The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

The Barrett M82, known by members of the U.S. military as the M107 .50-caliber semi-automatic rifle, is one of the military’s most beloved weapons in use today. Its service history is as storied – and as American – as the history of its inventor, Ronnie Barrett.


Before his name became synonymous with American military supremacy, Barrett was a professional photographer in his home state of Tennessee. He never studied science or engineering in college – in fact, he didn’t go to college at all. He went to Murfreesboro High School before going out and starting a photography studio.

That all changed during the course of his usual work.

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

And many, many U.S. and allied troops are better off for it.

In 1982, Barrett was snapping a photo of a river patrol gunboat during a military exercise on the Stones River near Nashville, Tenn. Mounted on that boat were two M2 Browning .50-caliber machine guns. The size of the ammunition cartridge got Ronnie Barrett thinking. He was “wowed” by the Ma Deuce, but he wanted to know if the .50-caliber cartridge could be fired from a shoulder-mounted sniper rifle.

He was out on the water that day to snap promotional photos for the Browning Firearms Company, but he ended up starting a rival firm, one that would become as closely-linked with the U.S. military as Browning.

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

The photo also won a first-place award from the Tennessee Professional Photographers Association. No joke.

(Photo by Ronnie Barrett)

Barrett went home and began work on a 3D sketch of what would soon become the Model 82A1 – M107. Within just seven years, Barrett was able to sell his powerful sniper rifle to the Swedish military and eventually the United States Marine Corps, then the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force.

Not bad at all for someone with no college education, but a whole lotta vision. Welcome to Ronnie Barrett’s America, folks.

MIGHTY CULTURE

49ers’ Garland wears a different kind of uniform off the field

When Air Force Academy football player Ben Garland broke his left hand at practice in 2009, Head Coach Troy Calhoun thought he might miss the rest of the season. Garland played that week.

“You thought, ‘My goodness, this guy, he’s a pretty special human being,”’ Calhoun said.


Garland, 32, is now entering his sixth NFL season overall and his second season with the San Francisco 49ers. For the last nine years, the offensive lineman has spent his offseasons with the Colorado Air National Guard.

“It shapes who you are,” Garland, a captain with the 140th Wing of the Colorado Air National Guard, said of his military training. “It teaches you that teamwork, that discipline, that work ethic. A lot of things that are valuable to the team, I learned in my military career.”

Garland was 5 years old when he attended an Air Force football game with his grandfather, who was a colonel. That experience led the determined boy to vow to play on that field someday and become an officer.

Garland played on the defensive line at the Air Force Academy from 2006 to 2009, earning all-Mountain West conference, second-team honors as a senior. He signed with the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent and placed on the reserve/military list for two years so he could honor his military commitment.

Garland became an offensive lineman in 2012 and has been on three teams that reached the Super Bowl — the Broncos after the 2013 season, the Atlanta Falcons after the 2016 season and the 49ers last February. Garland started at center during San Francisco’s 31-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV in Miami.

“I’m definitely known around the wing as the guy who plays in the NFL,” said Garland, who is 6 feet 5 and weighs 308 pounds.

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

Capt. Ben Garland. Courtesy photo.

Garland has worked primarily in public affairs with the Air National Guard, handling media and community relations as well as internal communications. He has deployed abroad, including to Jordan in 2013.

He was also the recipient of a 2018 Salute to Service Award, in part, because of actions off the field including donating game tickets each week to service members, visiting the Air Force Academy annually to speak to students, working with Georgia Tech ROTC and mentoring local young officers, according to the NFL.

“Once you join the military, you are always an airman or soldier or whatever branch you choose, but we’re all service members,” said Major Kinder Blacke, chief of public affairs for the 140th Wing of the Colorado Air National Guard. “I don’t really think you take that uniform off. I guess I would say I see him as a guardsman who’s an excellent football player and has pursued both of those dreams at once. It’s really admirable.”

Garland said he cherishes his time at Air Force.

“It was extremely challenging and physical, and you were exhausted at times, but the challenging things in life mean the most to you,” he said. “It was one of the best experiences of my life, and I have some of my closest friends from it.”

Garland served on active duty from 2010-12 after graduation. He was already a member of the Air National Guard by the time he made his NFL debut for the Broncos against the Raiders in Oakland on Nov. 9, 2014.

“The way he is able to have a full plate but to do it with such drive and energy, he has an enormous amount of work capacity,” Calhoun said.

The coronavirus pandemic has altered the sports calendar and left a question mark over Garland’s NFL career. There is no guarantee that Garland will be with his teammates for the 49ers’ scheduled opener against the Arizona Cardinals at home on Sept. 13.

Regardless, Garland still possesses a clear vision for what lies ahead.

“Once my NFL career is over, I’d love to do more stuff with the military,” he said. “It just depends where my body’s at. …[In] the military, you get people from all walks of life to come together to be one of the best teams in the world. These selfless, incredible, courageous people, you get to know and be friends with. I definitely want to be a part of that as long as I can.”

Keep up with Garland’s career updates by following him on Instagram.

