Any time in life that you do something, you tend to forget the bad and remember the good. I remembered the good. I wasn’t sure I wanted to remember the bad.
For a long time, I talked to a bunch of my peers in the Special Forces community that had made the trip back to Vietnam. They wanted to go back and see what it, see what it was like for whatever reason. Everybody has a personal reason that they want to do it.
I never found a reason because I’ve always had this whole thing in my mind, when I have a traumatic situation – I’ve got a box I put it in my head and I just put it away. After a while, I decided that it was probably time to take some of those back out, and so I said yes going back to Vietnam.
Surprisingly to me, it provided closure to a circle that I didn’t know was open. It was an interesting experience. It was a cathartic experience. It was an experience that closed that loop for me that had been open because I chose not to close it before.
I didn’t know that I needed to do that.
I’ve been back to Vietnam and I would recommend to anyone who has ever been there in a combat role, go back and look at it. Don’t be afraid of your past. Address it and deal with it.
Make your experience count.
Richard Rice 5th Special Forces Group US Army 1966-94 Senior Advisor, GORUCK
Marine scout snipers are often described more like a force of nature than a group of warfighters. The Corps has recently had just a few hundred of them at a time, but a massive mission rests on their shoulders. They’re true scouts, acting as the commander’s eyes and ears, but they’re also trained to take careful shots at foes. And they even train to hit targets from moving platforms like helicopters.
The big difference between scouts and scout snipers is right in the name. It’s also in the Corps’ definition of the job:
The scout sniper is a Marine highly skilled in fieldcraft and marksmanship who delivers long range, precision fire at selected targets from concealed positions.
But the Marine Corps is very specific that scout snipers are shooters, even going so far as to define the snipers’ primary mission as that “precision fire” and the secondary mission as “gathering information for intelligence purposes.”
So, they’re really highly observant snipers rather than scouts who have become more lethal. And being a top-tier sniper requires a certain amount of flexibility, especially in the Marine Corps where they pride themselves on their “Semper Gumby” mentality.
And so these Marines train on not just riding into battle on helicopters, but on shooting enemies from them with their precise fires. To practice, the Marines hop into Super Hueys and spit fire at targets floating in the ocean or staged on land. The shifting helicopters provide an increased level of challenge, but also allows the snipers to take out threats while inserting into the battlefield or while providing cover for infantrymen hitting the deck.
The two-man teams work together to watch over friendlies, engage enemy forces, and send targeting data and other intelligence back to the headquarters, whether they’re working from a helicopter, a ship, or a secluded ridge or rooftop on the battlefield.
A video from the aerial sniper training is available above.
The founder of the Haqqani network, one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous and feared militant groups, has died after a long illness, the network’s ally, the Afghan Taliban, has announced.
Jalaluddin Haqqani, whose son Sirajuddin Haqqani now heads the brutal group and is also the Taliban’s deputy leader, died “after a long battle with illness,” the Taliban said in a statement in English on Twitter early on Sept. 4, 2018.
The Taliban claimed that Jalaluddin “was from among the great distinguished Jihadi personalities of this era.”
The United States, after allying with Haqqani to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, by 2012 had designated his organization a terrorist group.
The elder Haqqani was paralyzed for the past 10 years, AP reported. Because he had not been heard from in several years, reports of his death were widespread in 2015.
Haqqani was once a minister in the Taliban government that ruled Afghanistan before the U.S. invasion in 2002 that followed the September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Prior to the U.S. invasion, Haqqani fostered close ties with Arab extremists, including the now-deceased Al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, who set up militant camps in Afghanistan before being run out of the country into hiding in Pakistan by U.S.-led NATO forces.
Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.
The Haqqani network has been blamed for spectacular attacks in Afghanistan in recent years.
It was blamed for the truck bombing in the heart of Kabul in May 2017 that killed around 150 people, though the group denied its involvement.
The network has also been accused of assassinating top Afghan officials and holding kidnapped Westerners for ransom.
Now is the time for everyone to wear masks, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield and his colleagues wrote in an editorial published Tuesday in the journal JAMA.
While the organization has been slow to warm up to broad mask-wearing recommendations — first advising, but not requiring, healthy members of the general public on April 3 to cover their faces when out and about — Redfield and his colleagues now say mask wearing should be universal because “there is ample evidence” asymptomatic people may be what’s keeping the pandemic alive.
“The data is clearly there that masking works,” Redfield told Dr. Howard Bauchner, JAMA’s editor in chief, during an interview Tuesday that corresponded with the editorial’s release. “If we can get everybody to wear a mask right now, I really do think in the next four, six, eight weeks … we can get this epidemic under control.”
One model projects universal masking could save 45,000 lives by November
In the paper, Redfield, with his CDC colleagues Dr. John Brooks and Dr. Jay Butler, pointed to research demonstrating the effectiveness of masks.
One study of the largest healthcare system in Massachusetts showed how universal masking of healthcare workers and patients reversed the infection’s trajectory among its employees.
A CDC report also released Tuesday detailed this case, concluding “consistent and correct use of face coverings, when appropriate, is an important tool for minimizing spread of SARS-CoV-2 from presymptomatic, asymptomatic, and symptomatic persons.”
“Mask mandates delay the need for re-imposing closures of businesses and have huge economic benefits,” Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation Director Dr. Christopher Murray said in a statement, MarketWatch reported. “Moreover, those who refuse masks are putting their lives, their families, their friends, and their communities at risk.”
Not wearing a mask is like opting to undergo surgery by a team without face coverings
The JAMA paper also highlighted the two key reasons masking works: It protects both the wearer and the people they come in contact with.
While early recommendations focused on masking’s benefit to those around you, Redfield and colleagues emphasized the benefit to the wearer as well.
They likened not wearing a mask with choosing to be operated on by a team without any face coverings — an “absurd” option because it’s known the clinicians’ conversations and breathing would generate microbes that could infect an open wound.
“Face coverings do the same in blocking transmission of SARS-CoV-2,” the doctors wrote.
Proper social distancing and handwashing are equally important measures, though, when fighting the virus, Redfield told Bauchner.
People are coming around to mask wearing, but there’s still resistance
More people are coming around to mask wearing, with a separate CDC report, also out Tuesday, showing the rates of mask wearing in public increased from 61.9% to 76.4% between April and May.
Redfield told Bauchner he was “heartened” to see President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence setting that example.
But there’s still resistance, and the issue remains politicized — something Redfield and his coauthors hope their editorial will cut through.
“At this critical juncture when COVID-19 is resurging, broad adoption of cloth face coverings is a civic duty, a small sacrifice reliant on a highly effective low-tech solution that can help turn the tide favorably in national and global efforts against COVID-19,” they wrote.
The Expedition 55 crew on board the International Space Station has been working hard to prepare for their May 16, 2018 spacewalk, and they’ll still have a lot of difficult work ahead of them when Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel head outside the airlock. If you’ve ever wondered what makes spacewalks such a big deal, check out chapter 17 of the new NASA ebook, The International Space Station: Operating an Outpost in the New Frontier. The book, which was written by space station flight directors, is now available to download for free.
