Stats? Projections? F$%k that noise. Numbers can’t guarantee wins, but being a tough as nails sure helps. As the 2018 NFL Season enters its second week and fantasy football fans continue to debate advanced metrics, the veterans at We Are The Mighty are taking a different approach to finding the best players across the league.
This week, our team of self-declared fair-weather fans scouted the NFL to find the players worthy of serving on one the military’s most elite units: the Army Special Forces — Operational Detachment Alpha, known exclusively as the “A-Team.”
A Special Forces team is full of quiet professionals, each of whom has a set of unique, special skills, ranging from demolitions to weapons to communications. Earning your place on a Special Forces team takes training, time, and a little luck, but it ultimately comes down to one simple question: Can you perform under pressure?
This results-based mentality is exactly the same approach used by NFL players across the league and, in the season’s opening week, five players have distinguished themselves worthy of making the inaugural “A Team Report.” Some earned this distinguished honor by breaking records while others made the list via sheer, viking-level badassery. Either way, all the players on this week’s A-Team Report stepped up when it mattered.
Artillery fires are the kind of big, thundering fireworks shows that look awesome in movies. That being said, there’s always that crazy scene where Nicholas Cage (or some another action hero) runs through multiple explosions from mortars and artillery, remaining miraculously unscathed as every extra around them is cut down instantly.
So, which is real? Does artillery slaughter indiscriminately or can you get lucky and walk through a storm unscathed?
Marines carry rounds for an M777 howitzer during an exercise in Australia on August 8, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Wetzel)
Well, the actual story is much more complicated. It is possible, even on flat, featureless ground, to survive an artillery strike with little visible injury. But it’s nearly just as possible that you’ll be killed even with an inch of steel between you and the blast when one goes off.
It actually all comes down to fairly basic physics, and the British did extensive research during World War II to figure out how this plays out on the battlefield.
There are three ways that artillery most often claims its victims. The most common is through fragmentation of the shell, when the metal casing is split into many smaller bits and hurled at high speed in all directions. The next most common cause of death and injury is the blast wave; the sudden increase in pressure can damage soft tissue and shatter buildings and vehicles if the round is close enough.
A white phosphorous round busts far over the earth as artillerymen create a screen during an exercise at Fort Stewart, Georgia, on May 22, 2016.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Scott Linblom)
The least common cause of death and injury is the heat wave, where the sudden increase in temperature causes burns on flesh or starts fires.
Whether a given soldier will survive or not is basically a question of whether they are seriously affected by one or more of these lethal effects. So, let’s look at them one by one.
First, the fragmentation, also commonly known as shrapnel. Most artillery rounds are designed to create some kind of shrapnel when they explode. Shrapnel works kind of like a bullet. It’s a piece of metal flying at high speed through the air, hopefully catching an enemy soldier along its path.
An M109 Paladin fires a 155mm high-explosive round during a combined armslive fires exercise on September 9, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Keeler)
When it hits flesh, the shrapnel shreds the tissue it passes through, just like a bullet. But, also like a bullet, the biggest factor in lethality is the amount of energy imparted by the munition into the flesh.
Basically, physics tells us that no energy or mass is created or destroyed except in nuclear reactions. So, a piece of metal flying at high speeds has a lot of energy that is imparted to the flesh it passes through, causing cell death and destroying tissue in a larger area than just what the piece of metal actually touches. According to the British estimates, approximately 43 percent of the front of a human (or 36 percent of a human’s surface area in total) accounts for areas in which shrapnel is likely to cause a lethal wound.
So, if a piece of shrapnel hits any of those spots, it will likely cause cell death and then human death. But, shrapnel dispersion is its own, odd beast. When an artillery shell goes off, it’s easy to imagine that the shrapnel explodes in 360 degrees, creating a sphere of destruction.
Lance Cpl. Miguel Rios, field artillery cannoneer with Mike Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11 Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, arms 155mm rounds for an M777 Howitzer in preparation to fire during training Aug. 9, 2018, at Mount Bundey, Northern Territory, Australia.
(U.S. Marines Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Wetzel)
But shrapnel still carries a lot of momentum from its flight. As the round explodes, the force of the explosion propels the shrapnel out, but the metal fragments still carry a lot of the momentum from when they were crashing down towards the earth.
So, if the artillery round was flying straight down, the shrapnel would hit in a near-perfect circle, as if a giant had fired directly downwards with a shotgun. But the rounds are always flying at some sort of angle, sometimes quite shallow, meaning they’re still flying across the ground as much as falling towards it.
In that case, the shrapnel takes on a “butterfly wing” pattern, where a little shrapnel lands behind the round and a little shrapnel lands ahead of the round, but the vast majority lands on the left and the right.