This article originally appeared on Reserve + National Guard Magazine. Follow @ReserveGuardMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY GAMING

How AR technology could change the way future troops train

Technology moves ever forward. What one generation of war-fighters trains on will, in many cases, be obsolete when the time comes to train the next. Though the specifics may vary from year to year, the US Military is constantly innovating and upgrading our training tools to reach the same goal: giving troops experiences as near to the real thing as possible, while balancing costs and safety factors.

If you keep all of these elements in mind, there’s a clear, logical next step to take in terms of training technology: augmented reality.


The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

You can only do so many “washer and dime” drills it the point is lost.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Paige Behringer, 1BCT PAO, 1st Cav. Div.)

There’s no replacing actual, rifles-in-hand training. No kind of simulation could ever give troops the same kind of experience as using the weapon that they’ll actually be using in combat. Putting holes in paper or drop-down targets at the range is a valuable experience that can never (and will never) be replaced.

But the supplemental trainings that you’ll find inside an NCO’s book exercise could always use a technological touch-up.

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

It’s both awkward and fun at the same time.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joseph Guenther)

Today, it’s not uncommon for troops to play out a few key strategies on video game consoles as the NCO gives step-by-step breakdowns of what’s about to go down. These types of exercises are extremely safe and cost effective, but they’re also not nearly true-to-life.

The next step in achieving realism comes with virtual reality centers, which have already been experimentally fielded at certain installations. It’s called the Dismounted Soldier Training System (or DSTS) and it places troops in a room with a simulated rifle and a few screens all around them. Troops then “shoot” and move around the room in a safe (but expensive) simulation. It’s more effective than video-game training because the troops must use their bodies, learning important physical techniques. Here, they’ll train their responses on what to do when they see an enemy appear on screen.

These are fantastic for leaders looking to monitor a troop’s performance, but they’re still more akin to taking the guys out to an arcade and watching how they do with, essentially, a really expensive version of Time Crisis 3.

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

At the very least, this will be a far more engaging way to learn tactics than watching a senior NCO scribble on a whiteboard for a few hours.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Samantha Whitehead)

Finally, we arrive at augmented reality. Augmented reality is the intersection between digital and physical. It’s when technology is used to place digital elements in real-world spaces. And it’s not future tech — it’s happening right now. An advanced training simulator that leverages this technology is currently being developed by Magic Leap, Inc. It differs from virtual reality in that it brings the simulation into the real world, as opposed to putting real-world troops into the simulation. The current design is called HUD 3.0.

Troops place goggles over their heads as they step into a specially designed environment, similar to MOUT training grounds, that is linked to a central hub. The goggles then intelligently lay digital images over the real world. The program can then place simulated elements in the troop’s vision — like a digital terrorist appearing in a real window. The troop can then raise their training rifle that is synced with the program, pull the trigger, and watch simulated gunfire unfold as it would in actual combat.

The advantage this has over other types of simulations is that it isn’t limited to putting a single troop out there. In theory, an entire platoon could don sets of goggles and train together, getting an experience close to real combat while remaining completely safe.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time an english dude invented a gun that fired square bullets

Considered to be little more than a historical curio today, the early 18th century Puckle Gun was nonetheless one of the most advanced firearms of its age, capable of firing one shot every 6 seconds in an era when even the most highly skilled soldier equipped with a musket typically topped out at a rate of only about one shot every 20 seconds.

Invented by one James Puckle Esq, an English lawyer and essayist, the Puckle Gun was a flintlock weapon capable of turning a man’s insides into a cloud of viscera. Its most unique feature was a rotating cylinder that allowed it to overcome the inherent issue that plagued all flintlock weapons of the era — a glacial rate of fire.


More akin to a modern revolver, the gun is nonetheless often described (inaccurately) as the first machine gun. In fact, it was amongst the first, if not the first gun, to ever be called that when, in a 1722 shipping manifest, it was noted that the ship had on board “2 Machine Guns of Puckles.”

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

Curiously modern looking in its design, the Puckle Gun boasted a 3 foot long barrel and was designed to sit atop a tripod. It could also swivel and be aimed in any direction extremely rapidly with little effort by the operator due to how well balanced it was.

Once the prototype was completed in 1717, Puckle approached the British Navy who, at the time, were having a lot of trouble with Ottoman pirates. You see, the large, broadside cannons their ships were equipped with were a poor weapon of choice to use against tiny, fast moving vessels that could quite literally run circles around the bigger craft.

Puckle felt his gun was perfect for this use-case. Ships could quite easily have several of the Puckle guns mounted all around the perimeter of the deck and fire at approaching pirates with incredible speed for the age.

Intrigued, officials from the English Board of Ordnance were sent to observe a demonstration of the gun in 1717 in Woolwich. Unfortunately for Puckle, while they were reportedly impressed with the speed at which it could launch projectiles of death, and how quickly it could be reloaded, they decided to pass.

