It’s raining on a Tuesday morning — pretty standard for a Marine physical fitness test — and I know that rain or shine; pull-ups, sit-ups, and a three-mile run are going to happen. I stand, shivering in the pre-dawn drizzle, listening for the sergeant to call me forward. I’m at an about face waiting for my buddy to finish his set of pull-ups. 21… 22… 23… he just hit a perfect score. It’s my turn now. I stretch my arms and take a deep breath.
“Next,” the sergeant calls.
I mount the bar and wait for the signal to start. This isn’t my first PT test, which is a blessing and a curse. I know exactly the number of pull-ups that I need to crank out, but after three deployments, I have no idea how my body is going to respond. I prepare myself for a battle. I start to pull and pull harder. I breathe slow and deep, but then my shoulder pops, an injury left over from my years as a high school pitcher. I gut through the pain to the end. 21… 22… 23… I finish the test with a perfect score, but the pain in my arm will take weeks to heal. I’m qualified by Marines standards but my injury makes me feel anything but ready for war.
Army Major General (Ret.) “Spider” Marks, Board of Advisors for Sparta Science
Just like the legendary King Leonidas and his 300, today’s warriors require strict physical training and discipline to make sure they are ready for any battle. Readiness is exactly the problem that Army Major General (Ret.) “Spider” Marks and his team at Sparta Science are trying to fix. In fact, my PFT injury is much more common than I thought. The Marine Corps estimates that musculoskeletal injuries cost 365,000 lost duty days and 1 million annually.
To help Marines increase their readiness for war, the Marine Corps is turning to some 21st century technology. General Marks is no stranger to hard problems and out-of-the-box thinking. He cut his teeth as an Airborne Ranger and the senior intelligence officer in Iraq. General Marks told We Are The Mighty,
“Every Marine has his or her strengths and weaknesses but we all have to complete the mission. Sparta Science helps to identify those individual weaknesses and provide a training program to make sure you are ready to fight on any mission.”
Dr. Phil Wagner uses the Sparta System.
Sparta Science is the brainchild of Dr. Phil Wagner, a strength coach and former Rugby player who asked himself a simple question, “Can we use technology to increase performance and prevent injuries before they happen?” Dr. Wagner believed the answer not only to be a resounding “yes” but he believed he could also identify potential injuries in a matter of seconds. He’s developed the Sparta System, which first uses a movement assessment (Balance, Plank, Jump) to capture a personalized body scan. The scan is then compared against over a million other assessments and with AI technology, the system can identify areas prone to injury and prescribe personalized training programs to correct weaknesses.
Sparta System dashboard.
The Sparta System is already being deployed among college athletes and even professionals in the NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA to outstanding results. Not only is the system helping athletes achieve their peak physical performance but it’s also helping prevent injuries that can cost players/teams millions of dollars in medical expenses. General Marks and the Sparta team believe their system can also help military leaders all the way from the top brass to the NCOs on the ground to better leader and prepare their troops for war.
Athletes undergo assessment through the Sparta System.
Imagine that within minutes of completing a Sparta Assessment, your NCO or Platoon leader could have a chart showing your overall readiness score — and any injury risks to your feet, knees, or back. It’s this level of detail that General Marks expects will change the game in military readiness,
“By having access to this kind of information, military leaders can make smarter choices about how to train for war and employ those soldiers once they get there. The Sparta System makes us fight better.”
As this new system continues to be used among various military units, we should expect the ancient Spartan ethos of “the more you train in peace the less you bleed in war” to still apply. However, we can also avoid some preventable risks, like popping shoulders during a PFT.
Capt. John F. Graziano, 28, an instructor pilot with the 87th Flying Training Squadron, was killed in the crash, officials said. Graziano was from Elkridge, Maryland. The crash was the 5th involving a T-38 in just the last 12 months.
“Knowing how everyone is affected by this tragedy, my immediate concern is making sure that every member of our Laughlin family is okay,” Col. Lee Gentile, 47th Flying Training Wing commander, said in the post. “Together, we are Laughlin and now is the time that we stand together to take care of one another.”
The Air Force T-38 Talon went down at 7:40 p.m. local time on Nov. 13, 2018, at the base, officials said. Emergency crews responded to the scene.
The cause of the incident is under investigation.
“Our investigators are doing everything possible to ensure they investigate this incident to the fullest,” Gentile said.
Capt. John Graziano was killed Nov. 13, 2018, in a T-38 Talon crash.
(Air Force via Facebook)
The 87th is responsible for training student pilots and, to include specialized undergraduate pilot training for the active-duty, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard as well as foreign allied air forces.
The latest crash comes as the Air Force is on the path to receive new trainer jets to replace its current Northrop Grumman-made T-38s.
There have been four previous crashes involving T-38s in the last 12 months, one of them deadly.
For the first time ever, HISTORY is gaining full, unprecedented access to one of the most infamous and secretive hotspots of paranormal and UFO-related activities on earth, Skinwalker Ranch, in a new one-hour nonfiction series, “The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch” premiering Tuesday, March 31 at 10PM ET/PT. Few have ever gained official access to Skinwalker Ranch, and none have ever been able to bring cameras onto the property for a television series, until now.
I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Travis Taylor, the lead astrophysicist of “The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch” about his journey and his experience investigating the unexplained phenomena in Utah’s Uinta Basin. Scientific research, tribal legends, and the unexplained converge at Skinwalker Ranch that you must see to believe.
Photo by History Copyright 2020
WATM: Why and how were you chosen for this project?
Dr. Travis Taylor: Well, first of all for the why and the how I don’t know what you know about me or how much you’ve read of my bio and that sort of thing. I have a PhD and a dual disciplinary degree in electrical engineering and physics called optical science of engineering – it’s basically quantum physics. I have another PhD in aerospace engineering, building and designing spacecraft and rockets. I have a Master’s degree in astronomy. I have a Master’s degree in physics. I have a Master’s degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering. I have a Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. Since I was 17, I’m 51 now, I’ve published about two dozen referee journal articles and well-respected peer review physics, and optics and military defense type journals.
As far as I know, I’m the only person besides my co-author of the book who has taken the idea seriously and written a textbook and a detailed examination on how we would defend the planet if we were actually invaded by aliens. Different types of invasions and what our military approach should and could be. In fact, I’m the only one who teaches from that text on the topic to the Air Force officer’s space school at Maxwell Air Force base. Now, I do that pretty much yearly and have for a while.
My background has been building spacecraft, rockets and high-energy laser weapons and things like that for DOD for a long time. I also am a science fiction writer and have written twenty-something best-selling science fiction novels, mostly military hard science fiction. With that background in mind, I was invited to start doing TV shows in the early 2000s which led to the next TV show and the next TV show and so on. When HISTORY and Prometheus were approached by the new billionaire owner of the Ranch to do an investigation, they said, “Well you need someone who is an experimentalist and who also is experienced with talking on TV and we recommend this guy.”
And that’s how that happened.
The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch: DANGEROUS RADIATION at UFO Hotspot (Season 1) | History
The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch: DANGEROUS RADIATION at UFO Hotspot (Season 1) | History
WATM: What was the first thing that stuck out to you about this investigation when you joined the team of researchers?
Travis Taylor: Well, when the invitation came to me to become a part of the investigation team and to lead the experiment portion of the research, at first I was very skeptical of the phenomena on the ranch being real or being some natural phenomena that maybe causes hallucinations, or unnatural phenomena that causes actual phenomena like lights in the sky or maybe there was a classified defense project. At no time did I think that I was going to find strange, unexplainable physical phenomena at least from the start. That was my philosophy or my thought going into it. But I did have an open mind that, hey, what if I find something that is unexplainable?
WATM: How was evidence gathered of the phenomena at the Ranch?
Travis Taylor: The way we approached it is, we had scientific instrumentation and sensors — as many as we could afford based on the budget we had — spread about the ranch that were collecting data continuously, 24/7. We also had security cameras placed in certain locations to give us as much of a full view of the ranch as possible that were running 24/7. Plus we had game cameras placed in locations that we could move if we thought there was a need to move them. We collected all this information and we went through the video and data pretty much on a daily basis. Plus, there was also multiple cameramen, camera crews and camera sites set up continuously throughout the investigation.
Photo by History Copyright 2020
WATM: Based on the evidence that you have gathered, what are your thoughts on why this phenomena specifically happens at Skinwalker Ranch?
Dr. Travis Taylor: That is an excellent question and we ask ourselves this all the time. Now, the first thing that I will say is that when the team and I talk about this, in no way do we believe that our man-made farming fences along the border of the 500 acres is keeping out any super, you know, physics hyper paranormal — whatever you guys want to call it, phenomenon within the borders of the ranch. In fact, people in the local in Fort Duchenne, Roosevelt and the other town that’s nearby, are all the time reporting phenomena occurring outside of the boundaries of the ranch. Now, that being said, if you look at the Uintah Basin on Google Earth, to me it looks like an ancient meteor impact crater. It looks like it came from the east to the west at a low inclination. And that’s what splattered the salt flats to the west of the Uintah Basin.
