That was the crux of a message delivered on Sep. 6, 2019 by Sandra “Sandy” Magnus, a seasoned former astronaut, during an official meeting of spaceflight safety experts in Houston, Texas, on Sep. 6, 2019.
Magnus brought up the issue on behalf of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP), which held its latest quarterly meeting at Johnson Space Center. The group operates independently and is tasked with “evaluating NASA’s safety performance and advising the Agency on ways to improve that performance.”
NASA is racing to send people back to the moon, ideally landing the first woman and next man on the lunar surface in 2024, with its new Artemis program. (The last time anyone visited the moon was December 1972.) Naturally, ASAP had a lot to say about NASA’s ambitious new effort.
Astronaut Bruce McCandless II floats outside NASA’s Space Shuttle Challenger.
Magnus, who flew to the International Space Station (ISS) twice and has spent more than five months in orbit, zeroed in on spacesuits required for the Artemis program’s missions.
“An integral system required to put boots on the moon are the boots,” Magnus said.
She added that spacesuits are essentially “one-person spaceships” that deserve similar levels of funding and scrutiny.
“They’re complex and they have stringent safety requirements, and are a critical component of not only the lunar program, but actually any potential exploration path that human spaceflight may engage upon in the future,” Magnus said.
NASA is struggling to keep its current spacesuits operational
Right now, NASA’s only operational EVA spacesuits are aboard the ISS. They’re each about 40 years old — and not getting any younger.
The panel previously reported that NASA is struggling to upgrade the suits, let alone maintain them.
“The problem does not lie simply in the fact that the suits are old; the fact that manufacturers of several critical suit components, including the very fabric of the suits, have now gone out of business,” ASAP wrote in April 2019.
This in part led to the cancellation in March 2019 of what was supposed to be the first all-female spacewalk.
NASA has been working on a new spacesuit system called the xEMU, which stands for “Exploration Extra-vehicular Mobility Unit.” The xEMU program is designed to both replace the aging relics that astronauts wear outside the space station and also pave the way for crewed exploration of the moon and Mars.
Magnus acknowledged that NASA has invested some money into researching, developing, and building prototypes, like the Z-2 spacesuit (shown at the top of this story). But she argued that the program isn’t moving fast enough.
A prototype of NASA’s xEMU spacesuit program called the Z-2. The agency is designing new suits for astronauts to explore planetary surfaces.
“Up to this point there’s been a lack of priority placed on producing these next-generation spacesuits,” Magnus said.
She added that, while the xEMU project is now being managed by a division of the Artemis program called the Gateway — a small space station that would orbit the moon, and what astronauts may eventually use as a pit-stop for surface missions — ASAP feels the program needs to break out on its own and get more resources.
“In order to produce a safe and reliable lunar suit to meet the Artemis program’s 2024 deadline, and — because of the broad applicability, complexity, and critical safety aspects of spacesuits — in general, we think NASA needs to immediately create a formal, structured spacesuit program,” she said, noting that it should have “a well-defined budget, a schedule including critical milestones, and provide both the authority and responsibility to this entity to produce this critical piece of equipment.”
She added: “We believe anything less than full, robust program-level attention to this system reduces the potential to not only field the capability, but do so in a safe manner.”‘
‘It appears that Artemis is off to a great start’
But Artemis still needs to clear its first major hurdle, which it is the bureaucracy of federal budgeting.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in May 2019 that the agency needs a id=”listicle-2640265340″.6 billion “down payment” to get started in earnest on the program. A month later he added that landing on the moon in five years may require -6 billion annually — a total of -30 billion — on top of NASA’s existing yearly budget of about billion.
Despite that challenge, ASAP member George Nield, a former FAA associate administrator who led its Office of Commercial Space Transportation, was optimistic about the prognosis.
“It appears that Artemis is off to a great start. If Congress agrees to provide the needed funding, NASA may have a real shot at achieving the 2024 goal,” Nield said. “At the same time it will be important to remember what can go wrong along the way, and what things need to be done to ensure crew safety.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It was an early morning in Smoaks, South Carolina, and humidity hung in the air. A truck pulled into the Valley Forge Flag driveway, a facility whose sole purpose is flag production. Valley Forge has been producing since World War I, and their flags have seen a number of fates, from being draped across the caskets of presidents to landing on Omaha Beach to navigating the jungles of Vietnam. Some say it’s one of their flags that is planted on the cold surface of the moon.
The truck began offloading countless rolls of an off-white fabric. The delivery man called them “greige goods,” and he was on his way as soon as he was unloaded.
Rolls of fabric used in flag production at Valley Forge Flags.
(Photo courtesy of Valley Forge Flags)
The Valley Forge material handler sent the greige goods to be dyed, and when the rolls returned, some were white and others had become a deep, brilliant red. They were cut into strips, and six white strips joined seven red strips, making a total of 13 stripes arranged into one neat pile.
A seamstress approached the pile and set herself to sewing. The sewing machines in this facility were automated, and three or four machines would be running at any given time under the watchful eye of Valley Forge employees. This woman watched them carefully as they stitched the strips of cloth together; she watched as the strips became stripes, the needle pressing into the fabric and joining them together with a firm bond.
The facility floor was filled with the sound of these sewing machines as each one was pieced together, beginning to resemble an American flag.
Flag production at Valley Forge Flags.
(Photo by Tetteroo Media)
Rolls of blue cloth with embroidered stars were already waiting to join the stripes. The facility workers cut them to size and fit them next to the stripes, emplacing the final piece of the puzzle.
Another seamstress expertly sewed the fly-end of the flag, and yet another sewed on the white header. The real brass grommets were next, and soon the flags were sent for inspection. The inspector eyed them carefully as they were placed along the table in front of her. Her eye was impeccable; with pride she trimmed excess pieces of thread, and even the most minor defect would be quickly detected and remedied. When complete, she proudly placed a label on the flag indicating that she made sure this flag was of superior quality.
After being properly folded, the flags were placed into packages and taken out the large door in the side of the facility awaiting shipment to their final destination.