A howitzer crew with 2nd Battalion, 12th Field Artillery Regiment, Alpha Battery, 2nd Platoon fires artillery in Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel, July 23 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Elliot Hughes)
The momentum of the round and the force of the explosion combine to form what’s referred to as a “butterfly wings” pattern where shrapnel is flying at high speed as it hits people and the ground. But, in a likely surprise to most people, even this most lethal area typically only injures or kills just over half the time..
That’s right, even if you’re standing under an artillery round as it goes off, you still have a chance of surviving (but we still don’t recommend it).
But what if you have a nice thick steel plate or concrete wall protecting you? Well, that’ll protect you from most of the effects of shrapnel, but an artillery round that detonates closely enough to your concrete or steel will kill you a different way: the blast wave.
An artillery crewman from Alpha Battery, 2nd Battalion, 114th Field Artillery Regiment, 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team, Task Force Spartan, uses a tool to secure the fuse to the 155mm round during a combined arms live fire exercise on September 11, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Keeler)
See, the explosion at the heart of the an artillery round creates lots of shrapnel because of the sudden expansion of air as the explosive is consumed. But, the blast wave keeps going and can break apart other things, like the concrete or steel protecting you, or even your own body. After all, a blast wave that hits you hard enough will crush your skull much more easily than steel.
The blast wave is most effective at extremely close ranges, measured in feet or inches, not yards. This is what is likely to kill a tank or destroy a bunker, both of which typically require a direct hit or multiple direct hits.
The final lethal effect, the heat wave, is most effective at short ranges and against flammable materials. Think thin-skinned vehicles filled with gas or the flesh of your enemies.
So, if nearly all artillery shells kill you with the same three mechanics, why are there so many types and why are artillerymen so into things like fuses and powder?
Well, remember that quick note about “angles” when it came to shrapnel patterns? Different targets are susceptible to different artillery effects. And changing out fuses and changing the gun’s angle and number of powder bags allows an artilleryman to change how the round flies and where it explodes.
Troopers from the Field Artillery Support Squadron “Steel,” 3d Cavalry Regiment “Brave Rifles,” support Iraqi army operations with artillery fires from their M777A2 Howitzers, Aug. 12, 2018
(U.s. Army photo by 2nd Lt. Jamie Douglas)
For vehicles, especially armored ones, the best way to kill them is to get the explosive to happen as close to the vehicle as possible, preferably while the round is touching the target. That requires an impact fuse that cases a detonation when the round reaches the target or the ground.
But, if you want to cut down hordes of infantry or shred tents and wooden buildings, you want to maximize lethal shrapnel dispersion. The British studied the problem and recommended the rounds go off at 30 feet above the surface. This was traditionally accomplished with timed rounds; the fire direction center did all the math to figure out how long it would take the round to fly and then set the times for when the rounds was near 30 feet off the ground.
But the fuses were imperfect and the math was tricky, so the U.S. eventually figured out proximity fuses, which detonated a set distance from an object or surface.
So, how do poor Joe and Josephine Snuffy try to survive the steel rain? Well, by minimizing their susceptibility to the three effects.
Even just laying down in the dirt reduces the chances that you’ll catch lethal shrapnel — face down is best. That’ll cut your chances of death or major injury down by over 60 percent. Firing from trenches or fox holes can take your chances down to under 5 percent, and lying or crouching in those same trenches or foxholes can get you into the 2-percent range.
Dig some tunnels into the mountain, and you’ll be nearly impossible to kill. That’s why so many troops were able to survive on Japanese islands despite hours or days of bombardment.
If you’re stuck on the move, opt for cover and concealment. Walking or driving through the trees can drastically increase your chances of survival since most shrapnel can make it through one inch of wood or less — but watch out for falling limbs. The blast waves and shrapnel damage can knock massive branches off of trees and drop them onto troops.
If you’re in a vehicle, reduce the amount of flammables on the outside.
This is actually why artillerymen try to hit with as many rounds as possible in the first blast, using methods like “time on target” to get all of their first wave of rounds to land at the same moment. This maximizes the amount of destruction done before the targets can rush for cover or hop into trenches.
The M2 .50 caliber machine gun has been a cornerstone of American military firepower for nearly 100 years. Its long range capability coupled with a heavy round combine for a devastating mixture on the battlefield — a weapon powerful enough to destroy a building or shoot down aircraft.
But for troops on the ground, the M2’s advantages come at a severe cost — namely weight. The typical M2 weighs in at a crushing 84 pounds, not to mention the weight of the ammunition itself (which is over 140 pounds for 500 linked rounds). That means despite the M2’s firepower, it’s not a man-portable weapon, requiring a heavy tripod for a mount that makes it more suitable for defensive positions and vehicle-mounted options.
Dubbed the “Lightweight Medium Machine Gun,” the new weapon is chambered in .338 Norma Magnum — a favorite of some precision shooters for its ability to reach out to targets at extended ranges while still having enough knockout power to take down the enemy.