There’s Gilsonite all around the Uintah Basin which typically is only found in a meteor impact crater, plus all of the petroleum that is underneath the Uintah Basin. There are a lot of geologists and natural physicists now beginning to think that impact craters cause a phenomena that creates petroleum. If you look at this impact crater, the ranch is dead center give or take but it’s pretty much dead center. Perhaps [it has] something to do with the bowl shape of the basin or whatever caused the basin, made this the central or the nexus for whatever the activity might be.
Photo by History Copyright 2020
WATM: Would the government hide the evidence of extraterrestrials? What impact would that have on the population if they did or did not disclose evidence?
Dr. Travis Taylor:I honestly don’t believe the Brookings Report. I don’t think that people are going to go nuts. What does an invasion of something that’s invisible do to society? Well guess what it makes it’s all go hide in our houses and be afraid to touch anybody. That’s exactly what’s happening right now, as an alien invasion, with this COVID-19. Well I’m not saying the virus is from outer space.
What I’m saying is it’s alien to us and we’re having to defend it in the way that we figure out how to defend it. If there were an alien invasion, we’d have to figure out what type of invasion it were and then how to – what type it was and then go from there. It could be a bazillion possibilities on the type of invasion.
I don’t believe in big conspiracies. There’s no way that humans are adept enough and trust each other enough to create conspiracies so large it would take hundreds and hundreds of people to maintain it. Now there is the possibility that things have been classified for national security reasons.
At such time when it could be disclosed and not reveal a national security advantage, then I could see that taking place but what’s it going to do to the general public? Most people, the general public, believe there are aliens anyway. I don’t think it’s going to do anything except assure them — I’ll tell you what it will do to politics: it will improve the funding for programs to do research like the AATIP program, or like advanced spacecraft technology or like advanced spacesuit technology. Why all of our soldiers don’t have Iron Man suits I can’t explain that. We should be – that should be one of the biggest defense projects we have.
But we don’t spend any money on it. So that’s the things that will change is where we’re spending our money based on what we think the threats are. That’s all I think disclosure will do. The everyday person, I think, they’ll just say ‘I knew it all along, I told you so.’
Photo by History Copyright 2020
WATM: Is it possible that the phenomena observed is man-made, such as Top Secret weapons testing?
Dr. Travis Taylor: So, as a person who does weapons testing for his day job, I can tell you that would be so highly crazy illegal [and] that it’s nonsense. There would be people in jail. What I observed the first day on the ranch, we had a long discussion that if what we were observing was man-made. [What if] someone was violating federal laws and [what we would do] – we needed to alert the authorities if we could prove it was man-made. Then from that point on I realized what we were measuring was impossible even for mankind to make. At that point is when I dropped that line of discussion because I realized just flat out mankind was not doing what we are doing and it’s probably a skeptics coping mechanism because I did it too.
The first conclusion to an odd strange thing is ‘Oh that’s a classified government program’ and ‘Oh they’re doing human testing’ honestly like, you know, there were programs that the CIA did back in the 60s and 70s that I don’t think they’re proud of and where people were involved in those experiments. [So, if] you look at it nowadays, we realize now that you can’t do that and you won’t get away with it forever and somebody will go to jail. I just am thoroughly convinced that this is not some top-secret weapons testing program on people or whatever. Number one: there’s no site nearby that is doing that type of work and number two: they would eventually get caught and go to jail. There is oversight committees on classified programs in Congress and in the Senate. Eventually somebody would say, ‘Wait a minute you all can’t do that.’
Photo by History Copyright 2020
WATM: Okay, so now that we know that there isn’t a government conspiracy or illegal weapons testing — What is happening at Skinwalker Ranch?
Dr. Travis Taylor: So I’m not going to tell you what evidence was observed and what phenomena were observed because and, you know, it would be spoilers for the show. What I will tell you is yes, when you watch the show and you see the evidence we acquired that is scientifically verifiable, you’re going to be blown away because I was. I’m still amazed to this day and still have a hard time believing what I saw.
You can watch the new one-hour nonfiction series “The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch” premiering Today, Tuesday, March 31 at 10PM ET/PT.
A half century after serving in Vietnam, hundreds of veterans have a new reason to believe they may be dying from a silent bullet — test results show some men may have been infected by a slow-killing parasite while fighting in the jungles of Southeast Asia.
The Department of Veterans Affairs this spring commissioned a small pilot study to look into the link between liver flukes ingested through raw or undercooked fish and a rare bile duct cancer. It can take decades for symptoms to appear. By then, patients are often in tremendous pain, with just a few months to live.
Of the 50 blood samples submitted, more than 20 percent came back positive or bordering positive for liver fluke antibodies, said Sung-Tae Hong, the tropical medicine specialist who carried out the tests at Seoul National University in South Korea.
“It was surprising,” he said, stressing the preliminary results could include false positives and that the research is ongoing.
Northport VA Medical Center spokesman Christopher Goodman confirmed the New York facility collected the samples and sent them to the lab. He would not comment on the findings, but said everyone who tested positive was notified.
Gerry Wiggins, who served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969, has already lost friends to the disease. He was among those who got the call.
“I was in a state of shock,” he said. “I didn’t think it would be me.”
The 69-year-old, who lives in Port Jefferson Station, New York, didn’t have any symptoms when he agreed to take part in the study, but hoped his participation could help save lives. He immediately scheduled further tests, discovering he had two cysts on his bile duct, which had the potential to develop into the cancer, known as cholangiocarcinoma. They have since been removed and — for now — he’s doing well.
Though rarely found in Americans, the parasites infect an estimated 25 million people worldwide, mostly in Asia.
Endemic in the rivers of Vietnam, the worms can easily be wiped out with a handful of pills early on, but left untreated, they can live for decades without making their hosts sick. Over time, swelling and inflammation of the bile duct can lead to cancer. Jaundice, itchy skin, weight loss, and other symptoms appear only when the disease is in its final stages.
The VA study, along with a call by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York for broader research into liver flukes and cancer-stricken veterans, began after The Associated Press raised the issue in a story last year. The reporting found that about 700 veterans with cholangiocarcinoma have been seen by the VA in the past 15 years. Less than half of them submitted claims for service-related benefits, mostly because they were not aware of a possible connection to Vietnam. The VA rejected 80 percent of the requests, but decisions often appeared to be haphazard or contradictory, depending on what desks they landed on, the AP found.
The number of claims submitted reached 60 in 2017, up from 41 last year. Nearly three out of four of those cases were also denied, even though the government posted a warning on its website this year saying veterans who ate raw or under-cooked freshwater fish while in Vietnam might be at risk. It stopped short of urging them to get ultrasounds or other tests, saying there was currently no evidence the vets had higher infection rates than the general population.
“We are taking this seriously,” said Curt Cashour, a spokesman with the Department of Veterans Affairs. “But until further research, a recommendation cannot be made either way.”
Veteran Mike Baughman, 65, who was featured in the previous AP article, said his claim was granted early this year after being denied three times. He said the approval came right after his doctor wrote a letter saying his bile duct cancer was “more likely than not” caused by liver flukes from the uncooked fish he and his unit in Vietnam ate when they ran out of rations in the jungle. He now gets about $3,100 a month and says he’s relieved to know his wife will continue to receive benefits after he dies. But he remains angry that other veterans’ last days are consumed by fighting the same government they went to war for as young men.
“In the best of all worlds, if you came down with cholangiocarcinoma, just like Agent Orange, you automatically were in,” he said, referring to benefits granted to veterans exposed to the toxic defoliant sprayed in Vietnam. “You didn’t have to go fighting.”
Baughman, who is thin and weak, recently plucked out “Country Roads” on a bass during a jam session at his cabin in West Virginia. He wishes the VA would do more to raise awareness about liver flukes and to encourage Vietnam veterans to get an ultrasound that can detect inflammation.
“Personally, I got what I needed, but if you look at the bigger picture with all these other veterans, they don’t know what necessarily to do,” he said. “None of them have even heard of it before. A lot of them give me that blank stare like, ‘You’ve got what?'”
The most recent ranking of the world’s most violent cities by the Mexican research group Security, Justice, and Peace again drew attention to Latin America, home to 42 of the 50 cities on the list.
Latin America is indeed the most violent region, accounting for about 8% of the global population but tallying roughly one-third of the world’s intentional homicides.
While homicide is not the only kind of violent crime, it is generally considered the best measure of it.
“Of all the different types of crime, homicide is probably the easiest to track because there’s nothing more biologically evident than a dead body,” Robert Muggah, the research director at Brazil’s Igarapé Institute and an expert on crime and crime prevention, told Business Insider.