Flag production at Valley Forge Flags.
(Photo by Tetteroo Media)
Of these flags, one sat among the rest, heading out to somewhere in the U.S. It looked identical to the others, but its fate was quite different. It would not fly during an American summer nor would passing soldiers salute it.
It wasn’t long before that flag was sitting on the shelf at the PX in Fort Benning, Georgia. It lay there still, amidst the bustle of basic trainees, airborne students, and the throngs of other transient service members in the area.
Eventually, a hand extended from amongst the countless uniforms and took it. After an exchange at the PX checkout counter, the flag was again on the move.
That hand belonged to a man named Patrick. He was of medium height with a strong build, a quiet demeanor, rough hands, and kind eyes.
He took it home to his wife. She had just moved to the area after their wedding; Fort Benning sat on the line dividing Georgia from Alabama, and they lived in the latter in a small apartment complex. Outside, he was an Army Ranger whose country demanded the most difficult tasks of him; here, he was a husband and a friend, a young man fixated on finding happiness in the four walls of a one-bedroom apartment. And he found it, for a while.
This was the home that American flag had been brought into.
Patrick Hawkins during a training exercise in Fort Benning, Georgia.
(Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan)
Patrick had a reverence for a precious few of his own valuables. A rosary hung nearby — he lamented when people wore rosaries around their necks, saying it was improper. He cherished his wedding ring as a sign of dedication to his beloved. And he felt that the flag, though it was merely a combination of cloth and stitching, represented the things he had fought so hard for during his last three deployments to Afghanistan, the freedoms he enjoyed as he grew from a boy to a Ranger.
Patrick was, for all his calluses and no-excuses leadership, a deeply sentimental man.
He unpacked the flag, but he knew it would not hang on his wall or be displayed on a flagpole. It had a purpose closer to his heart.
He folded it properly and brought it with him to work. He presented his military ID as he passed into Fort Benning, and then drove through the brown fence onto the Ranger compound. Patrick arrived early that day, and he entered the bowels of B Company, 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment — a maze of lockers and bags neatly stowed to the side. Flags of all types were displayed above and the pictures of fallen Rangers lined the walls. Folded flag in hand, Patrick passed them by.
He heaved out a large duffel bag filled with the tools he would need to carry out a war in a far away place. It still had dust embedded into its canvas shell from the last deployment. Patrick placed the flag snugly next to his gear — his cold-weather jacket and extra boots, a laptop and hard drive filled with movies.
The bag containing the flag was loaded onto a pallet, ratcheted down, and covered in plastic sheeting to protect it from the weather. The pallet lay outside under the sun next to Patrick when he kissed his wife and embraced his parents. He was always a momma’s boy, and he hugged her for a few extra seconds; his father was career military, and their touch resonated with mutual respect as well as love.
Bagram Honor Guard members fold the American flag during a Memorial Day ceremony at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 29, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier)
It seemed only moments later that Patrick and his flag stepped onto Kandahar Air Field (KAF), Afghanistan.
Upon arrival, Patrick retrieved the flag and carried it to the ready room. It was lined with small, plywood cubbyholes, a hardy wooden table in the center. Zip ties in hand, Patrick grabbed his body armor out of his cubby and placed it on the table. He carefully unfolded the flag and rolled it tightly. He zip tied it onto the outside of his armor, what he called his “kit,” and then placed it back in the wooden cubby.
The flag stayed with him as he donned his kit and grasped his rifle, as he stepped onto the MH-47 helicopter and barreled toward Taliban strongholds. It remained with him as he bolted across the Afghan countryside and dragged Taliban leadership back onto the helicopter and to American lines.
This U.S. Air Force PJ displays the American flag on his kit in Afghanistan.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook)
There came a moment when the stars on that flag had seen more stars in the Afghan sky than the American sky. It was rolled on Patrick’s back, and it was not properly folded — yet it could not have been in a more perfect state at a more perfect time. He was honored to carry it, and it was in carrying it that he defined why such things have value.
Then one night, Patrick stepped off the helicopter for the last time. A woman exited a small, dirt building, and his Ranger brother went to ensure that she was properly cleared and safely escorted off the battlefield. Instead, the night lit up as she exploded, a suicide vest detonating and sending Patrick’s friend careening back, severely wounded. Other Rangers were knocked off their feet. Smoke and debris hung in the air.
Patrick and the Ranger in his charge, Cody, leapt forward without regard to their own safety. The threat appeared to have been eliminated, and they sought to help their Ranger brethren who were bleeding out in the Afghan dirt.
With another step and a series of flashes, Patrick and Cody were gone. The blasts from several improvised explosive devices (IEDs) buried just beneath the surface ripped upward and tore through them both, searing through the flag strapped to Patrick’s back.
The night continued, fraught with chaos, but Patrick’s body remained still. The flag on his back, parts of it shredded and other parts covered in his blood, remained next to him.
An eternity of stillness passed in those moments of fire and shadow.
A hand appeared through the darkness. Patrick’s brothers grabbed what they could; they would not leave him in that place, even if the life had left his body. They were shaken and bleeding, but they gritted their teeth and carried him out with the flag on his back.
Patrick Hawkins’ flag, after being cleaned as well as possible, now awaits another deployment.
(Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan)
As Patrick was dragged away, the flag remained on the ground. Once it had been still for long enough, another hand extended from the darkness, picked it up, and stuffed it into a pouch on the belt of another Ranger, just as he left for the exfil helicopter.
The hand belonged to Patrick’s squad leader and mentor, Kellan. The wounded were many, and they had long since run out of litters — Kellan was using another flag to pick up the remains of another fallen soldier. In the pouch on his belt, Patrick’s flag returned to KAF. Tears mixed into the blood on its fabric, which had been stitched together those months ago in South Carolina.
Kellan would look at the flag often, sometimes in sorrow, sometimes with that familiar guilt of survival, and often in gratitude for having the opportunity to know a man like Patrick. To live together in the most extreme of circumstances.