Now, five years later, the Army is in the market for ways to lighten its soldiers’ load and provide increased firepower with a smaller footprint. So there’s a renewed interest in the LWMMG program.
Weighing in at only 25 pounds, the General Dynamics-designed machine gun has a maximum effective range of more than 1,800 yards and can reach out as far as 6,000, according to company documents. The LWMMG in .338 NM has a lot of advantages over the current 7.62mm M240 machine gun as well, the company says.
“At 1,000 yards the LWMMG is capable of defeating Level III body armor and incapacitating soft skinned vehicles by delivering more than four times the terminal effects of the 7.62mm NATO cartridge,” General Dynamics documents say.
GD has also developed a new “Short Recoil Impulse Averaging” system that the company says delivers the same recoil as an M240 despite the larger .338 NM round.
Some argue that the increased weight of the .338 round cancels out the LWMMG’s advantages for dismounted troops, since 1,000 rounds of 7.62 weigh about as much as only 500 rounds of .338 NM. But new developments in polymer case technology could combine to make the new machine gun a lighter option overall than the M240 while delivering the killer punch at M2 ranges.
Critics have long given the B-52 plaudits for its longevity as a combat aircraft. Can’t blame them — 65 years is one hell of a run. But there is another plane that has done almost as well, and it’s still providing some countries with defense.
That plane is the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk. Perhaps its most famous pilot is now-Senator John S. McCain III, who was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War after his Skyhawk was shot down. But the plane had been in service for over a decade before McCain was downed.
The A-4 was designed and built by the Douglas Aircraft Company, makers of the SBD Dauntless, the plane best known for fatally damaging three Japanese aircraft carriers in five minutes during the Battle of Midway.
The A-4 came to be known as “Heinemann’s Hot Rod” after its designer, Ed Heinemann. It was easy to see why. The Skyhawk had a top speed of 645 miles per hour and an impressive range of up to 2,001 miles. It could haul nearly 10,000 pounds of bombs and could carry the AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile. An additional two 20mm cannons gave it the ability to handle air or ground targets.
The Skyhawk saw lengthy service with the Navy and Marines, and the Marines liked their baseline models so much that they designed the A-4M instead of buying the A-7 Corsair.
The Skyhawk was a truly international affair. Singapore developed the A-4SU, which equipped the jet with two 30mm Aden cannon and added a F404 engine. Argentina, on the other hand, put F-16 avionics on some second-hand A-4Ms, creating the A-4AR Fightinghawk.
Today, Argentina’s Skyhawks are still on the front line. Most others have retired, but some fly for Draken International and other private companies. Learn more about Heinemann’s Hot Rod in the video below:
Whether it’s in the desert, arctic, jungle, an urban environment or at sea, the men and women of the Air Force train to handle any situation.
The primary focus of Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialists is to train military personnel to survive any situation. These elite instructors are experts on how to survive in the most remote and hostile environments on the planet, and it’s their responsibility to ensure when a mission doesn’t go as planned, the airmen involved are ready for anything.
This focus on readiness was on display Aug. 5, 2019, during a SERE exercise in Vallejo, California, which provided airmen an opportunity to train using realistic scenarios while testing new technology.
“Aircrew must maintain combat mission ready status, allowing them to be deployable worldwide,” said Tech. Sgt. Emanuel Espino-Mata, 60th Operations Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of SERE operations. “Pilots and other airmen considered to be at high risk of isolation during a mission attend refresher training at remote locations near Travis AFB every three years to stay proficient in SERE skills. It’s also vital we as SERE instructors do all we can to ensure our airmen can survive and operate in contested environments.”
Maj. Justin Krull, 6th Air Refueling Squadron KC-10 Extender instructor pilot listens to last-minute instructions on communication devices before a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training exercise for aircrew members Aug. 5, 2019, in a remote area near Travis Air Force Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)
During the exercise, which took place among steep, rocky hills covered with insect-infested trees, 11 airmen from flying squadrons across Travis AFB joined two SERE instructors to test the Somewear Labs Hotspot paired with a combat-configured smartphone, a device that can increase radio battery life.
“Today’s exercise was the first-ever field test of the device developed by Somewear Labs,” Espino-Mata said. “Our C-cell radios only maintain limited battery power. They are also bulky and heavy. This new device can be paired with any smartphone once the user downloads the application and provides encrypted messaging between the user in the field, the receiver, another team member, a recovery force or a personnel recovery cell.”
The device, which is smaller and lighter than some secure communications devices currently being used, has the potential to improve life saving capabilities by using a smartphone platform to run the software, which is something everyone is familiar with and comfortable using, Espino-Mata added.
Aircrew members study communication devices utilized during a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training exercise Aug. 5, 2019, in a remote area near Travis Air Force Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)
It also offers a wide range of features.