Their objections to it were primarily that it featured an unreliable flintlock system and it was too complex to be easily manufactured, including requiring many custom made components that gunsmiths at that point didn’t have, all combined making it difficult to mass produce. On top of that, it didn’t exactly lend itself to a variety of tactical situations due to its size.

Unperturbed at the initial rejection, Puckle continued to refine the design, patenting a better version of the gun a year later in 1718. Said patent, No. 418, describes the gun as being primarily for defensive purposes and notes that it is ideal for defending “bridges, breaches, lines and passes, ships, boats, houses and other places” from pesky foreigners.

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

James Puckle.

A natural salesman, Puckle went as far as putting advertising of sorts right in his patent, with the second line of said patent reading: “Defending KING GEORGE your COUNTRY and LAWES – Is Defending YOUR SELVES and PROTESTANT CAUSE”

This is an idea Puckle would double down on by including engravings on the gun itself featuring things like King George, imagery of Britain and random bible verses.

To doubly sell potential investors on the value of the gun as a stalwart defender of Christian ideology, Puckle’s patent also describes how the gun could, in a pinch, fire square bullets.

What does this have to do with religion?

Puckle thought that square bullets would cause significantly more damage to the human body and believed that if they were shot at Muslim Turks (who the British were fighting at the time), it would, to quote the patent, “convince [them] of the benefits of Christian civilisation”.

The gun could also fire regular, round projectiles too (which Puckle earmarked as being for use against Christians only). On top of that, it also fired “grenados”, shot, essentially comprising of many tiny bullets — you know, for when you really wanted to ruin someone’s day.

Puckle began selling shares of his company to the public in 1720 for about 8 pounds a piece (about £1,100 pounds or id=”listicle-2639223725″,600 today) to finance construction of more advanced Puckle Guns, one of which was demonstrated to the public on March 31, 1722.

During said demonstration, as described in the London Journal: “[O]ne man discharged it 63 times in seven Minutes, though all while Raining, and it throws off either one large or sixteen Musquet Balls at every discharge with great force…”

Despite the impressive and reliable display, the British military on the whole was still uninterested in the newfangled technology.

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

Replica Puckle gun from Buckler’s Hard Maritime Museum.

That said, there was at least one order, placed by then Master-General of Ordnance for Britain, Duke John Montagu, for two of the guns to bring along in an attempt to capture St. Vincent and St. Lucia in the Caribbean. Whether these ever ended up being used or not isn’t clear.

Whatever the case, the two Puckle guns in question are still around today and can presently be seen at the Boughton House and Beaulieu Palace, homes once owned by Montagu.

As for Puckle, he died in 1724, never seeing his gun leveled against the enemies of King George — much to the relief of 18th century Turks everywhere we’re sure.

Summing up his failed invention and company, one sarcastic reporter for the London Journal quipped that the gun had “only wounded [those] who have shares therein.”

Burn.

Bonus fact:

If you happen to think killing two birds with one stone is a bit inefficient, you might want to look into the “punt gun,” capable of killing upwards of 50-100 birds in a single shot.

First put in use in the 1800s, the punt guns were never manufactured on a large scale, with each being custom made by a gunsmith to fit a buyer’s specifications. But, in general, the barrels had openings upwards of 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter and weighed over 100-pounds (45 kg). They generally could fire more than a pound of shot at a time and usually measured over 10 feet (3 m) long.

As you might imagine from this, they were too heavy and the recoil too strong for a hunter to fire them by hand. Instead, they were (usually) mounted to small, often flat bottomed, boats known as “punts.” Hunters aimed the gun by maneuvering the boat into position one or two dozen meters from their targets, and then fired.

As an example of how effective this was, a market hunter in the eastern United States, Ray Todd, claimed he and three other hunters with punt guns managed to kill 419 ducks one night in a single volley after encountering a huge flock “over a half-mile long and nearly as wide.”

After the first volley, he stated, “The birds flew off a short distance and began to feed again. We made three more shots that night. By morning we had killed over 1,000 ducks. They brought .50 a pair in Baltimore, and it was the best night’s work we had ever done.”

Not surprisingly, in the years after market hunters began using punt guns, the population of wild waterfowl began to decline in the United States dramatically. Sportsmen who hunted for personal use of the killed waterfowl, rather than for profit like the market hunters, began advocating for hunting regulations and limits. In response, many states in the U.S. outlawed the use of punt guns by the 1860s, while the Lacey Act of 1900 and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 effectively ended their use in the country. That said, punt guns are still legal in the United Kingdom, though their barrels are restricted to a diameter less than 1.75-inches. Hunters must also have a permit from the government for the gun and black powder, and they must adhere to strict hunting seasons. All this hasn’t proved much of a problem as there are only a few dozen currently used punt guns left in the U.K. today.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

Get a look at the Air Force’s new PT uniforms

The Air Force physical training uniform issued in the mid-2000s was never really beloved by anyone in the Air Force. The shorts were sized four times too small, the plastic-like fabric made a racket while running, and the moisture-wicking shirts seem glued on after absorbing even the slightest sweat. They were only a marginal improvement over their all-cotton, all-gray predecessors.