That was not Kellan’s last deployment. He rolled up his sleeves, and he rolled up the flag. He put his kit on the hardwood table in a far away country, zip ties in hand, and secured Patrick’s flag to it. Then he stepped back into the war.
This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.
In a daring, well-documented nighttime raid, 23 Navy SEALs landed in an al-Qaida compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. They were there to kill or capture the world’s most wanted man. The entire operation lasted only 40 minutes and ended with the death of Osama bin Laden.
Or did it? That’s what the deep state, reptile aliens or any number of conspiracy theory boogeymen would want you to believe, sheeple. The truth is out there.
Imagine instead believing that the bin Laden raid wasn’t a result of years of research, intelligence work and training. Since there were no photos released to the public, some believe the government isn’t telling the whole truth about the “alleged” death of bin Laden in 2011.
The U.S. government’s reluctance to release the photos of his body and the immediate burial at sea didn’t help quash these theories, either.
You don’t have to go far on the Internet to find alternate theories about bin Laden’s death. And if this author is mysteriously killed in the coming weeks, you can be sure one of these is true. Definitely.
Osama bin Laden died in December 2001
Some say the world’s most wanted terrorist was suffering from Marfan Syndrome, a genetic mutation that affects the proteins keeping the body’s tissue together. bin Laden, according to former State Department official Dr. Steve R. Pieczenik, looked like a textbook case of the disorder. His tall frame, long limbs and long face all displayed classic symptoms.
The disease affects one in about 5,000 people and can cause sudden death and there is no definitive DNA test for it. Instead, doctors begin with judging the outward appearance of a suspected “Marfanoid” person — someone thin and often lanky, sometimes with spidery fingers and curved spines. Pieczenik claimed CIA doctors had treated OBL for Marfan, and the al-Qaida leader died just months after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Other claims say he died at the same time, but of renal failure, not Marfan Syndrome.
He didn’t die — he got a vacation.
Like all great conspiracy theories, this one is fact mixed with a healthy dose of fiction — but the facts make it just believable enough to catch on. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the CIA flew Soviet-built weapons from Saudi Arabia to the Afghan Mujahideen during Operation Cyclone.
The conspiracy theory alleges that bin Laden became a CIA asset at this time. The CIA, partnering with Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence Agency, worked to build the mythos surrounding Osama bin Laden, so that fanatical terrorists would come to Afghanistan. Funded through the heroin trade, tacitly permitted by Pakistan, the CIA created a means to fight Islamic fundamentalism in one place.
The raid that killed bin Laden the terrorist was allegedly a means to let bin Laden the CIA asset retire. This is a theory backed by the Iranian regime.
Pakistan Captured bin Laden in 2006
This one comes from legendary investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. Hersh alleges that Pakistan’s ISI captured the terrorist in 2006 and used him as leverage to operate in Afghanistan. The ISI then sold bin Laden to the U.S., but forced them to stage the raid that killed him.
According to Hersh, when Navy SEALs arrived in Abbottabad, they were met by an ISI officer who casually walked them to bin Laden’s bedroom. The SEALs then riddled him with bullets, tore his body apart, and dispersed them throughout the Hindu Kush, just because.
Hersh’s sources for this story are both dubious and anonymous.
Pictured: No Arabs. Definitely no Arabs here.
Bin Laden Didn’t Even Live In Abbottabad
In the London Telegraph, Abbottabad resident Bashir Qureshi dismissed the idea that bin Laden and his family lived in the area. Though the raid blew out the windows on his house, he still dismissed the idea, saying “Nobody believes it. We’ve never seen any Arabs around here, he was not here.”
The Pakistani press didn’t help. Newspapers in the country allege the raid was set up so U.S. forces would have an excuse to enter Pakistan. Former ISI officials seconded that idea in Western media, noting that someone was killed and removed by the U.S. forces during the raid, but it wasn’t bin Laden. The real bin Laden was already dead, they said, and the U.S. knew it … they just didn’t know where he died.
The U.S. Captured bin Laden Well Before 2011
Another theory promoted by the Iranian regime says that the U.S. captured and held bin Laden for years before finally killing him. Fearful that forcing the world’s most wanted terrorist to face trial in the U.S. could result in a hung jury or worse, an acquittal, the United States decided to execute him and stage his death as an elaborate raid.
This theory alleges that killing Osama bin Laden was a stunt by the Obama Administration in order to secure an election victory — even though the presidential election was more than a year away at the time.
Bin Laden Was Literally Kept on Ice
In keeping with the “bin Laden was already dead, the United States just confirmed it” line of thinking, this theory states that the United States had either captured bin Laden after the raid on Tora Bora or that he died of renal failure well before 2011. The U.S. then allegedly froze his body in liquid nitrogen to wait for an expedient time to announce the “victory.”
The expedient times listed by proponents of this conspiracy include not clashing with the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton and knocking an episode of “Celebrity Apprentice” off the air so President Obama could thumb his nose at Donald Trump.
No other aircraft or air defense system in the world can touch it.
Stealthy, fast, incomparably lethal, the F-22 Raptor is without a doubt the deadliest and most advanced fighter jet ever built. And the Air Force, after a lengthy congressional-backed review, will not be getting any new Raptors to supplement its undersized fleet.
The Raptor, built by Lockheed Martin, was originally created as a follow-on to the F-15 Eagle, the previous mainstay of the Air Force’s fighter fleet. Taking in the strengths of the Eagle and improving vastly with new capabilities such as thrust vectoring for supermaneuverability built into a platform optimized for stealth, the Raptor was everything fighter pilots hoped for and dreamed of.
It would be able to fly the air superiority mission like no other, while also being able to carry out air-to-ground strikes with ease.
Initially, the Air Force planned on buying over 750 units to replace its massive Eagle fleet. Over time, that number was drawn down significantly, thanks to evolving missions and changing threat scenarios. By 2009, Congress voted to cap the Raptor’s overall production run at 187, severely below the minimum figure of 381 units the Air Force projected it would need to fulfill the air superiority mission.