In most places, there are also legal procedures that authorities are supposed to follow when dealing with homicides.
Robert Muggah, the research director at Brazil’s Igarapé Institute and an expert on crime and crime prevention.
“So unlike, say, assault or robbery or sexual violence or domestic abuse, homicide is one of those variables that across time and space is relatively straightforward to capture,” Muggah said, adding that researchers can draw on a panoply of sources — law enforcement, public-health agencies, nongovernmental groups, the press, and the public — to tabulate and track homicides over time.
But, as Latin America illustrates, there are a number of recurrent challenges that arise when collecting homicide data that complicate efforts to make comparisons and compile rankings.
Where did it happen?
“Are we looking at national data, state data, city data, and if we are looking at city data, in this case, how are we defining a city?” Muggah said.
A city’s geographic limits can be defined in a number of ways. The UN has three: the city proper, delineated by administrative boundaries; the urban agglomeration, comprising a contiguous urban area; and the metropolitan area, the boundaries of which are based on social or economic connections.
The populations of each of those areas can vary enormously, as can the number of homicides.
“It turns out cities are surprisingly difficult to define. There is no unified or uniform definition of a city, and this has been a source of some consternation for geographers for over a century,” Muggah said.
The Igarapé Institute eschews homicide rankings but does maintain a Homicide Monitor that compiles data on killings, using the urban-agglomeration definition for cities, Muggah said.
The Mexican group adheres to some set of criteria, requiring minimum population of 300,000 people and excluding places with active conflicts, such as Ukraine or Syria.
But the group says in its methodology that whenever possible it includes all the municipalities that it assesses as part of a city — “localities that form a unique urban system, clearly distinguishable from others, independent of the geographic-administrative divisions inside the countries.”
Security, Justice, and Peace rejected the criticism, saying that it based its population count on official numbers and that excluding Rosarito would have actually raised the homicide rate. (Though it did not say why it assessed Tijuana’s metropolitan area and not those of other cities.)
What’s a homicide?
“It turns out there are many kinds of homicide,” Muggah said. “We have homicide that’s intentional. We have homicide that’s unintentional, which we also call manslaughter. We have homicide committed by police, which sometimes isn’t included in the formal homicide statistics.”
Mexico has experienced an alarming increase in homicides, setting records in 2017 and 2018.
Mexico’s official crime data includes two categories for homicide: “homicidio doloso,” which refers to intentional homicides, and “homicidio culposo,” which refers to manslaughter or unintentional homicides.
The most recent tallies for intentional homicides in Mexico in 2017 and 2018 are 28,868 and 33,369, respectively. The totals for all homicides are 46,640 in 2017 and 50,373 in 2018.
Missing persons in Mexico.
While official government tabulations distinguish between unintentional and intentional homicides as they are legally defined in those countries, counts by nongovernmental groups, the media, and the public can elide that distinction, grouping different kinds of lethal violence together.
“And that matters,” Muggah said, “because in some countries, including Mexico and Brazil, when you include police lethality, police killings, which fall under a different category, that can actually significantly augment the overall count.”
In many cases, Muggah added, “those deaths are not what you describe as illegal.”
In 2017, Brazil had 63,880 homicides — 175 killings a day — up 3% from 2016 and a record. (Homicides were trending downward through the first nine months of 2018, but full-year data for 2018 is not yet available.)
In 2017, there was also an increase in the number of people killed by Brazil’s police, rising 20% from 2016 to 5,144 people, or 14 a day. Authorities in Rio de Janeiro state have attracted special scrutiny for their lethality, drawing accusations of extrajudicial executions.
Not only where and how you measure, but also when?
Even when homicide data for a full calendar year is available — which is not always the case; Security, Justice, and Peace list in some cases extrapolates from partial-year data — it may change over time.
“In many cases, there are outstanding trials and judicial processes that are ongoing to determine … what in fact that lethal outcome was, and that can take months. It can take years,” Muggah said. “Typically though, there’s a delay when governments produce data to issue this information because they’re still dealing with many of the legalities around sorting out homicide.”
Full-year 2017 crime data for Mexico, released in January 2018, put the number of homicide victims at 29,168.
The most recent data for that year, updated in March 2019, indicates there were 28,868 homicide victims. (The Mexican government changed its methodology at the beginning of 2018 and updated previous tallies to reflect that.)
Police on the street in the high crime area of Iztapalapa, Mexico City.
There are also 26,000 unidentified bodies in Mexico’s forensic system, and the government estimates that more than 40,000 people are missing. Hidden graves full of unidentified bodies are frequently found all around Mexico.
“In many countries, Latin America, in particular, there are huge impunity rates and a great gap in processing some of these cases, precisely because of the volume but also the lack of capacity to go through all of these cases, and so there’s a reason” for a delay, Muggah said.
It’s necessary to reflect on violence and trends in crime, but, Muggah added, “the challenge is that many governments are operating at different speeds.”
Relaying on data for only part of a year, or drawing on only certain sources that are readily available can often “unintentionally bias our sample,” Muggah said.
Know what you don’t know.
A challenge for “all of us who are in the business of monitoring and tracking and building systems to better understand criminality is that there are many places or instances where crime, including lethal violence, is not particularly well reported, or if it is reported it’s reported very badly,” Muggah said.
Latin American countries release crime data fairly regularly, but closer examination reveals “great gaps in the data,” especially in parts of Venezuela, Mexico, and Brazil, Muggah said.
“There’ll be reports that … don’t accurately capture the cause of death, and therefore you get misattribution. There’ll be a situation where they just can’t store the bodies because there’s insufficient space, and so you get undercounts,” he said. “There’ll be places where the governments themselves, police in particular, have no incentive to report on lethal violence and therefore will skew the figures.”
Outside the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, a 36-member group that includes most of North America and Europe, available information about crime is also lacking, Muggah said.
“If you go to Africa, with the exception of a few countries, it’s … a knowledge gap around homicide,” he added. That’s also the case in parts of Asia, “where governments just don’t want to report overall statistics on crime, citing it as a national-security issue.”
In the methodology included in its most recent report, Security, Justice, and Peace said that it compiles the ranking with the objective of “calling attention to violence in cities, particularly in Latin America, so that the leaders are pressured to fulfill their duty to protect the governed to guarantee their right to public security.”
“What we are also looking for is that no one … wants their city or cities to appear in this ranking, and that if their city or cities are [on it] already, they make the maximum effort so they leave it as soon as possible,” the group added.
Brazilian Federal Highway Police.
There are positive and negative potential effects of inclusion on such a list, Muggah said.
“One hopes that as a positive outcome, [inclusion] would incentivize city leaders, business leaders in cities, civic activists, and common citizens to be alert to the many risks that are there and also to seek and strive to find ways to get themselves off that list,” he said.
But there can be negative consequences. Reducing a complicated issue such as personal security to a single metric risks sensationalizing the problem and can skew public perceptions, potentially empowering leaders who push hardline punitive responses, Muggah said.
In some cases, it can “stigmatize cities,” Muggah said, affecting foreign and domestic investment, credit ratings, and business decisions. It can also have a particular effect on local economies, especially for tourism, on which many parts of Latin America rely.
“The hope is that by shining a light … on these challenges that somehow this will provoke” a constructive response from the city, its residents, and its leaders, rallying them around a common goal, such as reducing insecurity and getting off that list, Muggah said.
“It’s not clear yet if that in fact has ever happened, whether these lists have contributed positively to social change, and that might be asking too much of a list,” Muggah said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
NASA astronaut Col. Tyler N. “Nick” Hague waits to be lowered into the pool containing a mockup of the International Space Station at the Johnson Space Flight Center’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory for Extravehicular Activity training in Houston, Tex., Apr. 27, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
(Editor’s note: The following is a reposting of an Airman magazine story and an episode of BLUE, which aired in 2017 on AFTV, about Air Force astronauts assigned to NASA. Additional information from NASA is added to mark the culmination of a nearly decade-long goal to once again launch American astronauts from U.S. soil via NASA’s Commercial Crew Program with SpaceX and Boeing. On Wednesday, May 27, 2020, Air Force Col. Robert Behnken and retired Marine Col. Douglas Hurley are scheduled to pilot the inaugural, manned mission of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.)
A new era of human spaceflight is set to begin as American astronauts once again launch on an American rocket from American soil to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, scheduled to lift off on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:33 p.m. EDT May 27, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida, for an extended stay at the space station for the Demo-2 mission.
As the final flight test for SpaceX, this mission will validate the company’s crew transportation system, including the launch pad, rocket, spacecraft, and operational capabilities. This also will be the first time NASA astronauts will test the spacecraft systems in orbit.
Behnken and Hurley were among the first astronauts to begin working and training on SpaceX’s next-generation human space vehicle and were selected for their extensive test pilot and flight experience, including several missions on the space shuttle.