Well, it’s looking like all of that could be gone in the near future. A new PT uniform may be on the way.


New half-zips, compression technology, and optional designs are just a few of the new features that reflect recent innovations in popular sportswear. As for the shorts, the new ones will have two length options: standard and runner.

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

The alleged new Air Force PT uniform options.

(Air Force LCMC)

The above is supposedly a slide from an Air Force Life Cycle Management Center presentation, dated Nov. 20, 2018. This is in line with comments made by Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright, who, just a few months ago, said the service had a new PT uniform in the works.

As you can see in the diagrams above, the new design is much more versatile and modern. Each iteration of the uniform has several options in terms of size and color. The addition of compression pants and shirts is a big step up from the simpler track pants or shorts options of the previous uniforms.

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

The header slide from the new PT uniform presentation.

(Air Force LCMC)

The slides first made an appearance on the Air Force-themed Facebook humor page Air Force amn/nco/snco and have since found their way to a report in Air Force Times. Airmen regularly privately submit such information to the Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page, which says the slides are legit. The same Facebook page broke the story of the Air Force move to its new Operational Camouflage Pattern combat battle uniforms.

The new uniforms will maintain the same gray-blue color schemes but could come with better material features, like improved moisture-wicking material and shorts that don’t feel like swim trunks.

Chief Wright previously estimated the Air Force would release the new PT uniforms in mid-to-late 2019.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Facebook has its own security made of 6,000 armed guards

After a disgruntled YouTube user shot three people at the company’s headquarters in Silicon Valley in April 2018, Facebook sprang into action.

The social networking firm’s offices are just a 30-minute drive away from YouTube, and it swiftly redoubled its own defenses — spooking some employees in the process.

Though most workers don’t realise it, Facebook quietly has off-duty police officers in civilian clothes covertly patrolling its headquarters with concealed firearms in case of emergencies. Following the YouTube shooting, Facebook upped their numbers, in doing so unsettling some employees who subsequently noticed them.


Business Insider has spoken with current and former employees and reviewed internal documents for an in-depth investigation into how Facebook handles its corporate security, which you can read in full here.

The incident highlights the challenges Facebook’s security team faces as it polices the Silicon Valley technology giant, and the extreme threats it needs to plan for while maintaining a comfortable atmosphere at Facebook’s famously luxurious Menlo Park, California headquarters.

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

Entrance to Facebook headquarters complex in Menlo Park, California.

In an interview, Facebook’s chief global security officer Nick Lovrien said that the company immediately increased its “security posture” following the YouTube shooting. “Not everybody was aware that we had those on campus, so there was a population that was concerned that we had armed off-duty officers,” he said.

“But I will say that the majority of people expressed they were much more comfortable having them, and in this role my job is really to weigh that risk versus anything else, and safety is the number one priority, and this was the right investment to be able to mitigate that.”

All told, there are now more than 6,000 people working in Facebook’s Global Security team — including legions of security officers. CEO Mark Zuckerberg also has armed guards outside of his Bay Area residences, and executive protection officers in civilian clothes quietly keep watch over him while he works in the office and accompany him wherever he goes.

Forewarned is forearmed

Global Security has extensive plans and best practices for a broad array of security incidents, Business Insider learned as part of its investigation into Facebook’s security practices.

Executive kidnapped? Notify law enforcement, get proof of life, contact the kidnap-and-ransom-insurance company, and go from there. Active shooter? Gather critical information about the location and description of the shooter, call law enforcement, send out emergency notifications, lock down or evacuate the buildings as necessary, and so on.

Unexpected package sent to an executive’s home? Get information about who dropped it off, make an incident alert, and send the package to the GSII without opening it. Media turned up outside Zuckerberg’s residence? Figure out who they are, why they’re there, send a mobile unit to meet them, and notify police if requested by management or the executive protection team.

Protocols like these are by no means unique to Facebook; they provide a clear agreed-upon framework to follow in times of crisis. But they’re indicative of the disparate challenges Facebook now faces in protecting its global workforce, from civil disturbances to safely handling the firing of “high-risk employees.”

Facebook has to similarly prepare whenever it constructs a new facility: When it built its new Frank Gehry-designed headquarters in Menlo Park, the security threats it was forced to consider involved everything from the risk of earthquakes to the possibility of a plane from San Francisco International Airport falling out of the sky onto the campus, which would cause carnage.

Featured image: www.thoughtcatalog.com

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The 4 weirdest ammunitions ever used

Humans have a long history of being creative with their weapons. Necessity is the mother of invention, and there’s no necessity greater than not dying because you can’t shoot back. As a result, humans have come up with more than their share of surprising weapon systems – with varying degrees of success.


The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

Tround

The tround, short for triangular round, was designed by David Dardick in the mid-1950s for use in his open-chamber line of weapons. It may sound strange, but the open cylinder allowed rounds to be fed into the weapon via the side as opposed to the front or rear. But the real draw was that triangular rounds would allow a weapon’s user to carry fifty percent more ammunition in a case.