According to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, the sheer costs alone makes restarting the Raptor production line, defunct since 2012, completely unfeasible. Revamping manufacturing spaces in addition to rebuilding and redesigning jigs and the tooling necessary to build further Raptors would cost anywhere between $7 to $10 billion, and that’s only the tally on the infrastructure required. Estimates on each Raptor’s flyaway price rang up a whopping $200 million per unit cost, a $60 million jump over the aircraft’s unit cost when its production run ended. The study on bringing the F-22 line back to life was ordered by Congress in April 2016.
Though not wholly unexpected, the recommendation to not pursue a restart of the Raptor line will reduce the Air Force’s options in retaining dominance in its air superiority mission. Earlier this year, the service let on that the F-15C/D Eagle will more than likely face an early demise by the mid-2020s, thanks to an expensive fuselage refurbishment deemed impractical by its brass.
Eagles have long served the Air Force as its dedicated air supremacy fighter, excelling in the mission in the 1990s where it first tasted combat in the Persian Gulf, and later in the Balkans. The Eagle fleet was originally to be overhauled and kept in service until the early 2040s, when it would be replaced by a new 6th generation fighter.
Instead, the Air Force will move on with its plan to refurbish and extend the lives of its F-16 Fighting Falcons, multirole fighters which can also fly the air superiority mission with a considerable degree of success. Critics, however, argue that the F-16 is unequal to the aircraft it seeks to supplant. Smaller, shorter-range, and limited in terms of the amount of munitions it is able to carry, the Fighting Falcon has still served the Air Force and Air National Guard faithfully since the late 1970s and beyond.
A possible byproduct of this news could be the Air Force’s push to develop its 6th generation fighter on an accelerated timeline, bringing it into service earlier than expected. This would minimize the reliance the service would have to place on its aging F-16s, while bringing online a fighter built to work in tandem with incoming next-generation assets like the F-35 Lightning II. This would also potentially reduce the burden placed on the F-22 to shoulder more of the Eagle’s prior workload once it is retired, keeping the small Raptor fleet viable and in service longer.
The best backyardgames, the ones that earn a coveted spot in your warm weather rotation, are casual activities that work as well for crowds as they do for one-on-one matchups. While we won’t ever turn down a game of cornhole, kanjam, ladder toss, and horseshoes, the best backyard games and lawn games come from Scandinavia. Why? Simple. Because of their soul-witheringly long winters, Scandinavians know how to celebrate summer. That celebration often includes participation in simple, fun games that lend themselves to hours of time on that oh-so-important sunlight. The games on this list exist are those that require you to throw one thing at a set of other things. They’re easy to pick up but still require skill and, when the time is right, lend themselves to serious competition. Think cornhole gets competitive? Try a game of Kubb or Mölkky and get back to us. Here are a few games to consider adding to your backyard this summer.
Yard Games Kubb
The Swedish game Kubb dates back more than 1,000 years, when Vikings first conceived of the game as a pastime during those, long light-filled summer nights when they were finished sinking Skeggøx into the chests of their enemies. Legend has it, they’d lob the skulls and limbs of their slain foes across a decreed playing area; eventually, over centuries, it evolved into a more civilized game. In recent years, its exploded in popularity. Modern Kubb sets are, thankfully, made of carved wood instead of cadavers. Each contains 10 wooden blocks, called kubbs, as well as a foot-tall king (marked by a set of points to designate a crown) six tall blocks, and six skittles, the latter of which are used to demarcate a playing field. Once the field is set up properly, the object of the game is to lob kubbs in an attempt to knock down an opponent’s pins and, finally, their king. Accidentally knock down the king before the other pins results in an automatic loss. Simple, but good for hours of warm weather entertainment.
More or less a mash-up of cornhole and bowling, Mölkky is a Finnish lawn game similar to Kubb. Twelve slim, numbered pins called “skittles” are set up on the grass. Teams take turns throwing a wooden block, or karttus, at said pins in an attempt to knock them down. The team who is first to knock down 50 points worth of pins wins. As is the case with games that have been around for a very long time, the rules vary and some are more complicated than others. Regardless of which you follow, the outcome is the same: fun.
A board game that can be played anywhere but is best befitting of the backyard, Sjoelbak is the Dutch version of shuffleboard. It consists of a 16-inch wide, 79-inch long wooden board and 30 wooden pucks. Each side of the board has four wooden channels; players take turns sliding pucks, trying to get them in appropriate lanes. After three rounds, the pucks are totaled (scoring is a bit confusing, but the rules are explained here) and the winner is decided. Again, it’s quite simple. But set up the board on a back table and don’t be surprised if it’s played long into the evening.
You may never have heard of Basil Zaharoff. He’s not the Lord of War depicted by Nic Cage in the 2005 film; Zaharoff was actually around much, much earlier. Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, the “Lord of War” the Nic Cage movie is based on, has nothing on the original “Merchant of Death.”
It didn’t matter that they didn’t often work as directed.
Basil Zaharoff, the world’s richest arms dealer… eventually.
In the days before anyone actually cared about international arms trafficking, men like Zaharoff were renowned for their salesmanship. The Greek gun dealer and industrialist would become one of the richest men to live in his lifetime, selling weapons to anyone who was willing to purchase them, even if they were on opposing sides of a conflict. But his business cunning didn’t stop with getting people to buy. He was also adept at edging out his competition, selling the latest and greatest in military tech.
By the late 1880s, countries like the U.S., Britain, the Ottoman Empire, Germany, and Russia all sought out the Maxim Machine Guns, which Zaharoff had just gotten the rights to produce, along with the new submarines he was suddenly able to sell. While many of the world’s major powers eventually lost interest, the sub was especially interesting to Greece, the Ottoman Empire, and the Russian Empire.
Isaac Peral’s submarine in 1886.
Until this time, the use of submarines was intermittent and untrustworthy in combat. But when a Spanish sailor created one that was actually functional, useful, and fired weapons without killing the crew, it raised some eyebrows. After Zaharoff was able to sell one to the Greek Navy, it wasn’t long before the Ottoman Turks, Greece’s longtime nemesis, noticed. The arms dealer was able to convince the Turks the submarine was a game-changer. He later told the Russian Tsar the same thing, and that Russia needed two of its own to balance power in the region.