“Our system supports digital maps for navigation, a modern digital experience for satellite messaging and data transmission, as well as comprehensive blue-force tracking for the tactical operations center or any command center,” said Nate Simon, Somewear Labs product manager. “This is a huge step in evasion capability. This device is one of the lightest and smallest of its kind and a major enhancement to the current survival kit.”
airmen assigned to aircrew positions are trained to evade enemy forces if their aircraft is brought down in enemy territory. They are taught to find water, food and shelter while evading capture.
“This is important because help may not come for around a week and they may have to travel several miles without being detected,” Espino-Mata said.
Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Heard, 60th Operations Squadron survival, evasion, resistance and escape training noncommissioned officer in charge gives last minute instruction on communication devices before a SERE training exercise for aircrew members Aug. 5, 2019 in a remote area near Travis Air Force Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)
In 2018, Simon, who holds a bachelor’s of science degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, was part of an Air Force Research Laboratory study conducted by Stanford’s class, Hacking 4 Defense: Solving National Security Issues with the Lean Launchpad. The goal of the study was to address issues with survival radios and increase the survivability of downed airmen.
“My team was given a problem by the AFRL to improve personnel recovery,” Simon said. “Given Travis AFB’s proximity to the Bay Area, one of our initial contacts was Sergeant Espino-Mata, who arranged several visits to the base. After over 100 interviews with pilots, aircrew, SERE specialists, rescue squadrons and other Department of Defense experts, we realized a combat smartphone and satellite transceiver could drastically improve the personnel accountability and recovery space.”
Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape personnel field test Somewear Lab’s Hotspot Aug. 5, 2019, in a remote area near Travis Air Force Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)
“Somewear’s first product enables any remote operative to reliably access secure communications and improve their situational awareness with a combination of compact satellite hotspots and software designed for low-bandwidth applications,” Simon added.
One exercise participant was thrilled with how well the Somewear Hotspot performed.
“It’s phenomenal,” said Tech. Sgt. Bernie Rowe, 60th OSS KC-10 Extender instructor flight engineer. “It was really simple to use and with the encryption, I was able to make contact and receive new coordinates and instructions by text without it being coded, like the C-cell survival radios. It is light years ahead of the C-cells.”
There are plenty of weapons systems that ground troops want in support of high-risk missions, but few are as beloved as the A-10. The “Warthog” can fly low, take an amazing amount of punishment, and unleash absolute devastation on enemy forces with rockets, bombs, and its famous 30mm cannon.
The A-10 earned this reputation under fire. Here are five times that A-10 Warthogs saved the day for troops in contact and pilots lost behind enemy lines:
1. An A-10 coordinates support of a high-value target capture mission with no notice
Capt. Scott Campbell and his flight were enjoying a no-fly day when the word came in that a senior al-Qaeda officer had been spotted. In less than an hour, the pilots had thrown a hasty plan together and gotten into the air.
Campbell and the A-10 pilots provided direct fires in support of ground forces and deconflicted the flight paths of F-14s and F/A-18s on the mission while also feeding reconnaissance information to the troops conducting the capture. When the target was secured, the A-10s escorted the helicopters home to end the 8-hour, no-notice mission.
2. Warthogs shut down Taliban attacks against a besieged Special Forces team
An Army Special Forces team stumbled into a Taliban ambush and called for help from Apaches and A-10s. Capt. Aaron M. Palan was on his fourth mission in the deployment and flew his jet into the fray, sending four GPS-guided munitions, three white phosphorous rockets, and 1,150 30mm cannon rounds into the camouflaged and fortified enemy positions.
3. A pilot destroys Iraqi forces while rescuing a downed pilot
During Operation Desert Storm an F-14 pilot was shot down by Iraqi forces. Air Force Capt. Paul T. Johnson was flight lead for two A-10s sent to conduct search and rescue, the first time the A-10 completed this type of mission in combat.
Johnson flew the plane deeper into enemy territory than it had ever gone and dropped to 500 feet to spot the isolated American. He spent over three hours searching and destroyed an Iraqi missile site before spotting the pilot and killing an Iraqi truck that was approaching the pilot. The rescue was ultimately successful.
4. Pilots use their own A-10s as bait for enemy air defenses to save a downed pilot
After an American pilot was shot down over Serbia on Mar 27, 1999, Capt. John A. Cherrey led a flight of A-10s to find and rescue him. Cherrey and his flight had to proceed directly through Serbian air defenses and fly over surface-to-air missile batteries to reach the crash site.
The flight dealt with constant jamming, bad weather, and enemy aircraft to reach the pilot. When the pilot was found close to Serbian air defenses, Cherrey and his flight flew circles over other areas in the air defense ring to distract enemy radar from the real pick-up location. The choppers were able to pick up the isolated pilot and everyone headed home alive thanks to the A-10s.