Chapter 17: Extravehicular Activities – Building a Space Station Planning and Training Extravehicular Activity Tasks
On paper, the tasks needed for International Space Station assembly—e.g., driving a bolt, carrying something from one place to another, taking off a cover, plugging in an electrical cord—might not seem too complex. However, conducting such tasks while wearing a spacesuit with pressurized gloves (possibly with one’s feet planted on the end of a long robotic arm), working in microgravity, maneuvering around huge structures while moving massive objects, having time constraints based on spacesuit consumables, and using specialized equipment and tools made these tasks and EVAs challenging.
Tasks such as working with cables or fluid hoses are hand-intensive work—fingers and forearms get quite a workout in pressurized gloves that feel like stiff balloons and resemble oversized garden gloves. Added to these complexities, space “walking” is mostly done with the hands. The astronaut grasps handholds and maneuvers the combination of the Extravehicular Mobility Unity, Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue, tools, and himself or herself around the structure.
The team on the ground has to come up with a choreography and order of events for the EVA, in advance. The flight control team creates the EVA timelines based on a high-level prioritized list of tasks determined by ISS management (e.g., move a specific antenna, install a particular avionics box). The flight controllers start with the top ISS priority task and assesses the other tasks that can fit into the EVA based on multiple factors such as how long the tasks will take based on past experiences, whether both crew members need to work together, task location on the ISS, how much equipment will fit into the airlock, the tools required, crew experience level, and the level of crew effort to complete the task. A task that might fit (but only if the team is efficient) is put on the list as a “get-ahead” task.
Real-time discussions in Mission Control of EVA time remaining, crew fatigue, and suit consumables could allow the get-ahead task to be accomplished in addition to the planned tasks. Some tasks are performed on a “clock”; i.e., if power is removed from an item, it might get cold and need heater power in a matter of hours or sometimes within minutes to prevent damage. While a timeline is still in a draft version, the team conducts testing as required to prove out the operations. The team then trains the crew and refines and/or changes the timeline, sometimes up to the day of the EVA.
Harold Taylor was raised by a mother who gave birth to him at 14 years old. She kept him, despite her family’s continuous pressure to give him up for adoption. With her constant support and encouragement, years later, he found himself playing as the starting running back for the Lincoln University football team on a full scholarship. He was also in ROTC and had gone through basic as a cadet, planning to be commissioned as an officer when he graduated. The football team folded and he lost his scholarship, so he went home to St. Louis, MO. He found himself just sitting around, a pastime he didn’t enjoy. So, he called an Army recruiter.
Taylor went on to serve in the Army from 1990-1998. He served in combat during Desert Storm and was a part of the 82nd Airborne Division for three years before he separated from the military. When he left the Army, he went on to serve something else – alcohol.
“I chose alcohol over everything,” he said. He describes a situation where his girlfriend at the time gave him an ultimatum; her or alcohol. He left right then and went to the corner store to buy beer. When he returned his things were packed up sitting outside. Taylor took his stuff and went to a boarding house in St. Louis while his addiction only got worse. Taylor shared that he became increasingly paranoid, thinking people were following him and trying to hurt him. He quickly started accumulating a heavy police record and soon found himself homeless.
He recalls the time – after years of being homeless – where he was sleeping in an abandoned vacant building under a pile of clothes to keep warm. One day people came into that vacant building to board it up, and he felt them kick him, but they didn’t see him because he was buried under the clothes. “I remember spending Thanksgiving laying there thinking I am going to die in this building,” he said.
Taylor shared that almost dying is what finally made him realize he was wasting his life away. He explained that he had set what he thought was a controlled fire to keep warm and he woke up with the blanket covering him completely engulfed in flames. He escaped without injury and vowed to make a change. It was 2012, and the day after that fire, he took a bus to the Jefferson Barracks VA and asked for help. He was immediately put into substance abuse treatment and given the care and support he needed. Taylor was soon diagnosed with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, caused by his time in service.
When he finished his initial treatment, he was brought to The Joseph Center – a veteran’s homeless shelter in East St. Louis, IL, which provides trauma-informed services for male military veterans. It was founded by Martha Watts and her husband, Carl. She was a former VA nurse and wanted more for the veterans she was serving.
Taylor admits that he wasn’t initially the best resident of The Joseph Center, rebelling often against their rules. Taylor smiled when he remembered his case manager Mr. Anderson pulling him aside one day after a few weeks of what he called his “nonsense behavior” and telling him he was too bright for what he was doing. He went into his room immediately after the conversation and said he started changing.
Taylor went on to graduate with his associate’s in criminal justice, which he shared was both ironic and humorous due to his criminal record. He didn’t stop with just his associate’s but graduated (with honors) with his Bachelor of Social Work degree. He had a professor in that program that asked, “Why stop”? He took her advice to heart and is now finishing up his last two semesters for his Master of Social Work. His picture is on a billboard now for the University of Missouri-St. Louis, with other student veterans. “I’m happy, I like the person I see in the mirror now,” said Taylor.
These days, Taylor doesn’t recognize the man he used to be before The Joseph Center. He is a career counselor at Employment Connections in St. Louis and plans to work for the VA one day serving veterans like him. He’s also a passionate advocate for people of color serving in the military. Taylor shared a story of coming home and having someone use a derogatory term towards him because he was a black man in uniform. “We serve our country, all of us, but then we come home to this kind of brutality and disrespect. I didn’t fight for that, we didn’t fight for that,” he said. He said he is proud to be who he is, but wishes people who didn’t look like him could put his shoes on for a bit.
It is with this in mind that Taylor is not only a graduate student and full-time career counselor, but also a part-time case manager at The Joseph Center. He spends his shift at the center as a mentor to the new veterans coming through the homeless shelter and hopes that by leading by example he can help them find their way – just like he found his.
A New Zealand-based startup that works on regenerating human tissue has signed a development agreement with the U.S. Army to help treat troops who’ve sustained severe burns.
The Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, or CRADA, between Upside Technologies and the Army’s Medical Research and Materiel Command includes the company’s engineered skin product to treat wounds from IEDs and explosions.
“This U.S. Army input will be hugely valuable to Upside and will fully assist us in successfully progressing our product to the benefit of all burn sufferers, including U.S. warriors,” said Upside Chief Executive Officer Dr. Robert Feldman.
A graphic showing the new lab-made skin next to true human skin. (Photo from Upside Technologies)
Upside’s technology enables a small sample of unburnt patient skin to be grown in the laboratory into large areas of full-thickness skin. The lab-grown skin can be used as skin grafts in patients.
The Upside skin is said to be produced faster than that of any competitive product and has handling characteristics preferred by surgeons.
The Army “is pleased to provide guidance to Upside Biotechnologies as it navigates the U.S. FDA approval process for a novel skin replacement product,” said Susan Taylor, product manager for the Tissue Injury and Regenerative Medicine Project Management Office at the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity.