The only thing was, no one needed Isaac Peral’s submarine. While it was an advanced invention, none of the models Zaharoff sold to the Greeks, Turks, or Russians actually worked as advertised. It still had a few bugs to work out, and besides – Zaharoff didn’t have the actual submarines; he was working from stolen plans.
None of the submarines actually worked like Peral’s original.
How you walk when you sell five useless submarines to three countries who will never tell out of sheer embarrassment.
For all his failures of morality, Basil Zaharoff didn’t stoop to cheating the Allies out of much-needed cash after World War I broke out. Far from it. He used his skills as a merchant and salesman to further the Allied cause, ensuring Greece would stay in the Entente alliance and convincing the new Greek government to open a front against the Ottomans.
Of course, after the war ended, he went right back to his old tricks. He was selling weapons until the day he died in 1936, providing weapons to the Spanish government during the Spanish Civil War.
Vets get their first rounds in THC Design’s training program
After a career in the military, veterans are equipped with numerous skills that make them an easy hire for thousands of civilian jobs. At first glance, the cannabis industry might not seem like the most ideal fit for veterans, but it’s shaping up to be a fruitful union.
U.S. Army Cavalry Patrol In Kandahar Province
(Chris Hondros/ Getty Images)
It’s no secret that many soldiers have found solace from military-related ailments with medical marijuana: everything from PTSD to slipped discs, to insomnia, have been eased with aide from the versatile plant. In fact, according to a recent study by American Legion, a vast majority of veterans support both marijuana legalization and further research. That kind of support for cannabis extends past personal use and into the job market, where veterans are finding themselves increasingly more involved in the industry.
The most direct translation of military skills is into the cannabis security sector. There are many federal restrictions on the young industry, leading to the reluctance of financial institutions to open accounts for cannabis-centric companies. This means that a plethora of cannabis companies rely on a strictly cash-only basis. This, in turn, leads to a demand for a security detail to convoy alongside both the product and the money.
This demand has formed a reliable network of security companies that hire hundreds of veterans to simply accompany shipments, or post up outside of brick-and-mortar stores like armed bouncers.
Dispensaries are no stranger to security detail
However, the military contributions to the cannabis industry reach much further than security. A growing number of veterans are beginning to get involved in, not only the retail side of the cannabis industry, but the cultivation side as well. According to “The Cannabist” the president of OrganaBrands (a Denver-based company that sells cannabis), Chris Driessen, says about 10% of his total workforce are veterans.
“The veteran community pairs so well (with our business), regardless of the branch of armed forces you’re in. (As a veteran) you learned systems, you learned processes, you learned chain of command,” he continued. “The fact that we don’t have to train people on some of those things — about work ethic and respect and doing what you say you’re going to do… is a huge benefit for any company, and of course ours as well… [they] set themselves apart in the interview. A lot of these folks are, on their own merit, heads and shoulders above their competition.”
(Veteran’s Cannabis Coalition blog)
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t training involved for veterans in the industry. One company, THC Design, actually has a paid internship and mentorship program exclusively for veterans. The course is 12 weeks long and gives veterans a tangible, hands-on, experience with every aspect of cultivation. According to co-founder Ryan Jennemann, the work ethic and problem-solving ability of military veterans makes them the perfect candidate for cannabis.
“What I was hiring for was not experience,” he told The Cannabist. “I was hiring for a work ethic, an ability to handle adversity, an ability to solve problems.” The program is both open source and available online as well, making it accessible for veterans looking to see if the cannabis industry is right for them.
As the legalization of marijuana spreads (Illinois just joined 10 other states as of January 1st), the stigma surrounding the cannabis industry begins to lessen. It’s no secret that marijuana has been a functional part of treatment for veterans returning from overseas, but now veterans are becoming a functional part of the cultivation and distribution of the cannabis industry itself.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the U.S. plan to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) was “ill-considered” and warned that Moscow will follow suit if the United States arms itself with weapons banned by the pact.
Putin spoke on Dec. 5, 2018, a day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington would abandon the INF treaty unless Moscow returns to compliance with the accord within 60 days.
His remarks came shortly after the Russian Foreign Ministry said it received official notification that the United States intends to withdraw from the INF unless Russia remedies what Washington says is a serious violation of the treaty.
Putin claimed that the United States was seeking to use Russia as a scapegoat for the demise of the INF by accusing it of a violation.
BREAKING! Putin Responds To US Ultimatum: Russia’ll React Swiftly If Trump Withdraws From INF Treaty
“They are looking for someone to blame for this…ill-considered step,” Putin told journalists in Moscow, adding that “no evidence of violations on our part has been provided.”
It is “simplest” for the United States to say, ‘Russia is to blame,'” Putin said. “This is not so. We are against the destruction of this treaty.”
President Donald Trump announced in October 2018 that the United States would abandon the INF, citing the alleged Russian violation and concerns that the bilateral treaty binds Washington to restrictions while leaving nuclear-armed countries that are not signatories, such as China, free to develop and deploy the missiles.
Putin said he understands the second argument.
“Many other countries — there are probably more than 10 — produce these weapons, but Russia and the United States have restricted themselves in a bilateral fashion,” he said. “Now, evidently, our American partners believe that the situation has changed so much that the United States should also have these weapons.”
“What will be the response from our side? Very simple: We will also do this,” he said, indicating that Russia will develop and deploy weapons banned by the treaty if the United States does so.
The United States says that Russia has already done that by deploying the 9M729, or Novator, which Washington says breaches the ban on ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 km.
In a joint statement on Dec. 4, 2018, NATO foreign ministers said that Russia has “developed and fielded a missile system, the 9M729, which violates the INF Treaty and poses significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security.”
The NATO ministers called on Russia to “return urgently to full and verifiable compliance,” saying it is now “up to Russia to preserve the INF treaty.”
Russian officials have repeatedly dismissed such demands and Putin gave no indication that Russia plans to abandon the 9M729, which it claims does not violate the treaty.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters on Dec. 5, 2018, that the official notice from the United States cites unspecified evidence of alleged Russian violations.