Behnken will be the joint operations commander for the mission, responsible for activities such as rendezvous, docking and undocking, as well as Demo-2 activities while the spacecraft is docked to the space station. He was selected as a NASA astronaut in 2000 and has completed two space shuttle flights.
It is a career in space that had its beginnings in the Air Force ROTC program at Washington University in St. Louis.
“The Air Force felt strongly that I should get a physics degree, and so I did that. But I was interested in engineering, and I did a mechanical engineering degree as well,” Behnken said in a 2017 interview with Airman magazine.
“It was a time, in 1992, that the Air Force was not bringing everybody immediately on active duty… I had a pretty long wait, so I applied for graduate school and an educational delay, and the Air Force looked kindly on that. I got that opportunity and picked up a National Science Foundation fellowship in the process, so I had a way to pay for school; the Air Force let me take advantage of that until I had earned my PhD at Caltech.”
Behnken’s first assignment was as a mechanical engineer at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, working on new development programs at the Air Force Research Laboratory. It was there that his commanders, both test pilot school graduates, suggested he plot a similar career course.
“The lieutenant colonel and the colonel said, ‘Hey, you should think about test pilot school,'” Behnken said. “I applied and was accepted, and ended up out at Edwards Air Force Base (California) doing some flight tests on an F-22 when it was very early in its development process before being selected as an astronaut and moving to Houston.”
Behnken flew two Space Shuttle missions; STS-123, in March 2008, and STS-130, in February 2010. He performed three spacewalks during each mission.
His training for the Crew Dragon mission has been unique among recent astronauts.
“Training for these missions is really wrapped into the development process. We’re learning the vehicles as they’re designed and built, and then that will be part of our training material,” Behnken said.
“All of us are Air Force and Navy test pilot school graduates and we’re really participating in a development process so that we can then kind of bring our space flight experience to the designs as they come to the table. If there’s something that needs to be changed, we give them that feedback, and then they figure out what the cost impact is and decide how well they can incorporate our feedback into their design.”
Lifting off from Launch Pad 39A atop a specially instrumented Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon will accelerate its two passengers to approximately 17,000 mph and put it on an intercept course with the International Space Station.
Once in orbit, the crew and SpaceX mission control will verify the spacecraft is performing as intended by testing the environmental control system, the displays and control system and the maneuvering thrusters, among other things. In about 24 hours, Crew Dragon will be in position to rendezvous and dock with the space station. The spacecraft is designed to do this autonomously but astronauts aboard the spacecraft and the station will be diligently monitoring approach and docking and can take control of the spacecraft if necessary.
After successfully docking, Behnken and Hurley will be welcomed aboard the station and will become members of the Expedition 63 crew. They will perform tests on Crew Dragon in addition to conducting research and other tasks with the space station crew.
Although the Crew Dragon being used for this flight test can stay in orbit about 110 days, the specific mission duration will be determined once on station based on the readiness of the next commercial crew launch. The operational Crew Dragon spacecraft will be capable of staying in orbit for at least 210 days as a NASA requirement.
Upon conclusion of the mission, Crew Dragon will autonomously undock with the two astronauts on board, depart the space station and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Upon splashdown just off Florida’s Atlantic Coast, the crew will be picked up at sea by SpaceX’s Go Navigator recovery vessel and return to Cape Canaveral.
The Demo-2 mission will be the final major step before NASA’s Commercial Crew Program certifies Crew Dragon for operational, long-duration missions to the space station. This certification and regular operation of Crew Dragon will enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place onboard the station, which benefits people on Earth and lays the groundwork for future exploration of the Moon and Mars starting with the agency’s Artemis program, which will land the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface in 2024.
“It’s a pretty exciting job. As a test pilot, the thing that we all hope is that we might get a chance to test a new airplane. We’re getting to test a new spacecraft. We’ll be the first people to fly on this vehicle, so we’re really the space test pilots for a brand-new spaceship, which is pretty cool,” Behnken said.
(Editor’s Note: Originally posted July 24, 2017, this article concentrated on the training of Air Force Col. Tyler Nicklaus “Nick” Hague, as he was the next of the Air Force astronauts scheduled to fly to the International Space Station. His first launch was on Soyuz MS-10, which aborted shortly after take-off on October 11, 2018. His second launch, on March 14, 2019, was successful, taking him and his fellow Soyuz MS-12 crew members to join ISS Expedition 59/60. He would spend just more than 202 days in space and completed nearly 20 hours of extravehicular activities, or space walks, before returning to Earth in October of 2019.)
On the rare instances when Col. Tyler N. “Nick” Hague returns from a day at the office and walks through the door of his own home, the oldest of his two boys occasionally asks, “Daddy, were you in space today?”
Not such a childish question when you consider the actual distance and travel time when Hague finally rides into space aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket in September of 2018.
It will only take him about 12 minutes to arrive in low-Earth orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, only 249 miles above the planet’s surface. In comparison, Hague traveled two miles farther when he was just a boy of 12; a total of 251 miles from his home in Hoxie, Kansas, to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he first laid eyes on the place where his journey into space would actually begin – the United States Air Force Academy.
“Growing up in western Kansas, staring up at the sky at night, seeing all those stars, I’ve always wanted to do something involved with space,” said Hague. “I couldn’t find a better program in terms of being able to study astronautical engineering with building actual satellites and doing all that hands on work at an undergraduate level. That just didn’t exist anywhere else at that time and so that was the place I wanted to go.”
He graduated from the academy and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1998 and began a 20-year journey that would bring him to the International Space Station to begin a six-month mission as flight engineer on ISS Expedition 57/58.
During this journey, Hague earned a masters degree in engineering from MIT, worked on advanced spacecraft technologies at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, flight tested at Edwards AFB, California, completed a five-month deployment to Iraq to conduct experimental airborne reconnaissance in 2004, returned to the Air Force Academy to teach astronautics, became an advisor for the U.S. Senate on national defense and foreign policy, served as a congressional appropriations liaison for United States Central Command at the Pentagon and finally as deputy division chief for research and development at the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization before being selected for astronaut training in 2013.
“I applied the first time (to the astronaut training program) in 2003, so it took 10 years and three applications in order to finally get selected,” said Hague. “Twenty years ago could I look at what was going to lie before me and map all of that out that would connect that point to this point? There are all these different opportunities that I would have never been able to line up on my own, but the service in the Air Force has made it possible.”
When he finally received his crew assignment, Hague quickly learned that being an astronaut still means racking up a lot of miles on earth.
In this calendar year of mission training, Hague has logged five flights from Houston to Star City, Russia, where he has spent 33 weeks training on the Russian ISS modules – which make up half of the station – and the Soyuz launch vehicle.
When combined with flights to the European Space Agency training facility in Colon, Germany, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Tsukuba Space Center north of Tokyo for eight more weeks of training on those agency’s modules this year, Hague is closing on 100,000 miles of travel within the Earth’s atmosphere to prepare for the relatively short commute to ISS.
Much of Hague’s time in Star City is spent training for that 12-minute trip aboard Soyuz into space and the corresponding return trip six months later. A training emphasis that fellow Air Force astronaut Col. Michael Hopkins explains exists for a very good reason.
“The majority of your training will be associated with the ride up and the ride home. We have a two-year training flow and as much as a year of your time during that two years will be spent over in Russia and your time in Russia the majority of that time is being spent on the Soyuz vehicle,” said Hopkins, who has already spent six months aboard ISS in 2013-2014. “But just like airplanes, the critical phase of flight is take off and landing. That’s when if anything goes wrong, when you don’t have that much time to deal with it. Aboard the ISS you usually have days if not weeks to assess and correct a problem.”
The overseas travel has two-week breaks when Hague returns to Houston for training on the US systems and for extravehicular activity (EVA), or spacewalks, and an opportunity to sleep in his own bed for a change. This fierce training and travel tempo is one of the drawbacks for astronauts, as well as their spouses and children.
NASA astronaut Robert Behnken, STS-130 mission specialist, takes a break in the mission’s second session of extravehicular activity (EVA) for construction and maintenance on the International Space Station in February of 2010 to allow air scrubbers to remove CO2 that had built up in his space suit. During the five-hour, 54-minute spacewalk, Behnken and astronaut Nicholas Patrick connected two ammonia coolant loops, installed thermal covers around the ammonia hoses, outfitted the Earth-facing port on the Tranquility node for the relocation of its Cupola, and installed handrails and a vent valve on the new module. (Photo/NASA)
“I spend six weeks in Star City, and then come back for a couple weeks, and then I’ll go back for six weeks,” said Hague. “There is a stress on the family, and they miss out on the things that I could be doing with them at home, and on the weekends. I’m TDY a lot, but my family’s making the same kinds of sacrifices that I see service families making day in and day out. I think that, that’s something that everybody that wears a uniform can appreciate.”