5. A quick-thinking A-10 pilot prevented a fratricide during a frantic, joint forces mission
While the A-10s deserve credit for covering the ground troops and Apaches, their single greatest contribution was when the A-10 flight lead called for an abort of the first B-1 bombing run. The flight lead had heard the ground controller pass the target coordinates to the B-1 and had realized, working mostly from memory, that the numbers were actually the coordinates of the Marines. The lead then walked the controller through how to get the proper coordinates, working again from memory.
David Audet, chief of the Mission Equipment and Systems Branch in the Soldier Performance Optimization Directorate, at the Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Soldier Center, is gearing up his team for the next User Touch Point activities to explore exoskeleton options in late January 2019.
“As we explore the more mature exoskeleton options available to us and engage users, the more we learn about where the possible value of these systems is to Army operations,” said Audet.
“Before the Army can consider investing in any development above what industry has done on their own, we need to make sure that users are on board with human augmentation concepts and that the systems are worth investing in. The Army is not ready yet to commit. NSRDEC [RDECOM Soldier Center] has a lead role in working with PEO-Soldier and the Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, to determine whether or not a longer-term investment in fielding new technologies is justifiable. But this is what we do best. We find the options and create the partnerships to help us figure it out.”
Soldiers from Army’s 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, were able to get hands on and try two of the current human augmentation technologies (pictured here) being pursued by the RDECOM Soldier Center. The soldier on the left is wearing the ONYX and the soldier on the right is wearing the ExoBoot.
(RDECOM Soldier Center)
Recent media has brought a lot of attention to the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Controls, or LMMFC, ONYX, a Popular Science award recipient for 2018.
As innovative as it is, and with all the attention on the Soldier Center’s .9 million Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) award, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and lose perspective of the overall work the Soldier Center is actually doing.
Out of the 48-month phased effort, roughly 0K has been put on the LMMFC OTA — currently focused on having enough systems to take to the field for operational evaluation. Although performing, the technology has yet to prove itself in a full operational exercise before moving forward. And while LMMFC is highly confident in their product and continues to invest their funding on further developing the system for commercial use, the Soldier Center is also looking at other technologies.
Located in Maynard, Massachusetts, Dephy, Inc.’s ExoBoot is another entrant in the program. The Dephy ExoBoot is an autonomous foot ankle exoskeleton that was inspired by research done at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under collaboration with the Army. It is currently under consideration for evaluation during the third and fourth quarter of 2019. Brigadier General David M. Hodne has worn the ExoBoot during Soldier Center program updates and is quite intrigued by the capability. User feedback will determine if both systems move forward and under which considerations.
“Under ideal conditions, we would favor a full development effort,” said Audet. “However, given the push for rapid transition and innovation, we can save the Army a lot of time and money by identifying and vetting mature technologies, consistent with the vision of the Army Futures Command, or AFC.
(David Kamm, RDECOM Soldier Center)
“In order to achieve the goal of vetting and providing recommendations, NSRDEC [the Soldier Center] and PEO-Soldier are strong partners, teamed up to work with third party independent engineering firms such as Boston Engineering out of Waltham, Massachusetts. The engineering analysis of systems will provide an unbiased system-level analysis of any of the technologies under consideration, following rigorous analysis of the capabilities as they exist, the operational parameters provided by users and assessment of how humans will use and interact with the systems.”
“We are confident products will succeed or — at a minimum — fill a gap we have not been able to address by any other materiel or training means,” said Audet.
“We will be prepared to transition, but we know there is a road ahead before we get there. We aren’t committing to anything more than to bring the systems to a demonstration and educate the community at large on what these preliminary technologies can offer. In the meantime, we add a layer of third party independent analysis as a reassurance policy that we are mitigating bias and staying laser focused on user needs and meeting the demands of the future warfighting landscape.”
It all started when she was stationed in Virginia 12 years ago. That’s when Chief Warrant Officer 4 Beofra Butler saw everyone training for the Marine Corps Marathon and decided to give the 26.2 mile race a try.
As a soldier, running was already a part of her daily life and physical fitness routine. She had ran several other shorter races to include the Army 10-miler and a few half marathons, so the challenge of a full marathon appealed to her. She wasn’t even afraid of the dreaded “wall” that everyone told her she would hit around mile 20 when her body would start shutting down as energy stores ran low and fatigue set in.
“I had never experienced the wall and was feeling pretty great,” recalled Butler. “I saw the mile markers for mile 19, then mile 20, then 21. I was feeling good and thinking to myself that maybe I avoided the wall. Then at mile 22, everything from my waist down locked up — it felt like I really did hit a wall. My muscles were in knots, my toes were cramping and every time I took a step it just hurt.”
Beofra Butler running in the 2018 Tunnel Vision Marathon in North Bend, Wash., Aug. 19, 2018. She set a personal record, finishing the race with a chip time of 3:34:11.