Burn wounds from explosions and IEDs continue to plague troops in war zones and account for a large portion of America’s casualties, statistics show.
“This product may provide a critical solution in the treatment of service members who have sustained severe burns,” Taylor added. “Our goal is to help Upside move this product as quickly and as safely as possible through the regulatory process, so it is available to our wounded service members.”
There’s no hiding from a SPICE enabled bomb, it will find you in the dark and chase you on the battlefield. The kit is highly precise in that it combines GPS and EO technology. The GPS side enables the bomb to engage camouflaged or hidden targets in all weather conditions by inputting coordinates. On the other hand, the EO side provides the flexibility of remote control guidance to engage relocatable targets.
With 12 control surfaces on three groups (fore, mid-body and tail), the kit provides a glide range of about 60 kilometers (approx. 37 miles), turning any bomb into a true fire-and-forget weapon. With this much distance between the target, the striking aircraft is safe from short and medium range defense systems.
One week after the September 11 attacks on New York City, another devastating terrorist attack targeted our people. On September 18, 2001, letters were mailed to several news stations and senators. The FBI organized a task force titled Amerithrax to hunt down whoever was responsible and bring them to justice.
As the case progressed it became a media circus, and the stakes were never higher. The FBI themselves called it “one of the largest and most complex in the history of law enforcement.” Across the United States, law enforcement took a stand against terror and through great personal risk took on a killer with the ability to murder millions.
Our greatest fear had come to pass, the FBI found mounting evidence pointing towards one of America’s top research facilities. The worst biological attack in US history was not al-Qaeda — it was an inside job.
September 18, 2001 – Five letters are believed to have been mailed to ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, and the New York Post, all located in New York City, and to the National Enquirer at American Media, Inc. (AMI) in Boca Raton, Florida.
October 5, 2001 – The first fatal recipient of the anthrax letters was admitted into the hospital with pulmonary problems. Robert ‘Bob’ Stevens reported having symptoms similar to the flu. Doctors believed he had meningitis, but after the doctors completed further testing, it was discovered that he had developed pulmonary anthrax. His death was the first death from anthrax in 25 years. He had come into contact with anthrax through the letter that was mailed to him at American Media in Boca Raton, Florida.
October 9, 2001 – Two more anthrax letters were addressed to two Democratic senators, Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
At least 22 people developed anthrax infections, half from inhaling the deadly bacteria. Five died from inhaling anthrax.
A media circus criticizing the FBI’s inability to bring the investigation to a close placed intense pressure to deliver. The letters and mailboxes were examined in forensic laboratories, the killer left no DNA evidence, and the FBI labs were not equipped at that time to handle the deadly anthrax bacteria.
The FBI sent their evidence to be held at Fort Detrick in the USAMRIDD bio-weapons lab. They wanted to run a series of tests to identify where the anthrax was created. It was a sophisticated strain because for anthrax spores to be seen as a white powder, they would need the support of a state-funded program for the expensive drying process. The US suspected that Iran or Iraq could be capable of sponsoring terrorists with the weapon.
During this time the Bureau followed up on suspects and made very public raids on Steven Hatfill’s property. He was a bio-weapons expert and (at the time) the primary suspect of the investigation. He refused to be strong-armed into producing a confession and defended himself publicly in the media. He was eventually exonerated.
The FBI looked into another expert, Dr. Bruce Edwards Ivins as another potential suspect. Colleagues of his reported that he had an unusual interest in anthrax and was working extra hours on an unauthorized project. The FBI confirmed the increased activity in August, September, and October. The irony was that he worked at the very lab where the FBI first went to seek help for the investigation, Fort Detrick.
RMR-1029 is the evidence flask that tested positive for AMES, the strain of anthrax used in American laboratories, specifically Fort Detrick. His tests came back negative at the original testing, but when the FBI tested them again, they returned as positive. The FBI believed they caught him trying to intentionally deceive them.
November 1, 2007 – The FBI executes a search warrant of his property and interviews Ivins’ family.
The FBI continued their strong-armed tactics to get a confession out of Dr. Ivins. The pressure of surveillance was so intense that he had a psychotic break during a group therapy session. He stated that he had had enough and was going to go out in a blaze of glory. He had a gun and was going to go into work and shoot all his coworkers and everybody who wronged him. He was arrested the next day.
Two weeks later he was released and returned home. He committed suicide by overdosing on Tylenol PM and died in the hospital four days later from liver and kidney failure.
This article contains spoilers from “Game of Thrones” Season 8 Episode 4: “The Last of the Starks.”
Really, though, if you haven’t seen “The Last of the Starks” go watch it, call a loved one, and then come back because we’re going to break down the military failures tactics from the episode. You should know going into this that I’m pretty pissed off about it.
Here we go.
King’s Landing would later be built upon the site of the Aegonfort, but this map shows the distance from there through Blackwater Bay to Dragonstone is estimated at under 500 miles.
In the final twenty minutes of last night’s episode, Euron Greyjoy’s fleet managed to ambush Daenerys Targaryen in broad daylight about 400 miles from the last known location of her enemy. Worse, Greyjoy’s first volley took out Rhaegal, one of her surviving two dragons. This should never have happened. Ever.
At the very least, Daenerys should have prepared for an ambush from the castle of Dragonstone or its surrounding waters.
She knew her enemy would expect her to return there to stage her attack on King’s Landing.
She knew her enemy had developed weapons capable of attacking the dragons.
She knew her enemy not only had access to wildfire, but the will to use it at sea and against the population as needed.
Advancing on Dragonstone should have been conducted with caution. Where the f*** were her advanced scouts? And more importantly, where was her ISR???
Euron Attacks Daenerys | Rhaegal Death | Game of Thrones S08E04
This stupid WW1 pigeon is more useful than two of the most dangerous predators on the planet and a cognitive human with ancestral powers and multiple battles under her belt…
Intelligence, Reconnaissance, and Surveillance are some of the most critical military components if one hopes to achieve victory against the enemy. You have to know where your enemy is if you want to defeat them.
Daenerys has global air superiority and she can literally see her enemy from dozens and dozens (if not hundreds — I don’t know how high the dragons can fly) of miles away — well beyond the range of medieval SAMs.
I would think that after the scorpion missile struck Drogon during the Loot Train Attack, Daenerys would have been more cautious against the Lannister threat.
She should have surveilled Dragonstone and Blackwater Bay from a safe distance for the Iron Fleet and scanned Dragonstone for signs of scorpion sites or occupation. Then an amphibious insertion of Unsullied should have infiltrated Dragonstone under the cover of darkness and cleared every damn room and cave of personnel and wildfire.
When Tyrion was outmaneuvered at Casterly Rock and Highgarden was taken, his enemy defeated his good plan with a better one.
When Yara’s fleet was ambushed by Euron’s, it was because he built a stronger naval force and attacked her when she was overconfident and vulnerable.
When Viserion was killed, it was shocking and painful — but earned. It established the White Walker’s physical strength and the threat they posed to the dragons — just as the scorpion did in the highlands.