However, NASA has embarked on a new collaborative mission with commercial partners SpaceX and Boeing to provide an alternative to Soyuz for manned trips to and from the ISS. Cooperation in the development of new low-orbit launch vehicles by these commercial companies based in the United States will provide the Air Force with more orbital lift options and will also bring astronauts closer to home for training and for longer periods of time.
“It’s important for us to be able to return launch to Florida. You know, from a crew perspective, I can tell you that it makes it a whole lot easier on the crew, because you stop having to send people (to Star City, Russia) for six weeks at a shot over, and over, and over again and reduce the strain on the families,” said Hague.
“It’s also important from a redundancy perspective. Right now it’s Soyuz only, so if something happened with the Soyuz, now we’re looking for a way to get astronauts up there. It’ll provide us that flexibility to continue to fly Soyuz, and fly out of Florida and for the Russians to do the same.”
Once again the Air Force is a lynchpin in the development of a barrier breaking technology as astronaut Col. Robert Behnken is one of four test pilots for the commercial spacecraft and Hopkins is part of the team developing communications, displays and procedures for the new launch vehicles.
“Currently, my major focus is on one of those commercial crewed vehicles. It’s the Boeing CST-100 Starliner. I’m working as one of the CAPCOMs for that program; the communicator who would be talking to the astronauts in the vehicle as they’re going uphill and docking to the station,” said Hopkins. “There’s a lot of new material that we have to learn and figure out what the launch day is going to look like and what docking is going to look like and what the landing is going to look like.”
After one unmanned test of both the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, two-astronaut crews will fly subsequent tests before operational flights will begin taking six astronauts per flight to the ISS. Astronauts, such as Behnken, will not only flight-test the vehicles, but they are deeply involved in the design and development phase of the vehicles that is currently underway.
“The training for these missions is really wrapped into the development process. So we’re learning the vehicles as they’re designed and built, ” said Behnken, veteran of two of the Space Shuttle missions that built the ISS and the only active-duty member of the test crews. “(The test crews are) Air Force and Navy test pilot school graduates, and we’re really participating in a development process so that we can bring our space flight experience to the designs as they come to the table… that should wrap up around mid-2018 for both vehicles, and hopefully if the schedules hold, that’s when we’ll fly in space.”
These astronauts are the most recent in a continuing legacy of Air Force support of NASA and space exploration since the space program’s inception.
A total of eighty-five Air Force astronauts have traveled into space, from three of the first NASA astronauts, the Mercury Seven, Lt. Col. Gus Grissom, Col. Gordon Cooper and Major Deke Slayton, to two of the crew of Apollo 11, the first humans to set foot on the Moon, Col. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Maj. Gen. Michael Collins to Col. Jack Fischer, flight engineer for ISS Expedition 51/52, currently traveling at over 17,000 miles per hour (5 miles per second) for 25,000 miles on each of his 15.5 orbits per day aboard ISS.
Still more, like Hague, are in training for upcoming flights, and numerous Air Force personnel support both manned and unmanned NASA missions.
“The Air Force is supporting the mission on a daily basis,” said Hague. “It’s flight docs assigned here, search and rescue crews that are helping bring us home, we’ve got the range support for launching cargo and soon we’re going to be launching Americans back out of Florida. There’s also guys that are looking at all the radar coming back down from space trying to track space debris and they help us prevent things from flying into the Space Station, so they’re protecting us on a daily basis.”
Of course, participation in the civilian space program reaps great benefits for the Air Force from supporting space exploration and research. “The Air Force gets access to space, and so from an expense standpoint, NASA’s already paid for that, now all you have to do is develop your experiment, and then we can get it onboard,” said Hopkins. “Then you get the astronaut’s time. We don’t go and charge the Air Force for the time of the astronaut on board that’s executing their experiment. You’re getting access to a microgravity laboratory, right? It’s a very unique laboratory, in fact the only one in existence.”
The Soyuz TMA-04M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 carrying Expedition 31 Soyuz Commander Gennady Padalka, NASA Flight Engineer Joseph Acaba and Flight Engineer Sergei Revin to the International Space Station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
The partnership between the Air Force and NASA is a collaborative research relationship that fills gaps in each other’s research and facilities.
According to Dr. Morley Stone, chief technology officer of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, the Air Force benefits from NASA’s experience with human performance in microgravity environments, as NASA benefits from the Air Force’s research in the macrogravity realm of high sustained G-forces.
Both are participating in research on hypersonics, autonomous systems, artificial intelligence and materials that can survive extreme environments.
“I would say certainly NASA is up near the top, as probably our most important federal partnership,” said Stone.
Life aboard the ISS is tightly scheduled to accommodate the necessary daily planning conference with ground controllers, two hours of exercise necessary to maintain the astronauts’ bodies in a microgravity environment, performing EVA for scheduled station maintenance or repairs and conducting the experiments sent to ISS by researchers on the ground, military and civilian.
However, on occasion, there are small gaps where astronauts can indulge the kid inside that still looks upon the cosmos in wonder. Behnken had such an opportunity on his second STS mission to install components on the ISS. During an EVA to install the cupola observation window for Earth observation and photography, Behnken and a crewmate exerted themselves to the point that exhaled carbon dioxide was building up inside their suits faster than the air scrubbers could eliminate it.
“My partner and I had both worked harder than the suit could keep up with, and we got the chance to take about a 15-minute break,” said Behnken.
“They told us to “Attach yourself to the space station, and sit there, and look around. And don’t breathe too hard, because we’re trying to catch up with the scrubbing that’s on the suit.
“When you’re outside on a spacewalk, you get a panorama view that just can’t be captured with any of the windows … You get to see sunrises, and sunset, and that angular view of the atmosphere with thunderstorms lightning themselves up,” said Behnken.
“It’s of the whole majesty of the Earth, which is just awesome.”
When Ann Mills-Griffiths sent out her regular National League of POW/MIA Families newsletter in September 2018, she included an announcement that Navy Cmdr. James B. Mills, missing in Vietnam since 1966, had been recovered, his remains positively identified by the Pentagon.
She did not mention that he was her own brother.
“DPAA [Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency] announced on 8/24/18 that CDR James B. Mills, USNR, CA, was accounted for on 8/20/18,” Mills-Griffiths’ simple announcement read.
The newsletter said that the accounting for Mills and another MIA from Vietnam, Air Force Col. Richard A. Kibbey, “brings the number still missing from the Vietnam War down to 1,594.”
So why did Mills-Griffiths withhold that the latest identification was that of Jimmy, her older brother by just 11 months?
“It would’ve been wildly inappropriate,” she told Military.com in an interview.
In her role as head of a POW/MIA advocacy group, “I’ve never mentioned my brother’s case in any official capacity,” she said.
Fighting for all families
Given her position, in which she works closely with the government on recoveries and policy, Mills-Griffiths said she didn’t like to draw special attention to her brother’s case.
“The other part is we never expected to get my brother accounted for — ever,” she said.
At age 77, Mills-Griffiths said she had no plans to retire from her position at the League, where she currently serves as chairman, just because her brother has been found.
Ann Mills-Griffiths, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors for the National League of POW/MIA Families.
She acknowledges that she has been combative, and at times controversial, in pressing various administrations and defense secretaries over the years for a full accounting on the missing.
She has also become a lightning rod for other advocacy groups and what she calls the “nut fringe.”
She has been outspoken in accusing some groups of raising false hopes among the families that their loved ones would come back alive, if only the so-described appeasers and bureaucrats in government would get out of the way.
Mills-Griffiths once had a staff of seven. She now has just one staffer, but she dismissed any suggestion of stepping down as head of the League.
“Why would I do that just because of my brother? I have to keep [DPAA] on the right track,” she said. “I’m still trying to make sure DPAA is informed and going in the right direction.”
Her longevity with the issue has proven invaluable to the government in getting more cooperation from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, according to DPAA officials.
Despite Mills-Griffiths’ reticence to give her brother special attention in her official role, he still got a hero’s welcome back home. At California’s Bakersfield High School, where Mills lettered in three sports for the “Drillers” and was active in student government before graduating in 1958, a welcome home event in his honor featured current students.
They paraded on California Avenue in front of the school, sang the national anthem, waved flags and chanted “Once a Driller, Always a Driller,” Bakersfield.com reported.
“This is a very teachable moment, and the kids are embracing it big time,” said history instructor Ken Hooper.
“If he was part of my family, I would want to welcome him home,” senior Kareli Medina said. “He’s a Driller. We are his family.”
“That was amazing,” Mills-Griffiths said of the rally at the school where her late father, E.C. Mills, was once vice principal. “It was really something that they took that up and had that nice patriotic demonstration. Nicely done, guys.”