A lady tapped her on the shoulder and encouraged her to move off to the side and stretch before resuming the race.
“I wanted to cry,” she said. “I knew it was just four more miles. I wobbled to the finish along with a bunch of other people doing the exact same thing.”
After the race later that night, with ice bags on her legs and a computer on her lap, Butler signed up for her next marathon.
“I just had to do it again for myself so I could figure out how to do it without pain,” she said.
Butler ran her second marathon during a deployment, followed by another and another and another. She’s preparing to run her 100th marathon in Boston on April 15, 2019. The race will be her sixth Boston Marathon and she says that it is fitting because it’s her favorite event.
“There’s something special about running in Boston,” she said. “It’s the only race you have to qualify for to get in and after working so hard to be a part of it, you really enjoy the moment when you get there. The support of the crowd is amazing and it’s just a great place to be.”
She got there by figuring out how to avoid that wall of pain.
“For the most part, I don’t hit a wall anymore,” Butler said. “Now I know what that feels like and I never want to feel it again.”
How does she do it? The way anyone in the Army does anything — with an abbreviation. According to Butler, the key to running a successful marathon comes down to the 3P’s: pacing, patience and practice.
She says that you need to control your pace throughout the entire marathon and exercise patience as those around you start out fast or crowd the track. To refine your pacing and patience, you need to practice.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Beofra K. Butler, administrative executive officer to the commanding general, U.S. Army Forces Command, poses with her five Boston Marathon marathon medals.
(Photo by Eve Meinhardt, FORSCOM)
“It comes down to having time on your feet,” said Butler. “You have to put in the time and stay positive.”
Her time comes from running at least five days a week. She averages 10 miles a day with Saturdays being her long run day of anywhere from 13 to 20 miles. She does speed work on Wednesdays, often bringing others along with her to help them train to meet their goals.
As the administrative executive officer to the commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command, her work schedule can often be hectic and conflict with her training time. To mitigate this, Butler is a conscientious meal planner, preparing all her meals, to include snacks, on the weekends. She says she often hits the pavement at 3 a.m. just so she can ensure she gets time to run.
“I just love the feeling of running,” she said. “It’s freedom. I don’t listen to music. I listen to my heartbeat. My footsteps. My breathing. It’s a meditation and I’m always trying to get better.”
Butler says that running is wonderful because you can do it wherever you are and with no special equipment. For those aspiring to run in races of any distance, she said that it’s important to find a training plan.
“Training is a part of learning yourself,” she said. “It helps you become more comfortable when you’re out there. You need to trust your training and just enjoy the moment.”
Despite the fact that Butler says that she could probably roll out of bed and run an impromptu marathon, she still finds ways to challenge herself. Five of her marathons were ultra-marathons ranging from a 50K to a 100 mile race.
Butler’s most recent race was her third All American Marathon here at Fort Bragg. She led the 4:15 pace group. Her pacing was right on point with her crossing the finish line at 4 hours, 14 minutes and 37 seconds and still placing first in her age group.
Her personal record is 3 hours and 34 minutes and she says that she would like to get that down to 3:30.
“After Boston, I’m not racing again until August,” she said. “I’m going to be training for my PR and I’m going to get it.”
The Kirov-class nuclear-powered guided-missile cruisers often grab most of the attention when people look at the Russian Navy’s surface ships. That’s very understandable — these are powerful assets, packing powerful weapons, like the SS-N-19 Shipwreck surface-to-surface missile and the SA-N-6 Grumble surface-to-air missile.
But Russia has other, almost-as-powerful cruisers that roam the seas. The Slava-class cruisers entered service in the 1980s, and they are no slouches, even though they’ve never had the cachet of the Kirovs.
Today, Russia is focusing more on smaller ships with a big punch, back in the heyday of the Soviet Union, they were trying to reach the status of a blue-water navy. The Kuznetsov-class carriers — and a nuclear-powered follow-on called the Ulyanovsk — would need escorts capable of providing area air defense and to kill enemy ships.
The Slava could do that. The Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World notes that the Slava-class cruiser carried 16 SS-N-12 Sandbox surface-to-surface missiles and 64 SA-N-6 Grumble surface-to-air missiles. The ship also carried a pair of SA-N-4 missile launchers for point defense, a twin 130mm gun, six AK-630 30mm Gatling guns, two quintuple mounts of 21-inch torpedo tubes, and a Ka-27 Helix helicopter.
Russia presently has three such ships in its arsenal. A fourth vessel sat around, waiting to be finished for roughly two decades before being scrapped. Two others were planned and slated to be equipped with improved surface-to-surface missiles, but were canceled after the fall of the Soviet Union.