But this? Eleven ships sitting in the open on a clear day in contested waters somehow managed to sneak up on an air force? It’s cheap. It does a disservice to clever characters and it makes the viewing experience unsatisfying.
Still, I remain hopeful that the showrunners have set up our heroes as the underdogs at their lowest so their upcoming victory will feel that much more gratifying.
Then again, it’s Game of Thrones and we’re not allowed to have nice things.
Mighty Stories is a weekly WATM feature highlighting the stories of veterans, active duty and military families. This week’s feature is Krista Simpson Anderson – Army wife, Gold Star wife, founder of the nonprofit The Unquiet Professional.
I grew up in Hampton, Massachusetts – a little town right outside of Springfield. My father served in the U.S. Air Force from 1967-1971, but it was before I was born. My mom’s side of the family also served, but it wasn’t something we talked about. I was blissfully ignorant about military life.
I met Mike in June 2006. He was a friend of my cousin’s. My cousin was deploying to Iraq and my aunt was having a deployment party for him. She flew in a few of his friends that had been in the Old Guard with him, and she called me and asked me to help her with the guys flying in.
I walked into the Toasted Owl Tavern in Northhampton, and there he was.
It was love at first sight. I remember my cousin saying to me, ‘I’m going to disown you both if you get married.’ But we were fixed on each other. The whole world could have come crashing down around us and we wouldn’t have noticed.
In August 2006, Mike’s whole unit transferred to Germany. I went out to visit him for Thanksgiving. In September of 2007, he deployed to Iraq. He came out to Rhode Island to my family’s home before he left and we spent a week together. I was working in the restaurant business at the time of his deployment, so I took a couple of different jobs, one in St. Thomas, one in New York. But we stayed in contact.
In April 2008, during his mid-tour leave, he invited me to his brother David and sister-in-law Kelsey’s wedding in Texas. During their rehearsal dinner in his parents’ backyard, he went to give his best man’s speech and we all thought it would be something funny. He was so goofy, it was hard to imagine him doing something serious. Now mind you, he served in the military in the Old Guard so he clearly had to be serious for work. But the first thing out of his mouth was, ‘Be each other’s compass.’
I was blown away.
Mike and Krista. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.
That night, he walked me to my room – we were all staying with his parents – and he told me he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. And he asked me, ‘Will you be my wife?’ I knew that it had been a long night of celebrating so I told him that if he felt the same way in the morning we could talk about it. I went to sleep dreaming of the rest of our lives together.
The next morning over a cup of coffee at the counter, Mike looked at me and said, ‘I don’t feel any differently than I did last night. I want you to be my wife. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.’ I said yes, of course. We kept this a secret because it was not our day – it was David and Kelsey’s wedding day, and we knew his oldest brother, Isaac, was going to be proposing to his now wife, Vanessa, the next day. We told his sister, Abby, and then swore her to secrecy.
A few days after the wedding we announced our good news and decided to marry as soon as Mike returned from his deployment.
Mike went back to Iraq a week later, and returned in October 2008 to Germany. We met back up in Tennessee for Isaac and Vanessa’s wedding in November. December 20, 2008, we married in Rhode Island, and the first week of January he returned to Germany. We decided to live apart until his orders came through to start the Special Forces Qualification course so he wouldn’t need to extend in Germany.
I went to Germany to see him in February for his birthday, and I came home and found out I was pregnant with our first son a month later. I was working at a restaurant as a manager and living with my parents in Rhode Island awaiting orders. By September 2009 we were finally living together in Fort Bragg, NC and our son Michael was born October 22nd.
I remember taking “SF101” (Special Forces 101) for the spouses and the emphasis was put on how long our husbands would be away from home. Everything was about not getting our hopes up for birthdays, holidays, special occasions and being a family during those times. They really wanted to prepare us for the let downs of our military career. No one ever told me the incredible things our husbands would be doing while away from home and that every mission would be for the good of our nation. No one ever told me about the amazing and wonderful things we would be doing for our families while they were away. No one ever told me how, as spouses, we would show up for each other, in good times and in bad. No one ever told me that we would all be changing the world together – them abroad and us on the homefront.
Mike, Krista and their two boys. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.
Mike graduated in March 2011 and then reported July 10 for a Special Forces billet at 4th BN, Charlie Company, 1st Special Forces Group at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. I got out there August 1 with Michael who was just about two, and pregnant with Gabriel. We closed on our first house on my birthday, September 23.
As soon as our household goods arrived, Mike was off on a TDY (Temporary Duty) so I set up the house with my two year old and called my Mom and Aunt in for reinforcements to paint beige the mustard yellow walls and ceiling our new home offered.
When home, Mike was a present and incredibly fun daddy. He played this game called Daddy T-Rex. He would hold Gabe and chase Mic around the house, pretending to be a dinosaur. They would also lie on the floor and play Legos, have mini race-car races all the while tapping into Mike’s very present childlike spirit. He’d say to me, ‘I can’t wait until they’re older so we can do more fun things.’ He couldn’t wait to play basketball, soccer and teach them to ride bikes.
On 6 April 2013, Mike deployed with his company to eastern Afghanistan. Less than three weeks later I received the call every military spouse prays they’ll never get.
Mike, right, with a battle buddy. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.
The day before the call, Mike and I were texting back and forth and I was telling him how grateful I was to be his wife. I asked him to marry me all over again. I said, ‘I love you more today than I ever have. You have brought so much joy to my life that it overwhelms me. Will you marry me… Again?’ We were going to meet in Mexico with our families around Christmas and I told him I wanted to do it then. He wrote back, ‘Yes!’
On April 27, I had just put Gabriel down for a nap (he was 16 months) and I heard my phone ringing. I ran down the stairs to an ‘Unknown’ caller and answered what I can only assume must have been the last ring. It was (now Lieutenant Colonel) Major Jamie Alden, and he said ‘Hi, Krista? This is Major Alden.’ It didn’t even dawn on me why the company commander would be calling me from Afghanistan.
He asked me where I was, and I told him I was at home. He asked where the boys were, and I told him Mic was in the other room and I’d just put Gabe down for a nap.
He said, ‘I need you to sit down.’
You know that feeling when it seems that your brain starts going numb and it begins to rush through your whole body? Luckily I made it to the other room and sat down near the boys’ toys – on a bean bag chair.
‘Michael is alive, but he is in critical condition. There was an accident; he hit an IED while riding an ATV. He has a lower right leg amputation and there has been severe trauma to his right arm. We know there is shrapnel damage, we just are not sure where and the extent. Again, he is alive, but he is critical.’
I had to stop him. I couldn’t process anything and I knew I wouldn’t be able to remember anything else he was saying. I ran across the street and banged on my neighbor Kate’s door, and her daughter opened it. She was supposed to be coming over anyway to watch the boys since we had a neighborhood clean-up scheduled and I was president of the homeowners association. She ran to stay with the boys while Kate got on the phone with Major Alden. It took some convincing for him to speak to her but he finally agreed, understanding my emotional state.