“The Russian side has repeatedly declared that this is, to say the least, speculation,” Zakharova said of the U.S. allegation. “No evidence to support this American position has ever been presented to us.”
Zakharova claimed that Russia has always respected the treaty and considers it “one of the key pillars of strategic stability and international security.”
Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, told foreign defense attaches in Moscow on Dec. 5, 2018, that a U.S. withdrawal from the treaty would be a “dangerous step that can negatively affect not only European security, but also strategic stability as a whole.”
At the NATO ministerial meeting on Dec. 4, 2018, Pompeo said that Washington would abandon the INF in 60 days unless Moscow dismantles the missiles, which he said were a “material breach” of the accord.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
“During this 60 days, we will still not test or produce or deploy any systems, and we’ll see what happens during this 60-day period,” Pompeo told journalists in Brussels.
“We’ve talked to the Russians a great deal,” he said. “We’re hopeful they’ll change course, but there’s been no indication to date that they have any intention of doing so.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that although Moscow has a last chance to comply with the INF, “we must also start to prepare for a world without the treaty.”
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the U.S. ultimatum was an “escalation of the situation.”
Peskov accused Washington of “manipulating the facts…to camouflage the true aim of the United States in withdrawing from the treaty.”
In a tweet on Dec. 3, 2018, Trump expressed certainty that “at some time in the future” he, Putin, and Chinese President Xi Jinping “will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race.”
The job of a Wild Weasel is the most dangerous mission faced by today’s fighter pilots, a job more hazardous and difficult than shooting down enemy jets, according to retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Hampton in his book Viper Pilot: A Memoir of Air Combat.
These gutsy pilots are tasked with flying their specially outfitted fighter jets into enemy surface-to-air missile envelopes in order to bait SAM operators into targeting them with their radars. Once targeted, the radar waves are traced back to their source allowing the Wild Weasels and other attack aircraft to destroy the threat.
Actually, the unofficial motto of the Wild Weasel crews is YGBSM: “You Gotta Be Sh-tting Me.” It was B-52 Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) veteran Jack Donovan’s natural response when he was introduced to the tactics and mission details. His exact reply was: “you want me to fly in the back of a little tiny fighter aircraft with a crazy fighter pilot who thinks he’s invincible, home in on a SAM site in North Vietnam, and shoot it before it shoots me, you gotta be sh-tting me!” His vernacular stuck and YGBSM is prominently displayed on the patch of some squadrons, adding to the legend of the Wild Weasel.
The Wild Weasel radar detection and suppression concept was developed by the Air Force during the Vietnam War to combat the growing surface-to-air (SAM) threat, specifically the Soviet-made SA-2 Goa. It’s the same type of missile that brought down the CIA U-2 spy plane over Russia piloted by Francis Gary Powers on May 1, 1960. Powers was arrested by the Soviets after he was shot down and eventually released to the U.S., he’s the subject of Tom Hank’s 2015 film, Bridge of Spies.
Birth of the Wild Weasel
During the Vietnam War, the Weasels used two tactics to accomplish their mission. The first tactic, dubbed “Hunter Killer,” used Wild Weasels to hunt down enemy air defense systems and F-105 Thuds to kill them.
The tactic was developed from on-the-job training, for lack of a better description. It was the best play they had against the SA-2. All the U.S. military knew about the SA-2 was that they were usually camouflaged, had a range of 15 to 20 miles and used a target tracking radar. The latter was key for the Weasels because they used it to home in on the target with radar-seeking missiles while the F-105s flew in with heavier ordnance and cluster munitions to complete the kill.
“We knew that we could survive at low-level, use terrain masking, pop up to get their readings and attack the sight,” said a former Weasel pilot in the video below.
The second tactic was to protect the strike force during regular missions. The Weasels would provide themselves as decoys to encourage SAM launches that generated enough smoke to make them visible — like a smoking gun. Meanwhile, the strikers zeroed in on their targets. The Weasels would orbit the target area for 20 to 40 minutes exposed to enemy fighters, SAMs, and air artillery shells (AAA).
Both tactics were very dangerous and resulted in a high fatality rate. After about seven weeks of operations, the first Wild Weasels only had one aircraft left, and many members of the original 16 aircrews had been killed in action, were POWs or had left the program, wrote Warren E. Thompson for HistoryNet.
This documentary perfectly captures the Wild Weasel mission and history:
Europe is wilting under record heat that has already sparked deadly fires and looks unlikely to relent any time soon.
The heat is exacerbating another problem that European countries have long dealt with: Still-potent weaponry left over from World War II.
At the end of July 2018, firefighters grappling with a forest fire southwest of Berlin were further challenged by unexploded World War II ammunition still buried there.
Firefighters had trouble getting inside a pine forest near Fichtenwalde, which is about 22 miles from the German capital, because of safety concerns. There were signs that some explosives had already gone off because of the fire.
The fire came within about a half-mile of the village of Fichtenwald before firefighters were able to halt the flames. Because of the leftover ammunition, they employed an extinguishing tank — a tracked vehicle used by emergency responders in dangerous situations. Such tanks are sometimes built on the frame of a battle tank.
The fire, which may have been sparked by a discarded cigarette, also caused road congestion and closures, but firefighters were able to contain it after four days, withdrawing on July 30, 2018.
Residents of Fichtenwalde and the firefighters who battled the flames there are not only ones who’ve been exposed to leftover munitions because of the heat.
The heatwave in Germany has driven water levels so low along the Elbe River that weapons and ammunition from World War II have started to emerge. At the city of Magdeburg, the water level is just a few centimeters above the historic low measured in 1934.
In Saxony-Anhalt in eastern Germany, police have warned people not to touch the grenades, mines, or other weapons that have started to appear. Munitions were found five places at the end of July 2018, and over the past few weeks there have been 24 such finds , compared to 12 during all of 2017. Specialists are working overtime to deal with the munitions — sometimes defusing them where they’re found.