A “miracle” discovery
For 52 years, the rib bone of an American had been at the bottom of the South China Sea in shallow waters off the North Vietnamese coastal village of Quynh Phuong.
The rib had been there since Sept. 21, 1966, when a Navy F-4B Phantom from Fighter Squadron 21, flying off the carrier Coral Sea on an armed reconnaissance mission to North Vietnam, disappeared from radar without a “Mayday” or contact with other aircraft. The reasons for the disappearance are still unknown.
A U.S. Navy McDonnell F-4B-21-MC Phantom II (BuNo 152218) of Fighter Squadron VF-21 “Free Lancers” flying in Vietnam.
From 1993-2003, Defense Department teams conducted a total of 15 investigations in a fruitless effort to determine what had happened to the aircraft and where it went down.
Everything changed in 2006, when a fisherman from the village snagged something in his net. He pulled up what turned out to be part of a cockpit canopy.
Joint field activities by DPAA’s forensics and scuba teams resumed, including five underwater investigations, the agency said in a release. More parts of the aircraft were pulled up.
In 2011, the Air Force Life Science Equipment Laboratory, now part of DPAA, concluded that the aircraft was the one flown by pilot Capt. James Bauder, then 35, of La Canada, California, and his radar intercept officer, Mills — who would have been 78 on Aug. 31.
In 2017, the recovery teams found bone material. And in June 2018, DPAA determined through DNA analysis that the remains were those of Capt. Bauder.
The teams had found not a trace of Mills’ remains. Mills-Griffiths said the family had long ago accepted that Mills’ remains would never be found, but were grateful that the F-4B had been located and Bauder’s family had been notified.
“None of us ever had any of what folks would call ‘false hopes,'” she said. “What are the chances? It’s not like we knew he was on the ground, it’s not like anybody last saw him alive … Our chances of ever knowing anything specific were not high and we knew that all along.”
Mills-Griffiths said she learned earlier this year that divers were about to go down on the site again.
“If you don’t get it, that’s still the last time I want you to go there,” Mills-Griffiths said she told DPAA.
In June 2018, another DPAA excavation turned up new remains.
“It turned out to be a rib bone, and they were able to get a cut and take a DNA match quickly,” Mills-Griffiths said. “It was a virtual miracle.”
New headstone at Arlington
Cmdr. James Mills, a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, joined the Navy through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. His eyesight wasn’t good enough to become a pilot under the standards of the time, and so he became a backseat Radar Intercept Officer on Phantoms, Mills-Griffiths said.
He was a lieutenant junior grade when his plane went missing on his second tour off Vietnam.
Navy Cmdr. James B. Mills.
He flew off the carrier Midway on his first tour. He did not have a spouse or children.
Mills-Griffiths said her brother had volunteered to return “so that other radar officers who had wives and kids wouldn’t have to go back.”
“He was not an optimist” about the war, as were so many others who served at the time, she said. “He believed in what he was doing, even though he didn’t believe in the way the war was being run.”
Mills-Griffiths said she can’t remember how many times she’s been to Vietnam and the region.
“I stopped counting at 32,” she said.
In that time, the Vietnamese officials she first knew as junior officers and diplomats have come into leadership positions, she said.
Her brother already has a place at Arlington National Cemetery. The headstone over an empty grave for James B. Mills simply reads “In Memory.”
DPAA officials said that Mills’ name also is listed on the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
“A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for,” DPAA said.
Mills-Griffiths said a ceremony for the burial of her brother’s remains will be held at Arlington on June 24 2019. The headstone will be replaced with a traditional one listing his name, rank, date of birth and date of death on Sept. 21, 1966.
National POW/MIA Recognition Day will be observed on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Traveling about half the time of the year as a recruiter, Staff Sgt. Jon McCoy heavily relies on his wife to take care of their toddler and home.
“The whole reason why I’m here is the support that my wife is able to provide,” he said Feb. 4, 2019, before a ceremony at the Pentagon to honor some of the Army’s best recruiters.
Stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, McCoy is one of two warrant officer recruiters who handle the western region from Colorado to as far as South Korea.
While he may rack up some frequent flyer miles during his travels, he also gets numerous soldiers to stay in the Army or troops in other branches to join it.
In the first quarter of fiscal year 2019, McCoy had 150 individuals continue their careers as warrant officers in the Army — about one-third of all warrant officers boarded during that time.
Army Secretary Mark T. Esper honored McCoy and 12 other recruiters for their efforts this past quarter.
Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, left, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and Army Vice Chief of Staff James McConville recognize Staff Sgt. Jon McCoy during an awards ceremony for recruiters at the Hall of Heroes, Pentagon, Washington D.C., Feb 4., 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)
“Readiness remains the Army’s top priority. Don’t doubt that. And you can’t achieve readiness without the right people,” Esper said. “It’s our recruiters serving across the country who are finding our nation’s best and brightest to join our ranks.”
Accessions are also now a crucial priority after Esper recently directed the Army’s recruiting efforts to modernize and give recruiters the resources they need to connect with qualified applicants.
Improvements to marketing and a larger presence in 22 target U.S. cities are also underway to bring greater awareness to the opportunities found within the Army.
Before the ceremony, Esper said he spoke to the group of recruiters and listened to their challenges and how they overcame them.
“The key to success is simple,” he said they told him. “It takes passion, it takes commitment, it takes honesty and transparency. That’s what America’s youth are looking for in a recruiter. That’s what their parents, their pastors, their counselors expect of us.”
Born and raised in Guam, Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Lujan works as a recruiter in Hagatna at the same station where he chose to enlist in the Army about 15 years ago.
Lujan, an aviation operations specialist, was able to sign up 19 recruits this past quarter.
“I’m able to relate to them and let them know that there’s more out there and that the Army is a stepping stone to help you get there,” he said.
Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, right, speaks during an awards ceremony for recruiters at the Hall of Heroes, Pentagon, Washington D.C., Feb. 4, 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)
He also strives to be a positive member of his community. He often volunteers to help his daughter’s Girl Scouts troop, joins in cleanups of the coastline, and helped collect ,000 worth of items as part of relief efforts for Typhoon Mangkhut, which hit Guam in September.
“We’re just not there to recruit and bring people in,” he said. “We actually give back anytime that we can get.”
About 10,000 recruiters are spread out over 1,400 locations around the world, said Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, commander of the Army Recruiting Command.
“These recruiters here stand in the trenches everyday as the face of the Army,” Muth told the audience. “Their accomplishments this past quarter is a testament to their professionalism, dedication and laser focus on the mission.”
Being a recruiter still remains a difficult task to ensure the Army fills its ranks with quality applicants.
Only 29 percent of today’s youth are able to meet the minimum requirements to join the service, Esper said, and only 4 percent of them have the propensity to serve.
On top of that, the service is up against the greatest economy in decades, he said.
“This is a challenge that we must overcome,” Esper said. “We have no other choice. Failure is not an option.”
But that task should not rest solely on the shoulders of a few, he said, adding all soldiers need to educate people on the opportunities the service offers.
“Recruiting is everyone’s responsibility,” he said. “It’s the Army’s mission, not just ours. We are all recruiters.”
Since Nov. 10th, 1775, the Marine Corps’ rich history of kicking ass and taking names has charmed Americans and earned their respect all across the United States. Because of that, civilians see Marines in a different perspective than the Navy, Air Force, or even Army.
Since every branch of the military has a particular image that the general population associates them with, we asked several civilians, “What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about the Marines?”
Most of them are, but others just couldn’t see themselves serving in another branch.
Now I’m joining the Corps! (Images via Giphy)
2. All Marines have to go war and fight
Not true. The Marines Corps is made of several different elements other than the infantry, like aircraft maintenance, logistics, and duties that cause your Marine to sit in an office and analyze intel all day — so breathe easy, momma bear.
Dammit, Carl! (Images via Giphy)
3. They’re all excellent shots with a rifle
Most are, but a low number of recruits score just high enough to earn the “rifle marksman” medal, a.k.a. the “pizza box.” All Marines must rifle qual before they can graduate from basic training, but it takes extra training and skill to earn higher levels of marksmanship.
Ask a Marine to explain this joke. (Images via Giphy)
4. They’re buff and strong
Most are pretty jacked, but many are just normal size — they make it up by having tons of heart.
Oh, Master Sergeant! (Images via Giphy)
5. They are mean and scary as hell
Marines can get pretty intense, but that just shows their passion. While a Marine can get super scary (especially when they gain rank or come in contact with people they just don’t like), some get by with just a quiet intensity.
But most of the time they’re fun loving. (Images via Giphy)
6. They’re brainwashed in boot camp
Negative, Ghost Rider.
They are just influenced to love their country and branch of service at an exceptionally high level through various mental and physical activities.
They have to be, to carry out the missions they’re are asked to do.
Sometimes this involves screaming while brushing their teeth — which may happen. (Images via Giphy)Can you think of any others? Comment below.