I watched her as she spoke to him but I couldn’t hear her. I could hear sounds, just not the words, as if my ears were blocked. Kate handed the phone back to me and I thanked him, and he reminded me that we were family, that his wife Susan would be calling me soon, and that everything was going to be okay.
Mike, before the attack. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.
I got off the phone and had to start making phone calls. I walked with my phone in my hand across the grass toward our friends, Alan and Angie’s, house. They were laying out a tarp for mulch on their driveway when they looked over. It must have been written all over my face because they rushed to me and caught me before I fell to my knees. Alan was the commander of an EOD unit on JBLM and assured me everything was going to be ok. Angie was by my side and provided support in any way I needed.
I wanted to close my eyes and wake up from the nightmare but I couldn’t. I was a Green Beret’s wife and the mother of two future Green Berets. I said to myself, ‘Pull yourself together, handle your business- he’s not dead and is going to need you to be strong!’
I stood outside, barefoot, on the cold pavement. The bottoms of my feet still get cold remembering those moments. I tried calling Mike’s parents but there was no answer. I tried calling my parents and no answer again. I called his brother Isaac, who was also a Green Beret who was in North Carolina doing his instructor rotation. I said, ‘It’s Mike. He’s alive but he hit an IED and he’s in surgery. It’s critical.’
I can still hear his scream.
Isaac had witness IED attacks before and he knew the gravity of this news. Isaac and Vanessa would make the calls to the rest of the Simpson family as I continued my calls from the floor of our parish where I sat and prayed. Once my parents were notified, my mother arrived from Rhode Island to our home in Olympia, Washington, 12 hours later.
1st Special Forces Group (1st SFG) at JBLM welcomed me in every morning to call Afghanistan for updates. LTC David Haight would call Bagram ICU and translate their medical report for me whether at that morning meeting or 1am. We would share our information, formulate a plan and I would leave the table every morning stronger than I arrived. Monday, 29 April, I called the hospital myself. The doctor that answered told me he was sorry, but that Mike didn’t have a gag or corneal reflex and that he would not live.
I thanked him and his team for caring for him so well. I went downstairs to tell my mother before the boys awoke and then retreated to my room where I called my cousin Alicia and friend Andrea. I begged Alicia to wake me up and take this away.
The medical team cared for Mike so well they were able to transfer him from Afghanistan to Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany. We got the green light to go to Germany as soon as Mike was in the air from AFG. They couldn’t cut orders or book our flights until they knew Mike was surviving the altitude. They performed emergency surgery on the plane and worked tirelessly to keep him alive even though they knew the outcome. When they arrived in Germany, one of Mike’s closest friends from the Special Forces Qualification Course was there awaiting his arrival. Casey served with another Special Forces Group and was training in the area when we received the news.
As I traveled to Germany, my Casualty Assistance Officer (CAO) SFC Gerry DeMarzo and Chaplain Johnny Elder escorted me. What a blessing they were for so many reasons I couldn’t possibly list in short. The ‘behind the scenes’ had so many issues getting us all there but with the help from the Green Beret Foundation, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, USO, Fisher House Foundation and Care Coalition on top of 1st SFG, I arrived and met Mike’s parents, siblings and spouses to be with Mike.
Upon arrival, my only request was that I got to see him first. I wanted to clean him up before his mom saw him. Silly, but it was all I could think of. I got to the hospital and Casey was at the door with SFC Doug Way. (They both never once left us. Casey stayed at Mike’s bedside and Doug would either be standing outside his hospital room or kneeling outside the room praying.)
I never lost hope.
‘Maybe he will heal and maybe the doctors were wrong,’ I kept telling myself.
Casey and Doug greeted me, offered their condolences and I entered the room.
There he was.
My big bad Green Beret laying broken and vulnerable. I had never felt so helpless in all of my life.
All I could manage was a whisper… ‘Dear Lord, please help us.’
On 1 May 2013, as we all stood around Mike’s bed, Dr. Betts informed us that Mike was in fact brain dead. I asked, ‘Can his brain heal?’ rationally knowing the answer, but I had to ask. ‘No ma’am, the brain can not heal from these injuries,’ he said. I nodded my head in understanding, saw the very real pain in his parents’ and siblings’ faces, said, ‘Thank you,’ and then ran out.
I ran left out of the room, through the ICU doors into the hall toward the stairs, down the stairs and out of the hospital hoping I could run away from this earth-shattering moment in my life and somehow, when I returned, everything would be ok – Mike would wake, he would rehab and our lives would go on … Together.
I stopped and Gerry and Doug were not too many steps behind me. Gerry never let me out of his sight for a moment; he was my greatest advocate and protector. He always told me he took care of our family the way he would have wanted his family taken care of if something were to have happened to him. When I returned to the hospital, I went back in and I didn’t leave Mike’s side except for an hour to take care of the paperwork I needed to sign.
The rest of that day we would call all the family and friends we could connect with so they could say their goodbyes. I would call and inform them of Mike’s diagnosis, tell them how sorry I was but that it was time for them to say goodbye if they wished. I would put the phone down on Mike’s pillow next to his ear, believing he would receive their love and pain through their words.
I wanted everyone to have the opportunity to say whatever they wanted and needed to for some closure. Our family and friends stateside would say goodbye as well as Charlie Company, 4th BN, 1st SFG. Mike’s team was sure he would survive, so my news was heartbreaking to them … Mike was their brother.
One of Mike’s friends and teammates brought me to my knees with his heartfelt message that his wife would transcribe for me later. His words were, ‘For Mike: Hey buddy. Have no fear, you’re the realest Green Beret now. You did it all. Thanks for all the bravo advice and an invitation to be a part of your family. I will never forget our time together and will do anything for your family. R.I.P. brother. I love you. One more thing – thank you for the greatest sacrifice one can make. My prayer to you … Now I lay you down to sleep, I pray the Lord your soul to keep. If you should die before you wake, bless Mikey Lord, his soul to take.’
Once the last call was made I think my body and mind knew it and I needed to rest. I asked the hospital staff if they could move Mike over so I could lie next to him in his hospital bed. I laid there and just listened to his heart beat. I prayed until I drifted off to sleep. Around 4 am, the nurse came in and wanted to change his dressings and clean him up. I asked if I could help, so she brought in soapy water and a washcloth. She changed his dressings while I cleaned him up. Around 9 pm, they came in to get him for organ donor surgery. I stayed with him while they got him ready to be moved. I walked to the door holding his hand as they started to wheel him out, and didn’t want to let go.
This was it.
I would never see his chest rise and fall or hear his beating heart again. ‘I’M NOT READY!’ I screamed in my head.
But … with as much grace as I could, I leaned down and kissed him one last time and whispered, ‘I love you all the world. I promise you I will take care of our boys, and we will always remember you.’
They wheeled his bed out and I stood in the empty, cold hospital room alone. ‘What now?’ I asked. ‘How do I live without you?’