“Moskva” (“Moscow”) (ex-“Slava”, which means “Glory”) is the lead ship of the Project 1164 Atlant class of guided missile cruisers in the Russian Navy. The Project 1164 Atlant class was developed as “Aircraft carriers killer”. This warship was used in the 2008 Russia–Georgia War. (Wikimedia Commons photo by George Chernilevsky)
The Russian Navy will have these ships around for at least another decade, by which time they hope to have the Lider-class destroyer ready to enter service. Until then, the Slava-class cruisers give the Russian Navy a hefty punch.
South Korea is in the news for hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics in the mountain town of Pyeongchang. However, these Olympics are not the only area where South Korea is showcasing its remarkable progress as a country. The nation’s military aviation is making radical progress, demonstrated by their latest, potentially game-changing trainer.
As reported by MilitaryFactory.com, this plane was developed when South Korea was seeking to replace earlier trainers. However, in the process, South Korea developed a plane that was so good at training fighter pilots that it became a light multi-role fighter itself — a poor man’s Gripen.
How good is it for training pilots? According to the Lockheed website, a Republic of Korea Air Force trainee now needs only nine sorties in the KF-16 (the South Korean-produced F-16 Fighting Falcon) to fully qualify. This greatly reduces the number of flight hours put on F-16s – meaning those hours can be used for other missions, like combat training or keeping current pilots up to speed.
In fact, the T-50 is, in some ways, a hybrid between the T-38 Talon, the F-16, and the Northrop F-20 Tigershark. It has a single F404 engine, like the Tigershark. Its cockpit and canopy are much like the F-16’s and it is a two-seat trainer that goes supersonic, like the T-38. The FA-50 version is a true multi-role fighter that carries advanced radar and other electronic systems. The plane currently serves with Iraq, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand.
The T-50/FA-50 has a top speed of 990 miles per hour, a maximum range of 1,150 miles, and can carry a wide variety of missiles, bombs, and rockets. It also has a three-barrel 20mm Gatling gun.
To see more about this plane, watch the video below.
US Marines with Marine Rotational Force-Darwin completed a trans-Pacific flight in MV-22 Ospreys for the fourth time, transiting from Darwin, Australia, to their home station on Marine Corps Base Hawaii on Sept. 19, 2019.
The flight consisted of four MV-22 Ospreys from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363, Reinforced, supported by two KC-130J Hercules from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, and was conducted to improve upon the Osprey trans-Pacific concept that had been developed and refined over the past three MRF-D iterations.
“Being able to fly our aircraft from Australia to Hawaii is a great example of the flexibility and options that the Ospreys create for a commander,” said US Marine Maj. Kyle Ladwig, operations officer for Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363, Reinforced.
MV-22 Ospreys takeoff during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, Cassidy International Airport, Kiribati, Sept. 20, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)
US Marine KC-130J pilots watch MV-22s takeoff during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, RAAF Base Amberley, Sept. 17, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)
An MV-22 Osprey prepares to conduct air-to-air refueling from a KC-130J Hercules during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, at sea, Sept. 17, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)
US Marines debark a KC-130J Hercules during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, at Cassidy International Airport, Kiribati, Sept. 19, 2019.
(US Marine Corps/1st Lt. Colin Kennard)
US Marine KC-130J pilots watch MV-22s take off during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, RAAF Base Amberley, Sept. 17, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)
MV-22 Ospreys and KC-130J Hercules parked during Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, Cassidy International Airport, Kiribati, Sept. 19, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)
The MV-22 Osprey is a highly capable aircraft, combining the vertical capability of a helicopter with the speed and the range of a fixed-wing aircraft.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Although its opening has been delayed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the National Museum of the United States Army in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, houses historic Army artifacts like an M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle from the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, General Grant’s Forage Cap from the Civil War and an M4 Sherman tank from WWII. However, this Sherman is a rather special one. Its name is Cobra King and it holds the distinct honor of being the first tank to break through to the beleaguered 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.
Cobra King served with the 37th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division during WWII and fought through France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany, and into Czechoslovakia. Unlike regular Sherman tanks, Cobra King is an M4A3E2 “Jumbo” experimental variant. Classified as Assault Tanks, Jumbos were equipped with thicker armor than standard Shermans and were often re-armed with high-velocity 76mm M1 main guns (although Cobra King retained its factory short-barrel 75mm M3 gun during the Battle of the Bulge). The extra armor slowed the tanks down by 3-4 mph. Jumbos also featured duckbill-style extended end connectors fitted to the outside edges of their tracks for added weight-bearing and stability.
An M4A3E2 Sherman Jumbo on display in Belgium bearing 37th Tank Battalion markings (Photo Credit: Public Domain)
Cobra King’s name follows the tank corps tradition of naming vehicles by the company’s designation; Cobra King belonged to the 37th Tank Battalion’s C Company. According to Army historian Patrick Jennings, Cobra King had been knocked out of action in France in November 1944. The tank was repaired and returned to action in Luxembourg. There, tank commander Charles Trover was killed by a sniper on December 23 as he stood in Cobra King’s turret. Trover was replaced by Lt. Charles Boggess who commanded Cobra King during the Battle of the Bulge.