Trounds also allowed for different cartridges to be used in place of the tround ammo, where the triangular casings were used as chamber adapters.

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

Rocket-propelled ammunition

The gyrojet weapon was developed by an engineer who worked at Los Alamos who was trying to scale down the bazooka concept to create an antitank weapon that was also compact. The gyrojet was a rocket launcher shaped like a gun firing ammunition that actually accelerated as it got further from the weapon.

It had no recoil, could be fired underwater, and could penetrate armor at 100 yards. The only problem was that its accuracy was so terrible that hitting anything at 100 yards was problematic.

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

Puckle rounds

The Puckle Gun was an early development in the history of automatic weapons. It was a single-barreled flintlock weapon that was designed to keep boarders from getting onto another ship. The weapon was never actually used in combat, but it featured two rounds of ammunition; circular rounds for fighting Christians and square bullets for shooting Muslims, because square bullets apparently cause more damage. According to the patent, its purpose was to “convince the Turks of the benefits of Christian civilization.”

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

Lazy Dog missiles

What you see is what you get with the lazy dog ammo. There’s no cartridge, no propellant, no explosive – just a solid piece of metal attached to fins. They were dropped from high altitudes en masse and by the time they reached the ground were able to penetrate light armor.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

This toddler’s White House briefing on COVID-19 is the best thing you’ll see today

With an abundance of data points on COVID-19 — the news, your friend from high school who has turned into a respiratory and infectious disease expert on social media despite never going to med school, your family, your neighbors, that group text — it’s difficult to discern what is relevant and what is truthful.

Finally, here’s one source that absolutely nails it. Three-year-old toddler “Dr. Big Sister” Hannah Curtis delivers a spot on briefing from her very own White House.



MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is getting this new squad vehicle to lighten its load

Infantry soldiers often carry an array of supplies and gear that together can weigh anywhere from 60 to 120 pounds, said Capt. Erika Hanson, the assistant product manager for the Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport.

But the SMET vehicle, which the Army expects to field in just under three years, “is designed to take the load off the soldier,” Hanson said. “Our directed requirement is to carry 1,000 pounds of the soldier load.”

That 1,000 pounds is not just for one soldier, of course, but for an entire Infantry squad — typically about nine soldiers.


Late May 2018, during a “Close Combat Lethality Tech Day” in the courtyard of the Pentagon, Hanson had with her on display the contenders for the Army’s SMET program: four small vehicles, each designed to follow along behind a squad of infantry soldiers and carry most or all their gear for them, so they can move to where they need to be without being exhausted upon arrival.

“I’m not an infantry soldier,” Hanson said. “But I’ve carried a rucksack — and I can tell you I can move a lot faster without out a rucksack on my back. Not having to carry this load will make the soldier more mobile and more lethal in a deployed environment.”

The four contender vehicles on display at the Pentagon were the MRZR-X system from Polaris Industries Inc., Applied Research Associates Inc. and Neya Systems LLC; the Multi-Utility Tactical Transport from General Dynamics Land Systems; the Hunter Wolf from HDT Global; and the RS2-H1 system from Howe and Howe Technologies. Each was loaded down with gear representative of what they would be expected to carry when one of them is actually fielded to the Army.

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind
Vehicles the Army is considering to fill the role of the Squad Multi-Purpose Equipment Transport.
(U.S. Army photos)

“Nine ruck sacks, six boxes of MREs and four water cans,” Hanson said. “This is about the equivalent of what a long-range mission for a light Infantry unit would need to carry.”

Hanson said that for actual testing and evaluation purposes, the simulated combat load also includes fuel cans and ammo cans as well, though these items weren’t included in the display at the Pentagon.

These small vehicles, Hanson said, are expected to follow along with a squad of soldiers as they walk to wherever it is they have been directed to go. The requirement for the vehicles is that they be able to travel up to 60 miles over the course of 72 hours, she said.

Three of the vehicles are “pivot steered,” Hanson said, to make it easier for them to maneuver in off-road environments, so that they can follow soldiers even when there isn’t a trail.

One of the contenders for SMET has a steering wheel, with both a driver’s seat and a passenger seat. So if a soldier wanted to drive that vehicle, he could, Hanson said. Still, the Army requirement is that the SMET be able to operate unmanned, and all four vehicles provide that unmanned capability.

All four contenders include a small, simplistic kind of remote control that a soldier can hand-carry to control the vehicle. One of those remotes was just a light-weight hand grip with a tiny thumb-controlled joystick on top. A soldier on patrol could carry the light-weight controller at his side.

More advanced control options are also available for the SMET as well, Hanson said.

“All can be operated with an operator control unit,” she said. “It’s a tele-operation where you have a screen and you can operate the system non-line-of-site via the cameras on the system.”

When soldiers on patrol want the SMET to follow along with them, they can use the very simple controller that puts a low cognitive load on the Soldier. When they want the SMET to operate in locations where they won’t be able to see it, they can use the more advanced controller with the video screen.

Hanson said the Army envisions soldiers might one day use the SMET to do things besides carry a Soldier’s bags.