We came back from Germany to Dover for the dignified transfer on 7 May 2013. He was supposed to be the only casket on the flight, but seven other soldiers were killed just days before, so we were with their families. These families didn’t have what we did. They didn’t have the chance to say goodbye. They watched their loved one get on the plane for deployment and then their casket come off in Dover.
It started to rain as we stood out on the tarmac, so hard it was sideways. My mother in law had an umbrella and was also trying to wrap me in her jacket to protect me. I told her I was okay without it, because I wanted to feel everything; the rain, the heartache, the fear. I had to face that moment.
As the caskets were taken off the plane I could hear the rain and the wailing from mothers and fathers who lost their sons, siblings who lost their brothers, spouses who lost their husbands and children who lost their fathers. I felt as though I was hovering over myself, looking down in disbelief that this was now my journey.
I flew home to Washington after being gone for 10 days. I could never spend a few hours away from my boys without missing them terribly. This time I was afraid to see them. What would I say? How would I tell them their Daddy wasn’t coming home?
Mike’s dignified transfer. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.
I sat Michael (age 3) down and asked, ‘Do you believe in God?’
‘Yes Mommy,’ he said.
‘Even though you can’t see Him?’ I asked.
‘Yes of course Mommy!’ he replied.
‘You know Daddy is a soldier?’
‘Yes,’ he answered.
I looked into his eyes and softly said, ‘Well, Daddy is going to be God’s soldier now.’
‘But I will miss him,’ he said.
It would have been easy to sit down and focus on all the tragedy. My husband, my best friend, the father of my two beautiful boys was gone. I was a 35 year old widow who didn’t have enough time with the love of my life. Mike and I always told each other, ‘This love happens once in a lifetime,’ and it was gone.
My future and dreams broke into a million pieces and I had no idea how I would become whole again. And yet, somehow, I had to choose to see the incredible blessings that were happening all around us. The support from our family, friends and community; the military representatives that were assigned to us that created a beautiful journey; it was all a gift as much as my husband’s sacrifice was a gift to us all. Everybody who walked into our lives … it was nothing short of perfect.
On 30 May 2013, our Memorial Day, Mike was interred with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery by his original Old Guard unit where he served when he first joined the military in 2003.
There are many things I remember about that day. It was so hot I could feel the heat from the pavement radiate through the bottom of my sandals – a stark contrast from the cold I felt on my bare feet the day I got the call that Mike had been hit.
I remember walking for what seemed like forever with our two children, hoping to make it through the ceremony.
Michael with his Daddy T-rex at Mike’s memorial. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.
And I remember thinking that this place, Arlington National Cemetery, had always been one of my favorite places to be. It’s so peaceful. It’s filled with a clear and strong sense of honor and courage, but in that moment I didn’t feel brave at all.
There were over 100 people in attendance to show their love and support, not just for Mike, but for us as well. My dear friend Andrea Rinaldi was one of them. She stayed by my side through it all, from the very beginning of our journey, and selflessly gave of her time and heart. The service, experience and support of so many was humbling, and I will always be grateful.
Finally, I remember the boys and I receiving the folded flags. How do you process receiving a folded flag in the place of your Daddy when you’re only three years old? Michael was given the flag, but really only wanted his Daddy T-Rex. As I held our 16 month old, I watched as Gerry, our Casualty Assistance Officer, took a knee, and took Michael’s flag for him. I love this picture – this moment in time – as it truly captures how Gerry so beautifully served our family.
Mike’s company would continue their deployment for six more months after Mike’s death. One of his teammates stated during his memorial, ‘This Team… This company… This regiment, will never forget your sacrifice. Each day when we don our kit and prepare for battle, we will do it in your honor. We will take the fight to the enemy and fight how you would have wanted us to. Never faltering… Never failing… and never forgetting. This fight is over for you brother, but know that it is not over for us. We will continue in your honor and remember you as a husband, a father, and a Green Beret.’
I attended the homecoming for the first flight that came in from Afghanistan. I was grateful to be there yet nervous about my emotions. As we waited in the company I was approached by a woman in the hallway. ‘Mrs. Simpson,’ she said. ‘I am not sure if this is an appropriate time but I wanted to introduce myself and tell you that I was one of Mike’s nurses in Afghanistan.’ I am sure I hugged her immediately and was so grateful to lay my hands on someone who was there, with Mike, during the scariest moments of his life. It was a blessing I can’t explain. She was one of many who saved Mike so our family could say goodbye. She was, and still is, my angel. I am blessed by her and her whole family to this day.
When the buses arrived carrying Mike’s company we all rushed outside to greet them. The minds and hearts of so many wives and children were eased and made whole again. I truly was so happy for them, yet I subconsciously waited for Mike to get off that bus. The last man embarked and I was sure Mike would be next. The door closed and the bus drove away.
In the distance, I heard the shriek of a little girl, calling, ‘Daddy! Daddy!’ and as I turned to look, I saw her run and jump into a man’s arms who wore the same uniform as all the other soldiers … the same one Mike would have been wearing, with the same wide arms he would have caught our sons in. But it wasn’t him and it never would be. My heart shattered all over again and I needed to turn and walk inside to face this emotion alone. I couldn’t allow anyone to think I was not grateful their husbands came home, because I was, wholeheartedly, but that didn’t take away my pain.
I went home that night with a folded flag that was flown over Mike’s camp in Afghanistan. My dear friend laid next to me as I cried myself to sleep and she didn’t leave my side until she knew I was okay.
Over the next several months I was constantly at the battalion, offering help, wanting to talk to them to make sure they were doing okay. I know it was difficult for them to see me since I was a reminder of the reality of Mike’s death. I know many struggled with his loss and I recognized very quickly that survivor’s guilt was a very real emotion. They needed to know that this was God’s plan, not ours, and He doesn’t make mistakes. My mission was to show them that we would honor Mike, grieve his loss but we would absolutely be okay. We were strong and proud, not weak and angry. Everyone grieves differently and there is not a right or wrong way to do it. I chose grace for me, my children and his team.
One of Mike’s teammates, Gus, had done the original inventory on Mike’s things. He was able to put all of his belongings into perspective. What he was wearing the day of his accident, what certain gear meant and what it was used for. He brought back command challenge coins from the memorial in Afghanistan where they all gathered on 11 May. Gus was able to retrieve and hand carry the patches Mike wore on his helmet, along with the memorial patch he had made for their team’s uniforms. Gus would come over and play with the boys, give me a moment of rest and help anyway he could.
So many of Mike’s teammates and their families would do the same. I was so grateful for the respite since the light at the end of the deployment tunnel was extinguished for me. Mike wouldn’t return to ease the natural burdens of parenting coupled with keeping up the household alone.
I always had family dinners. From the time Mike passed, I’d send out a text at 1:00 pm on a Sunday with, ‘Family dinner at 4’ and a few hours later the house would fill with joy and laughter. What better therapy than to be surrounded by those that loved us and Mike?