An Army spouse has found her purpose after overcoming homelessness and creating her own organization that gives back.
When Marla Bautista was 18 years old, she was thrown out of her home by her abusive step-father with only a trash bag of clothes and a teddy bear that belonged to her deceased mother. For almost two years she lived a transient lifestyle staying in shelters, with friends and on the streets. It was the generosity of a local Catholic church that changed the trajectory of Bautista’s life.
“There were volunteers who handed out sandwich bags with hygiene items and they didn’t want anything from us. It was just ‘this is for you because you need it.’ And that was something that truly touched my heart. I promised myself that if I ever overcame that situation of homelessness that I would do the same,” she said.
Bautista and her husband, Staff Sgt. Ulisses Bautista, started serving their community as a family in 2011 and would later become The Bautista Project Inc. They began by using their own funds to distribute meals and hygiene bags for the homeless. Their nonprofit now provides basic living essentials, educational resources, support groups, veterans services and community resources for reintegration.
The impact they’ve created near their assigned duty stations has fostered an environment where the homeless can feel like they belong. With this, PCS’ing affects the Bautistas differently.
“Every time we move, we feel like we are leaving a community behind,” she said. But due to the vast amount of homeless in the U.S., there is always a new part of the community to impact.
In the state of Florida alone there are over 28,000 homeless Americans, of which 1500 are local to Hillsborough County in Tampa where the Bautistas currently reside. Although homelessness in America has decreased by 12% since 2007, according to the National Society to End Homelessness, there are still over 567,000 homeless people in the US.
The Bautistas have served the homeless population in Germany, Colorado Springs, New York and now Tampa.
Within a week of PCS’ing to south Florida, they were volunteering in a shelter.
“We have to reintegrate ourselves in that new community,” she adds.
Consistency matters. Her entire family goes out twice a month with meals and care packages, and instead of giving and going, they sit and interact with the locals in need. They get to know them and eventually build friendships.
In 2018 Bautista, with a desire to do more, began reaching out to her fellow military spouses and Facebook friends. With their help, her nonprofit has been able to provide winter jackets, gift a color printer to a shelter, create a small library of free books, raise funds to host a Christmas party at a homeless shelter getting what she calls “real gifts” for the attendees and shelter volunteers and distribute disposable masks. They also continue to collect uniforms to make belonging blankets for homeless youth in group homes or shelter setting.
The Army has been a vehicle allowing them to help in different parts of the world and Bautista’s husband shares her passion for giving to those in need, including homeless veterans. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs reports that as of January 2019 there were 37,085 homeless veterans in the U.S.
Bautista doesn’t judge any of them. “We’ve all fallen on hard times before. It just looks different for everyone,” she said.
One simple thing that she says anyone can do to start giving back is to purchase four gift cards at an essentials store or fast-food restaurants.
“That’s just and you can hand those out,” she says, adding that something this small can provide a meal for a person and the act can change their life.
To donate to The Bautista Project Inc. visit www.thebautistaprojectinc.org. You can purchase items from their Amazon Wishlist or donate directly to their nonprofit.
The Czechoslovakian-built Tatra 87 was Hitler’s car of the future. With a top speed of more than 100 mph, it was a car destined for the Autobahn. Its sleek, futuristic design and high performance made it the vehicle of choice for Nazi officers. It was the Allies’ vehicle of choice for their enemy, too. They wanted all Nazis to drive one – because it would eventually kill them.
If 100 miles per hour doesn’t seem impressive by today’s standards, in 1935, it was a big deal. The car’s aerodynamic design helped it achieve these speeds. It didn’t hurt that the speed and design also made it seem like the future was coming, and the Nazis were leading the way. And it was coming, it was just a very short future. For most of the Nazi officers that pushed the limit in the car, their future usually consisted of wrapping themselves around a tree.
While the Tatra 87 has an incredible top speed, it seems it handles like a shopping cart. The death toll it took on Nazi officers was so bad, the Allies referred to the cars as their “secret weapon.” It even killed more of them than actual World War II combat – and these were the officers fighting the Soviet Union.
“These high-ranking Nazi officers drove this car fast, but unfortunately the handling was rubbish, so at a sharp turn they would lose control, spin out and wrap themselves around a tree killing the driver more often than not,” said author Steve Cole.
In the first week of its availability, seven officers took the 95 horsepower, 3.4-liter V8 engine for a spin and never came home after spinning it out of control. But there was a safer, more economical version. In 1939, the Volkswagen Beetle was introduced, which borrowed a lot of design elements from the Tatra, so much so that its designer, Porsche, had to pay Tatra for infringement.
The Espionage Act of 1917 defined espionage as the notion of obtaining or delivering information relating to national defense to a person who is not entitled to have it. The Act made espionage a crime punishable by death, but there are always men and women willing to risk it — for country, for honor, or maybe just for some quick cash.
Whether they infiltrated the enemy’s ranks or sweet-talked the details out of careless persons who ignore all those “loose lips sink ships” posters, these are the most notorious spies with the most successful espionage missions in history, ranked by the operations they disrupted, the damage they dealt, and the odds stacked against them.
The Central Intelligence Agency team that discovered Soviet mole Aldrich Ames. From left to right: Sandy Grimes, Paul Redmond, Jeanne Vertefeuille, Diana Worthen, Dan Payne.
10. Aldrich Ames — COLD WAR
Aldrich Ames is a 31-year CIA veteran turned KGB double agent. In 1994, he was arrested by the FBI for spying for the Soviets along with his wife, Rosario Ames, who aided and abetted his espionage. Following his arrest and guilty plea, Ames revealed that he had compromised the identities of CIA and FBI human sources, leading some to be executed by the Soviet Union.
During a nearly year-long investigation into his subterfuge — and his subsequent trial — it was revealed that Ames had been spying for the Soviets since 1985, passing details about HUMINT sources, clandestine operations against the USSR, and providing classified information via “dead drops” in exchange for millions of dollars.
Ames is currently serving his life sentence, while his wife, as part of a plea-bargain agreement, served only five years and walked free.
Virginia Hall receiving the Distinguished Service Cross from General Donovan in September 1945.
9. Virginia Hall “The Limping Lady” — WWII
Virginia Hall was one of the most successful espionage operatives of World War II, earning not only the contempt of the Gestapo, but the Distinguished Service Cross — the only civilian woman to be so honored. As a spy, she organized agent networks, recruited the local population of occupied France to run safe houses, and aided in the escape of Allied prisoners of war.
Oh, and she did it all with a wooden leg named ‘Cuthbert.’
Known by the Nazis as “The Limping Lady,” she was recruited by British spymaster Vera Atkins to report on German troop movements and recruit members for the resistance in France. Posturing as an American news reporter, she encoded messages into news broadcasts and passed encrypted missives to her contacts.
She signed up with the U.S. Office of Strategic Service and in 1944 she organized missions to sabotage the Germans. She is credited with more jailbreaks, sabotage missions, and leaks of troop movements than any other spy in France.
Harriet Tubman needs no introduction.
8. Harriet Tubman — CIVIL WAR
Everyone knows that Harriet Tubman helped slaves reach freedom through the Underground Railroad after her own escape in 1849. When the Civil War broke out 11 years later, she continued the fight by becoming a spy for the Union Army.
Though she was unable to read or write, Tubman was exceptionally bright. Her time spent with the Underground Railroad taught her to keep track of complex details and information, scout transportation routes, and arrange clandestine meetings.
She used these skills to build a spy ring, mapping territory, routes, and waterways, and collecting human intelligence about Confederate movements and weaponry. She was the first and only woman to organize a military operation during the Civil War, overseeing the transport of Union boats through Confederate-mined territory based on intel she had collected.
During the same raid, she helped to free 700 local slaves, 100 of whom would take up arms for the North.
George Blake, far left, along with other Soviet spies.
7. George Blake — WWII-Cold War
George Blake was recruited to the Secret Intelligence Service, otherwise known as MI6, during World War II. During the Korean War, he was taken prisoner by the Korean People’s Army, and during his three year detention he became a communist and decided to betray his country.
In 1953, he returned to Britain a hero, but secretly began his work as a double agent for the KGB, wherein he would compromise anti-communist operations and reportedly betray over 40 MI6 agents and dismantle MI6 operations in Eastern Europe.
In 1961, he was exposed by a Polish defector, arrested, and sentenced to 42 years of imprisonment, but in 1966 he broke out and fled to Moscow, where he was awarded the Order of Friendship by Vladimir Putin.
