or something?”

Unfortunately, there’s a stigma associated with some service members (infantrymen) that states the only job on the outside they qualify for is a career in law enforcement. Although that rings true for many veterans, others seek different avenues and some find great success.

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If you can solely live off of the G.I. Bill for the next few years, you should.

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5. “So, are you just going to live off the post-9/11 G.I. Bill for the next three years and go to school?”

If that’s the case, you should proudly say “yes,” because you’ve earned every f*cking cent of the G.I. Bill.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This little bot can take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’ for troops on assault

Big robots can be useful at times. Just look at what the Kobra can do.


That said, while size matters, there are times when you can get too much of a good thing.

The Kobra, for instance, weighs 500 pounds. Now, that’s not a problem when you can roll it out of a M113 armored personnel carrier, a M1132 Stryker Engineer Squad Vehicle, or an MRAP. But if you’re a grunt and have to carry everything on a foot patrol… well, that 500-pound weight would be a pain.

An Endeavor Robotics FirstLook rights itself after being tossed into a hostile situation. (Youtube screenshot)

Thankfully, there is an option for ground troops. Endeavor Robotics has developed the FirstLook, a robot that comes in at just under 6 pounds. That’s about one percent, give or take, of the weight of the Kobra.

This of course, not only is it easy to carry, but in fact, it can be tossed (by comparison, the shot put used at the Olympics is 16 pounds for men, and just under nine pounds for women). This robot can survive a 16-foot fall onto a concrete surface, and get itself upright.

An optional manipulator arm for the FirstLook can move three and a half pounds. (Youtube screenshot)

Oh, and FirstLook can be equipped with a manipulator (or an arm) capable of lifting three and a half pounds. That arm weighs just over 59 ounces. The FirstLook can run for six hours, has a top speed of just under 4 miles per hour, is able to serve as a relay for other robots, and can climb obstacles up to seven inches high.

With four cameras, and the ability to use infrared sensors, this small robot can help the grunts check out a cave or building.

In essence, this tiny bot turns out to be a big deal for the troops. You can check out a video about this mini-bot below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCiZ-FERJPA
Articles

That time the Navy considered flying Harriers off Iowa-class battleships

When you look at the Iowa-class battleships, in a way, you are looking at the ultimate in a surface combat platform. They are huge – about 45,000 tons — they carry nine 16-inch guns and have an array of other weapons, too, from Tomahawk cruise missiles to Phalanx close-in weapon systems.


Looking at them, could you imagine diluting that surface-combat firepower for some Harriers? Well, the U.S. Navy did.

According to the 13th Edition of “The Naval Institute Guide to the Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet,” the Navy kicked around the idea of turning the Iowa and her three sisters into a combination battleship-carrier. The after turret would be removed, and the space would be turned into a flight deck. WarisBoring.com noted that the plan called for as many as 20 AV-8B Harriers to be carried on the ship.

There was also a consideration for adding vertical launch systems for Tomahawks and Standard surface-to-air missiles.

USS Wisconsin fires her main battery during Desert Storm. (US Navy photo)

It wasn’t as if the battleships hadn’t operated planes before, as in World War II the battleships operated floatplanes – usually for gunfire spotting. The Iowas kept their planes in an on-board hanger in the aft section of the ship.

That section was later used to land helicopters when they were in service during the 1980s. The New Jersey even operated a UCAV, the QH-50 Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter, while blasting Viet Cong and North Vietnamese positions during her one deployment in the Vietnam War.

Photo by Cpl. Garry J. Welch/U.S. Marine Corps

That said, the project never went forward. One big reason was at the end of the Cold War, the Iowa-class ships were quick to go on the chopping block — even as the USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin provided outstanding fire support to the Marines during Operation Desert Storm.

Another can be ascribed to history. Late in World War II, Japan was desperate for carriers. And when they tried to convert the battleships Ise and Hyuga to carrier, the effort wasn’t successful.

HIJMS Ise – a failed battleship/carrier hybrid. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

It is open to debate whether 20 Harriers would have been a fair trade for a third of an Iowa’s 16-inch firepower. What isn’t open for debate is that the Iowa-class fast battleship has never truly been replaced a quarter-century after their decommissioning.

MIGHTY MOVIES

That time a mortar attack interrupted Toby Keith’s Kandahar USO concert

In 2008, Toby Keith was in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on one of his many USO tours when a mortar attack interrupted the show.


The singer and the crowd of 2,500 service members, took cover in a nearby shelter for about an hour where Keith posed for photos and autographs. Pretty standard mortar attack pastime.

Once given the “all clear,” Keith went right back up on stage and finished his concert — starting from the verse where he left off.

Here’s video from the concert where he sang the “Taliban Song,” just because he could:

Who had the best USO act? Tell us in the comments!
MIGHTY MOVIES

The new ‘Batman’ movie may have just cast its perfect super villain

Since the 1960s TV version of Batman there have been a lot of Jokers, Riddlers, Penguins, and Commissioner Gordons. And now, the new version of The Batman will reportedly add two more versatile actors to the Robert Pattinson take on the caped-crusader. Biff! Pow! Get ready for Jonah Hill and Jeffrey Wright! But holy casting riddle Batman, who are they playing?

Variety reports that Jonah Hill and Jeffrey Wright are in talks to play the as-yet-unknown villain in the film and Commissioner Gordon, respectively. No one has signed on the dotted line as of yet but, at least in Hill’s case, “both sides are engaging” in talks. Director Matt Reeves, who helmed the last two Planet of the Apes films, paused casting of supporting roles until he’d found his Batman. Pattinson signed on in May 2019, so Reeves was free to fill in a cast around him.


For our money, both are inspired choices. Wright, known for his role on HBO’s Westworld, has the raspy baritone and comforting presence to play Batman’s greatest Gotham PD ally. He seemed to confirm his involvement with a cryptic tweet in response to Reeves.

Hill has not posted any such evidence to social media, but he has shown remarkable chops in everything from juvenile comedies (Superbad, 21 Jump Street) to prestige dramas (The Wolf of Wall Street, which got him an Oscar nomination) to sci-fi (Netflix’s Maniac).

All in all, we’d see an indie drama starring these three, as Pattinson has moved on from his Twilight days to more serious fare like The Lighthouse, an intense black-and-white indie that will premiere next month. To have them in a film set in such a rich fictional universe should be seen as good news to anyone rooting for a quality reboot.

The biggest question prompted by the news: which villain would Hill play? The Penguin was widely speculated, but Collider reports that The Riddler is actually the more likely part, given the prominence of the role in the script and Hill’s longtime admiration for Jim Carrey.

The Batman will hit theaters on June 25, 2021.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everybody involved in that dino puppet reenlistment video just got fired

In the worst military overreaction since the Faber College ROTC pledge pin incident of 1962, the Tennessee National Guard’s adjutant general announced April 18, 2018, that everyone involved in a recent viral video of a kooky reenlistment ceremony would have their careers wrecked, because that’s how you honor our military traditions, dammit.


The controversy revolved around an Air National Guard master sergeant in the Volunteer State who took her oath of reenlistment with a tyrannosaurus rex hand puppet mouthing her words. The internet being the internet, video of the ceremony got around, and some watchers decided it just wasn’t in keeping with the highest traditions of service… unlike all that readily available online imagery of service members reenlisting as imperial stormtroopers; at gunpoint; underwater; in gas chambers; in GameStops; or with rigged-up explosions behind them.

Unlike all those clearly well-intentioned, lighthearted reenlistments, this sinister dino-puppet thing “goes against our very foundation,” according to the Air National Guard’s commanding general. That grave assessment led to this not-at-all bonkers Facebook post from Maj. Gen. Terry M. Haston, the Tennessee Guard’s top cheese, announcing that the master sergeant with the puppet, the colonel who administered the oath to her, and the NCO who acted as cameraman are all fucked, absolutely and utterly fucked (emphasis added):

I am absolutely embarrassed that a senior officer and a senior NCO took such liberties with a time-honored military tradition. The Tennessee National Guard holds the Oath of Enlistment in the highest esteem because that oath signifies every service member’s commitment to defend our state, nation and the freedoms we all enjoy. Not taking this oath solemnly and with the utmost respect is firmly against the traditions and sanctity of our military family and will not be tolerated…
Over the past few days, the leadership of the Tennessee National Guard has conducted a thorough investigation of the event with the following results:
The Colonel (O-6) administering the oath was immediately retired at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (O-5).
The Senior NCO taking the oath has been removed from her full-time position with the Tennessee Joint Public Affairs Office and other administrative actions are underway.
The Senior NCO who recorded the event has been removed from his position as a unit First Sergeant and has received an official reprimand, but will be retained in the Tennessee Air National Guard…

Let’s get this straight: A colonel was reduced in rank and sent packing, a senior enlisted leader who was reupping is now being drummed out, and the dude with the camera lost his billet and career momentum. Because of a dinosaur hand puppet.

Articles

These are the 7 finest pieces of flair on US military uniforms

In the 1999 film Office Space, one of the most quotable scenes is when Joanna (Jennifer Aniston), is confronted by her boss Stan, portrayed by the film’s writer/director Mike Judge, about her lack of “flair” on her work uniform.


Pieces of flair are quirky buttons and other accessories with funny, light-hearted phrases or pictures on the uniforms of characters working in a fictional TGI Friday’s rip-off.

When it comes to “flair,” the U.S. military has some cool looking badges. Unlike the cheesy buttons from the movie, military badges are earned through intense training and personal dedication.

While we acknowledge tabs such as Special Forces and Ranger (among others) awards are pretty awesome, the focus of this list is with pin-on badges that aren’t only difficult to earn but require a certain level of expertise.

They are also aesthetically pleasing from all branches of the Armed Forces – that is to say, they just look cool.

7. Space Operations Badge

This badge looks straight out of the Star Trek movies with its slick and futuristic design. It’s certainly a badge that will make you look twice when you see military personnel wearing it.

Members of the U.S. Air Force and Army who complete specialized training and performed space and missile operations over a period of time are eligible to wear it.

6. Military Freefall Parachutist Badge

First awarded in 1994, service members must complete a four-week freefall course in order to earn the coveted badge — commonly known as HALO Wings (High-Altitude Low-Opening).

The badge design features a dagger, arched tab, parachute, and wings. The knife represents infiltration techniques, and the parachute is a seven-celled MT1-X, which is the first parachute adopted for military freefall operations. Members of the Army and Air Force are qualified for the badge.

5. Guard, Tomb of the Unknowns Identification Badge

One of the highest honors in the U.S. military is to serve as a Sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The badge features a wreath representing mourning and three figures representing Peace, Valor, and Victory on the east face of the Tomb.

(U.S. Army photo)

In order to be selected as a Tomb Guard and wear this badge, U.S. Army Soldiers must volunteer and be accepted into training. The position is so hihgly regarded that less than 700 badges have been awarded since it was established in 1958.

4. Master Diver insignia (U.S. Maritime Services)

The Master diver badge is a shared by the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. A master diver is an individual who typically has the most experience in all aspects of diving and underwater salvage.

The unique feature of this badge are the seahorses. The symbolism of the seashores goes back to the Greek god Poseidon who used them to pull his chariot. The double tridents represent the diver’s ability to master the ocean.

3. Expert Rifle Marksmanship Badge

A big perk of getting a high score during the Marine Corps Weapons Qualification test is that you get to wear the Expert Rifle Marksmanship badge. Having this “flair” on your uniform just makes the Marine dress blue uniform that much better.

2. Explosive Ordnance Disposal Badge

The Explosive Ordnance Disposal Badge is a universal badge awarded across all five branches of the U.S. military. Like many badges, there are three levels: Basic, Senior, and Master.

The meaning of the badge is also very descriptive. The wreath represents the achievements of EOD personnel. It also serves as a symbol to those EOD members who gave their lives while conducting EOD duties. The unexploded bomb serves as the main weapon of an EOD attack. The lightning bolts signify the power of a bomb and the bravery of EOD personnel. Lastly, the shield embodies the EOD mission: to prevent detonation and protect personnel and property.

1. SEAL Trident

The U.S. Navy SEAL Trident is probably one of the most recognized badges in the U.S. military, worn by the elite U.S. Navy SEALs. When you see this piece of flair, it deserves the ultimate respect.

What piece of flair did you earn that lets you “express yourself” or represents your military service?

Let us know in the comments section.

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82

MIGHTY HISTORY

WATCH: One of the last living Marines from Iwo Jima shares his story with WATM

Frank Clark was 15 years old when Pearl Harbor was brazenly attacked by the Japanese on December 7th, 1941. On that fateful Sunday morning in Hawaii, 2,403 people lost their lives and 1178 more were wounded. The next day, the United States entered World War II.


Clark’s two older brothers, Charles and Pat immediately enlisted into the Air Corps. “Our patriotism among the young men was unbelievable. They just flooded the enlistment,” he shared. Since he was too young to join, he had to wait. On December 23rd, 1943, his mother signed the paperwork that would allow him to become a United States Marine.

He was just 17 years old.

Clark had a twinkle in his blue eyes and a sly grin when he shared that he chose to serve as a Marine because of their beautiful uniforms. He had no way of knowing what was waiting for him.

Clark turned 18 two weeks before he graduated from Marine Corps boot camp in San Diego, CA and was chosen to become a radio operator. When he finished his training, he joined the 4th Marine division in Hawaii. On February 17th, 1945 – he and those he described as “on his level” were told of the plan to invade Iwo Jima in two days time.

The 4th Marine division was told that the invasion would give the United States a staging facility to eventually attack Japan, since Iwo Jima was just 750 miles from its coast. Iwo Jima boasted two air strips that would be needed for a successful attack on Japan. Clark also shared that the officers told them that the recent air and naval bombardments over thirty days had taken out 95% of the Japanese’s fighting force on Iwo Jima. Officers assured the Marines that they’d be off the island in five days and back in Hawaii.

Clark shook his head and said, “What they told us was wrong and we paid dearly for it.”

As a radio operator, he was on a small communications ship off the shore of Iwo Jima as the Army and Marine divisions hit the island all at once. Clark watched in horror as the men who stepped off the landing ship were killed without warning.

Unbeknownst to those officers who planned the attack on Iwo Jima, the Japanese had created underground tunnels. It was there that they hid, safely waiting out the month long bombings from the United States. As those soldiers and Marines stepped onto the beaches of Iwo Jima, on February 19th, 1945, a camouflaged mountainside artillery awaited them.

It would take all day under intense fire, but eventually the Marines and soldiers were able to take the first part of that coveted airfield. The price for that piece of land was heavy. Hundreds of bodies laid on the volcanic ash sand beach bearing witness to the cost of that day.

On the third day of the battle of Iwo Jima, Clark got off the boat and made his way on the island – with an extra forty pounds of radio equipment on his back. He and the other Marines he was with struggled through the tough sand to make their way to safer positions.

At one point, he and three other radio operators were in a hole about five feet deep with all of their equipment communicating with their leaders. Clark vividly remembers what happened next. He bent over to get something and within a second, the Marine behind him was shot in the forehead, dying instantly. That bullet was meant for Clark, but bending over saved his life.

It wouldn’t be the last time Clark narrowly evaded death.

He remembers the feeling of that volcanic ash sand on his body. He stopped to take a quick break to catch some sleep, burying himself in the sand and covering his head with his poncho. “When I started getting up and pushing myself to get out, I felt a hand there. As it turned out, I had taken my little nap laying in the lap of a dead Japanese soldier. It wasn’t a good feeling, but there was nothing you could do about it,” Clark said.

Clark shared another memory of his time on Iwo Jima. He recalled seeing six rows – each the length of a football field – of bodies covered in white lime. He was unsure if they were American or Japanese bodies, but seeing that gave him an eerie feeling. Clark said you won’t find pictures or videos of that, as he was sure the government told the media not to show it. That image of those bodies has stayed fresh in his mind.

The Marines and soldiers continued their advancement onto Iwo Jima, slowly taking the island. On day six of the bloody battle, that now infamous picture was taken of the Marines raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi. The image would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize and become an iconic image of the war.

It would take almost another month before they captured the island completely. When they left that island, Clark didn’t look back.

The Marines in his division never made their way to Japan – they didn’t have the fighting power like they originally planned for. The Battle of Iwo Jima took the lives of 6,800 brave men and US troops suffered 26,000 casualties. After the Atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the Japanese quickly surrendered.

After leaving Iwo Jima, Clark was informed that his two brothers, Charles and Pat, had both been killed in action.

Clark left the Marines after the war ended and went on to live a quiet civilian life. He was married for 68 years and 8 months to his beautiful wife Nadine, before she passed away in 2017. After her death, he moved into the Missouri Veterans Home.

Frank took a break from his interview to ask WATM writer Jessica Manfre for a dance.

These days, Clark enjoys spending time on his computer and visiting with the ladies that work at the Veterans home.

When asked what advice he would give incoming service members as we approach twenty years at war he laughingly joked, “Do what you can to get into officer’s training – live the better life.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The troublesome history of Zimbabwe’s dead dictator

If you were surprised to see some of the tearful farewells from those worst affected by the lifelong policies of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, you aren’t alone. Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years after helping free the country from British colonial rule. Mugabe was very much the central figure in then-Rhodesia’s struggle for freedom.

The African world rejoiced at his success, and then watched him plunge the country into every economic and human rights disaster there is.


At the end of the 1970s, African colonialism was taking its dying breaths. Zimbabwe, then called Rhodesia, was one of the last remnants of the African colonial era, where the minority white population ruled over the majority black population with an iron fist. The struggle to correct this resulted in the 15-year Rhodesian Bush War that saw thousands of Zimbabweans die at the hands of Rhodesian armed forces. The central figure to emerge from that struggle was Robert Mugabe, a charismatic freedom fighter and former college professor who idolized Mohandas Gandhi who started his firebrand career giving speeches in his home country.

After spending years in prison for sedition in Rhodesia, he left for neighboring Mozambique to join the militant wing of the struggle for freedom, the Zimbabwe African National Union. After the leaders of ZANU were assassinated by the Rhodesian government, Mugabe quickly rose to the top of its ranks. Rhodesia soon realized the writing on the wall, as Mugabe and other groups sent more insurgents into Rhodesia faster than the Rhodesians could kill or capture them. In the election that followed the political stalemate, Mugabe was victorious and became Prime Minister in 1980.

Mugabe with Joshua Nkomo at the Constitutional Conference on the future of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia at Lancaster House in London.

He renamed the country Zimbabwe and the capital Harare. He also expanded educational opportunities to most of the population. In 1987, he and his ZANU-PF party amended the Zimbabwean constitution and installed himself as Executive President, a new position he made for himself while his one-party dominated the Parliament. Mugabe became just one more African strongman. Mugabe betrayed his own revolution.

Although he was an educated man, he was not fit to rule an entire country on his own. After sending military forces into the countryside to root out dissent, Zimbabwe found itself deeply in debt and a mineral sector in virtual collapse. The value of its currency began to drop, and Mugabe began to exploit the ethnic differences in his country to stay in power, a textbook dictatorship move. The wealthy and educated began to flee the country, and by 2000 the economy was in freefall. Hyperinflation became synonymous with the Zimbabwean dollar. He created a repressive police state in order to stay in power, while stripping the rights of everyone, not just white farmers.

Mugabe died in Singapore on Sept. 6, 2019. He was 95. He will still be buried in the country he fought to loot for 37 years.

Even after the total collapse of the Zimbabwean economy, widespread corruption, and Mugabe’s brutal suppression of all opposition, Mugabe remained in power. He and his inner circle of cronies stole the revenues from the country’s mineral wealth while stealing elections and killing the opposition. Finally, after 30-plus years of brutality, Western powers slapped sanctions on him, the country, and anyone caught doing business with Zimbabwe. Yet only after he began to groom his second wife, Grace, to take his position after he died, did Zimbabweans organize his ouster. When he died, he was still working to undermine the government in Harare that had succeeded him.

So while Robert Mugabe was an undisputed liberating force for so many black Rhodesians-turned-Zimbabweans, along with those affected by the subsequent anti-colonial and anti-apartheid movements that came after his success, he was also responsible for 37 years of pillaging the country he fought to liberate.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is when to fly the flag at half-staff

It’s probably common knowledge that when Old Glory is flying at half-staff (or half-mast), it indicates a period of mourning, but unless it’s Memorial Day or a president has just died, people might not know why the flag is at half-staff. Who gets to declare a period of mourning? How long does the period last?

Fear not, dear patriot. I will answer all these questions and more.

On March 1, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered a presidential proclamation codifying the display of the flag of the United States at half-staff. Here are the basics you need to know:


The American flag is flown at half-staff above the White House Sunday, Dec. 1, 2018, in memory of 41st President George H. W. Bush.

(Official White House Photo by Keegan Barber)

Death of the President: 30 Days

The flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions for the period indicated upon the death of the President or a former President for thirty days from the day of death.

The flag shall also be flown at half-staff for such period at all United States embassies, legations, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.

Death of the VP, Chief Justice, retired Chief Justice, or Speaker of the House: 10 days

But for an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a member of the Cabinet, a former Vice President, the President pro tempore of the Senate, the Majority Leader of the Senate, the Minority Leader of the Senate, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, or the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, the flag will fly at half-staff from the day of death until interment.

Honoring the seven astronauts who lost their lives aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2003, the American flag was flown at half-staff over the White House Monday, Feb. 3. President George W. Bush has directed the government to fly the flag at half-staff through Wednesday, Feb. 5.

(White House photo by Paul Morse)

Other deaths “as appropriate”

For example, the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels of the Federal Government in the metropolitan area of the District of Columbia on the day of death and on the following day upon the death of a United States Senator, Representative, Territorial Delegate, or the Resident Commissioner from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and it shall also be flown at half-staff on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels of the Federal Government in the State, Congressional District, Territory, or Commonwealth of such Senator, Representative, Delegate, or Commissioner, respectively, from the day of death until interment.

In the event of the death of other officials, former officials, or foreign dignitaries, the flag of the United States shall be displayed at half-staff in accordance with such orders or instructions as may be issued by or at the direction of the President, or in accordance with recognized customs or practices not inconsistent with law.

Visitors on the USS Arizona Memorial as the flag flies at half-staff.

On Memorial Day and other notable dates

According to the VA, on Memorial Day the flag should be flown at half-staff from sunrise until noon only, then raised briskly to the top of the staff until sunset, in honor of our nation’s fallen heroes.

There are other notable dates throughout the year that are honored with the half-staff display, such as September 11th (Patriot Day), December 7th in honor of the attacks at Pearl Harbor, or October 7th in honor of fallen firefighters.

The president is also authorized to order the flag to half-staff in response to tragedies, such as mass shootings or the Challenger tragedy.

Anyone who wishes to can receive notifications for when to fly their flag at half-staff, including nation-wide or state-wide alerts.

“Good-Faith Misunderstandings”

There have been times when officials have been confused about their authority with regards to “ordering” the American flag to half-staff. The National Flag Foundation gives the example of the late Attorney General Janet Reno ordering the flag to half-staff on all U.S. Department of Justice buildings after the deaths of several DEA agents. Though it was a well-intentioned gesture, legally Attorney General Reno did not have the authority to give such an order.

“NFF points out these ‘good-faith misunderstandings’ not to criticize or embarrass anyone, but rather to head off a growing trivialization of this memorial salute, and to preserve the dignity and significance of flying the U.S. flag at half-staff. To any readers who may think that NFF is insensitive for raising these breaches of etiquette, please be assured that our motives are pure. We grieve these human loses deeply; however, we believe proper respect for our flag must be maintained – no matter the circumstances. We owe that respect to our living, our dead, and our flag.”

“When Salvador Dalí died, it took months to get all the flagpoles sufficiently melted.”

(Image by xkcd)

Etiquette

One final note: proper etiquette dictates that the flag must not just be raised to half-staff. “The flag should be briskly run up to the top of the staff before being lowered slowly to the half-staff position.”

Forever in peace may she wave.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch the moment a bald eagle is rescued from an octopus

Salmon farmers in Canada got a rare sight this week when they came across a bald eagle struggling to free itself from the grips of an octopus.

The incident happened Dec. 9, 2019, as John Ilett and his coworkers were wrapping up work on the north side of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

Ilett told CBC that they “heard a lot of screeching” and “splashing sounds” before they came upon the bird and cephalopod in the water, locked in combat.


“They were grappling and struggling in the water,” Illett said. “The thing dwarfed the eagle and completely wrapped it up.”

Illett told CNN that he didn’t see how the two animals ended up in that position, but bets that the bald eagle tried to swoop down and grab the octopus before realizing just how big it was.

Saving an eagle from an octopus

www.youtube.com

He said that he and the crew were unsure whether to wade into the matter at first, but eventually felt so bad for the bird that they intervened.

“We weren’t sure if we should interfere because it is mother nature, survival of the fittest,” Ilett said. “But it was heart wrenching — to see this octopus was trying to drown this eagle.”

While someone shot video, another crew member grabbed a pole and helped pry the octopus’ tentacles off the bird so that it could eventually fly to a log nearby.

The octopus dove down in the water after losing its prey, while the bird flew off after about 10 minutes, Illet’s company, Mowi Canada West, said in a description of the video posted online Dec. 11, 2019.

While the bald eagle was once under threat of extinction, it was taken off the US government’s list of threatened species in 2007, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Army specialist helps save young boy after long fall

National Guard members spend countless hours every year training for the next big mission. For Army Spc. Nicole McKenzie, that mission wasn’t overseas — it was just below an overpass on her way home from the Yonkers armory on Aug. 3, 2018.

McKenzie, a cable systems installer and maintainer with Company A, 101st Signal Battalion, New York Army National Guard, saw a flash of red going over a guardrail on the Saw Mill River Parkway and immediately pulled her car to the side of the road.

“I saw what looked like the outline of a boy going over the side,” McKenzie said. “I knew something was wrong.”


Her instincts had been sharpened by nearly six years of Army training, which erased all doubt and hesitation at the scene.

“Thanks to my Army training, it was all automatic; everything was fluid,” McKenzie said.

She ran over to the edge where she saw Police Officer Jessie Ferreira Cavallo, of the Hastings-on-Hudson police department already assessing the scene.

Teamwork

When McKenzie saw the 12-year-old boy lying on the rocks below, she shouted to Cavallo, “Let’s go!” They both ran to the shallow end of the overpass, climbed over a fence, and dropped 10 feet to the jagged ground below.

The boy, a resident of the Bronx, had left the Andrus campus in the Bronx. Andrus is a private, nonprofit organization that provides services for vulnerable children, children with special needs, and children with severe emotional and behavior issues.

New York Army National Guard Spc. Nicole McKenzie.

Andrus staff were speaking with the boy when he jumped from the overpass he had been standing on.

McKenzie, who spent three years on active duty with the 168th Multifunctional Medical Battalion and just completed combat life-saving training with the Guard, immediately began to triage the injuries the boy sustained in the fall.

Quick thinking, treatment

She used quick thinking to improvise a flashlight from her phone to administer a concussion test, took his vital signs, and kept talking to him so he stayed awake and alert.

Next, she shouted to a bystander above to grab the medical bag from her trunk and throw it down.

Working in tandem with Cavallo, they used splints from her bag to secure his neck, arm and leg, and stayed with him until the medics arrived and took him to the Westchester hospital.

The Westchester County Police records department confirmed the assistance from McKenzie and the pivotal role that both the National Guard and local police played in working together to assist the young boy.

McKenzie doesn’t think she’s a hero. For her, it’s all about loyalty to her unit and her community.

“I wear the uniform every day because I want to help soldiers — I want to help people,” McKenzie said. “This is my family.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.