A police spokeswoman from the region said most of the munitions were discovered by people walking through areas usually covered by water, but some people had gone out in search of leftover explosives. “This is forbidden and dangerous,” the spokeswoman said.
Even after decades underwater, the weapons can still be active — in some cases, sediment can build up and obscure rusted exteriors and the dangerous components inside. “Found ammunition is always dangerous,” the spokeswoman said.
Dense smoke over Lithi village during a wildfire on Chios island, Greece.
Little relief on the horizon
Temperatures in Saxony-Anhalt hit a high for the year so far on July 31, 2018, and the month of July 2018 is expected to be one of the hottest months on record for Germany. Temperatures are expected to remain high in the coming days, though below record levels.
The heatwave being felt in Germany has hit much of the continent, creating all sorts of problems.
Authorities in Poland banned swimming on some beaches along the Baltic during the final days of July 2018, as unusually warm weather had stoked the growth of toxic bacteria in the water. The Rhine and Elbe rivers have also soaked up so much heat that fish living in them have started to suffocate .
In Zurich, Switzerland, police dogs were issued special shoes to keep them from burning their paws on sweltering pavement. Swiss authorities have also canceled fireworks displays out of concern they could spark forest fires. Norwegian officials have warned drivers to watch out for reindeer and sheep trying to escape the heat in tunnels.
Mediterranean countries are issuing warnings for temperatures expected to top 104 degrees Fahrenheit in early August 2018.
Italy has given a red alert — the highest of its three warning levels — for the country’s center and north.
In Portugal — where blazes killed 114 people in 2017 — officials are warning that record heat in the coming days will create a high risk of forest fires. Nearly 11,000 firefighters and 56 aircraft are standing by.
The worst of the hit in Iberia is expected to hit Spain, where at least 27 of 50 provinces have been declared under “extreme risk” from high temperatures.
Wildfires in Greece killed 91 people in June 2018.
Sweden has also seen some of its worst wildfires in decades, including some blazes above the Arctic Circle (though recent rains have improved the situation). The fires overwhelmed responders and prompted some unusual measures.
When you first enlist and are given loads of new gear, it’s a pretty great feeling — until you realize that you’ll have to return most of it eventually. Not all of it, but most. Obviously, you keep your well-worn and dirty uniforms and plenty of small, inconsequential things, like IR beacons.
Although each Central Issuing Facility of each branch at each duty station as their own standard operating procedures, in general, they all follow a guideline of “if it’s touched a troop’s skin or it’s basically worthless, then the troop keeps it.” But if you stop and think about it, what doesn’t get dirty and worn just from regular use?
With that in mind, here’s a rundown of things that would be better off left in a troop’s hands as they head into the civilian world — or to their next duty station.
I mean, you guys really want it THAT bad…
(Photo by Spc. Kristina Truluck)
Sleeping bag sets
Here’s a fact: The only way to get comfortable in one of these sleeping systems is to strip butt-naked so your body heat is evenly distributed. Still want it back?
These things get nasty after they’ve soaked in so much body odor and sweat that it’s like CIF asking for your field socks back.
No one wants to put their mouth on the Camelback that some nervous private was chewing on…
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret)
Camelback, canteens, and water systems
As you can imagine, these directly touch your mouth. If you’re required to return it, that means others returned it before you. Now, we’re sure it’s been cleaned time and time again, but we still can’t help but wonder about what kind of nasty germs have lived on it.
“Those would look so great as civilian attire!” said no veteran ever.
(Photo by Rob Schuette)
It seems like every branch swaps out their service uniform faster than you can blink. Generally speaking, the military wants their old uniforms back before you can get a new set.
Just to toss salt on the already pointless wound, they’ll raise hell if the old uniform you’re turning in isn’t perfectly clean.. you know, for the next troop who definitely won’t be wearing it.
Even if you don’t spray paint it, it’ll still get worn the hell out.
(Photo by Spc. Brianna Saville)
Duffel bags with your name stenciled on
Duffel bags are cheap. They’re just a bit of canvas made into a bag. Everyone in the military has the exact same O.D. green bag, so units ask troops to spray paint their name, last 4, and unit onto the bottom.
Here’s the problem: that paint isn’t coming off any time soon. Good luck trying to find another “Milzarski” in that that exact same unit after I leave.
What’s worse is when the CIF clerk gets hostile with you and questions you why parts are missing. Because, you know, we needed to save a life?
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Ciara Wymbs)
Instead of asking troops to turn in a partly-used first-aid kit, why not let them keep it and stash it in their vehicle in case of emergencies? Sure, it puts the military out a whole (according to Amazon), but wouldn’t it be nice to have a bunch of medical supplies out there in the hands of people trained to use them?
It’s really not uncommon for troops to just buy a cheapo woobie off-post at some surplus store…
(Photo by Spc. Kristina Truluck)
The poncho liner
There’s one item that every troop holds dear above the rest — their poncho liner, affectionately called a “woobie.”
Troops sleep with it, it’s fairly cheap, the camo pattern is quickly outdated, and they’re perfect for emergency situations. Long after troops get out, if they managed to sneak one past supply, they’ll cuddle up with it on the couch and fondly recall their service.
In 1999, writer/director Todd Robinson was at Kirtland Air Force Base to attend a PJ graduation ceremony. In attendance was William F. Pitsenbarger, the father of Airman 1st Class William H. Pitsenbarger, a PJ who was killed in action on April 11, 1966, when he volunteered to stay behind with the soldiers of the Big Red One during Operation Abilene.
During his speech, Mr. Pitsenbarger lamented the things his son, who died at the age of 21, would never do: fall in love and have a son of his own, and in doing so, understand his father’s love for him.
“I was floored,” recalled Robinson, “I remembered my own father’s fear for me during the Vietnam War and I thought about my own son.” He reflected on the brutality of the draft during the Vietnam War and what the experience was like for the veterans who were called to serve — and their families they left behind.
Robinson didn’t know if he wanted to make a war film until that moment. He became committed to the veterans. “If I could make a small contribution by looking into what the personal experiences were like for these men, it would be the least I could do,” he shared.