Along with Boggess, Cobra King was crewed by driver Pvt. Hubert Smith, assistant driver/bow gunner Pvt. Harold Hafner, loader Pvt. James Murphy and gunner Cpl. Milton Dickerman. The five men led General Patton’s 3rd Army’s relief of Bastogne on December 26. Driving at full speed and sweeping the road ahead with gunfire, Cobra King made a 5-mile push through intense German resistance toward Bastogne. “I used the 75 like it was a machine gun,” Dickerman recalled. “Murphy was plenty busy throwing in shells. We shot 21 rounds in a few minutes and I don’t know how much machine gun stuff.”
Cobra King came across a team of U.S. combat engineers assaulting a pillbox. The tankers were wary of the engineers since German troops had been infiltrating U.S. lines dressed in American uniforms. Finally, one of the engineers approached Cobra King, stuck his hand out to Boggess and said, “Glad to see you.” The engineers were Americans and part of Able Company, 326th Airborne Engineer Battalion, 101st Airborne Division. Together, Cobra King and the engineers destroyed the pillbox. The link-up marked the end of the German siege of Bastogne. For its relief of the city and the 101st, the 37th Tank Battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
After six weeks in Bastogne waiting for a German counterattack, Cobra King and the 4th Armored Division rejoined the push into Germany. During this time, Cobra King became just another Sherman in the column of armor. Through February and March, the division broke through the Siegfried Line to the Kyll River and battled its way to the Rhine. On April 1, they crossed the Werra River and then crossed the Saale River 11 days later. The division continued to chase the Germans east and crossed into Pisek, Czechoslovakia in early May. After V-E Day on May 7, the division assumed occupation duties in Landshut, Germany until its inactivation the next year.
Cobra King remained in Germany while the 37th Tank Battalion was reactivated in 1951 and re-assigned to the 4th Armored Division in 1953 at Fort Hood, Texas. The 37th would later return to Europe; the division’s 1958 yearbook featured a picture of Cobra King (yet unidentified) on display at McKee Barracks in Crailsheim, Germany. In 1971, the 4th was inactivated and redesignated the 1st Armored Division. In 1994, Crailsheim was closed and all the units posted there, along with Cobra King, were relocated to Vilseck. The 1st was later relocated to Bad Kreuznach, but Cobra King stayed behind.
Cobra King had to be refitted with a 75mm gun during its restoration (Photo by Don Moriarty)
Cobra King stood in silent vigil at Vilseck as an anonymous display tank. Jennings credits Cobra King’s discovery to Army Chaplain Keith Goode, who suspected that the display tank might be the famous Cobra King. Army historians in Germany and the U.S. confirmed his suspicion after extensive research and the tank was shipped back to the states in 2009. Though the interior was damaged beyond repair by years of weather exposure, the exterior was given a full restoration at Fort Knox, Kentucky before Cobra King was put into storage at Fort Benning, Georgia. In 2017, the tank was trucked up to Fort Belvoir amidst the construction of the Army Museum. When the museum does open, Cobra King will proudly stand on display as “FIRST IN BASTOGNE”.
Cobra King is emplaced on its foundation (Credit National Museum of the U.S. Army)
Ask any troop who has deployed about their most uncomfortable moment and they’ll probably mention the combat landing on their first day in-country. You can prepare grunts for the rigors of combat, yes, but you can’t prepare them to be sloshed around in an aircraft that’s packed like a can of sardines as it descends downward in a near-vertical corkscrew that stops on a dime.
Also called an assault landing or Sarajevo landing, cargo pilots have to do a combat landing if enemy presence is expected in the area. To avoid giving them an easy target, pilots must do three things: A corkscrew over the area to come down from cruising altitude, descend in a sharp drop before landing, and come to a complete stop using as little runway as possible.
Before coming to the airfield, cargo planes like the C-130 have an average cruising altitude of 18,000 feet. The plane will then arrive roughly seven to ten minutes before the scheduled landing. This is where the fun landing begins.
When the plane is in line with the landing strip, it will drop. While commercial airliners come in at around 3 degrees to provide a nice, gentle landing for the passengers, the Air Force is perfectly fine with coming in at 60 degrees. At the last possible moment, pilots pull up so the landing gears are what hit the runway.
If that wasn’t fun enough, the plane will then need to stop on a dime. To do this, as soon as the wheels touch, they open the slats (or spoilers) and put the plane into full reverse.
Inertia is not your friend.
If you’re riding in the back, no one will judge you if you expel what remains of your lunch. However, you will get laughed at. Troops will always laugh at each other.
Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum