When the Playstation 2 was first released to the public, it was said the computer inside was so powerful it could be used to launch nuclear weapons. It was a stunning comparison. In response, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein opted to try and buy up thousands of the gaming consoles – so much so the U.S. government had to impose export restrictions.
But it seems Saddam gave the Air Force an idea: building a supercomputer from many Playstations.
Just 10 years after Saddam Hussein tried to take over the world using thousands of gaming consoles, the United States Air Force took over the role of mad computer scientist and created the worlds 33rd fastest computer inside its own Air Force Research Laboratory. Only instead of Playstation 2, the Air Force used 1,760 Sony PlayStation 3 consoles. They called it the “Condor Cluster,” and it was the Department of Defense’s fastest computer.
The USAF put the computer in Rome, New York near Syracuse and intended to use the computer for radar enhancement, pattern recognition, satellite imagery processing, and artificial intelligence research for current and future Air Force projects and operations.
Processing imagery is the computer’s primary function, and it performs that function miraculously well. It can analyze ultra-high-resolution images very quickly, at a rate of billions of pixels per minute. But why use Playstation consoles instead of an actual computer or other proprietary technology? Because a Playstation cost 0 at the time and the latest and greatest tech in imagery processing would have run the USAF nearly ,000 per unit. Together, the Playstations formed the core of the computer for a cost of roughly million.
The result was a 500 TeraFLOPS Heterogeneous Cluster powered by PS3s but connected to subcluster heads of dual-quad Xeons with multiple GPGPUs. The video game consoles consumed 90 percent less energy than any alternative and building a special machine with more traditional components to create a processing center, the Air Force could have paid upwards of ten million dollars, and the system would not have been as energy-efficient.
It was the Playstation’s ability to install other operating systems that allowed for this cluster – and is what endangered the program.
If only Saddam had lived to see this…
In 2010, Sony pushed a Playstation firmware update that revoked the device’s ability to install alternate operating systems, like the Linux OS the Air Force used in its supercomputer cluster. The Air Force unboxed hundreds of Playstations and then imaging each unit to run Linux only to have Sony run updates on them a few weeks later. The Air Force, of course, didn’t need the firmware update, nor could Sony force it on those devices. But if one of the USAF’s Playstations goes down, it would be the end of the cluster. Any device refurbished or newly purchased would lack the ability to run Linux.
The firmware update was the death knell for the supercomputer and others like it that had been produced by academic institutions. There was never any word on whether Saddam ever created his supercomputer.
Benjamin Holt was a proud industrialist creating tractors and other farming equipment when World War I broke out. While he prided himself on innovation, he stuck to creating better and better farming equipment rather than trying to create arms for the war effort.
That’s because Holt had developed a new tractor design in 1904, the “Caterpillar,” which used treads instead of wheels, allowing it to stay above the mud of the San Joaquin River Delta near Sacramento, California.
Holt replaced the steam engines of his original design with gasoline power ones in 1908, and the design took off. When World War I opened, horses butchered in front line fighting were slowly replaced with tractors, including Holt’s.
His design was actually a favorite on the front lines because the amazing grip of his caterpillar treads allowed the tractor to operate in heavy mud and to pull itself out of shell craters.
But when those same tractors rolled onto the battlefield, there was plenty of reason for German soldiers to sh-t their pants.
That’s because those tractors had undergone the “Mad Max” treatment courtesy of the Royal Navy, who covered them in thick metal plates, packed them with machine guns and cannon, and sent them crawling across the battlefield at a whopping 4 mph.
Behind them, infantrymen poured through the gaps created by the tanks and quickly seized German trenches and territory.
While the first attack at Flers Courcellette had its issues — mostly that the tanks broke down and were too slow to reposition themselves after the advance to prepare for the German counterattack — their rapid drive toward the objective served as their proof of concept.
British Gen. Douglas Haig, the commander of Allied forces at the Somme, requested hundreds more of the makeshift tanks, and armored warfare quickly became a new standard.
Better French and British tank designs soon followed the Mark 1, but it was an American tractor that carried the first tanks to fight in war.
The military is always evolving and new things happen every day. With each changes comes a new set of challenges and new opportunities to succeed. Thankfully, there are many talented photographers in the community that capture these struggles and triumphs.
Here are some of those moments from this past week:
A crew chief from the 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard, prepares one of the unit’s F-16 “Fighting Falcons” to shut down after the aircraft arrives at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., April 19, 2018, in preparation for the Thunder Over Louisville air show on April 21. The Kentucky Air Guard is once again serving as the base of operations for dozens of military aircraft participating in the show, providing essential maintenance and logistical support.
Medical Soldiers participating in Eager Lion 2018 carry a simulated casualty on a litter to a UH-60 Blackhawk. The 1st Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, Charlie Company, along with the 1st Battalion, 244th Aviation Regiment, Assault Helicopter Battalion conduct a medical evacuation validation for Exercise Eager Lion 2018 from King Abdullah II Air Base in Az-Zarqa, Jordan, April 14, 2018. Eager Lion is a major Exercise with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, designed to exchange military expertise and improve interoperability among partner nations.
Field grade officers and noncommissioned officers assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, “Broncos,” 25th Infantry Division arrive to their first destination as part of a Mungadai exercise at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, on April 17, 2018. The Mungadai is used as a Bronco Brigade leader development program is to create disciplined, trained, and ready professionals, prepared with operational and foundational knowledge, to take disciplined initiative while implementing and executing their commander’s intent.
U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to 1ST Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, fire an M777 Howitzer during Decisive Action Rotation 18-06 at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., Apr. 16, 2018. The National Training Center allows units to integrate indirect fire into live fire training exercises, enhancing training for Army BCTs.
(U.S. Navy photo courtesy NSWG4 Public Affairs)
Special Boat Team 20 personnel execute the insertion of two Combatant Craft Assault vehicles using the Low Velocity Airdrop Delivery System during a training exercise April, 19, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams)
Sailors assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided- missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) fire a .50-caliber machine gun during a bi-lateral interoperability live-fire gunnery exercise with the Finnish guided-missile patrol craft Hamina (PTG 80) April 17, 2018. Porter, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is on its fifth patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.
U.S. Marine Corps Rct. Vivienne Herrera, with Platoon 4016, Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, stands with her fellow recruits after completing an obstacle during the Crucible at Parris Island, S.C. April 20, 2018. The Crucible, a 54 hour day and night test of endurance, is the final and most demanding step before earning the title of United States Marine.
U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua P. Main, a rifleman assigned to Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment (BLT 2/6), 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), fires an M203 rifle at a simulated target during a combat mastery shooting range as part of Eager Lion 18 combat rehearsal, in Jordan, April 17, 2018. Eager Lion is a capstone training engagement that provides U.S. forces and the Jordan Armed Forces an opportunity to rehearse operating in a coalition environment and to pursue new ways to collectively address threats to regional security and improve overall maritime security.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Gabriel Kaczoroski)
A Coast Guard Station Islamorada 33-foot Special Purpose Craft—Law Enforcement boatcrew prepares to rescue a family of four from the water Sunday, April 15, 2018 in Blackwater Sound near Key Largo. The boatcrew took the family to Gilberts Marina with no reported injuries.
When a group of hot-shot fighter pilots praise computers over speed, it’s clear times have changed. Fifth generation aircraft, such as the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II, aren’t just powerful — they’re exponentially superior tactical machines.
When he first flew the F-22, Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, who flew the Raptor as an Air Force exchange pilot and now flies the jump-jet F-35B, remarked, “I was enamored by just how powerful the airplane is … but [that’s] the least important thing about the F-22.”
No pilot who flies a fifth generation fighter “will tell you that what’s impressive is what’s on the outside,” Berke said during a Nov. 7 conference sponsored by the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.
Although fourth generation fighter pilots might have felt a “need for speed”, now information is what wins battles. In a high technology war, Berke suggests that the fastest airplane could be the first to die.
Air Force Lt. Col. Scott Gunn said the F-35A that he now flies “is a lot of sensors and computers … a processing machine that has an aircraft wrapped around it.”
Air Force Maj. David Deptula, who flew the F-22 in combat in Iraq and Syria, said what was “particularly useful” to U.S. and allied air forces was the Raptor’s ability “to detect targets in the air and on the ground and distribute that information in near real time.
“With that information, you’re enabling everybody else,” he said.
As potential adversaries field more advanced defensive systems, Berke said a key question about new airframes is “how survivable they are, and how lethal.” The information processing capabilities of fifth generation fighters “improves both of those, exponentially,” he said.
And with their ability to share the information, the fifth generation planes also “make the fourth gen aircraft more survivable,” he added.
Several of the pilots noted that the F-22 and F-35 not only collect massive amounts of data on the threats and other elements of the combat environment, they process the data and present it as crucial information that the pilot can use to make decisions.
“The big thing is not so much the sensors on the airplane, it’s the computers,” Gunn said. Instead of the pilot having to devote a lot of effort operating the sensors and analyzing data, “the airplane is doing that. I’m the one who gets to make the decisions.”
Major Andrew Stolee, an F-22 instructor at the Air Force Weapons School, said an increased speed of decision making is an important factor “in how we conduct air warfare. The biggest gain we get out of these airplanes is what they allow the human to do.”
Although the F-22 currently has problems sharing its sensor information digitally with fourth generation aircraft, Gunn said the F-35 has a Link 16 system that allows it to share battlespace information with the older airframes.
“In a recent exercise,” he said, “when the F-22s ran out of missiles the older fighters asked them to stay to help them find targets.”
“Enabling all the fifth generation aircraft to share battlespace information with the older aircraft, which will make up most of the fighter forces for decades, is one of the major requirements for the future,” said Maj. Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of the Air Force Air Combat Center.
Another “bill to pay,” VanHerck said, is the need to greatly improve the current air combat training ranges, which cannot adequately duplicate the integrated air defense threats the new fighters must be able to handle. “We’re going to see a lot of our training in the virtual, simulated environment,” he said.
With their unmatched technological advancements and superior aerodynamic designs, fifth generation fighters don’t just exceed air domination capabilities–they define them.
The upcoming Army-Navy game is one that temporarily divides our usually-united U.S. military, if only for a few hours. The rivalry is 118 years old, is attended by sitting Presidents, and is older than the Air Force itself. But for the men who compete for the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy, it can be even more daunting to head west and face the Air Force Academy Falcons.
There’s no way the Air Force will ever get as legendary a rivalry as the Army-Navy game. It’s one of the biggest games in sports. Even if it doesn’t change the rankings on any given year, it’s still got a huge fan base. The Air Force, despite being the better playing team for much of the past few decades, can’t compare to that kind of legacy.
What they can do, however, is spoil the parties at West Point and Annapolis.
Air Force’s 2014 starting QB Kale Pearson.
The trash talk
The Army-Navy game, while known for its mascot thefts and funny spirit videos, is also known for being overly polite. Not so at Navy-Air Force. Midshipmen hold a Falcon Roast pep rally during the week before the Air Force game, burning a wooden falcon in effigy.
As for an interesting game, everyone knows the service academies aren’t playing for the BCS National Championship, so the winner doesn’t get more than bragging rights and the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy. But for fans watching a game, scoring is important. No one wants to sit through a Navy 0-7 win over Army, even Midshipmen. Moreover, there’s no better ending to a game than a squeaker.
The average margin of victory in an Army-Navy Game over the last 15 years is almost 16 and a half points. For Air Force vs. Navy, that number drops to a two score game. And despite Army’s recent uptick in the quality of their game, Air Force and Navy always field much more impressive and more explosive teams.
Despite all of these facts, the Air Force Academy Falcons will never quite measure up to the ancient rivalry that is the Army-Navy Game. The Air Force-Navy game happens on the first Saturday in October, followed by the Army-Air Force game on the first Saturday in November.
The 2018 Army-Navy Game will be on Dec. 8, 2018 at noon Eastern, presented by USAA, and live from Philadelphia.
With modern technology, US soldiers can learn the essentials of operating everything from grenade launchers to .50-caliber machine guns before they ever set foot on a firing range.
Soldiers with the New Jersey National Guard’s D Company, 1-114th Infantry Regiment recently conducted virtual-reality training on a number heavy weapons at the Observer Coach/Trainer Operations Group Regional Battle Simulation Training Center at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey.
Capt. James Ruane, the company’s commander, explained the virtual-reality system to Insider, introducing how it works and how it helps the warfighter.
This virtual-reality system, known as the Unstabilized Gunnery Trainer (UGT), gives users the ability to operate mounted M240B machine guns, Mk 19 grenade launchers, and .50-caliber machine guns — all heavy weapons — in a virtual world.
“When the gunner has the goggles on, he’s able to look around, and it is almost like he’s in an actual mission environment,” Ruane told Insider.
The virtual-reality system is designed to mimic a heavy weapon mounted on a vehicle. In the simulated training environment, users can engage dismounted and mounted targets, as well as moving vehicles and stationary targets.
“It’s the same type of targets they would engage on a live-fire range,” Ruane said.
The “weapon” is designed to feel and function much like an actual machine gun or grenade launcher.
“When you pull the trigger and actually fire this thing, it moves,” the captain said. “It has the same recoil as a weapon system would. So it gives the gunner as real of an experience as you could have in a virtual environment.”
In addition to the single gunner training system, there is also a convoy trainer for three vehicle crew members and a dismount.
“In this setup, you have a driver, you have a vehicle commander, and you have a gunner,” Ruane told Insider. “You also have the ability to have a dismount, and all members of that crew are plugged into the same virtual system.”
“They are all wearing the goggles,” Ruane added. “They all have weapons systems attached to the [VR] system, including a dismount who would have an attached M4.”
“They operate like a crew,” he said, telling Insider that while the training, usually carried out over the course of a weekend, is focused on taking troops through the gunnery tables, the simulator can also be used to train forces for convoy protection missions and other more complex mission sets.
The training normally involves two vehicle crews, but it could be connected to other systems for training with a platoon-sized element.
The company commander said he has seen marked improvements in performance since the introduction of the virtual reality trainer a few years back.
“I’ve definitely seen a dramatic improvement over the last five years,” the captain said.
“In the beginning, crews would have to go two or three times through gunnery,” Ruane, who has been with his company for five years now, told Insider, explaining that soldiers would make “simple mistakes.”
“Now,” he said, “crews are able to get through their engagements and get qualified as a crew” with some of “the highest scores that we’ve seen in the scoring cycle over the last five years.”
Ruane says virtual reality has enhanced their training in a big way.
“A lot of people think, especially some old-school military people, think that the virtual-reality stuff takes away from the actual live-fire ranges, when in fact this is actually an enhancer,” he explained, adding that “when you get out to the live-fire ranges, it is going to be muscle memory at that point, and it’s going to go flawlessly.”
In 1862, the Merrimack and the Monitor fought the famous naval battle at Hampton Roads where ships with iron armor fought each other for the first time. That clash is often cited as one of the moments where warfare changed overnight. Suddenly, it was clear that most cannons couldn’t penetrate iron hulls, and so every navy rushed to armor their hulls.
Just four years later, two fleets of wooden and iron-hulled boats clashed in the waters near Venice, and this first clash of iron fleets got weird, fast.
The Battle of Lissa was fought near an island of the same name in the Adriatic Sea, sometimes known as Vis, its Croatian name. A large Italian fleet of about 26 ships, including 13 ironclads, faced off against about 26 Austrian ships, but only seven Austrian ships were ironclads.
But the ironclad numbers weren’t the end of the Italian advantage. The ships that took part were powered by a mix of sail and steam. Like, each ship used both. Some ships were predominantly steam-powered but had sails to make them more efficient on long voyages, and some were sail-powered with small steam engines and paddles to help them quickly turn in combat. The ships predominantly powered by steam were generally more effective in combat, and Italy had a higher mix of those. And the Italian ships were generally larger, as well.
But most importantly, the Italian ships had larger guns and more rifled pieces. At the time, rifle-fired rounds and exploding rounds were about the only thing that could pierce iron armor. And by larger guns, we mean the largest Austrian guns were 48-pounders, and every piece of Italian naval artillery was larger.
So, the Italian ships were larger, better armed and armored, and technologically advanced. Guess the Italians won. Cool. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.
The Austrian wooden battleship Kaiser rams an Italian ironclad in the Battle. The ship left its figurehead behind after the clash.
Except, nope, just wait. Italy sent ships to capture the island of Lissa from an Austrian garrison on July 16, 1866. This assault was repelled, and the Italian ships returned on the night of July 19 to try again. The next morning, July 20, 1866, was rainy and the waters were covered in mist.
But the Italian fleet used the weather as a cover for their coming bombardment and landings right up until a dispatch vessel ran back to elements of the fleet with news that Austrian ships had reached the island. The Italian fleet had been split up to bombard multiple targets and land troops. They were not properly massed for a naval battle.
The Italians were unimpressed, though, and continued to focus on landing troops. With the technological and numerical advantage, it must have seemed that they could bat away any attempts at disturbing the landings.
Ships are designed with long bodies to minimize resistance and to give stability, but artillery works best when it’s deployed side-by-side with all the guns firing in support of one another. So, when one group of ships charges on another, the group firing broadsides can typically fire many more cannons than the group that is charging. So, seemingly, this would work to the Italians’ advantage.
But then the Italian admiral did something completely baffling. He changed flagships as the Austrians bore down on him. He would later claim that he did this so he would be on a faster ship that could more efficiently relay orders, but the Italian ship crews didn’t know about the change and so would look to the wrong ship for direction for most of the battle.
And then the Austrians got a second break. Their headlong charge was obscured as the naval guns opened fire and began to emit those huge clouds of smoke. The Austrian commander, Rear Adm. Wilhelm von Tegetthoff, charged through the smoke with most of his ships and suddenly realized that he had unwittingly passed through the Italian line of battle.
So the Italian fleet was receiving no clear orders from what the captains thought was the flagship, was obscured by smoke, and suddenly had an enemy literally sailing through their lines. The battle quickly descended into a tight mass of ships circling and firing on one another with little real coordination. As the smoke filled the air and everyone lost sight of nearly everything, it became tough for combatants to tell who they were supposed to fight.
An illustration shows Rear Adm. Wilhelm von Tegetthoff during the Battle of Lissa.
Von Tegetthoff, though, had issued an order that worked perfectly in this insanity. Remember, Austria’s largest guns in the battle were nearly useless for firing at armor plating. The 48-pound shells that were his most powerful projectile would still need a lucky shot to seriously damage an Italian ironclad. So, von Tegetthoff had ordered his ships to ram Italian vessels whenever the opportunity arose.
And so the spinning, chaotic, smoke-filled brawl that morning was perfect for them. It softened the impact of the Italian artillery advantage, and Austrian crews began ramming everything that looked vaguely Italian.
Yeah, the first clash of iron fleets descended into a battle of naval ramming, a tactic that had lost favor in the decades prior because rammings were hard to pull off as the ships required a lot of time and space to build up speed, but easy to avoid as the targeted vessel could pull out of the way or turn so that an otherwise lethal blow would be a glancing hit instead.
In the melee of Lissa, ships of both sides rammed each other, and gun crews fired on ships that they were locked into combat with. An Austrian battleship rammed an Italian vessel and left its figurehead, a statue of the emperor, in the enemy’s iron armor. The Austrian ship even caught fire when one of its masts broke, landed on its own smokestack, and then became overheated by the exhaust.
The Italian ship Re d’Italia sinks at the end of the Battle of Lissa.
(Carl Frederik Sørensen)
When the ships were exchanging shells, the Italians generally got the better of the exchanges as they could lob 300-pound shells from some guns. But the Austrian proficiency at ramming claimed a greater toll.
The heavy Italian ship rolled away, rolled back, and then sank in less than two minutes as sailors and marines struggled to escape the suction of the quickly sinking iron.
The fleets disentangled themselves. The Austrian forces had lost no ships, had only one badly damaged, and had suffered almost 200 casualties including 38 killed. The Italians had lost a prized ironclad and hundreds killed. Worse, a fire was spreading on another ironclad, the Palestro. Despite heroic efforts by the crew to save the ship, including flooding its powder magazines, a separate store of shells and powder was ignited.
The ship blew up like a massive bomb, sending parts of its plating and hull high in the air. Hundreds more Italian sailors died, and the wreckage sank within minutes. Italy had lost a second ironclad, and its death toll for the battle rose to 620. Not to mention, the shores of Lissa were now safe from the threatened Italian amphibious assault.
The aftereffect of Lissa was even weirder than the battle, though. The success of rams led to new ship designs that emphasized the weapon for decades, so even in World War I modern-ish battleships and many smaller vessels still carried iron rams at the waterline. And, maybe even more surprising, the Austrian success at Lissa had become moot before it was even fought.
The Austrian Empire had been decisively defeated on land at the Battle of Königgrätz by Prussian forces on July 3. Prussian forces on the continent kept pressure on Austria for the rest of July, and the war came to an end with Prussian victory.
Germanic tribes, and their Italian allies, were allowed to consolidate their peoples into new nations separate from the Austrian Empire. That empire renamed itself the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and, 48 years later, one of its archdukes was killed while riding in a car in the town of Sarajevo, less than 130 miles northeast of Lissa.
(Today, the island is part of Croatia and is known by its name in the Croatian language, Vis.)
Just like anywhere else, there rules in place in the gym to protect both patrons and staff. Some common rules include no dropping weights on the floor, no using chalk while deadlifting, and, most importantly, work hard or go home.
These written rules are set in stone, but there are a few others you won’t find taped to a wall or printed in a manual. These gym rules are best left unwritten, but you’ll quickly pick up on them.
To get all you newcomers up to speed, we’re going to plainly spell out these gym norms. You’re welcome, America!
The squat rack is for working out your lower body — not your arms. Most gyms don’t have many squats rack in the first place, so it can be pretty infuriating to see someone repping their out biceps when all you want to do is get a solid lower-body workout in as your pre-game kicks in.
There is an exception to this unwritten rule: If the person doing bicep curls at the squat rack is expertly curling 135+ pounds, leave them alone.
Re-rack your plates
Most of the time, there are signs posted on the walls reminding you to re-rack your dumbbells. Unfortunately, those signs don’t specifically tell gym-goers that they should also re-rack any plates they’ve used after they’re done. Not only is it kind to set up the area to be used by the next person, it’s also a hidden workout — every calorie burned counts.
Wiping yourself down is good, too, but we meant the cleaning the workout equipment.
Wipe down your workout area
It’s simple: After you finish using a workout area, wipe the station down with a paper towel and some sanitation spray (typically provided by the gym). It’s not difficult and it doesn’t take long, and yet people seem to forget to do it all the freakin’ time.
Nursing a workout machine
Most gym patrons want to get in, get a solid workout, and move on. Nobody likes to wait for equipment to become available, especially when another person is “nursing” the machine and shows no signs of leaving.
When somebody has an ego or is trying to show off, they tend to put as much weight on the bar as possible, secretly hoping that people are watching. Realistically, unless you’re a professional weightlifter or a fitness celebrity, nobody cares how much you bench.
In fact, when you load up the bar and lift improperly just to push out a bigger rep, you just look dumb.
Wear shin protectors or long socks while deadlifting
There’s nothing more disgusting than seeing spots of blood on the straight bar when you go to do a few deadlifts. This is evidence that the person who spilled blood probably had good form, but it’s still nasty to see… and nastier to touch.
Zero tolerance for body shaming
You have to be an asshole to make fun of someone who isn’t in good shape while you’re in the gym. Giving someone the side-eye for having bad form is one thing, but why snicker at someone trying to improve their lifestyle?
There are plenty of beautiful people working out at the gym. There are also a lot of attractive people outside of the gym. Continuously staring at someone as they workout gets kind of creepy after too long.
. . . [Captain] Fraser opposed an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, and this official’s hostility proved fatal to the Captain’s long career: by an arbitrary abuse of power, the administration in 1856 revoked his commission summarily. Both indefensible and stupid, this action resulted wholly from personal animosity and cost the government one of the most far-sighted and loyal men who ever sailed in the Revenue-Marine. Capt. Stephen Evans, U.S. Coast Guard, retired. “The United States Coast Guard: A Definitive History”
As the quote above indicates, Capt. Alexander Vareness Fraser, first commandant of the service, was a visionary and a man of character. During his four years as head of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, he did his best to professionalize and modernize the service. Many of his innovations were ahead of their time taking place decades after he tried to implement them.
Fraser was born in New York, in 1804, and attended the city’s Mathematical, Nautical and Commercial School. In 1832, he applied for a commission with the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service. President Andrew Jackson signed his commission as second lieutenant aboard the cutter Alert. Fraser served as boarding officer when the service ordered his cutter to Charleston during the infamous “Nullification Crisis” in which South Carolina officials defied federal law requiring merchant ships arriving in Charleston to pay tariffs. During this event, political tempers cooled and a national crisis was ultimately averted.
After the Nullification Crisis, Fraser was offered command of a merchant vessel destined for Japan, China and the Malayan Archipelago. Upon his return two years later, Fraser received appointment as first lieutenant aboard the Alert. Soon thereafter, Congress passed a law authorizing revenue cutters to cruise along the coasts in the winter months to render aid to ships in distress. Fraser returned to New York before any cutters actually started this new duty, and he applied for it, taking command of the Alert when its captain was too sick to go to sea. He spent three years performing this mission, becoming the first cutter captain to carry out the service’s official search and rescue mission.