Gus and I would talk a lot about Mike, his feelings of survivor’s guilt (which they all had) and spent a lot of time together over the next couple years. I started to realize I cared for Gus more than I thought was possible and wanted to see where that would lead us.
I flew down to Texas for Easter – I needed to talk to Mike’s parents. His father said to me, ‘I have four requirements: He loves you, he loves the boys, he loves Jesus and that he always shows them it’s manly to love Jesus.’ His mother said, ‘I’ve prayed since the week after Mike died that you would find somebody.’ They were my greatest supporters. And they already loved Gus. He was already a part of our family. This was a no brainer for me.
I struggled with Gus being my secret-not so secret boyfriend. I had this organization that I’d founded as a widow of an active duty service member. I was afraid. I had lost my identity as a military spouse and then I found one as a military widow. It allowed me to talk about Mike and honor him. We were afraid of what our friends might think of our relationship and the judgement that would come. In July 2016, we broke up when I realized I needed time. Ten days later, he left for Nepal with his team and during those three months I recognized all of the things I was doing wrong. I thought I was honoring Mike every day but by not honoring Gus at all, was I really? By having someone in my life who wanted to love us, take care of us and honor Mike, yet I wasn’t willing to let him in – could I be dishonoring my late husband? I used to resent the ‘widow’ title but then I found myself not wanting to let it go.
I prayed so much and I came to the conclusion that I just needed to love Gus, and show him that he was a priority. He got back from Nepal and he was still very angry with me. We met a few times to talk, took it slow and then one day I boldly told him that we were going to get married. I knew the response could have broke my heart but he was worth it.
We were worth it.
He laughed and told me softly that I had to be crazy. One month later, Gus got down on one knee on the docks in Seattle, in front of our favorite Oyster Bar (Elliotts) and asked me to marry him. Two months later, we were married in Rhode Island among our family and friends. The priest who married us had married my parents, baptized Gabriel, did last rights for Mike and his funeral in Arlington, and had confirmed and married Casey and Sandy (Mike’s friend who was with him in Germany). It was perfect.
Thanks to Michael’s kind-hearted 1st grade teacher, Ms. Petruska, my boys decided to call Gus ‘Dad’ the moment we stepped off the altar, and have not called him anything but that since. They wanted and needed a father in their lives so badly and I don’t think I realized that until then. Michael and Gabriel both repeat Ms. Petruska’s words often – ‘We have a Daddy in Heaven and a Daddy on earth.’
A month after Gus and I married he deployed to Afghanistan. I woke up every morning and prayed that Gus was alive. He was so good about messaging me whenever he could to ease my mind, even though I never shared with him my fears. His heart and mind just works that way and he is always considering the times and moments I may go through in this journey and how they may be affecting me. He is constantly striving to make life easier. I pray I do the same for him.
I won’t tell you that I didn’t struggle through those six months but I can tell you I found peace in God’s plan and chose to continue to trust that His plan was greater than mine. Tragedy and loss does not have to define you or dictate the rest of your life. My story didn’t end with the loss of Mike; it began with a new chapter of hope and my choice of joy. It continued with honoring Mike and Gus giving me the greatest gift… he never makes me choose as he continues to give me the freedom to love them both.
Five years to the day that Mike touched American soil in Dover, Delaware for his dignified transfer, I landed in Washington, DC with Gus, for the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year events with Military Spouse Magazine that would change my life. Five years to the day that Mike was flown back to Joint Base Lewis McChord to land at Grey Army Airfield, I was awarded the overall Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year. I know it’s right where I need to be, that God’s timing is perfect, and that Mike would be so proud of me. And I also know I couldn’t have done any of this without Gus or my children.
Tragedy did not dictate my life in a negative way. My goal is that other people can see that, and feel that. I remember looking at other Gold Star Spouses like Lisa Hallett and thinking, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’ And I want other people to look at me and find hope, too.
Mike was very proud to sacrifice his life. And I am so proud to honor him.
Arlington National Cemetery is where my friend Andrea suggested a fundraiser for those who supported us and ultimately where The Unquiet Professional was born. So many organizations supported us, from the volunteers with the USO who carried my kids through the airport, the Green Beret Foundation being there for everything, or wear blue: run to remember, where I found a healthy and meaningful way to heal. I wanted to be able to pay that love back.
We now provide healthy and empowering opportunities for Gold Star Families, Veterans and their families. When Andrea suggested fundraising, she saved me that day. She saved me from the possibilities of not being able to live out my grief in a positive way. I heal as I strive to help others do the same with my ‘twice in a lifetime love’ by my side every step of the way.
Memorial Day is my favorite holiday of the year. We feel Mike’s presence and his loss every single day no matter what life brings us. But on Memorial Day, everyone thinks of all of our fallen heroes. People say when you’re having your bbq and your beer you’re not remembering the sacrifices, but I say celebrate. Celebrate their lives. Remember them.
Over the course of four weeks in June, I flew seven flights on the largest airlines in the US including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines.
After on flight on Delta, two flights on American, two flights on United, and two flights on Southwest, I’ve been adequately reacquainted with flying having been grounded since February.
The experiences have been unlike anything I’ve seen before in a lifetime of flying with each airline having its own, unique way of handling the pandemic. No two airlines have been exactly alike on any of my journeys and seemingly ever-changing policies are creating confusion for passengers.
Social distancing, for example, has different definitions depending on what airline you fly on. Some airlines have chosen to block middle seats and limit capacity in an effort to achieve social distancing while others have given up entirely or only give the appearance of social distancing.
Here’s what you can expect on each airline.
Blocking middle seats or allowing free flight changes
Starting July 1, American began filling its flights to capacity and not blocking any middle seats. If a passenger is on a crowded flight, there is an option to change flights free of charge to an alternate flight, if there is one available.
Middle seats can be selected in advance and passengers flying in basic economy may be automatically assigned a middle seat, even if other aisle or window seats are available. Only check-in or gate agents typically have the power to change seat assignments if a passenger isn’t happy with their seat location.
American has not stated what factors determine whether the option to change flights is offered. The airline has been operating a reduced flying schedule so alternate flights have not always been available for passengers but an airline spokesperson told Business Insider that more flights being flown starting July 7 should give passengers more options.
American operates a normal boarding process and passengers still board in their assigned groups, which vary based on seat location, fare type, and elite status. First class still boards first and basic economy boards last, regardless of seat location.
This results in economy passengers in the back of the plane walking through an entire aircraft of people before arriving at their seat.
Signage at the gate informs passengers that masks are required and that the airline has adopted new cleaning standards but does not go into detail.
Onboard the aircraft
American is limiting the in-flight service depending on the duration of the flight. Flights under 2,200 miles will no longer have a snack or drink service with non-alcoholic canned or bottled beverages being served on request in economy.
Flights greater than 2,200 miles will see a beverage service but no snack service in economy. The airline will also not distribute wipes or hand sanitizer kits to passengers upon boarding or as part of the in-flight service.
Flight attendants on American are typically asking passengers to remain seated until it is time for their row to deplane.