“I began to interview the veterans of that battle. Their stories were just so tragic, brutal, moving, unrequited…and they were looking for purpose: it was so important to them to see that this man’s valor was recognized before his father passed.”
He spent the next 20 years creating The Last Full Measure, a powerful retelling of the courageous acts of Airman 1st Class Pitsenbarger and the men who fought for his Medal of Honor.The Last Full Measure – Arrives on Digital 4/7 and on Blu-ray, DVD, and On Demand 4/21
The Last Full Measure is best described as a military movie made by a director who “gets it” — who understands that war is chaotic and that the complexities of PTSD for combat veterans require a conversation from our society as a whole.
One of the biggest takeaways he gained about the military community through the making and screening of this film was the notion of “service greater than self,” Robinson told WATM. Screening the film for veterans across the country, Robinson saw the spirit of Pitsenbarger’s sacrifice reflected in the men and women in uniform today. When it comes down to the wire, service members are there for the person at their side.
He also noticed that the film triggered a real need to have a conversation about the wellness of veterans — especially combat vets.
“We, as civilians, the people who benefit from the service of these people, don’t understand what they’ve been through. We don’t always embrace our own complicity in sending service members overseas. If you’re a taxpayer or voter, whether you agree with the policy or not, you’re responsible. We’re also responsible for bringing them home. They need to be given more attention than just a pat on the head, a business-class trip home, and some medication from the VA. We need to embrace our military community when they come home. We need to employ them. And we need to say, ‘You’re not alone,'” Robinson affirmed.
Robinson felt like he owed something back and this film was part of what he could give. Of course, it came with many challenges. In his own words, “Making a movie is organized chaos.” Robinson and his producing partner Signey Sherman, noticed a uniform error in one scene and a folded flag that was coming undone in another. They spent ,000 out of pocket to correct the errors in post-production. “It just looked disrespectful to me,” Robinson lamented.
Somehow a bootleg copy was released overseas containing the original errors and viewers complained. “Those kinds of things pop up. I suppose the real challenge is trying to explain to an audience, without feeling too sensitive, that a film is an impression of a story. My job was to identify the metaphor of the story and what we could say about the men who fought in Operation Abilene. It always came back to service before self.”
To help accomplish that goal, Robinson hired veterans on and off camera. In the Medal of Honor ceremony scene, real PJs wear their maroon berets while veterans of Charlie Company fill the audience. There that day was retired Air Force Senior Master Sergeant John Pighini, a decorated Vietnam War-era PJ and active member of the Pararescue community.
After that scene, Pighini came on-board as a technical advisor for the shoot on location in Thailand, where Robinson and his cast and crew had six days to shoot the entirety of the Vietnam scenes for the film — no small undertaking.
He had a crew of 300 with battle scenes featuring helicopters and explosions. There was no luxury of time. He gives credit to his editor, Richard Nord, and the expertise of his cast and crew. At the end of the day, the film, decades in the making, wasn’t done for financial profit or gain.
“We made this film for our veteran community. We tried to reflect back and let them know that people see them and we want to be part of the solution to whatever problems they face when they come home.”
The Last Full Measure is available now on Blu-ray/DVD and Digital from Lionsgate and features several special features such as a “Medal of Honor Ceremony Shoot” featurette and “The Others May Live: Remembering Operation Abilene” featurette.
The Navy marked a first earlier this year when a woman completed Navy SEAL officer assessment and selection, Military.com has learned.
At the quarterly meeting of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services in December, a Navy official disclosed that the woman had reached the end of the physically and mentally demanding two-week SOAS process in September. Ultimately, however, she was not selected for a SEAL contract, officials said.
While the military formally opened SEAL billets — and all other previously closed jobs — to women in 2016, no woman has yet made it to the infamous 24-week Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training to date. If the woman had been selected for a SEAL contract at the end of SOAS, she would have been the first to reach BUD/S.
Capt. Tamara Lawrence, a spokeswoman for Naval Special Warfare, said the candidate had not listed the SEALs as her top-choice warfighting community. She was awarded placement in her top choice, Lawrence said.
US Navy SEAL candidates during Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.
(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)
“We do not discuss details of a candidate’s non-selection so it does not interfere with their successful service in other warfighter communities,” she said.
Candidates for SOAS are taken from college Reserve Officer Training Corps programs, service academies, and the Navy’s Officer Candidate School, all prior to getting their first Navy contract. Lawrence declined to specify which pathway the recent female candidate had taken out of concern that doing so would reveal her identity.
Lt. Grace Olechowski, force integration officer with Naval Special Warfare Command, said five women had been invited to participate in SOAS since the pipeline was opened to women. Three had entered SOAS to date, but only one had completed assessment and selection.
Military.com broke the news in 2017 that a first female student had entered SOAS — an ROTC student at a U.S. college. She ultimately exited the process before reaching the selection panel, however.
Lawrence said the SEAL officer selection process is candidate-neutral, meaning the selection board does not know the gender or other personal information of the candidates.
U.S. Navy SEAL candidates participating in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sean Furey)
“Selection is based on the candidate’s scores during the two-week SOAS assessment,” she said. “This process ensures every candidate has a fair and equal chance based on Naval Special Warfare standards.”
It’s also possible that not listing the SEALs as a primary career choice would factor against a candidate in the selection process.
The selection panel is made up of senior SEAL officers, Lawrence said, who use SOAS assessment data along with resume information to select “the most competitive candidates.”
Roughly 180 candidates are selected every year to attend SEAL officer assessment and selection, she said; on average, the top 85 candidates are chosen to continue on to SEAL training. There are four two-week SOAS blocks held every year.
While SOAS precedes the award of a final SEAL contract, it is not for the faint of heart. It was previously called “mini-BUD/S” in a nod to its grueling and rigorous nature.
“Physical stress and sleep deprivation are applied to reveal authentic character traits,” the Navy says on its official Naval Special Warfare recruiting site. “Performance and interview data on every candidate is meticulously documented and presented to the NSW Selection Panel.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.