“It’s for use in operations where some of the payloads are like re-trans and recon payloads in the future,” she said. “In that situation, it would be better for a soldier at a distance to be able to tele-operate the SMET into position.”

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind
This small joy stick device has been designed to control one of the four vehicles that the Army is considering to fill the role of the Squad Multi-Purpose Equipment Transport.
(U.S. Army photo by C. Todd Lopez)

The “re-trans” mission, she said, would involve putting radio gear onto the SMET and then using a remote control to put the vehicle out at the farthest edge of where radio communications are able to reach. By doing so, she said, the SMET could then be part of extending that communications range farther onto the battlefield.

One of the vehicles even has an option for a soldier to clip one end of a rope to his belt and the other end to the vehicle — and then the vehicle will just follow him wherever he walks. That’s the tethered “follow-me” option, Hanson said.

In addition to carrying gear for soldiers, the SMET is also expected to provide electric power to soldiers on patrol. She said while the vehicle is moving, for instance, it is required to provide 1 kilowatt of power, and when it’s standing still, it must provide 3 kW.

That power, she said, could be piped into the Army’s “Universal Battery Charger,” which can charge a variety of batteries currently used in soldier products. Vendors of the SMET have each been provided with a UBC so they can figure out how best to incorporate the device into their SMET submissions.

Hanson said the Army hopes that the SMET could include, in some cases, up to five UBCs on board to ensure that no soldier in an Infantry squad is ever without mobile power.

Next step

In November 2017, the Army held a “fly-off” at Fort Benning, Georgia, where 10 contenders for the SMET competed with each other. Only the developers of the vehicles were involved in the fly-off.

“From those, we down-selected to these four, based on their performance,” Hanson said.

To make its choice for the down-select, she said the Army looked at things like mobility and durability of the systems.

Now, the Army will do a technology demonstration to down-select to just one vehicle, from the remaining four. To do that, Hanson said, the Army will first provide copies of the competing SMET vehicles to two Army Infantry units, one at Fort Drum, New York, and one at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Additionally, Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, will also get a set of the vehicles.

“Over the course of the tech demo, we’ll be getting feedback from the soldiers and the Marines on what systems best fill the need for the infantryman,” she said.

The technology demonstration, she said, will last just one year. And when it’s complete, feedback from soldiers and Marines will be used to down-select to just one system that will then become an Army program of record.

“I think the best part of the program is the innovative approach the team is taking to field them to soldiers before they select the program of record,” Hanson said. “That way, it’s the soldier feedback that drives the requirement, not the other way around.”

Hanson said she expects the program of record to begin in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020, after which the Army will go into low-rate initial production on the SMET. By the second or third quarter of FY 2021, she said, the first Army unit can expect to have the new vehicle fielded to them.

Hanson said the Army has set a base price of $100,000 for the SMET.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The Navy made Tom Cruise and Jerry Bruckheimer Honorary Naval Aviators

Naval aviators are often considered to be the best aviators in the world. The training is intensive and it can take students years to earn their wings of gold as fully qualified aviators. Although the Navy does confer the designation of Honorary Naval Aviator upon select individuals, the title is extremely exclusive. On September 24, 2020, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and actor Tom Cruise became the 35th and 36th Honorary Naval Aviators, respectively.


The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

Bob Hope receives his wings at NAS Pensacola on May 8, 1986 (U.S. Navy)

The Honorary Naval Aviator Program was started in 1949 as a way for the Navy to honor individuals who have greatly contributed to or have provided outstanding service to Naval Aviation. Individuals who receive the title earn the right to wear the coveted gold wings and are entitled to all honors, courtesies, and privileges afforded to Naval Aviators. The program is managed by the Chief of Naval Operations, Director Air Warfare and final approval of a nomination is made by the Chief of Naval Operations. Famous Honorary Naval Aviators include Jim Neighbors of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. fame and Bob Hope.

On September 24, Bruckheimer and Cruise received their wings of gold from the Commander of Naval Air Forces, Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller III, prior to an advance screening of Top Gun: Maverick at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. The citation read:

In the history of motion pictures, there is not a more iconic aviation movie than the 1986 Paramount Pictures film Top Gun. Its characters, dialogue and imagery are ingrained in the minds of an entire generation of Americans. The movie captured the hearts of millions, making a profound positive impact on recruiting for Naval Aviation, and significantly promoted and supported Naval Aviation and put aircraft carriers and naval aircraft into popular culture.

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

Vice Adm. DeWolfe H. Miller III, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Rear Adm. Kenneth R. Whitesell following the winging ceremony (U.S. Navy)

Top Gun‘s contribution to Naval Aviation was arguably even greater than its box office success of 0 million. Following the civil unrest and turmoil of the 60s and 70s, the military was not an attractive prospect for many Americans. Top Gun made the military, and particularly Naval Aviation, cool again. Michael Ironside, who played Lt. Cdr. Rick ‘Jester’ Heatherly, noted how effective the film was at recruiting after two sailors approached him angrily following the release of Top Gun saying, “We joined because of that f*****g movie.” Perhaps it was too effective a recruiting tool.

In the sequel to the 1986 blockbuster hit and cultural icon, Cruise reprises his role as Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell with Bruckheimer returning to produce the film. Reportedly, Val Kilmer also returns to reprise his role as Tom ‘Iceman’ Kazansky. Top Gun: Maverick follows America’s favorite hotshot pilot into the cockpit as an instructor and is scheduled to premiere on July 2, 2021.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the crews who make sure fellow Marines can fight from ship to shore

It is a tough job and not everyone is lining up to work at their pace.

Combat cargo Marines have one of the most demanding jobs aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5). This is especially evident during Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX).

Combat cargo’s mission is to support the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s (MEU) logistical requirements across the three classes of ships featured in MEU operations.

“We are in charge of anything and everything that comes on and off the Bataan,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon Novakoski, combat cargoman with the 26th MEU.


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US Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit move and secure cargo aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan during Composite Training Unit Exercise in the Atlantic Ocean, Oct. 9, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tanner Seims)

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

US Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit move and secure cargo aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan during Composite Training Unit Exercise in the Atlantic Ocean, Oct. 9, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tanner Seims)

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

US Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit move and secure cargo aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan during Composite Training Unit Exercise in the Atlantic Ocean, Oct. 9, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tanner Seims)

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

US Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit move and secure cargo aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan during Composite Training Unit Exercise in the Atlantic Ocean, Oct. 9, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tanner Seims)

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

US Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit move and secure cargo aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan during Composite Training Unit Exercise in the Atlantic Ocean, Oct. 9, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tanner Seims)

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

Combat Cargo Marines with the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group wait for a Landing Craft, Air Cushion to give the signal it is safe to board to prepare for training operations during an exercise aboard the San Antonio-Class amphibious transport dock ship USS New York, off the coast of North Carolina, Aug. 26, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Patricia A. Morris)

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

US Navy Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class James Thomas, with the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, signals a Landing Craft, Air Cushion while US Marines and sailors wait to retrieve cargo to prepare for training operations during an exercise aboard the San Antonio-Class amphibious transport dock ship USS New York off the coast of North Carolina, on Aug. 26, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Patricia A. Morris)

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

Combat Cargo Marines with the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group finish off-loading a Landing Craft, Air Cushion during an exercise aboard the San Antonio-Class amphibious transport dock ship USS New York, off the coast of Virginia, Aug. 23, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Patricia A. Morris)

“Combat cargo is a vital part of daily ship life,” said Novakoski. “If we didn’t have Marines to work the long hours in combat cargo, ship supplies would struggle and missions wouldn’t be completed.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why NORAD began keeping an eye out for Santa Claus

The United States Armed Forces, for all of its serious and mission-oriented mannerisms, has always gone out of its way to keep the magic alive around Christmas time. The Marines have Gunny Claus and Toys for Tots, the Army has celebrated with fun runs and lavish feasts, and the Navy, presumably, just drinks plenty of eggnog.

Meanwhile, the men and women of NORAD, a joint effort between the United States Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force, monitor the movements of Santa Claus so all the good boys and girls can know when he’s coming.

This yearly tradition is beloved by many, but it all started because of a simple typo and a good-spirited colonel.


The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

I mean, how else would the kids know to get a hold of Santa?

(NORAD)

In the winter of 1955, Sears ran an advertisement in the Colorado Springs local paper encouraging people to call Santa Claus directly. The hope was that kids would call in and ask for a toy and Santa would tell them they could find it at their local Sears.

Problem was, no one ever got a hold of Santa. The number listed in the advertisement was off by one number, and it directed thousands of kids to call the extremely sensitive red phone of Col. Harry Shoup at the Combat Alert Center of NORAD.

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

This is what the NORAD command center has looked like ever since.

(NORAD Public Affairs, Sgt. 1st Class Gail Braym)

His number was only ever given to four-star generals and to the Pentagon. This was at the height of the Cold War, and this phone was only ever meant to ring if the Russians were expected to attack North America. And yet, it was ringing non-stop with requests for toys. He suspected that something was amiss when he received his first phone call asking, “is this Santa Claus?”

Shoup was a little annoyed and, apparently, made the child cry. Feeling guilty, he played along in hopes of getting to the bottom of what had happened. He asked the kid to put his mother on the phone, who was understandably upset at the thought of Santa making her child cry. She told him that the number was in a Sears ad. As a result, Shoup assigned lower-ranking airmen to answer the phone until he could take it down.

As troops do, they poked fun at Col. Shoup for his mistake. They placed Santa-themed decor all around the command center, just to egg him on. At the center of the room was a giant glass map that tracked all air traffic in North America, and on Christmas Eve, there was a crudely drawn Santa on his sleigh in one of the corners — just to drive the joke home further.

He asked his troops, “what is that?” They replied, “Colonel, we’re sorry. We were just making a joke. Do you want us to take that down?” In a his-heart-grew-three-sizes-that-day kind of moment, Col. Shoup smiled, walked over to the radio and said,

“This is the commander at the Combat Alert Center, and we have an unidentified flying object. Why, it looks like a sleigh.”

On the other ends of the radio, other military personnel and air traffic controllers weren’t in on the joke, but understood immediately. Because they, too, were working Christmas Eve night, they wanted in on some of the holiday spirit and continued asking for updates on Santa’s location.

The children still trying to call Santa would also be told of his whereabouts. The junior airmen would reply to the kids with a cheery, “he’s not in at the moment, he’s currently over Nebraska” or wherever Col. Shoup indicated he was.

Year after year, kids continued calling NORAD to get updates on Santa’s location and every year NORAD played along – presumably with a different phone number than the red phone on the commander’s desk. As time went on, NORAD began keeping tabs on Santa through their website and social media.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this 1862 battle lengthened the Civil War by 2 years

In 1862, the Union Army was in striking distance of Richmond and the Union commander hoped to wrap up the entire war with just a few more engagements, but surprising aggression by the Army of Northern Virginia’s new commander would cause a Union defeat, leading to two more years of warfare.


The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

Union Gen. George B. McClellan had been making his way towards Richmond as part of the Peninsula Campaign in 1862, but Gen. Robert E. Lee attacked and managed to turn the skittish McClellan south.

(James F. Gibson, Library of Congress)

In May 1862, the Union’s top officer was Gen. George B. McClellan, a railroad man turned military officer. While he had many drawbacks, his organizational skills were top notch and he had managed to fight way into position just miles east of Richmond, the political and industrial heart of the Confederacy. If he could capture the city, the Confederacy would fall apart or be forced to withdraw south to Atlanta or another city while losing massive amounts of manufacturing power.

And, the Confederacy had just fought a stalemate at the Battle of Seven Pines. Both sides claimed victory, but the Confederate commander was wounded and the Southern president promoted Gen. Robert E. Lee to the position. Lee was known for caution at this point in the war, and McClellan decided to take time to wait for good weather and reinforcements before pressing his attack home.

It was a hallmark of McClellan’s actions during the war, and it gave Lee time to order a large network of trenches dug, allowing him to defend the city with a small force while preparing the larger portion of his army for a much more aggressive move. Lee didn’t want to just defend Richmond, he wanted to attack the Union force’s supply lines, forcing a retreat.

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

A sketch and watercolors depiction of the Battle of White Oak Swamp, one of the Sevens Days Battles.

(Alfred Waud, Library of Congress)

The Union Army in the field was much larger than the Confederates’, 100,000 facing 65,000. But the Union Army was fighting far from home and needed over 600 tons of supplies per day, almost all of it shipped by rail and packtrain from northern cities.

On June 26, with Stonewall Jackson drawing close with an additional 20,000 Confederates, Lee struck, starting what would become known as The Battle of Seven Days or the Seven Days Battles. The forces fought five major engagements and number of smaller skirmishes over that fateful week.

Lee began his assault when the Union Army was sitting astride the Chickahominy River with a third of it on the northern side and two-thirds on the southern side. That meant that Lee could attack the northern side and potentially even destroy the railroad there before the rest of the Union forces could get into position to fight him.

But day one, known as the Battle of Mechanicsville, went badly for the Confederacy. Lee committed his forces before Jackson had arrived, and Jackson was delayed by poor navigation and exhaustion from the long march and previous battles.

On day two, Jackson once again ran into trouble and Union forces were able to regroup, forming a united front against the Confederate forces. But McClellan still didn’t press home his numerical advantage, withdrawing under the assumption that the aggressive Lee outnumbered him.

On June 28 and 29, the Confederate forces were able to launch successful attacks against the retreating Union forces, but they were unable to land a crippling blow. And so, McClellan was able to reach a great defensive position on July 1. From Malvern Hill, he could defend against any number of Confederate attacks.

In the end, the Confederacy lost approximately 20,000 men while the Union lost 15,000.

The American story about the creator of this beloved 50-cal will blow your mind

McClellan’s failure to capture Richmond in 1862 caused the Civil War to drag on for two more years.

(Kurz Allison, Library of Congress)

But while Lee had failed at his goal of landing a significant blow against Union forces, but he had succeeded in his larger goal. McClellan had been mere miles from Richmond and on the offensive, but one week later he was driven south, begging for more troops and supplies before he would attack again. Instead, he let Lee rebuild his forces and move north, achieving another victory at the Second Battle of Bull Run and opening the door for Lee’s first invasion of the North.

Lee, previously known for his caution, had gone on the offensive despite being outnumbered, and it had saved the capital and its industry. McClellan would later lose his command, partially because of the failure to attack Richmond and his failure to attack off of Malvern Hill.

Lincoln would have to go search for his own Lee, his own aggressive general to carry the attack against the enemy, to force the initiative. It took Lincoln another few years to get him into position, but this would eventually be Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, a man known at the time for his alcohol consumption and his butchery, but now possibly known best for receiving Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House, propelling Grant to a successful 1868 presidential run.

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