Delta Air Lines
Blocking middle seats or allowing free flight changes
Delta is blocking middle seats and certain aisle seats on its flights until September 30. Passengers who still do not wish to travel on a crowded flight even with the capacity restriction will have the option to request a free rebooking to a later flight, a Delta spokesperson confirmed to Business Insider.
Delta is boarding its aircraft back to front with passengers being asked to remain seated until their row is called. Elite status holders and first class flyers can still board first.
Signage at the gate area informs passengers that aircraft are being “sanitized and inspected,” asks passengers to social distance, and reminds passengers that face coverings are required onboard the aircraft.
The airline has also installed placards both on the floor and in jetways at hub and outstation airports reminding passengers to social distance. In its Atlanta hub, Delta employees were distributing hand sanitizer to passengers of all airlines after the security checkpoint.
The traditional in-flight snack and beverage service has been replaced by flight attendants distributing a sealed bag containing snacks, a water bottle, and sanitary products.
Flight attendants did not ask passengers to stay seated during the deplaning process.
Blocking middle seats or allowing free flight changes
United is not blocking middle seats but won’t assign them until there are no more aisle or window seats to assign. Passengers on flights with greater than 70% capacity will have the option to change their flight for free but as United’s flying schedule has been reduced due to the pandemic, options are limited.
United is boarding its aircraft back to front with first class passengers and elites still boarding first. Economy passengers are boarded from the last row forward in groups of five rows.
Gate agents are asking passengers to scan their own boarding passes when they board to reduce interactions between staff and passengers. Every passenger is given a sanitary wipe when they step on the plane that can be used to clean the seat.
Signage at the gate area informs United passengers of the sanitary measures the airline is taking including requiring face masks to be worn and the new fogging procedures. The displays, however, were inconsistent and were only prominent at United’s hubs and not outstations.
United has suspended the in-flight snack and beverage service for shorter flights in economy, including those less than two hours and 20 minutes. Passengers can, however, request beverages from the flight attendant.
On flights longer than two hours and 20 minutes, passengers in economy will receive a snack bag that includes a sanitary wipe, water bottle, stroopwafel snack, and package of pretzels.
Flight attendants on United are typically asking passengers to remain seated until it is time for their row to deplane.
Blocking middle seats or allowing free flight change
Southwest is limiting capacity by around one-third so that there is only a maximum of two people in each row, with exceptions for family. The airline does not assign seats in advance.
Southwest is boarding its aircraft in groups of 10 based on a boarding number given at check-in. The system is similar to the airline’s current procedure except only 10 passengers line up and board at a time instead of 30.
Some airports were not following the rule of 10 procedure, as I found on a recent Southwest flight, and passengers who boarded first chose to sit in the front of the plane. As Southwest allows for open seating, this meant passengers boarding last would have to walk passed crowded rows of people.
There is some signage at the gate asking passengers to social distance and informing them of the new boarding procedure but no visuals or anything pertaining to the airline’s new cleaning procedure.
Southwest is suspending the in-flight service on flights under 250 miles. Passengers on flights over that threshold will receive a cup of ice water and a snack bag served by flight attendants.
Flight attendants did not ask passengers to stay seated during the deplaning process.
Delta Air Lines is the clear winner here as nearly every aspect of a flight has been revised to become more passenger-friendly during this pandemic while not compromising too much on service. From placards and informational signage in the gate area to blocking middle seats and maintaining an in-flight service, albeit limited, Delta is leading the way in multiple aspects.
Southwest Airlines comes in a close second with the low-cost airline earning its reputation for good customer service even more so during this crisis. The only downsides were the boarding process, the lack of informational signage at the gate area that I found on most other airlines, and a lack of consistency in staff following the new procedures.
United Airlines is the second-runner up mainly because I found its policies to be more empty gestures than actually helpful. The airline is offering free flight changes despite having few back-up options and restricting the advance selection of middle seats rather than blocking them but are still allowing flights to fill up,
United did have some positives in that it revised its boarding procedure and offered sanitary wipes upon boarding but I did find a lack of consistency in informational signage at different airports. Flights on United were boring, above all, as the in-flight service was also suspended.
American Airlines was the least passenger-friendly airline I found on my travels with a complete lack of social distancing policies and abandonment of in-flight service on most of its domestic flights. It’s largely business as usual when flying on American as if there is no pandemic occurring, with the airline happy to assign middle seats to basic economy passengers when entire empty rows are available and keep the standard boarding procedure.
I will say, however, that all aircraft I flew on from all airlines were clean and I was never worried I was getting on a dirty aircraft.
When the Playstation 2 was first released to the public, it was said the computer inside was so powerful it could be used to launch nuclear weapons. It was a stunning comparison. In response, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein opted to try and buy up thousands of the gaming consoles – so much so the U.S. government had to impose export restrictions.
But it seems Saddam gave the Air Force an idea: building a supercomputer from many Playstations.
Just 10 years after Saddam Hussein tried to take over the world using thousands of gaming consoles, the United States Air Force took over the role of mad computer scientist and created the worlds 33rd fastest computer inside its own Air Force Research Laboratory. Only instead of Playstation 2, the Air Force used 1,760 Sony PlayStation 3 consoles. They called it the “Condor Cluster,” and it was the Department of Defense’s fastest computer.
The USAF put the computer in Rome, New York near Syracuse and intended to use the computer for radar enhancement, pattern recognition, satellite imagery processing, and artificial intelligence research for current and future Air Force projects and operations.
Processing imagery is the computer’s primary function, and it performs that function miraculously well. It can analyze ultra-high-resolution images very quickly, at a rate of billions of pixels per minute. But why use Playstation consoles instead of an actual computer or other proprietary technology? Because a Playstation cost $300 at the time and the latest and greatest tech in imagery processing would have run the USAF a much more hefty cost per unit. Together, the Playstations formed the core of the computer for a cost of roughly $1 million.
The result was a 500 TeraFLOPS Heterogeneous Cluster powered by PS3s but connected to subcluster heads of dual-quad Xeons with multiple GPGPUs. The video game consoles consumed 90% less energy than any alternative and building a special machine with more traditional components to create a processing center, the Air Force could have paid upwards of $10 million, and the system would not have been as energy-efficient.
It was the Playstation’s ability to install other operating systems that allowed for this cluster – and is what endangered the program.
In 2010, Sony pushed a Playstation firmware update that revoked the device’s ability to install alternate operating systems, like the Linux OS the Air Force used in its supercomputer cluster. The Air Force unboxed hundreds of Playstations and then imaging each unit to run Linux only to have Sony run updates on them a few weeks later. The Air Force, of course, didn’t need the firmware update, nor could Sony force it on those devices. But if one of the USAF’s Playstations went down, it would be the end of the cluster. Any device refurbished or newly purchased would lack the ability to run Linux.
The firmware update was the death knell for the supercomputer and others like it that had been produced by academic institutions. There was never any word on whether Saddam ever created his supercomputer.