(Civil War Harper’s Weekly, April 4, 1863)
6. Agent 355 — AMERICAN REVOLUTION
There were several Patriot spy rings that worked to overthrow British occupation during the Revolutionary War, but very few of these secret groups had women who actively took part in the espionage. The Culper Spy Ring, however, is known mainly for a very unusual agent, a spy known then and now only as ‘355’ — the group’s code number for the word ‘woman.’ The mystery woman’s identity was kept secret to protect herself and likely her family, but her daring contributions to the American cause have been remembered in history. She took part in several counterintelligence missions, including spy operations that resulted in the arrest of major John Andrew — the head of England’s intelligence operations in New York — and the discovery of Benedict Arnold’s treason.
Some historians guess that Agent 355 was likely a shopkeeper or a merchant who learned information about Red Coat military operations from chatty British customers, and that she would then divulge this information to George Washington. Regardless of her methods, Agent 355 made critical contributions to the Revolutionary cause.
5. Rose Greenhow — CIVIL WAR
Confederate spy Rose Greenhow is credited with obtaining critical intelligence about the Union’s plans to attack in Manassas, Virginia. She established her spy network in Washington DC at the beginning of the Civil War, and it quickly proved its worth when Greenhow uncovered details about Union General Irvin McDowell’s plans in 1861. Greenhow spirited intelligence to Confederate General Pierre G.T. Beauregard, who requested extra troops when he met Union forces at Bull Run on July 21st.
The Battle of Bull Run was the first major land battle of the Civil War and, as a result of Greenhow’s intelligence, the South was able to achieve a major victory and launch their rebellion with momentum. Confederate President Jefferson Davis himself sent Greenhow a letter of appreciation after the battle.
Federal authorities were soon able to trace Greenhow’s activities, however, and she was placed under house arrest before an incarceration in the Old Capitol Prison. After her release, she would continue to fight for the Southern cause until her death at sea while transporting Confederate dispatches aboard a British blockade-runner.
Ronald Reagan’s July 21, 1987, meeting with MI 6 asset Oleg Gordievsky.
(Image via Ronald Reagan Presidential Library)
4. Oleg Gordievsky — COLD WAR+
Oleg Gordievsky has been given credit for shifting the balance of power during the Cold War. For 11 years, he spied for MI6 while working as a high-ranking KGB officer in London. In 1968, Gordievsky was a junior spy working abroad for the KGB when the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia. He resolved himself to fight the communist system from within. In 1972, Gordievsky was recruited by MI6 after he was referred by a Czech spy who had defected to Canada.
Over the next decade, Gordievsky would provide details of current and former KGB operations as well as the KGB’s attempts to influence western elections. He was exposed to Moscow by Aldrich Ames and managed to survive a KGB interrogation despite being drugged. MI6 managed to recover Gordievsky and smuggle him safely out of the country.
He is one of the highest-ranking KGB officers ever to operate western espionage missions and for this he was sentenced by Soviet authorities to death in absentia.
3. Francis Walsingham — TUDOR ENGLAND
Most spies work in secret, but Francis Walsingham served Queen Elizabeth I with the badass title of Spymaster. A staunch Protestant, Walsingham served as Principal Secretary of State for the Tudor queen before joining her Privy Council, where he devised an intricate spy network during her reign. He uncovered what became known as the Babington Plot of 1586, which lead to the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots the following year.
Encouraged by her supporters, Anthony Babington wrote a letter to Mary concerning “the dispatch” of Queen Elizabeth during Mary’s incarceration in England. Mary’s reply was intercepted by Walsingham and Thomas Phelippes, who copied the letter and forged a damning postscript to the end. Walsingham used the copied letter and the cipher text of the original to convince Elizabeth that for as long as Mary lived, she posed a threat to the Protestant throne.
Elizabeth reluctantly signed Mary’s death warrant and she was beheaded on February 8, 1587. Elizabeth safely reigned until her own death in 1603.
Former FBI agent Robert Hanssen.
2. Robert Hanssen — COLD WAR+
Former FBI agent Robert Hanssen spied for Soviet and Russian intelligence services from 1979 to 2001 and remains one of the most damaging double agents in American history. His espionage activities included delivering thousands of pages of classified material to Moscow, revealing the identities of human sources and agents and details about America’s nuclear operations.
The FBI discovered Hanssen’s treachery and he was indicted on 21 counts of spying for the Soviet Union and Russia. He would finally plead guilty to 15 counts of espionage and conspiracy in exchange for 15 consecutive life sentences in prison over the death penalty.
1. The Rosenbergs — COLD WAR
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were the first U.S. citizens to be convicted and executed for espionage during peacetime after they were found guilty of delivering classified information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. Julius was an engineer for the U.S. Army Signal Corps and his wife Ethel worked there a secretary. In 1950, they were implicated by David Greenglass, Ethel’s younger brother, who worked at Los Alamos, a secret atomic bomb laboratory in the States and who confessed to providing classified intelligence to the Soviets.
The Los Angeles Times reported that not only did the Rosenbergs do “their best to give the Soviets top atomic secrets from the Manhattan Project, they succeed in handing over top military data on sonar and on radar that was used by [Moscow] to shoot down American planes in the Korean and Vietnam Wars.”
After a controversial trial and global speculation, they were executed via electric chair on June 19, 1953.
The Pentagon’s funding of MIT’s “beerbots” is getting some attention lately. Congress, reasonably, has posed the question of, “Why is the Pentagon researching beer delivery robots, especially while hotels and bars are already deploying robot bartenders?”
Well, the answer is a little more logical than you might think. So, Alexa, crack open a cold one and let’s talk about beerbots.
Waiters that are part of MIT’s “beerbot” program go into an office to work with humans.
First off, we think it’s awesome that Congress accepted the possibility that the military was researching beer-delivery robots in order to distribute cold beers more cheaply (and was seemingly okay with it so long as it wasn’t redundant). That being said, the actual MIT program is focused on figuring out how to get robots to best coordinate their actions in uncertain environments, something that could prove vital for everything from future hospitals to underground fighting.
See, MIT was building a system of cooperative robots, robots which could communicate with each other and share sensor data and other observations to work more efficiently. When they designed a complex, real-world situation to test them in, one obvious angle was to have them serve drinks in an office. And, surprise, the drink that graduates students want is beer.
And so, the “beerbots” were born. There’s a “PR2” robot that picks up drinks and places them in coolers which are carried by the “turtle bots,” and the turtle bots act as waiters. The turtle bots move from room to room, taking orders and either filling the orders or marking that the room has no orders.
And here’s the key part: The robots share their data with each other. The PR2 doesn’t know what orders are placed until the turtles get close, and the turtles rely on each other to map out routes and obstacles and to share drink orders to figure out the most efficient path to fill them.
Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, take part in an Army Asymmetric Warfare Group program designed to improve military tactics, techniques, and procedures while fighting underground.
(U.S. Army photo by Lt. Col. Sonise Lumbaca)
This is actually a complex logic problem for the bots when they also have to deal with humans moving from room to room and constantly creating and changing obstacles in the office.
And this is basically the starter level for robots that could help humans on battlefields of the future. Take subterranean warfare, an area so important that the U.S. is considering naming it as a new warfighting domain, for example. Robots helping humans underground will be physically limited in how they can communicate with one another as concrete or subterranean rocks block electromagnetic signals and lasers. So, robots will need to aid the humans there by carrying loads or ferrying supplies, and then communicate directly with one another to determine what’s going on in each section of the underground network.
Paratroopers with 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, fire during a squad live-fire exercise at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, March 14, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. John Lytle)
Or, take a battle above ground. The Marines think they may be denied conventional radio communications in a war with China or Russia. Any robots helping them will only be able to communicate within a short range or by using lasers. Lasers, obviously, become short range communications when there are a lot of obstructions, like dense foliage or hills, in the way.
So, these robots will also need to complete moment-by-moment tasks while also coordinating their actions whenever they can communicate. All of this requires that the robots keep a constantly updating list of what tasks need completed, what humans haven’t been checked on in a while, and what areas are safe or unsafe for the robots to operate in.
MIT’s PR2 robot loads beers into the cooler of a “turtle” waiter bot as part of a program to improve robots’ ability to coordinate their actions in challenging environments.
Or, as MIT graduate student Ariel Anders said, “These limitations mean that the robots don’t know what the other robots are doing or what the other orders are. It forced us to work on more complex planning algorithms that allow the robots to engage in higher-level reasoning about their location, status, and behavior.”
“These uncertainties were reflected in the team’s delivery task: among other things, the supply robot could serve only one waiter robot at a time, and the robots were unable to communicate with one another unless they were in close proximity. Communication difficulties such as this are a particular risk in disaster-relief or battlefield scenarios.”
So, yeah, at MIT, a beerbot is never just about beer. And the actual tech underlying these social-media-friendly beerbots is actually necessary for the less sexy but more vital missions, like disaster relief. And, potentially, it could even save the lives of troops under fire or wounded service members in the next few years or decades.
Let the military have its beerbots. And, if they sometimes use them for beer instead of medical supplies, well, they would’ve found a way to get drunk anyways.