(U.S. Coast Guard Collection)
In 1843, Treasury Secretary John Spencer created the Revenue Marine Bureau to centralize authority over the cutters within the department and appointed Fraser head of the Bureau. As head of the service, Fraser busied himself with all financial, material and personnel matters concerning the revenue cutters. During his first year in office, he assembled statistics and information for the service’s first annual report and he outlawed the use of slaves aboard revenue cutters. He instituted a merit-based system of officer promotion by examination before a board of officers. He also began the practice of regularly rotating officers to different stations to acquaint them with the nation’s coastal areas. He tried to improve the morale of the enlisted force, raising the pay of petty officers from $20 a month to $30; however, he also prohibited the drinking of alcohol onboard cutters. He made regular inspection tours of lighthouses and tried to amalgamate the Lighthouse Board with the Revenue Marine Bureau, a merger that finally occurred nearly 100 years later. With construction of the 1844 Legare-Class cutters, Fraser introduced the service to iron hulls and steam power. However, these hull materials and motive power were experimental at the time and the new cutters proved unsuccessful.
(U.S. Coast Guard Collection)
In November 1848, Fraser completed his four-year tenure as commandant. He asked for command of the new cutter C.W. Lawrence on a maiden voyage that would round Cape Horn bound for the West Coast. This journey placed him in charge of the first revenue cutter to sail the Pacific Ocean. The Lawrence arrived at San Francisco almost a year after departing New York and, during this odyssey, Fraser took it upon himself to educate his officers in navigation and seamanship much like the Revenue Cutter Service School of Instruction did after its founding in 1876. Unfortunately, all of these trained officers resigned their commissions when they reached California to join the Gold Rush.
On the San Francisco station, Fraser had an exhaustive list of missions to perform with a crew depleted by the lure of gold. He not only enforced tariffs and interdicted smugglers; he provided federal law enforcement for San Francisco, relieved distressed merchant vessels and surveyed the coastline of the new U.S. territory. Fraser had a busy time with 500 to 600 vessels at anchor in San Francisco harbor, many with lawless crews. There were no civil tribunals to help with law enforcement, so Fraser did his best to enforce revenue laws while aiding shipmasters in suppressing mutiny.
(U.S. Coast Guard Collection)
After completing his assignment on the West Coast, Fraser returned to New York City. There, he was suspended and investigated on the charge of administering corporal punishment in San Francisco. The case was unsuccessful so he retained his captaincy in New York. In 1856, the merchants of New York decided they needed a new cutter because the port had become such an important commercial center. Fraser favored building a steam cutter and visited Washington to lobby for new construction. Congress appropriated funds for the steam cutter Harriet Lane, which later earned fame in the Civil War.
Because Fraser had lobbied Congress directly, without permission from the Department of the Treasury, his commission was revoked in 1856. He went into private business in New York as a marine insurance agent, but he retained a sincere interest in military service. He applied for reinstatement in the service during the Civil War and, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed a captain’s commission for Fraser. By then, however, personal matters intervened and Fraser regretfully declined the appointment. He died in 1868 at the age of 64 and was laid to rest in a Brooklyn cemetery.
Fraser introduced the service to professionalization, new technology and moved a reluctant service toward reforms and innovations that would take place long after his death. As the first commandant, Fraser’s foresight and enlightened leadership set the service on course for growth and modernization. He was a true seaman, a visionary and a member of the long blue line.
Military leaders say that General Order 1, which limits alcohol consumption and cohabitation for troops deployed to war zones, reinforces good order and discipline. Advocates and troops say it’s an antiquated “ban on sex” — and may in reality be harming women’s health.
Women troops said in some cases that their doctors cited this controversial order to deny them access to birth control while deployed, a fact that was revealed in a survey conducted by the Service Women’s Action Network advocacy group.
In their survey of nearly 800 women serving or who have served in the US military, SWAN found that 26% of active-duty women do not have access to birth control while deployed. That number jumps even higher for other communities: 41% of women veterans reported limited access during their time in uniform.
While several reasons were provided to account for these numbers, including the inability to refill prescriptions far enough in advance, advocates were shocked to find that a limitation on sexual activity would be used to deny access to birth control.
A U.S. Army Pvt. pulls her way to the top of the slide to victory obstacle during the confidence course phase of basic combat training at Fort Jackson.
(U.S. Army photo)
“Isn’t that ridiculous,” Ellen Haring, chief executive of SWAN, told Business Insider. “It astounds me that people would be denied for that reason.”
It’s astounding, Haring said, because birth control is not just used as a contraceptive. One of the survey’s respondents said she was dismayed when she could not get enough refills to last through her deployments because she primarily used birth control to regulate, and even skip, her menstrual cycle.
Along with safely skipping a period, Planned Parenthood lists a range of medical benefits to using birth control — from reduction of acne to prevention of endometrial or ovarian cancers.
These benefits are not being ignored by the Department of Defense, which said it would be a violation of service members’ privacy if their commander denied them access to birth control.
“Birth control … is not just indicated for pregnancy prevention, it is also indicated for menstrual regulation, including menstrual suppression,” Jessica Maxwell, spokeswoman for the Defense Department, said in an emailed statement to Business Insider.
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Twila Stone readies her weapon during a Memorial Day ceremony.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Stefanko)
It would be a privacy violation for a commander to deny birth control, Maxwell wrote, because taking birth control would not limit a woman’s ability to perform her duties. But she could not publicly comment whether a doctor’s refusal to prescribe the medication would trigger a violation of any military regulation or whether the Pentagon was investigating any reports of this occurring.
Her statement emphasized that emergency contraception, which can be obtained over-the-counter, is readily available even for service members in deployed locations.
But emergency contraceptives are singular in their purpose; these remedies do not satisfy the host of alternate uses filled by prescription birth control.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As enemy fire continue to bombard the base, Thacker allowed his men to proceed to the extraction point while he remained behind. He continued to coordinate defenses, eventually calling friendly artillery to strike his position.
The allied barrage purchased his men more time to withdraw — saving their lives.
Alone and cut-off, Thacker carefully maneuvered away from the base to an area he felt the enemy wouldn’t check, but close enough to keep a watchful eye on the firebase.
Now concealed in an area thickly blanketed in bamboo, North Vietnamese troops established another anti-aircraft gun within earshot of Thacker’s position, where he remained for the next 8 days without food or water.
More than a week later, allied forces started retaking the area. Thacker, weakened, painfully crawled out of his bamboo cover and was soon evacuated to a nearby hospital.
On Oct. 15, 1973, President Richard Nixon presented him with the Medal of Honor.
Researchers at the University of Buffalo, working on research grants from the Army Research Office, have discovered a way of layering plastics that results in a material 14 times stronger than steel and eight times lighter. The layering technique is inspired by the way clams make pearls, and the final result is strong, light, but still slightly flexible armor.
A new lightweight plastic that is 14 times stronger and eight times lighter than steel may lead to next-generation military armor.
The results are outstanding. Current body armor can contain up to 28 pounds of small arms protective inserts. The Kevlar plates used are about 80 percent of the weight of a steel plate of similar size. A UHMWPE plate of the same size would be about 12-13 percent the weight of a steel plate. That would put the plates needed for a large set of UHMWPE body armor at about 4 pounds instead of the 28 pounds for ceramic Kevlar armor.
Anyone who has worn 30 pounds of body armor and 50 pounds of additional gear while carrying an 8-pound weapon can tell you that shaving 24 pounds off the total load makes a huge difference. (Even though, in mortar sections, they’ll probably just make troops carry more ammo to make up the difference.)
The wide range of potential applications is partially thanks to the strength to weight ratio. But it’s also more flexible than other materials. This makes it easier to form the material into a variety of shapes for different uses.
“Professor Ren’s work designing UHMWPE to dramatically improve impact strength may lead to new generations of lightweight armor that provide both protection and mobility for Soldiers,” said Dr. Evan Runnerstrom of the ARO. “In contrast to steel or ceramic armor, UHMWPE could also be easier to cast or mold into complex shapes, providing versatile protection for Soldiers, vehicles, and other Army assets.”
So it’s much lighter, stronger, and more adaptable than any armor you’re currently wearing.
But before you throw your SAPI plates off the roof in celebration, be aware that it will take time to create suitable manufacturing methods and products. The researchers used a 10-step process to create the small samples for their experiments and testing. It will be years before you and your vehicle are rocking this super-light armor.